More Overtime (cont.)
For all that he accomplished at Stanford, Andrew Luck never won a Pac-12 title -- but redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan will get that chance. Hats off to Cardinal coach David Shaw, who brushed off a seemingly daunting transition this season thanks in large part to the nation's top-ranked rushing defense. In Saturday's division-clinching 35-17 win over UCLA, Stanford (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) held Bruins star Johnathan Franklin to 65 yards on 21 carries. Now it'll try to do it again on Friday night in Palo Alto.
Bedlam was never a more fitting name for the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry than on Saturday, when Sooners quarterback Blake Bell's four-yard touchdown run with four seconds remaining forced overtime. Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12), which never led in regulation, won 51-48. Over the past two weeks, the Sooners' Landry Jones has thrown for a combined 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, and he's led game-saving, last-second touchdown drives in each. "The guy was, again, fabulous out there tonight," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.
A sophomore helped Penn State produce a satisfying finale for its much-appreciated senior class. Running back Zach Zwinak rushed for a career-high 179 yards in the Nittany Lions' (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten) 24-21 overtime win over Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4). Zwinak, who finished the year with 1,000 yards, emerged at midseason and helped fill the void left by USC transfer Silas Redd. Who would have guessed in August that Penn State would win more games than Redd's new team?
Another year, another reminder of the massive gap between the SEC and ACC. In addition to Florida's takedown of Florida State, a less-than-full-strength South Carolina (10-2) team cooled off rival Clemson (10-2), 27-17, with previously torrid Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd completing just 11-of-24 attempts. "When we play Clemson, they don't seem to play very well," said Steve Spurrier, as if on cue. Elsewhere, Georgia stomped Georgia Tech, 42-10, and Vanderbilt hammered Wake Forest, 55-21, to make it a clean 4-0 sweep for commissioner Mike Slive's league.
Speaking of Vanderbilt, the Commodores continued their rise under second-year coach James Franklin by winning six straight games to close out the regular season, the program's longest winning streak since 1955. Vandy's 8-4 record is its best since 1982, and its five games scoring 40 or more points are the most for the Commodores since 1915. "When you're throwing numbers out about breaking records from 1952, 1948 and 1915, to me that's impressive," said Franklin.
Considering it's the flagship university in a state that's produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, among others, Texas' (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) continued quarterback woes are astounding. David Ash and Case McCoy combined to throw three interceptions in a 20-13 Thanksgiving night home loss to TCU (7-4, 4-4). Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs, which had struggled to date in their first Big 12 season, served a reminder just how stout they can be defensively.
Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) quietly carries a six-game winning streak into Saturday's Big Ten title game, where it will play for a return trip to the Rose Bowl, the site of both the Huskers' last BCS game in 2001 and their Sept. 8 loss to UCLA, which now looms as a potential opponent. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has his share of critics, but this marks his third 10-win season in four years and his third conference title game in that same span. Now he just needs to win one.
Baylor's 52-45 win over Texas Tech -- just another typical Baylor game featuring 1,241 yards of combined offense -- assured the Bears (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) of a third straight bowl berth. It also means that nine of the conference's 10 teams have reached bowl eligibility, a testament to the Big 12's incredible depth. Baylor handed Kansas State its sole loss to date, yet the Bears are tied for with West Virginia for seventh place. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) dropped four of its last five games.
The upset of the weekend took place in last Friday's Apple Cup, where Washington State (3-9, 1-8 Pac-12) rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Washington (7-5, 5-4), 31-28, in overtime. The win puts a final ray of positivity on Mike Leach's otherwise disastrous first season with the Cougars, while it also intensifies the offseason pressure on fourth-year Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian can't seem to turn the corner, even in a year that included wins over top-10 foes Stanford and Oregon State.
Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC) heads into a self-induced early offseason with a 52-45 win over Duke (6-6, 3-5) that perfectly embodied their all-offense, no-defense season. Freshman standout Duke Johnson ran for 176 yards to finish the year with 2,060 all-purpose yards. Given their extreme youth, Al Golden's 'Canes exceeded most expectations, and their future looks bright -- unless of course the NCAA imposes mass scholarship reductions. An apparently heavy-handed investigation is nearing its end.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze took over a 2-10 team from a year ago and made it bowl eligible. On Saturday, the Rebels (6-6, 3-5 SEC) ended a four-year Egg Bowl drought by blasting Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4), 41-24. Quarterback Bo Wallace and receiver Donte Moncrief connected for touchdowns of 77, 21 and 16 yards. "You could see the game getting away from them in the second half and that's the best feeling I've had since I've been here," said Ole Miss cornerback Charles Sawyer.
It took a 29-yard Cody Journell field goal as time expired, but Virginia Tech (6-6, 6-6, 4-4 ACC) survived Virginia (4-8, 2-6), 17-14, to assure the Hokies of their 20th consecutive bowl berth. Cavs fans will likely spend the offseason excoriating coach Mike London, who bewilderingly chose not to call two timeouts as the clock ticked down prior to Tech's obvious impending field goal.
With a 45-9 rout of Idaho, Utah State (10-2, 6-0 WAC) won its first outright conference title in 76 years. Meanwhile, San Jose State (10-2, 5-1) -- just two years removed from a 1-12 season -- topped former BCS aspirant Louisiana Tech (9-3. 4-2), 52-43, for its first 10-win season since 1987.
With a 35-27 upset of first-place Tulsa (9-3, 7-1 C-USA), SMU (6-6, 5-3) earned bowl eligibility for the fourth straight season. Marshall (5-7, 4-4) narrowly missed out, falling 65-59 in overtime to East Carolina (8-4, 7-1).
Fifty-one weeks after upsetting undefeated Houston to win last year's Conference USA title, Southern Miss fell to Memphis, 42-24. The Golden Eagles finished 0-12.