Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NCAA Football Weekend Wrap: No Team is Safe

Auburn's playoff hopes are on life support after an upset loss to unranked Texas A&M.
By Andy Dougherty (@AndyDougherty10)

Week 11 of the college football season came with a lot of hype, and it lived up to the billing. Six Top-20 matchups stole the headlines leading into Saturday, but other teams made noise as well. In all, 8 ranked teams lost, including four Top-10 teams.


Unranked Texas A&M shook things up when rookie quarterback Kyle Allen led the Aggies to a 41-38 road win over No. 3 Auburn. In just his second career start, the true freshman threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns, paving the way for one of 2014’s biggest upsets. After being in the driver’s seat, Auburn will now need to win out and get some help to stay in the playoff race.

Another upset took place when the Ohio State Buckeyes traveled to Michigan State and won convincingly against the No. 8 Spartans. The win showed that the Buckeyes are the team to beat in the Big 10. They are back on the shortlist of playoff contenders, while Michigan State seems to have fallen off that list for good.

Ohio State’s defense focused on star receiver Tony Lippett, holding him to his first game without at least a touchdown or 120 yards. Lippett finished with only 64 yards and no scores. Meanwhile, the Spartans’ defense disappeared when it was needed the most. Now, with no games remaining against ranked teams, the Spartans are effectively out of the playoff picture.

No. 23 West Virginia was the only other ranked team to suffer an upset loss. The Mountaineers never got on track in a disappointing 33-16 clunker against unranked Texas. West Virginia had won five in a row, including a win over No. 12 Baylor, before losing a very competitive game 31-30 against No. 6 TCU. Following up that impressive stretch with a 17-point loss to an unranked opponent was mystifying to say the least.

Other Ranked Teams That Went Down

Coming into Saturday, No. 7 Kansas State and No. 10 Notre Dame were both top-10 teams with one loss. Each of their losses had come to a top-3 team by less than a touchdown. If they could have kept winning, they would have each had an excellent opportunity to sneak into the College Football Playoffs. But they couldn’t keep winning.

Not only did they lose, but they each lost by more than 20 points. Granted, they faced stiff competition against fellow top-10 opponents. Kansas State fell 41-20 to No. 6 TCU and Notre Dame fell 55-31 to No. 9 Arizona State. But the blowout losses were extremely disappointing for teams with playoff aspirations. Kansas State can potentially redeem itself with a win against Baylor to close out the regular season, but Notre Dame has no road back to contention.

The most obvious scapegoat in either game was Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. He piles up huge numbers on a weekly basis, and for the first three games of the season, those numbers came without a single turnover. Since then, he has committed a backbreaking 17 turnovers, including five against Arizona State. His 446 passing yards helped Notre Dame make an incredible comeback from 34-3 to 34-31. But then he went back to shooting himself in the foot and handing Arizona State the win.

Oklahoma added itself to the list of tremendous disappointments on Saturday. The favored Sooners laid an egg at home and got crushed by Baylor 48-14. Their showing was so pitiful that they dropped completely out of the AP top 25, after initially being considered one of the nation’s premier teams.

Another talented team with something to prove on Saturday was No. 16 LSU, but the Tigers fell short as well. As expected, they battled to the bitter end with No. 5 Alabama, but they lost a defensive struggle in overtime, 20-13. A brutal schedule has not been kind to the Tigers, whose three losses have all come against teams currently in the top 5.

The last ranked team to lose on Saturday was No. 17 Utah, against No. 4 Oregon. The Utes had a chance to take a two-touchdown advantage early, but a boneheaded play by wide receiver Kaelin Clay swung momentum in favor of the Ducks. What should have been a 79-yard touchdown for Clay turned into a 99-yard touchdown for Oregon when Clay celebrated prematurely and dropped the ball at the 1-yard line.

Week 11 provided yet another example that in college football, no team is safe at the top. Every week comes with its fair share of crazy surprises, and the final rankings will look drastically different from how they stand today. Hopefully Week 12 will deliver as many shocking moments as Week 11.

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