Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NCAA Football Weekend Wrap: Ranked Teams and Records Falling

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had the greatest rushing day in FBS history Saturday... And he sat out the fourth quarter of the Badgers' big game against Nebraska.

By Andy Dougherty (@AndyDougherty10)

It was a weekend of shakeup in the College Football Playoff standings, epic comebacks and record-breaking performances. We've got a lot to cover, so let's get right to the biggest games and performances from the weekend that was.

No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 5 Alabama

Week 12 featured five games between ranked teams, including a massive showdown between No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s world-class defense forced three interceptions of Dak Prescott and held him to 3.7 yards per carry with no touchdowns on the ground.

Alabama’s Amari Cooper demonstrated yet again that he is one of the most talented receivers in the country with 8 catches, 88 yards and an athletic touchdown catch. The Crimson Tide should rank first in the new College Football Playoff rankings after handing Mississippi State its first loss of the year.

No. 3 Florida State at Miami

In the AP poll, Alabama places second while Florida State has regained the No. 1 position. The Seminoles played how they have all year, digging themselves a big hole and relying on a late comeback to scrap out a win. They were able to pull it off yet again, surging from a 23-7 deficit to beat Miami 30-26. Their effort will prove polarizing for committee members. Some will note that they are the defending national champions and are the only remaining undefeated Power-5 team, so they deserve the No. 1 spot.

Others will note that they do not have a single ranked team on their schedule and they have beaten four unranked teams by less than a touchdown. They have trailed by 15 or more points in three of their games. Though they have remained undefeated, they have not been nearly as dominant as their championship team from last year. Alabama’s wins against a number of top teams will likely impress the committee more, despite a loss to Ole Miss earlier in the year.

No. 15 Georgia vs. No. 9 Auburn

Georgia inserted itself back in the playoff conversation more emphatically than any other team this week. The Bulldogs held a premier Auburn offense to a single touchdown en route to a 34-7 beatdown. Nick Marshall had a miserable day through the air for Auburn, completing less than half of his passes for 112 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

The Bulldogs welcomed star running back Todd Gurley back from his suspension. He and backup Nick Chubb dominated, combining for 334 total yards and three touchdowns.

Unfortunately, Gurley's comeback was short-lived, as he suffered a season-ending ACL tear late in the game. Chubb will be a capable starter for the rest of the year, but it's a shame that Georgia lost its biggest star in garbage time during a blowout win. Regardless, the Bulldogs returned to the top 10 in the latest AP rankings.

No. 8 Ohio State at No. 25 Minnesota

Ohio State kept itself in the championship discussion as well with a 31-24 win at Minnesota. The Buckeyes played in colder conditions than they had faced in the last 50 years, so they had a difficult time adjusting to the harsh weather. Given the temperature, the road win was impressive despite being closer than most experts predicted.

No. 19 Clemson at No. 22 Georgia Tech

Clemson’s starting quarterback Deshaun Watson was injured in the first quarter against Georgia Tech, and the Tigers never got their offense going in a very disappointing 28-6 loss. Clemson held Georgia Tech’s prolific triple-option offense to a subpar showing, but six points were not nearly enough to make the game close, despite a solid defensive effort.

Ranked Teams That Fell to Unranked Opponents

Five other ranked teams suffered disappointing losses. No. 6 Arizona State, No. 17 LSU, No. 18 Notre Dame, No. 21 Duke, and No. 24 Texas A&M all lost to unranked teams. Arizona State, LSU, and Texas A&M’s games were all huge letdowns after very impressive performances last week.

Arizona State had dominated Notre Dame, LSU had taken Alabama to overtime, and Texas A&M had beaten then-No. 3 Auburn. Notre Dame’s overtime loss to Northwestern this week will bump the Irish out of the rankings entirely, which is a shocking development after ranking as high as No. 5 earlier in the year. At one point, the Irish were a pass interference call away from being an undisputed top-4 team. Now they will probably not even return to the rankings for the remainder of the year.

The Melvin Gordon Show

Week 12 featured more than its share of disappointments, but it also featured the most impressive individual performance of the year. Few expected what came to pass in No. 20 Wisconsin’s game against No. 16 Nebraska. Nebraska entered with only one loss and what seemed like a very strong run defense.

But the Cornhuskers were obliterated on the ground thanks to Melvin Gordon’s sensational performance. Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson’s all-time FBS single-game rushing record, running for 408 yards on only 25 carries. After breaking the record in the third quarter, Gordon did not even play in the fourth, or else he likely would have broken 500 yards in the game.

His performance for the ages put the game out of reach early, leading the Badgers to 59-24 blowout victory. Gordon and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota now appear to be in a two-man race for the Heisman trophy.

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