Tuesday, December 2, 2014

College Football Rivalry Week Wrap

Ole Miss won a Golden Egg and ended Mississippi State's title chances Saturday.

 By Andy Dougherty (@AndyDougherty10)

The last weekend of college football’s regular season showcased many of the nation’s top rivalries. With so many big games, a number of ranked teams were vulnerable, and seven of them lost. No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 Georgia and No. 24 Marshall were all upset, while No. 13 Arizona State, No. 15 Auburn, and No. 18 Minnesota fell to higher-ranked opponents.

Let's look back at some of the more memorable games.

The Iron Bowl 

No. 15 Auburn at No. 1 Alabama

All of the losses by ranked teams came with significant repercussions. None would have shaken the college football world more than a loss by Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but the Crimson Tide was able to erase a 4th quarter deficit to win 55-44 in record-setting fashion. Most notably, Auburn’s 44 points were the most Alabama had ever allowed in a win. Remarkably, Blake Sims also became the first quarterback to throw three interceptions for Alabama under Nick Saban.

The 99 total points scored by the two teams were 24 more than the previous Iron Bowl record. Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Auburn’s Sammie Coates became the first two receivers in Iron Bowl history to accumulate more than 200 receiving yards. In the loss, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall set a school record with 456 passing yards.

The last five Iron Bowl winners have advanced to the National Championship Game, and Alabama appears poised to extend the streak.

The Egg Bowl

No. 4 Mississippi State at No. 19 Ole Miss

With Saturday’s 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 19 Ole Miss has now beaten both teams that have held the CFP No. 1 ranking this year. The Rebels are one of the most dangerous teams in the country, though they are also fairly inconsistent. The Bulldogs had been enjoying a historic run, but their playoff chances have fallen apart in the last two weeks. After all the talk of SEC bias earlier in the year, it now looks like there will be only one SEC team in the playoff after all.

Battle for the Florida Cup

Florida at No. 3 Florida State

The scriptwriters for Florida State’s season have run out of new ideas. For the third consecutive week, the Seminoles beat an unranked team by less than a touchdown. Early on, Jameis Winston struggled mightily, becoming the first FBS quarterback to throw three interceptions in the first quarter of a game this season. Winston finished the game with a career-low 125 passing yards and a career-high four interceptions.

But Florida State clawed its way back to a 28th consecutive victory, extending the longest winning streak ever for an ACC team. The Florida Gators had plenty of chances to end their rival’s unbeaten run, which would have been a fulfilling end to Will Muschamp’s tumultuous run in Gainesville. Instead, his nightmare continued, and so did the longest current winning streak in college football.

Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe 

No. 18 Minnesota at No. 14 Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s 34-24 win over Minnesota clinched the Big 10 West for the Badgers and earned them a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. Running back Melvin Gordon’s all-time single-game rushing record may have been broken last week, but at least he earned the Big Ten single-season rushing record on Saturday. He will be able to hold that record for more than a week.

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate

No. 16 Georgia Tech at No. 9 Georgia

No. 9 Georgia’s impressive blowout victories over Auburn and Missouri had kept them in the playoff discussion heading into this week. The Bulldogs were firmly in control of the game against their in-state rival until an unlikely comeback at the very end of the game. With no timeouts and only 18 seconds remaining, the run-heavy Georgia Tech offense managed to make its way into field goal range and connect on a 53-yarder to put the game into overtime.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Georgia had a 99.81% chance of winning before the Yellow Jackets mounted their comeback. No team has overcome greater odds to win a game this year.

Battle for the Territorial Cup

No. 13 Arizona State at No. 11 Arizona

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, whose status had been in doubt all week, showed few signs of injury in Friday’s game. He and running back Nick Wilson led the Wildcats to a dominant offensive performance in their 42-35 win. With the victory, Arizona clinched the Pac-12 South and will face No. 2 Oregon in next week's Pac 12 championship game.

The Civil War

No. 2 Oregon at Oregon State

Speaking of Oregon, The Ducks made short work of their rivals from Corvallis, riding Heisman candidate quarterback Marcus Mariota's six total touchdowns to a comfortable 47-19 victory. With the win, Oregon remains squarely in the College Football Playoff picture, and a rematch with Arizona in next week's Pac 12 title game will give the Ducks a chance to avenge their only loss of the season.

Stanford at No. 8 UCLA

UCLA knocked itself out of the playoff hunt with a 31-10 loss at home to unranked Stanford. Quarterback Brett Hundley’s 146 passing yards were not nearly enough, especially from a former Heisman candidate. Meanwhile, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan delivered a nearly flawless performance, completing all but three of his passes along with two touchdowns and no turnovers.

Marshall’s Dream Ends

No. 24 Marshall was the only undefeated FBS team besides Florida State until its heartbreaking 67-66 loss in a shootout against Western Kentucky. The opposing quarterbacks combined for an all-time FBS record 15 touchdowns in the game. Marshall had been campaigning for the CFP committee to recognize its success with some playoff consideration, but this loss crushed the small sliver of hope that the Thundering Herd had been clinging to.

Other Rivalry Games

As expected, No. 6 Ohio State won comfortably against unranked Michigan. Unfortunately, star quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a broken ankle in the win, and he will miss the remainder of the season. His injury may weaken Ohio State’s case for a playoff bid.

The misery continued for Notre Dame, as the Irish lost their fourth straight game to close out the season. Rival USC dominated throughout the game, winning by its second-largest margin ever in 36 wins over Notre Dame.

By the skin of its teeth, No. 7 Baylor kept its playoff hopes alive with a 48-46 win over Texas Tech. No. 17 Missouri advanced to next week’s SEC Championship Game with a 21-14 win over Arkansas. The upcoming championship weekend will be the last chance for teams on the outside looking in to make a playoff push.

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