Finally, the icebreaker K-State fans were waiting for happened. It probably wasn't the most preferable option for multiple reasons (potential title game opponent, impact on the computer rankings, general odiousness), but someone above the 'Cats lost, opening the door wide for a purple invasion of Miami in two months. And that's our cue for the blitz.
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide: In some ways, it seemed almost inevitable after last week, especially when the Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter. Credit to the Tide; they almost did to A&M what Auburn did to them in the 2010 Iron Bowl, but came up short. The Tide are now out of K-State's way (and Oregon's), but amusingly enough Notre Dame may have to worry still. (Settle down, Aggies, we'll talk about you in a bit.)
Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24
#2 Kansas State Wildcats: A cursory glance at the final score is going to give the wrong impression. The 'Cats led TCU 23-0 until midway through the fourth quarter, the result of a shutdown defensive performance which overshadowed a completely off-the-hook performance by the Frogs themselves. Both defenses had complete control of the line of scrimmage, and TCU made so many ridiculous pressure plays on D that I can't even count them. Yet K-State scored 23 points anyway, which should tell you something important. It was not a statistical orgasm for Collin Klein, but it was more than enough; the win was utterly dominant despite the score. Indeed, the 'Cats came oh-so-close to being the first team to keep TCU out of the end zone since a 12-3 win over Texas Tech back in 2006 until a pointless fumble with only a minute to go resulted in a Frog touchdown.
Kansas State 23, Texas Christian 10
#3 Oregon Ducks: They couldn't shake Cal in the first half, and the Golden Bear rushing attack repeatedly gashed the Ducks for big gains, partially owing to the entire Duck defensive line being injured. Worse, both Kenjon Barner and Marcus Mariota left the game due to injury for a time, and the Duck season suddenly looked like a tanker full of propane sitting above a campfire. But then came the second half, and lots of camera shots of Jeff Tedford looking constipated. Still, California did further expose some Oregon weaknesses. Problem is, even with Barner being ineffective, Oregon still piled points on the scoreboard.
Oregon 59, California 17
#4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Go ahead, call me butthurt. Call me a hater. Tell me that nothing matters but winning. It doesn't work that way, anymore than fairness and justice enter into the equation. The bottom line is this: last week, after escaping Pitt, Notre Dame suffered in the polls. This week, after beating Boston College less impressively than Wake Forest did, it's not going to improve any (and didn't in the coaches' poll, where it matters). Notre Dame has struggled with a schedule barely better than K-State's -- that's why they were sharing the #1 computer ranking two weeks ago, remember. And KSU's remaining two games are tougher than Notre Dame's, full stop.
Notre Dame 21, Boston College 6
#5 Georgia Bulldogs: I have absolutely nothing to say about this game because Auburn. Well, except that they're probably not going to manage to jump Alabama in the BCS standings, though they did pass the Tide in the coaches' poll.
Georgia 38, Auburn 0
#6 Florida Gators: Really? Florida just played a horrible game across the board yesterday, and were sort of lucky to escape with a win. Of course, we can't complain, because we need them to keep doing that. The Gators trailed with 1:42 remaining before Jacoby Brissett hit Quinton Dunbar, and then scored the winning touchdown on a blocked punt return with just two seconds remaining. Yeah, that kinda win. For our purposes, though, it's no different than if the Gators had won by 50.
Florida 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 20
#7 Louisiana State Tigers: No problem whatsoever for the Bengals as they put Mississippi State in their place. Zach Mettenberger wasn't particularly efficient, but he was effective, tossing two TD passes and racking up 273 yards. The defense held the Bulldogs to 47 yards rushing, too, which helped. A lot.
Louisiana State 37, Mississippi State 17
#8 South Carolina Gamecocks: Nothing unexpected happened here, although the Gamecock running game is obviously in a severely weakened state now without Marcus Lattimore. Still, they didn't need him to blow out Arkansas, and nobody expected them to.
South Carolina 38, Arkansas 20
#9 Louisville Cardinals: Welp. Teddy Bridgewater had a pretty good game. It didn't matter, as Jerome Smith ran for 144 yards and Prince-Tyson Gulley had 98 and Syracuse just rolled all over the Cardinals. Louisville goes from unbeaten to not even being in first place in the Big East now.
Syracuse 45, Louisville 26
#10 Florida State Seminoles: Thursday night, FSU tried their hardest to lose to Virginia Tech, but failed. It took a touchdown with 40 seconds left to gain the lead, and a Tyler Hunter interception of Logan Thomas to escape Blacksburg intact.
Florida State 28, Virginia Tech 22
#11 Oregon State Beavers: Bell curve. The Beavers spotted Stanford 14 points before scoring 23 unanswered, but the Cardinal got 13 back in the final 15:01 to claw out a victory. The Beavers are going to drop a few spots, which will mildly impact Oregon's brownie points when they meet in the Civil War.
Stanford 27, Oregon State 23
#12 Oklahoma Sooners: K-State's next opponent put a bit of a scare into the Sooners, but Baylor never actually had the lead, nor did they ever actually have a chance to take the lead. It was only that close because Oklahoma turned the ball over twice while Baylor didn't turn it over at all, which ranks right up there with water to wine and loaves to fishes. The real key, however, was Oklahoma's defense holding Baylor to only 172 yards passing. The 252 yards on the ground? Mike Stoops is going to blister his charges for that nonsense, and it's worth noting that K-State will do nothing of the sort next week.
Oklahoma 42, Baylor 34
#13 Clemson Tigers: Clemson jumped out to a 28-0 lead, and when facing a team with a linebacker playing quarterback that's really all you need. Tajh Boyd had 261 yards and three touchdowns to lead the charge.
Clemson 45, Maryland 10
#14 Stanford Cardinal: Looking ahead, it's hard to say what's going to happen when the Cardinal head to Eugene on Saturday. There's the small matter of Oregon seeming to have Stanford's number, and also the slight detail of Oregon's offense strangling puppies and small children. But Stanford's been improving as the season wears on, and their defense might take some cues from California's first half yesterday, when they actually had Oregon bottled up to some extent.
#15 Texas A&M Aggies: This team is good. They are exciting. They have some issues defensively, but it's not like they're Baylor. And most importantly, Johnny Manziel is a legitimate star who's going to win a Heisman Trophy or two. It's not going to happen this year, but it's going to happen. Bank it. Aggies, I don't care much for you, but you're legit and only getting better. Take the praise and relax.
#16 Nebraska Cornhuskers: It took 12 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, but Nebraska survived their encounter with Penn State to move a step away from a rematch with Wisconsin for a Rose Bowl berth. In doing so, they may have also screwed Louisiana Tech but good... which is funny because I remember that one time when Troy Edwards had over 400 receiving yards against the Huskers, trololol.
Nebraska 32, Penn State 23
#17 Texas Longhorns: It might be time to start worrying about Texas. Admittedly, Iowa State's just not the same team outside of Ames, and equally relevant is the history between the Cyclones and Wildcats. But Texas simply dismantled Iowa State as David Ash had a fantastic game against a weakened Cyclone defense: 364 yards and two scores. Joe Bergeron had 86 yards rushing while Johnathan Gray added 74 and two touchdowns. The big note, though: as expected, Texas opened the game in the wishbone... but ran a trick toss-back pass play for 47 yards out of the formation.
Texas 33, Iowa State 7
#18 Cal-Los Angeles Bruins: Don't let the score fool you too much, although it did turn into a game late. UCLA led 37-7 at the half and it was all but over, but then Connor Halliday finally started working while UCLA foolishly relaxed. In the end, the Bruins had to recover an onside kick to save the game, but they still led by 16 with 1:31 to go just before Wazzu scored their last touchdown. Halliday had 330 yards passing and five touchdowns after replacing Jeff Tuel, who was knocked out after going 11/14 for 127. The big story, of course, was the dismissal and subsequent press-release tantrum of WSU receiver Marquess Wilson; other than to note it happened, we're just going to ignore it because it's a silly ploy for attention and dollars.
Cal-Los Angeles 44, Washington State 36
#19 Southern California Trojans: Suffering an allergic reaction, Marquis Lee was only able to catch 10 passes for 161 yards and an 80-yard touchdown. Oh, and he also picked up 66 yards rushing. Pretty mundane effort, huh? Matt Barkley threw three touchdown passes, but also three interceptions; they didn't hurt much, as the Trojans rolled.
Southern California 38, Arizona State 17
#20 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs: Jeez, these guys are nuts. They can score on anyone, it seems. They also can't stop anyone from scoring, as evidenced by last night's shootout. The crazy thing is, this wasn't an aerial bombardment from the Bulldogs. Colby Cameron did throw for 337 yards and three scores, but the real damage was on the ground: Ray Holley had 145 yards and a score, while freshman Kenneth Dixon had 144 and four trips to the end zone. That makes 24 rushing touchdowns for Dixon, an NCAA freshman record. Louisiana Tech's BCS hopes may or may not improve. Nebraska's win doesn't help them, of course, but Louisville's loss suddenly leaves the Bulldogs in the catbird seat, as they're ahead of Rutgers, who are actually the Big East leaders now. Potential landmines await, however, as Tech still has games ahead with Utah State and San Jose State, both of whom are pretty decent.
Louisiana Tech 62, Texas State 55
#21 Mississippi State Bulldogs: It was fun, guys. I hope you enjoyed your visit to the top ten, but you have to go now. Three straight losses has a way of doing that to a team. CLANGA CLANGA. Clanga. Clink.
#22 Texas Tech Red Raiders: Kansas mounted a fourth-quarter comeback and forced overtime, but the Raiders managed to overcome in the second extra frame on a Wildcat jump pass. The stats for this game are stupid. Seth Doege threw for 476 yards and three scores, while Michael Cummings only had 29 yards in the air (but two touchdowns!) for the Jayhawks. On the other hand, the Jayhawks ran wild; Tony Pierson had 202 yards (but no touchdowns!) while James Sims added 127 and two scores. Texas Tech? 63 yards on the ground. Just absolutely crazy stuff. Not as crazy as Tommy Tuberville losing his mind, though, but we won't go into that.
Texas Tech 41, Kansas 34 (2OT)
#23 Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Rutgers takes control of the Big East race for now with Louisville's loss. As for their own Saturday, it was scary for awhile. After three quarters, the Scarlet Knights were locked in a 7-7 snoozer with the Black Knights; Rutgers finally woke up and scored 21 unanswered in the fourth to get away with the win.
Rutgers 28, Army 7
#24 Northwestern Wildcats: Goodbye, and probably hello again to Michigan as the Wolverines fought back to force overtime on a 26-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal with two seconds left. Devin Gardner scored in overtime, then Michigan stuffed Northwestern on fourth-and-two to get out of Dodge with the win.
Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 (OT)
#25 Toledo Rockets: Tuesday MACtion ended with a totally MAClike result, as Toledo departed the Top 25 as quickly as they entered it. That's okay, they'll probably get replaced by Kent State, right?
Ball State 34, Toledo 27
DISSECTING THE POLLS
Today's first release was the ultimately meaningless but still relevant AP poll. Breaking this down, Alabama lost 241 points as a result of their loss; they're still ranked fourth, but their points-per-ballot is just under 21 (it would be exactly 21 with one more point). That's equal to fifth place, not fourth; there is basically a three-way scrum between Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State for places 4-6. Notre Dame, in third, gained 64 points over last week, so they've picked up four points from somewhere. Kansas State gained 66 points over last week; Oregon only gained 64. That's 196 votes among the three teams, which is 16 more votes than a simple one-place upgrade in the polls for all three teams would generate. That means that ALL of these three teams jumped over someone they were behind last week, and in aggregate it means that "someone" pretty much has to be Ohio State, who despite being unbeaten are now ranked behind two one-loss teams.
That's good news for the 'Cats, as are the 14 first-place votes they got in the AP poll.
So if Bama lost 241, but the top three only gained 196 among them, where'd those other 45 votes go? Georgia gained 25 and Ohio State gained 16, and that's 41 right there... but also remember that the top three gained 16 votes which can't be accounted for solely as a result of Alabama's fall, so Georgia and Ohio State actually picked up 57 votes on Bama directly while giving 16 back to the top three.
Downballot, Louisiana Tech passed Louisville, which would be important if the AP poll mattered for BCS bids. Kent State becomes the new MAC entry in the poll; they're the third MAC team to be ranked this year. The other two both lost immediately, of course. In other down-poll news of relevance to the Wildcats, Oklahoma State is only 14 points behind Kent State, so the winner of the Oklahoma State/Texas Tech game next week will be ranked in next week's poll. (Root for Tech, as they'll just have to beat Baylor the following week to end the regular season, whereas Oklahoma State has to play the Sooners and would fall back out with a loss.)
Moving on to the coaches' poll: Alabama is fifth there, not fourth, and dropped 242 points. The split in new first-place ballots basically matched the AP; 45-14 in the AP, 44-14 in the Coaches'. Notre Dame got one first place vote in both polls. Oregon gained 61 points, K-State and Notre Dame only 57. Georgia was a big beneficiary, picking up 42; that adds up to 217. The other 25 points? Surprise. They didn't go to Florida State. Or Florida. They both lost points. They went to LSU, who gained 42 points at the expense of Alabama and the Florida schools.
Replacing Toledo from the MAC this week in the coaches' poll is... nobody, as Texas Tech beat Northern Illinois by one point for the #25 slot. (Kent State only got 39 votes here compared to NIU's 105, so the AP and Coaches are clearly at odds regarding the MAC championship.) Both Tech and Oklahoma State are ranked. Louisiana Tech didn't quite get past Louisville here, and still trail the Cardinals by 29 points. They're sandwiched between Louisville and Rutgers, which doesn't bode well for their chances since the Cardinals haven't played Rutgers yet; the winner will get a boost.
Boiling it all down, in the absence of the Harris Poll, which won't be out until later: K-State will be #1 tonight, as there's no way that only one team sits between K-State and Oregon in the computers. Notre Dame did not gain on K-State this week (and, factoring in computers, will probably slip some), but Oregon did pull away slightly in the polls. Looking forward, however, the fact that Notre Dame didn't lose ground is a mild cause for concern. The 'Cats are going to have to blast Baylor next week to get some cushion, or things could get complicated... especially if Notre Dame takes down USC while the 'Cats are sitting at home on November 24. Mathematically, this isn't even a question. Get the poll voters involved? Yikes.
TO ALL THINGS, AN ENDING
Yesterday marked the end of the regular season for D-II, D-III, and NAIA schools, as the playoffs begin Saturday alongside the final week of the FCS regular season. Advance warning: I shall talk about these things over the next month. The final regular-season #1 teams: Colorado State-Pueblo in D-II (for the second year in a row, and they'll hope to avoid last year's early playoff exit), Mount Union in D-III (unstoppable, it seems), and Georgetown (KY) in the NAIA.