Saturday’s college football action provided more great moments for fans, and maybe even a bit more clarity as we move towards a College Football Playoff. Here’s a look at the winners and losers from the weekend.
The still-unbeatens: Florida State, which disposed of Louisville on Thursday, and Mississippi State, which dodged a bullet in the final moments against Arkansas, both remain unblemished. Only Marshall, which was off this weekend, can say the same.
Teams getting an eighth win: Florida State, Nebraska, Colorado State, Oregon, Mississippi State
Teams getting a seventh win: Duke, Georgia Tech, Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, Ohio State, UCLA, Arizona State, Georgia Southern, Auburn, Missouri
Teams getting bowl eligible: Miami (Florida), Boston College, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Louisiana Tech, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Nevada, Utah State, USC, Washington, Texas A&M, Toledo.
Oregon and quarterback Marcus Mariota: The Ducks finally solved pesky Stanford in spectacular fashion, issuing a 45-16 beat-down over the Cardinal on Saturday, and Mariota continued a brilliant season, throwing for 258 yards and running for 85. The one-loss Ducks would probably be a playoff participant if the season ended today, and Mariota, who’s averaging 10.2 yards per attempt, rushed for 410 yards and has accounted for 33 touchdowns against just two interceptions, may well be the Heisman favorite.
Florida and coach Will Muschamp: It’s seemed a foregone conclusion that Gator coach Will Muschamp would get fired, but this weekend, the Gators absolutely whipped Georgia and now find themselves potentially in contention for the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title. My guess is that the Gators aren’t nearly as good as they looked on Saturday and that Muschamp’s going to lose his job at season’s end, anyway, but at least UF got bragging rights against a heated rival for another year.
Vanderbilt and quarterback Johnny McCrary: It’s been a long, long season in Nashville and part of the reason has been that the Commodores, who’ve started four men at quarterback, couldn’t find a suitable player to man the position. McCrary had been essentially banished to Siberia until injuries dictated that he get another chance, and one of the most heavily recruited players in Commodore history responded by tying a school record with five touchdown passes in Vandy’s win over Old Dominion. Just as an FYI, the two other quarterbacks who hold that record are Jay Cutler and Bill Wade, who have combined to start 20 years in the NFL. Let’s not get carried away –it’s Old Dominion–but the ‘Dores weren’t having much offensive success against anyone, and McCrary, who has a strong arm and poise in the pocket, may well be the real deal.
Tennessee and quarterback Josh Dobbs: The Vols snapped a long SEC losing streak thanks to Dobbs, who threw for 301 yards and ran for 166 in UT’s miraculous win at South Carolina. On the heels of a super performance against Alabama the week before, it’s reason for optimism in Knoxville, and because of that, the Vols now have a chance to snap a bowl drought. Not bad for a guy who had shoulder troubles in the preseason and was expected to redshirt.
Teams eliminated from bowl contention: Tulsa, Eastern Michigan, Hawaii, Washington State, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico State
Stanford: The Cardinal were thought to be a potential playoff contender, but fell to 5-4 after getting blitzed by Oregon, thus snapping a streak of 31 games in which Stanford had not allowed 30 points. Granted, Stanford has lost all four games to ranked teams, with two coming by a field goal each, but it’s clear this Cardinal team, which gave up 525 yards on Saturday and ranks 95 nationally in scoring, isn’t at the same level of those perennial top-10 squads of the past few years.
South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier: Give credit to Tennessee for going on the road and winning in Columbia, but let’s be honest here: Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, with his dogged insistence on throwing the ball down the stretch when the Gamecocks just needed to run clock, put the ball on a tee and dared UT to hit it, and it’s not the first time the Head Ball Coach has done that this season. Carolina, a preseason top 10 team, now sits at 4-5.
The American Athletic Conference: The AAC had but one Top 25 team, East Carolina, and once the Pirates lost to Temple on Saturday, ECU will be hard-pressed to join the rankings again barring winning out through bowl season. Meanwhile, Central Florida, which appeared to be hitting its stride, lost to lowly Connecticut (2-6). Two of the league’s 11 teams have already lost a seventh game, which makes them bowl-ineligible, and three more need just one loss to join them.
Georgia: The Bulldogs still had an outside chance at a national title, but not anymore after the Gators ran for over 400 yards. I know it’s a rivalry game on a neutral field, but there was no excuse for UGA to lose to a Florida team that doesn’t have nearly the Bulldogs’ talent.
It’s hard to say much bad about Arkansas, which continues to lose SEC games week after week but never seems to be out of most of them until the last few minutes. But after 17 straight losses, the last three have been terribly frustrating for Razorback fans, who saw their team finish in the top five of the national polls just three years ago. For this, Arkansas gets its own category, in honor of one of Bill Murray’s best movies ever.