There Is a Rumbling in the Midwest: Here Comes the Leprechauns . . . and Notre Dame at 11-0 as Oregon and Kansas State Pack Up Their Gear and Get Suddenly Quiet

College Football Wrap-Up – Week 12

If you are 1 of 3 unbeaten teams left in the hunt for the national championship game in the 12th week of major college football, it would be a good idea to win out and make it more interesting than it already is. But sometimes you can bury a generation of enthusiasm in a day, like last Saturday.

Here was #1 Oregon at 10-0, and #2 Kansas State at 10-0, and #3 Notre Dame at 10-0. By the time the day was over, #14 Stanford had upset Oregon, 17-14, in overtime, and an unranked, 5-5 Baylor team had put an upset beat down on Kansas State, 52-24.

All Notre Dame did was shut out a 5-6 Wake Forest team, 38-0, to launch the Fighting Irish into the #1 spot in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll, the Coaches Top 25 Poll, and the BCS Standings, which determine who plays in the national championship game. They are happy in South Bend, Indiana, and sad in Eugene, Oregon, and Manhattan, Kansas.

And you ask, how could this happen now? The answer is easy—this is college football. This is why we watch it, why we talk about it, why we argue about who is best and why, and why we ponder how our team has the same record as another team that we have beaten, and they are in the AP Top 25 and we are not.

College football is what makes a mundane existence tolerable. That, and man caves, libations and snacks. (A man cave, sometimes a mantuary or manspace, is a male sanctuary, such as a specially equipped garage, spare bedroom, media room, den, or basement.)

And so, for the second week in-a-row, the race for the national championship has been turned on its ear. First it was Alabama, and now it is Oregon and Kansas State that have fallen on their sword. History will record the debacle. We must move on.

It’s poetic, as in Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Well . . . maybe we’ll skip the road, and head to the man cave.

Here is the breakdown on which AP Top 25 teams are on the right track, and which ones are on the wrong track. A ranked team that is on track has either beaten another ranked team, or beaten an unranked opponent by at least 21 points.

Here’s the complete rundown of the AP Top 25 teams that stayed on track in Week 12:

#3 Notre Dame (11-0) at home did exactly what the Fighting Irish needed to do to stay in contention for the national title. They shut out a 5-6 Wake Forest team, 38-zip. And if you think the Irish do not have a 4-leaf clover in their pocket, ponder this: #1 Oregon was upset by #14 Stanford, 17-14, and #2 Kansas State was upset by unranked Baylor, 52-24. It’s good to be Irish, it’s good to have a 4-leaf clover in your pocket, and it’s good to have at least 2 million screaming leprechauns in your fan base. Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame? You betcha! A shot of Jameson, please. There are, of course, two kinds of football players—those who are Irish, and those who wish they were Irish right about now.

#4 Alabama (10-1) at home got back on track after being upset 29-24 by Texas A&M last week by logging a 49-0 shutout of AA Western Carolina (1-10). The Crimson Tide led 42-0 at the half before keeping the score down in the 2nd half.

#5 Georgia (10-1) at home put a 45-14 whipping on AA Georgia Southern (8-3) to stay on top in the SEC East Division, and will play Alabama for the SEC title.

#7 Florida (10-1) at home logged a 23-0 shutout over AA Jacksonville State (6-5). Some SEC teams play AA teams late in the season to pad their record. In Florida’s case, it was a moot effort because Florida is still tied at 7-1 with Georgia for the SEC East Division title, but the Gators lost to Georgia 19-7 earlier in the season so they will not be playing Alabama for the SEC title, and Georgia will.

#10 Florida State (10-1) on-the-road notched a 41-14 edge over unranked Maryland (4-7). The Seminoles are tied at 7-1 with Clemson for the lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division. Since both teams play SEC opponents to end their regular season (Clemson hosts South Carolina and Florida State hosts Florida), and since Florida State beat Clemson 49-37 earlier in the year, Florida State will be playing Georgia Tech for the ACC (aka Almost Competitive Conference) title.

#17 UCLA (9-2) at home did exactly what it was supposed to do against #21 Southern California, win 38-28. First year Coach Jim Mora and his Bruins keep making surprising statements. UCLA now hosts Stanford in its last regular season game. This could be what they call “mighty interesting” down South. Should UCLA upset #14 Stanford, which just upset #1 Oregon 17-14, UCLA could play Stanford again a week later for the Pacific 12 Conference title if Oregon loses to Oregon State.

#15 Oregon State (8-2) at home looked like a Clint Eastwood reborn against California (3-6), putting a 48-point beat down on the California Bears, 62-14. After Oregon State won 6 straight and then was upset 20-17 by Washington and upset 27-23 by Stanford, the Beavers caught a Clint Eastwood movie and heard this famous line: “Sometimes it’s not enough to be mean, sometimes you have to be downright ugly.” The Cal Bears were on the receiving end this time around.

#16 Nebraska (9-2) at home laid the composite plastic on Minnesota (6-5) to notch a 38-14 win. Nebraska could easily face Ohio State for the Big 10 Conference title.  

#23 tie Michigan (8-3) at home easily beat unranked Iowa (4-7), 42-17, with Denard Robinson lining up at running back. Robinson was the star QB before missing 2 games with nerve damage to his right elbow. All his replacement—junior Devin Gardner—did was go 18-for-23 for 314 yards with 3 touchdowns passing and 3 touchdowns rushing. Robinson had 98 yards on 13 carries (7.54 yards per carry). Michigan ends its regular season at Ohio State on Saturday.

Here’s is the complete rundown of the AP Top 25 teams that DID NOT stay on track in Week 12:

#1 Oregon (10-1) at home read too many news clippings and was outplayed on defense, getting upset 17-14 in overtime by #14 Stanford (9-2). No one really thought Alabama would lose last week to Texas A&M at home, and no one thought the Ducks would lose at home in Autzen Stadium to Stanford. Fans at Autzen Stadium have been known to throw unopened cans of soda at opposing players, kind of like the Oakland Raiders north. In the end, Stanford also had a better field goal kicker.

#2 Kansas State (10-1) on-the-road suffered a horrendous upset loss to unranked Baylor (5-5). The Wildcats got their butt handed to them, 52-24, in not only beating, but a beat down of significance. It’s too bad for K-State. Coach Bill Snyder and his K-State Wildcats are the sort of team and players you want to do well. Snyder, one of the greatest coaches in college football history, has had six 11-win teams but never won a national title. This was his year, until Saturday.   

#6 Ohio State (11-0), 1 of the only 2 unbeaten teams nationally, needed an overtime period to post a 21-14 victory over Wisconsin (7-4) at Wisconsin. True to form, the Buckeyes continue to be unimpressive as a team with 11 straight wins. Five of Ohio State’s 11 wins have been by 7 points or less, and 2 of them have been in overtime. The Buckeyes are lucky to be 11-0. Let’s see if the Buckeyes can beat Michigan when they host the Wolverines on Saturday. Should Ohio State win against Michigan and complete their regular season unbeaten, they will be going nowhere because they have NCAA sanctions that prohibit them for enjoying a bowl game or a shot at the national title. 

#8 LSU (9-2) at home could only beat unranked Mississippi (5-6) by 6 points, 41-35. Man, that’s just not getting it done Tigers; you need a new diet and some more training to deserve a #8 ranking. More to the point, LSU (Lost Somewhere Upstate) needed 21 last quarter points to win by 6.

#9 Texas A&M (9-2) at home and fresh off an upset of #1 Alabama last week, had a letdown by only being able to beat AA Sam Houston State (8-3) by 19 points, 47-28.

#11 Clemson (10-1) at home registered a 62-48 track meet win over unranked North Carolina State (6-5). Clemson, which plays in the ACC (the Almost Competitive Conference) is hardly the 11th best team in the nation.  

#12 South Carolina (9-2) at home could only beat AA Wofford (8-3) by 17 points, 24-7, and had to score the margin (17 points) in the last quarter to do it, giving some serious doubt about the Gamecocks being the 12th best team in the country. Let’s be honest, South Carolina is NOT the 12th best team in any country.

#13 Oklahoma (8-2) traveled to West Virginia (5-5) and escaped with a hardly impressive 50-49 victory. No wonder nobody but the Sooners thinks they are an outstanding team this year.

#19 Louisiana Tech (9-2) at home and with the nation’s highest scoring offense coming into the game, was upstaged and upset by unranked Utah State (9-2) as the Aggies outscored the Bulldogs, 48-41, in overtime.

#22 Rutgers (9-1) on-the-road held Cincinnati (7-3) to a field goal while winning, 10-3. Rutgers is leading the Big East Conference with a 5-0 mark.

#23 tie Texas Tech (7-4) on-the-road and the team with a coach that has a temper shorter than Bo Pelini of Nebraska, was upset 59-21 by unranked Oklahoma State (7-3), proving that if you are going to win more football games, you have to do more than just slap people around, especially if they are on your team.

#25 Kent State (10-1) went to war in Bowling Green, Ohio and came home with a 31-24 victory over Bowling Green (7-4). Some thought the Falcons might win, but the Golden Flashes played better. Do not even ask me how Kent State got its comic book nickname. 

#18 Texas (8-2) and #20 Louisville (9-1) were idle this week.

In other games worthy of note among unranked teams:

Northern Illinois improved its record to 10-1 with a 31-24 win over Toledo (8-3). The Huskies remain the ONLY 10-1 team in America that was unranked going into the game.

Southern Mississippi (0-11) remained the ONLY major college team without at least 1 win this season by losing, 34-33, to Texas-El Paso (3-8). It’s tough being a Golden Eagle this year, it’s even tougher when you have broken wing and can’t even fly, much less win.

No weekly recap on this blog would be complete without noting arguably the best 7-4 team in the nation—the Washington Huskies.

Washington (now 7-4) has had the 5th toughest schedule in major college football this season, playing 5 Top 25 teams–#2 Oregon, #3 LSU, #7 Oregon State, #8 Stanford and #11 Southern California. Washington lost 3 of them (to LSU, Oregon and Southern Cal), but they UPSET then #8 Stanford 17-13, and then UPSET #7 Oregon State 20-17. Think about that a minute: the Huskies held a #8 team to 13 points and a #7 team to 17 points.

Now the Huskies on-the-road (as in ROAD WIN) have beaten a 1-10 Colorado team, 38-3, and have an opportunity to close out the regular season with another win against in-state rival Washington State. Should they do so, their record would be 8-4. Should they win their bowl game, the Washington Huskies would end their season at 9-4, and perhaps be at that point the best 9-4 team in the country.

One of the biggest reasons why Washington is so much better this year is new Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox. Last year the Huskies were 106th in total defense, this year they are 29th. Last year the Huskies were 108th in scoring defense, this year they are 36th. There were 120 major college teams last year, this year there are 124. Wilcox is the real deal, and it is easy to see why.

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