The race for the Heisman Trophy got a little more interesting today with the losses of Oregon, Texas A&M and Baylor, which pretty much dropped quarterbacks Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Bryce Petty out of the race.
For Mariota, you could tell almost from the beginning that he was going to have a bad day against Arizona. His very first pass attempt of the game, a throw to the left sideline, was bobbled by Ducks receiver Bralon Addison. A defensive back from Arizona, Shaquille Richardson, jumped out of bounds and tipped the ball back onto the playing field, where it was intercepted by teammate Scooby Wright. It was an unbelievable play, and the first interception Mariota has thrown all season.
On another play, Mariota threw a perfect pass down the right side of the field about 50 yards, and it went right through his receiver's hands. I don't think you could really say the loss was really Mariota's fault -- I thought he threw the ball pretty well, and that the Oregon defense just couldn't stop the Wildcats' running game -- but the fact is that his team lost. In the eyes of Heisman voters, you don't get many style points when you get beat by a team that just lost to Washington State a week ago.
Manziel took a similar hit in style points. He completed only two of his first 11 pass attempts and was off the mark for much of the game against a very fast LSU defense that did a good job putting pressure on him. Manziel finished 16 of 41 for 224 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, though he did gain 54 yards on the ground.
I thought Manziel had to win his last two games to have a shot at winning his second straight Heisman, so Saturday's loss more or less took him out of the running. When you get beat that soundly in a nationally televised game, you lose a lot of votes.
Petty's performance today was disappointing because I was hoping Baylor could continue its run, but the loss did not surprise me. The Bears have not won at Oklahoma State since 1939, and they did not have starting RB Lache Seastrunk and WR Tevin Reese, who are both injured. More important, Oklahoma State is a very good team that matches up very well with Baylor's speed.
Nobody knows for sure what will come of Jameis Winston's situation, or how it will affect his shot at winning the Heisman. But I would say that today was a very good one for one contender: Alabama QB AJ McCarron (13 of 16, 179 yards, two TDs in a 49-0 win vs. Chattanooga), whose Heisman chances are looking much stronger now with the fall of three top candidates.
Blue Devils on the rise
Duke, a team that many had picked to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division, won its ninth game of the season Saturday after beating Wake Forest, 28-21. That's the most wins the Blue Devils have had since 1941, when they were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation and played Oregon State in the Rose Bowl, losing 20-16.
Duke got strong performances today from two juniors: QB Anthony Boone (24 of 29, 256 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT) and WR Jamison Crowder (10 catches, 121 yards, 2 TDs), a good all-around player who can catch passes and return kicks.
Lockett's record day not enough
Oklahoma won today despite playing without its starting quarterback and starting running back, and had to withstand a big game by K-State's Tyler Lockett, who had a school record 12 catches for 278 yards and three touchdowns and finished with 440 all-purpose yards in a losing effort. Lockett's performance was especially impressive because it came against a pretty good Oklahoma defense, including cornerback Aaron Colvin, who is No. 29 on my Hot 100 list of senior prospects. Lockett, a junior, is excellent on punt returns and kickoff returns and will have a chance to do both in the NFL.
This was a big win for Oklahoma because it gives it a better chance to land in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, which would be a big plus for the Sooners, who do a lot of recruiting in Texas.
A big congratulations to head coach Bob Stoops, who got his 158th win at Oklahoma, passing Barry Switzer.
Sophomore QB leads Michigan State
A lot of people thought Michigan State would only be as good as its defense, but quarterback Connor Cook has made the Spartans a much better offensive team this season.
A sophomore, Cook wasn't expected to be the starter, but he came in and won the position and has played very well, throwing 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. On Saturday, he passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns in the Spartans' 30-6 win over Northwestern, and is a big reason why Michigan State will play in the Dec. 7 Big Ten championship game against Ohio State.
Gators' keep sliding
I'm not sure how to explain Florida's loss to Georgia Southern on Saturday. I don't like using the word "parity" -- I prefer competitive balance -- but this game really showed you that the better team can lose on any given day.
Saturday marked the first time that Florida lost to an FCS school. To give you an idea of the Gators' struggles this season, they scored 20 points -- six of Georgia Southern's opponents this season, including Elon and Wofford, scored 20 or more points against the Eagles.
In my estimation, Florida is a very well-coached team that has simply been crushed by injuries to several key starters. Sometimes if you don't have good senior leadership on your team and you're going bad, there's nothing you can do about it.