With Week 12 of the college football season in full swing, the College Football 24/7 team offers up some key observations from Saturday's action:
1. The Plainsgrass Miracle
What is it? Never heard of it? We made it up. Sort of. A fitting reproduction of a classic SEC finish.
2. Had enough
Will Muschamp didn't exactly endear himself to Gators fans after Saturday's loss to South Carolina, saying some of them "need to get a grip," and pointing out that while his players don't deserve negativity, he makes more than enough money to handle negativity as a coach. See the video here.
3. Ouch for Clowney
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney aggravated an injury that will require surgery after the season, but still managed to make a couple of plays in the offensive backfield in the Gamecocks' win over Florida.
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4. Yeldon sets season-high
Alabama sophomore RB T.J. Yeldon delivered a season-high 160 yards rushing against Mississippi State on Saturday. But he never found the end zone and coughed up a fumble on a slow night for the UA offense.
5. Built Ford tough
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford spent the night in the Georgia offensive backfield, piling up an unheard of total of quarterback pressures and picking up his eighth sack of the season. The senior's late-season play has been consistently disruptive to opposing offenses. College Football 24/7 tells you how.
6. Backups keep Baylor rolling
To crib a line from a certain former Miami defensive lineman, it doesn't matter what your name is -- at least if you are a Baylor wide receiver or running back.
With starting wide receiver Tevin Reese and running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin out because of injuries, backup WR Levi Norwood and RBs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin accounted for 443 of the Bears' 675 yards of total offense and five of their eight offensive touchdowns in a 63-34 win over Texas Tech.
Even with his hefty new buyout, head coach Art Briles is an absolute offensive wizard that NFL teams would be crazy not to at least consider hiring.
7. Wisconsin running game goes off
It used to be that if a running back had 100 yards it was a big day. Nowadays, with offenses spreading out their formations so much, it's become much easier to run the ball. We got a glimpse of that Saturday in the Wisconsin-Indiana game, in which the Badgers had three players with more than 100 yards rushing and totaled 554 yards as a team. Senior RB James White, who is No. 80 on Gil Brandt's Hot 100 senior prospects list, led the way with 205 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown run, and Wisconsin also got 146 yards from Melvin Gordon and 108 yards from freshman Corey Clement. Even Jared Abbrederis, a wide receiver, got into the act, scoring on two long runs off of reverse plays.
8. Wisconsin 'D' does its job, too
Wisconsin rushed for 554 yards in hammering Indiana 51-3, but don't overlook what the Badgers' defense did. Indiana went into the game averaging 527.1 yards and 43.1 points, but the Hoosiers managed just 224 yards against the Badgers. Wisconsin senior LB Chris Borland led the way with 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry. Wisconsin didn't have any sacks, but its defensive backs did a great job blanketing the best receiving corps in the Big Ten.
9. Matthews on fire
Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews posted his sixth 100-yard performance of the season with 12 catches for 141 yards against Kentucky. One of the top prospects at his position for the 2014 draft, the senior continues setting new school and SEC marks.
10. FSU defense dominates again
Jameis Winston and the offense get all the attention, but Florida State's defense has been stifling this season. The Seminoles held Syracuse to 247 total yards Saturday, and the they substituted liberally throughout -- 27 players made at least one tackle. Backup LB Reggie Northrup led the way with 11. Starting CB Lamarcus Joyner had 1.5 sacks; he now leads the Seminoles with five.
11. USC defense answers the bell
The Trojans used only 13 players on defense Saturday, but they hung in admirably against a punishing offense and talent-laden offensive line in a 20-17 win over Stanford.
The Cardinal ran for 210 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry, but USC came away with two crucial fourth-quarter interceptions, one near the goal line and the other to set up the game-winning field goal. The Trojans got outstanding performances from their top defensive stars: Defensive end Leonard Williams had seven tackles and recovered a fumble to end the game; safety Dion Bailey had an interception, a forced fumble and one tackle for loss. Interim head coach Ed Orgeron got a signature win and made his case for keeping the job on a full-time basis.
12. Marcus Mariota still flawless as a passer
Though last week's loss at Stanford seems to have knocked the Oregon quarterback out of the Heisman Trophy race, Mariota still has not thrown an interception this season. Mariota was 19 of 26 for 288 and three touchdowns in a 44-21 win over Utah, giving him 25 scoring strikes this season.
13. De'Anthony Thomas finally strikes
The Black Mamba got in trouble by predicting the Ducks would score at least 40 against Stanford, then lost a fumble short of the goal line that proved to be crucial in the 26-20 loss. But Thomas made amends by sparking Oregon with a 86-yard kick return for a touchdown in the third quarter in the win over Utah. Thomas also caught a short touchdown to open the game, but is now a bit player in the Oregon spread offense with the emergence of sophomore running back Byron Marshall (11 carries for 66 yards, two touchdowns).
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14. Baylor shows off quick-strike offense
The Bears had the ball for only 2:45 in the first quarter, with four first downs, and yet they finished the quarter with 21 points. That, in a nutshell, sums up Baylor's offense and how fast it can score. Quarterback Bryce Petty had 98 yards passing in the opening quarter, including touchdown strikes of 40 and 31 yards. The other score came on a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown by Levi Norwood.
15. Defenders' day
Three of the top defensive prospects involved in the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game had impressive games, including UK middle linebacker Avery Williamson, who came up with two tackles for loss, including a sack of elusive Vandy quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. Meanwhile, Commodores defensive backs Andre Hal (cornerback) and Kenny Ladler (safety) each had an interception.
16. Big game for UCF's Bortles
UCF junior QB Blake Bortles (6-4, 230) torched a bad Temple defense, throwing for 404 yards and four TDs in rallying the Knights to a 39-36 win. UCF scored twice in the final 1:06, including the game-winning field goal on the last play of the game. It was the first 400-yard game of Bortles' career and just his third 300-yard outing; it also was his second game with four TD passes. Junior J.J. Worton was the Knights' receiving hero, with 10 receptions for 179 yards and three scores. UCF's defense surrendered 518 total yards.
17. Nation's sack leader gets one more
18. Another down day for Hokies' Thomas
Virginia Tech senior QB Logan Thomas (6-6, 254) completed his first eight passes against Maryland. But he missed on each of his next eight attempts in the first half and finished the game 19 of 31 in a shocking overtime loss to visiting Maryland. Thomas threw for 210 yards and two TDs, but on a day when the Hokies managed just 54 rushing yards on 38 carries, Thomas needed to do a lot more in the passing game. The day was a microcosm of Thomas' season and, frankly, his career. He can look razor-sharp on one possession, then look absolutely clueless on the next. He remains a great athlete with a terrific arm who has no feel for the position. Maryland was called for pass interference in overtime to give the Hokies a 1st-and-goal from the 9-yard line, yet Tech had to settle for a field goal after Thomas took a sack on 3rd-and-goal from the Terps' 6.
19. Penn State's Robinson sets school mark
Penn State junior WR Allen Robinson (6-3, 210) set a school single-season record for receptions during the Nittany Lions' 45-21 win over hapless Purdue. Robinson had eight catches for 98 yards. He now has 81 receptions this season, breaking his record of 77 set last season. Robinson already had set the single-season record for receiving yards; he added to that Saturday and now has 1,204 this season.
20. Ohio State's defense leaves something to be desired
While Ohio State's offense was almost unstoppable, the Buckeyes' defense didn't play all that well against Illinois in a 60-35 victory. Illinois had 425 yards of offense, its second-best performance in a Big Ten game (the best came against Indiana, which shouldn't count because Indiana doesn't really understand that playing defense is a requirement in football). Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 294 yards and two TDs, and helped Illinois finish with 27 first downs. That questionable defense won't matter in the final two regular-season games (Indiana and Michigan), but it would be interesting to see what would happen should the Buckeyes face Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game.
21. Switzer, Martin boost Tar Heels
North Carolina true freshman WR Ryan Switzer arrived amid much fanfare this summer. On National Signing Day, UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson raved about Switzer -- who was a running back in high school in West Virginia -- and said he would be used all over the field by the Heels. But Switzer has struggled at times this season and went into Saturday's game against Pitt with just 17 receptions and two rushes. But he did have a punt-return TD last week against Virginia, and he added two more of those Saturday, including the game-winner with 4:46 left. Switzer had a 65-yard punt return with a minute left in the first half, which gave UNC a 24-7 halftime lead. His second for a score against the Panthers came on a 61-yarder with 4:46 left and broke a 27-27 tie. UNC's defensive star was senior DE Kareem Martin (6-6, 265), who had 3.5 sacks, eight tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. Martin, one of the most technically sound ends in the nation, now has nine sacks this season. He always has been known for his ability against the run, but his newfound pass-rush skills should boost his draft stock.
22. Holgorsen facing make-or-break 2014
With all the talk about hot seats at Florida and Washington, get ready to add West Virginia to the list. The Mountaineers won't play in a bowl game after getting walloped at Kansas, and head coach Dana Holgorsen is 6-13 since WVU rose to No. 5 in the country last October. A defense that looked much improved early in the season has regressed badly in recent weeks, while the quarterback play has been erratic all year long. Without significant improvement next season, Holgorsen is going to be looking for work.
23. Stringfellow a future star for Washington
Huskies freshman wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow came into Friday's game at UCLA with three receptions, but exploded for eight catches, 147 yards and his first career touchdown in the loss. Stringfellow (6-3, 225) looks to be a quicker, thicker version of former USC standout Dwayne Jarrett, who starred for Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. Showing a great rapport with projected 2014 starting quarterback Cyles Miles, Strongfellow will be a featured piece for the UW offense moving forward.
24. Freshman flashes
Ole Miss' 51-point explosion in an easy win over Troy was led by one member of the Rebels' much-heralded incoming freshman class, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. The former five-star recruit caught two touchdown passes, the first of which required three broken tackles. Treadwell, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, defensive back Tony Conner and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche lead one of the SEC's most gifted freshman classes.
25. Barr is back
UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr had been overshadowed by freshman sensation Myles Jack, gone six quarters without a tackle and 11 quarters without a tackle for loss before looking like his dominant self in the second half against Washington.
Barr finished with seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack as he was allowed to attack more. Against Colorado, Arizona and in the first half against the Huskies, Barr had been in a more restrictive role. But with the explosive Arizona State offense on deck, Barr will have to be at his disruptive best for the Bruins to seize control of the Pac-12 South.
26. Oklahoma has a one-dimensional offense
Is it too late to install the wishbone? The Sooners cannot throw the ball consistently, managing a total of 118 yards and one touchdown from its three quarterbacks in a 48-10 win over Iowa State. Blake Bell came out of the game with an injury, while Trevor Knight averaged 4.4 yards per attempt in relief.
Fortunately, Knight (10 carries for 123 yards, one touchdown) and running backs Damien Williams (10 carries for 128 yards, two touchdowns) and Brennan Clay (seven carries for 86 yards, one touchdown) did enough on the ground.
Bob Stoops, who tied Barry Switzer for most wins as OU head coach, can still secure another 10-win season, but will need dramatic improvement with his aerial attack for the Sooners to be back in contention for a Big 12 title next season.
27. Huskers' Gregory shines in loss
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has spoken glowingly of sophomore DE Randy Gregory of late, and though the Huskers lost to Michigan State, Gregory showed off his skill set. He had eight tackles, tying for the team lead, against the physical Spartans. He also had a sack and four quarterback hurries. Gregory (6-6, 255) is a third-year sophomore who is draft-eligible.
28. Surprise -- Duke's first in its division
All hail Duke junior QB Brandon Connette, who scored on four short runs to help the Blue Devils score a 48-30 victory over Miami. Duke (8-2 overall, 4-2 in the ACC) has sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal Division, holding a one-game lead in the division, and finishes out the regular season with games at Wake Forest and North Carolina. Duke rushed for 358 yards and five TDs; Connette had touchdown runs of 1, 2, 3 and 4 yards, and also had a TD pass. Miami rang up 565 total yards and led 17-7 after the first quarter, but the Hurricanes managed only one field goal on their last six drives. Miami QB Stephen Morris threw for 379 yards, two TDs and an interception.
29. Washington State inching towards bowl
Early-season success gave way to a three-game losing streak, but the Cougars responded with a 24-17 win at Arizona to improve to 5-5, 3-1 on the road in Pac-12 games. The WSU defense limited Ka'Deem Carey to a reasonable 132 rushing yards and one touchdown and held the 'Cats' passing attack to 5.3 yards per attempt. With winnable games against Utah and in-state rival Washington left, Mike Leach could not only reach a bowl game in his second season on the Palouse but secure the first winning record since 2003.
30. Lockett saves the day for Kansas State
Tyler Lockett is one of the most overlooked players in the country, but he showed his worth by scoring on a 74-yard touchdown pass and making two key third-down catches to set up the Wildcats' game-winning field goal against TCU. Lockett is listed at just 5-11 and 175 pounds, but he now has 56 grabs for 825 yards and five touchdowns despite shuffling quarterbacks. One of those players that just knows how to get open, Lockett has been critical in Kansas State's four-game winning streak to get bowl eligible.