Everything seemed to be playing out how it was supposed to on Saturday. LSU throttled Auburn 45-10. Oklahoma State held serve against Missouri 45-24. Alabama struggled with Tennessee in the first half but then rocked their world in the second half on route to a 37-6 beating. Clemson out-gunned UNC 59-38. Then came the late games. Stanford pile drove Washington 65-21 and Boise State survived Air Force 37-26. Then came undefeated Oklahoma and undefeated Wisconsin.
Russell Wilson and the Wisconsin Badgers came out against Michigan State like they belonged as a Top 5 team as they stormed to 14-0 lead behind Montee Ball and Russell Wilson. In the second quarter the Spartans came alive and scored 23 unanswered points. Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham found the end zone, the Spartans scored a safety and Special Teams found the end zone on a blocked punt. Sparty took a 23-14 lead into half as the momentum had swung. The only score of the third quarter was a Wisconsin FG to pull Wisky within one score (23-17). Kirk Cousins and Keshawn Martin connected (along with an amazing B.J. Cunningham 2-pt conversion reception) to pull the Spartans back ahead by two TDs. Then Wisconsin came roaring back as Russell Wilson made a fantastic pump fake and then ran 22 yards for paydirt and Montee Ball tied it up 31-31 on a pass from Wilson with just 1:26 left in the game. Then it came down to one play for Sparty. Kirk Cousins flung it in the air and Keith Nichol caught a deflection and barely fought his way into the end zone to win the game for Sparty and put out the flame on Wisconsin's National Championship dreams. The video is something to behold, make sure you go here and watch it.
After Sparty pulled the upset on Wisky everybody turned their attentions to Tommy Tuberville's Texas Tech Red Raiders. Their game with Oklahoma had been delayed due to weather but after it started back up the Red Raiders jumped on top of the Sooners taking a 24-7 lead into half. Tech scored first coming out of the half to lead 31-7. The Sooners came storming back by scoring 17 straight and 31 of the last 41 points but the comeback effort came up short as they lost 41-38 in a Big 12 shootout.
In a weekend that was supposed to go according to plan, two of the undefeated National Championship contenders bit the dust and the chase feels wide open again. Let's take a look at the contenders and some of my thoughts on them:
These were the #1 and #2 teams in the BCS, AP and CFBZ rankings last week and they did nothing to hurt that this week. Their match-up on November 25th is going to be an epic clash of two teams that like to punch each other in the mouth. Barring a shocking upset along the way one of these two teams will play for the National Championship.
On paper, Boise seems like the most to gain from the Wisky/OU losses but I'm selling Boise. First let me say that I think Boise has a great team that can beat anybody in the Nation (except probably LSU and Bama) in a one-game scenario. But their schedule is just so hideously bad I simply cannot reward it. Boise played Georgia in the opener and that is how they need to schedule all of the rest of their non-conference games if they want to be taken seriously. They simply cannot afford to schedule WAC, Conference USA or MAC opponents. No disrespect to them but beating a team in any of those conferences won't make you a National Championship contender. And then Boise barely survived Air Force 37-26. Air Force played Boise surprisingly good matching their first downs (23 to 23), total yards (408 to 423) and controlling the clock (36:18 to 23:42). Boise jumped out to a 20-7 score and took a 20-10 lead into half-time but Air Force played the second half even with them as Boise finally put them away with a FG to take a two-possession lead with just 42 seconds left. Boise did what they needed to, they won but it was against a team that Notre Dame put 59 points on and against a team that has a losing record. Wins over the types of teams Boise plays just simply isn't enough. Their schedule dictates to me that they aren't a realistic National Championship Contender.
The Cowboys were ranked #4 in the BCS Standings, #6 in the AP and #4 in the prestigous CFBZ Top 25. In the short term Okie State looks like they will move up the poll and take the #3 spot but their remaining schedule is just brutal. They play RG3 and Baylor on Oct 25th, undefeated Kansas State on Nov 5th, at Texas Tech on Nov 12th, at Iowa State on Nov 18th and then finish with Oklahoma on Dec 3rd. A run like that is simply why you can't consider Boise for a National Title spot because their finish is a run that features 2 awful teams and then TCU, San Diego State and Wyoming. Which schedule do you think Okie State would prefer to play. Okie State would run the table on Boise's schedule without breaking a sweat. Okie State should be #3 or #4 in the new polls but I'm afraid they aren't long for the Top 5 due to their schedule.
Stanford came into the week at #8 in the BCS, #7 in the AP and #7 in our CFBZ poll. A lot of that was due to their schedule. This weekend Stanford played their first Top 25 opponent and they answered the bell with a knockout flooring Washington 65-21. I think Stanford gained the most out of anybody this weekend with their performance but they still have the bulk of their schedule ahead of them. Oct 29th at USC, Oct 12th vs Oregon and Nov 26th vs Notre Dame. If Stanford gets past those and past the Pac-12 Championship Game (most like Arizona State) I think they have the best chance of playing LSU/Bama in the National Championship Game.
In the recent past Clemson has been guilty of being Clemson and losing games they should have won. But in discussing Clemson with guys like Aaron Torres and Kevin McGuire on the Twitter Machine, Clemson feels like this years Auburn. Things just seem to go their way and the ball seems to bounce their way when it needs to. That and Sammy Watkins is the best Freshman in the country and Tajh Boyd has been better than anyone could have hoped. As of last week Clemson was #7 in the BCS, #8 in the AP and #8 in the CFBZ polls. Outside of Boise State, Clemson probably has the easiest road to the National Championship Game as they play at Georgia Tech on Oct 29th, vs Wake Forest on Nov 12th, at NC State on Nov 19th, at an under-manned South Carolina on Nov 26th and in the ACC Championship Game (possibly against Virginia Tech).
The other undefeateds are Kansas State and Houston. Houston has no chance because of their schedule and Kansas State still has to get through the Big 12 meat grinder (Oklahoma, Okie State, Texas A&M and Texas). The season still has a long way to go but this weekend really shook things to the core. If you ask me I think Stanford gained the most this weekend.