More Wild Finishes, Off-Field Tragedy Highlight Week 8 in College Football
It was a wild week of college football that was, unfortunately, marred by tragedy. Here are some of the top stories from the gridiron.
The Reports of Ole Miss’ Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
After last week’s loss to Memphis, many observers were ready to write Ole Miss off as an SEC contender. But with this week’s big win, 23-3, over No. 15 Texas A&M, the Rebels are still very much alive in the conference race.
Ole Miss leads the conference in passing, scoring and total offense. They already hold wins over Alabama and A&M and still have the rest of their SEC West slate in front of them. In other words, while it won’t be easy, the 6-2 Rebels control their own destiny and could still win the SEC title. And beyond that, who knows? Even with two losses, can you imagine the playoff committee keeping an SEC champion who boasts wins over Alabama, LSU and the SEC East champ out of the playoffs?
The Pac-12 Could Be the First Conference Eliminated from the Playoffs
Last year, the Pac-12 was very much in the discussion over which was America’s best conference. This year, we’re learning that the conference has a bunch of good teams, but no really great ones.
This week, Utah had risen to No. 3 in the polls before being smoked, 42-24, by USC. Preseason frontrunner UCLA took out No. 20 Cal, 40-24. At 6-1 overall and 5-0 in conference, No. 10 Stanford is the only team still unbeaten in conference play. With the conference’s top teams still having tough games coming up (e.g. Cal vs. Stanford, Utah vs. UCLA, the Pac-12 championship game), it’s possible this circular firing squad could continue knocking teams out of contention.
The good news for the conference is that only two teams (Washington and Oregon State) currently have losing records. The bad news is that either Utah or Stanford will have to win out for the conference to have any hope of making the playoffs.
This is the Year of the Wild Finish
It started with BYU’s week one Hail Mary win over Nebraska. And every week, we’ve had at least one crazy finish that makes you think you’ve seen it all.
Texas missing an extra point that would have forced overtime. Texas (again) shanking a punt to give the ball to Oklahoma State in range for the go-ahead field goal. Michigan’s punter fumbling the snap and Michigan State running it back for the game-winning score with no time left. You get the idea.
So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, even in a week with a lack of big-time games, we still get a finish for the ages. With six seconds left and the game tied at 16, Florida State lined up for a 56-yard field goal to beat Georgia Tech. The Seminoles’ Roberto Aguayo is the nation’s best kicker, so FSU fans had to be feeling good about their chances. And, even if he missed, the game is headed into overtime. Nobody could have predicted what was about to happen next.
Florida State hadn’t lost a conference game since 2012 and, in a year that has already seen such wild finishes, it somehow seems appropriate that such a streak would end on a crazy “kick-six.”
Baylor Fans are Keeping Their Fingers Crossed
Baylor quarterback Seth Russell left in the fourth quarter of the Bear’s game against Iowa State. He was later diagnosed with a fractured bone in his neck.
Baylor leads the nation in most offensive categories, averaging 719.7 yards and 63.8 yards per game. And although they have plenty of remaining weapons, there’s no doubt the Bears’ offense would take a hit if Russell is lost for a significant amount of time. Baylor has a bye this week and no timetable has been announced for Russell’s recovery, leaving Bear fans holding their breath to see who will lead Baylor on their November stretch run. But they do have cause for optimism as they have been down this road before: last year, quarterback Bryce Petty cracked two bones near his spine but did not miss any time.
The Al Golden Era is Almost Over
Miami coach Al Golden came into this year on the hot seat. A three game winning streak to open the season did little to cool things down and consecutive losses to Cincinnati and Florida State ratcheted the heat up to boiling. But any possible doubt about Golden’s future in Miami was answered this weekend when No. 6 Clemson handed the Hurricanes a 58-0 loss, the worst defeat in the 90-year history of Miami football.
The Tigers stepped on the gas early, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions en route to a 42-0 halftime lead that had Warren Sapp, Bryant McKinnie and other former Miami stars taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
For weeks, “Fire Al Golden” banners have been flying at Hurricane games. The folks bankrolling those flying ads should get their wish soon.
There Are Things More Important Than Football
During Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade, a driver (allegedly) under the influence of drugs plowed her car into a crowd near the end of the parade route. Four people were killed and more than 50 injured, including eight who were airlifted to hospitals with critical injuries.
Oklahoma State officials made the tough decision to proceed with the game later that afternoon, a 58-10 win over Kansas. But the crowd was understandably subdued. The Cowboy family is, unfortunately, no stranger to tragedy and rallied around one another once again. And indeed the whole state has pulled together: in a classy show of support, in-state rival Oklahoma took a moment of silence to recognize the victims.
It’s sad that it takes a tragedy like this to make us realize how unimportant football is in the grand scheme of things. But it gives us hope to realize that, despite how divided our society is, there are still times that we can come together when it really matters.