Snap judgments from Championship Weekend 2011. For Andy Staples’ SEC Championship breakdown, click here. For Stewart Mandel’s Bedlam column, click here. For a recap of the Top 25 action, click here. For highlights from SI.com, click here.
• No. 15 Wisconsin 42, No. 11 Michigan State 39: Lo and behold, the Badgers got one back. Wisconsin will take on Oregon in the Rose Bowl after coming out atop the pile this time in another squeaker with the Spartans. The climax in Indianapolis was not nearly as captivating as the one we saw in East Lansing back in October, but it’s bound to generate at least as much message-board screaming.
With less than three minutes remaining, down three points, Michigan State was forced to punt. Three straight Montee Ball rushes failed to eat enough clock to bleed the entire game away, and didn’t cover enough ground to earn a fresh set of downs. Wisconsin punted, and Keshawn Martin sprinted with the ball all the way back to just short of the pylon … which is about when the Spartans were hit with a kicker-roughing penalty that handed the Badgers the first down. I’m not making a judgment about the call itself; I’m just saying: Gus Johnson was in the booth for this game. What a shame not to end it on another highlight-reel play, and what a curious way to pick a Rose Bowl contender.
Stats of note from what was otherwise a very enjoyable game: Russell Wilson completed 17-of-24 pass attempts for 187 yards and three touchdowns. Ball recorded 137 rushing yards on 27 carries, scored three rushing touchdowns, caught a fourth and completed one 32-yard pass. (His 38 touchdowns leave him one short of Barry Sanders’ single-season record.) Kirk Cousins made two Spartans into 100-yard receivers tonight; Martin and B.J. Cunningham each recorded 115 yards’ worth of catches. It was Martin’s first triple-digit receiving game of the season. Cunningham caught all three of Cousins’ touchdown passes. On the ground, Le’Veon Bell rolled up 106 yards and a score of his own. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]
• No. 3 Oklahoma State 44, No. 13 Oklahoma 10: Tough sledding trying to convince a nation of skeptics that any given football team is better than a Nick Saban Alabama team, but you couldn’t ask for much more of a spectacle than the Cowboys put on tonight in Stillwater, recording their first Bedlam victory under Mike Gundy. Brandon Weeden prevented from winging scoring passes? Not a problem; these ‘Pokes have feet: Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle each scored two rushing touchdowns; Quinn Sharp added three field goals; and Richetti Jones got off a fumble return for a touchdown. Landry Jones, getting next to no help from his Ryan Broyles-free receiving corps, completed 27-of-50 pass attempts for 250 yards and two interceptions. Flip over to SI.com proper for more on tonight’s rout from Stewart Mandel, on the scene in Stillwater. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 24 Southern Miss 49, No. 7 Houston 28: For the space of one season and one season only, pinball scoring was enough to keep the Cougars undefeated. Case Keenum did what he does best today, which is break records. Though 373 yards is a middling day for him — and that’s saying something — old No. 7 became the first of his kind to string together three 5,000-yard seasons in his college career. In the record books, it’s a sterling accomplishment. On the field, it didn’t matter.
Houston lost battles along both lines to Southern Miss all afternoon. The Golden Eagles, who clearly in hindsight only lost to UAB to make today’s upset more exciting, outscored the Cougars at a pace they’d only accomplished against teams like Memphis and Rice this season. Let us now praise Austin Davis, who recorded close to 100 fewer yards than Keenum but paired four touchdown passes with his 279 yards. Rushing efforts were divided among four players, including Davis, each recording more than 30 yards. Tracy Lampley led the pack with 14 carries and finished with over 200 all-purpose.
So passes another flashy non-AQ era. Keenum has finally exhausted his eligibillity. Patrick Edwards, Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes are seniors. Tyron Carrier is a fifth-year senior. You can bet against Kevin Sumlin (and for that matter, Larry Fedora) wearing that same visor this time next year. With this upset, the non-AQ team with the best shot at making a BCS bowl looks like TCU (more on the Frogs below). The party’s over, but what a year for Conference USA. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 21 Clemson 38, No. 5 Virginia Tech 10: Clemson didn’t get through the year without a patented Clemsonian skid, but what a fine way to end the season. The Tigers bettered their 23-3 October road victory over the Hokies with an even more resounding walloping in Charlotte, bolstered by the improvement of Sammy Watkins, whose 80 receiving yards and 55 rushing yards marked his highest total since injuring his shoulder against Wake Forest. His ground carries surpassed a previous personal best of 44 yards against Auburn in Week 2. Watkins’ returning strength gave Tajh Boyd his favorite option back, and DeAndre Hopkins added 92 yards, his third-highest total of the season. Andre Ellington led the pack with 125 yards on the ground.
For the Hokies, a night that began badly on offense with a Logan Thomas fumble just kept finding new and interesting ways to fall apart. The Tigers’ secondary had all kinds of success swatting down passes, and I particularly enjoyed the 64-yard interception return by Bashaun Breeland. All told, Clemson amassed 457 net yards of offense, more than 140 more than the Hokies had been allowing in an average game all season. The Tigers will storm the Orange Bowl … but will the continually inexplicable quirks of the Coaches’ Poll keep them ranked below Tech? Probably, right? The Coaches’ Poll is the worst. Thank you, and good night. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 1 LSU 42, No. 12 Georgia 10: “When you’re given the No. 1 tag early in the season, the best way to wear it is by beating everybody.” — Les Miles
We’ve seen this before from LSU in 2011, against Arkansas and West Virginia and others: A Tigers team lying in the tall grass for a quarter or a half, then romping roughshod over opponents who can’t match their depth and composure. The Dawgs led 10-7 after a first half in which the Tigers didn’t manage to record a single first down. Georgia then failed to score again, while LSU reeled off five unanswered touchdowns, three by Kenny Hilliard in the third quarter alone.
Aaron Murray didn’t come out of tonight with a very pretty stat line, completing 16-of-40 pass attempts and throwing two interceptions, but his receivers did him no favors, dropping two sure-thing touchdown passes in the first half. LSU special teams played gamebreaking ball, with Tyrann Mathieu returning one punt for a touchdown and amassing 119 yards returning overall. Let us not end this discussion without mentioning perpetual MVP and field position wae machine Brad Wing, who punted for 403 yards, 379 in the first half alone. Head to SI.com proper for more from our man on the scene, Andy Staples. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]
• No. 19 Baylor 48, Texas 24: Got a little Goofus-and-Gallant quarterback battle down in Waco! Behold the terrible, chilling beauty of the box score: Robert Griffin III, who began the season by electrifying a nation in the first Tessitore Mayhem game of the year, completed 15-of-22 passes for 320 yards, one interception and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores. (Heisman voters, take heed, and think of everything RGIII’s done for the sport this year, would you?)
Case McCoy, so recently crowned Texas’ Actual Starting Quarterback, For Real This Time, outpaced Griffin for 363 yards, but threw four interceptions to his three touchdowns. Fellow Texas quarterback David Ash got the occasional order to try running the ball, but netted only 15 yards on four attempts and threw one incomplete pass. Back to those four interceptions, a damning statistic that can get worse: Remember that Baylor fields the 114th-ranked defense in the FBS. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]
• Cincinnati 35, UConn 27: Both teams are unranked, but this game served as the deciding weight in the Big East championship race. The Bearcats’ victory solidified a three-way tie atop the conference standings, with Cincy, Louisville and West Virginia each having two conference losses. BCS rankings will serve as the tiebreaker, and with the No. 22 Mountaineers’ victory over USF Thursday night, it looks as though WVU will be journeying to Florida this January. Neither of these teams is bound for the Orange Bowl, but click through to the full recap anyway just to read a lead involving Munchie Legaux. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 16 Kansas State 30, Iowa State 23: The magic’s run out for this Paul Rhoads team, at least until it arrives at whatever ill-regarded bowl will have it. But hand it to the ‘Clones; they made it close, tying the game at 20-20 in the third quarter and again at 23-23 in the fourth. K-State’s John Hubert saved the day with a 26-yard chug for the game’s final touchdown with just over three minutes remaining on the clock. Collin Klein was 7-of-15 for 158 yards and a touchdown, plus 86 more and another score on the ground. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 18 TCU 56, UNLV 9: The Horned Frogs are your Mountain West champions for a third consecutive season, a saucy adieu to the conference as they light out for AQ territory. Seven different players scored touchdowns for TCU, including consecutive special-teams touchdowns in the second quarter — a 99-yard Greg McCoy kick return and a 16-yard interception return by Kris Gardner a scant 12 seconds later. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 9 Boise State 45, New Mexico 0: Like TCU, Boise showed up early and went out showy. All that’s left to do now is claim its bowl assignment. Kellen Moore finished with 313 passing yards; Doug Martin recorded 110 on the ground. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]