By Casey Keefe
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The Alabama Crimson Tide had a collapse for the ages last Friday. Taking on rival Auburn in what equated to their “Super Bowl,” ‘Bama stormed out the gates to a 21-0 first quarter lead. ‘Bama could do nothing wrong and Auburn could do nothing right. The lead grew to 24-0 in the second quarter before the Tigers even got on the board.
Something unexplainable happened at halftime. It’s almost as if the two teams switched uniforms in the locker room. ‘Bama who had been dominating with quarterback Greg McElroy and wide receiver Julio Jones suddenly couldn’t move the ball. Nick Fairley and company grew tired of the Tide’s offensive line pushing them around – they finally pushed back.
Golden boy Cam Newton recovered from a disastrous first half and finally decided to show up. He never was able to do much damage on the ground, but he did start picking apart ‘Bama’s inexperienced secondary with quick strikes. He hit Terrell Zachery on a 70 yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter. From that point on the Tigers’ mojo was back.
Auburn pulled a complete 180 on the other side of the ball as well. They took over the battle at the line of scrimmage, applied constant pressure on McElroy (eventually knocking him out of the game), and effectively shut down Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson on the ground. The Tide offense – which at one point in the first half had outgained Auburn 314-2 in total yards – were suddenly deer’s in the headlights.
Newton showed why he’s the Heisman frontrunner with his second half performance. With his back against the wall, with a national title game spot at stake, Newton was nothing short of brilliant as he rallied his Tigers. They eventually took over the lead 28-27 in the fourth which stunned the Tide faithful in Tuscaloosa. ‘Bama had more to blame than just Newton for their troubles – they had themselves. Ingram and McElroy committed two extremely costly fumbles and Richardson dropped a would-be touchdown.
Nick Saban’s group learned a tough lesson – you have to play a COMPLETE 60 minute game if you want to beat a team as good as Auburn. Unfortunately they did not and their 20 game home winning streak came to an end. Auburn on the other hand remains undefeated and will take on South Carolina this week in the SEC championship (You can hear the game on WFAN after Devils/Flyers). Should they win, they will find themselves in Glendale come January playing for the national title.
Cinderella Is Dead: I have been the biggest supporter of Boise State playing for a national title. Sadly, that won’t be happening this year thanks to Kicker Kyle Brotzman who cost the Broncos any shot they may have had.
After Nevada tied the game 31-31 with 12 seconds left, Kellen Moore hit Titus Young on a 53 yard prayer. Boise State quickly called a time out with 2 seconds remaining and out came Brotzman for a chip shot 26 yard field goal… He hooked it.
In overtime, Boise State had the ball first and drove down to the 12 yard line. Out comes Brotzman for a shot at redemption. He sets up for the 29 yard attempt. Snap, spot, kick… hooked.
Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who totaled 304 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night got the Wolf Pack in position for the game winning field goal. Anthony Martinez showed Brotzman how it’s done, nailing his 34 yard attempt.
Nevada overcame a 17 point half time deficit en route to the victory. Boise State defense had by far their worst game of the season, allowing 528 total yards including 269 on the ground. With the BCS out of the question, Boise State is most likely headed for the Humanitarian Bowl – Quite the dropoff.
Big East Beasts: The Big East picture cleared up an awful lot this weekend. First off, you had Pitt play like…well, Pitt. The Panthers ALWAYS lose big games, especially at home. It’s become absolutely comical. Controlling their own destiny in the conference, Pitt got blown out 35-10 by backyard rival West Virginia.
The big benefactor from Pitt’s disgraceful debacle is the Connecticut Huskies who are now the ones who control their own destiny after they took apart the Cincinnati Bearcats 38-17 at Rentschler Field. Jordan Todman played through a shoulder injury and rushed for 175 yards and 3 touchdowns while the defense feasted off 5 turnovers, including 4 Zach Collaros interceptions.
As crazy as it sounds (although I did predict it) the UConn Huskies will win the Big East and capture the automatic BCS berth if they beat South Florida on Saturday. Unbelievable.
Race To The Roses: Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all went into the weekend tied for the lead in the Big 10 conference – And they all finished that way… The Badgers rocked Northwestern 70-23, the Buckeyes took down Michigan 37-7 and the Spartans squeaked by Penn State 28-22.
Although unofficial at this time, it looks like it’ll be the Badgers who will be heading to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl. Despite losing to Michigan State head-to-head, Wisconsin maintains a higher BCS ranking. See…it pays off to run up the score.
- It did take a while for the Oregon Ducks to figure out Arizona, but once they did it was game-set-match. The Ducks won 48-29 and will secure a spot in the national title game with a win on Saturday in the Civil War against Oregon State.
- Arkansas outlasted LSU 31-23 in a close, well-played game. Ryan Mallet proved why he is the best pure quarterback in the country as he passed for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns on a good Tigers defense. Receiver Cobi Hamilton racked up 164 yards and 2 scores, while the SEC’s best running back, Knile Davis, totaled 152 yards and a touchdown. Head Coach Bobby Petrino summed up the Razorback’s mentality – “We didn’t come to paint. We came to win.”
- Landry Jones (468 yards – 4 TD’s) outdueled Brandon Weeden to lead the Oklahoma Sooners to a 47-41 shootout win over Oklahoma State. With the victory, Oklahoma secured a spot in the Big 12 title game on Saturday against Nebraska. This isn’t a vintage Sooners team, but Bob Stoops has done a hell of a job weathering the storm and getting the most out of his players.
- Notre Dame snapped an 8 game losing streak to USC as they took down the Trojans 20-16 in a rainstorm at the Coliseum. The Irish did get lucky at times in this game. Matt Barkley was out with an injury and Ronald Johnson dropped what would have been the game winning touchdown with no one in sight. However, you have to give Brian Kelly’s team credit – They are really finishing the season strong and will be heading to a bowl game.
- The Randy Shannon era at the University of Miami is officially over. Shannon was fired following the ‘Canes 23-20 overtime loss to in-state South Florida. Shannon was 28-22 in his four years, a record that simply does not cut it. Miami remains one of the real big time jobs in college football. Jon Gruden, Mike Leach, Mark Richt and Tommy Tuberville are all possibilities.
Check back tomorrow for my Tuesday Top 10…
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