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College Football Recap: Week 6 – conference races take shape

October 8, 2012

Four BCS conferences’ races received a major dose of energy this weekend as several top teams fell, other undefeated teams also received their first losses and several mid-tier national title contenders stepped up to the plate and hit grand slams.

ACC

I wrote earlier in the season how I thought Florida St. had finally turned a corner and wasn’t the FSU of the past few years where the ‘Noles would lose or let a bad team hang around for way too long. Well, they did both those things this past weekend against North Carolina St., and the Wolfpack’s 17-16 last-second win all but eliminates the Seminoles from the national championship discussion.

The Seminoles were held scoreless in the second half, while N.C. State scored all of its points, including two fourth-quarter touchdowns, after halftime. All FSU had to do was get a first down on its last possession, which started with 2:47 left in the fourth and ended 20 seconds later after three runs that gained a total of one yard. FSU’s subsequent punt was deservedly blocked by N.C. State, and the ‘Pack took over with 2:27 left at their own 43. The Wolfpack converted three fourth downs, including a 4th-and-10 and the game-winning touchdown on 4th-and-2.

Florida St. now needs three teams – Maryland, N.C. State and Clemson – to lose at least once more for the Noles to have a shot at an ACC championship.

Big 12

The de-facto Big 12 championship game could easily be played Oct. 20 in Morgantown, when 2-0 Kansas St. visits the 2-0 Mountaineers. Both teams are the only Big 12 teams undefeated in conference play or otherwise.

Geno Smith and the rest of the West Virginia squad proved their realness in a 48-45 win at Texas. Smith went 25-of-35 for 268 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. But the star of the night was sophomore RB Andrew Buie. Buie rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns against a Texas D-line with at least two future pros on it, while adding 66 more yards through the air. The victory should silence any critics West Virginia still had. The offense can put up points in bunches, and the defense isn’t as bad as the surface numbers suggest. The Mountaineers’ D ranks 83rd in yards per play – 23 spots ahead of the highly touted Texas D.

Outside the Oct. 20 game, both teams have four games remaining that you could label challenging, but they should be favored in each one of them. Even if the winner of that showdown would stumble later on, it’s still highly likely that the it’ll be the best team record-wise at the end of the season.

Big 10

There are currently two teams undefeated in Big 10 conference play – Iowa and Michigan. The top postseason-eligible team in the ironically named Leaders division? 1-1 Wisconsin, who hasn’t had one impressive performance to date. Ohio St. and Penn St., easily the two most impressive Big 10 teams so far, are both 2-0, but banned from competing in the postseason.

Northwestern’s upset bid to run the table fell short, as the Wildcats, after going up 28-17 near the end of the third quarter, gave up 22 unanswered fourth-quarter points at Penn St. to fall 29-28. Michigan St. barely beat Indiana 31-27, and Nebraska gave up 63 points in a humiliating loss to the Buckeyes. It’s not worth going over the other teams’ misery, but one thing’s for sure: Take whatever Pac 10 team plays in the Rose Bowl, assuming it’s matched up against a Big 10 team, and the points, and then laugh all the way to the ticket window to cash your ticket in.

SEC

Arguably the two best teams reside in the SEC East. It all depends on how you define “best.” While Alabama has no wins of note, 6-0 South Carolina bludgeoned Georgia Saturday 35-7, and owns two other quality wins, at home against MIssouri and at Vanderbilt. Florida, at 5-0, upset LSU at home, dominating the game in a way we haven’t seen a Florida team do so since Tim Tebow roamed campus. The Gators also have two quality road wins – Texas A&M and Tennessee.

The Gamecocks, owners of the fourth-best defense in the country, travel to LSU this weekend at the right time. The Tigers have been ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball, and are coming off their worst regular season performance in recent memory. The Gamecocks could lose to LSU, but as long as they would beat Florida a week later in The Swamp they’d be the favorite from the East to play in the SEC Championship Game.

South Carolina has been as impressive as anyone in the country, ranking in the top 11 defensively in yards per play, yards per game and points allowed. Their quarterback has been extremely efficient to go along with a great running back, and Jadeveon Clowney is receiving warranted Heisman buzz. If SC could run the table it’d be very fun to watch it – and not Alabama – go up against the speed of Oregon or the precision of West Virginia.

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