The true stunner of a college football weekend we have awaited all season finally came this week.
No. 4 Baylor lost. Big.
No. 5 Oregon lost. Big.
Texas A&M, one of the top offenses in the country, couldn’t score.
For that matter, neither could Baylor or Oregon.
The national championship landscape didn’t change. Alabama and Florida State remain on a collision course.
Conference title pictures, however, took dramatic turns.
Following Stanford’s loss at USC last week, Oregon controlled the path to the Pac-12 Championship Game, which would have been played at Autzen Stadium.
Instead, the Ducks showed up flat against a fired-up Arizona team intent on securing a signature victory for the 2013 season.
Rich Rodriguez’ team delivered a message in the process. RB Ka’Deem Carey and a punishing Wildcats run game converted 11 of 16 third downs and their only fourth-down attempt, controlling the ball for 35 minutes in the process.
Carey – who may have vaulted into the Heisman Trophy discussion on Saturday – finished the game with 206 rushing yards and 4 TDs.
Oregon fell behind early and never found its way back into the game.
QB Marcus Mariota threw his first two INTs of the season – though pinning the first one on him would be laughable considering the play. The Ducks turned the ball over three times and failed on two fourth-down attempts, including one from the Arizona 6-yard line.
Arizona impressively muted Oregon’s high-powered offense. Combined with Stanford’s dominant win over California, the Cardinal now finds itself in the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Ducks are hoping for an at-large BCS berth.
This time, Mariota was hardly to blame. He ended up with 308 passing yards and 2 TDs to go along with his 2 INTs – one of which came on a drop and another late in the game when the Ducks had no chance to come back.
It was again a leaky Oregon defense that couldn’t shut down a powerful run game that gave the Ducks fit and proved their ultimate demise.
The Wildcats have a chance to impact the Pac-12 race again next week, when they could spoil rival Arizona State’s hopes of hosting the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Whereas Arizona’s upset happened largely off the national radar, Oklahoma State’s utterly impressive performance against Baylor took place with the nation watching.
ESPN’s College GameDay came to Stillwater to take in the contest, which started slow.
Oklahoma State turned in the first big play when the defensive stuffed the line of scrimmage on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. DT James Castleman turned the good play into a spectacular one – stripping the ball away from RB Shock Linwood and recovering it to end the scoring threat.
Even as the Cowboys led 14-3 nearing halftime, it seemed like just a matter of time until both offenses awoke.
Only one of them actually did. Oklahoma State scored on its first two second-half possessions to essentially put away the fourth-ranked Bears.
QB Clint Chelf turned in a spectacular performance, completing 19 of 25 passes for 370 yards and 3 TDs, rushing for another as well.
The Bears tried to come back, but failed on three second-half fourth-down attempts and fumbled twice more.
One of those fumbles came from the Cowboys 2-yard line (again). This time, an errant snap skipped past Baylor QB Bryce Petty and bounced all the way back to the 22-yard line. There, Tyler Patmon scooped the ball and ran it back 78 yards for the dagger touchdown that put Oklahoma State up 42-10.
Just like that, Baylor’s national title dreams died. So, too, did its ability to win the Big 12 sans help. The Bears now need to win out and hope Oklahoma knocks off Oklahoma State.
Perhaps neither of those two results, however, was more surprising than Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel’s inability to mount an attack on a middling LSU defense.
The Tigers contained and tirelessly harassed last year’s Heisman Trophy winner into 16-of-41 passing and 2 INTs. Manziel threw for 241 yards and a TD – on which the LSU defensive back slipped on the wet turf – and also ran for 54 yards, but he never got comfortable.
LSU’s young, much-maligned defense held the Aggies to 299 yards of total offense in a 34-10 rout.
The loss essentially ended any hopes A&M had of qualifying for an at-large BCS berth as well.
Stunning developments finally arrived (on the field, at least) on the college football landscape on Saturday.
What does the sport have in store for us with its final two acts of the 2013 regular season?