Week 13’s Best: LSU, Houston Flip Kill-Switch; Heisman Favorites Shine


Great teams find ways to persevere. Thus it’s small wonder the sole unbeatens in the Bowl Subdivision, Houston and LSU, were locked in nip-tuck contests in Week 13 before going to that place great teams so often do. The Cougars and Tigers both unleashed hell, on quality competition. They fit the proverbial kill-switch that separates good and great.

The 14-0 lead Arkansas built in the early moments against LSU was seemingly the worst thing the Razorbacks could have done. Like raw meat hung in front of it, the Tiger pounced ferociously. The LSU defense is the best in the nation. The room for debate is marginal — or at least regional. Rare is the secondary that can make a serious claim to feature football’s two best defensive backs, but Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu give LSU such an argument.

Mathieu reminded the nation just why he was an early Heisman Trophy frontrunner, forcing a fumble for the sixth time on the year and returning a punt for a touchdown.

The Tigers’ 45 unanswered points came with a quarterback and tailback who were not Les Miles’ Week 1 starters in the lineup. Granted quarterback Jordan Jefferson was scheduled to face Oregon way back in September, but that took a derailment when Jefferson was arrested not long before the kickoff. Jarrett Lee wrested the position away with his effective play, but Jefferson re-assumed duties earlier this month.

Conversely, Kenny Hilliard was never tabbed a No. 1 back — until Spencer Ware was suspended in mid-October, that is. Hilliard’s taken the ball and run with it, quite literally. Against Arkansas, he was a world-beater. He kept the Hog defense on its heels, setting up Jefferson to snap off big gains through the air and devastating rushes from designed quarterback carries. The Tigers’ depth was on full display, the No. 1 characteristic separating LSU from most of the college football nation.

Houston’s exhibition of its own defining quality came in a similar deluge. Tulsa had won seven straight and seemed the most likely challenger to the Cougars’ perfect regular season. For nearly three quarters, the Golden Hurricane lived up to that billing. Tulsa took a very manageable 13-10 score to the locker room at halftime, on pace to hold the nation’s top scoring offense almost 30 points below its season average.

But Case Keenum hit the switch. He did what he’s done all season: make the secondary look silly with a barrage of passes to multiple receivers (though Patrick Edwards ended up on four of Keenum’s five scoring strikes) and winning big. It becomes increasingly difficult to deny the Cougars’ prowess, and a win over 10-2 Southern Miss in next week’s Conference USA Championship would just about assure Kevin Sumlin’s guys a Sugar Bowl invitation.

Keenum has been the rightful face of UH’s football resurgence. Perhaps more than any week this season, save his nine-touchdown, Keenum solidified himself as a bonafide Heisman contender. Week 13 was a standout week for most of the genuine competitors for college football’s top individual honor.

No one who was considered a realistic candidate did anything to dispel the notion. The closest was Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, and even he was outstanding playing just a half vs. Texas Tech. The breakdown of top contenders is:

  • Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin:
    25 carries, 156 yards, 4 touchdowns
  • Matt Barkley, QB, USC:
    35-42, 423 yards, 6 touchdowns
  • Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor:
    7-11, 106 yards, 1 touchdown, 14 carries, 62 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Case Keenum, QB, Houston
    33-46, 457 yards, 5 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
  • Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford:
    20-30, 233 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interceptions
  • Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama:
    27 carries, 203 yards, 1 reception, 1 touchdown
  • David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech


    24 carries, 153 yards, 2 touchdowns

    Pairing the field down to five finalists will be no easy feat. The above contenders have been blowing the doors off of competition all season — and Oklahoma State’s dynamic pass/catch combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon wasn’t even in action. This could prove to be the most exciting Heisman vote in years, if not ever.