Week 10 brought bye weeks for a few of college football's top teams, but several key rivalry games and a number of wild finishes provided an excess of drama on the weekend.
Michigan State notched one of the day's biggest wins, posting dumbfounding defensive numbers while snuffing out rival Michigan to retain control of the Big Ten Legends Division.
Elsewhere in the conference, Northwestern and Nebraska squared off with both in need of a victory, but only one was able to grab on to a life preserver in the most improbable and incredible finish of the season.
Oklahoma State bounced Texas Tech from the Big 12 title race with a win in Lubbock, while Missouri remained atop of the SEC East with a triumph over Tennessee.
Several favorites, including Florida State, Ohio State, South Carolina and Clemson, took care of business against weaker opponents, while Georgia's star running back, Todd Gurley, returned to glory in the Bulldogs' big win over Florida.
Check out breakdowns of those contests and much more from a thrilling Week 10.
Note: This article will be updated throughout Saturday's action.
Arizona State is inching closer and closer to the Pac-12 South Division title.
The Sun Devils smashed Washington State 55-21 on the road Thursday night to remain in sole possession of first place in the division.
Quarterback Taylor Kelly led the way with seven total touchdowns, five passing and two rushing. He finished 22-of-31 passing for 275 yards and logged 66 more yards on the ground.
Defensive backs Alden Darby and Robert Nelson were big for the Sun Devils. The two combined for 12 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and four pass breakups. Linebacker Carl Bradford also contributed a pair of forced fumbles, a sack and three hurries.
Afterward, ASU head coach Todd Graham asserted that his team has the Pac-12 title in its sights, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
"I want to win the championship," Graham said. "It's one more down and five more to go to be Pac-12 champs."
The Sun Devils are the only one-loss team in the Pac-12 South and already hold a tiebreaker over USC. They'll be back on the road against Utah next week.
When USC thumped Oregon State Friday night, the Oregon Ducks came out as the biggest loser, despite sitting at home with a bye week.
The Ducks were hoping that the Beavers could string together some wins to enter their "Civil War" rivalry game ranked as highly as possible. With the BCS race so close at the top, any strength-of-schedule boost is welcomed.
However, OSU fell flat against USC, losing 31-14. Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion threw three interceptions, two of which came in the red zone, during his team's second straight loss.
Meanwhile, USC quarterback Cody Kessler threw just four incompletions and helped star receiver Marqise Lee have his best game of the season. The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, who has struggled with a knee injury this year, hauled in five passes for 105 yards and a 71-yard score on the Trojans' first drive.
The Trojans had two rushers, Silas Redd and Javorius Allen, eclipse 130 yards on the ground.
Now, the Beavers (6-3) will need to have stage a turnaround to avoid entering their game with UO at 6-5 with Arizona State and Washington ahead on the schedule.
A few weeks ago, it looked like Kolton Browning's college career might be finished thanks to a torn quad muscle.
However, the fifth-year senior made an impressive recovery and missed just two games. He returned last week to lead Louisiana-Monroe to a win over Georgia State. In that 38-10 victory, Browning finished 21-of-30 for 224 yards and four touchdowns.
He followed that up with another huge performance, leading the Warhawks to a crucial 49-37 win over Troy on Thursday night. He tossed five touchdowns and ran for another, amassing 354 passing yards in the process.
With the win, ULM stayed alive in the Sun Belt Conference race at 3-1 in league play. The Warhawks will take on rival Louisiana-Lafayette, the only team undefeated in SBC play, in the "Battle on the Bayou" in their final game of the regular season.
As of now, it looks like that contest could serve as the de facto conference title game.
Logan Thomas was just a few mistakes away from a great day against Boston College. However, those few mistakes ended up costing the Hokies dearly.
Thomas amassed 391 passing yards and tossed two touchdowns but recorded four second-half turnovers.
The trouble started with a pick-six by Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and only snowballed from there. On the next possession, a fourth-down incompletion from Thomas gave the ball back to the Eagles. On the very next play, BC running back Andre Williams dashed 62 yards to the end zone to give his team a 34-20 lead.
Thomas fought back with a touchdown strike on the next drive, but he coughed up a fumble on the following series, ending the Hokies' comeback attempt in a 34-27 loss.
Somehow, despite losing to Duke and BC in consecutive weeks, VT is still alive in the ACC Coastal Division. There are currently three teams with two conference losses in that division. Miami (Fla.) leads at 3-1 in league play but will take on Virginia Tech next week. A Hokie win would throw the division into utter chaos.
It seems like Jordan Lynch sits down every week and thinks, "Now what amazing feat can I accomplish in this weekend's game?"
Last week, the senior signal-caller attained the rare hat trick with a passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in Northern Illinois' 59-20 win over Eastern Michigan. The week prior, he broke the FBS single-game rushing record for quarterbacks, tallying 316 yards on the ground in his team's 38-17 win over Central Michigan.
This week, Lynch hit another milestone when he rushed for a career-high four touchdowns to lead the Huskies in a 63-19 annihilation of Massachusetts. He finished 10-of-13 passing for 160 yards and a touchdown and added 119 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
Lynch and the Huskies will be off next weekend before their crucial Wednesday night contest with Ball State. The Cardinals are the only other MAC West squad still undefeated in conference play.
The frightening skid continues for Illinois.
The Fighting Illini were sitting pretty at 3-1 entering Big Ten play with encouraging results against solid competition in Cincinnati and Washington in their rear view in late September.
Saturday, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase threw his second interception of the day in overtime, as the Illini fell 24-17 to Penn State for their fourth straight loss. The senior signal-caller had an otherwise decent day, tallying 321 yards (33-of-52) and a touchdown through the air.
Christian Hackenberg countered with 240 passing yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime. Nittany Lions running back Bill Belton and receiver Allen Robinson were the game's top producers. Belton gouged Illinois for 201 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries, while Robinson hauled in 11 passes for 165 yards.
The Illini are now 3-5 overall and 0-4 in conference play and will have to win three of their last four against Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue and Northwestern to reach bowl eligibility.
Chances are, you're already tired of hearing about Ohio State and style points.
However, sitting at No. 4 in the BCS, the situation is what it is for the undefeated Buckeyes, and it is becoming increasingly clear that they understand the scenario. OSU smothered Purdue, 56-0, this week and has outscored its last two opponents 119-14 since the release of the year's first BCS standings.
Quarterback Braxton Miller guided the Buckeyes in West Lafayette, completing 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns (with one interception). Backup Kenny Guiton relieved Miller in the blowout, contributing 157 total yards and three touchdowns. Running back Carlos Hyde added 111 rushing yards on just eight touches.
Cornerback Doran Grant brought back an interception for a touchdown to start OSU's scoring barrage in the first minute of the game. As usual, it was linebacker Ryan Shazier who paced the Buckeye defense with seven tackles, including three tackles for a loss and two sacks.
Miller's big day included a slick flip-pass to Philly Brown for one of his four touchdowns. If it wasn't for his early-season injury, the QB would be right in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.
While that honor is likely out of reach, he still has his team in the BCS hunt (although Ohio State may need more than style points to make a jump in the standings).
Mississippi State has faced one of the most daunting schedules in the nation this year, and that rough slate might end up costing the Bulldogs a chance at a bowl. MSU has already faced four opponents (Oklahoma State, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina) currently ranked in the BCS standings and has two more coming in the next two weeks (Texas A&M and Alabama).
The Bulldogs lost to all four of those ranked foes, including a 34-16 defeat against No. 14 South Carolina this week. Quarterback Dak Prescott notched four of his team's five turnovers in the loss, leading to 20 points for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks saw big production from their usual sources. Connor Shaw threw four touchdown strikes, and running back Mike Davis tallied 128 yards on the ground. Steve Spurrier's squad tied a school record, winning its 15th straight game at home in Columbia.
Cornerback Victor Hampton was the impact defender of the game for victors. The redshirt junior led the Gamecocks with eight tackles, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups. The Gamecocks have a chance to extend its home winning streak in two weeks against Florida. In the SEC East Division race, the Cocks still need another loss from Missouri to have a shot at the conference title.
Meanwhile, the Dawgs (4-4, 1-3) will need to win two of their final four games against Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss to reach bowl eligibility.
Navy had Notre Dame on the ropes in South Bend.
The Midshipmen had a late lead, but ND freshman running back Tarean Folston punched in the go-ahead score with 3:47 left on the clock.
The Mids countered with a drive down to the Notre Dame 31-yard line. However, that advance was halted when linebacker Jaylon Smith stuffed an end-around by Shawn Lynch on fourth down and the Fighting Irish wiggled their way out of a corner for the 38-34 win.
It would have been ND's third loss to Navy in the last five years. Instead, the Irish (No. 25) stand at 7-2 with their BCS hopes still alive.
Folston led the way with 140 rushing yards on 18 carries and the one crucial score. George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel also combined for 126 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Quarterback Tommy Rees added 242 passing yards and two touchdowns (with two interceptions).
ND will head on the road to square off with Pitt next week.
The stat of the day is one that, upon first glance, looks like a typo.
Michigan had minus-48 rushing yards in a 29-6 loss to rival Michigan State in East Lansing. While that might not seem possible, the Wolverines pulled it off. Not surprisingly, it was the worst rushing output in school history.
The Spartans entered the game as No. 1 in both total and rushing defense in the nation and showed why with their harassment of the Wolverines. Fitzgerald Toussaint actually netted 20 yards in the right direction, but it wasn't nearly enough to offset seven sacks for 49 yards. The Wolverines averaged minus-1.7 yards per carry on 29 attempts.
The horrid rushing effort added insult to an already hurtful loss for Michigan. Now with two losses in league play, the Wolverines are all but out of the Big Ten title race.
While Michigan's loss essentially knocked it out of Big Ten title contention, the 29-6 win for Michigan State sent it one step closer. MSU is still the only team in the Legends Division without a loss in conference play, and Nebraska is left as the only division contender with just one Big Ten defeat.
As previously mentioned, the Spartans smothered the Wolverines, holding them to minus-48 yards on the ground. The MSU defense had a field day and was paced by Denicos Allen, Shilique Calhoun and Ed Davis. The trio combined for 19 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks.
Michigan State also had a strong day on offense. The Spartans were paced by 120 yards and a touchdown from running back Jeremy Langford. Quarterback Connor Cook was effective as well, throwing for 252 yards and two total touchdowns (one rushing and one passing).
Kicker Michael Geiger connected on all three of his field-goal attempts, all coming from 35 yards or further.
MSU will have the next week off before heading on a vital two-game road trip against Nebraska and Northwestern. Wins there will seal the division for the Spartans.
Because life is unfair, Alex Butterworth actually ended up as a winner after his egregious flop.
Bleacher Report's Ken Chin has a GIF of the Penn State punter dramatically crashing to the ground, despite taking no contact whatsoever from the Illinois defenders. When he saw the flag come out, he even gave a victorious fist pump.
Since this isn't the NBA and Butterworth won't be fined for his flop, the real loser in this scenario is the referee who bought the acting job in favor of the Nittany Lions.
One play perfectly sums up the day had by Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins against Virginia.
Standing in his own end zone, Boyd dropped back and hit his favorite receiver, Watkins, perfectly in stride. One of the fastest players in college football, Watkins wouldn't be caught, as he bolted away for the 96-yard touchdown (GIF here).
The score put the Tigers ahead 42-7 early in the third quarter, essentially closing the door in their 59-10 victory over the Cavaliers.
Clemson outgained UVA 610-277, including 435-163 through the air. Boyd finished 24-of-29 passing and amassed 377 yards with four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). The effort was enough for Boyd to pass North Carolina State legend Philip Rivers as the ACC's career touchdown leader.
Watkins hauled in eight of Boyd's completions for 169 yards and two touchdowns—both season highs. He now has consecutive games of over 160 receiving yards.
The Tigers will have next weekend off in preparation for their Thursday night battle with Georgia Tech on Nov. 14.
Both Northwestern and Nebraska were in desperate need of a win, so it was only right that their tilt was decided by a wild ending.
When the dust settled, Nebraska's prayers were answered, and Northwestern's nightmarish skid continued thanks to a desperation Hail Mary (GIF here). Nebraska quarterback Ron Kellogg III heaved a prayer into a mob near the goal line and it was tipped miraculously into the hands of receiver Jordan Westerkamp, giving the Cornhuskers the 49-yard TD and 27-24 win.
The play brings back memories of a similar Hail Mary touchdown by Michigan State to beat Wisconsin in 2011.
The loss is particularly crippling for Northwestern. The Wildcats have now dropped five straight and will have to win two of their final three contests with Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois to reach bowl eligibility.
While the win is a saving grace for the 'Huskers, they still have work left to do to have a shot at the Big Ten title. Namely, they'll have to take down Michigan State on Nov. 16.
It's amazing the impact that can be made by the return of a key playmaker.
Star running back Todd Gurley finally returned to the field for Georgia after missing the last three-and-a-half games with an ankle injury, propelling the Bulldogs to the 23-20 triumph in a must-win game against rival Florida.
The sophomore notched the game's first two touchdowns in the first six minutes: a five-yard run and a 73-yard reception. He tallied 100 yards and a score off 17 carries and netted 87 receiving yards and a touchdown on three receptions.
Quarterback Aaron Murray won his third straight game against Florida, completing 16 of 25 passes for 258 yards and a score in the process. Defensive end Garrison Smith was huge for the Dawgs, notching nine tackles and 2.5 sacks. UGA sacked Gators QB Tyler Murphy four times in the win.
Georgia will go out of conference to take on Appalachian State next week before heading on the road to tangle with Auburn on Nov. 16.
The Bret Bielema era in Arkansas started with much promise, as the former Wisconsin coach had his team out to a 3-0 start. However, since then, the Razorbacks have gone on a six-game slide, leaving their bowl hopes dwindled down to their last drop.
The sixth loss, a 35-17 home defeat to Auburn, came on Senior Day. The Hogs had a good game on the ground, as Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins combined for 196 yards rushing.
However, as strong as the Hogs were, they couldn’t keep up with Tre Mason.The dynamic Auburn junior tallied 168 yards and four touchdowns to pace the Tigers, who scored four touchdowns in four red zone trips.
Meanwhile, Arkansas struggled to finish drives, finding the end zone only twice on five trips inside the 20-yard line.
With three tough contests against Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU remaining, the Hogs are in danger of slipping below their 4-8 finish from a year ago.
Meanwhile, Auburn is still set on a collision course with Alabama at the end of the regular season. However, the Tigers will have to go through Tennessee next week and Georgia the following week first.
At No. 24 in the BCS, Wisconsin might be the most underrated team in college football. The Badgers are still poised to make a run at an at-large BCS berth after toppling Iowa 28-9.
The Hawkeyes looked strong early at home, but the Badgers took over late for a convincing victory in one of the Big Ten’s toughest venues.
UW was paced by an enormous day from running back James White, who netted 132 yards and two touchdowns against a staunch Iowa defensive front. Iowa was led defensively by James Morris, who had 12 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.
Linebacker Marcus Trotter starred for UW while filling in for the injured Chris Borland. Trotter logged a team-high nine tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Badgers quarterback Joel Stave was efficient in the winning effort, completing 11 of 19 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
While the Badgers have little hope for the conference title, a 10-2 final record and quality losses to Ohio State and Arizona State should equate to a BCS bowl-caliber resume.
Last year, TCU edged West Virginia in overtime in Morgantown to move to 6-3 on the season.
This year, that scenario was flipped. The Horned Frogs were clipped 30-27 in overtime in Fort Worth by the Mountaineers, dropping them to 3-6 for the season. The Frogs outgained the Mountaineers 454-415 but lost the turnover battle 4-2.
Running back Charles Sims led the way for WVU with 189 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving). Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and cornerback Ishmael Banks each picked off TCU’s Casey Pachall, while safety Darwin Cook led WVU with 14 tackles and a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
TCU has a couple of winnable games upcoming against Iowa State and Kansas State. However, those two tilts will both come on the road. Even if the Frogs manage to win both of those games, they’ll still have to take down Big 12 title favorite Baylor in their final regular-season game to reach bowl eligibility.
Meanwhile, the win was key for the Mountaineers, though they will still need to win two of their final three games against Texas, Kansas and Iowa State to break even on the regular season.
Missouri took care of business with no worry at all against Tennessee, but the Tigers can't afford another conference loss as they don't have control of the tiebreaker with South Carolina in the SEC East.
For today, though, the Tigers did what Georgia and South Carolina couldn’t do: beat Tennessee decisively. Quarterback Maty Mauk made sure that happened, tallying 277 total yards (163 passing, 114 rushing) and throwing three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Tiger defense forced three turnovers, including an interception from star defensive back E.J. Gaines. The senior also had six tackles and one tackle for a loss.
Mizzou will have a manageable road test against Kentucky next week before taking on two tough foes, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, to close the regular season.
Oklahoma State and Texas Tech entered their tilt in Lubbock knowing full well that the loser would be bounced from the conference title race.
The result was a classic Big 12 shootout and the end of the Red Raiders' conference title bid. TTU started strong, winning its first four league games, but has now lost two straight to OSU and Oklahoma. With OU and OSU each with one Big 12 loss and Texas and Baylor each with zero, TTU is out of the race.
The Red Raiders put forth a valiant effort, churning out 549 yards of offense in the 52-34 loss. Freshman quarterback Davis Webb finished 45-of-71 for 425 yards and two touchdowns but also had two costly interceptions. Tight end Jace Amaro continued his All-American campaign with 15 receptions for 174 yards and a score.
OSU was led by running back Desmond Roland, who notched 96 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries in just his second start. Shaun Lewis and Caleb Lavey hauled in OSU's two interceptions, while Daytawion Lowe led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, one tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.
The Cowboys still have plenty of work to do with a trio of tough tests against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma still looming at the end of the season.
UCLA had a must-needed bounce-back performance after losses to Stanford and Oregon.
The Bruins tallied 412 total yards and were carried, per usual, by quarterback Brett Hundley. The redshirt sophomore finished 19-of-24 passing with 345 total yards (273 passing, 72 rushing) and four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing).
UCLA saw a brief return from running back Jordon James, who missed the last three games with an ankle injury. The junior had just eight yards on six carries, though the Bruins didn’t need him much.
However, they will need him going forward, particularly against tougher foes like Arizona, Washington and Arizona State. Even with two losses in league play, the Bruins are very much alive in the Pac-12 South.
Miami’s national title dreams are no more.
The Hurricanes hung with Florida State for two quarters but were no match for their upstate rival in the end, losing 41-14.
FSU outgained The U 517-275 in the win, as the Seminole defense held the ‘Canes to just four third-down conversions in 12 tries.
Quarterback Jameis Winston was strong, but not as extraordinary as he has been in recent games. The redshirt freshman proved to be human, throwing two interceptions and accounting for just one touchdown. He did log 352 total yards (325 passing, 27 rushing).
FSU’s rushing trio of Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. combined for 166 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Freeman also added six receptions for 98 yards and a score.
The 'Canes still control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division but will need to make a decisive turnaround next week against Virginia Tech.
Meanwhile, FSU only needs to top either Syracuse or Wake Forest to clinch the Atlantic.
Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy hopes aren't finished yet.
The Texas A&M quarterback had another big week and also benefited from a down one by Florida State's Jameis Winston and a bye week from Oregon's Marcus Mariota.
Manziel tallied 340 total yards (273 passing, 67 rushing) and six total touchdowns (four passing, two rushing), as A&M stomped UTEP 57-7. The redshirt sophomore has accounted for two or more touchdowns in every game this year and has five games with four touchdowns or more.
The Aggies outgained the Miners 564-198 and forced four turnovers in the victory.
Manziel still has two excellent opportunities to make his Heisman case against LSU and Missouri to close the regular season.
As if Miami’s loss wasn’t tough enough, the Hurricanes received even worse news after the game.
Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald tweeted shortly after the game that, according to sources, running back Duke Johnson suffered a broken ankle and will miss the remainder of the season. She added that the star back is set for surgery next week.
Johnson was twisted around under a pile of Florida State defenders in the third quarter of Miami’s 41-14 loss and had to be helped off the field. He was later seen in a cast on a cart on the sideline.
Before going down, the sophomore had already tallied a game-high 97 rushing yards on 23 carries. He entered the game with 823 rushing yards and six scores on the season.
Miami does have a capable backup in Dallas Crawford. However, Johnson’s presence as an on-field leader will be tough to replace.
The Hurricanes won’t have much time to make the transition, as they have a crucial contest with Virginia Tech next week.
Fresno State was pushed near its limits yet again. And yet again, the Bulldogs answered the bell.
Last week, Fresno was taken to overtime by San Diego State but escaped with a 35-28 win on the road. Now back home in the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno saw its lead drop to just one possession in the fourth quarter before pulling away late for a 41-23 win.
Quarterback Derek Carr had another monster performance, completing 39 of 56 passes for 487 yards (the most by any signal-caller in Week 10) and three touchdowns. Junior receiver Josh Harper led all Week 10 receivers across the nation with 253 yards and two touchdowns.
Their effort, plus a combined 160 yards from running back Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller, resulted in 647 total yards for the 'Dogs.
With the win, Fresno improved to 8-0 and should remain ahead of Northern Illinois in the BCS rankings.