Did Baylor do enough on Thursday to prove its worth as a BCS title contender?
Following an exciting Thursday night of college football action, the race for the BCS title became a lot clearer.
With an impressive performance, one team proved it was deserving to be considered a contender. On the other hand, one of the BCS title favorites took a plunge after a rather disappointing showing.
All in all, the results of Thursday night’s games affected each and every one of the teams in the Top 10 of the latest BCS Rankings.
So let’s take a look at how each team stands heading into the weekend.
Blake Bell (No. 10) has been an utter disappointment for the Sooners this season.
Current Record: 7-2
After an embarrassing 36-20 loss to Texas back on Oct. 12, it was hard to label the Sooners as anything but a long, long shot for the BCS title. (Hey, crazier things have happened.)
But thanks to a 41-12 thrashing at the hands of Baylor, we can now eliminate Oklahoma from the conversation entirely.
Although the team raced out to a 5-0 start, it was quite hard to ever take the Sooners seriously as a viable BCS title contender—especially given the team’s uncertainty at the quarterback position, juggling between redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and junior Blake Bell.
It didn’t help that unranked TCU nearly upset Oklahoma at home, providing a solid blueprint as to how to successfully slow down the Sooners offense.
Opponents must have been paying attention, as Bell has struggled over the last five games, failing to throw for at least 160 yards in all but one contest. That includes recording unadjusted QBR’s of 4.2 and 5.9 against the Longhorns and Bears respectively.
To the defenses credit, the unit has played pretty well this season.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s offense, or lack thereof, is doing a splendid job in proving that defense does not win championships.
Mason (left) has been tremendous for Auburn.
Current Record: 8-1
The Tigers have been the feel-good story of 2013 as far as college football is concerned.
First-year head coach Gus Malzahn has made a strong case for Coach of the Year. He’s taken a team that had won just three games in 2012 and transformed it into an SEC title contender.
More importantly, Auburn is beginning to look the part of a BCS title contender.
Sure, a lot needs to happen in order for the team to get a shot at the crystal football. However, the Tigers certainly have the talent, and the schedule, that can help them get there.
Specifically, a win against No. 1 Alabama in the season finale would go a long ways toward reaching that goal.
And who’s to say Auburn can’t accomplish that?
Through nine games, the team has boasted the nation’s No. 5-ranked rushing attack (306.2 YPG). Running back Tre Mason (161 CAR, 921 YDs, 13 TDs) has been a huge part of that success and has been picking up steam, rushing for over 100 yards in three of the last four games—that includes eight touchdowns in that span.
Although he’s been shaky through the air, quarterback Nick Marshall (59.2 CMP%, 1,266 YDs, 7 TDs, 4 INTs, 139.1 RAT) has proven to be versatile, rushing for 520 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
The Tigers are starting to play some of their best football at the right time.
It would be a mistake for the Crimson Tide, or anyone, to overlook these guys.
The return of Franklin will certainly help the Tigers. But will it be enough?
Current Record: 8-1
If the 27-24, double-overtime loss to South Carolina proved anything, it was that the Tigers just aren’t ready for the big stage.
Coughing up a 17-0 fourth-quarter lead at home is unacceptable, especially against a team that is playing with an injury-handicapped quarterback.
Missouri lacked the focus and composure that true BCS title contenders possess. That was made perfectly clear by a missed 24-yard field goal in overtime.
It doesn’t help that the team still has two remaining games that it shouldn’t be favored in—at Ole Miss (Nov. 23), and vs. No. 15 Texas A&M (Nov. 30).
The return of quarterback James Franklin (67.7 CMP%, 1,867 TOT YDs, 17 TDs, 3 INTs, 156.2 RAT) should certainly help the Tigers' cause, but the defense is an area of concern.
If the unit couldn’t contain the Gamecocks' Connor Shaw, how does it expect to stop the Aggies' Johnny Manziel?
Unfortunately, time has run out for Boyd and the Tigers.
Current Record: 8-1
It was just three weeks ago that the Tigers were college football’s darlings.
The team was a serious contender for the BCS title. Quarterback Tajh Boyd was a near-lock for an appearance in New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
That’s when Florida State rolled into Death Valley, delivered a 51-14 uppercut to the chin and left Clemson flat on its back.
The Tigers’ vaunted offense was held to just 326 yards of total offense. Boyd was worse, throwing for 156 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 17-of-37 passing. Furthermore, his unadjusted QBR of 34.7 was his worst since 2011.
Not to mention, Clemson’s formidable defense got picked apart for 565 yards.
How can anyone justifying selecting this team to play for all the marbles in January?
It didn’t help that the Tigers struggled against unranked Maryland the very next week. The team needed 21 fourth-quarter points just to escape with a 40-27 win.
Only a trip to take on No. 12 South Carolina on Nov. 30 remains as an opportunity for Clemson to regain some respect.
Unfortunately, it will all be just a little too late.
Briles has put together a magical coaching display at Baylor this season.
Current Record: 8-0
Talk about making a statement.
Entering Week 11, all the talk was about the Bears' schedule. Although the team’s dominance had been impressive, who exactly had it played that could validate its credibility?
Baylor answered all those questions and more Thursday night, drubbing No. 10 Oklahoma 41-12.
Unlike most games this season, the team relied on its defense to lead the way. The unit responded, shutting down the Sooners offense, limiting them to just 237 yards of total offense. That includes 87 yards on 34 carries (2.6 YPC).
Although seeming a little lackluster early on, the Bears offense still managed to put up 41 points and 459 yards.
Given its absence from the preseason polls, the team will likely be at a disadvantage the rest of the way. Most likely, Baylor would need losses by two of the three Top Five undefeated teams.
Either way, if granted the opportunity, it’s hard to say these Bears aren’t deserving.
Gaffney (left) has the Cardinal offense in good shape.
Current Record: 8-1
The Cardinal aren’t playing around.
By topping No. 3 Oregon 26-20 on Thursday night, the team made a strong case to propel itself back into the BCS title conversation.
And why not?
Stanford stonewalled the Ducks’ high-flying offense, holding the unit to just 312 yards. That includes limiting a rushing attack that came in averaging over 300 yards per game to just 62 on 24 carries (2.6 YPG).
Not to mention, Oregon failed to register a point until the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, that 27-21 loss to Utah sticks out like a sore thumb.
No matter how good the Cardinal finish the season, the team will take a major hit for that defeat. It was a game in which Stanford was outgained 410-389 while uncharacteristically coughing up the ball twice.
It also makes it quite possible that the team could drop any of its remaining games at a moment’s notice.
Not only will the Cardinal need three of the remaining Top 10 undefeated teams to lose, but Auburn also has to lose one more time. That’s because a one-loss, SEC-champion Tigers team will not be left out in the cold—especially with a victory over No. 1 Alabama under its belt.
It just isn’t in the cards for Stanford in 2013.
Hyde (right) has been a welcomed addition to the Buckeyes since returning from his suspension.
Current Record: 9-0
The Buckeyes are fortunate to be on a bye this week.
With No. 3 Oregon’s loss on Thursday, the team is now one step closer to controlling its destiny for inclusion in the BCS title game. Furthermore, No. 1 Alabama could possibly be on upset alert with a showdown with No. 13 LSU on Saturday.
Either way, the Buckeyes have to like the spot they’re in.
After winning four consecutive games by 10 or fewer points, questions arose about the team’s stock as a national title contender. Instead, Ohio State responded by winning its next two matchups by a combined score of 119-14.
It certainly helps that quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde seem to be playing their best football of the year. The latter has now topped the century mark in each of the last four games while racking up 701 yards and seven touchdowns in just six contests.
Furthermore, with the Buckeyes' three remaining opponents sharing a combined record of 12-12, it’s not likely that the team drops another game.
However, it also could be used against Ohio State down the road.
Regardless, it’s hard to bet against a team that has won 21 consecutive games.
Mariota (left) has had better days.
Current Record: 8-1
The Ducks were supposed to be unstoppable.
Entering Week 11, the team had scored 42 points or more in each of its first eight games. Furthermore, no team had managed to finish within 21 points of Oregon all year.
That just made the fact that the team entered the fourth quarter against Stanford trailing 23-0 more amazing.
The Ducks offense staggered, accumulating just 312 yards of total offense. Their vaunted rushing attack—averaging over 300 yards per game—was limited to just 62 yards on 24 carries (2.6 YPC).
Oregon’s Heisman-favorite quarterback, Marcus Mariota? He threw for just 250 yards while being held without a positive rushing total for the first time in 22 career games.
In just one game, the Ducks and Mariota lost hope for the BCS title and Heisman Trophy, respectively. Not to mention, with it unlikely that the Cardinal will lose another Pac-12 matchup, Oregon will even be left out of the Pac-12 title game.
Quite a fall from grace for these guys.
Winston has the Seminoles in good shape.
Current Record: 8-0
No team was happier than the Seminoles to see No. 3 Oregon fall on Thursday night.
Although the team is currently ranked No. 2 in the BCS rankings, it was highly unlikely that Florida State would stay above the Ducks for the remainder of the season. Especially if Oregon had recorded an impressive victory over Stanford.
But that didn’t happen, and now, the Seminoles control their own destiny.
It’s hard not to respect this team. If you recall, these are the same guys who destroyed then-No. 3 Clemson on the road, 51-14, then proceeded to knock out then-No. 7 Miami, 41-14, at home last weekend.
However, the play of quarterback Jameis Winston (70.3 CMP%, 2,502 YDs, 24 TDs, 6 INTs) has been the biggest reason to believe in Florida State.
With Winston under center, it’s hard to not favor the team, no matter who it’s playing. That becomes even easier when the Seminoles' remaining four opponents have a combined record of 13-21.
Only a likely ACC title match against those Hurricanes stand in Florida State’s way of a BCS title appearance.
The path to the BCS title still goes through Tuscaloosa.
Current Record: 8-0
Even if the Crimson Tide won every game by one point, there’s no denying this team deserves a shot at playing for the BCS title. After all, Alabama has won two straight national championships and three of the last four.
Until the team is beaten, nobody else deserves consideration for the No. 1 spot. Nobody.
With that said, the Tide have looked pretty impressive this year.
Through eight games, the team has proven it can score with anyone—take its 49-42 victory over Texas A&M for example—while also flexing its muscle on defense. Alabama has allowed just 26 points over the last six games.
However, the Tide aren’t out of the water just yet.
The team still has games against No. 13 LSU and No. 9 Auburn. Not to mention, a potential SEC title match with Missouri, South Carolina or Georgia.
While Alabama could lose any of those games, up to this point, there’s not a team more deserving of the title of BCS title contender.
In fact, it’s safe to say these guys are the BCS title favorite.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.