25 Things We Learned from Week 11

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2013

25 Things We Learned from Week 11

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    Week 11 of the college football season is over, and the BCS picture had a huge shakeup. 

    With Oregon falling to Stanford, the Ducks' national title dreams may be all but dashed. But Baylor kept its hopes alive with a marquee win over Oklahoma, and Alabama kept its No. 1 ranking on lockdown with a win over LSU. 

    Virginia Tech also made a huge statement in Week 11, upending the Miami Hurricanes to take over the driver's seat in the ACC Coastal division. 

    With that, checkout the 25 things fans learned from a wild Week 11. 

Nick Saban Isn't Afraid to Open Up the Playbook

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    Nick Saban made some gutsy play calls against LSU, and they ended up being exactly what the Crimson Tide needed to break away from the Tigers. 

    In the third quarter, with the game gridlocked at 17-17, Alabama successfully attempted a fake punt to keep a drive alive. Running back T.J. Yeldon later scored a touchdown to give Alabama lead. 

    One drive later, the Crimson Tide tried a flea flicker. And although the pass fell incomplete, it still opened up the defense and allowed Alabama to march down the field and take a two-touchdown lead. 

    Saturday's game proved that Saban, while true to his ways, can certainly go outside the normal confines and isn't immune to employing some trickery. 

Logan Thomas Finally Found His Stride

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    It's taken nearly two seasons, but Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is finally back to the level he was playing at his sophomore season, when he was considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country. 

    The senior signal-caller in Blacksburg threw for 366 yards and two scores and helped lead the Hokies to 549 yards of total offense en route to their 42-24 upset of Miami. 

    With the win, the Hokies now control their own destiny to a berth in the ACC title game and a likely date with Florida State. There, they could pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season and earn themselves an automatic BCS berth. 

Oregon's National Title Dreams Are Over, for Now

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    For the second season in a row, the Stanford Cardinal dashed the BCS national title hopes of the Oregon Ducks. 

    Oregon fell to Stanford on Thursday, 26-20. The Cardinal led 26-0 at one point, but a furious rally by the Ducks put them an onside kick away from having a chance to tie the game. It was too little, too late, though, and the Ducks instead watched their national title hopes slip away. 

    Oregon will likely need to win out and have Stanford drop a game in order to appear in the Pac-12 title game. But it's almost assumed that the Ducks will still get an at-large BCS berth should they not falter the rest of the year. 

    With four undefeated teams plus the Cardinal ahead of the Ducks in the BCS standings, however, it's unlikely that Mark Helfrich and Co. will get to play for the nation's top honor. 

Stanford Is Still Somehow in the Hunt for a National Title Berth

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    With their huge win over the Oregon Ducks, the Stanford Cardinal find themselves somehow within striking distance of a BCS national title berth. 

    The Cardinal came in at No. 4 in Sunday's BCS rankings, behind Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. All three of those teams not only have to finish out their regular season but also play in conference title games. So there's hope that two of those teams could lose and Stanford could jump up. 

    The Cardinal still have that ugly loss to Utah on its resume, but Thursday night's upset was sure a huge boost.

    They control their own destiny to a Pac-12 title and an automatic BCS berth. But they'll need some help if they want to get to the national title game. 

LSU Isn't an Elite Team in 2013

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    It's time to face the music in Baton Rouge: The LSU Tigers are not an elite team in 2013. 

    They're certainly a good team, but not an elite one. 

    The Tigers had the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on the ropes in the third quarter with the score tied at 17-17. But then LSU broke down and gave up 21 unanswered points to fall 38-17. 

    The loss was LSU's third of the season, with losses to Georgia and Ole Miss also plaguing its resume. 

    The Tigers are certainly one of the SEC's toughest teams this year. But Georgia and Ole Miss aren't even ranked anymore, so those losses look bad at this juncture. 

    Les Miles certainly has some retooling to do in the offseason if he wants the Tigers to return to elite status in 2014. But for now, LSU will have to settle for its status as a good, but not great team. 

Florida State Continues to Show No Mercy

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    When the fourth quarter started in Florida State's game against Wake Forest, the Seminoles led the Demon Deacons 52-0. They ended up winning the game 59-3. 

    Time and time again, FSU has shown that it is the top dog in the ACC, with crushing wins over every opponent the team has faced. 

    Jameis Winston was up to his usual tricks, racking up 159 yards and two touchdowns in just over a half of playing time. 

    With Oregon's loss, the Seminoles have their stranglehold on the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings on lockdown and likely control their own destiny to a berth into the BCS National Championship Game. 

UCF Does Whatever It Takes to Win

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    It didn't look pretty against the Houston Cougars, but the UCF Knights kept their top spot in the AAC standings on Saturday with a 19-14 win. 

    The Knights had to stave off a late rally from the Cougars with a goal-line stand in the game's final minutes. But nevertheless, it stayed on the path to an automatic BCS berth with its win. 

    UCF hasn't often looked pretty in its wins. The Knights trailed Louisville by 21 points before stunning the Cardinals 38-35 in mid-October. But the Knights keep winning, and that's all that matters for a team that was picked to finish fourth in the AAC preseason poll. 

Week 9 Was a Fluke for Fresno State

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    Remember in Week 9 when the Fresno State Bulldogs nearly got upset by the San Diego State Aztecs? Well, over the past two weeks, the Bulldogs have done everything they can to make people forget that shaky outing. 

    After whopping Nevada 41-23 in Week 10, Derek Carr and the Bulldogs followed that up with a 48-10 thrashing of Wyoming on Saturday night. Carr racked up 360 yards and four touchdowns in the win. 

    Fresno State is a perfect 9-0 with games against New Mexico and San Jose State left on its slate before the Mountain West title game. 

    Should the Bulldogs finish the year undefeated, it's hard not to picture them earning a berth into a BCS bowl game. 

Baylor Can Handle Ranked Opponents

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    The Baylor Bears had cruised through their schedule, but on Thursday, they faced No. 10 Oklahoma, the first ranked team they faced all year. 

    Many thought that Baylor was just a fad and that the meat of the Big 12 schedule would get to the team. But on Thursday night, the Bears dominated the Sooners 41-12 and moved to 8-0 on the year, proving that they can run with the best of the best in the Big 12. 

    Quarterback Bryce Petty had five total touchdowns and the Bears moved up a spot in the BCS rankings following Oregon's loss. 

    Baylor's schedule doesn't get any easier, though, as it has Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas left on its slate. 

UCLA Is Clicking Again

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    With their 31-26 win over Arizona, the UCLA Bruins have now won two straight games following their two-game losing streak at the end of October. 

    Quarterback Brett Hundley had three total touchdowns in the win over the Wildcats, including an impressive rushing score in which he eluded nearly every defender on the field. 

    The Bruins are now 7-2 overall and 4-2 in Pac-12 play. And with a game against Arizona State left, along with Washington and USC, the Bruins control their path to the conference title game. 


Arizona State Could Play Spoiler in the Pac-12

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    Don't look now, but the Arizona State Sun Devils are 7-2 overall, 5-1 in the Pac-12 and are in first place in the Pac-12 South division. 

    The Sun Devils nearly lost to Utah on Saturday, as they trailed 19-7 heading into the fourth quarter. But two touchdowns from quarterback Taylor Kelly, one on the ground and one through the air, helped them overcome the Utes 20-19. 

    Arizona State has quietly been one of the most dangerous teams in the Pac-12. And should it win out and earn a bid to the Pac-12 title game, it could play spoiler to either Stanford or Oregon. 


Texas Tech's Start Was a Fluke

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    The Texas Tech Red Raiders started the season 7-0 and were looking like legitimate contenders for the Big 12 title. 

    But three straight losses, capped off by a 49-26 loss to Kansas State on Saturday, proves that the Red Raiders' start to the season was a fluke and that they're not quite ready to hang with the elite. 

    Where Texas Tech has struggled is rush defense. Over the past three games, the Red Raiders have given up at least 275 yards on the ground. 

    The team has two games left against Baylor and Texas, the two leaders in the Big 12. So Texas Tech could conceivably head into bowl season on an 0-5 slide. But a win over either of those two teams would surely shake up the league. 

Kansas State Could Shake Up the Big 12 Race

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    After starting the season 2-4, the Kansas State Wildcats have rattled off three straight wins, capped off by Saturday's 49-26 upset on the road against Texas Tech. 

    The Wildcats torched the Red Raiders on the ground, racking up 291 rushing yards. Kansas State's two-quarterback system of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams accounted for five total touchdowns. 

    K-State has won each of its last three games by double digits and is just one victory away from bowl eligibility. The Wildcats face TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas to finish the season. With wins in those games, Kansas State should get into the top four of the Big 12 standings. 

Louisville Is Plenty Angry After Losing to UCF Three Games Ago

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    Since losing to UCF on Oct. 18, the Louisville Cardinals have rattled off two straight wins of over 20 points. 

    After dominating South Florida 34-3, the Cardinals thrashed winless UConn 31-10 on Friday night. 

    Louisville is still a game out of first place in the AAC standings after UCF's win over Houston. And with UCF holding the head-to-head advantage, it's a virtual two-game lead. 

    But the Cardinals are still making a strong case for an at-large berth into the BCS with a late-season push. Should the Knights stumble down the stretch, Louisville could find its way into an automatic berth. 

Nick Marshall Is One of the Best QBs in the SEC

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    Nick Marshall racked up 214 rushing yards and three total touchdowns en route to the Auburn Tigers' 55-23 win over the Tennessee Volunteers. 

    Marshall has been stellar this season, with three games of over 100 yards on the ground and five games of two ore more total scores. 

    The Tigers are 9-1 this year and vying to earn a berth into the BCS. They also control their own destiny to the SEC title game. But they'll have to upset top-ranked Alabama on Nov. 30 to get there. 

    If Auburn wants to have a chance against the Crimson Tide, it will have to be Marshall to leads it. 

Wisconsin Will Eat You Alive on the Ground

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    In the Wisconsin Badgers' 27-17 win over the BYU Cougars, the Badgers racked up 229 yards on the ground and running back James White scored three touchdowns. 

    The Badgers rank 10th in the nation in rushing yards per game with 280.6. Running back Melvin Gordon is sixth in the country in total rushing yards with 1,160. He's just a few hundred yards ahead of White, who's racked up 951 yards in 2013. 

    Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and it controls the tempo of games with its rushing attack. At 7-2 overall this year with three games left, you have to think that the Badgers are trying for a late run at a big-time bowl game. 

Notre Dame Will, Deservedly, Not Go to a BCS Bowl

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    With Notre Dame's 28-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday night, the Fighting Irish all but assured themselves that they won't go to a BCS bowl just one year removed from their national title appearance. 

    The Fighting Irish have been inconsistent all year, and it was no more apparent than against Pittsburgh. Tommy Rees completed just 18 of his 38 passes and also had two interceptions. The Panthers had three total takeaways as well. 

    With games against BYU and Stanford left on Notre Dame's schedule, it's possible that it may end the season on a bit of a slide. 


Johnny Manziel Can Be Inconsistent

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    In what might've been Johnny Manziel's last home game of his college career, he barely escaped the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a 51-41 shootout win. 

    Although he had five total touchdowns and 446 yards through the air, Manziel also had three interceptions on the day. It was his third multi-interception game of the season. 

    Nevertheless, Texas A&M is 8-2 this season with games against LSU and Missouri left. Should the Aggies win those two games, you have to think that they'll be on their way to an at-large berth into a BCS bowl. 

The Missouri Tigers Are Almost There

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    The Missouri Tigers are just two wins away from securing a berth into the SEC title game in Atlanta following Saturday's 48-17 blowout of the Kentucky Wildcats. 

    The Tigers have games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M left, with the latter being at home in Columbia. 

    The South Carolina Gamecocks trail the Tigers by one game, but they beat Missouri earlier this season and would have the head-to-head advantage in the chase for a berth to the title game. So the Tigers will have to beat the Gamecocks outright. 

    The Gamecocks have just one SEC game remaining, and that's against a struggling Florida team. 

    Missouri has had an amazing season, but it'll need to finish strong to see its dream realized of heading to Atlanta. 

A Non-BCS School Could Be BCS-Bound

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    Both Fresno State (No. 14) and Northern Illinois (No. 15) are undefeated, ranked in the Top 16 of the BCS standings and above UCF, the current conference leader in the AAC. 

    That means that, under BCS eligibility rules, the Bulldogs would receive an automatic berth to a BCS game and the Huskies are eligible for at-large consideration.

    Northern Illinois, of course, appeared in the BCS last year, where it lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. 

    But Fresno State has never gone to a BCS bowl and is having its best season in program history, at least for now. 


Oklahoma State Doesn't Care How It Wins

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    Oklahoma State has dealt with quarterback controversies and struggled to find a true identity on offense in 2013. 

    Regardless, the Cowboys are 8-1 overall and ranked No. 12 in the BCS rankings following their 42-6 rout of Kansas on Saturday. 

    While quarterback Clint Chelf was going against a weak Kansas defense, he did have a good showing, with three touchdown passes on 265 yards passing. 

    The Cowboys are now coming up on the hardest part of their schedule, with games against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma scheduled. So they do actually control their destiny to a Big 12 title. Expect those games to be huge momentum swings in the league. 

Minnesota Is Better Than Advertised

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    At the start of the season, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were picked to finish last in the Big Ten Legends Division in the conference's preseason poll. But at 8-2, the Golden Gophers have been one of college football's feel-good stories of 2013, especially with head coach Jerry Kill dealing with his illness. 

    The Golden Gophers beat Penn State 24-10 on Saturday to win the  Governor's Victory Bell trophy, an honor they haven't won since 2004. 

    In the Legends Division, Minnesota trails only Nebraska and Michigan State. 

    The Golden Gophers face Wisconsin and Michigan State to end the season, so getting to 10 wins may be tough. But Minnesota has already well exceeded expectations in 2013. 

Aaron Murray Deserves a Better Legacy Than He'll Get

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    Aaron Murray became the SEC's all-time leader in passing touchdowns on Saturday, tossing his 115th career touchdown in the Bulldogs' 45-6 win over Appalachian State. Murray now holds SEC records for passing yards, touchdowns and total offense. 

    That's pretty impressive for a guy who will graduate without a Heisman Trophy or a BCS bowl appearance to his name.

    Because he'll leave Georgia without those accolades, and after a particularly disappointing record in 2013, many will see Murray as the guy who simply couldn't take Georgia to the next level. But he is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the SEC, and he deserves to be honored as such.  

An Undefeated Team Will Likely Be Left out of the National Title Game

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    There are four undefeated teams in the Top Five of the BCS standings (Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor). Fresno State and Northern Illinois also have blemish-free records. 

    That means it's likely that at least one undefeated team this year won't get to play in the BCS National Championship. And one, possibly two, of those teams could be in the Top Five. 

    Ohio State is riding the nation's longest winning streak. But at No. 3 in the BCS rankings, the Buckeyes are on the outside looking in. The Baylor Bears are in the same boat as Ohio State. 

    Baylor is the only undefeated team that won't have to play a conference title game, so championship week will be huge in deciding who goes to Pasadena and who doesn't. 

We Can't Get to the College Football Playoff Fast Enough

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    With so many undefeated teams, plus Oregon and Stanford at just one loss apiece, 2013 has proven one thing: We can't get to the football playoff next year fast enough. 

    There are too many undefeated teams this late in the season, and it's unfortunate that one or more of them will likely not be able to compete in the national title game. The four-team playoff, though, will be a much better solution. 

    There will always be debate about who should be in the title game or who should be in the playoff next year. But a playoff would almost eliminate the issues presenting themselves in 2013.