Week 7 of college football promised some exciting and hard-hitting action. It hasn't disappointed so far.
Michigan and Michigan State renewed their bitter rivalry in East Lansing, while Baylor traveled to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies for one last time before A&M bolts to the SEC.
There are ranked teams taking on other ranked teams and upstarts trying to knock off ranked opponents to make a statement. There have been key injuries and surprising breakout stars.
Some teams won—yet lost. Some teams lost more than just a game and still others won something more tangible than a warm-fuzzy in victory.
We're getting into the real meat of the season now. Ranked teams take each other on with both conference and national implications. There's arguably more riding on each game now than there has been at any point prior to this in the 2011 season.
We're not just laying out scores here. We're also talking big picture. Who won? Who lost?
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The No. 23 Spartans took down No.11 Michigan 28-14 in East Lansing. That victory marks the fourth consecutive victory the Spartans have had over the Wolverines.
There are a couple of impressive statistics that go along with this win. For starters, Denard Robinson was held to just 42 yards rushing on 18 attempts. That's his lowest production of the season and showcased a defense that looked more fierce today than they've looked all year.
Robinson also completed just 9-of-24 passes. A big part of that was the fact that MSU's defense blitzed mercilessly and continually had personnel in his face, forcing him to make hard and fast choices.
For the Spartans, Edwin Baker ran the ball 26 times for 167 yards—this against a defense that had only allowed 134 rushing yards per game, let alone per player.
All of that is well and good, but the fact that is most impressive to me is that this year's Spartan senior class has never known defeat to the Wolverines.
Through the lean Rich Rod years, and now at the beginning of the Brady Hoke era, Michigan has been unable to upend the Spartans. Michigan State has owned Michigan.
The Wolverines still lead the overall series. There's no getting around that. It'll take decades for Michigan State to even that scoreboard. Who cares?
This group of seniors (less the ones that will be fifth-year seniors next year) have never had to taste the sting of defeat to the winningest program in college football history.
That's saying something pretty significant.
For starters, they were losers when they dug those uniforms back out of mothballs and put them on. Really guys, throwback unis are only cool if they're...well...cool.
Seriously though, Michigan not only lost the game, they lost the chance to lead the Legends Division of the Big Ten. Nebraska—the preseason favorite to win the division—already has a loss, Iowa isn't looking very good right now, Minnesota is flat-out awful, and Northwestern is struggling to get Dan Persa back up to full speed.
The winner of this game was firmly in the driver's seat to control their own destiny in terms of a shot at the conference title.
With this loss, now Michigan has to hope for the Spartans to lose at least two conference games. Of course, they also have to take care of business on their end, but they could win out and still not make it to the Big Ten Championship game in December.
On top of all of that, they have now been the second-best team from Michigan for the last four years. That has to be hard on such a proud program.
South Carolina got the win over Mississippi State. They even did it on the road.
However, they may have lost Marcus Lattimore in the process. Lattimore was injured late in the game against the Bulldogs. Lattimore was hit by Nickoe Whitley and had to be helped to the sideline. He was taken to the locker room on crutches and (obviously) never returned to the game.
Marcus suffered a sprained left knee. That's a huge hit to the Gamecocks, who have struggled offensively this year. Lattimore has been the one relatively consistent weapon they have been able to rely on.
Stephen Garcia was largely horrible in his short stint as the quarterback. He's no longer even on the team. Connor Shaw has looked much better as his replacement, but Shaw is still experiencing some growing pains.
Lattimore provided a measure of stability while those issues were being worked out.
South Carolina won the game 14-12, and that can't be dismissed. However, the long-term damage that may have been done with Lattimore's injury certainly make them losers this week.
The Aggie meltdowns against Oklahoma State and Arkansas are well documented. Last week, they held on to beat Texas Tech 45-40, but there was still some question as to whether or not the Aggies could hold on against a better overall team than Tech.
Is it fair to ask such questions? Probably not, as the Cowboys and Razorbacks are awfully good teams and are somewhat anomalous compared to the rest of A&M's schedule. That's the world we live in, though. We wonder such things on the back of two second-half collapses.
This time, they not only held on to win—they pulled away in the second half. A&M led 24-14 at halftime and extended that to 55-28 by the time the final whistle blew. What's more, like Baylor or not, they're a good team with a quality offense.
The Aggies put up over 680 offensive yards of their own, though, and likely pushed Baylor out of the Top 25.
What a big day for Ohio State! I realize, of course, that beating Illinois may not mean as much to many as beating Michigan would be, or beating Nebraska would have been.
Still, this is a team that has struggled mightily this year. The Buckeyes struggled to put away Toledo 27-22 early in the year, then followed that up with a 6-24 loss to Miami (FL). They got a "nice" win over Colorado 37-17, but then dropped the next two to No.23 Michigan State (7-10) and No.14 Nebraska (27-37).
Part of the Buckeye problems could be blamed on the players that were suspended or departed, but that's not entirely fair. This is a team that has gone through a lot more than just a few suspensions.
Besides those suspended players, Ohio State had a lot of turnover from attrition. They lost their starting quarterback (a combination of the two) and lost their head coach. They lost a ton of defensive talent and nearly as much offensive talent.
This year, they've had to break in a freshman quarterback, a new head coach and a bunch of new faces across the board. They've had to do all of this with the specter of possible NCAA sanctions hanging over their head and vocal national voice that wanted to crucify the remaining players for things they're not officially charged with.
This was big because beating Illinois means Ohio State can still beat a ranked team. They've turned it on the last couple of weeks and have become dangerous again.
The Illini have a solid defense and a dangerous offense. Ohio State neutralized both and came away with an important win in Champaign.
This gives them a measure of respectability back, but most importantly, it returns a lot of hope for a solid season.
The Yellow Jackets dropped a rough match to surprising Virginia 21-24. It maybe shouldn't have been entirely unexpected. Well, yeah it was.
Virginia had only beaten William & Mary and Indiana—a team that isn't in the same division and a team that's just 1-5. Meanwhile, they'd lost to North Carolina and Southern Miss on consecutive weeks.
It's not just a blow to Yellow Jacket pride. They were hovering just outside the Top 10 of the polls and stood to potentially grab a nice spot in the initial BCS standings. There's no doubt now that they'll take a big hit in those standings and will be quite a way below the Top 10.
While this game can be chalked up to a mental meltdown, there are matches against Miami (FL), No.8 Clemson and No.19 Virginia Tech in their near future. Suddenly, those opponents seem just a shade scarier than they might have a day or two ago.
The Bayou Bengals handily won their game against Tennessee, beating the Vols 38-7. That should be enough to keep them at the top of the polls, shouldn't it?
If all we had going forward was the AP poll, then yes. They'd absolutely remain at the top of the heap.
The Tigers took over the top spot in that poll back in the third week and haven't let go. As long as they keep winning—and winning comfortably—there's little doubt that they will remain at the top of that poll.
However, the Coaches' Poll still has Oklahoma as the No.1 team in the nation. As already mentioned elsewhere here, the Coaches' Poll is the one that feeds directly into the BCS standings. The AP is no longer a part of the equation.
So, the question is just begging to be asked: will LSU be at the top of the BCS standings, or won't they?
It's entirely possible—maybe even probable—that LSU will find themselves out of the top spot when the standings are released Sunday night.
When they took over the top spot in the AP Poll, they had arguably played the toughest schedule to that point. However, now Alabama and Oklahoma have both added tough competition to their resumes.
LSU got the win Saturday, but they may end up being losers by Sunday evening.
Talk about heart-breakers. For the second time this season, the Midshipmen lost by only one point.
On October 1st, Navy dropped to fellow service academy, Air Force 34-35 because of a blocked extra point in overtime. This week, they lost to Rutgers 20-21.
This time, the loss can't be blamed on a special teams flub late in the game. The Midshipmen closed the gap from 21-17 to 21-20 on a Jon Teague field goal with 7:52 remaining on the clock. They just couldn't seem to get back into position to add one more and grab the win.
On top of all of that, Navy dropped to No.15 South Carolina 21-24 back in September.
Three of their four losses are by a grand total of five points. Two field goals is really all that stands (point wise) between this Navy team and a 5-1 record.
There will be a lot of "what if's" running through Navy minds when this season is finished.
The Bears didn't just lose to No.21 Texas A&M, they were thumped 55-28.
QB Robert Griffin III still had a tremendous day, passing for 430 yards and three touchdowns. He also gave up his second interception of the year.
The Bears couldn't get any ground support going though. Four runners could manage only 50 net yards with a touchdown. The longest rush of the day was 11 yards.
Meanwhile, the defense forgot to show up. Aggie QB Ryan Tannehill threw for 415 yards and six touchdowns. RB Christine Michael gained 105 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Making the whole situation worse is that Baylor came into the week ranked No.20 in the AP Poll. A victory over a ranked opponent would have gone a long way toward legitimizing this team as a true Top 25 program.
Unfortunately, they've yet to beat a ranked opponent and have to go on the road to take on No.6 Oklahoma State next.
With No.16 Illinois losing, and No.17 Kansas State struggling to put away Texas Tech, there was an opportunity for the Bears to make a move up the ladder. Instead, they'll be very lucky if they somehow hold onto a spot anywhere in the first BCS standings.
They could have gone to Oklahoma with some momentum. Instead, they have some questions that need answered.
This team just won't go away. That's tenacity for you.
The Tigers have been in and out, up and down the polls all year. Coming into this week, they were holding loosely to a spot in the rankings, coming in at No.24 in the AP.
While beating Florida wasn't the same as beating a ranked team, it's a quality SEC win that keeps the Tigers in a few discussions. Coming off a tough loss at Arkansas, the Tigers needed a good win to pick up a little momentum before heading on the road to take on No.1 LSU.
There are three very winnable games coming up after their showdown with the "other Tigers", then a showdown with No.2 Alabama. A loss to Florida could have put Auburn in serious danger of coming out of 2011 with only a 7-5 record.
Back-to-back losses (assuming they fail to unseat LSU) would have knocked the Tigers far enough out of the rankings that they wouldn't have found their way back in for quite a while.
Now, they get to move up just as the BCS Standings come out and potentially keep themselves in it for the rest of the year.
One year ago, the Clemson Tigers finished their season with a mediocre 6-7 record. With their 56-45 victory over Maryland, they just started the 2011 season at 7-0. That's right, they've surpassed last year's total wins and still have nearly half a season to go.
That alone makes them winners this week.
Tajh Boyd is a very legitimate star who threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile Andre Ellington ran for 212 yards and two more scores.
Having to come from behind to beat a 2-4 Terrapin team isn't all that impressive, but who cares right now? Clemson has stormed onto the stage in 2011 and this win just keeps the miracle going.
Speaking of turnaround years, how about Kansas State?
Bill Snyder needed very little time to turn the floundering program around and make them respectable again. With their 41-34 victory over Texas Tech, the Wildcats are 6-0 and 3-0 in the Big 12.
Who thought Kansas State would be in a three-way tie for the conference lead? A solid ground game, backed up by an equally tough defense has Kansas State looking pretty good in a tough conference.
Texas Tech has had a rough start to conference play, but they're not a bad team and this win helps legitimize K-State as a real threat. Things will get considerably tougher later in the year when they take on Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas in consecutive weeks.
For now though, the Wildcats are looking pretty good and the win this week makes them bowl eligible with plenty of time to parlay this success into even better bowl position.
The Tarheels started the season 5-1 and 1-1 in the ACC. They weren't ranked anywhere in the Top 25, but were getting sniffs from both the AP and Coaches.
Following their 24-30 loss to Miami (FL), that's not likely to continue. The loss hurts badly enough, but the fact that the loss came to a team that is just now 3-3 hurts even worse.
There's nothing quite like sitting on the cusp of entering the big discussion, only to get knocked down by a team that hasn't been able to put together consecutive wins yet this season.
With a road trip to No.8 Clemson coming up next week and a showdown with No.19 Virginia Tech still looming in the future, things stand to get tougher.
So close, yet so very far away.