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COLLEGE FOOTBALL OVERTIME


In the moments after Florida State's win over rival Miami on Saturday night, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher and quarterback Jameis Winston both answered questions about overcoming "adversity" during the game.
Mind you, Florida State had just won 41-14. But in this year's BCS title race, adversity consists of Winston throwing two interceptions and the previously unbeaten Hurricanes daring to stay within seven points of the 'Noles until early in the second half. In the case of Oregon a week earlier, adversity was 5-1 UCLA limiting the Ducks to three touchdowns through three quarters. Oregon eventually won that Oct. 26 matchup by nearly an identical score, 42-14.
Thus, we're at a complete loss trying to separate the teams at the top of this year's BCS standings.
As the 2013 season hits its final month, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon sit at the top in some order, with undefeated Ohio State generally regarded a notch below and undefeated Baylor still a wild card. Fans can pore over the Billingsley rankings all they want, but there will be no discernible separation among the top three unless one of the frontrunners loses. To date, that's only come close to happening once, when Alabama beat Texas A&M 49-42 on Sept. 14 in a game the Crimson Tide led by double digits for most of the second half.
Which brings us to Week 11, easily the most intriguing slate of games thus far. It features three matchups between unbeatens and top-12 opponents. On Thursday night, No. 2 Oregon (8-0) will visit No. 6 Stanford (7-1) in a rematch of last year's 17-14 Cardinal upset in Eugene, while No. 5 Baylor (7-0) will host No. 12 Oklahoma (7-1) in the Bears' first notable test of the season. On Saturday, No. 10 LSU (7-2) will visit No. 1 Alabama (8-0) in a game that holds seemingly annual national title implications.
Over an eight-day span that started on Saturday with Florida State's win over Miami, all of the prime contenders save for Ohio State (which has a bye this week) will have a chance pad their BCS résumés. Or they'll lose, which quite frankly, would help clear the entire picture up.

After Week 10, one could subjectively argue that any of Alabama, Florida State or Oregon deserves to be ranked No. 1. Quantitatively, however, the 'Noles have the most impressive résumé. Saturday's victory marked their second blowout of a top-10 foe, and while Miami may lose another game or two the rest of the way (it lost star running back Duke Johnson to a season-ending broken ankle), Clemson (8-1) remains in the top eight. Florida State whipped the Tigers 51-14 on the road on Oct. 19. Winston has been sensational, but Saturday night was a reminder that the 'Noles have ample other weapons, such as running back Devonta Freeman, who had 176 total yards and three touchdowns in the win.
"I feel like we can play with anybody in the country," said Florida State nose guard Timmy Jernigan. "I feel like we're second to nobody."
That may be true -- as evidenced by the love the BCS computers are showing the Seminoles -- but the pollsters currently disagree. Unfortunately for Fisher's team, it likely won't have another showcase opportunity to change voters' minds. It closes against 4-5 Wake Forest, 4-4 Syracuse, 1-8 Idaho and 4-4 Florida before the ACC title game. And while Florida State's marquee matchups are finished, most other contenders' are still to come.
Oregon, for example, has an opportunity to make a huge statement on Thursday. Not since Alabama's season-opening 35-10 win over Virginia Tech -- which has recently been devalued by the Hokies' consecutive losses to Duke and Boston College -- has one of the top-five teams faced a defense the caliber of Stanford's. The Ducks average 331.5 yards per game on the ground. The Cardinal allow just 103.9. Last year, Stanford held Oregon to two touchdowns. The Ducks have scored at least 34 points in every one of their other previous 34 games.
An Oregon win by any margin would presumably push it back up to No. 2 in the BCS standings, though that would surely prompt howls from Tallahassee if the game comes down to the final seconds. Even then, however, the Ducks have remaining regular-season games against Arizona (6-2) and Oregon State (6-3). If they reach the Pac-12 title game, they'll likely meet Arizona State or UCLA.
Meanwhile, it feels as if Alabama has been on a perpetual bye for about eight weeks now. In reality, it's just dispatched six straight overmatched foes by a combined score of 246-26. This year's LSU game doesn't feel quite as monumental as the past two regular-season meetings, given the Tigers' two early losses and their rebuilding defense. But LSU's star-studded offense (Zach Mettenberger, Jeremy Hill and Odell Beckham Jr.) ensures this will likely be far from another 9-6 contest.
If we're being honest, the Tide are ranked No. 1 right now because they started the year No. 1, and because who the heck would bet against an undefeated Nick Saban team? By season's end, however, 'Bama will have faced LSU, current AP Poll No. 7 Auburn and, if they reach the SEC title game, most likely No. 9 Missouri or No. 13 South Carolina. The Tide will have their chances to reassert their superiority.
Then there's Baylor. Thursday night's showdown with Oklahoma feels like an official debut after a seven-game soft launch. The Bears, whose four conference opponents to date are a combined 4-13 in other league games, are playing catch up. But if they keep putting up 50 points and 600-plus yards against the Sooners (7-1), No. 25 Texas Tech (7-2) and No. 15 Oklahoma State (7-1) in the next few weeks, they'll have to be taken more seriously. At the very least, they'll have an opportunity to leapfrog the Buckeyes.
After that, however, Baylor, will have to wait to see whether some of the other undefeated teams go down. If they don't, the final season of the BCS is going to be its most frustrating ever.

Michigan State's defense silences rival Michigan

Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) routed hapless Purdue 56-0 on Saturday, and throughout various other game broadcasts this weekend, I heard announcers emphasize the Buckeyes' need for "style points." Well, that's not the case. Ohio State needs two of the teams ranked above it to lose, plain and simple. Its margin of victory is largely irrelevant. More than anything, Urban Meyer's team needs to win all of its remaining games, and an interesting challenger is emerging as a possible Big Ten title game opponent.
Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) already boasted the nation's top-ranked defense before Saturday's meeting with archrival Michigan. But its jaw-dropping defensive performance in a 29-6 blowout of the Wolverines was something to behold. The Spartans sacked Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner four times in the first quarter and seven times on the day. They held their opponent to a staggering -48 rushing yards on 29 attempts (which includes the sacks and a snap over Gardner's head).
In a telling sequence, Michigan appeared to turn the momentum when cornerback Raymon Taylor intercepted a Connor Cook pass at the Spartans' 41-yard line with the Wolverines trailing 16-6 late in the third quarter. Instead, on the ensuing Michigan possession, the Spartans' defense imposed their will. Defensive end Shilique Calhoun (2.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries) and safety Isaiah Lewis stuffed Gardner for a five-yard loss on a first-down keeper. Linebacker Denicos Allen (nine tackles, three sacks) sacked the quarterback for a nine-yard loss on second down. Allen and Ed Davis sacked Gardner again on third down.

"We basically lived in the backfield," said cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who had a forced fumble and an interception.
Michigan finished the game with 168 total yards. The Wolverines have admittedly dealt with offensive line issues all season long, but they put up 751 yards against Indiana just two weeks ago.
"You never think you're going to be that good," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said of the performance. "They have a good football team, but we have a great football team."
Many outside the Big Ten might scoff at that notion, but Michigan State plays the type of suffocating defense on which Alabama and LSU have long prided themselves. Narduzzi's group is allowing just 43.4 rushing yards per game. It hasn't faced an elite quarterback or offense all year, but it'd most likely get that opportunity if the Spartans hang on to win the Legends Division.
Ohio State's offense is rolling. Since missing two early-season games with a knee injury, quarterback Braxton Miller has completed 74.4 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back Carlos Hyde has notched four straight 100-yard games. There's a lot of football left between now and Dec. 7, but a clash between the Buckeyes' offense and Spartans' defense would be fascinating.


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