Steve Megargee Rivals.com College Football Staff Writer
TCU's biggest test of the season came a week later than expected.
One week after TCU trounced Utah 47-7 in a battle of unbeatens who were in the top five of the BCS standings, the Horned Frogs suffered a major letdown Saturday before eking out a 40-35 victory over San Diego State.
"Bottom line, we found a way to win," TCU coach Gary Patterson said afterward. "You've got to give San Diego State a lot of credit, and now we move on. That's all we've got control over.''
The performance was good enough to keep TCU unbeaten, but it didn't do much for the Horned Frogs' national title hopes.
Oregon and Auburn have a firm grip on the top two spots in the BCS standings; as long as they win out, they'll meet in the BCS championship game. If Oregon or Auburn loses, a spot in the title game likely would go to either TCU or Boise State, the only other unbeaten FBS teams.
TCU was third and Boise State fourth in the latest BCS standings, but TCU struggled to win one day after Boise State delivered a 52-14 blowout victory at Idaho.
The Horned Frogs didn't get any help from Utah, which followed up its one-sided loss to TCU by falling 28-3 at Notre Dame. TCU was ranked ahead of Boise State at least in part because it looked so good against Utah. One week later, that victory doesn't look nearly as impressive.
TCU had to overcome all sorts of adversity to keep its national title hopes alive.
The Frogs were having problems on the field, as they fell behind 14-0 in the game's first six minutes. They had more serious concerns on the sideline, as offensive line coach Eddie Williamson was taken from the stadium and hospitalized during the first half. Patterson said in a halftime interview that Williamson had suffered a heart attack, and TCU spokesman Mark Cohen indicated Williamson was in stable condition.
After spotting San Diego State 14 points, TCU scored touchdowns on five of its next six possessions and grabbed a 37-14 lead. But the Frogs couldn't close the door, as the nation's top-ranked defense allowed three touchdowns in the game's final 16:01.
"We aren't too pleased with the way we played," TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick said. "We have a lot of guys fighting through injuries, but we are 11-0 and not many people can say that."
Fans of major-conference teams like to gripe that TCU and Boise State would struggle if they had to face the week-in, week-out grind of playing in one of the nation's toughest conferences. TCU's performance against San Diego State will add weight to that argument.
TCU won't get many more chances to improve its case because its final game comes Nov. 27 against a New Mexico team that has won just once all season. Boise State plays host to Fresno State (6-3), travels to Nevada (9-1) and plays host to Utah State (4-6) in its final three games.
Here's a recap of the other winners and losers from this weekend in college football.
Wisconsin RB John Clay's teammates: Clay, the 2009 Big Ten offensive player of the year, sat out the Badgers' game with Indiana on Saturday with a sprained right knee. Without their All-America candidate in the backfield, the Badgers still scored the most points of any FBS team all season in an 83-20 trouncing of Indiana. "We still have the same linemen in there," Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi told reporters afterward. "We're creating holes. It's not just the running backs." Wisconsin's 83 points were the most by any Big Ten team since Ohio State whipped Iowa 83-21 in 1950.
Auburn QB Cam Newton: After a week in which numerous reports surfaced to suggest that his father sought money during his recruiting process, Newton withstood all the distractions and helped Auburn erase a two-touchdown deficit to clinch a spot in the SEC championship game. Newton ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns in Auburn's 49-31 victory over Georgia. He also threw for 148 yards and two more scores.
Northwestern QB Dan Persa: He made his final play of the season one to remember. Persa's 20-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields with 1:22 left capped Northwestern's comeback from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit in a 21-17 upset of Iowa. Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon after throwing the pass and will miss the rest of the season, forcing the Wildcats to turn to redshirt freshman Evan Watkins.
Virginia Tech's pass defense: The Hokies recorded four interceptions and silenced white-hot North Carolina receiver Dwight Jones in a 26-10 victory over the Tar Heels. Jones had caught 28 passes for 612 yards in the previous four games; he had just one catch for 4 yards against Virginia Tech.
Miami WR Leonard Hankerson: The senior receiver's 78-yard score against Georgia Tech was his 11th touchdown catch, tying the school single-season record set by Michael Irvin in 1986.
Maryland and North Carolina State: Two teams that posted a combined record of 7-17 last season continue to control their destinies in the ACC Atlantic Division race. If each team wins its next two games, their Nov. 27 showdown at Maryland would determine the Atlantic champion.
Army: The Black Knights rushed for six touchdowns in a 45-28 victory over Kent State, making them bowl-eligible for the first time since 1996.
Tennessee: Tyler Bray threw three touchdown passes in his second career start as Tennessee (4-6) kept its bowl hopes alive with a 52-14 rout of Ole Miss. The Vols can become bowl-eligible if they win at Vanderbilt and beat Kentucky at home in their final two games. Tennessee has won 26 of its past 27 meetings with Vanderbilt and has beaten Kentucky 25 consecutive times.
Notre Dame's defense: This much-maligned defense kept Utah out of the end zone as the Irish beat the Utes 28-3 for their first win over a team ranked in the AP poll since 2006. Utah was held without a touchdown for the first time since a 27-0 loss to UNLV in September 2007.
Syracuse: Ross Krautman's 24-yard field goal with 1:07 remaining gave Syracuse a 13-10 victory over Rutgers and made the Orange (7-3) bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004. Syracuse needed seven wins - not six - to become bowl-eligible because two of its victories came against FCS programs and only one counts toward bowl eligibility.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: The man who won a Heisman at Florida as a player and led the Gators to a national title as a coach returned to his alma mater Saturday and helped South Carolina win its first SEC East title. Marcus Lattimore rushed for 212 yards as South Carolina followed Spurrier's game plan to perfection in a 36-14 rout of Florida, which marked the Gamecocks' first win in Gainesville in 13 attempts. "God smiled on the Gamecocks tonight," Spurrier said afterward.
Florida State K Dustin Hopkins: One week after he missed a 40-yard field goal in the closing seconds of a 37-35 loss to North Carolina, Hopkins made a 55-yard field goal with plenty to spare on the final play of Florida State's 16-13 victory over Clemson.
LSU defense: The Tigers scored two defensive touchdowns and recorded a shutout in a 51-0 trouncing of Louisiana-Monroe. Ron Brooks scored on a 31-yard interception return and Lavar Edwards reached the end zone on a 28-yard fumble return. Patrick Peterson added an 85-yard interception return that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Stevan Ridley.
Oregon's offense: The offense that loves to speed up the tempo showed in a 15-13 victory over California that it also can play ball control. California's defense played outstanding all night - the Bears' defense scored as many touchdowns (one) as Oregon's offense - until the Ducks drained the last 9 1/2 minutes of the game with an 18-play, 65-yard drive. "We won," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "That's all we care about."
Texas A&M RB Cyrus Gray: He rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns as Texas A&M rallied from 16 points down to beat Baylor 42-30 and remain in the hunt for the Big 12 South title.
Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles: He caught eight passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 blowout of Texas Tech. Broyles broke or tied school records for career receptions (229), receptions in a season (94), career touchdown catches (32), 100-yard games in a season (eight) and 100-yard games in a career (15).
Oregon State: The Beavers traditionally come on strong late in the season after struggling in September. Not this year. Oregon State's stunning 31-14 home loss to Washington State marked the third time the Beavers (4-5) have fallen in their past four games. Boise State's and TCU's early-seasons wins over Oregon State look less and less impressive with each passing week.
Penn State QB Matt McGloin's Cinderella story: The former walk-on rallied Penn State from a 21-point deficit against Northwestern last week and led the Nittany Lions to a 14-3 halftime lead at Ohio State. But he threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the second half as Penn State was outscored 35-0 in the final two quarters of a 38-14 loss.
The Big East: Pittsburgh's loss to Connecticut dropped the Panthers' overall record to 5-4, yet they still lead the Big East standings. With each passing week, it becomes increasingly likely that the Big East champion won't be ranked as it heads into its BCS matchup.
Iowa (whenever it faces Northwestern): Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was a star linebacker for the Wildcats who broke his leg against Iowa late in the season, forcing him to miss the Rose Bowl game. He has owned the Hawkeyes ever since. Northwestern's victory over Iowa on Saturday marked the fifth time the Wildcats have beaten the Hawkeyes in their past six meetings.
Denard Robinson's ball security: Remember when Michigan's quarterback was the Heisman front-runner? Robinson threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles in Michigan's 27-16 victory over Purdue. Robinson was benched in favor of Tate Forcier during the second half, though he did return in the fourth quarter to lead a game-clinching touchdown drive.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' string of 13 consecutive bowl appearances is in jeopardy. Georgia Tech's loss to Miami dropped the Yellow Jackets' record to 5-5. Georgia Tech still could earn a bowl bid if it beats Duke at home next week or wins at Georgia on Nov. 27.
UCF's handling of prosperity: UCF responded to its first national ranking in school history by blowing an early 14-0 lead in a 31-21 home loss to Southern Miss.
Indiana's defense: Yes, Wisconsin could have tried running out the clock rather than throwing a 74-yard touchdown pass while leading 69-13 midway through the fourth quarter. For the most part, however, Indiana has only itself to blame for giving up 83 points to a team playing without its top offensive weapon. "We got beat every way possible by a great football team," Indiana coach Bill Lynch said afterward.
Cincinnati: Two years ago, the Bearcats played in the Orange Bowl. Last season, they reached the Sugar Bowl. This season, they'll be fortunate to play in any bowl. Cincinnati's 37-10 loss to West Virginia dropped the Bearcats' record to 3-6 with games remaining against Rutgers, Connecticut and Pittsburgh.
Kansas State QB Carson Coffman's hands: Kansas State trailed 21-14 and was driving toward a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the first half when Coffman fumbled a snap at Missouri's 1. Jacquies Smith returned another Coffman fumble 53 yards midway through the third quarter for a touchdown that sparked Missouri to a 38-28 victory.
Utah: The Utes' No. 5 ranking in the BCS standings two weeks ago looks more and more like the product of a weak schedule. After averaging 45.3 points in its first eight games, Utah has totaled 10 points during its two-game losing streak. The Utes had allowed a total of 90 points through their first seven games. They have given up 98 points in their past three games.
Iowa State: The Cyclones have recorded a couple of high-profile wins in Paul Rhoads' two-year tenure - beating Nebraska last season and Texas this season - but the Cyclones need to play with a similar intensity against teams they're supposed to beat. Iowa Sate's 34-14 loss at Colorado means the Cyclones (5-6) must beat Missouri next week to become bowl-eligible.
The closing seconds of the Auburn-Georgia game: A physical game between Auburn and Georgia got heated in the final seconds and nearly erupted into a full-fledged melee. Auburn DT Mike Blanc and DE Michael Goggans were ejected from the game and won't be able to play in the first half of the Tigers' regular-season finale against Alabama.
Texas: A team that advanced to the BCS championship game last season is staring at the possibility of its first losing season since 1997 following a 33-16 loss to Oklahoma State. Texas has dropped four consecutive home games and six of its past seven overall. Texas (4-6) must sweep its last two games, against Florida Atlantic and Texas A&M, to become bowl-eligible.
Arizona State (whenever the game's close): Arizona State has made a fine art of losing close games to quality opponents this season. The Sun Devils couldn't hang on to a second-half lead Saturday and fell 17-13 to Stanford, dropping their record to 0-4 in games decided by four or fewer points. Arizona State (4-6) already had suffered one-point losses to Wisconsin and USC this season. The Sun Devils' four wins have been decided by an average margin of 29.5 points.
California's kicking game: California K Giorgio Tavecchio committed a false-start penalty to nullify his 24-yard field goal that would have given his team a 16-15 lead over Oregon in the fourth quarter. Tavecchio then missed a 29-yard attempt, allowing Oregon to maintain a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Clemson's defense in the final minute: Florida State faced second-and-24 from its 30 with 21 seconds left in a tie game. Overtime seemed inevitable. Clemson then committed a pass interference penalty to give the Seminoles an automatic first down. The Tigers followed up that mistake by allowing an 18-yard completion from E.J. Manuel to Rodney Smith that put the Seminoles in position for a game-winning field goal.