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November 7, 2010
Tom Dienhart's Week 10 awards
What we learned in Week 10
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
TCU is deserving of playing for the national championship. Of course, that doesn't mean the Horned Frogs will. If Oregon and Auburn stay undefeated, the Frogs won't get to play in the BCS championship game. But in a 47-7 domination of previously unbeaten Utah, the Frogs showed they're good enough to beat anybody. They were explosive on offense and fast on defense. They've held their past six opponents to a combined 23 points. The Frogs figure to finish the regular season undefeated. If Auburn or Oregon stumbles, TCU should play for the national title ahead of any other team and, yes, that includes Boise State.
Dan Hawkins is gone. We knew Hawkins probably was going to lose his job. But after a 52-45 loss to lowly Kansas, all doubt was removed. That Colorado lost was bad enough. But the way the Buffaloes lost was inexcusable. They blew a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter. That kind of meltdown cannot be acceptable. Hawkins' dismissal is just a matter of time. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened today.
LSU's quarterbacks deserve the comeback player of the year award. College football doesn't have many comeback player of the year awards. That's unfortunate. This season, a player doesn't deserve the award as much as a position group does: LSU's quarterbacks. Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee were a major liability early in the season, but the rotation isn't holding LSU back anymore. They combined to go 14-of-20 for 208 yards with a touchdown against Alabama, which would be admirable for any individual quarterback. More than the cumulative numbers, LSU's quarterbacks came up huge in critical situations. Jefferson had a 75-yard touchdown pass to Reuben Randle and later a two-point conversion to the same receiver. The key play in the game, though, was another pass to Randle, this time a 47-yard completion from Lee on third-and-13 that helped LSU put Alabama away. LSU's quarterbacks won't be conventional and the offense won't overwhelm anyone. Still, Jefferson and Lee showed up in clutch situations, and they minimized mistakes. That's much more than we expected out of them a few weeks ago.
No one wants to win the ACC Atlantic. Two weeks ago, Florida State looked as if it would run away with the ACC Atlantic Division title and a good chance to go to the BCS. Not anymore. The Seminoles have dropped their past two games, to N.C. State and North Carolina, in the final minutes. At the same time, no one in the division is capitalizing on FSU's stumbles. N.C. State lost 14-13 to Clemson in a game where the Tigers benched their starting quarterback for a time. And Maryland couldn't hold onto a fourth-quarter lead against Miami's backup backfield. FSU once led the division at 4-0, but now four teams have a shot. The division is competitive, but it's not pretty.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez may have saved his job. The wild 67-65 triple-overtime win over Illinois might be enough. The victory ended the Wolverines' three-game losing streak and improved their record to 6-3, making Michigan bowl eligible for the first time in Rodriguez's three seasons. It's all but certain that Michigan will win at Purdue on Saturday, making the Wolverines 7-3 entering their last two games at home against Wisconsin and at Ohio State. Rodriguez also got good news earlier in the week when the NCAA absolved him of the charge of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
Oklahoma State could win the Big 12. When the season started, most experts picked Oklahoma State to finish last in the Big 12 South. Following a 55-28 drubbing of Baylor on Saturday, Oklahoma State is 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12, putting the Cowboys in control of the division race. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen has had a big impact on the attack, pushing the buttons on an offense that totaled a school-record 725 yards in the victory over Baylor. Oklahoma State plays at reeling Texas next week, then travels to Kansas before finishing the season by playing host to Oklahoma. What's it all mean? The Pokes look primed to play in their first league title game. And they almost certainly would meet Nebraska there, the only team that has beaten Oklahoma State (51-41) this season.
Pitt is going to win the Big East. The Panthers didn't play over the weekend, but they still were the biggest winner in the Big East. That's because Louisville, which was playing without its starting quarterback and without its star running back, beat Syracuse. That means every league team except Pitt has two league losses, the Panthers are unbeaten in league play. And this isn't a case of good teams stepping up and beating each other; it's a case of mediocre teams playing well one week and poorly the next. Folks were laughing at Pitt earlier; they're not anymore. (Then again, there are some people sobbing -- the BCS bowl folks who might end up with Pitt in their game.)
Stanford is the best one-loss team in the nation. The Cardinal punished Arizona, rolling to a 42-17 rout of the Wildcats, who came in with one loss. Stanford's only loss came at Oregon, yet the Cardinal have been largely ignored since. That's too bad. This is a powerful offensive team with a solid defense. They also are coached by Jim Harbaugh, who has done a phenomenal job in a short amount of time at Stanford. Harbaugh doesn't just play to win; he plays to remove any doubt. Who wouldn't want to play for a coach who keeps his hand on the throttle?
Les Miles knows what he's doing. Miles was mocked for LSU's final-minute confusion in a 16-14 victory over Tennessee last month, but nobody's laughing at him now. Not after his daring play calls gave him a 24-21 victory over his predecessor while assuring that Alabama wouldn't win a second consecutive national title. Miles passed up a go-ahead field-goal attempt for a fourth-and-1 reverse that set up the touchdown that put LSU ahead for good. And with backup QB Jarrett Lee forced into service on LSU's final series, Miles refused to play it safe and called for a third-and-13 pass that resulted in a game-clinching 47-yard completion. No wonder the same fans who were roasting him a month ago now are toasting him.
Texas' win at Nebraska is the season's most puzzling result that didn't involve James Madison. Let's say Nebraska wins the rest of its games to capture the Big 12 title while either Auburn or Oregon loses sometime in the next few weeks. If that scenario plays itself out, Nebraska fans will spend the entire offseason wondering what might have been. Nebraska's usually explosive offense grounded to a halt Oct. 15 when the Huskers fell 20-13 at home to Texas. Nebraska fans had circled that date on the calendars ever since their heartbreaking loss to Texas in last season's Big 12 championship game, so it's not as if the Huskers were overlooking the Longhorns. Texas has fallen off a cliff since, making this result even more puzzling. Texas' only win in its past five games could end up costing the Huskers a shot at the national title.