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November 13, 2011
Each Sunday, our staff of college football experts will offer thoughts on things they learned over the weekend.
Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden is the Heisman front-runner. How could he not be? On a day in which the Cowboys quarterback passed for 423 yards and five touchdowns, most of the other contenders faltered slightly. Andrew Luck had a solid game but threw two interceptions in a 53-30 loss to Oregon. Trent Richardson had a good but unspectacular showing in a victory over Mississippi State. Boise State's Kellen Moore threw two touchdown passes in a 36-35 loss to TCU. Weeden has thrown for 3,635 yards and 31 touchdowns for the unbeaten Cowboys. He's thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of the past four games.
[Slideshow: Saturday's college football highlights]
Oklahoma is back in the national championship picture. Although the Sooners were ranked No. 1 entering the season, their national championship aspirations took a serious blow with a loss to Texas Tech. But on a day in which the Sooners were off, they were big winners. OU is sixth in the BCS standings, but No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Boise State lost. The Sooners face No. 2 Oklahoma State in the season finale. If OU wins out, the Sooners may just end up at No. 2 because numerous BCS voters may be averse to seeing No. 1 LSU play a rematch against Alabama or Oregon in the national championship game. That is, assuming LSU gets there.
Collin Klein deserves some Heisman attention. We've spent too much time in recent weeks talking about whose Heisman stock has slipped - Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson and others. Klein needs to be the list of risers. At the start of the season, the Kansas State quarterback was a nice story on a surprise team, but he has shown in his past two games that he needs to show up in some voters' top five. At the start of the season, he was an effective runner and an adequate passer. That has changed. Klein passed for 231 yards in the 52-45 loss to Oklahoma State. On Saturday, he was 17-of-27 for 282 yards and a touchdown in the 53-50 quadruple-overtime win over Texas A&M. Against the Aggies, he also rushed for more than 100 yards for the fifth time this season and had five rushing touchdowns. His 24 rushing touchdowns are more than Cam Newton had last season and more than Tim Tebow had in a single season. Klein is not near their league as a passer, but Kansas State wouldn't be even close to 8-2 without him. He'll also have trouble beating out Brandon Weeden, Robert Griffin and Landry Jones on the All-Big 12 team, but Klein should at least get some consideration on Heisman ballots.
[Winners and losers: Dream ends for Boise State ? again]
The spotlight now is on Houston. Fans of one-loss teams may have been waiting for Boise State to lose to end any question about the Broncos in the title game. Houston has been waiting for a Boise State loss, too. The Broncos' loss opens the door for Houston to play in a BCS game. The Cougars can't make a case for the national title; this Cougars team is a lot like the 2007 Hawaii team, which used a high-flying offense and ho-hum schedule to go undefeated on the way to a loss to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Is Houston deserving? Maybe not. The Cougars' best win is by four over UCLA. They struggled with Louisiana Tech and UTEP. But I'm guessing an undefeated Houston team gets a BCS bid anyway. Finishing undefeated is no guarantee, though. Next week, Houston faces SMU, and a road trip to Tulsa to end the regular season could be difficult. If Houston gets through those two, it likely would face Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game. The Golden Eagles might have enough offensive and defensive balance to slow Houston.
Georgia is going to win the SEC East because it took advantage. Despite a solid record (8-2, with an eight-game winning streak), this is not a vintage Bulldogs team. But coach Mark Richt and his staff deserve a ton of credit for making sure a team that started 0-2 didn't implode. Georgia basically clinched the SEC East title by routing Auburn on Saturday; technically, the Bulldogs must beat Kentucky next week to truly clinch the title, but the Wildcats are awful (if you needed conformation, losing by 30 to Vanderbilt should provide that confirmation). The SEC East is as weak as it has been, but give the Bulldogs credit for taking advantage of that - and for taking advantage of Florida and Tennessee being down and for taking advantage of a schedule that didn't include Alabama, Arkansas or LSU. A lot of things fell into place for Georgia, but unlike a lot of other teams nationally who have had things handed to them, Georgia fully appreciated the gifts.
The Big Ten championship game is going to feature a rematch. Penn State's loss to Nebraska, Purdue's shocker over Ohio State, Michigan State's dominating performance at Iowa - all those results go a long way toward setting up a Michigan State-Wisconsin rematch in the inaugural Big Ten title game. Wisconsin plays a reeling Illinois team this week, then closes at home against Penn State in a game that will decide the Leaders Division title (as long as the Badgers beat the Illini). Meanwhile, in the Legends Division, beating Iowa was Michigan State's last real hurdle. The Spartans close with Indiana and Northwestern, and winning both would mean they will wear the division crown.
Andrew Luck needs more help. Stanford's 53-30 loss to Oregon may have cost Luck his front-runner status in the Heisman race. Luck wasn't at his best, as he threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed a couple of interceptions and lost a fumble. But he certainly wasn't the reason Stanford lost the game. Frankly, he's one of the major reasons Stanford was even competitive. Luck won't get a shot to play for the national title mainly because his team lacks an elite receiver or an outstanding defense. Stanford's defense didn't come close to containing LaMichael James, and Luck's receivers dropped numerous passes. Stanford's hopes of winning a BCS game for a second consecutive season depend on whether Luck's teammates can step up their level of play.
Nobody wants to win the Pac-12 South. Do we really need to have a Pac-12 championship game this year, or can we just hand out the automatic BCS bid to the North champion? No eligible teams in the South Division deserve a shot at a conference title. The only South Division team that could give Oregon or Stanford a decent game is USC, which isn't eligible for the conference title because it's on probation. That leaves Arizona State (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) or UCLA (5-5, 4-3) as the likely South Division representative, though neither team is playing as if anything is at stake. UCLA fell 31-6 at Utah on Saturday, while Arizona State lost 37-27 to Washington State.
Mike Huguenin's Week 11 awards
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