A separation weekend in the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference turned into a survive-and-advance Saturday around college football.
It’s November. Just win. Don’t fret over the how.
No. 1 Georgia got all it could handle from No 14 Missouri and No. 8 Alabama won a score-fest with No. 13 LSU to put the SEC superpowers on a collision course for another championship game meeting.
If you counted out Jalen Milroe and the Crimson Tide after a shaky September, shame on you.
Elsewhere, No. 3 Ohio State was trailing at the half to Rutgers for the first time ever before pulling away in the fourth quarter; No. 4 Florida State didn’t shake Pitt until late in the third quarter; No. 5 Washington leaned on its running game to win a shootout with No. 24 USC; and No. 7 Texas needed overtime to beat No. 25 Kansas State after blowing a 20-point lead.
The Longhorns’ fellow Southeastern Conference-bound Big 12 rivalry was unable to complete the mission.
In the final Bedlam game in the Big 12 — and for the foreseeable future — Oklahoma State gave No. 10 Oklahoma an unfriendly parting gift.
Ollie Gordon II and the resurgent Cowboys handed the Sooners a second straight loss, crippling their now erstwhile rivals Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff hopes.
It’s been a remarkable in-season turnaround for Cowboys coach Mike Gundy, whose team started 2-2 and now has won five straight.
Gundy’s been one of the nation’s best coaches for more than a decade at his alma mater, but Bedlam victories have been rare. He is only 4-15 against Oklahoma, but this one might count extra.
“There’s only one Oklahoma and it ends with State. And it ends with State,” said Gordon, who has gone over 100 yards rushing in six straight games.
The Sooners’ big turnaround season after coach Brent Venables’ first resulted in a rare losing record in Norman has taken a hit. Beating Texas last month vaulted the Sooners into the top 10, but it looks as if there is still plenty of building to be done as they head to the SEC next year.
For about 40 minutes against Kansas State, Texas looked like it was on its way to making it Statement Saturday.
The Longhorns jumped out to a 27-7 lead in the second half before it all unraveled and K-State forced overtime with a last-second field goal.
Down three and with a first-and-goal, the Wildcats went nowhere and were left with a fourth-and-goal from the 4. Instead of kicking for the tie, Kansas State went for it and the Texas pass rush blew up the play.
Kansas State coach Chris Klieman made a call sure to be debated in the bottom of the first and only OT period. Klieman said he had no regrets at all.
“I’m upset that we lost, but watching what our guys were able to do in the second half was pretty special,” he said.
What become most apparent Saturday in Austin, Texas, is the Longhorns could really use their starting quarterback back.
Maalik Murphy started again for the injured Quinn Ewers (shoulder) and was all kinds of shaky (19 for 37 for 248 yards), missing some easy throws and throwing two interceptions that fueled the Kansas State comeback.
Texas has not won the Big 12 since 2009. It was the favorite to do so heading into its last year in the conference, and still should be considered that. But losing the Red River game to Oklahoma means the Longhorns still don’t have much room for error down the stretch.
The five-way tie atop the Big 12 at the start of the day was down to two by the end: Texas and Oklahoma State have a one-game lead over Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas, which beat the Cyclones in Ames.
The Cowboys and Longhorns do not play during the regular season.
This Texas seems talented enough to be the first to make the College Football Playoff and maybe even win a game or two. Coach Steve Sarkisian saw other things to like about his team Saturday.
“Versatility, resilience, perseverance … those are all qualities championship teams have,” Sarkisian said. “They can make plays at critical moments.”
THE BEAT GOES ON
Just another week for No. 2 Michigan: Dominate the headlines with controversy and scandal, and then dominate another opponent on the field.
Purdue provided little resistance to the Wolverines. When it was done, first-year Boilermakers coach Ryan Walters didn’t seem to be in the mood for small talk with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.
The traditional postgame handshake appeared to be brief at best.
“It was a typical postgame handshake,” Harbaugh told reporters.
Walters was more openly upset about the allegations of impermissible scouting and sign-stealing against Michigan than any other opposing coach.
Walters said Purdue has records that show now-former Michigan staffer Connor Stalions purchased tickets to several Boilermakers games and video surveillance footage of people in those seats appearing to record the game.
Michigan’s president sent a letter to the Big Ten earlier this week urging Commissioner Tony Petitti to let the NCAA investigation play out. Petitti is under pressure from the rest of the conference to discipline Michigan now. He met with Michigan officials Friday.
Harbaugh tried to keep the focus on the field after Michigan’s latest blowout.
“The comments keep coming about why they’re good, how they’re good. They’re just good,” Harbaugh told reporters about his players.
If Petitti decides to act, possibly suspending Harbaugh or other Michigan coaches, it’s likely to happen soon.
Michigan plays at No. 9 Penn State next Saturday.
AROUND THE COUNTRY: After some verbal sparring with Tyler from Spartanburg earlier in the week, Dabo Swinney was fired up by Clemson’s victory against Notre Dame. “And I know we’re down and everybody’s throwing dirt on us. But if Clemson’s a stock, you better buy all you freaking can buy right now,” Swinney said in an ESPN interview. … The number of unbeaten teams is down to seven after No. 17 Air Force was upset by Army. The loss was big for the Falcons on two front: Now Army can win the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy by beating Navy and AFA’s hopes for earning a New Year’s Six bowl bid took a hit. … Florida State became the first Power Five team to clinch a spot in its conference title game. The Seminoles will play for the ACC championship for the first time since 2014 … Arkansas snapped a six-game losing streak and earned its first SEC victory, taking out Florida in overtime. It’s going to be an interesting stretch run for the Razorbacks (3-6) and coach Sam Pittman, who has acknowledged his job status is getting precarious. … Speaking of precarious job status: Texas A&M (5-4) lost its ninth straight road game, a heart-breaker at No. 11 Mississippi. In six seasons as Aggies coach, Jimbo Fisher’s team has lost at least four games five times. A&M is also is 6-12 in the last 18 against Power Five opponents. … Florida and Nebraska, which lost to a Michigan State team that had lost six straight, are both a victory away from bowl-eligibility with three to play. Don’t book those travel plans just yet. The Gators finish with No. 13 LSU, No. 14 Missouri and No. 4 Florida State. Yikes! Nebraska’s road is not so daunting with Maryland, Wisconsin and Iowa, but no sure things there. … A few days after Iowa announced this will be Brian Ferentz’s last season as offensive coordinator, the Hawkeyes played another game that shows exactly why a change is needed: Iowa beat Northwestern 10-7. The Hawkeyes (7-2) are the first power conference team to be held to less than 250 yards of offense in at least six of the first nine games of a season since Rutgers did it six times in 2002 as a member of the Big East. That team started 1-8. … There are no more winless major college football teams after Sam Houston State, in its first season in FBS, beat Kennesaw State. Next year KSU is moving up from FCS to FBS to join Conference USA with Sam Houston.
AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas; Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Josh Dubow contributed to this report.
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