Sunday, October 25, 2009

Any Given Saturday: On the Road Again

A couple of monumental road teams won this week (often for the first time in many years at the road venue) shaking up their respective conferences races and the bowl picture (especially in the Big 12).

Iowa State 9 Nebraska 7

How'd it Happen? Iowa State won in Lincoln for the first time since 1977 despite being outgained by over 100 yards, averaging under 3 yards per carry, and missing an extra point. They can thank the generous Nebraska offense which turned the ball over 8 times (3 picks and 5 lost fumbles), many of them occurring deep in Cyclone territory. The Nebraska defense failed to register a takeway giving the Cyclones an almost unheard of +8 turnover margin.

What Does it Mean? For the Cornhuskers, they drop to 1-2 in the Big 12 conference. The North Division is certainly muddled as the 3 preseason favorites (Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri) are now a combined 2-7 in the league. For the record, Kansas State is your leader at the midway point with a 3-1 record, followed by these Cyclones who are now 2-2. More pressing for the Huskers is their stagnant offense that has only scored 6 touchdowns in 3 conference games thus far. For the Cyclones, they have equaled the win total under the previous administration (5) and have surpassed the conference win total (2) in just half a season under Paul Rhoads. They are a single win away from bowl eligibility, which would be a huge step forward one season after having their coach bail on them. Oh, and for the record, Iowa State has the same record as Auburn (5-3).

Texas A&M 52 Texas Tech 30

How'd it Happen? This is why we love college football. 2 weeks ago Texas Tech blasted Kansas State 66-14. Last week, Kansas State blasted Texas A&M 62-14. So the Aggies had no shot winning in Lubbock right (a place they hadn't emerged victorious since 1993)? The Aggies thumbed their noses at the transitive property of sports, barely outgaining the Red Raiders and committing 4 fewer turnovers en route to a huge win as a 3-touchdown underdog.

What Does it Mean? For the Red Raiders, the loss basically eliminates them from contention in the Big 12 South, and with league games remaining against Kansas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, could mean a losing conference record for the first time since Mike Leach's first year as head coach (2000). For the Aggies, the win moves them to 4-3 on the year and gives Mike Sherman a chance to attain bowl eligibility in his second season.

Clemson 40 Miami 37

How'd it Happen? The Tigers finally won a close game. After losing 3 games by 4 points or less, the Tigers rode a historic day by CJ Spiller to a road upset over Miami. Spiller rushed for 81 yards, had 104 yards receiving, and added 125 on kickoff returns (including a 90-yard return for 6) to help Clemson win their first road game of the season.

What Does it Mean? For Miami, their Coastal Division title hopes are virtually dashed. In fact, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson may send the Clemson team a thank you note. All the Yellow Jackets have to do to take the Coastal now is win their remaining 2 league games against Wake Forest and Duke. In fact Johnson may be able to hand deliver the note at the ACC Championship Game in Tampa. Clemson is now 3-2 in the league and holds the tiebreaker advantage over the other 2 division teams with 2 losses (Boston College and Wake Forest).

Iowa 15 Michigan State 13

How'd it Happen? A 7-yard slant pass from Ricki Stanzi to Marvin McNutt on the games final play kept the Hawkeyes dream season alive. It was Iowa's first win in East Lansing since 1996.

What Does it Mean? The loss drops the Spartans to 4-4. Michigan State has been the anti-Iowa this season. All 4 of their losses have come by 8 points or less, with 3 of them coming by 3 points or less. A bowl bid is still likely in Michigan State's future though, with games against Minnesota, Western Michigan, and Purdue remaining on the schedule. The win moves the Hawkeyes to 8-0 and evokes memories of 2002 Ohio State. Iowa has now won 4 games by 3 points or less, and has only one road game remaining on their schedule. Its a big one though, coming at Ohio State. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Hawkeyes are 2/3rds of the way through an unbeaten regular season.

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