Forget the style points. Forget Drew Lock’s two interceptions. Missouri got it done, coming back on Saturday for a 33-28 victory over visiting Vanderbilt. The goal-line stand was fun. The Tigers (6-4 overall, 2-4 SEC) even received 13 votes in the latest Coaches Poll. Next up: at Tennessee on Saturday in the 2:30 p.m. CBS showcase game.
Two big things happened in this one:
1. With the win, Mizzou became bowl eligible.
2. Even better? I cashed in for a sweet return after investing in this game and taking Vandy +14.5 points. It was one of the most ridiculously out of whack betting lines of the season. Free money, as the late Joe Strauss would say. Thank you.
That’s why I like the Drew Lock photo displayed with this column.
I’m smiling too.
Here’s our weekly review …
The Football Heroes of CFB Week 11
— UAB: The Blazers (9-1, 7-0) will compete in the Conference USA title game for the first time in program history after getting by Southern Mississippi, 26-23, in overtime. UAB coach Bill Clark deserves to win the national Coach of the Year award. No debate is necessary. Two years ago, UAB had no team; the program was shut down for two seasons after posting only three winning records in 19 years at the FBS level. But the program was restarted in 2017 with Clark as coach, and the Blazers went 8-5. And now 9-1 in Season Two, with a shot at the league championship and UAB’s first 10-win season. No college coach in America has done a more valiant job than Clark.
–Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman, who was essential in the Buckeyes’ 26-6 survival win at Michigan State. In an old-fashioned game dominated most of the way by defense, advantageous field position would tip the balance. And Chrisman was fantastic, dropping six punts inside the Michigan State 10-yard line to keep the Spartans pinned down. And Ohio State — gripping a 7-6 lead into the second half — eventually broke through with huge assist from the punter. Through one second-half stretch Chrisman had punts downed at the 5, 6, 3, 1 and 2-yard lines. Those punts put Ohio State in a great situation to exploit Spartans’ mistakes when trapped deep in MSU territory.
–Duke quarterback Daniel Jones. He’s very good, rated higher than Mizzou’s Drew Lock by some NFL scouts, and will likely be among the first quarterbacks chosen in the 2019 NFL Draft. An underrated Duke team needed Jones to come up big when pushed hard by rival North Carolina in an unexpectedly close game. The one-win Tar Heels almost pulled off the upset but Jones wouldn’t let it happen. In Duke’s 42-35 win, Jones passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns. But for the first time this season, Jones scrambled a defense by running the ball; he finished with 186 yards on 15 carries with the highlight being a 68-yard breakaway for a score. Because of Jones the Blue Devils are 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the ACC.
–Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. He’s fully healthy, and that’s hell on opposing defenses. Remember last season, when Swift, a freshman, was so eye-opening good that he got some carries that otherwise would have gone to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel? Some nagging injuries slowed Swift down early in the season but he’s up to max speed now. And the timing is ideal. Last week Swift wrecked Kentucky’s defense for 156 yards rushing in Georgia’s easy 34-17 win. Saturday night Swift went off for a career-high 186 rushing yards and a touchdown –adding 43 receiving yards — in a 17-point triumph over visiting rival Auburn. Swift put War Eagle away with a 77-yard touchdown gallop in the fourth quarter.
–Syracuse coach Dino Babers: After going 8-16 overall and 4-10 in the ACC in Babers’ first two seasons, the No. 12 (AP poll) Orange has made an impressive breakthrough in his third year with an 8-2 overall record (5-2 in the ACC), with one of the losses coming at Clemson. For the season, Syracuse ranks 7th in FBS by scoring an average of 44.7 points per game. Not only that, but Syracuse has topped 50 points in a game five times this season. It’s important to win (obviously) but Babers’ team is entertaining. Friday night, Syracuse did what good teams are supposed to do and obliterated the remains of Bobby Petrino’s program at Louisville. (Final score: 54-23.) The victory was notable in that it gave the Orange a perfect 6-0 record at home this season; that had happened only three times between 1980 (when the Carrier Dome opened) and 2017. The Orange will take a four-game winning streak into Saturday’s big game against undefeated and No. 3 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium. It should be a fun game.
–Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush. He was benched after the third game this season with coach Brian Kelly installing Ian Book as the starter. It was the proper decision; Book is responsible for giving the Irish a more consistent passing game. But instead of sulking and quitting the team — in other words, this isn’t Kelly Bryant — Wimbush kept working, kept being a good teammate. And when Book was ruled out of the Florida State game with a rib injury, Wimbush was prepared to keep Notre Dame rolling and led his team to a 42-13 skunking of the Seminoles. Sure, Florida State is a sickly mess of a team. But really, this game was about the quarterback’s readiness. And Wimbush did a beautiful job by throwing three touchdown passes, accounting for 198 yards total offense, and providing a terrific complement to running back Dexter Williams (202 yards rushing.) If Book can’t play against Syracuse, at least Notre Dame can go into that key game with renewed confidence in Wimbush. He didn’t walk out on his team. He didn’t quit on himself. After sitting for weeks, he was completely prepared to do the job with distinction.
— The Alabama defense: the consecutive shutouts over LSU and Mississippi State mark the first back-to-back shutouts by Bama since 2012… and this was the first two-shutout streak of SEC opponents since 1980.The Tide hasn’t been scratched for a single point in its last 13 quarters, covering a game-clock span of 152 minutes and 18 seconds, going back to a second-quarter touchdown throw by Tennessee on Oct. 20. Alabama has limited its last five opponents to an an average of 65.8 yards rushing per game. Alabama is up to third nationally with 36 sacks, and is tied at No. 1 with Clemson for fewest points allowed per game (12.7.)
— Let’s hear it for the Pittsburgh Panthers. After staggering through a 2-3 September that included embarrassing losses to Penn State and UCF, Pitt was averaging 191 yards rushing per game and didn’t have an identity on offense. Man, has that changed. After averaging 288 yards rushing in three October games, the Panthers have plowed their way to an average of 373 yards rushing in their first two games this month. Saturday, Pitt all but clinched the ACC Coastal title by stomping Virginia Tech for a preposterous 492 yards rushing in a 52-22 whooping. Pitt has won three in a row and four of its last five. The victories include a 44-37 win over Syracuse. And the only loss was a close-call defeat (19-14) at Notre Dame.
— If you love offense, than your heroes on Saturday could be found piling up yards and points in Norman Oklahoma. And No. 6 Oklahoma escaped the madness with a 48-47 win that was sealed when Oklahoma State failed on a two-point conversion with a minute remaining. (Related note: good on OSU coach Mike Gundy for going on it.) The rivalry game called “Bedlam” was just that, with the Sooners winning despite getting blistered for 47 points and 640 yards by the 5-5 Cowboys. Oklahoma (9-1) countered with 48 points and 702 yards to stay in the chase for a playoff spot.
–Kudos to Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern for clinching the Big Ten West with its fifth consecutive victory in conference play, 14-10 at Iowa. It’s been an odd season for the Wildcats (6-4 overall, 6-1 in the B1G) who became the first team in FBS history to reach a conference championship game despite going winless in non-conference action. That according to ESPN Stats & Info. Northwestern lost non-conference games to Duke, Akron and Notre Dame but have won 10 consecutive games against Big Ten West rivals — and are 13-1 in their last 14 conference games (both divisions.)
The Football Villains of CFB Week 11
–Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who undermined his own offense by inexplicably going most of the the way with his hopelessly ineffective and sore-armed starting quarterback Brian Lewerke. This baffling decision made it easier for Ohio State to get out of East Lansing with a 20-point win. Lewerke hit on just 11 of 28 for 128 yards. Backup Rocky Lombardi wasn’t great, but he could throw downfield and also gave his team a lift with a 49-yard run. Lewerke saw what his coach didn’t see, saying: “I know I can’t make some throws that I want to with how my arm is right now. (Lombardi’s) arm is a lot stronger.”
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and defensive coordinator Bud Foster: What happened to the Hokies? Ranked 20th nationally preseason, and being ranked No. 13 as recently as Sept. 16, Virginia Tech has lost three in a row to slip to 4-5 on the season, 3-3 in the ACC. Foster is an acclaimed defensive coach, but the Hokies have given up an average of 44 points during the three-game skid, and rank 88th nationally for the season by allowing 31 points per game. Fuente’s career was seemingly on a fast track, but going back to last season Va Tech is only 6-8 in its last 14 games.
–Bye-bye Bobby Petrino, who was sacked over the weekend following Louisville’s latest humiliation, the 31-point clubbing by Syracuse. Early favorites to replace Pettrino are Louisville quarterback alum Jeff Brohm (Purdue) and former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong (South Florida.)
–Jeff Brohm. Let’s see … Purdue beats Ohio State 49-20 and three weeks later gets smoked 41-10 by Minnesota? What an enigma, Purdue.
— North Carolina’s Larry Fedora figures to be a goner; the loss to Duke put him at 1-8 this season and 4-17 since the start of 2017.
— The seat must be excruciatingly hot for USC’s Clay Helton who blew a 14-0 halftime lead in a 15-14 home loss to California. The Trojans are 5-5 with two rivalry games remaining (UCLA and Notre Dame.) If Helton wins both, he has a chance to come back in 2019. But the spoiled fan base has turned on him. Hard to blame the USC fans, who are tired of a mediocre team with a surprisingly dully offense. But the problems at USC are more systematic; the coach is only part of the issue. A sequence of failed athletic directors have made horrendous decisions and can’t find the right coach. Predictably there are calls for Pete Carroll to return but he’s having none of that.
Kentucky and coach Mark Stoops: Whoa, are the 15 minutes up already? You can understand the Wildcats getting stomped at home by a superior Georgia team two weeks ago. But to go into Tennessee and lose 24-7 on Saturday? This wasn’t a letdown … it was a beatdown … or maybe a meltdown. But Kentucky’s potential 10-win season is fading away.
Davidson Wildcats: this is one of the craziest results of the year … Saturday Davidson set an NCAA Division I record for most yards rushing in a single game — with 789 yards against San Diego. … 789 yards rushing! And the kicker is, Davidson LOST the game, 56-52 despite having four different players rush for 100+ yards.
South Carolina and head coach Will Muschamp: A promising season is circling the drain after the Gamecocks somehow failed to put away Florida despite having a 31-14 lead in the second half. Muschamp is a defensive coach by background, but there’s no way you should blow a 17-point lead to a team that has the erratic Feleipe Franks at quarterback. SC is 5-4 overall, and finished 4-4 in SEC play. That’s a step back from last season’s 5-3 record in the SEC.
Oregon Ducks: Despite facing Utah on a day that the Utes were missing their starting quarterback (Tyler Huntley) and leading rusher (Zack Moss) due to injuries, the Ducks lost 32-25. Oregon’s hopeful start has disintegrated to 3-4 in Pac-12 play, and 6-4 overall. Coach Mario Cristobal may not be the long-term answer. Utah is 5-3 in the Pac 12, and 7-3 overall. Coach Kyle Whittingham is doing one of the better coaching jobs of the 2018 season.
Thanks for reading …