Week 11 NCAA football preview: The Whole Nine Yards with Mia O'Brien
By MIA O'BRIEN
College Contributor Network
Will the real top team please stand up?
Even on a weekend that didn't feature nearly as many marquee matchups as prior weeks, Week 10 proved to have just as many dramatics.
First up: No. 1 Mississippi State, who trailed Arkansas 10-7 at half. The Bulldogs would be able to shut the Razorbacks out in the second half, but the "last-place team" in the SEC West did have more first downs (21) and rushing yards (163) than Mississippi State. More importantly, they put pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott -- something not a lot of teams have been able to say this season.
Of course, the big matchup this week pitted the No. 3 Auburn Tigers against the No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels, who'd just suffered their first loss of the season a week earlier. I don't think I've ever become a fan of a team so quickly as I did in the fourth quarter of this one: you had to love the passion and effort on behalf of the Rebels.
Bo Wallace had 341 yards in the air, they held the Tigers' top running back to 138 yards... and they still somehow lost this one. They call it a "game of inches" for a reason, I guess, and Laquon Treadwell found that out the hard way.
Treadwell lost the ball just shy of what would've been the game-winning touchdown for Ole Miss while simultaneously suffering a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle in what might be one of the top five most gruesome injuries ever captured on live television.
Oh, yeah, and then there was that Thursday night game featuring No. 2 Florida State and No. 25 Louisville. The Cardinals led 21-7 at the half. Quarterback Will Gardner threw for 330 yards. They added another 158 on the ground. The Seminoles somehow came back to win this one 42-31. Mind-boggling.
Someone, get me an Advil.
Here comes the Big 12
West Virginia's emergence is obviously a big reason why five teams in this conference are bowl eligible, but a big weekend up ahead for the conference's major players should also continue to put the Big 12 on the map.
Aside from Ole Miss' heartbreaking and gut-wrenching loss, the other marquee matchup (that also lived up to the hype) was West Virginia-TCU. There was a point in this season where I think a lot of people (myself included) forgot the Mountaineers played in the Big Ten, let alone were a contender.
Ah, but here we are, as it took the Horned Frogs a full, four quarters to finally stop WVU, who led up until the bitter end of this one. An off-game by Trevone Boykin resulted in near identical numbers to his West Virginia counterpart, Clint Trickett, but the running game was also nearly identical (TCU's 223 yards to WVU's 195).
Case in point: don't sleep on the Mountaineers just yet, even if they won't be playing in the FCS Playoffs this year.
What would the week be without upsets?
No. 11 Georgia and No. 12 Arizona were the latest victims of upset in Week 10, and although it won't affect their bowl eligibility, it will affect their conference title chances.
This was Florida's game to win (or, rather, Georgia's game to lose) from the onset. The 'Dawgs went up 7-0 early, but, from there, the Gators rattled off 31-unanswered points before Georgia would score again in the fourth quarter.
Florida runs one of the few, true triple options in any east coast conference, but the running game proved important on the other side of the ball, as Georgia was held to just 141 yards. Todd Gurley-less? Yes. But losing to a Florida team that's lost three of its last four? No excuses.
The loss opens up a lane for Mizzou to sneak to the top of the SEC East standings -- and, somehow, puts the Gators at third. Thus, Georgia will need to either beat Auburn (gulp) or hope Mizzou loses to somebody.
Now, in Arizona's defense, they were facing off with, unlike Georgia, one of the preseason favorites in the nation, UCLA. In a season where the Wildcats' offense has been among the best in the nation, the Bruins not only outdid Arizona with the ball, but also shut down the Wildcats' attack. UCLA held U of A to 255 total yards (considering they're averaging 327 yards per game in the air alone... yeah, that's pretty good) while posting 460 yards of its own.
Even if none of its teams are ranked in the Top Ten in the nation, the Pac-12 South has to be among the best in college football. Arizona State, USC, UCLA, U of A and Utah all sit at a record of 6-2 or better (save the Trojans who are 6-3 but 5-2 in conference). The only division with a more elite group: the SEC West. Shocker.
...and upsets at the Division III level, too...
No. 5 Linfield was the most notable team to take a tumble this past week, but several other squads lost, dropping them from the D3Football Top 25 and taking a toll on their postseason hopes and dreams.
The stronghold of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Mount Union at the top of D3Football.com's Top 25 is without question -- and has been for years. No. 4 Wesley has quickly cemented itself worthy of being in the top five. Quietly, Linfield has joined those ranks this season; just as quickly, they've fallen from grace, all because of one loss.
Which, of course, brings to mind the same issue yours truly has with the Florida State Seminoles: should a team like Johns Hopkins or Hobart -- who don't play nearly the competition Linfield does -- be ranked as high as they are just because they're undefeated?
Without question, Linfield would beat now-No. 7 Hobart. Two different regions of the country, two different styles of football. Then again, I'd like to think that No. 15 St. John Fisher or even No. 23 Montclair State, also from the northeast, could contend with Hobart. However, because both of those teams have one loss, they're ranked well below the Statesmen.
Of note: former Top 25 teams Concordia-Moorehead and Hampden-Sydney also lost this weekend -- the latter in particular got rocked 34-9 by Bridgewater. It's rough all over.
What to watch for
Many of the AP Top 25 teams have non-conference matchups this weekend -- and granted, by "many of the AP Top 25 teams," I mean much of the SEC.
Because for the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12, this very well could be the weekend that decides the conference.
Oregon travels to Utah for a matchup with the surging Utes; TCU hosts Kansas State; and Michigan State finally gets some sort of "test" against Ohio State.
The Ducks should be able to take care of business, but, for the Utes, it's a statement game, and a chance to break through the pack in the Pac-12 South. As I alluded to last week, this is the final pillar on their three-game "journey" of working up the ladder, facing No. 20 USC (won), No. 14 Arizona State (loss) and, now, the Ducks.
The other two games have much bigger implications. The Spartans versus Buckeyes is quite obvious: the winner more or less will walk away with the Big Ten title -- for whatever that may be worth.
But for TCU-Kansas State, it's a battle between two teams who've gone back-and-forth, in-and-out of the playoff conversation.
After a heart-racing win last week, the Horned Frogs need to be fired up -- and not tired, which they very well could be.
For K-State, it's the goal of keeping the conference record untainted. The Wildcats do have the Mountaineers the following week and Baylor to close out the season, so there's still plenty of other chances to blemish that mark; but the Horned Frogs are the first test.
Who to watch for
Said it earlier, and I am saying it again: I am finally a Bo Wallace fan.
What Dak Prescott has done for Mississippi State has been remarkable: 2,025 yards, 16 touchdowns, all as a junior. What senior Bo Wallace has done has been special: over 2,400 yards, 20 touchdowns and, more impressively, he's shown he can bounce back.
It wasn't easy for a guy used to throwing over 200 yards a game to be held to just 14 completions against LSU. But to then come out and throw for over 340 yards, albeit in a loss, the next week shows a heck of a lot of character.
That's exactly what the Rebels will need if they're to try and make a last push to make the CFB Playoffs.
Clip of the Week
Cheers to Will Muschamp, who finally got the monkey off his back.
Speaking of rankings...
The first NCAA Regional Rankings for Division III were released Wednesday, and, akin to the post above, based primarily on record. It's subjective, particularly in the East Region, but will be interesting to see how it affects the seedings.
For your reading pleasure
It was a "happy Halloween" down in the Magnolia State.
The last laugh
This guy worked at a college?
Mia O'Brien is a senior at Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications, where basically everyone calls her "Mobrien." She's a fan of country music, a good debate, and French dressing -- in no particular order. For sports updates, random musings, and many a creative hashtag, follow her on Twitter: @OBSportsLive16