November 20, 2011
Snap judgments on Saturday's best.
HUMANITARIANISM • LSU.
Already leading 52-3 over a hapless, lame-duck outfit enduring its 13th consecutive conference loss, LSU elected to show mercy on Ole Miss in the most condescending manner possible: By kneeling on four straight plays inside the Rebel 10-yard line rather than punch in another touchdown with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Prior to the intentional walk, the Tigers had only attempted one pass in the second half — starting QB Jordan Jefferson was 7-of-7 passing in the first half — but had still scored 17 points on their previous three possessions.
"Victory was assured," explained Les Miles, presumably while donning his postgame ascot. "There was no reason to take snaps at that point."
THEATER • Robert Griffin III, Baylor.
The critics are still buzzing over RGIII's latest original, a 476-yard, four-touchdown masterpiece that carried Baylor to its biggest win in decades over Oklahoma. While the reviews raved over the show-stopping finish, Griffin was as versatile on the biggest stage of his career as he was dramatic: With 72 yards rushing, he accounted for more total yards (551) than any team has gained against a Bob Stoops-led defense except Texas Tech earlier this year.
For the year, Griffin is back on pace to break Colt Brennan's Division I record for pass efficiency in a season, though he still ranks a few points behind Wisconsin's Russell Wilson this season.
CHEMISTRY • Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, USC.
Rising to the occasion in arguably the biggest game of his career, Barkley connected with his favorite targets 15 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-35 upset at Oregon, USC's first win over a top-10 team since a then-freshman Barkley brought the Trojans back at Ohio State in his second start in 2009. The win snapped Oregon's 2½-year, 21-game home winning streak and thrust USC back into the national consciousness — at least, as long as Barkley remains on campus.
Honorable Mention: Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson hit eight different receivers for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-17 rout over Mississippi State, his most efficient outing since an opening-day win over Southwest Missouri State.
THERMODYNAMICS • Paul Rhoads, Iowa State.
After the Cyclones' innovative demonstration of the concept of entropy against Oklahoma State, Rhoads generated a little heat of his own during a typically passionate postgame speech:
ARCHITECTURE • Mike London, Virginia.
London's rebuilding job in Charlottesville remains well ahead of schedule after a come-from-behind, 14-13 upset at Florida State, setting up an unlikely, winner-take-all showdown against Virginia Tech for first place in the ACC's Coastal Division. The win was Virginia's first ever in Tallahassee, and its second this season over a ranked team — the first time the Cavs have taken down two ranked victims in the same season since 2002.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP • De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon.
The Ducks took a painful step back against his former suitor, but still got another bit of DIY brilliance from their scintillating freshman, who scored touchdowns as a receiver and a return man in a losing effort. Thomas' 96-yard kickoff return in the third quarter sparked a 21-point Oregon rally that fell wide left on a last-second field goal to tie, and put him over 200 all-purpose yards for the fourth time this season.
ORATORY • UCLA.
Colorado coach Jon Embree and quarterback Tyler Hansen did the talking last week, both guaranteeing a victory in the Rose Bowl to snap the Buffs' 22-game road losing streak. But it was UCLA's play that did the talking in a 45-6 blowout that put the Bruins back in control of their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. With an upset over streaking USC, L.A. will clinch the division, a bowl game and — barring a pair of humiliating meltdowns in the postseason — another year for coach Rick Neuheisel.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT • Michigan's Defense.
The Wolverines forced three turnovers, held Nebraska to a season-low in total yards and didn't allow a third-down conversion until the end of the third quarter in a 45-17 rout, sealing the most dramatic single-season turnaround of any unit in the country. After finishing dead last in the Big Ten in total defense, scoring defense and passing defense in 2010, Michigan ranks in the top-15 nationally in all three categories under first-year defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, its best all-around effort since the 2006 team that came within a field goal of playing for the BCS championship.
ECONOMICS • Bryson Beirne, Arizona.
After nearly five full seasons spent almost entirely on the bench, Beirne finally got his return on investment Saturday night with the game-winning touchdown pass in the Wildcats' 31-27 win over rival Arizona State. That happened to be Beirne's only pass after replacing injured starter Nick Foles with six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, and it belonged almost entirely to the run-after-catch efforts of senior receiver Juron Criner. Under the circumstances, there couldn't have been a much more satisfying payoff.
GEOMETRY • Kendall Wright, Baylor
Wright is a "general studies" major, but demonstrated an uncanny knack for angles on the biggest play of the Bears' upset over Oklahoma, a freak carom that went from game-changing Sooner interception to game-changing Baylor touchdown from 87 yards out:
That was Wright's only touchdown of the night, but his other seven receptions put him over 200 yards for the second time this season, and back into the Big 12 lead on the year.