Forde-Yard Dash: Perfect plan for a pivotal college football Saturday

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (antidepressants sold separately in Oxford, Miss.):

THE PERFECT SATURDAY

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Welcome to the biggest week of the season to date. There are six games Saturday between ranked teams, with at least one of the two teams in each matchup still very much in the chase for a College Football Playoff berth. To take full advantage of this cornucopia of gridiron goodness, The Dash has laid out a game plan that will allow you to maximize your enjoyment of the day. (Follow closely. Any deviation from the plan could result in missing upwards of 30 seconds of football viewing, a glaring lapse that is to be avoided at all costs.)

8 a.m. (ET): Report to the kitchen and prepare a delicious, multifaceted breakfast for your family. Nod humbly as they shower compliments upon you for your thoughtfulness, not to mention the excellence of your cooking. Feign shock when your spouse raises suspicions that you must have an ulterior motive for this sudden and unnatural burst of generous behavior.

8:30: Commence doing all the work around the house you’ve been putting off for months. Spousal suspicions will go through the roof at this point, but soldier through. You’ve got a deadline to meet.

9:00: Light grill. You’ve prepared several racks of ribs the night before, now it’s time to begin the process of smoking them. Be sure to inform the family that this, too, is being done with them in mind. Fake it 'til you make it.

9:30: Place ribs on grill, bidding them fond farewell for the next four hours. If any children need to be driven anywhere, volunteer. Gives you an excuse to pick up any last-minute food/drink for the day.

10:00: Flip on “GameDay.” Keep one eye on it and the other on your grilling project.

10:30: Casually drop the news to your spouse that a few friends may drop by to watch a little football. Just smile in response to the “Aha, I knew it” response. Remind everyone how delicious breakfast was, and how good the ribs will be.

11:00: Welcome in your freeloading friends and direct them to the Preferred Home Viewing Area. Erect barricades and activate booby traps that will prevent unwanted interruptions.

11:58: Open first beer. But remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

11:59: Watch Corso’s headgear pick.

Baylor's Art Briles has won two of his last three against Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, but both wins were in Waco. (AP)
Baylor's Art Briles has won two of his last three against Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, but both wins were in Waco. (AP)

Noon: Lock in on Baylor-Oklahoma (1). Why: The Bears (7-1) are one of 14 power-five teams left with one or fewer losses, and remain in the hunt for the Big 12 title. The Sooners (6-2) need a lot of help to resuscitate any championship hopes. Baylor has never won in Norman – and even in the program’s ascendancy under Art Briles, the Bears have been a far different team away from Waco than at home. This season’s disparity: Baylor averages 686 yards and 59 points at home, and 494 yards and 41.8 points on the road. Of the Bears’ 11 losses in the last three-plus seasons, 10 have come in road/neutral games. If the postgame remarks from quarterback Bryce Petty on Saturday after trampling Kansas (at home) are any indication, the Bears are eager to prove their worth on the road. Petty took six questions and answered all of them, regardless of topic, with, “ready for OU.” Dash pick: Baylor 47, Oklahoma 44.

1:30 (or whenever halftime arrives): Pull ribs off smoker. Feed the masses. Don’t forget to leave some for the family unit.

2:30: Stave off meat coma.

3:30: Tune in Notre Dame-Arizona State (2). Why: Winner in battle of one-loss teams remains viable in playoff hunt. Loser adjusts goals. The Sun Devils had to replace nine defensive starters this year, but that unit has shown rapid progress in recent weeks, allowing a total of 36 points the last three games. Caveat: those games were against Stanford, Washington and Utah, teams that rank ninth, 11th and 12th in the Pac-12 in total offense. A Notre Dame offense averaging 35 points and 458 yards per game will be a steeper challenge. Arizona State hasn’t come within 10,000 fans of a sellout of its 71,706-seat stadium yet this season, but that should change Saturday. Dash pick: Notre Dame 31, Arizona State 24.

6:45-ish (or whenever ND-ASU ends): Inform the family unit that the logistics of night-game viewing necessitate heading to a sports bar. Tell freeloader friends that they’re driving.

7:00: Commandeer the perfect table for viewing multiple games. Order wings. Lots of wings. Then hunker down for Kansas State-TCU (3). Why: Winner of the Big 12’s unlikely Game of the Year takes a big step toward the league title and a potential playoff berth. Wildcats (7-1, 5-0) control their own destiny but have three road games remaining against ranked teams – starting with this one. If the Horned Frogs (7-1, 4-1) win this, they should be solidly favored in three remaining games. If more games are lost than won, it may be a long wait for someone to make a crippling mistake. TCU leads the nation in takeaways (26) and turnover margin (plus-15); K-State is one of eight teams averaging fewer than one giveaway per game (seven in eight games) and also leads the nation in fewest penalty yards per game. Dash pick: TCU 38, Kansas State 35.

8:00: Head on a swivel. There are multiple games to watch now, starting with Alabama-LSU (4). Why: What often has been the Game of the Year in the SEC West is now just part of the intriguing landscape. But it still could have a significant impact if things break just right/wrong (see below). Nick Saban has beaten Les Miles three times in a row – two of them by 21 points, and one of those for the national championship. The third meeting, last time they played in Baton Rouge, featured an excessive sideline celebration from then-anonymous Alabama backup Blake Sims after T.J. Yeldon scored the winning touchdown on a screen pass in the final minute. Sims did some obscene gesturing at the LSU crowd after Yeldon scored; now he returns to the scene as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback. "I just jumped up and started acting," Sims told AL.com Monday. "I looked down and there was a camera right there in my face and I was like, 'Man, I'm about to get in trouble.'" Dash pick: LSU 19, Alabama 17.

And at the same time, there is Ohio State-Michigan State (5). Why: Winner becomes the prohibitive favorite to take the Big Ten East and enhances its playoff resume. In a rarity, the Buckeyes and Urban Meyer have more to prove than the defending league champions and Mark Dantonio. Meyer is 31-3 in Columbus, but exactly zero of those 31 victories are over a team that finished the year in the Sagarin Top 15. The two teams are remarkably similar statistically, but the Spartans have played a tougher schedule, thanks largely to their September trip to Oregon. Fact is, neither have played a quality opponent in a month (at least). Will they remember what good competition is like? Dash pick: Michigan State 23, Ohio State 14.

Will Marcus Mariota and Oregon avoid a road upset at Utah? (AP)
Will Marcus Mariota and Oregon avoid a road upset at Utah? (AP)

10:00: Soon as Kansas State-TCU finishes up, prevail upon your server to switch some TVs to Oregon-Utah (6). Why: the last game in this splendid six-pack may be the Ducks’ last major regular-season hurdle. While Oregon would seem manifestly superior to the 6-2 Utes, check Utah’s Pac-12 results to date: nothing but drama. They’ve played five league games, all decided by six points or less, two of them in overtime. The problem for a Utah team that has grown progressively more conservative as the season has gone along will be matching points with Oregon. The Ducks have scored 42 or more points in their last four games, and the Utes will have a hard time competing with that kind of firepower. Dash pick: Oregon 37, Utah 17.

11:30: Check out. Tip your server well for occupying a prime viewing area for 4 ½ hours. Head home to watch the second half of the nightcap there. If your spouse has moved you out onto the couch for the night, it’s a small price to pay.

FIVE-WAY TIE IN THE SEC WEST? DARE TO DREAM

As an avowed sower of discord and champion of chaos, here is exactly what The Dash wants to see happen over the next four weeks:

LSU (7) wins out. The Tigers would finish 10-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC, with victories over Alabama and Ole Miss and losses to Auburn and Mississippi State.

Alabama (8) loses Saturday in Baton Rouge, then wins out to finish 10-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC. The Crimson Tide would have wins over Mississippi State and Auburn, and losses to Mississippi and LSU.

Auburn (9) defeats Georgia on Nov. 15, but loses to Alabama in the Iron Bowl to finish 10-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC. The Tigers would have wins over LSU and Ole Miss, and losses to Mississippi State and Alabama.

Mississippi (10) regroups from the disastrous ending Saturday night to win out and finish 10-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC. The Rebels would have wins over Alabama and Mississippi State, and losses to LSU and Auburn.

Mississippi State (11) finally falls, losing on the road to Alabama on Nov. 15 and in the Egg Bowl on Nov. 29, finishing 10-2 overall, 6-2 in the SEC. The Bulldogs would have wins over LSU and Auburn, and losses to Alabama and Ole Miss.

And there you’d have it: five teams with identical records, and all with 2-2 marks against each other. No massive upsets required the rest of the way, just a lot of teams defending home field. Let the SEC have fun with that tiebreaker.

Nick Saban, presumably in reaction to a question about what a five-way tie in the SEC West would be like. (AP)
Nick Saban, presumably in reaction to a question about what a five-way tie in the SEC West would be like. (AP)

By The Dash’s reading of the league’s guidelines, it could come down to the seventh tiebreaker: conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents. As it stands today, these are your numbers there: Auburn 6-7 (Georgia and South Carolina); LSU 5-7 (Florida and Kentucky); Alabama 4-7 (Florida and Tennessee); Mississippi State 2-9 (Kentucky and Vanderbilt); Mississippi 1-9 (Tennessee and Vanderbilt).

If it somehow gets to the eighth tiebreaker? That’s a coin flip. And if it comes to that, the South may not survive.

Here’s what else might not survive: If the league has a two-loss champion, does it get a playoff bid?

OTHER POTENTIAL DIVISIONAL TAFFY PULLS

The SEC West isn’t the only place that could get sticky in the weeks ahead. A brief Dash breakdown of the others:

Big Ten West (12). The current logjam: Nebraska at 4-1, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota at 3-1. In an entertaining development, most of their remaining games are against each other. The Cornhuskers' route: at Wisconsin on Nov. 15, home against Minnesota on Nov. 22 and at Iowa on Nov. 28. The Badgers’ final four games are at Purdue on Saturday, home against Nebraska on Nov. 15, at Iowa on Nov. 22, and home against Minnesota on Nov. 29. The Hawkeyes are at Minnesota on Saturday in the Floyd of Rosedale game, at Illinois on Nov. 15, and then home to face Wisconsin on Nov. 22 and Nebraska on Nov. 28. And the Gophers finish with this death march: home against Iowa on Saturday and Ohio State on Nov. 15, then on the road at Nebraska on Nov. 22 and at Wisconsin on Nov. 29. Minnesota is likely to be eliminated fastest, leaving the other three to battle it out. Wouldn’t be a shock to see them all wind up 6-2, leaving the Big Ten leafing through its own tiebreaker procedures.

ACC Coastal (13). Defending divisional champion Duke has a one-game lead in the loss column over Georgia Tech and Miami. But if the Blue Devils drop one of their remaining games and the Yellow Jackets and Hurricanes win out, it’s a three-way tie at 6-2. If a theoretical Duke loss comes against either Coastal rivals Virginia Tech (Nov. 15) or North Carolina (Nov. 20), Miami would win the tiebreaker with a better record against the division. If Duke’s theoretical loss is against either Syracuse (Saturday) or Wake Forest (Nov. 29), it would have the same divisional record as the Hurricanes and a better divisional record than the Yellow Jackets. That would eliminate Georgia Tech, and Miami would win the head-to-head tiebreaker over Duke. So the Hurricanes need a little bit of help and the Yellow Jackets need a lot, while the Blue Devils simply need to keep winning against a quartet of teams that are a combined 4-15 in ACC play.

Both sides of the Mountain West (14) could end up tangled. The Mountain is the stronger of the two, with Colorado State at 4-1, followed by Boise State and Utah State at 3-1. The Broncos own a victory over the Rams. The Rams own a victory over Utah State. The Aggies and Boise State don’t play until Nov. 29. If Boise State wins out against a slate of New Mexico (3-5), San Diego State (4-4), Wyoming (4-5) and Utah State (6-3), it will win the division. If Boise and Colorado State (Hawaii, New Mexico, Air Force) both win out, Boise will win the division. If Utah State (Wyoming, New Mexico, San Jose State, Boise State) wins out, it will need a loss by the Rams to win the division. If Utah State and CSU both win out, the Rams take the division. And if none of them wins out, we’ll start over trying to make sense of it all. As for the West: Nevada and San Diego State are both 3-2, while San Jose State is 2-2. The Wolf Pack have beaten both the Aztecs and Spartans to lock up the tiebreaker with those two. Their remaining games: at Air Force (6-2), Fresno State (3-6) and UNLV (2-7). San Diego State hosts Idaho (1-7), visits Boise State (6-2), hosts Air Force (6-3) and visits San Jose State (3-5). The Spartans finish at Fresno State (3-6), home against Hawaii (2-7), at Utah State (6-3) and at San Diego State (4-4). The champion of the division may be no better than 5-3.

American Athletic (15). There is no divisional format in the American, but there is plenty of uncertainty after conference leaders East Carolina and Central Florida both were upset Saturday. They’re now tied at 3-1 with Houston, Memphis and Cincinnati. In an 11-team league with an eight-game league schedule, there is a wide variance in schedule strength and it could create a champion in name only. In terms of the five co-leaders, Houston and Memphis are 1-1 against the other four; UCF is 1-0; East Carolina is 0-0; and Cincinnati is 0-1. There are only three games left between the five: East Carolina at Cincinnati on Nov. 13; East Carolina at UCF on Dec. 4; and Houston at Cincinnati on Dec. 6. Memphis, which is 5-3 and plays neither East Carolina nor UCF this year, may be the team to beat.

In any conference tiebreaker scenarios that come down to the last option, Dashette Arizona Muse (16) is available to toss the coin.

WORST PLAYS EVER

Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell is carted off the field after a horrific leg injury against Auburn. (AP)
Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell is carted off the field after a horrific leg injury against Auburn. (AP)

The cataclysmic conclusion of Auburn-Mississippi on Saturday night – Laquon Treadwell’s fracture-fumble that cost the Rebels the game and perhaps much more – ranks among the most awful plays for a fan base ever. Which got The Dash thinking: what are the most devastating single plays in college football history? A dreadful dozen nominees (regular-season games only):

Injury to Insult: potential championship seasons that were sabotaged by a key player’s loss at precisely the wrong time.

Michigan (17) quarterback Dennis Franklin’s broken collarbone: Nov. 24, 1973. In an epic Michigan-Ohio State showdown that was tied at 10 with the Rose Bowl on the line, Franklin was driving the undefeated Wolverines toward the winning score in the final minutes when he was crunched to the hard artificial turf of Michigan Stadium by Ohio State defensive end Van DeCree. The result: a broken collarbone. Franklin was done for the day and his backup could not move Michigan, leaving the Wolverines to miss two late field goals (they got a final chance after an interception). The result was a dispiriting tie for a Michigan team that had dominated most of the game, but that was hardly the worst of it. Franklin’s injury and presumed unavailability for the Rose Bowl persuaded the Big Ten’s athletic directors to controversially vote for Ohio State as the league representative to the bowl game.

Oregon (18) quarterback Dennis Dixon’s blown knee: Nov. 15, 2007. The Ducks had just moved into BCS Championship Game position, rising to No. 2 in the rankings. Dixon had just taken over the favorite’s role for the Heisman Trophy. But after tweaking his left knee near the end of a victory over Arizona State the week before, Dixon tore the ACL in the first quarter while attempting to juke Arizona linebacker Dane Krogstad. Dixon went down, his season over. Oregon lost to a 4-6 Arizona team, then lost its next two games as well, season shattered.

We Wuz Robbed: plays that should have been disallowed but weren’t, with lasting implications.

The Bush Push to beat Notre Dame (19): Oct. 15, 2005. Matt Leinart’s game-winning quarterback sneak with three seconds to play was given a blatant and successful boost by a shove from running back Reggie Bush. “I used all 200 pounds of my body to push Matt in,” Bush said afterward. That was contrary to the rules prohibiting aiding the runner with a direct shove to his body. USC went on to play for the national title that season, and Notre Dame made the abysmal decision to give first-year coach Charlie Weis a fat new contract because of a game he almost won.

The fifth down to beat Missouri (20): Oct. 6, 1990. Heavily favored Colorado trailed Missouri 31-27 when it got a first-and-goal in the final seconds. First down was a spiked ball by Buffaloes quarterback Charles Johnson. Second down was a run by Eric Bieniemy. Colorado took a timeout, and the chain gang never flipped the down marker to third down – a mistake that went undetected by the officiating crew. Another run by Bieniemy was stuffed, and then Johnson spiked the ball on fourth down – except everyone thought it was third down. Given a fifth down, Johnson barely snuck in to win the game on the final play. Colorado would go on to win a share of the national title. Missouri would go on to be Missouri.

Self-Inflicted: bitter defeat as a result of error by your own team.

The Clint Stoerner fumble that killed Arkansas (21): Nov. 14, 1998. Leading 24-22 with less than two minutes to play, undefeated Arkansas was about to close out undefeated Tennessee in Knoxville. On second down with 1:49 left, quarterback Stoerner pulled out from center, clipped heels with his right guard, then tripped himself further. He put his right hand down on the turf to steady himself – but the ball was in his right hand, and Stoerner basically just left it there as a present for the Volunteers as he stumbled down onto all fours. Billy Ratliff recovered for Tennessee, and the Vols drove for the winning score. Arkansas wound up tied for the SEC West title with Mississippi State but lost the tiebreaker to play in the SEC championship game. Tennessee went on to win the national title.

Wide Right I for Florida State (22): Nov. 16, 1991. The Seminoles were ranked No. 1, as they had been all season, but lost a 16-7 lead in the fourth quarter and trailed Miami 17-16 in the final minute. After driving to the Miami 17, Bobby Bowden sent in Gerry Thomas for a 34-yard field goal. He’d already made three on the day. As Keith Jackson told a national TV audience, “This is for the win. This could be for a national championship. … It’s up … missed it to the right!” Bowden went running down the sideline believing the kick was good, and was incredulous to find out it had fluttered just outside the goalposts – which had just been narrowed by 4 feet, 10 inches coming into the season. It was the first of Bowden’s many field goal agonies that kept him waiting for a national title. Instead, Miami went on to win it all that year.

The Prayer at Jordan-Hare to beat Georgia (23): Nov. 16, 2013. Auburn was facing a fourth-and-18 from its own 27-yard line, trailing 38-37 with 36 seconds left. Quarterback Nick Marshall went for the whole enchilada, flinging a Hail Mary deep ball in the direction of Ricardo Louis. But the two players closest to it were Georgia defensive backs Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons. Instead of knocking the ball down, Harvey-Clemons inexplicably went over the back of Matthews in an attempt to intercept, and knocked the ball away from Matthews with his right hand. Louis sprinted by and grabbed the deflection and scored untouched. “The play of the year,” said CBS’ Gary Danielson, and he was right for a total of two weeks.

The Bluegrass Miracle to beat Kentucky (24): Nov. 9, 2002. Trailing Kentucky 30-27 with two seconds left, LSU lined up for a no-hope Hail Mary from its own 24-yard line. Kentucky players already had doused coach Guy Morriss with a Gatorade bath, and students ringed the field waiting to storm. As quarterback Marcus Randall uncorked the pass from his own 18-yard line, the fans started to charge and wound up on the goalposts as the ball descended some 25 yards short of the end zone. But the pass deflected off of two Wildcats, was tipped around by LSU receiver Devery Henderson on a dead sprint, and finally corralled as he sprinted between two other Kentucky players to score and win the game, 33-30.

Offsides on a field goal to doom Louisville (25): Nov. 9, 2006. The undefeated Cardinals were ranked fourth in the nation but locked in a tie game at Rutgers when Scarlet Knights kicker Jeremy Ito came out to win the game from a mere 28 yards out. Shockingly, Ito missed the kick. But he got a second chance because Louisville defensive back William Gay – one of the best players on the team – lurched offsides before the snap. Given a second chance, Ito made the kick and won the game, and the Cardinals had their only loss of the season.

Coach’s Decision: Sometimes even a great coach makes a catastrophically bad call.

Auburn's Chris Davis returns Alabama's missed field goal 109 yards for a game-winning TD in 2013. (AP)
Auburn's Chris Davis returns Alabama's missed field goal 109 yards for a game-winning TD in 2013. (AP)

The Kick Six to beat Alabama (26): Nov. 30, 2013. Nick Saban is a great coach who made a staggering series of miscalculations at the end of the Iron Bowl last year. The final one: instead of taking a knee or throwing a Hail Mary to the end zone, Saban sent out a dysfunctional field goal unit to try a 57-yarder with no time to play to break a 28-28 tie. The kick came up short, and as everyone knows, Auburn’s Chris Davis returned it a staggering 109 yards to win the game. Even if Saban wins 10 more national titles, nobody will forget that play.

The two-point conversion attempt by Miami (27): Oct. 15, 1988. You have to admire a coach who disdains a tie and goes for the gusto – but on some occasions discretion is the better part of valor. With his No. 1 team trailing Notre Dame 31-30 in the final seconds, Jimmy Johnson discarded discretion and went for two and the win, when taking a tie almost undoubtedly would have kept the Hurricanes No. 1 and in line for another national title. Steve Walsh’s end-zone pass was deflected by Notre Dame defensive back Pat Terrell, and the Irish won and went on to capture their last national title.

Sheer Desperate Genius: there is no other way to describe this play.

The California five-lateral kickoff return to beat Stanford (28): Nov. 20, 1982. The Cardinal led 20-19 and merely had to cover the kickoff to win, sending John Elway to his first bowl in his final season on The Farm. But then things got weird. The Golden Bears played hot potato with the return, lateraling it five times and dodging Stanford band members who had run onto the field believing the game was over. Kevin Moen, the man who started the absurd play, finished it by scoring and flattening Stanford trombonist Gary Tyrrell in the end zone. Cal won 26-20, Stanford finished 5-6, and Elway never played in a bowl game.

RIVALRIES – REAL OR IMAGINED?

The best rivalries are two-way streets – both sides have their share of victories, and both sides care. It’s hard to force one into being. The Dash monitors two non-rivalries for signs of life.

Maryland-Penn State (29). Prior to Saturday, the two schools had met 37 times – with Penn State winning 35 of them, and one tie. Despite that imbalance, and despite the fact that the two hadn’t played since 1993, the Terrapins decided that now they are Big Ten brethren with the Nittany Lions, they would do everything they could to incite some bad feelings. They instigated a pregame fracas, then their captains refused to shake hands with the Penn State captains at the coin toss. It was bush-league, Harry High School stuff, and it earned Terps star receiver Stefon Diggs a one-game suspension and coach Randy Edsall a reprimand from the Big Ten. But then Maryland did the worst thing of all, winning the game by a single point.

“That’s not the way we want our kids to be before the game,” Edsall said after the game. “I apologize. It was not orchestrated or choreographed. The emotions, you don’t know how much emotion was in this game for us and for our kids.”

Consider the rivalry ignited. Penn State will remember that low-class reintroduction to Maryland for years to come.

West Virginia-Marshall (30). Despite having every conceivable advantage – from size, stability and revenue to conference affiliation and tradition – West Virginia fans get psycho at the mere mention of Marshall as a viable athletic entity. That weird insecurity was on display last week, when ESPN’s “GameDay” said it would interview Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato from Morgantown on Saturday, where the show was originating. After a somewhat shameful Twitter backlash to the idea, Tom Rinaldi wound up doing the Cato interview from the antiseptic (but safe) GameDay bus. Just because “GameDay” is on campus doesn’t mean the host school gets to control content of the show; and besides, what’s wrong with giving a little exposure to an in-state player having a big season for an undefeated team?

Everything, apparently.

West Virginia has never lost to Marshall in 12 meetings, in a series that took a 74-year hiatus between 1923 and 1997. Political pressure led to a seven-year contract from 2006-12, but the series is off again now. Marshall, which had two home games and five in Morgantown during the latest iteration of the series, wanted a home-and-home arrangement. West Virginia was not interested. But for two programs that don’t play each other, the animosity seems real.

HEISMAN WATCH

With ballots due in a little over a month, two quarterbacks seem to have separated themselves from the Heisman Trophy pack. They are:

Marcus Mariota (31) of Oregon. Leads the nation in pass efficiency. Third in the nation in yards per play. Third in the nation in yards per pass attempt. Has a 26-2 touchdown-interception ratio. Team is rolling. Handles himself with class. What’s not to like?

Dak Prescott (32) of Mississippi State. While there is nothing to dislike about Mariota, there may be even more to like about Prescott. For one thing, he has elevated his program – the Bulldogs would be nowhere near No. 1 and unbeaten without him. For another thing, he’s in the national top 10 in pass efficiency and total offense. He can make the big yards with his arm, and he can get the tough yards with his legs. Been playing with a bad wheel the past two weeks but hasn’t stopped winning.

Then what? The Dash submits for consideration and admiration Mr. Shaq Thompson (33) of Washington. His team is not that good, but he sure is. Best all-around football player? It has to be the junior from Sacramento.

Pat Forde thinks Washington's Shaq Thompson should be in the Heisman conversation due to his versatility. (AP)
Pat Forde thinks Washington's Shaq Thompson should be in the Heisman conversation due to his versatility. (AP)

Thompson should be a lock to win the Paul Hornung Award for the most versatile player in the sport, but he also should get a look from the Heisman as well. In seven games as a linebacker/safety, Thompson has made 54 tackles, with a sack, and interception and three fumble recoveries. Amazingly, he’s returned all four of those turnovers for touchdowns.

But that’s only half the story. The other half: he’s had two games as a full-time running back, plus a few plays at that position earlier in the year. He’s rushed for 356 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Thompson produced 215 all-purpose yards Saturday when the Huskies won at Colorado.

Oh, and then there’s this other guy. If voters can handle the very idea of it, they shouldn’t completely disregard Jameis Winston (34).

PONY UP: NOW OR NEVER

SMU (35) is the last winless team in FBS, an interim-coached train wreck few saw being this bad back in August. Saturday could be the Mustangs’ last decent chance to win a game, against similarly inept Tulsa (1-7).

SMU coach June Jones stepped down in September. Golden Hurricane coach Bill Blankenship may be forced out at the end of this, his fourth season.

For the Mustangs, the bottom has fallen out so completely that it’s surprising. This was a program that had gone 35-30 over the previous five years, playing in four bowl games. Now SMU isn’t even close to winning.

Its closest loss to date is 21 points. It has scored a total of five touchdowns in seven games. It is last in the nation by a wide margin in scoring, and is last in turnover margin, too.

If SMU cannot beat Tulsa, hopes for a victory are slim in games against South Florida, UCF, Houston and Connecticut. That’s hardly a gauntlet of powerhouses – but SMU is bad enough to make it look that way.

LITERARY CORNER

If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift for the football fans in your life, The Dash recommends the latest book from Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman (36). It’s called “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks,” and it’s another great read from the author of “Meat Market” and “Swing Your Sword,” among others. Feldman took a deep dive into the evolution of the position and explosion in its importance, examining it from just about every conceivable angle.

“I'd always thought exploring the QB position would make for a great book because there's so much there – it's the most important position in sports, the most glamorous and the spot talent evaluators seem to be guessing about the most,” Feldman told The Dash. “And, the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I got because of how much things have evolved of late, from the likes of Peyton Manning and others having more control over the offenses they run to the impact all of these private QB coaches who now are popping all over the place are having to the way the football world around the QBs has cranked up, I knew there'd be a lot of rich material to get into. This book has some similarities to ‘Meat Market’ in that it has the same fly-on-the-wall, behind-the-scenes access, but it's not solely about college football. I have some great stuff about Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and the Mannings in here too.

“What I really loved about the project once I got into it was realizing how so much of the QB world is really separated by one degree. I had this marvelous entry point to ‘The QB’ in Trent Dilfer, who is incredibly honest about his own failures as an NFL quarterback and his own idiosyncrasies. He is at the forefront of trying to re-wire how quarterbacks are developed by not only his taking over the Elite 11 but also in the way he uses his ESPN platform. Dilfer is connected to his TDFB/Elite11 protege George Whitfield, who mentors Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, Everett Golson, Bryce Petty, Connor Cook, and seemingly half the starting quarterbacks in the top 25. Whitfield learned under Cam Cameron, who introduced former MLB pitching coach Tom House to his now-star protégé Drew Brees, who brought Tom Brady and a bunch of others to House. And it seems to go on down the line and through it I was able to connect what I hope is a really fascinating story.”

COACH WHO EARNED HIS COMP CAR THIS WEEK

Will Muschamp (37), Florida. He might not get to keep the comp car much longer, but at least they didn’t take it away from him Sunday. There was considerable speculation that Muschamp would be gone if the Gators lost to rival Georgia – but not only did they not lose, they won in an upset romp. The path to a fifth year remains arduous, but an embattled, decent man got to enjoy a great day and a big victory.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORK

Steve Spurrier (38), South Carolina. Plummeting from the preseason top 10 to 4-5 after a home loss to Tennessee did not bring out the best in the Head Ball Coach. After an opening statement to the media postgame, Spurrier left without taking any questions. A guy who always has a dig ready for a rival when he’s winning isn’t handling it too well on the other side of the equation. Nice job.

POINT AFTER

When hungry and thirsty in Charlotte – site of both the ACC championship game and a bowl game, so you may get there – The Dash recommends a stop at Queen City Q (39). It’s a quality barbecue joint that doubles as a de facto sports bar. Try the Carolina Classic nachos, with pulled pork and smoked chicken onboard, and then get after the brisket. There are plenty of sauces to choose from, including all the Carolina-centric choices. Combine your meal with a Higher Ground IPA (40) from Birdsong Brewery in Charlotte and thank The Dash later.

 

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