College GameDay Final Extra
From wide-open conference races to an unforgettable day to lasting impressions, the GameDay Final Extra crew has it covered.
- THE BOTTOM LINEBy Brad Edwards, Special to ESPN.com
On a day when most of America was focused on the epic nonconference battle between USC and Notre Dame, conference races quietly became a major storyline in college football.
Penn State entered Saturday as the Big Ten's only undefeated team but fell to Michigan, opening the door to a potentially crazy final five weeks of the conference schedule. Five teams currently have one loss in league play, and four teams have two losses. At this point, only Illinois and Purdue (both 0-3) appear to be out of contention.
The surprise is that Michigan, 1-2 in conference after last week's loss to Minnesota, is very much back in the thick of the race. The most important remaining game may be Wisconsin (3-1) at Penn State (3-1) on Nov. 5. Unless the Badgers win, it seems almost certain that the Big Ten's BCS bid won't be determined until the final day of conference play (Nov. 19).
Big Ten Standings Team Conference record Overall record Penn State 3-1 6-1 Wisconsin 3-1 6-1 Iowa 3-1 5-2 Ohio State 2-1 4-2 Northwestern 2-1 4-2 Minnesota 2-2 5-2 Michigan 2-2 4-3 Indiana 1-2 4-2 Michigan State 1-2 4-2 Illinois 0-3 2-4 Purdue 0-3 2-4
The same situation holds true for Conference USA, in which 10 of the 12 teams now have either one or two losses in league play. One game separates first and sixth places in the East division standings, and all six teams still seem to have a legitimate chance to win.
Meanwhile, a couple of teams have seemingly seized control of their respective conferences or divisions. TCU is 4-0 in the Mountain West, and Colorado State is the only other team in the league with fewer than two conference losses. The Rams travel to Fort Worth on Nov. 5, but if they don't take care of business between now and then, the Horned Frogs could have the title secured before Halloween.
Georgia is in a similar position in the SEC East. The Bulldogs are 4-0 in conference play, and everyone else in the division has at least a pair of defeats. Georgia has already beaten two of the three teams with two losses, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, so only Florida still has a remote chance to challenge. If the 'Dogs beat Arkansas this Saturday and the Gators on Oct. 29, the East race is history.
And the Big East race may not be too far behind.
West Virginia's comeback victory over Louisville boosted its Big East record to 3-0 and probably eliminated the preseason-favored Cardinals from the race, but the Mountaineers are not necessarily in control of the conference. Not yet, anyway. WVU's final four games all come against teams with just a single loss in Big East play, so there is still plenty of work to be done. But if the Mountaineers can win their next two -- against South Florida and Connecticut -- it could be done sooner rather than later.
DON'T MESS WITH TEXASThey say everything's bigger in the state of Texas. Apparently, that includes passing numbers.
With Texas Tech's Cody Hodges throwing for 643 yards against Kansas State on Saturday, the four best passing days in major-college football history have all come from the Lone Star State. Amazingly, Hodges' performance was not even a school record. That mark belongs to B.J. Symons, who threw for 661 against Ole Miss in 2003.
Naturally, such a big passing day requires some pretty gaudy receiving numbers to go with it. The Red Raiders had four players with more than 100 receiving yards. It is not known whether this is the first such occurrence in history, because the NCAA record book does not list this category. Regardless, it was quite an impressive afternoon for the Tech passing game.
The important question is whether the Raiders saved anything for next week. They'll need plenty, as they travel to Austin for a Texas-sized showdown with the No. 2 Longhorns.
Most Passing Yards
(Single game, I-A history)
Year Player, team Yards, opponentFinish 1990 David Klingler, Houston 716 yards vs. Arizona St. 1990 Matt Vogler, TCU 690 yards vs. Houston 2003 B.J. Symons, Texas Tech 661 yards vs. Ole Miss 2005 Cody Hodges, Texas Tech 643 yards vs. K-State
I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAWEach week on College GameDay Final, we present four nominees for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the weekend.
Usually, one or two plays overshadow the others, and the list is completed with a couple of good, but perhaps not spectacular plays. This past Saturday was special, though, and there were more performances worthy of nomination than we had space for. Ten games involving Top-25 teams were decided in the final minute, including seven that were in doubt until the final play.
From Maurice Drew's TD plunge to Matt Leinart's TD lunge to Alabama's last-second field goal ... from Chad Henne's pass on the final tick to Virginia's last-minute pick ... from Louisville giving up a 10-point lead in the final five minutes at West Virginia to Boston College overcoming a nine-point gap in the final three minutes.
Three undefeated teams escaped the chopping block, and two undefeated teams got chopped. Conference title hopes survived, and conference title hopes crumbled.
Saturday had a little bit of everything. And unless your team was on the wrong end of one of these thrillers, it was a great day to be a fan.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Key Stat260Florida's average total yards per game against ranked teams this season
(247 vs. Tennessee, 326 at Alabama, 206 at LSU).
LASTING IMPRESSIONS Lou Holtz Southern Cal has won a lot of games on talent, but they won this one on heart. Notre Dame did almost everything it needed to do to win. They controlled the line of scrimmage. They controlled the clock. They just weren't able to get the ball out of Matt Leinart's hands when they needed to most. Notre Dame did not lose this game. Southern Cal won it by showing the heart of a champion.
Mark May Every now and then, we see cruel reminders that football is not just offense and defense. You must be sound in the kicking game. Not only do you need to go into each game prepared on special teams, but you must be able to execute your plans whenever situations arise. Minnesota and Michigan State didn't do this on Saturday, and it cost them a game. In the end, it could even cost them the Big Ten title.
Rece Davis It's easy to get seduced by flash and potential, and we sometimes forget there's more to football than talent. On paper, USC seems head and shoulders above its competition, but they have been surviving more than dominating over the last month. Louisville looks like the best team in the Big East by far, but the Cardinals are 0-2 in the conference. Talent alone can only win so many games. Preparation, desire and execution make the difference in crunch time, which is why USC is still unbeaten and Louisville is not.
HELMET STICKERS Lou
• Steve Slaton, WVU: 208 yards from scrimmage, 6 TDs in win over Louisville.
• Reggie Bush, USC: 10.7 yards per carry, 3 TDs in win over Notre Dame.
• Vince Young, Texas: 25-of-29, 336 yards, 2 TDs (plus 3 rushing TDs) in win over Colorado.
• Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State: 11 tackles, 4 sacks in win over Michigan State.
• Corey Barnes, Rutgers: Blocked punt and fumble returns for TDs in win over Syracuse.
• Cody Hodges, Texas Tech: 643 pass yards, 5 TDs in win over Kansas State.
LOOKING BACK • Maisel: Risky Business
One play would determine No. 1 USC's fate against Notre Dame, and there was no way Matt Leinart and Co. were going to play it safe. Story
• Wojciechowski: Instant Classic
If USC's improbable, unbelievable, amazing and (insert adjective of your choice) win over Notre Dame isn't the best game ever, it's on the short list. Story
• Feldman: Irish Too Legit To Quit
Charlie Weis isn't happy about it. Neither are the Notre Dame players. But while they stew over the loss to USC, it's just another sign that Notre Dame is indeed among the nation's best teams. Story
LOOKING AHEAD • How did this weekend's action affect the polls? Here are the latest rankings
• Who's faring well in the Heisman race? ESPN.com's Heisman Watch breaks down the contenders and pretenders.
• What's on tap for this week? Here's the Week 8 schedule
• ESPN/ABC TV schedule