The Thanksgiving weekend is always one of the best gauntlets of games of the entire year. It features some of the best rivalries the sport has to offer. No matter what part of the country you’re in, there is a guaranteed match-up that will draw your attention. It could be the classics such as Michigan vs. Ohio State, Texas vs. Texas A&M. Florida vs. Florida State. USC vs. Notre Dame, Mississippi vs. Mississippi State in the Egg bowl just to name a few or named games like the backyard brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh, The Bedlam Battle between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma and the battle for the Palmetto state featuring South Carolina and Clemson.
As you can see, this was a mega weekend in college football. You had your upset as Nevada took down Boise State, your classic Iron Bowl as Bama let an golden opportunity slip away to ruin their arch rivals dream season, and Notre Dame finally toppled USC and gave Brian Kelly his signature win of the season.
Now lets breakdown the best games of the weekend:
Auburn 28 vs. Alabama 27– This was just an epic game. Bama really jumped out on the Tigers and could have put this one away early, if it wasn’t for some missed opportunities in the red-zone. The Crimson Tide dominated the first two quarters. They led 21-0 before Auburn had even recorded a first down. Alabama QB Greg McElroy started hot by hitting his first 12 passes including a 68-yard touchdown to Julio Jones and a 12-yard touchdown strike to Darius Hanks. Alabama had all the momentum and it looked as if they would go up 28-0 as defending Heisman winner Mark Ingram rumbled towards the end-zone after catching a short pass from McElroy. Ingram however would stumble and the hustling Antoine Carter came in from behind and stripped Ingram at the 19 yard line. The ball would roll all the way into Auburn’s end-zone and would be recovered by Demond Washington of the Tigers. Auburn would stall again on offense and Bama marched right down the field to the Tigers 4-yard line only to manage a field goal, after Trent Richardson dropped a sure handed TD pass from McElroy. Alabama would have yet another chance in the red-zone but would fumble again as Greg McElroy this time coughed up the ball after being hit by Nick Fairley, who would also recover the ball as well. The score could have been 42-0 at this point but with the miscues from the Tide it remained 24-7 going into halftime. What ever Auburn coach told his players at the half should be put on paper and framed in the halls of Auburn lore. The Tigers would storm back as Cam Newton got hot. He found an open Terrell Zachery for a 70-yard bomb touchdown pass to make it 24-14. On the Tigers third drive after halftime, Newton would lead the Tigers from their own 25 yard line to another TD as he found the end-zone on a one-yard run making it 24-21 Alabama. Bama would be forced to punt on their next possession but would get a present from Auburn as the punt was fumbled and recovered by the Crimson Tide. The turnover would lead to another field goal by the tide and made it 27-21 in favor of Alabama. Cam Newton would not let his team lose though as they got the ball at the end of the 3rd quarter and drove it down field. Offensive Coordinator Gus Malzahn drew up a beautiful play as he designed a tight end throwback and Phillip Lutezenkirchen delayed his route and eventually escaped out and was wide open for the go ahead score. From there Bama would challenge but never score again. The Tigers much maligned defense held serve and now with a win over South Carolina in the SEC championship game, Auburn should be playing for the national championship. This one will go down as one of the all-time classics in Iron Bowl history. Say what you want about controversial Newton, but I bet you wish he was on your team.
Nevada 34 Boise State 31 – It all came crashing down for the blue field Cinderella’s from Idaho. The Broncos were well in control of this game as they were handing it to the Wolfpack 24-7. That was until the 3rd quarter when Colin Kaepernick and the pistol offense started rolling. Nevada would go on to out rush the Broncos 238-9 in the second half, against the No.1 statically ranked run defense in the nation. The Wolfpack came back and tied the game twice, before the Broncos hit a long pass with 2 seconds left that appeared to set up the game-winning FG. But senior kicker Kyle Brotzman, who missed only three attempts all year, yanked it wide right sending it into overtime. Brotzman even got another chance to attain for the miss but pulled another try left on the first possession of overtime for the Broncos. Nevada got their chance and put it through the uprights as a local product, Anthony Martinez spoiled Boise’s perfect season. The win validated a Wolfpack squad that didn’t get much respect, even though they have been ranked much of the season. The loss for Boise now takes them out of the national title picture and relegates them to the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl. That just isn’t right. The Broncos deserve a BCS bid way more than the eventual Big East champs who will have at least four losses, but that is just how it goes for the have-nots in college football.
Notre Dame 20 USC 16 – The 8-game losing streak had to end one day didn’t it? The Irish snapped the skid to the Trojans with a stunning victory as the football gods finally shined on the Golden Domers once again. Freshmen Tommy Rees accounted for 4 turnovers but was able to lead the Irish on game-winning 77 yard drive. Former Arkansas QB Mitch Mustain got the start for the injured Matt Barkley and had a decent game, going 20/37 for 177 yards and 1 INT. The game-changing play or should we say non-play came when the usually sure-handed WR Ronald Johnson dropped a for sure TD pass for the Trojans. Even with the drop Mustain was able to convert on 4th down and get the Trojans in position to retake the lead; however he would be intercepted as he made a bad decision and Harrison Smith of the Irish clinched the game with the pick with just 36 seconds remaining. It was truly a great victory for the Irish as they season has been filled with tragedy with the death of a student videographer during a windy practice last month. The Irish finish the regular season at 7-5 and it doesn’t get much better than beating their arch rival in the Coliseum.
Other notables and notes:
Bedlam in Stillwater: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State staged a scoring spree that would drive a defensive coordinator crazy. The Sooners looked to be in control but a furious come back by the injured Justin Blackmon and Cowboys got turned this one into a barn burner. The two teams traded blows for the entire second half but it would turn out to be a Sooners victory as the Cowboys defense let the team down again and again. In one stirring sequence in the fourth quarter Oklahoma QB Landry Jones found Cameron Kinney for an 86-yard touchdown pass. Oklahoma State responded on the kick-off with Justin Gilbert taking it to the house. Jones would come right back to find James Hanna for a 76-yard bomb to make it 47-38. The Cowboys would tack on a field goal to make it 47-41 but that would be as close as they would get. The Sooners, based on BCS rankings should now take over the Big 12 south and face Nebraska in the championship game. So close but no cigar once again for Oklahoma State
Coaches Canned: Miami’s Randy Shannon was shown the door after his team limped to the finish line with a 7-5 record after expecting to compete for the ACC title. Shannon was able to recruit well and land some of the best classes the Hurricanes had seen in years but in the end it wasn’t enough to keep his job. Early rumors have Jon Gruden as the leading candidate for the job but isn’t he always the leading choice when a job opens up.
Robbie Caldwell steps down at Vandy – This one was coming a long time ago. After taking over as the season began, when long time coach Bobby Johnson stepped down, Caldwell already was in a bad position. To make things worse his team finished 2-10 and the rumors were already swirling about his job security. Caldwell did the smart thing by announcing before the Commodores last game against Wake Forest that he would resign effective immediately after the game. I haven’t heard of any early favs to land the job and it usually hard to find a good candidate to take over an academic school smack in the middle of SEC country. Only time will tell who will take over for the struggling Commodores.
TCU going to the Big East: According to sources, TCU will be headed to play with the Big East beginning after the 2011-2012 year. Yahoo sports reports that a Monday afternoon news conference will announce the decision to move to the BCS conference. This will make the Horned Frogs insiders instead of outsiders, as the Big East receives one of the six automatic bids for a BCS bowl. Good move for the Horned Frogs. Doesn’t it seem they are always one step ahead of Boise State?
Arkansas gets the best of the Mad Hatter: The pivotal play in the Arkansas vs. LSU game came when the Razorbacks appeared to be prepared to take a knee and go into halftime tied at 14-14. However with three seconds left in the half, the Razorbacks pulled off some mad hatter magic of their own as Ryan Mallett hit Cobi Hamilton over the middle, and two LSU players ran into one another and next thing you know, Hamilton is racing for an 80-yard touchdown pass and Arkansas takes a 21-14 lead going into halftime. That play would end-up shifting momentum to the Razorbacks side and they would go on to win 31-23. The win sets them up for a possible Sugar bowl appearance.