I traveled to the Shoe this weekend to watch Ohio State play Wisconsin. This trip to Ohio was going to be different than the others I have previously made. For the first time, I was going to be watching from the press box. I know, this is not a big deal for a seasoned sports writer, but this was my first time. All the other writers were going through the motions, but I was as giddy as a school girl.
I picked up my media credential at the media area on the West side of the stadium. The guy handing them out looks at me in disbelief due to my age. After receiving my press pass, I went out to tailgate a little longer. I made my move to the stadium 30 minutes before the game. I get on the crowded elevator, with a push tray of scrambled eggs in the middle of 20 uncomfortable people. The smell is tantalizing. Most of the people get off on the suite level, but me and the scrambled eggs stayed on the elevator until we arrived in the press area.
My pass said I was sitting in row 3 seat 60. I walk past the other media members and luckily find my spot. I look over and see former OSU coach John Cooper five seats down with his family. I have a great view of the field. The box is top notch. Several TVs, good padded seats, lots of elbow room. I go to explore and find a huge free buffet. This is obviously nothing new to media members, but I was elated. I grab a plate and stack it with a little of everything and head back to my seat. I watch the game while making frequent trips to the buffet, mainly for water because those tiny bottles are not enough for the amount of food I piled on my plate. I had no real work to do, so I just enjoyed the game that was close until the 4th quarter. However, with 5 minutes to go, I picked up my press conference card and headed down the elevator.
After I got some directions, I followed some experienced writers to the field. Right then, some recruits walked by me, including the highest rated prospect of them all, Terrelle Pryor. I tag along with a Rivals writer to the OSU press conference (I am angry at myself for not staying for Carmen Ohio). I take a seat in the press conference and wait. Coach Tressel comes out, then FB Dionte Johnson, OL Kirk Barton, LB Marcus Freeman, and LB James Laurinaitis. They all give statements and field questions. I did not ask a question, but I did enjoy watching how everything operated. After that, more players come in, but I wanted to get back to my dad and girlfriend. I left the stadium feeling like a million bucks. Hopefully there are more games - and buffets - ahead of me.
Enough about me, lets get to football.
LSU over Alabama
The ‘Saban Bowl’ lived up to all the hype. You knew Saban would have Alabama ready to play, but it took a while for the Tide to get rolling. Alabama finally got it going after getting down 17-3, scoring 24 straight points to take a 27-17 lead midway into the third quarter. Alabama looked to have the game wrapped up with a 7 point lead with under 3 minutes to go in the game. LSU was faced with a 4th and 4 at the Alabama 32. QB Matt Flynn found Early Doucet for a touchdown to tie the game at 34-34. What is it with LSU and 4th downs? Alabama was still in good shape. They had the ball and 3 time outs. However, the LSU defense started to bring serious pressure. The defense forced John Parker Wilson to fumble on a 3rd down in Alabama territory. LSU scored in two plays and won another close game 41-34.
Runner-Up: Virginia over Wake Forest
Florida State over Boston College
I told a friend earlier in the week that FSU QB Drew Weatherford would have a good game because the pressure of being pulled was no longer hovering over him after the suspension of back-up QB Xavier Lee. Weatherford threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he did not turn the ball over. BC QB Matt Ryan, on the other hand, threw 3 interceptions in a frustrating loss that takes the Eagles out of the national championship race. He also cost himself the lead in the Heisman race.
Runner-Up: Iowa State over Kansas State
BEST TEAM PERFORMANCE
There is no doubt in my mind that Connecticut is the favorite to win the Big East. Their only loss is a 17-16 loss to Virginia, a top 25 opponent. This week, they rolled Rutgers 38-19. Nationally, the Huskies are ranked 3rd in scoring defense, 4th in turnover margin, and they have one of the best kickers in college football. That sounds like a championship team to me.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM PERFORMANCE
Usually Steve Spurrier teams are known for their offense. This year, South Carolina is known for their defense. Last Saturday against Arkansas, their defense was nowhere to be found. USC gave up 541 rushing yards. Not total yards, that was 650. 541 rushing yards! USC is on a three game losing streak with Florida and Clemson left on the schedule. The Gamecocks could easily finish 6-6.
Runner-Up: South Florida
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Chris Johnson - RB - East Carolina
Quietly, ECU and Chris Johnson are having a very solid year. ECU is 5-1 in Conference USA play and controls their down destiny. This weekend against Memphis, Johnson rushed for 301 yards and four touchdowns. His touchdown runs were for 16, 44, 70, and 50 yards respectively.
Sam Bradford - QB - Oklahoma
Oklahoma rolled over Big 12 South rival Texas A&M. QB Sam Bradford threw for 284 yards and five touchdowns. Bradford is having a Heisman-like year. He has 25 touchdown passes with only five interceptions. He is second in passing efficiency behind Tim Tebow.
Chad Henne - QB - Michigan
Michigan, like usual, played a close game with rival Michigan State only to come out on top. It is tradition for MSU to get the lead in the 4th quarter, and give it up to the Wolverines in the final minutes. Michigan was down 24-14 in the with only 10 minutes to go. Chad Henne led two great scoring drives capped off by touchdown passes to WRs Greg Matthews and Mario Manningham to grab the lead 28-24. Henne ended up with 211 yards and four touchdown passes.
Todd Reesing - QB - Kansas
You knew someone from Kansas had to make this list. Reesing led Kansas to a 76-39 win over struggling Nebraska. He threw for 354 yards and six touchdowns. At one point, Kansas scored on 10 straight possessions.
Darren McFadden and Felix Jones - RB - Arkansas
McFadden and Jones combined for 5 touchdowns and over 500 yards. Jones ran in three scores, while McFadden ran for one and threw for another. Arkansas is a totally different team and will give Tennessee and LSU all they can handle to end the year.
It is crunch time in college football. Week 11 brings several make it or break it scenarios for many top 25 teams. West Virginia plays an unpredictable Louisville team, while Clemson and Wake Forest face off in an important ACC battle. Michigan and Ohio State have to avoid an upset before their big matchup on November 17th. UM travels to Wisconsin, while OSU hosts Illinois. Tennessee controls their own destiny, but faces an upstart Arkansas team. Georgia hopes to keep pace with Tennessee, but they face a tough Auburn team who is fighting for bowl position. Connecticut could afford a loss, but would obviously rather beat Cincinnati on the road. Florida State will attempt to defeat another top 10 team when they travel to Virginia Tech. Kansas will be tested against an angry Oklahoma State team. I am putting Hawaii on upset alert this week. They host Fresno State at 11:05 eastern time. I will fall asleep before halftime, which is about 1 am.