The Campus Read Option, which normally runs every Thursday, was on hiatus last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Now that we’ve had enough time to digest the turkey, mac and cheese, collard greens, stuffing, sweet potato pie and results from Rivalry Weekend, here’s a special Tuesday edition. Come back on Thursday for a preview of this upcoming weekend’s conference championship games.
OKLAHOMA VS OKLAHOMA STATE
With Rivalry Week now in the books, we’re a few days away from knowing the bowl matchups and who the final three College Football Playoff participants will be. Yes, correct, I said three because with their decisive 58-23 victory over Oklahoma State in the Bedlam series, a game featuring two Top 10 teams battling for conference supremacy, the Oklahoma Sooners are the first team in.
The Big 12 champs, as I’ve been saying all year long in this column, have the best running back tandem in the land in redshirt freshman Joe Mixon and sophomore Samaje Perine. Their quarterback Baker Mayfield will be in New York for the Heisman ceremony and deservedly so.
He threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score against the Cowboys, but it’s Perine and Mixon, and the OU running game which accounted for 344 yards out of the team’s total of 524 against a one-loss Oklahoma State team, that make this offense a national championship caliber one.
Mixon ran for 136 yards, Perine added 131 and they both punched the ball into the end zone twice.
With the Big 12 champion already crowned in a great race that came down to the wire with Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor all looking exceptional at various points this season, the Sooners have earned their props.
OREGON VS OREGON STATE
Oregon’s 52-42 win made us pause to think about what might have transpired with the Ducks if quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had been healthy for the entire season. He passed for 366 and three touchdowns in Oregon’s sixth consecutive victory. Adams transferred in from Eastern Washington and was supposed to ease the pain of Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota’s early departure to the NFL.
His broken finger in the season’s opening game was a major setback for Oregon, but his return to health has coincided with the return of the team’s dynamic, explosive offense. Royce Freeman now has eight straight games where he’s run for over 100 yards. Ducks fans will be watching the Pac-12 title game between Stanford and USC wondering how the season would have played out if the dynamic Adams had never been injured.
BAYLOR VS TCU
TCU ended the Bears’ hopes for a third consecutive Big 12 title in their rain-soaked, 28-21 double overtime victory on Friday night. The elements and his severely sprained ankle limited the normal luminous effervescence of Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin, but his eight-yard touchdown toss to dazzling freshman KaVontae Turpin put an end to Baylor’s recent conference dominance.
After last year’s phenomenal game, which Baylor won by a basketball score of 61-58, we were hoping for more pyrotechnics in this year’s matchup between the conference’s most explosive offenses. The Bears came back in the fourth quarter last year, erasing a 21-point deficit over the final 11 minutes. That was TCU’s lone loss, which forced them to share the Big 12 Championship and pushed them out of playoff contention.
The torrential rains made for a sloppy game this year that was filled with punts and fumbles. But the Horned Frogs were happy to get their revenge, regardless of the weather. Gary Patterson has done an amazing job with this TCU program, as they’ve notched 10 wins for the 10th time over a 14-year span.
NORTH CAROLINA VS NORTH CAROLINA STATE
The Tar Heels exploded for 35 points in the opening quarter to notch their 11th straight win. Sophomore running back Elijah Hood ran over the Wolfback like Rasputia (“How you der’n!!!???) did Norbit, gaining 220 yards and scoring two touchdowns. UNC definitely looked like they took last year’s 35-7 drubbing to the NC State personally.
Junior running back T.J. Logan made the most of his six carries with touchdown scampers of 40 and 42 yards. UNC accumulated 553 total yards and got TD grabs from Quinshad Davis and Mack Hollins.
This game featured two of the country’s most underrated signal callers in the Tar Heels’ Marquise Williams and the Wolfpack’s Jacoby Brissett.
Brissett threw for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and he also rushed for an additional 128 yards and two more scores. This has turned into a historic season in Chapel Hill and it’s great to hear folks claim that they have a shot, if they beat Clemson next week, at a playoff birth. But even if they emerge victorious in next week’s ACC title game, their hopes of getting one of those coveted four seeds are slimmer than Nicole Richie.
CLEMSON VS SOUTH CAROLINA
The Tigers nearly gave away their unbeaten season, but their remarkable quarterback Deshaun Watson said, “Hell to the naw!” in leading them to a nail-biting 37-32 win. One of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy alongside Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Watson rushed for 114 yards and passed for 279. The last time Clemson was 12-0 was back in 1981 when they won the national championship. They currently own the country’s longest winning streak at 15 games.
In addition to losing legendary coach Steve Spurrier earlier this year and suffering through an abysmal 3-8 season, Gamecocks fans also had their last look at their outstanding junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who caught four balls for 86 yards and one touchdown. Cooper participated in the team’s Senior Day festivities after announcing that he’s foregoing his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.
Clemson’s win was sloppy, but they’ll take it. Watson, who accounted for four touchdowns, helped the Tigers overcome their substandard defensive performance. Some flaws emerged for the top ranked squad in the country in this one as their normally stout defense made South Carolina’s uninspiring offense look more gleaming then a J. Lo dance routine.
USC VS UCLA
The Trojans salvaged their credibility after a tumultuous season by gaining a berth in the Pac-12 title game with their vicious 41-20 smack-down of the Bruins in the 85th “Crosstown Showdown” meeting. After losing for three straight years in this great rivalry game, USC showed why they were considered national championship contenders at the start of the season.
They have won five of their last six games under interim-turned-permanent head coach Clay Helton. This is the first time that UCLA has lost to the Trojans under head coach Jim Mora’s watch. The Bruins surrendered 235 rushing yards to USC.
The best athlete in all of college football, sophomore cornerback Adoree’ Jackson ripped off another electrifying punt return, Cody Kessler tossed two touchdowns passes, Justin Davis ran for 130 yards and the gifted JuJu Smith-Schuster caught six balls for 85 yards.
This weekend’s rematch against Stanford in the conference championship game should be outstanding.
SOUTHERN VS GRAMBLING
Man-oh-manischewitz!!! Did you see Southern’s band, better known as “The Human Jukebox”, knock Adele’s smash “Hello” out of the park? If not, you need to check it out.
Grambling overcame a 17-point second-quarter deficit to defeat the Jaguars 34-23 in New Orleans. The Bayou Classic is always a must-see event and this year’s version did not disappoint. Grambling is 9-2 overall and the top-ranked team among historically black colleges and universities.
The Tigers ended a three-year skid against Southern and will now face defending SWAC champion Alcorn State in Saturday’s conference title game in Houston. Grambling’s mesmerizing quarterback Johnathan Williams, passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 78 yards and another score in his final Bayou Classic game.
NOTRE DAME VS STANFORD
This was quite possibly the best game I’ve seen all year. Notre Dame had three touchdowns of over 60 yards, including freshman C.J. Sanders’ electrifying 93-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
As he raced toward the end zone, I kept screaming, “I got a woman! Way over town! That’s good to me! Oh yeah! She give me money!...” Sanders, in case you are not aware, was the actor who portrayed a young Ray Charles in the wonderful movie “Ray”.
Stanford’s 38-36 last-second victory knocked Notre Dame out of the playoff discussion as four-year starting quarterback Kevin Logan threw for 269 yards and four touchdowns. The Irish took a one-point lead when QB DeShone Kizer ran for a two-yard touchdown with only 30 seconds remaining.
But Hogan calmly marched the Cardinal within range for Conrad Ukropina’s game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired.
The true joy in watching Stanford all season has been seeing sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey play some remarkable football. His 228 all-purpose yards gave him over 3,000 for the season and he still has at least two more games to play. He has a chance to break Barry Sanders record of 3,250, which he set during his Heisman Trophy winning season in 1988.
FLORIDA STATE VS FLORIDA
Dalvin Cook continued his terrific season with 183 yards and two touchdowns in the Seminoles’ 27-2 victory in Gainesville. The Gators might have had an excellent 10-1 record coming into the game, but the outcome was no surprise given their struggles against Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Cook did most of his damage late, running for 150 yards in the fourth quarter.
OLE MISS VS MISSISSIPPI STATE
Rebels QB Chad Kelly threw for 236 yards and two TD’s and ran for another score in Ole Miss’ 38-27 Egg Bowl victory. It was his third straight game without an interception.
In the final home game for electric Bulldogs signal caller Dak Prescott, his offensive line struggled mightily, giving up seven sacks. Prescott completed 31 of his 42 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but he was running for his life like Forrest Gump to stay clear of the Rebels’ pass rush.
This was the first time since Eli Manning’s senior season 12 years ago that Ole Miss won in Starkville. Mississippi State fought valiantly but its early 21-point deficit proved too much to overcome. The Rebels are playing some of the best football in the country right now.
AUBURN VS ALABAMA
Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry put an exclamation point on his Heisman resume while rushing for 271 yards in Alabama’s 29-13 Iron Bowl victory. Bama snapped the ball a total of 76 times on Saturday. They handed the ball to Henry on 46 of those.
No one has ever run for that many yards against an Auburn defense. Henry has rushed for a score in a mind-boggling 17 consecutive games and owns the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,797 yards. He’s scored 22 touchdowns through 12 games thus far.
The outcome was far from decided when the Tigers’ Jason Smith tipped an awesome 77-yard touchdown pass to himself, but Henry put the game away with his 19-carry workload in the fourth quarter. Bama’s defense held Auburn to 260 total yards.
OHIO STATE VS MICHIGAN
Ohio State played like the best team in the country in their 42-13 pummeling of Michigan. Too bad they didn’t play like that last week against Michigan State. The Buckeyes jumped back up after the Spartans knocked them to the canvas, and they came out throwing haymakers at the Wolverines.
After complaining about his lack of touches last week, Ezekiel Elliot got his wish. He rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns. This rivalry hasn’t been a rivalry in quite some time. In order to become one again, Michigan has to win a game against Ohio State, something they’ve only managed to do once in the past 12 years.
Elliot joined two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin as the only backs in school history with multiple seasons of 1,500 rushing yards. He passed Eddie George, another former Buckeye Heisman winner, to become Ohio State’s 2nd all-time leading rusher.
The Wolverines had about as many true answers to the Buckeyes running game as Dr. Ben Carson on foreign policy questions.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett also did work with his feet, running the ball 19 times for 139 yards. Despite the humiliating defeat, Jim Harbaugh deserves props for returning Michigan to national relevance in his first season as head coach at his alma mater.
When he starts reeling in his own recruits and washes the culture clean of its recent ineptitude, Michigan will be Michigan once again.