With all of the hoopla surrounding the showdown in Big 12 country (Baylor vs. Oklahoma), it was a different conference that stole the spotlight Saturday night -- and not in a good way, either.
No. 7 Stanford? Done.
No. 10 Utah? Out.
If #Pac12AfterDark has become a favorite hangout spot for starved college football fans on Saturday nights, this past one showed their choice of activities are worth it.
First, Oregon proved that, when protected by the playmaking skills of a dynamic quarterback, they're still as relevant as ever, as they went into Stanford and promptly knocked the Cardinal out of the playoff hunt with a 38-36 win.
It was a vintage Oregon win vs. an uncharacteristic Stanford loss: Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal's senior signal-caller, fumbled two snaps in the fourth quarter; Oregon couldn't put the gas down, instead garnering just enough points to force a touchdown and two-point conversion; then, out-of-character for most of the season, Oregon's defense came up with the biggest play of their season, tipping away a game-tying conversion.
The conference's playoff hopes were just starting to get dashed, however.
Utah, who held faint playoff hopes at No.10, took perhaps the trickiest trip of any Pac-12 foe -- down to Tucson -- with full knowledge that Stanford had left the door wide-open.
Two overtimes later, the Wildcats had, again (see: Oregon, 2013) knocked a conference foe out of contention.
"All is not lost," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We need to show resilience and toughness."
The Pac-12, on this soggy Sunday morning, now sits at the left-out table: with the AAC, MAC, and, eventually, the Big 12.
Why the Big 12, you ask? ...
(12) Oklahoma 44 (6) Baylor 34
When Baker Mayfield transfed into Norman last season, it didn't garner near the attention of some other high-profile switches of this past offseason; after Saturday, however, he may be the most impactful.
Oklahoma, with the Red River Rivalry blunder against Texas their only loss, walked into Waco and unabashedly destroyed Baylor's season with a 44-34 win.
"Go into their backyard on a night like tonight and play this way, you know, we're one of those teams that has a chance," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "Again, you come into an undefeated team ranked that high, waiting on you, and win by 10. It's got to be a positive."
Mayfield, who was the first ever walk-on true freshman to start at a Power 5 school (Texas Tech), threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 76 and a touchdown, and put Oklahoma on the fringe of the playoff discussion -- while knocking Baylor squarely out.
(8) Oklahoma State 35 Iowa State 31
Well, this is fitting, since we all had Oklahoma State as the last hope for the Bi...
Just kidding. No one saw this coming. But, here we are...the Pokes, unranked to start the season, remain the only unbeaten in college football's most polarizing conference, after they somehow survived a trip Ames on Saturday.
"I'm sure TV loves us," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "It's a good win by the team. As we all know, coming up here and playing is never really easy."
You can say that again. OSU (The other one. No, the other one...) trailed by ten in the fourth quarter, before scoring the final 14 points to survive and advance -- and, with no conference title game to play, that's all they can do.
Next week, they get Baylor; in two weeks, Oklahoma comes to Stillwater. After that, if they come out unscathed, it's up to the committee to decide if their resume is playoff worthy. Victories like the one they had at Iowa State -- unranked opponent, hell-bent on pulling the upset, hostile crowd -- should carry some weight.
"You don't win without having some maturity and a relentless football team," said quarterback J.W. Walsh. "And we've been able to attain those things very well. There was not a doubt in anyone's mind. You could see it in everybody's eyes."
(2) Alabama 31 (17) Mississippi State 6
Well, they just keep passing tests, don't they?
When the first playoff rankings came out two weeks ago, everyone outside the state lines of Alabma (or inside the city limits of Auburn) thought that Alabama's inclusion in the top-4 was a joke; since then, all they've done is destroy LSU and, now, Mississippi State.
Behind Derrick Henry (he of the newly-minted Heisman favorite) rushed for 204 yards, the Tide defense was its typical dominant self, and Alabama all but locked-up its date with Florida in the SEC championship game.
Ever the showman, Alabma head coach couldn't stop gushing about his team afterwards:
"It was kind of weird game," Saban said. "Every touchdown was a big play."
With that kind of enthusiasm, it's hard not to get behind this Tide team. And, whether you thought they belonged in the playoffs initially, all doubt has been removed, and one, ever-lingering belief has come true again...
Alabama, as always seems to be the case, is the best team in the country.
Week 11 was quite the kickoff to what figures to be an explosive end to season. The top-4 is still unsettled, and figures to be until the very end; no conference, aside from the ACC (Clemson) seems a lock; and, with so much parity, anyone -- even the aforementioned Alabama -- can be tripped up on a whim.
Just ask Stanford. Or Utah.