Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: No offense LSU, but this week's games are sexier


Meanwhile, in college football ...

A national discussion started seconds after LSU kicker Drew Alleman's 25-yard field goal ended Saturday's intense, physical, down-to-the-wire de facto national semifinal against Alabama.

Turns out, the Game of the Century had some intense competition. It might not have been the game of the night.

Seven hundred miles away, Oklahoma State was beating Kansas State 52-45 in an antithesis of Tigers-Tide.

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For those of you whose assertion was that the two best teams in the country were on display Saturday, think about what you said. The key word is was. One of them lost. Both of them stunk offensively. If you believe they should rematch then you value defense over offense. That's OK but don't tell me one side of the ball is better than the other.

Somehow leaking through the Penn State nuclear explosion this week was that national discussion, a sudden clash of cultures. At least I sensed it. This isn't about a rematch, it's about LSU and Alabama being better than everyone else because they play great defense.

That's ignoring an obvious question: Why can't Alabama recruit a suitable quarterback or kicker?

That's also ignoring Stanford and Oklahoma State, which take over Game of the Whatever status this week. One of the two -- maybe both -- are heading toward that national championship game. The Cardinal are out to prove they're the best team in the Pac-12 on Saturday against Oregon. Oklahoma State, headed to Texas Tech, has already done that in the Big 12.

LSU-Alabama was decided by penalty kicks (3-2 in field goals in overtime). The Cowboys blasted K-State, as they say, with pistols firing. It's like watching Cribs vs. Masterpiece Theater.

"If I was sitting at home watching a game, I would have thought our game would have been pretty entertaining," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. "One of those games where you're not sure you should get up and go to the bathroom or get something to eat.

"I'm going to guess that everybody in the Southeast part of the country loved to watch the LSU-Alabama game. Most people that live west of the Mississippi all the way out to the Pacific Ocean, probably like to watch our style of game."

There you go. It's a sense of style -- nothing more as we head toward the 2011 finish line. Wouldn't Alabama love Brandon Weeden or Andrew Luck at quarterback? You think LSU could get some things done offensively with Justin Blackmon or Joseph Randle?

Last weekend was all Tigers and Tide. Now they step aside for Cowboys and Ducks and a little bit of Luck. The national discussion is ongoing.

Scouting the nation

The Boise argument: Here we go again with That Team Up North. It's Week 11, and Boise State is undefeated and being dismissed in certain quarters as a national championship contender.

Sorry, those arguments just don't apply anymore as the Broncos head into Saturday's game against TCU. Schedule? Boise has gone out and upgraded its schedule by joining the Mountain West. It has already beaten Georgia, the possible SEC East champion.

Talent? Kellen Moore is the winningest quarterback in FBS history. Left tackle Nate Potter will be a pro. WWL would personally love to see Boise's defense against Trent Richardson. It might happen in the Sugar Bowl.

Last year the issue became moot when the Broncos lost in overtime at Nevada.

For the noise to increase, Boise is going to need Stanford and Oklahoma State to lose before hoping to hold off a one-loss Alabama for a national championship berth. But if it gets there, it will deserve it. Pregame: TCU-Boise State

Look who's leading the country: When Oregon's LaMichael James was held to 54 yards against LSU in the opener, it was easy to forget a Heisman finalist.

In the offseason his name had been tied to Will Lyles. In consecutive games against SEC powers (Auburn, LSU) he ran 31 times for a combined 103 yards. How good could he be? Good enough, perhaps, to become the first back-to-back national rushing leader in 11 years.

Going into the Stanford game James is leading the country in rushing, averaging 151.6 yards per game. Since that LSU game, he has rushed for 1,007 yards, averaging 8.75 yards per carry. That includes missing two games because of a dislocated elbow. Since Sept. 3, then, James has averaged 168 yards per game. At this point a year ago, he had rushed for 1,221 yards on his way to the 2010 rushing title.

The Ducks might not be here, in contention again for the Pac-10/12 title, without James. Quarterback Darron Thomas has been inconsistent. His best receiver targets from 2010 are gone. LaMike is back, chasing that second consecutive rushing title and giving Oregon its best chance to beat the Cardinal.

The last player to win back-to-back rushing titles was Memphis' DeAngelo Williams in 2004 and 2005. The last BCS conference player to do it was Ricky Williams in 1997-98. Pregame: Oregon-Stanford

Slicker Rick: One week we've got him in the unemployment line, the next he's competing for a Pac-12 title.

Rick Neuheisel rises again. UCLA goes to Utah remaining in control of its destiny in the Pac-12. After a fight-filled, 36-point Thursday night loss to Arizona a couple of weeks ago, the Bruins have rebounded to beat California and Arizona State to get to 5-4. That's one of the advantages of division play. You can be mediocre and still save your job.

In Neuheisel's world, though, you're only one ugly loss away from another visit to the hot seat. Utah can clinch bowl eligibility with a win. After Saturday for the Bruins, it's Colorado and a likely season-defining game against Southern California.

"Our future is Saturday," Neuheisel said. "Nothing else matters."

Wide Right or Yawn, Right?: Who knew that Miami (Fla.) and Florida State were playing this week? Really. The possibility of Miami and Florida State playing twice a year is the basic reason the ACC originally expanded eight years ago.

Since then the 'Canes and 'Noles have won a grand total of one ACC title. Key matchup: Lamar Miller, Miami's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002, vs. FSU's No. 3 rush defense.

Now if you really want to get excited about the ACC ...: Plucky little Wake Forest controls its fate in the ACC Atlantic heading to Clemson. The Deacons are still in line for their second ACC title in six years.

To put that in perspective, how many asteroids have you witnessed hit the earth? Pregame: Wake Forest-Clemson

Who's your quarterback daddy?: Les Miles has refused to name a starter for Western Kentucky, which is just about perfect. Everything else has worked out, why worry about a starting quarterback?

A case can be made for LSU's season not being so magical had not Jordan Jefferson been suspended at the beginning of the season. If J.J. doesn't get into some kind of scrape at Shady's, the re-emergence of Jarrett Lee (13 touchdowns, one interception before Alabama) doesn't occur.

When Jefferson did return, he was the perfect complement to Lee -- mostly a runner who didn't have to throw to be effective. When Lee then threw two crippling interceptions against Alabama, Miles rightly determined that Jefferson's option ability was the best way to beat the Crimson Tide.

Can you imagine Lee having to come off the bench to save the Tigers against 'Bama if Jefferson had never been suspended? In a strange way it was the most fortunate episode of off-field misconduct in LSU history. Pregame: LSU-Western Kentucky

Sark sandbaggin': Yes, Washington's Steve Sarkisian desperately wants to beat his former team, Southern California, this week. Yes, he is totally trying to soften up the Trojans with this:

"If I'm an NFL coach right now, I'd pick Matt Barkley ahead of Andrew Luck," Washington's coach said.

Penn State seniors: Even though Joe Paterno is gone you still have to feel for the players on Penn State's Senior Day. Saturday will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

They will not forget how part of that day will be overshadowed by arguably the worst college athletics scandal in history. Their coach and the administration cannot remove that stain.

"The indirect victims are the kids on that football team right now," said former coach Glen Mason, a close friend of Paterno's -- at least before the scandal. "Here are some kids having their senior day and that's a very proud moment. What's going on there right now might be what they remember for the rest of their lives." Pregame: Nebraska-Penn State

SEC Least: Besides having all the money, all the ratings and all the players, the SEC apparently has made some deal with cosmic fate to grab all the drama too.

The SEC East could be decided in a seven-hour window Saturday. Florida is at South Carolina at noon ET. Auburn-Georgia follows at 3:30. The Gamecocks (5-2 in the division) are in an all but must-win situation playing their final conference game. A Florida loss would doom the Gators to their first losing SEC record since 1986. Pregame: Florida-South Carolina

A Carolina win in the early game puts the pressure on Georgia (5-1 SEC) to beat the Tigers. A loss by the Gamecocks puts Georgia in a position to clinch. South Carolina holds the tiebreaker having beaten the Dawgs head-to-head on Sept. 10. Pregame: Auburn-Georgia

Happy birthday ...: to Lesticles, who turned 58 on Thursday. Miles goes for his 100th career win this week against the Hilltoppers.

Vegas calling: When you can pick 63 percent against the spread, you should have your own 1-800 number. I am open for business. Off shore, of course.

Something to chew on ... and spit out: "I almost laid awake last night. I couldn't sleep. It was like there was a problem in my program." -- Mason on Penn State.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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