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What we learned: McCarron's a legend, Oregon won't lose, Manziel's awesome


It is a well-worn saying in college football that people remember what you do in November. One thing is for sure: We are not going to forget the first Saturday of November 2012. It was yet another time where the games (Alabama-LSU, USC-Oregon, West Virginia-TCU, Notre Dame-Pitt to name a few) lived up to the hype.

But what did we learn?

1. AJ McCarron is immortal

I don't know if Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will lead the Crimson Tide to another BCS national championship. I don't know if McCarron will become the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy (but if you're going to invite five finalists to New York, he should be one of them).

But this much I do know: After leading Alabama on a desperation 72-yard drive to beat No. 5 LSU 21-17 on Saturday night at Tiger Stadium, AJ McCarron, at the tender age of 22, has achieved immorality in the rich history of football at the University of Alabama.

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From this day forward it will be known as "The Drive." Parents will tell their children of the night of Nov. 3, 2012 when Alabama's national championship hopes were hanging by a thread against a talented LSU team that had outplayed the Crimson Tide most of the second half. They will remember that Alabama had only one first down in the second half before McCarron and the rest of the Crimson Tide dug deep into the reservoir of what makes people champions. And you can bet on this: There will soon be a painting of McCarron's 28-yard screen pass to T.J. Yeldon that provided the winning score.

Ever heard of Van Tiffin? In 1985, Tiffin made a 52-yard field goal on the last play of the game to beat Auburn at Legion Field. Tiffin hasn't paid for a drink in the state of Alabama since.

That's how it will be for McCarron. No matter what he does with the rest of his life, he will always be remembered for what he did Saturday night in Baton Rouge. And when you grow up in Alabama (he's from Mobile), you dream of a moment like that. That is why McCarron was so emotional at the end of the game. He understood exactly what it meant.

2. Oregon won't lose

Notre Dame is to be admired for beating Pittsburgh when the Irish were so ripe for an upset. Kansas State deserves kudos for pulling away from Oklahoma State even after super QB Collin Klein had to leave the game.

But if Oregon didn't lose Saturday night at USC, when the Trojans racked up 615 yards and 51 points, the Ducks ain't going to lose. And if Alabama is 13-0 and Oregon is 13-0 on the night of Dec. 1, that is your BCS championship game.

And speaking of Heisman Trophy lists, doesn't Oregon running back Kenjon Barner (321 yards, five TDs vs. USC) have to be included there somewhere?

3. Manziel's starting to scare me

The more you watch the Texas A&M quarterback, the more you realize that there isn't anybody else quite like him in college football. He made it look way too easy against Mississippi State, completing 30 of 36 passes for 316 yards and running for another 129 yards in a surprisingly lopsided 38-13 victory in Starkville.

Manziel had a 37-yard touchdown run that defied explanation. He simply rolled to his right and when nobody was open Manziel just took off. And to use an old Southern expression, he looked like a rabbit running through a cotton patch, twisting and changing directions while going full speed, which is considerable. And let us not forget that Mississippi State has a couple of guys in their secondary who are going to be playing in the NFL this time next year.

With Johnny Football, as he has become known, pulling the trigger Texas A&M ran 97 plays for 693 yards against the Bulldogs. And now he gets his shot on the road, where he is 5-0 this season, against an Alabama defense that was gassed at the end of the Crimson Tide's emotional victory over LSU in Baton Rouge.

4. Louisville: Pay Strong or lose him

Charlie Strong had to wait way too long to become a head coach. Why that was is another topic for another day. But the fact is that Strong is in this third season as the head coach at Louisville and has the Cardinals at 9-0 for the first time.

We know there is an opening at Arkansas. There is strong speculation that there will be openings at Auburn and Tennessee. Charlie Strong spent a lot of years as a successful assistant coach in the SEC. And if one of those big schools comes after Strong they are going to put a pretty big number on the table trying to pry him out of Louisville.

In fact, Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich, one of the sharpest guys in the business, told our Gregg Doyel recently that Strong was among the 10 highest-paid coaches in college football and, "We'll make him No. 1 if we have to" in order to keep him.

FYI: Strong is a native of Batesville, Ark., and played his college football at Central Arkansas. I'm just sayin'.

5. Mack Brown was one happy dude

Texas (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) is not going to win the Big 12. But the Longhorns coach was almost delirious after watching his Longhorns beat Texas Tech 31-22 Lubbock.

That's because Texas, which had given up 50 to Baylor Oct. 20 and then had to rally to beat Kansas (21-17) on Oct. 27, won a game that most people (this writer included) did not expect the Longhorns to win. In fact, I thought Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege would light Texas up. Doege did throw for 329 yards but it wasn't enough as the Red Raiders only had one touchdown pass.

Now Texas closes out the home schedule with Iowa State (on Saturday), TCU (on Thanksgiving Day) and then finishes on the road at No. 2 Kansas State. In short, the Longhorns have a very realistic chance of finishing 9-3.

It wasn't that long ago (after a 63-21 loss to Oklahoma on Oct. 13, to be precise) that a lot of the talking heads were saying that it was time for Brown to hang it up after 15 seasons as head coach. But Brown dug in his heels and insisted that he wasn't done and that the Longhorns were not as bad as they looked against the Sooners. It now looks like Brown has weathered the storm.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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