Any Given Saturday Recap, Week 12: Duke Looks Like Texas And Texas Plays Like Dukie

I Thought Auburn Was the Nation’s Best “Rushing” Offense? So What’s This I Hear About A Miraculous Pass?

Before facing UGA, in his last eight quarters of football, Nick Marshall had only attempted 15 passes. Against UGA, he completed 15, but it was his 29th attempt that will go down in SEC lore. The crazy thing is that it was terrible throw into double coverage.

Based on the reaction from UGA’s bench, you’d assume they collectively took a fatal shot to the dome on Saturday night in the final minute of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry’s latest installment. Once again their defense failed them. That play will be featured on instructional tapes about how to play prevent defense for the next 20 years. The whole disaster could have been avoided for UGA if freshman Tray Matthews hadn’t had a Rahim Moore moment and knocked down Nick Marshall’s pass instead of trying to secure the stat-padding interception.

Former UGA All-American Davis Pollack was less than impressed with the defense that is ranked in the mid-80s in points allowed.

My mistake. Actually, that was Pollack’s tweet about Mack Brown. However, if you replace Texas with UGA and Oklahoma State with Auburn, the tweet remains applicable to both programs. Brown and Mark Richt are very similar. Too close for Richt’s comfort. In a world of offenses putting up blockbuster numbers, they are both considered uber-conventional.

Over the course of Texas’ six-game winning streak, there were questions about whether Brown had done enough to save his job. The same questions were asked about UGA's "20th ranked rush defense". The answer was complex for Texas, but a win over Oklahoma State would have given him a little momentum.

Unfortunately, old issues popped up anew and once again Texas was relegated from the fringes of the Top 25 to the land of the unranked. The Longhorns are supposed to rout teams like West Virginia. Instead, they went to double overtime with the Mountaineers last week. This week, they got routed by a to-10 program in Oklahoma State. With the resources available to them, Texas expects to be Big 12 champ on an annual basis with reservations for the Top-10.

Texas is a marquee program that’s felt like a mom and pop operation since 2009. Saturday night was the death nail in Brown’s job status. Even beating Baylor can’t save him at this point.  The Mack Brown farewell tour has officially begun.

Now back to UGA. Here are the contents of turncoat Pollack’s tweet about UGA.

OK maybe, he wasn't being sarcastic. He may have legitimately been confused about injuries to the Bulldogs defense. However, a cynical mind would believe that Pollack, a former All-American on the Bulldogs defense was throwing snark in the direction of Todd Grantham's defense. UGA has many lessons to learn from this redshirt season. I say it was a redshirt season for the defense, because they seemed to have taken the season off. This is a learning experience. Grantham’s defense has shown their youth and experience all season. On Saturday, Auburn doused UGA’s "bend, but don’t break" defense in liquid nitrogen and shattered their will.

The defensive play calling got a little more aggressive in the second half and UGA was able to recover, but not before that one final miscue.

Hopefully, they take advantage of their unofficial redshirt. Rubberband Man Mark Richt usually bounces back, but if he's not careful he could end up in Brown's hot seat and Grantham could get reassigned to football Siberia like Brown did to Manny Diaz.


On the other end of spectrum in the vast football universe is Duke football. It’s tucked away in hoops country, just above the border between basketball nation and football country. This week, Duke is high off the ecstasy of victory. Jabari Parker’s offensive arsenal is ringing up visions of Grant Hill, while Coach K’s 2014 hardwood recruiting class is John Calipari-esque, featuring the nation’s top point guard and center.

Historically, their football program has been barren of wins and a winning season is like water in the Sahara. This Monday would ordinarily be about the commitments of Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor.

Instead, after their clearance of Saturday’s hurdle over Miami for the first time since 1976, and with a little help from Maryland’s win over Virginia Tech, the only obstacles remaining between Duke and a WebsterTerry Crews battle in the ACC Championship are Wake Forest and UNC.

The Blue Devils haven’t been bowl-eligible since Fred Goldsmith signed a deal with the devil for an improbable 8-4 season in 1994.

Goldsmith then went 9-35 over his final three seasons.  The Dukies took a significant step backwards in the new millennium.

Noted Manning quarterback guru David Cutliffe’s 29-42 record as Duke head coach is an upgrade over the 10-82 record accumulated by the Blue Devils between the 2000 and 2007 seasons before his arrival. They may grant him to a lifetime contract if they can win the final two games of this regular season.

Cutliffe is making tsunami waves in the ACC. AGS suspected their matchup with Miami would be an upset, but we thought the defense would steal the show. We were wrong. Frank Beamer called Duke’s dual quarterback system the best he’d seen since they faced Alabama. Led by Brandon Connette’s four rushing touchdowns, and a fifth by air, Duke completely flummoxed Miami. Not only Is Duke 8-2, but the ACC Championship Game is within their reach.

On 4th and 1, up 38-35 in the fourth, Duke’s offense took the field for a chance to extend their drive. It was the type of bold decision that would have backfired any over time over the past century.

Instead, sophomore tailback Shaquille Powell took the handoff up the middle and kept racing until he’d reached end zone pay dirt. It was emblematic of the invasion of the body snatchers that’s occurred in the ACC during a year that saw Miami sweep the ACC conference and regular season championships.


It’s a brave new world we live in. Texas is in Baylor’s shadow while Duke is casting theirs over half the conference and showing a bravado that’s rare in the hills of North Carolina. Forget, Florida State. Apparently, Duke wants ‘Bama.


Is Ed Orgeron A Trojan Horse?

One week after burning the Pac-12’s national championship RSVP, Stanford ran into a buzz saw in the form of a resurgent Trojans team.

Texas and USC have been in the same boat since September. While Texas stuck with Mack Brown after their early season misadventures, USC strapped a parachute onto Lane Kiffin’s back while he slept and shoved him out from 10,000 feet. Let’s ignore the fact that Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan is proving to be frighteningly inconsistent.

Orgeron now faces the “Mack Brown” question? Is this a temporary spike akin to an adrenaline rush caused by Lane Kiffin’s departure or should Orgeron be considered a permanent replacement?

On one hand, it’s unfair that Lane Kiffin has been given an opportunity to brandish the Trojans sword full-time while Orgeron hasn't.

Orgeron is regarded as a masterful recruiter and while he didn’t write the book on recruiting, he has been featured in the preeminent book on the subject, then appeared as himself and Michael Oher’s future head coach in The Blind Side.

However, if James Franklin, who has Vandy on pace for an 8-4 finish (they’re 8-2 in November under Franklin), decides his work is done with Lionel Ritchie’s backup school — the Commodores, Orgeron may have to settle into a position as USC’s defensive line coach and recruiter extraordinaire.  Jack del Rio is auditioning while serving as the Denver Broncos interim head coach in John Fox’s absence.

However, the Bill Stewart era at West Virginia was evidence that sometimes hiring a coach in-house because of visceral emotions can be a Trojan horse to a program searching for a savior to resurrect their past glory.

Cutliffe’s resume hinders his hiring potential. He’s been a position coach in the NFL, was originally hired by USC in 2000 by Pete Carroll and has inroads into SEC recruiting territory from his time at Ole Miss. Unfortunately, he was also unceremoniously fired by Ole Miss.

How many coaches could have won 10 games in a single season at Ole Miss? Probably not Lane Kiffin. It’s only happened once in 40 years. Orgeron couldn’t do it either. Orgeron won 10 games in three seasons. However, his predecessor, David Cutliffe was able to win 10 games in 2003. USC would be wise to look elsewhere for their next head coach. Interpret that however you wish.


The Legend of Blake Bortles Grows

Just so you’re made aware, Auburn’s 4th and 18 miracle wasn’t the play of the weekend. That honor belongs to UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. His game-winning drive against Louisville back in October was previously the highlight of UCF’s season. That was just the warm-up for the finish against Houston. Down 29-36, Bortles uncorked a cruise missile towards receiver J.J. Worton before taking a crushing blow. J.J. Worton went horizontal for the catch in the back of the endzone and barely remained inbounds.

Sure Worton's catch came on first down, but it may go down as the most memorable catch in program history. If UCF wins their final two games, they'll earn what is likely the final automatic BCS bid for the Big East. Bortles ultimately threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns without a pick on the day.


Could Florida Borrow Blake Bortles?

Florida’s come a long ways since Spurrier’s Fun’ Gun. Remember when Florida had Cam Newton and Tim Tebow on Urban Meyer’s depth chart? Against South Carolina’s vaunted defense, Muschamp trotted out Skyler Mornhinweg, the son of New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Marty knows a little something about offensive futility. Muschamp and Rex Ryan’s teams are equally one-dimensional.

Skyler continued the family’s tough year by throwing for 107 yards, threw one to the defense and led the offense on just two scoring drives. The defense held up its end. The offense dropped the ball—again. Both scoring drives for Florida came on their first two drives.


Art Briles Is College Football’s New Dr. Manhattan

Since his days coaching high school football, mad scientist Art Briles has had a predilection for shattering offensive records. His offenses are a walking nuclear threat to wipe out any opposing defense standing in their path to the end zone. At Houston, Briles’ quarterback Case Keenum etched his name in the passing record books as the FBS’ all-time passing yardage and touchdown leader. As we’ve said before, Briles has a polygamist’s offensive mentality. He’s not married to a single system. At Baylor, he’s embraced a more balanced approached.

Without Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin and Tevin Reese in the lineup, Baylor still had the horsepower to hang 63 on Texas Tech over the weekend.

Bryce Petty’s passing numbers are nothing to stare in awe at, but he’s scored 34 touchdowns (24 passing/10 rushing) and thrown just one interception. Not only is Baylor on a blistering pace to escape with the NCAA’s single-season record for points per game, currently held by the 1984 Jerry Rice-led Mississippi Valley State offense, but they are also obliterating the FBS’ yards per game record. They’d also be the first to average 300 rushing and passing.


Man on Fire Award: Who caught fire in Week 12?

Boston College's Andre Williams is in the midst of a season in the ACC that could be historic. After rushing for an ACC-record 339 yards, he's now gained 1,810 yards by ground through 10 games and is averaging 243 yards per his last four outings.

With three games to go, including a bowl game, Williams will have an outside shot to eclipse Barry Sanders' single-season record of 2,628 yards. Jameis Winston is blotting out the sun and preventing anyone else in the ACC from getting any shine, but we see you Andre. However, whether he does challenge Barry's record or not, Williams deseves a nod that the Heisman won't give him for being the MVP of the FBS' non-national championship contending programs.