This year’s game of the century came down to kicks and picks.
And, in a way only Les Miles could pull off, Louisiana State captured a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown on the road without scoring a touchdown.
The top-ranked Tigers were not dislodged from their pole position in the national rankings, snaring a 9-6 overtime victory at Alabama largely because of what the Crimson Tide could not do.
Alabama was 2-for-6 in its field goal attempts, missing tries from 44, 50 and 49 yards in the first half and 52 yards in overtime. None was easy for either of the specialists Nick Saban fruitlessly trotted out, but just one FG either could have ended things in regulation or prolonged the kicking competition the SEC West rivals engaged in throughout the night.
More pertinently, the two interceptions the Crimson Tide threw in the second half made an even greater difference.
A.J. McCarron’s pick late in the third quarter was returned to the red zone, where four plays later the Tigers (9-0) tied it at 6-6 with a field goal. Later, LSU’s Eric Reid wrested a pass from Alabama tight end Michael Williams just outside the end zone to deny the Crimson Tide (8-1) another scoring opportunity.
The Tigers became the first team in college football history to win a 1-2 matchup without scoring at least 12 points (the classic 1946 Army-Notre Dame and 1966 Michigan State-Notre Dame games ended in 0-0 ties).
Could it be the first of two meetings between the teams, with a rematch in the national title game? Don’t count on it. Three other highly regarded unbeatens — Boise State, Oklahoma State and Stanford - remain. Plus, Alabama squandered its chance to beat the Tigers on its field. Barring a radical shakeup in the next four weeks (which is possible), the Tide might just have to settle for a Sugar Bowl invite.
• Brandon Weeden. The longer Oklahoma State remains unbeaten, the more likely the latter-day Chris Weinke will creep into a serious Heisman discussion (Weeden is 28 and, like Weinke, played minor league baseball). Weeden threw for a school-record 502 yards and added four touchdowns as the Cowboys outlasted Kansas State 52-45 and improved to 9-0.
• Arkansas. Don’t forget about the Hogs, who turned back South Carolina 44-28 and improved to 8-1. Bobby Petrino’s team still has a Nov. 25 date in Baton Rouge with Louisiana State, which means the Razorbacks are the most likely trigger for any remaining SEC-related chaos.
• Air Force. Down 14 points at halftime, the Falcons rallied for a 24-14 defeat of Army to secure the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the second consecutive season.
• Ryan Broyles. The Oklahoma wide receiver, the NCAA’s career receptions leader, will miss the rest of his senior season with a torn left knee ligament. The injury was an especially dark cloud over the Sooners’ 41-25 defeat of Texas A&M. Oklahoma could climb back into the national title hunt, but it will be much tougher without Broyles.
• Arizona State. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard for football mercenary Dennis Erickson, whose team lost to a consistently underwhelming UCLA bunch to cede control of the Pac-12 South to the Bruins. The Sun Devils should win out to place some pressure on UCLA; then again, they should have handled matters in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
• Nebraska. It took one week for the Cornhuskers to relinquish control of their Big Ten divisional race after knocking off Michigan State, losing 28-25 at home to Northwestern. Who knew the struggling Wildcats would emerge as the stronger “NU” in the teams’ first meeting as conference foes?