Rivalry games can make a career

Originally Published: November 21, 2004
By Brad Edwards | Special to ESPN.com

For all the BCS storylines, college football is still about the rivalries this time of year.

Performances in rivalry games can leave impressions for generations to come. Good seasons can become great seasons. Ordinary players can become legends.

After an explosive start to the year, the Purdue offense had been stifled for much of Big Ten play, but it came to life against Indiana on Saturday with the Old Oaken Bucket on the line. Kyle Orton emerged from his slump to throw for 522 yards and six touchdowns, leading the Boilermakers to 63 points and a Big Ten record 763 yards of offense.

Kyle Ingraham led the receiving corps with 209 yards, but Taylor Stubblefield had 14 catches to surpass 300 grabs in his career -- a new NCAA standard. Former Louisville receiver Arnold Jackson had the record of 300 catches. Stubblefield now enters Purdue's bowl game with 309.

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was an unlikely hero in the Buckeyes' win over Michigan, but the usual suspect also stepped up in a big way for OSU. Ted Ginn, Jr., gave his team a 13-point advantage in the second half by returning a punt 82 yards for a touchdown. It was the fourth punt return TD of the season for Ginn, who tied an NCAA record with that accomplishment.

PERFECT REGULAR SEASONS SINCE 1950
All Wins by 14 or more Points
Year Team Margin
1995 Nebraska 38.7
1973 Alabama 33.2
2004 Utah 28.2
1953 Maryland 26.7
The emotion of rivalry games often plays into the hands of the underdog, but like every other possible factor this season, it had little effect on the Utah football team. With a 52-21 win over BYU, the Utes became just the fourth team since 1950 to win every regular-season game by at least 14 points.

Although it certainly wasn't winning all of its games by 14 points or more, LSU managed to do something this year that it wasn't even able to achieve in last year's national championship season: win every home game. In fact, it was the first time since 1976 that the Tigers went undefeated in their home schedule, and the first time since 1972 that they had a perfect record at Tiger Stadium. There was still plenty of magic on the bayou in 2004, as LSU came from behind in the second half to win four of its seven home games.

Hard To Say Goodbye
I'm sure Louisville players are excited to make the jump to the Big East next season, but there will definitely be some things they'll miss about Conference USA. Having Houston on the schedule might be at the top of the list. In the last two meetings, including Saturday's, the Cardinals have put up video-game-like offensive numbers against the Cougars. Last year, they scored 66 points while racking up 779 yards. This year, they managed only 65 points and 666 yards. Clearly, the offense has some things to work on in practice this week.

Lasting Impressions
College GameDay Final's Trev Alberts, Mark May and Rece Davis weigh in with their biggest impressions from Saturday's action.

Trev's Take
Trev AlbertsOkay, it took a while, but I'm finally ready to admit that Utah deserves to be in a BCS game. I had thought they would overlook an opponent somewhere along the line and lose a game because of it, but they didn't, and I'm impressed by the way they took care of business week in and week out throughout the season. They're well-coached and a fun team to watch, and I'm looking forward to seeing them play again in January.

Mark's Take
Mark MayIt was nice to see a number of players, coaches and teams who had been through a lot of adversity close their seasons on a high note. You had to feel good for Ron Zook, Joe Paterno and Kyle Orton, being able to finish strong after all they went through this year. The kids at Ohio State should feel great about the way they played against Michigan amid all the distractions, and nobody can say enough about Iowa. After all the key injuries, the Hawkeyes are co-Big Ten champs.

Rece's Take
Rece DavisRivalry games have a way of reeling us back in to what college football is all about. We spend so much time focusing on championships and bowl payouts that we forget how little most of the players care about that stuff. In the end, just winning one special game can make a lot of these guys forget about all the things that didn't go their way during the season. When they look back on their careers years later, the rivalry games are the ones they remember most.
Cyclones Gain Strength
It's starting to look like the Iowa State Cyclones will be the champions of the Big 12 North and face Oklahoma in the conference title game. Four teams entered Saturday with a chance to win the division, but Missouri was eliminated when it lost to Kansas, and Nebraska was knocked out by Iowa State's win over Kansas State. Now, the only other contender is Colorado. The Buffs play at Nebraska on Friday, and if they lose, the division title goes to the Cyclones. If Colorado wins, Iowa State must beat Missouri to make it official. The fact that ISU is even in the race is amazing in itself, given that the Cyclones entered Oct. 23 with a 13-game conference losing streak. They left Baylor with a one-point win that afternoon and have not lost since.

Dog Days
Another perennial underdog narrowly missed its chance at a division title on Saturday, as Akron fell to Miami (OH) in a game to decide the MAC East's representative in the conference championship game. The Zips tied the game at 27 entering the fourth quarter, but the RedHawks outscored them 10-0 in the final stanza to win the game. Miami will now defend its crown against either Toledo or Northern Illinois at Ford Field on Dec. 2.

Helmet Stickers
Trev:
Troy Smith, Ohio State -- 386 total yards, 3 TD vs. Michigan.
Ciatrick Fason, Florida -- 103 rush yds, TD vs. nation's No. 1 rush defense (FSU).

Mark:
Joe Paterno, Penn State -- back-to-back Big Ten wins for first time since 2002.
Kyle Orton, Purdue -- school-record 530 total yds, 6 TD vs. Indiana.

Rece:
Marshawn Lynch, Cal -- 9 carries, 122 yds, TD run, TD pass vs. Stanford.
Bill Swancutt, Oregon State -- 3 sacks, INT, forced fumble vs. Oregon.

Brad Edwards is the research coordinator for College GameDay Final and is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. College GameDay Final airs during the season at Midnight ET.

• Analyzes college football and the CFB Playoff as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app

ALSO SEE