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Saturday wrap: Upsets keep on coming
And the BCS rankings don't even start for another week.
It can't get any better than this. Until next week, anyway, since each weekend seems to top the last.
What we are seeing is NFL-style parity with a truly meaningful regular season. As each incredible upset unfolds, another simply unbelievable game is matching it somewhere across the country, and the Bowl Championship Series grows in strength.
More college football:
This week, it was six-touchdown underdog Stanford scoring arguably the greatest upset in the history of the game, and LSU and Florida staging an astounding instant classic at the end of a dawn-to-dark day of bedlam.
As much as we'd love to see a playoff system come along and junk the voters and computers of the BCS rankings, we are getting weekly evidence of why we can't: We need the regular season to mean everything, just the way it does.
Sure, a "four-team playoff" would be close to ideal, but as soon as that path is broached, the slippery slope would unavoidably deteriorate into a system that reduces the focus on autumn football.
The key point is this: Had university presidents (who get to decide) listened to those "in the know" back when serious playoff machinations began in 1983, we'd certainly be all about the postseason by now. As a result, this year's games like Stanford-USC and LSU-Florida simply would not mean all that much. For that matter, no game in September or October would.
It's an emphasis on every game that makes college football just plain different ... and this season's craziness is highlighting that emphasis every week. Like it or not, the BCS is feeding the excitement of regular-season football like no playoff system could.
In light of all the upsets, 2007 is starting to look like "LSU ... and everybody else."
The Tigers just seem to have it all going for them: Great defense, incredible speed, and that little extra something that championship teams possess, as they showed in their comeback victory over Florida.
We might have to add "Ohio State" to that short list. Yes, there are nine other undefeated teams remaining, but the way the Tigers and Buckeyes play defense and take care of the ball, they're the closest thing to "upset-proof" as we have in 2007. But of course, there is no such thing as upset-proof.
Saturday night, Florida played a sensational game. The Gators were doing it all in the first three quarters in Tiger Stadium, truly appearing to be an improvement on last year's national championship Florida team. But as Tim Tebow was in the process of becoming the No. 1 Heisman candidate, and Urban Meyer was being prepared for inclusion in the coaching hall of fame, the LSU defense outplayed Tebow and Les Miles out-coached Meyer.
With 11 of the AP Top 25 losing again this week, including seven of the top 13 (in the past two weeks, nine top-10 teams have been defeated), we head into the midway point of the season with firm grasp on the concept that anything can happen and probably will.
One of the biggest winners of the weekend was California, which had the opportunity to rest up and watch how upsets can and do happen. In the process, the Golden Bears moved up in the BCS race, which shifts into high gear next week when the weekly rankings begin a whole new discussion.
The 5-0 Bears have it all in front of them. Arizona State also remains undefeated, but the way Washington State harassed ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter, the Cougs' efforts will make their way into Cal's Oct. 27 game plan in Tempe, Ariz.
Oregon State, UCLA and Washington State are also on Cal's schedule in the next month, leading to what still appears to be the Pac-10 showdown of the year with USC on Nov. 10 in Strawberry Canyon.
The potential irony of Cal capturing the Pac-10 title for the first time in nearly half a century (1959), would be not going to the Rose Bowl. If they run the table, they'd almost certainly be in New Orleans for the BCS championship game.
Of course, the Bears might get to 11-0, but the tone of this year makes it likely that Stanford is ready to this season of upsets and commemorating the 25-year anniversary of "The Play" by dealing them the mother of all paybacks.
Since Los Angeles does not have an NFL team, USC has played its way into the hearts of sports fans throughout Southern California, setting attendance records and generally dominating the media for years now.
|Darlings no more? USC's standing in L.A. took a hit on Saturday night. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)|
And with the way the Lakers have been mediocre, and baseball is pretty well split between the Dodgers and Angels, the Trojans are the sports darlings of the Southland. The problem with that is that when less-connected fans jump on the bandwagon, they find their way off more quickly than those who have a deeper emotional attachment.
That seems to be what we're seeing with the residents of Troy: There were plenty of boo birds flying around the L.A. Coliseum in the third quarter (USC still led, 9-7) after John David Booty threw the second of his four interceptions.
Those fans have noticed, no doubt, that with its loss to Stanford, USC is now 5-3 in its last eight Pac-10 games. And 2-2 in the past four. And the Trojans now have a two-game losing streak against other teams within their state (Stanford and UCLA), and are ranked behind a third (Cal).
Urban Meyer is making about $3.25 million a year, but maybe he ought to use some of it to hire himself a clock-plan assistant. It's hard to put a price tag on 30 seconds, but it would have been pretty valuable for the Gators at the end of the LSU game.
Meyer apparently needed some help recognizing that he needed to call timeout with 1:39 remaining and his team due to get the ball back after one more snap when LSU was closing in on the goal line.
Instead, with three timeouts left, he paused for nearly 30 seconds and the clock ran down to 1:09. As it turned out, those extra 28 to 30 seconds could have made all the difference on the Gators' last-ditch drive.
Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kansas all won to increase their records to a combined 20-2 on the season. The only two losses were Missouri beating Illinois, and Illinois beating Indiana meaning those four teams are 18-0 when not playing each other.
|Missouri's resume is looking better and better, especially that win over Illinois. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)|
All things considered, they all ought to be ranked this week. The plot thickens for Missouri this week, as the Tigers visit Oklahoma, but the other three teams play winnable games (against Iowa, Michigan State, and Baylor, respectively).
Despite its horrific loss to Miami a couple of weeks ago and the controversy surrounding Dennis Franchione's secret special friends group ($1,200 apiece to pay for his personal website, against NCAA rules), Texas A&M is leading the Big 12 South with a 2-0 record.
Yet despite the 4-1 overall mark, highlighted with Saturday's impressive victory over Oklahoma State, the Aggies can probably expect to be underdogs in five of their last six games (Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas).
Notre Dame finally figured out how to win: Take on a team with only one available scholarship quarterback, knock him out of the game early, and then see if you can beat on a third-string walk-on. It worked!
The Notre Dame offense mustered only 140 yards on the night, but the defense scored one touchdown on a fumble return and gave its offense field position at the UCLA 1-, 2-, and 31-yard lines to enable the Irish to score its first victory since last November.
UCLA quarterback Ben Olson was knocked out with a knee injury two games after Patrick Cowan was knocked out with a knee injury, leaving coach Karl Dorrell with McLeod Bethel-Thompson as his only option. The Irish defense feasted on him for four interceptions and the lost the fumble that Maurice Crum picked up and toted 34 yards for a touchdown, capping a 17-point ND surge in the third quarter.
|Notre Dame finally met a team it could handle. (Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)|
Now, if the Irish can find a way to get Boston College's Matt Ryan and any and all other scholarship quarterbacks out of the way this week, they might really be on to something.
Reviewing every play in Div. I Bowl Division is not working.
Some of the replay delays are taking as long as six minutes ... and the replay officials are getting it wrong far too often even after reviewing the play two dozen times from a half-dozen angles.
There's the whole "conclusive video evidence" controversy what exactly does that mean? It certainly has not been conclusively established what the heck conclusive is supposed to be, and it seems to be inconsistently applied.
It has led us to sitting around waiting and wondering what the heck those guys are looking at.
It has all led to the general feeling that the college football officials on the field are becoming more administrators of the game rather than referees charged with running a fair game.
There has to be a better way perhaps giving each team three challenges per half, or something.
A weak early season schedule had a lot to do with it, but Texas Tech is the single most underrated team in the country. The Red Raiders are virtually unstoppable offensively, and they're going to get the next month to prove it in some pretty high-profile games.
They are 5-1 after losing to Oklahoma State a couple of weeks ago yes, that was the game overshadowed by Mike Gundy's post-game snap on a reporter. Now, because they lost to a crazy coach and were upset owing to a couple of their own defensive foibles late in the game, last week they didn't receive even a single vote in the AP or coaches polls.
That'll change dramatically when they play the Aggies on Saturday and subsequently outscore Big 12 North powers Missouri and Colorado.
1. Texas Tech (5-1): The most underrated team in the country. 2. Texas A&M (5-1): Now the Aggies will have to prove themselves. 3. Texas (4-2): Get to heal up with three easy wins before November. 4. TCU (3-3): Strange non-league game with Stanford comes at a great time. 5. Houston (2-3): Gave Oregon a tussle and almost beat Alabama. 6. UTEP (4-2): This year's king of the shootouts. 7. Baylor (3-3): Easy games are over, it could get tough for Bears. 8. Rice (1-4): Owls somehow beat Southern Miss. 9. SMU (1-4): Wildly inconsistent, but competitive. 10. North Texas (0-5): Is there anybody worse than the Nice Green?
Here's an interesting week when we'll see the ranks of the undefeated shrink again from 11 to � well, to less than 11. Our guess is that this list will be only six deep within two weeks.