Top 10: Biggest Surprises in Week Four College Football
Of course, we all remember the famous blocked field goal that began Lloyd Carr's last season as the Michigan Wolverines' head coach and one of the biggest upsets in FBS (then D-1A) history even though the Wolverine’s ultimately ended the season on a high note with a win over the Florida Gators in the Capitol One Bowl.
We also may recall the stunning upset of North Dakota State over Minnesota that year. Or maybe it was Boise State over Oklahoma on the old Statue of Liberty play. Whatever the upset was, you can bet we remember it.
With the parity in college football as high as it has ever been, we are seeing an ever-increasing longing to make sense of it all. Being ranked in the top five early in the season used to be a privilege, now it's most certainly a death warrant.
2009 has brought stunning games—Navy almost beating Ohio State, Washington upending USC, and Northern Iowa coming two blocked kicks away from upsetting the Iowa Hawkeyes, who in turn traveled to Happy Valley and trounced Penn State's dreams.
But Week Four was supposed to be different, as this was when we had a gauge of who was a taker and who was a faker. It seems we have more fleshing out to do than we realized. These are the top ten surprises (not all upsets) of week four.
No.10: Penn State vs. Iowa
This one makes No.10 because it really shouldn't be surprising anymore.
In fact, Iowa fans should just chalk this puppy up as a win each year and act surprised when they lose it. That's right, Iowa beat Penn State for not the sixth time in eight tries, but the seventh.
The thing that makes this one surprising is the manner in which they did it.
Penn State came out firing with a quick touchdown pass on the opening drive to lead 7-0. They tacked on a field goal later and it looked like the game might be on its way to a ho-hum Nittany Lions win.
But, in the second quarter it all started to go wrong for the Lions. A safety and a drive that ended in a field goal gave Iowa five points.
The third quarter was, well, lame: no offense, pretty good defense, and slow play. Just what you might expect on a rainy night in Pennsylvania.
Then it happened. Fourth down in the fourth quarter and Penn State does the worst thing imaginable, they don't protect on the punt block set up by the Hawkeyes. Not only was the punt blocked, but then it was returned 53 yards by Adrian Clayborn.
Special teams had done it again for the Hawkeyes, just like it had last year against the same Nittany Lions and this year to preserve a win over FCS opponent Northern Iowa.
The Hawkeyes would force two more Daryll Clark interceptions and get another touchdown and a field goal out of the deal to make the outcome look more lop-sided than it was at 21-10. Twenty-one of the most unconventional points you will ever see, but how they did it doesn't matter as much as that they did.
No. 9: Mississippi State vs. LSU
If you want electricity in football games, this game would do it for you. From big plays to punt returns to goal line stands, it was a college football fan's dream, unless you are a Mississippi State or LSU fan.
Mississippi State was a goal-line stand from one of the biggest wins in recent school history. To be more accurate, they were one foot away from that defining moment.
And LSU was but a breath away from being 3-1 and dropping to about 16th in the polls. But yet another big defensive stand by the Tigers kept a 4-0 season in tact and kept the Tigers on top of the list of potential SEC champions for the time being.
It was a surprising game, but a win is a win is a win and the Tigers will take it.
No. 8: Michigan vs. Indiana
This game doesn't make this list because of its outcome, but because of one blown call that may have given Michigan the game or at least taken a chance away from Indiana.
Tate Forcier had just thrown a beautifully arching 26-yard touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms with 2:29 left on the clock in the fourth quarter to put the Wolverines on top, 36-33.
An Indiana offense that hadn't struggled to score all game had an opportunity to drive down the field and at least attempt a game-tying field goal. On the first play of the drive, that opportunity was literally taken away from them.
Ben Chappell, the Indiana quarterback, had been superb all day, throwing for 270 yards and a touchdown and it was now his turn to try to do what Notre Dame couldn't: Finish the game.
The first play of the drive was a slant route to Damarlo Belcher, which was read perfectly and broke on by Donovan Warren, who seemingly got to the ball the same time as Belcher.
It was a great defensive play, but a tie goes to the receiver and Indiana thought they had a seven-yard gainer. Instead, Warren wrestled the ball away from Belcher and the play was ruled an interception.
It should be noted that it was reviewed, but upheld. However, clearly to both the booth announcers and a livid coach Bill Lynch, the play had been dead for some time before the ball was wrestled away.
The call cost Indiana a chance at least to drive down the field and make something happen. It was one of many questionable calls for both sides on the day, but it cost the Hoosiers dearly and gave Michigan, in essence, the win.
No. 7: Stanford vs. Washington
Fresh off the heels of the biggest upset in recent history, the Washington Huskies claimed they wouldn't be like big brother USC and have a letdown the following week.
While the ranking seemed premature, the Washington Huskies had a chance to solidify respect once again with a win against Stanford.
Not only did that not happen, they went the way of California and got trounced.
How must USC feel after failing to utilize their highly-touted run game effectively in their loss to Washington only to see the Husky defense give up over 200 yards rushing to one player the next week?
The loss proved that Washington's ranking was premature and that they still had a lot of work to do in the realm of being able to beat their non-ranked opponents.
The 200-yard game by Toby Gerhart led to a 34-14 dismantling of the resurgent Huskies.
One must wonder if the hangover effect was brought over by Sarkisian from his time with the Trojans. It seems a trend might follow.
No. 6: Ohio State vs. Illinois
From Big Ten buster to Big Ten bust, it may have been the lowest point of Ron Zook's short career at Illinois on Saturday.
Seeing the Illini lose to Missouri, everyone asked the same question: "Is Missouri that good or is Illinois that bad?"
The answer came on Saturday as Juice Williams looked dried up and the vaunted Illini defense looked inept and confused.
The 30-0 swathing of the Illinois Fighting Illini proved just how much Rashard Mendenhall meant to this team two years ago.
The fighting Illini aren't fighting much these days, and unless they get it turned around, Ron Zook will be looking for a new job relatively soon.
No. 5: Houston vs. Texas Tech
Maybe the Cougars of Houston should join the Big 12—they might make it more competitive.
One thing is for sure: No one can say Houston's out of conference schedule is weak. At least they have the gall to schedule the big dogs, but to beat them as well? That's just sick.
Fresh off an upset spanking of top ten Oklahoma State away from home, the Houston Cougars played host to the visiting Texas Tech Red Raiders, who were trying to break into the top 25 for the first time in 2009.
The Cougars aren't willing to lay down and die like some other teams that sport big wins. It seems they are ready to fly with Case Keenum as their Pilot and a wide open offense as his wings.
The Cougars entered Saturday night desperate to prove to everyone, including their own fans, that the win against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State was no fluke. First, they slayed the Cowboys. Now, they moved to the Red Raiders.
Case Keenum had been lightening through the air all night, amassing over 400 yards and a touchdown. But late in the fourth quarter, the Cougars found themselves desperate, down an unhealthy 28-23 with just minutes to go.
It was Case's legs, not his arm, that came up with the biggest play of the game for the Cougars.
With 0:49 to go in the game, the gutsy junior called his own number and scampered into the end zone to solidify the Cougars' final lead of the game, 29-28.
The score would be the last of the game and give the Cougars their second win against a Big 12 opponent in two weeks and their second win against a Big 12 opponent in the history of the program.
No. 4: South Florida vs. Florida State
Fresh off a 54-28 waxing of the infamous BYU Cougars, the Florida State Seminoles returned to their home state to prove that they belong among the realm of the ranked.
With no Matt Grothe and only one win against an FBS opponent (Western Kentucky) to their credit, the USF Bulls were sure bets to lose and lose big to Christian Ponder and the potent Florida State offense.
But, as they say, that's why we play the games. The Bulls' defense was movable, but came up with turnovers when it mattered and the Seminoles made an art out of shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and mental lapses.
This was evidenced by broken coverage on a wide open Sterling Griffin for a 73-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
Jilted Tallahassee native B.J. Daniels (pictured here) did his best to show why Florida State made a mistake when they passed on him in the recruiting process.
Daniels wasn't overly accurate, but he protected the ball and claimed the win, much to the chagrin of Seminole fans everywhere.
The 17-7 win by South Florida was just as surprising as Florida State's beat down of BYU a week earlier.
It may not have been pretty, but it was a win and despite a weak non-conference schedule, the Bulls are out to earn some respect. Maybe a date with Cincinnati at home to get a head in the Big East race will get it for them.
It's too early to tell, but they should take a lesson from the Seminoles and not be satisfied with the upset because if they are, they could make it on this list again after their game against the Orange this weekend.
No. 3: South Carolina vs. Ole Miss
Jevan Snead came out of relative obscurity last year to an outstanding Heisman-like performance to overcome the power house of Texas Tech in not only convincing, but blowout fashion.
2009 was supposed to be the coming out party for the Rebels of Ole Miss. They came into a game against unranked South Carolina with images of the Coaches' Trophy dancing in their dreams.
Ranked fourth in the nation, all Snead, McCluster, and Nutt needed to do was leave South Carolina with a win and they would prove that last year was not a fluke.
From the opening kickoff, things started going wrong. Snead looked like a high school quarterback, the defense was getting torn apart by much-maligned quarterback Stephen Garcia, and the vaunted running game of Ole Miss was held in check for most of the game.
Even the mighty, speedy, Dexter McCluster couldn't put a shine on Ole Miss's lackluster performance.
At the end of the day, the No. 4 team in the nation was stunned in a loss that was much more lop-sided than the score (16-10) would indicate.
No. 2: Oregon vs. California
The Golden Bears of California were licking their lips on Saturday after USC had lost to Washington the week before. All they had to do was win and they would be the favorites to go to the Rose Bowl and take the glory away from the vaunted Trojans of USC.
The first quarter started good for the Bears. A low-scoring affair, 3-3, and Jahvid Best looked poised to break out into yet another 100-yard performance.
To say the second quarter was a disappointment would be a gross understatement for Golden Bear fans. Twenty-five unanswered points from the first quarter to half time left California fans with a wrench in the gut that could only be remedied by a comeback in the second half.
Needless to say, that didn't happen. The Ducks of Oregon, led by a revived Jeremiah Masoli and an inspired Duck defense, hung another 17 points on the Bears while keeping Heisman hopeful Best in check for only 55 yards.
The anemic offense Oregon had come out with against Boise State early in the year was replaced by an offense that looked hungry for a win.
With the win, nobody can say that Oregon is out of the race for the Pac-10.
The joke was made that Cal and Oregon switched uniforms for the game.
While that's obviously not the case, they may have switched positions in the pecking order of the Pac-10.
Yes, the 42-3 blowout was that revealing.
California, on the other hand, must get it figured out quickly as they host the Trojans on Saturday and must pray that the men of Troy don't watch the tape of the Oregon game to figure out how to stop Jahvid Best.
No. 1: Virginia Tech vs. Miami
All we heard about all week was Jacory Harris this, Jacory Harris that, and there is no way that a team that needed a miracle to beat Nebraska could beat the Hurricanes, who, after two games, were evidently "back" as a national power.
That thought flew out the window quickly as dank weather turned to miserable and the football gods smiled on Hokie nation.
Jacory looked more like a sophomore and less like a Heisman quarterback on Saturday, while the supposed porous run defense of the Hokies kept the 'Canes in check the entire game, allowing only 59 yards rushing and holding the great Jacory Harris to a completion percentage of 36.
Beamer ball was alive and well on Saturday in a downpour in Lane Stadium. Over 250 yards rushing, a blocked punt for a touchdown, key completions by Tyrod Taylor (including a 48-yard touchdown pass), and arguably the best defensive performance to date by the Hokies, gave them an overwhelming 31-7 victory.
The 'Canes aren't quite back yet, people, and it seems the Hokies aren't about to lay down and die, either.