Ten thoughts on this weekend's action, ripe with blowouts on national TV.
1. TCU Thumps Utah, Best Win by a Non-AQ to Date
I honestly thought that Utah would come out and give TCU a game Saturday afternoon. It had been over two years since a team came to Salt Lake City and walked away with a win. The Utes were a top five team that seemed to have proven themselves while climbing the rankings all year. TCU proved that it is on a completely different level than Utah (and even Boise) by rolling Utah 47-7.
Remember that it was a blowout win, on the road, against a top five team. There are no wins on Boise State’s schedule that can even come close to this. TCU already had a lead in the computers; this win will only increase their lead over the Broncos. Now that Alabama has lost a second game, I will be interested in seeing if a one-loss Big XII, Big Ten, Pac-10, or SEC team will jump ahead of an undefeated TCU should Auburn or Oregon fall.
2. There Will be a New National Champion
Les Miles and the LSU Tigers ended Alabama’s hopes of a national championship Saturday in one of the few big games of this weekend that didn’t end in a blowout. As has become expected over the last few years (and weeks for that matter), LSU’s hopes relied on a stingy defense and some miracle payoffs on big Les Miles gambles. The LSU win in Death Valley was an oddity in this series that has been dominated by the visiting team in recent years.
Heading in to this weekend’s action, the general consensus was that if Alabama were to win out, they would have an SOS good enough to push them past TCU and Boise State. It will be interesting to see which team becomes the new favorite of the anti-Boise/TCU crowd now that its favorite has fallen.
3. Stanford Runs it up on Arizona
If there were any doubt as to the Pac-10’s second-best team, Stanford put that debate to bed with its win Saturday on national TV. Andrew Luck padded his Heisman resume with nearly 300 yards through the air and two TDs. Stanford's RB by committee put up over 200 yards rushing for the Cardinal offense. Stanford’s big win raises the question: can anyone out west play defense?
Mike Stoops is considered by many to be one of the best up and coming defensive minds in the college game, and Arizona was believed to be the Pac-10’s premiere defense. It was the Arizona defense that led me to believe that they had the best chance of knocking off Oregon. After giving up 42 points and 500 yards of offense against Stanford, I’m beginning to balk at that statement. If the Arizona defense won’t be good enough to stop the Ducks, will any defense?
4. Joe Paterno wins 400th Game, an Accomplishment that May Never be Repeated
With Penn State’s 35-21 win over Northwestern in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno became the first head coach in major college football to pick up 400 career victories. He trails only John Gagliardi (St. John’s Minnesota, DIII) and Eddie Robinson (Grambling State, DI-AA) in total victories. Fittingly, PSU’s comeback from 21 down matches the best comeback in JoePa’s distinguished coaching career. Given the current state of college football and its coaching carousel, I highly doubt anyone else will ever come close to 400.
5. Iowa and Wisconsin Get Wake-Up Calls in Indiana
Big Ten leaders Iowa and Wisconsin both had more trouble than expected while visiting the Hoosier State. Wisconsin was manhandled in the first half by the Purdue Boilermakers and went to the locker room lucky to only be trailing 10-6. Had it not been for several Purdue mistakes and a few questionable calls, the lead could have been much larger. The Badgers woke up in the second half with Sophomore Montee Ball leading the team on four touchdown drives.
The Iowa Hawkeyes suffered an even bigger scare in Bloomington. They went to the half tied at six and spent most of the second half playing catch-up with the Hoosiers. IU held the lead until late in the 4th-quarter when Ricky Stanzi hit Marvin McNutt on a long pass play to grab the lead. A dropped fourth down pass in the end zone sealed Indiana’s fate. Iowa will have to remain focused as it travels to Northwestern next weekend. In last season’s game, the Hawkeyes were caught looking forward to their game against Ohio State.
6. Big Win, A&M’s Upset Leaves Oklahoma State in Driver’s Seat
We entered this weekend with three teams in contention for the Big XII South. After today’s action, the Oklahoma State Cowboys control their own destiny. Brandon Weedon (QB), Kendall Hunter (RB), and Justin Blackmon (WR) looked like the Dallas Cowboy’s triplets in the Poke’s 55-28 wood shedding of Baylor. With games left against TAMU and Oklahoma, it appears that Baylor’s miracle run may be nearing its end. There is hope for the future though, as Robert Griffin is only a Sophomore.
Meanwhile, in College Station the Oklahoma Sooners found themselves upset by the Texas A&M Aggies. For the second time this season, Oklahoma was outplayed in every aspect of the game. With the win, the Aggies have entered themselves in the conversation for the Big XII South title. Win out, and with a Sooner victory in Stillwater, the Aggies will end the season in a three-way tie atop their division.
7. Nebraska has Stranglehold on Big XII North
The Iowa State Cyclones gave Nebraska all it could handle Saturday afternoon in Ames. It took a failed fake-PAT in overtime to finally put the Cyclones away. Nebraska’s offense played quite well in the absence off all-world freshman QB Taylor Martinez. The Huskers will have to lose twice to miss the Big XII Championship Game. It appears they will have no trouble locking up their division, and should be the favorites in Dallas.
Later that night in Lubbock, Texas Tech helped Nebraska extend their divisional lead with a home win over Missouri. Mizzou is now a game back and loses the head to head tiebreaker with Nebraska. More importantly, Tommy Tuberville has a season-defining win for the first year of his tenure in Lubbock. The homecoming win against a top-12 team should buy the River Boat Gambler some time to install his system, which is a complete departure from what Red Raider fans are used to under Mike Leach.
8. Does Anybody want to Win the ACC Atlantic?
Saturday began with three one-loss teams sitting at the top of the ACC Atlantic Division (NC State, Maryland, and Florida State). The Wolfpack had the inside track given their win over Florida State last Thursday. When they went down in the final minutes at Clemson, Maryland and FSU were left with a great chance to grab the brass ring. Both failed…miserably.
The Terps had a 17-15 halftime lead at Miami and held a 20-18 advantage with three minutes remaining. However, true freshman QB Stephen Morris led an 82-yard drive in the final minutes to give the ‘Canes a season saving victory. Meanwhile, upstate in Tallahassee, Florida State fell to North Carolina 37-35 on a last second missed field goal (wide right)…welcome to FSU Jimbo Fisher, you should probably get used to this.
9. Arkansas Pounds South Carolina
Every week I swear that I’m not going to rag on the SEC East, but every week I’m given a new reason to do so. The Arkansas Razorbacks marched in to Columbia and laid a 41-20 beatdown on Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks. After the embarrassing home loss, USC needs to recover for the division “championship game” next weekend in Gainesville. Neither team deserves to be ranked, nor do they deserve to play for the SEC title in Atlanta, but those are the rules. The winner of the game will likely play Auburn regardless of the result in the Iron Bowl. Considering how crazy this year has been, the east champ will likely win in Atlanta and cost Auburn a chance at the National Championship.
10. Will Texas get Bowl Eligible?
At the beginning of the season, one thing seemed pretty clear: the Texas/Oklahoma winner would likely represent the South in the Big XII Championship Game. Now, we find ourselves with Oklahoma State in the driver’s seat in the division and the Longhorns needing to win two of three to get bowl eligible. The Horns have lost home games to UCLA, Iowa State, and Baylor already. Three home games remain against Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic, and Texas A&M. A loss next Saturday doesn’t end their hopes, but it leaves them with an even tougher uphill climb in the Lone Star Showdown. Given UT’s play (especially on defense), I wonder if Will Muschamp’s coach-in-waiting designation may be in jeopardy.
Top Ten (Last Week)
1. Oregon (1)
2. Auburn (2)
3. TCU (4)
4. Boise State (3)
5. Wisconsin (8)
6. Stanford (9)
7. Nebraska (8)
8. Ohio State (10)
9. LSU (N/R)
10. Oklahoma State (N/R)
The Next Five: Alabama, Utah, Iowa, Michigan State, Arkansas