Is anyone surprised that 4 ranked football teams – 3 of them very highly ranked – won their games by a combined total of 12 points this week? You should not be surprised that No. 1-ranked Oregon, 3rd-ranked TCU, 7th-ranked Stanford and 21st-ranked Nevada struggled mightily before finally prevailing.
The reason why is simple – these 4 ranked teams only have a combined 5 wins against other currently ranked teams. In other words, their combined won-loss record is 39-2 BUT they have not played a lot of competitive teams.
With the season winding down, they are now positioned against better competition and look a lot more vulnerable.
Take top-ranked Oregon. The Ducks were ranked 1st in the nation in scoring offense (54+ points per game) and total offense (567+ ypg) and 13th in scoring defense (17+ ppg) before they ran into California. The Bears who were not ranked in any top poll except Sagarin, which rated California – a 5-4 team that has played the 7th toughest schedule in the country – as the 24th best team.
Oregon eventually won this game 15-13 (a 2-point margin), but could just as easily have lost it as a 24-yard Bear field goal late in the game was called back on an illegal motion penalty by the kicker, who missed the 29-yard attempt on this second try. A successful kick would have given California a 16-15 lead they might have held.
The Ducks scored 58 offensive touchdowns in their first 9 nine games and managed 1 against California while registering their lowest point total in 10 years.
Can Oregon be beat? Despite the hype, of course the Ducks (10-0) can be beat, and still must face Arizona and Oregon State in the state's Civil War Game, a historically nasty game at best.
You could argue that Oregon was lucky to win, and a lot of fans, players and coaches would agree with you.
The 3rd-ranked TCU Horned Frogs were ranked 1st in scoring defense (8+ ppg) and total defense (215+ ypg), and 8th in scoring offense (41+ ppg) and total offense (492+ ypg) before they ran into the unranked San Diego State Aztecs.
TCU's impressive statistics were primarily because they had played weak teams all year. Even last week's 47-7 dismantling of then unbeaten 6th-ranked Utah looked far less impressive after Utah (now 8-2) was upset this week by a hapless 4-5 Notre Dame team, 28-3.
Is Utah any good? Are you kidding? The Utes unbeaten ride though the season was a fluke at best and a fraud at worst. Utah fell from 6th in the rankings to 15th last week to 25th this week. What's next, a Utah loss to San Diego State this coming week?
TCU had a two-touchdown deficit to San Diego State and could not get in control of the game until late in the 4th quarter, holding off an Aztec charge to escape with a 40-35 victory (a 5-point margin).
All of this talk about TCU being unstoppable and its defense being unstoppable is so much hogwash. TCU (11-0) has exactly one victory over a currently ranked team this year, and that was against the imposter Utah Utes. 'Nuff said.
The Horned Frogs final game is against a New Mexico team that is ranked 173rd among 120 Division 1-A schools. There are 58 AA teams ranked ahead of New Mexico that could probably beat the Lobos any day of the week and twice on Saturday. New Mexico should not even be playing in Division 1 this year.
All of this means the TCU Horned Frogs will end the season unbeaten at 12-0 and whining if they are not playing in the national championship game.
The 7th-ranked Stanford Cardinal (9-1) nearly lost a fistfight with unranked Arizona State before winning 17-13 (a 4-point margin). Only Stanford's defense and a long 4th-quarter scoring drive saved the Cardinal from losing. The Sun Devils (now 4-6) played tough, leading 13-10 before Stanford's scoring drive.
Stanford still must face California and Oregon State.
Nevada's 21st-ranked Wolf Pack has a lot of offense and little defense, and it showed against an unranked Fresno State team that darn near won. Fresno State scored 10 points to take a 34-28 lead before Vai Taua's 24-yard scamper put the Bulldogs away for good, 35-34 (a 1-point margin).
The Bulldogs piled up 444 yards of offense to Nevada's 416 yards, showing just how porous the Wolf Pack defense performs. When you give up 444 yards of offense and 34 points, you better have an even better offense.
The bottom line is the 4 unbeaten teams from last week are still unbeaten but now clearly can be beaten. Auburn and TCU are 11-0, Oregon is 10-0 and Boise State is 9-0.
Six ranked teams had slow starts before winning.
Baylor led 23rd-ranked Texas A&M 30-21 at the half but the Aggies won, 42-30, by holding the Bears scoreless in the 2nd half. North Carolina led 16th-ranked Virginia Tech 10-9 at the half but the Hokies rallied in the 2nd half with 17 points while holding the Tar Heels scoreless to win, 26-10. Kansas State gave 20th-ranked Missouri a game of it, but lost in the end, 38-28.
Bo Pelini's Nebraska Cornhuskers held Kansas to 87 yards total offense while winning, 20-3. The Jayhawks got exactly 5 first downs and were sacked 6 times. Texas held 12th-ranked Oklahoma State to a 3-all tie after the 1st quarter, but the Cowboys put up 23 points in the 2nd quarter, and went on to win 33-16.
Second-ranked Auburn scored first but then spotted Georgia 3 touchdowns before finally getting some separation in the last quarter to win, 49-31. All week long Auburn and its star quarterback Cam Newton had taken a beating in the press with allegations of wrongdoing, but Heisman-favorite Newton took it all in stride.
Newton was 12-for-15 passing for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. More important, he rushed 30 times for 151 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and scored on runs of 1 and 31 yards. Onterio McCalebb added 3 touchdowns on short runs. By winning against Georgia, Auburn becomes the SEC West Division Champion and will face East Division Champion South Carolina for the SEC championship, and a spot in a BCS bowl game.
Seven other ranked teams coasted to at least 20-point victories.
The really good wins included 4th-ranked Boise State on the road over Idaho 52-14, 5th-ranked LSU at home over Louisiana-Monroe 51-zip, 6th-ranked Wisconsin at home over Indiana 83-20, 8trh-ranked Ohio State at home over Penn State 38-14, 11th-ranked Alabama at home over 17th-ranked Mississippi State 30-10, 14th-ranked Arkansas over UTEP 58-21, and 19th-ranked Oklahoma over Texas Tech, 45-7.
Among the 7 romps, Wisconsin's was most impressive. The Badgers 83 points scored were their best offensive performance in 95 years, it was the most points by a major school this season, it matched the highest scoring total in the Big Ten Conference since Ohio State's 83-21 victory over Iowa in 1950, and it was the most points by Wisconsin since an 85-zip win over Marquette in 1915.
Wisconsin's Montee Bell ran for 3 touchdowns in his first career start, James White ran for 2 more, and Scott Tolzien threw for 3 touchdowns. The Badgers scored on all 12 of their possessions. Did Wisconsin run up the score? Besides Indiana, who cares?
Penn State won the 1st half against Ohio State, 14-3, but the Buckeyes won the 2nd half, 35-zip.
Five ranked teams were upset, costing virtually every one of them a more prominent bowl game invite in the weeks ahead. They included Iowa (now 7-3), Utah (8-2), Arizona (7-3), Florida (6-4) and Central Florida (7-3). All were upended by unranked teams except Florida.
Northwestern beat 13th-ranked Iowa 21-17, Notre Dame beat 15th-ranked Utah 28-3, Southern Cal beat 18th-ranked Arizona 24-21, 22nd-ranked South Carolina beat 24th-ranked Florida 36-14, and Southern Mississippi beat 25th-ranked Central Florida 31-21.
The best upset win was by South Carolina, as the Gamecocks (7-3 overall and 5-3 in the SEC) clinched the Eastern Division of the SEC, and snapped a 12-game losing streak to Florida.
Southern Cal's win put the Trojans back into the AP Poll at 20th place, and Miami's 35-10 win over Georgia Tech gave them the 24th spot. To make room for both of these returning Top 25 teams, Florida and Central Florida (UCF) were kicked out of the Poll.
By winning, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas A&M all climbed in the AP Poll, Southern California and Miami FL climbed back into the Poll, and by losing Iowa, Mississippi State, Arizona and Utah all lost significant ground.
No. 10 Michigan State and the unranked Washington Huskies were idle this week.
Four unranked teams became bowl eligible this week by winning – East Carolina, West Virginia, South Florida and Army.
Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley