Saturday in Review 10/23/10

Back when I started following college football, I realized that most weeks in the sport only featured 1 or 2 upsets of any size. But there was always one week wherein nothing went according to plan and several top 25 teams lost, and those weeks were always the most fun to watch. Fortunately, for those of us who love chaos in the BCS, thanks to the growing parity in college football, now there’s 3 or 4 weeks wherein nothing goes according to plan. Need proof? Look no further than this week, which provided 7 ranked teams losing (3 to unranked opponents), and 3 more suffering scares at the hands of inferior competition. This will be a fun one to write! (SIDE NOTE: We’re switching to BCS Rankings for the Saturdays in Review from here to the end of the season. Adjust your “This guy’s a pompous moron” settings accordingly.)

#1 Oklahoma-27, #11 Missouri-36

Here we have another game that was similar to last week’s loss by Ohio State. Namely, we have a #1 team that looked rather hopelessly lost for most of the game, while a plucky upstart school from the same conference shows up in force to bring down Goliath. In this case, the Colossus with feet of clay was the Oklahoma Sooners, who put together one good drive in the first quarter, one good drive in the second quarter, and one good drive in the 3rd quarter. Now, if Oklahoma had a world beating defense, then 21 points on decent drives plus six more at the very end would be enough. Unfortunately, this is the same Oklahoma defense that allowed 24 points to Utah State to start the year. Yes, Utah State is better than they’ve normally been, but that still doesn’t excuse Oklahoma’s rather porous defense. The Sooners were lucky to have escaped from the Red River Shootout with a win, and they didn’t get lucky again. Oklahoma, however, benefits from being in a pretty bad division. How bad? Well, Baylor is currently leading the Big 12 South. Let that sink in for a bit.

Let’s not belittle Missouri, however. The Tigers played an excellent game, and they actually look like competitors for the national title. Mind you, they did back in 2008, too, and we all remember how that turned out. Mizzou and Utah are the quietest of the undefeated squads left, since the remaining undefeateds are (in current BCS order): a traditional SEC power school, an upstart Pac-10 team that scores about 100 points per game, the most famous BCS buster ever, the 2nd most famous BCS buster ever, and a team known primarily for scoring on fake special teams plays and giving its coach a heart attack. Then comes Missouri, then Alabama, then Utah. Missouri can’t let up, however, with a game against Nebraska coming up, which has actually become the de facto Big 12 North Championship game, barring something bizarre happening.

#6 LSU-17, #4 Auburn-24

Les Miles finally ran out of black magic in his hat, and LSU finally lost because of it. And it was still close. At least I don’t have to use the kitten gag again. Allow me to emphasize once more that LSU is the single luckiest team on the face of the planet, with Auburn possibly coming a close second. Dang it, it’s hard to write about a game that was neither a runaway nor particularly interesting. LSU was finally taken down, though they survived most of the land mines in their schedule. What does that mean for those of us who love college football? Well, the way this season’s going, we can realistically expect to see LSU in a bowl game. We could also realistically expect to see them wind up in some obscure bowl game after they drop to Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas, and beat UL-Lafayette on a last-second field goal block.

In a related story, who the frick do I cheer for in November 6th’s Alabama/LSU game? Seriously, that’s a major issue: On the one hand, I hate Nick Saban. On the other hand, I also hate watching teams pull wins out of their butt. Thanks to silly rules, they can’t tie, so please write in the comments section whom you feel I should cheer for. Also, Auburn looks to have a pretty clear path to the Alabama game, considering they play Ole Miss (losing record), Chattanooga (1-AA team), and Georgia (mediocre) before the Iron Bowl. But, then again, I’ve been wrong before…

Air Force-7, #5 TCU-38

Well, this was supposed to be a test for the Horned Frogs. To put it succinctly, it was not. Air Force, like so many schools TCU has played this season, stuck relatively close to the Horned Frogs for a quarter, then got snowed under as TCU yanked away for the remainder of the game. I’m legitimately curious to see the TCU/Utah game in 2 weeks. However, this coming week TCU will be playing UNLV. No, it’s not a trap game, and TCU’s second team could probably beat the Rebels. So…look for a short review for TCU next week.

#7 Michigan State-35, Northwestern-27

Michigan State narrowly escaped becoming last year’s Iowa team by getting out of Northwestern with a win. It seems that the mark of an upstart team is jumping out to a big lead and failing to hold it. NC State pulled the stunt a few weeks ago with Virginia Tech, and Northwestern pulled it this week. The Wildcats aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be, but they’re still not anywhere in the neighborhood of great. Michigan State stands alone as the lone undefeated in the Big 10, and that may not stick around when they play Iowa this week…

#8 Alabama-41, Tennessee-10

Thanks to the twisted logic of college football, a loss in October means less than a loss in November or December. Look at it this way: Alabama is hovering as the top ranked one loss team. Now, even if South Carolina drops the remainder of their games to make Alabama’s loss look as bad as possible, and Oregon, Michigan State, Missouri, and Auburn all drop a game, Alabama will still get taken over either Boise State or TCU or Utah. And when this invariably happens, I shall rend my garments and wail loudly.

Tennessee, meanwhile, is in a massive mess (duh). They’re recovering from firing Phil Fulmer and having frat boy Lane Kiffin bail on them. Hopefully the Nazi references (no, that is not a joke, as much as I wish it was) will be the low point for the Volunteers. But methinks there’s some troubled times ahead in Knoxville…

Colorado State-6, #9 Utah-59

Utah is a boring state, and teams like Colorado State are the reason that Utah and TCU get no respect. Yes, the top end of the Mountain West is very strong, stronger than the ACC or Big East’s top teams. But the bottom end of the MWC is extremely bad, and until they shape up, teams like TCU aren’t going to get the respect they deserve based solely on their conference schedule. It’s not necessarily right (see also: whoever wins the Big East goes to a BCS bowl, despite the fact that the best possible record a team from the Big Least can have is 10-2) but that’s the way it is.

Purdue-0, #10 Ohio State-49

You know, Purdue was 2-0 in the Big 10 coming into this matchup. Mind you, that was against Northwestern (not great just yet) and Minnesota (outright bad), and the Horseshoe is a tough place to win as the road team. I guess that’s why Ohio State plays eight (!) home games this season. Explain to me how that’s fair! I know teams are entitled to have home field advantage, but no team should have more than 7 home games per season. There really needs to be a rule against this sort of thing, otherwise teams will try and pull it off year after year.

The Big 10 has blessedly become muddled, with Michigan State emerging at the front. Ohio State might be the best team in the conference, but we’re forced to accept that as theory, thanks to the Big 10’s lack of a title game. In conclusion, there’s no good way to evaluate the Big 10 right now, and thanks to their pathetic nonconference schedule we won’t really know anything until bowl season. Yes, I know I harp on that a lot. Get over it, and if you’re a Big 10 team, try playing some real nonconference opponents and I’ll stop complaining.

Washington State-28, #12 Stanford-38

Stanford is decent, and they’re probably the best football team in the state of California right now. Wazzu still sucks. It’s a long, long way from the days of Ryan Leaf. Then again, that’s not entirely bad.

#13 Wisconsin-31, #15 Iowa-30

Oy, I meant to post this on Tuesday, so I’ll try and cycle through these last ones quickly. Iowa nearly made Wisconsin join South Carolina as a team that beat #1 then crapped out on the road. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, this year’s Iowa team isn’t that much different from last year’s, it’s just that this year Iowa isn’t catching every single lucky break that they possibly can. So Iowa will wind up finishing in the upper-middle of the Big 10, while Wisconsin looks like a solid pick for 2nd or 3rd, especially since they went on the road and won in Iowa City. Uhhhh…that’s all I got.

#16 Nebraska-51, #14 Oklahoma State-41

Thank you, Nebraska. Thank you for saving college football at large from having to hear about the wonders of the Oklahoma State. The Cowboys very nearly pulled the wool over our eyes AGAIN, but fortunately Nebraska allowed us all to realize, “Hey, Oklahoma State’s best win is when they beat Texas Tech in Lubbock. And that’s not good!”

As for Nebraska, what the heck happened to that vaunted Blackshirt defense? Seriously, you gave up 41 points! If you still had last year’s offense, you would have lost! Just something to consider going into this week, when you have to play Missouri: a rival team with a meaningful win under its belt. Good luck.

Washington-14, #18 Arizona-44

Jake Locker continues his Heisman campaign with an amazing 183 yard performance and one touchdown. It must be wondered aloud how the Downtown Athletic Club could possibly consider such unmentionables as Cam Newton, LaMichael James, and Kellen Moore, when Jake Locker is able to bless football fields with the gifts of his presence. Consider this: Jake Locker is on pace to win as many conference championships AND national championships as the Matt Ryan! That fact alone should really make silly things like statistics and win/loss records fly out the window!

Arizona, meanwhile continues to look like the 2nd best team in the Pac-10. Yes, the Oregon State loss was bad, but Arizona’s actually looked pretty good in their other games. I guess we’ll see how good Arizona is soon; they have a road trip to UCLA, followed by a road trip to Stanford, a game against ineligible USC, a road trip to Oregon, and a home game against Arizona State. Tough times, we’ll see if the Wildcats can handle it.

Iowa State-28, #19 Texas-21

Texas really boggles the mind. They looked mediocre for their early games before they got pantsed by UCLA. Then they got beaten by Oklahoma in a thriller and pulled off the upset against Nebraska. Then they lost at home to friggin’ Iowa State. Iowa State?! Texas has lost 3 of its last 4 games, and their lone victory in that streak is really starting to look like a major outlier. (Look it up.)  It seems that any time Mack Brown loses a high-brow quarterback, the next season his team suffers. See the difference between 2005 (Vince Young) and 2006 (Colt McCoy’s first season). So…let’s look forward to seeing Texas come back sometime in 2011. This year, look for them to make a low-tier bowl, thanks to games remaining against Baylor (whom they’ll upset out of spite), Kansas State (same as Baylor), and Florida Atlantic. They might lose the other two, but at this point no one outside of Austin really cares.

Syracuse-19, #20 West Virginia-14

Oh, Big East. Thank you so much. Thank you for providing the media with a more convenient punching bag than my own personal conference of preference, the ACC. The ACC is not good at football, but you, Big East, you are simply bad. There’s something to be said for parity in conferences, but the Big East has a mediocre nonconference record to go with its muddled picture. Pitt, the same Pitt that’s 4-3, got smoked by Miami, and lost to Notre Dame, is leading the conference with a 2-0 record. There’s a very real chance that the Big East could send a team to a BCS bowl and only have 3 others be bowl eligible. ESPN’s Big East blogger released a post on that very scenario today (Wednesday). Read that post, if for no other reason than the comments. It never ceases to amaze me how die hard fans can choose to believe their teams are better than they really are, to the point of altering the fabric of reality. Let’s roll on.

#21 South Carolina-21, Vanderbilt-7

South Carolina got back on the right track against a very bad team. It was a conference game, so I can’t rip them. Nothing to see here, move along.

#22 Kansas State-42, Baylor-47

Defense optional football. Confusing situations regarding who the actual best team in the conference is. The Big 12 has both of those problems, and it’s probably just poetic justice. See, this right here is what should happen to teams that schedule mostly pathetic nonconference opponents.

Honestly, I hope Baylor does win the Big 12 South. It’ll take a series of miracles: win at Texas (minor miracle), win at Oklahoma State (major miracle), beat Oklahoma in the season closer (Hand of God Himself). Alternately, they can hope for several losses for their other opponents in the Big 12 South. Either way, Baylor is bowl-eligible and ranked, which might actually be a sign of the apocalypse in and of itself.

Mississippi-24, #23 Arkansas-38

Arkansas has no defense. Mississippi has no team. Moving on.

UAB-24, #24 Mississippi State-29

UAB is probably better than we all thought they were. Yeah, they’re 2-5, but they’ve taken Tennessee to double OT, and only narrowly lost to Mississippi State. Maybe they should move to the SEC. They’ve hung in about as many SEC games as Vandy thus far…

Duke-7, #25 Virginia Tech-44

Well, feels good to type the Hokies’ name up there again, but it’s really hard to read anything into Duke games. The most important part for those of us who wear maroon and orange is that this means Frank Beamer’s bowl streak is intact. Mind you, if Tech goes into the postseason with 6 wins they’ll go to, like, the Music City Bowl. Or one of the many bowl slots that the Big East won’t fill. Duke, at least, is still bad. Some habits apparently die hard. And now…

Tales from the Bottom 95

Cincinnati is below .500 over halfway through the season, yet they can still mathematically make a 3rd straight BCS bowl by winning their conference…Penn State beat Minnesota, after which the Gophers’ coach was fired…Temple is bowl eligible for the second straight season. Good job Owls!…Hats off to Washington State and Minnesota, the only 2 teams in AQ conferences who are bowl ineligible as of this week…Louisville looks like they might make a very big splash in the puddle that is the Big East, which is impressive due to their sucking the last 3 seasons or so…Clemson hammered Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are a shadow of the team that pretty much dominated the ACC last season. Now that I’ve typed that, they’ll go into Blacksburg and beat Virginia Tech by 40…Georgia has recovered from its bad start to get back to .500. Nice job by the Dawgs…Miami scored 30 unanswered points to beat Carolina 33-10. Tell me the Tar Heels don’t miss their defensive players…Hawaii had to go to Utah State. Poor Warriors. Leaving Hawaii in October to go to Utah? That seems unfair. Might explain why they beat the Aggies 45-7…Lastly, Western Carolina lost the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug to archrival Appalachian State this weekend. That’s unsurprising, honestly…

That’s all for this week. Hope to see you next time!

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