By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
Life for the nation’s top-10 ranked teams was relatively easy last weekend. Everything went accordingly on the field and the biggest surprise occurred off it when the Associated Press voters decided No. 4 Oregon was worthy of jumping Boise State for the No. 3 spot after both won.
It’s hard to argue with the AP after watching Oregon not only come-from-behind, but eventually crush Stanford.
The flip-flop in the rankings is sure to become a sore point for Boise State fans. All the Broncos did was take the field and rout New Mexico State, 59-0. But, Boise State’s drop in the rankings just reaffirms college football’s two-tier system when it comes to BCS conferences and non-affiliated leagues.
The Broncos can beat every opponent 100-0 for the remainder of the season, but unless teams from bigger conferences lose in front of it, it has no shot at playing for the national title. Boise State’s non-conference strength of schedule to go along with playing in the WAC, will likely kill its hopes.
Aside from the top-10, there were few surprises even in the case of mild upsets suffered at the hands of USC and Wisconsin, who both lost to underdogs.
Individual standout performances included many of the usual suspects.
In a game that was billed as a clash between two titans, No. 1 ranked Alabama did away with the seventh-ranked Florida Gators, 31-6, in front of more than 100,000 people at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, ending any doubts about who’s the king of the SEC.
The utter domination displayed by the Crimson Tide won’t be found in the game’s box score because its offensive numbers weren’t gaudy. But, as I watched Alabama race out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, the Tide’s physical play and not its numbers told me all I needed to know.
If Alabama coach Nick Saban wanted to, I’m sure that he could have ran-up the score in the second half. It was also the first time since 2005 that Florida failed to score a touchdown in a game.
While Florida lost stars such as quarterback Tim Tebow and much of its defense to the NFL Draft last year, the Tide lost just as much. However, Alabama reloaded and looks primed and ready to run the table, barring injuries.
The Tide weren’t the only team to look impressive. In a Pac-10 showdown, Stanford got its hat handed to it by the Oregon Ducks, 52-31, after the Cardinal went up 21-3 in the first quarter.
The 18-point deficit for the Ducks proved to be just a stumbling block as it began to assert itself on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Darron Thomas led the attack by passing for 238 yards and three touchdowns, and running for 117 yards and a score.
The Cardinal led at the half, but Oregon ran away with it by forcing turnovers and isolating Stanford defenders, allowing the Ducks’ athletes to operate in space.
Tailback LaMichael James was one of those athletes. He bolstered his Heisman candidacy by finishing with 31 carries for 257 yards and three touchdowns, including a spectacular fourth quarter 76-yard sprint to the end zone.
Oregon compiled 626 yards in total offense, leads the nation in scoring with 57 points per game and has the nation’s second leading rushing average with 331 yards per game.
Another standout performance was by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in a 42-35 win at Indiana. When Robinson’s career is done at Michigan, he may rewrite the record books as he continues to make college football look like a videogame.
Robinson finished 10 of 16 for 277 yards passing with three touchdowns and ran 19 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
Robinson became the first player in FBS history to pass for 200 and run for 200 yards twice in their career in the regular season. Recent players such as West Virginia’s Pat White; Texas’ Vince Young and Missouri’s Brad Smith accomplished the feat once during their careers.
How the mighty have fallen
Several traditional powers across the nation have landed on hard times and are struggling to not only compete every weekend, but may be on the brink of not making postseason bowl games.
No. 18 USC doesn’t have anything to worry about regarding postseason play. The NCAA barred the Trojans from participating in bowl games for two years, but winning the regular season Pac-10 title was still a possibility.
The Washington Huskies knocked the Trojans out of the top-25 after winning 32-31 on a last second field goal.
Texas, ranked 21st, fell out of the polls after losing to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry, 28-20.
Following Texas’ embarrassing 34-12 home loss to UCLA the week prior, it was the Longhorns’ first time since 2007 that it has suffered back-to-back losses. Texas’ run of being ranked in the AP Poll for 162 active weeks is over. Its streak in the Poll was the longest in the nation.
No. 24 ranked Penn State, for the second time this season, failed to score a touchdown in a 24-3loss at Iowa.
Penn State’s legendary coach Joe Paterno is enduring the growing pains of breaking in a true freshman as starting quarterback. With games remaining against Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State, the Nittany Lions aren’t a shoo-in to qualify for a bowl game.
Big games this week
This isn’t the greatest weekend for college football fans looking for a high quantity of games that are marquee match ups. But, the quality of a few games could provide some surprises.
First up, Alabama will visit No. 19 South Carolina Saturday to play the Gamecocks. Despite being heavily favored, the Tide could be tested by Coach Steve Spurriers’ team that is led by improved quarterback Steven Garcia.
South Carolina has benefited from a soft schedule so far and lost two weeks ago to its only tough opponent, Auburn. The key may be the play of Gamecocks wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tailback Marcus Lattimore.
In the Big Ten, No. 18 Michigan State at No. 19 Michigan could be the offensive shootout of the weekend. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins is sure to take advantage of the Wolverine’s worst ranked defense in the nation.
In response, Robinson and the Michigan offense will test Michigan State’s 20th ranked run defense.
The Spartans will have added incentive to win as its head coach, Mark Dantonio, has vowed that he will attend the game and coach the team from the press box after suffering a mild heart attack Sept. 19 and subsequent blood clot in his leg. Dantonio missed the past two weeks.
In a throwback game that was the biggest rivalry in football during the late ‘80s and 1990s, the 23rd ranked Florida State Seminoles will visit No. 13 Miami (FL.).