Top ranked teams survive, Cam controversy continues, UCLA fighting to stay in bowl contention.
By Michael Brown
Sentinel Sports Writer
A late missed chip-shot field goal, a punt return for a touchdown and stout defense, were some of the ingredients that helped No. 1 Oregon edge past a pesky California team, 15-13, keeping alive its title hopes.
Oregon’s game against California wasn’t just a win, but a clear case of surviving a fired up, motivated opponent not expected to compete. Although Oregon may have been caught reading its press clippings, someone forgot to tell the Golden Bears as they nearly pulled the upset.
The Ducks weren’t the only top-10 team to look lackluster in a win.
Second-ranked Auburn spotted a mediocre Georgia squad a 21-7 lead before rallying back and winning, 49-31.
Third-ranked TCU trailed San Diego State at home by 14 points early, took the lead, and then staved off a late Aztecs rally to hold on for a 40-35 victory.
It was a bittersweet weekend for the Horned Frogs however, as Boise State moved ahead of it in the AP poll. Boise State romped over Idaho, and two of TCU’s quality opponents, Oregon State and Utah, suffered terrible losses, subtracting points from the Frogs’ BCS score.
Stanford, ranked sixth, needed quarterback Andrew Luck to lead a late-game drive to defeat Arizona State, 17-13.
Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Auburn’s Cam Newton heated up as more allegations were thrown around about his father allegedly soliciting payment for his services. And while this past Saturday lacked a number of quality match ups, next weekend features a full slate of crucial games with conference and national implications.
With three one-loss teams, the Big Ten may not be the nation’s best league overall, but at the top; it’s arguably second to none.
No. 9 Ohio State (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) which trailed 14-3 at halftime against Penn State, scored 35 unanswered points for a 38-14 victory. No. 7 Wisconsin (9-1 and 5-1) wasted no time in demolishing Indiana, 83-20. Michigan State, 9-1 and 5-1, was idle and host Purdue Saturday.
The Big Ten is likely to have two of its teams play in BCS games, and qualify eight of its 11 teams for postseason.
Alabama can still play the spoiler by defeating Auburn in two weeks, but first, the Crimson Tide dismantled a good Mississippi State team, 30-10. The Tide’s victory against the Bulldogs was keyed by a trifecta of consecutive big plays.
Ahead 6-3, the Crimson Tide hit its first big play when quarterback Greg McElroy connected with wideout Marquis Maze for a 45-yard touchdown, and then after Alabama’s defense forced the Bulldogs to punt away, McElroy hooked up with tailback Mark Ingram for a 78-yard score.
After halftime, Alabama wasn’t finished. Wide receiver Julio Jones took a handoff to the end zone for a 56-yard run, capping the explosive scoring surge.
South Carolina’s 36-14 win at Florida was also impressive, helping it wrap up the SEC East Division title. Freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore led the Gamecocks by gaining 212 yards on 40 carries with three touchdowns.
No. 18 ranked Nevada won a 35-34 shootout on the road against Fresno State, and No. 16 Virginia Tech won at North Carolina, 26-10, moving it one step closer to qualifying for the ACC championship game.
Cam controversy continues
Quarterback Cam Newton looked like any other college athlete after Auburn’s victory against Georgia when he was photographed slapping hands and celebrating with students, but he isn’t.
After compiling 151 yards rushing on 30 carries and two touchdowns, Newton, the Heisman front-runner, continues to be followed by allegations that his father, Cecil, solicited Mississippi State for payment in exchange for a national letter of intent.
Among the latest reports, Cecil allegedly appeared on an Atlanta radio station and admitted to soliciting money, but that hasn’t been confirmed by any media outlets.
However, one thing is clear: Auburn is clearly all-in, whether Cam is guilty or innocent. It’s so obvious after Mississippi State released a statement confirming that it filed a report with the SEC after being solicited (which is a NCAA violation), and yet, Auburn continues to play the quarterback.
We’re all presumed innocent until proven guilty, but as the days pass, the allegations are becoming more concrete while Auburn and Cam are becoming more mum.
Tigers head coach Gene Chizik, when the allegations were first made, was adamant in denying their merits. But after the Georgia win, he changed his tune and offered no comments. The school also didn’t make Cam available for comments afterward.
Sometimes it’s true: silence is deafening.
Auburn has made the calculated gamble to play Cam regardless of future penalties. Swirling controversy be damned, the Tigers administration would happily trade-in a few years worth of sanctions for a spot in a multi-million dollar game and shot at a title.
It’s college football’s dirty little secret, where college presidents and athletic directors talk about the virtues of student-athletes on one-hand, but realize that their job security is only as secure as how much revenue they can generate for these athletic programs.
If Cam wins the Heisman and it’s revoked in a few years due to the NCAA’s investigation, big deal. Cam will be in the NFL ala Reggie Bush, probably earning millions. If Auburn’s forced to put an asterisk on its 2010 BCS title, no worries. Everyone will know who won that year’s title despite what the “official” records state.
Every time I cover a USC football game, Bush’s legacy may have been wiped away from the school’s media and Coliseum facade, but the fans still talk about him in glowing terms and wear T-shirts celebrating the Trojans’ back-to-back titles despite the sanctions.
Money will always trump everything else in major collegiate athletics. Spare me the outrage when the athletes and their parents try to get in on the action.
Big games this week
With the national title race down to four teams for all intents and purposes, conference title games and the remaining BCS spots are the goal for the rest of the nation’s teams.
Virginia Tech can help its cause when it travels to No. 24 Miami. Eight-ranked Nebraska will attempt to avoid the upset bug when it visits a resurgent and 19th ranked Texas A&M ball club.
The Big Ten’s standout games of the week are Wisconsin at Michigan, and Ohio State at No. 20 Iowa.
UCLA still has a chance at qualifying for a bowl game, but first, it must win at Washington on Thursday night. Arizona, ranked 22nd, faces top-ranked Oregon on the road; while Stanford faces its rival, California.
No. 13 Arkansas at No. 21 Mississippi State is also a game to watch.