By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
Heading into last weekend’s college football schedule, all eyes were on Fayetteville, Arkansas, for good reason as the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide traveled there to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks and its Heisman candidate quarterback, Ryan Mallet.
The game didn’t disappoint as the Tide passed its first true test in defense of its national championship, winning 24-20, after rallying in the second half from a 13-point deficit.
In addition to Alabama, the rest of the top-10 went accordingly with the exception of Texas, which laid an egg at home and was physically beaten to a pulp by a UCLA team that managed to only pass for 27 yards. Perhaps Texas was plagued by the dreaded “looking ahead” disease, whereby a better team overlooks an inferior opponent it must face, towards an equal or better foe it faces the next week.
If that’s the case, then Texas’ next opponent, Oklahoma, may be afflicted with the same ailment as it barely got by at Cincinnati, 31-29. The Oregon Ducks may have also been looking ahead to this week’s game against Stanford, because it needed seven Arizona State turnovers to win a wild game 42-31 at Tempe.
The rest of the top-25 featured several teams who remained undefeated such as Auburn, Nevada, Arizona and North Carolina State, who seem to be lurking in the shadows for an opportunity to knock off more highly ranked opponents.
It was also a great weekend for nearly all of the Heisman hopefuls.
National championship sleeper Auburn broke into this week’s Associated Press top-10 after defeating then No. 12 South Carolina, 35-27. In the impressive home victory, Auburn rallied late behind the play of dual-threat quarterback Cameron Newton who threw both of his touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. Newton finished with 158 yards passing and 25 rushes for 176 yards with three touchdowns.
Stanford’s 37-14 win at Notre Dame was an impressive all-around performance which garnered national recognition for the Cardinal. The final score isn’t even indicative of just how thoroughly Stanford dominated the Fighting Irish as Notre Dame added two late meaningless scores after trailing 37-6 in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal jumped from No. 16 to being ranked ninth this week.
The most impressive individual performance of the weekend was turned in by Florida freshman Trey Burton, who scored six touchdowns. Listed as a quarterback on the Gators’ roster, Burton lined up at multiple positions and scored on five runs and caught a touchdown.
Despite being the defending Heisman winner, Alabama tailback Mark Ingram has been an afterthought early on due to injuries, but he took center-stage in the Tide’s win at Arkansas. After Alabama fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter, Ingram ripped off a 54-yarder for a score and finished with 24 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
In the same game, Mallett’s Heisman chances took a beating after his team blew a 13-point lead, in part due to his three interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter. Mallett finished 25-for-38 for 357 yards with one touchdown.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck had a pedestrian-like 238 yards passing, with one touchdown and two interceptions. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore led his team to a 37-24 victory at home against Oregon State. He went 19 for 27 for 288 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for the No. 3 ranked Broncos.
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, put up huge numbers in a 73-20 rout of Eastern Michigan. Pryor went 20 for 26 for 224 yards with four touchdowns and he ran seven times for 104 yards with a touchdown.
Michigan super-sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson was limited after being injured on a sideline hit after a 47-yard run early in a 65-21 Wolverine win against Bowling Green. Michigan went on to roll up 721 yards of offense, but the tone was clearly set by Robinson.
He went 4-for-4 passing for 60 yards and rushed five times for 129 yards with two touchdowns.
Oregon running back LaMichael James had 28 carries for 114 yards with a touchdown in the Ducks’ win at Arizona State.
Big games this week
When seventh-ranked Florida visits Bryant-Denny Stadium in Alabama this weekend and plays the Crimson Tide, the collective eyes of the college football world will be watching the game that has recently decided the eventual national champion. The Gators and Tide have won three of the past four national titles and may play again later this year at the Georgia Dome to compete for the SEC championship.
This game looks better than it did a few weeks back when Florida was struggling to adapt in the post Tim Tebow era. However, quarterback John Brantley put on an impressive display against Kentucky last week.
Florida tailback Jeff Demps’ injury doesn’t appear serious enough to sideline him for the game, which may be crucial as Alabama’s young secondary will surely put pressure on Brantley in the passing game. Tide sophomore cornerbacks Robert Lester and Dre Kirkpatrick may be the best duo in the nation.
In another game featuring two top-ranked teams, Stanford at No. 4 Oregon will put the winner in the driver’s seat as the favorite to win the Pac-10. A contrast in styles of play will be played out as Oregon’s finesse collides with the gritty smash-mouth Cardinal.
The Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma obviously lost some of its luster last week when Texas got thumped by the Bruins at home. The Longhorns tumbled from No. 7 to 21 in the AP, and the Sooners have struggled to beat mediocre teams such as Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati.
Other games to watch are No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 24 Michigan State; No. 22 Penn State at No. 17 Iowa; Texas A&M at Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech at No. 23 N.C. State.