I know that it is Sunday morning and this is clearly NFL time and all, but yesterday’s college football action was so bizarrely interesting that I can’t help but touch on it one more time before we move on. We’ll still have plenty of time to talk NFL – I promise.
1. Florida is a very tough state to figure out right now outside of the Gators. Who is the second best team? It seemed like it was Miami after they beat Florida State last week. But then the Hurricanes got beat up on – humiliated – by Virginia Tech. That calls them into question. Almost as much as getting beaten up by South Florida tarnishes Florida State. With both of those teams reeling, maybe it’s South Florida – the undefeated Big East team from which little was expected even before they lost their star senior QB for the season. Thankfully, ranking Florida teams is just fun, not crucially important.
2. I have been an obsessive fan of college football for a long, long time, and I can’t think of another time when a top ten team should be more humiliated by their performance than Cal should be today after their Oregon debacle. Cal was being called the front-runner in the Pac-10, and they had their chance to prove it next week against USC. Oregon had laid a massive egg against Boise State, and even though they had won since then they had still lacked any real spark on offense and Jeremiah Masoli was seemingly one misstep away from the bench. That all makes this result so stunning. It’s a cliche, but in this case it’s true – the game wasn’t as close as the 42-3 score would indicate. Masoli was virtually flawless, both Oregon lines were totally dominant, Cal QB Kevin Riley was lousy, and Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best likely ended his campaign with a poor 55 yard showing. It was as unexpected as a result can be – even if, like me, you thought that Cal could be vulnerable because they were entering a tough stadium and could be looking ahead to USC. Between this result and Washington’s shellacking at the hands of Stanford the Pac-10 is totally in turmoil.
3. As a Michigan fan I am very relieved that we somehow managed to escape with a barely-deserved win to open the Big Ten schedule – especially because so many other ranked teams were crushed (seven Top 25 teams lost, and just one of those losses came against another ranked team). I also have to admit some real glee that Arkansas got man-handled. As you may recall, Arkansas is helmed by QB Ryan Mallett , a former top Michigan recruit and part-time starter as a freshman who left as soon as Rich Rodriguez was hired – before he could even meet the coach or see if he could have fit with the system.Mallett’s eligibility was restored this year, and before this week he was the top-ranked passer in the country. That hurt a bit. But then he met the Alabama defense, and that dominance he had shown totally evaporated – he completed just 34 percent of his passes. Coming out of that game I am strengthened in my belief that Alabama is the top team in the country. I really don’t like that thought. As for Michigan, I am thrilled that we have already won more games than last year, and I am certain that we will be bowl-eligible, but there are clearly issues this year that will come to the fore as the season continues. If we wind up 8-4 I will be more than thrilled.
4. Speaking of the Big Ten, color me shocked that Iowa beat Penn State. I knew that the Nittany Lions were unproven against significant competition, but I was really believing the theory that they were the class of the conference. I also had real doubts about the Hawkeyes – strong defense, but no real offense. Iowa was thoroughly, impressively defensively dominant in the win, and, like the Pac-10, the Big Ten is a conference absolutely full of questions now. Defense is quickly becoming a bigger story than it initially seemed between Iowa and the fact that Ohio State hasn’t allowed a point in more than two full games.
5. What a strange Heisman race it has been. Coming int the season it was clearly a three horse race between the three QBs. Now, just a month later, that’s all called into question. Sam Bradford is looking for a surgeon who will greenlight him to return to action. Colt McCoy has kept winning, but this week was the first time that he has really looked close to his best. Tim Tebow hasn’t been great, and he spent last night in the hospital with a concussion. This whole thing is just proof that even the most obvious and seemingly certain stories can evaporate in the crazy world of college football. The sport is all about chaos.
6. Numbers 4,5 and 6 lost this week, and number 7 LSU needed a goal line stand against Mississippi State to survive. A total of nine top ten teams have lost in the first four weeks of the season, and others have looked vulnerable. Anyone who says right now that they know who is going to play in the BCS championship game is lying. This craziness is exactly why this sport is so brilliant.
7. Houston got a big win with a last minute touchdown over Texas Tech. They looked like they were in trouble for much of the game, but they showed impressive guts to rally when they needed to. That now gives them two wins over BCS conference teams. All that looms is a C-USA schedule and a game against Mississippi State. Houston has a real chance to make something impressive happen this year if the keep playing like they are. Of course, the C-USA has a history of getting us excited about teams and then frustrating us, so I remain cautious in my optimism.