Auburn flexes BCS muscles, down goes No. 1 (again), more Snaps
With another top team losing, this season is starting to feel a lot like 2007
Big win pushes Auburn into the thick of the BCS championship conversation
It was unfair to put so much faith in Denard Robinson and Michigan early on
Time to put Auburn in BCS title conversation
The shootout unfolded, just like we expected. It was Cam Newton outscoring ... Tyler Wilson? OK, so no one could have predicted Ryan Mallett's backup would duel, at least for a while, and look every bit the equal of the starting quarterbacks in Auburn's 65-43 win over Arkansas (RECAP | BOX).
But after Mallett was knocked out of the game with a second-quarter concussion, Wilson played like, well, a Heisman candidate. The game was rock-em, sock-em right up until three straight fourth-quarter turnovers -- the last two were interceptions tossed by Wilson -- led to Auburn touchdowns.
The big win -- in a typical SEC defensive struggle -- pushes Auburn into the thick of the BCS championship conversation. Newton, who ran for 189 yards and three touchdowns and completed 10-of-14 passes for 140 yards and another score, is the catalyst who could lead them there.
It's also time to rev up the Heisman campaign for Newton, who might be the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback since Vince Young. He just ... does ... not ... go ... down. Pity the defensive back who tries. As an aside, you have to think the Florida fans who have suffered through three straight loses (more on that later) cringed and turned away, recognizing Newton was once a Gator, and might have made a pretty nice successor to Tim Tebow. That's all gone now; Newton's troubled past is, well, in the past.
And Auburn's future looks pretty nice. Newton could fuel a run at the SEC championship, and we know what that might mean. The crystal football might be staying in Alabama -- just not in Tuscaloosa.
On the other sideline, it looked like Arkansas' flickering SEC hopes were extinguished when Mallett's head got foggy after a second-quarter hit. Instead, Wilson, a sophomore, came on and threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns. If, as expected, Mallett leaves after the season for the NFL draft, the Hogs will be in good hands in 2011.
The game turned when Arkansas' Broderick Green fumbled with 9:44 left. Auburn safety Zac Etheridge returned it for a touchdown and a 51-43 lead. A few seconds later, Wilson's inexperience finally showed. He threw a bad pick over the middle, and then another on Arkansas' next possession. Auburn scored touchdowns after both, and the win was secure.
The Tigers have defensive concerns -- Arkansas piled up 567 yards against a suspect secondary, but it probably won't matter until an Iron Bowl showdown with 'Bama. If Newton keeps playing like this, it might not matter at all.
Another week, another No. 1 goes down.
Wisconsin's 31-18 upset of Ohio State probably means Oregon will assume the top ranking. But considering what we've seen in the last eight days, the folk in Eugene, Ore., might not want to celebrate too hard.
Last week it was Alabama. Now it's Ohio State falling victim to an upset on the road, and in fairly similar fashion (RECAP | BOX). And suddenly, the season has a similar feel to 2007, when every week, top teams kept dropping.
The chaos is fun to watch, and the big winner isn't Oregon on its bye week. It's Boise State. Or maybe TCU.
Oregon will move to No. 1. But for how long? Plenty of difficult games remain ahead of the Ducks. Meanwhile, the Broncos and Horned Frogs keep winning, watching the BCS big boys knock each other off -- and wondering if this season might just produce the ultimate anarchy.
Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' dreams of a national title were derailed, at least for now, by Wisconsin's strong first half. But given what's happened so far, even they shouldn't be completely counted out. In the last two weekends, we've seen one thing: No (No.) 1 is safe.
When Anthony Mosley cradled the interception in the end zone with four seconds left, preserving Kentucky's 31-28 upset win over South Carolina (RECAP | BOX), my immediate thought was that Stephen Garcia was going to be criticized, but the ol' ball coach should take the heat.
After giving up the lead, the Gamecocks had moved downfield and were in position with 11 seconds left to force overtime with a field goal. But Steve Spurrier called his final timeout, then called for one more pass. Garcia's toss toward Lamar Scruggs wasn't a good one; it was deflected into Mosley's hands.
With that, Spurrier's fears that his team wouldn't handle prosperity were realized. South Carolina blew an 18-point lead, and the SEC East plunged deeper into chaos. And Kentucky had the biggest win of Joker Phillips' first year as head coach.
Give Phillips credit for guts. Trailing 28-17 early in the fourth quarter, he went for it on fourth-and-short at midfield. Randall Cobb ran for 12 yards. The Wildcats scored on the next play, a 38-yard pass from Mike Hartline to Chris Matthews, and the momentum was theirs.
Remember when Denard Robinson was the Heisman frontrunner? It's unclear today whether he's even Michigan's best quarterback. Saturday, he headed for the bench in the third quarter, apparently banged up, but backup Tate Forcier was more effective in a futile comeback attempt.
After Iowa's 38-28 win (RECAP | BOX), it's also unclear whether the Wolverines are headed down a familiar path -- and what that might mean for Rich Rodriguez's prospects. A year ago, you'll recall, Michigan won its first four games, then lost six of seven.
This year? After a 5-0 start fueled by the frenetic kid with the untied shoes, Michigan has lost two in a row. The remainder of the schedule is loaded -- not a sure win in the bunch. And suddenly, we're not sure whether Robinson is the quarterback who can cool down RichRod's hotseat. Forcier is a much better passer (his 45-yard touchdown toss pulled the Wolverines within a touchdown in the fourth quarter) and passing is fairly important.
In retrospect, it was unfair to anoint Robinson so early. He was spectacular against lesser competition, but you knew the going would get a lot more difficult. For the Wolverines, too.
It's a huge win for Dan Mullen's Bulldogs. And, well, a huger loss for his former boss' reeling Gators. Urban Meyer's bunch has lost three straight, and the season-long offensive problems don't seem fixable.
We knew the Gators were struggling. But scoring seven points at home? Losing to Mississippi State? The very idea that they'd have to attempt a 42-yard field goal (wide right) with four seconds left, hoping to force overtime?
The answer is: Nope. The question, of course, was whether USC would pack it in after losing two in a row for the first time since 2001.
How about 42-0 over California? Five touchdown passes by Matt Barkley? That was the halftime score and stats, by the way.
Barkley threw for 352 yards, but USC's offense hasn't been the problem. More important, Monte Kiffin's maligned defense held Cal to 245 yards. Suddenly, an Oct. 30 home date with No. 2 Oregon looks like it could be a wildly entertaining showdown.