College Football Overtime (cont.)
Thanks to the videographers at Iowa State's official website, Cyclones.com, we get to see what it's like to be inside the victor's locker room after a rousing upset. Last year, coach Paul Rhoads brought down the house following Iowa State's 9-7 win at Nebraska, and he and his players were at it again Saturday after beating Texas for the first time in school history. Both are spine-tingling scenes.
But Saturday's 28-21 victory was a much different animal than last year's Nebraska win, which required a staggering eight Huskers turnovers. The Cyclones (4-4) -- coming off drubbings against Utah (68-27) and Oklahoma (52-0) -- went into Austin and took it to the 22nd-ranked 'Horns, jumping to a 28-6 fourth-quarter lead before Texas rallied.
"You get beat and you get beat and you say, 'Enough is enough,'" said Iowa State running back Jeff Woody. "We are done with losing, we are sick of it."
But as much as I'd like to revel in the Cyclones' feel-good vibe, the real story here is Texas' continuing implosion. Turns out the Nebraska win was an aberration, not a spark, and that Texas' season is quickly turning into a Florida-like debacle. (Crazy, isn't it, that Florida and Texas were the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country most of last season?) Coach Mack Brown, described by longtime Austin American Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls as, "Angry like we've never seen before" after Saturday's game, called out his team, saying: "I don't think it's [a lack of] talent. It's attitude. ... I'm mystified."
Those are eye-opening words from Brown, who usually defends his players to the death and at times tries almost too hard to shoulder the blame himself. Presumably there's some truth to his claim. Just as Florida is feeling the leadership void left by Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes, Texas is still waiting for its next Colt McCoy or Jordan Shipley to arise. But whether or not Brown wants to admit it, talent's a problem too.
Much like Florida's mystifying lack of playmaking receivers, Texas' continued lack of an even semi-potent running back is baffling. The 'Horns ran for 96 yards on the nation's 112th-ranked defense. Just as John Brantley has struggled to live up to his considerable hype, Garrett Gilbert, who tossed three picks Saturday, has shown few signs of development since his unanticipated Pasadena indoctrination.
After the Nebraska win, I envisioned Texas doing what it's done so many times under Brown: going on a post-Red River hot streak and ending with yet another 10-win season. That's not happening. The question now is whether the 'Horns will even finish in the upper half of a very deep Big 12 South.
As a member of one of the BCS' six founding conferences, the Big East's champion will earn its conference a nice, fat check for approximately $21 million this January. And for the first time in the system's 13-year history, it's looking increasingly plausible that said champion will enter its bowl game unranked.
With Syracuse's 19-14 road upset of then No. 20 West Virginia (a huge win for Doug Marrone's program, which hadn't beaten the Mountaineers since 2001 and reached five wins for the first time since 2004), the Orange became the league's closest thing to a ranked team, receiving eight points in the AP poll. In a sign of the times, the WAC has three teams (Boise State, Hawaii and Nevada) who received more votes.
Take a look at these standings. There's parity, and then there's this. The Orange and Mountaineers are the only teams left with as few as two losses. Pittsburgh, at 2-0 in conference play (including a 45-14 rout at Syracuse two weeks ago), is probably considered the favorite at this point -- and the Panthers lost three nonconference games (Utah, Miami and Notre Dame).
And yet, the one thing we know for sure is that one of the league's eight teams will play in one of the five major bowl games, while at least one of three current undefeated teams -- Boise State, TCU and Utah -- will not. While the Mountain West could possibly become the seventh AQ league at the end of the current four-year evaluation period (2008-11), the Big East's spot is contractually secure through at least 2013. Maybe the 'Cuse will be a national-title contender by then. In the meantime ... basketball season begins Nov. 8.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games:
Title game: Alabama vs. Boise State
Rose: Oregon vs. Michigan State
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Pittsburgh
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Utah
Sugar: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
If Oregon wins at USC on Saturday, I swear I'll move the Ducks into the title game (presumably bumping Boise) and keep them there until proven otherwise. I almost made the change this week -- it's tough not to be wowed by a 60-13 win -- but reminded myself that they've beaten just one team with a winning record thus far.
The Big Ten's Rose Bowl race could shake out any number of ways. If Iowa beats Michigan State this week, Ohio State would jump back into the lead based on BCS standings. If the Spartans win, or if they lose and the Hawkeyes then beat the Buckeyes on Nov. 20, Michigan State would win a theoretical tiebreaker with Wisconsin and Iowa. (The Hawkeyes would be eliminated due to their nonconference loss to Arizona.) And those are just two of umpteen possible scenarios.