Texas Tech's shocking upset of Oklahoma shakes up BCS race
BCS title hopefuls Oklahoma and Wisconsin suffered surprising Week 8 defeats
Stanford, which has won 10 straight by at least 25, continues to be overlooked
It's official: LSU-Alabama will be first regular-season SEC meeting of AP 1 vs. 2
Ask, and ye shall receive.
Last week, this column bemoaned the lack of big-time upsets during the first half of the season. This week?
"Us and Michigan State kind of upset the apple cart," Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said the morning after his 28-point underdog Red Raiders went to Norman and stunned No. 3 Oklahoma, 41-38. "That's what's great about college football. Some funny things happen."
Funny things like, say, the prohibitive Big Ten favorite losing on a 44-yard Hail Mary that required a replay reversal? History will tell whether Kirk Cousins-to-Keith Nichol garners legendary status a la Doug Flutie and Kordell Stewart, but considering the stakes -- Wisconsin was ranked sixth in the BCS standings and threatening to crash the national title game -- "Rocket" was more than just a highlight; it was a season-changer.
But drama aside, at least the Spartans' upset was a conceivable result. We knew Michigan State's defense was legit, and playing at home at night, it came through again, picking off Russell Wilson twice and forcing him into a safety.
Texas Tech, though? What the heck?
Oklahoma, the consensus preseason No. 1 team, had won 39 straight home games dating to 2005 and was two weeks removed from a 55-17 rout of Texas. The Red Raiders were 4-2, having lost consecutive home games to Texas A&M and Kansas State (albeit each by a touchdown), with their best win to date coming against 4-3 Nevada.
This was easily the most out-of-nowhere upset of a top five team since eventual BCS champion Florida's 2008 home loss to Ole Miss. However, if any coach could pull it off, it's Tuberville, who went 4-2 against top five foes during his time at Auburn.
"We're a much better team than we were at this time last year," Tuberville said Sunday. "Even though we'd lost two close games we knew we'd gotten better. We knew we had the offense to get it done. But [Oklahoma] is as good as I've seen in a long time."
There were no shortage of strange elements in Norman on Saturday, starting with a 95-minute delay due to a severe storm. The Sooners were playing without several injured starters, including running back Dom Whaley (flu), cornerback Jamell Fleming (knee), defensive tackle Casey Walker (thumb) and linebacker Tom Wort (concussion).
Don't expect the Red Raiders to sympathize. They lost No. 1 receiver Darrin Moore for four games due to knee and ankle injuries the second week of the year; all-conference tailback Eric Stephens to a torn ACL two weeks ago; and two defensive starters, linebacker Blake Dees and defensive tackle Donald Langley, in practice last week. To top it off, center Justin Keown sprained his MCL on the second play Saturday night. Right guard Deveric Gallington, despite never previously playing center, replaced him the rest of the way.
"If you watched the game, every snap was kind of a ground ball," said Tuberville.
And yet Texas Tech stormed to a 24-7 halftime lead on the Sooners and jumped to a 31-7 lead shortly after halftime. That sent a sizeable chunk of fans streaming to the exits, thereby missing the home team's inevitable comeback bid. OU cut Tech's lead to 31-24 early in the fourth quarter. But to Tech's credit, it immediately jumped back up 41-24, then survived one last frenetic rally in which the Sooners scored two touchdowns in the final 6:45 but missed a chip-shot 28-yard field goal with 2:52 left that would have made it a one-score game.
It was that kind of night for OU, which looked out of sorts on both sides of the ball. Tuberville said Tech's goal defensively was to take away the short pass and make Landry Jones beat it with deep balls. Jones finished with 412 yards and five touchdowns but was an uncharacteristic 30-of-55 against the nation's 96th-ranked defense.
"We didn't blitz all night, we played zone coverage," said Tuberville, whose undermanned defense held the Sooners to 5-of-17 on third-down conversions. And while Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege was his usual prolific self (33-of-52, 441 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions), Tech steadfastly ran the ball 43 times despite mixed results, allowing it to control time of possession.
"Credit them," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "They whipped us in every part of the game. I told the players we were definitely outcoached and outplayed."
While Saturday night's two upsets only added to the absurdly premature talk of a possible Alabama-LSU BCS rematch, it didn't change anything for new BCS No. 3 Oklahoma State (7-0), which still controls its destiny if it can win out (its schedule includes dates with 4-2 Baylor, 7-0 Kansas State, 5-2 Texas Tech and 6-1 Oklahoma). The undefeated Wildcats, who host the Sooners this week, probably do as well, though few seem to think they can pull it off. And Boise State (7-0), Clemson (8-0) and Stanford (7-0) will likely keep lurking.
But Oklahoma, for all its preseason acclaim, may be done. Ironically, it was Stoops' Sooners who helped keep Tuberville's undefeated Auburn team out of the 2004 BCS title game, which USC (since vacated) won 55-19.
"Payback sometimes works in mysterious ways," said Tuberville. "I don't think anything will ever bring back that [missed] opportunity. But things have a way of usually evening out in sports."