SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/28/2006 07:42:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part II
For Oregon State coach Mike Riley (left), it doesn't get any bigger than beating Pete Carroll's Trojans.
We'd known for weeks that USC, the supposed No. 3 team in the country, was living on borrowed time. Saturday in Corvallis, Ore., the Trojans were finally unmasked. And yet, if I was a USC fan, I wouldn't feel entirely bad right now.
Realistically speaking, USC was never going to play for the national title this season. Not after losing Leinart/Bush/White, etc., not after suffering as many injuries as they have and certainly not with such an average defense. Did I expect the first to loss to come against a 4-3 Oregon State team playing without its star running back (Yvenson Bernard)? Of course not. But this year’s Trojans have little margin for error, and for nearly three quarters Saturday, they made every error in the book -- three fumbles, an interception, a special teams breakdown. You do that on the road against an emotionally charged underdog, and you’re probably going to pay the price.
And yet, right when it seemed USC was headed for an all-out meltdown, falling behind 33-10 with 4:51 left in the third quarter, John David Booty, Steve Smith and Co. went out and mounted a near-epic, Leinart-caliber comeback. Booty, after struggling much of the game, started hitting everything, Smith gave a performance for the ages (11 catches, 258 yards, two TDs) and the defense finally quieted Beavers QB Matt Moore. Ultimately, they fell two points short, but only after Booty (who threw for 405 yards and three TDs) drove them 80 yards in two minutes to score the potential game-tying touchdown with seven seconds left.
That, more than any of their wins over the past month, tell me the Trojans haven’t completely lost their swagger, and should serve as some solace to all those USC fans out there trying to cope with their first regular-season loss since September 2003. There will likely be at least one more loss before 2006 is over, but I’d be feeling a whole lot better about Booty’s chances of leading a potential title run in ’07. (Granted, I’d feel much better than that if Smith wasn’t graduating.)
Meanwhile, I hope they’re partying like it’s 1999 in Corvallis, (or, more appropriately, like it’s 2000, the year Oregon State went 11-1 and beat USC), because it doesn’t get much bigger for Mike Riley’s program than this. The Beavers looked dead in the water earlier this season after getting stomped by Boise State and Cal and losing at home to Washington State, but Saturday’s win gives them a three-game winning streak and a realistic shot of finishing the regular season with as many as eight or nine wins.
Further proof of just how deep the Pac-10 is this season -- there are eight teams all capable of beating one another on any given Saturday. The chances of seeing one in the national-title game, however, just got a whole lot slimmer. Get your bat, West Virginia: You’re now on deck.
∙ Just when I was ready to finally put my faith in the Big 12 North, the South goes out ... and totally redeems itself. First Oklahoma humbles Missouri, and then unheralded Oklahoma State takes it to No. 20 Nebraska. The Cowboys (5-3), behind ever-improving QB Bobby Reid and stud receivers Adarius Bowman and D’Juan Woods, have been quietly building a dangerous offense all season, and Saturday they exploded for 496 yards against a Huskers defense that apparently stayed behind in Lincoln following the Texas game.
. Missouri and Nebraska will now play for the North title next week, but at this point, who cares? Meanwhile, it’s possible at this point that all six South teams could reach a bowl game.
∙ It’s no secret that Urban Meyer isn’t a big fan of his tailbacks, but Saturday against Georgia, Florida did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before: The Gators went 18 straight running plays – including the entire first half -- before handing it to a tailback for the first time. They gained 99 yards entirely on draws and scrambles by QBs Chris Leak and Tim Tebow and handoffs and reverses to speedy receivers Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell.
Georgia eventually caught up with the chicanery, however, allowing the Dawgs to nearly rally back from a 21-0 deficit. Florida has a whole lot of speed and a phenomenal defense, but I’m guessing sometime between now and the SEC title game they’re going to face a situation where they need to be able to line up and run the ball at someone (or, for that matter, make a field goal). Meyer doesn’t seem to have a lot of faith they can do it.
∙ ABC’s Bob Griese, speaking during the second half of the Miami-Georgia Tech game: “It’s amazing how bad Reggie Ball looks sometimes, and how good Reggie Ball looks sometimes.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. With essentially a two-game lead over both the ‘Canes and Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets are almost certainly headed to Jacksonville for the ACC title game despite having a quarterback who, at one point Saturday, had completed just 3 of 16 passes. Fittingly, one of those three completions was a picture-perfect 46-yard touchdown pass to James Johnson.
∙ Well lookey here: Frank Solich suddenly has Ohio in position to win its conference. The Bobcats (6-3, 4-1 MAC) beat Kent State (5-3, 4-1) 17-7 on Saturday to take control of the MAC East. OU, which also has wins over Illinois, Western Michigan (5-3) and Northern Illinois (5-4), hasn’t won a league title since 1968.
∙ Just to appease the Ohio State fans who complained about the “lack of coverage” on here last week: The Buckeyes crushed another opponent Saturday (Minnesota). They’re still No. 1. Troy Smith is still really good.
∙ Finally, major congratulations are in order to the Temple Owls, who broke their 20-game losing streak Saturday with a 28-14 win over Bowling Green. As significant as the win itself is the opponent. While the Falcons are having a down year (4-5), they’ve been one of the best teams in the MAC past five years. Could Al Golden’s team perhaps be competitive earlier than expected when it joins the league next season?
No, of course not. They should not drop in the polls.....I think they should move up....hey, in fact I think they should jump over Michigan and Ohio State. I mean as DEEP as the pac 10 is, I think that should be taken into consideration. GIVE ME a BREAK, whenever that argument is made for an SEC team like Auburn or Florida, it is ridiculed. I will say this though, Whichever Pac-10 team wins the Conference Championship game should be considered for a New Years Day bowl......Oh, wait they don't play a conference championship game, Never mind.
This weekend has been a definition weekend and things are reshaping dramatically (See TT v Texas score). That USC should not be dropped in the rankings is too arrogant; granted they made a great come back and they were about to pull a victory. Still, they were clearly defeated by an unranked opponent, they played a sloppy game and they most likely would drop few positions
So will this help Boise State in the computer rankigns since they pasted OSU and now OSU beats USC? I know they still have to win out to have a chance at the at large BCS bid but boy does this look good now.
At least the second half finally showed what we all suspected USC was capable of. I see this loss in exactly the same light as the 3-point loss to Cal in '03 - watch out for the next two years, because now that this offense has finally started to find an identity, it will be pretty tough to beat. I feel better about the remaining four games (and next season) now than I did prior to this game.
Two more things:
1) Now more than ever, I seriously question Pete's little Nick Holt experiment. Why farm out something that you can do better yourself?
2) As someone (Stew?) said - USC wouldn't feel the loss of Norm Chow in '05 - but rather in '06 when all that talent graduates. Today I think proved that!
Well, finally the computers are forced to accept what any impartial college gridiron fan has known for a few months: USC is not the #1 team in the country. Anyone who objectively watched any portion of either of their games against the Washington schools had to have serious doubts about where they were ranked, even in the human polls. It will be interesting to see where they fall among the one-loss teams, though. Given that their loss was to a 4-3 team missing its #1 tailback, I think you have to put them behind Florida, Tennessee and Auburn, all of whom lost to significantly tougher competition.
Good post. However, I think you may have made a mistake. You wrote, "Further proof of just how deep the PAC-10 is this year..." when I think you meant to write, "Further proof of just how weak the PAC-10 is this year..."
This hasn't been mentioned ANYWHERE but was I the only one to notice that Pete Carrol had this "I'm really concerned about this team" look on his face when USC played Arizona State? It's a look I'd never seen on his face before.
The players are showing just how much pressure there is to "BE 'SC". It took falling behind big for the offense to show what its capable of, but it couldn't overcome its own mistakes.
Now the question is will this loss hang over the players and coaches head like an anvil or will the loss releave the pressure and allow them to play the rest of the games like they are capable of???
USC should not drop? Nonsense. They've been living on the edge all year, and now they lost to a team with three losses. They must drop below the unbeatens (WVU and Louisville) and the one-loss teams whose losses are better and whose wins are more impressive (pretty much the whole SEC).
That WVU-Louisville game now becomes bigger than ever, especially if Texas continues to stumble against Texas Tech.
I'd frankly like to see USC drop below Cal, who has beaten the Pac-10 more impressively than USC and whose 1 loss came against a now-top 10 team, not a 4-3 unranked one. (Admittedly, Cal got beaten by 17, not 2, at Tennessee, and USC beat Arkansas, so I suppose the two teams should be ranked about the same.
"the media are buckeye haters. usc/notre dame..even texas(which we stomped) get more coverage."
I think there's a good reason that the media has downplayed Ohio State thus far: they're not ready to hype Ohio state out the wazoo like they did Oklahoma in 2003. Remember that year, when Oklahoma was incredibly dominant and was said to be one of the best teams of all time...before collapsing in the Big XII Championship to Kansas State? Complete egg on everyone's faces for such unnecessary gushing and hype.
Wait for when a worthy opponent *coughMichigancough* plays the Buckeyes, and then the hype can begin.
I think I have said this before, Ohio State and West Virginia are the 2 best looking teams in the nation by farrrrr...neither has struggle against anyone YET and probably wont....USC overrated, the SEC clan is a bunch of mediocre teams beating up on oneanother and Michigan, well they just dont look good
UF dropped 8 spots after a 3 point loss to Auburn a top 10 team. USC should at least drop to 11-13 after this terrible loss to an unranked team (need we remind OSU got blown out by Cal (Cal got clobbered by Tenn) and also WSU (who was clobbered by offensively challenged Auburn). So the next time I hear a pac-10 person say how good their conference is please check who your teams got clobbered by. Hopefully Texas will be beaten also and things will really get exciting.
Ohio State and West Virginia are the 2 best looking teams in the nation by farrrrr...neither has struggle against anyone YET and probably wont.
You might want to wait until WVU plays at Louisville this Thursday before saying that. The Cardinals have a 15-game home winning streak, and have exactly the kind of multi-faceted offense the Mountaineers have trouble with. WVU will, at least, struggle -- and I suspect they won't leave Louisville undefeated. And whichever team wins still has to face unbeaten Rutgers . . . .
Does anyone else think if Michigan loses a close one to Ohio State for their only defeat, that they should still be strongly considered for the national championship game? I do, but it seems unlikely at best, just because the game falls so late in the year.
I gotta say, USC shouldn't drop out of the top 10, if only because they've already beaten Nebraska (though that's looking less impressive every second) and DIVISION-LEADING Arkansas...by 36 points. I think sandwiching them between Texas and Louisville would be about right.
As for Ohio State, they got tons of press awhile ago during their run of Texas-PSU-Iowa games. Right now, there's very little story line to them: they're in the boring stretch of their season, they're pasting everyone and there's not much debate over whether or not they're #1. Be thankful that they're not stuck in the bog of one-lossers/Big-Easters that's getting all the headlines.
Hey Mandel, what about the Irish? You were so down on ND in your column--how far do you plan to drop Clemson and USC in your rankings? Remember that ND lost to #2 Michigan and, close games or not, they've gotten it done--and beat Penn State by (a lot) more than Ohio State did.
To change the subject from the strength of USC and the Pac-10 (I'd drop them at least 6 spots, if I had a vote)...yeah, the Big 12 North has egg on their faces after the Oklahoma Two-Step today, but lets not write off the Nebraska-Missouri game quite yet. The Huskers were one ill-timed turnover last week from beating Texas, and Missouri pounded the same Texas Tech team that is giving the Longhorns all they can handle right now (I guess it would be rude to point out that Tech also got pounded by Colorado as well). Actually, this might just point out how weak the Big 12 is this year. But it's by no means a given this year that Texas (or, if they lose tonight, whoever ends up winning the South) has a cakewalk awaiting them in Kansas City.
"Just to appease the Ohio State fans who complained about the “lack of coverage” on here last week: The Buckeyes crushed another opponent Saturday (Minnesota). They’re still No. 1. Troy Smith is still really good."
That is too funny, and the kinda coverage me likey. Go bucks.
You might want to wait until WVU plays at Louisville this Thursday before saying that
Have you seen WVU play since last year when they started there run after White and Slaten took over the offense? Blew Georgia's doors off and not a team yet has been close, yes they haven't played top caliber teams yet. Only decent team is Maryland, but alot of teams have played weak teams, including Ohio State...WVU you wins oh 37-21.
USC is weak and in a weak conference...sorry get use to it...they probably wont when the pac-10...still have to play ucla, oregon and cal...they might end up 9 - 2 if lucky....ranking this week 10 at the highest.
There's one lunatic in every web discussion, but I can't believe that TWO people are saying that USC is still a top-three team. You guys probably thought that USC were the rightful champions last year, their loss to Texas notwithstanding.
Some of the comments here make me embarrassed to be a longtime USC fan. Of course SC should drop - you're foolish to think they won't or shouldn't. And I'm not so certain they shouldn't drop below Cal, based solely on the most important thing - how the teams are playing right now. Sure, I feel that USC will handle Cal with no problem, especially after today's loss, but for the moment, I see a ranking just below Cal to be about right.
And I can't wait until ND comes to town. It's just too bad the SC offense started to click a little too late today. But every cloud has a silver lining - I'm actually glad this team finally lost and did it now as opposed to later in the season when it would be more damaging in the polls. Now they can secure their own identity and not a borrowed one from seasons past. True SC fans will probably agree - these guys were starting to believe their own hype. At least now any accomplishments they make are their own. The attitude out of the post-game locker room today was just right - this will only make them better.
I see a Rose Bowl against OSU/Michigan loser in USC's future. Not too shabby for a "rebuilding" year.
Though I am delving into a much bigger issue here...concerning the policy of automatically dropping teams in the polls, does it really make sense? For instance, if Ohio State beats Michigan by a field goal, Michigan will go to #4 or 5. Why? Wouldn't a #2 team be EXPECTED to lose to a #1 team? Applying this to today, the fiew votes Texas Tech received the past few weeks will disappear, when they should increase for playing the #5 team extremely close.
Yeah, let's see Tennessee beat the stuffing out of Cal again. I'd love to see that. Sorry, but Cal is a consistently underperforming team in a mediocre conference. Bring Cal again and lose by double digits again. RIDICULOUS.
You sir, are completely biased. ND plays a mediocre team, gets behind, mounts an epic comeback and wins, and you slander them. USC, gets behind a mediocre team, mounts an epic comeback and loses, and you sing their praises. If no one else sees this, I lose all belief in the intelligence of human beings. (Side note, I don't think ND is probably a much better team than #10)
Thanks for the Okie State mention...they're on the cusp of getting back to the glory days w/ Mike Gundy, Thurman, Thomas, Barry Sanders and company.
I've said all along that Paul Thompson got a bad deal on getting yanked after a bad outing and then Oklahoma went w/ Bomar. He's a superior athlete and just wasn't given a fair deal. They are lucky he didn't pout and go into a tank over the move to wideout and/or transfer to another school. While I am not a fan of the Sooners I am very happy for Paul Thompson..
All this bashing of Pac 10 is so stupid. Stewart is correct: it's deep. A lower-tier team like UCLA owned Notre Dame for almost the entire game. Oregon lost to Wazzu. Washington almost upended Cal. Now SC lost to OSU. That means deep. A top-tier team is not that far above a lower ranked team. Winning the conference is by no means predictable.
We all saw today how much of a joke the Pac-10 is....again. Anyone who likes to compare the Pac-10 to the Big 10, or even more so, the SEC needs to castrate themselves and ask for forgiveness. The again, most Pac-10 fans have already completed one half of that equation.
stewart you are the epitome of typical block-headed sportswriters. Constant in praise of the Big Ten and SEC, so quick to raise Michigan, FLorida, and Notre Dame in the polls. Yet you constantly denounce the Big 12 and furthermore the Big 12 North, which you basically say the South completely dominates when you notice Texas would have lost to Nebraska if not for a fumble. you know you predicted Texas to run away with that game and you now you were wrong. you're too cowardly to admit you were wrong because you blatantly have no respect for Nebraska and you should stop being so ingorant of the past. you seemingly don't remember Nebraska in in the 90's. they were at the top yet you are so ignorant of that and show no respect,you are by far the worst sportswriter in history, you are a stereotypical sportswriter and you are not neutral, you are clearly biased which is a no-no for sportswriting, you obviously need help. You may be not watching the Mizzou-NU matchup but sure as hell real sportsfans and well-informed sportsfans are. Nebraska was more elite, had more tradition, and more respect than your beloved MAize-and-Blue, gators, golden domers, or whoever you love to coddle. A 5th-grader could easily do a better job at sportswriting than you. You need help badly. Nebraska is back and you know it and you know you should admit it, but you might upset your beloved michigan fans.
Does anyone remember Oklahoma, who got destroyed by K State some years ago? Then still made it to the BCS Championship...This game shows how good SC' truly can be...In my opinion, USC gave OSU the game, by fumbling it away. OSU and every other team in the nation would be hyped up to play SC', because they've been so awesome for so long. Now all you haters out there watch as Troy (with the toughest remaining schedule) win-win-win and win. The CPU will have to put them back where they belong. I can now accept the fact that it took a loss like this to wake SC' them up. Now the giant is awake...I feel for the rest, Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA.
I watch and enjoy a lot of college games and was upset at the officiating or lack of it re offensive interference exemplified by Steve Smith's last touchdown where he (did not just push off)he shoved himself away from the OSU defender to gain an advantage. No call of course. Its all too common.
Stuart. Got a solution for all these 1 loss teams and where they should be ranked. Forget this non-sense about how they won or how they looked in winning, simply count a win as a win, and a loss as a loss. Place the teams in order depending on the the rank of the oppenent they lost to. (no team should be higher than the team they lost to) So, Texas lost to Ohio State, which is #1. They should be the top 1 loss team. ND lost to #2 Michigan. They should be behind Texas. Tennessee should be behind Florida, because they lost to them, Florida should be behind Auburn, because they lost to them, Auburn should be behind Arkansas. Arkansas should be behind USC and so on. Using this logic, here are your top 10 teams Stuart. 1.Ohio State. 2. Michigan. 3. West Virginia. 4. Louisville. 5. Texas. 6. Notre Dame. 7. USC. 8. Arkansas. 9. Auburn. and 10. Florida. If Louisville loses to West Virginia, then they will fall in behind Notre Dame, same for West Virginia if they lose to Louisville. Simply, isn't it?
It's here. What is the BCS going to do with two top teams from a single conference? With the defeat of USC, totally expected and should drop them significantly in the polls, what direction is this going? Given the National Championship will be played in Columbus (let's be real we will not see them play twice), where is this season going?...now where good. Each conference needs a playoff, then let's decide the National Championship.
No, Texas is medicore at best they got stomped but Ohio State which has happened alot this year so we wont even count that one. They should have lost their last two game versus Nebraska, a solid but not unbeleive team by any means, and Texas Tech, which is not a very solid team. I will give u credit they were both wins but they played very poorly in those two performances.
Darren, that is an absurdly simplistic way to rank teams. So a team that gets blown out by #1 or #2 (Texas, ND) should be ranked higher than a team that loses in a squeaker to #3 (possibly WVU or L'ville). And, why does USC's loss to an unranked team not appear to adversely affect them in your ranking? It appears better to lose to an unranked team than a team in your top 10 according to your ranking system.
Interesting day in college football. I was sorry about USC, they still are a good team and I am praying that they STOMP ND when they come to LA. I am so tired of hearing about ND and how they should be in the NC game, what a joke. They played ONE team and got crushed by them.
As a Buckeye fan, the comment about Ohio State not playing a worthy team is ridiculous. We beat the National Champions in their stadium! That does not count for anything? Who has UM beat (other than a seriously overrated ND)? They stuggled against NORTHWESTERN yesterday...you have got to be kidding me. Time will tell on 11/18 who is the best team in the country.
Can some one explain to me why Notre Dame got ridiculed all last week about escaping with a victory over UCLA and almost every top ten team this week did the same thing and no one said anything? USC came back but lost. Flordia almost blew the game to a stagnant Georgia team with the help of a phantom face mask call. Auburn squeaked one out against those pesky Rebels (2-6). Texas pulled one out against Texas Tech due to an inability to execute a quarterback sneak (Their star studded defense gave up 360 yards passing in the first half). Tennessee pulled out another 4th quarter nail-biter. Their penalty? Nothing. No slip in the polls, no talk of being overrated, and certainly no affect on the BCS. Can anyone explain?
How do you account for the other zero loss teams in your top 10. Does Rutgers and Boise State get spots. Boise beat OSU who beat USC as an example of how your system still has gaps. How about a playoff?
All this talk of how Texas got lucky and barely won its last two games is ridiculous. It's not like the Oregon-Oklahoma debacle, both Neb and TT had plenty of chances to put the game out of reach but didn't. Texas has showed great poise in the weeks after its loss to OSU and even more so in its recent come from behind wins.
And however mediocre Neb, TT, and even Baylor may be, playing a conference rival ranked in the top #5 could very well be their biggest game of the year. So it's needless to say they would want nothing more than to beat Texas. Unfortunately for those teams, the final score is the only thing that matters.
The "tough SEC conference"? Really? Let's see, Boise beat OSU, who beat USC, who trounced Arkansas, who whupped Auburn, who beat Florida, who just got by Georgia. Hmmmm. I would have to say the SEC is suspect. And as for UCLA owning ND, the really good teams find a way to ultimately win.
This proves two things... the Pac10 IS deep, right now. And it's talented. USC isn't a top 5 team in my opinion (they shouldn't drop out of the top 10, however... especially if ND is even CLOSE to the top 10). But they've already steamrolled (and WOULD STILL STEAMROLL) Arkansas, and they will do the same to Notre Dame in a few weeks.
As the SEC fans keep talking about themselves, we'll silently sit back and watch you get hit hard in the bowl games. If the SEC didn't have eachother to beat up on (by that, I mean have a few great teams that don't all play eachother, and a bunch of complete crap), they'd be in the same discussion as the Big East, when it comes to college football power...
I don't mind the lack of Ohio State coverage as much as hearing that beating MN by ONLY 17 at halftime was not good. Yet Michigan winning by only 2 TDs against Northwestern (i.e., the worst team in the conference this season) makes them a "more physical team" according to Doug Flutie?? Your star RB got 95 yards against a team that blew a 35-pt lead last week!! The Michigan Defense is good, but look at OSU's scoring defense and tell me which is better: not giving up a lot of rushing yards, or not giving up a lot of points? I believe our average through 9 games is just barely over 7 points per game... I would rather get no coverage than be knocked because you have nothing better to do than make up things about how we could be so much better.
Nobody says anything about Louisville! Its all, Pat White and Steve Slaton...Pat White and Steve Slaton...They're awesome...the best...bla bla bla...They can beat East Carolina, Marshall, and UConn Big Deal! They're gonna get the first test of the year in Louisville this Thursday night. We'll see who's who and what's what after that game.
Everyone needs to get their collective heads out of the clouds regarding which conference is the best and which teams belong in the BCS Championship Game. There is more balance in college football today than ever. The difference between teams boils down to 1)coaching and 2) what kind of mood and what hormones are kicking in a teenager's body that day. No conference can rightly claim to be the best and the only way to solving who belongs in a championship game is a playoff system.
For the Nebraska fan that thinks that Nebraska is back (and posting at 1AM)- slow your roll. You are making Husker fans look dilusional. We can't blame Stuart for a weak Big 12 North. Nebraska has come a long way (but still has a ways to go-no matter how dominant we were in the 90's). Mandel has ND fans, Ohio State fans, and USC fans accusing him of bias- so get in line. Please post your messages BEFORE you go to the Brass Rail rather than firing up the Mac after you stagger home. Nebraska has their biggest game this week.
Stewart Mandel, like most sportswriters and pollsters, has supernatural ranking ability. I, for one, have no idea how good West Virginia is since it has played only one top 50 team, Maryland, also its only opponent with a winning record.
I think the Ohio State fans are missing the point. OSU has been so dominant this year (and this is a Michigan native writing this) that the contest for the #2 spot in the rankings is more interesting for most of us than talking about the OSU juggernaut. So, be patient guys, we'll have plenty to discuss in a couple more weeks!