In Nebraska's Wake
Can't Win For Losing
The prime victim of Nebraska's loss, after the Cornhuskers themselves, may be Big 12 rival Kansas State. The unbeaten Wildcats, ranked No. 4 after their 16-9 victory over Colorado, have waited what seems like all century to surpass the Cornhuskers in the conference, and beating Nebraska on Nov. 14 would constitute the biggest win in school history. But it would also be the Huskers' second loss, further dragging down Kansas State's already weak strength-of-schedule rating—part of the Bowl Championship Series formula.
For a similar reason Florida State may have been the biggest beneficiary of Nebraska's defeat. Late in the fourth quarter of the Seminoles' 26-14 victory over Miami, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden looked up at the scoreboard, saw that the Huskers had lost and immediately felt better about the Seminoles' title hopes. "It puts us right back in the picture," Bowden said later.
Florida State beat Texas A&M in the Kickoff Classic and will be at home for its two toughest remaining games, against Virginia and Florida. If the Seminoles, 5-1 and ranked sixth, win the rest of their games, they will climb not only in the polls but also in the strength-of-schedule ratings. Florida State probably won't jump past UCLA or Tennessee if either of those two remains undefeated, but the Seminoles could very well gain enough to pass an unbeaten Kansas State in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
A Bruising by The Bruins
Everyone knew that UCLA, led by senior quarterback Cade McNown, would rack up points this year. Indeed, the Bruins scored 49, 42 and 49, respectively, in wins over cupcakes Texas, Houston and Washington State, and last Saturday they rolled up 52 against then No. 10 Arizona. Here's another thing that should give pause to Oregon, UCLA's opponent this week and the Pac-10's only other unbeaten team: Against the Wildcats, the Bruins' sophisticated passing attack was upstaged by a punishing ground game and a stingy defense.
In the 52-28 victory McNown threw two momentum-swinging touchdown passes, but for the second straight week his passing numbers were un-Heisman-like—10 of 24 for 171 yards—and for the first time in 19 games he didn't throw for 200 yards. The star of the game for the Bruins, instead, was freshman tailback DeShaun Foster.
As a senior at Tustin (Calif.) High last year, Foster scored 59 touchdowns, an astronomical total, and on Saturday it was easy to see why. Playing in place of sophomore Jermaine Lewis, who was suspended indefinitely for having engaged in an off-campus fight, the 6'1", 205-pound Foster carried 20 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns. The quality of his yardage was even more impressive than the quantity: The 18-year-old Foster was a gliding, spinning, almost untackleable force. "Jermaine told me to run hard, hold on to the ball and get four yards every time," Foster said after the game. Reminded that he got a little more than that, he responded, "Yeah, I guess so."
When Foster tired in the fourth quarter, bruising junior Keith Brown came in for TD runs of 54 and 20 yards to finish off the Wildcats. For the game the Bruins rushed for 314 yards on 44 carries.
Meanwhile UCLA's young defense, which had given up 31 points to Texas and 442 yards to Houston, shut down high-powered Arizona. The Bruins' three-man line (so hamstrung by injuries that five players have started there at one time or another) and their linebacking corps (so devoid of experience that coach Bob Toledo named sophomore inside backer Tony White a co-captain for the game) dominated the line of scrimmage, holding slippery Wildcats quarterback Ortege Jenkins and the other Arizona rushers to only 90 yards. In the fourth quarter, which began as a 31-28 nail-biter, the Wildcats gained just 68 yards, and the Bruins blew the game open with 21 points in a little more than two minutes.