Records don't matter during Rivalry Week, in which every underdog relishes playing the role of spoiler
Hours after he had ripped off 126 yards against the nation's stingiest run defense, Auburn's fourth-string tailback, Tre Smith, was still boasting about the Tigers' 17-7 victory over No. 9 Alabama. "Nobody gave us a chance," he said. "Everybody was talking junk, about me especially. They didn't seem like the Number 1 defense to us."
Although only a freshman, Smith is well versed in the spoilsport spirit of Rivalry Week, in which the only thing sweeter than clinching a conference tide is ruining the chances of your nemesis. Scheduled around the time when many teams are talking about which bowl they're headed to, Rivalry Week games invariably throw a monkey wrench into some schools' postseason plans.
Last Saturday's edition of Rivalry Week did not disappoint. The fun started in Tuscaloosa, where Auburn shut out the Crimson Tide in the first half and all but salvaged a season marked by late fades in important games. Meanwhile, in the ACC, two games between rivals brought the race for the conference tide to an embarrassing conclusion. Virginia's 48-13 upset of Maryland, which had won its last eight games, meant that 8-4 Florida State, which lost to N.C. State 17-7, would be the ACC champion. If the Seminoles fall to Florida on Saturday, they will be the first five-loss team to go to a BCS bowl. "I don't know what to say," Seminoles coach Bobby Bow-den said after learning that his team was Sugar Bowl-bound despite the defeat. "Maybe I should jump up and cry."
As night fell on the West Coast, Washington tipped the Pac-10 scales with a wild 29-26 triple-overtime victory over No. 3 Washington State. Huskies junior quarterback Cody Pickett outshone his counterpart, Heisman hopeful Jason Gesser—who was sidelined with a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter—by completing 35 of 57 passes for 368 yards. The Cougars (9-2,6-1 in the Pac-10) could have clinched a berth in the Rose Bowl but must now beat UCLA on Dec. 7 to earn a trip to Pasadena.
Expect a few more spoilers to rush the stage this Saturday in Act II of Rivalry Week. Among the teams looking to improve their bowl standings is 6-5 Oklahoma State, which knocked Oklahoma out of national championship contention last year with a 16-13 win in Norman. Although the 10-1 Sooners secured a spot in the Dec. 7 Big 12 title game with a 60-15 blowout of Texas Tech, they were looking forward to Saturday's showdown with the Cowboys. "This was a fun one, but we're ready to go after it next week," said Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman. "We've been waiting a long time for it."
Arizona State's Terrell Suggs
A Defensive End For the Heisman?
At last count Terrell Suggs, a junior at Arizona State, was a candidate for the Nagurski (best defensive player), Lombardi (best defensive lineman) and Hendricks (best defensive end) awards. If the Heisman Trophy voters are paying attention, Suggs will be on their lists too.
The odds of Suggs's winning the Heisman are stacked against him like a three-man blocking scheme. In its 67 years of existence the trophy, in theory presented to "the most outstanding college football player in the United States," has been won by only one primarily defensive player: Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, in 1997. But the 6'3", 252-pound Suggs deserves consideration.
Despite being frequently double-and even triple-teamed, Suggs has a Division I-A record 20 sacks. He also leads the conference with 26� tackles for loss. His combination of power, speed and relentlessness have made him arguably the most dominating player in the nation. "Terrell understands schemes and coverages," says Arizona State defensive coordinator Brent Guy. "He knows what all 11 players are trying to do."