Five upsets of top 10 teams shook up the rankings and took the luster off what could have been a special first Saturday in October
THE UPCOMING Showdown Saturday has been, if not canceled, at least downgraded to Survival Saturday, not unlike the way a hurricane devolves into a tropical depression. The eagerly anticipated clashes of the undefeated—Florida at LSU and Oklahoma versus Texas—no longer form a perfect storm after the shocking losses suffered last Saturday by three of those teams, which now know all about depression.
But Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, which before the upsets were ranked third, fourth and seventh, respectively, aren't the only teams feeling blue. Five of the top 10 teams lost last weekend—including No. 5 West Virginia to No. 18 South Florida 21--13, and No. 10 Rutgers to Maryland 34--24—and of the top 25, seven fell to unranked teams. It was an utterly unpredictable weekend that made a mockery of the polls and called into question much of what we thought we knew about the college football pecking order.
For instance, wasn't the Big 12 North supposed to be a cut below the South? It certainly didn't seem that way in Kansas State's 41--21 manhandling of Texas in Austin and in perhaps the weekend's most surprising result, Colorado's 27--24 home victory over Oklahoma. After going 2-10 last season, the Buffaloes improved to 3--2 on Kevin Eberhart's 45-yard field goal as time expired, but the game was really won along the line of scrimmage. The Sooners, who entered the game averaging 61.5 points, had only 46 snaps to Colorado's 82, and stunningly, the Buffs' offense wore down Oklahoma's defense. On the Buffaloes' first 21 rushes, they gained 41 yards. On their last 25, they gained 120. "I compare it to taking out concrete," said Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. "The first few hits with a sledgehammer don't do much."
Turnovers and inferior special teams play dogged several of the upset victims. Kansas State pressured Texas quarterback Colt McCoy into four interceptions and scored on a kickoff return and a punt return. No. 13 Clemson missed four field goals and had a punt blocked in a 13--3 loss to Georgia Tech. Penn State quarterback Tony Morelli threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the No. 21 Nittany Lions' 27--20 loss at Illinois. And while No. 22 Alabama avoided similar gaffes, Crimson Tide fans had to come to terms with something more troubling: the possibility that new coach Nick Saban might not be a genius. Alabama generated little offense—78 total yards and three first downs in the first half—in its 21--14 loss to Florida State in Jacksonville.
Even some of the ranked teams who won struggled in the process. No. 1 USC committed three turnovers and 16 penalties in a 27--24 victory over Washington. That performance wasn't lost on the voters in the AP poll, who dropped USC to No. 2 behind LSU. Meanwhile, No. 9 Wisconsin held off Michigan State 37--34 despite allowing the Spartans to pile up 565 yards of total offense. "We don't get any style points for doing things pretty," said Badgers coach Bret Bielema. "We are not a pretty football team."
Forget aesthetics; the so-called elite teams need to focus on results. The ones who stay in the championship chase will be the ones who recognize that every week is Showdown Saturday.