With two minutes remaining in the latest (and almost certainly not the last) toppling of the No. 1 team in college football this season, a stern announcement came over the public address system at Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium: "Please remain in your seats. No one is allowed on the field."
With the Badgers on the cusp of a milestone, 31--18 win over top-ranked Ohio State, that admonition was met with a mixture of boos and laughter. Moments later, Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor's ill-advised heave down the middle of the field was picked off by safety Blake Sorensen, sealing Wisconsin's first victory over a No. 1 team since 1981 and ensuring that the announcer would be ignored. When time ran out on Ohio State and students rushed the field, security guards did nothing to stop them.
Amid the ensuing anarchy, a pair of giants shared a bear hug. As they embraced, Badgers offensive tackle Gabe Carimi shouted to defensive lineman J.J. Watt, "That's what I'm f------ talkin' about!"
Weren't we all. Upsets were a trending topic on Seismic Saturday, on which the landscape of the top 10 experienced some serious upheaval even before that wave of cardinal crashed onto the field at Wisconsin. About 15 minutes before the Badgers' 169-pound David Gilreath electrified the stadium by returning the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert was taking a knee at Nebraska's five-yard line, adding a touch of class to the Longhorns' 20--13 upset of the No. 5 Cornhuskers.
Even as hordes of overserved undergrads climbed the goalposts at Camp Randall, No. 10 South Carolina was wondering what on earth had become of its 28--10 halftime lead over unranked Kentucky. A week after upending then No. 1 Alabama, the Gamecocks—missing the services of freshman running back sensation Marcus Lattimore, whose sprained left ankle kept him out of the second half—were knocked off by the Wildcats. Facing a fourth-and-seven with just 1:42 left to play and his team trailing 28--23, Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline calmly lofted a 24-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, who subsequently crashed over the left side for the two-point conversion.
"I'm in a street fight," Wildcats coach Joker Phillips had told his team at halftime. "I want to see who has my back."
With the release on Sunday of the season's first batch of BCS rankings, the fight for position takes on an added urgency. One conclusion to be drawn from the rankings: The six BCS computers don't exactly have Boise State's back. Ranked No. 2 in the coaches' and Harris polls (the two that matter for BCS purposes) and coming off a 48--0 drubbing of San Jose State, the Broncos came in third in the initial BCS standings, behind No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Oregon.
The Broncos (and their non-BCS compadres at fifth-ranked TCU) can take heart in this near certainty: The upsets are only just beginning. The 2010 season is beginning to take on the unpredictable, irrational, surreal feel of 2007, a.k.a. the Year of the Upset, when top five teams were brought down by unranked opponents on nine occasions. As more of those teams tumble, the easier it becomes for one-loss outfits to claw their way back into the national championship mix. Recall that in '07, two-loss LSU beat one-loss Ohio State in the BCS title game. Don't look now, but eight days after being manhandled by South Carolina, defending national champion Alabama has already climbed to No. 8 in the BCS.
Even by the lunchpail standards of Wisconsin football, the win over Ohio State was exceptionally blue-collar and brutal, the apotheosis of smashmouth. Badgers coach Bret Bielema, whose 43--15 record at Wisconsin prior to last week included just one win over a ranked Big Ten opponent, spent the days before the Buckeyes game repeating a number to his offensive linemen. "Everybody made a big deal about the 29 games that Ohio State had played without [allowing] a 100-yard rusher," he said. "I threw it in those guys' faces all week."
The big uglies got another incentive the day before the game, when running back John Clay arrived at the football facility with the numbers of the team's five starting offensive linemen shaved into his head. (They are tackles Carimi and Ricky Wagner, guards John Moffitt and Kevin Zeitler and center Peter Konz.) It was a smart play: Clay can shave the numbers off whenever he likes, and now he's not obligated to buy the guys dinner.