fun week of upsets and non-con match-ups. It seems as though
no teams ever listen when ESPN's College Football Game Day
commentator Kirk Herbstreit issues his weekly warning to the
nation's elite concerning pending upsets. But I guess that
if a coach had time to watch Corso & Co. just prior to
kickoff, then things would be much worse than any warning
could fix. This week's slate of upsets span most every conference
- some deemed "the worst" knocked off several from
the BCS's best. Whereas we all agree the best from the BCS
conferences would regularly squish the lower-tier's elite,
it never fails to occur that the middle-runners from any BCS
conference can easily overlook those tougher up-and-coming-types.
California has already had a season's worth of heartbreak.
Thursday night chalked up their third close loss as Mountain
West toughie Utah did the job at home 31-24. MWC's UNLV made
sure last season's big finale win over Colorado State wasn't
a fluke by going into Big Ten country and spanking Wisconsin
23-5. And what of Big Ten cousin Michigan State going down
20-19 to WAC upstart Louisiana Tech? West Virginia learned
that a shaky, inconsistent performance would not be enough
to deter Conference USA's seventh best 2002 squad. Cincinnati's
Bearcats did the Mountaineers, in Morgantown, 15-13. The only
unfortunate result is that most will talk of how the bigger
schools had a freakishly bad day instead of how well the underdogs
must have played to cause such poor performances.
spanned a few of the other contests where rival conferences
squared off in traditional tussles. Arkansas was given little
chance by most - including NationalChamps.net's analyst Chappy
- to beat Texas in Austin
but they did 38-28. Then again,
no one ever saw the Razorbacks coming as they took the 2002
SEC west. Washington State had redemption on their minds after
blowing a 19-0 second half lead last week to Notre Dame. You
can bet that's what motivated them to beat the solid then-#17
Colorado Buffaloes 47-26. This upset isn't huge, but is one
nonetheless. It is similar in impact to Purdue's away-victory
over up-and-coming Wake Forest, a 16-10 result. Neither is
a huge surprise.
narrowly was Florida State, squeaking by on two late TDs to
secure their 14-13 home victory. Too close for comfort, too,
was LSU's seeming romp over another level's #1. Division I-AA
powerhouse Western Illinois gave it to them with both barrels,
holding fast 13-7 until the Tigers opened it up late in the
third quarter. The end result, 35-7, doesn't fairly comment
on Leathernecker's determination and how close they actually
came. Parity isn't such a foreign concept anymore - speed
and savvy have been recruited by all since teams from the
late-eighties (Miami, FSU) showed how these variables equal
victory. We see the results as the top teams have substantially
less ground separating them from the wanna-bees. The call
for smaller conferences to be included in the BCS breakdown
gains more merit with time.
the week's best viewings was Friday night's MAC championship
rematch from last year, pitting Toledo against the country's
toughest home opponent - Marshall. The stat of the week was
also the curse of the week. Marshall was shown to be 50-1
at home since head coach Bob Pruett took over in 1996. Like
so many other pieces of football info, the trend displayed
was no-sooner learned than it was up heaved. Given to us late
- in the middle of the fourth quarter - this fact proved a
foreboding detriment as Toledo came back in the fourth from
being down 17-14 to win 24-17. The ESPN coverage itself had
more problems. With 9:00 left in the fourth and tied at 17,
the broadcast went to commercial and stayed there as play
resumed. When we got back to the action, Marshall had gotten
the ball 25 yards down field to Toledo's 44. What happened?
We never found out or received an apology, just this huge
lack of continuity after two-plus hours were invested into
viewing. A bigger problem reared its head just one play later
as an INT I.D. call was clearly a whiff by the entire coverage
team. Production glitches, those we can roll with. But if
you have the benefit of both being there AND having their
umpteen camera's worth of replays (with producers in your
ear) to give you the skinny, this kinda crap has no place.
The play of the game was on a big third down play as time
ran out. Marshall's #50, junior DE Jonathan Goddard (6'0",
246), was being blocked by Toledo's much-bigger RT Eric Faasen
(6'8", 352!). While engaged and in full contact with
Faasen, Goddard saw a swing pass developing and was able to
put his hand out and deflect the throw. This over-and-beyond
play conceivably kept the Thundering Herd within one score
and in the game. It was awing.
night tilt Cal and Utah put on is, too, worthy of being singled-out.
Utah set a tough defensive tone early by forcing Cal to the
air - they stacked eight, nine, and even ten into the box.
The Golden Bears responded as many would have expected, by
stretching the secondary into honesty through continued exploitation
of their man-coverage match-ups. Utah then "bent but
didn't break" as they defensively stunted their way to
victory. The great games now regularly featured on weeknights
spoil us into thinking Tuesdays and Wednesdays might have
something more to give. Just remember - some kind of football
being televised seven nights a week might actually affect
our Gross National Product.
be the first one to admit that I wrote the N.C. State Wolfpack
off once they fell behind 24-7 with eight minutes remaining.
In the NFL, you wouldn't see this drastic of a comeback at
such a late point. It only goes to prove the old adage that
you play all 60 minutes of a game. It also proves that college
football is so wide-open that nothing is impossible if 22
guys can will it
The INT that led to the final OSU score wasn't an INT at all,
but a trap-try worthy of being exposed through replay. It
only proves that OSU will still need a few lucky bounces (just
like last year) for the Buckeyes to repeat
N.C. State's stellar QB Philip Rivers, along with FSU's Chris
Rix, joined Miami's Brock Berlin as tested-true field generals.
All have now led seemingly impossible comebacks that force
any future opponents to heighten their awareness of such abilities.
more random observations - Nebraska's LB Demorrio Williams,
a senior, is a future Sunday fixture. He had three sacks against
Utah State as a down-lineman last week to go along with his
omniscient presence against Penn State Saturday night
defensive back Jamaal Brimmer gave another career-highlight
effort. He gets my stat line of the week with a TD on a returned
fumble, two INTs that ostensibly led to two magical offensive
TDs (by Earvin Johnson), and two sacks. It is a team victory,
but someone still had to step up - the UNLV offense gained
only 187 total yards
U of Kentucky QB Jared Lorenzen may be a mountain at 6'4"
and 260. But that one dimension doesn't fully depict the senior's
innate abilities - he has just about the best pocket-presence
in college ball
Penn State's starting QB doesn't. Zach Mills showed his inability
to lead any team-achievement, let alone his own, when needed,
as the Lions never threatened late in Lincoln. Down 15-10
early in the fourth, Mills misled fruitless drive after fruitless
drive, with errantly-guided wobblers and shaky decisions,
ultimately finishing 16-for-33 with 159 yards, an INT and
a fumble of the snap (in the fourth as PSU was driving). Paterno
had better do something or it could be another major disappointing
the week's most telling 4-1-1 was graphically displayed during
the ND-Michigan annual. Deemed "Stat out of Whack"
and displayed with an ill-placed mix of capital and lower-case
letters while accompanied by the "Twilight Zone"
theme, we saw Notre Dame's rushing total last week - one yard
- compared to this past week's (at the time it was displayed)
of 149. Their ground(ed) efforts were just the omen Michigan
intended as they shut the Irish down and out, 38-0
ABC gets big kudos for their late-game switch-over from the
PSU-Nebraska finish to the nail-biter in Tallahassee between
Tech and the Noles
FSU was again guilty of playing "not to lose", and
it almost cost them. Finally ahead 14-13, the Noles stopped
Tech and got the ball back late in the fourth. Deep in Yellow
Jacket territory, State ran three lackluster "safety"
plays and went backwards, losing seven yards total. After
the fourth-and-17 play was miscalled by the ref as incomplete,
Tech then drove deep and nearly pulled off a late upset. This
factor, along with the marginally poor secondary play displayed,
gives Noles fans that same recurring nightmarish feeling experienced
the past two campaigns
Auburn took ten quarters and three games to score its first
best college football moment I experienced this past week
(end) came at my wife's cousin's wedding rehearsal dinner
Saturday night. Mired in family as the evening's action took
place (I could see one game - Alabama/Kentucky - on a large-screen
100 feet away), toasts and speeches began. Aunt Elaine then
stood up and told us how lucky we were: her entire contingency
of ten - daughters, son-in-laws, and kids, as well as Uncky
Harvey - had tickets to Michigan's home classic with Notre
Dame, but they were there in up-state New York with all of
us, regardless. For real? College football being used in a
metaphor to proves one's commitment and devotion to family!?
I mean, if that isn't love, I don't know what is.