Well, one of the craziest weekends in the recent history of college football is in the books with five of the top ten teams in the country losing. In addition to this LSU passed USC in the AP poll following the Trojans' 27-24 win at Washington. The two favorites in the Big 12 were caught looking ahead to their showdown next weekend, and the defending national champ fell at home to Auburn. The best team (as of right now) in the Big East resides in Tampa, and fans in Kentucky are talking Top Ten without mentioning the hardwood. Here are some of my observations from this past weekend.
1. Texas and Oklahoma paid dearly for looking ahead to the "Red River Shootout".
Oklahoma's offense put up an average effort in their 27-24 loss at Colorado, turning over the ball three times before finally losing on a 45-yard field goal as time expired. Sam Bradford (8-19, 112 yards, 1 TD 2 INT) had the worst game of his young college career, and the three overall turnovers for the Sooners led to their first loss of the year. OU had won their previous four games by an average of nearly fifty points per game. What looked like a small speed bump on their way to Dallas turned into a pothole that put a serious dent in their national title hopes. But at least they had a chance at the end of the game. The same can't be said for Texas, who fell hard to Kansas State, 41-21. Colt McCoy had four interceptions in the loss, the worst at home in Mack Brown's tenure in Austin. KSU controlled the game in all three phases, scoring on defense once and special teams twice in addition to their offensive success. Heading into next week, OU can focus on holding onto the football, but Texas' problems run deeper than just ball control.
2. For the second straight year, Auburn picks off Florida.
Unlike last year's game on The Plains, few gave the Tigers a chance to go into the Swamp and walk out with a win. But a good start for their offense early, combined with a solid defensive effort and a clutch freshman kicker gave Auburn 20-17 win and a new lease on their season. Brandon Cox and the rest of the Tiger offense did a much better job of managing the game, only turning the ball over once (a fumble). As opposed to their losses to South Florida and Mississippi State, in which it looked as if they wanted to hand the ball over to their opponents at times. And on defense, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp had his charges ready to go, having them attack carriers full speed as opposed to negating their speed and breaking down to make a tackle (more on this later). Lastly, Wes Byrum made the game winning kick twice, the first ruled out by a Florida timeout. The Gators' comeback attempt fell short, but given at year's game, it's doubtful that they were caught looking ahead to LSU next week.
3. South Florida is the favorite to win the Big East.
All you heard about USF before the season started was the "darkhorse" talk. Well, the Bulls are front and center in a Big East that may be better top to bottom than many expected when the year began. Tied with Syracuse (who showed their true colors in a 17-14 loss at Miami-Ohio) and UConn (5-0, but the combined record of their five victims thus far is 6-21), the Bulls have the best shot of these three to be on top come season's end. Given the backloaded conference schedule, however, winning the league will not come easy for a program that now has its first-ever Top Ten ranking (they're now 7th in the AP poll). But unlike Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers, their big games are spread out some. Wins in their next two (at FAU, vs. UCF) could have them in the Top 5 when they visit Rutgers on the 18th.
4. Cal's DeSean Jackson is the game's most electrifying player.
No disrespect to Arkansas' Darren McFadden, but Jackson deserves that distinction. Saturday's 31-24 win at Oregon, in which Jackson put up 11 catches for 161 yards and two scores, will be one for the Cal film archives as the junior wide receiver added to his Heisman resume. His 31-yard touchdown reception (which was little more than him catching a hitch and freezing the corner) has to be one of the plays of the year to this point. When tackling Jackson, it may be a good idea to use the "Muschamp method" and run at him full speed. ESPN's Jesse Palmer made the comment that "you shouldn't be able to do that" when seeing the highlight (go to http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=272722483 if you want to see the play again), and all I could do was laugh. Breaking down when trying to corral Jackson could get you in a lot of trouble, because against most defenders he's not losing a one-on-one battle when it comes to stopping and starting.
5. The nation' next outstanding wide receiver: Arrelious "Rejus" Benn of Illinois.
While Rejus played well (6 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown) as a receiver in Illinois' 27-20 win over Penn State, it's the game-breaking plays that make him the best wide receiver on campus since Brandon Lloyd was in Champaign. Benn had a kickoff return for a score as well in the Illini's first win over a ranked opponent since 2001. After the 90-yard return, Penn State smartly refused to kick him the ball the remainder of the game. How good can Benn eventually be? Well, he's only a freshman, giving him at least two more years on campus. And with quarterback Juice Williams (only a sophomore) growing up alongside him, Ron Zook could be well on his way to reviving this long-dormant program.
6. Once again, Clemson fails to deal with prosperity and falls flat on their face.
When it comes to games it should win over recent years, Clemson seems to do a decent job of gumming up the works. The latest effort was Saturday's 13-3 loss at Georgia Tech, one that featured another poor performance from the Tigers' "special" teams. Four missed field goals, and another which was blocked, combined with 34 yards rushing and some damaging penalties at key junctures put Clemson in some trouble when it comes to keeping pace with 3-0 Boston College in the ACC Atlantic. Tashard Choice (145 yards rushing and a touchdown) rebounded well for the Jackets after being limited the last two games with a hamstring injury, but this one was more about what Clemson failed to do. But don't forget about the Tech defense either, which racked up six sacks in the win.
7. Notre Dame is in serious trouble.
Well, they did get their first touchdown pass of the season, but little else went right for the Irish as they fell 33-19 at Purdue. Next up is a trip to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA, who looked to be in hibernation in the first half (down 14-6 at the break) in Corvallis, only to blitz the Beavers in the second half for a 40-14 win. Following that are home games against Boston College and USC. 0-8...from possibility to probability.
8. My top five heading into next weekend:
3. Ohio State