Saturday, September 27, 2008

College Football: What a weak

The chaos began Thursday night in Corvalis, Ore., when unranked Oregon State upset No. 1 USC in a game that made me physically sick.  Forget the fact that Pac-10 officials can't properly determine a horse collar tackle (trust me, I have seen Roy Williams' entire Dallas Cowboy career, so I'm practically an expert), and ignore the fact that USC Offensive Coordinate Steve Sarkisian was trying to do his best Houston Nutt impression.  Oregon State flat out came prepared to face the nation's near-consensus top team.

The Trojans (now 2-1) now have a painstakingly difficult road to the national championship - let alone a BCS Bowl.  Of course, winning the conference title earns an automatic BCS berth, however the Trojans - participants in six straight BCS Bowls - would rather play in the big game.

But the Trojans left Reser stadium with not only a loss of their stranglehold on the top spot and inside track to the title game, but also without all-universe linebacker Rey Maualuga.  And now, with today's slate of Saturday games unwinding, the Trojans could find themselves slipping even further thanks to a schedule full of teams that have about as much consistency as jello.

Here's a quick look at the teams on USC's schedule and how they are doing today and this season:

Virginia (W 52-7) ... Record 1-3
Lost to Duke - yes, that Duke - almost as badly as they lost to the Trojans.  The Blue Devils demolished Virginia, 31-3, dropping the Cavaliers to 1-3 on the season.
(5) Ohio State (W 35-3) ...  Record 4-1
Thank goodness for The Ohio State University.  After the Trojans rolled the Beanie-less Buckeyes, OSU has put together consecutive double-digit wins (albeit over Troy and Big Ten bottom-feeder Minnesota) to improve to 4-1.  Next week, the Buckeyes travel to conference foe and (as of now) No. 9 Wisconsin.  If both USC and Ohio State finish the season with one-loss each, the Trojans will get the nod before the Buckeyes to go to the BCS title game.  It would be a much simpler process if it weren't for...
Oregon State (L 27-21) ... Record 2-2
...dam Beavers.  They played a great game Thursday, giving USC its standard "how did this happen?" loss of the season (see Cal '03, UCLA '06, Stanford '07).  The Beavers (2-2) will no doubt launch into the Top 25 this week, right before next week's date with ranked Utah in Utah.  Time for the Beavers to help USC's cause by proving the Pac-10's collective strength over a ranked team.

As for the teams USC has to look forward to...
Oregon (10/4) ... Record 3-1
Last week's loss at home to Boise State doesn't help the already image-conscious Pacific-10.  The Ducks finished non-conference play 2-1.  Currently leading the Cougars in Pullman, Wash.
Arizona State (10/11) ... Record 2-2
The Sun Devils are taking the week off after hosting preseason No. 1 Georgia.  ASU lost to the Bulldogs, 27-10, but give them credit for taking on a top team.  Their 2-1 non-conference record should gives the conference a boost, which is good considering the likes of...
Washington State (10/18) ... Record 1-3
...conference doormat Washington State.  Non-conference schedule includes blowouts to Big XII embarrassments Oklahoma State and Baylor.  If not for the Cougars 48-9 thrashing of Portland State (Portland is a state?), Wazzu would be winless in 2008.  With one more non-conference game to go (Nov 29 at Hawaii), don't expect anything Wazzu does to benefit the Pac-10's image.
Arizona (10/25) ... Record 3-1
Non-conference record of 2-1 includes a 70-0 win over Idaho (geez, USC didn't even beat them that badly last season) and  a 41-16 win against Toledo.  Zona did fall at New Mexico.  The Wildcats have been a tricky team the past few seasons, but 2008 will depend on they handle the teams they should beat - the same teams they've had trouble with in past years.
Washington (11/1) ... Record 0-3
Yes, they haven't won yet in 2008.  Two non-conference losses to then-No. 15 BYU and then-No. 3 Oklahoma didn't make things easy for the Huskies.  It's realistic for UW to pick up a non-conference win when Notre Dame comes calling on Oct. 25.  Decent chance to get a win tonight hosting Stanford, but definitely not a sure thing.
California (11/8) ... Record 2-1
Currently winning at home over Colorado State.  Traditionally a strong team nationally, but a loss to Maryland while being ranked No. 23 pushed them back outside the Top 25.  Eh?
Stanford (11/15) ... Record 2-2
Two wins at home.  Two losses on the road.  Surprisingly, the Cardinal opened the season with a win over this week's stunning Oregon State Beavers.  Look for the Cardinal to win again tonight at Washington.
Notre Dame (11/29) ... Record 3-1
Today's win over Purdue actually made the Fighting Irish seem like a football team.  The Irish play three Pac-10 teams this season including USC.  But if ND finishes the year ranked - yeah, I'm in shock that it's possible too - don't be too surprised.  Other than USC, the Fighting Irish may not play another ranked team in 2008.
UCLA (12/6) ... Record 1-3
As if the Washington schools weren't doing enough to hurt the image of the Pacific-10 conference!  Another loss today, this time to No. 25 Fresno State at home in the Rose Bowl.  After a brilliant overtime win over then-No. 18 Tennessee to open the season, the Bruins fell hard in a 59-0 groin-kicking loss at then-No. 18 BYU.  In all fairness, UCLA has had the most consistently tough schedule of any Pac-10 team to start the season (three ranked opponents in their first four games).  That sparkling win over Tennessee is ever-more appearing as a glaring aberration than the standard in Westwood.  My good friend Ed Hart summed it up best: Tough week to be a Trojan. Tough year to be a Bruin.
As for the rest of college football, USC is getting help across the nation as other top teams are struggling.  Here's a look at notable games already in the books today...
(4) Florida lost to unranked Ole Miss, 31-30 in the swamp
Michigan dropped No. 9 Wisconsin, 27-25, at the Big House
Navy (goes without saying they are unranked) wins at No. 16 Wake Forest, 24-17
No. 15 Auburn barely held on to win, 14-12, at home vs. Tennessee
Houston killed No. 23 East Carolina (it goes without saying a directional-Carolina not starting with "North" or "South" should never be ranked)
Speaking of: North Carolina defeated Miami (not Miami of Ohio, but the good Miami - err, once-good Miami), 28-24.  While neither team is ranked, it begs the question: what the hecks going on out there??
Maryland went to No. 20 Clemson and used 14 second-half points for a 20-17 win.

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