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November 18, 2007
Oregon, Oklahoma drop key matchups
Forgive me if you've heard this before: A top-five team lost to an unranked team this week.
In fact, two top-five teams that suffered the fate – and a Stoops was involved in each upset.
Two days after Arizona coach Mike Stoops helped his brother by defeating No. 2 Oregon, big brother Bob Stoops couldn't hold up his end of the bargain Saturday when his No. 4 Oklahoma team lost to Texas Tech. The tally of top-five teams losing to unranked opponents has now reached 11 this season. (Oklahoma is the only team on that list twice; then-No. 3 OU lost to Colorado on Sept. 29.)
Beyond the Stoops connection, the similarities between the two upsets were eerie. Arizona and Texas Tech were capable conference opponents playing at home. Coincidentally, they each run variations of Mike Leach's pass-happy offense.
Once Oregon and Oklahoma regrouped with late rallies, it was too late. The Ducks lost 34-24 and the Sooners lost 34-27.
Meanwhile, it looks like the coach that kick-started the year of the upset won't return.
Then-No. 5 Michigan was the first of the 11 top-five teams to fall to unranked foes with its loss to Appalachian State. Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr wouldn't address his future after Michigan's 14-3 loss to Ohio State, but it appears he will address his future Monday at a press conference.
Team of the week: West Virginia
The biggest winner of the week might be West Virginia. The Mountaineers defeated No. 22 Cincinnati on Saturday, but scored a victory in the polls. West Virginia still needs to defeat Connecticut and Pittsburgh to win the Big East title, but will do its share of scoreboard-watching over the next two weeks. West Virginia will move up from its No. 6 spot in the BCS standings because of the Oregon and Oklahoma losses. The Mountaineers will also have a chance to climb with a win next week because either Kansas or Missouri will lose.
Breakouts & Breakdowns
Breakout: Ohio State proved once again it is the class of the Big Ten – and the rest of the league isn't all that close. Illinois may disagree, but consider this: Jim Tressel has taken his team to a BCS bowl five times. The rest of the Big Ten has gone to six BCS bowls since Tressel was hired in 2001. Oddly enough, if Ohio State lands in the Rose Bowl, it will be Tressel's first trip to Pasadena. This was supposed to be a down year with the bulk of the offense leaving after last season. Instead, Ohio State has an opportunity for a long run at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan likely facing a regime change.
The Buckeyes will get at least one more year from sophomore Chris Wells (222 yards, two touchdowns against Michigan) and junior quarterback Todd Boeckman. The defense, though, could be in flux if juniors Vernon Gholston (three sacks vs. Michigan), James Laurinaitis and Michael Jenkins leave early.
Breakdown: Even in a 41-24 win over Ole Miss, LSU can't seem to finish a week without giving its fans a scare. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, who has been nursing a knee injury since he was hit low in the win over Auburn, went to the bench near the end of the game. Les Miles said Dorsey was kept out so he would be ready for next week's game against Darren McFadden and Arkansas. Let's keep an eye on Dorsey and see just how healthy he is next week. You might have better luck getting Miles to discuss the Michigan job than Dorsey's injury status.
What you might have missed
• Matt Forte continues to rewrite the Tulane and Conference USA record books. Forte ran for 194 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-31 win over Rice to give him a CUSA-record 2,007 yards for the season. He's the first 2,000-yard back in Division I-A since Cal's J.J. Arrington did it in 2004.
Two CUSA records held by Memphis' DeAngelo Williams fell Saturday. Forte broke his single-season CUSA rushing record of 1,964 yards. Central Florida running back Kevin Smith ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns against SMU, giving him 25 touchdowns for the season. Williams' old record was 22 in 2004.
• On that note, San Diego State would fit right into Conference USA. The Aztecs allowed Air Force to run for 569 yards. Three Falcons ran for at least 100 yards, including a converted quarterback and a converted safety in a 55-23 Air Force win.
• It was a good day to be a punter, as several put the opposition into poor field position with booming kicks. Georgia Tech's Durant Brooks had a 77-yard punt, West Virginia's Pat McAfee a 71-yarder, Michigan's Zoltan Mesko a 68-yarder, Pittsburgh's Dave Brytus a 66-yarder, and Rutgers' Jeremy Ito had a 63-yarder.
• Utah State got its first win of the season, defeating New Mexico State 35-17. That leaves Florida International as the country's only winless team. Utah State had lost 16 in a row before Saturday. FIU has lost 22 games in a row after losing to Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
• Talk about a momentum shift in Winston-Salem: Wake Forest hurt NC State's chances of going to a bowl game with a 38-18 win. NC State (5-6) was on a four-game winning streak. Wake (7-4) lost two in a row going into the game.
• Temple has found a home in the MAC. The Owls are only 4-7, but it's their highest win total since 2002. With a 24-14 win over Kent State, Temple is 4-3 in the MAC East. The Owls are ahead of a former Nebraska coach (Ohio's Frank Solich) and tied with a possible future Nebraska coach (Buffalo's Turner Gill). With only one senior starter, the Owls could make things interesting in the MAC in a couple of years. When will second-year coach Al Golden - a former Virginia, Penn State and Boston College assistant - start taking phone calls from bigger programs?
• Yale lost its bid for its first perfect season since 1960 in The Game. Archrival Harvard beat the Bulldogs 38-6 in a meeting between Ivy League unbeatens.
Breakdown: Why isn't Pat White getting more Heisman mentions? His team has a better record than Tim Tebow and Dennis Dixon. He's no longer splitting the vote with teammate Steve Slaton, who has 455 fewer yards than he did at this point last year. White continues to improve as a passer. His completion percentage is up, and he has thrown fewer interceptions. One reason for his lack of Heisman mentions might be fumbles. White has been sensational the last two weeks, but he has also caused Rich Rodriguez unneeded headaches. White has lost four fumbles in the last two weeks, giving Louisville and Cincinnati chances to crawl back into the game in the fourth quarter.
Breakdown: Along with Carr, Michigan's defense gets most of the blame for the Wolverines' downfall. However, a chunk of the blame should fall on the offense. Ohio State's defense is stout, but not impenetrable. Illinois proved as much last week. A Wolverines offense loaded with Jake Long, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham and Chad Henne should muster more than 91 yards and a field goal at home, regardless of the weather.
Breakout: Welcome back, Matty Ice. Boston College's back-to-back losses to Florida State and Maryland knocked the Eagles out of the national title picture and possibly Matt Ryan out of the Heisman race. However, BC still has a chance to make its first January bowl game since 1993 thanks again to Ryan's fourth quarter heroics. In what has become his trademark, Ryan scrambled before finding Rich Gunnell wide open downfield for a 43-yard game-winning touchdown against Clemson. The Eagles clinched a spot in the ACC title game against the winner of Virginia Tech-Virginia next week.
Breakout: Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree has his share of records, but the most dynamic freshman receiver might play for Missouri. Kansas State had no answer for Jeremy Maclin, no matter where or when he got the ball. With 361 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats, Maclin set an NCAA freshman record with 2,201 all-purpose yards this year. When Kansas' star cornerback Aqib Talib goes into the film room this week, he'll see Maclin catch nine passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Maclin also returned six kickoffs for 193 yards and a touchdown, had two carries for 8 yards and returned a punt 16 yards.
Breakout: Speaking of Maclin and Crabtree, it was a great day for freshman receivers. Crabtree had 12 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. Cincinnati's Michael Barnett caught 10 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to West Virginia. Tulsa's Trae Johnson caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown in a win over Army.
Breakout: Todd Reesing's balky ankle wasn't going to derail Kansas' Cinderella season. Reesing limped all day against Iowa State, but his production didn't show it. He completed 21 of 26 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns.
Breakdown: Does anyone want to win the SEC East? Georgia turned the ball over four times but still beat Kentucky 24-13 to stay in the race for the title game. The Bulldogs still needs help from Tennessee. Mark Richt finished his game just in time to watch Vanderbilt cough up a 15-point, third-quarter lead against Tennessee. The Volunteers needed Vandy to miss a 49-yard field goal in the final minute for a 25-24 win. Tennessee will need to beat Kentucky next week for the honor of facing LSU in Atlanta, but the Vols didn't look too eager for the trip on Saturday.
Breakdown: Even by Vanderbilt standards this season is depressing. If teams could be bowl eligible for halftime scores, Vandy would be in good shape. The Commodores led Georgia 17-7 at the half and led Tennessee. Vandy was tied at 13 with Kentucky at the half (and tied at 20 until the final 1:33) and led Tennessee 24-9 in the third quarter. The Commodores (5-6) will have to beat Wake Forest next week for bowl eligibility, but a 6-6 mark won't ensure that they'll play in the postseason; the SEC has more eligible teams than bowl allotments.
Breakdown: Somewhere Mike Shula is laughing. After all, he beat Louisiana-Monroe 41-7 last year. Just like his predecessor, Alabama coach Nick Saban lost to Mississippi State. Saban followed that with a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, a team that is 3-3 in the Sun Belt. The Crimson Tide now heads into the Iron Bowl with a three-game losing streak. What are the odds Alabama fans take a page out of the Notre Dame fan playbook and deflect blame from their new high-priced coach and place it on the coach that was fired?
Breakdown: No league has been thrown into upheaval because of quarterback injuries more than the Pac-10. Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State are the only teams in the conference that haven't had to resort to a backup QB this year. Oregon's Brady Leaf threw two interceptions against Arizona this week after Dennis Dixon left with a season-ending injury. It has been a mixed bag for the second-stringers. For everyTavita Prichard (the Stanford quarterback that beat USC earlier this year) and Carl Bonnell (who led Washington to a 37-23 win over Cal on Saturday), there's been a Leaf or a Kevin Riley. He is the Cal quarterback whose last-minute scramble led to a loss to Oregon State a few weeks ago.
Breakout: Most SEC fans recognize Sun Belt teams as the whipping boys for the first week of the season or Homecoming. Middling Sun Belt member Louisiana-Monroe not only took its big payday for playing Alabama, but also grabbed a big chunk of Alabama's pride with a 17-12 win. Just to put this in perspective: The Sun Belt is 4-54 all-time against the SEC. The other three Sun Belt wins are Middle Tennessee State over Vanderbilt. Perhaps no minor conference running back has had more success against the big boys that Louisiana-Monroe's Calvin Dawson. He ran for 91 yards and a touchdown against Alabama, 121 yards and a touchdown against Clemson and 126 yards and a touchdown against Texas A&M.
Breakout: Finally, a public vote of confidence that actually means something. After Arizona defeated UCLA on Nov. 3, university president Robert Shelton stated coach Mike Stoops was not in danger of losing his job. The win over the Bruins was the first in a three-game winning streak. Arizona (5-6) will have to defeat Arizona State (9-1) to become eligible for a bowl game, but Stoops has had little trouble in November against ranked teams. The upset of Oregon on Thursday was Stoops' fifth win over a ranked team in November - and third over a top-10 team. With talented freshmen like Rob Gronkowski and Nicholas Grigsby, Stoops has to make sure he doesn't lose games to New Mexico in September to justify keeping his president's confidence.
Breakout: Preston Parker is this week's supersub. Florida State's leading receiver was thrown into the starting tailback role because of injuries to Antone Smith, Jamaal Edwards and Marcus Ball. Seminoles fans have watched this offense collapse several times over the last few years, but Saturday was not one of those days. Parker ran 20 times for 133 yards and a touchdown in a 24-16 win over Maryland.
Breakout: Indiana will honor Terry Hoeppner and "Play 13." Austin Starr's 49-yard field goal to beat Purdue 27-24 likely ended the Hoosiers' 14-year bowl drought and gave Indiana its first win over the Boilermakers since 2001. With 10 bowl-eligible teams in the Big Ten, Indiana likely needed to win seven games to ensure a bowl trip. Michigan State, too, will probably end its bowl drought by getting its seventh win of the season after knocking off Penn State 35-31.
Breakdown: Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Purdue coach Joe Tiller will limp into bowl season, assuming either plays in the postseason. Despite avoiding Ohio State and Michigan, Iowa finished its second consecutive regular season 6-6. The Hawkeyes did it in embarrassing fashion, losing 28-19 to Western Michigan (4-7). Meanwhile, Purdue's 5-0 start is a distant memory. The Boilermakers ended the season on a three-game skid.
Breakdown: The biggest collapse this season has taken place in Berkeley. Cal hasn't been the same since the loss to Oregon State on Oct. 13 when Kevin Riley's ill-advised scramble cost the Bears an attempt at a game-tying field goal. Cal lost to Washington 37-23 on Saturday. Before you ask how freshman Jake Locker played, don't bother. He didn't. Even with Locker sitting out with a neck injury, Washington ran for 335 yards against the Bears for their fifth loss in six games.
Quote of the weekend
"A storm is coming. I don't know who's bringing it, but a storm is coming."
-Missouri defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams on the final two weeks of the Big 12 season.
Stat that counts: 26-20
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became Division I-A's first 20-20 player. With 26 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns this year, he's the first player in I-A history with 20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing TDs. He was 25 of 34 for a career-high 338 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 31 yards and another TD.
All eyes on ...
Kansas vs. Missouri in Kansas City: Bet you didn't predict this at the beginning of the year: The Kansas-Missouri winner will have the inside track to the national championship game.
Boise State at Hawaii: The winner will have a shot at cracking the BCS.
USC at Arizona State: The Thanksgiving matchup will have BCS ramifications. The winner should play in a BCS bowl.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.