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Ness Notes

   by Larry Ness - 10/17/2008

Three of the AP's top-four teams lost last weekend (No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Missouri and No. 4 LSU). That marked the second time that had happened on the same weekend this year and it allowed Texas, which beat Oklahoma 45-35, to jump from No.5 to No. 1. The Longhorns were able to leapfrog No. 2 Alabama which was idle, making it the biggest jump to No. 1 since No. 6 Miami-Florida upset then-No. 1 Florida State 31-0 in its 1988 season opener.

Texas is No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches' regular season poll for the first time since the 1984 season. Of course, we all remember Texas winning the 2005 national championship but USC was No. 1 all season that year, until the Longhorns beat the Trojans 41-38 in that classic Rose Bowl encounter (BCS title game). Texas is the AP's fourth No. 1 team this season (Georgia began at No. 1, followed by USC and Oklahoma), already matching the number of teams which held the No. 1 ranking last year.

Last season was one of CFB's most volatile in history, as eight different school's held the nation's No. 2 ranking during the year and LSU became the first two-loss team to compete for the BCS title. Its 38-24 win made LSU the first school to win a second title since BCS rankings began with the 1998 season and the Tigers became just the fourth favorite to win in 10 BCS championship games. LSU was a runaway No. 1 in the final AP poll, as the Tigers received 60 of 65 first-place votes, making them the first-ever two-loss champs in that poll (began in 1936).

The CFB weekend opened on Thursday (10/16) with 10 remaining unbeaten teams, with the first BCS standings set to be released this Sunday. However, No. 9 BYU lost at Fort Worth on Thursday night, as the Horned Frogs won in a rout, 32-7. The loss all but 'killed' BYU's dreams of playing in a BCS bowl and ended the nation's longest active winning streak. The Cougars had won 16 straight games since their 55-47 loss at Tulsa in last year's third contest.

TCU's win also ended the Cougars' 18-game winning streak in MWC play, a streak which was the longest of its kind in any conference in the nation. BYU had also owned the nation's longest active road winning streak (at a modest six games) and the Cougars became the 22nd ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent (AP rankings) in '08. Boise State will put its unbeaten 5-0 mark on the line Friday night at home against Hawaii (Broncos are favored by 24 points).

With the BYU loss, nine unbeaten schools remain. Their combined records are 56-0 SU and 38-10 ATS (79.2 percent). Ball State (7-0 SU and 6-0 ATS), Oklahoma State (6-0 SU and 5-0 ATS) and Texas (6-0 SU and ATS) are a combined 17-0 ATS, with the remaining six undefeated schools going 21-10 ATS (67.7 percent). Boise State is 3-1 ATS this year and takes a 16-game home winning streak (9-4 ATS) into its Friday night contest with Hawaii. It should also be mentioned that the Broncos have gone an incredible 61-2 SU and 39-15 ATS on their famed "Blue Turf" since the 1999 season.

Checking in on those three unbeatens with perfect ATS marks we find the following. Ball State (7-0) is ranked No. 24 in the AP (became ranked for the first time in school history two weeks ago) and gets the weekend off. Things won't be as easy for No. 1 Texas, which hosts No. 11 Missouri. The Longhorns are favored by 4 1/2-points but it should be noted that the last time the Tigers beat the Longhorns in Austin was a 10-0 shutout win in '96. That's 1896!

As for Oklahoma State, the Cowboys are 6-0 for just the second time since 1945 (that team finished 9-0!) and are ranked No.8 in the current AP poll, their highest since being ranked seventh in November of 1985. The fast start comes as quite a surprise, as in Mike Gundy's first three seasons, OSU went just 18-19 SU and 16-18 ATS. OSU hosts Baylor on Saturday and is favored by 17 points over a Bears team which is 2-46 SU all-time on the Big 12 road.

Georgia Tech edged Gardner-Webb 10-7 last Saturday, barely holding on for the win when a 43-yard FG attempt by Gardner-Webb was tipped with three seconds left. However, it was a non-lined game and the 5-1 Yellow Jackets remain 4-0 ATS, joining Ball State, Oklahoma State and Texas as the nation's only undefated ATS teams. Georgia Tech visits "Death Valley" to take on Clemson this Saturday, a school which just dismissed its head coach, Tommy Bowden. Tech opened as a four-point underdog but is currently favored by 2 1/2-points.

Oklahoma lost its No. 1 ranking last week after its 45-35 defeat at the hands of Texas but the fourth-ranked Sooners still own CFB's longest active home winning streak, having won 20 straight games in Norman (13-6-1 ATS). Oklahoma has won 41 of its last 42 in Norman and is 57-2 SU at home under Bob Stoops. Since losing 16-13 in Norman to Oklahoma State in their final home game of the 2001 season, the Sooners have won 21 straight Big 12 home games by the average score of 42-21. Kansas, a 19 1/2-point underdog, is just 3-17 SU in Norman since 1963.

With BYU losing on Thursday, the nation's longest active overall winning streak of eight now belongs to Penn State (6-1 ATS), Texas Tech (3-3 ATS) and Utah (3-4 ATS). Joe Pa's Nittany Lions (minus-24 1/2 points) host 2-4 Michigan, a school which is likely to see its streak of 33 consecutive bowl appearances end this year. However, it should be mentioned that Penn State has lost nine straight to Michigan, making in the longest losing streak in Paterno's career.

Texas Tech is 6-0 for the first time since 2005 and for just the fifth time in school history (1998, 1976, 1938). The Red Raiders have now scored at least 30 points in 22 of their last 24 games, including 10 in a row, a streak which leads the nation. They'll take their eight-game winning streak into College Station to face the 2-4 Aggies. Tech has won three straight in this series but hasn't won four in a row since 1970-'73, in a series which has been played every year since 1956. Tech is favored by 20 1/2 points.

Utah benefited most from BYU's loss on Thursday, as it is the 14th-ranked Utes who now claim the title of "the most likely non-BCS conference school to gain a BCS bowl bid" (Boise may argue?). Utah hosts 3-3 Colorado Sate on Saturday and is favored by 22 points.

One can't talk about "winners" without mentioning the "lovable losers." Just two Division I-A schools remain winless, 0-6 North Texas (1-5 ATS) and 0-5 Washington (1-4 ATS). North Texas will be at UL-Monroe (getting 18 points) and Washington hosts Oregon State (getting 16 points). Four schools remain winless ATS. Washington State (home to USC as 43-point home 'dogs!) and Wyoming (idle) are both 0-6 ATS, while Clemson is 0-4 (home to Ga Tech) and Indiana is 0-4-1 (at Illinois and getting 15 points).

North Texas owns the nation's longest active overall losing streak at seven straight (1-6 ATS) and UAB owns the longest active road losing streak at 18 in a row (6-12 ATS). As already mentioned, North Texas is at UL-Monroe and UAB is home to Marshall. Duke ended the nation's longest active home streak (an incredible 16 straight!) way back on August 30 by beating James Madison 31-7 and no current school owns a home losing streak of any major significance as we enter this weekend's play.

There were three games involving top-25 opponents last weekend and in each case the higher ranked team lost, No. 5 Texas beat No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 17 Oklahoma State beat No. 3 Missouri and No. 11 Florida beat No. 4 LSU. There are four games this weekend which feature top-25 opponents and with the season's first BCS standings coming out on Sunday, who knows what the fallout would be if we saw a repeat-performance of last weekend's upsets?

For the record, here's the four games involving top-25 opponents. No. 1 Texas hosts No. 11 Missouri, No. 4 Oklahoma hosts No. 16 Kansas, No. 10 Georgia (minus-14 1/2 points) hosts No. 22 Vandy and No. 12 Ohio State (minus-three points) visits No. 20 Michigan State.

Good luck, Larry

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