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College Football Letdown Spots

   by Al McMordie - 11/11/2010


College football is littered with weeks where teams are soaring high off big wins, only to fall flat on their face the next week. This is the classic example of emotion taking too much out of a club that they are out of gas the following game.

South Carolina got things rolling with the big upset of No. 1 Alabama, 35-21, playing an emotional game in front of the home fans and a national TV audience. The defending national champions had won 19 straight games but South Carolina shredded the country's top-rated scoring defense. "I said 'Fellas, if fate means for us to win this game then let's give it a chance. Let's give fate a chance to happen,' " Steve Spurrier said.

That euphoria lasted less than a week, as the Gamecocks were favored at Kentucky but lost 31-28. The defense gave up 401 yards (349 passing) and the offense turned it over 4 times. "Give Kentucky credit, they kicked our tails," Spurrier said. The emotion had shifted to the other team, as Kentucky QB Mike Hartline completed 32 of 42 passes. He gripped the ball tightly while being mobbed by fans that stormed the field after Kentucky saved its season. "I wanted this one so bad," he said. "It was just a big, emotional win for everybody. I wasn't going to give up that ball. They ran into a talented Kentucky offense that started 7-0 over the total.

The following week Kentucky looked out of gas, though, failing to cover in a 44-31 loss to Georgia. And that's the thing, teams can expend so much energy one week that they simply can't attain that level the following week. In addition, the team next on the schedule is often more fired up to beat a team that just beat No. 1 or is off an impressive win.

This happens all the time. A year ago Penn State was involved in two of those. After a 3-0 start against weak teams, the Nittany Lions had a showdown with Iowa, their Big 10 opener. The Lions laid an egg in a 20-10 loss at home. The next week the Lions were a 7-point favorite over Illinois and crushed the Illini, 35-17. Penn State had another big showdown against Ohio State, with the Big 10 title in the balance. Penn State stumbled again in a 24-7 loss as a favorite. Even more remarkable when you realize Penn State was 32-4 SU, 20-13 ATS its last 36 at home at the time.

That same season Oregon had its biggest win in years, a show stopping 47-20 rout of rival USC that put it in the driver's seat for the Pac 10 title. Coach Chip Kelly preached to his team about not letting down the next week against the Stanford Cardinal after that tremendous high.

"It's a special team," Kelly said. "Their mindset is really good right now. We all live in the moment."

Well they were living out of the moment, with the defense having an out of body experience in a 51-42 loss at Stanford as a favorite. Oregon had 575 yards, but allowed 505. The Oregon pass defense was leading the Pac 10 while giving up a paltry 5.1 yards per pass, and then Stanford smoked them. From sitting pretty one week to having so many things unravel a week later is tough for some teams to swallow. How they respond and react during the week is important to keep tabs on.

This season, Ohio State had the unenviable task of taking over the top-seeded crown after Alabama lost. And they held that crown for…..one week, as they lost at fired-up Wisconsin, 31-18. "We just blew it as a team," Terrelle Pryor said. His Heisman Trophy hopes may have taken a beating too, after he went just 14-for-28 passing with an interception. They ran into a talented Wisconsin offense that is 5-2 over the total.

Other times injuries and the pressure of staying unbeaten this time of the season can take a toll. A year ago Iowa was in that boat, but lost QB Rick Stanzi during a 9-0 start. The team that had stunned Penn State earlier in the year ended up in the same boat after a surprising 17-10 home loss to Northwestern, its first defeat. Emotion is great to have on your side for a game, but a letdown can often follow, plus having key players out injured can make things even tougher on teams off of physical, emotional upsets. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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