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College Football Random Thoughts
by Larry Ness - 09/16/2012
CFB’s second weekend saw FOUR ranked teams fall to unranked opponents but this past weekend, just two such teams lost. No. 13 Va Tech (-10) lost at Pittsburgh 35-17 and No. 25 BYU (minus-3 1/2) lost 24-21 at Utah. The Hokies’ loss was even more surprising considering the Paul Chryst era at Pitt (he’s the program's third coach in as many seasons) had begun with the Panthers getting upset 31-17 at home by Youngstown State (9/1) and then getting blown out 34-10 on the road at Cincinnati on a Thursday night (9/6). Va Tech’s loss ended the team’s run of 13 consecutive wins in true road games which was the longest active in the FBS. BYU’s loss was much less surprising but as I’m sure many saw on Sports Center, the Utah fans swarmed the field not once but TWICE in the game’s final seconds, each time giving the Cougars a chance to send the game into OT with a successful FG. Utah prevailed, but what would have been the fallout if BYU had tied, then won in OT?
Saturday saw three games involving top-25 opponents. No. 2 USC lost 21-14 at No. 21 Stanford 21-14, as the Trojans fell to the Cardinal for the FOURTH straight season (no Luck this time, for Stanford). No. 10 Michigan St was totally outplayed at home by No. 20 Notre Dame, losing 20-3 while gaining only 237 yards. Lastly, No. 18 Florida ran away from No. 23 Tennessee in the second half for a 37-20 win at Knoxville, the Gators’ EIGHTH in a row over the Vols. One top-25 team was idle this past weekend (No. 5 Oklahoma), leaving 18 ranked teams playing non-ranked opponents. Va Tech and BYU were the only SU losers but the 18 teams were just 9-9 ATS. The Y-T-D totals are 56-6 SU (.900) but just 26-35 ATS (43.0 percent).
Poll-mania: USC, the AP’s preseason No.1, had fallen to No. 2 after one game and the team’s Saturday loss saw the Trojans fall to No. 13. Va Tech’s loss dropped the Hokies out of the latest AP top-25, for the first time since October of 2010, ending a stretch of 29 consecutive weekly rankings. That’s been commonplace in the early going of the 2012 season, as Boise State’s Sep 1 loss at Michigan St dropped the Broncos out of the AP’s next poll for the first time since September of 2008. It ended the school’s run of 62 consecutive weeks of being ranked (note: Boise St reappeared on Sunday, at No. 24), which was the nation’s second-longest active streak. (Alabama’s been ranked for 69 straight weeks, the longest active streak). Nebraska (37 straight weeks in the top-25) and Wisconsin (36), each had their respective weekly streaks in the top-25 ended when the ‘Huskers lost at UCLA and the Badgers lost at Oregon St, on Sep 8.
Conference musings: I spoke last week about the Big Ten’s road woes when visiting Pac-12 (or Pac-10) schools since 1998 (year Penn St joined the league) and the league’s overall woes continued this past weekend. I’ve already mentioned Mich St getting manhandled at home by Notre Dame and let me add then-No. 12 Ohio State (a 17-point favorite) struggling to past California 35-28. Just for grins, can anyone explain Cal’s oft-injured RB Brendan Bigelow, who had two carries coming into the game and just six total in his career, rushing four times for 160 yards with TD runs of 81 and 59 yards? Wisconsin did win its 18th straight at home, extending the best home record among FBS teams to 41-3 since 2006, but needed Utah St to miss a last-second 37-yard FG attempt to hang on, 16-14. Then there was Indiana losing to Ball State for the THIRD straight season.
Only in America can the Big Ten be comprised of 12 teams. A closer look shows three schools from the league are unbeaten but only Ohio State is ranked (fell from 12th to 16th in the latest poll). Michigan (18). Michigan St (21) and Nebraska (25) are still in the rankings with one loss but surprising Northwestern and Minnesota (both 3-0) are not (and shouldn’t be). If the Big Ten can have 12 teams, it’s only “natural” that the Big 12 should have only 10 schools! The difference in the early going is, EIGHT of the Big 12’s teams are unbeaten through three weeks. FIVE of the schools are ranked, led by Oklahoma (6) and followed by West Va (8), Texas (12), Kansas St (15) and TCU (17). It should be noted that the Horned Frogs, newcomers to the league in 2012 like West Va, own the nation’s longest active winning streak at 10 straight (just 5-5 ATS). Baylor (2-0), Iowa St (3-0) and Texas Tech (3-0) are among 11 unbeaten teams in the FBS, which are not in the AP top-25. For the record, USC (13) is the top-ranked one-loss team, joined by four other one-loss teams in the top-25. One question. How does Boise St sneak in at 1-1, having lost at Michigan St (outgained (461-to-206 in yards) and only a win over Miami-Ohio?
Any arguments that the SEC isn’t the nation’s best conference? An SEC team has won the last six BCS titles and the league opened the season with five schools ranked in the AP’s preseason top-10. Alabama was a near-unanimous choice as No. 1 this week (58 of 60 first-place votes) and surprise, surprise, LSU got the other two votes and took over the No. 2 spot vacated by USC. Georgia checks in at No. 5, and South Carolina t No. 7, with only Arkansas (remember them?), nowhere to be found among those five, preseason top-10 schools. Let’s not forget No. 14 Florida (3-0) and No. 23 Mississippi St, which is 3-0 for the first time since 1999.
There’s lots to talk about in my CFB preview (coming on Friday), as there are four games involving top-25 opponents this coming Saturday. I’ll be back on Wednesday, with my NFL Week 2 Random Thoughts.