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October 11, 2008
Winners and losers from Saturday
Four weeks after a so-called "Game of the Century" between USC and Ohio State dissolved into a blowout, a second heavily hyped game between top-five teams lived up to expectations.
Texas' 45-35 upset of top-ranked Oklahoma shook up the Big 12 standings and the national-title chase. The high-scoring classic also solidified Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy as Heisman candidates.
The Longhorns were the biggest victors in a weekend full of winners and losers. Here's a rundown of some of them.
Florida: The Gators got back in the national-title hunt in a big way, crushing LSU by 30. Florida won the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Gators' offensive line was especially impressive, carving huge holes in LSU's vaunted defensive front.
Dan Mullen: The Gators' offensive coordinator may have changed his title to "maligned offensive coordinator" with all the grief he was getting. For one night at least, he has silenced his critics. The Gators scored on the third play of the game and played almost flawlessly on offense in the first quarter en route to the huge win.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys weren't given much credit for their 5-0 start, but they shocked Missouri. A maligned defense – which had given up more than 400 yards to Houston, Troy and Texas A&M – made enough plays for the Cowboys to come away with the road win. And a strong offense looked good, as well.
Jordan Shipley: Although he had seven touchdown receptions in Texas' first five games, Shipley didn't get much national attention because the Longhorns were facing overmatched opponents. Now he ought to get recognized as a legitimate All-America candidate. Shipley delivered a momentum-changing 96-yard kickoff return, scored a second touchdown on a 2-yard catch and had a 37-yard reception on a third-and-8 play to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Texas coach Mack Brown: Not so long ago, Brown was criticized for his inability to win head-to-head matchups with Oklahoma's Bob Stoops. Not anymore. Texas now has beaten Oklahoma three of the past four years.
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach: With his team facing fourth-and-5 from its 36 in a tie game late in the fourth quarter, the Texas Tech coach refused to punt. Graham Harrell instead threw a 47-yard completion to Michael Crabtree to set up the Red Raiders' go-ahead touchdown against Nebraska. The Huskers scored a touchdown of their own to tie the game with 29 seconds left, but Texas Tech went on to win 37-31 in overtime.
Captain Munnerlyn: One of the top cover corners in the SEC made a couple of huge special-teams plays in South Carolina's 24-17 victory over Kentucky. Munnerlyn set up a touchdown with an 84-yard kickoff return and scooped up a blocked field-goal attempt and raced 80 yards for a score.
Willie VanDeSteeg: This defensive end personifies Minnesota's recovery from a dismal 2007 season. After recording just one sack last year while battling a wrist injury, VanDeSteeg has recaptured his All-Big Ten form of 2006. VanDeSteeg sacked Juice Williams three times in a 27-20 upset of Illinois that made Minnesota (6-1) bowl eligible just one year after a 1-11 season.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions dominated Wisconsin. Actually, they embarrassed the Badgers. Penn State strengthened its case as the only Big Ten team with a legit shot at the national title by rolling to an easy win in Madison.
Jason Chery: Chery, a senior wide receiver for Louisiana-Lafayette, had a game to remember in the Ragin' Cajuns' 59-30 victory at North Texas. Chery scored five touchdowns. He scored on an 81-yard run, had three TD receptions (covering 17, 49 and 57 yards) and returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score.
Virginia: We certainly didn't expect to be putting this team under the "winners" heading anytime this season, but the Cavaliers have bounced back from a wretched start to beat Maryland and East Carolina in back-to-back weeks. Cedric Peerman rushed for 173 yards and had two touchdown runs of at least 60 yards Saturday in a 35-20 triumph over East Carolina. Virginia hardly resembles the team that lost its first three games to Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) teams by a combined 128-20.
Noel Devine: With a head injury sidelining quarterback Pat White, Devine made sure West Virginia avoided an embarrassing home loss to Syracuse. Devine, a sophomore, ran for a career-high 188 yards, including a game-clinching 92-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Nick Moore: The Toledo wide receiver caught 20 passes – a single-game record for a Michigan opponent – for 162 yards in the Rockets' 13-10 upset that marked the first time a current Mid-American Conference team has defeated the Wolverines.
Joe McKnight: The USC running back had rushed for a total of 37 yards on 16 carries against Oregon State and Oregon, but he bounced back from those so-so performances in a big way against Arizona State. McKnight ran for 143 yards on only 11 attempts while sparking USC to a 28-0 rout of the Sun Devils.
North Carolina's defense: The team that entered the week with an NCAA-leading 12 interceptions was at it again Saturday. North Carolina picked off Jimmy Clausen twice and produced five takeaways in a 29-24 victory over Notre Dame. Quan Sturdivant's 32-yard return of an interception on the first play from scrimmage in the second half helped the Tar Heels – who didn't turn it over – rally from an 11-point deficit.
Michael Smith: Even when Arkansas was getting outscored 139-31 in three consecutive losses, Smith played well enough to lead the SEC in all-purpose yardage. The 5-foot-7 dynamo came up big once again Saturday. Smith rushed for 176 yards – including a 63-yard go-ahead touchdown - against the nation's second-ranked run defense to help the Razorbacks stun Auburn 25-22.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide was off this week, but won nonetheless. Entering the weekend, Alabama was No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll and No. 3 in the Harris Interactive poll – the two human rankings that count in the BCS Standings. With Oklahoma, LSU and Missouri all losing Saturday, the Tide could be a unanimous No. 1 on Sunday.
Texas-Oklahoma officiating crew: It's a shame that one of the best games of the year had so many apparent officiating mistakes. Manuel Johnson appeared to have his knee down shy of the end zone on a third-and-goal completion that produced Oklahoma's first touchdown, but the play wasn't reviewed. The officials later called two questionable late hits on Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis and an equally controversial roughing-the-punter penalty on Texas. And in the third quarter, Oklahoma's Lamont Robinson seemed to have control of the ball for an end-zone interception until he hit the ground – the play at least should have been up for review – but it was ruled an incomplete pass that allowed Texas to make a field goal.
LSU: It's hard to imagine the defending national champs getting a chance to defend their title after they were mauled 51-21 at Florida. The defense was overpowered, the rushing attack was shut down and the young quarterbacks looked overmatched. Other than that …
Missouri: The Tigers had a chance to possibly ascend to No. 1 in the polls. Instead, they fell at home to Oklahoma State as QB Chase Daniel – who had been excellent thus far – threw three interceptions. And a questionable defense had some issues, too.
Chase Daniel: Heisman contenders don't usually throw three picks in a home loss. They especially don't throw three picks against a team that had allowed 11 TD passes and had just five interceptions coming into the game.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville: Any coach who fires his offensive coordinator midway through the week better make sure his team delivers a statement in its first game after the move. Losing at home to Arkansas probably wasn't the kind of statement Tuberville had in mind.
Vanderbilt's offense: Vanderbilt somehow managed to win its first five games of the season despite ranking 114th in the nation in total offense. The Commodores' luck finally ran out Saturday as they gained 107 total yards in a 17-14 loss at Mississippi State. Vanderbilt remains one win away from becoming eligible for its first bowl bid since 1982, but that victory won't come anytime soon unless the Commodores beef up their offense.
Michigan: We understood that Michigan would endure some growing pains in its first year under Rich Rodriguez, but there's no excuse for losing to a MAC team that entered the day with a 1-4 record. The Wolverines (2-4) still have road games left against Penn State and Ohio State, which puts their NCAA-leading streak of 33 consecutive bowl appearances in serious jeopardy.
East Carolina: Remember when this team was being mentioned as a potential BCS party crasher? The Pirates now are 3-3 and could have trouble earning an invitation to any bowl.
Kentucky whenever it plays Steve Spurrier: Kentucky's loss to South Carolina dropped the Wildcats' record to 0-16 against teams coached by Spurrier. The only longer ongoing unbeaten streaks by one coach against a FBS opponent are Joe Paterno's 25-0 mark against Temple and 24-0-1 record against Maryland.
Rutgers: Two years after they went 10-2 as the nation's darlings, the Scarlet Knights have fallen to 1-5. Do you think this team misses Ray Rice a little bit? And do you wonder if Greg Schiano is having second thoughts about turning down those overtures from Miami and Michigan?
Texas A&M: The honeymoon's over for first-year coach Mike Sherman, assuming it ever started. The Aggies' 44-30 loss to Kansas State dropped their record to 2-4, and they still haven't faced Oklahoma or Texas. The Aggies aren't all that far from being winless. Their two wins against New Mexico and Army were decided by a combined total of 10 points.
Arizona State: The Dennis Erickson era started last year with eight consecutive victories, but the Sun Devils have gone 4-7 since. Arizona State's 28-0 setback at USC gave the Sun Devils a four-game losing streak and a 2-4 record.
Washington State's defense: Man, these guys are rancid. Oregon State pounded the Cougars 66-13. Incredibly, it's the third time in four Pac-10 games that Washington State has allowed at least 60 points. Up next? USC.
Arizona: Mike Stoops' Wildcats started 4-1 and looked as if they had a shot to be a legit contender for the Pac-10 title. Whoops. Losing at Stanford means Arizona likely is what it appeared to be before the season – a middle-of-the-pack team in the league.