Upsets create havoc every year
November 11 Guest Column
A day after Texas A&M's stunning, 29-24 win over Alabama came confirmation of just how far college football has been knocked off its axis.
Three of the nation's four unbeatens -- Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame -- sat atop the Bowl Championship Series Standings released Sunday. Behind them were 'Bama, Georgia and the rest of the proud, powerful Southeastern Conference.
It's the first time in almost two years that an SEC team hasn't been ranked No. 1 and the first time since October 2010 that one hasn't landed at No. 1 or 2. Astoundingly, it's only the second time since late in the 2007 season that the league has been shut out of the top two.
It certainly imperils the SEC's unprecedented run of six national championships in the past six seasons.
There's no new order yet. Nick Saban, for one, wants to remind you of that. Three weeks of the regular season and a round of conference title games remain to be played and, after Saturday's upset, Alabama's coach pointed to a couple of his previous teams that worked back from losses to win it all.
This one is now fourth in the BCS rankings. "There's still a lot for this team to play for," Saban insists.
But the Crimson Tide not only must sweep its remaining games, including an SEC championship game matchup with Georgia. K-State, Oregon and Notre Dame probably won't fall back without losing, themselves. The Tide -- and the SEC -- need help, something akin to the upheaval at the end of 2007.
At this same point that season, Ohio State sat only seventh in the BCS Standings. LSU sank to seventh in the next-to-last rankings. But from Kansas to West Virginia to Missouri, teams ahead of them were felled. The Buckeyes and Tigers had the juice to leapfrog a couple more, and they met in the national title game in New Orleans (won 38-24 by LSU).
The SEC hasn't fallen off the radar, accounting for the Nos. 4-9 teams in the BCS this week. Texas A&M jumped from 15th to eighth, the Aggies' highest ranking since the BCS' inaugural season in 1998. Of course, their gain was their new league's pain.
That's only half the irony. The win over Alabama was most welcome at Kansas State and in the Big 12, the conference they left behind.
Item: Texas and Southern California roll past Iowa State and Arizona State, respectively, and bear some resemblance to the sport's second- and ninth-winningest programs all time -- which they happen to be.
Deduction: The Longhorns and Trojans are still a long way from measuring up to their pedigrees, but Saturday was a reminder of both the opportunity and capability they have to wreak havoc on the BCS race. The 'Horns are the last regular-season hurdle for Kansas State. USC is two weeks from playing Notre Dame at home, and could get a second crack at Oregon in the Pacific 12 Conference championship game.
Granted, Texas' schedule the past four weeks (vs. Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State) hasn't been imposing. But the Longhorns swept all four, and the David Ash-led offense, in particular, has perked up. At 8-2, they've already surpassed their 2011 regular-season win total and have pulled right behind K-State and Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings.
USC needed to steady itself defensively after being scorched in successive games by Arizona and Oregon, and did that against Arizona State. The Trojans collected four turnovers and seven sacks, and held the Sun Devils to only a field goal in the second half.
Item: Louisiana Tech improves to 9-1, the nation's most prolific offense (almost 14 yards a game more than Oregon's) delivering a 62-55 win at Texas State.
Deduction: With Texas A&M's weekend performance, Tech's lone loss bears revisiting. It was a 59-57 thriller against A&M on Oct. 13, the difference a missed two-point conversion pass with 38 seconds left.
The Bulldogs are now 9-1. And at No. 20 in this week's Standings, they have a shot at a BCS berth. Climbing to a requisite No. 16 is possible, but they also must finish ahead of the champion of an automatic-qualifying conference and need somebody to head off 14th-ranked Nebraska or No. 19 Louisville.
Regardless, they're leaving at least a couple of imprints on the record book. Quarterback Colby Cameron extended his streak of passes without an interception to 419 (and counting) Saturday, breaking the 4-year-old major-college record of 379 held by North Carolina State's Russell Wilson. Kenneth Dixon's five touchdowns against Texas State raised his rushing total to 24 and overall number of TDs to 25, both single-season highs for a freshman.
With a 71 percent completion rate and 27 passing TDs, Cameron has a better efficiency rating than USC's Matt Barkley, West Virginia's Geno Smith, A&M's Johnny Manziel and Ohio State's Braxton Miller, among others.
Item: Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois go after their 10th consecutive win Wednesday against Toledo.
Deduction: Here's another nationally underappreciated quarterback. Lynch is working on a string of eight 100-yard rushing games, an NCAA record for a QB. With 1,342 yards and 16 TDs, the fourth-year junior from Chicago is the country's fifth-leading rusher.
And he's a true dual threat, throwing for 19 touchdowns with just three interceptions and building the best efficiency rating in the Mid-American Conference.
Lynch and the defending MAC champion Huskies haven't lost since falling to Iowa by a point -- on a TD with a little more than two minutes left -- in their season opener.