Considering the havoc wreaked upon the Associated Press poll’s top 10 last week, every college football team in the country should watch be watching its back. A handful of top teams suffered particularly excruciating conference losses and will likely lose all hope of a title if they drop another contest this weekend.
Perhaps the most surprising upset of the weekend came last Thursday night on the campus of Oregon State University, where the Beavers shocked then-No. 1 Southern Cal. It was the third crippling upset in as many seasons for the Trojans, who fell to Oregon State on the road two years ago and to 40-point underdog Stanford in the Coliseum last season.
Meanwhile, in Gainesville, Fla., Florida entered Saturday’s game against lowly Mississippi fresh off a 30-6 beating of conference foe Tennessee. But reigning Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow could not penetrate the Rebels’ defensive line and the Gators were stunned, 31-30.
And No. 9 Wisconsin lost to some Big Ten team in Michigan. You might have heard about it.
Those three disheartened teams had better dry their eyes quickly if they’re hoping for a bid to a BCS bowl game, because this weekend only heightens the in-conference drama.
No. 23 Oregon at No. 9 Southern Cal
Despite preseason worries that losing running back Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Dennis Dixon would derail the Ducks’ offense, Oregon has scorched defenses early in 2008. Give most of the credit to an unstoppable running attack that is averaging 309 yards per game, good for fourth in the nation.
If linebacker Rey Maualuga and the Southern Cal defense can’t stop Oregon on the ground, the Trojans may fail to reach a BCS bowl game for the first time in six years.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 footballs
No. 12 Florida at Arkansas
Florida entered last Saturday’s home game overlooking Mississippi as it anticipated a showdown with Louisiana State on October 11th. Unfortunately for the Gators, Mississippi was clearly focused on Tebow and came away from the Swamp with the huge upset. Now, Florida must regroup against an equally wounded Arkansas team that was dominated by Texas, 52-10, in Austin.
Florida will be heavily favored to win this SEC game — just as it was against Mississippi.
Rating: 3 out of 5 footballs
Pittsburgh at No. 10 South Florida
After last weekend’s upset bonanza, the Bulls find themselves in the Top 10 and contending for a BCS title for the second straight year. South Florida is suddenly the top team in the Sunshine State and will have a target on its back when it hosts Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Panthers have won three straight and will look to keep the upsets coming and unseat the Big East favorite.
South Florida has proven to be a dominant team on both sides of the ball with quarterback Matt Grothe and defensive end George Selvie leading the Bulls to a 5-0 start. But Pitt sophomore running back LeSean McCoy is a special talent and can singlehandedly keep his team in contention. Could we see another Thursday night miracle?
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 footballs
No. 13 Auburn at No. 19 Vanderbilt
It’s a strange sight — Vanderbilt is undefeated and currently sits atop the SEC East. It will be even stranger if the Commodores beat Auburn Saturday. The Commodores haven’t beaten the Tigers since the 1955 Gator Bowl, and Vanderbilt hasn’t opened the season with five straight wins since 1943.
Whatever happens, don’t expect this to be a high-scoring slugfest. Vanderbilt has one of the worst passing attacks since the invention of the forward pass, but quarterback Chris Nickson makes up for it with his feet and he leads the Commodores in rushing touchdowns. Auburn’s offense isn’t exactly potent either, and it has been plagued this season with costly turnovers. The Tiger defense has scored in every game this season, the one exception being a 3-2 win over Mississippi.
Auburn fans expect to continue their domination over the usual laughingstock of the SEC. But the Commodores have never been more confident, especially after their last home win over then-ranked South Carolina. The place should be rocking. After all, it’s Nashville.
Rating: 4 out of 5 footballs