Michigan-Iowa, K State-Texas on Saturday football slate
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - September was not kind to a host of college football teams that arrived for summer practice with high expectations.
Eight teams listed in the preseason coaches' poll have fallen clear out of the rankings. Other schools touted as legitimate national title contenders tasted defeat before the calendar turned to October.
The chance to play for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl still exists for some of those one-loss schools, especially since two months of the regular season remain, but the margin for error has all but evaporated. No. 11 Michigan and No. 13 Texas are among those schools facing the predicament this weekend.
Michigan (4-1), which lost at Oregon two weeks ago, visits No. 19 Iowa (4-1) in a key Big Ten contest. Texas (3-1), which saw its 20-game home winning streak end in September by Arkansas, will welcome No. 14 Kansas State (4-1) in a Big 12 game.
"The loss was our reality check," said Texas receiver Roy Williams, who could have been talking about other schools as well. "We want to run the table. It doesn't matter who is in the way."
Standing in the way of Michigan are the Hawkeyes, who handed the Wolverines their worst home loss since 1967 with a 34-9 decision last year.
The Wolverines have been sloppy the last two games. They committed several special teams gaffes in the loss to Oregon and had four first-half turnovers in a 31-17 win over Indiana last week.
Iowa was upset by Michigan State, 20-10, last weekend, despite 122 rushing yards from Fred Russell.
The Hawkeyes were missing receivers Maurice Brown and Ed Hinkel. Brown, Iowa's leading receiver, is expected to be sidelined until late October with an ankle injury, while Hinkel is questionable with a pulled groin.
Injuries also have been a problem for Kansas State (4-1), which will welcome back quarterback Ell Roberson in the Big 12 opener for both teams.
Roberson has not played since breaking a bone in his right hand on September 6 against McNeese State.
The Wildcats' national championship hopes likely ended two weeks ago when they lost to Marshall, 27-20. With an easy non-conference schedule, Kansas State may have trouble making up the necessary ground in the Bowl Championship Series standings.
"That's somebody else's perception," countered Wildcats coach Bill Snyder. "Those kind of things are way out there, down the road."
Texas has a chance to gain some ground right away with Kansas State and Oklahoma on the schedule over the next two weeks.
The Longhorns seem to have found their stride since the loss to Arkansas with dominant wins over Rice and Tulane. They reached 500 total yards in back-to-back games for the first time since Ricky Williams was on his way to the Heisman Trophy in 1998.
Texas is first in the nation in scoring, and quarterback Chance Mock ranks second nationally in passing efficiency.
Before the latest edition of the Red River Shootout next weekend, Oklahoma (4-0) will visit Iowa State on Saturday. Since 1962, the Sooners are 35-1-1 against the Cyclones, whose only win during that span was a 33-31 victory in Norman in 1990.
The college football weekend begins Thursday with No. 2 Miami (4-0) hosting West Virginia (1-3) at the Orange Bowl. Like Oklahoma, the Hurricanes will try to avoid looking ahead.
Miami will host No. 5 Florida State on October 11 in the biggest game of the season to date.
"You always want to look ahead, but we can't," tackle Eric Winston said. "We all know West Virginia can turn its season around with one game."
The Seminoles (5-0) are off this week.
Auburn (2-2) was one of college football's preseason darlings, but the Tigers fell off the radar screen and out of the rankings with losses to Southern California and Georgia Tech, in which they did not score a touchdown.
Tommy Tuberville's club has worked out some of the kinks against overmatched opponents and returns to the spotlight when it hosts seventh-ranked Tennessee (4-0) on Saturday in the first meeting between the Southeastern Conference rivals since 1999.
A national title may be out of the question, but the Tigers remain unbeaten in SEC Conference play and a large measure of pride can be restored if they hand the Volunteers their first loss.
Other highly ranked unbeatens face less challenging tasks this weekend. No. 4 Virginia Tech (4-0) is at Rutgers and No. 8 Nebraska (4-0) hosts Troy State.
No. 10 Southern California (3-1), a leading national title contender a week ago, tries to bounce back from a loss to California when it visits Arizona State.
No. 12 Georgia (3-1) seeks back-to-back wins over Alabama for the first time since 1955-56 when it hosts the Crimson Tide.
In other games Saturday, No. 15 Washington State (4-1) hosts Arizona, No. 16 Minnesota (5-0) is at Northwestern, No. 17 Washington (3-1) visits UCLA, No. 20 Northern Illinois (4-0) entertains Ohio, No. 21 TCU (4-0) welcomes Army, No. 23 Purdue (3-1) hosts Illinois, No. 24 Florida (3-2) welcomes Mississippi and No. 25 Air Force is at Navy.
No. 22 Oregon (4-1), which committed nine turnovers in a 55-16 loss to Washington State last week, visits Utah on Friday night.
No. 3 Ohio State (5-0), No. 6 Louisiana State (5-0), No. 9 Arkansas (4-0) and No. 18 Pittsburgh (3-1) are idle.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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