Calm subsides, giving way to madness
And the best team in America today is Oregon? Boise State? Oklahoma?
Auburn? TCU? LSU? Utah? Michigan State? Oklahoma State? Missouri?
Bedlam has taken hold of college football after five weeks of relative calm. In the past two, we have seen two straight No. 1 teams lose in Alabama and Ohio State, another championship hopeful take a nosedive in Nebraska and utter chaos grip the rankings.
Is there any question that there are serious questions about who deserves to be No. 1?
Your guess is as good as the next person's, and so on down the line.
Ten undefeated teams remain in the FBS. Some on the list (Oklahoma, Boise State, TCU, Oregon) you might have expected. Then there are Missouri, Oklahoma State and Michigan State:
• Missouri is 6-0 for the third time in the past 50 seasons (1973, 2006).
• Oklahoma State is 6-0 for the second time in the past three seasons; before that, you have to go back to 1997.
• Michigan State is 7-0 for the first time since 1966.
We will have a first in both the Associated Press poll and BCS standings this week. Neither Oregon or Boise State has been ranked at the top of either. Oregon reached No. 2 in the BCS in November 2007. The last team to debut as a No. 1 team in the AP poll was Virginia in 1990.
-- David Bearman, ESPN Stats & Information
There is no way to predict the way this helter-skelter season will turn out. We may end up with no undefeated teams, or we may end up with several. We have seen both scenarios play out in recent years, and none of them ends without serious debate.
Perhaps that is what people love about college football -- the sheer unpredictability, the desire to see No. 1 go down in flames.
That happened again Saturday, when Ohio State went into Madison and ran into the irresistible force that was Wisconsin. If you were going with predictability, you would have picked Ohio State, which had won 13 straight road games as the No. 1 team in the country and had yet to lose to Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
But who goes with predictability in college football? The Badgers played their old-fashioned smashmouth football. No pistol needed here. Forget the spread.
An opening kickoff return for a touchdown set an early tone, but so did the running of John Clay and James White, who gashed through the heart of the Buckeyes' defense. The duo combined for 179 yards and three touchdowns, giving Wisconsin the signature win it so desperately needed under Bielema, who had developed a reputation for not being able to win the big game.
The 31-18 win ought to silence his critics now. Wisconsin beat a No. 1 team for the first time in 30 years, essentially making the Big Ten Michigan State's to lose. The undefeated Spartans (7-0) control their own destiny now, but it's not going to be easy with back-to-back trips to Northwestern and Iowa.
Let us move on to Lincoln, Neb., where most everybody had forgotten that Mack Brown knew how to coach. Texas went into its game against No. 5 Nebraska on a two-game losing streak with barely a pulse on offense.
But the Cornhuskers had yet to play a good defense until Saturday.
Taylor Martinez, aka T-Magic, turned into a disappearing act in the face of a swarming Texas defense intent on making him throw. Nebraska had just 202 total yards of offense. Martinez was 4-of-12 for 63 yards before giving way to Zac Lee late. Meanwhile, Texas figured out that Garrett Gilbert could run a little, too. His passing may have been off, and the Longhorns' offense might still be on life support, but he gave them all they needed in the 20-13 win.
Now Oklahoma controls its Big 12 destiny, but a big showdown awaits Saturday at undefeated Missouri.
The unpredictability stretched throughout the nation Saturday.
Six ranked teams lost to unranked opponents. No. 10 South Carolina could not hold a lead against Kentucky, losing 31-28 after leading 28-10 at halftime. It was the first time Steve Spurrier had lost to the Wildcats in 18 games.
No. 22 Florida looked as anemic as ever on offense in a 10-7 loss to Mississippi State, dropping its third straight game. The Gators will be out of the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 89 weeks, ending the second-longest streak in the country behind Ohio State. No. 23 Air Force, which gave Oklahoma a run, lost to San Diego State.
No. 19 Nevada lost to Hawaii 27-21. No. 24 Oregon State, which looked so good in an upset of then-No. 9 Arizona last week, lost to inconsistent Washington 35-34 in double overtime. Those two losses do Boise State no favors, but the Broncos need all the unbeaten teams to lose anyway.
With half the season left to play, we should know by now that anything is possible.
Buckeyes' loss shakes up Big Ten race
MADISON, Wis. -- Before boarding the team bus to the airport, Ohio State players stood outside Camp Randall Stadium late Saturday, pondering a new and sobering reality.
They brainstormed who needed to lose and how it could help them reach their goals, namely another Big Ten championship. It's an exercise the Buckeyes would rather avoid, but after falling to Wisconsin, they had no choice.
Ohio State no longer controls its destiny, and as a result, the Big Ten title race just got a lot more interesting.
The consensus preseason Big Ten favorite is looking up at Michigan State, Iowa and yes, even Purdue in the Big Ten standings. Michigan State is the Big Ten's only unbeaten team, and with a favorable November schedule, the Spartans' fate likely will be determined in the next two weeks, when they visit Northwestern and Iowa.
Speaking of the Hawkeyes, they might have the most control in the league title push. Iowa will host Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State in the next five weeks. Although the Hawkeyes won't play Purdue, if they defend their home turf, they should be heading to Pasadena, Calif.
Wisconsin is in a boat similar to Ohio State, but the Badgers are much happier to be there. They'll need to win out and have Michigan State lose twice to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. It won't be easy, but after beating Ohio State, Wisconsin has earned the right to think big.
No one expected Purdue to be 2-0 in league play after it lost starting quarterback Robert Marve to a season-ending knee injury. The Boilers have a rough road ahead, beginning this week at Ohio State, but for now, they're still in the conversation.
Ohio State's stumble in Madison makes the Big Ten title chase a lot harder to size up.
And a lot more interesting.
Stage is set for Tigers
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has done a lot for his program in his decade at the helm.
He's taken his team to the top of the polls and helped send his quarterback to New York City as a Heisman finalist. His teams have won the Big 12 North twice. They've also won 30 games in three seasons entering 2010, in which the Tigers sit 6-0.
But -- and this won't be the last time you hear this during the week -- Pinkel has never beaten Oklahoma or Texas. Under Pinkel, Missouri is 0-11 against the Big 12's resident powers, and his 12th opportunity to knock one of them off will come Saturday.
The Tigers couldn't ask for a better stage.
They'll host Oklahoma at home, a scenario for which Pinkel expressed excitement after his team's 30-9 win over Texas A&M on Saturday.
They'll play in prime time on ABC. ESPN's "College GameDay" will spend the morning broadcasting from campus.
If Pinkel tosses that Red River monkey off his back on Saturday, everyone will see it.
"Now, the games get bigger, so that's exciting," he said.
Those 11 previous games may not have an impact on Saturday's contest against the Sooners, but a win Saturday will have a profound impact on the program, another step forward in a decade under Pinkel that has been full of them.
And this team may be better suited than any of Pinkel's previous best teams to knock off the team that beat them a combined three times in the 2007 and 2008 seasons to prevent the Tigers from reaching a BCS bowl game.
This Tigers team lacks the superstar skill position talent of those past teams, full of NFL talent like Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Chase Daniel and Martin Rucker. But its strength lies where those teams failed: at the line of scrimmage. Missouri may have its best offensive line under Pinkel this season, and the defensive line is thriving without its best pass-rusher, Aldon Smith. The Tigers sacked Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson six times on Saturday.
After his team's dominant performance against the Aggies, Pinkel was too busy taking a few hours to soak in the well-earned W to worry about what a win over the Sooners and a move to 7-0 might mean.
But after that third loss to Bob Stoops in 2008 -- a 62-21 beating at the hands of the Sooners in the Big 12 championship game -- Pinkel made his thoughts clear on his team as it relates to Texas or Oklahoma, which have combined to win the past six Big 12 titles.
"Until you win the Big 12 championship, you haven't arrived," Pinkel said that day. "We've done a lot of good things at Mizzou. But have we arrived? No. When we win a Big 12 championship, we'll have arrived."
Beat the Sooners, and that goal begins to creep very close to Columbia.
Good luck making sense of the SEC East race
Florida coach Urban Meyer repeated several times Saturday night what's becoming painfully obvious in Swamp Land.
"We're not very good right now," Meyer said after Florida's third consecutive loss, a 10-7 clunker at home to Mississippi State.
It's hard to argue with Meyer, especially if you've had to watch that offense for any length of time.
That said, the Gators (4-3, 2-3) still may be good enough to win the SEC's Eastern Division this season, a race that's shaping up to be a battle royal of teams all beating up on one another.
South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) did its part Saturday by doing what the Gamecocks always do, and that's lay one of those supersized chicken eggs right when you think that maybe they're finally going to break that curse and sustain a little success.
The Gamecocks blew a 28-10 lead at Kentucky and lost to the Wildcats 31-28, a week removed from ending Alabama's 19-game winning streak and knocking off the then-top-ranked Crimson Tide. But like Florida, South Carolina still controls its own destiny in the East.
Those two teams will meet Nov. 13 in Gainesville, Fla.
"We're still in the hunt," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose club also has to face Arkansas at home on Nov. 6. "Now, if we fall on our face or get beat again, we won't be in the hunt. But the Eastern Division is a little down this year, so we are still in the hunt."
Heck, everybody is.
In fact, Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2) is one of three teams in the East that controls its destiny along with Florida and South Carolina.
Georgia (3-4, 2-3) and Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) also could climb right back into the race with a little help. Even Tennessee (2-4, 0-3) isn't mathematically out of the picture, although the Vols need too much to happen to be a realistic possibility.
There's never been an Eastern Division champion with three losses since the inception of the SEC championship game in 1992.
Just past the halfway point this season, it could be that everybody in the division has three losses by the time we get to November.
Three weekend observations
1. Nebraska and Ohio State each came out of the locker room Saturday as if they didn't understand that their games would be played at full speed. And you can't blame them if they didn't. Both engorged themselves on junk-food schedules before having the misfortune to play a ranked conference opponent (or previously ranked, in the case of Texas) early in league play. FCS and MAC teams are good for the financials. They're not the best way to prepare for the real world.
2. The Buckeyes look like a different team in their two road games than they have at home. California doesn't have that excuse. The Bears' blowout losses at Nevada and Saturday at USC, combined with their blowout win a week ago at UCLA, indicate their biggest problem is between the ears. Until Cal proves otherwise, every team is going to hit them hard early and see whether they fold. There's evidence that they will.
3. USC answered the speculation here and elsewhere about whether the Trojans would show up for Cal. After losing consecutive games on last-play field goals, and without a bowl to play for, the Trojans humiliated the Bears 48-14. Bravo to USC. The Trojans fans, not so much. USC averaged nearly 85,000 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum last season. The Trojans brought in all of 72,386 on Saturday for the Cal game. It's not news that Los Angeles fans are front-runners. But it's still a punch in the gut.
Highlight: Ohio State-Wisconsin
'GameDay' crew final thoughts
I was very interested in seeing the responses of two teams after their big wins last week: Michigan State and South Carolina. The Spartans responded in such a way that not only are they still alive for the Big Ten title, they also kept themselves in the national championship picture. As for South Carolina, the Gamecocks responded in such a way that people are probably saying, "Same old Cocky." But the SEC is in such a state that the Gamecocks' goal is still within reach. Their goal is to get to Atlanta and play for the SEC championship, and they can do that even after losing to Kentucky.
Helmet stickers go to:
• RB John Clay, Wisconsin
104 rush yards, 2 TDs in 31-18 win over Ohio State
• QB Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan
414 total yards, 3 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs in 41-38 win at Ball State
After seeing another crazy week, at the end of the season we might not have an undefeated team other than Boise State and either TCU or Utah. Those teams just keep winning. Here's how crazy things are: Wisconsin didn't play well at Michigan State and lost there two weeks ago, then upset Ohio State this week. Right now, Iowa may be playing as well as anyone in the country. That's the beauty of college football. You never know what's going to happen from week to week.
There's lots of juggling at the top after all the upsets. Texas went to Lincoln and knocked off Nebraska. Kentucky came back to beat South Carolina and Steve Spurrier. Wisconsin upset No. 1 Ohio State. This is what makes college football so great. There's lots of movement, and every week matters, every game matters. And what can you say about Cam Newton? He's just incredible. I think he's definitely the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy; he's overtaken Denard Robinson and everyone else.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Mike Hartline, Kentucky
Career-high 349 pass yards, 4 TDs in 31-28 win vs. South Carolina
• CB Aaron Williams, Texas
8 tackles, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble in 20-13 win at Nebraska
Week 7 final verdict
Blog Network: What we learned
Just because Florida State and Virginia Tech are the ACC's lone unbeaten teams doesn't mean they've got things locked up.
The gap between Nebraska and Missouri has closed, making the Big 12 North a two-horse race.
West Virginia's offense gets a lot of attention, but make no mistake: The Mountaineers' success starts with their defense.
It's looking increasingly likely that the Big Ten title race will go through Kinnick Stadium.
After a resounding win over Cal, USC proved it isn't dead yet, making an Oct. 30 visit from Oregon all the more interesting.
And then there were three. Nevada's loss means Boise State, TCU and Utah are the only non-AQ teams with a shot at a BCS bowl.
Although not necessarily an assassin's mentality, Notre Dame may be developing a killer instinct.
Blog Network: Helmet stickers
Every week our bloggers will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
Highlights: Mississippi State-Florida
Odds & ends
• Wisconsin's win over Ohio State will have far-reaching implications when the BCS standings are announced Sunday. Statistically, the big upset is a field day. Ohio State lost as The Associated Press No. 1 team for the third consecutive time ('07 BCS title game to Florida, '07 regular season to Illinois). Only twice before has a team lost three consecutive games as the No. 1 team in the AP poll: Michigan from 1977 to 1990 and Nebraska from 1984 to '87. It's the first win over a No. 1 team by Wisconsin since 1981.
• Florida's loss to Mississippi State was its third consecutive loss in a regular-season game. The last time the Gators did this was in 1988, when they lost four consecutive games under Galen Hall as part of a 7-5 season. The 22-year streak without losing three straight in the regular season was by far the longest in the nation. Now the longest active streak belongs to a trio of teams that last lost three straight regular-season games in 1997: Georgia Tech, Boise State and Texas. The Longhorns avoided ending their streak with a win over Nebraska on Saturday.