Monday, September 28, 2009

Any Given Saturday: Top-10 Shakeup

Four top-10 teams were upset on Saturday (and Thursday). That's why we love college football. Here, once again, is your weekly look at those upsets and a few extr thrown in for good measure.

South Carolina 16 Ole Miss 10

How'd it Happen? The Gamecocks made Jevan Snead look like Michael Spurlock or Seth Adams, in holding him to 107 yards passing. The Gamecocks won a defensive slugfest by stopping the Rebels on consecutive possessions in the 4th quarter after their offense failed to move the ball.

What Does it Mean? For the Rebels, they are not who we thought they were. They had been less than impressive in wins over Memphis and SE Louisiana and offensively, were totally shut down by the Gamecocks defense. The Rebels still control their own destiny in the SEC West race, but if the passing game does not improve their ceiling may be a trip to the Liberty or Music City Bowl. For the Gamecocks, they are now 3-1, and one play away from being undefeated. Of course, by the same logic, they are potentially 2 plays away (NC State and Ole Miss) from being 1-3. With home dates against SC State and Kentucky up next, they will likely stand at 5-1 before a severe road test against Alabama on October 17th. This win likely guarantees South Carolina a 6th straight season of bowl eligibility, but until the offense shows some signs of life they are not a contender in the SEC.

Oregon 42 Cal 3

How'd it Happen? The Ducks, a touchdown dog at home, outgained the Bears by over 300 yards and bludgeoned them despite losing 4 fumbles.

What Does it Mean? For Cal, it reinforces the notion that they cannot win on the road. The Bears are 4-9 on the road since the beginning of the 2007 season. They have now lost 4 straight Pac-10 road games and 8 out of 9, with their lone conference road win in that span coming against Washington State. The Bears have to dust themselves off quickly as they host league overlord Southern Cal next week. Win that one, and this loss will not be forgotten, but it will be forgiven. For the Ducks, this win erases the memory of their uneven performances in their first 3 games. The Ducks also host Southern Cal later in the year, so its possible the Pac-10 could have a new Rose Bowl representative for the first time since 2002. The Ducks win was also huge for Boise State. If the Ducks can continue to climb in the polls, the Boise win will look better and better.

Virginia Tech 31 Miami 7

How'd it Happen? Just when it looked like Miami was really back (no really), the Hokies showed them who still owns the ACC. The Hokie defense held the 'Canes without a touchdown pass, scored on a blocked punt return, and grinded out 272 yards on the ground in an easy win.

What Does it Mean? For the U, they are still alive in the Coastal Division race. Had they won here, they would have taken control of said race with wins over both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. As it is, they have a great shot to win more than 7 games for the first time since 2005. For the Hokies, they are in the driver's seat of the Coastal, for now. If they can win in Atlanta on October 17th, that may shore up the championship.

Iowa 21 Penn State 10

How'd it Happen? The Hawkeyes sustained an early haymaker at State College (79-yard touchdown pass), but kept their poise and held the Nittany Lions out of the endzone the rest of the way in a double-digit win as a double-digit dog.

What Does it Mean? For Penn State, their national title hopes are over (thank you Charmin-soft non-conference schedule), but their Rose Bowl dreams are still alive. For Iowa, they will certainly vault into the top-15 and perhaps the top-10 after this victory. They have put themselves in the driver's seat for a potential Rose Bowl bid, and at worst, a likely New Year's Day Bowl. They still have 3 tough road tests at Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State, but even if they drop 2 of those 3, its possible the Big 10 champ will have 2 league losses.

South Florida 17 Florida State 7

How'd it Happen? One week after rushing for 313 yards against a top-10 team, the 'Noles managed 19 yards on the ground against the Bulls. Matt Grothe's replacement, B.J. Daniels did his best Matt Grothe impression, completing less than half his passes while throwing 2 interceptions, but also tossing 2 touchdowns and rushing for over 100 yards.

What Does it Mean? For the 'Noles, well it means we have no idea how good they are. They have played a good game against Miami, a bad game against Jacksonville State, a great game against BYU, and an awful game against South Florida. So that probably means they'll wax Boston College by 45 next week. For South Florida, this road win legitimizes their program and should put them into the top-20 this week. After opening with lopsided blowouts over a pair of IAA schools (Wofford and Charleston Southern) and a IA newbie (Western Kentucky), the win could mean the Bulls are a contender in the Big East. Their win may also prove to be beneficial for Cincinnati down the road. They still have a ways to go, but the Bearcats have the potential to finish the season unbeaten. They need for the other Big East teams to win a few games like this outside the league if they don't want to get jumped by another team with one loss in the race to the BCS Championship game.

Idaho 34 Northern Illinois 31

How'd it Happen? The Vandals rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense and won their first non-conference road game since 2004. After not winning a road game in either 2007 or 2008, the Vandals have won 2 in 3 tries thus far in 2009.

What Does it Mean? For the Huskies (featured in this section last week), it drops them to 2-2, but they are still a legitimate contender in the MAC. For the Vandals, they have matched their win total (3) from the previous 2 seasons combined, and are certainly the most surprising 3-1 team in college football. They host another surprising 3-1 team next week (Colorado State), and have 4 other home games against WAC schools, so the potential exists for the Vandals to win their most games since 2000 (5-6) and make their second ever bowl trip (only other bowl came in 1998).

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