I could probably pile on the Big Ten again this week because the conference’s National Championship hopes are gone in the wake of Michigan State being dominated at home by Notre Dame. Wisconsin is clearly lousy. Indiana lost at home to Ball State. But I think my point that the Big Ten is vastly overrated already has been made.
I could also jump on the mess that is Arkansas. It was blasted 52-0 at home by Alabama on Saturday, the first time in 46 years that Arkansas was shut out in Razorback Stadium. The Hogs are cooked and John L. Smith is a dead-man walking. (Side note: Look for rumors of ex-Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino to Kentucky to heat up; UK coach Joker Phillips is a goner for sure after Saturday’s loss to Western Kentucky).
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But, clearly, the biggest story of the weekend was Southern Cal losing at Stanford, 21-14. Sometimes bulk can overwhelm speed, and that’s clearly what happened with the Cardinal. They were bigger and more physical than the Trojans, whose lack of depth due to scholarship reductions was evident. Matt Barkley looked very ordinary by completing 20-of-41 passes for 254 yards with two picks and no scores. He’s probably still the Heisman favorite, however, because no other player has really stepped up to take that role. But USC’s title hopes may be done– the Trojans dropped to No. 13 in the AP poll and to +1200 on Sportsbook.ag to win the BCS national title. Stanford, up to No. 9 in the AP poll, is +4000.
To be fair, USC did play without its best offensive lineman, center Khaled Holmes. But just 91 total yards of offense in the second half? And 26 net rushing yards overall? The Trojans have now lost four straight to Stanford and have dropped their conference road opener in four of the last five seasons and either their first or second conference road game in each of the last six seasons. Can USC still play for it all? Certainly. But that schedule looks a lot tougher now, with Arizona, UCLA and Notre Dame all better than expected. Southern Cal likely will take out its frustration this week as an opening 16-point home favorite vs. Cal, which almost won at Ohio State on Saturday.
Speaking of the Irish, it might be time to put down some cash on their BCS title hopes: currently +2500. The Notre Dame defense was terrific in East Lansing, holding the Spartans to 237 total yard and their lowest scoring output at home in 21 years. The star was linebacker Manti Te'o with 12 tackles, two pass breakups, a sack and a fumble recovery. I’m not a Notre Dame fan but it was hard not to feel good for him after Te’o lost both his girlfriend and his grandmother within a 24-hour span last week. That Notre Dame defense did suffer a big blow in the MSU game as senior safety Jamoris Slaughter was lost for the season with an Achilles’ injury. That secondary already was the biggest question mark on the defense with its inexperience.
The Irish jumped to No. 11 in the AP poll and now won’t leave Indiana until an Oct. 27 game at Oklahoma. Notre Dame is a 6.5-point home favorite this week vs. Michigan. The Wolverines have won three straight in the series, with all games coming down to the final seconds. It’s the first time Michigan has beaten Notre Dame three straight times since 1908.
Finally, my vote for worst BCS conference team in the land has to go to Colorado. A week after losing at home to FCS school Sacramento State, the Buffs were beaten 69-14 at Fresno State on Saturday. It could have been worse. The Bulldogs, who were 14.5-point favorites, had a 55-7 lead and 516-123 yardage advantage at the half. Fresno had twice as many touchdowns (eight) as the Buffaloes had first downs (four) before intermission.
Fresno State had lost its previous four games against teams from the BCS conferences. The Buffs barely avoided suffering the worst loss by any BCS team ever vs. a non-BCS club. That mark is held by UCLA, which lost 59-0 to BYU four years ago. Colorado could easily go 0-12 this year and hasn’t come close to covering a game (+18.5 this week at Washington State). It ranks near the bottom of the nation in total offense and defense. Coach Jon Embree might want to get his resume ready.
Last week, I was 1-2 in my NCAA previews, hitting on Rutgers (+7.5) at South Florida but missing on Houston (+17.5) at UCLA and Michigan State (-5) vs. Notre Dame – I did go 2-1 on the totals – so am 3-3 thus far in 2012. This week look for previews of BYU-Boise State (Thursday), Clemson-Florida State (game of week) and Arizona-Oregon (one of final kickoffs Saturday).
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