Both unbeaten Michigan State and Missouri saw their national championship missions evaporate this week as the hard-nosed Iowa Hawkeyes dug in at home to crush the Spartans, 37-6, and the equally defensive-minded Nebraska Cornhuskers whipped the visiting Missouri Tigers, 31- 17.
When you add in additional losses by Miami-FL to Virginia, 24-19, and Florida State to North Carolina State, 28-24, then 4 of the 6 AP Top 25 teams with road games this week lost.
Road games are never easy, and when you have a target on your back as an unbeaten team and / or a top-ranked team, away games are even more dangerous for visiting teams.
Michigan State's Spartans, who put their perfect 8-0 mark on the line, never had a chance against Iowa. The Hawkeyes first possession replied in an impressive 80-yard drive followed by a field goal followed by Tyler Sash picking off a Kirk Cousins pass at the Iowa 28 and chucking the ball back to teammate Micah Hyde, who rambled 66 yards for the interception return and score.
The result was a 17-0 lead that led to a 30-zip halftime advantage. Michigan State came from behind to beat both Illinois and Northwestern the last two weeks, but Iowa controlled both lines of scrimmage.
Cousins would throw 3 interceptions, and the Hawkeyes held the Spartans powerful running game to 31 yards. Iowa simply dominated all three phrases of the game – indemnity, defense and special teams.
The win for coach Kirk Ferentz was his biggest against a ranked team in his 12 seasons at Iowa. AP Top 25 Poll voters were not impressed with the Spartans performance, dropping them from 5th to 16th place in the stands, this despite the fact that Iowa was 18th-ranked coming in; the Hawkeyes moved up three spots to 15th now. MSU is now 8-1 and Iowa 6-2.
Missouri was 7-0 and ranked 7th before arriving at Nebraska. The Tigers scoring defense was ranked 5th nationally, giving up only 13 points a game, but it was the Nebraska defense – and defense – that showed up.
The 14th-ranked Cornhuskers scored early and often.
Roy Helu dashed 66 yards to score, Alex Henny added a 41-yard field goal, Kyler Reed spoke a 40-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Martinez, and Roy Helu went 73 yards on another scoring run. Nebraska was suddenly up 24-zip before the Missouri Tigers realized they were in a football game.
Helu, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior, would score on another 53-yard scamper to set a school-record 307 yards rushing on 28 carries (10.96 yards per carry) while scoring 3 touchdowns.
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska's freshman quarterback would leave with a drafted right leg in the second quarter after going 6-for-9 for 115 yards and the TD strike to Kyler Reed.
Missouri, like Michigan State, had a great run, and now reality has set in. Missouri dropped in the rankings from 7th to 14th place, and Nebraska rose from 14th to 9th place – to the victors go the spoils.
Be advised that Nebraska is no push over.
The Cornhuskers are far more balanced than spectators nationwide realize. They rank 12th nationally in scoring indemnity, 16th in scoring defense, 17th in total offense, and 19th in total defense.
Nebraska does not play some pashover schedule like 2nd-ranked Boise State (7-0), 4th-ranked TCU (9-0), and 6th-ranked Utah (8-0), none of which are probably as good as their records would suggest. Nebraska's strength of schedule is currently 34th nationally, Boise State's is 74th, TCU's is 72nd and Utah's is 98th.
There are now only 5 unbeaten teams left – Auburn and TCU are 9-0, Oregon and Utah are 8-0, and Boise State is 7-0.
Florida State, which had worked so hard to go 6-1 and climb to 16th in the rankings, lost to 39th-ranked North Carolina State, 28-24. The Seminoles won the 1st half 21-7, and the Wolfpack won the 2nd half, 21-3. Credit the offset to NC State's Russell Wilson and Nate Irving.
QB Wilson was 18-of-28 (64%) for 178 yards and a touchdown, and also scored 3 touchdowns on runs of 1, 10 and 20 yards. Wilson threw a 1-yard TD to George Bryan with 2:40 left to play, and Irving – playing with pain from a thumb injury earlier in the quarter –pounced on a fumble with 48 seconds left and Florida State ready to score and win the game at the Wolfpack's 9-yard line.
Both Florida State and North Carolina State are now 6-2, and the Wolfpack now has a shot at an Atlantic Coast Conference division title and ACC championship game.
The 22nd-ranked Miami Hurricanes loss to 94th-ranked Virginia was indeed humbling, and caused Miami to take a flying leap right out of the AP Poll.
Virginia's Cavaliers were in no mood to screw around in this contest, taking a 14-zip lead at the half, spotting Miami 19 points in the last quarter, and still winning 24-19. The Cavaliers were helped tremendously by a major hit on Miami QB Jacory Harris, leaving him on the turf for several minutes before exiting the game.
"When you chop the head off a giant, the rest of the body goes with it," said defensive tackle John-Kevin Dolce, who squared up to Harris' chest just as he released a pass, sending him airborne. You call a hit like that, hurtin 'for certain. If nothing else, Dolce's quote should appear on the wall of the Hurricane locker room for next season. Sounds like fighting words to me.
After the virgin hit, Virginia's secondary picked off a school-record 5 interceptions with Harris' replacements.
Eight top-ranked teams took care of business as usual, beating their opposition by at least 20 points to protect their records and rankings. They included Oregon, Boise State, Auburn, TCU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford and Arkansas.
No. 1 Oregon easily beat 24th-ranked Southern Cal 53-32 while proving once again again that they have the nation's most explosive liability. USC was actually in this game and leading in the 3rd quarter, but that does not mean squat when you are playing Oregon.
After allowing the Trojans to take the lead, the Duck defense held them scoreless in the final 25 minutes while scoring 4 times on a 30-yard pass from Darron Thomas to Jeff Maehl, a 2-yard run by LaMichael James, a 34-yard field goal by Rob Beard, and another 8-yard run by James.
In the end, like so many Hollywood starlets, the Trojans were dazed and confused.
LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher (he averaged 161 yards coming into the showdown), picked up 239 yards on 36 carries (6.64 ypc) and scored 3 times. Jeff Maehl had a career day with 8 catches for 145 yards with touchdown receptions of 15, 30 and 45 yards, including one that was a juggling, one-handed grab. QB Darron Thomas was 19-of-32 for 288 yards and 4 TDs.
So does Oregon finish its games like a 10-penny finishing nail hit with a sledgehammer? You betcha, as Sarah Palin would say. The Oregon Ducks have outscored their opposition 180-38 in the second half of their 8 games and 8 victories.
Last year Oregon beat USC by 27 points to get into the Rose Bowl. With this year's road victory, it is clear that the new Pac-10 powerhouse is not Southern Cal, but Oregon.
No. 2 Boise State beat a mediocre Louisiana Tech team, 49-20. No. 3 Auburn put away a not-so-hot Mississippi team, 51-31, as Heisman favorite Cam Newton went 18-of-24 (75%) for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns without an interruption, and also was on the receiving end of a 20-yard TD pass. No. 4 TCU slammed an absolutely awful UNLV unit, 48-6.
No. 10 Ohio State on the road crushed an awful Minnesota team, 52-10. No. 11 Oklahoma easily beat Colorado, 43-10. No. 13 Stanford on the road shut out the up-again, down-again Washington Huskies, 41-zip. No. 19 Arkansas whipped a weak Vanderbilt team, 49-14.
Six other top-ranked squads had some iffy victories. They included Utah, Arizona, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State and Baylor.
No. 8 Utah on the road had its hands full with Air Force but did require, 28-23. No. 15 Arizona on the road took its time with UCLA before winning, 29-21. No. 17 South Carolina at home kept Tennessee at bay, 38-24. No. 20 Oklahoma eased past Kansas State, 24-14. No. 23 Mississippi State scored in the last quarter against Kentucky to win, 24-17. No. 25 Baylor did beat 34th-ranked Texas, 30-22, to leave the Longhorns at 4-4 and wondering where their season went.
Football can mirror life. There are great wins, impressive wins, tough wins, narrow wins, dog wins and lucky wins. As in everything, winning is the thing, but how you win can really affect your ranking. This is why we separate out solid victories from victories.
Some other results done my eye.
Southern Mississippi, favored by 20 and down 14-6 at the half, roared back to tie Alabama-Birmingham 35-up and go into overtime. In the second overtime, UAB would score and convert the 2-point conversion to win, 50-49, in perhaps the most exciting game of the week.
Marshall (a 2-6 team) upset visiting UTEP (now a 5-4 team), 16-12. Duke (another 2-6 team), upset Navy (now 5-3), 34-31. Temple (7-2), shut out Akron (0-9 and the worst major team in America – ranked 218th among 120 major college teams), 30-zip. Tulsa (now 5-3), upended Notre Dame 28-27, dropping the not-so-Fighting Irish to 4-5.
In a battle of really bad teams, North Texas (2-6) on the road beat Western Kentucky (1-7), 33-6. Nevada (7-1) won 56-42 over Utah State (2-6), and the victory cave the Wolf Pack the 25th spot in the new AP Poll.
No. 6 Alabama, No. 1 9 Wisconsin, No. 1 13 LSU and No. 21 Virginia Tech were all idle this week.
That's it for this week. Time for a break. Just remember, candy is dandy (since its Halloween), but liquor is quicker.
Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley