Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It was supposed to be easy from here on out. The favorites were supposed to keep winning and the BCS picture was supposed to take form. Of course, there is rarely a college football season that goes according to plan. With that said, last weekend certainly had its share of upsets, just enough so to throw the entire system into chaos with only a couple of games remaining.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH: The Iowa Hawkeyes and Oregon Ducks were in the driver's seat to earn conference titles, but both suffered devastating losses this week that put their aspirations in peril.
The Hawkeyes, undefeated on the season, were home against a solid Northwestern team. However, after starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi left the lineup due to an ankle injury, the last-second heroics that had been a staple of Iowa's 2009 season never materialized, and the Hawkeyes dropped their first game, 17-10. Now, the Big Ten race is tight, with Iowa and Ohio State atop the standings at 5-1 and Penn State and Wisconsin just one game back (4-2).
Oregon also had a stranglehold on the Pac-10 with an unblemished league mark heading into this past weekend. The Ducks were certainly on a roll, having just routed conference king USC, but a funny thing happened on the way to the Rose Bowl -- the Stanford Cardinal. The Ducks (5-1 in Pac-10 play) lost a shootout with Stanford (51-42), and are now in a tight race in-conference, just a half game ahead of Arizona (4-1), with Stanford (5-2), USC (4-2) and Oregon State (4-2) not far behind.
Other programs that failed to seize their opportunities were Penn State and Notre Dame. The Nittany Lions could have made things very interesting with a win over Ohio State in Happy Valley. Instead, it was the Buckeyes that came to play, never allowing the hometown team to really get going in a 24-7 decision. Irish eyes aren't smiling this week, as Notre Dame's 23-21 loss to Navy has eliminated the team from any BCS consideration. Now, it may no longer be a question of if Charlie Weis should be let go, but rather, when his tenure in South Bend will come to an involuntary end.
RUNNING WITH THE BIG BOYS: We all know what the service academies are going to do. They are going to run the football in an option-style offense, mostly out of necessity due to a general lack of skill players in-house. To their credit, they are really good at that one thing, as Navy (286.6 ypg) and Air Force (264.0 ypg) rank third and fourth, respectively, in rushing.
There are a pair of teams who do it even better on a weekly basis, with Nevada (319.1 ypg) running wild in the WAC and Georgia Tech (314.9 ypg) doing the same in the ACC.
Colin Kaepernick is the person that pulls the trigger for the Wolf Pack and has been one of the top duel threats in the nation, rushing for 920 yards and 12 TDs, while throwing for 1,593 yards and an additional 14 scores. Of course, a ground assault that is netting over 300 yards per game does not rely on simply one player and tailbacks Vai Taua (880 yards) and Luke Lippincott (717 yards) may come awfully close to giving Nevada three 1,000-yard rushers.
It is a similar situation in Atlanta, where QB Josh Nesbitt has given the Yellow Jackets a huge boost with his running ability from under center. Nesbitt has put up 817 yards on the ground, with a team-best 15 TDs to his credit. However, like Nevada, Nesbitt has a few stable backs to lean on as well, the best of which is All-ACC tailback Jonathan Dwyer. Last year's ACC's Player of the Year, Dwyer has started to come on strong in the second half of this season and has now gone over the 1,000-yard mark with 1,093 yards and nine TDs. Anthony Allen is a change-of-pace type back who provides big-play ability as well, averaging 10.9 yards per carry in limited duty.
THE RIGHT STUFF: Chip Kelly has done a great deal to admire in his first season in Eugene, apart from Oregon's first-place performance in the Pac-10. First, he was quick to punish tailback LeGarrette Blount for his ridiculous behavior in the season-opening loss at Boise State.
That setback also prompted a disgruntled fan to request a refund from the program for the trip to Idaho. While he certainly didn't have to do it, Kelly made good on the refund, writing a check to the fan for his expenditures.
Finally, Kelly has shown the ability to go back and reconsider his own decisions, as this week he reinstated Blount. I originally thought the punishment was a bit harsh, but understood Kelly's decision. To Blount's credit, he didn't quit on the team and took part in all team activities since his suspension, knowing there was still no guarantee of reinstatement.
The icing on the cake for Kelly's debut season would be a Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl bid. The Ducks are in a good place to deliver on that, with the Arizona schools and Oregon State left on the docket.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Starting with QBs, the nod goes to Texas' Colt McCoy (career-high 470 yards, two TDs against UCF), Baylor's Nick Florence (427 yards, three TDs against Missouri), Houston's Case Keenum (522 yards, three TDs against Tulsa), Middle Tennessee's Dwight Dasher (178 yards rushing and three TDs and 182 yards passing and two more scores against Florida International) and Cincinnati's Zach Collaros (480 yards passing and one TD, 75 yards rushing and two more score against Connecticut).
Running backs with big weeks included Stanford's Toby Gerhart (223 yards, three TDs against Oregon), Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer (189 yards, one TD against Wake Forest), Temple's Brandon Pierce (178 yards, three TDs against Miami- Ohio), Northern Illinois' Chad Spann (174 yards, two TDs against Eastern Michigan), Hawaii's Leon Wright-Jackson (167 yards, three TDs against Utah State), Clemson's C.J. Spiller (165 yards, one TD, 312 all-purpose yards against Florida State), UConn's Jordan Todman (162 yards, four TDs against Cincinnati) and Troy's Shawn Southward (139 yards, four TDs against Western Kentucky).
Colt McCoy had a career-high 470 yards against UCF.|
Wide receivers of note included Texas' Jordan Shipley (11 catches, school- record 273 yards, one TD against UCF), Houston's James Cleveland (11 receptions, for 167 yards, three TDs against Tulsa), Baylor's Kendall Wright (10 receptions, for 149 yards, two TDs against Missouri) and Hawaii's Greg Salas (10 catches, for 187 yards, two TDs against Utah State).
SNEEK PEAK: There are three top-25 matchups on the docket this week, with all three holding huge conference implications. First is 15th-ranked Iowa at 10th- ranked Ohio State. As mentioned, the Hawkeyes are coming off a huge letdown, falling at home to Northwestern, their first loss of the season. The Buckeyes on the other hand, are coming off perhaps their best win of the year, making short work of Penn State in Happy Valley. The Big Ten title is on the line in Columbus in this one.
The next top-25 clash involves 25th-ranked Stanford against 11th-ranked USC. The Trojans are not the feared squad that has terrorized the Pac-10 for almost a decade, and the upstart Cardinal are a lot better than anyone would have guessed.
Finally, a Mountain West showdown features 16th-ranked Utah at fourth-ranked TCU. The mere fact that both teams are ranked at this late date is all that needs to be said for this one.