Will the Mighty Please Identify Yourselves
by Mike Mitchell
I've spent the last few days running from yet another Florida hurricane but managed to catch just enough football to make this declaration as September starts to draw to a close: No one has separated themselves from
the pack on the road to a BCS title game.
The SEC was far from mighty this past weekend. Not only did South Carolina struggle to a 17-7 win over Troy State, but Mississippi and Vanderbilt both lost non-conference games to non-BCS teams. The Ole Miss Rebels were bounced at Wyoming, 37-32; the Commodores sunk to 0-3 with a 29-26 loss at Navy; Mississippi State continued to look pathetic with a 51-0 pasting at LSU. Meanwhile, Auburn preyed on 1-AA The Citadel to run its record to 4-0 with a 33-3 win and, just when it looked like Alabama might be rejoining the upper half of the conference, Arkansas pulled the rug out from under the Crimson Tide with a 27-10 win in Fayetteville.
The Big East was a mixed bag over the weekend. Pittsburgh needed a ferocious fourth quarter rally to shake off pesky 1-AA Furman and only won, 41-38, in overtime when Furman missed a field goal. Syracuse continued its downslide with a 31-10 loss at Virginia, Temple was blasted 45-17 by Toledo, and Boston College was on the short end of the 17-14 score at Wake Forest after missing three field goals. Connecticut and West Virginia blew out their non-conference opponents but UConn's 40-3 win over Army and WVU's 45-10 victory over 1-AA James Madison are hardly worthy of praise.
USC almost went down in flames in its conference opener at Stanford. The Trojans had to rally from a 28-17 deficit to subdue Stanford, 31-28. USC lost its 2003 PAC-10 debut to California before closing out the season with nine straight wins and the AP championship.
The ACC was sloppy in its key games. A missed field goal as time expired and a defense that racked up 10 sacks lifted N. C. State to a 17-16 win at Virginia Tech. Clemson committed five turnovers in its 41-22 loss at FSU in Bowden Bowl Six. North Carolina was whitewashed at home by Louisville, 34-0 and I already noted Boston College's three missed field goals that aided Wake Forest's win.
The Big 12 came out the big winner this weekend by staying on the sidelines as Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M were all idle. In the only conference game that was staged, Texas Tech had to overcome a multitude of turnovers and mistakes to steal a 31-30 win at Kansas after trailing 30-5 near the end of the first half.
Texas was unimpressive in a 31-13 home win over Rice. And though any Baylor victory is a big deal these days, the Bears' 37-14 win over North Texas has to be tempered with the reality that UNT is a major disappointment at 0-4.
Things have gotten so bad at UNLV that the 69-year old John Robinson has announced he's stepping down at the end of the season. The Rebels fell to 0-4 with a 31-21 home loss to Utah State.
Boise State, which I expected to roll over BYU, needed a rallying touchdown and a missed Cougar field goal in the final seconds to avoid the home upset. The Broncos eked out a 28-27 win that kept it's nation's-best winning streak alive at 15 games and home winning streak intact at 21 games.
The computer did well for the weekend in picking upsets with a 3-2 mark straight up and an even-better 4-1 against the spread. It scored with UAB's win over Memphis, Arkansas State's victory at UL-Monroe, and Ball State's triumph over Western Michigan. Over-all, the computer is sizzling at nearly 80 percent SU but struggling ATS at just over 48 percent.
No Blemishes: Just 23 teams remain unbeaten with none from the MAC or Sun Belt.
There are 13 winless teams led by the Sun Belt and MAC with three apiece. Every team in the Big 10, Big 12, and Big East has won at least one game. So have Notre Dame and Navy, this year's only major independents.
David Slays Goliath (Not Exactly): This past weekend's slate had just six games that pitted 1-AA teams against their 1-A counterparts and only one came away with a victory. Eastern Illinois chalked up its first win of the year with a 31-28 squeaker over Eastern Michigan. The Panthers had previously lost to Indiana State and Illinois State.
The 1-A schools are 39-6 against their 1-AA brethren with Florida Atlantic notching half of the lower division's wins. FAU, a 1-AA team transitioning into Division 1-A and joining the Sun Belt next season, opened the year with consecutive road wins over Hawaii, North Texas and Middle Tennessee.
Streaking: Boise State has won 15 straight games over-all, 21 straight at home, and 19 straight over WAC foes.
USC has the nation's second-longest winning streak at 13.
North Texas has won 18 straight over Sun Belt conference foes.
Army has lost 18 straight.
SMU snapped its 15-game losing streak with a resounding 36-13 smothering of San Jose State.