College football fans were treated to more upsets in the Top Ten yesterday than I can remember in years. Five teams lost to lower ranked, or in most cases unranked, opponents. And USC narrowly escaped in Seattle against the resurgent Washington Huskies. In the Top Ten Oklahoma’s loss shocks me the most. I did not think Colorado was nearly this good. Was OU looking ahead to Texas this week? Maybe, but then Texas lost to Kansas State, less of a shock to this fan since Texas has not looked all that good for several weeks. Then there was Florida’s loss at home, in the "swamp" no less, to Auburn. This should not have been a huge surprise. Tommy Tuberville can really coach with the best and he seems to always get Auburn ready when people count them out the most. (He also loses games that he should win far too often, except to Alabama who he owns right now.) Was Florida looking ahead to LSU this coming week? (Don’t forget, these are still college students playing this game!)
Then there was West Virginia losing to South Florida, a great story if there ever was one. And Rutgers losing to Maryland. Then in the next fifteen ranked teams there were several more upsets. This is part of the beauty of this wonderful game. Last year it was Wake Forest. This year it is South Florida. And how good is Hawaii? Or Boise State, who shocked Oklahoma in a bowl game last year in the most exciting game of the entire season.
Friends know that I am an Alabama man. (I was a student there from 1967-1969 before graduating at Wheaton College in 1971. Wheaton, by the way, has a highly-ranked, undefeated Division III football team these days.) I was pretty bummed out by Bama’s prime-time loss to Florida State. It was not the score that troubled me but the way they lost. They just got pushed around most of the game. Nick Saban has already made a big difference but until he has his own players, in two or three more seasons, his success can’t be truly measured. His ranks are very thin and his team must learn to play his way. There are still some "winnable" big games with Tennessee and Auburn to come, besides the less respected teams that can knock them off if they are careless; e.g., Ole Miss and Mississippi State. (LSU will beat Alabama handily unless it takes them too lightly, which almost never happens in such a rivalry game.) I began this fall hoping for eight wins for Alabama this season. I still think that is attainable in this "rebuilding" year. Bama fans are starved to win now but but they will need patience and respect, something they have not always had in abundance since the Bear Bryant era.
So is LSU really number one? The new polls say "Yes." I do not think so but time will tell anyway. Les Miles has shot off his mouth a bit too for my taste so I am not enamored with his style in the least. And even though I am a huge SEC fan I think USC, Cal and Oregon are all three just as good as the big three teams in the SEC this year. (Is it LSU, Florida and Georgia? I think so.) Top to bottom I still think the SEC is a better league than any other but the Pac 10 is not too far behind. And the best coach in the land is Pete Carroll. Give him his due if you are a real college football fan. He is the Bear Bryant of the present decade and from me that is my highest compliment.
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As scary as I thought it was for Cal to be ranked #6, possibly setting them up for a big fall this year, they’re now into the position of “top drawer” teams at #3. Whether they live up to that ranking the rest of the year remains to be seen. I will gladly forsake the Rose Bowl to see them play LSU in the championship game. First things first, though.