November 14, 2009

Winners and losers: Trojans tumble

USC is in disarray.

The Trojans weren't supposed to seriously contend for the national championship this season. Eight starters on defense were gone, and the offense was without quarterback Mark Sanchez. But USC was supposed to win an eighth consecutive Pac-10 championship.

But Saturday's 55-21 beatdown by Stanford dropped USC to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-10, effectively ending the Trojans' run of dominance.

The 55 points were the most allowed in USC history. The loss was USC's worst at home since a 51-0 drubbing by Notre Dame in 1966. And this comes just two weeks after a 47-20 loss at Oregon, which previously was Pete Carroll's worst at USC.

USC hasn't been this bad under Carroll since his debut in 2001, when he led the Trojans to a 6-6 overall record and a 5-3 mark in conference play.

USC has struggled on both sides of the ball. Stanford racked up 469 yards, with 325 coming on the ground. Oregon totaled 613 yards, including 391 on the ground, against the Trojans.

The Trojans' offense has flopped in the past three games, too. USC generated only 334 yards against a Cardinal defense that entered the game ranked eighth in the Pac-10 in total defense (388.9 ypg). Last week against Arizona State, USC notched just 258 yards, and the Trojans had 327 against Oregon.

Quarterback Matt Barkley is playing like a true freshman. He tossed three interceptions against Stanford, and in the past three games, Barkley has completed 49 of 91 passes (53.8 percent) for 495 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Part of the problem is departures from the coaching staff. After last season, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian left to become coach at Washington. Sarkisian took defensive coordinator Nick Holt with him. Carroll hired Denver Broncos assistant Jeremy Bates to call plays and promoted secondary coach Rocky Seto to run the defense. There have been growing pains for both.

How much farther can USC sink this season? The losing may not be over, as the Trojans have home games remaining against archrival UCLA and Arizona.

Just call him 'Colt 42'

Alabama running back Mark Ingram is all the rage and many people still gush over Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, but Texas quarterback Colt McCoy should be getting more Heisman love.

The Heisman 5
McCoy was 23 of 34 passing for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the Longhorns' 47-14 rout of Baylor, giving Texas a 10th win for the ninth season in a row. McCoy's numbers could have been better, but he was taken out of the game midway through the third quarter.

McCoy tied former Georgia quarterback David Greene for most wins by a starting quarterback in a career with 42.

"We're all proud of Colt," said wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who caught both TD passes Saturday. "It also says a lot about this program."

Winners

Alabama: The Crimson Tide put together one of their most complete efforts of the season in a 31-3 rout of Mississippi State. Mark Ingram strengthened his lead in the Heisman race with 149 rushing yards.

Boise State: The Broncos continue to hum along after destroying Idaho. Who knows? Boise State may nab an at-large BCS bowl bid if it continues to win out in impressive fashion. But beware of that game against Nevada, which mauled Fresno State on Saturday.

C.J. Spiller: Clemson's do-it-all running back broke the school season record for all-purpose yards in a 43-23 win at N.C. State. Spiller also became the first Clemson player to run, catch and pass for a touchdown in the same game.

Florida: It wasn't impressive, but the Gators posted a workmanlike 24-14 win at South Carolina to remain perfect. And this probably was the last realistic chance Florida had to lose before playing Alabama in the SEC title game.

Florida State: The Seminoles, playing without Christian Ponder, kept their bowl hopes alive with a 41-28 win at Wake Forest. Backup E.J. Manuel completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score. A victory next week over Maryland makes FSU bowl eligible.

Georgia: The Bulldogs fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter but rallied to beat Auburn in what might have been their best effort this season. It was Georgia's third victory in its past four games and makes it bowl eligible.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets clinched a spot in the ACC title game with a 49-10 drubbing of Duke. Tech trailed 10-0 in the first quarter before getting serious.

Iowa State: A 17-10 victory over Colorado makes the Cyclones bowl eligible in coach Paul Rhoads' first season. The last time Iowa State was in a bowl was in 2005.

Kentucky: A 24-13 win at Vanderbilt makes the Wildcats bowl eligible for a school-record fourth season in a row.

Missouri: Many were ready to leave the Tigers for dead after last week's humiliating homecoming loss to Baylor. But sparked by receiver Danario Alexander's 10 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns, Mizzou's 38-12 win at Kansas State made the Tigers bowl eligible.

Nebraska: Paced by Roy Helu's 156 yards rushing and three touchdowns, the Huskers moved to the top of the Big 12 North with a 31-17 win at Kansas. If Nebraska beats Kansas State next week, it clinches the Big 12 North title and a spot in the league championship game.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels continued their late-season surge and became bowl eligible with an upset of Miami. The victory gave Butch Davis a 3-0 record against his former school.

Northwestern: The Wildcats' 21-16 victory at Illinois means the Wildcats are headed to a bowl for a second season in a row. That hasn't happened since 1995-96.

Ohio State: The 27-24 overtime win over Iowa clinched the fifth Big Ten title in a row for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1996 season.

Oklahoma: The Sooners needed a win and it got one with a 65-10 drubbing of Texas A&M. Oklahoma became bowl eligible, and redshirt freshman quarterback Landry Jones bounced back from an awful performance in last week's loss at Nebraska. He threw for a career-high 392 yards with five touchdowns. OU has won 29 home games in a row, the longest such streak in the nation.

Ole Miss: Running back Dexter McCluster leveled Tennessee's defense with 324 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns to give the Rebels their first victory over the Vols since 1983. McCluster's 282 rushing yards were the most ever allowed by Tennessee to a running back. Ole Miss became bowl eligible and kept itself in the running for a New Year's Day berth.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers (9-1) continue to soar, winning their sixth in a row by holding on to beat Notre Dame 27-22. Now, the tough part: at West Virginia and the regular-season finale at home against Cincinnati.

SMU: The Mustangs' 35-31 win over UTEP makes them bowl eligible. And Houston's loss at UCF means SMU controls its own destiny in the C-USA West Division title race.

Stanford: That's two wins in a row in L.A. for the Cardinal. Is it too late to get running back Toby Gerhart in the Heisman race? He led the upset with 178 yards and three touchdowns. He ran through Oregon last week.

Texas: The Longhorns looked like the No. 1 team in the nation in whipping Baylor 47-14. It was the Longhorns' 10th win, the ninth consecutive season Texas reached that number.

Wisconsin: Since losing consecutive games to Ohio State and Iowa, the Badgers have ripped off three wins in a row. The latest was a 45-24 romp over Michigan led by quarterback Scott Tolzien, who tossed four touchdown passes and ran for another score.

Losers

Arizona: The Wildcats were riding high until losing 24-16 at California. The Wildcats still have a shot at their first Rose Bowl if they can win their final three games: Oregon, Arizona State and USC.

Houston: The Cougars' 37-32 loss at UCF ended a five-game winning streak and put Houston's C-USA West Division title hopes in peril. QB Case Keenum threw for "just" 377 yards, and the loss all but ended any hopes for the Heisman.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes made a heroic effort behind backup quarterback James Vandenberg, rallying from a 24-10 hole with just over 11 minutes left to force overtime. Iowa came up short and lost 27-24. If the Hawkeyes beat Minnesota next week, they could still earn an at-large BCS bowl slot.

Kansas: The Jayhawks continue to sink. The latest setback was a 31-17 home loss to Nebraska. Kansas' five-game losing streak is its longest in seven seasons and dropped the Jayhawks to 5-5.

Kansas State: Bill Snyder had beaten Missouri 13 times in a row. That streak is over following a 38-12 loss that hampers K-State's Big 12 North title hopes.

Miami: Any faint hope the Hurricanes had of getting a BCS at-large big went out the window with a 33-24 loss at North Carolina. Jacory Harris tossed four interceptions, giving him 16 for the season.

Michigan: The latest hit was a 45-24 loss at Wisconsin, Michigan's sixth Big Ten loss in succession. Now, the Wolverines must beat Ohio State next week in Ann Arbor to become bowl eligible.

Minnesota: When does a win feel like a loss? When you struggle to beat FCS member South Dakota State at home. That's what the Gophers did, needing a game-winning field goal in the last three minutes to secure a 16-13 win over the Jackrabbits. The win did make Minnesota bowl eligible.

N.C. State: A long season got longer with a 43-23 loss to Clemson. The Wolfpack has allowed at least 30 points in seven consecutive games.

Purdue: The Boilermakers blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost at home to Michigan State. The defeat ended Purdue's bowl hopes, making it two years in a row without a bowl. The last time Purdue missed the postseason two seasons in a row was during a 12-year streak from 1985-96.

Tennessee: The Vols' 42-17 loss at Ole Miss means it needs to win one of its last two games to become bowl eligible. The loss was the culmination of a bad week, as three Tennessee freshmen -- including starting safety Janzen Jackson -- were arrested Thursday morning and charged with attempted armed robbery.

Texas A&M: It doesn't get any uglier than losing 65-10 to Oklahoma. It was the second time this year that the Aggies have yielded more than 60 points (Kansas State). A&M, which has allowed at least 30 points seven times, needs one more win to be bowl eligible.

HOT SEAT

Charlie Weis, Notre Dame. Is this the loss that seals Weis' fate? A 27-22 setback at Pitt drops the Irish to 6-4 and gives Weis a career mark of 35-25. That's the same record Bob Davie had when he was canned after the 2001 season. Weis is 1-10 against ranked teams since 2006.

TOP STORY LINES FOR NEXT WEEK

Rivalries: Among the juicy rivalries next weekend is Ohio State at Michigan. Others to get your blood boiling: Cal at Stanford; Purdue at Indiana; and Minnesota at Iowa. And, no, we haven't forgotten about Harvard at Yale.

Ohio State at Michigan: Remember 2006, when this matched No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Michigan ? Ohio State already has clinched the Big Ten's BCS bid, while Michigan must pull the upset to become bowl eligible.

Big Ten: Get a good look at league teams, as it will be the last regular-season weekend of action for every conference team except Illinois and Wisconsin.

Exhibition season? Florida (Florida International) and Alabama (Chattanooga) have glorified exhibitions. Texas figures to be pushed slightly harder by Kansas, which has lost five in a row.

Dienhart's weekly awards
COACHES
Wish I were him: Alabama's Nick Saban
Glad I'm not him: Notre Dame's Charlie Weis
Lucky guy: Ohio State's Jim Tressel
Poor guy: Arizona's Mike Stoops
Desperately seeking a clue: USC's Pete Carroll
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Iowa State's Paul Rhoads
TEAMS
Thought you'd kick butt, you did: Texas
Thought you'd kick butt, you didn't: Houston
Thought you'd get your butt kicked, you did: Maryland
Thought you'd get your butt kicked, you didn't: North Carolina
They're good: Georgia Tech
They're bad: N.C. State
Did the season start? Michigan
Can the season end? Washington
Can the season never end? Cincinnati
GAMES
Play this again: Ohio State 27, Iowa 24 (OT)
Never play this again: Boise State 63, Idaho 25
Oh ... my ... God: Stanford 55, USC 21
Told you so: Pittsburgh 27, Notre Dame 22
NEXT WEEK
Ticket to die for: Oregon at Arizona
Best non-Big Six vs. Big Six matchup: None
Best non-Big Six matchup: Air Force at BYU
Upset alert: Michigan State over Penn State at East Lansing
Must win: TCU over Wyoming in Laramie
Offensive explosion: Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Defensive struggle: Arizona State at UCLA
Great game no one is talking about: LSU at Ole Miss
Intriguing coaching matchup: Stanford's Jim Harbaugh vs. California's Jeff Tedford
Why are they playing? Chattanooga at Alabama
Plenty of good seats remaining: Purdue at Indiana

Tom Dienhart is the national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com.




 

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