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The College Football Report Top Ten: The Ballad Of Pat Fitzgerald And The Big Ten's Last Stand

1. The SEC.

The most dominant conference in college football has five teams in the AP Top 10 (#3 Alabama, #5 Auburn, #6 Georgia, #7 Texas A&M, and #10 LSU) another three (#14 Ole Miss, #20 Missouri, and #24 South Carolina) in the Top 25 and a chance to add one more in the near future, as Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Florida look solid. We believe the new playoff structure should automatically award the #1 overall seed to the winner of the SEC championship game, and the #4 seed to the loser. Seems right.

2. Any Ranked (and Some Unranked) Team Versus the Big Ten.

As we noted on Friday, Week Two presented an opportunity to score wins on the national stage against #3 Oregon and #16 Notre Dame. (Rolling Stone went so far as to declare the MSU-Oregon game the "last stand" for the Big Ten as we know it.)

Michigan State (#7) failed to reign in the Ducks, 27-46, and Michigan fell to the Irish 0-31. The only other ranked team in action, #8 Ohio State, fell to unranked Virginia Tech. Michigan State and Ohio State plummeted in the AP poll, to #13 and #22 respectively.

A post-mortem put the train wreck in historical context: Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State hadn't lost on the same Saturday since 1988. (Another bleak stat: Ohio State hadn't lost to an unranked team in Columbus in 32 years. THIRTY TWO. That's a long time.)

Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Northwestern's one-time darling head coach continues to implode. Pat Fitzgerald, two years removed from a 10-3 record, but fresh off a 5-7 (1-7 in conference) campaign in 2013, kicked off the season with a loss to lowly Cal. In the fallout from Week One, Fitzy (bizarrely) blamed his failure to prepare for Cal's two quarterback system on the media - and bloggers. In a separate incident, he admitted (after being outed by Inside NU) to starting the game with the wrong playcards for the defense in the first half. The Wildcats followed up Week One with a loss on Saturday to Northern Illinois, despite "giving" a touchdown in the Vegas sportsbooks. No word yet on Fitzgerald's explanation.

A final number: the Big Ten fared just as poorly at the window, posting a 2-11 record against the spread in Week Two.

3. This.

4. Playoff Committee Conspiracy Theorists.

Controversy marred the win by #14 USC over rival #13 Stanford when Trojans athletic director Pat Haden descended to the sidelines to argue (or "discuss," depending which version you believe) a USC penalty with the head referee. USC head coach (and CFR favorite) Steve Sarkisian summoned Haden via text, violating an NCAA rule that only permits "voice communication with the press box," ruling out texting, faxing and telepathy. Involving the AD in a game is highly unusual - and looks a bit like calling in a parent to settle a dispute. Breaking an unwritten rule and a technicality may not fuel much controversy in another situation, but Haden sits on the Playoff Committee and while the bylaws prohibit him from voting for USC, there's nothing to prevent him from voting against Stanford. Here we go.

5. Notre Dame.

Following a messy who-dumped-who breakup in 2012 that effectively ended the Michigan rivalry by dropping the Wolverines from the schedule, the win in Week Two silenced (for now) the haters. Postgame reaction to shutting out Michigan can best be summed up by Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder:

6. Citadel 12 vs. #1 Florida State 37.

Teams from the Big 5 conferences continue to struggle against representatives from the FCS, i.e. Directional Creampuffs.

7. Florida Atlantic 0 vs. #2 Alabama 41.

In a laudable show of good sportsmanship, the teams agreed to call the game with 7:31 remaining, with Bama threatening to cover the 41-point spread. Yet games must go at least 55 minutes to be official in Vegas, and this one fell short by 151 seconds.

Texas A&M (#9), Baylor (#10) and Clemson (#23) each posted 70+ points on Lamar, Northwestern State and South Carolina State. Bettors willing to give huge margins must have been pleased.

8. #20 Kansas State 32 vs. Iowa State 28.

The visiting Wildcats wrecked any hopes of Iowa State covering the money line by scoring 12 points unanswered in the fourth quarter. Ticketholders saw a $367 payday vanish as the Cyclones failed to hold on down the stretch.

9. BYU cracks the Top 25 - at #25.

The road has been kind to the Cougars, who have started the season with two victories away from home including last weekend's quality W over Texas, 41-7. (The Longhorns did not appear in the AP rankings, but entered the game at #25 in the USA Today poll.)

10. Under The Radar Convincing Wins.

We coined a new term following the results from #4 Oklahoma and #5 Auburn. The Sooners traveled to Tulsa and bested the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (note: singular) 52-7 and Auburn soundly defeated San Jose State at home, 59-13. Neither game sounds notable, but consider that San Jose State finished 2013 at 6-6 including a win over #16 Fresno State to close the year. Tulsa entered a rebuilding year after a 3-9 record last season, but isn't unaccustomed to success, having notched 11 wins in 2012.


Mike Luce is our man on campus - every Friday and Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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