The 47-20 final score is eye-opening enough. What’s more startling is that this was no fluke. It was not a case of USC doing themselves in with turnovers or penalties and turning an otherwise competitive game into a rout. Oregon simply whipped the mighty Trojans. Jeremiah Masoli picked the right time to play his best game of the year, throwing for 222 yards and running for 164 more. As if that weren’t enough, LaMichael James overpowered the USC rush defense for 183 additional yards. This is now three straight bad games for Pete Carroll’s defense, and this time there’s no rationalizing it away as being after the team had built up a big lead.
Oregon is now in complete command of the Pac-10, leading the race by two games and having the tiebreaker on USC & Cal, who edged Arizona State on a last-second field goal. The Ducks are headed for Pasadena. The only question left is whether it will be on January 1 for the Rose Bowl, or if they can be a one-loss entrant into the BCS National Championship Game six days later. If USC was the top one-loss candidate, coming in, does that honor now go to the team that’s dethroned them? It probably does, but Oregon’s case is not going to be as strong. Furthermore, the team that really benefitted this is Boise State, who knocked off the Ducks and will get a boost in the computer ratings, and hopefully from a few voters who will see the bigger picture and realize just how impressive that September 3 win for the Broncos really was. Boise kept its unbeaten season rolling with an easy win over San Jose State.
Oregon State finished out the state’s SoCal sweep. Jacquizz Rodgers turned in another strong game, with 218 all-purpose yards. But it was another Rodgers, backfield mate James, who scored the winning touchdown in a 26-19 win over UCLA. And southpaw quarterback Sean Canfield continues to emerge as a star in his own right, ringing up 305 yards on 25/34 passing and no INTs.
The other big game on Saturday night was the Texas-Oklahoma State showdown in the Big 12. The Cowboys were able to get a reasonable running game going on the Longhorns, picking up 134 overland. The UT offense didn’t go crazy. Colt McCoy was efficient and high-percentage at 16/21 for 171 yards, but none of the backs had a big night. This time it was the Texas pass defense that stood up and made a name for itself. All four secondary starters picked off one Zac Robinson pass, and Texas rolled to an easy 41-14 win. Mack Brown’s team has all but clinched the Big 12 South. Oklahoma State will have to settle for trying to beat Oklahoma and seeing if that gets them an at-large to the BCS. Although the Sooners are improving themselves. Landry Jones continues to round into form, having a big day in an easy win over Big 12 North leader Kansas State.
Texas would appear to have easy sailing to the national championship game now, but there is one little speck on the horizon. Texas A&M, who plays the ‘Horns on Thanksgiving night, is suddenly starting to play good football. We talked up quarterback Jerrod Johnson here on Wednesday and he had another great game in leading the Aggies past Iowa State. Look, A&M is nowhere hear Texas’ class. But they are 5-3, with former Green Bay Packer coach Mike Sherman at the helm, a man who won three division titles in the pros, and if they’re finding their footing, they may be able to at least hang with their more powerful rivals. We’ll watch A&M closely to see how they progress in the next couple weeks. And we’re also watching Missouri to see if the Tigers can rally to win the Big 12 North. They beat up Colorado 36-17, holding the Buffs to (-14) rush yards.
Beyond the Pac-10 & Big 12, one team that may have been hurt by USC’s loss was Notre Dame. The Trojans are now in the pool of at-large candidates for the BCS and have a head-to-head win over ND. The Irish have to win out if they want a shot at it, and they took care of lowly Washington State 40-14, and getting an actual running game behind Robert Hughes who put up 131 yards in support of Jimmy Clausen.
Looking at the Big East, I won’t waste any more space than I have to with my canonization of Brian Kelly and turning this site into a personal crusade for him to be either Coach of the Year or dictator of the United States, whichever I can sell. But his backup quarterback Zach Collaros threw four touchdowns in a rout of Syracuse. And the real story in this conference was West Virginia falling on Friday night at South Florida and reducing it to a Cincy/Pitt race for the top. Meanwhile, in one of the day’s more devastating endings, UConn gave up an 81-yard touchdown pass to Rutgers with 22 seconds left to lose 28-24. It was a minor heartbreak compared to what the Huskie program has suffered lately, but they surely didn’t need another. Nonetheless, let’s give Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights their own due—they’re turning in a nice 6-2 year, with the only losses being to Cincy & Pitt.
Back tomorrow with a look at the rest of the country.