It’s tough to pass the Buckeyes

There really isn’t much time in the busy Bowl Championship Series season to rehash the misfortunes of two local teams that now have no shot of playing for a national title.

In this brutal BCS business you either lead, follow like Hawaii is doing or get out of Matt Ryan’s way.

So, with all due respect, USC and UCLA, move aside.

Don’t you people realize Ohio State is 9-0 and three wins from having another eight-week vacation before it slip-slides into another BCS title game?


Ohio State made its third straight weekly appearance at No. 1 in the BCS on Sunday and is trailed by Boston College, Louisiana State and two Pacific 10 schools not even Tom Hansen saw coming: Arizona State and Oregon. The BCS top seven, in a remarkable confluence of calm, remain unchanged from last week, and Ohio State has somehow legitimized its claim with a road victory at Penn State.

OK, fine, but is anyone else bothered by the fact that the second-best team in the Big Ten is now Michigan, which started the season with a loss to a minor league affiliate, I-AAAppalachian, but is now No. 12 in the latest BCS standings?

Yet, Boise State, which beat present-day BCS No. 6 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last season and has lost one game since the 2005 season, is No. 22?

And Florida, which did not lose to Appalachian State but lost to Louisiana State, Auburn and Georgia by 19 total points, is No. 20?


We will digress now and offer a few straight-to-the-shredder items about USC and UCLA, ranked No. 1 and No. 14, respectively, in the preseason Associated Press poll.

USC: Something is amiss. This is hardly the same juggernaut 2004 Trojans team that rolled over Stanford, 31-28, routed Oregon State by eight points and beat UCLA by five en route to a 13-0 season that everyone now looks back on as being easy.

What about the night in 2005 when No. 1 USC crushed Fresno State, 50-42?

Fact is: It was never easy, not even with Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but it’s a lot tougher now with Bush and Leinart gone and the conference taking full advantage.

The sense here is USC has been knocked to a knee and sent to a neutral corner but probably has some dynasty fight left. The idea of Mark Sanchez and Joe McKnight in the same backfield the next few years is not repulsive. Sanchez, in his third start, threw two horrible interceptions against Oregon in a game USC might otherwise have pulled out. The USC play calling, at times, was mind-boggling, never more so than that lateral handoff to McKnight on fourth and one at the Oregon 12.

Reality check: Former Trojans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, now with the Tennessee Titans, whose offense totaled 42 yards passing Sunday in a win over the Raiders, is not coming back. So maybe Steve Sarkisian on fourth and one is the best call you’ve got.

UCLA: The shrieking continues. Perhaps no team in history has ever thought more of itself after a big win and less of itself, usually, a week later. Inconsistency, in fact, is the only consistent thread in Karl Dorrell’s four-plus seasons, some of which have actually been minuses. There is no inkling to suggest this bipolar -- beat Cal, lose at Washington State -- football behavior is going to change.

So don’t be surprised if UCLA loses at lowly Arizona next week and then upsets Arizona State or Oregon.


Consistency, in fact, is one of the many coaching areas in which USC’s Pete Carroll has dominated Dorrell.

Carroll’s worst defeat in 85 games as USC coach was an 11-point loss to Notre Dame in 2001. Dorrell, this year alone, has suffered three double-digit losses by a total of 72 points.

Yet, USC needs help to win the Pac-10 title while UCLA, incredibly, still controls its Rose Bowl destiny.

How’s this for a new motto: Bruins football -- as incredible as it seems.

Now back to things that matter:

Can anyone stop Ohio State?

Will a one-loss team eventually overtake unbeaten Boston College in the BCS?

Will Lee Corso ever say something interesting?


Weekend wrap

The BCS standings action this week was in the middle section, with seven of the nine schools ranked No. 8 through No. 16 last week losing. This allowed 8-0 Hawaii to jump three spots to No. 14 and improve its chances of earning an automatic BCS bid with a top-12 ranking.

Whew, that was close. A Penn State weekend win coupled with a Florida State loss would have left Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden tied on the all-time major-college victories list at 370. But Penn State lost to Ohio State and Florida State beat Duke, so Paterno stayed at 369 while Bowden notched No. 371.

Division III Linfield College, outside Portland, Ore., has done it again. With a 37-6 win over Menlo on Saturday, Linfield improved to 5-2 and secured its NCAA-record 52nd consecutive winning season. Linfield’s last losing season was 1955.

The most confounding Heisman Trophy race in recent memory got a little clearer after weekend play, with Matt Ryan of Boston College and Oregon’s Dennis Dixon clearly distinguishing themselves from a cluttered field. Ryan rebounded from a ragged performance to lead his team to two touchdowns in the final 2:11 to beat Virginia Tech, while Dixon managed a near-perfect game in Oregon’s win over USC in Eugene.

Ding! Going down please. Has any team fallen faster than California?

Sixteen days ago the Golden Bears were probably seconds from being ranked No. 1 in the nation before they let time expire in a home loss to Oregon State. Two more losses later, Cal is 5-3 and has fallen out of the top 25 in the AP, coaches and Harris polls, and the BCS standings.




Play it forward

Five things to watch this week in college football:

1. Man your stations . . . is this finally the year? Since losing to Navy, 35-14, in 1963, Notre Dame has defeated the Midshipmen 43 consecutive times, but some think the streak might end Saturday when the schools meet in South Bend. Notre Dame is 1-7 and Navy is 4-4, although the Middies are coming off consecutive losses to Wake Forest and Division I-AA Delaware.

2. It doesn’t get any easier in Autzen. One week after Oregon fended off USC, 24-17, the 7-1 Ducks must play host to 8-0 Arizona State. The Sun Devils are No. 4 in the BCS, the Ducks No. 5. Arizona State, at 5-0, is the only unbeaten team in Pac-10 play.

3. It’s the game everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line has been waiting for: Louisiana State at Alabama. The matchup marks a reunion of sorts for first-year Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who led LSU to the BCS national title in 2003 before leaving to coach the Miami Dolphins.

4. Bill Callahan, fighting for his job at Nebraska, is staring at his second loss to Kansas in the last three years. This is news because Nebraska had defeated Kansas 36 straight games before losing in 2005, Callahan’s second year. The surprise this year would be if Kansas (8-0) loses to Nebraska (4-5).

5. It is nine wins down and three to go for Ohio State, which plays 7-2 Wisconsin on Saturday in Columbus. After that, the Buckeyes have Illinois at home before ending the Big Ten season at Michigan on Nov. 17. Everyone ready for another BCS buildup involving the Buckeyes?

-- Chris Dufresne