Last week, college football had its Shocker Saturday, Surprise Saturday or whatever alliteration-heavy name has been coined as a result of the continuing ESPN-ization of our culture.
There are few labels, however, that ideally describe the chaos occurring on gridirons throughout the land seven days ago — actually, the process started on a Friday night, when West Virginia was toppled by South Florida.
Before the madness settled, five top-10 schools were beaten. Teams thought to be of national-title caliber were exposed, shaking up the rankings and Bowl Championship Series picture.
Whose fortunes were most helped and hurt, and where does the season go from here? Let’s try to sort it out.
Pac-10: With three teams ahead of it in the USA Today (coaches) rankings — Oklahoma, Florida and Texas — losing, California vaulted to No. 3, not far back of top-ranked USC.
That means the winner of the USC-Cal game on Nov. 10 is in great position to earn a berth in the BCS title game, and the loser should remain in the hunt for an at-large berth in the Rose Bowl.
Hawaii: The Warriors moved to 15th in the coaches’ poll and are on target to finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings if they finish undefeated.
Schools from non-BCS conferences are guaranteed an at-large berth in the big bowls if they are among the first dozen.
It would be the second consecutive BCS appearance for the Western Athletic Conference; Boise State won the Fiesta Bowl last season.
Boston College, South Florida: These unlikely BCS title aspirants have a chance to reach the championship contest. Seriously. BC is ranked sixth in the coaches’ poll, USF ninth.
No. 8 Kentucky will drop after losing at South Carolina on Thursday, and six of the top seven teams in the rankings play each other: USC-Cal, Ohio State-Wisconsin and Florida-Louisiana State. There will be great opportunity for the Eagles and Bulls to move up — and perhaps sneak in to the top two in the BCS standings — if they keep winning.
Big 12: With Texas and Oklahoma among the five victims, much of the luster was taken off today’s Red River Shootout between the schools.
The Longhorns’ 20-point loss against unranked Kansas State dropped them from seventh to 16th in the coaches’ poll, likely ending their national title hopes.
They will knock No. 10 Oklahoma — and the conference — out of the BCS championship hunt with a victory today.
West Virginia, Rutgers: South Florida is still carrying the banner for the Big East, but the title-game hopes of the Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights have bit the dust. Both schools remain in contention for at at-large BCS berth.
Pollsters and BCS-standings computers: The amount of unbeatens losing only increases the possibility that there could be only one left standing at the end of the regular season.
Have fun sorting out the most deserving one-loss school for the title game.
Florida: The defending national champion had a soft fall after its loss against Auburn, descending from third to seventh. And the Gators have a chance to get right back in the championship chase with a contest at No. 2 Louisiana State tonight.
And if twice-beaten Auburn took so much advantage of Florida’s weaknesses in The Swamp last week, what can LSU do in Death Valley?
How the BCS matchups could look like, barring another wacky weekend (see, more alliteration):
National championship: USC vs. Louisiana State. This would be a titanic matchup, with LSU coach Les Miles’ preseason verbal jabs at the Trojans and Pac-10 recited … oh, non-stop.
Rose: California vs. Ohio State. Amid all the craziness in college football this season, one thing would remain right — the Big Ten and Pac-10 on the field in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
Sugar: Wisconsin vs. Florida. If the Gators lose today, they must win out to snag an at-large berth, and one can bet that the Sugar Bowl is salivating at the possibility of inviting the well-traveling Badgers.
Fiesta: Hawaii vs. Oklahoma. The Warriors should bring home the BCS bucks for the WAC, and the Sooners would come to Glendale with the tie-in that goes to the Big 12 champion.
Orange: Boston College vs. South Florida. If these teams cannot sneak into the BCS title game, their consolation would be playing one another.
This has been a tough week to be a college football fan.
On the same day the former backup punter at Northern Colorado received seven years in prison for stabbing the starter, Jacksonville running back Cecil Coltrane admitted planting marijuana in the dorm room of Rudell Small, the guy in front of him on the depth chart.
Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione is exposed for selling inside information on his team to boosters. Florida starting safety — and team captain — Tony Joiner was arrested on felony burglary charges. And Memphis lineman Taylor Bradford, who got good grades and had a job waiting for him after graduation, was gunned down on campus.
If your school’s football program has not been a source of shame or tragedy as of late, consider it lucky.
One of the biggest heroes for top-ranked Louisiana State comes in the smallest of packages: 5-foot-5 Trindon Holliday, whose speed — either out of the backfield or on kick returns — strikes fear in opposing teams.
“When I get on the field, they’ll be like, '8 is in the game, 8 is in the game,’ ” said Holliday, a track star who set an LSU record (10.2 seconds) and finished second in the nation in the 100-meter run during the spring.
Holliday is averaging 6.7 yards on 22 carries (with a 33-yard touchdown against South Carolina last week) and 22.8 yards a kickoff return. He has not taken very many big hits.
“Speed kills,” Tigers safety Craig Steltz said. “It doesn’t matter how big you are if they can’t hit you or catch up to you. He does a great job of making guys miss. You never really get a clean hit on him.”
• Darren McFadden: The Arkansas running back, who ranks second in the nation with 164.2 rushing yards a game and has scored six touchdowns, is hanging on in the favorite’s spot — thanks in part to other contenders’ stock falling due to last week’s upsets.
• DeSean Jackson: The California receiver needed a big game against Oregon last week to stay in the Heisman hunt, and he delivered (11 catches, 161 yards and two scores). If the Golden Bears play in a Bowl Championship Series game, Jackson should be a finalist,
• Colt Brennan: Poll voters are apparently overlooking Hawaii’s soft schedule (which is, again, not the school’s fault), but Heisman voters likely will not. And throwing five interceptions against Idaho is not going to help the candidacy of the Warriors quarterback.
• West Virginia duo: Running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White already had a tough Heisman hurdle — stealing the Mountaineer spotlight from one another. After WVU’s loss at South Florida, both need a string of huge games to get back in the race.
• Tim Tebow: Florida’s national-title hopes took a blow with last week’s loss against Auburn. But with a big game today against top-ranked Louisiana State, the quarterback will be in the thick of the chase.
Three and out
• It is possible that Southern California could play California in the BCS title game. That would be wonderful for the Pac-10, but the teams — as Michigan and Ohio State did last year — play during the regular season. One will win, and the other will have had its chance.
• Why is Urban Meyer celebrated for his quick ascension — two years and out in his first two head-coaching stops — to the top tier of college coaching, but Dennis Erickson has been vilified?
• I’ve often said that — like Notre Dame or not — the sport is much more interesting when the Fighting Irish are really good. With the way this wacky season is playing out, I’m not so sure.
Looking ahead: Next week, top-ranked Louisiana State visits No. 8 (but not for long) Kentucky. Potential upset: Central Florida at No. 6 South Florida.
This report includes information collected from other media sources.