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No lack-of-attention deficit for Trojans

October 13, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Hard-to-find regional telecasts and time-zone differences have, for years, left Pacific 10 Conference schools feeling Left Coast isolated and ignored.

Boy, did that pay off Sunday for USC.

No. 5 Texas played four quarters of sensational football in defeating the No. 1 team in the nation, Oklahoma, and was rewarded by bounding to the top of all three major polls.

It marked the Longhorns' first regular-season trip to No. 1 in the Associated Press and coaches' polls since 1984.

Bravo, Bevo.

"Being ranked No. 1 shows respect for what we've accomplished through the early part of the season," Texas Coach Mack Brown said Sunday. "But nobody really knows who is No. 1 at this point."

USC played four quarters of ragged football, committing 10 penalties and turning the ball over on four straight third-quarter possessions in a 28-0 win over Arizona State.

Yet, the Trojans were rewarded Sunday too.

USC moved up five spots, to No. 4, in the USA Today coaches' poll; three spots, to No. 5, in the Harris Interactive Poll, and two spots, to No. 6, in the Associated Press media index.

Texas plays Missouri this week in Austin, No. 8 Oklahoma State a week later and at No. 7 Texas Tech on Nov. 1

USC heads to Pullman this week to face hapless Washington State.

So what school, Texas or USC, is better positioned for a national title run?

Maybe USC should move the rest of its games to PBS.

Thank you, voters, mostly you coaches, for not paying attention.

Less than a month after a defeat at Oregon State that some thought might cripple the Trojans' national-title hopes, USC was back on track on Oct. 12.

The poll with the least impact on USC's title chase, the AP, was the poll that rewarded the Trojans the least.

Remember, only the coaches' and Harris polls are components of the Bowl Championship Series standings, the first of which will be released next Sunday. The AP pulled out of the BCS formula after the 2004 season, although it still crowns an independent champion.

What were the coaches thinking in moving USC up more poll positions than Texas?

Obviously, it is impossible to evaluate the details of every game played, so sometimes all a pollster has to go on is a final score.

But the coaches and Harris voters really blew it by not putting Florida ahead of USC.

The Gators received the same five-spot bump for beating the coaches' No. 3 team, Louisiana State, as USC got for beating an unranked team with a hobbled quarterback.

Florida moved from No. 12 to No. 7 but remains three spots behind USC.

Harris also moved Florida up five positions but had the Gators at No. 6 behind No. 5 USC.

Expect the howls from SEC fans to begin immediately.

Coaches have done goofy things in the past, but only their final ballots are made public.

Last year, in the final unveiling, we learned that New Mexico State Coach Hal Mumme had voted Hawaii No. 1.

We learned that the highest vote Clemson got in the final coaches' poll was delivered by Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, the father of Clemson's coach.

We are not attaching conspiracies to Sunday's polls, only a plea for voters to finish their homework.

At least the AP got it close to right.

It was hard to quibble with USC's moving from No. 8 to No. 6 because it only meant leapfrogging the Trojans over Texas Tech, which needed overtime to beat Nebraska in Lubbock.

USC also figured to ascend because of losses suffered by No. 3 Missouri and No. 4 LSU.

The AP voters, though, were wise enough to move Florida ahead of USC based on the Gators' emphatic 51-21 win over LSU.

There is plenty of time left for pollsters to make market corrections with their ballots, but it's not going to be as easy if USC wipes out the rest of its competition.

So, USC fans, no more complaints for now about the Pac-10's not receiving enough national exposure.

Sunday, the best response was "thank goodness."

Weekend Wrap

Is passing overrated? UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw the ball 43 times in Saturday night's loss at Oregon. Earlier in the day, Army defeated Eastern Michigan, 17-13, without completing a forward pass. All three of quarterback Chip Bowden's passes failed to find their mark. Army did run the ball 59 times for 341 yards. "I didn't really want to put the ball in the air," Coach Stan Brock said.

More from Brown on Texas' No. 1 ranking. "Every week, we're seeing teams learn the hard way that the only poll that matters, or lasts, is the final one. No one remembers who was No. 1 after six weeks last year."

Toledo had lost three straight games before scoring a major upset victory at Michigan on Saturday. What turned things around? "We started off Monday having a hamburger cookout," Rockets Coach Tom Amstutz said. "And people laughed about that, but it was the first step of staying together as a team."

Look for a weenie roast today.

You don't have to look hard to find out why Michigan is 2-4. The Wolverines have 19 turnovers and only 15 touchdowns this season.

Penn State is 7-0 for the first time since 1999, when the team started 9-0 before losing three straight.

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