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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Upset alert: No big upsets

October 19, 2008|Chris Dufresne

It can't be yank-your-hair-out every week.

Sometimes, instead of preposterous, you get predictable.

A day before the first release of the Bowl Championship Series standings, a big, giant status quo yawn party broke out.

Every top-10 team that played Saturday won. No. 5 Florida had an open date; No. 9 Brigham Young lost Thursday.

The schools projected to debut in the top five of the BCS standings -- Texas, Alabama, Penn State, USC and Oklahoma -- all made their consideration cases, while several others held on to their precious outside-looking-in hopes.

Two times this season the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 teams lost on the same weekend -- but not this weekend.

A look at the powers that are:

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1. Texas (7-0)

Screaming headline: "Is There Any Doubt!?"

A week after a win over Oklahoma lifted Texas to No. 1 for the first time in the regular season since 1984, the Longhorns proved it wasn't a one-week rankings rental by ripping the stripes off Missouri's Tigers, 56-31.

Missouri is now 0-11 against top-ranked teams.

It didn't used to be like this. Missouri owned Texas in Austin in the '90s . . . the 1890s. Missouri shut out Texas in 1894 and 1896, but since then it's been a dry well.

Texas, national champion three seasons ago, appears on a repeat track, although quarterback Colt McCoy will have to explain to coaches those three incomplete passes out of the 32 he threw against Missouri.

The Longhorns need to have short memories. Texas hosts No. 8 Oklahoma State next week and then travels to No. 7 Texas Tech, with "at" Kansas and a possible Big 12 title game looming further down the schedule.

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2. Alabama (7-0)

Screaming headline: "There's No Such Thing as an Ugly Win!"

Alabama has won its last two games, against unranked teams, at home, by a total of seven points.

Low Tide!

Two weeks ago, it was 17-14 over Kentucky. Saturday, it was 24-20 over Mississippi, the Crimson Tide nearly blowing a 24-3 halftime lead.

How to spin it: These close contests are simply proof of the tenacious top-to-bottom competitiveness of Southeastern Conference.

When Auburn beats Mississippi State, 3-2, well, defense wins championships in the SEC. When Florida thrashes Louisiana State, 51-21, well, how about that offensive firepower?

You can't have it both ways, except in the land of cotton. But we'll see how many close wins Alabama can absorb.

You can make a case against the Crimson bloggers that Penn State actually deserves to be No. 2, but we'll have to see how the pollsters see it.

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3. Penn State (8-0)

Screaming headline: "Ding Dong, the Streak Is Dead!"

Penn State had lost nine straight to Michigan, and it looked as if it might be 10 straight after the Nittany Lions fell behind, 17-7, in Happy Valley. But the final score of 46-17 suggests Penn State eventually found its football footing. Now the Nittany Lions, led by an 81-year-old coach with a limp, are a road win at Ohio State next week from being three wins from 12-0 and a possible national-title game berth.

Say it ain't Joe.

Ohio State (7-1) served warning it hasn't conceded anything yet after a dominating 45-7 win at No. 20 Michigan State.

People out there -- and we know who you are -- who said after Ohio State lost to USC that the Buckeyes were out of the national championship race, here's an update: If Ohio State beats Penn State next week, the Buckeyes will be back in the national-title race on Oct. 25.

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4. USC (5-1)

Screaming headline: "Ouch, Sorry About That!"

It's strange to suggest USC's 69-0 win over Washington State could have been worse, but it could have been worse.

The Trojans did . . . not . . . run . . . up . . . the . . . score.

When have you ever seen this: Late in the first half, already up 41-0, USC let the clock run out rather than try to tack on another touchdown. Oh, you poor, helpless, pitiful Cougars.

USC's defense, proclaimed before the season to be Pete Carroll's best, may actually turn out to be his best.

Flashback to Oct. 4, in the Coliseum, with 11 minutes 9 seconds left in the half, when Oregon's Matt Evensen kicked a 24-yard field goal.

Those were the last points USC has given up. The Trojans put the "O" on Oregon the rest of that game and have since posted two shutouts. That's a pointless streak spanning 131 minutes 9 seconds.

USC is now in the bizarre position of being center-square in the national-title hunt while wondering whether it can win the Pacific 10 Conference title.

If Oregon State, a winner Saturday over Washington, wins the rest of its games, the Beavers will win the conference and go to the Rose Bowl.

And USC could still play in the national-title game. How do you think that would play in Dixie?

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5. Oklahoma (6-1)

Screaming headline: "Don't Forget About Us!"

The Sooners fell only three spots, to No. 4, in the Associated Press poll after last week's loss to Texas and started another winning streak Saturday with an impressive 45-31 victory over No. 16 Kansas.

Quarterback Sam Bradford may need an arm transplant after throwing for a school-record 468 yards, but other than that the Sooners appear to be in this for the long run.

Oklahoma's problem is this: In order to win the Big 12 South, it needs Texas to lose twice. Nebraska got to the national-title game in 2001 without winning the Big 12 North, but it didn't go over very well with the public.

Nebraska's performance against Miami in the Rose Bowl went even worse.

Bored by Saturday's lack of down-and-out drama?

Don't worry, there's always next week.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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