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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Fallout of losses rattles beyond the rankings

September 16, 2008|Chris Dufresne

It's called "makeup" speed.

You need it in your secondary, but you also need it on your schedule.

Some schools have it; others call Fresno home.

Here's a damage assessment on how recent losses might impact the hopes and dreams of schools that had hopes and dreams.

Sun may rise

* Arizona State.

This program has always performed better when no one's looking . . . and now no one's looking.

Saturday's overtime home loss to Nevada Las Vegas knocked Arizona State from No. 15 to O-U-T of the Associated Press media poll and took two quarts of luster off this week's game against No. 3 Georgia.

Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter told reporters Monday, "We can change everything in one week." But it's already too late to tell Chris Fowler that.

ESPN's "GameDay" crew was all set to come to Tempe until what should have stayed in Vegas (UNLV) didn't stay in Vegas.

The schedule is such, though, that Arizona State (2-1) could rip-roaringly get back in the national title chase if it were to beat No. 3 Georgia on Saturday and No. 1 USC on Oct. 11.

"Although we didn't play well -- that's an understatement -- there are a lot of things left to play for," Coach Dennis Erickson said. "There is a whole season ahead of all of us."

That's good news for Arizona State, but only if the Sun Devils are actually any good -- and we're not sure about that.

* Kansas. The Jayhawks' loss on a last-second field goal at South Florida would have been tougher to recover from if all they had left to play was last year's cupcake schedule. Kansas, though, dropped only six spots to No. 19 in the AP and has four Big 12 games left against schools currently ranked in the top 12.

Last year Kansas didn't play three of those schools -- Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech -- and lost to the fourth, Missouri.

Pollyanna, meet pie in the sky

* Ohio State. Voters who have been waiting to poll-mug the Buckeyes for putting us through those last two miserable title-game performances got their chance when USC sent Ohio State home with the "three" in 35-3.

Let there be no doubt: an electorate looking to deny the Buckeyes a third consecutive title-game trip will suppress Ohio State for as long as it's ethically possible, maybe even longer.

A drop to only No. 14 in the coaches' poll, though, with almost three months of ball left to play, may not be enough to hold back a team that has every chance to run the Big Ten while scoring wins against top-25 teams Wisconsin, Penn State, Illinois and soon possibly Iowa.

Unless voters are determined to drop Ohio State a spot with each victory earned, there is still a far-fetched hope -- or is it dread? -- that we haven't seen the last of the Sweater Vests.

"We still have a chance to win the Big Ten and make it to the Rose Bowl," Ohio State guard Ben Person said.

Why stop there?

* Michigan. About that 35-17 loss to Notre Dame, two weeks after that home loss to Utah . . . don't worry about it?

Oh, there's definitely reason to worry, but hang with us here. Last year, Lloyd Carr's last as coach, the Wolverines opened 0-2 after losses to Appalachian State and Oregon and were left for road kill along with various other Big Ten mascots (Gophers, Hawkeyes, Wildcats).

Michigan then ripped off eight consecutive wins, met Ohio State with a Rose Bowl bid on the line and ended up beating defending national champion Florida in a bowl game.

Not that any of that's going to happen this year, but a win against Wisconsin in Ann Arbor on Sept. 27 would make Michigan 1-0 in the Big Ten.

"It's like we have our second season now," first-year Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The first season is over."

End games

* South Carolina. Steve Spurrier thought he could make chicken salad out of Gamecocks history, and things were looking bright after an opening win against North Carolina State pushed South Carolina into the top 25.

But opening 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference East, no matter how tough the losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia were, is going to be tough to overcome even with makeup speed games left against Louisiana State and Florida.

* Fresno State. It was an all-or-nothing game against Wisconsin, and Fresno State ended up with the nothing. The Bulldogs played tough, had chances to win, but they needed to beat Wisconsin on the way to 12-0 to have any reasonable chance of making a Bowl Championship Series game.

Fresno State isn't helped now by the fact its schedule doesn't look as tough as it did two weeks ago. Rutgers, the team Fresno State worked over on Labor Day, just got routed by North Carolina.

And UCLA, which shocked Tennessee on Sept. 1, just hobbled home from Provo after a 59-0 loss to Brigham Young. That takes a lot of the schedule traction out of Fresno's trip to the Rose Bowl on Sept. 27.

* UCLA. The Bruins' shocking win over Tennessee was fairy dust and not the Rick Neuheisel starter-kit for something big.

Brigham Young framed UCLA's season for what it's going to be: a long one. Last year, UCLA tried to spin ugly losses to Utah and Notre Dame by leading the Pacific 10 Conference race for a spell before the Bruins fell to their final resting place.

Two weeks after post-Tennessee giddiness, the Bruins are in survival mode. Nothing on the schedule, not even the "oomph" against USC at the end, is likely to salvage a transitional season.

* California. It was going so well. Jeff Tedford finally chased those protesters out of the trees and the Golden Bears opened with impressive wins against Michigan State and Washington State.

A sleepy-eyed, sunrise-service loss at Maryland, though, probably doomed the romantic title hopes of a team that was one play last year from being No. 1.

For anyone even thinking Cal was ever in the chase, not even a win at USC on Nov. 8 gets the Golden Bears back in it.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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