National Title Race Gets A Makeover As 4 Top-10 Teams Fall

Saturday, September 29th 2007, 10:00 pm
By: News On 6

The national title race received a major makeover in an upsetting weekend for several top-ranked teams.

No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 7 Texas, No. 10 Rutgers and No. 13 Clemson were all handed their first losses Saturday ... all by unranked opponents.

Add to that No. 5 West Virginia's 21-13 loss to No. 18 South Florida on Friday night, plus No. 6 California knocking off No. 11 Oregon 31-24, No. 21 Penn State falling to Illinois 27-20, and No. 22 Alabama getting knocked off by Florida State 21-14, and it's pretty obvious the polls will have a very different look Sunday.

It's the first time since last Nov. 9-12 that four top-10 teams in the AP poll lost in the same weekend.

Oklahoma was first to go down, falling to three-touchdown underdog Colorado on Kevin Eberhart's 45-yard field goal on the last play of the game.

``They outplayed us and outcoached us,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ``They fought their way to a heck of a win.''

The Sooners had looked all but unbeatable through four games, scoring at least 50 points in each and never being tested.

In the second year of rebuilding under coach Dan Hawkins, the Buffaloes took the Sooners' best shot and didn't back down in Boulder. Oklahoma led 24-7 in early in the second half and didn't score again.

Oklahoma redshirt freshman Sam Bradford, who had been close to perfect in the first four starts of his career, was 8-for-19 for only 112 yards and two interceptions against a tough Colorado defense that Stoops had praised all week.

Cody Hawkins, the coach's kid, led the Colorado rally, throwing for 220 yards and two touchdowns.

``You guys all think I'm joking, but there wasn't anybody inside that locker room that thought we were going to lose that game,'' Hawkins said.

As if Oklahoma losing wasn't enough to take the juice out of next week's Red River Rivalry game against Texas, the Longhorns followed the Sooners' loss with one of their own to another team from the Big 12 North, the conference's weaker division for the past several years.

Kansas State beat the Longhorns for the second straight season, this time in Austin.

The Wildcats had three touchdown returns _ Ian Campbell's 41-yard interception, James Johnson's 85-yard kickoff return and Jordy Nelson's 89-yard punt _ and they knocked around Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy in a 41-21 victory.

Call it an upset, but Texas had looked primed for a beating during its 4-0 start, with shaky victories against Arkansas State and Central Florida.

The Wildcats and second-year coach Ron Prince handed Texas its most lopsided loss in 10 years under coach Mack Brown.

``We're not used to losing like that around here, especially like that,'' Brown said. ``We've got to regroup.''

Rutgers moved into the top-10 for the second time in school history this week and just like the first time, when the Scarlet Knights lost to Cincinnati last season, they couldn't live up to their lofty status.

Maryland (3-2) had dropped two straight and was coming off a disheartening 31-24 overtime loss to Wake Forest in which the Terps blew a 21-point lead.

Like Oklahoma, however, Rutgers had not been challenged and couldn't respond when it was.

The Terps jumped out to a 14-3 lead, withstood a Rutgers comeback, and wrapped it up as backup quarterback Chris Turner led three second-half scoring drives. Rutgers star Ray Rice managed 97 yards on 21 carries and touchdown.

``This feels nothing like the Cincinnati loss,'' said Rice of last year's blowout. ``We fought today. They were just the better team at the end. They just executed when they needed to execute and we didn't execute.''

The Big East started the season with three teams _ Rutgers, West Virginia and Louisville _ all considered national title contenders.

Before the end of September, all three have lost and South Florida might just be the Big East's best shot to reach the national title game.

Clemson wasn't talking national title before the season, but a 4-0 start had the Tigers edging to the front of a muddled Atlantic Coast Conference.

Well, it's back to the pack for Clemson after Georgia Tech snapped a two-game losing streak 13-3.

Clemson's dynamic tailback duo of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, who combined for over 300 yard rushing in a lopsided victory over Georgia Tech last season, were held to 62 yards combined by the Yellow Jackets.

``I let my team down,'' Spiller said.

He surely wasn't the only player from a top-ranked team feeling that way Saturday night.