Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Upset Bug Finally Reaches The Top Ten

The Top 10 teams in college football had been riding a fairy tale through week 8 of college football, winning games against it's opponents over the most recent five weeks by margins exceeding 30 points per contest per team.  The BCS picture was looking extremely unclear with a potential log jam of top teams with no losses all claiming a shot at the BCS National Championship Game.  But along comes #16  Michigan State just off its win against rival Michigan and unranked Texas Tech, hardly considered the candidate to upset the #3 ranked Sooners of Oklahoma, while the Spartans were at least considered a dangerous opponent for Wisconsin, playing through a dream season with the fortunate acquisition of veteran QB, Russell Wilson, a fifth year graduate transfer from NC State.

WR Keith Nichol
Scores Winning TD 
For Michigan State, there was nothing easy about this victory, after trailing by 14 points early after an impressive drive by the Badgers on its first possession and then another quick strike after a Spartan turnover.  Wisconsin appeared ready to continue their blowout ways cruising to lopsided a lopsided victory.  But after a MSU punt pinned the Badgers inside the Wisconsin 5 yard line, Jerel Worthy the MSU dynamic defensive lineman stuffed the first play at the one yard line, the Wisconsin QB made a mental mistake.  After rolling left and coming back to the right, Wilson launched a pass into the right flat while avoiding pressure, but no receiver was in the area and he had not gotten outside the tackle lane, so the result a penalty in the end zone for "international grounding", an automated "safety" and 2 points for the Spartans.  From that point, the host team would outscore the visitors 29-3, including a two point conversion.  Leading 31-17 late in the game, MSU would have to watch Wilson lead the Badgers to two late touchdown drives to tie the game with a little more than a minute to play in the game.  But then came the drama, the thrill, the excitement and the disappointment.  After driving down the field and getting just over midfield, MSU QB Kirk Cousins (22/31 290 yds, 3 TDs, 0 Int) launched a "Hail Mary" with 4 seconds remaining, and after richocetting off two MSU receivers and one UW defender, wide receiver Keith Nichol hauled in the gift at the goal line and leaned in for an attempt at the winning touch down.  On the field two officials clearly missed the play, as they both marked the ball outside the point of the actual catch of Nichol, and never considered or saw his lean into the end zone before being desperately pulled back by Badger defenders.  After a very prompt and accurate official review, the ruling on the field was overturned and MSU won 37-31.  On many other days, the 14/21 223 yds, 2 TD/2 Int, performance would have been enough for the Wilson led Badgers to take a close game home, not to mention a 22 yard rushing touchdown by the Wisconsin QB.  But the Spartans were poised and apparently unintimidated by the their conference leader Saturday.

In the southwestern region of the country, Oklahoma was trying to stay in the hunt for the coveted National Championship, andy its Landry Jones Heisman campaign, but the Red Raiders of Texas Tech had another surprise in mind for yet another seemingly indispensable Top Ten team, but the Red Raiders would run out to an early 24-7 halftime lead and would then defend off the late run by conference leading Oklahoma, and hold on for a 41-38 shootout that had as much drama as the MSU-UW matchup, without the "Hail Mary."  Red Raider QB Seth Doedge threw for 33/52 for 441 yards and 4 TD's and no picks, as the visiting team produced only the third loss for the Sooners on Owen Field in the 78 games coached there by Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops, who had won 39 straight at home until Saturday.  Heisman Candidate Landry Jones was 30/55 for 412, 3 TD's and 1 Int.  Like the MSU upset, Tommy Turbeville's squad had to watch an All-American quarterback score the last two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter with less than 7 minutes to play, erasing a 41-24 Tech lead at the 7:38 mark.  But it was too little too late, as Oklahoma's final score at the 1:10 mark would end the hopes of the Sooners to remain unbeaten this season.  The star of the game however was Tech WR Alex Torres, with 4 catches 94 yards and 3 touchdowns.  For now,  this has to be considered "two out", with six remaining for the BCS Sweepstakes, as there are only six true contenders remaining unbeaten for now, with a lot of football to play.  Example, for two quarters Tennessee was tied with Alabama 6-6, before a second half explosion led to a 37-6 blowout.  The log jam of unbeatens could easily be no unbeatens by the end of November, with the remaining inter-state rivalries and  inter conference ranked match ups. 

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