Top 25 In Shambles

Steve O Speak

Week four of the college football season will go down as the week where National Championship dreams, and hopes for BCS Bowl bids were shattered. Seven of the Top 25 teams lost this week, and four others (Michigan, Houston, Georgia, and LSU) barely escaped with a victory. Of the seven teams that lost, four were top 10 teams that lost crucial conference games. Only one of the seven teams lost to another top 25 team (Miami to Virginia Tech). Now the Top 25 is a complete mess and no one has any answers as to why.

Some might say that the quality of college football is down this season compared to years past, but I’m not buying that. This is probably the deepest that college football has been in talented quarterbacks in quite some time. Not only do you have the big name returners (Tebow, McCoy, and Bradford) and the future first rounders like Jevan Snead, Jimmy Claussen, Terrell Pryor, and Matt Barkley (last two based on hype and potential), but there are plenty of other quality quarterbacks. Guys like Max Hall (BYU), Zac Robinson (OKST), Jake Locker (Wash), Kevin Riley (Cal), Tony Pike (Cinn) also are great college quarterbacks with some pro prospects. That doesn’t even include the dozen or so other quality college quarterbacks, capable of leading their team to victory any given week. That’s just the talent at the quarterback position. The talent level at running back and receiver, is just as good. On the defensive side of the ball the talent level might even be better. While their is plenty of talent at every position around the country, the talent along the defensive line is particularly exceptional. The the 2010 NFL Draft should have at least 10 defensive linemen taken in the first round.

With all this talent across college football the logical answer for why seven ranked teams lost this week would be that there is so much parity between the teams. Parity would make sense if it was just the Top-25 upsetting each other, but with the exception of Miami parity isn’t a good excuse as to why these teams lost this weekend. Parity or even bad luck could explain if these Top 25 teams were losing close games on last second field goals or fluke plays.  Only Ole Miss lost by less than seven points, and they were lucky it was that close considering how bad they played. Every other team simply got beat, no chance for a last second comeback or a miracle, they just got outplayed. Now I realize teams like Oregon, South Florida, and Iowa are quality college teams, but they had no business winning on Saturday. Cal went into Oregon ranked 6th in the nation, and had a firm control of the Pac-10 with USC’s loss the week before. The Golden Bears have a very good team, with the best running back in the nation in Jahvid Best leading the offense. Oregon held their “high-powered” offense to just 3 points, and a 42-3 shellacking. The Ducks embarrassed Cal despite having their best boxer running back, LeGarrete Blount, suspended for the season. There is no reason why Cal’s team but up as many points as the Ducks second stringers yesterday. South Florida is a good program, but their senior quarterback Matt Grothe is out for the season. Grothe was a very good college quarterback, and always made the Bulls a tough team to play, without him in the game Florida State should have been able to walk all over USF. In the end though it was Florida State who looked unprepared for the game, and now leaves them with two losses on the year. Iowa is a spoiler, they upset a top ranked Penn State team last year at home with a last second field goal to win 24-23. Yesterday in Happy Valley, they trounced the Nittany Lions 21-10. Penn State was a team that was supposed to compete for the Big Ten title and even the National Championship coming into this season. You can’t do either if you lose to inferior opponents at home. There is no reason why Penn State should have lost that game last night. Parity can’t be the answer as to why any of these teams lost yesterday, there was nothing equal in any of these matchups.

The real reason I think why we are seeing more and more upsets like this comes down to the coaching and systems. I think the level of coaching has gone down in college football, and we are seeing more of a utilization of special systems and athletes over fundamentals and football players. Every year teams like USC, Florida State, Penn State (and plenty more) recruit the best players in the country, and are loaded with talent. But that “talent” isn’t showing up on the field this season. I think there has been a new ‘fad’ to recruit 40 times, and size, instead of actual football skills. Instead of showing these prospects how to run perfect routes, or find the hole, these teams just game plan on getting these athletes the ball in space. Now that works against inferior opponents, but when you go up against smarter coaches who play fundamental football, they can find a way to stop it. Its also a reason why these storied football programs, have produced a dearth of NFL talent in recent years. USC is the best example, of all the 4 and 5 star recruits they have on their offense, there best player is actually a transfer from Arkansas, WR Damian Williams. I think until teams start going back to basics in college football, we will continue to see a higher number of major upsets.

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