By Michael Brown
Sentinel Sports Writer
Entering his sixth season as South Carolina’s head coach, Steve Spurrier, was still looking for that elusive “signature” victory.
Last Saturday, at Columbia, South Carolina, the “ole’ ball coach” finally scribbled his name in this season’s upset book when the Gamecocks knocked off the No. 1 ranked defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, 35-21.
With the win, the one-time Florida and Washington Redskins coach not only helped his team, which rose from No. 19 to tenth in the Associated Press Poll, but may have helped several other teams who have championship aspirations.
The Gamecocks’ upset of the Tide was one of the only surprises in a college football weekend lacking any real shockers. There was USC’s second-consecutive last second loss, this time at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal. And LSU needed every second of regulation to finish the Florida Gators in Gainesville to remain undefeated.
The only other real surprise was Michigan State’s defense on its team’s way to victory, finding a way to confuse and tie-up Michigan quarterback Denard “Shoelace” Robinson, by “only” allowing him 301 total yards as opposed to his 383 average.
With the Alabama loss, Ohio State moved from No. 2 to the top spot, and Oregon, Boise State, TCU and Nebraska all took a step up the rankings ladder.
To appreciate the full breadth of South Carolina’s win against the Tide, glancing at the Gamecocks’ numbers on both sides of the ball is a necessity. Coming into the game, ’Bama’s young defense was largely untested. However, South Carolina’s skill players made plays, particularly in the red zone.
The Gamecocks went 4-for-4 with touchdowns in the red zone. Two were scored by wideout Alshon Jeffery and tailback Marcus Lattimore chipped in with two scores.
Perhaps most importantly, quarterback Stephen Garcia finished 17 of 20 with 201 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception. Limiting mistakes was crucial in South Carolina’s win. The win also snapped Alabama’s 19-game undefeated streak.
South Carolina limited the Tide’s tailback tandem, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, to 36 yards and it sacked quarterback Greg McElroy seven times.
An unlikely quarterback duel was on display in Tucson as Oregon State upset the ninth ranked Arizona Wildcats, 29-27. Names such as Luck, Locker, Thomas and Barkley come to mind when you think of elite quarterbacks in the Pac-10.
But, Arizona’s Nick Foles out of Santa Monica and Oregon State’s Ryan Katz may join the group if they continue what they did this past Saturday.
Katz led his team to victory against the nation’s No. 2 ranked defense by going 30 of 42 for 393 yards with two touchdowns passes and a 1-yard run for a score. Foles finished 35 of 46 for 440 yards with three touchdowns.
Katz’s performance was all the more impressive considering the Beavers lost its top receiver, James Rogers, to a knee injury in the second quarter that is expected to end his season.
Michigan State served notice to the rest of the Big Ten that it will be a factor this year by going into Ann Arbor and rolling over the Michigan Wolverines, 34-17.
The story of the game was the Spartans ability to contain Michigan’s Denard Robinson by limiting his big plays and forcing him into three interceptions. Michigan State set the tone early by intercepting a Robinson pass on the opening drive.
The Spartans defense held Robinson to 86 rushing yards, 97 below his average. And State’s defense limited him to 4.1 yards per carry, down from his 9-yard average.
Standout individual performances from the past week included Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez in a 48-13 win at Kansas State, finishing with 369 total yards, including 241 rushing and five touchdowns.
USC receiver Robert Woods (Gardena Serra HS) caught 12 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-35 loss. And Auburn quarterback Cam Newton accounted for 408 total yards, including 198 on the ground and four touchdowns.
It seems hard to believe, but yes, we’re halfway through the 2010 college football campaign. My preseason picks for the Heisman and Pac-10 winner, Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams and the USC Trojans, respectively, are busts at this point.
However, my pick for national champion (Ohio State) looks like it controls its own destiny after Alabama’s loss. Aside from playing Wisconsin and visiting the Iowa Hawkeyes Nov. 20, there aren’t any real threats to the Buckeyes.
I’ll stick with the Buckeyes to win the national championship, although Oregon and Nebraska have both made me a believer with their impressive play so far.
Unless Michigan falls off a cliff and goes on a losing streak similar to last season’s, Robinson is the hands-down Heisman winner.
Through six games, Robinson has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1223 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, he has 119 attempts for a nation-leading 991 yards and 9 touchdowns. Michigan has the No. 3 ranked offense in the nation, primarily because of Robinson.
Big games this weekend
Top ranked Ohio State will travel to Wisconsin to face the 18th ranked Badgers in its first tough road game this season.
If quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes are stunned at Wisconsin on Saturday, the top spot could open-up for either Oregon or Boise State. It will be interesting to see this Sunday night as the first Bowl Championship Series rankings are released, just how close the top ranked teams are to each other.
Another pivotal game this weekend is No. 12 Arkansas at No. 7 Auburn. Auburn’s undefeated record will be in jeopardy against quarterback Ryan Mallett and the high-powered Razorback offense.
Both teams have their sights set on playing the SEC title game later this season, and Auburn, if it can run the table, still has a shot at the national title. This promises to be an offensive showcase as Mallett and Newton both look to bolster their Heisman credentials.
Possible upsets to keep an eye on are No. 15 Iowa at Michigan; No. 10 South Carolina at Kentucky and No. 19 Nevada at Hawaii.