'Bama breaks out in a season-altering weekend Print
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Sunday, 28 September 2008 11:57
NCAAF Headline News

 Visions of crystal footballs dance through the heads of Alabama fans. Superman gets stuffed in the Swamp. Northwestern and Kentucky are unbeaten. Wisconsin and Georgia are not.
The first season-altering college football weekend is in the books. Time to assess the damage:
The Big Story
As painful as the past few days have been for those who root for Southern California, Georgia, Florida and a bunch of other teams with high aspirations for this season, it's important to remember that all is not lost.
If 2007 taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected and never write a team off.
Was it over for LSU when the Tigers lost to Kentucky?
Was it over for Ohio State when the Buckeyes lost to Illinois?
Was it over for LSU when the Tigers lost again, this time to Arkansas?
No to all the above.
ng the preseason rankings moot.
And while trying to project can be the most foolish of exercises, you know the folks in Tuscaloosa are looking at the Tide's remaining schedule and thinking: At LSU. Auburn at home. We can do this.
At $4 million per year, coach Nick Saban is looking like a bargain for the Tide. The rest of the Southeastern Conference, really the rest of the country, has been having a good laugh at 'Bama's expense for years. The bungled coaching searches, the NCAA violations, the losses to the Louisiana-Monroes of the world, they've provided great fodder for anyone who wanted to pile on.
Now it's pay back time - and Tide stars Julio Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Mark Ingram are only freshmen.
Alabama is No. 2 for now, behind Oklahoma, but the Tide can make a great case for being No. 1. In three games away from Tuscaloosa, Alabama has outscored Clemson, Arkansas and Georgia 124-54.
As for the Sooners, we've seen this before from them. They are crushing everything in their path, much the way they did last year before losing at Colorado.
``Teams are upset every Saturday, so we've just got to play smart football and play the way we know how to play,'' said Oklahoma receiver Manuel Johnson, who caught three TD passes in the Sooners' 35-10 win over TCU.
The players know nothing is automatic. The coaches know it, too. Everybody else got a reminder this weekend.
ood Tebow
Tim Tebow couldn't gain 2 feet.
With the game on the line for Florida against Mississippi, Urban Meyer put the ball in the hands of his Heisman Trophy winner, just the way the coach should have.
And for what seemed like the first time in his college career, Tebow, a player who has inspired a cultlike level of hero worship among Gators fans, failed. He couldn't surge for a first down late in the game and Mississippi's 31-30 upset of the Gators was all but complete.
Tebow apologized after the loss, which will surely make him even more adored in Gainesville. Who doesn't love accountability? Still, his early season performance has left the possibility of Tebow winning a second consecutive Heisman Trophy unlikely.
Tebow is 30th in passer rating in the nation and has run for only 125 yards and 2.6 per carry. There's lot of time left, but he's already way behind Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Missouri's Chase Daniel in voters' minds.
Unlikely unbeatens
There are 17 unbeaten teams in major college football after the first month of the season. Some we know are good: Oklahoma, Alabama, BYU, LSU, for example. Others still have a lot to prove.
Northwestern (5-0) - Tough defense and a schedule that doesn't include Wisconsin and Penn State is a good combination for Wildcats.
latest star quarterback in the Mid-American Conference, but not having their talented receiver will catch up to them.
Oklahoma State (4-0) - Cowboys' offense is high-powered. The defense has much to prove against those other potent Big 12 defenses.
Tulsa (4-0) - You probably don't know this, but the nation's top-rated quarterback plays for the Golden Hurricane. David Johnson is a senior and first-year starter who is completing 72 percent of his passes. He could help make Tulsa Conference USA's first BCS buster.
Kentucky (4-0) - Reality comes to the Commonwealth when the Wildcats visit Alabama on Saturday. The rest of the SEC is probably not worried about Kentucky.
Heisman-worthy
Donald Brown of newly No. 24-ranked Connecticut led the Huskies to a 26-21 victory against Louisville with 190 yards rushing on Friday night. Brown leads the nation at 181 yards per game.
Quick hits
-A bad sign for Nebraska's rebuilding defense: Virginia Tech's sketchy offense runs for 206 yards against Bo Pelini's Huskers. Missouri comes to Lincoln on Saturday. Uh-oh.
-Steve Spurrier finally gave former prized recruit Stephen Garcia a chance to run the show for South Carolina. Garcia's been a problem child off the field, which has stunted his growth on it, but he threw for 131 yards and ran for 86 in a 26-13 victory over UAB.
football - Army, North Texas and Washington. Why? Because terrible teams such as Washington State, Virginia, Syracuse and SMU, to name a few, have victories over FCS teams to keep them from being winless.
Lookahead
The schedule looked a lot better before all the upsets.
Most intriguing game could be Ohio State at Wisconsin. With Beanie Wells healthy and Terrelle Pryor growing up fast, the Buckeyes will look like a very different team from the one that lost to USC.
---
Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Contact him at rrusso(at)ap.org.
 

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