- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

The Washington Times’ Barker Davis takes a look at the week that was in college football:

So long, West Virginia. Farewell, Fresno State. Auf Wiedersehen, Volunteers. Goodbye, Buckeyes. The sound of music currently ringing in your ears is better known as 2004 title taps.

The first of two consecutive separation Saturdays culled the aforementioned charlatans from college football’s championship pool, while boosting the Orange Bowl resumes of a quartet that spent the first month of the season under a cloud of questions.

With the exception of the several dozen folks stranded in Morgantown, every college football fan breathed a sigh of relief early Saturday afternoon when Virginia Tech dropped West Virginia from the ranks of the unbeaten (19-13). An undefeated Mountaineers team, and it likely would have run the table with a victory in Blacksburg, would have created a BCS disaster.

Imagine a West Virginia squad boasting only scalps from fringe poll teams Maryland and Virginia Tech slithering into the Orange Bowl over a powerhouse once-beaten like Florida State, Oklahoma or Georgia. Remember Notre Dame pummeling virtually untested Major Harris and Co. in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl while the college football world clamored for a neutral-site Catholics vs. Convicts rematch? Nobody wants the Orange Bowl to be an afterthought. And where soft-scheduled West Virginia was concerned, the Hallelujah Hokies have spared us that possibility.

Another potential BCS mess short-circuited came courtesy of Louisiana Tech, which ran over Pat Hill’s giant-slayers from Fresno State (28-21) to reduce the minor-conference BCS players to a field of two (Utah and Louisville).

The weekend also provided a serious measure of major-conference clarity. On the exit end, top-10 pretenders Ohio State and Tennessee were eliminated from the race to Miami. Crashing the Orange Bowl party with one loss is out of the question for teams that lose to lowly Northwestern or are interred in its own building by previously offense-less Auburn.

On the ascending end, Georgia, Auburn, Purdue and Cal dispelled all remaining doubts about their legitimacy as quality challengers to USC and Oklahoma.

Georgia’s early-season doldrums were obviously because of indifference not incompetence, as the ‘Dawgs strapped the beating of Nick Saban’s LSU career (45-16) on the defending champs in Athens. Elsewhere in the SEC, Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell proved he’s more than just a Human Handoff, shredding Tennessee’s secondary in a 34-10 victory that wasn’t nearly that close. The Bulldogs and Tigers/War Eagles/Cadillacs/Fightin’ Tubervilles seem destined for an undefeated collision on the Plains on Nov.13, and possibly a redux in the SEC title game.

Purdue answered its critics by finally winning a meaningful road game. The Boilermakers had been 0-11 at Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame in the Joe Tiller era before they buried the Irish 41-16 in South Bend behind Heisman favorite Kyle Orton (385 yards passing, four touchdowns). Purdue, which does not face Minnesota this season, has one more road hump next weekend at Penn State before a favorable stretch run that features home games vs. Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State.

And the Cal Bears, whose critics multiplied while the Bears sat idle (since Sept.11), demolished Oregon State (49-7) to reclaim their position as USC’s principal Pac-10 rival. The two meet in Los Angeles next week in one of the two games certain to further pare down this season’s Orange Bowl suitors.

Next week’s other marquee matchup features Big XII unbeatens Oklahoma and Texas in the Mack Brown Memorial Bowl — a traditional OU romp Longhorn fans amusingly still have the gall to call the Red River “Rivalry.”

Gameballs

The first goes to Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and his Hokies for saving the world from West Virginia.

The second goes to Georgia’s David Greene, who possibly had the strangest line in SEC history when half of his completions against LSU resulted in a school-record five passing touchdowns.

The third goes to Louisiana Tech junior tailback Ryan Moats, who dropped 236 rushing yards and four touchdowns on a Fresno State team which three weeks ago held supposed Heisman stock Darren Sproles to 37 yards. Moats, whose name must now be mentioned in any serious Heisman discussion, leads the nation in rushing yardage (928 in five games), boasts three 200-yard-plus efforts this season and is well on his way to a 2,000-yard year.

Finally, the Back Judge would like to join Erik Ainge and throw a little leather to Auburn senior safety Junior Rosegreen, who led all Tennessee receivers Saturday night with four receptions in the Tigers’ 34-10 decimation of the Vols. Rosegreen’s four picks tied an SEC record, elevated him into the national lead in interceptions (five) and earned him honors as the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week.

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