College football: Nothing is as it appears to be

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So much for certainty.

It seemed almost too easy and too good to be true for those with an aversion to chaos. With three weekends left in the college football season, two of the three unbeatens eligible for the postseason simply needed to win out and the arguments surrounding this year’s national title game would be minimal.

Down went Kansas State, manhandled 52-24 by a Baylor bunch that hasn’t even secured bowl eligibility.

Down went Oregon, a 17-14 overtime loser at home to a Stanford program the Ducks had simply raced past in the second half in recent years.

It was the first time since Dec. 1, 2007, the top two teams in The Associated Press poll lost on the same day. That tumult opened the door for two-loss Louisiana State to barge into — and win — the national title game.

It’s too early to fret about a two-loss scenario, but the next two weeks are suddenly anything but clear cut. The exception is Notre Dame (11-0), which can effectively lock up a chance to play for a national championship if it wins at Southern California on Saturday.

Beyond that? The best candidate probably is whoever comes out of the SEC title game. Alabama and Georgia still have in-state rivalries to take care of this weekend, but if both win they would appear to be in line for a de facto play-in game.

There could, of course, be even more 2007-like chaos. Florida (10-1) and Florida State (10-1) meet Saturday, with the winner positioned to lobby for a spot should Notre Dame or the eventual SEC champ lose next week. Both, however, have flaws.

The Gators own victories over Louisiana State, South Carolina and Texas A&M, but they’re also not earning a benefit of the doubt against Georgia considering their loss to the Bulldogs. Florida State wasted a 16-point lead against N.C. State earlier this season, falling 17-16 to the 6-5 Wolfpack.

With enough unruliness throughout the land, even Kansas State and Oregon could resurface as title game candidates. For now, it looks like Notre Dame and the SEC champion have the inside track.

But as Saturday night demonstrated, there’s little certainty where college football is concerned.

Weekend risers

Montel Harris. The former Boston College tailback rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns after Temple teammate Matt Brown was injured as the Owls blasted Army 63-32. Harris, who was dismissed from Boston College during the offseason, had only 597 yards and five touchdowns on the season before Saturday.

Tajh Boyd. The Clemson junior accounted for a school- and ACC-record eight touchdowns as the Tigers’ frenzied offense secured the school’s first 10-win regular season since 1981 with a 62-48 defeat of N.C. State. Boyd passed for five touchdowns (and 426 yards) while rushing for three touchdowns (and 105 yards) to stake a claim to the ACC player of the year award.

Utah State. The Aggies clinched a share of what likely will be the final Western Athletic Conference football title with a 48-41 overtime defeat of Louisiana Tech. It was Utah State’s first road victory over a ranked team in 40 tries, and it secured it after squandering a 41-17 lead in the final 16 minutes of regulation.

Weekend decliners

Lane Kiffin. Sure, he got a vote of confidence from athletic director Pat Haden, but what a massively disappointing season it has been for Southern California and their perpetually-in-the-headlines coach. Kiffin and the Trojans fell to 7-4 after stumbling 38-28 at UCLA — a team they beat 50-0 just a year ago. Southern Cal closes the regular season Saturday against Notre Dame.

Jeff Tedford. Was Saturday’s 62-14 loss to Oregon State the final stand for Tedford? It’s hard to say. In 11 seasons at California, Tedford has presided over only two losing seasons and an 82-57 record overall. Trouble is, the Golden Bears went 3-9 this season and dropped their last five.

Iowa. There will be no postseason appearance for the Hawkeyes, who fell to 4-7 with a 42-17 loss to Michigan. Iowa is assured its worst season since 2000, and its victory total is now assured of declining for the third consecutive year despite a decidedly down season in the Big Ten.

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