- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

The Washington Times college football writer takes a look at the week that was:

Goodbye, clarity. Welcome back, chaos.

Most weekends during the college football season help crystallize the season’s major story lines through simple attrition. An unbeaten falls. A Heisman hopeful stumbles into oblivion. A leviathan delivers a season-defining beatdown. A pivotal player on a premier team goes down with an injury. Extras slide into the shadows. Stars stride into the spotlight. The resolution sharpens the picture that is the season.

Lamentably, the opposite was true last weekend, when virtually everything that occurred served to muddle both national title and Heisman races.

Thanks to pedestrian performances by both USC and Oklahoma, the road to the Orange Bowl now looks much less like a two-team sprint. Both the Trojans and the Sooners had to rally from double-digit deficits to escape road losses.

The three primary unbeatens behind them (Auburn, Wisconsin and Utah), meanwhile, all enjoyed successful weekends which enhance their BCS resumes.

The Tigers didn’t play, but they did profit from Saturday’s shenanigans. Not only did No.3 Auburn gain ground on the No.2 Sooners in the polls, one of the most dangerous teams looming on its path to a perfect season suffered a devastating blow when Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge went down against Notre Dame with a separated shoulder. The Vols now have lost their top two quarterbacks (Ainge and fellow freshman Brent Schaeffer) on consecutive weeks. And suddenly an Auburn finishing stretch (Georgia, at Alabama, likely vs. Tennessee in the SEC title game) which once looked likely to produce a BCS-saving upset now looks less formidable.

Wisconsin also is positioning itself to do some Orange Bowl-spurned screaming. After opening the season with some squeakers, the unbeaten Badgers are playing dominating football, burying surging Northwestern and Minnesota in the last two weeks. Sure, the Badgers don’t play Michigan, and their nonconference schedule is typically mushy (Central Florida, UNLV, Arizona). But Wisconsin has the nation’s most intimidating defender in quarterback bashing defensive end Erasmus James. And with the Trojans and Sooners doing little to distinguish themselves, why not Wisconsin?

Perhaps Utah has even more of a beef with the system. Sure, it plays in a comiconference (Mountain West). But the only two times it has ventured into major territory, it has interred Texas A&M; (41-21) and North Carolina (46-16), two victories that continue to look better and better. The Utes feature the nation’s leader in passing efficiency (Alex Smith), the hottest young name in coaching (Urban Meyer), and a 9-0 record that doesn’t include one single-digit shootout.

As for the Heisman picture, Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson obviously couldn’t handle the prosperity of his one-week status as favorite. His lead in every poll is likely to evaporate after a 101-yard effort vs. Texas A&M.; Perhaps the worst thing about a 101-yard performance is that it’s merely indifferent, not a campaign-concluding indictment. The Back Judge’s new Heisman leader is USC’s Reggie Bush, who recorded a game-defining punt return for a touchdown in USC’s 28-20 squeaker at Oregon State.

Game balls and gassers

This week’s leather goes to Texas quarterback Vince Young and Ohio State all-purpose sensation Ted Ginn.

Young led the greatest comeback in the history of Texas football Saturday night, completing a school record 18 of 21 passes for 278 yards and running for another 123 yards to help the Longhorns flip a 35-7 second-quarter deficit into a shocking 56-35 victory over Oklahoma State. Always a terror with his feet, perhaps the Texas sophomore finally is developing into the aerial assassin that would make the Longhorns’ offense among the nation’s most potent.

Ginn, who would top the Back Judge’s list of impact freshmen if not for Oklahoma’s Peterson, is the only reason to watch the Buckeyes these days. Saturday in East Lansing, Ginneration X, the Big Ten’s ultimate X-factor, scored on a reverse, punt return and a 58-yard reception, this last bullet gave the Buckeyes the go-ahead score with just 2:14 remaining in their victory over Michigan State.

Ginn, a 170-pound blur from Cleveland, has returned three punts for scores this season, tying the school’s career mark in less than a season. Much like Miami’s Mr. Versatility, Devin Hester, Ginn has logged snaps this season at wideout, cornerback and running back.

The gasser for the week, and indeed for the season, goes to Penn State former legend, JokePa. The Back Judge has become increasingly infuriated with the situation in State College over the last several seasons and has decided to scrap any pretense of civility. Paterno’s Nits (2-7, 0-6 Big Ten) lost to Northwestern (14-7) this weekend, displaying wanton offensive incompetence once again en route to a 13th loss in their last 14 Big Ten games.

When Paterno didn’t retire after Penn State went 10-13 in 2000-2001, the Back Judge was disappointed because he didn’t want to see Paterno’s legacy marred. When a completely delusional Paterno held on after last season’s debacle (3-9, 1-7), the situation became pathetic — senile JoePa had fallen and couldn’t get up.

Now, the Back Judge can’t believe the administration at Penn State is subjecting the school’s fans to this slow motion colonoscopy. The Myopic One has spurned the graceful exit for five painful years. It’s obvious the only one who doesn’t know the JoePa era is over is Paterno. Will somebody in State College please grow a spine and stage an intervention? Have you people completely forgotten the definition of accountability? Loyalty has its limits, and you’re letting this egocentric fossil turn the entire university into a punchline.

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