- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

Another week of largely anemic performances proved once again that the college football landscape consists of Ohio State and a scrum of sub-Buckeye, semi-bums.

The scarlet and gray trampled Iowa in the fashion befitting a top-ranked team, mopping the field at Kinnick Stadium with Drew Tate and Co. 38-17. The other high-profile unbeatens in action over the weekend basically failed to post.

Auburn needed a last-minute defensive stand to escape Columbia with a victory over relative SEC pushover South Carolina. Southern Cal floundered in Pullman before edging forgettable Washington State 28-22. Michigan was anything but overwhelming in a 28-14 sleepfest over Minnesota.

Florida trailed offensively hapless Alabama 10-0 before staggering to a gimpy win in Gainesville. Georgia put its massive offensive imperfections on display for a second consecutive week, scraping by coachless Mississippi 14-9. And Virginia Tech plummeted from the unbeaten ranks in spectacular style, absorbing a season-defining 38-27 home humbling from Georgia Tech.

Let’s just send the Ohio State-Michigan (Nov. 18) and Louisville-West Virginia (Nov. 2) winners directly to Glendale, Ariz., for the Jan. 8 title game, because no potential No. 2 is playing well enough to even merit BCS controversy.

Gameballs and gassers

A team gasser is definitely in order for Virginia Tech. Last season’s humiliating 27-7 loss to already unraveling Miami at Lane Stadium stopped resonating about 10 minutes before Calvin Johnson and Georgia Tech exposed the Hokies on Saturday in Blacksburg. And Beamer and Co. deserve no mitigating quarter for the 11-point final margin. This game was a 38-13 laugher after three quarters of meaningful football.

And Michigan State deserves a marathon for its heartless 23-20 home loss to Illinois. Sure, the previous week’s amazing fourth-quarter flop against Notre Dame exacted an emotional toll. But Illinois had lost 10 straight Big Ten games and arrived in East Lansing with a freshman quarterback almost as clueless as its coach, the inimitable Ron Zook.

But Sparty couldn’t even be bothered to roll its helmets out against the Illini, which shouldn’t come as much of a shock to any close observers of the Michigan State program. The Spartans have dropped a shocker to a double-digit underdog in each of the last five seasons. John L. Smith’s teams always seem to have serious character issues. If he can’t get his team back this season, Smith could find a pink slip in his stocking.

The Back Judge needs a JUGS machine to handle this week’s volume of gameballs. Let’s start in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Wake Forest is the only remaining unbeaten ACC team. If the Deacs can handle Clemson at home next week, Wake will be 6-0 for the first time since World War II.

Next we’ll head to the land of blue turf, where Boise State hasn’t skipped a beat since the departure of Dan Hawkins to Colorado. The Broncos are 5-0 after routing Utah on the road 36-3 and are the consensus pick as the team most likely to get rear-ended by the BCS.

Individually, the weekend’s top performance belongs to Northern Illinois’ Garrett Wolfe. The 5-foot-7, 173-pound scatback tagged Ball State for 353 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 40-28 victory to push his season rushing output to an astounding 1,181 yards. Wolfe, who sports a gaudy 9.3-yard rushing average, deserves serious Heisman consideration as he chases Barry Sanders’ single-season record of 2,628 yards in 1988. If you think his yardage is the flukey result of weak MAC competition, you obviously missed the fact that Wolfe ran for 171 yards in an opening-week loss at Ohio State.

This week’s top receiving performance comes courtesy of Woodbridge, Va., native Deon Butler (C.D. Hylton High), who set a Penn State record with 11 catches for 216 yards in the Nits’ blistering of Northwestern.

Finally, the Back Judge is tired of hearing about the Heisman hopes of Florida’s Chris Leak and Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn.

Michigan euthanized Quinn’s Heisman campaign three weeks ago, period. And Leak isn’t even the second-best quarterback in the SEC. LSU’s JaMarcus Russell and Tennessee’s Erik Ainge were once again spectacular Saturday, combining to complete 41 of 47 passes for 654 yards and seven touchdowns in blowout victories.

Both Russell and Ainge have thrown for more yardage than Leak and boast better completion percentages and passer ratings than the overrated Florida senior. The Back Judge’s current Heisman pecking order is Adrian Peterson, Troy Smith, Steve Slaton and Garrett Wolfe.

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