- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

TCU is officially the Matt Dillon of college football’s outsiders.

For those wondering which of the three unbeaten BCS dark horses was the biggest, baddest bully on the block, Saturday provided an unequivocal answer. The verb has yet to be invented to describe what the Horned Frogs (10-0) did to formerly respected Utah in a 55-28 win over the weekend in Fort Worth, Texas.

Suffice it to say that TCU led 48-14 at halftime and finished the game with 32 first downs. Neither Cincinnati (10-0) nor Boise State (10-0) has beaten anyone with such efficient savagery, much less the nation’s No. 16 team.

“If the nation didn’t think that this was enough style points, then I don’t know what is,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We’re just going to go about our business.”

Should either Texas or both SEC behemoths tumble down the stretch, TCU has provided exhibits A (38-7 at then-No. 16 BYU) and B (then-No. 16 Utah) in its BCS title-game case. Exhibit C would be its 14-10 road victory at Clemson (7-3) over a team that now looks like a lock to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division.

Those who think the Horned Frogs wouldn’t pound the Bearcats or Broncos three times out of five haven’t been paying attention. And those who think TCU doesn’t belong on the same field with the Longhorns (10-0) or the SEC champion would do well to remember how the group of Utes the Horned Frogs just demolished handled the Crimson Tide 31-17 in last year’s Sugar Bowl.

At two programs much more storied than TCU, the coaching carousel should start spinning shortly. Notre Dame and Michigan stumbled again over the weekend.

The situation in Ann Arbor seems more clear-cut after the Wolverines (5-6) lost their fourth straight game to fall to an unthinkable 1-6 in the Big Ten. The maize and blue aren’t going to beat league champion Ohio State (9-2) next weekend, meaning Rich Rodriguez arguably will have taken a step back in his second season by winning even fewer conference games than in his ugly 3-9 debut. Given the way Jim Harbaugh has turned around a historically miserable Stanford program in a similar time frame, a permanent homecoming for the former Michigan quarterback almost seems inevitable.

While the Irish (6-4) have been improved this season, Charlie Weis might be a goner after consecutive losses to Navy and Pittsburgh. While a 27-22 defeat at No. 8 Pittsburgh hardly qualifies as a disgrace, Notre Dame’s latest setback dropped Weis to 1-10 vs. ranked teams since 2006. Expect the Irish’s wish list to start with Florida’s Urban Meyer (unlikely) and include Jon Gruden (very possible) and Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly (a lock if the Irish miss on Meyer and Gruden).

On the Heisman trail, Alabama running back Mark Ingram deserves some promotion. He added 149 yards on 19 carries to his season totals (194 for 1,297) in Saturday’s 31-3 thrashing of Mississippi State. With games left against two of the softer rushing defenses on the Crimson Tide’s schedule (Tennessee-Chattanooga and Auburn), Ingram is averaging 129.7 yards a game and 6.69 yards a carry. Compared with the modest individual senior exploits of Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, Ingram is on pace to have one of the 10 greatest rushing seasons in SEC history, and three of the 10 ahead of him (in terms of yards a game) belong to Herschel Walker.

Game balls and gassers

Harbaugh’s Stanford bunch deserves kudos after the Cardinal (7-3) obliterated USC at the Coliseum. Behind yet another solid day from tailback Toby Gerhart (178 yards), the Cardinal strapped a 55-21 wood-shedding on the Trojans. Pete Carroll has endured the two worst losses of his nine-year tenure at USC in his past three games. Perhaps losing so many talented assistants (Norm Chow, Ed Orgeron, Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Nick Holt) is catching up with Carroll.

Individual leather goes to Mississippi burner Dexter McCluster, who carried out a one-man rout of Tennessee in Oxford by rushing for 282 yards on 25 carries in the Rebels’ 42-17 pounding of the Volunteers.

This week’s sprints go to Tennessee’s three freshmen who were charged with armed robbery Thursday. Nu’Keese Richardson, Mike Edwards and Janzen Jackson were arrested after Richardson was accused of sticking a pellet handgun into a parked car at a convenience store and demanding money from its occupants.

Though this was Tennessee’s first legal incident in the Lane Kiffin era, it also was the most egregious one in the program’s history and the worst among the 120 FBS schools this season, completely overwhelming any credibility Kiffin might have earned during his first season in Knoxville.

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