On their way to a seemingly automatic trip to the BCS National Title Game by way of the Pac-10 crown, the USC Trojans ran into an unforseen complication:
No one told Oregon State they were supposed to lie down.
What ensued was one of the most shocking upsets in recent years, not just because the Beavers won 27-21 (they beat USC in Corvallis two years ago as well), but because of how they did it. Diminutive running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who stands all of 5 feet 6 inches tall, ran for 186 yards on 37 carries with two touchdowns. The last time a team under .500 knocked off the nation's best team? That would be all the way back in 1990 (October 13th to be exact), when a 1-2-1 Michigan State team beat bitter rival Michigan.
Oregon State controlled the line of scrimmage in this one, racking up 176 yards rushing while the defense held USC to 86 yards rushing. The Beavers also forced two turnovers, the last of which was an interception that led to Rodgers' second rushing score to make the score 27-14. A late Patrick Turner touchdown reception got the Trojans within six, but they were unable to recover the onside kick. And it may have been a case of adding injury to insult, as LB Rey Maualuga went down in the fourth quarter with an injury to his right knee. The severity of the injury is unknown at this time.
So what does this loss mean for USC and the Pac-10? Well, it remains to be seen what happens in Saturday's games but you have to think they'll drop to the back end of the Top 10. They'll still be the overwhelming favorite to win their seventh consecutive conference title, but are the once again destined for Pasadena and the Rose Bowl? It's too early to doom a team from the national title discussion just yet, but many didn't hold the league in high regard after the results of the last two weeks. How much will the perception of the Pac-10 hurt USC in the polls? We shall see, but this game proves that the road to another crown will not be a cakewalk.
As for the Beavers, who have made a habit in recent seasons of coming on strong in the second half of the year, this game should provide a huge boost in confidence. It was just about three weeks ago that they were being embarassed by Penn State in Happy Valley. But they can't rest on this win, as #17 Utah awaits in Salt Lake City next Thursday night. But a team that looked destined to miss out on bowl season suddenly has new life.
Connecticut @ Louisville, 8PM EST on ESPN2
It's the Big East opener for both, and last year's game is still on the minds of many. But that doesn't matter, as this is a much different Louisville team than the one that struggled mightily on defense in 2007. The Cards, under new defensive coordinator Ron English, rank second in the Big East in total defense (243 yards allowed/game) and first in the league in run defense. And that run defense will have its hands full with a Connecticut rushing attack led by Donald Brown.
Brown (179 yards/game) currently leads the nation in rushing, but he won't be the only feature back on display. Redshirt freshman Victor Anderson has led the Louisville attack, ranking right behind Brown with 107 yards per game. The key for Connecticut will be how they fare in the passing game, something that has been a serious problem with exception to the Virginia game. Tyler Lorenzen, who threw six interceptions in all of 2007 has already tossed five picks in four games.
Louisville has fared better in the passing game, but they still haven't hit their stride. Hunter Cantwell is more than capable of a big night through the air, but he hasn't gone off yet in 2008. The winner of this game will be able to make some things happen through the air and win the turnover battle. And because of my leaning, Shawn will be making the pick for this one.
Shawn's Pick: Louisville 31-28.