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College Football 2007 – Illinois Upsets Ohio State 28-21, Creating a Scramble for the BCS Title Game

Ron Zook, who was eliminated as Florida head coach after failing to replicate Steve Spurrier’s record with the Gators, regained some measure of respect by motivating his Fighting Illini to a 28-21 upset against No. 1-ranked, undefeated Ohio State on Saturday (10-11-07).

The victory marked the first time Illinois (8-3) had beaten a No. 1-ranked team since 1956, and the first time it had done so away from home. The loss ended Ohio State’s conference and 20-game Big 10 winning streak by the Buckeyes, who are now 10-1.

The loss not only dampened Ohio State’s dream of a national championship, it left the Buckeyes tied with Michigan for the top spot in the Big 10 as Wisconsin upset Michigan 37-21 the same day.

Since Nov. 14, 1959, Michigan and Ohio State hadn’t lost the week before their annual year-end grudge match to decide the Big 10 title. That’s how it is in the Big 10, tedious and boring because in recent years it’s always Ohio State or Michigan that wins the title. Other Big 10 teams compete but never seem to fight for the title.

Illinois picked up 260 rushing yards against Ohio State who entered the game, giving up just 65 rushing yards per game. It wasn’t a huge surprise as the Illini now rank 6th in rushing offense nationally, gaining 261 yards per game. In other words, Illinois was on its game and Ohio State was not.

Zook got off to a slow start as Illinois head coach, going 2-9 and 2-10 in his first two years before earning his 8th win Saturday against 3 losses. Zook was 1-15 in his first two years playing in the Big 10 conference, going 0-8 his first year. You can bet the other Big 10 coaches know who Ron Zook is now.

Was Ohio State looking beyond Illinois to Michigan? I think so. The Buckeyes fell to 7th in the AP Top 25 poll.

13-ranked Michigan (now 8-3) was eliminated by Wisconsin (also 8-3), 37-21. The Badgers were serious at home taking a 23-7 lead in the 4th quarter and tying Wolverines 2 touchdowns to hold onto their point margin and secure their victory. Michigan slipped to No. 23 in the AP poll.

No. 8-ranked Boston College (8-2) was stung for the second straight week, this time by Maryland (5-5), 42-35. All talk of the Eagles’ vaunted defense is fading faster than fog on a hot summer day.

Other teams that have been hampered this week include No. 16-ranked Connecticut (8-2), which lost to Cincinnati (obviously a better team 8-2), 27-3, and Alabama, ranked No. 21 (now 6-4) which was knocked down by Mississippi State, (also 6-4), 17-12.

Imagine, Mississippi State, which has been the SEC’s doormat for years, rises and whips Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Even if the Bulldogs lose to Arkansas and rival Mississippi State, Mississippi State is already bowl eligible.

Alabama is expected to handle Louisiana-Monroe next week and become bowl eligible with its 7th win.

Ohio State’s loss allowed other contenders to show off a bit against much weaker competition. Here are some examples:

1) No. 2-ranked LSU (9-1) defeated No. 107-ranked Louisiana Tech (4-6), 58-10.

2) Oklahoma (9-1), ranked No. 4, ripped Baylor (3-8), ranked No. 119, 52-21.

3) Boise State, ranked No. 19 (9-1), edged hapless No. 166-ranked Utah State (0-10), 52-0. Despite its rating, Utah State is a Division 1A school.

Only two 1A teams remain undefeated-No. Kansas ranked 5th (10-0) and Hawaii ranked 14th (9-0). The Jayhawks scouted 4 touchdowns from No. 49-ranked Oklahoma State (5-5) but still won 43-28.

The Hawaii Warriors, ranked No. 14 but ranked No. 29 by Sagarin, were outscored 14-3 in the 4th quarter by Fresno State (6-4), ranked No. 74, but outlasted the Bulldogs, 37-30, to remain undefeated. Hawaii moved up to 13th in Sunday’s new AP poll.

In two weeks, Hawaii will host Boise State, now ranked 17th in the poll, and a serious threat, even in an away game, to beat the Warriors. Boise State should not be confused with the cupcakes Hawaii has played all season. After the Boise State game, we’ll find out who’s bad and who’s sad.

The fact that Kansas and Hawaii are the only two undefeated teams remaining should come as no surprise for two reasons. First, Hawaii is 1st (50 ppg) and Kansas 2nd (45 ppg) nationally in offense, and second, Kansas schedule strength is 97th and Hawaii is 157th among 119 Division 1A schools, which isn’t exactly impressive either way.

Two other games worth mentioning are the Navy-North Texas fiasco and the impending showdown between Harvard and Yale in the Ivy League.

No. 77-ranked Navy (6-4) clung on for life to beat No. 180-ranked North Texas (1-8), 74-62, in a defenseless game that established a new major college record for a combined game score. The 94 points in the first half (North Texas led 49-45) and the combined 63 points in the 2nd quarter both set college scoring records.

Just two weeks earlier, Weber State outlasted Portland State, 73-68, to set the all-division record.

These basketball score football games tend to confuse everyone. Obviously, there’s more interest in a 73-68 game than a 6-3 push game that showcases defensive play. That said, these high-scoring games get ridiculous. They remind me of Little League baseball scores before they set limits so everyone could get home and go to bed on time.

Harvard (7-2) beat Penn (3-6) 23-7 and Yale (9-0) went undefeated, winning at Princeton (another team 3-6), 27-6, to set up a huge showdown at Yale in the Ivy League 1-AA. Harvard (ranked 152nd) and Yale (ranked 100th) both have perfect 6-0 records in the league and will meet unbeaten for the first time since 1968 with the title on the line.

Last year, Yale beat Harvard at Harvard 34-13 to claim a share of the Ivy League title with Princeton. The win over Harvard last year was his first since 2000. Stay tuned to this game as it is serious business in the New England region.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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