(Editor's note: Every week during the season, BH contributor Jesse Pound will take a look at some of the most confounding results from the previous week. This week, he dives into one game with national championship implications and one that had anything but.)
USC 13, Stanford 10
Lost in the Big Ten’s meltdown, the Pac-12 has been struggling in the first two weeks. Washington State dropped games to Rutgers and Nevada, Washington squeaked by Hawaii and Eastern Washington, UCLA looks nothing like the national title contender it was billed to be and Arizona barely survived a trip to Texas-San Antonio.
The game in Palo Alto last weekend was the most confusing, as two ranked teams managed to damage their own reputations. Stanford lost at home to a team with depth problems on defense, and the USC offense never looked comfortable. Meanwhile, Pat Haden and Steve Sarkisian made headlines for some arguments with the referees. Many, myself included, thought the Pac-12 would be the strongest conference in the country in 2014. Instead, it is struggling mightily. Oregon is now the heavy favorite.
Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17
It was a rough weekend all around for the Big Ten. Yet, Michigan State was an underdog in Eugene, Ohio State was starting a green quarterback and offensive line against Bud Foster’s defense and Michigan is struggling under Brady Hoke. By themselves, these games were not stunning.
The games against MAC teams are more concerning. We know why the Big Ten teams struggle against major teams from areas with more talent. However, mediocre MAC teams are giving Big Ten teams all they can handle. This is not a local talent issue. I counted 44 players on Purdue’s roster from states that are decidedly outside of the Big Ten’s footprint. Central Michigan? 4.
In order for Big Ten teams to compete on a national level, they need to recruit nationally. But Purdue is not going to win a national championship. They are recruiting nationally and landing prospects who get whipped by players from Michigan and Indiana. Darrell Hazell won games as a coach in the MAC. So did Tim Beckman.
The Purdue-Central Michigan contrast is probably an extreme, but it’s an illustration that the local talent pool does not cause these problems. Maybe the lower-tier Big Ten teams should focus on getting the MAC’s players–as well as their coaches.
Injuries and suspensions
Injuries and suspensions have a way of making all predictions look stupid. Texas is currently the most glaring example, and we saw the Longhorns' depleted offense get left in the dust by BYU.
From Oklahoma’s perspective, the Zack Sanchez injury is a reminder of how fragile every season is. Injuries can strike anyone, and suspensions have already taken a toll on the Sooners.
Every game is a chance for OU to make a statement to the selection committee, and every game is an opportunity to suffer a crippling injury. So it goes.