Phil Taylor's Sidelines

September 19, 2004

NOT SO UPSETTING

Given all the early-season surprises, it's time to place a moratorium on the term upset. Six Top 25 teams have lost, and two more--Ohio State and LSU--have narrowly escaped defeats. The biggest shocker was Missouri's 24--14 loss to Troy State last Thursday, but Kansas State's 45--21 defeat by Fresno State and Oregon's 30--24 loss to Indiana last Saturday (below) weren't far behind.

It's safe to jump to a couple of conclusions. First, the gap between the BCS schools and their lower-profile counterparts continues to close. Second, there is no dominant team, not even No. 1 USC, which pounded Colorado State 49--0 on Saturday but hardly looked invincible in its season-opening 24-13 win over Virginia Tech. Or No. 2 Oklahoma, which last year suffered a late-season collapse. The only thing that seems certain is that the rankings are in for major reshuffling throughout the season. If the BCS championship pits two undefeated teams against each other? Now, that will be an upset.

QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE

Can't coaches choose one starting quarterback anymore? An increasing number of schools, including Louisville, LSU, Tennessee and Washington, are using a two-quarterback system, and although the results haven't been all bad, the old axiom still seems to hold true: When a team has two No. 1 quarterbacks, it really doesn't have any.

Tennessee freshmen Brent Schaeffer (below, left) and Erik Ainge were impressive in the Vols' 42--17 victory over UNLV, but LSU looked disjointed with Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell shuttling in and out of the Tigers' narrow escape against Oregon State. Although splitting time between two quarterbacks can make it harder for opposing defenses to prepare, that's not the only reason that the two-headed QB seems to be multiplying. The pressure to generate offense has caused some coaches to give their signal-caller a quick hook if he goes a few series without moving the ball. "I've never been a big fan of playing two quarterbacks," says Michigan State coach John L. Smith. "It's hard to give two guys enough reps in practice to get them ready, and it's hard to keep the continuity on offense."

EXTRA POINTS

For some reason Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is trying to turn junior quarterback Brad Smith into a pocket passer. Smith threw 46 times in the loss to Troy State, looking for receivers downfield when he would have been better off running.... Louisiana Tech junior running back Ryan Moats's first two games weren't just spectacular, they were also nearly identical--257 yards on 33 carries in a 38--21 win over Nevada, and the same total on 34 carries in Saturday's 24--20 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

COLOR PHOTORICK BOWMER/AP (INDIANA-OREGON) COLOR PHOTOSTEVEN BRIDGES/WIREIMAGE.COM (SCHAEFFER AND AINGE) COLOR PHOTOSTEVEN BRIDGES/WIREIMAGE.COM (SCHAEFFER AND AINGE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)