Saturday's Lessons

September 24, 2006

For any fan ofmake-or-break games, last weekend was probably as good as it gets in collegefootball. On a day that featured seven games between teams ranked in the Top25, contenders emerged and pretenders were exposed

LOUISVILLE CANPLAY WITH THE BIGGIES Even without the services of injured halfback MichaelBush and with quarterback Brian Brohm on the sideline for the final 25 minuteswith a strained right thumb, the Cardinals hammered Miami 31-7. While runningback Kolby Smith (left) and Louisville's top-ranked scoring offense kepthumming, the defense made the biggest statement. Bringing extra rushers onalmost every snap, the Cards stopped the Hurricanes on nine of 12 third-downplays. That aggressive D might make the difference when eighth-rankedLouisville hosts No. 4 West Virginia on Nov. 2 in a game that should decide theBig East championship. Even more intriguing, the game could coincide with thereturn of Brohm, who underwent surgery on Sunday morning.

THE SEC WILL BEHARD-PRESSED TO GET A TEAM TO THE BCS TITLE GAME Auburn's victory over then No.6 LSU might have been the most entertaining 7-3 game in history, with bothdefenses dishing out a ridiculous amount of punishment. "That was prettyviolent," Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox said after the game. "I'malready hurting." Things won't get much easier for running back Kenny Irons(left) and the Tigers. Second-ranked Auburn must still get by No. 5 Florida(which escaped Knoxville with a 21-20 win over 15th-ranked Tennessee), No. 9Georgia and bitter rival Alabama. Florida and Georgia square off on Oct. 28 inJacksonville. Then there's the SEC championship game. The SEC is the deepestand toughest conference in the country, which could be bad news for theconference's national title hopes. Good luck to Auburn, Florida, Georgia andunranked Alabama in trying to get through the season undefeated.

NEBRASKA ISN'TREADY FOR PRIME TIME The Cornhuskers may be the favorite in a suspect Big 12North, but they are still a long way from contending for a nationalchampionship, a fact made manifest by their 28-10 loss to third-ranked USC.Nebraska coach Bill Callahan never looked as if he believed he could win withhis West Coast offense, sticking with a game plan that was unimaginative atbest. Down 14-3 with 2:52 left in the first half, he called four straightrunning plays from his own 15, picking up one first down and draining theclock. Nebraska, now ranked 23rd, finished the game with just 68 yards on 36carries, and quarterback Zac Taylor (above) attempted only 16 passes, butCallahan remained steadfast. "We were playing one of the best teams in thecountry, and the margin for error is minute," he said afterward. "Wewanted to establish the run, and we felt we could run. You need to run the ballto win championships." Uh-huh. Those words had to rankle the 25,000red-clad Cornhuskers fans who made the trek to Los Angeles.

TCU IS FOR REALHow 'bout them Horned Frogs! A slight underdog against high-scoring Texas Tech,TCU took a big step up with its decisive 12-3 victory. Running back Aaron Brown(left) and the Frogs' offense played keep-away, controlling the ball for almost34 minutes, while the defense held the Red Raiders to 38 yards rushing, 204yards passing and their lowest point total in six years. Coach Gary Pattersonthinks it's time his No. 16 team, which has the longest winning streak in theland (13 games), gets its due. "I'm just telling you right now, I get tiredof being treated like a stepchild in this state and this town," he saidafter beating Tech. "And my kids are too." O.K., Coach, but severaltough tests remain, most notably against BYU on Sept. 28 and at Utah on Oct.7.

FOUR PHOTOSBRIAN TIETZ/US PRESSWIRE (SMITH); AL TIELEMANS (IRONS); PETER READ MILLER (TAYLOR); VLAIMIR CHERRY/WIREIMAGE.COM (BROWN)

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)