Ron Zook, who was cut as Florida head coach after failing to duplicate Steve Spurrier’s record with the Gators, regained some respect by motivating his Fighting Illini to a 28-21 victory over No. 1-ranked and undefeated Ohio State on Saturday (11-10-07).
The win marked the first time Illinois (8-3) has beaten a No. 1-ranked team since 1956, and the first time it has done so on the road. The loss ended Ohio State’s conference and school streak of 20 consecutive Big 10 wins by the Buckeyes, who are now 10-1.
The loss not only dashed Ohio State’s dream of a national championship, but left the Buckeyes tied with Michigan for first place in the Big 10 when Wisconsin defeated Michigan 37-21 on the same day.
Not since November 14, 1959, had Michigan and Ohio State lost the week before their annual year-end fight to decide the Big 10 title. That’s how it is in the Big 10, tedious and boring since in recent years it’s always Ohio State or Michigan capturing the title. Other Big 10 teams compete, but they never seem to contend for the title.
Illinois put up 260 rushing yards against Ohio State which entered the game giving up just 65 rushing yards per game. This was not much of a surprise as Illini now ranks sixth in rushing offense nationally, gaining 261 yards per game. In other words, Illinois was on their 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 eighth win on Saturday against 3 losses. Zook went 1-15 in his first two years of playing in the Big 10 Conference, going 0-8 in 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 No. 7 in the AP Top 25 poll.
13th-ranked Michigan (now 8-3) was eliminated by Wisconsin (also 8-3), 37-21. The Badgers were serious at home as they took a 23-7 lead in the 4th quarter and matched the Wolverines’ 2 touchdowns to maintain their point margin and preserve their victory. Michigan slips to No. 23 in the AP Poll.
Boston College (8-2), number 8 in the ranking, was defeated for the second consecutive week, this time by Maryland (5-5), 42-35. All the talk about the Eagles’ defense is fading faster than fog on a hot summer day.
Other teams that were embarrassed this week included 16th-ranked Connecticut (8-2), which lost to Cincinnati (obviously a better 8-2 team), 27-3, and ranked 16th-ranked Alabama. 21 in the ranking (now 6-4). ) that was overturned by Mississippi State, (also 6-4), 17-12.
Imagine, the state of Mississippi, which has been the SEC’s doormat for years, rises up and pummels Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Even if the Bulldogs lose to Arkansas and in-state rival Mississippi, the state of Mississippi is already eligible to bowl.
Alabama should handle Louisiana-Monroe next week and become bowl eligible with its seventh win.
Ohio State’s loss allowed a few other contenders to brag a bit against much weaker competition. Here are some examples:
1) No. 2-ranked LSU (9-1) ranked No. 107 Louisiana Tech (4-6), 58-10.
2) Oklahoma (9-1), ranked No. 4, defeated Baylor (3-8), ranked No. 119, 52-21.
3) No. 19-ranked Boise State (9-1) edged out hapless No. 166 Utah State (0-10), 52-0. Despite its rating, the state of Utah is a Division 1A school.
Only two 1A teams remain undefeated-No. Kansas (10-0) ranked No. 5 and Hawaii (9-0) ranked 14. The Jayhawks caught 4 touchdowns from No. 49-ranked Oklahoma State (5-5) but still won 43-28.
The Hawaii Warriors, ranked 14th but ranked 29th by Sagarin, were outscored 14-3 in the fourth quarter by Fresno State (6-4), ranked 74th, but outscored the Bulldogs, 37- 30, to remain undefeated. . Hawaii rose to 13th place in Sunday’s new AP poll.
In two weeks, Hawaii will host Boise State, now 17th in the poll and a serious threat, even in an away game, to beat the Warriors. Boise State is not to be confused with the cupcakes Hawaii has been playing all season. After the Boise State game, we’ll find out who’s down and who’s down.
The fact that Kansas and Hawaii are the only two remaining undefeated teams should come as no surprise for two reasons. One, Hawaii ranks first (50 ppg) and Kansas 2nd (45 ppg) nationally in scoring offense, and two, Kansas’ schedule strength is 97 and Hawaii’s is 157 among 119 schools. from Division 1A, which isn’t exactly impressive either way.
Two other games deserve attention: the Navy-North Texas fiasco and the impending Harvard-Yale matchup in the Ivy League.
No. 77-ranked Navy (6-4) held on for dear life to beat No. 180-ranked North Texas (1-8), 74-62, in a game without a shred of defense that set a new college record important for a combined game score. The 94 points in the first half (North Texas led 49-45) and the combined 63 points in the second quarter set major college records.
Just two weeks earlier, Weber State outscored Portland State, 73-68, to set the all-division record.
These basketball score soccer games tend to confuse everyone. Clearly, there is more interest in a 73-68 game than a 6-3 pressure game that emphasizes defensive play. That said, these high score games are getting ridiculous. They remind me of minor league baseball scores before they put limits on so everyone could go home and go to bed on time.
Harvard (7-2) beat Penn (3-6) 23-7 and Yale (9-0) remained undefeated, beating Princeton (another 3-6 team), 27-6, to set up a big matchup. at Yale in the 1-AA Ivy League. Both Harvard (ranked 152) and Yale (ranked 100) are a perfect 6-0 in the league and will meet undefeated 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 victory over Harvard last year was the first since 2000. Stay tuned for this matchup as it is serious business in the New England area.
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley