Unlike the NFL where the big boys beat up on the little guys, college football is littered with upsets, and this past Saturday followed suit.
Top-ranked Louisiana State turned back No. 19 Auburn 45-10, No. 2 Alabama blasted Tennessee 37-6, but No. 3 Oklahoma was ambushed by unranked Texas Tech, 41-38, and No. 4 Wisconsin fell from the unbeaten ranks as No. 15 Michigan State pulled off a 37-31 triumph after quarterback Kirk Cousins had his 44-yard “Hail Mary’’ offering answered when the deflected pass landed in the hands of Keith Nichol as time expired.
Then there was USC, a 10-point underdog on the road at Notre Dame playing 60 minutes of near-flawless football.
The result was a 31-17 thumping under the lights as USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin had his most impressive win to date at Troy.
LSU (8-0 and 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference) outclassed Auburn behind quarterback Jarrett Lee’s two scoring passes.
Lee was efficient hitting 14 of 20 passes for 165 yards and wasn’t picked off. Lee’s 46-yard spiral to wide receiver Rueben Randle (106 yards and five receptions) late in the second quarter made it 21-3, and his 10-yard bullet early in the third quarter to Russell Shepard pushed LSU’s lead to 28-3.
Recently-reinstated LSU field general Jordan Jefferson’s 42-yard pitch-and-catch to Randle with five minutes left in the second quarter saw the Tigers move ahead 14-3.
Kenny Hilliard (65 yards on 10 carries) hammered home a nine-yard run that made it 7-0 early in the first quarter, and supplied a one-yard dive midway through the third quarter as the Tigers leaped to a 35-3 advantage.
Auburn (5-3 and 3-2 in the SEC) is the defending national champion, but without more than two dozen players from last year’s squad that included Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner and first player selected in the NFL draft.
Defensive back Ron Brooks intercepted Clint Moseley (12 of 20 for 145 yards and one interception), who was making his first start, and returned it 28 yards as the Tigers were ahead by 39 points with 7:27 left in the third quarter.
Auburn scored its only touchdown late in the fourth quarter when Onterio McCalebb (32 yards on three rushes) crashed in from two yards out.
USC’s Matt Barkley (24 of 35 attempts and no interceptions) passed for 224 yards and his three-yard pass to Robert Woods with 1:01 left in the opening quarter made it 14-0.
Barkley’s 14-yard connection with Woods (119 yards and 12 catches) with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter gave the Trojans (6-1) a 14-point lead, and Barkley’s two-yard toss to Randall Telfer with 6:16 showing in the first quarter made it 7-0.
Those were important plays, but the biggest was safety Jawanza Starling’s fumble recovery and 80-yard rumble late in the third quarter as Notre Dame (4-3) reached USC’s one-yard line. The score at the time was 17-10, but Irish quarterback Dayne Crist fumbled the snap, and the potential chance to make it two wins in a row over the Trojans went out the door.
USC rushed for 219 yards and was paced by Curtis McNeal’s 118 yards on 24 carries, followed by Marc Tyler’s 67 yards on 13 rushes.
George Atkinson returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score with 3:22 showing in the second quarter as the Irish got within 17-7.
Jonas Gray’s 25-yard burst early in the final quarter cut USC’s lead to seven points.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.