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Tough times for some long-time powers

Brian Kelly and the Irish have fallen on some hard times, falling out of the top 25 after their loss to NC State. Elsa/Getty Images

With apologies to my friend Ryan McGee for stepping on his Bottom 10 turf, it has taken only six weeks this season to expose the Powers That Be as the Powers That Used to Be. Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon all have plummeted out of the top 25, confirming on Saturday that their earlier poor play was no fluke. The Cardinal can cling to injuries as a reason for their demise, although their losses in the secondary and the offensive line have illustrated the lack of depth that has been a perennial bugaboo on the Farm. The Irish and the Ducks appear to simply not have the talent that their opponents have. Someone's luck will turn this week: Stanford goes to South Bend. The home team has won the past four games in this rivalry, all by seven points or fewer.

1. Michigan's 78-0 defeat of Rutgers on Saturday night ranks as the second-largest road win by a ranked team in the poll era (1936-present), according to ESPN Stats & Info research. The margin fell a touchdown shy of the Wolverines' 85-0 victory at the University of Chicago in 1939. The Maroons had one foot out the door that season. Even with the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg as head coach, Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins decided he didn't want the university playing major college football anymore. Chicago abolished its program after 1939 and pulled out of the Big Ten in 1946.

2. With that piece of history in mind, consider the plight of Rutgers, which has lost on consecutive weeks to No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan by a combined score of 136-0. And consider the plight of Boston College, which has extended its ACC losing streak to 10 games with losses to No. 25 Virginia Tech (on Sept. 17) and No. 3 Clemson by a combined 105-10. Toss in a rebuilding Syracuse (2-4, 0-2), which has shown sparks of renaissance under new coach Dino Babers, and it's a mystery why the Big Ten and the ACC dismembered the Big East for parts. There may be a lot of TV eyeballs up here, but college football has fallen behind the rest of the country.

3. Rutgers has tantalized one coach after another with the promise of success if he builds the proverbial recruiting fence around the state. And yet no one has ever done it. A generation ago, Penn State, Nebraska and Iowa built winners by taking Jersey's best players. Fast forward to two of the biggest stars from Saturday. Jabrill Peppers of East Orange, New Jersey, has become this year's hybrid, a Michigan linebacker who made two tackles and ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns on only three carries against Rutgers. Minkah Fitzpatrick of Old Bridge, New Jersey, intercepted three passes for Alabama, returning one pick 100 yards for a touchdown.

4. Speaking of Peppers, I'm trying to decide what I enjoy most about Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh's discussion of his redshirt sophomore. It could be that Harbaugh began his comment by saying, "In my humble opinion ..." Or that Harbaugh, after some thought to compare Peppers to a versatile player of yore, came up with Jim Thorpe. Never mind that until the early 1960s, everyone pretty much played both ways. No, Harbaugh reached for Thorpe, the All-American at Carlisle, the 1912 Olympic decathlon gold medalist, the major league outfielder who also played pro football. The AP named Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. Harbaugh always thinks big. It's one reason he wins.

5. Houston's 46-40 loss at Navy not only harmed the Cougars' playoff chase, it may have doused quarterback Greg Ward, Jr.'s chance at a major postseason award. That's too bad. Ward threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 94 yards and another score. He threw two picks, one of them returned for a touchdown, but his QBR this season is higher (82.9) than last season (78.1), despite playing with a small tear in a shoulder ligament. "Every time he throws a pass, it hurts," Houston coach Tom Herman said. "It hurts less every day, because it's healing. But that's the reality of it." What has Herman learned about Ward? "I was a little nervous that he was not going to respond well to playing hurt. ... I've seen a fiery competitor in him now that maybe I didn't last year."

6. When Miami lost to Florida State by the margin of a blocked extra point late in the game, my first reaction was, if it's a painful loss in that rivalry, then Mark Richt is on the wrong side of it. Richt was Florida State's offensive coordinator from 1990-2000, which included Wide Rights I and II, and he was a graduate assistant on Bobby Bowden's staff from 1985-88, which included the epic 26-25 loss in 1987, followed by the Hurricanes' 31-0 humiliation of the No. 1 Seminoles to open the following season. But it hasn't been all bad for Richt. Actually, during his years as offensive coordinator, Florida State beat Miami five straight times (1995-99) by an average margin of 22 points.

7. It is a cliché as old as the postgame news conference: "I'll have to look at the film/video." But there's a reason head coaches say that: The view from the sideline is not very good. If it were, that's where the coaching video -- and the TV cameras -- would perch. When Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was asked Saturday why the Buckeyes' passing game had struggled in the 38-17 victory over Indiana, he said, "I'll know more when I meet you guys [later in the week]. ... I'd say 50 percent of the time I'm wrong when I say something on a press conference."