Big Ten busted after two weeks

Believe it or not, it might have been worse for the Big Ten on Saturday.

Much worse.

When the dust settled on the second weekend of the college football season, the Big Ten was left picking up the pieces and scrambling for credibility once again.

The not-so-B1G went 0-for-3 in its biggest games on Saturday, as No. 7 Michigan State, No. 8 Ohio State and Michigan lost on the same day for the first time since Sept. 17, 1988. Since 2010, Big Ten teams are 8-29 against ranked teams from other Power 5 conferences.

Just like that, the once-venerable league's chances of having a team in the inaugural College Football Playoff seemed to flatline in only a few hours.

And it's not only that the Big Ten's upper-echelon teams lost on Saturday, it's the way they lost:

• The Spartans, who pride themselves on playing black-and-blue defense, blew a nine-point lead in the second half and gave up four unanswered touchdowns in a 46-27 loss at Oregon. The loss snapped the defending Big Ten champions' 11-game winning streak.

• Notre Dame shut out Michigan 31-0, the first time in 366 games that the Wolverines failed to score, which was the longest streak in FBS history. It was Notre Dame's first shutout of the Wolverines and its most lopsided victory in the 42-game history of the series. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had four second-half turnovers, allowing the Irish to run away with what is the final game scheduled between the longtime rivals.

• Virginia Tech upset Ohio State 35-21 on Saturday night, handing Urban Meyer his first home loss in three seasons as the Buckeyes' coach. OSU came from two touchdowns behind to tie the score at 21 with about 12 minutes left, but then the Hokies scored on Michael Brewer's 10-yard pass to Bucky Hodges and Donovan Riley's 63-yard interception return.

While it's probably too early to say that the Big Ten won't have a team in the College Football Playoff -- the Spartans won a Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl after losing at Notre Dame in Week 4 in 2013 -- its chances of being represented were greatly diminished on Saturday.

With four of its top teams already suffering losses (No. 18 Wisconsin lost to LSU 28-24 in its opener), the Big Ten already looks like the league most likely to not have its champion making the playoff. And it's only Week 2.

And if that isn't enough of a PR hit for the Big Ten, many of its other teams also struggled mightily on Saturday. No. 19 Nebraska needed a miracle to defeat FCS foe McNeese State, with tailback Ameer Abdullah turning a short pass into a 58-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left in a 31-24 victory.

Elsewhere, Illinois needed three fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Western Kentucky 42-34, Iowa needed two touchdowns in the final two minutes to beat Ball State 17-13, and Maryland had to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to get past USF 24-17.

Even worse, the Big Ten lost to two MAC teams on Saturday, with Central Michigan rolling Purdue 38-17 and Northern Illinois knocking off Northwestern 23-15 on the road.

I guess the Big Ten can look on the bright side: At least its divisions aren't named Legends and Leaders anymore.

Here's my weekly look at the teams that are on top in the pecking order for the four spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff after Week 2.

Four teams in

1. Oregon: I'm not sure the Ducks could have been any more impressive than they were in their big win over Michigan State. The Spartans staggered the Ducks with their physical play in the first half, but Oregon's speed (and defense!) took over in the second.

2. Texas A&M: Fresh off the opening week's most impressive performance, the Aggies steamrolled FCS foe Lamar 73-3 on Saturday night. Quarterback Kenny Hill completed 17 of 26 passes for 283 yards with four touchdowns.

3. Georgia: The Bulldogs had the week off after blasting then-No. 16 Clemson in their opener. Georgia plays at South Carolina next week; the Gamecocks rebounded from their Week 1 loss with a 33-23 win over East Carolina.

4. USC: The Trojans ran 105 plays in their 52-13 victory over Fresno State in their opener, then went nose-to-nose with Stanford in a 13-10 victory on the road on Saturday. USC ended the Cardinal's 17-game home winning streak, which was the longest active FBS streak.

Next four in contention

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners jumped all over Tulsa on Saturday, piling up 396 yards and taking a 31-0 lead before the first half ended in a 52-7 rout. Will OU get a more difficult test against surprising Tennessee at home next week?

2. Florida State: Defending national champion FSU won its 18th consecutive game on Saturday, defeating FCS foe The Citadel 37-12 on Saturday. The Seminoles will have two weeks to prepare for a Sept. 20 home game against Clemson.

3. Auburn: The Tigers did what they do best against San Jose State on Saturday, running for 358 yards with six touchdowns in a 59-13 rout. The Tigers get 12 days to prepare for their next test: at No. 20 Kansas State on Sept. 18.

4. Alabama: Alabama's defense looked much better against lowly Florida Atlantic on Saturday, limiting the Owls to 145 yards of offense in a 41-0 shutout. Quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jake Coker each threw for more than 200 yards, the first time two Bama passers have eclipsed the 200-yard mark in a game.

Top storylines

1. Texas is reeling: New UT coach Charlie Strong dismissed another player (the eighth) from his team on Friday, and then the Longhorns were embarrassed by BYU 41-7 at home on Saturday night. Without quarterback David Ash, whose season appears to be over because of another concussion, it's going to be a long maiden voyage for Strong in Austin.

2. Texting at USC: USC athletic director Pat Haden, a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, was caught arguing with officials during the Trojans' big win at Stanford on Saturday. Haden said someone from the school's compliance staff texted him to come to the sideline, apparently at coach Steve Sarkisian's request, after USC was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and targeting.

3. Petty sits: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, didn't play in the Bears' 70-6 romp of FCS foe Northwestern State after cracking two small bones in his back against SMU in the opener. Backup Seth Russell passed for 438 yards with five touchdowns in the first half on Saturday night.

4. Surprising unbeatens: California and Kentucky combined to win three games last season, but both teams are off to 2-0 starts. The Bears blasted FCS foe Sacramento State 55-14, and the Wildcats knocked off Ohio 20-3 on Saturday. It gets tougher the next couple of weeks: UK plays at Florida on Saturday, and Cal plays at Arizona on Sept. 20.


1. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish's schedule is still a bear, and they'll have to do a better job running the ball, but they're obviously a much better team with quarterback Everett Golson under center. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 226 yards with three touchdowns against Michigan.

2. Virginia Tech: The Hokies always bring their lunch pail on defense, but now they seem to have a capable quarterback in Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer. The Hokies play only one more ranked team during the regular season: at No. 21 North Carolina on Oct. 4.

3. Pittsburgh: The Panthers are starting to look like a Paul Chryst-coached team, running for 303 yards in a 30-20 victory at Boston College on Friday night. Tailback James Conner ran for 214 yards with one touchdown, giving him 367 yards with five rushing touchdowns in his first two games.

4. Tennessee: The Volunteers might not have enough depth or talent on the lines to compete in the SEC this season, but they're making big strides under coach Butch Jones. The Vols moved to 2-0 by beating Arkansas State 34-19 at home. They're talented enough to beat a team or two they're not supposed to defeat this season.


1. SMU: Remember when Mustangs coach June Jones was considered an offensive guru? SMU nearly went scoreless through its first two games, losing to Baylor 45-0 and then North Texas 43-6 on Saturday. SMU's lone touchdown of the season came on the final play against the Mean Green.

2. Vanderbilt: Was former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin (now at Penn State) really that good? The Commodores have been a disaster so far under new coach Derek Mason, falling to Temple and Ole Miss by a combined score of 78-10.

3. Washington: Sure, the Huskies are 2-0 under former coach Chris Petersen, but what happened to the UW defense? The Huskies nearly lost at Hawaii in their opener, and then gave up 573 yards of offense in a 59-52 win over FCS foe Eastern Washington on Saturday.

4. Washington State: The Cougars were supposed to be good enough to go bowling for a second straight season under coach Mike Leach. But now Washington State sits at 0-2 after losing at Nevada 24-13 on Friday night, and there might not be six victories on the schedule to get the Cougars bowl-eligible.

Stats that matter

7: Possessions out of nine inside USC's 30-yard line on which Stanford didn't score in Saturday's 13-10 loss to the Trojans.

7: Touchdown passes thrown by Eastern Washington's Vernon Adams in Saturday's 59-52 loss at Washington. Adams has accounted for 16 touchdowns in his past three games against FBS opponents.

4: Touchdown passes thrown by Arkansas' Brandon Allen in five pass attempts in the Hogs' 73-7 win over FCS foe Nicholls State on Saturday.

13: Receptions by Alabama's Amari Cooper in a 41-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic on Saturday, tying the school's single-game record.

Best quotes

1. "It only counts for one. I'd be lying if I told you that it didn't feel great to shut out Michigan 31 to nothing." -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

2. "If it's close, it's going to get called. It's a player-safety issue. You can't block a guy above the waist and below the waist at the same time." -- Stanford coach David Shaw on a controversial chop block that wiped out a Cardinal touchdown in the loss to USC.

3. "Ameer put the team on his back and won the game -- with the kickoff return, too. Thank god for Ameer today. He showed us why he is who he is." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on Abdullah.

4. "This is not one that's going to be a popularity contest." -- Alabama coach Nick Saban on the Crimson Tide's quarterback battle.

Funniest moments

1. Arkansas State players pay homage to the greatest Hollywood character ever, Clark Griswold, in Saturday's 34-19 loss at Tennessee.

2. A Vanderbilt fan was apparently so upset about the Commodores' 41-3 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday that he stripped off his shirt and hat and threw them on the field before storming out of the stadium.

3. Two big-guy touchdowns on Saturday by linemen from Oklahoma and Ball State.

4.Akron coach Terry Bowden broke out a new look in Saturday's 21-3 loss at Penn State.