Two schools from Los Angeles, Southern California and UCLA, had monumental comebacks, while two resurrected programs, Notre Dame and Penn State, suffered heartbreaking defeats, the memories of which could fester for a generation.
The wildest Saturday of the college football season offered heavy doses of on-field drama and also provided surprising clarity to the Bowl Championship Series standings, which will be released this afternoon for the first time this fall.
USC (6-0) is expected to be first, followed by unbeaten Texas. The battle for No. 3 is between two other undefeated schools, Virginia Tech and Georgia, BCS analyst Jerry Palm said yesterday. "The battle for number three is a lot closer than the battle for number two right now," Palm added.
The standings, which ultimately determine who plays for the national title, are based on two human polls and the average of six computer rankings. There were some anxious moments for Texas partisans last week when early BCS projections showed Texas and Virginia Tech separated by the slimmest of margins.
The problem for the Longhorns (6-0) was that they were ranked as low as eighth in three computer rankings, despite being ranked second in both the USA Today coaches' poll and Harris Interactive rankings. The Associated Press poll no longer is used in the BCS formula.
Teams with one loss, such as Oregon and Miami, were ranked ahead of Texas in some computer polls. Texas owned arguably the nation's best road victory of the season, Sept. 10 at Ohio State, but the computer formulas didn't necessarily see it in those terms. Some don't even consider the location of games.
"The computers don't care about the name on the front of the jersey or that school's spot in the [human] polls," Palm said. "They see a 3-2 Ohio State team and a 4-1 Vanderbilt team."
A handful of results Saturday helped Texas separate itself from Virginia Tech for second place and Georgia narrow the gap with the Hokies for third.
Ohio State improved its record by beating Michigan State, which will help the strength of schedule for Texas. The Longhorns also benefited by beating Colorado, now 4-2.
Georgia (6-0) got a boost by beating Vanderbilt (4-2), and Florida State's loss to Virginia helped narrow the Bulldogs' gap with the third-ranked Hokies in the coaches' poll, albeit slightly. Fourth-ranked Georgia received 13 more points in the poll, possibly from voters who had previously chosen Florida State No. 4.
Virginia Tech could catch Texas if the Longhorns lost some second-place votes in the human polls by winning in unimpressive fashion in the next few weeks. But the surest way for the Hokies to catch the Longhorns is for Texas to lose.
The best chance for that could be this weekend, when Texas hosts undefeated Texas Tech, a team that has been accumulating astounding offensive statistics against middling competition. On Saturday, Red Raiders quarterback Cody Hodges threw for 643 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-20 pummeling of Kansas State.
"If they are in the middle of the field all the time, yes, it is probably pretty hard for anyone to stop," Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder said of Texas Tech's offense after the game. "If you can get some field position, and you give them the three- and four-yard completion . . . then eventually they miss one of them."
The list of seven unbeaten schools will dwindle at least to six after the Texas Tech-Texas game. But mark Dec. 3 as a day that could prove the seminal Saturday of the college football season. Two matchups featuring as many as four undefeated squads could occur: Georgia vs. Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game, and UCLA at USC.
Georgia and Alabama could know that the winner, despite finishing undefeated, would have no chance to earn a berth in the national title game. For the second straight year, an undefeated SEC team -- last year it was Auburn -- could be left out of the national title game.
Among the handful of subplots to emerge from the USC-Notre Dame game Saturday, perhaps none was more intriguing than the story of USC sophomore Dwayne Jarrett.
It was not only that Jarrett, who battled bouts of homesickness last season, hauled in a 61-yard reception to set up the game-winning touchdown. Jarrett did it without being able to see clearly out of both eyes. Earlier in the game, a collision caused him to have episodes of double-vision. When quarterback Matt Leinart called an audible on the fourth-and-nine play from the USC 26, Leinart fired deep down the sideline to Jarrett. . . . Hawaii defensive line coach Vance Singletary, the nephew of former Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, was taken to a local hospital after collapsing in the coaches' booth during the first half of Saturday night's game against New Mexico State.