Winners

Who could have imagined Northwestern would be in the Big Ten title hunt this late in the season? The Wildcats entered yesterday's game against Michigan State ranked 116th defensively. But they forced Drew Stanton, who was first nationally in pass efficiency, to throw three interceptions and held the potent Spartans to 14 points. . . . Texas made Texas Tech look like a team playing its season opener. Then again, considering the Red Raiders' soft schedule, this was in some ways their first competition. . . . The catch of the day belongs to USC sophomore Dwayne Jarrett, who hauled in a one-handed touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone against Washington. Remember, last week Jarrett had double vision, caused by an early collision, when he made a critical catch on fourth and nine against Notre Dame.

Losers

It was expected to be a significant day for the Southeastern Conference in terms of key games, but it also proved an unfortunate day on the injury front. Two of the conference's most prominent stars -- Tennessee running back Gerald Riggs Jr. and Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley -- left their respective games because of injuries. Let's not forget the SEC's other unbeaten team, Alabama, is already competing without its standout receiver, Tyrone Prothro, who broke his leg against Florida on Oct. 1. . . . What happened to Nebraska's defense, which was ranked first nationally against the run before yesterday? Missouri quarterback Brad Smith torched the Cornhuskers, running for 246 yards.

Spinning Ahead

Considering the upcoming schedule, South Carolina needed to win yesterday if Coach Steve Spurrier hoped to reach a bowl in his first season in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks (4-3) need two more wins to become bowl-eligible, and Arkansas and Clemson remain. But Spurrier probably would not mind if his team earned a bowl bid with a victory against a certain Florida team on Nov. 12. . . . Rutgers is closing in on its first bowl game appearance since 1978. . . . Should Notre Dame beat Tennessee on Nov. 5, the Fighting Irish should win out to finish 9-2 and claim the $13 million prize -- a berth in a BCS game. Speaking of the Irish, if Notre Dame and USC continue to roll, last week's matchup will only grow in legend, and the anticipation for the 2006 meeting on Nov. 25 in Los Angeles will build.

With two more wins, Steve Spurrier will have the Gamecocks pointed toward a bowl game.