Off the Grid: Third and pretty close to goal

by | Special to CBSSports.com
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Are we really one-third of the way through the college football regular season? C'mon! I've barely had the adrenaline rush hit me. Oh well, not a biggie, because these first four weeks of the season have been pretty good. The drama is hitting, the conference chases are already forming and we're still a couple months away from feeling cheated by a horrible system to decide our national champion.

Yep, this is good stuff man.

Here's a quick sweep of our Saturday highlights and lowlights:

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The Good

1. Team Of The Day:
UCLA
Won at No. 7 Texas 34-12.

The Bruins played smashmouth -- yes, a Pac-10 team going smashmouth -- on the best rushing defense in the country, bashing them for 264 yards on the ground. Of course, it also helped that the ballhawking Bruins earned five turnovers too. Now we see why Texas didn't want to join the Pac-10.

2. Player Of The Day:
Pete Thomas, QB, Colorado State.
29 of 37 for 386 yards, 3 TDs and 1 Int. in a 36-34 win vs. Idaho.

Before Saturday, CSU was 0-3 and had been outscored 106-19. But then Thomas, one of seven freshmen starters, turned from quarterback to surgeon, slicing up the Vandals defense at will.

3. Alabama's halftime adjustment

Props to Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who decided to finally get smart and start the bum's rush on Hogs QB Ryan Mallett. What resulted was him getting blitzkrieg-ed into three interceptions and numerous errant throws and one big Crimson Tide comeback.

Kellen Moore and Boise State continues to roll early in the season. (AP)  
Kellen Moore and Boise State continues to roll early in the season. (AP)  
4. Boise remains unbeaten.
Beat Oregon State 37-24

Look, if you don't like the idea of the Broncos having a chance at the BCS title game, don't get angry at them, get hacked off at the system and try to get it changed. THAT's who to blame.

5. The Unranked Unbeatens.

Previous unbeatens like Kentucky, Temple and Boston College did the crash and burn Saturday, but these surprising teams are all perfect and looking for some more poll points:

 North Carolina State, 4-0.
Won at Georgia Tech 45-28. Dare I say, State may be the best team in the ACC.

 Missouri, 4-0.
Won vs. Miami Univ. 51-13. Tigers were much more impressive than Florida was against the Redhawks.

 Kansas State, 4-0.
Survived UCF, 17-13. Although Daniel Thomas was held to 76 yards on 22 carries.

 Nevada, 4-0.
Won at BYU 27-13. Everybody says Boise's last big test was against Oregon State. Nah.

The Bad

1. The Texas running game ... offense and defense.
Putting out an all-points bulletin for any running back to emerge (Cedric Benson, you got any eligibility left?). And all that hooey about the Horns having the best rushing defense in the country? Stats lie. Especially when you play Rice, Wyoming and Texas Tech.

2. The Big 10 scheduling.
And you thought the SEC was bad about non-conference opponents, the Big 10 hit an embarrassing low. Playing teams like Northern Colorado, Bowling Green, Austin Peay, Ball State, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Akron and Northern Illinois, the Big 10 combined to score 415 points against them. Sadly, two of their teams lost to those opponents with Minnesota dropping a 34-23 decision to NIU and Purdue getting shamed by the Rockets 31-20.

3. Ohio's luck.
The Bobcats lost to Marshall 24-23 after missing a two-point conversion on the last play of the game, resulting in their sixth straight loss to the Herd. Four of those losses have come by a combined 12 points.

4. Punt returners who wear No. 3.
I'm talking specifically about Texas' Curtis Brown and Cincinnati's D.J. Woods. Both players fielded punts deep inside their own 10-yard line (I'm shaking my head here) and immediately fumbled. UCLA and Oklahoma would score immediate pivotal touchdowns, giving the Bruins the lead for good and giving the Sooners the game-clinching score.

5. Washington State.
As long as Paul Wulff is head coach it appears Wazzu's biggest claim to fame will be the flags flying at every ESPN Gameday show. Today the Cougars were worked over by an average USC team 50-16. Wulff is now 4-25 as WSU's coach.

The Ugly

The death of smart football.

What has happened to the intelligence of college football? Players fielding punts inside their own 10, tackling without using their arms, trash-talking after routine 5-yard gains, seemingly endless amounts of offsides calls, late-hits out the wazzu, etc. College football has never been more exciting, but I have to ask, is the quality of football being played getting worse?

The No-Brainers

Five things that were painfully obvious from college football today.

Mark Ingram continues to be Alabama's most valuable player despite missing the first two weeks. (AP)  
Mark Ingram continues to be Alabama's most valuable player despite missing the first two weeks. (AP)  
1. Mark Ingram is more valuable to his team this year than he was in 2009.

2. Didn't think it could happen, but the Red River Rivalry lost even more luster this weekend.

3. Georgia is 1-3 after a bad 24-12 loss to Mississippi State, meaning Mark Richt has a hot seat and close losses to South Carolina and Arkansas probably mean the Gamecocks and Hogs aren't as good as we thought.

4. Boise State needed to shine more than its new turf did, turns out the turf still shined brighter than the Broncos.

5. That "end of the football monopoly in Los Angeles" may actually be for real.

The Hero
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama.

The "part tank, part ballet dancer" took over when the Tide needed him most in the 24-20 win at Arkansas. Ingram really proved his value by touching the ball on nine of the 15 plays in their three touchdown drives. That's clutch.

The Goat
UAB kicker Josh Zahn.

Missed five field goals in the OT loss to Tennessee. Hate to pile on a kicker and all... well, strike that. I actually do.

The Runner-Up Goat.
Nick Cattoi, K, Central Florida. Missed field goals of 23 and 42 yards in a 17-13 loss at Kansas State.

Best Comment

Rod Woodson of the Big Ten Network, commenting on Purdue's 250-pound fullback Jared Crank's hobby of riding skateboards: "I didn't know they made skateboards that held that kind of weight."

Worst Comment

Clay Matvick mixing his metaphors during the Kentucky-Florida game: "Urban Meyer decided to roll the dice and he came up aces."

Add to Heisman List

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
24 carries, 157 yards, 2 TDs.

Silly me, two weeks ago I took him off the list for being injured. In my face.

Russell Wilson, QB, N.C. State
28 of 41, career-high 368 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int.

Best of all, after throwing his only oskie for a pick-six that closed the game to 31-28, he never panicked, piling on two more TDs for the win.

Trey Burton, QB, Florida.
Ran for a school-record six TDs in the 48-14 win over Kentucky.

Look, he's gotta be a Heisman candidate. He did something not even Tim Tebow could do.

Take Off The Heisman List

DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
28 carries, 67 yards, 2.4 per carry.

Judging by the end of their 31-29 escape of Cincinnati, maybe he should move to defense.

LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
28 carries, 114 yards, 4.1 yards per carry.

Not that it's totally his fault, James was obviously exhausted midway through the third quarter, but UO's coaching staff insisted on still giving him the ball for an endless amount of 1- and 2-yard gains.

Best Coaching Job

Rick Neuheisel, UCLA head coach

After the big win over Texas he quipped, "Hope is not a very good strategy." Ya' gotta love that. Two weeks ago, Coach Neuheisel was apologizing to the student section after the loss to Stanford, now they're ready to raise him on their shoulders. The Bruins battered Texas to oblivion in a stunning turnaround.

Worst Coaching Job

Will Muschamp, Texas D-Coordinator Everybody heard about how Texas had the best rushing defense in the country. Well when UCLA opened the second half with an 80-yard touchdown drive, 74 of it coming on the ground, you knew this one was Taps City for the Horns. UCLA outrushed Texas 264 to 85. Someone needs a heavy dose of spinach.

Best Tweet of the Day

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and CollegeBCS.com, on his alma mater Purdue's misfortunes, "Purdue QB Marve, RB Bolden, WR Smith all tore ACLs on Purdue's grass field. Should rip it up and put in astroturf."

The best 13 seconds of the season by one player.

Owen Marecic, FB/LB, Stanford.

In case you missed it, the only two-way starter in the country ran the ball for a 1-yard touchdown to put the Cardinal up 27-6 at Notre Dame. Then, one play from scrimmage later he returned an interception 20 yards for another score, putting this one away 34-6. What's the most impressive part? The fact that Morecic is smart enough to play both ways AND go to school at Stanford.

Ugliest game of the day.
Oregon 42, Arizona State 31

Most of you may have gone to sleep when this one came to an end, but it was nasty. The two teams combined for 182 penalty yards, nine turnovers (seven by ASU), 17 punts (11 by UO) and 12 for 34 third down conversions. The Ducks won, but they only had 25:26 time of possession and got gashed for 596 yards by the Devils.

Best postgame comment.

Bo Pelini, when asked if their day off next week was coming at the right time after a lackluster 17-3 "win" over FCS South Dakota State. "We already took our day off; that was today."

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