Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
You had to know there would be a week like this past one, when the national powers looked vulnerable and needed to dig deep to stay on course. That was the theme during a terrific week seven in college football, with an upset or two sprinkled in for good measure.
TRAGEDY STRIKES: First thing's first. Condolences are in order for the family of UConn cornerback Jasper Howard, who was tragically stabbed to death following an altercation at a school-sponsored dance on Saturday night, a senseless crime that took the life of a young man with a bright future. UConn head coach Randy Edsall has the unenviable task of getting his team focused for the rest of the season, something that is easier said than done.
"All of us are saddened with the loss of our brother and teammate Jasper," said Edsall. "Jazz was a tremendous young man who had grown so much in his short time with us at UConn. He was starting to come into his own as both a player and a person. He will be sorely missed, but we will have him in our memories."
ESCAPE ARTISTS: Three of the nation's premier programs needed to wait until the final whistle before enjoying wins this past weekend, with Florida, Texas and USC all surviving close calls.
Florida slipped past Arkansas on a 27-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining.
The defending national champion Gators got all they could handle from a dangerous Arkansas team, as a 27-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining provided the difference in a 23-20 victory and kept the undefeated Gators in the hunt for their second straight national championship and third in the last four years. Florida played a sloppy game (four fumbles), but found a way to extend the nation's longest win streak to 16 games.
The Longhorns were embroiled in yet another classic Red River Rivalry, this time with two of the nation's top defenses taking center stage. The game wasn't a shootout by any means, but for fans of good defense, it did not disappoint, with Texas edging the Sooners, 16-13. Texas' rush defense provided the difference, holding what is one of the country's top ground games to -16 yards. Texas also knocked Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford from the game, as he re-injured his throwing shoulder (more on that later).
The greatest intersectional rivalry in college football added another chapter to its history, as USC and Notre Dame put on a real show in South Bend. The Trojans held the Irish out of the end zone in the waning moments of the game, preserving a 34-27 win and keeping their hopes of a BCS Title game alive.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?: College football fans expect dominance
each time their favorite team takes the field. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for Ohio State this past weekend. The Buckeye faithful watched a one-win Purdue team earn a 26-18 upset in West Lafayette. To make matters worse, the Buckeyes looked like they were simply going through the motions, with five turnovers, four from quarterback Terrelle Pryor. A preseason Heisman candidate, Pryor seems to be regressing this year and without a stellar supporting cast, it will get worse before it gets any better.
TIME TO CALL IT A SEASON? With Oklahoma losing its third game of the season, it may be time to shut down Sam Bradford and make sure his shoulder gets proper medical treatment, whether that means surgery or not. There is nothing left for the young man to play for in 2009 and with the NFL Combine a few months away, the right thing to do would be to make sure he is fully healed to begin the next phase of his life outside of Norman. There hasn't been a reported course of action yet from Bob Stoops and/or Bradford, other than his inability to suit up for this week's game against Kansas.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: The nation's top rushers captured the headlines this week, starting with Alabama RB Mark Ingram, who rumbled for 246 yards and one TD in the win over South Carolina. A surprise entry to the Heisman race, Ingram could be the third sophomore to win the award in as many years. Other RBs with extraordinary performances over the weekend include the nation's leading rusher, Fresno State's Ryan Matthews (233 yards, one TD against San Jose State), Boston College's Montel Harris (264 yards, five TDs against NC State), Pittsburgh's freshman Dion Lewis (180 yards, two TDs against Rutgers), UConn's Andre Dixon (153 yards, three TDs against Louisville) and finally Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt (122 rushing yards and three TDs) in the team's upset of Virginia Tech.
SNEAK PEEK: There are only two top-25 matchups this week with 25th-ranked Oklahoma taking on 24th-ranked Kansas and 10th-ranked TCU battling 16th-ranked BYU.
Both the Sooners and Jayhawks are coming off losses. This game has lost a little of its luster with the setbacks and the fact that OU will once again be without the services of Bradford under center.
The Mountain West has been clamoring for respect and a top-25 showdown could be just the ticket. A prolific Horned Frogs' defense against an explosive BYU offense should make for quite a ball game.
Other marquee games on the docket include Tennessee at top-ranked Alabama, 13th-ranked Penn State at Michigan, Auburn at ninth-ranked LSU and Oregon State at fourth-ranked USC.