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THEY ALL FALL DOWN

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Or they're chopped, as it were.

It doesn't diminish the chances of the BCS being seized by chaos, but the season does get that much less interesting for Cinderella sympathists and well-wishers (and satirists, if they recognize setbacks), whose last feel-good hopes rest solely with Kansas. But when it wasn't attempting to fumble the game away, there was nothing misleading about Rutgers' win: the Knights adjusted at the half to keep Matt Grothe in the pocket, from whence he demonstrated a consistent inability to make plays (or even try, really, as his habitual attempts at escape continued long after it was clear Rutgers was committed to erecting a virtual cage around his scrambling lanes), and pounded Ray Rice in that old-school, straight-ahead workhorse fashion you don't see much anymore.

In the bigger picture, it's just another reminder among so many this season: you are not your ranking. I thought it was a little bit ironic that Rutgers students started the "O-ver-RA-ted!" chant as the Knights ran the clock out, because it was clear that USF was rated exactly right for what it had accomplished over the first six games. South Florida was a team with two impressive wins over Auburn and West Virginia and no losses; now it's a team with with two impressive wins over Auburn and West Virginia and a loss at Rutgers. It's the same team, and the fleeting assessment/sentiment that named the Bulls the "second-best" team in the country wasn't wrong as some kind of catchall judgment. It was just a snapshot.

I write this as a person who a) is not comfortable with South Florida's success, b) defended the Bulls right to compete for a mythical championship and ranked them second in the nation this week and c) picked USF to lose tonight. I also think there was widespread, quasi-secret acknowledgment that, no, when it was finished, South Florida wouldn't be the number two team by whatever method it's defined, not really, not with the same set of players that lost four times last year in the most successful season in school history, playing now through a series of land mines that had managed to down more promising contenders before them.


It all slips away.
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That didn't stop USF from achieving that high, though, which is an acknowledgement the voters were paying attention, at least, and were open to the blasphemy (and potential commercial disaster) of a South Florida championship if it took care of its business. It didn't, and so traditionalists can breathe easier dropping the upstarts back in their place. But at least the Bulls have the snapshot, and when they work their way into this position again, it never hurts to have a few of those to show.
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Unless you live in a certain area of the country or were specifically seeking it out, you were probably less aware tonight of the latest setback to one of the would-be Cinderellas of the summer, TCU, which turned the ball over four times and fell to 4-4 in a home loss to Utah. The Frogs were favorites in the preseason "BCS Buster" circuit, but have lost their best player under bizarre circumstances, failed to establish the usual running game and suffered highly erratic play from quarterback Andy Dalton - the redshirt freshman was brutal against the Utes, completing just 20 of 45 with four picks and no touchdowns. TCU is 1-3 now in the Mountain West, more losses in half a season than it suffered in its first two full seasons in the conference and three games out of the current lead, and if winless Colorado State wins Saturday at UNLV, the Frogs will find themselves in a tie for last place.