As much as it wounded Southern California to fall to archrival Notre Dame last week, the fallout from that loss was no less acute or painful for Ohio State.
That's because, a year after an undefeated Penn State team was frozen out of the national championship by poll politics, the Buckeyes appear doomed to relive the nightmare.
When USC was thrashed by Notre Dame, 38-10, it meant the Rose Bowl no longer would get an unbeaten representative from the Pac-10 to face the Big Ten champion. Now, even if the No. 4 Buckeyes finish the regular season 12-0 and win the Rose Bowl, they likely will have a diminished claim on the national championship.
The big winner in all this is the Bowl Alliance, which figures to present a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdown with Florida State or Florida facing Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. It was no wonder, then, that Ohio State coach John Cooper this week echoed the sentiments of Penn State's Joe Paterno with the suggestion the Big Ten join the alliance.
Cooper said: "Either we get together with the alliance, or it wouldn't bother me to see the Rose Bowl champion play the winner of the alliance and let's have a true national champion. With Penn State a year ago, it was a shame they didn't get a chance to play for the championship."
Paterno quietly has been campaigning to make the Rose Bowl part of the alliance equation after losing out to Nebraska in last year's poll.
As he talked about the prospect of a perfect but uncrowned season, Cooper sounded a lot like Paterno did a year ago.
we run the table and win all our games left, in my mind we will be national champions, or at least co-champions," Cooper said.
I= It didn't work for Paterno. And it won't work for Cooper.
Rabid and ravenous
Northwestern's stunning run to prominence in the Big Ten has been fueled by its ravenous defense and a sense of indignation. The Wildcats (6-1, 4-0) lead the nation in turnover differential with 23 take-aways and only seven giveaways. They've converted 18 of those turnovers into 98 points.
"We're swarming to the ball, looking to make plays," said senior cornerback Chris Martin, whose six take-aways lead the team. "There's a conscious effort to strip the ball."
Indignation? Even coach Gary Barnett was upset when the Wildcats were underdogs at home against Wisconsin (they won, 35-0). Martin doesn't like his team being one-point 'dogs against Illinois tomorrow, either.
"That's just disrespecting us," Martin said. "That's what we take into account when we go to practice. . . . It makes us really upset. It's like we're foaming at the mouth."
Who let these people in?
The poor sport of the week award goes to California tackle Terik Glenn (6 feet 6, 330 pounds), who, according to witnesses, punched Oregon State mascot Marri Hollen (5-9, 135) while going to the locker room before last week's game.
Hollen, dressed as "Benny Beaver," apparently annoyed Glenn by tapping him on the shoulder with an inflatable plastic &L; hammer. Bystanders said Glenn hit Hollen, sending her costume head flying and her against a concrete retaining wall.
Then there were the Iowa fans who, mistaking Kinnick Stadium for a dump, heaved an actual hog's head from the stands during a loss to Penn State. They also threw a full whiskey bottle and a full can of beer.
* John Gagliardi moved past Bear Bryant into second place on the list for all-time coaching victories with No. 324 when St. John's (Minn.) beat Carleton (Minn.), 35-14.
* Eschewing a field goal that might have beaten Oklahoma the week before, Texas coach John Mackovic was quick with the quip after Phil Dawson's 50-yard field goal into the wind beat Virginia last week. "I guess I learned my lesson -- kick the field goal," Mackovic said.
* Purdue punter Rob Deignon, who had two punts blocked by Ohio State last year, had two more snuffed last week. "I've only been interviewed twice," Deignon said, "and they've both been after we played Ohio State."
Oklahoma State coach Bob Simmons on singing the school fight song after a 30-26 win at Missouri ended the Cowboys' 20-game winless streak in the Big Eight: "I don't know if we remembered all the words, but you bet we sang it."