Of the 19 games Top 25 teams played (against a non-Top 25 team), 13 were decided by a margin of 25 points or greater. In each of the other six games, while the margin of victory was under 25, the higher ranked team still managed to prevail.
The only true upset (#21 LSU’s win over #18 UNC doesn’t count since, had the pollsters known the Tarheels would have so many key players suspended, there’s no way they’d have been ranked that high) was delivered by Jacksonville State who beat Ole Miss in double overtime, 49-48. While no one predicted this game, it’s not that shocking, especially to those who consider team chemistry and distractions as major deterrents to success.
The Jeremiah Masoli soap opera that has been playing out for the past month or so certainly could have had a negative effect on the Rebels. First, the ultra-talented QB who’d been dismissed by Oregon (following a couple errors in judgment, i.e. character, one for possession of an illegal substance, the other for theft) either 1) realized the error of his ways and found a graduate program he desired that Oregon didn’t offer or 2) discovered (or had help discovering) a loophole in the NCAA rulebook. The rule states that if a student-athlete has completed degree requirements at the school in which he’s participating and has eligibility remaining, he can transfer to another institution and be immediately eligible - if the second institution offers a course of study his current university doesn’t.
First, Masoli deserves credit for having graduated from Oregon. With graduation rates falling below desired standards, he must be congratulated for his accomplishment - which made his transfer possible in the first place. However, the plot thickened when, after going through fall camp in Oxford, he was deemed ineligible. The initial reported reason for the NCAA’s decision was that he was skirting the rules, i.e. not following the spirit of the law. In this country, a person has the right to appeal and that’s exactly what Masoli, or his advisor(s) did. In a shocking turn of events, the governing body of intercollegiate athletics, not known for doing so, reversed its decision, allowing him to be immediately eligible.
While the about face seemed to be a boost for Ole Miss, the timing of it had to affect the psyche of the squad - especially after coach Houston Nutt went public to say how ecstatic Jeremiah was, all the while coming across as just as excited himself. Possibly in an effort to show compassion to Nathan Stanley, the quarterback who’d expected to lead the team, Nutt did start the young man. Since quarterback is such a position of leadership, Stanley most certainly had his share of followers. The sophomore played well - by many accounts better than Masoli did, yet the transfer was the one Coach Nutt decided to go with at game’s end.
The loss can’t be completely laid at the feet of Masoli who led the Rebels to two consecutive TD’s in the OT periods. Neither Masoli nor Stanley can be blamed for giving up 49 points to the Gamecocks. Yet, there will always be some - it’s the nature of the fan - who will claim that had Masoli never shown up on the Ole Miss campus, they would have been celebrating a victory in Oxford last night.
In many ways, this controversy is a good thing because without it, I’m not sure what anyone would have had to talk about after such a predictable Week One. As far as Nutt’s decision, he violated coaching adage #1:
“A good coaching decision is one that works.”