Kevin is a seniordouble majoring in journalism and economics. If you’re interested in talkingcollege football send an e-mail to [email protected] OklahomaA loss to Colorado earlier in the year aside, Oklahoma had achance to move in to the top two after Oregon lost to Arizona (see below) twoweeks back. Although it was pitted against offensive juggernaut Texas Tech ledby touchdown machine Graham Harrell, Oklahoma had a Heisman-hopeful of its ownin redshirt freshman Sam Bradford.Just its luck, Bradford left early in the game with aconcussion and the Sooners offense never recovered. They ended up losing thegame 34-27 and more importantly, a shot at a national championship. OregonTwo days earlier, another one-loss team blew its chance atNew Orleans when the sensational Dennis Dixon injured his knee. Oregon watchedits season buckle out of control as the fleet-footed Dixon crumpled to the turfin a heap after a first-quarter run. Without their heartbeat the Ducks croaked,losing 34-24 to lowly Arizona. If that wasn’t enough, the Dixon-less Ducks sunkfurther, getting embarrassed 16-0 to a highly sporadic UCLA team to end theirshot at a Rose Bowl bid. When it comes to breaking down college football this year,your guess is as good as the experts’.Eight different teams tried out the No. 2 ranking, quicklyfinding it unsuitable (six of them were upset), and four different teams havebeen No. 1. Every week, another (or in the case of LSU, the same) team drops awinnable game to an underdog.In fact, this past weekend marked the second time thisseason both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams fell. It has only happened seven othertimes since 1964.About the only thing certain from week to week is thatall-encompassing banner to describe what the nation has witnessed this season —”the year of the upset” — will continue.Earlier in the year, like everyone else, I was surprised tosee so many upsets, so many top-ranked teams dropping like hail during athunderstorm. The default answer to this enigma is that parity resonatesthroughout the land like a yodeler atop a Swiss Alps peak. It’s hard to argueagainst the idea that “any team can win on any given night” (parity does existto an extent). Still, I have observed and inevitably learned something: It, too,has been “the year of the injured quarterback.”Most of these teams I am about to analyze would be in aposition to play in New Orleans had an injury to their most prized possessionnot occurred. Cal, Pac-10It’s harder to make the case for California, since theGolden Bears began hibernation seven weeks prematurely, losing six of theirfinal seven games. However, the second-half slide started when quarterback NateLongshore was sidelined for the Oregon State game. Without him, then No. 2 Callost 31-28 in a game it could have won if the backup, Kevin Riley, didn’tdecide to run for a first down with 12 ticks on the clock and no timeouts leftinside the Oregon 15-yard line.As a matter of fact, the Pac-10’s elite, as a whole, hassuffered from the plague known as “the season of the injured quarterback.” Inaddition to Dixon, Booty and Longshore, Ben Olson of UCLA, after a hot start,went down, and the Bruins ended the year on a 2-5 note.Obviously a sign of a good team is being able to overcomesignificant injuries. And these programs failed to do just that. But before youthrow your hands up in dismay at what lunacy “the year of the upset” hasbrought upon you or someone you know, take a minute to realize that parityaside, “the year of the injured quarterback” has every little bit to do with it,too. West VirginiaThe Mountaineers control their own fate this time around.With a win Saturday against Pittsburgh, West Virginia will still get to playfor a national championship. But had it not worked out that way, had otherquarterbacks not gotten hurt, WVU could have been watching the title game fromthe sidelines just as its signal caller Pat White watched his team’s only lossof the season (to South Florida Sept. 28, 21-13) after sustaining a shot to hisright thigh in the second quarter. USCAlready donning a badge of ineptitude for losing to Stanfordof all teams (the Cardinal lost to Notre Dame this past weekend at home), thetalented Trojans lost their field general, John David Booty, to a broken middlefinger on his throwing hand for the next three weeks. The injury, whichoccurred during the Stanford game, didn’t help USC’s chances to avoid adevastating upset, as Booty threw a season-high four interceptions. Worse, itforced first-time starter Mark Sanchez into the fray. He got by the Wildcatsand the Irish, but his lack of experience proved costly against the versatileDucks. The Trojans lost 24-17 and must now settle for a Rose Bowl bid despiteentering the season as the nation’s top team.