RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer
Breaking down The Associated Press college football poll after Week 4 of the regular season.
MESSY MICHIGAN. During a weekend filled with blowouts in the AP Top 25, Michigan’s second consecutive close call against an inferior opponent dropped the Wolverines in the rankings and sent them into an off week trying to figure out how to hold onto the football.
Alabama stayed No. 1 in the latest poll, but lost some support from the media panel. The Tide received 56 out of 60 first-place votes after getting 59 last week. No. 2 Oregon received four. Alabama’s 31-6 victory against Colorado State on Saturday was less than dominant, but the Tide sat some key starters. Not a lot to worry about in Tuscaloosa, Ala., though with No. 21 Mississippi coming to town Saturday, the Tide needs to get better and healthier.
Michigan’s problems seem to be far more disconcerting. The Wolverines (4-0) fell three spots to No. 18 after a 24-21 victory at Connecticut, the second straight week Michigan won and dropped in the rankings. Last week four Michigan turnovers kept Akron in the game, and the Wolverines came away with a 28-24 victory.
Four more turnovers, three by quarterback Devin Gardner, had UConn leading 21-7 early in the third quarter before Michigan rallied in East Hartford, Conn.
Gardner now has thrown eight interceptions, and much of the optimism Wolverines fans had in him following his excellent performance against Notre Dame has dried up. On a windy night in Connecticut, his throws were inaccurate, he too often scrambled into traffic and he was careless carrying the ball.
“You can’t be loose with the ball, and we do that a little too much,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “But we just try to keep working and be conscious of how we are handling the situation at times. Throwing the ball out of bounds is pretty good because we get the ball back. Or you can punt.”
The Wolverines’ inexperienced interior offensive line was spotty again, though the Michigan defense looked good all-around against a UConn offense that ranks as one of the worst in a BCS automatic qualifying conference.
But Gardner’s issues are most troublesome. Freshman Shane Morris is the backup. For Michigan, it’s Gardner or bust.
MOVING UP. The first 14 teams in this week’s AP poll held their spots from last week. No ranked team moved up more than one spot. That’s what happens when only two ranked teams play each other — No. 5 Stanford beat Arizona State 42-28 — and most of the others romped over heavy underdogs.
MOVING IN. No. 25 Fresno State (3-0) is ranked for the first time since Sept. 28, 2008. The Bulldogs have won two of the craziest games of the season, beating Rutgers 52-51 in overtime and Boise State 41-40. After snapping a seven-game losing streak against the Broncos on Friday night, Fresno State launched a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Derek Carr, including the website www.dc4heisman.com . Carr has passed for 12 touchdowns and one interception. Off the field, he and his wife, Heather, got a huge scare in August when their newborn son needed surgery to correct a problem with his intestines. Heather and little Dallas were at the Boise State game Friday night.
MOVING OUT. Arizona State dropped out of the rankings after losing to Stanford — a week after some incompetent officiating helped the Sun Devils beat Wisconsin.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Four ranked teams scored at least 70 points Saturday: Louisville beat FIU 72-0; Ohio State beat Florida A&M 76-0; Miami beat Savannah State 77-7; and Baylor beat Louisiana-Monroe 70-7. Since the rankings went to 25 teams in 1989, never before have more than two ranked teams scored at least 70 in the same weekend.
The Ohio State and Miami routs are perfect examples of a game that should not be scheduled. Power FBS schools against weakling FCS schools.
Louisiana-Monroe played a close game against Baylor last season, but the Bears’ offense is functioning at a level that ULM couldn’t keep pace with this season.
The FIU situation came with some controversy. Conference USA released a statement after the game saying officials misunderstood FIU coach Ron Turner and believed he requested a running clock in the second half. The league said there were five times in the second half when the clock should have been stopped but wasn’t.
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