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MAC packed a real wallop

The attack was widespread. It hit the Southeastern Conference. It hit the Big 12 and the Big East. The Atlantic Coast Conference had experienced it earlier in the season, and so had the Big Ten. The only reason the Pac-10 avoided any damage Saturday was because it had no games scheduled against the rampaging teams. Officially, it is known as the Mid-American Conference, but throughout the early part of this season, and especially Saturday, the MAC has a new name in the topsy-turvy world of college football: Meet Any Challenge.

Look at the damage the MAC attack did to Top 10 and Bowl Championship Series schools Saturday:

Marshall 27, Kansas State 20.

Toledo 35, Pittsburgh 31.

Northern Illinois 19, Alabama 16.

Add earlier wins by Northern Illinois over Maryland and by Bowling Green over Purdue, and BCS conference teams are falling to MAC schools all over the place.

"What a great day for the MAC," said Marshall (and former University of Massachusetts) athletic director Bob Marcum yesterday as he savored his team's come-from-behind win over No. 6 Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. "It was just a great day. Our players are used to winning, so we went into the game with a lot of confidence."

The MAC has created havoc in college basketball as a "mid-major" conference that comes up with upsets in the NCAA Tournament.

In football, the mid-majors are the non-BCS leagues such as the MAC, Conference USA, the Western Athletic Conference, and the Mountain West Conference. Which is why Saturday was a special day in the MAC, with Marshall's win the highlight.

Toledo's win over No. 9 Pitt wasn't far behind, but it was not quite as unexpected -- although it was hard to convince Toledo. "I'm a little numb right now," said coach Tom Amstoltz after the Rockets' come-from-behind win.

If there are any doubts about how far the MAC has come, check out what Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon said after the underdog Falcons came up just short in their 24-17 loss to No. 5 Ohio State. "There are no medals for trying," said Brandon. "It's a loss. It stinks."

Bowling Green's loss snapped a five-game winning streak against schools from BCS conferences.

There are no longer any guarantees for teams playing against the MAC. In fact, college football truly has become an "on any given Saturday" sport in which the term "upset" is relative.

The topper for the MAC occurred late Saturday night, when Ericka Dunlap, a student at Central Florida, was crowned Miss America. But she has no chance to win a BCS title.

Not a shocker

Michigan's 31-27 loss to Oregon was a surprise but not stunning. The Big Ten has lost its last nine games against ranked Pac-10 teams on the road . . . Georgia's 17-10 loss to Louisiana State was a surprise for Bulldogs quarterback David Greene, who was 9-0 in road games before the loss in Baton Rouge, La. . . . Miami has won 25 straight Big East games and 17 straight road games . . . Florida may have been overpowered by Tennessee, 24-10, but the Gators will get better. This season, Florida coach Ron Zook has used 41 players who were seeing game action for the first time . . . Tennessee snapped a five-game losing streak on the road against ranked teams. Florida was No. 17 coming in . . . As expected, Texas bounced back from its loss last week to Arkansas with a 48-7 win over Rice, but wide receiver Roy Williams knows what the Longhorns must do if they are going to get back into contention for the national title. "We're going to run the table," said Williams. "We're going to win them all." Maybe not surprisingly, a policy of not talking to the media was put in place at Texas after Williams's comments . . . Oregon's win over Michigan was its 20th straight nonconference home victory . . . LSU is 4-0 for the first time since 1996.

Who? Missou Although it still doesn't mean a thing, because the meat of its schedule is still ahead, Missouri is 4-0, a sign that coach Gary Pinkel is doing some things right. With a game at Kansas Saturday, Missouri could climb to 5-0 before it tackles Nebraska and Oklahoma back to back . . . When Antonio Perkins returned three punts for touchdowns in Oklahoma's 59-24 win over UCLA, he justifiably thought he was having a pretty good day, as he broke two NCAA records -- most punt returns for touchdowns in a game and most yardage on returns (277). But Perkins wasn't even the most spectacular performer in his own state. Down the road in Dallas, Oklahoma State wide receiver Rashaun Woods set an NCAA record with seven touchdown catches in a 52-6 romp over Southern Methodist . . . A vote of confidence from athletic director Jim Livengood notwithstanding, Arizona coach John Mackovic is in trouble. The Wildcats lost to Purdue, 59-7. That followed a 59-13 loss to LSU and a 48-10 drubbing by Oregon. Hmmm. That's being outscored, 166-30, in three games. Not good. The losing margins should not surprise anyone who knows Mackovic teams. In his last year at Texas, in 1997, UCLA beat the Longhorns, 66-3, and Mackovic was gone by the end of the year.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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