College football rankings rattle but just miss a fault line

Stanford, Texas, Ohio State and Georgia all dodge upsets that could have shaken the top 25.

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Mack Brown

Texas Coach Mack Brown, right, celebrates with kicker Anthony Fera during the Longhorns' win over Iowa State. (David Purdy / Getty Images / October 3, 2013)

The guy who first said "football is a game of inches" is smiling somewhere today in that big replay booth in the sky.

At least four games of national import were decided over the weekend by less than the size of a five-dollar footlong at Subway.

In college football, though, silly millimeters can cost you millions and cause grown men to scream and young men to weep.

Where a ball was spotted, or what Mr. Magoo saw in the monitor upstairs can keep a team in the national title hunt or eliminate one from contention.

In Texas, it can preserve a coach's job for 10 more days until the Oklahoma game.

In what other sport can a player named "Pig" have a ball slip out his hands diving into a checkerboard end zone?

You could have awakened Sunday and thought nothing much happened. The top five schools stayed the same in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches' polls.

There were other minor adjustments, like tweaks to carburetor, from rankings No. 6 through 25.

If only you knew how flimsily fragile it all was.

It's difficult to know where to start, so let's go in chronological order.

—Dateline Ames: Texas defeated Iowa State, 31-30, on Thursday night, or at least that's what the scoreboard said.

Many who witnessed it live or on television argued Iowa State got the short end of Bevo's tail. The result also exhumed longheld beliefs that oil wells aren't the only things that are rigged in Texas.

Remember that second that was put back on the clock in 2009 that allowed Texas to beat Nebraska and advance to the BCS title game?

On Thursday it appeared Texas running back Johnathan Gray fumbled near the goal line to secure what should have been an Iowa State upset.

Officials ruled, though, that Gray's progress had been stopped and Texas should get at least one more chance to steal victory. Confirmation came when the Big 12 replay booth upheld the call on the field.

Texas scored and won. Instead of preparing the exit papers for Coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns left Ames at 4-2 and also tied for first place in the Big 12.

Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads gave an award-winning postgame speech in which he tiptoed around a huge fine and suspension while delivering a deep-throated condemnation. Rhoads, wisely, used his players as cover in saying "you can't just put your arm around a guy and say that's OK when that happens."

Retired Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, now free to express his feelings without reprisal, tweeted out about Texas, "When tu needs a call, they get it."

We're absolutely convinced the lowercase reference to Texas was intentional.

The Big 12, following up with due diligence, issued a statement Friday admitting that the referees got it … right.

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