Arizona's Nick Johnson strips the ball from Washington's Aziz N'Diaye during the first half as Kaleb Tarczewski defends from behind. Arizona coach Sean Miller later minced no words: "Nick's an elite defender."


The college football world rotates on its axis, 360 degrees, every three years. Almost everything changes except the Army-Navy game.

Three years ago, in 2007, Alabama was about to finish 7-6 and Auburn 5-7.

Three years ago, 2007, Kansas went 12-1 and New Mexico completed a nine-win season and won a bowl game. Now the Jayhawks and Lobos are a combined 2-14.

Three years ago, in 2007, Arizona completed a two-year, two-game sweep over Oregon. A week later, UCLA embarrassed the Ducks 16-0. Chip Kelly's offense gained 148 yards that day.

In 2007, the geniuses-in-residence were Texas Tech's Mike Leach, Kansas' Mark Mangino and Illinois coach Ron Zook, who took the Illini to the Rose Bowl.

Leach and Mangino were fired. Zook, who has since gone 13-19, might soon be.

On Saturday night, after Kelly's saucy offense gained 599 yards and scored 53 points at USC, the game's newest mad scientist told reporters: "It's like the secret to Coke. We're not telling anyone."

Much like those late-night "CSI" television shows, every defensive coach in college football will soon be in the lab, taking fingerprints, examining DNA, working on a solution to Oregon's strategy.

But my guess is that the clock is ticking on Chip Kelly the same way it ticked on Mike Leach. Pretty soon, half of the teams in college football will deploy Oregon's shock-and-awe offense the way half of the teams now run Leach's spread offense.

Kelly's secret won't last much longer. I'll give him three years. By then he'll be either in the NFL, at Michigan or in the ESPN booth with Brent Musburger.

Pretty soon, in much the same way offensive coordinators finally solved Arizona's hybrid double-eagle flex defense in the Desert Swarm days, the next Chip Kelly will show up with an irresistible secret.

In the next three years, after college football again rotates on its axis, there will be 20 or 30 new head coaches the same way there were in 2006 and 2007 when Lloyd Carr, Mike Shula, Phil Fulmer, Dennis Franchione, Larry Coker and Dirk Koetter lost their edge.

The Ducks are the most gripping story in all of football. They go beyond Brett Favre and Boise State.

But even as Oregon prepares to hang 60 or 70 points on the helpless Washington Huskies this week, the game is changing.

Three years ago, in 2007, Iowa finished 6-6 and lost to Western Michigan.

Three years ago, in 2007, Baylor was coming off a three-year period in which it lost to Texas by an aggregate 156-41.

On Saturday, Baylor beat the Longhorns in Austin. But so what? Iowa State beat Texas on the same field a week earlier. In the last three years, as the college football world spun on its axis, the Longhorns had gone 35-5. Now they can't beat Iowa State or Baylor.

Remember Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who was the defensive equivalent of Kelly, the rising star in a game of rising stars; the same guy the Longhorns paid $900,000 per year and pledged to make him their next head coach?

His defense yielded 100 or more yards to rushers from UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor, and Texas went 0-3 in those games.

Everything is fluid in this wonderful game, everything has an expiration date, even Chip Kelly and his Big Secret.

The game has changed so much, so quickly, that once-untouchable USC announced last week it will build a $70 million football plant in order to keep up with the rest of the Pac-10. Yes, USC! It had fallen behind.

In the three years since a 2-6 Arizona team beat Washington 48-41 on a late pass by Willie Tuitama, a victory that surely saved Mike Stoops' job, six of the nine men who helped Stoops coach that day have scattered to Kansas State, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Kansas and Florida State.

That's probably why Stoops never bites when he's asked a perspective-type question in a media session.

"I'm just glad I'm still here," he said last week. Sometimes a "no comment" is the best answer.

Three years ago, in 2007, supporters of Arizona football would have sold their red-and-blue-blooded souls to swap places with Purdue, Kentucky and probably Rutgers, too.

The Boilermakers had been consistent winners, averaging seven wins a year from 2000 to 2006. Kentucky had rebuilt its identity under Rich Brooks, 8-5 in back-to-back seasons, on the brink of something big. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who had gone 11-2 in 2006 and followed it with twin 8-5 seasons, was the Chip Kelly of Jersey football.

Now Purdue has lost to Toledo and is a sub-.500 program, 13-19 in the last three seasons.

Rutgers couldn't beat Tulane and is 5-5 in its last 10 games against a weak schedule.

Kentucky is 1-5 in the SEC.

After losing to Arizona on Saturday, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel told an assembled media audience: "We weren't far away. It was within eyesight."

Three years ago, in 2007, Arizona State went 10-3 and Dennis Erickson was in a beautiful focus. He had arrived to save the Sun Devils.

Now the landscape is all blurry again.