1. USC (7-0)…Trojans continue to dazzle on offense and look for them to get better on defense the next few weeks as their talented young players begin to mature.
3. Virginia Tech (7-0)…Tough stretch of games to close out the season
begins this week when the Hokies host the underrated Golden Eagles in
7. LSU (6-1)…Still hanging around the BCS race waiting for more undefeated teams in front of them to lose. Still has yet to play a complete game befitting its talent level this season.
8. Florida State (6-1)…Having a solid season despite the fact they don't really stand out on offense at all. Won't lose again until they close the season at Death Valley and The Swamp.
9. Miami, Fla. (6-1)…While nobody has been watching since that opening loss the Hurricanes have been improving their offense in advance of a road trip to Virginia Tech in two weeks.
10. Penn State (7-1)…Very impressed with the way the Nittany Lions took a bad Illinois team behind the woodshed after that tough loss in Ann Arbor. Would've been easy to sleepwalk in a game like that but this team took care of business.
15. Ohio State (6-2)…The Buckeyes are just kind of hanging around the Big Ten race, as is everybody else. Should be on upset alert at Minneapolis this week, though.
16. Texas Tech (6-1)…Got a hefty dose of reality in Austin on Saturday, but with that offense and its favorable schedule the opportunity to play in the school's first major bowl game in a decade is still attainable.
17. Northwestern (5-2)…The Wildcats, and their terrific offense, make their first appearance in these rankings since the 2001 preseason poll. Tied for first right now in the Big Ten.
18. Florida (5-2)…The injury to D.J. Shockley could be just the break the Gators need to pull off the upset this week and get back in the East Division race.
23. Minnesota (5-2)…Has had two weeks to stew over that collapse against the Badgers, and now gets a chance to make a statement with the Buckeyes coming to town.
24. California (6-2)…Has two weeks to prepare for a tough closing stretch: a road trip to Eugene, followed up by a home date with the top-ranked team in the nation, and then The Game with an improving Stanford squad.
25. Michigan (5-3)…Say what you want about this team underachieving, but against the nation's second-toughest schedule and considering its plethora of injuries, this has been a pretty decent coaching job by Lloyd Carr.
1. Iowa State's 27-point victory over Oklahoma State was its third biggest blowout win since the Big 12 began play in 1996. It ranks behind a 49-7 win over Kansas (11/17/01) and a 45-3 win over Kansas (08/31/02).
2. This was just the kind of win the Cyclones needed. By taking the Cowboys behind the woodshed, ISU proved that it is a good team that just hasn't been executing, not an overrated team that was just coming up short after spending all of its energy on Iowa again.
3. The opportunity is still there for the Cyclones to land in one of the Big 12's upper tier bowls, like the Alamo Bowl. With its travelling fan base, ISU would be coveted by the folks in San Antonio and could match up with several Big Ten teams for an attractive match-up (Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota being the most likely). What will it take to get there? Well, winning out and going 8-3 would certainly do the trick, and I'm not so sure that 7-4 wouldn't do the trick as well.
4. ISU will not get blown out at Texas A&M, unless it leaves its composure in Ames. The Aggies don't have the defense (especially against the pass) to make this lop-sided, unless ISU helps them out with some self-inflicted wounds. I'm guessing this will be another game that the Cyclones have the chance win at the end, and we'll see if they finally make the plays necessary to do so.
5. Don't look now but the Hawkeyes are no longer a lock for a bowl game, let alone a fourth straight appearance on New Year's Day. Northwestern could be playing for a Big Ten title in two weeks, as will Wisconsin in Barry Alvarez's final home game, and then there's arch-rival Minnesota in the finale. There is a window of opportunity here for ISU to perhaps become the top story in the state this postseason if it takes care of business.