Rank 'Em

I hope we all appreciate what we witnessed last night. The amount of talent on that field in the Rose Bowl, and the level at which it produced, was breathtaking and will have an impact on the NFL for years to come. To borrow an NBA analogy, we saw Larry Bird (Matt Leinart) and Dr. J (Reggie Bush) on the same team lose, because Vince Young became Michael Jordan. Those three players will be three of the most prominent names in football for this generation.

1. Texas (13-0)…He didn't quite do it all by himself, but Vince Young darn near won a national championship on his own. If Texas had any other quarterback in college football, they wouldn't have won the Rose Bowl despite all their talent at the other positions.

2. USC (12-1)…Three years ago it was the Hurricanes who missed their chance to etch their place in history in an epic struggle in the BCS title game. Now it's the Trojans' turn. This was still a great run, and with the talent they've recruited and the schedule they're playing next year it ain't over yet.

3. Penn State (11-1)…JoePa proved there is still life in the old dog, and the Nittany Lions made the most of their first BCS appearance to put the capper on a memorable season.

4. Ohio State (10-2)…Perhaps more than any team in the country the talented Buckeyes are hoping there was a tournament to decide the national champion.

5. West Virginia (11-1)…Still hard to believe Rich Rodriguez didn't get more run for National Coach of the Year honors. The Sugar Bowl win might have been the biggest in Mountaineer history.

6. LSU (11-2)…Hard to say a team with 11 wins underachieved, but the Tigers certainly had national championship talent and showed it in their Peach Bowl rout.

7. Georgia (10-3)…Another great coaching job by Mark Richt, who won his second SEC title despite losing leaders David Greene and David Pollack to the NFL draft.

8. Alabama (10-2)…Mike Shula got the breakout season he needed to establish himself in Tuscaloosa, as well as the Crimson Tide's first January bowl victory in nine years.

9. Virginia Tech (11-2)…A perplexing season for the Hokies, which featured some impressive performances as well as two head-scratching failures to show up for big games.

10. Texas Christian (11-1)…Under next year's rules the Horned Frogs would've made the BCS. Instead they'll just have to settle for their third double-digit win total in the last four years.

11. Florida (9-3)…It took awhile for Urban Meyer's persona and system to take hold in Gainesville, but once it did the Gators took flight the second half of the season.

12. Wisconsin (10-3)…Still can't believe this team won 10 games, but the answer can be found in the now retired Barry Alvarez, who will go down as one of the best coaches in Big Ten history.

13. Oregon (10-2)…Disappointing end to an otherwise sterling season for the Ducks, who won't have to wait long to get their revenge on the Sooners in Eugene in September.

14. UCLA (10-2)…Another coach who got the breakout season he needed to establish himself was Karl Dorrell, but he now has holes to fill for 2006.

15. Auburn (9-3)…One of the more surprising results of the bowl season was the Tigers getting shelled in a de facto home game in the Capitol One Bowl.

16. Notre Dame (9-3)…Brady Quinn instantly becomes the Heisman frontrunner for next season, but he'll have a hard time duplicating this year's numbers with the graduation losses suffered on offense.

17. Miami, Fla. (9-3)…The offense never really developed, and the defense wasn't quite as good as advertised. Back-to-back Peach Bowls doesn't excite Luther Campbell U.

18. Texas Tech (9-3)…Another solid season for Mike Leach, who will have another quarterback to replace. But the Red Raiders will be right back in the bowl hunt again.

19. Boston College (9-3)…Another season, another bowl win for what the most underrated program in the sport. If I were the athletic director at a big-time program with an opening I'd offer Tom O'Brien a blank check.

20. Oklahoma (8-4)…It may sound funny, but this season might have been Bob Stoops' best coaching job in Norman. Next season he's right back in the spotlight, just as he likes it.

21. Clemson (8-4)…Tommy Bowden still hasn't taken the Tigers back to prominence, but at least he's maintained the program's respectability.

22. Nebraska (8-4)…Was the Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan a program-making win? That remains to be seen, but at least they're excited again in Lincoln.

23. Louisville (9-3)…From preseason national title contender to three-time loser, Bobby Petrino's star has dimmed slightly after an unsatisfying season.

24. Virginia (8-4)…The Cavaliers "upset" Minnesota in the Music City Bowl to send their loaded roster out with a win. But their fans still have to be wondering if this program will ever live up to expectations.

25. Florida State (8-5)…Anytime you win your conference and qualify for the BCS your season can be defined as a success no matter what your final record is.

Honorable Mention:

#26 Nevada (9-3), #27 Tulsa (9-4), #28 California (8-4), #29 Navy (8-4), #30 Toledo (9-3).


Five Thoughts

1. In my opinion, the top priority for the Cyclones between now and September 2nd is developing their offensive line throughout the ranks. The unit is coming along, albeit too slowly. Scott Stephenson will be an All-America candidate next season, and Aaron Brant is a solid Big 12 starter. But after that improvement is needed. The recruiting misfires at this position in 2002 and 2003 prevents necessary competition and depth, and we're seeing the results of that on the field.

2. The second priority is finding quality depth at the tailback position. Even with a healthy Stevie Hicks the Cyclones lack a big-play threat in the backfield, and a true change-of-pace. Greg Coleman gave it his all, but perhaps it's time for him to try another position, or improve his running instincts?

3. 2006 becomes a pivotal year in the evolution of Cyclone football. We had hoped 2005 would be the breakout year, but it wasn't. On paper this team will be better next season, but the schedule becomes more challenging. Yet, there is still an excellent opportunity to take ISU football to the next level next autumn, particularly if the aforementioned two goals are successfully met.

4. The North division race is wide open, and will likely be decided on October 7th when the Cyclones host Nebraska at Jack Trice Stadium. While everyone is talking about ISU's schedule, have you checked out the Huskers' slate? They play at USC, at Iowa State, at Kansas State, at Texas A&M and host Texas. Given the schedules of ISU and Nebraska, and the state of the rest of the division, it's likely a 5-3 conference record will be enough to land a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game in Kansas City in December.

5. Set your TIVOs for September 16th. Here's the slate of games scheduled for that day so far: Nebraska at USC, Michigan at Notre Dame, Iowa State at Iowa, Arizona State at Colorado, Florida at Tennessee, Oklahoma at Oregon, and Texas Tech at TCU.


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