If I had a vote in the AP Poll
1. Ohio State (7-0)…The only team in the country that controls its own BCS destiny, the Buckeyes are six games away from being the first preseason #1 team to run the table for the national championship since Florida State in 1999.
2. Michigan (7-0)…A tough game this week against a Hawkeye squad that always brings it against the Maize-n-Blue is really all that is standing from the greatest rivalry in college football reaching a fever pitch in four weeks.
3. USC (6-0)…The Trojans continue to live dangerously against not all that impressive foes in the Pac-10. They're here for now because of strength of schedule, but I think they'll lose twice before the end of the season.
4. West Virginia (6-0)…Pat White and Steve Slaton keep marching on against sub-standard competition, with Syracuse being their latest victim. But come November the Mountaineers have three pretty tough conference tests.
5. Texas (6-1)…Don't look now, but the Longhorns are right back in the BCS title chase and could backdoor their way into defending their national title since four of the top 10 undefeated teams still have to play each other.
6. Auburn (6-1)…The Tigers were the third #2 team to lose this season last week, and this week returned the favor against the team that took their spot in the polls. They'll still represent the SEC West in the conference title game.
7. Florida (6-1)…Turnovers on back-to-back plays late in the fourth quarter did in the Gators, who weren't going to run the table anyway against one of the most difficult schedules in the country.
9. Louisville (6-0)…Brian Brohm is back but the Cardinals didn't exactly look impressive against a bad Cincinnati team. After this week's game at Syracuse they face a grueling four-game stretch that will define their season.
10. California (6-1)…Well what have we here? The Bears are playing some defense, too? They're going to win the Pac-10 and play in their first Rose Bowl since way back in 1959.
11. Notre Dame (5-1)…Took the week off and the Irish eyes have to be smiling with the losses by some teams in front of them. I expect Notre Dame to run the table from here, including that Thanksgiving trip to the Coliseum.
12. Clemson (6-1)…Talk about impressive depth, despite a myriad of injuries things are still humming in Death Valley, where they are favored to win their first ACC title since 1989.
13. Arkansas (5-1)…The resurgent Razorbacks get two more breathers before those final four games will decide whether or not they have what it takes to shock us all and win the SEC West.
14. Georgia Tech (5-1)…Could we get a preview of the ACC Championship Game this week in Death Valley when the Yellow Jackets come calling?
15. Rutgers (6-0)…The undefeated team in the Big East no one is talking about. But don't sleep on Pittsburgh, the one-loss team in the Big East no one is talking about and this will the third straight road game for the Scarlet Knights.
17. Oregon (5-1)…A second consecutive 10-win season is there for the taking for the Ducks, if they can discover a defense during the second half of the season.
18. Boston College (5-1)…If the Eagles can get their first win in Tallahassee since joining the ACC they will control their own destiny in the Atlantic Division the rest of the way.
20. Boise State (7-0)…My buddy Jerry Palm at CollegeBCS.com says the Broncos have peaked in the computers, so they're going to need help from the human voters in order to get high enough in the polls ratings for a BCS bid.
21. Oklahoma (4-2)…The loss of Adrian Peterson for the season to a broken collarbone on a touchdown run in garbage time also likely ends any chance of the Sooners being a factor for anything significant this season.
24. Missouri (6-1)…Two very curious coaching decisions by Gary Pinkel in the fourth quarter – a fake field goal and an option call into the teeth of the defense on 4th-and-2 – played a pivotal role in dealing the Tigers their first loss.
25. Wake Forest (6-1)…Rutgers isn't the only debate team having a Renaissance on the gridiron this fall, suddenly the Demon Deacons are a player in the ACC before basketball season.
My Heisman Ballot
The man who had my vote (Adrian Peterson) saw his career come to an end. That means the award will likely be given to a Big Ten player from the league's top two, one of the two studs in the West Virginia backfield, or the quarterback at Notre Dame if he wins out and throws for 40 touchdowns.
- Troy Smith, Ohio State— Doesn't have overly gaudy numbers, but quarterbacking the top-ranked team in the land has its advantages.
- Mike Hart, Michigan— Week in and week out he's the most consistent player in college football regardless of position.
- Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech— Perhaps the most explosive player in all of college football, and he gets a national stage this week.
- Steve Slaton/Pat White, West Virginia— These two are interchangeable parts and difficult to differentiate. Can teammates share the award?
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly on the Cyclones
The Good—Begrudgingly, and mainly because even I feel the need to grasp on to any hope in an otherwise hopeless season thus far, I will say that a defense short on talent, short on playmakers, and short on depth is still playing very hard for John Skladany. In fact, had the far more talented and experienced offense played with the heart and tenacity this undermanned defense comes with each week the complexion of this season might be completely different. And hey, did you see that embarrassing loss for the Hawkeyes?
The Bad—The offensive line could be perpetually listed here. It's just bad, bad, bad, bad, and bad. And it's not going to get any better in the near future. With the exception of the second half of the season in 2004, this unit hasn't been good in the last five years. It's not quite as bad as the five blocks of Styrofoam we saw in 2003, because a couple of the guys are still playing their guts out. But it might be the worst offensive line on a major conference team in the country, which is saying something when you consider the Cyclones start four seniors who have combined for over 100 career starts. And that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train because unless there is divine intervention in the player development department the youngsters behind these guys aren't any better. Offensive line recruiting at ISU from 2003-2005 is a near wash out at this point with the exception of Aaron Brant. If you think this year's offensive line play is abysmal, cover your eyes when you see the lineup next season. Next year's offensive line looks like the five blocks of saran wrap.
The Ugly—How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. Nine punts and 12 first downs is a good place to start. But the low point of the season came for me in Dan McCarney's post game interview on the Cyclone Radio Network when he praised the mental toughness of the punter! No, that's not a misprint. And since he's the punter I refuse out of a sense of moral obligation to the great game of intercollegiate football to mention him by name. He's the freaking punter. How does a punter have "mental toughness?" Goodness, if you don't laugh at some of this stuff you'll just cry. Speaking of crying, the season-ending torn ACL suffered by DeAndre Jackson saddened me when I heard about it. A class kid all the way, and one that was poised to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in about six months at the NFL draft. Now he'll be rehabbing a serious injury trying to beat the odds. A serious injury suffered on a meaningless play, in a meaningless game, in what is sadly turning out to be a meaningless season. Let's pray it doesn't cost him a chance to make a life-changing amount of money with his God-given talent.
(Steve Deace founded Cyclone Nation in 2002. He can be heard on the radio each weekday from 4-7 p.m. on 1040-WHO and seen each week on television on Mediacom's "Cy-Hawk Talk: State of the Nations" on Connections Channel throughout 500,000 homes in Iowa.)