If I had a vote in the AP Poll
1. Ohio State (12-0)…The unquestioned #1 team in the land, for at least the next 50 days. The Buckeyes are trying to become just the third team in the last 25 years – and the first since Florida State in 1999 – to go wire-to-wire atop the national polls.
2. Michigan (11-1)…The Wolverines still have the best resume of any of the 1-loss teams, for now, and they're the only team in the country with two wins over the current BCS top 10.
3. USC (9-1)…The young Trojans are probably the only team standing in the way of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch from occurring. But to become that fly in the ointment that must beat their two biggest rivals on consecutive weeks.
4. Arkansas (10-1)…Razorbacks need style points the next two weeks to be taken seriously for the national championship, and that won't be easy against the two most talented teams in the SEC.
5. Florida (10-1)…Just playing Western Carolina hurt the Gators in the BCS computers, and they'll have to humiliate the mediocre Seminoles this weekend to get any credit for that win, too.
6. Louisville (9-1)…The Cardinals were the big winners in the Big East over the weekend. The loss by the Scarlet Knights now gives them the inside track on representing the league in the BCS.
7. West Virginia (9-1)…With their impressive travelling fan base, the Mountaineers might be an attractive at-large choice for the BCS if they can win out the rest of the way.
8. Notre Dame (10-1)…The Irish are already in the BCS, but won't be a factor in the national title race regardless of what happens at USC. But in terms of pride and recruiting this game is huge for their program.
10. Texas (9-2)…The Longhorns still need to beat their instate rivals this week to secure the right to defend their Big 12 title.
11. Oklahoma (9-2)…Instead of doing some scoreboard watching this weekend, the Sooners better beware of a potential ambush in Stillwater this weekend.
13. Georgia Tech (9-2)…The Yellowjackets are now the favorite to win the ACC and make their first ever appearance in the BCS.
14. Auburn (10-2)…Hard to believe the Plainsmen are disappointed by a 10-win season and a fifth straight win in the Iron Bowl, but given the expectations going into 2006 they probably ought to be.
17. Virginia Tech (9-2)…The Hokies might be the best team in the ACC right now, but their inconsistency early in the season cost them a shot at the conference title.
18. Boston College (9-2)…Another solid season by Tom O'Brien's club, but it probably won't end with a berth in the ACC title game.
19. Brigham Young (9-2)…I still think that on a neutral field the Cougars would beat Boise State by two touchdowns.
20. Wake Forest (9-2)…Despite the bad showing at home in primetime the Demon Deacons still have the inside track to make the ACC title game.
23. California (8-3)…That long Rose Bowl wait for the Golden Bears just got a little longer. Will they be more inspired at the Holiday Bowl this time around?
24. Maryland (8-3)…Another ACC team that did it with mirrors this season and took advantage of a down year by the Florida schools.
25. Clemson (8-3)…One of the more talented teams in the country, the Tigers have missed a great opportunity to re-stake their claim atop the ACC this season.
My Heisman Ballot (at this point who should get invited to New York)
Taking Stock on the Football Coaching Search
So far there have been six names that I've heard the most prominently involved with the now vacant head football coach position at Iowa State. That doesn't include the likes of LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizek, neither of whom I believe is interested in coming to Ames based on what I've heard.
So, with the understanding that I'm only going off of the information we have – or think we have – and by offering up the caveat that this situation is very fluid at the moment, here is how my big board of ISU football coaching candidates looks at the moment (along with some blunt assessments on each):
- Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa— I know his team has struggled the past few weeks, but that actually might enhance the Cyclones' chances of nabbing him. In terms of organization, class, and preparation, he is the total coaching package. And he comes from a region that is must for recruiting at ISU. Most reminds me of…Kirk Ferentz.
- Brian Kelly, Central Michigan— Took over a once-proud program that was in shambles when he arrived and will have them in the MAC Championship Game and a bowl game in just his third season. Aggressive play-caller that employs an attacking spread offensive scheme. A coach's coach, he built Grand Valley State into one of the great Division II programs ever. Has paid his dues and will pay off big time for the BCS conference school that eventually hires him. Most reminds me of…Greg McDermott.
- Mike Price, UTEP— Maybe it's my Christian faith, but I'm a sucker for good redemption stories after someone pays their dues for falling from grace. One of the greatest programs in the country – Alabama – once thought enough of him to make him their head coach. True, a scandal cost him that job. But remember that he got money, a lot of money, from the national publication that blew it out of proportion. Turned Washington State into a Pac-10 power, and has made the Miners respectable again. An offensive guy with a quick wit and a lot of charm. Recruiting contacts on the West Coast and Texas are attractive, but is Cyclone Nation ready for another former Cougar as head coach? Age may also be a factor. Most reminds me of…Joe Tiller.
- Tim Brewster, Denver Broncos— He was thought to be a front-runner right away but last we heard there hadn't been any specific contact yet from ISU about the job. Has a decent resume and is known as an ace recruiter, other than that I don't know enough else to say more. Most remind me of…Your guess is as good as mine.
- Jim Harbaugh, San Diego— It's odd to me as a lifelong Michigan fan that grew up idolizing Harbaugh and wearing his No. 4 jersey that I seem to be the lone dissenter on him coming to ISU. I understand he's a fresh face, was a great player, and has enjoyed great success in the Pioneer League. But it's a huge jump from Division I-AA non-scholarship football to the Big 12. He's never recruited at this level, heck he's never even been an assistant coach on the Division I-A level anywhere so what kind of staff can he put together? He's also had two major issues in his private life recently, the kind you need to look at before you invest millions of dollars in someone, and those could be why he wasn't hired by San Diego State in his own back yard just one year ago. This would be a huge gamble, and if it pays off it's quite likely he bolts on the next train to Ann Arbor. If it doesn't pay off it's quite likely this hiring sets your program back at least five years. You don't fire the guy who was Big 12 Coach of the Year three seasons ago and replace him with a coach from the Pioneer League. Most reminds me of…Steve Alford.
- Jay Norvell, Nebraska— Not sure why you fire Dan McCarney just to replace him with one of his former assistants? If you're looking for a qualified minority candidate, which is a noble gesture, I think you're looking in the wrong place here. Charley Strong, assistant head coach at Florida, is a far more qualified minority assistant coach, and one of the hot names in the country. In fact, Tony Alford would be a far better choice for ISU than Norvell. Most reminds me of…Somebody we should aim higher than.
Potential Wildcard: Phil Bennett, SMU—While Jamie Pollard was interviewing candidates in Dallas on Friday, I'm wondering if he noticed the job this former Kansas State assistant is doing? Bennett has guided the Mustangs to bowl eligibility for just the second time since they got the death penalty in 1987, and he did it by beating Kragthorpe and Tulsa in a historic comeback over the weekend. Is a native Texan with extensive recruiting contacts in that key state. Known as a defensive wizard for his work at K-State and LSU and was once an all-SWC player at Texas A&M. Most reminds me of…A guy we should be talking to.
(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. His opinions are just that, his opinions, and not necessarily the opinions of Cyclone Nation staff.)