Ouimet's Top 25 (Final)

The Associated Press ranked Michigan No. 6 in its final poll, and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll ranked the Wolverines No. 7. Was former U-M staffer Mark Ouimet more strict or more lenient with the Wolverines? <br><br> Here is Ouimet's final Top 25, along with his anaylsis of each team -- and particularly a look at why U-M lost to the Trojans.

1. USC – The Trojans defeated the Wolverines with the passing ability of QB Matt Leinart and the great protection he was getting from his offensive line, while also having two great receivers in Mike Williams and Keary Colbert. They are a solid team and should have been in the National Title game down in New Orleans. Their defense showed up to play and found ways to get to Quarterback John Navarre with nine sacks on the day. So they will share the National Title in my poll with LSU, but watch out for the Trojans with the young team coming back next year and we know that Coach Carroll will be looking for that BCS Title game.

2. LSU – They deserve to be national champions and that is why there are two number ones in my poll. Unfortunately the two best teams in the country did not play each other this year. QB Matt Mauck played a solid game with the rest of the Tiger offense, but the defense was the story all year long. There will be some guys leave early from this defense, so it is hard to say how good they will be next year. They definitely deserve to be co-champions with the Trojans and watch out again next year for this team. How many kids will leave early and will QB Matt Mauck come back for another year as Nick Saban will try for back to back years?

3. Oklahoma – This is where I slotted the Sooners before the National Title game and this is where I have them today. There is no doubt in my mind that they are the third best team in this country and deserve this ranking. They played against the best defense in the Country in New Orleans and came up a bit short. They have had two losses in a row, but they are a very talented team that beat on the rest of the Big 12 until the Championship game and than lost to the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooner defense held there own, but in the end the Sooners couldn't overcome the overall talent and team speed that the Tigers brought to New Orleans.

4. Miami (Fl) – The Hurricanes defeated the Seminoles for the second time this year, but it was a little closer the second time around. QB Brock Berlin delivered again in the Orange Bowl and RB Jarrett Payton had an outstanding day has he took care of the Seminole defense with 22 carries and 131 yards in an MVP performance way in Miami. He just showed that the 97 yards in had in October was no fluke has he was able to out do the performance the second time around and finish his career as a Hurricane in style. The Hurricanes finished with a win, but will lose at least three guys to the NFL early and possible more before it is said and done with by next week. This team will be good next year with a solid nucleus, but how good is the real question?

5. Ohio State – The Buckeyes always were in control with this game, but Kansas State came back fighting, while the Buckeyes scored enough to win in the 35-28 game in Arizona. WR Michael Jenkins had two Touchdowns catches in the win and the Cougar defense couldn't stop what the Buckeyes were doing offensively. Now they are going to lose DB Chris Gamble along with many seniors, so it will be interesting to see how the Buckeyes will open the season. They have plenty of talent to replace what they are losing, but how they will gel at the start of the season will be the biggest challenge.

6. Georgia – The Bulldogs won the Capital One Bowl game in Overtime defeated Purdue 34-27. QB David Greene was named the bowls MVP throwing 327 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs raced out to a 24-0 lead, but the Boilermakers played tough with a great fourth quarter. The Bulldogs Kicker Billy Bennett was one of the keys to the game with a pair of field goals and helped pave the way with the bowl win and an 11-3 finish on the year. They will finish this season in the Top 10, but will have to replace some key players.

7. Iowa – The Hawkeye's were able to shut down the Gators with a 37-17 victory in front of a capacity crowd at Raymond James Stadium. RB Fred Russell was the MVP with 150 yards rushing, while QB Nathan Chandler threw for 170 yards. The Hawkeye defense limited the Gators to 57 yards rushing, while the special teams chipped in a punt block for a touchdown in the third quarter. The Hawkeye's finished the season with its second straight 10 win season, which is the first time in its history with back to back 10 win seasons. This will be tough to repeat for Coach Ferentz, but he definitely has this program in the right direction. Look for another solid year in 2004!

8. Miami (Oh) – They Red Hawks manhandled Bowling Green again to win the MAC Championship in Bowling Green and than took care of Louisville at the GMAC Bowl game. They now going to lose there QB Ben Roethlisberger to the NFL draft and will have a tough time replacing him for next years season. They open up with Michigan, so the Red Hawks will be tested early in the year.

9. Michigan – They won the Big Ten and had a solid season under Coach Carr, but ran into the National Champions this year in the Rose Bowl. The Trojans played outstanding defense and were able to get to QB John Navarre for nine sacks on the day. USc obviously watched the tape of the Oregon game and based their defensive game plan on that: Oregon brought pressure but U-M protected fairly well protected ... USC brought more pressure, and also confused John Navarre with its blitz and coverage packages (the USC defensive coordinator: Coach Carroll). It was a tough game for Michigan, but the offense was able to have success at times throughout the game. The Wolverine's one turnover, the interception, hurt them as it turned into a quick seven points for the Trojans and it was tough for the Wolverines to bounce back.
-- Defensively, Michigan gave up 6.8 yds per play because there were too many big plays -- USC has six receivers with catches of 14 yards or more. And Matt Leinart was very accurate, and as usual he was excellent on reads and attacking the defense. Plus the USC offensive line did great job blocking -- Michigan had only 1 sack. Also USC had no penalties and didn't turn the ball over until it was too late.
-- Coach Carr has a good group of kids coming back next year and look for a solid recruiting class that we build the foundation even more for the future. The Red Hawks come to town early in the season, so the will be tested by the best MAC team to open the season!

10. Florida State – Well they lost to the Hurricanes for the second time this season and it was the fifth time a Seminole kicker has missed a decisive kick in this rivalry. QB Chris Rix was 2 of 12 in the second half alone and the Hurricanes out gained Florida State 375 yards to 206 yards. The defense gave up 218 yards rushing and anytime you give that kind of yardage up it is hard to win a bowl game. But let's not forget they open the season next year and they now will be in the same conference playing for the conference title instead of a possible national championship.

11. Washington State – The Cougars played well all game and beat the Longhorns with a defensive stand late in the fourth quarter in the 28-20 victory in the Holiday Bowl game. Special teams play was very important has Punter Kyle Basler being named the defensive MVP while in the process pinning the Longhorns inside their 5-yard line four times. The Cougars won 10 games for the third straight year, while finishing the season 10-3 with that huge win over Texas. The Cougar defense was able to hold the Longhorns to just 131 yards rushing with Cedric Benson only gaining 83 yards, which is the main reason the Cougars left this bowl game with a victory. The defense came to play and hopefully Coach Doba can use that to build next year's team.

12. Texas – The Longhorns couldn't get anything going in the first three quarters against Washington State and were down 26-10, while RB Cedric Benson was held to 83 yards on the day. They tried a comeback late, but the Cougar defense made a stand and Coach Brown seems to lose the big games continuously throughout his coaching career. Coach Brown will now be able to focus on what he does best, which is recruiting! After this talented team just lost in the Holiday Bowl to the Cougars the Longhorns will need a good spring to get the kids back focused for next year.

13. Mississippi – QB Eli Manning close the year out completing 22 of 31 for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl victory over the Cowboys. The Rebels finished the year with 10 wins and Eli should have won the Heisman, but he didn't and will move on to the NFL with a wonderful career ahead of him. He threw for 3,600 yards and 29 Touchdowns this season and Coach Cutcliffe will have a touch time replacing those numbers next year. He also finished with a school record 10,119 yards in his career, which is the fifth time to happen in the SEC.

14. Tennessee – The Vols were upset by the Tigers in the Peach Bowl with Tiger RB Chad Jasmin rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown in the Volunteer loss. The Vols leading receiver James Banks was suspended in the first half has the Tigers got out to a 24-14 lead and could never overcome that deficit in the second half. QB Casey Clausen closed out his career as a Volunteer and now Coach Fulmer will have to replace the veteran Quarterback, but they do have a good solid group coming back for next year depending on any early defections to the NFL.

15. Boise State – The Broncos ended the season with 13 straight victories and a Fort Worth Bowl game win. QB Ryan Dinwiddie finished his career as the most efficient passer in college football. He threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the victory with his last throw to WR Derek Schouman for an 18 yard touchdown to seal the victory. The Broncos have won 24 of their last 25 games and this program is in great shape for the future, but will not be an easy task replacing this Bronco Quarterback next year. That was a great victory considering it was in the Horned Frogs back yard and look for more in the future from Coach Hawkins Bronco team!

16. Kansas State – The Fiesta Bowl game didn't turn out the way the Cougars were hoping for, while the Buckeye Quarterback Craig Krenzel had a career high four touchdown passes. The Cougars were held off by the Buckeyes and couldn't overcome the Buckeye lead even though QB Ell Roberson tried to in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl. Ell Roberson played this game under some uncertainty, but the Cougars went down fighting and if the defense could have come up with some more plays that might have won this bowl game. Now the Cougars will get ready for next year and hopefully for Coach Snyder's sake they will not lose RB Darren Sproles to the NFL.

17. Nebraska – They can't find a football Coach, but Coach Pelini did a fine job in preparing this football team for the bowl game in San Antonio. The Corn Huskers came up with a good defensive effort and a 17-3 victory in the Alamo Bowl game. It looks like Coach Pelini will be moving onto Oklahoma if he isn't named Head Coach soon and will be named Co-Defensive Coordinator. The Cornhusker team finished the season at 10-3, which will be hard expectations for the new coach that steps in! It will be a good program in the future and they better find the right guy soon or will fall further behind in recruiting this year.

18. Minnesota – This Sun Bowl game was a close one that went down to the wire and Coach Mason should say thank you to Coach Bellotti for using his two timeouts at the end of the game. That was a huge victory for this Gopher program and look for Coach Mason to get a contract extension after this great season. They had some tough losses to Michigan and Michigan State, but bounced back to finish the season with 10 wins. They do lose a few players, but the biggest loss will be the departure of Quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq.

19. Maryland – QB Scott McBrien threw for a career high 381 yards in a 41-7 victory over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. The Terps have now defeated the Mountaineers four times in the last three years by an average score of 35-13, which is total dominance and it has helped they get ahead fast against them. The Terps broke the Mountaineers seven game winning streak and QB Scott McBrien was 21 of 33 for the day and finished his career 21-6 with three of those win against the Mountaineers. This was a great finish for the Terps after starting off the season with a couple of losses.

20. Utah – The Mountain West Conference champions finished the season with back to back shutouts and tied a school record set in 1994 with 10 victories. Coach Meyer has done a great job up in Utah and with the two close losses coming to Texas A&M and New Mexico. Coach Meyer is in the hunt for the Nebraska job, but the security at Utah might be too much to give up for the family. The Utes didn't have a problem with the Golden Eagles and pretty much whipped them all day long. RB Brandon Warfield had 27 carries for 91 yards and scored one touch down in the shutout win, which was the first one in this bowl game since 1994 when Illinois beat East Carolina 30-0. The Utes were able to stop the Golden Eagles winning streak at six, but it was mostly by the effort of the defense and not the 228 total yards by the Ute offense.

21. Bowling Green – QB Josh Harris passed for 386 yards and three touchdowns in the 28-24 victory in the Motor City Bowl game. The Northwestern defense confused the Falcon offense early and took away the running game, but when the Falcons settled down they were able to move the ball. It is a good thing the Falcon offense was happen to outscore the Wildcats, because Wildcat RB Jason Wright ran for 237 yards on 21 carries. With the Falcon victory they finished the season strong and will be atop of the MAC next year also as they will try to make another run at the title. Remember this is the same team that beat Purdue and lost two Ohio State by seven, while also losing to Miami of Ohio twice.

22. Purdue – The Bulldogs got out to a fast start in the first half building a 24-0 lead, but the Boilermakers tied the game with a 17 point fourth quarter performance in the Capital Bowl game. The Boilermakers were able to get a break with the fumble and tie the game which forced overtime with Kicker Ben Jones 44 yard field goal, but the Bulldogs were able to finish off the Boilermakers in overtime for the victory. It was a tough loss for the Boilermakers, which gave them four on the season. Coach Tiller made some good adjustments at the half and was able to get QB Kyle Orton back in the game after the injury to his hand, which he completed 20 of 34 for 230 yards in the process of bringing the Boilermakers back from the deficit.

23. Clemson – It has been a rough season for the Tigers and Coach Bowden, but a huge victory over the Vols in the Peach bowl with a 27-14 victory. RB Chad Jasmin ran for a career high 130 yards and a touchdown against the Volunteer defense, while RB Kyle Browning and Duane Coleman also had touchdown runs. This was the Tigers fourth straight victory and they are now in the Top 25. Coach Bowden bounced back from some turmoil earlier in the year, but was able to deliver some big wins down the stretch to save his job.

24. Florida – It has been a tough year for Coach Zook, which was capped off with an Outback bowl loss to Iowa. The Gator defense could not stop the Hawkeye offense or RB Fred Russell, but the Gators will have a lot of talent coming back. QB Chris Leak should be able to grow into more of the Gator offense this summer and look for a better offensive effort all year long. Coach Zook is going to need a good year or the pressure is going to mount, especially after having this 37-17 loss from the Hawkeye's.

25. TCU – The Broncos were able to win on the Horned Frogs campus with a 34-31 victory and they were unable to slow down Bronco QB Ryan Dinwiddie in the process. It was a tight game and Kicker Mike Wynn was well short on the 52 yard field goal attempt to with 7 seconds left in the game. The Horned Frogs had its school record 13 game home winning streak snapped, but did finish the season 11-2. Coach Patterson has done a good job since he has taken of the program and look for continued success from the Horned Frogs.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories