Though it's still early, here are my candidates for this year's most overrated and underrated teams:
USC - The Trojans aren't as good as last year's team. Two of their four wins have been less than impressive. A soft schedule will probably allow them to play for the National Championship, though.
Ohio St. - The Buckeyes have home games remaining with Wisconsin and Michigan and visits to Iowa and Purdue. Two losses are likely.
Georgia - If the Bulldogs can defeat LSU and Tennessee in Athens the next two weeks, I'll apologize.
Minnesota - The Gophers first real test will come on a visit to Michigan on October 9th.
Purdue - Everyone talks about Boilermakers' offense. Their defense is surprisingly good too.
Virginia - Al Groh's recruiting efforts have finally paid off. This team is loaded with top athletes.
Fresno St. - The Bulldogs have one of the better offensive lines in college football. A visit to Boise St. on October 23rd will be the key.
Louisville - Coach Bobby Petrino has finally developed a defense to go along with his high-powered offense. The Cardinals will challenge West Virginia for Big East supremacy next season.
Here's a summary of last week's games:
J.D. Brookhart recorded his first win at Akron as the Zips prevailed 24-19 at Kent State. Senior QB Charlie Frye found WR Domenik Hixon with two TD passes in the first half and Akron survived a 4th quarter rally by the Golden Flashes. Both teams are now 1-3.
As usual, #4 Miami came up with the big plays when needed to defeat Houston 38-13. Senior QB Brock Berlin had an off-night, completing 13-23 passes for only 99 yards and no TDs. Berlin was under heavy pressure much of the game and was sacked seven times. However, Miami's ground game was productive enough as sophomore Tyrone Moss scored twice and junior Frank Gore added another TD. Miami's special teams and defense were instrumental in the victory. Sophomore Tavares Gooden recovered a blocked Cougar punt in the end zone and fellow sophomore DE Baraka Atkins rumbled 58 yards for another TD after recovering a fumble. Though Miami's defense did allow their first touchdown of the season, they were tough in the red zone. Houston came up with only 13 points in five trips inside the Hurricanes' 20 yard line.
Northern Illinois scored 17 points in the 3rd quarter breaking a 7-7 halftime tie and went on to defeat Bowling Green 34-17. The Huskies' 2nd half surge was led by back-up RB Garrett Wolfe, who replaced injured starter A.J. Harris late in the 2nd quarter. Wolfe gained 202 yards on 31 carries and scored 3 TDs. Bowling Green QB Omar Jacobs completed 29-42 passes for 275 yards in a losing effort.
#21 Boise State extended their winning streak to 15 games, the best in D1A, but it sure wasn't easy. The Broncos needed a late TD pass and a missed field goal in the final seconds to squeak past BYU 28-27. Boise St. opened up a quick 16-0 lead but the Cougars rallied to take a 27-22 lead on a 57 yard pass from QB John Beck to Austin Collie in the final seconds of the 3rd quarter. The only score of the final period came on a 44 yard pass from Boise State's sophomore QB Jared Zabransky to senior WR T.J. Acree with 3:42 remaining. BYU had one final chance to pull the game out, but senior kicker Matt Payne missed a 38 yard field goal with 23 seconds left.
#6 West Virginia crushed D1AA James Madison 45-10 in Morgantown. After a scoreless 1st quarter, the Mountaineers broke the game open with three 2nd quarter TDs, the last coming on a 21 yard fumble return by senior MLB Adam Lehnortt. James Madison's defense did a good job of shutting down WVU's powerful rushing attack, but could not stop senior QB Rasheed Marshall. Marshall completed 17-22 passes for 184 yards and two TDs, both to his favorite target sophomore WR Chris Henry. The Dukes only TD came in the 4th quarter on a fumble return by DT Brandon Beach.
Connecticut rebounded from their loss to Boston College by routing Army 40-3. The loss was the 15th in a row for the Black Knights, the longest current streak in D1A. Senior QB Dan Orlovsky led the Huskies to victory completing 25-34 passes for 288 yards and 4 TDs, two to senior WR Keron Henry. UConn's ground game was also effective. The Huskies gained 199 yards, 111 coming from sophomore Cornell Brockington.
Pittsburgh had their hands full with D1AA power Furman. After the Panthers' senior OLB Malcolm Postell returned an interception 44 yards for a TD to put Pitt ahead 14-7, the Paladins stormed back behind QB Ingle Martin with 24 straight points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to take a shocking 31-14 lead. Pittsburgh needed 3 touchdowns in the final 11:33 to tie the game, the last coming on a 38 yard pass from sophomore QB Tyler Palko to fellow sophomore TE Steve Buches. Furman's kicker Scott Beckler missed a 37 yard field goal on their first possession in overtime. The Panthers then won the game on a 37 yarder by junior kicker Josh Cummings. The Panthers' defense struggled all day against Furman's wide-open offense. However, they were saved by a great performance by Palko, who hit on 30-36 passes for 380 yards and 3 TDs, two to Buches. Junior RB Raymond Kirkley added 108 yards on 26 carries.
Navy improved to 4-0 with a hard-fought 29-26 win over Vanderbilt in Annapolis. The Middies were led by senior QB Aaron Polanco, who passed for a career-high 176 yards and rushed for another 84. The game was deadlocked 14-14 at intermission. Vanderbilt went ahead 19-14 early in the 3rd quarter on a blocked punt out of the end zone and a 44 yard field goal by sophomore Patrick Johnson. Navy stormed back with two TDs, the final one coming on a 22 yard scramble by Polanco. The Commodores closed to within 29-26 on a TD pass from junior QB Jay Cutler to Marlon White with 2;30 remaining, but Navy held on for the win. The loss dropped Vanderbilt to 0-3.
#8 Florida St. survived a record setting performance by Clemson's junior return man Justin Miller to defeat the Tigers 41-22 in the annual "Bowden Bowl." Miller broke the NCAA record for kickoff return yardage with 282. Two of his six returns went for TDs of 97 and 86 yards. However, Clemson's offense was nearly
non-existent. Junior QB Charlie Whitehurst threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles. One interception was returned 31 yards for a TD in the 2nd quarter by Seminoles' senior CB Leroy Smith. The Tigers could only muster 173 yards of total offense, including just 23 in the 2nd half. FSU's sophomore back-up QB Wyatt Sexton replaced injured starter Chris Rix and completed 17-26 passes for 162 yards and a TD.
#9 Auburn drubbed D1AA Citadel 33-3. The Tigers led 23-0 at intermission as senior QB Jason Campbell completed 11-14 passes for 194 yards and a TD and senior RB Cadillac Williams ran 22 times for 95 yards and a score. Auburn was able to play their reserves for virtually the entire 2nd half. The Tigers may have found their RB of the future as redshirt freshman Carl Steward ran for 91 yards and a TD on only 10 carries.
#11 Tennessee stormed from behind with 21 second quarter points to defeat Louisiana Tech 42-17. The Vols trailed 14-7 after the 1st quarter, but rallied behind the passing of freshman QB Erik Ainge. Ainge completed 10-15 passes for 198 yards and 3 TDs, two to Bret Smith. Tennessee's ground game was also potent, rolling up 347 yards as senior Cedric Houston gained 160 yards and scored twice and sophomore Gerald Riggs added a career-high 116 yards on 16 carries. It was the first time the Vols had two runners go over 100 yards in a game since 1994.
#12 Virginia had no problems with Syracuse. The Cavaliers crushed the Orange 31-10 behind the passing and rushing of junior QB Marques Hagans. Hagans had TD runs of 59 and 27 yards and threw for 202 yards and another score. Junior RB Wali Lundy chipped in with a 27 yard TD run. It was Lundy's 10th TD of the year for the 4-0 Cavs.
#13 LSU took out their frustrations from last week's loss to Auburn on Mississippi State. The Tigers' Alley Broussard scored 3 TDs in the first 17 minutes as LSU mauled the Bulldogs 51-0. After struggling against Auburn, LSU's offense was unstoppable, running up 594 yards. The Tigers' defense was equally impressive, holding Mississippi St. to only 7 first downs and 130 yards. They also forced five turnovers.
In a game moved up 6.5 hours to avoid Hurricane Jeanne, #16 Florida got by Kentucky 20-3. The Gators broke a 3-3 tie early in the 2nd quarter on a 46 yard TD run by junior Ciatrick Faison. Faison finished with a career-high 210 yards and also added the clinching TD. Sophomore QB Chris Leak hit on 25-43 passes for 261 yards but had 3 passes picked off, preventing the Gators from pulling away. Kentucky's offense could only manage 10 first downs and 207 yards of total offense.
# 23 Maryland put on an offensive display in a 55-21 rout of Duke. The Terrapins amassed 35 first downs and 685 yards of total offense. Sophomore QB Joel Statham completed 22-37 passes for 362 yards and 4 TDs. Three of Statham's scoring strikes went to sophomore WR Vernon Davis. Statham's day wasn't perfect, though. He also threw three interceptions and fumbled three times. The only highlight for the Blue Devils was a 94 yard kick off return for a TD by Chris Davis.
#24 Louisville shut out North Carolina 34-0 in Chapel Hill. The Cardinals RB combo of junior Eric Shelton and sophomore Michael Bush led the way for the Cardinals. Shelton rushed for 86 yards and 3 TDs and Bush added 82 yards. Louisville only led 10-0 at the half, but broke open the game with two 3rd quarter TDs. In recording their 2nd shutout of the season, Louisville held the Tar Heels' offense to 222 yards.
Wake Forest needed a 40 yard TD pass from junior QB Cory Randolph to sophomore WR Willie Idlette with just over one minute to play to edge Boston College 17-14. Randolph completed 11-19 passes for 141 yards for the Demon Deacons. Boston College had taken their first lead of the game, 14-10, on an 11 yard TD run by A.J. Brooks with 9:08 remaining. Eagles' senior QB Paul Peterson completed 21-38 passes for 269 yards and one TD, but B.C. was thwarted by three missed field goals by freshman Ryan Ohlinger.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer must be wondering what's happened to his previously outstanding special teams as the Hokies dropped a 17-16 heart breaker to North Carolina St. in Blacksburg. Sophomore kicker Brandon Pace missed a 43 yard field goal on the game's final play. The Wolfpack scored the winning TD in the 3rd quarter after recovering a fumbled snap by Hokies' senior punter Vinnie Burns at the five yard line. Freshman QB Marcus Stone tallied the TD on a one yard run. Junior RB T.A. McLendon added 93 yards rushing and a TD for North Carolina State. The Wolfpack's defense sacked Hokie QB Bryan Randall ten times and held the Hokies to 192 yards of offense.
Elsewhere, South Carolina got past stubborn Troy St. 17-7. In CUSA contests, Cincinnati edged East Carolina 24-19, Southern Mississippi whipped Tulane 32-14, and UAB upset Memphis 35-28.
#15 Purdue struggled past Illinois 38-30 in Champaign. The Boilermakers' senior QB, Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Orton, threw for 366 yards and 4 TDs,. Three of Orton's TD passes went to senior WR Taylor Stubblefield. In all, Purdue's powerful offense rolled up 515 yards. For the Illini, senior QB Jon Beutjer completed 22-37 passes for 215 yards and 3 TDs.
#18 Michigan broke a two game losing streak to Iowa with a convincing 30-17 win in Ann Arbor. Senior WR Braylon Edwards was the offensive star for the Wolverines with 6 receptions for a career-high 150 yards and a TD. Michigan's true freshman QB Chad Henne completed 16-26 passes for 236 yards. The real story was the Wolverines' defense. They forced five Iowa turnovers, including two interceptions of sophomore QB Drew Tate. Tate did pass for the Hawkeyes' only two TDs of the game, both to junior WR Ed Hinkel.
#19 Minnesota used a stable of talented running backs to overwhelm Northwestern 43-17. Sophomore Laurence Moroney rushed for 145 yards, including a 50 yard TD. Junior Marion Barber III carried 22 times for 86 yards and also tossed a 21 yard TD pass to junior WR Jared Ellison. Finally, freshman fullback Justin Valentine ran for 2 TDs and scored a 3rd on a 4 yard pass from QB Bryan Cupito.
#20 Wisconsin topped Penn St. 16-3 behind the running of 270 lb. junior RB Matt Bernstein. Bernstein, moved over from fullback to replace the Badgers top two RBs who are out with injuries, rushed for a career-high 123 yards. Wisconsin opened the scoring on a 5 yard bootleg by sophomore QB John Stocco. Senior kicker Mike Allen added 3 field goals for the Badgers. Penn State's only score came in the 3rd period on a 23 yard field goal by senior Robbie Gould. The Nittany Lions' offense was seriously impaired by injuries to their two top QBs. Starter Zack Mills injured his right shoulder on Penn State's first possession and his back-up, Michael Robinson, was forced to leave the game with a concussion. Third string QB Chris Ganter could only manage 6 completions in 23 attempts for 32 yards against the formidable Badger defense.
Notre Dame won their 3rd straight, 38-3 over Washington. Sophomore QB Brady Quinn tied a school record with 4 TD passes. Quinn completed 17-32 for 266 yards. Matt Shelton and Anthony Fasano each caught two of Quinn's TD tosses. Washington fell to 0-3, and 2nd year head coach Keith Gilbertson is surely feeling the heat in Seattle.
In a wild affair, Texas Tech outscored Kansas 20-0 in the 2nd half to nip the Jayhawks 31-30. Three plays after Kansas' kicker Scott Webb missed a 39 yard field goal that would have iced the win, Red Raiders' junior RB Taurean Henderson ran 70 yards for the winning TD. Henderson rushed for 169 yards and another score. Texas Tech had to overcome a mistake-filled game by senior QB Sonny Cumbie. Cumbie completed 28-52 passes for 356 yards and two TDs, but suffered four interceptions.
In other games, Michigan St. scored 23 unanswered 2nd half points to rally past Indiana 30-20 in Bloomington. Toledo overcame a slow start to rout Temple 45-17. Ball St. toppled Western Michigan 41-14. Eastern Michigan lost to D1AA Eastern Illinois 31-28. Finally, Ohio shut out winless Buffalo 30-0.
#5 Texas crushed Rice 35-13 in Austin. Senior RB Cedric Benson rushed for 189 yards and a TD for the Longhorns, who racked up 339 yards on the ground against the overmatched Owls. Sophomore QB Vince Young added 3 TD passes, two to junior TE David Thomas. Meanwhile, Texas' defense had little trouble containing Rice's wishbone offense. The Owls didn't score a TD until the final period when Texas' starters had long since departed.
Arkansas overcame a sluggish start to defeat Alabama 27-10. Senior QB Matt Jones ran for one TD and threw for another to lead the Razorbacks to victory. RB Ray Hudson rushed 20 times for 170 yards and a TD as Arkansas controlled the ball most of the game. Alabama's back-up QB, Marc Guillon, had a very difficult time in his first start replacing injured starter Brodie Croyle. Guillon completed only 6-18 passes for 57 yards and also threw an interception.
In the day's wildest game, South Florida defeated TCU 45-44 in double overtime, snapping the Horned Frogs'15 game home winning streak. Both teams had a player score 4 TDs. The Bulls' Andre Hall rushed 28 times for 119 yards and 3 TDs and also had 65 receiving yards and a TD. TCU's junior RB Lonta Hobbs ran for 2 TDs and had 2 TD receptions. South Florida scored the tying TD with 1:26 left on a 3 yard run by senior Clenton Crossley. Both teams scored TDs in the 1st overtime and South Florida went ahead 45-38 on another TD in the 2nd overtime. TCU's senior QB Brandon Hassell answered with a 16 yard TD scramble, but Horned Frogs' holder Reeves Dalton fumbled the snap on the PAT, providing a fitting ending to a bizarre game.
Elsewhere, Baylor defeated North Texas 37-14. Finally, congratulations to the SMU Mustangs! They snapped a school record 15 game losing streak with a 36-13 mauling of San Jose St.
#1 USC didn't look the part, needing a 2nd half rally to defeat Stanford 31-28 in Palo Alto. Stanford shredded the Trojans' vaunted defense for 291 yards and 28 points in the first half, including an 82 yard TD run by J.R. Lemon on the final play that gave the Cardinal a 28-17 lead. However, the 2nd half was all USC. Their defense held Stanford to only 36 yards while the Trojans' offense did just enough damage to win the game. Junior QB Matt Leinart scored on a one yard sneak in the 3rd quarter to close the gap to 28-24. The winning TD came on a 2 yard run by sophomore LenDale White with 6:15 remaining. Leinart had another solid game for USC, completing 24-30 passes for 308 yards and a TD to sophomore WR Steve Smith. Smith had 8 receptions for 153 yards. Stanford's sophomore QB Trent Edwards was impressive in defeat, completing 23-35 for 183 yards and 2 TDs.
#14 Utah had a tough time as usual with Air Force before finally prevailing 49-35. The Falcons jumped off to a quick 14-0 lead before the Utes responded with five TDs to take a 35-14 lead in the 3rd quarter. However, Air Force battled back with two consecutive touchdowns to get within seven at 35-28. Utah finally put the game away on a 4th quarter TD run by Marty Johnson. It was his 4th rushing TD of the game, tying the school record. Junior QB Alex Smith was solid as usual for the Utes. He completed 13-23 passes for 260 yards and 2 TDs and carried the ball 13 times for 84 yards and another score.
Turnovers were the difference as #22 Arizona St. improved to 4-0 with a 27-14 win over Oregon St. in Tempe. The Sun Devils had no turnovers, while the Beavers had five including a fumble by sophomore TE Joe Newton as he was about to score a TD that would have broken a 7-7 tie. Arizona St. played without their starting RB, sophomore Loren Wade, who was suspended for violating team rules. Wade's back-up, fellow sophomore Randy Hill, injured a knee in the 4th quarter and is through for the year. Sun Devil QB Andrew Walter had a rare off-day, completing only 16-40 for 124 yards and a TD. The Beavers' senior QB, Derek Anderson, completed 27-52 for 377 yards and a TD. However, he suffered 2 interceptions and also lost 2 fumbles.
Washington St. nipped Arizona 20-19 in Tucson. Arizona's rapidly improving defense recovered four Cougar fumbles, but it was a fumble by Wildcats' RB Gilbert Harris with 1:15 left that cost Arizona the win. Harris' fumble was recovered by Cougar safety Husain Abdullah on the Arizona 28 yard line. Three plays later, Washington State's sophomore QB Josh Swogger found WR Jason Hill with a game-winning 15 yard TD pass. Earlier in the final period, Swogger and Hill connected for another TD to put Washington St. ahead 14-13, but Arizona regained the lead on sophomore QB Kris Heavner's 2nd TD pass of the game.
In other games, Colorado St. routed D1AA Montana St. 39-14. New Mexico thrashed New Mexico St. 38-3. Oregon pounded D1AA Idaho 48-10. San Diego St. topped Nevada 27-10. Utah St. upset UNLV 31-21. Finally, Wyoming edged Mississippi 37-32.
Here's a look at this week's key games:
Pittsburgh @ Connecticut - This is the Huskies first ever Big East home game, and it's on national TV (ESPN2). A Panther loss would not help Walt Harris' chances of returning for his 9th season
Navy @ Air Force - The Commander-in-Chief's' Trophy used to belong to Air Force. The 4-0 Middies won it last season for the first time since 1981 and aim to retain it.
#14 Utah @ New Mexico - Utes suffered one of their two losses last year to the Lobos.
#4 Miami @ Georgia Tech - First ACC road game for the Hurricanes. Yellow Jackets have had an extra week off after upset loss to North Carolina. If Georgia Tech brings their "A Game," this one could be close.
#13 LSU @ #3 Georgia - Looks like the best game of the day. LSU can't afford a second conference loss.
#8 Auburn @ #10 Tennessee - Both teams come into the game undefeated.
#6 West Virginia @ Virginia Tech - One of the few obstacles in the way of an undefeated season for the Mountaineers. The Hokies need to fix their offense and special teams pronto.
Arkansas @ #16 Florida - The Gators cannot afford a 2nd conference loss. Head coach Ron Zook needs this victory badly! Hogs are 1-0 in the conference and very much alive for SEC-West title.
Wake Forest @ North Carolina St. - Both teams are coming off nice wins. Wolfpack would be most formidable if their QB play improves.
#17 Fresno St. @ Louisiana Tech - The "Battle of the Bulldogs." This is one of Fresno State's tougher remaining obstacles to an undefeated season.
Southern Mississippi @ South Florida - Both teams are 1-0 in CUSA.
#15 Purdue @ Notre Dame - Long time rivals figure to battle to the finish. Can the Irish defense slow down the Kyle Orton led Boilermaker's West Coast Offense?
#19 Michigan @ Indiana - Hoosiers don't seem to have enough firepower to stay with Wolverines.
Illinois @ #20 Wisconsin - Badgers defense should smother Illini's erratic offense.
Kansas @ Nebraska - Cornhuskers had a week off to prepare for the improved Jayhawks.
UAB @ Cincinnati - Both teams undefeated in CUSA play.
Texas Tech @ #2 Oklahoma - Red Raiders' potent offense will put up some points on Sooners, but not nearly enough.
Iowa St. @ #25 Oklahoma St. - Cyclones should be no problem for Cowboys in Big 12 opener for both teams.
Kansas St. @ Texas A&M - Both schools had an extra week off to prepare for their Big 12 opener. This game will answer a lot of questions about the Aggies.
#10 California @ Oregon St. - There are two big concerns for the Golden Bears. First, they haven't played since September 11th. Second, they could very well be looking ahead to next week's match-up with #1 USC. The Beavers are better than their 1-3 record would indicate, especially in Corvallis.
#21 Arizona St. @ Oregon - Ducks are always tough on their home pond, and Sun Devils have major injury/suspension problems at RB.
San Diego St. @ UCLA - Both teams were off last week. Aztecs' defense is good enough to cause some problems for the Bruins.