NATIONAL TOP 25
(Note: This is not a talent ranking of how good these teams are, but rather a look at how they'll perform against their remaining schedules and where they'll be ranked on January 5.)
Here is the first real test for the Trojans, and here is betting they do not hang 70 in Eugene, perhaps the toughest environment in the country.
Virginia Tech has held opponents scoreless the last eight quarters, and out of the end zone the last 11. I do not know if they can escape that ACC schedule unblemished, but if the Hokies were to meet USC in the Rose Bowl, I'll always take a shutdown defense over an explosive offense.
If Mack Brown does not beat Oklahoma this year… On the other hand, the Sooners' season has pretty much been reduced to that one game, so you know they will be fired up.
After the "W" against Oregon State, the Cards can shift into cruise control and likely roll to an undefeated season. Considering the weak schedule and the prolific offense, is less asked of any Division I-A defense?
Don't want to read too much into just a few weeks, but the Gators, Vols, and Tigers all look beatable for this Bulldog squad.
Just one more "W" (against Georgia) all but puts the Gators in the SEC title game, but where was that mighty spread offense against Tennessee?
Win this week's battle of unbeatens, then down Notre Dame the next week, and the Boilers can legitimately start dreaming about an undefeated season.
8. LSU (2-0, LW: #7)
Last week: Bye
This week: vs. #11 Tennessee
LSU enjoyed a bye week to prepare for Tennessee, while the Vols poured their hearts out in the Swamp. Advantage: Tigers.
This conference battle could end up meaning even more than the Texas game. It could come down to who best bounces back from their disappointing loss two weeks ago.
The ‘Noles displayed nice grit in coming back in Chestnut Hill. If they keep winning tight games against quality opponents, the sky's the limit.
11. Tennessee – That loss to Florida is a killer, but a win at LSU this week would ease the pain and keep national and conference aspirations alive.
15. Arizona State – This offense has broken 50 against every opponent this season except LSU. Is anyone banking on Oregon State bucking the trend this week after Louisville hung 63 on the Beavers last Saturday?
17. Notre Dame - Too often we have seen the Irish start off fast, only for one loss to set off an avalanche. Let's see if Weis is worthy of all the preseason hype and reverses the trend against former Irish coach Tyrone Willingham and the downtrodden Washington Huskies.
18. Oregon – The Trojans are coming. The Trojans are coming… The offense should be able to score, and the front seven is decent, but the Ducks better hope that secondary has sorted itself out. The "W" against Fresno State last week deserves mention.
19. West Virginia – That win against Syracuse is looking a lot better now that the Orange took Virginia to the wire last week. On talent, this team is still not sniffing the top-40 though. Welcome to the Big East.
20. Wisconsin – Michigan has been this team's kryptonite the past few years, so with a "W" in Camp Randall this weekend, who knows how far the Badgers can go?
21. UCLA – Are the Bruins that good or the Sooners that bad? Maybe it's a little bit of both.
22. Boston College – The Clemson visit this week should go a long way in sorting out the ACC pecking order.
23. Alabama – With the air poked out of Notre Dame's balloon, look for the inevitable "return to glory" features to have Tuscaloosa bylines in the upcoming weeks. Arkansas visits this week, and Florida comes calling the next.
24. Texas Tech – Indiana State this week. The over/under for this one should be about 100.
25. Michigan State – The Spartans always seem to crest against Notre Dame, but a nice win nonetheless. This week's breather against Illinois precedes their biggest game of the season – a visit from Michigan in two weeks.
Honorary 26. Vanderbilt – Huge win against Ole Miss moves the Commodores to 3-0. With the next two games against Richmond and Middle Tennessee State, the perennial doormat of the SEC East can taste a bowl game... but how huge would an upset be against one of the SEC heavies (Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, or LSU) in the final six games?
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
After a crazy first couple of weeks, college football returned to a relative state of stability this past Saturday. (Well, at least outside Palo Alto.) Sure, Notre Dame was upset, and Oklahoma dropped to 1-2. But neither of those results was entirely unexpected, à la Oklahoma's initial loss to TCU, Tennessee and Cal's near-collapses, Pitt's loss to Ohio or Michigan's loss to Notre Dame. With a slew of quality opponents squaring off this weekend (the three games below, plus Michigan/Wisconsin, Boston College/Clemson, etc.), this week could mark a return to the insanity of early September.
On the eve of conference play – let's update the preseason projections:
Preseason Predicted Champ: Virginia Tech
Today: Virginia Tech
If anything, I am more confident in this squad than I was a few weeks ago. North Carolina State is out of the way, and the Florida schools look weak.
Preseason Predicted Champ: Louisville
This is the gimme call, but West Virginia just needs one upset to earn the BCS berth. Imagine the outrage if West Virginia is in on the automatic bid while a two-loss power (Ohio State, Michigan, SEC squad etc.) is relegated to the Citrus Bowl.
Preseason Predicted Champ: Michigan
Who knows? Neither Michigan nor Iowa are good enough to run the table, and Ohio State has to travel to Ann Arbor. Maybe, after the dust clears, the Boilers will be the only team left standing. The fact that they do not have an out-of-conference loss could well serve as a tiebreak.
Preseason Predicted Champ: Oklahoma
Just one win puts Oklahoma back on top, though, and Texas has a history of blowing those games…
Preseason Predicted Champ: USC
They're not that good, but where does the loss come? Maybe this weekend in Eugene?
Preseason Predicted Champ: Georgia
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Last week: Well, after an 0-3 week one, 1-2 both against the spread and straight-up should be commended in week two. I'm going to stop being cute picking upsets, and hopefully that can push me north of .500 in short order.
1. USC at Oregon – Take the over on this one, but at the end of the day I would rather trust Matt Leinart than Kellen Clemens. USC's offensive line versus Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is the match up of the day. USC 35, Oregon 21.
2. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech – Early-season contests often separate the contenders from the pretenders. I do not see any way Georgia Tech tops 17, and this game has blowout written all over it. Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 3.
3. Tennessee at LSU – "@ LSU" is somewhat of a misnomer because of the Katrina fallout, but I still like the Tigers. The way I see it, neither team has consistent quarterback play, and LSU's defense is a whole bunch scarier. LSU 24, Tennessee 10.
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