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.)
Don't look now, but Virginia Tech has won their last three games by an average of 47-2. They still have to face Top 25 foes B.C., Miami and Virginia in consecutive weeks, not to mention a potential ACC Title Tilt with Florida State, so whether the Hokies can run the table is admittedly a major question. However, if they do reach the Rose Bowl (which would also require a loss from Texas or USC), I don't see anyone beating that defense and those special teams, which combined for three touchdowns last week. USC is better offensively, but this squad plays better defense, is better on special teams, and has more experience in tight battles.
This team still has an 80% shot of reaching the Rose Bowl, and they will be prohibitive favorites against any opponent they meet there. The defense is starting to tighten, and you have to figure the lapses of concentration will be eliminated by January. After all, the Trojans sleepwalked through Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA last year, and it didn't seem to help Oklahoma any.
3. Texas (3-0, LW: #3)
Last week: Bye
This week: At Missouri
Texas faces a potential let-down game at Missouri, as Oklahoma looms on the horizon.
Maybe this defense is as good as Georgia's? We know the offense is light years ahead, so these Gators have to be the SEC East favorites for the time being. 49-0 at halftime against Kentucky – even Steve Spurrier would be proud.
5. Georgia (4-0, LW: #5)
Last week: Beat Mississippi State 23-10
This week: Bye
The margin is a bit tighter than you would like, but this defense-first Georgia squad is rarely going to hang 50. D.J. Shockley has crashed back to earth after the explosive Boise State start, though, and hence the drop.
If the demolition of Iowa is any indication, these Buckeyes look likely to run the table, especially considering the weakness of Michigan. If USC trips up in front of them, maybe we will see a Texas-Ohio State Rose Bowl rematch.
7. Florida State (3-0, LW: #10)
Last week: Bye
This week: vs. Syracuse
With USC receiving 80% of the national attention, and teams like Texas eagerly scooping up much of the rest, the ‘Noles are right where the want to be: under the radar. Miami is out of the way and there is no Virginia Tech until a potential ACC title game.
The Bears still quietly stand undefeated, but how will they fare against a team with a pulse?
The Vols showed great mettle knocking off LSU after losing to Florida and falling behind the Tigers 21-0. They still likely need Florida to lose twice in-conference for any SEC title aspirations.
10. LSU (1-1, LW: #8)
Last week: Lost to #9 Tennessee 30-27 (OT)
This week: At Mississippi State
Blowing a 21-point lead in a home opener: ouch. Alabama's window of opportunity for the SEC West title just widened.
11. Miami – Anyone that claims the Big 12 is the best conference in the land should be forced to watch the Colorado demolition on continual replay. That Buffaloes squad may very well win the Big 12 North.
12. Arizona State – Good luck against USC this weekend. You'll need it.
13. Wisconsin – What a win: a 10-point comeback capped by a Jon Stocco quarterback draw - the same Jon Stocco I might be able to beat in a 40. Could we get that on Bootleg Video?
15. Purdue – Tough overtime loss to Minnesota, but Purdue under Joe Tiller is far too used to losing close games down the stretch. The Big 10 title is still a distinct possibility if the squad can win out, especially considering Ohio State's out-of-conference loss to Texas (as out-of-conference record is the first tiebreaker). Notre Dame this week is therefore a must-win.
16. Louisville – There goes your dream season. My dream scenario: Louisville wins out and South Florida loses fewer than two down the stretch. Your Big East BCS representative is South Florida, taken ahead of a two-loss, say, Florida. Imagine the outrage.
17. West Virginia – Louisville should still beat the Mountaineers, but who do you think was cheering loudest when South Florida handed it to the Cards? Can you spell B-C-S?
18. UCLA – The Bruins have as good a shot at second place as anyone on the West Coast.
19. Oregon – Over 100 Division I-A teams would have fared the same against USC. In a way, the remaining in-conference games are more important – run the table and a BCS berth is not out of the realm of possibility.
20. Alabama – Why does everyone assume the SEC West is a done deal? With a feisty defense, the Tide is more than capable of coming up with a "W" against LSU. First, though, this week brings the mighty Gators.
21. Michigan State – A mobile quarterback and home-field advantage, especially early in the season: pretty much the recipe for beating Michigan.
23. Michigan – This team has been hit nearly as hard as Stanford by the injury bug. Can we all now agree that Steve Breaston (six catches, 42 yards on the season) is the most overrated receiver in the country?
24. Texas Tech – Put this team anywhere from #14 to #54, your guess is as good as mine. We have to wait until the Big 12 schedule starts to see them play a Top 50 opponent.
25. Minnesota – With no Michigan or Ohio State on Purdue's schedule, someone in the conference needed to take down the Boilers, and the Gophers stepped up. Traditional stumbling block Michigan does not look to be quite the challenge it appeared a month ago.
Honorary 26. Penn State – Converted a 4th & 15 against Northwestern to roll to 4-0 for the first time 1999. Beat Minnesota this week, and Joe Paterno might stop hearing about his age every other sentence.
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Weekly BCS Projection:
ACC – Virginia Tech
Big East – Louisville
Big 10 – Ohio State
Big 12 – Texas
Pac-10 – USC
SEC – Florida
At-large – Georgia
At-large – Florida State
My, has all the power shifted to the "South." Only one of my projected BCS teams can be truly considered a northern school, and that same Ohio State squad is the only one interrupting a chain of southern BCS title winners: USC ('04), LSU ('03), Ohio State ('02), Miami ('01), Oklahoma ('00), Florida State ('99), Tennessee ('98).
Furthermore, of the 12 teams above, all but Texas, USC and Oklahoma lie east of the Mississippi. Not hard to see where this sport originated, or why many consider ACC/SEC fans the most rabid in the land.
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Last week: It took a while, but what a beautiful week. USC and
Virginia Tech easily covered, guaranteeing a winning record even when LSU blew a
Season: 3-6 ATS, 3-6 SU
1. USC at Arizona State – After undressing Oregon, the Trojans should experience similar success visiting the lair of another Pac-10 contender. I hate to say it, but USC is not losing here, and they are not losing anytime this calendar year. In a virtual replay of last week's slaughter (a slow start followed by a 40-point explosion), USC 48, Arizona State 17.
2. Florida at Alabama – Chris Leak and DeShawn Wynn or Brodie Croyle and Kenneth Darby? Alabama has the history advantage, but Florida has the firepower – and these Gators can play some "D." Florida should win the opener to a brutal October that ends at LSU and vs. Georgia. Florida 34, Alabama 17.
3. Minnesota at Penn State – The teams have been the antithesis of clutch the past few seasons, but when they enter their nationally televised contest a combined 8-0, it certainly qualifies as a big game. Penn State sports a proven defense and a formidable home-field advantage, but Minnesota's rushing attack is far-and-away the strongest in the conference. Minnesota 28, Penn State 24.
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