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.)
1. Virginia Tech – The VT quarterback flicked off the Morgantown crowd after leading the Hokies to a 34-17 win over West Virginia. All The Sweep can say is, "Stay classy, Marcus Vick." The 17 points allowed is the most the Hokies have yielded this season.
2. USC – What happens if Arizona State's Sam Keller does not melt down and throw five picks? Future opponents are going to replicate ASU's secondary schemes to a "T". Last year's USC coaching staff was second-to-none at making these schematic adjustments, but how well can the new playcallers react?
3. Texas – No letdown for Texas against Missouri, but here come the Oklahoma Sooners, who have consistently outcoached and outplayed the Horns of late. Oklahoma is starting to look like a team with a semblance of a pulse, so will Texas' talent advantage be enough?
5. Florida State – Memo to national media: these guys are one of the top five teams in the country, treat them like it. Despite all the ACC hype, the ‘Noles are about to kick off a six-game stretch against unranked conference foes.
6. Ohio State – All a sudden, this week's voyage to Happy Valley looks like one of the Buckeyes' toughest games of the season. With Texas and Iowa in the rearview mirror, if the Buckeyes can win at Penn State and Michigan State these next two weeks, the sailing is fairly smooth until the season finale at Michigan.
7. California – Here comes the season's first test, a visit to a UCLA squad that has looked brilliant at times (versus Oklahoma) and incredibly sloppy at others (needing two fourth quarter touchdowns to beat Washington last week). Any Top 25 squad would have walloped Cal's first five opponents, so this week we will begin to see how good the Bears truly are.
8. Tennessee – Think any team could have possibly been cheering harder for Alabama against Florida this past week than the Vols? Last week's bye should come in handy against a similarly rested Georgia team on Saturday.
9. LSU – Against Mississippi State last week, quarterback Jamal Russell threw for two scores with an 87.5% (21-of-24) completion rate, or about double what fellow Tiger alum Shaquille O'Neal shoots from the charity stripe.
10. Florida – And the SEC East is wide-open again. Is Alabama that good or was Florida just cruising too high? Methinks a combination of both.
12. Notre Dame – The Irish absolutely thrashed Purdue last week, hanging 49 on a defense that entered the season expected to be one of the best in the country. A bye this week, and then two of the most over-covered (and, alas, successful) football programs meet on the same field when the Trojans come to South Bend.
13. Alabama – AP #7?!? A season, one game does not make. Anyone in their right mind think Alabama ends up the seventh-best team in the country? No? Then why are you voting them that high. My biggest pet peeve with the polls is that voters move teams way too far up or down after one surprising outcome.
14. Wisconsin – All the preseason scheduling fuss was on Purdue ducking Michigan and Ohio State, but this Wisconsin team ducks Ohio State and Michigan State, and has already knocked off Michigan at home. November 5's visit to Penn State marks the only remaining ranked foe on the schedule.
15. UCLA – Bruins, make way for Cal. UCLA has been in two tough fights already (Oklahoma, and the surprisingly tough comeback win against Washington), while Cal has yet to face a team that should reach a bowl. Plus the game takes place in the Rose Bowl. Advantage UCLA.
16. Arizona State – The secondary played its guts out against USC while quarterback Sam Keller and the front seven got exposed. Anyone else think a mere picture of the halftime scoreboard (Arizona State 21, USC 3) would be a wonderful cover for next year's media guide?
17. Louisville – Think Louisville wasn't upset by the loss to South Florida? The Cards hit 61 against Florida Atlantic, and this week, I have an inkling North Carolina isn't going to know what hit it.
18. Oregon – The passing offense moved at-will against Stanford and should experience similar success against other Pac-10 squads. Perhaps no one is hurt more by USC's dominance than a team like the Ducks, whose best realistic postseason destination is now the Holiday Bowl.
19. Michigan – The Maize faithful need to stop blaming Lloyd Carr. As his Michigan State performance showed, if Michael Hart had been healthy the whole season, Michigan would likely stand a perfect 5-0 today.
20. Penn State – A nice win last week against Minnesota is not nice enough to make me forget that Northwestern had you dead-to-rights (4th and 15) the week before. Which Lion squad takes the field for the largest game head coach Joe Paterno might ever coach from this date forward?
21. Boston College – This week's contest against Virginia is one of those games that isn't going to bring College Gameday to Chestnut Hill, but at the end of the day, will have a large affect on the direction both programs head in the upcoming years. In order to challenge the ACC big boys, Boston College needs to beat the middle of the conference first.
22. Texas Tech – Which of these is unlike the others: home versus Florida International, home versus Sam Houston State, home versus Indiana State, home versus Kansas, in front of 90,000 screaming fans against an undefeated and resurgent Nebraska. If the weak schedule is ever going to bite the Red Raiders in the rear, this looks to be the week.
23. Purdue – Though he's a mastermind in other areas, Joe Tiller has to be one of the worst coaches in the country at getting his teams to bounce back from losses. The overtime loss to Minnesota was the pin that popped the balloon, and the embarrassment against Notre Dame was all the helium oozing out.
24. Auburn – The 4-1 record and last week's 48-7 win over South Carolina make you take a flier on a team that still has yet to face a ranked foe. After Arkansas this week, next Saturday's visit to LSU should tell us how Auburn is faring after losing four first round picks in last year's NFL Draft.
25. Michigan State – Michigan State (or, as we call them in my home state Michigan, Moo U) came back from 14 down to force overtime, but couldn't get over the proverbial hump against Michigan. The Spartans are a bit of a stretch at 25, but they appear here because I don't see any other squad more worthy.
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Weekly BCS Projection:
ACC – Virginia Tech
Big East – Louisville
Big 10 – Ohio State
Big 12 – Texas
Pac-10 – USC
SEC – Georgia
At-large – LSU
At-large – Florida State
The more I watch the sport, the more I become convinced of the importance of media coverage on a football team's fortunes. Notre Dame and USC were sitting ducks a few years ago, yet the constant limelight that the programs receive as a birthright has kept the recruiting cupboard stocked to the point that the teams are atop (or darn close) the football roost today.
Conversely, Oklahoma and Nebraska are traditional powers with as much history as the Notre Dame Peacocks (so labeled because of their NBC contract), and probably more than USC, although I know our largely West Coast audience might not agree. However, the Sooners and Huskers as of late have not received as much limelight year-in and year-out as the Trojans and the Irish. Perhaps it is mere coincidence, but this year, both programs are struggling to stay in the top-25. South Bend is not a better locale than Lincoln or Norman, so I do not think location is the major factor here.
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Last week: 1-2 SU, 0-3 ATS. Hey, just bet opposite me - you'll
make lots of money. I'm considering starting to pick out of a hat.
Season: 3-9 ATS, 4-7 SU
1. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas) – Oklahoma has an undeniable mental edge, compounded by the incredible pressure Texas faces this year. Unfortunately for the Sooners, Texas has an undeniable physical edge, especially on the lines. Just ask a Stanford fan if mental edge can overcome inferior line play. In a cathartic win, Texas 52, Oklahoma 17.
2. Tennessee at Georgia – Both teams come off byes, so the playcalling should be inspired and the execution flawless. The contest, therefore, will likely boil down to who has the better playmakers, and this scribe likes the "Jawja" boys in red, especially against a questionable Vol secondary. Georgia 31, Tennessee 20.
3. Cal at UCLA – If real estate's motto is location, location, location, the college football's should be matchups, matchups, matchups. UCLA's defensive line has allowed opposing offenses to open holes left and right (save for the jam-nine-in-the-box strategy against Oklahoma), and Cal's offensive strength is its offensive line and sophomore phenom running back Marshawn Lynch. This one will be over faster than Keith Jackson can identify the venue as "the granddaddy of them all." Whoa Nellie… Navy blue (Cal) 45, Powder blue (UCLA) 23.
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