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 Hokies reminds me more and more of 2002 Ohio State (solid lines, one explosive offensive threat, dynamo special teams and a lockdown defense), a squad that upset double-digit favorite Miami in the BCS national title game. Will this Virginia Tech squad get the chance to replicate one of the best college football games ever? They could not have been pleased with Texas' win over Oklahoma, will have to root hard against Texas and USC in games to come, and hope that a win over a potentially undefeated Florida State in the ACC title game will be enough.
2. USC – After allowing 21 to Arizona and not pulling away until the fourth quarter, the Trojans have proven beyond a doubt that they treat their entire 2005 schedule as a 12-game preseason. Still wouldn't want to face them in the national title game in January though.
3. Texas – Cathartic, and now that the ‘Horns have overcome the Sooners, you would have to imagine future Red River Shootouts will not be the mental stumbling blocks they have been in the past. Am I the only one still waiting for the ‘Horns to choke, perhaps in a post-Oklahoma letdown?
4. Georgia – Could this finally be the year a program flying a level below the Oklahomas, Texases and USCs of the national collegiate landscape finally soars to new heights? Now that Tennessee is out of the way, Florida is the only remaining major divisional hurdle.
5. Florida State – Everyone loves Virginia Tech, and rightfully so, but where is the mention of the ‘Noles? Since the Miami contest, the ‘Noles have scored 169 points in just four contests, for an average of over 42 points per game.
6. LSU – Facing Vanderbilt and Mississippi State the past two weeks should have given the Tigers plenty of time to prepare for this week's contest against Florida. The SEC schedule did the Tigers no favors, as they drew both the Gators and Tennessee from the SEC East.
7. Florida – The Gators now control their SEC destiny after Georgia knocked off Tennessee, and will do battle with the Bulldogs in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Think the Gators want another shot at Alabama? Despite the gaudy rank and record, the offense is struggling at the Swamp.
9. Notre Dame – Bye week for Notre Dame in advance of USC. USC chose to treat their Arizona trip like a bye week, so the Irish will have to call upon their home field, the weather and that Notre Dame magic as relative advantages.
10. Alabama – With Penn State and Notre Dame also ranked the highest they have been in years, the 2005 college football season has a decidedly retro flavor.
11. Penn State – This is the same team that needed a miracle 4th & 15 conversion to top Northwestern two weeks ago? The Lions are hot after wins over Minnesota and, most recently, Ohio State, and this team is a vintage Joe Paterno defense-first unit. Michigan has had the Lions' number as of late, but Big Blue's theme this season seems to be losing close games to teams they have traditionally dominated (see Wisconsin, Minnesota), so Penn State has a golden opportunity to capitalize this week in the Big House.
12. UCLA – Well, as expected, the defense did hemorrhage yard after yard to the Bears. Not as expected was an offense (and special teams) that hung with Cal score for score, and even covered the spread on an otherwise meaningless touchdown while running out the clock. Only eight undefeated teams remain, and the Bruins can place themselves in that category.
13. Ohio State – The Texas loss is now a killer, as it currently precludes the two-loss Buckeyes from any BCS conversation. Out-of-conference record also serves as the first Big 10 tiebreak, so the Buckeyes have an uphill battle ahead of them.
15. California – UCLA scored how many? (47 points on 395 yards.) Flashy receivers and quarterbacks notwithstanding, Jeff Tedford's teams have run on great rushing attacks and great defensive lines. Where was that rush D against UCLA?
16. Tennessee – Tough loss to Georgia, but the Vols must regroup over this bye week and prepare for next week's monster tilt against the Tide.
17. Louisville – Lose once as a mid-major and see how quickly people stop caring? Even if this team were to beat USC, fans would have trouble taking them seriously because of the South Florida loss. Maybe it reminds you of the faithful in Pullman chanting "UC Davis"?
18. Boston College – Most casual fans were too busy watching UCLA/Cal, Georgia/Tennessee or Ohio State/Penn State, but the Eagles displayed nice mettle in pulling away from the Cavaliers in the fourth quarter, and appear nicely positioned for a higher-level bowl bid.
19. Texas Tech – By far the least hyped of the remaining undefeated teams, the Red Raiders got past their toughest foe thus far this season. Unfortunately, that opponent was Nebraska. Texas should still be a 14-point favorite against Mike Leach's squad.
20. Auburn – A sorely needed bye week for the Tigers, as their six remaining contests include three top-10 caliber teams: Georgia, LSU and Alabama. Who would have thought the Tigers might be underdogs in this year's Iron Bowl?
21. Michigan State – Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa all are front and center in the Big 10 title chase, and most of these schools control their own destinies. This is one of the weakest and most wide-open Big 10s since a four-loss Purdue won it in 1999 and lost to Washington in the Rose Bowl.
22. Minnesota – Minnesota remains alive in the Big 10 after snapping a 16-game losing streak to Big Blue on a last second field goal for a 23-20 victory. The Gophers were attempting to run the ball out on the last-second run that advanced them 61 yards and into field goal range.
23. Wisconsin – Despite the loss to Northwestern, the Big 10 title is very much alive as Ohio State and Michigan both fell this weekend as well. The Wildcats scoring on seven consecutive possessions is an incredibly scary statistic.
24. Arizona State – Stanford fans have to feel a lot better about the Card's performance against Oregon after the Ducks easily dismantled a talented Sun Devil squad. Although they have three losses, those losses came against LSU, USC and Oregon – 100 I-A teams would have fared no better.
25. West Virginia – The Mountaineers probably are not inside the Top 40 on talent, but Louisville's visit to Morgantown this weekend marks the only remaining ranked foe on this year's slate. One W, and West Virginia can all but punch its ticket to the BCS, most likely the Orange Bowl.
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Weekly BCS Projection:
After all the turmoil of the past week, the projections at the top remain unchanged.
ACC – Virginia Tech
Big East – Louisville
Big 10 – Ohio State? Anyone want this league?
Big 12 – Texas, and I can be a lot more confident about that this week.
Pac-10 – USC, but do not count out UCLA.
SEC – Georgia
At-large – LSU
At-large – Florida State
Traditional powers return to the top… Penn State and Alabama will enter October 15's action a combined 11-0. Penn State's last undefeated season came in 1994 (though Nebraska finished atop both the major polls), while the Tide last won the national championship in 1992.
While other powerhouses falter… Just three weeks into conference play, Michigan and Oklahoma already sport a combined six losses. Oklahoma last finished under .500 in 1998, while Michigan has played in the postseason every year since 1976. Appropriately enough, the Wolverines faced Oklahoma in the 1976 Orange Bowl, losing 14-6.
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Last week: 2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS. Why must UCLA score a touchdown
already ahead by one with the clock running out? Grrr.
Season: 5-10 ATS, 6-9 SU
1. USC at Notre Dame – The magic carpet ride ends this week, in Notre Dame's biggest home game since Florida State came calling a decade ago. The Irish secondary is atrocious. USC 48, Notre Dame 23.
2. Michigan State at Ohio State – State's offense centers upon a mobile quarterback; Ohio State's defensive strength is in the front seven. Ohio State's offensive playmaking threats are their receivers; State's defensive weakness is in the secondary. Advantage Buckeyes, who lose few and far between at the Horseshoe. Ohio State 27, Michigan State 13.
3. Florida at LSU – Florida's offense is going nowhere in a hurry, and the LSU defense is one of the stoutest in the nation. The Tigers should feel assured of victory once they reach about 14 points. LSU 23, Florida 13.
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