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.)
Great game, and the most interesting post-game tidbit I found is this quote, courtesy fellow Card (and former Daily writer!) Ivan Maisel at ESPN.com: "They're a physical defense, but not the fastest we've seen," offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. "Certain teams are real fast. Then it's a LenDale [White] game. They [Fresno State] are physical, and if you run at them up the middle, it's not going to work. It became a 'Reggie plan' to get him outside. Then there were a couple of things where Reggie was in a good matchup." Media rant: Why is such elementary X-and-Os analysis so sorely lacking? No wonder Bush exploded for 513 all-purpose yards.
Scroll down to "Ramblings ‘Round the Country" for plenty more USC thoughts.
Not only will Texas have an opportunity to knock off its historic rival and take one of two remaining steps towards the national title this Friday, but a dominant Horn performance may just be enough to get Aggie coach Dennis Franchione canned.
Save a game ball for the VT fan who snuck onto the Virginia field the night before kickoff to paint a "T" next to Virginia's "V". No one was happier with the Georgia Tech victory over Miami than the Hokies, who will now battle Florida State for the ACC crown, barring a slip-up against North Carolina.
Well, the Alabama win is no longer quite as sexy, but this team has not lost since a September choke to Tennessee. They will be heavy favorites over Auburn and a dangerous bowl opponent for any team in the country.
Considering the only other options are Michigan State and Illinois, the most impressive road win is at Northwestern. Too many are forgetting about that 4th & 15 escape when voting the Lions ahead of LSU or Virginia Tech.
Two fourth quarter touchdowns at the Big House likely transformed the Alamo Bowl into the Orange Bowl - no exaggeration. Justin Zwick is a long-forgotten name in Columbus.
Who have you beat exactly? A two-loss Fresno State looks nicer now (and hence the leap over Notre Dame), but who have the Bulldogs beat, again? Both the California and the Fresno State wins came by the skin of the Ducks' teeth, so I will not cry too hard when Oregon is shunned for name-recognition reasons out of the BCS and into the Holiday Bowl (though the extra millions in Pac-10 BCS money is always nice).
8. Miami (8-2, Last ranked: 4)
Last week: Lost to Georgia Tech, 14-10
This week: Virginia
If I were a betting man, I would have bet hard on Georgia Tech after this 7th Floor Crew story broke. (Listen here) Sure enough, seven sacks later… "It's pretty obvious tonight we got it handed to us," coach Larry Coker said. An ironic quote, all things considered.
Who have you beat exactly? A four-loss Michigan and a six-loss Tennessee are the headliners. Last I checked, football was not a game of horseshoes – close against USC should not earn you any credit. Well, surprise, surprise, there exists a double standard for Notre Dame, and barring a loss this week, Oregon can kiss its BCS hopes goodbye.
10. Auburn (9-2, Last ranked: 15)
Last week: Beat Alabama 28-18
This week: Season complete
The season-opening Georgia Tech loss that knocked the Tigers out of the Top 25 (and, thus, the national media's radar) for a month looks a lot better now. The only other loss is by a field goal at LSU in overtime, in a game where the kicker went 1-for-6.
11. West Virginia – Expectations preceded reality by a year for West Virginia, whose biggest obstacle to a BCS berth is… South Florida?!? Nice year for the Mountaineers, between football's success and men's basketball's deep run last March.
12. UCLA – How would you bet on this: In two weeks, Lendale White and Reggie Bush plus or minus 550 all-purpose yards against a Bruin squad that will force USC to keep scoring, but sports an absolutely powerless their front four. Makes you think, which is why I have factored the USC loss into this ranking.
13. Florida – I am rooting hard for the Gators against Florida State: if the Noles lose at Florida and in the ACC title game against Virginia Tech (they will be underdogs in both contests), a bowl loss would knock the Noles down to a six-loss season, and mark a significant crack in one of college football's great dynasties of the past two decades. I am showing my age here, but I cannot remember a Florida-Florida State game that has meant less.
14. Fresno State – Great effort, but a lack of athleticism ultimately doomed the Bulldogs. Is there anyone in the country who has done more with less than Pat Hill? Mandatory politically incorrect thought of the week: if the program was not Fresno State, but say, Malibu State, how long would it take the media to declare Fresno State the new Notre Dame? Same goes for UTEP.
15. TCU – The SMU loss ends up meaning next to nothing, as an undefeated TCU would not be in the BCS ahead of either Ohio State or Notre Dame. These one-loss Frogs still won their league, and the publicity from knocking off Oklahoma does more for their reputation than the undefeated season would have.
16. Louisville – Wow, is the Big East weak. This team plays no defense and looks good because it puts up gaudy stats against pulse-less squads... Remember when the New York Times predicted a Michigan/Louisville national title? Since when did Jason Blair resurface in the sports department?
17. Alabama – After last week's heartbreaker against LSU, Alabama seemed to lack emotional energy against Auburn, falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter. The SEC is stacked at the top (LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, Florida all in my Top 15), and only one SEC team is heading to the BCS. Mark my words, Alabama and its conference brethren are going to dominate come Christmas time.
18. Georgia – We downgraded the Dawgs from last week's #14 because this week's trip to Georgia Tech no longer looks like a sure thing, and now that LSU has all-but secured the SEC West, that contest appears significantly tougher as well. Outback or Citrus Bowl it is.
19. Texas Tech – Since when did Texas Tech have more late-game poise than Oklahoma? The last-second victory was easily the best game no one saw last weekend, but Reggie Bush's heroics are overshadowing the happenings in Lubbock.
20. Wisconsin – A likely New Year's Day bowl will be a great ending to Barry Alvarez's storied career. Unfortunately for the Badgers, whatever SEC team they face (presumably in the Citrus) is going to whoop them.
21. Michigan – The last four minutes of the Ohio State contest remind me why I love rooting for this team oh so much. First, Lloyd Carr fakes a field goal and pooch punts from Ohio State's 35 up by two, to the surprise of perhaps 501 of the 107,501 capacity, highlighting Carr's irrational conservatism and lack of creativity (they go hand-in-hand) in play-calling. None of those 501 were wearing scarlet either. Troy Smith then turns into Michael Vick en route to the winning strike, showcasing the coaching staff's inability to stop a mobile quarterback, a trend that has dated back to 2000. One would think they could correct when they can sign, literally, any kid in the country to do so. Michigan might have had time to come back, except Carr had burned all three timeouts before the final drive, exemplifying his lack of late-game presence. Tressel is now 4-1 against Michigan. Rant over.
22. Florida State – This team has really appeared to lose focus as of late, losing to undermanned North Carolina State and Clemson squads in consecutive weeks. At least focus should not be an issue when the Noles visit the Swamp this weekend, and, in fact, Florida State has played best against its toughest opponents, knocking off Miami and Boston College.
23. Georgia Tech – Nice win over "the U", and this week's Georgia squad is certainly beatable.
24. Boston College – Other than a two-point loss to North Carolina, the Eagles finish their season having won every winnable game, with the second and third losses coming to Florida State and Virginia Tech.
25. Clemson – Last week's numbers 23 through 25 (South Carolina, Oklahoma and UTEP) all bit the bullet, so these bottom few squads are relatively weak. Clemson is spearheaded by a good defense, though – holding Steve Spurrier to nine is no small feat.
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Weekly BCS Projection:
This is pretty clear-cut now. Miami's choke at Georgia Tech prevents a Virginia Tech/Ohio State/Notre Dame logjam for two at-large spots. Oregon will capitalize if Notre Dame loses, and any surprise conference champion will just replace the projected team listed below.
ACC – Virginia Tech
Big East – West Virginia
Big 10 – Penn State
Big 12 – Texas
Pac-10 – USC
SEC – LSU
At-large – Ohio State
At-large – Notre Dame
Probable bowl matchups:
Rose: USC vs. Texas
Fiesta: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
Sugar: LSU vs. West Virginia
These matchups look great on paper, but I do not think any of them will be that competitive, with USC, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all winning relatively easily.
Food for thought: next year the BCS moves the national title game back a week, which has the effect of adding another BCS game to the mix. Had the policy been in place this year, our fifth game would have likely seen Oregon battle TCU or Auburn.
This past Saturday, Reggie Bush won the Heisman, hands-down. The Heisman Trophy ultimately comes down to signature moments – Eric Crouch catching the quarterback throwback against Oklahoma, Desmond Howard stretching out for a touchdown in the end zone against Notre Dame and then striking the Heisman pose. With his shove of Leinart and his red-light, green-light routine on the Fresno State secondary, Bush now has two such moments, arguably three if you want to include the Washington punt return. He will win this thing walking away – far more lopsided than the "experts" think.
Anyone else think USC's defense, whose strength is in the front seven and always seems to do well in big games, will shut down Texas, who lives off the run and whose wide receivers are nothing to write home about? USC's blowout of Oklahoma last year might look like this year's Notre Dame squeaker before the final horn (or Horn, come to think of it) blows.
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Last week: 2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS. Did not see Fresno State covering,
but should have in retrospect.
Season: 14-17-2 ATS, 19-14 SU.
1. Florida State at Florida – What an anticlimactic rendition of the most nationally captivating rivalry of the past decade, hands-down. (Michigan-Ohio State is a close second.) If a tree falls... Florida 31, Florida State 17.
2. Notre Dame at Stanford – On second thought, I should have saved "if a tree falls" for here. Or maybe, "If a stadium falls…" I think Stanford has one good fight left though, and Notre Dame is vastly overrated and will be coasting. So it will be close, but my crystal ball says the season ends fittingly, in another heartbreaker. Notre Dame 28, Stanford 23.
3. Georgia at Georgia Tech – Games like this are why I am under .500 on the spread. I have no clue here, but a healthy D.J. Shockley and that Bulldog defensive speed should count for something. Oh yeah, Reggie Ball is an interception on legs. I like this pick better now. Georgia 21, Georgia Tech 6.
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