The Sweep: Week 13

The regular season may be over for most of the country in college football, but there remain a few tasty morsels to digest this weekend. Three conference championship games (plus a little battle in the L.A. Coliseum) will help finalize most of the BCS. At least three teams not playing this weekend are just as busy, jockeying for at-large berths.

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. USC (11-0, Last ranked: 1)
Last week: Bye
This week: UCLA

The offense comes back from its week off, while the defense returns from its two-week vacation… zing!  Let the defense rest until January 4 - a timely turnover or two should be enough for an offense with which UCLA's defense should not be on the same field.  LenDale White's health deserves careful attention, especially leading into the Rose Bowl.

2. Texas (11-0, Last ranked: 2)
Last week: Beat Texas A&M 40-29 (Friday)
This week: Big 12 Title Game vs. Colorado

Surprisingly, Texas had trouble stopping a reasonably mobile quarterback and running back against Texas A&M.  Leinart, Bush and co. must be salivating, as they should be.  Colorado Football, fresh off a pasting at the hands of Nebraska, should be more embarrassed on a national scale than it has been since Gary Barnett's oh-so-gender-conscious comments.

3. Virginia Tech (10-1, Last ranked: 3)
Last week: Beat North Carolina 30-3
This week: ACC Title Game vs. Florida State

The Hokies struggled with the Tar Heels, leading only 6-3 at halftime, and North Carolina's fight earned them the unofficial title of best six-loss team in the country (though yours truly come in a close second).

4. LSU (10-1, Last ranked: 4)
Last week: Beat Arkansas 19-17
This week: SEC Title Game vs. Georgia

How fitting for the 2005 SEC that the conference's highest-ranked team wins its final regular season game on the strength of a safety.  USC hung 70 on that same defense…  Anyone want to start a Pac-10/SEC debate again?

5. Penn State (10-1, Last ranked: 5)
Last week: Season complete.

Projecting forward, though they would be underdogs, Virginia Tech would not be a bad BCS matchup for the Lions.  Their linebackers should shut down Virginia Tech's primary threat: Marcus Vick's legs.

6. Ohio State (9-2, Last ranked: 6)
Last week: Season complete.

Now college football returns to its roots: backroom lobbying.  Whether the Irish's, Buckeyes' or Ducks' stuffed suits can be most successful behind closed doors will determine the flow of an awful lot of BCS money and prestige.

7. Miami (9-2, Last ranked: 8)
Last week: Beat Virginia 35-27
This week: Season complete.

Gritty rebound victory for Larry Coker and the Canes, who have made the proverbial lemonade throughout this season.  The Canes look to be stocked in years to come (read: preseason Top Five next year, not that it did Tennessee any good this year), and Miami fans should find it encouraging their school did not pull a Florida State or an Oklahoma in its off year.

8. Oregon (10-1, Last ranked: 7)
Last week: Season complete.

Oregon's BCS hopes quietly took a major hit as the Nevada Wolfpack, of all teams, downed Fresno State.  Oregon's best win is now… a Fresno State team that lost to Nevada?  A four-loss Cal?  If there is any justice in this college football world: bye bye, BCS.

9. Auburn (9-2, Last ranked: 10)
Last week: Season complete

Wisconsin is dead meat in the Capital One Bowl if the projections hold to form.  Why is no fuss being made about this team getting left out of the BCS?  They are every bit as deserving as Notre Dame or Oregon.

10. Notre Dame (9-2, Last ranked: 9)
Last week: Beat Stanford 38-31.
This week: Season complete.

Forget shunning Oregon, if there were any justice in this world, Notre Dame would be in the Gator Bowl faster than you can spell "Samardzija".  (I just got that first try - practice makes perfect, and he did get his name in the paper quite a bit against that Card secondary… but I digress.)

11. West Virginia South Florida's loss to Connecticut launches the Mountaineers into the BCS and takes a lot of the luster off this week's South Florida contest.  West Virginia and Louisville should be battling for Big East crowns for years to come.

12. UCLA – Well, here is your chance to prove that Arizona…and Stanford …and Washington State …and Washington …and Cal were flukes, and you are a legitimate Top Five team.  Maurice Drew could still conceivably make a race out of the Heisman with a strong performance.

13. Florida – How much quieter are the catcalls for Urban Meyer's head now that the Noles are vanquished?  All in all, a year to forget for the state of Florida football – heck even South Florida blew its conference championship shot this Saturday.

14. TCU With Fresno State's loss, TCU now is the most prominent non-BCS squad in the nation.  Without a better conference, though, will the country ever truly notice?

15. Georgia – With all the hype surrounding Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama this season, has any team flown more under the radar than these Bulldogs?  What a fitting end to the SEC season, then, as Georgia has a chance to prove all the "haters" wrong and take the conference outright.  For my part, Georgia sits this low because I anticipate a loss to LSU.

16. Louisville – Louisville and West Virginia are legit Top 25 teams, but the Big East's automatic BCS berth should disappear in a hurry.  Another at-large berth would be such a better solution – this year would see Oregon instead of West Virginia, for example.

17. Alabama – Why do I have the feeling this year was a "perfect storm" type of year for the Tide, where everything sort of magically coalesced.  Next year .500 is as likely a bet as a repeat of 9-2, in my eyes.

18. Texas Tech Texas Tech is going to get destroyed by some SEC team in a bowl game (Cotton?) in a classic demonstration of "Offense wins headlines. Defense wins games," which I feel is a more apt phrasing of the cliché.

19. Wisconsin – Random, but true: Wisconsin is probably the most high-profile team in the country without a true natural rival.  Sure, the Little Brown Jug is nice, but that matchup is much too polite to be a true rivalry.  The Badgers hate Michigan, but so does the rest of the Big 10, and the Wolves do not reciprocate the rivalry.

20. Michigan – Hey, basketball hosts UCLA in a few weeks.  Now there are two programs just as underachieving as Michigan Football in September.

21. Fresno State – "Let down", part one: TCU tripping against SMU after knocking off Oklahoma.  "Let down", part two: Fresno State falling to Nevada after taking USC to the wire.  This one loss erases all the goodwill garnered by last week's dogfight.

22. 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.

23. 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.

24. Georgia Tech No stinking need for Sagarin: this is officially the toughest schedule in the nation, without a doubt.  At Auburn and versus Georgia were out of conference.  At Virginia Tech and at Miami in-conference make for four Top 15 teams.  Throw in Clemson, Virginia, UNC, UConn, North Carolina State and Wake Forest for good measure, and truly the only lay-up is Duke.

25. Oklahoma – The losses are to four Top 20 programs: TCU, UCLA, Texas and Texas Tech, and wins over Nebraska, Texas A&M and Kansas State are nothing to scoff at.  Besides, who would you rather put here?

RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY

Weekly BCS Projection:

Super-duper clear-cut.  Teams in bold have clinched, all others are projections.

ACC – Virginia Tech (over Florida State)
Big East – West Virginia
Big 10 – Penn State
Big 12 –
Texas (over Colorado)
Pac-10 – USC
SEC –
LSU (over Georgia)
At-large – Ohio State
At-large – Notre Dame

Probable bowl matchups:

Rose: USC vs. Texas
- Book it, possibly even if USC loses narrowly to UCLA.
Fiesta: Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
- Because of its Big XII tie-in, the Fiesta has the first choice of replacement.  They were on-hand at Stanford Stadium this Saturday, and it wasn't for the Cardinal.  The only question is whether the Fiesta chooses Oregon ahead of Ohio State for the Irish's opponent.
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
- The Orange gets second pick, and Penn State is the obvious choice here.
Sugar: LSU vs. West Virginia
- The Sugar is pretty much stuck with the SEC and Big East representatives.

Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:

1. Reggie Bush, USC
2. Matt Leinart, USC
3. Vince Young, Texas
4. Michael Robinson, Penn State
5. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame

Bush, Leinart and Young are all definitely going to New York, and Robinson and Quinn are the headliners on the "feel good" stories of the season, though both get too much credit.  In my mind, Both Quinn and Young move down one spot from last week after sub-par performances.

BIG GAMES ON TAP

Last week: 3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS.  My only downfall: underestimating the SEC's offensive futility.  If Georgia hangs more than 14, I would have been golden.
Season: 16-18-2 ATS, 22-14 SU.

1. UCLA at USC – I have not seen one posted yet, but the over-under should seriously be 80.  UCLA can pass at mercy, but USC can run and pass at mercy, a healthy LenDale White or not.  USC 50, UCLA 30.

2. Virginia Tech vs. Florida State – This is a rematch of the 1999 title game, where Michael Vick led an overmatched VT to a 29-28 lead, but FSU rolled to a 46-29 victory.  This time though, the Noles appear to be the overmatched squad.  Virginia Tech 31, Florida State 10.

3. Georgia vs. LSU – LSU, by an SEC offensive lightyear, or what the rest of the country calls a field goal.  LSU 16, Georgia 13.


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