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 9.)
The offense is clicking; the defense looks as solid as ever; and those dates against Cal and Notre Dame – the presumptive two toughest games of the season – now look a whole lot easier.
Oklahoma certainly looked vulnerable, and the Tigers had their way with the Cougars, who could end up in a bowl at season's end. That, plus 183 yards from Kenny Irons, is good enough to vault the Tigers to the two slot.
Yeah, the win was as ugly as we have come to expect from Florida State/Miami tilts of recent years, but who else in the country has already won their toughest game of the season? Plus, with Cal, Oklahoma and Louisville ahead of the ‘Noles last week, there was plenty of room for this leap. Time to manufacture a Heisman candidate.
Texas always runs up the score against also-rans. Nevertheless, scoring 14 points every quarter is impressive. Oklahoma looks weaker, so a victory this week could pave the road to January.
Beating UAB by just one score? Bad. Needing 17 second-half points to establish that margin? Worse, especially given that the offense is the question mark of this team. The defense looks as good as advertised, but with opponents Oregon and Texas both topping the 50 mark this past week, will that be enough?
Georgia Tech is a good team, especially defensively, and offenses tend to struggle disproportionately early in the season on the road. (After last week, I probably do not need to tell that to a group of Stanford fans though.) So I will drop them two slots, but watch out - the defense looks much stingier than last year.
It bears repeating from last week: the Hawkeyes could be double-digit favorites against every opponent except Michigan or Ohio State. Given the slip-ups and near-slips other D-I schools had against cupcakes, do not look past this victory over a perennial Division I-AA title contender.
A trip to a team that lost to Rutgers is not a bad way to kick off the ACC schedule. How about new quarterback Sean Glennon? 15-of-18 for 22 yards and three scores – from the biggest preseason question mark on the team.
The good news is tailback Michael Hart (nearly 150 yards on 31 carries) looks dominant, and the offense returned to its old creativity (hey Lloyd Carr, you call that play a "bootleg") under new coordinator Mike DeBord, last in Ann Arbor when the Wolverines took the 1997 national title. Plus the run defense is stout, but I am not sold on the secondary, special teams or receivers.
That was the sound of potential All-American tailback Michael Bush breaking his leg in a season-ending injury. Maybe the Cards still have it in them to get past West Virginia and Miami to run the table, but those odds just got slimmer with a defense as porous as ever.
The offense took a little longer than you would like to click, and did Tennessee ever come on quick in the rear view mirror?
12. Ohio State
The 35-21 win over Northern Illinois is better than it looks: it was 21-0 after one quarter, and the Huskies are the best team in the country you have not heard of. Still, Texas looks more than up to the challenge, so this is the make-or-break week for the Buckeyes.
Pac-10 fans will be taking crow for the Vols' undressing of Cal (and Auburn's of Washington State) for the rest of the season. Rightfully so. Just like SEC-backers allege, the SEC representative simply had a stingier defense and greater speed across the board than a team that still could rally to win the Pac-10 outright.
Who is your quarterback? Better figure it out soon, because this Saturday's opponent, South Carolina, might finish with the best defense in the SEC.
Stanford's rush defense stinks with the lack of experience and top-shelf talent in the front seven; Jonathan Stewart is a beast; the receivers are good; but not all-world; and the Duck defense is susceptible through the air (and better rushing teams will probably find success on the ground too). Could I have those 3.5 hours back to learn something new?
16. West Virginia
They could well be higher given the Bush injury. Still, No. 16 is about right for a team that, statistically, should have gone 8-4 – not 11-1 – last season.
After their embarrassment in Knoxville, the Bears have given Stanford (and the rest of the league) yet more reason to dislike them. Holler (can I say that given that I am not Stuart Scott?) at Vol quarterback Eric Ainge: "We all felt disrespected," Ainge said. "This game tonight wasn't just for Tennessee versus California. It was for the South versus the West Coast, the SEC versus the Pac-10."
18. Boise State
Some would advise the Horned Frogs not to look past their opponent this week, UC-Davis. Boise State probably needs the Frogs to lose somewhere along the line – there may not be room for them both in the BCS.
19 starters still return and plenty of great teams get blown out by USC (see 2005 Oregon). Still, Auburn and Tennessee both look as good as advertised, so there is a very slim margin for error for the Razorbacks.
Always bet the under in a Florida State/Miami season opener. Both coaches play brain-numbingly conservative, my favorite being Bobby Bowden punting on 4th & 2 (and victory with Miami out of timeouts and just a minute to go) from the ‘Cane 37... for a 17-yard touchback.
22. Texas Tech
The new kid, Graham Harrell, threw for 342 and five scores, and TCU looks beatable in two weeks - as does Oklahoma. Why did we not interview Mike Leach again?
Sure, Louisiana Tech and Nichols State this week are easy openers – but USC comes the week after. Might the Pac-10 embarrass itself further?
Arizona probably has nearly as many four- and five-star players in its underclassmen classes as do the Tigers. Somehow I sense the result in Death Valley Saturday night will be a little more lopsided.
25. Arizona State
Too bad Sam Keller transferred. Could have used him last week. Still, the Devils cannot be as bad as 14-14 after three quarters against Northern Arizona would indicate.
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Weekly BCS Projection:
ACC: Florida State
Big East: West Virginia
Big 10: Iowa
Big 12: Texas
At-large: Notre Dame
At-large: Virginia Tech
At-large: Boise State
Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Last week: 1-2 ATS, 2-1 SU. I tend to finish the season much better than I start it, so bear with me here.
1. Ohio State at Texas – A better defense, a home-field advantage and two quarterbacks who each looked fine last week all point to Longhorn stampede. Texas 42, Ohio State 24.
2. Penn State at Notre Dame – Penn State has an incredibly green secondary and must go on the road, otherwise I would like them here. I think Notre Dame's offense has the talent, and they will start to put together the pieces this week. Notre Dame 24, Penn State 13.
3. Georgia at South Carolina – The talent differential between South Carolina and the SEC elite is greater than most realize. Even so, the advantages of a night home game and Steven Orr will keep this one reasonably competitive. Georgia 23, South Carolina 14.
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