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.)
Though Michigan is getting the love, USC probably posted the most dominant win of the weekend. And seeing as USC exactly covered the 18-point line versus the Huskers, the Trojans may well be two-touchdown favorites for the rest of the season. I would not bet against them.
LSU completed a last-second pass – only to be tackled at the four-yard line. I do not like how the defense allowed LSU to march up the field in the last drive after dominating all afternoon, but a win is a win. The toughest remaining road game is Alabama.
Maybe Michigan will not be the cakewalk we thought, but Ohio State will have clear sailing until November 18 if they can clear this tough midseason stretch: Penn State, at Iowa, vs. Bowling Green, at Michigan State.
Special teams? Check. Defense? Check-plus – 139 yards of offense allowed this past week. Suddenly the ACC looks rather tame too. Alongside Georgia, this is the most under-hyped team in the country at the moment.
Brian Brohm is out four-to-six weeks after a program-defining win. With Michael Bush lost for the season and West Virginia tilt November 2, Cardinals fans better start counting down the days until Brohm's return.
Gusty, gutsy, gutsy as Chris Leak throws himself into the Heisman mix. The October stretch of LSU, at Auburn and vs. Georgia is murderous, but with Tenneseee dismantled, September looks golden. With Florida State sucking wind, November does not look so bad either.
The rush defense is the top in the nation right now, just ahead of Texas. However, these next five games (Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Michigan State, at Penn State, Iowa) should be wins but are all eminently losable (a Lloyd Carr specialty). Also, Notre Dame shot itself in the foot with four turnovers. Still, I was partying after the first win in South Bend since 1994.
That is two straight shutouts for Georgia, who (again) fly under the SEC radar as Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, LSU and even Arkansas received more hype entering the season. Mark Richt has to like this setup.
On the one hand, Longhorn fans had to be smiling as rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma went down. On the other, there goes the strength of schedule needed to sneak into the BCS title game with a loss.
10. Oregon (2-0, Last: 14)
Last: Won vs. Oklahoma, 34-33
Next: at Arizona State (Sept. 30)
Lucky no-call on an onside kick touched nine, not 10, yards past the line propels the Ducks to two last-minute touchdowns and the dramatic win. Rest up, at Arizona State, at Cal and vs. UCLA follow.
With struggles against Syracuse and Iowa State the last two weeks, the Hawkeyes might be the most overrated team in the country right now. Still, I put them this high because no Michigan State or Penn State is a huge break for the Hawkeyes. They visit Illinois this week and host Ohio State the week after.
12. West Virginia
The biggest winner of Miami-Louisville? Probably West Virginia, as their main challenger for the Big East throne is now without its starting quarterback and tailback. The Mountaineers hung 45 against a good Maryland team last Thursday, so watch out East Carolina.
13. Notre Dame
Brady Quinn looked awful, failing to look off receivers and repeatedly firing low. Maybe his looks and his uniform have something to do with the hype? The Irish have traditionally struggled with Michigan State, so they better bring their A-game this weekend.
Tough luck. Even after Oregon pulled ahead on two last-minute touchdowns, the Sooners still managed to get into field goal range – only to have the kick blocked. Still, the Sooners showed me enough that I am confident slating them here. The offense is finally clicking, and Ohio State proved Texas is decidedly mortal.
15. Boise State
After the rout of Oregon State, the Broncos let down a bit in a 21-14 escape over Wyoming. Even if they do run the table, that could be a narrow win that will cause many to argue for their exclusion from the BCS.
16. Florida State
If the jerseys did not read Florida State, this team might not be in the top 40 right now after a disheartening loss to Clemson. Still, I know Florida State has the talent, but they need to figure out how to use it in time to assert themselves in the ACC title chase.
Arizona State will really test a secondary that suffered some key injuries this off-season. On the flip side, the Sun Devils defense may be just what the doctor ordered for the anemic passing game.
The Horned Frogs held Texas Tech to three points this past weekend – seemingly about 40 under their average. That speaks volumes of a defense that would be strong enough to really test most Top 20 programs if they were to reach a BCS bowl.
Alabama this week will show whether this team is a contender or a pretender. I still gush over the 19 returning starters and a schedule that ducks both Georgia and Florida.
With Florida's schedule chockfull of traps, the Vols remain right in the SEC title mix, as long as they keep winning. All the complaints about quarterbacking proved valid this past week, as Eric Ainge threw a pick on what could have been the game-winning drive late in the fourth.
Auburn's defense (3 points allowed) seemed to struggle considerably less than Arizona's (45) against this LSU team. So Arizona is vastly overrated, but as far as LSU, the less said the better, because I do not see Auburn losing twice. Right now, the Tigers are playing for an at-large BCS berth.
Moral victory for the Huskers, who held USC under 30 for the first time since 2004. The Big 12 North is a joke, so if Nebraska can reach the title game, Texas and Oklahoma are certainly beatable.
23. Arizona State
If I am Dirk Koetter, I put eight or nine in the box against Marshawn Lynch and make the untested Cal quarterbacks win in Berkeley. On offense, the two best lines in the conference (Arizona State's offensive line and Cal's defensive front) will do battle.
24. Boston College
Consecutive overtime escapes versus Clemson and at BYU squeaked the Eagles into the Top 25. While Florida State and Miami are on the road, the Eagles have clear flying until a Thursday night showdown with Virginia Tech on October 12.
25. Michigan State
That was a sneakily good Pittsburgh team that Michigan State undressed this past week. Notre Dame is (still) one of the nation's most overrated teams and Michigan State one of the most underrated, so this weekend could be very, very interesting.
Dropped: Miami, Texas Tech
On the Bubble: UCLA, Wisconsin
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Wow, is this upcoming week a stinker. Last week featured 12 of the AP's top 20 teams squaring off, and two of those games (Tennessee-Florida and LSU-Auburn) were thrillers. This week, the only Top 25 match-ups are Ohio State-Penn State and Arizona State-Cal (and barely), and the only Top 25 teams playing undefeated opponents are Notre Dame (Michigan State), Michigan (Wisconsin) and Louisville (Kansas State)....
Tough September for the Big 12, as the league's top three teams – Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska – all have a loss. There (probably) goes a national title appearance for a league that has had more than its share in this BCS era. Similar story in the offensively-challenged ACC, where Florida State, Miami and Clemson have all gone down in ugly fashion....
Thumbs up though for the Big 10 and SEC. With Florida and Auburn squeaking out Ws this past weekend, the league's two most talented teams remain alive in the national picture. Up north, Michigan and Ohio State each picked up huge wins, and the November match-up could be No. 1/No. 2 if favorites keep losing...
The parity that proponents of the 85-scholarship cap have been promising for years is starting to arrive. Five Division I-AA teams have pulled the "UC-Davis" over D-IA schools this year, and there have been plenty more close calls. A Top 20 team still dominates against teams not in the top half of Division I, but for those good, but not great seven-win teams in the 21-50 range, has the gap ever narrowed. Boise State 21, Wyoming 14 from this past weekend is becoming the rule rather than the exception.
Weekly BCS Projection:
ACC: Bueller, Bueller? Anyone? Umm, maybe Virginia Tech?
Big East: West Virginia
Big 10: Ohio State, though Michigan has a real shot now.
Big 12: Texas
At-large: Boise State
Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Season: 5-4 ATS, 5-4 SU. Missed on Michigan, hit on Auburn. Tennessee lost, but covered in a game that was as close as I expected.
1. Penn State at Ohio State – Penn State is way too young, Ohio State way too good and the Horseshoe way too loud. Ohio State 35, Penn State 13.
2. Louisville at Kansas State – Here's an interesting interconference tilt, and probably one of Louisville's best remaining shots at a loss given the Big East. Brian Brohm is out for 4-6 weeks and Michael Bush is out for the season, so maybe, but where is the Kansas State offense? Louisville 34, Kansas State 21.
3. Arizona State at Cal – Sure, Cal got smoked at Tennessee, but the Devils have repeatedly looked sloppy in their tune-ups against Northern Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. Besides, sounds like ASU has some chemistry issues growing out of the quarterback decision, and the passing at Cal can only get better, right? Cal 27, Arizona State 21.
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