The Sweep: Week Four

Last week's best national game, at least on paper, was in the Pac-10. This week our attention turns to that "other conference" that formerly formed the other half of pre-BCS Rose Bowl tradition. Can Bob Bowlsby's (former) boys match up at home with the Buckeyes? Daniel offers much more in discussing his Top 25 this week, plus Heisman projections, the BCS race and some Stanford math.


(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.)

1. USC (3-0, Last: 1)
Last: Won vs. Arizona, 20-3
Next: at Washington State

A chink in the armor?  Probably not – the turnovers will correct themselves and the defense was always the bigger question mark.  Arizona suddenly looks like it could rally to challenge for a bowl berth.

2. Auburn (4-0, Last: 2)
Last: Won vs. Buffalo, 38-7
Next: at South Carolina (Sept. 28)

I do not understand why more schools do what Auburn did and schedule creampuffs for the middle of the season.  That way, when you play an opponent with a pulse week one instead of Directional U, you get tons of credit for supposed strength of schedule, and when you play Directional U instead of an opponent with a pulse after the first three weeks, no one notices because there are tons of good games going on.  Plus, with getting a week in the middle of the season to lightly play and/or rest starters and an additional week to scheme for the opponent upcoming, it becomes a no-brainer.

3. Ohio State (4-0, Last: 3)
Last: Won vs. Penn State, 28-6
Next: at Iowa

Ohio State was so good, it made Joe Paterno crap his pants - literally.  It is no 7th Floor Crew, but that is easily my favorite college football story thus far this year.

4. Louisville (4-0, Last: 5)
Last: Won vs. Kansas State, 24-6
Next: Bye

Louisville has traditionally won on offense, but the defense is starting to show signs of life.  If it holds against a West Virginia team that is one of the best in the nation at running the ball, Louisville should cruise to an undefeated season.

5. Michigan (4-0, Last: 7)
Last: Won vs. Wisconsin, 27-13
Next: at Minnesota

The rush defense is still tops in the nation, the statistic most correlated with national titles.  This Wisconsin win was much more impressive than the Notre Dame one because it came from a defense that allowed just 13 second-half yards until garbage time.

6. Florida (4-0, Last: 6)
Last: Won vs. Kentucky, 26-7
Next: vs. Alabama

A little hiccup against Kentucky is excusable – I would bet Florida spent a lot of practice time last week preparing for Alabama.  Georgia suddenly looks rather tame as well.

7. Virginia Tech (4-0, Last: 4)
Last: Won vs. Cincinnati, 29-13
Next: vs. Georgia Tech

Eek.  That was 13-12 Cincinnati after three quarters.  I think this week's opponent, Georgia Tech, is overrated and will be overmatched in Blacksburg, but about 100 Division I-A teams would have a good shot if Virginia Tech plays like they did last week.

8. Oregon (3-0, Last: 10)
Last: Won vs. Oklahoma, 34-33 (Sept. 16)
Next: at Arizona State

The next three weeks (at Arizona State, vs. Cal and at UCLA) look easier than they did at this point last week - Arizona State and UCLA took hard falls, and we already know Cal has weaknesses.  I think Oregon has the best shot at pushing USC for the league title, and if they spring the upset, the momentum of victories over USC and Oklahoma should be enough to push them on the brink of the national title game, their current low ranking notwithstanding.

9. Texas (3-1, Last: 9)
Last: Won vs. Iowa State, 37-14
Next: vs. Sam Houston State

Georgia and USC were pushed but regained their composure to save the victory, while the top Big 10 schools each won easily.  All told, I think that at least two teams finish undefeated this season (of course, I always think that this time of year and it does not always pan out), and Texas is shut out.  What would be interesting is if voters had to choose between an undefeated Louisville or West Virginia and this Texas squad.

10. Iowa (4-0, Last: 11)
Last: Won vs. Illinois, 24-7
Next: vs. Ohio State

The Hawkeyes traditionally start their seasons slow, so the dominant performance against Illinois was a welcome omen leading into the biggest game at Iowa since the 1980s.  Ohio State and Iowa did not face each other in 2002 (when both finished their Big 10 seasons undefeated), so this tilt will settle quite a few scores.

11. Georgia

I guess the quarterback controversy is no longer.  The media drools over the two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including the game-winner with under a minute remaining, but the unsung heroes are the defensive starters that held Colorado to just 13 points on the afternoon.

12. West Virginia

It has taken me awhile to buy into the hype, but Steve Slaton and Pat White are running a real, top-notch offense.  You read it here first: Rich Rodriguez will be hired by a top college program (Miami?) or NFL team in the next few years.

13. Oklahoma

Middle Tennessee State on week four?  Brilliant scheduling.

14. California

Before we get all worried about Cal challenging for a Rose Bowl bid, I think Arizona State is a team with 9-3 talent playing to a 3-9 level right now.  Both Oregon and USC have shown me more, and I would not be surprised if a team or two from the middle of the conference (Arizona, UCLA, maybe Washington) sprung the upset.

15. Notre Dame

Brady Quinn again looked awful, but Michigan State blew another game to a rival (after choking against Michigan two years ago).  The Spartans defense does not have the raw speed to keep up with the nation's top offenses.  For its part, Notre Dame has a test with Purdue this weekend, but could be 10-1 heading into USC if it can grab the win.

16. Boise State

After consecutive narrow escapes against Wyoming and Hawaii, Boise State looks more of a pretender than a contender (and Oregon State even more so).  Utah this week will tell the tale.

17. Florida State

Okay, it is official.  Florida State has now beat out Michigan (up until this season), Tennessee, Ron Zook Florida and Miami for the team that does the least with the most offensive talent.  Just watching them upsets me.

18. Arkansas

After losing about half their games by the thinnest of margins last season, Arkansas deserved the breaks that it got this weekend (as Alabama left 10 points on the board in missed kicks and Arkansas escaped by one in double overtime).  The test against Auburn in two weeks could go a long way to deciding the SEC West title.

19. TCU

Someone will be pulling hard for one-loss Utah over Boise State this weekend.  It would be hard to see more than one mid-major slipping into the BCS, even if both finish undefeated.

20. Tennessee

At least Georgia also had quarterback struggles in the SEC East.  Of course, Georgia is still undefeated.  On the other hand, not playing Auburn is looking to be a better deal by the week.

21. LSU

Top-10 on talent (and the blowout over Arizona looks much more impressive now that USC struggled), but outside the Top 20 because of the logjammed SEC.  LSU would be a clear second (and a likely BCS at-large berth) in the Pac-10.

22. Nebraska

All of a sudden, Missouri is looking respectable, and maybe Colorado is starting to turn it around after a couple of games under Dan Hawkins.  The Troy team Nebraska crushed actually is not an awful team, as they beat Missouri and took LSU to the wire in recent years.

23. Boston College

If there is ever a year for a mid-level ACC team to come out of nowhere to push for the conference crown, this would be it.  The early-season win over Clemson looks much better than it did a month ago.

24. Clemson

Beating Florida State helped, and hanging a Steve Spurrier on North Carolina completed the deal: this team is for real.  How sweet would a non-Florida State/Miami/Virginia Tech ACC Championship Game be?

25. Missouri

Why not?  If anyone could push Nebraska for the Big 12 North, why not Missouri?  Iowa State and Kansas State look weak, and Kansas and Colorado nothing special.

Dropped: Arizona State, Michigan State
On the Bubble: Purdue, Pittsburgh


A little look at Stanford's march toward an ignominious history, if you will.  The Cardinal last went winless in 1960, and I cannot even find the last time a Pac-10 team had a perfectly imperfect regular season (and I have checked 10 years back).  But I give Stanford a realistic shot at 0-12 this season.

Opponent - Stanford's odds of victory:

At UCLA - 10%
At Notre Dame - 2%
Arizona - 25%
At Arizona State - 10%
USC - 1%
At Washington - 25%
Oregon State - 30%
At Cal - 3%

Feel free to agree or disagree with the odds (and plug in your own if you like), but using the numbers I estimate above, Stanford has a 30% chance of running the table the wrong way.

Weekly BCS Projection:

ACC: Virginia Tech
Big East: West Virginia
Big 10: Ohio State
Big 12: Texas
Pac-10: USC
SEC: Auburn
At-large: Florida
At-large: Boise State
At-large: Louisville

Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:

1. Troy Smith, Ohio State
2. John David Booty, USC
3. Steve Slaton, West Virginia
4. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
5. Kenny Irons, Auburn


Season: 8-4 ATS, 8-4 SU.  Last week: Ohio State, Louisville and Arizona State all covered big.  If only it were always this easy.

1. Ohio State at Iowa – Iowa's defense has not been seriously tested to date.  Ohio State's defense is too fast up front for Iowa's running attack to get any traction either.  Ohio State and Michigan are on a crash course.  Ohio State 31, Iowa 17.

2. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech – Virginia Tech has to play better than last week - I do not think the alternative is possible.  In Georgia Tech, like Iowa, we have a team we do not know much about.  I pick the known quantity.  Virginia Tech 35, Georgia Tech 13.

3. Boise State at Utah – Boise State has been narrowly avoiding losses week after week to poor teams.  And though 2002 Ohio State pulled off that trick long enough to win the national title, Boise State has no sweater-vested coach on the sidelines.  Utah 27, Boise State 21.

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