The Sweep: Week Five

Each year in October we marvel at the number of undefeated teams remaining in college football. Each year we are met by surprise upsets that thin the national title contenders. Daniel in this week of "The Sweep" has nine unbeatens in his top 10 and all but one of them have shuffled from last week. Included is a fall from grace for the 4-0 USC Trojans after two lackluster games in a row.

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.)

1. Ohio State (5-0, Last: 3)
Last: Won at Iowa, 38-17
Next: vs. Bowling Green

A visit in two weeks to Michigan State will be the only game with a spread less than two touchdowns in the Buckeyes' favor.  If Michigan can uphold its half of the deal, the teams are on a crash course for, arguably, the biggest game in the rivalry's storied history.

2. USC (4-0, Last: 1)
Last: Won at Washington State, 28-22
Next: vs. Washington

Two stinkers in a row versus Arizona and Washington State.  Oregon and Cal are the only Pac-10 teams with the talent to punish USC, so I still expect them to roll to an undefeated season, but the 2004 squad would beat this team by two touchdowns right now.

3. Auburn (5-0, Last: 2)
Last: Won at South Carolina, 24-17 (Sept. 28)
Next: vs. Arkansas

The win at South Carolina was surprisingly tough, and this week's visit from Arkansas should be as well.  The offense, like nearly every SEC team's, needs to be more productive if this team is going to garner the national respect of, say, Ohio State.

4. Louisville (4-0, Last: 4)
Last: Won vs. Kansas State, 24-6 (Sept. 23)
Next: at Middle Tennessee State (Oct. 6)

The intrasquad scrimmages over last week's bye week should be harder than the next three opponents: Middle Tennessee State, Cincinnati and Syracuse.

5. Florida (5-0, Last: 6)
Last: Won vs. Alabama, 28-13
Next: vs. LSU

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer no longer.  Speaking of the demise of Alabama football, if anyone has seen the MTV series Two-A-Days, following the lives of the football stars at an Alabama powerhouse, maybe you could join me for a frontal lobotomy.  30 minutes showed me all I needed to see about why our education system is in shambles.

6. Michigan (5-0, Last: 5)
Last: Won vs. Minnesota, 28-14
Next: vs. Michigan State

Win the next three (versus Michigan State, at Penn State, versus Iowa) and it is clear sailing until the visit to Ohio State.  As a lifelong Michigan fan who still cries when we lose the first game of the season, do I have Booties' permission to duck out on Stanford-Oregon State (likely combined record: 3-17) if I can get a ticket to the game in Columbus?

7. Oregon (4-0, Last: 8)
Last: Won at Arizona State, 48-13
Next: at Cal

The visit from Cal this week looks easier than it did two months ago; the visit to UCLA next week looks easier than it did two weeks ago; and the USC tilt down the road looks easier than it did two years ago.  All in all, not a bad time to be a Duck fan.

8. Texas (4-1, Last: 9)
Last: Won vs. Sam Houston State
Next: vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)

Think Texas might have spent some of the practice last week preparing for Oklahoma this week?  Then again, given Mack Brown's track record against Oklahoma, maybe not.

9. Georgia (5-0, Last: 11)
Last: Won at Mississippi, 14-9
Next: vs. Tennessee

Here is the undefeated team I give no shot of running the table.  The Dawgs can prove me wrong versus Tennessee this week, though.

10. West Virginia (4-0, Last: 12)
Last: Bye
Next: at Mississippi State

West Virginia was last in a close game (or pitted against a team with a pulse) versus Georgia in last year's Sugar Bowl.  How will the Mountaineers respond when the going gets tough this year?

11. Oklahoma

Every year, the Cotton Bowl looks like it holds more Oklahoma faithful than Texas fans.  Maybe the Oklahoma AD should start moaning about that and lay off the letters to the Pac-10 officials.

12. California

That was a really impressive win against Oregon State.  Tremendous turnaround, though, for Beavers kicker Alexis Serna.  Two years after choking away a win at defending national champion LSU, Serna has won the Groza and last week set a school record with a 58-yarder to close the first half.

13. Notre Dame

Stanford is 0-5 against the spread – though last week's +24 hung in the balance for awhile.  I think Notre Dame -32 is fairly safe this weekend, especially with the memory of last year's near-loss and pressure to look impressive for the BCS on the Irish's mind.

14. Boise State

What a huge win, in terms of quality of opponent, margin and impact for Boise State over Utah.  With Fresno State having an off-year and TCU losing to a surprisingly resurgent BYU team last weekend, Boise State's odds for a BCS berth rocketed to "nearly certain" as long as they keep running the table.

15. Iowa

Ohio State made a national title Texas team (minus Vince Young) look silly, so I am not punishing Iowa too badly for this one.  Michigan in two weeks is crucial, as the Hawkeyes are likely double-digit favorites every other week.

16. Virginia Tech

Cincinnati showed the chinks in the armor, leading 13-12 after three, and Georgia Tech exploited them.  How about the Yellow Jackets rallying for the ACC title?  In a down year for the conference, this is their best shot in ages.

17. Florida State

The ‘Noles must be breathing easier after seeing Virginia Tech crap its pants and Miami do the same (though pull out a one-point win over Houston).  The title is theirs on talent alone if they can find some sort of offensive scheme to put points on the board with a semblance of regularity.

18. Tennessee

The near-win versus Florida and rout at the hands of Cal are each looking better by the week.  Also the quarterback situation is (finally) settling down.  A Florida loss to LSU and a win over Georgia, and Rocky Top will be rocking and on top (of the SEC East, provided another Florida loss) again.

19. Arkansas

Conversely, if Arkansas springs the upset versus Auburn this weekend and Florida holds home field versus LSU, Arkansas would find itself with a two-game lead in the SEC West title chase.  The Hogs have the easiest schedule of any BCS team not in the Big East or Big 12 North.

20. LSU

No more SEC hypotheticals to confuse the brain, but with LSU checking in as the sixth (after Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas) team from the Deep South on our ballot, you have to admit the conference is the toughest for a top school to run the table.  Of course, if the breaks fall the wrong way and the conference beats itself, the unanimous national title drought (none since Tennessee in 1998) will only continue.

21. Clemson

The rushing offense is probably the best in the conference.  No joke.  After hearing for years about how Clemson was about to burst onto the national scene, maybe the predictions are finally coming true.

22. Nebraska

I need someone in this slot, so I will pretend I did not see the overtime necessary to put away Kansas at Memorial Stadium.  Then again, those might be the two best teams in the Big 12 North…

23. Missouri

…Or maybe not.  This week's visit to a Texas Tech team straight off a huge win over Texas A&M should help tell the tale.

24. Wake Forest

Hey, 5-0 is 5-0.  Plus, the top of the ACC is easily worse than any other power conference's elite, so Wake Forest has plenty of room to surprise.  The first major surprise could come on ESPN versus Clemson this Saturday.

25. Texas Tech

Gutsy last-minute catch propels the Red Raiders over Texas A&M and into a suddenly large showdown with Missouri.  With a win, the Raiders have a decent shot at challenging Texas' and Oklahoma's stranglehold on the Big 12 South.

Dropped: TCU, Boston College
On the Bubble: Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech

RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY

Pursuing Imperfection -- 33%

Stanford last went winless in 1960, but the odds are growing better by the week.  After showing some heart defensively, but falling apart everywhere else in the Rose Bowl last week, here is my latest estimate:

Opponent Stanford's odds of victory
@ Notre Dame 2%
Arizona 25%
@ Arizona State 15%
USC 2%
@ Washington 20%
Oregon State 30%
@ Cal 3%

Feel free to agree or disagree with the numbers (and plug in your own if you like), but using the above odds I estimate and update each week, Stanford now has a 33% chance of running the table the wrong way.

BCS Logjam?

With Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Auburn, Oregon and USC each picking up important wins last weekend, it looks increasingly possible that the champions of the Big 10, Pac 10, SEC and Big East will finish the season undefeated.  That would mean four undefeated teams, which would probably put the SEC representative and the Michigan/Ohio State winner into the national championship, though the screams from USC would be deafening.  Stay tuned.

Weekly BCS Projection:

ACC: Clemson – though one of Virginia Tech, Florida State or Miami will probably right the ship in time
Big East: West Virginia
Big 10: Ohio State
Big 12: Texas
Pac-10: USC, but watch out for Oregon
SEC: Auburn
At-large: Florida
At-large: Michigan
At-large: Boise State
At-large: Louisville

Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:

1. Troy Smith, Ohio State
2. Steve Slaton, West Virginia
3. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
4. Kenny Irons, Auburn
5. Mike Hart, Michigan

BIG GAMES ON TAP

Season: 9-6 ATS, 9-6 SU.
Last week: Virginia Tech and Utah laid stinkers while Ohio State was as good as expected.

1. Oklahoma vs. Texas – So can Mack Brown beat Oklahoma, or just Vince Young?  Oklahoma showed me more against Oregon than Texas did against Ohio State.  Plus, the Sooners are probably hungrier after watching Texas take last year's title and the officials steal away a win in Eugene.  Besides, I am actually above .500 - it is about time I picked an upset.  Oklahoma 23, Texas 21.

2. Tennessee at Georgia – Georgia has been escaping week by week.  With no reliable offense in sight, I think the high-wire act ends here.  Tennessee 34, Georgia 13.

3. LSU at Florida – Both teams have the talent defensively and overall speed.  Florida has the magical season still alive, the home-field advantage and a better offensive scheme.  Huge edges.  Florida 23, LSU 13.


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