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.)
Another trademark ugly game with one jawdropping highlight from Troy Smith, who is quickly becoming to college football quarterbacking what Paris Hilton is to pop music: great to look at, but only in 10-second snippets.
Bye, at Oregon State, at Stanford - comes at just the right time for a team that has won by nearly-identical nailbiting margins (28-22, 26-20, 28-21) each of the past three weeks to Pac-10 also-rans (Washington State, Washington, Arizona State). Maybe Matt Leinart was pretty good after all.
Thank goodness Iowa lost to Indiana (and injured seemingly half its team in the process – you thought Stanford had injury problems), otherwise I would be scared silly for this next week after the weakest performance to-date from the offense. The defensive front is the best in the country, but the cornerback opposite star Leon Hall keeps getting torched – Ohio State must be smiling.
I honestly have no clue how Cincinnati, a 5-7 team in the making, scares the living daylights out of West Virginia and Louisville. Louisville's "marquee" win over Miami does not look so impressive anymore.
Another four rushing touchdowns for Steve Slaton – did Rich Rodriguez take this kid in his fantasy draft? This week, Connecticut (last year's Rutgers, the team the New York media latches onto for no good reason) is the sacrificial lamb.
All programs play creampuffs but Texas and West Virginia (and Florida in the Spurrier days) are simply second-to-none at hanging 60-plus on them. This week's visit to Lincoln marks the one game until December for which Texas needs to show up awake.
Florida is through the meat of its schedule – and almost made it through unscathed – as only struggling Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, West Carolina and offensively-inept Florida State remain. The BCS computers love Auburn and Florida, so if the two teams win out to meet in the SEC Title Game (which would require Arkansas to drop two), the winner will be in the national title game with a USC or Michigan and Ohio State loss. Ahh, the beautiful complexity of the national title chase.
My goodness, these guys are fast. I watched most of the game and I do not understand why Florida did not move to the power-based running game that Arkansas had employed so effectively and make Auburn stop it. Perhaps lost in the defensive dominance: did the offense ever struggle last weekend.
It was a good week to have a bye, while the karmic energy clearly was working against the nation's Top 10 (Florida, Michigan and USC all struggled).
One more Florida loss (presumably to Georgia this weekend), and you can hand the SEC East to Tennessee. Alabama has always proven more of a struggle than it should for Tennessee, and I expect a team that needed overtime to beat Mississippi State to give Tennessee all it can handle this weekend, too.
"Only" 21 points against the Cougars, but a better sign was the defensive effort – stout for the second-straight week. USC's offense might not be able to score over 25 against the Bears, as it has every week for the last four years.
12. Boise State
Sure, they are low in the first BCS rankings, but if they keep winning, they will find a way onto the big stage as other programs inevitably fall. The computers are surprisingly high on Boise State (they rank them about here) for a team that has one of the weakest schedules in the land.
I have always thought Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri are three state schools in prime football territory that should perform better than they have in recent years, and this year has seen each of those schools on the road to their best season in recent memory.
That UCLA defense is not all that different from last year's, despite Karl Dorrell's claims post-Stanford. Another ho-hum 10-win, but-cannot-win-the-big-ones season up in Eugene.
With Adrian Peterson gone for the season (on a touchdown-celebrating backflip and in his first time in front of his recently paroled-father, I believe), how will these Sooners score? Other than on 80-percent-off SUVs?
Here is a de facto ACC Title Game as Clemson squares off with Georgia Tech this weekend. By the way, and I hope Clemson's Scout.com site does not pick this up and deluge me with hate mail, but the touching of Howard's Rock at Clemson has to be the weirdest tradition in all college football.
For all the SEC chest thumping, LSU's season really has not been that impressive that far. It is one thing to have teams like Florida and Auburn on the schedule, but it is quite another to beat them. Who have these guys beaten? Tulane?
18. Georgia Tech
Am I the only one who thinks that Miami or Florida State or Virginia Tech will suddenly spring back to life, and all the traditional also-rans (Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake) will cower their way into inexplicably ugly 16-13 defeats as they remember all the years of whoopings they have received? Years of blowouts have to take a mental toll, no?
For all we know, Texas is nothing special this year – their best win came against offensively-challenged Oklahoma (who still scored 34 on Oregon, my non-Pac-10 friends like to remind me) and they were crushed by Ohio State. About 20 teams in the country could beat Oklahoma and get crushed by Ohio State, and if Nebraska is one of them, just maybe they can officially signal "old" Nebraska football is back for good this weekend.
20. Wake Forest
If Clemson is the best team in the ACC, how can you fault Wake Forest for playing them tough? With the ACC down, a one- or two-loss season is far from inconceivable; there is no one left on the schedule these guys could not beat.
Wisconsin is the Big 10's new Minnesota: get blown out by Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State/Iowa/whoever happens to be good that year, and run for 300 yards and win by five touchdowns against the rest of the league. Even so, the carnage against Purdue this past week was impressive.
Pittsburgh is probably better than Rutgers (in terms of recruiting classes, they definitely are) and will get their chance to hush up the New York media and claim a Top 25 spot with a win this weekend. Also, if Pittsburgh were to have a better season this year than it has the past five, what does that signal about Walt Harris' coaching ability? Great recruiter? Poor gameday coach? What?
So a loss to Texas Tech is excusable for a team that is already bowl-eligible midway through October. Had to say I called it, though, when I read the New York Times article heralding their praises this week. I love the grey lady, but they are the Sports Illustrated cover curse of college football (which presumably continues with SI's pick of Notre Dame this year).
Indiana? Wow. See what happens when Bob Bowlsby leaves – the football gods must love this guy. Drew Tate (love that name) continues to impress, but the defense in Iowa City is not what it used to be in years past.
25. Boston College
After an impressive pantsing of Virginia Tech, Boston College is on the way to its most memorable season since Doug Flutie. Speaking of Missouri, Illinois and Arkansas, here is the ACC's underperforming team of the decade.
Dropped: Virginia Tech, Georgia
On the Bubble: Rutgers
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Pursuing Imperfection -- 59%
Oops, they did it again. With another ugly loss this past weekend, Stanford took another step toward its first winless season since 1960. To put that in perspective, many of our football players' parents were in the womb in 1960. (And many probably wish they were now.) Anyhow, after the ugliest week of the season, by far, here is my latest guess as the rest of the Pac-10 also starts to come into focus.
|Opponent||Stanford's odds of victory|
|@ Arizona State||8% (last week 15%)|
|@ Washington||15% (last week 25%)|
|Oregon State||20% (last week 30%)|
|@ Cal||2% (last week 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 59% chance of running the table the wrong way. If only my shots were so good at law school…
Weekly BCS Projection:
Big East: West Virginia
Big 10: Ohio State
Big 12: Texas
At-large: Boise State
At-large: Notre Dame
Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:
1. Troy Smith, Ohio State – Overrated.
2. Steve Slaton, West Virginia – Four touchdowns, what more do you want?
3. Michael Hart, Michigan – Manningham's injury makes Hart the clear candidate out of Ann Arbor. Peterson's injury makes him the best traditional running back in the game right now.
4. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame – Look for him to shoot up the national consciousness with nationally televised creampuffs these next several weeks.
5. Chris Leak, Florida – Big step backwards.
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Season: 12-9 ATS, 12-9 SU.
Last week: 1-2, just when I was starting to get cocky, Florida and Virginia Tech sent me crashing back to reality.
1. Michigan at Iowa – This is Michigan's last hurdle (Ball State, Indiana and Northwestern are the future opponents) before Ohio State, and while it would be incredibly Lloyd Carr-esque to stomp through Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State and Penn State in consecutive weeks only to lose to Iowa, this team is on a crash course with destiny. Next stop, Columbus. Michigan 27, Iowa 13.
2. Texas at Nebraska – Nebraska will return to glory – just not this year. Texas is overrated (who have they beaten exactly?), but Nebraska does not have the team speed to exploit the Longhorns. Texas 37, Nebraska 21.
3. Georgia Tech at Clemson – The fact that it is a night game enhances Clemson's homefield advantage, as does the national television broadcast. Clemson's running game is one of the best in the country not in Morgantown or Ann Arbor, and Georgia Tech still has Reggie "Turnover the" Ball at quarterback. Clemson takes a huge step toward the ACC title in primetime. Clemson 35, Georgia Tech 17.
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