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 (12-0, Last: 1)
Last: Won vs. Michigan, 42-39
The only question is how effective Ohio State will be after 50-plus days of rest, especially given that USC will have two fewer weeks of rust. The Ohio State secondary is also nothing special and will have its hands full with Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith.
Think the Bruins have a shot in the Rose Bowl this weekend? Well, Karl Dorrell versus Pete Carroll on gameday: what do you think?
3. Michigan (11-1, Last: 3)
Last: Lost at Ohio State, 42-39
Long-term, a strong Ohio State has to be a worry for Michigan, a school that is used to getting many of its best players (Charles Woodson, for one) out of the Buckeye State. Now, Ohio State is starting to steal blue-chippers out of Michigan, which was unheard of five or 10 years ago.
I think any of the Top Three teams would crush the Gators today, and I think teams like LSU, Notre Dame and Cal would have a pretty good shot, too. Where has the offense gone and what is the world coming to that Florida, a school known for winning by 40, is squeaking out victories over .500 teams like South Carolina and Florida State?
Given that the BCS has expanded to 10 teams, I think it is time to revise the rule that a conference can receive only two berths. For now though, Wisconsin is left out in the cold and is facing a possible rematch with Auburn in the Capital One Bowl Formerly Known as the Citrus.
West Virginia's loss to South Florida means that if the Mountaineers rebound against Rutgers this week, the Cardinals go BCS bowling. Louisville's offense is incredibly impressive. Take out the all-world quarterback, take out the all-star running back - it does not matter. This team scores 30-plus no matter who they are playing.
That Cincinnati loss ends up not costing Rutgers a thing, as New York City's latest fad still controls its own destiny in the Big East. Has a school fallen harder faster than Syracuse? I remember these guys in the BCS a few years ago (along with dormant, though now resurgent, Illinois) and now they are a national laughingstock.
8. LSU (9-2, Last: 13)
Last: Won vs. Arkansas, 31-26
Here is your final at-large BCS team, courtesy a win over Arkansas that was as good of a game as any I have seen this year. On talent, this team is probably playing fourth in the nation (behind Ohio State, Michigan and USC) right now. They are probably the fastest team in the country, save for USC.
The Tiger faithful have to enjoy watching Mike Shula get fired at Alabama. Then again, if the Tide choose this time to hire a coach will a sliver of intestinal fortitude come gameday, they vault to the top-half of the SEC overnight.
10. Notre Dame (10-2, Last: 9)
Last: Lost at USC, 44-24
Corner Terrail Lambert did his best toast impression, and even though John David Booty soiled his pants in the first half of his first big game at USC, Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith proved too much. I think USC might fall off when those receivers graduate – they are the cogs that make the entire offense run.
11. West Virginia
Whoops. What was shocking was not so much that South Florida – the best football team you have not heard of – upset the Mountaineers; it was more the fashion in which South Florida did it, running the ball down West Virginia's throat. If the team regroups, they should have no problem with Rutgers, but if not, a blessed season for the Scarlet Knights could end with a BCS bid.
Can more teams adopt this offense, please? Anyone that scores 26 on LSU earns my respect, and all the direct snaps to the halfback and fumblerooskis are just icing on the cake. Arkansas is proving week by week that the SEC defenses are not out of this world; it is that the offensive coordinators are unoriginal and lazy.
13. Boise State
Has anyone's stock dropped quicker than Dan Hawkins'? He leaves Boise and chokes it up in Colorado – the Buffaloes are as bad as they have been in years, and Boise State is undefeated without him.
Oklahoma is a whisker away from being in the Top 10, with their referee-aided collapse at Oregon one of only two losses. Given Adrian Peterson's loss to injury, and the limits of the skill position players, Bob Stoops has pulled off one of his best coaching jobs yet to get the Sooners on the BCS doorstep.
15. Virginia Tech
The Hokies toyed with Virginia in their rivalry game and will be two-touchdown favorites against whoever the face in the Gator/other also-ran Bowl. The team is very young and is an early national title contender for next year, especially given the struggles of the Florida schools.
Have you seen that some Bear backers are starting to complain about Jeff Tedford? That his team is not prepared in big games, that they have reached their ceiling. Are you kidding me? If he bolts to the NFL and Cal returns to 3-8 within five years, those Cal fans will be reaping what they are sowing.
17-12 over Kentucky? If Larry Coker, national title to his name, can get fired, so too can Phil Fulmer. The man is one of the most irrationally risk-averse coaches (Stanford's notwithstanding) in the game, and Tennessee has fallen from the national elite over the past decade under his watch.
What a gutsy win in an up-and-down 33-31 thriller over Utah. A touchdown pass with no time left won it for the Cougars, who entered the fourth quarter down 24-10 to one of the region's best teams – after blowing a 14-0 lead.
Hawaii got past Purdue last Saturday, but I am really looking forward to seeing them take on Oregon State, a team peaking at just the right time, this weekend. I do not think the passing attack, their bread and butter, goes for much of anything against the Beaver cornerbacks.
What if Texas had not scheduled Ohio State? Imagine the uproar that the Texas A&M loss would have caused. It worked well for Ohio State (Texas), USC (Notre Dame) and Michigan (Notre Dame) – but it goes to show that teams play with fire any time they schedule Top 10 opponents.
21. Georgia Tech
Reggie Ball actually scored more points for Georgia (fumble returned for a touchdown) than he did for Georgia Tech through three quarters. All-American receiver Calvin Johnson caught only two balls against the Bulldogs? Some coaches need to have their heads checked.
22. Texas A&M
Texas, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Clemson and Maryland – pretty much the bottom third of last week's Top 25 – all lost, so there is plenty of room to reward the 9-3 Aggies after a knockout of the Longhorns. They need to start winning recruiting battles with Texas in the worst way (for their own sake, and for the rest of the Big 12's), and maybe this win will help.
23. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe and Wake Forest must be cursing every time they see Rutgers highlights – this team is the real Cinderella this season. Like Rutgers, they are playing for the conference crown this weekend, but unlike the Scarlet Knights, they got there by beating opponents with an actual pulse. 30-0 over Florida State in the game that got Jeff Bowden fired? Who would have predicted that in 100 years?
For all the bad publicity that the Huskers got for their switch to a more conventional offense a few years ago, the move is starting to pay dividends. There are plenty of football-crazy states in the country, but none more so than Nebraska. They have the will; they have the history and now they have the scheme. This team will be competing for it all in a few years.
25. Penn State
The defense is a Top 15 unit; the offense is outside the Top 50 looking in. But, hey, we need a team for this spot, especially with the middle of the ACC imploding on Saturday. Joe Paterno earns the sentimental nod.
Dropped: Boston College, Clemson, Maryland
On the Bubble: Georgia, Oregon State, Boston College
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
Weekly BCS Projection:
ACC: Georgia Tech over Wake Forest
Big East: Louisville
Big 10: Ohio State
Big 12: Oklahoma over Nebraska
SEC: Florida over Arkansas
At-large: Boise State
At-large: Notre Dame
Rose: Michigan vs. LSU
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. Notre Dame
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Louisville
National Title: Ohio State vs. USC
Projected Heisman finalists, and order of finish:
BIG GAMES ON TAP
Season: 21-15 ATS, 21-15 SU.
Last week: 2-1 ATS, 2-1 SU
USC and LSU won with style, while Wake Forest surprised me with a beating of Maryland.
1. Arkansas vs. Florida (Atlanta) – Arkansas' quarterback is the worst starting quarterback at any BCS school. The gimmicks and schemes that produced enough points against the rest of the SEC should not be enough against the Gators. Florida 28, Arkansas 17.
2. Rutgers at West Virginia – Before everyone jumps off the bandwagon, South Florida is actually a decent team. West Virginia will be fired up for this one, and I think Rutgers may have trouble running the ball on them. West Virginia 42, Rutgers 24.
3. Nebraska vs. Oklahoma – This is by far the toughest of the week's games to pick. Neither team has exactly looked dominant in recent weeks, but I give this one to the Sooners on coaching, big-game experience and line play. Oklahoma 31, Nebraska 20.
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