The Sweep: Crystal Ball Edition

The Sweep tries to see the big picture in the weekly madness of college football, and has no choice but to devalue the Pac-10. Read on to see how the 2008 season is just like 2007, what we think of Nick Saban, and who we see winning the Heisman and playing in the BCS. Plus, our picks have been hot, who do we like this week?

Week 6 Poll

1. Oklahoma (Change: 0)
2. LSU (+3)
3. USC (0)
4. Penn State (+3)
5. Alabama (+5)
6. Texas (+3)
7. Missouri (0)
8. Florida (-6)
9. Texas Tech (-1)
10. Georgia  (-6)
11. Auburn  (+1)
12. Ohio State (+2)
13. South Florida  (0)
14. BYU  (+1)
15. Utah  (+1)
16. Wisconsin (-5)
17. Virginia Tech  (+1)
18. Boise State (+1)
19. Oklahoma State (+7)
20. Cal (+6)
21. Kansas (+2)
22. Oregon (+3)
23. Wake Forest (-3)
24. Michigan State (+2)
25. Northwestern (+1)

IN: Northwestern, Oklahoma State, Cal, Michigan State
OUT: Clemson, TCU, Colorado, Illinois

It's déjà vu all over again:
  Seriously, is 2008 morphing into 2007?  Four teams in the top ten, USC, Georgia, Florida, and Wisconsin, all lost, and all under some set of bizarre circumstances.  USC was down 21-0 to Oregon State at the half. I blinked when I saw that score on the ticker at first -- I thought it had been reversed.  Georgia was taken behind the woodshed at home for most of the game by the $4 million man, Nick Saban.  Florida lost at home, when battering ram Tim Tebow could not convert a fourth and one.  Wisconsin dominated the first half in Ann Arbor and should have been up by near 30 points.  And then CHANGE happened.  In a remarkable 17-minute span, another game spawned in an alternative reality in which Steve Threet roams like the buffaloes of the 19th century frontier down the field for 60 yards.  Is each week going to feature victims from the top ten, if not top five, a la 2007?  If it were up to me, I'd wholeheartedly endorse.  This is why our sport is so much fun.

SEC Shakedown: 
What a weekend for the SEC.  The East's two flagship programs both gagged at home to West schools.  However, lost in the immediate aftermath, in the prevailing belief of the SEC's unquestioned conference superiority, is that if either team wins out, they will play for the national title.  Try consoling a Gator or Bulldog fan with that nugget.  These losses have only made each week matter even more for both teams, with both squads jockeying for position ahead of their matchup.  The winner of the Not Cocktail Party will almost be assured a spot in Atlanta for the SEC Championship, and quite possibly, the BCS Championship. 

Pac-10 = FAIL:
  Two weeks ago, this column listed a ranking of the conferences.  In light of USC's loss, the Pac-10 merits a reassessment.  Has Oregon State improved that dramatically from its losses to Stanford and Penn State that it could challenge the juggernaut of L.A., college football's current shining beacon of success?  Most likely, USC just didn't take the Beavers seriously (I mean who could?  Their mascot's most menacing action is building dams.)  However, the situation is even worse than originally thought: the Pac-10 is now 1-7 vs. Mountain West and WAC teams!  I claim full responsibility when that beautiful MWC-WAC love child/super-conference idea is born into this world.

The $4 Million Man:
As I said following Alabama's last impressive beat down of a top-ten opponent, I'm driving the Nick Saban bandwagon.  His game plans scream obsessive, meticulous preparation.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  His defense played with aggression and swagger. The offense played efficiently, and his heralded recruited class has already added a big-play threat in Julio Jones.  The difference in Alabama now and Alabama under Mike Shula is truly striking.  I'd like to be the first to say that Nick Saban is the early favorite for National Coach of the Year.

DNR Order:
The DNR Order makes it return with its two favorite patients, Dave Wannstedt and Greg Robinson.  They played a game this weekend, and one of them had to lose.

Dave Wannstedt tried his best to lose to the Orange, but in the end, reason and logic prevailed, meaning Syracuse lost on this insane Saturday.  However, that doesn't change the fact that Pitt required a fourth-quarter rally to beat Syracuse.
Current status: patient suffered a heart attack, significant damage to heart muscle detected.
Prognosis: uncertain.

Greg Robinson lived up to his reputation. He lost again.  Losses at Syracuse are never hard-fought, close losses. They're either horrendous blowouts or heart-breaking, snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory losses.  I'll put the over/under on the time of his firing at three weeks.
Current status: recipient rejected organ donation, donation discarded.
Prognosis: unsuitable donor.

********** ********** **********

Educated Guesses

With conference play just starting up, there's no better time to look into the crystal ball. Here's who the Sweep sees playing in the BCS:

Big 10: Penn State. Wisconsin's loss at Michigan gives the Lions a bit of breathing room.
Big 12: Oklahoma. Could get LSU (or a one-loss USC) in a weird repeat of 2004.
SEC: Georgia. I know what happened last Saturday. But I think the SEC comes down to Florida/Georgia, and I am still not sold on Alabama.
Pac-10: USC. When your conference's second-best team might be Arizona, I'm sticking with the tried-and-true Trojans.
ACC: Virginia Tech. Wake Forest and Clemson are darkhorses here.
Big East: South Florida. Rutgers has fallen off this year and West Virginia's been a colossal disappointment. Looks like our weakest BCS team will be the Bulls.
At-large: BYU. Whoever wins the BYU/Utah game will surely be in the BCS if they can run the table. A 12-0 BYU, with wins over UCLA and Washington, might just sneak into the national title game.
At-large: Florida. There's definitely two SEC teams in this year's BCS, and I think a 10-2 Georgia/Florida loser is the at-large squad. That the BCS caps each conference at two teams means that LSU and Alabama are going to absolutely wallop somebody in the Jan. 1 bowls.
At-large:  Texas. They'll lose to Oklahoma, but they'll be favored in the rest of their contests. An 11-1 Texas team will not be left out.
At-large: Ohio State. There's really no attractive option here, as we already have two SEC and Big 12 teams and there's no great second team from the Big East, ACC or Pac-10. That leaves the Big 10, where Wisconsin already has a conference loss and Illinois isn't even in the top-25 right now. The Buckeyes do travel well, but, given their recent history, they will have to overcome the selectors' reluctance to put them back in a big game.

And, your way too early Heisman update...

1. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma. Puts up ridiculous numbers. And as everyone else beats each other senseless, Oklahoma will be left standing alone as one of the only undefeated teams in the country.

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. Has the incumbency edge in name recognition, is viewed as a good guy, and Florida gets more media exposure than anyone. Tebow played well in the Gators' loss to Ole Miss, but Florida would have to run the table and Tebow would have to start putting up 2007 numbers for him to repeat.

3. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri. Two factors work against Daniel: Missouri's porous defense, which will cost the Tigers a game or two down the stretch, and the fact that WR Jeremy Maclin is a bona fide Heisman contender in his own right and will poach some of Daniel's votes.

4. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
5. Graham Harrell, QB, Texas Tech

Oklahoma's the 600-pound gorilla in the Big 12, but if one of these Texas schools can spring the upset, replace Bradford's name with McCoy or Harrell atop the list.

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Finally, it's our picks section, also known as Don't Quit Your Day Job:

Last week: I didn't have Alabama, but big favorites Oklahoma and Penn State lived up to their billing, winning big. 2-1 straight-up, 2-1 against the spread.
Season: 9-3 against the spread, 10-2 straight-up

Auburn (-4) at Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt, it was fun while it lasted, but the clock's about to strike midnight. I don't know if Auburn's offense has 4.5 points in it, but if so, I like the Tigers.
Auburn 17, Vanderbilt 9

Ohio State (-1.5) at Wisconsin
I was shocked, shocked, to see the line so close here. Wisconsin's horribly one dimensional; they're not run-first, they're run-only. The Buckeyes struggle against SEC teams and USC squads that can spread the field out, but in a "three yards and a cloud of dust" fest, no one is going to out-execute the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes win this one Woody Hayes style.
Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 14

Oregon (+16.5) at USC
Oregon caught a bad week to play USC. I don't know how many points USC's offense can put up, but I know Oregon can't pass to save its life, and I think it's a fair bet that USC will outscore Oregon – with its defense. Never pick an underdog you can't see winning the game outright, and Oregon, I don't see it.
USC 35, Oregon 14

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