Week Six: Tuesday
Mack Brown, Texas
Has any coach ever been under more pressure to win than Mack Brown this week? After all the years of having good teams that just can't quite get over the hump, this year's Texas team looks poised to breakthrough and make it to the Rose Bowl. In fact, most people expect them to at this point. Is that realistic? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is that in recent years, Brown hasn't been able to get his Longhorns past their archrival, Oklahoma. Brown hasn't done well in big games throughout his career and his teams have never won a conference championship. This year, the Sooners have looked downright awful at times, and already have two losses. If not now, when are the Longhorns going to take out OU? Texas and Mack Brown have to prove they can win against Oklahoma. This is their chance. All the pressure in the world is on Brown this week to lead his Longhorns past the Sooners.
Vince Young, Texas
Again, we have a Texas player. See the above comments on the importance of a Texas team finally beating Oklahoma. Take away the talk about the importance of winning as a coach, and realize that Young has been criticized for not winning the big games. That has started to change with his performances against Michigan in last year's Rose Bowl and the game at Ohio State earlier this year. Right now, Young has edged closer and closer to Matt Leinart in the Heisman Trophy race. He has a chance to prove he deserves the Trophy with a solid performance in this game. Last year, Oklahoma's defense snuffed Young and the Longhorns offense out, as Texas was shutout. This from a Sooners defense that got roasted on several occasions by other teams and a Longhorns offense that did the roasting to other defenses several times last year. Young has got to perform well in this game.
College Gameday Site
University Park, Pennsylvania
While the Georgia at Tennessee game may be bigger, the Ohio State at Penn State game carries a certain weight to it. The Nittany Lions seem to have returned to the top of the college football world following last week's 44-14 pounding of a ranked Minnesota team. Ohio State, on the other hand, is considered the favorite to win the conference and a team that is still right in the thick of the Rose Bowl race. This game didn't look as big as it does now just a week ago, but people have really jumped on the Penn State bandwagon after their beatdown of Minnesota. This ought to be a great game. Plus, the game is on ESPN in primetime, and Gameday has been choosing to go to a place where either they or ABC are broadcasting the game so far this year. Are they going to go to Notre Dame for the USC game next weekend? Hard to believe they wouldn't. So we'll see.
Thoughts on the Rankings
This was a big moving week in the polls. Alabama shot up, Florida and LSU shot down, Penn State jumped in, Michigan State sunk towards the bottom. All in all, things are beginning to become more clear in the rankings with each passing week.
Um, people? Virginia got beat by Maryland. I know the Terps aren't a bad team and there is no shame in losing to them, but to still have them #25 in the Coaches Poll is surprising given the fact that they struggled with Syracuse and Western Michigan already this year.
I guess the Harris pollsters were right about Idaho. Last week, they were 0-4. Today, they are 1-4 with a 27-13 win over Utah State. However, whoever was voting for them last week decided that the win was not impressive enough to keep them in the rankings this week.
The Vanderbilt Watch- This had become a staple in this section, and even though the Commodores lost to a winless Sun Belt team for the third consecutive time, they are still receiving votes. They have nine points in both the Harris Poll and the Coaches Poll. The AP Poll did drop them off altogether. With LSU coming to Nashville this weekend, dropping out of the other two seems like a distinct possibility.
The problem is that by my count there are 22 teams that truly have earned the right to be ranked. This leaves three teams for everyone to play around with. One of those other three is taken up by most people, though I remain unconvinced.
Putting together rankings is never easy. But it is a picture that continues to become clearer with each passing week. These rankings are not predictions of where teams will end up, but rather thoughts on where they are right now. If a team shows me something, they will move accordingly. The problem is, as I stated above, that I really only have 22 teams that I think have really earned a ranking. The final three are solid teams, but there seems to be a divide between the first 22 and the last three in my mind. This does not mean that one of the bottom three can not beat (or have not beaten in one case) a team in the Top 22. It just means they have more to show me before I believe.
Last week's ranking is in parentheses.
1. USC 4-0 (1)
2. Virginia Tech 5-0 (2)
3. Texas 4-0 (3)
4. Alabama 5-0 (13)
5. Ohio State 3-1 (5)
6. Georgia 4-0 (6)
7. Florida State 4-0 (10)
8. Florida 4-1 (4)
9. Tennessee 3-1 (8)
10. Notre Dame 4-1 (14)
11. LSU 2-1 (11)
12. Miami, FL 3-1 (15)
13. Penn State 5-0 (22)
14. UCLA 4-0 (9)
15. Arizona State 3-2 (12)
16. California 5-0 (25)
17. Michigan State 4-1 (7)
18. Wisconsin 5-0 (18)
19. Texas Tech 4-0 (16)
20. Boston College 4-1 (19)
21. Georgia Tech 3-1 (20)
22. Auburn 4-1 (23)
23. Nebraska 4-0 (--)
24. TCU 4-1 (--)
25. Michigan 3-2 (--)
Dropped Out: Minnesota 4-1 (17), Iowa State 3-1 (21), Clemson 2-3 (24)
All three lost this past weekend. Minnesota's was an embarrassing 44-14 loss. Clemson's was to a team they should have beaten in Wake Forest. Iowa State's loss wasn't embarrassing or particularly surprising, but when combined with their close win over Army and their average game against Illinois State, they had to be dropped.
Biggest drop of a team still in the rankings: 10- Michigan State. The Spartans lost in overtime to Michigan. While that wasn't a bad loss or a totally humiliating loss, it just shows that the Spartans are still not quite ready to make the jump. They will find their way back up the rankings if they keep on winning.
Smallest drop of a team that lost: 3- Arizona State. Hard to argue with this drop by the Sun Devils. They lead USC late in the football game, which is something that few people expected to happen this year. The Sun Devils have now just barely lost to both USC and LSU. They have earned their place near the top of the polls.
Biggest drop of a team that won: 5- UCLA. The Bruins struggled badly with Washington. Of course, they were probably looking ahead to their big game against California this week. Still, their wins over San Diego State and Rice aren't that big, and their win over Oklahoma doesn't look super impressive right now. They deserved to be dropped big for their lackluster performance against Washington.
Biggest jump of a team that was in the rankings last week: 9- Alabama, Penn State, California. The Crimson Tide absolutely dominated Florida, 31-3, to prove that they belong in the national championship discussion. Penn State steamrolled Minnesota 44-14. The Nittany Lions will get their chance to prove they belong this weekend against Ohio State. California looked more focused against Arizona this week. Also, their win over Washington (which was close for a quarter and a half) looks a little bit better now that UCLA was nearly beaten by the Huskies.
I broke one of my rules. I have a few rules that I try to follow when doing my rankings. The most basic one is that if two teams have the same number of losses and they have played head to head, the team that is ranked higher is the team that won the game. This is why you see Florida ahead of Tennessee and Tennessee ahead of LSU. Of course, you can get running in circles on this (what happens if LSU beats Florida and all three have two losses?) so there has to be some common sense. However, this weekI broke that rule when I put Michigan State below Notre Dame. Part of this is because the Irish beat the Michigan team on the road that Michigan State just lost to at home. For the record, if Michigan State gets close to the Irish in the rankings, there is a very good chance they will jump Notre Dame. The problem is that if they both have one loss past next weekend, Notre Dame will have beaten USC and that may trump the on the field game. Again, this proves why ranking teams is an inexact science.
Incredibly basic previews of tonight's game.
Troy at North Texas (7:30 ESPN2)- This could easily be the Sun Belt Game of the Year. Troy looks more talented on paper, but the Mean Green never lose Sun Belt games, particularly Sun Belt games at home. This one ought to be a good defensive battle. Will Patrick Cobbs finally get going in this game?