Week Twelve: Tuesday
Tommy Bowden, Clemson
Tommy won the Bowden Bowl, but this week's game may be even more important to Bowden. This week he takes on South Carolina in a very heated rivalry game. This is the same South Carolina that is 7-3 and stunned Florida a week ago to stay alive in the race for the SEC East title. This is the same South Carolina that is coached by Steve Spurrier. This is the same South Carolina that has been plastered by Clemson the last three years. Bowden and the Clemson faithful do not want South Carolina to pass them. It's debatable whether or not they have already, but this week will show just how far South Carolina has come. For Bowden, it is critical to come up with a win over the Tigers archrival so that he can keep the fire off of him.
Marcus Vick, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has gone on slides late in the season several times in recent years. This year's team could go on a similar slide. Sitting at 8-1 with games against Virginia and North Carolina left, there is no such thing as a sure thing. The Hokies quarterback looked absolutely awful against Miami in their last game. Was it a one game thing? Or has the traditional late season slide begun. If Vick and the Hokies struggle in this game, many Virginia Tech fans will be very upset about another end of the season slide. This game is critical for Vick to continue on the upward progression that he has shown for most of the year.
College Gameday Site
East Lansing, Michigan
In an interesting turn of events, the gang decided to go to East Lansing this week for the Penn State-Michigan State game. There are three games between ranked teams, and yet they chose this one. That is because Penn State wraps up a BCS bid with a win. If they lose, then the winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game gets the Big Ten's automatic bid. Michigan State (at 5-5) is gunning for a bowl game with a win. The Fresno State-USC game wasn't on the ESPN family of networks (it's on FSN) and it came on so late at night, that they did not want to go to that game. The Alabama-Auburn game is not on the ESPN family, and the winner needs LSU to lose to get to the BCS. There is a chance that an Alabama win would get them to the BCS as an at-large team, however it is clear that the one game that will have ramifications on who goes to the BCS is the Penn State-Michigan State game. It's a big game.
Thoughts on the Rankings
The odd computer quirk of the week is that Michigan, who has three losses including one to Notre Dame, is ranked ahead of the Irish, who have two losses, in the computer rankings. The Irish have moved up the rankings quite successfully, but there still seems to be a "computer bias" against the Irish.
The good news from the computers this week is that USC and Texas are number one and number two in all the computers now. Texas is ranked ahead of USC in all but one, but there is no longer any controversy coming from any of the computers on who should be playing for the national title. That is truly good news.
An e-mailer pointed out this fact to me last week. Every SEC team is ranked higher in the human polls than in the computer polls. Every Big Ten team is ranked higher in the computer polls than in the human polls. Does this mean that we are all underranking Big Ten teams and overranking SEC teams? Does it mean that computers don't have the good fortune of watching the games? Does it mean that things can be interpreted many different ways? It is, at the very least, food for thought.
Fresno State is getting hammered by the computers. They are ranked only by two computers, and then they are fifteen and eighteen. My bet is that they will move up in the computer rankings just for playing USC this Saturday night.
The rankings still are getting shaken up every single week. The fact that things are still changing so rapidly is proof of just how unstable these rankings are. More on the closeness of the ranked teams in a minute. But first, the rankings. Last week's ranking is in parentheses.
1. USC 10-0 (1)
2. Texas 10-0 (2)
3. Miami, FL 8-1 (4)
4. LSU 8-1 (6)
5. Penn State 9-1 (5)
6. Alabama 9-1 (3)
7. Virginia Tech 8-1 (8)
8. Ohio State 8-2 (11)
9. Notre Dame 7-2 (9)
10. Oregon 9-1 (7)
11. UCLA 9-1 (12)
12. Auburn 8-2 (15)
13. Georgia 7-2 (10)
14. Fresno State 8-1 (18)
15. West Virginia 8-1 (17)
16. South Carolina 7-3 (--)
17. Florida 7-3 (14)
18. TCU 10-1 (--)
19. Florida State 7-3 (13)
20. Minnesota 7-3 (--)
21. Michigan 7-3 (21)
22. Oklahoma 6-3 (25)
23. Louisville 7-2 (--)
24. Iowa State 7-3 (--)
25. Boston College 7-3 (24)
Dropped Out: Texas Tech 8-2 (16), Wisconsin 8-3 (20), Colorado 7-3 (22), Georgia Tech 6-3 (23)
Texas Tech's humbling loss to Oklahoma State knocks them badly. They now have lost to Texas and Oklahoma State, and their best win is over a 6-4 Nebraska team. It is very tough (other than their record) to find a reason to rank them. We'll know a lot more about them after they play Oklahoma this week. The Badgers dropped out after a loss to Iowa. This is really just a pretty good team. Colorado drops out after a loss to Iowa State. The Buffaloes still might be worthy of a Top 25 spot. We'll see how they do against Nebraska in two weeks. Georgia Tech lost to Virginia. It wasn't a bad loss. If they put on a good show against Miami this week, they may return.
Biggest drop by a team still in the rankings: 6- Florida State. It is possible that Florida State does not belong in the rankings at all. There is a chance that after this week's games, and the Seminoles are off this week, that they will drop even more. They still have that quality win over Miami, but it is getting more and more distant. They better put on a good show against Florida or else that ACC Championship Game could include an unranked team.
Smallest drop by a team that lost: 3- Alabama, Georgia, Florida. The three losers of the SEC battles last week dropped three spots each. Alabama didn't drop far because it was a close loss to a team ranked in the Top Five. Georgia didn't drop far because they were one play away from beating a very good Auburn team, and I felt like I might have punished them too much for losing to Florida when Shockley was out. Florida didn't drop far...and maybe they should have dropped further. Their small drop has more to do with trying to figure out who belongs ahead of them.
Bigget drop by a team that won: 3- Oregon. The Ducks dropped three spots because I think I had them overranked last week and they struggled by Washington State. I believe the Ducks would get beat by Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech. It would be very close, though.
Biggest jump by a team that was in my rankings last week: 4- Fresno State. The Bulldogs jumped because of their impressive win over Boise State. Keep this in mind. They beat Boise State, a team that came in with all the confidence in the world because they had beaten them four straight times, at home, without forcing a ton of turnovers in similar fashion to the way that Georgia beat Boise State. Boise even scored in the first minute of the game, putting a ton of pressure on Fresno right off the bat...and the Bulldogs responded. This is a much better team than they get credit for.
How close are these teams? There is a tightness at the top. USC and Texas are basically interchangeable. I could put them at co-#1, but decided against it at the last minute. The next four teams are all very close as well, with Miami's win over Virginia Tech and LSU's over Alabama providing the little bit of space that there is. Alabama is ahead of Virginia Tech because in their big game against one of these teams, they lost in overtime, while the Hokies were beat down. The next three teams (Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Oregon) are all very close as well. Notre Dame has not played a game where I was very impressed with them since the USC game. Their performance against USC was more impressive than Oregon's. Ohio State has lost to two Top Five teams and has been more impressive recently than Notre Dame, pushing them ahead of the Irish. The next five teams are all very close as well. The rest of the pack are all very very close. Minnesota is ahead of Michigan only because of the Gophers win over the Wolverines. This is a very tight bottom ten spots of the rankings.
Is Texas like Oklahoma? I hear from USC fans all the time about how Texas is just like Oklahoma from last year and they will beat the Longhorns just as badly in the Rose Bowl as they beat the Sooners last year. Now, maybe the Trojans will beat the Longhorns just as badly. However, the Sooners had looked very vulnerable against both Texas A&M and Oklahoma State by this point in the season. Where is the game where Texas has looked vulnerable like Oklahoma did? It doesn't exist. This Texas team has been blowing through teams this year. The only close game they have played was against Ohio State. That was very similar to USC's close call against the Irish. If anything USC has looked more like Oklahoma from last year, struggling against Arizona State. The Trojans have what is being called the best offense ever, just like Oklahoma was being called last year. That being said, I don't think that USC is like Oklahoma '04 and going to be exposed in the national championship game.
Maybe the Longhorns will struggle in the Big Twelve Championship Game or against Texas A&M. However, until they do, it isn't fair to be comparing Oklahoma '04 to Texas '05.