John Roberts College Football

Friday, October 07, 2005

Week Six: Friday

WEEKEND STARS
Thoughts on who the stars of the weekend will be.

Game of the Week- Georgia at Tennessee- The Vols and the Dawgs tend to play close hard fought games that come down to the final minutes. This should be no exception. Defenses generally dominate this game as well. This game should be no exception. D.J. Shockley will be going against a sound defense for the first time. The Vols will be playing their third game against a Top Five team this season. Gerald Riggs needs to be running well for the Vols because Rick Clausen has an injury that could inhibit him. When is the Vols offense going to start looking crisp? It doesn't seem likely that it will be here against the stout Georgia defense. This game will go a long way to determining who is going to win the SEC East title.

Upset Special- Oklahoma vs. Texas- Never did I think that the day would come that we would see Texas as a two touchdown favorite in this rivalry game. At least, not this past summer. Oklahoma has hammered Texas since the 2000 season and has really made this Red River Rivalry into a Red River Mismatch most years. But this year, Texas supposedly has the advantage. Vince Young is one of the top quarterbacks in the country. The defense is among the best in the country. But getting by Oklahoma may not be as easy as it appears. The Sooners had a week off two weeks ago, and came back and played their best game of the year against Kansas State. Adrian Peterson has an ankle sprain, but he looks like he is geared up and ready to go. The Texas mental block against Oklahoma had better be broken, because the Sooners have a chance to make this game a lot closer than people expect.

Team of the Week- Boston College Eagles- The Eagles are battling Virginia this week. So far, Virginia is still being found in some polls. Boston College is not favored by much. All of this is surprising, given that if you have watched the two teams play, it seems clear that BC has outperformed the Cavs so far this year. When Virginia has gone up against an opponent of equal footing or that is just slightly ahead of them over the past few years, they have not played particularly well. This seems like a game where Boston College really announces to the world just how good they are.

Players of the Week-
1) Mike Hart, Michigan- Hart should be able to run wild on a Minnesota defense that gave up a ton of rushing yards to Penn State last week. If Hart is fully healthy, like he appears to be, this week should feature a solid 150-200 yards for Hart.
2) Kevin Simon, Tennessee- The Vols linebacker has performed very well so far this year, and hasn't gotten enough credit nationally for how well he has played. This week ought to be an even better week for Simon. In a game that will be dominated by the defenses, Simon could be the key player to shutting down D.J. Shockley and the Georgia offense. He should be able to succeed for much of the day.
3) Reggie Bush, USC- Playing Arizona just seems to shape up as a game that Bush ought to run wild in. Bush is an exciting playmaker, and that seems to be something that Arizona will struggle to account for. They may be able to slow down White, and may even be able to come up with a scheme to slow down Leinart, but there is no way they will be able to slow down Bush and his playmaking ability too.
4) Sam Keller, Arizona State- Oregon's pass defense has given up a lot of big plays this year. Keller will be looking to right the ship after throwing five interceptions a week ago against USC. He ought to have a big game against the Ducks pass defense. Look for Hagan to have a big day catching the ball as well.
5) Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State- The Buckeyes are going against a tough Penn State defense. In their last big game, they did not get the ball in the hands of Ginn often enough. This game, I expect to see Ginn get the ball in his hands in every way possible. Ginn will have a huge day against a very good Penn State defense. In a game otherwise dominated by defense, look for Ginn to make a couple of special plays.

THURSDAY REVIEW
Very quick recap of Thursday's games

North Carolina State 17, Georgia Tech 14- The Wolfpack jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, and it looked like there was no way the Yellow Jackets would get back into it. But, they found themselves behind 14-10 when Jay Davis hit Brian Clark for an 80 yard touchdown pass and the lead. They then won the game when Reggie Ball threw an interception in the endzone with half a minute left. Hard to blame Ball for the interception, though, as the ball bounced off of Calvin Johnson's hands. Johnson should have had it. NCSU saved their season, and got to 1-2 in conference play, while now Georgia Tech's win over Auburn seems like a distant memory

Florida Atlantic 28, Louisiana-Lafayette 10- It was a very nice win for the Owls. It was their first in their very short Division 1-A history. Danny Embick had a great game at quarterback, but the defense really stepped it up for the Owls. The Owls dominated in the fourth quarter, somewhere that they have struggled so far this year. With Middle Tennessee coming to town next weekend, don't completely dismiss the chances of the Owls making a run at a Sun Belt title just yet.

ONE LINERS
Incredibly basic previews of tonight's game.

Syracuse at Connecticut (8:00 ESPN2)- This is a pretty nice rivalry game, even though it is relatively new in football. The Orange are 1-3 and basically must win if they want to keep their hopes of a bowl game alive. UConn has started 3-1, but really hasn't played anybody yet. The Orange have played several tough games already. It lookes like a potential upset for Syracuse, but I still don't expect it to happen. The Huskies are fired up about playing on national television at home, and that will carry the day for them.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Week Six: Thursday

Viewer's Guide

Which games should you watch this weekend? What games should you be keeping your eyes on during each time period? We've got it all worked out for you. The day is divided into five parts. Some are more unequal than others due to the start time of the games. All times are Eastern.

The time periods are early games (start time before 2:00), afternoon (start time from 2:15-5:00), late afternoon (start time from 5:15-7:15), evening (start time from 7:30-9:45), and late night (start time after 10:00). The games are ranked by time period and give you a couple of reasons to watch each game, whether it is questions that need to be answered or something else altogether. The games are the games listed on CollegeFootballNews.com as the television games for this weekend. Only Saturday games are included.

Let's get it started!

Early Games

1. Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas, TX) (1:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Vince Young has a chance in a showcase game to show everyone why he deserves the Heisman Trophy. Oklahoma's defense has stuffed him in the past. 2) Adrian Peterson has a chance to jump right back into the Heisman race with a big game against the stingy Longhorns defense. 3) Oklahoma always beats Texas. But Texas is clearly the better team right now. Is this the year the streak finally ends?

2. Virginia at Boston College (1:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) This is a key game for both teams to prove where they stand. Both already have one conference loss and cannot afford another one if they hope to stick around in the conference title race. 2) Marques Hagans is an exciting quarterback, but what will he do against the best defense he has seen yet this year. 3) The Eagles need to find some consistency on offense. Virginia's defense has made opposing offenses look a lot better than they should so far this year.

3. Minnesota at Michigan (1:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Laurence Maroney's Heisman chances are on life support after last week's horrific performance at Penn State. He must have a big game against Michigan to have any shot at the hardware. 2) How important is Mike Hart to Chad Henne? Maybe more important than we realized. Will they be able to continue the offensive resurgence that began last week against a team that got shredded by Penn State a week ago? 3) This is Texas-Oklahoma lite. Minnesota never beats Michigan, and they've lost in pretty remarkable fashion sometimes. This year, both teams are roughly equal right now. Can the Gophers finally find a way in Ann Arbor?

4. Marshall at Virginia Tech (12:00 ESPN2)- 1) How bad is Marshall? Maybe not as bad as people seem to think they are. Remember, they were one play away from being 3-1 when they played Kansas State. Can they come up with another highlight reel performance against the Hokies? 2) Marcus Vick ticked off some West Virginia fans last weekend with his antics last weekend (inappropriate gesture, throwing the ball at a defender, elbowing a coach on the sideline). Yet, his play has inserted him into the Heisman discussion. How will he play this week now that people are really paying attention to his every move? 3) Virginia Tech will be playing at roughly the same time as Texas for the second straight week. Yet again, this is an opportunity to prove that they deserve the #2 rank over the Longhorns.

5. Wisconsin at Northwestern (12:00 ESPN)- 1) Here come the Badgers again. Last year, they tempted us early in the year, starting 9-0 before collapsing down the stretch. With Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, and Illinois ahead on the schedule to get to 9-0, they could do it yet again. Are they capable of staying focused in a road game against a good offense? 2) The Wildcats offense is lead by Brett Basanez. They should be able to score some points and keep this one interesting. 3) Wisconsin is lead by Brian Calhoun. He runs the ball very well, and John Stocco has been no slouch passing the ball. They lit up Temple like a Christmas tree, and Northwestern's defense has not looked all that impressive so far this year.

6. Wake Forest at Florida State (12:00 JP/Gameplan)- 1) And here come the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is making their annual midseason push towards making all of us believers in them again after their upset of Clemson last week. Can they make it two Bowdens in two weeks? 2) Florida State is still searching for some consistency on offense. Will Drew Weatherford, along with what was supposed to be a superb running attack, get it together this week? 3) Florida State is looking for a statement game. It's hard to find one on their schedule. The trip to Virginia next week is their toughest road game until Clemson and Florida wrap up the season. Could the 'Noles be looking past Wake Forest?

7. Kansas at Kansas State (12:00 FSN)- 1) This is an in-state rivalry that doesn't get a lot of pub, but is a pretty good game. Kansas beat Kansas State for the first time in 11 years last year. Can they make it two in a row? 2) After both teams lost for the first time all year last week, they both have their backs against the wall this week. A loss will put either team at a severe disadvantage in the Big Twelve North Division. 3) Charles Gordon and Nick Reid lead one of the best defenses in the Big Twelve. Will they slow down what has been an average Kansas State offense so far?

8. Mississippi State at Florida (12:30 JP/Gameplan)- 1) The Gators have been roundly busted on this week by many members of the media after last week's 31-3 debacle at Alabama. They will be looking to show what kind of team they really are this week. 2) Last year, Mississippi State stunned Florida in a game that gave some momentum to Sylvester Croom. They'll be looking to make it two in a row against the mighty Gators. 3) When will Chris Leak start to look comfortable in this offense?

9. Air Force at Navy (1:30 CSTV)- 1) Few things can top a game between two of the service academies. These games are always hard fought. 2) Shaun Carney has been great at quarterback for the Falcons. The question is, can Navy's undersized defense slow them down? 3) Can Air Force's defense, which has been pushed around the last couple of weeks, hope to slow down Navy's strong attack?

10. Central Michigan at Army (1:00 ESPN Classic)- 1) 0-4 is 0-4, but Army and Bobby Ross are clearly making steps forward this year. A win over Central Michigan would be another step forward. 2) Jerry Seymour is a good back for the Chippewas. How will he fare against a hard hitting Army defense? 3) Zac Dahman is still an underrated quarterback for the Black Knights.

Afternoon

1. Georgia at Tennessee (3:30 CBS)- 1) In the world of SEC East football, this game is huge. If Tennessee loses, they are all but eliminated from the SEC East title chase, while it would mean that the Georgia-Florida game would probably be for all the beans. If Georgia loses, it throws the division into a three team free for all that will take at least the rest of October to sort out. 2) D.J. Shockley now needs to do it against the best defense he has faced all year. He led Georgia on a scoring drive last year against Tennessee. He would love to lead the Dawgs to the win this time around. 3) Gerald Riggs will be relied on heavily in this game. How will he do against the solid (but untested) Georgia defense?

2. Texas Tech at Nebraska (4:00 TBS)- 1) Wow. That Texas Tech offense has been on a roll and they will be going up against a Nebraska defense that has been almost like a brick wall so far this year. When those two sides are on the field, look out! 2) Nebraska's Zac Taylor really looked like he finally caught onto the offense last week against Iowa State. Can he keep it going against an average Red Raider defense? 3) 70-10. That was the final score of last year's game. The game should be far more competitive this time around. Nebraska will be looking for revenge for last year's embarrassment.

3. Arizona at USC (3:30 FSN)- 1) The Trojans need to get their swagger back on defense. Arizona should be a good team to do that against. 2) Win one for the Stoops family! Twice last year, the Trojans humiliated the Stoops family. Can they make it three in a row? 3) Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White. Yep, still all on the field. Still worth watching every time they play.

4. Iowa at Purdue (4:30 ESPN)- 1) Where is the team that was supposed to contend for the Rose Bowl? These two teams may rank up there with the most disappointing teams in the country so far. One will start to get their swagger back this week. 2) Brandon Kirsch and Drew Tate both are good quarterbacks that have not played great so far. Will this be their breakout game? 3) So far, Iowa's defense has been a little more respectable than Purdue's. But Purdue's offense has been more respectable than Iowa's. Now that the pressure of winning the national title is off both these team's shoulders, will they play looser?

5. North Carolina at Louisville (4:30 Gameplan)- 1) First, Georgia Tech, then Wisconsin, North Carolina State, and Utah. Now Louisville! Does the murderer's row that is the Tar Heels schedule ever end? (Answer: No.) 2) Brian Brohm got his groove back last week against Florida Atlantic. The competition is a wee bit tougher this week. 3) It's the Big East against the ACC! Every time these conferences play each other, the rivalry runs deeper. The Big East desperately needs to prove that some team from their conference can beat an ACC team.

6. Duke at Miami, FL (3:30 ESPNU)- 1) The Hurricanes are square in the middle of the cushy part of their schedule. Last week's game against South Florida and next week's game with Temple both look like gimmes. Can the Hurricanes remain focused on the task at hand? 2) Duke needs to get something going on offense just to prove that they can. So far, things have been slow moving for the Blue Devils offense. How will they perform against the Hurricanes stout defense? 3) Kyle Wright has a chance to really get into a rythmn on the offensive side of the ball against this slightly below average Duke defense.

7. San Diego State at UNLV (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) Finally, UNLV did not play in a close game last week. Of course, they get beat badly by Wyoming, but they have played some very close games so far this year. This week's game should be no exception. 2) The Aztecs look to have turned a corner. They were 0-2 heading up to Ohio State, but played the Buckeyes within 27-6 (not bad), and since have beaten San Jose State and BYU. At 1-1 in the Mountain West, they are not out of the conference race just yet, particularly if they can beat UNLV. 3) Both teams are preparing for tough road games next week. San Diego State will be going to Utah and UNLV will be heading up to Air Force. They both need wins to get momentum going as they gear up for next week.

Late Afternoon

1. Texas A&M at Colorado (7:00 FSN)- 1) Reggue McNeal had an off week last week against Baylor. Surely he won't have back to bad games, right? 2) The Buffaloes are slowly asserting themselves as a team to be reckoned with out of the North. With a road trip to Texas coming next week, a win over a good A&M team would do wonders for their confidence. 3) The Aggies have been one of the bigger disappointments a one loss team can be at this time of year. They better snap out of it if they hope to win the South.

2. LSU at Vanderbilt (7:00 ESPN2)- 1) Jay Cutler will make his pitch for the Heisman Trophy against a team that has really struggled defending the pass this year. 2) There is a distinct possibility that Vanderbilt was just looking past Middle Tennessee because of the hype surrounding the LSU game. They can earn back all the respect they lost with a solid performance against a very good Tiger team. 3) JaMarcus Russell has done very well this year when given the chance to throw the ball around the field. Other than one half against Tennessee, he has looked like the next great SEC quarterback.

3. Utah at Colorado State (6:30 Gameplan)- 1) This is a game of great importance in the Mountain West title chase. Then again, every game between this evenly matched conference is of great importance to the Mountain West title chase. 2) Utah is currently 3-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. This team is less experienced than last year's team. When will they learn how to win on the road? 3) Kyle Bell has provided the Rams with the running game they have so desperately needed to aid Justin Holland and the passing game. This year's balanced offense has proven very difficult to slow down.

4. Houston at Tulane (6:00 i/PAX)- 1) This game will be played in Lafeyette, Lousiana, which is not exactly Tulane's home field, but it is as close as it comes these days. 2) Lester Ricard is a quarterback that has looked good at times, but never seems to quite be able to get over the hump. The same can be said of his counterpart on the Houston sideline, Kevin Kolb. 3) This really could be a battle for second in the C-USA West Division. With UTEP looking very beatable so far, there is no reason that the winner of this game couldn't be playing for the Conference USA title.

Evening

1. Ohio State at Penn State (7:45 ESPN)- 1) How long have they been waiting for a game that was this big in Happy Valley? It seems like forever. With the Gameday crew there, the crowd will be fired up. It just feels right to have a big game being played at Penn State at this time of year. 2) Freshmen Derrick Williams and Justin King are as explosive as any players in the country. Ted Ginn Jr. stands on other sideline. He too is explosive. Could there be some big plays in this one? 3) These defenses are two of the better defenses in the Big Ten, if not in the country. Points could be hard to come by.

2. California at UCLA (7:30 TBS)- 1) Now this should be fun. The winner becomes the main contender to USC for Pac Ten supremacy. 2) UCLA has been playing well, particularly on offense with Maurice Drew and Drew Olson. California has really been stepping it up on the defensive side of the ball, which ought to make this an interesting chess match. 3) Neither team has really proven themselves so far. A win here for either team would send them up the rankings.

3. BYU at New Mexico (8:00 Gameplan)- 1) Suddenly, the good feelings about New Mexico are gone after back-to-back losses to UTEP and TCU. Still, this bunch of Lobos is a dangerous crew. 2) Last week, the Cougars looked lifeless against San Diego State, the week after a heartbreaking loss to TCU. Can the Cougars find it in them to rise to the occassion this week? 3) DonTrell Moore is a great back for the Lobos. He should find plenty of running room against the Cougars defense.

4. Tulsa at Southern Miss (8:00 CSTV)- 1) Southern Miss' season has been broken up by two hurricanes. It will be nice to see some normalcy return for the Eagles with back to back home games the next two weeks. 2) Paul Smith has been throwing the ball very effectively for Tulsa so far this season. Tulsa has been a pleasant surprise so far this year, playing tough against Oklahoma and Houston and beating North Texas and Memphis. 3) Dustin Almond had one of the best games of his career last weekend. Can he continue the momentum this weekend against Tulsa?

5. Hawaii at Louisiana Tech (7:30 Gameplan)- 1) The Warriors could have, maybe even should have, beaten Boise State at home last weekend. How will they respond to that heartbreaker this weekend in Louisiana? 2) Matt Kubik struggled early in the season against Florida and Kansas, but he lit New Mexico State up last week. Can the Bulldogs quarterback continue his successs from a week ago? 3) A Bulldogs win would earn them plenty of respect as they build towards the season's final two games when they will face off with conference favorites, Boise State and Fresno State.

6. Portland State at Boise State (8:05 Gameplan)- 1) Portland State only lost to Fresno State 27-17 last year. So maybe they can keep it close against the Broncos. 2) The Broncos have been very underwhelming so far this year, with their best performance coming in the beat down of Bowling Green at home. Last week's nailbiter against Hawaii was a little too close for comfort. 3) Jared Zabransky has been looking more and more like his old self lately. This shouls be a nice game to get his confidence back to 100%.

Late Night

1. Oregon at Arizona State (10:15 FSN)- 1) This is one of the more intriguing games of the day. Both teams lead USC at halftime, only to see the Trojans dominate the second half. One of these teams will have an early lead (along with the Cal-UCLA winner) for second in the Pac Ten. 2) Kellen Clemens still gets no respect around the country for how solid of a quarterback he has been. Sam Keller has been getting a lot of respect, but still is relatively unknown nationwide. This may be one of the better quarterback match-ups of the weekend. 3) That USC loss last week for Arizona State took a lot out of the Sun Devils. Will they be able to come back and focus for the Ducks this week?

2. Fresno State at New Mexico State (10:00 ESPNU)- 1) You know you are at least a little bit interested to keep up with Fresno State. If they can jump out to a 17-0 lead at Oregon, and USC can fall behind 13-0 at Oregon, could the Bulldogs jump out to a big early lead when they go to USC on November 19? 2) Paul Pinegar is a very good quarterback going against a very average defense. 3) The offense has been slowly improving for New Mexico State. Justine Buries is a good running back. However, we all know that Hal Mumme wants his quarterbacks to be firing the ball all over the field.

One Liners
Quick preview of tonight's games.

North Carolina State at Georgia Tech (7:30 ESPN)- This game is huge to the ACC. The Wolfpack are off to an 0-2 conference start, with two close losses. Georgia Tech is 1-1 in conference play after the blowout to Virginia Tech. These are two hard hitting defenses that will provide plenty of big plays. This game ought to be fun to watch.

Florida Atlantic at Louisiana-Lafayette (8:00)- The Owls are still looking for their first Division 1-A win and they have a shot against the Ragin' Cajuns. After watching the Owls this year, it is clear that they have plenty of speed, but they are just too small to compete right now. Now that they are picking on someone their own size, things might be different. Both teams still have hopes of at least putting together a nice Sun Belt season.

For a more in-depth preview (by me) of these two games, click on Thursday Night Throwdown.

Wednesday in Review
Very quick recap of last night's games.

Northern Illinois 38, Miami (OH) 27- The Huskies jumped out to a huge 28-7 and 35-17 lead, but watched the RedHawks trim the lead to 35-27 in the fourth quarter. Sam Hurd and Garrett Wolfe have established themselves as two big playmakers. NIU has just thrown their hat into the race in the MAC.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Week Six: Wednesday

Overreaction Wednesday
Getting a little bit crazy and having some knee jerk reactions to last weekend's games.

Purdue is going to struggle to come up with enough wins to find themselves in a bowl game after starting the year as a darkhorse pick to play for the national title.

Memphis' running back DeAngelo Williams is even better than any of us thought. Put that boy in New York City! When you can beat a team as good as UTEP with a third string quarterback, that's how you know you've got a special running back.

Rutgers is still a viable threat to not only get to a bowl game, but to make a run at the Big East title. They've been dismissed since an opening day loss to Illinois (in which they blew a 20 point fourth quarter lead), but they haven't lost since. The home game with West Virginia this weekend may be the biggest game in recent Rutgers history.

If Kentucky, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt did not have to play each other down the stretch, I would say that none would win another game the rest of the year. The battle for fourth in the SEC East could be very entertaining between these three. Right now, South Carolina is 0-3, Kentucky is 0-1, and Vanderbilt is 2-0 in the conference. Edge: Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt plays LSU and Kentucky and South Carolina square off this weekend.

Here come the Sooners! Their win over Kansas State was by far Oklahoma's best performance of the season, and now they will finish at least 7-4, if not 8-3 or 9-2.

Remember that some of these things are gross overreactions to the way teams played this weekend. These are not necessarily straight predictions, but rather thoughts that many may not consider that are very distinct possibilities.

News & Notes

Southern Miss and Houston have rescheduled their game for November 13. That game could have huge ramifications on the C-USA race and the bowl chase.

By now, you all know that Alabama's Tyrone Prothro broke his leg last Saturday against the Gators. Prothro was the big playmaker for the Tide. His loss could make this team a lot more average. However, the Tide does have some depth at wide receiver.

Tennessee's Rick Clausen is wearing a protective boot. He will play against Georgia, but it could make him ineffective. Could the Vols really turn back to Erik Ainge at quarterback if Clausen is struggling to move around?

California's Marshawn Lynch was back in action last weekend against Arizona, which is good news for the Golden Bears as they head to UCLA for their toughest test to date.

Quotables

Mack Brown, Texas head coach: "The OU game is always special. We were able to win at the Rose Bowl against Michigan and we able to win at the horseshoe against Ohio State, so we have had some special experiences. (ABC's) Keith Jackson is coming down to broadcast the 100th Texas-Oklahoma game in the series, and this makes it extra special."

Mike Leach, Texas Tech head coach: "Last year (70-10 Tech win over Nebraska) our defense had a huge role. We got a lot of turnovers and had the short field toward the end of the game. The score wasn't indicative of the final outcome."

Bill Callahan, Nebraska head coach: "As I stated Saturday, it was a complete and total team victory over Iowa State. We commend Iowa State for its efforts, and we were fortunate to win. We want to thank our crowd for that, and it was the loudest crowd we have had since I've been at Nebraska. We hope to have the same level of noise and the same atmosphere this week."

Jeff Tedford, Cal head coach: "I think Joe has grown into being used to that now. I think going to Washington and being on ABC, that type of stuff, was a great experience for him. We have played in front of big crowds at home, so that has been good. I think in the beginning that was something he had to get used to. I think he is now more comfortable, but this will step it up a notch. From what I understand the game is closed to being sold out, so there is going to be a great crowd there. It is going to be one of those games. I told the team this when we met on Monday, `this is why we play this game.' It doesn't get any better than this - two Top 20 teams playing one another in the Rose Bowl in front of a near capacity crowd. It is pretty exciting."

Phil Fulmer, Tennessee head coach: ""The exciting part about it is our team still realizes that as well as we've played, there's a considerable amount of room for improvement. We're calling on some young players to put themselves in a position to be able to help and continue to improve fundamentally. Obviously we will have a huge challenge this week to get those things done versus an outstanding Georgia football team."

One Liners
A very quick preview of tonight's games.

Miami, OH at Northern Illinois (7:30 ESPN2)- This has been a very disappointing beginning to the season for both teams. The RedHawks are 2-2 and the Huskies are 1-3. Miami is starting to play like the MAC's best team behind Josh Betts and the passing game. But Garrett Wolfe and the NIU running game are solid, and Phil Horvath has been lighting it up through the air. This ought to be a very interesting game for two of the MAC's superpowers.

Tuesday in Review
A quick review of last night's games.

Troy 13, North Texas 10- The streak is over, and Troy may just have become the favorite to win the Sun Belt, which is shocking given North Texas' dominance over the last several years. North Texas could not control the clock and simply got pounded by Troy. Truthfully, I kept on waiting for the momentum to swing UNT's way like it always seems to do, but Troy never let it. There was never really a moment where it looked like UNT was really in the game. Troy dictated it. Amazing win for the Trojans.

Rant of the Week

There were a ton of good rants this week and many that deserved to be here. However, in the end, this is the one that won out. It's a bit long, but it's worth the read.

While I could rant about a lot on my Oregon State Beavers this year (unfortunately), I'll focus on a bright spot -- Mike Hass. Seriously, why is no one talking about him?

Hass is #1 in the nation in both total receiving yards and yards per game, leading the #2 spot by 205 yards (H. Baskett, New Mexico) and 19.5 YPG (A. Ellison, E. Carolina) respectively. Hass was practically mugged the entire ASU game, and still came away with 174 yards. His 3 TDs are at least respectible, especially when you consider that D-Coordinator's make sure he's blanket-covered in the Red Zone. Hass is an incredible route runner with great hands, always finds a hole, and fights for every ball.

I'm sick of hearing about:
Derek Hagan (431 yds, 107.75 YPG)
Jason Avant (418 yds, 104.50 YPG)
Steve Smith (407 yds, 135.67 YPG)
Dwayne Jarrett (267 yds, 87 YPG)
Ted Ginn, Jr. (152 yds, 38 YPG)
without hearing about Hass. These are all good receivers, but Hass is arguably better. I suggest the CFB media get themselves some coffee and stay up late to watch an Oregon State game once this season, because they're missing a hell of a show by Hass.

Mike
Washington DC

Thaks, Mike. As for his stats, this e-mail was received before last weekend's games, so they have changed since then. Take it for what it's worth.

Keep thse rants coming! I look forward to reading them every week.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Week Six: Tuesday

Under Pressure
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
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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.

My Rankings

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.

One Liners
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?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Week Six: Monday

WEEKEND IN REVIEW

Game of the Week
USC 38, Arizona State 28

It is a bit unusual to see a two score game as the Game of the Week, but who could watch this game without getting glued to it. The Sun Devils jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead. We all should know by now that the only way to beat USC is to jump out to a big first half lead and then try to hold on in the second half. When USC scored two early third quarter touchdowns, the game looked to be over, as the Trojans had all the momentum. But the Sun Devils hung tough, and the defense hung in there. When USC scored to take their first lead of the game halfway through the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils immediately responded with a touchdown. The Trojans responded with a touchdown of their own, but no one thought the game was over. The Sun Devils were looking good before an interception basically ended the game. It was the biggest test #1 USC has faced yet this year.

Upset of the Week
Middle Tennessee 17, Vanderbilt 15

It was a shocking development for so many reasons. The Commodores were 4-0, looking for a shocking 5-0 start. The Blue Raiders were 0-3, looking to get off the winless block. With Middle Tennessee having won the last two times these two teams played, people figured surely Vanderbilt wouldn't overlook them. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. All that is for sure is that the Commodores couldn't find a way to beat the Blue Raiders. Vandy drove from their own one foot line well into field goal range for a last second field goal. But the Blue Raiders blocked the kick and preserved the win. Any time a Sun Belt team beats an SEC team it is a big deal. Suddenly that LSU-Vanderbilt game this weekend looks a whole lot less intriguing.

Player of the Week
Brady Quinn, Notre Dame

This was a very difficult decision this week as a lot of players had huge games in the spotlight. Quinn completed 29 of 36 passes for 440 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue in primetime. It was a road win for the Irish, 49-28. The score is not indicative of how big of a blowout this was for Notre Dame. They dominated from the beginning to the end, and Quinn had a monster game. Purdue had hammered Notre Dame in recent years, so this was quite a switch from the norm for the Irish. Quinn absolutely looked like a Heisman Trophy contender for this game. Now, onto USC and trying to get that first home win of the Charlie Weis era.

Team of the Week
Alabama Crimson Tide

Welcome back to college football, Alabama! It was a stunning performance by the Crimson Tide against the Florida Gators this past Saturday. The 31-3 win was so total, so complete, that there is suddenly national championship talk in Tuscaloosa. Brodie Croyle should be mentioned in the Heisman Trophy discussion. The one bad piece of news is that Tyrone Prothro, the star playmaker for the Tide, broke his leg in the fourth quarter and will miss the rest of the year. Can the offense still be as explosive without him? The Gators went from national title contenders to wondering where they fit in in the whole scheme of the SEC race. The Tide suddenly have to be considered the favorites in the whole SEC.

Stat of the Week
55 passes and 431 yards...for a Nebraska quarterback?!?!

Zac Taylor has come into Nebraska's offense and may have finally started to catch on to how Bill Callahan wants it to be run. He threw the ball 55 times for 431 yards in the double overtime win against Iowa State. Remember the days when Nebraska ran the option? No one would have ever expected to see the day that a quarterback could be as solid as Taylor was on Saturday. He didn't throw any interceptions either. He still looked a little off sometimes, but for the most part, this was a highly successful game for the Nebraska offense. Just scoring 13 points in regulation wasn't good, and that has to be a cause for concern for the Cornhusker faithful, but seeing Taylor looks like he understands the offense has to give them some hope.

Play of the Week
Domata Peko returns a fumble for a touchdown

The big Michigan State defensive lineman picked up a Chad Henne fumble and then started rumbling down the field. Domata Peko is a big man. He rumbled down the field 74 yards, jumping over a Michigan defender to get into the endzone. It was truly a remarkable play that reminded me of the Troy offensive lineman running down the field for a touchdown last year against Missouri. Peko's run was in a losing cause, but that is of little importance, because if you saw this play, you will probably remember it for a long time.

Turnover of the Week
Sam Keller's late interception against USC

Sam Keller and the Sun Devils were trailing 31-28 against USC late in the fourth quarter. Keller fired a pass high to Derek Hagan, his best receiver. Hagan had the ball in his hands, but almost seemed to bat the ball forward. As it came forward, it wound up in the arms of freshman Kevin Ellison of USC. That interception locked up the game for the Trojans. The momentum was gone from Arizona State and they trailed by three and now didn't have the ball...or much of a chance of slowing down the bus that was the USC offense at that point in the game.

Key First Half Moment of the Week
Jonathan Wade's interception return for a touchdown

Tennessee's Jonathan Wade returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of their game against Mississippi. This gave the Vols a 14-0 lead on Ole Miss. At that point, the realization that the Vols were not going to sleepwalk past Ole Miss set in. They had come ready to play early against the Rebels after an emotional Monday win against LSU. The game was basically over at the point that Wade returned the pick for a touchdown. From there, the Vols did sleep walk a bit, but still won comfortably, 27-10.

Moment of the Week
Garrett Rivas' redemption

Garrett Rivas missed a 27 yard field goal in the last minute of regulation that would have won the game for Michigan against Michigan State. Then in overtime, he nailed a 35 yarder to beat the Spartans, 34-31. The field goal was particularly dramatic because of his earlier miss. It was a wonderful way for the Wolverines to come up with the victory.