John Roberts College Football

Friday, October 14, 2005

Week Seven: Friday

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

Game of the Week- USC at Notre Dame- The Irish are traditionally quite strong at home. It would be quite the upset to beat the Trojans at home. USC is huge favorites in this game, are #1, and come in riding that long winning streak. Notre Dame is where streaks come to die in the past. However, this Trojan team has proven time and again that they can win in these situations. This would be a win to really kick start the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame. This would be a very important win for the Trojans on their way to (what they hope to be) a third straight national title.

Upset Special- UCLA at Washington State- Let's not forget how explosive the Cougars have been offensively. They have the offensive firepower to hang in this game for the full sixty minutes. UCLA is coming off a dramatic home win, and under Karl Dorrell, the Bruins have always lost a game they have no business losing. They've avoided that upset bug so far this year, and a win in this game would go a long way to prove that they have matured and deserve to be in the Top Ten.

Team of the Week- Alabama Crimson Tide- Alabama is heading to Ole Miss to face a Rebels team that has looked average at best so far this year. Ole Miss has really struggled. Alabama is coming off an off week and will be looking to prove that they deserve to be in the Top Five and that they can still make plays on offense even without Tyrone Prothro. It will not be an easy game to win in Oxford (a nationally televised win at home would really get the Ed Orgeron era rolling), but the Tide should be very impressive in how they perform.

Players of the Week-
1) Laurence Maroney, Minnesota- So the Golden Gophers just beat Michigan for the first time in a very long time. Now they face a very soft Wisconsin defense. If Tyrell Sutton ripped through the Badgers defense, then what will Maroney do? (Yes, Sutton is a great player, but if he ran for 200 yards, Maroney may run for 250 or 300.)
2) Kyle Wright, Miami- Temple is who teams play when they want their quarterback to gain some confidence. Wright should gain plenty of confidence in this one against the Owls.
3) LenDale White, USC- People thought I was joking when I started telling people after the Oregon game that White might deserve to be in the Heisman Trophy running. After the last two weeks, very few are laughing anymore. He should run for lots of yards against Notre Dame.
4) Cody Hodges, Texas Tech- Kansas State's defense made Rhett Bomar look pretty good a couple of weeks ago. While the K-State defense isn't bad, Hodges has put up huge numbers all year. This time, it will be on ABC, which will earn him even more respect.
5) Vince Young, Texas- If the Longhorns are to survive a trap game with Colorado, Young will have to play the way he's been playing lately. Colorado's defense is pretty good, but it is tough to contain Vince Young. Eventually, he'll come up with one way or another to beat you.

THURSDAY REVIEW
Very quick recap of Thursday's games.

Clemson 31, North Carolina State 10- How good are these two teams? Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. For Clemson, Whitehurst was sharp and the running game was very impressive. Clemson got back to playing the way they were early in the season. With Temple and Duke coming up in two of their next three games and a road trip to Georgia Tech smashed in between, a bowl game becomes a very real proposition again. Once again, the Tigers looked like a team capable of upsetting Florida State when they come to town on November 12.

Arkansas State 39, Louisiana-Lafayette 36- So the Indians came from behind and won on a field goal as time expired. Nick Noce proved that he is a clutch quarterback. But there has to be serious concern that the Ragin' Cajuns put up 457 rushing yards on this defense. With North Texas, Middle Tennessee, and Troy still ahead on the schedule, they have got to shore up that rush defense.

ONE LINERS
Incredibly basic previews of tonight's games.

UTEP at Tulane (8:00 ESPN)- Both teams have a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball. This is a key game in the Conference USA West race. UTEP is the favorite, but Tulane is one of the challengers. The Green Wave will play much better than they played in last week's loss to Houston. Lester Ricard and Jordan Palmer are the two quarterbacks, and both should have big games.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Week Seven: 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. Michigan State at Ohio State (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Drew Stanton and the explosive Spartans offense will be battling a very talented A.J. Hawk and Ohio State's dominant defense. This should be an entertaining battle. 2) This looks like the type of defense that Ted Ginn Jr. and Troy Smith could have a big game against. 3) The Spartans are looking to show that they are for real. Ohio State is looking to stay alive in the Big Ten title race. This is a huge game to the Big Ten.

2. Kansas State at Texas Tech (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Cody Hodges and a great Texas Tech offense will be looking to prove themselves in front of a live television audience that is desperately trying to figure out just how good the Red Raiders are. 2) The Wildcats are 4-1, but are popularly considered a major pretender. A win against the Red Raiders would go a long way to prove that they are for real. 3) Kansas State's defense stepped up last week against Kansas. They better do it again, because the Red Raiders will hang 70 on the Wildcats if they can.

3. Wisconsin at Minnesota (12:00 ESPN)- 1) The Badgers were upset last week by Northwestern because they couldn't slow down Tyrell Sutton and the Wildcats running game. Hello, Laurence Maroney. 2) Brian Calhoun is still a very good running back. John Stocco is making more plays offensively than he has made in his career at Wisconsin. This offense has finally gelled. 3) Both teams have a conference loss. That alone is not enough to knock them out of the title chase. A win in this game puts the winner right back in the race for the BCS bowl bid.

4. Alabama at Mississippi (12:00 CBS)- 1) Ed Orgeron would love for his team to get that defining home win to kick start his time in Oxford. Alabama could be ripe for the picking. 2) Brodie Croyle begins his life after Tyrone Prothro. Croyle is a great quarterback and has a chance to sneak into the Heisman Trophy discussion with some big games down the stretch, but will he suffer without his biggest playmaker? 3) Alabama is back on national TV. Next weeks game against Tennessee has to be in the back of their minds. A poor performance, even in a win, against Ole Miss could be damaging if they want to get to the Rose Bowl.

5. Wake Forest and Boston College (12:00 JP/Gameplan)- 1) Talk about a strange game. Wake Forest has looked much better lately. Boston College has looked OK all year. This game is big for both teams. Wake needs it to keep up bowl hopes and BC needs it to keep up ACC Championship hopes (which grow dimmer with each Florida State win). 2) Cory Randolph is an exciting quarterback, and he did a good job against Florida State's defense. Can he do the same against Boston College's solid defense? 3) The BC passing game should match up well with Wake Forest. Quinton Porter should have a very nice day for the Eagles.

6. Northwestern at Purdue (12:00 ESPN2)- 1) That Wildcats offense is explosive. Brett Basanez? Tyrell Sutton? Both should have incredible games against a very shaky Purdue defense. 2) Brandon Kirsch can also be expected to explode against a very questionable Northwestern defense. 3) Northwestern can hold out dreams for a Big Ten championship season, but they probably need to win out to have any chance of it happening. That's a tall order. Purdue's hopes for a good bowl game mean that they must win now as well.

7. Colorado State at BYU (2:00 Gameplan)- 1) The Rams win against Utah last week announced to anyone who was paying attention that Colorado State plans on being in the hunt for the Mountain West title. With Wyoming followed by trips to New Mexico and TCU coming up the next three weeks after this one, this game becomes a huge trap game for the Rams. 2) Justin Holland is a talented quarterback that is finally getting some support from the running game of the Rame. 3) BYU's stirring come from behind win against New Mexico has them hoping for the Mountain West title as well. John Beck has won the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week two of the last three weeks.

8. Indiana at Iowa (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) Do the Hawkeyes ever lose at home? Do they ever lose after their beginning of the year struggles? 2) The Hoosiers really need to pull off an upset to keep their early season momentum going in the right direction. (By the way, who would have guessed before the season that the Hoosiers (4-1) would have a better record than the Hawkeyes (3-2) heading into this game?) 3) Blake Powers has come as the Hoosiers quarterback and really played well so far this year. He may just be this year's Drew Tate of the Big Ten (a sophomore quarterback that soars onto the scene).

9. Rutgers at Syracuse (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) That solid Syracuse defense goes against a pretty good Rutgers offense. Ryan Hart, Tres Moses and Brian Lonard still are explosive, but the Orange defense has been tough. 2) At 1-1 in conference play, Rutgers needs a win to keep alive their hopes for a Big East title. 3) Damien Rhodes has been slowed down this year for the Orange, but he still is an explosive running back.

10. Miami, FL at Temple (1:00 FSN)- 1) Will the Owls start playing better now that Bobby Wallace will be gone at the end of the year? Will they try to win some games for their outgoing coach? 2) Just how many points can the 'Canes put up on Temple? It seems like every week someone else is hanging 60 on them. Kyle Wright has to be licking his chops to get a run at this defense. 3) Temple seems to come up with one game every year that they hang around in far longer than they should. Will this be that game this year?

11. UNLV at Air Force (2:00 Gameplan)- 1) Shaun Carney is a very good quarterback for the Falcons and he makes the whole team fun to watch. 2) Can UNLV keep the momentum of last week's win going? 3) If Air Force really thinks they can get to a bowl game, they had better win this game. Plus, UNLV has played a lot of close games this year, which ought to make this one entertaining.

12. Kent State at Navy (1:30 CSTV)- 1) Navy needs a win to stay on track for another bowl bid. 2) Navy won a great game against Air Force last week. Can they keep the momentum going? 3) The Flashes are lead by a passing game that has been very explosive at times this year. They've come up just short on a couple of second half comebacks the last two weeks and would love to win and start setting things right.

Afternoon

1. USC at Notre Dame (3:30 NBC)- 1) You know you want to see if there is some magic left on that magical Notre Dame field. Notre Dame tends to win home games like this when they are "back." This could be the determining factor. 2) Notre Dame's defense has been suspect, which is not good when you have to slow down Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and LenDale White. 3) The Irish have had two weeks to prepare. With how good Brady Quinn has been this year, how will he perform against a somewhat questionable USC defense?

2. Florida at LSU (3:30 CBS)- 1) This is virtually an elimination game in the SEC title race. The loser will have two conference losses, which will likely put them two games behind the leader in their division. 2) Chris Leak going against the highly suspect LSU pass defense could make for a very interesting game. 3) How will Florida do on the road? That loss at Alabama was their first real road test. How will LSU handle playing their first home game since the debacle against Tennessee a couple of weeks ago?

3. Colorado at Texas (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Joel Klatt is highly underrated around the country as the Buffaloes quarterback. 2) The Longhorns have been on upset alert for weeks now. At some point, do they become numb to that and actually let a team like Colorado hang around with them? 3) Vince Young is one of the Heisman Trophy favorites right now. He needs to keep it up against a pretty good Buffaloes defense.

4. Penn State at Michigan (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) So, wait a minute. Penn State is unbeaten and in the Top Ten. Michigan has three losses and is out of the Top 25. Yet, the Wolverines are the favorite? Weird. 2) Mike Hart and the Wolverines offense will be going against the ultra-talented Penn State defense. 3) Michael Robinson has slowly developed into a quarterback that opponents in the Big Ten do not want to face.

5. Louisville at West Virginia (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) While South Florida and Connecticut may have something to say about it, this game appears to be the Big East Championship Game. 2) How will the Cardinals perform on the road? They barely got past a bad Kentucky team in their first road game and then got plastered by South Florida in their second road game. 3) Brian Brohm and Michael Bush against a very very good West Virginia defense. That ought to be fun.

6. New Mexico at Wyoming (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) Suddenly, the Lobos are 3-3 with two conference losses. They still are one of the more dangerous non-BCS teams out there. 2) The Cowboys got beat by Florida and were handled surprisingly easily by TCU at home. To keep their conference title hopes alive, they really need to win this game. 3) DonTrell Moore is one of the more underrated running backs in the country.

7. Oregon State at California (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The Beavers have looked awful in their one road game so far this year. At some point, they are going to need to win a road game or two if they are going to get to a bowl game. 2) Cal is coming off a very disheartening loss to UCLA. Still Joe Ayoob and Marshawn Lynch showed how explosive this offense can be. Against an average Oregon State defense, that ought to make for a lot of yards and a lot of points. 3) Both teams still hold dreams of a Pac Ten championship. With no USC on Oregon State's schedule, they can harbor dreams of 7-1 in the Pac Ten. With only one really tough road game remaining (against Oregon), California can hope for 7-1 in the Pac Ten...and the tiebreaker over USC with a head-to-head win. Neither team is out of it yet.

8. Memphis at Houston (5:00 CSTV)- 1) The Cougars and Tigers are both right in the thick of their Conference USA division races. Houston is 3-2 and 2-1 in conference play. All they need is a little bit of help from someone else knocking off UTEP and they are in control of their own destiny. 2) Kevin Kolb and the Houston offense is explosive. If you haven't watched Houston's offense, you're missing out. 3) DeAngelo Williams is Memphis' offense and is explosive all by himself. If you haven't watched Williams play, you're missing out.

9. Georgia Tech at Duke (3:30 ESPNU)- 1) Oh! So this is when Duke almost always seems to jump up and bite somebody! The Yellow Jackets are still reeling from a tough loss against North Carolina State. Duke loves to catch teams that aren't focused. Are the Yellow Jackets focused? 2) P.J. Daniels is one of the better running backs in the ACC. 3) Now, Reggie Ball had an awful game against NC State. That means that this week he is going to explode. Thus is life with Reggie Ball.

10. UAB at Marshall (5:00 i/PAX)- 1) UAB needs a win to get back on track in their race for the Conference USA East Division title. Marshall isn't out of the race yet either, with only one confernce loss. This could be an elimination game in the race. 2) Darrell Hackney is one of the better quarterbacks in the country. He doesn't get a lot of respect nationally, but he deserves more. 3) Marshall played well against Kansas State and hung with Virginia Tech for a half. Maybe the Thundering Herd are better than we all think.

11. Troy at Lousiana-Monroe (3:30 Gameplan)- 1) Sun Belt! Sun Belt! Sun Belt! Oh that crazy Sun Belt is so much fun! This is a match-up of the two remaining teams in the conference that haven't lost a conference game yet. New Orleans Bowl to the winner? 2) Troy's offense, particularly passing the ball, has struggled mightily. What happens if ULM jumps out to an early lead? 3) As strange as it seems, Steven Jyles is a better player than he gets credit for. Jyles is a pretty good quarterback and may find some success against the stout Troy defense.

Late Afternoon

1. UCLA at Washington State (6:00 FSN)- 1) It's a trap! It's a trap! The Bruins are coming off a very emotional win over California to announce their presence on a national scale. The Cougars are coming off back-to-back disappointing losses. This game is ripe for an upset. 2) If Maurice Drew has another huge game, does he get himself into Heisman consideration? 3) That Washington State offense is explosive. Jerome Harrison and Jason Hill are both great weapons. They should be able to score some points on UCLA's very questionable defense.

2. Georgia at Vanderbilt (7:15 ESPN2)- 1) As strange as this sounds, by the time this game starts (if LSU beats Florida), the winner of this game will have the lead in the SEC East. 2) D.J. Shockley and the Georgia offense has been wildly inconsistent this year. They looked pretty good against Tennessee last week. Do they take this weekend off? 3) Surely Jay Cutler can't have back-to-back games that are THAT bad.

3.Oklahoma at Kansas (7:00 TBS)- 1) The Sooners offense looks like it is coming around little by little. Rhett Bomar looks like a pretty good quarterback. He'll need to against a stout Kansas defense. 2) If the Jayhawks have any intention of getting to a bowl game or winning the North Division, they have to start winning now. This is about as close to a must win game as you get in a situation this early in the year for a team like Kansas. 3) The Sooners are not used to losing. At 2-3, the pressure cooker is getting going in Norman. Can they turn things around?

4. San Diego State at Utah (7:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The Utes suddenly have lost three out of their last four games. The MWC title chance seems to be long gone. But getting back to a bowl game and building for next year are still a possibility for this team. They need a win to get back on track. 2) The Aztecs took a major step back in their race for an bowl game in last week's loss to UNLV. At 2-4, a loss to Utah could all but eliminate them from that race. 3) Kevin O'Connell has been wildly inconsistent as the Aztecs quarterback. Can he be "on" this week against the Utes?

Evening

1. Florida State at Virginia (7:45 ESPN)- 1) The Cavaliers really need to come up with some sort of "signature win" to really announce that they have arrived under Al Groh. They struggled against Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech last year. They didn't look particularly good against Boston College last week. Can they finally come up with a good performance on a big stage against Florida State? 2) The 'Noles offense has been getting better and better behind Drew Weatherford the last several weeks. Can he keep it up against a pretty good Virginia defense? 3) The Cavs Marques Hagans is a playmaker. Can he make enough plays against the best defense he has faced this year?

2. San Jose State at Boise State (8:05 Gameplan)- 1) This is a great offense for Boise State, particularly when they get to play at home on the blue turf. Sure, they struggled with Portland State. That could only motivate them more. 2) The Spartans offense is iffy at best. They need to gear it up against Boise State or else they will get run off the field. 3) We all really want to watch Boise State to try to figure out how they will fare against Fresno State on November 12 in the WAC Game of the Year.

Late Night

1. New Mexico State at Hawaii (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) Hal Mumme vs. June Jones. Now this game should feature some offense! 2) Hawaii is off to a bad start, but they always play well on the island, as evidenced by their 44-41 nailbiter against Boise State a couple of weeks ago. 3) New Mexico State could use some momentum to get their season rolling. Playing teams like Fresno State, California, and Colorado to start off the year would make any season get off to a slow start.

One Liners
Very quick previews of tonight's games.

Clemson at North Carolina State (7:30 ESPN)- Clemson started off hot, but has run into problems lately. The Wolfpack saved their season against Georgia Tech last Thursday night. The Pack try to keep their ACC title hopes alive against the Tigers.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Arkansas State (7:30 ESPNU)- Michael Desormeaux is the Ragin' Cajuns quarterback. He struggled last week against Florida Atlantic, and things might not get any better against this darkhorse in the Sun Belt race.

For the full Thursday Night Throwdown, click here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Week Seven: Wednesday

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

Indiana and Baylor both are serious threats to get to a bowl game. Both are 4-1. Indiana has a very tough future schedule with Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, and Purdue. Baylor has Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma State. Don't be surprised to see Baylor sitting at 7-4 even, because the Bears are playing in a suddenly very average Big Twelve.

Fresno State could be the toughest test remaining for USC. The Bulldogs will get the Trojans the week after they go to Cal. USC may not be fully focused on the Fresno game. Ask Oregon what happens when you aren't fully focused against the Bulldogs. (Hint: You fall behind 17-0.)

Louisville's two Big East road games against West Virgnia this weekend and Connecticut on December 3 will play a huge role in determining who wins the conference. It would shock no one if the Cardinals lost both of those games based on how they have played on the road this year so far. However, would it really shock anyone if they won both of these games either?

UCF may not be a mortal lock for a bowl game, but they've won three straight, and are the only unbeaten team remaining in Conference USA. A bowl game is well within reach and the Golden Knights probably should reach a bowl game at this point. The question should be if they can win the conference title or not. We'll know a lot more about that after this weekend against Southern Miss.

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

The quarterback merry-go-round in Knoxville continues as the word from Vols camp is that Erik Ainge will see some playing time against Alabama on October 22. Every Vol fan has to feel a little dizzy by how quickly things change.

Chris Leak watched Rick Clausen and Sam Keller go crazy against the LSU pass defense, and decided that even a sprained shoulder isn't enough to keep him out of the Gators game with the Tigers this weekend. LSU showed huge strides in that department last weekend against Jay Cutler and Vanderbilt.

Offensive lineman Brad Butler has been suspended for one game for his chop block on Mathias Kiwanuka. Virginia will play host to Florida State. There was a lot made of this play during the game last weekend, as two players eventually got thrown out because of it. However, Butler did not get penalized on the play, despite the fact that it was late and also an illegal block. It is a good call by Al Groh to suspend Butler for that play. Many coaches around America would not do that.

Quotables

Guy Morriss, Baylor's coach: "We haven't been in this position very often. We speak to them as coaches and remind them to tune things out with people patting them on the back while they go to classes. We have spoken to them about focus and preparing for Nebraska."

Mack Brown, Texas' coach: "It was a good win and a fun win over Oklahoma. Our fans had to get bragging rights back after a few years."

Karl Dorrell, UCLA's coach: "It's a great challenge again this week in the Pac Ten. Washington State is dangerous football team and they are even more dangerous in their own backyard. We have to have a great week of preparation and focus to overcome some of the obstacles we will see in this particular game. But it's really going to come down to how we play and how our approach is, which begins with our practice this week."

Rant of the Week

The rants this week were excellent, and it was tough to pick just one. Fans are beginning to get frustrated with their teams, which is understandable at this time of year. There were a lot of great ones to choose from. Here is the one from Brett Young, as he is sick of his Hawkeyes slow starts.

Iowa started the season in the top 15 for the firsttime since they have emerged as a continual BCS bowlteam. Now in typical fashion (which is getting old) they have dropped 2 games early and are starting to"find themselves" again with a impressive victory atPurdue. I am a life long Hawkeye fan and even I amstarting to get confused as to why it takes them 4 or5 games to figure out who they are every year. Iunderstand in the past they had low-level recruits andhad to fill spots, but they have been recruiting wellfor 3 years now and I'm wondering if they will everhave a true identity. I love my Hawks and am notcomplaining about their recent success, just wonderingif you media fellas are a perplexed by this team as Iam starting to be. I honestly don't know where to rankthese guys right now & I'm not sure anybody does.

Brett Young
Sioux Falls, Iowa

Thanks Brett, and thanks everyone that e-mailed me a rant. I thoroughly enjoy reading them. Keep those e-mails coming!



Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Week Seven: Tuesday

Under Pressure
Les Miles, LSU

LSU's head coach, Les Miles, has certainly come under fire quickly in Baton Rouge. The shocking loss at home to Tennessee started the ball rolling. People are beginning to question whether or not he can win at a big time program. This week's game against Florida will go a long way to silence the critics...or make them louder. Miles may just be starting his coaching tenure at LSU, but if he wants to be there for long, he needs a solid performance against the Gators. He also needs to make sure that he does not signal for a timeout when there is a change of possession. Those two things would be a nice start for all Tiger fans.

Brian Brohm, Louisville

The sophomore has looked great at home as the Cardinals quarterback. However, put him on the road (like he was against South Florida, and before that Kentucky) and he has looked shaky. This week, the Cardinals could be playing the Big East Championship Game in Morgantown against West Virginia. It would be almost unacceptable for the Cardinals to not win the Big East after all the preseason hype about them. A loss here would almost eliminate them from the conference championship race. Going against a very good West Virginia defense in front of a hostile crowd, this game will show the nation a lot about how mature Brian Brohm is.

College Gameday Site
South Bend, Indiana

It really only makes sense to be at this game this weekend. The USC Trojans head to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It is clearly the premier game of the weekend. However, it will mark the first time this year that the gang is going to a game that is not being televised on ABC or the ESPN family of networks. With some of the great games that have been on CBS already, this is a little surprising. This weekend, there really was no choice. The USC-Notre Dame game was so clearly the marquee game of the day, there was no way to get around going. This is where the show began. Back in 1993, the crew went on the road for the first time to see the number one Florida State Seminoles take on the number two Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend. The show was struggling at that point. Being there in front of everyone was an immediate success, and it soon became a huge show. They return to the scene for another huge showdown this weekend.

Thoughts on the Rankings

Virginia Tech and Texas have got a total of five first place votes in the Coaches Poll. Texas has four of those. Texas is getting seven first place votes in the AP Poll. Texas has squeezed out thirteen first place votes (out of 113) in the Harris Poll. There is a slowly growing sentiment that maybe someone other than USC could be number one.

Florida State and Georgia are in a neck and neck race in the Harris Poll. Only fourteen points separate the number four and number five teams. While this may seem unimportant right now, it could become critical as the season progresses if somehow this becomes the battle for the number two spot.

Texas Tech is the lowest ranked of the unbeatens in the Harris Poll at number 13. This is unlikely to change until the Red Raiders meet up with Texas. If they beat the Longhorns, they'll move up substantially.

UCLA is the lowest ranked of the unbeatens in the Coaches Poll at number 12. They are within striking distance of number 11 Texas Tech. The Bruins have a shot to jump them in the polls with convincing wins if the Red Raiders struggle.

It's time to really start paying attention to the rankings. Next week, the first BCS Standings come out. In other words, next week is when we all start complaining about how Texas Tech has leapfrogged everyone and is ranked number one and that Arizona State has foudn their way to the number two ranking.

My Rankings

The rankings are continuing to evolve as we learn more and more about each team. There is so much parity in college football this season. Did anyone really think that we wouldn't even be halfway through October and Ohio State, Tennessee, and Iowa would all have two losses, while Michigan and Oklahoma would each have three? That's five of the preseason Top Ten teams in most people's rankings. It has been a surprising season, to say the least. This week I narrowed down my rankings to thirty teams that I thought deserved to be ranked. At the end of the day, only 25 could be. The team's previous ranking is in parentheses.

1. USC 5-0 (1)
2. Texas 5-0 (3)
3. Virginia Tech 6-0 (2)
4. Alabama 5-0 (4)
5. Georgia 5-0 (6)
6. Florida State 5-0 (7)
7. Penn State 6-0 (13)
8. UCLA 5-0 (14)
9. Notre Dame 4-1 (10)
10. Miami, FL 4-1 (12)
11. Florida 5-1 (8)
12. LSU 5-1 (11)
13. Ohio State 3-2 (5)
14. Michigan State 4-1 (17)
15. Texas Tech 5-0 (19)
16. Auburn 4-1 (22)
17. Boston College 5-1 (20)
18. California 5-1 (16)
19. Tennessee 3-2 (9)
20. Oregon 5-1 (--)
21. Colorado 4-1 (--)
22. TCU 5-1 (24)
23. Minnesota 5-1 (--)
24. Arizona State 3-3 (15)
25. Louisville 4-1 (--)

Dropped Out:
Wisconsin 5-1 (18), Georgia Tech 3-2 (21), Nebraska 4-1 (23), Michigan 3-3 (25)
All these teams lost last week. Nebraska's loss was a close loss to a ranked team. Michigan's was as well. Nebraska's was their first loss of the year and they nearly remained ranked. Michigan's was their third, so it was easy to drop them from the rankings. Georgia Tech and Wisconsin both lost to teams they shouldn't have. Northwestern and North Carolina State both are good teams, but should not have been able to beat the Badgers and the Yellow Jackets. Wisconsin nearly remained ranked because of their close loss on the road, but the Big Ten is so crazy, it's virtually impossible to figure out who should be ranked and who shouldn't in any given week. Call the Minnesota-Wisconsin game this week a game that will tell us a lot more about which one deserves to be ranked.

Biggest drop of a team still in the rankings: 10-Tennessee. The Vols have looked lost offensively for pretty much all but the second half against LSU this year. Their loss to Georgia looked listless. This team will probably be an underdog against both Alabama and Notre Dame, so a 7-4 season is not out of the question. With how high they started, that is almost unforgivable. Their loss showed that the fluke seems to be that the Vols came back against LSU, not the poor performance at Florida.

Smallest drop of a team that lost: 2- California. The Golden Bears played well enough to beat UCLA for a large portion of the game. They were leading 40-28 late in the game, but the Bruins came back. That is a great win for the Bruins, and not that bad of a loss for Cal. The Bears are proving that they are a really good football team. A very nice performance by the Bears despite the loss.

Biggest drop of a team that won: 3- Florida. The Gators looked totally unmotivated in their win over Mississippi State. For much of the game, the Gators did not seem to really care one way or the other. The final score looked nice, but the motivation did not. After the loss to Alabama last week, people were hoping for a little more fire. Plus, their most impressive win of the year was at home against Tennessee. They did not beat them as badly as Georgia beat them on the road. That win does not look as impressive today as it did last week. They get a shot at redemption this week against LSU.

Biggest jump of a team that was in my rankings last week: 6- Penn State, UCLA, Auburn. The Nittany Lions beat a very good Ohio State team and proved that they belong among the nation's elite. Now, let's see how they do on the road when they go to Michigan. UCLA has now got back-to-back great comeback wins. The season sets up beautifully to be 10-0 heading into their game against USC. Of course, let's put them on Upset Watch as well, as they go on the road to face a wounded Washington State team that has plenty of firepower. The Auburn Tigers jumped up six spots because teams ahead of them either lost or did not look all that impressive. The Tigers haven't played a good team since their opening day loss to Georgia Tech, but they have been looking better and better. Auburn has looked like a contender for the SEC West title since that day and deserve their jump in the rankings.

A little bit of confusion is breaking out. I came so close to ranking Texas #1 this week and USC #2. The Trojans dominated much of the game against Arizona, but the on field result looked much closer than the stats ever looked. Also, the final score was much closer than I would have expected from USC. But here is the deal. The Trojans have struggled each of the last three weeks. No doubt about it. Yet they still have a 32 point, ten point, and 21 point win in their last three games. Two of those wins were against ranked teams. Show me another team that could be considered not playing up to par and still be averaging winning by 21 over a three game stretch. I just can't believe that Texas would fit into that category. There is reason to be concerned for the Trojans. They may get jumped if they don't start playing better. Texas jumped Virginia Tech because of the first half that the Hokies had against Marshall and the pure dominance Texas showed from the beginning against Oklahoma.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Week Seven: Monday

WEEKEND IN REVIEW

Game of the Week
UCLA 47, California 40

In what was a truly great college football game, the Bruins fought back from a 40-28 fourth quarter deficit, thanks in part to a fake punt from around midfield. Maurice Drew absolutely exploded in this game. The Bruins took the lead 41-40 on a great Drew run into the endzone, but the Bears had one shot. It was intercepted. The Bruins were facing fourth down with six seconds left, so they had to try to run out the clock and not just kneel down. They ran the ball up the gut and got into the endzone as time expired. It was a great game that featured a little bit of everything. It was definitely worth watching.

Upset of the Week
Minnesota 23, Michigan 20

So why was this game so surprising? The spread was not that far in favor of the Wolverines, and Michigan had two losses to Minnesota's one. But the Golden Gophers had gotten absolutely spanked by Penn State last week and Michigan had upset Michigan State. So it looked like the teams were going in opposite directions. Throw on top of that the different ways that Minnesota has found to lose to Michigan in recent years, and it is easy to see why as Minnesota lined up for a game winning field goal, many people around the country thought that the Gophers would find a way to mess up. But they didn't, and they ended their 19 year losing streak to the Wolverines. The Little Brown Jug is going back to the Golden Gophers!

Player of the Week
Maurice Drew, UCLA

It would have been just as easy to give this award to LenDale White and he was who I was planning to give this to, until I watched the stunning performance put on by Drew. He ran the ball 15 times for 65 yards and three touchdowns. He caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. He returned one kickoff for twenty yards. He returned three punts for 162 yards and a touchdown. That is 299 total yards on 21 touches and five touchdowns. Those are numbers that Reggie Bush would be proud of. Is there a chance that Bush isn't the best do-it-all kind of player in his own city? Drew definitely lit up the Bears and was the reason that the Bruins came away with one of their most important victories since 1998.

Team of the Week
Penn State Nittany Lions

The Penn State Nittany Lions came away with a very impressive 17-10 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. They controlled the game with their defense. They were supposed to lose to Ohio State and learn that they weren't quite back yet. In the end, the Nittany Lions looked every bit as good as Texas looked against the Buckeyes. Texas is ranked by most people as the #2 team in the country. Penn State's win announces to the country that the Nittany Lions are back. Regardless of what JoePa says ("I would say that we never went anywhere"), the program has been down, and Happy Valley hasn't been this happy in a long time.

Stat of the Week
1189 total yards

The amazing 1189 total yards put up by Northwestern and Wisconsin combined was an incredible number. Northwestern had 674 total yards and Wisconsin had just (just...ha!) 515. Northwestern won the game 51-48, and it was as wild of a shootout as you can possible imagine! It was a great game and a truly amazing offensive explosion.

Play of the Week
Devin Hester's punt return

OK, so it got called back, but Miami's Devin Hester ran all over the field and had a 60 yard touchdown on a punt return. Duke players were hanging all over him time and again, but he kept on reversing his field and reversing his field until he broke into the open and ran it all the way for a touchdown. It was an amazing play. There was a penalty on the play, and it did not count, but if you have not gotten a chance to see this punt return yet, find a way to do it because it is worth it just to see it.


Turnover of the Week
Kevin Smith's fumble.

Kevin Smith intercepted Cody Hodges near the goal line in the Nebraska-Texas Tech game. There was just 1:11 left in the game, and it looked like the Huskers had locked it up. The nose tackle was rumbling down the field. But then, the inexplicable happened. Bryan Kegans tipped the ball loose from his hands, and Danny Amendola fell on it for the Red Raiders. It was an shocking turn of events. The Cornhuskers still had a shot and got the Red Raiders into a fourth down and two situation, but allowed Texas Tech to complete a ten yard touchdown pass with just twelve seconds left, to lose 34-31.

Key First Half Moment of the Week
Vince Young's 64 yard touchdown pass to Billy Pittman.

The score was 17-6, Texas over Oklahoma. The Sooners had hung tough through a rough first half and were still within striking distance. There was not much time left in the half, so surely the Longhorns will just let the clock run out, right? Wrong. Vince Young found Billy Pittman for a 64 yard touchdown pass and the Longhorns lead over Oklahoma had grown to 24-6 with just 17 seconds left in the first half. The game was virtually over at that point, as it took all the wind out of Oklahoma's sails, and it gave Texas a big 18 point lead going into the locker room.

Moment of the Week
Thomas Flowers punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee

Thomas Flowers took the punt back at his own 46 yard line. Georgia lead Tennessee 13-7 at this point and there was just under nine minutes left in the game. After Flowers had returned the punt 54 yards for a touchdown, the score was 20-7 and the game was all but over. Flowers made everyone miss. Brandon Colquitt had been trying to get off a booming kick, and he did, but it wound up being too much of a line drive, and Flowers was able to return it for a huge touchdown.