John Roberts College Football

Friday, November 11, 2005

Week Eleven: Friday

Weekend Stars
Thoughts on who the stars of the weekend will be.

Game of the Week- LSU at Alabama- It is hard to deny how big this game is. The winner will be in the drivers seat of the SEC West race and ranked in the Top Five. The loser will fall down the bowl pecking order. These are two very good teams. They both play very good defense. LSU has more offensive firepower, but the LSU secondary is a question mark. However, without Tyrone Prothro to toss the ball to, Brodie Croyle and the Tide offense has struggled. This ought to be a spectacular game. If you love defensive slugfests, watch this game.

Upset Special-Florida State at Clemson- The Bowden Bowl may have lost some of its luster in recent years, but this game smells like a potential upset. Clemson has played better at home this year, taking Miami to triple overtime. Florida State has nothing to play for. They have already locked up the ACC Atlantic Division title, and last week's loss to North Carolina State eliminated them from the national championship race and probably from getting an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game. Clemson is still trying to get bowl eligible. So, Florida State has nothing to play for. Clemson has a lot to play for. Clemson is a pretty good team that hasn't played up to their level at all times this year. Florida State is too. This game may not end in a Clemson win, but there are certainly reasons to believe it might.

Team of the Week-UCLA Bruins- You want to see a team awakened from their slumber? Watch the Bruins this weekend. They should come out and play their most complete game since beating Oklahoma in September this weekend. The Bruins loss last week against Arizona did not eliminate them from the national title picture. If they can beat USC on December 3, they would shoot up the rankings. They will win the Pac Ten with a win that day, as long as they win this one. I expect to see a fired up Maurice Drew and a fired up UCLA team beat Arizona State this weekend. Of course, I wouldn't be completely shocked to see UCLA lay an egg and get killed by the Sun Devils, but either way, I expect this game to end in a blowout.

Players of the Week-
1) Reggie Bush, USC- Maurice Drew exploded against California. Does anyone else think that does not bode well for the Bears as they try to slow down Bush?
2) DeMeco Ryans, Alabama- The Tide linebacker should have a huge game against LSU. The Alabama defense is very strong, and he is the leader of it. He ought to help slow down the LSU offense.
3) D.J. Shockley, Georgia- Does anyone know how important Shockley is to the Dawgs? We'll all know more after this weekend in his first game back from an injury.
4) Maurice Drew, UCLA- Reggie Bush had a big game against the Sun Devils. Drew has got an opportunity to get right back into the Heisman Trophy race with a big game in this one.
5) Cody Hodges, Texas Tech- Oklahoma State's defense hasn't proven to be a match for many teams this season. Hodges ought to put up huge numbers against the Cowboys.

One Liners
Quick preview of tonight's game.

Rutgers at Louisville (8:00 ESPN2)- Louisville's offense always seems to roll at home. For Rutgers, they are already bowl eligible, but they would love to pull off an upset to send themselves flying up the bowl pecking order. They are a quality team, but they will need to do a lot to control Brian Brohm and the Cardinals offense.

Thursday in Review
Very quick recap of last night's game.

Fresno State 27, Boise State 7- The game was not as close as the score indicated. When Boise scored on their second play from scrimmage, every Fresno fan had to be holding their breath and trying not to think, "Here we go again." Fresno responded with a vengeance. They played a very good game, and proved that they may just be the most underrated team in the country.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Week Eleven: 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. Florida at South Carolina (12:30 JP/Gameplan)- 1) Florida wins the East with a win and a Georgia loss to either Auburn or Kentucky. South Carolina finishes second in the East with a win. 2) Chris Leak and the Gators offense has not been great this year, and the Gamecocks defense has been pretty good. Can Leak put enough points on the board to beat the Gamecocks? 3) Isn't there some small storyline in this game? Something about some coach coaching against his former team? Something about the hot up and coming coach coaching against a legend that he is in the shadow of? There might be. More research is necessary on this...

2. Northwestern at Ohio State (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Interestingly, there is still a sliver of a chance that Northwestern can claim the Big Ten title. Ohio State needs to win out and have Penn State lose to Michigan State for them to win it. Their chances are much more realistic. 2) Brett Basanez and that Wildcat offense is explosive. It will be A.J. Hawk and the Ohio State defenses job to hold them down. 3) Ted Ginn Jr. has shown why he was considered a Heisman Trophy contender at the start of the year in the last couple of games. He is as exciting as any player in the country.

3. Florida State at Clemson (12:00 ESPN)- 1) It's the Bowden Bowl! Papa Bowden goes up against Sonny Bowden in a game that Sonny needs to have to make sure he holds onto his job. 2) Clemson needs just one more win to become bowl eligible. Tiger fans definitely would like to see it happen against Florida State. 3) Drew Weatherford took a giant leap backwards last week against North Carolina State. Can he put it behind him this week against the Tigers?

4. Michigan State at Minnesota (12:00 Gameplan)- 1) You know you want to see Drew Stanton go up against Laurence Maroney. Two trendy picks for the Heisman at different points in the year go up against each other in this battle. 2) The Spartans rarely play defense. The Gophers play defense only slightly more often. This game should be quite the high scoring affair. 3) The Spartans still need one more win to become bowl eligible. The Gophers are already bowl eligible, but another win certainly wouldn't hurt their cause any for a decent bowl.

5. Texas A&M at Oklahoma (12:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Both teams need one more win to become bowl eligible. For the Aggies, with Texas their only game after this one, they would certainly like to get it out of the way now. For Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State remain, so one win against one of these three teams seems probable. However, it's always better to go ahead and take care of business when you have the chance. 2) Reggie McNeal, despite the team's recent struggles, has still been playing pretty well. Oklahoma's defense has been coming on as of late, so this could be a stiff challenge for McNeal. 3) Adrian Peterson, now that he is back and reasonably healthy, has been eating up yards. Against the sieve that is the Aggies defense, he should run for huge yards.

6. Maryland at North Carolina (JP/Gameplan)- 1) Both teams are 4-4. The loser is really going to have trouble getting to a bowl game. 2) Sam Hollenbach will be back at quarterback for the Terps. They need him to rescue their bowl hopes. 3) Other than the bruising they took from Louisville, North Carolina has played pretty well this year. Last week's win over Boston College showed that this team, playing perhaps the most difficult schedule in the country, is still a pretty darn good team.

7. Memphis at Tennessee (2:00 Gameplan)- 1) Do you want to go to a bowl game? For the Vols, they have to win their final three games to get to a bowl. For the Tigers, they have to win two of their last three to get there. 2) DeAngelo Williams is the nation's leading rusher. Going up against a tough Vols defense should give the country a good feel for just how good he is. 3) The Vols offense clicked off 21 points last week, which is their third highest output of the season. They need to keep the ball rolling against a pretty good Memphis defense.

8. Navy at Notre Dame (1:00 NBC)- 1) Notre Dame has beaten Navy 41 straight times, an all time record for most consecutive wins over one opponent. One of these years, Navy is going to jump up and bite the Irish. 2) The Irish need to hold on to their #11 spot in the BCS rankings if they want to get to a BCS bowl game this year. Navy needs one more win to become bowl eligible. 3) Brady Quinn is having a great year and is receiving darkhorse consideration for the Heisman Trophy. He needs to put up huge numbers from here on out to have a chance.

9. Indiana at Michigan (12:00 ESPN2)- 1) Michigan is still alive for the Big Ten title. Wins these next two weeks, a Wisconsin loss, and a Penn State loss would give it to them. The Hoosiers must win their last two games to get to a bowl game. 2) Michigan's defense has been playing better. Blake Powers hasn't been playing quite as well for the Hoosiers. Still, it should be interesting to see how Powers does against this defense. 3) Chad Henne has been playing much better for the Wolverines, and should put up big numbers against a lousy Indiana defense.

10. Massachusetts at Army (12:00 ESPNU)- 1) Army has won two straight, and is looking at possibly having won four in a row heading into the Navy game if they can win this one and the Arkansas State game next week. Maybe Bobby Ross' team really has turned the corner. 2) UMass is one of the better teams in Division 1-AA, so the Black Knights better not overlook them. 3) Zac Dahman is an excellent quarterback that has excelled the last two years.

Afternoon

1. LSU at Alabama (3:30 CBS)- 1) It's this week's version of Virginia Tech-Miami. A highly regarded one loss team goes on the road to battle the third ranked team in the BCS. This one ought to be more entertaining than last week's game. Not to mention that the winner of this game will be in the lead in the SEC West. 2) Alabama has only scored one offensive touchdown in their last three SEC games. LSU's defense has been steadily improving this season. Can the Tide, behind Brodie Croyle and Ken Darby, put some points on the board? 3) Even though they've only scored one offensive touchdown in their last three SEC games, the Tide is still winning because of the strength of their defense. JaMarcus Russell and the rest of the LSU offense will have to be very sharp to put points on the board against these guys.

2. USC at California (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) The Trojans last loss was to Cal back in 2003. That game was at Cal. This has been the closest thing to a rivalry game that the Trojans have had in recent years with Notre Dame being down and all. This has been the team that has come the closest to ending their dreams consistently. One more time? 2) Joe Ayoob has been downright bad at times for the Cal offense. The USC defense has struggled at times to stop the pass. This match-up will determine if the Bears have a chance or not. 3) There may not be a game this year with more talent on display at running back. Everyone knows about Reggie Bush and LenDale White, but some people (they have to be out there) may not know about Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. These two duos in the backfield squaring off...that alone makes this game worth watching.

3. Kansas at Texas (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) That's the number one rushing defense in the country looking to try to contain Texas. The Jayhawks defense is very good. They have Charles Gordon in the secondary and the best run defense in the country. They've got the talent on defense to make this one interesting. 2) Kansas lead Texas by double digits late in their game last year before losing. 3) Vince Young continues to make his push at the Heisman Trophy. If he has a big game against this defense, he should really help his cause.

4. Iowa at Wisconsin (3:30 ESPN)- 1) In the preseason, it was supposed to be Iowa trying to stay in the Big Ten title race and the Badgers trying to get to a bowl game. Things are reversed. The Hawkeyes are trying to get to a bowl game, while the Badgers still have a shot at tying for the Big Ten title. 2) Drew Tate and the Iowa offense could light up the Badgers defense, which has struggled badly at times this year. 3) Brian Calhoun had a bad week last week against Penn State, but he is one of the better running backs in the country. He'll need to have a big game against a pretty good Hawkeyes defense.

5. Miami at Wake Forest (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) It's Wake Forest's last game of the season. So this is my last chance to get the names Chris Barclay and Micah Andrews into the nation's consciousness. Trust me. This Wake Forest rushing attack is very very good. 2) Miami is battling it out for the third spot in the BCS, or first in line just in case Texas or USC lose. They need to keep on winning, and winning impressively, to get there. 3) Wake is a very dangerous team, but Kyle Wright and the Hurricanes showed what they are capable of last week against Virginia Tech. The defense shut the Hokies down, and the Hurricanes offense did just enough.

6. Georgia Tech at Virginia (3:30 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) On a technicality, both teams are still alive for the ACC Coastal Division title. Virginia still has games with Miami and Virginia Tech after this one, while Georgia Tech has a key showdown with Miami coming up. Virginia must win to become bowl eligible. 2) Reggie Ball is about as inconsistent as they come at quarterback. Going up against a pretty good Virginia defense could make him look pretty bad. 3) Marques Hagans isn't exactly the most consistent quarterback. Going up against the Yellow Jackets tough defense could make him look pretty bad. In other words, look for a defensive battle with very few points being scored.

7. UCF at UAB (4:00 CSTV)- 1) UAB needs two more wins to become bowl eligible. UCF needs to keep on winning if they are going to win the CUSA East. They need a Southern Miss loss somewhere along the way as well. 2) Darrell Hackney is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country. Watch him play. He's an exciting football player. 3) Steven Moffett has played with confidence and poise this year. He continues to look very good for the Golden Knights.

8. San Diego State at Colorado State (3:00 Gameplan)- 1) The Rams need one more win to become bowl eligible. The Aztecs upset Utah a couple of weeks ago, and look to do it again. 2) Justin Holland is a very underrappreciated quarterback. His top target, David Anderson, is largely an unknown around the country, but he is one of the top receivers in the conference. 3) Kevin O'Connell has been playing a little bit better lately at quarterback. Two weeks ago, when the Aztecs lost by three to TCU, O'Connell had a good game, both throwing and running the ball.

9. Louisiana Tech at Idaho (5:00 Gameplan)- 1) The Bulldogs need one win in their final three games to become bowl eligible. They've still got a shot at winning the WAC with Boise State and Fresno State ahead on the schedule. 2) Matt Kubik may not be exploding, but he is still a pretty good quarterback for the Bulldogs. 3) The last time Idaho played (and that one was on Gameplan as well), the Vandals were pulling out a 38-37 thriller in overtime against New Mexico State. That pile in the back of the endzone after the two point conversion is one of the more memorable moments of the season to date of any game I've watched. Can they carry that confidence over into this game?

Late Afternoon

1. Colorado at Iowa State (7:00 FSN)- 1) Colorado wraps up the Big Twelve North with a win. Iowa State keeps their title hopes alive with a win. The Cyclones must win out and hope that Colorado loses to Nebraska on the Friday after Thanksgiving. 2) Joel Klatt has been playing well as the Buffaloes quarterback. Now, the Cyclones defense have been eating people up lately, so Klatt may find it tough going this weekend. 3) Stevie Hicks is finally healthy again. Todd Blythe is making plays. Bret Meyer is settling in at quarterback. The Buffaloes defense has been solid, but this is a tough task to try to slow down this hot Iowa State offense.

2. Arizona State at UCLA (7:00 ABC/Gameplan)- 1) Bruins take on Arizona...take two! This was supposed to be the game that gave the Bruins trouble. If Arizona can beat the Bruins 52-14, and this was supposed to be the tougher of the two games, what does that mean will happen this week? 2) The Sun Devils need just one win to become bowl eligible. It doesn't matter if it comes this weekend against UCLA or in two weeks against Arizona. 3) The Bruins have Drew Olson, Maurice Drew, and one of the best offenses in the Pac Ten. They got slowed down last week by Arizona. Can they come back this week against ASU?

3. North Carolina State at Boston College (7:15 ESPN2)- 1) The Wolfpack need two wins to become bowl eligible. After last weekend's upset of Florida State, they feel that they should surely be able to win at Boston College. 2) Mathias Kiwanuka will be looking to keep his team from losing three straight. A loss here suddenly would send the Eagles way down on the bowl pecking order. 3) Andre Brown and Toney Baker are both very good backs for the Wolfpack offense. They will be challenged by a good Boston College defense.

4. New Mexico at Utah (6:30 Gameplan)- 1) The winner of this game is bowl eligible. While that wasn't either teams goal heading into the season, it is how things are for the Utes and Lobos. 2) DonTrell Moore is one of the more underrated backs in the country. He could have a big day against the Utes defense. 3) Brian Johnson has been playing better as of late for the Utes as the quarterback. Quinton Ganther may be the star of the offense, but the development of Johnson is the key to this team's continued success.

5. BYU at Wyoming (6:00 Gameplan)- 1) The Cougars need one win to become bowl eligible, while the Cowboys need two. Again, not what these teams had in mind to start the season, but it will have to do. 2) Corey Bramlett needs to get going to snap this Cowboys team out of their four game losing streak. 3) John Beck is really getting on a roll as the Cougars quarterback. The Cougars offense has scored 117 points the last two weeks combined, a stunning 58.5 average.

6. Troy at Arkansas State (7:00 ESPNU)- 1) Both teams are 3-2 in Sun Belt play and sit just one half game behind Louisiana-Monroe in the conference race. Both have already lost to Monroe, so another conference loss would absolutely kill any chances of winning the conference. 2) Antonio Warren and Shermar Bracey both average over 7.0 yards per carry for the Indians. 3) Carl Meadows has been very average at quarterback for the Trojans. They would love to see him play a more consistent game against an inconsistent Arkansas State defense.

7. Florida International at Louisiana-Lafayette (7:00 Gameplan)- 1) FIU upset Louisiana-Monroe last week to throw the conference race up for grabs. ULL beat North Texas to put themselves in control of their own destiny in the Sun Belt. 2) Josh Padrick is a pretty good quarterback for the Panthers. 3) Jerry Babb has been getting the job done for the Ragin' Cajuns. With two weeks off after this before a potential Sun Belt Championship Game against Louisiana-Monroe, ULL needs a solid performance and a win.
Evening

1. Auburn at Georgia (7:45 ESPN)- 1) It is the South's oldest rivalry. That alone makes this one of the must see games of the weekend. 2) Georgia can clinch the East with a Florida loss and a win in this one. With Kentucky next week, all the Dawgs really need is just to win this one, apparently. Auburn can win the West by winning out and seeing LSU lose once somewhere along the way. 3) D.J. Shockley will be back from injury. How effective will he be? Brandon Cox hasn't been very good in either of the Tigers big games so far this year. How effective will he be? The quarterback position will play a large role in this one, which may be surprising given how good the running backs and defenses are on these teams.

Late Night

1. Oregon at Washington State (10:15 FSN)- 1) Welcome to a classic trap game for the Oregon Ducks. Beating Cal last week was a huge win, and their rivalry game with Oregon State is coming up, and a better than their record would indicate Washington State team sits in between. 2) Who will it be this week for the Ducks? Brady Leaf or Dennis Dixon? Leaf saved them last week against Cal. Someone needs to step up in Kellen Clemens absence. With a possible BCS bowl bid on the line, this one is huge. 3) The Cougars have the Pac Ten's leading rusher in Jerome Harrison. Jason Hill may be the most underrated wide receiver in the Pac Ten. They've got the offensive playmakers to keep this one close.

2. Utah State at Hawaii (11:05 Gameplan)- 1) Hawaii has three home games left, which means that winning out is a distinct possibility, which means they could get to 6-6 and a possible bowl game. 2) Colt Brennan has been a pretty good fit for the Warriors at the quarterback position. 3) Leon Jackson III has lead the Aggies in both rushing and passing so far this year. He is the only thing that resembles offense for this team. He will have to put up big numbers if they are going to hang with the Warriors strong offense.

ONE LINERS
Quick preview of tonight's game.

Boise State at Fresno State (8:00 ESPN)- This may be the most anticipated Thursday night game of the year. This is for the WAC title, and an impressive show by Fresno State may put them in a position of really believing that they can hang with USC. Boise State has a 31 game conference winning streak. Fresno State hasn't beaten them the last four years. This will be a whole lot of fun.

WEDNESDAY IN REVIEW
Very quick recap of last night's game.

West Virginia 45, Cincinatti 0- The Mountaineers continue to roll along. They are the class of the Big East at this point. Now, they have two weeks to get ready for Pittsburgh and then (win or lose against the Panthers) will be playing at South Florida with the Big East title on the line. If they beat Pitt, and USF comes up with one more loss, then the Mountaineers will already have the title clinched, but they will be playing to make the Big East look better. Steve Slatton and the rest of this WVU team is much better than they are generally given credit for.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Week Eleven: Wednesday

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

After watching California and UCLA be underwhelming last weekend, it becomes more clear that Fresno State could be the toughest game left on USC's schedule. For this to be true, it is absolutely critical that the Bulldogs take care of business on Thursday night against Boise State. They can not show any weakness right before the USC game. On a good note for the Bulldogs, a win over Boise would be huge for the program as well. Since the game is on Thursday night, they will have time to celebrate and then begin to focus on the Trojans.

The key game in the SEC title race (in both divisions) is Georgia-Auburn this Saturday. If Georgia wins, they likely win the East. If Auburn wins, it makes next weekend's Iron Bowl even bigger. Regardless of who wins the LSU-Alabama game, both Alabama and Auburn will enter the game with SEC title aspirations as long as Aubun wins. So excuse me if that is the game that I am most focused on this weekend, even though it isn't as big as the other SEC battle.

Should we count out Iowa State? I haven't counted them out yet. They are playing as well as any team in the Big Twelve, and if they can beat Colorado this weekend, it will mean that the Nebraska-Colorado game will determine the Big Twelve North Champ (assuming that Iowa State wins at Kansas, which may not be a safe assumption). Now, should anyone count on Nebraska winning a game that matters? Of course not. But it would be foolish to count out the Cyclones quite yet. If Colorado beats them this Saturday, then the race is over, though.

I'm not really supposed to cheer for any teams, but...I may find myself cheering for USF the next three weeks against Syracuse, Cincinnati and Connecticut. Why? Because I want that West Virginia-USF game on December 3 (Championship Saturday) to be for the Big East title. The only way it would be if USF loses a game, would be if WVU loses one as well. Then tiebreakers with numerous teams could come into play. However, West Virginia's visit to South Florida could be a Big East Championship Game, much like Virginia Tech at Miami was the ACC Championship Game last year. USF's win over Rutgers was their biggest remaining hurdle before that game. The Bulls are looking more and more like the only team (other than Louisville) that can truly contend with West Virginia out of the Big East. The Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia should be highly entertaining though. Don't be shocked if Pitt, not USF, hands WVU their first loss of the Big East season. Do be shocked if Cincinnati does tonight.

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

Jim Hofher, Buffalo's head coach, has been fired. He will be leaving at the end of the season. The Bulls typically struggle every year, and they needed a change to try to turn things around. That's what Hofher was supposed to do, but he could never quite get it done.

D.J Shockley is prepared to play this weekend as Georgia takes on Auburn. A win likely sends the Dawgs to the SEC Championship Game. This is a huge game for them, and Shockley's health is a key to their success.

Rich Brooks will return for Kentucky as their head coach next year. This is interesting news. Brooks has been on the hot seat seemingly since the day he stepped foot on campus, and many seemed to believe that this was finally the year that he would not be able to survive. Yet he has. The Wildcats have been on probation, so winning has been difficult, but the disappointing performances against teams such as Idaho State and Ohio have left Kentucky fans wanting more. They won't be getting more until at least the end of next year.

Michael Bush, Louisville's star running back, is questionable for their game against Rutgers this Saturday. He has a sprained foot. The game is a key game in the race for second in the Big East. With both Rutgers and Louisville already having lost to current second place team, South Florida, the game could have more bearing on who finishes third in the conference. Still, with the logjam of two loss teams in the Big East, one of these teams will break out, and Louisville could certainly use the services of their best player.

Quotables

Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State's head coach: "I didn't think they (Alabama) played with as much class as Alabama teams usually do. All that bumping and some of the other little things they did between plays … I wasn't impressed with that at all...We've played three or four teams that are better from a talent standpoint, but they know how to get it done."

Ralph Friedgen, Maryland's head coach: "I don't think he's (starting QB Sam Hollenbach) like he was before he got hurt, but I think he's back to being able to play at full capacity, let's put it that way. Obviously we're concerned at how he holds up, but I'm hoping he'll be able to run the whole thing."

Bill Callahan, Nebraska's head coach: "Just to start with to begin this media conference, I just want to point out that we are not at all happy about where we are, what has transpired, what has taken place over the weekend. This staff, our players, our program are disappointed – bitterly disappointed about what occurred. We’re going to do everything we can this weekend to rectify it. Several situations have been addressed during the course of the weekend, and all I can tell you is that we will work hard. We are working hard to correct the error in our game. It is not to my standard, and despite what anybody else thinks out there, it’s not my standard the way we are existing right now as a program. We’re very disappointed. We’re very disappointed in terms of assignment football, very disappointed in terms of how our players have come out and put the effort into a game like we had this past weekend. We’re looking forward to this weekend to rectify the error in our game.”


Rant of the Week

Again, lots of good things to choose from for the Rant of the Week. Obviously, this was written before Saturday's games (as it references both Virginia Tech and UCLA being in the Top Five).

I think Notre Dame is a decent team, but they are not top 10 material, and what I took away from the ND-USC game was USC is not as good as everyone thinks. Lets face it, USC has not beat a good team this year, they have beaten plenty of avg. teams, but no good teams. Which leads me to my next prediction of USC losing by 14 in the NC if they play Texas or VTech (save this email, it will happen)...Back to USC. If this quote from the CFN site does not say everything about how badly everyone wants USC to be number 1 I do not know what does. “Computer this. USC took a potent Washington State team and blew it out like it was the Trojan third string. Any time you can crank out 745 yards of total offense and 55 points, you’re doing something right.” Have you looked at who Washington State has beat? They have not beat a team in the PAC10 (which ranks below the Big12 this year in my opinion). Washington St’s only wins come against #102 Idaho, #75 Nevada, and Grambling a IAA team. How does this validate how good USC is?UCLA has beat 1 ranked team (a team which will not be ranked at the end of the year) and everyone thinks they are great. Now do not get me wrong, they deserve to be in the 5th spot because they have not lost yet, but someone needs to step up and say they would get beat by every team in the top 10 and maybe the top 15.Here is the worst part of it all, USC will beat UCLA in a close game and this will validate USC as being the top team and deserving of the #1 spot, all by beating an undefeated team which has beaten 1 ranked team??? Does anyone else share my confusion?

--Ben Geiser

Do I agree with this? Of course not. I believe the Big Twelve is below the Pac Ten and I believe that beating Washington State, who had been playing every Pac Ten team close, by such a wide margin did say that USC was a pretty darn good team. Just like Texas beating an OK Baylor team so badly tells us that Texas is pretty darn good. When teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat convincingly, that is the sign of a good team. Still, I try to keep other viewpoints out there so that people can see them. This is Ben's take on things.

Keep those e-mails coming. I love getting your rants.

One Liners
A quick preview of tonight's game.

West Virginia at Cincinnati (7:30 ESPN2)- The Mountaineers continue their quest to win the Big East title and earn a BCS bowl bid. They have basically put away every team except for South Florida in the race for the title, since the Bulls are just one loss behind the Mountaineers and they still have a game to be played. They are at least two games up on every other team, including tonight's opponent. The Bearcats are 4-4 and holding onto hopes that they can find a way to a bowl game. A win in this one would be huge for that cause.
Review of Tuesday's games
A very quick recap of last nights game.

Southern Miss 27, Marshall 24 (OT)- The Golden Eagles lead a double digit lead slip away in the fourth quarter, but were able to win in overtime. They keep their dreams of a CUSA title alive. Dustin Almond and Larry Thomas both had pretty good games for the USM offense. Marshall needs to win out to avoid a losing season.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Week Eleven: Tuesday

Under Pressure
Pat Hill, Fresno State

The Fresno State coach has done everything asked him in his time with the Bulldogs. They've gone toe-to-toe with the BCS big boys and won more than their fair share. They get to bowl games. They have success. There is just one thing missing in recent years, and that is a WAC title. That's because the Bulldogs haven't been able to find a way to beat the Boise State Broncos. Next week's game against USC could be huge for Fresno State, but most people don't expect them to win that one. This week's game against Boise State people expect the Bulldogs to win. That puts the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Hill and the Bulldogs to pull this one out on Thursday night.

Joe Ayoob, California

Aaron Rodgers had great success against USC. Now the pressure shifts to Ayoob to have that type of success. This is the game that Cal fans have been pointing to all year. With three losses already, the Bears desperately do not want to get another one. They were the last team to beat USC, and played them within an eyelash last year. There has been a lot of uproar about Ayoob's play in Berkeley. If he plays well in this game, it will help his confidence, silence the critics, and make him a hero. If he doesn't play well, then his job will come under fire, more than likely, in spring ball.

College Gameday Site
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The SEC fans have raged this year about how few times College Gameday has come to an SEC game this season. Well, this will be the second time in three weeks that they are at an SEC game. LSU's visit to Alabama is a huge game in the SEC West title chase. The winner will be in the lead in the division. If LSU wins, they could still be tied with Alabama and Auburn, but they will have beaten both teams, which gives them the edge. If Alabama wins, they will be two games up on LSU and have the tiebreaker, and will still be one game up on Auburn (pending their result against Georgia) with a game with Auburn still to come. If Alabama wants to try to make up ground on Texas in the BCS, they need to win and look good doing it. With three tough games left on their schedule, they do have a shot to make up the ground if they can look impressive.

Thoughts on the Rankings

Before the Ohio State game, a Penn State fan e-mailed me and asked me if I thought that even with a loss if Penn State could get to the national championship game. I said there was no way. Now, while the Nittany Lions upset Ohio State that Saturday night and were beaten by Michigan a week later, there seems to be growing evidence that maybe the Nittany Lions do have a shot. They are number five in this week's BCS, mostly on the strength of the computers having them number three.

Notre Dame has moved into the Top Twelve, which means they seem to be in a position that all they have to do is win out and they will get to a BCS bowl game. Of course, they could still be hurt by their strength of schedule down the stretch, but the odds of them going to a BCS bowl have just gone up substantially.

Good news for the Big East! West Virginia is up to number fourteen in the BCS standings. This means that as long as they continue to win and move up at an appropriate rate, the Mountaineers could find themselves ranked around number ten by the time the BCS bowl games roll around. This means that the Big East will have met the requirements put before them for keeping their automatic bid. Of course, a loss to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, or South Florida would end that. Plus, South Florida is still very much alive in the Big East race, as they control their own destiny too.

Alabama has the slimmest of leads on Miami for number three in the BCS. While this is totally unimportant at this point, it will be pretty important if either Texas or USC loses. Will the Harris Poll vote Miami number two in that situation? Imagine the uproar if an undefeated Alabama team gets left out of the national championship game in favor of any once beaten team. It seems unlikely given the strength of Alabama's schedule down the stretch. However, every year we wonder what new thing will happen that will be controversial about the BCS. This would be a new one.

My Rankings

The season is starting to sort teams out slowly but surely. Based on most of what I've seen, the Top Six teams are fairly consensus. After the Big Two, there is some intrigue over which of the next four should be ranked where exactly. The situation is still open for interpretation. That is for sure. The number in parentheses represents where the team was ranked last week.

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

Dropped out: California 6-3 (20)
The Bears lost at Oregon, which isn't that bad. The Bears still have a shot to prove themselves this week against USC. A win would throw them up the charts very quickly. This is still a pretty good football team that USC should not overlook.

Biggest drop by a team still in the rankings: 7- Boston College. The Eagles looked downright average in their loss to North Carolina. That was not a good show, and now they have lost back-to-back games. This team is still not a bad ACC team, but they are looking more average by the week. Until they find an offense that can move the ball effectively, they will continue to look very average.

Smallest drop by a team that lost: 4- Wisconsin. While the Badgers were beaten down 35-14 by Penn State, the facts are that Penn State is a very good football team, especially at home, and that the Badgers probably were overrated slightly at #16 last week. This really is probably right where they belong.

Biggest drop by a team that won: In a new note, no one fits this mold this week. No one dropped who won. USC, Texas, LSU, Notre Dame, Florida, and Auburn all did not move a spot, and all those teams won last weekend. LSU and Notre Dame each were jumped by two teams in the process. LSU was jumped by Miami (nice show against Virginia Tech) and Penn State (nice show against Wisconsin). Notre Dame was jumped by Penn State and Oregon (nice show against California).

Biggest jump by a team that was in my rankings last week- 6- Oregon. The Ducks were so impressive because they proved they could win without Kellen Clemens at quarterback. There were doubts about whether or not they could still win without Clemens, and they proved that they could. This team certainly looks like the second best team in the Pac Ten after UCLA's gaffe. They have the look of potentially getting an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, possibly the Fiesta Bowl.

The case for Notre Dame. For those of you who have complained about Notre Dame only beating one ranked team, let's do a little bit closer look at this statistic. Here is a list of the ranked teams and who they have beaten that are ranked. For this purpose, the Coaches Poll is being used:

USC- 2 (Oregon, Notre Dame)
Texas- 3 (Texas Tech, Colorado, Ohio State)
Alabama- 1 (Florida)
Miami- 2 (Virginia Tech, Colorado)
LSU- 2 (Florida, Auburn)
Penn State- 2 (Ohio State, Wisconsin)
Notre Dame- 1 (Michigan)
Virginia Tech- 3 (West Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech)
Georgia- 0
Ohio State- 0
Oregon- 1 (Fresno State)
Florida- 1 (Georgia)
Texas Tech- 0
UCLA- 0
West Virginia- 1 (Louisville)
Florida State- 2 (Miami, Boston College)
Auburn- 0
TCU- 0
Wisconsin- 1 (Michigan)
Fresno State- 0
Colorado- 0
Michigan- 1 (Penn State)
Louisville- 0
Georgia Tech- 1 (Auburn)
Boston College- 0

To break it down further, how do we know that the ranked teams that these teams have beaten are legitimate teams? By this standard, it would be based on how many ranked teams their ranked opponents have beaten. USC's ranked opponents have just beaten two ranked teams. However, that is two more than Texas three ranked opponents have beaten. Virginia Tech has also beaten three ranked teams, but those have combined for just two ranked wins.

In conclusion, an arguement can be made about any team not having beaten anybody all year if you want to make that case. The fact is that when Notre Dame played USC, who is popularly considered the top team in the country, the Irish came within an eyelash of upsetting the Trojans. If people are ranking Notre Dame high because of how good they thought Purdue or Pittsburgh would be, then they are definitely wrong. However, if they are ranking Notre Dame where they are because of what they have seen on the field taking into account the strength of their competition, then they can definitely rank Notre Dame in the Top Ten. What are the voters doing? I have no idea. I believe that probably some have them ranked highly because of the Notre Dame name and the fact that some people (like Lee Corso) told them in the preseason that Notre Dame would be 0-6 after the USC game. That means the schedule must be tough, right? However, why do I have Notre Dame ranked where I do? While my judgement may be wrong, it is because of what I see with my eyes.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Week Eleven: Monday

Weekend in Review

Game of the Week
Florida 49, Vanderbilt 42 (2OT)

The Commodores put up a valiant effort, but could not come up with the program changing win. Jay Cutler fired two touchdown passes in the final two and a half minutes of the game (surrounding a Vanderbilt recovered onside kick) to tie the game up at 35. They were considering going for two following the second touchdown and trying to win the game in regulation, but a celebration penalty pushed the ball back fifteen yards, and the Commodores were forced to kick the extra point. The celebration penalty certainly appeared to be an awful call. Jemalle Cornelius made a spectacular catch in the back of the endzone in the second overtime on a pass from Chris Leak and Reggie Lewis intercepted Cutler to end the game and give the Gators the win.

Upset of the Week
Arizona 52, UCLA 14

So it has seemed like for weeks that UCLA would find a lead they couldn't overcome. However, down 31-7 at halftime, there was still a sense that the Bruins were going to make a run. When the scored reached 52-7, it became clear that the Wildcats were going to win. Mike Bell had 153 yards on 16 carries, and Gilbert Harris had 116 yards on 16 carries. Willie Tuitama completed 14 of 24 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats now are 2-0 when the freshman quarterback has started under center. The Wildcats have no shot at a winning season, but still have a shot to get to 5-6, with Washington and Arizona State ahead on the schedule.

Team of the Week
Miami Hurricanes

So people can say that they expected Miami to win, but few people expected them to walk into Blacksburg and win by twenty. Their 27-7 win over previously unbeaten and number three Virginia Tech was very impressive. Kyle Wright played a pretty good game, and the defense forced Marcus Vick into six turnovers, including four fumbles. Charlie Jones ran the ball 24 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. The Hurricanes seemed to outplay Florida State in their season opener, but could not win. If they had found a way to win that game, they would be undefeated and really challenging Texas for the number two spot in the BCS.

Player of the Week
Matt Leinart, USC

While his stats are not gaudy, Matt Leinart looked very impressive as the Trojans disposed of Stanford 51-21. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 259 yards and four touchdowns. That includes only two of three for fourteen yards in the second half. The score was 44-7 at the half, and Leinart did not play much in the second half. If he had continued on his first half pace, he would have completed 40 of 50 passes for 490 yards and eight touchdowns. In other words, that first half was amazing, and he made sure the Cardinal did not hang around in the game. They are starting to beat teams early in the game, which shows that the Trojans are becoming more focused. Just in time for a difficuly three game stretch against California, Fresno State, and UCLA.

Stat of the Week
627 total yards.

Where has the Texas A&M defense gone? The Aggies were supposed to improve on defense and be a thrilling offense this year. Those two things would make this a season to remember for the Aggies. It hasn't happened. Facing Texas Tech's high octane offense, the Aggies surrendered 627 total yards. They gained just 353 yards. They lost, 56-17. The Red Raiders have games against Okahoma State and Oklahoma remaining to get to 10-1. For the Aggies, they must beat either Oklahoma or Texas or they will not go to a bowl game.

Play of the Week
Fumbled kickoff returned for a touchdown by Alabama.

The Alabama offense is bumbling around a little bit. Ahead just 3-0 on Mississippi State at halftime on Saturday, the Tide knew they needed to get some things going with the defense and special teams. Derek Pegues took the second half kickoff for Mississippi State and he got hit by Jimmy Johns forcing the ball loose. Matt Miller picked it up from the 15 yard line and returned it for a touchdown. That made the score 10-0 Alabama, and the Tide was rolling. They never did score an offensive touchdown, but with the defense and the special teams putting points on the board there isn't much need for an offensive touchdown.

Turnover of the Week
Reggie Lewis interception.

Reggie Lewis intercepted Jay Cutler in the second overtime of Florida's 49-42 win over Vanderbilt. The Commodores had been having so much success moving the football, so the Gators desperately needed a turnover if they were going to win the game. Sure enough, that is exactly what they got. The interception by Lewis, who had been getting picked on all night by Cutler, ended the game and sent Gators fans home happy.

Key First Half Moment of the Week
Darryl Tapp's helmet-to-helmet

Virginia Tech's Darry Tapp got called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Kyle Wright late in the first quarter on Saturday night. He actually hit Wright in the chest, according to replays, but the officials deemed it a hit to the helmet because of how Wright's head snapped when he got hit. The hit took a little bit of sting out of Tapp and the rest of the Virginia Tech defense, gave momentum to Miami, quieted the crowd a little bit, and enraged Frank Beamer. When Miami scored later in the drive to make it 10-0, the game was all but over.

Moment of the Week
Brady Leaf's touchdown pass.

The Oregon Ducks were relying on their third string quarterback Brady Leaf to help them beat California and inch closer to a possible BCS bowl bid on Saturday afternoon. He completed a four yard touchdown pass to James Finley in overtime that turned out to be a game winner. Brady is the younger brother of Ryan of Washington State fame. If he continues to play like he did on Saturday, Ryan might become known as Brady's older brother.