Tuesday, September 5

Week 1 Rankings - Another Perspective

First off, let's go ahead and call it what it is. This is a Top 22. I can't include Cal after the egg they laid in Knoxville. After that, I couldn't come up with anyone worthwhile.

1 - Texas
Their quarterback problems look at least temporarily solved after a woodshed beating of North Texas. Not only that, the scoring throughout the game was as even as you could dream - 14 points in each quarter, 1 rushing TD per quarter, 1 passing TD in every quarter but the 4th (fumble recovery). As for the D, it was completely stifling, allowing only 2 Mean Green drives above 5 yards - but both of those were long drives (70 and 80 yards, respectively). OSU will be a serious test, but this was the most complete performance from any team last week.

2 - Auburn
A dominating 40-14 W over Washington St. was a bit of an understatement; every drive but 1 went at least 20 yards and there were only 2 punts all game. What looked to be a possible weak point for the Tigers - their kicking game - was solid this week, as John Vaughn went 4-5 (made 32, 44, 52(!), 31, missed 37) and Washington St. began 7 drives from no better than their own 20. Brandon Cox turned in a solid but unimpressive performance (10/16, 156 yds), but Kenny Irons carried most of the offense. In short, better than expected.

3 - Ohio State
Hard to argue with the first quarter-plus that OSU had: 4 drives, 4 TDs. In addition, the defense was great for the first four drives, only allowing 26 yards through the first three drives and ending a NIU threat with an interception. After that, though, the game quickly turned ugly (if you're not a OSU believer) or lethargic (if you are), as OSU missed 2 FGs and fumbled twice. Meanwhile, NIU moved the ball decently well all game - after the first quarter. It's pretty easily argued that motivation is tough when you're up by 28, but OSU didn't do a great job of answering questions on defense - not to mention there's the lingering question of if they can play for 60 minutes against Texas, who's a small step up from NIU.

4 - USC
Complete domination of a team I figured would be pretty impressive in Arkansas, at Arkansas. They started out slow - it was only 16-7 at the half - but poured it on late. Huge points to the defense for forcing 5 turnovers (3 INT, 2 fumbles). Much, much better overall effort than expected, although a win wasn't a huge surprise. Warning sign: their starting safety and punt coverage specialist Josh Pinkard tore his ACL, leaving Pete Carroll with a bunch of freshmen behind him on the depth chart.

5 - LSU
The first of the not-quite-dominating teams, LSU still turned in a solid all-around 45-3 performance. JaMarcus Russell killed most of the speculation about job security with a 13/17, 253 yd, 3 TD performance. Granted, it was against LA-Lafayette, hardly a powerhouse. Warning signs: 2 fumbles on punt returns, both recovered by LA-Laf, and losing the time of possession battle. Chalk the first up to inexperience and the second up to domination everywhere else. There's still some work to be done.

6 - West Virginia
Absolute 42-10 hammering of Marshall - check out that 300+ yards on the ground! This was pretty much to be expected, though. Every TD in the first half was scored from at least 8 yards out - and that was a pass. Must cut down on penalties (8 penalties for 90 yards) - and 315 yards with almost 150 of those on the ground seems a little high for Marshall. This isn't the Marshall of a few years ago.

7 - Virginia Tech
Sure, it was 1-AA Northeastern - hardly a great battle. However, a shutout is a shutout, even if it's expected. The defense was predictably solid and the special teams chipped in with a blocked punt and a blocked FG. The surprise was QB Sean Glennon going for 222 yards, although it remains to be seen what he can do against an actual defense.

8 - Notre Dame
Hey, you won! Good job. Next time show up for the first half, 'k? When your first 5 drives only go for 34 yards - combined - that might not be a good sign. Kudos go to the defense, which rose to the occasion, although Calvin Johnson had his way with them all night. That's more a statement of Calvin Johnson's skill than it is Notre Dame's D. Don't expect that effort to cut it against Penn State this week.

9 - Florida
Florida also holds a dubious distinction as falling behind their guaranteed victory this week, falling behind 7-0 to Southern Miss before rattling off 34 unanswered. Chris Leak had a good performance, going 22/30 for 248 yds and 3 TDs. They eventually rebounded to have a strong showing, but like Notre Dame, you can't show up for just part of the game and expect to win.

10 - Florida State
Beat Miami ... and that's about it. Don't expect that rushing total to cut it. Heck, don't expect that performance to cut it. Hideous performance by everyone except for the defense. If you listen real closely, you can hear someone registering FireJeffBowden.com.

11 - Tennessee
We don't know how good they actually are yet. We'll know more after they play Florida. But what we do know is that they looked damn impressive against Cal - going up 35-0 before subbing in the second-string guys - and while that probably also says Cal sucks, it's tough not to overvalue Erik Ainge's performance in coming back from the dead. If there were any doubts about this team's toughness, check out Montario Hardesty just schooling the Cal defenders as he shook off about 5 of them at once for UT's final TD. Looks like the Cutcliffe magic worked.

12 - Michigan
Struggled more than expected against Vanderbilt, but that can probably be chalked up to just general lethargy. They'll be ready to play against one of the directional Michigans this week. Great defensive performance by limiting the 'Dores to only 144 yards, but the offense has to wake up. Look for a woodshed beating this week to make a statement to the rest of the Big 10.

13 - Georgia
Kind of here by default. Pretty much what you expected - no clear resolution at the QB position, fantastic D and a bunch of strong runners led by Danny Ware's 65 yards. This theme will continue over the course of the year, and I think I'm going to back off on my earlier prediction of a South Carolina upset this week, as Georgia looked better than I expected and South Carolina looked hideous.

14 - Miami
Yeah, ouch. Looked horrid against Florida State, but there's still more talent here than there is anywhere else. Will struggle this week, but should rebound by getting their starting RB back from suspension.

15 - Nebraska
Fine, fine, I'll buy into Nebraska after their 49-10 pasting of Louisiana Tech. Incredibly strong second-half performance - and check out the 252 yards on the ground. Don't expect that to continue against actual defenses, but it's a pretty impressive number.

16 - Clemson
A rough-around-the-edges 54-6 victory over Florida Atlantic. Love the two fumble returns for TDs, but don't love the 4 turnovers - not to mention 360 yards seems a little light against the FAU defense.

17 - Iowa
Pretty solid 41-7 victory over Montana. Yeah, weak opponent, but that's par for the course right now. Besides, 10 yards rushing allowed is impressive no matter the opponent, not to mention doing that without sacking the QB.

18 - Louisville
Lost Michael Bush for the year. Ouch. George Stripling did a good job in his absence, along with the rest of the LB corps, but Louisville's push to unseat WVU as the top program this year in the Big East just took a huge hit.

19 - Oklahoma
Didn't we see them do this last year, too? Not a good sign for your team's hopes if Adrian Peterson goes for almost 140 yards and then is told he needs to do more. Paul Thompson looked ordinary, as did the defense (allowing 17 points against UAB? not good).

20 - Penn State
This was about right; a 34-16 solid but unspectacular victory against Akron. The defense only allowed 1 drive over 13 yards in the first half. One oddity: they turned the ball over on downs 3 times in the first half - but they were in Akron territory for all of them.

21 - Oregon
Struggled early against Stanford before waking up in a big way in their 48-10 win over the Cardinal. Probably will be tested more this week with a game against Fresno St., who have more of a well-rounded team than Stanford.

22 - Texas Tech
Played SMU to 35-3. Let's go down the Tech checklist. Solid D? Check. 300+ yards passing? Check. Uncannily sloppiness blamed on the first week? Check. (9 penalties, 70 yards) UTEP presents an actual challenge, which should be exciting.