Monday, September 18

Week 3 Rankings - Another Perspective

Normally I post my rankings after Bradley posts his, but since I had time early this week, I decided to go ahead and take care of mine now. Shockingly, I'm actually ranking 25 teams this week - realistically, I could probably slice Missouri out, but it's the 25th spot; I'm not going to think about it too much this time around, and as 3-0 teams go, they're better than Purdue, Wake Forest, Houston, etc.

Just missing out: Wisconsin, USF, a bunch of teams with losses that are underperforming (lookin' at you, state of Florida - Florida excluded).

1 - Auburn
Won a hard-fought battle over a tough, incredibly talented LSU team. It wasn't without controversy - maybe you've heard about it. It was a tough defensive struggle all around, but this will only be a sign of things to come for Auburn, since they have to face both Florida and Georgia. Auburn loses some points for being totally ineffective both rushing and passing the ball - although if you look at LSU's total defensive stats, Auburn did about as expected. They'll have to do better than that if they want to make it through SEC play, but limiting LSU's rushing attack to 56 yards is impressive no matter how you slice it.

2 - USC
Two games, two victories - one solid, one impressive. The 28-10 win over Nebraska was pretty solid - Nebraska kept it close for the first three quarters, but USC showed a huge talent gap by holding onto the ball for 11:28 of the 4th quarter, which is scary. Oddly enough, the yardage outputs between the Arkansas game and the Nebraska game were somewhat similar (~80 yards less vs. the Huskers, but 11 less plays, too). The defense was strong, forcing two fumbles and holding the Husker running game to 2.6 YPC.

3 - Ohio State
Sleptwalked through the first half of their game against Cincy before waking up in the 3rd and 4th quarter to pull away for an unconvincing 37-7 victory. Cut them some slack after the Texas game, though. Ohio State also gets to deal with Penn State coming to Columbus this weekend, which will be much more of a challenge. Tough to take anything from this game, as Cincy kind of falls into the "almost 1-AA" category.

4 - West Virginia
Think Steve Slaton was pissed on Thursday? 167 yards in something like 20 minutes of game time. Not surprisingly, the result was a 45-24 pasting of Maryland where the Mountaineers just fell asleep once the game was out of hand. It'll be interesting to see what happens to WVU once they're in a game where the outcome is in doubt after halftime; the sad part is that we may not see that until Louisville.

5 - Florida
A victory in Knoxville is a victory in Knoxville no matter how you get it. Florida came in and ran the Vols out of their own stadium to the tune of 168 - -11. (Those were the rushing totals for each team.) Not surprisingly, they walked away with a victory. There's plenty more to read about this game in other places, so I'll pass on the analysis.

6 - Michigan
That sound coming from South Bend was the Brady Quinn for Heisman bandwagon running into a tree. The louder sound about 15 minutes later was the Notre Dame to the Championship bandwagon breaking an axle. Complete domination by the Wolverines in that game. Michigan's path doesn't get a whole lot easier over their next few games, as their easiest game until October 28 is argueably Michigan State. Of course, there's not a ton of "tough" games, but facing the mid-level teams from your conference week-in, week-out can wear a team down. We'll see if they have enough.

7 - Louisville
Miami refused to learn from Cincy - don't stop on the Cardinals' logo. Oops. Louisville then turned around and hammered Miami to the tune of 31-7. Only downside? Brian Brohm is out for the next few weeks. There's a trap game this week at Kansas State, but it should be relatively smooth sailing after that until the WVU showdown - provided that Louisville has the depth to compete. I wouldn't sell them short, though - they look legit.

8 - LSU
Don't knock the defense for their loss against Auburn - they made the Auburn offense look like LA-Lafayette, too. The offense, however, was ineffective, and there was something about a pass interference non-call you may have heard about. Still, I feel at this point that LSU is still one of the most complete teams in the nation, and they basically played with another incredibly complete team for 60 minutes on the road and still nearly came away with the victory. Don't think they're out of the national title hunt yet - and don't think of suiting up for Tulane, which gets the misfortune of dealing with a pissed-off group of Tigers.

9 - Virginia Tech
Yeah, it's tough to tell how good a team is when they've played Pushover U three games running. We'll start to get a read on them in a couple of weeks when they play Georgia Tech, and we'll certainly know more after their trip to BC. For now, we'll be content with what we've known about Tech teams all along: great defense (10 points allowed all season), great special teams (punt return for a TD this week). We'll figure out more later, but since the ACC looks weaker at the top than it has in a while, this could be Tech's year.

10 - Georgia
Not a whole lot to see here either, as all the 34-0 victory over UAB really told us is that Georgia is much, much better than Oklahoma, which we should've known already anyway. Stafford is slowly getting broken in to the Georgia offensive scheme, but the Bulldogs will probably rely on their running backs for the next couple of weeks. Georgia's first real test is October 7th when Tennessee comes calling; we'll know how far Stafford's progressed then.

11 - Oregon
Kind of here by default, as they won a tightly-contested 34-33 game over Oklahoma. There was controversy here, too - maybe you've heard about it, still heard about it, heard about it some more, seen the video, seen *that* video, and then stuck your head in cold water to get away from it all. It's tough to argue with two quality wins in a row, though. Oregon gets two tests in a row, though, going to ASU and then to Cal. Of course, those tests start after the bye week they have this week.

12 - Notre Dame
Got utterly embarrassed by Michigan at home. I'd want to drop them further, but among other things, BC is already ranked too high for my liking and UND is still a better team than most anyone below them at this point. They get a chance for revenge against Michigan State this weekend, but most importantly, we know that this team has the same weaknesses that last year's team had; this time, though, everyone's seen tape from last year. It won't be easy. But don't worry - beat Michigan State and the pollsters will have you back at #5.

13 - Texas
Sticking around after a confidence-boosting hammering of Rice. Nothing to see here; they still have the same issues, wake me when conference play starts, etc., etc. Will be hurt big-time in their title aspirations by both Oklahoma and Texas Tech's losses out of conference this past weekend, which is probably the most important thing to happen to them. Largely here by default.

14 - Iowa
Won a tough rivalry game over a better-then-you-realize Iowa State team (that beat a Toledo team - that beat Kansas this past weekend). This is the first really impressive showing I've seen from an Iowa team that always somehow managed to come off as less than the sum of its parts. They get a breather against a horrible Illinois team before traveling to Columbus - yikes. There's the real test; can they give OSU a game?

15 - Boston College
Here by default - sense a running theme? Probably the luckiest team in Division 1-A, winning 2 OT games in a row while being outgained both times. I'd like to put Clemson ahead of them, but they beat Clemson, and I'm not the AP voters. Not a complete team - issues on defense have persisted all season - but seem to put up enough points to win. They have the yardage, but they don't seem to score often enough given that yardage... this is a weird team, and I don't know what to make of them beyond lucky.

16 - Clemson
The 27-20 victory over Florida State confirmed a couple of things that we should've known: Clemson's rushing attack isn't half bad, and the Florida State offense is completely inept. (Shockingly, is not registered.) Granted, it wasn't all FSU's fault - Clemson's D is pretty good. More importantly, they have work to do with their protection schemes - Jad Dean's a pretty good kicker, but you have to let him kick the ball first without having it blocked. Clemson gets it relatively easy for the next couple of weeks - home against UNC and LA Tech.

17 - TCU
Fine, I'll rank them now after a 12-3 victory over Texas Tech. Holding the TTU passing offense to just over 200 yards is impressive; holding the team yardage under 300 should get you a medal. It doesn't hurt to put up nearly 200 yards on the ground yourself, either. TCU has a decent shot at 12-0, and a really good shot at 11-1. Matter of fact, they'll probably get that one - their toughest opponents from here on out are BYU and Utah, and those are their next two games. Wonder if the BCS is going to wear Cougar blue this weekend.

18 - Tennessee
Blame it on the injuries if you want, but the little signs were all there for the Florida game: relatively ineffective running game, mounting injuries, inexperience in the defensive front seven. I wasn't surprised by the outcome, but the Vols did a good job of keeping the game close even after being outplayed. They absolutely *have* to get the ground game going to stand a chance in the SEC, though; look for at least 60% runs against Marshall if only to prove a point to the rest of the conference that they can still run the ball.

19 - Oklahoma
Well, so much for the defense. Don't put yourself in a position to get nailed by bad officials and the OU controversy never happens. Shockingly, the offense looks pretty healthy - although Paul Thompson is a WR-turned-QB. Someone will figure that out eventually. They needed this game to have any shot at a national championship. Now they need to win out, hope Texas starts winning and Nebraska more or less wins out to have a shot. Yikes.

20 - Nebraska
The USC loss was kind of expected, but Nebraska covered, which has to count for something, I guess. Pretty solidly dominated across the board - again, though, keep in mind that USC is one of the few complete teams in the nation, and if there's one thing we're learning this season, it's that the tiers of teams are in total effect this year. (Michigan, for example, was a way more complete team than anyone realized, although it makes sense in retrospect.) Nebraska is not a top-level team; rather, they're somewhere between 2 and 3 at this point. Probably closer to second-tier. They get Troy this weekend - uh-oh? Troy played both FSU and Georgia Tech close.

21 - California
Don't look now, but Cal's running the ball again. Not surprisingly, they hammered an overmatched Portland State, but the Golden Bears may be rounding into shape. The offense gets another chance to scrimmage against Arizona State this weekend. The defense gets tested.

22 - Rutgers
Uh, don't look now, but the Rutgers rushing attack is on a roll - two victories over other BCS teams (granted, not *great* BCS teams, but in a conference struggling for respect, take the wins when you can get them) and a win over Ohio for a total of 600 yards on the ground this year. Quite frankly, who's going to stop them at this point (beyond Louisville and WVU)? They get South Florida in two weeks followed by Navy, Pitt, and UConn. If they can come out of that stretch 3-1, they're probably for real. (The Navy and UConn games may set football back 40 years, though; those teams can run.) Also, UNC was the only team to move the ball on these guys so far this year. Keep that in mind, too.

23 - Boise State
Eh, an unimpressive 17-10 win over Wyoming - but really, who else would take this spot? Penn State, which struggled early against Youngstown State? Alabama, who salted off Vandy to the tune of 13-10? Seriously. They're here mainly for that 42-14 hammering of Oregon State still, since - like Rutgers - beat the other BCS schools when you can and kill your conference. That's all they can do.

24 - Michigan St.
Eh, why not. People were thinking about jumping on the Pitt bandwagon before the Spartans took care of them. Now they get to take on a reeling UND at home. This isn't a big game in any way, no sir - but be warned, UND is pissed. MSU's offense - especially on the ground - is damn scary. 6.24 YPC is sick no matter how you slice it. The pass defense is shaky, though, which could do them in.

25 - Missouri
I'll give the honorary "yo, down here" slot to a team that's surprising me at 3-0. Realistically, they've got a good shot at 5-0 before going to TTU - and could be sitting at 7-1 by the time Oklahoma comes calling. Considering these guys were probably mid-level bowl fodder, that's damn impressive to be staring that kind of record down. Give some love to the defense for that, which has played out of its mind this year.