Tuesday, September 30

September Top 25

What started out with a reasonably chalk four weeks (it's not an upset when Phil Steele calls ECU over WVU) went completely nutso in week 5, and now we're wondering if another 2007 is in store. We thought this season was reminiscent of 2004; it might more resemble 2003 - when USC lost in week 5 before turning it on to close out the season on fire, Oklahoma ran through the Big 12 looking unbeatable until championship week (hello, Missouri?) and a Nick Saban-coached team powered through the SEC behind a better-than-expected defense, game managing senior QB, and group of talented freshmen running backs. Of course the real LSU is still in contention as well. No, we know better than to start looking at bowl matchups in October, although pointing out these similarities is fun nonetheless.

1. Oklahoma
When Oklahoma faced off against then-#24 TCU, the Horned Frogs had the #1 statistical defense in the NCAA. And it took a unit like that to hold the Sooners to 35 points - the only time all season they've been held under 50. Sam Bradford has compiled a 209.1 QB rating, is sixth nationally in passing ypg, and averages 11.2 ypa, which as far as I can tell is third nationally among QBs with over 50 attempts. His 16 TDs are third in the nation. Manuel Johnson has emerged as the receiver of choice, as evidenced by his 3 TD catches (each over 50 yards) against TCU. Overall the Sooners are fifth nationally in scoring offense and 13th in scoring defense - the latter being impressive because OU has faced two decent offenses.

2. Alabama
Rooooolllllllll Taaaaaahhhhhde!
In five games, Alabama has looked impressive in four - none moreso than their 41-30 defeat of preseason favorite Georgia which started out with the Tide scoring 31 points on five first half possessions then coasting to victory. John "Holmes" Parker Wilson hasn't been asked to do much, and that may be a big reason for the offense's success. What the Tide have done is rack up 215 ypg on the ground for a +160 yardage differential! Glen Coffee has been the workhorse, averaging just under 100 ypg, but the top three rushers all average over 5 yards per carry. This rush defense is ranked third nationally despite facing James Davis, CJ Spiller, and Knowshon Moreno. (yes, we recognize that Spiller and Davis combined for 8 carries... still, when they did run the ball, they averaged just 2.5 yards a pop) Moreno in turn was held to 3.8 ypc, again not touching the ball nearly enough. These low rushing totals can in part be attributed to Saban's pro-style approach to defensive line play - linemen covering two gaps rather than the typical one in college. We recall that in 2003, his LSU Tigers gave up just 2.4 ypc and got significant pressure out of the front four. Perhaps opposing offenses recognize the futility of running against Alabama, as the Tide face the fewest opponent's rushing attempts per game. Offensively, Alabama isn't outstanding in any one area statistically, but they do rank 19th in scoring and 17th in rushing despite facing a couple of solid-to-outstanding defenses.

3. LSU
The LSU Tigers have shown their trademark fearlessness that made them the 2007 national champions. Against Auburn, Les Miles called halfback passes and threw the ball in the red zone late in the game when a FG would win it (Auburn - remember this from a year ago?) and the result is a 4-0 mark. Charles Scott has become the feature back, averaging 133 ypg on the ground and contributing another 9.2 in receptions. Though the QB situation has been somewhat volatile, Jarret Lee has emerged as the #1 guy through his performance against Auburn, and Brandon LaFell has been a strong go-to receiver after having questionable hands early in his career. The defensive front four is downright scary, completely shutting down Ben Tate and Brad Lester despite Auburn making a real effort to run the ball - overall, they yield under 70 ypg on the ground.

4. Missouri
You won't find a scarier offense than the one at Missouri. The Tigers rank second in the nation in both points and yards per game, and they're getting production from a number of different guys. Chase Daniel is completing 76% of his passes for a shade over 10 ypa, with a 12:1 ratio. He's been sacked just once and contributed heavily with his legs against Illinois. Jeremy Maclin averages just under 100 ypg receiving, and has scored six touchdowns in receptions, rushes, and kickoff returns - barely missing he end zone on a punt return against Illinois, but advancing the ball inside the 20 to set up the TD that really put the game beyond doubt in the third quarter. Chase Coffman has emerged as an outstanding tight end, averaging 94 ypg receiving, and with his size, hands, and surprising athletic ability, he is almost impossible to cover. The surprise for this unit has been Derrick Washington, a punishing force in the ground game averaging 90 ypg rushing and 20 ypg receiving. The defense, however, has shown prolonged lapses in focus which has been an issue for this team in the past.

5. Texas
We knew they'd be 4-0 in September; what we didn't know was that they'd look so good doing it. I said in the preseason that the barometer for success in 2008 was Colt McCoy. Thus far: 80% completions, 10.2 ypa, 14:1 ratio, 2 sacks taken, 278 yards rushing (8.2 ypc), 4 rush TD. He now leads the Big 12 is passing efficiency rating. Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley are playing as well as any receiver tandem in the country, which is impressive considering the receiver tandems in this conference alone. What's lacking is a third receiving threat, and at some point in their remaining (brutal) schedule, McCoy cannot be the only player averaging over 50 ypg on the ground. The defense also looks sound, allowing a shade under 11 ppg and they are second in the nation in rush defense, but keep in mind that the opposition has been extremely weak.

6. Penn State
The Nittany Lions continue their tradition of strong defense, ranking 12th in scoring and 14th in yardage. The group is very well-rounded, ranking 28th against the pass and 15th against the run. Offensively, Daryll Clark has really opened up the unit that now averages over 500 ypg and is 4th in the nation in scoring at 49.8 ppg. The lack of a primary receiver is noted, but on the ground Evan Royster (103 ypg, 7.8 ypc) and Stephfon Green (63 ypg, 6.8 ypc) and a tough duo to stop, and even Clark is chipping in 26 ypg on the ground. Penn State with a good offense is scary.

7. BYU
Speaking of scary offenses, look out for Max Hall and BYU. Hall has compiled a QB rating of 180.8, averages 321 ypg, and has a 15:2 ratio passing despite facing two Pac 10 opponents in their four games so far. TCU was not able to handle Oklahoma's passing attack, and Utah has not looked as strong as BYU thus far, so these guys are looking like a very strong candidate for a possible BCS buster with UCLA and Washington out of the way. The Cougars have also not allowed a single point in their last two games, with their only weak defensive outing coming against Washington and the mobile Jake Locker. BYU does not face an offensive player of that caliber for the rest of this season, so their defensive outlook is also very strong.

8. Georgia
Thus far, Georgia has not turned in the kind of performance we were expecting after a strong close to the 2008 season. Getting dominated by Alabama was bad, but we can expect a bad week out of any team, and Saban's teams are known for dominating line play. But what about the poor performance against South Carolina, a team completely lacking an offense yet were within a few yards of tying the game late in the 4th quarter? What about Matthew Stafford's relatively low QB rating (for top 10 caliber teams) and Mohamed Massaquoi still unable to average even 50 ypg despite defenses now having to account for standout freshman AJ Green? Knowshon Moreno has been strong, but the offense has been unable to turn him into a 100 ypg back, to say nothing of the yardage that a back of his caliber should be averaging. This team seems like they're sleepwalking a bit, and as Alabama showed that is not going to cut it in an extremely tough SEC.

9. South Florida
USF has had some up games and some down games, but managed to walk away from September 5-0. First let's talk about the good. The Bulls rallied from a 20-3 deficit to take a 2 TD lead on a tough Kansas squad, saw Kansas tie the game, but were able to come back to win by a FG. In this game, Matt Grothe rose to the occasion, found A.J. Love and Taurus Johnson for a pair of TDs and ran another one in himself, the latter being a critical drive to end the first half as KU had just extended their lead to 17. However, Grothe has yet to be consistent week-to-week, and the offense has yet to develop even a 50 ypg rusher! Indeed these problems were evident as USF got into a close game against Florida International, and had to overcome a -2 TO performance against UCF which also included two missed FGs. We'd like to see a better performance, but frankly what they've played like so far is good enough to win the Big East.

10. USC
We knew the Virginia game was a red herring, as UVA has since struggled to beat Richmond and been blown out by Duke. However, the Trojans' performance on both sides of the ball was completely dominant against Ohio State, and playing at that level there are very few teams who could hang with SC. Then we saw another USC, one probably buying into the hype surrounding them and unable to stop a 5'6" running back who gashed their proud defense, while the offense showed up only after halftime and could not muster enough points to make the comeback. We know this team is extremely talented, but we're not sure that Mark Sanchez is the kind of leader that Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy, or even Matt Grothe is - so we're not sure how the Trojan offense is going to respond in such games. On the other hand, the defensive leadership of Rey Mauluga cannot be questioned, and his group came out fired up in the second half of the team's losing effort.

11. Ohio State
We really don't like placing Buckeye this highly, and clearly there's a gap between 10 and 11 here. However, the offense is much better with Terrelle Pryor, who leads the team in total rushing yards and averages just under 60 ypg despite limited opportunities early on. Now that the offense has been handed over to him, and now that Beanie Wells is healthy and back on the field, we think the offense will be okay. I don't know what to think of the defense after watching them get gashed by USC, but remember that this group has also been gashed by Florida and LSU, but they thrive in conference play. Penn State and Illinois are the only other Big Ten teams fielding potent offenses this year (Illinois no defense though), so Buckeye is in good shape through November.

12. Texas Tech
Graham Harrell is quietly leading the NCAA in yards per game passing but has not turned in the monster numbers we'd expect given the Red Raiders' September schedule, and that is why we have ranked this group outside the top 10. Phoning it in beats Nevada, but the offense will need to be sharp for this team to stand any chance against Oklahoma and Texas, as the defense has not improved by a whole lot since last season.

13. Florida
Miami exposed it, and Ole Miss capitalized on it. Despite Tim Tebow, and for all the speedy backs and receivers this team is loaded with, they have a sub-par offensive line by SEC standards. In a conference known for tough, physical defenses, that's not going to get the job done. Florida's own defense has played well in three of four games, but the offense does not seem capable of providing the explosive effort needed when the Gators' D does have an off week, as they did last Saturday. LSU and Georgia are looming on the horizon - two teams with excellent defensive fronts and quality secondaries.

14. Utah
After upsetting Michigan then rolling UNLV and Utah State, Utah's pace has slowed a little. It's only a little - they did still beat both Air Force and Weber State, but had more difficulty than we'd like. Still, they are 5-0, so that's that. Brian Johnson has performed well for the most part, although his ratio is a bit low at 8:5. Matt Asiata has stepped up to lead a two-headed rushing attack along with Darrell Mack that averages 177 ypg - the Utes havea very physical attack for a midmajor. Defensively this group is untested, but that's about to change as Oregon State comes to town this week.

15. Auburn
Install the spread, get a mobile QB... the more things change, the more they stay the same. Auburn still seems incapable of putting together a quality drive, despite having a wealth of talent at tailback. This group is averaging just 13 ppg in their last three games - all against SEC opponents - and that just will not get the job done in such a tough conference. Credit the defense for allowing just 6 TDs in 5 games, as their job is made all the tougher by the fact that the offense cannot stay on the field.

16. Kansas
Whatever small dropoff Todd Reesing and the offense have had isn't the real concern here. Kerry Meier has stepped up to become the team's leading receiver, completing a brilliant transition from QB, and Dezmon Briscoe continues to be a big target. The defense, which was statistically in the top five a season ago, clearly misses Talib and McClintock. The Jayhawks are 18th in scoring despite facing four extremely easy opponents, and in their top 25 matchup against USF, the defense was unable ot stop Matt Grothe once he got going.

17. Boise State
The unbeaten Broncos jumped onto the national radar when they defeated the Oregon Ducks in Autzen in a game not as close as its final score. Defense leads this team as, through 11 quarters they had given up just 27 points before Oregon tacked on a few scores late in the game. Kellen Moore has performed well at QB as defenses continue to stack against Ian Johnson, averaging 74 ypg rushing.

18. Oklahoma State
In compiling a 4-0 record against a very weak schedule, Oklahoma State's offensive balance has forced us to take them seriously. Kendall Hunter averages 154 ypg rushing to lead an offense that gains 340 yards per game on the ground alone, tops in the nation. Zac Robinson has a QB rating of 192.4, and his favorite target Dez Bryant is pulling down 148 ypg in receptions. Bryant has also returned a punt for a TD. We're suspicious about the defense's abilities, but with a talented trio like this on offense, they are going to be tough for anyone outside the top 10 to deal with.

19. Vandy
The Commies have arrived! Vanderbilt has knocked off South Carolina and Ole Miss to get off to a 2-0 start in SEC play, 4-0 overall. Vanderbilt runs a combination of zone read and triple option, but their Achilles is the complete inability to pass the ball, throwing for just 80 ypg and having QB ratings below 130 despite defenses generally disregarding their passing game. However, Chris Nickson has proven an effective force leading the offense, and the defense has come up with big stops such as their goalline stand to preserve the victory against Ole Miss. The schedule is notably lacking both Alabama and LSU; beating Mississippi State and Duke could provide the Commies with a bowl-eligible record!

20. Wisconsin
Just as we were taking Badger Badger Badger! seriously, they drop an offensive egg at Michigan. UW had four first-half drives start in Michigan territory and walked away with 9 points. The 19-0 lead seemed enough at the time, but as we'd expect, you leave that many points on the field and it's going to come back to bite you. Now, PJ Hill and the rushing attack are very good, and the Badgers' defense did shut down the Fresno State offense all game and Michigan's offense for at least a half. (not that the latter is horribly impressive) However, Evridge has not been impressive and the Badgers' own secondary may be vulnerable. They've earned a ranking, but are just as likely to stay about here or to drop out entirely.

21. Oregon
Oregon's stats are inflated from killing the Washingtons, but they've got that nice road win at Purdue. I don't know how Boise State managed to embarass them at Autzen, but I'm more worried that their QBs keep dropping like flies. LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson has provided a strong running presence for the #4 ground attack in the country, and in four of their games they look like they've got one of the best offensive lines in the conference.

22. Fresno State
After handling Rutgers easily, Fresno State lost to Wisconsin, went to 2OT to beat Toledo, and struggled against UCLA before emerging victorious. Now, when Steele says they're going to lose to Toledo, I'm frankly impressed that the Bulldogs could thwart his will. However, the tale of the tape shows that this is a team who is actually getting outgained overall and are probably lucky not to be 2-2! October is a very easy month after a fairly difficult September, so it's time for the Dawgs to get some momentum going. Ryan Mathews and his 117 ypg rushing might be a good thing to build upon.

23. Va Tech
After a close loss to ECU, Virginia Tech has won four straight games, and for that we kinda have to rank them. We don't like it, particularly since three of those games were settled by 7 points or less, all against unranked opposition, but meh. Oh, they're also getting outgained by 36 ypg and the two QBs have a combined 1:5 ratio. Good times.

24. Tulsa
How can you not rank the #1 offensive team? Tulsa is scoring the most points (54/gm) and gaining the most yards (600/gm) of any team in the country, led by David Johnson and the country's #4 passing attack. Johnson has a 227 rating, averages 12.8 yards per attempt (fuck it, I'm going deep) and his 19 touchdowns lead all QBs. Brennan Marion is the leading receiver at over 100 ypg, and the #2 guy's name is Slick Shelley. Is that not perfectly suited for porno? Westerns? Both? The defense has been getting gashed, but who cares?

25. UConn
The Huskies got into a close one with Temple, edged out the Baylor "Cream" Bears off a WR dropping an easily catchable ball in the red zone, and survived Louisville on a late defensive touchdown. These are not quality opponents to be struggling against. Nonetheless, they are 5-0, and we'll be damned if we're going to rank Wake on the basis of beating Florida State then losing to Navy. Though it does say something that they're an underdog against unranked North Carolina. (The SextonCannon is coming.)

Keep an Eye on:

Ball State
Ball State could be the team most likely to finish unbeaten, because good god look at their schedule. If they win at Toledo next week... hmmm.

They've looked absolutely fantastic against everybody but Maryland. Yeah, we still haven't figured that out, and probably never will. Jahvid Best's dislocated shoulder could cause them to drop a game against the Arizonas if he can't play.

The Wildcats have the #1 defense in the country (5.5 ypg) and they're unbeaten! So why no love? Well, for one, we don't think that's credible. The stat is as much a testament to their desire to hold Norfolk State to just 3 points, dammit as it is of actually having a top ten defense. We'll see how the game against Alabama goes this weekend. Offensively, there's not a lot going on here.

Whatever the rankings say, Illinois has faced the toughest schedule in the country so far with two top ten opponents. Both were losses, neither was embarassing though. Juice Williams is clearly improved as a passer (139.4 rating, 226 ypg) and again, we repeat that this is against two strong teams to go with the two cupcakes. The rest of the schedule includes 2 top 25 opponents and 6 teams who shouldn't be that much of a challenge.

Michigan State
Javon Ringer is a one-man offense, averaging 179 ypg on the ground! MSU is so impressed with his ability that, to go with 37 carries per game, they've got him returning kickoffs. This team lost a 10 point decision at Cal and beyond that they're 4-1.

Credible or not, at 5-0 we've got to mention them. Aaaand yeah... we'll go into more detail after they've seen Purdue and MSU.

Oregon State
They lost a weird game against Stanford and got blown the fuck out by Penn State. Since then they've only beaten Hawaii... and USC. Lyle Moevao may not be the greatest QB, but with the Rodgers brothers, Sammie Stroughter, and Shane Morales they have got plenty of overall offensive talent. Defensive effort has been inconsistent - again, they showed us what they are capable of last Thursday, but they've also shown us what they're capable of (in a bad way) when they started 0-2.

Wake Forest
Some voters think that beating Cream Griffin III, surviving against Ole Miss, scoring four FGs against Florida State and living off their QBs doing what they do best (throw picks), then losing to Navy earns you a spot in the top 25. Well not here! We're looking at Wake, but right now they're just not doing what Tulsa and UConn are - namely, going unbeaten against weak opposition rather than a mere 3-1.

Friday, September 26

Big 10 Opening Weekend

Sorry that I've dropped the ball the past couple of weeks. It's been a pretty tough two weeks, but now that things have settled down a little bit I'm back to put the Big 10 into perspective. Especially after last night's surprise loss by USC to the other OSU.

The BIG 10 Opening weekend! The nitty gritty of conference play is upon us, and with that comes the great possibility of surprises. Let's start with the Game of the Week:

Illinois vs Penn State - Darryl Clark has shown spark and fire on their way to a 3-0 record. But who have they played? Nobody, really. Illinois, on the other hand, sits on a 2-1 record with a loss to Missouri (quality loss) and crappy wins against nobody. But Illinois has that game against Missouri to remember, and remember that they played really well against the best offense in college football. Illinois will pull this one off.

Minnesota vs Ohio State - if last week was any preview, Pryor + Beanie is going to be awesome for the Buckeyes. Yes, the latter isn't 100%, but the Gophers have no chance to upset at the Horseshoe. Blowout in Columbus!

Michigan State vs Indiana - Kellen Lewis has improved over the past few years, showing his ability to break a game open with some huge runs against pitiful opponents. Michigan has faced tougher teams, and Javon Ringer is a beast down the middle. Should the Spartans hold Lewis, they come out with a squeaker. And besides, Indiana's secondary won't be able to hold off Dell anyways...

Northwestern vs Iowa - Iowa's running game with Shonn Greene is phenomenal. They just couldn't close the deal last week against a Pittsburgh team that lost to Bowling Green in the opening week. Northwestern is 4-0 for the first time in decades... but this time, Mitch King and the Iowa defense keep the ball in Greene's hands and come out with a good win to open up the Big 10 season.

Wisconsin vs Michigan - For any Wolverine fan that thought that this year they'd still be competitive, well that's pretty much down the drain. A loss to Notre Dame? And not just a loss - a throttling. Can't get worse than that... which means Everidge and the big Badger tight ends come out with a win at the Big House.

Purdue vs Notre Dame - Charlie must be feeling better, two weeks removed from a horrible accident and his first win over Michigan in this third campaign in the College Football ranks. However, Purdue, minus the loss to Oregon, is for real and they have a scary combination in Cory Sheets and Curtis Painter. Hopefully we'll see Clausen on his back... just because he spends most Saturdays lying in the grass looking at the sky with 300 lbs guys on top.

Thursday, September 25

ACC Week 5 Games; Florida State Still Sucks Edition

(Disclaimer: ACC football has nothing to do with actual football. Any similarity to what the rest of the world would term as football is simply a bizarre coincidence. The term best used to describe ACC football is “arrhythmic gymnastics of Special Olympics preliminaries quality.”)

Last week was actually – dare I say – a banner week for the ACC, and not in the completely sarcastic fail sense that every other week had been a banner week so far. Instead, NC State actually managed to do something for the first time in years, being on the field when East Carolina beat itself, and Miami went on the road to beat Texas Architecture and Manufacturing, which was a big deal twelve years ago, but we’ll take what we can get. Of course, Florida State ruined it for the rest of us.

Rhode Island @ Boston College
Well, this should be a solid out-of-conference win for Boston College. To be perfectly honest, I’ve barely paid attention to BC this season, and seeing as they’ll likely end up 7-5 and playing in some bowl game that shouldn’t even exist anyway, I’m just going to go ahead and ignore them until they play someone that’s worth making fun of. I’ll get ‘em then.

Virginia @ Duke
Duke is favored in this game. Yes, you read that right. A! C! C! Al Groh is on the laziest hot seat you’ve ever seen in your life, too.

Navy @ Wake Forest
I’ve been saying this every time anyone plays Navy, but it’s not a bad idea to get free scouting. Of course, they play this game right before a bye week, so I guess they can watch the tape or something. Although why anyone would want to watch tape of Wake Forest’s offense of their own accord is beyond me. Jesus. These people are out of their fucking minds.

South Florida @ NC State
NC State gets an opportunity to go 2-0 against teams who beat West Virginia …oh, USF hasn’t played them yet? Oops. Oh well, it’s not like NC State has a shot anyway. I feel like they’re not worth making fun of, but then again, they have a Glennon on the sidelines; it’s their own fault at this point.

North Carolina @ Miami (FL)
Both teams are coming off …well, maybe wins would be too strong a word. But they’re coming off of playing games the previous week, which is about all you can hope for. As for this game, sweet Jesus the game would’ve been bad enough to begin with, but now North Carolina’s lost their starting QB for a month-plus. Fuck. Of course this is the Raycom ACC Game of the Week; I’ll be pulverizing my right hand in a blender if you need me. It’ll hurt less.

Maryland @ Clemson
I’m still floored that both teams in this game are 3-1. Clemson, I kind of expected (although I figured they’d blow it against SC State or something, not against Alabama), but Maryland? Fucking turtles. Really? I can only hope that Clemson runs them over so hard they leave tread marks. Of course, watch Harper get 55 pass attempts as Tommy Bowden attempts to emulate Jon Gruden.

Colorado @ Florida State
I’ve been saving this one up for a while: anyone who even so much as fucking thought about seriously ranking the fucking Seminoles after two fucking wins over 1-goddamn-AA teams, last fucking week was for you. If you thought that the Seminoles had finally gotten someone semi-fucking-competent at quarterback, fuck you – and fuck them, too. INT-INT-INT-INT-INT? Who the fuck do you think you are, Drew Weatherford? There’s only one Drew fucking Weatherford, and you’re shitting the bed on the fucking field while he can shit all over the field way better than your mom can ever fucking dream of, DaVontrey. Don’t ever fucking forget that. Oh, and Colorado better fucking roll.

Virginia Tech @ Nebraska
I guess this game is their marquee game of the week in the ACC, but I can’t help but think that a defensive showdown on ABC at 3:30 that I’m going to get stuck watching instead of some other, actually interesting game. In other words: a) fuck you, ABC; b) I kind of want VA Tech to go 4-8, not out of spite for VA Tech, but just because I’m kind of sick of watching their ’72 Pinto of an offense try and go 40 yards; c) if we gave Nebraska, say, Wake Forest’s jerseys right before kickoff, would you even notice?

SEC Week 5 Games: YAAAAAY Arkansas's Gonna Get Wrecked!

At times, I wonder why the SEC gets as much love as they do. I mean, you saw the god-awful Mississippi State / Auburn game, right? How good can the conference be if fucking Vanderbilt is 2-0 in-conference? And Tennessee is pretty terrible, too. What the hell? Then I remember the conference has the last two national title winners and four, maybe five, legitimate national title contenders and I’m all right again. (But if you have to go through Ohio State to win a title, does it really count?) Hey, fuck you, I wasn’t asking you.

So what’s up with the SEC this week? Well, there’s a pretty good game in Georgia / Alabama, and there’s a group of three games that look interesting but may not necessarily be too exciting. As always, South Carolina brings up the rear – oh, and we get some rescheduled hilarity.

Arkansas @ Texas
What are the odds Petrino ends this game as the new OC in Austin? 1:2? 1:6? I’m considering this game the karmic payback for Arkansas ditching Houston Nutt. Oh, and because you may hear some more random shit about how Casey Dick has turned the corner, feast on these: pre-Alabama, 47-71, 645 yards passing, 4 TD, 1 INT. Alabama, 20-39, 190 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT. Are we sure he’s turned the corner, or is he the same shitty QB who couldn’t throw to save his life when he was facing eight in the box repackaged in a passing offense, padding his numbers against bad teams to make himself look better? Drew Weatherford would be so proud.

UAB @ South Carolina
Well, after having trouble with Wofford, you don’t expect this to be a blowout, do you? I mean, shitty South Carolina offense meets shitty UAB defense; when that happens, the real winners are the fans. The bizarrely entertaining part of it is that UAB probably has the better offense of the two teams; unfortunately, they’ll probably keep it close for three quarters before fading late. The Ol’ Ball Coach won’t be around to see it, though; he’s bailing for a tee time at halftime.

Western Kentucky @ Kentucky
If you’re wondering how shitty a team you have to schedule in order to not even be considered for the Raycom Game of the Week …wonder no more! That’s right, apparently this is a rivalry game for WKU, which makes total sense given the 0-0 record between the two teams in football. It’s so close! This is the second week in a row Kentucky’s played a Sun Belt team; not only is this team way worse than MTSU, South Carolina has lodged a formal complaint against their strength of schedule, claiming it’s “too tough to be a SEC team.”

Tennessee @ Auburn
Ladies and gentlemen, your Offensive Cripple Fight of the year! Between these two teams, you have 1.2 quarterbacks (0.8 Chris Todd, 0.2 Kodi Burns, 0.3 Gerald Jones, -0.1 Jonathan Crompton), 2.3 running backs (1.0 Ben Tate, 0.4 Brad Lester, 0.8 Arian Foster, 0.2 Montario Hardesty, -0.1 field), 1.3 wide receivers (0.9 Lucas Taylor, 0.4 field), and maybe a tight end. Oh, and the defenses aren’t half-bad either. If we keep putting these shitty-offense defensive battles on CBS people are going to think the SEC is the ACC or something; I’m a little nervous about that, I’m not going to lie. On the other hand, we’re going to get our skulls caved in. Again.

Mississippi State @ LSU
While I suspect this should be a bizarrely entertaining game – many MSU games are, to be honest – I’m not sure I’d want to stick around to figure that out. I still have bad memories of that game, so …yeah, fuck this noise. Y’all have fun watching this trainwreck.

Ole Miss @ Florida
I can’t be the only one that remembers the close calls that Ole Miss has given Florida the last few years, right? For some reason, the Rebels have always played the Gators closely, and with Captain Crazy manning the helm in Oxford, I wouldn’t think it’ll be any different. Nutt was always good for playing the big boys way closer than he had any right to, and there’s just enough there to make me a little concerned. Do I think it’ll really be that close? Not really, but it could be. Possible blowout? Yes, this is your Raycom Game of the Week – and also the Bizarrely Entertaining Game of the Week, too.

Alabama @ Georgia
I’ll be honest; I had no idea this game was going to pit two top 10 teams against each other. On one hand, you have the Sugar Bowl-winning, most-of-the-team-returning, sudden offensive-passing-game-emerging, dominant-running-game Bulldogs. On the other hand, you have a team that …beat Clemson. Yes, they beat them handily, and yes, there hasn’t been much going on, but still: the hell? I totally don’t get the love they’re getting, and – god help us all – I hope Georgia fucking stomps them back to the Stone Age they so richly deserve. Is that so much to ask?

Big 12 Week 5 Preview

Army @ Texas Agriculture & Mining
I refuse to use the abbreviated version because that's what you do for good teams like USC or LSU. There is no reason why everyone should use "A&M", so I'm going to write the whole thing out to avoid confusion. (and yes, I know that officially the A&M stands for A&M... whatever) Losing to Arkansas State was embarassing, but losing to Miami? An ACC school? This is truly a low point for the Aggies, and that's saying a lot because they've been bad for a long time now. It'll be a battle of real soldiers vs rotc, and as usual real soldiers aren't recruited for their ability to run a skinny post.

Arkansas @ Texas
When this game was scheduled, it had some real potential. Too bad Arkansas lost the two players responsible for 130% of their offense (the passing game counts against them), and now struggle to beat the likes Western Illinois and LA-Monroe. Texas is averaging over 500 ypg against inferior opposition, which means they should get about that many against the Razorbacks en route to a comfortable win.

Colorado @ Florida State
If they're going to rank Vanderbilt for beating South Carolina and Ole Miss, then dammit CU needs to be ranked for beating West Virginia. This is a huge game for both teams, as FSU looks to prove that their 2-1 record isn't just the result of playing two FCS schools. Meanwhile CU is looking for respect as it is easy to get overlooked when you play in the same division as Missouri and Kansas. This should be an ugly but possibly entertaining game.

LA Lafayette @ Kansas St
Apparently Louisville was too much, so the Snydercats are back to playing another creampuff.

Texas Christian @ Oklahoma
As for why it's not written "TCU," see the first game preview. Gary Patterson annoys the piss out of me, and it'll be great to see Oklahoma come out fully pissed off about their loss to TCU a few years ago and win this one by 40.

Troy @ Oklahoma State
If Troy thought their game against the Buckeyes was tough, wait till they face the real OSU. (Buckeye.) Both offenses have been performing well against weak opposition, and this could actually be a decent game - recall that Troy won this one handily just last season. Ultimately, Zac Robinson is a better decision-maker than he was a year ago, and Kendall Hunter is showing the signs of being a real quality tailback. Also recall that the Cowboys played last season's game against Troy without Savage in, so they were not a team at full strength. This time around, I expect OSU to win a high-scoring game.

Virginia Tech @ Nebraska
Here are two programs who were both very strong when the BCS started and have since declined a bit. Perhaps unfortunately for VT, playing in a weak conference has allowed them to still rack up 8-10 victories a season, lose a BCs game, and say "hey, we still won the conference." Nebraska, on the other hand, has been routed by the Missouri's and Oklahoma's and were forced to abandon what wasn't working and bring in Pelini. The results have been good so far as the defense improved dramatically. With Nebraska having a passable defense and VT still having no offense to speak of, the Huskers have an edge here.

Pac 10: Week 5 preview

USC @ Oregon State
Oregon State has had serious difficulty on defense stopping the run, and that doesn't bode well for a team who averaged better than 5 yards per carry against Ohio State. (Buckeye... yes, we're still doing that.) Expect McKnight & Co to have big days and USC to rack up yet another decisive victory.

Fresno State @ UCLA
Fresno State got beaten at hom by Wisconsin, then had a crazy 2OT game against a Toledo team most expected they'd handle easily. (Then again, Steele called the upset, so frankly I'm impressed that the Bulldogs even won.) UCLA has been downright awful in 11 of 12 quarters this year. This may be a Bulldogs statement game, although by now they have little chance of making the BCS.

Colorado State @ Cal
After being run out of Invesco by their rival Colorado, CSU has rebounded for a pair of close wins over Sacramento State and Houston. Meanwhile, Cal is looking to get back on the track they were on after two games, when they outscored Michigan State and Washington State 104-34. The tale of the tape shows that CSU is getting outgained both on the ground and in the air; meanwhile Cal has a +117 rushing ypg edge over their opponents - which, by the way, includes Javon Ringer. Cal managed to lose to Maryland despite a +164 yardage and +1 turnover advantage. Both teams missed one FG and Cal was +100 in return yardage. Penalties swung 50 yards in Maryland's favor, but that doesn't seem like it'd offset everything else... frankly, I'm still puzzled by this loss. But there should be no puzzlement here, Cal wins easily.

Oregon @ Washington State
Both teams have suffered major injuries at the QB position, and with new signal-callers running both offenses, this one could get ugly. Oregon has talent at RB and WR though, and one of the better-performing offensive lines in the conference. Washington State hasn't really performed well at any position. Expect the Ducks to walk... er, waddle... here.

Stanford @ Washington
Washington is the last remaining team in the Pac 10 without a victory, and I expect them to get that W at home against the Trees! Stanford does not have the firepower to outscore Jake Locker and they do not have a defense that can deal with this kind of threat at QB.

Monday, September 22

Pac 10: Impressions

The Pac 10 has long been the "Box of Chocolates" conference in that you don't know what the fuck you're going to get. (I like my chocolate blue.) The last seven seasons of USC aside, teams are great one season and awful the next, making it incredibly exciting for the fans and competitive for all teams. In 2002 it was Washington State, the last team to earn the conference's automatic bid before USC's stranglehold began... they lost to a pretty solid Oklahoma squad everyone seems to forget. In 2004 it was Cal, controversially passed over for Texas before getting run out of the Holiday Bowl by Texas Tech. Next season Oregon, passed over thanks to the Notre Dame Clause... hm, they lost to Oklahoma. 2006, Cal's back - they get blown out by Tennessee, rebound to finish second in the conference despite a bizarre loss to Arizona, and run A&M out of the Holiday Bowl. Last season Oregon's wheels seemed to fall off the cart, just after beating USC and having an outright conference title in their own control, Dennis Dixon gets hurt and the Ducks lose three straight... then rebound to destroy a pretty good South Florida team in the Sun Bowl. Last season the conference at times looked as tough as the SEC; this season, they're secretly thankful that the ACC's as horrible as it is. Good times out west.

Here are my impressions, in roughly ranked order:

1. USC
Okay, so we know Ohio State was overrated. That 35-3 massacre is still the statement game of the season, rivaled only by LSU winning a road game at Auburn. Does anyone out there think Jarrett Lee could lead those Tigers to a victory over this Trojan team? Well, certainly not if they played next week. This is the clear #1 in the country, both on what they've done and how they've looked doing it.


2. Oregon
Giving Boise State their first road win against a BCS conference team dampens some of the mystique of Autzen. The Ducks are still the most talented and most physical Pac 10 team among the nine competing for that coveted at-large slot after USC gets done beating everyone senseless. They're almost +200 ypg on the ground, so really who cares what the QB situation is? This team actually has an offensive line and a runningback! Next two games are auto-win (Wash State) followed by auto-loss (USC), so Quackers just needs to have things together by Oct 11 (UCLA, lol)... so then make that, Oct 25 against Arizona State.


3. Arizona
You know what, they've won three games. Nobody else besides Oregon can say that, and bonus that they destroyed UCLA. I don't know how they lost to New Mexico, but beating Toledo now looks a little more impressive after they took Fresno to 2OT before going for the 2 and the win... coming up short. Willie Tuitama continues to show promise. U of A has an extra week to prepare for Jake Locker and get off to a great start in conference play.

4. Cal
I don't like a team that loses to Maryland by more than Delaware did. That said, by talent Cal is the #3 or maybe even #2 team in the conference. Too bad the mantra in Berkely is "60% of the time, we show up every time." Damn hippies. Colorado State is a must-win game for respect reasons, and the upcoming games against the Arizona schools will be huge in determining the team's place in the conference as I currently have them sandwiched between the two.

5. Arizona State
Good QB, good receivers. By far the worst offensive line in the conference, making any talent or lack thereof at RB irrelevent. No defense. Sound familiar? After losing to New Mexico then getting soundly beaten by Georgia, ASU has two weeks to prepare for a big trip to Cal.

6. Oregon State
At this point, it's safe to say that the Beavers' loss to the team below them was a fluke. Not just the retarded goalline stretch... fumble, but the fact that they lost a game where they were +189 yards offense... or more tellingly, where Moevao passed for over 100 yards more than Stanford's offense gained in total. Penn State was an unwinnable game talent-wise and... oh what's this? Next game USC! Well there's always October... the game at Utah should be very telling.

7. Stanford
The record says 2-2, the tale of the tape is -117 ypg differential, including -140 through the air. This does not bode well in the Pac 10. The Cardinal's victories include a win over Oregon State thanks to a goalline fumble and a close game against San Jose State, who admittedly also gave Notre Dame a close game too, so hey, they must be pretty good.

Say you get beaten 59-0 by team of Mormons. Following that up with a statement "oh, we have a game today?" performance against a struggling conference foe seems like a great idea, right? If you live in His Coachness' world, apparently so. This team is easily 0-3 if Tennessee just runs the ball, but noooooo, they have to confuse the football world with this new "Clawfense"... meanwhile, UCLA hosts a perplexing Fresno State team in a game both teams really need to win.

9. Washington
I'm only ranking them here because they're the only team in the conference that hasn't won a game yet. But look at who they've played! Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma. That's three teams a combined 10-1, all of whom have been ranked at some point and truthfully Oregon may still be a top 25 team. They played BYU close and Oklahoma is just too good for all but about a dozen teams to make it interesting. I expect Washington to finish around the middle of the pack, after what we've seen from the likes of UCLA and Stanford. Speaking of whom, Washington has the opportunity to beat Stanford and jump up some this weekend.


10. Washington State
Just awful. With Baylor, Duke, and Vanderbilt looking surprisingly competent, is this the worst BCS team? Iowa State may have something to say about that! Thank god they won't settle that one on the field...

The lines represent groups of similar teams. There's USC, sitting atop not only the conference but probably the entire nation right now. With the conference down from a year ago, can we just pencil them into the BCS Championship? Then there's Oregon - surprisingly, despite losing so much offensive talent, the class of the non-USC Pac 10. Bonus for a road win at Purdue. Then... well, then there's Washington State. Complete train wreck. As for everybody else, who knows? I don't think they're all equally good (sure, Arizona and Cal are better than UCLA and Washington), but wins here will likely come by who gives the better effort.

Big 12: Impressions

Four weeks into the season and we've got one more weekend of nonconference games here in the Big 12, before the conference matchups begin. This weekend we've got Colorado travelling to Florida State, Nebraska hosting Virginia Tech, and Texas playing their makeup game with Arkansas. Oklahoma also hosts TCU. In the not-quite byes category, Kansas State faces LA-Lafayette, Oklahoma State hosts Troy, and Texas A&M hosts Army in what should be a close, evenly-matched game. Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas Tech all have the week off.

Here are my impressions, in roughly ranked order:

1. Oklahoma
It's really looking like 2004 all over again. Sam Bradford is torching every secondary he faces, a new RB is dominating the ground game, defense is meh but good enough. All I ask of this team is that they either a) actually show up in January or b) don't take our BCS slot. Please?

2. Missouri
The offense hasn't missed a beat despite losing half of their backs and receivers from last season. In fact, the ground game actually looks better with Derrick Washington pounding on smaller defenders as teams bring in additional defensive backs to try to cover all these receivers. The difference between them and the Sooners is that Missouri's defense still hasn't kicked the habit of playing when they think it's necessary.


3. Texas
Someone must have told Texas that they're supposed to finish 5th in the conference this year, because they're playing like they're really pissed off. No there hasn't been a credible opponent yet, but three dominating performances earns them a spot near the bottom of the top ten compared to what we've seen elsewhere. I'm looking forward to watching them play road games at Colorado, Texas Tech, and Kansas, but in reality Oklahoma and Missouri still look like they're on a different level, talent-wise.

4. Kansas
Kansas proved more to me in their loss to South Florida than any team below them did in their victories against mediocre-at-best opposition. Hey, props for going out and playing a big road game. Next time don't blow a 17 point lead.

5. Texas Tech
All Texas Tech has done through four games is to phone it in against four cupcakes. Harrell is averaging nowhere near the 500 ypg he'll need if he hopes to top 6k for the season (yes, this is apparently their goal for him) and in their opening two games there were clear problems. To what extent those have been fixed, we'll know.... um, yeah... are we waiting for the Kansas game to finally see that? Maybe Nebraska? So... tune in this November to see TTU play some legitimate opposition!


6. Colorado
The offense looks better, but what we've really seen is the defense shut down a physical Colorado State running game, return the winning interception against Eastern Washington in a trap game, and shut down West Virginia when they actually went back to running White and Devine over and over - as opposed to calling seemingly 50% designed passes as was the case agaisnt ECU. Frankly I think this team is being disrespected in the polls - I'm all over that Vandy bandwagon, but CU has faced (mildly) tougher opposition. So it's with some irony that a trip to Tallahassee may allow the Buffs to become ranked, as apparently the pollsters believe that beating the 'Noles is enough of an accomplishment to vault Wake Forest to #16.

7. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys have one of the most well-rounded offenses in the conference, which basically means that they throw less than 70% of the time. (then again, when completing just under 80% of your passes for just under 10 ypa qualifies as a subpar performance for Chase Daniel, can you really blame Missouri?) Yeah, when I say "well rounded" I mean they run for over 300 ypg and trail only Navy in that statistic. But with Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant, this is by no means a "power iso three straight times... 11 yards woohoo!" style of attack. The 'Boys have a score to settle with a Troy team who beat them last season... they'll probably be unranked even if they win it, then face A&M which could bring them to 5-0 just in time to get slaughtered by Missouri.

8. Nebraska
Nebraska is 3-0 against extremely subpar opposition, and they haven't looked particularly great doing it. They're +121 ypg on the ground this season, which offsets the fact that Joe Ganz has been on/off through three games. Bo Pelini has been determined to take away the opposition's running game, and we'll see that put to the test when the Hokies... heh, um when the uh... Virginia Tech triple option... hahahahahaha! Oh, sorry... I just can't help it. The Huskers benefit from Virginia Tech's oh-so-impressive consecutive 20-17 wins against ACC opposition, because now that VT is 3-1 it's a battle of two teams on the outskirts of the official rankings! Yay ACC! Anyway, we'll see if Nebraska's offense can outscore Virginia Tech's defense here.


9. Baylor
Watching the game at UConn, I realized that this is going to be the first season I openly cheer for Baylor. The Bears have found their future in freshman QB Robert "Cream" Griffin III, and with a name like that they can't go wrong. As the Bears' defense was gashed by whatever UConn is calling an offense these days, Cream was singlehandedly keeping this team in the game on the road. Scrambles for first downs, finding the open man, flagrantly chucking it deep - oh yes. Unfortunately, this isn't the Cream Creamers, it's the Baylor Bears, and that's why they'll still end up with 4, 5 wins tops. Kinda sucks when your QB avoids the rush, scrambles around and throws 30 yards from a dead run right into the receiver's chest on 3rd and 20, only to have the putz drop it.

10. Kansas State
Things looked so promising for KSU but the defense underperformed in their only real test... to whatever extent you consider Louisville a real test. Josh Freeman can't win everything by himself and the running game is no support.


11. Texas A&M
It's been a truly comical season for the Aggies so far, one that will only get better once conference play begins. Let's just start with the stat that they are being outgained by 94 ypg despite having played Arkansas State, New Mexico, and Miami. Too bad they missed out on facing Missouri and Kansas from the North because I'd pay money to see Chase Daniel spraying piping hot passes all over this secondary.

12. Iowa State
I'll put it this way: I had the opportunity to rank A&M 12th, and didn't. That tells you how horrible Iowa State is.

To me, the conference falls into five groups. At the top, Oklahoma and Missouri are both capable of winning the national title. (They may need a favorable matchup - ie, not USC as neither matches up well with the Trojans - to actually do so, but regardless they look like top 5 teams. Oklahoma might match up well with Georgia, Missouri might win a shootout with Florida.) Should they meet in the conference championship, and should the bowl selection committees not be complete retards this time around, the loser will likely get an at-large and a very winnable game. Below them are Texas, Kansas, and Texas Tech - three teams with elite quarterbacks but at least one major issue keeping them from being BCS teams. For Texas and TTU that's defense, for Kansas that is the ground game. Next we have three teams who could be in the top 25 but have issues with overall talent. Colorado, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State all are strong at the QB and RB positions. Colorado has the best defense of the three, OSU has the best receiving corps. Baylor and Kansas State are bad but with their QBs they can still be dangerous. Texas A&M and Iowa State are train wrecks.

Sunday, September 21

Trial by Fire

Before all Volunteer home games, the press crew shows video of the Vols reciting General Neyland's seven maxims. They're as follows:

1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - score.

3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam.

4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.

5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the winning edge.

6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.

7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

I'm so glad that Tennessee uses these statements as guidelines. I'm ecstatic that the new offense has stepped up to return the Volunteers to past glory. I'm so happy that the Tennessee special teams has really turned around. We've really stepped up our team discipline, and we're not making the same stupid mistakes over and over. I feel like we're really ready to step up and take the next step to being able to contend for the SEC East title. We've stuck to the maxims, right?

Well, we know that wasn't the case in 2002.

Alabama @ Tennessee, October 26, 2002:
"Volunteers fumble by Derrick Tinsley (TENN), recovered by Gerald Dixon (ALA), returned for a 68 yard touchdown." What isn't included in this was that fumble was really a designed screen pass; Casey Clausen decided to throw a screen pass that was technically a lateral. Tinsley didn't realize it was a lateral, left the ball alone, and a quick-acting Dixon returned the ball for a TD. That was the first score of the game - Alabama went on to win 34-14. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - score.

Florida @ Tennessee, September 21, 2002:
2nd Q, 4:45 left: "
Volunteers fumble by Casey Clausen (TENN), recovered by Marcus Oquendo-Johnson (FLA), returned for no gain." Converted into a Florida TD.
2nd Q, 3:32 left: "Volunteers fumble by Corey Larkins (TENN), recovered by Johnny Lamar (FLA), returned for no gain." This was on the kickoff immediately after that first Florida TD. Rex Grossman threw a pick on the next play.
Next play: "Volunteers fumble by Casey Clausen (TENN), recovered by Casey Clausen (TENN), advanced for no gain."
One play later: "Volunteers fumble by Casey Clausen (TENN), recovered by Casey Clausen (TENN), advanced for no gain." Florida scores after the Voluntereers punt - that's another TD.
Last play before the half: "Volunteers fumble by Troy Fleming (TENN), recovered by Clint Mitchell (FLA), 4 yard return." Florida kicks a FG. That's 17 points in 5 minutes. Florida goes on to win, 30-13. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

What about 2003?

Georgia @ Tennessee, October 11, 2003:
Last play before the half: "Volunteers fumble by Casey Clausen (TENN), recovered by Sean Jones (GA), returned for a 92 yard touchdown." Before this, Tennessee was down 13-7 and had the ball on the UGA 3. Maybe they get stuffed and have to kick a FG, right? Not so much. Georgia goes on to win 41-14. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - score.

2004 wasn't a bad year, right?
Auburn @ Tennessee, October 2, 2004:
There was no one backbreaking play here, thankfully (Clausen graduated in 2003). However, Tennessee had 6 turnovers - 5 picks and one fumble. Always good to go into the half down 31-3, turning a top 10 showdown into a blowout.
The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

Notre Dame @ Tennessee, November 6, 2004:
3rd Q: "
Rick Clausen (TENN) pass across the middle intercepted by Mike Goolsby (ND). Returned for a 26 yard touchdown." Oh shit, we're not done with the fucking Clausens yet? I'm going to break something. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - score. Let's just move on to 2005.

Georgia @ Tennessee, October 8, 2005:
2nd Q, ~2:00 left: "
Rick Clausen sacked by Charles Johnson, fumbled at the Tenn 26, recovered by UGA at the Tenn 26, tackled by Charles Johnson." Georgia kicks a FG before the half to go up 10-0; that's not too bad, right?
4th Q, 8:50: "Britton Colquitt punt for 46 yards, returned by Thomas Flowers for 54 yards for a TOUCHDOWN." Oh, good; now we've gone from down 13-7 to down 20-7. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
Also, just for the hell of it: "Brandon Coutu kickoff for 64 yards returned by Lucas Taylor for 25 yards to the Tenn 26, Tennessee penalty 19 yard illegal block accepted." "Tennessee penalty 51 yard illegal block accepted, no play." "Brandon Coutu kickoff for 65 yards returned by Lucas Taylor for 11 yards to the Tenn 11, Tennessee penalty 5 yard holding accepted." The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

South Carolina @ Tennessee, October 29, 2005:
No one backbreaking play, thankfully. But:
- 3 plays, 9 yards, punt
- 0 plays, 0 yards, INT
- 4 plays, -2 yards, missed FG
- 6 plays, 21 yards, punt
- 4 plays, 15 yards, punt
- 3 plays, 18 yards, fumble
- 3 plays, 0 yards, punt
- 3 plays, 3 yards, punt
- 7 plays, 19 yards, turnover on downs
I'm so glad we have such an effective offense against the best teams in the SEC. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

Vanderbilt @ Tennessee, November 19, 2005:
Let's not even talk about what happened during the game; this was Vandy's first win over the Vols in 20+ years. And it was at home. On second thought:
4th Q, less than 1 minute to go, Vanderbilt driving: "Tennessee penalty 11 yard pass interference accepted, no play." Next play, Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett for the game-winning TD. Discipline. Also, while we're at it: "Bryant Hahnfeldt punt for 47 yards, returned by Jonathan Hefney for a loss of 1 yard to the Tenn 33, Tennessee penalty 10 yard holding accepted." Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

2006 - David Cutcliffe returns, thank god.
Florida @ Tennessee, September 16, 2006:
First play of the game: "Erik Ainge pass intercepted by Reggie Nelson at the Fla 41, returned for no gain to the Fla 41."
This isn't reflected in any game score, but after Wilhoit kicks a FG to put the Vols up 20-14, Ainge decides to do the Gator Chomp in front of the Florida student section. The next drive, Florida goes up 21-20. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

LSU @ Tennessee, November 4, 2006:
Tennessee's up 17-14 late in the third quarter against a very, *very* good Tigers team. And yet: "Britton Colquitt punt for 39 yards downed at the LSU 33, Tennessee penalty 15 yard kick catching interference accepted." LSU scores on the ensuing drive, LSU's up 21-17.
First play of the 4th quarter: "James Wilhoit 46 yard field goal MISSED."
LSU's last drive of the game: "LSU drive: 15 plays, 80 yards, 07:14 LSU TD." Six first downs. One - yes, one - third down conversion. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the winning edge. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

2007. We defend our home turf, going undefeated at home. Let's be generous and ignore the ignominious opening game at Cal, the skull-crushing courtesy of Florida, and the inexplicable only good game John Parker Wilson had all year.

And yesterday. "Brandon James went 52 yards for Florida with the opening kickoff and soon after the Gators were in the end zone. Tim Tebow flipped a 2-yard pass over the top of the line of scrimmage to Aaron Hernandez for a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.

James, who's had four career punt returns for touchdowns, returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to put Florida up 17-0 with 4:42 in the first quarter. At least five Vols defenders missed James as he blew by them."

"Twice Tennessee drove to the Florida 1 and fell apart. In the second quarter, Jonathan Crompton simply dropped the ball drooping back to pass and Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap fell on it.

The next time down, Crompton was picked off in the end zone by Janoris Jenkins right before halftime." If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam.

1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.

2. Play for and make the breaks and when one comes your way - SCORE.

3. If at first the game - or the breaks - go against you, don't let up... put on more steam.

4. Protect our kickers, our QB, our lead and our ball game.

5. Ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle... for this is the WINNING EDGE.

6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.

7. Carry the fight to our opponent and keep it there for 60 minutes.

I'm glad we're doing a good job of that. We're ready to take that next step. (In the interest of full disclosure, all game summaries and play-by-play data courtesy of ESPN, who apparently have a pretty nice database of these sort of things if you know how to find it.)

Friday, September 19

Big 12 Week 4 Preview

So here's the problem with your conference playing three games before Saturday. It's Friday night, I'm scrambling to write this shit up, and already two games have been completed and a third is in the second half. Oh well, here goes:

Kansas State @ Louisville

How the fuck do you give up 38 points to a team that managed only 2 against Kentucky? UKY isn't your standard beastly SEC defense either, this is inexcusable. So is just 30 yards rushing on offense, unless you're Texas Tech and that also came with 600 passing. Fail.

West Virginia @ Colorado

Despite the fact that I got my Master's from CU, I've never really cheered for the BUffs in a non-CSU game until now. When the first man wasn't open, Cody Hawkins repeatedly went "fuck it, I'm going deep" which makes him a real man at the most important position. Not surprisingly, the Buffs pulled off the upset. Nice ground game by yet another freshman back, too.

Baylor @ Connecticut

The fact that a) this is a Friday night game and b) it's back-and-forth is baffling. I'm loving the fact that Baylor pulled some kid off the track team and flagrantly run a system offense, and they're 2-1 with a chance to go 3-1. I will never understand how this happened.

Buffalo @ Missouri

The odds of Daniel breaking his TDs > incompletions streak here are low, even though he promised to play this one left-handed.

Miami @ Texas A&M

Miami has a HORRIBLE offense. But A&M has a HORRIBLE team. Miami should win this one 13-0, with the 13 coming from 5 safeties and a field goal.

Massachussetts @ Texas Tech

Texas Tech is playing like total ass so far, but bonus that if you made an all-star team from their first four opponents, you'd get roughly Texas A&M. They should win this one 84-0; it'll be more like 51-24.

Sam Houston State @ Kansas

After losing a close one in South Florida, KU returns to playing creampuffs. *Yawn*

Rice @ Texas

For whatever reason, Texas plays Rice every year. I'm sure there's some "rivalry" behind it, but... Rice, really? Geez.

Iowa State @ UNLV

Iowa State sucks balls. I don't even want to think about this game.

ACC Week 4 Games: Because 500 Words on this Shitty Conference Is Overdoing It

(Disclaimer: prolonged exposure to ACC football will result in you thinking the ACC is comprised of teams with lots of good defenses and not the conference that still likely employs Jeff Bowden as OC at seven different schools. Simultaneously.)

Since I’m pretty much out of witty intros at this point, I’ll save it for the previews except for one thought: how in the blue fuck is Florida fucking State ranked?

Clemson v. South Carolina State
I’m glad to see that Clemson is taking a page from the Florida State Book of Scheduling High-Quality opponents. Although SC State is probably a 5-point favorite over NC State at this point. Expect Clemson to give themselves a degree of difficulty and only run the ball 5 times during the entire game.

Maryland v. Eastern Michigan
Yes, Maryland beat Cal last week. If you think I’m giving them any credit or any respect for that … fuck that noise. EMU by 145. Fucking Terps.

NC State v. East Carolina
This is the third stage in East Carolina’s systematic dominance of the mid-South Atlantic seaboard. Expect NC State to offer more resistance than West Virginia, which is approximately offering more resistance than a wet paper bag.

Boston College v. UCF
This game would’ve been awesome last year. Now? Well, we’re sitting around hoping like hell that we don’t have to watch this shit, because this crapass game might be nicer if there was anyone with, well, talent. If you need us, we’ll be over here getting our colon scoped with a rusty steak knife. Fuck it, we’d rather do that than sit through this shit.

Georgia Tech v. Mississippi State
Games like this should be played back in the 1950’s, except there was that whole segregation thing going on. Um…. Yeah. Maybe we can all imagine it’s like the 1950’s, except 3/4ths of the teams are in blackface.

Miami (FL) @ Texas A&M
This is your Cripple Fight of the week. Just in case you didn’t think the Aggies were quite incompetent enough, we’ll add the Miami Special Olympics offense. Toss in some chronically underused Mike Goodman and stay the fuck away.

Virginia Tech @ North Carolina
Apparently this is the second-best game in the ACC this week. I’ll go toss a working toaster into my bathtub now.

Wake Forest @ Florida State
Ladies and Gentlemen, your Game of the Week! And if you’re actually going to subject yourself to watching this shit at 7 PM when there are, oh, 80 games more interesting going on at that time, I hold no respect for your soul and kindly wish you the best.

SEC Week 4 Games - Awesomeness Embodied

Oh, fuck yes. This is the kind of week that makes fans pee their pants in excitement. I mean, Georgia at Arizona State is arguably the third-best game on the schedule, and that would’ve been the showcase game back in Week 1. (Of course, that was because we didn’t realize Arizona State was going to lose to UNL-fucking-V.) The only way this week would be any better is if the showcase LSU-Auburn matchup was in Baton Rouge, because drunken LSU fans rampaging across Baton Rouge with ESPN cameras rolling would be the perfect way to end the weekend. Instead, drunken LSU fans will rampage across Baton Rouge without the prying eyes of cameras; that’s probably for everyone’s benefit.

South Carolina v. Wofford
Yes, this game is the turd in the punchbowl. We can only assume the Gamecocks will roll here and look halfway decent. We’re not fooled, and neither should you; South Carolina lost to Vanderbilt, and although the Commies aren’t jokes this year, losing to them still qualifies. At least ol’ Philly will be able to rest easy, knowing this win happened.

Arkansas v. Alabama
This game won’t be as stupidly awesome as the last two years have been. However, we do get our first honest-to-god Mercenary Bowl in a while, although I give Nick Saban way less credit than most. Still, this Arkansas team is approximately fucking terrible, so if you want to see Casey Dick get his skull caved in, this is the game for you. If you need further proof that Arkansas has played approximately Hawai(‘)i's 2007 schedule, Casey Dick has a 62.7% completion percentage. That number is too high by, oh, 25 percent.

Ole Miss v. Vanderbilt
This would normally be a Raycom Special if it wasn’t for the above listed game, but instead it will live on as a Raycom Special in our hearts and minds. Had Vanderbilt lost at least one of their games so far, it’d be crappy enough to count; instead, we’re now in the awkward position of hoping that Vanderbilt wins what’s really a winnable game in the SEC. Of course, that would require rooting against the awesomeness that is Houston Nutt, which is a sacrifice I’m not fully prepared to make.

Mississippi State @ Georgia Tech
I’ll just say this: anybody who even thinks about passing in this game better do pushups. I’m not even kidding; MSU is rolling out a Special Olympics guy under center and it’s not like we expect Bobby Johnson to set up a good passing game. So, fuck it – broadcast this shit in black and white and let’s go drink moonshine out of a boot, it’s footbaw time.

Florida @ Tennessee
What, you want me to find some reason that Tennessee will win this game? You think they actually have a shot now that they’ve somehow managed to sneak Casey Claussen back into Volunteer orange? You should just consider yourself lucky I haven’t gotten alcohol poisoning yet thinking about this game. Holy shit, it’s gonna be bad. I can only hope that Tebow doesn’t circumcise our linebackers in the middle of the second quarter. Eric Berry, you’re our only hope.

Georgia @ Arizona State
After the giant egg the Vols laid in Los Angeles, I look forward to spending the rest of the season mocking Pac-10 proponents after Arizona State gets their skull caved in. And I mean that in a literal sense; expect Georgia to move to a 3-3-5 come the second half out of respect for the then-departed soul of Rudy Carpenter. Hopefully he’ll flip Erickson the bird as he goes for recruiting Weeblies on the line.

LSU @ Auburn
If you don’t get hair on your chest from watching this game, then by god you’re not a man. (And if you weren’t a man before reading this post …. Welcome to LFB! Please contact James if you’re interested in any and all special promotional opportunities on this site!) This is the kind of shit that makes Big 10 fans cry themselves to sleep at night, because they can only dream about physical collisions this nasty, running games this punishing, and a final score that might – dare we say – double the MSU / Auburn epic bout from last week.

Wednesday, September 17

The Tressel Behind the Curtain

Watching the Ohio State @ USC "Game of the Season" go from an interesting first quarter to a game Ohio State was on the verge of losing early to a complete massacre, all in the span of about ten minutes in the second quarter, I had a moment of understanding with Buckeye fans. I'd been through this before, shouting at the TV for Mack Brown to please play Major Applewhite as Chris Simms turned the ball over four times in the first half of the conference championship to sabotage my beloved Longhorns' 2001 national title hopes. By the time Applewhite came in, the deficit was (as it turns out, just barely) too much to overcome.

Terrelle Pryor would not have made such a difference against USC, as unlike that Texas-Colorado game where the Buffs scored with short fields or outright defensive touchdowns, the OSU defense was also not able to stop the USC offense from driving 80 yards at will. Let's not take anything away from USC from being an amazingly talented team nor from Pete Carroll from being an amazing recruiter and absolutely devastating with long preparations. But the margin of defeat, Ohio State's worst since 1994, has to be a real cause for concern.

We remember that in 2005, Ohio State had a showdown with Texas and Vince Young, in Ohio Stadium where the Bucks had never lost a night game. This was a game the Buckeyes actually led 22-16 going into the 4th quarter, before a late toss to Limas Sweed allowed Texas to escape with a win.

Ohio State was heavily criticized for its two-quarterback strategy, and I want to talk more about this. After starting the game with two short drives totalling 9 plays for 25 yards, OSU took Justin Zwick out and put Troy Smith in in an effort to spark the stagnant offense. Smith's first two drives totalled 15 plays and 88 yards, including an 80 yard TD drive to tie the game at 10 which would be Ohio State's only drive longer than 50 yards on the night, but his next two totalled just 13 plays for 19 yards. We went into halftime with the Buckeyes up 16-13 thanks to some great field position on those last two drives. After Vince Young fumbled on the first drive of the second half, Troy Smith went 10 yards in 6 plays to settle for a field goal, his 4th possession starting inside the Texas 36, all of which went for FGs. Tired of squandering these great starting spots, Tressel went back to Zwick who took Ohio State on a long drive which ended with his TE dropping a pass in the end zone and settling for yet another FG. After going 3-and-out on the following drive with Zwick, Tressel went back to Smith. He also went 3-and-out, prompting Zwick to come back into the game in what was really a bizarre decision, as Smith was hardly given a chance to work. However, it was an 11 play, 38 yard drive that unfortunately ended in a missed FG. Zwick again took the field after VY's go-ahead pass, and he fumbled after scrambling for 5 yards. Smith came out for Ohio State's final drive two minutes later, taking a safety on the first play. In total, Justin Zwick had 31 plays for 110 yards (3.5) and Troy Smith had 38 plays for 120 yards (3.2). Many Ohio State fans believe that Troy Smith was vastly more effective, as his drives totalled 19 points to Justin Zwick's 3. This, however, is inflated by Smith taking the field four times in obvious scoring position but the offense stalling out for a FG each time. In fact both QBs were equally ineffective, as the offense just never got going save for one or maybe two drives. However, what can be criticized is that had Tressel picked a quarterback, either one really, that QB could have developed a better feel for the game and perhaps led the offense to just another field goal or perhaps scored a TD in one of those short field situations. More to the point, though, when the offense stalled out, Tressel's answer was to switch quarterbacks. OSU ran the same tired plays with both men in there, and midway through the second quarter they just weren't working. There was never an adjustment to what Texas was doing defensively. Make no mistake, this was Tressel's most talented team, and with a great defensive leader in AJ Hawk (something that is missing in the current LB corps) and a ton of speed and talent on offense. They blew a winnable game where Vince Young brought his C game, but poor offensive strategy put him in a position where he could make up for that with one drive. Ohio State was not the better team here - certainly by the end of the season that was evident - but with the home field advantage and with their opponent's star player having an off night, they should have won this one.

On to the 2006 National Championship - the Fiesta Bowl matchup versus Florida. Urban Meyer's offense ran the same short-to-medium pass routes over and over, OSU refused to modify their zone coverage. Florida brought outside pressure while giving up 6.2 yards per rushing attempt to Antonio Pittman, but the Buckeyes gave him a mere 10 carries. I'm not going to say it would have changed the outcome, but otherwise are we at least looking at a good game here? Perhaps so.

What about last season's finale? Against LSU, Beanie Wells averaged 7.3 yards per carry but had just 20 carries to Boeckman's 26 pass attempts (plus 9 runs/sacks). Even throwing out the 65 yard scamper early in the first quarter, he averaged 4.3 yards a pop, which surely merits 25-30 carries. But as the game went from a 10 point Buckeye lead to a 14 point halftime edge for the Tigers, Beanie carried just seven times in four possessions - for 44 yards. He was averaging better than 6 per play but the offense was turning to Boeckman's arm and the game was turning LSU's way. By halftime we knew what the game result would be, and once LSU took a 21-point lead to start the third, there was no longer any doubt.

Last weekend's stats show that with Todd Boeckman in the game, OSU averaged a woeful 2.8 yards per play against USC. With Terrelle Pryor, that average was 5.1 -- perhaps more relevently, it was 6.5 yards per play while he was in with the first team offense, prior to being given two series of mop-up duty in the meaningless 4th quarter. Yet Boeckman saw 39 snaps to Pryor's 25. This makes absolutely no sense to anyone watching the game or to anyone looking at the stats. It was a baffling decision to continue to refrain from using their most talented player.

This looks like horrible coaching! And yet, two outright conference titles, two more shared conference titles, a 4-2 BCS record, and a national championship all speak for themselves. Or do they?

So-called "Tressel Ball" is essentially conservative offense, conservative fourth down decision-making with strong kickers, and a fundamentally outstanding yet relatively conservative-schemed defense that doesn't give up big plays, with an emphasis on winning the lines. This is a recipe for not losing games you're supposed to win. And looking by season, against teams who finished with more losses than the Buckeyes, Ohio State went:
2001: 6-2
2002: 14-0 (huge win over 12-1 Miami)
2003: 11-2 (including loss to 10-3 Michigan who lost to USC in the Rose Bowl)
2004: 7-2
2005: 10-0 (defeating Notre Dame in the BCS -> take your spot in the next season's BCS Championship)
2006: 12-0 (note that Florida finished 13-1, ie with as many losses as OSU)
2007: 11-1 (note that LSU finished 12-2, ie with as many losses as OSU)
Totalling 71-7.

On the other hand, when facing teams who finished with equal or fewer losses than Ohio State, the Buckeyes went:
2001: 1-3
2002: 0-0
2003: 0-0
2004: 1-2
2005: 0-2
2006: 0-1
2007: 0-1
Totalling 2-9.

Now I realize that to some extent this is built in. Most of Ohio State's losses came (obviously) in seasons where they had more losses, and in these seasons their opponents are more likely to finish with a better record than them by default. Likewise, when Ohio State went 14-0, it was impossible for anyone to finish with a better record, so even the epic championship game against Miami gets classified as an "expected" victory. So put some perspective with this stat. Regardless, the trend is that Tressel is damn near a 90% winner in games Ohio State should win, but he's giving them about a 10-20% shot in evenly matched games or games where they are the underdog. Whatever it takes to pull off an upset, Tressel seems to lack it. In the last four years, Ohio State's only victory against seemingly strong opposition was a home win over Michigan by 3 points in 2006, only to find out a month later that those mighty Wolverines were completely outclassed by USC.

But what about the 2002 season? The Fiesta Bowl was one of the greatest upsets of the BCS!

This is true. Even with the loss, that Miami squad ranks #8 on our all-time BCS list, one spot behind those Buckeyes. Let's look at the 2002 season for Ohio State:

I'm not sure where the Buckeyes started out, but when the first BCS rankings were released on Oct 21, 2002, Ohio State was #4 in the polls and #6 in the BCS. They did not move into the top two of the BCS until the first week of November. It's safe to recall that they were a dark horse team.

In their first three games, Ohio State rolled Texas Tech, Kent State, and eventual Pac 10 champions Washington State. Cincinnati gave the Buckeyes an odd scare which could be attributed to letdown, then the rolling continued to 7-0 midway through October. After that:
* On Oct 19, Ohio State trailed Wisconsin 14-13 before a big 4th quarter pass set up the go-ahead TD in a 19-14 victory. Yardage was roughly even, OSU killed Wisconsin in punting.
* On Oct 26, Ohio State won a close 13-7 victory over then-#10 Penn State 13-7. The fourth quarter was scoreless.
* On Nov 2, Ohio State routed Minnesota 34-3.
* On Nov 9, Ohio State trailed Purdue 6-3 late in the 4th quarter. Facing 3rd and 14, Krenzel completed a 13 yard pass with just over 1:40 left to set up the infamous 4th and 1. Their ground game having been shut down, the Buckeyes went with a play action fake which was covered short, and wound up throwing a 37 yard toss into the end zone to Michael Jenkins for the win.
* The following week, Ohio State found themselves clinging to a 16-13 4th quarter lead with 1:06 to play against Illinois. The Illini drove the field to send the game to overtime, which Ohio State eventually won 23-16.
* Finally, hosting then-#11 Michigan in the season finale, Ohio State again found themselves down 9-7 in the 4th. The Buckeyes scored on an eight-play drive that included three key scrambles by Krenzel, including ones on a third and fourth down. After getting the ball back with 4:05 remaining, the Wolverines twice drove the ball inside the Ohio State 35 but turned the ball over both times.

Now, every BCS champion has had a game or two where they struggle, if not actually lose. But this really takes it to another level as six of their final seven games were decided by just one play! Considering the talent differential here (OSU had 10 defensive starters drafted into the NFL), that points at the unispired play this team muddled through until the last possible moment of these games.

This of course set up the big national championship showdown with a Larry Coker team, which among other things needed an injury to Willis McGahee and a questionable 4th down pass interference call to secure the 2OT win. It was a great game for the Buckeyes and probably the truest upset in a BCS championship, but six years later this is still what Tressel's prestige as a coach is based upon. I'm not sure if this game under these circumstances really outweighs the disappointments of the last four seasons.

It seems that, like Mack Brown, Jim Tressel is a great recruiter but not a great coach. Really, the difference seems to be that Texas plays in a conference with Oklahoma, a team who also has a great recruiter in Bob Stoops and at least had one of the nation's premiere DC's in Mike Stoops. Ohio State, on the other hand, has mostly had to compete against a falling Michigan program, which made conference titles inevitable. In fact, if we were to swap Ohio State and Texas for the Jim Tressel era, it looks like Ohio State would have been the Big 12's best team in 2002, 2005, and 2006 (yes, Oklahoma and Missouri were both better last season), which means that with one conference championship upset, the Buckeyes would also be looking at just two BCS appearances. This isn't meant to provoke an in-depth discussion of the Ohio State and Texas football programs, but rather to point out that a lot of the Buckeyes' recent success has been a product of the Big Ten lacking a program capable of consistently challenging them. Strong recruiting is good enough to win the conference title almost every season.

Rich Rodriguez and Ron Zook could change this dynamic in a few years, but until then Ohio State looks like they're in a fairly stable equilibrium. And who knows, maybe Terrelle Pryor will eventually win a title in spite of the decided schematic disadvantage, not unlike the great Vince Young. But it won't be The Sweater Vest leading this team to victory through bold or even correct decision-making.

Tuesday, September 16

Modulo 4

LSU somewhat controversially was awarded an invitation to last season's BCS championship game, earning the somewhat dubious distinction of having the most ever losses for a BCS champion. In what amounted to a home game, they beat an overrated opponent who many people felt didn't belong in the title game, led by a coach who also might be overrated as a possible BCS slide sets in despite continued conference dominance.

USC, who finished with the same record as LSU but were relegated to dominating a Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl, opened the season with an impressive road victory in Virginia. A few weeks later, they followed it up with a victory in the early Game of the Season and have established a clear foothold on the #1 ranking. There's one other decent team in the Pac 10, but beyond them we expect the Trojans to cruise to a perfect record once past September.

Trailing them are the Oklahoma Sooners and a bunch of Floridians. The Sooner offensive juggernaut rolls on, but quietly we're concerned that their defense doesn't look like a championship group. Can a young runningback add another dimension to their offense that was sorely missed in last season's BCS bowl defeat? They'll be challenged for the Big 12 title by a team with arguably the nation's hottest quarterback, a team angry about a BCS snubbing despite being ranked above several teams who were chosen, but at the same time a team they defeated soundly last season.

Way, way down on the radar, a less-regarded SEC team is racking up victories via a strong running game and ridiculous defense. Auburn has allowed over ten points just one in their September games, and a big showdown could seen them upset the defending champions. The receivers are questionable, but with a mobile quarterback and two legitimate runningbacks, they could have just enough firepower to let their stellar defense carry them to a perfect season. Then again, the conference is loaded with top ten and top 25 teams, so we'll see if the Tigers can weather the storm and, if they can, whether the voters will reward them for it.

And what about those crazy BCS busters? Utah opened the season with a victory over a BCs opponent who's probably overrated buy may end up bowl-eligible anyway.

The Big East and ACC are crap.

If it sounds familiar, that's because this describes the 2004 season as well. USC opened with a road victory over Virginia Tech then defeated Cal in a huge early-season top ten showdown. Oklahoma was rolling and would only be challenged by Vince Young and Texas, whom they shut down with a surprising defensive effort. It was an effort they would not duplicate in the Orange Bowl against USC. Oklahoma actually trailed Miami for parts of the season, contrary to the belief of many (and an excuse to justify keeping Auburn #3) that OU never moved down from their preseason #2 spot; in fact Miami was #2 in the first BCS rankings of the season. Auburn shot out of nowhere, winning a close game over LSU and surprisingly rolling through the SEC with ease up until the title game, still winning by 10 but being left out of the BCS title game at 12-0. Utah defeated A&M to open their way to a perfect season, but they weren't the only mid-major to achieve perfection as Boise State finished unbeaten but were left out of the BCS. The Rose Bowl's eventual pick of Texas over Cal was controversial - can't see the Rose Bowl committee possibly picking the Pac 10 and/or Big 10 #2 teams over somebody like Missouri... nah, impossible! Of course, the real undeserving team was Pitt... this season, USF looks like the only team out of the Big East OR ACC who might deserve a BCS bid, and of course those conferences will send at least two so there's likely to be at least one dud.

Three weeks into the season, don't count out the possibility of some BCS deja vu! (for the record, I'm also liking Alabama to play the role of this season's Auburn... bonus that they started way down in the polls)

Week 3: Top 25, Live (mostly) from Virginia

First off, screw you, Ohio State. Here we were thinking you were actually talented and qualified to go after the national title; instead, we’re now thinking that Tresselball may have been a product of Larry Coker and nobody really looking behind the curtain.


1. USC – When Ray Maualuga outscores the Buckeyes on his own, that’s either a) not a good sign for Ohio State or b) a sign that USC is clearly outclassing the competition. As seen by our rankings, we think it’s both. Early returns from the Pac-10 indicate that may be a running theme the rest of the year, and after turning the Game of the Season into Yakkity Sacks, we feel pretty confident about putting USC here.

2. Florida – Kudos to Florida for their improved defense; however, 90% of the reason Florida’s ranked #2 in this poll is because we all had unpleasant flashbacks to the 2004 season after thinking about ranking Oklahoma here. The Gators could easily be this good, but we’re holding judgment until seeing them in Neyland Stadium.

3. Oklahoma – Make no mistake, Oklahoma has been the second-most impressive team in the country. However, see above; we’re not ranking them there yet. We do feel pretty confident that Sam Bradford wouldn’t turn in a Jason White-esque performance; however, we’re 90% sure that Bob Stoops would have the exact same gameplan if USC and Oklahoma were to meet, which is a pretty big mark against them.

4. MissouriMissouri’s played 160 excellent minutes this season, and at this point they’re legitimate national title contenders … provided they can actually stick around to play 60 minutes of defense. The Nevada game was a good step in that direction, but now they need to play 60 minutes against an evenly matched team. Chase Daniel looks like one of the best QBs in the country at this point, as he’s putting up Playstation numbers.

5. GeorgiaGeorgia’s pretty much what we expected at this point; Moreno is all-world, the defense is rock-solid, but the rest of the offense is questionable and we suspect the offensive line will cost them a title shot at this point. The defense, as usual, looked excellent against South Carolina, but the offense (as usual) left something to be desired. That being said, the Bulldogs made Phil Steele cry in his beer this week, so major bonus points for that.

6. LSU – The Tigers are here mostly by default; they’ve taken care of business and looked pretty good while doing so. Charles Scott has emerged as their primary RB, which is something I never expected to see from LSU as long as they had talent 3-4 RBs deep, so let’s give some credit to Les Miles for that one.

7. Penn State – The Nittany Lions are the early-season favorites for the comeback team of the year award, averaging over 50 points per game against inferior opposition – but hey, you usually don’t expect that out of Penn State against anyone, and they did shut down a good Oregon State passing game. At this point, they’re our Big Ten favorites, because while we’re not sure if they’re the most talented team in the midwest, they are the team most properly using what they do have. (Buckeye.)

8. Texas – Despite Ike postponing their matchup with Arkansas, Texas moves up a little as a result of Auburn’s offensive abortion and January coming a little early out in California. (Buckeye.)

9. Auburn – The offensive performance against Mississippi State can only be described as Buckeye. However, for the defense to pitch a shutout while that was going on really speaks to how strong that unit is. In fact the Tiger defense has given three very strong performances this season. The comparisons to the 04 season continue, especially as Oklahoma puts pressure on the #2 spot...

10. Wisconsin – Going on the road and winning a defensive battle with Fresno State earns the Badgers the final spot in our top ten.

11. South Florida – It was a home win, but coming back from 20-3 against a ranked team is impressive regardless which more than makes up for the close showing against UCF. The amazing thing is that, while waiting for Todd Reesing to finally make a mistake in the final minutes of the game, Matt Grothe went 60 minutes against a patient, opportunistic defense without throwing a single pick himself. If this is USF at their best level of performance, they aren’t a top 10 team, but they are a very good team who should be BCS-bound.

12. BYU – UCLA must have done something to BYU/the Mormon people in a past life, or maybe His Coachness insulted Joseph Smith, because this team came out pissed off and with something to prove Saturday afternoon. 59-0? Christ. (where?)

13. Ohio State – Beanie Wells can’t come back fast enough as Ohio State’s offensive troubles now span eight consecutive quarters. Statistically the Ohio State defense did alright considering the opponent was USC, but we repeatedly saw Trojan RBs getting 7-10 yard gains which is just unacceptable for such a highly regarded front seven. Then there was Jim Tressel’s refusal to use Terrelle Pryor for any extended amount of time until mop-up duty, despite the offense averaging about twice as many yards per play with him in there. Mack Brown, you have met your match. Summarizing this entire team in one word (as spoken by Brent Musberger), Buckeye.

14. East Carolina – A letdown was bound to happen after two big upset victories over Big 6 opponents. With that out of their systems, ECU needs to refocus on winning each game and getting to where they could be.

15. Oregon – At a sports bar in Virginia, we discovered that the Ducks have a cheer similar to the Gator Chomp that involves only the hands rather than the entire arm. They showed a lot of determination to come back on the road, but ultimately needed Purdue to miss a FG at the end of regulation to have a chance here. I’m also concerned as their QBs keep going down – we’ll see what their status is as conference play is about to kick off. On the other hand, conference play almost looks like a guaranteed 8-1 or 7-2, as USC is off the charts while everyone else fell off the map.

16. KansasKansas started this season with ten quarters of great defensive football before USF figured them out in the second half. Still, not a bad showing to lose a road game against a ranked opponent by three points... most teams haven’t looked this good.

17. Alabama – Great outing against a completely overmatched opponent; now let’s see if we can get some consistency from this group.

18. Texas Tech – Shakeups caused a couple teams to jump the Red Raiders while an equal number have not quite dropped below them, causing Tech to drop a little in the rankings. The bottom line remains that they’ve only played one complete game, and that was against SMU.

19. Utah – Another dominating victory, but we’re giving a little less credit for beating the Wolverines after seeing them play three horrible games.

20. Illinois – How do you get into a close game with LA Lafayette? Give that outing against decent opposition and they’re sitting at 1-2 rather than 2-1. Buckeye.

21. Wake Forest – Ugh. We really don’t like ranking an ACC team, but there’s not a whole lot worth talking about beyond the top 20. Maryland’s victory over Cal ends the conference’s ban, and for whatever it’s worth Baylor would be 3-0 otherwise (yeah, we’re as confused by that as you).

22. West Virginia – At some point we just know that Stewart will figure out that Pat White and Noel Devine are two of the fastest players at their respective positions. (Don't we know another team with a good running QB who doesn't use him properly? Oh yeah - Buckeye.)

23. Vanderbilt – They’re 3-0 and beat South Carolina by the same amount that Georgia did. This is half a statement about the rest of the NCAA, but it’s a solid start and Vandy just may finish the season bowl eligible.

24. Fresno State – The Rutgers win no longer looks like as big a deal after UNC got done with them.

25. Oklahoma State – Another powerful offense from the plains states. We’d like to see them play some caliber opposition, but right now they’ve looked stronger than anybody else. (Thanks for laying that egg, Cal. Buckeye.)

Keeping an eye on: Nebraska, Tennessee, Arizona State, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Tulsa, Colorado, California, North Carolina

Conference Rankings:

1. SEC – They’ve got four teams in our top ten and six in the top 25. Right now, Florida looks like the only team who’d have a shot at taking USC, as like Ohio State they have a great mobile QB but unlike Ohio State they are well-aware of how useful that is. (Buckeye.) Okay, James has his doubts about Vandy, and we both agree they won’t stay here for long. On the other hand, Tennessee has the talent to rebound once they get an offensive gameplan down.

2. Big 12 – The top two teams have looked as good as any and Texas, so far, has been a strong #3. Considering where they fall in the conference, Kansas’s back-and-forth road game with South Florida wasn’t bad either. What’s helping is the fact that, save for Iowa State and A&M, the bottom teams are finally achieving something. Baylor has a winning record despite facing two Big 6 teams, and Oklahoma State looks very dangerous on offense. The quarterbacks here are ridiculous, which is probably what’s floating some of the otherwise mediocre teams. We’ll learn more as Colorado faces West Virginia and Nebraska faces Virginia Tech, but Oklahoma and Missouri have already posted meaningful victories while everyone else is at least winning games they should.

3. Big 10 – We expected Ohio State to lose, just not this badly. We expected Michigan to win... um, yeah. Illinois struggled a lot more than they should have. On the plus side, Wisconsin got a nice road win and Purdue competed against a Ducks team we thought was far better. The real bonus has been Penn State going on a complete tear through three weeks and making the leap into our top ten.

4. Pac-10 – Despite going 2-0 against the Big 10 last weekend (3-1 overall), the Pac loses this tiebreaker by going 3-7 last weekend including a 4-0 sweep by Mountain West opponents. Buckeye. USC is the runaway national #1 in our book right now, but Oregon struggled with a mediocre Purdue team and then the upsets began. Despite BYU’s thrashing of UCLA, the most embarrassing loss may have belonged to Cal; we’ve been on Maryland all season and were really hoping the Bears would ring up a 70-3 victory here. Worse, one of those teams is likely #3 in the conference as the Arizona and Washington schools all looked like crap.

5. Big East – USF really saved the conference’s last remaining shreds of pride by avoiding a home loss to the 4th or 5th-best team in the Big 12. WVU will be fine as soon as Stewart figures out that Pat White should not be used as a drop-back passer. (Buckeye.) Everyone else sucks though so don’t expect them to move up.

6. Mountain West – BYU and Utah are both better than any team in the ACC. Why not?

7. ACC – Watch out, the MAC is on your heels. Do not be fooled by Maryland upsetting a Cal program notorious for not giving a strong effort for 12 games. This is still the conference of Buckeye.