Tuesday, September 16

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.