Wednesday, October 29

Week 9 Top 25

As we head into November, it's time to take a closer look at the top teams in the country.

Looking around, there's depressingly few teams truly deserving of ranking. The top ten is great, even if #10 is a bit unproven. (don't discount winning at Oregon though) It's around #15 that you can see how quickly things drop off. Practically speaking, everyone after 15 is #25... and even then, in name only. We're looking for anyone who can turn in a solid performance next weekend, and they'll probably be ranked. Seriously, anyone. This means you, ACC - although we understand that this task may be more difficult for you than most.

1. Texas
Top ten opponents stream into Texas, and one after another they fall to the Horns. Texas has now faced a #1 team, a Heisman-leading QB, and the best rushing attack in the country, all in consecutive weeks. This weekend they will face the nation's top passing attack and best WR on the road. Few if any teams could survive this stretch unbeaten.

Texas is getting the job done primarily at the QB, WR, and DL positions. Offensively it starts with McCoy, completing 82% of his passes and compiling a 186.5 passer rating. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby have each hauled in over 55 receptions and average a combined 178 ypg. Shipley has legitimately become one of the nation's best receivers, finally meeting those expectations that seasons of nagging injuries had left largely unrealized. When all is said and done, the Texas offense ranks 5th in scoring.

The Horns ranks 29th in scoring defense, but considering that they've faced the #2, 4, and 6 scoring offenses, that's really not a bad stat. The line is key as they hold opponents to the third-lowest rushing totals nationally, forcing Texas's opponents into an aerial duel with McCoy. The secondary is also an improved unit.

2. Alabama
Proving that he is in fact Ma Jae Yoon in head coach form, Saban's transformation of Alabama is complete. The Tide boast the nation's #10 scoring defense, and if they didn't turn the switch off in the second half against Georgia it would easily be ranked higher. This unit has saved its best performances for the road, where they shut down Georgia for a half and held Tennessee to 9 points - sure, a struggling Tennessee claw-your-own-eyes-out-fense, but nonetheless something that just doesn't happen at Rocky Top. That's a good thing, as the Tide's toughest game before the SECCG is at LSU.

But Alabama's had good defense in the past; the problem was always that they got hung out to dry. The difference between this team and others is that they pack enough punch on the other side of the ball to give the defense a breather and put a modest amount of points on the board. Like Saban's championship Tigers, Alabama employs a three RB system that grinds out 200+ ypg. Freshman WR Julio Jones is the only real receiving threat, but the big tight end Nick Walker gets his share of catches to occupy the middle.

(Bonus points: Alabama is responsible for the hit of the year, falling victim to an Eric Berry 360-degree (really, 540-degree) hit last weekend.)

3. Penn State
I'm going to be honest that this is a kind ranking for me, as I didn't see a top five team playing in Columbus on Saturday. Penn State went out and scheduled Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, Syracuse, and Temple when they already play in a weak conference. Add to that the fact that they don't face conference #3 Minnesota - yes, right now Minnesota is the 3rd-best team in the Big Ten - and you have probably the easiest path to the title game that any contender faces. If Texas Tech upsets Texas, don't be surprised to see the Red Raiders move up.

That said, maybe there's an explanation for Penn State having a schedule that includes Ohio State and eleven cupcakes. Maybe in his age, JoePa confused Coastal Carolina with East Carolina (I mean, the part of the Carolinas that borders the ocean is eastern...). Maybe he saw Donovan McNabb's college highlights on Youtube and said whoa, we need to schedule Syracuse, not realizing that McNabb hasn't played there in a decade. I dunno, I'm trying to think of something.

But they've played who they've played and for the most part, PSU has dominated every game except this last one. Penn State has the #3 scoring defense in the country, giving up just three ppg more than USC. Incidently, PSU let Ohio State score 6 points while USC surrendered just 3, so I think there's some accuracy to this! In all seriousness, though, this is one of the nation's better defenses.

But the offense was exposed by this same Buckeye team for the snake oil that it is. They were completely unable to move the ball against an Ohio State defense whose problems against real offenses have been well documented, and that makes me think that Penn State's season plays out in one of the following ways:

1) Go 12-0, face a Big 12 team in the championship game. Lose 59-20. Colt McCoy/Graham Harrell/Sam Bradford sets a championship game passing record.
2) Go 12-0, face a SEC team in the championship game. Lose 32-9. SEC improves to 5-0 in championship games: three victories over the Big Ten, one over Oklahoma, and one over Florida State.
3) Go 12-0, get left out to play in the Rose Bowl against USC. Lose 24-3. USC continues to do the BCS's dirty work despite getting screwed by that very system in 2003.

Eh, maybe I'm too much of a cynic. YAY BIG TEN FOOTBALL!

4. Florida
Since their bizarre one-point loss to Mississippi, Florida has been on an absolute tear. winning each game by 30 or more. In fact, Mississippi was the only team who's even managed a close score against UF, and the Gators' defense has been downright nasty. They're 6th in scoring - up from 41st a year ago. Solidly in the 'teens against both run and pass, and the secondary has produced a 5:10 ratio of TD:INT.

Offensively, the good news is that two UF backs have each gained more ground yardage than Tim Tebow. The bad news is that they've still combined for just 81 carries to his 82. Some of these are sacks, sure, but Tim is still carrying more of the load on offense than Meyer would like. This overreliance indeed cost Florida their lone loss of the season, as everyone on defense knew exactly what was coming.

The Gators face Georgia this weekend, and a win here could start their discussion with the voters of forgiving that odd loss.

5. Texas Tech
Well, it was about damn time the Red Raiders finally decided to show up. They were kind of the de facto Top 10 undefeated team, but after a complete dismantling of Kansas last week they've finally done something to show they're worth ranking in the Top 5. This week, on the other hand, is going to be one hell of a showdown, and Chris is excited about not getting to see this game and getting a rebroadcast of Duke / Wake Forest instead.

How'd they get here? Imagine at the beginning of the season, I told you Texas Tech would start off 8-0. How do you think they'd get there? Smashmouth football and a great defense, obviously.

6. USC
USC was barely left out of the top five, and it was pretty much entirely because we couldn't leave Texas Tech out of the top five for two teams with a loss apiece. And while the Red Raiders have gotten off to a shaky start, they've played a few teams the quality of Oregon State and managed not to lose to any of them.

So that kinda explains why they are where they are. But what about who they are? (what?!) USC is the only team in the country allowing fewer than 10 ppg, at a measly 8.1! With seven games under their belt, the Trojan defense has given up over 10 just once, and that abberation of a game is responsible for 27 of the 57 total points they've surrendered all season! USC's defense is #2 against the pass and #10 against the run, which is pretty tough to be in the top ten for both categories. The stars are Rey Mauluga and Taylor Mays, but really everyone on this defense is good.

The inconsistencies have been on offense. Some weeks this unit looks unstoppable, even when they're playing someone other than Washington State or Ohio State. Against the Arizona schools, they looked flat, and they showed up a little too late against Oregon State. Overall, this is the #14 scoring unit in the country, so it is more a question of consistency that capability, as clearly they are able to put points on the board. Mark Sanchez is turning the ball over too many times, and despite the fact that USC is +3 in turnovers, back when they were playing for championships their turnover margin per game was greater than 1.

Nonetheless, a very strong team.

7. Georgia
Where the fuck has this kind of effort been all season? Stafford was efficient and Moreno ran roughshod all over a seemingly good LSU defense. Sure UGA gave up a bunch of points, but three TDs came after the game was all-but-over. How this is the same team that got killed by Bama before squeaking by Tennessee and Vandy, we're not sure. That's also why we're keeping them below USC.

At this point, the only thing we can really say is that UF-UGA is a must-watch game. This has really been two different teams at various points of the season... only, unlike last season when it was like a spark went off midway through, this time around it's been more like a weekly coin flip. Which side lands up is probably going to determine how the Dawgs are viewed when it's time for bowl selection and final rankings, as Florida has been punishing every team they've faced since OMU.

8. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State roughed up the Texas defense with a physical running game and huge receiving tight end, while the defense forced McCoy into two critical mistakes. If this is a blueprint for how to beat Texas, the problems are that a) nobody else Texas faces is capable of executing that gameplan and b) it wasn't enough anyway.

Oklahoma State's defense has looked great, though, in their biggest two games. Most teams would expect to give up 51 points apiece to Texas and Missouri, so holding those two offenses to that is actually a strong performance. Meanwhile, Kendall Hunter is one of the nation's top backs, averaging 140 ypg rushing, and Keith Toston is a real beast averaging 7.3 yards a pop (65 ypg) - very tough to bring down. The Cowboys play Big 12 football the way it used to be played; refreshing to see that it can still work in the era of the airraid and zone read offenses.

9. Oklahoma
The biggest shafting in the week-to-week rankings happened to Oklahoma, who beat Kansas State by 23 but dropped 5 spots, including being passed by a team who lost last weekend! (Oklahoma State) How's that happen? For starters, Florida, Georgia, and Texas Tech all won convincingly. USC continues to play great defense, which we value better than great offense... unless the QB is completing 107% of his passes which is clearly impossible to stop. Oklahoma State... well, they played Texas closer than the Sooners did despite the game being in Austin. And they've beaten Missouri. And they run the ball and play defense. Good enough for me.

Let's talk about OU though, why they're a top ten team and maybe better than we're giving them credit. Sam Bradford is fucking awesome. He's thrown 29 touchdowns and averages 15 yards per completion, which we think is a little low but at least it's not 12 (Chase Daniel, Colt McCoy). We are a little concerned that Bradford hasn't thrown a 50+ yard TD pass in his last three games, although we suspect it's because defenders are tackling OU receivers inside the 5 in an attempt to sabotage his manly stats. Slingin Sammy threw three such passes against TCU, leading us to postulate that he may be saving his deepest passes for the toughest teams. With TTU and OSU still on the schedule, we've got plenty to look forward to.

10. Boise State
So this is one place where there may be a gap between them and the team above, and by "may be" we mean "probably is." I haven't seen Boise play like a team capable of making a game against Texas Tech, but they've handled a mostly easy schedule as well as we'd expect. The thing separating them from the three other midmajor unbeatens is the road win over a ranked BCS opponent - Oregon.

11. Utah
At this point, we just can't give any credit for beating Michigan and Oregon State as both teams are in disarray. Brian Johnson is again putting up kinda meh stats, and Darrell Mack has conceded the role of leading rusher. They're playing TCU next week in what will be a proving game.

12. TCU
Speaking of, we'd written these guys off a bit prematurely and that came back to bite us in the ass. TCU has a good defense and plays well when they're ahead. They've got almost a +190 yard rushing differential, which means they're really controlling the flow of the game and hanging onto the ball. Unfortuantely, against the Sooners "hanging onto the ball" meant Bradford was throwing 60-yard TD passes, but hey at least the defense isn't getting tired.

13. Missouri
Again, it's a matter of playing two tough opponents, but the Missouri of last season would have found a way to win one of those games. Or so we think. One way or another, something's missing from this team and we think that's consistency.

14. Tulsa
God, Tulsa almost made us sweat last night, playing way too close against UCF before finally deciding to open up and score on 850 consecutive possessions in the second half. That sums up Tulsa in a nutshell - ridiculously fast-scoring offense, ridiculously explosive offense, ridiculously on-fire defense in a very literal sense, ridiculously easy schedule, ridiculously crazy impending blowout in a BCS bowl if Boise State and Utah spit the bit.

15. Ball State
Again, we're not sure how strong they are - ie, how well they would really stack up with some of the teams ranked #25 - without Dante Love. But fuck it, they've played eight solid games.

25. West Virginia
On one hand, WVU probably doesn't deserve to be ranked this high. On the other hand, they pretty much straight dominated and wore out an Auburn team that still kind of has a defense (although that may vary with time as they get used to playing 40 minutes a game). Also, they were kind of left for dead after their craptastic opening, but it looks like Bill Stewart finally figured out to let Pat White run instead of pass.

That being said, WVU is still in the driver's seat in the Big East, although upcoming back-to-back games against UConn and Cincinnati will help to figure out just how far that'll carry. If recent form holds at this point, WVU is going to lose by 20.

25. Ohio State
Buckeye. Of course, they won't lose another game this season, and they have tiebreakers over Michigan State and Minnesota, so we're probably going to see Ohio State in the Rose Bowl again. You know what that means:

Don't Cry Out Loud II: Don't Cry Out Louder. (Well, technically Don't Cry Out Loud IV, but we're not getting into the Friday the 13th-level sequels until we have to.) If you wanted to see what Ohio State would have looked like facing USC with Terelle Pryor and Beanie Wells, tune in to see pretty much the exact same thing happen again.

25. LSU
This is punishment for two stinkbombs in a row; at this point, LSU has beaten everyone who's clearly better than them but gotten rocked by two teams that are clearly Top 10 material. We're not totally skeptical yet, but they're on probation until they do something else. The matchup against Alabama in a couple of weeks will be a key indicator that they may be better than we thought .... well, either that or if they get outright Giggity'd later.

25. BYU
We're not sure whether the TCU game was a hiccup or if BYU's offense is just that unable to handle a legitimate defense. The decision-making that game was horrible as BYU basically abandoned the run and allowed the Frogs' defensive front to focus on pass rush. Unfortunately they only have one more chance to redeem themselves - against Utah.

25. North Carolina
After a bizarre slip against Virginia, the Sextoncannon's back on course with an outburst against Boston College that was largely keyed by the defense. Closing the seasons with at least two wins is almost a sure thing; three or four are possible.

25. Minnesota
We want to point out that Minnesota is 7-1 and has a very winnable final four games. All of us here at Left Field Bluffs are rooting for the Gophers to go 11-1, for Ohio State to drop some random game, and Minny to go to the Rose Bowl. Preferably while two Big 12 teams ranked ahead of them are skipped over because Jim Delany wants his goddamn tradition preserved. And Minnesota does a great job of continuing what Illinois started last season, namely getting blown out by USC.

25. Michigan State
This season, one great RB equals a top 25 team. *sigh*

25. Oregon
It's not that they've beaten anybody good, so much as it is that they haven't lost to anybody bad.

25. USF
Losing two of their last three, the Bulls are dropping fast. Most seasons these losses would probably drop them out of the top 25, but no... meanwhile, Grothe has thrown as many INTs as TDs in each of these losses, and once again has fit the role of a double-edged sword.

26. Florida State
Look, don't think Florida State is good. So far, they've beaten 2 1-AA teams, a neophyte Miami team, NC State, Colorado (meh), and Virginia Tech. Sure, that VT game looks good on paper until you realize that a) Tyrod Taylor only played one snap and b) Sean Glennon didn't make it out of the third quarter. In other words, they beat a team that was playing its emergency QB - a converted WR at that - by only 10. Ye gods. Hopefully Georgia Tech can beat the shit out of them and we can move on to more sane things.

Watch list:

Cal - had they not had a bizarre third quarter meltdown against 'Zona, they'd be yet another team with #25 beside their name. Yes, that's how desparate we're getting.

Connecticut - they beat Cincy, who was on our watch list. A good outing against West Virginia would put them into the discussion.

Notre Dame - god, how we hate, hate, HATE seeing this team up here. Hopefully they can blow a game and get off this list, but at this point 5-2 while looking quasi-competent is good enough to effectively be a top 30 team.

Anyone who plays a good 60 minutes on Saturday - seriously. Last season, there were 40 top 25 teams and maybe 3 top 10 teams. This season there's about 9 top 5 teams and 20 top 30 teams. You know what I mean. We've seen a reversal from widespread parity into consolidation of power, as the only upsets in the top 15 right now are USC's loss to Oregon State and Florida's loss to Ole Miss. Everyone else in our top 15 is either unbeaten or lost to a higher-ranked team. I can't ever remember that being true at this stage in the season. The top teams are good - very good - for sure. But nobody else is pulling their own weight, either.

Monday, October 27

Pac 10 October Rankings

In a flagrant display of EAST COAST BIAS (I live in Colorado, which is basically in New England), I've been seriously slacking with my Pac 10 updates. To be honest, the only reason I've kept doing them for the Big 12 is the cross-posting with Fantasy College Blitz -- I don't really have time to look at 22 teams when only 6 or 7 of them are interesting, but that's okay.

In a complete and utter shock, USC fields the top two teams in the Pac 10 when you count their second-stringers. Also in a complete and utter shock (note the lack of sarcasm this time around), everyone else blows. Seriously, blows. I don't know what's going on here but nobody else is giving two straight weeks of solid performance.

Marquee wins include USC mercilessly wtfpwning Ohio State and Virginia - yes, Virginia somehow turned it around, and at the very least no longer look like a bottom ten team (most of the ACC is worse than them, for example). Also Cal over Michigan State is looking good.

Marquee losses include UCLA getting 59-0'd by BYU, Cal losing to Maryland, Arizona losing to New Mexico, Arizona State losing to UNLV, Oregon losing to Boise State... and pretty much every game either Washington school has played, except for the fluke victory against Portland Community College.

In fact, the Pac 10 is the only Big 6 conference that currently has a combined losing nonconference record. Now, I don't know if anyone actually thinks they're worse than the ACC (Midnight Madness! Coming soon!)... but they're a far cry from the powerhouse of 2007.

Without further adieu, the rankings:

1. USC (6-1, 4-1)
Most people were picking Arizona or Stanford, and out of nowhere THE USC TROJANS are #1 in the Pac 10! This will be just their seventh BCS-bound season under Pete Carroll, so that's got to be really exciting for fans out in California, as well as destroying the rest of the nation's image of the conference as a one-team show!

2. USC's Scout Team
Led by elite QB Mitch Mustain, this group features USC's 2010 defense, which will also allow about 10 ppg, and USC's 8th-string running back, who would be a starter for at least 95 other programs. Rumor has it that Mustain will transfer to Iowa next season, just as Bobby Petrino takes Kirk Ferentz' job, to finally unite the two mercenaries.

3. Oregon (6-2, 4-1)
You can make hysterical renditions of other teams' fight songs by quacking. (better if you also hold your hands in front of your face like a mini-Gator chomp) We've tried it out with the song for USC, Texas, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Michigan, Notre Dame... oh god, nonstop lolz. LOLZ, folks! Buckeye, folks! Looooonghorns, folks - that's Bevo's happy face. I can tell because I'm fucking stoned, folks. This team has only lost to USC and Boise State, so that makes them better than everyone else.

4. Arizona (5-3, 3-2)
Bob Stoops' less-evil brother knew that if he waited around long enough for the conference to have a really crappy season, his Wildcats could finish #3! High enough to maybe get into the Holiday Bowl and upset Oklahoma (oh god that would rule... I just thought of this shit now, and I gotta say... I really hope it happens). You hear that, Holiday Bowl selection committee? BATTLE OF THE STOOPS!

5. California (5-2, 3-1)
After flagrantly choking games against Maryland (MARYLAND!) and Arizona (28 points allowed in 10 minutes?), it's official that nobody is allowed to "believe in" Cal ever again. Lest they be reminded of the 2004 season when they whined a bunch then lost to Texas Tech. The Golden Hippies face Oregon and USC in their next two games.

6. Oregon State (4-3, 3-1)
I went back and forth between them and Stanford, before saying "fuck it, they beat USC" which earns them a spot in the top half of the conference. Also, they suck... which is fortunate, because sometimes if you're bad enough a good team will overlook you.

7. Stanford (4-4, 3-2)
How do you beat Arizona and lose to UCLA in consecutive weeks? Trees are supposed to be consistent, hardly changing from year to year let alone week to week. And when will you pluralize your name dammit! I can tolerate uppityness only when you're posting respectable results.

8. UCLA (3-5, 2-3)
When they beat Tennessee, I bought into this team - honestly, I did. Yes I saw how horrible their offense looked, but they pulled it out against a good SEC team even after their QB threw 25 first half interceptions! What other explanation is there? Oh, what, Tennessee blows this year? Oh so that's why! Oh and that explains how they can win that game while losing to BYU and Fresno. Ahhhhh, I get it!

Also blah blah blah His Coachness blah blah blah.

9. Arizona State (2-5, 1-3)
Last win: Sept 6, 2008.

10. Pac 10 Coaching Staff All-Stars
Not 13 years ago, Jim Harbaugh was quarterbacking the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game, nearly pulling off the comeback victory over Pittsburgh despite having a dislocated shoulder on his throwing arm. Isn't Ken Norton a linebackers coach at USC? These guys have still got it! Actually, I'm not sure they shouldn't be higher... ASU doesn't have players like that.

11. Washington (0-7, 0-4)
Last win: Nov 17, 2007.
If you're wondering, they don't play Wazzou till Nov 22, so yes going a year between wins is possible.

12. Washington State (1-7, 0-5)
Okay, I ranked them below a team who might not win a single game over a 370 day span. That really should say enough. Also they set some kind of record for allowing 60+ points the most times during a season, and they still have five games to go! That's kinda like the opposite of Michael Crabtree setting the freshman WR TD record halfway through 2007!

Big 12 October Rankings

Done with October, most teams have played eight games and we're starting to get a pretty good guage on everybody. It's been a great season for the Big 12, lacking for one thing though: the marquee nonconference victory. Oklahoma giving TCU their only loss may look big if the Frogs finish 11-1, but right now we're not willing to put a lot of weight on that. OU blowing out Cincinnati? Looked good until the Bearcats were run out by UConn last weekend. Missouri over Illinois? The Illini tanked and would need to beat Ohio State to restore legitimacy. Colorado over West Virginia? We'll get back to you on that one.

The writers, voters, and computers all like what's going on in the conference, and I guess that affirms it. But really, you'd have to watch the games to tell either way whether the conference is strong or if this is a case like the 2006 Big Ten. (well, that seems logical enough. I mean of course that the numbers alone could tell a story of strong offenses or weak nonconference opposition for most of the top teams) Speaking of which, I can't wait to see these teams playing in some bowl games.

But that's for December and January. Let's talk about November. The Big 12 boasts five of the top six offenses, and when you consider that #1 is Tulsa, that's gotta make people a little suspicious that something's in the Great Plains waters. On the other side of the ball, we don't see anyone in the bottom ten defenses, but there are three teams in the bottom 11-20. At #29, Texas boasts the strongest scoring defense in the country. We now direct all Pac 10 fans to turn around those jeers they've heard from seasons past.

How does this league of crazy offenses and crazy QBs line up?

1. Texas (8-0, 4-0)
Look at the four teams below them, and Texas has already beaten three of them. That's why they're sitting at the top. Colt McCoy is arguably the best quarterback in the conference... also arguably #4. (#5 if Cream had an offense) Yes it's that kind of season and that level of talent on the teams competing to deny Mack Brown his second BCS title. It doesn't matter though, Texas has been finding ways to win. Hook em.

2. Texas Tech (8-0, 4-0)
I'm iffy on this one, but damn if it doesn't set up a conference #1 vs #2 next weekend. Also damn if they aren't the only other unbeaten teams in the conference, which has to count for something. If TTU really did find their spark last weekend in Kansas, it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma are their next three games.

On another note, if TTU upsets UT, I'm fully on the Red Raiders 2008 National Championship bandwagon. Who doesn't want to see Mike Leach dispense more dating advice before the biggest game in school history? Or maybe he'll just unveil the secret to nuclear fusion.

3. Oklahoma State (7-1, 3-1)
There's not a lot separating #3 and #4, and really this team could be #2. Yikes. Yeah, where did this team come from? Oklahoma State was supposed to be rebuilding after losing Savage and Bowman. (how did anyone beat them when they had this team plus those players??) Instead, the Cowboys could have the best defense in the conference, and certainly they have the best ground game. Amazing season.

4. Oklahoma (7-1, 3-1)
Don't worry, if manliness still has any value in this conference, OU will be climbing the rankings by beating the short-throwing Red Raiders and the medium-throwing Cowboys. Sam Bradford correctly recognizes that 6 yard completions are worthless and first and goal means the line had better take a holding penalty to give him room to throw. He's the toughest quarterback to stop when the offense is in the red zone, and by "in the red zone" I mean "on the field."

5. Missouri (6-2, 2-2)
Missouri was supposed to have an easy schedule they could get to the B12CG 12-0 with. And we're 95% sure they'll play in the B12CG, but the question is with how many losses? The Tigers have already dropped two games to stiff opposition as both Texas and Oklahoma State are way better than they looked in the preseason, and the Tigers still face arch rival Kansas.

6. Kansas (5-3, 2-2)
Kansas is the first team in the conference who's really had a disappointing season - you can't blame Missouri for losing to teams that are just good. KU has dropped three already and they're looking at a 7-5 season after getting run out by Tech.

7. Nebraska (5-3, 2-2)
The Red Carpets were rolled out for Virginia Tech in an embarassing loss, but everything else has been either a result of NU being way overmatched or far outclassing their opponent in completely predictable results. November is an interesting month as they face the team above them and the two teams right below them.

8. Colorado (4-4, 1-3)
This is why I refuse to care about Colorado football. Since joining the Big 12, the ONLY thing CU has done is to screw up the 2001 season and then get blown out in the Fiesta Bowl to start the Oregon quackfest. Oh, sure, they start the season 3-0 with a win over West Virginia. Where are they now? Sitting at .500.

9. Kansas State (4-4, 1-3)
Below Colorado because of a 1 point road loss, and as much as I hate it, it looks like they'd wipe up the Cream now. KSU does boast the sixth-most productive offense in the conference, and this year that's actually saying something. Then again, that could be saying that they're still scheduling teams like Bill Synder had never left. I dunno. Yay Kansas State!

10. Baylor (3-5, 1-3)
Reality hit His Creamness like a truck as Baylor couldn't get anything going in the second half against the Nebraska Red Carpet defense. Apparently, you do need those 21 other guys to contribute something in order to win, and Baylor will watching bowl games from their living rooms once again. Not implying anything, but Colt McCoy has just one year left of his eligibility, so if Griffin transfers in 2009... (*envisions the Cream-Brown dynasty unfolding... so wrong yet so right*)

11. Texas A&M (3-5, 1-3)
Gig em! Gig Iowa State! And get gigged by everyone else! You're not fooling anyone, Aggie.

12. Iowa State (2-6, 0-4)
They didn't just lose - they got KILLED on defense by Texas A&M. And they've already lost to Baylor. There's nothing to say.

SEC October Rankings

Well, we’re now most of the way through the first two-ish months of the season, and in the SEC that’s good enough to get a feel for who’s going to be championship contenders and who’s going to need to win out to get to the Music City Bowl. However, there’s kind of an ugly secret going through the SEC; it may only really go four teams deep, at least compared to what we’re used to.

What does only going four deep mean? It means everyone's going to start talking shit about the conference come next season, depending on how the lower-end teams do in their bowl games. This is a season where the SEC kind of gets a pass, but if you look the signs of decay are there - and here's a hint: look for the teams wearing orange.

1. Alabama (8-0, 5-0)
This is the obvious selection, buoyed by a complete demolition of Georgia and the whole “still being undefeated” thing. The defense is still excellent and the offense is effective enough, as their line play on both sides has been the best in the SEC so far. They’re pretty much obviously better than everyone else they play the rest of the season, although the impending tilt with LSU looms large for many, many reasons. One of those reasons is likely not the SEC Championship game, as LSU’s loss yesterday pretty much puts Alabama in line for a 14-game reason.

2. Florida (6-1, 4-1)
Man, who pissed the Gators off? After kind of muddling through the first four-five games of the season, Florida has freaking turned it on and a half the last couple of weeks, completely demolishing LSU and Kentucky in successive, dominant wins. Of particular note are special teams, which are actually special and not ACC-special this season. The offense has finally shown up with a running game in Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, so that coupled with the already-established passing game and workable defense means Florida isn’t out of the title game picture …yet. The Georgia game is going to be nasty, and if they get by that game they’ll likely get Alabama in the SEC Championship game – but if they get by both that’s a pretty good resume. Bonus points: we’ll get to see just how much their pass defense has matured.

3. Georgia (7-1, 4-1)
The game yesterday against LSU was the Georgia we had been hoping to see all season. However, we’ve seen too much of the halfway-decent somewhat-workable Georgia team that’s effective enough to win against most teams, but can get you wrecked to the tune of 31-0 against Alabama. The emergence of A.J. Green as a reliable receiving option has actually shown everyone that Georgia can have a passing game that doesn’t depend on Jesus Massaquoi. Unfortunately, Georgia needs to beat a red-hot Florida team to make it to Atlanta, which isn’t insurmountable but is going to be hard.

4. LSU (5-2, 3-2)
LSU gets this spot because ….well, this is a nice spot to put them, for lack of better terms. Charles Scott is a freaking horse in the backfield, which is the only thing we know for sure about this Tiger team. However, they got wrecked by both Florida and Georgia, and even though they own wins over South Carolina, Auburn, and Mississippi State, that’s basically holding serve. While holding serve is good enough for middle of the pack in most conferences, it’s good enough for fourth here, which kind of worries me.

5. Ole Miss (4-4, 2-3)
Giggity! Ole Miss owns the SEC’s only win over the top 3 teams that wasn’t inflicted by the top 3 teams, and that’s a major distinguisher from everyone else. Sure, they’ve lost to South Carolina and a still-good Vanderbilt team (more on them later), but they played Alabama incredibly well and …well, we need a distinguisher. That’s good enough for now. The rest of their games are mostly winnable, although the road game at LSU is going to be tough. There’s no reason that Ole Miss shouldn’t be bowl-bound this season, though.

6. South Carolina (5-3, 2-3)
I can see an argument for putting South Carolina ahead of Ole Miss, as their losses are to LSU, Georgia, and a still-good Vanderbilt team. However, save the opening win over NC State, South Carolina has been winning pretty hideously, and I don’t know if it’s because the team isn’t good enough to do anything more than that or if it’s just how the team’s set up. I suspect it’s a little of both. They’re predicated – like everyone else – on a quality defense and an occasionally competent offense. Really, the only difference between 6 and 11 is varying degrees of offensive competence. The rest of the schedule isn’t bad – save the Florida game.

7. Vanderbilt (5-3, 3-2)
What the hell is the only other team with a winning record in the SEC doing down at 7th? Well, the wheels have fallen off. The loss to Georgia wasn’t bad, but getting Croomed in Starkville hurt – and that wasn’t even the worst loss. That belongs to losing to Duke at home (although LFB loves us some Cutcliffe). What happened? Well, early-season Vanderbilt was predicated on turnover margin and not making mistakes; in the last three games, they’re -4 in turnover margin and have given up 7 sacks. When you’re living on the edge like Vandy has, when it goes downhill it goes downhill in a hurry. They should end up bowl-eligible when it’s all said and done, though, as Florida is likely the only really unwinnable game left.

8. Kentucky (5-3, 1-3)
Kentucky’s kind of the poor man’s Vanderbilt – a sentiment that’s often true, but it’s not intended as an insult this time around. That being said, Kentucky’s offense is god-freaking-awful, but the defense is solid. Really, they’re kind of a boring team, as they’ve beaten everyone below them and lost to everyone above them. The good news is they get Mississippi State and Tennessee on the schedule, so this is as good a season as any to end up sneaking into a bowl game.

9. Auburn (4-4, 2-3)
We’ve entered the trainwreck portion of the rankings now. Auburn has a freaking hideous offense, a fired offensive coordinator, and a defense that gets hung out to dry way too much. I’m pissed like a jilted lover at the Tigers right now, as they went from darkhorse title contender to darkhorse Independence Bowl contender. Yikes. Of course, to get there they need to beat UT-Martin (should happen) and one of Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. Uh-oh.

10. Tennessee (3-5, 1-4)
Speaking of retard offense, thank god Crompton got benched. Still, Tennessee should have a semi-decent running game, but they’re facing 8-9 in the box and Nick Stephens / the WR corps can’t establish any kind of passing game to generate any kind of pressure release for the running game. On the plus side, the defense is excellent and Sir Eric Berry is a godsend (and the only reason worth watching this team most weeks, as much as that hurts to say). Wyoming should be a win, but other than that I don’t know if Tennessee beats any of South Carolina, Vanderbilt, or Kentucky at this point. I never thought I’d write that sentence before now, but there you go.

11. Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3)
The Croomster still has a chance to pull off a decent finish, but this is basically last year’s team without the numerous TINTs (touchdown from interception). What’s left? A decent defense with completely no offense to speak of whatsoever. There are some kind-of-winnable games on the schedule, including Arkansas and Kentucky, but the Bulldogs have to Croom either Alabama or Ole Miss to reach a bowl, if not both. I’m going to vote for Alabama.

12. Arkansas (3-5, 1-4)
God, this team is freaking lost. Their only win is over the imploding Auburn (plus the 1-AA and Sun Belt victories by a combined 5 points), and all I can say is: good fucking riddance. There’s no respite on the schedule, as they get a pissed-off Tulsa team looking for revenge after the dropping of Gus Malzahn, LSU, and two road games (South Carolina and Croomville). 3-9 is a very realistic possibility, as these Razorbacks don’t do much of anything good, Michael Smith excepted.

Friday, October 24

Big 10 Week 9 Preview

Looking at the Big 10 this week, and every team beyond the top 2 is a topsy turvy look at how the Big 10 has been this past decade. You have Penn State and Ohio State at the top, followed by Michigan State, Northwestern, and Minnesota. Purdue, Wisconsin, and Indiana line the bottom of the conference, and two of those teams were supposed to be competitive this year. Wasn't it just not too long ago when Wisconsin was ranked in the Top 10? Yes... it's one of those years for the Big 10.

I still think that Michigan State has a great chance at being a solid #3 in the conference behind OSU and PSU this year, and Minnesota's lone loss to OSU doesn't look bad at all. However, I see all the teams below the top 2 dropping at least one game between now and the end of the season.

GAME OF THE WEEK - Penn State vs Ohio State - The #3 ranked Nittany Lions come to the Horseshoe to face a Buckeye team that needs a statement win. The only problem is, the statement win comes in conference, and will make their conference look "weaker". Pryor didn't have a terrible game last week, but that second half was attrocious for the Buckeye offense. The defense, however, held their ground, but it will be much more difficult with the Spread HD in town.

The question really comes down to the PSU offense vs the OSU defense. Can the Buckeyes, whose defense hasn't been as stingy as they were supposed to be, keep the Lions offense off the field? Will they just have Laurinitis spy on Clark all game and open up the middle for passing routes? We'll find out!

Northwestern vs Indiana - IU is a disappointment for the Big 10 this year. Kellen Lewis has not played up to his potential, and the defense is just, well, horrible. Northwestern, however, has overperformed, with their only loss coming to a good Michigan State team. Sutton runs around the IU defense and we see Northwestern continue to build confidence this weekend.

Minnesota vs Purdue - Curtis Painter was supposed to be better than this. Especially with Cory Sheets in the backfield, and decent wideouts, and a spread system which allows him to throw with very little pressure. Andrew Weber was not supposed to have the kind of breakout year he's having. Minnesota's defense has been opportunistic, if not consistent, and it has been the reason why they've been able to stay in games. Turnovers will be the reason why this game is won or lost.

Illinois vs Wisconsin - This is a matchup of Big 10's Should-have-beens. If not for the loss to an upstart Minnesota their 2 losses would have been to top 10 teams. However, they did put up over 50 pts against a horrid Indiana defense. Does Juice keep up the momentum gained from the last game? Or does Wisconsin hold their own at Camp Randall this time? Wisconsin has lost 4 straight games since losing to Michigan at the Big House.

Michigan State vs Michigan - Rich Rodriguez knows that this game is important for morale. You can't let an in-state rival come and beat you... but there's not much he can do with the talent he has remaining. Michigan State's lone loss to OSU, albeit the fact that it was by such a huge margin, should have them fired up. The Wolverines will probably be so-so in the first half, but if they come out raging in the second half like they have every so often, then this will be a game to watch.

Thursday, October 23

Big 12 Week 9 Games

Last week, everyone and their mom picked Texas to have a letdown game against Missouri. As they'd say in Boston, not Austin, FACK YOU HATAHS! YOU DO NAWT RECOGNIZE A GREAHT TEAM WHEN YOU SEE ONE!

This weekend it's another showdown of unbeatens in the Big 12, either Texas or Oklahoma State will emerge as the favorite to win the South division, and if Oklahoma State wins they will begin their case for inclusion in the national title picture. Don't forget Texas Tech, still an unknown thanks to their schedule, or for that matter Robert Cream Griffin III - ie, mini-Vince Young trying to lead a jr college squad to NCAA glory. Man I wish this guy had talent around him; that'd be fun to watch.

Texas Tech @ Kansas
After dozing through a soft schedule, Texas Tech has not looked particularly great against Nebraska and Texas A&M. They do, however, boast a perfect record. Kansas, on the other hand, has lost tough games against USF and Oklahoma. For completely different reasons, both teams need this win to establish legitimacy. As we'd expect, Texas Tech has the edge in this matchup in most offensive categories but gives up the edge on defense.

Oklahoma @ Kansas State
Sam Bradford's arm was throbbing with extra intensity this week at the prospect of playing such a depleted secondary. Real men average 25 yards per completion, regardless of what that does to their percentage.

Baylor @ Nebraska
His Creamness has the Baylor Bears teetering on playing a game after November - upset of Texas, Texas Tech, or Missouri pending - and while it would be a bowl we've never heard of played in a city we've never heard of, dammit Baylor will be one of the elite 98 FBS teams to get an invite! Thank god there's no playoff to kill the meaningfulness of having a bowl game for every semi-decent team plus Notre Dame.

Oklahoma State @ Texas
Texas has probably the hardest four-game stretch in college football, facing Oklahoma at a neutral site, Missouri then Oklahoma State at home, and Texas Tech on the road. Halfway through that stretch, the Horns have looked amazing and have earned the #1 ranking. Oklahoma tested Texas' ability to stop a quarterback with great deep accuracy and strong offensive and defensive lines. UT won with special teams and by controlling the ground game. Missouri tested Texas' ability to stop one of the best precision-passers in college football, the nation's top tight end, and the most versatile all-around player Jeremy Maclin. Colt McCoy turned in arguably the best performance of his career and the Horns won by not making mistakes. Oklahoma State presents a different kind of challenge. The Cowboys feature the most physical running attack in the Big 12, one of the conference's top two pure WRs, and arguably the conference's best defense. Texas's defense has turned in a few excellent performances for a half in their last two wins... it will need a full effort this Saturday as points should be harder to come by this week.

Colorado @ Missouri
Though far too late, the Missouri offense did show what it is capable of in the second half against Texas, after six mediocre quarters in their last two games. Colorado has completely dropped the ball on a promising early season.

Texas A&M @ Iowa State
And if you're curious who the worst team in the conference is, watch this. Or look at the box score Sunday morning.

SEC Week 9 Games: WTF are they doing playing on Thursday?

Last week wasn’t terribly eventful in the SEC; sure, Tennessee had an excellent defensive game (and 34-3 at least looks like they got their shit together), but how much credit do we give for a dominating defensive performance against Mississippi State? Arkansas looked competent for three quarters, but that didn’t really matter in the end. LSU / South Carolina was largely craptastic (and for the record, that ref has already used up his eligibility, otherwise he’d be playing in the Big 12 this weekend). Vanderbilt / UGA and Ole Miss / Alabama were both entertaining, but the favorites won in both cases.

What does that leave us with? Well, it’s another mostly dead weekend – save a vicious Georgia / LSU tilt. Also, apparently it’s the Third Saturday in October, but don’t tell that to your calendar. Also, Auburn / West Virginia kicks off in half an hour, so let’s hope this is up in time, otherwise that preview is going to look pretty funny.

Auburn @ West Virginia
This definitely isn’t the dead game of the week, although both programs are arguably on life support. (This joke has been approved by the Corny Writers of ESPN Union.) However, it’s the game that begins the earliest this week, so it might as well be on top. It’s on Thursday, so let’s be honest – you’re watching it anyway, unless you’re one of those crazies who watch baseball. Don’t expect a great game, and I can’t really tell you a whole lot more than that other than this game will probably be a little bit ugly.

MTSU @ Mississippi State
Now, this is going to be pretty terrible. I’d almost give MTSU the edge (they beat Maryland! Remember this when the Terps somehow end up ranked), but Starkville is a black hole of offense. Expect a pretty hideous game, so be glad this isn’t on TV.

Kentucky @ Florida
I actually expect Kentucky to keep this closer than expected, but at the end of the day, this is still a Raycom game. [witty – okay, “witty” – banter about the teams goes here]

Duke @ Vanderbilt
That’s right – Vandy’s almost bowl-eligible! Unfortunately, they go up against the power football currently stationed in Durham, NC. God, the fact that anyone’s paying attention to this game is hilarious for so many reasons, but in the absence of any actual analysis, might as well take Duke for the upset. Vandy can just beat Tennessee later to get bowl-eligible.

Alabama @ Tennessee
It’s the Not Third Saturday in October! Of course, the Vols are more than likely going to get smoked here (which will probably do Fulmer in if he isn’t already toast, but that’s neither here nor there); I, on the other hand, will be watching to see if Eric Berry plays every snap as he damn well should. Berry is the world’s best argument for cloning.

Ole Miss @ Arkansas
As odd as it sounds, I am so incredibly pissed that this game isn’t on TV. Anything and everything could happen here, up to and including a forfeit. I hope Ole Miss wins by 84 and Nutt flips the bird to the Arkansas faithful as he walks off the field. Good riddance.

Georgia @ LSU
This should be badass, get-hyped-up-and-yell-like-hell football. That’s right, it’s a night game in Tiger Stadium, but if you think there’s going to be a blackout – well, that would actually be hilarious. Don’t count on it, though.

Sunday, October 19

Week 8 Top 25

1. Texas
Is there any doubt? Colt McCoy completed 29 of 32 passes (91%... and on the season, he's 81%) against Missouri as the Longhorns jumped out to a quick 35-3 halftime lead, which by the way was the final score of the Ohio State-USC thrashing. Buckeye. An offense that had gone 3-and-out just twice all season did it three times in its first four drives against Texas. The second half was the shootout we were expecting the entire game to be, although the UT second string defense played for the final few drives. So what's next after a showdown with Oklahoma and a beating of Missouri? How about a matchup with unbeaten BCS #6 Oklahoma State! Yay Big 12 South schedule!

2. Alabama
The Tide are still at #2 because we remember they manhandled Georgia, while Penn State still hasn't played anyone good. It's certainly not because struggling to beat Kentucky and Mississippi in consecutive home games is impressive by any stretch. The Tide must impress again at Tennessee, because Penn State has a chance to really show us what they're made of this weekend...

3. Penn State
... as their next game is at Ohio State. Buckeye. PSU played their first craptastic half against Michigan but still won the game by 29, so we can't be too hard on them. Through 8 games PSU has still surrendered over 20 points just once and still been held under 35 just once. They're dominating everybody, winning each game by at least 14. This week's showdown between the futures of the Big 10 - Terrelle Pryor and Darryl Clark - is the Nittany Lions' statement game. Win here, and they have an easy finish to the season with Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan State.

4. Oklahoma
Offensively, OU played yet another excellent game to hang 45 on Kansas. This season they've scored at least 35 in every game played. The problem is that their defense gave up 31 to a team who's clearly a step below where they were last season. OU has to be worried that Jake Sharp shredded their run D, though props to the secondary for holding Todd Reesing below 60% passing and picking him off twice.

5. USC
While 69 points allowed is technically Wazzou's season high, they've given up 66 twice and 63 once, so we're not reading too heavily into that game. Come to think of it, how did these guys even beat Portland State? Anyway... what can be said about USC is that their defense has given up over 10 points just once all season. In a year where quarterbacks and offenses are dominating everywhere, here's one team who's doing it the good old fashioned way. Defense wins championships, and if a few teams falter USC will be a strong title contender with that monstrous defense.

6. Florida
Florida had a bye week to prepare for Kentucky, and by that we mean look ahead to Georgia.

7. Oklahoma State
Robert "Cream" Griffin III was held to his worst performance of the season since becoming starter in week 2, as the OSU defense had a second straight standout performance. Next up: Texas!

8. Ohio State
Here at Left Field Bluffs, we have embraced the horror. Ohio State showed that there is a clear gap between the top two and the bottom nine, and what that means is that unless it's possible for both them and Penn State to lose in their matchup this weekend, we'll probably have a Big Ten team in the BCs Championship again. A Big Ten whose resume reads either: a) beat Ohio State or b) beat Penn State and lost to USC. Yeah. To be fair, Terrelle Pryor is finally starting to look like Troy Smith did in 2006, and by "like Troy Smith did in 2006" I mean "don't cryyyyyyy ooooooouuuuuuuuuuttt lllloooooooooooouuuuuuuddd!" It's coming.

9. Georgia
ARP ARP ARP! And yet another uninspiring offensive performance against mediocre opposition. Is everyone else glad we probably won't end up with preseason #1 vs #2? (that would be Georgia vs USC) On the other hand, it couldn't be much worse than what we've gotten the last two years.

10. Texas Tech
TTU leads 38-25, 17 seconds remaining and the clock is in motion. There's nothing A&M can do to stop it, and in fact the play clock has been turned off. Mike Leach calls a flagrantly unnecessary zone read play for one final "fuck you" touchdown, probably just because Harrell at one point commented that the spread option is a pretty sweet offense. This is why we love Mike Leach. Additionally, at this point there's got to be good reason to leave a Big 6 unbeaten out of the top 10, and beating Nebraska is more impressive than anything Utah or Boise have done.

11. Utah
The wins over Michigan and Oregon State look less impressive as the weeks go by, but look who's in the MWC driver's seat now!

12. Boise State
The Broncos continue to win comfortably and with defense holding an opponent to 7 or less in five of six games played so far.

13. LSU
Struggling to beat USC-East is something a lot of SEC teams deal with, which is probably why Phil Steele keeps thinking that eventually those breaks will go the Cocks' way, that eventually they'll turn that 6-6 into 10-2. Note that along with the struggling comes the beating because, as of yet... and it hasn't happened. LSU has a chance to climb back into the top 10 against Georgia/

14. South Florida
With over two weeks to let their loss simmer, USF came out refocused to destroy Syracuse.

15. TCU
Did we underrate TCU, overrate BYU, or all of the above? One way or another, that game wasn't even close. Granted they've essentially beaten a team who themselves have beaten nobody, but we're suspicious that BYU is in fact legit and that this does in fact make TCU reasonably good.

16. Tulsa
Going into the 4th quarter, Tulsa needed just 30 points to hit 100 and they pulled the first string offense. WHY? That surely would have allowed them to leapfrog TCU, just for the coolness factor.

17. Ball State
As the fightin' Balls improve to 7-0 without their best player, we once again saulte the defense. 7 points total in the last 2 weeks. We also note that this is the last team deserving a rank higher than 25, so:

25. Georgia Tech
"To win the ACC, one must run a flagrantly system offense regardless of your personnel" sounds truer this week than ever as GT became the first ACC team to reach 6 wins. We're really looking forward to seeing this patchwork option face the Georgia defense at the end of the season.

25. Missouri
Mizzou has lost to two top 10 teams in two very different ways, but this last loss really casts them into doubt. Texas completely owned the first half and left us wondering if the two advertised elite teams were the UT offense and the UT defense, because we certainly didn't see anything else deserving of mention.

25. BYU
Max Hall was ineffective, the defense was torn apart, and the running game was abandoned as TCU kept kicking long after BYU went down. Their BCS hopes are now gone, but BYU can still win the conference if TCU slips up.

25. Pittsburgh
A convincing road win at Navy marks two consecutive weeks of solid play, and in the Bitg East that's good enough to put you at the top of the standings!

25. Minnesota
We still need to put a few more teams here to have 25, and they are 6-1 with lone loss to Buckeye.

25. Boston College
Oh god.

25. Oregon
Quack quack-quack quack-quack quack quack quack-quack-quack quack-quack! QUACK-QUACK! (done to the tune of USC's "Fight On")

25. Michigan State
We argued about this spot more than any other, with the two sides being that a) Northwestern is 6-1 and didn't get the shit kicked out of them on Saturday vs b) MSU rolled NW just eight days ago, and if they had played against 2006 Ohio State redux on Saturday, they too would have been blown out. Frankly, neither team deserves it. Somebody else please step up, please.

Watch List:
Note that these teams really suck, as they aren't yet worthy of mention alongside Boston College.

The Maryland of the west coast, U of A found ways to get Cal to play to their level yet choked a game against New Mexico. Consider that they're 5-2 with some horrible losses, but their next game is USC. Obviously they're at least be looked at, just in case the unthinkable happens.

Chris is solidly on the Brian Kelly bandwagon... and you know what, fuck it.

Florida State
ACC: Stop Hitting Yourself

Do they really not play Penn State? Fantastic.

Virginia Tech
ACC: Stop Hitting Yourself

West Virginia
An impressive win against Auburn gets them in. Please god, we don't want to be forced to rank some random ACC/Big Ten team like Northwestern just because they can't all lose this weekend.

Friday, October 17

ACC Week 8 Games: Yet another week spent watching shitty regional coverage

(Disclaimer: just because Florida State is now 5-1 does not mean they’re good. Keep this in mind, pollsters, or someone will leave the bloodless head of your dog in your bed come Monday morning. Don’t drink the tomato juice you left in the fridge; consider this your only warning.)

Well, we’ve missed Florida / NC State; anyone who saw that game wishes they could burn it from their memory, so we’ve really done you a favor. Quite frankly, we should do the same for the rest of the ACC, but since we’re not that nice (and we, like the ACC, have it in for you on a deeply personal level), you get stuck with this shit.

Miami (FL) @ Duke
While we’ll be pulling for Duke in all their bastardized, Little-Giants-esque glory, if you think we’re actually going to watch them at any point this season you’re off your fucking rocker. Duke to win, you to do anything else other than watch this.

North Carolina @ Virginia
There’s no reason the Tar Heels shouldn’t roll; they’re conclusively better than the Cavs, whatever bullshit they pulled against Maryland (thanks again!). Of course, because this is the ACC and they like to piss all over your dreams of ever seeing even a semi-competent team I fully expect Virginia to win by 35 and nobody in Charlottesville will even fucking care. Oh, and we get this game on ABC instead of Ohio State / Michigan State. And you people wonder why I hate this fucking conference so hard.

Georgia Tech @ Clemson
Damn, the Clemson bandwagon caught on fire, lost all its wheels, and plowed off a cliff into a crowd of innocent bystanders watching SEC football. And Tommy Bowden got thrown under the bus so hard he’ll have tread marks on his back for years. What’s that mean – why, Clemson will win by 40. Fuck you, ACC.

Wake Forest @ Maryland
Let’s apply the black hole theory to Maryland; that means Maryland wins, but not convincingly. On the other hand, Wake isn’t really talented, they’re just well-coached. Maybe that can break the streak. God, do I fucking hope so; they’re going to be insufferable if they beat Wake.

Virginia Tech @ Boston College
This gets default Game-of-the-Week status simply because there are two losses combined between these teams. Do I expect it’ll be worth watching? Fuck no – which is why it’s on ESPN2, because after seven years they still haven’t figured out this conference is fucking terrible football.

SEC Week 8 Games: Does it smell like chaos in here, or is it just me?

After an unintentional weeklong hiatus (thanks, Comcast!), we’re back with the SEC again. Thank god. Of course, in the meantime Florida’s shown up in the national title chase again, South Carolina’s back on our radar again (dammit), Vanderbilt is now 0-1 in trap games over their history (also: thanks for the Crooming), and LSU may not be quite as good as we thought. What’s not news? Auburn, Mississippi State, and Tennessee all have Downs-Syndrome (not autistic) level offenses – and Arkansas still sucks. Don’t be fooled.

Arkansas @ Kentucky
This game certainly sounds interesting, as both teams qualify as intriguing. However, don’t be fooled; this is going to be an ass-ugly affair. What remains to be seen is if it’ll be ass-ugly in the “1-AA team comes in for Homecoming” kind of way, where it looks like the second-teamers beat the crap out of the first-teamers and left them for dead in the locker room, or in the “quality ACC game” way, where it looks like a good game unless you start paying attention. My vote’s on the latter. (And speaking of Homecoming, this is Kentucky’s homecoming game.)

Mississippi State @ Tennessee
Lordy, am I glad this game isn’t on TV, as there’s no way I’d want to actually watch this. This is going to be hideous; most hack writers would make a 3-2 joke here, but I will go hack-plus and instead opt for a 14-12 final (7 safeties against 6). They should call this game as soon as someone scores on offense; of course, that means they could still be playing come Monday.

LSU @ South Carolina
Last year featured the fake-field-goal bitchsmack of the decade, and for that we’ll always be grateful for Les Miles. That being said, this is one of those quasi-interesting games that could be exciting if South Carolina stays close (or ahead) of LSU through halftime, but will likely be decided by the end of the third quarter, even though three’s no rational reason this game shouldn’t come down to the wire.

Ole Miss @ Alabama
Now this game … this should be fun. On one hand, this shouldn’t be too tough a game for Alabama, but on the other, you have the SEC’s answer for Maryland in Ole Miss. After bombing the game against South Carolina, you can easily leave the Nuttsters for dead, but I know better than to count out the crazy. We have a solid shot of seeing this season’s second full-on Giggity, and for that I’m excited. (Now watch ‘Bama win by 45.)

Vanderbilt @ Georgia
In what seemed like a great idea at the time, Vandy is Georgia’s homecoming game. Of course, these aren’t your normal Commies; no, this year they’re the 2007 Croomdogs, complete with mostly-terrible offense and a remarkable ability to get lucky at the right time. If they’re rolling, this game should be close, but if not expect Georgia to slowly but surely choke the life out of Vandy.

Big 10 Week 8

It's the middle of season, and with six more games to go the Big 10 is a complete and utter mess. Penn State remains unbeaten, and the next 4 teams all have one loss. Due to the reputation of the conference, there are only two other ranked teams (Ohio State and Michigan State). The latter two meet this weekend, a clash of unbeatens in the conference. Next week it's Ohio State vs Penn State. It's only bound to get more mucked up from here.

And what's up with Minnesota? Their lone loss is to Ohio State, and they're currently unranked. They get a week off this week, but man have they been playing well against the Big 10, downing Indiana and Illinois. Who'd have thought the top of the Big 10 would look like this? Nobody, I tell you.

This week and next week are crucial for this conference, as the top teams play each other and only one will come out on top. Who will it be?

GAME OF THE WEEK: Ohio State vs Michigan State - Javon Ringer vs Beanie Wells. Two studs, two of the best true running backs in the nation. Brian Hoyer has some major weapons on the outside, especially the fast and tall Mike Dell. In fact, offensively they have more consistent weapons than the Buckeyes do. However, their defense won't be able to handle Pryor and Wells together, and with a decent ground performance last week the O-line needs to step it up even more.

Purdue vs Northwestern - The Boilermakers have some good offensive firepower, but their defense can't stop a fly from scoring touchdowns. Northwestern has Tyrell Sutton, but not much else. A game of mediocre Big 10 teams but if Painter steps it up the Boilers will walk out with a win.

Wisconsin vs Iowa - The Badgers were suppose to have a good year, with Beckum and Hill leading the way. However, they've disappointed. Iowa has started to make a comeback this year, but they are still mediocre. Hand off the Shonn Green and hope that he makes something happen... and nobody on the outside. Mitch King and the D-line needs to step up, but I think the Badgers rebound this week.

Michigan vs Penn State - OMG BLOWOUT ALERT. Wolverines really have no chance - the Nittany Lions are on a roll, playing hot, and their Spread HD with Darryl Clark will rip that defense apart, more than Illinois did. Michigan still needs a starting QB, and Brandon Minor is not a premier running back.

Indiana vs Illinois - What happened to Juice and Benn? Last week, they were really nowhere to be found against Minnesota. And Indiana - what's up with Kellen Lewis? I expect the fighting Illini to bounce back, Benn to make some fantastic catches, and the prime-time Big 10 game to be a sleeper.

Big 12 Week 8 Preview

The third week of conference play arrives, and like last week we've got some good ones lined up in the Big 12.

Texas Tech @ Texas A&M
Texas Tech stumbled to get past Nebraska, blowing a 4th quarter lead and missing a PAT in overtime, needing a late interception to win it. But A&M has been pathetic all season and there's no reason for that to change here! Harrell, Crabtree, and Woods should all be getting multiple TDs for our fantasy owners out there.

Nebraska @ Iowa State
After being embarassed by Virginia Tech, Nebraska came out ready to play against a stronger Texas Tech team, and their effort nearly led to an upset. Iowa State has been inconsistent all season, and by "inconsistent" I mean anywhere from complete disaster to only kinda crappy.

Baylor @ Oklahoma State
Can anyone say Trap Game? Oklahoma State is coming off a huge emotional road win over then-#3 Missouri, and next week they will travel to Austin to take on the now #1-ranked Longhorns. Baylor's Robert "Cream" Griffin III has been a nightmare for opposing defenses, giving his best performance last week going 21-24 for 278 yards and 2 TDs. After dropping a game to UConn, Baylor will need to beat both Nebraska and Texas A&M and then upset either OK State, Texas, Texas Tech, or Missouri in order to be bowl eligible! Talk about bad luck with your scheduling; they've already lost a game to then-#1 Oklahoma. Anyway this may be the Bears' best chance for such an upset, so keep an eye on this one.

Kansas @ Oklahoma
Last season, the Jayhawks were fortunate not to face Oklahoma and went 12-1 partially due to an overall lack of quality opponents. This season that is not the case... worse, this season's Kansas is clearly not performing at the same level that the team did a year ago. Oklahoma can't be happy about losing a game in which their QB threw 5 TD passes; expect a fired up Sooner team this Saturday. This one could get ugly.

Kansas State @ Colorado
Here are two teams who really have not played to their potential, and yet, they combine for a 7-5 record. Though it's early, in a competitive Big 12 conference, this game could have ramifications for bowl eligibility. KSU's next three opponents are Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri - they need to win the games like this one. Meanwhile CU is on a 3-game skid and it will be interesting to see how Matt Ballenger is used as Cody Hawkins has not been getting much productivity out of an offense with a solid RB corps.

Missouri @ Texas
Even as a Longhorns fan, I did not expect Texas to actually win last weekend as Oklahoma played so well to get to 5-0. (and how good does their 25-point victory over TCU look after last night?) However, Texas showed that they were the more versatile team - and they'll need that to beat a Missouri squad that is much stronger at the special teams positions than the Sooners. I would not want to face a Mizzou team all fired up from a home loss, and that is just what Texas is getting after OSU pulled off the upset! This should be a great game; hopefully the home field advantage and line play can swing it for the Horns :-)

Sunday, October 12

Week 7 Joint Rankings

Week 3 was circled on our calendars, but it was week 7 that delivered the best games so far. Both battles of Big 12 unbeatens ended up going down to the wire, and three teams in the top 5 were upset. Toledo pulled a shocker (or at this point, is it?) over Michigan thanks to a generous bounce off the crossbar, Arkansas and Mississippi State pulled off huge SEC upsets in nail-biters there, and the SextonCannon kept Jim-may! out of the rankings. In all, a great weekend... not least of all because we got to say FACK YOO SOONAHS! YOO FACKIN SACK! YOO AH NAWT THE BEST TEAM IN THE HAHTLAND, YOO FACKIN ANKLEGRABBAHS! Thank you, Tommy.

1. Texas
After dominating five questionable opponents, the Longhorns finally had an opportunity to prove themselves against an Oklahoma team that nearly everyone had at the top of the rankings. As expected, Sam Bradford outplayed Colt McCoy, but Bradford's passing was the only thing Texas didn't shut down while McCoy got help from Chris Ogbonnaya, Cody Johnson, and Jordan Shipley on special teams. Speaking of special teams, not only did the Longhorns get a kickoff return TD immediately after falling behind 14-3, but they were also 3/3 field goals and tacked on a two-point conversion. In a day where Missouri lost in part due to missed FGs, don't underestimate this.
Additionally, credit the Texas defense for shutting down the Sooner offense over the final 27 minutes. After trailing 28-20, Texas gave up just one more score and that drive needed a roughing the punter penalty at midfield.

2. Alabama
The Tide had a bye week and remained at #2, but not without seeing a new #1 and #3 around them. Bama's victory over Georgia remains a strong statement.

3. Penn State
The Nittany Lions opened up the offense to thrash Wisconsin in a road victory. Penn State is seven games into their season and have given up over 20 points just once, themselves scoring less than 40 just twice. A 3-3 Illinois team is the best they've faced, but aside from Ohio State and Michigan State, they do not have a particularly tough remaining schedule either.

4. Oklahoma
The Red River Shootout was such a great game that we can't really penalize the team that barely lost it. Sam Bradford showed that he's the best pocket passer in the country, torching the Texas defense but also throwing a pair of interceptions - one on a meaningless heave as time expired. Of greater concern would be the complete lack of a running game. I'm not reading too much into the kick coverage units being a disaster, as Texas's four kickoff returns that didn't go for a TD averages under 18 ypr, and the Longhorns had a negative total punt return yardage.

5. USC
Joe McKnight and the USC defense were enough to beat Arizona State, which is fortunate because Mark Sanchez had a pretty awful outing. Still, the defense nearly equalized the turnover game despite USC giving away five, and in fact they outscored the opposing offense 7-0! USC's defense is in the same league as Alabama's and Penn State's - arguably better - but Sanchez has been mysteriously absent from two games now.

6. Florida
If we were ranking based on week 7 alone, Florida would be in the top 3. But ah yes, we remember some pretty poor performances in other games, and sixth feels about right. What we saw is what Tebow and the offense are capable of if the line provides protection - which we really didn't expect to see against a tough LSU front four.

7. BYU
The Cougars were obviously looking ahead to their Thursday night trip to TCU (and admitted as much) but still dominated New Mexico 21-3. There's not a lot to take away from this one, but we're looking forward to seeing them play in Fort Worth in a national broadcast.

8. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State's questionable schedule led many to doubt their status as an unbeaten. No longer. The Cowboy defense picked off Chase Daniel three times and their special teams kept Jeremy Maclin in check all night. Sure, it helped that the conference's most accurate kicker had a 1-3 night, as Missouri actually outgained OSU, had a higher yards per play, and penalties/turnovers were even. This was a tough road win, give the Cowboys credit for pulling it out.

9. Georgia
The Bulldogs failed to turn a +249 yardage, including a 148-1 edge on the ground, performance into a comfortable win, but at the end of the day we'll take the victory. Stafford was intercepted twice and Moreno held to 3.7 ypc as the offense struggled yet again. However the defense made moving the ball nearly impossible, and both the kicking and punting was excellent.

10. Utah
Dominating Wyoming, Utah moved to 7-0 and reminders that there's more to the MWC than BYU. The Utes have posted four road wins and two wins over BCS teams, good enough to move into the top ten.

11. Missouri
Chase Daniel turned in his worst performance of the season in a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma State. Credit the Tigers' defense for giving them multiple chances to win at the end, but on this night their star QB could not come through. Derrick Washington's running was completely shut down and Jeff Wolfort missed two easily makeable field goals! The bright spot here is that despite playing so poorly, UM still had the chance to win. It's unlikely that they'll turn in a similarly sloppy effort when they travel to Texas this Saturday.

12. Texas Tech
Yet again, the Red Raiders turned in a half-effort, and this time it nearly cost them. After allowing Nebraska to make a 14 point comeback, the Red Raiders missed the extra point in the first overtime! Fortunately the defense came up with an interception to prevent Nebraska from winning on the strength of a missed kick.

13. Ohio State
For those who think Pryor and Wells would have made the difference against USC, we invite you to review this game in which Terelle Pryor and Beanie Wells ran the Buckeye Spread. Nothing doing. On the plus side, it looks like the OSU defense will shut down every offense they see in November; it's a small question of stopping Michigan State and a larger question of shutting down Penn State's "Spread HD."

14. LSU
In a battle of the last two BCS champions, it was the Gators fans who got to sing "Don't Cry Out Loud" as Tebow repeatedly burned a strong LSU defense. As Auburn continues to tumble, we give less and less credit for that ballsy win a few weeks ago. LSU needs to close October on a high note against South Carolina and Georgia.

15. Boise State
Boise State won an odd game over Southern Miss in which all 31 points were scored in the second quarter. On to less trivial matters, though the Broncos have played just five games, their defense has surrendered 10 points just once - in a road win at Oregon. Of the potential BCS Busters, this is the strongest group on that side of the ball.

16. Kansas
Special teams allowed Colorado to stay close through three, but ultimately Todd Reesing was too good for the Buffs to stop. This is clearly not the Kansas team who went on to win a BCS bowl last season, but they are still a good team.

17. Virginia Tech
In their bye week, Virginia Tech looked better than ever. A!C!C!

18. South Florida
USF had a week to let their loss to Pitt sink in before facing.... Syracuse.

19. Michigan State
Javon Ringer was the workhorse yet again as the Spartans handed Northwestern their first loss of the season. Since losing to Cal, MSU has looked strong against weak opposition. This weekend they host Ohio State and have a chance to prove themselves as a legit top 25 team.

20. North Carolina
The Sexton Cannon thrust himself into the end zone North Carolina overcame a -150 yard deficit to beat Notre Dame. Jimmy Clausen threw three touchdowns this game and two of them were to his own teammates!

21. Tulsa
The nation's #1 offense overcame three turnovers by putting 602 yards together in all, winning a closer-than-expected game against SMU. When that many yards and 37 points is an off week, you're still pretty good.

22. California
The Bears had a week off to heal before travelling to Arizona to face a Wildcats team that can't be happy about losing to Stanford.

23. Ball State
The BSU offense clearly misses Dante Love, but their defense has stepped up in the meantime. The Cardinals are 7-0 and should expect double-digit wins this season.

24. Vanderbilt
Reality rained on Vanderbilt's parade as this week's lesson was that you can't get outgained in almost every game and expect to win. Indeed indicative of how lucky they've been getting, Chris and I both called the upset along with Phil Steele, which really makes it not an upset.

25. Minnesota
Give the Gophers credit, they're 5-1 with their only loss being to Ohio State. True, Minny did make it look like the Buckeyes actually have an offense, but to the defense's credit they held Juice Williams completely in check until it was all but over at 20-6 in the 4th quarter.

Keep an eye on:

True the Bearcats are 5-1 with a road loss to Oklahoma, but it's also tough to argue for a team whose statement win is 13-10 at home over Rutgers. This weekend they travel to UConn looking to earn some respect.

Georgia Tech
We're still amused by the possibility of a team winning the ACC simply by installing an option offense, but GT did not look good in squeaking by Gardner-Webb!

Following a loss to Duke, we'd written Navy off, but they responded with road wins over Wake Forest and Air Force. Pitt has at least won their games since the opener; if Navy pulls off another tough win they may be sitting at 24 or 25.

The team again did not look good as they barely got past UCLA, as Masoli completed just 26% of his passes for 42 yards! Oregon really needs the week off to take a look at their quarterback situation and recover from numerous injuries.

After being embarassed by Bowling Green, Pitt has rebounded to reach 4-1. They have road games at Navy and at Notre Dame in the next three weeks, ample time to prove themselves.

It's rough being the #3 team in the best non-BCS conference (better than the ACC, Big East, and the Pac 10 if it didn't have USC). TCU lost to a tough Oklahoma team for their only blemish, and should they upset BYU this weekend they would easily jump back into the rankings.

Wake Forest
Not only has Wake beaten nobody of consequence, but they don't even face Virginia Tech or North Carolina! We presume that they will waltz into the ACC Championship game completely untested and with 10 wins whether the team's any good or not. Speaking of December 6th, the ACC gives us a real treat that afternoon as Duke travels to Michigan. Tipoff 3:30 eastern.

Saturday, October 11

This one's for James

So I'm watching Sportscenter this morning and they're showing the top 10 highlights from the OU / Texas Red River Shootout. #2? Chris Simms getting wrecked in the end zone as Roy Williams forces a pick, effectively ending the game (14-3 late in the 4th).

And yes, the first thing I thought was "sweet, I get to use the Chris Simms sucks" label. I've been waiting for this one for a while.

Friday, October 10

Big 10 Week 7 preview

The Big 10 has seen its fair share up ups and downs, and this year is clearly a year of downs. With only Penn State represented in the Top 10, it comes down to PSU and OSU to show whether the conference is better than what people think. Wisconsin showed a lot of heart against the Buckeyes last week, and this week they're faced with yet another test against the Nittany Lions. Illinois has had two heartbreaking losses to teams in the top 10.

Iowa vs Indiana - Mediocrity bowl! Both teams fared well against weak non conference opponents, but it was Indiana that had the biggest fall last week against Minnesota. How many turnovers can a team have in one game, let alone one half? That loss was poor showing for Lewis, and I have a feeling that Shonn Green and the Hawkeyes will prove their mettle this week.

Toledo vs Michigan - The Wolverines came back into the fold last week, reverting back to their early season style and getting romped by Illinois. Could their game against the Badgers have been a freak accident? Let's just say that their win against the Badgers is what brought down the strength of the conference. With this non conference game, I think Michigan will be just fine.

Minnesota vs Illinois - Can a 24 point stomping in the Big House be enough to energize the Illini for the rest of the season? The last roadblock they face is OSU later this year. Minny's performance against Indiana was just awful, and I look for at least 4 touchdowns (on the ground and through the air) for Juice.

Purdue vs Ohio State - The Boilermakers lost to Notre Dame. NOTRE DAME. Pryor's poor week last week still gave the Buckeyes a win. If the defense keeps Sheets and Painter under control, which I expect them to after last week, I don't see how the Boilers make it out of Columbus with a W.

Michigan State vs Northwestern - the faceoff of the power running backs. Javon Ringer has been a stud all season, and Tyrell Sutton is definitely the reason why Northwestern is undefeated. But NW hasn't faced a team nearly as potent as Michigan State - Hoyer is playing well, Mark Dell is a big threat on the outside, and the O-line has been providing Ringer with half the field. I see five losses out of the remaining seven for the Wildcats, and this will be one of them.

GAME OF THE WEEK: PENN STATE VS WISCONSIN - Darryl Clark is to PSU as Terrell Pryor is to OSU. Beckum finally got in the game last week, but if Wisconsin is to succeed they need to patch up that weak secondary down the middle. Unfortunately, Penn State doesn't need a good secondary as Wisconsin has relied on their TE's for the important catches down the field. I expect this to be close - Wisconsin has gone a long time at Camp Randall without two losses in a row.

Basically, the Big 10 is screwed for the rest of the season. If PSU wins out, they'll be in contention for the title game, and everyone else will have at least 2 losses on their record. But if PSU loses to OSU, the decline in respect for the Big 10 will be complete. Wisconsin's loss hurts the most, with the Buckeye's loss to USC the second biggest loss. All in all, this is the year of the SEC and the Big 12. Expect one from each conference to meet in the NC game, and a second team from each conference in a BCS game (I don't forsee a non-big-six team getting there, since BYU and Utah face each other AND they both have to face TCU).


Wednesday, October 8

Big 12 Week 7 preview

Heading into week 7 of our 2008 season, the Big 12 looks stronger than I've ever seen it look before. Six teams are ranked in the top 20, with four of the top ten, three of the top five, and in the Coaches' poll, both of the top two. Five teams are unbeaten, and we've got two games matching up teams from that bunch. If you like Big 12 football, this is the weekend to tune in!

#5 Texas vs #1 Oklahoma
The last time #1 and #5 faced off, we saw USC absolutely embarass the Ohio State Buckeyes. No, I'm not going to let that one go... you'll be hearing it from me all season, Buckeye-lovers!
This is a real quarterback duel between Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford. Both players have similar weapons at their disposal. I'd give Texas the edge at WR, Oklahoma the edge at TE and o-line, and call RB a draw or close enough. Defensively, Texas seems to have the edge at d-line, Oklahoma might have an edge in the secondary (the Texas unit has performed much better than expected, but I'm not buying it just yet), and linebacker could be a wash. Neither has been outstanding nor disappointing on special teams. Of course we know, McCoy is more of a threat than Bradford with his legs, but Bradford stretches out defenses deeper than any QB in the country.
In the end I like Bradford to get the job done. This one could go either way.

Colorado @ #16 Kansas
Here we have got two teams eager to prove themselves. After a hot start that saw them upset West Virginia, Colorado has dropped consecutive games to Florida State and Texas. The loss to FSU wasn't entirely unexpected (CU tends to look like complete ass at least 4 games a year), but embarassing nonetheless to lose to an ACC team who Wake Forest held to 3 points. Kansas lost a tough game to South Florida before inexplicably getting into a nail-biter with Iowa State.
Though KU's defense has clearly lost a step, CU's lines have been getting dominated against even average opposition. Because of this, I don't think they can generate the points to keep up with Reesing's offense.

Kansas State @ Texas A&M
In a great offensive year for the entire conference, A&M still ranks 94th in total offense. The vaunted Wrecking Crew defense just got skewered by an Oklahoma State team featuring, at best, the 5th-best offense in the conference. Meanwhile Kansas State has Josh Freeman. Honestly, that's enough for me. Cats win.

Nebraska @ #7 Texas Tech
How far Nebraska has to go to compete for conference titles was really shown in their home blowout loss to Missouri. Furthermore they were unable to beat an offensively inept Virginia Tech team at home, allowing the Hokies to score 35 points! The defensive problems are still present in Lincoln despite Bo Pelini's best efforts, and for the second straight week a prime gunslinger is going to expose those holes.

Iowa State @ Baylor
Most seasons this is a cripple fight. And who am I kidding, it's still a cripple fight. However, this is also CREAM'S conference breakout game - Iowa State cannot contain the sheer manliness that is Robert Griffin III. He'll be ejukulating all over the field and spraying hot passes on this depleted defense as Baylor looks to win their third game. Unfortunately, the loss to UConn probably cost the Bears any shot at bowl eligibility - four of their final seven opponents are ranked.

#17 Oklahoma State @ #3 Missouri
This is another great quarterback duel, only this time one QB is clearly better than the other, and his team boosts superior players at pretty much every position - maybe, perhaps save for runningback. Regardless, I think we saw what Missouri is capable of last week. It's been a great season for Oklahoma State but they will need a special effort plus a poor performance by Missouri to take this one.

Tuesday, October 7

Week 5 Joint T25

1. Oklahoma
Sam Bradford is the best QB in the country, in the opinion of these blogwriters. No disrespect to Daniel, Harrell, McCoy, Tebow, or the few others worthy of comparison, but the big difference is Bradford's cannon of an arm. The ratio of 18 TD to 3 INT is even more impressive when you consider that he's averaging 11.4 ypa and his last five TD passes have all come from 40+ yards. (the only one under 50 came while rolling out to his left, so we'll forgive the fact that it wasn't from beyond midfield) The ability to stretch out a defense vertically like that while maintaining high accuracy is one of the best attributes a QB can have, especially in a balanced offense like Oklahoma's which features a powerful running attack to compliment the aerial assault.

2. Missouri
Missouri jumps to #2 because they have been consistent week in and week out. Thanks to Illinois losing to Penn State, they don't really have the same signature win that Alabama does (although this week's opponent, Oklahoma State, looks legit). However the QB, overall offense, and special teams are both among the national elites. What really stood out last weekend, though, was the killer instinct. With 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, Missouri led Nebraska 38-10... usually, this becomes run out the clock and play prevent time for the Tigers. Instead, they hit a 43 yard TD run, force a turnover, then throw a TD pass on the next play - all in the span of about a minute. That's the mentality, at least, of a champion.

3. Alabama
It has been said that you can really only get the best out of your team - it's "A game" - five or six times a season, tops. If that's the case, Nick Saban has certainly chosen the right weeks to get that top level performance - against Clemson and Georgia, both of whom were ranked in the top 10 when the Tide faced them. Unfortunately, there have been flat-out fail games against weaker opposition. Last weekend's surprisingly close game with Kentucky was one of them. Games at LSU, vs Auburn, and the possible SEC championship will require an A game effort.

4. LSU
Auburn's failing offense continues to cast the meaning of that victory into doubt, but for what it's worth we've come to expect LSU to have a strong defense, Charles Scott is proving himself at RB, and they've finally settled on a QB. That keeps them here for now, and beating Florida would cement their legitimacy.

5. Texas
Texas has absolutely done everything they could have been asked to, yet a schedule whose toughest opponent was Colorado casts things into doubt. The Longhorns are one of ten teams in the country allowing under 12 ppg, and that unit will really be put to a test against an Oklahoma team who scored under their season average when they destroyed Baylor 49-17. A victory would mean some leapfrogging for sure, but a solid performance shouldn't see them fall too far.

6. Penn State
The Nittany Lions' offense derailed against Purdue, but it was the defense that won the day, holding one of the more explosive offenses in the Big Ten scoreless until the final minutes of the game. It was pointed out that the last time PSU started out 6-0, they finished 11-1. That's nice. Also the last time PSU started 6-0, Texas won the national championship. I can live with that.

7. USC
When Oregon drove the length of the field to take a 7-0 lead on USC, I momentarily wondered if the mighty Trojans could actually go 0-for-Oregon. Eight hundred yards and 96 points later, that thought had long been washed from my mind. The Oregon State game may have re-awakened a sleeping giant, and the rest of the Pac 10 must be sweating this.

8. BYU
Apparently not holding the same burning red hatred for Utah State as for UCLA, the fightin' Mormons called off the dogs at 34-0 this weekend. Much like the '84 team, this open offense is gunning all over everyone, and much like that great team, the schedule is aboslute bunk. We like the way they're playing, but it'll be tough for them to crack the top 5 before facing Utah.

9. Georgia
The Bulldogs had a week off to let their humiliating loss to Alabama sink in. We can expect them to come out eager to redefine their image against Tennessee, but to really turn the corner, the line is going to need to block a little better for both Stafford and Moreno, and more passes are going to have to start going AJ Green's way.

10. Ohio State
Chris and I differed greatly here, in that I wanted to put Texas Tech at #10 while he thought that a team who hadn't beaten anyone tougher than Kansas State didn't deserve a spot that high. In the end he's right, but dammit I will fight against this as long as I possibly can. We all know what's going to happen is that OSU is going to plow through the Little Ten once again, and everyone (in Ohio) will be saying how they would have beaten USC if only Pryor had played the whole game and Wells had been healthy. And it'll work. The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can begin to appreciate how awesome the Don't Cry Out Loud video featuring Sam Bradford throwing two 50+ yard TD passes per quarter is going to be.
(No idea what I'm talking about? Go to youtube and search for ohio state don't cry out loud. You'll thank me later - and be sure to watch both versions!)

11. Texas Tech
Since the Nevada game, the offense has shown improvement every week, which means by late October 60 points will be considered a poor outing in Lubbock. This week's game vs Nebraska will be out first primer to guage how good TTU really is.

12. Florida
Don't let the score fool you - the Gator offense once again looked assy even against the lowly Arkansas, up until a 21-point 4th quarter explosion. Beating LSU is critical for UF to re-establish themselves as both conference and national contenders.

13. Utah
The Utes squeeked by Oregon State on the fault of poor special teams play by the Beavers. Considering that this was a team who just knocked off USC, we'll take it. We'll definitely take holding Jaquizz Rodgers to "just" 100 yards on the ground after what he did 9 days before.

14. Vandy
We don't want to take away from yet another Commies' win, but right now it looks like anyone who can break 10 points against Auburn has a good chance of winning that game. Don't underrate great special teams' play and an offense that doesn't turn the ball over. These guys should be hanging around the rankings all season.

15. Boise State
The offense looked as wide-open as ever in an easy Wednesday night win.

16. Oklahoma State
Crushing Texas A&M was just what we'd expect out of a team in the middle of the top 25. Though the Aggie defense is perpetually overrated, scoring 50+ on them is a sign of offensive legitimacy.

17. South Florida
The last hope of the Big East fell in craptacular fashion against a Pittsburgh team who... um... well, who beat Syracuse by 10 the week before in what for them qualifies as a statement win. Yeah, not buying the 4-1 yet, Panthers. This offensive letdown was everything we've sadly come to expect from the inconsistent play of Matt Grothe.

18. Kansas
Coming back from 0-20 was nice, but why are you even down by that much against Iowa State? And once they scored 28 straight, how did it come down to the final play? This was an ugly outing by Kansas; that plus the USF game has left real questions about this defensive unit.

19. Virgina Tech
They're getting outgained by 20 ypg, they've only scored 3 more offensive TDs than their opponents, and yet they're 5-1 (2-0). Welcome to ACC "football." They're not good enough to run through their own conference 8-0, but they are clearly the "class" of the group.

20. Tulsa
With an easy 63 point outing, Tulsa's offense moved further ahead of the pack.

21. North Carolina
The Sexcannonton didn't get it done through the air, but the UNC special teams came up big (another mark of a Butch Davis team) to route UConn. Handing the Huskies their only loss in dominating fashion gets the Tar Heels on the radar. Unfortunately it appears that beating Notre Dame will be more of an accomplishment this season than it was last, so the Heels can confirm this ranking with a home win this weekend.

22. Ball State
Not only is the word "Ball" in their name (we think it refers to the male anatomy, not the "quarterback" who singlehandedly kept Calvin Johnson from becoming an earlier Michael Crabtree), but they're 6-0 and have won all their games by double digits. The schedule's not super-quality, but it does include Navy. This team has the talent to run the table.

23. Illinois
For Juice Williams to set a total yardage mark at Michigan is the flagrant slap in the face we love to see for a Wolverines' team in a transition period. Though they've got two losses, both were against top 6 teams, and both were competitive games.

24. Cal
Having proposed the Black Hole Theory of how Maryland routinely gets killed by horrible teams (MTSU, Virginia) while somehow getting decent opposition to play to their level (Cal, Clemson), we've decided that we're tentatively okay with the loss to a crappy team on the other side of the country. Since that anomaly, Cal's picked up where they left off with a blowout win over Colorado State and a solid conference win against Arizona State. We're not sure when Jahvid Best will get back, but the week off before facing Arizona has to help.

25. Michigan State
Since opening the season with a 10-point loss to Cal, they've gone on to win five games including giving Notre Dame their only loss. Yes, MSU is the reason Weis and Clausen are not ranked #1 in the AP right now, and for that we thank them.

Keep an eye on:

Arizona - After a bad loss to New Mexico, they're winning conference games with ease.

Auburn - They're more here for explanation. Right now, it looks like Auburn would have no chance of beating a team who can score 20 on them. The offense clearly has not bought into (or really even implemented) Franklin's system, so they either need to do that or go to a run-heavy pro style attack. Whatever they're trying now... is just awful.

Georgia Tech - Everyone's talking about Wake Forest, but I'm looking at the ACC team that doesn't appear to just be freaking lucky to have their record. GT won a close game to give Boston College their only loss, lost a very close game against Virginia Tech, and have won every other game easily. I don't know at what point I'd start considering them (next game: Gardner-Webb) but if they make it past Clemson they will technically be 7-1, fwiw.

Minnesota - We think they're a complete farce, but a win over Illinois would put them at 6-1 and deserving of a ranking.

Northwestern - Beating MSU would be a statement.

Notre Dame - Dammit, we have to be fair. Or at least, as fair to them as we are to Ohio State. If Notre Dame beats North Carolina this weekend, that will be added to a list of victories that includes Michigan and Purdue.