Tuesday, September 18, 2012

College Football Week 3

Week 3 of College Football is in the books for 2012.

As I have stated prior, setting team rankings before you have seen the teams is pointless.  Further, setting the rankings before you have seem the teams play anybody in their division(yes, I am looking at you Florida State) is nearly as pointless.

But, now we have seen everybody place at least one fellow BCS team, some of them have even played a couple of good ones.  So, here is my initial ranking for the season, with a few *ahem* remarks.

These rankings do not take into account my personal projections, or upcoming schedule.  They are built entirely off the games that have been played, with the players that have been available to this point.  They us a formula developed in house that combines winning percentage, margin, and quality of opponents.  You will see some listings that seem odd to you, and they do to me as well, but my goal is to get it right at the end of the year.  So, when you see Fresno State with 1 loss listed in front of OU, remember that it is better to put Oregon on your schedule and lose than it is to have a bye week.  So, don't fret Sooner fans, you boys will be up there after they actually play someone.

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, I would hate to be left out.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide 8.4
The Tide have just flat-out whooped everybody to this point.  They are not without a chink in their armor.  They took a half a step back at the skill positions on offense after the past few drafts, and aren't quite as dynamic in their blitz game either.  That said, noone has come close to exploiting those weaknesses, and you are still talking about high school All-Americans at every damned position, so these "weaknesses" are just relative to that past few years.  You want to beat them, you start with some beasts on the defensive line and a lot of speed.

2. LSU Tigers 7.2
The Tigers reloaded again, and this year they upgraded at Quarterback, or so the scouts tell us.  Their M.O. under Les Miles has been to out-recruit everyone and then go, take the ball away, and ram in right down their throats with a physical running attack.  This year has been more of the same to this point.  To this point, we don't know what Zach Mettenberger can do throwing the ball because noone has been good enough to make them throw the ball.  I don't see anyone really testing them before week 6 in Gainsville either, and that might be a stretch.  However, that is the start of a murderous stretch of games with Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Bama, and Mississippi State in a 5 week period.  One thing about the SEC, if you can make it out with your record intact, you deserve the cudos.

3. Georgia Bulldogs 6.36
Georgia is not what they could be.  They have been missing starters all year on defense, and I congratulate their leaders for taking the stands that they did.  This team is their best shot in years with leaders on both sides of the ball, and a favorable schedule.  As for what they have done so far, They have won every game by more than 20, with low BCS schools pancaking a nice road win at Mizzou.  They found their running backs with Todd Gurley leading the way, but make no mistake, this team will go as far as Aaron Murray and Jarvis Jenkins can lead them, assuming that everyone can pass their *ahem* random tests in the meantime.

4. Texas Longhorns 5.42
I would like to be the first to welcome the Horns back to adult table, now let's see how long they can stay.  They have been dominant to this point, but they have not shown a lot of balance.  David Ash hasn't thrown for 400 yards total this season, but he is throwing for a very high completion %, and has yet to throw a pick, which is very encouraging in Austin.  This next game against the Cowboys is going to be an interesting contrast in styles as the Horns lean on their running game to try and keep the ball away from the high-flying Cowboys' attack. 

5. Florida State Seminoles 5.15
Well, so far the Noles look like they are as advertised, but with Wake Forest being their biggest test we just really don't know.  Their defense has dominated 3 lesser opponents like you would expect a projected top-5 defense to, but these really were lesser opponents.  I have to give them a little credit for what they did to Wake Forest and Tanner Price.  They held the Demon Deacons to 83 yards passing and 43 yards rushing.  To put that in perspective, Price threw for 362 against North Carolina.  The Noles are much like the Longhorns this year though, in that they have not been forced to throw the ball yet.  EJ Manuel has been efficient, and effective, but he has thrown the ball 59 times in 3 games.  This Clemson game is going to be interesting.

6. Oregon Ducks 4.96
This may actually be the most explosive Oregon Ducks' offense that I have ever seen.  Their defense has given up more points that I would like to see though, though most of the points did come from Fresno State and Arkansas State, who can score a bit.  The combination of DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner with Marcus Mariota is bordering on evil.  To this point, young Mariota has looked like the prototype for Chip Kelly's up-tempo attack.  They are going to play RichRod and his desert Wildcats who run a decent version of the spread attack as well.  I am thinking 75 on the over under.

7. South Carolina Gamecocks 4.92
Spurrier got his 200th, which absolutely noone outside of South Carolina cares about.  Even those who do care, are more worried about the Quarterback situation for the Gamecocks.  Connor Shaw cannot stay on the field, and is reported as being hurt again.  Dylan Thompson has filled in admirably to this point, but they are going to need a better showing than they had in week 1 against Vanderbilt with Mizzou coming to town.  South Carolina has a nice defense, as usual, but the Tigers will score some points.  This may be the last week in the top 10 for the Ol' Ball Coach this season.

8. Ohio State Buckeyes 4.9
The Buckeyes made their faithful a bit nervous last week, but they should feel good after squeaking out a win against the Cal Bears.  For the first time since Troy Smith, they have a leader at quarterback who is their best quarterback.  Braxton Miller is the best athlete running Urban Meyer's offense since Cam Newton was stealing laptops in the Florida Dorms.  They are going to need a better performance from their defense to stay this high, but hey, who cares, they can't play in a bowl game anyway.  TATTOOS FOR EVERYONE!!!....too soon?

9. Arizona Wildcats 4.75
Rich Rodriguez has led 180 degree turn around in the desert.  With 2 solid early wins against Toledo and Oklahoma State, he has the Wildcat faithful buzzing.  Now comes his Pac-12 opener as he takes his Cats to Autzen to see if he can outpoint the Oregon Ducks.  The odds are not good, but if anyone can figure out the Ducks spread rushing attack, it's Rodriguez.  I give them a puncher's chance, but that's about it.  Still, it's remarkable what he has done with a program that was Nick Foles or bust last year.

10. Georgia Tech YellowJackets 4.54
The Yellow Jackets left a win on the field in Blacksburg to start the season and they have looked like they were quite upset about that ever since beating and overmatched Presbyterian and a reportedly-improved Virginia squad by a combined 115-23 in the last 2 weeks.  What they did bring out of that disappointing loss to Va. Tech was the best passing attack that I have seen from the Jackets in the Paul Johnson era.  Tevin Washington is not throwing it all over the field, but he is being very effective and it's more than just play-action bombs.  If they can keep that going, and keep defenses even a little bit honest, that triple-option attack is going to be really tough to deal with.  If not, then they'll just go ahead and rush for 3 or 4 thousand yards......again.

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4.5
Irish fans are probably a bit irked at this spot.  Great win against Sparty guys, but you don't get to be in the top 10 when  you play Navy to start the year and then only beat Purdue by 3.  You might get there, and your odds will be much better if you can somehow contain Denard Robinson and beat Michigan this week.  So...uhm...good luck with that, cuz you're not Bama.

12. Stanford Cardinal 4.49
I guess the Cardinal was determined to show us that they were more than the Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener show.  Knocking off USC was a huge win for Josh Nunes and his teammates.  The Cardinal are an old school football team.  They have a road grading offensive line, a physical defensive style, and a bulldozer with wheels running the ball in Stepfan Taylor.  They have to play their style, but when they do it, they do it well.  They have another chance to prove it with the Washington Huskies up next.  I am sure Stanford fans are not going to be terribly worried about the Huskies, which means it's going to be a tough one.  Well see if these boys are smart enough to not look past this next game.

13. USC Trojans 4.38
Gut check time for the Golden Boy and his teammates.  They didn't handle their business, and now they have to decide how they are going to respond.  This is also Barkley's big chance.  He laid an egg, but he has the chance to lead his team out of the tank and make a run.  If he can do that, he will lock up that #1 overall pick.  If he can't, someone is going to a rich man's Jimmy Claussen this spring.

14. Florida Gators 4.2
It would appear that the reports of the demise of the Florida Gators were prematurely delivered.  They have a tough defense, that fires off consistently and closes games.  Driskell has the job and if he continues to settle in behind the dynamic running of Mike Gillislee.  These are not your daddy's gators.  This is a smash mouth football team with Florida speed.  I don't know if that's better, or worse, but it's working.  Kentucky's up next, and I am curious to see what Joker is going to have ready for Driskell.  If I am him, I am blitzing all over the field against young Mr. Driskell.

15. Kansas State Wildcats 4.17
The Wildcats are still the same disciplined, Bill Snyder coached team that surprised everyone last year.  The difference is that now they are a Bill Snyder recruited team as well.  They have added some explosive players at the skill positions and are much better along their D-Line.  The question is, are these improvements enough to give them a chance against the Sooners?  I hope they are but I am having my doubts.

16. Oklahoma State Cowboys 4.13
The Cowboys are trotting out another explosive offense.  This one has a running back for a star, in Joseph Randle, but they are slinging it all over the field just like always.  Their defense got exposed a bit against Arizona, but this wasn't a year they were expected a title run.  Texas is coming to Stillwater next.  I don't know if it matters that Wes Lunt is out for the year with the depth they showed at QB last week, but their defense is going to have to step up to get that offense on the field.  Otherwise, Texas might just run the ball and play keep away.

17. UCLA Bruins 3.83
The surprise team of the year so far, these Bruins have the upset-minded Oregon State Beavers coming to town.  If they have their mind on their business, they should be able to handle these Beavers, and the the sad-sack Colorado Buffaloes next week.  The Pac-12 is no joke this year though.  Gonna be a fun year full of late nights because there is no way I am missing those shootouts.

18. Nebraska Cornhuskers 3.6
People are down on the Huskers after their loss to UCLA, and I have to admit, the Husker defense is not what it has been.  Then again, it's tough to lose the players off that side of the ball that they have in the past few years and not have some drop off.  On the plus side, Taylor Martinez has made great strides throwing the ball which gives them a chance at real balance.  They should still be one of the favorites in the Big 10, which says all I need to say about the Big 10.

19. Fresno State Bulldogs 3.54
Fresno is here because they put Oregon on the schedule, plain and simple.  They are not a bad team, and might flirt with the top 30 for the rest of the year, mostly due to a manageable schedule.  They have a legit shot at a 10 win season, but it could easily be 7 or 8 just as easily.  A lot of unknowns around this team, but for now they get credit for having the cojones to schedule the Ducks.

20. Oklahoma Sooners 3.49
The Sooners have been a bit underwhelming to this point, but K-State is up next.  Both of these teams are looking at this game as a jumping off point for their season, and OU needs to make a statement....rather OU needs to make a positive statement.  The scary thing is their D-Line has not looked dominant in 2 games against opponents who are mediocre, at best.  If they can't shore that up, K-State may actual come to Norman and steal one.  It's a big if, but Snyder and Klein just don't make the mistakes that give games away, and if you have a weakness, they will hit it like a jackhammer.  That is to say, over and over again.

21. Arizona State Sun Devils 3.47
Todd Graham is in a close fight with RichRod for the coach of the year in the Pac-12 to this point.  He came into a program that was a mess and whipped into shape right quick.  Losing by 4 at Missouri is no great shame and it gives a good measuring stick for the Sun Devils program.  They are a good program, running a new system, that still has a few wrinkles to iron out.  If they had taken care of the ball against Mizzou, they probably win that game, albeit with James Franklin sitting out.  That is a big step from where they were last year.  Of course, considering where they were last year, it's important to recognize how relative that statement is.  They had a chance to put themselves in the top echelon of the Pac-12 with Utah and Cal up next.  Are they better than the also-rans?

22. Louisville Cardinals 3.38
Charlie Strong has something going in Louisville.  Teddy Bridgewater is playing amazing football to this point, completing nearly 82% of his passes for the Cardinals.  Their defense is aggressive, but not to the standard that Strong built at Florida.  That said, if they aren't one of the top 3 in the Big East, I am going to be shocked.  And no, that does not mean that Louisville should be in the SEC, it means the Big East is not so good at football.

23. Mississippi State Bulldogs 3.37
I don't know much about the Bulldogs as I have not been able to catch a single minute of any of their games this year.  I do know that Dan Mullen is a mastermind of a coach, but the Bulldogs are bit of an afterthought in SEC recruiting.  Until he can fix that, they are going to be hard pressed to be much more than a solid bowl team, regardless of the size of his brain pan.

24. Texas A & M Aggies 3.25
I have a feeling that the Aggies are on their way.  They have to recover from a few down years, relative to the longhorns, which hurt their recruiting, but now that they are in the SEC they will get the players.  Flat out, Texas kids think they play the best football in the country and playing in the SEC gives them the chance to prove it.  Kevin Sumlin is already showing that with this freshman class.  Look for them to take a hard run at a 9 win season in their first in the SEC west.  If they can manage that, they will pull a top 10 recruiting class and be on their way. 

25. Purdue Boilermakers 3.23
Purdue is having kind of a sneaky good start to the year.  They played Notre Dame tougher than most expected, and have showed a dynamic offense, by committee, to this point.  Now, Notre Dame is their only tough opponent to this point too, so they have a lot to prove, but this is a good year to make a run in the Big 10.  Oh hell, who am I kidding.  They will out of the top 30 as soon as they play Michigan in two weeks.....well probably.

26. Clemson Tigers 3.2
Clemson has been dominant to this point with the exception of a 7 point win against Auburn.  That sounds great, except Auburn was their only tough opponent, and really isn't all that good.  The upside is that they are getting Sammy Watkins back just in time for their trip to Tallahassee.  I can't help but notice how convenient that is BTW, that they get their superstar receiver back in time for the big game and having him sit against the cupcakes.  Ah well, that's college football...oh and they are going to need him.  That is assuming that Tajh Boyd survives the first half.

27. Ohio Bobcats 2.79
What a start to the season for the Ohio Bobcats!!!! The biggest win in program history as they go to Happy Valley and let the Nittany Lions know just how far they have fallen.  Follow that up with a couple wins and they have a lot of momentum going into the conference season.  They are definitely one of the favorites, as long as Tyler Tettleton is leading the way.  Course, this is not the MAC of Big Ben.

28. Tennessee Volunteers 2.75
How are the Volunteers going to respond to their disapointing loss to the Gators?  Their defense has to be better.  There are too many good defenses in the SEC for them to expect Tyler Bray and the Vols' explosive passing attack to put up 35 every game.  It's just not going to happen, regardless of how talented Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter are...and they are.  One more tune up, with Akron coming to town, before the meat of the SEC hits them square in the face with Georgia, Mississippi State, Bama, and South Carolina in a row.  If they can do better than 8 wins(out of 12), it's going to be a very good year the way it looks right now.

29. Iowa State Cyclones 2.73
The Cyclones are such a gritty little group of grinders that you just can't get comfortable predicting them.  That said, if they are going to play in a bowl game, they have to beat every unranked team on their schedule AND steal a game.  I am assuming that Oklahoma State and Baylor will both be ranked when they get to play them in late October, but I am confident in that statement.  The Big 12 does not have Bama, but it does not have a lot of holes either.  Kansas and..................Iowa State.  Yeah, I hope they enjoyed their visit to the rankings.

30. Texas Tech Red Raiders 2.52
The Red Raiders are about a half step about the Cyclones in the Big 12 pecking order.  Their offense can really put up points, but I am not going to buy in until they play somebody.  These last 2 team in the rankings get to face each other this week with ISU coming to Tech for what will be an interesting contrast in styles.  The Cyclones pass enough to stay balanced and the Red Raiders like to throw it all over the field.  An interesting trend this year is a 55/45 pass/run ratio.  That was against lesser competition, but is still a big deal for the Red Raiders.  If they can run, while preserving the passing effectiveness of their Air Raid attack, they might have a shot to make some noise.
And for all of you out there who are interested in the Conference Battle, also known asthe  'Who's the second best football conference in the country?' contest....here is the count.

BIG 12:6
BIG 10:3

The Big 10 has laid an egg this year, with the Pac-12 taking their place at the table.  Right now, the Pac is probably the third best in the country, but they are close behind the Big 12.  For you ACC fans, take heart....the one independent are your new brethren, and Virginia tech is not on this list...yet.  After their thumping in Pittsburgh, they dropped like a stone.  They'll be back.

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