Monday, September 24, 2012

College Football Week 4

Well, week 4 is now in the past for the 2012 College Football season and we have a pretty good idea of who most of the teams are.

We know who are the good teams, who are the great teams, and who are the teams who just don't make any sense.  There are some exceptions, like Oregon State who, for some reason, has only played 2 games...but they beat Wisconsin and UCLA.  So, are they that good, or are they inflated for having had 2 weeks to prepare for each game?

There aren't many of those types of questions left though, as most everyone has shown us their true colors, more or less.  Now we get to the fun part, the conference season.  Who can improve, and who will get upset by the dastardly underdog who knows them so well?

Well, that is coming on quickly, but here is where we are for now.  The weight rating has been updated so that margin, adjusted for strength of schedule, can account for 1/3 with wins, adjusted for strength of schedule, accounting for 2/3.  A 'perfect score would be 4.0, after all, these are college kids we are talking about.  This did lead to some shuffling, and this is probably the only ranking system in the country that does not have Alabama as #1.  To be honest, they got hurt by how bad Arkansas has been.  It gave them enough of a lower SoS, that the Dawgs pulled just ahead of them.  On the flipside, the SEC is even more dominant in these rankings than they are in normal...again, SoS is to account for that.

1. Georgia Bulldogs 3.645
This Georgia team is as talented as any in the country, and has rolled to this point.  The scary thing about them is that they don't look like they have played a complete game and are just now getting their suspended players back.  They have been a little sloppy at times, but their roster is chock full of explosive athletes.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide 3.47
Noone has tested the tide yet, and their win over 'cupcake' Western Kentucky is looking surprisingly more valid than was expected after the Hilltoppers took down Kentucky in OT.  That is not to say that Kentucky is a good team, but when your cupcake is good enough to beat a team in your conference, that always helps the SoS.  Now if only Arkansas hadn't fallen apart.  The big challenge for the Tide now is to handle their business and not overlook the also-rans as they build up to LSU on November 3rd.  It will be interesting to see what happens when this Tide offense goes up against a defense with similar talent that can try to force them to throw the ball.  McCarron has looked too to this point, but he has not been under stress either.

3. Oregon Ducks 3.38
The Ducks passed their first real test of the season with flying colors, exploding past the Wildcats after a slow first half.  Their defense looked great against an Arizona defense that had been effective to this point in the season, pitching a shutout and scoring 2 TD's in it's own right.  When a slow night on offense still gets you 35 points from your offense, that says a lot about your attack.  It is a small sample size, but the defense is the most athletic I have seen out of Oregon...but again, this was a very small sample size.

4. LSU Tigers 3.16
The Tigers almost got caught in a trap game.  Do not mistake their 2 point win against Auburn to be anything more than them playing a bad game.  However, that is itself a concern.  Mettenburger needs to be a leader who makes the big play for them in the passing game when they are having trouble running the ball.  That's really the only thing they have him there for.  He has the big arm, and he needs to start making plays or one of these games the trap will work.  Their trip to the Swamp in 2 weeks should be fun to watch as these 2 physical teams try to out man each other.

5. South Carolina Gamecocks 3.09
The Gamecocks have been dancing on the razor's edge all season.  Marcus Lattimore has yet to regain his form this season, while they bounced back and forth at QB dependent on Connor Shaw's health.  It's true enough that Dylan Thompson has filled in adequately, and he may be a better pure passer, but Shaw and Lattimore are the duo that make this offense explosive....if it can be.  To this point, the defense has made life pretty easy for the offense, but they had better get it figure out quickly with one more week before they play Georgia, LSU, and Floria in consecutive games.  On the bright side, there are no Crimson Tide sightings on their schedule.

6. Florida Gators 3.05
The Gators have been reborn a smash mouth football team...well sort of.  Their defense is a big play defense, has been getting better as the season goes on.  Jeff Driskel was handed the rains and looks like he might be finding his comfort level as the passing threat to pair with Mike Gillislee's 100 yard a game rushing average.  LSU is their next game, and they have a week to get ready, which might just make for an interesting game.  They are going to need some plays from Driskel if they are going to have a chance against the Bayou Bengals, even at home.

7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 3.00
Notre Dame's offense has issues.  They are ranked 86th in points scored for the season.  The questions on that side of the ball are these:

Who is going to be the Quarterback.  It was supposed to be Everett Golson, but Tommy Rees came in and locked up their win against Michigan.  If they are smart, they stick with Golson...IMO. 

How much is their poor offensive ranking due to the defenses they have faced?  Purdue has been solid, and Michigan State has been excellent on defense, but Michigan's defense has not been more than solid.  a combined 33 points against Purdue and Michigan does not speak well for the Irish future this season.

Miami is up next, which meant a lot more in years past, but with Stanford, OU, and USC left on the schedule, I don't see the Irish running the table.

8. Kansas State Wildcats 3.00's all you can hear in Kansas this week.  The Wildcats went in and shows that their defense was no joke, winning their first game in Norman since 1997.  Collin Klein didn't put up big numbers, but he completed over 60%, ran for 79 on 17 and didn't turn the ball over while putting the Cats in the right play all night long. John Hubert had 130 on 23 carries to lead the Cats and while their defense flustered and frustrated Landry Jones all night, including a fumble return for a TD off a sack for K-State's first points of the night.

9. Florida State Seminoles 2.89
The Noles came up big against the Clemson.  It was a tough first half for the Noles as the Tigers came in loose and firing.  Clemson hit deep a couple times in the first half, but the Noles answered, going into half down just 7 after missing 2 field goals.  Clemson hit a wide receiver pass for a long TD early in the second and from there on it was like it was the 90's again as the Seminoles scored TD's on 4 consecutive possessions to put the game away.  There had been questions about EJ Manuel, bu this was the game he needed.  380 yards passing with a 77% completion rate has him on the edge of the Heisman conversation.  The Noles still need some quality wins to get a shot at the big time.  So, they need to handle their business until November when they play Va. Tech and the Gators around a trap game with Maryland to close the season.

10. USC Trojans 2.51
How would the Trojan bounce back from laying an egg against Stanford?  That was the question going into their face off with the Cal Bears.  Barkley's decision making was still questionable, but they leaned on their rushing attack and let Matt settle in as the Trojans win one going away.  The Trojans are getting some credit for playing a decent schedule to start the season, but I expect to see them drop as the season unless Barkley warms it up and they start putting up some big numbers.

11. Ohio State 2.47
The Buckeyes looked like they were asleep early as UAB jumped out to 9-0 lead, including a punt return TD by UAB.  The Buckeyes woke up and did enough to get a solid 2-TD win, exploding for 21 points in the last few minutes of the first half.  They don't quite have it figured out yet, but there is a lot of talent in Columbus.

12. Stanford Cardinal 2.30
The Cardinal had the week off, but have a tough stretch coming up.  Washington is a rivalry game in the pacific time zone for Stanford with Arizona and Notre Dame to follow.  All of these games are winnable, but despite their big win against USC, I am not sold on the Cardinal yet.  They are smart and tough, but there are positions which they are going to have trouble matching up at, physically.

13. Texas Longhorns 2.08
The Longhorns took the day off too, but who can blame them with Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Baylor up next.  Those are some seriously high-flying offenses to deal with in 4 games.  I know Longhorn fans aren't going to like hearing this, but they will be doing well to win half those games.  I look for them to drop, but their SoS is going to go flying up.

14. Arizona Wildcats 2.08
RichRod and his boys got a rude awakening in Eugene.  The Pac-12 belongs to the Ducks until someone can do something about it, and they were not the ones.  They get to play the unbeaten Oregon State Beavers next, and this would be a great redemption game for the Wildcats if they can step up at home.

15. UCLA Bruins 2.05
Speaking of the Oregon State Beavers....they made the Bruins their second victims of the season.  The explosive Oregon State passing attack showed us that the Bruins are not balanced yet.  Their offense may be ready for primetime, but their defense has some holes.

16. Clemson Tigers 2.04
The Tigers came into Tallahassee with a swagger to them which carried them well through the first half.  In the end, they just couldn't run with the deeper FSU squad for 4 quarters, and when momentum shifts against you at the Doak, it can get ugly in a hurry.  There is no great shame in losing by 12 to the Noles, but they need to spend the next couple weeks working on their rushing defense before they play the Yellow Jackets or that could be an ugly game.  After the Noles put up 287 yards rushing, that has to be their focus.

17.(tie) Nebraska Cornhuskers 2.01
The Huskers got knocked to the back burner when they were upset by the Bruins on their trip west.  They have played well since, handling a decent Arkansas State team and rolling over an overmatched Idaho State squad.  They are one of the favorites in the Big Ten, and with good reason now that Taylor Martinez is so much more effective in the passing game, giving them balance they haven't had in...well maybe ever.  The Big Ten season is starting with a bang for them as Wisconsin comes to town following by a trip to Columbus.  If they can find a way to win those, they will be back on the national radar and in the catbird seat for the 'Legends' division. 

17.(tie) North Carolina State Wolfpack 2.01
You haven't heard much about the Wolfpack this year since they lost to Tennessee early.  They still have to prove that they can beat a good team, but they have huge upside with a ball hawking secondary and Mike Glennon slinging it all over the field.  This week's game at Miami is a must-win if they want to get any respect nationally.  And they will need the confidence with the Noles coming to town the next week.

19.(tie) Texas A & M Aggies 1.98
The Aggies appear to have been motivated by their inability to close out the game against Florida.  They don't get much credit for playing South Carolina State in week 4, but blowing out a decent SMU team, and totally shitting down June Jones' Run-N-Shoot attack definitely counts for something.  Look for them to get their first 2 SEC wins against Arkansas and Ole Miss before a trap game against an explosive Louisiana Tech team before their showdown with LSU.

19.(tie) Arizona State Sun Devils 1.98
The Sun Devils are poised to make a run at the Pac-12 south title after opening with a decisive win against Utah while rivals USC and Arizona dropped their first conference games.  They have a good chance to start 3-0 before a visit from the Oregon Ducks.  That Oregon game is going to a tough one, but every game into their new system that they get, the better their chances get....though they may not be very good.  I look for their season ending rivalry game with Arizona to be decisive in the Pac-12 championship picture.

21. Louisville Cardinals 1.94
FIU game the Cardinals a much tougher game than was expected around the country.  The Cardinals are still building and they need Teddy Bridgewater to be near perfect.  You saw this when his 2 picks gave FIU a chance against a Louisville team that had been rolling.  A win is still a win, and a road win is ever better, but this looks like a chink in the Cardinals' armor to me.

22. West Virginia Mountaineers 1.88
The Mountaineers got, by far, their toughest test of the season.  The Terps made some great adjustments in the second half to slow down the West Virginia attack which is going to be studied very closely by the new member's Big 12 brethren.  Flat-out, a top 10 team has to be Maryland by more than 10.

23. Mississippi State Bulldogs 1.82
I really just down know what to think about the Bulldogs.  They haven't lost yet, and they look to be improved on offense, but I get the feeling that they are every bit the also-ran in the SEC. 

24. Northwestern Wildcats 1.81
There is a quiet little secret up in the Big Ten.  There are 3 unbeaten teams, only 2 of them can play in a bowl game this year, and they are Northwestern and Minnesota.  The Golden Gophers are purely the result of a very soft schedule and some luck in Vegas.  The Wildcats schedule is not much tougher, but Vanderbilt and BC are at least major college schools.  The fun thing for Northwestern is that they are reasonably looking at a 9 win season, and that is assuming that they can't steal a game from Nebraska, Michigan, or Michigan State.  I am not saying they will, just that it is a reasonable thought.

25. Tennessee Volunteers 1.80
The Vols are a second tier team in the SEC, there is no 2 ways about it after losing by 17 to the Gators at home.  That said, this is one of the top passing attacks in the country.  Tyler Bray can sling it and Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson can flat out go get it.  Their D needs help though.  They will flirt with the edge of the rankings all season I expect.

26. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 1.8
This is the kind of team that makes me glad that I built my rankings off of numbers, rather that perspective.  I would argue that if they didn't play Alabama, most sports fans would not know that that Western Kentucky played football.  True, they got shelled by the Tide, but they beat Kentucky in Lexington and shelled Southern Miss.  This next week against Arkansas State will put one or the other in the running for a Sun Belt title run.

27. Ole Miss Rebels 1.70
Ole Miss was on nobody's radar before the season, but they are much improved.  They have scored at least 28 against every team they have played this year.  Bo Wallace gives them a dynamic athlete and leader at quarterback and it is going to be interesting to see how much noise that can make as an underdog in the SEC.

28. Ohio Bobcats 1.69
The Bobcats exploded onto the scene when they knocked off the Nittany Lions to open the season.  They are one of the favorites in the MAC, and they could potentially run the table.

29. Oklahoma Sooners 1.68
The Sooners worried their fans when UTEP played them tough to start the year, and K-State showed that they didn't have it fixed.  Landry Jones has all the tools, but he just doesn't seem to make his decisions fast enough.  Bill Snyder deciphered the OU offense, shut down the rushing attack so Landry Jones had to beat them, and he couldn't do it.  On the other side, the Cats did just enough with an efficient passing attack to keep the safeties off the line as John Hubert ran through and over OU defenders on his way to 130 yards.  OU needs to take this as a gut check if they want to salvage their season.  Texas Tech ruined their season last season and they up next.  It's going to be very interesting to see how the Sooners respond against the Red Raiders.

30. Boise State Broncos 1.65
Boise's offense is nothing like we are used to seeing out of the Broncos, but their defense is very stout.  They have played as tough a 3 game stretch as anybody in the country to this point and, regardless of how little they have done on the offensive side of the ball, they are 2-1.  Joe Southwick is the most talented QB they have had at Boise, maybe ever, but he is not a great quarterback yet.  They are through the toughest part of their schedule, and now they can try to make a run through Mountain West schedule.  If they want to stay in the rankings, they need to be more convincing than they were against Brigham Young

Conference Count
SEC: 9
BIG 12: 4
PAC 12: 6
ACC: 3
MWC: 1
MAC: 1
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