Well, we are more, or less, at the halfway point of the college football season. So, we should know what we are working with by now, in terms of all these teams that are competing for the title.
This is when we are reminded of why we love college football.
Anything can happen from week to week. The various schemes and personalities lead to combustible combinations.
For example, while the whole nation was sitting there are amazed at what Texas Tech was doing to West Virginia, a thought hit me....West Virginia runs the Air Raid offense....and Texas Tech, and most of Texas high school football, has been running the Air Raid since before anyone east of Kentucky had heard of it. These kids KNOW this offense, and they know how to slow it down.
For those of you who were not paying attention, here are the crib notes. Pressure the quarterback, disrupt the receivers' routes, and make your tackles. Texas Tech was not doing anything extra-ordinary, they were just being sound in their execution.
I know that there was a game in South Bend that got a lot of attention as well, but when it comes down to it, I don't know that it matters all that much. Those quality teams, both of these teams are incomplete.....if Notre Dame was playing for any other campus, they would be getting as much national attention as Cincinnati.
More interesting to me was the BCS release that had Florida at #2 in the country. Now, I do agree that the Gators are a very good team, but #2? Well, we'll see I guess
On to the rankings.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide 4.98
The Tide crushed the Missouri Tigers early and didn't let them up, but it's not as impressive a win as the Bama faithful would like it to be. First, Missouri was without starting Quarterback James Franklin out and redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser playing in his place. It was clear that Berkstresser has the athletic ability to play at this level, but he was not ready, and this is an offense that is built on the Quarterback, so he had better be ready for primetime. Second, this Missouri attack is a speed attack, and when you limit the effectiveness with a heavy, and stubborn, rain storm...well Alabama didn't need the help that mother nature gave them. Bama is very very good, but I noticed something interesting when I was looking at their stats and schedule today.....what I noticed was their schedule.
They beat a decent, but not great Michigan team, Western Kentucky, a limping Arkansas squad, Florida Atlantic, Old Miss, and Missouri. There is not a premier squad on that list. The fun is coming though. LSU Texas A&M, and Mississippi State are left on the roster. The Bulldogs still have something to prove, but to this point all 3 of those squads have looked tough and could present a challenge. Of course, LSU is the one to watch for.
2. Oregon Ducks 4.94
The Ducks had a week off to ready for the home stretch of what has proven to be a very competitive Pac-12 conference season. They travel to Tempe to play the Sun Devils in a matchup of ranked teams this week that will have the attention of several sets of eyes. After that tough matchup, they have the cellar-dwelling Colorado Buffaloes coming to Autzen before the real fun begins. They finish the regular season by traveling to USC and Cal before finishing with their 2 biggest rivalry games with Stanford coming to visit before the Civil War in Corvallis. That is probably as tough a closing stretch as you are going to find in the country. The upside...if they win out, and win the Pac-12 title game, I don't see any way that they don't end up in the title game. After all, they are guaranteed that one of the 2 teams ahead of them in the BCS standings is going to have a loss...they have to go through each other to earn an unbeaten season.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes 4.939
If these guys can ever start playing to their potential rather than the level of their competition, it could be scary. Braxton Miller should be in the conversation for the Heisman, if for not other reason, but because this team just doesn't go without him. Their schedule has been solid, and they haven't lost...and frankly, they should be favored the rest of the way.....and then they can have a nice Christmas season with their family watching lots of football....and send Terrell and his mates a nice card thanking them.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4.81
Say what you want about that call at the end of OT being the result of more Notre Dame bias, or not. This team can flat out play defense.
5. Florida Gators 4.59
The best coaching move of Boom's young head coaching career was, without a doubt, giving Jeff Driskel the job. Driskel has gotten steadily better since then, and the Gators seem to be building momentum. That's the good news, the bad news is that they are going to need every bit of that momentum. The Gamecocks are up next to see who is going to control their own destiny for a trip to Atlanta. After that are the Dawgs and Mizzou before a couple cupcakes....oh yeah, and a trip to Tallahassee to finish the season. That's going to be a fun one between two of the better defenses and dynamic running attacks in the country. Yup....looking forward to that one.
6. South Carolina Gamecocks 4.56
That loss at LSU doesn't hurt them by much. Death Valley is, flat-out, one of the toughest places to play in the country. They still control their own destiny for a trip to Atlanta, and if they can get past Florida this next week I will have to like their chances. They will, no doubt, be favored against Tennessee and Arkansas, though both of those games will be strength against strength as both of those teams bring high-powered offenses to town. I like the season ending game at Clemson too. It's always great to see an inter-conference rivalry game at the end of the year, but can someone tell me one thing? What the hell is Wofford doing on their schedule in November?
7. Kansas State Wildcats 4.46
The Cats and Collin Klein squeaked out a win in Ames Iowa, but before you scoff at that, remember what happened to Oklahoma State and their national title aspirations last year in Ames Iowa. The Cyclones do not make mistakes and Coach Rhodes up there is putting something together. You take a road conference win where you can get it. Now, for the game everyone has been waiting for, Morgantown is up next. KSU is going to do their damnedest to take the air out of the ball and make the most of their opportunistic defense. The question is going to be, can West Virginia pull themselves out of the tank?
8. Texas A & M Aggies 4.34
These young Aggies are kind of sneaky good. We weren't sure how good a matchup their early season game with Florida was, but now it was looking like a very solid one. The Aggies are acquitting themselves quite well in the SEC West and it really does give some credence to the arguments that Big 12 fans have been cranking the past few years. After all, the Aggies weren't exactly dominating in the Big 12, some would say they are actually being more successful in the SEC...course they haven't met Bama yet.
9. Florida State Seminoles 4.25
We were curious to see how the Noles would respond to falling flat in the second half at NC State last week. Well, 51 - 7 with their defense absolutely choking the life out of what had prior been an effective passing attack for BC is promising. They came out angry and blew the doors off the home standing Eagles with an attack that was balanced, or would have been if the FSU receivers hadn't constantly outran the whole Eagles defense.
38 passes for 448 yards and 4 TD's
34 rushes for 201 yards and 2 TD's
Oh, and the defense gave up a total of 225 yards.
Yes, BC sucks, but that is the response that the Noles needed if they were going to try to turn the corner after a loss that should not have happened.
10. LSU Tigers 4.10
LSU needed a big win to stay in the hunt in the SEC, and they got one over a very good South Carolina team. However, I firmly believe that there is no way they win that game in a neutral site or on the road. Death Valley is such a tremendous advantage for a team to have, and this team needs it against teams that can match it in the trenches. Their defense is tremendous, and they have a stable of physical, and talented, running backs. However, their passing game needs a lot of work. Their QB is a statue who is not working crisply. To be honest, I am a little surprised we haven't seen more of whoever they have behind him.
11. Texas Tech Red Raiders 3.963
The Red Raiders just got their biggest win since Michael Crabtree was the big man on campus. And they got it a week after getting exposed against the Oklahoma Sooners. Turns out, the Sooners are just playing that damned well after getting beat at home by Kansas State. This Tech team is the most well rounded I have ever seen out of Lubbock, but this ranking is still a little high. They have earned it, but I expect to see them drop a few games. If they can win 4 of their last 6, this will be a season to celebrate in Lubbock. After all, they have TCU, Texas, KSU, Oklahoma State, and Baylor on the schedule. If their defense plays as well as it did last week, 5 could happen, but KSU is looking the tough nut to crack.
12. Georgia Bulldogs 3.82
The DAWGS just had their bye at the worst possible time. You want to go into a bye week on a high, not on a low, and they are definitely low after the drubbing they got at the hands of the Gamecocks 2 weeks ago. Kentucky should be a tune-up week, or as close as you get in the SEC, before the 'World's Biggest Outdoor Cocktail Party'. That rivalry game with Florida is really the only scary game on their schedule the rest of the way. With their schedule, anything less than 10 wins will be a massive disappointment.
13. USC Trojans 3.72
The Trojans just aren't really blowing people out, but a conference win by double digits, on the road, is nothing to sneeze at, and they have a pair of those back to back. This next week is the closest that they are going to get to a bye with Colorado coming to town. After that, it's time to show us what they are made of with Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, and Notre Dame to finish the season. Toss is with that they need to win out to control their own destiny for the conference title game, and there is some pressure in LA.
14. Oklahoma Sooners 3.64
Well, apparently a whoopin from Bill Snyder's boys is just what the Dr. ordered for Bob Stoops' squad. They have been rolling since that home loss, beating Texas and Texas Tech by a combined 104-41. Those are both solid squads, as evidenced Tech's drubbing of a previously white-hot West Virginia team. You can all go ahead and feel back for Kansas this week. The Sooners are going to be looking to put the Jayhawks away early so they can keep their starters healthy for their showdown with the Fighting Irish next week. If Landry Jones wants his name back towards the top of the Heisman and draft lists, that game in 2 weeks had better be circled in Red.
15. Oregon State Beavers 3.53
If you would have told Beavers fans that Sean Mannion was going to go down with a knee injury on the road in Provo, they would have probably cried thinking that their season was down the tubes. Well, it turns out that the Beavers staff, under head coach Mike Riley, have collected some talent in Corvallis. Backup Cody Vaz stepped in and the Beavers didn't miss a beat as they put up 42 points on the #5 scoring defense in the country on the road. The hits don't stop in the Pac-12 this year though. Oregon State has plenty of work to do if they want to be the team to ruin the Ducks season and play in the Pac-12 title game.
16. Clemson Tigers 3.34
Another week, another 40+ points for the Clemson Tigers...now if only they could stop anyone. For perspective on how far behind FSU they are, they gave up 31 points to BC 2 weeks back. But, noone can stop them either, so here they sit, solidly in the top 20.
17. Cincinnati Bearcats 3.27
The next 2 weeks are big for the Bearcats. Toledo is a very solid team out of the MAC, and is a bit of a trap game before they move into the meat of the Big East schedule. They have to resist looking forward to Louisville because a loss to Toledo would drop them like a rock in the Polls.
18. West Virginia Mountaineers 3.25
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Everyone was looking past Texas Tech to this weeks game with KSU, and by everyone, I am including the Moutaineers. They paid for it with any hope they had at a national title birth in their first season in the Big 12. That said, they have a shot to prove that last week was an outlier by playing spoiler at home for the Wildcats. This is a very intriguing matchup between 2 teams which are distinctly unbalanced but relentlessly effective on offense. The question is going to be whether the Mountaineers defense can get Collin Klein off the field.
19. Boise State Broncos 3.13
That was a very solid win last week against a good Fresno squad, and it showed how good this Boise defense can be. The problem is, we already knew that. This is a decent team, but they are not a BCS caliber team. Their offense just doesn't hold up their end.
20. Mississippi State Bulldogs 3.11
I am chomping at the big to find out how good this team is. Dan Mullen is a heck of a coach, but they just aren't blowing people out. I am thinking also ran, but that could still mean top 20 in the SEC west. I think the question should be not are they contenders in their conference, but are they the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best team in the SEC West?
21. Arizona State Sun Devils 3.10
The Sun Devils took their turn destroying the Buffaloes, which seems to be a rite of passage in the Pac-12. Now they get to take their shot at Oregon, in Autzen. I won't discount them out of hand, but that's a place that is awfully hard to walk out of with a win.
22. (tie)Texas Longhorns 3.03
From the outside, looking just as the scores, it looks like the Horns are in a tailspin. I don't think that is the case, I think the issue is more that their defense has been found wanting. They are talented, but they are not technically sound. You can gash them with the run, and when you let teams with the passing attacks that OU and West Virginia have find balance, you are toast. The rest of their schedule is much more manageable, and I would not be surprised to see them win out, though they are going to miss Jackson Jeffcoat.
22. (tie)Northwestern Wildcats 3.03
The Big Ten schedule is exposing the Wildcats a little bit. They are, in my opinion, going to get worked over the last month and half of the season. This week is their first chance to prove me wrong though, with the CornHuskers coming to town. This one could be a shootout.
24. Stanford Cardinal 3.02
For all the football fans out there, especially Cardinal fans, who are upset about the call at the end of the Notre Dame/Stanford game, it really doesn't matter. This is a team that is playing for the respect of a decent bowl, not a title shot. At best, they are likely a spoiler in the Pac-12 and a top 20 team nationally. But they sure are a matchup quandry for all these small fast teams who want to play in space.
25. (tie) Western Kentucky 2.98
They just keep winning, and their trip through the SEC gives them a nice SoS boost to hang around in the rankings. The Sun Belt is no joke though, and there is likely only going to be room for one team from the conference to be in the rankings. La. Monroe thinks it should be them, and we will know shortly.
25. (tie)Michigan Wolverines 2.98
I still don't trust the Wolverines. They have failed their first 2 tests when they played a team with a legit defense. Sparty claims to have one of those, and we will know after this week.
27. North Carolina Tarheels 2.94
For the first time in my memory, the game between North Carolina and Duke matters in football. Both teams are 5-2 and 2-1 in the conference. The winner is going to put themselves in control of their own destiny. North Carolina gave current frontrunner, Miami, it's only conference loss. Duke would be a tie, but I am pretty sure that they would be ecstatic about that in Dookieville. Carolina is the favorite with good reason, as they have a much better defense, but it's still fun to watch it matter for once.
28. UCLA Bruins 2.92
The Bruins sent the Utes home losers this week, but not in a terribly convincing fashion, winning by just a touchdown. They have this week off to get ready for a 5 game stretch that includes both Arizona schools, USC, and Stanford. They are going to have to win out and get help if they want to hold their spot in the title game. I don't see it happening myself. They are much improved, but it looks to me like their win against Nebraska was the high point of this season for the Bruins.
29. (tie)Wisconsin Badgers 2.91
Wisconsin has slowly crept back into the national scene...sort of. They have 2 tough losses to good teams, on the road. There is no great shame in that, but they need to win out to preserve the perception of them as a top-flight program. With Sparty, THE Ohio State, and the Nittany Lions left, that's no joke. First, a tune-up game with an improved Golden Gophers squad.
29. (tie)Iowa State Cyclones 2.91
The Cyclones are using a page out of the Bill Snyder playbook. Play to your advantages, and do not beat yourself. They nearly used that short, and simple, list to knock off the Wildcats in Ames last week. They are sitting at 4-2, and normally that's a pretty good spot for chasing bowl eligibility, but they are going to have to work. 6 games left, one of the being Kansas....so no worries right? Well, the other games are Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, OU, and West Virginia. But then again, we didn't think they would beat TCU.....but a week off in the Big 12 would be nice huh. You can say what you want about the teams at the top and how they compare to Bama, but this conference is DEEP.
SUN BELT: 1
BIG TEN: 4
BIG EAST: 1