After the conclusion of a crazy week, the picture remains as blurry as ever. Two unbeatens (Kansas and South Florida) suffered their first loss of the year and there is a now a clear-cut leader among the one loss teams (USC) after Virginia Tech and Ohio State were knocked off. Halfway through October, the cream is beginning to rise to the top.
What’s really interesting is that this past weekend could have been even crazier had the Florida-Arkansas game not played out like a wrestling pay-per-view: Starring Vince McMahon as the referees and Florida as the bad guy, the game simply felt scripted to screw the good guy ( Arkansas). A few cases in point: Trailing 20-13 in the 4 th quarter, Florida was given 25 yards of extremely dubious penalty yardage (even Vern Lundquist, the mouthpiece of the SEC’s recent hype machine, was questioning both calls on national TV!) and they capitalized with an easy short touchdown. Afterwards, as the Gators got the ball back late, the referees conveniently ignored a blatant offensive pass interference call which would have taken the Gators out of field goal range and Florida won on a last second field goal try.
When it was all said and done, Arkansas was penalized ten times for 92 yards while Florida was whistled a paltry three times for 15 yards. Tim Tebow was sacked six times by Arkansas, doesn’t it seem likely that the Gators might have held once or twice or every single play? In short, Florida escaped in a big-time way and I’m not so sure they didn’t get help in doing so.
SIX THINGS WE LEARNED THIS WEEK
Notre Dame Can Compete With The Nation’s Best
That’s right, I’m giving Charlie Weis credit for a moral victory here. That and 50 cents will get him a can of soda, but it represents a massive shift in my thinking regarding the aptly-named Fightin’ Irish. Notre Dame has played a full 60 minutes of football for five consecutive weeks against pretty strong competition and they’ve shown a lot of heart during that stretch. While they’ve only emerged 3-2, Jimmy Claussen and their explosive offense can score on anyone, proven by the 27 they put up on USC’s talented defense.
Now, Weis’ teams are still 1-11 against top 25 teams during his tenure and I’m not going to go overboard and give his team too much credit for a loss. The last time that happened, Notre Dame gave him a $40 million contract extension that I’m pretty sure they’re still regretting. I’m also certainly not overlooking their porous defense, which allows more passing yards than almost anyone in America. Heck, I’m not even sure that Notre Dame finishes better than 8-4 and Weis hold onto his job! What I am doing is moving the Irish back into the top 25, as I think that they can play with anyone in the country and I’ll give them their due this week.
Alabama Won’t Lose Until The SEC Title Game
And even then I doubt it. Alabama turned the ball over four times and couldn’t pass for over 100 yards against a tough South Carolina defense. However, Alabama’s defense rose to the challenge and dominated the Gamecocks. Furthermore, tailback Mark Ingram is officially at the top of my Heisman ballot after his 246 yards on the ground. Their major regular season challenges are going to be Tennessee, LSU and Auburn but none of those teams are going to come within a touchdown of the best team in the country.
Boise State Punched Their Ticket To The BCS
After a 28-21 squeaker at Tulsa, Boise State really doesn’t have any remaining challenges on their schedule. Sure, 6-1 rival Idaho is a nice story and Nevada appears to be coming out of their early season doldrums, but both of those teams have to play on the Smurf Turf and we all know Boise never loses at home. The only way that Boise State finishes out of the BCS bowls is if TCU also finishes unbeaten and the voters decide to rightly leapfrog them over the Broncos.
Cincinnati Is The Best Team In Ohio
Thanks to a pathetic job of coaching and executing on the offensive side of the football, Ohio State has ceded the top spot in the state of Ohio for the foreseeable future to the significantly-better coached Bearcats. Cincinnati lost their starting quarterback on the road against a top 25 team and Brian Kelly simply modified his offense to fit his new signal-caller’s strengths at halftime. Meanwhile, Ohio State hasn’t been able to build a productive offense in a season and a half around Terrelle Pryor!
What’s the difference? Coaching, specifically on offense, because the Buckeyes have one of America’s absolute best defenses and are wasting it with an ineffective attack. Ohio State is massively more talented than Cincinnati (The Buckeyes started six 5* recruits and four 4* recruits on offense this week!) but their offensive coaching staff has been unable to field a remotely consistent unit. Put it this way: If you switched offensive coaching staffs, Ohio State would probably be unbeaten and Cincinnati would likely be 3-3 at best. What does that tell you?
Iowa Has A Very Real Chance To Play For The Big One
Let’s compare two teams. Team A plays great defense and is 6-0 thanks to a strong rushing attack and a game manager at quarterback. This team boasts a 3-0 conference record and four wins against BCS competition. Team B plays great defense and is 7-0 thanks to a strong rushing attack and a game manager at quarterback. This team boasts a 3-0 conference record and five wins against BCS competition. Both teams are universally ranked in the top ten.
Team A is the #1 rated Alabama Crimson Tide. Team B? The Iowa Hawkeyes. That’s right, Iowa and Alabama are virtually the same team and guess what? These two teams might play for the National Title. Iowa has two major hurdles left: A road night game at Michigan State this Saturday and a visit to Ohio State in November. However, after Iowa’s come-from-behind 20-10 victory at Wisconsin and Ohio State’s stinker at Purdue, the Hawkeyes are more likely than not to finish the season 12-0 and that will likely earn them a National Title Game berth.
The ACC Coastal Division Is Completely Up In The Air
The dreaded three-way divisional tie is back, thanks to Georgia Tech’s victory over Virginia Tech this weekend. Along with Miami, that makes three teams that are extremely likely to finish 7-1 in ACC play. Much like the Texas-Oklahoma-Texas Tech triumvirate last fall, we could see a beauty contest the rest of the way. However, there are two key games to focus on if these three teams hold serve in ACC play: Miami’s matchup with South Florida and Georgia Tech’s battle with Georgia. While the ACC has six tiebreakers listed ahead of the BCS standings, three 7-1 teams will likely come down to the BCS’s opinion to decide a division champion, so the out of conference games might factor in.
NEW FEATURE: BOWL PROJECTIONS
I’ve blown up the bowl projections after this week’s turmoil and completely redone them. The BCS Bowl Projections reflect this change, as Iowa is now slotted in the Rose Bowl and Penn State is now in the Fiesta Bowl, dropping Ohio State out of the BCS picture. If you want to see where your favorite team is projected to play in the postseason, or are simply just interested where the shocking 6-1 Idaho Vandals will play their first postseason affair, check out my projections for all 34 bowl games at the link below!
BCS Championship: Alabama versus Texas
Rose Bowl : Iowa versus Southern California
Sugar Bowl : Florida versus Miami
Fiesta Bowl : Penn State versus Boise State
Orange Bowl : Virginia Tech versus Cincinnati
Without further ado, here are the newest top 25 rankings…..
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#1) Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0, #1 Last Week)
Week 7 Result: 20-6 Victory at Home versus #8 South Carolina
Alabama has simply been dominant. There’s no other way to put it. They run the ball down opposing team’s throats and suffocate them with great defense. While there is some concern about consecutive poor outings from Greg McElroy, the rest of the team simply doesn’t make mistakes and that makes Alabama extremely dangerous.
Week 8: Home versus Tennessee, 3:30 PM EST
#2) Iowa Hawkeyes (7-0, #3)
Week 7 Result: 20-10 Victory at #20 Wisconsin
Are people starting to believe? I got ridiculed for putting Iowa in the top 5 after they upset Penn State but the Hawkeyes are continuing to move up the rankings, debuting at 7 th in the BCS standings. At this point, Iowa has a similar resume to Alabama and if they beat surging Michigan State this week, a 10-0 start is extremely probable.
Week 8: At Michigan State, 7:00 PM EST
#3) Southern California Trojans (5-1, #5)
Week 7 Result: 34-17 Victory at Notre Dame
USC deserves a ton of credit for a gutsy road victory against Notre Dame. Despite blowing a 34-14 lead in the 4 th quarter, the Trojans dominated much of the affair and overcame their second major hostile crowd this season thanks in large part to Matt Barkley’s best game of the year. Two big tests from the state of Oregon loom in the next two weeks.
Week 8: Home versus #24 Oregon State, 8:00 PM EST
#4) Florida Gators (6-0, #4)
Week 7 Result: 23-20 Victory at Home versus Arkansas
I’m just not sold on this team yet. Despite finally finding a receiver who can stretch the field (Deonte Thompson), the offense still struggled to hold onto the football and put together some consistent drives. Florida has played three good defenses this year and they’ve put up an average of 19 points per game in those three contests. That won’t continue to get the job done. The Gators are certainly very good but I’m not so sure that they’re great this season. The Gator offense simply has to improve as back to back emotional tussles with Mississippi State and Georgia loom.
Week 8: At Mississippi State, 7:30 PM EST
#5) Texas Longhorns (6-0, #9)
Week 7 Result: 16-13 Victory against #21 Oklahoma
Texas deserves a ton of credit for pulling out a victory against Oklahoma, especially after their offense was suffocated for most of the day. Then again, I’m not so sure how much credit they deserve when I have this nagging feeling that a healthy Sam Bradford would have led Oklahoma to an easy victory. Texas hasn’t been impressive on offense against any real competition all season and their special teams and defense have bailed them out the past two weeks. Remember when Colt McCoy was the most precise passer in the country last year? Well, that’s a thing of the past as he’s been pedestrian this season. Texas has two really tough games on tap at Missouri and Oklahoma State in the next two weeks.
Week 8: At Missouri, 8:00 PM EST
#6) Miami Hurricanes (5-1, #6)
Week 7 Result: 27-7 Victory at Central Florida
The Hurricanes did a good job winning at upset-minded UCF, a game in which Miami had nothing to gain and everything to lose. The Canes have beaten two in-state non-BCS opponents the past two weeks, having earned a deserved break after their brutal opening stretch. Things get much more serious this week as talented but inconsistent Clemson comes to town after blowing out Wake Forest last week.
Week 8: Home versus Clemson, 3:30 PM EST
#7) Cincinnati Bearcats (6-0, #12)
Week 7 Result: 34-17 Victory at #23 South Florida
The Bearcats might be the best-coached team in America. What do they do when they lose their 5 th year senior quarterback to injury? Just change the whole scheme to feature their speedy backup and chug on to an easy victory! However, the most impressive thing about the Bearcats is their coaching, not their talent level and I’m still not sold on their defense. While they definitely deserve credit for an unbeaten first half, the Bearcats are no lock to finish perfect with West Virginia, Connecticut and Pitt remaining on the schedule.
Week 8: Home versus Louisville, 3:30 PM EST
#8) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-1, #15)
Week 7 Result: 28-23 Victory at Home versus #2 Virginia Tech
Hiring Paul Johnson will turn out to be the best move that Tech A.D. Dan Radekovich ever makes. The Yellow Jackets are still enough of a novelty on offense that people can’t adapt to their scheme and their passing game hits enough big plays that teams can’t stack against the run. Furthermore, Tech plays pretty solid defense! This team is starting to get some hype nationally, debuting at #12 in the BCS standings. Now they need to manage to pull out a victory at their personal house of horrors in Virginia to keep all of their dreams alive.
Week 8: At Virginia, Noon EST
#9) Louisiana State Tigers (5-1, #10)
Week 7 Result: Off Week
The Tigers hopefully spent their off week working on their offense, because they’re going to have to score some points to beat Auburn. LSU has a great defense but they’re not playing up to their extremely high talent level on the other side of the football. Can they get back on the right track with a victory this weekend?
Week 8: Home versus Auburn, 7 :30 PM EST
#10) Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-1, #11)
Week 7 Result: 33-17 Victory at Home versus Missouri
Oklahoma State continued their solid start in Big XII play by dominating Missouri at home. Especially encouraging was the play of their defense, which harassed Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert all day long. Oklahoma State needs to continue their strong play this week at Baylor and not look ahead to their showdown with Texas on Halloween.
Week 8: At Baylor, 12:30 PM EST
#11) Penn State Nittany Lions (6-1, #16)
Week 7 Result: 20-0 Victory at Home versus Minnesota
After eight inches of snow called off tailgating in Happy Valley, the football team took advantage of the poor conditions and dominated Minnesota takes to a strong rushing attack and a great defensive performance. Penn State’s offense hasn’t been spectacular this season but their defense is definitely one of the best in the country. If their defense is truly up to snuff, they’ll be a key factor in beating Michigan in the Big House this weekend.
Week 8: At Michigan, 3:30 PM EST
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT DANGEROUS
#12) Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, #14)
Week 7 Result: 28-23 Loss at #15 Georgia Tech
Frank Beamer has to hate Atlanta right now. The Hokies dropped to 0-2 in the Crossroads of the South after his defense couldn’t find an answer to the Georgia Tech Triple Option. Luckily for Beamer, his team has a manageable final five games and a 10-2 finish is a strong possibility. The Hokies should use the off week to get healthy and prepared for their stretch run.
Week 8: Off Week
#13) Oregon Ducks (5-1, #14)
Week 7 Result: Off Week
Don’t look ahead, Ducks. Don’t you dare look ahead. Oregon had last week off and I have a suspicious feeling that they spent most of the time prepping for their showdown with USC in two weeks. If they overlook Washington because of it, then Chip Kelly made a grievous error. Oregon needs to focus on a surprising Washington team before they even think about the potential conference championship-deciding showdown with the Trojans.
Week 8: At Washington, 3:30 PM EST
#14) South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, #8)
Week 7 Result: 20-6 Loss at #1 Alabama
South Carolina sure has a defense. The problem is, so did Alabama. Bama’s defense outscored the Gamecock offense! Still, Spurrier has to be encouraged by the continued excellence of his defense and that bodes well for a strong finish. Up next is Vanderbilt and the Gamecocks will be looking for retribution after struggling against the Commodores in recent years.
Week 8: Home versus Vanderbilt, 7:00 PM EST
#15) Houston Cougars (5-1, #17)
Week 7 Result: 44-16 Victory at Tulane
After whipping Tulane, I have to give Houston a ton of credit for their solid offense, though I’m still concerned about their defense. If the Cougars keep winning while teams ahead of them keep losing, then their stay in the top 25 will be longer than I expected.
Week 8: Home versus Southern Methodist, 7:00 PM EST
#16) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (6-0, #22)
Week 7 Result: 44-6 Victory at Home versus Colorado State
TCU has by far the most upwards mobility among the non-BCS schools. The Horned Frogs still have games against established names like BYU and Utah to bolster their resume and in my opinion, a 12-0 TCU team would be vastly superior to a 12-0 Boise State team. TCU has beaten two ACC teams that are challenging for bowl games and both wins were road games for the Horned Frogs. Couple that with a tougher schedule and it is a no-brainer to me. Are you listening, Harris and AP voters?
Week 8:At #25 BYU, 7:30 PM EST
#17) Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-2, Not Ranked)
Week 7 Result: 31-10 Victory at #13 Nebraska
Texas Tech has been really impressive in the last two weeks. First they scored more than 60 points with their backup quarterback two weeks ago against the current Big XII North leaders and then as a follow up they dominated a very good Nebraska team in Lincoln! Texas Tech also played Texas very tough at home earlier this year. In short, their only two losses are against Houston and Texas, both of whom are in my top 15, so this team has played some tough teams this season. Can the Red Raiders continue their strong play against Texas A&M?
Week 8:Home versus Texas A&M, 7:00 PM EST
#18) Pittsburgh Panthers (6-1, #24)
Week 7 Result: 24-17 Victory at Rutgers
The 24-17 score doesn’t really reflect Pitt’s dominance as Rutgers got a gift touchdown off of a lucky special teams gaffe that allowed the Scarlet Knights to get the ball inside the Panthers’ ten yard line. I may have been a bit heavy-handed in criticizing QB Bill Stull last week as he was impressive in the Panthers’ win at Rutgers and appears to be rounding into form for the Big East stretch run. However, the story of this team is freshman tailback Dion Lewis, who leads the country in rushing after gashing the Scarlet Knights. Combine their strong rushing attack with a very good defense and you have the formula for a lot of success. I picked Pitt to win the Big East in the preseason and I’m not backing down off of that prediction.
Week 8: Home versus South Florida, Noon EST
#19) Ohio State Buckeyes (5-2, #7)
Week 7 Result: 26-18 Loss at Purdue
Last week’s loss to Purdue was probably the worst performance by an Ohio State team since the 2006 National Title disaster against Florida. The team simply didn’t execute on offense and their normally excellent defense made some uncharacteristic errors. There’s no questioning the vast array of talent on offense in Columbus, but the Buckeyes have had an underwhelming offensive line in each of the past two seasons and that’s the fault of the coaching staff. Blame the loss on a mixture of poor coaching on offense and a bad day by all parties involved. Can the Buckeyes pick up the pieces and get back in the winning column against Minnesota this weekend?
Week 8:Home versus Minnesota, Noon EST
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#20) Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-2, #13)
Week 7 Result: 31-10 Loss at Home versus Texas Tech
One step forward, one step back for the Huskers. Zac Lee engineered a major 4 th quarter comeback two weeks ago against Missouri after he realized that he was one series away from being replaced. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary salve, as there could be a quarterback change in Huskerland this week. The defense also disappointed in allowing Tech to score 31 points and it is back to the drawing board for the Nebraska. They need to rebound quickly against surprising Iowa State because the Big XII North is wide open.
Week 8:Home versus Iowa State, 12:30 PM EST
#21) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-2, NR)
Week 7 Result: 34-27 Loss at Home versus #5 USC
As I said above, the Irish earned my respect this past week. Now they need to earn a victory against Boston College to keep it. Can Notre Dame sprinkle in a little bit of defense with their great passing game for once?
Week 8: Home versus Boston College, 3:30 PM EST
#22) West Virginia Mountaineers (5-1, NR)
Week 7 Result: 24-7 Victory at Home versus Marshall
The Mountaineers continued their winning ways against Marshall this week, but they were less than impressive in doing so. In short, WVU needs to hope that QB Jarrett Brown is healthy and ready to go this week as the Mountaineers face off against a grieving Connecticut team which will rally around the murder of starting cornerback Jasper Howard in the hours following last week’s victory.
Week 8: Home versus Connecticut, Noon EST
#23)Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, #20)
Week 7 Result: 20-10 Loss at Home versus #3 Iowa
It turns out that old school Wisconsin football is back. In the last two weeks, Wisconsin’s defense has only allowed 30 points to two top ten opponents! Unfortunately, they’ve lost both games but the Badgers will be favored in almost every game down the stretch. The Badgers need to use the off week to get their offense running again.
Week 8: Off Week
#24) Oregon State Beavers (4-2, #25)
Week 7 Result: Off Week
Anyone think that USC has forgotten last season’s upset in Corvalis? Oregon State had better come ready to play this week or they could get embarrassed in the Coliseum. Luckily, the Beavers had an extra week to prepare and could give the Trojans a tough game. Either way, their success will revolve around the Rodgers brothers’ ability to move the chains against a tenacious SC defense.
Week 8: At #3 USC, 8:00 PM EST
#25) BYU Cougars (6-1, NR)
Week 7 Result: 38-28 Victory at San Diego State
After much deliberation, BYU earned my final spot in the top 25. The Cougars’ win against the Aztecs was rather underwhelming, but their record is excellent and their victory over Oklahoma was a carbon copy of the Red River Shootout. BYU has a chance to move up in my rankings with a victory over Texas Christian this week.
Week 8: At Home versus #16 TCU, 7:30 PM EST
TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Boise State Broncos
Boston College Eagles
The rankings are beginning to spread out more evenly between conferences as the cream begins to rise to the top. The Big XII, Big Ten and SEC all check in with four teams, while the ACC, Big East and Pac Ten check in with three. The Mountain West hits a season-high with two teams thanks to BYU’s recent addition. Finally, Conference USA ( Houston rounds out the conferences while Notre Dame (Independent) rounds out the top 25.
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s football writer. Keep an eye out all fall for his multiple weekly articles discussing everything college football. If you want to get in touch with him, email him at Matt.Baxendell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @MattBaxendell
By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer
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