2009 NCAA College Football Week 9 Top 25
Week 9 Football Top 25 Rankings
For all of the drama this past weekend, there was really only one major upset. Despite half of the top ten teams running into a major challenge, only the Miami Hurricanes fell. Yet while the general tone of the weekend favored victory on the part of the favorites, it was an exhilarating week of games. Iowa and Alabama, my top two teams from last week, both survived on the final play of the game! Needless to say, it was a great weekend of football. Also, be sure to check out Matt's weekly college football bowl projections as we take a look at the expected bowl matchups this winter.
SIX THINGS WE LEARNED THIS WEEK
TCU is certainly far more deserving than the Broncos. At this point, TCU has two road wins against ACC teams and a road victory against BYU. Boise State still can only hang their hats on their increasingly impressive victory over Oregon. In short, TCU has played a tougher schedule already and with a more difficult remaining slate, they not only could, but should, pass Boise State if both finish undefeated.
Iowa , Alabama, TCU and Florida really proved their mettle this past weekend. First of all, TCU absolutely blew BYU out of the water despite playing in the most hostile environment that the Mountain West has to offer. TCU has now blown the Cougars out for two consecutive seasons and have clearly placed themselves in a class of their own among the non-BCS programs.
Meanwhile, the two SEC powers and Iowa endured extremely tough challenges. Alabama couldn’t score a touchdown at home against Tennessee and nearly blew a late 12-3 lead. However, the Tide blocked two field goals and held on for a stirring win against their oldest rivals. Two hours away to the West, Florida had to battle against former Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State team, who came into the game infected with upset fever. Despite being pushed into a 13-13 tie in the 3 rd quarter, Florida pulled away late to win a 29-19 victory and sweep their SEC West schedule for the first time in a decade.
Finally, Iowa’s victory at Michigan State was one of the most impressive performances I’ve seen all season. The Spartans were on a roll, winners of three straight, and played their best game in front of a huge crowd. Michigan State took a 13-9 lead on a late drive featuring a hook and ladder play that could (and probably should) have broken the Hawkeyes. Yet Iowa endured in what was truly a defensive struggle and Ricky Stanzi engineered an impressive and shocking final drive that culminated with the winning touchdown as time expired. The end result: The Hawkeyes emerged from East Lansing with their 4 th major road win of the year.
The Big East gets a lot of unnecessary flack from writers and fans alike. However, at this point in the season I think that a lot of people are starting to realize how impressive the top three teams are. Cincinnati, West Virginia and Pittsburgh have a combined record of 20-2 and all three are universally considered to be among the top 25 teams in the country. Remember last season when the Mountain West was clamoring for the Big East’s automatic BCS bid because they had three ranked teams? Well, the Big East has three ranked teams on top of their conference right now for the 4 th time since the conference split in 2004! The Mountain West had one good year: The Big East almost always has multiple top teams.
Even better for college football fans, none of the three have faced off and until those three games have been played, the Big East Championship won’t be decided. The final month and a half of the season will be extremely interesting…….
Remember when the Big Eight became the Big XII? Nebraska and Kansas State were routinely in the top ten and Colorado was only a few years removed from a National Championship. The North was rightly expected to dominate the conference for the foreseeable future did so for the first few seasons. Then, Texas and Oklahoma remembered that they’re supposed to be good at football (remember that whole tradition thing?) and the Big XII South has dominated the conference for the better part of the past decade.
Even worse, the Big XII North doesn’t look remotely close to narrowing the gap. Nebraska has fallen apart after a strong start, Colorado is having a terrible year at 2-5 and Kansas has lost two conference games in a row after getting fat against week opponents. Kansas, by the way, just got blown out by Oklahoma. Missouri might be the two time defending division champs but they’ve been dominated by the South in each of the last two title games and they just got blown out by Texas. That leaves us with Iowa State and Kansas State, neither of whom earned a bowl berth last year, sitting atop the Big XII North with identical 5-3 records!
If Iowa State and Kansas State are going to carry the division’s flag despite neither team cracking the season-ending top 25 since the 2003 season, then the Big XII North has to be the weakest division in major college football.
I’m not your typical sportswriter: I can give a team credit for losing a tough game against a great opponent. Last week, I gave Notre Dame credit for playing USC tough. This week, I’m giving Oregon State even more credit for their showing against USC in what turned out to be the game of the week. USC emerged victorious over the Beavers in the Coliseum by a score of 42-36, but Oregon State continued to fight back from deficits and gave the Trojans all that they could handle and more. At this point, the Pac Ten has seven teams with winning records and half of a dozen teams still have a reasonable chance to win the conference title. Oregon is undefeated in conference play and USC and Arizona both have a single loss! None of these three have faced off this season, though USC and Oregon play this weekend, meaning that the final month and a half of the season could produce a dramatic finish on the West Coast.
I’ve seen this team before: An exceptional defense, led by one of America’s best ball hawking safeties, dominates nearly every opponent they face. Their offense is built around a great line and their running game is led by an outstanding freshman. Their quarterback isn’t anything special, but he has the uncanny ability to lead his team in crunch time.
This team wins a couple impressive out of conference games to start the season before going on the road and edging a couple of ranked conference opponents. However, since they win a bunch of ugly close games, people begin to doubt them. Yet, as other unbeaten teams fall by the wayside, they persevere. Does anyone else remember the 2002 National Champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes?
Well, that’s who Iowa reminds me of. They’re eerily similar in terms of makeup and accomplishments at this point. Iowa is now 8-0 and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of Big Ten country who thinks that the Hawkeyes would match up to mighty Miami, err, Florida: Sorry, wrong season. I’m telling you, these teams are almost exactly the same! Anyway, Iowa only has one major road game left after a tough opening stretch as they visit Ohio State in November. If the Hawkeyes win that game, they’re probably going to go undefeated and if that happens, this team deserves to play for the National Title. And if they get there, I, for one, won’t be counting them out.
NEW FEATURE: BOWL PROJECTIONS
There was a major shakeup in my BCS Projections this week, beginning with the switch from Boise State to TCU in the BCS buster category. Furthermore, the ACC is now down to one team in favor of a 2 nd Pac Ten team. Finally, Pittsburgh is now my projected Big East champion. That means that my BCS picture has three new teams this week!
But the BCS bowl matchups aren’t the only big changes this week. If you want to see where your favorite team is projected to play in the postseason, or are simply just interested where the shocking 6-2 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 Texas Christian
Fiesta Bowl : Penn State versus Oregon
Orange Bowl : Georgia Tech versus Pittsburgh
THE FINAL RANT: Another Year Of The Zooker?
Word got out before the Illinois-Purdue game on Saturday that Ron Zook won’t be fired after this season despite his team’s fourth putrid season in his five year tenure. Illinois’ athletic director left reporters with this gem of a quote: “We're still going to evaluate (at the end of the season) but I think it's really unfair to start jumping at the end of the fifth year on a guy."
Wow, you’ve got to be kidding me. Can I get that kind of job security? Zook’s Fighting Illini fell apart and lost at 3-5 Purdue, dropping their record this season to 1-6. In his five years at Illinois, Zook has exactly ONE winning season and his career record as the Chief Illini is 19-36.
But it gets worse: For all of his failings on the field, Zook is dynamite on the recruiting trail. He’s has recruited a ton of talent during his tenure: Think about how much success Illinois could have if a competent coach took that roster over! When Zook was fired from Florida, Urban Meyer took his talent and won a National Title two years later! Now, I’m not saying that the Zooker has national championship caliber talent in Champaign, but if you put someone like Brian Kelly in charge, Illinois is going to become a very competitive team.
Unfortunately for Illinois’ fans, I think the biggest reason that Zook is staying as the head coach is purely financial. The school made a big mistake in extending his contract and the school would be responsible for paying Zook nearly six million dollars over the next four years. Furthermore, there are issues surrounding the administration with an admissions scandal and I think that the school simply isn’t prioritizing the football program.
That means another bad year of Illinois football is on the horizon thanks to another year of the Zooker’s inept coaching. Rant over.
Without further ado, here are the newest top 25 rankings…..
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#1)Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0, #1 Last Week)
Week 8 Result: 12-10 Victory at Home versus Tennessee
Alabama won an ugly game against rival Tennessee. That said, Alabama still managed to pull out the victory in crunch time thanks to monstrous defensive tackle Terrance Cody, who blocked two field goals! Alabama really needs to work out their offensive troubles because they’re not going to keep winning if they can’t score a touchdown. The Tide should focus on getting quarterback Greg McElroy’s confidence up during the upcoming off week.
Week 9: Off Week
#2)Iowa Hawkeyes (8-0, #2)
Week 8 Result: 15-13 Victory at Michigan State
After very similar ugly victories last weekend, Iowa and Alabama are practically the same team at this point, with one exception: Iowa might have beaten a better list of teams! Their 6 BCS victories have come against opponents with a 26-12 record! Iowa has a very real chance to move to #1 next week with a victory as they would be the only 9-0 team in America.
Week 9: Home versus Indiana, Noon EST
#3)Southern California Trojans (6-1, #3)
Week 8 Result: 42-36 Victory at Home versus #24 Oregon State
Southern California, Florida and Texas were fairly close in my estimation coming into this week. However, USC played the toughest opponent this week and emerged victorious, thanks to Matt Barkley’s 2 nd consecutive outstanding game. That keeps them at #3 going into their showdown at Oregon this Halloween.
Week 9: At #11 Oregon, 8:00 PM EST
#4)Florida Gators (7-0, #4)
Week 8 Result: 29-19 Victory at Mississippi State
Florida has to deserve a lot of credit for winning at Mississippi State, a place that they’ve struggled in recent history. Furthermore, Dan Mullen’s track record with the Gators definitely helped his team’s preparation. But the Gators also struggled on offense (again) and had to overcome a 13-13 tie in the 3 rd quarter to emerge victorious. Florida still has their flaws to fix but they showed some serious fight in beating the Bulldogs. Can they beat the Georgia Bulldogs this weekend in Jacksonville?
Week 9: World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Partyin Jacksonville versus Georgia, 3:30 PM EST
#5)Texas Longhorns (7-0, #5)
Week 8 Result: 41-7 Victory at Missouri
Texas finally lived up to my lofty expectations by blowing out Missouri on the road. I say ‘finally’ because their offense looked dominant for the first time all season against a BCS conference team. The Longhorns have begun to really build a real resume in the past two weeks but they face perhaps their biggest test of the season this week at Okie State. The Horns typically struggle in Stillwater even when the Cowboys are average, so a visit to Stillwater to face a top ten Oklahoma State squad is downright scary.
Week 9: At #9 Oklahoma State, 8:00 PM EST
#6)Cincinnati Bearcats (7-0, #7)
Week 8 Result: 41-10 Victory at Home versus Louisville
The Bearcats just keep on winning this Saturday and that trend is likely to continue next weekend at Syracuse. Their blowout win was more impressive due to the fact that the Bearcats won with their backup quarterback than it was due to the fact that it came against lowly Louisville. Cincinnati’s final four games against UConn, West Virginia, Illinois and Pittsburgh will decide their season’s fate.
Week 9: At Syracuse, Noon EST
#7)Louisiana State Tigers (6-1, #10)
Week 8 Result: 31-10 Victory at Home versus Auburn
LSU’s blowout home victory against Auburn was impressive on a number of fronts. First, the always excellent Tiger defense shut down Auburn’s powerful offense, allowing their only touchdown as time expired, long after the game was decided. Second, LSU’s offense started to show signs of life for the first time all season. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the conference. The Tigers really control their own destiny as the season progresses because if they win out then they win the SEC West.
Week 9: Home versus Tulane, 8:00 PM EST
#8)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-1, #15)
Week 8 Result: 34-9 Victory at Virginia
Georgia Tech is now in charge of the ACC Coastal race after Miami’s loss broke the three way tie atop the division. Furthermore, Tech finally broke their two decade long losing streak in Charlottesville last week! Safe to say, this could be the best season on the Flats since the school’s National Title in 1990. The Yellow Jackets travel to lowly Vanderbilt this week.
Week 9: At Vanderbilt, 7:30 PM EST
#9) Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1, #10)
Week 8 Result: 34-7 Victory at Baylor
The Cowboys did a great job of not looking ahead last week. Oklahoma State dominated Baylor from the get-go and now have set up a showdown for the Big XII South this weekend against Texas. Oklahoma State’s improved defense will need to play their best game of the season if the Cowboys want to beat Texas. However, a victory this weekend would be one of the biggest victories in school history.
Week 9: Home versus #5 Texas, 8 00 PM EST
#10) Penn State Nittany Lions (7-1, #11)
Week 8 Result: 35-10 Victory at Michigan
Penn State ended their losing streak at the Big House in dominant fashion, pounding Michigan into submission behind an attacking defense and a precision passing game. Darryl Clark played his finest game of the year and Michigan’s offense looked downright inept for most of the game. This team is just getting fully healthy and could make a lot of noise down the stretch.
Week 9: At Northwestern, 4:30 PM EST
#11) Oregon Ducks (6-1, #13)
Week 8 Result: 43-19 Victory at Washington
I was very impressed with Oregon’s performance against Washington. The Ducks could easily have overlooked Washington with USC on the horizon but instead they went up to Seattle and blew the fur off of the Huskies. This game was over quickly and the Ducks now have the opportunity to put themselves in pole position for their first Rose Bowl berth since 1994. Remember, USC lost the last time they played at Autzen Stadium……..
Week 9: Home versus #3 USC, 8:00 PM EST
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT DANGEROUS
#12) Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, #12)
Week 8 Result: Off Week
Virginia Tech lost control of their destiny during their off week, thanks to Miami’s loss. That has to sting. However, the Hokies are one Georgia Tech upset away from jumping right back to the top of the queue in the ACC Coastal Division, so their Thursday night showdown with desperate North Carolina is extremely important if the Hokies want to maintain any chance of playing for the conference title.
Week 9: Thursday, Home versus North Carolina, 7:30 PM EST
#13) Miami Hurricanes (5-2, #6)
Week 8 Result: 40-37 Overtime Loss at Home versus Clemson
Say what you want about the young Hurricanes, but there is no doubt that they’re one of the most entertaining teams in the country. Their overtime loss to CJ Spiller (who carried his team to the victory) showed that there is still a lot of work to be done at The U if they truly want to be ‘back’ but their offense is certainly one of the country’s best. Despite the loss, this team still has a great resume thanks to their brutal early season run and should get back on track this weekend against Wake Forest.
Week 9: At Wake Forest, 3:30 PM EST
#14) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (7-0, #16)
Week 8 Result: 38-16 Victory at #25 BYU
This is the best and most deserving non-BCS team in the country at this point. TCU has beaten two ACC teams on the road and is coming off of a dominant victory against BYU. In short, the Horned Frogs can play with the big boys. All that appears in the way of a BCS bowl berth is a November showdown with Utah.
Week 9: Home versus UNLV, 4:00 PM EST
#15) Houston Cougars (6-1, #15)
Week 8 Result: 38-16 Victory at Home versus SMU
Houston keeps impressing me by beating the teams that they should beat and doing so in a convincing manner. The Cougars have done well after an early season slip-up against UTEP and their three wins over BCS foes continue to give them a lot of credibility in my eyes. However, the C-USA season begins in earnest this week when East favorite USM comes to town.
Week 9: Home versus Southern Mississippi, 1:00 PM EST
#16) Pittsburgh Panthers (7-1, #18)
Week 8 Result: 41-14 Victory at Home versus South Florida
I said before the season that Pitt was my pick to win the Big East. After watching the Panthers dismantle South Florida thanks to brutal defense and fantastic quarterback play from Bill Stull, I’m officially sold. I changed my bowl projections to represent my belief that Pittsburgh will win the conference. If Stull continues to play near-perfect football, Pittsburgh is going to win at least ten games this year.
Week 9:Off Week
#17) Ohio State Buckeyes (6-2, #19)
Week 8 Result: 38-7 Victory at Home versus Minnesota
It seems Ohio State’s offensive demise was a bit overblown last week. Turns out Terrelle Pryor (343 total yards, 3 touchdowns) can play a pretty decent quarterback when his offensive line actually blocks for him! Meanwhile, Ohio State’s defense continued their excellence, blowing the shutout in the waning minutes with the backups on the field. Ohio State’s defense is going to carry this team to a strong finish and if their offensive line plays at the level which it did this past Saturday, the Buckeyes could still win the Big Ten.
Week 9:Home versus New Mexico State, Noon EST
#18) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-2, #21)
Week 8 Result: 20-16 Victory at Home versus Boston College
The Luck of the Irish continues to endure: Notre Dame needed another last-gasp defensive stand to hold on for the victory, this time against a solid Boston College squad that had beaten them seven consecutive times. Notre Dame should finally get a break from the drama when they play Washington State, the worst BCS conference team in the country, this weekend.
Week 9: Versus Washington State in San Antonio,
#19) South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, #14)
Week 8 Result: 14-10 Victory at Home versus Vanderbilt
I have only one question for South Carolina: What the heck was that? South Carolina barely edged Vanderbilt at home, squeaking out an ugly 14-10 victory! South Carolina’s defense was impressive again, allowing only 3 points (Vandy’s lone touchdown was a kickoff return) but their offense has to play better against a team that lost to Army this season. The Gamecocks need to find an offense quickly or they’re going to collapse down the stretch just like they have in seasons past.
Week 9:At Tennessee, 7:45 PM EST
#20) West Virginia Mountaineers (6-1, #22)
Week 8 Result: 28-24 Victory at Home versus Connecticut
West Virginia deserves all the credit in the world on two fronts. The first goes to their university and fans, who did their utmost to honor murdered UConn player Jasper Howard. The fans gave the Huskies a standing ovation as they ran onto the field and by all accounts were extremely gracious hosts. The second credit goes to the Mountaineer football team, whose performance in the clutch against an extremely emotional opponent earned a 28-24 victory and a lot of respect around the country. WVU needs to continue their strong play at reeling South Florida this Friday but they’re definitely a major contender in the Big East.
Week 9:Friday, At South Florida, 8:00 PM EST
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#21) Arizona Wildcats (5-2, Not Ranked)
Week 8 Result: 27-13 Victory at Home versus UCLA
At this point, I think we have three legitimate contenders for the Pac Ten title. Obviously, the first two are Oregon and USC, but the third is Arizona, thanks to a 3-1 start in conference play. In fact, Arizona is one extremely disputed late interception against Washington from an undefeated Pac Ten record! Despite quarterback Nick Foles’ worst showing of the season this past Saturday, the Wildcats managed to dominate UCLA and set themselves up for a five week closing run to remember. Could their season finale in Los Angeles against the Trojans decide the Pac Ten’s fate?
Week 9: Off Week
#22) Wisconsin Badgers (5-2, #23)
Week 8 Result: Off Week
The Badgers got a break at a very good time. After back to back tough losses to top ten opponents, Wisconsin needed a week off to collect themselves and refocus. The Badgers are probably out of the Big Ten title chase but a ten win season is a very real possibility. However, Wisconsin needs to beat the resurgent Purdue Boilermakers this week to keep that dream alive, so the Badgers would be wise to take the rest of their season one game at a time.
Week 9: Home versus Purdue, Noon EST
#23)Oklahoma Sooners (4-3, NR)
Week 8 Result: 35-13 Victory at Kansas
Oklahoma re-enters the rankings after dominating Kansas in the first game of the post-Sam Bradford era. Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner officially announced that he was having shoulder surgery this week and will forgo his senior season in lieu of an NFL career. Luckily, Landry Jones appears to be a very capable replacement with a bright future and the Sooner defense is exceptional. While Oklahoma’s first half was nothing short of nightmarish, the Sooners still have the opportunity to finish the season strong.
Week 9: Home versus Kansas State, 7:00 PM EST
#24) Boise State Broncos (7-0, NR)
Week 8 Result: 54-9 Victory at Hawai’i
While I’ve continually bashed Boise State (and will continue to do so in the future), I can’t continue to ignore their undefeated record and leave them outside of my top 25. Boise State’s resume at this point includes exactly one victory against a BCS conference opponent, but that win came against Oregon, who is a favorite in the Pac Ten at this juncture. However, Boise State’s schedule (weak as it may have been outside of the Ducks) might actually have some spice in the 2 nd half, as Nevada has won four consecutive games and rival Idaho is already bowl eligible. Regardless, the Broncos are a shining example of smart scheduling: A team that is borderline top 25 in terms of talent (at best) sits in the top ten in the BCS standings.
Week 9: Home versus San Jose State, 3:00 PM EST
#25) Oregon State Beavers (4-3, #24)
Week 8 Result: 42-36 Loss at #3 USC
You have to give the Beavers a ton of credit for their gutsy effort against USC. Oregon State is typically a strong 2 nd half team but racking up nearly 500 yards against USC in the Coliseum is a very rare occurrence. If the Beaver offense can continue to operate at such a high level then this team is going to win eight or nine games this season.
Week 9: Home versus UCLA, 4:00 PM EST
TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON
The conference representation continued to evolve this week and some serious parity is beginning to emerge nationally. The Big Ten, Big XII, SEC and Pac Ten all check in with four representatives apiece, while the Big East and ACC can claim three. The non-BCS conferences also have three representatives and Notre Dame rounds out the top 25.
By Matt Baxendell
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