2008 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 After Week #10
I think that this week must was hands-down the most exciting week we’ve seen all season in college football. From the early drama in the Big Ten to the exceptional overtime showdown in South Bend to the evening’s main event in Lubbock and culminating in a last minute victory by Oregon State around 1 AM, this Saturday was a ton of fun and showed why so many people love college football.
A closer look at all of the games I mentioned showed five games involving Big Ten teams, none of which was resolved by more than a touchdown. The highlight would have to be Purdue’s game winning touchdown on a hook and ladder play with 26 seconds left to end Michigan’s 33 season long bowl run, though game winning field goals by Michigan State and Illinois as time expired and an interception return for a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining by Northwestern certainly qualify as exciting as well.
The afternoon’s most anticipated game was Florida-Georgia but the Bulldogs flopped on the big stage for the second time this season and Florida blew them away 49-10. Luckily, Pitt and Notre Dame played an instant classic 4 OT thriller at the same time which culminated with a game-winning field goal by Connor Lee, his fourth field goal in OT for the Panthers.
Finally, the Texas-Texas Tech game was the day’s defining game. Texas was behind all game, only to climb back into a 33-32 lead with 89 seconds left to play. However, all I could think was, “they scored too early” and that turned out to be true. Texas Tech scored with one second left to take the lead and even though their fans were so stupid that they were assessed not one but two personal foul penalties for charging the field even though the game wasn’t over, the Red Raiders held on and defeated the country’s top team. Texas Tech isn’t number one in my book………yet. If they win the next two weeks against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, then they definitely will be but right now I’m not completely sold.
THE NATIONAL TITLE SHORT LIST
#1) Penn State Nittany Lions (9-0, #2)
Penn State had the week off but I moved them up after reassessing the relative merits of the three remaining major unbeaten teams. Penn State has beaten a top ten foe on the road (Ohio State), a ranked opponent on the road at night (Wisconsin), two big home wins (a ranked Illinois team and Oregon State who as we all know beat USC) and the Lions have been absolutely dominant in every game but the Ohio State game. Simply put, Penn State has the most impressive resume at this point in time and things will not get any easier as they have to travel to Iowa to face a dangerous Hawkeye team before welcoming a very good Michigan State team two weeks afterwards. People absolutely should not underestimate this team, which is probably the most balanced in the country.
Week 11: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Iowa
#2) Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-0, #5)
Guns Up! That’s the motto in Lubbock and their offense comes out every week with their guns blazing. The Red Raiders’ offense wasn’t the story, to me, on Saturday night. Instead, it was the sterling play of their defense in the first half. Their defensive line dominated the game early and allowed their offense to get out to a big lead early as they held the Horns to a mere 33 points in the game. The tone was set on Texas’ first offensive player when the Red Raiders notched a safety. I don’t know if Texas Tech will win out this season and their schedule was downright easy until the last two weeks but they certainly deserve their moment in the sun.
Week 11: Saturday, TBA versus Oklahoma State
#3) Alabama Crimson Tide (9-0, #3)
Alabama stays at number three, something that SEC fans won’t be happy about but the Tide simply does not have the record, to this point, to be in the top two ahead of Texas Tech or Penn State. Now, the Tide are #1 in the BCS standings, but I have them lower for a number of good reasons. One, the Tide has won one big game all season and that road blowout came against a Georgia team that I’ve not been very high on all year and no one really knows how good they are after Florida dismantled them this weekend. Two; Who else has Alabama beaten? A bad Clemson team? Two average teams at home by thin margins in Kentucky and Ole Miss? The Crimson Tide hasn’t yet played both of their big rivals in the SEC West but in a down year for the conference, neither LSU nor Auburn is really much of a barometer as to how good Alabama really is. In short, Alabama has played a relatively light schedule and that hurts them. If only they hadn’t begged off starting a home and home series with Penn State this season then we might have a better answer about how good Alabama really is.
Week 11: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at LSU
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#4) Florida Gators (7-1, #4)
Florida absolutely demolished Georgia and is unquestionably the hottest team in the country to everyone but USC fans. The Gators have been killing teams since they played LSU and their path to the SEC title game is pretty simple. There are two potential pitfalls in South Carolina and Florida State but if Florida plays anywhere near the level which they did in Jacksonville, this team will be favored in the SEC title game.
Week 11: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Vanderbilt
#5) Texas Longhorns (8-1, #1)
Texas was 1:29 away from being the first team since Notre Dame in 1943 to defeat four consecutive top 11 teams but their defense failed them in the end. Most egregious was a drop on the penultimate play off of a tipped ball, a play that will haunt Longhorn fans for a very long time if the Longhorns can’t get back into the title picture. However, this is still an excellent Texas team and if Texas Tech stumbles, they still might have a shot at the Big XII title.
Week 11: Saturday, 2:30 PM EST versus Baylor
#6) Oklahoma Sooners (8-1, #6)
Oklahoma absolutely whipped old rival Nebraska as their archrivals from Austin were abdicating the #1 throne five hours away. The Sooners have an excellent offense and their defense showed some serious teeth in running up a 28-0 advantage less than seven minutes into the game. The Sooners still have to battle both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State but as of right now they’re one of the nation’s elite teams.
Week 11: Saturday, TBA at Texas A&M
#7) Southern California Trojans (7-1, #7)
Southern Cal isn’t just beating their opponents, they destroying them. While the Pac Ten isn’t having a great season, USC is as close to unbeatable at home as any team I’ve ever seen. Their two conference road tests this season were a 17-10 win at Arizona and their infamous loss at Oregon State, so the Trojans are definitely a different team away from the Coliseum. This week, Cal comes to town hoping to put itself in the driver’s seat for a Rose Bowl berth but it is very unlikely that the Bears will be able to score much on USC’s excellent defense.
Week 11: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST versus Cal
#8) Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-1, #9)
Oklahoma State is still alive for a shot at the Big XII crown. A week after losing to Texas by only 4 points in Austin, Oklahoma State has to hit the road for another tough game, this time in Lubbock against unbeaten Texas Tech. If the Cowboys can win this game, the Bedlam Game with the Sooners will be perhaps the most important in the history of their rivalry.
Week 11: Saturday, TBA at Texas Tech
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT DANGEROUS
#9) Ohio State Buckeyes (7-2, #8)
Ohio State had the week off and will look to close out their somewhat disappointing season with road trips to Northwestern and Illinois ahead of their showdown with Michigan. It sure is weird to see that list and say that Michigan will be the easiest game but that seems to certainly be the case. Northwestern stormed back into the top 25 after beating Minnesota on a late interception return for a touchdown to move to 7-2 on the season and they will be anxiously awaiting the Buckeyes this Saturday. This will be Ohio State’s 4 th foray away from Ohio Stadium and for the 4 th time the Buckeyes will face a ranked opponent. That’s a pretty tough schedule. Ohio State fans will be hoping that their team spent most of the off week working on improving the play of the offensive line, which has been the primary culprit in their offensive troubles this season.
Week 11: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at Northwestern
#10) Missouri Tigers (7-2, #11)
A week after Missouri rebounded strong from back to back losses they nearly let one slip away to the Baylor Bears, squeaking out a close win on the road. However, their defense forced Baylor’s Robert Griffin to throw his first interception of the season and preserved their 31-28 victory. Missouri is still a very good team and will be waiting in the Big XII Title Game for whoever emerges from the chaos that is the South Division.
Week 11: Off Week (at Northwestern Week 11)
#11) Utah Utes (9-0, #12)
Despite Missouri’s struggles, Utah couldn’t jump over the Tigers. Why? Because Utah nearly lost to New Mexico, that’s why. Simply put, if Utah plays like that this week in their big Thursday showdown with TCU, their conference title and BCS hopes will be over. Utah had better come out with a stronger effort this Thursday if they want to remain unbeaten.
Week 11: Thursday, 8:00 PM EST versus TCU
#12) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (8-1, #15)
In a conference where talk is dominated by BYU and Utah, Texas Christian has the opportunity to essentially clinch the conference title this Thursday. Having already beaten BYU, TCU brings one of the nation’s toughest defenses to Salt Lake City and this week’s Mountain West clash is so big that CBS has actually picked up the coverage rights. TCU could be the first non- BCS team to clinch a BCS bowl berth with a loss (TCU lost at Oklahoma earlier this year) if they beat Utah.
Week 11: Thursday, 8:00 PM EST at Utah
#13) Michigan State Spartans (7-2, #16)
For years the knock on Michigan State was that if you got a lead on the Spartans, they would fold like a house of cards. However, this year’s team is definitely a break from the past and the Spartans’ 25-24 victory over Wisconsin is a huge win. Michigan State was down 24-9 in the second half and managed to storm back and win on a last gasp field goal. Good teams find a way to win and MSU could easily by 9-2 when traveling to Penn State in three weeks.
Week 11: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus Purdue
#14) North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2, #17)
UNC had the week off but moved up thanks in part to an upset win by their opponent this week. Georgia Tech’s win over Florida State now throws much of the ACC into chaos and North Carolina has as good of a chance as anyone to play for the ACC Title in December. Even better news for the Heels is that they shouldn’t have to face Tech this weekend with their 3 rd string QB starting. Despite a lot of injuries at the most important position, UNC controls its own destiny in the ACC.
Week 11: Saturday, TBA versus Georgia Tech
#15) Georgia Bulldogs (7-2, #8)
I think it can officially be said that Matthew Stafford is not a big game quarterback. In the second major game for the Bulldogs this year, Stafford fell short again and Georgia fell out of the top tier in the SEC. In their games against Alabama and Florida, Georgia lost by a combined fifty points. Georgia now has to pick up the pieces and finish the year strong.
Week 11: Saturday, TBA at Kentucky
#16) Louisiana State Tigers (6-2, #18)
LSU took care of business against Tulane after a slow start, winning 35-10. The Tigers can now focus on their biggest game of the season as they are set to welcome Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide to town. LSU fans hate Saban despite the fact that he won them a National Title and they won yet another last season, making this game a big one down in the Bayou. However, in a continuation of scheduling oddity, LSU plays their second big home game of the season during the day, something that I think many Tiger fans will not be happy about. If LSU holds any pretense of being a top 15 team, they’d better show up and play well to wash away the bad taste of blowouts by Georgia and Florida earlier this year.
Week 11: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Alabama
#17) Maryland Terrapins (6-2, #20)
Maryland is a very interesting team, as they’re quite the Jekyll and Hyde outfit. However, they also control their destiny in the ACC and play a huge conference game this Thursday night in Blacksburg. The Terps will have to play well to beat Virginia Tech at home on a Thursday night as the Hokies will enjoy a huge home field advantage.
Week 11:Thursday, 7:30 PM EST at Virginia Tech
#18) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2, Not Ranked)
Georgia Tech and Florida State played an excellent football game Saturday afternoon. After Tech jumped out to a big lead, Florida State came roaring back and the Yellow Jackets were only up by a field goal with less than a minute left. Worse, Florida State had the ball on their 5 yard line. However, the Yellow Jackets took advantage of an enormous coaching error as FSU decided to forgo their top two rushing options and paid as they watched their third string tailback fumble the game away. Georgia Tech has some injury issues to work through and will need to beat UNC this weekend to stay ahead of the Seminoles in their division.
Week 11: Saturday TBA at North Carolina
#19) Ball State Cardinals (8-0, #19)
Ball State had the week off but kick off this week’s games on Wednesday night. While a BCS bowl is very unlikely for the Cardinals, they still have a great shot at winning the MAC and facing off against a Big Ten team in the Motor City Bowl if they can win Wednesday and then defeat two time defending champions Central Michigan.
Week 11:Wednesday, 8:00 PM EST versus Northern Illinois
#20) Northwestern Wildcats (7-2, NR)
Northwestern fell out of the rankings two weeks ago after losing their starting backfield and the game to Indiana. However, the Wildcats’ vastly underrated defense seized the bull by the horns as Northwestern went into Minnesota and beat the Gophers on an amazing late interception return for a touchdown. However, that big win pales in comparison to what a victory this week over heavyweight Ohio State would do for Northwestern. The Wildcats will have their hands full with Terrelle Pryor and company but they are a very good team in their own right. This should be a good game.
Week 11: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus Ohio State
#21) Boise State Broncos (8-0, #22)
Boise State waxed another opponent. Hooray. Unfortunately for the Broncos, their only signature win is over Oregon and Oregon isn’t a top 25 team at the moment. Another factor that hurts them is the state of the WAC conference this season, which isn’t very strong. Simply put, I don’t know how good Boise is but I certainly can’t exclude them from the top 25 with a win over a winning Pac Ten team. I don’t think that this group is as good as the Boise State team that beat Oklahoma two years ago, but they’re still the most likely team to make a BCS bowl from the non- BCS contenders.
Week 11: Saturday, 2:00 PM EST versus Utah State
#22) Florida State Seminoles (6-2, #13)
Florida State lost in excruciating fashion at Georgia Tech and surrendered control of their destiny, at least temporarily, in their division. However, FSU has two things going for them: One is that they recruit as well as any team in their conference, so you know they’ll have a big talent edge the rest of the year and the other is that the Bowden Bowl is no more. That’s a good thing for the Noles because the son was starting to beat the father pretty consistently. Now, I think FSU has a pretty good chance of getting their season back on track against Clemson this week.
Week 11: Saturday, TBA versus Clemson
#23) Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-2, #14)
Minnesota’s loss was heartbreaking to Northwestern but the Gophers are still having a great year and now play one of their biggest rivalry games. For the first time in recent memory, Minnesota should be favored over Michigan in the Battle for the Little Brown Jug and if the Gophers beat Michigan, there is still a possibility for a ten win season. The Gophers are good and are only going to get better as second year coach Tim Brewster continues to upgrade the talent in Minneapolis. Even better, the Gophers move into their new on-campus stadium next year. This is a program on the rise.
Week 11: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus Michigan
#24) West Virginia Mountaineers (6-2, #25)
Looks like West Virginia finally has a healthy Pat White again. It is amazing how closely this team’s success is tied to one player but White dominated again in blowing out UConn. While WVU still have a couple of hurdles left in conference play, the Mountaineers are playing pretty good football the past few weeks.
Week 11: Saturday, 7:00 PM EST versus Cincinnati
#25) California Golden Bears (6-2, NR)
Cal is another team that has floated along under the radar this season. However, the Bears have some good wins on the season and their win this past weekend over Oregon in a downpour certainly helps their cause. However, the Bears face a very clear turning point in their season this weekend. If they can beat USC, then the Bears control their Rose Bowl destiny. However, if they don’t beat the Trojans, Cal will be lucky to even play in the Holiday Bowl. History might be on the Bears’ side though as they were the only team to beat USC at the Coliseum for nearly four years back in 2003 and USC has gone through the last two Pac Ten seasons with two losses. Can Cal stretch that streak to three?
Week 11: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST at USC
The Big XII continued its dominance in the rankings, fielding five top 25 teams and my #26 team in Kansas. There should be no rational argument that the Big XII isn’t the best conference this year. In second place is the Big Ten, which features five ranked teams after one of the most exciting weekends in recent memory. The SEC and ACC both are represented with four teams apiece, but the SEC’s teams are ranked much higher on average. The Pac Ten is also beginning to have a resurgence; Despite being represented by only two teams the conference has another three teams just outside of the elite 25. The Big East had another rough week as West Virginia still sits alone. The Mountain West has two highly ranked teams and the MAC and WAC both feature one.
By Matt Baxendell
Matt Baxendell is collegesports-fans.com’s newest staff writer. If you’d like to join his college football therapy group, email him at matt.baxendell @ gmail.com with all your questions, comments, and anything else you would like to share. Also be sure to check out Matt's 2008 conference previews here at CollegeSports-fans.com!
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