2009 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 After Week #11
The season marches on and the undefeated teams remain undefeated. In fact, there are more undefeated teams in the country then there are teams with only one loss! To say that there is some significant separation between the top and the rest would be a huge understatement…
SIX THINGS WE LEARNED THIS WEEK
Entering this season, many people wondered if the Buckeyes were ripe for a somewhat down season. Their offense was largely gutted and their starting lineup would be comprised of at least half of a dozen underclassmen. In short, a lot of people were wondering if it was time to knock the Buckeyes down a peg to an 8-4 type season and let the rest of the conference hog the spotlight for once.
Well, after Ohio State’s 27-24 victory in overtime against Iowa in what amounted to a defacto Big Ten Championship Game, Ohio State clinched their 5 th consecutive Big Ten Title (a bit misleading, but more on that later) and their 6 th BCS bowl in Jim Tressel’s eight seasons! With eighteen starters expected to return, the window to knock the Buckeyes out of the BCS picture appears to be closed.
In the last two weeks, Stanford has scored 106 points against the Pac Ten’s erstwhile top two teams ( Oregon, USC) and has vaulted into my top ten. Stanford’s victory at USC was so dominant that the Cardinal went for two late in the game in an attempt to hit the 50 point margin! Put it this way, no one in the country wants any part of Jim Harbaugh’s team right now thanks to an extremely powerful multidimensional offense.
Speaking of Stanford, they still have a very legitimate shot at the Pac Ten title. However, I think that they’re still only the 3 rd most likely team to earn the conference’s Rose Bowl berth. At the top, Oregon controls their destiny as a 2-0 finish in conference play would give them a 8-1 final record and an outright Pac Ten Championship. Meanwhile, Arizona is still alive in the race but they can’t afford another loss at this point. With Oregon, Arizona State and USC left on their schedule, I just can’t see them winning out.
That leaves Oregon State as the 3 rd remaining team in the race. The Beavers’ showdown with rival Oregon will likely end up as a play-in for the Rose Bowl. An OSU win would likely force a three way tie at 7-2 and that would give Oregon State the Pac Ten championship thanks to wins heads up against Stanford and Oregon! Thus, don’t count out the plucky Beavers. However, there is a looooong way to go in the race for the country’s deepest conference.
There’s not been any official decision that has been made on Charlie Weis’ future but it is safe to say that Notre Dame’s loss to Pittsburgh was essentially the nail in the coffin of his career. The Irish are now 6-4 on the season and their 16-13 record over the past three years just won’t get the job done. Notre Dame hasn’t officially announced it yet but the combination of another poor season and the bright shining light of Brian Kelly screaming in Morse code his willingness to head to South Bend is likely the conclusion of Weis’ failed tenure as the Irish boss.
The ACC hasn’t had much success at putting together strong championship matchups since splitting into two divisions. Lopsided games and low attendance have unfortunately been the norm, lowlighted by last year’s sparsely attended blowout Virginia Tech win. However, things look significantly better this year as Georgia Tech appears to be on a collision course with Clemson (and their enormous fan base). The potential of a 9-3 Clemson team matching up against an 11-1 Georgia Tech team seems to indicate the most interesting showdown in conference history.
One other fun thought: Georgia Tech beat Clemson early in the season with a last-second field goal. While you know that the Tigers’ huge fanbase will ensure a sellout in Tampa Bay, the ACC might actually have a strong title game between two top fifteen teams for the first time in conference history!
While I’m not usually a major believer in the non-BCS teams because they don’t play the weekly grind that BCS teams do, I think that TCU deserves a lot bit of credibility. Unlike Boise State, who gets showered by excessive love from the media, TCU has proven themselves when it matters most. Since 2005, TCU has an 8-2 record against BCS conference opponents (versus Boise State’s 4-4 mark) and they’ve recorded a 4-0 bowl record (versus Boise State’s 1-4 result). That makes them extremely legitimate in my eyes and their 55-28 romp over Utah combined with three other big road wins earlier in the season leads me to believe that Texas Christian is the best BCS buster that we’ve seen yet.
I’ve had some major changes in the Bowl Projections this week, highlighted by USC falling out of the BCS picture. However, outside of the BCS games, the biggest change involved the Trojans. As many of you know, the WAC has a history of setting up strong bowl match ups for Boise State and this year could produce the perfect example.
The Emerald Bowl pits the Pac Ten versus the ACC every year. The reason I tell you this is because it pits the ACC’s 7 th bowl seed and the ACC could easily have trouble filling their bowl slot. Furthermore, the Emerald Bowl is currently where I expect USC to be slotted in the Pac Ten pecking order. If the ACC can’t fill their slots, that opens up the game to the rest of the country.
Heck, even if the ACC gets a 7 th bowl eligible team, it will be Florida State and given the alternative of playing an infinitely more winnable game against a MAC team in the new Eaglebank Bowl in what could be Bobby Bowden’s final career game, I think that the ACC would gladly cede their slot for a year to set up this huge game.
Thus, it isn’t a stretch to think that the Emerald Bowl and WAC conference would jump at the chance to match up the Trojans and Broncos in what would immediately become the most intriguing bowl game outside of the BCS games…….
Whether you’re interested in the rationale for my projections or are simply curious where your favorite team is going to end up in the postseason, check out all 34 bowl projections!
BCS Championship: Alabama versus Texas
Rose Bowl : Ohio State versus Oregon
Sugar Bowl : Florida versus Pittsburgh
Fiesta Bowl : Texas Christian versus Oklahoma State
Orange Bowl : Georgia Tech versus Iowa
FOR ANALYSIS AND PREDICTIONS FOR ALL 34 BOWLS, CLICK HERE
THE FINAL RANT: Enough With Conference Co-Champions!
I mentioned before that Ohio State clinched their 5 th consecutive Big Ten championship with their win against Iowa last weekend. While that’s technically true, it is rather misleading. The Big Ten is one of three major conferences which recognize co-champions and in a way it diminishes their championship’s luster.
Case in point: Ohio State is widely considered to be the face of the Big Ten. However, Penn State has shared two of the past five conference titles with Ohio State and in both of those years it was the Nittany Lions who beat the Buckeyes heads up and earned the Big Ten’s automatic BCS berth. While both teams finished with 7-1 records in each of those years, it seems like a disservice to Penn State to undermine their heads up victory against the Buckeyes, especially at a time when the Big Ten is looking for multiple teams to help Ohio State carry the conference flag.
Meanwhile, the Pac Ten has a similar structure. Since USC’s run of championships began in 2002, they’ve actually shared the conference championship with three other teams! In fact, USC’s first conference championship under Pete Carroll actually belonged to Washington State, who earned that year’s Rose Bowl bid!
In the end, my major issue with co-championships is that they don’t properly reward success in head to head matchups and devalues the league’s championship. In fact, the only way I really can support a conference co-champion is when the Big Ten has two teams finish undefeated in conference that don’t play each other head to head thanks to their unbalanced schedule. That actually happened in 2002 when both Ohio State and Iowa finished 8-0 in conference play! Otherwise, the Big Ten, Pac Ten and Big East need to recognize the conference’s automatic BCS bid as the sole champion from their league.
THE TOP 25
These rankings reflect the entire resume of a team during the season. Thus, I’m not putting together a power ranking based on teams matching up on a proverbial neutral field and settling things. In fact, I’m doing quite the opposite: I’m trying to reward achievement throughout the season against quality competition.
For example, I might be one of the few in the country that doesn’t have Boise State in the top ten. While the Broncos have an undeniably impressive victory over Oregon on their resume, they can only boast two victories over teams with a winning record on the rest of their entire schedule! That’s why both TCU is ranked way ahead of them: They’ve played a significantly tougher schedule and I want to reward that.
That stance should encapsulate the philosophy behind my top 25. Without further ado, here are the newest top 25 rankings……..
THE NATIONAL TITLE SHORT LIST
#1)Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0, #1 Last Week)
Week 11 Result: 31-3 Victory at Mississippi State
Alabama impressed a lot of observers with their dominant victory at Mississippi State, a venue that other notable SEC powers such as Florida and LSU have struggled at this season. With a lay up on tap this week, all that stands in the way of the Crimson Tide and an undefeated regular season is the Iron Bowl.
Week 12: Home versus Chattanooga (D-1AA), 12:21 PM EST
#2)Florida Gators (10-0, #2)
Week 11 Result: 24-14 Victory at South Carolina
The Gators also endured a difficult road test against plucky South Carolina. While Florida’s offense continued their relative struggles, their defense continued its high level of play. Much like Alabama, only struggling rival Florida State has any chance whatsoever of ruining the Gators’ perfect regular season.
Week 12: Home versus Florida International, 12:30 PM EST
#3)Texas Longhorns (10-0, #3)
Week 11 Result: 47-14 Victory at Baylor
Texas actually has a tougher remaining schedule than either Bama or Florida in the regular season as they have two conference opponents left before their title game. However, Texas is playing their best football of the year and will still be favored in a major manner for the rest of the regular season.
Week 12: Home versus Kansas, 8:00 PM EST
#4)Cincinnati Bearcats (10-0, #4)
Week 11 Result: 24-21 Victory at Home versus West Virginia
Cincinnati snuck through at home against a tough West Virginia squad last week, setting up a defacto Big East Title Game on December 5 th against Pittsburgh. Will Brian Kelly come up with a legitimate solution to his quarterback situation during the off week or will he just field more questions about Notre Dame?
Week 12: Off Week
#5)Texas Chrisitan Horned Frogs (10-0, #7)
Week 11 Result: 55-28 Victory at Home versus #25 Utah
TCU absolutely dominated Utah last week and cemented themselves as a legitimate contender for the Big One if the teams ahead of them fail. Why do I give TCU so much more credit than Boise State? Aside from the fact that TCU has two road victories over ACC foes, including likely ACC Atlantic Division winner Clemson, the Horned Frogs also have beaten two ranked conference opponents this season as well. Finally, their 8-2 record against BCS conference teams in the past four years coupled with their perfect bowl record makes them significantly more bonafide in my mind than the perpetually overrated Broncos.
Week 12: At Duke, Noon EST
THE BEST OF THE REST
#6)Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-1, #5)
Week 11 Result: 49-10 Victory at Duke
I felt bad for dropping Tech a spot after a road blowout victory that clinched the ACC Coastal Division, but I had to give TCU their due. That said, Georgia Tech is playing as well as anyone in the country right now. If they can continue to mask their issues in pass defense, Georgia Tech could win their first conference title since 1998 and earn their 2 nd BCS bowl bid.
Week 12: Off Week
#7)Pittsburgh Panthers (9-1, #8)
Week 11 Result: 27-22 Victory at Home versus Notre Dame
The Panthers really didn’t get a ton of credit this year until people finally saw how good their defense really is on national television against Notre Dame. What people also didn’t realize is how talented sophomore Jonathan Baldwin is. You hear a lot of talk about A.J. Green and Julio Jones as the two best sophomore wide receivers in the country but Baldwin is every bit as spectacular and even more productive! Coupled with Pitt’s vicious running game, the Panthers could finish with their best season since the early 1980s.
Week 12: Off Week
#8)Ohio State Buckeyes (9-2, #12)
Week 11 Result: 27-24 Overtime Victory at Home versus #10 Iowa
Whether you’re a fan of Tresselball or not, Ohio State is about to become the sole leader in all-time BCS appearances thanks to the Sweatervest’s 6 th bid in eight years! While the Buckeyes can be frustrating at times with Tressel’s play not to lose strategy, their defense and talent are undeniable. A 6 th consecutive victory over Michigan, which would extend the Buckeyes’ record winning streak in The Game, would clinch Ohio State’s 3 rd outright conference title in four years.
Week 12: At Michigan, Noon EST
#9) Stanford Cardinal (7-3, #20)
Week 11 Result: 55-21 Victory at #11 Southern California
I might be getting ahead of myself by putting Harbaugh’s squad in the top ten despite three losses. However, it is really tough to not be impressed by the extremely high level of play coming out of Palo Alto after the past two weeks’ worth of blowouts. A name to remember: Toby Gerhart, the Cardinal’s exceptional tailback, could be darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Week 12: Home versus #24 California, 7 :00 PM EST
#10) Oregon Ducks (8-2, #10)
Week 11 Result: 44-21 Victory at Home versus Arizona State
Oregon stays static despite their impressive victory against Arizona State because of Stanford’s firepower. However, don’t discount Oregon’s win over the Sun Devils, who have an excellent defense and are one of the best teams in the country without a winning record. This week’s game against Arizona could be a make or break affair for the Ducks’ championship hopes.
Week 12: At Arizona, 8:00 PM EST
#11) Iowa Hawkeyes (9-2, #6)
Week 11 Result: 27-24 Overtime Loss at #12 Ohio State
I’m actually more impressed by Iowa in defeat than I ever was for any of their victories. Iowa is extremely good on both sides of the football, especially along the line of scrimmage. But what impressed everyone the most was the moxie and talent of freshman James Vandenberg, who nearly beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe with the Rose Bowl on the line. Iowa only needs to beat down rival Minnesota to likely clinch a BCS at-large bid.
Week 12: Home versus Minnesota, Noon EST
#12) Wisconsin Badgers (8-2, #15)
Week 11 Result: 45-24 Victory at Home versus Michigan
Wisconsin blew the doors of off Michigan and set themselves up for a fantastic finish to the season on senior day at Camp Randall. The Badgers finish up Big Ten play by traveling to face plucky Northwestern before visiting Hawai’i to close out the regular season in early December. Brett Bielema’s team returned to their roots of smashmouth football and it has paid off this year in a big way. Another bonus: The Badgers’ trip to Hawai’i will cut down on their wait to play in a bowl game and their showing on New Year’s Day will be a good litmus test for the ‘Big Ten season ends too early’ argument that has become prevalent in explaining the conference’s recent bowl struggles.
Week 12: At Northwestern, 3:30 PM EST
#13) Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2, #16)
Week 11 Result: 31-20 Victory at Home versus Indiana
Penn State made things way too difficult against Indiana, falling behind 10-0 early on senior day. Perhaps it was a hangover from their disheartening loss a week earlier against Ohio State but the Lions roared back to earn their 9 th victory of the year. Penn State can win their 50 th game in the past five years if they can close out the season with a victory against rival Michigan State this weekend.
Week 12: At Michigan State, 3:30 PM EST
#14) Oklahoma State (8-2, #18)
Week 11 Result: 24-17 Victory at Home versus Texas Tech
Oklahoma State continued their fine season with a hard-fought win against divisional rival Texas Tech. As surprising as it sounds, Oklahoma State has a legitimate shot at a BCS at-large bid this year because two more wins would make them a strong candidate to replace Texas in the Fiesta Bowl at 10-2. However, the Cowboys need to win this Thursday at home before looking ahead to archrival Oklahoma to close out the regular season.
Week 12: Thursday, Home versus Colorado, 7 :30 PM EST
#15) Louisiana State Tigers (8-2, #13)
Week 11 Result: 24-16 Victory at Home versus Louisiana Tech
Here’s all that needs to be said about LSU’s weekend: They were losing at halftime to 3-6 Louisiana Tech. LSU has a great defense, no one can deny that, but a combination of injuries and poor execution has dropped their offense among the absolute worst in the country. With offensive powerhouses Ole Miss and Arkansas remaining, LSU has to improve their point production or another disappointing season might be on tap in Baton Rouge.
Week 12: At Ole Miss, 3:30 PM EST
#16) Oregon State Beavers (7-3, #19)
Week 11 Result: 48-21 Victory at Home versus Washington
Don’t count the Beavers out of the Pac Ten chase yet. With their expected victory next week against Washington State, the worst BCS conference team in America, Oregon State will move to 6-2 in Pac Ten play. That means that if Oregon wins their game next week against Arizona, the winner of the Civil War will go to the Rose Bowl! With Oregon State’s traditional second half march in full swing, I wouldn’t rule out the underdogs from Corvallis.
Week 12:At Washington State, 3:30 PM EST
#17) Boise State Broncos (10-0, #24)
Week 11 Result: 63-25 Victory at Home versus Idaho
I moved Boise State up this week for a few reasons. One is that a 10-0 team has to get some recognition eventually, despite their tepid schedule. The second reason is that they absolutely dominated a bowl-bound rival and they’ve now defeated three teams with winning records. While I still don’t put a ton of credibility with the Broncos and their 1-4 recent bowl record, I have to eventually give them some credit for winning the games that they’re supposed to. However, their showdown with Nevada in two weeks is looming as a defacto WAC Championship Game as the Wolfpack is undefeated in conference play. That game will probably decide the Broncos’ championship and BCS dreams.
Week 12:At Utah State, 9:30 PM EST
#18) Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3, #21)
Week 11 Result: 36-9 Victory at Home versus Maryland
The Hokies continue to play a very predictable game: They’ll overwhelm inferior opponents with strong defense and a conservative offense. In many ways, they’re a slightly less talented version of Ohio State: They win a ton of games but rarely in a pretty manner. With that in mind, it seems extremely likely that the Hokies will continue to use that formula to beat the final two minnows remaining on their schedule and finish the regular season 9-3.
Week 12: Home versus North Carolina State, 3:30 PM EST
#19) Clemson Tigers (7-3, #22)
Week 11 Result: 43-23 Victory at North Carolina State
Clemson hasn’t officially clinched the ACC Atlantic Division, but with lowly Virginia as their only remaining hurdle, I expect the Tigers to take care of business. If the Tigers can clinch the division and defeat archrival South Carolina, Dabo Swinney’s second season could turn out to be more successful than any under Tommy Bowden.
Week 12:Home versus Virginia, 3:30 PM EST
#20) Boston College Eagles (7-3, #23)
Week 11 Result: 14-10 Victory at Virginia
They just keep winning. Head coach gets fired in the offseason for interviewing for the Jets job? No big deal! Starting quarterback is kicked off the team and replaced with a former minor league baseball player? Seamless transition! Their best player is diagnosed with cancer? Rallying point for another successful season! Boston College has already exceeded my expectations this year and I can’t think of a more blue-collar team. Maybe it is time to dub the Eagles as the Oregon State of the East: They always are one of the best prepared teams in America and will always outwork you. They’ll also win a lot more games than they lose.
Week 12: Home versus North Carolina, 3:30 PM EST
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#21) Southern California Trojans (7-3, #11)
Week 11 Result: 55-21 Loss at Home versus #20 Stanford
On pure resume alone, USC might deserve to be higher. However, they’ve been blown out twice in the past three weeks when they were never beaten by more than ten points in the previous seven years under Pete Carroll! USC really needed a week off at this point to regroup and hopefully get healthier for their final two games against UCLA and Arizona.
Week 12: Off Week
#22) North Carolina Tar Heels (7-3, Not Ranked)
Week 11 Result: 33-24 Victory at Home versus #9 Miami
North Carolina has gotten better as the season has gone on. Their defense has been the constant throughout but their offense has finally found its way on a consistent basis. In short, North Carolina is going to face off against their mirror image when they play Boston College this week. Will the Heels’ superior talent win out in their quest for a 9-3 regular season.
Week 12: At #20 Boston College, Noon EST
#23)Miami Hurricanes (7-3, #9)
Week 11 Result: 33-24 Loss at North Carolina
The Hurricanes have had trouble on the road this season, so their loss at North Carolina shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. What has been really surprising is how Jacory Harris has regressed a little bit as the season has worn on. On the other hand, Miami is still a really young team that has a legitimate chance at a 9-3 record and that could propel the Canes into 2010 as a legitimate conference and national championship contender.
Week 12: Home versus Duke, Noon EST
#24) California Golden Bears (7-3, NR)
Week 11 Result: 24-16 Victory at Home versus #14 Arizona
I was really impressed by Cal’s inspired effort after losing star tailback Jahvid Best to a scary injury two weeks ago. I also forgot how good his backup, Shane Vereen, really is. I said in my Pac Ten preview that Vereen was the conference’s best supporting runner and he didn’t disappoint in Cal’s big upset victory over Arizona. If the Golden Bears can knock off streaking archrival Stanford, they could enter bowl season with a shot at ten wins!
Week 12: At #9 Stanford, 7:00 PM EST
#25) Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-2, NR)
Week 11 Result: 31-0 Victory at Home versus South Florida
Rutgers is the final entrant in the top 25 after shutting out South Florida last Thursday on home turf. With the downside of the Big East schedule remaining ( West Virginia is their only opponent left with a winning record), the Scarlet Knights could win ten games with a freshman starting quarterback! That would be an incredible result for a team that had to rebound in a major manner after getting blown out by Cincinnati to start the season.
Week 12: At Syracuse, 3:30 PM EST
By Matt Baxendell
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
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