2008 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 After Week #7
This week marked a major shakeup on in the rankings. At this point in time, there are three clear frontrunners for the national title, though all three face some perilous games ahead. Texas proved their worth in the Red River Shootout while Penn State cemented their #2 ranking with a dominating 48-7 win at Wisconsin.
I also shook up the bottom of my rankings. First of all, I decided that it was foolish to bypass ranking Pitt after they knocked off South Florida and are now the favorites to win the Big East, so they debut at number 19. Also, Minnesota enters the rankings after a surprising win at Illinois vaulted the Gophers to 6-1.
As always, these rankings are going to change drastically next week. After all, the Big XII teams are starting to pick each other off and the other conferences with large numbers of ranked teams are swinging fully into play as well. If the first two weeks of Big XII conference play are any indication, this season should be very exciting in what has become the nation’s best conference this year.
THE NATIONAL TITLE SHORT LIST
#1) Texas Longhorns (6-0, #3 Last Week)
Oklahoma was the number one team in the country and had just gone up 14-3 on their archrivals when Jordan Shipley broke through their return team for a momentum-changing kickoff return for a touchdown. From that point, Texas outscored Oklahoma 42-21 and Colt McCoy is now the clear frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. The Horns’ reward for such a big win? A home date with #11 Missouri to continue the most brutal stretch of any team in America this season.
Week 8: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST versus Missouri)
#2) Penn State Nittany Lions (7-0, #2)
Penn State followed Ohio State into Camp Randall Stadium and emerged far better looking than their conference rival. A week after Ohio State squeaked out a 20-17 win, Penn State absolutely dominated Wisconsin by a 48-7 score. Penn State still has tough games against Ohio State and Michigan State ahead of them but they will be focused on beating completely terrible Michigan for the first time in a decade. Expect an epic beat down in Happy Valley.
Week 8: Saturday, 4:30 PM EST versus Michigan
#3) Alabama Crimson Tide (6-0, #5)
After all of the upsets near the top of the rankings, Alabama had to be happy that they had an off week this week. In all seriousness, Alabama had a whole week to reflect upon last week’s squeaker against Kentucky and should be ready to face a hot and cold Ole Miss team. Alabama has the easiest remaining schedule of any of the top three, highlighted by a trip to LSU next month before the Iron Bowl.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Ole Miss
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#4) Florida Gators (5-1, #10)
Florida put a huge beat down on LSU in the first regular matchup of the last two national champions in twenty years. LSU doesn’t have a great offense but Florida absolutely shredded their defense to remove any doubt from this one early. While LSU’s season will tell how impressive this game truly was, the Gators looked spectacular in winning and look primed for a big second half in spite of a tough schedule.
Week 8: Off Week (Versus Kentucky Week 9)
#5) Oklahoma Sooners (5-1, #1)
While Oklahoma lost, Sam Bradford looked great in defeat and Oklahoma is still one of the country’s best teams. Oklahoma still has a lot of big games left to prove their worth and that combined with Texas’ brutal schedule means that they’re still going to be a big player for the Big XII title.
Week 8: Saturday, Time TBA versus Kansas
#6) Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0, #13)
Oklahoma State announced the presence of yet another major challenger in the Big XII by going into Missouri and shutting down one of the most impressive offenses in the country. Meanwhile, their offense scored enough and held the ball enough to pull off the school’s biggest win since their last win over Oklahoma. Mike Gundy is indeed the man in Stillwater.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:00 PM EST versus Baylor
#7) Southern California Trojans (4-1, #7)
Southern Cal slogged through an ugly game against Arizona State. Despite a 28-0 win, the Trojan offense looked rather poor for the second time in three games and Mark Sanchez definitely didn’t look 100%. However, USC has played excellent defense and their schedule only features two possible danger games so USC definitely has a chance to move up into the national title race again.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Washington State
#8) Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-0, #6)
Texas Tech’s defense seems to have proven to be paper tigers after all of the preseason hype. The Red Raiders barely squeaked out a win against Nebraska, edging the Huskers 37-31 in overtime. Frankly, Texas Tech’s offense is incredible as usual, but their defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Red Raiders have their last easy game of the season this week before having to prove how good they really are against four consecutive ranked opponents and their two spot drop this week despite winning reflects my lack of confidence that their defense can get the job done.
Week 8: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at Texas A&M
#9) Ohio State Buckeyes (6-1, #9)
Ohio State’s defense seems to have found its groove the past three weeks, looking much more impressive than in the early going. However, the offense has not been very impressive the last few weeks and the passing game with Terrelle Pryor at the helm has become stagnant. Ohio State’s season will be defined by the next two weeks when they face Michigan State on the road and welcome Penn State into Columbus for the first home Big Ten night game in Ohio Stadium history. If the Buckeyes don’t find more balance on offense, their stranglehold on the Big Ten Title could end.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Michigan State
#10) Georgia Bulldogs (5-1, #12)
Georgia let Tennessee hang around for a while before pulling away in a 26-14 victory. The Bulldogs won a game that had trap written all over it and now face the second half of a schedule that suddenly doesn’t look nearly as tough as people thought in the preseason. The Florida game looms large but a trip to LSU doesn’t look nearly as intimidating after the Tigers’ flop in the Swamp last week. Georgia should also further drill reality back into Vanderbilt this week.
Week 8: Saturday, 12:30 PM EST versus Vanderbilt
#11) Missouri Tigers (5-1, #4)
Mizzou had a tough loss at home to a surprising Oklahoma State team. Chase Daniel relinquished his Heisman lead by throwing three picks in a home loss. As I have been saying for a while, a game would come when Mizzou’s defense would need to step up in a game where the offense was slowed down and it didn’t happen. However, Mizzou has a great chance to get right back into the thick of things with a big road trip to Texas on Saturday night and you can bet that they’ll be ready to redeem themselves.
Week 8: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST at Texas
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT DANGEROUS
#12) Brigham Young Cougars (5-0, #11)
BYU underwhelmed at home against a subpar New Mexico team, winning ugly 21-3. The Cougars defense has been solid all year but their offense had their worst outing just in time to face off against the Mountain West’s best defense on Thursday night. The Cougars travel to TCU in one of their two remaining major pitfalls in the way of an unbeaten season and had better take the Horned Frogs deadly serious.
Week 8: Thursday, 8:30 PM EST at Texas Christian
#13) Michigan State (6-1, #15)
Michigan State entered a road matchup against a ranked opponent and was winning 17-0 by the end of the first quarter in a game that was never close. MSU beat Northwestern by a 37-20 score and the Spartans continue the meat of their season schedule by facing off against conference bully Ohio State and archrival Michigan in the next two weeks. If Michigan State wins both games, their season-ending tilt with Penn State could decide the Big Ten title. Either way, the Spartans are having a fine season and second year coach Mark Dantonio is quickly turning the Spartans into a power.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Ohio State
#14) Utah Utes (7-0, #14)
Utah put a hurting on Wyoming in a road romp by a 40-7 margin. Utah is rolling along but they still must face the Mountain West’s other top two contenders. Luckily for Utah, both games are at home and they have to remain the favorites to win the Mountain West and go to a BCS game.
Week 8: Saturday, 2:00 PM EST versus Colorado State
#15) Kansas Jayhawks (5-1, #17)
Kansas had a much better effort this week in dominating Colorado after nearly being upset by the conference’s worst team in Ames the week before. However, the schedule gets tough for the Jayhawks now as they travel to Oklahoma before facing three more ranked opponents during the rest of the regular season. Kansas is a very good team but they face a very tough road stretch to close the year.
Week 8: Saturday, Time TBA at Oklahoma
#16) North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1, #18)
North Carolina’s defense forced five turnovers during a huge home win over Notre Dame. However, the Tar Heels lost star receiver/returner Brandon Tate for the season because of a major knee injury. However, the Heels are swiftly becoming a power in the ACC and have a relatively easy slate the rest of the way. UNC is still a major contender for the ACC title.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Virginia
#17) Louisiana State Tigers (5-1, #8)
Louisiana State had an awful game in Florida while being absolutely dominated on both sides of the ball. However the season is not lost for the Tigers, though they face a very tough closing stretch to the season. LSU has to develop a passing game and massage their defense’s injured ego before playing what could be a very tough game at South Carolina on Saturday night.
Week 8:Saturday, 12:30 PM EST at South Carolina
#18) Virginia Tech Hokies (5-1, #23)
Virginia Tech enjoyed an off week at midseason and now faces three out of their next four games away from Blacksburg. While the Hokies are on top of their division at the moment, they must find a better offense if they’re going to play in the ACC title game. Virginia Tech moved up despite the off week as part of my reevaluation of the bottom of the rankings. Their rise was based in part due to their current five game winning streak and a pair of impressive road wins at UNC and Nebraska.
Week 8:Saturday 8:80 PM EST at Boston College
#19) Pittsburgh Panthers (4-1, Not Ranked)
Pitt was the biggest beneficiary from my shakeup and faces a decent Navy team this week before getting back on the Big East horse. Pitt is now the definite favorite for the Big East crown and seems to be getting things together after their season-opening debacle against Bowling Green. Of all the Big East teams, I though USF was the most physical until they were manhandled by Pitt. In a league that is defined by finesse, the Panthers’ physicality could go a long way towards a conference crown.
Week 8:Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Navy
#20) South Florida Bulls (5-1, #20)
South Florida continues Big East play with what should be a very winnable game against a very poor Syracuse team. USF is by no means out of the conference title race but they’re probably going to have to win out to do so. The Bulls needed the off week badly, as they had a lot of injuries on the line of scrimmage.
Week 8: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST versus Syracuse
#21) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1, #24)
Wake Forest beat a hapless Clemson team that has since fired their coach by the underwhelming score of 12-7 last Thursday. However, Wake’s defense has been impressive this fall and they will need to continue their stellar play as the Demon Deacons face consecutive road games the next two weeks. Riley Skinner will have to play better at quarterback as well if Wake Forest wants to continue their run towards a second ACC title in three seasons.
Week 8: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at Maryland
#22) Florida State Seminoles (4-1, #25)
Despite Florida State’s ACC-opening loss to Wake Forest, they are still very much alive in the conference race. Beginning with a dangerous Thursday night game at NC State, the Seminoles face three road games and must battle ranked Virginia Tech and Florida at home to close the year.
Week 8: Thursday, 7:30 PM EST at NC State
#23) Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1, NR)
Minnesota is probably the most surprising ranked team that I will have listed all year. The Gophers were a pathetic 1-11 last fall and are now 2-1 in Big Ten play after a stunning upset at Illinois. Minnesota’s only loss was at Ohio State, making the 6-1 mark even more impressive in coach Tim Brewster’s second season. Minnesota’s offense is strong, led by sophomore QB Adam Weber and while the Gophers’ stay in the top 25 might not last very long, they’ve certainly earned it.
Week 8: Off Week (At Purdue Week 9)
#24) Cal Golden Bears (4-1, NR)
Cal was another team that I had to reconsider keeping out of my rankings this week after I looked that their schedule. A season-opening 38-31 win over Michigan State is pretty impressive and their only loss was in a rare cross-country noon kickoff against Maryland, a game that Cal nearly came back and won. Just like east coast teams traveling across the country or northern teams playing bowl games against southern teams in their own backyards, I have to wonder at the fairness of a California team kicking off a game at 9 AM local time in Berkeley. Cal could also give USC its biggest challenge of the year.
Week 8: Saturday, 10:00 PM EST at Arizona
#25) Boise State Broncos (5-0, NR)
Boise State enters the rankings this week despite my personal misgivings about the Broncos. While their big win at Oregon is impressive and is the biggest reason that the Broncos are significantly higher in the AP and coaches’ polls, the Ducks were coming off a big win across the country and had major QB injuries in the first half. However, Oregon excuses aside, I also still wonder about a less explosive offense than in recent years and a schedule that hasn’t been very tough outside of the trip to Eugene. Let’s see how the Broncos fare facing four of their next six games on the road before a season-ending showdown against Fresno State on the Smurf Turf.
Week 8: Friday, 8:00 PM EST versus Hawai’i
TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON IN 2008
The Big XII has clearly established itself as the premier conference this fall and currently has six teams ranked in the top fifteen. However, the conference cannibalism will surely continue this week as four of those teams face each other. Behind the Big XII is the SEC, which has four ranked teams, three of which sit in the top 10. The Big Ten checks in with four teams as well, three of which are in the top 13. The conference’s biggest game this week will be #9 Ohio State visiting #13 Michigan State. The ACC has four ranked teams as well, but the highest ranked is #16 UNC. Meanwhile, the Pac Ten and Big East round out the BCS conferences with a two teams apiece. The Mountain West boasts a pair of teams as well while Boise State represents the WAC’s lone entry to round out the non-BCS entries.
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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