2008 NCAA College Football Top 25: Top 25 After Week #8
The top teams held the order from the previous week, as all of the top ten teams won their games this weekend. Mighty #1 Texas absolutely solidified their ranking with a 56-31 shellacking of Missouri just in time for the release of the BCS standings, which features the Longhorns debuting on top.
The middle ranked teams, on the other hand, fell victim to numerous upsets and a couple of defeats to top ten teams. Most surprising was Wake Forest’s fall from grace, a 26-0 road loss to the Maryland Terrapins. At this point, however, what truly matters is at the top of the polls and there are three clear cut teams in line for a National Title shot.
Another change that has been forming quietly for the last few weeks in my mind is the overall ranking of each of the conferences. While I’m completely sold on the Big XII as the best in the country (as are all rational observers), I’ve officially changed which conference I would slot at number two. Who is it? Well, read through the poll and find out in the breakdown.
THE NATIONAL TITLE SHORT LIST
#1) Texas Longhorns (7-0, #1 Last Week)
When you follow up defeating the #1 team in the country by knocking off the #11 team at home, you’re clearly the nation’s best team. Texas still has a brutal close to their schedule but their dominating 56-31 win over Missouri was more lopsided than the score would show and this is the nation’s best team. Unfortunately, the Horns have to continue a vicious schedule by hosting #6 Oklahoma State.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Oklahoma State
#2) Penn State Nittany Lions (8-0, #2)
The Nittany Lions had a slow start against Michigan, trailing 17-14 at the half, before turning on the jets and blowing their rivals out of the building by a 46-17 score. Penn State must have been looking ahead to this week’s showdown in the Horseshoe against two-time defending Big Ten champion Ohio State. This week’s game between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will likely decide the Big Ten championship and is Penn State’s biggest stumbling block en route to an unbeaten regular season.
Week 9: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST at Ohio State
#3) Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0, #3)
Alabama nearly had a disastrous week, fighting off pesky Ole Miss to hold on at home in a 24-20 victory. While the win was ugly, the big news was that the Crimson Tide will be without superstar defensive tackle Terrance Cody for a few weeks due to a knee injury. Cody has been one of Alabama’s most valuable players this season and is irreplaceable. The Tide faces a tough stretch without him as well, traveling this week to rival Tennessee before playing at LSU two weeks afterwards. Alabama will have to elevate its play if they want to remain unbeaten.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Tennessee
IN THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION
#4) Florida Gators (5-1, #4)
Florida enjoyed an off week before embarking on their season-closing stretch. Beginning this week with Kentucky, the Gators face five teams with winning records including rivals Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State. Florida has a pretty tough stretch and should be careful not to overlook the Wildcats this week in anticipation of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Week 9: Saturday, 12:30 PM EST versus Kentucky
#5) Oklahoma Sooners (6-1, #5)
Oklahoma rebounded well from losing to Texas by defeating a pesky Kansas team in a shootout at home by a 45-31 score. While Oklahoma’s defense has been underwhelming the past two weeks, the Sooners still appear capable of playing with anyone in the country and are a very dangerous team. Oklahoma isn’t out of the National Title race yet.
Week 9: Saturday, 12:30 PM EST at Kansas State
#6) Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-0, #13)
Oklahoma State did a good job of avoiding a trap game against Baylor, winning 34-6 to set up a battle of unbeatens in Austin this week. Oklahoma State still controls its destiny in the National Title chase, as incredible as that sounds, and if the Cowboys win this week, they’ll vault up into the top 3 in the country.
Week 8: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Texas
#7) Southern California Trojans (5-1, #7)
Southern Cal destroyed hapless Washington State by a historic 69-0 margin. Historic, as in the worst defeat in WSU history. Simply put, USC played a scrimmage game last week and did well to avoid injuries. USC has a somewhat difficult game ahead this week with a dangerous road trip to Arizona. The Wildcats are flying high after defeating Cal last week and USC will have a game on their hands a year after barely edging the ‘Cats by a 20-17 margin last season in Los Angeles.
Week 9: Saturday, 10:15 PM EST at Arizona
#8) Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1, #9)
Ohio State faced its third ranked road opponent this year and finally played like an elite team, blowing out Michigan State by a 45-7 margin. This game was never close as Ohio State’s much-maligned offensive line finally played a good game and the Buckeyes had a 28-0 lead at halftime. A factor to consider: This season, Ohio State has played three road games and all of them have been against ranked teams ( USC was #3, Wisconsin was #16, and Michigan State was #13) and their final two road games will be at Northwestern and Illinois and both teams will likely be ranked. Can ANY other team in the country say at the end of the season that every single road game that they’ve played this season will have been against ranked opponents? This week, Ohio State has a great chance to take control of the Big Ten race when #2 Penn State comes to the Horseshoe for a huge game. The winner is likely assured of a Rose Bowl berth, at worst.
Week 9: Saturday, 8:00 PM EST versus Penn State
#9) Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-0, #8)
Texas Tech won again but their defense looked terrible. Again. The big reason that Texas Tech has had so much love from yours truly this season is because I felt that their defense would be a difference-maker compared to previous years and that has definitely not been the case. Case in point: Terrible Texas A&M stayed in the game and Tech had to fight for a 43-25 win. This week, they face a tough road test at Kansas and their defense will have to play better than it has shown thus far if they hope to come back to Lubbock with a win.
Week 9: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at Kansas
#10) Georgia Bulldogs (6-1, #10)
Georgia was in a fight all game against Vanderbilt, which surprised me. I’m still not very high on Vanderbilt and Matt Stafford had one of his typical 2 TD, 2 Interception games when playing against solid opposition. Georgia will have to get a better performance from him this week and their beat up offensive line could be in trouble as the Bulldogs travel to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at LSU
#11) Louisiana State Tigers (5-1, #17)
LSU impressed me with a tough 24-17 win at South Carolina last weekend. In a game where I felt that South Carolina had all the momentum and the Tigers’ offensive troubles would catch up with them. Instead, their defense impressed and they came out with a well-earned win. Now, they have a real opportunity to become a major player in the national race when #10 Georgia comes to town and LSU’s defensive line should have a mismatch all day against the banged up Georgia O-Line.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Georgia
OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL TITLE DISCUSSION BUT DANGEROUS
#12) Utah Utes (8-0, #14)
Another week, another bad opponent for Utah. The Utes dominated Colorado State 49-16 to move to 8-0 and are not the favorites to win the Mountain West and play in a BCS bowl. However, the Utes still have to play TCU and BYU, meaning that they have the opportunity to either move up in the rankings or to lose their shot at a BCS bowl.
Week 9: Off Week (At New Mexico Week 10)
#13) Missouri Tigers (5-2, #11)
Missouri was blitzed by Texas on Saturday night, exposing their defensive weaknesses for the entire country to see. Missouri’s pretty offense was slowed down until the second half, when they scored four touchdowns to at least make the score look semi-respectable. Missouri is probably much better slotted as a very good team but not one that deserves to be considered for any BCS games. As for only falling 2 spots, well, there’s no shame in getting beat by the #1 team on the road and at least making a game of it. This is probably still a 10 win team and the Big XII North favorite.
Week 9: Saturday, 6:30 PM EST versus Colorado
#14) Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1, #19)
Pitt played another impressive game, defeating the Naval Academy 42-21 on the road. Tailback Shady McCoy has overcome a slow start to the season to propel Pitt to a strong first half start. The Panthers have shown a lot of toughness this season and that will go a very long way in their league. The Panthers and their strong defense will continue Big East play this weekend against Rutgers.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Rutgers
#15) South Florida Bulls (6-1, #20)
South Florida romped Big East doormat Syracuse in a 45-13 mauling last week to bounce back from their most recent loss to Pitt. If South Florida wants to keep pace with Pitt in the Big East this season, they have to show well at Louisville this Saturday.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Louisville
#16) Kansas Jayhawks (5-2, #15)
I’m not sure how many people can drop Kansas very far in good conscience. They played a universal top 5 opponent ( Oklahoma) on the road, scored 31 points and stayed in the game until the bitter end, falling 45-31. The Jayhawks are a very good team with an excellent offense and they will have a very good chance to redeem themselves this week when top 10 Texas Tech comes to town.
Week 9: Saturday, 12:30 PM EST versus Texas Tech
#17) Florida State Seminoles (5-1, #22)
Florida State has been quite impressive since losing their ACC opener to Wake Forest. The Seminoles have scored a ton of points in the three games since and managed to avoid the traditional Thursday Night upset this past week. Florida State’s offense is dangerous with Christian Ponder in charge and getting better and their defense is quite athletic. I’m starting to buy into the Seminoles and if they knock off Virginia Tech this week then they become my favorites to win the ACC.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Virginia Tech
#18) Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-1, #23)
Minnesota was off last week but this team is in the midst of an impressive season. The Gophers defeated a good Illinois team on the road two weeks ago and now must follow that up by traveling to Purdue this week. If the Gophers can defeat the Boilermakers, then they will set up a ranked showdown with Northwestern in two weeks.
Week 9: Saturday 12:00 PM EST at Purdue
#19) Texas Christian Horned Frogs (7-1, Not Ranked)
TCU’s performance on both sides of the ball against previously highly thought of BYU was one on the most impressive of Week 8. The Horned Frogs are an excellent defensive team and will definitely give Utah a huge battle in what amounts to a Mountain West Title Game later this season.
Week 9:Saturday 6:00 PM EST versus Wyoming
#20) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-1, NR)
Georgia Tech continued a very impressive opening run this season by defeated a hyped up Clemson squad on the road. The Yellow Jackets have a great chance to battle for their division championship with a 3-1 conference start and their impressive defense will keep them in most games the rest of the year.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST versus Virginia
#21) Michigan State Spartans (5-2, #13)
Michigan State got rolled by Ohio State at home by a 45-7 margin. Still, the Spartans are a very good team and I think that it was more of a misfortune that they were the opponent the week that Ohio State woke up versus an indictment of their ability. The Spartans still have a ton to play for, beginning this week with a huge game against archrival Michigan and I would not be surprised to see the Spartans finish up the regular season at 9-3.
Week 9: Saturday, 3:30 PM EST at Michigan
#22) Northwestern Wildcats (6-1, NR)
Northwestern dominated Purdue by a 48-26 score thanks to an impressive offense and good defensive play. As a matter of perspective, that same Purdue team lost close games in consecutive weeks to Big Ten heavyweights Penn State (20-6) and Ohio State (16-3) before the Wildcats took them apart. Northwestern’s offense will score a lot of points and the Wildcats are having an excellent season and are definitely a deserving top 25 team.
Week 9: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at Indiana
#23) Boston College Eagles (6-1, NR)
Boston College has really surprised me this season. I expected the Eagles to struggle mightily after losing Matt Ryan but the strength of the ACC and their improved play has allowed them to continue last season’s high level of play. Boston College was impressive on both sides of the ball while upsetting Virginia Tech last week and at 6-1, they deserve to be in the top 25.
Week 9: Saturday, 12:00 PM EST at North Carolina
#24) Boise State Broncos (6-0, #25)
Boise State continued their winning ways, beating Hawai’i 27-7 on the Smurf Turf. The Broncos should have a pretty easy path to a 11-0 record before facing off against Fresno State for the WAC title in December.
Week 9: Friday, 10:00 PM EST at San Jose State
#25) Oregon Ducks (5-2, NR)
Oregon comes back into the top 25 after a week of inaction but they face a tough road stretch. If the Ducks can find some consistency the rest of the way, then they could be in for a solid season. However, the face three of their last five on the road, so the path won’t be easy, even in a down year for the Pac Ten.Week 9: Saturday, 10:00 PM EST at Arizona State
TEN MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON
The Big XII is again my top conference, featuring six top 16 teams. Anyone who looks at the Big XII and doesn’t see the country’s best conference simply has an agenda. Here’s another tough decision: Who is number 2? While conventional wisdom and sheer volume might say the SEC, I’m not so sure at this point. I’ve consistently ranked four SEC teams this fall and there has usually been a 5th team floating around. However, that’s not the case this week. As of this week, the 2nd best conference, in my book, seems to be the Big Ten.
Before you laugh at me, call me a homer or whatever other bad words you can come up with, look at what Jeff Sagarin, a very respected pollster whose computer rankings are one of six used in the BCS formula, has in his conference rankings: 1) Big XII 2) Big Ten 3) SEC. That’s right; The Big Ten is having a very good year considering that Michigan and Wisconsin, traditionally strong teams, are bottom dwellers. I have five Big Ten teams ranked and I nearly put a very good Illinois team (#26) in as well. On top of that, #2 Penn State at #8 Ohio State is without a doubt this week’s biggest game in the country. The SEC? Outside of four very good teams (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU), where is that vaunted depth? Very few teams play much offense in the league and honestly outside of Ole Miss over Florida, who has beaten a top team in a surprise game? No one. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has had its surprises (Minnesota over Illinois, Michigan and Iowa over Wisconsin) and still has some very good teams at the bottom. The SEC is top heavy this season and there’s no shame in that, but it does take away from their overall conference ranking. I’m sorry, but the Big Ten is not down and right now it is stronger than the SEC in every way except top ten teams and perception.
Other leagues represented are the ACC with three teams, the Pac Ten, Big East, and Mountain West (which welcomes TCU and says goodbye to BYU) with two and the WAC’s lone representative in our Top 25 ranking is Boise State.
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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