NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: Say what you want about which team had the better tune-up for the most important game of the week between the Buckeyes and the Texas Longhorns, but our money’s on OSU with the Northern Illinois game…NIU’s tiny Garrett Wolfe is the real deal, folks, averaging 9.25 yards per touch — who does he think he is, Vince Young? Okay, it’s OSU’s space but check out Wolfe’s stats against a young, but still top 20 defense (287 total yards, 172 rushing on 26 carries, a whopping 6.6 avg, plus five receptions, 115 yards for a 23.0-yard average and a TD)…Jim Tressel wouldn’t mind having another game or two under his boys’ belts before the quest to Austin, current home of the NCAA National Championship…of course, Texas’ “Road to the Rose Bowl” ran through Columbus last year, so it’s only fitting…Do you think Troy Smith & Co. have a bone to pick with the Steers this year? Smith wishes Vince Young was going to be playing. Yeah, right. One thing is for sure: No. 1 or two will be No. 1 next week. The X-factor? Can the young Buckeye defense corral Colt McCoy and shut down his go-to weapons?

NO. 2 TEXAS LONGHORNS: The Longhorns didn’t need this kind of distraction with a rematch from last year against top-ranked Ohio State looming on Saturday, but there it is…starting right cornerback Tarell Brown was arrested early Monday morning (very early) along with teammate Tyrell Gatewood and former Longhorn Aaron Harris and charged with a weapons violation for having a loaded 9 mm pistol on his lap in the backseat …Harris (the driver), Gatewood and Brown were also charged with misdemeanor pot possession…asked whether Brown might be suspended for the OSU game, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik deferred comment to head coach Mack Brown, but added coyly: “One of the things that’s awesome about being at the University of Texas is you have the opportunity to have great depth”…in other words, junior Brandon Foster (5-foot-9, 180) might be the one trying to cover Ted Ginn, Jr. on Saturday instead of Brown.

NO. 3 USC TROJANS: If there ever were any doubters out there who wondered how USC would respond to losing its entire offensive backfield and two key linemen to the NFL, Saturday night’s 50-14 pasting of Arkansas in Fayetteville ought to be strong enough proof that Pete Carroll knows what he’s doing. Air apparent (pun intended) John David Booty was a cool 24-for-36 for 260 yards and three scores. Running back by committee, aka the trio of Washington/Moody/Gable posted 165 yards rushing in 27 collective carries for a nifty 6.1-yard average and two TDs…and the gravy train just keeps on a rollin’…USC has a quiver full of talented frosh that would be starting this year in other D-1 programs. Many will be redshirted by the end of the season, unless injuries force some into the active depth chart. Such is the case with freshman Antwine Perez, who might very well find himself starting versus Nebraska in two weeks in place of free safety Josh Pinkard who tore his ACL and is out for the season. Perez will battle with another freshman, Garrett Green and senior Dallas Sartz, who is platooning at LB with Brian Cushing.

NO. 4 AUBURN TIGERS: New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp used only two linebackers — mostly Will Herring and Karibi Dede — and five defensive backs in a 40-14 victory over Washington State on Saturday, which put a lot of pressure on a rebuilt defensive line…it responded, setting a tone by sacking highly touted Cougar QB Alex Brink on three of the first four plays…meanwhile, corners David Irons and Jonathan Wilhoit took away star WR Jason Hill as an option, and Brink finished 11-of-24 for 76 yards. On the road this week at Mississippi State…it’s always a pleasure to pay a visit to Starkville when the Bulldogs are rebuilding — conversely, it’s a very dangerous place to play when MSU’s weapons are loaded.

NO. 5 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH: After Georgia Tech’s upset win on the road at Miami last November, Charlie Weis knew this season opener in the Yellow Jackets’ hive was not going to be pretty. Sure enough, the Jackets stung N.D. early and effectively…somehow, Weis came up with an antidote at halftime and the Irish managed to sneak out of Atlanta with the W. Brady Quinn’s quest for Heisman glory was tarnished in the fray (23-of-38, 246 yards, no TDs or INTs, but an anemic 6.5 yards per attempt). He can thank his defense for locking down Calvin Johnson and Reggie Ball in the second half…Major kudos to Tech for holding N.D. to 14 points when the trio of Darius Walker, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight combined for over 275 total yards. Weis blamed the close call on mental mistakes and aims to have those lapses cleaned up in time for No. 19 Penn State in the home opener this weekend.

NO. 6 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS: Sophomore QB Pat White threw more (10-of-14 for a career-high 160 yards) and ran less than usual in a season-opening 42-10 rout of Marshall, but that wasn’t necessarily part of a new Mountaineer gameplan…according to head coach Rich Rodriguez, White suffered muscle cramps in the second half…last season, freshman WR Maxwell Anderson — then a senior at Morgantown High School — was parking cars in the WVU Stadium on game days…Saturday, he caught his first pass, a five-yard gain…”We’d like to have gotten Steve Slaton more yards,” said WVU’s All-America center, Dan Mozes, afterward…Slaton only got 203. Talk about taking a breather. That’s what it’ll be when Eastern Washington comes to town this week. And West Virginia fans thought Marshall was a cakewalk…

NO. 7 FLORIDA GATORS: All through spring and preseason practice, Florida coach Urban Meyer grumbled about his running backs…”Maybe we’ll have to play without one,” he joked at one point … or maybe he wasn’t kidding — the Gators’ leading rusher in an opening 34-7 victory over Southern Mississippi was freshman wide receiver Percy Harvin, who carried four times on end-arounds and reverses and gained a team-high 58 yards. The Gators will face a determined but outmanned Central Florida squad in the Swamp this week, which should help them iron out the offensive wrinkles before visiting Tennessee the following Saturday.

NO. 8 LSU TIGERS: The crowd noise peaked at two places during LSU’s 45-3 rout of neighborhood rival Louisiana Lafayette — when QB JaMarcus Russell hit freshman wideout Brandon LaFell with a 58-yard bomb in the first quarter, and when RB Alley Broussard — coming off a knee injury that sidelined him in 2005 — gained 19 yards on his first carry…”I was just excited being back,” Broussard told reporters on Monday. “Just reborn, baby! I mean, it was like I drank about 20 Red Bulls”…and Broussard ran like a red bull, gaining 46 yards in eight carries…he remains third on the depth chart at tailback, however, behind Justin Vincent and converted fullback Jacob Hester … meanwhile, freshman phenom Keiland Williams was inserted in the fourth quarter and gained 13 yards on two carries. LSU’s offense faces a much more difficult task this week versus Arizona. The Wildcats’ defense stuffed a much ballyhooed BYU running game and “held” Heisman candidate John Beck to 286 yards and one TD on 28-for-37 passing, although another TD toss was called back by a highly questionable flag.

NO. 9 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES: Either the Florida State running game isn’t even close to what it was talked up to be, or the University of Miami has one tough defense…although sophomore Seminole QB Drew Weatherford played well, throwing for 175 yards and hitting key third-down passes of 28 and 34 yards in the third quarter drive that ended in the team’s only touchdown in a 13-10 victory Monday night. Bobby Bowden’s vaunted tailback duo of Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith combined for just two yards on 15 carries…fortunately, placekicker Gary Cismeris slayed the ghost of bad kickers past (Wide Right I, II and III and all that) by drilling a 33-yard field goal to win it. After surviving the Hurricanes Monday night, entertaining Troy State will be a welcome reprieve.

NO. 10 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: The Wolverines moved up four notches in the AP Poll with a rather unimpressive win at home over Vanderbilt. With Jay Cutler behind center, Vandy could have really made a game of it. Instead, ho-hum…Mike Hart appears to have his wheels back (146 yards, 31 rushes) and Chad Henne continues to produce unimpressive numbers (11-of-23, 136 yards, two TDs, one of which TE Tyler Ecker made a very nice grab). Michigan fans expect far more from the junior QB who is now in his third year of starting for the Maize and Blue. Look for the MAC’s Central Michigan Chippewas to provide better opposition this week if backup QB Dan LeFevour plays. He shredded Boston College’s secondary for 221 yards passing and 72 yards rushing after the Chips’ starting QB was knocked out of the game on the second play.

NO. 11 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS: “This was the South against the Pacific Coast,” proclaimed Tennessee QB Erik Ainge after throwing for 291 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Volunteers over No. 9 Cal in Knoxville…. funny thing, though — both Ainge and starting Tennessee RB Arian Foster are from, well, the West Coast — Ainge from Hillsboro, Ore., and Foster from San Diego…meanwhile, one wonders how Oklahoma let UT WR Robert Meacham escape Tulsa…Meacham had five catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns against a Bear secondary obviously missing injured cornerback Tim Mixon. The Vols’ reward was a huge 12-spot leap in the AP poll and a break on the schedule with the undersized and rebuilding Falcons of the Air Force Academy coming to Old Rocky Top.

NO. 12 GEORGIA BULLDOGS: The Bulldogs rolled over Western Kentucky, 48-12, but at least the writers covering the game had a juicy quarterback controversy to ask head coach Mark Richt about…senior Joe Tereshinski was 7-for-17 for 90 yards and one touchdown, not exactly numbers calculated to make fans between the hedges forget about D.J. Shockley in his short stint; meanwhile, hotshot freshman Matthew Stafford was 3-of-5 for 40 yards and a touchdown. The Dawgs will face one of the toughest tests of any school in Week 2 when they travel to face Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks on Saturday night. Could a mild upset be brewing down there in South Carolina?

NO. 13 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS: Even with star RB Michael Bush sidelined for the season with a broken right leg, don’t toss the Louisville Cardinals onto the scrap heap just yet…the good news that came out of a 59-28 romp over instate rival Kentucky was that QB Brian Brohm showed no ill effects from last year’s knee injury, even when he was hit hard by Kentucky’s Myron Pryor on one play…”I felt comfortable, and I didn’t even think about it,” Brohm said after throwing for 234 yards and a touchdown…he may have to throw even more with Bush out, but George Stripling, Kolby Smith and Anthony Allen appear capable of replacing Bush to some degree by committee. The Cardinals will have a stat-padding romp in Philly this weekend in the battle of birds when they invade the Temple Owls’ territory.

NO. 14 IOWA HAWKEYES: When you look at Iowa’s schedule, you see a nice build-up in the first four games leading to the home clash vs. Big Ten nemesis and current #1 Ohio State. Division 1-AA Montana was a nice little appetizer before hitting the road this week vs. a Syracuse program struggling to rebuild to competitive status in a reasonable time frame (perhaps the next three years). Syracuse will provide a step up in resistance, but not much of a test here, unless Iowa gets too heady. The next pair of games against in-state rival Iowa State and a questionable Illinois team will provide another step up in competition, with Iowa State at home and the Illini on the road. The Hawkeyes should be 4-0 at that point before hosting the Buckeyes. Yes, we’re getting ahead of ourselves and the Iowa schedule—and to be sure, the Hawkeyes can’t afford to look beyond any game…but it’s there, and it’s worth pointing out the set-up taking place in Iowa City for the arrival of Ohio State. Sometimes schedules can be your friend. We think Iowa’s schedule this year can be very friendly to the program if Kirk Ferentz plays his cards right. There isn’t a better way to christen the newly remodeled Kinnick Stadium than by winning the Big Ten title.

NO. 15 OKLAHOMA SOONERS: Expect an awful lot of Adrian Peterson this season for the Oklahoma Sooners, at least until new quarterback Paul Thompson starts feeling more comfortable…Thompson struggled at times in a surprisingly close 24-17 victory over UAB on Saturday, but Peterson churned out 139 yards in 24 carries, Thompson calling his number 11 straight times at one point…”We just kept feeding him the rock,” Thompson said. The Sooners dropped 5 spots in the AP Poll after their lackluster outing and must now prepare for an improved Washington Huskies unit coming to town which should prove a much more difficult match-up than UAB was supposed to be.

NO. 16 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES: The Hokies’ emphasis on “Beamerball” (ferocious special teams play) had drifted a bit in recent years, but a renewed commitment to blocking kicks was rewarded with a stuffed field goal and punt in a 38-0 whitewash of Northeastern on Saturday, the 109th and 110th blocks under Frank Beamer…Sean Glennon also did a workmanlike job replacing the ousted Marcus Vick at QB, finishing 15 of 18 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Virginia Tech heads south to Chapel Hill for a date with the Tar Heels this week. Don’t expect a North Carolina upset this year.

NO. 17 MIAMI HURRICANES: The theory was, run away from All-Conference DE Baraka Atkins of Miami at all cost…the Florida State Seminoles tried that and found 6-8, 265-pound sophomore Calas Campbell waiting for them… Atkins made three tackles in the Canes’ 13-10 loss to FSU, Campbell had five…at South High School in Denver two years ago, Campbell played both ways in football [Coker’s on the hot seat] led all Colorado high school basketball players in rebounding (16 a game) [Coker’s on the hot seat] and threw the shot and discus and triple-jumped on the track team. Did we mention that Larry Coker is on the hot seat in Miami? He’ll easily survive this week’s game vs. Division 1-AA Florida A&M, but look out for the Louisville road trip on Sept 16. If Miami starts the season 1-2, it could take a miracle to save his job come December.

NO. 18 CLEMSON TIGERS: The Tigers had three of the best linebackers in the ACC prior to the season… then Tremaine Billie broke his ankle, and, in Saturday’s opener against Florida Atlantic, All-America candidate Anthony Waters tore his left ACL and will be lost for the season…Waters’ replacement was redshirt freshman Clavell Conner, best known in high school in Richmond, VA as a running back (1,301 yards, 8.2 per carry)…new Clemson QB Will Proctor had his problems early, colliding with James Davis and fumbling on a routine handoff in his first series, getting two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in his second …the senior finished with 166 passing yards and three TD passes, however. Tough test on the road this week at Boston College will provide a much better idea of where this Clemson squad is headed this year.

NO. 19 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS: What will Joe Paterno see from the Georgia Tech tapes that he can exploit in South Bend? State had a nice preface to the Fighting Irish air game by facing Akron’s Luke Getsy…The Nittany Lions effectively shut him down (22-42, 160 yards, 2 INTS, 1 TD) but they’ll have to ratchet up their pass rush and receiver coverage a couple notches this week. This could be the last time Paterno ever steps foot on the Notre Dame gridiron as a head coach. Next year’s game is at PSU and there’s no indication of resuming the series on either teams’ future schedules thru 2013.

NO. 20 OREGON DUCKS: Nobody really likes to open the season with a conference game, but the Ducks don’t mind as long as they get a weak Stanford team at home on their schedule from now on…48-10, yawn–Next! This week will be the real test to see where Oregon should really be ranked when they face Fresno State on the road. Are they a fringe Top 25 squad, or should they be set in the mid-teens where Oklahoma is currently positioned? FSU isn’t as strong as they were last year, but never underestimate the Bulldogs when they are protecting their own doghouse. The game is just as important to Fresno State, which is anxious to knock on the BCS door this year with the expanded qualifier parameters. The Ducks hope RB Jonathan Stewart recovers from a sprained ankle in time for the game, but maintain faith that OC Gary Crowton can patchwork any of their talent into a formidable attack on a moment’s notice.

NO. 21 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Last season, under pass-oriented Bill Callahan, the Cornhuskers finished 105th national in rushing offense–unheard of for a school that has produced Mike Rozier, Ahman Green and Eric Crouch over the years…Callahan promised a more balanced offense in 2006, however, and the Huskers delivered in their 49-10 domination of Louisiana Tech, rushing for 252 yards…three of Callahan’s four I backs–Cody Glenn, Marlon Lucky and Brandon Jackson–scored touchdowns. Nebraska fans should feel cheated for the home game they get this week vs. Division 1-AA Nicholls State. Then again, with USC and the L.A. Coliseum on the horizon Sept. 16, Husker Nation might be very grateful for the calm before the storm.

NO. 22 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: As mighty of an ascent Tennessee made up the Top 25 ladder this week with its surprisingly easy 35-18 thumping of Cal (plus 12 spots), the Bears hit the mat even harder, almost falling out of the poll completely (minus 13 spots). With all the talent that Jeff Tedford has at his fingertips in Berkeley, it’s pretty difficult to imagine this team ending near the bottom of the polls at season’s end. But it has happened before, and Cal needs to suck it up and begin to salvage its season this week against a battle-hardened veteran Golden Gopher squad that is licking their little buckies at the idea of catching the Bears in punch-drunk mode. Too bad Minnesota doesn’t have the passing attack to balance out its running game. The Gophers will need it versus Cal unless the Bears’ QB woes continue into Week 2.

NO. 23 TCU HORNED FROGS: We won’t know if TCU is the real deal this year until it faces Texas Tech in two weeks. Playing on the road at Baylor for the season opener, the Horned Frogs displayed flashes of firepower, after shooting blanks the entire first half. QB Jeff Ballard was knocked out and replaced by freshman Marcus Jackson, who filled in with a capable performance (11-of-13, 148 yards, two TDS). Credit former Southwest Conference rival Baylor for keeping the contest in suspense by executing a solid gameplan in the first half. The Bears just didn’t have the horses to keep up with TCU in the final two frames. UC-Davis is next up at home in Fort Worth. Expect UC-D to get thumped mightily.

NO. 24 TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS: Texas Tech has had a number of great quarterbacks over the past few years — or, if you prefer the “it’s the system, not the personnel” theory, some quarterbacks with great numbers, but Graham Harrell trumped all of them with his opening performance in a 35-3 victory over SMU on Saturday…the sophomore from Ennis, Texas, where he broke the state high school record with 67 career touchdown passes, threw for 362 yards and five TDs against the Mustangs…by comparison, Cody Hodges (2005) had four TD passes in his debut; Sonny Cumbie (2004) tossed four, B.J. Symons (2003) connected for three and Kliff Kingsbury (2002) had two…”He reminds me of Tom Brady, he’s so calm,” said Red Raider receiver Robert Johnson of Harrell, who now takes aim at Symons’ NCAA record of 5,833 passing yards in a season. Next up for TT will be a very tough road game at UTEP. Look for Harrell and Jordan Palmer (Carson’s kid bro) to light up the night skies of El Paso this Saturday night.

NO. 25 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS: Now that Dirk Koetter is one game removed from the Sam Keller debacle, in which the Sun Devils dodged an instate upset at the hands of Division 1-AA Northern Arizona, he says, “we have no one to blame but ourselves.” Will the post-Keller funk continue against Nevada this week? Stay tuned. ASU has the Wolfpack at home and a road game at pitiful Colorado next week to ready itself for one of its biggest conference games of the season in Berkeley versus Cal on Sept. 22. Any hopes Koetter & Crew have of stealing the Pac-10 crown this year will be determined with that opening conference game…until then, the menu calls for Wolf and Buffalo and the Sun Devils’ need to lick their plates clean before the Bear is served.