AP Top 25 Weekly Recap (pre-2009)
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.
NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES – No argument about Numero Uno…for now. The young Buckeye defense played a marvelous game of bend-but-don’t-break against the Longhorns, with linebacker James Laurinaitis leading the way. Laurinaitis forced Billy Pittman’s fumble near the goal line late in the first half which led to a touchdown and then intercepted Colt McCoy’s first pass of the second half which led to a Buckeye field goal. WR Anthony Gonzalez had an All-American first half with seven grabs, 122 yards and a TD. If you saw the game, you know that several of his catches were in heavy traffic and he sustained some big hits after the catch…Ted Ginn, Jr. did his job, scoring once and distracting the Texas defense throughout the game…Troy Smith silenced all doubters and played mistake free. Still, the two names that stand out in the win are Laurinaitis and Gonzalez. Ohio State’s schedule provides a pretty favorable path to the National Title Game…biggest challenges should come on the road at Iowa and Michigan State and the regular season closer at home versus Michigan.
NO. 2 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH – Notre Dame could easily be on a path toward a return showdown with Ohio State in Tempe — this time with the national title at stake. The Irish still have some pretty big hurdles on their schedule with Michigan invading South Bend this week. Penn State proved to be a cakewalk of sorts for the Irish. JoePa’s troops were surprisingly unprepared for the game. Brady Quinn posted Heisman-like numbers, but he just doesn’t have that “it” factor that separates former trophy winners like Bush, Leinart and Palmer from the pack…perhaps if the Irish are 12-0 in December, we can say that Quinn finally has “it.” After last year’s whipping by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, it’s strange to see Notre Dame nipping at the Buckeyes’ heels in the polls this early in the year. A No. 2 ranking makes the target on Charlie’s boys that much larger…can ND survive 10 more tests with such a noticeable target on their backs?
NO. 3 AUBURN TIGERS – Mississippi State effectively shut down star Auburn RB Kenny Irons on Saturday, holding him to 69 yards on 21 carries, the first time in eight games that the All-America candidate hadn’t gained over 100. No problem — QB Brandon Cox simply stepped up, hitting 18-of-27 passes for 249 yards and completing scoring hookups with TE Gabe McKenzie and wideout Rodgeriqus Smith, and Auburn romped, 34-0…”They were of the mind that they were going to make the quarterback beat them, and I think the quarterback did that,” said Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges. “It’s nice to know if they do stop our running game — and people are obsessed with stopping our running game — we have some answers.” This week, of course, the Tigers host LSU in a contest with not only conference but national championship implications. The key matchup will be Auburn’s offensive line — perhaps the best in the SEC — against a ferocious Tiger defense.
NO. 4 USC TROJANS – Pete Carroll can thank A.D. Mike Garrett for scheduling a bye week between the season opener on the road at Arkansas and this week’s home opener versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers. It can only help when breaking in a new QB on offense. Nebraska would have had a much better chance — if any — escaping with a win in Los Angeles had USC played the week before. The Trojans are now well-rested and have had ample time to prepare for any offensive or defensive twist Bill Callahan thinks he can throw at USC. On the flip side, watch for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and QB/Asst. head coach Steve Sarkisian to add some new wrinkles in the Trojan arsenal now that John David Booty has a successful start under his belt. Nebraska will most likely topple out of the Top 25 after this week’s visit to the Coliseum.
NO. 5 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS – Everybody won in the Mountaineers’ 52-3 demolition of Eastern Washington on Saturday. The visitors got a nice payday, the fans got to celebrate, and every West Virginia squad member who was ambulatory got to play. Not only was Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez able to take a longer-than-a-minute look at backup QBs Jarrett Brown, Nate Sowers and Markell Harrison, but all of them scored. Star WVU running back Steve Slaton averaged 13 yards a carry in the first half, and the only reason that average wasn’t higher was that he kept getting stopped by the end zone — Slaton was untouched on scoring runs of 49 and 17 yards. This week: Maryland at home.
NO. 6 LSU TIGERS – Blitzing relentlessly, the Tigers sacked highly touted University of Arizona sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama three times and intercepted him twice during a 45-3 rout of the Wildcats in Baton Rouge. The first pick was hauled back 41 yards for an LSU touchdown by Jonathan Zenon, his second score of the season. At the end of the third quarter, the visiting Wildcats had 54 total yards. LaRon Landry, Zenon’s cousin and secondary mate, had an interception and a sack, the latter knocking Tuitama out of the game with a possible concussion. “We just weren’t ready for this,” said Arizona coach Mike Stoops after the Tigers extended their streak of not allowing an offensive touchdown to 14 quarters. The Tigers know if they continue the streak this week at Auburn, JaMarcus Russell and the offense will take care of the rest.
NO. 7 FLORIDA GATORS – So much for the old adage about playing them one at a time. While Urban Meyer’s Florida team was punching out Central Florida, 42-0, on Saturday, Meyer already had Tennessee on his mind — the Gator linemen were using silent snap counts the entire game against CFU in preparation for the racket on Rocky Top next Saturday. The victory marked a personal best for QB Chris Leak, who threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns (two to Andre Caldwell). Freshman WR Percy Harvin was the leading receiver with four catches for 99 yards, and classmate Tim Tebow (Leak’s backup) was the leading rusher with 62 yards. Meanwhile, Florida’s surly defense limited George O’Leary’s visitors to 21 rushing yards.
No. 8 TEXAS LONGHORNS – After taking a 17-point whooping at home from the revenge-minded Ohio State squad, Texas can thank its lucky charms that it only fell six slots in the AP poll. It leaves Mack Brown & Co. plenty of wiggle room to journey back into contention for a rematch in the Tempe title game, if (and that’s a big IF) the Longhorns don’t stumble again and everyone else in between Texas and the top falter somewhere along the way this season. Texas’ loss and the mild hand-slap it received dropped the team to eighth in the polls…which just goes to show teams that start the season ranked highly can lose early and still make it to the championship tilt at the end of the season. If the loss to Ohio State occurred in late October or November, it would have virtually assured the Longhorns they’d be playing in a BCS consolation bowl. QB Colt McCoy couldn’t handle the pressure the Buckeyes brought Saturday night, but can you imagine how good this kid will be in the next 2-3 years with dozens of starts under his belt? Pity Rice and its fans this weekend when the Longhorns come to town…
NO. 9 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES – Apparently, the Seminoles invited a Trojan horse — actually, a number of Trojan horses — into Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday. Unheralded Troy State, from the Sun Belt Conference, took a 17-10 lead on FSU in the fourth quarter on a touchdown set up by Chris Davis’ muffed punt. But a 15-yard scoring pass from Drew Weatherford to a redeemed Davis tied it, and Joe Surratt’s short run (set up by Buster Davis’ first career interception) with 1:56 remaining won it. Most worrisome for veteran FSU coach Bobby Bowden was the fact that his team once again failed to mount a credible running game, with just 53 combined yards from Antone Smith and Lorenzo Booker. “It was like a nightmare,” moaned Bowden afterward. The Seminoles will entertain Tommy Bowden’s banged-up Clemson team this Saturday.
NO. 10 GEORGIA BULLDOGS – Longtime Georgia defensive coordinator Erik Russell died on Friday, and the Bulldog defense did him proud a day later, twice stopping South Carolina inside the five-yard line and handing Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier his first shutout in 193 games as a college coach, 18-0. The team’s quarterback controversy was also resolved, at least temporarily, when senior starter Joe Tereshinski hurt his ankle and freshman heir apparent Matthews Stafford was pressed into service. Stafford completed 8-of-17 passes for 171 yards and made a couple of big runs, but also threw three interceptions. The Bulldogs get a mild break from SEC action when UAB comes to Athens this weekend.
NO. 11 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES – Mike Hart continues to look solid (19 rushes, 116 yards, three TDs) after Michigan’s easy 41-17 romp over the MAC’s Central Michigan, while Chad Henne fails to impress once again (11-for-19, 113 yards). After two lackluster wins over seriously mismatched opponents, it’s really difficult to see the Wolverines marching into South Bend and securing a victory this week. The only way it will happen is if Michigan’s defense stifles the Irish attack and Chad Henne delivers the type of elite performance fans have been expecting from him since his stellar freshman season two years ago.
NO. 12 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS – For one game, at least, the absence of star running back Michael Bush seemed to energize the Cardinals more than demoralize them. Bush was lost for the season last week with a broken leg suffered in the Kentucky game, but reserves George Stripling and Sergio Spencer each ran for two touchdowns and Kolby Smith added another as U of L destroyed Temple, 62-0. In addition, QB Brian Brohm threw for over 300 yards, wideout Mario Urrutia had five catches for 110 yards, and the Louisville defense was tough when it had to be (“I told my teammates, ‘Dominate who you’re supposed to dominate,'” crowed LB Nate Harris afterward). Coach Bobby Petrino just hopes his team saved some of that emotion for this Saturday, when No. 17 Miami comes to town…it’s a must-win game for both schools, if they want a piece of the BCS bowl pie in January
NO. 13 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS – The timing couldn’t be worse. With offensive-minded Florida to deal with this weekend, Tennessee has to overcome the loss of two key defensive starters — DT Jason Harrell and DB Inky Johnson. Moreover, the Vols almost lost to Air Force last Saturday, barely surviving with a 31-30 victory after Xavier Mitchell stuffed Chad Hall on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:35 remaining. Suddenly, the season-opening upset of Cal seems like ancient history. Johnson was knocked unconscious and taken away by ambulance after banging helmets with Air Force’s Justin Handley, an injury later said to involve his right shoulder. Harrell ripped his left bicep. Both will miss the Florida game, and may be out for the season. And as if that weren’t bad enough, RB Arian Foster sprained an ankle. As for the UT defense, it was collectively bleeding, surrendering 408 yards in total Air Force yardage.
NO. 14 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES – Generally speaking, Tech will beat you with defense – “Ore” else. Saturday’s 35-10 dispatching of North Carolina was a mixture of both, with Brenden Hill scoring on a 69-yard interception return, Josh Morgan blocking a punt to preface another score, and Branden Ore rushing for 111 yards and three touchdowns. The Hokies host Duke this weekend, which should leave them 3-0 and 2-0 in ACC play. Further down the road, the concern is at quarterback, where newcomer Sean Glennon was rather underwhelming (10-of-17 passing for 66 yards) against the Tar Heels. Late in the game, redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker came in and gained 41 yards (to Greg Boone) with his only aerial touchdown.
NO. 15 OKLAHOMA SOONERS – Adrian Peterson got to take off his Superman cape for awhile on Saturday, as the junior running back had plenty of help in OU’s 37-20 home victory over Washington. New QB Paul Thompson hit 21-of-33 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and Malcolm Kelly caught 121 yards worth of passes and scored twice. It was Bob Stoops’ 36th birthday, which made it even better. Next week won’t be so easy, however, as OU travels West to take on one of the PAC-10’s upper echelon, 18th-ranked Oregon. Thompson continues to develop as the replacement for Rhett Bomar, and Peterson still managed 165 rushing yards, impressive enough for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.
NO. 16 IOWA HAWKEYES – On the surface, being dragged into double overtime by a Syracuse team on a 10-game losing streak would seem to be a disaster for Kirk Ferentz’ Hawkeyes (hence the chants of “Overrated!” reverberating off the Carrier Dome’s plastic roof, even though Iowa pulled out a 20-13 victory). In reality, however, Ferentz had to feel good about the adversity his team overcame. First, star QB Drew Tate couldn’t take the field because of a pulled abdominal muscle, leaving seldom-used Jason Manson as the starter. Later, Iowa had three reviewed plays go against it, placekicker Kyle Schlicher had a field goal blocked, and Syracuse got eight chances to cover two yards in the second overtime (thanks to a pass interference penalty on Iowa). But the Hawkeye defense, led by DE Kenny Iwebema (who made four tackles on the final goal-line stand) held firm. Tate’s status is still uncertain for Saturday’s game at home with Iowa State — not encouraging, since Manson was intercepted four times.
NO. 17 MIAMI HURRICANES – What kind of team does Larry Coker have this year? At this point, it’s hard to tell, at least on offense. The Hurricanes rushed for two yards in the opener with Florida State (a 13-10 loss) and then pounded out 339 in a 51-10 rout of Florida A&M in which they also put up 31 first downs. The Rattlers were simply outmatched. One long-term bright spot was the play of RB Tyrone Moss, returning to the UM lineup after a knee injury and a suspension, and QB Kyle Wright looked sharp in limited action. So which Hurricanes will show up in Louisville on Saturday? Stay tuned…Coker’s still on the hot seat…
NO. 18 OREGON DUCKS – Mike Belotti became Oregon’s all-time leader in coaching wins after the Ducks survived a tenacious Fresno State Bulldogs team on the road Saturday night. Belotti’s been getting credit for a fake field goal call that resulted in the game-winning touchdown with less than five minutes remaining, but that type of call has all the marks of coming from offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, a well-known risk taker no matter where his offense lines up on the field…The game might not have been so close had Duck RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle injury) played more…he only had one carry for three yards. He will be needed this week. Oregon hosts Oklahoma on Saturday and its focus must be on stopping Adrian Peterson. A.P. has 267 yards rushing against the Ducks in a regular-season win at Oklahoma in 2004 and last year’s Holiday Bowl. Oregon should be helped by its home crowd this time around.
NO. 19 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS – The Cornhuskers used outclassed Nicholls State as a sparring partner on Saturday, tuning up for Saturday’s road test at Southern Cal with a 56-7 rout that was a good argument for a college football “slaughter rule.” The visiting Colonels never completed a pass and didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter. On the Husker side, Zac Taylor completed 23-of-27 passes (it would have been 24-of-26 had Marlon Lucky not dropped one) for 229 yards and four touchdowns. As for Lucky, he rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown and would undoubtedly be lying if he said he wasn’t looking ahead to USC. The NU I-back is from Hollywood.
NO. 20 TCU HORNED FROGS – You gotta love it when you can play a Double-A patsy at home and still move up three spots in the polls…QB Jeff Ballard returned to the starting lineup and looked sharp, going 18-of-23 for 190 yards and two TDs. The fact that UC-Davis racked up 211 yards passing should have Texas Tech licking its chops. The Raiders will look to at least double that output this week vs. the Frogs. TCU’s home game against its former Southwest Conference rival will determine which team remains in the Top 25 next week, and whether or not the Frogs are a legitimate threat to secure a BCS bowl bid this year. The BYU Cougars will be anxious to watch the film of this game since they run a similar offense to Tech and will be visiting Fort Worth in three weeks for a pivotal MWC clash with TCU.
NO. 21 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS – Cal answered the challenge and rebounded from last week’s woeful loss at Tennessee with a resounding victory over a determined Minnesota Golden Gophers squad, 42-17. Minnesota kept the game close through the first half, but the Bears’ defense shut out the Gophers in the final two frames…Jeff Tedford seems to have straightened out his QB situation for the season. Bears QB Nate Longshore asserted his claim to the starting role with a stellar performance (22-of-31, 300 yards and four TD tosses). DeSean Jackson was his favorite target, with three of those touchdown grabs (seven catches overall for 114 yards). Cal gets a huge home game breather this week vs. Double-A Portland State before it has to face the ASU aerial attack on Sept. 23.
NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS – ASU had an easy time of it with the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday, thanks to the ‘Pack’s severely overmatched secondary. Sun Devil QB Rudy Carpenter sliced and diced Nevada for five TD passes (17-of-26, 333 yards) while the Wolfpack was busy coughing up the ball at a 33 percent clip (four turnovers in 12 possessions). Several years ago when ASU scheduled the Colorado Buffaloes, this week’s game in Boulder looked like a super inter-conference matchup…instead, the Sun Devils will be visiting a winless Colorado squad that will need a miracle to hang with ASU’s aerial attack. Granted, the Buffs will be hungry for the win, but they will be playing with a severely damaged team psyche after opening their season with back-to-back losses to Double-A Montana State and in-state rival Colorado State. ASU needs to display a killer instinct and put Colorado away early like it did against Nevada.
NO. 23 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES – BC used the most exciting play in football (a scoring kickoff return, 96 yards, by true freshman Jeff Smith) to help take Clemson into overtime, then won on the most mundane play — an extra point. RBC’s Ryan Ohliger made his PAT in the second extra period after Jolonn Dunbar had blocked Jad Dean’s attempt moments earlier. Clemson QB Will Proctor had the numbers (25-of-30, 343 yards), but BC’s Matt Ryan had the victory, lifting the previously unranked Eagles into the top 25 as ACC rival Clemson fell out. One negative was that LB Brian Toal, perhaps BC’s best defensive player (and also a short-yardage running back), left the game with a sore shoulder. The Eagles face Brigham Young at home on Saturday.
NO. 24 TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS – On a day filled with overtime games, Mike Leach’s team may have pulled off the strangest victory. First, Tech QB Graham Harrell hit Robert Johnson with an apparent 20-yard touchdown pass in the extra period with UTEP. The Tech players, assuming the game was over, broke into celebration. But the TD was nullified by a holding call, and the officials tacked on a celebration penalty, as well, moving Tech back to the 43. Two plays later, Alex Trlica, who had missed two field goals in the fourth quarter, banged a kick off the left upright and over the crossbar for a 38-35 victory in a game that featured a combined 978 yards of total offense. Harrell completed 40-of-52 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns; UTEP’s Jordan Palmer amassed 334 passing yards and three touchdowns. Tech now travels to TCU, which has the nation’s longest current winning streak at 12.
NO. 25 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS – Now that we know the Nittany Lions are clearly in a rebuilding mode this year, what can fans expect for the rest of the season? Look for 2-3 more losses and a mid-tier bowl game invitation versus a third or fourth place SEC or ACC opponent. The Ohio State road game in two weeks is not going to be pretty…look for a spanking like the one the Irish just administered, except for the fact the Buckeyes’ thrashing will be revenge motivated. In the meantime, PSU fans can expect a solid win at home this week over Youngstown State. Backup QB Darryl Clark looked impressive in the loss at Notre Dame, even if he was going up against second-stringers. JoePa should seriously consider finding room for this playmaker in the starting lineup as a slash-type position player. He’s a serious triple-threat athlete who would instantly create more options in the offense and help take some of the pressure off QB Anthony Morelli.
NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: Troy Smith & Co. toyed around with the Cincinnati Bearcats for two quarters of football before putting them away, 37-7, in an important tune-up game before this week’s conference opener versus the Penn State Nittany Lions. Ohio State’s key playmakers all turned in workmanlike performances against the Bearcats, with Antonio Pittman picking up 155 yards on 16 carries, including a 48-yard TD scamper that broke the game open for good in the third frame. Ted Ginn, Jr. nabbed two TD receptions, Anthony Gonzalez had 5 grabs good for 85 yards, and Smith was 21-30, 203 yards, two TDs… This week’s visit by Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions is a revenge-driven game for the Bucks after last year’s close loss on the road at PSU…OSU can’t allow itself to look beyond Penn State, even if it is a very dangerous road trip to Iowa City and the Hawkeyes’ newly revamped Kinnick Stadium.
NO. 2 AUBURN TIGERS: In this era of high-powered offenses, a 7-3 football game sounds like a dreadful bore … that wasn’t the case at Auburn on Saturday, however, when the host Tigers’ squeaker over the visiting Tigers contained enough big plays for a shootout … the game came down to the final snap, in fact, when Eric Brock stopped WR Craig Davis just short of the goal line … neither team was able to run the ball with any consistency, and Brandon Cox trumped rival passer JaMarcus Russell, setting up his QB sneak for the only touchdown with a 19-yard pass to FB Carl Stewart … that snapped LSU’s string of 16 straight quarters without allowing a TD … it was a coming out party for the Auburn defense, which relied on quickness and anticipation to shut the bigger Tigers down … meanwhile, Kenny Irons did the heavy lifting, rushing for 70 yards on a day when holes to run through were almost nonexistent. He should find the going a lot easier this Saturday against Buffalo.
NO. 3 USC TROJANS: The nationally televised Saturday evening contest with the Nebraska Cornhuskers never looked to be in doubt, although the score might indicate the game was closer than expected. USC held the Huskers to 211 total yards (68 yards rushing on 36 carries, 1.9 avg.) and QB Zac Taylor was only 8 for 16, 115 yards. So much for the wannabe West Coast Offense working for the Big Red against a bona fide West Coast defense…QB John David Booty put up solid numbers (25-36, 257 yards, three TDs) and the Trojans’ dynamic duo of Dwayne Jarrett (11 receptions, 156 yards, two TDs) and Steve Smith (six grabs, 53 yards, one TD) sliced and diced the Husker secondary almost at will…this week’s road game at Arizona looked to be tougher back in the summer…
NO. 4 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS: Sophomore RB Steve Slaton not only made the University of Maryland defenders look helpless on Thursday night, but he made Terrapin coach Ralph Friedgen look clueless … after Slaton had rushed for 167 of his 195 yards in the first half of a 45-24 Mountaineer victory, Friedgen admitted that he had withdrawn a scholarship offer to Slaton two years ago because he “felt he had enough running backs” … in retrospect, that’s a little like passing on a Picasso because of lack of wall space or turning down a Ferrari because the garage is full … “What can I say?” said Friedgen, gracious in defeat … “He’s a fine player, and I hope he wins the Heisman” … with over 500 rushing yards in three games, Slaton is off to a good start in that direction … the other notable offensive hero for WVU was WR Darius Reynaud, who scored on a short touchdown pass from Pat White and a long (96 yards) kickoff return. Next: Saturday, at East Carolina.
NO. 5 FLORIDA GATORS: Gator coach Urban Meyer didn’t just challenge his team during the week prior to Saturday’s game at Tennessee — he insulted them .. “We challenged them, we criticized them, and we put them in situations where only tough people could survive,” Meyer said after his team’s 21-20 come-from-behind victory, “and I’m awfully proud of them” … he was perhaps proudest of RB DeShawn Wynn, who was so inconsistent last season that Meyer told reporters that perhaps the Gators would be better off with no running back at all … against Tennessee, though, the Cincinnati product rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries … “Now, he’s a tailback,” Meyer said … the Gators were down 17-7 at one point in the third period, but rallied behind a rejuvenated offensive line and a tough defense that held UT to two yards rushing … Gator QB Chris Leak, who won the game with his second touchdown pass to Dallas Baker, was lustily booed by the Volunteer crowd when he was introduced … Leak’s older brother, C.J., played at UT and some Tennessee fans were miffed that Chris didn’t follow suit. Next game: Saturday, versus Kentucky.
NO. 6 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: Chad Henne finally had the type of game that had Wolverine fans have been praying for since he was a freshman phenom. Henne (13-22, 220 yards, three TDs) and his bombardment mates Mario Manningham (four receptions, 137 yards, three TDs) and Mike Hart (31 carries, 124 yards) pulverized Notre Dame early and never let up. They were aided by Brady Quinn’s official resignation from the Heisman race (24-48, 234 yards, three picks, three TDs)…one of the picks came early in the game by LB Prescott Burgess who ran it in for the score from 31 yards out…when was the last time the Irish had been savaged like this at home? The TV graphic said it was 1960. Have you ever seen Lloyd Carr smile so much in a span of three hours? He was absolutely giddy the way his Michigan team steamrolled America’s No. 2 crew…it was truly a sight to behold…Next up: The Big Ten conference opener, as a stout Wisconsin Badgers unit rolls into Ann Arbor this weekend.
NO. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS: It’s hard to imagine a coach finding much to complain about it in a 52-7 rout, but Texas coach Mack Brown had a legitimate beef with his Longhorns after they trampled Rice — penalties … not just a few, but 19 of them, including nine false starts … maybe the Texas offensive players were having so much fun stampeding through the outmanned Owl defense that they couldn’t wait to get started … DE Tim Crowder made the stat sheets in five different categories on one play in the second quarter when he wrestled the ball away from Rice QB Joel Armstrong in the end zone … Crowder got credit for a sack, a tackle, a caused fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown … WR Jordan Shipley, whose big rep and two years worth of injuries have earned him the nickname “The Great White Hope,” finally got his first college touchdown on a 38-yard pass from Colt McCoy … he also scored on a 40-yard reverse … Rice finished with minus-12 yards rushing, while Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles both went over 100 for Texas. Iowa State’s Cyclones blow into Austin this week for an important conference matchup…
NO. 8 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS: Everyone said the Cardinals would score a lot of points this year, but who knew they had a defense? And who knew Bobby Petrino’s squad was this deep? Like a top-flight NASCAR team with a stable full of extra cars, Petrino keeps rolling out capable replacements this season … first came George Stripling and Kolby Smith for injured RB Michael Bush, now QB Hunter Cantwell for Brian Brohm … meanwhile, the Miami Hurricanes put on a pale imitation of their old feistiness … the ‘Canes stomped on the Louisville logo before the game, and then the Cardinals stomped on them … among other things, four different Louisville players sacked Miami QB Kyle Wright, and Cantwell piled up an other-worldly QB efficiency rating of 384 when Brohm went out with strained ligaments in his throwing hand … Mario Urrutia, who sounds more like a Tour de France competitor than an All-America candidate at wide receiver, snagged four passes for 96 yards, including a 56-yard connection from Brohm … “We were thoroughly whipped,” said Miami coach Larry Coker. “Our players are embarrassed” … Brohm will be out four to six weeks, which could mean he’ll play against West Virginia on Nov. 2 … with Kansas State, Middle Tennessee, Cincinnati and Syracuse next on Louisville’s agenda, both the Cardinals and Mountaineers should be undefeated coming into that game.
NO. 9 GEORGIA BULLDOGS: The final play of the Bulldogs’ 34-0 victory over UAB on Saturday was appropriate — a Jeremy Lomax sack of Blazer QB Chris Williams … UAB averaged only 2.9 yards a play and never got closer than 36 yards to the Georgia end zone, the second straight UGA shutout …. “Those boys are playing lights out,” said C Nick Jones of the “D” … while all that was going on, Georgia coach Mark Richt was keeping a critical eye on freshman QB Matthew Stafford, who finished 10 of 17 passing for 102 yards and showed some toughness by breaking several tackles on a four-yard scoring run … “One play, he’ll look like a million dollars,” Richt said, “and the next play he’ll have a bust” … such as one mental error when Stafford failed to recognize a blitz and fumbled after being drilled from the blind side … “That was a valuable lesson,” Richt said. “When you miss it (a blitz), you get hit hard, a guy with a 10-yard run and a full head of steam right into your rib cage” … on the downside, DB and punt returner Thomas Flowers injured a ligament in his foot and may be lost for the season … three of Georgia’s next four opponents are winless to this point, starting with Colorado in Athens on Saturday.
NO. 10 LOUISIANA STATE TIGERS: Generally speaking, one play doesn’t decide a football game, but the LSU Tigers are probably still muttering over a call reversal late in their 7-3 loss to then-No. 3 Auburn on Saturday … it was fourth-and-18 with 2:23 left when JaMarcus Russell zipped a pass to WR Early Doucet near the goal line … Zach Gilbert made contact with Doucet from behind, sending him sprawling, and one of the officials whipped out his flag … almost simultaneously, however, Eric Brock drove in front of Doucet and deflected the pass … in the midst of the LSU sideline celebration, the officials looked at the play again and ruled that pass interference can’t be called on a tipped ball … choosing his words carefully, LSU coach Les Miles said later: “If the ball is tipped at the line of scrimmage, there is no pass interference. The ball was tipped downfield. The proper explanation will be forthcoming” … Docuet, meanwhile, complained that the contact with Gilbert came before Brock got a hand on the ball … actually, all of this would have been a moot point had Russell put a little more mustard on his pass, because Doucet clearly had Gilbert beaten before he had to slow down and wait for the ball to catch up … otherwise, Russell put on a stirring fourth-quarter performance, dodging tacklers and splitting defenders for completions like a 6-foot-6 Daunte Culpepper (the original version).
NO. 11 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES: For Duke quarterbacks on Saturday, Lane Stadium in Blacksburg was a re-creation of the Roman Coliseum for Christians … Tech’s attack dog defense posted eight sacks, and Aaron Rouse knocked Thaddeus Lewis out of the game with a concussion on a savage hit that got him flagged … “I take full responsibility for my actions,” Rouse said. “I hope he’ll be alright” … as for backup Blue Devil QB Marcus Jones, he said: “I was just glad to get out of there in one piece” … new QB Sean (Who Needs Marcus Vick?) Glennon threw TD passes to Sam Wheeler and Josh Morgan and set up another with a 60-yard bomb to David Clowney … Eddie Royal, another Hokie wideout, took a punt 37 yards to the end zone, weaving through tacklers like a sports car on a mountain road … Glennon brought up the pass to Clowney in postgame conversation, noting “A lot of people have been saying that I can’t throw deep passes, but I hadn’t even tried any yet … reality check: Va. Tech, as usual at the start of the season, hasn’t played anybody yet … next: Cincinnati, at home.
NO. 12 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH: Remember last week when we asked whether or not Charlie’s boys could handle having a large No. 2 national ranking target on their backs for the next 10 games? Well, we didn’t expect that question to be answered so soon in the season, no disrespect to Michigan. It’s just that Lloyd Carr hasn’t exactly had the best track record versus the Irish over the years…looks like he has turned the corner on that one…the Irish will bounce back…the question is, “how soon?” Playing Michigan State’s high flying Spartans (3-0) who just registered an impressive road win at Pitt last weekend is not a sure cure for the whoopin’ the Wolverines dished out on Saturday… especially on the road in Lansing. They’re still talking about revenge for the 1966 game when Notre Dame elected to run out the clock and settle for a tie rather than slugging it out anymore with Bubba Smith, George Webster and friends.
NO. 13 OREGON DUCKS: What do you call a win that shouldn’t have been a win because your conference officiating crew muffed a couple huge replay calls in the last minute of the game? Well, the president of the University of Oklahoma requested that the game be stricken from the record books and a formal apology be issued. He got the apology from the Pac-10 Conference commish, Tom Hansen, but the big W stays in the books for Oregon fans to cherish forever. Regardless of the conference-biased officiating (what–this happens in college football?) you have to give props to the Ducks for keeping their eyes on the ball and executing a few clutch plays in the final minute…don’t blame them for the officiating…the Ducks now get two weeks of R&R to get ready for a conference road game at ASU on Sept 30.
NO. 14 IOWA HAWKEYES: Instate rivalry games are rarely often what they might seem like on paper…the Hawkeyes erased an 11-point deficit that State held during the second quarter, registering the last three scores of the game to achieve the 27-17 final…Drew Tate buoyed Iowa’s limp running game with a 26-38 performance good for 274 yards and three TDs…Tate spread the ball around to nine different receivers, with frosh WR Dominique Douglas his favorite target (six grabs, 88 yards). Iowa gets the biggest breather on its schedule with a visit to lowly Illinois this weekend…regardless of what Kirk Ferentz might say, the Hawks’ are already eyeing Ohio State’s visit in two weeks…a game with Big Ten and national title implications.
NO. 15 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS: They lost at home to Florida, something that never goes over very well with UT’s rabid fans, but Philip Fulmer’s Volunteers had nothing to be ashamed of after their 21-20 disappointment … the previous Saturday, Tennessee lost CB Inky Johnson and half of DT Justin Harrell to injuries against Air Force (Johnson is out for the season with neck and shoulder damage, Harrell played one last game with a ruptured biceps tendon in his left arm), and starting RB Arian Foster played little against Florida with an gimpy ankle … thus, the Vols were unable to mount any running game to take the heat off QB Erik Ainge, and the ferocious Florida defense came after Ainge on almost every play … still, Tennessee took a 17-7 lead in the third quarter and lost by just a point to arguably a superior team … it probably won’t make the embattled Fulmer sleep any better, though. Next up: At home against Marshall on Saturday.
NO. 16 TEXAS CHRISTIAN HORNED FROGS: For two years Gary Patterson waited for revenge on Mike Leach’s Red Raiders following the 70-35 whipping Texas Tech administered in Lubbock. Then he made it personal for every Horned Frog by handing out rubber bracelets with the initials MIP standing for “Make it Personal.” TCU responded by going out and holding Tech to its lowest scoring output in six years. Neither team scored a touchdown in the 12-3 Texas Christian victory. H-Frog placekicker Chris Manfredini was the hero of the game with four field goals. Now Patterson and his squad get to take advantage of a huge second-year welcome gift from the Mountain West Conference by soaking up a bye weekend before one of their staunchest challengers for the league crown rides into town with only a few days rest. BYU, which runs a spread offense very similar to Texas Tech, has to play this Saturday in Utah and then catch a midweek flight to Fort Worth for the game.
NO. 17 OKLAHOMA SOONERS: Heisman Trophy for Adrian Peterson? Check. A national title for Peterson’s Oklahoma Sooners? Uh, maybe not … the Sooners, picked by quite a few pundits to run the table this season, put themselves in a deep hole on Saturday with a heart-rending 34-33 loss to Oregon that probably doubled coach Bob Stoops’ blood pressure … Peterson chugged along toward his season-ending hardware, using Brady Quinn’s problems against Michigan to forge into the Heisman lead with a 211-yard rushing performance … nevertheless, he wasn’t smiling after his team saw a 33-20 lead evaporate in the final three minutes on a Dennis Dixon touchdown pass, a successful onsides kick, another touchdown pass, and a block of Garrett Hartley’s last-play field goal attempt from 44 yards out … Dixon sliced up the Sooner secondary for 350 yards passing and three touchdowns, which had to be cause for concern for Stoops, as well … new QB Paul Thompson did play reasonably well, throwing for 174 yards and a touchdown to Malcolm Kelly … Stoops was livid over the onsides kick call, in which an Oregon player appeared to have touched the ball before it went the required 10 yards.
NO. 18 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES: The ACC, supposedly a power league, has been shown to be quite mortal so far this season … N.C. State lost to Akron; North Carolina was pummeled by Rutgers; and Virginia was upset by Western Michigan at home … moreover, Florida State’s squeaker over Miami was cheapened somewhat when the ‘Canes were subsequently pounded by Louisville … all of which means, to Bobby Bowden, that his Seminoles can still be strong contenders if they can work the kinks out of their passing game … Drew Weatherford threw for only 102 yards and never got a ball to 6-6 Chris Carr, FSU’s most dangerous receiver … on the bright side, the running game perked up a bit, with Lorenzo Booker, Antone Smith and Joe Surratt combining to go over 100 yards … DB Tony Carter scored twice on blocked kicks, returning a failed field goal attempt 69 yards and the deflection of a Jad Dean extra point the length of the field for two points … “I did the easy thing,” Carter said. “Just pick the ball up and run.” Next game: Rice, at home.
NO. 19 CLEMSON TIGERS: The last time the Clemson football team won in Tallahassee, George Bush the Elder was president … this time, the team did it by the skin of its Tiger paws, with James Davis plunging into the end zone from a yard out with eight seconds left for a 27-20 victory … Davis also provided more than half of his total rushing yardage with a 47-yard burst on the winning drive … kicker Jad Dean, second in the nation in field goals last season, continued to have his problems … two weeks ago, Clemson lost to Boston College in overtime when Dean had an extra point blocked … Saturday, Florida State blocked an extra point and a field goal attempt and turned both into points … a day after the game, Tiger coach Tommy Bowden said Dean’s “get-off time” had been a factor … “Jad’s going to have to speed it up,” Bowden said. “It was a huge problem in this game” … Bowden said he wasn’t going to “blow a gasket,” noting “if Tiger Woods can have a slump, so can Jad Dean” … but he also said he has backup kicker John Early standing by if things don’t get better. Next game: At North Carolina.
NO. 20 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES: In the words of that song that plays incessantly on classic rock radio, the Eagles have been “taking care of business, working overtime” … or maybe a better theme song might come from another group of Eagles: “Take It To The Limit” … for the second straight week, Tom O’Brien’s team won on the last play — actually, in this case, after the last play … linebacker Jamie Silva appeared to have scooped up a wobbling, tipped pass from BYU QB John Beck for an overtime interception, but one official saw it differently … instant replay, however, confirmed that Silva had his hands cupped under the ball when he came up with it … “Thank God we have replay this year,” O’Brien said … the nationally televised game also showcased the surprisingly strong arm of Eagle QB Matt Ryan and the play of CB DeJuan Tribble, who was all over the field in the face of a typical Beck barrage (38 completions, 438 yards). B.C. gets a breather this week when it hosts the Big East’s Cincinnati Bearcats.
NO. 21 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: Cal made the most of its non-con game against Double-A Portland State, racing away with a 42-16 yawner in Berkeley. Marshawn Lynch picked up 112 yards and a touchdown on just six carries, while DeSean Jackson caught five passes good for 103 yards and a score. Cornerback Daymeion Hughes even got in on the scoring cashing in a 30-yard interception return for six points…Still, Jeff Tedford sees room for more improvement before No. 22-ranked ASU comes to town this weekend…not even Tennessee’s Erik Ainge and the Vols’ passing attack can rival the bombardment the Golden Bear secondary will face at the hands of the Sun Devils on Saturday.
NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS: ASU’s first-ever meeting with the Colorado Buffaloes produced a sloppy 21-3 victory, but head coach Dirk Koetter was pleased. “When we can win 21-3 on the road at a Big 12 school and not play our best on offense…that says a lot about where we’re at,” Koetter said…Nevertheless, Colorado is a pitiful 0-3 and possibly the weakest team in the Big 12’s Northern Division this year. So how prepared is ASU for a conference-opening day road game in Berkeley vs. No. 21 Cal? The Sun Devils have a win over Double-A Northern Arizona, one over the WAC’s Nevada Wolfpack, and now this road win over a hapless Colorado team. Meanwhile, Cal has the experience of a road ambush at Tennessee, a solid win over a fairly good Minnesota team, and last weekend’s pasting of a solid Double-A Portland State. This week’s game with Cal will be one of the most intriguing Pac-10 matchups in the young season.
NO. 23 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: After Nebraska’s opening game with Louisiana Tech, outside LB Stewart Bradley noted that the Cornhusker linebacking crew had been left largely irrelevant by the opponent’s game plan … “There really wasn’t much for us to do,” Bradley said … that wasn’t the case in Saturday’s 28-10 loss to Southern Cal, which saw Bradley notch 10 tackles and fellow ‘backers Corey McKeon and Bo Ruud nine each … the 6-4, 250-pound Bradley, best known for his vocal on-field style and his hairstyle (the campus newspaper once ran a satirical piece in which pro basketball star Ben Wallace called Bradley and demanded that he stop using his ‘do) won a national championship in high school — as a rugby player … if Nebraska ever finds itself short of quarterbacks, punter Dan Titchener might be a candidate … Titchener threw a perfect 28-yard strike to Todd Peterson on a fake punt play early in the game, then dropped a punt inside the five when that drive stalled … so he must have been a QB back in Cheyenne, Wyo., right? Nope: Defensive end … Nebraska coach Bill Callahan defended his conservative game plan afterward, saying: “Let me be clear. We want to run. We felt with could run.” Next game: Troy.
NO. 24 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS: Joe Paterno should have his troops ready to slug it out with Ohio State this week, after tweaking some weaknesses in their Youngstown State romp. Anthony Morelli was a lackluster 11 for 27 for 154 yards, but the running game revved up and pounded out 403 yards…Tony Hunt had 143 yards on 18 carries with a score and three other backs carved up the rest of the yardage, each with 56 yards or more…”The line is coming together really well,” said Hunt. “I expect them to get better every week.” Expecting improvement from last week over Double-A Youngstown vs. the No. 1 Buckeyes is a tall order…somebody in the Nittany Lion locker room might want to let Tony know that.
NO. 25 BOISE STATE BRONCOS: It’s mighty strange not to see undefeated Michigan State or 3-0 Alabama in this slot…and just as surprising to see Boise State cracking the AP Top 25 this early in the season after two home wins (one over Double-A Sac State, and the other over Pac-10 bottom of the barrel Oregon State) and a shaky road win. Last week’s road test versus MWC’s lower-tier Wyoming Cowboys proved to be all the Broncos could handle, as they squeezed out a 17-10 victory. Boise State managed 246 total yards and didn’t score at all in the second half. This week, BSU is back in the confines of Smurf Turf Stadium which always serves as a distinct psychological advantage over any visiting opponent. Hawaii looks to be the victim this week, having never won on the road in Boise. Nevertheless, Hawaii is already battle tested (with a close loss at Alabama and a blowout win over UNLV at home) and just might surprise a lot of people this week.
NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: The Buckeyes survived a very determined Penn State defensive effort on Saturday, rolling up the score in the last quarter when Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith intercepted and returned consecutive Anthony Morelli passes for touchdowns. The Nittany Lions held Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn, Jr. to a total of 4 receptions for 31 yards, and they picked off Troy Smith twice. Antonio Pittman punched in a workmanlike 20 carry/108 yards/1 TD performance. Ohio State embarks on the most dangerous road trip they have remaining on their schedule…to Iowa City and the #13 Hawkeyes’ newly revamped crib.
NO. 2 AUBURN TIGERS: After the previous week’s hard fought knuckle-grinder with LSU, the Buffalo Bulls offered little resistance to the Tigers…Auburn had 401 total yards and five rushing touchdowns (sans Kenny Irons) to the Bulls’ 177 yards and one passing TD en route to a 38-7 snoozer…nothing that would challenge Auburn’s current claim to #2 in the nation…this Thursday night’s road game at South Carolina should be a doozy…the Gamecocks have been trifling with lesser competition the past couple weeks, but they seem to be tuning up Steve Spurrier’s offense just in time for a potential ambush.
NO. 3 USC TROJANS: Arizona Cardinals’ QB Matt Leinart visited with his former teammates before the game against Arizona…a game that was quite the turnaround from last year’s blowout in Los Angeles. QB John David Booty tossed his first interception of the year (after 79 attempts) and the Wildcats proved their defense could duke it out with the high powered Trojan offense…final score was 20-3, giving USC its 24th straight Pac-10 victory… Dwayne Jarrett caught his 32nd career TD pass which ties him with Kenny Margerum (Stanford, 1977-80) for the all-time Pac-10 record for receivers. RB Emmanuel Moody rushed for 130 yards on 21 carries (1 TD, 6.2 ypc)…the Trojans fumbled three times, but only lost one…still, they lost the turnover element of the game which is a rarity…score at the end of the 3rd quarter was 10-0 in favor of USC…defense won this won for PC. Next up: a slightly tougher road game in Pullman, Washington vs. the Washington State Cougars.
NO. 4 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS: The Mountaineers’ trip to Greenville didn’t end up quite as expected…Steve Slaton was held to a season low 80 yards and zero TDs…Patrick White tossed 3 INTs, but still managed to pick up the slack from the running game by tossing for 217 yards and 2 TDs on 17-24 accuracy…this was the second straight year that East Carolina had derailed Slaton and the WV rushing attack…this was not an impressive 27-10 win for a #4 ranked team…you can bet future opponents are going to be pouring over the game tapes…top defensive teams like Ohio State and USC will make WV pay for tossing 3 INTs, unlike ECU. The Mountaineers have the weekend off before traveling to Starkville, Mississippi to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Oct. 7.
NO. 5 FLORIDA GATORS: Florida posted their 20th consecutive win over the Kentucky Wildcats and Chris Leak passed Shane Matthews record for career completions on 15 of 26 tosses (268 yards, 2 TDs)…it was a lackluster 26-7 home game victory for the Gators, who only led 12-7 at the half and committed 10 penalties good for minus 70 yards…the Alabama Crimson Tide will invade Gainesville this weekend and they are eager to erase the memories of their two overtime defeat to the Arkansas Razorbacks, thanks to a missed extra point. The Gators cannot afford a letdown on Saturday…they do have some payback on their minds for last year’s 31-3 drubbing in Tuscaloosa.
NO. 6 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: Michigan struggled to a 10-10 tie in the first half against a very stout Wisconsin Badgers squad…still, Mario Manningham was around to save the day (7 receptions, 113 yards, 2 TDs) …Mike Hart logged 93 yards on 21 tough carries…Chad Henne looked human again, launching three INTs. Final score of 27-13 does not indicate that this contest was much closer than one might think…it was only 17-10 at the close of the third qtr…Garrett Rivas was perfect on the day with 2-2 on extra points and 31 and 32 yard field goals…The Wolverines travel to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers this Saturday night…it’s always a tough game under the dim lighting inside the Dome…Michigan cannot afford to play tit for tat with any Big Ten opponent this season…looking ahead beyond this week, UM has three tough games in a row vs. Michigan State, at Penn State, and Iowa.
NO. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS: The Longhorns turned the Iowa State Cyclones into dust devils as the surrounding storm activity created more of a scare than did the visitors…the score was 30-14 at intermission…Texas held ISU scoreless in the second half for the 37-14 final tally…Jamaal Charles (17 carries, 80 yards, 1 TD) and Limas Sweed (7 grabs, 105 yards, 1 TD)…Colt McCoy, (18-23, 210 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) continues to look more comfortable at the helm…meanwhile, Texas still looks vulnerable to the passing game as Cyclones QB Bret Meyer threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, although he was sacked seven times and tossed two picks…A stadium full of more than 88,000 fans was reduced to just a couple thousand spectators after a one-hour storm delay…The Longhorns get a breather this week when they host Sam Houston State.
NO. 8 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS: If moral victories are worth anything, Louisville handed the host Kansas State Wildcats a huge one over the weekend…the Cardinals coughed up three turnovers and were held 26 points and 170 total yards below their season average. Still, this is a team that is playing without their starting QB and RB and the reserves are showing unusual resilience in the face of adversity. Had Louisville remained in the C-USA, they would have been a sure bet to run the table and earn a BCS invite this year…still, Bobby Petrino’s troops have a relatively easy schedule to contend with…only a home game with West Virginia and a road game at Rutgers look to be even close…This weekend, the Cards will rest up with a bye and then play the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders the following Friday night. How tough might that game be? Well…Oklahoma punked MTS 59-0 last weekend.
NO. 9 LOUISIANA STATE TIGERS. The Tigers’ scoring machine got back on track vs. Tulane with a 49-7 rout…the easy win, coupled with Georgia’s surprisingly difficult time against the winless Colorado Buffaloes, helped LSU trade places with the Bulldogs to move up one spot in the AP poll…LSU wide receiver Early Doucet, III had 4 catches good for 39 yards and 2 TDs…he capped that off with a 17-yard TD run…Tiger QB JaMarcus Russell was 17-23, 199 yards, 2 TDs…the Green Wave were held to 191 total yards…LSU gets a break on their schedule this week when they host the Mississippi State Bulldogs…they’ll need to use it as a tune-up for next week’s road game at Florida.
NO. 10 GEORGIA BULLDOGS: Georgia’s home game vs. the winless Colorado Buffaloes looked like the most sure bet on last weekend’s lineup…instead, with less than ten minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs found themselves down 13-0. Freshman Joe Cox threw two touchdown passes–the last one coming with only 46 seconds left–to rescue the game and send Colorado’s Dan Hawkins down to his fourth straight defeat as the new Buffalo coach…it also marked Colorado’s eight straight defeat, their longest losing streak in 42 years. The last quarter rally by the Dawgs did not help keep them from falling one slot in the polls to fellow SEC powerhouse Louisiana State. Next up: Georgia goes on the road to face the punchless Mississippi Rebels.
NO. 11 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES: After a sluggish first half which saw the Cincinnati Bearcats build a baseball like lead of 10-5, the Hokies’ Brandon Ore racked up 152 of his 163 yards rushing and scored on a one-yard smash…Victor Harris returned an interception 73 yards for a score and the Hokies dodged the upset attempt with a 29-13 victory…Frank Beamer suspended starting defensive lineman Chris Ellis and split end Josh Morgan for this week’s huge confrontation with #24 ranked Georgia Tech…The Yellow Jackets will come in with a huge chip on their shoulders thanks to the embarrassing 51-7 defeat the Hokies handed Ga. Tech last year.
NO. 12 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH: Yes, the Irish were able to stage a huge comeback victory in the rain at Michigan State on Saturday night, but do they really deserve to hold onto their #12 ranking? This is a team whose defense has given up 84 points in the past two games…After building a 17-point lead over the Irish, the Spartans traded punches throughout the second half, and shortly after the fourth quarter started the lead was whittled down to 10 points. Spartans’ QB Drew Stanton then took it upon himself to hand the game over to the Irish…he fumbled on a keeper…Notre Dame converted the turnover into a quick touchdown and the lead shrunk to four points…then, instead of running the ball and using the clock on a 3rd and 6 from their own 27, Stanton tossed an interception that was returned for the go-ahead TD. Next up: At home vs. undefeated yet unproven Purdue…the Boilermakers’ first four games were nothing like the Irish have already played.
NO. 13 IOWA HAWKEYES: Iowa performed a gridiron lobotomy on the Illinois Fighting Illini offense in their 24-7 win Saturday…the Illini were limited to 113 yards rushing and Juice Williams only managed 9 of 32, 162 yards, and 3 INTs…his TD pass to Jacob Willis came in the fourth quarter after the Hawkeyes had built an insurmountable 24-0 lead…Kirk Ferentz moved to #2 on Iowa’s career coaching win, ahead of Forest Evashevski, but still 90 wins behind all-time leader Hayden Fry…The Hawkeyes’ showdown with Ohio State this weekend is perhaps the most anticipated game of the week.
NO. 14 OREGON DUCKS: The Ducks are heading into a hornet’s nest this weekend against the Arizona State Sun Devils…following a bye weekend which contributed to their one space drop in the AP poll, the Ducks have heard more regarding the Oklahoma Sooners’ whining about officiating than their own contributions to the win…ASU was humiliated by Cal on the road this weekend, knocking them out of the Top 25…they’ll have a point to prove against the higher ranked Ducks just as much as Oregon does. It won’t be pretty for one of these teams…if ASU loses, they’ll likely have to settle for a mid-level finish in the Pac-10…if the Ducks fail on the road, their conference season will only become more difficult with games against Cal and USC on the horizon.
NO. 15 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS: The Vols delivered Phillip Fulmer his 75th win in Neyland Stadium with a 33-7 victory of the Marshall Thundering Herd. Marshall kept the contest close for the first three quarters with Tennessee leading 16-7, but the fourth quarter was all orange as the Volunteers posted 17 unanswered points. LaMarcus Coker rushed 8 times for 146 yards…89 of those came on a touchdown scamper that broke the game open…Erik Ainge turned in another steady performance going 18 for 27, 258 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. Tennessee plays on the road against the Memphis Tigers in an instate rivalry game this weekend…
NO. 16 OKLAHOMA SOONERS: Uh-oh, Texas…The Sooners took out some of their anger and frustration from the previous week’s officiating in Oregon on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders…Final score: 59-0. And they’re still steaming mad in Norman. Adrian Peterson rushed for 128 yards on 27 carries, reaching paydirt three times…Malcolm Kelly had the fifth highest receiving yardage by an Oklahoma receiver in a game with 164 yards (1 TD) and Reggie Smith returned a punt 60 yards for six points…you get the picture…Oklahoma now gets a helpful bye week before the Red River Shootout with Texas on Oct 7.
NO. 17 TEXAS CHRISTIAN HORNED FROGS: TCU continues its march toward a BCS bowl game slot when it hosts the BYU Cougars in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams…the undefeated Frogs had a bye week leading up to what should be one of their most difficult conference games…the football gods were certainly smiling upon TCU when the schedules were solidified this summer…Brigham Young is coming off just a few days rest following their game on Saturday (38-0 win over Utah State) and must travel to Fort Worth…Last year’s game versus the Cougars was a barn burner and a controversial one at that…BYU had an 18-point lead at one point in the game, but lost seven defensive starters to injuries before the fourth quarter began…the Cougars scored a TD in overtime but a botched snap/missed extra point left the door open…Texas Christian answered in a controversial play where the Frogs Cory Rodgers fumbled before crossing the goal line but officials still called it a touchdown…the extra point made it 51-50, TCU…who has more motivation to win this year?
NO. 18 CLEMSON TIGERS: Clemson celebrated the 25th anniversary of its 1981 national championship by thumping the North Carolina Tar Heels 52-7…soph RB James Davis logged 95 of the Tigers’ 324 rushing yards and found the end zone four times in three quarters of play…the Tigers had 506 total net yards to the Tar Heels’ 135, 36 first downs to NC’s 9…Clemson never punted in the game…Tommy Bowden’s squad entertains Louisiana Tech this weekend in a non-conference game…looking ahead and beyond this weekend, the two toughest games remaining on their schedule are within five days of each other on Oct 21 and 26–Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
NO. 19 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES: The Seminoles 55-7 thrashing of the Rice Owls wasn’t unexpected, but it came at a cost…FSU lost freshman LB Marcus Ball and cornerback Tony Carter to injuries…Antone Smith picked up 137 yards and 2 TDs while Lorenzo Booker added 115 yards and one TD…Bobby Bowden was unimpressed by the outcome…”It’s not like it was Notre Dame out there,” he quipped. The Seminoles are still plagued by mental mistakes…8 penalties for minus 60 yards, and a missed extra point this time around…it was one of the smallest home crowds in Tallahassee in years…Florida State will now take a bye weekend to get ready for a Thursday, Oct 5 road game at North Carolina State…The Wolfpack will not go down easy…they knocked Boston College out of the Top 25 with a 17-15 home win last Saturday.
NO. 20 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: Cal made a loud and clear statement that they are in the hunt for the Pac-10 title this year with a resounding 49-21 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils…soph QB Nate Longshore solidified his hold on the starting spot with a performance that outshone ASU’s more celebrated Rudy Carpenter…Longshore’s line: 18-26, 264 yards, 4 TDs, 1 int. Carpenter’s line: 16-36, 177 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INT…the game was virtually out of reach at halftime with the Bears leading 42-14…Cal is rapidly erasing the memories of their opening game embarrassment in Knoxville…it would be a much different game if played today…Jeff Tedford’s crew heads to Corvallis, Oregon this weekend to take on the Oregon State Beavers.
NO. 21 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: The Huskers dominated the Troy State Trojans in every phase of the game on their way to a 56-0 win…Marlon Lucky had three touchdowns on 156 yards rushing (14.5 ypc) and Kenny Wilson picked up 106 more yards with two scores…Zac Taylor was accurate (15-18, 269 yards, 2 TDs, 1 int) with Terrance Nunn (4 receptions, 102 yards) his fave receiver for the day…was it enough to make the pollsters forget about the loss to USC the week before? Probably not…there’s plenty of football left to play this season and the toughest stretch of their schedule is still four games away…this weekend the Big Red hosts the Kansas Jayhawks.
NO. 22 BOISE STATE BRONCOS: For the second year in a row, the Hawaii Warriors gave Boise State one of their toughest challenges of the season…and for the second year in a row, Hawaii came up short versus the Broncos…last year it was 44-41 BSU…this year 41-34…Ian Johnson rushed for 178 yards and two scores…QB Jared Zabransky passed for 273 yards and three TDs…it was also the second struggle in a row this season for the Broncos (17-10 over Wyoming the previous week)…this Saturday’s road game at Utah should be the toughest test left on their schedule.
NO. 23 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS: Quite frankly, it’s surprising to see Rutgers enter the AP Top 25 for the first time in thirty years after a victory over Howard, a Double-A program…We’ll reserve additional space to brag about Greg Schiano’s Scarlet Knights in future weeks if Rutgers manages to remain on this list…we think they are a long shot to manage that with the toughest games left to play on their schedule…games like Louisville, West Virginia, Pitt, Navy…still, a 9-3 regular season and bowl invitation will be huge for this program…
NO. 24 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: Tech dispatched the Virginia Cavaliers 24-7 on the strength of super duper wide receiver Calvin Johnson (6 grabs, 165 yards, 2 TDs) and solid ball carrying by Oklahoma transfer junior RB Tashard Choice (18 rushes, 83 yards, 4.4 ypc). The Yellow Jackets are just beginning to enter the most difficult part of their schedule and this Saturday’s match-up against Virginia Tech should be one of the best games of Week 5…The Hokies will be tough to beat at home but Ga. Tech is up for the challenge…
NO. 25 MISSOURI TIGERS: Mizzou is another team that we believe is making a rather premature visit to the AP Top 25 poll…they should remain on this list for one more week as 0-4 Colorado pays a visit to the Tiger Den this Saturday…after that, it’s really difficult to see Missouri ending up better than 8-4 or possibly 9-3…a road game at Texas Tech next weekend should knock the Tigers off this list.
NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: The Bucks solidified their stranglehold on the AP’s Numero Uno position with their demolition of a strong Top 25 Iowa team on Saturday night. Ohio State has now faced three ranked teams on the national television stage and dominated in every contest, clearly laying to rest any lingering arguments about the top slot. Jim Tressel and Co. need to guard against any letdowns along their path to the Nov. 18 showdown with Michigan…both teams should be undefeated at that point…the road trip to East Lansing two weeks from now should be viewed as troublesome, but OSU should be ready as they’ve had the Texas and Iowa road games for experience…this week’s home match-up with Bowling Green would have been more interesting last year when the Falcons fielded a dangerous offense…BGSU is rebuilding this year and hardly competitive even within the MAC.
NO. 2 AUBURN TIGERS: For the second time this season, the Tigers had to sweat out the final play of the game, this time a pass from South Carolina QB Syvelle Newton to All-SEC WR Sidney Rice that could have created overtime had Rice been able to wrest it away from Pat Lee and Eric Brock … fortunately for Auburn, the double coverage prevailed, the ball was batted down, and the Plainsmen survived, 24-17 … earlier this fall, they edged LSU, 7-3 … “We’re not doing to turn our season into apologizing if we win by one or two points,” said Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville afterward. “It’s not about style points – it’s about winning games” … Auburn converted several fourth down plays and an unexpected onsides kick, but still had to weather Newton’s best Michael Vick imitation (240 yards passing, 40 yards rushing, including four scrambles for first downs) … it was a satisfying game for Auburn TB Kenny Irons, who transferred to Auburn from South Carolina when he and then-coach Lou Holtz had a falling out … Irons burned the Gamecocks for 117 rushing yards and a touchdown on Saturday … sophomore C Jason Bosley will start at center at home Saturday against 3-1 Arkansas with Joe Cope out with a knee sprain, which means calling plays for the offensive line … “I told him, ‘You are the captain of the ship now,'” senior G Ben Grubbs said he told Bosley. “You have to tell us what to do.'”
NO. 3 USC TROJANS: We called last weekend’s night game in Pullman as one of the Trojans’ toughest conference tests this year and it proved out…the Washington State Cougars had a chance to win on a Hail Mary at the end of the game–that’s how close it was…don’t think less of USC for struggling against Wazzou…the Cougars are a very solid team and will probably knock off one of the other Pac-10 top tier teams before the season is over…WSU’s only other loss was the first game of the season to #2 Auburn…Steve Smith knows when to shine…he had 11 receptions for 186 yards, 2 TDs…J.D. Booty continues to impress with his maturity in the pocket (23-32, 269 yards, 3 TDs, 1 int.)…The Trojans take on a much improved Washington squad this week, but it will be in the friendly confines of the Los Angeles Coliseum…look for the Huskies to show their improvement in this game’s final score versus last year’s 51-24 blowout loss.
NO. 4 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS: East Carolina stacked the line against Steve Slaton in the Mountaineers’ last game on Sept. 23, daring WVU QB Pat White to beat them through the air …. which he did, sort of … White finished with 216 yards and touchdown passes to Owen Schmitt and Darius Reynaud, but it was far from a flawless performance … the sophomore also had three passes Pirated away by the scrappy ECU defense, including two INTs in the end zone … Slaton, averaging more than 160 rushing yards a game, was bothered by cramps on a hot day in Greenville and held to 80, while the Mountaineer defenders choked off the Pirates’ ground game (41 yards) … this week is an almost-homecoming for Alabama native White, a trip to the Gulf Coast to face 1-4 Mississippi State … it could also be a trap for Rich Rodriguez’s team, because the Bulldogs are desperate to win a big game for coach Sylvester Croom.
NO. 5 FLORIDA GATORS: Now, we’ll see if Florida is for real … after avenging a big 2005 loss to Alabama with a 28-13 victory on Saturday, Urban Meyer’s undefeated club has LSU, Auburn and Georgia in succession – not a good time for leading rusher DeShawn Wynn to get hurt … Wynn sprained his right knee against ‘Bama, and Meyer described it as “very, very sore” … if he can’t go against LSU on Saturday (in Gainesville, 3:30 p.m.), backup Kestahn Moore will probably replace him … on the bright side, the Gators will have mercurial freshman Percy Harvin back after Harvin missed the Alabama game with a high ankle sprain … wearing throwback jerseys from the early 1960s, the Gator defense pressured Crimson Tide QB John Parker Wilson into three interceptions – two by Ryan Smith, another returned 70 yards for a score by Reggie Nelson … the offense continued to do just what it took to win, prompting Meyer to say: “Are we averaging 500 yards a game on offense? No. I don’t think that can be done right now” … freshman QB Tim Tebow continued to be a spark off the bench, running for a touchdown, while Leak – known primarily as a dropback passer – set up another score with a 45-yard scamper.
NO. 6 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: Michigan brought the Little Brown Jug home from Minneapolis this weekend with their 28-14 win over the Golden Gophers…it was not an easy victory, but it was decisive–and it was on the road, which builds important experience for the Nov. 18 showdown with Ohio State in the Horseshoe. Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington combined for 8 grabs, 190 yards and 3 TD catches from Chad Henne (17-24, 284 yds., 3 TDs)…Mike Hart churned up 195 yards on 31 carries, including a 54-yarder in the fourth quarter, just to prove he still had some horsepower left…this week’s game at home against Michigan State was looking to be a real firecracker a few weeks ago when State was 3-0, but the Spartans are beginning their traditional mid-season swoon, and it looks like they might be coming to Ann Arbor without the services of Drew Stanton and Javon Ringer, who were both injured in their upset loss to Illinois.
NO. 7 TEXAS LONGHORNS: After devouring Sam Houston State as an h’ors d’oeuvre last week, 56-3, Mack Brown’s Longhorns now face the pivotal game on their schedule – the 101st Red River Shootout with No. 14 Oklahoma in Dallas … Texas has been largely on cruise control since an opening loss to Ohio State, but the Sooners won’t be an easy match …. one of the bright spots in Texas’ demolition of SHS was the play of backup QB Jevan Snead … a true freshman, Snead hit 7 of 8 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown … starter Colt McCoy, meanwhile, has already thrown for 846 yards, but will face a stern test in an OU defense led by All-America LB Rufus Alexander … the loser on Saturday can forget about any hopes for a national title.
NO. 8 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS: No worries for the Cardinals this week against Middle Tennessee, despite some rough patches in a 24-6 victory over Kansas State two weeks ago … MTU was blasted 59-0 by Oklahoma earlier this season, and now takes on another potential national championship contender … QB Hunter Cantwell did what he had to do in relief of the injured Brian Brohm in the K-State game, throwing for 173 yards and a touchdown … with Brohm and star RB Michael Bush on the sidelines (Bush for the season), the real Louisville star has been the defense … led by DB William Gay, LB Nate Harris and DE Zach Anderson, the Cardinal stop unit has permitted only 13 points in the last three games … don’t look for Middle Tennessee to dent that average much.
NO. 9 LOUISIANA STATE TIGERS: JaMarcus Russell for Heisman? … Unlikely, perhaps, but the LSU quarterback could make a strong statement this Saturday by outplaying Florida’s Chris Leak in Gainesville … the 6-6 redshirt junior, whose arm strength is already becoming legendary, shredded Mississippi State in last week’s 49-7 victory, hitting 18 of 20 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns … he has three of the best receivers in the country to work with in Craig Davis, Early Doucet and Dwayne Bowe, and a fleet of solid, if not spectacular, running backs … this is a golden opportunity for the 4-1 Tigers, who will probably catch Florida without starting running back DeShawn Wynn (knee) … but despite the star power of Russell and Leak, this could be an old-fashioned SEC defensive struggle, similar to the Tigers’ earlier 7-3 loss to Auburn … Florida LB’s Earl Everett and Brandon Siler and LSU DB’s LaRon Landry and Jessie Daniels are among the best in the country.
NO. 10 GEORGIA BULLDOGS: When senior QB Joe Tereshinski was injured in the Bulldogs’ second game with South Carolina, it hardly seemed to matter – freshman Matthew Stafford stepped in to lead his team to an 18-0 victory, then played well the following week against UAB … but then redshirt freshman Joe Cox had to bail out the ‘Dogs from an unthinkable upset by Colorado, and neither Cox nor Stafford were impressive in last week’s 14-9 escape at Mississippi … now, Tereshinski is able to play again, so the revolving door continues to spin … “There’s a lot of things we’ve got to get better at, probably in a hurry,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt prior to Saturday’s home game with No. 13 Tennessee. “If we don’t, we won’t stay undefeated for long” … so far, it’s been the defense – No. 1 nationally in points allowed — that has carried the Bulldogs, particularly the ferocious play of DE’s Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses … Johnson already has nine tackles for loss and has been named SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice.
NO. 11 OREGON DUCKS: Oregon moved up three slots from last week’s poll on the strength of the impressive 48-13 throttling they gave to the Arizona State Sun Devils on the road Saturday…it was ASU’s worst home loss in six years…the mighty Ducks held Rudy Carpenter to 31% passing (6 of 19, 33 yards, 1 INT) and sacked him 6 times…on Oregon’s side of the ball, Dennis Dixon went 19 of 30, 215 yards and 3 TDs and Jonathan Stewart averaged 11.8 yards per carry (11 rushes, 142 yards)…it doesn’t get any easier this week as the Ducks are on the road versus California…the Bears are seeking revenge for last season’s loss…they look hungry and ready for the Ducks…it’s easily one of the best college games this week.
NO. 12 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH: The Irish toyed with Purdue, building a 28-14 halftime lead en route to a 35-21 final. Brady Quinn went 29-38 for 316 yards and 2 TDs against one of the nation’s worst rated defenses…his usual cast of characters supported the offensive thrust…Rhema McKnight pulled in 10 balls for 120 yards and two scores…Darius Walker had 146 yards on 31 carries and 73 yards on 9 catches…Notre Dame’s weak secondary continues to be exploited as the Boilermakers’ Curtis Painter threw for 398 yards–238 of those going to Selwyn Lymon on 8 catches good for two TDs…The Irish still do not look like a 12th ranked team…they’ll have a field day this week when they host the winless, toothless Stanford Cardinal…Walt Harris’ bunch is on track for an 0-12 season, so Quinn and Co. should be padding their stats on this one.
NO. 13 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS: Saturday’s game at Georgia is one of those Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object confrontations … Vol QB Erik Ainge has been pretty irresistible most of the time this season, averaging 270 yards in total offense to lead the SEC … last week against Memphis, he was 23 of 27 for 324 yards and four touchdowns … WR Robert Meacham, meanwhile, gained 165 yards on the receiving end, and LaMarcus Coker became the third Vol RB this season to rush for over 100 yards … the problem, for Philip Fulmer’s team, is that Georgia is ranked first in the nation in scoring defense … Tennessee’s O-line has done a yoeman’s job of keeping Ainge unsacked, but Bulldog DE’s Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses are both quick, strong and NFL prospects … the key might be Tennessee’s third-down plays … the Vols are converting over 60 percent so far, Georgia is allowing its opponents only 24 percent success in that situation.
NO. 14 OKLAHOMA SOONERS: Forget the Las Vegas line – Saturday’s Red River Shootout versus Texas in Dallas will be all about the OU offensive line … this young unit has begun to jell, and they’ll need to coagulate even more against a fearsome Longhorn defense that is ranked among the national leaders in sacks … two weeks ago, UT sacked supposedly mobile Iowa State QB Bret Meyer seven times and knocked him down on 15 other occasions after he released passes … this clear and present danger will require some nimble footwork by Sooner QB Paul Thompson, who has performed better than expected after being drafted to replace Rhett Bomar, throwing for 930 yards and eight TD’s … WR Malcom Kelly gained an other-worldly 134 yards in receptions in the first QUARTER against Middle Tennessee two weeks ago (a 59-0 rout) … of course, that was Middle Tennessee, and this week he’ll face a veteran Texas secondary led by Michael Griffin … still, Oklahoma has to demonstrate some sort of passing threat to prevent Texas from closing the running lanes to Heisman candidate Adrian Peterson (643 rushing yards this season).
NO. 15 CLEMSON TIGERS: Were it not for a blocked extra point, the Tigers would be a Top 10 team, at least … that cost them a 34-33 overtime loss at Boston College, the one hiccup in an otherwise dominating season … Clemson has gone over 50 points three times this season and topped then No. 9 Florida State, 27-20 … Tommy Bowden’s Tigers are at Wake Forest this Saturday, then feast on Temple before a defining two-game stretch against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech … last week, in a predictable romp over Louisiana Tech, Tiger RB’s James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Demerick Chancellor all went over 100 yards … Davis averaged 13 yards a carry, Spiller 8.5, Chancellor 10.3 … OK, it was Louisiana Tech, but the Tiger offense is still among the top three in the ACC … Wake shouldn’t be a problem if Clemson doesn’t suffer an on-the-road letdown, although the Deacons always seem to play the Tigers tough …. keep your eyes on true freshman Jacoby Ford, perhaps the fastest player in the league, who hauled back a kickoff 94 yards last Saturday.
NO. 16 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: The Bears jumped up five slots in this week’s AP poll after crushing the Oregon State Beavers 41-13 in Corvallis. Cal QB Nate Longshore continues to impress, this time around he went 22-31, 341 yards, 4 TDs, 1 int. Lavelle Hawkins had 6 grabs, good for 128 yards and a score. “That’s the best quarterback I’ve ever played with in my life,” Hawkins said. “Nate is the guy. Nate is the man.” Running back Marshawn Lynch tallied two scores off passes from Longshore…he finished with 59 yards on three receptions, adding 106 yards on the ground for another score (17 carries)…the halftime score was 31-3…the Bears’ defensive front registered four sacks…they’ll need to put that type of pressure on Dennis Dixon of Oregon this weekend in what will be one of the best games in the nation…both teams have crushed ASU the past two weekends with solid defense and relentless passing attacks.
NO. 17 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES: Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles are currently on a winning streak, having scored victories over Rice and Open Date … the 55-7 rout of Rice two weeks ago enabled Bowden to fine-tune his sputtering running game (Antone Smith and Lorenzo Booker both went over 100 yards) and get a little more confidence for struggling WR Chris Carr (a 56-yard TD pass from Xavier Lee) … the following open date was a winner, too, as starting O-linemen Shannon Boatman, David Overmyer and Corey Niblock all healed enough from minor injuries to be penciled in against North Carolina State on Thursday night … the Wolfpack shocked Boston College last week, 17-15, in the first start for sophomore QB Daniel Evans, but State has lost to Akron and southern Miss and barely beat Appalachian State … despite an earlier loss to Clemson (during which the young Seminole defense surrendered three tiger scoring drives of over 80 yards), FSU still has high BCS hopes if the kinks can be ironed out.
NO. 18 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: Call them No. 18 with a bullet, because the 4-1 Yellow Jackets are definite chart climbers … since playing Notre Dame tough in an opening game loss, the Jackets have established themselves as one of the top teams in a relatively weak year for the ACC … maturity has allowed QB Reggie Ball to augment his physical ability with better decision-making, Oklahoma transfer Tashard Choice has emerged as a go-to running back, and WR Calvin Johnson will earn some Heisman votes … in last Saturday’s 38-27 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Johnson had two early TD receptions, including a 53-yarder in which he took a short pass and blew past three VA Tech defenders … GA Tech also beat the Hokies at their own “Beamerball” special teams game, blocking a punt and returning a fumble for a touchdown … this week, it’s 3-1 Maryland in Atlanta.
NO. 19 IOWA HAWKEYES: Saturday night’s home loss to Ohio State was good for a six slot drop in the polls…the closest the Hawkeyes could come to the Buckeyes was four points, twice early in the game at 7-3 and 14-10…the Bucks put the game out of reach after that…Drew Tate was sacked twice and picked off three times… “The run is what killed us,” Iowa cornerback Charles Godfrey said. “They ran the ball down our throats.” Indeed, yielding 226 net yards rushing will make for a long day on the defensive side of the ball…what does Iowa have to look forward to now? They will take on Purdue at home this weekend…but an Oct 21 game at Michigan now looms in the shadows…a loss there would knock the Hawkeyes to no better than a third slot, and possibly a fourth slot in the Big Ten bowl lineup because Wisconsin doesn’t play Ohio State this year.
NO. 20 BOISE STATE BRONCOS: The Broncs kicked a beat up Utah team all over their own crib on Saturday, notching an easy 36-3 win…it was projected to be a tight game, but the Utes, who are now 3-2 (their 3 wins came over teams that have a cumulative record of 2-12) look to be much less of a challenger even within their own conference…Meanwhile, Boise State moves up two slots in the AP poll…they should easily go 12-0 this year, however, a pitifully weak schedule will hamper them with pollsters and should stall out any more significant progress up the poll chart…BSU’s wins are over teams with a combined record of 9-13…their remaining schedule currently boasts a cumulative record of 12-18 with Fresno State at 1-3 looking less and less like a WAC challenger this year…the next sacrificial victim in BSU’s quest for BCS bowl recognition is 1-3 Louisiana Tech…
NO. 21 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES: There was some great special teams play in Blacksburg last Saturday – a blocked punt, a sack that caused a fumble that was turned into a touchdown … the problem was, it wasn’t Frank Beamer’s Hokies who were “special,” but visiting Georgia Tech – and in the process of losing 38-27, the Hokies were exposed as a pretty good but not great team in a down ACC season … new QB Sean Glennon did throw for over 300 yards, but he had to, because the visiting Yellow Jackets thoroughly throttled Tech’s running game … this Saturday, Beamer takes his team to Boston College in a “separation” game for two hopeful but struggling league contenders.
NO. 22 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: You know the Nebraska football team, right? Strong defense, an offense that chews up yardage with its I-backs? If you still think that, you’ve obviously not been paying attention … in last Saturday’s 39-32 overtime victory against Kansas, the Cornhuskers surrendered 544 yards in total offense and allowed the Jayhawks to march 81 yards for the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter … meanwhile, the leading rusher was Marlon Lucky with 40 yards … Nebraska survived because QB Zac Taylor threw for 395 yards and four touchdowns and Cody Glenn scored in OT, but it had to be disturbing to Huskers’ coach Bill Callahan that his team only converted three of 12 third-down opportunities … this Saturday’s game at Iowa State could be a gut-check, because Cyclones’ QB Bret Meyer will test the Nebraska D even more.
NO. 23 MISSOURI TIGERS: QB Chase Daniel has gotten most of the credit for Mizzou’s first 5-0 start since 1981, and the sophomore threw for 253 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-14 Big 12 victory over Colorado on Saturday … when you take a closer look at the stats, though, the Tiger defense was a major factor, holding Colorado to 3 of 12 third-down conversions and stopping them all four times on fourth down … Colorado DB Terrence Wheatley noted afterward that Missouri had such a detailed preview of the Buffalo defense – probably from coaches at Georgia, which played CU earlier — that “They knew what (coverage) we were in every time, I think” … three of Daniel’s TD passes went to tight ends Chase Coffman (two) and Martin Rucker, and he also threw two interceptions … Reality check: So far, Missouri has beaten Murray State, Ole Miss, New Mexico, Ohio U and winless Colorado, not exactly a murderer’s row.
NO. 24 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS: The Scarlet Knights have an weekend off to savor their Top 25 ranking and first 5-0 start since 1976 … then, consecutive games with Navy and Pitt should determine whether Greg Schiano’s team is more than just an early-season feel-good story … Rutgers barely held off South Florida last Saturday, 22-20, by thwarting a two-point conversion attempt, and RB Ray Rice (seven straight 100-yard games) can’t continue to carry the offensive load by himself … look for backfield mate Brian Leonard to get more carries, and QB Mike Teel (just 100 yards passing versus SFU) is going to have to get better.
NO. 25 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES: Weird … unranked Boston College scores an unimpressive 22-0 victory over Maine and is back in the Top 25 again … nevertheless, this week’s game with Virginia Tech will probably define which Eagle team is for real – the feisty overachievers who beat Clemson and Brigham Young in successive double overtime thrillers, or the underachievers who lost to N.C. State and struggled at time against the Division 1-AA Black Bears … one red flag is the gimpy ankle of QB Matt Ryan – given the way Tech defenders fly to the football, he could spend a lot of time on his back … DB DeJuan Tribble, the glue in the Eagle secondary, is also nursing an injury … Tech, meanwhile, is still smarting from last week’s butt-kicking from Georgia Tech.
NO. 1 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES: Another earthquake shook the AP poll this week with huge seismic action knocking some teams like Auburn and Oklahoma down 9 slots, while Cal is thrust upward 6 slots, and Georgia Tech rides the action up 5…and yet, once again, there is stability at the top of the heap with the Buckeyes standing tall as king of the mountain at the midway point of the season…Heisman hopeful Troy Smith and his mates toyed around with the Bowling Green Falcons last weekend 35-7…Smith was 17-20, 191 yards, 3 TD tosses…he left enough game clock for backup QB Justin Zwick to go 4-9, 57 yards…Ted Ginn, Jr. had 10 receptions for 122 yards and a score. Remarkably, Antonio Pittman was held to 61 yards on 13 rushes, although he did have two scores on the day…this week is a tough one, regardless of what anyone might say…the Michigan State Spartans are hurting big time and nothing could salve that hurt like an upset of the number one team in America and conference rival to boot. Beware OSU, you don’t want to toy around with the Spartans…they’re like an injured and cornered alley cat.
NO. 2 FLORIDA GATORS: OK, so Tim Tebow isn’t pretty. The University of Florida fans love the southpaw freshman quarterback, anyway … Tebow only participated in 15 plays in Saturday’s 23-10 victory over LSU (a game in which the Gators were slight underdogs at home), but accounted for three touchdowns — one on a short scoring run in which he moved LSU’s 500-pound-bench-pressing linebacker Luke Sanders backward, the other on touchdown passes to Tate Casey (a “jump pass” that looked like something out of a bad football movie) and Louis Murphy … the Gators actually won the game during a two-minute stretch to open the third quarter … first, the normally reliable Early Doucet fumbled a kickoff, was then leveled by Riley Cooper while trying to pick it up, and LSU was forced to fall on the ball in the end zone for a safety … the Tigers then had to give the ball back, and Tebow hit Murphy from 35 yards out five plays later … the Florida defense, bolstered by the return of DT Marcus Thomas (back after a lengthy suspension for flunking a drug test) took over from there … the Gators continued to demonstrate that they have one of the best secondaries in college football, with Reggie Nelson and Ryan Smith (a Californian who transferred to Florida from Utah when Urban Meyer switched jobs) seemingly always around the football … Florida QB starter Chris Leak had a decent game, 17 of 26 passes for 158 yards, but did little to better his Heisman chances … and despite their now-lofty poll position, the Gators can’t get too high, because their next assignment is to face an angry Auburn team on the road Saturday.
NO. 3 USC TROJANS: There’s an old adage that goes, “what doesn’t hurt you makes you stronger…” and the last two weeks of scares from Wazzou and the Washington Huskies should ultimately make the Trojans a better team down the stretch…at least that’s the theory Pete Carroll is telling his boys…injuries are certainly taking their toll on the talent rich USC squad…some back-ups have been failing to fill their assignments as ably as expected…John David Booty was a mere 23-40, 243 yards with a score and a pick against UW…kicker Mario Danelo was the real star of the game with four field goals providing separation on the score board’s final tally…the Arizona State Sun Devils come limping into Los Angeles Coliseum this week after two humiliating losses to two other ranked Pac-10 foes…they’ve had two weeks to rest up and prepare for USC and an upset win would turn their season around in a hurry…
NO. 4 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES: The Maize and Blue raced to a 17-0 halftime lead over instate rival Michigan State…built it up to 31-7 after three quarters in route to a thoroughly convincing 31-13 final score…enough to push them up two slots from last week’s poll…the big loss of the weekend could be wide receiver extraordinaire Mario Manningham who racked up three grabs good for 75 yards, 2 scores, and a leg injury that now leaves him unfit for duty versus Penn State Nittany Lions this weekend. Chad Henne was a “quiet” 11 for 17, 140 yards and three scores…RB Mike Hart logged 122 yards on 22 carries…it was a very workmanlike victory with the Wolverine defense continuing to stand strong against the rush (net 73 yards by the Spartans)…This week’s road clash with Penn State will be an incredible test of Michigan’s willpower…the Nittany Lions are always tough at home and they are revenge minded from their only loss last year–an improbable last-second thriller the Wolverines managed to pull off. Losing Manningham for this weekend’s game will do one of two things to the Wolverines…psyche them up, or psyche them out…
NO. 5 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS: That old expression “rules are meant to be broken” doesn’t apply to football … not when you’ve got a team of zebras standing watch with flags at the ready, as West Virginia’s fifth-ranked team found out Saturday in Starkville, MS … actually, coach Rich Rodriguez could have taken it as a plus that his team was penalized 134 yards for 11 different infractions and still beat Mississippi State 42-14, but he didn’t see it that way … “We had some guys who played outstanding,” he said, “and other guys who just don’t get it” … as usual, Steve Slaton, Pat White and Owen Schmitt got it — the football, that is … amidst the flurry of flags (including roughing the passer ands roughing the punter penalties), the three-headed monster that is the Mountaineer offense chugged along as usual … Slaton was particularly effective, rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown and reeling off nine runs of 10 yards or more … White was 6 of 10 passing for 92 yards and ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns, fullback Schmitt scored twice .. West Virginia now hosts Syracuse and travels to Connecticut before its pivotal meeting with Louisville on Nov. 2.
NO. 6 TEXAS LONGHORNS: Obviously, the balance of power has tipped a bit in the Big 12, as Texas won its Red River confrontation with Oklahoma for the second straight year, 28-10 … this game was won upfront, with All-America candidates Lyle Sendlein (C), Kasey Studdard (G) and Justin Blalock (T) opening holes for Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young and keeping Rufus Alexander and friends away from redshirt freshman Colt McCoy … McCoy seems to be progressing nicely, and one wonders how a Texas-Ohio State game might play out now … the game was a coming out party for Texas DB Aaron Ross, starting only his third game … Ross had eight tackles, two interceptions, and returned a fumbled lateral by Adrian Peterson for a touchdown…credit Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, as well, for making adjustments that held Peterson to 38 yards in the second half … now, the Longhorns have to guard against complacency — after hosting surprising Baylor this week, they go to Nebraska and Texas Tech the following two Saturdays.
NO. 7 LOUISVILLE CARDINALS: Bobby Petrino’s team had a couple of scares during a 44-17 Friday night rout of Middle Tennessee, but both were fleeting … the Cardinals fell behind 10-3 on an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown from MTSU’s Damon Nickson and a Colby Smith field goal, but Hunter Cantwell threw two touchdown passes to 6’6″ Mario Urrutia, the second a back-breaking 25-yarder with just two seconds left in the first half … the other scare for Louisville, which already has starting QB Brian Brohm out with a hand injury, came when Cantwell was hit in the first quarter and came up favoring his knee … “My knee bent really weird, and I was like, ‘Oh no, this is not good,”‘ Cantwell said. “It was sore for a little bit, but I got back up on it and it was fine” … Brohm has resumed throwing in practice, and might be ready for the pivotal West Virginia game, if not before…meanwhile, the Cardinals have Cincinnati and Syracuse in between.
NO. 8 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS: Poor Tennessee. Its offensive line was supposedly banged up, its top running back was coming off an injury, and the Volunteers had to travel to Georgia last Saturday to face the top scoring defense in America…well, you can hold the pity party… with walking (and blocking) wounded O-linemen Arron Sears and Anthony Parker leading the way, the Tennessee forward wall guarded QB Erik Ainge like the Secret Service, dominated the line of scrimmage, and deserved a collective game ball in a 51-33 victory … even more impressive was the fact that Tennessee spotted the home team a 24-3 lead … Ainge threw for 268 yards and a pair of touchdowns, RB Arian Foster scored three touchdowns — one for each game he had missed with an injury — and the Tennessee defense snapped up four turnovers … the Vols can’t celebrate for long, though, because the next four games are crucial — at home against Alabama, to South Carolina, home against LSU, and then on the road to suddenly resurgent Arkansas … still, with only 17 seniors on his roster, Volunteer coach Philip Fulmer should manage to keep his critics at bay for the foreseeable future.
NO. 9 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH: We are still asking ourselves why the pollsters would give Notre Dame a three-slot lift after a lackluster 31-10 home game win over the hapless 0-6 Stanford Cardinal? There are more worthy teams below the Irish in the poll and time should bear this out…the Golden Domers get two weeks off to prepare for the UCLA Bruins who will be without the services of their starting QB for the next six weeks thanks to an MCL tear…we doubt UCLA will be able to bring their “A” game to South Bend…but look out for a very tough Navy team on the road the week after…as we’ve said before, the Notre Dame schedule is a virtual cakewalk until they play USC, but a land mine or two on that yellow brick road to L.A., thanks to the armed forces football programs (Air Force on the road, Nov 11) just might derail any more delusions of the Irish fighting their way back into the national championship scene this season.
NO. 10 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS: Cal’s mercurial rise from #16 to the Top Ten following their impressive dismantling of the Oregon Ducks just goes to prove that an early loss in the season to a ranked team will usually not ruin your national title hopes…redshirt soph QB Nate Longshore continues to mature and produce (14-26, 189 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, and one rushing TD)…his vast array of weaponry forces opponents to pick their poison…DeSean Jackson (2 grabs, 77 yards, 1 TD)…Justin Forsett (27 rushes, 163 yards, 1 TD, 6.1 ypc)…Marshawn Lynch (7 carries, 50 yards, 7.1 ypc)…most impressive stats in the big Quack Crasher? Cal’s defense picked off Dennis Dixon three times while also managing to hold the remarkable Jonathan Stewart to 25 yards on 18 carries–a career low 1.4 yards per carry average…the Bears are flying high again, but there’s an early Halloween fright night planned for them up in Pullman this weekend…just ask USC.
NO. 11 AUBURN TIGERS: How do you counter a defense that is small, super quick and boasts one of the best secondaries in the country? You run the ball, and that’s precisely what Arkansas did in handing the Plainsmen a 27-10 setback–at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, no less–on Saturday … using tailbacks Darren McFadden and Felix Jones as blunt instruments, the Razorbacks made 36 of their final 38 play calls running plays … meanwhile, the Arkansas defense swarmed around star Auburn tailback Kenny Irons, limiting him to 75 rushing yards on 15 carries (23 of that on one run) … it also helps with Auburn if you take the lead, thus forcing QB Brandon Cox to throw … knowing that, the Arkansas DL eventually shifted its attention from Irons to Cox and sacked the Auburn QB five times … its national championship hopes perhaps fatally wounded, Tommy Tuberville’s team now has to go back to the drawing board to correct some of the flaws that the Hogs exposed … and that has to happen quickly, because Florida comes to town this week.
NO. 12 CLEMSON TIGERS: You remember the limerick: “There once was a lady from Niger, who smiled as she rode on a tiger; they came back from the ride with the lady inside, and the smile on the face of the tiger” … so it was with Wake Forest on Saturday … even as late as the third quarter, it looked as if the then-undefeated Demon Deacons were going to hand Clemson a third straight loss at Groves Stadium, as Wake took a 17-3 lead on a Sam Swank field goal … earlier, they had burned the Tigers on a beautiful trick play, WR Nate Morton (a former quarterback) pulling up short on an apparent reverse and hitting QB Riley Skinner with a touchdown pass … but Clemson DE Gaines Adams jarred the football loose on another Wake field goal attempt, this one muffed, and galloped 66 yards to the distant end zone…then Will Proctor, who did not have a good game, hit Aaron Kelly with a 30-yard touchdown pass, true freshman RB C.J. Spinner squirted through a seam like a watermelon seed being spit out and raced 72 yards for another score, and the smile was on the faces of the Tigers … plusses for Clemson, which has the chance to take center stage in a jumbled and confused ACC, were the emergence of Stiller and a defense that held Wake 31 yards rushing … a concern was the play of Proctor, who misfired badly on some key first-half passes and admitted: “That’s probably the worst game I’ve played since Pop Warner” … the Tigers will gnaw on hapless Temple this Saturday, then host Georgia Tech next week.
NO. 13 GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: At one point on Saturday, with Clemson two touchdowns in arrears of Wake Forest and Georgia Tech trailing Maryland, the question had to be asked: “Uh, does anyone want to win the ACC title?” It turns out Georgia Tech does … after fourth quarter touchdowns by Reggie Ball and Tashard Choice gave the Yellow Jackets a 27-23 lead, a long pass play took the Terps to the GA Tech seven yard line with a minute left … 6-7, 250-pound Yellow Jackets’ sophomore Michael Johnson then forced an intentional grounding call on Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach, followed by a sack of Hollenbach on fourth down to end the game … Georgia Tech, now 5-1, will take a bye week before traveling to Clemson on Oct. 21, a game that could be the signature regular-season match-up in the league this year … for Tech, Saturday’s comeback had to be a confidence-builder … Choice, a transfer from Oklahoma, continues to improve — he had 135 rushing yards Saturday …. that certainly beats watching Adrian Peterson from the bench.
NO. 14 LSU TIGERS: Is Florida really a better football team than LSU? Maybe, but it wasn’t as if the Gators dominated Les Miles’ team last Saturday…the Tigers gave Florida a safety when Early Doucet fumbled the second half kickoff, another Gator score was set up when Jessie Daniels fumbled a punt, and the normally reliable JaMarcus Russell coughed up the football on the Florida two-yard line when the ball was apparently snapped to him on an unexpected count … by getting behind early, the Tigers were unable to use their running game, and Russell was intercepted three times by a quick and opportunistic Florida secondary … still, LSU outgained Florida in total yardage, 318-288 and in passing, 228-191, and the Gators had only a narrow lead in rushing, 97-90, despite the fact that the visitors hardly ran the ball in the second half … turnovers were the difference — and with two losses, LSU will have to take a gut check to get back in the SEC West race … the Tigers still have Tennessee and Arkansas on their schedule.
NO. 15 IOWA HAWKEYES: Kirk Ferentz managed to guide his Hawkeyes safely away from post-game depression following the Ohio State loss, soundly whipping the Purdue Boilermakers 47-17…Drew Tate was a cool 17 for 23, 253 yards and 2 scores…RB Damian Sims got the call and delivered on the ground with 155 yards and 2 scores off 20 carries…Adam Shada set an Iowa record by returning an interception 98 yards for a touchdown…Iowa lost three of four fumbles, but Purdue couldn’t capitalize…next up: a road game against the Indiana Hoosiers…IU is vastly improved from last season and should put up a bit of a struggle…the Hawkeyes will need to guard against looking beyond this week toward their huge game at Michigan on Oct 21.
NO. 16 GEORGIA BULLDOGS: So much for that feared Georgia defense, which was leading the nation in points allowed … with a seismic explosion in the second half, the Tennessee Volunteers sent the second coming of the Junkyard Dogs to, well, the junkyard, 51-33 … Tennessee simply had too many weapons, even Between the Hedges, and Georgia’s quarterback problems were once again laid bare … “When you have three quarterbacks,” the saying goes, “you really don’t have any” … the beloved Joe Tereshinski tried valiantly, but his first-half stats were inflated by at least three circus catches by his receivers of less than crisp passes … Georgia took a 24-10 lead at halftime and pulled off two long scoring returns (Mikey Henderson 86 yards with a punt, Thomas Brown 99 with a kickoff), but couldn’t overcome four turnovers … defensive ends Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses, considered the best duo in the country, rarely got close enough to UT QB Erik Ainge to bother him … Ainge was sacked only once, on a safety blitz by Tra Battle that someone forgot to pick up … the Bulldogs also had problems stopping the run, allowing Arian Foster to score three times…Georgia has two very winnable games (Vanderbilt and Mississippi State) in which to work out the kinks before it has to play Florida …. Is Tennessee really that much better? Probably not, but for a team that supposedly lives or dies with its defense, those 51 Volunteer points had to be ominous.
NO. 17 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS: “We want people to respect us,” said Arkansas TB Darren McFadden prior to Saturday’s game with Auburn … mission accomplished: McFadden rushed for 144 yards (including a 63-yard touchdown) and fellow tailback Felix Jones added 104 and another score as the Razorbacks upset Auburn, 27-10 … it was the first victory by an unranked team over a Top 10 team this season, and put Arkansas in the hunt for a berth in the SEC championship game … the Hogs used the run almost exclusively in the second half, which not only hogged big chunks of clock, but kept the exposure to freshman QB Mitch Mustain to a minimum … Mustain did just enough to keep the Tigers honest, hitting 7 of 10 passes for 86 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown to Marcus Monk … meanwhile, defensive linemen Jamaal Anderson and Keith Jackson led a ferocious rush that sacked Auburn QB Brandon Cox five times … the rest of the schedule is favorable to Houston Nutt’s team, which rewards itself with a cupcake (Southeastern Missouri State) this Saturday and has both Tennessee and LSU at home…the trap game might be a Nov. 4 trip to South Carolina.
NO. 18 OREGON DUCKS: The Ducks met their match in Berkeley last weekend and dropped seven spots in the AP poll following Cal’s convincing 45-24 victory. That’s what happens when you go on the road, fail to establish any semblance of a running game, and end up minus three in turnover margin against a quick-strike opportunistic offense. Oregon will need to regroup and develop a solid game plan for the UCLA Bruins this week…the Uclans are 4-1, hungry for Pac-10 respect, and injured at the most visible position on the field…the Ducks cannot afford to get caught up in looking beyond this game to their showdown with USC on the road next week because the Bruins are a lot more talented than they are being given credit for this season…and a loss against UCLA means settling for a lesser bowl game in December.
NO. 19 MISSOURI TIGERS: A funny thing happened on the way to Missouri’s first loss in the Big 12 on Saturday — it didn’t happen … after the No. 23 Tigers had taken a 24-0 lead on No. 25 Texas Tech, causing Red Raider coach Mike Leach to briefly bench QB Graham Harrell … Harrell returned (presumably after being chewed on by an angry Leach) to throw two quick touchdown passes at the end of the first half and another in the third quarter … stopping Tech’s wide-open offense when it gains momentum is like preventing a 747 from taking off, and thousands of Missouri fans were no doubt muttering, “Here we go again” … somehow, though, the feisty Tiger defense regrouped, resumed its pressure on Harrell, and won going away, 38-21…freshman QB Chase Daniel continued to play well, defensive ends Brian Smith and Xzavier Jackson are emerging as one of the top pass rushing combos in the Big 12, and Mizzou is now 6-0 … “We want people to question why Missouri is ranked that high,” said Jackson afterward. “Why? Why?”…after Saturday, they can just ask Graham Harrell, who was harassed into five turnovers…the bad news for Gary Pinkel’s team is the remaining schedule–at Texas A&M this week, then Oklahoma, then at Nebraska.
NO. 20 BOISE STATE BRONCOS: Two teams in the Top 25 won their games and remained locked into their previous poll position…yes, Boise State was one of them, Rutgers the other…that tells you the level of respect the pollsters have for these programs and the weak schedules they have played so far this year. Rutgers’ schedule will become more difficult with two Top Ten ranked teams coming up…the Broncos, on the other hand, face a schedule that only becomes weaker. Look for BSU to run up the score like they did last week versus the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 55-14…that’s their only hope of drawing some pollster attention away from the traditional powerhouse programs. We think BSU is right about where they should be…it’s difficult to envision them moving beyond a #14 slot before the end of the regular season…
NO. 21 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Memo to the rest of the Big 12–don’t let Nebraska get an early lead … Iowa State allowed itself to fall behind 21-7 on Saturday, and Bill Callahan’s team simply used its big offensive line and I-backs Cody Glenn and Brandon Jackson as a combine, rolling up and down the field as Brett Meyer and his Cyclone offensive teammates sat on their hands (for the game, the Cornhuskers kept the football for 37 minutes) … it was almost a day off for Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor, who threw only 21 passes … Taylor still became the fourth Nebraska QB to go over 4,000 yards for his career … amazingly, the 100-yard games by Glenn and Jackson were the first by a Nebraska back in a Big 12 game since 2004 … now 5-1, Nebraska travels to Kansas State this Saturday before hosting Texas on Oct. 21.
NO. 22 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES: The M.O. for Frank Beamer’s Hokies is well-known — strike quickly, often with special teams touchdowns, grab an early lead and then go after the other team’s quarterback with a vengeance…after a 38-27 loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago, the Hokies now know how the other guys feel…the Yellow Jackets blocked a punt, scored on a fumble return and took a 21-0 first-quarter lead that basically took Brandon Ore and the running game out of Beamer’s arsenal … rookie QB starter Sean Glennon did throw for 339 yards, but Tech was never able to catch up…after a bye week, 4-1 Tech now travels to 4-1 Boston College to continue a spirited rivalry that was transplanted to the ACC from the Big East…V. Tech now trails Georgia Tech by a game in the relatively weak Coastal Division of the ACC and can’t afford another loss … plus, a victory in Chestnut Hill would be Beamer’s 400th … he currently ranks third among active Division 1 coaches…Tech is 12-1 in Thursday night TV games.
NO. 23 OKLAHOMA SOONERS: Oklahoma’s 28-10 loss to Texas was eerily similar to the simultaneous LSU-Florida game to the east … the Sooners outgained the Longhorns 333-232 in total yards, including a 209-108 edge in passing … they also converted 9 of 16 first downs to 3 of 10 for the winners…the killer, as with LSU, was turnovers — five, including a weird play late in the game in which Adrian Peterson thought he had dropped a pass, only to have Aaron Ross scoop up what turned out to be a fumbled lateral and score the last touchdown…”I was sitting there like, ‘What the, you know, is going on?'” Peterson sad later … Oklahoma fans were probably asking themselves the same question … as for Peterson, who gained 109 tough yards? … “Give him the Heisman,” said Texas linebacker Robert Killebrew. “He deserves it” … Bob Stoops’ team plays its next two games at home, Iowa State and Colorado, before traveling to Missouri.
NO. 24 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS: When the unbeaten Scarlet Knights (5-0) travel to Navy (5-1) this Saturday, expect a quick game…both teams run the ball very effectively, and both have quarterbacks who have been erratic in the passing game, to say the least … Rutgers’ Mike Teel has two touchdown passes against six interceptions, while Brian Hampton of the Middies–primarily a runner–has actually produced negative passer ratings twice this season…Ray Rice has put up nice numbers for the Scarlet Knights so far — 806 yards, 11 TD’s…Hampton has rushed for 10 Navy touchdowns…if one of these teams gets a big early lead and puts the pressure on the opposing quarterback to throw, it could be over early…there is a video screen in Times Square touting Brian Leonard of Rutgers for the Heisman, but so far the senior fullback hasn’t gotten as many touches as in the past…that could change against a swarming Navy defense…the Middies would love to be ranked, and they probably will be if they win on Saturday.
NO. 25 WISCONSIN BADGERS: Wisconsin enters the AP poll for the first time this season following their 41-9 win over the Northwestern Wildcats…the Badgers really lucked out with their Big Ten schedule this year (no Ohio State game) and overall, aside from a road game at Iowa on Nov 11, we can see this team easily reaching 10-2…worst case scenario would be 9-3, if they lose at home to Penn State. This is your typical Wisconsin team…not a lot of flash and dash…they seek to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball…their offensive line is nasty and wears down opponents…there always seems to be another NFL-bound ball carrier popping up, and this year the spotlights are shining on true freshman P.J. Hill, Jr., a 5’11”, 242 pound bruiser (who reminds you of Ron Dayne)…he rushed 35 times last week for 249 yards and a score. Against Michigan a few weeks ago, the versatile frosh back had 54 yards rushing and 64 yards receiving…The Badgers’ senior QB, John Stocco, is experienced and poised in the pocket and presents a dangerous alternative to the running game.