Archive for year 2006

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

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.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

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.

Fourth and inches …

►Are the #11 Virginia Tech Hokies for real this year? It’s hard to tell after playing Northeastern, Cincinnati, and ACC bottom feeders Duke and North Carolina…#24 Georgia Tech will represent their first true test of the season…the Yellow Jackets come into this Saturday’s game with revenge on their minds…Va. Tech humiliated them 51-7 last year when Marcus Vick passed for 223 yards and the Hokies’ defense and special teams scored 21 points…you have to take your hats off to Frank Beamer for his integrity with enforcing team rules…he suspended defensive end Chris Ellis and wide receiver Josh Morgan for the Georgia Tech game…this is one of the best games of the week, one of only two contests that pit two Top 25 teams against each other.

►Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish need to send a thank-you note to Michigan State Spartans quarterback Drew Stanton for single handedly granting them new life for the 2006 season…MSU had a 10-point lead with just under six minutes remaining…Stanton had the ball stripped from his grip on a keeper…that set up an Irish touchdown and the score was 37-33 after a missed extra point. Then, with less than three minutes remaining, on third and 6, Stanton decides to pass instead of staying on the ground and eating more of the clock…ND’s Terrail Lambert intercepted and danced in from 23 yards out for the winning score. Talk about luck of the Irish…this is a team that’s supposed to challenge for the national championship? I don’t think so…they’ve been blasted for 84 points in back-to-back games by Michigan and Michigan State.

►Think Pink?…For one week this season, #13 Iowa Hawkeyes fans can say that the road to the national championship runs through Iowa City…the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and their marvelous marching band will swarm into the newly revamped 76-year old Kinnick Stadium this Saturday…the winner gains the upper hand in the Big Ten Conference title chase, although both teams still have Michigan looming on their schedule…and yes, even after the new upgrades, the visitor’s locker room is still decorated in Pepto Bismol Pink…the idea is that the color will distract or mellow the visitors…it was Hayden Fry’s idea during his tenure…Last summer, Jane Meyer, Iowa’s senior associate athletic director said, “We think it’s appropriate. We hope our visiting teams enjoy it as much as we have in planning it.” Right. I have to imagine the color scheme makes some teams so irritated they just want to get out and kick the crap out of their gracious hosts.

►Sticking with the Big Ten and Ohio State for a moment…JoePa’s Penn State Nittany Lions played an outstanding defensive game last week against the Buckeyes…take away the two picks Anthony Morelli threw for TDs in the last minutes of the game and the final score was only 14-6. Penn State’s defensive backs held Troy Smith to 115 yards passing and intercepted him twice…even more impressive was how they shut down the dynamic duo, Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez…these two incredible receivers only managed a total of 4 receptions for 31 yards…now, if only Penn State can muster some offense…reports are that Paterno is focusing on that very issue this week for their home game versus the Northwestern Wildcats.

►Fans of the BYU Cougars and TCU Horned Frogs are elated that their Thursday night game this week will be carried on the VERSUS Network which is accessible thru the DISH and DirecTV satellite service, as well as many cable operators around the country…VERSUS was formerly OLN (Outdoor Life Network) and now carries college football among other sports. The mtn., a Mountain West Conference exclusive sports channel that was launched by CSTV and Comcast last month, still does not have agreements with DISH or DirecTV, leaving tens of thousands of fans who follow MWC sports in the lurch…by far, the largest fan base in the MWC is from BYU…those fans are still biting their nails and wondering if a deal will be struck with the satellite companies before the Cougars’ next two games against San Diego State on Oct 7 and UNLV on Oct 21…both games are scheduled to be aired on the mtn.

►It seems that Mountain West Conference teams are getting punked by the MWC in more ways than just the mtn. fiasco…TCU took last weekend off while the BYU Cougars were playing at home…this means that the Cougars will have one rest day, two days of practice, and then a travel day before the all-important conference game…meanwhile, TCU has had eleven days to rest and prep for the game. A similar situation happened to TCU last year when they played the SMU Mustangs on a Saturday and then took on the defending MWC champion Utah Utes the following Thursday. Aren’t conference officials supposed to ensure that scheduling snafus like these don’t happen so that both teams have adequate time to prepare for each other?

►Furthermore, when the MWC left ESPN for CSTV, they promised fans that one of the benefits of the new contract would be no more weekday games…talk about hollow promises…this week’s instate rivalry game between UNLV and Nevada will be aired on the mtn., but not available within the state of Nevada…go figure…the CSTV contract was signed well over a year ago…you’d think that the MWC and CSTV would have made sure that all the kinks had been worked out well in advance so they didn’t torch the fans…it will be interesting to see what happens if the Sat TV companies continue to refuse picking up the mtn. throughout this current football season…stay tuned…

►Which Pac-10 team has the most favorable schedule this year? You’re correct if you said the Washington State Cougars…they get the top three teams in the conference, #3 USC, #20 Cal, and #14 Oregon, plus instate rival Washington at home…the only two tough conference road contests are at ASU and UCLA. USC has traditionally had some difficulty against WSU in Pullman…it’s highly unlikely that the Cougars can pull off an upset, but if I was Pete Carroll, I’d be really concerned about this game for some reason…just a hunch.

►On the mend…We’re glad to hear that Indiana Hoosiers head coach Terry Hoeppner’s recent cancer tests were negative and that he’s heading back on the field as soon as this week…best wishes to Terry and his wife Jane…stay strong.

QuickSnap Question presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: When did the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Miami Hurricanes meet for the first time, where was the game played, and what was the final score? Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a 2002 Rose Bowl Game media program autographed by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches…

►And the winner of last week’s QuickSnap Question is…Will Smithrock of Los Angeles, CA. Congrats to Will for correctly answering this somewhat tricky question: “When was the last time Miami and Florida State both lost during the same game week, who did they lose to, and what were the scores?” The correct answer was Miami lost to LSU 40-3 in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and Florida State lost to Penn State in the FedEx Orange Bowl 26-23 in 3 OT during the final week of last season’s bowl games.

►More Anti-Smurf Turf…Bronco fans were up in arms last week when I pointed out that their blue painted marketing gimmick turf (aka The Clown Carpet, The Blue and Lake Bleymaier) was an insult to college football…we enjoy your opinions, no matter what…believe it or not, BSU just celebrated the Smurf Turf’s 20th anniversary…said Gene Bleymaier, the athletic director who came up with the idea, “I guess that I’m the type of person that when I paint my house I paint it a different color so the neighbors notice you did something.”

►Upset Central…No major upsets last weekend, only the mild variety…Arkansas Razorbacks outlasted the Alabama Crimson Tide in overtime, 24-23…Washington Huskies scored 15 unanswered fourth quarter points to thump the UCLA Bruins 29-19…the Huskies are now 3-1 with another impressive victory over Fresno State…they are making a case for comeback team of the year following two down years (3-19 combined record in ’04 and ’05)…Army Black Knights over Baylor Bears 27-20 in overtime.

►Heisman’s dark horse…You’re hearing enough about the other big boys in the Heisman race, so you need to know about a shifty-nifty little (5’7″, 177) running back who already tore up Ohio State’s defense for mucho (272 all-purpose) yardage–172 of those yards coming on the ground…Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois: 96 carries, 828 yards, 8.6 ypc, 207 ypg, 8 TDs. #1 ranked running back in Division 1…Last week: 198 yards, 4 TDs vs. Indiana St…This week at Ball State.

►Backwards streaks…Last week we mentioned the biggest upset of the season to date would have been the Colorado Buffaloes over the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. Well, the Buffs almost pulled it off…they had a 13-0 lead with approximately 8 minutes left in the game…they collapsed and surrendered two touchdown passes, the last one with 46 seconds remaining to keep their losing streak intact…Don’t expect #25 Mizzou to be taken by surprise this week at home…head coach Dan Hawkins is now 0-4 and Colorado’s losing streak is currently at eight games, extending back to last season…The Buffs will win a few this year as some soft spots in their schedule are popping up on the horizon…look for them to go 3-9 or 4-8 this year.

►Right behind ya…Stanford Cardinal’s 36-10 loss at home to the Washington State Cougars ran their season record to 0-4 and overall losing streak to six games including two defeats at the end of last season…Walt Harris will need to take some patience pills this season…

►Pad the Stats Games of the Week: Clemson Tigers (plus 34) tear up the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs…Michigan State Spartans (plus 26.5) raid and pillage the Illinois Fighting Illini…and, the Texas Longhorns (no line) trample the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

►Best Games of the Week: BYU Cougars @ TCU Horned Frogs…Auburn Tigers @ South Carolina Gamecocks…Rutgers Scarlet Knights @ South Florida Bulls…Alabama Crimson Tide @ Florida Gators…Purdue Boilermakers @ Notre Dame Fighting Irish…Boise State Broncos @ Utah Utes…Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets @ Virginia Tech Hokies…Ohio State Buckeyes @ Iowa Hawkeyes…Oregon Ducks @ Arizona State Sun Devils…Colorado State Rams @ Fresno State Bulldogs…Toledo Rockets @ Pittsburgh Panthers…Texas Tech Red Raiders @ Texas A&M Aggies.

►Upset specials of the week…Wyoming Cowboys have lost three straight close games to Virginia, Boise State and Air Force…they are a gritty bunch and I still like them on the road against 5-point favorite Syracuse Orange…The undefeated Houston Cougars had an impressive win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys last week…I can see them beating the 16-point spread on the road at Miami Hurricanes this week.

BYU Thumps TCU

Thumbing their nose at the Mountain West Conference’s bungling schedulers, the BYU Cougars stormed into Fort Worth’s Amon G. Carter Stadium on just a few days rest and dominated the 17th-ranked, defending conference champion Horned Frogs, 31-17.

It was sweet revenge for the Blue and White after last year’s controversial overtime fumble by TCU was ruled a touchdown, giving the MWC newcomers a tainted 51-50 victory and eventually the conference title. Brigham Young’s victory also ended TCU’s 13-game winning streak, which had been the longest current winning streak in NCAA Division 1 football.

Make no doubt about it, in a contest that ended with TCU leading in most of the offensive team stats, BYU took control of the game’s momentum on its second possession and refused to let the Frogs take it away. The closest Gary Patterson’s crew came to wrestling the momentum away from the Cougars was in the third quarter, when QB Jeff Ballard led the Frogs on an 80-yard touchdown drive immediately following John Beck’s 40-yard TD pass to Michael Reed, which had given BYU a brief 17-3 lead.

After both teams exchanged punts to close out the third quarter, BYU started the final frame from its 28-yard line and quickly moved the chains down the field. The drive was capped by a perfectly executed 26-yard touchdown pass to Matt Allen with 12:33 remaining on the clock. The Cougars had rebuffed TCU’s attempt to steal the momentum and restored their 14-point lead.

The Frogs’ failure to gain the momentum was punctuated by their next possession which ended with a three-and-out punt. With 10:30 left in the fourth quarter, BYU’s offensive coordinator, Robert Anae, went for the jugular with the passing attack. Beck completed big gainers of 24, 19 and 19 yards to Daniel Coats, Zac Collie and McKay Jacobson, respectively, and then plunged the dagger into the Frogs with a 4-yard corner toss to Johnny Harline to make it 31-10 at the 7:27 mark.

The Cougars gave up a touchdown after a 13-play drive in garbage time for the final 31-17 margin.

Clearly, BYU’s stout refusal to surrender the momentum to the Frogs was a significant factor in the game’s outcome. Trailing 3-0 at the beginning of the second quarter, TCU had driven 59 yards to the Brigham Young 10 and faced a third-and-7. Ballard dropped back in the pocket and took a vicious hit from LB David Nixon, causing a fumble. Russell Tialavea recovered the loose pigskin and BYU promptly drove 82 yards for a touchdown to claim an early 10-0 lead. It was the first touchdown the Horned Frogs had given up in seven quarters and it clearly sent shockwaves along the TCU sidelines.

Michael Reed’s 40-yard touchdown reception, which gave BYU a 14-point lead early in the second half, and Matt Allen’s 26-yard scoring grab that restored the 2-touchdown margin after TCU had closed the gap to 17-10, were pivotal momentum-crushers that left Horned Frogs fans standing in silent disbelief.

It can be said that BYU’s two previous road games against Arizona and Boston College had toughened the Cougars for the short week contest against TCU in Fort Worth. In fact, it was mentioned more than once by the Versus network announcers during the game’s telecast.

BYU’s offensive coordinator, Anae, called an exceptionally balanced game, never giving up on the run even though it wasn’t yielding the same chunks of yardage the passing game was accumulating. Occasionally, Curtis Brown and Fui Vakapuna were able to break open a gain of 15 yards here or 9 yards there, and by not abandoning the run, Anae forced TCU to respect all of the weapons John Beck could call upon.

Bronco Mendenhall ought to be mighty proud of his OC and the ability he demonstrated in this breakthrough victory. Anae was able to identify the wrinkles in the Frogs’ defense from the Texas Tech game tapes and then turned loose an offense that executed on those weaknesses to perfection.

The Cougar defense gave up 449 total yards, 296 through the air, but the unit’s bend-but-not-break resilience rendered clutch turnovers like Nixon’s forced fumble late in the first period and Cameron Jensen’s mid-fourth- quarter interception. The secondary allowed four completions over 20 yards, the longest a 26-yard gainer, but they were consistently aided by the linebackers in limiting TCU’s yards after the catch. Unlike last year’s game, the BYU defense did not allow any long distance, game-changing scoring plays that would have certainly shifted the contest’s momentum.

Brigham Young’s inability to execute consistently in big games, such as the two contests earlier this season versus Arizona and Boston College, was finally reversed. The Cougars were called for six penalties in the entire game, and only two of those were on the offense. Remarkably, the patchwork offensive line wasn’t flagged for holding in the entire contest. They provided exceptional pocket protection for Beck throughout the game, yielding two uneventful sacks for minus-11 yards on the night. The receiving corps was outstanding and held onto nearly every rope they were thrown; many of their clutch receptions were made with TCU defenders wrapped around them on crucial third-and-long situations.

For the first time after several years of frustration against ranked opponents, BYU played like a real team that had chemistry and heart, and a determination to see their gameplan through to the final whistle of the fourth quarter. And for that reason, there’s no need to cite individual statistics. A thoroughly convincing 31-17 road win over a highly ranked defending conference champion TCU squad says it all.

Fourth and inches …

►Last week we questioned if the Virginia Tech Hokies were legitimate contenders for the national championship this year…the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets supplied the answer…a resounding 38-27 answer, in the Hokies’ crib, no less. Other undefeated teams that were eliminated from the national championship picture include the Texas A&M Aggies, TCU Horned Frogs, and Iowa Hawkeyes…

►Who stands to be eliminated from the national championship picture this week? Oregon Ducks, California Golden Bears, Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns, LSU Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Florida Gators, Clemson Tigers, Tennessee Volunteers…Why are some teams with one loss included? Quite simply, if you have one loss and you are still in the top-16 at the midway point of the season, you have a realistic shot at the title game…you can’t be eliminated–yet…the loser of the Red River Shootout will definitely be out, as will the loser of the Oregon-Cal game, even though it would be a first for Oregon (because some voters still hold the OU game against them)…LSU will definitely be out with another loss, although Florida won’t if it’s a close game…if LSU blows the Gators out, it’s a different story…Tennessee’s definitely out, but Georgia could survive if it’s a really close game…Clemson cannot afford another loss…that’s why there should be some sort of playoff system to help sort things out at the season’s end…say you have a few undefeated teams and another five teams who suffered one close loss during the course of a 12-game regular season to another ranked team (13 games for the teams that play in a conference championship game)…it’s ludicrous to rely on polls and computers, at that point, to determine a true national champion.

►Yes, there are other undefeated or 1-loss teams in the top 16 slots of the AP poll that I didn’t mention…but, seriously, why bother? Stanford has absolutely no chance at Notre Dame, Bowling Green is toast at Ohio State, and so on…you get the picture. I suppose Arkansas and Washington could give #2 Auburn and #3 USC some scares this weekend, but the Tigers and Trojans are at home and that should be good enough against the Razorbacks and the Huskies this time around…

►As much as I’d like to see an 8 or 16-team playoff instilled in Division-1 with a format that preserves the tradition of the major bowl games, it still is fascinating to watch how the pecking order of the AP poll plays itself out as the season progresses…I use the AP (sportswriters) poll as my guideline because too many voting aberrations have come to light in recent years with the coaches poll. Not that the AP poll is perfect, by any means, but it’s the best we have…in the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at a few of the best playoff format ideas that have been developed.

►Penn State’s Joe Paterno was recently prompted to speak on the issue of the BCS bowls after learning that Michigan coach Lloyd Carr touched upon it during his press conference, according to Josh Moyer, of Penn State’s Daily Collegian. “I would like to have playoffs. I just think it’s a better way to do it,” Paterno said. Apparently, Paterno explained his decision by referring to the BCS situation two years ago when USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all went undefeated. At the time, Paterno was voting in the coaches poll and decided to vote all three teams as No. 1. Needless to say, those in charge of the poll weren’t too happy. “I got a telephone call from USA Today saying, ‘You can’t do that. It’s gonna foul up the computer.’ And I said, ‘I can’t tell you who’s No. 1,'” Paterno explained. “I got another call from someone else who’s connected to the football poll that said, ‘You’ll have to’ — and I said I’m not gonna do it, so forget about it. So, I no longer vote.” Way to go, Joe! It will be a sad day when that man retires from the college football scene.

►This year’s five BCS bowl game lineup is supposed to make it easier for a non-BCS team to fill one of the 10 slots…TCU had the best shot heading into last week before they were manhandled at home by the BYU Cougars, 31-17. Now it looks like the best bet is the Boise State Broncos, but they have a pitifully weak schedule that could hinder their chances…BSU’s opponents have a combined 5-week record of 21-32…that’s a woeful .396 winning percentage…and it is not going to improve much, if at all, as the season progresses…the Bronco’s “signature” wins, if you can call them such, came over an Oregon State Beavers team that will likely end up 5-7 or 6-6 on the year and the Utah Utes who are projecting to be another .500 team this year…the Broncos face the 1-3 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs this week.

►What significance do the numbers 7, 26, and 51 have to the Mountain West Conference? They are the national rankings of three of the most important TV markets the conference is associated with…#7 Dallas/Fort Worth (TCU Horned Frogs)…#26 San Diego (San Diego State Aztecs)…#51 Las Vegas (UNLV Rebels)…remarkably, none of these markets offer the conference’s new channel “the mtn.” Making matters even worse, the conference’s largest fan bases come from the BYU Cougars and Air Force Falcons, and yet tens of thousands of those teams’ fans live outside of the tiny five state footprint where the mtn. is currently being carried…Question: If the mtn. network airs a game, but nobody can see it, does the mtn. really exist?

►TV markets in the western U.S. that serve huge BYU and Air Force fan bases, as well as the rest of the MWC? #2 Los Angeles market…#6 San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose…#12 Seattle/Tacoma…#15 Phoenix…#19 Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto…#24 Portland…#37 San Antonio…#58 Fresno…rankings provided by digitalsyndicate.tv

►There is huge concern that the failure of CSTV and Comcast to properly launch the mtn. by ensuring that it was carried on DISH, DirecTV, and cable distributors throughout the country for this inaugural football season will have a huge effect on the conference teams’ recruiting efforts. More than 522 student-athletes from California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nevada and Texas are currently found on the rosters of the nine MWC schools…and yet, the mtn. is not available in any of these states…Coaches from several competing conferences, including the WAC, Pac-10, and Big 12, are using this critical problem to recruit against their MWC counterparts…”Son, nobody’s gonna see you play on TV if you’re in that conference…”

►We mentioned last week that Washington State would likely give USC a scare in Pullman…sure enough, although USC prevailed 28-22, the Cougars were in position to launch a “Hail Mary” pass at the close of the game in a bid for the upset…Wazzou still hosts Cal, Oregon and Washington this season…look for them to upset either Cal or Oregon…the Washington game is a bitter rivalry, so anything goes in that one…

QuickSnap Question presented by Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Beverly Hills: What particular stat line drove Penn State Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno absolutely nuts in the 1989 Holiday Bowl versus Brigham Young? Be quick and be correct. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a complimentary prime rib dinner at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills. The winner will be announced in next week’s Fourth and inches

►And the winner of last week’s QuickSnap Question is…Mick Wilcox…Mick was the first to correctly answer the question buried deep in college football archives: When did the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Miami Hurricanes meet for the first time, where was the game played, and what was the final score? The correct answer was Miami beat Nebraska 19-7 on November 30, 1951 in Miami. (Note to Mick: We tried to reach you via email to get your snail mail address, but it was returned as undeliverable…please contact us to collect your prize.)

►Heisman’s Dark Horse…Yes, he’s going to remain in this column as long as he keeps performing at his record-breaking pace: Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois, the #1 ranked running back in Division 1…Signature game versus Ohio State…272 all-purpose yards–172 of those yards coming on the ground, 1 TD…Season Stats: 127 carries, 1,181 yards, 9.3 ypc, 236.2 ypg, 11 TDs…Last week: 353 yards, 3 TDs vs. Ball St…This week at Miami (Ohio).

►By the way, GW…I defended you on ESPN 1000 AM radio in Chicago last Friday afternoon…can’t recall the talk show yahoo’s name who claimed he was a Ball State graduate…but he said no MAC player deserved to win the Heisman…and then you went out and tattooed his alma mater Cardinals for 353 yards…thank you very much.

►Worth the read…Gene Wojciechowski’s “The Sooner the Better” article in ESPN magazine about Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and his repentant father, who will be released from prison this week after eight years…the elder Peterson takes responsibility for his wrong choices that led to drug-dealing and vows to be the best parent he can be from now on…

►Backwards streaks…Colorado Buffaloes are now 0-5…Stanford Cardinal are 0-5. Which team will register a win first? Colorado…it’s really difficult to envision Stanford winning a single game this year.

►Stats Padding Games of the Week: Louisville Cardinals (plus 33) peck the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders to death…Ohio State Buckeyes (plus 35) mow down the Bowling Green Falcons…Boise State Broncos (plus 35) stampede the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, and the West Virginia Mountaineers (plus 25) bury the Mississippi State Bulldogs in an avalanche of offensive fireworks.

►Best Games of the Week: Oregon Ducks @ California Golden Bears…Navy Midshipmen @ Air Force Falcons…LSU Tigers @ Florida Gators…Texas Longhorns versus Oklahoma Sooners…Nebraska Cornhuskers @ Iowa State Cyclones…Missouri Tigers @ Texas Tech Red Raiders…Central Michigan Chippewas @ Toledo Rockets…Tennessee Volunteers @ Georgia Bulldogs…Nevada Wolfpack @ Hawaii Warriors…

►Upset specials of the week…North Carolina State Wolfpack over Florida State Seminoles in a Thursday home game on national TV…Iowa State Cyclones over Nebraska Cornhuskers by a whisker…the Cyclones are at home this year and seeking revenge for decades of losses to UN, but especially last year’s 27-20 disappointment in Lincoln.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

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.