Archive for year 2008

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

USC remains king of the hill and top Pac-10 challenger Arizona State falls 15 spots (and out of the Top 25). Oklahoma leapfrogs Georgia to No. 2 and Ohio State drops eight slots to No. 13. Biggest gainers were South Florida (plus-7 to No. 12) and BYU (plus-4) to No. 14. ACC buddies Clemson and Florida State are back among the ranked, but for how long? Five SEC teams are log-jammed in the top 10 this week.

1. USC TROJANS (2-0). Dominated Ohio State in a 35-3 thrashing, but just how good the Buckeyes are this year remains disputed; last week, they were down 16-14 after three quarters at home to the Bobcats of Ohio. USC takes another week off to prepare for some Beaver bashing in Corvallis, Ore.
2. OKLAHOMA SOONERS (3-0). Bob Stoops’ troops demolished Washington by a score of 55-14 and knocked Jake Locker out of commission. Sooners now take the week off to make sure TCU doesn’t upset them again in Norman, Okla., like they did three years ago.
3. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (3-0). Bulldogs hang on to knock off South Carolina 14-7 as Knowshon Moreno is held to 79 yards on 20 attempts. The big game this week against Arizona State has lost a lot of luster because UNLV upset the Sun Devils and knocked them out of the rankings.
4. FLORIDA GATORS (2-0). Gators laid low at the Swamp getting ready for Tennessee this weekend in key SEC showdown. They wiped out the Vols last year, 59-20.
5. MISSOURI TIGERS (3-0). The Tigers tore Nevada apart, 59-17, in Columbia. Chase Daniel picked up the weekly Davey O’Brien Award honors (23 of 28, 405 yards, four TDs) and set the Missouri passing record in the process. The Tigers will snack on the improved Buffalo Bulls this week.
6. LSU TIGERS (2-0). Toyed with North Texas State, 41-3, last weekend but need to get serious quickly as they hit the road to take on Auburn in their Southeastern Conference opener.
7. TEXAS LONGHORNS (2-0). Hurricane Ike caused the clash with Arkansas to be postponed. The Horns will entertain Rice this weekend in a yawner — they destroyed the Owls, 58-14, last year.
8. WISCONSIN BADGERS (2-0). The Badgers survived horrible WAC officiating at Fresno State late Saturday night, prevailing 13-10. If you didn’t see the game, it wasn’t that close. Bret Bielema’s boys will get a week off before they head to Ann Arbor to open Big Ten action against Michigan.
9. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (3-0). Bama rolled, 41-7, over Western Kentucky and commences SEC action on the road at Arkansas this week.
10. AUBURN TIGERS (3-0). Talk about ugly wins. Auburn outlasted Mississippi State in SEC action at Starksville last weekend in a 3-2 anomaly of a game. Yes, we’re talking about Auburn football, not baseball. The Tigers will put their season on the line this weekend at home when defending national champ LSU comes to town.
11. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (3-0). Mike Leach’s Tech schooled June Jones’ SMU Mustangs on how the spread offense works in the Lonestar State rolling up 693 yards in offense in a 43-7 wax job. Division 1-AA Massachusetts visits Lubbock this weekend in the Stats Padder Special of the Week.
12. SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS (3-0). The Bulls outlasted a fine Kansas Jayhawks team, 37-34, and were promptly rewarded with the biggest lift in the rankings — up from No. 19. Instate upstart Florida International will try to knock off USF this weekend.
13. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (2-1). The Buckeyes are out of the national championship picture after getting drubbed by USC last weekend; still, they will return to SoCal to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time in a decade if they can run the table in the Big Ten. For the time being, though, Ohio State needs to concentrate on its upcoming opponent, Troy State.
14. BYU COUGARS (3-0). Brigham Young obliterated UCLA, 59-0, handing the Bruins their worst loss since 1929 behind Max Hall’s seven TD tosses. It was also the first time Norm Chow had been shut out in his offensive coordinating career. The Cougars begin Mountain West Conference action when they host the Wyoming Cowboys this Saturday.
15. EAST CAROLINA PIRATES (3-0). ECU survived a scare at Tulane — a 28-24 squeeker that cost the Pirates the services of linebacker Quentin Cotton for the season. This week the Pirate ship sails north to take on ACC bottom feeder North Carolina State.
16. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (3-0). JoePa collected career win number 475 with the Nittany Lions’ 55-13 triumph over Syracuse last weekend.
17. OREGON DUCKS (3-0). The Ducks were lucky to slip by Purdue last weekend, barely escaping West Lafayette in overtime, 32-26. The upset-minded Boise State Broncos mosey into Eugene this weekend.
18. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (2-0). Took the week off and travel to Tallahassee this Saturday to face No. 24 Florida State in a key ACC contest.
19. KANSAS JAYHAWKS (2-1). Lost in the final seconds of their interconference clash with No. 12 South Florida. That effort earns them the Breather of the Week game versus Sam Houston State.
20. UTAH UTES (3-0). Put a 58-10 whipping on instate rival Utah State and now face a stern MWC test at the Air Force Academy this weekend. That win over UNLV a couple weeks ago is looking pretty impressive for the time being.
21. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (1-1). WVU moved up four slots during a bye week, but the Mountaineers lay their membership in the Top 25 on the line this week when they visit Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffaloes. It would be an impressive victory if they can get it.
22. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (2-1). Hung on for a slim 20-17 win over Louisiana Lafayette and welcome having this weekend off. The Big Ten title could be on the line next week when the Illini trip to Penn State.
23. CLEMSON TIGERS (2-1). Defeated ACC rival North Carolina State, 27-9, and play a yawner against Division 1-AA South Carolina State this weekend. No style points there.
24. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (2-0). Like Terry Bowden says, his dad’s team hasn’t played anybody yet; well, actually, they have. Division 1-AA Western Carolina and Tennessee-Chattanooga provided little resistance, losing 69-0 and 46-7, respectively. Seminoles fans are getting the Tomahawk Chop ready for ACC opponent Wake Forest this Saturday.
25. FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS (1-1). The Bulldogs lost to Wisconsin at home and are lucky to remain in the Top 25 rankings this week. They’ll take their frustrations out on the Toledo Rockets at the Glass Bowl on Saturday night.

Fourth and inches …

USC’s schedule looks like a cake walk the rest of the season, but I’m not ready to hand them the keys to the national championship game in Miami yet. Ohio State hasn’t impressed me at all. The Buckeyes could easily end up in third or fourth place in the Big Ten behind Penn State, Wisconsin and Illinois or Michigan State. Virginia, which USC destroyed in Week 1, will be lucky to win four games this year.

Need more evidence to convince you that ESPN goes out of its way to downgrade BYU football accomplishments? In AP voting this week, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Fowler and Craig James all had BYU ranked anywhere from five to 10 spots lower than 90 percent of their fellow AP voters.

Coaches on the hot seat…Mike Stoops, Arizona; Greg Robinson, Syracuse; Ty Willingham, Washington; Joe Glenn, Wyoming.

Trading places… The Western Athletic Conference had been the toast of the town for non-BCS conference the past two seasons, but its only hope for respect among the big boys in 2008 comes in Eugene this weekend with Boise State at Oregon. The MWC is the hottest non-BCS conference with No. 14 BYU, No. 20 Utah and No. 28 TCU.

Heisman top five: 1. Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri; 2. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma; 3. Max Hall, QB, BYU; 4. Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia; 5. P.J. Hill, RB, Wisconsin.

Best Heisman marketing gimmick in a long time comes out of Mizzou this year … The Tigers just sent out a 3-D Viewmaster with action pics of Chase Daniel. The packaging is a square white box with the gold and black Missouri logo.

BCS-buster watch: BYU annihilated UCLA, 59-0; East Carolina rallied to beat Tulane, 28-24; Utah downed Utah State, 58-10; and Fresno State lost to Wisconsin and fell out of BCS bowl contention.

Quick Snap … presented by the 84th Annual East West Shrine Game, Jan.17, 2009, in Houston, on ESPN2:

When was the last time Southeastern Conference teams held 50 percent of the top 10 spots in the AP college football weekly rankings?

Be quick and be correct. Send your answer to quicksnap@realfootball365.com. The first email received with the correct answer wins you a limited edition two-card set of 2008 Rose Bowl Game trading cards.

Last week’s question was: How many times have USC and Ohio State met outside of the Rose Bowl Game and what were the results?

The correct answer was: USC and Ohio State have met 14 times during the regular season with the Trojans leading the series 7-6-1 (now 15 times and USC leading 8-6-1 after last Saturday). Overall, the two programs have played 22 times with USC leading the series 12-9-1.

Top games this weekend and why:
No. 21 West Virginia at Colorado (Thursday night). One of my upset specials. Boulder will be rocking on national TV.
Iowa at Pittsburgh. Winner can head into conference play with a quality nonconference win under its belt. Loser settles for mediocre season.
No. 3 Georgia at Arizona State. ASU’s loss to UNLV took a lot of luster off this game, but the Sun Devils have so much more to prove now.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina. The Tar Heels can prove they are for real by knocking off the Hokies.
Notre Dame at Michigan State. Spartans won big last year and had the Irish on the ropes two years ago before miracle comeback. Both teams need this win to anchor a successful season.
Boise State at No. 17 Oregon. Oregon can’t afford a loss to remain ranked and this is the only BCS opponent the Broncos play this year. Both teams recruit against each other in the Northwest.
No. 4 Florida at Tennessee. Gators won by 39 last year and it’s a must-win for both teams in SEC action.
No. 20 Utah at Air Force. Pivotal MWC game. Both teams are undefeated and Utes typically have difficult time on the road at the Academy.
No. 18 Wake Forest at No. 24 Florida State. After dominating a couple of 1-AA foes, we can find out what the Seminoles are made of this year. A key ACC game.
No. 6 LSU at No. 10 Auburn. Tigers take on Tigers. The game of the week. Can Auburn generate enough offense to win?

Upset Specials: Last week 0-4, but did you see how close South Carolina came to upsetting Georgia? Purdue took Oregon into OT after blowing a 20-3 halftime lead, while East Carolina needed a last-minute heroic TD to beat Tulane. This week: Colorado over West Virginia, North Carolina State over East Carolina, North Carolina over Virginia Tech, and ASU over Georgia.

Keys to Game vs. Wyoming Cowboys

One quarter of the 2008 regular season is in the books and for the first time in Bronco Mendenhall’s four years as the head football coach at Brigham Young, the Cougars have started off without a loss. BYU’s unblemished 3-0 record comes with an exclamation mark — a completely dominating 59-0 victory over UCLA last Saturday which was perhaps the finest performance by a Cougar team in the history of the program.

BYU’s “Quest for Perfection”-themed campaign continues this week with conference foe Wyoming moseying into Provo, Utah. As 25-point underdogs, the Cowboys have nothing to lose and everything to gain against the Cougars. Conversely, BYU has everything to lose if it doesn’t take care of business with the ‘Pokes.

From this week’s game through the end of the regular season, the challenge for Mendenhall and his staff will be to keep the team focused on each contest at hand. The Cougars are carrying a big target on their back that will continue to grow with each win this season.

Keys to defeating the Cowboys

1. Bottle up the rushing attack. Wyoming’s Wynel Seldon and Devin Moore are a dangerous senior running back duo averaging just over 5.0 yards per carry. Last year, BYU held Seldon to 28 yards on nine carries, and Moore was limited to 15 yards on six rushes. A repeat performance by the Cougar defense this weekend will virtually ensure a victory over the Cowboys.

2. Control the tempo of the game. Ideally, the offense is designed to chew up big chunks of the clock with methodical drives utilizing the full array of Cougar weaponry. The perfect mix of an aerial and ground attack was manifest against UCLA last week as the rushing game churned out 184 net yards and Max Hall and Brenden Gaskins passed for 334 more. You’ve heard Mendenhall, Hall and several other Cougars mention how difficult it is for a defense to keep track of all the scoring weapons this offense throws at you, and it’s true. Nothing will frustrate and wear down any defense more quickly than a balanced offensive attack operating at peak performance level.

3. Avoid turnovers and giving up the big play. Turnovers and big plays are momentum-changers. Whenever you hand the ball over to your opponent or allow them to pull off a big play, they get a lift, recharge their motors and hang around longer than you’d like them to. The Cougars need to realize the ball literally bounced their way in almost every situation last week against UCLA, but that normally won’t happen.

4. Put the game out of reach before the fourth quarter begins. The longer you let an underdog hang around in the game, the risk of an upset increases exponentially. This was Rick Neuheisel’s goal against both Tennessee and BYU and you know which of those games UCLA ended up winning.

Prediction: The goal of securing a BCS bowl game invitation is now clearly in focus for the Cougars. They know they need to take one game at a time, concentrate on improving individual play at each position and then execute as a team the respective game plans for each opponent. Wyoming gets the distinction of finding out how BYU will handle its first conference game of 2008 and its highest regular-season ranking since 2001. The Cougars should handle the pressure well and take this one, 42-14.

Report Card vs. Wyoming

The BYU Cougars opened their Mountain West Conference schedule Saturday by blasting longtime rival Wyoming, 44-0. However, it wasn’t as impressive as last week’s near-perfect win over UCLA.

BYU had to rely on its defense to secure an early lead and protect the fort until Max Hall could get his GPS system locked in on his receiving corps in the second quarter. Hall was 3 for 8 in the first quarter, which ended with the Cougars holding a 7-0 advantage. Conversely, he was 8 for 10 with two touchdown passes to Austin Collie in the second quarter and BYU took a 27-0 lead to the locker room at the half.

Hall was just as sharp at the start of the third quarter, going 5 for 5 and capping off a drive with an 11-yard TD toss to Harvey Unga.

Backup QB Brenden Gaskins took over the BYU offense with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter and the score 41-0. It was the second game in a row that BYU’s reserves were able to log significant playing time.

BYU Offense GradeB-plus

Hall didn’t look sharp in the only two drives of the first quarter, but then he came alive and started connecting with Collie. Credit the running game with Unga and Fui Vakapuna for opening up the air attack. Unga finished with 95 yards and a score on 19 carries and Vakapuna had 28 yards on 5 attempts.

Hall finished the game with a line of 16 for 27, 189 yards and three TDs. Collie had eight receptions for 122 yards and two TDs. Tight end Dennis Pitta was marginalized in the game with only three grabs for 24 yards.

The offensive line didn’t allow a sack for the fourth game in a row this season, although tight end Andrew George picked up the first holding call this year. The Cougs can still claim that the interior line has not been flagged for holding yet.

BYU Defense Grade: A

What else needs to be said besides a second straight shutout, generating six turnovers and two defensive touchdowns? The Cougars held the Cowboy senior running back duo of Devin Moore and Wynel Seldon to 1.2 yards per carry below their season average (122 net yards rushing) and the entire Wyoming offense to a total output of 274 yards.

Key highlights include:

– Scott Johnson’s heads up fumble recovery of the backward lateral toss from Dax Crum that Johnson returned for a touchdown. His score spotted the Cougars a 7-point cushion that gave the BYU offense time to get in sync.
– David Nixon’s interception and 19-yard return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
– Safety Andrew Rich’s wicked hit on Moore that knocked the runner out of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

BYU Special Teams Grade: B-plus

The Cougar special teams would have graded out with an “A” if they had not yielded a blocked extra point attempt or given up 93 yards to Moore on four kick returns.

CJ Santiago finally had a chance to show off his leg, equaling his total of seven punts for the year in the game (47.4-yard average and four kicks inside the Wyoming 20).

Freshman kicker Justin Sorensen was given the opportunity to boot a field goal, and delivered with a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter.

AP Top 25 Weekly Recap

USC remained at the top after enjoying another bye week and, coupled with Oregon’s loss, the Trojans are the only Pac-10 team remaining in the AP Top 25. In jest, many are dubbing the conference “USC and the Little 9” or the “Pathetic-10” based on its dismal inter-conference record this season. Meanwhile, TCU joins the ranked this week, giving the Mountain West Conference its third Top 25 team along with BYU and Utah. Vanderbilt and Boise State are the two other newcomers to this week’s ranking.

1. USC TROJANS (2-0). Pete Carroll’s boys worked hard to stay out of trouble during their second bye week this month. The Trojans hit the road to Corvallis, Ore., this weekend — the site of their last road loss in conference play (two years ago against the Oregon State Beavers).
2. OKLAHOMA SOONERS (3-0). The Sooners had a timely week off to prepare for No. 24 Texas Christian. The last time the Horned Frogs came to Norman in 2005, they left with a 17-10 upset victory.
3. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (4-0). Even though UNLV’s previous upset over Arizona State took a lot of wind out of the Bulldogs’ visit to Tempe this past weekend, it was still an important opportunity to make a pitch for the national title game. Mission accomplished, 27-10. Next up, No. 8 Alabama rolls into town for the best game of the week.
4. FLORIDA GATORS (3-0). The Gators wiped out Tennessee for the second year in a row, this time by the score of 30-6. (Last two years combined scores over the Vols: 89-26). Florida welcomes Mississippi to the Swamp this weekend in SEC action.
5. LSU TIGERS (3-0). Knocked off SEC rival Auburn (last week No. 10) 26-21 on the road and leapfrogged over Missouri to No. 5. Tigers will snack on 1-3 Mississippi State Bulldogs this Saturday in Baton Rouge.
6. MISSOURI TIGERS (4-0). Mizzou tamed a tough Buffalo Bulls team 42-21 behind another stellar performance by Heisman hopeful Chase Daniel (36 of 43 for 439 yards and two TDs). The Tigers get a much-needed bye week in preparation for a key Big XII Northern Division showdown with Nebraska on Oct. 4 in Lincoln.
7. TEXAS LONGHORNS (3-0). Destroyed the Rice Owls (once again) 52-10 and this week will welcome former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas in a rescheduled game from the Sept. 13 Hurricane Ike cancellation.
8. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (4-0). The Tide rolled through Fayetteville last weekend, absolutely demolishing the Razorbacks, 49-14. Not a bad tuneup for another road game this Saturday at No. 3 Georgia in Athens.
9. WISCONSIN BADGERS (3-0). The Badgers took a break this week readying for the start of Big Ten action. They head to Ann Arbor, Mich., where for the first time ever they will be facing an underdog Wolverine squad.
10. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (4-0). Somehow the Red Raiders managed to move up a spot after running up their stats on another Division 1-AA opponent ; this time it was Massachusetts, 56-14. Mike Leach and TT will take a week off figuring out how to compete against Big XII competition before heading to Kansas State on Oct. 4.
11. BYU COUGARS (4-0). Brigham Young moved up three slots after extending its scoreless streak to eight quarters with a second consecutive shutout, this time over MWC conference rival Wyoming, 44-0. The Cougars get a week off before hitting the road against Utah State in a nonconference contest Oct. 3.
12. PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (4-0). JoePa collected career win number 476 as the Nittany Lions crushed Temple, 45-3, last weekend. Penn State kicks off its Run for the Roses this weekend when No. 22 Illinois visits Happy Valley.
13. SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS (4-0). The Bulls won an ugly 17-9 battle with instate upstart Florida International and now head to North Carolina State this weekend to face a re-energized Wolfpack that is coming off a big win over East Carolina.
14. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (3-1). Ohio State christened Terrelle Pryor as its new quarterback — something Jim Tressel should have done against USC — and the freshman phenom responded with four TD passes and a 28-10 victory over Troy State. Surprising undefeated Minnesota will try to upset the Buckeyes in Big Ten action this Saturday.
15. AUBURN TIGERS (3-1). The Tigers followed up their ugly win over Mississippi State with an ugly 26-21 loss to LSU last weekend in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. They’ll try to get it right this week against a demoralized Tennessee squad. Auburn and Tennessee have not faced each other since December 2004.
16. WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS (3-0). The Demon Deacons knocked off then-No. 24 Florida State last weekend in Tallahassee, 12-3. It was the third straight victory for Wake Forest over the Seminoles and established the Deacons as an early favorite in the ACC. They’ll take a break from conference action this weekend to host Navy.
17. UTAH UTES (4-0). Utah stayed on track for a season-ending battle against rival BYU with a key Mountain West Conference road win at the Air Force Academy. The Utes didn’t pull out the 30-23 win over the Flyboys until less than a minute was remaining in the game. This week: A breather against Division 1-AA Weber State.
18. KANSAS JAYHAWKS (3-1). The Jayhawks schooled Division 1-AA Sam Houston State, 38-14, and will take this week off before opening Big XII competition against Iowa State on Oct. 4.
19. BOISE STATE BRONCOS (3-0). The Broncos registered a light upset over toothless Oregon and its fourth-string quarterback, 37-32, last weekend. BSU has the easiest path to a BCS bowl game with nothing but WAC fodder on the remaining schedule. This week it will be Louisiana Tech.
20. CLEMSON TIGERS (3-1). Clemson took out its frustrations on Division 1-AA South Carolina State last Saturday, 54-0. Things will get a bit more serious with ACC foe Maryland visiting this weekend.
21. VANDERBILT COMMODORES (4-0). The Commodores join the AP Top 25 rankings for the first time in 24 years after their 23-17 win over SEC rival Mississippi. They’ll have an extra week off now to prepare for Auburn on Oct. 4.
22. ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (2-1). The Illini had the past week off to get ready for a huge Big Ten Conference matchup on the road against Penn State this weekend. The winner could very well end up in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day.
23. EAST CAROLINA PIRATES (3-1). ECU’s dream of appearing in a BCS bowl game dissolved into a nightmare when the Pirates were defeated by North Carolina State, 30-24. C-USA nemesis Houston visits Greenville this week.
24. TEXAS CHRISTIAN HORNED FROGS (4-0). TCU joins the AP Top 25 for the first time this season after a 48-7 smack-down over crosstown rival SMU. The Frogs get a chance to make a huge statement for their program this Saturday when they take on No. 2 Oklahoma.
25. FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS (2-1). How the Bulldogs clung on to their ranking after surviving a mediocre Toledo team in two overtimes, 55-54, is anyone’s guess. The Rockets racked up 598 total yards on Fresno’s Swiss cheese defense. FSU closes out its nonconference schedule against UCLA this weekend.

Fourth and inches …

For the first time in the history of the BCS system, six non-BCS teams are in the Top 25 rankings: Three Mountain West Conference schools (No. 11 BYU, No. 17 Utah and No. 24 TCU), two from the WAC (No. 19 Boise State and No. 25 Fresno State) and 23rd-ranked East Carolina from Conference-USA.

How in the world voters saw fit to keep Fresno State in the Top 25 is a real mystery, though. Fresno gave up 598 total yards (297 rushing) to a mediocre Toledo team and lucked out with a 55-54 win in two overtimes. Toledo could’ve pushed the game into a third OT, but Tom Amstutz opted to go for two and end the game rather than chipping in the easy extra point.

In its last two games, Fresno State’s Swiss cheese defense has yielded 451 yards rushing (a whopping 5.3 yards per carry). Don’t forget the WAC replay officials who managed to keep the Wisconsin game a lot closer than it really was. That final score was 13-10, something that sounded like the Bulldogs played much stronger than they did, but it was really more like 16-3 or 20-3 without the replay official thinking he was Adam Sandler in the movie “Click.”

Two other non-BCS teams also stand a good chance of going undefeated in the regular season, thanks to pretty easy schedules this year. Ball State (Mid-American Conference) has two remaining games that could be tough and they are both on the road — at Toledo and Central Michigan. Tulsa (C-USA) has Central Florida at home and Arkansas on the road in successive weeks. If Tulsa wins its division, it could face East Carolina in the C-USA title game.

Only one Mountain West Conference team has a chance of emerging undefeated this season, but with Boise State’s pitifully weak schedule, it’s possible we could see a total of four — yes, four — undefeated non-BCS teams this season. That would really frustrate the BCS system in a manner like we’ve never witnessed before.

What were you thinking, Mitch Mustain? You could be the starting QB at Arkansas right now instead of lugging Mark Sanchez’s clipboard around as USC’s third-string signal-caller. Hey, but a degree from USC is better than being a starting QB for an SEC team, right?

Looks like …Andrew Hatch lost the starting quarterback job at LSU to Jarrett Lee. At least, that’s what Lee Corso claimed on the ESPN post-game show last weekend. But if football is more important than the degree you graduate with, then it’s better to be a reserve at LSU than a starter at Harvard, right?

The annual SEC shakedown is underway with Tennessee and Auburn already moving into the spoiler role for the rest of the season; the top four SEC teams — Florida, LSU, Alabama and Georgia — have an equally good shot at making the national title game.

“Not so fast,” says the Big XII… Oklahoma and Missouri will have something to say about that.

Heisman thermometerHottest: Chase Daniel, Missouri (36 of 43 for 439 yards and two TDs). Hotter than last week: Javon Ringer, Michigan State (39 rushes, 201 yards, two TDs). Hot: Max Hall, BYU (16 of 27, 189 yards, three TDs). Cooling off: Pat White, West Virginia (10 of 14, 43 yards; 19 rushes, 148 yards, two TDs).

Most intriguing games this weekend and why:
Purdue at Notre Dame: Where will Charlie try to hide the laptop this week?
No. 9 Wisconsin at Michigan: A must-win for the Badgers; this game will indicate whether the Wolverines are going to be spoilers or duds in the Big Ten race this season.
Arkansas at No. 7 Texas: Woo, pig sooey! Here come the Razorbacks in a throwback game to the old Southwest Conference days; well, OK, at least the Arkansas and Texas fans are into it.
Colorado at Florida State: A very angry Seminole Nation is waiting to ambush the undefeated Buffaloes in Tallahassee.
No. 24 TCU at No. 2 Oklahoma: A barometer game for TCU. If the Horned Frogs can win in Norman this weekend, look for them to run the table in the MWC.
No. 8 Alabama at No. 3 Georgia: Hands down, the best game of the week.
No. 22 Illinois at No. 12 Penn State: The “Road to the Rose Bowl” begins; who wants it more?
Virginia Tech at Nebraska: A super matchup … eight or nine years ago.

Upset Specials: I was 2-2 last week, thanks to correct picks Colorado over West Virginia and North Carolina State over East Carolina. This week: Honestly, there aren’t any upsets in the crystal ball for Saturday, unless the 0-3 Washington Huskies over 2-2 Stanford would qualify or Northwestern over Iowa (but only if Tyrell Sutton plays).

To Dante Love, wide receiver, Ball State: May God watch over you and heal you quickly.