Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Top 24 - Sept. 12, 2006

Week two is in the books and there were some major revelations around the country: apparently Vince Young was kind of important for Texas, Notre Dame has a good offense, and Jeff Bowden is really, REALLY bad at his job. Who knew? On to the Top 24...

1. Ohio State (W vs. #2 Texas 24-7)
Last week: 1

Whatever residual doubts there may have been about Ohio State's worthiness as a #1 team were erased by a 24-7 shellacking of Texas in Austin. Troy Smith and Anthony Gonzales were brilliant, and the running backs all looked dangerous. But the Buckeyes were supposed to dominate on offense - the concern was the youth on defense, especially in the back seven. Ironically, the pass defense was superb and it was the run defense that gave up some yards for the second straight week. Rushing defense is the only remaining concern for this team (except maybe placekicking), and in a year with no dominant team that's good enough. This was the biggest win for any team so far and left little doubt as to who should sit atop the polls ath this point.

2. Southern Cal (bye week)
Last week: 3
What can you say after a bye? In a week where so many Top 25 teams suffered through let-downs against lesser opposition maybe the Trojans picked a great time to sit at home and watch. Besides, the Trojans already got their cupcake game out of the way at Arkansas. Now they get to stomp on Nebraska, and based on the and the ass-whupping that's about commence I'm just going to go ahead and move them up to #2 now to save time.

3. LSU (W vs. Arizona 45-3)
Last week: 4
Is it too early to say "I told you so"? The Tigers didn't improve their resume by beating a sorry Arizona team, but thay appear to be gaining momentum ahead of their monumental showdown with Auburn. Since I'm still not sold on Notre Dame and I’ve been riding the Tiger’s bandwagon so far I have to put them here ahead of Auburn. Thankfully all speculation will end on Saturday, when we find out for certain which one of the SEC West powerhouses is the real deal. I know Auburn should have won last year but I think LSU's defense and array of weaponry on offense will wear down the Tigers.

4. Auburn (W vs. Mississippi State 34-0)
Last week: 7
Okay, okay I’m ready to admit that Auburn looks damn good so far. Even though Mississippi State may have the worst offense in the country outside of Tallahassee the Tiger's impressive 38-0 demolition was a nice prelude to the mega-showdown with LSU. However, there has to be some concern about MSU's ability to slow down Kenny Irons. The Bulldogs are a solid defensive team, but if they can affect Auburn's vaunted rushing attack what will LSU's fierce D be able to do?

5. Notre Dame (W vs. #18 Penn State 41-17)
Last week: 9
Other than the Ohio State/Texas game I watched more of ND/Penn State than any other contest. Despite the final score I came away with the same impression of the Irish that I got out of their week one win against Georgia Tech... if not for Charlie Weis this would be a thoroughly ordinary team. Darius Walker is good but isn't anything special on this level. Rhema McKnight is an impressive physical specimen but not a game-breaker. They have exactly two good players on defense in Zbikowski and Abiamiri. Penn State ran all over the Irish but repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. Plus, the Irish got ANOTHER terrible call in their favor when a dubious clipping penalty negated Penn State’s best play of the day. I didn’t think Penn State had a shot at the Domers in the first place but they gave a much better effort than the score indicates. Still, if Notre Dame beats Michigan it would be a nice 3-0 start against tough competition. I'll be happy to give them their due should that happen.

6. Louisville (W vs. Temple 62-0)
Last week: 6
Another game, another 60-point outing for the Cardinals. If only we could clone Bobby Petrino and find him a spot on FSU's staff! It was an impressive effort without Michael Bush, but beating Temple won’t move you up the poll. We’ll find out how legit this offense really is when Miami comes to town this weekend for a huge ACC/Big East showdown. It's a testament to how much respect the Cardinals have earned in the last few years that most expect to see them win this game.

7. Florida (W vs. Central Florida 42-0)
Last week: 8
Two fairly impressive wins have set up UF nicely for the brutal stretch of SEC showdowns that pack their schedule. Chris Leak, Percy Harvin, and the defense have looked great so far but the Gators always look good aginst their traditional two cupcakes games to start the season. Now we find out what they look like agianst a real defense. UF got a pair of big break when Tennessee’s Inky Johnson and Justin Harrell were both injured against Air Force. Harrell is showing tremendous courage by deciding to play against UF. It will be interesting to see what sort of impact he has agsint UF's young OL. I have my doubts about the Gators, but they'll prove whether or not they belong in the Top 10 this Saturday.

8. Texas (L vs. #1 Ohio State 7-24)
Last week: 2
The Mack is back! The weather is getting cooler, gas prices are dropping, and Mack Brown is killing his team in big games…ahhhh, all is right with the world. Despite a thriving running game that was picking up yardage in huge chunks Brown elected to put the game on the inexperienced shoulders of Colt McCoy. Mack also made a ridiculous challenge after the Longhorns' goal-line fumble and watched his defense get burned by man-coverage of Ted Ginn right before the half. The result of Mack's genius? The Longhorns were nearly shut-out by Ohio State’s rebuilding defense and Texas is all but eliminated from the National Championship race. A soft Big XII conference and the return of Tarrell Brown may keep Texas near the top of the polls, but with the old Mack Brown in charge expect Texas to go back to struggling in big games and squandering their abundance of talent.

9. West Virginia (W vs. Eastern Washington 52-3)
Last week: 13
I’m starting to come around on West Virginia as a contender. Not because they slaughtered Eastern Washington, but because everyone else looks mighty shaky. Maybe it's just that most other teams have played a decent opponent so far so their weaknesses have been revealed, but in not embarrassing themselves during the first two weeks of the season West Virginia has elevated themselve above 90% of the teams in the nation. Plus, as an FSU fan I’m in awe of any team that can average more rushing yards per quarter than the ‘Noles are likely to pile up all year. Plus Steve Slaton is a stone-cold badass. Still, if West Virginia plays in the National Championship game I will throw up in my mouth. Their schedule really is that bad.

10. Michigan (W vs. Central Michigan 41-17)
Last week: 14
I can't decide if I've been disappointed in Michigan so for, or if they've been exactly what I expected in two uninspiring wins over marginal competition. For Lloyd Carr’s sake I hope they’ve been sand-bagging so as not to tip their hand ahead of this weekend’s huge game against Notre Dame. Michigan's defense has been great so far and they have the Georgia Tech blueprint for stopping the Irish. If Michael Hart has a big game the Wolverines have a legitimate shot to knock off the Irish in South Bend. In fact, I like most of the match-ups for Michigan except the one on the sidelines. Sadly, I suspect the Wolverines are once again doomed to be victimized by an overly conservative coaching staff that will continue to let them down in big games.

11. Virginia Tech (W vs. North Carolina 35-10)
Last week: 13
North Carolina is not a good team, and Virginia Tech wasn’t especially overwhelming against the Tarheels, no matter what the score says. Unfortunately, this far down in the poll (#11!?!) everyone has some pretty major flaws, and at least the Hokies have yet to embarrass themselves. Sean Glennon couldn’t match his solid first start, but the defense again stepped up and led the Hokies to a victory. Against their Charmin-soft schedule a suffocating D and a competent running game will be more than sufficient on most Saturdays.

12. Georgia (W vs. South Carolina 18-0)
Last week: 16
When is a loss really a win? When your spectacularly untalented senior QB gets injured, paving the way for your uber-freshman QB to assume the reins of the offense AND avoid the nasty QB controversy that would usually accompany such a transition. With JTIII out of the picture the Dawgs offense may run into a few patches of turbulence - as evidenced by Stafford’s three INTs on Saturday - but they’ll be better off in the long run. They still have ridiculous depth in the backfield to help ease Stafford's transition to starting QB, and the defense is sufficiently unholy to help smooth over the rough spots.

13. Georgia Tech (W vs. Samford 38-6)
Last week: 19
As impressive as Tech’s defensive effort against Notre Dame was at the time, it became even more so after the Irish were able to slice-and-dice Penn State. Following their great effort on week one the Jackets controlled Samford in every phase of the game and were able to get everyone on the rosterdowmn to the back-up water-boy some valuable PT in the second half. Are you paying attention FSU? THIS is what you do against a cupcake! Georgia Tech just may be for real...it seems to us that a strong defense, a decent running game, and Calvin Johnson will carry you far this year.

14. Oregon (W vs. Fresno State 31-24)
Last week: 17
Okay, time to move the Ducks up. Oregon followed up a great showing on week one by beating a tough Fresno State team on the road in their final tune-up for Oklahoma. Give Oregon credit for scheduling such a tough non-conference schedule to open the season. Give them even more credit for having an emerginging offense. As shaky as Oklahoma's D has looked so far I think Oregon has a great chance to knock off the Sooners. If the Ducks get to 3-0 they'll have a strong case for Top 10 consideration, and it says here they’ll get the job done.

15. Florida State (W vs. Troy 25-17)
Last week: 10
So does anyone know what Jimmy Heggins is up to? The long-time FSU OL coach “resigned” after his unit strung together a few uninspiring years of churning out a rushing attack that wass merely ranked in the top 30 nationally. Now we're 15 games into the Mark McHale era and I don’t know if the ‘Noles can eke out 30 yards a game! There is absolutely no excuse for the 'Noles weak showing against Troy on Saturday. The players are to blame for putting the ball on the ground seven times, but quotes such as the one uttered by John Frady in which FSU's starting center admitted the team wasn’t prepared or focused on the game puts the onus squarely on the coaches. Jeff Bowden has seemingly used the same game-plan in every game for the last five years, and opposing defensive coordinators figured out how to beat it about four-and-a-half years ago. Without some versatility in the play-calling and consistent execution on offense I fear the ‘Noles might waste their #1-ranked rushing defense and fall into the same 7-5/8-4 rut they’ve occupied for the first five years of the decade.

16. Tennessee (W vs. Air Force 31-30)
Last week: 15
I think I speak for everyone when I say, “What the fuck?” After the Vols dominant performance against Cal they almost coughed one up against Air Force. Blame injuries on defense or the looming game against UF, but this result raises the question of whether Tennessee is really back, or if they just caught Cal on an off-day. They get a chance to prove again that they’re legit this Saturday, but it will be a whole lot tougher to contain the Gators with Justin Harrell and Inky Johnson out for the year.

17. Miami (W vs. Florida A&M 51-10)
Last week: 21
While FSU came out flat aginst Troy it appears the ‘Canes found some motivation in their game-one loss. They dominated FAMU and racked up yardage by air, land, and sea. Miami pounded out their frustration on the Rattlers and instilled some confidence in the offense heading into what should be a tremendous game against Louisville this Saturday. Miami's defense should match up pretty well against Louisville with Michael Bush out. The Canes' back seven is second to none and is physically capable of shutting down Brian Brohm and Co, especially if Louisville's running attack isn't a threat. I just wonder if UM will look more dangerous on offense than they did aginst the Seminoles. No matter how good your D is you've still got to score points, and Brock Berlin isn't around to bale out the Canes anymore should they spot the Cardinals a big lead.

18. Boston College (W vs. #5 Clemson 34-33)
Last week: NR
How bad is Clemson wishing that Syracuse had been the third team poached by the ACC instead of Boston College? In their two years in the league the Eagles have handed Clemson two painful overtime losses, this one coming in the second OT period on a blocked extra point. Despite being out-gained by a wide margin, BC held tough behind the steady leadership of Matt Ryan and got the big plays when they needed them to stay in the game. Jim O’Brien’s team is once-again a scrappy, tough team that always seems to play close games, whether their opponent is Temple or Texas. This win could potentially put the Eagles in the driver’s seat for the Atlantic Division if Clemson can turn around and knock off FSU this weekend.

19. Iowa (W vs. Syracuse 20-13)
Last week: 12
I realize Drew Tate was out for this game, but Syracuse is a terrible (repeat: TERRIBLE) team that had no business hanging with a supposedly Top 10 team. The Hawkeyes do deserve credit for stopping the ‘Cuse seven times inside their own two and pulling out the victory despite tossing four INTs, but I still think this is a mediocre team that doesn’t have the weapons on offense or defense to hang with the big boys. Fans of the Big 10 need to recognize that last year is over and so far in 2006 the league, outside of Ohio State, is looking extremely average. Iowa may not be as good as last year (when they were an average squad) and yet they may be the 2nd-best team in the league, which isn't a good thing.

20. Nebraska (W vs. Nicholls State 56-7)
Last week: 20
QB Zac Taylor’s strong play has given Nebraska fans hope, but it’s the strong running game that gives them balance and truly makes them dangerous. Plus the defense is fast and far more talented than the Arkansas defenders who mere speed bumps for the Trojans. So can the ‘Huskers pull off the big upset? Short answer…no. Long answer…hell no. But the 'Huskers don't really need to win this game. Proving that they belong on the same field as USC is all that's needed to return Nebraska to respectability.

21. Clemson (L vs. Boston College 33-34)
Last week: 5
Two weeks have gone by and two of my bandwagon teams have already bitten the dust. In Clemson’s case a combination of poor special teams, a shaky secondary, and key injuries derailed their promising season against BC. The Tigers aren’t dead yet though. They can get back in the Atlantic race with a win over FSU this weekend, but they’ll have to show a bit more cohesion on offense and get the stops on defense when necessary. That will be difficult with most of their stars on defense hurting. Plus the Noles tough run D should put even more pressure on Will Proctor and the passing game to produce.

22. California (W vs. Minnesota 42-17)
Last week: 24

I suspected that Cal may have had a Murphy’s Law type of game against Tennessee where everything that could go wrong did just that, and their domination of Minnesota backs up that assertion. This was the Cal team everyone expected to see with Marshawn Lynch running for 139 yards and two TDs while DeShawn Jackson caught three of QB Nate Longshore's four TD passes. The Golden Bears appear to be playing with a chip on their shoulder after being written off by everyone after the first week of the season. If Cal can keep playing mad they may work their way back into the Top 10 by the time it’s all said and done.

23. Texas Tech (W vs. Texas El-Paso 38-35)
Last week: 23
My concern with Texas Tech coming into the season was the defense, which had to replace some talented players in the off-season. Those fears were partly confirmed by the Red Raiders’ 38-35 battle against UTEP. Tech deserves credit for the win, however, since Mike Price has built a pretty strong team in El Paso. In a weak conference the Raiders could very well be the second best team behind Texas, and as long as the Texas Tech offense continues to produce behind Graham Harrell they have a chance to make some noise.

24. UCLA (W vs. Rice 26-16)
Last week: 22
The Bruins followed the trend of many other teams with a big win in week 1 followed by a struggle with a lesser opponent in week 2. UCLA dominated a talented Utah team in their opener but struggled with lowly Rice in the follow-up game. Ben Olsen had another strong outing throwing for two scores, but it was the running game that’s trying to replace Maurice Drew that won the game against the Owls. UCLA wasn’t seriously threatened, but struggling with one of the worst BCS teams will cost you a couple spots.

What Did I Ever See In You??? … Penn State (#18)

Sorry the posts have been so erratic but I only have so many chances to procrastinate at work. Not that there’s much to say about FSU’s showing last week, but thankfully my home internet connection is finally being set up tomorrow, so let the bitching begin!


Post a Comment

<< Home