Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Top 24 - Week 5

Well here we are at week 5 - the appetizers are out of the way and we're getting into the entree portion of the season. A big 'ol heaping helping of conference showdowns awaits with LSU-Florida and Georgia-Tennessee in the SEC, Texas-Oklahoma in the Big XII, and Oregon-Cal in the first ginormous Pac-10 showdown in recent memory that doesn't involve Southern Cal. In the ACC, FSU-NC State on Thursday night is a key game for the 'Noles ACCCG hopes. FSU is hungry for a win, but the Wolfpack's not satiated by beating Boston College, they want the 'Noles for dessert. Am I pushing the food metaphor too far? Have you had your fill? Enjoy the football feast this weekend, ya'll! (okay, I'm done now...)

!!!Warning: I've been digging into cfbstats.com so expect lots of numbers!!!

Without further ado, the Top 24...

1. Ohio State (5-0)
W vs. #21 Iowa, 38-17
Last week: 3

After a one-week demotion the Buckeyes return to the head of the class. As predicted here they mopped the floor with Iowa, but it was the efficient brilliance with which they did it that really impressed me. Ohio State boasts weapons at every offensive position and can beat teams in a number of ways. Anthony Gonzalez's catch-and-run TD was a thing of beauty, and the underappreciated Antonio Pittman continued to shine against the Hawkeyes. The defense isn't as good as last year, coming in at only 42nd against the run, but with the Troy Smith-led offense clicking on all cylinders they don't have to be.

2. Michigan (5-0)
W vs. Minnesota, 28-14
Last week: 1

They would've had to put a mighty ass-whupping on Minnesota to hold off Ohio State for the top spot, and a 14-point margin over an average Gopher squad doesn't quite cut it. The defense is absolutely unholy, currently ranking #1 against the run and #8 overall, but the offense has been inconsistent from week to week. Still, considering the struggles Auburn and USC had with supposed conference lightweights I can't justify moving the Wolverines any further down than this.

3. Auburn (5-0)
W vs. South Carolina, 24-17
Last week: 4

That highly-touted Tiger defense sure showed some holes against South Carolina. Give credit to Tommy Tuberville for making the gutsy onside kick call, and to Auburn for keeping the ball away from Steve Spurrier's offense for the entire third quarter. Pulling out a win against a fired up opponent in a hostile atmosphere isn't something I take lightly. But this team and their fanbase are seeking respect after the 2004...unpleasantness. Getting taken to the wire by a banged up Gamecocks squad and their third-string QB ain't the way to get it.

4. Southern Cal (4-0)
W vs. Washington State, 28-22
Last week: 2

Maybe the Trojans can't just reload after all. Washington State took possible serial killer John David Booty and Co. to the brink, and if not for Steve Smith's heroics the Trojans could sitting in the middle of the pack in the Pac-10. A better offense would have beaten USC on Saturday, raising the question of whether the winner of Cal/Oregon should be considered the front-runner in the conference. Hey, it's just nice to have a race in a league that's had "Property of USC" stamped on it for the last five years.

5. Louisville (4-0)
Last week: 5

They had a bye, what do you want me to say? How about this: Louisville gets a lot of hype for their explosive passing game, but did you know they're #5 in the nation in rushing offense? That puts them ahead Texas, Michigan, and Oklahoma. You've got to be impressed with the way the Cardinals have kept on rolling despite the loss of their two stars on offense. And the defense ain't exactlly shabby, either (more on that later). Seriously Coach Petrino, you can get a lot of great deals on Tallahassee real estate these days...

6. LSU (4-1)
W vs. Mississippi State, 48-17
Last week: 7

I watched a lot of LSU/MSU on Saturday, mostly because it came on first and my hangover made operating the remote surprisingly difficult. I realize that Mississippi State is absolutely terrible this year but Jamarcus Russell was incredible in that game, putting on a performance as impressive as any I've seen this year. I have no idea how Auburn kept LSU out of the endzone but I have a feeling that if they played later in the year the results would be very different. Of course they're inconsistent enough to lay another egg against Florida, so who knows?

7. West Virginia (4-0)
Last week: 6

They had a bye, what do you want me to say? How about this: West Virginia is 93rd in Passing Offense (Louisville is 16th), 30th in Rushing Defense (Louisville is 5th), and 34th in Total Defense (Louisville is 23rd) despite playing a weaker schedule than the Cardinals. So why do so many fans and pollsters assume West Virginia is better? I'm not buying it. Even if Brian Brohm can't go I'm taking Louisville against the Mountaineers - they seem to be the more complete team. No disrespect to Rich Rodriguez, who's done a fantastic job at West Virginia, but in my mind West Virginia is a step behind Louisville in the Big East.

8. Texas (4-1)
W vs. Sam Houston State, 56-3
Last week: 8

Shockingly, the Longhorns eked past Sam Houston State in the prelude to their big showdown with Oklahoma. Lately I started to think that the Longhorns might have a tougher time than people expected against the Sooners, but then I realized Texas is 2nd against the run and Oklahoma's entire offense is based on Adrian Peterson. And it doesn't help that the Sooner defense has been unimpressive so far. With Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles the Longhorns can match Oklahoma on the ground, and they should be better at pretty much every other position. I think the Longhorns will roll through their first Big XII test with ease.

9. Florida (5-0)
W vs. Alabama, 28-13
Last week: 9

Another game I watched closely, and I have to say that Alabama had a lot of chances to take control of this game. The Gator defense is stout - especially up the middle - but there are holes in the secondary that a good QB could exploit. John Parker Wilson missed his chances, but will Jamarcus Russell be so accomodating? The offense is flat-out ugly at times, and they haven't seen a death squad unit like LSU's so far. I'll give the Gators all the credit they deserve if they knock off the Tigers this Saturday, but after watching both teams play this past weekend I'll be surprised if that happens.

10. Clemson (4-1)
W vs. Louisiana Tech, 51-0
Last week: 12

Here are the numbers: 11th in Total Offense (7th in rushing), 9th in Total Defense (11th against the run). That right there is a solid team folks. Clemson is underrated right now, but after once-beatens with bigger reps like Oklahoma and Tennessee get beat again and frauds like Georgia are bumped off the Tigers will be in the top 10 where they belong. Hopefully they won't take Wake too lightly, and those back-to-back games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech look pretty daunting, but Clemson looks like the most complete team in the ACC so far.

11. Oregon (4-0)
W vs. Arizona State, 48-13
Last week: 11

The Ducks are a solid team, and undeserving of all the criticism after the Oklahoma incident(s). I still can't believe I'm legitimately excited about a Pac-10 showdown, but Oregon/Cal should be a great game.

12. Georgia Tech (4-1)
W vs. #10 Virginia Tech, 38-27
Last week: 14

Any rational person who saw the Jackets dismantle Virginia Tech must realize Georgia Tech is underrated...unless that person is a Division I-A coach. The Coaches' Poll and the Harris Poll both have GT ranked lower the team they just crushed in Blacksburg. Gee, I wonder why the BCS has no credibility?

13. Notre Dame (4-1)
W vs. Purdue, 35-21
Last week: 13

Here we go... Notre Dame gets to fatten up their record on cupcakes over the next few weeks while Lou Holtz goes all Mark Foley over Brady Quinn. The Irish are 79th is rushing defense - behind Illinois and Syracuse and roughly equal to Vanderbilt and Tulane. But UCLA has the only realistic shot at knocking off the Irish until Quinn and Co. get a shot at revenge aginst Southern Cal.

14. Oklahoma (3-1)
Last week: 15

Adrian Peterson for President! AD is the best player in the country, but the rest of the Sooners haven't lived up to expectations. What if Rhett Bomar hadn't been declared ineligible? Would the Sooners have started the year #1? And if they'd knocked off Oregon would they still be #1 despite the disappointing defense and Ohio State's performance thus far?

15. Tennessee (4-1)
W vs. Memphis, 41-7
Last week: 17

Would the real Tennessee please stand up? If the team that rolled over Cal and Memphis shows up in Athens, Georgia's days in the top 10 are done. If the team that coughed up the lead aginst Florida shows up we may have a race in the SEC East. The Vols are talented enough on offense to run the table, but one can only wonder how good they may have been on defense if the impressive Justin Harrell had stayed healthy.

16. California (4-1)
W vs. Oregon State, 41-13
Last week: 18

Cal has played so well since their Week One blowout in Knoxville that it's hard to keep them behind Tennessee. If they put on another impressive performance in a victory over Oregon they're jumping the Vols, and that's that.

17. Virginia Tech (4-1)
L vs. #14 Georgia Tech, 27-38
Last week: 10

Never forget, when choosing between two teams that are roughly equal in talent go with the team with the better QB. Sean Glennon couldn't match Reggie Ball - Reggie Ball! - and that made all the difference in the ACC Coastal showdown. The Hokies' are solid on defense, and Brandon Ore is a good running back, but until they get better QB play (a common theme among ACC schools this year) Virginia Tech won't be a contender.

18. Georgia (5-0)
W vs. Ole Miss 14-9
Last week: 16

Poll Madness #1: Virginia Tech over Georgia Tech. Poll Madness #2: Georgia STILL in the top 10 despite back-to-back clunkers against 0-4 Colorado and 1-4 Ole Miss. Georgia fans, take it from someone who lived through the Wyatt Sexton era: when your hanging your hopes on a mediocre QB like Joe Tereshinski, you have no hope at all.

19. Nebraska (4-1)
W vs. Kansas, 39-32
Last week: 19

Personally I think Mark Mangino has done a solid job at Kansas so I'm more impressed than most by Nebraska's close win over the Jayhawks. Bill Callahan has pulled the 'Huskers back from the brink and into the realm of solid respectability. But will he ever lead them back to the elite? That's the question that haunts 'Huskers Nation.

20. Florida State (3-1)
Last week: 22

I hate to say it, but Thursday night's game against unranked NC State is big for the 'Noles. If they can build off of the explosive offensive showing against Rice there will be hope for the rest of the season. If they revert to the timid, predictable attack from the Miami and Clemson games...well, things will get broken around Chop Shop Headquarters. A secondary that keeps getting younger and a beat-up defensive line won't help matters.

Greg Carr needs to see the ball a lot more for FSU to be successful

21. Missouri (5-0)
W vs. Colorado, 28-13
Last week: NR

Mizzou has played absolutely no one, but when you're in the top 10 overall in offense AND defense a quarter of the way through the season you deserve to be ranked. The quest for legitimacy begins this Saturday at Texas Tech.

22. Boise State (5-0)
W vs. Utah, 36-3
Last week: 23

Still haven't seen a second of Boise State football. Love that blue turf, though!

23. Iowa (4-1)
L vs. #3 Ohio State 17-38
Last week: 21

I kind of pre-emptively punished the Hawkeyes for the Ohio State blow-out in last week's poll. Iowa isn't really great at anything, but they're solid throughout and they play hard until the final whistle. That's enough to keep them in the rankings for now.

24. Rutgers (5-0)
W vs. South Florida, 22-20
Last week: NR

I don't expect them to stay in the polls for long, but Greg Schiano has done a great job returning Rutgers to respectability. Ray Rice has rushed for more yards than two-thirds of the teams in Division I-A.

What Did I Ever See In You??? … TCU (#20), Michigan State(#24)

And while we're here, I'd like to take this opportunity to extend my condolences to Michigan State fans. Last week when I put State at #24 I included a paragraph stating that, despite ranking their team in the Top 24, I knew with 100% certainty that the Spartans were going to self-destruct in the wake of the Notre Dame game - again - and miss out on a bowl - AGAIN! I took out that paragraph because their upcoming opponent was Illinois, and surely they couldn't drop their HOMECOMING game to Illinois and the Zooker!!! Sadly, I underestimated the evil curse that hangs over that beat-down shell of a program. How those fans are able to pick up the pieces every off-season I'll never know, but my heart goes out to them.


At 4:28 AM, Blogger Broken Gnome said...

"If the [Tennessee} that rolled over Cal and Memphis shows up Georgia's days in the top 10 are done."

I agree that Georgia does not look like a top-10 team based on their last two showings. A defeat this week will take them out of my top-25.

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous NoleCC said...

I'm with you on Michigan at #2... I don't see why others are getting it over them.

Could we have undefeated #1 vs undefeated #2 at the end of the season?

At 4:09 PM, Blogger JTS said...

What is your fascination with Oregon? I can only assume that this site is sponsored by Nike. They just barely squeaked by 1-3 Fresno State (who is way down this year) and should hav lost to Oklahoma.

Speaking of Oklahoma....Sure Peterson is the best RB. Maybe if he played both ways and took snaps at QB OK would deserve their ranking. OK is about to get its ass handed to them by Texas and they are capable of losing to every team on the remainder of their schedule (that's right including Colorado).

The biggest thing Cal has going for it is that they don't have to travel east of the Rockies (where good football and defense happen) for the remainder of the season.

Can Louisville go undefeated with its backup QB and backup RB?

You know that Michigan is going to lose before they beat Ohio State, right? I think it is written in the Big Ten By-Laws or something. Let's see...It looks like Iowa is the most likely loss so I will go with Michigan State in the shocker this weekend.


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