Tag Archives: Michigan State Spartans

College Football Rankings 1-128

Before the attacks begin and the questions of my sanity, take a second to realize how I devise my own personal rankings. And also, take a second to realize, they mean absolutely nothing, and the only purpose they serve is to spark debate. Well, that and in December just see what kind of feel I had on the season back at the one third mark.

To begin with, this is not a ranking of who has the best resume, from the worst. A 5-0 team may very well be behind a two loss team in the same conference. A team who has but one victory may be above someone who has only lost once. On the flip side, a team who is 5-0, and deemed not to have played anyone, isn’t necessarily penalized for the lack of a schedule. In other words, I only use what a team has done to aide in evaluating that team in a vacuum. I don’t rank them based simply on what they’ve accomplished, or not accomplished, this year. They’re ranked in order from who I think, on this date, is the best team in the country, to who I think is the worst.

This means there may be cases where a team is ranked behind a team they’ve already beaten. Upsets happen. That’s why they’re upsets. Being the better team two weeks ago, doesn’t mean that I think you’re the better team today.

I also don’t look at it in the, “on a neutral field, who will win?” manner either. These outcomes are often predicated on matchups, a team may be a bad matchup for someone I rank them above, but a good matchup for someone above them. So, I don’t play that card. On paper, in a vacuum, is team A better than team B? That’s what I ask myself. Who do I think is the better football team right now.

Obviously, there are cases where I’ll use head to head matchups if two teams are extremely close to one another, but they’re not the end-all-be-all tiebreaker. Season results, strength of schedule, what you’ve done against that schedule, injured players returning, injured players going forward, bad luck, suspensions, weather, there’s a whole litany of factors I take into consideration. But, “so and so beat so and so, there is no way you can have them below them”, isn’t going to spawn much discussion.

Based on the manner I do these rankings, they’re very, very subject to change. They’ll be quite fluid. Which is why I’m really looking forward to this upcoming weekend. Of course, my ego would like it if the results on Saturday reflected accuracy on my part today. But really, what fun would that be in college football?

1 Alabama
2 Oklahoma
3 Oregon
4 Auburn
5 Florida State
6 UCLA
7 Baylor
8 Ole Miss
9 Texas A&M
10 Michigan State
11 USC
12 Mississippi State
13 LSU
14 Kansas State
15 Ohio State
16 Arkansas
17 Georgia
18 Nebraska
19 Wisconsin
20 Stanford
21 Notre Dame
22 Marshall
23 West Virginia
24 BYU
25 Oklahoma State
26 North Carolina State
27 TCU
28 Clemson
29 Arizona State
30 Missouri
31 Maryland
32 South Carolina
33 East Carolina
34 Washington
35 Arizona
36 Iowa
37 Louisville
38 Virginia
39 Georgia Tech
40 Memphis
41 Virginia Tech
42 Tennessee
43 Iowa State
44 Texas Tech
45 North Carolina
46 Miami
47 Texas
48 Penn State
49 Rutgers
50 Oregon State
51 Florida
52 Duke
53 Utah
54 Nevada
55 Minnesota
56 Cincinnati
57 Georgia Southern
58 Washington State
59 Air Force
60 California
61 Northern Illinois
62 Boise State
63 Syracuse
64 Middle Tennessee State
65 Navy
66 Colorado State
67 Pittsburgh
68 Central Florida
69 Boston College
70 Wyoming
71 Temple
72 Illinois
73 Toledo
74 Kentucky
75 Western Kentucky
76 ULM
77 Akron
78 Houston
79 Colorado
80 Arkansas State
81 San Diego State
82 Bowling Green
83 Michigan
84 Indiana
85 Florida Atlantic
86 UTEP
87 Hawaii
88 UTSA
89 Utah State
90 South Florida
91 Northwestern
92 Fresno State
93 Texas State
94 Ohio
95 Kansas
96 Louisiana Tech
97 Old Dominion
98 Central Michigan
99 North Texas
100 San Jose State
101 Ball State
102 Louisiana
103 UAB
104 Tulsa
105 Purdue
106 Vanderbilt
107 Wake Forest
108 Western Michigan
109 New Mexico
110 Tulane
111 Rice
112 South Alabama
113 Troy
114 Connecticut
115 Florida International
116 Southern Miss
117 UNLV
118 Massachusetts
119 Idaho
120 New Mexico State
121 Kent State
122 Army
123 Buffalo
124 Appalachian State
125 Miami Ohio
126 Georgia State
127 SMU
128 Eastern Michigan

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Quick thoughts from week two

Lane Kiffin won’t be the head coach at USC next year. He won’t ever be the head coach anywhere again. He’s a joke.

Michigan State is a really good team with really bad quarterback play. No way they can best out the likes of Nebraska, Michigan, and Northwestern in what is a very good division.

Jeff Driskel is bad. Real bad. Florida has to have a better option on that roster.

Miami and Florida State have easy schedules the rest of the way. A couple double digit win seasons from these two could help shift the balance of power in Florida.

It’s not just the two Florida schools though. Clemson and Virginia have also produced impressive non conference wins. The ACC may not be the joke it’s been lately, Logan Thomas not withstanding.

Texas, really? The other contenders on the Big XII have all shown dramatic defensive improvement. Without massive improvement, and quickly, Texas could struggle to reach .500. Saturday against Ole Miss is a must win.

Tennessee has looked good against lesser competition. Reality check this week.

Louisville isn’t playing around. The competition hadn’t been tough, but they’ve handled it like a contender should.

Indiana blew a chance for a strong start to their season by losing to Navy.

Raheem Cato and Marshall can score some points, lots of them. Watch them when you can.

Southern Miss has gone from 12-2 to one of three worst teams in the nation in the blink of an eye. It’s astonishing.

I’ve tried telling people that Ohio is overrated and Bowling Green will win that division. Maybe they’ll start listening now.

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Why Tennessee Must Win, Michigan State is Dreaming Big & More In Week Three

As is the case with every college football weekend, there’s a handful of games you can’t miss, as well as the few that you should keep an eye on for potential upsets. But what about the others on the docket? Which of those are worth paying attention to? Glad you asked, I’ll let you know.

Must See Games:

#1 Alabama at Arkansas- Is it possible that year’s Alabama defense is even better than last years historically dominant unit? Why, yes, yes it is. This game could go a long way into giving us an idea if it actually is or not. If Tyler Wilson plays that is.

That’s the million dollar question. If Wilson plays at quarterback for Arkansas this becomes perhaps the biggest test the Tide defense will face all season. If he doesn’t, the things Alabama may do to backup quarterback Brandon Allen may be worthy of criminal charges.

While Arkansas’ defense leaves a bit to be desired, even with numerous suspensions to the receiving unit, Arkansas boasts perhaps the most talented offense in the SEC. No team in the conference has the plethora of weapons that Arkansas does, and no team will be capable of stretching out the Alabama defense like the Razorbacks. Again, if Tyler Wilson plays.

Sure, Michigan had Denard Robinson…..and…..They didn’t have the offensive line with the ability to even remotely match up with Alabama’s defensive front, and without Fitzgerald Toussaint didn’t have the home run threat in the backfield that Arkansas does. In fact, Arkansas has three of them in potential All American Knile Davis, last years leading rusher Dennis Johnson, and Ronnie Wingo.

Tight end Chris Gragg and receiever Cobi Hamilton give the Razorbacks both big play ability on the outside, and reliability.

We can only hope Wilson is able to go. If so, this could be a riveting battle. Arkansas is ticked off, and with a huge chip on their shoulder, and at home. Those are the makings of an upset. But only if their All-American quarterback takes the field.

#18 Florida at #23 Tennessee- Without a doubt, THE game to watch this week is going to be out of the SEC, actually, the vast majority of the big time games will be played with an SEC member. When Florida travels to take on Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday night it will seem like a rewind to 10-15 years ago, back when this battle almost annualy decided the SEC East champion.

An impressive season opening win in the Georgia Dome over North Carolina State, along with the return of 19 starters has Tenneesee fans convinced Derek Dooley has this Volunteer squad ready to make the jump back into the elite of the SEC in year three.

Nothing would do more to indicate a reversal of the slide the Vols have endured the last few years than beating Florida for the first time since 2004.

Tennessee in fact hasn’t been ranked since week one of the 2008 season when they lost in overtime at UCLA. They had played 46 straight games as an unranked team, something completely unheard of in Knoxville. Now that they’re back among the top 25, and back among the topic of conversation, can they prove they belong?

Since that fateful loss in the Rose Bowl in 2008, Tennessee is just 1-16 against ranked opponents. Saturday night, they’ll strive to reverse that trend too.

It will not be easy however, as the losses in recent years to Florida have all been by double digits, and there’s been a reason for that. The Gators have consistently had better players. Do they this year? That remains to be seen.

One thing is for certain, the recieving duo of Justin Hunter and junior college transfer Cordarelle Patterson has the ability to be the best tandem in the SEC. If the growing pains on the offensive line continue to pay off, the Vols should be able to do something they’ve struggled to do in recent years against quality SEC teams, and that is score points.

Of course, the Gators defense is no slouch. Their offense has struggled mightily, but the defense has given up just 31 points in their first two games, including just 17 at a Texas A&M team that returned seven starters from an offense that put up 40 a game last year, and averaged almost 500 yards per game at home.

Florida though will be without the services of linebacker Jelani Jenkins, which could be a big blow. Jenkins may very well be the most versatile defensive player on the Gators.

Another detriment to the Gators defense will be the size disadvantage at cornerback. Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins each go 6’0. Hunter and Patterson, the Tennessee receivers, go 6’4 and 6’3, respectively.

Florida isn’t immune to offensive issues either. They’ve managed only 23.5 points per game in their first two outings, against Bowling Green and Texas A&M, neither of whom is exactly known for great defense. Florida’s offense has disappeared lately against any sort of quality opponent. Last season against Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Ohio State, their largest offensive output was a paltry 263 yards against Ohio State.

Further compounding the matter is this that sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel is anything but long on experience, and in front of what will be the most raucous crowd Neyland Stadium has hosted in a while, that only stands to benefit the home team.

No team in the country is more experienced than Tennessee, and the 105 returning starts by their offensive line was tied for third in the entire nation. So, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is a make or break year for Derek Dooley, which means it’s not a stretch to say this is a must win game for Tennessee.

#2 USC at #21 Stanford- Against San Jose State Stanford looked the post Andrew Luck era was going to be dreadful. Fortunately the next week against Duke made Cardinal fans feel a little bit better. However, these USC Trojans are not San Jose State or Duke.

USC is a legit national title contender, who’s biggest weakness is probably its coach. And thats critical in this early season road test. Not only does Kiffin have a penchant for opening his mouth and sounding dumb, he also has a tendency to get outcoached by better coaches.

Getting outcoached seems the only way Stanford has a chance. These two played an epic three overtime game a year ago. The big difference, USC brings back its Heisman caliber quarterback, Matt Barkley, and Stanford does not.

What Stanford does bring back is a very good defense led by the linebacking duo of Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas, which is among the finest pairs of linebackers in all of college football. Last year Stanford didn’t do a terrible job defensively against USC, but that was with Michael Thomas, Delano Hall and Johnson Bademosi in their secondary. Three new starters replace them season, not a good recipe for playing USC. The Trojans have a receiving corps that would give even the nations best secondary absolute fits. One that’s among the weakest in the Pac 12? Yikes.

With no Andrew Luck, Stanford won’t be able to hang with the Trojans in a shootout. The only hope is to control the game with the ground game and Stephan Taylor while keeping USCs offense off the field. Even then, it’s doubtful that will be enough.

Stanford is still a good team, but they aren’t the level they were with Andrew Luck, and the secondary losses make USC a particularly tough matchup. So while it’s a crucial game in the Pac 12, and involves two ranked teams and is worth checking out, don’t expect the final score to be close.

#20 Notre Dame at #10 Michigan State- It’s two top twenty teams, so it has to be a big game, right? Well, if you say so. And because it’s still Notre Dame.

That said, I’m still not a believer in the Irish, and why should anyone be. They haven’t had a double digit win season since 2006, and they’ve lost to South Florida, Tulsa, Connecticut, and Navy (twice) in the past three seasons. Yet, at the slightest hint of success, they climb the polls faster than kudzu climbs tree trunks in Georgia. I don’t get it.

So, I really hope Michigan State goes out and lays the wood to the Irish on Saturday night.

Last season, despite winning 31-13, the Irish only gained 275 yards. Winning the turnover battle helped the Irish to what seemed a convincing win over then 15th ranked Michigan State. The Spartans clearly learned something that day though, they went 9-2 the rest of the way, losing by just three points in the Big Ten title game.

Michigan State returns eight starters from a defensive unit that was among the nations best last year, and figures to be even better this season. So far, so good. In their opening two games against Boise State and Central Michigan, they’ve allowed 20 points, total.

The only potential question on the defensive side of the ball is the interior where they had to replace two starters, but they have plenty of experienced size that’s been able to step right in.

The back seven is both experienced, and extremely talented. Their trio of linebackers posses SEC type speed, while still mantaining good size. Ask Georgia how easy it is to run on this bunch.

They defend the run and the pass, as they allowed just 2.8 yards per carry last sesaon, and only 177 yards a game through the air. And they’re better this year.

To go along with their suffocating defense the Spartans also posses a very experienced offensive line that’s also blessed with talent. Behind that line is Le’Veon Bell, a junior running back who will likely be a household name by the time the year is over.

As I go on about the Spartans, I realize THEY play the “old man football” that Missouri player Sheldon Richardson was referencing. In any event, this style of football is working for the Spartans, enough so that there is legitimate talk not only of their first Rose Bowl since 1987, but their first national championship since 1952. Remember, this team is 22-5 the past two seasons. And just as importantly when it comes to their battle with Notre Dame, 14-0 at home.

Upset Watch:

#13 Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh- Before you go thinking I’m entirely off my rocker, just remember how the Hokies offense looked against Georgia Tech during their season opener before the undermanned Yellow Jacket defense finally tired late in the game.

I know, you can counter with how bad Pittsburgh has pretty much looked all season, but this is the first road game for Virginia Tech this season. And while the Hokies have still compiled a nice road record in recent years, it hasn’t come without a few struggles, especially against inferior opponents.

Obviously, the antidote for a struggling offense doesn’t seem to be a date with the Hokies outstanding defense. But Pittsburgh is hoping with each carry, running back Ray Graham becomes a little more confident, and a little closer to 100% in his return from a torn ACL.

Graham is going to have to play huge for the Panthers, and they’re going to need a few breaks along the way. This is one of those games, that on paper, no, there’s really nothing to truly make one think Pittsburgh will actually win this game. It’s just something I feel like going with.

Louisiana Monroe at Auburn- I warned earlier this week that Gene Chizik’s seat at Auburn might be getting warm after getting dominated by Mississippi State. If the Tigers do the unthinkable and become the second SEC team in a row downed by the Warhawks, Chizik might want to invest in a realtor.

Simply put, Auburn, two years removed from a national championship, is just not that talented, at least not by SEC standards. So I guess it’s a good thing they get to play a Sun Belt squad. Then again, Arkansas is pretty talented by SEC standards and they were upended by this same squad.

Louisiana Monroe is playing a very ambitious schedule, as next Friday they will welcome Baylor into Malone Stadium, and many would have predicted an 0-3 start. Suddenly, having beaten then 8th ranked Arkansas, there’s talk of an 8 or 9 win season. For a school that’s never even made a bowl game, seven sounds pretty nice.

Louisiana Monroe doesn’t necessarily need to win this game, but they do need to play well to keep the confidence and momentum riding from their victory over Arkansas.

Quarterback Kolton Browning appears to have take a good step forward after a solid sophomore year and he’s got some options to throw to in Brent Leonard and Tavarese Maye.

Auburn, despite nine starters back on defense, has been nothing close to a dominant unit, which Tiger fans with blue and orange glasses assumed would be the case with the number of returning players.

But alas, the problem for Auburn ultimately rests on the offense, as the Tigers have scored just 29 points in two games, though neither one was played at home.

The defensive line for ULM is young, and undersized, yet Arkansas’ offensive line could do nothing to protect Tyler Wilson last week. If Auburn can’t get Kiehl Frazier some protection, it could be Chizik who needs it by the end of the day.

Utah State at Wisconsin- If it wasn’t for Arkansas, Wisconsin’s loss at Oregon State last week would have been the biggest shocker in the country, and resulted in the largest drop in the polls. As it was it was somewhat overshadowed.

What was not overshadowed was the dreadful performance of Wisconsin during the first two games this season. Running back Montee Ball entered the year among the favorites to win the Heisman. Beating Northern Iowa by five at home, then losing to Oregon State when you only muster seven points isn’t the way to begin a Heisman campaign.

So what did the Badgers do? Fired the offensive line coach of course. I suppose it wsa his fault that he had to replace three starters on the unit, and its also his fault that superstar quarterback Russell Wilson is no longer under center.

In other words, even if you go 11-3 and make a second straight Rose Bowl apperance, when you lose three offensive linemen and a Heisman trophy contender at quarterback, there will be a drop-off.

The Badgers now just hope the drop off isn’t severe enough to drop them to 1-2. The good news of course is that Ohio State isn’t eligible to win the Big 10 title, Penn State is in trouble, and Iowa is vastly overrated. So the division championship still appears to be gift wrapped for the Badgers. But do they really want to be playing in the Big 10 title game with losses to Oregon State and Utah State on their resume?

It’s a possibility. You might remember last week I thought Utah State could beat Utah, and they did. The Aggies, unlike Wisconsin, have the key pieces back on their offense. If Chuckie Keeton plays like he has to start the season, there’s no reason to think that in the 4th quarter in Madison on Saturday night, Utah State will be on the verge of potentially going 3-0.

Granted, playing on the road at Camp Randall is a far cry from playing at home, but this isn’t the typical Utah State football team. A win here could really shoot this team towards something special.

Don’t Forget About:

North Carolina at #19 Louisville- The Tar Heels have one of the most talented teams in the ACC, unfortunately indiscretions by the Butch Davis regime has left them without a bowl, or conference championship to play for. That has to be the explanation for how they somehow managed to lose to Wake Forest. That or they’re taking one for the ACC and throwing conference games to keep the leagues bowl teams looking better.

If its the latter, then expect the Heels to come out firing on all cylinders as they take on the Cardinals.

North Carolina possesses a potential All-American in running back Govani Bernard and provides him a very good offensive line to run behind that returns four starters from a year ago. The Heels have also brought back quarterback Bryn Renner who, as a sophomore, threw for over 3,000 yards. Over 700 of them went to senior wideout Erik Highsmith, as the number two receiver. So offensively, North Carolina has the ability to put the points on the board.

Defensively though, Louisville has the ability to keep them off of it. In two games against Kentucky and Missouri State (offensive juggernauts, I know) the Cardinals have allowed just 21 points.

Noth Carolina represents their third straight home game, and serves as a vital game as from here they play three straight on the road, with trips to Southern Miss and Pittsburgh on the horizon. The Tar Heels are likely the most talented team on Louisville’s schedule, so a win over them would do wonders for the confidence of a team that’s quietly thinking about a perfect season.

If they’re to do it, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has played superbly in the opening two games, must navigate a North Carolina defense that often lines up in a unique and unusual alignment. That’s something that could be tricky for a young quarterback.

The Tar Heels have little to really play for this year, but if conference pride is among those things left, going to Louisville and beating one of the favorites in the Big East has to be one of the major goals of the season.

Arizona State at Missouri- Missouri got indoctirined to “old man football” last week against Georgia, so perhaps they’ll welcome the challenge of a wide open attack such as the one Todd Graham brings with him as he brings the Sun Devils into Columbia.

In Graham’s first two games as head coach at Arizona State his team has put up 108 points in two victories, including a resounding 45-14 route of an Illinois that some had tagged as a Big Ten sleeper.

Missouri’s confidence might have been shaken last week with the way they were welcomed to the SEC, but there’s no time for that. They better understand that in the SEC, you don’t let Pac 12 teams just come into your stadium and roll up big points (unless they’re USC).

If Missouri goes out and gets beaten by Arizona State, or lets the Sun Devils rack up a lot of yards and points, they’re going to hear it from the SEC faithful. All in all, that might not be a bad thing. They might need to learn a little more just what type of athlete it takes to really be considered SEC.

#14 Texas at Ole Miss- Texas is just about back folks, and there’s nothing they’d like more than to hammer that point home with a win on the road against an SEC team. No, Ole Miss is not anywhere near the elite of the SEC, but, even the non-elite in the SEC are a step above most teams non conference opponents. Also, Ole Miss took care of UTEP perhaps more convincingly than Big 12 favorite Oklahoma did.

Texas’ defense, in particular the front four, is going to be as good as most anybodys outside Tuscaloosa.

Offensively the Longhorns still have a lot of youth at key positions, and will be prone to struggle against better defenses, but their defense should be able to keep them in most any game they play. And the Ole Miss defense isn’t quite to a point where it’s considered one of the better defenses in the nation.

The Rebels do however return eight starters on both offense and defense, and they’ve already matched last year’s disastrous two win total. Despite that though, Ole Miss is still a ways away from seriously competing at anything resembling an elite level. For now, they’ll settle for being competitive against the nations better teams. Last season Ole Miss was outscored in league play by an average of 37-12. While Texas isn’t an SEC team, they’re the type of competition Ole Miss can gauge their progress against.

If this game is still within 14 points going into the fourth quarter, it will be considered a success for the Rebels. It will also tell the Longhorns they may not yet be completely ready to return to the nations elite.

Best of the Rest:

Wake Forest at #5 Florida State- I understand that somehow, against all the natural forces in the world, Wake Forest has won four of the last six meetings in this series. I also understand that Wake Forest somehow beat a talented North Carolina team a weak ago. However, I also understand that in their last two trips to Doak Campbell Stadium, Wake Forest has scored a total of 12 points, and those were against defensive units without the prowess of this year’s Seminoles team.

Even without Brandon Jenkins, the Seminoles put out a championship caliber defense, the only question has been if their offense can keep up. So far, so good, as quarterback E.J. Manuel has looked as good as ever.

The only way this game is close is the look-ahead factor that may plague Florida State. They host Clemson next week in perhaps the biggest regular season game in the ACC this season. So perhaps Wake Forest hangs around for a half. But by games end, this won’t be close.

#16 TCU at Kansas- So, about that 2-0 start for the Kansas Jayhawks in which they’ve already equalled last year’s win total….. They won’t be surpassing it this week. TCU will play its first ever Big 12 game, and they draw an opponent that is 2-23 in conference play the previous three seasons. If only because it’s the first game for TCU in a big boy conference since its days in the Southwest Conference, keep an eye on how bad the Horned Frogs take care of the Jayhawks.

UConn at Maryland- The Terrapins may be 2-0, but its not been pretty. The season started with a 7-6 win over William & Mary. Yes, that’s right, Maryland scored but one touchdown against William & Mary. That doesn’t bode well considering they’re taking on a Connecticut team with a stout defense that limited North Carolina State to just ten.

You throw in the fact that the Huskies have circled this one on their calendar due to it being a chance to visit former head coach Randy Edsall, who left on less than amicable terms, and this spells disaster for Maryland. Like Kansas, Maryland has already matched last years win total. Don’t expect them to surpass it Saturday.

Virginia at Georgia Tech- Last season the Cavaliers spoiled the then 12th ranked Yellow Jackets perfect season and sent the 6-0 Jackets into a tail spin where they would lose four of their final six games. Don’t think Georgia Tech has forgotten about this, especially Paul Johnson. It’s not often a Paul Johnson offense is held under 300 yards, but it happened in Charlottesville last year. Don’t expect it to happen in Atlanta on Saturday.

For Virginia, thanks to Penn State’s troubles, they’re 2-0. Otherwise, one would assume there’s no way the Cavaliers come away with that 17-16 win, earmarked by four missed Penn State field goals. With TCU on the road next week, Virginia, which has won 10 of their last 15 games, may be sent crashing back to earth.

Northwestern at Boston College- The Wildcats have already beaten a Big East and an SEC team, so now they take aim at one from the ACC. No, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College do not represent the upper echelon of their conference, but they also aren’t Savannah State.

A victory Saturday over Boston College sets Northwestern up to potentially, potentially I said, be 8-0 when Nebraska comes to Evanston on October, 20. They follow up the Boston College game with South Dakota and Indiana at home. Then they do indeed go on the road for two games, but it’s a severely crippled Penn State team, and a void of talent Minnesota squad. So Michael Wilbon, be ready, you might lose your mind as the school could play host to one of the biggest games ever at Ryan Field Stadium.

Of course, first things first, they must take care of business against Boston College, which is no gimme. The Eagles blew a double digit lead against Miami at home in the opener, but this is still a team that has some players on it. 17 starters return from last year’s disappointing team, and coach Frank Spaziani knows that the team has declined in each of his three years.

Boston College needs a win in the worst way, while Northwestern has some might big dreams tucked away in the back of their minds.

Ohio at Marshall- Frank Solich is steadily building a very stout program in Athens, and he might be at a point in his career where the grass won’t be greener somewhere else. He’s won 27 games in the past three seasons, going 19-7 in conference, and winning the schools first ever bowl game.

The Bobcats have already won at Penn State this season, and look every bit as good as last years 10-4 team. While it may be a stretch, the Bobcats are good enough, and their schedule more than favorable enough, that they could potentially make a run at a perfect regular season. Doing so would likely put the Bobcats in the top 25 for the first time since 1968.

For Marshall, the days of Randy Moss, and Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich are over. 2002 seems like such a long time ago now as they haven’t topped 8 wins in a sesaon since. They’ve actually in fact, lost eight or more games in each of the past eight years.

Offensively though they’ve shown some life this season, and they might be the stiffest test the Bobcats face all year. For their shortcomings, Marshall has gone 12-5 at home the past three seasons.

#25 BYU at Utah– The loss to Utah State by Utah lost week took some of the luster off this game, as does the fact it no longer concludes the regular season, and the two no longer share a conference. But that doesn’t mean the Holy War is any less unholy between the combatants.

Utah’s disappointing loss stung even more when quarterback Jordan Wynn announced he was no longer playing football due to recurring injuries to his shoulder. So that leaves the quarterback position in disaray, and when that happened last year, the Utah offense fell apart.

With UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State all being impressive in the opening two weeks of the season, Utah suddenly seems destined for the bottom of the barrel in the Pac 12 South. An upset victory on homecoming over the visiting Cougars could do wonders to turning the season back in the right direction. The Utes have been to a bowl for nine straight seasons, though that looks like it could be in jeopardy this season.

BYU quietly went 10-3 last season, but in their first year as an independent a less than daunting schedule kept BYU out of the top 25 at seasons end for the second straight year. Nevertheless, BYU has reached double digit victories in five of the past six seasons, and this team seems destined to do the same.

The Cougars face four tough road challenges, and Utah is one of them. Securing a victory over the Utes would certainly leave BYU on the fast track towards another 10 win season.

The weapons on offense are certainly in lace. Receivers Ross Apo and Cody Hoffman return, having combined for 95 catches and 19 touchdowns a year ago.

Defensively, the top five tacklers from a stingy defense in 2011 are all also back, and they allowed just six points in a 30-6 victory over Washington State in the season opener. They allowed only 13 in the subsequent 45-13 route of Weber State.

Last year Utah embarrassed BYU 54-10, and you better believe Cougar players and coaches haven’t forgotten a moment of it. BYU was -5 in the turnover battle that day, and it lead to their 7th loss in the last 10 games with Utah. That’s a trend the folks in Provo aren’t happy about, and expect to be turned around, starting Saturday.

Houston at #22 UCLA– How do you go from 12-0 and your schools first ever BCS berth to losing 30-13 to a team playing its first ever game at the FBS level? Ask Houston head coach Tony Levine. He managed to do just that in his first game as Cougar coach.

Last season the Cougars were a Conference USA championship game win over Southern Miss away from a potential Sugar Bowl invite. Then came a 49-28 loss, and the loss of three record setting recievers, and the loss of record setting quarterback Case Keenum. The result? Yeah, that embarrassing 17 point loss at home to Texas State.

At lesat in the second game of the year against Louisiana Tech the offense showed back up, scoring 49 points as the two schools set a records for most first downs in a game. Unfortunately the defense allowed 56.

UCLA meanwhile, which hasn’t lost fewer than six games in a season since the 10-2 year of 2005, is 2-0 under first year coach Jim Mora. The upset of Nebraska also propelled the Bruins into the top 25 for the first time since 2007, when they lost 44-6 to Utah in the third game of the season.

The Bruins aren’t an overly talented lot on offense, but the defense, despite the loss of linebacker and returning leading tackler Patrick Larimore, is. A young unit was often abused las tyear, allowing over 31 points and nearly 420 yards per game. But they took their lumps, and even without Larimore, return eight of their top ten tacklers from a year ago.

One area of concern, that could bite them against Houston, is the lack of a pass rush. UCLA only had 14 sacks last season, but the hope is the return of all three defensive line starters, and both outside linebackers, that will change in 2012. Last week they managed to harrass Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez into a bad game.

With Oregon State at home and Colorado in Boulder their next two games on the schedule, there is little reason to think UCLA can’t be 5-0 before playing California on the road. It’s been a while since UCLA made a meaningful October game, and they should this season.

However, Houston still has talented players, Jim Mora is still the UCLA coach, and this program in recent years has had a tendency to completely forget to show up at times. So this game isn’t exactly written in ink as W just yet.   

Bowling Green at Toledo- You may be wondering what on earth I’m thinking here, but remember, Bowling Green played Florida awfully tough at the swamp, and this is a team with 17 starters back, including 10 on defense. If someone is going to dethrone Ohio in MAC West, it might be the Falcons.

On the other side, Toledo must replace seven starters on each side of the ball, and break in a new head coach. Yet despite that, Toledo only lost by seven to now ranked Arizona, and beat Wyoming, both on the road. The Rockets are 14-2 the past two years in conference play for a reason, though this year they hope to finally make it into the MAC title game.

With Western Michigan and Northern Illinois both on the road within the division, Toledo has to take care of business in their home games, especially against the other side.  It’s a big early season game for both teams.

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Late Night Drive, Top 25 Round-Up, New Top 25, Big 10 In Big Trouble, Other Week Two Thoughts

1.  Alabama– W vs Western Kentucky 35-0: What did you really expect out of this one? ‘Bama did what you would expect, and will travel to take on a wounded Arkansas team who better have a chip on their shoulder next week

2. USC– W vs Syracuse 42-29: The win was not as impressive as you might have thought it would be considering Lane Kiffin’s disgust at losing the number one ranking. A 13 point win over this Syracuse team is no way to prove you deserve it.

3.  LSU– W 41-3 vs Washington: The Huskies scored first, and then watched LSU score the game’s remaining 41 points as the Tigers cruised to an easy victory. It was quite clear that Washington didn’t belong on the same field as the defending SEC champs, and it will only be even uglier against Idaho next week. With Auburn and Florida looking less and less imposing, and South Carolina coming to Baton Rouge, the Tigers next real test may be when they go to College Station to take on a Texas A&M team who is dying for a shot at the Bayou Bengals.

4.  Oregon– W 42-25 vs Fresno State: For the first half, Oregon was Oregon, busting out to a 35-3 lead and their second half finished getting the job done. It’s not like next week with Tennessee Tech will tell us anything more.

5.  Florida State– W vs Savannah State 55-0: I really don’t even want to acknowledge this game actually took place.

6.  West Virginia- Bye: Why, oh, why weren’t we treated to a West Virginia/Florida State matchup on Saturday???

7.  Michigan State– W 41-7 vs Central Michigan: With the rest of the Big Ten struggling this season so far, there is absolutely no reason right now not to have Michigan State as the heavy favorite to win the Big Ten title after coming up just short a year ago. They host Notre Dame next week in what should be a decent test for Sparty, but so far, they’ve looked as advertised on defense.

8.  Georgia– W at Missouri 41-20: Old man football? Imagine if they played young man’s football what they would have done. It seems the old man football was better conditioned for four quarters of play than Missouri. That, and Jarvis Jones may be the best defensive player in college football. Georgia was the only top 25 team this week to go on the road, and win. Not only did they win, they did so impressively in a tough environment. Everybody should be back from suspensions by the time Tennessee comes calling in the next big game for Georgia. For Missouri, they get one more home game before having to travel to play South Carolina on the road. A win over Arizona next week is paramount, because they don’t want to be staring at 1-3 when they take on the Gamecocks.

9.  Oklahoma– W vs Florida A&M 69-13: This blowout does little to ease the concerns that arose after struggling to beat UTEP in the season opener. The Sooners get Kansas State at home in two weeks, as its sandwiched by their two bye weeks. That one will be a good barometer of what to expect from Oklahoma in their final nine games.

10. Ohio State– W vs Central Florida 31-16: Central Florida is not a bad football team, so getting a double digit win over them isn’t anything to scoff at. Considering the rest of the conference’s struggles, the Buckeyes appear to be among the Big 10 elite. Too bad they can’t win it. A late first half interception that set up a touchdown turned the tide against Central Florida, who led 10-7 and had the ball around midfield. Ohio State didn’t look back from there.

11. Clemson– W vs Ball State 52-27: This Tigers team is good, but just how good? The Auburn victory a week ago doesn’t look nearly as impressive after the egg they laid against Mississippi State. We will know much more about these Tigers in two weeks when they travel south to play Florida State.

12. Arkansas– L vs Louisiana Monroe 31-34: Easily the upset of the day, and perhaps season thus far. The Razorbacks better hope Tyler Wilson can play next week, otherwise the 38-14 whipping put on them by the Tide last year might look like it was actually a competitive game. Then again, it’s not backup quarterback Brandon Allen’s fault that the defense allowed 440 plus yards passing through the air.

13. Nebraska– L at UCLA 36-30: UCLA ran 94 plays to Nebraska’s 67, and that’s a good way to outgain a foe 653-439. After playing brilliantly against Southern Miss, Taylor Martinez struggled, but not nearly as much as the Husker defense, yielding 217 yards to Johnathan Franklin. The last time UCLA scored 34 or more points in back to back games was 2007. This season, in both games they’ve surpassed their season high in points from a year ago.

14. Texas– W 45-0 vs New Mexico: It was only New Mexico, but it was still a shutout. The Longhorn defense is extremely good, and figures to get better as the year goes on. They get a shot to go beat up on an SEC team in Ole Miss next week before getting a bye week and beginning their conference slate.

15. South Carolina– W vs East Carolina 48-10: Dylan Thompson got the start, and played well, throwing for over 300 scores and three touchdowns. Is there a quarterback controversy? Probably not yet, but there could be before the Gamecocks welcome in the other Columbia school (Missouri) to Williams-Brice Stadium in two weeks.

16. Kansas State– W vs Miami 52-13: The Wildcats are a major sleeper in the Big 12 this year, and Saturday proved that they are serious about proving last season was no fluke. A complete domination of Miami, their second straight win over the Canes, along with a battle with lowly North Texas next week, means their September, 22 trip to Norman to play Oklahoma will have an awful lot on the line. There were concerns about the Kansas State defense entering the year after losing three of their top four tacklers. It looked mighty solid Saturday. As for Miami, they have lost at least six games in five of their last six seasons. They may make it seven of eight this year. My how the mighty have fallen

17. Notre Dame– W vs Purdue 20-17: Notre Dame survived a late rally by Purdue to tie the game by answering with a quick drive of their own culminating in a game winning 27 yard field goal as time expired. But let’s be real, this isn’t exactly a very good Purdue football team, and getting just 52 yards on 36 carries against a team who allowed 175 yards per game a year ago is not a good sign at all. The schedule toughens up big time for the Irish in the next two months, and they could be anywhere from 3-5 to potentially 8-0. Impossible to have a good read on this team yet.

18. Virginia Tech– W 42-7 vs Austin Peay: As often is the case against an FCS team, it’s almost impossible to really learn anything about a team. Georgia Tech’s explosion against their own FCS team is probably the best thing seen from the Hokies all day. Their trip to Pittsburgh next week doesn’t look remotely close to as difficult as it seemed three weeks ago

19. Louisville– W vs Missouri State 35-7 The Cardinals will get a real test next week when North Carolina comes calling. But as it appears now, they’re a legitimate threat to the Big East title, and with South Florida, Cincinnati, and Connecticut at home, a 12-0 season might be something to think about with this team

20. Oklahoma State L at Arizona 59-38: Despite over 600 yards of offense, four turnovers doomed the Cowboys who realized this Rich Rodriguez Wildcats team is no Savannah State. Speaking of Rich Rodriguez’s Wildcats, in the last 5 years, Arizona has started 2-0 three times, making a bowl all three seasons. It’s a good omen

21. North Carolina– L at Wake Forest 28-27: For as talented as North Carolina is, when your team has no real goals with which to strive for during the season, it can be a very trying year with college kids, as is the case in Chapel Hill. With a trip to Louisville coming up next week, it looks like another story of a talented North Carolina team being undermined by off-field issues. Wake Forest meanwhile was thought to be perhaps the worst team in the ACC. This may be another of Jim Grobe’s overachievers.

22. Boise State– Bye

23. Tennessee– W 53-13 vs Georgia State: The Vols won and won big, as they should have. Now they get to host Florida in a game where they will get an opportunity to cement themselves as bonafide contenders in the SEC East, and set up a potentially HUGE game in Athens two weeks after that.

24. TCU– W 56-0 vs Grambling: TCU eased through this warmup before making their Big 12 debut against Kansas next week. The Forgs have had double digit wins in each of the past four seasons, and that’s where expectations are this year, even with the switch to a superior conference.

25. Georgia Tech W 59-3 vs Presbyterian: Clearly, the Blue Hose defense is no Virginia Tech defense, as the Jackets rolled to over 700 yards of offense, and we found out they actually do have wide receivers on the field in this offense. A crucial home game with Virginia awaits.

Others:

Florida– W 20-17 at Texas A&M: Fortunately for the Gators, their defense took over in the second half and 17-7 deficit became a 20-17 victory. It’s a good thing though, because the Gators offense struggled again. Florida has to play at a very confident Tennessee next week, a much better Vols team than the one Florida beat a year ago.

Baylor- Bye

Michigan– W 31-25 vs Air Force: I guess it’s simply a college football tradition as grand as “The Victors” or the helmets Michigan wears, to overrate the Wolverines. At this point in the season, it certainly seems like it has happened again. In two weeks they travel to South Bend, in a game they MUST win.

Utah– L at Utah State 27-20: Who was it that said little brother might have a chance to win this game, especially if Chuckie Keeton played well for Utah State? *Ahem*

Auburn – L at Mississippi State 28-10: Don’t think for a second people on The Plains aren’t starting to call into question the hiring of Gene Chizik. Yes, he won them a national championship, but for his career, without Cam Newton as a quarterback, his overall record is 21-31. In case you didn’t realize, that’s bad. His SEC record without Cam Newton is 7-10. That seat is getting warmer, and even if they beat ULM next week (no sure thing), a likely loss to LSU would mean a 1-3 start.

South Florida– W at Nevada 32-31: In a game involving two of the better under the radar teams in the nation, South Florida rallied with a late touchdown to get off to a 2-0 start before playing Rutgers this upcoming Thursday night. The Bulls are the favorite in the Big East, while Nevada is expected to be Boise State’s fiercest competition in the Mountain West. Nevada has looked plenty the part, and should be 10-1 when they host Boise State on the first day of December.

Mississippi State– W vs Auburn 28-10: Dan Mullen is doing some really, really good things in Starkville. The Bulldogs completely dominated Auburn, and with the schedule setting up like it does, they very easily could be 5-0 when Tennessee pays a visit in October

Man,  how bad is Pittsburgh this year? 0-2 after being drubbed by Cincinnati, and neither loss was close. And one of those losses came to Youngstown State. This offense returned 9 starters from a year ago, but has scored only 27 points in two games.

Connecticut is going to be a factor in the Big East, their defense is more than good enough to ensure that they are. Meanwhile, Mike Glennon’s struggles continue for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, who despite getting the win, looked awfully unimpressive in a 10-7 victory over a team many pegged in the bottom half of the Big East.

Virginia may be 2-0 after a 17-16 win over Penn State, but it’s not exactly a 2-0 that inspires a lot of confidence that they didn’t overachieve a year ago. For Penn State, getting to .500 this year may be an ambitious goal, as Saturday was a clear example of how the Jerry Sanduski saga has an on-field affect. Anthony Fera, who made 14 of 17 field goals a year ago transferred. His replacement, Sam Ficken, missed four in the loss, including a game winner as time expired.

 I think the days of Colorado being considered a big time program are gone. In fact, it’s simply about time to say that Colorado is actually a bad football program. They’ve lost 50 games in the past six years, and now have begun this season 0-2 after an inexplicable 30-28 home loss to Sacramento State on a last second field goal. From this point out, it’s very conceivable that Colorado will not be a favorite in another game they play. In fact, entering this season, in their previous 33 games, Colorado was a favorite just five times.  They’re 0-2 this season, with losses to Sacramento State, and a Colorado State team that got beat by 15 by North Dakota State. This program may not only be the perennial Pac 12 bottom feeder, but right now, it’s not even a playoff team in FCS.
I’m sorry, but Kirk Ferentz might be the most overrated coach in America. I don’t understand all the hype around him. Five times in the past seven years Iowa has lost at least five games, the only exception being 2009 and the Orange Bowl victory. After barely beating Northern Illinois to start the season, a 9-6 loss to Iowa State has to have folks thinking their lucky stars that their schedule consists of so many bottom dwelling Big 10 teams. It was the second straight loss to Iowa State for the Hawkeyes, a trend that is more than a bit disconcerting. Iowa State by the way, has a very good chance to be 4-0 when they play TCU.
Last week I had someone point out that I foolishly completely left Wisconsin out of not only my top 25, but the entire list altogether. After the 10-7 loss at Oregon State, I don’t think that looks so foolish now, does it? The Beavers have what looked initially like two winnable road games back to back in the next two weeks with trips to UCLA and Arizona. Even a split in those two would put the Beavers in great position to return to a bowl for the first time since 2009.Arizona State absolutely hammered Illinois 45-14, an Illinois team that was thought to be a potential sleeper to win their division. Between Ohio State’s ineligibility, Wisconsin’s struggles, Penn State’s complete ineptitude and this flop by Illinois, the Big Ten leaders division may be the worst division in the entire country.

Man, how important was Art Briles and Case Keenum to Houston? This was a team who was one win away from a BCS bowl a year ago, and now is 0-2 with losses to Louisiana Tech and Texas State. Ouch.

Northwestern has taken on two BCS conference teams in their early non conference slate in Syracuse and Vanderbilt, and beaten them both. They take on a third in Boston College next week. The 2-0 start for the Wildcats has been one of the very few bright spots in the Big 10 this season.

To wrap it up, I’ll pick up where I left off with Northwestern. Just how bad is the Big Ten this year? Conference favorite Wisconsin squeaks by Northern Iowa and loses to Oregon State. Illinois gets blasted 45-14 by an Arizona State team expected to finish near the bottom of the Pac 12, while Penn State can’t beat Ohio and is 0-2. Not only that, Michigan embarrassed the conference against Alabama and did nothing to get rid of that sour taste with an uninspiring win over Air Force. Nebraska lost to UCLA because their defense forgot entirely how to tackle, and Iowa lost a second straight time to Iowa State. Things do not look good in Big 10 country.

New Top 25

1.  Alabama

2.  LSU

3.  USC

4.  Oregon

5.  Florida State

6.  West Virginia

7.   Michigan State

8.  Georgia

9.  Oklahoma

10. Ohio State

11. Clemson

12. Texas

13. Kansas State

14. South Carolina

15. Virginia Tech

16. Notre Dame

17. Louisville

18. Tennessee

19. Boise State

20. TCU

21. Mississippi State

22. Florida

23. Georgia Tech

24. UCLA

25. South Florida

Others

Stanford

Arizona State

Nebraska

Baylor

Arizona

Rutgers

Northwestern

Arkansas

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Tide Top the Nation, West Virginia and Michigan State Impress Too

I don’t really know how one can argue Alabama at number one, and realistically, I think the top four are probably the same for just about everyone. After that though, there may be some discrepancies and some disagreements.

I love the West Virginia offense and the Michigan State defense, both may be strong enough to carry each team a long way.

I do not like the banged up Oklahoma offensive line that was a part of a sluggish offense.

Ohio State has a ridiculous amount of talent, Big Ten teams better be happy they can’t win the conference.

Texas is going to be better than you think. Their defense struggled the first three drives, then settled in, it’s going to be a very fierce unit.

Going into the year, I felt South Carolina as very overrated. What I saw against Vanderbilt did nothing to tell me otherwise.

Losing in a well, well played football game against a better opponent, especially on the road, does more for me than wiping the floor with some cupcake. Hence Georgia Tech is in the top 25 along with Boise State. To me, they looked like they could be one of the 25 best teams in the country

Just outside the top 25, South Florida will probably bust their way into it at some point, while Auburn plays Mississippi State this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised if the winner jumps in by next season.

1.  Alabama

2. USC

3.  LSU

4.  Oregon

5.  Florida State

6.  West Virginia

7.  Michigan State

8.  Georgia

9.  Oklahoma

10. Ohio State

11. Clemson

12. Arkansas

13. Nebraska

14. Texas

15. South Carolina

16. Kansas State

17. Notre Dame

18. Virginia Tech

19. Louisville

20. Oklahoma State

21. North Carolina

22. Boise State

23. Tennessee

24. TCU

25. Georgia Tech

Others:

Florida, Baylor, Michigan, Utah, Auburn, South Florida & Mississippi State

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