College football overtime (cont.)
TCU the new 'Buster' to beat
Theoretically, Oregon's continued success should be boosting Boise State in its quest for a BCS berth. However, as of Sunday night, the Broncos are no longer the highest-ranked non-BCS team -- and I can't say I disagree.
If you watched TCU's game Saturday night at BYU, you saw a team that is capable of playing with anyone. In what was purported to be one of their toughest remaining tests, the Horned Frogs walked into LaVell Edwards Stadium and plastered the Cougars, 38-7. Gary Patterson's lightning-fast defense is no secret by now, but it outdid even itself by sacking BYU quarterback Max Hall five times and holding the nation's sixth-rated passer to 162 yards, his lowest total in more than two years.
"That defense is the best defense that I've faced," said Hall, who, you may recall, faced Oklahoma's D in the season opener.
The guy who impressed me most, however, lined up on offense. Previous Patterson quarterbacks have largely been caretakers who take a backseat to the Frogs' defenses and running game. But junior Andy Dalton has taken his game to another level this year. Against BYU, Dalton completed 13-of-24 passes for 241 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and now ranks eighth nationally in pass efficiency.
"We've always known if we put the three phases of the game together we felt like we could beat anyone," offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "Today was one of those days that it all was clicking for us. We came out firing and played up to our ability."
If both win out, the TCU/Boise race figures to become a BCS controversy-within-a-controversy. In the latest standings released Sunday night, the Horned Frogs jumped from eighth to sixth, while the Broncos inexplicably dropped from fourth to seventh. It wasn't the voters but the computers, which improved TCU's average rank from eighth to fourth while downgrading Boise from fifth to eighth. The Broncos may well wind up with the single most impressive win (Oregon), but the Frogs will boast a more successful all-around slate (road wins at Virginia, Clemson and BYU, and a looming home date with No. 19 Utah).
Personally, I'd like to see both play in BCS games, because I believe they're both legitimate top 10 teams. If I had to choose one, however, I'd love the opportunity to see TCU put its speed up against Florida or USC.
My reaction to the latest BCS standings.
The BCS computer formulas don't care about style points. They do care about schedule strength, though. That's why 8-0 Iowa, despite sitting just eighth in the coaches poll, currently stands next in line behind Florida/Alabama/Texas in the BCS race.
Say what you want about the Hawkeyes' decidedly ugly brand of football -- they've beaten more BCS-conference opponents with winning records (7-1 Penn State, 5-2 Wisconsin, 5-2 Arizona, 5-3 Iowa State and 5-3 Michigan) than any undefeated team and their opponents' combined record of 38-22 (.633) is far better than that of any other top 10 team.
Hence, five of the six BCS computer polls currently rank Iowa No. 1, placing the Hawkeyes solidly in fourth in the overall standings.
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games.
Title game: Alabama vs. Texas
Rose: Iowa vs. USC
Fiesta: Oregon vs. Cincinnati
Sugar: Florida vs. TCU
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Penn State
A week after downgrading Texas due to Colt McCoy's continued struggles, the Longhorns star (buoyed in part by a change to the 'Horns receiving lineup) finally returned to 2008 form against Missouri (26-of-31, 269 yards, three TDs). Now I feel more confident in Texas than I do Florida or Alabama.
Spreading the field
Championship Saturday (Dec. 5) may include a new setting this year: Pittsburgh. The Panthers (7-1, 4-0 Big East), who routed USF 41-14 on Saturday, and Cincinnati (7-0, 3-0), which torched Louisville 41-10 behind a near-perfect day from backup quarterback Zach Collaros (15-of-17, 253 yards, three TDs), appear headed toward a season-ending, winner-takes-all BCS showdown.
West Virginia (6-1, 2-0), which faces both teams before then, will have a say in the Big East race as well, but the Mountaineers haven't been nearly as dominant as the Bearcats and Panthers. While Cincinnati's offense has received no shortage of pub, Pittsburgh has quietly produced quite the balanced attack. The Panthers boast both the nation's No. 3 passer (Bill Stull) and No. 4 rusher (Dion Lewis).
Les Miles apparently performed a makeover on LSU's previously struggling offense during the Tigers' bye week. In a 31-10 rout of Auburn, quarterback Jordan Jefferson looked the sharpest of his career. He completed 21-of-31 passes for 242 yards and two TDs and spent less time looking to the sideline for help. And mega-recruit Russell Shepard, playing running back for the first time, broke a 69-yard score.
Terrelle Pryor said last week's Purdue debacle and ensuing firestorm served as a wake-up call for him. Time will tell, but he did deliver his biggest performance of the season against Minnesota -- 343 total yards, three TDs. Most notably, he seemed to be more comfortable tucking the ball and running when receivers weren't open. He carried 15 times for 104 yards and was sacked just once.
Does anyone want to win the Big 12 North? Apparently, not Nebraska, whose woeful offense committed eight -- yes, eight -- turnovers in a 9-7 home loss to Iowa State. Congratulations to the Cyclones, who posted their first win in Lincoln since 1977 and improved to 2-2 in the conference, which, in the North, makes them a contender. The six teams are a combined 8-12 in league play.
Remarkably, Iowa State-Nebraska wasn't even the strangest Big 12 result Saturday. That would be Texas A&M's 52-30 beatdown of Texas Tech. Only a week earlier, the Aggies were on the wrong end of a 62-14 loss to Kansas State -- which itself lost 66-14 a week earlier to ... Texas Tech. Don't even try to wrap your head around that chain of events. You'll go cross-eyed.
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