College Overtime (cont.)
My reaction to the latest polls and BCS standings.
This week's most notable poll absurdity concerns Iowa. Following a closer-than-expected overtime defeat at Ohio State, the coaches poll voters dropped the Hawkeyes (9-2) two spots to No. 15. I don't have a problem with that. The bigger injustice is that they jumped two teams Iowa beat on the road -- 9-2 Penn State (from 17th to 12th) and 8-2 Wisconsin (from 14th) -- ahead of the Hawkeyes. Keep in mind, just a week earlier, the Nittany Lions lost 24-7 at home to the Buckeyes.
Lest you think this I'm nit-picking, keep in mind that the Big Ten teams' final rankings could have direct consequences on the BCS pairings (see below).
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup based on the latest week's games.
Title game: Alabama vs. Texas
TCU's win likely erased any remaining hopes for Boise State of gaining an automatic BCS berth -- but it's starting to look like it might not matter. With "brand name" teams USC, Miami and Notre Dame all falling out of the picture, the Broncos are becoming a more realistic at-large choice. Their biggest obstacle: Oklahoma State (8-2), which, if it wins at Oklahoma, will likely replace Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. Otherwise, the only at-large certainties are TCU, the SEC title game loser and either Penn State or Iowa.
The Penn State-Iowa scenario could become tricky if both finish 10-2. The Hawkeyes won head-to-head but have fallen behind the Nittany Lions in the polls (though remain one spot ahead of them at No. 13 in the BCS standings). The Fiesta Bowl covets Iowa, which has never played there and has a huge local alumni base. However, should the Fiesta select TCU instead, the Orange Bowl would be more likely to tap Penn State.
Spreading the field
A knowledgeable person within the sport whose opinion I value told me Sunday that Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson "may be the best coaching hire in the last 30 years." The No. 7 Yellow Jackets (10-1, 7-1 ACC) are headed back to the ACC title game for the first time since 2006, only this time it feels like the Jackets' best days are still to come. They could well be a national-title contender in the future.
I may have been a bit too negative in my column from Ohio State's Rose Bowl-clinching win over Iowa. It was a great moment for the Buckeyes, even if it seemed at times like Jim Tressel was trying to prevent it from happening. OSU's defense has been tremendous all season, and linebackers Ross Homan and Austin Spittler were relentless in shutting down the Hawkeyes' running attack.
We know well by now what a special talent Pittsburgh (9-1) has in freshman running back Dion Lewis (129.1 yards per game, sixth nationally), but Saturday night against Notre Dame, another young back got his chance to shine. Freshman Ray Graham burst for a 53-yard run in the third quarter, then followed it up with a 2-yard TD in the Panthers' 27-22 win. Graham is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
Last week, I talked to Colt McCoy about the evolution of Texas' passing game since Oklahoma. He spent time working individually with each of the 'Horns' younger receivers. "Guys were playing positions they've never played before," he said. "Now we've got guys in the right spots." It didn't matter in Saturday's rout of Baylor; in a rarity, the 'Horns ran for more yards (224) than they passed (187).
Dabo Swinney is pulling out all the stops to make sure C.J. Spiller keeps showing up on Heisman voters' radars. Saturday against N.C. State he became the first player in school history to run, catch and throw for a touchdown in the same game. "Another ho-hum day for him," said Swinney. With a win Saturday against Virginia, the Tigers (7-3, 5-2 ACC) will clinch their first ACC division title.
Oregon's 44-21 rout (no, LaGarrette Blount did not play) of Arizona Sate, coupled with Arizona's 24-16 loss at Cal, means the Ducks (8-2, 6-1) regained control of the Pac-10 standings but still play two of the three teams -- Arizona (6-3, 4-2) and Oregon State (7-3, 5-2) -- directly behind them. They lost to the third, Stanford. Good luck figuring out the tiebreakers if Oregon loses another game.
Boise State's Kellen Moore continues to sit atop the nation's pass-efficiency chart following another masterful performance (22-of-32, 299 yards, five TDs, no INTs) in the Broncos' 63-25 drubbing of rival Idaho (7-4). With Houston's Case Keenum suffering his second loss Saturday against UCF, it will be interesting to see whether Moore starts supplanting him on various Heisman Watch lists.
LSU's offense took a beating in last week's loss to Alabama -- and it showed Saturday against Louisiana Tech. With oft-maligned quarterback Jarrett Lee starting in place of the injured Jordan Jefferson and top rusher Charles Scott, center T-Bob Hebert and tight end Richard Dickson all sidelined, the Tigers (8-2, 4-2 SEC) managed just 246 total yards in a 24-16 win over Louisiana Tech.
A week after throwing five interceptions in a 10-3 loss to Nebraska, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones lit up Texas A&M for 392 yards and five TDs in a 65-10 rout. It may be just the spark Oklahoma (6-4, 4-2 Big 12) needs heading into season-ending games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The 5-5 Aggies, meanwhile, now rank 108th nationally in scoring defense (34.0 points per game).
When Houston Nutt decides to get Dexter McCluster the ball, Ole Miss' runner/receiver can take over a game. He was unstoppable against Tennessee, running 25 times for 282 yards and four TDs and catching four passes for 42 yards in a 42-17 rout. Unfortunately for the Rebels (7-3), it marked just the third time this season McCluster had more than 15 touches, all in the past four weeks.
Rutgers vanished from the national radar by the end of its first game, but the Scarlet Knights (7-2, 3-2 Big East) have a decent shot of finishing 10-2. Following a 31-0 rout of perennial underachiever USF last Thursday in which freshman quarterback Tom Savage showed why he was such a coveted recruit, Rutgers visits Syracuse and Louisville, then closes at home against West Virginia.
Bobby Bowden likely avoided the indignity of his first losing season in 33 years with Florida State's 41-28 win at Wake Forest. 'Noles fans had to be encouraged by the performance of first-time starting quarterback E.J. Manuel (15-of-20, 220 yards). Manuel, who was Jimbo Fisher's first major recruit back in 2007, will start the rest of the way for 5-5 FSU in place of injured standout Christian Ponder.
Now that Virginia (3-7) is guaranteed its third losing season in four years, it's safe to say Al Groh's days are numbered. However, I'm hearing Colorado's Dan Hawkins -- whose team also fell to 3-7 with a 17-10 loss to Iowa State (6-5) -- will get a reprieve. Colorado's debt-strapped athletic department cannot afford the reported $3 million to buy out the remaining four years on Hawkins' contract.
UCF is the definition of a second-half team. The Knights, which overcame a 17-3 second-quarter deficit and trailed 17-10 at the half of its eventual 37-32 upset of No. 13 Houston on Saturday, have led at the half just once in their six victories ... and just once all season. Saturday's win marked the program's first ever over a ranked opponent.
Here's all you need to know about North Carolina's defense under Butch Davis: The Tar Heels (7-3) have won five straight against ranked foes dating to last season and have forced a combined 15 turnovers in those games.
Here's all you need to know about Michigan's defense under Rich Rodriguez: If the Wolverines (5-6) allow 38 points to Ohio State, they'll match the school record for most points allowed in a season (347) ... which they set last year.
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