College Football Overtime (cont.)
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is one of the rare coaches who has admitted in the past to sometimes being mindful of the polls when managing the final score. I'm guessing LSU's ascension over the Sooners to No. 1 in last week's AP poll may have played a part in Landry Jones sticking around long enough to throw a 56-yard third-quarter touchdown that put OU up 52-6 on Ball State. (Not that it helped: OU, while still No. 1 in the Coaches' poll, fell behind Alabama in the AP.)
Or, Stoops was doing another one of his favorite traditions: sending a message to archrival Texas in advance of this weekend's Red River Shootout, erasing the memory of last week's sloppy defensive performance against Missouri with a 62-6 rout in which standout safety Tony Jefferson intercepted Ball State passes on three consecutive second-quarter possessions.
"It was a big confidence builder for our defense," said Jefferson. "If we hadn't done that, it wouldn't have been a good situation going into Texas."
The Longhorns (4-0), who cracked the Coaches' Top 10 on Sunday, did their own part to add spice to Saturday's showdown with a convincing 37-14 win at 3-0 Iowa State. While Texas has yet to face a top-flight foe, it appears to be getting better by the week. Case McCoy started at quarterback, but the coaches gave ample playing time to freshman David Ash, who went 7-of-12 for 145 yards and two touchdowns. One of those came on a Bryan Harsin/Boise-style trick play in which Ash was somehow the third player to touch the ball.
The 'Horns certainly gave the Sooners plenty to prepare for in what will be the Red River's first matchup of undefeated teams since the memorable 2008 edition, when Colt McCoy-led Texas stunned Sam Bradford's top-ranked Sooners, 45-35.
"I'm not sure a lot of people would've thought five weeks ago we would've been 4-0 right now," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "Guys are playing with a lot of confidence. We know a lot more about us now than we did when we started the season."
The 'Horns have come a long way from last year's 5-7 debacle, but Saturday we'll find out if they're back in the same ballpark as Stoops' loaded team.
My reaction to the latest AP and Coaches' polls:
Overrated: Virginia Tech (Coaches': No. 17; AP: No. 21)
In their only game of note to date, the Hokies scored three points against Clemson. Their best win is against Arkansas State. Who cares where they started? Drop 'em out.
Underrated: Auburn (Coaches': No. 23; AP: No. 15)
No. 15 in the AP may be a bit too high, but the coaches might want to note that the Tigers just went on the road and beat a Top 10 foe, South Carolina -- who they kept ahead of Auburn. The Tigers' one loss, 38-24 at Clemson, doesn't look so bad right now.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's this week's edition:
Title game: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Sugar: LSU vs. Boise State
Orange: Clemson vs. West Virginia
I had to jump off the USF bandwagon after Pitt dismantled the Bulls 44-17 last Thursday. Since blowing a 24-3 lead at Iowa two weeks ago, the Panthers' defense has been suffocating against Notre Dame and USF, while Ray Graham is now the nation's No. 3 rusher (146.8 yards per game). Still, if they played today, I'd have slightly more faith in West Virginia, which takes over my Big East berth this week.
The above lineup also includes one unusual scenario: only one Big Ten team. That's only happened three times in the BCS era, as bowls love that league's fan travel. But with Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all facing serious issues, there's no team besides Wisconsin I feel confident can make it through with fewer than three losses. As noted earlier, Michigan and Illinois are possibilities. Michigan State's loss to Notre Dame might prove costly.