Tuesday September 16th, 2014

Anyone who has played sports at any level in the last 15 years has likely had a coach attempt some version of Al Pacino's speech from Any Given Sunday. The scene from that film is iconic, a go-to clip for JumboTrons across the country.

At this point, Pacino's message might be overplayed. The inches are everywhere around us. But I'll be darned if it doesn't ring true. For example, just look at the Georgia-South Carolina game, in which one fraction of an inch allowed the Gamecocks to retain possession in the waning moments of the fourth quarter and close out a 38-35 win. “If we had a credit card we might have slipped it in there," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. It's too early to tell if that margin will keep the Dawgs from getting into the inaugural College Football Playoff, but it just might.

Georgia falls this week in the Power Rankings, while South Carolina rises. One play, one coaching decision, one tenth of a second (see: the play clock in the first overtime of Florida's 36-30 victory over Kentucky) is all it takes. As Pacino's character, Tony D'Amato, says: "That's football, guys. That's all it is."

STAPLES: South Carolina resets SEC East with win; Punt, Pass & Pork

College Football Power Rankings
 
  • 1
    1Oregon Ducks
     
    last week: 1
    record: 3-0
    Wyoming led 7-0. That was about the only blemish in another easy win for the Ducks. Marcus Mariota passed for 221 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for another 71 yards with two scores. Human victory cigar Jeff Lockie even got some work in. Time for Oregon to head to Washington State, where the over/under should be about $Texas.
     
    Last game: Beat Wyoming, 48-14
    Next game: Saturday at Washington State

  • 2
    2Florida State Seminoles
     
    last week: 2
    record: 2-0
    It was hard to find much fault in the Seminoles’ domination of bye last week. Now comes the real test, a game against Clemson with ESPN's College GameDay in town. Florida State is favored by a lot, and everyone expects the ‘Noles to take care of business against the Tigers.
     
    Last game: Beat The Citadel, 37-12
    Next game: Saturday vs. Clemson

  • 3
    3Oklahoma Sooners
     
    last week: 3
    record: 3-0
    If the early returns are accurate, I'll be eating crow for labeling the Sooners my flop team in SI.com's preseason Crystal Ball. I wasn’t sure what to make of the offense under Trevor Knight, though it might not matter who is throwing passes for Oklahoma, as the defense continues to shine. Granted, Tennessee is a young team. But a win over an SEC foe (especially one with gifted skill players like the Volunteers) should end up being a good one.
     
    Last game: Beat Tennessee, 34-10
    Next game: Saturday at West Virginia

  • 4
    4Alabama Crimson Tide
     
    last week: 4
    record: 3-0
    Another game, another 100-yard receiving effort from Alabama's Amari Cooper. Maybe he deserves a little Heisman Trophy attention. Cooper is thriving in coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense, and quarterback Blake Sims (12-of-17, 168 yards, two touchdowns) is settling into the starting role nicely. He might be planning on staying a while.
     
    Last game: Beat Southern Miss, 52-12
    Next game: Saturday vs. Florida

  • 5
    5Auburn Tigers
     
    last week: 6
    record: 2-0
    You know those flashing dots you sometimes see when you close your eyes? That’s the sense I get from Auburn. The Tigers didn’t play last week, but I swear I still saw them put up 50 points.
     
    Last game: Beat San Jose State, 59-13
    Next game: Thursday at Kansas State

  • 6
    6Baylor Bears
     
    last week: 9
    record: 3-0
    I mean, look at this table. As the defense continues to catch up to the offense, the Bears could be in position to defend their Big 12 crown. Baylor's visit to Oklahoma on Nov. 8 could be for a spot in the playoff.
     
    Last game: Beat Buffalo, 63-21
    Next game: Saturday at Iowa State

  • 7
    7Texas A&M Aggies
     
    last week: 8
    record: 3-0
    When the worst thing you can say about a team's outing is that its newly installed turf didn’t hold up very well, it is doing something right. Boy, I wish Baylor played Texas A&M, if only to see smoke emanating from the scoreboard with cartoon X's on the front of it.
     
    Last game: Beat Rice, 38-10
    Next game: Saturday at SMU

  • 8
    8Notre Dame Fighting Irish
     
    last week: 11
    record: 3-0
    Sometimes you learn more about a team when it’s playing poorly than when it’s playing well. The Fighting Irish didn’t wow anyone against Purdue -- the Boilermakers are a mess right now -- but they showed, yet again, what can happen with a playmaker like Everett Golson under center. The excuses for why the Irish can’t keep this up are valid. (They struggle to run the football; their defense is young and lacks depth.) Those might not matter. That’s how different Notre Dame looks with Golson back and better than ever.
     
    Last game: Beat Purdue, 30-14
    Next game: Sept. 27 vs. Syracuse (in East Rutherford, N.J.)

  • 9
    9LSU Tigers
     
    last week: 10
    record: 3-0
    The Tigers blanked Funroe, limiting the Warhawks to 93 total yards and six first downs. It seems every year we come up with reasons why LSU isn’t a contender. Yet the Tigers make things interesting regardless of how many players bolt for the NFL. Will the young pups grow up in time to compete in the SEC West? Saturday’s clash with Mississippi State should offer a glimpse of the answer.
     
    Last game: Beat Lousiana-Monroe, 31-0
    Next game: Saturday vs. Mississippi State

  • 10
    10Ole Miss Rebels
     
    last week: 12
    record: 3-0
    When quarterback Bo Wallace is at his best, Ole Miss can beat anyone. When Wallace is at his worst, the Rebels are vulnerable. Ole Miss' defense might be able to make up for some of Wallace’s mistakes if (and when) he goes full Gary Nova. That could keep the Rebels in the SEC hunt well into the season.
     
    Last game: Beat Louisiana-Lafayette, 56-15
    Next game: Sept. 27 vs. Memphis

  • 11
    11Stanford Cardinal
     
    last week: 14
    record: 2-1
    It’s not easy to force Army into a goose egg, and Saturday's 35-0 rout of the Black Knights marked the second time the Cardinal have notched a shutout this fall. Stanford's loss to USC still stings, but at least it happened early. It might become the team's rallying cry for what not to do the rest of the way.
     
    Last game: Beat Army, 35-0
    Next game: Sept. 27 at Washington

  • 12
    12Michigan State Spartans
     
    last week: 13
    record: 1-1
    The Spartans had a bye week to let their loss at Oregon fester. Eastern Michigan better have some milkshakes planned for after this Saturday's game. The Eagles might need them after enduring what Michigan State has in store.
     
    Last game: Lost to Oregon, 46-27
    Next game: Saturday vs. Eastern Michigan

  • 13
    13Missouri Tigers
     
    last week: 17
    record: 3-0
    The SEC East appears wide open again this year, so why aren’t people talking about the Tigers? Quarterback Maty Mauk has passed for 12 touchdowns, and Shane Ray and Markus Golden comprise one of the best defensive end tandems in the nation. Mizzou beat a tough UCF team convincingly. Mauk could be in for another big day against Indiana.
     
    Last game: Beat UCF, 38-10
    Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana

  • 14
    14South Carolina Gamecocks
     
    last week: 24
    record: 2-1
    What a difference a week makes. After the way the Gamecocks outlasted Georgia -- and the way East Carolina whipped Virginia Tech -- South Carolina is right back in the public’s good graces. However, if Steve Spurrier's team doesn’t start stopping opponents on third down, things could take a turn for the worse mighty fast.
     
    Last game: Beat Georgia, 38-35
    Next game: Saturday at Vanderbilt

  • 15
    15BYU Cougars
     
    last week: 23
    record: 3-0
    BYU’s schedule is setting up for a dream season, and quarterback Taysom Hill is Little Nemo riding his bed into Slumberland. I’m a believer. This will not, under any circumstances, come back to haunt me.

    Last game: Beat Houston, 33-23
    Next game: Saturday vs. Virginia

  • 16
    16Georgia Bulldogs
     
    last week: 5
    record: 1-1
    Georgia could have won at South Carolina if it just ran the ball on first-and-goal from the four-yard line. Or if kicker Marshall Morgan wouldn’t have missed two field goals. Or if the defense would've come through in any key spot. Or if it wasn’t raining (maybe). Instead, heartbroken tailback Todd Gurley put it best: "[It's the] same thing [all] over again.”
     
    Last game: Lost to South Carolina, 38-35
    Next game: Saturday vs. Troy

  • 17
    17Arizona StATE Sun Devils
     
    last week: 16
    record: 3-0
    Sun Devils running back D.J. Foster has 649 yards from scrimmage through three games. That's nearly as many as Vanderbilt (755). The Scottsdale, Ariz., product has emerged as a reliable threat, and he’ll be put to the test now that Taylor Kelly is set to miss time with a foot injury.
     
    Last game: Beat Colorado, 38-24
    Next game: Sept. 25 vs. UCLA

  • 18
    18UCLA Bruins
     
    last week: 20
    record: 3-0
    Jerry Neuheisel played hero at Jerry World in one of the coolest moments of Week 3. (Well, unless you’re a Texas fan). UCLA is 3-0 despite looking very flawed. Quarterback Brett Hundley’s left elbow is a concern, and the Bruins have yet to put it all together. Still, a Week 1 win over Virginia looks much better now that Cavaliers knocked off Louisville.
     
    Last game: Beat Texas, 20-17
    Next game: Sept. 25 at Arizona State

  • 19
    19Kansas StATE Wildcats
     
    last week: 19
    record: 2-0
    The Wildcats host Auburn on Thursday, so here is a haiku:
     
    Can Bill Snyder win
    cast a spell on the Tigers
    and teach us to love?
     
    Last game: Beat Iowa State, 32-28
    Next game: Thursday vs. Auburn

  • 20
    20USC Trojans
     
    last week: 7
    record: 2-1
    The Trojans were manhandled by Boston College a week after those same Eagles were pushed around by Pittsburgh. That's worrisome. Everything went right for USC in a 13-10 win over Stanford. Everything went wrong on Saturday in Chestnut Hill.
     
    Last game: Lost to Boston College, 37-31
    Next game: Sept. 27 vs. Oregon State

  • 21
    21Wisconsin Badgers
     
    last week: 18
    record: 1-1
    A quick break from analysis for a personal story: When my grandfather died, we flew him to Antigo, Wisc., so he could be buried at home. My father and I stopped in the VFW to have a drink as a tribute. If I remember correctly, they had only two beers on tap, PBR and Miller, and sold them in 12-ounce plastic cups for about $1 each. We told them why we were stopping in, and the bartender had a drink with us. Then, a couple of years ago, I almost lost my dad. When I was on the plane flying to see him, I didn’t know if he was going to be OK. All I felt was fear, the kind that’s so crippling you could mistake it for feeling nothing. There was something serene about fixating on that exact moment in that dark, wood-paneled bar. I still don’t know if Wisconsin is any good this year (the Badgers had an open date last week), but I haven’t shared this story publicly before. I felt like now was as good a time as any.
     
    Last game: Beat Western Illinois, 37-3
    Next game: Saturday vs. Bowling Green

  • 22
    22Ohio State Buckeyes
     
    last week: 21
    record: 2-1
    You know those movies in which the main character (usually played by Mel Gibson or Liam Neeson) has something terrible happen to him, so to get over the past he takes it out on the first bad guy/henchman/Eastern European dude with an unplaceable accent he can find? That’s kind of like what the Buckeyes did to Kent State on Saturday.
     
    Last game: Beat Kent State, 66-0
    Next game: Sept. 27 vs. Cincinnati

  • 23
    23Oklahoma State Cowboys
     
    last week: NR
    record: 2-1
    Blessed are self-deprecating coaches, for they shall be called the children of God.
     
    Last game: Beat UTSA, 43-13
    Next game: Sept. 25 vs. Texas Tech

  • 24
    24Penn State Nittany Lions
     
    last week: NR
    record: 3-0
    Kevin Manahan of NJ.com penned a column on Sunday arguing that Penn State doesn’t respect Rutgers. If that doesn’t prove -- along with this fan and this sign -- that Rutgers is already Big Ten as all heck, I don’t know what will. As for the Nittany Lions, they scraped by in Piscataway, N.J., but did so in the type of game they haven't won for the past few seasons. Penn State is eligible for the postseason again, and it has as good a chance as anyone to win the conference.

    Last game: Beat Rutgers, 13-10
    Next game: Saturday vs. Massachusetts

  • 25
    25East Carolina Pirates
     
    last week: NR
    record: 2-1
    When I was at Virginia Tech last week, no coach or player took East Carolina lightly. All I heard was how the Pirates had a heck of a quarterback, how Bud Foster thought Justin Hardy was one of the best wide receivers the Hokies would face and how “that No. 54 [Terry Williams] was a big dude.” This wasn’t a trap game. This was a good football team punching another pretty good football team in the mouth.
     
    Last game: Beat Virginia Tech, 28-21
    Next game: Saturday vs. North Carolina

Next five: Nebraska, Clemson, Mississippi State, Duke, Utah

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.