Ranked-on-ranked matchups will bring tectonic shifts to Top 25
There will be chaos. Oh yes, something big is going to happen this week. I can feel it.
How's that for a bold prediction?
OK, so I'm not exactly going out on a limb. The Power Rankings will undergo some tectonic shifts this week thanks to two games (Florida-Alabama and Stanford-Oregon) matching top 10 teams. Meanwhile, three other games (Wisconsin-Michigan State, Texas-Oklahoma, Penn State-Iowa) feature ranked teams. That doesn't even take into account the fun that always comes when the bulk of America's power-conference schools turn away from their directional foes and begin playing honest-to-goodness power-conference football.
That's great for all you aspiring Told You So e-mail writers -- keep reading for a special Celebrity Told You So -- because some of your teams are bound to expose teams I've overrated. It's also great for me because shaking up the rankings keeps them interesting.
With all the ranked-on-ranked action this week, a shake-up is imminent. So if you happen to be in the Eugene, Ore., IHOP while the sun rises on the East Coast, say hi. I'll be the guy staring at his laptop and muttering into his Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity about where to put Utah.
Last Week: 1
Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0)Arkansas made the Crimson Tide bleed Saturday. Now all those aspiring Rockys know college football's Ivan Drago isn't a machine. Still, it was astounding how quickly Alabama closed that wound and took over when necessary in Fayetteville. The offense got cute for a while -- with near-disastrous results -- but when it mattered most, offensive coordinator Jim McElwain fed Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and Juggernaut Trent Richardson and let the line maul defenders. If Alabama never gets any cuter than that the rest of the way, it may not matter. Quarterback Greg McElroy could hoist a sign declaring "I'm handing this one to Ingram through the four hole," and only a handful of defenses would have the personnel to stop the Tide's forward progress.
Last game: Beat Arkansas, 24-20
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida
Last Week: 2
Ohio St. Buckeyes (4-0)Saturday's touchdown pass from tailback Jordan Hall to quarterback Terrelle Pryor might not even be the best pass Hall has ever thrown to his former Jeanette (Pa.) High teammate. (That would be this one, or perhaps the 28-yard touchdown pass Hall threw to Pryor in the 2007 Class 2A state title game.) No matter where the pass ranks, it's simply another reminder that Sweatervestball is a lot more fun this season than it used to be. And it's about to be unleashed upon the Big Ten.
Last game: Beat Eastern Michigan, 73-20
Next game: Saturday at Illinois
Last Week: 3
Boise St. Broncos (3-0)Barring a letdown of epic proportions, the Broncos will go 12-0 after dispatching Virginia Tech and Oregon State. Will that be good enough to make the BCS title game? Who knows? Now Boise State must wait, avoid slipping and hope the dominoes fall in a precise pattern.
Last game: Beat Oregon State, 37-24
Next game: Saturday at New Mexico State
Last Week: 4
Oregon Ducks (4-0)The Ducks gave up 597 yards to Arizona State. That's positively mind-blowing. Even more mind-blowing is that they still won by 11. Not all of the Sun Devils' seven turnovers were unforced errors, so Oregon's defense deserves some credit for stiffening when needed most. But mark this down: If Stanford's offensive output comes anywhere near 597 yards Saturday, the score will be quite lopsided, and the Ducks' national title hopes will suffer a serious blow. But if Oregon plays better defense between the 20s and scores a few more lightning-strike touchdowns, the Ducks can beat the team that might be the top challenger for the Pac-10 title.
Last game: Beat Arizona State, 42-31
Next game: Saturday vs. Stanford
Last Week: 5
TCU Horned Frogs (4-0)I'm not sure why the rest of the Associated Press Poll electorate and the coaches suddenly decided to leap Oregon over TCU -- I did it after Week 1 -- but the Horned Frogs needn't worry. If the power conference teams knock one another off and TCU can win out, the Frogs may be the ones doing the hopping. Boise State's win against Oregon State was more or less comparable to TCU's. Fairly or unfairly, that's how Boise State and TCU will be judged against one another. The difference is that if TCU wins out, it also would have a win against Utah on its résumé (or vice-versa if Utah beats the Frogs and wins out). Unless Virginia Tech surges and saves the perception of Boise State's schedule, the Mountain West's marquee matchup on Nov. 6 may be the deciding factor between the would-be BCS busters.
Last game: Beat SMU, 41-24
Next game: Saturday at Colorado State
Last Week: 6
Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0)Nebraska coach Bo Pelini sounded like the losing coach after his team's lackluster effort Saturday against South Dakota State. "Obviously, I'm not pushing the panic button because this is the same football team that went out to Washington last week and played pretty good football," Pelini said. "You have to have consistency. For us to show up like that at home today, I'm embarrassed. Like I said, it's my fault." Fortunately for the Cornhuskers, they still won. Now they have some extra time to prepare for a Thursday night special in the Little Apple against tailback Daniel Thomas and Kansas State.
Last game: Beat South Dakota State, 17-3
Next game: Oct. 7 at Kansas State
Last Week: 11
Florida Gators (4-0)The Gators sputtered on offense with a quarterback better suited for a pro-style scheme than for Coach Urban Meyer's spread option. Then Florida found a freshman backup quarterback who can run like a bull, giving the Gators the between-the-tackles running threat they needed to open up the rest of the offense. Any of this sound familiar? Let's not project the career of Tim Tebow onto Trey Burton after one great game. After all, while Burton is officially Florida's backup quarterback, he also plays fullback, tight end and receiver. Burton could have a far more negative experience in Tuscaloosa on Saturday than he did in a six-touchdown breakout against Kentucky in The Swamp this past weekend. Still, if Burton's emergence helps the Gators' offense diversify to complement a playmaking defense, Florida may not have as much trouble reloading as we thought it would in the post-Tebow era.
Last game: Beat Kentucky, 48-14
Next game: Saturday at Alabama
Last Week: 15
Stanford Cardinal (4-0)This week's Told You So doesn't come in the form of an e-mail. It came in person from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at the Pac-10's media event in New York in July. Luck had read my column about the delightfully cryptic messages on Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh's Twitter feed, but Luck regretted to inform me that I had guessed wrong on one. On June 23, Harbaugh wrote that he dreamed of the Greek god Kairos gliding across the field. I guessed this message had to do with a lanky receiver prospect who had recently committed to the Cardinal. Luck set the record straight. Luck told me that on the night Harbaugh sent the tweet, a Stanford professor had offered a lecture on Kairos, the god of opportunity -- or, more specifically, of the opportune moment. Maybe it's time to bring that professor in for a pep talk. Because Stanford's moment will come Saturday in a game moved to East Coast prime time to showcase the Pac-10's two best teams so far.
Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 37-14
Next game: Saturday at Oregon
Last Week: 8
Arizona Wildcats (4-0)You didn't need binoculars to see Arizona's Saturday struggles coming a mile away. Cal, which isn't a bad team, had just been embarrassed on national television by Nevada. Arizona had just beaten Iowa for its biggest nonconference win in years. Motivated opponent plus hangover equals letdown. The good news for the Wildcats? They survived thanks to a three-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Juron Criner with 1:11 remaining. Now, the Bear Down Bunch has a week off to calm its nerves and get back to normal. If the Wildcats hope to win the Pac-10 title, they'll have to learn to refocus better after big wins.
Last game: Beat Cal, 10-9
Next game: Oct. 9 vs. Oregon State
Last Week: 9
Oklahoma Sooners (4-0)It would be easy to blame Texas for the tepid anticipation for this year's Red River game, but the Sooners also nearly gagged one away on Saturday. Oklahoma is one of the tougher-to-gauge teams in college football. The Sooners looked unstoppable against Florida State on Sept. 11, but they have looked quite mortal against Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati. So it's impossible to guess which Oklahoma team will show up at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.
Last game: Beat Cincinnati, 31-29
Next game: Saturday vs. Texas in Dallas