Top six have separated from pack, but Week 4 could create chaos
Because so many of us had a bad week last week, choosing this week's Disgrace to the University proved a daunting task.
A number of Cal fans e-mailed last week questioning my intelligence for not ranking the Golden Bears. Strangely enough, I haven't heard from any of those people since Cal got Kapernicked at Nevada on Friday. The way the night went, the Bears' team buses probably got pulled over on the way to the airport by this guy and charged with impersonating a Pac-10 team.
The rest of the vitriol last week seemed to originate in Ann Arbor, where people should be so sated by delicious Zingerman's sandwiches and baked goods that they should never get angry for any reason. Still, Michigan fans couldn't believe I hadn't ranked their team.
Strangely enough, I haven't heard from any of them since the best UMass team not coached by John Calipari nearly got as Hot, Hot, Hot as Appalachian State in 2007. Presumably, Michigan fans are still too busy breathing into brown paper bags to type e-mails of apology.
But none of those e-mails were as dumb as the sentence written by this week's Disgrace to the University winner -- I mean, loser. It's me, for writing in last week's Power Rankings that Texas had beaten Texas. I wish I could say I was making some sort of metaphysical commentary on the Longhorns, but they had beaten Wyoming soundly enough. I just screwed up, and for that, I'm sorry. So congratulations, University of Florida College of Journalism, you produced a moron.
Fortunately, picking this week's top six was much easier than picking the Disgrace. Though it's still early, these teams seem to have separated themselves from the pack. Luckily for those of us who love college football and poll chaos, this week will bring the first set of games that could allow the field to catch up with the leaders.
Last Week: 1
Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0)The Crimson Tide seem even more dominant than last season despite replacing nine starters on defense. But is that a mirage? This week should be telling. Last year, Alabama's defense destroyed Arkansas in a 35-7 win. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett completed just 12 of 35 passes for 160 yards against the Tide defense. Though Alabama had only three sacks, Tide defenders were in Mallett's face most of the day. The most frequent visitor? Defensive end Marcell Dareus, who had three hurries. Look for Alabama to blitz from the outside plenty. Last year, cornerback Javier Arenas had two sacks against the Hogs. If the newer version of Alabama's defense can produce an equally dominant performance on the road against an improved Arkansas, it's going to be a long season for the rest of the SEC.
Last game: Beat Duke, 62-13
Next game: Saturday at Arkansas
Last Week: 2
Ohio St. Buckeyes (3-0)The Buckeyes get one more tune-up before starting Big Ten play. Illinois, Ohio State's opponent in its Oct. 2 conference opener, is praying the Buckeyes can't get anymore fine-tuned than they already are.
Last game: Beat Ohio, 43-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Eastern Michigan
Last Week: 3
Boise St. Broncos (2-0)Broncos coach Chris Petersen must cringe every time he reads something like this, but it's the truth: If Boise State beats Oregon State on Saturday, only a miracle of Chaminade-Virginia proportions will keep the Broncos from an undefeated regular season. At that point, scoreboard watching will become the top spectator sport in Idaho. Given the current voting climate, the threat of an undefeated TCU or Utah and the groundswell of anti-SmurfTurf sentiment, the Broncos will be wishing for all hell to break loose, 2007 style.
Last game: Beat Wyoming, 51-6
Next game: Saturday vs. Oregon State
VIDEO: Does Boise deserve to be ranked No. 3?
Last Week: 4
Oregon Ducks (3-0)The Ducks have blasted through an early-season slate that included only one BCS-conference opponent -- a less-than-stellar Tennessee team. Saturday, Oregon begins Pac-10 play in Tempe against a team that came one yard on a kickoff return away from knocking off Wisconsin in Madison last week.
Last game: Beat Portland State, 69-0
Next game: Saturday at Arizona State
Last Week: 6
TCU Horned Frogs (3-0)TCU's fate is largely tied to what happens Saturday in Boise. The Horned Frogs, who lost to the Broncos in last season's Fiesta Bowl, opened the season with a 30-21 win against Oregon State. Fair or not, the teams likely will be judged on how they fared against the Beavers -- and possibly in games against Wyoming -- if each winds up undefeated. Of course, if TCU keeps blasting foes, the Horned Frogs may jump the Broncos by virtue of their tougher schedule. TCU can't look too far ahead, though. Friday brings a matchup with sneaky-good SMU.
Last game: Beat Baylor, 45-10
Next game: Friday at SMU
Last Week: 9
Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0)This week's Told You So e-mail worked more like a Told You So grenade. Adam in Gilbert, Ariz., sent it on Aug. 17 and waited a month for it to explode with righteousness this past weekend. Adam is a Nebraska fan, and he took issue with me ranking Iowa so much higher than Nebraska in the preseason. Here's what he wrote: "Compare to Iowa, who has to replace three starters on their offensive line and averaged less points than Nebraska. Iowa very easily could have been 7-5. Nebraska's offense will be much, much better than last year. Add a full year of experience in and an offensive line that is healthy. It will add up to a much improved offense." Sure enough, Iowa's offensive line issues cost the Hawkeyes in a loss at Arizona. Meanwhile, Nebraska's offense kept on humming at Washington. If only Adam had tipped off the rest of us to the brilliance of Cornhuskers quarterback Taylor Martinez running the zone-read option, we could have all headed to Vegas and bet the over on every Nebraska game we could before the wise guys got wise.
Last game: Beat Washington, 56-21
Next game: South Dakota State
Last Week: 5
Texas Longhorns (3-0)The Texas offense needs a lot of work. After an offseason spent trying to bolster the running game, the Longhorns seem as dependent on the pass as they were when Colt McCoy took the snaps. Texas will have to run better, because sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert seems most comfortable on play-action passes. But play-action only works if the defense thinks the offense can actually run the ball. Texas might have dropped lower this week after such a shaky offensive performance against Texas Tech, but the Longhorns are so good on defense that only a few teams have the firepower to score enough to beat them.
Last game: Beat Texas Tech, 24-14
Next game: Saturday vs. UCLA
Last Week: 17
Arizona Wildcats (3-0)Welcome to the big-time, Wildcats. Now don't blow it. Arizona players have to be the toast of Tucson, and they probably aren't sweating this week's visit from Cal if they watched the Golden Bears get sliced and diced at Nevada last week. That's why this week is dangerous.
Last game: Beat Iowa, 34-27
Next game: Saturday vs. Cal
Last Week: 10
Oklahoma Sooners (3-0)Before the season, a trip to the Queen City looked like one of the Sooners' toughest tests. Not anymore. The Bearcats and their soft defense should provide relief for Oklahoma after Air Force pushed the Sooners to the brink last week.
Last game: Beat Air Force, 27-24
Next game: Saturday at Cincinnati
Last Week: 8
Wisconsin Badgers (3-0)The Badgers need another gimme win to work out the kinks after last week's near-disaster against better-than-expected Arizona State. The cupcake also gives Wisconsin more time to allow receivers Nick Toon (turf toe) and David Gilreath (concussion) to get healthy. Wisconsin will need all the help it can get on Oct. 2 at Michigan State.
Last game: Beat Arizona State, 20-19
Next game: Saturday vs. Austin Peay