With its dramatic 13-10 win over No. 11 TCU last Thursday, Utah firmly established itself as the highest ranked of the non-BCS teams. But the Utes didn't exactly blow anybody away, either. They went 59 minutes without a touchdown, were outgained 416 to 275 and were extremely fortunate that TCU missed two late field goals to leave the door open for their game-winning drive.
Note that Utah also needed a dramatic, last-minute rally in its other big win of the season over Oregon State, and, in the game that originally put the Utes on the map, had to hold on for dear life to survive Michigan, which is now 3-7.
Again, Utah most certainly deserves the highest ranking of the non-BCS bunch. It's undefeated and alone atop the toughest non-BCS league, the Mountain West. It has beaten TCU (9-2), Air Force (8-2) and Oregon State (6-3), whereas fellow undefeated Boise State's lone substantive win was at Oregon (7-3). Undefeated Ball State's best win came against Indiana (3-7).
Utah deserved to be rewarded for beating TCU (which I had moved ahead of the Utes last week), and I did move them up one spot from 10th to ninth, but I'm starting to believe that we the voters are being overly generous in our rankings of these teams.
I jumped 8-2 Ohio State above Utah this week. Why? Because no part of me believes the Utes would stand a chance against Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells. I would have moved Georgia ahead of them as well had the Dawgs not struggled so mightily to win at Kentucky. (I did move them ahead of Boise State.) Oklahoma State is almost certainly better than the Utes and Broncos, too, but that would have required keeping the Cowboys in the same spot after losing 56-20 to Texas Tech.
Utah will deserve its coveted top-12 spot if it beats 9-1 BYU and finishes undefeated in an admittedly tough conference, but don't get fooled into thinking these are the 2004 Utes. That Alex Smith-led team may very well have beaten a top five foe in a BCS game if given the chance. This team has proven that, if given the right breaks, it can beat TCU and Oregon State.
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Last Week: 1
Alabama Crimson Tide (10-0)Some have argued that Texas Tech should usurp Alabama for No. 1. While 'Bama was hardly at its best Saturday, the Tide have posted their two biggest wins (Georgia and LSU) on the road while Tech's have both come at home.
Last game: Beat LSU, 27-21 (OT).
Next game: Saturday vs. Mississippi State.
Last Week: 3
Texas Tech Red Raiders (10-0)Are you starting to believe in the Texas Tech defense? First the Red Raiders held Colt McCoy to a season-low completion percentage. Last week they held Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson without a touchdown for the first time this season.
Last game: Beat Oklahoma State, 56-20.
Next game: Nov. 22 at Oklahoma.
Last Week: 4
Florida Gators (8-1)Remember the days when Florida was struggling to find its offensive identity? Saturday's win over Vanderbilt marked the Gators' fourth-straight game scoring at least 42 points. Vandy came in having allowed 16.5 points per contest.
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 42-14.
Next game: Saturday vs. South Carolina.
Last Week: 5
Texas Longhorns (9-1)The absence of star DE Brian Orakpo didn't stop Texas from holding Baylor's standout freshman QB Robert Griffin to 6-of-19 passing for 71 yards. Meanwhile, WR Quan Cosby returned to catch eight passes for 111 yards and two TDs.
Last game: Beat Baylor, 45-21.
Next game: Saturday at Kansas.
Last Week: 6
Oklahoma Sooners (9-1)The Sooners have been flying under the radar since their Texas loss, beating up on mediocre teams, but that's about to change. They finish with 10-0 Texas Tech, 8-2 Oklahoma State and, if they win those, possibly 8-2 Missouri.
Last game: Beat Texas A&M, 66-28.
Next game: Nov. 22 vs. Texas Tech.
Last Week: 7
USC Trojans (8-1)The Trojans' defense is ridiculous, allowing 6.7 points per game. Cal was USC's fifth opponent to go without a touchdown. But the Trojans continue to waste their offensive talent, scoring just 17 points for the second time in three games.
Last week: Beat Cal, 17-3.
Next game: Saturday at Stanford.
Last Week: 2
Penn State Nittany Lions (9-1)What has happened to the vaunted Spread HD? After torching their first eight opponents, the Nittany Lions averaged just 18 points and 285 yards against Ohio State and Iowa. As the offense died, so, too, did their BCS title hopes.
Last game: Lost to Iowa, 24-23.
Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana.
Last Week: 12
Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2)Northwestern found out the hard way just how tough it is to defend Terrelle Pryor. On at least three occasions he eluded what seemed like near-certain sacks to complete a 46-yard pass, a 44-yard pass and a six-yard touchdown pass.
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 45-10.
Next game: Saturday at Illinois.
Last Week: 10
Utah Utes (10-0)QB Brian Johnson's last-minute touchdown drive to beat TCU was a thing of beauty. The senior completed 7-of-9 passes for all 80 yards, culminating in a 9-yard strike to Freddie Brown with just 48 seconds remaining.
Last game: Beat TCU, 13-10.
Next game: Saturday at San Diego State.
Last Week: 13
Georgia Bulldogs (8-2)Georgia's defense is limping to the finish, allowing 125 points in the last three games. But the Dawgs still have Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford, who went 17-of-27 for 376 yards and three TDs against Kentucky.
Last game: Beat Kentucky, 42-38.
Next game: Saturday at Auburn.