Disgruntled fans, take note: Ducks' recent climb may be short-lived
The hate mail will pour forth from Columbus and Boise this week. That's perfectly understandable.
After all, I vaulted Oregon to No. 2 following the Ducks' 52-31 win against Stanford on Saturday. This will irk the Buckeyes and Broncos, because both their schools beat Oregon last year, and most of the personnel from all three teams remains intact.
Which begs a question: How much should last year's results play into this year's polls? Purists would say that anything that happened in another season should have no bearing on this season. Others, meanwhile, will point to the startlingly similar starting lineups and suggest that the same thing might happen again.
I fall somewhere in between. Since this is just a beauty contest and we have no opportunity for these teams to settle this on the field, every piece of information helps. Boise State did shut down Oregon's offense in the season opener last year. Ohio State did dominate the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. I considered those factors when I put together this week's poll.
But I also considered the fact that Oregon has a new quarterback (Darron Thomas) who appears to make the offense more potent than it was under Jeremiah Masoli. That makes the Ducks different from the team that lost to Boise State and Ohio State. Also, after a sloppy first quarter that led to an 18-point deficit, Oregon put the hammer down on a top-10 team, outscoring Stanford 49-10 in the final three quarters. Neither Boise State nor Ohio State has put together such an impressive win to this point.
That doesn't mean Oregon is locked in at No. 2 and Ohio State and Boise State are stuck at No. 3 and No. 4. Last year, I shuffled undefeated Alabama, Texas and Florida almost every week depending on how each team looked the previous week. That's probably going to happen this season as well. So if the Ducks decide to go on cruise control this week in Pullman, don't be surprised if the Buckeyes or Broncos leap them again.
Last Week: 1
Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0)With apologies to the dedicated Ole Miss students who brought the great Rebel Alliance officer back into the nation's collective consciousness, Alabama is headed this week into an Admiral Ackbar Special Alabama played a tough, emotional game on the road against Arkansas, then came home for a game against Florida that received as much hype as either of the past two SEC championship games. Now, the Crimson Tide go on the road to face a good team coming off an open week and still angry about letting one slip away at Auburn. If the Crimson Tide are going to slip, this is the perfect storm. If, despite these circumstances, Alabama goes into Williams-Brice Stadium and throttles the Gamecocks, then the Tide have officially become the SEC's version of the Death Star. (And, just for kicks, here's more Admiral Ackbar, courtesy of our Turner brethren at Robot Chicken.
Last game: Beat Florida, 31-6
Next game: Saturday at South Carolina
Last Week: 4
Oregon Ducks (5-0)Oregon's defense is perplexing. In two Pac-10 games, the Ducks have allowed 1,115 yards. That sounds positively awful, but it didn't look as bad during the games. Most of the production by opposing offenses has come in the first half. In the second half this season, Oregon has allowed a grand total of seven points. And while Arizona State and Stanford moved the ball against the Ducks, they also coughed it up 10 times. That allowed Oregon's breakneck offense to take over against an already tired defense. It seems unthinkable that Oregon could keep allowing so many yards and stay dominant, but this team might be able to pull it off.
Last game: Beat Stanford, 52-31
Next game: Saturday at Washington State
Last Week: 2
Ohio St. Buckeyes (5-0)The Buckeyes looked shaky on Saturday against Illinois, but that probably can be written off as a first road-game hiccup. Indiana should provide a decent test for Ohio State's defense heading into the Wisconsin game. Meanwhile, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who missed a few plays Saturday with a strained left quadriceps muscle, will have to throw for more than 76 yards in some of the games Ohio State has coming up if the Buckeyes hope to stay undefeated.
Last game: Beat Illinois, 24-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Indiana
Last Week: 3
Boise St. Broncos (4-0)This week's Disgrace to the University is more of a Disgrace to the Conference. It came to my inbox because Boise State's success has turned many SEC fans as insecure as a balding, beer-bellied mid-level executive standing next to the Corvettes at the Chevy dealership. This came from Rav in Tampa, and it is edited only for dirty words. "You are a [expletive] idiot. Boise St. cannot beat 'bama. When have they ever played SEC quality defense? combined with a potent offense? im my opinion the national title game is really the SEC championship, since that conference is the only one with quality teams. We consistenly have more teams in our conference ranked in the top 25, [expletive] even the top 10 than any other conference in the nation. SEC should really just move out of the BCS and start their own conference and have their title game be the supreme game. you sir are a [expletive] idiot writing stories about [expletive] teams to get paid. [Expletive] you. [expletive] [Rav tried to write a cuss word here, but he only wrote "as"] journalism." Congratulations, Broncos. You've arrived. You've got them scared.
Last game: Beat New Mexico State, 59-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Toledo
Last Week: 5
TCU Horned Frogs (5-0)This Mountain West Conference game may seem insignificant, but depending on how things shake out at the top of the polls, it could be quite meaningful. TCU and Boise State's wins against Oregon State weren't all that different from one another. Wyoming is the only other common opponent for those programs. Boise State beat the Cowboys, 51-6, in Laramie on Sept. 18. If the Horned Frogs and Broncos find themselves fighting over a spot in the BCS title game, the result of this game could figure into the deliberations.
Last game: Beat Colorado State, 27-0
Next game: Saturday vs. Wyoming
Last Week: 6
Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0)Washington's win at USC on Saturday made Nebraska's win in Seattle look a little better, but colleague Stewart Mandel made an excellent point last week. If Texas isn't very good, Nebraska's schedule isn't much better than Boise State's or TCU's. By season's end, Thursday's game against an improved Kansas State might wind up being one of Nebraska's toughest challenges.
Last game: Beat South Dakota State, 17-3
Next game: Thursday at Kansas State
Last Week: 10
Oklahoma Sooners (5-0)The Sooners survived a tougher-than-most out-of-conference schedule and the Red River Rivalry unscathed. That puts Oklahoma in an enviable position, especially since the Sooners don't have to play Nebraska or Kansas State in the regular season. Other than Boise State, the Sooners may have the easiest path to 12-0 from this point forward.
Last game: Beat Texas, 28-20
Next game: Oct. 16 vs. Iowa State
Last Week: 12
Utah Utes (4-0)Making Oklahoma's job easier is the fact that its next opponent, Iowa State, must first face the Utes. Iowa State's offense torched Texas Tech for 52 points this past weekend, but Utah will not surrender points so easily. When Utah has the ball, the Utes may be breaking in a new playmaker. Reggie Dunn, a sophomore receiver who transferred from Compton (Calif.) Community College, took an end-around 43 yards for a touchdown against San Jose State, and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has said he would like to incorporate the speedster into the offense more.
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 56-3
Next game: Saturday at Iowa State
Last Week: 9
Arizona Wildcats (4-0)The Wildcats barely survived Cal in a game that followed a landmark win against Iowa. Now that things have settled down, Arizona should get back to its high-scoring ways. If not, the Wildcats won't beat Oregon State, which is a pretty good team victimized by a tough schedule.
Last game: Beat Cal, 10-9
Next game: Saturday vs. Oregon State
Last Week: 13
Auburn Tigers (5-0)A reader asked a very interesting question on Twitter on Monday: If quarterback Cameron Newton had stayed at Florida -- remember, he wasn't kicked off the team for the fenced/tossed from-dorm-window laptop incident -- would he be starting for the Gators right now? The easy answer? Yes, and last weekend's game between Florida and Alabama would have been a lot more interesting. The more realistic answer? Maybe, maybe not. Which means Newton made the right call leaving Gainesville. And the Tigers are grateful he did.
Last game: Beat Louisiana-Monroe, 52-3
Next game: Saturday at Kentucky