Tuesday November 10th, 2009

So much for editorial freedom. I asked this week if I could rank Alabama, Florida and Texas all No. 1 and draw a thick line between college football's elite and the rest of the above-average teams, but was denied. I knew the Associated Press would make me assign a number to each team for my poll ballot, but figured my own employer might give me a little leeway. Alas, my editors forced me to put the big three in order.

Which is a shame, because after watching Alabama beat LSU in Tuscaloosa this weekend, I believe the Crimson Tide deserve to be ranked No. 1. But neither Texas nor Florida did anything to deserve a drop in the polls, so I had to leave the teams where they were last week. Fortunately, if all goes according to plan, Alabama and Florida will meet on Dec. 5, and the winner of that game will face Texas on Jan. 7. So we'll get an answer eventually.

Some folks in Cincinnati, Fort Worth and Boise may not find that answer satisfactory, but the people who run college football don't care what those people think. They also don't care what you or I think. In fact, if we wind up with an Alabama-Texas or Florida-Texas BCS title game, the powers-that-be will hail the matchup as proof that the BCS works perfectly.

We all know it doesn't, but until Stewart Mandel becomes a conference commissioner and brings the Mandel Plan to the masses, we're stuck with it.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 1
The Longhorns could have beaten Central Florida by more, and Colt McCoy could have broken Major Applewhite's school record for passing yards in a game with just three more yards, but Mack Brown allowed George O'Leary's team to maintain some dignity. Besides, a more important record sits on the horizon for McCoy. With a win Saturday at Baylor, McCoy would tie former Georgia quarterback David Greene for the all-time NCAA wins record (42).
Last game: Beat Central Florida, 35-3
Next game: Saturday at Baylor
2Florida Gators
Last Week: 2
The Gators need to shore up their pass protection before they face Alabama in the national semifinal SEC title game. Florida doesn't have many weaknesses, but the Gators have allowed 22 sacks, and their 2.44 sacks allowed per game ties for 83rd nationally. Florida's line should get some good practice Saturday against Eric Norwood, South Carolina's all-time sack leader.
Last game: Beat Vanderbilt, 27-3
Next game: Saturday at South Carolina
3Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 3
Most SEC conspiracy theories are hogwash, but the chestnut floating around Tuscaloosa saying someone wanted to stick it to the Crimson Tide when they made the schedule does seem remotely believable. Alabama's final two SEC games come on the road against teams coming off a bye. The first of those games comes Saturday in Starkville. How important is the bye? Just ask the Tide, who used their bye well to prepare for a win against LSU last week.
Last game: Beat LSU, 24-15
Next game: Saturday at Mississippi State
4Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: 4
The knock on Cincinnati coming into the season was its inexperience on defense. For eight games, the Bearcats played like veterans. On Saturday against Connecticut, Cincy allowed 461 yards and -- with an assist from some poor punt coverage -- 45 points. The Huskies' Jordan Todman ran for 162 yards and four touchdowns. West Virginia's Noel Devine is better than Todman.
Last game: Beat Connecticut, 47-45
Next game: Friday vs. West Virginia
5TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: 5
The computers love the Horned Frogs, and the human voters finally have come around as well. TCU can't rise any higher in the BCS standings unless one of the big three loses, but the Horned Frogs can solidify their spot in a BCS bowl if they beat Utah on Saturday and hold serve the rest of the way.
Last game: Beat San Diego State, 55-12
Next game: Saturday vs. Utah
6Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 6
People laughed last week when the WAC revealed it had hired a public relations firm to promote Boise State's cause with the BCS. Scoff all you want, but the first story that PR firm pushed suggested the elite teams are running scared of the Broncos, which explains Boise State's lackluster schedule. I still have one question, though. What about the non-elite BCS conference teams? Those guys would kill for a slot on national TV. If Boise had played them instead of Tulsa, it'd be sitting pretty.
Last game: Beat Louisiana Tech, 45-35
Next game: Saturday vs. Idaho
7Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last Week: 11
Don't think that just because Duke lost to North Carolina, the Blue Devils won't challenge the Yellow Jackets. Teams that primarily pass the ball have their way with Georgia Tech's defense, and Duke's Thaddeus Lewis averages 269.8 yards per game. That may not matter, though, because Georgia Tech's offense has had its way with opposing defenses.
Last game: Beat Wake Forest, 30-27 (OT)
Next game: Saturday at Duke
8Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: 12
The Panthers can thank Navy for the attention they'll receive this week. The national media will descend on Heinz field for the Charlie Weis job watch, but the real show may be Pitt tailback Dion Lewis, the nation's best freshman.
Last game: Beat Syracuse, 37-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Notre Dame
9Ohio St. Buckeyes
Last Week: 15
It's a testament to Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel that after all the forecasts of gloom and doom, Ohio State is one win away from the Rose Bowl. If the Buckeyes beat Iowa, they would clinch their seventh BCS bowl game in eight seasons.
Last game: Beat Penn State, 24-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Iowa
10LSU Tigers
Last Week: 9
No major poll severely penalized the Tigers for their loss in Tuscaloosa, and with good reason. LSU, playing without its starting quarterback and starting tailback, hung tough with Alabama. Under different circumstances, LSU might be a national title contender. As it is, the Tigers might be the best team playing in a non-BCS bowl.
Last game: Lost to Alabama, 24-15
Next game: Saturday vs. Louisiana Tech
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