For the past five weeks, while teams below them squared off in high-profile games and/or suffered early-season setbacks, Florida and Texas have quietly held on to the Nos. 1 and 2 rankings bequeathed to them since nearly the day last season ended.
At last, judgment time has arrived -- at least for the Gators.
Florida's long-anticipated trip to LSU on Saturday will pit the owners of the past three BCS championships and mark the first matchup this season between top-five teams. Between now and Saturday night, you can expect around-the-clock speculation about
Some will say it doesn't really matter. If Florida's defense is as advertised, it should have little trouble stopping LSU's woeful offense (ranked 99th nationally at 321.6 yards per game). And even if Tebow doesn't go, the Gators have a more capable backup than most in
It's not that simple.
As my colleague
But it's awfully hard to win an SEC game one-dimensionally, and the prospect of Brantley making his first career start in Death Valley is made more daunting by the lack of productivity thus far from Florida's depleted receiving corps.
As for that LSU offense, I'll reiterate
If Florida's worst nightmare comes true -- Tebow doesn't play and
Still, even a single defeat would take the Gators' fate out of their hands. They'd have to hope the national-title race devolves into another jumble of one-loss teams, and they'd have to hope the voters still consider them the best of the bunch -- particularly if Texas runs the table.
The Longhorns' first red-letter date long figured to be the Oct. 17 Red River Shootout, but suddenly that Oklahoma showdown has lost its sizzle. With the one-time No. 3 Sooners suffering their second defeat Saturday night at Miami, the Dallas game has gone from a "must-win" to a "should-win" for Texas.
Whether or not Heisman winner
Even with all that adversity, Oklahoma has suffered a pair of one-point, non-conference losses, and Stoops said afterward, "I still really believe in my team." His team, however, fell to 19th in this week's AP poll, which means Texas won't face its first Top 10 opponent until at least Oct. 31 when it visits Oklahoma State (currently 15th). It's possible they won't face one at all.
After spending much of last season in the national spotlight, the Big 12 has endured a nightmarish non-conference slate. Following Oklahoma's loss, Arkansas' 47-19 shellacking of Texas A&M and Colorado's 35-24 loss to West Virginia, the league finished 4-7 against BCS-conference foes. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech both lost to Houston. Kansas and Missouri are the league's only other remaining undefeated teams.
Much more so than Florida, the 'Horns may not be able to afford a single blemish, because one-loss teams like Virginia Tech and USC will be breathing down their necks.
But perhaps this is all presumptuous. After all, the past three Florida-LSU winners have all sustained defeats (in LSU's case, in 2007, two) and still gone on to claim the crystal trophy. There could be at least one thing different about this matchup, however: Tebow, who played a key role in all three editions, might not be present.
They don't account for that in the BCS standings.
The next two weeks could also go a long way toward determining this season's Heisman pecking order. Tebow, the prohibitive favorite, could either enhance his considerable legacy with a big night at LSU or fall considerably behind if forced to miss one of Florida's biggest games of the year. Texas'
And then there's the increasingly intriguing case of
The Notre Dame junior put on yet another spectacular and dramatic performance Saturday against Washington, throwing for 422 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead score to
"[Clausen] has taken it to a whole different level about moving in the pocket and moving from the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield," said coach
Clausen now leads the nation in pass efficiency, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 1,544 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. However, it's been hard to take the Irish too seriously what with their weekly habit of needing a furious last-second rally to fend off an inferior foe. AP voters clearly have little respect for Notre Dame's competition; the 4-1 Irish received just nine poll votes this week.
Nonetheless, it's hard to find fault with Clausen, who is posting all those big numbers despite getting almost no help. He lost his most dangerous receiver,
But gone are the days when a Notre Dame player could win the Heisman without beating anyone of merit, which is why Clausen's next game (the Irish have a bye this week) will serve as his defining opportunity. Thus far the Irish have offered little sign they can play with a team that's throttled them seven of the past eight years. The Trojans' defense suffocated Cal on Saturday and is sitting in their customary spot among the nation's top-five teams in total defense (238.6 yards per game).
"We don't have to underestimate that we have a top opponent on deck," said Weis. "But the way this quarterback is playing and the way he's acting and the way he's leading the team, the confidence the team has in him, you've got a chance to win every time you play."
The one time this rivalry
My reaction to the latest AP and coaches polls.
The Hawkeyes moved up one spot in the AP poll and three spots in the coaches poll despite letting 1-3 Arkansas State take them to the wire. The Red Wolves drove 68 yards on 17 plays to cut the score to 24-21 with 2:01 left before running out of time. For whatever reason, Iowa has looked more dominant when facing teams like Penn State and Arizona than Northern Iowa and Arkansas State.
The 3-1 Huskers' resume is admittedly light: All they have are three lopsided wins over Sun Belt foes. But I know this much: On Sept. 19, I watched Nebraska play Virginia Tech toe-to-toe in Blacksburg before falling at the last second. The Hokies are currently ranked fifth. Miami -- whom Virginia Tech walloped last week -- is 11th. Something tells me the Huskers are closer to their class.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games.
In looking for a team to replace Oklahoma as the Fiesta Bowl's first at-large choice, the most logical choice at first appeared to be Oregon. But Glendale is almost certainly where Boise State will play if it goes undefeated, and no one's going to let "Oregon-Boise State II" happen. For lack of a better option, I chose Kansas, whose schedule lends itself to a possible 10-win season.
• Credit UTEP for the most staggering one-week turnaround you'll ever see. Seven days after notching 53 yards of offense in a 64-7 drubbing by Texas, the Miners turned around and gained 581 yards in a 58-41 upset of No. 12 Houston, ending the Cougars' BCS-busting hopes. Running back
Remarkably, star Cougars quarterback
• You could see Saturday just how much USC missed quarterback
• There should be few remaining skeptics of Auburn's retooled offense after
• It's hard to believe how far Florida State has sunk in the two weeks since its 54-28 win at BYU. Following a 28-21 loss at Boston College, the 'Noles are 2-3 for the first time since 1976 (
• It's so much fun to watch Stanford running back
• Coming into the season, Wisconsin fans were starting to throw around the words "hot seat" regarding fourth-year coach
• Cincinnati has won 26 games since 2007, yet Saturday's 37-13 win over Miami (Ohio) marked the first time since the '07 opener that the Bearcats produced a 100-yard rusher (
• North Carolina has been one of the season's biggest disappointments. The Tar Heels have scored 10 combined points in their first two ACC games, bottoming out with a 16-3 home loss to 0-3 Virginia in which UNC managed 174 total yards. Down two starting offensive linemen and tight end, the Tar Heels can't protect quarterback
• It seems like sometimes West Virginia forgets that it has one of the most explosive players in the country in its backfield. After an ugly first half against Colorado in which the Mountaineers lost four fumbles, coach
• It's tough being an Iowa State fan these days. The Cyclones appeared set to send Saturday's game against Kansas State to overtime following
• Here's one way to break out of an early-season slump. Nevada, 0-3 heading into its annual rivalry date with UNLV, rolled up 773 total yards -- including 559 rushing -- to beat the Rebels 63-28. Freshman
• After averaging just 127.3 yards on the ground its first four games, Penn State rolled up 338 rushing yards against suddenly hapless Illinois. "Our offensive line played real confident today," said
• Idaho, which hasn't won more than four games in a season since 2000, improved to 4-1 with a 31-29 win over Colorado State. Could it be that Boise State's toughest WAC competitor this year is in its own state?
Ball State coach
Parrish rose from offensive coordinator to become Ball State's head coach when
Perhaps Ball State fans should have seen this coming. Prior to his current gig, Parrish had last served as head coach 20 years earlier at Kansas State, where the Wildcats lost the last their five games in 1986, then went winless (with one tie) during Parrish's last two seasons.
It's not like the guy can't coach. The 63-year-old went 42-3-1 at Wabash from 1979 to '82, won a national title in 1997 as
As you may have heard, Oregon has established a process by which suspended running back
The same consequences apparently don't apply, however, to fist-wielding coaches. It's been two weeks since New Mexico's
The university opened an investigation into the incident last week, but only after facing public pressure. While a suspension or dismissal are possible, FanHouse writer
With just over a minute left against LSU, Georgia's star receiver made a touchdown catch even the pros would envy. Then he drew an absurd celebration flag that helped set up the Tigers' winning drive. See them both (shown at the 0:54 mark).
Miami freshman safety
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games