In a season of chaos, it's time to put our trust in the steady hand
So ... it's going to be
Two consecutive weeks, the No. 1 team goes down. The team that beat No. 1 last week (South Carolina) goes and loses at Kentucky. The team that two weeks ago fell out of the Top 25 for the first time in a decade (Texas) goes and beats the No. 5 team (Nebraska). It's beginning to feel a whole lot like 2007.
But do you really trust Oklahoma to run the table? I don't, for much the same reason I don't trust Oregon or No. 4 Auburn: the lack of an elite defense. As riveting as it was to watch the Ducks storm back to beat Stanford 52-31 and the Tigers put away Arkansas 65-43, national-championship teams don't give up 28 points per game in conference play like Oregon, or let Arkansas' backup quarterback complete 15 of his first 17 passes like Auburn. (I'm not writing off Oklahoma yet, but the Sooners rank 72nd in total defense.)
As Texas reminded us so vividly Saturday against the previously splashy Huskers, even the most dangerous offense can be tempered by a dominant defense. Thus, amid this budding season of chaos, it may be time to start embracing the steady hand. And as much as fans of the bluebloods refuse to hear it, the BCS' current No. 3 team, Boise State, may actually be worthy of No. 1.
Now, now. Stop cursing. Take your fingers out of your ears. And put aside for a second the Boise State schedule-strength argument, because nobody's disputing it. No, the Broncos probably wouldn't go undefeated if they had to play Alabama's schedule, or Oregon's schedule, or Oklahoma's schedule -- but guess what? Neither will those teams. And unlike those teams, Boise's defense is the most dominant in the country. Literally. The Broncos are No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 in rushing defense and No. 1 in pass-efficiency defense.
If the teams played today, there's very little chance Oregon -- the No. 1 team in both major polls, mind you -- would put up 42 points against the Broncos. Last year it scored eight, and while the Ducks are far more explosive today than they were back then,
If Boise State faced Auburn tomorrow,
Of course, nobody south of the Mason-Dixon Line remotely agrees with what I just wrote. Heck, few people outside of Boise yet believe it. The only thing they can agree on is that the Broncos "haven't beaten anybody," what with their two most high-profile victims to date, Virginia Tech and Oregon State, barely hovering around the bottom of the Top 25. (The Hokies re-entered this week, the Beavers fell out.) The rest of their opponents, of course, are "garbage."
But Boise's done to those opponents exactly what a championship-caliber team
All along, we've assumed Boise's chances of reaching (and staying) No. 2 were minimal, in part because the computers would kill the Broncos' schedule (and indeed, computers, not polls, are the reason Oklahoma sits higher than Boise today) and in part because the big boys would eventually pass the Broncos.
But what happens if the big boys keep losing? What happens if the SEC produces a two-loss champion? What happens if Oklahoma and Oregon fall late in the season? Ultimately, the polls carry the biggest weight in the standings, and at some point there might not be teams left to move ahead of the Broncos.
Boise's best hope is actually for those teams to lose sooner than later, forcing the pollsters to move the Broncos to No. 1. As long as they're No. 2 or lower, they'll always be ripe to be passed, especially as their computer scores continue to deteriorate.
But No. 1 is another story. Voters aren't prone to dropping No. 1 teams without a good reason. As the weeks go by, as the carnage piles up elsewhere, they may have no choice but to embrace the reality that maybe, just maybe, a team with an All-America quarterback, two NFL receivers and a consistently dominant defense may well be the most flawless in the country.
Unlike Robinson and Martinez, who rely almost entirely on their breakaway speed -- which is negated when facing similarly fast defenses -- Newton is a 6-foot-6, 250-pound battering ram who spent much of Saturday's Arkansas game either bowling over or dragging helpless defenders around his ankles. A week after running for 198 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries against Kentucky, the junior carried 25 times for 188 yards and three scores against the 12th-ranked Razorbacks. He also completed 10 of 14 passes for 140 yards and a score to remain second nationally in pass efficiency (180.5).
Having said that, Newton faces his own moment of reckoning this week when the fifth-ranked Tigers host sixth-ranked LSU in a clash of 7-0 teams. Newton has faced a more notable gauntlet to date than Robinson or Martinez, but he hasn't seen anything like LSU, which boasts the No. 3 defense in the country. It's entirely possible
Or, Newton could put up another 100-yard rushing day, put Auburn in the thick of the national title hunt and assert himself as the undisputed Heisman leader, in which case I'm guessing we'll see more and more stories about his "troubled past," with more and more mentions of an inaccuracy I've seen numerous times.
So please, fellow writers and fans, take a moment to get your facts straight. Cameron Newton
As it turns out, Newton may follow in Tebow's footsteps after all -- in New York.
The party in Madison lasted well into the wee hours Sunday following Wisconsin's biggest win since its late '90s Rose Bowl trips. Fifth-year coach
"It's justification for me that we are doing the right things," said Bielema. "What we do 365 days a year, you saw today. And I know it can be successful."
The obvious ramification is that Wisconsin shattered the Buckeyes' national-title hopes. Following its worst defensive performance in nearly three years and an erratic performance by
No. 8 Michigan State -- which could still creep into the BCS title conversation -- sits alone at the top (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten), but No. 12 Iowa (5-1, 2-0) may ultimately have the biggest say in this thing. The Hawkeyes host the 10th-ranked Badgers (6-1, 2-1) next week, the Spartans a week later and the Buckeyes (6-1, 2-1) on Nov. 20. It seems like a tall task for Iowa to win all three, but it could still get to the Rose Bowl with one loss if it beats the right teams. Or Sparty could run away with it. Or the Buckeyes or Badgers could get back in it.
This much we know: There's a significant drop-off between those four teams and the rest of the conference. Is it crazy to think the league could end in a four-way tie for first with four 7-1 teams? Who wins that tiebreaker? And what a fitting ending it would be in the last year before the league gets a title game.
I'm throwing darts this week. With my SI.com midseason Crystal Ball predictions due later this week, I couldn't just slap up the status quo, because I firmly believe nearly every current top 10 team is going to suffer a loss between now and December, with the possible exception of Alabama, which would rise to the top of the one-loss pack. Whether voters keep Boise State above the fray will likely remain unknown right up until Dec. 5.
Equally arbitrary: Picking a Big Ten Rose Bowl representative (I went with Iowa under the assumption that the Hawkeyes will hand Michigan State its sole defeat) and dealing with TCU and Utah, which meet on Nov. 6 in Salt Lake. Right now I favor the Utes, ever so slightly. I reserve the right to change my mind before then.
• Thoughts and prayers go out to Rutgers defensive tackle
"As I talked to our team, we're just going to believe that Eric LeGrand is going to walk onto that field again with us," said Schiano. "That's what we believe. We'll see with the speed of which that happens."
• Oklahoma State (6-0) ended its 66-year drought in Lubbock behind the most dominant performance yet from star receiver
• USC quarterback
• Oklahoma running back
• The Sooners will be facing a much different Missouri team this week than they did in the 2007 and '08 Big 12 title games. The Tigers (6-0) have a legit defense, one that sacked Texas A&M quarterback
• Following in Oregon's footsteps last week, Arizona (5-1) saw its quarterback,
• Driving from Lincoln to Omaha late Saturday, my radio picked up a Chicago sports talk show that was suggesting a "quarterback controversy" at Michigan. Seriously? Yes,
• Two former SEC coordinators, Mississippi State's
• Florida's offense has scored a combined four touchdowns in its past three games (all losses) -- yet the Gators still control their own destiny in the SEC East.
• The most entertaining game Saturday night took place in Seattle, where Washington's
• Florida State began the season with a "CP7 for Heisman" campaign to promote quarterback
• Hawaii (5-2) earned its biggest win since the
• N.C. State's
• TCU has now allowed three points in three weeks after handling BYU, 31-3. And yet for the second straight week, a Big 12 team (Oklahoma) passed the Horned Frogs in the coaches' poll. Whom did
• Baylor (5-2) stands one win away from ending its 16-year bowl drought following a 31-25 win at Colorado (3-3). That sixth win will either come next week against Kansas State or Nov. 13 against Texas A&M, both of which are in Waco.
• Bizarre factoid: North Carolina's 44-10 win at Virginia marked its first win in Charlottesville since 1981, ending a 14-game losing streak there. You don't just walk into Scott Stadium and ...
So Minnesota wins the 2010 award for fastest coaching firing. By axing the flailing
Brewster's dismissal was inevitable, what with a 15-30 record and the program slinking to a 1-6 start (including losses to South Dakota and Northern Illinois) at a time when the program should really be building momentum following last year's opening of TC Bank Stadium. Rarely have I seen a coach as outwardly loathed as Brewster, who burned through six coordinators in four seasons and purportedly butted heads with nearly anyone connected to the program. Maturi delivered this parting shot Sunday when delivering a message to Brewster's hypothetical successor.
"You're not following
Well, Joel, you're not exactly
Scroll back through the recent annals of Minnesota history. In 2006, Maturi gave then-coach
Would you trust this guy to make the right hire?
If "high profile" is Maturi's top priority (and it probably should be to generate buzz for the program), one has to think the guy who delivered Mason's Insight Bowl death blow, former Texas Tech coach
But somehow that move probably makes too much sense.
"We fought all 60 minutes, and that's something you have not seen out of an Aztecs team in a long time," said quarterback
Remarkably, 4-2 San Diego State is only a couple plays from being 6-0. It came within 51 seconds of knocking off Missouri in Columbia, losing 27-24 on a 68-yard touchdown pass, and lost 24-21 to BYU last week in part due to a botched replay review of a fumble call so egregious it got three officials suspended.
Air Force coach