As the big boys continue to fall, BCS busters take over top five
I knew this was coming.
As soon as Stephen Garcia threw into double coverage in the waning seconds of South Carolina's loss at Kentucky on Saturday, I knew I'd get mail from the folks who disagreed with my rant in last week's Power Rankings against the people who ranked Alabama ahead of South Carolina in spite of the Tide's head-to-head loss to the Gamecocks.
"Will you still rank South Carolina ahead of Alabama now?" they asked. "After all, South Carolina did win on the field."
No, I won't. South Carolina is ranked below Alabama this week, because their résumés are no longer equal. Head-to-head is an ironclad tiebreaker for teams with similar résumés. After that, it's a judgment call. (See Texas and Nebraska this week.)
What I didn't see coming was the negative response to what I wrote last week. It's only common sense that the team that wins on the field should get a higher ranking given equal résumés, but apparently there are a number of folks out there who believe I should award the higher rank to the team that is supposed to be better -- not the team that actually won. These people seem, mostly, to be stat heads who obsess over probability and point spreads. For them, there is no reason to actually play the games.
Those other factors are necessary when formulating preseason rankings and when ranking teams that haven't played one another, but by this point in the season, we need to be ranking teams based mostly on what we've seen -- not on what is supposed to happen. Alabama may very well be better than South Carolina, but we needed to see Alabama bounce back with a win and South Carolina lose to Kentucky before making that assessment.
Of course, I also got plenty of positive response from folks who ripped the 19 Associated Press poll voters who ranked Alabama ahead of South Carolina last week. Maybe some of those voters got the message. This week's Disgrace to the University - or Disgrace to the Poll - clubhouse is far less crowded.
Only 10 voters ranked Ohio State ahead of Wisconsin in spite of Wisconsin's win. That group includes Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who ranked Wisconsin an astounding 10 spots below Ohio State even though Wisconsin won by 13 points and exposed numerous Buckeyes flaws. Oh well. It's tough to find a clock in Vegas. Maybe Mark didn't know when the game started and missed it.
Last Week: 1
Oregon Ducks (6-0)The No. 1 team in the human polls has fallen each of the past two weeks. Will Oregon be the third victim? That's less likely now that UCLA -- already an underdog -- has suspended top kick returner Josh Smith and starting F-back Morrell Presley for Thursday's game. According to the Orange County Register, two more suspensions could come before kickoff. That would leave the Bruins shorthanded against a team that specializes in wearing out opponents who lack depth.
Last game: Beat Washington State, 43-23
Next game: Thursday vs. UCLA
Last Week: 3
Boise St. Broncos (6-0)You may have blinked a few times when you read the date of Boise State's next game. The Broncos do indeed play on a Tuesday. Such is life for a non-AQ team that needs national TV publicity. That publicity could be good or bad. Last year, Boise State played Louisiana Tech on a Friday night and got dinged for looking quite beatable until the third quarter. But if the Broncos rip through the Bulldogs the way they have their past three opponents, they may gain a few believers. Not many, because it is only Louisiana Tech, but every little bit helps.
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 48-0
Next game: Oct. 26 vs. Louisiana Tech
Last Week: 4
TCU Horned Frogs (7-0)Air Force's loss to San Diego State last week was probably the worst thing that could have happened to TCU. Which brings us to this week's Told You So e-mail of the week, courtesy of Josh in Salt Lake City: "I did notice your note about San Diego State not having a lot of time to play against Air Force, but I thought I'd point out that they only had the ball for 15 minutes against BYU. It took BYU 45 minutes to score 24 points, and SDSU 15 minutes to score 21. Here's predicting an upset on Saturday." I hope Josh had money on the game, and I might need his Mountain West expertise to pick this one. TCU's defense has been rock solid, but Air Force's option can make otherwise sound defenders lose their minds. An Air Force team mad about getting upset could be even tougher.
Last game: Beat BYU, 31-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Air Force
Last Week: 6
Oklahoma Sooners (6-0)So will the No. 1 curse torch pass from the top team in the human polls to the top team in the BCS? Oklahoma is No. 1 in the first BCS rankings, but the Sooners' reward is a trip to Columbia to face a Missouri team that has the best defense outside the Oklahoma-Texas-Nebraska triumvirate that rules the Big 12. This may be the Sooners' toughest test until the Big 12 title game. Coach Bob Stoops said this week that the BCS ranking isn't something his players should pay attention to, and he's correct. But here's an interesting stat. The team at No. 1 in the first BCS standings of each year has played for the national title in six of the 12 BCS seasons.
Last game: Beat Iowa State, 52-0
Next game: Saturday at Missouri
Last Week: 7
Utah Utes (6-0)The Utes are going to continue to get passed in the rankings by more mainstream programs, and it may not matter what they do. We've come to grips with the idea of a name-brand program charging up the polls, but non-AQ programs need to be anointed before the season starts. This season, the anointed were Boise State and TCU, which will make the argument quite interesting if Utah beats TCU. Fortunately for Utah, this is only an issue for a few more months. A 6-0 Utah in the Pac-12 will not have to worry about its place in the polls.
Last game: Beat Wyoming, 30-6
Next game: Saturday vs. Colorado State
Last Week: 8
Auburn Tigers (7-0)Quarterback Cameron Newton has exceeded the absurdly high expectations placed on him when he signed with the Tigers. He's the SEC's leading rusher (122.9 yards per game) and the conference's most efficient passer (180.5 quarterback rating). But he hasn't faced a defense like LSU's yet. Auburn has played some athletic defenses (Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina), but none quite as fast as LSU's. Newton has been so successful as a passer because teams are terrified that he'll take off running and adjust their coverage accordingly. LSU's front seven might be athletic enough to keep Newton from scrambling for 15 yards a pop, which would allow the Bayou Bengals to cover Auburn's receivers better.
Last game: Beat Arkansas, 65-43
Next game: Saturday vs. LSU
Last Week: 12
LSU Tigers (7-0)I've gone back and forth on LSU all season. This week, I bit the bullet and moved the Tigers ahead of the one-loss SEC teams. I held back because LSU has been extremely lucky -- two dropped touchdown passes saved the Tigers against North Carolina, and the Tennessee and Florida endgames have been covered ad nauseum -- but LSU is also extremely talented. It is one of the few AQ conference undefeated teams with the personnel to make it through the season undefeated. Plus, Coach Les Miles may actually be a wizard. At any rate, we'll find out if LSU is for real this week at Auburn.
Last game: Beat McNeese State, 32-10
Next game: Saturday at Auburn
Last Week: 13
Michigan St. Spartans (7-0)Last week, I wrote that Michigan State was in a bad spot because it doesn't play Ohio State. Thanks to Wisconsin -- a team the Spartans already beat -- that negative is now a positive. Northwestern and Penn State aren't gimmes, but the Spartans should win those games. If Michigan State can beat Iowa on Oct. 30, the Spartans would have the inside track on the Big Ten title and a more-than-legitimate shot at finishing the regular season undefeated. If this doesn't seem fair to the Buckeyes, take heart. It can't happen again, because the Big Ten is adding a championship game next year.
Last game: Beat Illinois, 26-6
Next game: Saturday at Northwestern
Last Week: 19
Wisconsin Badgers (6-1)The Badgers' reaction to the win against Ohio State suggests they'd put an awful lot of energy into getting up to beat the Buckeyes. It's usually difficult to maintain that level of intensity, but Wisconsin will have to do just that to win in Iowa City. Wisconsin's offense simply overpowered Ohio State's defense for much of the night. That suggests the Badgers have the talent to do the same against the Hawkeyes, but can Wisconsin maintain the emotional pitch necessary to win a second consecutive elite Big Ten game?
Last game: Beat Ohio State, 31-18
Next game: Saturday at Iowa
Last Week: 10
Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1)The Crimson Tide bounced back from their loss at South Carolina with a solid win against Ole Miss, and they shouldn't have much trouble in Knoxville, either. Tennessee gave Alabama its biggest scare last season, but the Volunteers may have exhausted their 2010 supply of scares when they sent 13 men to play defense in Baton Rouge on Oct. 2. It should be interesting to see whether the Vols follow the Gamecocks' and Rebels' example of loading up to stop the run and forcing Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy to win the game with his arm. Against Ole Miss, Alabama rushed for just 100 yards. McElroy threw for 219 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown pass to Trent Richardson.
Last game: Beat Ole Miss, 23-10
Next game: Saturday at Tennessee