Asmussen: Illini rate top team honor

Asmussen: Illini rate top team honor

Team of the Week
Illinois
Yes, Illinois. Going into Saturday’s game against Cincinnati, few gave Tim Beckman’s team a chance. Now fans and reporters are checking out the Big Ten bowl lineup. Shows you how nutso life can be in college football. One day, you’re a bum. The next day, you’re fighting Apollo Creed for the heavyweight title. Guess that makes Bill Cubit “Paulie.” H.U. recommends you wait to book your holiday flight. Saturday’s opponent, Washington, will be a bear. Or at least a very large, very furry dog. But the Illinois win against the Bearcats certainly gave the Huskies something to think about other than “Will the Mariners ever get back to the playoffs?”

Team of the Weak
Texas
Mack Brown has had a wonderful career. And it might be winding down. Texas fans will not stand for blowout losses to BYU. And there are many more dangerous games on the way. For all he has done in Austin, Brown should have a lifetime contract. But it doesn’t work like that in a state that considers itself above the rest. The school already tried a coach-in-waiting approach, bringing Will Muschamp aboard. But Will wasn’t thrilled with the deal and fled to Florida. Can’t blame him. Whoever replaces Brown faces a nasty challenge. Nothing short of 10 national titles will be enough. That isn’t going to happen. If Brown is shown the door, there will be a pack of schools lining up to hire him. Brown showed a panic sign Sunday, firing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and bringing back Greg Robinson in his place. Got a feeling it won’t work.

Top 10
SCHOOL    PREVIOUS RANK
1. Ohio State    1
The big question, of course, is the status of quarterback Braxton Miller, who was injured during Saturday’s game against San Diego State. Kenny Guiton played well in relief, producing three touchdowns. He is more than good enough to lead the Buckeyes past Cal, even if the game is in Berkeley. Wonder if Urban Meyer will take the kids to People’s Park. Dude, that would be awesome. Long term, the Buckeyes won’t compete for the national title without a healthy Miller. They can last a few weeks with him on the sidelines, but not all year. You will note below that the injury has done some damage to Miller’s Heisman candidacy.

2. Alabama    2
OK, angry Alabama fans, here is the deal: Your team moves to No. 1 on this ballot with a convincing win against Texas A&M and clear information that Miller will miss considerable time for Ohio State. The second item isn’t as important as the first. The Tide has waited a year to get revenge against the Aggies, who ruined its perfect season but not its title hopes. Alabama players got to spend the weekend catching up on their homework and watching  college football. Bet Nick Saban took a look or two at the Aggies? Duh.

3. Clemson    4
No offense to South Carolina State, but what was the point of Saturday’s game? Oh, lots of cash for SCSU and an easy win for the Tigers. The competition is less difficult this week, with Clemson playing something called Idle. Then there is a Thursday game against North Carolina State. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who led the big win against Georgia, actually went to see the Bulldogs at the spring game in Athens. Pretty smart idea, even if he did get noticed by some of the Georgia fans.

4. Oregon    5
Yes, Virginia, the Ducks remain a power, no matter who gets the big check as head coach. The Cavaliers found out how good Saturday, becoming the latest to absorb a pounding by the nation’s most dynamic offense. On Saturday, the Quack Attack welcomes Tennessee to Autzen Stadium. By the way, who set up the Tennessee schedule, some sadist? The Vols are in the middle of a six-game stretch that includes games against Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. Apparently, the Patriots weren’t available.

5. Stanford    6
“Pick a service, pick a challenge, set yourself apart” — John Winger (Bill Murray) from “Stripes.” Stanford has apparently taken the song seriously, scheduling a game at Army. Unless the Cadets are allowed to use real ammo, which would be rude, they aren’t going to be able to hang with the Cardinal. But we promise Stanford won’t play a more physical game all season. The service teams love to hit.

6. Louisville    7
Nationally, the game doesn’t mean much. Until basketball season. When the Cardinals host Kentucky on Saturday, it will mean plenty in the Commonwealth State. Doesn’t seem fair that with such a cool nickname Kentucky can claim Abe Lincoln, too. Oh, well. Louisville, by the way, is a serious national title contender.

7. LSU    8
College football tends to forget about the Tigers. Not sure why. They have great fans, a fun coach and an endless stream of NFL-ready talent. Still, LSU is not the first team we think of in the SEC. Or the second. Alabama and Florida are ahead of the Tigers in college football’s mind-set. LSU already has an impressive win against TCU. It should pile up the points Saturday against Kent State. To pile up respect points, it probably needs a win against Alabama, Georgia or Florida.

8. Texas A&M    10
OK, Johnny Manziel, here is your chance to tell everyone to leave you alone. All you have to do is beat Alabama, again. Preferably without mooning the team during pregame drills. At least give Manziel credit for giving us something to talk about during the boring summer. Most common question before the game: Johnny, can I have your autograph?

9. Oklahoma State    —
Mike Gundy must be feeling pretty good about himself these days. Letting Wes Lunt leave for Illinois hasn’t hurt his program much thanks to the emergence of J.W. Walsh. The quarterback was almost perfect in Saturday’s romp against UTSA. He should go berserk again Saturday against Lamar. Lamar? That’s not a college football team, it’s an English butler.

10. Georgia    —
Welcome back to the Bulldogs, who dropped down after the loss to Clemson. But Aaron Murray made sure Georgia didn’t start 0-2 with a clutch game against South Carolina. To celebrate the big win, Mark Richt’s guys will take the weekend off. Sounds like a great time for a picnic.

Bottom 5
SCHOOL    PREVIOUS RANK
125. Georgia State    125
Not content with a 10-point loss in the opener against Samford, the Panthers dropped a 42-14 decision against Chattanooga. At home. Not good. They didn’t even get a trip out of the deal. Georgia State leaves the comfort of the FCS to play a pair of heavyweights in the next three weeks. First, a trip to West Virginia, which will try to score 100. Later, Georgia State foolishly visits Alabama.

124. New Mexico State    —
Please, don’t tell Lou Henson that the Aggies made the list. The Illinois legend is a big fan, and we don’t want to offend. But New Mexico State already has lost to Texas. No other team can claim that. Coming off a loss to Minnesota, the Aggies have a chance against UTEP — though it would be a better basketball game.

123. Idaho     123
As predicted, Wyoming took out its frustration on the Vandals, throwing toilet paper and underwear in the Vandals’ trees. It is college. That is what you do. The score could be even more lopsided this Saturday against Northern Illinois, which remembers the pain of not being in a conference, like Idaho.

122. Fla. International    122
No plans to pick on Ron Turner’s new team. It has been done before. Likewise, no plans to take the Golden Panthers out of the B-FIVE until they actually win a game. That might not come until 2014. Actually, it should come Saturday against Bethune-Cookman.

121. UNLV    —
Why can’t the Rebels win? They play in Fun City. Shouldn’t recruits be flocking to the place? Not so much. UNLV just was on the wrong side against Rich Rod and Arizona. The Rebels will try to move off the list against the team they replaced, Central Michigan. It is bad on bad.

Conference call
LEAGUE    PREVIOUS RANK
1. SEC    1
2. Big Ten    5
3. ACC    2
4. Pac-12    3
5. Big 12    4
6. American    6
7. Mountain West    8
8. MAC    7
9. Sun Belt    10
10. C-USA    9

Heisman ballot
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Slide Ohio State’s Miller out of the top three until he gets back on the field. Bridgewater has put together a front-runner start, throwing nine TD passes in two games. Got to think there will be a horse named Teddy Bridgewater racing at Churchill Downs.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. Let’s face it, he does produce. After the suspension in the first week, he came back with 403 yards Saturday. Doesn’t matter that it was against Sam Houston State. He is the defending winner and deserves a seat at the grownups table. For now.

3. Marcus Mariota, Oregon. The sophomore quarterback hit just 50 percent of his passes against Virginia. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Ducks rolled again and looked ready to earn a bid in the last BCS title game. If it happens, Mariota will have a lot to do with it. And he will be a force in the Heisman race.

Random thoughts
How about some love?
For Northern Illinois. It is as if the Huskies didn’t play in a BCS game after last season. Despite the best efforts of H.U., Northern Illinois remains unranked in the AP Top 25 and is also outside the good list in the coaches’ poll. It might take another 12-game run for the guys from DeKalb to get much attention. Playing in the MAC doesn’t help. Playing outside Chicago doesn’t help. Before it can expand its brand, Northern Illinois needs to do a better job in the state. That means enticing Chicago dailies to cover it home and away, no matter how overmatched the opponent. But the school faces tough competition from all the pro teams in the city. And Illinois, Northwestern and Notre Dame.

Way out
The nice people in Tennessee are saying “told you so” to the geniuses who hired Lane Kiffin at Southern Cal. He bolted Knoxville after a season. Could end up being a great thing for the Vols. Kiffin and the Trojans lost Saturday against Washington State. More losses could be on the way, including tricky games against Arizona and Notre Dame. He might need to beat UCLA in the finale to keep his job. Dad was a great coach. Not so sure about Sonny.

Bear support
Who did we anger this week with the AP ballot? Baylor fans. They weren’t happy that their team wasn’t included in H.U.’s Top 25. I swear the Bears were No. 26 and go in with a win Saturday. What’s that? They don’t play? And the next game is against Louisiana Monroe? Never mind.

To reach Bob Asmussen, email asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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