Team of the Week
Hoo-ray!!! Yes, we are using exclamation points. As many as needed. Why? Because Ron Turner isn’t going to be winless his first season back in college. The Golden Panthers stunned Southern Miss. Maybe the Golden Eagles saw tape of Turner’s last trip to Hattiesburg, where Illinois lost to the home team. In what has been a brutal year for Turner, the win gives the program a dash of hope. Just a pinch. FIU will try to make it two in a row Saturday against UAB. Don’t bet against Turner.
Team of the Weak
Hard to believe the Nittany Lions spent time this season in H.U.’s Top 25. Boy, that was a mistake. Penn State gave Indiana football a boost, losing by 20. That should never happen. Now that the NCAA is playing nice with the Nittany Lions, Bill O’Brien’s team needs to own the Indianas and Purdues of the Big Ten. Don’t be shocked if Illinois slips out of Happy Valley with a win this season. Don’t forget, you read it here first.
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
1. Alabama 1
Is anybody going to challenge the Crimson Tide other than Texas A&M? In their four other games, the two-time defending national champions have allowed 19 points. H.U. isn’t very good at math but knows that when you give up less than five points per game you are going to win. The streak doesn’t figure to end Saturday, when Alabama visits Kentucky. And the following weeks don’t look like much of a fight, either, with games against Arkansas and Tennessee. Lose to one of those teams and Nick Saban will fire himself. Or, at least, look in the mirror and say, “Bad coach.” Of course, Saban wouldn’t believe that even coming from his favorite person. Why all the digs at the king of college football? Because he can take it. And he doesn’t read the newspaper.
2. Ohio State 2
The Buckeyes trailed gritty Northwestern (the school’s new name) late in the game. Luckily, the planets realigned and the Buckeyes did what they are supposed to do against everybody not named Michigan. It will come as some relief to the rest of college football that Braxton Miller struggled some, missing 11 of 26 passes and being intercepted. So much for him getting back in the Heisman Trophy race.
3. Oregon 3
The only thing threatening the Ducks is boredom. They went over 50 again Saturday at Colorado. The nation’s No. 2 scoring offense has hit the half-century mark in all five games. And the defense is just as good, giving up the second-fewest points in the FBS. The dominance could end this week when Oregon visits Washington. Is it too much to ask for rain? Why even bother asking — “wet” is in the forecast for the next two years. But it’s a dry rain. Marcus Mariota and pals will prepare extra hard this week. That means fewer trips to the mall and less time on Facebook.
4. Clemson 4
The Tigers delivered a mean-spirited welcome to ACC newcomer Syracuse, spanking the Orange by 35. Makes you wonder why the league let Syracuse in. The real answer is, “We need the dues.” Clemson doesn’t really care as long as the weaker competition doesn’t cost it a BCS title shot. Which is possible. Clemson’s profile won’t get much of a boost from this week’s game against Boston College. Obligatory Doug Flutie reference goes here.
5. Stanford 5
In the loaded Pac-12, the Cardinal survived a late Washington rally for a three-point win. The team is more than just a bunch of eggheads. Stanford is tough. Stanford is aggressive. Stanford plays well late in the game. The challenge shouldn’t be as great this week during the trip to Utah. But the Utes are coming off a near upset against UCLA. The Cardinal is smart enough to know it doesn’t have a big physical advantage on many of its opponents. But preparation and grit will help to get it done.
6. Florida State 7
The ACC has two national title contenders. Just ask Jameis Winston. The superstar quarterback was at it again against Maryland. The Terps looked so bad in the 63-0 loss that the Big Ten is reconsidering its membership invitation. Not really. Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles playing like champs. We will find out for sure Oct. 19, when they visit Clemson. Florida State will take the weekend off and probably watch some old Burt Reynolds movies. “The Bandit” played football at the school a million years ago, before the Cosmo foldout (ask your parents).
7. Louisville 6
H.U. hated to do it but had to drop the Cardinals one spot in the rankings. They had to score more than 30 against winless Temple. Hampered by a string of weak opponents, their only chance at the BCS title game is for a string of unlikely upsets in the final month of the season. An undefeated Louisville is going to have to settle for a second-tier BCS bowl. Thursday’s game, at least, is against a team heading to the Big Ten. Rutgers just scored 55 points against SMU. Bad news: It gave up 52. Looks like another Louisville romp, one that will draw yawns from fans and poll voters.
8. Georgia 8
Last week, H.U. told you Mark Richt is one of the class guys in college football. This week, we’re telling you he is also one of the luckiest. The Bulldogs needed overtime to beat Tennessee. That is a team Georgia should have pounded. Thank goodness for quarterback Aaron Murray, who had a tying touchdown pass with five seconds left. Lose to Tennessee and the dreams of a national title would have ended. Georgia maintains control of its season, one that didn’t get ruined by the early loss to Clemson.
9. Texas A&M 9
Just how many great teams play in the SEC? Well, the league has 14 schools, so we will go with 14. The unfortunate part for the Aggies is that they lost to the national champs. They played well and scored a bunch of points, but it is difficult to imagine the Aggies playing for the national title. What they can do is take care of the rest of their schedule, including Saturday’s game against Ole Miss. With the star power on the field and on the sidelines, the second BCS berth from the SEC could go to the Aggies.
10. Miami —
Welcome to the Top 10. Obviously, there wasn’t a lot of faith in the Hurricanes going into the season. They weren’t even in H.U.’s initial Top 25. It is easy to understand the concerns. Al Golden’s team still is dealing with the stigma of an NCAA investigation. But give him tons of credit for keeping the team on course while all else around seems to be in disarray. Miami has a nice balance of offense and defense. These aren’t your vintage Jimmy Johnson Hurricanes, wearing fatigues to bowl games and scaring little kids. It is a kinder, gentler Miami. More heart and character. Less swagger and bravado. Long term, this way works better for the school and for the ACC.
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
125. Georgia State 125
Of course, the Panthers got drilled at Alabama. H.U. is impressed they A) scored three points and B) didn’t give up 80. Georgia State takes a considerable step down in class this week with a game against Troy. It isn’t going to win, but it won’t be a 42-point loss, either.
124. New Mexico State 124
H.U. thought the Aggies could give New Mexico a game. H.U. also liked Carrot Top’s chances to win an Oscar. At least the Top didn’t give up 66 points against his bitter rival. Never good to give up at least 50 points in three of your first five games. Though that does explain why the Aggies have the worst scoring defense in the country. The guys take Saturday off before hosting Rice on Oct. 19. Never underestimate the Puddings, who should put up another big number on the Aggies.
123. Miami (Ohio) 121
The Boss (not Springsteen) claims to hate the MAC. Could be because of teams like the RedHawks. They are great for a year or two, then turn to mush. When Big Ben was in town, Miami was as good as any non-BCS school. Today, they can’t get a win against teams like Central Michigan. While Don Treadwell calls Realtors in the greater Miami area, we’ll point out that two other teams escaped the B-5 last week. Could this be the week for the RedHawks? Maybe with a trip to UMass. The Minutemen haven’t been very good since Dr. J left town. Don’t bet the over. UMass has the worst scoring offense in the country. TV cameras will find fans sleeping in the stands during the game.
122. Western Michigan —
Turns out Bill Cubit wasn’t the problem after all. While the offensive coordinator enjoys his time in C-U, his old school hasn’t won a game. Got a feeling that the Broncos would have turned it around if Cubit had been in place. Glad that didn’t happen, otherwise we would have never gotten to know the nice guy running Tim Beckman’s offense. One of the worst offenses in the country will try to make some hay against Lou Tepper’s Buffalo defense. H.U. thinks the Bulls roll.
121. Southern Miss —
Where do you think Todd Monken would rather be: coaching the winless Golden Eagles in one of the worst college towns ever or having to deal with the Sports Illustrated-inspired mess at his old job, Oklahoma State? Go with C, none of the above. Monken is finding out it is a whole lot easier to lead an offense when your name isn’t on the front of the media guide (do they even still make those? Are there too many parentheses in this column?) Southern Miss doesn’t figure to get healthy Saturday against East Carolina, which is the best team in the revamped Conference USA.
LEAGUE PREVIOUS RANK
1. SEC 1
2 Pac-12 4
3. ACC 3
4. Big Ten 2
5. Big 12 5
6. Mountain West 8
7. MAC 6
8. American 7
9. Sun Belt 10
10. Conference USA 9
1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. Until he loses another game or has five picks, there is no reason to bump J. Football out of the top spot. His numbers are good. The record is good. And he hasn’t created an international incident away from field. Cross your fingers. Because of his notoriety, Manziel gains endless spots on college football shows each week. We are going to assume the voters are watching. Right now, he looks like the second two-time winner and a future member of the Heisman House, where he is certain to get hazed. Probably by Marcus Allen or Barry Sanders.
2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson. Voters will have no problem picking the quarterback, who comes across great in interviews. He keeps his place after a 455-yard, five-TD game against Syracuse. In three quarters. Look for another big game by the Tigers’ star (watch him on ESPN’s “College Football Daily”) when the Tigers maul Boston College.
3. Jameis Winston, Florida State. The freshman had 393 passing yards and five touchdowns against Maryland. It was the kind of performance Manziel had as a freshman, which helped to get him noticed. Florida State’s perfect record works in Winston’s favor. So does a schedule that has enough softies that he can pile up big numbers. Right or wrong, the Heisman often goes to the guy with the biggest stats. H.U. doesn’t vote that way. But a lot of his cohorts do.
With the lack of upsets in the Top 5 each week, the AP ballot remains pretty much unchanged. Why? Start with scheduling. The best teams know not to fill up the list with a bunch of potential losses. Sure, a good team or two will sneak onto the schedule, but it is usually followed by an off week or a game against Smolsky State. Check the attendance for the top schools. Their fans show up no matter the opponent. They want to see wins. Lots of them. Somehow, schools have convinced their supporters it is OK to beat up on a bad team as long as you pay it tons of money for the honor. Alabama did beat Virginia Tech, but the rest of the nonconference schedule is disturbingly awful. Maybe the playoff next year will force schools to reconsider the way they schedule. Probably not.
Sign me up
For a bowl game in the Bahamas. Sure beats a trip to Memphis or Detroit. The five non-BCS leagues are creating games in the Bahamas, Miami and Boca Raton, Fla., starting in 2014. The conferences are desperate to improve their bowl opportunities. And playing in touristy spots should help with the crowd and drawing a TV network. Actually, that is never going to be a problem. ESPN would show 100 bowls. It is easy programming during a quiet time for ratings. It has to be better than reruns of poker. There was supposed to be a timeout for adding bowls. So much for standards. Shows the schools — and television — maintain all of the power in college sports.
Be our guest
The names leaking as members of the college football playoff selection committee sound just right. Tom Osborne deserves a spot. So does Pat Haden, though it would be better if he first got his house in order. And Archie Manning raised two NFL quarterbacks after his own stellar career. Barry Alvarez built a powerhouse program at Wisconsin and is a solid choice. So is Tyrone Willingham, who coached under the microscope at Notre Dame. The choice gaining all of the attention is Condoleezza Rice. The former secretary of state adds a political element to the panel. Just what college football needs. The higher-ups are looking for a diverse panel with plenty of college football history. No matter who is on the committee, we can guarantee controversy early and often. Hope the panelists understand the concerns going in. And they should leave the room when their favorite schools are being discussed.