Each week, college football writer — and AP Top 25 & Heisman voter — BOB ASMUSSEN breaks down the game he loves
Teams of the Week
Tennessee and Vanderbilt pulled off a pair of upsets against teams considered better. Ha. In the nutty SEC, we probably should never call a game an “upset.” More like “a head shaker” or “Vegas defier.” Not an upset. Tennessee and coach Butch Jones desperately needed the quality win they scored against South Carolina. They scared Florida and Georgia before letting the games get away. Vanderbilt finished off Georgia after earlier near misses against South Carolina and Mississippi. James Franklin might move out and up after Saturday’s stunner.
Team of the Weak
The Tigers were supposed to challenge Alabama in mid-November. Now they are chasing Auburn for second place in the SEC West. Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss likely ended any hopes for LSU to play in the SEC title game. And it certainly took out their NCAA title hopes. Would Les Miles take a call from the Wolverines now?
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
1. Alabama 1
Time for everybody to lay off Mrs. Bielema. She was simply supporting her husband when she made the karma comments about Wisconsin. Karma had nothing to do with Arkansas’ blowout loss to Alabama on Saturday. That was more about the talent difference between the two programs. Somewhere, John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino are hiding their heads in shame. Nobody in the nation is giving up fewer points than Alabama. The number is down to 9.7 per game. And the Crimson Tide can play a little offense, too, scoring 41 per game. Tennessee doesn’t figure to end the trend Saturday.
2. Florida State 5
The Seminoles were too good for Clemson. And they might be too good for everybody else. The crazed Clemson fans still are muttering “What happened?” after Florida State stormed Frank Howard’s school. It’s a surprise Florida State didn’t take the rock. They certainly earned it. The Seminoles appear to be the best bet to end the SEC’s national title run. H.U. is hoping they get the chance. That would mean lots of funny Bobby Bowden stories on the pregame shows. We can never get enough of him.
3. Oregon 3
If you see Mark Helfrich in the lottery line, you might want to pick the same numbers. The first-year Oregon coach walked into a doozy as Chip Kelly’s replacement. Helfrich knows his offense. The Ducks have scored at least 45 points in all seven games, including 62 Saturday against Washington State. This week’s game against UCLA is supposed to be tougher. But the Bruins were dismal offensively against Stanford and don’t figure to challenge the best-dressed team in college football.
4. Ohio State 2
Sorry, Buckeyes, but somebody had to drop a few spots to make room for Florida State. And it wasn’t going to be Alabama or Oregon. The Buckeyes take the hit because they let Iowa hang around way too long. The Hawkeyes were leading at halftime and making the Ohio Stadium crowd nervous. It felt a lot like the 2007 loss to Illinois. Minus Juice Williams and J Leman. Ohio State is running out of chances to impress poll voters. Saturday’s game against inconsistent Penn State won’t do much for the Buckeyes’ reputation. At this point, Urban Meyer’s guys have to negative root against Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.
5. Miami 8
Speaking of negative rooting, the Hurricanes need to do a whole bunch of it if they hope to become No. 1. Close wins against teams like North Carolina don’t inspire confidence in Al Golden’s team. Then again, the ‘Canes are way ahead of schedule. Nobody expected them to rebound so quickly from Nevin Shapiro-gate. The good news is that they have a date against one of the teams ahead of them in the rankings. Florida State welcomes Miami on Nov. 2. The Hurricanes will warm up Saturday against Wake Forest. The starters should rest in the fourth quarter.
6. Clemson 4
Everything was in place for one of the biggest parties in Clemson history. Then the game started. Florida State so overwhelmed Dabo Swinney’s Tigers that the coach should change his name to Da. Clemson should get healthy Saturday against fading Maryland. Now that South Carolina has been exposed, there isn’t a challenge left in Clemson’s regular season.
7. Stanford —
All it took for the Cardinal to move back into the Top 10 was a dominant win against UCLA. And a major fold by the rest of the Top 10. H.U. looked for another team to put at No. 7 but couldn’t find a worthy squad. So, it is the smart guys from Palo Alto. They face another toughie Saturday, visiting Oregon State. The Beavers would be in H.U.’s Top 25 if not for their opening loss to Eastern Washington. Beat Stanford and Mike Riley’s team returns to the rankings.
8. Baylor —
Didn’t see this one coming. Neither did the Bears’ opponents. Art Briles’ run-up-the-score mantra isn’t making him a lot of fans. Who cares? The folks in Waco are having a blast. The latest to feel the wrath of Briles was Iowa State, which gave up 71 to the nation’s top-scoring team. The Bears have scored at least 69 points in five of their first six games. That is not a good sign for Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who welcomes Baylor to Lawrence. Weis should take the pressure off the Kansas administration and fire himself.
9. Missouri —
Turns out the Tigers are just fine without James Franklin at quarterback. Backup Maty Mauk did well, leading the Tigers in a romp against Florida and keeping the Tigers on the road to the SEC title game. A year ago, Missouri won five games. It already has seven victories this season. Best thing that ever happened to Illinois football was ending the series with Gary Pinkel’s tough guys. South Carolina was supposed to stop the Missouri run. Doubt it now.
10. Texas Tech —
What in the name of Mike Leach is going on in Lubbock? Looking very much like vintage Red Raiders, the team has stormed to a 7-0 start. The offense is good as usual. But the surprise has been the defense played by Kliff Kingsbury’s team. The former star quarterback at the school has been a smash in his first year as head coach. Somebody else should have tried to hire him before the Red Raiders. Johnny Manziel clearly misses his former offensive coordinator.
SCHOOL PREVIOUS RANK
125. Georgia State 125
The Panthers are getting dangerously close to their first victory. Saturday against Texas State, they lost by a touchdown. That’s the second seven-point loss in a row. While they aren’t about to threaten Alabama, they should not finish the season without a win. The big problem for the team now is that nobody wants to be the first to lose to it. Like back when the Tampa Bay Bucs lost for most of their first two seasons in the NFL (ask your parents. Or Doug Williams). Eventually, the Bucs got better. And so will the Panthers. Only difference: no first-round picks on the way. Time to recruit.
124. New Mexico State 124
The suggestion to drop the football program apparently was ignored. So the Aggies played Rice on Saturday and got squished by the Puddings. Very messy. Next up: the most winnable game left on the New Mexico State schedule. Abilene Christian is an FCS school. That is good for New Mexico State. The Wildcats are 5-3. That is bad for the Aggies. And Abilene just put up 69 against Incarnate Word. That’s really bad for New Mexico State. We suggest prayers. Lots and lots of prayers to Our Lady of the Immaculate Reception. Maybe Franco Harris is listening.
123. Miami (Ohio) 123
Of course, the RedHawks lost. To a team almost as bad as them. Akron and Terry Bowden picked up their second win of the season courtesy of Miami. When Ron Zook takes over, and he will, he is going to have a ton of work to do. He should put his water skis and boat away for a couple of years. He is going to need every available second to fix his alma mater. The lowest-scoring team in the country won’t be close Saturday. Ohio enters the game with a 5-2 record and is hungry to become bowl eligible. Nice guy Frank Solich will call off the dogs. At some point. But not before making sure Miami doesn’t end its winless streak at his expense.
122. Western Michigan 122
P.J. Fleck is easy to like. The first-year Broncos coach is a former News-Gazette All-State receiver from Kaneland. He went on to star at Northern Illinois for beloved Joe Novak. The guy has a lot going for him. But all of his success as a player and an assistant doesn’t matter much this season for the Broncos, who are winless. The latest toe-stubbing came against Ball State. No disgrace there. The Cardinals are 7-1 and just outside H.U.’s Top 25. But lose the next game against 1-6 UMass and our hero Fleck might have to give all his trophies back. Yes, we have that kind of power.
121. Southern Miss 121
Purdue should be thankful for the Golden Eagles. Without the winless team, the Boilermakers would be front-runners for the B-Five. And nobody wants that. Todd Monken and his young charges had no chance against East Carolina, losing 55-14. The breakthrough win could come Saturday against North Texas. The Mean Green is better than normal, which is still pretty bad. Remember when Southern Miss used to travel throughout the country pulling big-time upsets? Me neither.
LEAGUE PREVIOUS RANK
1. ACC 5
2. Pac-12 1
3. SEC 2
4. Big 12 4
5. Big Ten 3
6. Mountain West 8
7. MAC 6
8. Sun Belt 9
9. Conference USA 10
10. American 7
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State. The kid was all right ... in the biggest game of his career. Playing with jet-engine-level noise from the kooks in the stands, Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Just to prove he is human, the freshman was intercepted. The only stat that really mattered was the ‘W’ he helped the Seminoles post.
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon. You know things are going well when we say “ho-hum” about a 327-yard, two-TD performance. That’s what he did against Washington State. Mariota continues to thrive despite missing key pieces in the Oregon offense. It helps us realize how important he is to the whole process. Oregon is not fighting for the title without him at quarterback.
3. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. He ran for 316 yards. In a game. And gained 9.9 yards per carry. Double-wow. Lynch wants another shot at a BCS game and is doing his best to make it happen. Not only did he run for three football fields, he threw for another 155 yards. He had four touchdowns. If you were counting. And you should be.
Nice of the smart folks at the BTN to get the Mallorys together during Saturday’s Indiana-Michigan game. The patriarch of college football’s first family, Bill Mallory, was on hand to see his two sons work against each other. Bill was a success as the longtime Indiana coach. Sons Curt and Doug followed Dad into the business. Doug is on the staff at Indiana, and Curt works at Michigan. Curt is one of the all-time good guys in coaching. H.U. got to know him when he was on the staff at Illinois. Our kids went to the same elementary school, too. A third Mallory brother, Mike, is a former Illinois defensive coordinator who went on to the NFL. The Mallorys are the kind of people we like to see in C-U.
No big deal
The groaning started early after the first BCS standings were released Sunday night. How could Oregon not be in the top two after dominating the first half of the season? Please, everyone, chill. The BCS will work itself out in time. Maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction, but it is college football we are talking about. The game is never easy, especially when it comes to finding a champion. Those who say they like the drama are just wrong. Maybe next year’s four-team playoff won’t appease everyone, but it is miles ahead of the status quo.
Throughout the BCS season, you will see the name Bill Hancock quoted often. That’s a good thing. Hancock is a longtime NCAA employee who moved smoothly into a leadership role with the BCS. He will continue to be a voice of reason once the playoff starts next season. In H.U.’s dealings with Hancock, he has been fair and reasonable. Those are qualities not always at the top of the list for NCAA officials. Bottom line: Hancock will do the right thing when it comes to college football. He is an ally for fans, not the enemy. Best thing about him, he doesn’t take it personally when the system is under attack.