10 thoughts from this weekend’s action, followed by my top 10 list:
1. 2 weeks ago, Arkansas showed the world the blueprint for beating Alabama. 4 quarters of good quarterback play combined with a solid defensive effort was what was needed to take down the nation’s best team. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the team played well through the first 3 quarters before falling apart in the fourth. Alabama was proven to be beatable, the question became “what team would be able to pull the upset?” It ended up being South Carolina with Garcia and the Gamecock defense stepping up after their bye week and a loss @Auburn.
2. Denard Robinson is a great athlete. By his senior year, Michigan's offense will be one of the nation's best and he'll have a legit case for the Heisman. Right now, he has to improve his throwing accuracy and get through his reads faster. Rich Rodriguez needs to put better offensive pieces around him and completely overhaul the Wolverine D. Until then, teams with solid passing games and competent defenses will have little trouble winning against Michigan. Iowa, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are all left on the Wolverine schedule and fit the description. Michigan will lose 2-3 more games this regular season. On the other side of the coin, Michigan State is for real. Sparty should be undefeated heading to Iowa City in two weeks. A win there, and MSU should earn at least a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena.
3. If Terrelle Pryor plays at the top of his game (ie, Saturday vs. Indiana, vs. Miami (FL), and in the Rose Bowl), Ohio State is nearly unbeatable. The Buckeye defense is one of the best in the country, and Pryor is the necessary component for OSU’s offensive success. If Pryor is playing poorly or (God forbid) gets injured, the Buckeye offense goes from solid to below average and the team goes from national title contender to 2-4 loss team out of the BCS.
4. Speaking of Ohio State, their hard-fought victory in their Big Ten opener against Illinois doesn’t look as bad after the beating the Illini laid on Penn State in Happy Valley. If Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa are the top Big Ten teams, Illinois fits solidly in the 2nd tier with Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana. Conversely, Penn State is looking like the 9th best team in the conference and will be fighting with Purdue to try and get bowl eligible.
5. Auburn needs a statement win. Right now, the Tigers are the highest ranked SEC team according to the AP. However, I’m still waiting for them to really put on an impressive performance. They have struggled in both of their road games against clearly inferior opponents (Mississippi State and Kentucky). It took overtime to beat Clemson on the Plains. Auburn needed Stephen Garcia and South Carolina to collapse in the 4th quarter to keep their undefeated season alive. A win next week over Arkansas would go a long way for Auburn. However, I still think Arkansas should come away with the W.
6. Les Miles must have made a deal with the devil. How else can you explain these 4th quarter comebacks, lucky fake FGs, and wins despite horrible clock management? LSU has a national championship caliber defense. If either Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson can figure out how to lead the offense, LSU can make a legit run at the SEC title and a record 3rd BCS championship. If no, the Tigers are doomed to lose at least twice as their schedule will only get tougher from here on.
7. The SEC East isn’t very good. Other than South Carolina, the top 5 SEC teams all come from the West. The Gamecocks are in the drivers seat to win their division. The Old Ball Coach has no excuses for his team failing to reach Atlanta this year, let’s take a look at the competition. Florida is one of the best programs in the country, but is in the middle of a down year. This is not a knock on the Gators, this usually happens when you lose an all world QB like Tim Tebow. Georgia lost their first 3 SEC games and then got beaten by Colorado. Tennessee has been blown out twice, nearly lost to UAB, and blew a 4th quarter lead despite LSU’s best effort to give them the game. Kentucky couldn’t seal the deal against Auburn and got blown out in Gainesville. Vandy is Vandy.
8. Oklahoma’s blowout win over Florida State earlier this season is looking even better after the beating FSU laid on Miami (FL). Right now, the Seminoles are the best team in Florida and are the clear favorites in the ACC. They are in the weaker division and should be the favorites in all of their remaining games.
9. At some point this season, a Pac 10 team will come up with a scheme to shut down the Oregon offense. If the Ducks don’t put up at least 40 points, they are in danger of losing on any given Saturday. To say their defense is a weakness would be a massive understatement. Though they lost this weekend, I think Mike Stoops and his Arizona Wildcats have the best shot at the end of November. Arizona is the best defensive team in the conference and should still have a chance at getting to the Rose Bowl. Other teams that have a shot are USC at home in 2 weeks and Oregon State in Corvallis the last week of the season.
10. After a convincing win in Ames, the Utah Utes have earned the right to be in the conversation for best non-AQ team with Boise State and TCU. As an outside observer I find it shocking that Utah isn’t getting any press right now. Though they are not the sexy pick, Utah has as strong of a BCS busting track record as either of the other teams. The beaten 2 AQ school already and have a chance to knock off a third when they go to South Bend next month. A win over TCU in Salt Lake City will change the way both teams are viewed. The Horned Frogs will be the favorite (possibly a heavy favorite), but given Utah’s recent track record at home (only 5 losses in 5+ seasons under Kyle Whittingham, nonce since September ’07) I certainly wouldn’t bet any money against them.
My Top 10:
2. Ohio State
4. Boise State