Archive for October, 2009

Sorry about no postings last week folks.  We had a death in the family and it took a lot of time to get sorted out, so I just decided to let the week go, rather than rush through something that would be half done.

Weeks four and  five certainly gave us more surprises and more things to consider as the Top 25 bounces around and down and off the wall.  We’re seeing some teams exit and re-enter the list over periods of weeks just because their performance is wavering.  You might make a good case to just leave them out, but now we begin to have to look at record in addition to performance and it’s hard to leave a 1-loss team out of the mix just because they have one bad game.  Anyway, here’s the week’s Top 25 as we see it.  We’re also including the analysis here  in one post because there is a significant T25 game on Thursday night (Nebraska – Missouri).

#1 Florida (4-0) was idle. This week: At #4 LSU (5-0).

The Gator’s big showdown comes this week in Baton Rouge as they play the Bayou Bengals for quite possibly a shot at the National Title. A win by Florida would cement a title shot, seeing that they host the Razorbacks and Bulldogs later in the season and its really hard to beat Florida at home.  LSU will need to muster lots and lots of offense, which it’s just not been able to do.  LSU just escaped a mediocre Tennessee team last month, but put Kentucky in their place handily.  A win by the Tigers would certainly propel them into the top 3 and then set the showdown in three weeks with Alabama.  The big question will be if Florida QB Tim Tebow is able to start. He was back at practice on Monday and Tuesday, but has not been cleared to play on Saturday as of yet. He’s had 10 days to recover, more than enough time, and was in full pads and running options. Chances are coach Urban Meyer will keep Tebow’s condition  under wraps as long as he can.  Our guess will be he’ll not only play but it would probably take a small army to keep him from playing.  We’re thinking this game has great marquee value, but really should be just a significant bump for Florida.  With Tebow at the helm, this is a convincing 10-14 point victory for the Gators. Without him, it could be very interesting, but we’d still lean toward the Gators.  Florida by 12.

#2 Texas (4-0) was idle. This week: Colorado (1-3) at home.

There’s not a lot to say right now about the Longhorns, other than the fact that they are winning and winning well.  Colt McCoy’s only bad game this year came against Texas Tech, and they still won by 10.  They ace-in-the-hole is the Longhorn Defense.   Colorado won’t offer much resistance on Saturday, especially at Royal-Memorial.  The Buffs are slow on offense and defense, and have yet to muster any kind of consistent play.  The question could be if Texas will be so complacent that they might get ambushed.  OU is next and certainly there may be a tendency to de-emphasize Colorado.  We think this won’t make much difference.  Texas by 35.

#3 Alabama (5-0) defeated Kentucky (2-2) 38-20 at Kentucky.  This week: At #16 Mississippi (3-1).

Alabama proved its worthiness on the road against the Wildcats last week getting off to a 21-6 halftime lead and playing mostly defense in the second half. They were aided by a 45 yard fumble recovery for a TD. Alabama RB Mark Ingram ran for 140 yards and 2 TDs, but the Bama Defense gave up over 300 yards of total offense.  Mississippi is enduring talk of being overrated after a less than stellar performance over their first four games, including the loss to South Carolina.  Jevan Sneed just hasn’t lived up to the hype yet and has been, at best, inconsistent.  The Ole Miss defense hasn’t been at all bad, but because the offense has, it has put much more pressure on a Defense that  has to play more than it needs to.  We could see an upset, but everything would just have to come together for the Rebels for that to happen.  Alabama might have a harder time scoring, and their defense can be suspect.  We’re still figuring the Tide should prevail however, perhaps in a low scoring game.  Bama by 8.

#4 LSU (5-0) defeated Georgia (3-2) 20-13 at Georgia. This week: #1 Florida at home.

For most of the day, it was a defensive struggle. Then, with the clock winding down, LSU and Georgia started trading touchdowns as though the defenses weren’t even on the field.  A last minute interception sealed an hard fought victory for the Tigers. The Bulldogs had virtually no running game, allowing only 45 years, but gave up 229 yards in the air.  They’ll need that same rushing defense if they are to pull the upset of Florida on Saturday.  See the analysis above.  Florida by 12.

#5 Virginia Tech (4-1)  defeated Duke (2-3) 34-26 at Duke. This week: Boston College (4-1).

Duke had this game in hand except that it’s offense stalled three times inside the VT 30.  The Blue Devils also had an extremely unbalanced offense rushing for only 38 yards, but torching the VT defense for 359.   VT Junior QB Tyrod Taylor turned in an excellent performance, however, going 17/22 for 327 yards and 2 TDs.  BC can get on an offensive roll, but their offense has been suspect of late.  Going against a solid VT D, and the fact that the Hokies are at home, give a definite slant towards Tech. Hokies by 14.

#6 USC (4-1) defeated California (3-2) 30-3 at Cal.  This week: Idle.

In week one the USC-Cal game looked to be a real test for both teams, but the Trojans dominated the Bears  from the start, and defensively pressured the Cal offense all night long. Number one on USC’s list was to shut down Jahvid Best and the running game, which they did in spades allowing him only 47 yards on 14 carries, 14 of which came on one run.  That means outside of the one scamper they held him to 2.5 yards/carry.  The Trojans held Cal QB Kevin Riley to a 37.5% completion rate. In the meantime, USC QB Matt Barkley went 20/35 for 283 yards and a TD and Joe McKnight added 119 yards on the ground. The Trojans will get the week off to prepare for their big road game to South Bend on the 17th.

#7 Cincinnati (5-0) defeated Miami (OH) (0-5) 37-13 in Ohio.  This week: At #18 South Florida (5-0) (Thursday).

It was an easy game of sorts for Cincinnati against the cellar dweller in the MAC, and they took care of business. They jumped out to a 23-7 lead then banged the end zone twice in the final quarter to lock it away. RB Jacob Ramsey ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns, while QB Tony Pike threw for 270 yards and 2 TDs.  The Bearcats travel to South Florida on a short week, to take on the undefeated Bulls.  It should be a contrast of styles offensively. Cincinnati ranks 7th in the country in passing yards per game, while South Florida leans on its rushing game averaging 60 more yards per game than Cincy.  The key to the game will be the strength of the Bulls passing defense, which could be the Achilles heel.  In their previous two games against Florida State and Syracuse, South Florida has been tough against the run, but torched in the secondary, giving up  well over 250 yards to  both opponents.   We don’t see this as much different.  A note here, though, QB Tony Pike’s stock in the Heisman race has grown in the past weeks.  A big win, with big numbers would not only move Cincy up in the top 10, but would capture more mindshare. Cincy by 18.

#8 Boise State (5-0) defeated UC Davis (1-3) 34-16 at home. This week: Idle.

The Broncos earn a break until next Wednesday night by getting by UC Davis, an FCS team that put up a pretty spirited fight, staying within earshot most of the night.   They were only down by 10 in the 3rd quarter, before Austin Pettis scored with a little over 3 minutes left.  BSU’s last score was cosmetic with 38 seconds left, so the game wasn’t near as indicative as the score might show.  We’re not as excited about Boise State being in the top 5 as many pollsters, and they’ll suffer long term due to a weak schedule.  They’ll lace ‘em up again next Wednesday when they travel to Tulsa.

#9 Iowa (5-0) defeated Arkansas State (1-3) 24-21 at home. This week: Michigan (4-1) at home.

The Hawkeyes are off to their best start in 14 years — no matter how ugly it’s often been. QB Ricky Stanzi threw for a season-high 296 yards and three touchdowns, but somehow Sun Belt based Arkansas State hung around and made a late charge, down 21-7 to give Iowa a little consternation.  But their road win against Penn State showed they had the moxy to play hard and tough.  At home against Michigan, Iowa will need to rely on defense, and hope that Wolverine QB Tate Forcier has a Freshman-like day.  We’re pretty sure he’ll be pressure cooked most of the day.  Iowa by 11.

#10 Ohio State (4-1) defeated Indiana (3-2) 33-14 in Indiana. This week: Wisconsin (5-0) at home.

The Buckeyes had six possessions and score on four of them in the first half, building a 24-7 lead from which the Hoosiers could never recover. Ohio State’s sophomore signal-caller Terrelle Pryor came up big, throwing for 159 yards and 3 TDs and scrambling for 63 and another score. OSU’s defense only allowed 18 yards of rushing offense.  The Buckeyes will have a much tougher test this Saturday taking on the Badgers who, at 5-0, have gone largely undetected. They’ve disposed of Big-10 foes Michigan State and Minnesota, the last on the road.  If Wisconsin up and kicks OSU around and wins, they’ll certain be entering the Top 25 with two quality road wins back to back and a 6-0 record. By the way, take a snapshot now…Iowa and Wisconsin lead the Big-10 5 weeks in.   The line on the game is OSU by 16, but we’re thinking it’s going to be closer, and maybe even a possible upset.  OSU by 7.

#11 TCU (4-0) defeated SMU (2-2)  39-14 at home. This week: At Air Force (3-2).

The Horned Frogs are for real, as they continue to execute much more consistently on offense in addition to having a very stingy defense.  Against SMU, we’ll give the Game ball  to Jeremy Kerley, TCU’s junior WR  who returned a punt for a TD, rushed for another and led the team with four catches for 48 yards. TCU amassed over 400 yards total offense, while the defense destroyed SMU’s running game, posting a -16 yards.  The Mountain West heats up this weekend where Air Force hosts the Frogs, with both teams undefeated in conference play. Air Force will do it on the ground as the 2nd ranked team in the country in rushing offense (averaging almost 300 yards per game). TCU’s defense has held 3 of 4 opponents this year to under 60 yards of total rushing yards.  We’ll go with the Frogs in this one.  TCU by 12.

#12 Penn State (4-1) defeated Illinois (1-3) 35-17 at Illinois.  This week: Eastern Illinois (4-1) (FCS)  at home.

The Nittany Lions come off a solid rebound effort after their loss to Iowa. It was primary on the ground for PSU, with Stephon Green running for 120 yards and Evan Royster adding another 105. All in all, the PSU rushing attack gained 338 yards, 208 of which were in the 3rd quarter.  They’ll catch a breather this week facing FCS opponent Eastern Illinois of the Ohio Valley Conference.  The Panthers have allowed 2.7 yards per carry in its first five games, but the No. 25 team in the Sports Network’s FCS poll won’t have the luxury of facing another lower-tier opponent this week, so we’re pretty certain PSU gets a nice relaxed home victory.  PSU by 33.

#13 Miami (FL) (3-1) defeated #20 Oklahoma (2-2) 21-20 at home. This week: Florida A&M (4-0) at home.

We’re really perplexed at Miami’s inconsistent behavior, but when they play like the did against OU this past weekend, we’re convinced they are for real.  Consider that the Hurricane’s have played four games and all four were against ranked teams in the top 25, and they’ve won 3 of the 4.  If QB Jacory Harris can steer Miami the rest of the way, especially into the top 10, he has to be at least mentioned for the Heisman. Against a fast OU defense he threw for over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Javarris James ran roughshod over the Sooner defense for 150 yards on 15 carries.  Like Penn State, the Hurricanes will get a breather with a decent FCS team in the Florida A&M Rattlers. Miami’s defensive focus Saturday will be on Florida A&M quarterback Curtis Pulley, who is having an outstanding senior season.

Pulley threw for 315 yards and two TDs to lead the Rattlers to a 31-12 victory over Tennessee State on Sept. 26. He has passed for 846 yards, seven touchdowns and one INT while leading the team with 291 yards rushing. Miami should easily rule this one in their home stadium though.  Hurricanes by 24.

#14 Oregon (4-1) defeated Washington State (1-4) 52-6 at home. This week: At UCLA (3-1).

Way back in week one, the Ducks looked as if they might as well fold for the season they looked so bad against Boise State.  Since then, they’ve run off four straight wins, two over ranked opponents, destroyed at that time a #6 Cal 42-3.  Their defense is allowing an average of 11 points in their last 3 outings, the last two of which were in single digits.  Against WSU, Oregon rushed for over 300 yards and added almost 200 in the air, and got three turnovers.  UCLA hosts the Ducks this year, and offensively puts a very balance squad on the field. Senior QB Kevin Craft is more stable and consistent this year, but we don’t think he’ll be able to carry them past the Ducks this week.  Oregon by 13.

#15 Brigham Young (4-1) defeated Utah State (1-3) 35-17 at home. This week: At UNLV (2-3).

BYU has been somewhat of a paradox, like many schools in the Top 25.  They have played consistently great except for that ONE game.  Their nemesis was  Florida State that crushed them 54-28 in week three.  Last week though,  RB Harvey Unga helped himself to 118 yards on 21 carries and the defense caused two costly turnovers in Utah State’s end of the field to help the Cougars to victory.  The real trouble spot has been QB Max Hall’s tendency to throw interceptions, though.  Her threw 2 INTs in the game, and has thrown 2 or more in four of the five games played.  UNLV hosts the game this week, but defensively they must play above themselves. The Rebels gave up 773 yards in a 63-28 loss at Nevada last Saturday. It was the worst defensive performance by a Division I team this season, eclipsing the 663 yards Troy surrendered against top-ranked Florida on Sept. 12. This bodes no good for any chance of an upset. BYU by 21.

#16 Mississippi (3-1) defeated Vanderbilt (2-3) 23-7 at Vandy. This week: #3 Alabama (5-0) at home.

As alluded to earlier, Mississippi has been somewhat of a disappointed this year.  After a strong finish last year and a convincing thumping of Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, hopes were so high that it earned them a pre-season top 10 ranking. But they have failed to impress.  They have struggled to win, and then lost their SEC opener on National TV against South Carolina. While the Rebs  defeated Vanderbilt handily, Jevan Sneed was again a mixed blessing.  He threw for 237 yards and three TDs, but also threw three picks. They’ll need to be MUCH better against #3 Alabama who brings the #2 defense in the country to town.  If Jevan Sneed can put together a consistent offensive game with no mistakes this one could be competitive, as Ole Miss does have a stellar defensive unit. But we’re thinking it won’t happen. Bama by 8.

#17 Oklahoma State (3-1) as idle. This week: At Texas A&M (3-1).

The Cowboys travel to College Station to take on an enigmatic Aggie team that showed last week that when they tried to put on the big boy pants, they didn’t fit. It’s the Big 12 opener for both Oklahoma State and Texas A&M when the teams meet at Kyle Field. Oklahoma State is 3-10 against Texas A&M since the Big 12 began play in 1996, including a 1-5 record in College Station. Texas A&M has lost 12 of its last 15 games at home against ranked opponents. So equally bad trends are going head on.  Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, a sophomore transfer from Michigan who won a high school title in Texas in 2006, finished 17-of-27 for 271 yards and an interception, while throwing touchdowns to four receivers against a woeful A&M defense.  The Aggies were not without good performances however.  QB Jerrod Johnson was 30-of-58 for 345 yards and two touchdowns, with most of the numbers piled up mostly after the Aggies fell way behind. He also had two fumbles — one that was returned 85 yards for a touchdown (turning a potential go-ahead drive into a 21-10 deficit) and another in the closing seconds. OSU has major key players in QB Zac Robinson who sports a 155.33 QB rating and has thrown for over 7,000 yards and 57 TDs in his career, and WR Dez Bryant who is averaging 19 yards per catch this year.  The Cowboys also bring a potent running game with Senior RB Keith Toston (6.1 yds/carry) and Jeremy Smith (10.1 yds/carry).  We think this could potentially be a good game, with Johnson having the potential to torch a vulnerable OSU secondary much like Houston did so we’re putting this one on Upset Alert.  OSU by 4.

#18 South Florida (5-0) defeated Syracuse (2-3) 34-20 at Syracuse. This week: #8 Cincinnati at home.

South Florida keeps quietly building a solid program year after year, and this year is no different. The Bulls disposed of Syracuse last week with backup QB B.J. Daniels went 12/20 for 208 yards and two TD’s.  The Bulls defense held the Orangemen to just 75 yards rushing, and captured a whopping 5 interceptions.  As discussed above, they’ll need to be way on top of their game  when the Bearcats invade. Look for Cincy QB Tony Pike to have a field day if the Bulls can’t put pressure on him. Cincy by 18.

#19 Georgia Tech (4-1) defeated Mississippi State (2-3) 42-31 at MSU. This week: At Florida State (2-3).

Georgia Tech used an uncharacteristic balanced offensive attack of 469 yards to topple MSU last week.  The Yellow Jackets had 266 yards passing and 213 yards rushing. GT QB Josh Nesbitt completed 79 percent of his passes and finished with 1 TD and 322 total yards. We might be tempted to bill this one as the battle of the inconsistents. Both teams have impressed, but also disappointed. Tech’s running game is 6th in the country, while FSU’s passing game is 15th, so we’re stymied in thought.  This one will depend on which team on both sides will show up to play. We flipped a coin and took Georgia Tech.  Yellow Jackets by 3.

#20  Oklahoma (2-2) lost to #13 Miami (3-1) 21-20 in Miami.  This week: Baylor (3-1) at home.

For a team that lost its Heisman-winning QB, the Sooners have been impressive, despite their 2-2 record.   But at the same time,  we’re thinking that they have no more losses left to stay in the top 25. They have faltered twice against ranked teams this year, and the trend has to turn.  In the Miami game, they played well enough to win but couldn’t push the ball down the field in the closing moments to cash in.  With Baylor’s outstanding The Sooner D has to improve.  Though the unit ranks fourth in the nation allowing 8.7 points per contest and 10th by giving up 253.0 yards per game, the Sooners yielded 21 straight points against Miami. Baylor has lost 18 consecutive games against Top 25 opponents dating to a 35-34 overtime win over then-No. 16 Texas A&M on Oct. 30, 2004. They are also without their star QB Robert Griffin who is nursing a knee injury.  Playing at home, OU may want to make a statement, and it may mark the return of Sam Bradford.  Sooners by 27.

#21 Nebraska (3-1) was idle.  This week: At #25 Missouri (4-0).

It will be a battle for supremacy and the upper-hand in the Big-12 North when the Cornhuskers visit Missouri Thursday night in a nationally televised game.  Nebraska’s only blemish was  the result of a blown coverage at the end of the Virginia Tech game that allowed the Hokies to steal a 16-15 win in a game otherwise dominated by the Red and White. The Huskers and Tigers have been sizzling on offense, both ranking in the top 20 in total yards and points scored. Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert is yet to throw an interception this season. Nebraska has had little trouble shutting down opponents, while Missouri has been scoring with ease. Those trends seem unlikely to continue as the teams begin Big 12 play for keeps.  This one could go either way, but we’ll lean slightly toward Nebraska.  Cornhuskers by 3.

#22 Auburn (5-0) defeated Tennessee (2-3) 26-22 at Tennessee. This week: At Arkansas (2-2).

Very quietly, the Tigers have been going about their business disposing of opponents and waiting for people to notice.  Well, we did. Auburn met some resistance early from Tennessee’s defense last week, but slowly wore it down as they held the ball nearly 10 minutes longer than the Vols. Auburn’s third-ranked offense racked up 459 yards. This week, they travel to Arkansas who has a lot of talent, if they can keep from beating themselves.  They annihilated and undefeated Texas A&M team last week, but have been plagued with inconsistent play on both sides of the ball. Was last week a turning point?  Perhaps, but they’ll need a full effort to derail Auburn, which we feel isn’t likely.  Oh yeah. Home field advantage for the Razorbacks isn’t. The Tigers have won three straight at Fayetteville. Tigers by 6.

#23 South Carolina (4-1) defeated So. Carolina State (3-1) (FCS) 38-14 at home. This week: Kentucky (2-2) at home.

Steve Spurrier should probably be at least considered for Coach of the Year for what he’s putting together this year. His team’s only loss was to a ranked Georgia team by 4 points late in the game. QB Stephen Garcia threw two touchdowns, rushed for another score and South Carolina matched to its best start in the last five seasons.  Kentucky will bring a team that’s always capable of putting points on the board, but historically hasn’t fared well against the Gamecocks. Spurrier is 17-0 against the Wildcats spanning his 5 years at SC and 12 years prior.   This probably won’t change. Gamecocks by 13.

#24 Stanford (4-1)  defeated UCLA (3-1) 24-16 at home. This week: At Oregon State (3-2)

The Cardinal have been another team, like Auburn, running under the radar, and now take advantage of a topsy-turvy football year to sneak into the Top 25. They surfaced with a then surprise win over Washington the week after the Huskies knocked off USC.  Last week against then undefeated UCLA,  RB Toby Gerhart ran for three touchdowns (130 yards) and QB Andrew Luck passed for 198 yards and Stanford snapped a five-game losing streak to UCLA with a 24-16 victory Saturday to keep its hold on first place in the Pac-10.  That’s right FIRST PLACE.   However, a bit of a challenge is in store as Stanford must travel to Corvallis to face the Beavers. Stanford sports the 12th best rushing offense in the nation at over 220 yards per game, but Oregon State is putting up an average of over 270 yards passing per game with Senior QB Sean Canfield (134 QB rating).  We’re leaning toward Stanford, but this could easily go the other way with the Beavers at home.  So let’s put this one on Upset Alert.  Stanford by 2.

#25 Missouri (4-0) was idle.  This week: #21 Nebraska at home.

See above analysis. Nebraska by 3.

Read Full Post »