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This is week 1 of the 2009 College Football Season and it couldn’t get here fast enough!  Be sure to check out the post just before this one that highlights our Preseason Top 25!

As usual, most teams are in smoothie mode the first few weeks, which usually means big mismatches and a chance for the premium teams to test talent and roll up points at the expense of lesser teams. However a few games this week pit presesaon top 10 and top 25 foes  which could set the tone for everything to follow.

#1 Florida  (0-0)  vs. Charleston Southern (0-0). Gainesville, FL.

Florida will begin the defense of their National Championship Saturday hosting the Buccaneers from Charleston Southern.  The Bucs were  7-5 last year in the Big South Conference (FCS),  winning their final four games.  The Gators probably will work this game much like a scrimmage, giving a lot of players time on the field, and allowing Tebow to work a little, then rest. Just because they’re expected to, the Gators will win big:  Florida by 43.

#2 Texas (0-0) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (0-0). Austin, TX.

The Warhawks from La-Monroe come to town and will, as usual, field a very athletic team. With all that talent, they’ve yet to really put a competitive team on the field, however.  Look for Texas RBs Fozzie Whittaker, Vondrell McGee and Cody Johnson to have a lot of chances early especially to get some work for the Offensive Line. With this successful, LA-Monroe will most likely throw more men in the box, which should open the flood gates for McCoy.  Because Florida will win big, Texas will too. Texas by 45.

#3 Oklahoma (0-0) vs. #21 Brigham Young (0-0). Norman, OK.

This is will a nice test for both teams. OU will be forced to test out the pass defense that tended to let them down in big games, and BYU will be seeing how their new offensive line holds up.  Look for Max Hall to test the secondary.  Look also for OU to try to get out to a quick start. Sooners at 60-2 at home, so it’s pretty easy to choose them.  How much is the question.  Sooners by 24.

#4 Alabama (0-0) vs. #6 Virginia Tech (0-0).  Atlanta, GA (Georgia Dome)

This will perhaps be the most interesting game of the week and most important to these two teams.  Virginia Tech is a defensive machine that also has a knack for special teams. Alabama will be testing out whether they cane replace key offensive players.  This is liable to be a low scoring affair, and perhaps a game of turnovers.  Look for both QBs (Tyrod Taylor for VT and Greg McElroy) to be the key to the game’s flow.   Alabama by 3.

#5 Ole Miss (0-0) vs. Memphis (0-0). Memphis, TN (Liberty Bowl) (Sunday)

Hard to believe that Houston Nutt won’t have his Rebels ready to play, but history tends to prove out that Memphis does very well against ranked teams, especially with a big audience.   The Tigers will employ a tough defense, but it’s very hard to fathom that Mississippi won’t run wild.  Rebels by 27.

#6 Virginia Tech (0-0)  vs. #4 Alabama (0-0).  Atlanta, GA (Georgia Dome)

See above under #4 Alabama. Alabama by 3.

#7 Ohio State (0-0) vs. Navy (0-0). Columbus, OH.

The Navy ground game averaged almost 300 yards/game in 2008 and there’s not much reason to believe that that will change in 2009, however, the Navy defense was scored on at will by just about anyone that showed up. While Navy will probably get themselves another bowl game this year, it won’t start well.  Ohio State by 28.

#8 USC (0-0) vs.  San Jose State (0-0). Los Angeles, CA.

The Trojans are 28-1 straight up against WAC conference opponents all-time, but the Spartans of late have overachieved .  In 2000 they only lost 21-10, and in 2001 only  lost 31-21. This might be another opportunity for Pete Carroll to run through lots of people.  USC by 24.

#9 Oklahoma State (0-0) vs. #14 Georgia (0-0). Stillwater, OK.

The OSU Cowboys play host to a very tough opening day opponent in the Bulldogs.  A new Quarterback and RB tandem is needed with Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno safely entrenched in the NFL.   OSU brings back Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant for a repeat of 2008, but with a much improved defense.  Expect that the Dawgs will test that 110th ranked Cowboy defensive secondary to see how improved it really is.  Cowboys by 14.

#10 California (0-0) vs. Maryland (0-0).  Berkeley, CA.

The Golden Bears are again set this year to be the team that knocks off USC, and they’ll try to do so with a new QB (Kevin Riley) and returner Jahvid Best at RB.  The Bears are hoping for a much better passing efficiency  than last year’s 51%, and a better defense.  The Terps look to  re-establish their passing game, so this shouldn’t be a blow out, but should be comfy.  Cal by 21.

#11 LSU (0-0) vs. Washington (0-0).  Seattle, WA.

With the offense scheduled to improve, and the defense in familiar form, the Tigers take a formidable team to Seattle to battle the Huskies, who are fighting a string of four consecutive losing seasons under Ty Willingham (11-25). Huskie QB Jake Locker (Soph)  will attempt to right the ship, but with a shallow OL and DL it will be challenging.  This game will be interesting to watch how far the LSU offense has come.  Tigers by 24.

#12 Oregon (0-0) vs. #15 Boise State (0-0). Boise, ID (Thurs)

Another good game for week 1 as both teams get a good test to see where they are.  Oregon looks to pickup from last year with Masoli at QB and Blount at RB, but the question will be the offensive line, so this will be a good tell for 2009.  The key to the game will be if Oregon’s pass defense has gotten any better. It will be a good test for both clubs, as BSU has a lot of new faces in the lineup.  Keep in mind that BSU holds the best home field advantage of any team over the last 10 years. This will be a fun one to watch.  Oregon is the favorite, but this could easily be an upset.  Ducks by 6.

#13 Penn State (0-0) vs. Akron (0-0). State College, PA.

Penn State always chooses creampuffs for their non-cons, so having the Akron Zips come in for an opener is not surprising.  Even if they didn’t have Darryll Clark and Evan Royster returning, and even if they graduated their top four receivers in school history, this shouldn’t be anything but a nice check to Akron for coming in and having a scrimmage.  Nittany Lions by 30.

#14 Georgia (0-0) vs. #9 Oklahoma State (0-0). Stillwater, OK.

See above.  Cowboys by 14.

#15 Boise State (0-0) vs. Oregon (0-0). Boise, ID. (Thurs)

See above.  Ducks by 3.

#16 TCU (0-0) Idle.

#17 Utah (0-0) vs. Utah State (0-0). Salt Lake City, UT (Thurs)

The Utes look to try to build on the momentum of an undefeated season last year that included a Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama.  They’ll be testing out a lot of new players on Offense, but will still have the tough, fast defense.  Utah State?  Well,  the Aggies are 6-29 for coach Brent Guy, and he got a vote of confidence.  Enough said.  Utah by 24.

#18  Notre Dame (0-0) vs. Nevada (0-0). South Bend, IN.

Notre Dame looks to be vastly improved this year under Charlie Weiss, and the defense should be faster.  Nevada has one of the premier QBs in the country in Colin Kaepernic who sported a 132.10 rating last year and threw for almost 3000 yards. While we’re willing to say this won’t be a blow out,  the Irish should prevail well enough to get the home folk excited.  Notre Dame by 14.

#19 North Carolina (0-0) vs. The Citadel. Chapel Hill, NC.

With a much improved offense, and another strong defensive year, the Bulldogs should be on the run most of the evening.  Look for a big game from QB T. J. Yates and not much from The Citadel.  Tar Heels by 30.

#20 Iowa (0-0) vs. Northern Iowa (0-0).  Iowa City, IA.

The last time Iowa lost to  Northern Iowa was in 1898. It’s the first meeting between the two schools in 14 years.  Northern Iowa however advanced to the FCS semifinal championship game and won a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title last year, so the Panthers aren’t exactly a push over.  Sr. QB Pat Grace is returning from a 2700 yard season and Iowa will be without starting tailback Jewel Hampton.  Still this looks like a mismatch.  Hawkeyes by 28.

#21 BYU (0-0) vs. #3 Oklahoma (0-0). Norman, OK.

See above.  Sooners by 24.

#22 Nebraska (0-0) vs. Florida Atlantic (0-0). Lincoln, NE.

FAU loses eight starters this year from a defense that ranked #92 nationally last year.   However their starting QB, Rusty Smith, threw for over 3000 yards last year,  so getting pressure on him will be a key. Nebraska has won 23 straight season openers, and shouldn’t have any problem making it 24.  Huskers by 27.

#23 Georgia Tech (0-0) vs. Jacksonville State (0-0).  Atlanta, GA.

Remember Ryan Perrilloux, the dismissed QB from LSU?  Well he won’t be playing  because of a, surprise, suspension due to team rules. So the  Gamecocks will be hard pressed to score much.  GT is quicker and more versatile on offense, but there may be work to do on Defense.  In any case, bank on an easy win.  Tech by 35.

#24 Kansas (0-0) vs. Northern Colorado (0-0).  Lawrence, KS.

Kansas could be in a very good position to challenge Nebraska for the Big-12 North title this year, especially with returning QB Todd Reesing. This will be the first ever meeting between the two teams, but there should be no problem in handling the FCS foe.  Keys to watch will be how well the Kansas defense is introducing a new 4-2-5 scheme.  Jayhawks by 30.

#25 Oregon State (0-0) vs. Portland State (0-0). Corvallis, OR.

OSU has won its past 25 nonleague home games at Reser Stadium without a loss in Mike Riley’s eight previous seasons as head coach.  They have played PSU twice and won 51-14 and 41-14.  That should continue this week.  Beavers by 35.

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Well folks we’re back again for another college football season!  This is the third year that we’ve published our weekly blog and analysis each week.  Those of you that followed us in the past, welcome back.  Those of you that are new, please bookmark us and return each week where we’ll review the weekend’s games, publish a new Top 25, and then hit the upcoming games of the week.

The 2009 season should be a real interesting one.  Many teams are looking to build on last year’s successes while other are trying to hold on to past successes.   With that, we present our Pre-Season Top 25 Kathman-Patton Rankings1.

1. Florida

The first thing that jumps out at you about the 2009 vintage of the Florida Gators is their list of starters that are returning.  The second is their schedule. Both make it easy to put the Gators as the odds-on favorite to return to the Championship game in January, 2010.

Heisman winner Tim Tebow returns as arguably the most important player to his team in the NCAA.   Losing Percy Harvin will be a blow, but  Riley Cooper, David Nelson, and Deonte Thompson will join developing senior WR Carl Moore to provide a top notch WR crew.  What does strike you as daunting is the return of every single defensive player.  Last year this defense posted 26 interceptions which led the NCAA and posted a +22 turnover margin.  They were 4th in the nation in scoring defense and 9th in total defense. And they are faster.

But this year Florida has a much easier schedule than last. Only three preseason top 25 teams are on their schedule: LSU, Georgia and Florida State.  The LSU game on 10/10 will be the challenge as its on the road.  There’s no Old Miss this year to ruin a perfect season and the rest of the schedule is pedestrian at best.

Key games: Tennessee (9/19),  @LSU (10/10), Georgia (Jacksonville)(10/31), Florida State (11/28).

2. Texas

By all means, had it not been for Michael Crabtree’s tiptoes and body control with moment’s left in the game, UT’s fortunes would have undeniably changed.  They would have won the Big-12 and gone on to play Florida in the National Championship. As it was, Texas Tech pulled the upset, and the Big-12’s ridiculous tiebreaker went into effect and hardly anyone was happy except OU, who lost in the title game to Florida. Texas didn’t even go to the Big-12 title game despite beating Oklahoma AND Missouri by double digits. Something was definitely wrong.

Texas has no such threat this year outside it’s Red-River companion, who they play on 10/17.  Colt McCoy, who came in second behind Sam Bradford at OU, is back after an NCAA Division I single-season record 76.7 percentage completions, 34 TDs and almost 4000 yards.  What people don’t realize is the McCoy also led the team in rushing Even without WR Quan Cosby, Texas shouldn’t lose a beat. Jordan Shipley, who led the Longhorns with 1060 eards and 11 TDs will return and so is RB Cody Johnson who lead the team in rushing TDs with 12. There were key defensive losses however in Brian Orakpo and Rashad Bobino. But the defensive backs are unmistakably great.  The Texas D led the Big-12 in points allowed and Total Defense in 2008.

Key games: Texas Tech (9/19),  Oklahoma (in Dallas) (10/17), @Oklahoma State (10/31).

3. Oklahoma

The perennial bridesmaid of the NCAA Oklahoma Sooners sneaked into the Championship game yet again last year through the sheer will of the pollsters and the fact that they had scored 60 or more points five weeks in a row.  Heisman winner Sam Bradford was close to perfection throwing a NCAA leading 50 TD passes  and passing for 4720 yards. He also threw more than 300 yards in every game he played, which is pretty amazing. Chris Brown returns from his 1220 yards rushing in 2008, along with DeMarco Murray. However, the trouble area for the Sooners will be their offensive line which has only one returning starter, so it’s likely that the OU offense won’t be able to match their 2008 stats, but there’s no reason why they’ll not contend for the Big-12 championship again, especially since their defense has 8 starters back from a year ago when they were 3rd in the Big 12 in total defense and 2nd in points allowed.  Still, the defense could be the weakest link.

Schedule wise they have only 3 challenging games, and only one is on the road, Nebraska.  The Sooners are a whopping 60-2 at home under Bob Stoops.

Key games: Texas (at Dallas) (10/17),  @Nebraska (11/7) Oklahoma State (11/28)

4. Alabama

A humbling loss to a non-BCS Utah Utes team, who wholeheartedly deserved the bid, ended an otherwise impressive season for the Crimson Tide.  Under coach Nick Saban, Alabama, 8-0 in SEC play, made it all the way to the SEC title game before losing to Florida, so 2009 should hold great promise, if they can plug seven starters into the offense, including a QB.  Greg McElroy and Star Jackson will compete for the starting job there. Either will enjoy throwing to returning WR Julio Jones who should be on the radar for All-American. Mark Ingram will take over the starting RB job from Glen Coffee who made the jump to the NFL.  What’s good news is that 9 of 12 are back on defense which was #1 in total Defense in the SEC in 2008 and #3 in the nation. After the opening weekend against Virginia Tech, Alabama cruises until LSU at home on 11/7, which could again be for the SEC West title and a berth in the SEC Championship.

Key games: Virginia Tech (in Atlanta) (9/5), LSU (11/7)

5. Ole Miss

Houston Nutt for years has been a miracle worker and Ole Miss was no different in 2008,  going from winless  in SEC play to a 9-4 season including a shellacking of Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. Junior QB Jevan Snead comes off a 2008 performance that included 26 touchdowns and a passing efficiency that ranked him 3rd in the SEC.   Dexter McCluster will be a potent back as well as receiver.  The defense, led by Greg Hardy and Kendrick Lewis should be improved also.  The Rebels also are the beneficiary of a very kind schedule having only two top 25 teams to worry about: Alabama and LSU, and both are home games.

Key games: Alabama (10/10), LSU (11/21)

6. Virginia Tech

A lot of pundits will look at the 2008 statistics for junior QB Tyrod Taylor and see that he threw for 2 TDs and 7 interceptions, then promptly write VT out of any chance to do much better this year.  In fact the VT offense in the past three years has ranked 103rd, 100th and 99th in the nation.  That’s not saying much.  However, the Hokies were 9-4, ACC Champions, and winners of the Orange Bowl over a perceived superior opponent, Cincinnati.  As usual it was the defense that sparkled and that should not be any different this year.  But offensively Darren Evans, who gained 1265 yards last year and scored 11 times, returns and the freshman wide receivers that Taylor threw to, are a year older and year wiser.  VT did aggressively pursue a tough non-conference schedule that includes an opener against Alabama in Atlanta and home against Nebraska two weeks later. If they can come through those unscathed, VT might be looking at moving up into a title contender role.

Key games: Alabama (Atlanta)(9/5), Nebraska (9/19), @Georgia Tech (10/17),  North Carolina (10/29).

7. Ohio State

The Buckeyes will again be one of the big 2 in the Big 10 this year, and will again compete against Penn State for bragging rights, but both will have to prove themselves on a national stage.  For OSU that starts week 2 when they host USC in Columbus.  For Jim Tressel it will be the biggest game of the year most likely.  Sophomore QB Terrelle Pryor returns from an up and down year in 2008, where he showed brilliance at times (especially when running) but was disappointing when he succumbed to pressure and an inability to push the ball downfield with an effective passing game. Beanie Wells is gone,  and they will need replacements for seven offensive starters, but the defense will be largely in tact,  less last year’s stars James Laurinitis and Marcus Freeman. The Buckeyes  sported the #3 defense in the Big 10 and #6 overall in the country in Points allowed.

Key games: USC (9/12), @Penn State (11/7), Iowa (11/14)

8. USC

With the departure of Mark Sanchez to the NFL, the Trojans will need to  break in a new quarterback this coming year one way or another.  USC has three ready to take over the reigns, including Senior Mitch Mustain, the former Arkansas QB.  Also vying for the position are Junior Aaron Corp and Freshman Matt Barkley.  They will also be  trying to find replacements for a quartet of linebackers and recasting the front four, so it’s unlikely they’ll be heading into games like rock stars. For the first time in a while, USC has something to prove. People may sneer at our analysis, given the annual parade of talent through the gates, but the huge backlash that followed last year’s loss to the Beavers, which pollsters treated as if it were a 50-point defeat at the hands of Columbia, was enough to prove to the Trojans that mistakes can’t be tolerated. It’s either perfection or nothing at USC.

However, they will have a host of returning talent also, in the form of a killer trio of  running backs: Joe McKnight, C.J. Gables and Stafon Johnson. Senior WR Damien Williams might be the go-to receiver. Senior All-America safety Taylor Mays leads a defense that has a long way to go to match last year’s model, which held 10 teams to 10 or fewer points.

Schedule-wise, USC gets an early test in week 2 at Columbus against Ohio State and it doesn’t get easier.  The Pac-10 looks to be very strong this year, so if USC gets by Oregon, Cal, Oregon State, Arizona and then takes care of  Notre Dame, their strength of schedule could propel them into the National Championship, especially since their biggest games are all on the road.

Key games: @Ohio State (9/12),  @ Cal (10/3), @Notre Dame (10/17), @Oregon (10/31), Arizona (12/5).

9. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys can no longer fly under the radar. After a successful 2008 campaign that came up short against key opponents,  a target is now painted on their collective chest, so the pressure becomes greater and the expectations are larger. This means head coach Mike Gundy will still have to prove he is a man, and at age 42, he is ready for the challenge. This will be the first time in a very long time that OSU will carry these types of expectations. You’ll notice that OSU is our third Big-12 South team to be ranked in the top 10.  Make no mistake however, when a team such as this returns the likes of Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter, Dez Bryant and six other returning starters to the nation’s seventh ranked offense, a lofty preseason ranking has to be warranted. The  biggest question remains however – can the defensive backfield solve its horrific problems (Ranked 110th nationally) with a group that lost most of its composition? Only senior Perrish Cox is back in the fold.

With the downgrading of the Tech defense and possibly their offense this year, the title of  offensive juggernaut could soon rest with Robinson and the boys. The QB continues to define the true essence of “dual-threat”. Over the past two seasons he has racked up 1,355 yards rushing and 5,559 yards passing. Through his prosperity, others such as young RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant have drawn big attention nationally (All-American candidates). Defensively the front seven remains in place. They held their own stopping the run, and their aggressive style of play is a refreshing concept for the Big 12.  Their schedule is a typical nightmare having to play all the Big-12 South teams,  but outside of the games against Texas and OU, the Cowboys might just be making lots of noise it they manage to upset one of them.

Key games: Texas (10/31),  Texas Tech (11/14), @Oklahoma (11/28)

10. California

Each year in the Pac-10 the question is always who is going to give USC the hardest time.  The answer for 2009 will be Cal. The Golden Bears are still a far cry from being able to wrestle away a conference crown from the Pac Ten bully Trojans, but  there should be adequate cause for concern.  Coach Tedford is noted as a developer of quarterbacks, but it is the running back that has been the hallmark of his Cal teams of late.  First Team All-Conference back Jahvid Best literally rushed onto the national scene and became Tedford’s seventh-consecutive 1,000-yard ground gainer. His quality backup Shane Vereen gives Cal a legitimate one-two punch. QB Kevin Riley survived a mid-season benching, but he won’t be looking over his shoulder so much now that Nate Longshore has moved on. Riley is not a bad scrambler, but he is not the type of Golden Bear signal caller that is going to beat other teams solely with his arm (51% completion rate). His best arm may be the one handing off the ball. What could be a problem offensively will be trying to fill the big shoes up front. The Bears moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment this past season had to do with the wealth of quality linebackers. This is the one area that is going to need more work. Strength in numbers up front and could force another move back to the four-man line. The secondary should be fine; Senior Syd’Quan Thompson heads a speedy group capable of shutting down many of the conferences’ better passing games. The corner spot is well stocked and the group as a whole is full of veterans.  The schedule for Cal is challenging, seeing that the Pac-10 is chock full of possibilities this year.  They’ll need to pull some upsets to get to a BCS bid though.

Key games:  @Oregon (9/26), USC (10/3),  Arizona (11/14)

11. LSU

We need to be honest.  LSU could have been a dominating football team in 2008, if for only one thing: They had a very poor offense.  QB Jarrett Lee just didn’t measure up.  They found a worthy replacement albeit late in the season from Jordan Jefferson who was the star in the Tigers’ thrashing of Georgia Tech in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl.  He’ll be the starter, but will be up against some very big odds.  However returning RB Charles Scott, who proved a pleasant surprise last year, will tandem with two other returners, Keiland Williams and Trindon Holliday to provide for what is sure to be major fireworks.  LSU lost talented OLs  Herman Johnson and Brett Helms, but filling these posts to add to Barksdale, Hitt and Black should be a non issue. They’ll be huge too, all between 285 and 325, so look for a solid running game and good protection.   They’ll be loaded at WR with three returners (Brandon Lafell, Chris Mitchell and Terrance Tolliver). So if Jefferson matures even a little, the offense is bound to be orders of magnitude better.  Defensively they’ll need to fill some key positions vacated by Tyson Jackson and  Darry Beckwith, but D-coach John Chavis thinks that Chancey Agahayere and Jacob Cutrera will be just those guys. There are still are some questions in the secondary, but over all they should also be better than the 2008 edition.   But perhaps the most challenging barrier this year will be their schedule. The Tigers must play four preseason top 15 teams: Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss, and only the Florida game is at home. OUCH.

Key games: @Georgia (10/3),  Florida (10/10), @Alabama(11/7), @Miss (11/21)

12. Oregon

The Ducks come off a successful 10-win season, capped off by a bowl win over Oklahoma State.  The good news is that they return some very talented skill players on both offense and defense, but there are many unresolved questions.  The first of which is new coach Chip Kelly who takes over from Mike Bellotti who not only defined the new era of Oregon Football, but has stepped up to the AD spot and handpicked Kelly for the successor.  That’s some immense pressure, even if Kelly was the former offensive coordinator. The offense, meantime is loaded with QB Jeremiah Masoli and RB LaGarrette Blount, but they’ll be operating behind a largely unproven and young offensive line. The defense last year was mediocre at best, and absolutely terrible against the pass, which can be deadly in the Pac-10.  Walter Thurmond III is healthy again though and should help the secondary, and the linebackers look to be one of the best groups in the conference. Schedule wise, it’s the Pac-10 which means any title hope go through USC. But this year add Cal, Arizona and Oregon State as hurdles. Add to this that they have to play both Boise State and Utah as non-conference games and you have a heck of a schedule challenge!

Key games: @Boise State (9/3), Utah (9/19), Cal (9/26), USC (10/31), @Arizona(10/21), Oregon State (12/3)

13. Penn State

There are lots of things to be excited about in State College for 2009.  The Nittany Lions are coming  off an 11-2 season.  All Big-10 QB Darryll Clark and RB Evan Royster are both returning. They sport one of the softest non-conference schedules in the country, and the two biggest Big-10 foes, Ohio State and Iowa, must come to Happy Valley to play.  But after that it gets really iffy.

PSU has only five returning offensive starters, and four defensive starters. They lost three of their top four receivers in school history, graduating Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams.  This spells an extra load for Royster, but in back of a largely new and untested offensive line.  Defensively PSU will have a strong LB corps but will need to replace the two starting defensive ends (on was Aaron Maybin who went to the NFL). While the Nittany Lion’s schedule isn’t a pass through the SEC, they’ll have trips to Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State, not to mention Minnesota (they return 18 starters from a 7-win season last year).

Key games: Iowa (9/26), Illinois (10/3), Minnesota (11/17), Ohio State (11/7).

14. Georgia

The Bulldogs seem to have the “always a bridesmaid never a bride” syndrome.  They won 10 games last year and in the last 8 years they’ve won 82.  Yet, they can’t seem to get to that elusive conference title game. Well, possibly because Florida and LSU seem to always tie it up.  This year will prove even more challenging without the likes QB Matthew Stafford and RB Knowshon Moreno leaving early for the NFL (both 1st round draft picks)

So, this year the offense will need to find someone to fill those shoes and they aren’t really any certainties.  Joe Cox will likely take over the helm at QB and be backed by a stable of RBs including Sophomore Caleb King.  The good news is that Georgia will again be blessed with an awesome offensive line anchored by OT Trinton Sturdivant (Soph) and Clink Boling, Jr.  WR A.J. Green will probably be the go-to receiver.  Defensively Junior LB Rennie Curran leads a very talented linebacking corps. Strong safety Reshad Jones should also be a decent playmaker.

Schedule for the Dawgs is tough but not overbearing. In fact it might not be enough to help them in any kind of title chase. They open against our #9 Oklahoma State on the road and then have a reasonably light SEC schedule. They’ll probably get their 10 wins, but they may struggle in doing it.

Key games:  @Okla St (9/5), LSU (10/3),  @Tenn (10/10) Florida (Jacksonville) (10/31),  @Ga Tech (11/28)

15. Boise State

Boise State qualifies as the top contender for the Rodney Dangerfield “I Don’t Get No Respect” award.  After ten years, 108 wins, three unbeaten regular seasons in the last five,  the nation’s best home-field record over the last ten years, the nation’s highest winning percentage over the last decade and a 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over OU, you would have thought they might get a little more hoopla. Well apparently not. And it sucks.

There is a lot of rebuilding to be done this year but there is lots of talent to ready to step up.  They’ll sport easily the best defense in the WAC and one of the best in the country with the likes of CB Kyle Wilson, DE Ryan Winterswyk and FS Jeron Johnson. They will be in need of filling some holes at WR but Austin Pettis and Titus Young seem poised to do well.  They may also have the best special teams in the country.

BSU will again need to excel highly, but doing that didn’t help them last year when Ohio State got the Fiesta Bowl bid instead of them.  Their schedule admittedly won’t be title quality, but they do open against Pac-10 contender Oregon, which could set the tone for the rest of the season.

Key games: Oregon (9/3),  @Fresno State (9/18), Nevada (11/27).

16. TCU

Gary Patterson has forged a tremendous defensive program at TCU over the years, but last year was exceptional.  Of the 14 games they played in 2008, only two teams scored more than 14 points against them: Oklahoma (35) and Boise State (16). They won the latter.  Had TCU been able to make a FG in their game against Utah, they might have been BCS bowl hunting instead.  Consider also that the offense last year averaged 220 rushing yards per game and 201 passing…a near perfect balance. TCU has five double-digit win seasons in the last 8.

The Frogs should be even more explosive on offense this year. Andy Dalton will be throwing to a group of very fast receivers headed by Jimmy Young and Jeremy Kerley and have the benefit of a big talented O-Line.  Defensively there are challenges with holes to be filled at DT LB and safety. But Jerry Hughes, Daryl Washington and Tejay Johnson should be more than adequate replacements.

There’s not much reason to think TCU won’t go 11-1 this year and possibly 12-0 if they can get by BYU on the road.

Key games: @Virginia (9/12), at BYU (10/24), Utah (11/14)

17. Utah

The Utes come off, arguably, their best season ever, going 13-0 including a 31-17 smashing of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. If nothing else, the country took notice that a non-BCS team could, in fact, throttle and dominate a BCS team, and deserved to be in the bowl game.  However, it’s unlikely that Utah will be able to repeat their massive success this year with 11 starters gone, including kicker/punter Louie Sakoda.  But, Utah has been building over the past five years under Kyle Whittingham (37-14) and sources close to the club say that the talent level has never been higher and indeed this year could be as good or better.

Offensively, Junior QB Corbin Louks will need to step up and fill the big shoes of Brian Johnson, but on his heels will be National JUCO Offensive Player of the Year Terrance Cain.  In either case, both are styled to be a dual threat to pass and run.  Louks will probably get the nod early, but leadership wise he’ll need to really step it up. Senior RB Matt Asiata, the team’s leader rusher is back, but he’ll be the main workhorse this year instead of sharing that duty with Darrell Mack, so the question here will be if he can manage more than 20 touches per game, something he didn’t do last year. Alona Key, another JUCO superstar transfer is a 6’4”, 195-pound Senior and former  Boise State Bronco. WR David Reed will also make a major impact. The O-line get’s enough people back to be solid, lead by Zane Beadles. Defensively,  Utah seems in decent shape with All-America quality Senior LB Stevenson Sylvester returning.  The DL will be fast and strong with Koa Misi and Lei Talamalvao anchoring a solid line.  Questions do arise at CB and the ability to get an interior pass rush.

The Utes will have a crucial game early at Oregon to see where they are on the National scale, and then must navigate a tough road schedule in the MWAC games to see if they can repeat what they did last year.

Key games:  @Oregon (9/19),  Air Force (10/24),  @TCU (11/14),  @BYU (11/28).

18. Notre Dame

It got pretty ugly at ND last year and it almost ended with the firing of Charlie Weiss.   He’s is in his 5th year and barely above  water, thanks to a couple of BCS-caliber years.  This  has to be the breakout year for Weiss, or he’ll be looking, as the Irish are loaded with talent,  and blessed with a favorable schedule.

While the offense in 2008 wasn’t bad, it should have been better,  especially seeing that most were Weiss’ recruits.  Junior QB Jimmy Clausen will return off a respectable 3172-yard, 25-TD year. Leading rusher Armondo Allen is back (134 carries/585 yards) and their leading receiver, Junior Golden Tate is a returner (58 catches/1060 yards/10 TD). With only one big hole to fill at left tackle (Paul Duncan), they should be in great shape, if Clausen can step up his game.  TE Kyle Rudolph  could be a unsung hero.  Defensively,  they are experienced and fast. Senior SS Kyle McCarthy might be All-American, and Junior DT Iam Williams is already an NFL-quality lineman.   They’ll need to improve on the pass russ and concentrate on not giving up big plays, like they did last year.

A relatively easy schedule blesses the Irish, even getting USC at home this year.  If ND is able to put up big numbers, look for a BCS bowl.

Key games: @Purdue (9/26),  USC (10/17), UConn (11/21).

19. North Carolina

Butch Davis and John Blake have done wonders the last few years showing that roundball isn’t the only sport at UNC. In the past two seasons, the Tar Heels have gone bowling and there’s no sign that will change.  Much will depend on an offense that was inconsistent in 2008, but has tremendous potential.  QB T.J. Yates and Junior WR Greg Little will provide great excitement, while Dwight Jones, Joshua Adam, Rashad Mason and Todd Harrelson could be major contributors. Defensively, though, this is a strong team.  The pass rush is loaded with strength and speed. DT Marvin Austin and LBs Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter anchor a star studded defense along with CB Kendric Burney and S Daunta Williams in the secondary.

UNC has a tough ACC schedule, as usual, with road games at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

Key games:  @Georgia Tech (9/26), Florida State (10/22),  @Virginia Tech (10/29).

20. Iowa

In its first six games of the 2008 campaign, Iowa was 3-3 and fans began looking forward to 2009 and a possible regime change.  However, they won 6 of their last 7 games including wins over Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue and Minnesota.  A 31-10 Outback Bowl win over South Carolina completed a come back season and a 9-4 mark. Furthermore, in games decided by 5 points or less, Iowa was 2-4 and were in the running in all 4 of the losses. In essence they were 12 points away from an undefeated season.

Iowa returns a solid set of veterans, and most experienced teams tend to win those close ones. RB Shonn Greene is gone, but Jewel Hampton brings a new kind of back behind a good O-line.  While Greene was more of a power runner, Hampton, a sophomore, has more speed and quickness.  Greene ran the ball 307 times last year and Hampton won’t be able to do that, so it could be that returning Junior FB Brett Morse will need to step up. WB Marvin McNutt looks to make an impact, and will need to.  On Defense, LB Pat Angerer is the spotlight player. Iowa will field a strong run defense, but lack of pass rush due to DT’s size may play havoc.

Iowa has a brutal Big-10 road schedule have to travel to Penn State Ohio State, and Wisconsin.  That could be their undoing, but look for them to win at least one of those.

Key games: @Penn State (9/26), @Wisconsin (10/17), @Ohio State (11/14).

21. BYU

You have to love a team that has a head coach named “Bronco”.  Mendenhall is in his 5th year (38-13) and would love to have a better ending  than last year’s loss to Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Losses to conference rivals TCU and Utah, were the other two losses on the road to a 10-3 season.  Offensively only four starters are returning, but Senior QB Max Hall will be back after his 3957-yard, 35-TD season of a year ago. Junior RB Harvey Unga (240 carries/1132 yards,  11 TDs) returns also.  Dennis Pitta also is back after a respectable 1000+yard season in 2008.  The O-Line will need bolstering, but that should be no problem.  On Defense, Senior LB Matt Bauman led the team in tackles last year and with DE Jan Jorgensen, should anchor a very solid defense.

BYU should improve this year with the slight fall of Utah.  It will be between them and TCU, who they get at home, for the MWAC supremacy. An early home game test against Florida State in week 2 should provide a nice barometer of things to come.

Key games: Florida State (9/19),  TCU (10/24),  Utah (11/28)

22. Nebraska

People soon forget that the Cornhuskers improved mightily in 2008 going a very respectable 9-4 including a Gator Bowl win against Clemson.  Bo Pelini is finally in a position to make a difference in recruiting, and their nemesis the last two years, pass defense, looks to get upgraded in 2009.  It’s a veteran D that returns, with DT Ndamukon Suh and DEs Pierre Allen and Barry Turner putting the heat on opposing QBs.   SS Larry Asante and LB Phillip Dillard   (both seniors) will also add defensive strength.  The offense, which finished 15th in the country last year, has a few holes to fill on the line, but that should pose no problems.  Zac Lee will step in as the New QB replacing Joe Ganz,  and should provide as good or better production.  They’ll miss Nate Swift and Todd Peterson’s catches, so Junior WR Niles Paul will need to step up his game.  All skill players are gifted with exceptional speed.

Nebraska has an early test at Virginia Tech the third week of the season.  It won’t be a bad test, seeing that VT typically has a weak offense anyway.  If they somehow get by the Hokies,  they could be looking at  a Big-12 North Championship, but to do so, they’ll need to get by both Kansas and Missouri on the road. The season finale at Colorado won’t be a walk in the park either.

Key games: @Virginia Tech (9/19), @Missouri (10/8), @Kansas (11/14).

23. Georgia Tech

By all pre-season analysis last year, GT was supposed to be in a messy transition period.  The team went 9-4, including a season finale victory over Georgia.  If that was a transition year, what will 2009 bring with 17 starters returning?

Offensively there will be more passing opportunities, even though they’ll still be running the triple-option. The thought is that the long ball could be there as teams come up to shut down the running game.  Josh Nesbitt returns as QB and will need to cut down on costly mistakes over last year. Sophomore RB Roddy Jones could be an up and coming star. Junior RB Jonathan Dwyer will be the star of the offense though.  He comes off a 200 carry, 1395-yard season and 12 TDs.  The GT Defense lost three mega stars in their defensive line, Michael Johnson, Darryl Richard, and Vance Walker (all going NFL), so D-coach Dave Wommack will have his work cut out for him. The good news is that the defensive backfield, anchored by Junior S Morgan Burnett stands to be the strength, along with a great LB corps.

It’s pretty easy to see another 9-3 season given the schedule.  They’ll get Virginia Tech and North Carolina at home, but will have challenging road games against Miami, Florida State and Virginia. They’ll finish at home against Georgia.

Key games: @Miami (9/17), North Carolina (9/26), @Florida State (10/10) Virginia Tech (10/17), Georgia (11/28).

24. Kansas

It may surprise you that Kansas went 8-5 last year and won their bowl game against Minnesota in a run away 42-21.  But surviving last year with the brutal schedule they had, was a testimony to Mark Mangino’s coaching.  But one thing that has to improve, is their showing up for Big-12 South opponents.  Last year they were 0-3, losing to Oklahoma by 2 TDs, Texas Tech by 6 TDs, and Texas by 4 TDs.  Ouch.

Senior QB Todd Reesing is back at the helm after throwing for nearly 4000 yards and 32 TDs.  The same should be expected in 2009 especially throwing to Junior WR Dezmon Briscoe who will probably go pro after this year.  Senior WR Kerry Meier returns also, who led the team in catches..97 for 1045.  He also is destined for the NFL at 6-3/220.  The O-line will need to learn to pass protect quickly, since the interior of the line is relatively inexperienced.   But the main problem last year and this year will be the pass defense This doesn’t particularly bode well against their schedule.  The D-Line will be bigger and faster which can cause lots of havoc. The new 4-2-5 defense will have good stuff up front, issues at LB, and  possibilities in the secondary (led by Senior SS Darrell Stuckey)

The Jayhawks schedule  looks to be just as tough, again having to play Texas, OU, and Texas Tech (teams that they lost to by a combined 143-59). Worse, they have to play at Texas Tech and at Texas.

Key games: @Colorado (10/17), Oklahoma (10/24), @Texas Tech (10/31), Nebraska (11/14), @Texas (11/21)

25. Oregon State

Coach Mike Riley has the knack for making prognosticators look stupid. In the last three years, the Beavers have been predicted to finish 7th, 5th and 6th in the Pac-10.  The finished 3rd, 3rd and 2nd.  You’d think these guys would learn.

The offense, not surprisingly, will again focus on Jacquizz and James Rodgers, the former gaining over 1200 yards on 259 carries and 11 TDs. WR James wil be the returning WR threat.  Even better this year, the Beaves  will have a duo of Quarterbacks from which to choose, each with exceptional talent. Lyle Moevao  played well last season but sustained a shoulder injury which opened the door for Sean Canfield. The key to this year’s Oregon State’s offense will be how effective these two can be. Defensively, it proves to be a tougher year with the departure of eight starters including six all-stars.  However, LB Keaton Kristick, who led the team in tackles is back along with DT Stephen Paea, who won All-Pac-10 honors last year. There will be enough talent to fill the holes, and coach Mark Banker has coordinated a Phoenix-rising before.

The Beavers won’t get an early visit from USC this year, so the chance of surprise could be lessened. Both Cal and USC are road dates along with the finale at Oregon.

Key games: Arizona (9/26), @USC (10/24), @Cal (11/7), @Oregon (12/3)

ON THE BUBBLE

Other teams that we’re keeping on the radar:  Pitt, Michigan State, Arizona, Illinois, and NC State.

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Thanksgiving Post #2

Well, its pretty much set now.

The BCS has placed OU above Texas, and by that action, sends OU to the Big-12 Championship game where they will almost assuredly destroy Missouri who got beat by Kansas this weekend.

USC beat Notre Dame, while Oregon State lost to Oregon.  This means that USC must only beat UCLA next weekend to lock up its berth against Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

Conference Championship games were decided this weekend also:

BIG-12:  OU vs. Missouri

ACC: Virginia Tech  vs. Boston College

SEC:  Alabama  vs. Florida

The BCS now is set as:  Alabama, OU, Texas, Florida, USC, Utah, Texas tech, Penn State, Boise State, Ohio State, TCU, Ball State, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State.

If Florida and Oklahoma win,  most likely, OU and Florida will be 1 & 2.  OU by virtue of winning, and Florida will jump Texas for beating #1 Alabama.  If Alabama manages to win, then the BCS stays the way it is now.

This means that its looking more and more like:

National Title: Florida-OU

Rose Bowl: USC – Penn State

Fiesta Bowl:  Texas – Utah

Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Boise State or Ohio State

Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Boston College

It’s also looking more and more like a Texas Tech – Mississippi Cotton Bowl.

The rest of the bowls we’ll examine at another time.  But this week, bids will begin to fly.

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Thanksgiving Update #1

Because of the holidays, we arent putting together a full predictions/analysis this week, but we’ll return hopefully on Sunday night to wrap up the games of the weekend, and by then, we should have a pretty good idea what’s going down in the BCS, or at least, we’ll be able to make some educated guesses.

All this year we’ve been putting our own rankings together, but as the bowl games approach, we’ll be gradually shifting to the order of the BCS, mainly because that’s what will govern the placement of most of the games, along with the corresponding team records.

Through Friday:

Texas routed Texas A&M to keep their Big-12 Championship and possibly National Title claims alive. but alot has to happen. It’s pretty simple tho:

If Texas Tech loses to Baylor on Saturday, the Longhorns get the KC date with Missouri, no matter how OU-Oklahoma State turns out.

If OU loses to Oklahoma State on Saturday, Texas Tech gets the Missouri showdown for the Championship.

If OU and Texas Tech BOTH win, then Missouri’s opponent will be left to the pollsters and the BCS computers.  Whichever of Texas or OU is higher in the BCS, gets the chance against Missouri.

West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh 19-15, and as such handed the Big East to Cincinnati (9-2), so the Bearcats join Penn State as a lock for a BCS bowl.  Cincy can lose to Syracuse on Saturday and still get the bowl bid, because they beat West Virginia, Pitt and Rutgers earlier in the season.

Other major games to watch:

#4 Florida (10-1) at #20 Florida State.  Obviously the game means more to the Gators, to stay in the hunt for a national title. Texas has already won, so they are likely to stay ahead of the Gators no matter what.  OU is still to play.  Gators must blow out FSU impressively to keep the pollsters interested enough.  However, the ultimate game for Florida (if they beat FSU) is the SEC Championship against Alabama.  Look for a tug of war early in the game, but for the Gators to gain control and win comfortably.

A Boston College victory over Maryland on Saturday claims the ACC Atlantic title over FSU by virtue of their win two weeks ago over FSU.

#3 Oklahoma at #12 Oklahoma State.  We already discussed the ramifications here. The big question is what the pollsters will do if OU wins.  The BCS computers have Texas ranked over Oklahoma, but both the Harris and USA Today polls have OU over Texas. So its anyone’s guess how this ends up. OU needs a slaughter the likes of the Texas Tech scale to put it all to rest.  This probably won’t happen because OSU won’t want to be embarassed again (as they were by TTU), plus they are playing in Stillwater. Look for an OU victory, but perhaps by 2 TDs or less, forcing the pollsters to make the decision.

#23 Oregon vs. #17 Oregon State.  Plain and simple, if Oregon State wins, they lock up the Rose Bowl against Penn State, probably sending USC to the Fiesta (if they win out).  If Oregon wins, USC gets the bid (if they beat UCLA next week).

Notre Dame at #5 USC – USC has to beat Notre Dame, especially if  Oregon State wins.  If Oregon State loses, all USC has to do is beat UCLA the following week to get the Rose Bowl.

Enjoy the Games!

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As expected, week 13 had earth shattering effects on the BCS and the bowl post season.

Texas Tech proved to be a not-ready-for-primetime player as they were completely dominated by a truly National Title contender Oklahoma. Utah and Penn State both dominated their opponents also, assuring their presence in the BCS season.

The way it sits right now, it surely looks like the BCS ranking will MORE than determine the teams to the National Championship.  There are for all practical purposes, 4 teams in play according to the BCS: Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida.  With the final regular season week coming up,  you’d think thats what it would all be about.  But there are a few more teams that might have a say in it.

Just this week, Oklahoma must get by Oklahoma State in Stillwater, which historically has been a real bloodbath for OU. Texas must get by Texas A&M, which any other year would be a toss up. Let’s not forget that Alabama plays Auburn this week also, which again, you can throw the records of the two teams out. Finally Florida hosts a very much improved Florida State, which could easily throw a wrench in the works.

Any slip ups of these could dash national title hopes.

Example:  If Oklahoma were to lose to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech would move on to the Big-12 Championship (at #7) and play Missouri (at #13), the winner of which goes to a BCS bowl. Not to mention the fact that OU would drop in the standings.

Let’s assume that all four teams do their job and win. It now puts the choice of not only the national title teams in the hands of the BCS, but also the Big-12 Championship.  That’s right. Currently Texas and OU are separated by 0.0084 in the standings. So if both teams win against their opponents, Oklahoma would most likely get the nod to move up because they would be playing a ranked team (#12 Oklahoma State).  It seems just a little bit tacky that all this doesn’t get settled on the field, but thats the way the Big-12 rules read for tiebreakers.  Even though, officially, Texas, TTU, and OU would be co-champions.

We’re not done.  Let’s say after this week, its Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida in the BCS. We now move into Championship week. We now need to look at what possibly could happen as a result of the Big-12 and SEC Championships.  there are only 4 possible results of the two games, and as such each has its corresponding effect on the BCS:

Alabama and Oklahoma Win:  This would be the easy scenario.  They would play for the National Title.

Alabama and Missouri Win:  Possible BCS result?  Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida? Alabama-Texas for the National Title.

Florida and Oklahoma Win:  Would this result in Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, Alabama?? Probably.  That gets us OU-Florida.

Florida and Missouri Win:  Easy.. that gets you Florida – Texas.

Well enough of hypothesizing.  Let’s take a look at OUR new rankings:

#1 Alabama (11-0). Did not play. Next week: Auburn (5-6) at home. Bama still must take care of business this Saturday against an underachieving Auburn to make their date with Florida in the SEC Championship a National Title Qualifier game.  All bets are off with this rivalry!

#2 Florida (10-1). Defeated The Citadel (4-8) 70-19 at home. Next week: #20 Florida State at home. As predicted this was no contest. Tim Tebow, who may now be the leading Heisman candidate, threw for 201 yards and three TDs.  The Gator offense generated over 700 yards of offense, 394 yards of it on the ground. RB Chris Rainey had  142 yards on 7 carries while Emanuel Moody had 13 carries and 116 yards.

#3 Texas (10-1). Did not play. Next week: Texas A&M (4-7)  at home. We give the benefit of the doubt here to Texas above Oklahoma, seeing that they beat OU soundly earlier in the year. Depending on the next two games, this could change.

#4 Oklahoma (10-1). Defeated #7 Texas Tech (10-1) 65-21 in Norman. Next week: #11 Oklahoma State (9-2) in Stillwater. There certainly was no doubt of the better team in Normal this past week end, as the OU rushing attack exposed a not-so-improved Texas Tech defense.  Add with this the fact that the Raiders couldm’t execute on offense, it added up to a complete domination by the Sooners. OU QB Sam Bradford was 14/19 for 304 yards while RB DeMarco Murray ran for 125 yards and two TDs

#5 USC (9-1) Did not play. Next week: Notre Dame (6-5) at home. The Trojans fate is in the hands of Oregon State, even if they win out. If Oregon State beats Oregon this weekend, USC will go to the Fiesta Bowl probably against either Texas or OU (whoever doesnt go to the national title).

#6 Penn State (11-1) Defeated  #20 Michigan State 49-18 at home. Next week: Idle. If there was any doubt about who should win the Big-10, it was laid to rest in Happy Valley.  The PSU defense throttled Javon Ringer and harassed Brian Hoyer all night long, while QB Daryll Clark threw for 341 yards and 4 TDs. Yeah that ought do it.  Rose Bowl bound!

#7 Texas Tech (10-1) Lost to #4 Oklahoma (10-1) 65-21. Next week: Baylor (4-7). See above.  The Red Raiders are on their way, most likely, to the Cotton Bowl against Mississippi unless Oklahoma loses. Then who knows.

#8 Utah (12-0) Defeated #17 Brigham Young (10-2) 48-24 at home. Next week: Idle. The Utes came to play on Saturday and play they did. QB Brian Johnson was 30/36 for 303 and four TDs, while the Utah defense sparked 6 Cougar turnovers. Ouch!  Utah is probably on the way to the Sugar Bowl against the loser of the SEC Championship.

#9 Ohio State (10-2) defeated Michigan (3-9) 42-7 at home. Next week: Idle. It used to be you could always count on a great game between these two, even if one or the other was having an off year. This, however was no contest and was almost like a controlled scrimmage.  Beanie Wells had 134 yards rushing to pace the 434 total offensive yards for the Buckeyes. Next stop, perhaps the Capital One Bowl vs Georgia.

#10 Boise State (11-0) defeated Nevada (6-5) 41-34 at Nevada. Next week: Fresno State (7-4) at home. The broncos needed the whole game to get the victory as a last minute hail mary was batted down. The star of the game was BSU’s Austin Pettis who had 9 receptions for 126 yards and 2 TDs. QB Kellen Moore threw for 414 yards. You gotta feel for the Broncos, probably an undefeated season, and no better than the Humanitarian Bowl agianst maybe a Maryland or Wake Forest team with 3 losses.

#11 Oklahoma State (9-2) did not play. Next week: #4 Oklahoma (10-1) at home. The whole world’s watching this battle next week, because the ramifications could be profound.

#12 Missouri (9-2) did not play. Next week: Kansas (6-5) at Arrohead Stadium. The traditional end to the season is a bit of a moot point.  Missouri is going to the Big-12 Championship against well, either OU or Texas Tech depending on the OU-Oklahoma State game.

#13 Georgia (9-2) did not play. Next week: #22 Georgia Tech (8-3) at home. The Bulldogs look like prime candidates for the Capital One Bowl probably against Ohio State.

#14 TCU (10-2) defeated Air Force (8-4) 44-10 at home. Next week: Idle. The Horned Frogs held Air Force to just seven first downs and 161 yards of total offense, whilethey amassed 504 yards of total offense in the rout. TCU will probably get a bid to the Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl possibly against Arizona.

#15 Ball State (11-0) defeated Central Michigan (8-3) 31-24 at C. Mich. Next week: Western Michigan (9-2) at home (Tuesday). It’s an early week season finale for the Cardinals against Western Michigan, coming off their come from behind win over Central Michigan. MiQuale Lewis was the leader of the Cards in this game rushing for 177 yards.  A victory over Western Michigan sends Ball State to the MAC Championship against Buffalo.

#16 Cincinnati (9-2) defeated #25 Pittsburgh (7-3) 28-21 at home. Next week: Syracuse (3-8) at home. Despite all adversity this year, the Bearcats find themselves one win away from a BCS bowl game. Their home victory over Pittsburgh puts them a game up on West Virginia, who they defeated earlier this year. QB Tony Pike threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns.

#17 Brigham Young (10-2) Lost to #8 Utah (12-0) 48-24 at Utah. Next week: Idle. See above.  The Cougars are likely headed to the Armed Forces or Poinsettia Bowl.

#18 Oregon State (8-3) defeated Arizona (6-5) 19-17 at Arizona. Next week: #19 Oregon (8-3) at home. The Beavers needed a last second, literally, field goal to beat Arizona, and to keep their dream season alive.  Justin Kahut’s 24-yard field goal won the game and allowed him to get redemption after missing an earlier extra point that would have tied the game. OSU needs only to beat Oregon next week to get an invitation to the Rose Bowl against #6 Penn State. Hmm #18 vs #6 or #5 vs #6. We wonder who the Rose Bowl is rooting for?

#19 Oregon (8-3) did not play. Next week: At #18 Oregon State (8-3). See above.

#20 Florida State (8-3) defeated Maryland 37-3 at Maryland. Next week: At #2 Florida (10-1). The Seminoles’ offense had almost 12 minutes more possession time, which allowed the defense to hold Maryland to 252 yards of total offense. Maryland turned the ball over 4 times, which usually spells defeat for most teams. A loss by FSU this weekend against Florida opens the door for Boston College to win the ACC Atlantic if they can beat Maryland.

#21 Michigan State (9-3) Lost to #6 Penn State (11-1) 49-18 at State College, PA. Next Week: Idle. See above.  The Spartans are probably looking at an Outback Bowl appearance against South Carolina.

#22 Boston College (8-3) defeated Wake Forest (6-5) 24-21 at Wake. Next Week: Maryland (7-4) at home. DeLeon Gause picked off Christian Ponder in the end zone in the fourth quarter with BC leading 24-17 which sealed the game late for the Golden Eagles. Montel Harris rushed 25 times for 121 yards and a touchdown, while the defense picked Chris Ponder off 3 times. BC needs to beat Maryland next week for the ACC Atlantic title.

#23 Georgia Tech (8-3) defeated Miami (7-4) 41-23 at home. Next week: At Georgia (9-2). Just when we thought Miami was the thing, up pops the GT offense for 518 yards and puts the Hurricanes in their place. The Jackets rushed for 472 yards in the game, the most that Miami has ever allowed. Even though GT is done, they must wait for the winner of the Virginia-Virginia Tech game to see their fate.  A win by VT gets them to the ACC Championship, otherwise the Jackets go.

#24 Northwestern (9-3) did not play. Next week: Idle. Northwestern had a most successful year, and is most likely on their way to the Alamo Bowl (probably against Oklahoma State).

#25 West Virginia (7-3) defeated Louisville (5-6) 35-21 at Louisville. Next week: At Pittsburgh (7-3). QB Pat White was a one man army, rushing for 200 yards on 21 carries amd three touchdowns. He also threw for another 122 and 2 touchdowns.  West Virginia still has a bowl shot but its a long one, as Cincinnati would need to lose to Syracuse, and the Mountaineers would need to beat both Pittsburgh and South Florida.

WORTH NOTING: The Abilene Christian Wildcats beat West Texas A&M 93-68 in Division II qualifying play.  Yes folks, thats a football score. ACU running back Bernard Scott ran for 292 yards while Quarterback Billy Malone threw over 400 yards in the record setting event (47 records were surpassed at the NCAA D1 and D2 levels). The Wildcats generated 810 yards of offense. Next up for ACU is NW Missouri State who ACU defeated earlier in the season 44-27.

Dropping out: Miami, Maryland

On the bubble: Mississippi, Iowa

Most Impressive: Oklahoma, Penn State, Utah, Florida State

Least Impressive: Texas Tech

Top 25 Composition: Big-12 (5), Big-10 (4), SEC (3), Pac-10 (3), MWAC (3), ACC (3), Big East (2), MAC (1), WAC (1)

BCS Bowl Projections:

National Title:  Florida  v.  Oklahoma

Rose Bowl: Oregon State  v. Penn State

Sugar Bowl:  Utah v. Alabama

Orange Bowl:  Cincinnati v. Florida State

Fiesta Bowl: USC v. Texas

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Triskaidekaphobia – irrational fear of the number 13.

This being the 13th week of the season, it seems a bit fitting that the biggest games of the season are being played this week end. No other weekend so far has had the potential to set the direction of the BCS as this one. It also seems rather superstitious that so many teams (7) scheduled idle weeks. Something to this number 13?

Of course, the paramount game of the week will be Texas Tech-Oklahoma. A few weeks ago the Texas Tech-Texas game in prime time was big (largest TV audience to ever view a non-bowl game, and the 5th most watched in college TV history), just wait till Saturday at 8pm ET. The winner of this game, providing they cane win their final game, has the inside track to the national title game against the winner of the SEC.

Lest we not be too biased, there are several other games that have lesser overall impact, but certainly are important in shaping the BCS bowl picture. Penn State-Michigan State could clinch the Rose for the Nittany Lions or send Ohio State or get Michigan State the bid. Utah and BYU will inevitably battle fot MWAC supremacy, while TCU and Air Force try to throw a monkey in the works.

So here are the games and our analysis/predictions:

#1 Alabama (11-0). Idle.

#2 Texas Tech (10-0) at #4 Oklahoma (9-1). This one should be a doozy. Two offensive juggernauts go after it in primetime. Oklahoma averages 51 point per game while TTU averages 48. Never mind those worthless stats that TTU has won 2 of the last 3 meetings, or OU is 50-2 at home. With this level of a game, and these players, they only serve as mere oddities. The facts are, plain and simple, OU hasn’t played a competitive team all year except Texas, and lost to them, a team that Tech dominated in the first half, and then rallied to win all too easy in the last 1:29. Tech has had the harder schedule and prevailed with the best defense in the Big-12. However, let’s not kid ourselves. Both teams WILL score on each other. Well, that’s what we thought in the Tech-Oklahoma State game, too. The game will be won on the lines. If Texas Tech can control the line of scrimmage, as they have the last two games, and are able to drop the two DBs back, that could spell an 11th win, and a Big-12 conference South title. If not, this game decays into an offensive aerial attack and turnovers or lack of execution will rule the day. All the intangibles seem to lean toward OU, the home field advantage, coaching experience, etc, but we think that OU just won’t be able to score enough. Red Raiders by 7.

#3 Florida (9-1) hosts The Citadel (4-7). Florida is 13-0 against The Citadel all time. The Gators have finished SEC play until they meet Alabama in the Championship. They also have one more game after The Citadel where they must play Florida State. Does anyone really give the Bulldogs a chance? Well, no. Gators by 39.

#4 Oklahoma (9-1) hosts #2 Texas Tech (10-0). See above. Texas Tech by 7.

#5 Texas (9-1) . Idle.

#6 USC (9-1). Idle.

#7 Utah (11-0) hosts #15 Brigham Young (10-1). Quite simply, the game means everything for both of these teams. BYU got thumped hard a few weeks ago by TCU, thus dashing their hopes to be the BCS buster. Now The Cougars could return the favor against Utah. BYU, with Max Hall, is playing at the top of his game now, and is hard to stop. Utah on the other hand took care of TCU, barely, and now needs THIS game to assure them of a BCS Bowl. Right off the bat, we’re putting this one on Upset Watch, because Utah just hasn’t seen an attack like BYU’s. However, BYU probably hasn’t played much against a good solid defense like Utah. We’re gonna go out on a limb and pick the upset here this week. BYU by 3.

#8 Penn State (10-1) hosts Michigan State (9-2). Another game with huge BCS implications. The Nittany Lions need only to win at home to gain a trip to the Rose Bowl. If not, its nip and tuck where they go. This was probably the best they could ask for this year, even had they been undefeated. If MSU pulls the upset, then Ohio State goes to the Rose Bowl instead. We think that the Lions will gather all motivation and dominate in this game. MSU does have a stretch. If they do manage to win and do their part, they must hope Michigan beats Ohio State, which would send the Spartans to Pasadena. Unlikely tho. Penn State by 17.

#9 Ohio State (9-2) hosts Michigan (3-8). Never mind the records. Never mind Rich Rodriguez’ quips to the fans, or what’s gone on this year. When these two teams meet, they both might as well be 12-0, because they’ll play like it. Michigan is coming off the worst season since maybe Noah and the Ark. OSU has won 4 straight over Michigan, but has NEVER won 5 in their school history. Don’t think for a moment it couldn’t happen. Ohio State’s offense still is sputtering, but what will keep them equalized is their defense. We can’t see the Wolverines suddenly finding and executing the new offense they’ve tried all season. So, we’ll still side with the Buckeyes. Ohio State by 10.

#10 Boise State (10-0) at Nevada (6-4). Actually this could be quite an interesting game, if Nevada executes. First, BSU has great history against Nevada, winning 69-67 last year. Secondly, the game isn’t being play on the Smurf Turf, which is decidedly pro-Bronco. But BSU just plain rules the WAC, and in order to stay in the hunt for a BCS Championship, they have to win. If so, they almost certainly get a bid to the Orange or Sugar Bowl as an at large entry, since they are head and shoulders above two BCS conference champs. We’re pretty sure the score won’t get that high this year, and it wont be that close. Boise State by 17.

#11 Oklahoma State (9-2). Idle.

#12 MIssouri (9-2). Idle.

#13 Georgia (9-2). Idle.

#14 TCU (9-2) hosts Air Force (8-3). TCU has played extremely well this year, losing only to Oklahoma early, and Utah. In all practical purposes, they are headed for the Armed Forces Bowl. A BYU win over Utah would most certainly move the Cougars up over them, and Utah would probably not drop that far. The Falcons own the nation’s No. 4 rushing attack, but will face the country’s stingiest defense against the run. On the line for Air Force is a possible share of the MWC title. TCU leads the all-time series with Air Force 4-2-1, but that means little. We are putting this one on Upset Watch, and think there’s a decent chance Air Force might catch the Frogs sleeping. The Frogs still may want to prove something so that and the home field have us leaning that way. TCU by 6.

#15 Brigham Young (10-1) at #7 Utah (11-0). See above. BYU by 3.

#16 Michigan State (9-2) at #8 Penn State (10-1). See above. Penn State by 17.

#17 Ball State (10-0) at Central Michigan (8-2), As in past years, this is a battle for the MAC West title, well, for Central Michigan it is. If the Cheppewas win they win the West by virtue of beating both Western Michigan and Ball State. If the Cardinals win, however they must win the next week against W. Mich, to take the title. C. Mich has been the traditional power house here, but all the attention has been on Nate Davis and the Cardinals being ranked in the top 20. But the Chippewas have quite a talented QB also, Dan LeFevour. Played in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, this one should be quite a battle, but we’re pretty sure Ball State will prevail in a close one. Cardinals by 7.

#18 LSU (7-3) hosts Mississippi (6-4). Wow! Almost any other year we’d already be trying to figure out how Ol Miss could keep close, but this year’s version fo the Bayou Bengals just isnt as ferocious, especially on offense. It’s anyone’s guess how he might perform from week to week. Even in the good years, its been tough for LSU. The Tigers have taken six in a row against the Rebels overall, but won the past three at home by a combined seven points. So, this year it could be close. We’ll still give the edge to the home team, with an Upset Watch but wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers have to struggle again like they did against Troy last week. LSU by 2.

#19 Pittsburgh (7-2) at #20 Cincinnati (8-2). And here comes the home stretch for the Big East. Both Pitt and Cincy can’t win the East by winning this game, but they are certainly on the inside track if they do. Pitt has won all seven meetings with Cincinnati, including three games since the Bearcats joined the Big East. The Bearcats have been nothing short of miraculous in piecing a team together after some key injuries. Statistically you compare the two teams and its nearly identical. Total yards per game average is within 1/10th of a point. Our intuition moves us to nod toward Cincy, perhaps because of their passing game recently. Cincinnti by 3.

#20 Cincinnati (8-2) hosts Pittsburgh (7-2). See above. Cincinnati by 3.

#21 Oregon (7-3) Idle.

#22 Miami (7-3) at Georgia Tech (7-3) Thursday. The streaking Hurricanes (winner of their last 5) invade Atlanta to try to move a step closer to an ACC Coastal title. The Yellow Jackets are in a must-win situation to stay in contention for the title. They have won three straight against the Hurricanes and lead the all-time series 9-4. But this is a new year and a new mindset in Miami under Randy Shannon, who very well could be considered coach of the year should he get to a BCS Bowl by winning the ACC. Before then, he and his team must stop a GT team thats surely talented, but inconsistent (Lost to Virginia, beat Florda State, then lost to North Carolina). The Jackets continue to have a decent defense, but the speed of the Miami defense is amazing. We’re reasonably confident that the boys from Florida will extend their streak. Miami by 8.

#23 Oregon State (7-3) at Arizona (6-3). Plain and simple. every game is a must game for the Beavers who are looking for their first trip to the Rose Bowl since the late 60’s. To do so, they must beat Arizona and then win out against Oregon. This is a daunting task. Arizona, who is bowl eligible, has played all Pac-10 opponents tough. They lost their conference losses by a grand total of 18 points (6 pts per game). History is on the side of the Beavers, however, as they’ve won the past 9 meetings. We’re putting this one on Upset Watch, and think there is a really good chance for a Wildcat win. However, if the Beavers can establish a running game, Arizona will be playing catch up all night. Oregon State by 4.

#24 Maryland (7-3) hosts Florida State (7-3). Maybe Maryland should pretend Florida State is ranked. After all, the Terps have won four games this season against ranked foes. And with two more victories, Maryland will be ACC Atlantic champion. Florida State leads the all-time series with Maryland 16-2, and desperately needs to win after getting popped by Boston College last week. Maryland has the ability to put points on the board and we think that’s the way it goes. Terapins by 14.

#25 Boston College (7-3) at Wake Forest (6-4). It’s Wake’s passing game versus BC’s rushing attack, which is hard for us to say, but only because we still are looking for Matt Ryan when the Eagles take the field. We are putting this one on Upset Watch. because of this obvious battle. When WF has stumbled, its been the pass not the run that’s sunk them. We think that the Demon Deacons could very well force BC into a passing game with a 50% passer…and thats not good. Wake Forest by 4.

Enjoy the Games!!

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Well we aren’t even to Saturday yet and the whole entire bowl picture has changed. Three games, three upsets and the whole post season has been knocked on its proverbial rear end.

On Thursday night, USC showed everyone that they are certainly deserving of high bowl honors by crushing #4 Arizona State 44-24. What was really impressive was the Trojan defense, holding Rudy Carpenter and the ASU offense down most all of the game, except when it didnt really matter. This really puts the pressure on Oregon this weekend to defeat UCLA, to avoid being knocked out of the Rose Bowl.

On Saturday, the Texas A&M Aggies ruined the hopes of Texas fans everywhere by making the Longhorns look silly. The Aggie victory gives the Big-12 South to the Oklahoma Sooners no matter what they do against Oklahoma State on Saturday, so they’ll go to San Antonio to ace the winner of the Kansas-Missouri game. (More on that later).

Also on Friday night, congratulations to Hawaii for whooping up on Boise State to capture their first WAC champion ship.  A win next week at home against Washington will complete a perfect, undefeated season, and most likely get them a BCS bowl game.

The real shocker, was #1 LSU going down to Arkansas in overtime 50-48. Matt Flynn proved he was selfish, irresponsible, and generally a poor clutch quarterback, while the vaunted Tiger defense couldn’t stop Arkansas most of the game, allowing huge plays, including 2 TDs of 40 yards or greater. LSU will still go to the SEC championship game, but the best they can do now is a Sugar Bowl berth, as Arkansas becomes the 12th unranked team to take down a top 5 team this year.

This certainly changes the outlook and especially grateful will be West Virginia, who now is almost a lock for a slot in the Title game (pending a victory over UConn tomorrow), and Ohio State who will be thanking its lucky stars that they don’t play any more games. The whole post season really comes down to the two remaining, huge Big-12 games. In each of the two likely scenarios, the winner of the KU/Missouri game has their destiny in their hands, and ultimately the Big-12 Championship game decides who plays in the National Title game.

Basically its really simple if West Virginia beats UConn – there is little chance they dont get to the title game. At that point its just what happens to KU and Missouri, with Oklahoma playing the spoiler. Whoever wins the KU-Missouri game has their title hopes in their hands. If they beat OU they will go to the title game, If OU beats either team, then Ohio State will go to the Championship against WVU. Its really that simple.

However, for fun, lets consider what could happen if UConn were to beat West Virginia. This would result in the winner of the KU-Missouri game taking the #1 spot for at least a week. Moving up would be Georgia (if they beat Georgia Tech) and Virginia Tech (if they beat Virginia):

1. Kansas/Missouri
2. Ohio State
3. Georgia
4. Virginia Tech
5. Missouri/Kansas
6. LSU
7. Oklahoma
8. USC

Now, if OU beat KU or Missouri, that would put Ohio State and Georgia in the Title Game. Otherwise KU/Mizzou plays Ohio State.

Should be fun…stay tuned tomorrow night!!

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