October 17, 2006
Due to my weekend trip to the Big Apple
and lots of driving, I was unable to watch the bulk
of the games most saw. It precludes me from being able
to talk very much about the proceedings, but here are
a few notes from the little bit that I caught.
As much as one team from college football’s
toughest conference wants to dominate the SEC, it looks
like none of them will allow for any to become the clear
cut best. Auburn proved the league’s parity by
dealing with Florida at home the way they should have
dealt with Arkansas last week. A lack of respect for
the Razorbacks meant an upset loss, but this week, Tommy
Tuberville wasn’t going to let the same unfocused
approach creep into their confrontation with the undefeated
Gators. Auburn used sharp defense and superior
special teams to take down Urban Meyer & Co. 27-17.
The Tigers seemed to win the battle(s) up front in the
latter half, and they didn’t let the presence
of freshman phenom Tim Tebow open things up for the
Gator offense. Those few extra wrinkles Tebow affords
may have been needed, for Gator QB Chris Leak didn’t
look good in their most needed times. Trailing 18-17
with a third-and-three at the Auburn six yard line in
the fourth, Leak succumbed to the pass rush, fumbling
as he tried to pump-fake. The Tiger’s next drive
came up short as they missed a 45-yard FGA, giving Leak
another chance for road heroics with 3:16 left. But
the INT he threw on the Gator’s first ensuing
play iced any shot of another miraculous ending for
UF. Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi and Mississippi
State all have three losses and are the only teams that
seem out of contention for the league title. The other
eight have been perfect against their non-conference
foes, so that their only losses are against other SEC
teams – no one is undefeated in conference play.
We told you here to start the season that no SEC team
would run the conference gauntlet unscathed, and that
this likely means no SEC rep in the BCS finale. Three
of the top five scoring defenses are from the SEC,
as are five of the top 15 teams in the AP Poll.
If you want a conference that reflects
equality of its bell-curved participants, you need go
no further than the ACC. Clemson is the only ACC school
that looks like it can legitimize its ranking –
they are one point away from being unbeaten. At season’s
start, who would have guessed that (in week seven) FSU,
Miami and Virginia Tech would be unranked and that the
Tigers, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and perennial
doormat Wake Forest would be situated in the top 25?
Granted, the year isn’t out yet, but…hey,
did we just say Wake Forest? The dilemma that seems
to be plaguing the usual powerhouses is offense. Clemson
is the only ACC offense ranked in the top 50. Not coincidentally,
they are also highly ranked (4th) in rushing offense,
with Georgia Tech the only other team in the league
to rank in the top 50 for ground production (GT is 22nd).
UM, State and VT are 55th, 84th, and 101st for rushing
and 61st, 60th, and 79th overall, respectively, in their
offensive efforts (or lack thereof). Only their 5th,
20th, and 8th total defenses keep them from falling
off the respectability map, so I think you get the point.
And whereas each has only two losses, none has shown
enough such that rankings are worthy. If you look at
the quality of their recruiting classes, it becomes
hard to fathom how this much talent does not equal more
commanding performances. Eventually, we have to start
looking at these school’s coaches and why they
can’t turn their four- and five-star laden lineups
into top 25 teams. But it also proves how valid
the idiom of teamwork really is. Remember, on any given
Saturday… Stay tuned this Saturday night as the
Ramblin’ Wreck and Clemson square off in a possible
preview of the ACC conference championship.
The biggest road wins of the
Michigan pulling it off 17-10
in Happy Valley. Penn State proved how defense
can keep you viable, but their inconsistent offense
was no match for the Wolverine’s top-rated run-stoppers
and seventh-ranked D. The key stat on Michigan is how
they are 17th-ranked for pass efficiency, though only
72nd for their overall passing numbers. They really
don’t have to pass since they possess the 21st-ranked
rushing offense, so the poignant times they do put it
up for grabs, they find success. If Michigan can stay
focused for this weekend’s home matchup with underachieving
underdog Iowa, it looks like that late November tilt
at the Horseshoe will guarantee that one of the participants
in the BCS title game is from the Big Ten.
Cal holding Wazzu’s 22nd-ranked
total offense to just three points in their Pac Ten
showdown. Remember, the Bears lost early (to much-improved
Tennessee), the perfect formula for re-attaining a high
spot in the human polls. Now No.11, Cal goes into Los
Angeles November 18th, but they seem to be lacking
the defense to finally take the Trojans off their perch.
Rutgers embarrassed the Midshipmen 34-0.
This was a good Navy team that had been beaten only
once by one point. And they were the nation’s
best rushers until the Scarlet Knights allowed Navy
only 113 yards on 50 tries. Rutgers, No.19 and
undefeated, has their highest ranking since 1977,
and with the nation’s best scoring defense (and
second-best total defense), they have the wares to knock
off the Big East elite. Pittsburgh, 6-1 and on the verge
of breaking into the top 25 themselves, is next for
“UNJ”, but it is the midterm against Louisville
and the final versus West Virginia that will determine
who goes BCS bowling from here.
Nebraska’s 21-3 win in Manhattan
means only their away loss to USC keeps them from perfection.
The Cornhuskers have quietly established the
nation’s eighth-ranked total offense with
their revamped “west coast” approach, and
senior QB Zach Taylor remains I-A’s best unknown
hurler. NU next draws Texas at home, a team they haven’t
beaten since 1999 and one sure to prove whether the
country should be taking Nebraska a little more seriously.
Vandy’s 24-22 shocker in Athens.
Dawg offensive woes slipped to a new low, and their
13th-ranked defense just couldn’t save Mark Richt
yet again. The Commodores reeled off a 15-play, 65-yard
drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal as time expired
to offset Georgia’s 24-yard INT return for six
that had put UGA up 22-21 with 9:22 left in the fourth.
After struggling to beat Mississippi and Colorado, the
Dawgs have now lost two straight to division/league
foes, and they have to beat Florida in two
weeks to even have a chance at regaining some self-respect.
Ohio State’s 38-7 trounce in East
Lansing further validated why the Buckeyes are
atop all rankings (except those pesky computer
ones). Dominating is the only word to describe the only
team that looks superior for all 60 minutes each week.
How the non-human systems can put USC (and hated Michigan)
above the Buckeyes just goes to prove why a playoff
is needed. Brutus beware!!!