Week Nine Game Day Predictions

It's been a long week for myself, and for the rest of Blacksburg. As kickoff for week nine approaches, the time has come for another round of predictions. Last week I went 13-2, after nearly calling Michigan State's upset of Iowa. 

I expect another spectacular week of football. On this Halloween night, USC and Texas are running the risk of being spooked on the road against Oregon and Oklahoma State, respectfully. 

MISSISSIPPI 30, Auburn 20

  • The Tigers continue their free-fall at home. They don't have a defense like South Carolina's or Alabama's, which were able to stop the Rebels.
HOUSTON 42, Southern Miss 35
  • If this were in Hattiesburg, I'd love to pick the Eagles. i just think Houston scores too many points at home for the Eagles to keep up.
FLORIDA 28, Georgia 21
  • Florida is losing respect every minute Tim Tebow keeps throwing interceptions, and Percy Harvin scores touchdowns for Minnesota.
MIAMI 30, Wake Forest 21
  • Riley Skinner will do his best to circle the wagons and turn the Deacons' season around; Jacory Harris has way too many athletes around than Skinner.
CALIFORNIA 41, Arizona State 28
  • Usually the Sun Devils fly under the radar before making a move towards the top of the conference this time of year. That's not happening in 2009.
BOSTON COLLEGE 20, Central Michigan 17
  • Do not count out the Chippewas; many people are picking the road team in the upset. Boston College is a different team at home, and will squeak out a scary game this afternoon.
DUKE 28, Virginia 24
  • Duke needs this win to keep its bowl chances alive. They get it today in Scott Stadium.
TEXAS TECH 45, Kansas 35
  • Two electric offenses meet up in Lubbock today; the Red Raiders have owned the Jayhawks in recent years.
KENTUCKY 28, Mississippi State 24
  • The Bulldogs hung with Florida thanks to two defensive touchdowns. Kentucky won't give the Bulldogs as many easy opportunities. 
OKLAHOMA 40, Kansas State 20
  • Food for thought: Oklahoma's three losses have been by a combined five points. They are much better than an unranked BCS team. What could have been for the Sooners in 2009...
GEORGIA TECH 34, Vanderbilt 14
  • Paul Johnson has Georgia Tech's offense playing as well as anyone in the nation. Vanderbilt is hardly the team to stop them.
NOTRE DAME 24, Washington State 13
  • The Irish never blow anyone out (except Nevada), but Washington State is their best chance left to run somebody out of South Bend with authority.
TENNESSEE 24, South Carolina 21
  • Love him or hate him, Lane Kiffin is a master motivator, and he'll have his Volunteers coming out strong after the heartbreaking loss last week in Tuscaloosa.
TEXAS 34, Oklahoma State 17
  • Before the season began, I thought the Cowboys were the best team in the Big 12. That was when Dez Bryant was still eligible. Texas has soaring confidence after destroying Missouri last week, and the Cowboys just aren't the same team without Bryant.
USC 31, Oregon 21
  • Matt Barkley is already one of the 15 best quarterbacks in America. Yes, seriously. He won't be frightened by any of the Ducks' tricks, and he'll give his receivers plenty of treats in a satisfying road win. 

OVERALL: 45-15 (75%)


Virginia Tech - North Carolina: Keys to the game

Frank Beamer has to be sick of spending the last 10 days hearing nothing but how his team ruined its chance at a national title. It feels like it has been 10 months since the Hokies last hit the field, but tomorrow night the struggling North Carolina Tar Heels invade Lane Stadium.

On paper, it looks to set up as a one-sided affair, favoring the home team. In reality, this could be a scary endeavor for the former fourth-ranked team in the nation.

This is what each team must do if they hope to get out of tomorrow night's battle unscathed.

Virginia Tech

Protect the backfield

There will plenty of block parties this Halloween weekend in Blacksburg, but Hokie fans better hope their offensive line does some "block"ing of their own one night early. Against Georgia Tech (and Duke, Nebraska, and Alabama for that matter), the line struggled.

In the games where the front line has won the battle in the trenches, the Hokies have blown their opponents away. Their biggest problems have come against big-time defensive tackles, like Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska, and Vince Oghobase from Duke.

Tomorrow night, Marvin Austin will be the next future NFL defensive stuffer to line up opposite the maroon and orange. Keeping Austin off of Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams' backs must by priority no. 1. for the Hokies.

Get to Yates

Last season, Tar Heel quarterback T.J. Yates shredded the Hokie secondary before being injured late in the third quarter. That injury was thanks to a relentless effort from Tech's defensive line, a trademark of their 10-year defensive dominance.

It will be up to that aggressive, tenacious defense to pressure Yates again tomorrow night. This year, the Tar Heels are without receivers Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate, who murdered the Hokies in 2008.

Without such options to throw to, Yates can not be bailed out with great plays downfield should he be under much heat. A few early sacks and/or turnovers, and Lane Stadium will be rocking once again.

Don't Let Up

Too many people have already forgotten about this Tech team. What Frank Beamer must remind his team is they still have an opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game even if the ACC title eludes their grasp.

In order to make an impression on the voters, the Hokies need to use this nationally televised opportunity to make a bold statement that they belong in the upper echelon of the sport.

Losses to Georgia Tech on the road and to top-ranked Alabama are hardly anything to be ashamed of, but fact of the matter is, they both added a tally to the loss column, which has pushed them out of the spotlight for now.

Should the Hokies step out in front early a la the Boston College or Miami game, they should keep the pedal down and blast the Heels. There is little love lost between Beamer and Heels coach Butch Davis over the years, and a 40 or 50-point margin of victory, even over a mediocre UNC squad, would resonate throughout the college football world.

North Carolina

KISS (Keep it simple and short)

More often than not, Yates will not have much time in the pocket before Jason Worilds and Nekos Brown are bearing down on him from the outside. In that case, the Heels need to utilize a quick passing game that enables the ball to get out of the backfield quickly.

That will also force the back line of Tech's defense to do the one thing that has seemed hardest of all for them in 2009: tackle in the open field. If there is one Achilles' heel on the Hokies' team (not to say there are not more), that's it.

The best way to beat the Tech defense is to negate the pressure it applies, and get players the ball in space. It should be noted, this is much easier said than done.

Field position is crucial

As the Hokie offense has improved, its ability to score on quick-strike plays of 40-50 yards has improved more. North Carolina has to pin the Hokies as deep as possible, which includes making first downs on most drives, and covering punts and kickoffs to the highest level.

Dyrell Roberts and Jayron Hosely has been outstanding return men thus far in 2009, making several key plays that have broken games wide open for Tech. Carolina simply can not afford such plays.

It will be a hard enough task to move the football, but if the Heels are constantly playing on much longer fields than the Hokies, their chances aren't even slim, they're none.

Ignore the crowd

This is the toughest task of all: fend off a Lane Stadium atmosphere on a Thursday night. There is no team in America whose home venue carries quite the same mystique Thursday games, and unless your name is Matt Ryan, Blacksburg is where quarterbacks come to suffer in games like this.

Yates is a poised quarterback with experience, but it is yet to be seen how he handles the atmosphere tomorrow night. Opposing quarterbacks have not fared well in Lane so far in 2009, including Zac Lee, Jacory Harris, and David Shinskie. Yates has a chance to buck that trend, and if he can not, once again the Heels have no room for error.

Final Analysis

It won't be the blowout win the Hokies need, but in the end it should be a comfortable win for Tech. Austin will wreak havoc at times with Taylor and Williams, and there may be a few moans and groans emitting from the home crowd, but eventually the Tech defense will obliterate a pathetic Carolina offense.

Predicted score - Virginia Tech 33, North Carolina 9

Week Eight Power Rankings

1.     Alabama

Terrance Cody’s fame in Tuscaloosa may be bigger than his 350-pound frame after blocking two fourth-quarter field goals in the Tide’s 12-10 win at Tennessee last week. After leading 12-3 with less than four minutes to play, a touchdown drive and ensuing onside kick gave the Vols a chance for the miraculous upset.

In fact, an upset would maybe not have been so miraculous. Monte Kiffin has turned the Volunteer defense into one of the best in the country, and it’s never easy to come into Knoxville and beat the orange-clad home squad.

The game was set up for a classic, and it was just that. This was the Tide’s one allotted scare for the year, now they must dominate from here on out to retain the top spot.

2.     Florida

Tim Tebow: where is your 2008 season and what did you do with it? It’s been a month since the Gators quarterback was knocked out of the Kentucky game with a concussion. He no longer can use that as an excuse for subpar play. Tebow threw two interceptions (both of which were returned for scores) against Mississippi State in a 10-point win.

The excuse of not having Percy Harvin is getting a little old as well. There is not a soul on this Earth that can honestly say the athletes lining up in the Gators’ backfield shouldn’t be dominating defenses like the Bulldogs’.

I trust Urban Meyer, and that is the biggest reason I am keeping the Gators at this spot. Where is the fire in this team? Where is Tebow storming down the sidelines, running into his kickoff team’s huddle screaming at the top of his lungs?

Despite what’s being said in the Florida locker room all year, it seems that the Gators have fallen into the realm of being content; the hunger for the title that we saw a year ago is MIA.

3.     Texas

Ladies and Gentlemen: we have a Colt McCoy sighting. Contrary to Tebow, McCoy’s stock in the Heisman/NFL Draft race increased tenfold after only throwing six incompletions in the Longhorns’ blowout of Missouri. It could not have come at a better time, either, after perhaps his worst game in four years against Oklahoma.

It was games like that which the country needs right now: a statement game. McCoy came up big in his push for the Heisman, while Texas dominated a top-25 team like no other perennial national title favorite has done to date.

Sure, Florida beat LSU 13-3, and Alabama beat Virginia Tech 34-24, but Texas just looked unstoppable.  Should that trend continue, consider the Longhorns a lock for Pasadena.


4.     Boise State

It’s no mystery why the Broncos thrashed Hawaii in such fashion late Saturday night. They understand that TCU is nipping at their heels for the higher ranking from a non-BCS conference school.

After the Horned Frogs embarrassed BYU on the road that evening, Boise went out in the middle of the night and took the Warriors behind the woodshed.

For those of you who don’t know Kellen Moore, you might want to take notice. The Bronco quarterback, who is only a sophomore, has 1,627 yards, 21 touchdowns, and two interceptions. It doesn’t matter who you play, it takes a talented quarterback to put up numbers like that.

Jeremy Avery has also picked up the slack at running back for the injured D.J. Harper. Avery is averaging nearly six yards per carry to keep the Boise attack balanced.

If you are ever around Boise in the coming weeks (yeah, okay, I know) and you see students donning green and yellow apparel across campus, do not be confused. At this moment, the Broncos are the Oregon Ducks’ biggest fans. The win over Oregon is the only game on Boise’s schedule carrying any weight in the BCS, and they need the Ducks to go as far as possible. If Oregon falters down the stretch, the “smurf turf” boys might be in trouble.

5.     Cincinnati

The Bearcats toppled Oregon State in Corvallis early in the season by a score of 28-18. That margin of victory is larger than the six points that USC edged the Beavers by at home last week.

To quote Lee Corso, “Somebody knows something I don’t know.” Unlike Iowa, or even Florida for that matter, the Bearcats have won in convincing fashion every week. Their schedule is not as weak as one might think, and upcoming dates with Pittsburgh and West Virginia will give Brian Kelly’s squad much too strong of a resume to be ignored in the national championship discussion.

6.     TCU

If you are around Fort Worth, Tex. in the coming weeks (Last time, I promise…you never know!) and you see quite a lot of orange dotting the TCU campus, it’s because Clemson’s recent surge to the front of the ACC Atlantic Division has Horned Frogs fans energized.

TCU was the last team to beat the Tigers, and after thrashing BYU 38-7 Saturday the Horned Frogs are leaping everyone in the rankings.

If only BYU had played more respectably against Florida State earlier this season, this most recent TCU victory probably would have propelled them to fourth in the rankings.

Nevertheless, its schedule, which includes Virginia, the Tigers, and Cougars, is much stronger than Boise State’s, which bodes well for the Frogs down the stretch.  Keep an eye on the way TCU finishes the season. If they win convincingly while running the table, they won’t be left out of the BCS equation.

7.     USC

Ivan Maisel at ESPN brought up an excellent point about Matt Barkley. The kid is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the country…and this is the worst he is ever going to be. He is leaps and bounds beyond the level he was playing at when USC beat Ohio State in Columbus, and the offense in LA looks peerless.

Oregon better had come prepared this week, or they just might get embarrassed. Autzen Stadium is one of the toughest venues for opponents to win, but USC is simply on a mission to dominate everything in its path.

If the Trojans dismantle the Ducks, and I think they will, they will be yet another team to throw into the BCS title discussion, and with good reason.  

8.     Georgia Tech

Paul Johnson has his team feeling as if they are on top of the world. It has been made clear the win over Virginia Tech was one of the biggest in program history, and he is using the emotion stemming from that game to propel the Jackets through the final month of the season.

Wake Forest and Duke are the only opponents in the ACC remaining on their schedule. Don’t discount Duke, but the Jackets seem to be in perfect position to capture their second Coastal Division title since its inception.

This year will be the fifth with the ACC title game at the end of the season. It will in all likelihood also be the fifth year the game is played without Miami, once the crown jewel of the conference’s expansion. Food for thought…

9.     Iowa

Just look at the previous post to see my thoughts on the Hawkeyes. Congratulations for making it to this point undefeated, but win with some conviction before thinking you are more deserving than the teams higher in this list.

10. LSU

If things fall into place, the Tigers just might sneak into a BCS bowl as an at-large representative. Nobody is talking about Les Miles’ team since its loss to the Gators three weeks ago, which is probably a good thing. Early in the year, the Tigers got too much attention for virtually no accomplishments.

Now they can play the final weeks of the season relatively pressure-free (or as close as it gets to that in the SEC) and try to take care of business without all the attention of the nation.

11. Virginia Tech

12. Oregon

13. Penn State

14. Pittsburgh

15. Oklahoma

16. West Virginia

17. Notre Dame

18. Houston

19. California

20. Utah

21. Clemson

22. South Carolina

23. Mississippi

24. Arizona

25. Stanford



Iowa’s wins hardly reason for praise

Unfortunately, I was not able to catch any of the day’s action live this weekend; I was in Richmond for the UMass-Richmond game. Besides getting absolutely drenched in torrential downpours, I saw my former teammate Tyler Holmes have clearly the best game of anyone on the defensive side of the ball for the Minutemen. Caleb Violette also made some very nice plays in the kicking game, despite Richmond’s 34-13 win.

Instead of awards this week (I feel since I can only base my opinions off 45 second highlights and the Pat Fordes of the world, awards wouldn’t do the week justice), I am going to stand up on a soapbox and talk about what’s really grinding my gears (one dollar to Peter Griffin).

You want to talk about cardiac kids? The Hawkeyes won their third game in the final seconds this season, beating Michigan State 15-13. The Spartans had recovered from an abysmal September, and were in prime position to notch a statement win in the Big Ten.

Ricky Stanzi had other plans, however. With a minute and a half remaining, Stanzi marched the Hawkeyes downfield, and on fourth-and-goal, he found Marvin McNutt as time expired to keep their undefeated season alive.

Iowa had already won by three points against two inferior opponents prior to Saturday. Against FCS foe Northern Iowa, the Hawkeyes blocked not one, but two field goals in the waning seconds to hold on for a 17-16 win.

The week following its huge road win against Penn State, Iowa nearly blew the Arkansas State game, giving up 14 points in the final quarter before holding on for a three-point win.

In my eyes, this raises the question of whether the Hawkeyes really deserve their no. four ranking in the BCS. The win over Penn State was all that was carrying the Hawkeyes to this point, and only after the Nittany Lions’ 35-10 drubbing over Michigan last week did they look like a credible opponent.

Iowa is in 2009 what they are every other year: a physical defensive team with a simple power-running game offense. The difference this year is the conference is much weaker all the way around. Ohio State has taken a step back, Penn State is not what we thought it would be, Michigan is rebuilding, and Wisconsin is not as strong as in years’ past.

The Hawkeyes may in fact run the table. Their final four games are against Indiana, Northwestern, Ohio State and Minnesota. All of those are winnable, with the game in Columbus as the biggest obstacle remaining. I like Ohio State in that game, but I am not counting the Hawkeyes out by any stretch of the imagination.

Even if Iowa does in fact run the table, I find their quality wins and strength of schedule to be marginally comparable to that of TCU’s. It would be a great accomplishment to say the least, but neither the Hawkeyes nor an unbeaten Horned Frogs team should merit a national title appearance over a once-beaten Alabama, Florida, Texas, or USC team. Not in a million years.

If the Hawkeyes played in the SEC, or even the Pac-10 (and I think head coach Kirk Ferentz would admit this as well), Iowa would be 8-4 at best. I’m sorry, but judging teams by their record, rather than the way they play and who they play is borderline insanity.

Saying Iowa is the fourth-best team in America given its near losses on a weekly basis is like saying Ralph Friedgen should be named coach of the year in the ACC. I like the Iowa program, and they do a fine job at being an above-average team year in and year out. Unfortunately for them, that’s all they are this season too: an above-average team in a below average conference.


Week 8 Game Day Predictions go 13-2

I'm P.O'd. If Ricky Stanzi hadn't of thrown a last-second touchdown to beat Michigan State, I would have correctly picked both of my upsets correctly yesterday. Nonetheless, it was another good week, as I also correctly took the Clemson Tigers over Miami on the road. 

This week: 13-2

Overall: 45-15 (75%)


Week Eight Game Day Predictions

It is not the most exciting day in college football; heck, College Gameday is at a Mountain West game. However, this is shaping up to be a week with some of the closest games we've seen all year, and don't be surprised if a few upsets sprout up across the country as the day passes.

I'll be in Richmond today for the Massachusetts-Richmond game, to see my good friend Tyler Holmes suit up at linebacker, and Caleb Violette at kicker for the Minutemen. I'll be following the games best I can, and will have a recap of the day late tonight. Thanks for reading.

GEORGIA TECH 35, Virginia 20

·      If Virginia Tech can’t stop the Jackets’ offense, what makes anyone think Virginia can?

OHIO STATE 20, Minnesota 17

·      Terrelle Pryor has had the week from Hell; if this game was in Minneapolis I might give the Gophers the nod

PITTSBURGH 30, South Florida 23

·      Dion Lewis is closing in on becoming a household name in the Steel City

MISSISSIPPI 34, Arkansas 28

·      Houston Nutt circles the wagons for a season-salvaging win.

ALABAMA 23, Tennessee 10

·      If this were in Knoxville, I’d give the Vols a chance with Monte Kiffin calling the shots on defense

CLEMSON 27, Miami 21

·      C.J. Spiller and the rest of the Tigers finally woke up last week against Wake Forest; they would love nothing more than to take hold of the Atlantic Division with a big win today.

OREGON 38, Washington 28

·      Jeremiah Masoli is back and will be too much for the Huskies’ defense to handle

MICHIGAN 24, Penn State 22

·      The Nittany Lions are far more talented on paper, but the truth is the Wolverines have just looked better on a weekly basis

OKLAHOMA 38, Kansas 24

·      The Sooners are a good team, even without Sam Bradford. They still have a chance at the Big 12 title if they run the table, and some pieces of the puzzle fall just right.

NOTRE DAME 42, Boston College 24

·      The Eagles have been nothing short of pathetic on the road this year, and that continues today. If Tyrod Taylor can light up that secondary, who knows what Jimmy Clausen will do?


·      It took a half before Iowa woke up last week; the Spartans are playing well and have the home-field advantage for this night game.

FLORIDA 44, Mississippi State 14

·      Bulldogs’ coach Dan Mullen knows first-hand just how much better the Gators are than his team. This will not be a Washington-USC repeat, where Steve Sarkisian beat former boss Pete Carroll.

TCU 30, BYU 24

·      Offensive power versus defensive dominance: I’m going with the defense.

LSU 30, Auburn 23

·      Auburn keeps it close, but LSU doesn’t lose at home…unless it’s to Florida

TEXAS 28, Missouri 27

·      The Tigers miss a couple field goals that would have beat the Longhorns, who just don’t have that explosion on offense like in 2008.

USC 33, Oregon State 25

·      Jacquizz Rodgers lit up the Trojans for 180 yards last season. He’ll have a good day, but don’t expect a repeat performance in 2009. 

Last Week: 11-4

Overall 32-13 (71%)


Will the real Heisman favorite please stand up?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Everything in the universe goes by indirection. There are no straight lines.”

Emerson must have known a thing or two about the 2009 Heisman Trophy race. There is not a single player on a straight path towards the award this season.

Trying to project which player will take home the hardware on Dec. 12 is about as easy as picking tomorrow’s lottery numbers.  There simply is not a single player worthy of such high esteem to this point.

Prior to the season, great things were expected in 2009.  It was only the second time in history that the top three Heisman finalists from the previous season were back again.  

Beyond that, all three of those players were record-setting quarterbacks who quite possibly could be the greatest to ever play at their respective schools.

Sam Bradford, the defending winner from Oklahoma, was the first to drop out of the race. With one swift yet crushing hit in the second quarter of the Sooners’ first game, Bradford sprained his shoulder and lost his chances at a repeat.

Just down the road in Austin, Tex., Colt McCoy looked to have a great opportunity to capture the award many thought he had earned last season. In 2008 he completed 77 percent of his passes and 3,859 yards. He threw only eight interceptions the entire season. It was one of the most statistically dominant seasons in college football history.

However, 2009 has taken another path, leading towards lackluster wins and frequent interceptions. McCoy has already been intercepted seven times, and is on pace for fourteen by season’s end. His quarterback rating of 137.85 is a career-low, and the Longhorns’ offense has sputtered out of the gate on more than a couple occasions.

Colt had a chance to re-establish himself at the forefront of the award race last Saturday against the Sooners. Instead, he endured one of the worst games of his career completing 21 passes for only 127 yards, averaging a paltry six yards per completion.

Of course, no Heisman talk is complete without mentioning Tebow, the golden boy of college football. While he has done nothing wrong this season, he simply does not have the weapons around him like years’ past.

Many times, Heisman winners that return to school have the problem of needing to top their previous success. Considering Tebow is coming off two of the best years any quarterback has ever had, did anyone really expect him to better his resume in 2009?

The biggest asset in Tebow’s favor is his Florida Gators are rolling towards a potential undefeated season atop the BCS rankings. If Florida runs the table and wins the SEC, Tebow will be a finalist for the third time in his career, and might even steal the award for a second time.

Rising fast on everyone’s Heisman board is Mark Ingram, the running back from Alabama. He is now third in the nation in rushing with 905 yards, and is the biggest reason the Tide’s offense has been so tough in the first half of the season.

Ingram kicked the season off with a bang, rushing for 150 yards and a touchdown while catching another in the Tide’s 34-24 win over Virginia Tech. He did not reach the 100-yard mark again until October.

He has put that weak first month in the past, and without any doubt. In the last three games, he has carried the ball 74 times for 558 yards and four touchdowns. That’s nearly a season’s worth of numbers from some backs who face SEC defenses weekly.

Similar to Tebow, should Alabama be the team to come out of the SEC unscathed, and Ingram continues his scorching play, don’t be surprised if he comes out of nowhere to lay claim to the trophy.

Here are some other players who could find themselves in New York thanks to a watered-down selection this season:

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

·      Tell me the last time a defensive tackle led his team in tackles. Suh is doing just that for the Huskers with 36. He continues to leave a lasting impression on every quarterback he faces

Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh

·      He may be a freshmen, but heck, in a year like this why can’t he win? Lewis is second in the nation with 918 rushing yards. For Lewis to enter the inner circle of Heisman elite, he needs the Panthers to win the Big East, and he probably needs another couple 200-yard performances.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

·      Everyone who was not watching the Irish’s clash with USC last weekend has surely heard about it by now. Clausen nearly led a magical fourth-quarter comeback from a 20-point deficit, only to fall short from inside the five-yard line. Had he delivered a touchdown on that drive, and then led the Irish to win the game in overtime, he would be the clear-cut favorite at this point. Instead, he has a hardy challenge ahead of him.

Thankfully there is still a month and a half of football yet to play, because we will need every last week to find a true favorite, or else they just might cancel the award altogether.


Week Seven Power Rankings

1.     Alabama

A few weeks ago, the Crimson Tide were nipping on the heels of their conference rival Florida. Now, they are pulling away from the Gators, and quickly. Another dominating performance by Mark Ingram, in which he ran for over 250 yards against South Carolina, has many people hopping on the ‘Bama bandwagon.

What puzzles me is why Ingram has not received any more national attention to this point.  He’s now third in the nation in rushing with 905 yards, and is single-handedly carrying the Tide offense through the conference season.

It’s funny to think, that at the beginning of the season, all the talk surrounding the Alabama program was about Julio Jones on offense and gargantuan nose tackle Terrance Cody on defense. However, the stars of this team so far have been Ingram and quarterback Greg McElroy offensively, and middle linebacker Rolando McClain on defense.

That’s why the play the game.

2.     Florida

For Gator fans, what’s scarier than seeing Tim Tebow lay motionless on the turf for several minutes? Seeing Tebow and his fellow teammates having to scratch and claw for a home win against Arkansas. The Razorbacks did everything they could in that game to upset the defending national champions, but still came up short.

Ryan Mallet, the sophomore transfer quarterback from Michigan, tore apart the vaunted Florida defense, leading several long drives for scores. He took care of his job all day long. His only shortcoming was leaving two drives up to Alex Tejada, who missed two field goals that would have been enough for the win.

Tejada’s miss on the go-ahead field goal with three minutes to go will linger in the minds of Razorback fans for years to come.

However, every national champion always had one close call every year, where they needed a little luck and a gutsy effort to pull out a win. This was the Gators’, and now that they have had their wake-up call, expect Urban Meyer to re-focus his group and set them on a crash course for Atlanta to face the Crimson Tide this December.

3.     Boise State

Up until now, the consensus opinion among college football experts is the Broncos just don’t have the meat on their schedule to warrant a spot in the national championship.

Week by week, however, other teams keep failing to impress, and one can’t help but think the Broncos might be that team.

I don’t put much stock in the seven-point win over Tulsa, despite the fact the Golden Hurricanes were blasted 45-0 to a Sam Bradford-less Oklahoma team. Just like Florida, the Broncos had their one allotted scare for the season.

While they are still on the outside looking in, Chris Peterson’s team is doing all they can do right now, and that is win football games. If USC, Texas, Cincinnati, and Iowa all fall (who says that can’t happen?), then it is going to be hard to deny the boys from Boise.

4.     Texas

This is how bad Texas looked against Oklahoma: they won, and got jumped by a WAC team that beat Tulsa by seven. I am simply not impressed with what I have seen out of Texas so far this season.

Outside of Jordan Shipley, Colt McCoy has no reliable options in the passing game. Gerald McCoy and the rest of the Sooners’ defensive line had a field day against what should be a physical Longhorns offense.

Even though McCoy is the star of this team, even he looked out of sync on Saturday. Brett Venables, the Oklahoma defensive coordinator, threw multiple looks at McCoy that kept him off balance every step of the way.

Had Sam Bradford not been lost for the game on the second drive, Oklahoma would have won this game going away. Landry Jones played decently as his replacement, but threw several questionable passes, including two bad interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Texas has a lot of work to do to prove to me they are a top-notch team.

5.     (a) Cincinnati

I was very impressed with the intensity and execution the Bearcats played with Thursday night in Tampa. They dominated the Bulls both offensively and defensively in a 34-17 win.

Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels spent half the game running for his life in the backfield, looking for open receivers. Cincinnati applied great pressure to Daniels while also locking up all of his options downfield.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Brian Kelly is the most underrated coach in college football. Truth be told, I’d put him in my list of top five coaches in America. He lost star quarterback Tony Pike at halftime with a seven-point lead, and proceeds to plug in backup Zach Collaros, who actually played better than Pike in this game.

The Bearcats desperately need South Florida to win as much as possible the rest of the way, as well as West Virginia and Pittsburgh for that matter, so that if they run the table in the Big East it is impressive enough to vault them into the national championship game.

5.     (b) Iowa

As ugly as Big Ten football is, they have a darn good team in Iowa who’s rising fast. After trailing 10-0 on the road against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes completely shut down the Badgers in the second half to come back and win the game, keeping their unbeaten season alive.

Ricky Stanzi is a serviceable quarterback, but he has a complete team around him. There are no Heisman candidates or superstars on this team, but they beat their opponents with sound, tough football.

With Ohio State’s embarrassing loss at Purdue this past week, the Hawkeyes are now the clear-cut favorite in the Big Ten, and would love nothing more than a January trip to Pasadena. They might even get to a week later than normal if they play their cards right.

6.     USC

After three quarters of football in South Bend last Saturday, the buzz was beginning to grow about the Trojans and their revived dominating form. After that, they proceeded to nearly collapse, coming within three yards of having to play overtime with the Fighting Irish.

Had they closed out that game with authority, rather than by letting Notre Dame nearly pull off its biggest win in recent memory, USC would probably be third in the rankings right now. Instead, there is still uncertainty surrounding the true identity of Pete Carroll’s team.

They still have a few big games left to sway the country’s mind, but they are running out of time.

7.     Miami

It was a ho-hum week for the ‘Canes in Coral Gables, but it was an illustrious week for them in Atlanta. After Georgia Tech’s upset of Virginia Tech, Miami’s ACC title hopes took a serious upswing. They now sit in a tie with the Jackets and Hokies for second in the Coastal division, with the Virginia Cavaliers on top.

That won’t last long. The Wahoos will fall in the coming weeks, while the aforementioned triumvirate of the Coastal should win out.

If that happens, it would be Miami playing for the conference title and in all likelihood, an Orange Bowl bid. That in of itself would mark a huge step in the right direction for Randy Shannon’s program.

8.     Georgia Tech

I will admit it: I was wrong about the Jackets’ offense. I thought that teams had figured out how to defend their triple option attack, and Josh Nesbitt was a mediocre quarterback who made too many mistakes.

Nesbitt, and the rest of the offense for that matter, was on the mark Saturday night, tearing apart the Virginia Tech defense in the second half en route to a 28-23 victory.

Now, Paul Johnson has his team sitting at 6-1 and in contention for a BCS at-large bid should they not win the conference. Maybe he really does have something going with this triple option thing.

9.     TCU

The Horned Frogs do not get nearly enough credit for their efforts. They shut down a sneaky Colorado State team 44-6 Saturday, and look to be in prime shape heading into a battle with BYU in Provo this week.

A win over the Cougars would go a long way in convincing the pollsters/computers that they deserve more respect and a higher ranking.

Since the Cougars and Utah have each lost a game already, the Frogs are the last hope for the Mountain West Conference this season to make a BCS run. It won’t be easy, but Gary Patterson knows what he’s doing down there, and this week’s game could be the best of the week.

10. Arkansas

Call me crazy, but the Razorbacks are making a statement in Bobby Petrino’s second season at the helm.

As mentioned earlier, they were tantalizingly close to beating the nation’s top-ranked team. Mallet has thrown 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions this season. He is this year’s Jevan Snead; the similarities are scary. Both are pro-style quarterbacks with NFL-ready arms, both transferred from big-time programs to their current schools, both lead/are leading a resurgence of their respective programs as first-year starters.

If only Mallet had knocked off Florida, the comparison would have been complete. Nevertheless, Arkansas looks very much like the second-best team in the SEC West so far this season. Wins over Ole Miss and LSU would go a long way towards proving that.

11. LSU

12. Virginia Tech

13. Oklahoma State

14. Texas Tech

15. Penn State

16. Pittsburgh

17. BYU

18. Oregon

19. Oklahoma

20. Michigan

21. West Virginia

22. Ohio State

23. Auburn

24. Boston College

25. South Florida



Week Seven Awards

It was an interesting week in college football to say the least. Two top-ten teams fell by the wayside on the road. A couple more barely escaped with wins. Two Hesiman Trophy candidates were lost to injury.

Upset losses have come to be expected, but hardly ever anticipated. As the following weeks begin to pass by, there will be more shock and more chaos.

Chaos is defined as “complete disorder or utter confusion.”

Sooner or later, that definition may read “See: College Football.”

Okay, time for some awards!

The Climb Award, brought to you by Miley Cyrus – Notre Dame

For Charlie Weis and the Fighting Irish, it’s been one hell of a climb back to the top of college football, and after Saturday, they aren’t back yet. The Irish fell at home to the USC Trojans 34-27 in thrilling fashion. Jimmy Clausen put together another sensational fourth-quarter comeback, only to fall three yards short of overtime.

What did we learn from the close loss? Weis has the program headed in the right direction, but it might not be at a satisfactory pace. After losing 38-3 in Los Angeles last season, Notre Dame came closer to beating their cross-country rivals than they had in four years.

USC is not the same USC that has dominated this decade, so it’s not like Notre Dame nearly beat the greatest show on turf or anything close. But it was still USC, and had the Irish completed the comeback and won the game, it would have marked a huge step forward for coach Weis.

It’s a long journey from mediocrity to glory in college football. Much of the Irish roster is full of players with at least one more year of eligibility. The promise they are showing this season should warrant at least one more year for Weis to make a run at a national title.  

The Wizard of Oz Award (There’s no place like home) – Virginia Tech and Boston College

What a difference a venue makes. Both the Hokies and Eagles have looked lights-out for the most part in home battles; yet look like an entirely different team away from home.

The Hokies entered Atlanta Saturday night with the number four ranking in the country, thanks largely in part to huge home wins over Nebraska, Miami, and Boston College. In its only trips away from Blacksburg, Tech has struggled.

On the first night of the season, also in Atlanta, the Hokies fought hard but a few costly mistakes lost them the game against Alabama. Two weeks ago, the Hokies struggled through an afternoon in Durham, escaping Duke with a 34-26 win. The defense lacks the same energy away from Lane Stadium, and the offense can’t seem to break as many big plays on the road.

There is something to be said for drawing energy from the crowd to carry you through a lot of games.  This Tech team needs to learn to create its own energy when need be.

As for the Eagles, it is hard to look as polar opposite as they have looked depending on where they play. At home, they have beaten Wake Forest, Florida State, and now North Carolina State, and looked pretty darn good doing it. On the road, Frank Spaziani’s crew has looked pitiful in losses to Clemson and the Hokies.

Much of the struggles away from home can be attributed to the inexperience at quarterback. David Shinskie played minor league baseball for five years before coming to play quarterback at Boston College. It is not very easy to adjust to playing football at this level, let alone doing it in two of the most intimidating stadiums in America.

The Eagles’ final three road tests come against Notre Dame, Virginia, and Maryland. Expect the Irish to have their way this Saturday, but the Cavaliers and Terrapins are hardly the Hokies or Tigers. Also, by that point in the season, Shinskie will have much more experience under his belt, and should be able to handle those trips.

As crazy as the Atlantic Division is, don’t count the Eagles out for a spot in the ACC Championship Game.

The Always Be Prepared Award – Zach Collaros, QB Cincinnati

As the first half of the Bearcats’ Thursday night bout with South Florida drew to an end, so did the Heisman dreams of their quarterback Tony Pike. With an undisclosed injury to his left forearm, Pike was unable to return to the field after halftime, leaving a 17-10 lead in untested backup Collaros’ hands.

No pressure, right?

Not for Collaros. The sophomore scampered 75 yards midway through the third quarter to extend the Bearcats’ lead to 14, then led a pair of well-sustained scoring drives that held off any chance of a Bulls’ rally.

The extent of Pike’s injury is still uncertain, but it is not looking good at this point. The good news for fifth-ranked Cincinnati is they can feel comfortable with Collaros in his stead.

Even though the Bulls may have been the toughest opponents Cincinnati sees this season, the spotlight will only brow brighter as an undefeated season draws closer.

Now that’s pressure.

The Most Awkward Thanksgiving Dinner Award – The Hawkins Family, Colorado

After a 1-4 start to the Buffaloes’ season, coach Dan Hawkins ran into the worst problem a coach can ever face: being forced to bench his son at quarterback.

Colorado fell apart in the second half last week, losing to Texas 38-14 after once leading 14-3. Dan’s son Cody was largely responsible for the offense’s ineffectiveness, throwing a couple untimely interceptions that led to the Longhorns’ rout.

Following the game, that’s when the elder Hawkins made the fateful decision. He opted to start Tyler Hansen under center for the upcoming game against #17 Kansas. Initially he declared the decision a “permanent” one, and then later in the week said his son might still see the field in the coming weeks.

That looks highly unlikely now. Hansen completed 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Buffaloes’ 34-30 upset of the Jayhawks. Suddenly, an offense that sputtered in its first five games was taking control against a ranked foe.

The only major difference between this past week and the early part of the season was the personnel at quarterback. It appears obvious that Hansen is firmly cemented as the starter from here on out, and the younger Hawkins will have to learn what life is like holding the clipboard for his father. Awk-ward…


Williams a game-time decision tonight

According to Westwood One Radio, Ryan Williams, the redshirt freshman running back for Virginia Tech who leads the ACC in rushing, has an illness and will be a game-time decison tonight at Georgia Tech (6:00 p.m., ESPN 2). Should he miss the game, the starting nod in the backfield will go to Josh Oglesby, and freshman David Wilson will also see a lot of carries.

Week Seven Game Day Predictions

OKLAHOMA 34, Texas 30

·      Texas can’t afford another slow start in this game

OHIO STATE 37, Purdue 10

·      Hopefully the Buckeyes offense scores more points than its defense, unlike last week

IOWA 20, Wisconsin 15

·      The Hawkeyes already showed up Penn State in Happy Valley, what says they can’t knock off the Badgers at Camp Randall?

CLEMSON 27, Wake Forest 20

·      Why not screw up the ACC’s Atlantic Division a little more?

FLORIDA 31, Arkansas 10

·      Ryan Mallet has shined with the exception of the Alabama game. Sorry Ryan, the Gators’ defense is just as good

USC 35, Notre Dame 24

·      The Irish have had all sorts of trouble stopping the run, which is not good news considering the talent in the Trojans’ backfield.

PENN STATE 37, Minnesota 24

·      The Nittany Lions don’t have much to play for these days, the Big Ten title is unlikely, the national title is impossible

NEBRASKA 42, Texas Tech 31

·      Backup quarterback Steven Sheffield threw seven touchdowns for Tech last week against Kansas State. The Wildcats don’t have Ndamukong Suh.

CAL 49, UCLA 28

·      Remember when Jahvid Best was scoring more touchdowns than Jon and Kate Gosselin had children? Best returns to form today.


·      The Eagles looked awful against Virginia Tech last week. But they return home, and the ‘Pack lost to…Duke? The Eagles are a different team in Chesnut Hill

VIRGINIA 35, Maryland 30

·      The battle of inferiors in the ACC is a great opportunity for Maryland to show something to the home crowd, but the Cavaliers have a little confidence this week coming off two straight wins.

VIRGINIA TECH 37, Georgia Tech 21

·      This is the biggest…well the only big road test for the Hokies this season. The Jackets’ defense has given up 500 yards of total offense the last two weeks…uh oh…

KANSAS 38, Colorado 14

·      Buffaloes’ coach Dan Hawkins benched his son, Cody, at quarterback after last week. Not too much is going right in Boulder these days.

ALABAMA 31, South Carolina 6

·      Were this game in Columbia, the Gamecocks might have a chance. Mark Ingram is red hot and the Tide defense is way too good.

OKLAHOMA STATE 45, Missouri 42

·      The Cowboys are missing suspended wideout Dez Bryant, but Missouri is reeling after blowing a 20-point lead against Nebraska.


 Last Week: 14-1

Overall: 21-9


Games to watch this week- Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech

Game: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech

When: 6:00 p.m.

Why it matters: In one of the craziest seasons the ACC has seen in recent memory, madness would ensue within the conference should the Jackets upset the Hokies. Before the season, prognosticators across America were pointing to this game as the best of the year in the conference.

After some early season struggles, including an embarrassing loss to Miami on national television, Georgia Tech is back on track and sits at 5-1 on the season. Last week, in a game that ended later than most of the west coast battles that night, the Jackets outscored Florida State 49-44 in Tallahassee.

They know that in order to gain respect throughout the country, they need to beat the fourth-ranked Hokies at home.

For the Hokies, it’s make-or-break time in Atlanta. If Frank Beamer’s team loses, they will fall into a three-way tie in the Coastal Division with Georgia Tech and Miami, and could very well be left out of the ACC and BCS equation come season’s end.

With a win, the Hokies will have another victory over a top-20 opponent, their third of the season, and would further boost their BCS resume. Ryan Williams and Tyrod Taylor are also both starting to gain serious ground in some award races as we hit the midpoint of the season.

Player to watch: Josh Nesbitt is plain and simple the key to this game. After looking dreadful in back-to-back Thursday night affairs in September, Nesbitt is now third in the ACC in rushing, and is finally throwing the ball accurately.

Although the Jackets have the league’s best rushing offense, they rely on the passing game to be successful. Contrary to popular belief, if the Jackets cannot stretch the field with the passing game, they are far less successful. Last season, the Hokies were able to barely escape their matchup with the Jackets after Roddy Jones dropped a couple of potential game-winning touchdown passes.

Bud Foster excellently prepared his defense for the option last year, and you can expect much of the same this Saturday. The fate of the Yellow Jackets rests on Nesbitt’s shoulders, more specifically his right shoulder.

Who has the edge?

Virginia Tech is as hot as any team in America, which is not good news for Paul Johnson’s team. The Hokies have always had a tough time with the Jackets in Atlanta, but have always left Bobby Dodd Stadium victorious since joining the ACC.

As previously mentioned, it will be tough sledding for Johnson’s option game, and you can bet the Hokie defense will be more prepared for the sneaky passes than it was a year ago.

Georgia Tech has a chance to win, but it’s a slim one. Its defense has been blasted for big plays in the running and passing game all season, which is not a good sign when the Hokies offense is just now catching fire.

Some people think Georgia Tech has what it takes to secure a huge home victory. Instead, this one might get away from the Jackets early. 

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