Posted by Walter
Yeah, this is what the rest of college football nation is afraid of.
It's kind of less intimidating than James Laurinitis flying towards you.
It's kind of less intimidating than James Laurinitis flying towards you.
#1 Ohio State
Walter: Still nothing really new to say about this team that hasn't already been said. The most impressive thing about the Buckeyes is that consistently dominate by simply going about their business. I believe this is a function of their leader, Troy Smith. Smith has made this Heisman race an absolute runaway by just being consistently excellent every week. No he does not have the late game heroics of Brady Quinn, but that is simply because Smith's team hasn't fallen behind this season. Smith has been ruthlessley efficient, mind blowingly accurate (especially for a guy who was known as a running QB less than two seasons ago), and completely mistake free. This guy embodies the entire Buckeye program right now.
Frazier - I'm almost tempted to say something about the Buckeyes this week. It was nice they got in some practice for the Michigan game against an Indiana team that had shown real improvement this year. It looks like they are going to find ways to utilize Ginn's speed in the future. Unless Ohio St. blows a gimme, or Troy throws about a dozen interceptions against the Wolverines, he wins the Heisman. While their schedule hasn't been brutal this year, especially with the way Iowa has fallen apart, they have dominated every aspect of every game they have played. A ruthlessly efficient bunch.
Walter: Well, with their win over Iowa the stage seems to be set for the game we have all been waiting for. I think the hype machine can officially begin, seeing as it would take a borderline miracle for either Michigan or Ohio State to not be undefeated when they meet in November. Michigan was very impressive in their victory over Iowa, especially on defense. However, let's not lose sight of the true MVP of this team. Yes the defense has won games for them, but little Mike Hart has literally been the heart of this team (ugh what a terrible pun). He has rushed for 100 yards in every game but one (a 91 yard effort against Wisconsin), and has really put the offense on his back since Manningham went down. Chad Henne is a solid QB who is great throwing the deep ball but less accurate on the underneath stuff. Henne puts up big plays, but he isn't as adept at moving the chains. As such, the bulk of that responsibility has befallen Hart who has proven to be more than up to the task.
Frazier - My only concern is that Manningham is 100% when the Wolverines and Buckeyes meet in their mini-championship game. Without him their offensive balance has been thrown off a little, and their are a defense oriented team these days. That being said, their defense is beyond ferocious. It's basically time to let the countdown begin, and hope that no key players get injured.
Walter: It's make or break time for the Trojans. They are entering perhaps the toughest stretch of schedule anybody in the nation faces all season starting this weekend at Oregon State. While it may be tempting to look past the Beavers to matchups in LA with Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame, it would be a bad idea to overlook the Trojans' trip to Corvallis. Since getting shellacked by Boise State the Beavers have really played well. They have a physical offensive line that will pound the football, and believe you me the Corvallis crowd will be rocking come gametime. USC has Stanford next week so they won't be looking ahead to anyone, but they could be in for a world of hurt if they believe they can take this week off too.
Frazier - I know that we've been downplaying USC for awhile now, but maybe we should reconsider, at least a little bit. They may have failed to put away Washington, but they also weren't taken to overtime by their back-up quarterback like Cal did. They may not have delivered a virtuoso performance against Washington St. but they didn't get throttled like Oregon did. What we really learned is that there is a huge middle-class in the Pac 10, and that the Trojans are still an upper echelon team. Their toughest work is still ahead of them, so it's still hard to judge them, but it's still not time to send Carrol our condolences on the loss of his dynasty.
#4 West Virginia
Walter: Much like the OSU-Michigan tilt, the final stage is set for the WVU-Louisville game which should be a classic. Still, this matchup seems like an appetizer doesn't it? I mean, the Mountaineers haven't played anyone this year (although that Maryland win would look much better if the Terps knock of FSU Sat.) so we don't really know how good they are. And Louisville all of a sudden looks very mortal. Still, the winner of this game has a great shot at going undefeated and sneaking into the BCS Title game, and the more weeks go by the more it looks like West Virginia is the better team.
Frazier - I am still incredibly excited about this battle. For nothing else it will feature two of the best, most interesting offenses in the country, and two of the brightest coaching minds around. Oh, and it could provide an entrant in the national title game. With Rutgers having such a good year, which will only hope their strength of schedule, the winner of this one will have a legitimate shot at all the marbles. Right now, WVU is just playing better. They have hit their stride at the right time. The offense is still incredibly potent, Pat White has been burning teams with both his legs and arm (if he becomes a better passer, like Troy Smith has, he will be the top offensive player in the country). Also, their pass rush finally found its' groove as they throttled UConn on the road.
Walter: I still can't shake the sneaking suspicion that the Mike Bush injury is going to catch up to this team very soon. Brian Brohm has shaken off the rust from his injury, which is good, but I can't help but feel that the first half against Syracuse was a harbinger of things to come. West Virginia has two weeks to prepare for the showdown at Louisville (which appears, to me, to be the biggest football game in the history of the state of Kentucky), and right after that game they have to face an undefeated Rutgers team (@ Rutgers) that will have had 11 days to prepare. I've said it before, this is the time of year when great coaches (of which Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano are) can gameplan their asses off and shut down any scheme you throw at them. What they can't gameplan for is great players making great plays. Louisville still has Brohm, but I'd feel a whole lot better if they still had Bush.
This Bush will have as many yards as Mike Bush the rest of
the year. But at least Mike doesn't face record low approval ratings.
Frazier - For every step forward that WVU has made, it looks like Louisville has made a step back. Brohm and the offense still don't look comfortable, and Mario Urutia hasn't caught a long ball in awhile now. The defense has continued its' totally unheralded, but solid, play, and Petrino is still an excellent coach. The biggest problem for this team is it has one shot, and that shot is coming against a WVU team that is looking poised to do something big. With a lot of extra practice time before the big game, Petrino has every chance to have his boys finally firing on all cylinders.
Walter: They aren't going to get a whole lot of credit for beating Tulane this past weekend, but they have won the games they needed to this season (outside of Arkansas) and seem poised for a fairly easy ride into the SEC title game. Their toughest remaining opponents, Georgia at home and Alabama on the road, do not fit the profile of team that have given them trouble in the past 12 months (power running, hard hitting, physical-see Arkansas, LSU, Wisconsin). To be perfectly honest, the best thing Auburn can hope for is a rematch with Florida in the SEC title game. Beating the Gators twice in one season may be the only thing that will land them a spot in the BCS Title game over some of the other 1 loss teams.
Frazier - And things officially start to get tricky. Basically, the SEC is so good that their best team is pretty much automatically the best one loss team around. The SEC is going to have a very tough strength of schedule component, so if they can win games they shoud win, they will face Florida in a rematch for the shot at the title game. Basically, they need to win out, have Florida do likewise, and hope that USC falls and that Rutgers, Louisville and WVU either get upset, or all beat eachother. All four things are distinctly possible, so Auburn will have a lot to play for every time they take the field. That being said, the injuries to the running game are something to be concerned about. They need enough offense to balance what has been an excellent defense all year.
Walter: The same can be said for Florida. The only way they make the title game is if they beat Auburn in a rematch. That said, their road to the SEC title game is much harder. They play Gerorgia this weekend in Jacksonville (don't laugh, the Bulldogs suck but this game is ALWAYS closer than it should be), then have to travel to Vandy before Spurrier's return to the Swamp. If I'm a Gator fan I'm watching out for that one. Spurrier's ego is so huge he will bust out anything and everything to win that one, and the closer that one is the more pressure Urban Meyer is going to feel to win it. Also, let's not overlook Florida's season ending trip to Tallahasee. The Seminoles are a joke right now, but they hit their stride late last season and will definitely be up for a chance to play spoiler agains the Gators.
Frazier - The Gators are the dancing partner for Auburn. They pretty much need eachother right now. Of course Auburn already has one win over this team, and I'm STILL not sold on their quasi-quarterback rotation. I think that loss just heaped more pressure on Leak, and playing under the glaring spotlight has never been his strength. I think Meyer needs to be careful to not overcompensate and put too much emphasis on Tebow. The kid has talent and has been used perfectly this season; Meyer shouldn't stray too far from that formula.
Leak and Tebow have been a two-headed monster at quarterback
this season. Although slightly more ferocious than these dudes.
this season. Although slightly more ferocious than these dudes.
Walter: I lobbied hard for the Knights to debut higher on this list (see the separate post on this subject) but eventually I compromised. What Rutgers has done this season is nothing short of amazing. They have three wins (@ South Florida, @ Navy, and @ Pitt) every bit as impressive as any three wins either Louisville or West Virginia has had. The Knights have a legit Heisman candidate in Ray Rice, and they are playing their best football of the season right now. What they did to Pitt last weekend was astounding. My esteemed co-blogger was thoroughly unimpressed with Pitt, but I, on the other hand, considered them a tough team with a veteran QB. Rutgers passed the test with flying colors and now has to be considered among the best teams in the nation. Worth noting, however, with all eyes on the WVU-Louisville matchup on Nov. 2, don't sleep on Rutgers who could stake every bit the claim to an appearance in the national title game as either of those teams if they win out (which would include victories over both). Anyone else get the feeling their final game against the Mountaineers in Morgantown might mean just a little bit more than we thought preseason?
Frazier - Some day I may be able to forget Tyler Palko running for his life against Utah. Basically, that game scarred him for life. And some day maybe I'll forget this Pitt team losing to Ohio last year. Not the Buckeyes, but the Bobcats. And some day maybe I'll forget that the man with the porno mustache is in reality, Wanny. But that day is not today. Pitt is terrible. The only reason I thought last week would be close is that I didn't give Rutgers enough credit. Although they absolutely escaped in a 2-point victory against S. Florida, and Navy lost it's quarterback early in that game, and in the Midshipmen offense, the quarterback is pretty much everything. I am willing to admit I underrated Rutgers. They have a serious role to play in the national title conversation, which is an incredible thing to say, and they have a legit Heisman caliber running back. WVU and Louisville get more love because we know more about them, about Brohm and Slaton, Rodriguez and Petrino. Now, Rice and Schiano have to give us a reason to remember those names as well.
Walter: I don't have a whole lot to say about this team. They got killed by Ohio State, beat an undermanned OK team, and then sqeaked by Nebraska thanks to sheer idiocy by Bill Callahan (that's two games he's cost the Huskers this season). Texas, and their prodigal QB Colt McCoy, have made their living this season by beating up on inferior competition (Sam Houston State, Rice, North Texas to name three). These Longhorns remind me so much of some of the early 1990's Nebraska teams that padded their stats and ran up the score on weak opponents. Only those Huskers dominated big time teams as well. These Longhorns don't. When the Huskers were doing it, there was national outrage that Tom Osborne would schedule such cupcakes. Why then do we embrace this Texas team when Mack Brown is doing the same thing, but losing to the big boys when they play? At least Osborne's teams legitimized their numbers.
Frazier - Fuck it, I am taking a moment to defend the Nebraska teams of the 90s. Because if you want a more apt comparison to this years Longhorns, look no further than Kansas St. in the 90s. Now, THAT was a team that scheduled cupcakes. Annually all they had to do was beat Nebraska and land in the title game, and they simply could not do that. In fact, Nebraska typically took them behind the woodshed and made Dan Snyder pay for walloping the Creightons of the world. Also, Callahan's game plan against USC was indefensible, but they would probably still have lost that game. The Texas debacle was the only game he really lost for his boys. He didn't lose the USC game, he just didn't give his team their best chance at winning. Oh, I forgot to talk about Texas. Well, the Oklahoma win was nice, the Nebraska one was a total gift, and they got blown out by Ohio St. Texas did make some plays at the end of the Husker game, and do deserve credit for that, but frankly it should have been a loss, and then we're hardly talking about this team at all. They will have a chance to show us who they really are when bowl season comes around.
Walter: They get dropped for two reasons: (1) they almost lost to an unranked Alabama team, and (2) Erik Ainge looks like he is about to remember who he is. Let's be honest, Ainge has been fantastic this season. He has done a fantastic Peyton Manning impression in Knoxville, but that's all it is-an impression. Ainge is not a heisman contender. He is not an all-america quarterback. He is not an all-SEC quarterback. He is Erik freakin Ainge. The same Erik Ainge who struggled since his Freshman season when all the pressure was on him. The same Erik Ainge that loses his command of the offense at inopportune moments. The same Erik Ainge that is prone to turning the ball over (witness 3 INT against 'Bama). The Vols are about to begin an aboslutely brutal stretch of game at South Carolina, at home against LSU, and at Arkansas. This is not the time you want your quarterback questioning himself. Let's leave it by saying that I wouldn't bet against this being the Vols last appearance on the power 10.
Frazier - Hard to get excited about our #10 position this week. Cal looked poor against Washington, and the Huskies backup quarterback almost led a stunning comeback. So they get dropped. Tennessee was taken to the wire by Alabama, so they dropped, but not as far. Mostly because Alabama also hung with Florida for three quarters, and has been playing tough this year. Remember, I've been warning you about Ainge for weeks. He WILL lose this team another game this year, basically by himself. Just mark my words.