Thursday, October 27, 2011

NCAAF Top 15 Week 9

College Football Top 15 heading into Week 9 games

+ / - spot shows move team made since rankings heading into Wk6 games
  1. LSU [8-0, same]: even with all the distractions that occurred mid week the Tigers had no issues going out and pounding the defending National Champs 45-10, easily covering the -21 number.  LSU has so many interchangeable parts in their running game, and on the defensive side of the football it is impressive – they rarely miss a step even losing players to injury or suspension.  Jordan Jefferson brings a very key wrinkle to their offensive game as him and Lee bring different skill sets to the table, making it more likely the LSU offense will crank out points on a week to week basis.  As any college football fan knows by now both LSU and Alabama have bye’s this week before their showdown next week in Tuscaloosa.  Early opening line was Tide -6.5, which has since been bet down some and settled around Tide -4.5.  8pm CBS 11/5 is the place to be.
  2. Alabama [8-0, same]: Bama had no trouble dispatching a depleted Tennessee squad last week by score of 37-6, also easily covering their number which has been a real trend this season – the best teams have been covering big numbers week in week out.  This team is led by an absolutely bruising, physically imposing defense that just doesn’t yield many yards at all, particularly on the ground.  Though LSU and Alabama have the two best defenses in the country, they kind of do it in different ways as Alabama is more physical, tougher to move the ball on whereas LSU makes a lot of big plays like creating turnovers and scoring TDs.  One thing is for sure, next Saturday will be an absolute slugfest, with two very tough, gritty squads facing off.  Oh yeah, and the fact Saban used to coach the Tigers.  There are just so many storylines we could bring up for this one, just be on the lookout for my preview article of this game coming up next week.
  3. Clemson [8-0, +2 spots]: with Oklahoma going down in very shocking fashion last week, and Wisconsin falling in their first road test of the season (I have been saying all year Wisconsin was very overrated) Clemson climbs the ladder two more spots and now sits at #3, which will turn into #2 in 2 weeks if they can handle business at Georgia Tech this Saturday with a bye coming up on Nov. 5.  QB Tajh Boyd continues to impress as a sophomore who is playing for the first time this season rolling up big yards and points every week, while Freshman WR Sammy Watkins is positioning himself as perhaps a Heisman sleeper.  The Tigers have rolled up 115 points in their last 2 ACC outings, and have scored 35+ in every game this season besides @ Virginia Tech where they only mustered 23, but won the game by 20.  This week’s game at Georgia Tech is their toughest test before the finale @ South Carolina, but they also must face a rising Wake Forest team on Nov. 12 at home which could be a tough one.  But let me tell you one thing, Clemson is for real, and they have a legitimate shot at playing in the National Title Game on January 9th, with a few breaks.
  4. Stanford [7-0, +2 spots]: just as I predicted in last week’s edition the Cardinal had no trouble whatsoever taking the Washington Huskies behind the woodshed on Saturday in Palo Alto, winning 65-21.  No question a very impressive win, but anyone who had Washington ranked in any poll should have their rights to vote in said poll removed for life.  There is not much to not like about Stanford: they are led by the consensus #1 pick in next year’s NFL Draft QB Andrew Luck, they are 2nd in nation in pts scored, 4th in nation in pts allowed, and have now won a record 10 straight games by 28 or more points.  The toughest portion of their schedule still remains, but the best teams outside the mammoth Oregon matchup the Cardinal will face are USC and Notre Dame.  A week after the big SEC matchup all eyes will be on the Pacific Northwest for the Oregon @ Stanford tilt.
  5. Oklahoma State [7-0, +2 spots]: I am 2-2 playing their games on the season with ATS wins vs. Arizona and Texas A&M, but lost when I took Tulsa and Missouri to cover as dogs vs. them.  I have expected them, especially the last two weeks on the road, to be challenged more than what turned out – and the Pokes keep winning games and winning rather convincingly.  Even with all the good things OK State has accomplished thus far, their season is really just getting going schedule wise as their last six all bring a challenge one way or another.  Let’s focus on the last four: hosting Kansas State, @ Texas Tech, @ Iowa State, hosting Oklahoma.  All four of those games has a storyline which could come back and bite the Cowboys when they least expect it.  There is no arguing how strong their offense is especially passing the ball, but as far as defense goes, especially comparing their unit to the other undefeated teams in the country, it doesn’t stack up well already allowing nearly 27ppg.  I expect a very high scoring affair on Saturday when they host Baylor before the tough matchups commence – and do not sleep on Baylor.
  6. Kansas State [7-0, +3 spots]: I don’t think anyone expected the Kansas State Wildcats to be undefeated at this point in the season, and ranked in the top ten of most major polls.  I for one am very happy for Bill Snyder and the Cats as he came back to build the program back to where it was when he left, and he is way ahead of schedule thus far in only his second season – hopefully they can find an assistant on Snyder’s staff that can take the reins when he calls it quits this time and keep the ball rolling.  But back to this season, and boy what a season it has been thus far with wins already @ Miami, @ Texas Tech (how good does that win look now?), and over Missouri and Baylor at home.  However, like Oklahoma State, there are still many big games to be played, especially the next four hosting Oklahoma (who may be just a big angry coming off their first home loss in almost a decade), @ Oklahoma State (which will likely be an elimination game for the Big 12 title), hosting Texas A&M and @ Texas.  This edition of the Wildcats is like so many of Snyder’s better teams from the late 90s/early 00s – run the ball extremely well and play good, sound defense.  QB Collin Klein is one of the better QB’s you never heard of, John Hubert is a solid back for this offense, and their defense is led by stud LB Arthur Brown.  Give the Cats some respect as they have as impressive a resume at this point in this season as anyone – but it will be what happens in these next four that will really set the tone for the close of this season – and the foundation for what Snyder is trying to accomplish in his second go around in Manhattan.
  7. Oregon [6-1, +3 spots]: as I have harped on over the last few editions of these rankings there is no question the Ducks have hit their stride after the disappointing opening loss to LSU.  They continue handing out beat downs on a weekly basis, the latest of which was a 45-2 shellacking of Colorado in Boulder.  Since the opener they have scored 41pts or more in every game, and their 6 wins have come by at least 14, while five of the six were by 25+.  LaMichael James went down with an elbow injury in the California game and some thought Oregon may struggle some to score without their stud RB – no trouble as Kenjon Barner and a host of other backs have stepped in and the offense hasn’t missed a beat.  QB Darron Thomas continues his progression as a solid college QB, currently holding a 163.4 QB Rating including 17 TDs and only 3 INTs.  With the Stanford game looming in 3 weeks they are focused on winning out until then, and keeping everyone healthy as a BCS bid will likely be on the line.
  8. Michigan State [6-1, +7 spots]: the Spartans may have shocked the college football world on Saturday night by taking down Wisconsin in dramatic Hail Mary fashion, but they certainly didn’t shock me at all as I have been bearish on Wisconsin all season and knew once they stepped outside the friendly confines of Camp Randall trouble would soon find them.  And it did, at the hands of MSU – who has been playing some phenomenal football over the last year plus.  Coming off a pair of wins over top 11 teams at the time of the game, MSU is positioning itself for a Legends division title and a berth in the inaugural Big Ten title game – especially with a win over Nebraska in Lincoln on Saturday.  That may be a lot to ask, as this is three big time emotional games in a row, but if anyone can get their team up for that kind of a trio HC Dantonio seems like the guy.  And do not sleep on this defense, one of the better units in the country.
  9. Wisconsin [6-1, -5 spots]: so Wisconsin finally plays a real squad, finally leaves Madison and they get beat.  Anyone who was thinking potential National Title for Wisconsin needs their head examined, similar to anyone who thought Washington was a top 25 team last week.  The Badgers certainly have some nice pieces, but it is very similar to past Badger teams – 2/3 loss clubs, play in a decent bowl game, but not an elite 0/1 loss squad.  OK, now we can move on to the good things: they face one more ranked team for the rest of the season (Penn State at home in the finale), and are still rightfully so the likely Leaders division champions this season.  It will be very interesting to see how they bounce back in a tough back to back road spot @ Ohio State, whom they clearly are playing much better than this season, but it’s still a road game vs. a team that is somewhat desperate and has enough talent, especially defensively, to pull off the upset.  The health of OSU QB Braxton Miller will be critical in this matchup.
  10.  Oklahoma [6-1, -7 spots]: who saw that coming?  Man, I sure as hec did not!  But didn’t that seem like an episode of the Twilight Zone for some reason?  Maybe it was the weather delay or the shock of seeing Texas Tech go up early, but it was an odd atmosphere and the Sooners were not quite able to come back from the big hole they found themselves in.  I can hear the rumblings from Norman all the way on the East Coast as that loss will get the natives restless with HC Bob Stoops.  Once again it seemed as though the Sooners had all the talent in place for a run at a National Title, came up with the BIG win at Florida State, only to lose those dreams at home vs. Texas Tech?  Really?  Oklahoma will still have chances to climb back up the polls with games remaining @ Kansas State, @ Baylor, @ Oklahoma State along with hosting Texas A&M, but it will take a lot of help to get back in the National Title discussion, especially with the lack of a Big 12 Title game this season.  This week @ Kansas State is a big game for both schools; a second straight loss will definitely not sit well with the Sooners and completely eliminate them from any hopes of a national title, while K-State is looking to prove it has re-arrived back near the top of the Big 12.
  11. Texas A&M [5-2, +1 spot]: the Aggies are the 4th Big 12 team to occupy the top 11 spots in the poll, and some may question how a 2 loss team could be ranked ahead of say, undefeated Boise State?  A&M has a pair of losses by a combined 5pts vs. a pair of my top 15 teams, and has won @ Texas Tech and destroyed Baylor while Boise State just isn’t the same team as usual, witnessed by their 11pt home win over an Air Force team who gave up nearly 60 @ Notre Dame.  Texas A&M is led by a bruising running game that ranks #14 in the country contributing to an offense ranked #13 in points scored.  But they, like seemingly the rest of the Big 12, have a tough closing schedule, especially starting in two weeks with back to back roadies @ Oklahoma and @ Kansas State.  Remember, only 1 of their 2 losses is in conference and that was to Oklahoma State, so they are still very much in the mix for the Big 12 title – but they probably would need to run table from here on out to have any shot – which is unlikely.
  12. Virginia Tech [7-1, +4 spots]: another week, another win for Tech, this time handling BC with ease 30-14 in a game that was not as close as the score indicates.  Each passing week the Clemson loss is looking better – granted it did come at home, was by 20pts, and they only scored 3pts in the game – but hey, I have Clemson ranked #3 and they haven’t lost a game yet.  There is no question this is not a vintage Frank Beamer team – but even without a top notch squad he usually finds a way to get his team into the ACC Title Game, having played in 4 of the 6 that have been staged, including winning 3 of the last 4.  And once again they have the inside track at representing the Coastal division for a potential rematch with Clemson – they currently sit with a 1gm lead in the loss column, but that is over 4 teams who only have 2 losses.  Sure many of those will weed themselves out over the coming weeks, like Duke and Virginia, but Miami and Georgia Tech will likely still have a say when it’s all decided.  VT already took care of Miami, so the Thursday Nov. 10 game @ Georgia Tech will likely decide this division. 
  13.  USC [6-1, +6 spots]: the Trojans premiere in the rankings this week after a very impressive 14pt win @ Notre Dame, which came on the back of a 21pt win @ California the prior week.  Lane Kiffin may have the Trojan ship finally heading in the right direction after a slow start to this season with a less than inspiring 2pt win over Minnesota in the Coliseum.  Matt Barkley is putting up huge numbers leading a passing game ranked #21 in the country, and WR Robert Woods is turning into quite the playmaker and lock of a first round draft pick in just his second season on campus.  Five games remain on the slate, three of which they should win, and two of which they will be underdogs hosting Stanford this week then traveling to Eugene on Nov. 19.  Even picking up a split there, and winning their other games would be a successful season for the Trojans, who will be rebuilding next season when Matt Barkley moves on to the NFL.
  14. Boise State [7-0, -3 spots]: I will be honest, I struggle with where to stack Boise State on most weeks, some have said I have put them too low, others think I have them closer to where they belong and the polls have them overrated.  All I can do is watch who they play, how those games go, and who the teams they played also played and how those games went.  You with me?  Let’s take a look at Air Force: Boise played them on the blue turf this past weekend and won by 11pts – AF is 3-3 on season vs. teams other than Boise, and of those 6 four are vs. teams that are halfway decent; they went 1-3 in those 4 losing by 16 vs. TCU, losing by 26 @ Notre Dame, and losing by 14 vs. San Diego State.  Now, after that, can you see why I am hesitant to put BSU in the top ten?  They just aren’t quite the team they have been in recent memory, those are just the facts.  But they will likely run the table, because they play nobody else that is anywhere close to a ranked team, and will receive an at-large BCS bid because they are Boise State and they went undefeated.  And I have supported that in past seasons – but this season, even if they did go undefeated, it just doesn’t seem right to me.  But we’ll cross that bridge when we arrive.  For now, they hang onto a spot in the Top 15, with a bye week followed by @ UNLV on Nov. 5.
  15.  Arkansas [5-1, -7 spots]: I kicked around Texas Tech but with a 1pt win over Nevada at home, and allowing 34 to Kansas on the road, felt Arkansas had the better resume.  I kicked around the “outside looking in 5” from last week’s edition, but four of those teams had a bye, and Auburn got hammered, so couldn’t utilize any of them.  Instead we will go with Arkansas – yes, some may say too big a drop, 7 spots, for a 5pt win @ Ole Miss?  I say yes – have you seen what Ole Miss has done this season?  Pretty poor.  And Arkansas concerns me a lot in the sense they have played 2 road games thus far: got blown out by Alabama, really no shame there, but losing most of the game @ Ole Miss and pulling it out in the 2nd half has me concerned about where this team is headed down the stretch with roadies still remaining at Vandy and LSU, along with home games South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State…they could literally lose every one of those games – it won’t happen, but that is a tough slate for a team that is borderline top 15 material in my opinion like Arkansas.  The Razorbacks don’t have a legit chance at winning the SEC West, so trying to stockpile as many wins as possible in an attempt to reach a New Year’s Day bowl game, possibly the Cotton or one of the Florida bowls vs. the Big Ten has to be their goal now. ©The SportsBoss 2011

On the outside looking in:
  1. Michigan [6-1]
  2. Arizona State [5-2]
  3. Georgia [5-2]
  4. Nebraska [6-1]
  5. South Carolina [6-1]

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