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Sunday, November 27, 2011

One Week to Go - Top 25 (11/27/11)

I think we all know USC is banned from playing in the Pac-12 Championship and a post-season bowl game, but I didn't realize they were not even allowed to appear in the Coach's Poll and BCS rankings until this past week.

But back to pressing matters: for all the big ticket matchups and upsets of the past few weeks, the Thanksgiving rivalries resulted in almost no surprises. That sets everyone up for a weekend of Conference Championship games and last ditch efforts to play spoiler next week.

Here's where we stand.

  1. LSU - Arkansas jumped out to a 14-0 lead which got my head swimming with potential scenarios for the SEC Championship game. But LSU came storming back to finish the game on a 41-3 run. Now the Bayou Bengals will have to beat the Georgia Bulldogs next Saturday to finish the perfect season and guarantee their spot in the National Championship. If the Bulldogs pull off the upset, they will completely shatter the BCS and head to the Sugar Bowl, leaving the title game up for grabs and possibly snuffing LSU from the BCS altogether. And Atlanta is much closer for Bulldog fans than Tiger fans. Don't be surprised if you see 4 or even 5 SEC schools in the top 10 of the BCS rankings this week.
  2. Alabama - Only defense and special teams kept Auburn even close in this year's Iron Bowl. But Alabama's defense looked as strong as ever while Trent Richardson put up another 200-yard game. The Tide have basically locked themselves in to the National Championship which is ironic, but also fair. Ironic because there is really no logical way anyone can jump them for this spot and they won't even be playing for a conference title next week, but fair because their only loss this year is a 3-point, overtime dogfight against the clear #1 team in the country. If Georgia pulls off a miracle upset in Atlanta next week, Bama may actually end up facing Oklahoma State or Virginia Tech which would be a total letdown for fans of college football, and probably push harder for a "+1" or playoff style postseason....maybe we should pray for that result just to get what we inevitably all really want. #OccupyBCS
  3. Stanford - Yea, the Cardinal managed to climb back into contention by surviving Cal in the Big Game last week, but they won't get any National Championship consideration without that extra Pac-12 Title game. The only shot of that would have been an Oregon State upset of the North leading Ducks which didn't happen. So the best Luck and the Cardinal could hope for is a Heisman Trophy, a BCS at-large berth, and a final ranking of #2 after the dust settles in January. Luck improved his and Stanford's chances at those things with a solid performance on Senior Night against Notre Dame by breaking the school-record for most career passing TDs. His 4 scores Saturday night put him at 80 which surpasses John Elway with the previous mark of 77.
  4. Virginia Tech - The Hokies had an extra two days to prepare for rival Virginia, and it paid off well. I didn't watch this one, but it was a blowout as Va Tech shut out the Cavaliers and held them to under 250 yards of total offense. Though most of next week's Championship games will feature teams that haven't met, Virginia Tech gets an opportunity to avenge their only loss of the season to Clemson in the ACC title match in Charlotte. Don't completely write off their BCS title hopes yet as the Hokies sit 5th and will likely jump Arkansas this week. A big victory over the Tigers could jump the Oklahoma State Cowboys who don't play a championship game (or could just lose to the Sooners next week), and then there's always that aforementioned SEC Championship game. Stranger things have happened.
  5. Oregon - Blew out in-state rival Oregon State in this year's Civil War game and will now face the surging UCLA Bruins, but the Pac-12 lets the better team play it as a home game. That means fans in Eugene will get one more chance to cheer on the high powered Ducks offense next Friday night. The Ducks are smelling roses indeed as they will not have to face the Trojans who handed Oregon its only conference loss of the season last week. I'm sure they'd like the opportunity to play them again and prove they are the better team, but that will have to wait for another day. Besides, UCLA is obviously a much "easier" matchup for LaMichael James and the rest of the Green Machine from Eugene.
  6. Boise State - Poor Broncos are probably still kicking themselves for that loss to TCU. They handily beat another solid Mountain West school by just doing their thing against conference #2 Wyoming. The Broncos still have one more ho-hum matchup against New Mexico next week which they can probably sleep through and still win by 30. This won't help their BCS rankings which are in jeopardy of being jumped by Houston. And with 2 schools from lesser conferences fighting for BCS glory, its likely that only 1 will get that honor. My money is on the Cougars.
  7. Houston - Completed the undefeated perfect season like LSU this week, but playing in Conference USA doesn't get you the same type of attention as the power conferences. The Cougars get another game to add to Case Keenum's stellar season as they will face Southern Miss next week in Houston. This is another of those matchups that didn't happen during regular season play, so its hard to say who has the advantage other than home-field for the Cougars. Southern Miss is coming to town with a 10-2 record and a high-scoring offense of their own. If the Cougars can get the 'W', I think this week and next will give them enough BCS clout to jump Boise and play against Stanford in the Sugar Bowl.
  8. Oklahoma - The Sooners were able to avoid the same fate that befell their OK State brethren last Friday night by defeating Iowa State but they did have the added benefit of playing in Norman. So why is Oklahoma ahead of the Cowboys in my poll? This was my #1 team for the first 6 weeks of the year while Oklahoma State never really started to impress me until late in the year. And the Sooners big loss came early to nobody Texas Tech while the Cowboys waited until the end of the year. If you lose to an unranked school, you're always gonna drop farther in my mind than losing against a legitimate Baylor Bears and RG3.
  9. Oklahoma State - But fear not as the Cowboys and Sooners sit side-by-side in my poll as they head to what might as well be the Big XII Championship next week in Stillwater. The Sooners have dominated the series since it began over 100 years ago, and they've also won the last 8 matchups dating back to 2003. But the Cowboys are the higher ranked squad this year and playing at home. Such was the case last year which went to the Sooners in a 47-41 shootout. I have seen both of these teams a few times this year, and I'm giving the edge to the Cowboys and Justin Blackmon next week, but mostly because it's a home game and they know they still have a slim BCS chance for the Title game.
  10. Wisconsin - Another victim of unfortunately timing. The Badgers (like a few other schools in/near the Top 10) have only 2 losses. And as I've said in a few other posts, both their losses basically came down to Hail Mary situations. But Montee Ball and Russell Wilson had a relatively easy time destroying the much maligned Penn State Nittany Lions this week. These two offensive studs have to be in Heisman talks, especially since Ball will finish the year with the most or 2nd most single-season TDs in NCAA FBS history (Ball is at 34, Barry Sanders had 39 in 1988). So while the Badgers were able to relax and save some energy for next week's rematch against the Spartans, Michigan State had to play hard for 4 quarters to hold off a pretty decent Northwestern squad. I suspect the other Big Red will take the first B1G Ten Championship game in Indy next week and head to Pasadena to face Oregon.
  11. Arkansas
  12. South Carolina
  13. Michigan State
  14. Michigan
  15. Georgia
  16. USC
  17. Kansas State
  18. Baylor
  19. Nebraska
  20. West Virginia
  21. TCU
  22. Clemson
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Southern Miss
  25. Northern Illinois
Heisman Performances (in order of greatness)
1. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin - 156 yards rushing, 4TDs
2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama - 203 yards rushing, 1 rec TD
3. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - 233 yards passing, 4TDs
4. Case Keenum, QB, Houston - 457 yards passing, 5TDs

Updated BCS Bowl Projections
BCS Title Game (1.9.12)
#1 LSU v. #2 Alabama

Orange Bowl (1.4.12)
Virginia Tech (ACC Champion) v. West Virginia (Big East Champion)

Sugar Bowl (1.3.12)
Stanford (SEC Replacement) v. Houston (at-large #2)

Fiesta Bowl (1.2.12)
Oklahoma State (Big XII Champion) v. Michigan (at-large #1)

Rose Bowl (1.2.12)
Oregon (Pac-12 Champion) v. Wisconsin (B1G Ten Champion)
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