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College Football Power Rankings 2: Judgement Week

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Well, so much for my grand conspiracy theory about a giant log jam at the top of the BCS standings that would bring about drastic change.

Sort of.

Though Georgia Tech, Illinois and Michigan all dropped from the ranks of major conference unbeatens, there is still an undefeated team in five of the six BCS conferences, along with a highly ranked Boise St. and an oft forgotten Houston squad representing mid-conference football as well. A rough off-season, along with the constant threat of subtraction, have not hurt the Big 12 on the football field where Oklahoma, Oklahoma St. and Kansas St. all remain unblemished. The SEC still boasts the two best teams in college football and the Big Ten and Pac 12 both have legitimate national title contenders in the forms of Wisconsin and Stanford, respectively.

The biggest loser this past week was Michigan, who really had a chance to pick up a quality road win and show that this year’s hot start was different from the past couple seasons. Thanks to a home loss to rival Michigan State, this current class of Wolverine players has never defeated the Spartans, and are a loss against Ohio St. later this season away from being the first Michigan class to never have beaten its two main rivals. Furthermore, Michigan’s electric quarterback Denard Robinson was largely ineffective on the day, and was particularly bad against the blitz. While the Spartans are a stout defense and hard to impersonate, they may have just given the rest of the conference a pressure-packed blueprint to beating the Wolverines.

So, without further ado, here are your rankings and a preview of the week ahead.

1. Alabama

The Tide put a whooping on hapless Ole Miss, and jump over LSU thanks to some Tiger shenanigans.

2. LSU

I would still have LSU ranked first, but with word coming down that star corner Tyron Mathieu, leading rusher Spencer Ware and nickel back Tharold Simon are all suspended for this weekend’s game against Auburn, things changed. No idea what the suspensions are for or if they will be extended beyond this weekend, but losing your best defender and most consistent weapon just days before hosting the defending national champs causes a slight drop in my book.

3. Oklahoma

The Sooners didn’t even show up until the second-half and still won by 30. Not sure how good Kansas is, but a good sign either way.

4. Boise St.

A 50-point road win is impressive. The Broncos’ opponent, Colorado State, is not, however.

5. Wisconsin

My pick for the most interesting betting line last week was the Badgers -38.5 against Indiana. I said you would have to make the line at least 45 for me to consider it, and that even if you made it 75 I would only take the Hoosiers semi-confidently. Well, taking even 50 points would have been a bad idea, because the Badgers blasted Indiana 59-7.

6. Stanford

It was closer than many Cardinal fans would have liked for a while against Washington St. But, once Andrew Luck got rolling, we saw why he is the best player in the country.

7. Oklahoma St.

A convincing win over Texas helps the Cowboys jump a few spots in my poll. Still concerned about the defense, but their matchup with the Sooners at the end of the year is not likely to feature that side of the ball anyway.

8. Clemson

The Tigers got a real scare from Maryland, but this seemed like more of an emotional letdown than a sign of weakness. Clemson has been absolutely rolling lately, so, while I dropped them a bit, I will still give them the benefit of the doubt.

9. Kansas St.

The Wildcats are coming off a road win over Texas Tech, but need to play better defense if they hope to be a real contender in the Big 12. As it is, they are on the outside looking in, but their ground game is capable of dominating.

10. Arkansas

The Razorbacks were on a bye, but their thrashing of Auburn looks much better this week after the Tigers dominated Florida last weekend. Call this a rise by the transitive property, but I really think that Arkansas is good.

11. Oregon

Oregon scored a comfortable win over a ranked Arizona St. team, but I was never really sold on the Sun Devils. Oregon will have plenty of time to rise, but this week I was more excited about Oklahoma St. and Kansas St. remaining unbeaten, along with a validation of Arkansas’ biggest victory.

12. Nebraska

Still really don’t know how to rank Nebraska, but a few teams losing help them rise. Their win over Ohio St. took guts, but Taylor Martinez needs to be more efficient throwing the ball.

13. Virginia Tech

A week after Wake Forest beat Florida St. and threatened to crash the rankings, Virginia Tech put the Demon Deacons in their place. The Hokies fell to Clemson a few weeks back, but look hungry for a rematch as they roll towards another ACC Coastal Division title.

14. Michigan St.

The Spartans didn’t even make my rankings a  week ago, mostly because I thought their impressive defensive numbers were overly inflated by beating up on teams like Florida Atlantic(which, they were). Still, they defeated Michigan by two touchdowns, while confounding one of college football’s most explosive players. If that doesn’t get you a jump, I don’t know what does.

15. West Virginia

The Mountaineers were idle a week ago, but will look to send Syracuse out the door of the conference with a beat down Friday night. If the offense continues to roll I wouldn’t count on anybody in the Big East stopping them. At least not until TCU joins next yea… Oh wait.

16. Houston

I was wrong a week ago when I said that Houston was set to play Marshall on Saturday. That game is actually this Saturday and Houston was on a bye. I am stupid, but that does not change the fact that the Cougars will have an easy road to an undefeated season if they can get by the Thundering Herd.

17. Penn St.

I am actually less impressed with Penn St. a week after watching them nearly lose to my Purdue Boilers last week. But, the Nittany Lions found a way to win and they still have little working against them resume-wise. This rise more has to do with teams losing games and key players in front of them.

18. South Carolina

Speaking of losing key players, South Carolina has now lost its second in the last two weeks. After starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team last week, the Gamecocks were dealt a season-ending knee injury to their star running back Marcus Lattimore Saturday. And… the SEC East officially became a pillow fight.

19. Auburn

While the SEC East is underwhelming, the West is flat-out loaded. We’ve already gone over LSU, Alabama and Arkansas, but Auburn impressed me by beating Florida 17-6 in a game that wasn’t really as close as the score indicated. The Tigers are winning with defense and special teams, but their young skill players are showing flashes. Look for Auburn to be a much better team at the end of the year than they are now.

20. Michigan

It was only one loss, but it was a deflating home loss against a rival when the Wolverines had a chance to make a statement. Not only did it hurt them from a perception standpoint, but it put the Spartans in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten Legends division(Eww, I hate saying that) and knocked Michigan down to competing with Nebraska just to stay relevant.

21. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets were one of my pleasant surprises of the young season, but a loss to conference bottom-dweller Virginia spoiled their magical run. This weekend is a watershed for Georgia Tech when they face a talented Miami team and show the nation if they will or will not stay relevant in the ACC Coastal race.

22. Washington

The Huskies smacked Colorado last week, but who hasn’t? Washington is unbeaten in Pac 12 play, but have a blowout loss to Nebraska on their resume. Saturday’s game at Stanford will be their first real conference test.

23. Illinois

Just when it looked like a Ron Zook coached team could have consistent play the Illini fall to depleted Ohio St. Still don’t know what to make of this team, but I will be watching ever snap of their game at Purdue(Boiler Up!!), so I will have much more insight next week.

24. Texas A&M

I left the Aggies out of my rankings last week because they haven’t shown they can protect a lead against a decent offense. Well, they did just that last Saturday against an explosive Baylor team. The pass defense is incredibly suspect, but the offense and front seven have to impress you whenever you watch this team.

25. Notre Dame

I know, I know. Listen, I am as big a  Golden Dome hater as there is, however, Notre Dame has won four in a row and has not been outgained in either of their losses. The only things holding Notre Dame back from being undefeated are an incredible rash of turnovers against USF and a momentary defensive lapse at Michigan. Look, I don’t think Notre Dame is BCS caliber, but I like what I’ve seen from them more than Texas and Arizona St. who have just looked bad in their losses.

Best chance for a Heisman moment

This was a tough one, because I also think Andrew Luck can make his case against a ranked Washington team. But, with Michigan St. being so hot right now and the game being in East Lansing, I am going with Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson. Michigan State’s defense confused and battered dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson last week, but Wilson is the better passer and has a better supporting cast. If the former NC State signal-caller can put up a big stat-line or shine in a big moment, look for him to be the Heisman leader this time next week.

Game I will definitely be watching

I am a Big Ten guy, so my first impulse was to go with the Spartans and Badgers. But, I am actually more interested in LSU hosting a young Auburn team that seems to be getting better by the week. Don’t get me wrong, even with the suspensions mentioned above, I still expect LSU to win. But, this young Auburn team that continues to get contributions from unusual places really intrigues me.

Other game I feel like I should watch

Ranked matchups in the Big Ten and Pac 12 are a bigger deal in the grand, BCS scheme of things, but I want to know what to think of Notre Dame and USC. This game has lost a bit of its luster in recent years as both teams have faded from the national spotlight, but it will be a major indicator of whether or not Notre Dame can keep its momentum and if USC is actually improving. On a happy note, either Lane Kiffin or Notre Dame will lose this game.

Most interesting betting line

Washington at Stanford(-20)

We’ve spoken briefly about this Pac 12 clash, but I think this line just shows that people still are not buying what Washington is selling. And, as of right now, I see no reason to bet against a well-oiled Stanford machine in conference play, regardless of whether the opponent is ranked or not. I know they are playing on the road against a conference favorite, but now I am having a little bit of cognitive dissonance about this one. How do I justify ranking a one-loss Washington team while also thinking they can’t stay within three touchdowns of a team in their conference?

I’m not sure, but I get it. This game could be really close, with Washington quarterback Keith Price continuing his development as one of the nation’s best young quarterbacks and lighting up a Stanford defense that looked vulnerable in the mid-range passing game against Washington St. Or, Stanford could simply cash in on its decided advantage on both lines and dominate the trenches while Andrew Luck lands a few shots downfield.

Unlike last week’s intriguing betting line, I am staying away from this one. Don’t be surprised if Stanford crushes Washington, but also don’t be surprised if the Huskies’ passing game gives the Cardinal some serious problems.

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