The more I do this, the more I agree with the people who think the first poll shouldn't be released until October. But the fan in me couldn't stand the waiting and enjoys that early-August release of the preseason poll way too much to ever fully go along with the idea.
After two Saturdays, I think there's still clear separation between the top seven teams and everyone else, with a couple of untested programs and a couple who've looked surprisingly good falling right behind in the discussion. Things start to get shaken up this week with USC/Ohio State, while South Florida and Kansas will meet to decide who's the prettier Cinderella, but it's all just setup in large part for the first real tests for the majority of teams that come next week as conference play kicks in. As we continue an exercise in ranking the best teams right now, if I had a vote in the AP poll this week...
Though the pass defense looked a little suspect early and a game Cincy team was very much in contention in the third quarter, the finishing spurt the Sooners put on by scoring 24 straight second half points in a 52-26 win is the stuff dominant teams are made of. Between Sam Bradford (395 and 5 TDs), DeMarco Murray and the nation's best offensive line, Oklahoma will score points against anybody and again, their schedule is the least imposing of these top seven teams - the marquee non-conference matchup they signed with Washington a few years ago is suddenly much less imposing as the Sooners head to the northwest this weekend. And I think the defense isn't going to get them beat against any of those slightly-lesser foes. OU has won 20 straight home games, best active streak in the nation. From preseason to today, I think this is the best team in the country.
Off last week, hosting Ohio State this week, and you should find out everything you need to know about this team Saturday night. The defense might be the best in the country. Ohio State's is also in that conversation, so any production Mark Sanchez and the boys get will go that much further to helping them realize what many believe is national championship potential.
The offensive weapons were on display against a decent Central Michigan team, with Stafford going for 218 and Moreno running for 168, 3 TDs and the highlight reel. Georgia racked up 552 yards, and their offensive line is so far, so good, though they'll face their biggest test yet this week at South Carolina. The defense did a nice job containing Dan LeFevour...I would say "He's not Tebow", but Georgia didn't have a problem with him last time either.
Speaking of Tebow, I think you still have to put him at the front of the two week old Heisman race even if his numbers are only really good instead of great so far. But he manages this team perfectly, and when Florida finally dealt with Miami's blitzing, he picked the Canes apart late when it mattered most. A short interlude on dealing with the Gators, 12 days before the Vols actually play them: aside from the "run the football" mantra I'm going to repeat about 6258712 times next week, Miami had a nice defensive blueprint that they borrowed in part from Auburn and Georgia: blitz constantly and trust your secondary in coverage, and make tackles in space. Keeping Tebow uncomfortable is key, because if you give him time he will kill you one way or another. Tennessee's secondary is good enough to hold up their end of the bargain, should the Vols choose to use that strategy. Hey, Florida's off this week, UAB gives up an average of about 575 yards to Sun Belt & Conference USA opponents at this point, and since the Vols won't be featured in this poll, we've gotta talk about 'em somewhere.
Still not sure what to make of their defense, which'll get an interesting test from Nevada this week. But their offense is an absolute machine. And since they're not on Tennessee's schedule, that's all the insight I have to offer.
Hurricanes and necessary evacuations aside, I'm sure Les Miles wishes the Tigers had played last week. Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee get one more go this week against North Texas before they have to go down to The Plains and face Auburn. Based on one game and one National Championship, everything else about this team looks good. Stay tuned.
7. Ohio State
We moved the Buckeyes to this spot last week based on an overwhelming desire to kick field goals ans the loss of Beanie Wells. Ohio put some proof in our pudding, though the Buckeyes are still in that national championship caliber group. Wells is "doubtful" this week at Southern Cal...the defense is good enough to keep them in this game if they don't beat themselves on offense, so no one should be writing them off. And despite being this low, a win Saturday should put them at the top. I will say that down the line, they'd better watch out for team #9...
But first, the Texas Longhorns. So far they haven't played any decent competition, and that won't change this week when Arkansas comes calling in another non-conference battle that looked much more attractive when it was signed. Texas is one of my least favorite teams (see: "Chris Simms". also see: "The Real UT"), but if they give Bobby Petrino what he deserves this Saturday...I'll try not to enjoy it.
On August 30, the Badgers ran PJ Hill 26 times for 210 yards, then ran the backup 15 times for 87 yards, while making life easy for transfer QB Allan Evridge by only asking him to throw 10 times. He completed 7 for 75 yards, with a pick and a score, in a 38-17 win over Akron. On September 6, Marshall jammed the line of scrimmage, refused to let Wisconsin run, and built a 14-0 lead. Then they took the reigns off Evridge, and he responded with 308 yards and a touchdown (with no interceptions) as the Badgers ripped off 51 unanswered points. I know they've only played Akron and Marshall, but a team that can pass and run with such efficiency, while playing solid defense, is a team to be feared. Wisconsin goes to Fresno State this week, so we'll see if it holds up. But I like this team a lot right now.
10. East Carolina
Regardless of preseason rankings or who we ourselves think is the best team right now, you cannot argue or underemphasize on field result. And on the field, East Carolina exposed Virginia Tech, then exposed West Virginia's defense. The most impressive feat in that game last week was the play of the ECU defense, which held West Virginia to 251 yards and forced two turnovers. They play a "tough circumstances" game at Tulane this week, with hurricanes still putting chaos in the schedule. They've got NC State and Virginia, plus the C-USA slate in front of them, but the BCS is out there. If ECU stays focused on the week-to-week task at hand, they've done enough already to think about staying here.
11. South Florida
I'm going on the assumption that Central Florida is still a good team, so the fact that they took the Bulls to overtime doesn't cause me to drop them in the rankings too much. Matt Grothe still went off for 346 yards and 3 TDs, and the Bulls had 504 yards of offense against the defending C-USA champs. Hey, if you're not doing anything Friday night...maybe we could watch South Florida and Kansas...
This is going to come back and bite me...but I really don't think Auburn is very good. That's an overstatement, because I know they can run and I know they have a good defense. But their passing game is underwhelming - even though Chris Todd had good numbers against Southern Miss (21 of 31 for 248), his leading receivers were the running back and the tight end. And Auburn still struggled to put away the Golden Eagles 27-13. Mississippi State is waiting this week, then they welcome LSU...if they are any good, we'll find out in the next 14 days.
Ring the alarm. If you take away Javier Arenas' punt return and Bama's blocked punt score, their game with Tulane is a 6-6 tie. Then when you realize Tulane missed two field goals along the way, and outgained the Tide 318-172 - that's an alarmingly low offensive number - Bama isn't quite back yet. I think they played almost the perfect game against Clemson, and Nick Saban knows it. They'll get another tune up with Western Kentucky, and one that might as well be with Arkansas...then it's Georgia on September 27. And Georgia isn't Clemson.
Get used to it - the Ducks are stubborn and refuse to leave the national consciousness even when they lose Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart. Oregon gained 688 yards and scored 66 points against Utah State. Oregon's third string quarterback said playing Utah State felt like high school. They'll get the full varsity treatment this week at Purdue...but right now, the Ducks are rolling and even still a bit under the radar, which is for their own good.
15. Arizona State
Stanford isn't a bad team, they beat Oregon State...but ASU exploited them, and they continue to set themselves up for the showdown game with Georgia next week. I have no doubts they'll be able to get points against the Dawgs, but will their defense hold? Stanford got 233 yards...so there's evidence that the UGA/ASU game will be a good one.
16. Texas Tech
Nevada scored a third quarter touchdown to take a 16-14 lead on the Red Raiders...but the play was called back, and TTU took it from there in a 35-19 win. Harrell had a Jonathan Crompton night (19 of 46) with better receivers (297 yards). Harrell isn't the Heisman candidate on this team, it's WR Michael Crabtree - he had 7 for 158 against Nevada, and he continues to be the best receiver in the nation. Still, the Red Raiders again look too erratic to not slip up somewhere along the way.
17. Penn State
I'll say this, Penn State isn't letting off-the-field issues distract them. One week after destroying Coastal Carolina, the Nittany Lions put Oregon State's season on life support in a 45-14 win. If Penn State's offense continues to play at the same level the defense has been at for years - and 454 yards is a good sign - the Big 10 may not be as weak as we assumed this year.
18. Wake Forest
The ACC torch bearers had the ball last against Ole Miss, thus they got the win. They've got a date with Florida State next week, who'll still have players suspended...with Riley Skinner and Jim Grobe, this team can beat anyone on their schedule.
Everyone - and that includes me - who said that Kansas' 07 success was more their schedule (didn't play a ranked team until the final regular season game, when they lost to Missouri) then their talent will be proven right or wrong Friday night against South Florida. If you like offense, check out Todd Reesing vs. Matt Grothe.
The game with Washington was probably closer than they liked, and if Jake Locker didn't overthrow so many open receivers or get a ridiculous celebration penalty that's been talked about and talked about, maybe the outcome is different. But credit BYU for blocking the extra point either way. They get a rubber match with UCLA this week - the Bruins won in Pasadena last year, then BYU won in the bowl game on another missed kick. I'm curious to see the Bruins again against another good opponent. BYU's path to the BCS is now a crowded one with plenty of other mid-majors staking their claim.
They won't face the Cougars until the end of the season, and beating Michigan looks worse every second...but Utah still deserves a spot in the poll, and has the rest of the season to prove they belong here.
One week after outscoring Michigan State, the Golden Bears put the worst beating in the history of the program on Washington State, 66-3. That's impressive. Jahvid Best is running like a wild man, and like Oregon the Bears have less hype and more result thus far in 2008. They go cross-country to Maryland this week, but shouldn't have much trouble there.
23. Florida State
They opened last week with Western Carolina, and 69-0 feels good no matter who you're playing. Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson both played well at QB, and they've got a date with UTC this week before it gets real with Wake.
24. Boise State
Don't forget about the WAC, part one. No reason to doubt Boise until I see them lose.
25. Fresno State
Don't forget about the WAC, part two. Won ugly at Rutgers, and now they get Wisconsin in their place. Fresno is no stranger to these big games, but they're usually not played at home, so maybe that'll help...they'll skyrocket with a win.