Friday, September 25, 2009

This week's more intriguing college football games

The problem with football rankings is that they are based largely on expectations. At the beginning of the season Florida and Texas were ranked the two best teams in the country and, since both have won all their games so far this season, they are still ranked as the two best teams in the country.

But are they? Really? Based on their performances on the field so far this year I could make a strong argument that they are not. This is especially true after last weekend when both teams struggled against drastically inferior opponents. The week before that, Texas had its hands full with a Wyoming team that got thumped last week by a Colorado team that hadn't won all year.

So who deserves to be ranked No. 1? Based solely on their on-the-field performances so far this year, I would have to go with the Miami Hurricanes. To date this season, the Hurricanes have beaten a Florida State team that manhandled BYU on the road and then swamped what most consider a good Georgia Tech squad.

So exactly how good are the Hurricanes? This question could be answered tomorrow when the Canes venture to Blacksburg to play the Hokies of Virginia Tech in what I consider the Big Game of the Day. Miami has a new offensive coordinator this season in Mark Whipple and whether it's because of his systems or because of the outstanding play of quarterback Jacory Harris, the Canes are averaging 140 more yards and 8.4 more points a game than they did last year. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, opened the season with a 10-point loss to Alabama followed by a miracle win over Nebraska. Its usually strong defense seems suspect and so even though the Hokies are playing at home, I'm picking Miami to win this one.

California at Oregon: California, which may be the best team in the Pac-10, is a terrible road team. Last week it finally won at Minnesota, snapping a four-game road losing streak. This week the Bears travel to Auzten Stadium, widely regarded as the loudest stadium in college football. I don't know what to think about Oregon -- it lost both the game and its cool against Boise State, came back to whip a mediocre Purdue team, but then shocked the football world by ending Utah's 16-game winning streak. California is led by running back Jahvid Best, who has replaced Texas quarterback Colt McCoy as the current Heisman runnerup. One of the reasons Best has been so successful is because quarterback Kevin Riley has completed 70 percent of his passes so defenses can't cram the line to stop Best. California's road performance will keep the game close, but ultimately I think California wins by a field goal.

TCU at Clemson. Both Utah and BYU have lost this season, leaving TCU and Houston as the only probable BCS Busters for 2009. And to maintain that status, TCU must win this weekend in Death Valley. If you're looking for wide open spread the field football, this is not the game for you. But if you enjoy defense, the running game, playing for field position, this should be your cup of tea. TCU is the 15th ranked team in the country and Clemson is unranked so I guess a Clemson victory would be regarded as an upset. But what I said earlier about ratings being more about expectations than level of play is really true here. But if everyone considers it an upset, it's an upset: Clemson to win by two touchdowns.

Iowa at Penn State. The only reason this game is getting any attention is because Iowa dropped Penn State from the ranks of the unbeaten last year and because Penn State is ranked No. 5 in the country after playing a trio of patsies: Akron, Syracuse and Temple. Come to think of it, those are two good reasons. There's no way of knowing just how good this Nittany Lion team is and I'm not convinced they are good enough to knock off Iowa, even if the game is being played at Happy Valley. It may be regarded as another upset, but I'm going with Iowa by a TD.

Texas Tech at Houston. Not a game for the faint of heart. Both teams love to score. Both teams hate to play defense. I'm picking Houston 103-98.

Arkansas at Alabama. Does the name Ryan Mallett mean anything to anyone? In his last two years of high school ball, Matthew Stafford only lost one game and that was to a Texarkana team quarterbacked by Mallett, who then accepted a scholarship to Michigan and disappeared. Well, Mallett has re-emerged after transferring to Arkansas, infusing the Hogs with offensive power. Does Alabama have the defensive chops to stop Mallett and the Hogs? I'm saying a resounding yes: Alabama by three TDs.

ELSEWHERE:
Boise State by 18 over Bowling Green
Cincinnati by 16 over Fresno State
Florida by 4 over Kentucky
Florida State by 19 over South Florida
Georgia by 10 over Arizona State
Georgia Tech by 4 over North Carolina
Kansas by 7 over Southern Mississippi
LSU by two TDs over Mississippi State
Michigan by 12 over Indiana
Notre Dame by 3 over Purdue
Ohio State by 19 over Illinois
Oregon State by 2 over Arizona
Southern Cal by 31 over Washington State
Wisconsin by 18 over Michigan State

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