At this pace, the end of the season debate will be whether a two-loss BCS conference team should be ranked higher than Boise State or TCU.
The carnage continued last week as yet another pair of undefeated teams suffered their first loss of the season. This time though, it wasnít really unexpected. In fact, both Michigan State and Missouri were healthy underdogs and quite frankly, neither played like an undefeated team.
Though two undefeated teams fell, the two at the top of the rankings entering the week were very impressive in their respective contests. Auburn had no trouble in a spot that could have been tricky at Mississippi and Oregon pulled away late at USC in what looked to be its toughest remaining foe. Auburn however has quite the road ahead. Most are looking ahead to the Iron Bowl match-up against Alabama, but the Tigers have a potential trap right in front of them with the suddenly resurgent Georgia Bulldogs. Letís remember, there are no completely superior teams this year. Auburn, for all of its flash on offense is still extremely vulnerable on defense and if Cam Newton happens to play like, you know, a human one of these weeks, the Tigers could be in trouble. With that said, I donít see the Tigers tripping up against Georgia, but the Alabama game is an entirely different story.
The avoid list:
Texas: Maybe itís time to simply right them off, another week and another home loss. At this point I canít imagine there is much fight left in this team.
Georgia: The Bulldogs put up quite a fight last week, but in the end, they fell short. Iím still not sure this team can beat a team with a winning record.
On the radar:
USC: The Trojans proved they can hang with the best last week as they hung with Oregon for about three full quarters, but considering that was their bowl game, I wonder how theyíll respond the remainder of the season.
Record YTD: 56-56-1
Units YTD: -6.1
Best Win: Oregon State: I had plenty of back door wins last week, but I chose Oregon State as my best win because the game was never in doubt. California might be the easiest team to peg in the entire country. The Bears played well the week prior which meant they were due for a letdown and man did they have a letdown. The Beavers scored early and often and cruised to victory.
Worst Loss: Minnesota: Not because it was a tough loss, but because I once again fell for the Gopher trap. A bunch of early season covers had me convinced that this team had some fight in them. Well that sentiment went out the door last Saturday night as after an opening drive touchdown, the Gophers simply left the building.
Cries for a playoff in college football have been relatively quiet so far, but if Auburn or Oregon lose in the coming weeks and a one-loss team passes Boise State or TCU, then the floodgates will open.
I understand the general concept. Thereís no way to tell which team is the best unless you have a playoff. That however is not true. A playoff is no more of a true test than any other system in place. Why donít people in the media confront the issue that in a playoff, you only play one opponent per week, you donít play every other team in the playoff, therefore thereís no way to tell whoís the best, because even if you come out on top and a four-week playoff, there are 11 out of 16 teams that you never played or beat. Okay, I am being slightly sarcastic here, but you get the point. A playoff is not the be all end all to determining the best team in a given year. Itís simply the system decided on years ago and to this day is the most popular way to decide who indeed the top team is.
Iíll again make the point that Iíve made several times here, go down the list of champions in all the major sports over the years and the only sport where there is no ďflukeĒ champion is college football. Of course the word ďflukeĒ is based solely on perception as is for the most part the college football itself, but it goes to the point that there is never a fool proof way to determine who the best team is, so why conform to a system because itís the popular choice?
This is the time of the season where motivation is pivotal, not motivation to blow a team out, like I mentioned last week, but motivation to play the game. The list of teams that lose motivation to finish out the season grows each week. The key is spotting those teams in advance, but to do so, you have to know the history of each team.
For example, some would look at a 4-4 Virginia team with a 1-3 conference record and wonder whatís left in the tank. Consider though that this team is not used to winning or even playing in a bowl game, so the prospect of reaching a bowl has this team highly motivated.
On the flip side are the Texas Longhorns. Same overall record as the Cavaliers, but with no chance of meeting any of their preseason goals, you have to wonder if theyíll simply go through the motions the rest of the way.
Other factors come into play this time of year such as rivalries. Some teams may underachieve all year, but get up for their rival. This can be tricky as a team like Texas, may go through the motions over the next couple of weeks, only to get up for A&M.
What you want to do is find the teams with little to play for, and then do some research on the match-up. Make sure there is nothing to motivate that team for their upcoming match-up such as a national spotlight or a rivalry situation, and then make your move.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech: The Hokies have certainly impressed over the past few weeks, but the number in this game is set a little too high for my tastes. Georgia Tech has underachieved for most of the year, but I expect a solid effort in this spot. If Georgia Tech can protect the ball and thatís a big if in this case, then the Yellow Jackets should stay within this number.
Side: Georgia Tech +13 (1)
Central Florida at Houston: Central Florida appears to be the class of C-USA this season, but this will prove to be a very tough match-up. Houston has fared well without their star QB Case Keenum, but hereís the problem. The Cougars have faced one decent defense since the Keenum injury and they lost that game by 20+ points. Friday theyíll see a better-than-decent defense in UCF and that could lead to some problems for the first-year QB David Piland. Unless the Cougars defense suddenly shows up for this contest, UCF is going to come away with the victory.
Side: UCF -2.5 (1)
North Carolina State at Clemson: Iím officially off the Russell Wilson bandwagon, for now. Sure, the Wolfpack won last week, but I did not like what I saw from Wilson, as a thrower that is. Too many mistakes on bad reads to survive in a tough spot like this. NC State will fall back to Earth after its big win last Thursday.
Side: Clemson -3.5 (1)
Iowa at Indiana: A classic let down spot here for the Hawkeyes as they head into Indiana a week after a huge win over Michigan State last week. Thereís something about this match-up that screams Indiana and I canít quite put my finger on it. Perhaps itís the change in environment that the Hawkeyes will see this week, that is to say, the lack of environment. Indiana is a tough spot because itís hard to get up to play the Hoosiers in their stadium. Iowa should have no problem winning this game, but 17 points is a little too much to ask of them.
Side: Indiana +17 (1)
Illinois at Michigan: The Illini can play defense, but they can also score points on offense, which is the only criteria I need a team to pass when taking the over in a game against Michigan.
Total: Over 57.5 (2)
Baylor at Oklahoma State: OSU struggled a little last week with the absence of its star WR Justin Blackmon, but they still managed to put up 24 points on the road. Back at home with all of its weapons I expect OSU to put up plenty of points and we all know that the Baylor Bears are capable of keeping pace with just about any team in the country, so while this total is set extremely high, Iím confident in the over.
Total: Over 73.5 (1)
Colorado at Kansas: After its opening loss against an FCS team, it was apparent that it was going to be a rough season for the Jayhawks. At that point, expectations changed and suddenly some games on the schedule were winnable and some werenít. This one is a winnable game for the Jayhawks and as such, I expect a solid effort from them this week. Colorado is certainly a better team at this point in the season, but Iím not sure the ĎBuffs should be laying nearly nine points on the road to anyone.
Side: Kansas +9 (1)
Hawaii at Boise State: According to the numbers, this appears to be one of the two ďtoughĒ match-ups remaining for Boise State; however, considering the Broncos failed to cover the number last week in front of a national TV audience, I would expect them to post a more impressive effort this week.
Side: Boise State -21 (2)
TCU at Utah: I like TCU to win this game, but I think itís going to come down to a late FG and five points is simply too much to lay here. Utah has been lying in the weeds all year long, but donít underestimate the Utes here, theyíll hand with TCU until the end.
Side: Utah +5 (1)
Alabama at LSU: Alabama will likely win this game, but LSU will ugly this game up enough to stay within the number. LSU doesnít have much in the way of offense, but at home, even Alabama will have a tough time scoring points.
Side: LSU +6.5 (1)