A little more shuffling going on this week, for obvious reasons.
I particularly enjoy this part of the season because most elite teams either have a loss or have survived a scare, and others are soon to fall. Part of what will determine their fate here is how they get through the final half of the season, either collapsing or surviving or going on a major tear.
Week Five Top Teams List (10/7/2005):
- USC-Second consecutive second-half road comeback against a strong conference foe. Thirty five second half points? My God... They're vulnerable, but mostly to themselves. Matt Leinart's head is a little sore after a concussion, but Reggie Bush and LenDale White filled in admirably, controlling an entire second half.
- Virginia Tech-Rolling. Two shutouts, one near shutout, a close opening win against a tough team, and last week's win against rival West Virginia on the road. The offense isn't the greatest, but they get the ball to their playmakers (Marcus Vick, Eddie Royal).
- Texas-Rolling. Missouri gave them a scare for ohhh.... a quarter. Not their best performance and still put up 51. They're a bit trapped this weekend, though, because Oklahoma is so down. Worse, the Sooners appear to have at least gotten their act together to the point of modest respectability. Just win and deal with the perception game later.
- California-Call this a weak number four right now. Their depth continues to take hits and Marshawn Lynch isn't himself (think Justin Vincent). Last night ESPN said the Bears "haven't been tested" so far. Well, yeah. A lot of teams haven't. Why the Bears were their target, who knows. We'll find out plenty these last few weeks, including this weekend's roadie against ranked UCLA (and future games at Oregon and against #1 USC).
- Arizona State-Almost beat USC, should have beat LSU. Horseshoes, hand grenades. Still a fine team. Hopefully they don't piss away the rest of their season in disgust. Could be better than Cal.
- Georgia-Hopefully this sleepwak act is over, because the SEC is theirs if they want it. They're at #7 Tennessee this weekend. Can also hop Cal and ASU on here quite soon.
- Alabama-With great hesitation. Absolutely spanked Florida, but there isn't much to suggest this is an elite team. They play solid defense, but they've got 1) a coach with a proven record of mediocrity and 2) a lackluster offense (sans 31 point outburst) now without its big playmaker Tyrone Prothro. So far, so good, though.
- Florida-With hesitation, also. Their offense obviously isn't all together, and it won't be for a while. But to get spanked like that is more than a little troubling. I remember a Prothro TD catch late in the game when the Florida DB was covering him pretty well, but just never turned around and Prothro hauled in the TD catch. It looked like he was going through the motions, conceding the game. If true, this team has more subtle but profound issues to deal with and may soon fall. Or maybe they can get their act together.
- Notre Dame-The back of the rankings are a bit tough here. I'm not really sure how these teams are going to behave the next few weeks. ND's proving itself to be, if nothing else, resilient. No blowout losses, and winning with both offense and defense. Confidence is surging in South Bend, and they're doing a lot with limited talent, which means everyone is buying in. But when tough times hit, can this team rally behind coach Weis, or are they going to hate him? Two weeks to prepare for #1 USC, let's see what they do.
- Ohio State-On a bit of a flier, here. Since the Texas game, this team has quietly done its things in the shadows of the rest of its shaky conference. The defense looks pretty solid and the offense is responding to Troy Smith. The Buckeyes are on the road to #18 Penn State this weekend.
- UCLA-Washington? Ugh. This is a pretty good team, still, and booting them might be a bit unfair. They've got a game with the #8 Cal Bears this weekend to signal a recovery.
- Minnesota-Waxed by Penn State. The Gophers are alright, but not contenders. And their great run attack didn't materialize, which is a huge sign for worry.
Other Teams to Consider:
- Florida State-Hanging around on the periphery. Give the ball to Booker! And then give it to him some more.
- Michigan State-Tough loss, but points for the recovery from a near disaster early. Very dangerous team.
- Michigan-Can any team be more manic? Gosh. They look completely different with Mike Hart in the lineup. Its weird because his backups are decent (although Kevin Grady has that deer-in-headlights look when running).
- Tennessee-Barely, but at least they have the right quarterback in the lineup now.