Five weeks into the 2006 season, that's where! Given that college football is but a fleeting fourteen weeks of regular season games, everyone's very much on the clock.
After a lot of early-season hand-wringing about a defense that lost nine starters from the previous season, Ohio State is now your clear-cut No. 1 team. The defense hasn't been a world beater, but it's held up and made new stars out of James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins. The Buckeye offense has also worked its magic and they've won unconventionally by passing the football.
Not far up the road, the Michigan Wolverines have been a surprise. They have a ways to go, but after the offseason departures of long-time coordinators both the offense and defense have perked up. LaMarr Woodley and Shawn Crable have been playing out of their minds so far and are leading one of the nation's finest defenses. Same goes for receiver Mario Manningham who is making at least one highlight-reel long touchdown catch every weekend.
Don't be surprised if this year's Michigan/Ohio State game emerges as a No. 1 against No. 2 hype-fest.
There's been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about "who's No. 2?" It's an interesting discussion without a reliable answer. I can only say wait a few weeks for some contenders to sort themselves out. In the last two weeks few contenders have done anything to distinguish themselves, either playing too-soft opponents or playing down to competition. As an unintended consequence, Ohio State has swiftly solidified their once-soft top ranking.
I don't feel the Buckeyes are an upstoppable force of nature at the top as we've seen in recent years with Texas and USC, but they've more than held serve and looked good against a tough slate of opponents.
A positive of this season is that the drama is alive. As much as I love a runaway train No. 1 team, it's good for college football for so many disparate teams to remain contenders. West Virginia and Louisville are looking strong out of the Big East, the Pac-10 has USC and Oregon, the SEC has Auburn, Florida and LSU, the Big 12 has Texas, the Big Ten has Ohio State and Michigan.
Sadly for the ACC, they don't have anyone. Clemson's doing well, but Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech have atrophied. That league is experiencing a terrible year, which is probably a cyclical thing and partly due to a handful of once-hot coaches losing their grip on success. Chuck Amato is now a walking parody, Al Groh has inspired a rash of transfers, Ralph Friedgen's lost that vigor that led him to three ten win seasons and Tom O'Brien simply cannot lift B.C. into the top ten.
The league will rebound eventually, but in the meantime they get to look enviously at the Big East and its two contenders and improving teams with good vibes like Pittsburgh, Rutgers and South Florida.
The OMG OMG OMG Notre Dame train has derailed, souring their national title hopes and Brady Quinn's Heisman chances. That's what happens when you get beatdown at your home stadium by Michigan and the 'genius' meme gets applied to your coach. Resentment's a bitch and the Irish get to take their lumps when they lose games.
Ever-so-quietly, the Pac-10 has an enviable three-headed monster of USC, California and Oregon. Few will forget Cal's beatdown at Tennessee, but since then they've been lights-out and are looking like a top 10 team. Oregon escaped Oklahoma thanks to the officials, but they also played a great game and showed that they can run and play defense and not get spooked by a raucous road venue. USC's been less impressive, but they also own a road thumping against Arkansas and have the most talented team in D-I. The head-to-head games between these teams should be incredible.
Same goes for the SEC, with the Florida/LSU/Auburn troika. The skeptics have their eyes on Chris Leak and Florida, but all three teams have distinguished themselves from the rest of the league. Much like the Pac-10, I don't anticipate a single undefeated team to come out of this league.
Individually, Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe has been incredible. He's at 1181 yards just five games into the season and is set to eclipse Barry Sanders' single-season rushing mark. Just last weekend he ran for 364 yards against Ball State. He's no pretender, either, having gained over 100 yards both rushing and receiving against Ohio State. Hopefully he's carved his own legacy beyond those of former NIU yardage-warriors Michael Turner and the immortal LeShon Johnson.
Anyhoo, that's what's up, nothing fancy but an early freeze-frame here felt appropriate at this point in the season.