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Top Teams 2008

After Week Seven

  1. Alabama
  2. Penn State
  3. Texas
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Florida
  6. USC
  7. Georgia
  8. LSU
  9. BYU
  10. Missouri
  11. Ohio State
  12. Oklahoma State
  13. Texas Tech
  14. Utah
  15. Kansas
  16. USF
  17. North Carolina
  18. Miami
  19. Boise State
  20. Georgia Tech
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On Florida and Tebow Mania

In the heart of the Bible belt, it only makes sense that a spread offense evangelist would be the driving force behind what may be the next great college football team: the Florida Gators.

Sure, Urban Meyer's offense has had its rough moments and has not yet fully arrived, but his team may very well have signaled their arrival six weeks into this 2006 season.  Is that a bit presumptuous?  Maybe, but I think the Gators may not be all that far away from wrestling the mantle of college football's flagship program away from USC.

What you're seeing right now with Florida is the spark, the flash of what will be.  There's no doubt that they have a ferocious defense that is among the best in the nation.  But the offense is starting to show life of its own 18 games into the Urban Meyer era.  The scary thing is that it remains in its infancy, awaiting another helping or two of more suitable personnel through recruiting.

In that sense, this year's Gator team reminds me of USC in 2002.  After a rough 6-6 opening season, the Trojans battled through a rough early slate of games including Auburn, Colorado, Kansas State, Oregon State and Washington State.  They emerged 3-2, with both losses narrow road defeats against well regarded foes.  After that they never lost another game that season and just two more the next three seasons, finally showing a deadly proficiency in the Norm Chow offense a year and a half after his hiring.  It took a while for that team's offense to find itself, adjusting to a blend of personnel between the old regime and the new one.  The victories gave the program confidence and buttressed recruiting to where the next wave of players (Bush, White, Bing, Baker, Kalil, Jarrett, Smith, Byrd, Booty) helped cement their legacy at the top of college football.  Both teams had stalwart defenses and a well-regarded senior quarterback who had survived four years of disappointment prior to emerging as standout players.

Since that time, USC has never looked back, combining top of the line recruiting with a balanced, explosive offense and a run-stopping, turnover happy defense.  But their days at the top may now be numbered if Florida continues its progress.

The difference here is that Florida's offense has survived their rough early slate (Tennessee, Alabama, LSU) and their offense hasn't quite taken off yet the way USC's did.  The Gator offensive line is a work in progress, at best, and the running backs have been a severe disappointment.  When those problems are corrected, the Gators' transformation will be complete.

What's been so encouraging is that the Gators have gotten around the OL/RB issues so ingeniously, integrating two completely different quarterbacks into their offense.  Senior quarterback Chris Leak is playing at a high level as a passer, and frosh Tim Tebow is making all kinds of plays as a run threat.  Both quarterbacks are playing with poise, and are scrapping for yards and points on every single snap.  They've done well enough to help Florida's offense become the best in the SEC (Tennessee might argue differently) despite the imbalance of a weak run game and shaky offensive line.

With each passing game, Tebow is learning a little more of the offense and making it all the more dangerous.  Things should improve even more when electric frosh receiver Percy Harvin gets healthy and is worked into the offense a la Tebow.  Both are the future of the program and are great fits for Meyer's offense which attacks space with speed and misdirection and utilizes dual-threat players at the quarterback and receiver positions.

I feel the Gators remain a year or so away from really ascending to where their offense is the envy of college football, but, as we're seeing this year in particular the players are starting to buy in, coach Meyer's starting to find the right players to make things work, and a handful of big early wins have energized fans and players.

As for Tebow, the guy is special.  The hype is a bit nauseating and a discredit to the abilities of teammate Leak, but it's also worthy of such a player.  When Tebow comes onto the field, opponents pretty much know what he's going to do, yet they cannot stop him.  Tell me that isn't a remarkable feat for a young guy like that, with all that pressure, against some good defenses, to continue to make plays.  Meyer's done a heck of a job coaching him up and Tebow has responded with big plays.

People are clearly noticing, because the buzz about the Gators is building nationally.  ESPN's College Game Day show went to Gainesville last weekend to see the Gators play LSU.  It was a departure from their supposed "no SEC games" policy/conflict with CBS and other competing networks.  Guess where they'll be this weekend?  Another SEC venue!  This time at Auburn to see the Tigers play---you guessed it---Florida.  Methinks those Game Day guys are falling over themselves to see more of Florida.

This time last year people were down on my insistance of a Gator resurgence under Urban Meyer, saying that his offense wouldn't work in the SEC, etc.  It's taken some time and the transformation isn't complete, but clearly it is working and is only going to get better with more time, more recruits, and player development with guys like Tebow and Harvin.  It isn't yet a balanced offense, yet is still the best or second best offense in the SEC and among the nation's best.  Imagine how much better things will be when the offensive line and running game work out their issues and more talented players continue to funnel in?  We saw the same thing happen at USC and it's now happening in Gainesville.

If you remain skeptical, we could simply imagine this all away and pretend Florida had been running Alabama's offense, or Tennessee's offense prior to the hiring of OC David Cutcliffe, or the old Florida offense, or LSU's offense, or... you get the idea.  But then, we wouldn't be having this conversation and Florida would be off in some redux of the Zook experience.

But it isn't, and they aren't, and it makes all the difference in the world.


Week fourteen weekend thoughts

So sad!  It's the final regular-season weekend for all of college football.

Luckily college football is very much a year-round ordeal so CFR is not going anywhere.  Heisman ceremony.  Bowl games.  Recruiting.  Letter-of-intent day.  Spring practice.  Summer practice.  Fall practice.  Start all over again.

Colorado @ Texas

The 'Horns know they're playing for the Rose Bowl and should put together a fine performance in the early game.  Colorado backed into this one and really have no business being on the same field with Texas.

Navy @ Army

I can't take sides, so I'd rather just enjoy two well-coached teams representing our fine service academies.


I'm actually a bit worried for the Trojans.  That said, they're averaging something well over 600 yards in home games this year.  I think UCLA will overprepare for Reggie Bush and give a lot of openings to USC's power run game and disciplined pass attack.  Advantage: USC in one of the nation's most unhealthy rivalries.

Georgia @ LSU

I'd have an easy Georgia selection here, but they display an uncanny reticence in big games, letting slightly inferior opponents (Georgia Tech, South Carolina)  get within range.  I'm still going with the Dawgs to shake up all those who have so casually slotted LSU in a BCS game.

Florida State @ Virginia Tech

This one should get ugly.  I know the 'Noles are playing for pride and Jeff Bowden for a quiet offseason, but they're way outclassed in this one.  I think the Hokies will put together one of their finest defensive efforts and scramble the brains of poor Drew Weatherford.  This game may be one of those pivotal moments that determines whether FSU can go on with its charade for another season or two, or wheter they need to make some painful changes at least from within the assistant ranks.  It's obvious that recruiting will continue to be great for years on end, but good recruits don't mean good wins anymore. 



Week thirteen CFR top teams list

Week thirteen top teams list (12/01/2005):

  1. USC-Win and they're in.
  2. Texas-Would have remained #2 here even with a loss to Texas A&M.  Funky option attack caught them off guard but they managed over the course of the game to find ways to win.  Good team, eh?
  3. Notre Dame-Survived a trap game against Stanford.  Almost savagelike in their proficiency on game winning or last minute drives.
  4. Virginia Tech-Miami performance looking more and more like an aberration than symptomatic of serious flaws.
  5. Penn State-I still can't believe it.  Glad that they're back, though.  I'm curious what 2006 brings.
  6. Ohio State-Rounded into fine form when it counted: the end of the regular season.
  7. Auburn-Inconsistency hurts them here.  Remain the cream of the SEC crop, however.
  8. Oregon-Earn some points for getting past the injury to their starting quarterback.  I thought they'd fall back to the pack.  Oops.
  9. Georgia-Too conservative at times in very winnable close games (South Carolina, Georgia Tech).  Would be much higher if they were a little more cutthroat.
  10. UCLA-Fresno State was in this spot last week, then had a major boo boo.  Can UCLA do the miraculous?


  • Fresno State-Lesson learned: never put all your eggs in one basket.


  • Louisville-All they do is score touchdowns.
  • LSU-They get their shot against Georgia on Saturday.
  • Miami-As always, they contend.  Just aren't an elite team this year.
  • West Virginia-Replacing Minnesota as the NCAA's best one-sided run offense. 

Week thirteen weekend review

One weekend left, so sad.

Kansas 24, Iowa State 21

Even though Texas A&M gave them a scare, nobody (read: Iowa State, Colorado) in the Big Twelve wants to play Texas.  Nor are they prepared to, which is pretty sad.  The committee of the hapless: Iowa State, Kansas, Colorado, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M.  Texas Tech is dangerously close to joining this list.  Only a humbled Oklahoma shows any signs of legitimacy.

Big Twelve rant over, Iowa State lost thanks to a ridiculous late collapse, next!

Oklahoma 42, Oklahoma State 14

He's baaaaaaack.  Adrian Peterson had an 84 and a 71 yard touchdown run.

Louisville 41, Syracuse 14

Most offenses collapse when a superstar back isn't playing and the star quarterback goes down.  This isn't your normal offense.  It helps Syracuse is on the schedule, but the Cardinals' system is fairly resilient by itself.

Connecticut 15, South Florida 10

It's just too cold to play up there in November for the Florida boys, heh.

Miami 25, Virginia 17

The 'Canes resurfaced for a three-week period, and have since gone back to early-season disappointment mode.

Florida 34, Florida State 7

Urban Meyer can coach.  Too bad his quarterback's such a bad fit.

Nevada 38, Fresno State 35

Classic letdown game.  Embarrassing, regardless.

Virginia Tech 30, North Carolina 3

Football games are 60 minutes long, yet many of us like to judge teams only on their first 30.

Georgia 14, Georgia Tech 7

Tech's defense has been roaring lately, and they almost stole their second upset in as many weeks.  Mark Richt goes into SEC mode on offense way more often than he needs to given that he has the NCAA's best combo quarterback.

Notre Dame 38, Stanford 31

This was a great game.  Believe it or not I never really felt that Notre Dame would lose control of this one.  Overall it was a fine final salute to a crappy, somewhat historic stadium that at this moment is probably being hit by its first few wrecking balls.

Texas 40, Texas A&M 29

Familiarity matters, and Texas had no clue how to counter the Aggies' option attack.  I think the Texas offensive coaches were more to blame in this one, as Vince Young looked completely lost.  Whatever, they won and now get the opportunity to slaughter tragic Colorado this coming weekend.

LSU 19, Arkansas 17

Someone keeps lecturing me about needing to have LSU much higher in my rankings.  Maybe there's something to be said for my weariness?

Arizona State 23, Arizona 20

Ugly, as always.  ASU is now bowl eligible, but will Dirk Koetter still be their coach at bowl time?

Nebraska 30, Colorado 3

This is a basic admission that the Buffs don't want to play Texas.

Wisconsin 41, Hawai'i 24

Aloha means hello and goodbye.  Barry Alvarez has had quite a career.  It's been fun to witness Wisky's resurrection. 


CFR week twelve top teams list

Week twelve top teams list (11/25/2005):

  1. USC-Challenged by a game Fresno State squad, but held on as Reggie Bush sent himelf into the record books.  Are really in one of sports' most wonderful runs.
  2. Texas-Two weeks to prepare for Texas A&M and get steamed about Reggie Bush more or less winning the Heisman.
  3. Notre Dame-They're good, get over it.
  4. Virginia Tech-Nice recovery.
  5. Penn State-Amazing.
  6. Ohio State-Yay Big Ten.
  7. Auburn-Opening up like a fine wine.
  8. Oregon-Are having an amazing season.
  9. Georgia-Hangin' around.
  10. Fresno State-They have a nifty little offense and play tough.  Sometime WAC teams can play.


  • Alabama-Can't win if you can't score.


  • UCLA-Get their shot against USC next weekend.
  • Louisville-A little banged up, but hanging in there.
  • LSU-Kind of hard not to have them on here at this point.
  • Miami-Moving them down this far is probably harsh, if downright stupid.  Check back with me next week on this one.

More Fresno State followup for Bush

I guess Best Damn Sports Show is doing a flashback tonight, will have Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll on to discuss all things USC/Fresno State.  Blatant push for Bush for Heisman by the LA guys, but then, the game was so late a lot of normal college football fans really didn't get to experience it so this gets a tepid free pass from CFR.

Perusing the TV today, I noticed that FoxSports also is rebroadcasting the game (in shortened two-hour windows) at least twice tonight where I live.  There's some unsubstantiated buzz that despite the late start, The game actually earned the highest ratings ever for a FoxSports college football broadcast (see link here).

Saturday's Fresno State game was the most-watched nationally televised game in the history of Fox Sports Net. The game was seen in 2.1 million households by some 2.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

In Los Angeles, the game was the day's top-rated LA telecast, earning a 7.5 household rating. It was seen in 424,688 homes and beat out the No. 2 telecast by 70 percent.

Other top markets for the game: Seattle (6.6), Portland (6.5), Pittsburgh (3.1), Columbus (3.0) and Phoenix (2.8). Fox plans to follow up on the game's success tonight at 8 and 10:30 with a two-hour version of the telecast entitled Football Flashback

So, a fifth of the game's viewers were in Los Angeles, but look at some of the other media centers, word-of-mouth must have been heavy given that Pittsburgh and Columbus had such strong viewership in the sleep-deprived Eastern time zone.  Additionally, that probably translates to a lot of Heisman power for Bush in both the Midwest and Northeast Heisman voter regions.

As stated earlier, I'll have some regional analysis soon, probably just after the December 3 games played by Bush and Young. 


Reggie Bush and the tidal wave of support

Even though there are more games to be played, and USC faces a stiff test against UCLA next weekend, its hard to argue at this point that the Heisman is going anywhere but USC again this year, however fair or not that is.

ESPN just spent all Monday talking about the guy.

Tonight, they're rebroadcasting---via ESPN Classic---the USC/Fresno State game from Saturday night (dammit people watch this and ditch your TV shows for a night) where Bush went nuts, at 9 Eastern.

As seen on HeismanPundit, the LA Times' Bill Plaschke (who penned one of the finest Heisman support pieces I've ever seen a few years ago in support of the Trojans' Carson Palmer) calls the race over and provides a lot of insight about the more nuanced aspects of Heisman voters' mentalities.  It's a must-read.

There's also this low quality, small picture, amateur video of Bush's amazing cutback run for your enjoyment. Update: I had added a link to a story for the video.  The video link is now the correct link.

Finally, I leave you with two of my favorite Bush-related rants this year.

Against Notre Dame earlier this year, Bush had scored a 37-yard first quarter touchdown by literally hurdling a Notre Dame defender---I probably TiVO'd the replay 50 times to try and understand exactly how he made his cut and hurdle, it's still unexplainable---NBC's Pat Haden had this to say:

I think of Reggie Bush as the first ammendment with hips.  He just kind of expresses himself in his own way.


Lastly, there's this transcript of a rant from Monday's Colin Cowherd radio show someone told me I needed to listen to:

513 yards and ninety per cent of America didn’t see it. It ended at 2:20 Eastern Time.
We’re going to talk in our final hour about Reggie Bush and the greatest single performance I’ve ever seen, in my life, in football of any level. Of any level. There’s an old saying that if a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s around does it make any noise. You know, I’m thinking if you have 513 at two in the morning, does anybody care about it or hear about it? And that’s where I feel bad for USC and I feel bad for Reggie Bush because nobody saw that game. For anybody East of Denver nobody saw that game and it was absolutely, inarguably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

300 yards on 20 carries, 70 yards receiving, 150 yards in returns against a nine win team.

I mean, it was part Barry Sanders, part Michael Vick, and part Green Lantern. It was that good. I mean it was THAT good. If you can get a tape of it online, go watch it, it was unbelievable, it was absolutely incredible.

We were talking about this, remember when you played little league? Remember when everybody played little league and there was that one kid who threw 84 miles per hour and had a moustache at eleven? That’s what Reggie Bush looks like on a college field. We all played against that guy in little league. We all showered with him. He had a hairy chest. He had more hair on his chest than we had everywhere else. We all played against that, that’s what he looks like. Just an absurd performance.

In fact, [former NFL corner and ESPN analyst] Eric Allen, I was talking to Eric, he’s gonna be coming on in a few minutes, I was talking to Eric Allen in the hallway earlier today about this, and he stopped me. He goes, “did you see that?” He goes “I was in an airport, I almost missed a plane.” He goes, “I’ve never seen anything like it”. “I’ve never seen any-thing like it”.

It’s one of those things you just couldn’t take your eyes off it. You could not take your eyes off it. But it was on at 2:15 and I don’t blame the East Coast media, I don’t blame them, they’re not being malicious. I don’t blame a sportswriter in Indianapolis or Ohio, he’s gotta sleep. He’s got things to do; he covered five games that day. I don’t blame him. I don’t blame the East Coast media. It was on at 2:20 AM! I watched it. I don’t blame anybody, they gotta sleep. But it was, it was ab-surd.

CFR week twelve Heisman rankings

Well, a game that ended after 2 a.m. in the Eastern time zone may have swung this year's Heisman race.  I didn't think much could happen until the final weekend, but Reggie Bush's record-setting 513 yard performance against Fresno State has a lot to do with the change.

I smartly stayed up to watch that game, perhaps the most dominant individual performance in college football in many years.

At this point, barring something similar from Vince Young (and maybe in spite of it), Reggie Bush looks like he will be the 2005 Heisman trophy winner.  Games remain to be played, however, and must be accounted for.  That said, that performance was something for the ages and I don't see Old Guard Heisman voters having any reason to abandon Bush now after stunning games against top 15 foes Fresno State and Notre Dame.  The working media are also shifting in his direction judging by the flurry of writeups and media attention directed Bush's way.


  1. Reggie Bush, USC-The number 513 will forever become part of the Heisman lore.  If you haven't seen Bush's 50-yard cutback, behind-the-back touchdown run replay yet, I feel bad for ya kid.
  2. Vince Young, Texas-Not 100% out of this thing, but the balance of power has been heavily tipped against him.  I expect a strong performance against Texas A&M this week, but it may not be enough.  Mack Brown is on the record as saying he's trying to get his quarterback good numbers and leaving him in games to do so.  Can be proud to be part of a revolution within the game, as noted by HeismanPundit.
  3. Matt Leinart, USC-Kept the passing game just enough afloat against Fresno's aggressive corners to create some distraction for Reggie Bush to go about his epic night.  Won't win the Heisman, but will walk away with the prestige of being the greatest quarterback in NCAA history.
  4. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame-Directed the Irish offense to another 30-point effort, this time against Syracuse.  Has put together the finest season of any Notre Dame quarterback ever.  Will team with Young next year as far-and-away favorites for the 2006 Heisman trophy.

Some other thoughts:

I will offer some preliminary Heisman voter regional analysis soon, and again after the final weekend of games.  Around the same time I will also present the CFR Heisman Ballot, explaining how I would have voted.


Week twelve weekend review

Rivalry weekend's over, signaling the end of the big 50-game weekends in college football.  I'm keeping myself in good spirits by listening to Christmas music and celebrating that I chose to stay awake for the entire remarkable Reggie Bush performance against Fresno State.

Virginia Tech 52, Virginia 14

I guess the Hokies are ok after the Miami loss.  It was a textbook Tech win, forcing turnovers and running enough---336 net yards---to make Vick look like a God when he had to pass.  Nice recovery.  I wonder whether Virginia will ever reach some of its heights from just two or three years ago.  They're really struggling.

Texas Tech 23, Oklahoma 21

This game was marred by a controversial call at the end.  Texas Tech is starting to wilt.

Georgia 45, Kentucky 13

The Dawgs have won the ones they're supposed to.  Oh, what could have been...

Vanderbilt 28, Tennessee 24

I'm not going to pile on.  That loss might have been good for Tennessee, it's kind of a rock-bottom moment from which to motivate them as they chart a new course.

Ohio State 25, Michigan 21

Jim Tressel > Lloyd Carr.  It's like the John Cooper bad mojo for Buckeye fans has completely reversed itself.  Few gave Michigan a chance but they almost pulled it off.  But like a lot of things with them lately, almost is often the best they can do.

Baylor 44, Oklahoma State 34

I don't really have commentary here, only wanted to post the score.

Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 10

Not the Irish's best performance, but most teams will get away with that against Syracuse.

Boise State 70, Idaho 35

This was a close game when I was watching earlier on my ESPN GamePlan.  Apparently Boise dumped 35 points on the Vandals in the 4th quarter.  Ouch!

Auburn 28, Alabama 18

Complete domination by Auburn, including 11 take-downs of 'Bama quarterback Brodie Croyle.  That's their 4th straight Iron Bowl win, and puts the Tigers in position (with an LSU loss to Arkansas) for a 5th SEC Western Division title in the last six years under Tommy Tuberville.  I know the man's a constant CFR target, but he's managed that program with skill and is either very shrewd or ridiculously lucky in some of his assistant choices lately---Gene Chizik, Al Borges and Bobby Petrino.

Penn State 31, Michigan State 22

An ugly win, but Paterno's boys were always in control of this game.

Oregon 56, Oregon State 14

A surprising outcome.  If I didn't know better I get the feeling the Ducks have played better since starting quarterback Kellen Clemens got injured.  The game was played under very heavy fog.  Very quietly, Oregon has assembled some of the best offesive skill talent in the nation, particularly in its receiving corps.

Clemson 13, South Carolina 9

Ah, the ups and downs of running a perennial loser.  Spurrier will have better days but this looks like a letdown game.

Georgia Tech 14, Miami 10

Miami's offensive woes caught up to them.  Georgia Tech deserves credit for a gutty performance and getting past the distraction of a court-mandated reinstatement of a formerly non grata player.

USC 50, Fresno State 42

Fresno followed the same script of many almost-but-couldn't USC foes such as California, Notre Dame and UCLA.  It was an amazing game played way too late into the night for those of us not in the Pacific time zone.  Oh, and some guy named Reggie Bush had some of the most amazing runs in a long time.  He finished with 296 rushing yards, second-most in USC history, and 513 all-purpose, good for second-most in NCAA history.  Heisman.



Week twelve weekend thoughts

Virginia Tech @ Virginia

How will the Hokies respond after a crushing defeat to Miami and a week off to either pout or get proactive?  Their pattern of late-season collapses in recent years appeared to finally be over after a fine finish last year.  But maybe that was an aberration, thanks to the poise of veteran quarterback Bryan Randall.  Although UVA's middling, Al Groh would love to quiet some locals and take care of this game.  However, the Hokies should win unless the train is officially off the tracks.

Oklahoma @ Texas Tech

The Sooners are rolling, the Red Raiders are reeling.  Oklahoma appears to have remedied their early season shakiness, although they are yet to play anywhere near the level of previous Oklahoma squads.  The Sooners have owned Texas Tech and will continue to do so, knocking the Red Raiders outside of the top 25.

Ohio State @ Michigan

Last year, Ohio State routed Michigan, embarrassing the favored Wolverines before their trip to the Rose Bowl.  This year, Ohio State is the favorite and Michigan is looking for some measure of revenge and nice ending to a tumultuous regular season.  However, I will defer to much of what regular commenter Solon says, and proclaim a Buckeye victory.

Duke @ North Carolina

Oh God, help us!  It's NCAA basketball season again.  I catch up on a lot of reading from January to March.  Anyway.

Syracuse @ Notre Dame

Wow the Orange have been terrible this year.  That happens sometimes with new coaches.  Othertimes, teams play their way into CFR's top 5, like Notre Dame.  We could have a snowy afternoon in South Bend for this one, which would be fun TV watching.  The Irish are an easy pick here.

Utah @ BYU

ESPN GameDay came here last year on Rivalry weekend.  Give that Urban Meyer guy some credit.

Alabama @ Auburn

Ahhhh the Iron Bowl.  Last year's game was dicey at times for the undefeated Tigers as they hung on against an inept Alabama offense.  Alabama's playing about the same this year, although Kenneth Darby and Brodie Croyle are actually healthy for this one.  Auburn's not as good, but somehow I think they'll come out with an even bigger win than last year.

Penn State @ Michigan State

The Nittany Lions would normally be a big favorite for CFR here, especially given the Spartans' El Foldo act.  However, funny things happen in East Lansing, which makes me nervous.  That said, I think the Spartans are just too down and should more or less get rolled here.

Oregon State @ Oregon

The Civil War, with a battlefield thousands of miles to the northwest.  Oregon's had a fine year but are upset candidates if the Leaf/Dixon combo at quarterback don't perform.  The home atmosphere and the shot at a 1-loss season should be enough to overcome a bad Beavers team.

Clemson @ South Carolina

Both teams are still celebrating wins over Florida and Florida State last weekend.  South Carolina should have a decided edge in coaching and confidence here.  The rowdy home crowd should put them over the top.

Fresno State @ USC

The Trojans have a lot to play for, returning for a tough final home stretch.  Reggie Bush could use a little Heisman help, and the Trojans could use a big win to ease some doubters.  Fresno State is a tough squad but the Trojans should win comfortably. 


Unpredictable teams, and risk/reward

Bruce Feldman's blog has a good entry this week about unpredictable teams.  Feldman provides a short list, but includes several CFR darlings such as Michigan State, Arizona State and Louisville.

I still admire these teams and feel bad about their rough seasons.  That said, Louisville is still playing pretty good football and remain very competitive.  It says a lot about the challenges facing college coaches that they can put together teams that for short bursts are as good as anyone else out there---USC and Texas aside---yet these teams often collapse in horrifying ways.

I think this play into the whole risk/reward concept, in that there are teams that put something together, surged ahead, and yet fell way back into the pack.  Michigan State and Arizona State come to mind.  There are also teams that really kept things close to the vest, tiptoed through the daisies, yet found some success, and also are headed back to the pack---albeit a little more gracefully.  Alabama comes to mind.

One reason I tend to speak more highly of certain teams is that they might just be headed for something.  They've taken some risks, and very often crash, but sometimes they don't.  But you can be certain that teams following more conservative approaches will never reach their potential.  They're more content to slow down their own gears and hopefully survive.  The approach works sometimes, but as a fan I'm never quite certain how far that type of team could have taken things.

That's why I admire USC and Texas.  They're willing to push themselves as far as possible.  They'll try things on fourth down.  They'll unload as much of their offensive and defensive fury on opponents as possible before common sense and fair play dictates they let up.  As such they get my full appreciation.  Either team could lose next week or the week after but if it were to happen they will have gone down having accomplished something, leaving nothing on the field.  Their coaches are both trying to do something different and not being fearful about it.  I wish there were more teams like that out there.  Michigan State and Arizona State tried, and came up short.  I'm sure they'll try again, and earn my respect along the way.



CFR week eleven top teams list

Week Eleven Top Teams List 11/16/2005:

  1. USC-Unlike Texas, their schedule didn't end after week two.  Two one loss teams remain on the schedule in Fresno State and UCLA.
  2. Texas-How you know this winning thing is a new phenomena in Austin: cheesy slogans like "are you conVINCEd?".
  3. Notre Dame-Not satisfied with playing catch with Jeff Samardzija, Brady Quinn now has Maurice Stovall in on the act.  Scary.  The idea of having Pete Carroll and Charlie Weis on the college landscape for a long time has to be frustrating for every big program coach.
  4. Miami-Nice romp over Wake Forest last weekend.  There are things they can't improve upon all that much (Charlie Jones isn't all that talented of a back), but they are finding ways to make Kyle Wright really dangerous.
  5. Virginia Tech-There's nothing wrong with being a pretty good football team.  We'll see how their week off has treated them.
  6. Penn State-Who knew?  I think they wish they could take a mulligan on that Michigan game.
  7. Ohio State-Surging of late.  Dismantled a pretty good Northwestern offense last weekend.  Finding ways to score with big plays instead of just marching down the field---they've changed their approach!  SweaterVest isn't so dogmatic after all.


  • Georgia-Something's wrong with their defense.  Could just as easily have won that game against Auburn.  Shockley's really transformed that offense, as the coaches have opened things up and are a little less risk-averse.
  • Oregon-Still not settled at quarterback, but both of them can play a little and have been given the freedom to make plays (and mistakes).  Nice night win in Siberia Pullman.
  • UCLA-Weren't in the mood to punt the ball against Arizona State.  Weren't in the mood to make many stops, either.  Cheerful recipients of a few SunDevil turnovers that provided the game's margin of victory.
  • Louisville-Up some weeks, down the next.  Brian Brohm had one of the better nights throwing the ball from a quarterback that I've seen this season.
  • Auburn-Watch, they'll lose badly to Alabama this week to make me look stupid for putting them here.  In all honesty, they've done a good job methodically putting themselves together this year and are finishing on a high note.  This looks to be a pretty good football team that could climb CFR's rankings.
  • Alabama-It's like they play rope-a-dope, except they forget about the whole punching back part. 

CFR week eleven Heisman rankings

Things are starting to get fairly tight between Reggie Bush and Vince Young.


  1. Reggie Bush, USC-There are some institutional reasons for believing so (Tailback-U, anyone?).  Bush had an average game against California, rushing for 82 yards.  California really had a nice gameplan to shadow him inside and out.  Still has two big games remaining against ranked foes Fresno State and UCLA to spruce up the Heisman resume.
  2. Vince Young, Texas-Another fine afternoon against roadkill Kansas.  Threw four touchdown passes and the Texas offense had 52 points at the half.  It's kind of annoying, however, when a quarterback can play "500" out there and not only complete his pass, but have it go for touchdown---twice!
  3. Matt Leinart, USC-Two rushing touchdowns sealed California's fate on an otherwise challenging afternoon where the Bears defense kept a lot of the Trojans' offensive weapons in check.
  4. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame-Smashed Navy, throwing another four touchdowns on 71% completions.  Fantastic season.

Week 12 weekend thoughts


West Virginia 38, Cincinnati 0

Some programs just know how to one thing and do it well.  West Virginia can run the ball.  They're a Minnesota-lite.

Fresno State 27, Boise State 7

The Bulldogs predictably trounced Boise and are now frothing for this weekend's opportunity against USC.  What's the over/under on the number of "worldbeater" references in the media this week?

Louisville 56, Rutgers 5

Brian Brohm just had one of those nights throwing the ball.  That guy could play for a handful of NFL teams right now.  Michael Bush is hurt and it may affect Louisville down the road.  For now, they're finding ways to compensate.

Pittsburgh 24, Connecticut 0

After their rough start, who would have predicted Pitt would pitch a shutout?

Clemson 35, Florida State 14

Every time Tommy's in trouble, Dad comes to town and folds.  Talent is talent, and don't I love it, but coaching matters and FSU could use a little of it.

Oklahoma 36, Texas A&M 30

The Big Twelve is a mess.  This is easily America's sorriest conference.

Minnesota 41, Michigan State 18

When people ask Notre Dame about their loss to Michigan State, I can't help but feel sorry for them and envision them having some "he's not the man I married" type reply about the Jekyl and Hyde act the Spartans have put on.

Michigan 41, Indiana 14

Nevermind, the Wolverines are ready for Ohio State.  Freshman back Kevin Grady had a nifty run through a pile of defenders for a touchdown.

Ohio State 48, Northwestern 7

Impressive dismantling of the Wildcats.  The Big Ten has had a nice resurrection job since the week three collapse.  Anyone notice Northwestern's scripted opening scoring drive?  You heard about those kinds of things here, first, many months ago.

South Carolina 30, Florida 22

I think Chris Leak's days as a starting quarterback at Florida are numbered.  Urban Meyers' last drive stall tactics signaled a complete lack of faith in the personnel operating the offense.  I remember watching USC sit on the ball in the early days of the Chow offense, as well.  They had to go out and recruit guys like Mike Williams and durable backs like Hershel Dennis and Michigan transfer Justin Fargas before things began to get better as personnel began to match the offense.  This game was 20-19 before an odd broken play where two Florida defensive backs whiffed on an easy tackle of Gamecock receiver Sidney Rice, catapulting him down the sidelines for a long gain inside the Florida five yard line.

Notre Dame 42, Navy 21

Navy tried sitting on the ball.  The Irish still scored lots of points.  Not the Irish's best day, but it's obvious they're up to something really good.

Oklahoma State 24, Texas Tech 17

See: Oklahoma/Texas A&M

Tennessee 20, Memphis 16

1998 seems so very long ago.  I wonder how good these Vols would be with Marcus Outzen at quarterback?  Memphis' great back DeAngelo Williams didn't even suit up for this game.

Nebraska 27, Kansas State 25

See: Oklahoma/Texas A&M; Oklahoma State/Texas Tech

Kentucky 48, Vanderbilt 43

Eat crow CFR!  Look, offense!  In the SEC!

Tulsa 45, East Carolina 13

I remember watching Tulsa opening week against Minnesota.  They were horrible.  I didn't think they'd win a game all year.  I don't know what happened, but this team is winning, and not just a little, but a lot.  They've now beaten North Texas 54-2, Memphis 37-31, Southern Mississippi 34-17, Rice 41-21, SMU 20-13, and East Carolina 45-13.  They almost beat UTEP (a 41-38 loss) and Houston (a 30-23 loss) and weren't far from Oklahoma in week two (a 31-15 loss that was 17-15 before a disastrous final two minutes).  Who knew?!

Miami 47, Wake Forest 17

It's a 'Cane thing.

Virginia 27, Georgia Tech 17

Regular commenter Stephen Kim explained this one well recently; a lightly regarded ranked team (#24 Georgia Tech) lost to a lightly regarded team (UVA) on the fringes of the top 25.  Happens a lot.

LSU 16, Alabama 13

Is there really a difference between these two teams?  I mean, they both play not to lose.  One's more talented.  One's less prone to mistakes.  Both aren't really going anywhere, picking off middling SEC squads having off years and prey for superiors in Auburn and Georgia.  Yes I know LSU beat Auburn.  The Tigers are taking their time but are starting to look like the SEC's best or second best squad.

Iowa 20, Wisconsin 10

Not the best way for Barry Alvarez to finish up his home coaching career at Camp Randall Stadium.

Texas 66, Kansas 14

The Longhorns are feeling pretty good about themselves right about now.  Vince Young's getting away with throwing popups, and not only are they being completed, they're going for touchdowns.  Something tells me Big Twelve secondaries may be the nation's worst.

USC 35, California 10

California turned in one of the better defensive performances I've witnessed all year.  They completely checked Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Dominique Byrd and masterfully contained Reggie Bush.  Matt Leinart had to keep taking what the defense gave him, and that meant an impressive effort working the intermediate passing game.  LenDale White ended up being the USC star.  Joe Ayoob melted down as bad as I've seen a quarterback this year.

Washington 38, Arizona 14

The good thing about Freshmen is they get better.  Unless they're Chris Rix.

TCU 51, UNLV 3

The Horned Frogs are on a serious roll.

Iowa State 30, Colorado 16

See all those other Big Twelve entries.

UCLA 45, Arizona State 35

Believe it or not this game slowed down after halftime.  UCLA was just a little better, benefiting from some ASU turnovers.

Auburn 31, Georgia 30

This game easily could have gone either way.  It was certainly a dramatic night, and I was entertained.  What was encouraging is that both coaches climbed out of their shells at times to take some (mostly calculated) risks and let their kids play a little.  Auburn's 4th down pass was a thing of beauty, and one of the reasons I've got some stock in Brandon Cox.  D.J. Shockley made some impressive throws too, and obviously Kenny Irons ran wild against a Georgia interior that is hemorrhaging.

Oregon 34, Washington State 31

This thing was all over the place.  Oregon cannot figure out its quarterback situation.  I kind of like Brady Leaf (believe it or not), but like any Leaf he mixes in some absolutely brilliant moments with some of the dumbest throws you've ever seen.  The uncertainty at that position is just killing Oregon's ability to really show off their potential.  Anyone catch Oregon basketball coach Ernie Kent's son, Jordan, catch that 68-yard touchdown?  The kid is raw but he can fly.  He's also a track star and Oregon's first 3-sport star in forever.  



Week eleven weekend thoughts

Rambling commentary delivered on-time this week.

Boise State @ Fresno State (Thursday)

This game decides the WAC champion.  The excitement is dampened because Boise State has not been the contender some (ahem, CFR) expected it would be.  Both teams have more or less crushed conference peers this season, though.  Fresno's put together a nice season and is a field goal's loss at Oregon away from being undefeated.  The easy choice is Fresno here as Boise's not home and not particularly good.

Northwestern @ Ohio State

The Buckeyes are on a major roll (since Penn State loss beat Michigan State 35-24, Indiana 41-10, Minnesota 45-31 and Illinois 40-2).  It looks like they've found a way to hide Troy Smith back there and just let him make really safe, touchdown type throws on play action.  It's working, because his passer rating is an impressive 165.1 right now.  I think the Wildcats have peaked, falling fairly easily to Michigan and almost losing to Iowa last week.  This game could resemble the NW/Penn State game where Northwestern dinks and dunks their way to a few first half scores then goes quiet for the rest of the game.  Ohio State shouldn't have a problem scoring here, as the run and pass games have found some juice against similarly soft defenses.  The Buckeyes are my choice.

Florida State @ Clemson

Bowden Bowl XXXXVIII yada yada yada.  We got it already.  Who cares?  Next.

Indiana @ Michigan

Indiana's been crushed all season by Big Ten foes.  But Michigan may be a touch distracted here in preparation for the big Ohio State tilt.  I doubt an upset has much of a shot of happening here, but Indiana's due for at least a halfway decent performance.  Think something like 27-17 Michigan.

Texas A&M @ Oklahoma

Sloppy.  I miss late afternoon score breaks interrupting whatever game to bring me Adrian Peterson highlight runs.  Wherefore art thou, Adrian?  I'm going with the Sooners.  The complete derailment of the Aggies' season is something the pundits need to be examining.

Florida @ South Carolina

Yes we all know the storyline, and it's nonsense.  Save it for when Spurrier has a contending squad.  If nothing else we at least have the hope of a few offensive fireworks from the SEC with this game, but hope is hope and I'm skeptical about the reality.

Navy @ Notre Dame


Baylor @ Missouri

Think the Bears will score some points on Saturday?  A third straight shutout would be horrific.

Memphis @ Tennessee

The Vols finally find a pond they can swim in.

USC @ California

I know Cal's problems, but until I see it happen, this thing will be a close game.  This one is potentially a great watch if the coaches are on.  Remember USC has not been at its best in front of hostile crowds this year (Oregon, Arizona State, Notre Dame) and Cal's fans are among the more rowdy you'll find if there's something to cheer for.  USC is the choice here, but it's likely another close game.

Kansas @ Texas


LSU @ Alabama

Ew.  LSU has the tools to win this one, but I think Alabama prevails again.  LSU is just such a mess sometimes they'll probably make all their own mistakes and hand this one to the tide the same way Mississippi State did last week.

Arizona State @ UCLA

If only to see whether UCLA rebounds from the Arizona loss or not.  I'll go with regular commenter Stephen and go with the Sun Devils here.

Auburn @ Georgia

Auburn's starting to find their way and Georgia's middling after a loss, a quarterback injury and some time off.  This is the recipe for a close game if you ask me.  Georgia is the better football team, but you can throw that all out the window when teams decide its time for one of those boxing "clutch maneuver" matches.  I'm going with Georgia but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised by a different outcome.

Oregon @ Washington State

I'm sorry, but its hard to have faith in Oregon's backup quarterbacks.  They're still in the first year of that new offense and now working with second and third string signal callers.  Not good when you're in a late season Pac-10 road swing.  Can Oregon score enough to keep the Cougars at bay?  I have my doubts.  CFR says Washington State wins this one.  Pullman's a bad place to be in November.



The mechanics of winning a Heisman

Say what you want about either lead candidate, this certainly doesn't help Vince Young: ABC coverage map

The two teams' games are being played at the same time, and Young's mostly cornered in a region he'll clean up anyway.  He does touch some of the border south and midwest voting regions, but is mostly locked into the southwest.

Meanwhile, Bush ranges all through the western region, through much of the midwest, and into almost the entirety of the northeast.  Huge.

Plus, the energy around USC's final schedule is a little more significant, they have rivalry games against California, with all the storyline that goes with that, a game against self proclaimed world beaters Fresno State after that, then on championship weekend, a game against Rival UCLA that isn't as big as it was but remains a prominent CFB rivalry that people throughout the country will want to watch.  Meanwhile, Young has the equivalent of games against the JV squad, with Kansas, Texas A&M and the Big Twelve Championship against a Colorado team they've already crushed.

I know HP says that at this time Heisman voters are not paying attention, but however true that is, Reggie Bush is certain to gain some advantage thanks to the scheduling Gods.  I think a similar phenomena worked against Adrian Peterson last year, as he played a few meaningless final games last year against Baylor and Colorado while Matt Leinart finished up against Notre Dame and UCLA.

Keep in mind much of the final outcome boils down to how candidates perform with voters outside their own regions. 


Carroll/Tedford IV

Alabama and Miami fans will be glued to the TV watching USC/Cal this weekend.  There's history in the game, one that has been remarkably close since coaches Carroll and Tedford locked up a few years back.

Via Bruce Feldman, here's a good read out of the LA Times about the recent series history.  Every single game between these two programs has been amazing the last four years.  Breathtaking at times, really.  Cal's down this year but Jeff Tedford certainly knows how to make USC work every last down for their wins.


CFR week ten top teams list

Week Ten Top Teams List (11/07/2005):

  1. USC-Remember when they kept falling behind early in games?  The reverse is happening now.  Every season under coach Carroll, USC has been able to improve upon themselves as the season rolled along.  Rough final schedule stretch will get them ready for a big bowl game.
  2. Texas-On Monday morning mailed thank you cards to Miami.  "The Narrative" looks prophetic right about now.  Right now their schedule looks like Ohio State and the 11 nobodies.  They're still really good, schedule be damned.
  3. Notre Dame-The Irish remind me of the 2002 USC team; two early losses, then realized they're great, and finished exceedingly strong.
  4. Georgia-The quarterback's back.  Let's see how they weather their remaining schedule.
  5. Miami-A very shaky fifth here.  Offense needs help, but took advantage of most of their opportunities and forced Marcus Vick into a Zabransky-like performance.
  6. Virginia Tech-Not as bad as they played.  Will probably fall after confidence was shaken and season ruined.  That's how most CFB teams respond to similar predicaments, at least.
  7. Penn State-Defense looks like it's for real, at least against opponents who know how to run.  Better than expected on offense, find ways to score.


  • California-Tough loss in overtime on the road in bad weather at a crazy venue.  Joe Ayoob's on-the-job training hasn't been so smooth.


  • Alabama-They keep winning, but they're leaving too much to chance.
  • Ohio State-Really catching stride.  Ted Ginn has been unleashed.
  • Louisville-Quietly winning.
  • UCLA-Probably on their way off the list after getting shelled.  Waiting to see how they respond.  Still have a fine offense.
  • Oregon-Beat a pretty good team with their backup quarterback.  Only loss is to USC. 

CFR week ten Heisman rankings

Well, the top three candidates are all playing really well, ripping through the middle of their schedules.  All they have to do is survive and our final field is set.

One thing we'll have to start pondering is whether or not the old guard Heisman voters will award a Texas quarterback the Heisman trophy.  Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart don't face the same challenge as Vince Young with the voters, because both of their positions are established at their schools.  Texas has always been a Heisman school for backs, much as USC was before Carson Palmer gave way to Matt Leinart.  James Street, the quarterback during the Horns' 1969 title season, didn't even finish in the top 10 of Heisman voting that year.  Times change, but Heisman voters don't necessarily react as swiftly.

One thing in Young's favor is the award's favoring of quarterbacks recently.  Signal-callers have accounted for the last five Heisman trophies, with Texas' Ricky Williams the second to most recent back to win the award.

That said, I hunch there might be some magic to awarding a fifth running back Heisman to USC, linking the "tailback-u" tradition from the 60's and 70's to the modern powerhouse program. 


  1. Reggie Bush, USC-Getting limited touches as USC blows through opponents early the last few weeks.  Had a stunning 42-yard touchdown run and went 12/113/9.4/1 and is averaging 8.3 YPC on the year at over 1,000 yards.  Not bad for sharing the ball with LenDale White and getting limited touches of late.
  2. Vince Young, Texas-Played decoy early as teammates got scores while opponents watched Young.  Threw for almost 300 yards, piloted a fine 62-0 victory over Baylor.
  3. Matt Leinart, USC-Don't look now, but Leinart's on fire.  Went 22/28 (.786) for 259 yards and 4 touchdowns in just over a half of work.
  4. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame-Steady performance boosted by great receiver efforts in win over Tennessee.  Finished 20/33 for 295 (.606) and 3 touchdowns.

Parting Gifts

  • Maurice Drew, UCLA
  • Marcus Vick, Virginia Tech
  • Laurence Maroney, Minnesota
  • DeAngelo Williams, Memphis
  • Drew Olson, UCLA
  • Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin
  • Michael Robinson, Penn State
  • D.J. Shockley, Georgia 

Week ten review

Louisville 42, Pittsburgh 20

Louisville's offense just rolls along, this time netting four field goals to cover for some Pitt defensive stops on lengthy drives.

South Florida 45, Rutgers 31

The Bulls love playing the spoiler, don't they?

North Carolina 16, Boston College 14

The 'Heels are a resilient group, holding at 4-4 through a pretty murderous schedule so far.  As usual, Boston College is starting to fold late.

Northwestern 28, Iowa 27

Thanks to luck and some late-game dramatics, Northwestern came back for the win.  This is the first time I've seen them down so big early and rebound from the deficit.  Perhaps they're a little more resilient than even I give them credit for.

Purdue 28, Michigan State 21

El Foldo is complete for the Spartans.  I don't know whether to praise Purdue for finally getting a Big Ten win, or to scold them for playing even worse than I thought they'd play this year.

South Carolina 14, Arkansas 10

It wasn't pretty, but the 'Cocks are bowl eligible now.  Arkansas has basically settled on a frosh quarterback and sneaky Darren McFadden for their backfield.  If Houston Nutt's fired, his replacement will be pretty happy with the offensive talent left behind.

Texas 62, Baylor 0

Props for the shutout.  It's just too easy right now for the 'Horns.

Auburn 49, Kentucky 27

A bit of an "excuse-me" performance for the Auburn defense, but their offense is improving as the running back situation has settled.

Kansas 40, Nebraska 15

Well, that drought's over.  Yes, Virginia, Nebraska is that bad.

Georgia Tech 30, Wake Forest 17

Don't look now, but Tech's 6-2.

Notre Dame 41, Tennessee 21

Irish roared out early, let the Vols back in, then swiftly slammed the door again.  Cruel.

North Carolina State 20, Florida State 15

FSU=paper tigers.  Nice save job by NC State coach Chuck Amato.

Alabama 17, Mississippi State 0

Props for the shutout, but what the hell?

Penn State 35, Wisconsin 14

The Nittany Lions sure look like the Big Ten's best.  A very surprising performance this year.  The offense is junk, but they find ways to score and that's more than can be said for Alabama.

Oregon 27, California 20 (OT)

If you're a road favorite, never play for OT.  It's bad.  Surprising effort from Oregon.  They need serious help at quarterback, but their only loss right now is to USC.

Ohio State 40, Illinois 2


Arizona 52, UCLA 14

Never saw this coming.  Give me some points for letting you in on Willie Tuitama a few weeks before the national press though!  Anyway, I should have known better, with all the classic collapse jobs UCLA's performed throughout their history.

Texas Tech 56, Texas A&M 17

Yeah...Texas is going to roll through the remaining schedule.

Florida 49, Vanderbilt 42 (2 OT)

The offense comes alive!  The defense almost completely collapses late!  Fits and starts for the first-year coach.

Miami 27, Virginia Tech 7

Didn't see this one coming, either.  Tech has a resilient offense but Vick went into Zabransky mode and never gave his teammates a shot against a very shaky Miami offensive unit.  Where has that kind of effort been from Miami the last 2-3 years?  I don't think we'll see it again for another 2-3.

LSU 24, Appalachian State 0

Ladies and gentlemen, the nation's #6 team, according to the polls.

Fresno State 45, San Jose State 7

Gearing up for the USC game in two weeks.

USC 51, Stanford 21

As impressive as Texas was, this thing was 44-7 at half.  Stanford starters beat the USC second and third string 14-7 in the second half.  Anyone catch that Reggie Bush touchdown run?  Dude is so fast.  Or that Dwayne Jarrett touchdown?  He deserves the Biletnikoff award (65 rec, 964 yards, 14.8 avg, 14 TD with three regular season games to go).