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NCAA Football Round-Up Week 8
by Brian Miller (NCAA Football)
Posted on October 29, 2009, 8:15 PM

Same group of guys; another week of college football to evaluate; you already know the deal. Just a note that the rankings below were compiled before this weekdayís games.

Rank Team (First Place Votes)

1. Alabama (3)
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. Cincinnati
5. TCU
6. Boise State
7. Iowa
8. USC
9. Oregon
10. Georgia Tech
11. LSU
12. Virginia Tech
13. Penn State
14. Houston
15. Miami
16. Pitt
17. Oklahoma State
18. Ohio State
19. Utah
20. Arizona
21. West Virginia
22. South Carolina
23. Central Michigan
24. Wisconsin
25. BYU

Brian: I think Oregon is going to beat USC this weekend, yes I do. Masoli and James are going to have good enough games to lead the Ducks to victory as the Oregon defense and the Autzen crowd rattle Barkley and the USC offense into a rather unproductive day. Agree with me, disagree with me, give me your thoughts.

Andrew: I disagree, I rather strongly disagree. This I don't think is so much true with Rique as it is with the general public, but I think the media's constant talk about USC has led to such backlash by the average viewer that USC has begun to get underappreciated- they haven't gone to three straight title games including two with the same record as 1 or both teams getting in, have done well with one of the consistently stronger non-conference slates, and yet many people talk about them like they're in the same boat as Notre Dame in terms of over-fluffing. Well I think the team right now getting fluffed is these Oregon Ducks. There is no doubt they've reeled off some impressive margins of victory of late, but how is pummeling the two Washington schools and UCLA suddenly grounds for this sexy upset pick? I have no doubt Barkley may get rattled early but the Trojans have a strong OL and with Ronald Johnson back a very good 1-2 punch at receiver- the best receiver combo the Ducks have faced all year. Why that to me is the difference is because the Ducks two starting corners (one of them all-conference performer Walter Thurmond) have had season-ending injuries but haven't faced a team with the capability of putting pressure on the inexperienced players back there like Anthony Gildon or Cliff Harris. For as good as LiMichael James has done he isn't Jacquizz Rodgers and until reeling off the upset of Utah many Duck fans wanted Masoli benched for not being able to throw 15 yards downfield. Well he's done better but he still hasn't shown (and hasn't needed to show) that he can consistently complete a deep threat. Well this is the week he needs to, Jamere Holland, Ed Dickson, and DJ Davis are no guys that will get separation on their own. I have no doubt USC will have some trouble, especially early with that great Autzen crowd, but much like against Ohio State I think their running game and Joe McKnight's receiving out of the backfield will be more than enough for the Trojans to leave with the W.

T.Cow: Itís pretty impressive how USC can just reload on its backfield. Stafon Johnson, Marc Tyler, CJ Gable are all out of the season or injured for whatever reason. Joe McKnight has been the only consistent performer, and just when you thought it was going to rest solely on him, Allen Bradford made his presence known last week. Some are saying that this may be the new Bush/White combo. Iím not sold on that, but Bradford looked great against Oregon St. With that said though, the Beavers of course are no Ducks. The last time a young USC QB came into Autzen stadium, Mark Sanchez was rattled with 2 INTs. Oregonís defense is surprisingly good despite losing so many guys to the draft.

Iím still picking USC though. Masoli is wildly inconsistent. You can never tell whether youíre getting the one against Cal or Boise St. Plus, thereís no telling how his knee will perform against that stout USC defense. Barkley has already had the big game experience earlier this year even though heís still young. Heís not an elite QB by any stretch, but he doesnít have to be with all the weapons the Trojans have for him. All he has to do is not lose the game. Then thereís the Pete Carroll big game thing that Iíve already mentioned twice this season. Iím not picking against him. USC 28-24.

Andrew: Every year a couple of freshman go above and beyond expectations and get into the national spotlight, and perhaps thats no truer than at the RB position. This year Oregon's LaMichael James has reeled off 4 100-yard performances in five games since seizing the starting spot from the departed LaGarrette Blount, Pitt's Dion Lewis became the nation's first 1,000-yard rusher last weekend, and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams stepped in Darren Evan's void and may be the frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year. Which of the three do you have as the best of the bunch?

T.Cow: The best is Ryan Williams, but Iíll leave it to Brian to talk about him. I think the most impressive job is easily James. This was supposed to be Blountís breakout Heisman-like season now that Jeremiah Johnson graduated. James was nothing more than a supporting actor at the beginning of the season. Now James is in the same conversation as Best and Quizz for top Pac 10 RBs. At least Williams and Lewis were penciled in as starter from the beginning. I donít know of any player in any class let alone only freshmen who has done more exceptional replacement job.

Brian: Yeah, the answer has to be Ryan Williams and the sad thing is that he canít be called a revelation for the Hokies or any such pejorative because heís stepping up to replace Darren Evans who himself was a top freshman back just a year ago. Williams doesnít have the top end physical attributes of a top running back, but he does all the things involved in the rushing game well. Williams doesnít have elite speed and he doesnít carry the bruising bulk of top recent collegiate backs like Adrian Peterson and Beanie Wells. Williams does however have the two most important attributes in a running back, he has phenomenal vision and always keeps his legs churning. The Georgia Tech game was a prime example of this, the Virginia Tech line was getting beat by the GT line and the spaces werenít opening up but Williams was patient and kept chipping away turning losses into neutral plays and turning neutral plays into small gains until eventually things did open up and in the third quarter he tore off a sixty yard touchdown run to finish another game with more than one hundred yards. Thatís the kind of result you want when your halfback is coming off an illness and your line isnít playing that well. Virginia Tech is going to have the best sort of problem on their hands next year with Evans, Williams, and David Wilson all fighting for time in the backfield.

T.Cow: The following question stems from me being tired of watching Baylor games. (Don't ask me why I watch Baylor games.) Let's face it. There are only 2 collegiate sports who can consistently generate revenue: football and men's basketball. Generally a school is good at at least one of the sport and can bring in money for its conference. However, there are those schools who suck at both sports and are essentially leeching off of the success of others in that conference. So within geographical reason, what teams would you add to or remove from the 6 major conferences to create a more competitive playing field in both sports? Disregard all technical problems with booting a team from (or adding to) a conference, and just think of this as a fantasy conference aligning. Would you also require all conferences to have a championship game?

Brian: I love it, I do things like this all the time and hereís my latest incarnation. First, Notre Dame is not special and some non-AQ teams in football need to be in AQ conferences and some schools just arenít up to snuff. Iíve dropped Baylor, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt and after heavy deliberation also involving Mississippi State and Virginia, Iowa State missed the cut in remaining in a major conference. Conversely, TCU, BYU, Utah, Boise State, and Notre Dame are moved over to the power conferences.

However, itís not so easy as to simply make every conference twelve teams deep and add a conference championship game. The Big East has eight basketball teams strapped to the conference so you really need to keep that size in football as well and the Big 10 fanbase generally hates the idea of a championship game so Iím not going to burden them with one.

First thing I do is completely empty the Big East of all teams and then rebuild it is as a basketball only conference and get rid of its football AQ status. The new Big East consists of Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, NC State, Syracuse, UConn, UNC, and UVA. The SEC has now lost two of its teams in Vanderbilt and Kentucky that were deadweight in football. To replace them we move Florida State and Georgia Tech over from the ACC and into the SEC East. So, this leaves us conveniently enough with six former Big East schools that are reasonably competent in football and six ACC schools that are the same way. The ACC North will consist of Boston College, Cincinnati, Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, and West Virginia and the ACC South will consist of Clemson, Maryland, Miami, South Florida, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. I know that conference will probably get the most grief, but itís got five teams in the BCS Top 25 this week. The Big 10 lost their deadweight in Indiana and Northwestern dropping them to nine teams, adding Notre Dame sends them back to ten and they can have a true round robin then as well.

That leaves us with the old Big 12 and Pac 10 conferences and a handful of former non-AQ teams. So letís blow-up both conferences and mix and match the parts. Weíve got four California teams, two Arizona teams, four Texas teams (with TCU replacing Baylor), and two Oklahoma teams which looks like a conference to me. Resurrect the old Southwest Conference name and split it East/West along obvious lines and youíve got one hell of a conference. Conversely, you take a pair of Washington schools, a pair of Oregon schools, and a pair of Utah schools to form the new West side of the new Great America Conference of some such nonsense and take Boise, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Nebraska for the East side. Again, it might not look like much, but ten of the twelve teams in this conference have appeared in a BCS bowl game in the last ten years which is by far the best ratio of any of the conferences. Boom, five credible conferences and no one should be able to complain about how terribly weak any of the other conferencesí weakness.

Andrew: This seems so easy at times and then you over think it and it's not so much.

Take that last question- The conference championship game is a great idea in terms of revenue, but leaves teams at the mercy of the draw for scheduling. So while I'd love to say outright "Put Utah and BYU in the Pac-10", the fact is the current Pac 10 system- where each team plays 3 (rather than 4) non-conference games and then has every conference opponent on the schedule- if you're talking about determining a fair champion is as good a system as there is. I used to love the 9 team ACC because it meant in football and basketball it was round robin, there was no ambiguity in who was champ. Now...I mean look at Ole Miss this year. They were picked 10th in the nation to start- NOBODY thought they were a top 10 team, but that schedule had no Florida, had no Georgia, home games against every tough divisional opponent, whereas an LSU had no break whatsoever. Then you look at the current ACC, where I don't think it's hard to question that if not the top 3, in the very least the two best teams in the conference are in the same division. A team could finish the season 7-5 in the Atlantic and get the same shot for a BCS bowl, with a BCS payout, that a Virginia Tech at 10-2 may not get. I think by and large unless there's a 5 way tie of 4-4 teams, eliminating the conference championship minimizes that controversy- or the controversies of 2003 with Oklahoma in the BCS Title game in spite of losing the conference championship, or the controversies of Nebraska getting into the national title game without winning the Big XII North in 2001. So if anything I'd be more for de-championizing the conferences, even if it means less or no out of conference games- because let's face it, more and more teams are alarmingly scheduling the softest non-conference opponents to where those games not only are meaningless but have zero interest on a national level. If you want to avoid a playoff, then every game needs to have more at stake and more earned then the Arkansas State's and UT-Chattanooga's are adding.

As for moving teams, I'm tweaking what I'd said to you before- I still think I'd trade Boise State for Washington State in the Pac-10, but I'd probably move Houston for Baylor over TCU in the Big XII. Wazzu had a reasonably decent run from Bledsoe to Leak to Gesser, but the program prior and since has seen nothing but utter shambles and looks to be getting worse, not better. Basketball had a few strong years with Kelvin Sampson and recently with Tony Bennett, but in the long run they've been nothing. Boise State has had multiple postseason appearances this decade, and in football they've already beaten some of the Pac-10's best on a repeated level- not to mention they've done as good a job as any non-BCS school in picking up those passed on by USC in the Los Angeles area and a major move would give them even better ammo. Heck, right now kids are already choosing Boise State over Wazzu. I really think of all moves that would be the most sure thing to me.

The Houston pick took a lot of deliberation, but it came down to two things:

1) If the shift is based on both sports I honestly can't remember the last strong TCU basketball team that didn't feature Kurt Thomas, and

2) I've said at the season's outset and I maintain now that I think the Mountain West is strong enough and has done enough in non-conference and postseason play to warrant a BCS autobid. TCU could leave but you could make an equally strong case at least for Utah if not both Utah and BYU. Hell, the conference was created in part because they were all teams that were too good for the WAC, back when Wyoming was just losing Joe Tiller and New Mexico was a constant bowl team under Dennis Franchione and of course Colorado State and Air Force were annually as good as any of these teams with Sonny Lubick and Fisher DeBerry respectively. So the potential to remain successful or finally move forward is there with these schools.
The same, in terms of football or basketball tradition or national respect, can in no way be said about C-USA- especially since the mass defections of 5 or so years ago. Houston has had in what is still just the past 20 years a Heisman Trophy winner, two first-round draft picks at Quarterback, another QB picked on the first day, another QB who right now looks like he may sneak an invite to New York city (and if all things were equal could and right now should be the Heisman frontrunner, but that's for another time and place), and most recently have gone to five bowl games in six years. They have one of the hottest young coaches that would be much more likely to stick around, whereas right now the money disparity has Coach Sumlin as the rumored #1 guy on every Big Ten and Big XII' team's board this offseason. Basketball-wise they're in the most talent-rich city in Texas and have a strong enough history that they can absolutely rebound, and even still have had more recent success in the recent term than TCU. But stuck in the C-USA they don't appear to have the future opportunities that a TCU or Utah has to break through, so I think they're the ones in most need of getting that ticket to the Big XII. Baylor...should just thank former Governor Richards that they even (in what was inexplicable even back then) got to have the last 13-14 years or so of shared conference revenue while contributing so very, very little.

I hope you enjoyed the column. If you have any questions, concerns, or issues feel free to contact us via the Oratory Forums or e-mail Brian at bdmiller @ vt.edu, T. Cow at tangcow @ gmail.com, and Andrew at a.holik @ umiami.edu.

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