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NCAA Football Round-Up Week 11
by Brian Miller (NCAA Football)
Posted on November 19, 2009, 7:34 AM

Same group of guys; we might have missed last week, but weíre back for 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 (2)
2. Florida
3. Texas (1)
4. TCU
5. Cincinnati
6. Boise State
7. Georgia Tech
8. Oregon
9. Ohio State
10. LSU
11. Pitt
12. Iowa
13. Oregon St
14. Oklahoma State
15. Stanford
16. Virginia Tech
17. Wisconsin
18. Clemson
19. Miami
20. North Carolina
21. USC
22. Penn State
23. BYU
24. Arizona
25. Utah

Brian: It's Michigan week. As of Tuesday is has been 2187 days since Michigan last beat Ohio State and I could certainly go for another 2187 days of the same. Sure, no other rivalry compares (no one cares about the state of Alabama anyways), but who gets the closest? A few years ago we saw UCLA block USC from the national championship game and Pitt doing the same to West Virginia by upsetting their rivals, does one of the rivalry games left for the top teams present a similar roadblock?

Andrew: This might be my favorite time of the year. Cool fall breezes, leaves are a fallin', and rivalry weekends are upon us- there ain't nothing like it. But lemme tell ya, if it goes another 2187 days you'll find me atop the Big House swinging a rifle screaming for Bill Martin's head. God, just thinking about this weekend- I've been to a lot of big games and a lot of rivalries or "rivalries" across the college football landscape, but that aura for the Ohio State weekend is just like nothing else.

I hate thinking about what else compares cause there's so much to go off of. Is it longevity, to where a Michigan-Minnesota, or a Georgia-Auburn or Georgia-Georgia Tech have length few have? Is it having only one true rival to get up for, something a Backyard Brawl or Holy War can lay claim to? Is it how great the teams have been in a small block of football history, which is evidently all Miami-Florida State or Florida-Florida State need for their fans to have proclaimed an epic rivalry. More reasonably, is it how visible the teams have been over a far more extended period of time, like USC-Notre Dame? Is it the level of hate vs. respect the programs have for one another, or is it how back and forth the rivalry has been? I dunno, there's a Helluva lot of criteria and everyone keys something else.

I like the Red River Shootout call by T here, but at the same time I think just 15 years ago the Horns were still having as much emphasis with RC Slocum and the Aggies and up through the Switzer-Osborne years I'd argue that Nebraska-Oklahoma was far and away the better rivalry game than the RRS. I think its great the way Bob Stoops arrival and Mack Brown's recent wave of success against the Sooners has really pushed it so far up and away. I also just as easily could go Alabama-Auburn, seeing as the two programs didn't play for 30 years due to arguments over which side would get to supply the officials and since then its been a tremendous back and forth affair with SEC West implications often at stake and a very hostile state divided for bragging rights every year.

But maybe it's the growing up an hour away from Annapolis, maybe its the respect for the armed forces, but I'm giving that number two nod to Army-Navy. Because I don't care where you live, I don't care if both teams are 1-10, you strip away conference title implications or pros or anything and still that game always means more than anything else and is a must-watch game. Hell, until the invention of the conference championship game it had its own weekend, and even if Verne Lundquist is slowly bleeding my ears to death I and millions around the nation are gonna tune into that game conference biases aside. Those kids will give it their all, strong military men who go 0-4 or lose in a nail-biter will break into tears on the field, and then within the next year those guys will put that game aside and put their lives on the line watching the same player's backs they just tried to kill. It's a game where you don't need an allegiance to care about it, its a game where both teams have had winning streaks but the games are often nailbiters regardless of record, its a game where both schools have a surprising legacy with the Blanchard's and Davis' and Staubach's. So while clearly you have to put the Big Game #1, I think Army-Navy definitely is a viable #2.

As for trap games this year...hrm. Can't be the Backyard Brawl, because even if the Mountaineers beat Pitt the Panthers can still win the Big East if they take Cincy. Florida and Alabama have clinched the SEC Championship game spots and mathematically it still looks like a 1-loss SEC team would get in so if they lose to Florida State or Auburn it won't necessarily kill them. Has TCU played the Iron Skillet yet? Honest question- even so, I like June Jones but I wouldn't pick them there. Clearly if Georgia Tech or Clemson lose to the Mutts or Gamecocks it could be problematic regaining momentum for the next week's game, but again that wouldn't derail their BCS shots (although potentially a Tech at-large one.) I guess the only games left with real serious implications are going to be the Longhorns in College Station against an Aggie team that I just can't figure out, and then with Arizona's loss to Cal a Civil War game that looks like the Rose Bowl decider if Oregon can beat Arizona this weekend. And Texas A&M has been on such a severe downswing recently that I can't see them rallying the troops right now for that one if Mack Brown and company know they'll be the last portal to a championship ticket.

It's actually kind of odd that if Oregon loses this weekend, their job in the Civil War will to be to spoil the Beavers trip to Pasadena, and yet if they win then the roles will be reversed. So yes, somebody could play spoiler, but only if Oregon loses to Arizona this weekend- cause I never want to say no chance, but after last years drubbing by the Ducks at home now Oregon State has to head to Autzen Stadium (aka the house- and program- Phil Knight bought into success) and while the game should be closer I'm picking a Duck win there. So as for upsets with major BCS implications I guess it's one of those years with an if, nos with a but.

T.Cow: Best rivalry is such a subjective and regional thing that itís almost not worth it to debate. My bias obviously would say that the Red River Shootout (Thatís the correct name dammit!), but I can see the arguments for OSU/Mich and the Iron Bowl. If I was to rank it, itíd be OU/Tex, Bama/Auburn, and OSU/Mich, but honestly, those three are pretty much interchangeable in the top 3.

The only rivalry game which I can see may present any sort of national championship implication would be the Iron Bowl. Auburn has been reeling lately after a hot start, but if they can get back to form early in the season, then I think they could pull the upset at home. Bamaís offense has shown holes this season. Outside of ridiculous freak injuries, Texas isnít losing to TAMU, and Floridaís not losing to FSU. (I donít consider the River City Rivalry a real rivalry since the teams have only played each other 8 times.)

The one with the biggest BCS implication would be the Civil War. If Oregon beats Arizona, then that match-up essentially becomes a play-in game for the Rose Bowl. Itíll be tough for the Beavers to win in Eugene, but Iím not counting out the Rodgers brothers, and like I said last week, the top 9 Pac 10 teams are so close that I wonít be shocked if any of them win.

Andrew: How would you handle the ranking of USC, currently #22 in the AP, #21 in the Coaches, and #18 in the BCS. There's no doubt that on paper and physically testing they have great talent, and looking at their whole schedule they do have big wins at Cal and Ohio State. But in the last three weeks they escaped a barnburner with Arizona State and the other two games- one at home- lost by a combined 61 points to Oregon and Stanford. I guess if I'm trying to word this less stupidly, when weighing the case for the Trojans (or really any team in a similar case) to be ranked or not, how much emphasis can you put on their past few weeks vs. the entire season's body of work or flashes of talent to potentially be in any game?

T.Cow: Different people have different criteria when it comes to rankings, and I canít really say one is better than the other. Personally, fair or not I tend to look at recent games/trends more than overall body of work until the final poll. In USCís case, the Ohio St and Cal wins have less significance than the Oregon and Stanford losses because of when it happened. A ranking in the 20-25 range sounds about right to me.

However, when it comes down to the final poll before the bowls, Iíll give body of work more of a notice. The problem in the rankings isnít necessarily USC, but itís more the Pac 10. There are five teams with 3 losses who can beat each other on any given day. Itís hard to use the transitive property so reliance on recent performances weighs a bit more heavily.

Brian: I think youíve got to still look at the entire season as a whole for the purpose of rankings teams. Now when making predictions about games and future success you should probably focus on what a team has done lately, but rankings should incorporate everything a team has done that season and earlier in the season USC secured wins over three teams that are now in the top 25 and two of those three were road wins. Even those two recent losses, while not good losses, were to teams that now are top 25 ranked as well. If USC wins out then weíre talking about a 9-3 team who have more top 25 wins then anyone ranked outside the top 10, thatís easily a team that should be ranked somewhere in the teens. Another loss would drop them to 8-4 at the end of the year and if thatís the case then theyíre a marginal top 25 team. As much as I donít like USC, if you look at the schedule and you look at the results you find a team that should be ranked higher than twenty-first or twenty-second.

T.Cow: While the publicity last year was QB heavy, it seems like this year has switched to the RBs. Among the AQ schools, name your top 10 runningbacks. If you could only pick one RB to start a team, who would it be?

Brian: Toby Gerhart, Stanford; Mark Ingram, Alabama; Dion Lewis, Pitt; Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech; LaMichael James, Oregon; Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon State; John Clay, Wisconsin; Jonathen Dwyer, Georgia Tech; Jahvid Best, Cal; and letís round out the bunch with CJ Spiller, Clemson. Which one I chose depends to a large degree on the offense Iím running, but letís say Iím running my preferred combination of normal power running and option football. I donít think Lewis, James, or Rodgers are big enough to run the power plays I like and I donít think Clay is versatile enough to get the outside with any regularity or as a receiving threat. Best is coming off an injury so letís knock him off the list for now which leaves me with five. At this point the differences are miniscule as Iíd take any of them but Iíll toss the other two bigger backs in Gerhart and Dwyer for being primarily inside runners and not being big receiving threats either. If my team needs a punt and/or kick returner as well Iíd probably take Spiller because heís a huge threat filling both of those spots, but if we donít then it comes down to Williams and Ingram and I think I give Ingram the slightest of edges for being a bit bigger and his success running the wildcat.

Andrew: Once you said AQ schools this became a lot easier than I thought it would end up being, which also undoubtedly means I'm going to regret this list once this gets posted. I narrowed it to a quick 15 and from that the first 8 all day (but listed in no order here) are Toby Gerhart, Mark Ingram, Ryan Williams, Noel Devine, Jonathan Dwyer, Jahvid Best, Jacquizz Rodgers, and CJ Spiller. Those guys all are the offense for their teams- even if you do manage to slow them or shut them down you've expended so much energy scheming to stop them that the rest of the team is going to have a field day. After that it gets a little muddled for me but I'd have to go Anthony Dixon and John Clay for the last two spots- I just love those big runningbacks and smashmouth players and these two are as good as anyone absorbing those blows over and over again.

If I have to have one it'd come from one of Gerhart, Ingram, and Dwyer. Those guys have shown the ability to be adequate pass receivers if needed but they also are as good as anyone in the nation at wearing down a defense and putting their body out their like a pinball machine. If I take one its Dwyer. Why? Cause I'm a fan, sue me. He's also shown better durability than Gerhart (who missed almost his entire sophomore year due to injury) and the same explosion as Ingram running behind a worse line- and unlike the A-Backs that fullback dive goes right at those D-Tackles. And in spite of teams selling out the pitch to a guy like Anthony Allen to stop him, he's gotten stronger each of the past two years as the season has gone longer. I also want to dispel notions some people have that he benefits from the triple option in inflating his value and perception- wrong. Just wrong. Jonathan Dwyer had 40 scholarship offers for a pro-style offense from the likes of Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Auburn and the gamut and in his freshman year in Chan Gailey's normal offense still racked up 436 yards at a 5.3 YPC clip and 9 TDs spelling Tashard Choice. Right now he's at 238-250 lbs depending on if you believe Paul Johnson or Mel Kiper and has shown the homerun ability (state level track runner in HS) with the tough yard ability. You can't go wrong with any of the ten, but for a quality kid in the lockerroom and a damn talented diesel on the football field I'll take the Marietta native Tech has and wouldn't trade him any day of the week.

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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