Tuesday, September 27, 2005
FINALLY: AN SMQ TOP 25
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The A.P. went ahead and released its weekly poll on Sunday as usual, though this college football weekend was in no way usual due to the monster LSU-Tennessee tilt Monday night. So now those lazy, biased, arrogant, conspiratorial hacks have a team whose coach led its self-destructive fog to an inexcusable overtime loss at home ranked fourth the rest of the week. Advantage: Blog Poll.
Note: SMQ's weekly Top 25, making its first appearance today, will run as part of the regular "Sunday Morning Quarterback" entry on - ta da! - Sunday mornings from here on out. That entry, along with SMQ's "Thursday Morning Quarterback" preview, should unveil this week as the hurricane hiatus comes to an astonishing close.
SMQ also wishes to note that pretty much every pick this week, save the first three or four, comes with some major caveats. Four games is generally the amount of time SMQ grants a team to find itself and develop some sort of identity, or show that it will have none and fail (some teams have accomplished the latter). But no one this side of L.A.Coliseum is yet displaying any sort of consistent dominance. Maybe, with a bunch of teams playing Game Four this weekend, we'll see somebody emerge.
On with the show:
1. SOUTHERN CAL (3-0) Duh. Sun Devil Mania will reach a fevered pitch by Saturday, when it will exceed last week's truly bizarre Quack Mania before fading in similar fashion. On a down note, Matt Leinart won't finish with a 45-0 TD-to-Interception ratio, though he could still manage 45-1.
2. VIRGINIA TECH (3-0): Lord have mercy, what a nice show. The Hokies may have peaked already, which doesn't mean they won't still win 'em all.
3. TEXAS (3-0): T-minus two weeks until we find out whether the 'Horns have the sack to muscle into the title picture to stay.
4. FLORIDA(4-0): The Alabama game would be a nice time for Chris Leak to hang 300 and three TDs on someone other than Wyoming and Kentucky. SMQ isn't sold on Urban Meyer here just yet.
5. OHIO STATE(3-1): Go on, wail, gnash teeth. The Buckeyes were stout against the team SMQ has ranked third and totally dismantled what was supposed to be a very good Iowa team, albeit one that's looking more and more like a plodding corpse of a squad as the weeks progress. OSU found its quarterback and running game, and the defense (unlike some other supposed Big Ten heavies) is playing better than advertised.
6. GEORGIA (4-0): Look deep inside, Bulldogs, and tell SMQ what it is you're all about. A clock-grinding, power rushing attack with three stud tailbacks? A spread option attack designed to open things up for a mobile quarterback? A balanced, conservative team that prefers to rely on defense and field position? What? What is the go-to plan when Florida and Tennessee are on the other side of the ball?
7. FLORIDA STATE (3-0): The inevitable intra-division upset is coming, rest assured, but for now, let Drew Weatherford and his merry gang of misfits have a little time in the dadgum sun.
8. CALIFORNIA (4-0): Everyone's favorite back-up, Marshawn Lynch, is, contrary to predictions of spotlight and grandeur for the sophomore, still a back-up: freshman Justin Forsett has taken over as the Bears' top rusher, and Marcus O'Keith has more yards than Lynch, too. Marshawn's only averaging a measly six-plus per carry. All that to say: the Bears are still really good, and, schedule to date notwithstanding, the only team SMQ will permit to even consider having a realistic shot of beating the mighty Trojans.
9. TENNESSEE (2-1): At 8 p.m. CDT Monday, SMQ was scratching the Vols out of the Top 25. What a shameful disgrace of a first half. But then Rick Clausen came off the bench with a choir and a glow and an inkling of how to read hot routes and SMQ is instead praising a tough, gutsy comeback effort in one of the toughest possible emotional environments that will set the tone for the rest of the season - so long as poor Erik Ainge is MIA until at least the November cupcakes.
10. ALABAMA (4-0): The Croyle Injury Clock is ticking and 'Bama fans are starting to sweat: Brodie's made it to October! Soon, he'll be helped off the turf by anonymous long-sleeve polo-shirted gentlemen as The Perplexed-Looking Mike Shula calculates how many three-yard carries it will take to reach the Music City Bowl by Christmas. In the meantime, major Prove It game vs. Florida after three straight nice performances.
11. MICHIGAN STATE (4-0): In light of what a completely schizophrenic Michigan State did to Minnesota and Wisconsin last year, the last two weeks offer some scary insight into how good Drew Stanton and Co. can be when they take their medicine.
12. WISCONSIN (4-0): Why do we fall for this every other year? Oh, Wisconsin loses a three-time 1,300-yard rusher. Oh, Wisconsin loses six of its front seven. Oh, Wisconsin loses its whole secondary. And then Barry Alvarez rolls out his next skinny, crazy-legged quarterback, his next unstoppable running back, his next all-league defensive tackle, his next white guy linebackers who knock rushers backwards at the Badger one...we've seen it all before, and it's always a surprise when they hand it to a Michigan. Brian Calhoun is on his way to All-America type stuff.
13. NOTRE DAME (3-1): The Irish are just well-coached. SMQ likes Charlie Weiss wishing only that he would be more jolly. Fat chance, though, when the dreaded off-week awaits.
14. MIAMI (2-1): SMQ is sold on this defense, which is freaky and deep and may not allow another opponent to score in the double digits. Which, considering the offense, it may have to do. Seriously, though, folks, Kyle Wright looks like he may be coming around.
15. LSU (1-1): The Tigers are in more trouble than just blowing a 21-0 halftime lead in front of an insane asylum home crowd would indicate. Turnovers, busted plays, blown assignments, the continued insistence on blitzing when Clausen was eating the corners up on easy hot routes; they were disoriented and out of answers. ESPN cameras caught Les Miles, immediately following LaRon Landry's interception near midfield with 17 seconds left in a tie game, frantically trying to call his team's last time out even though the clock was already stopped, obviously, for change of possession. He failed (which says something maybe, that a head coach can fail at calling even a stupid time out he very clearly wanted in a moment of troubling confusion), but still JaMarcus Russell was instantly sacked on the Tigers' only real play of the possible winning possession. Then UT shoves it down their throats in overtime. So LSU has won a game it should have lost and lost a game it should have won; 15 seems about right. Something's missing here, though.
16. ARIZONA STATE (3-1): If SMQ were really honest, he'd rank the Devils ahead of LSU because he felt Arizona State was a better team and should have won two weeks ago in Tempe. But they didn't, so he won't. Nevertheless, ASU takes out Northwestern and hangs 42 on Oregon State in the meantime; Sam Keller is for real. How far they'll drop - if at all - depends on how bad SC hands it to them.
17. UCLA (3-0): SMQ knows zip about the Bruins, except that they're undefeated and that beating Oklahoma still counts for something.
18. MINNESOTA (4-0): There are few joys greater than watching Minnesota's offensive line pull and trap and kick out and open it up for Laurence Mauroney, who's as big a stud back as they come, yet still the Gophers are always winning and losing league games almost exclusively on last second kicks. If Bryan Cupito were limited to, say, five throws per game - Mauroney deserves about 60 carries per, because a defense's foreknowledge is irrelevant here - maybe things would be better.
19. AUBURN (3-1): Forget about the Tigers? They've been dealing with Mississippi State, Ball State and Western Kentucky. The next month is a wee bit tougher, but here's guessing they'll justify this ranking despite flubbing it against their only legit opponent so far.
20. PURDUE (2-1): Well, so much for the Purdue defense bandwagon, which did very little Saturday except catch what was thrown into their chests. SMQ would also be amiss if he failed to mention the tackling of one Bernard Pollard, however, who delivered one of the all-time great "Shakespeare Hits" - SMQ's term for hard-hitting tackles at the end of a long gain, for despite these smacks' popularity among the mindless "Get out there and hit somebody!" genre of fan, they are "sound and fury, signifying nothing" - by stopping backup Gopher Gary Russell in his tracks, picking this speeding 200-pound gentleman well off his feet and bodyslamming him into the Metrodome NexTurf with flawless form. Pollard is a big hitter and extremely sound tackler as advertised, but too often after his teammates have flailed and grabbed without success nearer to the line of scrimmage.
21. IOWA STATE (3-0): SMQ is disappointed in the Cyclones not only for their maddening performance in his NCAA 2006 Dynasty, but also for allowing Army to run all over them Friday night. Clearly, the balleyhooed Iowa whuppin' was a sign of Hawkeye implosion rather than Cyclone might, and the little Black Knights just about exposed ISU as an outright fraud; if not for a tragically ill-timed facemask penalty (putting himself in the position of an Army man, SMQ does not use the word 'tragic' flippantly - think the penultimate game scene on the goal line in All the Right Moves type hurt), the Cyclones' tenuous hold on a Top 25 spot in SMQ's poll would be lost for perhaps the rest of the season.
22. PENN STATE (4-0): Okay: so requiring a frantic comeback to beat Northwestern isn't exactly a resounding statement. Here's what SMQ saw from Penn State Saturday: a team with a terrible recent history of losing tough games overcoming four turnovers, a poor offense fighting from behind all day and doing it again when the defense wasn't up to par and a short-lived lead failed to hold late, converting key third and fourth downs on the final drive to score a big play touchdown and put away a game on the road it never would have won the past two years. Northwestern scored a good bit - PSU's biggest fear - and the Lions answered them. A good sign, a good start. Plus, South Florida doesn't look like such a cupcake win now, huh?
23. BOSTON COLLEGE (3-1): Tough road win over a good team for first-ever ACC victory. More to come.
24. GEORGIA TECH (3-1): What a disaster. This team whipped Auburn. Handled North Carolina and Connecticut. Has the best receiver in the country, some other real offensive weapons. A good defense. Losing to an outstanding team, SMQ understands, but 51-7? The Jackets have to show up against N.C. State to prove it to everyone all over again.
25. MICHIGAN (2-2): The sky isn't falling until the Big Ten record is 0-2. SMQ wanted to drop them, but do you think Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Nebraska, West Virginia, Vanderbilt or Toledo is really better than the Wolverines? Neither does SMQ. But if Toledo beats Fresno tonight, the Rockets replace the Big Blue on SMQ's official Blog Poll ballot Wednesday and stand as the mid-majors' last, best hope.
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