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After five weeks of college football action, the season is beginning to shape up. Apart from the usual suspects (Alabama, Ohio State, Boise and now Oregon) some interesting shifts have taken place in the polls. In some cases, unheralded teams have fought their way into the national picture while others have climbed the ranks into the Top 10.
The Season So Far: An Overview of BCS Contenders with a Minimal Number of Ladder-Climbing or Mountain-Scaling Metaphors
Without looking at the Associated Press poll for Week Five, guess what the following teams have in common: Arizona, Michigan State, Michigan, Nevada, Oklahoma State and Missouri. That's right, all six teams began the 2010-11 season unranked in the Week One poll. Five weeks later, each have emerged as contenders ranking between #6 (Oklahoma) and #24 (Missouri). Each has yet to lose a game, and at least two will remain unbeaten next week. (Michigan State travels to the Big House to face Michigan while Nevada hosts San Jose State. Sorry, SJSU, we don't see it happening.)
From the list, the Mizzou Tigers seem the most suspect. Missouri has yet to play on the road and will face #6 Oklahoma and #7 Nebraska in back-to-back weeks later this month.
Let's check back with the Tigers and the rest of this list on November 1 to see if they still remain in the rankings.
Among the preseason contenders who began the year already ranked in the Top 25, three undefeated teams have climbed at least seven spots: LSU (from #19 to #12), Utah (#20 to #10) and Auburn (#21 to #8).
Between LSU and Auburn, only one of the two will have any hope of finishing at or near the top - the two squads match up on October 23 and the winner still must defeat SEC West foes #11 Arkansas and #1 Alabama to have a shot at an undefeated season.
Unless Bama stumbles down the stretch or injuries throw the Tide off course, we don't see either team making the BCS title game. But should Alabama run the table in the SEC and win the conference championship game . . . could the Tigers or Bayou Bengals qualify as a BCS "at-large" selection?
Let's say this - with LSU playing in The Swamp on Saturday night, we'll keep our eyes on Auburn. You know what they say, never pick against reptiles on their home turf. The Gators will look to regain some respect after an absolute shelling by Alabama (and precipitous drop in the polls, from #7 to #14) last weekend.
Utah has some tough sledding ahead as well but the Utes will play #25 Air Force and #5 TCU at home in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Is it possible we might see two (the Utes and Broncos?) undefeated teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences crash the BCS? (Again?) Our guess is yes, but we're hard pressed to pick from Boise, TCU or Utah - or even another WAC dark horse, #21 Nevada. (For those skeptical about the Wolf Pack's chances, note that they host Boise State the day after Thanksgiving in Reno.)
Don't Count Your Beachwood Bucks at the Table
We introduced a Beachwood Sports innovation for The College Football Report earlier this season: the Beachwood Bankroll. Our crackerjack staff has yet to light the world on fire at the (for entertainment purposes only) betting window. With eight wins and nine losses thus far, our CFR picks would net you a loss of $190 assuming $110 bets to win $100 (hypothetically) per game.
If you haven't been keeping track of our progress, we understand. We won't mention the balance at this point either. Frankly, there is too much math involved. I don't who thought it would be a good idea to place varying amounts on different games. I'm blaming our statistician Ned - he found a pink slip on his desk Monday morning and has joined Doris the Fact Checker on the soup lines. We expect them to show up at Fox Sports any day now.
Along with Ned, another ugly mug you won't see around here for awhile is that of the Sports Seal. The Seal has a record of 6-11 as of Week Six and is either hiding his face from embarrassment or out of fear. We hear the Seal put some heavy wagers on some questionable games (Fresno over Ole Miss? Florida International over Maryland?) and . . . well, let's just say that kind of debt can't be cleared up by springing for a few anchovy pizzas. It's not like a few guys who just helped move the couch, after all. The goons who take his action aren't the trifling sort. Here's to you Sports Seal - set things right and hurry back for Week Seven.
The Week Six Challenge: Find Something to Talk About Other Than Denard Robinson
If Heisman voting took place today, Denard "Shoelaces" Robinson would win. In a landslide.
The Michigan QB has dominated opponents with what looks like a modified Wildcat offensive attack: Robinson lines up in the shotgun and reads the defense. If the D sits back in a zone or only shows one or two extra rushers, the play stays on the ground. (And by that we mean Robinson hikes the ball, looks for a crease in the defensive line, invariably finds one and then streaks up the field.)
The Wolverine quarterback will run variations on this play about 20 times a game, at 9 yard average clip until the opposing defense looks ready to puke.
If the defense walks a safety down into the box, forcing Robinson to run into an eight-man front, Shoelaces takes a few steps back and bombs away (at a 70% completion rate) to one of his wideouts - who will only face man coverage.
At this rate, we should forget the Heisman and declare Denard Robinson the Tecmo Bowl Player of the Year.
More than once this season, Robinson has reeled off a run worthy of "Tecmo Bo" Jackson, the most dominant video game character of all time.
#17 Michigan State @ #18 Michigan (-4.5), 2:30PM Saturday
The whole world seems to like the Spartans in this one, but we felt a great deal better about MSU getting points at home last week over the Badgers. While the motivational impact of the return of the Spartans HC Dantonio (who suffered a heart attack earlier this season) can't be discounted, and the "over" 65 also looks alluring, we just don't feel confident about picking the game in any direction. From our perspective the most important factor might be this: Michigan Stadium will hold 109,901 screaming fans on Saturday. If MSU doesn't keep Robinson under control and sufficiently execute on offense to play "keep away," it could be a long afternoon for Sparty and an epic day for the maize-and-blue.
#1 Alabama (-7) @ #19 South Carolina, 2:30PM Saturday
What are we missing about this game? Alabama runs one of - if the not the most - efficient offensive attacks of all 120 Division I-A schools. South Carolina fields a good defense, but gave up nearly 500 yards to Auburn a few weeks ago. Gamecock fans should root for the "under" (47.5) as a very low-scoring game (with few to no turnovers) late into the fourth quarter may be the only recipe for success. Despite our 1-2 record to date picking road favorites this year, we'll take our chances with the Tide.
#8 Auburn (-6) @ Kentucky, 6:30PM Saturday
We think whoever has the last possession of the game will win this tighter-than-expected affair. By rule, we can't pick for or against the Wildcats - so we're not sayin', we're just sayin'.
And just to prove we don't need Ned the Statistician, we'll put $220 Beachwood Bucks (to win $200, you know - hypothetically) down on The Crimson Tide on Saturday.
From the Canine Errata Desk
News from around the world of college football took on a Milk Bone flavor this week:
* University of North Texas player Tyler Stradford suffered an accident recently while fleeing a dog in his apartment complex. The Mean Green wide receiver vaulted a fence, landed on a piece of lawn furniture and suffered a four-inch deep puncture wound to the chest. Ouch. He'll be out until October 30.
* The Georgia Bulldogs will welcome the newest Uga to the sidelines on October 16 for the homecoming game against Vanderbilt. Uga VIII, the latest in a long line of direct descendants from Uga I, will replace Russ, the 5-year-old half-brother of the departed Uga VII, who has been dutifully serving as interim mascot.
A Note from the NCAA Marketing and Anti-Fun Committee
The NCAA would like our loyal readers to know how seriously they treat matters like trademarks and copyrights:
* The Supreme Court (with what we can only assume was a derisive snort) turned down an appeal from South Carolina (the other USC) to a ruling from a lower court about the University of Southern California's trademark of the interlocked "SC" logo.
* The Ole Miss Rebels are finally doing away with the controversial Colonel Reb in favor of . . . a Rebel Black Bear, apparently. Earlier this season, the campaign to install Admiral Ackbar (you know, of the Rebel Alliance?) sadly drew to a close.
Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space every week. He welcome your comments.