View from the HD: College Football V.2011 - Week 9

I give up. I am admitting I can no longer make sense nor predict the landscape of college football. All my locks last week lost outright, all my upset picks got covered and every time I do a feature on a team (Baylor, Kansas State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, not to mention propping Clemson all year) they lose. Stanford remains the one bright spot, on a 14-game cover streak. The old triple overtime eight point win to cover 7.5, no problem!
We're now in the heart of the season and the tide has changed dramatically with five unbeatens falling the last two weeks. We're now left with six unbeatens, at least one of which will fall Saturday and two (Boise State and Houston) that have no shot at a title. Never mind your politics on if Bose deserves a title shot, fact is unless Oklahoma State, LSU and Alabama lose twice, and Stanford loses to Oregon, Boise isn't going.
It will be very interesting to see the BCS standings next Sunday after the most anticipated game of the year between LSU and Alabama. How far will the loser fall? Will there be a possibility of a re-match between the Tigers and the Tide for the national championship, and does anybody want that? If the theory of BCS apologists rings true, that the regular season is the playoff, shouldn't that eliminate the loser from a shot. Isn't this their shot? Interesting. 

Thanks to Clemson, Kansas State, Wisconsin and Michigan State for ruining my Top 10. I have no clue who to put in there now. Here goes nothing ...
1. LSU - Defense allowing less than 12 per game, offense putting up almost 40 per game. Sounds a lot like the final score of their game against Florida. They have consistently beaten each team soundly.
2. Alabama - Ditto pretty much everything that was said about LSU. Alabama giving up less than a touchdown per game, pitching two shutouts and nobody has scored more than 14 against them.
3. Oklahoma State - Through eight games they are maintaining a 50 point per game stretch. Texas is the best defense they have faced and they racked them for 38 in Austin. They don't play a good defense until Oklahoma, if you consider them a good D. Because of that, IF they get to the BCS game they might be in for a rude awakening against whatever SEC team they face.
4. Boise State - I really wish these kids has a chance to play for it all. Last week we saw the difference between Boise State, who has been good for years, and Kansas State, who it just a flash in the pan. Boise would not have been overwhelmed like that.
5. Stanford - They passed their first test of the season. USC gave them more of a battle than I expected, but each time they were down they fought on back. They were opportunistic, Luck didn't rattle after throwing the late pick and they finished.
6. Oregon - I wanted to make some point about how the only reason Oregon is so high is because they lost week one. However their only loss is to the No.1 team and they have blown out everyone else. I still think it would take a miracle to get them to the title, but they still have it to strive for.
*** From this point on, were simply chasing waterfalls. As I eluded to a couple weeks ago, there are only six teams at this point that have a shot at playing in the title game. Those teams are listed above. Its all semantics now and second-tier good, not great teams from here down. 
7. Clemson - I'm sticking with the Tigers. They are an emerging force and with their youth, it was tough for them to figure out Georgia Tech. It's also hard to come from behind against a team like that who prides ball control.
8. Arkansas - Yes, their only loss is to Alabama, but they haven't been lighting it up in their other games either. They should have lost to Texas A&M and Vandy, and Ole Miss was no picnic.
9. Nebraska - If not the Husker, who? Ohio State may be considered a game Nebraska was supposed to win, but they came from way behind to win that game and then made a huge statement against Michigan State. Husker fans are expecting a Big Ten championship appearance now.
10. Houston - Hey, I love the underdog. Ironically they haven't been all year, but another small (non-BCS) school who plays big. Fifty-plus points a game on nearly 500 yards passing. Maybe I have them this high because its just fun to watch. Tell me I'm wrong, tell me they don't play anyone. Fine, who cares, they aren't going anywhere anyway, but another unbeaten throws fuel on the playoff fire, and I love that.

Game of the week
Month, year, century, whatever. I don't talk a lot of SEC football, because I try not write about things I don't know much about. Though my friend Aaron would argue that's not true. But I guess I have to write about this one. A lot of ESPN analysts are calling this game the SuperBowl of college football. No its not. LSU still plays next week. Alabama still has to get ready for Mississippi State afterwards. But they could be right about one thing. The season is over for the loser.
So even though I'm ranking LSU higher than Bama this week, I think the Tide has the edge. Their just a notch better on both offense and defense. There are still players on this Tide team that have tasted a championship. Their on-field experience and their icy-nerved coach puts them in the advantage this week. BamaLSU has had their toughest at home. Now they have to go to Tuscaloosa. Tide in a close one.

For the Homers
I never did like Taylor Martinez. There I said it. He reminded me of Sam Keller, and Sam Keller represented for me the player figure that brought down the Husker tradition. He wasn't a Husker, much like Bill Callahan wasn't a Husker. But Keller came in with the attitude that he was the answer, the savior, the gift Husker fans had been waiting for since Eric Crouch. He was the arm that was going to usher in a new system, the future. He was cocksure and had a swagger and failed spectacularly and led Husker Nation down a four-year funk.
Enter Bo Pelini and Taylor Martinez. I always thought of Pelini more of an Oklahoma guy, LSU guy or an Ohio State guy or his stints in the NFL gave me deja-vu. Sure, Pelini had coached with the Huskers, but just for one year. He wasn't here long enough to "be" a Husker. And yes, I know that his first couple years he had ex-Callahan quarterbacks leading the team, but Joe Ganz and Zac Lee "felt" like Huskers. I don't know how to describe it, but Husker fans know that feeling.
Pelini had his ups and downs but after the leftovers, clearly wanted to run things his way. He was a bit embattled for his fiery attitude and had rubbed some old school fans the wrong way.
Then come Taylor Martinez. This cocky slinger from California. A freshman recruited on the tails of Lee and highly-touted recruit Cody Green. Did he really think he would come in and start over these guys? How dare he.
He did indeed win the job and sparked Nebraska immediately. A 5-0 start and talk of Heisman for a freshman? Sweet, we're back! Then the injury. His audacity with the situation, his insistence on coming back, while still injured. The lackluster finish and finally the bowl loss to a Washington team Nebraska has beaten by 35. To hell with this kid.
The more I watched him struggle to run and rainbow heave passes, the more I disliked him. I dealt with the ugliness of the passing game through the first couple games this season because the team kept winning. And like most of us, I was ready to give up on Martinez and Pelini both after the Wisconsin game. Bo can't win a big one. Martinez will never be a good passer. They don't play to the teams' strengths. The Dirk situation. I wasn't just another mad Husker fan, I was done ... with both of them.
What a difference a Buckeye makes. The first half of that game was more depressing than the second half of the Wisconsin game. But something changed in that game. It all changed. A defensive turnover sparked a comeback. Martinez slung one to Quincy Enunwa and let Rex run wild for a couple more and the miracle was complete.
Pelini said after the game, "You guys can choose to write whatever you want and attack him like the fans will, and now they'll praise him."
And they did, and I did. But it was more than that. They turned a corner, not just for 2011, but as a program, against Ohio State. Bill Callahan teams don't win that game, they mail it in. As a good Pelini team does, the defense led if off with a big turnover. But Martinez started to lean on and trust his team, and especially the veteran and emotional leader, Rex Burkhead. The coaches started to trust Martinez and call to his strengths. The team started to reflect their coach. Fire. And the game against Michigan State cemented that feeling. One of the most complete games Nebraska has played in a decade.

Truth is Martinez is a lot like Pelini. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He plays with fire, he's a gamer and most of all he hates to lose. He is taking on the personality of his coach, and in turn so is the team. And when everyone gets on the same page with the direction of the team and the program, that's when magic happens. Pelini and Martinez don't coach or play to make the fans happy, they don't apologize for being in control, they don't apologize for creating a new tradition, and not following old traditions to a T. But they will do anything to win and they are mad as hell if they don't. That's the Husker Nation expectation. That's the Husker way. It's time to embrace the new regime. It's young, its brash, its up-and-coming and it makes no bones about wanting to be the best.  

Which of these teams ranks in the top five defensively for points against?
1. Central Florida
2. Virginia Tech
3. Michigan State
4. Temple
5. Michigan
*Answer at bottom, after picks

Locks: Okay so 0-3 last week, aside from the over pick ,which hit. No where to go but up.
1. Start the weekend off right taking USC over Colorado. Colorado ranks in the bottom 10 in rushing, scoring, and points allowed. They have lost their last four by an average 36.5 per. They gave up 37 to Ohio State during a stretch when the Buckeyes scored just over 14 per in four other games. USC found its offense last week against Stanford.
2. Stanford has covered 14 straight and they get Oregon State this week. Stanford's average score is 49-17 and that includes last weeks eeker against USC. Beavers only score 23 per game against weaker opponents so far and managed only eight against Utah.
3. Oklahoma State won't derail against Kansas State. The wind is out of the Wildcat sails as they move slowly into that good night. Three touchdowns? Might be five.
***Bonus over - Oregon and Washington (74). Oregon and Washington State combined for 71 last week and Oregon only scored 43. The Husky offense is better than Wazzu and their defense is worse. But the Huskies will hang with Oregon for at least a half prompting the Ducks to score again and again. 

1. Iowa has burned me again and again. However is seems unusual that they are only a four point dog to Michigan. Michigan may come in cocky and assuming they will roll the Hawk fresh off an embarrassment against Minnesota. Don't be surprised by this one.
2. Troy State over Navy. Both teams are struggling, but Navy looked especially bad against Notre Dame. They are without their starting QB and the guy running the offense right now is green.
3. Missouri over Baylor. I hate giving Mizzou any credit at all, considering their Nebraska rivalry, but Missouri figured out who they were last week. Their defense is better than you think and teams are starting to figure RGIII out. Baylor is long past the hype.  

Trivia answer: This is sort of a trick question. Both Temple (No. 4) and UCF (No. 5) are in the top five in points against. Prior to Wednesday night's game against Ohio, Temple actually ranked No. 2 in the country, allowing just 10 points per game on a schedule that included Penn State and Maryland. Perhaps more surprising Michigan actually ranks sixth, ahead of Michigan State at seventh.

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