It is never too early to look ahead. There is no playoff system again this season (shocking) but an extra BCS bowl (maybe with TCU yeah). The fifth bowl will play host to the national championship game on January 8th, 2007 a full week after the other BCS contests. There is also no official name for this bowl that I have heard. Last year every one was working towards the Rose Bowl. This year every team can strive for the national championship bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Nice ring, hug. Even though we have only completed two weeks of the season, let's take a look at who is in the driver's seat.
Tier 1--The Favorites
- Ohio State--The Buckeyes have clearly the most impressive out of conference win in their back pocket. Troy Smith was amazing and is definitely the leading Heisman contender. Their defense, especially Laurinaitis, gained valuable confidence and will continue to improve. With their schedule, their offense, and not having to survive a conference title game, an undefeated season is within sight. The toughest road tests will be at Iowa and at Michigan State. OSU hosts rival Michigan to end the regular season. Next up: Cincinnati.
- USC--Even though the Trojans are only 1-0, the chances of them playing for a national title are already high. USC whipped in Arkansas in Fayettville to start their 2006 campaign and play host to Nebraska this Saturday in prime time. The Pac 10 has some solid contenders: Arizona State, Oregon, and California. Unfortunately for them, they all travel to Southern Cal this season. Don't be surprised to see the same team with a new QB playing for another title.
- Auburn--The Tigers play in the deepest conference in the country, which would make going undefeated even more impressive. If their defense holds its own, Brandon Cox and Kenny Irons should be able to lead them to the end zone, even against SEC defenses. Auburn is already 2-0 with victories over Washington State and Mississippi State. The road to the SEC title goes through Auburn. The LSU, Georgia, and Florida are all home games. Next up: LSU.
- Notre Dame--After the first half in Atlanta, I never thought they would show up on this list. Fortunately for Irish fans, Brady Quinn and company survived Georgia Tech and then dominated Penn State at home this Saturday. Their schedule is very manageable. They host Michigan this Saturday but have a huge road test at USC to end the season.
- West Virginia--Even after their destruction of SEC champ Georgia in last year's Sugar Bowl, the Mountaineers still don't get the respect like other top teams. Pat White and Steve Slayton are as dangerous a combo as there is in college football. WVU should not have any trouble scoring points this season, especially considering their schedule. Their only real test will be at Louisville in November. Next up: Maryland on Thursday night.
- Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Georgia--Here we find four solid teams with incredibly tough road schedules. Two of them will likely lose this weekend and three of them are in the same division. Auburn remains the team to beat in the SEC.
- Florida State--I am little hesitant to list the Seminoles anywhere. FSU got a great win at Miami but almost followed it up with a home loss to Troy. Huh? The schedule is great: seven more home games but the running game is nonexistent as is creative offensive play calling. Not every pass play should involve four fly routes. Next up: Clemson.
- Louisville--Are the Cardinals contenders even without Michael Bush? We will find out quickly. Miami visits this weekend. Survive the Canes and only West Virginia would stand in the way of a perfect season.
- Texas--Ohio State knocked us down, but not out. If we can find an offensive identity and piece our secondary back together, we will be fine. Tough road tests to Nebraska and Texas Tech remain and of course OU in Dallas. Next up: Rice.
- Miami--The Hurricanes are the definition of a long shot. The ACC is down this year so running the table is not out of the question. Both Virigina Tech and Boston College are home games and the Canes avoid Clemson. Larry Coker shouldn't be playing for his job this Saturday at Louisville but he might be.