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Road to Glendale Sept. 25th

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This past Saturday was nothing like the previous one. There were a few games between top 25 teams but nothing happened of real consequence. The most interesting aspect of this week's games might have been the perceived vulnerability of some top teams. Ohio State looked beatable, USC struggled at Arizona, and West Virginia did nothing to impress skeptics nationally by letting East Carolina hang close until the 4th quarter. Glendale may not be a match up of two undefeated teams after all.

Tier 1--The Favorites

  1. Ohio State--OSU Offense 14, OSU Defense 14. If you didn't see the game, don't let the 22 point margin of victory fool you. The OSU defense came up huge late in the fourth with two interceptions for touchdowns. This was a competitive 14-6 game late in the final quarter with Penn State. Troy Smith didn't look like the same player who torched Texas just a few weeks ago. He threw two interceptions and only completed 12/22 for 115 yards. However, he did have the one spectacular scramble before throwing a touchdown pass on a line from about midfield. The Buckeyes showed they could win the close one and that they could win when they don't play their best. Those are certainly two attributes of championship teams. Another real test awaits this Saturday night in Iowa City. Next up: Iowa.
  2. USC--The Trojans also pulled away late to beat Arizona 20-3 in Tucson. USC rode their offense to back to back BCS championship games over the last two seasons. If they are to make it to Glendale this season, their defense will have to lead the way. The Trojans offense looks fallible while their defense appears near impenetrable. I am a little worried if USC will be able to score enough points if they get into a Pac 10 shootout with Cal or Oregon later this season. For now, they remain very much national contenders. Next up: at Washington State.  
  3. Auburn--It didn't matter that the Tigers were without Kenny Irons on Saturday against Buffalo. The Bills have won just four games in the last two and a half seasons and are easily one of the ten worst football teams in the country. Perhaps still recovering from last weekend's fight with LSU, Auburn led just 10-0 at half. The Tigers scored three touchdowns late and finished with an impressive 261 yards on the ground. Brandon Cox won't have to win many SEC contests with his arm if their running game continues to be as dominant as their defense. Auburn has given up just 24 points in their first four contests. Next up: at South Carolina on Thursday night.
  4. West Virginia--The Mountaineers looked very beatable in their 27-10 win at East Carolina. WVU led just 17-10 in the fourth quarter. ECU held Steve Slayton to just 80 yards and picked off Pat White three times. The Mountaineers are another weak performance away from slipping into the Contender category. Their schedule is too cupcake to overlook though. Next up: at Mississippi State.
Tier 2--The Contenders
  1. Michigan--If OSU wasn't the top team in the country and in the same conference, the Wolverines would be in the Favorites section. Michigan continued to impress with at 27-13 victory over Wisconsin. This was the type of game Michigan teams in recent years lost. Chad Henne to Mario Manningham was unstoppable once again. Michigan's defense hasn't been too shabby either. They are the top run defense in the country through four games. Ohio State may be the only Big Ten opponent capable of beating Michigan without running the ball. Michigan looks very much for real. Next up: at Minnesota.
  2. Florida--The Gators made their victory over Kentucky look more difficult than it should have been. Chris Leak threw for 267 yards, DeShawn Winn gained 104 yards on the ground, and their defense held Kentucky to less than 40 yards rushing. An interception and a fumble prevented the 26-7 score from being more lopsided. Can someone explain why Gator fans would boo Leak? Maybe 4-0 and a top 10 ranking isn't good enough in Gainesville. Next up: Alabama.
  3. Louisville--The Cardinals turned the ball over four times in their 24-6 win over Kansas State. If you ignore the turnovers, the offense wasn't too bad. They finished with over 400 total yards and over 200 yards on the ground. The month of October should be a breeze for the Cardinals. If Brohm can come back by November 2nd for the West Virginia game, they have a real shot at going undefeated. Next up: at Middle Tennessee State.
Tier 3--Need Help
  1. Texas--The Horns took care of business in their conference home opener. PB has already dissected the game. The only scary part was the countless Horns going down with injuries. Now is anyone happy we scheduled Sam Houston State? The starters will ideally stay fresh and remain healthy for the Red River Rivalry. Next up: Sam Houston State.
  2. Notre Dame--The Irish probably "earned" a $14 payday with their amazing come from behind win at Michigan State. The Spartans should demand at least half for enabling an Irish victory. Someone should let John L. Smith know that you have to be winning after 60 minutes of football. Wins are never awarded during halftime. Anyway, ND scored three times in the fourth to escape 40-37. The Irish play five of their next seven at home. Their only road games in that stretch are Navy, in Baltimore, and at Air Force. The road to 10-1 seems like a cake walk. Unbelievable. Next up: Purdue.
Dropping Out: Georgia (anemic offense) and Virginia Tech (almost lost to Cincinnati. Beat Georgia Tech and we'll talk)

--AW--