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Monday, October 12, 2009
What should the first BCS standings include or exclude?

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Hoping To See ...

The first Bowl Championship Series standings will be released Sunday.

With most of the country's teams already reaching the midpoint of their seasons, here are four things I expect to appear and four things I hope to appear in the BCS standings after an eyeball test of the top teams:

Alabama
1. Alabama is No. 1
The Crimson Tide moved past Texas to No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll Sunday, and I'm not sure the Crimson Tide aren't the best team in the country.

Alabama already has beaten a top-five team, as it defeated No. 4 Virginia Tech 34-24 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome in its Sept. 5 opener. The Crimson Tide also dominated much-improved Arkansas 35-7 and won at then-No. 20 Ole Miss 22-3 on Saturday.

Florida's defense might be better than Alabama's, but the Crimson Tide's offense is more balanced. Quarterback Greg McElroy has played surprisingly well, and tailbacks Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch would start for most teams. The Crimson Tide keep winning without much contribution from star receiver Julio Jones, who figures to get better as he gets healthier in his return from a knee injury.

Alabama will play two more ranked teams -- No. 22 South Carolina at home Saturday and No. 10 LSU at home Nov. 7. Of course, if the Crimson Tide win the SEC West, they probably will face the Gators in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.

Florida
2. Florida is ahead of Texas
The Gators, the defending BCS national champions, really haven't been tested during their 5-0 start. Florida has won each of its games by 10 points or more, including Saturday night's 13-3 victory at then-No. 4 LSU.

Florida survived star quarterback Tim Tebow's concussion and has overcome a handful of injuries at wide receiver. The Gators aren't nearly as explosive on offense without departed receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy, but they're probably good enough on offense to survive the rest of their regular-season schedule.

Florida won BCS national championships in 2006 and '08 by playing tenacious defense, and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong's current unit is probably even better. The Gators have allowed only one touchdown pass in five games and lead the country in total defense.

Florida plays only one more ranked team during the regular season: a road trip to No. 22 South Carolina on Nov. 14. Because of its soft nonconference schedule, which looks even worse with rival Florida State struggling, Florida can't afford even a single hiccup.

USC
3. USC is ahead of Ohio State
Unlike in the Big 12, we're hoping head-to-head results still carry some weight in the BCS standings. The Trojans should be rewarded for beating then-No. 8 Ohio State 18-15 on the road on Sept. 12. No. 6 USC lost at Washington 16-13 the next week, but it played that game without starting quarterback Matt Barkley and star safety Taylor Mays.

Since losing to another unranked Pac-10 opponent, the Trojans have had a rather unimpressive 27-6 win over lowly Washington State and blasted overrated California 30-3 on the road.

If the Trojans win at No. 25 Notre Dame on Saturday and at No. 13 Oregon on Oct. 31, they might be the best-positioned one-loss team at season's end.

Boise State
4. Boise State is ranked outside the top 10
I'm not saying the Broncos don't look like a top-10 team, but they haven't done enough to justify a top-10 ranking at this point. Boise State is ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25 poll and is getting a lot of mileage out of its 19-8 win over Oregon in its Sept. 3 opener, which looks even better as the Ducks continue winning.

But Boise State's other three FBS opponents -- Miami (Ohio), Fresno State and Bowling Green -- have a combined record of 4-13. The Broncos play at Tulsa on Wednesday night, which is probably their toughest regular-season game remaining. They'll also play at Louisiana Tech on Nov. 6, along with home games against Idaho on Nov. 14 and Nevada on Nov. 27.

The Broncos will earn an automatic bid into a BCS bowl game if they finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or in the top 16 and ranked ahead of the champion of one of the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10 and SEC). They'll also have to finish ahead of any champion from the Mountain West Conference.

Miami
5. The Hurricanes should be in the top five
Perhaps no team accomplished more than Miami in its first five games of the season. The Hurricanes already have played four opponents that were ranked at the time of their meeting, and they defeated three such foes.

With victories over then-No. 18 Florida State, then-No. 14 Georgia Tech and then-No. 8 Oklahoma, Miami should be the highest-rated one-loss team at this point in the season. Its victory over the Seminoles in Week 1 won't carry as much weight, but no team faced a tougher schedule to start the season.

Miami shouldn't be ranked ahead of unbeaten Florida, Alabama and Texas, and it can't be rated ahead of Virginia Tech, which blasted the Hurricanes 31-7 in Blacksburg, Va. But Miami should be ranked ahead of Boise State, USC, Ohio State and Cincinnati because it has accomplished more so far.

TCU
6. TCU should be the highest-rated team from a non-BCS conference
I'm betting Boise State will get the nod here, unless the computer rankings really throw the Broncos for a loop. TCU has done more in the first six weeks of the season, though. If Boise State is really the No. 5 team in the country, the Horned Frogs are grossly underrated at No. 12 in the AP poll.

TCU already has beaten two ACC teams on the road, winning at Virginia 30-14 on Sept. 12 and at Clemson 14-10 on Sept. 26. I know the Cavaliers and Tigers aren't great, but at least the Horned Frogs played them on the road. TCU also has beaten much-improved SMU 39-14 and won at Air Force 20-17 on Saturday.

The Horned Frogs still play at No. 18 BYU on Oct. 24 and home against No. 24 Utah on Nov. 14. If they win those games and finish unbeaten, they'll be worthier of a BCS bid than Boise State.

Penn State
7. Penn State shouldn't be in the top 20
The Nittany Lions moved to No. 14 in the AP Top 25 poll after blasting FCS opponent Eastern Illinois 52-3 on Saturday.

With its soft nonconference schedule, Penn State had one shot at playing in a BCS bowl game. The Nittany Lions had to finish unbeaten but didn't do it, losing to Iowa 21-10 at home on Sept. 26. Even it finishes 11-1, Penn State doesn't deserve to play in a BCS bowl game.

The Nittany Lions have beaten four FBS opponents, and only one of them has a winning record at this point: 3-2 Temple. In fact, Penn State's four FBS victims have a combined record of 7-14.

Penn State will play only one ranked opponent the rest of the way -- No. 7 Ohio State at home on Nov. 7 -- so it will have few chances to impress the voters and computers.

Notre Dame
8. Notre Dame shouldn't be listed
The Fighting Irish have improved under coach Charlie Weis, but they haven't done enough to deserve a place in the BCS standings at this point. Notre Dame cracked the AP poll at No. 25 this week, but voters should have waited a week to see what the Irish do against USC at home on Saturday.

Notre Dame needed fourth-quarter comebacks to beat Michigan State and Purdue, then needed overtime to defeat Washington. That's evidence of being a tough team, but that doesn't necessarily make you a good team.

The Trojans are the only ranked team left on Notre Dame's schedule. The Irish should have to beat the Trojans to have any chance at a BCS bowl.



WEEK: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

On The Mark: Precision Passers

Steven Sheffield Sheffield

1. Steven Sheffield, Texas Tech
In his first career start, the former walk-on completed 33 of 41 passes for 490 yards with seven touchdowns in a 66-14 rout of Kansas State.

2. Thaddeus Lewis, Duke
The senior completed 40 of 50 passes for 459 yards with five touchdowns, helping the Blue Devils end a 20-game losing streak in ACC road games with a 49-28 victory at NC State.

3. Todd Reesing, Kansas
The Jayhawks survived a 41-36 shootout with Iowa State thanks to Reesing, who completed 37 of 49 passes for a career-high 442 yards with four touchdowns.

4. Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee
The much-maligned senior played like Peyton Manning in a 45-19 rout of Georgia, throwing for 310 yards with four touchdowns on 20-for-27 passing.

5. Tyler Sheehan, Bowling Green
Sheehan set school records with 44 completions and 505 yards and ran for the winning touchdown with five seconds left in a 36-35 win at Kent State.

Off The Mark: Truly Offensive

1. Boston College
The Eagles had 3 yards of offense in the first half of their 48-14 loss at Virginia Tech. BC has had 1 yard of offense combined in the first half of two ACC road games.

2. Ole Miss
The Rebels had 19 yards and one first down in the first half of their 22-3 loss to Alabama. Ole Miss went 0-for-9 on third down in the game.

LSU
3. LSU
The Tigers had 44 yards of offense on 22 plays in the second half of a 13-3 loss to No. 1 Florida.

4. Georgia
The Bulldogs have failed to score an offensive touchdown in 10 of their past 12 quarters.

5. Syracuse
The Orange went 0-for-11 on third down, and quarterback Greg Paulus was benched in the second half of a 34-13 loss to West Virginia.

On The Mark: Ground-Churning Tailbacks

1. Curtis Steele, Memphis
The Tigers' man of Steele had been hampered by a bruised knee but carried 39 times for 240 yards with two scores in a 35-20 victory over UTEP.

2. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
Stanford couldn't pass the Quizz, as Rodgers ran 33 times for 189 yards with four touchdowns in a 38-28 win over the Cardinal.

Mark Ingram Ingram
3. Mark Ingram, Alabama
It's hard to believe a Crimson Tide player has never won the Heisman Trophy, but Ingram sure looked like a legitimate candidate running 28 times for 172 yards with one touchdown against Ole Miss.

4. Michael Smith, Arkansas
Smith is one of the SEC's smallest players, but he's also one of its best. He ran 18 times for 145 yards with one score in a 44-23 upset of Auburn.

5. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
The redshirt freshman is a big reason the Hokies are playing as well as any team in the country. He ran 18 times for 159 yards with one touchdown in a rout of Boston College.

Off The Mark: Defenseless

Florida State

1. Florida State
The Seminoles never figured out how to stop Georgia Tech's triple-option offense, allowing 401 rushing yards in a 49-44 loss.

2. Auburn
Paper Tigers? The previously unbeaten Tigers allowed 495 yards of offense, and Arkansas held the ball for more than 38 minutes in its upset.

3. Texas A&M
The Aggies have allowed 83 points in their past two games, losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma State.

4. UNLV
The Rebels have allowed 1,384 yards and 122 points in back-to-back losses to Nevada and BYU. Ouch.

5. Kansas State
The Wildcats allowed a whopping 739 yards of offense against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have had 844 yards of offense combined in the first half of their past two games against Kansas State.

On The Mark: Big-Play Receivers

1. Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green
The senior caught 22 passes -- one shy of the NCAA single-game record held by three players -- for 278 yards with three touchdowns in a come-from-behind victory at Kent State.

Kerry Meier Meier
2. Kerry Meier, Kansas
Meier became the Jayhawks' career leader in receptions and set a school record with 16 catches against Iowa State. Teammate Dezmon Briscoe caught 12 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns.

3. Jordan Shipley, Texas
Colt McCoy's favorite target caught 11 passes for 147 yards with one touchdown and ran back a punt 74 yards for a score in a 38-14 win over Colorado.

4. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
The freshman had made five catches in the Gamecocks' first five games but exploded with seven receptions for 138 yards with three touchdowns in a 28-26 victory over Kentucky.

5. Scott Long, Louisville
The senior helped give the Cardinals a rare victory with five catches for 146 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown, in a 25-23 win over Southern Miss.

Highlights: Saturday's 10 Best