It all starts on the D-line
Next summer if you're trying to figure whether your school has what it takes to make a BCS run, look at their D-line. That, more than a great QB or even a favorable schedule, is the ticket to the top. Want proof? Just look at the Top 10: Oklahoma (check); Miami (yep); USC (definitely); Ohio State (no doubt); LSU (sure).
A dominating defensive front is the one common denominator all these top teams have. Maybe the best example of this is down in Tallahassee where the 'Noles seems to be back at their attacking best. They led the ACC in total D, rushing D and pass efficiency D. Opponents have only managed two field goals in five trips inside the red zone.
The biggest difference for FSU this year is that their trademark speed-rushing ends are back to the form of the Peter Boulware/Jamal Reynolds. The FSU DEs already have 10.5 sacks this season, 3.5 less than they had all of 2002. The star of the group is Eric Moore, who coaches call a Reynolds clone. A huge LB recruit four years ago, Moore showed just how far he's come three weeks ago against Georgia Tech, when he faced Jacket stud Nat Dorsey, a massive OT who basically made his rep off neutralizing Julius Peppers a few years back. The 6-foot-4, 248-pound Moore took over, making 2.5 sacks, four hurries and forcing a fumble.
Last week, a different 'Nole DE shined. Kamerion Wimbley, a fleet long-strider with a great motor who was thought to be maybe a year away, had eight tackles, four TFLs and two sacks against Colorado. Wimbley's rise rounds out as good of an eight-man rotation as there is, especially given the way DTs Darnell Dockett, Broderick Bunkley and Jeff Womble have been playing.
Speaking of great DTs, Oklahoma's Tommie Harris is all the way back from injury. Last season, Harris battled a pelvic injury that limited his explosiveness and quickness -- and as a result hindered the Sooner defense since the 290-pound tackle is such a presence. But Sooner D-line coach Jackie Shipp says Harris is playing better than ever these days, and that's also showing up in improved performance of DEs Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson.
Shipp also reminds us not to get caught up in Harris' somewhat pedestrian stats. (He has been credited with six tackles, four TFLs and one sack in four games.) "If you study the film you saw how he draws so much attention and disrupts blocking schemes and they don't keep stats for that," says Shipp.
Give credit to an improved, faster Navy D that whupped up on a team from the MAC, Eastern Michigan, 39-7 last week. The Middies switched to a 3-4 this season to get more speed on the field and it's really paying off. Through three games this fall, Navy has only allowed 34 points (Navy averaged giving up 36 per last season.) The Middies plus-2.33 turnover rate also is tops in I-A.