NCF Nation: Huge Freeze

SEC power rankings: Week 8

October, 15, 2012
We have a little more movement this week, but one thing remains the same: Alabama is clearly the team to beat.

1. Alabama (6-0; last week: 1): After a week off, the Crimson Tide ran right over Missouri in the first half before bad weather delayed the game. At that point, it seemed weather was the only thing that could stop Alabama. It pretty much proved true as the Tide dismantled the Tigers, holding them to a special-teams score and 129 yards of offense. Alabama outrushed Mizzou 362-3. Yeah, this team is pretty good.

2. Florida (6-0; LW: 3): Saturday set up like a trap game, and the Gators were pretty sloppy against Vanderbilt but again came alive in the second half. Jeff Driskel couldn't be stopped on the ground, rushing for 177 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-sealing 70-yard touchdown scamper. Florida still doesn't have much of a passing game, but the Gators can run and play defense. That goes a long way in the SEC.

3. LSU (6-1; LW: 4): The Tigers aren't done just yet. After stumbling out of the Swamp last week, LSU was the tougher team over the weekend against South Carolina. What was most impressive was how well that makeshift offensive line played. Three underclassmen started and pushed the Gamecocks' vaunted defensive line around. Like Florida, this team isn't a threat to pass, but it showed again that it can run with the best of them, registering 258 rushing yards Saturday. This team is still very much in the hunt for the SEC.

4. South Carolina (6-1; LW: 2): The Gamecocks were outplayed and dominated in the stats book by LSU, but lost by only two points ... in Death Valley. That's impressive. South Carolina did the little things for as long as it could to keep the Tigers at bay, but costly turnovers from Connor Shaw doomed the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier and Jadeveon Clowney wondered whether some players were scared of the Tigers. That fear had better dissolve before the Gamecocks take on Florida this weekend.

5. Georgia (5-1; LW: 5): The Bulldogs were off, and the hope is that the defense received some major attention over the break. The good news for Georgia is that its second-half schedule isn't daunting. Florida is the toughest matchup, and the Gators could be a little sore after taking on South Carolina this weekend. If you think the Bulldogs are out of the East race after that extremely sloppy showing against South Carolina, you're sadly mistaken.

6. Mississippi State (6-0; LW: 6): The Bulldogs wanted to leave the weekend with more respect, and that happened after they should some resiliency against a Vols team that came charging back. While Tennessee put up some points, Mississippi State's incredibly talented secondary shut down Tyler Bray, holding him to just 148 passing yards. Quarterback Tyler Russell looks better and better each week. On the season, he has 1,382 yards with 12 touchdowns to one interception.

7. Texas A&M (5-1; LW: 7): Johnny Manziel is pretty good, wouldn't you say? I'm convinced he isn't a freshman. He might make his coaches nervous sometimes with his gunslinger mentality, but when a play needs to be made, he'll make it. Now, for as explosive as that offense is, the defense has had some holes in it this year. In the past three games, the Aggies have given up an average of 531 yards and surrendered 57 points to Louisiana Tech in Saturday's shootout win. Now, we'll see what Johnny Football can do against that nasty LSU defense.

8. Ole Miss (4-3; LW: 10): The Rebels finally did it. Nearly two years to the day, Ole Miss finally grabbed another SEC win. The Rebels' 41-20 win over Auburn stopped a 16-game conference losing streak, and it's obvious things are changing in Oxford. Coach Hugh Freeze really has changed the culture of that program, and players are buying in for the first time in a very long while. This offense has been very fun to watch, and if this team can cut down on turnovers, it could be a bigger threat to better competition.

9. Arkansas (3-4; LW: 11): After a miserable first month of the season, the Razorbacks have some life after two straight SEC wins. This team is back in the bowl hunt and is starting to see more consistency on offense. The Hogs might have hung 60 on Kentucky if not for a weather-shortened evening in Fayetteville. Arkansas enters its bye week with more confidence, and there's still a lot of pride flowing throughout this team.

10. Tennessee (3-3; LW: 8): The Vols had another valiant comeback effort but just couldn't get it done in the end. After racing back in the second quarter against Georgia two weeks ago, Tennessee battled back from a 13-point halftime deficit to Mississippi State. But that defense can't get off the field in the second half. This team has shown a lot of fight in its past two games, but it just hasn't been enough. Derek Dooley's seat is only getting hotter and hotter in Knoxville, and he's dangerously close to not reaching eight wins.

11. Vanderbilt (2-4; LW: 9): The Commodores had some really good moments against Florida, then had some old Vandy moments as well. This team couldn't stop the run to save its life Saturday, as the Gators racked up 326 rushing yards. You have to love the attitude this team plays with, but you need more than just attitude to win games. The Commodores have to finish drives and get more big plays out of the offense.

12. Missouri (3-4; LW: 12): The Tigers ran into a well-rested buzz saw over the weekend when Alabama came to town. The offense had no answers for Alabama's defense, and the only points the Tigers mustered came on special teams. Right now, punt returner Marcus Murphy is the best scoring threat this team has, as the offense continues to have major issues across the board. One bright spot has been defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. He leads the team in tackles and has been Mizzou's best player. But he can't do it by himself.

13. Auburn (1-5; LW: 13): Things are just getting worse and worse on the Plains. The Tigers made a change at quarterback, but the offense generated just 213 yards and turned it over twice after having the ball for nearly 10 minutes more than Ole Miss. The defense was again walked on by its opponent, and you can tell that not everyone is all in at Auburn. When you look at how far this team has fallen, it's hard to comprehend that it won the national championship in 2010.

14. Kentucky (1-6; LW: 14): If not for Mother Nature, the Wildcats might have surrendered 40 more points to Arkansas. The Hogs did whatever they wanted to a Kentucky team that has just been ravaged by injuries this season. That young talent has had to mature quickly, but growing pains are holding this team back. The silver lining for the Wildcats is that all of those youngsters are getting valuable playing time for the future.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

December, 5, 2011
Let's take a look back at the week that was in the non-AQs:

And then there were none. For the first time since the BCS expanded to five games beginning in the 2006 season, there are no non-AQs represented in BCS games. The shocker of the weekend, of course, was Houston losing to Southern Miss 49-28. The Cougars were the best hope for the non-AQs to get an automatic spot into the BCS for the sixth straight season. All they had to do was win the Conference USA championship game. But Southern Miss came to play with a defense that wreaked havoc for most of the afternoon. The Golden Eagles had six tackles for loss, two interceptions, eight pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown -- the eighth of the season to set a new FBS record. Tracey Lampley had 240 all-purpose yards as Southern Miss set championship game records for points scored and touchdowns (seven). Heading into the game, most would have guessed it would be Houston setting the records. But the Cougars were held to season lows in scoring and total offense. The loss opened the door for perhaps TCU to sneak in as an automatic qualifier. All the Horned Frogs had to do was move up two spots from No. 18 to No. 16 in the final BCS standings. But they did not move at all, ending up at 18. Boise State, the top-ranked of the non-AQs at No. 7, was disqualified from automatic selection because it failed to win its conference.

But what feels so inexcusable to Boise State and non-AQ fans is the fact that the Broncos were passed over for an-at large berth into the Sugar Bowl by both Michigan and Virginia Tech, ranked lower than them and with more losses than them. Virginia Tech is most galling, considering the Hokies got blown out in two games against Clemson, lost the ACC championship game and have not beaten anybody ranked in the Top 25 this season. So what if the Hokies travel well? That should not be the reason one team gets picked over another just as deserving. The bottom line is this: No one-loss team from the non-AQs has ever been taken as an at-large team. Boise State has now been passed over four times for BCS games as a top-10 team. That includes 2008, when the Broncos went undefeated. Now you know why they want to join the Big East. That conference's representative in the BCS, West Virginia, went 9-3.

MAC comeback. Usually it is Northern Illinois on the losing end of heartbreakers in the MAC title game. So maybe it was about time for the Huskies to feel a little bit of love. If you turned your TV set away from the game after Ohio took a 20-0 lead Friday night, you were probably not alone. Northern Illinois appeared lifeless, was mistake prone, with three first-half turnovers. Quarterback Chandler Harnish had 13 yards rushing and 35 passing yards at halftime. But it was Ohio's turn to make mistakes in the second half, with three interceptions that allowed Northern Illinois to come back and win. Ohio had just 70 total yards after halftime with 31 on the ground and 39 passing. Mathew Sims kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give Northern Illinois a 23-20 win and cap its largest comeback in modern-day history. Harnish finished the game with 250 yards passing and three touchdowns, and help avenge a heartbreaking, last-minute loss to Miami (Ohio) in last year's MAC game.

Coaching carousel. Fresno State fired longtime coach Pat Hill after the Bulldogs went 4-9, tying for the most losses in school history. Hill was at the school for 15 seasons and certainly put this program on the national map. But the Bulldogs slipped in recent years, and in the end he simply did not win enough games at the end of his career. Colorado State also fired coach Steve Fairchild after a third straight 3-9 season. UAB hired Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee to replace Neil Callaway. FAU hired Carl Pelini, Nebraska defensive coordinator and brother of Huskers head coach Bo Pelini, to take over for the retired Howard Schnellenberger. Also, according to reports, Ole Miss will hire Arkansas State coach Hugh Freeze after one season on the job with the Red Wolves, and Tulane will hire Saints assistant Curtis Johnson. Hawaii coach Greg McMackin met with the school's chancellor and athletic director on Sunday, and a decision on his future could come soon. The Warriors went a disappointing 6-7 this season after being the preseason choice to win the WAC.