Awaiting the initial BCS standings
Which college football team is No. 1 in the country?
SEC West rivals No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama have been equally impressive during their 6-0 starts. No. 3 Oklahoma keeps winning impressively, too, even after the Sooners started sliding from their previous No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press' Top 25 poll the past couple of weeks.
The BCS national championship race will finally start to become clearer with the release of the initial BCS standings Oct. 16. LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma probably will be in the top three, with computer rankings and schedule strength deciding the order.
Of course, if a team is No. 1 or No. 2 on the second Sunday of October, it doesn't mean it will be there when the final BCS standings are released on Dec. 4. The top two teams in the final BCS standings will play on Jan. 9, 2012, in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
In the first 13 years of the BCS, the top two teams in the initial standings have both reached the title game only once (Texas and Southern California in 2005). Nearly half of the 24 teams that debuted at No. 1 or No. 2 have advanced to the BCS National Championship Game.
Last season, eventual BCS national champion Auburn debuted at No. 4 in the initial BCS standings, and Oregon was at No. 2. The Tigers defeated the Ducks 22-19 in the championship game.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said it's too early to worry about the BCS standings. He said the rankings weren't on the Sooners' minds as they blasted Texas 55-17 in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday.
"I don't know that that's necessary," Stoops said. "It is certainly not on my mind. Don't get me wrong, we want to come here and play as absolutely well as we can, and I thought we did that. My point is we aren't sitting here saying we have to win by this or that; we just want to play the best we can. We have a lot of confidence, and we're building. It's only our fifth game, and we feel we still can be better."
LSU and Alabama seem to be improve, too, as those teams are on a collision course for a Nov. 5 showdown in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Tigers routed Florida 41-11 in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday, while the Crimson Tide shut out Vanderbilt 34-0 at home.
Historical data suggest that about a dozen teams are still in the BCS national championship race. Since the BCS began in 1998, no team ranked No. 13 or worse in the initial BCS standings has reached the national championship game. LSU debuted at No. 12 in 2003 -- the lowest initial ranking for an eventual BCS national champion -- before climbing its way into the title game.
Nation's top recruit Edwards leaning toward OU
WICHITA FALLS, Texas -- Peer through the dust and across the windswept plains from atop Memorial Stadium, where Mario Edwards' Denton Ryan Raiders played Thursday night some 20 miles south of the Red River, and if you squint just right, yes, that might be Oklahoma on the horizon.
Less than 48 hours later, in fact, Edwards could nearly see it, too.
"Right now," he said after watching Oklahoma dismantle Texas 55-17 at the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, "OU seems like it's the team for me."
The nation's No. 1-rated college prospect, Edwards, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive end with hard-to-believe speed and agility for his size, is back on the market in recruiting. He committed in March to Florida State, the college home of his father, Mario Sr., a former NFL cornerback with Dallas and Tampa Bay.
Although Mario Jr. has not officially decommitted from the Seminoles, his pledge is no longer valid. Edwards said he wants to escape the shadow of his dad and "start my own trend." He plans an official visit to Texas next weekend to watch the Longhorns play Oklahoma State followed by a trip to LSU in two weeks as Auburn visits Baton Rouge, La., and a Nov. 5 visit to Norman, Okla., for the Sooners' meeting with Texas A&M.
Florida State remains a consideration, but Edwards, who grew familiar with FSU while his dad played for the Seminoles from 1996 to 1999, has not scheduled another trip to Tallahassee.
All signs point away from Florida State. Edwards said he may wait until signing day, Feb. 1, to announce his choice.
"I felt like I jumped a little bit at FSU because that was the team I had seen the most," Edwards said.
Edwards' father agrees that the decision to commit in the spring came prematurely.
"Whether he made a bad decision, I don't know," Mario Sr. said, "but when he sat down and started thinking about it, he knew he made his decision a little early.
"I think it's smart for him to look around and see what else is out there."
And Dad won't push Mario Jr. in any direction.
To read the rest of Mitch Sherman's story, click here.
Ranking the BCS title contenders
As we near the first release of the 2011 BCS standings on Oct. 16, don't expect any surprises.
The debate over which team should be ranked No. 1 in the polls continues, but the computers have high regard for LSU, Oklahoma and Alabama, so it's unlikely that any other team could sneak into the top three of the initial standings. Popular opinion is that those teams all control their BCS fates, because LSU and Alabama eventually will play each other.
But of the other undefeated teams, which ones have the best chance to enter the championship discussion and which ones need the most help? Here's how the unblemished 13 stack up entering the middle of October.Tier 1: LSU Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, Alabama Crimson Tide, Oklahoma State Cowboys
These teams need no help. The first three on this list are self-explanatory, but the fourth may surprise some people. Simply, the BCS computers consider the Big 12 to be the strongest conference in college football, so any team that runs the table through that league will be highly ranked in that portion of the BCS formula. And wins at Texas A&M and Texas should do a lot to position the Cowboys well enough that a season-ending win over Oklahoma likely would get them whatever additional support they might need in the polls to reach the BCS top two.
To read the rest of Brad Edwards' story, click here.
Michigan passes first road test; Spartans on deck
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Mike Martin stopped, a smile on his face. Michigan's players had been told midquestion to wrap up their postgame interviews, and the timing couldn't have been better for the senior defensive tackle.
He was being asked whom he was playing next.
So Martin, who rarely has nothing to say, knew the answer. But he was given an out and chose to stay silent.
Instead, he smiled. He may not have wanted to say, but he knew. Martin is an in-state kid. He has grown up around Michigan and knows all about what is coming:
After No. 12 Michigan's 42-24 win over Northwestern on Saturday night, the focus easily could have shifted to something more important. In six days, the Wolverines will face their in-state rival, the Spartans.
The winner will have control of the Big Ten Legends Division. But Michigan knew that before it could start worrying about Michigan State, it had to take care of its first opponent on the road.
After a squirrelly first half in which Michigan struggled on offense and defense, it put Northwestern away and answered at least two questions that had lingered about this team -- how would Michigan respond to playing on the road, and could it win away from Michigan Stadium?
Despite a crowd that was more representative of a neutral site -- there was as much maize and blue in the stands as purple -- the team did win away from Michigan Stadium. That's a starting point for this team.
To read the rest of Michael Rothstein's story, click here.
Georgia holds down Tennessee's Tyler Bray
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the first step in slowing down Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and the Volunteers' explosive passing game was obvious.
Stop the run.
"No. 1 is you've got to stop the run," Grantham said after the Bulldogs won 20-12 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. "Even though they're one-dimensional in the sense that they like to throw it, you don't want to let them become two-dimensional and throw it."
Grantham's defense more than accomplished its mission on that front. Tennessee finished with 23 rushing attempts for minus-20 yards -- setting a mark for the fewest rushing yards allowed in Mark Richt's 10-plus years as Georgia's head coach. The Vols' rushing total tied for the third-fewest yards ever allowed by a Bulldogs defense.
"If we can't run the ball, we aren't going to beat good football teams. That's a fact," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said.
The Vols' inability to run enabled Georgia to put the clamps on a Tennessee passing game that came in on a roll. Bray recently broke Peyton Manning's 1997 school record of seven consecutive games with at least two passing touchdowns, but Bray's streak ended at 10 games.
To read the rest of David Ching's story, click here.
Three weekend observations
1. As we approach the midpoint of the season and await the first BCS ratings, the teams jockeying for position in the national championship race span the continent and the spectrum of football philosophies. Alabama and LSU are playing stifling defense. Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson and Oregon are bludgeoning teams with offense. Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin have a foot in each camp. There's something for everyone, and this season looks as though it may be the most entertaining since 2007.
2. Syracuse's rebuilding remains a work in progress under third-year coach Doug Marrone, but it has become clear that you don't want to get in a close game with the Orange. Syracuse avoided its fourth overtime game this season when Ross Krautman kicked a 21-yard field goal with no time left to win at Tulane 37-34. In games decided by seven points or fewer, the Orange are 4-1 this season and 8-1 since the beginning of 2010.
3. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel began the 1983 season as the Bruins' starting quarterback and lost the job to Steve Bono. When Bono got hurt, Neuheisel led UCLA to the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl upset of Illinois. Against Washington State, Kevin Prince, the starting quarterback benched earlier this season, came in after Richard Brehaut got hurt and led the Bruins to a 28-25 comeback victory. UCLA (3-3, 2-1) looks nothing like a contender. But the Bruins will face No. 22 Arizona State (5-1, 3-0), the Pac-12 South leader, at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 5. Hey, it's happened before.
Highlights: Ohio State-Nebraska
GameDay crew final thoughts
I know it's speculation, but because of all the emotion that Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables displayed, you have to believe that he really wanted to win this Red River Rivalry after having to hear about how Texas co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin outcoached him with all those trick plays in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl when Harsin was Boise State's offensive coordinator and the Broncos won. Harsin is a great offensive coordinator, but you have to think that Venables was sick of hearing about it.
We're often accused of giving too much attention to the quarterback position, but look what happens when you don't have one. Florida didn't have one ready to go against a great LSU defense, and the Gators lost by 30 points. Texas has two very talented quarterbacks, but they are young and weren't ready to face Oklahoma. They committed four turnovers and lost by 38 points. Success isn't all about the quarterback, but quarterback has a lot to do with it.
Helmet stickers go to:
• LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, interception returned for a TD versus Florida
• DE Frank Alexander, Oklahoma
6 tackles, 3.0 sacks, fumble forced, fumble recovery versus Texas
• QB Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)
342 passing yards, 4 passing TDs, one rushing TD versus Army
There are awfully good football teams, and it's hard to distinguish among the best: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Stanford. They're in a class by themselves and haven't even been tested yet, which is the sign of a great team.
The conference races are taking shape. I think South Carolina still has the edge in the SEC East race because the Gamecocks already have beaten Georgia. We'll see whether injuries affect any of these races in the coming weeks, but things are very interesting.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Tanner Price, Wake Forest
233 passing yards, 3 TDs versus Florida State
• CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers
2 interceptions, 1 interception returned for a TD versus Pittsburgh
Florida, a team that former coach Urban Meyer left with a lot of talent, has suffered two consecutive beatdowns. There's nothing embarrassing about losing to Alabama and LSU in consecutive weeks, but Florida wasn't even competitive in those games, which is stunning for a team with as much talent as it has. I know the Gators are young, and they had some key injuries, but you still expect them to hang in the games.
What can you say about Oklahoma's dominance? We learned that Texas isn't ready for prime time, but with all the young talent Mack Brown has there, it'll be a top-five team within the next couple of years. But Oklahoma dominated in all three phases of the game. When you get three defensive touchdowns, score points on offense and don't turn it over, that's true dominance.
What a job Bill Snyder is doing at Kansas State again. That program doesn't have a lot of household names or five-star recruits, but he gets it done year after year, and the Wildcats are undefeated.
Ohio State showed up and played its best game of the season, but the Buckeyes lost playmaker Braxton Miller in the second half and couldn't close the deal. But at least they showed up and laid it all on the line one week after being called out by almost everybody for their poor performance at home.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
310 passing yards, 3 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs versus Miami
• QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
191 passing yards, 2 TDs, 102 rushing yards, one rushing TD versus Ohio State
Highlights: Virginia Tech-Miami
Blog Network: What we learned
The ACC's two brand-name programs are 0-2 in conference play and on the outside of the race looking in.
Seriously, stop doubting Kansas State, especially its defense and its coach, Bill Snyder.
Coach Dana Holgorsen is still waiting on West Virginia to play a complete game from start to finish.
Penn State should be in every game thanks to its D, which makes it a contender in the Leaders Division.
Rick Neuheisel isn't done yet. The Bruins' rally against Washington State says there's some hope for their coach.
South Carolina looked like a different team with sophomore Connor Shaw at quarterback.
The kid can play: Andrew Hendrix's debut was a smashing success. His legs make him a great change-of-pace option.
Highlights: Wake Forest-FSU
Blog Network: Helmet stickers
Every week our bloggers will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
• ACC: Logan Thomas; Lamar Miller; Tevin Washington
More ACC stickers
• Big 12: Terrance Ganaway; Landry Jones; Brandon Weeden
More Big 12 stickers
• Big East: Antwon Bailey; Stedman Bailey; Justin Francis
More Big East stickers
• Big Ten: Nathan Scheelhaase; Rex Burkhead; Denard Robinson
More Big Ten stickers
• Pac-12: LaMichael James; Keenan Allen; Lance Mitchell
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• SEC: AJ McCarron; Connor Shaw; Tyler Russell
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• Notre Dame: Theo Riddick; Tyler Eifert; Michael Floyd
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