College football’s 2012 week two has shed more light for the AP and USA Today polls. Though the talk centered on cupcake matches, it turned out to be a day of exposure for several high-profile programs.
Alabama, USC and Oregon rolled on, but LSU made perhaps the most decisive statement against the high-powered Washington offense, providing even more stock for the size and speed of SEC defenses.
If another conference hopes to challenge for the national championship, it will almost certainly need to be undefeated.
Here is a look at my top 15, followed by important BCS positioning.
Which of the Following Teams is the Biggest Pretender for the National Championship?
5. Florida State
7. West Virginia
9. Michigan State
10. South Carolina
12. Ohio State
13. Virginia Tech
Onboard the BCS Bus
The LSU Tigers served notice that the loser of its November 3 showdown with Alabama will still be a strong candidate for a national championship bid. People will scream foul, but after the Tigers’ 41-3 crushing of the Washington Huskies, it will be hard for either USC or Oregon to match this model effort in their own games against Washington. Advantage LSU.
Alabama cruised to another dominant win behind their NFL-esque offensive line. Quarterback A.J. McCarron will be able to direct efficient play-action passes and perhaps emerge as a sleeper in the Heisman trophy race. He threw for four touchdowns and 219 yards on 14-of-19 passing.
USC and Oregon both put up 42 points with solid but inconsistent offenses, but neither defense looked particularly brilliant against non-top 25 teams. USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw six touchdowns and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was effective but mistake prone with two fumbles and some hiccups in running the Ducks offense.
Georgia survived a scare to remain in the forefront of the title chase, and Oklahoma also rebounded with a more Sooners-like performance for the folks in Norman.
Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech led the ACC into greater respectability. It may be the fourth-best conference in the country behind the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12.
Michigan State, idle West Virginia and South Carolina also are top-10 worthy contenders for the first BCS poll with the Spartans and Ohio State increasingly the standard of the fading Big Ten.
Exposed Like Old Film
It’s the digital age, but some traditional powers are floundering with old techniques hardly suited for the national championship race. The following teams are effectively eliminated from legitimate contention for the crystal ball.
Goodbye to Arkansas. Their inexcusable loss to Louisiana-Monroe is the fly in the SEC ointment. It may have conference backers wishing they could send the Razorbacks back to the old Southwest conference.
Nice knowing the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but they will likely bounce between 15 and 25 all year after getting mauled physically and athletically in a game that shouldn’t have been as close as its 36-30 score. Just don’t blame Taylor Martinez for the unblocked safety.
The Wisconsin Badgers will not be losing a third straight Rose Bowl this year. To lose at Oregon State with Montee Ball unable to rush against a Pac-12 defense is death to title hopes. Russell Wilson is looking better week by week.
The Washington Huskies, Michigan Wolverines and Notre Dame Fighting Irish cannot be considered worthy contenders until the Mayan calendar has run its course. No amount of hype and resurrected play can wash away the memories of the first two weeks. They are either bad or overrated.
And the Miami Hurricanes put up about as much fight as a tumbleweed. Don’t let their soft schedule erase the embarrassment of a 52-13 loss at Kansas State. Miami is the cupcake with the ever-enticing athletic sprinkles, but with a crumbling base. Put a fork in them.
The Pac-12 crushed the Big Ten in three home wins. The Big Ten is now 5-28-1 in its last 33 games out West, not including nine Rose Bowl losses in its last 10 appearances. Ouch.
Riding the Dark Horse of Contention
Kansas State gets two opportunity games at Oklahoma and West Virginia. If it wins both games, it could be bidding for the top five. Stranger things have happened.
UCLA has traditionally had great athletes and poor coaching. The latter may have changed. While coach Jim Mora Jr. has been able to quickly implement more scoring and playmaking behind young phenom quarterback Brett Hundley, the second half defense against Nebraska grew into manhood.
Could the Bruins run the table into their USC matchup? Their schedule does not have Oregon, and their learning curve is frightening. Perhaps they run the table until the grudge game against USC.
Out in the Lone Star state, Texas and TCU could be building back into contenders, but Texas faces a murderous lineup the next month. If they get out unscathed, they will earn it. TCU will get a chance to prove themselves with the weekly grind of a real conference.
Could Rich Rodriguez’s more quarterback-directed spread offense upend Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks in two weeks? Suddenly the matchup becomes far more interesting after the Wildcats put up 59 points on Oklahoma State. One thing’s for sure, the game may shatter the record for most total snaps.
Most Meaningless and Overhyped Match-up and Result of the Week
ESPN must be kicking themselves for going to College Station to watch Florida eke out a 20-17 victory against the Texas A&M Aggies. It meant absolutely nothing before and after the game, except that these are two second-tier teams that will have no BCS relevance. Thanks for nothing.
One Shining Moment
Props to the Oregon State Beavers for their 10-7 win over Wisconsin, though the Beavers’ offense did not capitalize on their massive total yards advantage. The Beavers finally won an early-season tough game even if the opponent was softer than advertised.
For those of you who did not know, the Louisiana-Monroe mascot is the Warhawks. Right now CBS is not too happy that the luster to next week’s Alabama versus Arkansas contest was removed by the mighty Warhawks.
And if Arkansas pulls off the upset over Alabma, do the Warhawks jump on the BCS bus?
You gotta love college football.