Contenders and Pretenders in 2012 BCS Rankings

Randy ChambersAnalyst IOctober 16, 2012

Contenders and Pretenders in 2012 BCS Rankings

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    It has been a couple of days since the BCS rankings were released to the college football world. And much like every poll that is released, it brings everybody together to talk about which teams should be ranked where.

    Nobody ever agrees on everything, as some believe that Alabama isn't truly the best team in the country because of the lack of competition played. Others will say that the Crimson Tide have played the best of any other team so far and deserve the No. 1 spot.

    Whether you agree or not, the beauty is that every program will have a chance to prove themselves throughout the rest of the year.

    But with half the season in the books, which teams are truly ready to take that next step as we head towards the month of November? 

    With Week 8 quickly approaching, here are the contenders and pretenders in the top half of the most recent BCS rankings.

South Carolina, Pretender

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    Everybody was quick to jump on the South Carolina bandwagon, but it looks like this program still has a few things to tweak before taking that next step. A defense that was supposed to the best in the country, allowed LSU to run the ball down its throat for 258 yards last weekend.

    On the offense, the offensive line wasn't physical enough up front and simply couldn't open up running lanes for Marcus Lattimore. And while quarterback Connor Shaw is great for this offense and makes plays running the football, he still takes too many risks throwing the ball and forces it at times that cost his team.

    But the main reason you can't label the Gamecocks contenders is that the team hasn't shown anything on the road. Despite losing to LSU, which you could possibly label the team having a bad game; South Carolina nearly lost to Vanderbilt and trailed Kentucky at halftime.

    If the Gamecocks find a way to turn things around against Florida, then we can talk about this football team and title chances.

LSU, Contender

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    You see what one victory can do for your reputation?

    Everybody was putting a fork in the Tigers, but a victory over a Top Five team and everything is wonderful again with LSU.

    While I, like everybody, still have questions about quarterback Zach Mettenberger, we finally saw the Tiger football team from last season. Maybe not as dominant as a year ago, but LSU controlled the line of scrimmage, ran the football on a top defense and actually played elite defense themselves.

    Les Miles and company controlled the time of possession and averaged nearly five yards a carry, while running the ball 53 times, which was the most since the 2010 bowl game against Texas A&M.

    I don't know if Mettenberger can help keep the chains moving like Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee did last season, but I do know if LSU can continue to dominate the lines of scrimmage, this SEC team is back in contention for a shot at a title.

USC, Pretender

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    I was a believer in this USC team to begin the season and thought they had the look of a true contender for the BCS National Championship. That same team is still intact but for whatever reason can't seem to get the ball rolling.

    Quarterback Matt Barkley hasn't been as sharp as everyone thought he would be, as he continues to make weird decisions with the football and has thrown just one less interception in six games than he threw all of last year.

    The offense as a whole isn't clicking, as USC was supposed to be scoring points the way West Virginia has been moving the ball. After all, we are talking about an offense that has many players that will eventually be picked in the first round of the NFL draft.

    The defense has been one of the best in the Pac-12 and is good enough to win the conference, but this team simply isn't polished enough to be labeled a contender. The Trojans have turned the ball over 11 times, average 10 penalties a game and are letting far less talented teams hang around on Saturdays.

Kansas State, Contender

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    I was going to label the Wildcats a pretender, but this Kansas State team has given me absolutely no reason to do so.

    Despite not having many household names on the defensive side of the ball, this unit has been able to get the job done, allowing over 20 points just two times in six games. They have also forced 15 turnovers, while only turning the ball over four times and have allowed the second fewest plays of over 20 yards in the Big 12 (15).

    Then of course, there is quarterback Collin Klein, who would be the MVP of college football. Not only is he completing 67 percent of his passes, but is second on the team with 510 rushing yards and has produced 17 total touchdowns. Without the senior quarterback leading this offense, Kansas State is probably not even ranked, let alone in the Top Five of the BCS poll.

    A team that runs the ball effectively and doesn't make mistakes is a team that can make a run.

    Kansas State is that type of football team.

Oklahoma, Pretender

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    I will not do it again.

    I refuse to consider this Oklahoma team a contender until it proves that it is serious for more than one game.

    Oh, it destroyed an overrated Texas team?

    That's nice.

    The same exact thing happened last season and the Sooners went on to lose to an unranked Texas Tech team, a No. 25 Baylor squad and then was used as a doormat when they traveled to Oklahoma State. The talent is there for Bob Stoops' team to make a run towards a national championship, but Oklahoma is looking more and more like the Florida State Seminoles of the Big 12.

    I just know in one of these tough games remaining, the Sooners will find a way to let everybody down again.

    It seems to happen every season.

Oregon, Contender

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    Anytime you are capable of dropping 150 points in five minutes of football, you have to be considered a contender.

    Oregon is second in the country, averaging 52 points per contest and is averaging 541 yards as well. We all know about the explosiveness of running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, but quarterback Marcus Mariota deserves just as much credit.

    The freshman is completing 68 percent of his passes and has produced 16 touchdowns, running this offense better than Darron Thomas was ever able to do in his three-year career.

    And while the offense is the fun thing to talk about, the defense is also capable of holding its own. The speedy unit is allowing less than 30 percent of opponents to convert on third down and have allowed just nine touchdowns on 29 red zone trips.

    We have seen many Oregon teams like this in the past, but this is probably the best team head coach Chip Kelly has had in his four-year coaching career.

Oregon State, Pretender

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    Oregon State was a fun story this season, but there are many questions surrounding this team as the Beavers head into the tougher part of the Pac-12 schedule.

    For one, the offense is way too dependent on its passing game, as the running game is ranked 102nd in the country. To make matters worse, quarterback Sean Mannion is undergoing knee surgery, which leaves the starter out for a lengthy period of time.

    Sure, Cody Vaz did a terrific job against BYU last week, but we can't possibly expect that to continue throughout the year, can we?

    The defense of the Beavers is the real deal, but having many questions on the offensive side of the ball, in a conference known for offense, isn't really a good recipe heading into the final stretch of the season.

Florida, Contender

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    Is Florida really the No. 2 team in the country?

    Well, I'll let you make that decision, but I do know the Gators are a seriously good football team.

    Every SEC champion in the last six years has been able to do two things well and that is run the football and play great defense. The Gators are ranked 13th in the country in total defense and the running game is producing 233 yards on the ground, which is good for second in the SEC.

    Florida has already been on the road three times this season and beat three decent SEC schools, which doesn't include knocking off LSU a couple of weeks ago.

    The Gators seem to be peaking at the right time and getting better as the weeks go by. This could be scary for the rest of the teams in the conference, as the season continues to play out.

Notre Dame, Pretender

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    The Irish have one of the best front sevens in all of college football, are second in the country in points allowed and have victories over three ranked teams. There is no question Notre Dame has earned its ranking.

    But if Notre Dame was to enter in the BCS National Championship, would you really pick the Irish to win?

    That young Notre Dame secondary that features three first-year starters has yet to be tested against an actual quarterback. The offense of Notre Dame struggles to produce and now quarterback Everett Golson has suffered a concussion and may miss some playing time. That would make Tommy Rees the starter, a quarterback who has had issues with turnovers in the past. 

    Besides the great defensive play, it seems like everything has fallen in place for the Irish. But close games against teams such as Stanford and Purdue do show there are weaknesses to this team that could soon be exposed.

    Notre Dame will still likely reach a BCS bowl, but if we're talking national championship contenders, the Irish aren't balanced enough for that level just yet.

Alabama, Contender

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    As if you needed me to tell you that Alabama was a contender. The team is undefeated, is giving up barely a touchdown a game on defense and the offense is clicking better than it has in a while.

    You may say that the Crimson Tide hasn't played anybody yet, but teams such as Michigan and Arkansas were supposed to be contenders this season and instead crashed and burned.

    The defense looks as great as it did a season ago, as young players are learning on the fly and contributing at a high level. Quarterback A.J. McCarron hasn't only taken several steps forward in his game, but should be considered a Heisman candidate. And then the running back duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon has been much better than expected, helping produce the fourth best rushing attack in the SEC.

    The Crimson Tide have won every game by at least 19 points and have yet to show a weakness in their game. Regardless of the schedule, Nick Saban's club appears to be on the right track to another SEC and possible BCS championship.