Contenders or Pretenders: What We Learned, Week Three

Pete MisthaufenAnalyst ISeptember 21, 2009

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies is mobbed by teammates after scoring a touchdown against the USC Trojans on September 19, 2009 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Trojans 16-13. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

With another addition of Upset Saturday in the books, we are ready to survey the college football landscape and determine which teams are ready for the big lights and which ones need to go back to the drawing board.

No upset was bigger than the Washington Huskies' victory over the USC Trojans.  Most of us knew that UW would be back quickly under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, but few expected such success so quickly.

Now, let's go around the nation examining the pretenders and the contenders in each conference, trying to see which teams might make a BCS game this season.



The ACC has received a lot of criticism lately, but the conference had a nice week three.  The ACC has three real contenders plus four teams knocking on the door.  Of course, the bottom of the conference is pretty bad.


Miami (2-0):  The U has a big test coming up next week at VaTech, followed up by the Sooners coming to town, looking to get back into the BCS title race.  By the way, all the talk about Randy Shannon needing to be concerned for his job needs to stop now.

Florida State (2-1):  Great win in Provo.  Much easier to win when you only punt one time and have the ball twice as long as the other team.  Pass defense still has major issues.  Good thing that BYU gave up the ball five times.  FSU has a very weak, but undefeated, South Florida squad coming to face next week at home.  The Bulls will be neutered.

Virginia Tech (2-1):  The Hokies escaped with a close win over Nebraska.  Next week's battle against Miami will go a long way in determining who is the top dog in the ACC.


Duke (1-2), Virginia, (0-3), Maryland (1-2), Boston College (2-1), Wake Forest (2-1)

Up in the air

North Carolina (3-0), Clemson (2-1), Georgia Tech (2-1), North Carolina State (2-1)


Big East

Most of the country has criticized the Big East for quite some time.  Saturday was almost Big East redemption day as Louisville and WV lost winnable games. 


Cincinnati (3-0):  Great win at Oregon State, though the Beavers should have two losses.  Cincy looks to be the class of the Big East and maybe will not blown out beat in its next BCS game.  But a dangerous Fresno State team coming to town on Saturday, watch out.

Pittsburgh (3-0):  While a bit below the Bearcats, Pitt looks to challenge again for the Big East crown.  A roadtrip to North Carolina State will show whether the Panthers are really contenders or not.


Rutgers (2-1); Syracuse (1-2); Louisville (1-1); South Florida (3-0)

Up in the Air

West Virginia (2-1); UConn (2-1)


Big 12

Will the real Big 12 stand up!  Is it the second best conference in America with great offenses and tough teams?  Or is it really just a pretender all together?  The Longhorns continue to be merely good, with Colt trying to drop off the Heisman watch list all together.


Oklahoma (2-1):  OU is up and running and looking to put the season-opening loss to BYU far behind.  With two weeks to get ready for the reborn Canes, OU will be ready for the epic battle.  With the Big 12 looking average at best recently, the Sooners should be able to take care of business if they can get by Miami, even with the large number of good teams on the schedule.

Texas (3-0):  Texas sure is not winning pretty.  But winning is winning, so getting by Texas Tech was very important.  Colt appears to have taken a step backwards this year.


Kansas State (1-2); Texas A&M (2-0); Baylor (1-1); Iowa State (2-1); Colorado (1-2)

Up in the Air

Kansas (3-0); Missouri (3-0); Nebraska (2-1); Oklahoma State (2-1); Texas Tech (2-1)


Big Ten

Is the Big Ten back or is it still highly suspect?  How about somewhere in between.  The Vest can not beat a beatable USC team.  Penn State has yet to play any one worth talking about.  Iowa got extremely lucky with Northern Iowa.  Minnesota is lucky not to have three losses.  Is Michigan for real?  Probably not. 


None.  Sure the Big Ten will get two teams into BCS bowls like they always do, but that does not mean the conference is any good?  An undefeated Penn State team should be passed over for the BCS title game by every other BCS conference (well, maybe not the Big East), given its weak schedule. 

So, while the Big Ten is full of teams that may make a BCS game, none of them will deserve it and I hope all of them have three losses.


Indiana (3-0); Illinois (1-1); Purdue (1-2); Minnesota (2-1); Northwestern (2-1); Michigan State (1-2)

Up in the Air

Michigan (3-0); Iowa (3-0); Penn State (3-0); Ohio State (2-1); Wisconsin (3-0)



Conference USA got a big assist from Houston's great effort at Oke State, but is still looking up at the WAC and MWC.  Of course, Houston and Southern Miss will most likely lose next week.  Oh well, it was nice to have a CUSA team ranked for a couple weeks.  Houston might it back in at the end of the season.


Houston (2-0): Houston's win in a shootout at Oklahoma State helped the Cougars to build a decent resume, but with Texas Tech coming to town, look for the Red Raiders to win in a high scoring game.  However, if Houston pulls it out, they will have a good chance to be in the conversation about a BCS bowl.


UAB (1-2); Marshall (2-1); East Carolina (1-2); Memphis (1-2); UCF (1-2); Tulsa (2-1); UTEP (1-2); Rice (0-3); Tulane (0-2); SMU (2-1)

Up in the Air

Southern Miss (3-0)


Mountain West

Well, it was a nice run while it lasted.  While not a complete disaster, Sept. 19, 2009 may go down as the day the MWC's bid for auto-bid status died.  BYU is blown out at home by Florida State.  Utah loses on the road to Oregon in a very ugly game.  Even bottom-dwelling San Diego State lost at WAC bottom-dweller Idaho. 

But TCU still is undefeated, as is Colorado State.  UNLV should be 3-0 except for a bad PI call against Oregon State.  Air Force lost a close game at Minnesota.  Only Wyoming and New Mexico are true disaster zones.


TCU (2-0):  This week's game at Clemson is a make or break situation for the Frogs.  While TCU will remain the favorite to win the MWC, the game at Clemson is crucial for the Frogs' BCS hopes.

BYU (2-1):  While suffering a huge setback against Florida State, BYU's BCS hopes still exist.  They are just very slim.

Colorado State (3-0): Coming out of seemingly nowhere, the Rams are very much alive as contenders.  The Rams go to Provo this week in a contest to determine who is No. 2 in the MWC.  CSU has been receiving votes each week, so a win here will put the Rams back into the Top 25 for the first time since 2003's preseason poll.


Wyoming (1-2); San Diego State (1-2); New Mexico (0-3)

Up in the Air

Utah (2-1); UNLV (2-1); Air Force (2-1)



Washington sure messed up USC's plans.  Oh, well, I had already written that the Pac-10 was no Pac-1 this year.  The conference goes seven or eight deep, making it one of the strongest in the country.


Cal (3-0): The Bears have not had a letdown on the road like in previous seasons and Best is a true Heisman contender.  Even so, Cal only has one easy game left on its schedule and will be lucky to get through with less than two losses.

Washington (2-1): The Huskies are back and ready for business.  They also now have the inside track for the Rose Bowl.  Is 11-1 unthinkable?  Even 8-4 would be a great turn around.

USC (2-1):  This is not USC losing to Stanford.  This is USC losing to Oregon State.  Get Barkley back in action and get Bates to call some real plays and USC is back in business.  USC still should be able to go 11-1 or 10-2.


Washington State (1-2); Stanford (2-1)

Up in the Air

UCLA (3-0); Arizona State (2-0); Arizona (2-1); Oregon (2-1); Oregon State (2-1)



Well, thanks Coach Kiffin for making us all remember that the Gators are not superheroes.  With the conference schedule coming into form, we will see if the Gators are going to make a fall or three in the upcoming weeks.  Bama appears to be the best team in the SEC, but has a much harder schedule than Florida.


Alabama (3-0):  Looking good, Mr. Saban.  Big win to start the season. Team fine tuned over the last couple weeks.  Bama is ready to take off and roll.  Team should be No. 1 in both polls right now.

LSU (3-0):  Wow, that win in Seattle really looks good now.  If only the offense can take off, the team will be tough to be beat.  But with a tough schedule in the SEC West, LSU may be heading for the Sugar Bowl instead of the BCS title game.

Florida (3-0):  Will the real Florida Gators please stand up?  Tennessee made Florida look beatable.  Tebow looked human.  Too bad the Vols did not have a QB able to avoid INTS or we could have had a good upset.


Vanderbilt (1-2); Tennessee (1-2); Mississippi State (2-1)

Up in the Air

Kentucky (2-0); Mississippi (2-0); Auburn (3-0); Georgia (2-1); South Carolina (2-1); Arkansas (1-1)


Sun Belt

All pretenders all the time



Back to the WAC-1 this year for Boise State.  For Bronco fans, look at the current computer rankings and realize it will only go down from here due to the pathetic schedule.  While some of us thought that a couple other teams in the WAC might show up this year, none has panned out. 

The conference did have one big win though on Saturday, as Idaho defeated MWC bottom dweller San Diego State.  Utah State actually made a game of it against Texas A&M, that says more about how bad A&M is than anything else.


Boise State (3-0):  Took care of business at Fresno.  A few potential pitfalls loom in some road games, but Boise should go 13-0 absent any serious injuries.


Louisiana Tech (1-2); Nevada (0-2); Idaho (2-1); Utah State (0-2); Fresno State (1-2); New Mexico State (1-2); San Jose State (0-3); Hawaii (2-1)



So, there you have it.  Eighteen contenders still (plus something from the Big Ten).   Given all the losses early in the season, the pattern should continue and this might be one of those years where every team has two or more losses.