For the most part, the 2009 college football season is at its halfway point. We have seen top teams go down, Heisman winners get injured, and legendary coaches be asked to step down. But the big question is, what have we learned so far?
The first thing that is apparent to me is that Florida is as good as advertised. Many thought that the trip to Death Valley would be the death of an unbeaten season for the Gators. They went in, played a solid team game, and walked out of Baton Rouge a winner.
The bottom line, they are the best team in the country and look headed for a rematch with Alabama in the SEC Title game.
Another thing to take notice about is the fact that no one has separated them self in the Heisman race. Tebow and McCoy are the front-runners, but in my opinion, they haven't been excellent on the field. Instead they have been good, but isn't the award handed out to the best player in college football?
Javid Best had a brief run as the "it guy" but since has dropped down. The Oklahoma State Cowboy trio have been average at best. (At least the ones who are still playing are.) Sam Bradford has missed most of the season, so he is out. Who's the front runner?
Honestly, and I hate to say this, I give it to Jimmy Clausen. He has put up solid numbers and been a leader on his team. Take him away and the Irish are maybe a one or two win team right now. I also think that Noel Devine will be in the mix as long as West Virginia keeps winning.
One of the big story lines in my part of the country is whether the U is actually back. I moved down here for the 2007 season, and the talk was if Miami was back after they destroyed a bad Texas A&M team at the Orange Bowl. The answer came after they were rolled by the Sooners the next week. The same thing happened last year when they got on a roll late in the season, and then tripped up at N.C. State.
This year it is different. They are off to a nice 4-1 start with wins over FSU, Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma. I think nine or 10 wins is a real possibility, and if Virginia Tech slips up, watch out for the Canes as they may make a run towards Tampa. The U is back.
Speaking of FSU, what is going on in Tallahassee? They were picked to win the ACC, but 2-4 is not a place you want to be at the midway point. What happens if the Noles fail to make a bowl game? Is Bowden gone if that happens?
Another team that has been a disappointment is Illinois. Weren't they in the Rose Bowl just two seasons ago? Now they are facing back to back losing seasons and Ron Zook is walking the plank up in Champaign. Maybe the Gators were right, he can recruit but can't coach or control his players.
On the other hand there have been several surprises. Cincinnati is the defending Big East Champs, but were given no love by the so called experts, including myself. They returned only one defensive starter from last years team, and many thought that it would be enough to send them to the middle of the pack. Tony Pike and the Bearcats have proven they are legit and will be in contention for the conference crown until the end.
The other team I am surprised about is Oregon. After they lost their opener and looked awful offensively, I put a fork in them. Since then all they have done is end Utah's winning streak, kill Cal, and start unbeaten in Pac-10 play.
I know they were predicted to be at the top of the standings, but still, after the whole fighting the fans incident they went through, it would have been easy to give up.
The team Oregon lost to in their opener, Boise State, is up to their same old tricks. They appear to be back on track to run the table and grab another at-large BCS berth. Once again, this will bring up the question as to if they deserve a chance at a National Title game.
Most people believe they do not, based on their schedule, and I agree. They aren't going from Rocky Top to between the hedges each week in conference. Instead, they are traveling to San Jose State and the Wolf Den of Nevada. Plus, outside of playing Oregon, they play nobody. I am sure they have problems scheduling the big boys, but there has to be at least four of them that will bite.
TCU is also on the watch list as a possible unbeaten non-BCS school, but as good as their defense is, they don't seem to have enough offense to run the table in a tougher Mountain West Conference.
As far as conference front runners are concerned, Iowa and Ohio State are headed on a collision course in the Big Ten, Virginia Tech seems to be the cream of the crop in the ACC, while the winner of next week's Red River Rivalry game will have the upper hand in the Big 12. The Big East is anyone's guess, The Pac 10 appears to be USC and Oregon, and in the SEC it is all Bama and the Gators.
My final thought on the first half of the season is about the SEC title game. Say that Florida and Alabama go unbeaten, while everyone else in the major conferences lose at least once. They play a close game with the winner getting it done on the final play. The million dollar question would be does the loser go to Pasadena as well?
If history does repeat itself, you can find former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr and he will tell you what will happen...