As we begin settling into our respective Thanksgiving rituals—greeting old family, watching floating cartoon characters on TV, getting sloshed on a weekday well before noon—we take a look at the BCS picture, which usually starts to click into place by Turkey Day.
This season has been a weird one, and I ask all amateur astrologers and horoscopers (horoscopists?) to search the stars for any abnormal alignment, because when Kansas goes undefeated while USC loses to Stanford, something's off in the nature of the universe.
Philosophers may contend this is proof of intelligent design, as only a divine being (and a very bored one) could've made this season up. Of course, somewhere out there in Indiana, a Fighting Irish fan is screaming that there can be no God.
So, in the spirit of giving thanks and looking back upon the year that's passed, let's take a trip down memory lane, back to the late weeks of August and those omnipresent preseason rankings.
A recurring theme this season: Teams that were supposed to win not winning. Here's the big ones you might remember:
No. 1: USC
Quote: "This is the best defense Pete Carroll has had at USC. The second-team linebacking unit would start at about 100 other places ... [There is] enough talented depth to quickly step in if and when one of the future millionaires gets hurt ... It's not a stretch by any means to consider this team the most talented...in the history of college football."
Sheesh. Don't hold back.
CFN's only thought as to why USC might possibly falter is that there might just be too much talent on the team, causing it to collapse onto itself—much like a neutron star.
Current Record: 8-2. Losses: Stanford, Oregon. Current Ranking: #11
No. 4: Texas
Quote: "Colt McCoy proved he could be a big-game, big-time quarterback, and he has Limas Sweed ... If Jamaal Charles is over his sophomore slump, there's enough speed and talent in the backfield to run on anyone."
Charles is carrying a slumping McCoy. Colt hasn't been terrible, but Texas needed more than what he gave them.
Current Record: 9-2. Losses: Kansas State, Oklahoma. Current Ranking: #13
No. 5: Wisconsin
Quote: "The quarterback situation is still up in the air between Tyler Donovan and Allen Evridge ... the team can win big with either one ... if this team is as good as expected, the jury will still be out until it's 6-0 and going to Penn State."
Wisconsin's letdown season could have been predicted. Not only was the QB situation up in the air, but neither QB could win over with any of their players. Close scares against UNLV, Citadel, Iowa, and Michigan State preceded their upset at Illinois.
Current Record: 9-3. Losses: Illinois, Penn State, Ohio State. Current Ranking: #21
No. 6: Michigan
Quote: "Who's going to stop this offense? QB Chad Henne, RB Mike Hart, and WR Mario Manningham might form the great trio of skill players in the history of Michigan football ... the speed and raw talent are there [on defense] to be ultra-productive and extremely disruptive. ... Don't be shocked if there's a lack of focus from time to time as the team looks ahead to the make-or-break games at the end of the season..."
This one's rich. Who couldn't stop this offense? Michigan's strengths turned out to be overrated; their flaws much bigger than advertised. Finely-tuned, speed-based offenses proved to be their undoing. Give some props to Appalachian State, though—if the Mountaineers had played in the Big Ten, they might've gone BCS this season.
Current Record: 8-4. Losses: App State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio St. Current Ranking: n/a
No. 8: Louisville
Quote: "Louisville is the real deal ... The duo of Anthony Allen and George Stripling will make the running game explode behind a great line. The defense is fast, athletic, and forces a ton of mistakes."
Wow. What else can you say? The Cards were the biggest disappointment of 2007. The vaunted platoon of running backs barely broke four yards a carry. There certainly were many mistakes apparent among the 81st-ranked defense, against whom Middle Tennessee looked competitive. One feels sorry for Brian Brohm, whose valiant efforts in constructing the nation's fourth-best pass offense couldn't do anything but cruelly keep Louisville's hopes alive.
Current Record: 5-6. Losses: Kentucky, Syracuse, Utah, UConn, WVU, USF. Current Ranking: n/a
No. 10: Georgia Tech
Quote: "Georgia Tech probably would've been our sleeper choice to play USC for the national title ... RB Tashard Choice is an elite runner who'll have plenty of room to run, while QB Taylor Bennett will be an upgrade over Reggie Ball. Just about everyone returns to a stellar defense, led by LB Philip Wheeler, and a top-notch safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones."
Somewhere, a CFN writer is slapping his foreheard. The Georgia Tech season has been characteristic of most of their seasons—marred by inconsistency. New quarterback Taylor Bennett hasn't been an improvement over Reggie Ball. Barely making half his throws, he leads the 100th-ranked pass offense in I-A football.
Current Record: 7-4. Losses: Boston C, UVA, Maryland, VTech. Current Ranking: n/a
No. 11: UCLA
Quote: "This might be one of the five best teams in America ... There are almost no real weaknesses considering the receiving corps isn't all that bad and the special teams will be more than fine."
The injury bug bit the Bruins—but then again, UCLA finished 2006 just 7-6, with a blowout loss to Florida State. And I'm sure Karl Dorrell was reassured to hear that his receivers weren't "all that bad."
Current Record: 5-5. Losses: Utah, Notre Dame, Wash St, Arizona, Arizona St. Current Ranking: n/a
No. 12: Miami (FL)
Quote: "The defense will be a brick wall ... [the defense] has a starting 11 that could be the best in America ... The offense can't help but be better, and it will be with running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper each good enough to start at the next level very soon."
Current Record: 5-6. Losses: Oklahoma, UNC, GTech, NC St., UVA, VTech Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 14: Oregon State
Current Record: 7-4. Losses: Cincinnati, Arizona St., UCLA, USC Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 15: California
Current Record: 6-5. Losses: Oregon St, UCLA, AZ St., USC, Washington Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 17: Rutgers
Current Record: 7-4. Losses: Maryland, Cincinnati, WVU, UConn Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 19: Oklahoma St.
Current Record: 6-5. Losses: UGA, Troy, Texas A&M, Texas, Kansas, Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 20: Texas A&M
Current Record: 6-5. Losses: Miami, Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mizzou, Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 23: Nebraska
Current Record: 5-6. Losses: USC, Mizzou, OK St., Texas A&M, Texas, Kansas Current Ranking: Unranked
No. 26: TCU
Current Record: 6-5. Losses: Texas, Air Force, Wyoming, Utah, BYU Current Ranking: Unranked
Quote: "It's not like the team is completely devoid of talent after losing all the stars. This is still Notre Dame and Charlie Weis has done a good job of starting to bring in more and more top-flight players.
Notre Dame was ranked number 45, which is pretty low. It should've been lower. Can you believe some guys actually had ND in their top 25?
Current Record: 2-9. Losses: Too many. Current Ranking: n/a
There's a vacuum at the top created by all these angels falling from grace, and someone has to move up. The following are the teams who've climbed the obstacles, and—more often than not—shocked the college football world.
Except LSU. LSU shocks no one.
Quote: "The story writes itself. So hot at the end of last year that some declared it the best team in America , LSU is coming in with a ton of hype, a tailor-made schedule with the toughest road game at Alabama, and enough overall talent to end up playing in New Orleans for the national title."
So the pollsters were almost right. LSU took a bit of a detour, but they finally got there and now they hold that coveted #1 spot. You can't say LSU has really lived up to the hype. They came into the season like a team of Supermen off to pound the walls of Troy. A series of close wins revealed that the Bengals are simply human. But they're one tough team to beat.
Current Record: 10-1. Losses: Kentucky. Current Ranking: #1, Next Game: Arkansas
Quote: "There might not be any college football household names, but QB Chase Daniel, WR Will Franklin and RB Tony Temple form the nucleus of a potentially unstoppable attack. The All-America tight end tandem of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman could be legendary."
They actually got this right, which is surprising. For once, the predicted sleeper comes through, and exactly in the way described.
Current Record: 10-1. Losses: Oklahoma. Current Ranking: #4. Next Game: #2 Kansas.
No. 24: West Virginia
The nation's fourth-ranked defense chooses to disagree.
Current Record: 9-1. Losses: USF. Current Ranking: #3. Next Game: #20 UConn.
Quote: "Of course, the big concern is the loss of head coach Tom O'Brien, who made BC into a consistent player. Jeff Jagodzinski has to prove he can handle leading an ACC title caliber team."
I think Jags has made his point.
Current Record: 9-2. Losses: Florida State, Maryland. Current Ranking: #3. Next Game: Miami (FL).
Quote: "While there's plenty of talent, the defense is painfully short of veteran stars and will need time before it lives up to its potential ... While there's hope for a better year from the offense, it still has to prove it can produce on a consistent basis."
UGA has had its ups and downs this season, but it's fair to say that the Dawgs' recent success is largely due to its freshman phenom, Knowshon Moreno.
Current Record: 9-2. Losses: South Carolina, Tennessee. Current Ranking: #7. Next Game: Georgia Tech
Quote: "It should be more of the same from the ASU defense. There's plenty of speed, athleticism and potential, but there will still be problems against the better Pac 10 offenses."
Current Record: 9-1. Losses: Oregon. Current Ranking: #6. Next Game: USC
No. 33: South Florida
Quote: "This is the sleeper Big East team everyone is secretly worrying about. While there doesn't appear to be enough in the bag to win the conference title, the Bulls will shatter plenty of dreams."
Current Record: 8-3. Losses: Rutgers, UConn, Cincinnati. Current Ranking: #23. Next Game: Pittsburgh
Quote: "QB Dennis Dixon, RB Jonathan Stewart and WR Jaison Williams form one of the league's best trio of skill players."
CFN described Oregon so well—makes you wonder why they put them so far down.
Current Record: 8-2. Losses: Cal, Arizona. Current Ranking: #9. Next Game: UCLA
No. 44: Virginia
Quote: "While the defense should be good, there's a ceiling on how good it can be. It lacks the top-shelf athleticism to beat the better ACC teams."
The glass ceiling has been breached.
Current Record: 9-2. Losses: Wyoming, NC State. Current Ranking: #16, Next Game: Virginia Tech
No. 47: Kentucky
Quote: "While the skill players are terrific, they might not have too much time to operate behind a porous line devoid of SEC talent. The defense was one of the worst in the nation last year, and with no size up front, it won't be all that much better."
Sure, they're not ranked. But dude, they beat LSU. It's been a banner season for them.
Current Record: 7-4. Losses: South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi St, Georgia. Current Ranking: n/a. Next Game: Tennessee
No. 52: Illinois
Quote: "Your completion percentage is probably higher than Juice's. Defensive coordinators will let Williams throw as much as he wants to; that's not a plus for the Illini. There might be a ton of hype, but the team has done absolutely nothing so far under Ron Zook."
Expect Ron Zook to win Big Ten Coach of the Year. Then he can shove it in everyone's faces.
Current Record: 9-3. Losses: Mizzou, Iowa, Michigan. Current Ranking: #17
No. 65: Cincinnati
Quote: "The offense will need a while to adjust... it could be midseason before the attack finally starts to jell. The offensive line is merely average, while the running backs aren't strong enough to take the pressure off the passing game."
Current Record: 8-3. Losses: Pittsburgh, Louisville, WVU. Current Ranking: #24. Next Game: Syracuse
Quote: "The team appears to be just good enough to throw a wrench into the Big 12 North. No, KU isn't going to challenge for the title ... The defense isn't as bad as last year's stats might have made it appear."
Current Record: 11-0. Losses: None. Current Ranking: #2. Next Game: Missouri.
Quote: "The quarterback situation is still a concern with an on-going battle that likely won't be fully settled even after a full-time starter is named. The offensive line isn't nearly good enough to win with consistently in the Big East, while the defensive front should struggle after losing the starting tackles."
Current Record: 9-2, Losses: Virginia, Cincinnati. Current Ranking: #20. Next Game: West Virginia
Quote: "Any injury could be devastating to a thin line with no depth. Only three starters and seven lettermen return to a defense that'll have a hard time stopping if it has to be on the field for an extended length of time.
Navy deserves to be recognized for its history-making season, even if they won't be ranked. It's not just breaking that 44-year losing streak, but that unprecedented 74-62 game against North Texas. They've created something beautiful in Annapolis.
Current Record: 7-4. Losses: Rutgers, Ball State, Wake Forest, Delaware. Current Ranking: n/a. Next Game: Army