Slowly but surely, they’re falling. Each week, at least one big-time college football team suffers defeat. And with each big defeat, the BCS rankings turn upside down.
A few weeks ago, it was the Oklahoma Sooners. This past weekend, it was the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Who’s next to take a digger? Here are some teams that will taste defeat sooner than later.
I was ready to do it. I really, really was. I was ready to proclaim that the Oklahoma State Cowboys had a defense good enough to get them through the regular season unscathed en route to the BCS Championship game.
After all, they had played good enough in victories over Arizona (37-14), Texas A&M (30-29) and Texas (38-26).
Then, Collin Klein and the Kansas State Wildcats offense shredded the Cowboys defense for over 500 yards. Mike Gundy’s crew hung on for dear life as Klein fell just short in leading the Wildcats to the game-tying touchdown in Oklahoma State’s wild 52-45 victory.
There’s no enormous shame in allowing that kind of performance to a quarterback as solid as Klein. The problem for the Cowboys is that an even better opposing passer is waiting in the wings.
Landry Jones has to be licking his chops thinking about how he can exploit a reeling Oklahoma State defense. The Sooners quarterback is the best one the Cowboys will face all season, and after watching how poorly his defense played against Kansas State, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has to be cringing over the prospect of what Jones is capable of.
Even after losing star running back Dominique Whaley and wide receiver Ryan Broyles to season-ending injuries, the Sooners’ offense still has the deadly combination of quality depth (with guys like Kenny Stills, Roy Finch and Jaz Reynolds) and the awesome right arm of Jones.
Plus, coordinator Brent Venables and his Sooners defense are starting to regain their swagger after the Texas Tech debacle. They held Ryan Tannehill and a talented Texas A&M offense in check for most of the game in OU’s 41-25 win over the Aggies.
Add those factors together, and Oklahoma State may leave Bedlam on the wrong side of the scoreboard yet again.
Injuries can derail even the most talented of college football teams. The Stanford Cardinal have been bit up pretty good by the dreaded injury bug lately.
In their win at Oregon State, star wide receiver Chris Owusu (concussion) left the field in an ambulance after suffering a vicious hit. Meanwhile, Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, kicker Jordan Williamson, safety Delano Howard and tackle Cameron Fleming all missed the game with injuries.
On the flip side, the Oregon Ducks are getting healthy at the right time. Star running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas were impressive in returning to action against Washington.
Let’s not forget that the last team to defeat Stanford was Oregon, which hung 52 on the Cardinal last year in Eugene. With so much speed and depth offensively, the Ducks could take flight again in Palo Alto.
If Stanford can’t get some of some of their injured players back for this game, they better hope stud quarterback Andrew Luck continues to live up to his Heisman hype, because they’re going to need him to come through if they want to remain undefeated.
I’ve said before that Stanford’s physical style can offset Oregon’s finesse, spread offense. However, you can just as easily turn that argument on its head and say that Stanford doesn’t have the defensive speed to contain the likes of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. Either way, it should be quite the showdown in the Pac-12.
The Virginia Tech Hokies have shot out to an 8-1 start, thanks in no small part to a defense historically stout against the run. This season has been no different, as the Hokies have only surrendered 86 yards per game on the ground.
However, Tech’s run defense will definitely be put to the test in their ACC Coastal Division showdown with Georgia Tech and their high-powered, triple-option attack. Once again, Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson’s offense is carving up the opposition on the ground, to the tune of 421 yards per game thus far in 2011.
Will the Hokies have what it takes to slow down the triple option?
I’m going to say the Hokies won’t have an answer for Georgia Tech’s ground game. Granted, these two teams face off every year, so it’s not like Virginia Tech suffers from a lack of familiarity (most often the reason why a team can’t stop the triple option).
Still, just because you know what’s coming doesn’t necessarily mean you can stop it. A talented Clemson Tigers team learned the hard way that no matter how prepared you are, the Yellow Jackets can sting. The Jackets ran for 383 yards in handing Clemson its only loss, 31-17 in Atlanta. Paul Johnson has his offense rolling at the right time, which could mean trouble for Virginia Tech.
Be it because of parity or (more likely) mediocrity, nobody has been safe in the Big East this year. That is, of course, except for the Cincinnati Bearcats. But even though the Bearcats are the only undefeated team left in the Big East (3-0), they had better not look past their next big conference test against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The Mountaineers will look to atone for their 38-35 loss to Louisville, and they have an exciting quarterback capable of getting them back in the win column. His name is Geno Smith, and if you haven’t seen him in action yet, I recommend you grab your popcorn and pull up a chair.
Geno Smith comes off a great performance for the West Virginia Mountaineers. He threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns in their loss to Louisville.
The matchup between Smith and Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros should be quite exciting. The Bearcats need to maintain their focus after a huge conference road win in Pittsburgh.
Smith and his receivers (particularly Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin) are capable of lighting up the scoreboard against many opponents. If the West Virginia-Cincinnati game turns into a shootout, that may favor the Mountaineers. Their offense is a bit more capable of putting up gobs of points.
Now we’re really going to see what the Penn State Nittany Lions are made of. Although Penn State is 5-0 in Big Ten play, you can make the argument that they took advantage of a weak start to the conference slate.
The tail end of the schedule is definitely not weak, as the Nittany Lions have to face Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin (the latter two on the road) to finish out the regular season. I just can’t see Penn State emerging from that three-game stretch unbeaten, not with how poor their offense has been throughout the season.
Of course, the events unfolding off the field could derail Penn State’s 2011 season far more quickly than any opponent they’ll face on it.
Unfortunately, there’s the very real possibility that the scandal involving former Penn State long-time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky will prove too much of a distraction for legendary head coach Joe Paterno and his team to overcome. Sandusky is accused of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.
If this is true, then it’s bad enough that some of these despicable crimes occurred on school grounds. To make matters far worse, it was covered up for years by some highly regarded Penn State officials, meaning more innocent victims were needlessly abused.
Now, Paterno’s legacy is going to come under incredible fire. This kind of scandal won’t just rock the football program; it will bring the entire University Park community to its knees. It ‘s undoubtedly a black eye on Paterno’s otherwise pristine legacy, and will likely bring a sad end to his chapter of Penn State football. Suddenly, winning a football game isn’t nearly as important in Happy Valley anymore.