BCS Standings: Strengths and Weaknesses of Every Top 25 Team

David Fidler Correspondent INovember 3, 2011

BCS Standings: Strengths and Weaknesses of Every Top 25 Team

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    We are down to the final month of the BCS season. Most of the scrubs have been weeded out of the polls, and the teams that remain have, for the most part, earned their places.

    At this point, the conference championships and bowl matchups are beginning to take shape. Moreover, unlike back in August when we were all grasping at straws, fans and pundits alike now have a good idea of what each team brings to the table.

    In effect, this article will specifically look at the best and worst qualities of each of the top 25 teams.

    Which team has pass rush problems? Which team can't convert a third down to save its life?

    And which teams are as close to flawless as a college football team can be?

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

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    1. Taking care of the little things.

    Senior Danny Hrapmann has made 11 of 18 field goal attempts for a 61.1 percent average. Also, Southern Miss is the most penalized team in Conference USA, averaging 62.5 yards-penalized-per-game.

    The Golden Eagles haven't had many close games or tough competition this season, but if they reach the C-USA Championship Game they will likely face Houston. At that point, they will have to clean these little things up.

    2. Quarterback

    Senior Austin Davis has done okay. However, given the competition he has faced he should have a better efficiency rating than 140.24. He also needs to get his interceptions under control.


    1. Rushing options.

    Southern Miss has five viable rushing options in running backs Kendrick Hardy, Jamal Woodyard and Jeremy Hester, quarterback Austin Davis and wide receiver Tracy Lampley. All have more than 50 carries, and all but Davis are averaging more than four YPC.

    2. Pass defense.

    The Golden Eagles have the second tightest pass defense in their conference having allowed a passer efficiency rating of 104.22. This will be key if/when they face Houston and Case Keenum in the conference championship.

    3. Receiving options.

    Fifteen different Golden Eagles have caught a pass this year. Seven have caught 10 or more. Three have caught 20 or more.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    1. Defensive front.

    This is hardly a surprise, given that they graduated two of their three linemen, as well as two of their three linebackers. However, they are both last in the Big East in sacks and second-to-last in rushing defense (YPC). This is not good news for a team that has yet to face the two best rushing teams in the conference—Cincinnati and South Florida.

    2. Coverage units.

    WVU is a mess in this area. They are last in the Big East in both punt and kickoff coverage and have let up a total of three touchdowns on returns.


    1. Quarterback.

    Geno Smith is arguably the best signal caller in the Big East. At the very least, he is statistically the best signal caller in the Big East, as he leads the conference in most passing categories.

    2. Pass Defense.

    Whatever issues WVU is having against the run, they are taking care of things through the air. The Mountaineer defense is second best in the Big East against the pass.

    3. Return units/play makers.

    Similarly, whatever issues West Virginia is having on coverage, they are making up for it on their own kickoff and punt return units. That is because they have a bevy of offensive playmakers, most of who make up the WVU wide receiver position group.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    1. Do the limitations of the triple option offense hurt Georgia Tech?

    Paul Johnson is 0-3 in bowl games as the coach of Georgia Tech. Does this speak to GT being easy to prepare for and defeat if the opponent in question has time to adjust to their unique offense? Moreover, what if Tech is down by four points with 90 seconds to go? Might as well pack it in, because the Yellow Jackets don't really have a two-minute offense.

    2. Rushing defense.

    Tech is allowing 4.44 YPC. That is 79th in the country. For comparison's sake, Western Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Tulane are having more success stopping the run.


    1. Does the novelty of the triple option offense help Georgia Tech?

    There might not be a more difficult opponent to prepare for in season than the Yellow Jackets. The only teams that run offenses like them are the service academies and they do it with far lesser athleticism. Imagine preparing for pro sets and spread sets for 10-straight weeks and then seeing this?

    2. The running game.

    Whatever the limitations of the scheme, teams have trouble defending it. Georgia Tech is No. 3 in the country in rushing offense (YPC). It is dizzying watching the Jackets run their offense from the television. I can only imagine what it is like trying to defend against it.

    3. Passing efficiency.

    As usual, what Tech lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The Yellow Jackets have the third fewest passing attempts in the country, but the seventh best passer efficiency rating.

Auburn Tigers

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    1. Pass defense.

    Auburn has the third worst pass defense in the SEC. They have also picked off the third fewest passes in the conference and let up the second most touchdowns through the air.

    2. Rush defense.

    The rush defense isn't much better. They are allowing 4.52 YPC. The only teams they've held under their season average were Utah State, Florida and South Carolina.


    1. Offensive play-calling.

    The Auburn offense will be in very good hands as long as offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn opts to shun head coaching opportunities.

    2. Running backs.

    Michael Dyer's YPC are less than last year, but that had to be expected. He's still doing a fine job of moving the ball, as is his backup Onterio McCalebb.

    3. Winning the close ones.

    Gene Chizik is an impressive 10-3 at Auburn in games decided by a touchdown or less. He is 7-0 in games decided by a field goal or less. I admittedly can't stand the guy, but that speaks of quality in-game coaching.

Texas Longhorns

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    1. Passing offense.

    The biggest issue from last season still hasn't been cleaned up. The Longhorns have the conference's third worst passing offense. Only Kansas State and Iowa State have been worse.

    2. Offensive line.

    The running game has been so-so and the pass protection has been somewhat lousy. Texas ranks seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense, and has allowed the third most sacks.


    1. Pass defense.

    The Horns have the best pass defense in the Big 12, which is particularly impressive when you consider they've already played the two best passing offenses in the conference. Though they lost both of those games, they held the Cowboys to their worst passing performance on the year and the Sooners to their second worst.

    2. Red zone rush defense.

    Though Texas has only been mediocre against the run (3.82 YPC allowed) they have been extremely strong defending the run in the red zone. They have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the Big 12 and 21st fewest in the country.

    3. Running back depth.

    There seems to be no end to the quality running backs in Austin. Malcolm Brown gets the majority of the carries, but Fozzy Whittaker, Joe Bergeron and D.J. Monroe are also dangerous and dependable.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    1. Regardless what the stats say—No. 9 scoring defense in the country—the UW defense is suspect.

    Michigan State exploited Wisconsin's soft secondary to the tune of 290 yards passing. OSU exploited a so-so run defense to nab 268 yards on the ground.

    2. Big game coaching ability.

    Last year, it seemed head coach Bret Bielema had answered questions regarding his ability to win big games. This season's games against Michigan State and Ohio State have brought Bielema's big game coaching ability back into question.


    1. Offensive line.

    Must be the steady diet of beer and cheese, but UW keeps churning out O-linemen. Four of the starting five are locks to get drafted when they come out with center Peter Konz, guard Kevin Zeitler and left tackle Ricky Wagner probable first or second rounders.

    2. A deep group of running backs.

    Montee Ball is the lynchpin that keeps this offense together, but James White and even third stringers Jeffrey Lewis and and Melvin Gordon are solid backs.

    3. A quality group of linebackers.

    They anchor this defense that might not be as good as the stats indicate, but are still a top 30 group.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    1. Discipline.

    ASU is the most penalized team in country.

    2. Third down conversions.

    The Sun Devils are third worst in the Pac-12 at converting third downs. The only teams worse are Colorado and Utah. As tends to go hand-in-hand with third down issues, Arizona State has issues protecting its passer. They are ninth in the conference having given up 20 sacks.


    1. Defense getting off the field.

    Conversely, the ASU defense is one of the best in the country at stopping teams on third down. Only 27.78 percent of third down conversions have been successful against them.

    2. Big play defense.

    Arizona State is fourth in the country in turnovers gained.

    3. Big play receivers.

    ASU's top three receivers all have over 14 YPC. The Sun Devils are among the tops in the conference in passing plays 30 yards or longer.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    1. Rushing offense.

    UGA is the No. 9 rushing offense in the SEC. Part of the issue is the attrition that swept through the offensive line early in the season. However, this has been an ongoing problem as the Dawgs haven't fielded a 1,000 yard rusher since Knowshon Moreno in 2008.

    2. Place Kicking.

    Georgia has the worst field goal kicking unit in the SEC, having made a paltry 56.5 percent of its field goal attempts. Compounding the matter, the Bulldogs also have the most field goal attempts in the country. Not coincidentally, Georgia missed a field goal in its three point loss to South Carolina.


    1. Pass rush.

    The Bulldog defense has the most sacks in the SEC with 20. As tends to be a bedfellow to a strong pass rush, the Dawgs are the No. 1 team in the country in opponents' third down conversions. Georgia has only allowed opponents to convert 25.69 percent of its attempts.

    2. Quarterback.

    Aaron Murray is still a strength. Though he was statistically better last season, one has to allow for the loss of A.J. Green. As it is, two of Murray's top four targets are freshmen.

    3. Pass defense.

    The Bulldog defense is shutting down the pass. They are the seventh ranked passing defense in the country.

Michigan State Spartans

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    1. Offensive Line.

    MSU is the 88th ranked rushing offense (YPC) in the country. And that is with three proven running backs. That is not a good statistic for a power-based team.

    2. Kirk Cousins is not a big game QB.

    His career efficiency rating against top 25 teams is a lackluster 124.85. His head coach doesn't have a much better track record. Mark Dantonio's career record (at both MSU and Cincinnati) against top 25 teams is a pathetic 4-19.


    1. Great special teams.

    Forget offense and defense. Special teams beat the Badgers. MSU had one blocked field goal, one blocked punt that went for a touchdown and a punt that was downed inside the five that led directly to a safety. This has been a hallmark of Michigan State since Mark Dantonio took over.

    2. Pass Defense.

    The Spartans are No. 3 in the country (opponent passer efficiency rating). Moreover, they have intercepted at least one pass in all but one game they've played (Florida Atlantic being the exception).

    3. Offensive skill positions.

    Dangerous, experienced pass catchers—check. Multiple, proven running backs—check. Three-year starting quarterback—check.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    1. Coaching.

    This is tough to write, as I have a great deal of admiration for head coach Joe Paterno, but all signs point to him being little more than a figurehead in the Penn State locker room. Recently, Joe Pa visited Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald's sons during halftime. For better or worse, that is not the action of a coach that is actively engaged with his team.

    2. Quarterbacking.

    Penn State is still platooning two different quarterbacks, neither one of whom is good. The Nits have the worst quarterback efficiency rating of any top 25 team, and at 108.94, it's not even close.


    1. Running back.

    Consider that Silas Redd is one of the most productive backs in the Big Ten. Then consider that he does it with a passing game for which other teams have no respect.

    2. Defense.

    As the offense flounders, the defense is its usual self. It leads the Big Ten and is fourth nationally in scoring D.

    3. Pass defense.

    Specifically, this is a tough team to pass against. Not only is it near the top of the conference in sacks and pass defense, but it leads the conference and is sixth nationally in interceptions.

Michigan Wolverines

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    1. A passing quarterback.

    Denard Robinson is electric. Denard Robinson is dangerous. If you give Denard Robinson a hole, he will take it to the house. But Denard Robinson has a highly suspect arm.

    2. Rush defense.

    The Wolverines have a much more efficient defense than at any point under Rich Rodriguez, but the D is still giving up an unimpressive 4.41 YPC.


    1. Denard Robinson is, in fact, extremely dangerous.

    He has to be accounted for at all times.

    2. Offensive skill position depth.

    Shoelace is the focus of the offense, but the Wolverines have a number of capable running backs and a number of quality pass catchers for Robinson to target.

    3, Intangibles.

    It is hokey to claim "intangibles" as a strength for Michigan, but the team and fan base are palpably excited over the direction new coach Brady Hoke has the program headed.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    1. Quarterback.

    KSU has been humming along with mediocre quarterback play, but Oklahoma exposed them big time. In order to fare better against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas, junior Collin Klein will have to do better than his 125.79 passing efficiency.

    2. Pass protection.

    Speaking of exposed, the Wildcats allowed Oklahoma to get to their quarterback seven times. That makes 21 sacks allowed on the season, which is worst in the Big 12, and is particularly bad when one considers that K-State has the fewest passing attempts in the conference.


    1. Kickoff returns.

    Freshman Tyler Lockett is one of the most explosive kick returners in the conference. His average is well above 30 YPR, and he already has returned two for scores.

    2. Defensive front seven/rush defense.

    The only team that has managed more than four YPC against the Cats were Oklahoma and Miami (FL). That is no small feat in the offense-heavy Big 12.

    3. Receiving options.

    No less than 15 different Wildcats have caught passes on this team. The options are there. Now, Klein has to get it to them.

Houston Cougars

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    1. How good are the Cougars?

    The best team they've played thus far was 4-3 East Carolina. Only two of their eight opponents have a winning record.

    2. Overall defense.

    Houston has held only one of its (FBS) opponents to fewer points than said teams' average PPG.


    1. Quarterback.

    Sixth-year senior Case Keenum is making the most of his extra year. He has the highest efficiency rating in the country and it's not even close.

    2. Rushing efficiency.

    The Cougars don't rush much—they have the 106th most rushing attempts in the country—but they are efficient when they do. They are the 19th most efficient rushing team in the country with 5.09 YPC.

    3. Receivers.

    Houston has three quality senior receivers. Their top receiver, Patrick Edwards, has the most yards and touchdown receptions in the country.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    1. Quarterback/passing offense.

    This was a worry coming into the season. Sophomore Logan Thomas hasn't done poorly, but he hasn't done anything to prove he can carry the team with his arm if he has to.

    2. Special teams and especially punting.

    This is uncharacteristic for a Frank Beamer coached team, but the Hokies have the second worst punting game in the country. They are averaging 34.79 YPP.


    1. Running back.

    Junior David Wilson has already topped the 1,000-yard plateau. He is averaging well over six YPC.

    2. Pass rush.

    Virginia Tech is fifth in the country with 27 sacks.

    3. Overall defense.

    Led by a tough front seven, the Hokies are the eighth ranked scoring defense in the country. They are also No. 9 in rushing defense (YPC) and No. 12 in passing defense (opponent QB efficiency).

Clemson Tigers

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    1. Rush defense.

    The recent loss to Georgia Tech shouldn't have come as a surprise given the Yellow Jackets' triple option offense. Clemson came into the game as the 11th ranked rush defense in the ACC, surrendering 4.56 YPC.

    2. Surrendering big plays.

    Clemson is 11th in the ACC and 108th nationally in opponents' plays of 30-yards-or-longer. That speaks to a defense, and particularly linebackers and safeties, that aren't finishing tackles and putting fires out before they become uncontrollable.


    1. Rush offense/running backs/offensive line.

    It is no surprise that the Tigers have a powerful running game. They came into the season with the third most experienced offensive line in the country. Couple that with three talented running backs and you've got a dangerous ground game.

    2. Quarterback.

    Tajh Boyd is, without question, the best signal caller in a conference that is admittedly a bit weak in that area this season.

    3. Offensive Firepower.

    Coincidentally, it seems that this offense is perfectly suited to shred their own defense. The Tigers are amongst the top in the nation with 30-yards-or-longer plays from scrimmage. Both receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Andre Ellington are home run threats every time they step on the field.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    1. Passing offense.

    Get quarterback Taylor Martinez in third and long and he is a sitting duck.

    2. The defense and particularly the rush defense.

    This is one of the biggest surprises of the college football season thus far, but the Blackshirts haven't been very good. Certainly, injuries have played a part, but Nebraska is the No. 8 scoring defense in the Big Ten. They also the No. 8 rush defense in a conference that is hardly an offensive juggernaut.


    1. The rushing offense.

    The Huskers are the 18th best rushing team in the country. They have only been held under 200 yards rushing once this season.

    2. Rex Burkhead/Taylor Martinez.

    They are a two-headed rushing monster. Though the NU passing game has been inconsistent, Burkhead and Martinez have been outstanding rushing the ball. Burkhead in particular is one of the toughest players in the Big Ten. The formations may have changed, but it is pure Nebraska option football.

    3. Special teams.

    Despite graduating their All-American punter and kicker, as well as their punt and kick returner, special teams are a decided asset for the Cornhuskers. Kicker Brett Maher has connected on over 80 percent of his field goals, and has a punt average of over 45 yards. Meanwhile, return man Ameer Abdullah is tops in the conference in kick return average and second in punt returns.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    1. Quarterback.

    South Carolina is near the bottom of the nation in interceptions lost. Stephen Garcia may be gone, but the problem has not entirely gone away.

    2. Red zone efficiency.

    The only SEC team that has been less successful in the red zone than the Gamecocks are the hapless Kentucky Wildcats. Having converted 72 percent of its red zone attempts, South Carolina is 107th in the country. One would think it will only get worse with the loss of Marcus Lattimore.


    1. Pass defense.

    With Stephon Gilmore manning one of the cornerback positions, this is hardly surprising. South Carolina is second in the SEC and second nationally, with an opponent quarterback efficiency rating of 89.53.

    2. Alshon Jeffery.

    He might be the best receiver in the country if he had a quarterback that could consistently get him the ball.

    3. Forcing turnovers.

    South Carolina is second nationally in turnovers forced. Again, this starts with the pass defense, which is second nationally in interceptions.

Oregon Ducks

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    1. Rush defense.

    You had to expect this with so much turnover in the defensive front seven. However, last season's 23rd best rush D is currently No. 49.

    2. Quarterback health.

    Darron Thomas missed the game against Colorado and left the game against Washington State. They can get by CU and WSU without Thomas, but Washington, Stanford and USC—Oregon's next three opponents—are another story.


    1. Big play offense.

    Hardly a surprise, but the Oregon offense is second in the country in offensive plays longer than 20 yards.

    2. Rush offense.

    Another non-surprise, but the Ducks are the best rushing team in the country. Perhaps it is somewhat surprising just how much more efficient they are than the No. 2 team. Oregon is averaging 7.17 YPC, while the second-best team—Utah State—is averaging 6.0.

    3. Pass defense.

    While the rush defense has been an issue, the pass defense has performed well. They are the best pass defense in the Pac-12. That will be key when they play Stanford and Andrew Luck.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    1. Rush defense/defensive line.

    The Razorbacks have played some pretty good rushing teams—Alabama, Texas A&M—but 5.3 YPC to Vanderbilt? 4.2 YPC to Troy? That is a problem. On top of that, Arkansas is 10th in the SEC in sacks with 11.

    2. Offensive balance.

    With Knile Davis lost for the season, the Hogs have been more one-dimensional on offense than one would like.


    1. Offensive play-calling.

    Bobby Petrino is one of the finest offensive minds in the country. As long as he is calling the plays in Fayetteville, the Hogs will put points on the board.

    2. Quarterback.

    Tyler Wilson has done about as well one could have hoped in replacing Ryan Mallett.

    3. Punt and kick returns.

    Joe Adams has run two punts back for touchdowns. Marquel Wade has run one kickoff back for six points. Arkansas is second in the SEC in both kickoff and punt return average.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    1. Expectations.

    In my opinion, the Sooners are the most complete team in college football this season. Yet, they have one loss and have to depend on Stanford—or more appropriately, Stanford's opponents—to get them to the BCS National Championship Game. Will failing to fulfill expectations drag OU down?

    2. Rush defense.

    OU hasn't done poorly in this department, allowing 3.29 YPC. That is good for 28th in the country.

    However, they will have to be a bit sharper when they face Texas A&M and Oklahoma State—the 16th and 17th best rushing offenses in the nation. The only other top 20 rushing offense OU faced—Missouri—put up 5.74 YPC against the Sooners. That was good for .34 YPC better than their season average.


    1. Ryan Broyles.

    He doesn't project as the best receiver at the next level, but right now, there might not be any more potent receiver and playmaker in college football.

    2. Offensive balance.

    A lot gets made out of Oklahoma's up-tempo offense and particularly the passing game, but OU fields a strong rushing game as well. They are averaging 4.93 YPC and the only teams that have held them under four YPC were Florida State and Missouri. 

    3. Passing defense.

    In the pass-happy Big 12, the Sooners have held opposing quarterbacks to a 112.37 efficiency rating. The only blight on their record is the Texas Tech hiccup.

Boise State Broncos

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    1. A typically weak schedule leaves questions as to just how good the Broncos are.

    Boise State can beat anybody in any given week. They've proven that, but can they beat anybody week after week after week? We may never know.

    2. Receivers.

    Although quarterback Kellen Moore doesn't seem to miss erstwhile targets Titus Young and Austin Pettis, BSU is missing a go-to pass catcher (let alone two).


    1. Quarterback.

    Kellen Moore is finishing up his career with yet another impressive season. He currently has the fourth highest passer efficiency rating in the country.

    2. Defensive line.

    BSU has two returning All-WAC linemen in Shea McClellin and Billy Winn. Also, starting defensive end Tyrone Crawford is third in the MWC in sacks.

    3. The rushing game.

    Despite a banged up offensive line, Boise State has consistently moved the ball on the ground. Much of that is because of senior running back Doug Martin, who is averaging 5.26 YPC.

Stanford Cardinal

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    1. Rush defense.

    Stanford is the No. 14 rush defense in the country, so how could that be a weakness? The Cardinal's first six games were against lousy teams. In their last two games, they surrendered 6.53 YPC to Washington and USC. This does not bode well for their meeting against Oregon, the top rushing offense in the country.

    2. Defensive front seven.

    More than anything else, the issues with the run defense spring from issues in the front seven. Stanford lost four starting linemen/linebackers to graduation, two of who were taken in the NFL Draft.


    1. The best quarterback in college football, bar none.

    It's difficult to judge college quarterbacks based on NFL criteria. However, Andrew Luck is the biggest "sure thing" quarterback for the next level since arguably Peyton Manning.

    2. Red zone offense.

    The Cardinal has not been stopped in the red zone yet. They are an impressive 47-for-47.

    3. Rushing offense.

    Much gets made of Andrew Luck and the Stanford passing game, but the Cardinal is a run-first team, and they have been efficient in that area. They are the No. 10 rushing offense in the country with 5.61 YPC. That is hardly a surprise given the talent on the offensive line.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    1. Rush defense.

    OSU is allowing 4.33 YPC. In the end, the Cowboys have scored more points than all of their opponents. However, they have to play defense, and particularly stop the run, in order to beat Oklahoma.

    2. Third down defense.

    OSU is allowing opponents to convert on 41.67 percent of their third downs. That is not championship football.


    1. Receiver Justin Blackmon is a dominant force.

    Right now, he is the best receiver in college football.

    2. Big play defense.

    Okay, the defense isn't good in the truest sense—61st in the country in scoring defense—but they make the big plays.

    Specifically, OSU is No. 1 in the country in turnovers gained with 29. The No. 2 teams are a full three behind the Cowboys with 26 each. Oklahoma State is also third in the Big 12 in both sacks and tackles for loss.

    3. Overall offense.

    The Cowboys have been held to less than 30 points only once over the last two seasons.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    1. Quarterback/passing offense.

    Sophomore A.J. McCarron has done well, but he has hardly lit up the top defenses he's played. Both Florida and Penn State held him to a passer efficiency rating of under 120. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Gators.

    2. A big play receiver.

    Bama is near the bottom of the SEC in passing plays over 40 yards. No receiver has more than two touchdown receptions, and only one pass catcher—tight end Michael Williams—is averaging more than 13 YPC.


    1. Overall defense.

    The secondary alone has three players that will be taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft. The Tide are both the top rushing defense and top passing D in the country. It goes without saying they're the top scoring defense. In short, this defense has no holes.

    2. The offensive line.

    Both of the tackles are underclassmen that could go in the first round of the draft if they were to come out this season. Center William Vlachos is currently ranked the third best center in the country by Walterfootball.com.

    3. The running game.

    With that O-line, it goes without saying Bama can move the ball on the ground. Nonetheless, the running backs play a pretty large part as well.

    Starter Trent Richardson has the second most YPC in the country of any back with over 100 carries. And backups Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler also have more than seven YPC.

LSU Tigers

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    1. The offense.

    The O has been efficient, but the No. 2 scoring offense in the SEC is also No. 6 in total offense. That disparity speaks to a lot of short fields and fortuitous bounces. Can the offense put up points against a team—Bama—that doesn't shoot itself in the foot?

    2. More specifically, the rushing offense.

    The Tigers are seventh in conference rushing offense (YPC). A run-first team needs to be better than that.


    1. Quarterback.  

    Who'da thunk it at the beginning of the season? Jarrett Lee might not have to do much—LSU has the second fewest passing attempts in the SEC—but when called upon he has been stellar. He has a 157.37 efficiency rating to go with a 13:1 TD-to-interception ratio. 

    2. The LSU defense is the real deal.

    Bama may have the better overall stats, but look who LSU has faced. And they're still the No. 3 scoring defense in the country.

    3. Junior receiver Rueben Randle is a big play waiting to happen.

    He is averaging 19.33 YPC with seven touchdowns. Even more impressive is that his biggest games were marquee matchups against Florida and Auburn.