Thursday, October 05, 2006

Who Does #2 Work For?

This is the first time in a long time that I can remember such a clear cut choice at #1 nationally and such a huge group of teams all with sizeable support for the #2 spot in the polls. Ohio State is #1. I can live with that. They had a great team last year and are off to a fantastic start. They've got a good coach and a great quarterback who is a Heisman favorite. What I'd like to do is break down the race for #2 as it stands right now. Who's in the discussion? Five teams by my count: Auburn, Florida, Michigan, USC, West Virginia. Others like LSU and Texas and Louisville are on the outside looking in at this point. So, in alphabetical order:

2005 record and ranking: 9-3, #14 in polls, lost to Wisconsin in Citrus Bowl
2006 record: 5-0
Best win: 7-3 at home against #9/10 LSU
Worst performance: 24-17 nailbiter over unranked South Carolina at home
Gestalt: They've got a great D, a great running back, and a decent passing game. Signature win over LSU is hard to quantify. LSU is a very good team, but that was not a great performance and it was at home.

2005 record and ranking: 9-3, #12/16 in polls, beat Iowa in Outback Bowl
2006 record: 5-0
Best win: 21-20 win at #13/14 Tennessee
Worst performance: 26-7 against Kentucky at home
Gestalt: Very good defense and an up and down offense. Very difficult schedule coming up, so they will prove on the field where they belong. Nothing spectacular yet.

2005 record and ranking: 7-5, unranked, lost to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl
2006 record: 5-0
Best win: 47-21 blowout at #12 Notre Dame
Worst performance: 27-7 win at home against Vanderbilt
Gestalt: Take your pick of Ohio State or Michigan as the most impressive team in the nation thus far. Their dominance in South Bend is the best performance of any team in the nation thus far and they've had a 3 score lead midway through the 4th quarter in every game this year meaning they haven't broken a sweat.

2005 record and ranking: 12-1, #2, lost to Texas in the Rose Bowl
2006 record: 4-0
Best win: 28-10 over #22 Nebraska at home
Worst performance: Toss up between 20-3 at Arizona or 28-22 at Washington State. LSU beat Arizona by 6 TDs and Auburn beat Wash State by 26.
Gestalt: No Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, or LenDale White, but there is plenty of talent to go around for Pete Carroll. Not terribly impressive thus far, but would you bet against them? Lack of experience might come back to to bite them at some point.

West Virginia
2005 record and ranking: 11-1, #5/6, beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl
2006 record: 4-0
Best win: 45-24 over Maryland at home
Worst performance: 27-10 win at East Carolina
Gestalt: They play a horrendous schedule this year and might not play a team that ends up above .500 until November. The one and only reason they are ranked this high is because of the Sugar Bowl last year.

So how do I rank it? I think it's obvious that Michigan has the best resume thus far but is handicapped by their horrible 2005 season and lower start in the polls this year. I'd put Auburn and Florida just behind because they each have a quality win. USC is on a great run, but their best win is at home against an overrated Nebraska squad that just needed OT to beat Kansas at home. West Virginia? Get back to me when you play a team with a pulse.



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