In the past, I've posted a quarterly report during the NFL season, and the thought of an NCAA Football series never really crossed my mind until recently. I watch a great deal of college football, but I am left out the loop more times than not in comparison to the NFL, but I thought I would try to express the knowledge and opinion I have thus far.
It's hard to believe football season is already back, but thankfully it is. Now, we're a quarter of the way through the NCAA football regular season. Unless you are a fan of the Crimson Tide (consensus #1), you will agree that the ESPN+Alabama football love affair is old already. They've gone all-access with them, done plenty of GameDay commercials, and hail them as the team that can never be defeated.
As that nut case Lee Corso says: "Not so fast, my [insert some off-the-wall string of adjectives] friend." Alabama has to travel to Arkansas (#10 AP, #11 Coaches) this week. Granted, the last trip the Tide made to Fayetteville in 2008, it was a blow-out with first-year head coach Bobby Petrino at the helm of a 49-14 loss in front of 72,000+. However, this year Arkansas has a real deal quarterback, who could be the top quarterback in the draft in 2011. Ryan Mallet led Arkansas to the best offense in the SEC last year, and has proven to be unshakable under pressure with late drive at Athens, GA for the win last week. If Arkansas doesn't commit ill-advised penalties, and keeps the pressure on McElroy, Arkansas could pull out a win against the nation's top team.
On the other hand, Alabama will have to face their first real test of the season. Alabama has played San Jose State at home, Penn State at home, and at Duke (granted the fans thought there was a basketball game that day). Alabama will have to find out real quick how good the Arkansas offense can be, and make the proper adjustments before Arkansas jumps out to an early lead. Alabama will have a tough time this week, and it will play out one of two ways: Alabama wins it late, or they totally blow out Arkansas because of penalties and blown plays from the Razorbacks. I think Arkansas can keep it close, so my prediction is 23-20 Alabama.
Also on the slate is Oregon State (#24 AP) at Boise State (consensus #3). The Broncos have already been silenced by the embarrassing Virginia Tech loss to James Madison. Even is Boise handily beats the Beavers, it won't do much for their good, since this is at home. Boise will win, probably a little too easily. But, don't go writing them in the title game, please.
Florida (#9 AP, #8 Coaches), LSU(#15,#12), South Carolina (#12,#15), and Auburn (#17,#14) are the other four of the six total SEC teams in the Top 20. South Carolina travels to Auburn this weekend while LSU hosts West Virginia and Florida hosts Kentucky. Ohio State (#2) TCU (#4), Oregon (#5), Nebraska (#6), Texas (#7) and Oklahoma (#8) round out the top ten poll in the AP (Wisconsin is #10 in Coaches), all of which have relatively easy games this coming weekend, so the shuffle of the top 10 is probably not scheduled to happen this week, unless we see Boise and/or Alabama go down, which are the only real likely toss-ups.
So, who are the real top teams in the country in my opinion?
You have to start with Alabama at the top. Clearly the undefeated national champions of last year have earned that thus far, but they will have to win big in Fayetteville to keep the voters in their favor. A few voters may jump ship to number two, Ohio State, who haven't had the need to flex much of a muscle thus far. But with conference games at Illinois October 2, at Wisconsin October 16, and Minnesota October 30, they will have to prove their number 2 ranking in the next month. Their game against Iowa is also a road game, leading up to the Michigan game in Columbus.
Three through five is tough, because I am not really sure how good the polls' 3-5 ranked teams are. Oregon proved they can explode in a foreign arena (against Tennessee), but their offense hasn't had much friction with an opposing defense, and the Pac-10 might not give much more of a test then Tennessee did. I still have them in my top 5, right at 5 to be exact. TCU and Boise have done well for the past few years, but I can't see putting both of these teams in as two of the top 5, so Boise gets my nod at number 4, while I still feel Texas is a strong team, especially on the defensive side. Even though they have a young quarterback, I feel they have enough weapons to win the Big 12 again. That is, unless Nebraska, who I feel could easily crack the top 5 with a few more wins entering their matchup with Texas on October 16 in Lincoln.
And for the rest of the top 10:
Remember to stop by again in a couple weeks for NFL Four Square (week of October 4) and the second edition of NCAA Football Four Square (week of October 11).