The college football season is now 4 weeks old, but some of the major players have fallen by the way-side while other have seized their opportunity to get a shot at the brass ring. Teams like Southern California and Oklahoma, once regarded as national title contenders, have each absorbed a loss while teams like Oregon and Florida State have beaten highly ranked teams and solidified their top-5 rankings.
Almost all non-conference games have been completed and the conference slate is now upon us. While many people, including myself, can get down on the strength of conference play, it is those games that will ultimately determine who will be playing for the national title in January. The non-conference slate is just a way for many teams to position themselves for a run to either a conference championship or possible a national championship.
Before conference play truly gets started, let’s take a look at some teams that have positioned themselves for a run at either a conference title or a national title, as well as some teams that have fallen from their lofty heights.
So who made the move up the polls this week and who is sliding down…let’s find out in my week #5 rankings!
Oklahoma Sooners (#16 – AP / #15 – USA Today Polls).
Many of us wondered what type of team the Oklahoma Sooners were. After getting soundly defeated at home to Kansas State this past weekend, I think we got some semblance of an answer. Perhaps they were a bit overrated. Oklahoma was 2-0 entering the game, but they had struggled in beating their week #1 opponent, UTEP.
Kansas State entered the contest 3-0 and had scored at least 35 points in each of their three games, including a 52-13 drubbing of Miami (FL). In Saturday’s contest, the Wildcats exacted some revenge for last year’s crushing defeat to Oklahoma. Kansas State was able to control the time of possession and never let Landry Jones and his talented playmakers to get on the field. So, where does Oklahoma go from here?
Luckily for the Sooners, they play in the Big 12, one of the toughest and deepest conferences in the country. It is extremely conceivable that Kansas State will lose a game and allow the Sooners to get back in the conference title chase. The Sooners still have to play teams like Texas, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, TCU, and a non-conference game with Notre Dame. If the Sooners were able to run the gauntlet, they would easily be back in the national title chase. The Sooners, however, need to get themselves straightened out first. Their defense needs to be able to generate turnovers and get off the field on 3rd down so that the offense can get on the field. If they can do that, expect to see the Sooners back in the top-10, pushing for a BCS Bowl- perhaps a national title shot, too.
Clemson Tigers (#17 – AP / #16 – USA Today Polls).
The Clemson Tigers took a step backward this past weekend as they seemed to run out of gas against Florida State. For the first three quarters, the Tigers looked like they were going to put it to the Seminoles, but Florida State and EJ Manuel stepped it up. Clemson led until 2:37 remaining in the third quarter. Florida State used a 35-3 run in a 20-minute span to take control of the game. EJ Manuel passed for 380 yards and 2 TDs while also rushing for 102 yards.
To their credit, Clemson was also on its offensive game. QB Tajh Boyd passed for 237 yards and 3 scores while also rushing for 44 yards. As expected, DeAndre Hopkins was heavily involved in the passing game recording 5 catches for 88 yards and a score. Clemson knew that it was going to struggle to run against the vaunted Florida State rush defense, so instead of pounding Ellington into the line and getting very little, they chose to throw short passes to him in space and let him use his legs to generate yardage. Ellington ran 14 times for 55 yards and a score, but he caught 4 passes for 87 yards and a score.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, their defense just couldn’t keep the Seminoles down for an entire 60 minutes. The winner of this game has gone on to win the ACC Atlantic division the past 3 years, and their doesn’t seem to be any reason why this year would be any different.
Clemson needs to avoid a letdown as they travel to Chestnut Hill and take on Boston College this weekend. The Tigers still posses so many athletic playmakers, they can make waves in the league and still get to a good bowl game. Clemson still has 3 big games left on their slate. They play Georgia Tech on Oct. 6, Virginia Tech Oct. 20 (this comes after Clemson’s bye week), and South Carolina Nov. 24. Getting to a BCS Bowl game will be extremely difficult for the Tigers because they just don’t have the marquee teams left on their schedule unless South Carolina is unbeaten at the end of the year.
Michigan Wolverines (NR – AP / USA Today Polls).
I would love to say that the Wolverines and the Fighting Irish engaged in a classic game that will go down in the annals of history. Perhaps to Irish fans the game was a Rembrandt, but in reality it was an ugly turnover fest. There were a total of 8 combined turnovers with Michigan committing 6 of them. Denard Robinson threw 4 picks and was never able to find any rhythm as Notre Dame beat the Wolverines 13-6.
Michigan has played 4 games and as they enter their bye week, and are 2-2. They won the two games that most people figured they would have won (Massachusetts and Air Force), but they lost their two big games (Alabama and Notre Dame). Once Michigan returns to action in 2 weeks against a very respectable Purdue team, the question becomes what level will Michigan be able to rise to? Last year they were a BCS Bowl team, this year, unless Denard Robinson is going to carry this team on his back, I don’t see how they are going to a major bowl game.
Michigan still has to play teams like Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State and Ohio State. If the Wolverines want to entertain any notion of going to a big time bowl game, they are going to have to win out. As it stands right now, the air has been let out of the Wolverines balloon. They need to use the bye week to help regroup and come out ready for the Big Ten season.