- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2008

WHO’S OVERRATED

No. 18 MICHIGAN STATE

This isn’t a knock on the Spartans as much as it is a voting electorate that doesn’t seem to realize the significance of head-to-head matchups when there’s a small sample size of results. Maryland defeated California, which defeated Michigan State. All three teams have two losses. Doesn’t it stand to reason they should probably be ranked in that order, rather than the reverse?

WHO’S UNDERRATED

MIAMI

Should the Hurricanes be ranked? Not likely. But Randy Shannon’s team does belong in the discussion. Its losses aren’t bad (Florida State and North Carolina at home, Florida on the road), and Miami has won four straight to climb back into the ACC’s Coastal Division race. There’s probably still one lousy game in the Hurricanes, but they are substantially better than first thought.

PLOT WORTH WATCHING

CRACKING A NUTT

Ed Orgeron built up the talent at Mississippi. Houston Nutt will go to a bowl with it. The Rebels are 5-4 and need only defeat Louisiana-Monroe next week to land in a bowl game for the first time since 2003. In a conference where there aren’t many sure things beyond Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU, Ole Miss has a chance to land in a reasonably prestigious bowl game.

HEISMAN QUICK SIX

A look at the contenders for the Heisman Trophy (last week’s rank in parentheses):

1. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2): He plays well when the Sooners win huge, and he played well when they lost. Even Colt McCoy didn’t necessarily do that.

2. QB Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (4): Time to give a nod to the Red Raiders’ quarterback, especially for that last-second touchdown pass against Texas.

3. QB Colt McCoy, Texas (1): Everyone gets a mulligan. And when a bad day consists of completing 20 of 34 passes for 294 yards, two TDs and an interception, that means you’re still in the race.

4. TB LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh (NR): Not even the coaching genius of Dave Wannstedt can mess this guy up. He has five straight games with at least 140 yards rushing.

5. WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (NR): Actually having a slightly better season (60 catches, 1,054 yards, 15 touchdowns) than Texas Tech star wideout Michael Crabtree.

6. TB Javon Ringer, Michigan State (3): Had an off day against Wisconsin; his time to shine is later this month at Penn State.

SATURDAY PLANNER

Six suggested games to devour during an afternoon on the couch:

Ohio State at Northwestern, noon, ESPN: The Buckeyes will have had two weeks to stew over their home loss to Penn State and still plausibly can share the Big Ten title. Northwestern, meanwhile, might have used up its upset mojo at Minnesota last week.

Georgia Tech at North Carolina, noon, Chs. 20, 13: This amounts to an ACC Coastal Division elimination game. Discerning differences among the five contenders is tough, but at least things will be pared down after the weekend.

Alabama at LSU, 3:30, Chs. 9, 13: The last harrowing test remaining on the regular-season schedule for the Crimson Tide. Still, the Tigers yielded 50 points to Florida and Georgia — no reason to think their defense is any better now.

Cincinnati at West Virginia, 7, ESPNU: The real Big East round robin — among the Bearcats, Mountaineers and Pittsburgh — begins in Morgantown. Cincinnati is pretty much out of the league race with a loss.

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, 8, Chs. 7, 2: Yes, the Red Raiders earned a validating victory over Texas last week. But just ask the Longhorns how much a bunch of those (Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State) mean if you lose just once.

California at Southern Cal, 8: The Trojans are rolling, and this is probably their most severe remaining test. A Southern Cal victory puts — get this — Oregon State in control of the Pac-10 race.

FIVE FEARLESS FORECASTS

Five predictions for the coming weekend:

1. Penn State is in for a frightful visit to Iowa City. JoePa won’t find himself comfortable in the press box at Kinnick Stadium even with the benefit of the bye week. This is the Nittany Lions’ last road game, and if they’re going to trip up, this is where it will happen.

2. The Holy War won’t register too much nationally. So a pair of 5-3 Catholic schools (Notre Dame and Boston College) meet in the Boston ‘burbs. Yawn. Sure the winner is bowl eligible, but for BC that just means shipping up to Boise.

3. There will be no road letups for Oklahoma and Florida. After hammering their respective ancient rivals, the Sooners (Texas A&M) and Gators (Vanderbilt) face some unranked fodder. There will be no upsets here.

4. The Greg Robinson era ends Saturday. This could have happened a week earlier, but Syracuse was fortunate to draw Louisville and humble the Cardinals for the second straight year. The Orange will lose to Rutgers, and a coaching search will be announced shortly thereafter.

5. TV crews won’t know what to do with Clemson-Florida State. What? No obligatory father-son handshake before the game? It’s the dadgum Bowden Bowl. Oh, wait, Papa Bowden is the last man standing in the family, and this game loses some juice as a result.

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