- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2008

WHO’S OVERRATED

No. 25 MINNESOTA

It’s tough to do this, because the Golden Gophers are a great story. So, yes, they’re bowl-eligible the year after going 1-11. They’ve generated excitement at a perfect time, the season before moving into a new on-campus stadium. The problem is they haven’t beaten anybody. The win at Illinois was nice, and the schedule looks manageable going forward. But other teams have done more to merit a poll nod.

WHO’S UNDERRATED

OREGON STATE

OK, maybe “underrated” isn’t the right word for the 4-3 Beavers. How about overlooked? Two of Oregon State’s three losses came at Penn State and Utah, and the victory over Southern California has Mike Riley’s team right at the top of the Pac-10. The Beavers always finish strong, and while they don’t get to beat up on the Washington schools anymore, they’ll sniff a ranking fairly soon.

PLOT WORTH WATCHING

PANTHERS ON THE PROWL

Here it is: Praise for a Dave Wannstedt-coached team. No, really, the Panthers are the undeniable Big East favorite at this juncture and have improved since an opening loss to Bowling Green. The Panthers don’t seem like a great bet to run the table - Cincinnati or West Virginia will be especially tough foes - but they look like a team that could be playing in a BCS game in a few months.

HEISMAN QUICK SIX

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

1. QB Colt McCoy, Texas (1): A rare case when the talking heads have it right. McCoy’s absurd efficiency - and huge games against Oklahoma and Missouri - mean he’s the favorite at midseason.

2. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2): In many years, it would be impossible to go wrong with Bradford, who slings it around as well as anyone.

3. QB Mark Sanchez, Southern California (3): The Trojans’ man under center took full advantage of a meeting with a truly awful Washington State team.

4. QB David Johnson, Tulsa (NR):Yes, he does have 31 touchdown passes in seven games. Yes, his passer rating is 212.8. No, those aren’t misprints.

5. WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (NR): Only Rice’s Jarett Dillard has more scoring catches than Crabtree’s dozen. His time to stake a claim to the Heisman begins Saturday at Kansas.

6. RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (NR): His chance to jump back into the fray comes with back-to-back games against Louisiana State and Florida.

SATURDAY PLANNER

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

Texas Tech at Kansas, noon, ESPN: It feels like the right time to expose the Red Raiders as merely a top-15 team and not a national title contender. Kansas, fresh off its loss at Oklahoma, will be in just the right mood to make it happen.

Boston College at North Carolina, noon, Chs. 20, 13: The Tar Heels’ good fortune ran out in Charlottesville, Va., last week. The Eagles, who own the ACC’s longest winning streak at four, are due to have their luck expire any time.

Georgia at Louisiana State, 3:30, Chs. 9, 13: The SEC’s single-elimination tournament for the national title begins in earnest this week in Baton Rouge. The loser can start packing for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Oklahoma State at Texas, 3:30: Mack Brown held a mock funeral for the game ball from Texas’ defeat of Oklahoma. Mike Gundy has no need for such mind games. Why not? Because the Oklahoma State coach is a man, he’s 41 and his team is 7-0 for the first time since 1945.

Alabama at Tennessee, 7:45, ESPN: Ah, the Third Saturday in October. Oh, wait, it’s actually the fourth Saturday this year. Well, another year of losing that tradition seems apt, since it’s not like this is a classic Volunteers team, either. But it should be a sleeper game nonetheless.

Ohio State at Penn State, 8, Chs. 7, 2: Someone’s national title dreams die here. Penn State has gorged on mediocre-to-awful teams so far, and the Buckeyes are reinvigorated thanks to Terrelle Pryor and Beanie Wells. One question: Will Joe Paterno fall asleep because the game lasts well beyond his bedtime?

FIVE FEARLESS FORECASTS

Five predictions for the coming weekend:

1. The Ty Willingham era ends Saturday. All the elements are in place for Willingham’s time at Washington to be up. Notre Dame (Willingham’s former team) swings into Seattle, and a loss will drop the Huskies to 0-7 for the first time since 1969. That will lock up Willingham’s fourth straight losing season. Either way, there will be a new coach next year at U-Dub.

2. Neither Florida State nor Virginia Tech will score 20 points. The Hokies didn’t manage an offensive touchdown at Boston College, and the Seminoles aren’t exactly a scoring machine, either. Expect an often-unsightly game in Tallahassee.

3. There will be one surprise in the desert. Oregon visits Arizona State and Southern California swings into Arizona for a couple of late-night games. One of those two out-of-town Pac-10 favorites is going to emerge with a loss. Here’s thinking it’s Oregon.

4. Tulsa will hang half a hundred on Central Florida. This isn’t a stretch since Tulsa has dropped 50 points on five of its last six opponents. The difference here is the Golden Hurricane will have a national television audience Sunday night.

5. Joe Tiller’s swan song is going to get worse. Really, just how bad is Purdue? The Boilermakers could find out Saturday if they get drilled by Minnesota. Purdue will probably need to beat Michigan or Indiana at home next month to avoid a 10-loss season.

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