- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006



Maybe the Yellow Jackets are for real after an impressive victory at Virginia Tech. Calvin Johnson is probably the sport’s best wideout, and the Yellow Jackets’ stingy defense is difficult for anyone to decipher (just ask Brady Quinn and Notre Dame). However, Tech has pulled off big wins before — like last year against Miami — only to regress back to the form of a seven-win team. That might not happen this fall.



That fell apart awful quick. The Spartans were a quarter away from a stunning demolition of Notre Dame on Sept. 23 before frittering away a three-possession lead. Then Saturday, Michigan State allowed a lousy Illinois team to hang around just long enough to kick a game-winning field goal in the final 10 seconds. John L. Smith is officially back on the hot seat, especially after losing seasons in 2004 and 2005.



The Cougars didn’t win at Miami, but it would appear they’re as legitimate as they’ve been since the high-scoring days of David Klingler. Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb is among the hidden gems nationally, and the Cougars averaged 38 points a game before the 14-13 loss at the Orange Bowl on Saturday. Art Briles’ team is 4-1, and Conference USA West Division contenders Tulsa and Texas-El Paso must visit Robertson Stadium this month.


1. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: Week off won’t cost A.D. the top spot; rough game against Texas might.

2. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame: With UCLA, Stanford and three service academies coming up, Quinn’s numbers should skyrocket.

3. Troy Smith, Ohio State: Another week, another victory over a solid team for Smith and the Buckeyes.

4. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech: Talented wideout spurring Yellow Jackets’ charge up the national rankings.

5. Steve Slaton, West Virginia: Candidacy tied into Mountaineers’ ability to run the table in the Big East.

6. Garrett Wolfe, Northern Illinois: Huskies’ pinball ran for 353 yards against Ball State and has 1,181 yards for the season.



ARKANSAS (3-1, 2-0 SEC) at No. 2 AUBURN (5-0, 3-0)

Noon, Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala., Chs. 9, 13

Outlook: In the first of three monster matchups in the SEC, the two remaining West Division teams without a league loss meet on the Plains. The Tigers are coming off a tighter-than-anticipated victory over South Carolina, a game that hardly validated them as a challenger to top-ranked Ohio State. Still, Auburn possesses a sound running game behind tailback Kenny Irons that held the ball for the entire third quarter against the Gamecocks.

The Razorbacks were drilled in their opener against Southern California, but have rallied to win three straight — including an overtime victory against Alabama. Still, Houston Nutt’s team will struggle to score against the stingy Tigers.

No. 15 CLEMSON (4-1, 2-1 ACC) at WAKE FOREST (5-0, 1-0)

Noon, Groves Stadium, Winston-Salem, N.C., ESPN

Outlook: That’s no misprint — Wake Forest is undefeated at the start of October. The Demon Deacons have done it almost entirely without quarterback Ben Mauk, who broke his leg in the opener, and tailback Micah Andrews, who suffered a knee injury in the third game.

Instead, redshirt freshman Riley Skinner has efficiently run the offense, deftly handing off to DeAngelo Bryant, a 6-foot, 245-pound wrecking ball of a running back. Savvy, underrated coach Jim Grobe’s team also has two victories in the last three years over Clemson, which needs to win to realistically remain in the ACC Atlantic Division race.

No. 7 TEXAS (4-1, 1-0 Big 12) at No. 14 OKLAHOMA (3-1, 0-0)

3:30 p.m., Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Chs. 7, 2

Outlook: It wasn’t that long ago Oklahoma ruled the Red River Shootout, sullying Texas’ unblemished record with an overwhelming display on an early October afternoon. Not anymore.

The Longhorns parlayed their victory last year at the Texas State Fair into an unbeaten run to the Big 12 and national titles and are unlikely to be derailed by a Sooners team that could struggle to pass the ball against such a stingy defense.

However, Oklahoma does have Adrian Peterson, who has thrived in the first four games despite everyone knowing he will run the ball 30 times. Peterson should get his 100 yards, but Texas likely will prevail and emerge as the South Division pacesetters.

No. 9 LOUISIANA STATE (4-1, 1-1 SEC) at No. 5 FLORIDA (5-0, 3-0)

3:30 p.m., Florida Field, Gainesville, Fla., Chs. 9, 13

Outlook:The most tantalizing of the SEC showdowns is at the Swamp, where the Gators continue a particularly brutal scheduling stretch with a visit from the Tigers.

Chris Leak has put up fine numbers (14 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) in the first month of the season, but the Gators have been especially effective because of the cast around him. Few teams are likely to snuff out rushing quarterback Tim Tebow or the Gators’ effective posse of tailbacks, but Louisiana State is as well equipped as any.

Tigers quarterback JaMarcus Russell is coming off a fine day against Mississippi State (18 of 20, 330 yards, 3 TDs), and will need to be solid if Louisiana State is to win on the road.

No. 13 TENNESSEE (4-1, 0-1 SEC) at No. 10 GEORGIA (5-0, 2-0)

7:45 p.m., Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., ESPN

Outlook: Senior quarterback Joe Tereshinski returns for Georgia, but it might not be enough to keep the David Copperfield-like Bulldogs unbeaten. Georgia has squeaked out victories over Colorado and Ole Miss (combined record: 1-9) the last two weeks and hardly looks like a legitimate national title contender despite its gaudy record.

However, the Bulldogs do possess a nasty defense, and will need it to slow down Erik Ainge. The quarterback has thrown 12 touchdown passes during Tennessee’s resurgence early this season, and will need a few more if the Volunteers are to make a push in the SEC East.

No. 11 OREGON (4-0, 2-0 Pac-10) at No. 16 CALIFORNIA (4-1, 2-0)

8 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif., Chs. 7, 2

Outlook: Now that the Ducks and Golden Bears have taken turns ripping Arizona State the last two weeks, they’ll get a shot at each other in order to determine the most likely challenger to Southern California’s Pac-10 supremacy.

California has rebounded nicely since a humbling loss at Tennessee to start the season, and quarterback Nate Longshore has thrived to give the Bears a passing option to complement tailback Marshawn Lynch.

The Ducks employ a solid pass-run combo in quarterback Dennis Dixon and tailback Jonathan Stewart, and will enjoy a soft schedule the next four weeks before a Nov. 11 trip to Southern Cal. Expect no shortage of points, as well as BCS talk from whoever emerges with a victory.


0-5Record for Stanford after a 31-0 loss at UCLA, the program’s worst to start a year since a six-game slide to begin the 1993 season on the way to a 1-10 campaign. The Cardinal are likely to match the six-game skid with a visit to Notre Dame up next.

3Clemson tailbacks to reach 100 yards rushing in Saturday’s 51-0 rout of Louisiana Tech, the first time it has happened for the Tigers since 1982. James Davis (143 yards), C.J. Spiller (127) and Demerick Chancellor (113) all topped the 100-yard plateau.

2-18Record in games against top-25 foes for Arizona State in six seasons under coach Dirk Koetter. The Sun Devils were demolished by Oregon on Saturday, leaving them pretty much out of the Pac-10 race despite plenty of preseason optimism.

86-0Combined margin of defeat in Duke’s three games against teams from Virginia this season. The reeling Blue Devils lost to Richmond (13-0), Virginia Tech (37-0) and Virginia (36-0) in the first month, but did manage to score 13 points in a loss to Wake Forest.


1. Buckeyes the best: It isn’t unanimous yet, but Ohio State’s skillful navigation of a brutal September places it at the top of national title contenders. Circle that Nov. 18 meeting with Michigan — it could receive more hype than any other game the next two months.

2. Great escapes: What were Southern California and Georgia doing with the outcomes of their games against Washington State and Ole Miss, respectively, still in the balance in the final two minutes? Looking less like threats to win a national title, that’s what.

3. Owls win for fallen teammate: Rice picked up its first victory of the year, a 48-14 pummeling of Army. The win came less than a week after freshman defensive back Dale Lloyd died after becoming ill during a light workout.

4. Boise State carries the torch: With Texas Christian losing last Thursday night, Boise State is the only non-BCS school with a legitimate shot at crashing a BCS game. The Broncos were impressive Saturday, topping Utah 36-3 to remain undefeated.

5. Looking for a laptop: A computer with Auburn’s game plan for its visit to South Carolina was stolen out of the team’s hotel. Conspiracy theories abounded without good cause, but the Tigers still managed to beat the Gamecocks by a touchdown.

Patrick Stevens

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