- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007



Dennis Erickson is by no means a miracle-worker — just ask the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers — but he sure can turn around a middle-of-the-road college program in a hurry. The Sun Devils are 4-0, and their toughest tests are backloaded at the end of the schedule. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter has thrown for 1,027 yards and 11 touchdowns to key the resurgence.


You know who might not be a good coach? Dave Wannstedt. The Panthers were humiliated at home last week by surprisingly unbeaten Connecticut, and the heat might be starting to rise just a bit in Pittsburgh. At 2-2, Pitt must scare up four more wins somehow to become bowl eligible, and two of its best chances come in the next two games at Virginia and against Navy. Expect no better than a split.


Keeping with the theme of schools coached by NFL washouts, Steve Spurrier is again shuffling quarterbacks. After the Gamecocks’ first loss of the season, a 28-16 defeat against Louisiana State, the Ol’Ball Coach yanked fifth-year senior Blake Mitchell and installed freshman Chris Smelley in his stead. The schedule eases a bit (save a Oct. 4 visit from Kentucky), so South Carolina shouldn”t fall apart anytime soon.


1. Andre Woodson, Kentucky: Two high-profile victories vault the efficient Wildcats senior to the top.

2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas: If this is about the best player — and not the best player on a top-10 team — McFadden must still be in the discussion.

3. Ray Rice, Rutgers: The tests get a bit harder for Rice and the Scarlet Knights with back-to-back meetings with Maryland and Cincinnati.

4. Colt Brennan, Hawaii: Some guys get a mulligan for a bad game; Brennan lost his by not playing at all against Charleston Southern.

5. Mike Hart, Michigan: Quantitatively and qualitatively the second-best back in America; also has helped the Wolverines try to salvage a lost season.

6. Steve Slaton, West Virginia: Just keeps plugging away against inferior foes — his opportunity to climb the chart has yet to come.



No. 5 WEST VIRGINIA (4-0, 0-0 Big East) at No. 18 SOUTH FLORIDA (3-0, 0-0)

8 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla., ESPN2

Outlook: The first battle of Big East unbeatens starts the weekend off nicely. The Mountaineers have plowed through the first third of their schedule with ease, treating opponents as little more than hapless traffic cones to be steamrolled with a potent rushing attack. The Bulls pulled off a 24-19 shocker in Morgantown last year by limiting Steve Slaton to 43 yards and exploiting quarterback Pat White’s sprained ankle. The Mountaineers are 16-0 in September since 2004.


MICHIGAN STATE (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at No. 9 WISCONSIN (4-0, 1-0)

3:30 p.m., Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis., ESPN

Outlook: Sparty lives! As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Michigan State is off to a promising start. The Spartans’ hallmark under John L. Smith was a stunning collapse precipitated by an ugly loss this time of year, a trend first-year coach Mark Dantonio would like to reverse. A victory in Madison over the less-than-overwhelming Badgers would put Michigan State on a collision course with bowl eligibility by the middle of next month.

No. 6 CALIFORNIA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-10) at No. 11 OREGON (4-0, 1-0)

3:30 p.m., Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore.

Outlook: If only ABC could go back and make this the prime-time nationally televised game. Alas, only part of the country will see these two curiosities meet for the right to be the most likely challenger to Southern California’s Pac-10 supremacy. This meeting in Nike Town has plenty of riveting elements: two unbeaten teams, electric players on both sides (Cal’s DeSean Jackson and Oregon’s Dennis Dixon) and a pair of potent, balanced offenses.

No. 22 ALABAMA (3-1) vs. FLORIDA STATE (2-1)

5 p.m., Alltel Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla., Chs. 9, 13

Outlook: Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher was vexed by his unit”s inability to do much in a 16-6 victory at Colorado on Sept. 15, and the Seminoles will have spent two weeks trying to figure out how to patch together a more lethal attack heading into this neutral-site affair. The unbalanced legion of Crimson Tide fans had their dreams of grandeur dashed when Georgia eked out an overtime victory last week, but Alabama is well-prepared to deal the ACC yet another nonconference loss.

No. 1 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10) at WASHINGTON (2-2, 0-1)

8 p.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle, Chs. 7, 2

Outlook: There will be plenty of opportunities to focus on Pete Carroll’s Trojans, whose explosive offense and voracious defense are a redoubtable combination. But in this game, Washington is the more curious team. The Huskies have dropped consecutive games to Ohio State and UCLA, and multidimensional redshirt freshman quarter Jake Locker has struggled a bit. He”s a star in the making, but Ty Willingham will again see just how far Locker (and the Huskies) still must go when Southern Cal is in town.

— Patrick Stevens

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