- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008



At this stage, the warts of just about every team are plain for all to see. And right now, there’s no one that is obviously getting by on reputation alone. Perhaps Penn State shouldn’t be ranked above Texas Tech. And maybe Oregon has earned a bit too much credit for not really beating anyone of repute. But there’s no darling team receiving adulation for a meager resume, and that’s a good thing.



The Rebels have won four straight entering the Egg Bowl and snared road victories this season at Florida and LSU. Their four losses came by a combined 19 points, and Houston Nutt has translated the talent Ed Orgeron assembled into a reputable 7-4 team. Think Arkansas might want Nutt back? The Hogs are 4-7 with a date with LSU on tap this week.



From preseason top 10 to ditching the coach and offensive coordinator, it already has been a wild season in Death Valley. But it can still end well, with the 6-5 Tigers needing to defeat visiting South Carolina to lock up bowl eligibility. That would make four victories in five games to finish out the season; could it also earn Dabo Swinney the job for the long term?


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

1. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2): He played well even when the Sooners stumbled against Texas; while the Longhorns should be ranked higher, Bradford should win the stiff-arming statue.

2. QB Colt McCoy, Texas (3): Sterling stats not quite as gaudy as Bradford’s, but the Colt’s rushing ability makes this a toss-up.

3. QB Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (1): A so-so day in Norman should just about do it for the gunslinger’s chances, but he should receive an invite to New York for his trouble.

4. TB Shonn Greene, Iowa (NR): The nation’s leading rusher (1,729) spurred the Hawkeyes’ late-season surge; he averages a blistering 6.2 yards a carry.

5. QB Tim Tebow, Florida (5): Presiding over an offensive juggernaut in Gainesville but will be tested when he visits Everette Brown and the Florida State defensive front.

6. QB Chase Clement, Rice (6): If there was an award for best QB-wideout tandem, Clement-Jarett Dillard would be right in the chase with Texas Tech’s Harrell-Michael Crabtree combo.


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

Virginia at Virginia Tech, noon, ESPN: The Hokies faithful will break out the “Beating Virginia never Grohs old” T-shirts. Know what else doesn’t? Playing in the ACC title game.

Florida at Florida State, 3:30, ESPN2: The Seminoles turned back the clock to summon a blistering performance at Maryland. They might have done it a week early, especially with the Tebows coming to Tallahassee.

Auburn at Alabama, 3:30, Chs. 9, 13: The Crimson Tide are playing for a crack at a national title. The Tigers are seeking a chance to play in a low-tier bowl game. Miami trumps Shreveport, La., every single time.

Oregon at Oregon State, 7, Versus: The Civil War is truly one of the more underrated rivalry games. If the Beavers can pull it off in Corvallis, they will head to Pasadena, Calif., for the first time since the 1964 season.

Notre Dame at Southern California, 7:45, ESPN: Sorry, Charlie. You and the Fighting Irish will be 6-6 once this one’s over. The Trojans’ average margin of victory in the last six meetings: 25.6 points.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 8, Chs. 7, 2: The Bedlam Game lands in prime time after years of going unnoticed. The Sooners could use another rout - this one on the road - to impress voters.


Five predictions for the coming weekend:

1. West Virginia exacts Backyard Brawl payback. The Mountaineers could have played for a national title had it not been for a stunning upset loss to Pittsburgh last year. This time around, West Virginia will hop over the Panthers in the Big East’s bowl pecking order.

2. N.C. State’s surge continues. Props to Tom O’Brien’s Wolfpack, who could have mailed it in at 2-6 after a loss at Maryland. Instead, they have won three straight and can become bowl eligible with a victory over visiting Miami.

3. An SEC East power will go down to an ACC team. No, South Carolina doesn’t count. It’s just a hunch, but both Georgia Tech (at Georgia) and Florida State (against Florida) have the goods for a late-November surprise.

4. The Pac-10 is rooting for Arizona State. Not officially, of course. But if UCLA goes into Tempe and beats the Sun Devils and then proceeds to get demolished by Southern Cal, the league will have only five bowl-eligible teams for seven spots. Arizona State at least has a chance to win its finale with Arizona.

5. The Great Pumpkin goes out a winner. Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer’s team won its penultimate game, knocking off bowl-bound Vanderbilt. Now the Volunteers will send their coach out with a home victory over reeling Kentucky.

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