- Associated Press - Thursday, October 14, 2010

If there was still any doubt that being a so-called traditional power in college football isn’t what it used to be, consider the AP Top 25 halfway through the 2010 season.

Here’s who is out: Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas, USC, Penn State and Miami. Those teams have won a combined 23 AP national championships.

Here’s who is in: Oregon, Boise State, TCU, South Carolina, Utah and Nevada. That group has one AP title - by TCU in 1938.

And here’s the craziest part: It didn’t take a bunch of stunning upsets to get to where we are. In fact, the first half went mostly as planned - until South Carolina snapped Alabama’s 19-game winning streak last week.

When the season started, the No. 1 storyline was whether Boise State, or maybe TCU, could become the first team from a conference without an automatic BCS bid to reach the national championship game.

Six weeks into the season, the Broncos and Horned Frogs are still undefeated and the debate rages on.

So before we dive into the second half, a look back some of the high and lows of the first half and a few predictions for what’s to come.

MOST IMPORTANT GAME. Boise State 33, Virginia Tech 30. The Hokies had a four-point lead and needed one more first down to run out the clock. That would have been it for the Broncos. All the talk about a national championship run would have been over. Instead, Kellen Moore and the Broncos rallied back and now we’re stuck analyzing how Utah State’s big victory against BYU effects Boise State’s strength of schedule.

Looking ahead: Most important game of the second half will be Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. The winner will be undefeated and will leap over Boise State into the BCS title game.

Six more that will determine the course of the season:

LSU at Auburn, Oct. 23

Michigan State at Iowa, Oct. 30

TCU at Utah, Nov. 6

Ohio State at Iowa, Nov. 20

Boise State at Nevada, Nov. 26

Oregon at Oregon State, Dec. 4

HALFWAY HEISMAN. Sure, much of Denard Robinson’s crazy stats (second in the nation in total offense at 369 yards per game and in rushing at 165) were accumulated against defenses that range from shaky (Notre Dame) to abysmal (Bowling Green). But thanks to the Wolverines’ own Keystone Cops approach to defense, Michigan needed just about all of Shoelace’s joystick-style moves to start 5-0. That’s why he gets the nod over two other multitalented quarterbacks who have emerged as stars this season - Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Auburn’s Cameron Newton.

Looking ahead: The Heisman Trophy goes to …. Martinez. His numbers are already comparable to Robinson’s. He’ll become the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM. Oklahoma State (5-0). Returning only eight starters, the Cowboys were picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 South. Some even thought they’d let Baylor out of the basement. A weak early season schedule has helped coach Mike Gundy’s cause, but the offense led by quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon looks good enough to get the Cowboys to eight wins.

Looking ahead: Brian Kelly and Notre Dame (3-3) might not lose again. Utah comes to South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 13 and the Fighting Irish finish the season at USC. Notre Dame wins at least one of those and goes bowling with eight victories.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM. Tempting to pick Texas, but in retrospect, we should have seen the Longhorns’ slip coming. Miami, on the other hand, looks like a team that should be better. The Florida State loss was downright disturbing. Quarterback Jacory Harris and the Hurricanes were supposed to be ahead of the Seminoles on the path back to being a national contender. Instead, Randy Shannon, in his fourth season as coach, already seems to be behind new FSU coach Jimbo Fisher.

Looking ahead: Rich Rodriguez is not quite in the clear at Michigan. The conventional wisdom is that a winning season is all the coach needed to keep his job. Last season Michigan won all four of its nonconference games and beat Indiana. The Wolverines have done the same this season. With that defense, a sketchy kicking game and little depth, another meltdown is possible. Cautiously pencil in the Wolverines for seven victories.

BIGGEST MESS. North Carolina had a team capable of winning an ACC title. Until …. Agent-gate seems destined to strip the program to the bone. The last question is will Butch Davis survive?

Looking ahead: It’s one thing to have agents wooing your players while your back is turned. It’s quite another to have one of your assistants involved in the wooing as former UNC assistant John Blake is being accused. This doesn’t look as if it will end well for Davis.

OUT THE DOOR: Of all the coaches who came into this season on the hot seat, Tim Brewster of Minnesota is way out in front in the first-to-be-fired pool. The Gophers (1-5) have lost five straight. Look for Minnesota to pull the plug before the season ends to get a head start on the hiring process.

Looking ahead: With a 2-4 record and 11 players arrested in the last year, Georgia’s Mark Richt might need to run the table to keep his job. Dan Hawkins started 3-1 at Colorado, but that 26-0 loss at Missouri last week looks like a preview of what’s to come in Boulder.

NOT DONE YET: Like Brewster, Illinois coach Ron Zook also entered the 2010 season in win-or-else mode. Well, the Illini are 3-2 after winning at Penn State for the first time and there are some real signs of life in Champaign. The hiring of defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has given the defense a boost and Zook always seems to bring in some talent, such as quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and running back Mikel Leshoure.

Looking ahead: The Illini are a good bet for four more victories and that should be enough to keep Zook on the payroll.

CONFERENCE CALL: With the WAC and the MWC combining to put five teams in the Top 25, the Big East picked a bad time to go 2-11 against teams from other BCS automatic qualifying conferences and Notre Dame.

Looking ahead: West Virginia, which played LSU close in Baton Rouge, should run through the league with no more than one loss and help the Big East save some face at BCS time with a 10-2 record.

WELCOME BACK: South Carolina’s big win against Alabama not only put Steve Spurrier back in the national spotlight but makes the Gamecocks the favorites to win the SEC East in what is a down season for traditionally one of the toughest divisions in the nation.

Looking ahead: It’s always fun to have the Head Ball Coach relevant, but beating Florida in Gainesville will be tough for the former top Gator.






BCS Championship - NEBRASKA vs. OREGON

TCU to the Sugar Bowl seems odd, because the Sugar is first in the selection order after the bowls that lose teams to the BCS title game.

But follow this scenario: If the Rose Bowl loses a team, it is locked in to take the highest ranked BCS buster (Boise State). The Fiesta then picks Oklahoma to replace Nebraska, which leaves the Sugar faced with picking a Big Ten team with a loss (Iowa) or undefeated TCU. Sugar goes with TCU. Orange picks the best of the rest in the SEC and Fiesta gets left with Big East champion.

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