How much change can you see when it seems half the top 25 has the weekend off. Part of that comes in designed Bye weeks, the other part in a slew of weekday games that start this coming week. Thursday shapes up as a very special night of college football with Baylor-Oklahoma leading off, followed by Oregon-Stanford. Because of that, though, all four teams (along with Alabama, LSU and Louisville) all had the week off.
We had a pair of marquee games, but those really turned into cream rising to the top contests. Florida State and Oklahoma State proved above and beyond Miami and Texas Tech, and those two games caused just about the only movement in the poll this week.
- Alabama (8-0, 5-0; Off): The Tide got a week off to heal whatever ails them before College Game Day comes to Tuscaloosa for the big match up against LSU. The Tide defense has been a force ever since the close win at Texas A&M, but the Tigers will have the best offense they’ve seen since then so we’ll see just how far they’ve come.
- Oregon (8-0, 5-0; Off): It’s a good time for an off week, just before the Ducks face off with the only team to beat them in the last 24 games, Stanford. Oregon had its toughest game of the season last week against UCLA and still won 42-14, so we’ll see if the fierce defense of the Cardinal can make any sort of blueprint for how to slow down the Ducks.
- Florida State (8-0, 6-0; W 41-14 vs. Miami): It was probably the sloppiest performance of the year for the Seminoles and they still got a second blowout win against a top ten team. Jameis Winston wasn’t as accurate as he has been, but when all that’s the case and the final score is still what it was, you know this team is made to contend with anyone.
- Ohio State (9-0, 5-0; W 56-0 @ Purdue): There’s not a lot more the Buckeyes can do right now to prove themselves. The schedule isn’t strong, but they are doing their best to blow out these bad teams and show how good they really can be. Interesting stat: OSU quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton are 1st and 2nd in the B1G in touchdown passes with 15 and 14.
- Baylor (7-0, 4-0; Off): Baylor is still somewhat of an unproven, even at 7-0, but that distinction will go away starting Thursday against Oklahoma. The Bears won their first seven games against Wofford, Bufflo, Louisiana-Monroe and four of the bottom five Big 12 teams. They finish with four of the top five in the conference (other than themselves). Game on.
- Stanford (7-1, 5-1; Off): Last year a one-loss Stanford team went to Oregon’s Autzen Stadium and didn’t just knock the Ducks from the national title picture. They shut down Oregon’s vaunted offense and took the Pac 12 North title and eventually the Pac 12 championship. All of that is in play again this Thursday, but this time it’s in Palo Alto.
- Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2; W 57-7 vs. UTEP): The Aggies had to play, but it was practically an off week at Kyle Field. Johnny Manziel is rolling right along. His numbers right now are even better than they were in his Heisman season a year ago. The sad thing for him and his team is that they’re just playing spoiler in the SEC now. They can keep Missouri out of the SEC Championship if they beat the Tigers in the season’s final week.
- Clemson (8-1, 6-1; W 59-10 @ Virginia): We’re back to the Clemson we were used to seeing before the Florida State game. The Tigers led 35-7 at the half and never looked back against the over matched Cavaliers. Tajh Boyd accounted for four touchdowns, including a 96-yard bomb to Sammy Watkins. The Tigers get a week off before Georgia Tech, The Citadel and South Carolina close it out.
- Missouri (8-1, 4-1; W 31-3 vs. Tennessee): Mizzou bounced back nicely from the season’s first loss, blowing out a Tennessee team that’s been giving teams trouble all year. Missouri still controls its own destiny in the run at an SEC East title, and what’s likely standing between them and that trip is Texas A&M on November 30.
- LSU (7-2, 3-2; Off): The Tigers have no shot at an SEC championship at this point, but that minor detail won’t mean much Saturday against Alabama. These teams do not like each other, and LSU would love nothing more than to knock the Crimson Tide from the title picture. To do so, Zach Mettenberger’s going to need to put up the best performance of his career.
- Miami (7-1, 3-1; L 41-14 @ Florida State): It wasn’t a total nightmare on the scoreboard, in the first half. The Canes hung around with Florida State for awhile, but the Seminoles were way too much, as expected. The bigger concern is the health of top player Duke Johnson. It sounds like he’s out for the season with a broken ankle so Miami is in trouble. Of course, their division is so bad they’ll probably still make it to the ACC Championship.
- Auburn (8-1, 5-1; W 35-17 @ Arkansas): The Tigers kept their dream of an SEC title alive with a good win over the Razorbacks on the road. Auburn continues to roll along after its 14-point loss at LSU back in September. Since then, the Tigers are 5-0 with wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M. They won’t be able to coast to the Iron Bowl. Two weeks before it’s a home date against a presumably healthy Georgia team.
- South Carolina (7-2, 5-2; W 34-16 vs. Mississippi State): When you talk about underrated players in college football, Connor Shaw has to be at or near the top of the list. He came off the bench, injured no less, to lead the Gamecocks to a win over Missouri, and at his final Homecoming he set a career high with four touchdown passes. And ho-hum, Mike Davis added another 100-yard rushing performance, reaching 1,000 yards for the season.
- Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1; W 52-34 @ Texas Tech): Few teams are regretting a bad loss more than Oklahoma State. How they lost to West Virginia, I have no idea. Mike Gundy’s team is extremely talented, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they won the Big 12. Of course, they’ll need to prove themselves with games against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma to finish the season.
- Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1; Off): Oklahoma is probably still wondering what happened in that Texas game. The Sooners have looked strong the rest of the season, but no win would be bigger than the one they could get this Thursday against Baylor. If Oklahoma takes down the Bears and stymies that high octane offense, they have to be considered the frontrunner for the Big 12 title.
- Louisville (7-1, 3-1; Off): Charlie Strong’s team can still make it to a BCS game if they can get a little help, but chances aren’t looking so great. The best part is that the pressure to win by blowout every week is gone. Style points are out the window when you fall out of the national title hunt. Now they just need to win and hope UCF doesn’t.
- Northern Illinois (9-0, 5-0; W 63-19 @ UMass): The Jordan Lynch show rolls on, over and through UMass at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium. Lynch set a personal mark with four rushing touchdowns. He was 10-13 for 160 yards and a TD, and ran 18 times for 125 yards and the four scores. The guy is automatic.
- Fresno State (8-0, 5-0; W 41-23 vs. Nevada): The men from Fresno made it a little easier on themselves this time around. After surviving in overtime a week ago, the Bulldogs built up a 24-7 halftime lead and finished the deal from there. It’s going to be a big fight between Fresno State and Northern Illinois to try to grab a BCS at-large so there’s no time for slip ups now.
- UCF (6-1, 3-0; Off): The Knights have their AAC destiny and a BCS berth in their own hands at this point, and the biggest game on the schedule comes this coming week at home against 7-1 Houston. If UCF gets through that challenge, they have an opportunity to almost coast to the conference title with Temple, Rutgers, USF and SMU to finish off. Those four have a combined 11-21 record.
- Arizona State (6-2, 4-1; W 55-21 @ Washington State): The Sun Devils are catching fire (pun intended) at a perfect time. Since a three-point loss at Notre Dame, Arizona State has scored 54, 53 and 55 points in beating Colorado, Washington and Wazzu. The stretch run should really tell us who this team is with the next three weeks bringing a trip to Utah, home against Oregon State and at UCLA.
- Michigan State (8-1, 5-0; W 29-6 vs. Michigan): All you really need to know about how the Spartans played against their biggest rival is that Michigan finished the game with negative-48 rushing yards. That’s 48 yards LESS than they started the game with, which is zero. The Spartans are rolling right now and are the clear front runner to play Ohio State in the B1G Championship. They have to be kicking themselves for losing to a not-so-special Notre Dame group.
- Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2; L 52-34 vs. Oklahoma State): The meat of the schedule has arrived, and the Red Raiders appear to be who I thought they were. This is a very talented squad, but by the time everything is said and done they’ll likely be the 4th or 5th best team in the Big 12. It won’t get any easier either. Tech finishes the season at Baylor and at Texas.
- Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1; W 28-9 @ Iowa): The Badgers didn’t play their most convincing football, particularly in the 1st half, but they regrouped and got the job done against a decent Iowa team. Wisconsin gets a major challenge when they host BYU next week. Other than that, they’re just playing for a good bowl game.
- BYU (6-2; Off): The Cougars spent their off week resting up for next week’s showdown at Wisconsin. BYU has already spent the season making statements. They put up the record setting rushing performance in a win over Texas, handed Houston its only loss of the season and whipped Boise State a week ago. With the Badgers and Notre Dame still on the schedule, this could be a top 20 team by season’s end.
- UCLA (6-2, 3-2; W 45-23 vs. Colorado): Colorado was an extremely welcome respite from the meat grinder the Bruins went through in October. The good news: the Bruins still control their own destiny in the Pac 12 South. The bad news: the schedule doesn’t get any easier. They have division leader Arizona State and USC still to play so it’s going to be a challenge to get back to the conference championship.
Others in consideration: Notre Dame (7-2; W 38-34 vs. Navy); Texas (6-2, 5-0; W 35-13 vs. Kansas); Houston (7-1, 4-1; W 35-23 vs. USF); Ball State (8-1, 5-0; Off); USC (6-3, 3-2; W 31-14 @ Oregon State)