We have reached the midway point of the 2010 season and there is much -- so much -- that we still do not know. What we do know is that the BCS standings come out a week from Sunday and there are some teams that have much to prove.
In reality, the only team with nothing to prove to me is Alabama, which right now is playing chess while everybody else is playing checkers.
Yeah, the Crimson Tide still have road games at South Carolina, Tennessee, and LSU plus what could be an interesting home date with Auburn the day after Thanksgiving.
But after watching 'Bama put Florida and Urban Meyer into the land of Dazed and Confused last week, I just don't see a loss on the Crimson Tide schedule. Everybody else is playing for No. 2 in the second half of the season, and that is where the drama is going to be.
Let's go to the Top Ten:
1. The Head Ball Coach goes for a piece of history: When Steve Spurrier was at Florida (1990-2001) he played in these kinds of games all the time. Since the Head Ball Coach got to South Carolina in 2005, big games like Saturday's visit from No. 1 Alabama have been few and far between. But don't kid yourself. Spurrier still knows what it takes to win these kinds of games.
"We certainly know that Alabama is the best team in the country and hopefully we'll be able to stay up with them," said Spurrier. "It looks like we're going to fill up the ballpark so hopefully we'll give our folks something to get excited about."
South Carolina had a week off after a tough loss on the road at Auburn on Sept. 25. In fact, each of Alabama's next six SEC opponents gets a week off before they play the Crimson Tide. But coach Nick Saban already has his answer for the scheduling anomaly. One of his staff members did some research on the other 11 schools in the SEC. Over the past five years those schools are 29-29 in games after an off date.
"So it doesn't appear to be a factor," said Saban.
One other stat about this game: If Spurrier can pull off the upset, it would be his 107th SEC victory. That would move him into second place in conference history behind Bear Bryant (159).
2. Les Miles must remain the LSU coach for the entertainment value alone: The Tigers are 5-0 and ranked No. 12. And their fans are absolutely miserable. They have seen LSU win five really ugly games. Their team needed some incredible luck to beat Tennessee 16-14 last Saturday in Baton Rouge. Because Tennessee had 13 men on the field on the last play of the game, LSU got an untimed down and then scored to win. All week long Miles and his staff have been ripped by fans because they look like the gang who can't shoot straight. Fans also can look at the rest of the schedule that includes a trip to Florida on Saturday followed by games with Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas.
There is this nagging sense among LSU fans that a train wreck is coming and their coaching staff is powerless to do anything about it.
3. It ain't Miami and Florida State of old, but it's pretty good: Given the way the ACC stumbled out of the blocks this season (1-9 in its first 10 nonconference games against BCS opponents), the league is pretty happy about a Miami-Florida State game where both teams are ranked. Both have one loss that came on Sept. 11 on the road against top 10 teams (Ohio State beat Miami 36-24 and Oklahoma beat Florida State 47-17.) Both have bounced back and recorded impressive wins since.
This one all comes down to quarterback play. Miami's Jacory Harris has eight interceptions in 119 passes, but last week against Clemson he made the big throws when the Hurricanes needed them. Florida State's Christian Ponder has only three interceptions in 129 passes. My take? If Harris throws two interceptions or less, the 'Canes win. Three or more Miami interceptions and the Seminoles take it.
4. The Bulldogs are barking in Athens: Mark Richt entered 2010 with 90 wins in his previous nine seasons at Georgia. But there are many in Georgia who are convinced that Rich's 10th season should be his last as the head Dawg. Georgia has lost four straight since a season-opening victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Bulldogs have not lost five straight games in a single season since 1953. Georgia has not played at home since Sept. 18 (a 31-24 loss to Arkansas) so we expect the crowd at Sanford Stadium to be in a foul mood when Tennessee comes calling Saturday.
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If that isn't enough drama, consider this: The Volunteers (2-3) are coached by Derek Dooley, the son of Vince Dooley, who won 201 games and six SEC championships as Georgia's coach (1964-88). The elder Dooley, who is in the College Football Hall of Fame, still has a private box at Sanford Stadium but he won't be in it. He will watch the game at home, only a few minutes away. Derek Dooley's mother, the outspoken Barbara, will absolutely be there. Did Derek Dooley lay down any rules for his mother at Saturday's game?
"I gave up on that a long time ago," said Dooley.
5. What's the over-under on passes in the Texas A&M-Arkansas game? Texas A&M will face Arkansas on Saturday at the Jerry Jones Playpen in Arlington, Texas. I could be wrong, but I think at least 90 passes will be thrown. Last Thursday, Texas A&M's Jerrod Johnson threw 62 passes (five of them went for touchdowns), but a late interception allowed Oklahoma State to kick a field goal at the gun to win 38-35. Somewhere Jackie Sherrill was watching and wondering what in the world has happened to his beloved Aggies. Johnson has averaged almost 43 passes in four games.
Arkansas has had a week off to recover from letting a 20-3 lead slip away on Sept. 25 against Alabama. Razorbacks QB Ryan Mallett has thrown an average of about 34.5 passes in the Hogs' first four games. But he threw two crucial fourth-quarter interceptions that allowed Alabama to score the winning points. Take your lunch and your dinner. This one is going to take a while.
6. Note to Coach Dantonio: Denard Robinson will make anybody's heart flutter: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has missed two games while he recovered from a mild heart attack suffered after Sparty's dramatic win over Notre Dame on Sept. 25. But nobody was going to keep Dantonio out of the Big House on Saturday as Michigan State goes for its third straight win over Michigan. The Spartans haven't beaten the Wolverines three straight since 1965-67, two years before Bo Schembechler got to Ann Arbor. Michigan State has outrushed Michigan 364-112 in the past two meetings. I don't think Sparty will outrush Michigan on Saturday as long as quarterback Denard Robinson stays healthy. Robinson enters Saturday's game with 1,913 yards of total offense (905 rushing, 1,008 passing). He is averaging a gaudy 9.86 yards per play. Dantonio will work the game from the press box, where he will get a bird's eye view of everything.
7. Where's the love for TCU? Everybody outside of Fort Worth, Texas, seems to like Boise State as their favorite BCS buster. But you need to take a look at TCU. The Horned Frogs have beaten Oregon State (30-21). They drilled Baylor (45-10). They beat SMU (41-24) on the road. They have one of the best quarterbacks around in Andy Dalton. Coach Gary Patterson told me he is not going to lobby on behalf of his team.
"I tried talking to the guys about some big-picture things, but that didn't turn out too well," said Patterson. "So we're going to focus on what is right in front of us. And right now that is Wyoming."
Patterson does concede, however, that he has a pretty good team that can play with just about anybody.
"The first thing you do when you have this discussion is remove Alabama because they are better than everybody else," said Patterson. "But after that I look at the other teams and I feel we can play with them if we do what we're supposed to do."
8. The hits just keep on coming for North Carolina: The Tar Heels were supposed to be a contender for the ACC Coastal championship this season. But after four games they only have wins over East Carolina and Rutgers, and at least three ongoing NCAA investigations. This week alone it was reported that former recruiting coordinator John Blake, who was thought to be steering North Carolina players toward agent Gary Wichard, had also reached out to Alabama defensive end Marcel Dareus and Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh while he was still employed at North Carolina (he resigned on Sept. 5).
Tar Heels coach Butch Davis, whose team (2-2) hosts Clemson on Saturday, publicly apologized this week for the mess and for "trusting John Blake."
A total of 13 North Carolina players were held out of competition for the first game with LSU on Sept. 4. Only three have been reinstated as we reach the halfway point of the season.
9. Who's No. 2? I like the Ducks. Oregon coach Chip Kelly doesn't want to talk about the polls or the BCS standings, which will be released for the first time Oct. 17. He just wants to talk about finishing. He talks to his team all the time about finishing strong. Hey, coach, I think the Ducks have that part down.
• On Sept. 11 Oregon trailed 13-3 at Tennessee. The Ducks proceeded to score 45 straight points and win 48-13.
• Last week Oregon absorbed a huge body blow from Stanford, trailing 21-3 at home. Then as quickly as you can say "onside kick," which Oregon successfully did, the Ducks outscored the Cardinal 49-10 the rest of the way.
Here is the Oregon stat of the day: In five games, the Ducks have outscored their five opponents 114-7 in the second half. Here is the reality. Oregon used that stunning effort against Stanford to jump over Boise State into the No. 3 spot in the polls. The Ducks are within 77 points of No. 2 Ohio State in the coaches poll as they go to Pullman to take on a bad Washington State (1-4) team. Expect some style points to be racked up in this one.
10. Boise State can rightfully ask: What do you want us to do? I haven't done a ton of research on this, but I feel reasonably confident in saying that never before has a team that won 59-0 on Saturday dropped in the polls on Sunday. But that is exactly what happened to Boise State, which beat New Mexico State by that margin on Oct. 2 only to watch Oregon jump over the Broncos. Coach Chris Petersen says he doesn't want to have the conversation on Boise's BCS worthiness until December. That's fine, coach, but with your schedule you had better keep taking care of business or there won't be a BCS conversation in December.
Boise has won 58 straight games at home as Toledo (3-2) of the MAC arrives to play the Broncos for the first time in history. Boise State has not lost at home on the blue turf since Sept. 8, 2001. Expect quarterback Kellen Moore (30-1 as a starter) to put up some big numbers on a Toledo pass defense that isn't very good, allowing 255.2 passing yards per game.
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