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by | CBS Sports

Tony's Top 10: Bucks, 'Horns can expect more tricks than treats

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We should have learned our lesson by now. The goblins and gremlins no longer wait until Halloween to come out. They make their presence felt just about the time the first BCS standings are set to be released.

How else to explain what happened last week in Columbia, S.C.? After No. 1 Alabama took Florida to the woodshed on Oct. 2, just about everybody (this writer included) proclaimed that the Crimson Tide were in the express lane to another BCS championship game.

They certainly weren't going to lose at South Carolina, which had never, ever beaten a No. 1 team in 118 years of playing college football. But quicker than you can say "Head Ball Coach," the Gamecocks upset No. 1 Alabama, and the entire sport is now in a tizzy. Such fun.

Now Ohio State gets its turn at No. 1 just in time for the first BCS standings, which will be released Sunday night. So will there be some more gremlins and goblins to emerge this Saturday? Patience, my friends. You'll find out in this week's Top 10:

1. Thanks for stopping by, Texas. Here is your parting gift: Nebraska and its normally genteel fans have had this date circled on their calendars since last December when officials put one second back on the clock and allowed Texas to kick a field goal to win the Big 12 Championship Game. If that wasn't motivation enough, Nebraska made it clear this summer that the main reason it was leaving the Big 12 and jumping to the Big Ten was that the Cornhuskers had had just about all of the Burnt Orange they could stand. Let's just say Nebraska would love to give Texas (3-2) a lovely remembrance on the Huskers' way out the door. If Taylor Martinez and Nebraska get the opportunity to lay a number on the Longhorns, they will do it.

2. A vote for Whisky: Many years ago I visited Wisconsin in the preseason and was encouraged to return for a game by one of those big old Badgers linemen. "Man, people up here really know how to DRINK," he said. Yes, they do. People in Madison know how to put on a game face for a huge Big Ten showdown, and Saturday night's matchup with No. 1 Ohio State at Camp Randall sure qualifies. The Badgers have won 40 of their past 44 games at home and 25 of their past 28 night games in Madison. They have a senior quarterback in Scott Tolzien and two big-time running backs in John Clay and James White. But remember that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor went to Camp Randall as a freshman in 2008 and won in just his third collegiate start. I'm leaning toward Whisky to pull the upset, but Pryor is the X-factor.

3. The Head Ball Coach is nervous. And he should be: South Carolina's players have been saying all the right things this week. After shocking the world and beating No. 1 Alabama last Saturday in Columbia, the Gamecocks insist they won't come out flat Saturday at Kentucky. Yes, a lot of South Carolina teams have won huge games only to stumble down the stretch. Traditionally, they don't handle success well. But South Carolina players insisted this week that they were not going to be that team. "Yep, but everybody says that," said Spurrier. "Let's see how we handle it when it we go to Lexington." Kentucky (3-3) has lost three straight, to Florida, Ole Miss and Auburn, since a 3-0 start. Kentucky might be without running back Derrick Locke. That just means Randall Cobb, Kentucky's Mr. Everything, will get even more touches.

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4. Take your lunch and dinner to Auburn. We might be there a while: If Auburn (6-0) is going to make a serious run at the SEC West title, the Tigers will let it be known in the next three weeks against Arkansas and LSU at home followed by a trip to Ole Miss. This is a classic matchup of the two most productive quarterbacks in the SEC, Arkansas' Ryan Mallett (349.6 yards passing per game) and Cameron Newton of Auburn (301.7 yards of total offense per game). Newton is also No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency. Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof, whose group gave up 34 points last Saturday at Kentucky, hasn't slept much this week while looking at tape of Mallett. "The guy just makes a lot of plays and can make every throw in the book," said Roof. "Their receivers are incredible." Auburn really wants to run the ball, shorten the game and keep Mallett on the sideline. They don't want a shootout.

5. Coach Saban isn't happy and Ole Miss will pay: Alabama's Nick Saban got a little earthy during his weekly press conference. He suggested some members of his team had gotten caught up in the media hype that surrounded 'Bama's 31-6 win over Florida. After winning 19 in a row and 29 consecutive regular-season games, Alabama's tank finally ran dry in Columbia against a South Carolina team that had had the previous week off. Saban was in no mood for excuses:

"This team hasn't proved ----," Saban said. He quickly apologized for his salty language, but the point was made. Alabama is starting over this week against Ole Miss. The SEC championship and the national championship are still reachable goals. Coach Nutt, I wish you and the Rebels safe travels and good health. But this is not a good week to be playing Alabama.

6. I know it's McNeese State. But I've just got to watch The Hat: Two weeks ago, when Tennessee gave LSU a chance to win because it had 13 players on the field, there were a lot of LSU fans who thought it was time for coach Les Miles to go. They were expressing this angst despite the fact that the Tigers were 5-0 and ranked No. 12 after that game. Those LSU fans had just decided that their hearts couldn't take the stress of watching this guy coach any more. Well, Miles did it again last week with a fake field goal that bounced the right way and set up LSU's dramatic 33-29 win at Florida. LSU is going to roll Saturday against McNeese State, which will serve as a tuneup for next week's trip to Auburn. But it's like a bad train wreck. You know you shouldn't, but you gotta watch. I am becoming a big Les Miles fan because no matter what, this guy just keeps coaching his team, and the LSU players love him for it.

7. Will Sparty have a letdown against The Zooker? You keep waiting for Michigan State (6-0) to sag. It hasn't been easy for the Spartans since coach Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack after their dramatic 34-31 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 18. Dantonio sat out the next game against Northern Colorado, then again the next week against Wisconsin because of a blood clot in his leg. He coached last week at Michigan from the press box. Sparty won 'em all. Now Michigan State will host Illinois with a chance to be 7-0 for the first time since 1966, when Duffy Daugherty led the Spartans to a share of the national championship. Keep your eye on this game. The Illinois defense looked pretty good in thumping Penn State 33-13 last week. The Illini have also scored on all 16 of their trips in the red zone. Ron Zook shook up his coaching staff in the offseason, and the Illini seem to be playing better.

8. Will the Gators be growling again Saturday night? For the 87th year, the Friday night before homecoming at Florida will be celebrated with the traditional "Gator Growl," an entertainment extravaganza held before a huge crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. But right now the Gators and their fans are growling for a different reason: They have lost two consecutive games for only the second time since Urban Meyer became head coach in 2005. Losing at Alabama 31-6 on Oct. 2 was understandable. That was the defending national champion, the nation's No. 1-ranked team and it was on the road. Losing at the buzzer to LSU last Saturday in The Swamp was a tougher sell. Florida hasn't lost three in a row in 11 years. The problem is an offense that is ranked 11th in the SEC (323.7 ypg). They have also turned the ball over six times in the past two games. Dan Mullen, the former OC for the Gators, brings his Mississippi State team to Gainesville on Saturday.

9. Can Iowa slow down the D-Train? Watching Iowa play this season, it's hard to understand why the Hawkeyes lost at Arizona on Sept. 18. The loss could end up costing Iowa a shot at the national championship because believe me when I tell you that Kirk Ferentz and the gang are capable of winning the rest. But first Iowa's defense, which has allowed only 37 points in five games and no rushing touchdowns, gets its chance to contain Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who has rushed for 993 yards and thrown for 1,223 more. A week ago Michigan State held Robinson to less than 100 yards rushing and forced him into three interceptions to beat the Wolverines 34-17.

10. Can Texas Tech upset Oklahoma State? When Tommy Tuberville took the job at Texas Tech, he made it clear that sooner or later, the Red Raiders were going to have to start playing defense to become a challenger in the Big 12 South. Saturday, when Oklahoma State comes to Lubbock, would be a good time to start. Texas Tech is 3-2 but has given up 114 points and an average of 422.7 yards in their first three Big 12 games. Oklahoma State and quarterback Brandon Weeden have averaged 52.6 points and 526.5 yards of total offense per game, but Weeden might be without three of his best receivers because of injury. And there is some history here. Oklahoma State hasn't won in Lubbock since 1944. That's nine straight losses in West Texas for the Cowboys.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show each Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The CBS College Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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