by | CBS Sports

Tony's Top 10: Can Oklahoma State's offense keep it up?

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The first BCS Standings are out. The battle lines have been drawn. All that is left now is to play the big games and make the huge arguments. And when you read our Top 10, you'll realize that we'll have plenty of both this weekend.

It's past time for Alabama to involve Mark Ingram more in its offense. (AP)  
It's past time for Alabama to involve Mark Ingram more in its offense. (AP)  
1. Will Pat and Bo have to make room for Cameron? Auburn has had two Heisman Trophy winners in its football history, Pat Sullivan (1971) and Bo Jackson (1985). But there seems to be a consensus building. Nobody has meant more to his team (thus far) in 2010 than quarterback Cameron Newton has meant to Auburn (7-0, No. 4 in the BCS). But there is also another consensus: Newton, who leads the SEC in rushing (122 ypg) and is the nation's second most efficient passer, has not seen a defense like the one LSU (7-0, No. 6 BCS)is going to throw at him on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But I will say this: If Auburn wins and Newton plays a big role in the game, the Heisman Trophy will be his to lose.

2. Does No. 1 go down for the third straight week? First it was Alabama, which looked so unstoppable before losing by two touchdowns at South Carolina. Then it was Ohio State, which got mashed by an angry bunch of Badgers last Saturday night in Madison, Wis. Now Oklahoma (6-0), thanks to a bunch of friendly computers, is No. 1 in the maiden BCS Standings. Bob Stoops is warning his troops: They don't give out any hardware at this point of the season. It could happen to you at Mizzou.

There are some signs that point to an upset for the Tigers: QB Blaine Gabbert is coming off his career-best game. The Missouri defense looks a little salty. But I like the Sooners. Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray (57 career touchdowns) looks like he's starting to heat up. And it doesn't hurt to watch QB Landry Jones complete 30 of 34 passes, even if it was against Iowa State.

3. Do the Cowboys just keep on riding? When Dana Holgorson left Houston to become the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, there was hope that the Cowboys would be pretty good at moving the ball. I would say their wish has come true, as they average 49.5 points and 535.5 yards per game. But let's put those numbers into some context. They have come against the following teams (their national rank in scoring defense is in parentheses): Washington State (118), Troy (77), Tulsa (85), Texas A&M (50), Louisiana-Lafayette (110), and Texas Tech (99). Nebraska, Saturday's opponent in Stillwater, is No. 9 in scoring defense (14.0 ppg). Nebraska is also a team feeling a sense of urgency after losing to Texas 20-13 last week in Lincoln.

4. 'Bama is getting ready to unleash No. 22: At No. 8, Alabama (6-1) is the highest-ranked team in the BCS with one loss. The Crimson Tide will play two teams ranked ahead of them -- No. 6 LSU (Nov. 6) and No. 4 Auburn (Nov. 26). They also get No. 24 Mississippi State. Alabama will begin to set the table for its stretch run when it goes to struggling Tennessee. And expect that table to be set with some heaping helpings of the running game from Mark Ingram. In the 24-20 win at Arkansas on Sept. 25, Ingram dominated the fourth quarter and carried the ball 24 times in the game for 157 yards. Since then he has carried it 12 times against Florida, 11 against South Carolina and 15 last week against Ole Miss. That's not enough. Alabama thought it would not have to lean on Ingram as much as last season, when he won the Heisman Trophy. It's okay. He can handle it. Give the ball to No. 22 and he'll take you back to the SEC Championship Game.

5. Joshua Nesbitt is running after his piece of history: From 1998-2001, Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler ran for 2,761 yards. His offensive coordinator, by the way, was Rich Rodriguez. That ACC career rushing record for quarterbacks has stood for almost 10 years but, barring injury, it should be broken on Saturday by Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt. Nesbitt, a senior, entered this season with 2,069 rushing yards and needs just 45 more at Clemson to break the record. Nesbitt went head-to-head with Clemson twice last season. He ran for 91 yards in Georgia Tech's 30-27 win in September of 2009. The two teams met again in the ACC Championship Game. Nesbitt ran for 103 yards and passed for 136 more in a 39-34 victory. "Neither one of us could stop each other in that second game," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. "Nesbitt is the real deal."

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6. Does Butch Davis have Randy Shannon's number? A cloud continues to hang over North Carolina's season due to a couple of NCAA investigations that have all but decimated what was going to be one of the top five defenses in college football. There was more bad news this week when the school announced that cornerback Charles Brown, who has yet to get on the field this season, would not be returning at all. The Tar Heels also lost their top receiver, tight end Zack Pianalto, to a broken leg. But here we are at the fourth Saturday in October and the Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1 ACC) have won four straight after an 0-2 start.

If North Carolina can beat Miami for the fourth straight season, the Tar Heels will be in the ACC Coastal race to the end and the Hurricanes (4-2, 2-1) will be all but eliminated. There is this nagging sense that something is wrong at Miami. The Hurricanes got their doors blown off at home by Florida State (45-17) two weeks ago. Last week, they forced seven Duke turnovers but the offense only scored 21 points.

7. Say it slowly: Come Saturday night, Vanderbilt could be leading the SEC East. Yes, it's true. I couldn't possibly make this up. Thanks to Florida and Tennessee, the SEC East has been the dominant division in the conference since it expanded to 12 teams in 1992. The SEC East, in fact, has won 14 of 18 conference championship games. But now the division has fallen on some very tough times.

After South Carolina upset No. 1 Alabama, we thought Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks were going to be the class of the division. But South Carolina (4-2, 2-2 SEC) lost at Kentucky and now must go to Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2). Understand that while the Commodores have been struggling the past few years, they have also beaten the Gamecocks in two of the last three meetings. Should they prevail and should Georgia lose at Kentucky, Vanderbilt will be 2-2 in the SEC and every other team in the division will have at least three losses.

8. You want to see the Big Ten champion? Better book a ticket to Iowa City: There is a lot I don't know, but of this I am sure: No one has lost a bigger game this season than Iowa when it fell 34-27 at Arizona on Sept. 18. Because if the Hawkeyes were 6-0 instead of 5-1 right now, they would be right in the middle of the BCS championship discussion and looking forward to a very favorable home schedule. Wisconsin (6-1) comes to Iowa City on Saturday. Then undefeated Michigan State (which plays at Northwestern on Saturday), arrives on Oct. 30. There are road trips to Indiana and Northwestern and then another big home game with Ohio State. The Hawkeyes are currently No. 15 in the BCS Standings, but Wisconsin (13), Ohio State (10), and Michigan State (7) are all ranked ahead of them. The point is this: If Iowa goes 11-1 against that schedule, and then gets a few breaks, they are not out of this thing.

9. Don't bet against Ricky Dobbs: Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs wants to play pro football. He also wants to be the President of the United States in 2040. I don't know if he'll be able to achieve those goals, but he just might be able to do something only two other Navy quarterbacks have ever done. He could play on a Navy team that beat Notre Dame three out of his four seasons at the Academy.

Playing with a cracked kneecap, Dobbs ran for 102 yards when the Midshipmen beat Notre Dame 23-21 at South Bend in 2009. That started a downhill slide for Notre Dame, which finished 6-6 and then dismissed coach Charlie Weis. Navy (4-3) has not been as explosive as a year ago when the Midshipmen won 10 games. But they are trying to get to their eighth straight bowl game. The other two Navy classes to win three out of four games against Notre Dame were 1937 and 1964.

10. Can TCU's defense keep this up? TCU had the nation's No. 1 defense in 2009, giving up only 239.69 yards per game. But when the Horned Frogs lost end Jerry Hughes and linebacker Daryl Washington to the NFL, it was a given that they simply would not have the same kind of numbers in 2010. We were right. Through seven games TCU is even better, giving up only 218.9 yards per game. That's second nationally only to Boise State.

TCU has allowed less than 200 yards in total offense in its last three games against Colorado State (27-0), Wyoming (45-0) and BYU (31-3). TCU almost became the first Division I-A team since Boston College in 1992 to post three straight shutouts.

Now Air Force (5-2) comes to Amon G. Carter Stadium with the nation's No. 1 rushing offense (346.86 ypg). Coach Gary Patterson said TCU took advantage of three teams with young quarterbacks and that things will be different against Air Force, which has junior Tim Jefferson running the option. And that option has given a number of teams, including Oklahoma, a lot of trouble. Air Force is coming off a 27-25 loss at San Diego State.

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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