OK. Here we go. We are headed to the final Saturday in October with seven undefeated teams. By the close of business Saturday night, I think we will only have four. Which undefeated teams are going to lose on the eve of Halloween, you ask? Well, dear friends, in order to find that out you will have to read Tony's Top 10:
1. Can Auburn avoid the No. 1 jinx? Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown of No. 1. At least that's the way it has been the past three weeks when No. 1 has gone on the road and returned home with its first loss of the season. On Oct. 9 Alabama, the defending national champion and winner of 19 straight games, lost 35-21 at South Carolina. Ohio State moved to No. 1 and Buckeyes fans started making reservations for Glendale. Wisconsin ended that talk by beating them in Madison. Oklahoma rose to the top in the first BCS standings, and then the Boomer Sooner was knocked off its wheels at Mizzou.
Now Auburn and the splendid Cameron Newton -- your Heisman Trophy frontrunner I might add -- travel to Ole Miss on Saturday. Auburn should win the game but Houston Nutt, the Rebels' head coach, has a knack for knocking off ranked teams this time of year. It will be a close, ugly game, but Auburn stays unbeaten.
2. Georgia has the positive vibes. Florida had a week off. Which one will matter most? Georgia appeared headed for a disastrous season Oct. 2 when the Bulldogs lost at Colorado to drop to 1-4. But after three straight wins over Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, Georgia actually has a chance to win the SEC East. First the Bulldogs have to beat Florida, something they have only done three times in the past 20 years. Then South Carolina, which beat Georgia way back on Sept. 11, has to lose two of its final three conference games with Tennessee and Arkansas at home and Florida on the road (Nov. 13).
The Gators have had a week off while Georgia won at Kentucky last Saturday. Urban Meyer is 5-0 after a bye week and 15-1 with more than a week to prepare at Florida. In his 10th year as a head coach, Meyer is 31-3 when he has had more than a week to prepare his team. None of that will matter if Meyer doesn't find some answers for this offense. The return of Chris Rainey might help, but he won't be enough. I like the Dawgs.
3. Beware the team facing an elimination game, Part I: Michigan State (8-0) has had an unforgettable run, starting with the fake field goal against Notre Dame, followed by the health problems of coach Mark Dantonio, an impressive 34-24 win at home against Wisconsin and a stirring 35-27 comeback win at Northwestern last week.
But in Iowa (5-2), Sparty faces a team with its back clearly against the wall. After losing 31-30 at home to Wisconsin last week, Iowa has to win Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium to stay alive in the Big Ten race. Michigan State has not won at Iowa since 1989. If Michigan State can win, the Spartans would be heavily favored to win their final three games against Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State. Not going to happen. Sparty's run ends Saturday at Iowa City.
4. Beware the team facing an elimination game, Part II: After Nebraska took Kansas State to the woodshed on Oct. 7 (48-13), it was a given that the Cornhuskers would be in the Big 12 Championship Game as the representative of the North Division. Then Nebraska lost to Texas 20-13 and Missouri knocked off No. 1 Oklahoma. Now Missouri (7-0, 3-0 Big 12), off to its best start in 50 years, can put a hammerlock on the division if it can win at Lincoln. Suddenly, the Nebraska Blackshirt defense doesn't look so daunting. They gave up 41 points to Oklahoma State last week but still won 51-41. Nebraska really wants its Big 12 swan song to include a trip to the conference title game. The Huskers get it done at home.
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5. Hey, USC! Where's the D? I get exhausted just watching the Oregon offense. I'm not sure even a good defense could slow the Ducks down the way they are playing right now. And right now Southern California, which hosts No. 2 Oregon at the Coliseum, is not a good defense. Monte Kiffin's bunch is ranked No. 87 in total defense, giving up over 400 yards and 24 points per game. But I do know this: Oregon is a different team in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium. Also remember that this is as close to a bowl game as the Trojans are going to get because they are on double secret probation with the NCAA and cannot play in the postseason. If Oregon QB Darron Thomas plays like he did last week against UCLA, this will be a blowout.
6. Don't look now, but Syracuse can win the Big East. The Orange (5-2, 2-1 Big East) broke an eight-game losing streak to West Virginia last week and now are in second place behind Pittsburgh in the Big East standings. It is worth noting that as we reach the last Saturday in October, all eight teams in the league are still mathematically capable of winning the championship and a spot in the BCS.
Syracuse had been completely boat-raced the week before at home against Pittsburgh 45-14. What that means is that even if Syracuse wins out against Cincinnati (on Saturday), Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut, Pittsburgh still has to lose twice for the Orange to win the championship. But when you've finished last in the Big East for five straight seasons, a little hope goes a long way. If Syracuse finishes with seven or eight wins, Doug Marrone should get some coach of the year votes.
7. Can we get a little love for The Zooker? Illinois is 4-3 but you have to have some compassion for coach Ron Zook. His team has lost to Missouri (23-13), Ohio State (24-13) and Michigan State (26-6). Those teams have a combined record of 22-1 and represent the Nos. 5, 6 and 11 teams in the BCS standings. If Illinois can win at home against Purdue (4-3), the llini will probably make it to a bowl, which never hurts as Zook tries to hold on to his job.
"It doesn't matter what happened in the past and it doesn't matter what happens after Saturday," said Zook, who took Illinois to the Rose Bowl in 2007. "I've been very proud of the way they've stayed focused on what's important."
8. Will the Utes be looking ahead? Why yes, I do believe they will. This season proves the old adage that in the heart of the average college football fan there is room for only one underdog. That status, depending on your preference, goes to either No. 3 Boise State or No 4 TCU. But what about Utah? The Utes are undefeated, No. 8 in the BCS and they are getting absolutely no love as a potential fly in the ointment.
I know what you're saying. The Utes will get their chance next week when they host TCU in the Mountain West game of the year. But could they be looking ahead and be less than focused on Saturday's trip to Air Force (5-3)? Despite getting waxed 38-7 at TCU last week, the Falcons still lead the nation in rushing with 326.5 yards per game. Is coach Kyle Whittingham concerned about this trip to Colorado Springs? You bet he is.
"It always seems to be close because Air Force never quits. Ever," he said. Two years ago Utah had to score late to win 30-23. Last season's game went to overtime and Utah prevailed 23-16.
9. Coach Brown is not a happy camper: I was a bit surprised last week when Texas coach Mack Brown agreed to be part of an Internet poster trying to drum up support from students to "protect" Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium. I was surprised because the opponent Texas apparently needed protection from was Iowa State. Yes, Iowa State.
But Brown is a veteran coach and he knows when a team thinks it is better than it really is. He tried to warn his team, but they wouldn't listen and Texas lost 28-21 at home to the Cyclones. This week he pulled no punches.
"I think there is an entitlement with this team," Brown said. "They sit around thinking it is just going to happen."
As a result, here is a sentence that hasn't been written much: Texas hosts. Baylor is ranked No. 25. Texas is not.
"Texas is coming off an embarrassing loss," said Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin. "They'll be mad."
10. Luck vs. Locker: If Jake Locker had jumped into the NFL Draft last season as a junior, some smart people I know tell me he would have been the first quarterback taken and probably the No. 1 pick overall. But those same very smart people are telling me that this season the best quarterback in the Pac-10 -- and maybe the country -- is Stanford's Andrew Luck. Well, it looks like we'll get to decide for ourselves as Stanford goes to Washington. Luck is having a monster year. He leads the conference in total offense (283 ypg) and, with 19 touchdown passes, he is only eight away from John Elway's school record for a single season.
Locker is having a decent year (14 TD, four interceptions), but he has been beat up. He took a shot to the ribs a couple of weeks ago and simply could not go full speed last week when the Huskies lost to Arizona 44-14. Locker got sacked four times. Stanford has a chance to go to 7-1 (its only loss was to Oregon 52-31) with a big game against Arizona next week at home. I like the Cardinal.
Watch The Tony Barnhart Show each Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The CBS College Sports Network.