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Tony's Top 10: On eve of first BCS standings, hopefuls can't afford slipups

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The first BCS standings of 2012 will be released on Sunday, which means that in this beauty contest we call college football Saturday will be the last chance to impress the judges before they render their first marks of the season.

So hitch up your gown, straighten your tiara, and know that you not only have to win, but you need to win with a little style.

Here is Tony's Top 10 for the second Saturday in October:

The Head Ball Coach goes for another first

Steve Spurrier is big on doing things at South Carolina that have never been done before. Last week the Gamecocks dominated Georgia 35-7 for their third straight win over the Bulldogs, a first in school history.

The Gamecocks have now won 10 straight, which is another school record. Spurrier has a chance at another "first" when the No. 3 Gamecocks go to No. 9 LSU, which is still smarting from last Saturday's 14-6 loss at Florida. Since 1996 South Carolina is 0-14 against top 10 teams on the road.

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Now it's fair to say that Spurrier is not going to be overwhelmed by what will be a rocking Tiger Stadium. He's been there as the visiting coach seven times and won five of them. One of those losses came in 1997 when Florida was ranked No. 1.
Top 25 preview: South Carolina-LSU

Watered-down Red River

It's been a long time since the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas has generated so little buzz. In fact, it's only the second time since 1997 that both teams arrive in Big D with a loss. Because of that both teams have lost their margin for error in the race for the Big 12 championship. Texas fell to West Virginia in Austin (48-45) last week and now has to win out and hope that the Mountaineers lose twice. Oklahoma has to win the rest of its games, including a Nov. 17 trip to Morgantown, and hope that No. 6 Kansas State loses twice. So there will be quite a sense of urgency surrounding this one.
Top 25 preview: Texas-Oklahoma

Tell me why we joined the SEC?

Things could be worse for Missouri (3-3, 0-3 SEC) but it's hard to fathom how with No. 1 Alabama coming to Columbia. Quarterback James Franklin is not going to play. Center Mitch Morse is not going to play. The offensive line is young and beat up. The Tigers lost to Vanderbilt last week. Alabama had last week off. A couple of defensive notes to ponder: Alabama has held its last 19 opponents to less than 300 yards of total offense and 16 of those opponents have rushed for less than 100 yards. Alabama is the only team in the country that is allowing less than 200 yards a game in total offense (191.60 ypg).
Top 25 preview: Alabama-Missouri

Dooley coaches from the press box

Tennessee coach Derek Dooley certainly has enough on his plate. After losing his first two SEC games to Florida (37-20) and Georgia (51-44), he could really use a win at unbeaten Mississippi State (5-0 for the first time since 1999) to get an antsy Volunteer fan base off his back. On Tuesday things got a little more complicated as Dooley, 44, had surgery to repair a fractured hip. He will coach Saturday's game in Starkville from the press box.

Coaching hurt has happened in the Dooley family before. In 1987 Georgia's Vince Dooley had to have an angioplasty procedure performed to clear a blocked artery. The surgery was on a Tuesday and that Saturday Dooley was on the sideline for a game against Kentucky. Georgia fell behind 14-0 and the elder Dooley felt his chest tighten. "I thought, great. I'm going to die right here AND we're going to lose to Kentucky," he said. Georgia rallied to win 17-14.
Top 25 preview: Tennessee-Miss. State

Can Duke become bowl eligible?

Duke has not played in a bowl game since 1994, when Fred Goldsmith led the Blue Devils to a 7-0 start and a national ranking of No. 13 before stumbling down the stretch and finishing 8-4. Duke, in its fifth year under David Cutcliffe, is 5-1, meaning the Blue Devils have to find just one more win in their last six games to be bowl eligible. Piece of cake, right? Maybe not. Duke's final six opponents are Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami (Fla.). Since the ACC expanded in 2004 Duke is 1-39 against those six teams. Duke's only loss so far this season was 50-13 at Stanford on Sept. 8.

Break up the Big East!

For a conference that is supposed to be struggling, the Big East is hanging in there. It has three teams in this week's AP Top 25 -- No. 18 Louisville (5-0), No. 20 Rutgers (5-0), and No. 21 Cincinnati (4-0) -- which are more than the ACC and the Big Ten. And all three have a reasonable shot to stay unbeaten on Saturday as Cincinnati hosts Fordham, Louisville goes to Pittsburgh and Rutgers hosts Syracuse.

"And if you count (No. 24) Boise State (which joins the Big East next season) we have four teams in the Top 25," said new commissioner Mike Aresco, who will lose Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC after this season. "We feel very good about where we are as a conference."

Will the Wildcats stumble?

No. 5 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas State appear to be on a collision course of unbeatens next week in Morgantown. But before that Kansas State has to take care of a pesky Iowa State (4-1, 1-1) team in Ames. The Cyclones handed TCU its first loss of the season last week as the Horned Frogs played without quarterback Casey Pachall, who has since left the team. Keep your eye on Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett. He started the season as the backup to Steele Jantz. But he got his first start of the season against TCU and threw three touchdown passes. Here is a fun stat: An upset of Kansas State would give Coach Paul Rhoads his fifth win over a ranked team at Iowa State. That would tie the school record currently held by Earle Bruce.
Top 25 preview: Kansas State-Iowa State

Can the Notre Dame defense do it again?

Stanford's Stephan Taylor needs 193 yards to move past Toby Gerhart (3,522 yards) to No. 2 on the school's all-time rushing list behind the great Darrin Nelson (4,033 career yards). But we don't expect Taylor to get it against No. 7 Notre Dame (5-0) on Saturday in South Bend. The Irish defense is giving up only 106 yards rushing a game and has allowed only three touchdowns this season. The Irish are also the only team in FBS that has not trailed in a single game this season. The last time they did that through five games was 1947 when Notre Dame won the national championship.
Top 25 preview: Stanford-Notre Dame

Will Trojans' BCS hopes die in Seattle?

The last time Washington played a ranked Pac-12 opponent at home it went pretty well. The Huskies beat Stanford (17-13), which is the only team that has beaten Southern California (21-14 on Sept. 15) this season. USC goes to Washington on Saturday. People forget that as good as USC has been, Steve Sarkisian's Huskies had beaten the Trojans two straight times before last season's 40-17 victory at The Coliseum.

In fact, four of the last six meetings have been decided by single digits. Here is the reality if you're USC. Lose this one and any hope of getting back into the BCS championship picture is gone. Matt Barkley's slim hopes of getting back in the Heisman race? Gone as well. Oh yeah. USC still has to play Oregon, Arizona State, at UCLA and Notre Dame. So a season that began with national championship aspirations could go well off the rails if things don't go well at Washington.
Top 25 preview: USC-Washington

Guns up for another shootout in Lubbock

When you play West Virginia you probably need to alter your expectations. Texas, for example, felt pretty good about last week's game because the Longhorns held the Mountaineers to ONLY 48 points, which is four under their average. Now it is Texas Tech's turn in the barrel on Saturday in Lubbock. The Red Raiders of Tommy Tuberville are not without some talent. Quarterback Seth Doege is not Geno Smith, the nation's leader in passing yards per game (399.2 avg.) but he ain't bad. Doege has completed almost 70 percent of his passes. He likes to spread it around as Texas Tech has at least 10 receivers catch a pass in each of their first five games. Texas Tech is one of only two teams (Florida State is the other) that ranks in the Top 15 nationally in both total offense and total defense.

Top 25 preview: West Virginia-Texas Tech

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CBS 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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