Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: Best week so far should help shake out SEC contenders, BCS title race


At the risk of Steve Spurrier coming after my job, this week's WWL goes rogue -- at least in Spur Dog's South Carolina -- and tries out the free speech thing ...

Welcome to the biggest week of the season to date.*

 This is when we find out if Geno Smith and West Virginia can travel because, so far this season, they haven't (West Virginia at Texas).

 If nothing else, the Big Ten coach of the year could be decided in State College (Northwestern at Penn State).

 There's a lot to like about Miami (Fla.). Unfortunately, not enough for its past two ADs (Miami vs. Notre Dame in Chicago).

More on Week 6
Related links
More college football coverage

 The two best quarterbacks in the Big Ten (arguably) meet in Columbus. One team can win the Big Ten. The other can go undefeated. Only one can go bowling (Nebraska at Ohio State).

 Oregon plays a rare Sunday game (concluding in the Central and Eastern time zones), hosting Washington.

 The best team in the East means there is hope for the Big East (Connectictut at Rutgers).

 Half the Big 12 is undefeated, which always needs an explanation: That means five teams, since there are only 10 in the conference. The league's schedule includes games featuring the league's No. 1 offense (West Virginia, No. 3 nationally), No. 1 defense (Texas Tech, No. 1 nationally), the game's longest winning streak (TCU), the Heisman favorite (see above) and ... Oklahoma (at Texas Tech).

SEC shakeout

Who's Bama's biggest challenger in the SEC? That's really the upshot of Georgia-South Carolina and LSU-Florida. The two winners will each emerge with the look of a team that can take on Alabama in the SEC Championship Game or, if it's LSU, on Nov. 3.

In Georgia-South Carolina, it's who can "afford" to lose the SEC East showdown and still win the division? The answer is obviously Georgia. The loser essentially has to hope for the winner to lose twice in the division. Any ties are broken by head-to-head results. Georgia has the advantage in any scenario because it has the easier schedule. Spurrier has complained on more than one occasion that the Gamecocks have to play LSU.

South Carolina follows Saturday's game with back-to-back trips to LSU and Florida. The Gamecocks finish the season at Clemson. Following Saturday, the Dawgs currently play one ranked team the rest of the way -- Florida in the Cocktail Party on Oct. 27.

Following South Carolina, Georgia has a bye week, then plays at Kentucky and in Jacksonville against Florida. After Oct. 27 the Dawgs' only remaining road game is at Auburn on Nov. 10.

The pressure is clearly on South Carolina on Saturday.

How LSU lost its swag

It looks like a general malaise this season in Baton Rouge. A team you expected to be playing with a chip on its shoulder because of the way it ended last season almost has looked disinterested, slow, entitled.

"Am I alarmed?" Les Miles said. "Yes, absolutely. It is time that we recognize that we cannot go on the path that we are on."

LSU is better at quarterback with Zach Mettenberger. It has excellent tailback depth. The defense is a given. It's just that the Tigers haven't played like a No. 4. Can they turn it on enough and in time for Florida?

The Gators are looking a lot like the 2006-2008 bunch that bullied the SEC, and country, with a running quarterback and stout defense. That defense has shut out Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky in the fourth quarter. No doubt, the Swamp will be in full throat anticipating the Gators knocking off a top-five team for the first time since the 2010 Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati.

Elsewhere during the BWOTSTD*

 Miami-Notre Dame looks incredibly sexy -- a college football version of a Victoria's Secret fashion show.

Call it Catholics vs. Conviction. Miami has a direction now that Stephen Morris looks like a refined weapon at quarterback. The Irish defense is legit. Miami is undefeated in the ACC. Notre Dame is undefeated. This is not for the national championship, but you will watch because decades-old animosities will be dredged up.

 What might tip the LSU game in Florida's favor: Linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb, out since Sept. 8), defensive end Dominique Easley (knee), tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) and Trey Burton (back spasms) are all expected to play.

 Gary Patterson suggested TCU might be better off without quarterback Casey Pachall against Iowa State. At least that's the spin. Backup Treyvon Boykin, a redshirt freshman, is a true dual threat who has missed on one of his 10 passes and is averaging 10.2 yards per rush.

"He actually opens up the playbook for us, he can throw all the throws," Patterson said. "Now you have an athletic guy who can do a lot of things that Casey can't do."

The nation's longest winning streak (12) is at stake, as is TCU's undefeated season.

What will keep Geno from winning the Heisman?

First, a loss to Texas this week. Second, another loss in the ultra-competitive Big 12. Third? A third loss.

Remember, the Heisman is a function of not only individual talent but also team success. The Stiff Arm almost always goes to a top-10 team and a player who does something dramatic in November.

West Virginia at 9-3 and ranked outside the top 10 could be a tough sell for Heisman voters. (Yes, WWL realizes Baylor finished 9-3 in the 2011 regular season. But the Bears won their final five before the Heisman ceremony.)

Question: Has West Virginia peaked? Starting Saturday, Smith and the Mountaineers play five ranked teams -- two in the top 10, three in the top 15 -- in a six-game stretch.

Counting Baylor -- ranked as of last week -- that would make six ranked teams in a seven-game stretch. Forget the Heisman for a moment, what about the Mountaineers in the championship game? They have the quarterback, the offense and the schedule to do it.

They also have a schedule that could result in four losses. Remember, this is a team that had to score 70 last week to win by a touchdown.

They could have been Trojans

Not that Southern California (Thursday night at Utah) has been lacking for talent, but imagine its lineup with these three who will be key players on Saturday. All three -- potential All-Americans -- either were at, committed to or heavily considering USC in the past three years.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia: Big get out of the Southeast in Pete Carroll's last recruiting class, Jones injured his neck in 2009. When Carroll left for the NFL and Lane Kiffin took over, Jones went back home to Georgia. This week he'll face South Carolina leading the Dawgs in sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (4½).

Manti Teo, LB, Notre Dame: The five-star recruit from Hawaii was leaning toward USC until he reportedly saw Dead Poet's Society in a high school class. The film inspired Teo to go to Notre Dame where he could carve out his own legacy with a struggling program. Heading into Miami, Teo leads the Irish in tackles and is tied for the lead in interceptions.

De'Anthony Thomas, WR/TB/KR, Oregon: DAT was committed to USC until very late in the process. The multipurpose star hadn't had a ball kicked off to him this season until last Saturday. In his 18-game career, Thomas is averaging a touchdown every 7.65 times he touches the ball. Heading into the Washington game, Thomas is tied for third nationally with eight touchdowns.


The Harris Poll debuts Sunday, one-half of the human element in the BCS. Don't expect any surprises.

Since it began in 2005, the first Harris poll of the season has had the same top five teams as the AP poll -- in some order -- for seven consecutive seasons. In four of those seasons the Harris has had the teams in the exact order as AP. In the other three seasons, two teams only differed by one spot.

So much for waiting for the season to start human polls. No matter what happens, there will be a template out there -- in this case the coaches and AP polls -- that will influence voters.

We mention this only because the selection committee that will pick the playoff teams beginning in 2014 will likely release a poll or polls during the season. It will be released to give the public a look at how the committee is thinking. Point being, just take a look at AP and the coaches each week. You'll get a good idea of what the committee is thinking. The first BCS standings are released Oct. 14. For now, assuming no upsets, this is what the first Harris poll will look like on Sunday.

1. Alabama -- bye
2. Oregon -- vs. Washington
3. LSU -- at Florida
4. Florida State -- at NC State
5. Georgia -- at South Carolina or, South Carolina -- vs. Georgia

Words to live by

"He's a hunting dog, not a show dog. It doesn't matter to him." -- Jimbo Fisher of Florida State (at N.C. State) on quarterback EJ Manuel going unnoticed in leading the ACC in completion percentage.

Stat package

Not surprisingly, West Virginia's Tavon Austin leads the country in "explosion" plays of 30 yards or more (10). ... How much does Boise State (at Southern Mississippi) miss offensive coordinator Brent Pease (as well as Kellen Moore)? The Broncos are only ordinary -- 72nd in total offense, 96th in scoring. ... Who is Phillip Thomas? Fresno State's safety (playing at Colorado State) leads the nation with five interceptions and has already taken two back for touchdowns. That after missing all of last season due to a broken leg. ... Miami is 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since 2004 with a starting 22 that includes only four seniors. ... Not what you would expect out of a fly boy: Anthony LaCoste of Air Force (vs. Navy) leads the country with seven kickoff returns of more than 30 yards. Four BCS-conference players are tied for third with four each. ... Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson is on pace to rush for 2,100 yards. Nevada (vs. Wyoming) hasn't finished out of the top 10 in rushing since 2007 ... when it finished 12th.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

Biggest Stories

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
Conversation powered by Livefyre


Most Popular

CBSSports Shop

Men's Brand Jordan Navy Michigan Wolverines 2016 Elite Coaches Sideline Performance Polo

College Sideline Gear
Get yours today!
Shop Now