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Power 15 – Week 14: The Extended Top-25 Version

I extended the Power 15 into a full blown Top-25 to end the season. I’ll probably do another one at the end of the bowl season just to put some finality to the season. Heading into the bowl games, I’m really happy to see Oregon & Auburn live up to the hype in the final weeks to give us what looks to be an incredible BCS Championship game. I’m also pretty happy with how the BCS bowls worked out. I thought the BCS was going to make the Orange Bowl pretty sad if Virginia Tech & Connecticut were to play each other, but reality is going to be a lot better with Virginia Tech getting Stanford while Connecticut will play Oklahoma.

I really liked how the BCS bowls played out. I think it’ll be a great bowl season so let’s get to the Top-25!

Just Missing Cut (in no particular order): NC State, Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut, Central Florida, Navy

#1 Bowl Game: BCS Title: Auburn deserves the top spot without question. Running the table in the SEC to the tune of 13-0 & absolutely embarrassing the Gamecocks in the SEC Championship 56-17!? With all the hoopla surrounding Cameron Newton having died down, it’s easy to see that the guy is going to win the Heisman. The trick of course is winning the national championship. After watching the SEC Championship, I’m not all together backing off of my thought that Oregon will beat Auburn heads up, but how the Ducks stop Newton is all together a difficult task.
#2 Bowl Game: BCS Title: The 37-20 win in Corvallis is amazing! Don’t let the 17-point spread fool anybody! Walking into their back yard & beating a Mike Riley led Oregon St. team is exceptionally difficult especially given all that was on the line. Oregon did by almost 3TD! A lot of pundits are thinking the BCS title game might be a shootout, but I’d be leery of discounting the Oregon defense. It ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense & the ranked 2nd in the nation in takeaways with 35! I don’t know how it’ll play, but Oregon’s defense simply cannot be overlooked in this game.
#3 Bowl Game: Orange: I certainly didn’t see this one coming. Most outlets had Stanford going to the Fiesta Bowl to take on Oklahoma. Instead the Cardinal will travel to Miami to face ACC Champion Virginia Tech! The big winner here in this game is Virginia Tech. Had they beaten up Connecticut then their status nationally wouldn’t have made much of a difference because nobody thought an 8-4 UConn team should be in the BCS anyway. The pressure here really is on Stanford. They lose to Virginia Tech and the 11-1 season seems to ring a bit hollow. If Stanford blows them out & Oregon win the BCS Championship game, how can this team finish below #3?
#4 Bowl Game: Rose: Wisconsin is going to get a pretty good game out of TCU. The Horned Frogs rank 3rd in the nation in rushing defense while Wisconsin ranks 12th in rushing offense. If you take out the option oriented teams from the rush offense rankings then the Badgers would rank 8th. The real trick here for Wisconsin is holding up with their interior defensive line. TCU is an excellent rushing football team and they have an exceptional QB in Andy Dalton. Wisconsin is a little bit vulnerable stopping the run which could spell disaster. If Wisconsin can’t get on the field, they can’t run the ball. It’ll be interesting to see if the Badgers can stop TCU from running.
#5 Bowl Game: Rose: Outstanding game for the Frogs! A lot of people think that Wisconsin might be the 3rd best team in the nation behind Oregon & Auburn. If there were a 4-team playoff you can be sure that Stanford & Wisconsin would face off against Oregon & Auburn. TCU can do a lot to change that idea. Remember that last year TCU went 12-0 but lost to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. This year they actually get to take on one of the AQ Top Guns in Wisconsin. If TCU hammers the Badgers to get to 13-0 then they have every right to wonder if they could beat the BCS Champion. The matchup is an outstanding one of the Frogs as well.
#6 Bowl Game: Sugar: Ohio St. has never seen anything like they’ll see in Arkansas when they get together in New Orleans. The most powerful offense the Buckeyes saw this year was Wisconsin & the Badgers beat them 31-18 in Madison. While this isn’t a true home game for the Hogs, it is SEC country. Arkansas ranks 3rd in the nation in pass offense. Ohio St. ranks 4th in pass defense. Against Wisconsin the Buckeyes had a great rush defense, but it didn’t seem to matter. Arkansas is balanced too with RB Knile Davis so it’ll be interesting to see how Ohio St. holds up against an exceptional 10-2 Arkansas team which is probably the 2nd best team in the SEC this year.
#7 Bowl Game: Sugar: Outstanding bowl matchup for Arkansas. Any bowl win would have been great for Petrino & Co. because it would have sent Arkansas to an 11-2 season, but getting a bowl win over a blue blood like Ohio St. in a BCS Bowl? If the win over LSU was program changing, what in the world would a win here mean for the Razorbacks?! I love the matchup for Arkansas. Ohio St. is in some way a poor man’s Auburn except Terrelle Pryor hasn’t been nearly as good as Cameron Newton. The Ohio St. defense is going to be stout, but it’s not like Arkansas hasn’t seen tough defenses before. They’ve played both Alabama & LSU.
#8 Bowl Game: Fiesta: Great win over Nebraska in the Big XII championship game. The Sooners defense stepped up huge in holding Nebraska to only 20pts in a 23-20 win. The Sooners got helped quite a bit with having a good BCS ranking, but the bowls sort of screw them a bit by landing Connecticut in the Fiesta. If Randy Edsall really does depart to Miami-FL this could be another situation like we saw last year in the Sugar Bowl when Florida took on a Cincinnati squad that lost their HC to Notre Dame. That final score was UGLY as Tim Tebow set every record imaginable. The two losses amid quite a few 1-loss teams have taken a bit of shine off Oklahoma, but if they finish 12-2 that’s an awfully successful year.
#9 Bowl Game: Capital One: A solid bowl for Michigan St. They’ll take on Alabama & Nick Saban which has a bunch of ulterior storylines seeing how Saban used to be HC of Michigan St. before he left for LSU. This will actually be the first time Saban has actually coached against Michigan St. In his one year at Toledo & his years at LSU & Alabama, he’s never faced the Spartans. Clearly Michigan St. has a lot to prove. They are 11-1 just like Wisconsin & Ohio St., yet they aren’t in the BCS. Wisconsin is in the Rose Bowl despite losing to Michigan St. The 3-way tie for Sparty absolutely puts the screws to them. They beat Alabama and go 12-1, MSU has a case to be the #3 or #4 team in the nation.
#10 Bowl Game: Cotton: The loss to Arkansas cost them the Sugar Bowl, but going 10-2 and facing Texas A&M isn’t all that bad. It’s been amazing to see the Bayou Bengals win game after game despite their passing offense ranking 107th out of 120 FBS schools! That’s just nuts. I wrote the other day that the Mad Hatter might be a better coach than I thought. Unless you are playing for a BCS Championship, the bowl games are a good jump off spot for the upcoming season. LSU has top JUCO QB Zach Mettenberger coming in next season & I don’t see how he doesn’t beat out Jordan Jefferson. LSU could be a preseason #1 team in 2011.
#11 Bowl Game: Chick-fil-A: South Carolina wasn’t going to stick with Auburn in the SEC Championship game. I didn’t expect 56-17, but Auburn was just that much better. South Carolina accomplished what I think they set out to accomplish in 2010 which is an SEC East title. Going up against an SEC West squad was entirely too much especially one that had as much momentum as Auburn with a QB as good as Cameron Newton. They shouldn’t have lost to Kentucky, but their other 3 losses were to Auburn twice & Arkansas. Being potentially the 3rd best team in the SEC makes you a top-10 squad. They get an interesting matchup with Florida St. in the bowl. Both teams destroyed Florida!
#12 Bowl Game: Las Vegas: I’m really glad Boise St. didn’t wind up in the Humanitarian Bowl that would have been played on their home turf. To me Boise is never going to prove anything unless they win big games on the road. The Virginia Tech win was away from Boise, but it wasn’t in Blacksburg either. They actually get an interesting opponent in 10-2 Utah. I’m not sure what to think about the Utes. They did beat Air Force, San Diego St. & BYU, but all three of those games were tight. My thought is that Boise St. will win this game by 20-30 points. They’ll finish 12-1 & probably in the top-10. I would have much rather seen Boise play a big time school. They deserve better & I still think they can beat anyone in the country on any given day.
#13 Bowl Game: Capital One: Nick Saban will go up against his old school for the first time when he plays Michigan St. Saban and the Tide have come out flat oftentimes in bowl games that don’t mean too much. In 2007 they barely beat Colorado while in 2008 they simply mailed it in against Utah. Alabama will be playing for a 10-win season against Sparty as the Tide come into the game 9-3. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes for the Tide. They could lose an awful lot as people like Greg McElroy, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Dont’a Hightower & Marcel Dareus are likely hitting the NFL next season. It’ll be interesting to see how much time freshman QB A.J. McCarron gets against Michigan St.
#14 Bowl Game: Holiday: Has to be a little disappointing for Bo Pelini. He’s come this close to winning the last 2 Big XII Championships and heading off to the Fiesta. Both times he’s come up just short and finished the season in the Holiday Bowl. Last year Nebraska hammered Arizona 33-0. This year they’ll face Washington. I’m not sure the outcome will be much different. This game is interesting because it’ll be the last one Nebraska plays as a member of the Big XII. I’m sure they want to leave the conference as winners so my gut is that they’ll be fired up to win. A bigger question might be whether or not the rumors of Taylor Martinez transferring are true.
#15 Bowl Game: Orange: Virginia Tech really lucked out when they wound up with Stanford in the Orange Bowl rather than Connecticut. Virginia Tech started the season in the top-10. They lost back to back opening games to Boise St. & James Madison and they’ve been fighting for respect ever since. They’ve ripped off 11 straight wins including a perfect 9-0 against ACC teams. The ACC wasn’t nearly as good as some of us thought preseason, but 11 straight wins is still impressive. The Hokies can certainly gain quite a bit of respect nationally by beating Stanford on a big stage. The Cardinal have the hottest coach in college football and are 11-1 with their only loss on the road to Oregon. A Virginia Tech win & a final record of 12-2 has to put them in the top-10 right?
#16 Bowl Game: Fight Hunger: Look at it this way. The day of the BCS Title game is January 10th. It’s the only game on TV that day. The day before Nevada plays Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. It’s the only game on TV so if you want to watch college football that day, you have to watch the 12-1 Wolfpack go up against Boston College in prime time. The bowl is a bit disappointing. Nevada deserves a bit better than a middling ACC team, but going 13-1 & winning a WAC Championship in a year everyone not only thought Boise St. would win, but would also potentially play for a national title? That has to feel good. What I don’t understand is how Nevada didn’t get as big a bump up for beating Boise St. as Boise did get a bump down for losing? Remember, Nevada’s only loss came to a 10-3 Hawaii team!
#17 Bowl Game: Alamo: I don’t have anything but outstanding things to say about Oklahoma St. National coach of the year went to Oregon’s Chip Kelly and you can easily make a case that Kelly deserves it, but what Mike Gundy did with an Oklahoma St. squad that everyone thought was going to finish last in the Big XII South is downright miraculous. Kendall Hunter, Justin Blackmon & Brandon Weeden all had Heisman caliber years. The Cowboys finished 10-2 with a share of the Big XII South title & Gundy took home Big XII Coach of the Year honors. They’ll get Arizona in the Alamo Bowl and should win that game which will put OSU at 11-2 which will be the best season Oklahoma St. has had since 1945 when the Cowboys went 9-0 & won the Missouri Valley Conference championship. The 2010 Oklahoma St. Cowboys could very well be the best team in OSU history.
#18 Bowl Game: Insight: The Insight Bowl is going to be an interesting one between the Iowa & Missouri. You’d have to guess that Texas might be the most disappointing team in the 2010 season, but if there was one team that could battle for that honor it’s Iowa. If Iowa couldn’t win the Big 10 in 2010, they’ll never win it. Missouri at 10-2 isn’t what you would call disappointing, but after they beat Texas A&M on the road & followed that up with a home win over Oklahoma, you had the feeling that maybe the Tigers could dash to a 13-0 record & really throw a wrench into the BCS. Back to back losses to Nebraska & Texas Tech dashed those hopes. Mizzou has a helluva team & I love Gary Pinkel. Getting to 11-2 would be a major achievement.
#19 Bowl Game: Cotton: The team that is closest to Michigan St. in feeling absolutely screwed is Texas A&M. The Aggies at 9-3 (6-2) got left behind in the Big XII South because of BCS Standings, but it’s interesting to note that A&M was the only team this year to have beaten both Nebraska & Oklahoma, the two teams that actually played in the Big XII title game! Give QB Ryan Tannehill a TON of credit. When Jerrod Johnson went down, Tannehill wasn’t just a capable backup, he was light years better than Johnson! Keep in mind also that Von Miller might be the best defensive player you haven’t heard of. Texas A&M will stop LSU’s offense (how could it not?), so they should have the advantage if they can get their offense moving.
#20 Bowl Game: Gator: In Sylvester Croom’s last season, MSU was 4-8. In Dan Mullen’s 1st season they were 5-7. This year in Mullen’s 2nd season they were 8-4! Note too that Mullen is 2-0 against Ole’ Miss whereas in Croom’s last game the Rebels beat up MSU 45-0! What’s great about the Bulldogs is that they are more of a defensive team than an offensive one just yet. They ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense compared to 58th in scoring offense. Remember that Mullen was Urban Meyer’s OC before he took the job in Starkville. Who knows how long Mullen will stay at MSU? I think he’d be wise to get out, but then again, he’s proving he can win the West without much talent and his offensive schemes not running 100% efficiently. Unfortunately for Rich Rod, Michigan shouldn’t beat the Bulldogs in the Gator Bowl.
#21 Bowl Game: Chick-fil-A: Crazy tough loss for Florida St. in the ACC Championship game. Virginia Tech beat the Seminoles 44-33, but QB Christian Ponder didn’t play yet backup QB E.J. Manuel still threw for 288 yards. If Manuel doesn’t get picked off twice or Ponder is in the game, FSU could be 10-3 instead of 9-4 & headed to the Orange Bowl to play Stanford. I don’t think the Chick-fil-A bowl is a bad consolation prize especially because they get South Carolina who won the SEC East. The East wasn’t nearly as tough as the West, but a ‘Noles win here & a VaTech win over Stanford could give the ACC some serious credibility in 2010.
#22 Bowl Game: Hawaii: Great season for Hawaii especially given how they were the only team to beat Nevada & they also ended the year with a victory to get to double digit wins at 10-3. I thought it was going to be next to impossible for the Warriors to replace June Jones but Greg McMackin is doing a pretty darn good job. Hawaii could have easily been where Nevada is now if they hadn’t lost early season games to both USC & Colorado. They wind up in the Hawaii Bowl playing Tulsa which is OK I suppose, but I wish they would have taken on more like Boise St. did in leaving the Humanitarian Bowl. I don’t know all of the conference tie ins or what was available, but I’d like to see them take on a team higher up than Tulsa.
#23 Bowl Game: Las Vegas: When I wrote about close games, I couldn’t help but note that Utah’s Kyle Whittingham’s record in close games this season was a perfect 4-0. Previously Whittingham was 13-8 in close games making his all-time record at Utah in games decided by 7 points or less a solid 17-8. He’s got a perfect season under his belt as well. By all accounts we should be giving Utah the benefit of the doubt, but they ended the season with 3 close wins and now draw a Boise St. team that has to be pissed they aren’t in a BCS game even with a loss on the resume. It’s a solid bowl game for both teams, but at least for Boise St., it’s a bit disappointing. Whittingham is always a name that comes up in coaching searches, but with Utah joining the Pac 10, does Utah become more of a destination job?
#24 Bowl Game: Outback: It’s a lost year for Florida, but you can’t win a national championship in every season. Florida ended the season 7-5, but their losses were to Alabama, LSU, Mississippi St., South Carolina & Florida St. Two of the losses were close so the best Florida was doing was 9-3 this year. QB John Brantley wasn’t even remotely close to filling Tim Tebow’s shoes, but who really could? Florida’s defense wasn’t especially good either, but what this really shows us is that even Florida & Urban Meyer are susceptible to bad years when you have a mass exodus of players to the NFL the way Florida did in the 2010 NFL Draft. It’s not that 2010 is disappointing. It’s that they missed in 2009. They get Penn St. in the Outback Bowl, a game they probably should win although it won’t be easy at all.
#25 Bowl Game: Sun: Maybe I’m being a homer here, but against all the remaining teams that aren’t ranked, I’d take the Irish over all of them with the way they played their last three games against Utah, USC & Army. Keep in mind that Notre Dame essentially rebuilt their offensive line on the fly while introducing a new QB in Dayne Crist. Keep also in mind that they were breaking in a new system under new HC Brian Kelly. They dealt with massive injuries along with off the field problems stemming from the death of a student filming a practice. All of that and still ND went 7-5 with a “best” case record of 10-2. They are playing their best football of the year right now, especially defensively, without guys like Crist, RB Armando Allen & TE Kyle Rudolph. If Brian Kelly can get the Irish to 8-5 (assuming they beat a very uninspired Miami-FL program in transition), what is he going to be able to do when everything goes right?

December 7, 2010 - Posted by | Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Boise St., LSU, Michigan St., Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Oregon, Power 15, South Carolina, Stanford, TCU, Virginia Tech, Week 14, Wisconsin

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