Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Thoughts of the Week

By Ernest Faulkner

After taking two-week sabbatical from the blog, I have come back after some things that I thought would happen in college football did and others completely took me by surprise. I will try not to sound like “I told you so” in this column, because let’s face it, I didn’t. However, here we go.

1. A top 10 shuffle was coming.
I never did imagine it on this scale, but after struggling to come up with a deserving top-5 from week to week, it is easy to conclude that this was one of the weakest top 10’s in recent history. Of the former top 10 teams, Oklahoma was simply following its roll of the high scoring bully of the Big 12 until someone came along, Colorado and hit them in the mouth. Like we said from the beginning of the season, Florida’s defense would be a weak point this season because of lack of experience, not talent. Ole Miss exposed it, Auburn capitalized on it. I was surprised by West Virginia’s loss to South Florida simply because the Bulls failed to capitalize on big mistakes at Auburn, forcing a win in overtime despite five turnovers by the Tigers, and beating a down UNC team. South Florida is for real, however, and head coach Jim Leavitt has got the media-dubbed Holy Triumvirate of Rodriguez, Slaton and White figured out. Texas struggled early and often with a new offensive line and the pressure put on QB Colt McCoy, so it was easy to figure someone would catch them. Rutgers was living on its darling status from last year. If you lose to an ACC team this season, a No. 10 you are not. Looking at what is left of the top 10, get ready for more jumbling.

LSU will probably win the SEC, but it has to make it through the rest of its schedule. After a lackluster performance against Tulane, it will only take a hungry team and a lethargic Les Miles bunch to knock the Tigers out of the top spot. USC had its first “We will tease you with the possibility of losing and then win” game of the season and may have more, but is still the most talented team in the Pac-10 and will return to a BCS bowl. Ohio State is overrated and untested. Between Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and an angry Michigan, someone will knock the Buckeyes out. If anyone has played more uninspired than Wisconsin in the last three weeks, I haven’t seen them. Michigan State is one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten right now, but the Badgers should never let a home game get that close. Somebody is going to slap them while they are sleeping on the field. South Florida and Boston College have earned the right to be in the top 10 more than anybody. They are smart bets to win their conferences, but still have a long way to go to achieve that goal. Kentucky has one against down teams. Give a good secondary and I could beat Kentucky. Music City Bowl, welcome back the Wildcats.

2. Georgia is now where Arkansas was in 2006.
The Dogs have improved a lot over last season and the win at Alabama was signature for this group of players. The reason I compare them to the Hogs of last season is obviously not because Georgia hasn’t realized the forward pass is legal like Houston Nutt – look at Matthew Stafford, they have— but because this is an underestimated team that has found ways to win. UGA still has Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and a Kentucky team will test the young secondary by throwing for 200 passes in a game, so they haven’t won the conference yet, but they might take the East if Mark Richt’s bunch doesn’t make too many mistakes.

3. Alabama, welcome back to Earth.
After hearing The Birmingham News’ Kevin Scarbinsky, all of ESPN and Alabama radio announcer proclaim Bama back, eerily similar to 2005, the Tide is back where we knew they would be, with two consecutive losses. The offense is new and creative, but there is still no experience on defense. No matter how Saban coaches them up, good offenses will exploit the group. Georgia and Florida State burned them all day long with the pass and that is what the rest of the schedule will do as well. Alabama will make one of the SEC’s second tier bowls or even Outback, Cotton or Chik-Fil-a this season, but unlike Scarbinsky’s inflated prognostication of 8-0 before the LSU game, Tennessee and the Bayou Bengal’s are ready to pounce.

4. Auburn, a much improved but long road.
After booing students, no respect from the media and much angst on the Plains, Tommy Tuberville and the Tigers proved they can still win the big game. Auburn did a complete 180 this weekend and brought out the team many expected to see this season. The infusion of freshman talent on the offensive line and the improved play of Brandon Cox keyed the win in Gainesville. However, the Tigers still have many pitfalls ahead of them. Vanderbilt, laugh if you will, is still a trap game. So is Ole Miss, laugh all you want. If the Rebels almost beat Florida, they can beat Auburn. Road trips to Arkansas, LSU and Georgia await and could all be losses, not to mention the Iron Bowl. Auburn is on the right track and could win the remaining games if they played like they did on Saturday. What remains to be seen is if they will.

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