I told myself before the season not to rank any teams from the Big XII North until they gave me a good reason to do so. I was skeptical on Nebraska and that proved to be correct. For some unknown reason, I lumped Texas A&M in with the North on the assumption that Dennis Franchione belongs back in Kansas and I was right on that as well. This week, when I was getting to the end of my ballot, I was scratching my head trying to find two teams to put into the poll and I unfortunately went with Kansas and Missouri. Kansas belongs because, unlike some teams in the AP and ESPN top tens (read: Wisconsin), they have dominated their cupcakes. I oughta penalize Kansas for playing such an amazingly easy non-conference schedule, but after a while, I'm a sucker for repeated 55-3 scores. With K-State, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Colorado coming up, 8-0 is a possibility for the Jayhawks. As for Missouri, they have no defense whatsoever as evidenced by the 34 points and 435 yards they surrendered to an Illinois team playing its back-up quarterback, but they can score and their win over Ole Miss in Oxford went up in value this weekend when Florida struggled there.
The team people are sleeping on right now is Ohio State. They ought to be very close to the discussion of LSU, USC, and Oklahoma as the three best teams in the country. Unlike the other contenders to that trio, they can play defense (although West Virginia is showing a sneaky ability to stop some teams). The offense that everyone thought would sputter without Troy Smith and the rest of the skill position players has been excellent after a sputtering start. (More evidence for Mandel's point on the importance of experience and quality on the offensive line.) What's really keeping Ohio State from entering the conversation is the weakness of the Big Ten and the Bucks' wretched performance in Glendale last year. Just as voters didn't want to see a Michigan-Ohio State rematch last year, they don't want to see Ohio State on that stage again, especially because of the mostly correct perception that the Bucks would not face nearly the same challenges in getting to New Orleans as compared to USC, LSU, or (to a lesser extent) Oklahoma. The Bucks needed Washington to play well, so they were hurt last week by the Huskies' egg in Pasadena.
I was tempted to put Oregon ahead of Cal in advance of what I think will be a win for the Ducks this weekend, but I decided to hold off and let events run their course. Interestingly, one of the headlines on ESPN.com's college football page is "Saturday's Oregon-Cal game will be one for the ages, no matter where you live." So naturally, it will only be broadcast to the West Coast while most of the country will get Clemson/Georgia Tech and Michigan State/Wisconsin on ABC and ESPN. I'm sure that the decision to show USC/Washington nationally instead of Cal/Oregon is a ratings-driven decision and Disney is, after all, in the business of making money, but boo to Mickey Mouse for televising the best match-up of the weekend to a small sliver of the country.
Clemson was the big mover in my poll. It might not make much sense at first glance to provide such a reward for beating a bad N.C. State team (although the Pack beat Wofford who beat Appalachian State who, as you may have heard, beat Michigan, so I might be careful with what I say), but the N.C. State game was the kind of game that Clemson could never win under Tommy Bowden. The fact that they not only won, but wiped the floor with the Pack is impressive. Speaking of Clemson, Tommy Bowden was on Mayhem this morning. The first two questions were Steak asking/stating "you must be pretty happy with the season so far" and Bell asking "are you happy with your talent level." Then, to further illustrate the difference between a good interviewer and a bad one, Chris Dimino asked about Clemson needing to identify gaps in the Tech defense to get their running game going and Bowden responded with a thoroughly useful answer about how Tech can give up big plays because they typically rush five and have three shallow and three deep in zone behind the initial line. Bowden explained that Tech's zone behind the front has a lot of gaps that runners can exploit and that Clemson will have to use motion and shifts to cause Tech to leave gaps uncovered. It was a great answer that was only made possible by a host who actually asks questions that don't have only one possible answer.