Dropped Out: Florida State (#17), Colorado (#21), Maryland (#24), Wisconsin (#25).
Some thoughts on...
When Lou Holtz ranked Kansas #2 on ESPN's college football wrap-up show, I initially took his opinion as seriously as everything else that Holtz says, which is to say that I attributed it to a deranged sideshow and went on my merry way. Upon reflection, he has something of a point. I don't really think that Kansas is the #2 team in the country, but what's the difference between the Jayhawks and Ohio State, other than name and the fact that Kansas's win at Kansas State is better than anything on Ohio State's resume? What's the difference between Kansas and Arizona State or Boston College? Everyone seems to be focused on the prospect of South Florida and Boston College running the table, but has anyone noticed that Kansas misses the top three teams in the Big XII South and has already beaten one of the two other contenders in the North on the road?
I have a remarkably simple explanation to describe Auburn's rise from the dead: the Tigers have an excellent defense and a bad offense. Every game they play against a quality opponent is going to follow the same script: a tight, defensive game that comes down to turnovers, special teams, and late drives. Auburn lost two such games consecutively against South Florida and Mississippi State, then won two such games against Florida and Arkansas (with an anomalous blowout of Vandy thrown in for good measure). The Tigers aren't as bad as we feared when they were 1-2 and they aren't as good as they look now that their luck/skill in close games has returned. With LSU, Georgia, and Alabama still on the schedule, expect three more coin-flip games. Also, don't sleep on the possibility of Ole Miss upsetting Auburn. The Rebs have been knocking on the door for a year and a half; at some stage, they're going to win a close game.
The Gators are in the opposite place as Auburn: they have lost two close games in a row and are therefore underrated right now. Florida hasn't won a close game yet this year. They're in the same spot that LSU was in last year before the Tigers reeled off a perfect second half, fueled by their luck evening out in the Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Arkansas games. The one difference is that LSU's defense was better last year. I like Florida this weekend against Kentucky because I can't see the Cats stopping the Florida offense, although I don't know that I'd take Florida -7 because Kentucky has the passing game to exploit Florida's secondary.
Now would be a good time to sell on the Hoos. The schedule gets tougher and they have won every close game they've played this year. At some stage, their luck is going to even out. I bumped them into the poll in place of Wake because of a good win over UConn, but I suspect I'll be popping the Terps back into the rankings after the teams meet this weekend.
I haven't weighed in on the Georgia game yet this week because I didn't see it, but did it tell us anything we don't already know about the Dawgs? They're an average SEC team. They don't do anything especially well, but they don't have any glaring weaknesses. They're deeper than Vandy, which explains the way the game played out. Matt Stafford has not turned into a star, the offensive line is decent at times and embarrassing at others, the defensive ends are not good enough for Willie Martinez to play his preferred style, and Georgia has enough talent to muddle its way to an 8-4 season.