The first Bowl Championship Series poll will be released this Sunday night and, if you are ready for a shocker, top-ranked Alabama wouldn’t be in the Top Four if the poll was announced today. Pat Forde, a terrific writer for Yahoo! Sports and a longtime Kentucky sports writer, looked at five of the six computer rankings used and here is what he found.
At the top would be Florida, followed by – in order -- Notre Dame, South Carolina, West Virginia and Alabama. Right now four different teams are ranked No. 1 by the computer wizards. Alabama is tops in the Sagarin, Florida by Anderson & Hester, Oregon by Billingsley and Notre Dame by Colley and Massey. The rub comes because Forde finds Notre Dame is ranked in more formulas than the Crimson Tide.
Now, if it helps, please know that tomorrow’s games will be factored into the rankings before the first BCS poll is calculated on Sunday afternoon. What makes the thing so much fun is trying to figure not just which teams will win or lose, but if some coaches will try to use high scores to affect the results.
For the record, I think Alabama is far and away the best team in the nation. We’ll find out about South Carolina tomorrow night in Baton Rouge, more about Notre Dame when the Irish visit Oklahoma on Oct. 27 and just wait until West Virginia plays Kansas State next Saturday. In other words, the season is just at its midway mark and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a concise view by the end of November.
That said, here are my Top Ten picks, and a few more, for tomorrow:
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No. 15 TEXAS (4-1) vs. No. 13 OKLAHOMA (3-1) at Cotton Bowl, 12 Noon (ABC) – Who would have ever guessed the Red River Rivalry would pair two of college football’s titans, each with a loss, but Texas coach Mack Brown isn’t surprised. "I think in my estimation we could see a conference champion with one or maybe two losses this year the way this league is, because there's so much parity in the league," he said. Oklahoma, which has won the last two in this shootout, is a 3-point favorite because of the savage 41-20 whipping the Sooners put on previously unbeaten Texas Tech but Texas played No. 5 West Virginia down to the wire, losing 48-45, so injuries and turnovers will be key. MY PICK? Texas, 31-24.
No. 6 KANSAS STATE (5-0) at IOWA STATE (4-1), 12 Noon (FX) – KSU quarterback Collin Klein has caught the eye of the country after the win over Oklahoma and the 40-point difference over Kansas last week but he says there is no magic involved. "We were playing together with discipline," he said. "We really just enjoy being around each other. It is just a fun, amazing family and when you have that, great things happen." The Cyclones are a 7-point underdog to the impressive Wildcats but here’s the snare – if KSU gets too anxious about next week’s trip to No. 5 West Virginia, an upset could happen. Here’s guessing it won’t. MY PICK? Kansas State, 37-20.
DUKE (5-1) at VIRGINIA TECH (3-3), 12:30 p.m. – Who would have thought Duke would be one game away from bowl-eligible this early? Va. Tech has sputtered since whipping Georgia Tech early in the season but 10 points over the Blue Devils seems a little rich. After all, Duke has whipped Wake and UVa in the last two games and any team on a four-game roll has to have confidence. MY PICK? Va. Tech, 21-17.
NORTH CAROLINA (4-2) at MIAMI (4-2), 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU) – UNC lost a lot of air when Wake beat the Heels by 1 while Miami’s only losses are to Top Ten teams. The Hurricanes are a surprising 7-point underdog and, playing in Miami, I thought it was a misprint. The Hurricanes will probably win the ACC Coastal division while Carolina is not eligible for a bowl after being found guilty of giving players improper benefits. MY PICK? Miami, 27-17.
No. 1 ALABAMA (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at MISSOURI (3-3, 0-3 SEC), 3:30 p.m. p.m. (CBS Sports) – Mizzou will miss QB James Franklin but James won’t miss tangling with the best team in college football. ‘Bama is a 21-point pick but should cover easily after last Saturday’s day of rest. I am still tickled about the UM defensive tackle saying Georgia played “old man” football before the Bulldogs whipped the Tigers, 41-20. He was quick to apologize – and Mizzou is now 0-3 in the SEC – but just wait until he sees “Goliath football” tomorrow. MY PICK? Alabama, 45-7.
No. 17 STANFORD (4-1) at No. 7 NOTRE DAME (5-0), 3:30 p.m. (NBC) – Stanford has a great set of returning starters but, without Andrew Luck, the Cardinal is not impressive. The Irish, on the other hand, have shown power and balance this fall, vaulting into the Top 10 with a defense that has only allowed an average of 4 points in the last three games. ND is a 7-point pick but the hunch here is that the margin will be bigger. MY PICK? Notre Dame, 27-9.
No. 5 WEST VIRGINIA (5-0) at TEXAS TECH (4-1), 3:30 P.M. (ESPN) – UWV quarterback Gino Smith is the real deal and the Heisman favorite is producing huge numbers as the Mountaineers are knocking on the BCS door. Texas Tech’s good start was thwarted by a 21-point loss to Oklahoma last week so the thinking is this will be another high-scoring shootout. UWV is picked by 3 ½ but, gee, you’ve got to figure the defense will show up in this one. MY PICK? West Virginia, 45-31.
No. 3 SOUTH CAROLINA (6-0, 4-0 SEC) at No. 9 LSU (6-0, 2-0 SEC), 8:00 p.m. (ESPN) – Danger, Will Robinson, danger! South Carolina was splendid in the 35-7 win over Georgia but, brother, there is a big difference playing at home and in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night. LSU is still a very good football team and you have to figure the overall talent is better after the way the Tigers have recruited. Carolina, a 3-point underdog, is 6-0 for the first time since 1988 and is definitely on a roll and you have to believe the Gamecock impact players are as good as any in the country. MY PICK? LSU, 24-17.
TENNESSEE (3-2, 0-2 SEC) at No. 19 MISS. STATE (5-0, 2-0 SEC), 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2) – Tennessee’s off week will do more to help the Vols than Derek Dooley’s hip will hurt so this game is huge for Tennessee. State is favored by 3 but a win over a nationally-ranked SEC West team would be a Godsend for the UT program. I have a tough time believing MSU has the talent that UT does at the skill positions and QB Tyler Bray is due to go on a passing streak. Cross your fingers and kiss your sweetheart but this is a golden opportunity in Mississippi’s Golden Triangle. MY PICK? Tennessee, 31-21.
No. 22 TEXAS A&M (4-1, 2-1 SEC) vs. No. 23 LOUISIANA TECH (5-0) in Shreveport, 9:15 p.m. (ESPNU) – You’ll remember that this was A&M’s opener before Hurricane Isaac blew it away so – look at this – LaTech has wormed into the national rankings while the Aggies have now won four straight. A&M is a 7 ½ point favorite in Shreveport’s Independence Bowl Stadium but don’t fall for it. LaTech has won every game by high scores but their defense is suspect against a multi-talented A&M. I simply believe A&M has more brawn and depth. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 42-27.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
AUBURN (1-4, 0-3 SEC) at OLE MISS (3-3, 0-2 SEC), 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network) – Somebody is going to win their first conference game but the question is which team’s personality will show up. Auburn has a great chance if they play like they did against LSU but, after last week’s 24-7 fall to Arkansas, Tiger boss Gene Chizik apologized to everybody who showed up to watch. Ole Miss, favored by 6 – and when is the last time the Rebs were favored in an SEC game? – played admirably against Alabama and Texas A&M but the Rebs are banged up and depth is shallow. So what’s a man to do? MY PICK? Auburn, 21-18.
No. 4 FLORIDA (5-0, 4-0 SEC) at VANDERBILT (2-3, 1-2 SEC), 6 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Florida’s speedy runner Mike Gillislee leads the SEC is rushing with 109 yards per game so Vandy coach James Franklin knows what to expect: “Offensively, they are going to try and run it down your throat and try to play with a toughness and physicality.” While “physicality” may not be an oft-used word at Vandy, the Gators thrive on it, outscoring opponents in the fourth quarter 41-0 thus far. This is Vandy’s first sellout in four years but UF is an 8 ½ point pick. While I respect VU for playing big guys hard, a lack of size has hurt the ‘Dores badly this fall. They just ain’t got the “physicality.” MY PICK? Florida, 35-14.
KENTUCKY (1-5, 0-3 SEC) at ARKANSAS (2-4, 1-2 SEC), 7:00 p.m. (FSN) – Arkansas, with last week’s 24-7 win over Auburn snapping a four-game losing streak, is favored by 17 over hapless Kentucky, which should tell you all you need to know. The Wildcats are under a fiery siege, with fans now clamoring for a sensible approach to winning rather than just firing another coach every four years, and we know John Smith is a short-termer with the Razorbacks. If UA quarterback Tyler Wilson is hot, the Hogs will cover. MY PICK? Arkansas, 37-10.
SEC TEAMS IDLE THIS WEEK
No. 14 GEORGIA (5-1, 3-1 SEC) will play at Kentucky next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and “The World’s Largest Cocktail Party,” the Oct. 27th game against Florida in Jacksonville, will be played at 3:30 p.m.
AND JUST ONE MORE….
CHATTANOOGA (2-3) at FURMAN (2-4), 1:30 p.m. (ESPN3) – The Mocs have only one loss in the Southern Conference so a win here would be huge. After a bye week last Saturday, UTC could use a FU win to get a running start against two nationally-ranked foes that will play at Finley Stadium later this month – No. 25 Samford on Oct. 20 and No. 7 Georgia Southern on Oct. 27. Chattanooga has the firepower and the defense to beat the Paladins but Furman only lost to No. 5 Wofford by 3 last Saturday so don’t let the record fool you. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 28-21