Too legit? Well, two teams are
In writer Devin Friedman’s recent GQ profile of rap mogul Rick Ross, we learn that the man behind the Maybach Music label loves the spinach and artichoke dip from the restaurant Houston’s (who doesn’t?), owns a second mansion in Atlanta because he just can’t seem to focus on his music while in the bigger one in Miami (me, either!) and lives by a few mantras, including the following two:
1. “Damn, it feels good to be somebody!”
2. “I’m a BOSS.”
In college football this season, there are a lot of bodies. But the somebodies? Well, there are only a select few. The BOSSES? Well, those are the elite of the elite, and there are only two.
With the first official BCS rankings coming out next week, now seems like a pretty good point in the season to separate the BOSSES from the “somebodies” and the “bodies.”
There are 13 remaining undefeated teams in major college football. Who’s legit? Who will fade? Let’s dig in, using the Rick Ross Grading System:
13. Houston: As expected, the Cougars lead the nation in passing with 451.2 yards per game. Not quite as expected, however, is the fact the Coogz are off to a red-hot, undefeated start. With their big nonconference win over UCLA behind and a 56-3 smashing over East Carolina now also in the rearview mirror, Case Keenum’s squad has a relatively clear path ahead in the suddenly pedestrian Conference USA.
Reality check: The Coogz finish the season with SMU and Tulsa. They should be big favorites in both games. Their biggest test might be Central Florida or Southern Miss in the Conference USA Championship Game.
The Rick Ross test: Houston is just a “body.”
12. Kansas State: A year after losing Daniel Thomas — the best player the program’s seen since Darren Sproles left in 2003 — to the NFL, Bill Snyder’s boys are undefeated five games into the season. Nobody outside Manhattan — and I mean NOBODY — had Kansas State as a contender in the Big 12 this season, but here we are in mid-October, and they’re winning games behind a bend-but-don’t-break defense and an offense that seems to be able to score when it has to. Quarterback Collin Klein (not to be confused with Calvin) had three rushing touchdowns in Saturday’s 24-17 win over Missouri, and the defense made key stops down the stretch in the fourth quarter. With winnable games vs. Texas Tech and Kansas, K-State could be 7-0 heading into Halloween weekend.
Reality check: The Wildcats have a four-game stretch ahead that includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas. If they can win one of those games, I’ll be impressed.
The Rick Ross test: Kansas State is just a “body.”
11. Illinois: The Zookers! Now 6-0 and ranked 16th, the Fighting Illini are off to their best start since 1951. At home against struggling Ohio State this weekend, Illinois has the chance to knock off the Buckeyes for the first time since 2007. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is a presence in the pocket and receiver A.J. Jenkins continues to put up jaw-dropping numbers seemingly every Saturday. With tough, three-point wins over competent Arizona State, Western Michigan and Northwestern squads, the young Illini have shown they can win the tight games, in addition to the blowouts.
Reality check: The schedule makers were awfully kind to the Illini this season, giving them Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin at home and leaving Big Ten newcomer Nebraska off the schedule. Furthermore, there’s a bye week Nov. 5, the Saturday before consecutive battles vs. Michigan and Wisconsin. If Illinois can win those games, there will be more than Big Ten title talk in Champaign — there will be BCS championship game talk. Alas, I don’t see them winning both of those games.
The Rick Ross test: Illinois is just a “body.”
10. Clemson: There’s plenty to like about Dabo Swinney’s surprising Tigers this year. Though they needed a tough second-half comeback to get past Wofford in Week 2, Clemson has rattled off wins over Auburn, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College, climbing all the way to a No. 8 ranking. Though starting quarterback Tajh Boyd scared everyone by spending several minutes on the ground after an apparent hip injury, it looks like he’ll be able to play Saturday against Maryland.
Reality check: Clemson showed it could win on the road in their surprising 23-3 thrashing of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Can it do the same vs. Georgia Tech in Atlanta? Against South Carolina in Columbia? Maybe one, but I can’t see both.
The Rick Ross test: Clemson is just a “body.”
9. Michigan: The Wolverines were down 24-14 in the third quarter on the road in Evanston on Saturday night but found a way to score 21 straight points and keep their undefeated season intact with a win over Northwestern. Fans of college football had gotten used to Michigan beating Notre Dame in September, going flawless in nonconference play, only to look terrible once the Big Ten season commenced. Maybe Brady Hoke’s 2011 squad is different. Michigan overcame three Denard Robinson interceptions, that second-half deficit and a raucous crowd on the road under the lights.
Reality check: Michigan’s got a manageable schedule, too, with no Wisconsin game and Nebraska at home. I don’t see them getting past Jerel Worthy and that No. 2-ranked Michigan State defense in East Lansing on Saturday.
The Rick Ross test: Michigan is just a “body.”
8. Georgia Tech: There’s lots of excitement at The Varsity in Atlanta these days, and it’s not just over the hot dogs. Georgia Tech leads the nation in rushing yards and points, averaging a ridiculous 378 yards per game on the ground and 51.6 points per outing. The Yellow Jackets have a tough road ahead, though, with a trip to Miami on Oct. 22, quickly followed by home games with unbeaten Clemson and always-tough Virginia Tech.
Reality check: The Yellow Jackets face Clemson on Oct. 29, have an off week, then get Virginia Tech on a Thursday night. Both games are at home and both are winnable. But the Hokies will be coming into Atlanta after likely easy wins over Boston College and Duke and an off week of their own. With that running game, Al Groh’s defense and a favorable schedule — it’s not all that crazy to think Georgia Tech can finish the ACC season unscathed.
The Rick Ross test: Georgia Tech is a “somebody.”
7. Boise State: It’s that time of year again: mid-October, the leaves are changing colors and Boise State is undefeated and on the outside of the BCS national championship picture looking in. At 5-0, the Broncos haven’t won a game by less than 14 points. Alas, the Georgia win isn’t looking as shiny as it did on Labor Day weekend, and new conference foes Air Force, TCU and San Diego State aren’t quite what they have been in years past. The truth is, two one-loss BCS conference teams would likely get into the BCS championship game over an unbeaten Boise State this year.
Reality check: There really isn’t one here. Facing Ryan Lindley and San Diego State on the road in November could be a challenge, but Boise State should go undefeated this season. There’s no Colin Kaepernick to thwart those dreams this time around.
The Rick Ross test: Boise State is a “somebody.”
6. Stanford: They’ve got the eighth-ranked scoring offense in the country, the eighth-best scoring defense in the country, and the best pro prospect to grace a college football field since Peyton Manning. And yet, we haven’t heard much about Stanford this season. Why? It’s equal parts East Coast bias (they’ve finished the bulk of their games after midnight ET) and the fact that, oh, yeah, they haven’t played anyone with a pulse. San Jose State? Duke? Arizona? UCLA? Colorado? That’s not a tough slate; it’s a walk in the park.
Reality check: Both Stanford’s BCS championship game spot and Andrew Luck’s Heisman Trophy will be earned or lost in the Cardinal’s three big remaining games: at Southern Cal on Oct. 29, home against Oregon on Nov. 12 and home against a suddenly very scary Notre Dame on Nov. 26. Wins in all those games, as well as the Pac-12 title game, and we could be talking about a national championship in Palo Alto.
The Rick Ross test: Stanford is a “somebody.”
5. Wisconsin: Badgers fans are going to be shocked when they see Wisconsin ranked somewhere around 7 or 8, and not 4 or 5, when the BCS rankings come out next week. Why the disparity between their AP and BCS rankings? Aside from their whupping of Nebraska, the Badgers haven’t played anyone — yet. That will change in the coming weeks, though, after wins in back-to-back weeks at Michigan State and at Ohio State on Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, respectively.
Reality check: The Badgers have the third-best scoring offense and the second-best scoring defense in the country right now. They’re downright rolling. I think that trip to East Lansing, going up against that Spartans' D, could be a potential nightmare trip.
The Rick Ross test: Wisconsin is a “somebody.”
4. Oklahoma State: As perhaps the only guy in the country to pick the Cowboys to win the BCS title this year, I may be a bit biased with this one, putting Oklahoma State over both Stanford and Wisconsin. Or, I may be the only realist out there. Led by 41-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden (OK, he’s 27), the Cowboys have one of the top scoring offenses in the country, rank second in passing yardage per game and have one of the best road wins of the season (a 17-point, second-half comeback in College Station) already under their belts. The Cowboys pretty much control their destiny. If they can win out, with games against Texas, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma ahead, they’re in the BCS championship game — no questions asked.
Reality check: There may no longer be a Big 12 championship game, but I can’t imagine a game with more riding on it than that Dec. 3 Cowboys-Sooners showdown in Stillwater. The Heisman, the Big 12 and a BCS title game bid could all be won that Saturday.
The Rick Ross test: Oklahoma State is a “somebody.”
3. Oklahoma: That 55-17 win over Texas was more than a “statement game,” it was a stake in the ground. A week after slipping in the polls, the Sooners showed exactly what they could do, backing up Landry Jones’ cannon with a devastating defensive performance. The Sooners have difficult road games in Manhattan and Waco worth circling, but it’ll come down to Dec. 3 in Stillwater. That’ll be the season. As it should be.
Reality check: Dec. 3 at Oklahoma State. Circle it in a hundred different colors and make sure you don’t have any weddings or kids’ dance recitals that day.
The Rick Ross test: Oklahoma is a “somebody.”
1b. LSU: No team’s beaten better opponents and done so in more dominant fashion than LSU this fall. Oregon coming off a national title game appearance? 13-point victory. Mississippi State and Dan Mullen’s much-hyped offense? 13-point victory. A trip to Morgantown on a Saturday night? A 47-21 win. A visit by Florida? A 30-point blowout. Les Miles brought back the two-quarterback system with much success on Saturday, Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu is the first cornerback Heisman candidate since Charles Woodson, and the offensive line is dominating the line of scrimmage. LSU’s done it all. Forget the SEC championship game and the BCS title game this year — the nation’s two best teams will be squaring off Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa.
Reality check: Beat Alabama on the road and there will be no questions about who’ll be No. 1 in the BCS rankings from that point on.
The Rick Ross test: LSU is a BOSS.
1a. Alabama: Scary stat? Alabama hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game all season. Scarier stat? The Tide D has averaged just 8.4 points per game against them this year. The fact is that, for all the great Crimson Tide defenses in recent years, the one that’s taking the field on Saturdays in 2011 is far and away the best yet. It’ll all come down to Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa. The Tide, which fields a defense with 11 legitimate pro prospects, is at home. For that reason alone, Alabama has the slightest of edges.
Reality check: Nov. 5 vs. LSU. It's the game of the year.
The Rick Ross test: Alabama is a BOSS.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN:
Of the 13 remaining unbeaten teams,
Get the spinach and artichoke dip ready. As you can see, the season's just getting started.
And if you have something planned on those Nov. 5 and Dec. 3 Saturdays? Well, you might want to start planting those cancellation seeds now.