Friday, December 13, 2002
Powerhouses don't dominate the landscape anymore
By Jack Arute
Special to BCSfootball.com
Both Nebraska and Florida State dodge major bullets as current kings of the hill in college football. Michigan routs Rice in nothing but a preseason game for the Wolverines.
Steve Spurrier and Florida are back at the who-wants-to-be-quarterback game, and Wisconsin has a lineup card written in pencil with erasers to come depending on the score.
Chris Simms throws one interception and gives the Longhorns back to Major Applewhite, while Kansas State is still digesting its creampuffs on an off-week.
Virginia Tech's lightning strikes on the field this time.
Tennessee takes an extra week to prep for its first "real" game, and Washington shows America that Miami either travels poorly, or, more than likely, is a bit overrated.
We are now starting the real college football season. I have maintained that the first few games are similar to the NFL's preseason. The difference is that in not counting them, however, in college football, they are part of your won-loss record.
I don't know how the current Top 10 will fare when the BCS finally cranks up in October, but early indications are every team currently locked in a Top 10 position is not only vulnerable, but on a given Saturday, upsetable.
Is this good for college football? Yes, yes, and yes.
Gone are the days when the Notre Dames, Nebraskas and Texases would simply dominate. We now enjoy interesting matchups that are not as affected by powerhouses. This certainly was illustrated in Georgia Tech's game plan against Florida State and Notre Dame's gutsy performance against Nebraska. Even Lou Holtz showed that this could be the season to expect the unexpected as he lengthened his win streak to two with his upset over Jim Donnan's Georgia Bulldogs. (Want to know the difference between a puppy and a Georgia football fan? Answer: After a couple of weeks, the puppy stops whining.)
|Wisconsin's Jamar Fletcher won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defender.|
Looking to this week, a couple of the Top 10 teams do have some interesting contests, most notably the Florida-Tennessee game. This is a great SEC rivalry. While this year's teams may be just a notch below their predecessors, it will be a war nonetheless.
Texas at Stanford
Texas may have taken Stanford to the woodshed a year ago, but with a brewing quarterback controversy and a long flight to Palo Alto, the Longhorns had better be on guard.
Rutgers at Virginia Tech
It is hard to believe that a game against Rutgers would ever receive interest in this column, but both the Hokies and the Scarlet Knights take undefeated records into their meeting. Guess who will lose this one?
Washington at Colorado
Rick Neuheisel's homecoming in Boulder. Under normal circumstances, the performance at quarterback by Washington's Marques Tuiasosopo might be considered one-dimensional, but when you take into account that Tui does it in the air, on the ground and with him carrying the ball, you have got to say "Who let the dogs out, huh?"
Gary Barnett has a much better Colorado team than the record indicates. The Buffaloes' home field advantage plays into Barnett's gameplan. This will be a hostile Colorado crowd -- after all, Neuheisel left Buffs fans at the altar by leaving them for Seattle's dot.com big bucks. Neuheisel knows that Boulder will not have the welcome mat out for him and his team. With that in mind, the Huskies will stay some 50 miles away in Denver until gametime. You can be sure that Rick will avoid the media spotlight until the absolute last minute.
Despite their differences in records, my early feeling is that this game is too close to call. Colorado needs the win just a little more than the Huskies, but past Washington teams have been good on the road, making this one a don't miss for TV viewers.
Michigan at UCLA
Lloyd Carr gives his Wolverines their first real test in what I'm calling "Rose Bowl September." Normally, we would see this matchup on New Year's Day, but the Bruins call Pasadena home during the regular season and will have an excellent crowd for this Pac-10/Big Ten matchup.
Wolverines QB John Navarre has done a terrific job. There is no question this remains Drew Henson's squad, but Navarre has stepped up to the plate and made good use of Michigan's talented running backs and wide receivers. UCLA, on the other hand, continues to be a scrappy and maybe, underestimated, team. Bob Toledo has an uncanny knack for getting his players up for big games, but his defense will have to play at 110 percent to offset the smashmouth Big Ten football that Michigan brings to town.
Jack's Top 10
I know I have said for the last three weeks that I refuse to reveal my Top 10 so early in the season, but coaches (who vote in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll) and media (who vote in the AP Poll), whassup with your snubbing of Virginia Tech? Florida and Wisconsin are better than the Hokies? Can you spell Michael Vick? Did you not see their defense against East Carolina? The boys in Blacksburg don't get mad, they get even.
Jack Arute writes a column every Monday for BCSfootball.com