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Analyzing the Top 15
By Jack Arute
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Comment on Jack Arute's column.

So your team is ranked third in the nation. Here's an idea: under any circumstances, don't play UCLA. I'm sure Steve Spurrier is breathing a sigh of relief knowing his schedule does not include "the gritty little Bruins." Florida's win over Tennessee has justified its ranking in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

There are no arguments from me regarding Nebraska No. 1 and Florida State No. 2.

Maybe my tirade last week about giving Va. Tech some respect has paid off. Then again, maybe Michael Vick's performance against Rutgers opened sufficient eyes to move the Hokies into fourth.

K-State coach Bill Snyder has scheduled his team to a fast start.
My Twinkie comment last week opened the cyber floodgates in Manhattan. There is a big difference in Coach Bill Snyder's Wildcats this year. People know they are a good team. I may be one of the few that can understand his soft non-conference scheduling. The Big XII is loaded and a potential Big XII Championship Game makes Snyder's cupcake non-conference choices reasonable. But please, K-State fans, don't get your rankles up when people look at your non-conference opponents. It's simply a price you must pay. It has nothing to do with respect.

Wisconsin's overtime win and its drop of only one ranking position says more about the respect folks have for Cincinnati than it does about Wisconsin. Barry Alvarez has used an enormous amount of creativity juggling his lineups from week-to-week so as to get all the Shoegate suspensions out of the way.

While No. 7 Washington made Rick Neuheisel's Boulder homecoming a solid one, is Colorado the best 0-3 team in the country? Yes. Bobby Pesavento did an adequate job in his first start. His nemesis on the other side of the ball was Larry Tripplett, whose performance clearly showed that Washington has both offensive and defensive weapons. Now if the Huskies could just choose a running back ?

What can you say about UCLA? They are the Cinderella story thus far. The key for Bob Toledo is to keep his Bruins focused and keep a lid on comments like those made by his quarterback, Ryan McCann, following their victory, that UCLA is the best team in the country. Let's not forget that USC reads those quotes and certainly has the season finale with their Lala land rivals highlighted in big broad strokes of red ink.

Michigan must rebound quickly and hope that Drew Henson's return is sooner than expected.

There's another Bowden lusting for national prominence. Ask Bobby Bowden who he is most worried about and he has said from the get-go it is Tommy and his son's Clemson Tigers. Sure, Miami and Florida are big headknockers for FSU this season, but Clemson took Daddy Bowden and the Seminoles to the mat last season and their early-season performances have done nothing to dissuade me that they will give FSU a tough game when they meet.

This week:
  • No. 18 Notre Dame at No. 20 Michigan State
    Just when you thought God had deserted South Bend and the Golden Dome, a makeshift offense led by a lanky quarterback named Godsey did just enough to allow the Irish defense to shock Purdue. Are the Spartans next for this Irish band of merry men?

    In the preseason, the Big Ten media wanted to anoint T.J. Duckett this year's Ron Dayne. His performances have been solid, but they pale in comparison to the relief job put in by his quarterback, true freshman Jeff Smoker. For those of you that want to point to the Missouri game as Smoker's Achilles Heel, forget about it. The kid is just a freshman and provides sufficient balance to Michigan State's offensive plan. After all, who gave the ball to Duckett for those 131 yards?

  • Penn State at No. 12 Ohio State
    With Penn State dropping to 1-3 after its loss to Pittsburgh (I wonder how many Penn State fans will continue to demand the continuation of that rivalry?), one would think that the Nittany Lions' game in Columbus with the 3-0 Buckeyes might be a snoozer. It could be, but more likely than not, the Lions will taste the wrath of their leader Joe Paterno in this week's practices. Penn State is a much better team than its record indicates, yet it's a mystery to me why the wheels have fallen off the wagon.

    Don't blame the Casey distractions or Joe Paterno's chase for Bear Bryant's record. It's just something that can happen to a team, especially one trying to redefine itself after the loss of so many impact players.

    When Penn State first entered the Big Ten, people said that the Lions would teach the conference about football. This could be the upset of the weekend. Ohio State beat Arizona in the desert. Those were Wildcats; Lions are coming to Columbus and they haven't eaten in a while.

  • No. 25 Mississippi State at South Carolina
    Who would have thought that Lou Holtz would be 3-0 this year? Jackie Sherrill and his Mississippi State team come to town this weekend, and while it will not surprise me to hear Lou talk about what a great team Misssissippi State is and how the Gamecocks are honored to just play them, etc., you can be sure that he has told his USC players that a win over Mississippi State will catapult South Carolina into the ESPN/USA Today Top 25.

    Like it or not, Lou Holtz is back and working his magic.

    Jack's Top 10
    America's Top 10 is slowly coming into focus. For those of you with poisoned pen and home team agendas, fear not. Next week, I will give you my picks. They might be a tad different than those of the coaches.

    Jack Arute writes a column every Monday for  

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    Lack of respect? I hardly think so. If K-State wants respect, they should earn it against ranked teams, not patsies like they play now. I'm not denying they play an extremely difficult conference schedule but Ball State? They will never get any respect playing teams that lose 20 games in a row. If they want my respect they should win the big conference games they seem to lose constantly. Then play at least an occasional non-conference game with some quality team. Even UAB has the guts to play bigger teams than these guys (Nebraska last year, LSU this year & FSU next year -- all on the road). Until that happens, they will never be thought of as a powerhouse team, no matter how many 10 win seasons they acquire beating creampuffs.
    Ben Grizzle, Birmingham, Ala.

    I like the idea you are waiting for awhile before you put together your rankings. I believe there should be no poll until at least Week 5. If that was the case, I believe my Bruins would be Top 5 material. I do fear Oregon though and Kenyon Coleman is out for 3-4 weeks.

    First of all, I have always respected you and your column Mr. Arute. I think that you do a good job analyzing the game, the teams, and the players themselves. Kudos to you and your staff. However, there is one little bone that I have to pick with you (not only you but all of the other CFA analysts). I know that they haven't looked like contenders all year, but Ohio State has shown flashes of brilliance. Why do you guys seem to always hone in on what the Buckeyes "aren't" doing right instead of what they "are" doing right. I mean this is a team coming off of a dismal season similar to that of UCLA, and everybody "praises" the Bruins for their 3-0 start while still scrutinizing (unfairly in my estimation) the Buckeyes for their start. What's up with that?
    Lucien Blackwell, Cleveland, Ohio

    Jack, Virginia Tech is so over-rated it makes me sick. Sure, M. Vick is a stud, but it is the team the pollster are supposed to vote for, not the player (player hype is what the Downtown Athletic Club is for). UCLA's Ryan McCann's comments were the most accurate of any published in Sunday's rags. Anyone who knocks off two number three's in three weeks should be number one. This isn't some Cinderalla story coincidence. The Bruins have talent. But, it is too bad we haven't scheduled Florida this year. Saturday's trip to Eugene should be a battle. Why don't you stop looking at your East Coast matchups and take a hard look at this one -- Eugene is located in Oregon, which is located west of Mississippi, between SF and Seattle. The Ducks are legit, but the thanks to guys like you, the Bruins still have something to prove.
    Tyler, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

    Don't trash Wisconsin until you get a chance to see their complete team on the field. If they continue to struggle, they deserve to drop in the polls, but give them a chance to get everyone on the field. All Barry Alvarez does is win.
    Dennis Chapin, Racine, Wisc.

    Thank you. You know, I believe that you are probably the only journalist in the entire nation that has realistically observed what is wrong with the Nittany Lions this year. We lost players. That's all there is to it. I'm a Penn State student. I have immense pride in my university. I bleed blue and white, and it has most certainly been difficult to keep my head up high in the presence of my peers. They chant, "Toledo, Toledo" or give me hell about the Pittsburgh game, but you know what? None of them ... absolutely none of them stop to think that this kind of performance ... this mass exodus of players, can happen to any team! I still believe, not in a national championship, not in a Big Ten Title, but rather, in the spirit of our boys and the pride of the university that will carry us through this not-so-perfect year and give us momentum for the seasons to come. Watch out, everyone, cuz the Lions can pounce at any time.
    Brian Sosnowchik, Warren, Ohio

    Wisconsin is showing a great deal of skill and depth in the face of adversity. For you to imply that Wisconsin is lucky to only have dropped one position is ridiculous. It is an insult to the great leadership that Alvarez's staff is showing. Not to mention the heart and ability to perform in the clutch that all of the players on the Badger squad are showing. You take that many key position starters out of any team in the Top 25 and you maybe see four teams prevail against a quality team like the Bearcats. No more.
    Adam Stowitts, Madison, Wisc.

    I think the heavy response from K-state fans is very justified. The national media has dog piled k-state for its week non-conference schedule, however, we are not the only program scheduling soft. I would like the national media to look at why K-State schedules that way. We need the schedule heavy on home games to bring in enough money to keep pace with the big budgets of the conference big names. Nebraska and Texas have huge budgets and it is hard for a newcomer to national prominence to put up similar budgets. It has also been hard to get bigger named teams to come to Manhattan because even with our recent stadium expansion, we still have the smallest stadium in the Big XII.
    Brice Davis, Arlington, Texas

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     Michael Vick is at it again, somersaulting over a defender into the end zone.
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     Jerramy Stevens hauls in a 32-yard pass from Marques Tuiasosopo. (Courtesy ABC)
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