Assessing BCS title contenders
There's one more week for teams to jockey for position ahead of the initial release of the BCS standings next Sunday, as we continue to evaluate this season's field of national championship contenders.
Until college football's four-team playoff begins in 2014, we'll continue to rely exclusively on human polls and computer rankings to measure the value of teams. There's very little margin for error using these methods and fortunes can change very quickly from week to week.
Those swings were in full force after a weekend that featured several games between ranked opponents and a spectacular fall by the No. 3-ranked team. A different kind of evaluative tool, more modern and hysterical, can be used to measure these swings. Take the pulse of a team's fortune on Twitter on a Saturday night during college football season and you'll see the sky falling faster than South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney rushing the edge, or hopes soaring higher than West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's air-raid attack.
Florida State, Georgia and LSU experienced the former on Saturday night -- the Dawgs quite literally.
The No. 3 Seminoles once again faltered while trying to return to the sport's upper echelon, blowing a 16-0 lead in the second half of a 17-16 loss at NC State. The Seminoles' first loss of the season came after Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood on fourth down with 16 seconds to play.
The No. 4 Tigers celebrated the death of quarterback Zach Mettenberger's moustache before Saturday's game at No. 10 Florida, but then mourned the vanishing act of their offense in a 14-6 loss to the red-hot Gators. LSU managed only two first-half field goals and 200 yards of offense, including 42 rushing.
Meanwhile, Georgia's SEC championship hopes might have been dashed in the first 10 minutes of its 35-7 loss at South Carolina on Saturday night. The Bulldogs gave up a 20-yard touchdown pass on the Gamecocks' opening drive, threw an interception that led to another touchdown on their first offensive possession, and then allowed a 70-yard punt return for another score. By the time Uga caught his breath, the Gamecocks had a 21-0 lead with 5:18 to go in the first quarter.
The Bulldog Nation went into full meltdown. Former UGA and NFL running back Terrell Davis Tweeted: "I don't care what anybody says, when you're the #5 team in the nation , you DON't give a performance like this, period!!"
Added former Bulldogs and NFL offensive tackle George Foster on Twitter: "I've never been this ticked about a game I didn't play in. I never thought I'd see a UGA team not show up for 4 whole quarters."
Welcome to college football, where championship hopes can be dashed in four hours and fans (and former lettermen) can express their opinions in 140 characters or less.
It's time to reshuffle the deck on this season's national championship contenders. Here's a closer look at the remaining teams with a shot at playing in the Jan. 7 BCS National Championship Game in Miami:
Record: 5-0, 2-0 SEC
AP Rank: 1
Most impressive win: 41-14 over then-No. 8 Michigan in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 1
Least impressive win: 33-14 over Ole Miss on Sept. 29
Biggest remaining obstacle: at No. 9 LSU on Nov. 3
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: The Crimson Tide, the defending BCS national champions, really haven't been tested this season. Alabama looks like the best team in the country, but we really don't know if it's as good as last season's team that finished 12-1 and defeated LSU 21-0 in the BCS National Championship Game. The Tide play three consecutive ranked teams -- No. 19 Mississippi State (home on Oct. 27), LSU (road on Nov. 3) and No. 22 Texas A&M (home on Nov. 10) -- during the regular season and would play the SEC East champion (top-five opponents South Carolina or Florida?) in the SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Dec. 1.
Record: 6-0, 3-0 Pac-12
AP Rank: 2
Most impressive win: 49-0 over then-No. 22 Arizona on Sept. 22
Least impressive win: 57-34 over Arkansas State on Sept. 1
Biggest remaining obstacle: at No. 11 USC on Nov. 3
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: The Ducks have once again been dominant on the West Coast, scoring 40 points or more in each of their six games this season, including a 52-21 rout of then-No. 23 Washington on Saturday night. Oregon looks as explosive as ever on offense, ranking fourth nationally with 302.3 rushing yards per game, but it also might have its best defense of the Chip Kelly era. In the Ducks' shutout of Arizona on Sept. 22, they held Rich Rodriguez's spread offense to over 200 yards below its season average. The Ducks play three more games against ranked opponents -- at No. 11 USC, home against No. 17 Stanford and at No. 10 Oregon State in the Civil War on Nov. 24. If they win the Pac-12 North, the Ducks might have to beat the Trojans a second time in the Pac-12 championship game to get to the BCS title game.
Record: 6-0, 4-0 SEC
AP Rank: 3
Most impressive win: 35-7 over then-No. 5 Georgia on Saturday
Least impressive win: 17-13 at Vanderbilt on Aug. 30
Biggest remaining obstacle: at No. 4 Florida on Oct. 20
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: South Carolina jumped into the national championship race with a dominating rout of Georgia on Saturday night. The Gamecocks will have to survive the next two weeks to remain in the BCS title hunt. They play at No. 9 LSU on Saturday night and then play at No. 4 Florida the next week. The schedule softens after those contests, although home games against Tennessee on Oct. 27 and Arkansas on Nov. 10 might be tricky. South Carolina also closes the regular season at No. 16 Clemson on Nov. 24; the Gamecocks have won the past three meetings against their in-state rivals. If South Carolina wins the SEC East, it probably would meet Alabama or LSU in the SEC championship game. The Gamecocks are good enough on defense to compete with either potential opponent.
Record: 5-0, 4-0 SEC
AP Rank: 4
Most impressive win: 14-6 over then-No. 4 LSU on Saturday
Least impressive win: 27-14 over Bowling Green on Sept. 1
Biggest remaining obstacle: vs. No. 3 South Carolina on Oct. 20
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: The Gators have taken on the personality of their coach Will Muschamp, who has transformed them into a physical, black-and-blue, bruising team. Florida's defense shut down LSU in Saturday's signature victory, and its offense seems to be getting better every week. Quarterback Jeff Driskel has to keep improving if the Gators are going to win the SEC East. Florida still plays three ranked teams -- home against the Gamecocks, against No. 14 Georgia in in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 27 and at No. 12 Florida State on Nov. 24. After Saturday's road game at Vanderbilt, the Gators play their last six games in the state of Florida.
Record: 5-0, 2-0 Big 12
AP Rank: 5
Most impressive win: 48-45 at then-No. 11 Texas on Saturday
Least impressive win: 31-21 over Maryland on Sept. 22
Biggest remaining obstacle: vs. No. 6 Kansas State on Oct. 20
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: The Mountaineers are going to have to keep scoring a ton of points because their defense is going to have problems slowing down anyone. West Virginia is fifth nationally in scoring with 52 points per game and second with 406.8 passing yards per game. Quarterback Geno Smith has thrown 24 touchdowns without an interception in 204 pass attempts. At Texas on Saturday night, the Mountaineers proved they're a physical offense, too, running for 192 yards. West Virginia might have the easiest path to the BCS title game. Each of its remaining games against ranked foes will be played at home: against No. 6 Kansas State on Oct. 20 and No. 13 Oklahoma on Nov. 17. Road games at Texas Tech on Saturday, at Oklahoma State on Nov. 10 and at Iowa State on Nov. 23 are potential roadblocks.
Record: 5-0, 2-0 Big 12
AP Rank: 6
Most impressive win: 24-19 at then-No. 6 Oklahoma on Sept. 22
Least impressive win: 35-21 over North Texas on Sept. 15
Biggest remaining obstacle: at West Virginia on Oct. 20
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: It might finally be time to consider the Wildcats a serious BCS championship contender. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder, who turned 73 on Sunday, continues to orchestrate one of the most remarkable performances in college football history, leading the Wildcats to a 5-0 start. Kansas State runs the ball very well, averaging 262.8 yards per game, and is 16th nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 15.6 points per game. The Wildcats are less dependent on quarterback Collin Klein than last season; he has attempted 94 passes and run the ball 73 times. The Wildcats play four of their last seven games on the road, including the trip to Morgantown, W. Va., and at TCU on Nov. 10. Kansas State closes the regular season against Texas at home on Dec. 1.
AP Rank: 7
Most impressive win: 20-3 at Michigan State on Sept. 15
Least impressive win: 20-17 over Purdue on Sept. 8
Biggest remaining obstacle: at No. 11 USC on Nov. 24
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: We keeping waiting for the Fighting Irish to slip, but they just keep winning. They're coming off one of their most impressive victories of the season, a 41-3 rout of Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday night. The Irish piled up 587 yards of offense, including 376 rushing, and held the Hurricanes to only 84 rushing yards. Coach Brian Kelly has built his team around defense; the Irish held Michigan State and Michigan without a touchdown in victories earlier this season. Notre Dame ranks No. 2 nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 7.8 points per game, and it's seventh in turnover margin. Notre Dame still faces a difficult road, including Saturday's home contest against No. 17 Stanford and road games at No. 13 Oklahoma on Oct. 27 and at USC in the regular-season finale.
Record: 5-1, 1-1 SEC
AP Rank: 9
Most impressive win: 41-3 over Washington on Sept. 8
Least impressive win: 12-10 at Auburn on Sept. 22
Biggest remaining obstacle: vs. No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: The Tigers are going to need a lot of Les Miles magic if they're going to climb back into the BCS title hunt. Their 14-6 loss at Florida put a serious dent in their chances of repeating as SEC champions. LSU's offense has looked awful the past three games, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has struggled in his first season as a starter, completing 61.8 percent of his passes with three interceptions and 15 sacks. LSU's problems aren't entirely his fault, however, as it had 27 penalties and eight turnovers in the past three games. The Tigers' remaining schedule suddenly looks pretty daunting, starting with Saturday night's home game against No. 3 South Carolina. The Tigers then play a road game at No. 22 Texas A&M on Oct. 20, followed by home games against Alabama on Nov. 3 and No. 19 Mississippi State on Nov. 10. LSU will probably have to win its remaining six regular-season games and win the SEC championship game (and have other undefeated teams lose) to have a chance to return to the BCS national championship game.
Record: 4-0, 3-0 Pac-12
AP Rank: 10
Most impressive win: 27-20 at then-No. 19 UCLA on Sept. 22
Least impressive win: 19-6 over Washington State on Saturday
Biggest remaining obstacle: vs. No. 2 Oregon on Nov. 24
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: It's difficult to consider the Beavers a BCS championship contender when you look at some of their statistics. They rank 93rd nationally in scoring (23.5 points), 106th in rushing (120 yards) and 106th in pass defense (286 yards). But Oregon State keeps opponents out of the end zone (17 points), stops the run (67.2 yards allowed) and throws the football surprisingly well (339.5 yards). Most important, coach Mike Riley keeps finding ways to win games. Quarterback Sean Mannion has been one of the country's biggest surprises; he threw for 379 yards with two touchdowns in an upset at UCLA and 433 yards with three touchdowns in a 38-35 victory at Arizona on Sept. 29. The Beavers play a few difficult road games, at BYU on Saturday, at Washington on Oct. 27 and at No. 17 Stanford on Nov. 10, before playing No. 2 Oregon at home.
Record: 4-1, 2-1 Pac-12
AP Rank: 11
Most impressive win: 27-9 over California on Sept. 22
Least impressive win: 38-28 at Utah on Friday
Biggest remaining obstacle: vs. No. 2 Oregon on Nov. 3
What it will take the hoist the BCS crystal: The Trojans became a BCS championship afterthought after they lost at then-No. 21 Stanford 21-14 on Sept. 15, their fourth consecutive loss to the Cardinal. USC has won two games since the defeat (over Cal and Utah), but will have to do a lot more to climb back into the BCS championship discussion. USC might have a chance to play for a national title if it defeats Oregon twice (at home on Nov. 3 and in the Pac-12 championship game) and beats No. 7 Notre Dame at home on Nov. 24. With quarterback Matt Barkley and receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, the Trojans are equipped to win the rest of their games. Anything short of that means they'll be playing in the Rose Bowl at best.
On the Mark Mailbag
On The Mark: Precision Passers
1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Boyd put on a show in Clemson's 47-31 win over Georgia Tech. He completed 26 of 41 passes for a career-high 397 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a career-high 63 yards and a touchdown. Boyd's two touchdown passes gave him a school-record 51 for his career, passing Charlie Whitehurst (49).
2. Denard Robinson, Michigan
Robinson ran for 235 yards and passed for another 105 in Michigan's 44-13 win at Purdue. It was his fifth career 200-yard rushing game, tied with Mike Hart for the most by a Michigan player. Robinson now has 3,905 rushing yards for his career, fourth-most ever by a FBS quarterback, moving past Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (3,895; 1998-01) and Kent State's Joshua Cribbs (3,670; 2001-04).
3. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Miller rushed for a career-high 186 yards and passed for 127 yards and a touchdown in Ohio State's 63-38 win over Nebraska. It was the most points scored against Nebraska since Bo Pelini was hired after the 2007 season. It was Miller's fourth 100-yard rushing game this season and the seventh of his career.
4. Josh Nunes, Stanford
Nunes completed 21 of 34 passes for a career-high 360 yards and two touchdowns in Stanford's 54-48 overtime win against Arizona. Nunes also had three rushing touchdowns, joining Andrew Luck as the only Cardinal players to be responsible for five or more touchdowns in a game during the past 10 seasons. Luck accomplished the feat against Wake Forest on Sept. 18, 2010.
5. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith completed 25 of 35 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns in West Virginia's 48-45 win at Texas. Since the Heisman was handed out last December, Smith has 30 touchdown passes and no interceptions in 247 attempts. Smith does still have a ways to go to set the FBS record for most consecutive passes without an interception, which is held by Russell Wilson (379 attempts from 2008-09 when he was at NC State).
--ESPN Stats and Info
On The Mark: Ground-Gaining RBs
1. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Bernard ran for a career-high 262 yards on 23 carries in North Carolina's 48-34 win over Virginia Tech. Bernard is the first Tar Heel to rush for 200-plus yards in a game since Ronnie McGill rushed for 244 yards against Wake Forest in 2003. Bernard had a 62-yard touchdown run and a 51-yard run in the game, giving him a FBS-best four runs of 50 yards or longer this season.
2. Charles Sims, Houston
Sims ran for a career-high 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in Houston's 44-21 win over North Texas. Sims has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for this first times in his career. It was the junior's fifth career 100-yard rushing game.
3. Andrew Buie, West Virginia
Buie gave the Mountaineers' offense needed balance in a 48-45 win at Texas. Buie had career-highs in rushing yards (207) and attempts (31). His two rushing touchdowns against the Longhorns gave him four in his past two games. He had two rushing touchdowns in his first 14 games at West Virginia.
4. Mike Gillislee, Florida
Gillislee scored the only two touchdowns in Florida's 14-6 win over LSU. He finished with a career-high 34 carries for 146 rushing yards. It was his third 100-yard rushing game of the season. He joins Cam Newton as the only players to rush for over 100 yards and have at least two touchdowns against LSU in the past three seasons.
5. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore ran for 109 yards on 24 carries in South Carolina's 35-7 dismantling of Georgia. It was his third straight 100-yard game against the Bulldogs. Lattimore gained 43 percent of his yards after contact. For his career, Lattimore is averaging 66.3 yards after contact per game against the Bulldogs, his second most against any team. He had 69 yards after contact in his only game against Florida.
--ESPN Stats and Info
On The Mark: Big-Play WRs
1. Marqise Lee, USC
Lee had another big game, catching 12 passes for 192 yards and touchdown in USC's 38-28 win over Utah. It was his fifth career game with 10 or more receptions (fourth this season). Lee and Robert Woods are the only pair of active teammates who both have 10-plus receptions in five career games.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Hopkins is emerging as the ACC's best wide receiver. He had seven receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's 47-31 win over Georgia Tech. Hopkins leads the ACC in receptions (49), receiving yards (777), receiving touchdowns (8) and 100-yard receiving games (4).
3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Austin always seems to be open. He had 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Mountaineers' 48-45 win at Texas. It was his sixth straight game with 10 or more receptions, the longest streak for any player in the past nine seasons.
4. Josh Lenz, Iowa State
Lenz played a major role in Iowa State's 37-23 upset over TCU. Lenz had five receptions for 147 yards and three touchdowns. He also had a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ernst Burn Jr. in the third quarter. It was Lenz's second career 100-yard receiving game and the first by a Cyclone this season. He is the first player to score three touchdowns from scrimmage against TCU since Manuel Johnson of Okalhoma in 2008.
5. Levine Toilolo, Stanford
Toilolo had five receptions for a career-high 141 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinal's 54-48 overtime win against Arizona. He had receptions of 46 and 42 yards in the game. His previous career long was a 41-yard pass against California last season.
--ESPN Stats and Info
RecruitingNation: Weekend rewind
On its biggest recruiting weekend of the season thus far, Texas lost to West Virginia 48-45 but still managed to win over its visiting prospects.
Texas hosted a large group of 2013 and 2014 prospects Saturday night, including three of its biggest remaining targets for this year's class. Uncommitted linemen Andrew Billings (Waco, Texas/Waco) and Caleb Benenoch (Katy, Texas/Seven Lakes) both made unofficial visits for the game and went home impressed. Benenoch said the Longhorns are once again his No. 1 school.
The biggest visitor of the night, though, might have been cornerback Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton). The four-star prospect made an official visit this weekend and is down to Texas, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
Texas also managed to get a key unofficial visit from defensive tackle commit A'Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights). The ESPN 150 prospect had seemed to be wavering in his pledge following an official visit to Florida State, but Robinson told fellow commits he plans to stick with the Longhorns. Along with Robinson, Texas had most of its 2013 commits in town for the game.
Also in attendance were a handful of big 2014 in-state prospects, including Mount Pleasant receiver K.D. Cannon, Beaumont Ozen cornerback Tony Brown, Mansfield Timberview corner Ed Paris and Lewisville Hebron safety Jamal Adams. All four are ESPN Watch List recruits and already hold UT offers.
-- Max Olson, HornsNation
For more Week 6 recruiting news, click here .
RecruitingNation: What we learned
Florida's offensive line is indeed stronger and tougher than it was last season. The Gators manhandled LSU's defensive front, which includes a pair of projected first-round NFL draft picks.
-- Michael DiRocco, GatorNation
The preseason hype was just that. A No. 3 ranking overshadowed practical concerns for FSU, but the young O-line, the thin linebacker corps and a freshman punter all conspired against the Noles in a disastrous second half Saturday.
-- David Hale, NoleNation
In No. 5 Georgia's 35-7 loss to No. 6 South Carolina, we learned that at least a portion of Georgia's early-season offensive explosion was because of playing subpar defenses -- because the Gamecocks' powerful defense pummeled the Bulldogs, particularly along the line of scrimmage.
-- David Ching, DawgNation
Problems at offensive line, wide receiver and quarterback lead to wondering if Florida won't be the first of several losses for a team that was supposed to contend for a national title.
-- Gary Laney, GeauxTigerNation
With the rest of the Legends Division struggling and Michigan appearing to improve every week, the Wolverines are putting themselves in position to be a strong contender to reach the Big Ten title game.
-- Michael Rothstein, WolverineNation
The spread offense is going to work just fine in the Big Ten. Urban Meyer dialed up 371 yards on the ground and established his team as the best in the conference with a dominating 63-38 win over Nebraska as the Buckeyes stayed unbeaten at the halfway point of the season.
-- Austin Ward, BuckeyeNation
The Sooners shouldn't be written off yet in the Big 12 title race. Not after a dominating performance at Texas Tech, where QB Landry Jones may have rediscovered his confidence and poise.
-- Jake Trotter, SoonerNation
The Longhorns dropped their first game of the season by allowing West Virginia to run at will in the fourth quarter. The once-vaunted Texas defense gave up 96 rushing yards in the final quarter.
-- Carter Strickland, HornsNation
This USC team can be resilient. The Trojans fell behind 14-0 thanks to a pair of turnovers on the opening two possessions, but they maintained their poise, hit some big plays, stiffened on defense and came away with a critical 38-28 road victory.
-- Garry Paskwietz, WeAreSC