As we hit the halfway point of the regular season, the national title picture is getting a bit clearer. The top 10 stayed the same in consecutive weeks for the first time since 2008. At the top, Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU have all been ranked 1,2, or 3 at some point in the season. Boise State doesn’t look like they’ll lose anytime soon, so let the “little guy” argument begin in earnest. Coaching-wise, there were a few different names on the hot seat as the season began. Let’s see where they stand now.
Mike Stoops: Well, I guess he’s no longer on the hot seat. He was the only coach in hotter water out West, than UCLA’s head man. The axe fell on Stoops’ head after losing on the road to the hapless Oregon State Beavers. The Wildcats have lost 10 straight games to FBS(D1) schools, and there is no excuse for that when they boast one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. His major problem was a defense that ranked 115th in the country. NOt good when you’re a defensive minded head coach.
Rich Neuheisel: Speaking of UCLA’s head man. The Bruins have been up and down so far this year making it hard to get a true read on the direction of the program. One thing is sure, Neuheisel needs them to finish on the upswing. With Stoops gone in Arizona, Utah losing their starting quarterback, USC ineligible, and Colorado incapable, it looks like the Bruins have a shot to win the Pac12 South. Who would’ve thunk it?
Mark Richt: The buzzards were circling down between the hedges before the year began. It seems that Richt paid them no mind as he has the Bulldogs tied with South Carolina at the top of the SEC East. Before the season, I saw Georgia as dark horse due to their schedule, NO LSU, NO ALABAMA, and NO ARKANSAS. Unfortunately, that loss to the Gamecocks will loom large at the end of the year.
This is what a runaway favorite looks like.
Andrew Luck: He started the season at the head of the list, and he’s still there now. The numbers are SICK, 73% comp, 1383 yards, 14 TDs and only 2 interceptions. Stanford sits atop the Pac12 North with an unblemished record, and it’s mostly due to Luck.
Trent Richardson: Does anyone in the country want to tackle this guy? Doesn’t look like it so far. He’s up to 729 yards rushing with 11 trips to the paint. He also has flashed big play ability catching the ball out of the backfield. If the Tide make it through the SEC, he’ll be hard to beat out for the hardware.
Robert Griffin III: Last year, he couldn’t get out of his own way. This season, he’s a different guy and a true leader. The Baylor Bears are rolling thanks to his 80% comp, 1500+ yards and 19 touchdowns. 19 TOUCHDOWNS passing in 5 games. They’d be undefeated if it wasn’t for a fluke pick to end the K-State game… his only pick of the year.
Russell Wilson: Wilson came to Madison with much fan fare after 3 years in Raleigh, NC. He hasn’t disappointed the Badgers faithful to this point. His numbers compare favorably to Luck’s: 75% comp, 1391 yards,13 TDs, and one lonely pick. His ability to get out of the pocket as well, makes Wisconsin almost impossible to stop.
Landry Jones: When you are the quarterback of one the best teams in the country, you make this list by default. His numbers have been solid, but not as spectaular as the rest. He still has a lot of chances to make an impact as the year trudges on. All eyes will be on the Bedlam Game against Oklahoma State at the end of the season.
Denard Robinson: You’d think that Shoelace is having a down year with the lack of pub that he’s getting this season compared to last. That’s not the case. This week he’ll top the 2000 yards mark in total offense, and should get to 20 touchdowns as well. He does have 9 picks on the year, so he’ll need some big wins down the stretch to really contend.
Pac12: Preseason Pick: Oregon vs Utah. Clearly that was the kiss of death for the Utes. Utah hasn’t won a conference game yet. On the other hand, Arizona State has taken control of the Pac12 South. In the North, Stanford and Oregon continue to roll towards their Nov. 12th matchup. The winner of that game will sew up the title, and right now Andrew Luck is the best player in the land. Prediction: Stanford vs Arizona State. Winner: Stanford
SEC: Preseason Pick: South Carolina vs Alabama. The Tide certainly is holding up their end of the bargain, but they are being closely followed by the LSU Tigers. Can’t wait for those two teams to wrangle on Nov. 5th. South Carolina controls their destiny for a return trip to the Georgia Dome. Now that Stephen Garcia has been sent packing, they should see some more consistency from the quarterback position. The Gamecocks have to hope that Connor Shaw can stay healthy, because if not, they have no one with experience behind him. Prediction: Same. Winner: Alabama.
Big12: Preseason Pick: Oklahoma. Bob Stoops has not been the best front-running coach since he arrived in Norman, but this year has been different. Their defense is physical and Landry Jones has done a solid job, not only at home, but on the road as well. They’ve handled their two toughest tests so far, in Texas and Florida State. But their job isn’t done yet. Three of their last five games are on the road at Kansas State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State. If their defense can stay healthy, I like them to finish strong and win the Big 12, or whatever they’re calling it these days. Prediction: Same.
Big Ten: Preseason Pick: Wisconsin vs Nebraska. Russell Wilson and the Badgers dismantled the Cornhuskers when they met in Madison a couple of weeks ago. The Cornhuskers were able to shake off the hangover and rally to beat Ohio State last week. Both teams still have some tough games left on the schedule, but I have faith that Wisconsin will make it to Indy. Not so sure about Nebraska. Their passing game has failed them so far and that will be hard to overcome. The winner of this week’s Michigan/Michigan State game will have the inside track with no conference losses yet. Prediction: Wisconsin vs Michigan. Winner: Wisconsin.
ACC: Preseason Pick: Florida State vs Virginia Tech. You can thank Tahj Boyd and stud freshman Sammy Watkins for this one. They and the Clemson Tigers have beaten both the Seminoles and Hokies this season, giving them a stranglehold on the Atlantic Division. The questions is which Tech, Georgia or Virginia, do I like more in the Coastal Division? If Logan Thomas keeps playing the way he did against Miami, they’ll be fine. Georgia Tech can run it down your throat, but the passing game is suspect. Prediction: Clemson vs Virginia Tech. Winner: Clemson.
Big East: Preseason Pick: West Virginia. Rutgers has used a strong defense to get off to a quick start, and Oct. 29th we’ll see if they are for real when they host the Mountaineers. Barring something magical in New Brunswick, NJ, it’s all WVU all the time. No one in the conference has the athletes, offense, or defense to stop the Holgorsen machine. Prediction: Same.