JP Top 25 - Week 10

With apologies to Nevada and San Jose State, who are set to play later tonight, here is my top 25 following an exciting week ten.

1. Texas (Record: 9-0, Last Week: 1)
The Longhorns continue to look like the best team in the nation, with the best balance of offense, defense, and special teams.

2. Alabama (9-0, LW: 2)
A gutty performance by the Crimson Tide showed this team has what it takes to fight through tough times and still come out victorious.

3. Florida (9-0, LW: 3)
Offensively, Florida is easily the worst team among the top teams in the nation. Allow me to be the first to predict the Gators will be BETTER on offense in 2010 when John Brantley takes over the QB spot. He's got a much better arm and will really help open things up. Whether he can win like Tebow or not will be the real discussion in the offseason.

4. TCU (9-0, LW: 4)
I'm making the road trip to Fort Worth to watch the game of the week in person next weekend. TCU hosts Utah, their last big test of the season.

5. Georgia Tech (9-1, LW: 6)
Paul Johnson's gutsy call to go for it on fourth down late in the fourth quarter while trailing Wake Forest shows the confidence he has in his offense right now.

6. Cincinnati (9-0, LW: 7)
The Bearcats had to hang on tight to beat UConn, which shined a spotlight on a defense that might not be as good as we previously thought. And I now firmly believe Brian Kelly can plug any quarterback on his roster into the lineup and score points. Kelly clearly prepares his quarterbacks better than just about anybody in America.

7. Boise State (9-0, LW: 8)
Boise had another mid-week close call, but I still believe the defense on this team ranks them as a legitimate top 10 team. The Broncos nearly jumped Cincinnati in my poll this week.

8. Pittsburgh (8-1, LW: 11)
The next time I hear Pitt mentioned in the national conversation will be the first. Right now, the gap in the Big East between Cincinnati and Pitt is razor thin. Bill Stull and Dion Lewis have the offense humming, and the defense - a Wannstedt specialty - is coming together nicely as well. Don't be surprised if the Panthers end up with the Big East's BCS bowl bid.

9. Oregon (7-2, LW: 9)
Looks like Oregon isn't what everybody thought they were. I kept having flashbacks to that opening night game where they looked like a bottom ten team (not a top ten team) against Boise State, which prevented me from raving about this team as much as everybody else did.

10. USC (7-2, LW: 12)
The Trojans looked absolutely average in defeating Arizona State on the road Saturday night. Maybe Oregon's big win wasn't as big as it first seemed.

11. Ohio State (8-2, LW: 14)
12. LSU (7-2, LW: 10)
13. Virginia Tech (6-3, LW: 15)
14. Miami (7-2, LW: 16)
15. Iowa (9-1, LW: 5)
16. Penn State (8-2, LW: 13)
17. Arizona (6-2, LW: 19)
18. Utah (8-1, LW: 20)
19. Oregon State (6-3, LW: 24)
20. Houston (8-1, LW: 22)
21. Oklahoma State (7-2, LW: 23)
22. South Florida (6-2, LW: 21)
23. Stanford (6-3, LW: NR)
24. Tennessee (5-4, LW: NR)
25. BYU (7-2, LW: NR)

Just missed the cut:
Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Auburn, West Virginia, Clemson


WEEK TEN - Top 25 Preview (Part II)

#10 LSU at #2 Alabama
This is obviously the game of the week, but I'm not sure it is going to be a very pretty game to watch. This is going to be one of those down and dirty defensive battles where the first team to about 13 points is going to win. Alabama, coming off the bye week, has the inside track to those 13 points. Julio Jones is getting healthier and he'll need to make a play or two against the talented LSU secondary. The problem for the Tigers is I'm not sure how they are going to move the ball against a stout Crimson Tide front. Jordan Jefferson needs to have a career day if LSU hopes to pull the upset, but I'm not counting on it.
J.Pike's Pick: Alabama 20, LSU 9

#8 Oregon at Stanford
I've been picking against Oregon all year. And once again my gut is telling me that Stanford has an excellent chance at knocking the Ducks off their high horse. Toby Gerhart is a battering ram at running back and Andrew Luck is looking more and more like a big time Pac-10 quarterback every week. The Cardinal defense is far from a brick wall, but they are capable of playing very well in stretches. With Oregon riding high after the big win over Southern Cal, I like the Stanford defense to play a big role early in confusing Jeremiah Masoli and the Ducks offense early on while Gerhart and company steal a quick lead. It will be up to the unsung key to Oregon's rise, running back LaMichael James, to lead the Ducks to victory.
J.Pike's Pick: Oregon 34, Stanford 27

Wake Forest at #6 Georgia Tech
Riley Skinner's status is up in the air for this game, but it shouldn't matter one way or the other. Georgia Tech's offense has been on a roll lately and the Wake defense won't be more than a speed bump in the road. Jim Grobe is a fine coach and he'll find a way to keep the Deacs in the game for a while, but Paul Johnson's triple option will keep picking up steam as they always do, and run of a couple of big plays in the second half to put the game away.
J.Pike's Pick: Georgia Tech 33, Wake Forest 17

#4 TCU at San Diego State
TCU is looking more and more like the real deal. The Frogs have yet to take a week off as they march through conference play. I keep waiting for them to finally slip up (because every unbeaten TCU team in the last decade has eventually let me down at some point), but the more I watch them play the more I think this team might just be disciplined enough to run the table. However, this is going to be a much tougher road trip than it looks. New head coach Brady Hoke has assembled a top notch coaching staff in San Diego. Defensive coordinator Rocky Long is just as capable as Gary Patterson of drawing up the perfect plan to shut down an opposing offense. This is going to be a game where Andy Dalton will need to play a factor because I think it is going to be a surprisingly tight contest.
J.Pike's Pick: TCU 23, San Diego State 16

New Mexico at #20 Utah
Utah has a quarterback controversy brewing between junior Terrence Cain and freshman Jordan Wynn. Whichever one gets the start will probably win the job because New Mexico can make just about any quarterback look good in 2009. The winless Lobos are just the remedy to cure a sputtering Utah offense.
J.Pike's Pick: Utah 43, New Mexico 19

#24 Oregon State at California
If you like running backs, this is where your eyes need to be on Saturday. JaQuizz Rodgers and Jahvid Best are two of the most exciting backs around, and neither stands taller than about 5-foot-8. California has slowly been pulling out of their mid-season slump, but Oregon State has quietly been playing solid football too. Look for Rodgers to out-rush Best, and for Sean Canfield to play just well enough for the Beavers to escape Berkeley with the W.
J.Pike's Pick: Oregon State 31, California 27

Vanderbilt at #3 Florida
There is no reason for this game to be close. If Florida truly is a national championship contender, they will dismiss Vandy with ease. The Commodores haven't been very good this season, which is disappointing considering all the progress they made in climbing out of the SEC cellar over the past two seasons.
J.Pike's Pick: Florida 38, Vanderbilt 3

#22 Houston at Tulsa
Todd Graham just needs to get through 2009 so he can get his Tulsa team back into the Conference USA race again in 2010. The Golden Hurricane have shown flashes of good football this season, but they have been fewer and farther between than the past two years. Houston's offense is among the most potent in college football, and Tulsa's defense doesn't look like much of a test.
J.Pike's Pick: Houston 45, Tulsa 24

Connecticut at #9 Cincinnati
Cincinnati is the class of the Big East so far. It would be nice to see Connecticut rise up and pull an upset here in honor of their fallen teammate, but Randy Edsall's team simply doesn't have the firepower to do it. Mardy Gilyard will be the difference in the game, but the Huskies will play admirably and keep it close throughout.
J.Pike's Pick: Cincinnati 23, Connecticut 17

#12 USC at Arizona State
Arizona State's primary strength is their defense. Don't be surprised if they hold USC under 30 points (is that an accomplishment any more?). But how will the Sun Devils score points? The ground game isn't very good, and Danny Sullivan is just now starting to show signs of life at quarterback. USC will bounce back from the pounding they took in Eugene by dismissing an out-manned Arizona State.
J.Pike's Pick: USC 27, Arizona State 13

#17 Oklahoma at Nebraska
I don't think anybody was expecting this game to feature a pair of 3-loss teams. In 2009, Nebraska was expected to step up and take back control of the Big XII North while Oklahoma was expected to challenge for a national title. Obviously both have fallen short of those expectations, if only by the slimmest of margins.

The Nebraska offense has been in a serious funk for the past few weeks, but making the switch to the freshman Cody Green at quarterback will pay dividends in the long run. He has a much better skill set than Zac Lee, and he looks like he could be a really good player once he learns the offense and the coaching staff turns him loose. And if you ask Nebraska fans, they'll tell you offensive coordinator Shawn Watson should turn him loose this weekend. Against a formidable Oklahoma defensive line (Gerald McCoy is one of the most underrated players in the country), Green will need to put the offense on his shoulders in order to put points on the board. Roy Helu has been banged up and the running game will probably not be very productive Saturday night.

But where Nebraska holds a big advantage is on the defensive side of the ball. What nobody wants to talk about this season is that Oklahoma simply can't line up and run the football. The coaching staff seems to think they can, as they arrogantly try to flex their muscles at least a couple drives per game. But the fact is that offensive line is too slow and too inexperienced to be a consistent threat running the ball downhill. Nebraska's defensive line - a pretty good group itself - is good enough to eliminate the running threat and pressure Landry Jones. Ryan Broyles is a great receiver, and he'll produce in this game - but the rest of OU's receiving corps leaves a lot to be desired. If Nebraska can keep Broyles to 2 touchdowns or less, then Nebraska will have a good shot at winning.

Call me stupid, but this is college football. Bo Pelini is as good an X's and O's coach as there is defensively, so you know he'll have a game plan that will keep this game much closer than it was a year ago. It will be up to Cody Green and the offense to come through with some much needed big plays to pull the upset. The bottom line is Oklahoma simply isn't as good a team as they should be, and Pelini and Company will find a way to exploit their weaknesses and bring home a huge win for the Huskers.
J.Pike's Pick: Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 17


WEEK TEN - Top 25 Preview (Part I)

Thursday, November 5th

#15 Virginia Tech at East Carolina
After getting surprised a week ago at home on Thursday night against North Carolina, Virginia Tech must go on the road to face another directional Carolina. I have to admit that I have been half-way on the ECU bandwagon since they knocked off Va Poly and Westy Virginny at the beginning of last season. Patrick Pinkney is a dangerous senior quarterback and all purpose threat Dwayne Harris (3 receiving tds, 4 rushing tds, 2 kick return tds) make this a tough matchup for a hurting Hokie team. But you can't keep Frank Beamer's team down for long. Look for the Hokies to bounce back onto the winning track, even if this is a much closer, much uglier game than it should be.
J.Pike's Pick: Virginia Tech 22, East Carolina 19

Friday, November 6th

#7 Boise State at Louisiana Tech
Another week another easy game for the Broncos. Kellen Moore has only thrown two interceptions all season long to go with his 24 touchdown passes. Don't expect Boise to all of a sudden start turning the ball over and making mistakes just because they go on the road to play one of the "tougher" teams in the WAC.
J.Pike's Pick: Boise State 37, Louisiana Tech 13

Saturday, November 7th

#25 Wisconsin at Indiana
Indiana has been giving opposing Big Ten teams fits all season long. Just last week they pushed #5 ranked Iowa deep into the fourth quarter before giving up an explosion of points and losing. This week the Hoosiers host Wisconsin, and I expect them to play another solid game. Wisconsin has John Clay, though, and he'll make sure the Badgers win the time of possession battle and the game.
J.Pike's Pick: Wisconsin 27, Indiana 20

Northwestern at #5 Iowa
Iowa keeps finding ways to win close games. I feel like the cardiac kids will get a break this week and win a fairly easy game against the struggling Wildcats.
J.Pike's Pick: Iowa 30, Northwestern 16

Central Florida at #1 Texas
The surging Longhorns look to maintain their streak of dominating performances against George O'Leary's Knights of Central Florida. In a rare late season non-conference game, I wouldn't be surprised to see Texas revert to their early season form and look sluggish in the first quarter. But there's absolutely no reason this should be a close game heading into the fourth quarter. Colt McCoy will continue to play well as he claws his way back into Heisman contention.
J.Pike's Pick: Texas 42, Central Florida 21

Syracuse at #11 Pittsburgh
Bill Stull and Dion Lewis have Pittsburgh quietly playing about as well as anybody in the country right now. The backfield duo has been putting points on the board at a rate not previously seen in Dave Wannstedt's tenure. Against a struggling Syracuse team that just had it's best player (Mike Williams - a legit stud at wide receiver) quit the team. First year coach Doug Marrone is going through his first real rough patch as a head coach, and facing a hot Panthers team isn't a good recipe to make things any better.
J.Pike's Pick: Pittsburgh 38, Syracuse 11

Virginia at #16 Miami
Upset alert. I know I keep calling for Virginia to be an upset candidate, but this is the week I think they finally pull off the feat. Miami is struggling right now, and even though they have showed guts down the stretch in games (see their fourth quarter win against Wake Forest last week), they definitely aren't playing their best ball of the season. Look for Virginia to use about three different players at quarterback, and find a way to manufacture enough points to pull the upset. Remember, this is the ACC - it gets crazier every week.
J.Pike's Pick: Virginia 26, Miami 21

Navy at #18 Notre Dame
Navy finally got one over on the Irish and their Special Ed coach two seasons ago. But coming off a loss to Temple, I don't see it happening again. Quarterback Ricky Dobbs will do his part to keep the Middies in it, though.
J.Pike's Pick: Notre Dame 33, Navy 24

Washington State at #19 Arizona
Poor Washington State. The Cougs can't get to that UCLA game (their only shot at a conference win) soon enough.
J.Pike's Pick: Arizona 44, Washington State 14

#23 Oklahoma State at Iowa State
Austin Arnaud is back at quarterback for Iowa State. I like what Paul Rhodes is doing in Ames so far, so getting his best offensive weapon back is a plus, especially against a vulnerable Cowboy team. On paper Okie State should hand the Cyclones, but after that beatdown last week (by Texas and the officials), how will Gundy's squad react? If they don't bounce back and focus their full attention on Iowa State they might find themselves in the middle of a losing streak.
J.Pike's Pick: Oklahoma State 31, Iowa State 21

#14 Ohio State at #13 Penn State
In one of just two games featuring two ranked opponents this week, Jim Tressel brings his Buckeyes to Happy Valley to take on Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor has played his best ball of the season over the past two weeks, and will need to bring that edge into this game because Penn State's defensive front has more than enough fire power to collapse the under-performing Buckeye offensive line whenever they choose to. Expect to hear the name Ollie Ogbu a lot in this game.

On the other side of the ball, talented playmakers Darryl Clark and Evan Royster will need to step up their games if they are to score many points on the Ohio State defense. If either Clark or Royster delivers a big game, the Nittany Lions should emerge victorious. If the Buckeye defense can contain both, however, Ohio State will sneak out of town with a big win. At the end of the day I think the story will not be about Clark or Royster, but about Terrelle Pryor.
J.Pike's Pick: Ohio State 18, Penn State 13


JP Top 25 - Week 9

The top four for me is pretty easy. After that is when things get interesting. You could toss teams 5-9 up in the air and make a pretty good case for whatever order they landed in. Iowa, in particular, is hard to gauge. Does a team that needed not one but TWO blocked field goals in the closing seconds to beat 1-AA Northern Iowa - not to mention a fourth quarter comeback and a couple questionable calls by the officials to beat lowly Indiana - really merit consideration as a top 5 team? Or do you reward their ability to come from behind and just win games on a weekly basis? Take a look at how it shook out for me this week.

Rk. School (Record, Last week's rank)
1. Texas (8-0, 1)
2. Alabama (8-0, 2)
3. Florida (8-0, 3)
4. TCU (8-0, 4)
5. Iowa (9-0, 5)
6. Georgia Tech (8-1, 6)
7. Cincinnati (8-0, 9)
8. Boise State (8-0, 10)
9. Oregon (7-1, 12)
10. LSU (7-1, 13)
11. Pittsburgh (7-1, 11)
12. USC (6-2, 7)
13. Penn State (8-1, 14)
14. Ohio State (7-2, 15)
15. Virginia Tech (5-3, 8)
16. Miami (6-2, 16)
17. Oklahoma (5-3, 17)
18. Notre Dame (6-2, 18)
19. Arizona (5-2, 19)
20. Utah (7-1, NR)
21. South Florida (6-2, NR)
22. Houston (7-1, 22)
23. Oklahoma State (6-2, 23)
24. Oregon State (5-3, NR)
25. Wisconsin (6-2, 25)

Just missed the cut:
West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Auburn, BYU, California