The Wrapup - Week 9

By Adam Caparell - October 28, 2007


We got a week off from the wild and shocking upsets, but if we came away with anything from this weekend it's that we have ourselves a legit No. 1 team in the nation.

Ohio State looked like a well oiled machine in its convincing win over Penn State in front of 100,000-plus Nittany Lions fans in Beaver Stadium. The Buckeyes beat down Penn State not only with the nation's best defense, but an offense that was balanced, calculating and precise.

And for an offense that looked so sloppy to begin the season it's a testament to Jim Tressel and his coaching staff that the unit- led by quarterback Todd Boeckman and running back Chris Wells - has matured so drastically over the past four-to-five weeks and turned into one of the better ones in the Big Ten. You can see the confidence that Boeckman has gained and it looked like it easily translated in Saturday's game. He looked calm, cool and comfortable out there and guided the Buckeyes to their ninth win with 253 yards passing and three TDs. He's developed a great big play threat with his wide outs - most notably Brian Robiskie - and he's been pretty careful with the football. That's all that Tressel asked Boeckman to do when the season began; don't turn the ball over. Well, he can ask for a little more from the QB because he's earned it.

Over the past few weeks we've see Chris Wells develop into the second best running back in the Big Ten. And just like the best - Michigan's Mike Hart - he's been dealing with a bum ankle, yet still putting up big numbers. When you can rely on a consistent running game like Wells has given the Buckeyes lately, it keeps defenses honest and has really allowed Boeckman to take advantage of what the opposition gives him - man-to-man coverage down field and open receivers over the middle.

We saw some great play calling on the part of the Buckeyes and excellent execution. And we haven't even really mentioned the defense. Ohio State showed everyone something Saturday. They beat a good - but far from great - team on the road, in a tough place to play, a venue that's given the Buckeyes problems in the past.

As for the team formerly known as No. 1, we saw more of the same from the Trojans that's killed them: turnovers.

USC turned the ball over three times - two INTs and a lost fumble - and continued their sorry trend of turning the ball over more rather than forcing them with that talented defense. USC's turnover margin entering the game stood at -.57, tied for 89th in the country, and it didn't improve. The best teams in the nation always are in the plus range of turnover margin so with their second loss of the season the Trojans can officially be eliminated from national title contention. Chances are, with their remaining schedule and the way they've played, that a third loss will come. Meetings on the road with Cal and Arizona State remain and Oregon State and UCLA are no givens. A three loss USC team? No one could have foreseen that when the season started.

Mark Sanchez very well could remain USC's starting QB. Pete Carroll was pretty critical of Sanchez after the game for his two thrown picks, including the game clinching one as the Trojans were trying to score the game tying touchdown, but he's shown some glimpses, despite relatively conservative game plans. Plus it's not like John David Booty wasn't throwing the ball away when he was in the lineup.

They're still not sure about Booty's injured middle finger so if there are any doubts, Sanchez will be the man. The one thing that you have to like about Sanchez is that he can keep plays alive with his feet and isn't afraid to run with the ball. And he can actually gain a few yards. But his willingness to keep plays alive also makes him very susceptible to forcing some throws. He still needs some refining, but he has a bright future.

The other thing to take away from the USC loss is that Joe McKnight is going to be something special. Many are already calling him the next Reggie Bush and you can easily see why. McKnight moves a lot like Bush. He's shifty and fast and is a danger to score every time he touches the ball.

And Dennis Dixon needs to get more consideration for the Heisman Trophy. I don't think people realize just how deadly he is game in and game out. He may not be an exact clone of Vince Young, but he very well could be the closest thing out there in college football today. He runs so well and manages that spread option so well, how can you not get on the Oregon bandwagon right now? I'm ashamed to look back and realize I didn't have them in my preseason Top 25. Oregon is a legitimate Top 3 team right now.

Quick Hits

-- Everything was going right for Cal on the road, except for the fact they're defense made the trip. After staking themselves to comfortable early lead, all the Bears could do was watch Arizona State march down the field time and time again and before they knew it they were facing a two score deficit with time winding down in the fourth quarter. The Sun Devils defense forced some turnovers. Although Nate Longshore did his best job to put give ASU a few extra possession with a few picks. It looks like they'll climb up the polls, but probably stay put at No. 4 in the BCS.

Arizona State showed some very nice speed and some offensive power. Their first big challenge of the season they took care of, despite the fact it came against a Cal defense that's been suspect to say the least all season. Now the Sun Devils turn their attention to a huge, huge matchup with Oregon on the road. Thing to watch with Arizona State: they can't continue to let quarterback Rudy Carpenter get nailed on what seems like almost every play.

-- Does anyone want to win the SEC East? The jumbled mess that is the most competitive division in college football was thrown for another loop Saturday and just when you thought you had it figured it out, rework the equation.

Thanks to the sensational performances of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, Georgia looks to be in nice shape to make a run at the SEC Championship game with one month left in the regular season. And it looked like they would take over as the top team in the division until South Carolina had to go and lose to Tennessee later on Saturday. The Vols, on account of beating Georgia earlier in the year, are now sitting atop the SEC East. But Georgia showed Saturday they're certainly worthy of taking the division after beating up Florida in Jacksonville. And as we're finding out in the nation's best conference, you just never know what's going to happen or who is going to emerge. Every week it's different.

Stafford and Moreno certainly emerged as the Florida secondary, already dealing with a few injuries, was burned and the Gators were unable to do much against the potent running attack of the Bulldogs. And give credit to the Georgia offensive line. The Bulldogs are a young team. Stafford, the offensive line, the skill positions. And how good is Moreno? He actually looked like he was getting stronger as the game went on and the Gators just could not stop him from running right through them on just about every play. Second, third efforts all game long. One hit wasn't enough to bring him down.

Also credit the Georgia pass rush. They sacked Tim Tebow six times as the super sophomore completed just 14 passes. And the Bulldogs didn't alow Tebow to run for positive yards, something no other team has come close to doing. Tebow finished with -15 yards rushing. His previous worst this season was 38 yards against Western Kentucky.

It looks like Mark Richt is setting himself up for nicely a good run at possibly more than just an SEC title the next couple of years.. The week off for Georgia helped, undoubtedlyThe Florida defense really got pushed around. There are injuries, especially up front, and of course they're young, but we haven't seen the Gators get cut up like this in some time.

-- Does this win legitimize UConn? I guess it has to. The Huskies are going to find themselves ranked for the first time in school history Sunday and surely further up in the BCS rankings after their win over USF. The Huskies defense did it again. Say what you want about their easy schedule and numerous favorable calls from the Big East officials that basically netted them two wins, but UConn beat a formidable Bulls team at home, one that nearly everyone thought would run all over them. I still think it's going to come crashing down for UConn one of these weekends - it could happen against Rutgers next week.

-- When West Virginia scores more than 30 points they've lost just once in the past seven years and the Rutgers defense couldn't hold them below that magic number. The Scarlet Knights defense had a lot of trouble stopping that potent Mountaineer running attack, namely Steve Slaton.

Mike Teel didn't have much help from his receivers, but then again Mike Teel didn't help his team much throwing a bunch of picks. Teel can look really great one game and poor the next. And it's the same thing with Rutgers this year. They show you glimpses of being the best team in the Big East one week - like in their win over USF when they were clearly the better team on the field that night - then regresses with another poor performance at home. The biggest reason Rutgers has disappointed this season is there defense. Holes at linebacker and lack of execution have been glarring for Greg Schiano's group. And, apparently, the only way Rutgers can beat a Top 10 team is if it comes on a Thursday night at home.

-- The Louisville defense did something we thought we might never see this season. They made a stop with the game on the line, despite the fact they allowed Pittsburgh to drive down the field for the tying score. The Cardinals also had a little help as Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy fumbled at the 1-yard line. The woes for Dave Wannstedt continue and Steve Kragthorpe "improved" to 5-4. Now they turn their focus to West Virginia in a little less than two weeks in a matchup that has absolutely no intrigue. The Cardinals are going to get mowed over for all the nation to see in a couple of Thursdays.

-- Just two weeks ago, Andre' Woodson was everyone's Heisman frontrunner after beating No. 1 LSU. He backed up that performance with another great game in a loss to Florida. But after throwing three second half picks, the Heisman is nothing but a two-horse race between Tebow and Matt Ryan. And hopefully Dixon can get some more pub because he really deserves it.

-- Was there any Texas fan really worried about the Longhorns losing to Nebraska? The Cornhuskers defense is porous as paper and it didn't take long for Texas to move ahead. Nebraska made it close again - so give them credit - but the free fall for Bill Callahan continues. Gets harder and harder every week to see him returning next season.

Biggest Winners: Georgia, West Virginia, Oregon, UConn, Aruzona State

Biggest Losers: Kentucky, USC, Virginia, Florida, USF

Player of the Day: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia. Had a career game two weeks ago against Vanderbilt running for 157 yards on 28 carries. He raised the bar Saturday against Florida in the Bulldogs rivalry game, rushing for 188 yards and three touchdowns on a career high 33 carries. Florida was helpless in stopping him and he's a big reason why the Bulldogs are in great shape to take the SEC East after their win.

Stat of the Day: 1. Number of wins UConn has in its history over a ranked opponent and the
number of wins this season against a team that has a winning record so far in 2007.

Quote of the Day: "They have been top dogs. But this is a different year." -- Oregon QB Dennis Dixon on USC, who his team defeated 24-17. USC has won at least a share of the Pac-10 title the last five years. Looks like that streak could very well come to an end this season.

Top 10 Teams In The Nation
1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. Oregon
4. Boston College
5. Oklahoma
6. Arizona State
7. West Virginia
8. Kansas
9. Georgia
10. Missouri

Posted by Adam Caparell at 02:00 AM on October 28, 2007
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