Oct. 21, 2004
By Brian Curtis
Senior Editor, CSTV
For those of you who read my Tuesday column on the initial BCS rankings, you know where I stand. For those of you who didn't, here's the synopsis:
1) These rankings mean little.
2) There is still a lot of football to be played.
3) Utah will only drop further down the rankings.
And my conclusion: The BCS rankings will influence poll voters.
There you go, easy enough.
The big games this week:
#4 Miami at North Carolina State
Miami got a boost with the No. 2 BCS ranking on Monday and they are one of just seven undefeated teams remaining. However, they play a dangerous team on the road, and are the only unbeaten to play away from home this weekend. Watch out.
#6 Wisconsin vs. Northwestern
The Badgers are on a roll. Northwestern beat Ohio State a few weeks back. UW's Erasmus James is out with an injury. Who knows???
#11 Tennessee vs. Alabama
This is the subpoena game. Why? If you recall,Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer skipped SEC Media Day in Birmingham on the advice of attorneys fearing that the coach would be issued a subpoena in on-going litigation involving Alabama's NCAA violations. Let's take it out on the field.
#24 Notre Dame vs. Boston College
A lot of candles to be lit in the Grotto.
Temple of Doom
One team hardly anyone ever talks about, and probably rightly so, is Temple University. For those of you unaware, Temple is 1-6 on the season, including a 70-16 loss at home to Bowling Green. They have been so consistently bad on the field and in attendance that the Big East Conference has kicked them out. Contrary to some reports, Temple will be playing football next year (an 11-game independent schedule) and in the foreseeable future but don't look for them to remain an independent for too long or drop to I-AA. Indications are they could join the Mid-American Conference in 2006, which would make the most geographical and competitive sense. But trying to recruit to the campus will continue to be a challenge.
After Virginia Tech lost its opener to No. 1 USC, head coach Frank Beamer and his staff made the decision to go with a youth movement, particularly at wide receiver, which has so far, paid off. After losing to N.C. State to go 2-2, the Hokies have run off three straight and are back in the Top 25. Insiders tell me that much of the turnaround can be attributed to the emergence of tailback Mike Imoh. Imoh sat out the first three games, but in the last four, has rushed for 331 yards on 81 carries, including 30 carries in a win over West Virginia and 29 carries in a victory against Wake Forest. Imoh's presence has helped free up the passing game. There is renewed enthusiasm within the coaching staff after last year's debacle, and Beamer has rededicated himself to bringing Tech back to prominence. They still must face Virginia and Miami this season but they're on a roll.
Most analysts agree that the catalyst for Wisconsin's impressive 7-0 start has been their defense, and the spark of that defense is new defensive coordinator Bret Bielema. The former coach at Kansas State led a defense there which ranked in the Top Ten in most statistical categories. It's been more of the same at Wisconsin. Through seven games, the Badger defense has allowed just 8.0 points per game, 80 yards rushing per game, only one rushing touchdown and has recorded 25 sacks. Compare these numbers to last season when UW gave up 23.5 points per game and 142 rushing yards per game. Some of the defensive personnel have changed, but it's Bielema who has made the difference. The single 34-year old is a workaholic who loves nothing more than breaking down film of an opponent and strategizing. Against Northwestern this weekend, Bielema will be without Big Ten sack leader Erasmus James, who injured his ankle against Purdue.
Bad News in Knoxville
Word out of Knoxville is not good for defensive back Brandon Johnson. Johnson, who picked off two passes at Ole Miss on Saturday, has been suspended from the team indefinitely for a violation of team rules. But it's more than that. Johnson is being investigated by the athletic department and the university's student conduct office, and harsher punishment could follow. Coach Phillip Fulmer is not optimistic about his return anytime soon. The loss of Johnson hurts the Vol defense further, after the season-ending injury to Kevin Simon a few weeks ago.
On the Prowl
Walt Harris' Pitt Panthers pulled off an upset overtime win over Boston College on Saturday, keeping Pitt in the thick of the Big East race at 2-1. They've lost to Nebraska and UConn, and struggled to beat Furman and Temple. Harris tells me it's all about youth. He's been playing 10 new starters on offense, and the inexperience hurt them early in the year. The coach also points to injuries on the line and at wide receiver for the struggles. So now what? With Rutgers, Syracuse, Notre Dame, West Virginia and South Florida still left, things will not get any easier. Or next year. Harris laments the break-up of the Big East and says it has been detrimental on recruiting, making his job tougher. He doesn't know where things are headed, nor do administrators.
Brian Curtis serves as an analyst and insider in all of CSTV's football programming and is CSTV's Senior Editor. To ask Brian a question or comment on his column, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read Brian's latest insiders' book, Every Week A Season, on sale now at all major bookstores and online.
Brian's previous column: Here We Go Again...
Frank Gore and Miami celebrated last week.