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October 30, 2005

Gerry's Top 25 and BCS Projections: Week 10

Things are heating up in college football. Georgia is undefeated no longer, and Texas and UCLA survived scares. Bowl season is fast approaching. Here's how I see the nation's elite after nine weeks:

THE TOP TEN
1. Southern Cal (8-0) - The Trojans have had some subpar halves over the past few games, but they own the nation's longest winning streak and a couple of AP titles for a reason. When the two-time defending champ is undefeated, it's just silly to label anyone else number one.
2. Virginia Tech (8-0) - The Hokies are still a significant step down from the number one squad, but Frank Beamer's crew continues to reel off uninteresting, labor-free victories. That's a compliment.
3. Texas (8-0) - There was a point this year that I thought the Longhorns were as good as the Trojans, but I got over it. It's impossible to predict how they'd fare against Southern Cal if the two face each other in January, but Texas has been too sloppy recently to deserve the number two slot.
4. Alabama (8-0) - I don't expect the Crimson Tide to remain here. Either LSU or Auburn will end their undefeated run. However, it hasn't happened yet, and 'Bama is undefeated right now, so I'll give them their due credit.
5. UCLA (8-0) - Here's another undefeated team that has been unimpressive lately. UCLA has a reputation for playing down to its opponent's level, and this year's version of the Bruins are fitting the bill.
6. LSU (6-1) - The Tigers keep finding ways to win. That's the optimisitc way to look at it. Perhaps the better way to look at it is that they keep finding ways to almost lose. In any case, they're one play from being undefeated, even if they have been very sloppy about it.
7. Notre Dame (5-2) - The Irish keep getting better, and they are the one team in America that has outplayed the champions for 60 minutes. This team is probably better than the three I've ranked directly in front of them, and by season's end will be ranked in the top five.
8. Georgia (7-1) - It's tough to lose your starting quarterback right before a matchup with your fiercest rivals. If Shockley had been able to suit up on Saturday, this team would still be unbeaten.
9. Penn State (8-1) - JoePa's got the inside track to the Big Ten title. If he can lead the Lions to victory against Wisconsin, he'll all but have a BCS invitation.
10. Ohio State (6-2) - The Buckeyes should have beaten Texas and Penn State. This offense needs to be more aggressive. Overall, the Buckeyes are a solid football team.

THE REST
11. Florida State (6-1)
12. Miami-FL (6-1)
13. Wisconsin (8-1)
14. Oregon (7-1)
15. Florida (6-2)
16. Auburn (6-2)
17. West Virginia (6-1)
18. Texas Tech (7-1)
19. TCU (8-1)
20. Boston College (6-2)
21. Fresno State (6-1)
22. Colorado (6-2)
23. California (6-2)
24. Boise State (6-2)
25. Georgia Tech (5-2)

BCS Projections
Rose Bowl: Southern Cal vs. Texas
Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame vs. UCLA
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. West Virginia

Explanation of BCS Selection Criteria

October 29, 2005

Week 9: GameDay Picks

Corso, Herbstreit, and I are knotted up at 5-3 after we all correctly picked Texas over Texs Tech last week. This week, I'm looking to take the lead. Corso and Herbstreit both picked underdog Georgia to remain unbeaten when they face Florida later today in Jacksonville. I'm going with the Gators to end the Bulldogs' perfect season. Without DJ Shockley, this is not the same Georgia team.

Jimbo's Pick: Florida 17 - Georgia 13

Herbstreit: Notre Dame, Weis Have Agreed to 10-Year Deal

According to Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN, Notre Dame and Charlie Weis will announce the agreement of a new 10-year contract later today. The new deal will extend through the 2015 season. Further details have not yet been announced. Weis's previous contract, which included a meager $1.5 million buyout, stirred speculation that the new head coach of the Fighing Irish could bolt for an NFL head coaching job after his only his first season at Notre Dame.

October 27, 2005

ESPN's Bayless is Clueless on Trojans and Longhorns

In his latest contribution to Page 2, Skip Bayless makes two bold, and somewhat absurd, proclamations in one sentence. “The Trojans, who wield the most difficult to defend offense in NCAA history, would beat Texas by two touchdowns on a neutral field. Maybe three.” (I tacked on the second “sentence” just because it makes his thesis a little more ridiculous.)

Plenty of pundits agree with Bayless, and they’ve been cramming it down your throats, so if you don’t understand what’s so ridiculous about that sentence, don’t feel badly. I’ll break it down for you.

First of all, Southern California’s offense has not earned a place in history, at least not yet. It’s true that the Trojans lead America in several offensive categories, including the two most important: total offense (581.14 ypg) and scoring offense (49 ppg). Quarterback Matt Leinart is the defending Heisman Trophy winner, and halfback Reggie Bush appears to be the heir apparent. The Trojans have won 29 consecutive games, and boast back-to-back Associated Press national championships. So why am I so critical of Bayless’ assessment?

For starters, anyone who gives a football team a definitive historical ranking during the middle of its season is setting himself up for criticism. How long ago was it that Oklahoma was labeled the greatest team in history? Kansas State didn’t agree, to say the least.

But my beef with this statement runs deeper than sheer principles. Simply put, the Trojan offense has yet to be tested against a legitimate defense. Out of SC’s seven opponents in 2005, Oregon ranks highest in total defense, good for 53rd in America. For those keeping score, that ranks the Oregon defense in the top 45% of Division I-A. It gets worse from there. Take a look.

Rank Team YA YPGA
98 @Hawaii 3011 430.14
78 Arkansas 2763 394.71
53 @Oregon 2878 359.75
108 @Arizona St 3152 450.29
65 Arizona 2656 379.43
97 @Notre Dame 2979 425.57
102 @Washington 3040 434.29
85.86 AVERAGES 2925.57 409.58

KEY: YA = Yards allowed, YPGA = Yards per game allowed

The popular counterpoint to the above table is to consider that the Trojans had a hand in these terrible defensive rankings. Such a point is valid, so here’s what that same table would look like if statistics from each team’s encounter with USC were discarded.

Rank Team YA YPGA
91 @Hawaii 2493 415.50
35 Arkansas 2027 337.83
36 @Oregon 2366 338.00
94 @Arizona St 2521 420.17
23 Arizona 1932 322.00
92 @Notre Dame 2503 417.17
106 @Washington 2650 441.67
68.14 AVERAGES 2356.00 383.53

The statistics do improve. This is not shocking considering USC does lead the nation in total offense. However, these numbers still aren’t very good. Over 43 games played, these teams average over 383 ypg allowed. That number puts this squad right behind Indiana in average total defense. Furthermore, lowly Washington actually improved its defensive numbers by playing the Trojans.

The numbers don’t lie. Battering seven suspect defenses does not warrant comparisons of this unit to the greatest offenses of all time, and it certainly does not justify anyone ranking them at the top of such a list.
Now all of this goes back to Bayless’ ridiculous thesis, and I stated that he made two absurd claims. So let’s get back to the other one. He thinks the Trojans would beat the Longhorns on a neutral field by 14 to 21 points. I wonder what his pick would be on a not-so-neutral field, like say the Rose Bowl, which is just a short distance north from Los Angeles, and therefore almost a home game for Southern California. (Apologies to UCLA fans. I know that referring to the Rose Bowl as the Trojans’ home in any capacity makes your blood boil.)

None of us know how that match-up will turn out, or even if it will occur. However, USC’s margin of victory over its last four games has been a little more than 15. Three of those four wins came against less than stellar competition: Arizona State (3-4), Arizona (1-6) and Washington (1-6). Even if you take Notre Dame out of the picture, the other three victories are still by an average of less than three touchdowns. Therefore, I question the credibility of his three-touchdown prediction for USC over Texas. Get a clue, Skip.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Texas ranks sixth in total defense. That’s a little bit better than Oregon.

ESPN Page 2: Oscar Meyer Winner

October 26, 2005

Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville Cries Out Against BCS

While at the Montgomery Touchdown Club earlier this week, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville spoke out against the BCS system and the national media. He was particularly upset with ESPN for what he claims is predetermining the national championship game as a Texas-USC matchup. He says:

It's done. The national media, led by ESPN, wants to see Vince Young versus Matt Leinart in the championship game. It's going to be those two teams unless Texas or USC get upset. Last year, they wanted to see the two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks, Jason White and Leinart. After six or seven games, we were out of it.

Quite the defeatist attitude! He may have every right to be upset after getting shut out of last year's Orange Bowl, but this is just misdirected anger. Has anyone shown Tuberville this year's BCS formula? News flash: the national media does not get a vote! The Associated Press decided at the end of the 2004 season to not allow its poll to be used in the BCS ranking system.

Therefore, the national media has very little to say in terms of who the top two teams are. Tuberville's counterparts, the coaches, in fact, have more say per capita than any other component that is figured into the standings. Sixty-one coaches compose the USA Today Poll, which bears the same weighting as the 114-member Harris Poll. The third equally-weighted component is the average of a team's best five out of six computer rankings.

So how much influence does ESPN and the rest of the national media really have? I doubt they have any influence over the coaches. They certainly have no influence over six independent and unbiased algorithms that come up with the new computer ratings each week. So what about the Harris Poll? I suppose it could be argued that they have some degree of influence over some of these voters. In fact, 25 of the 114 voters are members of the media. The rest, however, are current college administrators, former players, and former coaches.

In fact, then, direct influence by these 25 members of the media account for less than 8% of the overall BCS standings. This is a big difference over last year, when 65 members of the AP accounted for 1/3 of the overall BCS standings.

Even if ESPN has an influence over many of the Harris Poll voters, how big of an influence is it? And is ESPN really biased toward a Texas-USC showdown on January 4th?

And what's with the hate directed toward Lou Holtz? Tuberville went on to say:

ESPN has gotten so much power lately, it's kinda scary. Most of their analysts are coaches who haven't won any games. Lou Holtz gets on there and talks about what a team has to do to win that game and the guy couldn't beat anybody in our conference.

Criticizing ESPN is one thing. And in my opinion that's misdirected enough. There's no need to take a shot at Holtz. Sure the guy struggled at South Carolina. Who wouldn't have? Even Steve Spurrier is having fits there! Holtz won a national championship with Notre Dame in 1988 and had near-misses in 1989 and 1993. Holtz doesn't deserve that cheap shot and Tuberville weakens his case by being so rash.

The bottom line is the system we have is not perfect. Until we move to a playoff, there will be no perfect way to crown a national champion. But it is what it is. Blame the college chancellors and presidents all you want. But laying all the fault on ESPN and the rest of the national media is nonsense. Tuberville will have his chance within this hour to expand on his argument when he appears as a guest on the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio.

October 24, 2005

Texas Leapfrogs USC in BCS Rankings

A week and a half ago, everyone was worried that Texas might actually slip to #3 in the BCS rankings. Well this week, the Longhorns are the #1 team in the land according to the Bowl Championship Series ranking formula. (Hey, this isn't exactly the US News & World Report Rankings, so let's not get too jumpy here.) They can thank a few human pollsters who switched their #1 votes from USC to Texas over the weekend (although in my opinion beating Texas Tech 52-17 at home isn't too much more impressive than beating Washington 51-24 on the road). Also to be thanked are the computer rankings; five of the six computer rankings put Texas at #1 and the other at #2, while USC received only one top ranking, three #2 rankings, one #4 ranking, and one #5 ranking. Below are the computer rankings for the top ten teams:

Rank Team A&H RB CM KM JS PW
1 Texas 1 1 1 1 2 1
2 USC 2 2 5 4 1 2
3 Virginia Tech 3 4 4 3 3 3
4 Georgia 5 3 3 5 5 5
5 Alabama 4 8 2 2 4 4
6 UCLA 6 7 7 7 9 9
7 Miami 11 10 15 12 12 12
8 LSU 9 6 10 9 13 13
9 Penn State 7 11 6 6 6 6
10 Florida State 16 15 16 19 14 15

A&H - Anderson & Hester; RB - Richard Billingsley; CM - Colley Matrix; KM - Kenneth Massey; JS - Jeff Sagarin; PW - Peter Wolfe

But who really cares? Texas fans, celebrate now if you want, but realize that it's not even November yet! There's still a ton of college football left to be played. The big problem for the Longhorns is that they've played their toughest opponents already, while USC's and Virginia Tech's are still coming up. That could spell trouble in Austin if all three teams were to win out; Texas might be on the outside looking in.

Anyway, still plenty of ball to be played. The likelihood of the season ending with more than two undefeated teams, in my opinion, is very slim. Let me emphasize that point: there will not be more than two undefeated teams after December 3. I do think that Texas will get to that perfect mark. (A&M may be the only team that can challenge them, and I say this only because it will be a heated rivalry game.) I think the other five unbeatens have very tough roads still and most of them will not make it out unscathed. Just who among them will get there? I'm not going to go out on that limb just yet. Maybe next week.

October 23, 2005

And Then There Were Six

Through eight weeks, six teams remain undefeated in college football. It is possible that there will still be six unbeatens going into the last day of the regular season, December 3. After that day, at most, there will be four teams that could remain perfect. The following is a list of the remaining undefeated teams and their remaining opponents. FIve of the six teams have five games left. UCLA has the fewest obstacles in their path, as they play only four more games.

#1 USC (7-0)
10/29: Washington State (3-4)
11/05: Stanford (4-2)
11/12: at #24 California (6-2)
11/19: #22 Fresno State (5-1)
12/03: #8 UCLA (7-0)
Opponents' Combined Records: 25-9

#2 Texas (7-0)
10/29: Oklahoma State (3-4)
11/05: at Baylor (4-3)
11/12: Kansas (3-4)
11/25: at Texas A&M (5-2)
12/03: Big 12 Championship vs. Colorado (5-2) or Missouri (5-2) or Nebraska (5-2)
Opponents' Combined Records: 20-15

#3 Virginia Tech (7-0)
10/27: #13 Boston College (6-1)
11/05: #6 Miami (5-1)
11/19: at Virginia (4-3)
11/26: North Carolina (3-3)
12/03: ACC Championship vs. Florida State (6-1) or Boston College (6-1) or Maryland (4-3)
Opponents' Combined Records: 24-9

#4 Georgia (7-0)
10/19: vs. #16 Florida (5-2) (in Jacksonville)
11/12: #19 Auburn (5-2)
11/19: Kentucky (1-5)
11/26: at Georgia Tech (4-2)
12/03: SEC Championship vs. Alabama (7-0) or LSU (5-1) or Auburn (5-2)
Opponents' Combined Records: 22-11

#5 Alabama (7-0)
10/29: Utah State (2-4)
11/05: at Mississippi State (2-5)
11/12: #7 LSU (5-1)
11/19: at #19 Auburn (5-2)
12/03: SEC Championship vs. Georgia (7-0) or Florida (5-2)
Opponents' Combined Records: 21-12

#8 UCLA (7-0)
10/29: at Stanford (4-2)
11/05: at Arizona (1-6)
11/12: Arizona State (3-4)
12/03: at #1 USC (7-0)
Opponents' Combined Records: 15-12

Jimbo's Top 15 - Week 9

1. USC
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Alabama
5. UCLA
6. Georgia
7. Miami
8. Penn State
9. Florida State
10. Notre Dame
11. Oregon
12. Wisconsin
13. LSU
14. Boston College
15. West Virginia

October 22, 2005

UCLA's Drew Olsen, ND's Brady Quinn Score 6 TDs Each

I was at the Rose Bowl tonight for UCLA's 51-28 win over Oregon State. I was surprised by how the Bruins dominated the game after giving up a touchdown on the game's opening series. And how about Drew Olsen! The much maligned senior quarterback for UCLA tossed six touchdown passes tonight, breaking the school record. The Bruins just might be for real after all. They're off to their first 7-0 start since 1998.

Meanwhile in South Bend, the Irish avoided a hangover thanks to Brady Quinn tossing six touchdowns of his own. The junior quarterback looked superhuman, especially in the first half, when he started 25-of-30 for 287 yards and four touchdowns.

No surprise how easily Texas defeated Texas Tech. Tech was a paper tiger, nothing more. That 6-0 record against inferior competition proved nothing. Today was their day to make a statement, but they're simply not on the same level as the boys in Austin.

Can the Big Ten get any wackier? Northwestern blows out the Spartans while the Michigan game comes down the the final minute yet again. All five of the Wolverines' conference games have been decided in the final minute. Today, the Wolverines were on the winning side of a 23-20 overtime matchup against Iowa.

Down south, the SEC had two nailbiters. Georgia, after losing quarterback DJ Shockley to a knee injury, struggled before holding off Arkansas 23-20. And in Tuscaloosa, the Tide scored a late field goal against Tennessee to win a barn-burner, 6-3.

My Game for Week 8: Oregon State at UCLA

Game #163 for me will be at the Rose Bowl as Oregon State comes into town to battle the undefeated, eighth-ranked UCLA Bruins. While the Beavers are unranked and unheralded, the Bruins better beware. Oregon State is improving quickly: after losing at home to Arizona State, the Beavers have since defeated Washington State at home and California on the road in the last two weeks. The Bruins, meanwhile, have staged three straight late comeback wins to keep their record perfect. I expect the Bruins to continue the streak this afternoon, but it will be close.

Jimbo's pick: UCLA 45 - Oregon State 42

Week 8: Unbeatens in Action

Coming into the eighth week of the season, only seven teams remain perfect:

#1 USC at Arizona
#2 Texas vs. #10 Texas Tech
#3 Virginia Tech defeated Maryland on Thursday
#4 Georgia vs. Arkansas
#5 Alabama vs. #17 Tennessee
#8 UCLA vs. Oregon State
#10 Texas Tech at #2 Texas

Because Texas and Texas Tech play each other, after today, at most, there will be six undefeated teams. And while USC and Georgia should roll big over their opponents, I expect visiting teams Tennessee and Oregon State to seriously challenge their hosts Alabama and UCLA, respectively. I wouldn't be too surprised if this weekend considerably shook up the top ten.

Week 8: GameDay Picks

Both Kirk Herbstreit and I took Notre Dame last week, while Lee Corso improved his record by taking the Trojans. So, through seven weeks, the three of us are tied at 4-3. (I've now lost my last three games!)

Today, College GameDay is in Austin, Texas for the game between Texas Tech and Texas. This will be the last matchups of unbeatens until potentially December 3, when there could be two games of unbeatens (UCLA-USC and Georgia-Alabama). Of all the seven remaining unbeaten teams, the Red Raiders have the most to prove. Although they are 6-0, three of those wins came against Division I-AA schools. The Longhorns are no Division I-AA program. Today, the Texas defense, ranked 3rd in the nation, steps up and slows down the high-powered Red Raider attack. Vince Young rolls and Texas wins.

Jimbo's Pick: Texas 35 - Texas Tech 27

On the GameDay set, Herbstreit picked Texas "big" over Texas Tech and Corso donned a Bevo head. One way or another, we'll all be tied for at least one more week.

October 18, 2005

Jimbo's Top 15 - Week 8

1. USC
2. Texas
3. Virginia Tech
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. UCLA
7. Texas Tech
8. Miami
9. Penn State
10. Oregon
11. Florida State
12. Notre Dame
13. Wisconsin
14. Boston College
15. West Virginia

Trojans Sneak Past Irish, 34-31

It's taken me a few days to recover. And while I am very disappointed in the outcome, a 34-31 USC win over Notre Dame, I appreciate that I attended the greatest college football game of the season, and perhaps one of the greatest college football games of our time. Had the Irish stopped USC on that fourth and nine or had Matt Leinart come up short on that final quarterback sneak, this certainly would have been my favorite game I've ever witnessed. Greater than the 1993 UCLA-USC game that ended with Marvin Goodwin's end zone interception. Greater than the 1996 USC-UCLA overtime game that featured a 17-point Bruin comeback. Greater than either the 2002 or 2004 Michigan-ND games.

I've been to 162 college football games in my life. I've seen ND-USC and UCLA-USC countless times. I've been to 13 Rose Bowl games and have seen teams crowned national champions six times. But no football game in my memory received as much hype and lived up to the hype as much as this one did. The atmosphere was electric. This was college football pageantry at its best. And even the weather cooperated: it was a perfect fall day with clear skies, moderate winds, a crispness in the air and the temperature in the mid-60s. The game was hard fought by both teams for a full four quarters. Big plays were made (Tom Zbikowski's 59-yard punt return in the second quarter; Dwayne Jarrett's 61-yard pass reception on fourth and nine late in the fourth quarter). The Irish came out in their green uniforms. And the officials, even without the aid of instant replay, did a fine job of officiating.

Simply put, there is no one to blame for Notre Dame's loss. I can't single out one individual who blew it or claim that the officials made a string of bad calls. USC just beat them. Simple as that. A great game to win for USC. A tough pill to swallow for Notre Dame, knowing that they played their absolute best and still could not get the job done. USC is just that good.

Well, in any event, here are some photos that I took on that fateful day, Saturday, October 15, 2005:

The College GameDay set in front of the stadium:
College GameDay at Notre Dame

Touchdown Jesus:
Touchdown Jesus

Irish take the field in green jerseys:
Notre Dame football team in green jerseys

Opening kickoff:
Opening kickoff

Jeff Samardzija's 32-yard touchdown reception:
Jeff Samardzija

Fourth quarter view from section 16, row 48:
USC vs. Notre Dame, 4th quarter

October 14, 2005

USC vs. Notre Dame: Pep Rally

Here are some photos from tonight's pep rally, which was held inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Goodyear blimp at the pep rally

Trojan Horse entering Notre Dame Stadium

Crowd leaving Notre Dame Stadium after pep rally

Tomorrow: College GameDay and then the big game!

October 13, 2005

Destination: South Bend

South Bend highway sign

I was in Cincinnati on a business trip all this week. Finally today I successfully made the four-and-a-half-hour trek in my Avis-rented Chevy Cobalt (a real beaut!) from Cinci to South Bend, Indiana. Now it's all football from here 'til Sunday. I officially kicked off my football weekend by spotting Chris Fowler at the Hertz counter while I was returning my car. Later in the day, I saw him with Lee Corso at the GameDay set on Library Quad.

Chris Fowler and Lee Corso at Notre Dame

Tomorrow night, I'll be attending the pep rally in Notre Dame Stadium.

October 12, 2005

Why Notre Dame Will Beat USC

Being a ND '04 grad, It's no secret that I'm an avid Notre Dame football fan. So it should come as no surprise that I'm picking the Irish to upset the Trojans this Saturday in South Bend. Here are my reasons why and how Notre Dame can beat USC:

1. Timing

In their last 16 games that follow a bye week, Notre Dame is a remarkable 15-1. This year's bye week could not have come at a more favorable time. The Irish were originally scheduled to play Pittsburgh last week. But during the offseason, the decision was made to move that game up to the front of the schedule to give Notre Dame one extra week to prepare against the defending national champions. USC on the other hand spent last week playing a closer-than-the-experts-predicted game against Arizona. A Notre Dame bye week gives the team a healthy rest and the coaching staff an extra week of prepare time.

2. Confidence

Notre Dame's confidence has suffered terribly since losing to Boston College in 2002. After surging to an 8-0 start, the Eagles win over the Irish that season dampened any national championship aspirations and the Irish have not been the same since. A few weeks later, #7 Notre Dame faced #6 USC. This is where the destiny of the two teams diverged sharply. After a 41-10 Trojan whipping of the Irish, Notre Dame was sent into a two-year downward spiral, while USC went on to win back-to-back national championships. In the 2003 and 2004 games, the Irish probably never even thought they had a chance to beat the Trojans. And it showed. Two more 31-point losses only proved that Notre Dame didn't even belong on the same field as USC. Enter Charlie Weis and Notre Dame's 4-1 start. The team is playing with a confidence not witnessed since they rushed out to that 8-0 start in 2002 by defeating Florida State on the road. This is a team, unlike Tyrone Willingham's squads, that believes they can win. And the student body and alumni are buying into it as well.

3. Overconfidence

While restored confidence benefits Notre Dame, overconfidence could plague USC. After three games of mediocre play, the Trojans have lulled themselves into overconfident laziness. They've proved to themselves against Oregon, Arizona State, and Arizona that they don't have to work hard, can underachieve, and still win whenever they want to. This may have worked against these opponents, but to defeat Notre Dame in South Bend, USC will have to play much better than they have the past three weeks.

3. This ain't last year's Trojans

Last year's Trojans were a nightmare for opponents because they were literally unstoppable offensively and their defense did not budge. This season, while performing well in the second half, the USC offense has been very shaky at times in the first half. Matt Leinart has been rattled. Reggie Bush has been stuffed. The offensive line has been porous at times. Wide receivers have dropped balls. What's more surprising is how mistake-prone the Trojans have been: penalties have taken their toll as have slow starts and poor special teams play. The Trojan defense also has left much to be desired.

4. This ain't last year's Irish

With a senior offensive line and numerous receiving targets, Brady Quinn is proving himself to be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and just may be invited to New York come December. In the past three seasons, Notre Dame has only mustered only four touchdowns against USC, and those have all come in the first half. Expect more from the Weis-run offense in this meeting. Unlike the past three meetings against USC, Notre Dame will not be outcoached in this one. As the LA Times points out, Pete Carroll may have finally met his match.

5. Mystique

The Golden Dome that tops the administration building on Notre Dame's campus was recently re-guilded over the summer. The last re-guilding occurred in 1988, the year that Notre Dame faced #1 Miami at home. In the past three meetings, Miami had defeated Notre Dame by a total of 93 points. But 1988 was Lou Holtz's first home game against the Hurricanes. The Irish went on to win 31-30. Hmmm... 93 points, re-guilding, #1 ranking. Sound familiar? Okay, so it's just an historical comparison. But what's Notre Dame without a bit of mystique thrown in the mix?

The Bottom Line

For the first time in a long time, this game will mean something. Long regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in college football, this game has been competitively dormant, meaningless, or both for over a decade. Now, for the first time since 1990, both teams are ranked in the top 10. With they pre-game excitement at fever pitch, the big bulls-eye on USC's #1 ranking, and Notre Dame's momentum and confidence in themselves, I predict a Notre Dame win on Saturday to propel the Irish firmly back among the nation's elite. As USC's 23-game win streak in 1973 ended in South Bend, so too will USC's 26-game win streak in 2005.

Jimbo's Pick: Notre Dame 38 - USC 37

October 11, 2005

My Game for Week 7: USC at Notre Dame

After taking last week off, I am headed out to South Bend this weekend and will cover the USC - Notre Dame game. I will arrive in South Bend on Thursday afternoon to get ready for the biggest football weekend to hit the ND campus in several years. Friday night, I will be at the pep rally in Notre Dame Stadium. For those of you who cannot make it, ESPNEWS will televise it beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT. Early Saturday morning, I plan to stake out a front-row spot for ESPN's College GameDay broadcast live from the Library Quad. (Look for the biggest ND flag; that'll be me!) And of course Saturday afternoon, I will be in the stadium for the game between #1 USC and #9 Notre Dame.

October 10, 2005

Jimbo's Top 15 - Week 7

1. Texas
2. USC
3. Virginia Tech
4. Penn State
5. Georgia
6. Alabama
7. Florida State
8. UCLA
9. Texas Tech
10. Michigan State
11. Notre Dame
12. Florida
13. Miami
14. California
15. Boston College

Nine Remain Perfect

Northwestern upset Wisconsin. Texas Tech slipped past Nebraska with a last minute touchdown pass. UCLA came back from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat California. And now the number of perfect teams is down to nine (AP rank listed):

1. USC (5-0)
2. Texas (5-0)
3. Virginia Tech (6-0)
4. Florida State (5-0)
5. Georgia (5-0)
6. Alabama (5-0)
8. Penn State (6-0)
12. UCLA (5-0)
13. Texas Tech (5-0)

While last week featured two games between undefeated teams (Texas Tech over Nebraska; UCLA over Cal), only four such matchups could potentially occur through the remainder of the regular season:

10/22 - Texas Tech at Texas
12/03 - UCLA at USC
12/03 - Alabama vs. Georgia (SEC Championship Game)
12/03 - Florida State vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Championship Game)

October 08, 2005

Week 6: GameDay Picks

Following my first loss last week when USC defeated Arizona State, the current standings are as follows:

Jimbo 4-1
Kirk Herbstreit 4-1
Lee Corso 3-2

This week is pretty vanilla with both Corso and Herbstreit picking the Buckeyes over the Nittany Lions in State College, Pennsylvania. I am also taking Ohio State this weekend. Their defense will be too much for Penn State to overcome.

Ohio State 24 - Penn State 13

October 02, 2005

Conference Championship Predictions

WIth six weeks of the 2005 college football season behind us, it's time for my conference champion predictions:

ACC: Virginia Tech over Florida State
Big 12: Texas over Colorado
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Wisconsin & Ohio State (tie)
C-USA: Southern Miss over UTEP
MAC: Bowling Green over Central Michigan
MWC: TCU
Pac-10: Cal
SEC: Alabama over Tennessee
Sun Belt: North Texas
WAC: Fresno State

12 Teams Remain Undefeated

Four conferences have teams with perfect records. The Big 12 and the Pac-10 lead the way with three each, while the Big Ten and the SEC have two each. Eleven of the 12 undefeated teams will be in action this Saturday, with Alabama having a bye before traveling to Ole Miss on October 15. Two games this Saturday will feature head-to-head matchups between unbeatens (Texas Tech at Nebraska; Cal at UCLA). The following is the list of the remaining unbeatens and their current AP ranking through six weeks and their next oppenent:

Big 12
Nebraska (NR) vs. #15 Texas Tech
Texas (2) vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
Texas Tech (15) at Nebraska

Big Ten
Penn State (16) vs. #6 Ohio State
Wisconsin (14) at Northwestern

Pac-10
Cal (10) at # 20 UCLA
USC (1) vs. Arizona
UCLA (20) vs. #10 Cal

SEC
Georgia (5) at #8 Tennessee
Alabama (7) at Mississippi (Oct 15)

Bruins Need Late Rally to Beat UW, 21-17

UCLA played poor football for the first 30 minutes and struggled for the next 30, but managed a win anyway. A fourth down conversion and a 40-yard Drew Olsen to Marcus Everett play on the final UCLA possession set up the Bruins game-winning touchdown with 1:08 left. While the Huskies fall to 1-3 on the season, the Bruins improve to 4-0, but it wasn't easy. Washington surprised me by running the ball effectively: the Huskies finished with 213 yards rushing. On the other side, UCLA's Maurice Drew, who rushed for over 300 yards in this game last year, finished Saturday night's matchup with a meager 33 yards on 14 carries.

Next week's game at the Rose Bowl will feature two of the remaining three undefeated Pac-10 teams as UCLA takes on 5-0 Cal. The Bears will by far be the Bruins toughest opponent so far this season: Cal has as many wins (5) as all four of UCLA's previous opponents combined.

October 01, 2005

My Game for Week 5: Washington at UCLA

After taking last week off, I'm back in action tonight and will be heading to the Rose Bowl once again, this time to see Washington take on UCLA. The Bruins are the only team in the nation who has zero turnovers. My pick: UCLA 52 - Washington 20.

Trojans Wear Down Sun Devils, 38-28

Well, I was close, but wrong. Arizona State was outscored 35-7 in the second half and was defeated by USC 38-28. Credit goes to the Trojan offensive line for turning the game around. They simply wore down Purdue's front seven and opened up huge holes for LenDale White and Reggie Bush, who finished with 197 and 158 yards, respectively.

Trojans in Trouble

USC is demoralized right now as they head into the locker room at halftime, trailing the Arizona State Sun Devils 21-3. Never in the past three seasons have I seen the Trojans look so mediocre for an entire half. USC committed seven penalties in the first quarter alone; their offense has not been able to get into any kind of rhythm and have been stopped twice on fourth down attempts. Matt Leinart looks average at best. Reggie Smith has been held in check.

The Sun Devils deserve a lot of credit. Their defense is playing huge right now, knocking Leinart on his back several times (once illegally). They have stuffed USC's run game and kept the passing game in front of them, only allowing completions underneath: the longest USC pass play was a 23-yard Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett completion early in the first quarter. On the other side, the Sun Devils offense hasn't done anything really impressive. But they've methodically moved the ball down the field and have avoided any big mistakes.

Last week when USC went into halftime down 13-10 against the Ducks, they had momentum and confidence. Anyone can tell that they outplayed Oregon toward the end of the first half. This week is much different: ASU has all of the momentum and confidence and I expect that they will hold onto their lead and come out on top after the next 30 minutes. Bottom line: they are simply outplaying USC right now.

Week 5: GameDay Picks

I'm off to an impressive 4-0 start after the Hokies blew out the Yellow Jackets last weekend. But on this Saturday, I'm really going out on a limb. We'll see what happens... The current standings are as follows:

Jimbo 4-0
Kirk Herbstreit 3-1
Lee Corso 2-2

The Trojans head into Tempe, Arizona with a 25-game winning streak and arguably the greatest offense ever seen. The Sun Devils will need something special today if they are to slow down USC. Both Herbstreit and Corso are picking the Trojans. I am picking an upset special: Arizona State will defeat USC. Sam Keller is the real deal and he'll prove it today in front of a sellout crowd and a national television audience.

Jimbo's pick: Arizona State 31 - USC 30