By REED NELSON
The vaunted polls are out. Oregon is climbing, Oklahoma is falling and the USC faithful are already peeved. Sweet.
But hold on. They’re ranked #2?! Doesn’t that mean something, anything?? After all, there are like, 14 of these polls left!! Isn’t #2 alright for now, Traveler??
I know, horsey, you feel slighted: It wasn’t enough that the NCAA coaching ranks didn’t honor the Trojans’ blowout victory in week 1 — over a University of Hawaii squad that’s been allotting roster spots to mermaids and beach snails since the departure of June Jones, mind you — by making them #1 in week 2 (thus rectifying their egregious error in the preseason polls), but the AP voters, those kind writers who gave them the preseason #1 spot, shunned them too! Blaspheme!
There’s conspiracy afoot, but I’m not worried. Lane Kiffin will get to the bottom of this, he won’t sleep until he does, rest assured. Do good work, Lane. We’re not really rooting for you.
Voters did, however, show Oregon some of the respect that the Rodney Dangerfield-ified Trojans seem to be missing out on:
In a fortuitous flip-flop, the Ducks vaulted Oklahoma and settled into the #4 slot. It was a simple switch really: Florida State, Georgia and Arkansas played FCS Wack-a-Mole on Saturday, but Oregon’s starters did too, so there was no threat from below.
LSU and USC won handily over second-tier opponents, leaving them anchored in the top-3, and Alabama beat a “#8” ranked Michigan team (more on that later) which was plenty to propel them past a USC team with a resume featuring tons of promise and a win over Hawaii. That leaves Oklahoma, who managed to keep UTEP in the game on Saturday (Oklahoma led 10-7 at the end of the third quarter) yet couldn’t keep perennial Heisman contender Landry Jones on his feet for a five-step drop.
Oregon’s well greased offensive attack, the emergence of Marcus Mariota, the sustained brilliance of De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, and a first quarter conducted at Ludicrous Speed, made the vote pretty simple.
Don’t, however, expect Oregon to have much poll-mobility in the coming weeks: While next week’s matchup with Fresno State is a significantly tougher test than Arkansas State, it isn’t exactly an Alabama-Michigan matchup in voters eyes. Then the Ducks host Tennessee Tech — who’s schedule may or may not include Stevens Henegar College — before Arizona comes to town.
RichRod’s bunch might gel, they might even congeal to form the most cohesive and gelatinously-bound bunch since Hall & Oates, but even so, they probably won’t be ranked come Sept. 22.
That means that the Ducks don’t face a ranked (or potentially ranked) opponent until USC on Nov. 3, which, coincidentally, happens to be the same day as Alabama takes on LSU (or, in other words: THE GREATEST DAY IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL. EVER. FOR REALZ.).
Assuming that Alabama holds off Arkansas in two weeks and LSU can fight off Florida and South Carolina in back-to-back weeks, as well as Washington on Saturday (Pac-12 wishful thinking here gives the Huskies a fighting chance), then those two should hold steady in the top-3.
USC doesn’t play Notre Dame until Thanksgiving and their only tests prior to Oregon come at home against Stanford and on the road against Utah***, which means that they should stay in the top-3 as well.
That leaves Oregon on the outside, looking in, which is exactly where they want to be. If last season is any indication, being favored on paper means “precisely dick” when it comes to November rivalry games.
Two top-4 teams will fall on Nov. 3 if all goes chalk, and as long as Oregon isn’t one of them, they should be in line for the long-awaited poll jump.
Now that I’ve gotten sufficiently ahead of, well, just about anything, here are the top ten in both, again:
AP Top 25
- Alabama (45)
- USC (11)
- LSU (4)
- Florida State
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
USA Today-Coaches Poll
- Alabama (37)
- USC (14)
- LSU (7)
- Oregon (1)
- Florida State
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
Final note: I know that ‘Bama beat an eighth-ranked Michigan team like a drum on Saturday, but is that really Michigan’s fault? They didn’t rank themselves #8 in the country, and anyone who watched the struggle that was the 2012 Sugar Bowl could reaffirm the sentiment. They were probably better suited at #19, where they are now.
Denard Robinson is an exciting player in a boring conference. But dropping the poor kid into Cowboy Stadium last Saturday was like throwing Travis Pastrana into the middle of a Formula One race — his skills are all wrong for the event, his speed no longer stands out, his recklessness doesn’t ever seem calculated anymore and the rest of his team has absolutely no chance in the face of the well-oiled SEC machine.
But to say that this was anything other than a “taking care of business” exercise for Alabama seems a bit dramatic. Michigan is a solid Big Ten program (not even the best, or the second best, in the conference) who is still a few years and a Shane Morris away from true national relevance again. Is it really their fault that voters blissfully, wishfully and — ultimately — ignorantly declared them “back” before they ever were?
Brady Hoke is a fantastic coach, but his team has a few more All-Americans to go before they hit the Lloyd Carr levels of consistent production. And for the voters to ignore that is a bit irresponsible.
That’s it, that’s all. I’ll be back for more, catch you on the flip side.
*** Don’t believe me about the Utes? Check out the line from last year and remember that they played in L.A.. Now add 5,000 feet of altitude, what is oft-considered as the Pac-12’s best defense, a raucous crowd and a head coach who has a history of planning very well against big-time competition, and tell me that Utah doesn’t have a chance. Or tell me they don’t, I could use the metaphorical glass of water time and again.
Much respect, Rodney.