BCS Week 11: The Game of Leapfrog Continues

Kevin Cline

Half of the nation’s top-10 teams were idle this weekend, but Florida State made sure the BCS standings stayed in flux with their convincing win over undefeated Miami.  It was an exciting calm before this week’s highly-anticipated storm of elite match-ups.

Alabama remained in the top spot at No. 1 for the third edition of this seasons rankings, but the bigger story is the chase for No. 2.

Right behind the Tide is Florida State, edging out Oregon by .0090 points, after their dominant 41-14 win over then-No. 7 Miami.  It was the Seminoles’ second impressive win over a top-10 opponent in the past three weeks, the first being a 51-14 demolition of the Clemson Tigers, in Death Valley.

With the win, they gained ground with the voters and now hold the No.1 spot among the computers, ranking first in all but one category.  FSU is a legit contender on every level and could arguably have the most complete team in the NCAA.  Their offense ranks 3rd in points per game (51.1), while their defense is 4th (13.1).  Also, the fact that they have outscored top-25 opponents 155-28 this season is hard to ignore.

But, despite the immaculate play, they won’t have much control over what happens in the coming weeks after Alabama and Oregon play in what could be their toughest games of the season.

This is how close last year's game was.

Kevin Cline

This is how close last year’s game was.

The Oregon Ducks will kick off the week on ESPN Thursday, when they put the nation’s longest road winning streak on the line and visit the Bay Area to play No. 5 Stanford.  The Cardinal are the highest-rated one-loss team in the BCS, and they will defend their home field with the best defense the Ducks have faced all season.  To add to the anticipation, both teams are coming off of bye weeks and each should be near full strength.

Stanford’s defense allows just 19.4 points per game and last year, their tenacious front seven was a problem for Oregon’s offense.  However, they will be without fifth-year senior and co-captian defensive end/linebacker Ben Gardner.  He will be missed as the depth of skill players on offense plus a consistent defense, make the Ducks a much better team than a year ago.

Marcus Mariota is more composed as any man behind center should be at this point in the season.  He hasn’t thrown an interception since last years match-up against Stanford, and he has a multitude of weapons to chose from, which is why their offense is so deadly; 14 different Oregon players have scored on offense this season.

Marcus Mariota is ready to redeem himself this Thursday.

Kevin Cline

Marcus Mariota is ready to redeem himself this Thursday.

On defense is where they have improved the most.  Nick Aliotti’s squads have been known for causing many turnovers, but this year’s experienced defense is now a legitimate, shut-down force. They are 7th in points allowed per game, at 16.9, and that is on top of an offense averaging 55.6 points per game.  Oregon also has 71 plays over 20 yards, which is more than any other team in the country; they also have allowed the fewest, at 19 plays.

The stakes are the same as last year.  The Cardinal once again have the chance to spoil the Ducks title hopes for the second year in a row and make their own run for Pasadena.

The Crimson Tide hosts No. 13 LSU this Saturday in Tuscaloosa, and they too have each had a week to prepare.  The Tigers are a very good team on both sides of the ball and will give the champs some trouble, but I think Nick Saban and the Tide will pull this one out – partly because I think they are just playing too good right now.

‘Bama has allowed only 26 total points since their win over Texas A&M in mid-September, and their offense has scored 45-plus points in four straight games.

No. 4 Ohio State continues the nation’s longest win streak, after a 56-0 clobbering of Purdue.  The Buckeyes are still in the race but, with only one more big game on the schedule against an average Michigan team, they will not have enough style points to pass any of the top three teams without help from a loss.  Also, a battle-tested Michigan State team now lurks as a contender for the B1G Championship.

Another team that can start making a lot of noise in the BCS picture are the No. 6 Baylor Bears.  Baylor has the highest-scoring offense in the country but will have their first real test against No. 10 Oklahoma, this Thursday.  If the Bears win against the Sooners — and then continue to win in following weeks against No. 25 Texas Tech and a surging No. 14 Oklahoma State team – an undefeated Bears team could find themselves in contention for the No. 2 spot.

This week, the title scope will be narrowed down to a select few and should give us a good portrayal of which teams will play for the crystal football in January.

 

 

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