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Easy Weekend Leads to Some Fearless Prognosticating and Possible Finger-Pointing

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As was mentioned Sunday, Auburn has climbed into the top 10 and settled at #8 in both the AP and coaches polls (full listings below). Curiously, Auburn had received better rankings this year from the coaches poll than the AP until last week, and this week they pull even. Any given week, Auburn is almost always ranked higher by the media than the coaches. Do you think that it has to do with the fact that many writers in the northeast may think we're in Maine?

As our team confidence builds and the schedule starts to shake itself out for everyone, the lay of the land in the poll rankings looks a little more decipherable. Not to get a big head, but all of a sudden most of those teams ranked ahead of us don't seem to me to be so lofty after all. Alabama and Ohio State still seem like monsters, but both have had chinks in their armor revealed--the Bucks almost got Zooked by Illinois this weekend, having to play catch-up virtually all day. Bama had their close call against the Razorbacks two weeks ago andin spite of the scoreboard this weekend, struggled somewhat with Florida . I'm not saying that we could play on either of their levels consistently at the moment, but what about the rest of the field that lies in front of and behind us? How might we fare against them?

I'm sorry, I'll say it again, but I don't respect Boise and TCU's schedules enough to find them deserving of their rankings. Even Utah has managed to sneak into the top 10, but they play TCU in early November, so that one will sort itself out in terms of a lingering non-AQ BCS candidate. The first BCS poll comes out in two weeks and I think Boise will drop out of the Top 5 and TCU might move down to 10th or so because the computers are going to get a chuckle out of their strength of schedules (SOS). Of Boise's quality opponents, Virginia Tech beat #23 NC State this weekend, but they're still unranked and Oregon State is roughly #35. That's not going to cut it unless most BCS top tier teams somehow get a loss.

#3 Oregon is still looking pretty strong, but were in the fight of their life against previous #9 Stanford Saturday night. The Ducks overcame a 21-3 deficit in the 2nd quarter to come back and eventually pull away 52-31 after Stanford failed to score in the 2nd half. Jeez, do they play no defense in the PAC? Regardless, Oregon can score some points, but what might they do against a SEC or Big Ten defense? I think I'd like them straight up against Ohio State in theRose Bowl for reasons I can't quite communicate nor comprehend at this point, (assuming they each faltered on the way to Glendale).  

The former Big 8 twins, now almost-divorced spouses Oklahoma and Nebraska, are 6th and 7th, directly in front of us, but it's hard to get a read on these teams. The Sooners blew FSU out, but then have played three very close games. They still don't convince me that they're a really good team, but they don't have many stumbling blocks left ahead of them. Of the remaining conference matches, only Mizzu and OkieState are currently ranked, both barely in the top 25. Nebraska, who has only played a significant team in Washington, still hasn't one conference game under their belt, and also face Missouri andOklahoma State, but add Texas as well. Should both run the table in decided fashion, they still meet up in the Big 12 CG, where one will certainly go by the wayside and probably wind up in the Cotton Bowl.

Yes, strangely, most of the teams ranked ahead of us don't instill as much fear in me as some of the teams ranked behind us. Arkansas, LSU andFlorida are all conference teams ranked closely behind. Two of those are on the schedule and the last one has a remote chance to be. This Saturday, LSU travels to Gainesville, and although there are grumblings from the Tiger faithful over last week's efforts, don't think they won't be thinking about their 1-4 record against the Gators the last half-decade. A second lossin a row for Urban Meyer would be only the second time Florida has done that under his tenure, the last being back-to-back losses to Auburn and LSU in 2007. Another Gator loss would leave the eastern division  wide-open for SouthCarolina, who would then control their own destiny for a trip to Atlanta even assuming they're saddled with a loss from Alabama. Now, before you go rooting against the Gators, think about who Auburn might want to play *if* we managed to win the west. Just wishful thinking, but  I think few would want to give the Gamecocks a rematch and would prefer to play Florida. (andassuming that the SEC champ would not longer have an automatic birth into the BCS CG.

I started last Saturday hoping that Tennessee and Florida would assist Auburn and elevate them to being in 1st place all alone in the west. Around 6pm CST, I thought that at a minimum, Auburn and Alabama would be tied, but those dreams were short lived, as LSU pulled out a miracle. Who among the trio of Auburn, LSU and Arkansas has the advantage at this point? Arkansas has already played Bama, but they have LSU at home and us on the road. LSUhas both Arky and us on the road, but Alabama at home. We play Alabama at their house, which historically ain't no thang at 6-1 all time, but quite a few bad memories linger from our last visit there.

I think a reasonable person would assume we have the advantage at this point over the Tigers and Hogs, but it is a real possibility that we could lose one of those games. I assign roughly half the same chance for Alabama losing any one of their remaining conference games before the Iron Bowl. Boiled down, there just isn't a way for Auburn to win the west without a victory over the Tide, because barring multiple player injury disasters, I just don't see them losing more than one game before they play us. Of course, we knew this going in, and the road to Atlanta will likely go through Gump town for quite a while, especially since the dominance of teams in the west over those in the east keep revealing themselves week after week this season.

How big would a duo of undefeated teams coming into the Iron Bowl be? Pretty War Damn Big, and it could decide the Heisman race, too. Glad to see that Cam is getting some press. No disrespect to Mark Ingram, but he won't win a second trophy this year--not unless he put up Barry Sanders like numbers--even if Bama runs the table. Besides, Ryan Mallett is still in the running, too, and our new guy, too. Many eyes across the nation are focused on the amazing antics of Cameron Newton on the football field, but winning is still the biggest edge in that race.

Don't get my hopes wrong. Auburn can't afford to look past anyone this year. We're thoroughly rested andwe're going to run the table with the remainder of OOC games, but we must concentrate on conference matchups, even the ones that now look like layups with Ole Miss and Georgia still struggling. We play Kentucky this weekend, and they looked like a good team at the start of the season, but they've gotten manhandled the last two games and surrendered 90 points total. Sounds like easy pickens for our offense, but let's take care of business and revenge the ineptitude of last year's loss to them. War Eagle!

 

AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Alabama (58) 5-0 1497
2 Ohio State (1) 5-0 1401
3 Oregon 5-0 1379
4 Boise State (1) 4-0 1341
5 TCU 5-0 1250
6 Oklahoma 5-0 1183
7 Nebraska 4-0 1172
8 Auburn 5-0 1045
9 Arizona 4-0 898
10 Utah 4-0 860
11 Arkansas 3-1 825
12 LSU 5-0 819
13 Miami (FL) 3-1 769
14 Florida 4-1 681
15 Iowa 4-1 670
16 Stanford 4-1 663
17 Michigan State 5-0 607
18 Michigan 5-0 555
19 South Carolina 3-1 450
20 Wisconsin 4-1 316
21 Nevada 5-0 286
22 Oklahoma State 4-0 173
23 Florida State 4-1 162
24 Missouri 4-0 99
25 Air Force 4-1 94
  • Dropped from rankings: USC 18, Texas 21, Penn State 22
    Others receiving votes:
    West Virginia 83, Kansas State 69, USC 52, Texas 33, Northwestern 25, Oregon State 12, Baylor 10, UCLA 8, Virginia Tech 8, North Carolina State 4, Penn State 1

USA Today Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Alabama (57) 5-0 1449
2 Ohio State (1) 5-0 1377
3 Oregon 5-0 1300
4 Boise State 4-0 1276
5 TCU 5-0 1187
6 Nebraska 4-0 1176
7 Oklahoma 5-0 1132
8 Auburn 5-0 988
9 LSU 5-0 930
10 Utah 4-0 868
11 Arizona 4-0 835
12 Florida 4-1 705
13 Arkansas 3-1 683
14 Miami (FL) 3-1 679
15 Iowa 4-1 643
16 Michigan State 5-0 625
17 Michigan 5-0 541
18 Stanford 4-1 448
19 Wisconsin 4-1 414
20 South Carolina 3-1 345
21 Oklahoma State 4-0 299
22 Missouri 4-0 271
23 Nevada 5-0 201
24 Florida State 4-1 164
25 Northwestern 5-0 67