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College Football Season

Three of Seven Unbeaten Teams Are Idle

by Mike Mitchell

The unbeaten ranks have very little threat of dwindling this week as three of the seven teams are idle, and none of the other four face a team with fewer than three losses or a team ranked higher than 47th.

Boise State, Louisville and West Virginia all take a respite from action. Top-ranked Ohio State hosts No. 77 Minnesota (3-5), second-ranked Michigan entertains No. 97 Northwestern (2-6), third-ranked USC visits No. 47 Oregon State (4-3), and ninth-ranked Rutgers hosts No. 71 Connecticut (3-4).

Next week won't be much different, except for the much-anticipated Big East showdown between West Virginia and Louisville in Louisville.

The SEC seems to produce headline games every week. But, with no schools representing the conference among the unbeaten ranks, a logjam of SEC schools has occurred between 12th and 18th in the CCR Top 119. That's where you will find five teams from the conference that all have at least one loss (LSU, ranked 16th, has two defeats).

Auburn and Florida are the highest ranked SEC teams in the latest BCS Standings. The Tigers and Gators are situated at fifth and sixth, respectively. The Vols, Razorbacks and LSU Tigers all stand between 11th and 16th.

This week, the conference provides two high-profile games with Florida and Georgia renewing their annual border war in Jacksonville, while Tennessee visits South Carolina. Wins by the Bulldogs and Gamecocks would throw the East Division in to complete chaos with four two-loss teams.

The picture is much clearer in the West Division where Arkansas is undefeated in SEC play but still has road dates on the agenda with South Carolina and Mississippi State, and home games against Tennessee and LSU. The Razorbacks go out-of-conference this week to play Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock.

SEC Leaders
Florida 6-1 4-1
Tennessee 6-1 2-1
Georgia 6-2 3-2
South Carolina 5-2 3-2
Arkansas 6-1 4-0
Auburn 7-1 4-1

Thursday night's battle in Blacksburg between Clemson and Virginia Tech is a possible stumbling block for the Tigers, and an opportunity for redemption for the Hokies.

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit will be in the booth two weeks after rightfully ripping a few of Virginia Tech's players for their boorish on-field behavior in a lopsided defeat at Boston College. The team was forced to watch and listen to Herbstreit's remarks and, in last week's 36-6 win over Southern Miss, they exhibited none of that same self-aggrandizing attitude and committed just five minor penalties the entire game.

It's interesting to note that Virginia Tech was the least-penalized team in the nation last year when they started 8-0. But by the end of the season, which included two losses in their last four games, they were among the most-penalized.

Clemson looked like world-beaters in their 31-7 demolition of Georgia Tech last Saturday, with two runners racking up over 300 combined yards. That victory improved Tommy Bowden's club to 7-1 over-all, 4-1 in the ACC, but three other teams in their division also have just one conference defeat - Boston College, Wake Forest and Maryland. The Tigers have already lost to BC and beaten Wake Forest. They host Maryland next week, and finish their ACC slate at home against N.C. State the following week.

A Virginia Tech win on Saturday, coupled with a Miami win at Georgia Tech, would give the Hokies new life in the Coastal Division race. At the very least, a victory would gain the Hokies a Top 25 spot in the BCS Standings, a shot at a good bowl game and, with good behavior, renewed respect by a national television audience.

ACC Leaders
Clemson 7-1 4-1
Boston College 6-1 3-1
Wake Forest 6-1 2-1
Maryland 5-2 2-1
Georgia Tech 5-2 3-1
Miami 5-2 2-1
Virginia Tech 5-2 2-2
Virginia 3-5 2-2

Miami's 13 player suspensions, a result of the brawl with FIU two weeks ago, almost cost them dearly last Saturday against Duke. The Hurricanes needed an intercepted pass at the goal line on the final play of the game to escape Durham with a 20-15 win over the lowly Blue Devils. Twelve of those players are expected to be back in uniform for this week's pivotal game at Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets are looking for vindication themselves after last week's humbling loss to Clemson in which WR Calvin Johnson, one of the top players in college football, was held without a single reception for the first time in his career. Even with that defeat, Georgia Tech still controls its own destiny in the Coastal division.

North Carolina on Monday fired John Bunting as its head coach but he will stay in that capacity through the end of the season. Bunting enters this week's home game against Wake Forest with a 1-6 season mark, an 0-4 conference record, an over-all record of 25-42, and seven straight losses to 1-A teams. Bunting was hired in 2000 after Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer appeared to be headed to Chapel Hill but declined at the last minute. Bunting's first team went 8-5 and beat Auburn in the Peach Bowl, but his best record since then was 6-6 in 2004 with a loss to Boston College in the Charlotte-based Continental Tire Bowl (now known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl).

While Miami managed to survive its game against Duke while 13 players were suspended, FIU had a week to prepare for this week's game at Alabama. The Golden Panthers handed down 16 player suspensions and dismissed 2 players from the squad. To say they will be short-handed this week would be a gross understatement. Anything less than a 50-point whipping could be considered a monumental accomplishment.

Rutgers will attempt to run its record to 8-0 on Sunday night when the Scarlet Knights host UConn. Rutgers has made its mark this season behind the Big East's leading rusher, Ray Rice. Rice has ran for over 1,100 yards and is ranked fourth nationally, just ahead of West Virginia RB Steve Slaton.

On defense, Rutgers has allowed a miniscule 8.6 points per game.

Though the roster of Scarlet Knights' victims isn't daunting, it does include four schools that currently possess winning records (Ohio, South Florida, Navy and Pitt). Rutgers is one of only two teams to defeat Navy or Pitt.

In the Big 12, Texas looks to keep its lead over Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Baylor - yes, Baylor, in the South Division. A week after dodging defeat in Lincoln to Nebraska, the Longhorns go to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech.

Baylor is one of three teams in the division with just one conference loss and that came against Texas two weeks ago. The Bears (4-4, 3-1) host Texas A&M (7-1, 4-1) on Saturday.

Oklahoma (5-2, 2-1 south) invades Missouri (7-1, 3-1 north). Next week, the Tigers have to visit their division co-leader, Nebraska (6-2, 3-1).

Kent State has caught fire in the MAC and the Golden Flashes can improve their record to 6-2 over-all, 5-0 in conference play with a home win over Ohio on Saturday. But the Bobcats won't bow out easily as Frank Solich's team would control its destiny for the East Division title with a win this week. Kent State and Ohio are the only division teams with fewer than two conference losses.

Central Michigan ((5-3, 5-0) leads the West and is idle this week. Western Michigan (5-2, 3-1) needs a home win over Eastern Michigan on Saturday to keep the Chippewas within reach. Central Michigan and the Broncos are the only teams in their division with less than two MAC losses and they face-off on November 10 at Mount Pleasant.

Brigham Young's visit to rival Air Force lost some luster when the Falcons fell at San Diego State this past Saturday, giving the Aztecs their first win under Chuck Long and the Academy its first Mountain West Conference loss. Without that defeat, both schools would be entering this game with unblemished conference records. Still, an Air Force victory this week would put them right back on top of the standings.

BYU is enjoying its best success under Gary Crowton since his inaugural team in 2001 started 10-0. Three losing years and a .500 campaign followed, but Crowton now has his team in control of its own destiny for a MWC title with a 5-2 record over-all and 3-0 mark in the league.

The Falcons, 3-3 over-all, 3-1 in the Mountain West, have lost the last two games in the series.

It's basically down to just California and USC for the PAC-10 title. The Golden Bears and Trojans are unbeaten in conference play while everyone else has at least two losses. Cal, after escaping Washington in overtime last week, is idle this week. USC goes on the road to face Oregon State.

The conference's biggest battle this week may be Washington State (5-3, 3-2) at UCLA (4-3, 2-2). Each is still in the hunt for a decent PAC-10 bowl slot, but both are more likely destined for El Paso, Hawaii, Las Vegas or San Francisco. The Bruins' fortunes changed dramatically with their last-second loss at Notre Dame this past Saturday.

Seven teams enter the week with unblemished records - Boise State, Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State, West Virginia, Rutgers, and USC.

Last year, there were six undefeated teams at this point of the season.

Fourteen teams enter this week with just one loss. There were thirteen at this point last year.

Four schools are still looking for their first win - Duke, FIU, Stanford, and Temple.

The same number of teams were winless at this juncture last year and, yes, Temple was one of them.

All games Saturday unless otherwise indicated.

2 teams play 1-AA schools this week.

Portland State will be playing its third 1-A opponent of the season when it visits Oregon on Saturday. The Vikings beat New Mexico 17-6 in the season-opener, then lost to Cal 42-16 two weeks later. Portland State is just 4-2 against 1-AA teams with losses to Montana and Montana State. Montana State is the team that beat Colorado in its season-opener.

Meanwhile, Cal-Poly is lining up against its second 1-A opponent when it faces San Diego State. The Mustangs lost 17-7 to San Jose State on September 23.

Over 75 schools took the opportunity of a 12th game to schedule a cupcake opponent.

Only one school faced a 1-A team last week as Minnesota survived North Dakota State. 10-9. 1-AA teams are 6-68 for the season. Since the start of the 2003 campaign, 1-A teams hold the upper hand by a huge margin, 232-24 (.906).

USC has won 38 straight regular season games, a nation's-best 30 consecutive home victories, and 27 straight conference games.

Ohio State owns the nation's longest winning streak at 15 games.

West Virginia has won 14 straight games.

Boise State has won 34 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos have never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (22-0). Boise State has won 10 straight regular season games.

Texas has won 19 straight conference games. The Longhorns have also won 16 straight road games.

Louisville has won 12 straight regular season games.

Temple owns the nation's longest losing streak at 20 games. They've lost their eight games this year by an average score of 44 to 8. They lost all 11 games last year by an average result of 45 to 9.

Duke has lost 15 straight games over-all, 17 straight to 1-A teams.

Stanford has lost 10 straight games.

New Mexico State has lost 18 straight to 1-A teams.

The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. We're tracking their progress throughout the season.

Boise State, 8-0 under Chris Petersen, is idle.
Wisconsin, 7-1 under Bret Bielema, hosts Illinois.
Middle Tennessee, 4-3 under Rick Stockstill, visits Louisiana-Lafayette.
Idaho, 4-4 under Dennis Erickson, visits Hawaii.
Kansas State, 4-4 under Ron Prince, hosts Iowa State.
Rice, 3-5 under Todd Graham, is idle.
Northwestern, 2-6 under Pat Fitzgerald, visits Michigan.
San Diego State, 1-5 under Chuck Long, hosts 1-AA Cal-Poly.
Buffalo, 1-6 with Turner Gill, visits Boston College.
Colorado, 1-7 under Dan Hawkins, visits Kansas.
Temple, 0-8 under Al Golden, hosts Bowling Green.


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