Monday, November 03, 2008

Texas Tech Jumps Penn State in BCS Rankings

Did someone spot Joe Paterno doing the Texas Tech "Guns Up" salute during the Red Raiders' upset of Texas?

OK, it's only my imagination. But Paterno had to love seeing the Longhorns go down on Graham Harrell's 28-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with one second left. If Paterno doesn't understand how that result benefits his team, savvy Penn State fans certainly do.

Yes, Texas Tech jumped Penn State in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings. And the Red Raiders showed they're a three-dimensional team with a defense that swarmed Texas quarterback Colt McCoy and a running game that chewed the clock.

Still, for the Red Raiders to stay above Penn State, they will have to beat both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma — and then avoid an upset in the Big 12 title game. Good luck with that.

So although Penn State, at No. 3, is on the proverbial outside, the Nittany Lions can look in on two teams that few believe will run the table.

A breakdown of the BCS' Top 7:

1. Alabama (9-0)

Case for: The only undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference, a league Southerners think is stronger than the NFC East.

Case against: Best victories came over recently exposed Clemson and Georgia. Barely beat Kentucky and Ole Miss at home.

What's next: A Saturday date with No. 15 LSU in Baton Rouge. A season-ender against Auburn. And an SEC title game throwdown with, we assume, Florida.

2. Texas Tech (9-0)

Case for: An instant classic, 39-33 victory over Texas (seriously, ESPN Classic will replay it at 6 p.m. Tuesday) and the nation's No. 1 passing offense (418.4 ypg).

Case against: Has played one Top 20 opponent. Shameful non-conference slate featured two non-Division I teams.

What's next: Will host equally explosive Oklahoma State on Saturday, then visit Oklahoma after a week off. A possible Big 12 title game with Missouri or Kansas.

3. Penn State (9-0)

Case for: Undefeated with an average victory margin of 30.7 ppg. Took the billy club to Oregon State, which beat USC. Maybe a sympathy vote for Paterno, whose five undefeated teams have yielded just two national titles.

Case against: Membership in the Big Ten. Fair or not—and largely because of Ohio State's BCS title game flameouts—the conference lacks cred.

What's next: A Saturday trip to Iowa, which ranks fifth nationally in points allowed per game (11.5). A season finale against Michigan State, which likely will be 9-2 and coming off an idle week.

4. Texas (8-1)

Case for: Was one play away—how did Blake Gideon drop that interception at Texas Tech?—from being undefeated against the nation's toughest schedule.

Case against: Texas Tech loss.

What's next: Dates with three decent foes: Baylor, Kansas and Texas A & M.

5. Florida (7-1)

Case for: Throttled preseason No. 1 Georgia behind five touchdowns (three rushing, two passing) from Tim Tebow. Beat LSU by 30. Defense has allowed 10 points or fewer in six games.

Case against: Home loss to Ole Miss.

What's next: Tough road games Saturday at Vanderbilt and Nov. 29 at Florida State, plus a visit from South Carolina. A probable date with Alabama for the SEC title.

6. Oklahoma (8-1)

Case for: Eight breezy victories, thanks to the nation's No. 2 scoring offense (48.3 ppg). A Top-20 caliber schedule.

Case against: Blew a fourth-quarter lead to Texas in a 45-35 thriller.

What's next: A trip to Texas A & M, then dates with touchdown factories Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Needs to win out to play in the Big 12 title game.

7. USC (7-1)

Case for: Six blowout victories, respect for scheduling a non-league slate of Virginia, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

Case against: A loss at Oregon State. Pac-10 has just one other ranked team, No. 21 Cal. Victories over feeble Washington and Washington State barely count.

What's next: Hosts 6-2 Cal on Saturday night. Closes against Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA.,0,5497139.column

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