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Archive for Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ohio State is in good shape - for now

It’s still early, but Buckeyes could meet Southern California for national title if both teams win out

September 26, 2006

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Granted, it's still September. But the Bowl Championship Series picture now has more shape and definition since the Harris Interactive pollsters weighed in with their first top-25 rankings of the season.

There were really no big surprises Sunday. Ohio State debuted at No. 1, and Southern California was No. 2. Auburn, West Virginia and Michigan rounded out the top five.

Fans might be asking themselves why this is important. After all, there's a ton of football remaining, right?

The Buckeyes and Trojans are 1-2 in both the Harris and USA Today coaches polls, which make up two-thirds of the BCS formula. Now that they're entrenched in the top two spots, all they have to do is keep on winning, and they'll be headed to Glendale, Ariz., for the BCS national championship game.

Buckeye and Trojans fans should pause before harassing their travel agent, though. Fans of other top-10 teams shouldn't give up hope, either.

If the Texas game didn't raise doubts about Ohio State's viability at No. 1, Saturday's sluggish start against Penn State should have.

The Buckeyes' run defense gave up another 142 yards. Quarterback Troy Smith seemed rather unimpressive in completing 12 of 22 passes for 115 yards, and Ohio State got shut out in the first half - at home, no less.

Smith's 37-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter gave OSU some breathing room. But the 28-6 final score doesn't look so good when you learn the Buckeyes had two interceptions returned for touchdowns in garbage time.

Iowa can rain on, if not downright ruin, OSU's championship hopes this weekend. The 13th-ranked Hawkeyes haven't exactly been competitive in this series lately. Ohio State has won nine of the last 10.

Let's say OSU does get past Iowa, though. The Buckeyes probably would be favored in every game leading up to the Nov. 18 showdown against Michigan at the Horseshoe.

Even if Jim Tressel's club does build up an 11-0 record to that point, it's not guaranteed the voters will stick with the Buckeyes. Last year, USC had 110 out of 113 first-place votes in the initial Harris poll on Sept. 25. By Nov. 20, USC had just 88 first-place votes. Texas had 25.

Speaking of the Trojans, the national perception seems to be they're down this year without Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Maybe we've all got USC fatigue. Fight On? By the end of last year, it was more like, Move On.

Still, new quarterback John David Booty and receiver Dwayne Jarrett are taking care of business. It appears as if USC will be on cruise control until a Nov. 25 date with Notre Dame. That is, if Brent Musberger doesn't give away any more hand signals.

Whoever wins the Texas-Oklahoma game still has a good chance to get back in the top five. Florida, Auburn, LSU and Georgia will take turns beating on each other in October. West Virginia and Louisville collide Nov. 2. And pollsters still love a one-loss Notre Dame.

Ohio State and USC sure look good in the BCS race as of today. Just remember one thing. It's still September.

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