College football: Not all 4-0 marks are so impressive

September 30, 2010|By Chris Dufresne

Twenty-five major college teams remain undefeated, not all are equal, and only one can win this season's national title.

In fact, the title might not go to any of the 25. A one-loss team — say Iowa, which was brave enough to risk a nonconference game at Arizona — might have the backbone to fight back.

Know this: Early-season records and statistics in college football are only slightly less fraudulent than pro wrestling.

Pass completions against Georgia State — which plays at Alabama on Nov. 18 — count just as much as they do against Georgia Tech. Wisconsin just scored a school-record 70 points … against Austin Peay.

People argue that polls shouldn't be released until mid-October. What about statistics? The NCAA does a terrific job in September compiling meaningless mounds of misleading information.

Texas ranks No. 2 in total defense a week after UCLA ran for 264 yards against the Longhorns.

Six Big 12 schools have a combined record of 23-0. Terrific, but 21 of those were staged at home against less-than-inspiring competition.

The Big Ten, too, has six unbeaten teams — but 18 of its 22 triumphs were home-cooked, many against "directional schools."

The Pac-10 has only four undefeated teams, but half of those teams' 16 victories were on the road. The Southeastern Conference's four undefeated teams have a total of six road triumphs.

The serious stuff starts now with conference play kicking in.

Posers: Indiana, Texas A&M, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma State.

The most impressive victory among this group is … we can't find one.

Need more information: Florida, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Michigan, USC, Nebraska.

Florida seems to have found its footing after an awful opener against Miami of Ohio and skittish performances against South Florida and Tennessee. The Gators' trip to Tuscaloosa Saturday should bring us up to date on Florida's progress.

Kansas State's opening victory against UCLA suddenly seems more impressive. Wisconsin, which struggled at home against San Jose State and Arizona State, is getting way more love in the polls than it has earned. Michigan started 4-0 last year and finished 5-7.

Nebraska's really big victory at Washington (56-21) was countered by its really tiny home win against South Dakota State (17-3).

Impressed/not yet convinced: Oklahoma, Utah, Auburn, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan State, North Carolina State, LSU.

Arizona showed moxie in last drives to beat Iowa and California, but tough Pac-10 work is still to come. Michigan State needed a trick play at home to outlast mediocre Notre Dame.

North Carolina State, led by marvelous quarterback Russell Wilson, could be the best team in the ACC, but what does that mean? And LSU has this funny habit (2003, 2007) of sneaking up on people to win national titles.

The whole 10 yards: Alabama, Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, Texas Christian, Ohio State.

Alabama escaped at Arkansas and is only going to get better as the season and the defense progress, so Florida (this week) or South Carolina (next week) had better take their best shots.

Boise State has proved, without doubt, it belongs in this group, although the Broncos' next big test probably won't come until a late-November trip to Nevada.

The winner of Stanford at Oregon on Saturday becomes the Pac-10's team to beat, although it's hard to see how the champion gets out without a loss or two.

TCU is well positioned in the top five but needs a Boise State bobble to become this season's gate-crasher.

Ohio State can't play every game at home this year (only eight), so its fate likely will be decided on trips to Wisconsin (Oct. 16) and Iowa (Nov. 20).

cdufresne@tribune.com

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