The Football Blitz

Can Oregon or Cal finally break through and beat the mighty Trojans? Who are the biggest surprises and disappointments this season? Can Ron Zook steal a big one from the Sunshine State? I will answer these questions and more in this week's Football Blitz.

A few weeks ago reviewed members of the Top 100. One of those members was Delray Beach (Fla.) safety Brandon Owens. Owens was our No. 1 safety in the country and he went on to sign with Minnesota. There, he starred for the Golden Gophers before suffering a career ending shoulder injury against Penn State last season. Owens violently collided with Nittany Lions quarterback Michael Robinson.

This past January Owens underwent eight hours of surgery at the Mayo Clinic. His injury was so severe that his nerves were pulled off his vertebrae. He remains at Minnesota and now serves as a student assistant coach. Thank you to Michael Andrews of St. Paul (Minnesota) for pointing to my error. My apologies to Owens and to Minnesota for overlooking Owens and for his past and future contributions to the Golden Gophers program.

The Football Blitz Power Ratings
Top 20
1) Ohio State (7-0)
The Buckeyes went to East Lansing and handled the Spartans 38-7. Next up are the Indiana Hoosiers, who have won two Big 10 games in a row against Illinois and Iowa.

2) Michigan (7-0)
The Wolverine defense dominated Penn State. The Nittany Lions rushed for -14 yards. Michigan running back Michael Hart rushed for 100 yards once again. The maize and blue have Iowa at home this weekend.

3) West Virginia (6-0)
When running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White rush for a combined 410 yards and five touchdowns you know you are in big trouble. That's exactly what they did against Syracuse and the Mountaineers won by 24. West Virginia takes on UConn on Friday night.

4) USC (6-0)
The Trojans went to their ground game late with Chauncey Washington to defeat Arizona State 28-21. USC is idle this week with Oregon State looming on Oct. 28.

5) Texas (6-1)
The Longhorns fell behind early and then reeled off 28 straight to take control in second quarter against Baylor. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw for a school record six touchdown passes. UT will face a huge test this weekend when they travel to Lincoln to take on Nebraska.

6) Louisville (6-0)
Brian Brohm was back for Louisville this past weekend against Cincinnati. He was 20-37 for 324 yards, a touchdown pass and interception. It was their 15th straight win at home. They go to Syracuse this weekend.

7) Auburn (6-1)
The Tigers won a big one against Florida, dominating defensively and on special teams in the second half. Auburn was able to run consistently against the Gator defense. They face Tulane on Saturday.

8) Florida (6-1)
The Gators special teams help beat LSU and it was the Florida special teams that lost it for them against Auburn. The Gators will have the week off before taking on Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 28.

9) Tennessee (5-1)
Tennessee was off this past weekend. The Vols take on the Crimson Tide on Saturday.

10) Cal (6-1)
The Bears won their sixth straight. This time it was against Washington State on the road. Cal running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 152 yards and two scores. Next up for the Bears, Washington.

11) Notre Dame (5-1)
The Fighting Irish got the week off. This week Notre Dame hosts UCLA.

12) Clemson (6-1)
The Tigers ran right through Temple 63-9 behind running back James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Clemson hosts Georgia Tech this Saturday night in what could be a preview of the ACC Championship Game.

13) LSU (5-2)
The Tigers mauled the Wildcats 49-0 behind three touchdown receptions by wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. LSU's defense held the Kentucky offense to 227 total yards of offense. Fresno State comes to Baton Rouge on Saturday night.

14) Georgia Tech (5-1)
Tech was idle as they hope to get healthy and ready for their ACC showdown at Clemson this weekend.

15) Nebraska (6-1)
The Cornhuskers held K-State to just a field goal and they once again got balance on offense in their 21-3 win. They host Texas this weekend in what could be their statement game.

16) Oregon (5-1)
The Ducks rushed for 256 yards against a stingy Bruin run defense. Running back Jonathan Stewart led the way with 121 yards. Quarterback Dennis Dixon threw for 144 yards and two scores. Oregon faces Washington State on the road.

17) Arkansas (5-1)
The Razorbacks whipped SE Missouri State 63-7. The Hogs went wild on the ground once again with 381 yards. Arkansas hosts Ole Miss next.

18) Boise State (7-0)
Boise State went on the round and beat New Mexico State last night 40-28 behind the running of Ian Johnson. Boise State takes on Idaho next weekend. 19) Rutgers (6-0)
Rutgers continues their impressive run. This time they shut down and shut out Navy. Defense led the way, holding Navy to 161 total yards. Rutgers faces their toughest test so far this season as they travel to Pitt.

20) Wisconsin
The Badgers run right through Minnesota with an impressive road win 48-12. They had balance on offense and mustered over 400 yards of total offense. Wisconsin takes on Purdue Saturday.

Adrian Peterson
The Heisman race continues to be Troy Smith's to lose, as Ohio State's quarterback had another strong performance. Running back Adrian Peterson just took himself out of the running by sustaining a season ending injury (broken collarbone) against Iowa State. Florida quarterback Chris Leak likely took himself out of the race with Florida losing to Auburn and Leak having a poor second half for the Gators. What about Garrett Wolfe? This great running back from North Illinois got derailed this past weekend. How about Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson? He still may be the game's best player and he will have a chance to showcase his talents on national television this weekend against Clemson.

1)Troy Smith (QB) Ohio State
Smith continues his great play. This time he picked apart Michigan State. Smith was 15/22 for 228 yards and two scores. For the season he has completed 68% of his passes for 1,495 yards, 17 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.

2) Adrian Peterson (RB) Oklahoma
Peterson is likely done as a Sooner after breaking his collarbone following a terrific 53-yard touchdown run. He finished with 183 rushing yards and two scores. Peterson has 983 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year.

3) Steve Slaton (RB) West Virginia
Slaton rushed for 163 yards and one touchdown against Syracuse while averaging over eight yards per carry. For the season he has rushed for 978 yards and eight touchdowns and has averaged 7.4 yards per carry.

4) Garrett Wolfe (RB) Northern Illinois
Wolfe was held to 25 rushing yards on 18 carries against Western Michigan. The 25 yards were his lowest rushing total since running for 24 against Maryland in his 2004 college debut. He had 11 consecutive 100-yard games and 11 consecutive games in which he scored a touchdown.

5) Calvin Johnson (WR) Georgia Tech
Johnson and the Yellow Jackets did not play this week. They face Clemson this weekend and it will be a nice showcase game for Johnson. On the year he has 35 receptions for 559 yards and eight touchdowns.

Matthew Stafford
With Mitch Mustain, Tim Tebow, and Matthew Stafford all receiving playing time this year, who do you think has preformed the best? Also, who do you think will be the better quarterback in the SEC in years to come?
John (Daytona Beach, Florida)
Boy that is such a tough question because all three quarterbacks are really being used differently right now. For this season Tebow is an anomaly. What I mean by that is Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer has found a way to bring Tebow off the bench. He is being used like a great sixth man in the NBA. Tebow has been instant offense for the Gators and has really lifted the team in crucial down and distance situations. Tebow has been more or less of a spark plug for the Florida offense and the Gator fans have fallen in love with their quarterback of the future. He fits the mold of what Meyer is looking for in a quarterback and Tebow has shown that he can run the football and run the football with authority. This is something Chris Leak can't do. Thus far Meyer and Florida Offensive Coordinator Dan Mullen have used Tebow brilliantly and found a way to maximize both Leak and Tebow in a very effective way.

Mustain started this season as the Arkansas backup. But the Razorbacks lost big in their opener to USC so Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt turned to his freshman in week two and Mustain has the their starter since. The Hogs have reeled off five straight wins with Mustain running the show, including the biggest win on the road at Auburn last weekend. He will have a chance to guide Arkansas to the SEC West title and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game in early December if he continues this pace. Right now, the Razorbacks control their destiny because they have beaten Alabama and Auburn. Their main hurdles will be LSU, South Carolina and Tennessee. All they will need to do is win two of those three games and beat Ole Miss and Mississippi State and they will find themselves the winner of the West. Mustain has a dominating running game that has really taken a lot of pressure off of him. When asked to throw he has passed the ball pretty well, although he does make some freshman mistakes. Mustain is currently 7th in the SEC in passing efficiency as he has thrown for 625 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.

Stafford finds himself in a situation where he is battling two others for the Georgia job – senior Joe Tereskinski and red-shirt freshman Joe Cox. Tereshinski got hurt early in the season and Mark Richt turned over the reigns to his freshman phenom Matthew Stafford. At times, Stafford has been able to display his big arm but like most true freshman starters in the SEC at this position, he has made freshmen mistakes. Richt has shuffled in and out all three of these quarterbacks and their offense has sputtered. The running game has been inconsistent and receivers have dropped too many passes. In other words, regardless of who is playing quarterback, the Georgia offense has been lackluster at best for the first half of the season. There is no question that Stafford is the future of Georgia football at this position and he has incredible physical tools.

Last season the top three rated quarterbacks in the nation where Mustain (No.1 ), Stafford (No. 2) and Tebow (No. 3). The future looks exceptionally bright at Arkansas, Georgia and Florida with this trio of signal callers. All three have played different roles so far this year but all three are getting some valuable playing time and experience. And all three are making major contributions. You have to say Mustin or Tebow are playing the best and showing the most consistency. But let's wait a few seasons and debate then because all three should have great careers at their respective schools.

What team is the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment in college football so far this season?
Mike (Columbus, Ohio)

1) Wake Forest
They are winning without their starting QB, RB and tackle. They are likely a botched field goal (vs. Clemson) from being 7-0.
2) Rutgers
Lets see how Rutgers does against Pittsburgh this weekend. They still have West Virginia and Louisville.
3) Michigan
The Wolverines are a surprise from the stand point that no one thought they would be this good this season, especially on defense.

What has happened to this once elite program? What happened to their play makers?
2)Florida State
Injuries have hurt the Seminoles more than anything. They still can't run the football.
3) Arizona
Many thought that the Wildcats would break through this season.

Marshawn Lynch
Do you think Cal and/or Oregon can beat USC? I am so sick of the Trojans. Someone in the Pac 10 needs to beat them and win the conference title.
Mike (Las Vegas, Nevada)
At the start of the season I didn't think that anyone in the Pac 10 could or would beat USC. But I am really starting to have my doubts, especially after three close calls by the Trojans. They beat Washington State 28-22, Washington 26-20 and Arizona State 28-21. Southern Cal is 6-0 and No. 2 in the BCS standings. Part of the problem is perception. We have all grown used to USC whipping everyone by 40 and rolling up 600 yards of offense. The bottom line is this there was so much player turnover with this Trojan team and they did lose a ton of firepower. Yet everyone still expected Southern Cal to steam roll over everyone and that has not happened.

But a win is a win and USC keeps winning. They find themselves right in the mix once again but to get to the big dance will be very tough this season, especially against the two teams you mentioned in Cal and Oregon. USC gets them both at home next month on successive weeks, with the Ducks on the 11th and the Bears on the 18th. The Trojans will have the Beavers and Cardinal to work out their kinks because you know they will be in for a battle against Oregon and Cal. And Cal is playing as well as anyone in the country right now.

I think right now Cal is playing the best football in the Pac 10 and if both teams continue their same play they could certainly upset the Trojans in L.A.

How does USC keep getting all of these running backs?
Allen (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

That's a good question that often gets asks to me. The answer is simple, this is USC we are talking about. The Trojans are in the middle of an amazing run. When you factor in that former USC running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy and is considered one of the most electrifying football players in a generation, recruits are going to pay attention and take notice.

It's the double whammy and USC Head Coach Pete Carroll and his assistants certainly know how to take advantage of it when it comes to recruiting. Last year they cashed in on the running back position with Emmanuel Moody, Stafon Johnson, Stanley Havili and C.J. Gable. This season Marc Tyler (Westlake Village, Calif.) and Broderick Green (Little Rock, Ar.) have already given their commitments to Southern Cal. Tyler is the nation's No. 2 rated back while Green checks in at No. 6. Running backs like Joe McKnight (River Ridge, La.), Caleb King (Norcross, Ga.) and Jahvid Best (Richmond, Calif.) are among the top backs still undecided and they are all high on the Trojans.

So how do they pull this off? They sell their past and the future. What? Tradition is a great tool and USC certainly has plenty of it, especially at running back. And that's short term and long term. Look at the "old" USC with backs like OJ Simpson, Charles White, Mike Garrett and Marcus Allen. Then you just need to look at the past few years and see what Bush and LenDale White did for the men of Troy.

Add to the fact that key backups on campus have had the injury bug. For instance the Trojans can't keep a fullback healthy and many backup tailbacks have sustained severe injuries like Desmond Reed, Michael Coleman and Hershel Dennis.

When push comes to shove Pete Carroll and USC will get their running backs in the end. They did so last year and they will do so once again come February. The Trojans just have too many positive things to sell about their great program. nailed it on the head with Sam Young (Notre Dame) and Andre Smith (Alabama) as the nation's top two O-linemen in last year's class. Do you think Josh Oglesby, Anthony Davis, and the other top OLs can make the same sort of impact next year?
Steve (Madison, Wisconsin)

Steve, it's really hard to say. We kind of knew that Smith would end up at Alabama and they really needed tackle help. Same thing with Young and Notre Dame. Oglesby (Saint Francis, Wi.) will certainly have a chance to play or contribute at Wisconsin but he would greatly benefit from a red-shirt year. The same can be said about Tray Allen (Grand Prairie, Texas) and his playing possibility next season in Austin. It's doable but he would certainly benefit from a red-shirt season. That goes for most freshmen, especially linemen. Much of it depends on where these prospects go and the need at those particular schools.

On a side note, I think it is safe to say that both Smith and Young would be rated higher than any o-linemen coming out this season. Those two are special.

A.J. Green
Why can't Georgia recruit any wide receivers?
Scott (Marietta, Georgia)

Georgia seems to recruit every position exceptionally well but for whatever reason they have had a hard time recruiting elite receiver prospects. The state of Georgia is usually loaded with top end talent at each position each year. But for some odd reason the wideout position hasn't been as highly regarded of late except for prospects like Sean Bailey and Calvin Johnson. Georgia signed Bailey but lost Johnson to the Yellow Jackets. Bailey hasn't quite lived up to expectations while Johnson is regarded as the nation's top receiver and potentially the top pick in next year's NFL draft. Why Georgia can't sign more top flight wide receivers has to be one of the biggest mysteries when it comes to recruiting because they seem to sign a bevy of talent at every other position.

Having a young talent at quarterback like Matthew Stafford sure should help them recruit and it already appears to be paying dividends when it comes to the receiver position for the future.

As you look ahead, Georgia has two exceptional talents committed to the Dawgs. Walter Hill is regarded as one of the top overall athletes in the Peach State. Hill, 6-5 and 200 pounds, plays quarterback for Gainesville (Ga.) East Hall High School. He was committed to Georgia already but that was to play basketball for Dawg Head Coach Dennis Felton. Last week, he switched sports from basketball to football and will likely play both sports in Athens.

Then there is A.J. Green from Summerville (S.C.) High School. He is only a junior and widely regarded as the nation's top receiver among the Class of 2008. Green recently committed to Georgia. This is the type of prospect that Dawg fans will be drooling over because of his big play capability. Green has great size and speed and is absolutely brilliant in the air. He is also a super deep threat and extraordinary with the ball in his hands. Despite the talent level at Georgia, Green is the type of prospect that can come in and make an impact on this football team. But, everyone will have to wait until the '08 season. Green is only a junior and could be the No. 1 prospect in the nation among the Class of 2008.

I saw your story/update this past week on D'Angelo McCray. Any chance that Illinois can steal him away from Florida?
Chris (Chicago, Illinois)

Sure. There is a chance that defensive lineman D'Angelo McCray could end up at Illinois. He told me on Tuesday night that he currently favors the Gators and Illini. McCray took his official visit to Champagne last weekend. He stated that he had a nice visit and really liked the direction of the program. Obviously, Ron Zook's team has only one way to go and that's up. They are playing a ton of young kids including true freshman quarterback Isaiah "Juice" Williams. Williams was one of the top signal callers last recruiting season and this quarterback is very raw but has tremendous upside. Williams is the type of quarterback you can build a program around and sell to future prospects. McCray knows this and he mentioned that to me. Also, remember that Illinois assistant coach Dan Dish is recruiting him. Dish was the long time head coach at Jacksonville Ed White High School. He left Ed White a few seasons ago to join Zook's staff at Florida and then went to Illinois with him.

So could he shock the Sunshine State and sign with Illinois? Honestly, I still think he signs with the Gators but if someone can pull him away it's Ron Zook. Zook has proven himself as one of the best recruiters in the country and he is selling prospects like McCray that they can come in and play early. He is starting several true freshman now.

Remember, McCray originally committed to Florida over the summer only to back off that commitment. The Gators are read hot on the field and they are losing several defensive linemen to graduation. Florida State, Louisville, Ole Miss, and Georgia Tech are also players for McCray. He visited Louisville this past weekend and he visits the Jackets at the end of the month.

McCray says his decision will come down to how his official visits went and what place he feels the most comfortable at. This one could get interesting.

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