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Entries in Texas (13)


Big 12 Preview: Nebraska, Texas Will Play Twice

Picture of Bob Stoops

One Great Season

Even without Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska's defense will again be outstanding enough to win the Big 12 North in 2010, and the South will again come down to Texas-Oklahoma.

Just in case the Longhorns and Sooners feel like phoning things in, however, Texas A&M will play the role of the third wheel this season and is quite capable of surprising one of those teams.

But that's just it; Oklahoma is pretty darned hungry after last year's injury-plagued 8-5 debacle, so it's hard to see the Sooners take even one play off in 2010.

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No. 4: Texas Longhorns

Picture of Mack Brown

The One Great Season College Football Countdown continues Tuesday. We'll be counting down the preseason Top 25 teams in 2010. Today's No. 4 is Texas.

One Great Season

Most teams that lose the kind of star power that Texas lost from its 13-1 squad a year ago are faced with rebuilding seasons.

And then there's Texas, which brings in stellar recruiting classes year after year, luring top talent and developing young players into key contributors ready to make an impact upon taking their first steps on campus.

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Tuesday Hoops Notebook: Is Texas Toast?

UConn wins the 1999 national championship

One Great Season

With all that talent, I really want to like Texas, but there is something seriously wrong with Rick Barnes' bunch.

I don't know why the Longhorns can't seem to put together a complete game the last few weeks. After starting 17-0 and earning their first-ever No. 1 ranking, a loss at Kansas State on Jan. 18 triggered the team's current 2-5 stretch.

Fortunately for the Horns, they can go 4-3 the rest of the way to finish 23-8 and 9-7 in the Big 12 heading into the conference tournament and probably earn a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That's not too terrible.


+ COUNTDOWN: The 10 Best NCAA Title Games Since 1979
+ REVIEW: Who's Saying What About Super Bowl XLVI?
+ LIST: Nine Things I Hate About The Super Bowl
+ VIDEO: Be ... A Nerd ... Be Be A Nerd
+ TELEVISION: 12 Must-See NCAA Games Down The Stretch
+ ARTICLE: The Sexiest T-Shirt In The World Lives Here
+ LIST: Top 10 Play-By-Play Men In College Basketball
+ LIST: Top 10 Analysts In College Basketball

Or, Barnes can get his team figured out somewhere along the way and Texas can get back to being the team we saw in the first two months of the season, the team many expected to reach the Final Four. A team that doesn't spend 11 straight scoreless minutes against the No. 1 team in the country, as it did against visiting Kansas Monday night. A team that doesn't commit 17 turnovers that lead to 27 points for the opposition.

Until I see such a turnaround, however, Texas looks like it will need to play near-perfect basketball just to advance past the second round.

Even to achieve that 4-3 finish, Texas needs to get back to playing physically, committing itself to the glass and earning better looks. The Longhorns seem to launch many contested shots. Maybe it's just a coincidence that they play teams who play their best defensive games. Or maybe there's just not enough movement in Texas' sets and therefore open looks are scarce.

Whatever the reason, Texas has some time -- not much, but some -- to get things figured out and get back on the winning track.

'NOVA LOOKING NICE: Guards and depth, guards and depth, guards and depth.

That's what will take Villanova back to the Final Four this year.

Even in their loss Saturday at Georgetown, during which the Hoyas built a 23-point lead, the Wildcats played hard the entire time and because of that, it seemed like Villanova was always within striking distance, even late in the game.

But Monday's impressive win at No. 4 West Virginia was another reminder that the Wildcats' backcourt is one of the best in the country, and that few teams can boast an 11-man rotation the way Villanova does sometimes.

FINAL FOUR PICKS: My projected Final Four sees one change this week, and it involves the two teams described above. I thought Texas might have turned the corner with a nice road win at Oklahoma State last week, but I'm obviously hurrying far away from that pick now. I had Villanova in the Elite Eight, but the Wildcats are now my pick to win the West.

+ EAST: Syracuse (West Virginia)
+ SOUTH: Kentucky (Duke)
+ MIDWEST: Kansas (Michigan State)
+ WEST: Villanova (Gonzaga)
+ SLEEPER: Siena

TUBE TIME: Keep your schedule open for the following games this week:

+ Tuesday: Tennessee at Vanderbilt (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Tuesday: Purdue at Michigan State (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Wednesday: Duke at North Carolina (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Thursday: Washington at California (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
+ Thursday: St. Mary's at Gonzaga (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
+ Friday: West Virginia at Pittsburgh (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
+ Saturday: Tennessee at Kentucky (9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Are you following me on Twitter? @onegreatseason | @johnpwise


Wednesday Hoops Notebook: Badgers Ready To Pounce

Jordan Taylor

One Great Season

After Tuesday's convincing defeat of Michigan State, Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3 Big Ten) has a very favorable remaining schedule down the stretch. The Badgers already have split with Purdue and Ohio State, and the toughest league opponent left for them is Illinois, which Wisconsin will play twice. Two games against Indiana also await, as do games against Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa.

The Badgers seem to be rounding into form as they await the return of Jon Leuer. Left on Michigan State's schedule are road dates at Illinois and Purdue, as well as home games against Ohio State and Purdue. And Sparty (19-4, 9-1) might have to play without reigning Big Ten Player Of The Year Kalin Lucas, who left Tuesday's game with a badly sprained ankle.

With Purdue getting healthy and Ohio State playing some nice basketball, the conference race just got a lot more interesting.

TWITTER NOTES: Here's a sign that we are definitely living in an interesting time: Ohio State star Evan Turner, whose Twitter handle is @thekidet, offered up a sympathetic note ("glad u ain't get hurt on that fall my dude") to Syracuse star Wesley Johnson -- @W_Johnson -- after Johnson landed very awkwardly during Tuesday's game against Providence.

Shortly after Syracuse wrapped up the easy win, Johnson, who ended up being OK, reciprocated: "Appreciate it bro."

TEXAS BOAST: I know it's just one win, but I think Texas has broken free from its slump. You barely heard the names Damion James, Avery Bradley, Dexter Pittman or J'Covan Brown on Monday night's broadcast, yet the Longhorns beat a decent Oklahoma State team on the road by a dozen. That's impressive, as was Jordan Hamilton's second-half scoring spree.

UCONN'T HANDLE THIS TRUTH: Connecticut isn't struggling because its coach, Jim Calhoun, is on medical leave. The Huskies are struggling because they're just not as good as they usually are. Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson are nice guards, but there's not much else about UConn that excites me.


Basketball Notebook: College, Pro Tidbits

Is Georgetown The 11th Best Team?

One Great Season

Flipping the channels around last night, I noticed a few things about the great game of basketball:

+ If Georgetown is the 11th-best team in the country, I don't think college basketball is very good this year. The more I think about rankings, the more worthless I think they are. Not because I think the ranking of a particular team is way out of line, but because there always seems to be a disconnect between the top tier of teams and everyone else. Sometimes that top tier can be six or eight teams, but this year, I think the cut-off separates just Texas, Kentucky and Kansas from everybody else. One of these three teams will win the national championship.

+ I like what Bruce Pearl continues to do at Tennessee, but for some reason I just haven't accepted the Vols as a serious threat in the national landscape. Sure they're an SEC power, and that league is better this year than last, but I just don't think they're there yet. UT is no better than a Sweet 16 team come March.

Gonzaga Beats St. Mary's

+ Gonzaga finally appears to have developed a nasty streak. I watched some of the Zags' game against a good Saint Mary's team, and as expected, Matt Bouldin had a nice night with 22 points. But although freshmen are a hot topic this year, one youngster not getting much hype is Elias Harris, who had 31 points and 13 rebounds. But overall, Gonzaga killed St. Mary's on the boards and played with a physical edge not typically seen from Mark Few's bunch or many west-coast teams in general.

+ On to the NBA, where the Jazz and Cavaliers played the best fourth quarter I've seen in a long time. Utah's 21-2 run gave the home team a 12-point lead, but Lebron James answered by scoring 18 of Cleveland's next 20 points, ultimately leading a 25-7 run that he punctuated with a pair of long-rang threes and a pair of foul shots. Cleveland led, 91-85 with 32 seconds left. But Utah clawed back and won at the buzzer with a three-pointer from Sundiata Gaines, a Queens, N.Y., native signed from the D-League last week, making just his fifth NBA appearance. The game-winning shot was his first NBA three-pointer. The Jazz scored 12 points in the final 32 seconds, a rate of 270 points per quarter.


College Basketball Notebook: Tar Heels In Trouble

Roy Williams

One Great Season

With exactly two months left until Selection Sunday, it's about time I start posting on college basketball.

Let's do it in notebook fashion, shall we?

+ Defending champion North Carolina is in trouble this year. The Heels only lost four times last season, but already have five losses this year, three of them by double figures, including last night's 83-64 dismantling at the hands of Clemson.

+ Speaking of Clemson, don't be fooled by the Tigers' 14-3 record. It's not uncommon for them to rush out of the gate, win a bunch of games and even earn a nice national ranking. But once the February doldrums set in, for some reason, Clemson teams are rarely up to the grind and they often flame out.

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+ And speaking of flaming out, has anyone seen Cincinnati the last few games? I used to criticize Bob Huggins' teams for not being mentally strong enough to finish tight games against good teams. Late mental mistakes cost the Bearcats many close ones back then, and that seems to remain the trend under Mick Cronin, now in his fourth year there. But unlike Huggins' teams, Cronin's don't finish seasons well, missing out on the NCAA tournament with weak late-season showings the last two years.

Ashley Judd

+ Just down the road in Lexington, it's great to see John Calipari restore the tradition at Kentucky, but given his track record, you can't help but wonder what kind of trouble looms there. Nonetheless, John Wall isn't just the best freshman in the country; he's the best player. And he and DeMarcus Cousins are the best young tandem in the nation, and with Patrick Patterson manning the post, look for the Wildcats to play deep into March.

+ Back to Huggins ... As much as I wanted him out at Cincinnati long before he was fired, he's like that ex-girlfriend that I just can't get over. If West Virginia is on television, I will almost always watch. I even became a one-and-done Kansas State fan when he had a cup of coffee there. But he's got his Mountaineers playing solid basketball, and I reckon they'll get a nice tournament seed and advance to at least the second weekend.

+ The best game left on the regular-season schedule is a no-brainer. Former No. 1 Kansas visits current No. 1 Texas on Monday, Feb. 8. Each side boasts a core of veterans, a good mix of perimeter and interior players and a star freshman. Kansas' Xavier Henry is a nice scorer with three-point range and a great body for such a young guard. Texas' Avery Bradley is improving on offense, but he's a lockdown perimeter defender and a fierce competitor.

+ Don't sleep on Ohio State. Sure I'm a homer, but the earlier-than-expected return of all-everything star Evan Turner already has paid huge dividends. ET scored 23 of his career-high 32 points in the second half of a huge comeback win at No. 6 Purdue Tuesday. OSU doesn't have a great record (12-5, 2-3), but a road win like that, coupled with a healthy conference player of the  year candidate, can only boost the Buckeyes' confidence.


Alabama Beats Texas In BCS Championship Game, 37-21

Nick Saban

One Great Season

Heading into the season, most figured Thursday night's BCS championship game would feature the Alabama-Florida winner and Texas.

That's exactly what the great sport got, but the game played out in a way that was anything but predictable.

Texas lost star quarterback Colt McCoy to a serious shoulder injury on his team's first offensive series, and while the Longhorns came to life in the second half, Alabama got a pair of late touchdowns to salt away the school's first national championship in nearly two decades.

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Heisman winner Mark Ingram scored on two short touchdown runs for the Tide, which completed only the third 14-0 season in the history of major college football.

"We had our eyes set on this since the beginning of the year," Ingram told ABC's John Saunders during the postgame trophy presentation. "It was truly a team effort. I'm just proud of everybody."

Ingram, just a sophomore, ran 22 times for 116 yards, while his backfield buddy, Trent Richardson, had 19 carries for 109 yards and two more scores.

Led by future NFL stars Rolando McClain and Terrence Cody, Alabama's stout defense hogged the headlines in the weeks leading up to the game. But it was Marcell Dareus who blasted McCoy on a keeper on Texas' fifth play, knocking major-college football's winningest quarterback out of his career finale with 56 minutes left.

Despite the injury and the heartbreaking loss, McCoy manned up after the game and spoke to ESPN's Lisa Salters, holding back tears, regaining his composure, then giving credit to Alabama. Then he described his injury.

"There's no pain in my arm," he told Salters. "I just can't feel my arm ... My arm's dead."

Dareus wasn't done making big plays after McCoy's departure. With just a few seconds left before halftime, Dareus intercepted an ill-advised shovel pass from McCoy's replacement, Garrett Gilbert, and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown, giving Alabama a 24-6 lead heading into the locker room.

It took a while after the break, but eventually Gilbert gained some confidence and connected with Jordan Shipley for a touchdown late in the third quarter and another one midway through the fourth. Texas pulled to within 24-21, but Gilbert's four interceptions -- and a late fumble he lost inside his own 5-yard line -- proved to be too much to overcome, and Alabama added those late scores to finish off its first championship since the 1992 season, and the school's eighth in the major poll era.

Alabama started very curiously, returning a short kickoff only six yards, then dialing up a fake punt on 4th and 23 at its own 20-yard line on its initial series. Coach Nick Saban called a pass that was intercepted, and Texas marched for an early field goal.

"I think we had a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the game," Saban said. "We made some mistakes."

The Longhorns tacked on another three points before Ingram scored on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter. The Tide would tally 24 points in that quarter to seemingly put it away, but Gilbert and the Longhorns made it interesting in the final two quarters.


+ Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy had a subpar game, but managed it effectively enough to get the win. The Texas native who was not recruited by the Longhorns told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the game that he's "so glad to be able to add to the history of Alabama football."

+ Saban becomes the first coach in the modern era to win national championships at two different schools. He also guided LSU to the 2003 national championship. Saban didn't, however, seem to enjoy the Gatorade bath that ruined his precious white shirt in the game's closing seconds. "I wish they'd do the water," he said at the postgame press conference. "The Gatorade's awful sticky. But I'm a lot happier with the bath than I would have been if I didn't get one."

+ With McElroy, Ingram, Richardson and star wideout Julio Jones all returning, Alabama seems a likely No. 1 preseason pick next summer.

+ Prior to the game, football fans were treated to a banner flown above the Rose Bowl blasting Alabama's governor.

+ And during the game, a man dressed like he should have played a role in the "I cast a level 2 charm spell" commercial had to be corralled and escorted off the field.


QB Will Be The Difference Tonight, Just Not The One You Think

Greg McElroy

One Great Season

BROOKLYN -- Just a few minutes after Hunter Lawrence's game-winning kick in the Big 12 championship game pushed Texas into the BCS title game, many thought the the Longhorns would be heavily overmatched.

The easy logic was, "If they could only score 13 points against Nebraska, how would they score against Alabama?"

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Sure Alabama has a relentless defense, just like Nebraska's. But what few seem to be talking about is that Texas can get nasty on that side of the ball as well. In fact, the Longhorns have the nation's top run defense, allowing only 62 yards per game, well ahead of Alabama's No. 2 run-stopping unit that yields 78 yards per game.

So in the matchup many should be excited to watch -- Alabama's Heisman Trophy-winning Mark Ingram against Texas' run defense -- I give the edge to the Longhorns.

YOUR THOUGHTS: Who Will Win Tonight?

But I think the Alabama run defense will limit Texas' far-weaker rushing game in even more dominant fashion. That means UT quarterback Colt McCoy will see many 3rd-down-and long situations. Texas is a solid team when it comes to third-down conversions (46 percent, 15th in the country), but McCoy averaged about an interception a game and the Horns' offensive line ranked 82nd in protecting its quarterback, allowing 2.31 sacks per game. Did you see that Big 12 championship game? The Huskers overpowered Texas' offensive line and treated McCoy like a rag doll.

I've got to think the Tide will rattle McCoy into an interception or two, or at the very least into many three-and-out possessions.

So if the run defenses cancel each other out and Alabama boasts the edge in the department of pass defense, how can Texas overcome potential shortages in the turnover and time of possession battles? That's easy: special teams.

The Longhorns returned four punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. And that's where Alabama could be vulnerable; the Tide ranks 64th in punt return defense this year, and even worse -- 116th -- in kickoff return defense. If Texas can make a big play on special teams, the Longhorns will stay in the game.

But that could be a big if, and even if Texas does take one back, just keeping it close won't be enough. That's because Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy does his best work when the pressure is on.

Thanks to the bruising Ingram, the junior isn't asked to do nearly as much as McCoy, but operating such a balanced offense that also features wideout Julio Jones, among other capable targets, gives McElroy great confidence. He threw only four interceptions this season, including just one in his final six games.

When the game was on the line against Auburn, McElroy drove Alabama 79 yards, chewing up more than seven minutes on a 15-play drive that culminated in the game-winning score with 1:24 left.

Three weeks earlier against LSU, McElroy led three scoring drives in the fourth quarter alone as Alabama held the ball for 11 minutes and turned a 15-10 deficit into a 24-15 victory.

That's right: a quarterback will be the difference in tonight's national championship game. Only it won't be the winningest player in college football history, the highly decorated McCoy. Instead it will be McElroy, who, like his friends Ingram and Jones, will return next season to try to lead the Tide to back-to-back championships. Alabama wins a close one, 21-17.


USC Is The College Football Team Of The Decade

Pete Carroll

One Great Season

BROOKLYN -- If Texas wins the national championship, are the Longhorns the team of the decade?

My answer is no.

A win in Pasadena will give UT two national championships this decade, a Fiesta Bowl and a Rose Bowl win for a perfect 4-0 mark in BCS games. The Longhorns won two Big 12 championships and regardless of the outcome of the title game, they'll finish the decade with eight Top 10 finishes.

With two great quarterbacks and loads of other NFL-caliber talent, Texas has won 110 games and is 7-2 in bowl games, including five straight wins. Certainly Texas has enjoyed a great run.


+ OPINION: Rose Bowl A No-Win Situation For Ohio State
+ OPINION: Heisman Is Cool, But Stanley Cup Is Still The Best Trophy
+ IMAGES: Gameday Gallery -- Army vs. Navy
+ VIDEO: Did Brian Kelly Know His UC Days Were Over In Pittsburgh?
+ HUMOR: Jilted Cincinnati Fans, Consider This Holiday Gift For Brian Kelly
+ ARTICLE: Does Daunte Culpepper Hate Hot White Women?
+ GALLERY: The Hot Girls Of College Football

As the Tim Tebow era comes to a close in Gainesville, the Gators can boast a pretty strong resume as well. If the category was "The Team Of The Second Half Of The Decade," by all means, the Gators would get it.

Urban Meyer

Florida has won 99 games in the 2000s, two national championships and three SEC championships, all while playing in what has become in the last five years the sport's toughest conference. Florida is 3-0 in BCS games this decade, but 4-5 overall in bowl games.

The Gators have two 13-win seasons under their belt, and are a very impressive 47-7 in the last four years under coach Urban Meyer. Unlike Texas, Florida does have a Heisman Trophy winner in Tebow.

My team of the decade is USC. The Trojans won a national championship, shared one with LSU and almost won a third. They are difficult to beat in January, as evidenced by their 6-1 record in BCS bowl games this decade. Those six wins have come by an average margin of 22 points.

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USC has won 101 games and is 14-4 vs. Top 10 teams. The Trojans won at least a share of seven consecutive PAC 10 championships, a streak that ended this season in what is a considered a terrible year in which they only won eight games.

With three Heisman Trophy winners just this decade, USC finished in the Top 10 seven times, and with Pete Carroll at the helm and Matt Barkley returning for his sophomore season, look for the Trojans to be a national title contender again next year.


Tuesday Notebook: Eugene, BCS and Sam Bradford

Columbia River

One Great Season

EUGENE, Oregon -- I made it.

After waking up Monday in Cincinnati, driving to Dayton, flying to Washington, D.C., flying to Phoenix, flying to Portland and crashing at a hotel there late last night, I drove down picturesque Interstate 5 this afternoon and arrived at my hotel at about 5 p.m. Pacific time.

I can tell the Canon 50D is going to be busier this week than my liver was last week. Great to see old friends in the Queen City, sure, but equally certain is how badly I need a break from all that fun, and signs point to such relief here in this sleepy pocket of the very scenic Pacific Northwest where I know exactly nobody.

Efforts to secure a credential for Saturday's USC at Oregon game have been shut down, but the investigation into a reasonably priced single ticket is pending. Not only will this game likely decide the PAC 10 champion, but it's Halloween and the fans at Autzen Stadium are notorious party people, so keep your eyes open for some good imagery this weekend.

Until then, it looks like I'll get some post-practice interviews Wednesday, but before I get that far, here are some other tidbits to consider this week:

Columbia River

+ Many are talking about how a USC win makes it a serious BCS National Championship game contender, but you know what? I'll say the same about the Trojans' opponent Saturday. Oregon is No. 10 in the BCS rankings, and beating Pete Carroll's highly ranked USC gang would shoot those Ducks squarely into the mix, and very deservedly so.

+ Wouldn't it be funny to see Oregon leapfrog ahead of Boise State in the BCS standings?

+ Iowa, Cincinnati, Boise State and TCU are the second-tier contenders for a spot in the BCS title game. Those entirely in control of their destiny include Florida, Alabama, Texas and most likely LSU and possibly USC. I think Florida or Alabama might actually need to lose twice for one of those second-tier squads to jump ahead. That means that heading into the last month of the season, no fewer than seven and maybe as many as nine losses are needed among the elite names currently among the Top 10 for, say, Iowa or Cincinnati to earn a trip to Pasadena. Such a feat would be just as dramatic than what happened down the stretch in 2007. But don't expect that scenario to materialize. I still think it's going to be Florida and Texas, though I'd prefer to watch Florida and USC.

Columbia River

+ Please stop with the second-guessing of Sam Bradford. Too often we hear the TV pretties talk about the importance of staying in school to get that education, if not to at least enjoy the college experience. Bradford did exactly that, and now Todd McShay, who I typically like, leads the pack of those repeatedly broadcasting the disappointing truths about millions of dollars lost. Tyler Hansbrough came back twice when experts thought he was ready for the next level, and the only reason people don't rip him is because he didn't get hurt. Don't go hindsight and blast a kid barely out of his teens for wanting more school. Bradford knows his decision to stay will cost him in the long run, but he'll still be a good NFL quarterback.


Weekend Preview: OU-Texas

Bob Stoops

One Great Season

ATLANTA -- Ever just do away with the Xs and Os and maybe even abandon rational thinking entirely in favor of a feeling you have deep down in your gut?

I do it a few times each football season, and that's how I feel heading into Saturday's Oklahoma-Texas game.

You'd think the Longhorns are the obvious choice, but, are they really? Don't let records and rankings fool you. Sure Oklahoma has two losses and is on the outer edge of the Top 25. But remember, each of those losses was by one point, and Bob Stoops' Sooners were without Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford for six of the eight quarters in those games.

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Bradford is back, and while he might not be 100 percent, he enjoyed some tuneup action in a 33-7 defeat of Baylor in his return last week.

As he rounds back into form, he also has two stud running backs to hand the ball to in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray. Texas is without its top two running backs.

Also, Oklahoma boasts a strong and stubborn defense, allowing opponents just eight points per game in five outings. Texas allows 15 points per game, which isn't bad, but the Longhorns haven't really been tested the way Oklahoma has.

Lastly, I think with the pressure of a national championship run not bothering OU players, the Sooners should be going into this game focused just on this game, whereas Texas players still suffer the burden of trying to remain perfect in the big picture.

I do like Colt McCoy, and he was a hair away from a Heisman Trophy and a berth in the BCS National Championship game last year. And I do like that he and his OU counterpart are friendly, but I think Bradford and the Sooners will be the only ones smiling in Texas Saturday afternoon.

Pete Carroll

USC at Notre Dame: USC already suffered its one hiccup of the season when it lost to Washington last month. The Trojans are in their own class when they want to be, and I think they'll want to be on Saturday in South Bend.

Jimmy Clausen's Heisman bid will end as USC will show Irish fans what a real defense looks like. The Trojans aren't too shabby on offense either, and against a Notre Dame defense that can give up big plays, look for Pete Carroll's group to score frequently.

Losing to USC, however, does not mean Charlies Weis should be fired. That talk is so tiresome. With four of their six remaining games at home after this one, the Irish still have a chance to reach 10 wins.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech: Both teams run the ball very well, particularly the Yellow Jackets. But the difference will be on defense, where Virginia Tech looks like a typical Frank Beamer unit. The Hokies are strong and fast and physical.

Beamer's bunch is also capable of making a big special teams play every single week, and that could be the X factor as the home team will certainly keep it close.

I picked Virginia Tech to be the best team in the ACC this year -- did anyone not? -- and the Hokies will show why on Saturday.


Monday Notebook

One Great Season

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Here are some notes as I begin a new week in Baton Rouge, five days away from Saturday's heavyweight bout between visiting No. 1 Florida and No. 4 LSU:

+ Cal is not a good football team. I strongly doubt that in the history of college football polls, a team has never followed up a No. 6 ranking by going out and losing two games by a combined score of 72-6.

+ From the sideline, I've watched USC in a Friday walkthrough and twice during pregame warmups, and Florida once during pregame warmups, and in each case you can't help but just feel that you're in the presence of an elite football team. Swagger isn't necessarily something a team has; to me it's more like what that team stirs inside of you when you watch it.

+ I get that powerhouses like to load up on a creampuff or two before playing someone tough or getting into conference play. But we're into October and I'm still really curious about what Texas can do. Beating a mediocre Texas Tech team by just 10 points at home tells me more about the Longhorns than do lopsided wins over Louisiana-Monroe and the like. I really think Alabama is more of a No. 2 team than Texas right now. The Tide don't appear to have any weaknesses.

+ The same goes for Penn State. Easy wins over Akron, Syracuse and Temple -- and presumably another one against Eastern Illinois this Saturday -- are unimpressive. I don't really remember the last time Joe Paterno had a strong team that played a marquee game in September.

+ Boise State won Saturday, but played poorly enough to drop from No. 5 to No. 6 in this week's poll. But despite the listless showing against Cal-Davis Saturday, the Broncos gain street cred when the Oregon team it manhandled five weeks ago won by huge margins its last two times out.

+ My Cincinnati friends are a little nervous about our No. 8 Bearcats' Thursday night tilt at South Florida on Oct. 15. UC is off this week, and then will face a USF team, though now ranked, that's without veteran quarterback Matt Grothe for the rest of the season. I think it could be like the season-opener at Rutgers all over again. Easy win for Cincinnati, which will take a 9-0 record into its home date against West Virginia on Friday, Nov. 13.

+ Seven of the AP's top 15 teams have a loss, and we still have more than two months of regular-season football left to play. Please stop describing the Armageddon when USC or Virginia Tech or Ohio State lose in September.

+ Iowa has more trouble with non-BCS teams than it does with the Penn States of the world. The Hawkeyes, 5-0, pulled off a stunner two weeks ago on the road when they beat the Nittany Lions, 21-10, but their two  closest calls have come at home, where they defeated Northern Iowa and Arkansas State by one and three points, respectively. By that logic, look for Iowa to rout visiting Michigan this weekend. Actually, I believe the opposite to be true. The No. 12 Hawkeyes will bolster the argument that the Big Ten is weak when they lose to no-longer-ranked Michigan on Saturday.


Stoops Takes High Road About Weak Texas Schedule

One Great Season

NORMAN, Okla. -- A reporter tempted Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, but the coach didn't take the bait. He was asked to compare OU's difficult non-league schedule with that of, "say, Texas," just for kicks, of course.

The rival Longhorns count Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, UTEP and Central Florida among their out-of-conference opponents. Not a whole lot of BCS points up for grabs there.

Stoops answered politely, then was asked in a follow-up question just what the payoff is for playing tough games outside of league play.