Thursday, October 05, 2006

Poll Position - Week 6 | by Jeff

The Irish made it through week five with what they needed most. The team got it done on the field, rolling to an early lead and fending off any chance of a comeback. While the team certainly needs to improve in several areas, ND is well positioned for a BCS spot, currently estimated to be #10 in the BCS standings. A top eight finish in the BCS standings gets the Irish an automatic qualifier, and nine wins coupled with a top 14 finish qualifies any team to be an at-large selection.

This weekend is a little unusual for the Irish, as three of the four teams below ND in the rankings play three of the five teams above. So, it is very likely that losses by #7 Texas or #9 Georgia will have no impact on ND’s spot in the coaches poll, as those games might vault #13 Oklahoma or #14 Tennessee over ND in the polls. In theory, it is possible to actually lose ground, since a 2-loss Texas team might still be ranked ahead of the Irish if they lose a close one to Oklahoma. #16 Cal has perhaps the least potential to jump over the Irish with a win over #11 Oregon, as Cal's blowout loss to Tennessee is still relatively fresh in the voters' minds.

As an aside, where would you rank a 4-1 team that lost solidly at home to Ohio State, crushed a 1-AA opponent, beat Iowa State by three scores, and whipped a couple of lesser opponents? Well, if the team's name is Iowa, you rank them 19th. If it is Texas, you rank them 7th. I don't know what will happen in the Red River Shootout this weekend, but I suspect this Saturday will reveal the extent of the Vince Young hangover.

October should sift out what is going on in the SEC, as there are four games (and thus four losses) among Florida, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, and Tennessee in the next four weeks (and more in November). So, I’m not sure it really matters to ND who wins among LSU and Florida at this point. A Michigan State win over Michigan could be a first step in the marathon trek to get back into the National Championship picture, but I’m not holding my breath. In any case, the Michigan vs Michigan State, Texas vs Oklahoma, and Florida vs LSU games all start at 3:30 EST, so I’m hoping the Stanford gamewatch has a couple of extra TVs going.

#6 Michigan vs Michigan State (UM by 15.5)
The Spartans blew their chance at ending their annual collapse last week.

#7 Texas vs #14 Oklahoma in Dallas (UT by 4.5)
The Oklahoma D vs a freshman QB? I have a tough time seeing how Texas will compete in this game, which means the Longhorns will almost certainly win.

#8 Louisville at Middle Tennessee State (Cards by 32.5)
With a quarterback from Paducah, how could the Cardinals possibly lose this one?

#9 Georgia vs #14 Tennessee (Vols by 2.5)
Georgia had better pick up their game, or the Vols will roll in this one.

#10 LSU at #5 Florida (LSU by 1)
Break out the popcorn and lock the kids in the basement, this should be a great one.

#11 Oregon at #16 Cal (Cal by 5.5)
For the second straight week, the best chance for the Irish to gain a spot in the coaches' poll occurs directly above ND in the polls.

And most importantly...
#12 Notre Dame vs Stanford
It is absolutely critical for the Irish to win this game and continue to improve on both sides of the ball.