Archive for November, 2015
I touched on this a couple of weeks ago, mentioning that I felt Oklahoma was playing the best football of anybody in the Big 12 and that the Sooners would likely have a chance to prove that down the stretch. Bob Stoops' team did just that, finishing off an 11-1 regular season with 58-23 beatdown of Oklahoma State in Stillwater last night to move into the fourth spot on my ballot for this week's Associated Press college football poll. Clemson, Alabama and Iowa continue to fill the top three spots on my ballot after wins over rivals this weekend. The Hawkeyes can talk all they want about Nebraska being just another game, but from what has transpired over the past few years with the road team winning the last four match-ups, if it looks like a rivalry, if it feels like a rivalry, it's a rivalry. The Sooners rise was facilitated by Stanford's last-second win over Notre Dame, one of three top-10 teams on my ballot from a week ago to lose. The trickledown moves Michigan State and Ohio State in the fifth and sixth spots on my ballot this week, followed by the one-loss North Carolina team which gets a shot at Clemson on Saturday in the ACC title game. Stanford, TCU and Notre Dame round out my top 10. I have Northwestern at 12th, Michigan dropping six spots to 18th and Wisconsin up two positions to 20th on my ballot this week. Losses dropped Toledo, Mississippi State, Washington State and UCLA off of my ballot this week. They're replaced by Temple, LSU, USC and a Western Kentucky team that moved to 10-2 and put itself in the Conference USA championship game with a 21-point win over Marshall on Saturday. Here is my top-25 ballot for this week's AP poll: 1. Clemson 2. Alabama 3. Iowa 4. Oklahoma 5. Michigan State 6. Ohio State 7. North Carolina 8. Stanford 9. TCU 10. Notre Dame 11. Florida State 12. Northwestern 13. Baylor 14. Florida 15. Oklahoma State 16. Houston 17. Oregon 18. Michigan 19. Mississippi 20. Wisconsin 21. Temple 22. Navy 23. LSU 24. USC 25. Western Kentucky
Who saw this coming? Be honest. After all, a perfect regular season doesn't come around very often at Iowa. Coming off of a frustrating finish in 2014, the chances of a 12-0 run through the regular season in 2015 seemed improbable. As it turned out this afternoon this season, Mission Impossible proved possible for this group of Iowa football players. The 12-0 record is Iowa's first unbeaten regular season since 1922 -- 93 years -- and the work of this Hawkeye team will be the work that future teams are measured by. They guaranteed that with a 28-20 win at Nebraska, taking their place among some of the most legendary teams to ever suit up for the Hawkeyes. Really, that's all Austin Blythe ever wanted. "I've expressed this a couple of times but I always thought it would be great to be part of a team that was always being held up as an example,'' Blythe said. "Coach Ferentz references the 2002 and 2009 team all the time. Maybe we've earned a mention or two in the future.'' No doubt that will happen. Style points didn't concern this group of Hawkeyes, who have tired a little of hearing people wonder if they passed the eye test. Mostly, they didn't care, though. They played their own game. And as for style points? "That's not really Iowa football,'' linebacker Cole Fisher said. "We control the clock. We play together. We don't panic. It's not the prettiest, but it's been getting the job done.'' The Hawkeyes have excelled in teamwork and takeaways, adding to their collection with four interceptions, fittingly hauled in by four players today as Iowa raised its turnover margin to plus 14 for the season. Coach Kirk Ferentz always felt this team had a chance to be good. How good? Not even a coach with 30-plus years of experience on the sidelines can be certain. "To think that you know how it's going to turn out, you never do,'' Ferentz said. The Hawkeyes gave themselves a chance by simply following the advices of their coaches. They never got caught looking ahead. From early-morning strength sessions last winter to spring ball, fall camp and the new early-morning practices this fall, the Hawkeyes' focus has been narrow. And, it's worked. "They've done a great job taking each week by itself and treated each game with the importance it deserves,'' Ferentz said. "You talk about all those kinds of things, but for players to really understand it and act it out, that's impressive. They've done that.'' Ferentz compared it a young driver learning how to operate a vehicle. "Just keep your eyes on the road. It's as simple as that,'' he said. This Iowa football team, this 12-0 Iowa football team, has proven that when you do that you just never know where the journey might lead.
Four things the football teams from Iowa and Nebraska can do to put themselves in a position to win Friday at Memorial Stadium: NEBRASKA (5-6, 3-4) 1. Find the right mix. With a blustery day in the forecast Friday in November, the Cornhuskers can help themselves by finding the right mix between the pass and run. As productive as Tommy Armstrong has been through the air, Nebraska will need to put its rushing attack together if it hopes to beat Iowa. Terrell Newby, the team's rushing leader this season, has carried just five times in Nebraska's last two games because of a foot injury. Senior Imani Cross has experience and has rushed for more than 90 yards in the Cornhuskers' wins over Michigan State and Rutgers. He'll need to top that against Iowa. 2. Stand your ground. Nebraska's rush defense is pretty salty, led by a front that coach Kirk Ferentz described as an "NFL line'' earlier this week. It is anchored by pair of tackles in Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine, two 300 pounders who blend athleticism and physical strength that has worked well with the expectations of first-year defensive coordinator Mark Banker. He wants all of the Cornhuskers' defensive linemen to be active participants in creating havoc. Collins and Valentine oblige. They have combined for 10 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks this season. They are complemented by a solid end in Freedom Akinmoladun, who leads Nebraska with 6 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. 3. Win the turnover battle. This has been an issue for Nebraska this season. As dangerous as Tommy Armstrong can be at the controls of the Cornhuskers' offense, particularly when he breaks contain and is able to throw on the run, the junior has been turnover prone. Armstrong has thrown 12 of the 17 interceptions recorded by Nebraska quarterbacks this season. The Cornhuskers have given the ball away 22 times this year, while picking up just 12 turnovers. That -10 turnover margin ranks 13th in the Big Ten and in this game, is contrasted by the +11 turnover margin that has helped Iowa win the first 11 games on its schedule. Takeaways on a less-than-ideal weather day can be huge. 4. Defend the pass. As productive as the Nebraska passing game has been, the Cornhuskers have given way plenty of points and big plays through the air as well. The Huskers are allowing 305.5 passing yards per game, a number that ranks 13th in the Big Ten and nearly 30 yards out of 12th. Nate Gerry leads Nebraska with four of the team's eight interceptions this season and has also broken up a team-high seven passes. IOWA (11-0, 7-0) 1. Establish the run. Some things never change, and the ability of Iowa to win will largely be determined by the Hawkeyes' ability to control things at the point of attack. The play of interior linemen Jordan Walsh, Austin Blythe and Sean Welsh against two of the best defensive tackles Iowa has seen this season in Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins will be critical. Iowa's ground game remains its bread and butter, averaging 208.3 yards per game. Jordan Canzeri received the bulk of the work last week against Purdue, as LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley combined for three second-half carries against the Boilermakers. Iowa did utilize all four of its running backs during its first series against Purdue. Expect a blend of backs to continue in what has been Iowa's most productive offense since 2002. 2. Contain the quarterback. The Hawkeyes' ability to maintain contain as they deal with Tommy Armstrong will be a critical component in Friday's game. The junior is capable on the run not only with his feet but thrown many of his Big Ten-best 21 touchdown passes while on the run. He's been inconsistent, completing 54.7 percent of his 338 passes and his 12 interceptions equals the most of any QB in the Big Ten. 3. Play same-page defense. The Hawkeyes have struggled with this at times over the past two weeks. Iowa's pass rush has shown signs of the wear of a long season, recording just two sacks in wins over Minnesota and Purdue. The back end of the defense has had its issues as well. Cornerback Desmond King said there were times against the Boilermakers when communication breakdowns cost Iowa, where players on one side of the field were running a different coverage than those on the other. Fixing those issues have been a focus on the practice field this week. The ability to solve the problems will weigh heavily in the outcome of Friday's game. 4. Finish. Unlike a year ago when Nebraska rallied in the second half from a 24-7 deficit to win at Iowa, finishing hasn't been an issue for the Hawkeyes this season. If they hope to finish off the program's first unbeaten regular season since 1922, the Hawkeyes will need to finish at Nebraska. They will need to finish plays, finish drives and add to their collection of 18 touchdown drives of 75 yards or more, and finally, finish off games with continued success in the fourth quarter. Iowa has outscored its competition 97-72 in the second half of games this season, including 66-53 in the fourth quarter. Maintaining that edge will be significant against a Cornhuskers team that will be playing for its bowl life on Friday, needing a win to become bowl eligible. This should be one final 60-minute test for Iowa.
It was just one snap, tucked away at the near the end of game that had already been decided, but it meant the world to one Iowa football player and everyone around him. Darian Cooper, sidelined since before the start of the 2014 season because of a significant knee injury and an extended rehab period, returned to action for the Hawkeyes on Senior Day. In the final game of his career at Kinnick Stadium, Cooper's appearance was strictly a cameo. He came in, did his job at defensive tackle for one snap in the Hawkeyes' game last weekend against Purdue, then left to high fives and hugs from teammates and coaches along the Iowa sideline. "That meant the world to me, to get back out there with my teammates,'' Cooper said. "I've been working hard to make it happen. It felt great.'' It's been a long, hard climb for Cooper to return to the field. A starter in two games who saw action in 12 games as redshirt freshman in 2012 and played in all 13 games the following year, Cooper had worked his way onto the depth chart behind senior Carl Davis heading into fall camp last season. His injury dashed his opportunity to participate a year ago, the severity creating challenges that have extended into what would have been his senior season. Coach Kirk Ferentz today took time to praise the perseverance Cooper has shown. "He's fought hard. He's worked hard. He's not 100 percent, and I'm sure he probably told you that today,'' Ferentz said. "But, he's worked extremely hard and it was extremely important to get him in. We were trying like crazy to give him an opportunity to play, and it just worked out. Really glad about that.'' Among the first to greet him on the sideline was defensive line coach Reese Morgan, who Cooper said has been there for him "every step of the way.'' Cooper said the moment will live with him forever. And when it happened, nobody was happier than Cooper. He understands he won't be 100 percent healthy before the current season ends, but Ferentz adds that "he's getting there,'' making slow, but steady progress. Cooper is on schedule to receive his degree from Iowa in May and Ferentz said his personality should help him throughout life. And if another snap or two between now and the end of the season comes his way, Cooper is willing. "If they need me in the next game, I'll be ready,'' Cooper said. "Whatever I can give this team, I want to give.'' He has been there every step of the way through the Hawkeyes' 11-0 start and he said the team's success has made it easier to watch. "I think this situation would have been harder for me if we weren't having a good season this year,'' Cooper said. "To be around everybody and give them the support I can, I can always feel good about that. They've been there for me and I do what I can to be there for them.''
First-year Nebraska coach Mike Riley finds himself with a dilemma. Riley enjoys the way the Iowa defense works, but he finds no joy in preparing to deal with the Hawkeye defense this week. "The thing I really like about their defense and the thing I really don't like about their defense right now is the way they don't give up big plays,'' Riley said today at his weekly news conference in Lincoln, where the Cornhuskers are preparing for Friday's 2:30 p.m. Heroes Game between the third-ranked Hawkeyes and a Nebraska team that needs a win in its regular-season finale to become bowl eligible. The Cornhuskers will test Iowa with a passing attack that now ranks as the most productive in the Big Ten, averaging 272.7 yards per game off the arm of quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Riley expects the Hawkeyes' defense, which has been a bit wobbly against the pass in wins over Minnesota and Purdue the past two weeks, to provide Armstrong with one of his biggest tests of the year. In particular, Riley expects Nebraska receivers to be tested not only by the Iowa secondary, but by the linebackers working in front of the back four. "Their linebackers are very disruptive,'' Riley said. "If Jordan Westerkamp is in the slot, there will be a linebacker there to lock him up every time. ... Their linebackers do the best job of anybody we've seen of disrupting things. We'll have to be strong in running our routes.'' Riley expects some of that to fall on the Nebraska offensive line, which he said must protect Armstrong well enough to on occasion buy a few extra seconds. "If they can do that and give the receivers a little extra time to get back and win in the secondary, that will be big,'' Riley said. "That will be a big issue in this game.'' Nebraska enters the Iowa game coming off of a bye week and Riley views the break as significant from a mental standpoint as it was from a physical perspective at this point in the season. Although coaches introduced a bit of what the Hawkeyes were about last week, Riley gave his team three days off late last week before turning thoughts totally to Iowa beginning on Sunday. Riley views this week as an opportunity for his team, much like the mantra he preached when unbeaten Michigan State arrived in Lincoln on Nov. 7 and left with a loss. He also believes that wins over the Spartans and on Nov. 14 at Rutgers have moved his team forward. "We're gotten better in a lot of areas,'' he said. "We played as good of defense as we've played in our last game and we played it in all parts, our pass rush, pass coverage, the way we defended the run, we looked like the defense I want us to look like moving forward.''
The week-to-week drama of college football is what keeps people coming back and this week, that drama has led to a change at the top of my weekly ballot for the Associated Press poll. Michigan State's win at Ohio State and Oklahoma State's loss at Baylor along with Houston's loss to Bob Diaco-coached Connecticut have left Clemson and Iowa as the only unbeaten teams on the college football landscape. The Tigers and Hawkeyes are both among teams moving up on my weekly ballot, which underwent a bit of a makeover. I moved Clemson and Alabama up one spot in the first two positions and I opted to move Iowa into the third spot, a move of two positions after voting them fifth a week ago. I held Notre Dame in the fourth position following its 19-16 win over Boston College at Fenway Park last night and moved Oklahoma into the fifth position following its win over TCU. Michigan State, with a one-point loss at Nebraska the only blemish on its resume, climbs into sixth after its win in Columbus. Baylor, which went on the road to hand the Cowboys a 10-point loss, moves into the seventh spot followed by Ohio State, North Carolina and Florida. Oklahoma State starts my next 10, which includes Michigan at 12 and Northwestern at 14 following road wins at Penn State and Wisconsin on Saturday. The Wolverines continue to roll and the Wildcats seemingly have their act together, thus the rise from 20 to 14 this week. I dropped the Badgers from 18 to 22 after their 13-7 loss, ahead of three newcomers to my ballot. Losses by Utah, LSU and Southern Cal dropped each off of my top 25, replaced by Mississippi State, Washington State and UCLA. Here is my ballot for this week's poll: 1. Clemson 2. Alabama 3. Iowa 4. Notre Dame 5. Oklahoma 6. Michigan State 7. Baylor 8. Ohio State 9. North Carolina 10. Florida 11. Oklahoma State 12. Michigan 13. Stanford 14. Northwestern 15. Navy 16. TCU 17. Florida State 18. Oregon 19. Houston 20. Mississippi 21. Toledo 22. Wisconsin 23. Mississippi State 24. Washington State 25. UCLA
Iowa received a trophy and Hawkeye players received t-shirts and caps, all of the trappings that go along with winning the West Division in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes held their celebration in private, behind closed doors shortly after Iowa finished off Purdue 40-20 this afternoon to earn the program's first-ever berth in the Big Ten Championship Game. The team's 21 seniors posed for pictures with the trophy they've worked since January to call their own. It will have a place next to the more hardware the Hawkeyes have earned this season. The Cy-Hawk Trophy, the Heartland Trophy and Floyd of Rosedale all have Iowa City addresses as a result of wins during the Hawkeyes' 11-0 start to the season. A year ago, Iowa was giving those away like candy at an Independence Day parade. It was around Independence Day when the Hawkeyes got the subtle message that it was time to change. Well, maybe the message wasn't so subtle. A smashed and empty trophy case, with an axe of destruction, appeared in the Iowa football complex earlier this summer. A weight room reminder of what the Hawkeyes had given away and the need to change, the mangled mess has shown up a few times during the current season, usually early in the week of trophy games. "Seeing that empty case, that was a punch in the gut,'' Iowa center Austin Blythe said. "That's not acceptable around here. It was time to change the way things were.'' Goals were established, the bar was raised. And all season long, the Hawkeyes have worked to fix what was broken. Players have spent the season trying to figure out just who took the axe to the trophy case. Nobody's admitting to being the guy, although it doesn't appear to have been the work of players. Coach Kirk Ferentz said today he wasn't the guy. "I couldn't smash anything, maybe an egg or something, I don't know. I never asked, though. I never had anybody investigate,'' Ferentz said. "But I think the message was there. And again, it wasn't just those games, it was more about if you're going to win a trophy you've got to earn it, you've got to do things right.'' It's been all about the attention to detail, every little detail that makes all the difference in a game of inches where success is measured on one side or the other of markers 10 yards apart. "The little things and doing them right is something we've been focused on since day one,'' running back Jordan Canzeri said. "Little things lead to big things, both positively and negatively. We've kept the vibe positive, kept focusing on every little thing that can make a big difference. It's worked.'' Because of that, the Hawkeyes had a chance to celebrate in a small way today before turning the attention to Nebraska when the team arrives for practice shortly afternoon Sunday. Ferentz opted to keep the title celebration private as a reminder that the chance to finish the regular season as the only unbeaten team in the Big Ten is days away in another trophy game, The Heroes Game, and another trophy will be on the line the following week in Indianapolis. "I've never been involved with winning a division, so that's a little different, and while we're not downplaying it, we're really proud of what we've accomplished, we're six days out from playing again and we're playing a team that's been sitting back all week watching us,'' Ferentz said. "We've got some ground to make up and we've still got a season to finish out.''
Four things the football teams from Iowa and Purdue can do to put themselves in a position to win Saturday at Kinnick Stadium: PURDUE (2-8, 1-5) 1. Avoid the issues. As indicated by a 2-8 record, problems have been plentiful this season for Purdue. Quarterback David Blough has thrown 10 touchdown passes this season, but he has recorded eight of the 14 interceptions thrown by Purdue this season. The Boilermakers are among seven Big Ten teams with negative turnover margins, something they must avoid against an opportunistic Iowa team. Kicker Paul Griggs, who coach Darrell Hazell has described as his team's only option, has endured a nightmarish senior season. Griggs delivered a 47-yard field goal as time expired to beat Iowa 27-24 in 2012 in Purdue's last visit to Iowa City, but he has hit just 3-of-9 attempts this season. In part because of those struggles, the Boilermakers have attempted just one field goal in six Big Ten games. Griggs missed that try from 43 in a 14-14 game at Northwestern last week. 2. Have Blough play beyond his years. Redshirt freshman David Blough has had the type of redshirt freshman season that many Big Ten rookies have had. He's been effective at times and inconsistent at others. The 6-foot-1 Texan has completed 57.6 percent of his passes this season, connecting on 166-of-288 attempts for 1,565 yards. He excelled in a 55-44 win over Nebraska, completing 28-of-43 passes for 274 yards and four scores, struggled through a 29-of-47 day and was intercepted twice the next week in a 48-14 loss to Illinois and followed that up last week with a 26-of-45 game in a 21-14 loss at Northwestern. Hot. Cold. Lukewarm. That's life as a redshirt freshman at a position that has been problematic for Purdue in recent seasons. Blough is the 10th starting quarterback for the Boilermakers since 2008 and in making his eighth straight start this week, he is in the midst of the longest string of starts for a Purdue QB since Caleb TerBush started 13 straight games in 2011. 3. Be big on the backside. Weather and the health of Iowa QB C.J. Beathard -- nursing a hip pointer suffered on a quarterback sneak last week vs Minnesota -- may impact their opportunities, but the Purdue secondary is a veteran one. Cornerbacks Frankie Williams and Anthony Brown are among the strongest tandems at their positions in the Big Ten. Williams recorded a 39-yard pick six thrown by Beathard early in his first start for Iowa a year ago in West Lafayette. He recorded the 10th interception of his career last week at Northwestern and has teamed with Brown to pick off seven passes and break up 10 more this season. Safety Leroy Clark is Purdue's tackles leader, recording 69 through 10 games. 4. Stay aggressive The struggles that kicker Paul Griggs has had and game situations have led Purdue to become the most aggressive team in the Big Ten in terms attempting to move the chains on fourth down. Purdue has been successful 17 times in 33 fourth-down conversion attempts this season, both numbers that lead the Big Ten. The Boilermakers' number of successful conversions tops the number of attempted fourth-down tries by 10 Big Ten teams. IOWA (10-0, 6-0) 1. Establish the run. Never has this been a truer objective. With potentially dicey weather -- more than a half-foot of snow followed by 20-to-30 mile per hour north winds are in the forecast -- the ability to run the ball will be significant and Iowa has a stable full of horses to accomplish that. The strength and power of LeShun Daniels, coming off of a 195-yard rushing performance against Minnesota, along with the improved health of Jordan Canzeri and Akrum Wadley and the growth of Derrick Mitchell as a rushing and receiving threat, has helped Iowa average 211.7 yards per game on the ground. That is the Hawkeyes' most productive work since 2002 when Iowa ran the table in Big Ten play on its way to the Orange Bowl while averaging just over 214 rushing yards per game. Against Purdue, the Hawkeyes face the Big Ten's most porous rush defense. The Boilermakers are allowing 209.6 yards per game on the year and 233 yards in league games. Both are by far the worst numbers allowed by a Big Ten defense this season and in the past two weeks, Illinois and Northwestern have combined to run for 632 yards against Purdue. 2. Seize the moment. Iowa has some tangible goals in front of it this week. With a win, the Hawkeyes will clinch the West Division title in the Big Ten and a berth in the conference championship game. Iowa can also earn the program's unbeaten home season since 2004 if it can add to its current 6-0 start. Iowa has won seven homes games in a single season at Kinnick Stadium just once before, in 2003. The Hawkeyes have 11 perfect seasons at home in the program's 126-year history. 3. Tighten things up on defense. A staple throughout the season, the Hawkeyes struggled at times a week ago against Minnesota on defense. Iowa allowed eight plays of 20 yards or more, not typical of the work that the Hawkeyes have done this season. Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner had plenty to do with that on his way to a 301-yard passing day, but Iowa a return to the basics is likely this week. Purdue has capable receivers, a group led by Danny Anthrop and DeAngelo Yancey. The pair have combined for 78 receptions so far this season. Yancey is a speed guy, while Anthrop becomes David Blough's primary target on a number of short routes. Both will test the Hawkeye secondary. Led by Desmond King's eight picks, matching an Iowa single-season record, the Hawkeyes are second to Michigan State in the Big Ten with 20 takeaways this season. Iowa has recovered seven fumbles and picked off 13 passes while enjoying a plus-11 turnover margin that also rates as the second best in the Big Ten. 4. Utilize depth. Kirk Ferentz called it a healthy situation earlier this week and he's right. The return of a healthy Ike Boettger on the Iowa offensive line only helps create additional options for coaches at the tackle spots. Cole Croston has actually taken more snaps than any of the players who have lined up at tackle this season as Boone Myers and Boettger had dealt with injuries. Having three healthy bodies will create an opportunity for coaches to rotate the three and provide additional strength to what has developed into the strongest segment of the Hawkeye attack. The game is expected to be Boettger's first since suffering a neck area injury during an Oct. 10 game against Illinois. Depth can prove to be advantageous for Iowa in a match-up against Purdue, where coach Darrell Hazell was given a vote of confidence last week by administrators as he continues to grow his program. Hazell said prior to this season that the Boilermakers "looked like a Big Ten football team'' for the first time in his three seasons, an acknowledgement of the strength gains the program has been working to make to compete more favorably against Big Ten teams.
As C.J. Beathard makes his own case to become a training room MVP this season, adding a hip pointer to a collection of black-and-blue battle scars that includes additional hip and groin injuries, his resiliency his setting a tone for his teammates. "To watch him continue to get back up and get back on the field, it says a lot about him and the type of leader he is,'' receiver Tevaun Smith said. "Not all quarterbacks would try to keep battling the way he has this season.'' Beathard views as part of the job, part of what he is about and the approach he has always taken to the game. When he took a helmet to the hip on a quarterback sneak during the fourth quarter of Saturday's win over Minnesota, the stinging pain could be felt in the silence of the crowd as trainer's rushed to assist him. Beathard wanted to get back up and get after it, only to be told by trainers to slow it all down a bit. In part, they wanted to provide back-up Tyler Wiegers with a few additional seconds to warm up. Beathard enjoyed the view from the sidelines only briefly, returning to hand off the ball the rest of the way and run the Iowa offense the way he has all season. "When he's in the huddle, there's no question who is control,'' offensive guard Jordan Walsh said. "He's a warrior and good teams have somebody like C.J. running things. He's ready to go to battle every week and we're comfortable with somebody like that out there.'' Beathard said today that he remains sore from an injury that mirrors one he suffered a year ago in a game against Indiana. In that instance, he didn't play the following week. That won't be the case this time. "I'll be out there,'' he said. "It's that time of the year. Everybody is a little banged up. The training staff here does an incredible job of getting me ready to go every week and there's no doubt in my mind that will be the case again. It's a big game. I'm going to be out there.'' His teammates wouldn't have it any other way. "The way he has grown as a leader, it's been pretty impressive,'' running back Jordan Canzeri said. "Once he moved into the top spot on the depth chart, he really rallied everybody and the way he gets after, that rubs off on us all. He's helped this team develop a toughness that makes a difference.''
Eight teams on ballot for last week's Associated Press college football lost over the weekend and several more survived scares. That all has all led to a shake up on this Sunday's ballot, which begins with Ohio State and Clemson holding down the top-two spots. Both had solid road wins last week. No need to move either. The fun starts beyond there, where Baylor's loss to Oklahoma illustrates as much as anything how well the Sooners are playing. Bob Stoops' team may be the best in the Big 12 and will have a chance to prove that with remaining games against TCU and Oklahoma State the next two weeks. The Bears' loss moves Alabama into the third spot on my ballot, followed by Notre Dame and Iowa. I'm slipping the Hawkeyes ahead of the escape artists from Oklahoma State this week. Both are 10-0. I have the Cowboys at six, followed by Oklahoma, Michigan State, Florida and TCU. The shake up continues down the ballot following losses Stanford, LSU, UCLA, Mississippi State, Temple and Memphis. I dropped UCLA, Mississippi State, Temple and Memphis off of my ballot this week. Joining things are Southern Cal, Oregon, Toledo and Mississippi in the 22-25 spots. Here's how I break it down this week, which given what took place Saturday will be due for another makeover in seven days which is part of the beauty of college football: 1. Ohio State 2. Clemson 3. Alabama 4. Notre Dame 5. Iowa 6. Oklahoma State 7. Oklahoma 8. Michigan State 9. Florida 10. TCU 11. Baylor 12. Houston 13. North Carolina 14. Utah 15. Michigan 16. Stanford 17. LSU 18. Wisconsin 19. Florida State 20. Northwestern 21. Navy 22. Southern California 23. Oregon 24. Toledo 25. Mississippi