Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas
By CORY McCARTNEY  |  Last updated 9/30/13
Look, voters were wrong, for better and for worse. It's what happens when teams are ranked before we've seen them play a game, leaning on the accomplishments of a year ago and the stars that return to drive perceptions -- and in two instances more than any others, the polls failed us this season. South Carolina and Oklahoma. Ranked No. 6 and No. 16, respectively, back in August, the reality is the Gamecocks and Sooners have looked far different than what we were told we were getting out of them. But theirs are more than cases of voters simply overrating and underrating them; they are cases of getting caught up in hype and history. We all saw the highlight of Jadeveon Clowney de-helmeting Michigan's Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl and there were believers that a defensive end could win a Heisman Trophy and put a team in a national title hunt in the SEC, where defenses reign, at No. 6 back in August. But South Carolina, which dropped to 13th in the latest Associated Press Top 25, is now 3-1 after edging UCF 28-25 on the road. The Gamecocks' season now includes lackluster wins over 1-3 North Carolina, two-loss Vanderbilt and narrowly beating an AAC team that was a 7 12-point underdog. Oh, and that Clowney-led defense is giving up 381 yards (58th in FBS) and 25.3 points (tied for 64th) a game. Granted, Clowney is playing through a foot injury that will require surgery after the season, but he has just 12 tackles, including three for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble. The end just hasn't been the defining force he was expected to be, which, more than anything, may speak more to the pollsters throwing their weight behind a team led by a defensive player in an age of offense. The calendar has yet to turn to October and the Gamecocks would need some monumental breaks to get back into SEC East hunt, let alone the national title picture. That's a huge whiff for a team ranked No. 6 in the preseason. You could make a fair argument for Notre Dame, 14th to open the year and now out of the rankings, as the biggest poll failure. But nobody was talking about an Irish team sans Everett Golson as a BCS title contender again. Meanwhile the Sooners jumped three spots to 11th following a dominant 35-31 win over Notre Dame -- another team that was overrated back in August at 14th -- in South Bend and have climbed into the BCS title conversation. To be fair, no one was feeling the Big 12 this summer with Oklahoma State the conference's highest-ranked team at 13th and the last we saw of the Sooners they had been demoralized by Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel in the Cotton Bowl. Add in that the defense had major turnover and a major question mark at quarterback following the departure of Landry Jones and voters had cause to be skeptical. Oklahoma's young defense is improving, ranking sixth in the nation in allowing 12 ppg and while the mobile Blake Bell is a major departure for a Bob Stoops team at QB, he's emerging as a fully formed passer. In his first two starts, the guy previously know as the Belldozer, has thrown for 646 yards and six TDs and he's completing passes at a 73.1 percent clip. Don't discount the Sooners' recent inability to live up to their preseason placement as a reason for the lack of preseason attention as Oklahoma went from fourth last year to 15th and No. 1 in 2011 to 16th. We've reached a you-have-to-earn-my-love place in our collective relationship with Stoops' teams, but now clear favorites to win the Big 12 -- with some help from West Virginia's stunning win over the Cowboys -- Oklahoma be worthy of that affection. The preseason rankings were wrong. But thankfully for the Sooners, and unfortunately for South Carolina, reality comes with the benefit of allowing voters to self-correct. Coaching hot seats temperature gauge Lane Kiffin is out, his three-plus seasons at USC coming to an unceremonious end in an LAX parking lot following Saturday's loss to Arizona State. Paul Pasqualoni was fired as well after just 28 games at UConn, the final straw coming in a 41-12 loss to Buffalo on Saturday which dropped the Huskies to 0-4 on the season. Their departures pose the question: who could be next? Here's a look at the top three remaining coaches on the hot seat, which will be updated monthly throughout the season (or as someone else joins Kiffin and Pasqualoni in being suddenly 'single.') 1. Mack Brown, Texas He got the Longhorns off to a 1-0 start in the Big 12, but it's going to take more than one win to get the heat off Brown. With four Top 25 opponents left -- No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 20 Texas Tech and No. 17 Baylor, all of which are higher than 27th in total offense -- things could get bad for a defense that's ranked 109th in FBS. 2. Bo Pelini, Nebraska His expletive-filled rant only amplified a program that has been stuck in neutral under Pelini's direction and increased the spotlight on him this season. Anything short of a Rose Bowl berth and chances are that sound byte makes a comeback. His Huskers are now 3-1 and their next five includes No. 16 Northwestern and No. 19 Michigan. 3. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest In his 13th year with the Demon Deacons, Grobe is the dean of ACC coaches. But stability hasnt bred a consistent winner as he's produced four straight losing seasons and he's now 2-3 after a 56-7 loss to No. 3 Clemson. Those two wins? They came vs. FCS school Presbyterian and now 2-3 Army. UPS AND DOWNS UP: Ohio State Are they now legitimized in the public eye? Braxton Miller was sharp in throwing four TDs and the defense held Wisconsin's rushing attack 245 yards below its season average. Yes, they needed a defensive stand in the final minute to top the then-No. 23 Badgers, but it a statement win on a national stage. Urban Meyer's crew can get another next week at No. 16 Northwestern. DOWN: Oklahoma State The media's pick to win the Big 12 at media days, the Cowboys went into Morgantown at 3-0, only to get dumped by a West Virginia squad that was dominated by Maryland in Week 4. The offense was completely out of synch as QB J.W. Walsh and Co. went 6-of-20 on third downs, with Walsh delivering just two first downs with this arm, and running backs Desmond Roland and Jeremy Smith didn't help matters in combining for just 58 yards. The Cowboys took a huge dive as a result, going from 11th to 21st in the rankings. UP: Washington Now 4-0 for the first time since 2001, the Huskies got an impressive performance out of Bishop Sankey -- he had 161 yards on a school-record 40 carries, breaking Corey Dillon's previous mark of 38 -- in beating Arizona. The Wildcats, a gritty, physical defense, are a strong primer as the Huskies now face No. 5 Stanford. DOWN: Georgia Tech An Oct. 5 date with Miami had all the makings of a clash of unbeatens with major ACC Coastal Division title implications. Instead the Yellow Jackets took some of the thunder out of that game as a defense that was ranked 11th in total D was dominated by Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas -- who was credited with 279 yards, while the Hokies had 276 as a team -- and the vaunted spread option was held to a measly 129 yards rushing in a 17-10 loss. UP: Northern Illinois What's it going to take for Jordan Lynch and Co. to get into the Top 25? The Huskies remain out of the rankings despite beating Purdue 55-24, which was their second win over a Big Ten team this season, in moving to 4-0. They're still fighting for respect while fellow non-BCS conference squad Fresno State enters its second weekend in the poll. Remember, this is the same team that made the Orange Bowl and returns the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in Lynch. DOWN: Ole Miss The belief was the Rebels' offense would be the ones to hang with top-ranked Alabama on the road. But that unit suffered a major setback in getting shutout for the first time since 1998. If there was a bright spot it was Ole Miss' defense, which came in ranked 33rd after allowing 35 points to Vanderbilt and 23 to Texas and held the Crimson Tide to 16 points through three quarters. BMOCS OFFENSE: Aaron Murray, QB Georgia, RS Sr. With the Bulldogs' BCS title hopes on the line for the second time in two weeks Murray delivered another impressive performance. He was 20 of 34 for 298 yards, four TDs and an interception and ran in another score to outduel former roommate Zach Mettenberger and the-No. 6 LSU. He's thrown himself back into the Heisman Trophy mix despite looking out of it after falling to Tajh Boyd and Clemson. DEFENSE: Sam Carter, S TCU, R Jr. He had five tackles, including 1 12 for loss, with a sack, a forced fumble and two interceptions in the Horned Frogs' 48-17 win over SMU. His first pick came with the game tied 10-10, setting up TCU's go-ahead TD and then put an exclamation point on the victory with his second INT, which he returned 66 yards for a score. SPECIAL TEAMS: Bralon Addison, PR Oregon, Soph. Averaging 19.3 yards per attempt heading into Saturday's game with Cal, good enough for seventh in the nation, this Ducks sophomore ended the day leading all FBS by nearly 11 yards. He took his first try 75 yards for a score in the second quarter, then had a 67-yard return for a TD in the third, totaling 142 yards. He's now averaging 36.5 on six tries on the season. CRYSTAL BALL Georgia Tech at No. 14 Miami As previously stated, this one has lost some of its buzz (no pun intended, Yellow Jackets ... or is it?) but it's now a must-win game for different reasons. The Hurricanes, a potential national title dark horse, can't afford to lose with No. 8 Florid State still ahead; Georgia Tech needs this one to avoid all but falling out of the division race. Look for Miami to keep its resurgence going. The Pick: Miami 35, Georgia Tech 27 No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 Northwestern The Wildcats have thrived with their two-QB system of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, teaming to throw for 935 yards, seven scores and four picks and a 69.8 percent completion percentage and they've run for 272 yards and three scores. The Buckeyes struggled vs. the pass in topping Wisconsin, allowing 295 yards, but that was because they were obsessed with bottling up the Badgers' run game. Northwestern, is strong on the ground (249.5 per) but doesn't present the same difficult matchup for LB Ryan Shazier and the Ohio State front seven, who are eighth in FBS (84.6). The Buckeyes should be able to put pressure on the Wildcats' QBs and leave Evansville with a win. The Pick: Ohio State 31, Northwestern 20 No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford The Huskies controlled the line of scrimmage against Arizona behind Sankey's aforementioned workhorse performance, but the Cardinal are a different animal -- or tree, to be more precise -- than the Wildcats. Stanford's defense, whose stats don't tell just how strong they are up front (35th in total D; 21st against the run), can turn this into a grind for Washington. Coming off their most explosive game of the season (560 yards and 55 points vs. Washington State), the Cardinal are rolling heading into this one and that's bad news for the best squad Steve Sarkisian has assembled in Seattle. The Pick: Stanford 34, Washington 20 Last Week: 2-1 Overall: 10-2
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