Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With seven games in the books, there is a much clearer picture as to which teams will vie for conference crowns and which have faded into oblivion. One thing is for sure, the season hasn't exactly played out the way it was envisioned back in August. However, that is par for the course in college football.
BACK WHERE THEY BELONG: The defending national champion Florida Gators relinquished their top spot in the top-25 last week. With Alabama's last- second win over Tennessee (12-10) and Florida's workmanlike win at Mississippi State (29-19), the Gators have returned to the number one spot in the polls. They debuted in the catbird seat in the first BCS poll and fortified their position with the win over the Bulldogs. In fact, the Gators control their own destiny, and if the team can close out the season unbeaten, a spot in the BCS title game is certain.
SOONER RATHER THAN LATER: It was nice to see Oklahoma's Sam Bradford opt for surgery instead of trying to get back on the field again in 2009. Last year's Heisman Trophy winner has nothing left to play for at the collegiate level after suffering two shoulder injuries in the first half of the season.
"I dreamed about coming to Oklahoma my whole life," Bradford said. "That's the reason I came back for this season. And I came back to play, not sit on the bench. That's the reason I tried to play after the injury. I'm very disappointed that it didn't work out differently."
Sam Bradford has nothing left to play for at the collegiate level after suffering two shoulder injuries in the first half of the season.|
After winning the Heisman last year, Bradford could have gone high in the 2009 NFL Draft, but opted to return to Norman.
Bradford will not wait any longer, and surgery to repair his shoulder will take place on Wednesday, giving him ample time to rehab and get ready for the NFL Draft in April.
"We want Sam to pursue the best option for his recovery and future," Sooners head coach Bob Stoops said. "Sam has led us to two Big 12 championships and an appearance in the national title game, and has demonstrated uncommon leadership skills. He is an absolute role model as a student-athlete and loyal teammate."
LOVE FOR THE UNDERDOGS: The probability of any school other than Florida, Alabama or Texas playing in the national title game becomes more and more remote with each passing week. However, that was expected when the season began. What wasn't expected however, was the football revival taking place in Durham and Philadelphia.
Long known as the doormat of the ACC, Duke football is relevant again after more than a decade of futility. Thanks to a strong passing game led by steady signal-caller Thaddeus Lewis, the Blue Devils are more than just competitive. The team is sitting at 4-3 overall and actually has teams below it in the ACC's Atlantic Division standings at 2-1. With a victory over Maryland, Duke has recorded back-to-back ACC victories for the first time since 1994, when it made its last bowl appearance. David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job in his two seasons at the helm. The team has already matched its win total from a year ago (which matched the win total from the four previous seasons combined) and there is still a lot of football left to be played.
A little north of that location is where Al Golden and the Temple Owls are beginning to open eyes. The Owls have won five straight games for the first time since 1979, the last time the team made a bowl appearance. How has Temple turned things around? A lot of it has to do with the play of standout freshman tailback Bernard Pierce. The youngster left the field on a stretcher a week ago, but added to his legend by returning this week and rumbling for 212 yards and three TDs in the win over Toledo. Pierce broke Paul Palmer's school rushing record for freshmen (628 yards) and now has 766 yards on 135 carries, with nine TDs.
The Owls are undefeated in MAC play, sitting all alone the top of the East Division standings at 4-0. Only time will tell if Temple stays there, but this is no longer a team to take lightly, regardless of the foe.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Clemson's C.J. Spiller was unstoppable in several areas against Miami, rolling up 310 total yards, including TDs on a long kickoff return and a long reception. Other standout performances on the ground included Ball State's rushing tandem of MiQuale Lewis (school-record 310 yards and one TD against Eastern Michigan) and Cory Sykes (203 yards, three TDs), and Temple's Pierce. Quarterbacks that stood out included Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (230 rushing yards and four TDs and 178 passing yards and two more scores) and San Diego State's Ryan Lindley (459 yards passing and six TDs against Colorado State). Receivers of note included SDSU's DeMarco Sampson (12 receptions, for 257 yards, three TDs against Colorado State) and Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes (14 catches, for 172 yards, one TD against Central Michigan).
SNEAK PEEK: There are two top-25 showdowns this week, with third-ranked Texas visiting Stillwater to take on 13th-ranked Oklahoma State and fourth-ranked USC at 10th-ranked Oregon.
The 7-0 Longhorns can take another huge step toward a Big 12 South title with a win over the 6-1 Cowboys. However, despite being without two of its star players on offense, OSU continues to chug along and win games.
The Pac-10 title could very well be decided in Eugene this week. The Ducks are sitting atop the conference standings with an unblemished record, but sitting just a game back are the seven-time defending league champs. Did anyone really think the Trojans were out of it when they lost to Washington in their Pac-10 opener?
Other key matchups across the country include 20th-ranked West Virginia at South Florida and of course, Georgia against top-ranked Florida in Jacksonville.