College Football 2011: BCS Drumbeat to Begin

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The real speculation of who's No. 1 in college football will heat up this weekend when the first BCS poll comes out Sunday evening.

It may be too soon to tell as we approach the halfway point, but this season is shaping up to be less controversial. Many observers would agree that LSU, Oklahoma and Alabama are the three best teams so far.

Not far behind would be Wisconsin, Stanford and Boise State among the unbeaten. Clemson and Oklahoma State, also unbeaten, look as if they could stay in the picture.

The other ranked unbeatens who may say, "Hey, what about us?" are Michigan, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kansas State and Houston.

But Alabama and LSU will meet on Nov. 5 in an SEC West clash. Oklahoma will tussle with Oklaoma State on Dec. 3, and Clemson has Georgia Tech on Oct. 29. The ranks of the unbeaten will undergo attrition, but it's a pretty good bet that the SEC champion will have a place at the table in the BCS title game Jan. 9 in New Orleans (SEC country), particularly if that team goes undefeated.

The Corner raised its picks record to 20-6 on the season, thanks to a 4-1 week last week. Now, on to some college gridiron.

B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State receiver

No. 10 Michigan (6-0) at No. 19 Michigan State (4-1), noon ET (ESPN): While some people, even their own coach, have wondered whether the Wolverines are overrated, they have come from behind twice in their undefeated season, most recently last week on the road vs. Northwestern. Big Blue also has what is shaping up to be a signature win, the dramatic, 35-31 thriller over Notre Dame on Sept. 10. The Irish are a team on the rise.

"We are not a Top 10 team," said Michigan Coach Brady Hoke. "You take care of the football, and defensively, you don't give up 300 and whatever it was yards (vs. Northwestern) throwing the football."

This game is in East Lansing and the Spartans have a tremendous defense -- the third best in the country, and Hoke is well aware of it.

"You look at their defense as a whole and I think the whole team is very well coached, because I have a lot of respect for Mark D'Antonio," Hoke said. "He's a defensive coach. ... I think they play with good team speed, and they are going to be a physical presence out on the field."

But do they have enough to stop Denard Robinson, the Wolverines' phenomenal quarterback who has accounted for almost 2,000 yards in total offense? The Spartans will need to generate more offense than they did in their last game, a 10-7 victory over Ohio State two weeks ago. Wide receiver B.J. Cunningham caught nine passes for 152 yards in the victory. Corner's choice: Michigan 21, Michigan State 17 -- William Hennelly

Jamal Miles, Arizona State

No. 20 Arizona State (5-1) vs. No. 9 Oregon (4-1), 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN): How will Oregon perform without Pac-12 leading rusher LaMichael James is the Ducks' biggest question as the team enters a pivotal conference game against Arizona State.

James' gruesome elbow injury against California last week will likely sideline the back. Even so, that would still be Oregon's toughest test since an opening weekend loss against Louisiana State.

"Even if I don't play, we have tremendous backs," James said. "I don't think we'll miss a beat."

Maybe. The next four backs on the Ducks' roster have combined for 70%, or 593 yards, of James' output. De'Anthony Thomas, who has the team's second most yards, was a five-star recruit out of high school and has fulfilled the promise to be a solid flex wide receiver.

Quarterback Darron Thomas is going to need De'Anthony Thomas or someone else to explode from the backfield, because without a dependable running game Oregon's offense will become one-dimensional.

Arizona State will test Oregon's defense behind the cannon arm of quarterback Brock Osweiler, who has been a masterful play caller as the team ranks 24th nationally in passing yards and 29th in points per game at 35.3.

The Sun Devils gained national attention with a thrilling 37-30 overtime victory against then-ranked Missouri and redeemed a tough loss at Illinois by pasting USC 43-22.

Receivers Gerell Robinson and Aaron Pflugrad have made Osweiler look like a pro by hauling in seven total TDs and an identical number of catches -- 26. The difference in this game could be determined by how well running backs Cameron Marshall and Jamal Miles perform. Expect good things from the Sun Devils if they tire Oregon's defensive line

Arizona State's bend-don't-break defense is why the team has the best record in the Pac-12 South. They're top 25 in points allowed and are evenly talented against the run and the pass.

Oregon has been prone to slow starts this season (down at halftime against Cal), but if Thomas or another youngster fills James' role, the Ducks could walk away with a sweet victory. Corner's choice: Arizona State 35, Oregon 31 -- Joe Deaux

Seth Doege, Texas Tech quarterback

No. 18 Kansas State (5-0) vs. Texas Tech (4-1), 7 p.m. ET (FSN): Kansas State hasn't started a season 6-0 since 2000, a year in which head coach Bill Snyder led the team to an 11-3 record and a near upset of eventual national champion Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.

A win in Lubbock, Texas, against a resurgent Red Raiders program would put the Wildcats in a comfortable position ahead of upcoming games against four ranked teams in consecutive weeks.

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein has been dependable through the air and a stalwart on the ground as he has combined for 1,061 all-purpose yards and 13 TDs. The smash-mouth balance from Wildcats running back John Hubert has troubled opposing defenses as they have had to solve Kansas State's pseudo-triple option.

The Red Raiders are fortunate to get this game at home, away from the Little Apple. Tech quarterback Seth Doege has thrown for 1,706 yards and 17 TDs in an offense that looks like the successful 2008 version that won 11 games, which included that season's most dramatic finish of a clock-expiring, tip-toe-lining, Michael Crabtree touchdown against Texas.

Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville has mirrored former coach Mike Leach's offensive success, but the defensive unit has allowed more than 30 points a game the last three weeks.

Tech rolled through a soft schedule until it faced Texas A&M on Oct. 8 -- a team with talent similar to Kansas State.

The Wildcats should expect another close game (they've won four of their games by seven points or less), and if their defense can't slow Tech's offense by just enough, a loss in Lubbock could signal the beginning of a prolonged tailspin. Corner's choice: Kansas State 33, Texas Tech 30 -- Joe Deaux

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M quarterback

No. 24 Baylor (4-1) at No. 23 Texas A&M (3-2), noon ET (FX): The most exciting thing about this game isn't really about anything happening on the field. It's about the stuff happening off the field.

For those of you who don't pay attention to Big 12 football, let me fill you in. When rumblings were getting serious that A&M was bolting for the SEC, it was Baylor (of all people!) that put its foot down initially and threatened to sue. And the feeling was somewhat justified, given all that was at stake for the tiny Baptist college in Waco. If A&M parted and the Big 12 dissolved in quick succession, Baylor likely would have been one of the handful of schools looking for a decent landing spot ... outside of the BCS.

Fast forward to now. A&M is gone, but the remaining Big 12 schools have recommitted to each other (for now), and brought in TCU to bolster its ranks. Still, talk to an Aggie about Baylor today and they're probably still simmering about Baylor's initial move to slow down the process. And talk to any other school in the Big 12, and they'll look at a matchup against A&M as their final parting shot to send them packing properly to the supposedly greener pastures of the SEC.

With this much animosity as a prelude to the game, we might as well throw the stats and comparisons out the window. This'll be a grudge match, folks. Plain and simple.

While A&M was riding high in preseason, a two-loss skid (and a near crumpling to Texas Tech last week) have sent the Aggie faithful questioning what it is, exactly, they have for a team. A short answer is a pretty decent offense combined with a woeful defense. Any hope of a win, then, comes down to whether the offense can outscore Baylor in a shootout, which means the game will likely come down to how well Aggie quarterback Ryan Tannehill can extend plays and find his receivers. So far, the senior has racked up some gaudy stats, ranking sixth in the conference in total offense.

The problem is that Baylor has a gunslinger of its own in Robert Griffin III. We've discussed RG3 ad nauseam in the past. And while the hype may have taken a dip after the brutal one-point loss to K-State a few weeks back, there's no denying Griffin remains the conference's most dangerous weapon at quarterback (he leads in passing efficiency and points responsible for, while placing in the top 15 in rushing).

Look for a high-scoring affair with lots of passing, no defense and many angry fans on both sides wanting simply to be rid of the other. Corner's choice: Baylor 52 Texas A&M 45 -- David Moss

A.J. Jenkins, Illinois receiver

Ohio State (3-2) at No. 15 Illinois (6-0), 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC): It's not every season the Buckeyes come into a Big 10 game unranked and an underdog, but this is a magical year for Illinois, which is off to its best start since 1951, before Dick Butkus was roaming the turf in Champaign-Urbana.

Ohio State has suffered a lot of change and defections in the past year, and after last week's demoralizing collapse against Nebraska, one has to wonder if the Buckeyes feel the season slipping away from them.

First-year OSU Coach Luke Fickell was philosophical about last week's letdown in Lincoln.

"Obviously, all of us are disappointed in how we finished out last week's game, but we move on, and that's what we've got to do," Fickell said. "I think we talked to those guys about it afterwards; everything hurts a little bit more when your heart hurts, and that's a part of the football game. We've been on the other side of a lot of those. We were on the other side of this one. We'll all grow from it, we'll all be better in the long run because of it, as long as we handle it in the right way."

The Illini, for their part, know this is still Ohio State, and the record against the Buckeyes hasn't been good recently, outside of a stunning victory in Columbus in 2007, when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 no less.

"This will be a physical, physical football team," Illinois Coach Ron Zook said. "If there's one word you sum up in this kind of game, it's going to be a physical game. And our guys are going to need to have their big-boy pads on and ready to play, and I think we will be."

Illinois' can move the ball on the ground and through the air, and outstanding wide receiver A.J. Jenkins is averaging more than 135 yards receiving a game, fifth best in the nation.

The Illini are planning to "Stripe the Stadium" Saturday in blue and orange, depending on where fans sit. That will probably inspire, but the chance to go 7-0 should be enough motivation for the Fightin' Zookers. Corner's choice: Illinois 31, Ohio State 17 --William Hennelly

Jared Blackmon, Oklahoma State

No. 7 Oklahoma State (5-0) at No. 21 Texas (4-1), 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC): After conducting an autopsy of the shellacking that was OU's domination of Texas last weekend, I can safely say one thing -- (*gulp* as I am an alum) Texas is really bad.

Let me explain. Texas is really young, which means prone to making mistakes. The Longhorns also are smaller than a lot of squads and they still lack stabilization at the quarterback spot. Years and years of subpar coaching dovetailed nicely with years and years of subpar recruiting (largely covered up during the Vince Young/Colt McCoy eras), leaving a team now bereft of any solid upperclass talent (and, hence, the youth everywhere on the field). Oh, and while those players are still around, the coaches aren't. So now the Longhorns are breaking in two new coordinators on top of it all.

This is all stuff that should have learned before the season started. Instead, it a 55-17 pummeling by an archrival put it all in focus. Texas is not very good, and it's gonna take a while for them to be good. Yes, the team has it in them to gut out a couple of victories, but let's not anoint the 'Horns as favorites in any game for the rest of the season.

Because this week's matchup against Oklahoma State is going be the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence the Sooners began last week. You see, dear reader, the Cowboys are merely OU, only with brighter uniforms and a better passing game.

The 'Horns lost last week's game largely because of their inability to slow down OU's passing attack, which put on a clinic. The Sooners dropped 367 yards passing (most of which coming in the first half) last week against UT like they were playing pitch-and-catch in the front yard. They own the nation's fifth-ranked passing offense. That's heady stuff.

But would it surprise you to know that OSU actually has the nation's second- ranked passing offense, averaging over 431 yards per contest? For a young secondary still recovering from last week's air raid, this can't be good news.

And to make matters worse for Texas, OSU is bringing NFL-ready wideout Justin Blackmon (and his Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Biletnikoff designations) with them.

The only way Texas can squeak out a win (and it'd be only a squeak) is if they manage to grind out OSU on the ground. Corner's choice: Oklahoma State 35, Texas 18