BCS blitz: Risers, fallers, key matchups around the nation

Our top three

1. Alabama. Hard to picture anyone stopping the Tide now that they survived perhaps the toughest test they'll get. Six of the next seven games are at home. They're more versatile than people think; they can win any game, any way.

2. Oregon. No Chip Kelly, no problem. The Ducks have won 66-3, 59-10 and 59-14 and two of the vanquished were Virginia and Tennessee. They're averaging 672 yards and 61.3 points.

3. Clemson. The stylish Tigers have the best non-conference victory of 2013, the 38-35 takedown of then-No. 5 Georgia. Their offense is national-title caliber … we'll see about the defense.

Stock market: rising

Ole Miss. We all knew about the terrific recruiting class, but that wasn't supposed to start making a difference until 2014. The arrow points up on this program, yet it'll be tough sledding in the SEC West. The Rebels soon face a top-10 trifecta of No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 LSU and No. 10 Texas A&M.

Washington. Unranked in preseason, the Huskies are up to No. 17 after a 38-6 blowout of Boise State and a 10-point win over Illinois at Soldier Field. Looks like USC hired the wrong former assistant — Steve Sarkisian is sharper than Lane Kiffin.

Stock market: falling

Texas. Mack Brown, Phil Steele and a whole bunch of folks were way wrong about the Longhorns, 15th in the preseason poll. This is a program with players in dire need of a kick in the butt, not Brown's pats on the backs.

Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, 18th in preseason, are out of the rankings, and their once-proud defense is MIA after being shredded for 602 yards by Wyoming and 504 yards and 41 points by UCLA.

Star power

Bishop Sankey (RB, Washington). It's not like he came out of nowhere because Sankey ran for 1,439 yards and 16 TDs in 2012, but now he's leading the nation with 184.5 yards rushing per game. "You'd probably look at him and think there is no way this guy is tearing us apart," QB Keith Price said. "But he's very patient, has good vision, great balance and just makes plays."

Hello, Fargo

ESPN “GameDay” is skipping Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Ann Arbor, South Bend, et all, to set up shop this week in Fargo, N.D. That’s home of the North Dakota State Bison, who play Delaware State.

“North Dakota State is sort of the Alabama of the FCS,” GameDay senior producer Lee Fitting said. “They’re two-time defending national champions, ranked No. 1 in the current poll and winners of 10 national titles.”

Key games

One big reason ESPN is going to Fargo: This week’s schedule, on paper, is awful. Eleven ranked teams are favored by more than 30 points.

23-Arizona State at 5-Stanford (Fox, 6 p.m.): The Sun Devils, with a huge assist from Pac-12 refs, knocked off Wisconsin and have an offense capable of making the Cardinal's stout defense squirm. Stanford has been a bit sluggish.

Michigan State at 22-Notre Dame (NBC, 2:30 p.m.): The unbeaten Spartans have unleashed their next beast on the defensive line — Shilique Calhoun — who already has scored three touchdowns. The Irish have won nine straight at home.

Clemson at North Carolina State (Thu., 6:30, ESPN): Thursday night football has produced some huge upsets over the years, and this is the kind of testy road game the Tigers have choked on in years past.

Heisman watch

It’s never too early for a Heisman Trophy update. The news from Vegas is that Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, the defending champ, and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (both 5-to-1) have overtaken Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (7-to-1) and Ohio State’s injured Braxton Miller (11-to-1). Alabama’s A.J. McCarron (8-to-1) is right there, and Florida State QB Jameis Winston (9-to-1) is climbing fast.

Turtle power

One interesting rivalry game pits Maryland (3-0) against West Virginia (2-1) in Baltimore. The Mountaineers have won seven in a row in the border series, and coach Dana Holgorsen says, “Baltimore is huge recruiting grounds for us.” The Terps lead the nation with 14 sacks and are resurgent behind QB C.J. Brown. They’ll also have the best player on the field, WR Stefon Diggs, who reminds some of Tavon Austin.

Tiger talk

Auburn (3-0) already has matched 2012’s win total, and the Tigers snapped a 10-game SEC losing streak with a win over Mississippi State. Auburn has outscored opponents 20-0 in the fourth quarter. The real measuring stick comes Saturday night at LSU.


“You took about 10 years off my life,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told A&M’s Kevin Sumlin after the 49-42 shootout.

Extra points …

  • Michigan has the nation's longest home winning streak at 17 games. South Carolina and Georgia are tied for second at 13.
  • Cal's Jared Goff is the early NCAA leader with 1,306 yards passing, with Oregon State's Sean Mannion second at 1,237 yards.
  • Florida has won eight straight in their once-great rivalry against Tennessee, and the Gators are a 17-point favorite to make it nine in a row.
  • Oregon State's top tailback, Storm Woods of Pflugerville, is expected to miss several weeks with a concussion.