SCENE: Deep in the Red Gate Woods of Illinois, our committee members - who unknowingly hired our mole as their outdoors guide - sit around a campfire making s'mores and chatting amicably. Directly behind committee chairman Jeff Long looms an ominously heavy door that, presumably, leads into some kind of underground bunker. The air is chilly but pleasantly so, as the unmistakable autumn aroma of the woods settles over the conversation.
Barry Alvarez: Long, is that the same suit you had on at Five Guys last week? So you're a dweeb and you're cheap. Good to know.
Jeff Long: Look, I travel a lot, OK? Anyway... I know you all might be thinking this is an odd spot, but we had to meet in the Midwest this week and with the implosion of the Big Ten liable to occur at any second, I felt we'd be safest if we met as close to a fallout shelter as possible. If this was good enough for Fermi, it's good enough for us.
Tom Osborne: Still don't know why we joined that hot steaming pile of rubble. Hey, now we can be Minnesota South! Thanks, guys! Wait a minute... I did that... Ah, nuts.
The OFD Top 25
1. Florida State: We're still working off the theory that they have to be knocked off the perch, but man, they're testing it, especially after a closer-than-the-final-score-looked win over NC State. The biggest concern has to be that the defense has looked pretty shaky and is now facing some injury attrition. Two eminently winnable games are up next - Wake Forest, then Syracuse - before a potential mega-matchup against Notre Dame.
2. Oregon: Took the week off and held steady. They invite Rich Rodriguez's maybe-resurgent Arizona program to Autzen this week.
3. Oklahoma: Also off this past weekend, and will face undefeated TCU next weekend.
4. Alabama: Also idle. Lots of cheeseburgers in the top 5 this week. Will travel to Ole Miss next week in a potential statement game for each team.
5. Auburn: Took care of business against overmatched Louisiana Tech, and has a big game coming up against a rested LSU team (New Mexico State is practically a bye week).
6. Baylor: Finally entered big-boy play by taking on... then-1-2 Iowa State, who has no wins against non-Big Ten competition this year. They won comfortably, but still gave up 28 points; a trip to Texas might show a bit more this week.
7. Notre Dame: Climbing a spot this week after dispatching Syracuse. Minus 4 on turnover margin, some dumb/questionable penalties, and some missed opportunities, and still a 16-point win at a neutral site. Not bad. The Irish host Stanford in one of this weekend's marquee matchups.
8. Texas A&M: Yes, they won and dropped a spot; their win in the opener against South Carolina looks a little less impressive as time goes on, and they needed overtime to beat Arkansas, who was crushed by Auburn in their opener. They travel to for-the-moment nouveau riche Mississippi State this week to kick off Saturday's action.
9. Michigan State: Covered a 28-point spread with ease against Wyoming. In four games, that's the third time MSU has had a 28+ point spread (the other two were -34.5 against FCS Jacksonville State and -43.5 against Eastern Michigan). Do better, Mark Hollis. The Spartans host Nebraska this week in another two-way potential statement game.
10. UCLA: I still have severe doubts about this team. I really don't want to put them here. I want to discount that win because Taylor Kelly wasn't available for Arizona State. I don't believe they'll survive their conference schedule. Still, I just can't ignore 62-27, so they take ASU's spot from last week. They'll draw Utah, who is fresh off a deflating loss to the Mad Pirate of Washington State.
11. Stanford: Escaped against Washington with a late TD. They may be a team with a bunch of new faces starting to work things out, or the bloom may be coming off the rose in Palo Alto. This week's trip to South Bend should provide a little more of an answer.
12. Ole Miss: Dispatched a game Memphis squad with relative ease. They host Alabama this weekend; if they hold to past form, they'll fold like a cheap lawn chair. Or are these guys for real this time?
13. Georgia: Can't say I feel great about putting them here after they squeaked past unranked Tennessee, but once again, carnage all over the place helps them. They draw Derek Mason's 1-4 Vandy team at home this week, and shouldn't have much trouble. If they do...
14. Mississippi State: Cheeseburgers = profit. Up two spots and hosting Texas A&M this week with a chance to seriously damage the Aggies' title aspirations. And perhaps even boost their own, which sounds completely crazy.
15. LSU: Beat up on New Mexico State, unsurprisingly. This week's showdown with Auburn is a chance to show they really can still run with the big boys.
16. Wisconsin: Sat at 3-3 at halftime with South Florida; they pulled away to win 27-10, but that should give Badgers fans something to think about. They'll finally start Big Ten play this week at Northwestern. Whee!
17. BYU: Sat idle this week and jumped a couple of spots. They'll take on Utah State this weekend. Um... Yawn.
18. Ohio State: They weren't really seriously threatened by Cincinnati, but the Bearcats did hang in for a long time - it was 33-28 midway through the third quarter before Ohio State scored 17 unanswered points to pull away. They draw Maryland on the road this weekend, who has looked competent and could pose a legitimate risk.
19. Kansas State: Handled UTEP easily in a not-as-close-as-it-looks 50-28 win. They'll face Texas Tech this week, who fired their defensive coordinator before last week's game with Oklahoma State - and looked like it.
20. Oklahoma State: I feel like I just talked about these guys... They look like every Big 12 cliche you've heard over the last few years. Good offense, no defense, all shootouts. Should be an entertaining matchup with KSU.
21. Nebraska: Opened Big Ten play with a resounding win over Illinois. Not that that means much. Huge chance to prove themselves in East Lansing this weekend.
22. USC: With their backs against the wall, delivered a convincing win against upset-minded Oregon State. They still seem more Glass Joe than Mr. Sandman, though; it'll be interesting to see how the fare against a wounded Arizona State team this weekend.
23. East Carolina: Idle this past weekend and moved up two spots. They'll take on SMU this weekend, loosely speaking; unfortunately for them, their schedule in general may prevent them from making too much noise. It would be great to see them go against a top 15 / top 20 team and see how legitimate they really are.
24. Arizona State: I wrestled with whether to drop them out after their obliteration at the hands of UCLA. Ultimately I think they're really, really hurt by the loss of Taylor Kelly, so I'm giving them a little bit of the benefit of the doubt and assuming he'll be back in the minimum time frame. They have a puncher's chance at USC, but most likely they'll drop out next week anyway.
25. Missouri: Climbing back in after a big win at South Carolina, they'll have the rather odd distinction of playing the AP #13 team in consecutive weeks as they host Georgia. I thought they had some promise before the puzzling loss to Indiana, so it'll be interesting to see what they do with their second consecutive shot at redemption.
Dropped out: #13 South Carolina - Last week I said I had "no idea what to make of this team," so they happily obliged with some further evidence. Mr. Hyde showed up against Missouri.