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College Football Cinderellas – Contenders or Pretenders?

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Over the past few weeks in college football, the rankings have shifted around like a game of musical chairs. 11 of the preseason’s top 25 teams no longer hold the honor of being in the highest echelon of college football. They have since been replaced by some up and coming teams; namely South Florida, Kentucky, BC, South Carolina, Oregon, Missouri, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Purdue, Kansas State and Clemson. But, as a die hard fan, I keep asking myself who from that list has what it takes to stay in the top 25. Are they here to stay or are they simply riding a surprising and brief run of luck? The following is an analysis of who among these teams are true contenders and who are pretenders.

1. Oregon – This team is definitely a contender. Coming from a very talented conference that boasts 4 teams in the top 25 and a very good UCLA Bruins team, the Ducks have shown that they can flat out play. Had it no been for a bit of bad luck against Cal, they very well could be undefeated and in the top 5 in the nation.

2. Clemson – This is a bit of a toss up. The Tigers are 4-1 right now, only losing to a very good Georgia Bulldogs squad. Yes, they did beat Florida State who is usually a football powerhouse. However, the rest of their wins have come against sub-par opponents. The Tigers can stake a claim to their contender status by beating Virgina Tech this week.

3. South Carolina – Like Oregon, the Gamecocks are here to stay. They are currently 4-1. But, they lost to LSU who is virtually unstoppable at the moment. Also, they handed the Bulldogs their only defeat of the season, in Georgia no less. That’s impressive. SC has a tough road ahead with 3 top 25 teams in the near future, but I think they are good enough to weather the storm.


4. South Florida – The Bulls are seeing red at the moment. Fresh off of their win against West Virginia, USF looks very good. However, they are a pretender. The Bulls have been very opportunistic this season, beating the mountaineers and Auburn, but their schedule is going to prove too difficult for this Cinderella.

5. Boston College – The Eagles have definitely had a flying start to their season. At 5-0 they are playing some impressive football. But wasn’t that expected. Aside from Georgia Tech (who has been a little disappointing themselves), the Eagles haven’t really played anyone worth mentioning. Don’t get me wrong, BC is a good football team. But with Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech looming in the distance, they may not end up with a good enough record to make a bowl game.

6. Kentucky – The Wildcats have literally come from left field in 2007. Were they even on the radar in preseason? UK is having a dream season at the moment, beating two very good football teams in Louisville and Arkansas. But, look at who they have left to play – LSU, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Again, like BC, the Wildcats are a good team. But it is unlikely that they will stay in the top 25 for long.

7. Arizona State – Yes, the Sun Devils are 5-0. Yes, the Sun Devils beat a good Colorado team. But are they a top 25 team? NO!!! The facts are pretty straight forward. They play Cal, UCLA, Oregon, Washington and USC during the second half of the season. There are few teams, if any, who could withstand that kind week in and week out battering.


8. Kansas State – Contender. While Kansas State has only proven their mettle in one game this season (41-21 win vs Texas), they don’t have that tough of a schedule in the upcoming weeks. If they can past Colorado, it will be smooth sailing until they meet Nebraska and Missouri. The Cornhuskers and Tigers are both tough teams, but I have a feeling that Kansas State will prove to be tough themselves.

9. Missouri – Let’s face it. The Tigers are a good team. But are they top 25 material? In the past maybe, but not this year. They will not be good enough to get past Nebraska or Oklahoma. Then, to have any kind of noteworthy record, the Tigers would have to get past Texas A&M, Kansas State and Colorade – all good teams. In my opinion, it is just not going to happen.

10. Cincinnati – Major Pretender. This is an easy one. While the Bearcats have been averaging over 46 points per game, they’ve done it against teams my high school could probably beat. They are not going to get past WVU, USF, Louisville or Rutgers. They may not even make a bowl game.

11. Purdue – This once great football team has been rather shabby in recent years. This year is no different. Like most other Top 25 Cinderellas, the Boilermakers have had an easy road thus far. But, can they keep it up against the Buckeyes? Not likely. Are they going to beat a Michigan team that is playing with a chip on its shoulder. Probably not. It is going to be a long season for Purdue, unless they come up with some huge performances.

When all is said and done, you have to give it to these teams for performing as well as they have this year. But, let’s face it. Nature is going to run its course. It is going to be survival of the fittest and like always, the bigger, better teams are going to ruin the fairy tale. Prediction: Oregon and South Carolina will stay in the top 25 and Kansas State has a chance as well. But the rest of the lot will be no where to be seen at the end of the season.

Nishan Wilde is VP of Sales for Robbins Sports and Athletics, an online resource for the Seiko S149 Stopwatch and Portable Scoreboards.