It's de facto Big 12 day on the countdown.
Six of the teams from the temporarily 12-team league remain for the top 35. Half of them will pop up in the rest of this entry.
Oh, and so does Boston College.
The Tigers got hammered last year by Navy, Oklahoma State and Texas (and eventually got reamed in the fourth quarter of a slopfest against Nebraska). The year before that, they were drubbed by Oklahoma and Texas. In 2007, Mizzou was dumped twice by Oklahoma.
Despite seasons with 12-2 and 10-4 records in the latter half of the Chase Daniel years, the Tigers get tagged with a close-but-not-quite label. They might be the Big 12's fourth-best team, but they're stuck playing Wile E. Coyote to the conference's traditional powers' Roadrunner.
There's a real chance that plays out in classic Missouri fashion this year. The early schedule --- five teams that didn't play in a bowl game last year, followed by a trip to Texas A&M --- is the sort of thing that can help Blaine Gabbert get his junior season off to a fine start and perhaps help the Tigers sweep the first half of their schedule.
Then comes Oklahoma and Nebraska in late October. Just like that, the Tigers will be back in the discussion for a trip to the Alamo Bowl.
Gary Pinkel probably doesn't get enough credit for shepherding the Tigers out a two-decade wilderness of irrelevance. It's not a Bill Snyder-type resurrection, but it's certainly strong. But when you break down Pinkel's 36-38 conference record (including league title game trips) by Big 12 opponent, it's abundantly clear where Missouri stands in the present day.
3-1: Texas A&M
3-1: Texas Tech
6-3: Iowa State
4-5: Kansas State
2-3: Oklahoma State
The Tigers are pretty well-entrenched in the tier below the elite in their conference. Don't plan on that changing this season.
There's every reason in the world to believe the Cardinal will be the latest team to demonstrate running back is perhaps the most replaceable position on the field.
Now hold up a minute. This isn't to say Toby Gerhart wasn't a good, even great, player during his career on the Farm.
It's just that four offensive linemen (plus quarterback Andrew Luck) return for Stanford. Gerhart's backups averaged 6.3 yards (Jeremy Stewart) and 5.4 yards (Stepfan Taylor) a carry a year ago, while Gerhart checked in at 5.5 yards a rush.
The pieces are in place for Stanford to at least replicate its 8-5 season of a year ago, if not improve it by a game or two. The Cardinal have posted better records in each of Jim Harbaugh's three seasons, something only six programs have accomplished in that span:
IMPROVED WIN TOTALS, THREE STRAIGHT YEARS (Listed as 06-07-08-09)
Utah State: 1-2-3-4
33. BOSTON COLLEGE
Just three times in the last 10 seasons did an ACC player set a school career rushing record.
Maryland's LaMont Jordan did it in 2000. Duke's Chris Douglas pulled it off in 2003. And two years later, Chris Barclay did the same thing at Wake Forest.
There's a very real chance Montel Harris pulls it off this year for Boston College --- as a junior.
Harris has 2,357 yards. Derrick Knight --- who played at Boston College from 2000 to 2003, but did so while the Eagles were in the Big East --- rolled up 3,725 yards.
Some quick math says Harris needs 1,369 yards for the record, or a little more than 105 yards a game (assuming BC makes a bowl game).
Count on it happening. The Eagles aren't going to abandon their run-heavy offensive approach, and they can be counted upon to be stout on defense --- particularly against the run.
Few teams cling to the fundamental notion that winning is predicated on controlling the line of scrimmage as much as Boston College does. Not-so-coincidentally, few teams exceed expectations on an annual basis as consistently as the Eagles.
There will be no severe underestimation of Boston College here. The Eagles have won eight games for nine years running. This isn't a national title contender and it's likely the first law of ACC bowl selection ("BC shalt always get screwed") will lead to a December trip to Shreveport. But with a friendly finish (Maryland, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia and Syracuse dot the second half of the schedule), the Eagles have a real chance to be in the Atlantic Division chase deep into November.
32. TEXAS TECH
Tommy Tuberville made some headlines this past week for pointing out the future of the Big 12 is murky at best despite the salvage job done last month.
What isn't quite so murky: The new Red Raiders coach is going to have his hands full keeping Texas Tech among the top three teams in the current (but soon to be abolished) South Division.
Texas and Oklahoma aren't going anywhere. Texas A&M is getting better. And the Red Raiders, aside from their 11-2 run in 2008, are a drip-drip-drip of eight- and nine-win seasons.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Texas Tech has actually done well against Oklahoma and even won that wild game in Lubbock against Texas two years back. But as good a hire as Tuberville was (the guy did lead Auburn to an unbeaten season not all that long ago), it's anyone's guess whether Mike Leach's crazy offensive genius will leave any sort of residue for too much longer.
Tuberville has time to find his inner pirate and keep things humming along at Texas Tech. For this year, though, 8-5 seems just about right for the Red Raiders.
31. TEXAS A&M
This season is really pretty simple for the Aggies.
If they can field an average defense, they'll safely land in a mid-tier bowl.
If they cannot, Mike Sherman could be feeling a pretty toasty seat.
Almost quietly, Texas A&M deployed one of the best quarterbacks you haven't seen much of (Jerrod Johnson) and finished fifth nationally in total offense. But they were a complete disaster on defense, giving up more yards per game (426.3) than all but two BCS conference schools.
One was Florida State, who gave up at least 21 points to all but one major-college opponent. The other was Washington State, which was just horrible.
Johnson will certainly make some believers, and the fact the Aggies must cross the state line only twice all season (to play fairly winnable games at Oklahoma State and Kansas) will help. A bruising home conference schedule --- Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Nebraska --- will only help so much.
Texas A&M hung with enough teams last season to provide hope this year could be even better. And it should be, assuming no one sees a 10-win season in the near future in College Station.