Showdown weekend: A look back

The September version of the Game of the Century is behind us and Georgia has survived a close encounter with Darth Visor in Columbia. The Gator Country Staff tackles five college football questions from the first showdown weekend of the season.

1. If Southern Cal is the best team in the country (and they are), then who is the best player you saw Saturday when the Trojans tap-danced to that blowout (big surprise there) over Ohio State?

FRANZ BEARD: That’s got to be Brian Cushing. Ray Maualuga is as good a middle linebacker as there is in the country, but Cushing is the best player on that defense. He’s equally good rushing the passer as he is dropping in coverage and he just doesn’t miss a tackle.

BUDDY MARTIN: USC running back Joe McKnight (106 yards on 12 carries) whose breakaway speed and explosive style can bail out quarterback Mark Sanchez.

MARK MCLEOD: There were several superb players for the Trojans- Ray Maualuga, Kevin Ellison, Brian Cushing, Joe McKnight, and Stanley Havili just to name a few. Just look out on that field and you can see why Southern Cal among the top recruiting schools in the nation year after year. There are those that think they’re a little shady, but the results are that the Trojans do a terrific job evaluating talent and getting them to SC. Pete Carroll has been at USC since 2001, which is another advantage watching other programs replace coaches and lag in their recruiting efforts.

RYAN MOSS: Southern Cal looked a lot better yesterday then they did when I saw them live in their season opener at Virginia. They might be the only team in the country whose defense has enough speed to match Florida’s offense. I think that Joe McKnight was the best player on the field talent wise, but that Clay Matthews had the best game. Matthews, who recently switched from linebacker to defensive end, was consistently pressuring the quarterback and also did a great job helping to contain Pryor.

RAY HINES: I think it’s way too early to crown USC as the best in the country. OSU was Overrated-State-U yet again and USC always seems to stumble partway through their schedule, however soft it is. Still, I gotta say I was pretty impressed with Damon Williams and wonder how good he would have been had he stuck with his commitment to the Gators.

2. Is Georgia really the number two team in the country?

FRANZ BEARD: I don’t think Georgia is number two. Not sure if they’re even top five. Matt Stafford might need Benny Hinn to get through this season without a major injury with that offensive line and if Bryan Evans is their best cover corner, they’re in trouble. Number two? That’s Oklahoma.

BUDDY MARTIN: Don’t be misled by Georgia’s poor performance against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks. They have a talented defense—but not very well coached—and if Knowshohn Moreno stays healthy is a strong Heisman candidate. Right now whether the Dogs or No. 2 or No. 7 doesn’t really matter. We’ll have to see how they hold up against a murderous schedule. I’d say they definitely belong in the top 5.

MARK MCLEOD: No. I’d go with Oklahoma at this point of the season. I really like Sam Bradford and the offensive line has really blown open holes in their first three games. The defense looks pretty solid too.

RYAN MOSS: No, I don’t think Georgia deserves to be the number two team. They haven’t impressed me at all especially nearly losing to South Carolina yesterday. There is no doubting that Moreno is talented and that Stafford has a great arm, but the wide receivers aren’t very good. For South Carolina to hold them to 14 points, shows that the Georgia offense can and will be stopped.

RAY HINES: Not even close at this time of the year. Maybe if they keep rolling, but the Gamecocks gift-wrapped their game to the Poodles yesterday so Georgia oughta consider themselves very lucky they escaped with a win. If the Gators were to play Georgia today, I’d take Florida in a heartbeat.

As for the real number two, I agree with Franz — it’s Oklahoma for now, but again, they always seem to fumble away a win later in the season, so we’ll see if this holds true. I was tempted to put Florida in the #2 spot, but that’s just a wee bit too early and I am ever so slightly superstitious.

4. Okay, then who are the five best teams in the country?

FRANZ BEARD: 1. Southern Cal; 2. Oklahoma; 3. Florida; 4. Missouri; 5. LSU.

BUDDY MARTIN: It’s like this: USC by far No. 1. Oklahoma is probably No. 2, then pick a name out of the hat for the next three: Florida, Georgia, LSU, Missouri or Texas. Sleeper who just woke up: BYU.

MARK MCLEOD: 1. Southern Cal; 2. Oklahoma; 3. Florida; 4. LSU; 5. Missouri.

RYAN MOSS: 1. Southern Cal; 2. Oklahoma; 3. Florida; 4. Penn State; 5. LSU.

RAY HINES: 1. Southern Cal (by default); 2. Oklahoma; 3. Florida; 4. LSU; 5. Penn State

5. Now rate the teams in each division of the SEC.

FRANZ BEARD: SEC East: 1. Florida; 2. Georgia; 3. Tennessee; 4. Vanderbilt; 5. South Carolina; 6. Kentucky; SEC West: 1. LSU; 2. Alabama; 3. Auburn; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Mississippi State; 6. Arkansas.

BUDDY MARTIN: SEC EAST: 1. Florida; 2 Georgia; 3. Vanderbilt; 4. South Carolina; 5. Tennessee; 6. Kentucky; SEC WEST: 1. LSU; 2. Alabama; 3. Auburn; 4. Mississippi State; 5. Ole Miss; 6. Arkansas.

MARK MCLEOD: SEC East: 1. Florida 2. Georgia 3. Tennessee 4. Vanderbilt 5. South Carolina 6. Kentucky: SEC West: 1. LSU; 2.Alabama; 3. Auburn; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Mississippi State; 6. Arkansas.

RYAN MOSS: SEC East: 1. Florida; 2. Georgia; 3. Vanderbilt; 4. Tennessee; 5. South Carolina; 6. Kentucky; SEC West: 1. LSU; 2. Alabama; 3. Auburn; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Mississippi State; 6. Arkansas.

RAY HINES: SEC East: 1. Florida; 2. Georgia; 3. Vanderbilt; 4. Tennessee; 5. South Carolina; 6. Kentucky; SEC West: 1. LSU; 2. Alabama; 3. Ole Miss; 4. Auburn; 5. Arkansas; 6. MSU.

5. What is the one team on Florida’s schedule that you’re not looking forward to playing after seeing the SEC the last two weeks?

FRANZ BEARD: Vanderbilt. The game is in Nashville and they’re going to beat some very, very good team this year.

BUDDY MARTIN: LSU, because they’re still a mystery.

MARK MCLEOD: LSU. I certainly don’t want to overlook the Vols. The SEC is just insane and winning on the road in America’s best conference is not easy at all. But, I still think LSU will be a war in “The Swamp”. We’ll find out more about them next week when they travel to the Plains to play a struggling Auburn team. There’s an awful lot of talent on the Tigers’ two-deep. The offensive line is creating huge holes for Charles Scott and the running game. Quarterback Andrew Hatch is managing the offense well enough, while getting some much-needed on the job training. And don’t forget about a very talented defense.

RYAN MOSS: LSU, they are very talented and have stars at every position but quarterback. Fortunately, this game is in The Swamp but as we saw last year, the Gators can be beat in Gainesville.

RAY HINES: LSU. They haven’t played their SEC games yet, but they still looked pretty impressive. Right now not a lot has impressed me in the conference. Not to be a homer, but the Gators look most impressive at this point with a solid win over a better than good Miami team that’s not your typical out-of-conference pasty. In fact, I suspect Miami would have given USC a better run for their money than OSU did.

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How about you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below or on our football forum!