|COLLEGE FB PACKAGE: UConn, Kansas, Purdue and Michigan State have no losses and lots to prove|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 September 2007 11:18|
In major college football there are 23 teams without a loss heading into week No. 5. Of those, 19 are ranked in the AP Top 25.
Arizona State and Cincinnati were the last two unbeatens to convince poll voters that they just might be as good as their records.
As for Connecticut, Kansas, Michigan State and Purdue - the four unranked unbeatens - there's still plenty of reason for skepticism.
The Huskies, Jayhawks, Spartans and Boilermakers have combined for 12 victories, but only one has come against a team with a winning record: Michigan State beat Bowling Green (2-1) 28-17 in East Lansing.
So what to make of four teams that entered the season with modest expectations and find themselves already two-thirds of the way to bowl eligibility?
Let's see if there's anything to get excited about.
Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen has addressed the Huskies' biggest problem the past two seasons. The junior college transfer has completed 63 percent of his passes and thrown just two interceptions.
With an opener at Duke and home games against Maine and Temple, it was no shocker to see Connecticut start 3-0. Last week's 34-14 victory at Pittsburgh was surprising, despite the Panthers' struggles.
While Lorenzen has helped stabilize the offense, coach Randy Edsall's team has been dominant defensively, ranking 12th in the nation (250 yards per game).
With a home game against Akron (2-2) on Saturday, UConn's first 5-0 start since 1995, when the Huskies were still in I-AA, is a strong possibility.
``I know we have a long way to go,'' Edsall told reporters this week. ``We've got a lot of work to do in all three phases yet.''
There's a good chance September will be the high point for the Huskies. Their remaining schedule is treacherous, starting with their final nonconference game at Virginia on Oct. 13. UConn also must play all the Big East's best teams.
The Jayhawks generally try to avoid tough nonconference games and this year's slate of Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International was no exception.
Coach Mark Mangino's Jayhawks have made the most of their smooth September road with four blowouts and some staggering stats.
Kansas ranks fourth in the nation in total offense (552 yards per game) and total defense (219 ypg). The only other teams to rank in the top 10 in both categories - No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 10 Rutgers.
The Jayhawks probably won't be keeping such lofty company much longer. They're off this week and play at rival Kansas State on Oct. 6.
Still, the Jayhawks should be in good shape to reach a bowl of the third time since 2003. Kansas doesn't play Texas or Oklahoma from the Big 12 South and has home games against Baylor and Iowa State. A 7-5 season, which should be enough to ensure a seventh season in Lawrence for Mangino, seems very reachable.
The Boilermakers have one of the Big Ten's most experienced teams and their offense, directed by quarterback Curtis Painter has been as good as expected, averaging 527 yards per game against a bunch of bad defenses (Toledo, Central Michigan, Eastern Illinois and Minnesota).
This Purdue team does look a lot like most recent Purdue teams - and that's not great.
Purdue ran out to a big lead at the Metrodome last week, only to have the Gophers get back in and hold on for a 45-31 victory.
The Boilermakers get Notre Dame at home this week, so 5-0 here they come. Then the schedule gets serious with Ohio State, at Michigan and Iowa.
``To me, it doesn't matter who the opponent is, you have to prepare to succeed yourself ... and try to get better each week,'' coach Joe Tiller said.
There's potential for the Big Ten to get weird this season. With an experienced team that can score points, Purdue can't be discounted.
New coach Mark Dantonio hasn't quite made Spartans fans forget about the many meltdowns Michigan State had under former coach Jon L. Smith.
Still, it's a good start.
If nothing else the Spartans appear to be playing harder and smarter. Dantonio, a former defensive coordinator, has Michigan State getting after the quarterback. The Spartans lead the nation with 21 sacks, though those numbers have been padded against three woeful offenses, UAB, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
Offensively, the Spartans are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten with no truly outstanding players.
They play at Wisconsin this week and an upset victory could set Michigan State up for an interesting October. The Spartans have home games against Big Ten lightweights Northwestern and Indiana before a tough final five, starting with road dates at Ohio State and Iowa.
Bottom line, Michigan State's first winning season since 1973 is still no guarantee.