Monday, November 20, 2006

Without Tyler, Oaks Christian slips to No. 6

The ingredients just aren't there anymore for Oaks Christian to make a claim for their first National Prep Poll title.

At least it looks that way now that running back/linebacker Marc Tyler (photo) is out for the rest of season.

Tyler, a 6-0, 214-pound half man/half beast who is rated the No. 1 recruit in the nation by Scouts ESPN, broke his leg last Friday during the Lions' 70-9 playoff win over St. Bernard.

We pollsters must judge how strong each team is during each week of the season. With at least seven other BCS college-bound players left on its roster (including future Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen), Oaks Christian is still one of the most talent-laden squads in the nation.

But without its best player in the lineup, Oaks Christian isn't the same. What team would be?

Tyler, who was averaging 13 yards per carry this season and finished his career with 123 touchdowns, is that special.

And so, Oaks moved down from No. 2 to No. 6 in this week's National Prep Poll.

As was written by me in previous blogs, the Lions' case for moving up to No. 1 at some point was highly suspect, given its relatively weak schedule. They will finish the season with only one win against a nationally or regionally ranked opponent (St. Bonaventure) -- and as a Division III California Bowl school they won't have a chance to match up with Southern California's big boys in the playoffs ... and they won’t get a shot at No. 4 De La Salle in the state championship.

Oaks Christian fans, I'm certain, are already warming up their keyboards for the surge of "you must be stupid!" emails that are about to come my way. But I hope, if nothing else, our rankings are consistent in the methodology of their compilation.

The most important factor for judging a team against all others -- which is what rankings aim to do -- is giving weight to how many other great teams you have beaten that season.

And so, Southlake Carroll -- yeah, THEM again -- is our No. 2 team now, based on two factors: 1) What the Dragons have done to get to this point: Three 5A state titles and only one loss since the start of the 2002 season, and this season they've won their first 11 games by an average score of 48-11. 2) What they can still accomplish this season: Carroll could potentially play at least two more Top 25 teams during the playoffs, beginning with this week's battle against No. 20 Euless Trinity. If they make it that far, a state semifinal matchup with No. 7 Lufkin could also be in the cards. No other team in the nation has that kind of opportunity to make hay against nationally ranked competition the rest of the season.

How about the rest of the current Top 5:

No. 3 John Curtis is the only Top 5 team with a win over a current Top 25 team (at No. 14 Hoover). The Patriots have allowed only eight touchdowns this season. But they probably cannot move up from this point and could very well get leapfrogged by No. 4 De La Salle, which will have a chance to play and defeat a tough Southern California opponent in the Division I bowl. No. 5 Warren Central has done absolutely everything within its power to improve and maintain its ranking. The Warriors have not only beaten everyone on their schedule, they have completely obliterated everyone on their schedule. They appear to be well on their way to a fourth straight 5A state title. The only downside for Warren Central is the lack of any wins against a nationally or regionally ranked foe.

Now, with all of that said ... Lakeland is still ranked No. 1. Even though they are battling injuries of their own, the Dreadnaughts are still in one piece -- and are playing well. They have defeated their first two playoff opponents by a combined 86-6.

A good indication of where Lakeland is now compared to earlier this season should be revealed in Friday's rematch against rival Lake Gibson (10-2). Lakeland trounced the Braves by 39 in late September. I would expect a much closer contest this time around.

Sorry, not enough time for a mailbag this week. We’ll try to make up for it next time.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Til next time,


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