HOTARD: College football top heavy in ‘11

Despite the suspensions of Tyrann Mathieu, Spencer Ware and Tharold Simon for violating team rules, top-ranked LSU remains about a three-touchdown favorite for Saturday’s game against No. 19 Auburn, last year’s national champion.

If you think the three-touchdown spread is ill-conceived, then you haven’t been following college football very closely this season.

All five teams in this week’s AP top five have won all their games by double digits.

Of the 44 games involving the top seven teams, exactly one - No. 6 Oklahoma State’s 30-29 thriller against Texas A&M - has been decided by single figures.

The good teams have been really, really good. The teams they’ve been beating up on appear very average.

Up north, No. 4 Wisconsin has not had a game decided by less than 31 points. Out west, No. 7 Stanford has not had anyone stay closer than 26 points.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is just as wide in the usually brutal Southeastern Conference.

No. 2 Alabama has won all four of its SEC games by 24 points or more after winning three nonconference contests by at least 16.

The Crimson Tide is a 29.5-point favorite for Saturday’s game against rival Tennessee.

LSU, meanwhile, has turned one of the nation’s “toughest” schedules into a series of statement wins, continuing to cover spreads that seemed too big to be true.

Last week, the Tigers beat 17.5-point home underdog Tennessee by 31. The week before, they waxed 14-point underdog Florida by 30.

Alabama and LSU have looked like two NFL teams playing in a college league - on course for a Nov. 5 collision.

While the winner of that game will have the inside track to a BCS championship game appearance, the list of heavy-hitting potential opponents in that game is a long one.

More than any college season in recent memory, this one looks unlikely to produce a line of upsets that allows a dark horse (say, the loser of the LSU-Alabama game) to backdoor its way into the big game.

The way the nation’s top teams have been hammering out wins, you have to think we’ll see two unbeatens matched up for the third year in a row.

Then again, college football has fooled us before.

We come to expect chaos.

Maybe No. 22 Washington will roll into Stanford this weekend as a 20.5-point underdog and pull off the biggest upset of the year. Maybe Wisconsin, a 7.5-point favorite, will come up short when the Badgers visit No. 15 Michigan State for their biggest test to date.

Maybe Auburn will

muster some of its 2010 mojo and knock off short-handed LSU.

Or maybe, as has been the case for seven straight weeks, the best teams in

college football will prove again they’re that much

better than everybody else.

Good enough to cover just about any point spread.