NCF Nation: Michael Desormeaux
Patterson focused on his seniors: The rumors are out there as they are every time a job comes open. TCU coach Gary Patterson knows that his name is being tossed around as a potential candidate for some of the bigger jobs out there, but he said he's not focusing on that. He promised his seniors that he'd get them to 40 career wins and he's one game away from accomplishing that with at least two and probably three (with a bowl game) games remaining.
Patterson said despite the rumors, he's not even entertaining calls from other schools.
"I'm not even talking to my friends," Patterson said Tuesday evening. "I've spent three days here going to bed at 2-2:30 in the morning and getting back up at 6 and you don't have much time to talk to anybody. I don't think my wife's talked to me in two days."
Whittingham not sold on a one-loss team busting the BCS: As the top non-BCS team in the country, Utah knows that if it wins out it will play a BCS bowl. But what if the team loses? The Utes have had a couple of close calls this season and with games against ranked TCU and BYU teams remaining, the schedule gets tough in November and a loss could cost them a BCS berth.
Even Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn't sold on a one-loss team getting a BCS bid.
"I could say this, if you are a one-loss BCS team it's unlikely that you'll be able to break into the BCS, but it's not impossible," Whittingham said. "That one loss better be against a very high-profile, highly ranked opponent."
Guy trying to defy history: What's the best way to challenge players on a 1-7 team? Tell them they can't do something. That's what Utah State coach Brent Guy did last week when he challenged his team to beat Hawaii, a team it had never defeated during its time in the WAC. The Aggies went on to win 30-14, and now they have their sights set on No. 10 Boise State, a team they haven't beaten in a decade, losing by an average of 26.7 points, including a 52-0 domination last season.
Guy, who used to work at Boise State, said he knows the intimidation of the blue field in Boise, but with such a young team, he thinks the mystique is overrated.
"I was a part of that for a while, not the WAC wins, but when we got the win streak going originally at home, and it's more about not buying into all that," Guy said. "[Boise State] believes and that's what winning amounts to. We've just got to play better than we've played the last two weeks."
Desormeaux says he's sore, but ready: Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux said he's not quite 100 percent from the sprained knee he suffered in the fourth quarter against North Texas on Oct. 11, but that the play of his teammates is taking the pressure off.
Desormeaux, who played last week against Florida International, is major part of the nation's best running game.
"It's one of those things that's kind of nagging and stuff like that," Desormeaux said of his knee. "I have guys that are making a lot of plays around me right now, so that makes me feel a lot better about it. You don't have to do so much."
Houston trying to keep season together: After Houston's 37-23 loss to Marshall last week, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said he had to take a step back and look at his team.
"We are extremely disappointed and embarrassed about how we played last week, as coaches and players," Sumlin said. "Over the course of the last couple days, it gave us a chance to evaluate where we are schematically and personnel-wise."
The loss was the Cougars' first in conference play, but it wasn't entirely unexpected. The Cougars didn't have fast starts during its previous two wins and had to come from behind to win. Both of those wins were against teams from the bottom of the conference standings (UAB, SMU). So when the Cougars found themselves in a similar situation against a good team, they weren't able to make up the difference.
The best of the non-BCS: BYU was supposed to be the best of the non-BCS, but that theory was proven wrong on Thursday after the Cougars were thoroughly beaten by TCU. That leaves Utah, Boise State, Ball State and Tulsa as the remaining unbeatens and TCU in an interesting spot considering its only loss was to Oklahoma. There could be even more upheaval on the horizon with Boise State still to play San Jose State, Utah still to play TCU and BYU, Ball State still to play Central Michigan and Western Michigan, and Tulsa still to play Arkansas. The cream of the non-BCS crop will rise to the top over the next few weeks.
Tulsa is better than people think: With the exception of last week's close game against SMU, Tulsa has dominated every team it has played. Saturday's game against UTEP was supposed to be its best game to date and Tulsa just ran away with a 77-35 victory. The win finally moved the Golden Hurricane into the polls. The game was tied at 28 after the first quarter and that was as close as it got. Tulsa senior quarterback David Johnson has been sick so far this season. He threw for more than 400 yards for the third time this season and threw for five touchdowns. He has not thrown for fewer than three touchdowns this year. The Golden Hurricane has beaten its opponents by an average of 29.4 points per game.
Spartans continue to impress: I know it's Boise State's WAC title to lose, but San Jose State is not going to let the Broncos run away with it without a fight. The Spartans easily handled a New Mexico State team that had been held to fewer than 24 points just once -- a loss to Nebraska. The Spartans are winning because of their defense. Against New Mexico State, they had three interceptions, two that were returned for touchdowns, and 17 tackles for loss, including six sacks and three quarterback hurries. San Jose State leads the WAC in total defense, pass efficiency defense, interceptions and turnover margin. San Jose State and Boise State, the top two teams in the WAC, clash this weekend in San Jose.
Sun Belt gets clearer: After starting the weekend with four teams locked at the top of the Sun Belt standings, Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette emerged as the two teams to beat for the Sun Belt title. Troy handled FIU as it has every other time the Trojans have played the Golden Panthers and the Ragin' Cajuns got by Arkansas State with a touchdown with 42 seconds remaining. The most intriguing thing about Louisiana-Lafayette's win was that it came without the help of quarterback Michael Desormeaux, who missed the game with a knee injury. Desormeaux and running back Tyrell Fenroy comprise the nation's most potent rushing backfield.
CMU still the MAC's best: Central Michigan has won the MAC each of the past two seasons and it made a strong case for a third bid after a win over rival Western Michigan. Ball State is still in the mix since it was idle this week. But the Cardinals are gearing up to go through their toughest stretch of games here in the final quarter of the season. They still have to play Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Northern Illinois. However, there's little doubt that the winner of the MAC, and probably all its bowl teams, will come from the West Division.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's a toasty, humid day here in north-central Indiana, but not for long. Thunderstorms are expected right around kickoff or shortly thereafter. The rain might slow down Oregon's speedsters, but the accompanying wind will also bring problems for Purdue's pass-oriented spread offense. Either way, weather should be a factor.
Looking around the Big Ten, the defenses are shining in bad weather:
- The Illinois defense seems to have gotten its act together, storming out to a 17-3 lead against Louisiana-Lafayette. Linebacker Brit Miller already made a huge play, stripping the ball from quarterback Michael Desormeaux and racing 27 yards to the end zone. This game provided a decent test for Illinois' run defense, and so far they've come through on a day where quarterback Juice Williams has had some problems.
- Michigan State's defensive line also has stepped up so far, holding Florida Atlantic scoreless in the opening half. Owls standout quarterback Rusty Smith had a horrendous half, completing just 4 of 22 passes in a downpour, but credit the Spartans' defense for stepping up (just 88 first-half yards allowed).
- Iowa continues to move the ball behind Ricky Stanzi and Shonn Greene but has little to show for it so far. Stanzi completed just 5 of his first 12 pass attempts and the Hawkeyes haven't scored since the game's early minutes. Fortunately for them, Iowa State hasn't done anything against a strong defensive front seven.
- Northwestern's defense continues to hold together long enough for the offense to get going. The Wildcats still have some troubles finding the end zone and the offensive line is a question, but they seem to be best after they get behind and running back Tyrell Sutton is taking over in the rain. And the defense is clearly better and more assertive under new coordinator Mike Hankwitz.
- Montana State is giving Minnesota some problems, but as expected, quarterback Adam Weber got it together in the second quarter. This could come down to the final minutes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A great weekend of Big Ten games is on tap, and not just the big one at the L.A. Coliseum (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). I expect all of you to gain a few pounds sitting on your couches throughout Saturday and into Sunday morning. Anything less will be unacceptable. I get a rare Friday night at home -- fiancee is happy -- before hitting the road early Saturday to watch Purdue and No. 16 Oregon go at it (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).
A quick disclaimer about this post because I've gotten a lot of nasty e-mails. These are the best 10 things to watch on a given Saturday, not the best thing to watch for each team. There often will be two items for a marquee game -- like the one in L.A. -- and multiple teams won't make the rundown, especially those playing weak competition. That's how it works.
Here are 10 things you don't want to miss:
1. Beanie watch ends: Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is listed as doubtful for the matchup against top-ranked USC, but nothing will be settled until kickoff. Coach Jim Tressel doesn't want to risk further injury to Wells in September, but if the Heisman Trophy candidate can contribute, the Buckeyes will use him. If not, get ready for a guy (Dan Herron) nicknamed "Boom." Unfortunately, that's also the sound Rey Maualuga makes when he connects with ball carriers.
2. Pryor restraint: Buckeyes freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor will play a role against the Trojans. How significant a role largely depends on Beanie Wells' availability. If the offense stalls like it did last week without Wells, Pryor could get extended time in an effort to throw off the USC defense. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound freshman is a special talent, but can he handle the spotlight of such a marquee game?
3. Badgers hit the road: Wisconsin has survived slow starts against inferior opposition, but it can't afford to drag against Fresno State. Keep your eyes on Badgers quarterback Allan Evridge, who makes his first road start since 2005. Coach Bret Bielema gets two big pieces -- tight end Travis Beckum and linebacker Jonathan Casillas -- back on the field following injuries, but both players could be a bit rusty.
4. 'Hell' with the victors: Michigan players saw Charlie Weis' words around their training room this week. The Wolverines head to South Bend hoping to hand Weis and Notre Dame a third humiliating loss in the last three years. Quarterback Steven Threet gets the start and needs to show greater consistency, but he'll get help from a veteran defensive line that swarmed Jimmy Clausen last year.
5. Track meet at Ross-Ade -- Purdue has marveled at Oregon's team speed all week, and the Boilers have to find a way to keep pace Saturday afternoon. This will be the first of several defining games for Purdue senior quarterback Curtis Painter, who will set plenty of records but needs signature wins to complete his resume. The Boilermakers' back seven has improved but will play without speedy linebacker Jason Werner. Oregon's Jeremiah Johnson could capitalize.
6. Backer bonanza: NFL scouts will be drooling as arguably the nation's best linebacker tandems take the field at the L.A. Coliseum. Ohio State's James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman hope to continue their takeaway trend against Mark Sanchez, while the "scary" Maualuga and Brian Cushing bring the pain to the Buckeyes offense.
7. State pride on the line: This is more than a rivalry game for Iowa. Iowa State provides the first significant test for the Hawkeyes, who have looked dominant against shoddy competition. Sophomore quarterback Ricky Stanzi has a grasp on the starting job and the support of Iowa fans, but he'll need to continue to make progress against the Cyclones. The home team has won the last four Cy-Hawk trophies, a good sign for Iowa.
8. Rush hour in East Lansing: Michigan State's defensive line has yet to break out, and Saturday would be a fine time to do so. Sun Belt champ Florida Atlantic and standout quarterback Rusty Smith come to town, and the Spartans need to apply pressure to avoid problems. With uncertainty in the secondary, Michigan State needs big things from end Trevor Anderson and tackle Justin Kershaw.
9. Illini D-line under the gun -- Illinois ranks 101st nationally in rush defense (201 ypg), a troubling sign as Louisiana-Lafayette's dynamic quarterback Michael Desormeaux comes to town. Can veterans like Will Davis, Derek Walker, Doug Pilcher and David Lindquist shore up the defensive front? This would be a perfect time as Illinois inches closer to a tough opening stretch in league play.
10. Orange could be feeling blue: What was once a great rivalry could get ugly Saturday at the Carrier Dome as Penn State's high-powered offense faces the worst BCS team in the country. Syracuse should be pumped for the game: coach Greg Robinson desperately needs a positive showing: but Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and the 17th-ranked Nittany Lions should put up some ridiculous numbers in this one.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
This week needs no introduction. It boasts an excellent selection of games around the Big Ten, certain to destroy my nearly spotless season record. Two matchups with the Pac-10 and another with a non-BCS power from the West Coast headline the slate, which will largely determine public opinion about the Big Ten until the bowl season.
Expect a bunch of offense on Saturday, except in South Bend.
Michigan State 44, Florida Atlantic 23 -- Rusty Smith and the Owls offense will test the Spartans, who need their line to generate pressure and their patchwork secondary to hold together. But Florida Atlantic's defense has looked awful so far and it's only a matter of time before Javon Ringer gets going again. Quarterback Brian Hoyer and wideouts Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham should have big games as well.
Minnesota 45, Montana State 14 -- The audition to replace running back Duane Bennett begins as Minnesota gets a long look at junior Jay Thomas and freshmen DeLeon Eskridge and Shady Salamon. The Gophers lost to a FCS team (North Dakota State) last year, but quarterback Adam Weber won't let it happen again. Montana State running back Demetrius Crawford tests Minnesota's front seven.
Illinois 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 24 -- Until Illinois' defensive line starts playing to its potential and stopping the run, teams will continue to put up points. Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux is very dangerous on the move, so linebackers Brit Miller and Martez Wilson need to track him. Juice Williams continues to put up huge numbers against an overmatched defense.
Northwestern 37, Southern Illinois 21 -- C.J. Bacher and his receivers regain their timing against a Salukis defense that gave up 31 points to Hampton in the opener. More importantly, running back Tyrell Sutton gets on track after cramps limited him against Duke. Running back Larry Warner and the SIU offense should keep things close for a while, but Northwestern pulls away in the third quarter.
Iowa 31, Iowa State 21 -- The home team has won the last four Cy-Hawk Trophies, and though the Hawkeyes haven't been tested this fall, they'll prevail at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa State's struggles to defend the run hurts against blossoming back Shonn Greene. Expect an early hiccup for quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but Iowa's acknowledged starter settles down in the second quarter.
Penn State 51, Syracuse 10 -- Syracuse has a big weekend on tap with the premiere of "The Express," a film about Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis. The actual game will be the lowlight. Syracuse allowed 42 points to Akron at home last week, and Penn State provides a much tougher test. Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and Stephfon Green run all around the Carrier Dome.
Oregon 44, Purdue 31 -- This will be a shootout for a while before Oregon pulls away on the field and on the scoreboard. Purdue's coaches gushed all week about the Ducks' team speed, and it will take a phenomenal game plan from defensive coordinator Brock Spack to keep Oregon in check, especially with his fastest linebacker, Jason Werner, sidelined. Joe Tiller's record-setting win will have to wait a week.
Michigan 21, Notre Dame 10 -- The Wolverines' veteran defensive line is the difference against a still shaky Fighting Irish offensive front. Jimmy Clausen won't spend as much time on the ground as he did last year in Ann Arbor, but Michigan defensive end Tim Jamison should cause some havoc. Quarterback Steven Threet makes a few mistakes before moving the ball with short passes, and a Michigan running back breaks a long touchdown run.
USC 31, Ohio State 24 -- The Buckeyes perform better than many expect, but there are just too many factors going against them. USC never loses in L.A. -- at least not to formidable opponents -- and the bye week should benefit the Trojans. Ohio State's defense generates an early turnover, but the offense won't be able to keep up for four quarters without a fully healthy Chris "Beanie" Wells. Terrelle Pryor makes a big play and a bone-headed one, and the Buckeyes' national title hopes fade -- at least for now.
Wisconsin 28, Fresno State 27 -- I had Fresno State winning this game until a conversation Tuesday night with a Wisconsin player (check back Friday to see who he was). The Bulldogs certainly provide an incredible challenge, but the Badgers avoid another slow start and start pounding away with their running backs. All-American tight end Travis Beckum makes his debut and comes up with a big catch or two in the fourth quarter as Wisconsin survives.
Season record: 19-2
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State