NCF Nation: Transform-112312

Big 12: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 23, 2012
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Tavon Austin did quite the transforming act last week, shape-shifting into the Big 12's best running back for a week.

Iowa State did a little transforming into a bowl team last week. This time, it's West Virginia's turn, at the expense of the Cyclones. The Mountaineers have come close twice along the way to a five-game losing streak.

Last week, Landry Jones played the part of a hero, finding Kenny Stills for a game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds to play. Earlier this year, a trick play and a gutsy two-point conversion sent TCU into the postseason, instead of West Virginia.

It's finally the Mountaineers' turn. They'll transform into a bowl-eligible squad later today after rediscovering their offense last week and a brand new offensive weapon in Austin out of the backfield.

This year hasn't been easy for the Mountaineers. Most of the guys on the team have never lost five games in a row. But it won't get any worse, and there's no way WVU is going to slide all the way out of bowl eligibility. West Virginia wasn't as good as many, myself included, believed. The offense wasn't as consistent as it needed to be and the defense provided zero margin for error. The step up in Big 12 offenses compared with Big East offenses has clearly proved to be too much.

Still, this week, even though WVU will be on the road, the streak finally snaps. Geno Smith looks like he's found his vibe a bit, and with Stedman Bailey and Austin looking back to their normal selves, it's time for West Virginia to break through and finally win a tight game again.

Then, it'll finally be time to celebrate a bowl game.

Pac-12: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
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The Mayor. The Jet. Whatever nickname you have for UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, one thing we can all agree on is when you need him to step up, he does.

And the Bruins need him in a big way with one of the top defenses in the country coming to town for a non-divisional season finale that has a significant bearing on next week's conference championship.

Three times the Bruins have played teams ranked in the AP top 25 this year, and Franklin has excelled in all three of those games. Against the three top-25 teams he's faced (Nebraska, Arizona and USC) Franklin is averaging 183.3 yards per game. Against unranked teams, that number drops to 111.4.

Stanford is ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the BCS standings, so if recent statistical trends have anything to say about it, Franklin will have a big game. Against ranked teams, Franklin averages 26 carries, compared to 19 versus unranked. He averages more than a touchdown per game and his average yards after contact balloons from 37 yards against unranked teams to 91 yards against ranked teams.

And as the game goes on, he gets stronger. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Franklin has averaged 11.3 yards per carry in the fourth quarter against ranked teams and more than 64 percent of his yards come after contact.

This makes for an interesting matchup, because Stanford ranks first in FBS in yards allowed per carry in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal yield just .89 yards in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Expect the Cardinal to try to keep Franklin and quarterback Brett Hundley funneled inside the tackles. When the two get outside of the tackles, they average seven yards per carry and have a combined nine touchdowns and 11 carries of 20 yards or more.

Stanford, the only team to slow down Oregon's rushing attack, is holding opponents to no gain or negative yards 37.4 percent of the time. This poses a great strength vs. strength matchup between a Doak Walker Award finalist and one of the country's premier rush defenses.

ACC: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
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Who will transform tomorrow with a huge performance in Week 13?

We are going with a duo: Florida State defensive ends Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner. Given the way both have played this season, there is no doubt Florida will have its hands full trying to slow them both down. And that will be a major problem for an offense that has not been very productive this season.

The No. 4 Gators have struggled all season on offense, from scoring points, to establishing their passing game to protecting the quarterback. Florida has allowed 32 sacks, ranking No. 104 in the nation. Carradine and Werner are the most prolific sack duo in the country. So yes, that is going to be a major problem for the Gators to solve.

Just look at what these two players have done so far:
  • Carradine leads the team in total tackles with 69, and has 11.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and eight hurries. Werner has 33 tackles -- 14.5 are tackles for loss, with 9.5 sacks. Werner has seven pass breakups and five hurries.
  • Carradine leads the ACC in sacks, and Werner ranks second. The last time a pair of teammates finished the year ranked 1-2 was in 2005, when Mario Williams and Manny Lawson did it for NC State.
  • Only three pairs of FSU defensive players have ever combined for more sacks in a season than Werner and Carradine.
  • Werner and Carradine are one of only two sets of teammates in the top 15 for sacks in the FBS.

“They’re very athletic, they’ve got girth, they’ve got size, they’ve got speed, they’ve recruited," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "They’ve got a lot of depth. They throw a lot of guys in there who play and play well, and when you lose a guy like Brandon Jenkins to start the season and you’re able to still play at a high level and rush the passer well with four guys rushing, that says something about your recruiting. So they do a good job. They’re very similar to what we’ve seen in our league."

With all due respect, Werner and Carradine are better than what Muschamp has seen in the SEC this season, and a huge key in this game.

Who will transform tomorrow?: ND-USC

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
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My pick for who will transform tomorrow is Cierre Wood.

The running back is coming off a 150-yard performance on senior day, and he is playing near his hometown, which is Oxnard, Calif.

Wood is a win away from clinching a national title game berth on the home turf of his hometown school, USC.

The season has not gone exactly according to plan for the senior, who was suspended the first two games. He has split time in the backfield with Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III, but he has still managed 720 yards, and a repeat 1,000-yard campaign is not entirely out of the question.

He is averaging 7.1 yards per carry, too.

USC has been mediocre against the run, allowing more than 150 rushing yards per game, 49th nationally.

Stanford's Stepfan Taylor rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown against the Trojans in a win. Oregon's Kenjon Barner ran all over the Trojans for 321 yards and five touchdowns in a win, while getting support from Marcus Mariota's 96 yards on the ground.

And UCLA's Jonathan Franklin escaped for 171 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday in a win over USC.

A similar fate may await Wood, who could playing his final regular-season game in a Notre Dame uniform. His mother told the Chicago Tribune this week that her son is leaning 70-30 toward the NFL.

There are worse ways to go out than in the fashion he could Saturday, given the stakes and location.
So who will transform tomorrow with an impact performance in Week 13?

I have decided to go with Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce for a few reasons. First and foremost, Kelce has been under the radar this season despite having one of the best seasons for a tight end in school history.

He leads the team with 28 catches for 472 yards and four touchdowns. He has the longest reception of the season -- a 78-yard touchdown against Fordham. And he has posted career-highs for single-game receiving yards (101 against Fordham) and receptions (five against Rutgers).

Kelce is now within 10 yards of Brent Celek (481 receiving yards in 2006) for second most by a Bearcats tight end in school history. He needs 25 yards to pass Joe Koynock into first place on that list.

After his four-catch, 77-yard, two-touchdown performance a few weeks ago against Syracuse, Coach Butch Jones said, "Travis Kelce has come as far as anyone in our football program."

It is senior day, so Kelce will probably be extra motivated. And now factor in the opponent: USF. The Bulls had major problems covering anybody in a 40-9 loss to Miami last week. That includes tight end Clive Walford.

Walford ended up with a career-high 135 receiving yards in the game against the Bulls -- the second-most receiving yards by a Hurricanes tight end in program history. That probably bodes well for Kelce, as he seeks to set the school record for single-season receiving yards by a tight end later Friday.

SEC: Who will transform tomorrow?

November, 23, 2012
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It's not like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is playing poorly. He already has 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, but he's been a little quiet in recent weeks.

He was out last week with a sprained foot/bruised knee and tallied just two tackles for loss and no sacks two weeks ago against Arkansas.

But his nagging injuries won't keep Clowney from being his normal beastly self on Saturday against archrival Clemson. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said earlier this week that he expects Clowney to return, and he expects him to be his old self. This is a chance to knock South Carolina's biggest rival out of BCS position, and Clowney will be more than ready to play, even if he isn't 100 percent. The dominant Clowney that offensive players have come to know and hate will return inside Death Valley.

Clemson sports one of the nation's best offenses, generating 535 yards a game. The Tigers have given up 20 sacks on the season, but Clowney will make quarterback Tajh Boyd's day miserable. Last year, Clowney registered just one sack and one quarterback hurry against Clemson. But with a bigger role and more of a presence on South Carolina's defense, he'll be much more disruptive and much more of a nuisance for the Tigers' offensive line.

Clowney is considered one of the best defensive players in the SEC. Really, he's considered one of the nation's best defenders, regardless of position. He has freakish ability, a ton of speed and plenty of strength. He can line up at multiple spots and will terrorize Clemson's backfield all day because this is a huge game for the Gamecocks and he dislikes the Tigers just much as they dislike him.

It's the final game of the season, and Clowney will make one final statement before the postseason.

The week off gave Clowney time to rest and should allow him to have a ton of energy and endurance for this game. That's not a good thing for the Tigers.

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