NCF Nation: Weekend rewind 091712

Hot and Not in the SEC

September, 17, 2012
Looking back at Week 3 in the SEC through our trusty Hot and Not lens:


SEC power: It hasn’t all been good. See Arkansas’ tumble from elite status. See Tennessee’s collapse in the second half last Saturday, and see Auburn’s defense. But a quick scan of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll shows four SEC teams ranked in the top 7 nationally, including No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 LSU. Georgia is No. 5 this week and South Carolina No. 7. Florida has also moved into the top 15 and checks in at No. 14. For the rest of the country, seeing Alabama and LSU at the top of the polls is probably nauseating. After all, this was supposed to be the year that the SEC’s reign ended, and maybe that will be the case. There’s that vaunted USC team out West that was gunning for the SEC’s big boys this season. The Trojans, though, might want to figure out how to beat Stanford first before moving up to the varsity.


Joker Phillips’ seat: Losing to both Louisville and Western Kentucky was bad enough for the low morale that surrounds the Kentucky program. But, now, the Wildcats need to somehow find four SEC wins to avoid their third straight losing season. It doesn’t look good for Phillips despite the fact that he’s playing a ton of younger players.


[+] EnlargeMarcus Lattimore
Zuma Press/Icon SMIStar South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore has been slowed in his past two games.
South Carolina’s run blocking: The Gamecocks struggled to run the ball much of the night in their 49-6 win over UAB. Star running back Marcus Lattimore has been held under 100 rushing yards in each of his past two games. But, then, he hasn’t had a lot of holes to run through. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott is thinking about shaking up the offensive line for this week’s game against Missouri.


Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron: He’s thrown 152 passes without an interception this season and is third nationally in passing efficiency with a 196.6 rating. McCarron has thrown seven touchdown passes in his first three games and is in total command of that Alabama offense right now.


Missouri’s quarterback situation: Who’s the quarterback for the Tigers this coming Saturday against South Carolina? Moreover, who do the Tigers want to be their quarterback? The whole deal with Missouri coach Gary Pinkel coming out and saying that James Franklin refused a painkiller injection was bizarre. Franklin’s shoulder was hurting and he didn’t play in the win over Arizona State. Backup Corbin Berkstresser stepped in and led Missouri to the victory. It will be interesting to see how it plays out from here and whether or not there’s any division on the team.


Florida in the fourth quarter: What a difference a year makes for the Gators, who have outscored their first three opponents this season 27-0 in the fourth quarter. A year ago, they were outscored 72-22 in the fourth quarter of SEC games. Finishing games was a huge emphasis over the offseason in Gainesville, and Will Muschamp’s club has shown some serious mettle in the second half of games this season.


Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: Not only was he 1-of-10 in the fourth quarter against Florida, but Bray’s body language and his lack of leadership were just as disturbing. He’s a super talent and can really throw the football, but he still has a ways to go before he can ever be considered an elite quarterback. He may get there, but he’s not going to do it by piling up numbers against lesser opponents and then disappearing in the big games when his team gets down in the second half.


Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore: Georgia’s Jarvis Jones currently holds the unofficial title as the SEC’s best pass-rusher, but don’t sleep on Moore. The Aggies’ junior had two more sacks last Saturday in the rout of SMU and already has five in two games. He’s been pretty much unblockable to this point.


Ole Miss’ defense: Even in an Xbox game, you don’t give up 66 points and 676 yards of total offense. The Rebels were obliterated by a Texas team that scored on seven straight possessions, including six touchdowns.


Arkansas’ start to the season: Could it get any worse? The 52-0 drubbing by Alabama was Arkansas’ first shutout in Fayetteville since a 7-0 loss to Baylor in 1966. This is a team that had talked openly about winning a national championship in the preseason, but it’s also a team that quit in the second half of the game last Saturday. Senior quarterback Tyler Wilson obviously means a lot to that team, and not having him in the game was a huge blow. There’s no guarantee that he’s going to be out there against Rutgers this coming weekend. So the Hogs might want to find some resolve and also rediscover their pride and do something about salvaging this season before it’s too late. A 1-2 start is terribly disappointing. But it would pale in comparison if the Hogs totally tank and end up with a losing season.

Notre Dame weekend rewind

September, 17, 2012
Here's one last look back at the weekend that was as Notre Dame improved to 3-0 with a convincing 20-3 win at Michigan State.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Mike Carter/US PresswireCoach Brian Kelly has the Irish sitting at 3-0 this season and ranked No. 11 in the latest AP poll.
The good: Manti Te'o had a game-high 12 tackles. Stephon Tuitt notched his fifth sack of the season. The Irish defense kept Le'Veon Bell in check to the tune of 77 yards, and allowed MSU to cross midfield just once in the second half. (The Spartans also made zero red zone trips throughout the night.) You can't ask for much more from this unit, which propelled the Irish to their first 3-0 start in 10 years.

The bad: Everett Golson's first two (unofficial) plays in his first true road contest: False start, timeout. But what looked like it would be a long night was quickly turned around.

The ugly: Jamoris Slaughter ruptured his Achilles tendon on the first play of the second half and will miss the rest of the season. Matthias Farley is expected to step into his spot. The Irish have now suffered three season-ending injuries in the secondary -- Austin Collinsworth, Lo Wood and Slaughter -- and three of their four starters are converted offensive players: KeiVarae Russell (running back), Bennett Jackson (wide receiver) and Farley (receiver).

Still healing: Brian Kelly said Sunday that Kapron Lewis-Moore and DaVaris Daniels were not fully healthy following injuries suffered one week earlier. Both played sparingly. Sheldon Day suffered a bone bruise as well, though Kelly said it happened before he was jumping up and down after a botched attempt at an interception. He should be fine.

Next up: Notre Dame's second home night game in as many years features Michigan, which has delivered the Irish three crushing last-minute defeats in the last three years. The man responsible for two of them, Denard Robinson, is back for his senior year, and the Irish would like nothing more than to go through him en route to a 4-0 September.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

September, 17, 2012
Run it back ...

Team of the week: Penn State. No matter what you might think about the school and the football program after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, it was hard not to root for the current Nittany Lions players to finally get a win after so many obstacles. Penn State busted out with an easy, feel-good 34-7 win over Navy. The Midshipmen are hard to root against as well, but this one time was OK.

Game of the week: You might have missed it, because it ended late and was on at the same time as much bigger games. And, OK, it was Indiana. But the Hoosiers' game against Ball State was the most exciting Big Ten contest of the weekend. The teams traded touchdowns in the first half, with Ball State leading 25-24 at the break. Indiana looked done when it trailed 38-25 late in the fourth quarter and starting quarterback Cameron Coffman went out with a hip pointer. But freshman Nate Sudfeld threw a 70-yard touchdown pass and then led the team on another scoring drive with 49 seconds left. Ah, but the Hoosiers made the PlayStation mistake of scoring too fast. Ball State completed a controversial, hard-to-believe pass to the IU 25 with one second left, and Steven Schott booted the game-winner as time expired. It was a tough, tough loss for Kevin Wilson's team, but a fun game to watch.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Greg Bartram/US PresswireBuckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller tries to evade California linebacker Nathan Broussard on Saturday.
Biggest play: If it's late in a close game, the last thing a defense wants to see is Braxton Miller scrambling. The Ohio State quarterback burned Wisconsin with a long touchdown throw after things broke down last year, and he did so against Cal on Saturday with a 72-yard strike to an unbelievably open Devin Smith for the game with 3:26 left. Safeties have to respect Miller's explosive running ability, but they get can burned when they leave their receivers. That's why the Miller scramble is becoming one of the most dangerous late-game plays to defend.

Best call: Wisconsin was supposed to be in punt safe mode in the third quarter against Utah State, and its returners would usually call for a fair catch in the situation Kenzel Doe found himself in. But Doe, who was only returning punts because Jared Abbrederis was injured, saw a small opening on the sideline and decided to go for it. He was in the end zone 82 yards later, finally giving the Badgers the spark they needed to eventually beat the Aggies 16-14. Doe? More like Woo-Hoo!

Big Men on Campus (Offense): How about some love for the backups this week? Minnesota's Max Shortell stepped in for the injured MarQueis Gray and threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Gophers fend off Western Michigan for a 3-0 start. And as Iowa's running back curse reached new, ludicrous heights, walk-on Mark Weisman came out of nowhere to run for 113 yards and three touchdowns as part of the Hawkeyes' much-needed win over Northern Iowa.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Minnesota cornerback Michael Carter had an 18-yard interception return to set up a touchdown early. He also broke up Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder's pass late to help preserve the 28-23 victory.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): It's hard to run 99 offensive plays before scoring your first touchdown, but that's what Northwestern did against Boston College. Luckily, they had kicker Jeff Budzien, who made all five of his field goal attempts to give the Wildcats all the points they'd need in a 22-13 victory.

Worst hangover: Michigan State, by a mile. The Spartans were carrying the banner for the Big Ten for one week before they tripped, broke the pole and set the flag on fire against Notre Dame. Although Michigan State bounced back from a bad loss to the Irish last year, Saturday's offensive showing was so inept that it makes you wonder if this team can overcome those limitations going forward. Just a bad, bad performance on a national stage.

Strangest moment: Playing UMass is good for your offense, and just about everyone got involved in Michigan's 63-13 win. That included left tackle Taylor Lewan, who got to live out an offensive lineman's dream by recovering a Denard Robinson fumble for a touchdown. Or did he? At least one teammate claimed that center Elliott Mealer actually recovered the ball. And Robinson said Lewan was mad about his score because the play broke down and he didn't get to complete his block. But the box score says it was a Lewan touchdown, and that's something we probably won't see again.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 17, 2012
Here’s a look back at Week 3 in the ACC:

The good: Two top-10 teams played like two top-10 teams. No. 4 Florida State and No. 10 Clemson both took care of business and dominated their respective opponents. The Seminoles shut out Wake Forest 52-0, and Clemson beat Furman 41-7.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesQuarterback EJ Manuel and Florida State handled Wake Forest easily, 52-0.
The great: The return of Duke receiver Blair Holliday. It was the best story in the ACC this weekend, as Holliday joined his teammates again for the first time since he suffered a severe head injury in a July 4 jet ski accident. Holliday, who had to learn to walk and talk again, led his team in the pregame walk to the stadium, and was on the field for the coin toss. It was an emotion pregame for Holliday and his friends and family.

The bad: The ACC’s 0-3 record against the Big East. The ACC struck out this weekend, losing to Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville. Two of those were road losses, as the Hokies snapped their nation-leading streak of 13 straight true road wins with the loss at Pitt, and UNC’s comeback fell short at No. 19 Louisville. Maryland lost at home to Randy Edsall’s former team.

The ugly: Virginia Tech’s performance. We’ve already rehashed this enough -- nobody but Pitt wants to rewind this game film.

The surprise: Clemson president Jim Barker snuck into the Tigers’ mascot costume at halftime, and acted as the mascot until Clemson’s third touchdown put the Tigers up 27-7 over Furman. Barker did the requisite 27 pushups (one for each point) before pulling off the head of the costume and revealing himself to the crowd.

The stat: According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, three of the six most lopsided ACC wins in Florida State history have come at home against the Demon Deacons (+59 in 1995, +54 in 1993, and +52 in 2012).

The stat II: Florida State has held 11 straight opponents to under 20 points. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, it's the longest such active streak and longest by an ACC team since Virginia Tech did it in 12 straight over the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

The stat III: Dating back to 2006, when Virginia Tech was ranked No. 11 and lost to Georgia Tech, the Hokies have lost before October in all but one season when they were ranked No. 17 or higher. The lone exception was in 2011, according to ESPN’s Stats & Info.

The record: With his two field goals in the win over Furman, Clemson PK Chandler Catanzaro has made 14 straight, a streak that began in the 2011 season. He is currently tied with former Tiger standout Obed Arriri, who made 14 straight field goals during the 1980 season when he led the nation with 23. The ACC record is 27 straight set by NC State’s Marc Primanti during the 1995-96 seasons. Catanzaro is now 42-55 over his career, a .764 percentage.

The overmatched: NC Central. Duke won 54-17 and scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams for the first time since 2004. They improved to 2-1 for the first time since 2008, coach David Cutcliffe's first season.

Big East weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 17, 2012
One final look at the week that was in the Big East:

The good: The Big East went 6-1 this week, with the only loss, of course, coming to a fellow conference squad. Not every win was pretty, but the Big East did enough to pull out every nonconference win, including a perfect 3-0 slate against the ACC, one week after dropping a pair of contests to ACC teams and three days after non-football member Notre Dame defected for the ACC.

The bad: Louisville pulled out a win over North Carolina and that's what matters most, but the Cardinals' second half was very troubling, as they watched a 36-7 halftime lead turn into a 39-34 final, decided on a fourth-down pass break-up in the end zone. Syracuse and Cincinnati looked less than stellar against FCS opponents, with the Orange trailing Stony Brook at halftime and the Bearcats turning the ball over six times against Delaware State.

The ugly: South Florida is now 0-9 in Thursday night games since joining the Big East. Five days after pulling off a dramatic, come-from-behind win at Nevada, the Bulls laid an egg against Rutgers, giving the ball away four times in a 10-point home loss that looked all too familiar to folks who followed this team a year ago.

[+] EnlargePaul Chryst
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesPaul Chryst, right, got his first win as a head coach in style after the Panthers soundly beat No. 13 Virginia Tech.
Team of the week: We've given Pitt a lot of grief here through the first two weeks, and rightfully so. But you cannot say enough about the performance the Panthers delivered Saturday against Virginia Tech, just dominating the Hokies from start to finish and getting Paul Chryst his first career win as a head coach.

The clutch: It should have never come down to this, but Louisville cornerback Andrew Johnson made a terrific play on Bryn Renner's final throw of the game, ensuring that Erik Highsmith could not come down with what would have been a game-winning catch and, more importantly, preventing a devastating blow to a Cardinals team that was on a roll two quarters earlier.

Best half: For as much heat as Louisville is taking for letting up against UNC, we cannot overlook what a dominating first-half performance the Cardinals delivered. Teddy Bridgewater showed no signs of slowing down, tossing three first-half touchdowns as the Twitter conversation late-afternoon Saturday turned to, yes, what to do about a potentially undefeated Louisville. The team still has a long way to go, but so far it is tough to see anyone in the Big East beating the Cardinals when they're at their best.

The surprise: We'd been saying that Syracuse was the best 0-2 team in the nation after losing to a Northwestern team that looks better than advertised and a USC team that, well, doesn't. But the Orange struggled against Stony Brook, trailing by three at halftime and going 0-for-2 on fourth-and-goal plays. (Ryan Nassib, meanwhile, continued to impress in his first win of the season.)

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 17, 2012
Taking stock of the third week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Stanford didn't just beat No. 2 USC, it physically dominated the Trojans in a 21-14 victory, the Cardinal's record fourth consecutive win in the series. First, there was the post-Toby Gerhart Era. Then there was the post-Jim Harbaugh Era. Then there was the post-Andrew Luck Era. Maybe it's just the Stanford Era? The Cardinal is now squarely in the Rose Bowl race. And maybe the national title hunt.

[+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
Kyle Terada/US PresswireCardinal quarterback Josh Nunes had one of the biggest plays of the week in the Pac-12.
Best game: Utah's 24-21 win over BYU wasn't pretty. It wasn't, really, even deserving of a "best" tag. But it was really weird, particularly the ending, and weird is often noteworthy. On a weekend when four games came down to the fourth quarter, the Holy War had the most breathless finish because it had two breathless finishes.

Biggest play: On third-and-10 from the 50 in the fourth quarter, Stanford QB Josh Nunes was under pressure. He scrambled and found himself bottled up and cut off. Yet a player not exactly known for his athleticism juked the USC defense and cut for a 13-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, he hit TE Zach Ertz for a 37-yard TD and a 21-14 lead, the final margin of Cardinal victory.

Biggest play II: California had No. 12 Ohio State on the ropes. The score was tied with just under four minutes left in the game, and the Buckeyes faced a third-and-7 from their 28-yard line. QB Braxton Miller was forced from the pocket, but the Bears secondary gagged and let Devin Smith get free behind the coverage. The ensuing 72-yard TD pass provided Ohio State its 35-28 margin of victory.

Biggest play III: BYU had a first-and-10 on the Utah 25-yard line, down 10-7 in the third quarter. Lined up in a shotgun formation, QB Riley Nelson wanted to change the play. While he was barking signals, his center delivered the snap, which rolled past an unaware Nelson. Utah's Mo Lee scooped up the loose ball and rambled 47 yards for a TD. The Utes would need those points in a 24-21 win.

Offensive standout: Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor was the best player on the field against USC. He rushed 27 times for 153 yards and a 59-yard TD and caught five passes for 60 yards and a 23-yard score in No. 21 Stanford's upset win over No. 2 Trojans.

Defensive standout: UCLA CB Sheldon Price matched a school record with three interceptions in the Bruins' 37-6 win over Houston.

Special teams standout: Not a lot to choose from. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas returned four punts for 87 yards against Tennessee Tech, though he did fumble one.

Smiley face: Cal RB Brendan Bigelow brought life to the Bears by doing his best De'Anthony Thomas at Ohio State, rushing for 160 yards on just four carries -- yes, an average of 40 yards per carry! He had touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards, and both were spectacular. Might he give the Bears offense a weapon that turns around their season?

Frowny face: Can anyone kick a freaking field goal? USC has no kicker, and Arizona, California, Oregon, Stanford and Utah were a combined 1-for-10, with the Bay Area schools going 0-for-6.

Thought of the week: Two of the Pac-12's five unbeaten teams will go down this weekend because of head-to-head matchups. Arizona travels to Oregon, while UCLA plays host to Oregon State. We'll get a better measure of contenders and pretenders this weekend.

Questions for the week: Is Oregon's Thomas ready to make a Heisman Trophy statement against Arizona? The set-up seems perfect: an ESPN game against a questionable defense. With USC and QB Matt Barkley going down, the Heisman race has opened up. Can Thomas be his fancy self and win the affection of the pundits?

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 17, 2012
Here's what you need to know about the week that was in the Big 12.

Best offensive performance: J.W. Walsh, QB, Oklahoma State. Cowboys fans weren't sure what to expect when Wes Lunt went down in a heap clutching his knee. Walsh was ready, and proved why the OSU QB race this spring was so close. He also proved why you don't immediately transfer if you lose a position battle. He threw for 347 yards on 21-of-30 passing and ran for 73 yards and a score on just six carries, helping Oklahoma State roll over Louisiana-Lafayette, 65-24.

[+] EnlargeJ.W. Walsh
Sue Ogrocki/AP PhotoOklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh, who played in place of injured starter Wes Lunt, had a solid game against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Best defensive performance: Joel Hasley, LB, TCU. The first-year starter made a big impact in TCU's first Big 12 game. He was all over the place for the Frogs, making 12 tackles and notching two sacks in the Frogs' 20-6 win over Kansas. Honorable mention: Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas; Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

Best team performance: Texas. It's not easy to go on the road against anyone and assert dominance, but Texas did it in a game that was never very close against Ole Miss. The Longhorns had 350 yards rushing and 326 yards passing. The defense didn't have a good night tackling, but the Longhorns haven't put up that kind of offensive balance since the national title year of 2005. Honorable mention: Oklahoma State

Best play: Kye Staley, FB, Oklahoma State. Staley's story will never stop being incredible, but the rumbler's comeback tour had another big moment on Saturday, when he took a short pass and turned it into a 52-yard score. A major knee injury had Staley out of the game, but he's back, and he's a fan favorite in Stillwater. His story got more front-page treatment in a quiet week across the Big 12. Honorable mention: Marquise Goodwin, Texas

Worst play: Take your pick, TCU. The Frogs had a snap go between Casey Pachall's legs in the red zone early, leading to a loss of possession and a 30-plus yard loss. Late in the game, Pachall fumbled for a touchback at the 1-yard line, too. Waymon James coughed up a fumble inside the KU 10 and Pachall was sacked for another fumble just outside the KU 20-yard line. That's quite a lowlight reel, and I didn't even get to the Frogs' missed 27-yard field goal yet.

Worst moment: Lunt's knee injury. Injuries are probably the worst part of this game, and Lunt's future looks bright. To see him go down and immediately clutch his knee? Nothing short of sickening. It doesn't sound like a major injury, but here's hoping the 18-year-old gets back to health soon.

Best moment: Late Saturday night, when this terrible week of Big 12 football ended. No marquee matchups. No games decided by fewer than 14 points. Can we move to next week yet?