NCF Nation: weekend rewind 100410

Hot and Not in the SEC

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:44
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Let’s not wait any longer. We take our weekly look at who’s hot and who’s not in the SEC:

[+] EnlargeMasoli
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisJeremiah Masoli and the Mississippi offense are on a tear after a big game against Kentucky.
EN FUEGO

Alabama’s defense: For all the talk about Alabama’s inexperience in the secondary and losing nine defensive starters from a year ago, this is a defense that’s kicking tail and taking names right now. The Crimson Tide have given up a total of three touchdowns all season and still haven’t allowed a touchdown in the second half. You want more? They’re second in the SEC with 13 forced turnovers, including seven in their past two games, and are just about automatic when it comes to stopping teams on third-and-long. Alabama is fifth nationally in third-down defense. Teams are just 18-of-69 (26.1 percent) against the Crimson Tide on third down. They held Florida last week to 3-of-13 on third down and have now gone 18 straight games dating back to last season without allowing more than 21 points in a game.

HOT

Ole Miss’ offense: The Rebels have scored 97 points in the past two games to go along with 38 first downs and 879 yards of total offense.

NOT

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson: In his past four games, Jefferson has averaged 74.5 passing yards while throwing five interceptions and no touchdown passes.

HOT

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley: When you started listing the best interior defensive linemen in this league back in August, Fairley’s name probably wouldn’t have been on the list. It is now … at the top. He leads the league with 11.5 tackles for loss.

NOT

Georgia’s ball security: For the third time this season, the Bulldogs lost a costly fumble while driving for a score. This latest one was by Caleb King, who coughed it up in the final minutes with the Bulldogs at the Colorado 27 and well within Blair Walsh’s field-goal range.

HOT

Georgia receiver A.J. Green: Even though his team didn’t win, Green was outstanding in his return from suspension with seven catches for 119 yards. His sensational one-handed touchdown catch against the Buffaloes is the reason he’ll be the first receiver taken in the NFL draft next year.

NOT

Florida’s running game: The Gators don’t have much of one, especially when it comes to getting the tough yards. They’re ninth in the SEC in rushing offense after being held to 79 yards on the ground in the loss to Alabama.

HOT

Mississippi State receiver Leon Berry: He returned three kickoffs for 153 yards, including a 97-yarder for a touchdown, in the Bulldogs’ win against Alcorn State. Berry also caught three passes for 97 yards.

NOT

Kentucky’s defense: In the past two weeks, the Wildcats have been torched for 90 points and 767 yards of total offense.

FREEZER BURN

Substitution foolishness: Raise your hand if you think there’s already too much substitution in college football. After watching that debacle unfold at the end of the LSU-Tennessee game, I’m a convert. Just when you thought Les Miles and his offensive staff were going to take the mismanagement of an end-of-game situation to a whole new level, the Tennessee staff stepped in and bailed them out by trying to shuttle in players in the waning seconds and got caught with 13 players on the field. The Vols had it won, and then they lost it. I’m not sure anybody on either sideline really knew what was going on. But what I am sure of is that it was quite possibly the worst management of the final few seconds of a game – especially when you consider that the two sides tried to out-blunder each other – in SEC history.

Week 5 review/Week 6 preview

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:02
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Only five Big East teams were in action on Saturday, and the opponents left something to be desired for the most part. Let's hope nostalgia makes Week 5 seem better:

[+] EnlargeBlidi Wreh-Wilson
David Butler II/US PresswireUConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson returned a pick-six to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Team of the week: Connecticut. There weren't a lot of big wins over the weekend, but the Huskies doubled the Big East's victory total against teams from AQ conferences and even managed to topple an, ahem, SEC team in Vanderbilt. More importantly, the offense seems to be hitting its stride, and UConn could be building some steam heading into conference play.

Best game: Purely for drama's sake, it has to be Rutgers' 17-14 loss to Tulane. It wasn't a game to watch if you love offense, though the Green Wave pulled off a few big plays at key moments. The Scarlet Knights had a couple of chances to go in for the lead or a tying field goal but couldn't get it done.

Biggest play and best call: Speaking of Tulane big plays, one play was the biggest and best of the weekend. In the third quarter, the Green Wave executed a double pass, with Joe Kemp throwing a lateral to his right to receiver D.J. Banks, followed by Banks returning the favor with a pass back to Kemp. The Scarlet Knights said they had studied that play on film, but it sure didn't look like it as Kemp practically walked into the end zone for a 24-yard score and a 17-7 lead.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh. There's a new star running back in Pittsburgh. Subbing for an injured Dion Lewis, Graham racked up 277 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries versus Florida International. Add in his receiving and return production, and he finished with 374 all-purpose yards, which is believed to be a school record.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut. Wilson returned an interception for a touchdown for the second straight week and also had a fumble recovery against Vanderbilt.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Quenton Washington, South Florida. Washington blocked a punt against Florida Atlantic that was recovered for a score by teammate Armando Sanchez for a touchdown. That gave the Bulls a 14-0 lead and some early breathing room in the first quarter of a 31-3 win.

Biggest hangover: Rutgers. For reasons that should be painfully obvious after the Scarlet Knights lost to Tulane on homecoming.

Now we look ahead as conference season finally begins -- at least for half the league (Games listed in descending order of interest/importance):

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Notre Dame (2-3): Pitt has won the past two meetings against the Irish. But Brian Kelly has Dave Wannstedt's number. Both teams need a win to get back on track. (3:30 ET)

Connecticut (3-2) at Rutgers (2-2): The official first game of Big East play features a Huskies team that seems to be on the rise with a Scarlet Knights squad facing all sorts of questions. (ESPN, 7:30 ET Friday)

Syracuse (3-1) at South Florida (3-1): I say this without hesitation: This is the most interested I've ever been in a Syracuse/South Florida game. (ESPN3.com, Noon ET)

UNLV (1-4) at West Virginia (3-1): Vegas comes to Morgantown. The house should win. (ESPN3.com, 3:30 ET)

Miami of Ohio (3-2) at Cincinnati (1-3): The Bearcats should get their first win over an FBS opponent. In the second weekend of October. Yes, that's weird to say. (ESPN3.com, 7 ET)


Memphis (1-4) at Louisville (2-2): Memphis is truly bad. And the Big East can't say that about a lot of other teams. (2 ET)
It's time to look back at the first Saturday of Big Ten play before peeking ahead at Week 6.

Note: I've adjusted the Game Balls section to include players from losing teams who deliver exceptional performances. Helmet stickers will continue to go to players only from winning teams -- that's been my policy since Day 1 -- but the game balls section is a way to recognize guys who stepped up even though their teams didn't get the job done. You really need to do something special to make the list if your team loses, but it's now possible.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioKirk Cousins and the Spartans overcame early mistakes to knock off the Badgers.
Team of the Week: Michigan State. The Spartans overcame three first-half turnovers and the absence of head coach Mark Dantonio to record a convincing win against then-No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday. A program that has struggled with adversity and mental toughness in the past demonstrated plenty of it throughout the Wisconsin game. Kirk Cousins grew as a quarterback, Don Treadwell grew as a playcaller/future head coach and Michigan State grew into a Big Ten title contender. The Spartans ended John Clay's 10-game streak of 100-yard rushing performances, and their third-down execution was sharp on both sides of the ball. The fake field goal against Notre Dame provided an emotional lift, but Michigan State will draw a lot more confidence from a 15-play, 84-yard drive to seal the Wisconsin win.

Best game: Michigan at Indiana. The game played out as many had forecast, as both quarterbacks surged and both defenses struggled to stop anyone. Quarterbacks Denard Robinson (Michigan) and Ben Chappell (Indiana) both produced historic numbers, and the teams combined for 77 points and 1,142 offensive yards. Neither team led by more than a touchdown and the game featured five ties before Robinson scored the game-winning touchdown from 4 yards out with 17 seconds left. Northwestern at Minnesota also produced some drama as the Wildcats rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter to win 29-28.

Biggest play: Robinson provided several possible selections with both his legs and his arm, but I'm going with Jeremy Ebert's 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter for Northwestern against Minnesota. Northwestern trailed 28-20 at the time and faced third-and-7. Quarterback Dan Persa already had committed two turnovers in the red zone and appeared to make another ill-advised throw on Ebert's touchdown. But Ebert wrestled the ball away from Minnesota's Ryan Collado on the jump ball and Northwestern ended up rallying for the win. Another play worth mentioning is Cousins' fourth-down touchdown pass to B.J. Cunningham to put Michigan State up 10 points with 2:43 left. Cousins had wanted to run the play in two other games, only to be turned down. "I guess this was the moment to have it," he said afterward.

Specialist spotlight: Michigan State's Keshawn Martin made the biggest special-teams play around the league Saturday when he returned a Brad Nortman punt 74 yards to the end zone. Wisconsin led 10-6 in the second quarter before Martin's electrifying runback. Martin, who ranked in the league's top five in both kick returns and punt returns last season, appears to be the league's top return man. Iowa punter Ryan Donahue had a nice night, placing three punts inside the Penn State 20-yard line with a long of 53 yards. Illinois punter Anthony Santella continued his stellar season (47-yard average against Ohio State), and Michigan punter Will Hagerup made the most of limited opportunities at Indiana. Northwestern's Stefan Demos converted the game-winning 27-yard field goal.

Coolest image: Iowa fans deserve a shoutout after making Kinnick Stadium look like this Saturday night. The black and gold stripes were well coordinated and well executed.

Game balls (given to players not selected for helmet stickers):

  • Indiana QB Ben Chappell: Chappell set school records with 45 completions, 64 attempts, 480 pass yards and 475 yards of total offense against Michigan. He became just the second Indiana player to eclipse 400 pass yards in a game and tied for the third most completions in Big Ten history. Chappell set a team record with his sixth career 300-yard passing performance and tossed three touchdowns to extend his streak of games with multiple touchdown passes to eight.
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones: A week after recording the first two interceptions of his college career, Jones returned to his blitzing role against Wisconsin and recorded three tackles for loss, eight total tackles and a quarterback hurry in the 34-24 win.
  • Ohio State DE Nathan Williams: The Buckeyes' defense showed up in a big way in the second half at Illinois, and Williams recorded nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. He also had a quarterback hurry as the Buckeyes pressured Nathan Scheelhaase.
  • Iowa CB Shaun Prater: Prater recorded his fourth career interception against Penn State and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to make any thought of a Penn State rally obsolete. He shares the game ball with fellow defenders Tyler Nielsen (four passes defended), Karl Klug (two tackles for loss) and James Morris.
  • Michigan WRs Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway: The Wolverines wideouts share a game ball after combining for eight receptions, 255 yards and two touchdowns against Indiana. Roundtree had a 32-yard touchdown grab and a 74-yard gain, while Hemingway recorded a 70-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter.
  • Indiana WR Tandon Doss: The junior recorded career highs in both receptions (15) and receiving yards (221) in the loss to Michigan. He had the fourth-highest receiving yards total in team history and set a career high in all-purpose yards with 363, which included 111 on kick returns.
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt: Watt continued his push for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors Saturday in East Lansing. He was all over the field and recorded a game-high 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a tipped pass that wound up as an interception for teammate Devin Smith. Watt has been a beast this season.
  • Minnesota CB Michael Carter: The Gophers didn't deliver a great defensive performance against Northwestern, but Carter came up with several huge plays. He recorded a team-high 11 tackles with an interception, a forced fumble near the goal line and a tackle for loss.

OK, deep breath. Now let's take a quick look at Week 6.

Indiana (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) at No. 2 Ohio State (5-0, 1-0): It'll be strength vs. strength as Indiana brings the Big Ten's top pass offense against the league's top pass defense in Ohio State, which begins life without safety/linebacker Tyler Moeller. Chappell and his receivers provide a very good test for the Buckeyes defense, while Ohio State's running backs should gain some confidence against an Indiana D that can't stop the run.

Illinois (2-2, 0-1) at Penn State (3-2, 0-1): This game looks a little more interesting than it did before the season. Illinois has upgraded its defense under new coordinator Vic Koenning, while Penn State's offense continues to struggle with inconsistency and red zone inefficiency. After falling out of the national rankings, Penn State can't afford another step back. Keep an eye on the matchup between two promising young quarterbacks, Illinois' Scheelhaase and Penn State's Rob Bolden.

Minnesota (1-4, 0-1) at No. 20 Wisconsin (4-1, 1-0): The coolest trophy in college sports is at stake, which adds to an otherwise uninspiring matchup. Minnesota's season is on life support after failing to claim a game pretty much handed to it by Northwestern. An upset victory in a trophy game would mean a lot for coach Tim Brewster and seniors like Adam Weber. Wisconsin must rebound from a poor road showing against Michigan State and get more from its experienced offensive players.

No. 17 Michigan State (5-0, 1-0) at No. 18 Michigan (5-0, 1-0): I'm so excited for this one. The in-state rivalry is spicy enough, but this year's meeting brings new storylines like two top-20 rankings, Heisman Trophy candidate Robinson and the health situation involving Dantonio. Michigan State aims for its first three-game win streak in the series since 1965-67. Robinson faces his biggest test of the season with Jones.

Purdue (2-2, 0-0) at Northwestern (5-0, 1-0): After surviving a mistake-ridden game at Minnesota, Northwestern will be favored to record its first 6-0 start since 1962. The Wildcats face an injury-ravaged Purdue team that turns to redshirt freshman Rob Henry at quarterback. The Boilers come off of a much-needed bye week but will need a strong performance from Ryan Kerrigan and the defense to slow down Persa and the Wildcats' attack.

Bye: No. 15 Iowa (4-1, 1-0)

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 5

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:01
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Best offensive player: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor. His 444 yards of total offense were a school record and he was responsible for four touchdowns. It was evident early that Kansas couldn't handle him, and the Bears poured it on for 55 points, their highest total ever in Big 12 play.

Best defensive player: Ugo Chinasa, DE, Oklahoma State. Chinasa was everywhere against Texas A&M on Saturday, and had one of the most skilled plays of the season, tipping a Jerrod Johnson pass to himself for an interception. He also had two sacks, and three tackles for loss among his six total tackles.

Best team performance: Baylor. The Bears set all kinds of records against Kansas, and the 55-7 win was the largest margin of victory in any conference game in school history.

[+] EnlargeShontrelle Johnson
AP Photo/Steve PopeShontrelle Johnson put up big numbers while filling in for an injured Alexander Robinson.
Best offensive freshman: Shontrelle Johnson, RB, Iowa State. Yeah, 61 of his 102 yards came on one carry, but it was a big one. Playing for an injured Alexander Robinson, Johnson's long touchdown run gave the Cyclones a 38-24 fourth-quarter lead.

Best defensive freshman: Tom Wort, LB, Oklahoma. The big stage of his first Red River Rivalry didn't intimidate the freshman. He sacked Garrett Gilbert once, made 10 tackles and had two tackles for loss.

Best play: Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State. Football doesn't get any better. Bailey made the most of his opportunity and kept Oklahoma State undefeated with a 40-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired against Texas A&M on Thursday.

Best play II: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor. In the red zone, the snap went over Griffin's head, but he ran backward, calmly scooped it up, rolled to his left to buy time and threw across his body to Terrance Williams for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Not many quarterbacks in the Big 12 can pull that off.

Best play III: A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. He's not even in the Big 12, but this catch was disgusting. One of the best I've ever seen.

Worst play: Texas Tech's onside kick team. The Red Raiders inched to within seven points late in the fourth quarter and lined up for the onside kick. Iowa State's Jeremy Reeves came down with the ball, and maybe the coverage team thought he'd lay down. He didn't. He stayed up, emerged from a pile and raced 42 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cyclones a 52-38 lead.

Timeliest redemption: Iowa State. They let Texas Tech climb out of a 24-0 hole to tie the game and looked like they were about to get embarrassed in their own stadium. But Iowa State rebounded, slowed the Texas Tech offense and got back to scoring. Now they're 3-2 and three wins away from shocking everyone by going to a bowl game again.

Best game: Oklahoma State 38, Texas A&M 35. Ten touchdowns, eight turnovers, enough momentum swings to make any viewer car sick and it all ended with a game-winning field goal kick that was unlikely to even be kicked a minute earlier. Tremendously entertaining. Game of the year so far in the Big 12.

Worst team performance: Kansas. Once again, Jayhawks. Yuck. The bye week means they won't get a chance for another head-scratching upset, but they'll host K-State on Thursday night next week. Upset Nebraska this week, and the Wildcats will be ranked.

Cruelest trajectory: The ball near the end of the Red River Rivalry. A miscommunication left Landry Jones scrambling, and he fumbled the ball in Oklahoma's red zone while being chased to the sideline. It teetered on the white boundary after Jones haphazardly slapped at it while being tackled to the ground. One Longhorn missed a scoop and score, and the pile of players that arrived shortly after knocked it out of bounds. "I thought we were going to pick it up and run it back in for the touchdown," said Texas coach Mack Brown, whose team trailed by eight. "I was just thinking about the two-point play, very honestly."

Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:00
PM ET
A look back on the week that was.

Team of the week: Oregon bounced back from an early 21-3 deficit to whip Stanford 52-31. The Ducks showed dominance on both sides of the ball rolling up 626 yards and shutting the Cardinal out in the second half. The performance boosted them to No. 3 in the national rankings. Hello national title contention.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJake Locker passed for 310 yards in Washington's win over USC.
Best game: Washington and QB Jake Locker drove 61 yards -- converting on fourth-and-11 with an 18-yard completion in the process -- for a game-winning, 32-yard field goal from Erik Folk as time expired at USC. The game featured more than 1,000 yards of offense and seven lead changes.

Biggest play: Having already mentioned the Huskies' fourth-and-11 conversion, let's then tip our cap to Oregon coach Chip Kelly's brilliant -- brilliant because it worked -- decision to go for an onside kick immediately after his team had narrowed the Cardinal's early lead to 21-10. The Ducks recovered and drove for another TD, making the count 21-17

Offensive standout(s): Oregon's LaMichael James rushed for 257 yards and three TDs on 31 carries against Stanford, never getting tackled for a loss in the process. He's now the conference's top Heisman Trophy candidate. Locker is no longer a Heisman candidate, but he bounced back from a career-worst performance against Nebraska to pass for 310 yards and rush for 110 more at USC.

Defensive standout(s): Oregon State's Stephen Paea had been mostly muted by double-teams in the first three games, but he had two of the Beavers' six sacks against Arizona State. Meanwhile, UCLA DT David Carter had three sacks and two QB hurries in the Bruins' win over Washington State. Hard to not also mention Ducks cornerback Cliff Harris, who had two interceptions of Andrew Luck.

Special teams standout: Folk beat USC with a pressure-packed kick for a second consecutive season. For the evening, he was 4-for-4 on field goals with a long of 41 yards.

Smiley face: Following another case of early-season struggles -- in large part due to a brutal schedule with a pair of top-five teams -- Oregon State again figured out a way to not only endure but also improve. The win over Arizona State showcased major gains on both sides of the ball.

Frowny face: Arizona State had another close call at Oregon State, but after ending up on the wrong end of three close calls it's hard to fall back on the whole "moral" victory thing, particularly with players seemingly joking around on the sideline while the game is still hotly contested, per reports from the Arizona Republic.

Thought of the week: Kelly won't want to hear this -- and he certainly won't rhapsodize with reporters about it -- but the unbeaten, third-ranked Ducks look at this point to be favorites in the rest of their games, seeing that a visit to USC on Oct. 30 no longer feels terribly formidable. So if the Ducks hold serve ... well, you fill in the blank.

Questions for the week: Is Oregon State about to join the conference race? The Beavers were projected third in the preseason media poll, if you recall. A win at Arizona certainly would suggest the Beavers will be a factor at the top of the conference. A loss, however, might hint at a middle-of-the-pack finish.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
2:00
PM ET
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 4.

The good: Air Force is ranked for the first time under coach Troy Calhoun, joining the AP poll at No. 25 after its big 14-6 win against Navy. There are now five non-AQ teams ranked and three in the Top 10, with Boise State at No. 4, TCU at No. 5 and Utah at No. 10.

Miami of Ohio (3-2) is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2007. The Red Hawks are one of the youngest teams in the country. Coach Mike Haywood estimates he had between 45 and 48 true freshmen, redshirt freshman and sophomores on his 65-man roster in its 27-21 win against Kent State last Saturday. “When you have a young team you don’t take anything,” Haywood said.

[+] EnlargeGary Anderson
AP Photo/Jim UrquhartCoach Gary Andersen and Utah State have reason to be excited after beating BYU.
Utah State beat BYU for the first time since 1993, and even though BYU is down, coach Gary Andersen will take it. Fans stormed the field afterward, and he said the victory is a huge boost for recruiting and fan support for the Aggies. “For us to get a win over BYU is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz keeps putting up video game numbers for the Warriors. Hawaii is No. 1 in the country in passing offense, averaging 431 yards per game. Moniz had a career-high 532 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. He has over 300 yards passing in all his games but the opener against USC. That is because he left the game in the third quarter with a head injury.

The bad: Meanwhile, the Cougars dropped to 1-4 for the first time since 1973, and fired defensive coordinator Jamie Hill over the weekend. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will resume his coaching duties. BYU has been unable to do anything on offense and defense this season. BYU ranks No. 96 in total offense and No. 101 in total defense. The Cougars are also last in the country in rushing defense, giving up an average of 259 yards a game. Hill told the Deseret News he was surprised the decision came in the middle of the season, but one former player said Hill had some personality conflicts with players.

None of the six non-AQ winless teams won this past weekend. Western Kentucky was idle, but Eastern Michigan, Akron, FIU, New Mexico State and New Mexico all lost.

The heartache: You have got to feel for North Texas, which played Louisiana a day after freshman walk-on wide receiver Josh Rake died from injuries sustained in a car accident. This had already been a tough season, losing 10 starters to injury. Before Rake died, receiver Tyler Stradford got hurt when he tried to run from a pit bull at his apartment complex. Stradford leaped over a fence but landed on a lawn chair and had a bar stuck four inches into his chest, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

North Texas came back from a 28-14 fourth-quarter deficit, scoring with 31 seconds left to make it 28-27. But the extra point attempt was blocked, and Louisiana won. The Mean Green have now lost eight games by seven points or less in the last two seasons. Now comes word that starting quarterback Riley Dodge has a fractured wrist and may require surgery, the third starting quarterback to get hurt for North Texas this season. Coach Todd Dodge is now preparing Chase Blaine to start.

A few more helmet stickers: Hawaii WR Kealoha Pilares set a new school record with 18 catches against Louisiana Tech, passing the previous mark of 16 set by Greg Salas last year against New Mexico State. Pilares also finished with a career-high 217 receiving yards, the seventh best performance in school history. … Arkansas State LB Javon McKinnon recorded a career-high 16 tackles against Louisville. … Ball State DE Robert Eddins had a career-high 4.5 sacks and seven total tackles in Ball State's 31-17 win at Central Michigan.

A few injury items to note: Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury, and coach Dave Clawson sounded unsure whether his player would be able to go at Ohio on Saturday. Schilz hasn’t thrown since last Wednesday. If he can’t go this week, Clawson said he would open up the quarterback competition. Aaron Pankratz went 12-of-37 for 167 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in a loss to Buffalo. … Ohio WR LaVonn Brazill has a broken hand and is out. … Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore (ankle) is day to day. ... Utah State RB Michael Smith (turf toe) is out indefinitely and Andersen said he would see whether Smith is eligible for a medical redshirt.

Week 6 look ahead: Plenty of big conference games this week. It starts Tuesday night with Troy at Middle Tennessee in the return of Blue Raiders quarterback Dwight Dasher. On Wednesday, UAB travels to UCF. The Blazers have had three of their games come down to the final play, losing two. Big MAC showdown between Temple and Northern Illinois. San Diego State travels to BYU, and there also is the winless bowl: New Mexico against New Mexico State. Someone has to win. Right?
It’s time to rewind and fast-forward in the ACC:

The good: Florida State and Miami. With the exception of early season road losses to top-10 teams, both programs are right where they need to be heading into Saturday’s rivalry game – undefeated in ACC play and ranked in the AP Top 25. It’s about time.

[+] EnlargeTom O'Brien
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeTom O'Brien and NC State let a big lead and a 5-0 start slip through their hands against Virginia Tech.
The bad: NC State’s collapse. The Wolfpack had a 5-0 start in its hands and let it slip away in the fourth quarter with missed tackles and turnovers.

The ugly: Boston College. A total of five yards rushing, 12 penalties for 120 yards, an injured freshman quarterback and an underperforming offensive line. In a word, ugly.

The emerging: Virginia Tech. Nobody is going to forget the home loss to James Madison, but the Hokies are taking steps to help put it further behind them. Virginia Tech is off to a 2-0 start in league play and should notch another nonconference win this weekend against Central Michigan.

The leader: Joshua Nesbitt. He took the team on his shoulders once again and made key fourth-quarter plays in a 24-20 win at Wake Forest. And with a surprise twist, Georgia Tech (130) had more passing yards than Wake Forest (107). Nesbitt’s nine-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining won the game.

The playmaker: Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson. He tied a school record with three touchdown receptions. He made seven catches for a career-high 147 yards, and became only the fourth player in UM history to catch three touchdowns in the same game.

Top three games for Week 6:

1. Florida State at Miami: This is the game of the week in the ACC, as both teams have emerged as front-runners in their respective divisions and only have one loss. Florida State’s defense will get its first real test since Oklahoma, and the offense will have to hit its stride against Miami’s defense, which has been one of the best in the country. The Canes will try to eliminate the turnovers and cut down on the penalties.

2. Clemson at North Carolina: Both teams are looking for their first conference win, but the Tigers are down after back-to-back losses. The Tar Heels have started to regroup and will get some more help with the return of Deunta Williams, who has completed his four-game suspension.

3. Boston College at NC State: It’s lost some of its luster since both are coming off losses, but it’s relevant to the Atlantic Division standings nonetheless. The Eagles are hurting (both literally and figuratively) at quarterback, and the Pack is kicking itself (or at least should be) for squandering a 17-point lead against the Hokies.

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