NCF Nation: weekend rewind 101512

Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
Upon further review ...

Team of the week: Iowa. Well, look at who's tied atop the Legends Division standings. Many people had written off the Hawkeyes after they lost at home to Central Michigan (a team which has followed up that upset in Iowa City by losing to Northern Illinois, Toledo and Navy, all by double digits). But give credit to the resiliency of Kirk Ferentz's team. On Saturday, Iowa outslugged Michigan State on the road and won in double-overtime 19-16. It wasn't a pretty game, but the Hawkeyes showed toughness and grit. Don't count them out of the Big Ten race just yet.

Best game: Hope you stayed up late to catch Ohio State's 52-49 win over Indiana, the Big Ten's version of Big 12 football. There were blocked punts, onside kicks, a 15-point Indiana rally in the final minutes, 1,059 total yards and way more tension than we usually associate with Buckeyes-Hoosiers matchups. You might have liked Iowa-Michigan State more if you enjoy, you know, actual tackling. But this kind of game is fun every once in a while, too.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Sandra Dukes/US PresswireBadgers RB Montee Ball had one of his best games of the season on Saturday against Purdue.
Biggest play: Let's go back to East Lansing and the second overtime period, when defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat deflected a pass from Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell, causing the ball to sail through receiver Keith Mumphery’s hands and into the waiting embrace of an Iowa cornerback. That was a fitting end to a game that was all about defense.

Best play: The play of the day in the Big Ten happened around midnight, when Indiana's Nick Stoner leaped out of bounds to grab an onside kick and toss it back into the field of play. Stoner showed off the athleticism that allows him to star on Indiana's track team. D’Angelo Roberts recovered, and the Hoosiers went in for a score and two-point conversion for the game's final margin. Indiana's final onside kick was also brilliantly executed and conceived, but Ohio State's Corey Brown made a game-saving catch as he was all alone on his side of the field.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Wisconsin's Montee Ball has had quite a career, so when he sets a career high, that's saying something. His 247 yards (on 29 carries) versus Purdue were a personal best. His three touchdowns also gave him 72 for his career, moving him past Ron Dayne as the Big Ten's all-time leading touchdown maker. He needs seven more to break the NCAA record. If he keeps playing like he did Saturday, he'll smash it.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Michigan's Jake Ryan collected 11 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and a sack, and forced a fumble in the Wolverines' 45-0 annihilation of Illinois. We'd say he's playing like his hair is on fire, but his golden locks are so long it might take him a while to feel any follicular conflagration.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Iowa's Mike Meyer was 4-for-4 on field goals, including two in overtime and the 42-yard game winner against Michigan State. Meyer has made 14 out of 15 this year and has connected on his past 13 attempts. For a team that struggles to score, Meyer has been extra valuable.

Worst hangover: Michigan State. Adam and I are frantically going back through all our offseason blog posts and erasing the word "State" every time we picked Michigan State to win the Big Ten in 2012. At this point, the Spartans are not even guaranteed of making a bowl game, sitting at 4-3 with tough games left against Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern, plus a trip to Minnesota. How'd we miss so bad on the Spartans? Neither of us thought their offense would be this dreadful. And while their defense has been very good, it has had to be heroic to carry the entire team, and that's asking too much every week. Michigan State has somehow lost three home games this year after it had won 15 in a row at Spartan Stadium. The Notre Dame and Ohio State losses were forgivable to a degree. Losing to an Iowa team that had only 257 total yards and one touchdown? Not so much.

Strangest moment: There are helmet-to-helmet hits, and then there are, apparently, shoulder-to-decal hits. That's what happened in Saturday's Northwestern-Minnesota game. Wildcats safety Ibraheim Campbell collided with Gophers tailback Donnell Kirkwood so solidly that most of the gold "M" on one side of Kirkwood's helmet came off on the play. Campbell got the worst of that hit, but Northwestern got the 21-13 road win.

Hot and Not in the SEC

October, 15, 2012
Anybody hot? Anybody not?

We take our weekly temperature in the SEC:


[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireTexas A&M QB Johnny Manziel is on pace to set the SEC record for total offense in a season.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: This guy is playing in his own league right now. Johnny Football accounted for six touchdowns Saturday in Texas A&M’s wild 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech, and he broke the SEC record for total offense that he had established earlier this season. Manziel finished with 576 total yards, including 181 yards rushing. He now leads the SEC in rushing with an average of 112.7 yards per game. His numbers (14 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns) are phenomenal, but even more so when you consider that he’s only a redshirt freshman and has played all of six college games. Manziel is on track to break the SEC record for total offense in a season. Cam Newton set the record in 2010 with 4,327 yards in 14 games. Manziel already has 2,356 yards in six games. Only three players in SEC history have surpassed 4,000 yards in a season -- Tim Couch (1998), Tim Tebow (2007) and Newton.


LSU’s pride: The Tigers haven’t lost two games in a row since the 2008 season, and they weren’t about to let South Carolina come into their den and change that. LSU not only beat the Gamecocks, but the Tigers beat up the Gamecocks physically in a 23-21 win Saturday in Tiger Stadium. The win served notice that LSU is still a player in the SEC and national championship races.


Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri: There was genuine excitement in Big Orange Country when the Vols hired Sunseri away from Alabama, but they’re ready to ship him back after watching his defense give up 129 points and 66 first downs in three SEC games. It’s been a disaster for Tennessee on defense.


Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace: Obviously, Wallace knows how to reach the end zone. In the 41-20 win over Auburn, he rushed for a touchdown, passed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass, becoming the first player in Ole Miss history to pull off that feat.


South Carolina’s run defense: The Gamecocks had flexed their muscle against the run all season. Teams were averaging just 2.2 yards per carry against them, but a purple-and-gold bulldozer left nothing but feathers in its wake Saturday on the Bayou. LSU gashed South Carolina for 258 rushing yards and did it by blowing the Gamecocks off the line of scrimmage.


Alabama’s running game: The weather was nasty this past weekend in Missouri, and so was Alabama’s running game. The Crimson Tide pounded out 362 yards on the ground with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both topping the 100-yard mark. Lacy finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns, while Yeldon had 144 yards and two touchdowns.


Kentucky’s third-down defense: The Wildcats really haven’t stopped much of anybody this season on defense. But on third down, it’s been even more glaring. They’re 119th out of 120 FBS teams in third-down conversion defense. Teams are converting against them 55.7 percent of the time. The only defense that’s been worse is Baylor, which is not the kind of company you want to be keeping on the defensive side of the ball.


Cowbell Central: The Mississippi State fans should be proud. They’ve rekindled a super home-field advantage at Scott Field under Dan Mullen. It’s obviously not as big as most stadiums in the SEC, but that place was rocking (and clanging) Saturday night against Tennessee in what was the Bulldogs’ 20th straight home sellout.


Late games: What’s with some of these late start times? Yes, I know the reason. But football wasn’t meant to be played after 1 o’clock in the morning.


Auburn: How far have the Tigers fallen just two years after winning the national championship? They travel to Vanderbilt this weekend, and the Commodores -- who are just 1-13 against Auburn since 1950 -- are a touchdown favorite. There have been happier times on the Plains, for sure. Auburn has lost six straight SEC games going back to last season and seven of its past eight. Only one of those seven losses has been closer than 17 points. The Tigers (1-5, 0-4) are ranked 12th in the SEC in total defense, although the 41-20 loss to Ole Miss was the first time this season that they’d given up 30 or more points in a game. The bigger problem has been the offense, which is ranked last in the SEC in total offense and scoring offense. The Tigers have scored just four offensive touchdowns in four SEC games, and it appears now that they will lean toward playing more younger guys the rest of the season.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
Taking stock of the seventh week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Lose starting QB Sean Mannion to a knee injury? No problem for Oregon State. Backup Cody Vaz, making his first career start, was exceptional, and the defense was opportunistic as the Beavers rolled 42-24 at BYU. Oregon State is 5-0 for the first time since 1939. So, yeah, this is big.

Best game: However you want to view the ending -- and the accurate way is Stanford got screwed by the Pac-12 officials! -- Stanford's 20-13 overtime loss at Notre Dame was great theater. Two good defenses, two struggling offenses, physical football and every point counted. And the rain provided a nice backdrop.

[+] EnlargeStepfan Taylor
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesStepfan Taylor was unable to find the end zone on the final play of the game.
Biggest play: Four of them actually: Four straight-ahead, overtime runs from Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor that didn't -- at least clearly and without a doubt to everyone -- get into the end zone. When Stanford gets a first-and-goal on the 4-yard line, you typically like its chances.

Offensive standout: Vaz completed 20-of-32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 42-24 victory at BYU. The efficiency rating on those numbers -- 180.6 -- would rate only slightly below West Virginia's Geno Smith for No. 1 in the nation. And the Cougars entered the game with one of the nation's best defenses.

Defensive standout: Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy is one of the Pac-12's most underrated players. He rolled up a team-high 10 tackles at Notre Dame, with 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. He also had three quarterback hurries.

Special-teams standout: Know a good way to crush the hopes and dreams of an underdog? Return the third-quarter kickoff 100 yards for a TD. That is what Arizona State's Rashad Ross did to Colorado after the Buffaloes had rallied late in the second quarter to make it a 3-point game at halftime in Boulder. Ross' dash was the first -- and loudest -- of 31 unanswered second-half points from Arizona State in a 51-17 win.

Smiley face: Hey, how about a weekend with no chokes, with the favorites coming out on top, as well as Oregon State, a highly ranked underdog? Arizona State, UCLA, USC and California each took care of business as favorites, while the Beavers overcame the loss of their starting QB in a road date with a solid BYU team. If Stanford had prevailed instead of falling in overtime at Notre Dame, it would have been an exceptional weekend for the conference. Oregon, at 6-0, is already bowl eligible and Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and USC have five wins. At this point in the season, some of those six- and seven-win teams of past years are positioned to win eight, nine or even 10 games.

Frowny face: Stanford had a chance to make a big statement at Notre Dame but it fell just short. While the officiating got the publicity, the Cardinal are going to look at that game tape and slap their collective forehead many, many times. Lots of miscues, mistakes and missed opportunities.

Thought of the week: Maybe we need to give USC a break. Coach Lane Kiffin has decided to win ugly, so be it. Run the ball, play to his defense, etc. Fine. QB Matt Barkley is 30th in the nation in passing efficiency? USC is 48th in scoring offense? Sure, it's surprising. Sure, it doesn't fit our preseason image of the Trojans. Sure, it seems like this team isn't nearly as dominant as many projected. Still, USC is ranked ninth in the coaches' poll and, at 5-1 overall, is in good position in both the Pac-12 and perhaps even nationally. If the Trojans don't lose again, it won't matter if it was pretty.

Questions for the week: Is there a Heisman Trophy candidate in the Pac-12 this year? It appears that Barkley's candidacy is over. If a guy is going to emerge, it might happen Thursday in Tempe. Oregon's one-two punch of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas will be on display against a good Sun Devils defense. And what happens if ASU QB Taylor Kelly, presently third in the nation in passing efficiency, is lights out?

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
Here's what I saw in the Big 12 last week:

[+] EnlargeSeth Doege
Jerod Foster/Icon SMISeth Doege picked apart West Virginia's defense -- completing 76 percent of his passes and throwing six touchdowns.
Best offensive performance: Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech. Doege taught the whole world how to Doege on Saturday, tossing for 506 yards and six touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing and making the most of his defense's big day. Doege bounced back from a rough week against Oklahoma and made West Virginia's defense look very, very bad. He was on the money all game and frustrated the WVU defense with his accuracy and decision-making.

Best defensive performance: Devonte Fields, DE, TCU. Fields continued his tear as a true freshman navigating the Big 12 for the first time. He made five tackles, had two tackles for loss with a sack, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Ridiculous. Honorable mention: Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State.

Best team performance: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders edge out Oklahoma by way of a five-touchdown win over one of two Big 12 front-runners on Saturday. Tech's defense figured out how to slow the West Virginia offense and forced Geno Smith into his worst outing of the season. Hard to do. In the process, Tech proved it can beat anybody and has a whole lot of upside. Honorable mention: Oklahoma.

Best play: Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma. Leading 20-2, Landry Jones found Millard for a short pass on first down and Millard turned upfield. In one single bound, he leaped over one defender (his second hurdle of the game at that point) and another defender bounced off his legs as he stiff-armed. Millard stuck the landing as though the defense wasn't even there and rumbled down the left sideline for a 73-yard gain.

Worst quarter: Baylor's fourth quarter. The Bears trailed 28-21 and looked in position to make a run at the Frogs. However, Nick Florence threw a pair of interceptions and the Bears added another fumble as TCU ran away with Baylor's lunch money in the fourth, outscoring them 21-0 in the decisive quarter.

Best quarter: Oklahoma's second quarter. The Sooners ran the ball into the teeth of Texas' defense and the Sooners' defense looked very much like a brick wall in the quarter. Oklahoma outscored the Longhorns 23-0 to officially key the rout. Texas' offensive possessions resulted in three three-and-outs, a safety and an interception. Oklahoma scored three touchdowns on its first four drives of the quarter.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
Here’s a look at the highlights and lowlights of Week 7:

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
AP Photo/Steve HelberRandy Edsall has the Maryland Terrapins playing well and leading the Atlantic Division.
The good: Maryland’s turnaround. Coach Randy Edsall is building a case for coach of the year. One year after a 2-10 finish, the Terps are leading the Atlantic Division and the only team still undefeated in league play. Maryland held on to beat Virginia 27-20 and has momentum heading into Saturday’s game against NC State.

The bad: Backup quarterbacks. Who IS the backup quarterback in Charlottesville? Is it Michael Rocco? Phillip Sims? Rocco came off the bench against Maryland but threw three straight incompletions on the final possession. Miami backup quarterback Ryan Williams relieved injured starter Stephen Morris in the fourth quarter against North Carolina and threw an incompletion on fourth-and-6 from the North Carolina 26 with 5:45 left. Duke backup quarterback Anthony Boone came in for injured starter Sean Renfree and didn’t look as sharp as he did the previous week. His interception in the second quarter led to a Tech field goal that cut Duke’s lead to 20-10.

The ugly: North Carolina’s penalties. The Tar Heels had 15 penalties for 140 yards.

The nonexistent: Miami’s rushing defense. The Hurricanes allowed UNC 272 rushing yards. Giovani Bernard accounted for 177 of them and two touchdowns. Miami allowed Notre Dame 376 rushing yards the prior week.

The comeback: Virginia Tech scored 41 unanswered points in the final three quarters against Duke to win 41-20, the biggest comeback the program has ever seen under coach Frank Beamer.

The comeback II: Florida State quickly buried its loss to NC State and took out its frustrations on Boston College in a 51-7 dismantling of the Eagles.

The stat: BC tailback Andre Williams rushed for 104 yards, making him the first back to top 100 yards against FSU in more than a year.

The quote: "I think our bubble feels burst. It hurts today. It hurts a lot." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe after the loss to the Hokies, according to the Associated Press.

Notre Dame weekend rewind

October, 15, 2012
One last look at the weekend that was for Notre Dame:

The good: The Irish are 6-0 on the back of a defense that has not given up a touchdown in four games, one that has not given up a rushing touchdown this season. Notre Dame stopped Stepfan Taylor four times inside the 4-yard line in overtime to preserve the victory. Tommy Rees saved the day again on offense but, unlike last week, does not get credit for this win.

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesBackup QB Tommy Rees came off the bench and answered the bell again for the Fighting Irish.
The bad: Five false start penalties at home is, in a word, unacceptable, as are three lost fumbles by the starting quarterback.

The ugly: Lots of close calls in this one will be debated endlessly. Did Taylor score on the last play? (And why in the world did the official announce something about excessive celebration, let alone before making his ruling on the play?) Was there a crowd whistle, as coach David Shaw insisted, that forced his players to stop playing and allowed Matthias Farley to tackle Taylor for a seven-yard loss on third down on the Cardinal's final drive of regulation? It looked like Everett Golson may have been out of bounds before his last fumble as well. But none of these alleged gaffes are as mind-boggling as Stanford's overturned second-down fourth-quarter completion from the Irish 48 -- not because of the ruling but because the ball was then marked at the Stanford 48. Shaw noticed and, asked if he spoke to the officials about it, said: "Yes, I did, but I can't make them ... I mean and they put the ball on the wrong hash. There's nothing else I can do about it. I'm not going to comment on the officials."

The only ... Notre Dame is the only team in the nation with wins over three AP Top 25 teams, as it has beaten then-No. 10 Michigan State, then-No. 18 Michigan and then-No. 17 Stanford. The Cardinal, at No. 20 in the BCS rankings, are the only one of those teams still ranked (and the highest-ranked two-loss team in the every poll). The Irish haven't beaten three AP Top 25 teams since 2002, with six in 1989 standing as the school record.

Next up: In what defines the term "trap game," the Irish host BYU after they beat Stanford and a week before they travel to Oklahoma. The Cougars are 4-3 and, like Stanford, boast a great defense that let up a week before their trip to South Bend, as they gave up 42 points to Oregon State on Saturday. BYU was surrendering 8.83 points per game before its loss to the Beavers.

Big East weekend rewind: Week 7

October, 15, 2012
The three undefeated teams took care of business, while Temple made some history (again).

The good: As stated above, the Big East's three undefeated teams kept their perfect records intact. Louisville won a shootout at Pitt, Rutgers outlasted Syracuse and Cincinnati made easy work of Fordham. All three will be favored again this week, and the more perfect teams the better for a conference that needs all the help it can get. The Cardinals and the Scarlet Knights both became bowl-eligible.

[+] EnlargeMontel Harris
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireMontel Harris now has 275 yards and three touchdowns over the past two games.
The bad: Syracuse managed to score more points at Rutgers than it did against Pitt, but it couldn't seem to get out of its own way, coughing it up four times. Pitt's defense came apart in a game-changing third quarter in a loss to Louisville. The Orange and the Panthers are the biggest wild cards in this conference, and their inconsistencies show in each's 2-4 overall record.

The ugly: UConn blew a 14-point home lead to Temple before falling to the Owls in overtime. Chad Christen missed four field goals and the defense surrendered a pair of fourth-down conversions on Temple's final drive of regulation, which sent the game to the extra session.

Good as new: Montel Harris continued his hot start in Big East play, rushing for 142 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Harris now has consecutive 100-yard games in leading Temple to a 2-0 start in Big East play, its first Big East winning streak. Bothered by hamstring injuries earlier this season -- and knee injuries earlier in his career -- Harris has done more than just pick up the load for Matt Brown, who has missed much of the past two games with an ankle injury.

Heating up: Louisville running back Senorise Perry rushed for 101 yards and four touchdowns on just 12 carries Saturday in a win at Pitt. Perry carried the Cardinals in their previous game, a win at Southern Miss, and now has consecutive 100-yard games and three total on the season.

What the …? Rutgers, arguably the Big East's best team, was outgained by Syracuse 418-237. Yes, the Scarlet Knights still won by eight, mainly because they won the turnover battle 4-0 and, as always, had a big special-teams play. But this one was a bit of a head-scratcher.

Leaving little doubt: We probably won't know a whole lot about Cincinnati until its Friday night trip to Louisville in two weeks, but the Bearcats have not let up yet in going 5-0. They scored touchdowns on all five second-half possessions in a win over FCS Fordham, and they have notched at least 425 yards of offense in every game so far.