NCF Nation: Weekend-rewind-103111

Weekend Rewind: Big East

October, 31, 2011
Let's take one final look back at Week 9.

[+] EnlargeTino Sunseri
Charles LeClaire/US PresswirePitt QB Tino Sunseri has thrown for seven touchdowns in eight games this season.
The good: Start with the Louisville defense, which is playing like the best unit in the Big East right now. The Cardinals have held each of their opponents to 25 points or fewer this season. Only one other team has done the same: Alabama. Pretty nice company for the Cardinals, who now rank No. 1 in the Big East in total defense and scoring defense. They are the top Big East team in the national rankings in those categories as well, ranking No. 12 nationally in total defense (295.63 ypg) and No. 11 in scoring defense (16.25 ppg). More on the defense in my video later today. ... How about a little standing O for Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, perhaps the most heavily criticized player in the Big East this season. Sunseri has taken heat not only from fans, but from his coaches as well because he has not been able to run the new hurry-up spread offense as efficiently as coach Todd Graham anticipated. But Sunseri had a career-day in a win over UConn, throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns. Interestingly, Pitt didn’t have a 100-yard receiver. Eight players caught at least one pass in the game. ... West Virginia became bowl-eligible for the 10th consecutive season with its 41-31 win at Rutgers. Quarterback Geno Smith has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 11 consecutive games, and he added his first career rushing touchdown as well. Meanwhile, cornerback Brodrick Jenkins got his first career start and ended up with two interceptions -- the first two of his career.

The bad: Rutgers still is one of the best in the nation in turnover margin, but that number has taken a tumble of late. The Scarlet Knights had forced at least four turnovers in each of their first five games, but have a total of three forced turnovers in their last three games. In those three games, Rutgers is minus-six in turnover margin -- minus-five in two straight losses. ... Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey ran for 70 yards in a loss to Louisville, breaking his four-game streak of 100-plus rushing yards. The defense, which played so well against West Virginia, did not have its greatest day against the Cardinals -- a team that had struggled to move the ball for most of the season. Syracuse allowed Louisville to score a season-high 27 points and its second-highest total offense output against FBS opponents this season (343 yards). ... For the first time all season, UConn did not force a turnover in its loss to Pitt. ... West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey had two receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers, snapping his streak of five straight 100-yard games.

Milestone watch

Victor Anderson, RB, Louisville. Anderson became the 13th 2,000-yard rusher in school history after gaining 93 yards against Syracuse.

Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. Nassib moved past Joe Morris (1978-81) and now ranks eighth in school history in total offense (4,429 yards).

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. Sanu had seven receptions for 48 yards against West Virginia, moving into third place on the school's single-season receptions chart (70).

Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith now has 45 career passing touchdowns and is tied with Rasheed Marshall (2001-04) for No. 3 on the all-time school list. He also passed athletic director Oliver Luck for No. 4 on the all-time passing chart with 5,787 career passing yards.

San San Te, K, Rutgers. Te moved into second place on the school's career scoring chart (307 points) with seven points against West Virginia.

Dave Teggart, K, UConn. Teggart was 2-for-2 on extra-point attempts against Pitt, making him 117-for-117 in his career. Teggart broke the Big East record of 116 consecutive made extra points, held previously by Art Carmody of Louisville.

Week 10 schedule

Louisville at West Virginia, noon, Big East Network

Syracuse at UConn, noon, ESPNU

Cincinnati at Pitt, 7 p.m., ESPNU

USF at Rutgers, 7 p.m., ESPN3

Weekend rewind: Big 12

October, 31, 2011
Here's a look back at a crazy weekend of football.

Best offensive player: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. On the road against a top 10 opponent, Jones was back at his best after a rough outing last week. He broke his own school record with 505 yards passing and five touchdowns in a 58-17 beatdown of Kansas State.

Best defensive player: Randy Ponder, CB, Missouri. Ponder, a former walk-on, made big plays all day for the Tigers in their 38-31 win against Texas Tech. He intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards, and forced a fumble. He finished with six tackles and a pass breakup, too.

[+] EnlargeTaylor Hodge
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma State offensive lineman Taylor Hodge, left, and fullback David Paulsen, right, celebrate with fans following a 59-24 win against Baylor.
Best team performance: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys thoroughly dismantled a good Baylor team with timely turnovers and a business-as-usual day on offense. Any day you rush for more than 300 yards is a good one. Add the kind of defensive play OSU had on Saturday, and you get a solid blowout.

Best game: Missouri 38, Texas A&M 31 (OT). The Tigers rallied from a 17-point deficit after leading 14-7 early, and missed a last-second field goal to win the game. Overtime? No problem. The Tigers scored and then stopped A&M to get the biggest win of the season and improve to 4-4.

Most interesting, yet inconsequential mystery: Who turned the Mizzou flag upside down at Boone Pickens Stadium? A photo circulated around Twitter on Saturday of Mizzou's flag outside Boone Pickens Stadium flying upside down. I was skeptical, but I checked it out when I left. All 10 flags on the south side of the stadium were normal, but sure enough, on the west side of the stadium, the Tigers' flag was flying upside down. Late Saturday night, that was news to OSU officials. It was too obvious to be coincidence, but it's also not that big of a deal. My guess is whoever handles those flags got a little petty this weekend, and only a handful of people would even notice. I walked by them before the game and didn't see it. Ultimately, what does all this matter? Unless you enjoy being oversensitive, not very much, even if it was on purpose, which we might never know.

Worst case of multiple personalities: Texas Tech. What the heck? Seriously, what the heck? Knock off the titan Sooners one week, and give up more than 300 rushing yards to Iowa State in a 34-point home loss the next? That earned them the distinction of the second team since the 1989 to have no votes, be ranked and have no votes in a three-week span, according to the AP.

Gutsiest performance: James Franklin, QB, Missouri. Franklin played big for 60 minutes against Texas A&M in the league's most difficult atmosphere. He shifted into beast mode for a tough touchdown run in the first quarter and made the game-winning throw to Marcus Lucas in overtime. Well done for the sophomore.

Worst case of déjà vu: Texas A&M. Another one bites the dust. Big halftime leads, that is. For a third time this season, Texas A&M blew a double-digit halftime lead, and this was the second time they've done it at home.

Worst injury: Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma. Whaley's been one of the best stories and an even better running back for the Sooners this season. The former walk-on was OU's leading rusher, but will miss the rest of the season with an ugly broken ankle. A sad end to a great year. Here's hoping he writes another memorable chapter in 2012.

Stat of the weekend: Baylor outgained Oklahoma State in Saturday's 59-24 loss. The Bears had 622 yards to Oklahoma State's 601.

Stat of the weekend II: Kansas had one first down in the first half of its 43-0 loss to Texas. It came when Texas was flagged for roughing the passer.

Stat of the weekend III: Baylor didn't punt in the loss to Oklahoma State, despite trailing 49-3 in the fourth quarter and eventually losing, 59-24.

Weekend rewind: SEC

October, 31, 2011
It’s hotter than usual this week in the SEC. The “Super Bowl” is upon us.

Anybody feeling not so hot?


Alabama-LSU hype: Does this game even need any build-up? It’s the biggest SEC regular-season game since … well, you get the idea. Two lower-level tickets on StubHub were going for more than $10,000 apiece. One of the many things that makes the game so compelling is the do-or-die nature of the matchup. These are the two best teams in college football, and a lot of people don’t even think it’s close. Yet, they’re not playing for the championship. They’re playing for the right to stay in the championship hunt. The loser is on the outside looking in and won’t have a chance for a rematch unless things fall just right elsewhere. My advice: Sit back and enjoy these two Goliaths going at it in what will be an electric atmosphere. Anybody need tickets?


[+] EnlargeJarvis Jones
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesJarvis Jones (29) made life miserable for John Brantley on Saturday.
Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones: Add Jones’ name to the list of top candidates for SEC defensive player of the year. He’s been very good all season, but turned in a memorable performance against Florida with four sacks and a forced fumble that led to a Georgia touchdown. The thing that separates Jones is that he’s a lot more than just a pass-rusher.


Florida’s running game: Everybody wondered back in the preseason who was going to be the workhorse for the Gators in the running game and get the tough yards. That guy simply isn’t on their roster. They were held to minus-19 rushing yards in the loss to Georgia. Granted, they were sacked six times, and that was a big part of the paltry rushing total. Still, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combined for just 38 rushing yards on 13 carries, and Florida is ranked eighth in the SEC in rushing offense.


South Carolina’s defense: Lost in the glare of how good Alabama and LSU have been on defense is a South Carolina defense that’s absolutely suffocating teams right now. The Gamecocks have kept three of their last five opponents out of the end zone and haven’t given up more than 16 points in any of their last five contests.


Justin’s Worley’s debut: The Vols’ true freshman quarterback underwent a nightmarish debut in his first game as a starter. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley probably didn’t do Worley any favors by tossing him into that situation when he clearly wasn’t ready, and Worley’s teammates didn’t do a whole lot to help him, either.


Auburn running back Michael Dyer: Where would this Auburn football team be this season without Dyer? He rushed for 177 yards on 27 carries in the 41-23 win over Ole Miss last week and is 11 yards away from his second straight 1,000-yard season. You can bet the Tigers will be leaning on him offensively the rest of the way.


Arkansas’ starts: The Hogs keep winning despite forgetting to start the game on time. It’s almost as if they want to spot their opponent a lead just to see if they can come back and win. They fell behind 21-7 last week to Vanderbilt, but managed to escape. It’s the third time in their last four games that the Hogs have weathered slow starts to win. They’re playing with fire.


Florida-Georgia traffic: As one Florida fan reminded me as he walked by and saw me sitting in the EverBank Field parking lot at 10:30 in the morning, “You learned your lesson. You left earlier.” Indeed I did, and the traffic was a dream this year. I zipped right down Union Street into the parking lot and enjoyed all the sights and sounds that truly make the Florida-Georgia rivalry one big party.


Ole Miss in the second half: The Rebels’ SEC losing streak has swelled to 11 in a row dating back to last season. Their struggles have run the gamut this season, but nothing has been more crippling than their inability to finish games. They’ve been outscored 93-20 in the second half in their five SEC losses.


October swoons: Nobody’s cheering louder for the month of October to be over than most of the teams in the Eastern Division. In keeping with the Halloween theme, it’s almost as if a spell has been cast over the East. South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore for the season. Tyler Bray goes down for Tennessee. John Brantley goes down for Florida, and Georgia’s best receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, has missed the past two games with a hamstring pull. Kentucky also lost its promising freshman running back, Josh Clemons, to a knee injury. It doesn’t stop with injuries, either. In SEC games, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt were a combined 0-14 in the month of October, and seven of those losses were by at least 28 points. The Commodores haven’t won an SEC game in October since the 2008 season, and the Vols haven’t won an SEC game in October since the 2009 season.

Weekend rewind: Non-AQs

October, 31, 2011
Taking a look back at Week 9 for the non-AQs:

Southern Miss flying high: Plenty have taken notice of the Golden Eagles this season following a 7-1 start. They are now ranked No. 25 in the BCS standings for the first time since 2004, and have gotten off to its best start since 1996. After getting a big challenge from UTEP on Saturday, going into halftime tied at 10, Southern Miss scored 21 points in the second half and shut the Miners out in the fourth quarter to win 31-13. The defense, which has had its share of letdowns the last several seasons, has shown major improvement. Southern Miss has allowed just a touchdown and three field goals over the last two games, and held its fourth opponent of the season to under 100 yards rushing. Southern Miss went undefeated in October for the first time since 2000 and have emerged as the favorite to win the East in Conference USA.

[+] EnlargeCase Keenum
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireHouston QB Case Keenum is on the cusp of breaking the NCAA career passing yards record.
Arkansas State red hot: The two best teams in the Sun Belt are quite unexpected -- Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette, under two first-year coaches. The Red Wolves are bowl eligible with Hugh Freeze leading the way after a 37-14 win over North Texas. This is a program that posted back-to-back 4-8 seasons before Freeze took over. They have one bowl appearance as an FBS team, back in 2005, a 31-19 loss to Southern Miss. They now lead the Sun Belt at 4-0, with a huge showdown against Louisiana-Lafayette (7-2, 5-1) looming Nov. 12.

Keenum watch: Case Keenum threw a whopping nine touchdown passes in a 73-34 win over Rice, passing Graham Harrell for the most career touchdown passes in FBS history. Keenum now has 139, five more than Harrell had from 2005-08 at Texas Tech. Next up on the Keenum assault of the NCAA record book -- the career passing yards record. Keenum now has 16,805 passing yards to rank second in NCAA history. He needs 268 yards Saturday against UAB to pass Timmy Chang, who holds the mark of 17,072 yards set from 2000-04 at Hawaii.

Upset of the week: Wyoming 30, San Diego State 27. The Cowboys scored 30 first-half points behind true freshman quarterback Brett Smith, who scored two passing and two rushing. One of those scores came on third-and-goal from the San Diego State 26. Then Wyoming had to hold off a furious comeback. Ronnie Hillman ran for 224 yards -- including a 99-yard touchdown that was the longest play from scrimmage in school history. But it was not enough. Kicker Abel Perez had a tough game, missing field goal attempts from 39 and 27 yards in the fourth quarter, along with an extra point as well. Coach Rocky Long said the first half was “as bad a defensive performance in the first half as I've been associated with.” Wyoming, 18-point underdogs going into the game, moved to 5-2 on the season but needs two more wins to become bowl eligible because two of its victories came against FCS teams. Still, the Cowboys have a shot with New Mexico and Colorado State left on the schedule.

Close calls: Akron. The Zips came oh so close to beating Central Michigan after Clayton Moore drove the team 56 yards and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marquelo Suel as time expired. Rather than go for the tie, they went for the win. But Moore threw incomplete on the 2-point conversion and Central Michigan won 23-22.

Idaho. Hawaii kicker Kenton Chun made a 35-yard field goal with 32 seconds to play to give the Warriors a 16-14 lead. Idaho nearly pulled the upset, but Trey Farquhar missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt with 8 seconds left. Idaho dropped to 1-7 and 0-4 in the WAC.

Colorado State. UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring ran for a 5-yard touchdown 1:20 left to give the Rebels a 38-35 win. Pete Thomas tried to rally the Rams, but one of his passes was tipped and intercepted at the UNLV 28-yard line with 35 seconds left. Also of note in the game, Phillip Payne set the school career touchdown receptions record with 25. Colorado State, a team many thought had a shot for a bowl game this season, dropped to 3-5.

Helmet stickers

Patrick Edwards, WR, Houston. Edwards had seven receptions for 318 yards and five touchdowns in a 73-34 win over Rice -- the best receiving performance for any player this season. Edwards leads the nation with 11 touchdown receptions. Also in the game, Tyron Carrier returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, the seventh of his career. That ties the NCAA mark for kickoff returns for touchdown, set by C.J. Spiller at Clemson.

Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. White had nine catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-35 win over Ball State to become Western Michigan's career receptions record holder at 261. He also went over 1,000 yards this season, making him only the third receiver to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in school history.

Jonathan Anderson, S, TCU. Anderson finished with a career-high and team-best 17 tackles (11 solo) and recorded his first career interception in a 38-28 win over BYU. Anderson, who came off the bench to replace the team’s leading tackler, Tekerrein Cuba, had the team's highest tackle total since 2004.

Alonzo Harris, RB, ULL. Harris had a career-best 189 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry in a win over Middle Tennessee.

Lampford Mark, RB, Nevada. Mark had 185 yards on eight carries for a 23.1 yard average in a 48-34 win over New Mexico State. He got all those yards after sitting out the first three quarters, then posting two runs of 80 yards or more.

Weekend rewind: ACC

October, 31, 2011
Here’s your weekly look back at the ACC and a sneak peek at what lies ahead for Week 10:

The good: BC running back Rolandan Finch. He ran for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 28-17 win at Maryland on Saturday. It was the first time in his career that the sophomore had broken 100 yards, let alone 200, and he had run for a total of 266 yards in the six previous games combined. Finch had 152 rushing yards at the half, and finished with a career-high 39 carries.

[+] EnlargeTevin Washington
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireGeorgia Tech QB Tevin Washington ran for 176 yards against Clemson.
The historic: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington ran for 176 yards against Clemson, the most ever by a quarterback in school history. He also had the two longest runs of his career at 46 and 56 yards.

The bad: The ACC lost its national title contender. At No. 11 in the latest BCS standings, Clemson has played itself out of the national title picture, and the ACC returns to its all-too familiar spot of irrelevance on the national landscape.

The ugly: Virginia Tech’s win at Duke. Was that really the Coastal Division’s best team, or was it playing in Atlanta? The Hokies beat Duke 14-10 but were held scoreless in the second half by the nation’s No. 69 scoring defense. Both teams combined for five turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game. Three 15-yard penalties kept Duke’s only scoring drive alive. Yikes.

Top three games of Week 10:

North Carolina at NC State: Tom O’Brien has won four straight games in this series, but the Wolfpack is coming off one of its worst performances of the season in a 34-0 loss to Florida State. The Tar Heels showed dramatic improvement in their win against Wake Forest in which they had five takeaways and quarterback Bryn Renner was very efficient. The Pack has home-field advantage, but the Heels have the momentum.

Notre Dame at Wake Forest: Heading into the season, this looked like a matchup that was above Wake Forest -- and it will be if the Deacs play like they did in Saturday’s loss to North Carolina. If Wake Forest gets back to taking care of the ball and maximizing the passing game, though, the Irish could be in for a surprise. Notre Dame is ranked No. 118 in turnover margin. Wake Forest had committed just five turnovers all season before turning it over five times against UNC, four of which were converted into touchdowns.

Florida State at Boston College: The Seminoles are the better team, but BC has home-field advantage, has shown improvement in each of the past few weeks, and should be feeling good after a win at Maryland. It’s a Thursday night game in which anything can happen, but there’s no question the Eagles will have to look like a different team in order to surprise Florida State. Facing the No. 4 rushing defense in the country, BC will need more than Finch.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

October, 31, 2011
What a crazy weekend in the Big Ten. It's worth a second look.

Team of the week: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers made an emphatic statement with their 24-3 pasting of Michigan State in Lincoln. They now control their own destiny in the Legends Division race and are the league's highest-ranked team. If they can keep playing defense like they did Saturday, look out. Honorable mention to Ohio State and Minnesota.

[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
Greg Bartram/US PresswireBraxton Miller and Ohio State pulled out a thrilling win against Wisconsin.
Game of the week: Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29. For the second straight week, Wisconsin was involved in a thriller. For the second straight week, the Badgers didn't like the outcome. The Buckeyes, who had only three points at halftime, rallied for 30 points in the final two quarters, including the game-winning pass with 20 seconds to go. That overshadowed, for the second straight week, what had been an excellent fourth-quarter comeback by Wisconsin, which trailed 26-14 with 4:39 left but took a 29-26 lead a little more than three minutes later.

For the second straight week, Bret Bielema committed the sin that gets you beat in video-game football: scoring with too much time left. On Saturday, the Badgers left 1:18 on the clock for Ohio State, a week after giving Michigan State 1:26 to get in position for the Hail Mary. Wisconsin needs to work on taking a knee in the red zone late in games. Kidding, of course, but if Badgers fans can't laugh, they'll probably cry.

Biggest play: Braxton Miller's 40-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith for the win against Wisconsin, obviously. The true freshman somehow had the presence of mind in that situation to keep his eyes downfield while scrambling and to let the heave go just before he crossed the line of scrimmage. The Badgers' coverage broke down to leave Smith ridiculously open in the end zone, but the defense had to react to Miller's running ability. Amazingly, in the previous win against Illinois, Miller had completed only one pass for 17 yards.

Best call: Jerry Kill's decision to go for an onside kick with 8:22 left in the game against Iowa. Minnesota had just scored to cut the lead to 21-16, and Kill thought his defense needed a break. What made the call even gutsier was that walk-on kicker Jordan Wettstein was in the game in place of injured regular kicker Chris Hawthorne. But the Gophers are well-schooled on this particular play."I actually wrote a paper about how we teach it," Kill said after the game. "We've been doing that particular onside kick for 13 years. We've practiced it every day since I got here."

The Gophers gave no indication before the kick that they were going for the onside try, and Wettstein executed it perfectly. Kim Royston recovered and Minnesota went in for the winning score to notch its first Big Ten victory. Iowa was not prepared for the trickery, even though the Gophers had nothing to lose. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz called Kill's gamble "not totally surprising," yet he didn't think it was worth putting his hands team in the game at that time. In large part because of that play, the Gophers had their hands on Floyd of Rosedale after the game.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Northwestern tight end Drake Dunsmore. He set a school record with four touchdown catches against Indiana, finishing with a total of seven catches and 112 yards. Plus, Drake Dunsmore is a fun name to say. Special shoutouts to Rex Burkhead and Braxton Miller for their performances as well.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges. He earns his second straight player of the week award after recording 19 tackles, a sack, two pass breakups and a forced fumble against Illinois. Linebacker whew. It was a big week for big tackle numbers in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's Mike Taylor had 22 against Ohio State, and Michigan State's William Gholston recorded 15 stops while returning from suspension.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Minnesota's Jordan Wettstein. We already talked about the onside kick, and Wettstein also made a field goal in his first career attempt.

Worst hangover: Iowa fans aren't feeling that great right now, a fact made obvious as I listened to the Hawkeyes' postgame call-in show on the drive from Lincoln to Omaha on Saturday evening. (And the fact that the first caller was"Randy on a tractor" made it priceless). But Wisconsin gets the nod for the starring role in "The Hangover: Part II."

It's not just that the Badgers lost on a long pass in the final minute for the second straight week, though that certainly is a punch in the groin. And it's not just the little what-ifs that accompany each loss -- what if, for instance, Dan France doesn't recover that fumble for Michigan State, or Wisconsin doesn't let two punts get blocked or Miller takes one more step before releasing his throw ...

No the real downer in this situation is how well the season would have been set up for a Wisconsin title run. Clemson and Kansas State became the latest unbeatens to go down over the weekend, and the Alabama-LSU duel will reduce the number further. Oklahoma State still must play Oklahoma, while Stanford has to get past Oregon. It's quite possible that the Badgers would have been in prime position for spot in the BCS championship game had the past two games lasted only 59 minutes in regulation.

I know Halloween is a big event in Madison, but Badger backers must be feeling a little cursed this Oct. 31.

Strangest moment: Let's just go ahead and say the entire Illinois-Penn State game was just plain weird.

First, there was the freakish snow storm on Oct. 29 that turned Beaver Stadium into a whiteout without any help from the fans.

Then we had a game that was 0-0 until midway through the third quarter.

Penn State trailed 7-3 with three minutes left and had done nothing in the passing game. Matt McGloin was 5-for-22 for 40 yards at that point. Yet McGloin then completed four passes for 58 yards to lead the team on an 80-yard touchdown drive. Receiver Derek Moye, who wasn't supposed to play because of a broken foot, came into the game for the first time on the final drive. He made a catch and drew a pass interference penalty on fourth down.

Illinois tried to answer, but Derek Dimke's field goal attempt as time expired hit the right upright and bounced away, while students ran through the snow-packed stands and threw snowballs. Dimke hadn't missed a field goal all year.

It was all a little crazy, even to the man who earned his Division I record-breaking 409th win.

"To all the fans out there, thank you for sitting through that today,"Joe Paterno said."You've got to be nuts."

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

October, 31, 2011
Taking stock of the ninth week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Stanford. The Cardinal, winners of 10 in a row by 25 or more points, proved it could win a nailbiter when it outlasted USC 56-48 in triple overtime.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireQuarterback Andrew Luck and the Cardinal take down the Trojans in three OTs to remain unbeaten.
Best game: Stanford-USC featured a little bit of everything, with both teams playing at a high level throughout. The centerpiece, though, was: 1. Stanford QB Andrew Luck tossing a pick-6 interception to Nickell Robey that gave USC a 34-27 lead with 3:08 left; and, 2. Luck leading a 10-play, 76-yard TD drive to tie the game with 38 seconds left. In overtime, both offenses ruled over the exhausted defenses until a Trojans fumble ended the game suddenly. Hard to believe Stanford led 10-6 at halftime.

Biggest play: In order to not make this all about USC-Stanford, this incredible play from Arizona defensive back Robert Golden has to be seen to be believed. Washington QB Keith Price hit receiver James Johnson, who bobbled the ball into Golden's hands. Then Golden rambled his way for a circuitous 91-yard interception return for a TD. Sure, the Wildcats lost, but this was clearly the play of the day.

Offensive standout: Washington running back Chris Polk scored five touchdowns and became the first player in school history with 100 yards rushing and receiving in a single game. Polk had 34 carries for 144 yards and four TDs and he caught four passes for 100 yards with another score in the Huskies 42-31 win over Arizona.

Defensive standout: UCLA's freshman safety Tevin McDonald, who has stepped in for the injured Tony Dye, intercepted three passes in the Bruins' 31-14 win over California. Those picks set up two touchdowns and a field goal. He now has three career interceptions. He also had three tackles. And, yes, I can't believe I missed this while handing out helmet stickers Saturday night.

Special teams standout: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in the Ducks' 43-28 win over Washington State. He scored just after the Cougars had narrowed the gap to 29-20 with 3:52 left in the third quarter. He also rushed four times for 26 yards and caught two passes for 54 yards, including a 45-yard TD.

Smiley face: A week after perhaps UCLA's worst performance of the year -- and perhaps Rick Neuheisel's tenure in Westwood -- at Arizona on ESPN, the Bruins bounced back with one of their best, dominating California 31-14. And if the Bruins upset Arizona State on Saturday, guess who suddenly controls their own South Division destiny? And if the Bruins win the South, how could Neuheisel possibly be fired?

Frowny face: California. Wow. That was really, really bad. A week after stomping Utah, the Bears waved a white flag at UCLA. And after QB Zach Maynard tossed four interceptions, it's hard to believe coach Jeff Tedford isn't reviewing his options at the position. Oregon State is the runner-up here after getting pushed around at Utah. Bad Bears! Bad Beavers!

Thought of the week: Oregon visits Washington on Saturday in the final game before Husky Stadium begins a major renovation. Ducks-Huskies is the most bitter rivalry in the Pac-12. No offense to other rivalries, but it seems as though just about any post on the Pac-12 blog -- Who's the best backup kicker? -- degenerates into a back-and-forth between Ducks and Huskies. That said: it's been a mismatch for a long time in Oregon's favor. The Ducks have won seven in a row, their longest streak in the series, by at least 20 points. The average margin of victory during the run is 26.4 points. If you are 18 years old, you can barely remember when the Huskies were even competitive in the series, which isn't a good thing in recruiting. So what's the thought of the week? It's this: At some point, Washington is going to beat Oregon again.

Questions for the week: California, Utah and UCLA are all 4-4. Each, therefore, needs two wins to earn bowl eligibility. The Pac-12 clearly lacks depth this year, but the conference really could use a few more bowl-eligible teams to fill out its seven bowl contracts. The question is: Which, if any, of these inconsistent teams finds enough gumption to win two more games?

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

October, 31, 2011
The Good: Notre Dame took whatever remaining frustrations it had out on the field Saturday, beating Navy 56-14. The win, for now, quelled all the commotion about a potentially divided locker room, and it came after Navy had beaten the Irish in three of the previous four years.

The Bad: Two more turnovers -- albeit one in garbage time -- couldn't have been pleasing to Brian Kelly. One was self-inflicted, as Tommy Rees' pass in the flat in the second quarter was dropped, recovered by Navy and eventually reviewed and ruled a fumble. Rees tossed a fourth-quarter interception as well, after the game was out of hand.

The Ugly: We know Navy's an option team, and we know it had a quarterback making its first career start, but 33 passing yards? That's all? You'd think the number would be a little higher given that the Midshipmen were playing from behind much of the game, but the Irish defense came to play Saturday.

Turning point: Rees found Michael Floyd for a 56-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the Irish's fourth drive, making it 21-7 after Navy had just scored. Any thoughts fans had of this becoming a close game died right then and there, as the Irish were well on their way to a rout.

Call of the day: Walk-on special-teams ace Chris Salvi was named captain, and he was nearly in tears at the Friday night pep rally. Kelly always talks about finding players who love to play the game no matter what, and having someone like Salvi lead the Irish after a drama-filled 48 hours sent the right message.

Next up: Notre Dame travels to Winston-Salem, N.C., to play Wake Forest in what will be the first of three consecutive games against ACC opponents. The Demon Deacons are coming off a 49-24 loss to North Carolina, but did take down Florida State this season.