NCF Nation: weekend-rewind-111510

Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

November, 15, 2010
A look back on the week that was.

Team of the week: Washington State ended a 16-game Pac-10 losing streak with a 31-14 win at Oregon State. The Cougars not only won, they physically dominated the Beavers, outgaining them 378 yards to 261.

[+] EnlargeDarron Thomas
AP Photo/Paul SakumaQuarterback Darron Thomas and Oregon survived a scare against California.
Best game: Three of the four Pac-10 games this weekend weren't decided until late in the fourth quarter -- imagine: the Cougs provided the only laugher -- but we've got to go with No. 1 Oregon's 15-13 win at California, because the game kept the college football nation -- particularly Boise State and TCU fans -- fixated at a potential season-transforming upset.

Biggest play: On the second play of the first possession of the second half, California running back Shane Vereen fumbled after a 7-yard run. On the next play from scrimmage, Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas found Jeff Maehl for a 29-yard touchdown and a 15-7 lead. It was the Ducks only offensive TD of the game.

Offensive standout: USC running back Marc Tyler rushed 31 times for 160 yards and scored a TD in the Trojans 24-21 win at Arizona.

Defensive standout: California linebacker Mike Mohamed had 14 tackles -- 10 solos -- and a sack against Oregon.

Special teams standout: Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown against Cal. It was his fourth punt return for a touchdown this season, which ties a Pac-10 record (Cal's DeSean Jackson, 2006).

Smiley face: The Washington State lines on both sides of the football merit special note. The Cougars rushed for 221 yards (they did yield four sacks, which cost the rushing total 20 yards), and they held the Beavers to just 97 yards rushing while recording five sacks, including two apiece from Casey Hamlett and Brandon Rankin.

Frowny face: Oregon State. Oh, Oregon State. You were 2 of 10 on third down. Washington State was 10 of 17. You were 1 of 3 on fourth down. Washington State was 1 for 1. Washington State had possession time of 40:55. In a 60 minute game! Heck, the Cougars had the ball for 23 of the 30 minutes of the second half.

Thought of the week: On the week that Oregon falls from the top spot in the nation in total offense -- its 542 yards per game is now second to Oklahoma State's 547.5 -- we now can officially establish that the Ducks no longer need to explain that their defense is underrated. Why? Because it's now highly rated by any measure. Oregon's defense ranks eighth in the nation in scoring (17.2 ppg), 20th in total defense (315.4) and fifth in passing efficiency defense. And the Ducks yield only 4.35 yards per play, which is tied for sixth in the nation, ahead of such stalwart units as LSU and Nebraska.

Questions for the week: We've got a clear top-four in the conference, and USC and Washington State aren't going to go to bowl games. Are any of the five teams mired in the middle going to make a late-season run? Or is the conference going to end up full of 5-7 teams?
Let's take a look back at Week 11 before spinning it forward to Week 12.

Team of the Week: Northwestern. There are two guarantees with Northwestern football in the last decade or so. Every season, the Wildcats drop a game they shouldn't and pull off an upset, usually against Iowa. After stumbling against short-handed Purdue in early October, the Wildcats continued their trend by upsetting then-No. 13 Iowa on Saturday. Northwestern blew an early lead, which is nothing new this season, but this time Pat Fitzgerald's crew rallied in the fourth quarter behind star quarterback Dan Persa and others. Persa led two fourth-quarter scoring drives and Northwestern held on to beat Iowa for the fifth time in the teams' last six meetings. The victory ensures that Northwestern will record three consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1958-60.

[+] EnlargeDan Persa
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhNorthwestern quarterback Dan Persa rallied the Wildcats to a win over Iowa before leaving the game with a season-ending injury.
Best game: Iowa at Northwestern. The Wildcats controlled play for the first half but led just 7-3 at halftime as both defenses stepped up. Iowa surged throughout the third quarter as the Hawkeyes controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and twice reached the end zone. But an interception by Northwestern's Brian Peters changed momentum and gave the home side new life. Northwestern ran its up-tempo offense to perfection behind Persa on two scoring drives, and Iowa's veteran defenders seemed to wear down at the end. The final minutes featured plenty of drama as Persa fired the game-winning touchdown pass with 1:22 left but ruptured his Achilles' tendon on the play. Iowa had one final chance but couldn't get the ball in the end zone. Northwestern celebrated a bittersweet win, as Persa underwent season-ending surgery Saturday night. The Minnesota-Illinois game also deserves a mention as the Gophers rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to snap their nine-game losing streak.

Biggest play: Several come to mind, including Persa's 20-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields to give Northwestern the lead for good. Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire gave his team new life in the fourth quarter with a 90-yard kickoff return that set up a touchdown. But my pick took place at The Shoe. Ohio State led Penn State 17-14 early in the fourth quarter when Terrelle Pryor heaved a deep pass to receiver DeVier Posey, who couldn't haul it in but tipped the ball. Fellow wideout Dane Sanzenbacher swooped in to grab the deflection for a 58-yard touchdown. Ohio State went on to a 38-14 romp.

Specialist spotlight: Minnesota's much-maligned special teams units deserve credit after Saturday's win. Stoudermire's kick return was huge, and the Gophers also got a 45-yard field goal from Eric Ellestad and three punts placed inside the Illinois 20-yard line by Dan Orseske. Northwestern and Iowa both were brilliant on kickoffs and punts, as Stefan Demos and Michael Meyer combined for eight touchbacks and Brandon Williams and Ryan Donahue combined to place four punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Both teams finished with zero return yards. Purdue's Carson Wiggs continued his strong season by going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, while Wisconsin's Philip Welch went 2-for-2. Punters Anthony Fera of Penn State and Ben Buchanan of Ohio State both had good performances at Ohio Stadium.

Power surge: Wisconsin turned in a historic offensive performance in crushing Indiana on Saturday. The Badgers' 83 points marked the most against a Big Ten team in team history and the highest total in a game during the modern era. It was the most since the Badgers defeated Marquette 85-0 on Oct. 8, 1915. The 83 points scored tied the Big Ten record for scoring in the modern era, as Ohio State put up 83 against Iowa in 1950.

Game balls (given to players on winning or losing teams who didn't receive helmet stickers)

  • Wisconsin DEs Louis Nzegwu and J.J. Watt: It wasn't all about the Badgers' offense Saturday, as Nzegwu and Watt combined for four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a sack against Indiana.
  • Ohio State CB Devon Torrence: After getting picked on in the first half, Torrence responded with a pick-six in the third quarter to give Ohio State its first lead against Penn State. He had six tackles, one for loss, in the game.
  • Minnesota QB Adam Weber: It hasn't been an easy road for the Gophers senior quarterback, but he had a big role in snapping the team's losing streak Saturday. Weber threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions at Illinois. Also meriting a mention is running back DeLeon Eskridge, who rushed for three touchdowns.
  • Michigan LB Obi Ezeh: It has been a bumpy road for Ezeh the last two seasons, but the senior stepped up along with several other Michigan defenders at Purdue. Ezeh recorded a team-high eight tackles, including two for loss and a sack against the Boilers.
  • Northwestern S Brian Peters: After some struggles in recent weeks, Peters made several big plays against Iowa, none bigger than an interception early in the fourth quarter that set up Northwestern's rally. He led the Wildcats with 10 tackles and recorded a forced fumble and two pass breakups.
  • Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien: The running backs always get top billing at Wisconsin, but Tolzien was nearly flawless against Indiana, completing 15 of 18 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure: The talented junior running back continues to do his part for the now-slumping Illini. After recording five touchdowns last week at Michigan, Leshoure racked up 141 rush yards and two touchdowns on only 18 carries against Minnesota.

Now here's a quick look at Week 12.

[+] EnlargeIndiana head coach Bill Lynch
AP Photo/Morry GashPerhaps no coach in the league needs a win like Indiana's Bill Lynch.
Penn State (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) vs. Indiana (4-6, 0-6) at Landover, Md.: Embattled Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch could really use a win right about now, but the schedule does him no favors. Lynch signed off on moving this home game to FedEx Field, but he and his team have to anticipate a road-game atmosphere as Penn State fans will pack the place. Indiana must win to maintain hope of becoming bowl eligible, while Penn State tries to ensure a winning season.

Purdue (4-6, 2-4) at No. 12 Michigan State (9-1, 5-1): After an open week, the Spartans resume play with a chance to reach 10 wins for the first time since 1999. It marks the final home game for All-American linebacker Greg Jones, who will take aim at a patchwork Purdue offense. Two of the Big Ten's top defenders share the field in Jones and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, whose team must win its final two games to become bowl eligible.

No. 7 Wisconsin (9-1, 5-1) at Michigan (7-3, 3-3): The Badgers are riding a five-game win streak and put up 83 points in their last game, but they have really struggled in the state of Michigan and especially at the Big House. Wisconsin hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1994 and hasn't won in the state since beating Michigan State in 2002 at Spartan Stadium. Michigan has won back-to-back games but needs a much cleaner performance in all three phases to record the upset.

Illinois (5-5, 3-4) vs. Northwestern (7-3, 3-3) at Chicago: Football is back at Wrigley Field for the first time since 1970 and the Illini and Wildcats will play the first college game at the Friendly Confines since 1938. The pageantry takes center stage Saturday, but Illinois still needs a win to become bowl eligible and turn down the heat on coach Ron Zook. Northwestern redshirt freshman Evan Watkins makes his first career start at quarterback.

No. 9 Ohio State (9-1, 5-1) at No. 20 Iowa (7-3, 4-2): The Buckeyes must win out to give themselves a chance at a record-tying sixth consecutive Big Ten title. To do so, they must play better on the road after losing at Wisconsin and struggling at Illinois. Iowa gave Ohio State all it could handle last year in Columbus, and this time the Hawkeyes will have starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi available. It's Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium, where Iowa aims for a signature win to salvage an otherwise disappointing season.

Bye: Minnesota (2-9, 1-6).

Hot and Not in the SEC: Week 12

November, 15, 2010
Anybody feeling a little hot … or not?

Yep, it’s that time again:


[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
AP Photo/John RaouxSteve Spurrier has led the Gamecocks to the first SEC championship game in school history.
South Carolina: Raise your hand if you had the Gamecocks in the SEC championship game this season. I see a lot of hands raised in the Palmetto State and down around Steve Spurrier’s beach home at Crescent Beach, but that’s about it. Nobody’s calling South Carolina a great team. In fact, the Gamecocks have been maddeningly inconsistent this season at times. But they’re definitely a resilient team and talented enough to give Auburn a serious run for the Tigers’ money in Atlanta. You never count the Head Ball Coach out, either, in a big game. He’s always worth a few extra points, just having him on the sideline.


Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: The Vols’ true freshman quarterback has made two career starts and has thrown eight touchdown passes in those two starts.


Tennessee’s competition: To be fair, Bray has faced the 117th-ranked pass defense (Memphis) and the 95th-ranked pass defense (Ole Miss) the past two weeks. He gets a Vanderbilt pass defense this week that’s tied for 95th nationally with Ole Miss.


Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb: Coming off a career-high 170 rushing yards last week in the win against Vanderbilt, Cobb now has more all-purpose yards this season (2,047) than anybody in major college football. The more you watch him, the better he gets.


Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley: The guy’s a great player, one of the best interior defensive linemen in the country, but he got away with way too many late hits on Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray last week. A couple of them were borderline dirty.


Cam Newton’s throwing arm: His ability to run has made him one of the most unstoppable forces we’ve seen in the SEC in some time. But when you watch him make some of the throws he did last week in the win against Georgia (we’re talking NFL throws), all you can do is shake your head in amazement.


Florida’s offense: The Gators are 84th nationally in total offense after that masterpiece against South Carolina last week in a 36-14 loss. They mustered all of 67 total yards through three quarters and either didn’t or couldn’t make any adjustments as the game progressed. Not only are the Gators bad on offense, but they’ve shown no imagination.


Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett: In what was likely his final game at Razorback Stadium, Mallett went out in style by accounting for six touchdowns. Five of those were touchdown passes, which moved him to the top of the SEC with 24 touchdown passes this season.


Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli: He already had a headache after taking a shot to the head and suffering a concussion a week earlier against Louisiana-Lafayette. But then Masoli came out against Tennessee and threw three interceptions, two of those returned for touchdowns, in an embarrassing 52-14 loss.


The Chicken Curse: I am hereby proclaiming the Chicken Curse as being officially dead, six feet under, tucked away eternally in some morgue, never to return. It was a dark, powerful force in the realm of South Carolina athletics for longer than anybody cares to remember in that state. We’re talking inexplicable losses, one mediocre season after another, coaches coming and going and generally more heartbreak than one fan base should have to endure. But with the baseball team winning the national championship in June and the football team going to its first SEC championship game in history, that dreaded curse has been purged forever. May it burn in you know where.
Here’s your instant replay of Week 11 and fast forward to Week 12:

The good: The Atlantic Division. One week after all of the frontrunners lost, Maryland, NC State and Florida State each rebounded with wins to make this race worth watching. Maryland and NC State left no doubt they were the better teams against Virginia and Wake Forest, respectively, and FSU dug deep after two heart breakers to beat Clemson with a game-winning field goal as time expired.

The bad: Virginia’s penalties. The Cavaliers are tied for 114th in the nation in fewest penalties per game (8.4) and only four teams have more. Virginia had 16 penalties for 145 yards in its 42-23 loss to Maryland on Saturday. “There were a lot of holds on that team, both up front and in the back so I think the officials did as well as they could with that,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen told reporters after the game. That came one week after Virginia racked up 11 penalties for 103 yards in a 55-48 loss to Duke.

The ugly: Clemson’s kicking game. It’s hard not to feel bad for Chandler Catanzaro. It’s not like he doesn’t want to make these field goals. In fact, his 29-yard kick with 53 seconds remaining tied the game. And his 22-yard field goal midway through the second quarter gave Clemson a 10-3 lead. But he also had one blocked and missed another, and in a three-point game, those misses add up. Clemson is 7 of 14 on field goals this year.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Davis
Dannie Walls/Icon SMIMarcus Davis took advantage of his start and helped the Hokies beat the Tar Heels with two touchdowns.
The emerging: Virginia Tech wide receiver Marcus Davis. He caught two third-quarter touchdown passes to help the Hokies to a 26-10 win at North Carolina. Davis really rose to the occasion with receiver Dyrell Roberts out with a thigh injury. He finished with four catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time the sophomore had seen any meaningful playing time and he made the most of it.

The “gassed.” UNC tailback Anthony Elzy. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, the disappearance of Elzy in the third quarter against Virginia Tech was explained away by Elzy being “gassed,” coach Butch Davis said. Gassed? With the Coastal Division on the line?

The undecided: NC State quarterback Russell Wilson. He’s not sure if he’s returning for his final year of eligibility or joining the Colorado Rockies, but if Saturday was his final game in Carter-Finley Stadium, he went out with a bang. Wilson was honored on senior day and then passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more in the 38-3 win over Wake Forest.

Top three games of Week 12

Florida State at Maryland -- This is the most meaningful game Maryland has played since, well, since it played Florida State for the division lead on Nov. 23, 2008. The Terps lost 37-3 in their most lopsided loss of the year, and sent BC to the title game the following week with a loss in Chestnut Hill. Once again they control their own destiny and could win the Atlantic Division title with two more wins. The Terps’ offensive line has been playing well, and they held their own in a close loss to Miami, but once again will face a true challenge up front.

Virginia Tech at Miami -- This is Miami’s final chance to make a statement this year, as the Canes’ only hope at winning the Coastal Division depends on a win against the Hokies. Virginia Tech, however, needs to win just one more game to clinch the division title. The Hokies lost the last time they played at Miami, and the Canes will be looking for redemption after last year’s meltdown in Blacksburg.

NC State at North Carolina -- This is a passionate rivalry game, and while UNC is out of the championship race, it can still take solace -- and probably a lot of enjoyment -- in playing the role of spoiler. NC State can’t afford to lose another conference game, regardless of if it’s an interdivisional matchup. Tom O’Brien has had the edge over Butch Davis the past three years, but this season, a trip to Charlotte is on the line. This should be a great game but it comes in third because UNC is no longer a factor in the conference race.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

November, 15, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 11.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Mike FuentesQuarterback Andy Dalton and TCU slipped in the polls after a 40-35 win against San Diego State.
The good: TCU and Boise State are still in the national championship conversation, though the debate is about their credentials more than anything else. The Broncos beat Idaho 52-14, and have now baten their WAC opponents by an average score of 50-8. For those who wonder why TCU dropped in the human polls after a 40-35 win against San Diego State, the Broncos beat a Hawaii team with the same record as San Diego State 42-7 at home. … Tulsa has won four straight games and is now in the hunt for the Conference USA West title. The Golden Hurricane are tied atop the West with SMU. But since the Mustangs hold the head-to-head win, Tulsa needs to win out and hope for SMU to slip in one of its final two games. … Northern Illinois has won seven straight for the first time since 2003. … FIU is in the driver’s seat for the Sun Belt after beating Troy for the first time in school history. … BYU has won three straight, including its past two games 104-17. … FAU (4-5) has won three straight, and got its third one-point win of the season, 24-21 against Louisiana. ... North Texas has gone over 400 yards of total offense in all three games under interim head coach Mike Canales after only eclipsing that mark three times in the first seven games this season before he took over.

The bad: This has been a tough season for Wyoming. The Cowboys went to a bowl game last season for the first time since 2004, and beat Fresno State 35-28 in a double-overtime thriller. But nothing has gone right this season. Wyoming (2-9) is winless in Mountain West play, and has lost six straight, including back-to-back losses to New Mexico and UNLV. That would make the Cowboys the worst team in the league. They have won just one game against FBS competition this year, at Toledo, and close out the season Saturday against Colorado State. Wyoming ranks near the bottom of the nation in passing offense, rushing offense, points scored and points allowed, and is No. 119 in total offense and No. 105 in total defense. The team has also had to overcome the death of Ruben Narcisse, killed in a car accident in September.

The heartache: Central Michigan found itself down 38-24 with seven minutes to play against Navy, but the Chippewas never gave up, scoring with 4 seconds left to make it 38-37. Coach Dan Enos elected to go for two, because he thought his team had momentum and would have a hard time stopping Navy in overtime. But the 2-point conversion pass from Ryan Radcliff to Kito Poblah went over his head. Of their eight losses this season, five have been by a touchdown or less. “The entire team supported the decision to go for two,” Enos said. …

Arkansas State was 4-5 heading into its game against Western Kentucky, with bowl hopes on the line. The Red Wolves erased a 21-7 halftime deficit and led 28-21 with 54 seconds left. But a bad snap in punt formation gave Western Kentucky the ball deep inside Arkansas State territory. Willie McNeal caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kawaun Jakes with no time left to send the game into overtime. Western Kentucky won it 36-35 when defensive back Derrius Brooks scored on a 2-point conversion on a reverse. Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts had no explanation for the botched snap. Arkansas State finishes up at Navy and FIU.

A few more helmet stickers: UNLV running back Tim Cornett scored four touchdowns in a win against Wyoming, making him the first Rebel to score four touchdowns in a game since 1994. … Ball State safety Sean Baker intercepted two passes and returned a fumble 26 yards for a touchdown in a 20-3 win at Buffalo. … Miami (Ohio) freshman receiver Nick Harwell had 125 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win against Bowling Green. He now has 43 receptions for 600 yards over the past five games, after making just two catches for 15 yards in his first five games.

A few injury items to note: Boise State suffered a big blow with the news that middle linebacker Byron Hout is out for the season with a broken foot. It’s unclear whether he will be ready for a bowl game. … Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson is doubtful for Tuesday’s game at Temple after getting injured in a bar fight a few weeks ago. Phil Bates has been hobbled by injury, but is expected to start. … Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert (ribs) is a game-time decision for Wednesday’s contest at Akron. … Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich (ribs) is out for the season, and Jerry Davis is expected to start against Eastern Michigan.

Week 12 look ahead: A few big games coming up: MAC East Division matchup between Ohio and Temple on Tuesday night. Both teams have one loss in conference. Fresno State is at No. 4 Boise State on Friday night. No. 23 Utah is at San Diego State, while Army and Notre Dame play in the first game at Yankee Stadium.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 15, 2010
Best offensive player: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. For all of Texas' struggles this year, the secondary has still been pretty good, ranking second in pass defense this year. Well, before they ran into Weeden, who torched them for 409 yards through the air on 29-of-43 passing, including a gorgeous 67-yard rainbow to Justin Blackmon for a touchdown.

Best defensive player: Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma. More good performances this week than any other this year, but Carter owned the back line against a dangerous passing attack, helping keep Texas Tech at just seven points. Carter made 17 tackles, the most of any Oklahoma defensive back since Brandon Everage in 2002. He also had a pass breakup. Honorable mention: Orie Lemon, LB, Oklahoma State; Michael Sipili, LB, Colorado; Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska; Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska

Best team performance: Texas A&M. The Aggies pitched a second-half shutout against a big-time Baylor offense and earned a 42-30 comeback victory on the road against the Bears to keep their slim South hopes alive. Honorable mention: Oklahoma.

[+] EnlargeColorado wide receiver Paul Richardson
AP Photo/ Matt McClainColorado wide receiver Paul Richardson averaged over 24 yards a catch in a win over Iowa State.
Best offensive freshman: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado. Richardson's becoming a consistent target opposite Scotty McKnight, and the lanky 6-foot-1, 175-pounder caught five passes for 121 yards in a win over Iowa State. Honorable mention: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma.

Best defensive freshman: Tre Walker, LB, Kansas State. Walker repeats this week, once again leading the Wildcats in tackles with 12. He also picked off a Blaine Gabbert pass and returned it 17 yards.

Classiest gesture: Dan Hawkins. He said in his farewell news conference he'd be his team's biggest fan down the stretch, and he made good on his word on Saturday, watching the game from a low-key perch on a balcony outside the offices he occupied for four-plus seasons in Boulder. You won't see many other coaches do that.

Best play: Weeden-to-Blackmon. Texas cornerback Aaron Williams covered the play perfectly, but Weeden hit a pinpoint pass over the top right into Blackmon's arms for a game-changing 67-yard touchdown that put Oklahoma State up 16-3 in the second quarter.

Most underrated play: Wes Kemp, WR, Missouri. Kemp hit the key block that freed up the last few yards of Blaine Gabbert's 32-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He decleated one defender, and blocked another on his follow-through to help give the Tigers an early 14-7 lead.

Most heartbreaking play: Terrance Frederick, Texas A&M. Frederick returned a blocked field goal 71 yards at the end of the first half, but went out of bounds at the 1-yard line after time expired, meaning his play was all for naught.

Worst play: K-State's fumblerooski. The Wildcats version was slow to develop, but John Hubert got the ball from under his legs, ran to his left and fumbled. Missouri's Jacquies Smith recovered the ball. Dishonorable mention: Kansas State's goal-line fumble at the end of the first half with a chance to tie the game.

Worst quarter: Texas' second quarter. The Longhorns hung around early, but got outscored 23-0 in the period. Playing starters vs. starters, we could have played this one through Tuesday and the Longhorns might not make up a 23-point deficit on Oklahoma State, even if the Cowboys offense wasn't allowed to play.

Best game: Texas A&M 42, Baylor 30. The Aggies rebounded from a terrible start that featured Robert Griffin III's longest run of the season, a 71-yard touchdown to earn a dramatic win in the Battle of the Brazos and set up a huge game against Nebraska in College Station on Saturday.

Week 11 review/Week 12 preview

November, 15, 2010
The Week (11) that Was:

Team of the week: Connecticut. Every other Big East team cheered on the Huskies as they knocked off Pitt 30-28 on Thursday night. That was the second straight big home win for UConn, following the upset of West Virginia two weeks ago.

[+] EnlargeSouth Florida's Dontavia Bogan
AP Photo/Garry JonesThis TD grab by Dontavia Bogan helped South Florida to an important win against Louisville.
Best game: Three of the four games were decided by three points or less. But I'm a sucker for overtime games, so I'm going with South Florida's 24-21 win against Louisville, which featured a late touchdown, field goal intrigue in the final seconds and a controversial coaching decision in OT.

Biggest play: Ross Krautman's 24-yard field goal with 1:07 left in Syracuse's 13-10 victory against Rutgers. It wasn't the most exciting play or the prettiest game to watch, but that field goal meant the Orange will be going bowling for the first time since 2004.

Best call: Randy Edsall doesn't normally have a reputation as a riverboat gambler. But on 4th-and-1 from his own 19, and his team clinging to a two-point lead with 2:50 left, Edsall decided to go for it. Jordan Todman picked up four yards, Pitt never got the ball back and the Big East race got a lot tighter.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Todman, RB, Connecticut. Todman rushed 37 times for 222 yards in the win against Pittsburgh.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut. Wilson had 11 tackles and a sack in the Huskies' big win.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Krautman, K, Syracuse. In addition to his game-winner, the freshman from New Jersey helped sink Rutgers with a 48-yarder in the third quarter of a game where points were scarce.

Strangest moment: According to West Virginia players, Cincinnati receiver D.J. Woods woofed to them in pregame warm-ups, saying Milan Puskar Stadium "is my house and my field." Why Woods would want to fire up the Mountaineers defense on the road is anybody's guess. West Virginia linebacker J.T. Thomas told teammates that he wanted Woods' head "or I'll go get it myself." Woods was held well below his average, with just three catches for 32 yards, as Cincinnati got blasted 37-10.

Worst hangover: Rutgers. Yeah, Pitt lost a game it shouldn't have, but the Panthers still have a one-game lead. The Scarlet Knights have now lost three straight games and could only muster 10 points at home. The offense continues to be one of the worst in the nation, and now the program is in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time in six years. And Saturday was its second straight loss to Syracuse.

Now let's look ahead to Week 12, where we actually have all Saturday games and even some night contests. (Games listed in descending order of interest and importance):

˙˙Pittsburgh (5-4, 3-1 Big East) at South Florida (6-3, 3-2): Can Pitt maintain its first-place lead? Or will the red-hot Bulls move into a first-place tie? (ESPN2, Noon ET)

Connecticut (5-4, 2-2) at Syracuse (7-3, 4-2): Something's got to give, as UConn is winless on the road and the Orange are 0-2 at home in Big East play. Winner remains in the BCS hunt. (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET)

West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) at Louisville (5-5, 2-3): The Cardinals try to get that elusive sixth win in their home finale, while the Mountaineers try to build some momentum. (, Noon ET)

Rutgers at Cincinnati (3-6, 1-3): It's a basement bowl! Rutgers can't score, and Cincinnati can't stop anybody. (, 7:30 p.m. ET)