NCF Nation: what we learned 110313

What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
10:15
AM ET
Five things we learned in the Pac-12 from Week 10:

  1. When consistent, ASU is really good: The Sun Devils picked up their first road win of the season with an extremely impressive 55-21 win over Washington State on Thursday night. Here's the kicker ... running back Marion Grice didn't get in the end zone! Quarterback Taylor Kelly was dominant, completing 22 of 31 passes for 275 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 66 yards and two scores, giving him seven on the day. Since dropping a 37-34 game to Notre Dame, the Sun Devils have outscored Colorado, Washington and Washington State 162-58. If the Sun Devils can maintain this consistent, high level of play, the rest of the Pac-12 South will be hard-pressed to keep pace. As for the Cougs, after a 4-2 start, they have dropped three straight, and the defense has given up at least 52 points in all three losses.
  2. [+] EnlargeEd Orgeron
    Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsUSC is 3-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, who celebrated Friday's win in Corvallis with the band.
  3. The Trojans aren't done yet; the Beavers might be: Despite everything that has happened to USC, the Trojans are a factor in the South Division. They need to win out and probably get a little help along the way, but after a fairly convincing 31-14 road win over Oregon State, the Trojans look like a team to be reckoned with down the stretch. Since the Lane Kiffin firing, USC is 3-1 under Ed Orgeron. Conversely, Oregon State suffered a big setback and is now an even longer shot to win the North Division. There is still hope, but the Beavers also need to win out and hope for some help.
  4. Colorado is gritty: Say what you want about the wins and losses, but Colorado is a tougher team than it was last season. UCLA won 45-23, and the final score isn't particularly shocking. But the Buffs led midway through the second quarter, and true freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau looked very poised on the road, going 25-of-36 for a touchdown and zero interceptions. They matched UCLA's physicality and even showed a bit of swagger -- be it from receiver Paul Richardson or Liufau. Culture change takes a long time. But we are starting to see the makings of a team that isn't satisfied with being pushed around. On the flip side, good performance from UCLA to get back on track. Brett Hundley looked like he was still a little uncomfortable with his young offensive line, but he looked stronger. If the Bruins can survive a trip to Arizona and home date with Washington, Nov. 23 is high noon with ASU coming to town.
  5. About those Cats: Arizona has won three in a row, including back-to-back road games to become bowl-eligible for the second straight year under Rich Rodriguez. A fine accomplishment, considering everyone they lost in the offseason through injury, graduation or attrition. Quarterback B.J. Denker turned in another steady performance, completing 24 of 38 passes for 261 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. But he's also emerged the past couple of weeks as a solid complementary runner to Ka'Deem Carey. Denker rushed for 44 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Cal. Carey, meanwhile, continues to shred defenses. Although he didn't reach the end zone against the Bears, he rushed for 152 yards, giving him 1,072 for the year. A big date with UCLA awaits next week. Can't overlook the performance of Cal, either, which sold out to stop the run early and showed a lot of life. Kenny Lawler finally had that breakout game with three touchdown catches, two of them spectacular.
  6. South rising? The early disparity between the North and South seems to be shrinking. The South scored two major victories this week with USC's win at Oregon State and ASU's win at Washington State. Arizona's win over Cal was expected, but again, we give the Bears credit for the strong showing. As it stands, the North still holds a two-game edge over the South with an 8-6 record. Oregon is the only team to be perfect in inter-division play. Stanford, ASU and Oregon State are all 2-1. It stands to reason that the North is still probably considered the stronger division with Oregon and Stanford ranked in the top five. But the South has made a strong play of late with its depth, which includes five of six teams at .500 or better.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
10:00
AM ET
Here's a look back at five lessons learned in the ACC, in no particular order:

1. The Coastal Division is wide-open. With Miami and Virginia Tech losing Saturday, there are plenty of scenarios in the Coastal Division race. It's still the Canes' division to lose, as they're the only team remaining with just one ACC loss, but they end the season with four straight division games, including a home game against Virginia Tech this week. With the Hokies' loss to Boston College, their game against the Hurricanes is basically an elimination game. If Miami loses to Virginia Tech, confusion will ensue. Right now, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke are all tied with two ACC losses each. With Pitt's loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Panthers lost their best shot at staying relevant in the race.

[+] EnlargeAllen Hurns, P.J. Williams
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/MCTMiami was tied 7-7 with FSU after Allen Hurns' touchdown catch, but the Noles were too strong.
2. Miami ran out of magic. For three straight weeks, the Canes found a way to overcome double-digit deficits and win. Not against the Noles. Miami finally ran into a superior team that brought the Canes back to reality with a 41-14 loss. Earlier this week, Miami coach Al Golden told ESPN.com that Florida State lost 11 NFL draft picks and was able to reload, and his program isn't there yet. Golden has the program heading in the right direction, but Saturday was a reminder that it's not there yet, and that rival FSU still has the upper hand between the two programs. It was also yet another example of just how dominant the Noles are this year.

3. Wake Forest is in big trouble. Not only did the Deacs lose to Syracuse 13-0, but they also lost their best offensive player, receiver Michael Campanaro. Campanaro broke his collarbone and will miss four to six weeks, according to a school spokesman. With that projected timetable, he is likely to miss the rest of the regular season. Wake Forest has games remaining against No. 3 Florida State, Duke and Vanderbilt. The Deacs have a bye on Nov. 16. Saturday was a game Wake really needed to win to keep its bowl hopes alive. Now, the Deacs need to win two of their last three, and it seems unlikely -- especially without "Camp."

4. Virginia Tech isn't getting better -- but BC is. For the second straight week, Virginia Tech turned it over four times in a loss, this time to Boston College. Following the season-opening loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech reeled off six straight wins and appeared to have turned the page on last year's subpar season, but back-to-back losses against Duke and Boston College -- two programs that combined for eight wins last year -- have been a not-so-subtle reminder that the problems persist. BC deserves credit for its 34-27 win, but Logan Thomas was picked off twice and fumbled twice, leading to 17 points for BC. The Eagles, though, are clearly a different team under Steve Addazio. It finally was reflected in the win column.

5. Larry Fedora remains a step ahead of NC State. For the second straight season, Fedora beat rival NC State, and this time he did it in Raleigh. It was UNC's first win in Carter-Finley Stadium since 2005, and Fedora became just one of four coaches to beat NC State twice in his first two tries. North Carolina has its problems this year, but NC State isn't one of them. The Pack are still winless in conference play in the first season under Dave Doeren.
Lessons learned from a (finally) full day of conference action:

1. Mark Dantonio's Spartans own the state: The buzz around the Big Ten during the offseason was that Ohio State and Michigan soon would separate themselves, creating a Big 2-Little 10 dynamic in the conference. While both programs are recruiting at a nationally elite level, only Ohio State is translating the talent into tangible progress. Michigan fell to Michigan State on Saturday for the fifth time in six years, and the gulf between the two programs is unmistakable.

[+] EnlargeConnor Cook, Brennen Beyer
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesConnor Cook has stabilized the Spartans offense, making Michigan State a Big Ten title contender.
Michigan State appears on its way to a second Legends Division title in three seasons, showing that last season's struggles are the exception more than the rule under Dantonio. Much like his mentor Jim Tressel did at Ohio State, Dantonio is mastering Michigan right now. The Spartans' defense, elite for the past few years, has reached another level this season, and a dormant offense has awakened behind quarterback Connor Cook. Michigan State is in control of the Legends Division and appears to be on a collision course with Ohio State.

Michigan still can spoil the Buckeyes' national title hopes later this month, but the Wolverines continue to fall short of their self-imposed standard for success: a Big Ten championship.

2. Some programs just seem snake-bitten: We don't believe in curses or anything like that, but it sure seems like some programs are the victims of voodoo. How else to explain how Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern keep finding incredible ways to lose?

The Illini shot themselves in the foot over and over again at Penn State but still had the lead and the ball after a Bill Belton fumble near the Illinois goal line with 3:23 left. They lost in overtime.

Indiana, after trailing Minnesota 35-13, rallied to take a 39-35 lead. The Hoosiers then trailed 42-39 in the final minute and had the ball on the Gophers' 9-yard line. They tried a pass to running back Tevin Coleman, which ended up being a lateral that Coleman dropped and gave up on. Minnesota scooped the ball up to survive.

And Northwestern suffered the biggest heartbreaker, giving up a 49-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Jordan Westerkamp on the game's final play. Remember when Northwestern thrived in the clutch? Not anymore.

Learning to win is a skill, and Indiana and Illinois -- the latter of which has lost 18 straight Big Ten games -- still haven't mastered that. We thought Northwestern had, but the Wildcats have lost five straight games now and have been hit the hardest by injuries of any league team. Makes you almost believe in curses.

[+] EnlargeJeff Heuerman
Zach Bolinger/Icon SMIJeff Heuerman had his best game of the season as Ohio State's offense dominated Purdue.
3. Ohio State is kicking things up a notch: OK, so it was only against Purdue, which looks like one of the worst Big Ten teams we've seen in the past several years. Still, it's impossible not to notice that Ohio State seems to have found another gear in the past couple of weeks. For the second straight week, the Buckeyes scored 42 points in the first half en route to a 56-0 trouncing of the Boilermakers. Urban Meyer's team has won its last two games by a combined score of 119-14.

Much of that can be credited to the improvement of Braxton Miller as a passer; he has thrown seven touchdown passes with only 10 incompletions his past two games. The defense has been stifling as well. Yes, the competition hasn't been stellar, but remember that Ohio State historically has had trouble against Purdue and hadn't really dominated anybody in the Big Ten. But this team appears to be hitting its stride now and making a statement to those who doubt it belongs in the national title discussion.

4. Wisconsin can win without its stars: When Wisconsin has had success this year, it usually has happened by riding stars like Melvin Gordon, Chris Borland and Jared Abbrederis. The Badgers proved they're a complete team in a 28-9 win at Iowa.

Borland didn't play because of a bum hamstring. Gordon rushed for a season-low 62 yards. Abbrederis had only 30 receiving yards and left the game after catching a third-quarter touchdown pass. Still, Wisconsin's defense held the Hawkeyes to only 289 yards and no touchdowns, while the offense chipped away until breaking free late, thanks to senior James White's 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns. It was a defensive slog most of the afternoon, but a team like the Badgers with BCS bowl hopes has to win some games like that along the way.

Meanwhile, Iowa just wishes it had a few offensive stars. The Hawkeyes' defense is very good, but a complete lack of explosiveness on the other side of the ball ultimately limits this team's potential.

5. Minnesota is in the thick of the Legends Division race: We talked last week about Minnesota being a great story. The Gophers are more than that now. They've won three straight games to improve to 7-2 (3-2 conference). While they trail Michigan State by two games in the standings, they do play the Spartans in the final week of the season. Next week's home game against Penn State, which has played valiantly at home but very shaky on the road, is entirely winnable.

We're not saying Minnesota is going to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. The Gophers still have some issues, and the team did not handle a huge lead at Indiana very well. But the mere fact that the Gophers are even still in the discussion for the division crown is a testament to what the players and coaching staff have accomplished under difficult circumstances.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
10:00
AM ET
What we learned about the Big 12 from Week 10:

[+] EnlargeDesmond Roland
Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY SportsDesmond Roland scored three touchdowns Saturday, and the OSU defense shut Tech down.
1. The Cowboys are legit contenders: Since losing at West Virginia a month ago, Oklahoma State had not looked like a team truly capable of challenging for the Big 12 title. Saturday, that completely changed. Before a record crowd in Lubbock, the Cowboys thoroughly dominated 7-1 Texas Tech, 52-34. After falling behind 28-10, the Red Raiders jumped briefly back into the game with a pick-six in the second quarter. But OSU scored two quick touchdowns early in the second half, and led by at least two scores the rest of the way. Quietly, the defense under first-year coordinator Glenn Spencer has been terrific. Over 17 drives, Tech managed to score just three touchdowns against Spencer's group. That's Big 12 championship-caliber. With the offense beginning to come alive, this is a team that could emerge with the conference crown. Especially if it continues to play like it did Saturday.

2. Tech is not quite ready to be one: This still has been a terrific season for first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. But the Red Raiders don't quite yet have the horses to win the Big 12 title. The Bedlam schools have beaten up Tech's defensive front the last two weeks, racking up a combined 558 yards on the ground. Penalties and turnovers, characteristics of a young team, really plagued the Red Raiders in their back-to-back losses, as well. Tech is pretty much out of the conference title race, but next weekend is huge. The Red Raiders need to defeat K-State to avoid another all-out November collapse with games against Baylor and Texas also still looming, and keep the positive vibe surrounding the Kingsbury era going.

3. TCU isn't going bowling: After finally showing signs offensively, the Horned Frogs jumped to a 17-3 lead over West Virginia in the second quarter. That should have been enough for what had been a strong TCU defense facing a West Virginia offense that had been shaky away from Morgantown. Instead, after turning the ball over three times in five plays, the Horned Frogs had to scramble just to send the game to overtime, where they completely self-destructed. TCU had a minus-6-yard run, a 15-yard personal foul and an incomplete pass, which forced a desperation 62-yard field goal that went wide left. TCU is still mathematically alive for a bowl after losing three consecutive games for the first time since Gary Patterson took over as coach. But it would need to run the table and knock off Baylor to do it. This team just isn't doing that.

4. West Virginia probably is: After falling apart with second-half leads the last two weeks, West Virginia didn't let another game slip away. Charles Sims had another monster performance with 154 yards on the ground against TCU, and the defense played opportunistic ball all game long. With the overtime win in Fort Worth, West Virginia's bowl outlook is looking hopeful. The Mountaineers just need to beat Kansas on the road and take care of Iowa State at home. Of course, West Virginia could really seal up a bowl berth with a home win over Texas this weekend.

5. K-State is rolling into November: The Wildcats can't win the Big 12. But they are proving to be a very solid squad. The healthy return of receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson have done wonders for this offense. The duo delivered another big performance in Farmageddon with 143 yards receiving in K-State's 41-7 rout of Iowa State. QBs Jake Waters and Daniel Sams continue to improve every week, too. K-State started the year 2-4, but had a chance in every loss. The way they are playing, the Wildcats will have a chance in their remaining four games, too.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 10

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
10:00
AM ET
Even with two league powers off this weekend, there was some interesting football in the SEC on Saturday. Here are some takeaways from the action in Week 10:

Florida-Georgia is still compelling: Even with a pair of unranked teams beaten up by injuries, Florida and Georgia provided great theater. Georgia took a commanding 20-0 lead and made it 23-3 at the half, but Florida charged back into the game and even possessed the ball in the fourth quarter down only three points. In the end, Georgia hung on for the 23-20 victory. Florida, for all of its struggles, showed tremendous fight in its second-half rally, but now the Gators are pretty much out of the mix for anything meaningful in the SEC East. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, kept alive their faint division title hopes, which are heavily dependent on Missouri taking a late dive. What added to all the fun on Saturday was the chippy attitudes on both sides, including pushing and shoving after the whistle on several occasions and multiple personal fouls.

[+] EnlargeMaty Mauk
Kyle Rivas/Getty ImagesQB Maty Mauk had 277 total yards and three TDs as Missouri bounced back against Tennessee.
No hangover for Mizzou: If anybody thought last week's tough, dramatic loss to South Carolina in double overtime would have lingering effects for Missouri, guess again. The Tigers took care of business against Tennessee, rolling to a 31-3 win. Freshman quarterback Maty Mauk accounted for 277 total yards and three touchdowns, as the Tigers were up by three touchdowns at the half. They handled the Volunteers on defense, too, holding Tennessee to just 2-of-13 on third downs, 334 total yards and just 94 rushing yards. There's still a tough finishing kick left on the Tigers' schedule, but they looked the part on Saturday.

Johnny Manziel looks like his old self: For the late-nighters, Texas A&M rolled UTEP 57-7, and while the game itself wasn't necessarily compelling, those who tuned in saw a familiar performance by Manziel. Last week, he stayed in the pocket to protect an injured throwing shoulder, but on Saturday night, he cut it loose, zigging and zagging through the UTEP defense like the player who won the Heisman Trophy last season and led the SEC in rushing. He finished with 67 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground, one of which was a 49-yard sprint that looked like 2012 Manziel. For the game, he accounted for six total touchdowns. He's still in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race, though he might need some others to falter in order to become the consensus front-runner again.

South Carolina can put a team away: There was a time when the Gamecocks seemed to let teams back into games after getting big leads. However, after their 34-16 win over Mississippi State on Saturday, which came three weeks after a 52-7 blowout of Arkansas, South Carolina is showing it can handle business and close teams out in the end. SEC leading rusher Mike Davis moved past the 1,000-yard mark with a 128-yard effort, and quarterback Connor Shaw threw for four touchdowns despite not having to throw for much yardage (147). The Gamecocks' defense also came to play and held Mississippi State to 10 points when it mattered.

Tre Mason got it done, again: A couple of weeks ago, in Auburn's upset win at Texas A&M, Mason had his best game of the season, rushing for 178 yards. On Saturday, the junior was again big-time to help the Tigers hold off Arkansas 35-17. Mason finished with 168 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries. In the four games he has reached at least 100 rushing yards this season, three have been in SEC play and two have come against ranked opponents (he rushed for 132 against LSU). He's a workhorse who's coming through in the clutch for the Tigers.

SPONSORED HEADLINES