- Gene Wojciechowski, Senior Writer
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This week's top 20:
20. Salute to Bill Snyder
I have no idea if Kansas State is going to win the national championship this season. I'm not even sure the Wildcats are going to reach the BCS title game.
But in late 1988, when an Iowa assistant named Bill Snyder was hired as K-State's new head coach, you would have been laughed out of the Little Apple -- and maybe out of the state -- had you mentioned the Wildcats and a national championship in the same sentence.
There's no nice way of saying it. K-State football sucked eggs.
Think about it: K-State was winless in its last 27 games when Snyder got the job (first-year salary: $85,000). The previous 12 head coaches had combined for just 116 wins (that's less than 10 wins total per head coach). There was talk of K-State being pushed out of the then-Big 8 Conference.
Plus, the facilities were awful. And the stadium was a ghost town on game days. Back then, players tried to sell season tickets door to door. They got paid $4 per hour.
K-State was called Futility U. The former sports information director there remembers having to buy his young son a Kentucky Wildcats youth football uniform (you know, the little plastic helmet, the tiny shoulder pads, etc.). That's because you couldn't buy a K-State Wildcats uniform in the campus town of Manhattan, Kan. That's right -- local stores didn't bother carrying K-State youth football unis.
Snyder took the worst program in major college football and turned it into one of the best. It might be one of the great, if not greatest, coaching feats in college history.
And to think, Snyder was the 19th candidate interviewed for the job.
"Well, I don't think I had anything that anybody else didn't have," he said. "I think there were a lot of people that said, 'Wait a minute, that's a dead-end job.' And after the first season [K-State ended a 30-game winless streak and finished 1-10 in 1989], I got an awful lot of calls from dear friends who said, 'Go while you can.'"
Snyder stayed. This is his 21st season at K-State (he retired for three seasons before returning in 2009) and he has the Wildcats on the brink of doing the unthinkable.
K-State is No. 2 in the BCS, the highest it's ever been in those standings. If they win out, the Wildcats could find themselves doing the Star Trek thing: going where no K-State team has gone before.
19. Salute to Bill Snyder -- part II
Snyder is 73 years old. The stadium is named after him and his family. There's a highway bearing his name. People dress their infants like him (google photos for "Baby Bill Snyder"). He is an iconic figure in Manhattan.
Most of all, his players are crazy about him. And it isn't just because of the wins. Yes, K-State is 8-0 for the first time since 1999. And yes, the Wildcats are likely headed to a BCS bowl, if not the title game.
But Snyder is beloved by the people who play for him -- no small thing these days.
"I think the biggest thing is, he listens," said senior linebacker Tre Walker. "He is old enough to be my grandfather, but [he's] a coach who can take what he knows from the past and use that to communicate with players of today."
Said senior linebacker Arthur Brown, who transferred from Miami in 2010: "He understands the quality of me as a person. He really [wants] to help mold me and shape me as a quality young man."
I'm not making these quotes up. They adore the guy. Star quarterback Collin Klein is the same way. He can recite Snyder's 16 Goals For Success as if it were the Pledge of Allegiance. No wonder they call him Bill Snyder Jr.
Anyway, there's something real and yet intangible on this Wildcats team. Is it enough to get K-State to the national championship? Got me.
But Snyder deserves credit not just for what he's built, but for what he has maintained.
"I am who I am," said Snyder, as if that explains it all.
And in a way it does. Snyder's methods aren't sexy. In fact, when I asked his son and K-State assistant, Sean Snyder, to pick out one quintessential Bill Snyder phrase, there was zero hesitation.
"Keep sawin' the wood," said Sean.
"Just keep doing what we do," said Sean. "Stay on the task at hand and continue to work on it until you get it complete."
A few minutes later, Sean had to leave. He had to get back to work.
Like father, like son.
18. Heisman Trophy race
Seated in the front row at Best Buy Theater:
• Kansas State QB Klein -- Another week, another four touchdowns, another win. His numbers are more than comparable with the stats Tim Tebow used to win the Heisman in 2007.
• Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller -- Seriously, the guy deserves a LOT more Heisman attention than he's getting.
• Oregon running back Kenjon Barner -- Just think if he played all four quarters.
• Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o -- National TV, an upset at Oklahoma and a stand-on-your-head interception in the final minutes do wonders for a Heisman campaign.
• Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron -- Scarily enough, Bama could be better than last year's Crimson Tide national-title team. That's because McCarron is better.
Keep a coat and tie handy:
• USC quarterback Matt Barkley -- Barkley put up big numbers against Arizona, but (A) it was against Arizona's defense; (B) USC blew a lead and lost; (C) there was some curious play calling on the final, failed drive. But if Barkley were to somehow lead the Trojans past Oregon this Saturday I'm just saying.
• Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones -- His dreads could beat up your dreads.
• Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota -- Fast, unflappable, humble. He can't really be a redshirt freshman, right?
• Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas -- I love watching opposing players when they realize Thomas just outran geometry and tackling angles. You can almost see the disbelief in their faces. Just for fun, go back and look at his punt return for a touchdown against Colorado.
• Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater -- The more the Cardinals win, the more national attention Bridgewater earns.
Thanks for stopping by the booth:
• Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege -- We'll always have West Virginia.
17. Mr. Math
Ask me what about algorithms and I'll tell you that was the band Annie Lennox used to sing in.
Turns out it was the Eurythmics, but you get the point. Developing algorithms is what ESPN's "College GameDay" research guru Chris Fallica does for fun this time of year. Fallica really needs to get a life.
Anyway, his latest formula calculates the chances of Bama, K-State, Oregon and Notre Dame entering the bowl season with undefeated records:
Notre Dame: 62.2 percent (remaining schedule: Pittsburgh, at Boston College, Wake Forest, at USC)
Alabama: 57.1 (at LSU, Texas A&M, FCS-member Western Carolina, playing-like-an-FCS-member Auburn)
K-State: 43.0 (Oklahoma State, at TCU, at Baylor, Texas)
Oregon: 18.9 (at USC, at Cal, Stanford, at Oregon State)
And the chances that all four of those teams go unbeaten: less than 2.9 percent
16. Questions of the week
• If Bama, K-State, Notre Dame and Oregon all finish undefeated, who plays for the BCS championship?
• Can't we just go ahead and start the four-team playoff this season instead of 2014?
• Does Maryland have any quarterbacks left?
• Can a linebacker really win a Heisman?
• How far will Oregon drop in the BCS standings if it wins again (the Ducks have been passed by other teams two weeks in a row, despite convincing victories)?
• Will Boise State finish ahead of the Big Ten champion in the BCS standings?
• Do you remember the preseason top 5 in the coaches' and AP polls? (Coaches': LSU, Bama, USC, Oklahoma, Oregon; AP: USC, Bama, LSU, OU, Oregon.)
• Do you remember the preseason Heisman favorites? (USC's Matt Barkley, Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Michigan's Denard Robinson, OU's Landry Jones, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, West Virginia's Geno Smith, South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore.)
15. Quote of the week
"It was like he was running for president."
-- Georgia free safety Bacarri Rambo on Bulldogs coach Mark Richt's postgame lovefest with fans after UGA beat Florida.
14. Quote of the week -- runner-up
-- Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux to reporters before the Bearcats faced undefeated Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Legaux: 13-of-28 for 157 yards, 2 TDs (one rushing, one passing), 3 interceptions.
Bridgewater: 24-of-41 for 416 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception.
Louisville 34, Cincinnati 31.
13. Maryland: Where quarterbacks disappear
Maryland's starting quarterback this week against Georgia Tech will be Shawn Petty, a left-handed, true freshman linebacker who will wear jersey No. 31.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, should give you an idea of the living, breathing nightmare that is coach Randy Edsall's quarterback situation these days.
"I don't know if something like this has ever happened to a team at that position," said Edsall during a teleconference earlier this week.
Starter C.J. Brown tore his ACL in training camp. Then in the Oct. 20 game against North Carolina State, true freshman Perry Hills tore his ACL in the first half. His replacement, Devin Burns, broke his foot. Then last week at Boston College, true freshman Caleb Rowe tore his ACL.
That means the 6-1, 230-pound Petty, who played linebacker and quarterback in high school, gets the start.
Before the avalanche of injuries, Maryland was positioned nicely for bowl eligibility. But now the Terps have lost two straight to drop to 4-4 and face Georgia Tech, travel to Clemson, play Florida State at home and finish at North Carolina -- all in consecutive weeks.
So mind-boggling are the QB injuries, that Maryland's sports information department sent out a mass emailing to major programs around the country asking if they had ever experienced a similar situation.
I'll save them the trouble: no.
12. Unrest in Troy?
USC coach Lane Kiffin is feeling some Bunsen burner heat after the Trojans' national championship chances officially ended with a semidysfunctional loss at Arizona Saturday.
It wasn't just that USC lost 39-36. It was the way it lost.
The Trojans committed 13 penalties against Arizona, securing their place as the nation's most penalized team.
They turned the ball over five times.
They wasted a historic performance by Marqise Lee, who had a combined 469 receiving and return yards.
They failed to move the ball into game-tying field goal range on their final drive, prompting questions and second-guesses on Kiffin's play calling and clock management skills.
USC has gone from a preseason No. 1 to a BCS afterthought. After the loss to Arizona, the Trojans tumbled to No. 17 in the most recent BCS standings.
This is Kiffin's third season as USC's head coach. He did a masterful job last year as the Trojans finished 10-2 and completed their turn in the NCAA big house. At last eligible for the postseason, this was going to be the season USC made a run for a national championship.
Instead, the Trojans lost at Stanford in Week 3 and blew a 15-point second-half lead at Arizona (the Wildcats scored 26 consecutive points to overtake USC).
Now local media and Trojans followers are asking hard questions about Kiffin's ability to run the program.
Should he consider giving up his play-calling responsibilities? (Uh, no.) Is it time to consider a new defensive coordinator? (Whoo-boy: Kiffin's dad, Monte, is the DC. Can't see Lane firing his old man.) What's the deal with those silly in-game uniform number changes? (At the very least, it's borderline unethical; at the very most, it's a rules violation.) Are Kiffin and Barkley on the same page? (Only the coach and QB know that one.) And are the penalties (more than 10 per game) a reflection of the coaching staff? (Hmmm. According to the L.A. Times, a recent team meeting featured a video review of every major penalty USC's players have committed this season.)
Kiffin wasn't hired by USC athletic director Pat Haden, which is an issue that always bubbles to the surface in times like these. Is Kiffin really in trouble? Doubtful.
But an upset of Oregon in the Coliseum would be helpful to Kiffin. If nothing else, the Trojans need to avoid the kind of beatdowns Oregon is giving everyone else.
And it doesn't get much easier after the Ducks. USC faces Arizona State, goes to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA and then finishes at home against Notre Dame.
11. Flop of the week
-- Wisconsin's running game.
Just when it was almost safe to mention Montee Ball and the Heisman in the same paragraph, the Badgers rush for 19 yards in the home loss to Michigan State. Wisconsin had rushed for a combined 804 yards in the previous two games. It was also Bucky's first Camp Randall defeat in more than three years. And in case you're keeping track, Ball had 46 yards on 22 carries against Sparty.
-- Oklahoma's running game.
A grand total of 15 rushing yards against Notre Dame. The Sooners entered the game averaging nearly 200.
-- Cincinnati coach Butch Jones' sense of timing.
Just moments before Louisville's center snapped the ball high and through the wet hands of the rain-soaked holder -- ending any chance the unbeaten Cardinals had of attempting the game-winning field goal against the Bearcats -- Jones called a timeout. How'd that work out? Louisville lined up again in the rain, executed the snap and hold perfectly and John Wallace converted the 30-yarder for the overtime win.
-- Mississippi State.
Nobody, except the MSU players, staff, and friends and family, thought the Bulldogs were going to pull off the upset against Bama. But lose by 31? And commit three turnovers (compared to only five in the previous seven games)?
See No. 12.
And the flopper is Wisconsin.
10. Coach of the week
-- Georgia's Mark Richt.
Richt almost always finds himself on some sort of Hot Seat list, and he almost always finds a way to escape just in time. The mild upset of Florida -- only his fifth win in the past 18 tries against a ranked opponent -- gives him some valuable equity.
-- Miami (Ohio)'s Don Treadwell.
Would he have done what Ohio's Frank Solich did -- try to squeeze one more play out of the clock instead of trying a game-tying field goal? We'll never know. But we do know Ohio isn't undefeated anymore, all thanks to Treadwell's team.
--Kent State's Darrell Hazell.
Rutgers' unbeaten season? Fuhgedaboutit.
-- Ohio State's Urban Meyer.
On the road. Dealing with injuries. No chance at a bowl game. A suspect defense. And Meyer keeps figuring out ways to get his team to produce.
-- Notre Dame's Brian Kelly.
The Fighting Irish might not be your particular brand of vodka, but you've got to give Kelly the credit he deserves. That was a signature win at OU.
-- Arizona's Rich Rodriguez.
Maybe USC was looking ahead to Oregon, maybe it wasn't. Doesn't matter. Rich Rod's team didn't panic, overcame a Trojans lead and stuck a very large cactus needle into USC's BCS chances.
And the winner is Kelly.
He's doing this with a redshirt freshman quarterback (oops -- they don't use that term at ND), the usual suffocating pressure that goes with coaching at Notre Dame and a schedule that is plenty tough.
9. Player of the week
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee.
With proper therapy and gentle nurturing, Arizona's defensive backs will one day be able to rejoin society and be productive football citizens. Until then, they never, ever want to see Lee (16 receptions, 345 receiving yards, two touchdowns against the Wildcats) again. Lee also added 123 return yards.
-- Arizona quarterback Matt Scott.
You know how Arizona's DBs feel about Lee? That's how USC's defense feels about Scott, who threw for 369 yards, rushed for 100, had four TDs and led the Wildcats to their first home win against the Trojans since 1999. By the way, Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times reminds readers that five years ago this month, USC's Matt Barkley led his Mater Dei High School team over Scott and his Corona Centennial High School squad.
-- Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.
Big game, big win, big performance. Te'o recorded 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and a game-clinching, Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatic interception in the closing minutes against the Sooners.
-- Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones.
Richt began his postgame presser by reciting Jones' stats against the Gators. Can you blame him? Jones had a career-high 13 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles (one of them the game-clinching variety), three sacks and 4½ tackles for loss. I'm not sure Colorado's entire defense has those stats.
-- Kent State defensive end Mark Fackler.
Since when do defensive ends have two interceptions in a single game? Since when do defensive ends have any interceptions? Fackler had a pair of INTs in the upset of unbeaten Rutgers, returned one of them for a touchdown and ended the Golden Flashes' 0-22 streak against ranked opponents.
-- Texas quarterback Case McCoy.
Saved the Longhorns from losing to a Kansas team that has exactly zero FBS victories this season.
-- North Carolina running back Gio Bernard.
Returned a punt 74 yards for the game-winning TD with 13 seconds left. Rushed for 135 yards and two TDs. Had eight receptions and 95 yards. Just about single-handedly ended the Tar Heels' five-year losing streak to NC State.
And the winner is Scott.
Scott's team won, Lee's didn't. Tiebreaker.
8. Tweet of the week
New York Post reporter Lenn Robbins knew early on that Oklahoma had no chance against Notre Dame. His tweet from the OU press box Saturday night:
"Why ND will win this game. The field judge is named McGinn; the ump is Feeney; the Head linesman is McGrath; the field judge is Gallagher."
7. Tweet of the week -- runner-up
A romantic observation from Georgia's Watts Dantzler, a 6-7, 310-pound sophomore offensive tackle:
"All those chubby people who got no love in the summer at the pool shirtless get a second chance come wintertime. Cuddling season is upon us."
6. The picks
Uglier than the Florida-Georgia game.
Missed on Cal over Utah, Wisconsin over Michigan State, Florida over Georgia, Oregon State over U-Dub (should have known something was up when I saw the tiny spread), USC over Arizona, Arkansas over Ole Miss and Oklahoma over Notre Dame.
But I will take a brief moment to congratulate me on taking BYU over Georgia Tech, Boston College over Maryland and UCLA over Arizona State -- all underdogs.
This week's choices:
Virginia Tech over Miami, Washington over Cal, Florida over Missouri, Texas A&M over Mississippi State, Oklahoma over Iowa State, Minnesota over Michigan, West Virginia over TCU, Notre Dame over Pitt, Texas Tech over Texas, Nebraska over Michigan State, Oregon over USC, Alabama over LSU, Kansas State over Oklahoma State, Oregon State over Arizona State, UCLA over Arizona.
(Last week's record: 10-7. Overall: 112-36.)
5. Why Vegas sends a limo for me
It was kind of a weenie upset pick, but I'll take it these days. I had Ohio State going on the road and beating Penn State. And that's what happened. The Buckeyes won big as the slight 'dogs.
And for what it's worth, I did write last week that the Oregon State at Washington matchup had the feel of a trap game, and that a letdown wasn't out of the question when it came to Florida playing Georgia after having just beaten South Carolina at home. Those and a Groupon will get you a cup of coffee.
This week I thought hard about:
USC over Oregon (you know, just for the fun of it), LSU over Bama (the game is at Death Valley, the Tigers have had two weeks to prepare, and you never know what you're going to get out of The Hat), Iowa State over OU (maybe the Sooners go to Ames feeling sorry for themselves?).
Went with: Syracuse over Cincinnati.
(Last week's record: 1-0. Overall: 3-6.)
Linebackers (Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Louisville's Preston Brown); sportsmanship (the way South Carolina and Tennessee players rallied around injured Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore ought to be required viewing); Rich Rod (Michigan becoming a distant memory as he turns around Arizona); Georgia over Florida (first consecutive wins over the Gators since 1987-89); Oregon's offense (only one game shy of tying the FBS record for consecutive 30-point-plus games -- 22); Washington (two wins against Top 10 teams this season -- Stanford and Oregon State); USC's Marqise Lee; first-year coaches Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss and UCLA's Jim Mora Jr.; Kent State and Miami of Ohio; Boston College (ends a five-game losing streak); Boise State into the BCS bowl conversation; ESPN's research department (thanks for the nuggets); the SEC (five teams in the top 8 of the BCS standings, seven total in the top 25, 13th week an SEC team has been ranked No. 1 in the standings, which is a record); Tino and Vinnie Sunseri (Tino completed 20 of 28 passes for 321 yards and 3 TDs in Pitt's win against Temple, while Vinnie, who plays safety for Bama, led the Crimson Tide in tackles during the win at Mississippi State).
Sportsmanship at the Florida-Georgia game (nearly a pregame brawl on the field between players and even between the coaches, five personal fouls and four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties); UMass and Southern Miss (still winless); Colorado (in five of their seven losses, the Buffs have given up 70, 50, 51, 42 and 69 points -- and now rank last nationally in scoring defense); the stadium statue campaign of Auburn's Gene Chizik; Tyrann Mathieu's chances of playing at LSU again and moderating a "Just Say No" seminar; undefeated seasons of Florida, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Rutgers and Ohio; the budding Heisman campaign of Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege; the new instructional book by Cincinnati coach Butch Jones: "When To Call Timeouts"; TCU in the post-Casey Pachall era (1-3 since he withdrew from school to enter a treatment program); the conference records of Tennessee, Auburn and Kentucky (0-17); Oklahoma's home invincibility (the Sooners have lost two games at Memorial Stadium in the same season for the first time in Bob Stoops' 14 years at OU); the Big Ten (one team -- Nebraska, No. 20 -- in the BCS standings); Sal Sunseri (the proud father of Vinnie and Tino oversees a Tennessee defense that ranks 99th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense).
2. If there were a playoff
(And there will be in two more years )
Shoulder Pad Bracket:
Alabama vs. Oregon.
Is this what we want football to be? Actually, yes. Bama coach Nick Saban has issues with the no-huddle offense because, he says, it creates player safety issues. Sorry, Nick, but they're not going to change the rules between now and the BCS championship. So think of the fun: Saban trying to scheme up a way to stop Chip Kelly's Oregon offense.
Chin Strap Bracket:
Notre Dame vs. Kansas State.
I would make a deal with the devil to be a ticket scalper for this one.
1. The BMOC Top 10
No. 10: Florida (7-1)
You should have seen the Florida assistant coaches as they marched from the press box to the Gators locker room after the loss to Georgia. They looked like they had spent the afternoon sucking on lemon slices. Or worse yet, watching Florida commit six turnovers. In a scheduling quirk, the Gators' SEC schedule ends with the Mizzou game. After that: Louisiana Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State.
No. 9: Clemson (7-1)
Next: at Duke.
The Tigers are becoming one of those teams you don't want to play anytime soon.
No. 8: Florida State (8-1)
Next: Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech.
One crummy point (a 17-16 loss at North Carolina State) separates the Seminoles from national championship relevancy and irrelevancy. And Florida's loss to Georgia hurts FSU's chances of making a BCS statement when the Gators and Seminoles meet at regular season's end.
No. 7: Georgia (7-1)
Next: Ole Miss.
It would be so Georgia-ish for the Bulldogs to beat Florida last Saturday and then lose to Ole Miss at home this Saturday. Maybe UGA strong safety Shawn Williams should call out his teammates again -- just to get the Bulldogs geeked up.
No. 6: LSU (7-1)
Here's what Bama coach Nick Saban is going to do: He's going to put 81 guys in the box, and maybe even the Million Dollar Band, and force LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to beat the Tide. And given that Mettenberger is ranked 89th out of 100 in national passing stats this season, it's a no-brainer game plan. Mettenberger has skills. The question is, can he do what Saban thinks he can't: win a game with his arm?
No. 5: Ohio State (9-0)
There has to be some perk for being the only 9-0 team in the country and registering a quality win at Penn State. Here's what's left on the Buckeyes' schedule to nowhere: the Barely Fightin' Illini, at Bucky Badger and That Team Up North. (You aren't allowed to say the word "Michigan" inside the Ohio State football complex. Seriously.)
No. 4: Oregon (8-0)
Next: at USC.
I can hear the screams all the way from Duckdom. We beat Colorado 70-14, led 56-0 at halftime and you DROPPED us in the rankings? Yes, but in a good way. First of all, Oregon fans shouldn't get their shorts in a bunch (and if Nike has anything to do with it, there are probably 31 different combos of Oregon shorts). The rankings are a fluid thing. And honestly, being ranked No. 4 is almost the same as being ranked No. 2 or 3. It's that close. But if strength of schedule matters -- and it does to me -- then Oregon's SOS has to hit the weight room. And it will soon.
No. 3: Kansas State (8-0)
Next: Oklahoma State.
During last week's visit to Manhattan, I stopped by a breakfast café and got verbally carpet bombed by Charlie Browne and the rest of the so-called Coffee Boys (they meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings to discuss all things K-State athletics). They wanted to know why I was giving so much love to Texas Tech as the K-State versus Red Raiders game approached. Uh, well, now that you mention it. Anyway, I'll say the same thing about this week's game against Oklahoma State as I said about last week's game against Tech: Be careful. But just to be on the safe side, I bought breakfast for Charlie and the fellas.
No. 2: Notre Dame (8-0)
They go overseas, they win. They go home, they win. They go to neutral fields, they win. They go to opposing fields, they win. They play ranked teams, they win. And as long as quarterback Everett Golson and that ND defense stay upright, the Irish are going to keep winning. They now enter the naptime phase of their schedule.
No. 1: Alabama (8-0)
Next: at LSU.
This is the equivalent of a quarterfinal game for the national championship. Because if Bama beats LSU, it gets three consecutive home games and, barring an upset, it plays in the national semi (the SEC championship). Bama has won all of its games by at least 19 points.
(Five on the fringe: Oklahoma, USC, Oregon State, South Carolina, Louisville.)
1dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer
2dChantel Jennings and David Lombardi
2dBrian Bennett and Austin Ward