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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Seth Doege leads Red Raiders

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

This week's top 20:

20. Salute to Texas Tech

If I were Kansas State's Bill Snyder, I might be a tiny bit apprehensive about Saturday's game against No. 14 Texas Tech. Then again, I'm not sure Snyder gets apprehensive about anything.

Earlier this season, I saw a cricket attach itself to the side of his face during a postgame news conference at Oklahoma. Me? I would have started flailing away at the thing, which was about half the size of a clothespin but much, much uglier.

Seth Doege
Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege leads the nation in touchdown passes.

Snyder, without even stopping his response to a question, calmly scraped the insect away. And knowing Snyder, he probably contacted the cricket later and offered a heartfelt lecture on proper clinging technique. The guy pays attention to details.

But if Texas Tech doesn't make K-State nervous, it should. The Red Raiders, said coach Tommy Tuberville, "aren't anything special. But we play hard now."

They've played hard enough to go 6-1, with wins against late, great West Virginia and, most recently, a triple-overtime win at TCU.

They've got a quarterback (Seth Doege) who Tuberville said "is as good as anybody in the country. He just doesn't get the publicity other people get."

And they've got a defense that has morphed from embarrassingly bad in 2011 (ranked 114th) to very respectable in 2012 (seventh in total defense).

Doege is the key. When he plays well, Texas Tech can beat anybody. He doesn't get the attention he probably deserves, so consider this an apology letter.

Look at the numbers: Doege leads the nation in points responsible for (24.57 per game). He's No. 8 in passing yards per game and 13th in total offense. And nobody has thrown more touchdown passes than the senior.

19. Salute to Texas Tech -- Part II

Another reason for K-State to pay attention to the Red Raiders? Tuberville.

He has a knack of winning these kind of games. He coaches fearlessly. And his teams follow his lead. I'm not saying the Red Raiders are going to win this one, but the Wildcats aren't going to do what they did to West Virginia this past week and win by 41.

Last season, Texas Tech led K-State at halftime and late in the third quarter. But three fourth-quarter turnovers doomed the Red Raiders. That was the game in which Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein threw for a touchdown and rushed for three more.

"They don't turn the ball over," Tuberville said of K-State. "And their quarterback is like a tailback. They're well-coached, and they don't give up big plays on defense."

Yeah, that about sums it up when you're talking about Snyder's team.

But Texas Tech is 3-0 on the road this season. The Red Raiders beat No. 3 Oklahoma on the road last season and just beat a ranked TCU team on the road. And they'll play better defensively than they did in the 56-53 triple-OT win against the Horned Frogs.

18. Heisman Trophy race

Seated in the front row at Best Buy Theater:

• Kansas State QB Klein -- Tuberville said he's going to win the thing. He might be right, now that West Virginia's Geno Smith is in a Heisman free fall. If it happens, Klein can partly thank Tim Tebow for making it all possible. Tebow proved you don't have to have drop-dead gorgeous passing numbers to walk away with the statuette. Klein's work can't always be defined by numbers, which is what makes watching him so fun.

• Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller -- Get well soon.

• Texas Tech's Doege -- Hard to ignore his stats. And just think if he pulls off the upset of K-State.

• Oregon running back Kenjon Barner -- Once blinded by the glow of De'Anthony Thomas, I now defer to the brilliance of Thomas' teammate, Barner.

Keep a coat and tie handy:

• USC quarterback Matt Barkley -- If only you could play Colorado every week, eh?

• Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o -- A warning: OU and USC are going to test Te'o's pass coverage skills.

• Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron -- Welcome to the list, my friend.

Semi-sleepers:

• Baylor quarterback Nick Florence -- The guy falls out of bed throwing the skinny post.

Thanks for stopping by the booth:

• South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore -- One of the good guys in the college game, but undone by another injury.

• West Virginia's Smith -- One minute he was the leader in the Heisman clubhouse, the next he's throwing for a season-low 143 yards and throwing interceptions. He could work his way back onto the Heisman list, though.

17. Mr. Math

ESPN's College GameDay research genius Chris Fallica has put together a formula that calculates a team's chances of finishing the regular season undefeated. Please don't ask me how to explain it. I'm still learning long division.

Anyway, the Fallica Theorem, as it relates to the BCS top 10:

Alabama -- a 54.2 percent chance of entering the bowl season undefeated.

Oregon -- 22.3 percent.

Kansas State -- 21.9 percent.

Notre Dame -- 17.7 percent (Fallica says if ND beats Oklahoma on Saturday, the percentage instantly improves to about 53 percent).

Florida -- 9.6 percent.

Oregon State -- 2.8 percent.

16. Questions of the week

Derek Dooley
Derek Dooley's tenure as Tennessee's head coach came to an end Sunday.

Could Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long become the next athletic director at Miami?

How much has the upheaval at Arkansas affected recruiting?

Why can't Texas A&M hold onto a double-digit lead when it matters?

If you had a tournament involving the one-loss teams, who would win? (Right now, my money would be on OU.)

Is Tennessee's Derek Dooley going to make it to 2013?

Which coaches can expect to be romanced by other programs? (I'm not saying they'd go, but here's guessing Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Texas Tech's Tuberville, Oregon State's Mike Riley, Boise State's Chris Petersen, TCU's Gary Patterson and Clemson's Dabo Swinney will have their tires kicked.)

15. Quote of the week

"It's one thing to lose -- we knew it would be a tough game down here and we had hoped our guys would give it their best shot -- but not just lay the ball down and say, 'Here, Florida, we don't want to win. You guys take this fumble and this fumble and this one and this one."'

-- An exasperated South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, after the Gamecocks' 44-11 loss at Florida.

14. Quote of the week -- runners-up

"We got hit by a hammer."

Arizona State coach Todd Graham to reporters after Oregon defeated the Sun Devils 43-21.

"They know it's a run, and you know it's a run, and you can still run it."

Alabama center Barrett Jones to The Associated Press, on the Crimson Tide's 233 rushing yards against an overmatched Tennessee defense.

13. A TT-free zone

I'm going to attempt to write about Florida sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel without mentioning you-know-who.

Jeff Driskel
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel doesn't have gaudy stats -- other than the win column.

That's because Driskel deserves to have an item written about him that doesn't include a reference to No. 15 -- the guy who has a statue in front of Florida Field … the guy who just had his No. 5 high school jersey retired.

Driskel is emerging, slowly, as a quarterback Florida can build an entire offense around. Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease has asked Driskel to process huge chunks of the playbook and, as the season progresses, so does Driskel. You can see him get a little bit better with each game.

He threw for only 93 yards against South Carolina. But four of his 11 completions went for touchdowns. And there were no interceptions. The passing numbers aren't sexy, but they're efficient.

"When you get more snaps in the SEC, obviously you're going to be more comfortable," said Driskel, who has a grand total of six career starts as Florida's QB. "And when you become more comfortable, you become more confident. And being a confident quarterback is huge, definitely in a league like this."

12. A TT-free zone -- Part II

What's-his-name was confident, too. There's a plaque at Florida with one of his speeches.

"I'm constantly reminded about that speech," Driskel said. "But that's not really who I am. I'm not really a guy that's going to be as vocal, or as outgoing as that. I'm not going to change who I am … that's just not me."

Driskel's younger brother, Jason, plays quarterback at the same Orlando-area high school as Jeff did. Jason takes the big-picture view when it comes to the comparisons between his brother and the Florida guy who won a Heisman in 2007.

"My thing is you're always going to get compared to someone," said Jason, who is probably compared to Jeff. "Might as well be someone who did as much as T---- … I'm not sure [Jeff] embraces it, but he understood that when he went to Florida that being a big guy, being fast, being physical, he's going to get compared to T----. If they're going to compare him to [T----], why not?"

The day I visited with Driskel, he wore a pair of ripped Top-Siders he had stitched up himself.

Why didn't he just buy a new pair?

"These are, like, $50," he said. "And I don't have money like that."

Fair enough, although I did offer him $10 if he would sing "Silent Night" in Japanese. (Driskel spent three years in Japan when his dad was stationed overseas.)

"I can do it," he said. "I've done it in front of the [Florida] quarterbacks. That's the only people I've done it in front of."

Weird how things work out. If Driskel hadn't signed with Florida, he would have gone to Auburn. But here he is, enjoying an undefeated season while Auburn is submerged in a season to forget.

If the worst thing that happens to Driskel is that people compare him to the New York Jets' backup quarterback, then so be it.

"A little unfair," said Florida nose tackle Omar Hunter, "but they're going to come. … He just goes out there and plays his game. He doesn't try to be Tim, or anyone else. He just plays his game."

Damn. Almost got through it.

11. Words to remember

This is from Tuberville, who would know:

"The whole key for everybody at the midpoint of the season is injuries. You've got to get lucky. I lost four starters in the [Oct. 13] West Virginia game. We'll get one of them back for Kansas State.

"Last year, we had 16 surgeries. This year, we've had four or five. You've got to get lucky from that respect."

Going forward, pay attention to injury attrition. Alabama has had its share, but the Tide's roster is deep enough to handle the losses. Other programs don't have the same personnel depth.

10. Red sea

I make no apologies for my admiration of Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. He is a nimble thinker, has a nice blend of football old school and new school, and runs his program with class and dignity. Plus, he knows how to win ballgames at a place that actually puts student before athlete.

Northwestern
It was a sea of red at Ryan Field when Nebraska invaded Chicago.

But even constantly positive Fitzgerald must have done a double take when he saw the Ryan Field crowd of 47,330 this past Saturday. There were Nebraska fans everywhere. If you didn't know any better, you would have thought it was Memorial Stadium Jr.

Red seemed to outnumber purple. And if it didn't, it was close. So loud were the Nebraska fans that Northwestern had to use a silent count on its final (and failed) drive. I repeat: a silent count because the visiting team's fans were too loud.

"We didn't prepare for that all week," Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter said to the Chicago Tribune.

Nebraska fans are legendarily loyal. If the Cornhuskers had a game in Irkutsk, Nebraska fans would figure out a way to get there.

Chicago is a Nebraska alum stronghold, so a large Big Red turnout wasn't a surprise. But according to Nebraska officials, Northwestern provided the Cornhuskers with 5,000 tickets for sale (as opposed to the usual Big Ten allotment of 3,000). So that means Nebraska fans were able to find another 15,000-20,000 tickets through secondary markets (Wildcats fans selling their tickets online) or, said Northwestern officials, by buying Wildcats season-ticket packages.

"Nebraska fans are pretty resourceful getting tickets," said a Cornhuskers athletic department spokesperson.

That's fine. But if you're Fitzgerald and you've poured your guts into building a program, how depressing is it to know that Nebraska fans might have outnumbered Northwestern fans.

Attendance for the Nebraska game was a season high for the Wildcats. The next closest was 33,129 for the Sept. 29 Indiana game.

Iowa comes to Ryan Field on Saturday. Or will it be Kinnick Stadium East?

9. Flop of the week

The finalists:

-- BCS standings.

Tell me if this makes sense:

Oregon goes on the road, takes a 43-7 halftime lead against Arizona State, shows some second-half mercy and cruises to a 43-21 win, rushes for 406 yards, intercepts four ASU passes … and drops from No. 3 to No. 4 in the latest BCS standings?

The computers don't seem to like the Ducks one bit. For the second consecutive week, Oregon has a composite No. 6 ranking. Maybe the computers need to get the WatchESPN app.

-- Texas' defense.

The Longhorns accomplish the rare FOTW repeat. They give up 63 points to Oklahoma and then, after all the talk of fixing things and "getting back to work," Texas' D gives up 50 points to Baylor. At least the Horns beat Baylor, which has one of the few defenses more gawd-awful than theirs. Texas is ranked 107th in total defense, Baylor 120th.

-- Cincinnati

Way to semi-ruin a perfectly good storyline for Friday night's game against Louisville. Instead of two undefeated teams, we get one -- all thanks to the Bearcats' loss to Toledo.

-- South Carolina

I believe the technical term for how the Gamecocks played at Florida is, "ralphed themselves."

-- Northwestern

Had a double-digit lead at home against Nebraska midway through the fourth quarter. And then it didn't.

And the flopper is … South Carolina.

Another opportunity to make a statement on the road and on a national stage, and the Gamecocks whiff on the chance. Even coach Steve Spurrier questioned his team's resolve after the loss to Florida.

8. Coach of the week

David Cutcliffe
David Cutcliffe has doubled Duke's win total from last season.

The finalists:

-- Texas Tech's Tuberville.

Two Saturdays, two consecutive wins against Top 25 teams (West Virginia, at TCU).

-- LSU's Les Miles.

Two Saturdays, two consecutive wins against Top 25 teams (South Carolina, at Texas A&M).

-- Duke's David Cutcliffe.

The Blue Devils are bowl eligible for the first time since Grant Hill was a senior at Duke.

-- Rutgers' Kyle Flood.

Say what you want about the Big East, but Flood, in his first season as head coach at Rutgers, has been a revelation. You don't start 7-0 by accident.

-- Florida's Will Muschamp.

Muschamp and his staff have taken the training wheels off this Florida team. Just think when they get more playmakers on this roster.

And the winner is … Cutcliffe.

Enjoy it. Duke's next two games: at Florida State, Clemson.

7. Player of the week

The finalists:

-- Kansas State's Klein.

All he did was score seven touchdowns against West Virginia (three TD passes, four rushing TDs).

-- New Mexico running back Kasey Carrier.

As a general rule of thumb, a 338-yard rushing day pretty much guarantees you a spot on this list. Unfortunately, New Mexico still lost to Air Force.

-- Texas Tech's Doege.

He threw for 499 yards in the upset of West Virginia a week ago, then followed it up with a seven-touchdown passing performance in the OT win at TCU.

-- Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Northwestern can show you the game film.

And the winner is … Doege.

Time to give the guy a little BMOC love.

6. The picks

Missed on North Carolina over Duke and Cincinnati over Toledo. Otherwise, I'm walking like a stallion, not a show pony.

This week's choices:

Louisville over Cincinnati, Alabama over Mississippi State, Iowa State over Baylor, Texas A&M over Auburn, Cal over Utah, Wisconsin over Michigan State, BYU over Georgia Tech, Florida over Georgia, UCLA over Arizona State, USC over Arizona, Oregon State over Washington, Kansas State over Texas Tech, Boston College over Maryland, Oklahoma State over TCU, Arkansas over Ole Miss, Oklahoma over Notre Dame, Nebraska over Michigan.

(Last week's record: 17-2. Overall: 102-29)

5. Why Vegas sends a limo for me

Don't mind me. I'm just a little bitter over Northwestern ruining a perfectly good upset pick.

The Wildcats were up 28-16 at home with 8:31 left to play against Nebraska. Then they gave up 13 consecutive points and my upset special suddenly goes swimming with the fishes.

This week, I thought hard about: Texas Tech over K-State (the Red Raiders will play hard, but a crummy weather forecast has me worried about Tech's ability to throw the ball); Georgia over Florida (the Gators are coming off an emotional win at home against the Head Ball Coach, so a letdown isn't out of the question); Washington over Oregon State (it has the feel of a trap game).

Went with: Ohio State over Penn State.

Yes, it's true -- unbeaten Ohio State is listed as even or a slight underdog to the Nittany Lions.

And, as you'll notice in the weekly picks, I also took 'dogs Cal, BYU, and UCLA.

(Last week's record: 0-1. Overall: 2-6.)

4. Trending up

The Big Ten (an actual appearance in the BCS Top 25 -- Michigan No. 22, Wisconsin No. 25), Texas Tech's Doege, the children of the corn (Nebraska), Bobby Petrino's chances of returning to the SEC West, Rutgers, games that matter (ND at OU, Mississippi State at Bama, Texas Tech at K-State, Florida vs. Georgia, Cincinnati at Louisville, Michigan at Nebraska, Clemson at Wake Forest), Cutcliffe and Duke (bowl eligible for the first time since 1994), Toledo, USC's Barkley, potential BCS controversy, Savannah State (America's favorite paycheck team finally wins a game -- 42-35 over NAIA member Edward Waters), Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (underrated and understated, but Bridgewater continues to produce for the Cardinals -- he's worth making the effort to watch), Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton (one of the best D-linemen in the country could be back soon after suffering a knee injury against Oregon), and Northern Illinois.

3. Trending down

West Virginia (again), Michigan State (again), Geno Smith's Heisman hopes (again), Tennessee's Dooley, Auburn's Gene Chizik and Kentucky's Joker Phillips (all again), LSU's Zach Mettenberger, day games, Spurrier's patience, the Johnny Football buzz, Tim Beckman's first season at Illinois, Oregon's love of the BCS computers, Southern Mississippi (the only winless FBS program).

2. If there were a playoff

(And there will be in two more years …)

Shoulder Pad Bracket:

Alabama vs. Kansas State.

K-State is a team after Nick Saban's own heart. Physical. Disciplined. Low-maintenance.

Chin Strap Bracket:

Florida vs. Oregon.

The Gators, K-State and Notre Dame are all sort of the same type of team. Oregon is like nobody else.

1. The BMOC Top 10

No. 10: Ohio State (8-0)
Next: at Penn State.
The Buckeyes vs. the Nittany Lions -- aka the Ineligible Bowl. Because of NCAA sanctions, neither team can play in the postseason. Yet Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien have squeezed out a combined 13 wins (and counting) from their teams. Impressive, especially given the circumstances.

No. 9: USC (6-1)
Next: at Arizona.
Go back and look at Barkley's numbers against Colorado. Amazing stuff -- even against dreadful CU. The Trojans have won four in a row, but now the fun begins: at Arizona, Oregon, Arizona State, at UCLA, Notre Dame.

No. 8: Oklahoma (5-1)
Next: Notre Dame
Bob Stoops' first loss as OU's coach was in 1999 to Notre Dame. Not too much is at stake this week: only the national championship hopes of two teams. I saw the Sooners earlier in the season when Kansas State embarrassed them at home. OU has come a lonnnnnng way since then.

No. 7: LSU (7-1)
Next: Nov. 3 vs. Alabama.
You have to respect how LSU grinds away. But it's hard to ignore the season-high 410 yards the Tigers' defense gave up against Texas A&M. And at some point Mettenberger (11-of-29 for 97 yards and 1 TD vs. A&M) is going to have to win a game with his arm.

Mike Riley
Mike Riley and Oregon State are still flying under the radar despite being undefeated.

No. 6: Oregon State (6-0)
Next: at Washington.
The Beavers are 6-0 for the first time since 1907, so, yeah, the folks in Corvallis are a bit pumped these days. Four of Oregon State's last five games are toughies: at U-Dub, Arizona State, at Stanford and the Civil War at home against Oregon.

No. 5: Notre Dame (7-0)
Next: at Oklahoma.
The Fighting Irish haven't won a national championship since 1988. If they want to win one this season, they have to beat OU. It's that simple. Notre Dame outrushed BYU on Saturday 270-66, which will give the Sooners something to think about. But Oklahoma's passing attack will give ND something to think about, too.

No. 4: Kansas State (7-0)
Next: Texas Tech.
The Wildcats have won at OU, at Iowa State and at West Virginia. Now they get the Red Raiders, who have their own collection of quality wins (at Iowa State, at TCU, West Virginia). In many ways, this might be the toughest game remaining on K-State's schedule.

No. 3: Oregon (7-0)
Next: Colorado.
Seriously, can't we just all agree that Oregon will beat Colorado by some obscene score and call it a day? The question isn't how many points will the Ducks drop on Ralphie but how soon will coach Chip Kelly pull his starters as Oregon starts the countdown for next week's game at USC?

No. 2: Florida (7-0)
Next: Georgia (at Jacksonville).
I don't really care that the Gators had only 183 total yards against South Carolina. I saw a team that scored 44 points the old-school way: with defense, special teams and taking advantage of the other team's mistakes. The Gators are a work in progress on offense, but they used some very clever play calling against the Gamecocks. And Driskel is a keeper.

No. 1: Alabama (7-0)
Next: Mississippi State.
Alabama can be beaten. I'm just not sure anybody in the SEC East or West can do it. Maybe someone in the AFC East or West (not counting the Kansas City Chiefs)? Bama is No. 1 nationally in rush defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and total defense and leads the SEC in scoring drives (54.1 percent of the Tide's drives end with points) and touchdown drives (40 percent). And Nick Saban will pull a player's scholarship if he thinks the kid is looking ahead to the Nov. 3 game at LSU.

(Five on the fringe: Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Florida State, Rutgers, Clemson.)