Articles By Braden Gall
No small number
A win for Penn State this weekend will get Joe Paterno to win No. 400. It’s just another win for Paterno, whose focus is and always has been on his players and their progress, but it’s an amazing total nonetheless. Ridiculous, almost. Consider this:
• If you add up Woody Hayes’ and Jim Tressel’s Ohio State wins (307) you’d still be almost 100 victories shy of Paterno’s total. Michigan coaching legends Fielding Yost and Bo Schembechler together fall about 40 wins shy.
• At the age of 65, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier does not have half as many wins as Paterno at his three Division I stops combined (183).
• Only seven men in history have more than 250 Division 1 victories.
During his 45 years on the sideline, Paterno has guided Penn State to five undefeated seasons and 24 bowl wins. More impressive than all of that — in those 45 years he has suffered through just five losing seasons.
This week’s contest will be no picnic — none of Penn State’s games have been this year — but you have to think that at home, in front of a packed Beaver Stadium crowd, the Nittany Lions have plenty of motivation to beat Northwestern — picking up a third straight victory, earning bowl eligibility, and getting Joe Pa to uncharted territory.
But while you appreciate that milestone — 400 career wins — appreciate this: In Penn State’s last five seasons (2005 to 2009) the team’s winning percentage has been .797 — better than Paterno’s career average of .751.
Paterno built the program into a powerhouse not long after taking the reins from Rip Engle, and he’s kept it there ever since.
The Week That Was
Northwestern 20, Indiana 17
Illinois 44, Purdue 10
Iowa 37, Michigan State 6
Penn State 41, Michigan 31
Ohio State 52, Minnesota 10
Wildcats are bowl bound
Thanks to an outstanding performance by sophomore running back Mike Trumpy (164 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches), Northwestern beat Indiana to claim its sixth win of the season. It’s the fourth consecutive season that coach Pat Fitzgerald has guided his club to the mark.
The Buckeyes roll at Minnesota
Things began slowly for Jim Tressel’s club on Saturday evening, but eventually Ohio State took command of its game against Minnesota. Four offensive players scored touchdowns in the opening half, and Ohio State got 14 points in the second half thanks to touchdowns scored off a blocked punt and fumble return. It was the fifth time Ohio State won a game by 35 or more points this season.
Illinois blasts Purdue
Illinois’ stout defense limited Purdue to just 52 yards of passing in Saturday’s lopsided victory. Ron Zook’s club took an early lead and then exploded for 20 points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The Illinois defense limited the Boilermakers to two successful third down tries in 14 attempts, while the offense collected 24 first downs to Purdue’s nine.
Team of the Week: Iowa
The Hawkeyes were favored to win on Saturday because the game was played in Iowa City, but no one expected them to dominate the previously unbeaten Spartans. The Tyler Sash-to-Micah Hyde first-quarter interception return for a touchdown blew the game wide open, and was one of three picks by the Hawkeyes defense.
Disappointment of the Week: Michigan
Beaver Stadium is an unfriendly environment, but Michigan fans still didn’t expect their team to lose to an under-performing Penn State squad on Saturday. As it was, the Nittany Lions held a 28–10 halftime advantage and finished the game with almost a 15-minute advantage in time of possession. The Wolverines had no answer for Penn State’s running game, and despite another big night from Denard Robinson just couldn’t keep pace.
Offensive Player of the Week: Evan Royster, RB, Penn State
Finally! Royster came up huge for his team last week, carrying 29 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns — his first multiple-touchdown effort of the year and just his second 100-yard game. Because of Royster, Penn State wore down the Wolverines defense and inched a step closer to bowl eligibility.
Defensive Player of the Week: Shaun Prater, DB, Iowa
Immediately after the Hawkeyes took a 17–0 lead, Prater picked off another Kirk Cousins pass and returned it 42 yards into Hawkeye territory. Three plays later it was 23–0. The junior cornerback also assisted Iowa’s run defense with a double-digit tackle performance.
Freshman of the Week: Nathan Scheelhasse, QB, Illinois
Once again the Illini freshman was nearly perfect. Scheelhasse completed 80 percent of his passing attempts (16-of-20) for 195 yards and four touchdowns. On the ground he gained 5.6 yards per attempt and led the Illini in both carries (21) and yards (118).
The Week Ahead
Upset Alert: Wisconsin
No Big Ten team is at much risk this week, but Wisconsin should be the most conscious of not letting this one slip. The Badgers dropped a road game to an underdog late in the year last season (Northwestern). Purdue does not have a strong football team, but with Wisconsin coming off a bye, the Boilers may have enough to keep this contest interesting.
Player to Watch: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
Coming off of a miserable performance the junior hopes to bounce back against a Michigan defense allowing almost 150 rushing yards per game. Last week Penn State’s Evan Royster ripped up the Wolverines, and if Illinois is to keep pace in this contest it will require big performances on the ground from Leshoure and backfield mate Nathan Scheelhasse.
Three teams have an opportunity to become bowl-eligible this weekend: Penn State and either Michigan or Illinois. Five Big Ten teams have already reached the six-win mark.
Wisconsin’s John Clay is just 113 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard mark for a second consecutive season. It would make Clay the conference’s second player to reach the mark this season (Michigan’s Denard Robinson). This week Clay faces a Purdue defense that ranks seventh in rushing yards allowed per contest (139.0) but only allows an average of 3.6 yards per carry.
Michigan 23, Illinois 21
Iowa 44, Indiana 10
Michigan State 31, Minnesota 13
Wisconsin 34, Purdue 7
Penn State 17, Northwestern 14
If you were circling games on South Carolina’s schedule in August, determining importance, this Saturday’s game against Arkansas would’ve ranked highly. But it’s an odd position the Gamecocks find themselves in entering the season’s final month: Arkansas (likely) means nothing in the SEC race. Go figure.
Win or lose this week, the Florida-South Carolina winner on Nov. 13 will play in Atlanta. That’s right: If the Ball Coach wants to finally take his team to the title game, he’ll have to win in Gainesville for the first time with a team on the visitors’ sideline.
Of course, one scenario would alter all this. But Spurrier isn’t exactly expecting it to play out. He laughed at a reporter who asked him what it would be like to wrap up the East on Saturday. “So,” Spurrier hooted, “you’re telling me Vanderbilt is going to beat Florida?”
Not happening. Swamp, it is.
The Gamecocks didn’t play particularly well against Tennessee. But the Gamecocks might’ve lost — or come very close to losing — that game in the past. This season is at least different because of the ability to turn to, gasp, playmakers. Alshon Jeffery had a 12-yard catch that he turned into a 70-yard touchdown, flashing what he calls “game speed.” That was the game-winner, with 12 minutes and change to go.
Then the Gamecocks turned to a horse of a running back — Derek Dooley actually called freshman Marcus Lattimore “Secretariat”; his high school teammates called him “the Horse” — for the final minutes. Lattimore had runs of 40 and 19 yards on the final touchdown drive, on the way to a season-high 184 yards.
Will those playmakers be the difference-makers in the Swamp? Oh, that’s right. Arkansas is first.
South Carolina 38, Tennessee 24
Florida 34, Georgia 31 (ot)
Auburn 51, Ole Miss 31
Arkansas 49, Vanderbilt 14
Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 17
• Florida’s coaches have been maligned in this web space, as well as countless other places. So, give the Gators credit for throwing pretty much everything they had at Georgia to get a big lead. Play two quarterbacks? That’s for amateurs. How about three?
John Brantley’s line — 16-for-25 for 193 yards and a pick — was pedestrian, but Trey Burton (2-for-2 throwing; 110 rush yards) and Jordan Reed (three carries, 19 yards) will give future D-coordinators pause.
Maybe the Bulldogs’ secondary is still leaky, but it appeared the Gators were finally capable of a few downfield plays. Omarius Hines, Frankie Hammond Jr., Deonte Thompson … where have you been?
• Yeah, Auburn played well to win by 20 at Ole Miss. But why were national pundits so impressed with the victory? Because many of them foolishly picked the Rebels to win the game? C’mon, that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe if Ole Miss and Mississippi State merged, to form Magnolia State University.
Auburn plays very little defense. Ole Miss plays less. Advantage, Cam Newton. Newton ran for only 45 yards, but still leads the league in rushing by about 20 yards per game. He's been that good. He threw more in this one and even caught a score. Soon, he'll be kicking extra points.
• Note to Dan Mullen: Quit now and run for governor. Run on the “I Win” ticket. Mullen’s Mississippi State team has now reeled off six in a row Saturday against Kentucky — after the Bulldogs won five games all of last season. And a 17–14 loss to Auburn back in September? That’s looking more and more like a win all the time. The Bulldogs have a bunch of good players, but nothing incredible.
Mullen’s got to get some nods for SEC coach of the year — especially if the Bulldogs can do the unthinkable and topple Bama in two weeks. He's doing the most with the least. Even Gene Chizik would agree with that.
• Tennessee isn’t a very good football team. Don’t believe it? Dooley and the Vols will tell you. One Vol — a defensive player, no less — said he was pleased to score more than 10 points at South Carolina. He thought that was progress. Heck, maybe it was. Hey, Denarius Moore looked good — 228 yards for the senior receiver (most by any FBS player this season). Wait, he’s a senior? Where’s Moore been for three years? Tennessee might have found a quarterback. Stick-figure freshman Tyler Bray (6-6, 175 pounds?) had some decent moments on the road in the SEC. Well, after throwing a pick six.
• Please explain why Arkansas receiver Greg Childs — the same Greg Childs who almost didn’t play because of an ankle injury — was playing in the fourth quarter of a blowout against Vanderbilt? (It was the widest margin of victory in a Bobby Petrino win at Arkansas). The greed, stubbornness or indifference resulted in the Hogs’ top receiver injuring his knee. Now he might not be available this week against South Carolina. Clearly not helpful. In addition, Joe Adams (ankle) isn’t 100 percent. He had to sit last week against the Commodores.
• What was Georgia thinking in overtime? All right, Aaron Murray made some nice plays and throws to get the Bulldogs back in the game. But his final touchdown to A.J. Green appeared to be rather fortunate. So, then you turn the keys over to him in overtime? Murray nearly throws an interception on first down, missing on the corner-route throw in one-on-one coverage. Then, on third down, he throws off his back foot into the middle of the field, praying that Green will save him. Maybe that’s just the curse of having a franchise-type receiver. You lean too hard. But don’t be afraid to call for some safer routes, play-callers — especially when Orson Charles is the one that primarily helped you back into the game. Where was he in OT?
• It’s getting old writing this, but South Carolina’s pass defense stinks. For a team that’s flirting with a division title, it’s a major, major problem. And a huge issue considering Ryan Mallett — regardless of what receivers are healthy — is coming to town. Chris Culliver is hurt and likely done for the season. Let’s see what the Gamecocks do from here. Switching to more man coverage didn't really fix anything. Tennessee became the third team in four weeks to throw for 300 yards against the Gamecocks. Your turn, Mr. Mallett.
Stud of the Week
Cam Newton, Auburn QB. He caught a TD pass this week. That’s new.
Dud of the Week
Matt Simms, Tennessee QB. Yes, it sucks you were removed as quarterback. But the crybaby routine to the media will not do you any favors, pal.
If USC supposedly was the toughest test remaining on Oregon’s schedule, the road to the Ducks’ second straight Pac-10 title could become downright silly. Oregon broke open a close game early in the third quarter and cruised to a 53–32 victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday. Although the game was competitive for over two quarters, there was a sense by the time the game ended that the Trojans were outclassed.
Granted, USC doesn’t have the same brand of depth it’s had in years past because of player defections following last summer’s NCAA sanctions, but even a full complement of players may not have prevented the Ducks from wearing down the Trojans in the second half. Oregon proved it could score quickly or with sustained drives, and the Ducks had a couple of methodical drives in the second half to pull away. USC’s defense had no answer for Oregon’s machine-like offense, which ended up with 599 total yards.
The Trojans have the best offense the Ducks will face this season, other than maybe Stanford. And although USC was able to put up some yards and points against Oregon, the Ducks’ underrated defense came up with enough stops to allow their offense to pull away.
While Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was padding his Heisman Trophy stat sheet by throwing in a receiving touchdown against Ole Miss, Oregon running back LaMichael James kept pace with a dominant 239-yard, three-touchdown performance. Oregon moved up to No. 1 in this week’s Bowl Championship Series standings. The Ducks have four more games — two at home and two on the road. That includes a showdown in their second-to-last game of the season against Arizona, which is tied for second in the Pac-10 standings, one game behind Oregon.
The Ducks close out the season with their annual Civil War battle with Oregon State.
Oregon’s next two games are at home against Washington and then at Cal, teams that look to be headed for the lower half of the conference standings. The Huskies allowed 42 points to Stanford on Saturday. The Autzen Stadium scoreboard operator could have his hands full when the Huskies visit this weekend.
Arizona 29, UCLA 21
Oregon State 35, California 7
Arizona State 42, Washington State 0
Stanford 41, Washington 0
Oregon 53, USC 32
Cal coach Jeff Tedford was already searching for an answer to his team’s troubling split personality. Now, he’s got a bigger problem on his hands.
The Bears continue to play two seasons in one. When they are home, they dispatch opponents easily. When they are on the road, the same thing happens to them. The trend kept up Saturday when Cal was thoroughly taken apart by Oregon State in a 35–7 loss. But the defeat was overshadowed by what appears to be a season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback Kevin Riley, who went down during Cal’s second possession of the game.
The Bears have been to bowl games seven years in a row, but that streak could be in trouble. Cal has to win two of its final four games to become bowl-eligible, and the Bears still have to play Oregon and Stanford. Cal should be decided underdogs in both of those games, meaning it would be a good idea to beat Washington State and Washington.
Most teams don’t have a problem with Washington State, but the Bears must visit the Cougars this weekend with a quarterback making his first career start. Junior Brock Mansion replaced Riley against Oregon St. in the first meaningful action of his career. He had only seen limited time during blowouts previously.
The Cougars are improving and Cal’s playbook may be shrunk with the inexperienced Mansion running the show. That means the Bears may need their defense to carry the day in Pullman. Cal’s defense, like the rest of the team, has been much more effective at home than on the road this season.
Luck Wins Draft Showdown
The showdown of potential top-10 draft picks never really materialized Saturday in Seattle. A huge contingent of NFL scouts was on hand at Husky Stadium as Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck went head-to-head against Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Both are considered high NFL draft picks, with Luck possibly going No. 1 overall.
But this one was all about Luck. He threw for only 192 yards and a touchdown, but he was extremely efficient and added a 51-yard touchdown run. Locker, meanwhile, had one of the worst games of his career, although part of his woes were due to poor pass protection. Locker, who hasn’t turned in the huge season many expected, completed just 7-of-14 passes for 64 yards.
Some believed Locker could have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, but he decided to return to Washington for his senior season. Now, Locker’s stock appears to be falling.
Baylor Bears: Now Do You Believe?
Baylor’s rise in the Big 12 South and the national rankings and in the thoughts and minds of college football fans has found real traction with win over Texas.
Bowl eligible? Nice. Back in the rankings? Cool.
But big time? Not by virtue of wins over the likes of Buffalo and Kansas State and Colorado. The Bears lacked substance, with an ugly loss to TCU and another setback to Texas Tech on their resume.
Not anymore. Baylor beat the Longhorns, 30–22, for the first time since 1997 and won in Austin for the first time since 1991, securing the sort of statement win that had been missing. OK, so this isn’t your typical Texas team, a title contender carved from superb stock. The Longhorns, who have now lost three times at home, are clearly scrambling.
Still, it’s Texas, with all its four- and five-star recruits. And Mack Brown. In Austin.
And while the thought had been that outstanding quarterback Robert Griffin III was willing his team to wins, the win over the Longhorns revealed that the Baylor’s talent is improving across the board.
“It’s been a while since we’ve given our fans proof to believe,” Bears coach Art Briles said afterward.
“Our players are as resilient as any I’ve been around.
“What’s really helped is that we’ve gone down to the wire the last few weeks. We’re used to being in those situations and our guys believe good things are going to happen.”
After prevailing at Texas, Baylor isn’t just bowl-eligible; it is bowl bound. And at 4–1 in the Big 12 South, they lead the pack with several key games against the rest of the division coming up, including a visit to Oklahoma State this Saturday.
“Our goal has always been to win the South title,” Griffin said. “The tide has changed this year and we’re the team to beat.
“People say that Baylor can never beat this team and that team. Well, that Bear is gone.”
Oklahoma State 24, Kansas State 14
Iowa State 28, Kansas 16
Nebraska 31, Missouri 17
Texas A&M 45, Texas Tech 27
Baylor 30, Texas 22
Oklahoma 43, Colorado 10
Huskers Run Away
All the anticipation of Saturday’s North heavyweight title bout — Nebraska vs. Missouri — exited Lincoln after the Huskers delivered a staggering early blow, getting a 66-yard touchdown run from Roy Helu Jr. in the opening moments and bolting to a 24–0 first-quarter lead.
That’s the kind of day it was for Helu and the Huskers. And Mizzou, which was off to its best season start since 1960, lost for the 17th straight time on the road against a Top 25 team.
Helu enjoyed a memorable day, rushing for a school-record 307 yards and three long scoring runs. He had 228 yards on his first 10 carries, and tacked on touchdowns covering 73 and 53 yards.
“I can’t explain how much I feel for my linemen and fullback,” Helu said. “They deserve as much credit as I do.”
Adversity was stacking up on Oklahoma State, with its first loss to Nebraska followed by the one-game suspension of star wide receiver Justin Blackmon as the repercussion of an ill-advised trip to Dallas to watch former teammate Dez Bryant on Monday Night Football.
On top of that, the Cowboys were heading to Kansas State, where they hadn’t won since current coach Mike Gundy was handing off to Barry Sanders in 1988.
But the Pokes prevailed behind their defense and kicking game. They slowed K-State standout running back Daniel Thomas and picked off three second-half passes. And punter Quinn Sharp dropped four punts inside the Wildcat 10.
Overall, OSU out-rushed K-State 213 to 111, with Kendall Hunter running for 143 yards.
Player of the Week: Roy Helu Jr., Sr., Nebraska. Helu’s big day in a big win over Missouri broke Calvin Jones’ NU rushing record of 294 yards, set against Kansas in 1991. And it was much needed, with quarterback Taylor Martinez missing the second half with a bruised right leg. Late in the game, when the Tigers entertained faint hopes of a comeback, Helu kept moving the chains and the clock.
Game of the Week: Baylor at Oklahoma State. Two teams picked for way down in the South Division are way up, both in the Big 12 title hunt, as well as the Top 25. While strange things can happen, the Bears and Cowboys are squaring off in what amounts to an elimination bout within the conference.
On the Spot: Mack Brown, Texas. Don’t look now, but the Longhorns are a .500 team at 4–4 overall. They’ve lost three times at home (UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor) and seem to be in disarray, just one season after making the BCS title game. Brown remains the king of Texas, but there’s some work ahead in directing a rebound.
In the Spotlight: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M. Better late than never, right? A former prep quarterback who spent three seasons at wideout, Tannehill has replaced Jerrod Johnson behind center and thrived. He passed for a school-record 449 yards and four touchdowns and led the Aggies to their most points in a league home game since 2005 in the win over Texas Tech.
Paul Rhoads, Iowa State. The second-year coach has crafted some benchmark wins in his short stay in Ames. His teams have shown character, too. Just two weeks ago, the Cyclones were reeling and seemingly bound for the bottom of the North Division, after surrendering 120 points in losses to Utah and Oklahoma. Now ISU is streaking, beating Texas and Kansas back-to-back and creeping within one win of bowl eligibility at 5–4. The closing schedule is rugged, with home games against Nebraska and Missouri and a trip to Colorado. Circle the visit to Boulder as the make-or-break game.
Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M. Johnson’s spiral has apparently flattened out, with Tannehill’s ascension in College Station. The two QBs had split time the week before, but it was Tannehill all the way in the win over Tech, while Johnson watched from the sideline. It’s been a freefall senior season for Johnson, the school’s career passing yards leader.
By the Numbers
4 Conference wins by Baylor, its most as a member of the Big 12.
34.5 Average distance of Nebraska’s 34 touchdowns from the line of scrimmage.
208 Yards receiving for Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles, a school record.
Optimists attribute it to parity. Realists attribute it to mediocrity. Members of those two groups can argue about the cause all they want, but they can’t disagree about the effect: The ACC is absolutely unpredictable.
In six games involving ACC teams over the weekend, four underdogs emerged victorious. NC State was playing at home in its Thursday night victory Florida State, so that upset was mild. But injury-ravaged Boston College — five-game losing streak and all — knocked off Clemson. And Virginia, mired in a nine-game losing streak in conference play, toppled Miami. Then Duke, which had dropped six consecutive games and looked terrible doing it, won at Navy.
Even the games that ended with the favored team winning unfolded in unusual fashion. North Carolina needed to rally from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat William & Mary, an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. Maryland won what was supposed to be a close game against Wake Forest by 48 points.
“In the ACC, week in and week out, anybody can beat anyone,” Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith said.
That statement is no revelation, of course. After all, this is a conference that hasn’t had a single team go undefeated in league play since it split into divisions in 2005. This is a conference in which the league champion has had at least two league losses in three of the last five seasons. This is a conference in which 10 of the 12 teams posted league records of 4–4 or better in 2008, although no team did better than 5–3. And this is a conference in which a team picked to finish in last place, Wake Forest in 2006, won the league championship that year.
The biggest winner this past weekend in the ACC didn’t even play a game. With Miami’s loss, Virginia Tech increased its lead in the Coastal Division to two games in the loss column. That means the Hokies (6–2, 4–0 ACC), who are on a roll with a six-game winning streak, can slip up once and still win the division outright.
That should be of some comfort to Virginia Tech fans, because in the ACC, it’s usually a matter of when rather than if with regard to upsets.
NC State 28, Florida State 24 (Thurs.)
Boston College 16, Clemson 10
Virginia 24, Miami 19
Maryland 62, Wake Forest 14
Duke 34, Navy 31
North Carolina 21, William & Mary 17
O’Brien plays to win, gets rewarded
NC State coach Tom O’Brien made a decision that could end up making his team’s season. Trailing Florida State 24–21 and facing fourth and goal from inside the 1, O’Brien originally sent out his field-goal unit to go for the tie. But then he called a timeout, thought better of it and decided to go for the touchdown. Quarterback Russell Wilson found tight end George Bryan in the end zone for what turned out to be the winning score with 2:40 remaining.
The result of O’Brien’s decision was that Florida State needed a touchdown, not a field goal, on its ensuing possession. The Seminoles drove the ball to the NC State 4, where Christian Ponder lost a fumble when tailback Ty Jones bumped into him after a play-action fake.
The victory put the Wolfpack (6–2, 3–1) in control of their own destiny in the Atlantic Division. N.C. State finishes with three of its final four games on the road, including trips to division rivals Clemson and Maryland.
Harris injury hurts Hurricanes
The biggest surprise — if there is such a thing in the ACC — of the weekend came with Miami’s loss at Virginia. The Hurricanes (5–3, 3–2) got off to a slow start in the game, and then they lost their starting quarterback when Jacory Harris took a vicious (but clean) hit to chest from defensive lineman John-Kevin Dolce.
Harris suffered a concussion on the play, presumably when his head hit the ground from the force of the hit, and is questionable for this week’s game against Maryland.
“Our medical team has done a great job of evaluating and making sure that Jacory is OK,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “The process of when he will play is up to our medical staff. He will not play until our medical staff sees that he is ready to go.”
Harris threw the first of five Miami interceptions on the play he suffered the injury, and he didn’t return to the game. His absence left the Hurricanes in a bind because backup quarterback Alonzo Highsmith had a hand injury that prevented him from playing. That forced Spencer Whipple, son of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, into action. Whipple completed two passes to his own receivers and two passes to the Cavaliers out of his six attempts as Miami went into halftime trailing 14–0.
When the Hurricanes came out in the third quarter, they did so with their fourth quarterback. True freshman Stephen Morris, who had not played all season and planned to redshirt, played the rest of the game.
Morris completed 9-of-22 passes for 162 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His 60-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin with 4:39 remaining brought the Hurricanes within one score of the lead after they trailed 24–0 early in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been working him a little bit, and you have to give a young man the opportunity,” Shannon said. “I had confidence in him, and he responded late in the game.”
Morris might get more opportunities to respond. If Harris is unable to play against the Terrapins, Shannon already has announced that Morris will start the game.
Cavaliers enjoy different experience
Two weeks before, Virginia coach Mike London required his players to remain on the field at Scott Stadium as North Carolina celebrated its first victory at Virginia since 1981. London, trying to set a tone in his first season at the helm, wanted the Cavaliers to remember how it felt to get beat 44–10 in their homecoming game.
On Saturday, London required his players to remain on the field at Scott Stadium once again. This time, he wanted them to remember how it felt to get a big win in front of the home crowd.
“After we got beat by North Carolina, I wanted them to feel what that feels like,” London said. “It's the same thing with students and people standing around. I want them to feel what that feels like.
“I don’t know how many other opportunities we are going to have to feel that before the season ends, but you have to start somewhere and you have to start a mindset of ‘this is what's going to happen around here for a long time.’ Being out there and sharing the moment with them and the students was a signature moment for them.”
Big East officials annually try to size up the league’s best football teams and match them in late November. This season, for instance, Pittsburgh, the preseason favorite, is scheduled to take on West Virginia and defending champ Cincinnati late in the season. It’s supposed to serve as de facto title games since the conference has no championship.
This season, however, the two best teams might have played back on Oct. 16. Pittsburgh and surprising Syracuse have started to separate themselves from a crowded pack in the race for the BCS berth. The Panthers are now 3–0 in league play, while the Orange are 3–1. No other Big East team has more than one league victory. Pitt, though, has an extra edge because of its 45–14 decision in head-to-head play.
No one, however, around the SU program is complaining. The Orange took its fourth road win of the season last weekend via a 31–7 decision at Cincinnati. After a scoreless first quarter, Syracuse scored 17 points within a 5:03 span of the second period and pulled away in the second half. SU is now 6–2 overall — to the surprise of many. “I can’t even explain it,” said SU safety Max Suter. “It’s just an awesome feeling.”
SU got 109 rushing yards from Delone Carter and a pair of touchdown passes from quarterback Ryan Nassib. Much of the story, however, centered on the Orange defense. The Bearcats, now 3–5 overall and 1–2 in league play, entered the game averaging 30.3 points and 446.4 yards, but were held to just seven points and 277 yards.
Pittsburgh, 5–3 overall, also leaned on its defense in a 20–3 win over Louisville at Heinz Field. The Panthers held Louisville to 185 yards total and 5-for-12 on third down conversions. “I think our defense is really clicking right now,” said Pitt safety Dom DeCicco.
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard had a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles.
Meanwhile, in East Hartford, Connecticut coach Randy Edsall got some relief from the heat and West Virginia coach Bill Stewart received another blast of it. The Huskies picked up their first league win of the season Friday by rallying for a 16–13 overtime win against the Mountaineers at Rentschler Field. The game followed UConn’s season-long theme. It is unbeaten in four games at home this season and winless on the road in four opportunities. As with Syracuse and Pitt, defense proved key. The Huskies kept the Mountaineers out of the end zone for the final three quarters and in overtime. Kicker Dave Teggart won the game with his third field goal of the game — a 27-yard kick in overtime — after WVU’s Ryan Clarke fumbled the ball away on the Mountaineers’ possession.
Huskies’ back Jordan Todman had 113 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 33 carries, while previous third-string quarterback Zach Frazer threw for 166 yards.
West Virginia had 414 yards of offense, but fell to 5–3 overall and into last place in league play at 1–2.
Connecticut 16, West Virginia 13 (ot)
Pittsburgh 20, Louisville 3
Syracuse 31, Cincinnati 7
Powell hurts knee
Louisville running back Bilal Powell, the nation’s No. 5 rusher, left the Pitt game with an apparent knee injury and did not return. Nothing appeared to be seriously wrong with the back. That wasn’t the case, however, in regard to the U of L offense, which was held to its lowest scoring and yardage totals of the season.
Huskies on the spot
Connecticut recovered four West Virginia fumbles, none bigger than Lawrence Wilson’s pickup in overtime, when the Mountaineers had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. WVU fumbled seven times.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said he’s pretty much decided which of his quarterbacks — Chas Dodd or Tom Savage — will start this week against South Florida, but was keeping the decision under wraps for a while. Savage is healthy after healing from injuries to his ribs and throwing hand.
South Florida is expected to be without defensive end Craig Marshall, who has a foot injury, when the Bulls meet Rutgers on Wednesday. Marshall leads USF with four sacks. Junior Patrick Hampton will get the start.
Cincinnati coach Butch Jones had some interesting things to say after his team’s home loss to Syracuse. “There’s a lot of things that people don’t see that go on behind closed doors,” Jones said. “Our big supporters do. They understand where we’re at, but the average Joe Public has no idea.” Cincy played against SU without starting quarterback Zach Collaros, who missed the game with a knee injury. Chazz Anderson threw for 148 yards.
Half of the Big East is off this week. On Wednesday, Rutgers visits South Florida for an ESPN2 game. The only conference game on Saturday has Louisville at Syracuse.
What is this, 2007? Once again, the road to the Super Bowl clearly will wind its way through the historic streets of Foxborough, Mass. The town that was once home to the world’s largest straw hat factory — thanks, Wikipedia — is also home to the team to beat in 2010. We’re seven weeks into the NFL season, and order seems to have returned to the NFL; the Patriots are 6–1, and Tom Brady is the leader in the clubhouse for MVP honors. Brady played gunslinger against Brett Favre and the Vikings, finding Brandon Tate on a broken play for a decisive 65-yard touchdown in the Pats’ 28–18 win over the Vikings. “That’s a pretty basic scramble situation,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Tate’s first career touchdown. “It really was not a very well-run play. But (we) made the best of a bad situation.” That’s what champions do. Ray Lewis and Rex Ryan may make more noise, but the Pats are quietly building a case that they’re the best team in football. Again.
Wade Must Go — and So Must Brad
The removal of Wade Phillips as Cowboys head coach is looking more and more like a no-brainer. The Cowboys have given up the pretense of even trying to save Phillips’ job and are playing even worse than their 1–6 record would indicate. “I’m dumbfounded,” owner Jerry Jones said after a 35–17 loss to Jacksonville in which the Cowboys made David Garrard look like vintage Joe Montana. “I’m distraught, to say the least,” Phillips said, before committing professional hari-kari with this remark: “I’ve got talented players and I’m not getting them to play well enough. To me, that’s the root of the problem.” In that case, problem easily solved. Over to you, Jerry. A little less obvious, but no less necessary, is a change at the top in Minnesota. A popular pick to make the Super Bowl, the Vikings slipped to 2–6 with their loss to New England, and Childress has pretty clearly lost his locker room, which erupted with some bizarre postgame performance art from Randy Moss, who conducted a five-minute monologue in which he extolled his former team and coach while expressing disappointment with his current boss. That disappointment is understandable. Childress’ offense targeted the second-best receiver in history all of two times yesterday. That’s a fire-able offense right there.
Jets Offense Exposed
Coming off a bye, the Jets were inexcusably bad on offense in a 9–0 loss to Green Bay. The Packers’ defense is middle-of-the-pack (excuse the pun) by any statistical measure, yet Mason Crosby’s first-quarter field goal was all the production the Pack would need on a blustery day in the Meadowlands. It was a miserable afternoon for the Sanchize; Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez completed only 42.1 percent of his passes and was picked off twice. Aaron Rodgers didn’t fare much better — he was 15-of-34 passing — but the Pack protected the ball and took advantage of Jets miscues to embarrass Rex Ryan’s self-proclaimed Super Bowl favorites. “It felt embarrassing to be shut out at home,” said right tackle Damien Woody. “Our personnel and our coaching staff is too good for us to be shut out at home.”
Tough Threesome in NFC South
The division produced the Super Bowl champion in 2009, and it’s producing one of the most compelling races in the NFL in 2010, thanks to the emergence of the Tampa Bay Bucs, who have joined the Falcons and the Saints to create a three-way battle for dominance at the top of the division. The Bucs moved to 3–0 on the road and 5–2 overall with their 38–35 comeback win over the Cardinals, as rookie LeGarrette Blount rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Josh Freeman played mistake-free football. Meanwhile, the Saints showed that they’re still dangerous by beating the Steelers 20–10, and the Falcons have looked at times like the best team in the NFC. All three clubs have championship qualities. The winner will have earned it.
What’s Up in D.C.?
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King cites Mike Shanahan’s “stones” in yanking Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman to run the Redskins’ two-minute offense. I question Shanahan’s sanity. Rex Grossman? Why not put in a call to Ryan Leaf while you’re at it? Shanahan benched McNabb for the Skins’ final two possessions, citing Grossman’s comfort level with the two-minute offense. I’d hate to see Grossman operate in uncomfortable circumstances. He fumbled on his first play, and Ndamukong Suh grabbed the ball and raced 17 yards for the clinching touchdown to complete a 23-point fourth quarter in the Lions’ 37–25 win. McNabb took the high road, saying, “You have to be a professional. There's a long season ahead of us.” And, thanks to unnecessary unrest at the quarterback position, it just got longer.
Circuitous (adj.): having a circular or winding course.
The word is also defined as not being forthright or direct in language or action.
Clifton “Cliff” Phifer Lee’s career path to World Series Game 1 ace could fall into both categories. In fact, it’s a tale that involves one of the worst trades in baseball history, seven different organizations, a cancer scare and two trips to the Fall Classic.
Over the last three seasons, Lee has endeared himself to not one, two or three major league fan bases, but four. And has done so in remarkable fashion on the field. Try a 2.98 ERA, 17 complete games and one Cy Young award in 93 starts since the open of the 2008 season.
A far cry from clubhouse in-fighting, being booed off the field and a demotion to the minors. All of which he would endure before getting his first taste of October baseball.
Lee, a Benton, Ark., native, was originally selected in the eighth round of the 1997 MLB draft by the Florida Marlins. He did not sign with the Fish, opting instead to enroll at Meridian Community College in Mississippi where he pitched for one season, after which he was drafted again — in the 20th round by the Baltimore Orioles. The year at a C.C. had cost him 12 rounds.
However, Lee bounced back. Instead of signing with the Orioles, he chose to attend the University of Arkansas. Two years later he signed with the Montreal Expos as a fourth-round pick in the 2000 draft.
In his first two years in the minors, Lee showed improvement and was promoted from A-Cape Fear to high-A-Jupiter, and then to AA-Harrisburg for the start of the ’02 campaign. That year he started 15 games for Harrisburg before the first of his many transactions — a trade that will go down in history as one of baseball’s worst.
On June 27, 2002, Lee was shipped to the Cleveland Indians with Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew. Colon was a solid 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 17 starts for Montreal, yet the Expos finished 19 games back of the Braves in the East, and 12.5 games behind the eventual NL Champion Giants in the Wild Card. Needless to say, the Expos gambled and lost the entire savings account.
En route to the majors, however, Lee had one more very serious hurdle to overcome that most minor leaguers know nothing about. Lee’s four-month old son Jaxon was diagnosed with leukemia and given a 30% chance to live. However, after chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and a stem cell transplant, Jaxon, now a healthy nine year-old, is in remission. (He could be seen in his father’s arms after the Rangers clinched the AL pennant.)
After three drafts, his son’s bout with cancer and one very lopsided trade, Lee made his major league debut on September 15th of 2002 in an Indians uniform.
He made 11 starts in his first two seasons for the Indians with a respectable 3-4 record and 3.30 ERA. In 2004, Lee finally became a regular in the Indians rotation and posted an above average 14-8 record with a severely below average 5.43 ERA. His 81 walks that year are still a career high by a wide margin.
He showed dramatic improvement in his second full season. Lee led the team with 18 wins, finished second in innings pitched with 202 and third in strikeouts. Along with his 3.79 ERA, Lee finished fourth in the 2005 Cy Young voting. Lee helped the Tribe to 93 wins in 2005.
Yet, as the Indians regressed in 2006 — from 93 wins to 78 wins — so, too, did Lee. Despite his dip in production, Lee earned his first big contract when the Indians signed him to a $14 million deal in midseason. Motivated, driven, and ambitious should have been words used to describe Lee’s 2007 season, right?
The ‘07 season did not start as planned, however, when Lee suffered a groin injury in spring training and was forced to start the season on the disabled list. He struggled mightily in his return to the rotation, going 4-9 with a 5.38 ERA in his first 16 starts of the season.
On July 21st, things began to unravel for the newly minted millionaire — at the Ballpark in Arlington, of all places.
There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Mark Teixeira cost $180 million. C.C. Sabathia cost $152 million. A.J. Burnett cost $82.5 million. And yes, the Yankees got their 27th World Championship for all that money.
But that was last year.
Glory is an extremely fleeting concept in major league baseball these days. Where are the Bronx Bombers and their league-leading $206 million payroll now?
Like the rest of us, they are sitting on their couches watching the San Francisco Giants, and the league’s 10th-largest payroll, dominate the game from 60-feet, 6-inches away.
A few years ago, the Tampa Bay Rays were showered with adoration, not just for reaching the World Series but for how they did it. It was long and tedious process. It was the right way to do things. It was the future of baseball.
One out of three isn’t too bad, because building through the draft and grooming the foundation for success from within has taken center stage once again. Just ask the Phillies. Or the Braves. Or even the Padres, for that matter.
So why haven’t the Giants, and general manager Brain Sabean, been given the same sort of praise the Rays got in 2008?
The blueprint for the Giants’ championship run is equally impressive, if not more so. Like the Rays, San Fran won the NL West and two subsequent playoff series based largely on excellent homegrown pitching. In fact, the four-man homegrown rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner is only the second fully homegrown rotation in postseason history (since the inception of the draft in 1965), the other being the 1986 Boston Red Sox rotation comprised of Roger Clemens, Oil Can Boyd, Al Nipper and Bruce Hurst.
GAME 4 PREVIEW HERE
The Giants landed the first two punches against the Rangers in San Francisco. The run total differential of 20-7 sounds more dominating than reality. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain silenced the Rangers’ bats, but there have been only two innings when the Giants’ offense did its damage. A six-run fifth inning in Game 1 and a seven-run eighth in Game 2 doomed the Rangers. Texas played one game with a sub-par right fielder, and one game without its cleanup hitter. Even with those two handicaps, the Rangers were still within two innings of playing toe-to-toe with the Giants. So a day off, a return home and changing to American League rules are three big changes in the Rangers’ favor. Colby Lewis beat the Yankees twice and gives the team confidence. Expect the Rangers, fueled by energetic fans, to regain their swagger and get back in the series.
At their workout on Friday, the Rangers appeared loose and confident. But behind the calm, business-as-usual facade, they must be feeling pressure of not falling behind 3-0.
An optimistic Rangers’ fan may want to point to June when the Rangers reeled off 11 wins in a row against National League teams. So, winning four of five doesn’t seem to daunting, does it? However, the realist knows that it was Milwaukee, Florida, Houston and Pittsburgh the Rangers defeated— not exactly teams vying for the NL pennant.
San Francisco Game 3 starter Jonathan Sanchez was last seen leaving the mound in Philadelphia after a wayward pitch struck Chase Utley in the back, which ultimately emptied both benches for a little pushing and shoving. Sanchez was anything but sharp and pitched with no confidence.
And the Rangers have been feasting on left-handed pitching. In their last five games against lefty starters, the Rangers have 39 hits and 16 earned runs in 29.2 innings. And those five left-handed starters were aces David Price, C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. So Sanchez will not intimidate Texas hitters. During the regular season, Texas hitters loved facing southpaws. The two through seven hitters should give Sanchez trouble.
Texas hitters against lefthanders during the regular season:
Michael Young, .322
Josh Hamilton, .271
Vlad Guerrero, .338
Nelson Cruz, .330
Ian Kinsler, .376
Bengie Molina, .311
The Rangers will score in Game 3. If Lewis can’t quiet the Giants’ bats, this will turn into batting practice for both teams and bullpens will play a huge role. And the Texas bullpen hasn’t shown any effectiveness at all, which would clearly the advantage would quickly turn San Fran’s way. So it is imperative that Lewis work deep enough into the game to shorten the bridge to closer Neftali Feliz.
Lewis will squelch the Giants enough to prevent a San Francisco sweep.
Each week, Athlon will take a deeper look at the fantasy matchups that affect your lineup. Some players will deserve a second look from managers, while others could create some concern. Check out Athlon's College Fantasy Start or Sit for Week 9:
QB — Deserves A Second Look
Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss (Auburn)
The former Duck posted the best game of his season last weekend against Arkansas when he threw for 327 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for 98 more yards. Auburn's bend but dont break defense will allow yards to Colonel Reb. They currently rank 101st in pass defense, and in last year's win over Ole MIss, the Tigers allowed 219 yards rushing on 39 carries. I don't think the Rebels pull the upset, but Masoli should make it interesting.
Austin Dantin, Toledo (@ Eastern Michigan)
It is just too easy to pick on the Eagles from Ypsilanti. And Dantin has been solid now that the Rockets are into the heart of their MAC schedule. He has scored four rushing TDs over his last three games and has rushed for 130 yards over the last two. EMU's defensive ineptitude is well documented: 117th against the run, 119th in scoring defense and 109th in total defense.
Trent Steelman, Army (VMI)
As expected from the Army signal caller, Steelman has been productive on the ground. He has scored a rushing TD in five straight games, including a four-TD game against Temple. He has also topped 100 yards passing twice in the last three contests. Against lowly VMI, Steelman has a chance to post a good number.
Garrett Gilbert, Texas (Baylor)
The Longhorn passer has proven himself in very different ways the last two weeks (at least, from a fantasy standpoint). He outrushed Taylor Martinez in the big win in Lincoln two weeks ago then posted his first career 300-yard passing effort last week. The Bears will be dramatically outmatched talent-wise, and their 84th-rated pass defense should be easy to beat.
Jeffery Godfrey, UCF (East Carolina)
Three rushing TDs and an actual passing TD (his second of the year) dot Godfrey's resume over the last two weeks. This could be a high-scoring affair (despite the Knights' solid defense), and ECU's 110th-ranked pass defense could be beaten this weekend. The Pirates also rank 105th in scoring defense.
Matt Scott, Arizona (@ UCLA)
Scott managed the game beautifully last weekend against Washington. He completed 18-of-22 passes for 233 yards and a pair of scores. He added a sneaky 65 yards rushing, and that ability to make plays with his legs is the main difference between him and injured starter Nick Foles. Against the porous UCLA defense (120th rush D, 89th score D, 85th total D), Scott will have space to make plays.
Austen Arnaud, Iowa State (Kansas)
Arnaud has never really lived up to any of the fantasy hype, but has some servicable games from time to time. This week could be one of those times. No team in the Big 12 allows more points per game (33.86 ppg) and no Big 12 team is less effective against the pass (156 opponent passer rating) than the Jayhawks.
QB — Better Think Twice
Blaine Gabbert vs. Taylor Martinez (Missouri @ Nebraska)
On the Missouri side, Gabbert has never had a worse game than against the Huskers last season. Certainly the ankle injury hampered his play, but in fantasy, it doesn't matter why you posted a 134-yard, 0-TD, 2-INT stat line. And that was in Columbia. On the other side of the ledger is a freshman who struggled in his biggest test of the year so far. So much so, that he was benched. The Tigers D has allowed plenty of passing yards in the last two wins (322 to Jerrod Johnson, 303 to Landry Jones), but against the run, they have been solid. And that is where Martinez has done most of his damage. In those two wins, Mizzou allowed 156 yards on 58 carries (2.8 ypc). The nation's fifth-rated scoring defense (13.1 ppg) has allowed a total of 30 yards rushing to opposing quarterbacks for the entire year.
Robert Griffin, Baylor (@ Texas)
The Texas Longhorns, for all of their struggles on defense, rank No. 2 nationally against the pass, allowing under 140 yards per game through the air. Two weeks ago, they made Taylor Martinez look foolish, inducing a 4-for-12, 63-yard, 13-carry, 21-yard, 0-TD performance. The appalling home losses to UCLA and Iowa State were shocking, but it wasn't because the quarterback lit up the sky with an air attack. In those two losses, the Horns allowed a total of 163 passing yards. No player means more to his team than Mr. Griffin, but the Burnt Orange has allowed Baylor to top 20 points only twice in 12 games — all Bear losses.
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M (Texas Tech)
The Aggie passer is beginning to put his name into the "Year's Largest Fantasy Bust" conversation. He has a total of two passing TDs in his last three games, and he hasn't really run the ball much at all. He has a total of 146 yards rushing for the season. And because he has turned the ball over 11 times, his coaching staff is toying with playing the back-up some this week. He might just be too risky.
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State (@ Iowa)
This one might be the most obvious bench play of the week. Cousins placed his name in the Heisman race with his 331-yard, 3-TD come-from-behind perfornance last week but won't be able to produce this week. He threw for 225 yards and one score in last year's 15-13 loss to Iowa in East Lansing. Don't expect anything more than that this weekend.
Aaron Murray vs. John Brantley (Georgia vs. Florida — Jacksonville)
Brantley and the Florida offense aren't even worth talking about. They should be nowhere near your fantasy lineup. But Murray has started to prove that he is the real deal. He wasn't needed last weekend, and the Gators have been taking the ball away from quarterbacks all season. Florida is tied for third in the nation with 13 INTs and forced four INTs against the Dawgs last weekend. Expect a low-scoring, grind-it-out-on-the-ground win for Georgia, but Murray's upside is limited.
Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP (@ Marshall)
The Miner passer has been hampered by an injury of late, and his fantasy stats have taken a huge hit. He has totaled 272 passing yards over the last two games with five interceptions and one touchdown. A road trip to Marshall is not what the doctor ordered.
RB — Deserves A Second Look
Knile Davis, Arkansas (Vanderbilt)
In the last three weeks, Davis has emerged as Bobby-P's favorite back. He has double-digit carries in all three, and over the last two games, Davis has out-carried the rest of the Hogs backs 36 to 13. He finally delievered the massive fantasy line last week against Ole Miss (176 yards, 3 TDs). The Dores rank 92nd against the run, allowing over 182 yards per game.
Adonis Thomas, Toledo (@ Eastern Michigan)
Thomas was given the most attempts of his career last week, 19, and he responded with 130 yards and a score against Ball State. EMU's defense is much maligned and will not slow anything the Rockets do. Play Thomas without any hesitation.
Jared Hassin, Army (VMI)
It is always a serious risk to play any running back from Army (and the last time I put Hassin on this list, he did not even register a carry), but against VMI, everyone has a chance. Hassin has been given the ball 43 times over his last three games and has back-to-back 100-yard efforts.
Ronnie Weaver, UCF (East Carolina)
George O'Leary might have actually settled on a running back. Weaver has two 130-plus-yard games in his last four and has three multiple TD games in his last five. He has averaged 22 carries per game over his last four, and this weekend should feature plenty of points. ECU ranks 88th against the run, 110th against the pass and 105th in scoring defense.
Johnny White and Shaun Draughn, North Carolina (William & Mary)
Ugh, it's William & Mary?
Alexander Teich, Navy (Duke)
Much like Army, playing an option back is always a risk, but Teich has been solid. He has been handed the ball 47 times over the last two games, and he has responded with 305 yards and two TDs. Duke ranks 107th against the run (203 ypg) and is 114th in scoring defense (38.7 ppg).
Back-ups worth a shot this weekend:
Matthew Tucker, TCU (@ UNLV)
Michael Hayes, Houston (@ Memphis)
Nic Grigsby, Arizona (@ UCLA)
Matt Brown, Temple (Akron)
Cameron Marshall or Deantre Lewis, Arizona State (Washington State)
The San Francisco Giants took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven World Series Thursday night with a 9-0 victory over the Texas Rangers.
The star of Game 2 was Giants’ starter Matt Cain, who tossed 7.2 shutout innings on a windy night at AT&T Park. He was supported by 1997 World Series hero Edgar Renteria, who had a home run and three RBIs, as well as third baseman Juan Uribe’s two RBIs.
In his first postseason, Cain has pitched 21.1 innings without allowing an earned run. The big righty joined five others (Kenny Rogers, 2006 Tigers; Burt Hooten, 1981 Dodgers; Jon Matlack, 1973 Mets; Waite Hoyt, 1921 Yankees; Christy Mathewson, 1905 Giants) to have three starts in a single postseason without allowing an earned run.
Game 2 was closer than the final score would indicate. It looked like the Rangers would score first in the top of the fifth inning when Ian Kinsler hit a monstrous drive off the top of the wall in dead center. He would settle for a leadoff double, but then Cain stranded the Texas second baseman by getting three outs on balls that did not leave the infield.
Renteria did score the game’s first run in the bottom of the fifth with a solo homer to left field. In the top of the sixth, Cain once again showed the mettle that has made him such an effective hurler this postseason. After giving up singles to Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, as well as a wild pitch, the Giants’ starter escaped the one-out jam by getting Nelson Cruz and Kinsler out on short popouts.
"I tried to get ahead of those guys," Cain said. "My biggest goal was to get them in my situation, but working the counts in my favor."
The Giants chased Rangers’ starter C.J. Wilson one batter into the bottom of the seventh, and postseason veteran Uribe added an RBI in that frame to give San Francisco a 2-0 lead. Cain was pulled after 7.2 innings, as lefty specialist Javier Lopez got AL batting champion Josh Hamilton to fly out to end the top of the eighth.
Instead of an exciting finish, the Rangers bullpen (lack of facial hair?) could not find the strike zone in bottom of that frame. They walked four and gave up four hits as the Giants scored seven runs to put the game out of reach.
"You know, those guys were good, especially Cain tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We had some opportunities early in the ballgame to put some runs on the board, and we had the right people up there, and he made his pitches. That's what he does well. We just couldn't get it done. I think you have to tip your hat to the pitching over there right now.”
Washington’s team will be glad to get back home to Arlington, where they’ll enjoy a hitter’s park, the ability to play designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, and the home crowd. The Rangers led Major League Baseball in batting average this season, but they have only hit 4-for-21 with runners in scoring position in two World Series games. Conversely, the red-hot Giants have batted an amazing .500 (13-26) with runners in scoring position. Texas must reverse that fact to get back into this series.
Thirteen of the last 14 teams to go up 2-0 in the World Series have gone on to win the title, with the 1996 New York Yankees being the lone exception. The Rangers will try to change that trend Saturday night, when they send Colby Lewis to the mound to face Giants’ lefty Jonathan Sanchez in Game 3.
Tennessee (2–5, 0–4) at No. 17 South Carolina (5–2, 3–2), 12:21 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Holy role reversal. Typically, it’s Tennessee hanging around in the SEC race and South Carolina treading water (OK, maybe not this badly). But it’s at least rare — in fact it hasn’t happened — that the Volunteers are the easiest conference opponent for the division-leading Gamecocks.
Tennessee has managed to hang around for some first halves this season against good teams, like last week against Alabama and Oregon earlier in the year, but you’ve got to figure they’ll eventually run out of steam for even that. Maybe now? Injuries and suspensions have really stripped down this team to Derek Dooley’s Comedy Tour. You almost want the presumed blowout to be worse, just to see what Dooley says next.
The Vols couldn’t cover Julio Jones (221 yards) last week. They will not be able to cover Alshon Jeffery (121.1 yards a game), either. That’s not even taking into account South Carolina’s emerging run game, with Marcus Lattimore (89.7 ypg) back from a gimpy ankle.
Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina RB. Almost like a midseason breather last week for Lattimore. Expect him to come back strong.
Florida (4–3, 2–3) vs. Georgia (4–4, 3–3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Any other season, and neither of these teams would be in the East mix at this point. But, then again, they’re the teams who have won all but two of the division titles this decade. So, we’re just not accustomed to this mediocrity from the division, as a whole.
But, in reality, this is an East Division elimination game. Georgia has won three in a row; Florida has lost three straight. The Gators, as you know, have dominated this series in recent years. What gives in this one?
Seven games it, it seems apparent that Florida’s offense will simply not click this season. We’ve given up on it. Given the personnel and stubborn coaching philosophy, it will never get going. And, as most expected, Georgia’s defense has settled in pretty nicely with that 3-4. Linebacker Justin Houston is putting together an all-SEC season without much fanfare.
Aaron Murray, A.J. Green and Washaun Ealey? Georgia just has more weaponry than Florida. Been a long time since you could say that. Like, since the 1980s?
Player to Watch: Chris Rainey, Florida RB/WR. Is he really going to play? If he does, will he make a difference?
No. 3 Auburn (8–0, 5–0) at Ole Miss (3–4, 1–3), 5 p.m. CT
The key there is the word “at.” See how Auburn is to the left of that word? That means it’s playing a rare away game. The Tigers — now the new No. 1 in the BCS — play only four games away from Jordan-Hare. This week’s game at Ole Miss is the third (Alabama is the fourth). The first two? Three-point wins at Mississippi State and Kentucky.
As you see, it hasn’t been easy. Then again, many of Auburn’s games, even the home ones, haven’t been easy. Ole Miss could test the Tigers, but the Rebels don’t have enough ammo for four quarters. And, true to every week’s outlook, Ole Miss has no one to stop Cameron Newton. He’ll do to the Rebs what he’s done to everyone, taking over the game late.
Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn QB. Why not?
Kentucky (4–4, 1–4) at No. 23 Mississippi State (6–2, 2–2), 6 p.m. CT
Remember when people thought Kentucky was a legitimate division contender? Oh, right, that was last week. At 1–4, Joker Phillips has acknowledged the Wildcats are now interested in the best available bowl. That’ll first require two more victories. Charleston Southern is one. Vanderbilt is a definite possibility for two. How much would Kentucky like to beat Spurrier and Tennessee in one season?
A bowl game is on Mississippi State’s mind, as well. The Bulldogs would love to go to one in Dan Mullen’s second year after narrowly missing one a season ago. And they will after getting past a Kentucky team that has no defense and is still missing Derrick Locke.
Player to Watch: Derrick Locke, Kentucky RB. Point blank: Locke (shoulder) has to play for the Wildcats to have a chance. But that doesn’t seem likely.
Vanderbilt (2–5, 1–3) at No. 19 Arkansas (5–2, 2–2), 6 p.m. CT
Sort of like South Carolina with Lattimore a week ago, Arkansas will likely be careful this week with a couple of its most important offensive players, receivers Greg Childs and Joe Adams. Both have ankle injuries, like Lattimore. The Razorbacks can get by without their top two receivers against Vandy.
The Hogs would love for Ryan Mallett, who’s nursing a bruised shoulder himself, to get a chance to watch some in the second half. This has been a physically taxing season already for Mallett, who needs to be healthy for the tests ahead, against South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU.
Player to Watch: Knile Davis, Arkansas RB. Davis and the run game got going a week ago against Ole Miss (176 yards, three TDs). Could be a similar story this week.
Northwestern at Indiana, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
It’s likely the Wildcats are still licking their wounds from last week’s second-half letdown against Michigan State. An upset and all-important sixth victory slipped through their grasp. Funny, last year when the Wildcats and Hoosiers met it was Indiana that blew a big second half lead and lost on a last-second field goal, 29–28. Coach Pat Fitzgerald is a master at getting his guys to maintain focus, and he should be able to rally the Wildcats for this one. Indiana has its own reason for motivation: A look ahead on the Hoosiers schedule suggests their best chances to win the two games they need for a bowl berth are this one and Purdue in the finale. To win, Indiana must take better care of the football than it did in last week’s loss (five turnovers). One key stat that is in Indiana’s favor: The Wildcats rank 10th in pass defense. Ben Chappell and Indiana’s terrific trio of receivers will be dreaming about that fact this week.
Purdue at Illinois, Saturday, 11 a.m. CT
Purdue has already lost one quarterback, so it was good news this week when the coaching staff announced Rob Henry would probably play after slicing up his throwing hand in last week’s loss. Henry hasn’t been the most efficient passer in the Big Ten this year, but he has his moments, and his versatility as a runner makes him a tough assignment for opposing defenses. Of course, Illinois has its own dual threat player under center. Nathan Scheelhasse is making a strong pitch for freshman of the year honors, and he just might have his way against a Boilermaker defense giving up 24.4 points per game. It’ll be important for Ryan Kerrigan and the Purdue defense to keep Scheelhasse in check. Speaking of defenses, is there a more under-rated unit in the Big Ten than the Illini? The unit ranks fourth in sacks in third in scoring defense. That’s bad news for a Purdue squad that has managed just 32 points total in its three road contests this year.
Michigan State at Iowa, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
The Big Ten’s best game once again features Iowa, which lost at home last week due to poor clock management. Kirk Ferentz won’t let that happen again, not with his team’s January bowl hopes hanging by a thread. The key matchup in this one pits Spartan backs Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker against an Iowa run defense allowing just 92.1 yards per game. A total of five points has determined the last two games between the two teams — both played in East Lansing — and the last game in Iowa City was decided in overtime. Yep, this one is going to be a dandy. Too bad for Michigan State they may be without one of their best playmakers; receiver/returner Keshawn Martin is recovering from an ankle/foot injury that could keep him on the sideline.
Ohio State at Minnesota, Saturday, 7 p.m. CT
Another prime time game to showcase TCF Bank Stadium, another easy Big Ten test for the Buckeyes. Ohio State played with a chip on its shoulder in last week’s shutout of Purdue, and probably figures it has nothing to lose in its remaining games. Terrell Pryor’s arm should have success against a Gopher secondary allowing opposing passers a 69.5 completion percentage. Minnesota will need a mighty effort from its experienced passer, Adam Weber, because heaven knows the running game will have to be abandoned before half — at least if this game resembles recent ones in the series. Over the last four years Ohio State has beaten Minnesota by a combined score of 146 to 35, the closest margin being 13 points (two years ago).
Michigan at Penn State, Saturday, 7 p.m. CT
Pay no attention to the Nittany Lions’ woes this season — no team wishes to play in Beaver Stadium in an evening affair, and certainly not a Michigan squad that has dropped its last two contests by a combined 27 points. The Wolverines need to get back to the ground attack that earned them early favor among pollsters. For whatever reason, Denard Robinson has not been as dazzling — or as hard to catch — in recent weeks as he was at the season’s start. Penn State’s run defense could be a cure, as the unit is allowing an uncharacteristic 143.9 yards on the ground per game. The Nittany Lions offense has more problems than Michigan does on both sides of the ball combined. Evan Royster is still a no-show, and the unit has produced just seven scores through the air. Making matters worse, Penn State probably won’t have quarterback Rob Bolden in the lineup due to what has been labeled a head injury. The team must hope its rowdy crowd can offer the spark that’s been absent all season.
Arizona at UCLA, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PT
UCLA’s season is teetering on desperation. It wasn’t long ago the Bruins were the talk of the Pac-10 after their road upset of Texas. But they are now coming off back-to-back blowout losses to Cal and Oregon and have lost starting quarterback Kevin Prince for the season. UCLA has also suspended four starters for games during the past two weeks. Other than that, things are peachy in Westwood. The Wildcats are coming off an impressive blowout of Washington, despite playing without starting quarterback Nick Foles, who sat out with a dislocated kneecap. Foles may be available Saturday, but with the way backup Matt Scott played against the Huskies (18-for-22, 233 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions), he probably won’t be needed.
California at Oregon State, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PT
This will be a head-to-head battle for All-Pac-10 running back honors. Oregon’s LaMichael James has probably wrapped up one of the tailback spots. This game features the two leading candidates for the other spot — Cal’s Shane Vereen and Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is third in the Pac-10 in rushing, tied for second in touchdowns and fourth in all-purpose yards. Vereen is fourth in rushing, first in touchdowns and third in all-purpose yards. The Beavers lost their first game without star receiver James Rodgers, and their offense is still adjusting. The Bears, meanwhile, must prove they can win on the road. They are 4–0 at home this season but 0–3 away from Memorial Stadium. A win could go a long way in solidifying Cal’s bowl hopes this year.
Washington State at Arizona State, Saturday, 4:00 p.m. PT
The Sun Devils were feeling pretty good about themselves until Cal sliced them up last week. Now, Arizona State must recover against an improving Cougars team. Washington State still is clearly the worst team in the Pac-10, but they also clearly are much more competitive than they have been in each of the past two seasons. They lost by just 10 last week on the road at Stanford, although made it closer with a flurry of late scoring. Still, ASU is reeling after last week and must be careful not to let the Cougars stay close late in the game. Freshman wide receiver Marquess Wilson has been a revelation for WSU. He leads the Pac-10 in receiving yards per game (99.5).
Stanford at Washington, Saturday, 4:00 PT
Call it the Top-10 Draft Pick Bowl. Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Washington’s Jake Locker, considered possibly the top two quarterback prospects in the country, will play on the same field at Husky Stadium. But Locker might not be at his best. He’s played the last two weeks with thigh and hip injuries and isn’t 100 percent. Still, he’s been good enough to play, and has still played well at times. But overall, Locker’s passing efficiency rating of 131.4 is good for just ninth in the Pac-10. Luck, meanwhile, keeps rolling along with the kind of productive season most expected. He’s thrown 19 touchdown passes with five interceptions and is second to USC’s Matt Barkley in passing efficiency in the Pac-10.
Oregon at USC, Saturday, 5:00 p.m. PT
Is this the Ducks’ toughest remaining obstacle in the way of an undefeated season? Many observers think so. The Trojans haven’t been playing at a Pete Carroll-esque level for most of this season, but they are coming off an eye-poppingly thorough 48–14 dismantling of Cal. USC is 5–2 with both losses coming on field goals as time expired. Still, the Trojans generally haven’t played the brand of defense that had become familiar during the past decade, and they will need to be at their very best against Oregon’s offensive machine. After Saturday, Oregon has two remaining road games — at Cal and at Oregon State. The Beavers aren’t the same team without star receiver James Rodgers, so this is likely the toughest test remaining on the Ducks’ schedule.
Oklahoma State (6–1, 2–1) at Kansas State (5–2, 2–2), Saturday, 11 a.m.
Both teams are in bounce-back mode, with the Cowboys coming off their first loss and the Wildcats dropping two of their last three. In a major contrast of styles, whichever team can dictate the tempo likely wins.
K-State has flopped against high-powered offenses. Baylor set school records for passing and rushing against the Cats a week ago. And OSU’s attack may be better, with the trio of quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and wideout Justin Blackmon all among the nation’s leaders.
Keep an eye on Blackmon’s status; he is facing a suspicion of DUI complaint and a possible team suspension.
The Cowboys’ defense carries concerns, too, having just surrendered 51 points to Nebraska. And OSU hasn’t yet faced a power running game like K-State will bring with Daniel Thomas. Can the Cowboys, who face a finesse offense every day in practice, man up?
A wild card to consider: The Cowboys rank No. 119 in kickoff coverage and have allowed three returns for touchdowns this season. The Wildcats are No. 1 in kickoff returns.
Kansas (2–5, 0–3) at Iowa State (4–4, 2–2), Saturday, 1 p.m.
Say this about the Cyclones: Even when they appear down, they don’t stay down.
Beaten up in back-to-back games by Utah and Oklahoma, Iowa State rallied with a stunning win at Texas in what initially sized up as a death march, but shaped up as a show of toughness. Just like they did a year ago in winning at Nebraska, the Cyclones brushed aside previous disappointments to post a benchmark victory.
And it restored Iowa State’s bowl hopes, which would get another boost with a win over the Jayhawks, who stumble into Ames on the bad momentum of three straight blowout defeats.
First-year KU coach Turner Gill may be looking to a third starting quarterback with Jordan Webb and Kale Pick both ineffective and, now, dealing with injuries. Quin Mecham, a junior college transfer, appears set to start against the Cyclones.
The Jayhawks, who own a five-game winning streak against ISU, have now lost 10 straight Big 12 games since beating the Cyclones last October.
Missouri (7–0, 3–0) at Nebraska (6–1, 2–1), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Missouri’s takedown of Oklahoma, then BCS No. 1 and a constant thorn in the Tigers’ paws, registered as a massive mark in the program’s history. Could Saturday’s game at Nebraska be bigger?
On a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately scale, absolutely. Mizzou is the Big 12’s only remaining unbeaten and one of seven nationally, bidding for a place in the national title chase. And a win in Lincoln is required. And the matchup, the last scheduled meeting between longtime foes before the Huskers bolt for the Big Ten, carries that added edge. So, yes, this game is bigger. And it’s big on both sides.
The Huskers somewhat righted their course a week ago, knocking off previously unbeaten Oklahoma State. And they control their path in the North Division and potentially in the BCS bowl picture — if they can subdue Mizzou.
Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez enjoyed a breakout game against the Cowboys, answering critics by throwing for five touchdowns when his passing skills had been called into question. Still, defensive concerns remain after OSU gashed the Blackshirts on the ground and through the air, scoring 41 points in defeat.
The Tigers have the look of the Big 12’s most balanced team, with an evolving offense led by quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense, which allows just 13.1 points a game.
Texas Tech (4–3, 2–3) at Texas A&M (4–3, 1–2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
The Pirate is gone. So, too, for now is the passion and the intrigue for a rivalry that boiled over in recent years, flame-fed by former Tech coach Mike Leach.
Now, Mike Sherman’s A&M team scrambles for relevancy, and Tommy Tuberville’s first Tech team is bland in comparison to what used to take place on the West Texas plains.
At least there’s something at stake, with this game a potential swing game to the bowl hopes for both teams.
A&M’s quarterback position bears watching, now that Ryan Tannehill has moved from wide receiver to behind center and thrived, throwing for three touchdowns in last week’s win over Kansas. Jerrod Johnson won’t be forgotten, but he’ll apparently share the position going forward.
For the Red Raiders, offense, while not up to Leach-like standards, is not the issue. It’s a defense that has allowed 34.4 points a game in conference play — 10th-most in the Big 12.
Baylor (6–2, 3–1) at Texas (4–3, 2–2), Saturday, 6 p.m.
What does this game mean for Baylor? Everything.
Don’t look now, but the Bears are in the rankings and atop the Big 12 South. And for the first time in a long time, Baylor carries a significant shot at beating the Longhorns into Austin.
Texas has won 12 straight in the series and 16 of the last 17. So history hardly aligns with the Bears. This hurdle is as much mental as it is physical. Still, Baylor has hope, much of it tied to dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III, who hails from the Austin area, was snubbed by the Longhorns and might figure he has something to prove beyond all he’s done to elevate his program. Think Longhorns fans wouldn’t like to see Griffin in burnt orange?
Who knows which Texas team will show up, even at home? The Horns lost to UCLA and Iowa State at home. They won at Nebraska, yet couldn’t carry the momentum, with the Cyclones sticking them in stunning fashion a week later.
Garrett Gilbert is struggling at quarterback, and there aren’t enough playmakers around him to make the offense respectable.
Clearly, the Longhorns are vulnerable. But are the Bears equipped to take advantage? Baylor’s best win came a week ago, against Kansas State. But in their one other appearance in a statement game, the Bears were hammered at TCU.
This one could be different. And it could result in a very different Big 12 South that includes Baylor as a contender.
Colorado (3–4, 0–3) at Oklahoma (6–1, 2–1), Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Adversity just keeps piling up for the Buffaloes. Colorado, winless in conference play on its farewell tour of the Big 12, took two major hits in a home loss to Texas Tech, losing starting quarterback Tyler Hansen to a ruptured spleen and linebacker and leading tackler Jon Major to a knee injury.
Beaten and bruised is no way to visit Oklahoma, where the Sooners figure to be hopping mad following their first loss at Missouri and where they seldom lose, owning the nation’s longest home winning streak at 34.
Former starter and oft-embattled Cody Hawkins will replace Hansen behind center. Hawkins does hold special memories in this series, engineering an upset of the Sooners in Boulder the last time the teams met in 2007.
OU quarterback Landry Jones looks to rebound from a rough outing at Missouri, where he didn’t complete a pass in the fourth quarter as the Tigers rallied to victory.
Florida State (6–1, 4–0 ACC) at NC State (5–2, 2–1 ACC), Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET
This matchup is one of the most important games in the ACC so far this season, because the winner will gain the inside track to the Atlantic Division championship.
That’s right where first-year Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wants to be. Fisher is off to a great start in conference play, becoming just the fifth coach to get a win in his first four ACC games. The Seminoles are undefeated after four league games for the first time since 2004 and the 11th time since they joined the ACC in 1992. It should be noted that Florida State went on to earn at least a share of the conference title in each of the previous 10 instances.
The Seminoles bring a five-game winning streak to Carter-Finley Stadium. The key question facing them is the health of quarterback Christian Ponder, who spent the open date last week trying to get his right elbow healthy. A ruptured bursa sac contributed to Ponder’s three interceptions in FSU’s last game, a 24–19 win over Boston College, and he can’t afford a repeat against the Wolfpack.
Ponder says he is healthy, and it’s up to Florida State’s highly touted offensive line to keep him that way. That position group will undergo a personnel change this week, with redshirt freshman guard Bryan Stork making his first career start in place of David Spurlock (concussion). The good news for Ponder is that he isn’t counted on to do everything for Florida State’s offense. Led by Chris Thompson’s eye-popping 7.7 yards per carry, the Seminoles enter this game third in the ACC in rushing (211.7 yards per game).
NC State features a star quarterback of its own in Russell Wilson, who ranks fourth in the country in total offense (332.0 ypg) while leading an attack that averages an ACC-best 448.9 total yards per game. The key for the Wolfpack against Florida State’s defense, which leads the nation in sacks (4.29 per game), is pass protection. Wilson has thrown eight interceptions in the past three games, and he’ll have a difficult time bucking that trend if he’s running for his life all night.
Clemson (4–3, 2–2 ACC) at Boston College (2–5, 0–4 ACC), Saturday, noon ET
Clemson has turned around what was becoming a disappointing season to fight its way into contention in the Atlantic Division. Boston College? Not so much.
The Eagles, who lost to Maryland 24–21 last week, have dropped five consecutive games since their 2–0 start. If that weren’t bad enough, they have to try to stop the skid this week at far less than full strength on defense. Defensive end Alex Albright, the team leader in sacks and tackles for a loss, was lost for the season last week with a fractured fibula. Safety Wes Davis suffered a neck injury that required hospitalization, and cornerback DeLeon Gause left the game with a knee injury that has put his status for this week’s game in doubt.
That’s a tough way to take on the Tigers, who have won two games in a row since their three-game losing streak. Tailback Andre Ellington has been the driving force, rushing for a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns in a 27–13 victory over Georgia Tech last week. Ellington, who also caught a touchdown pass in that game, will take aim at a Boston College defense that ranks fourth in the country against the run (83.6 yards per game).
Given BC’s injury woes in the secondary and BC’s success against the run — linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the nation in tackles (13.9 per game) — Clemson might try to jump-start its passing game. The Tigers have struggled much of the season with their aerial attack, but quarterback Kyle Parker is starting to develop a nice rapport with young wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Jaron Brown. Plus, Parker has helped engineer an offense that has gone three consecutive games without committing a turnover.
On the other side, Boston College shuffled its offensive line last week with the return of Thomas Claiborne, and tailback Montel Harris was the beneficiary. Nate Richman, who moved from guard to center this season, went back to his old spot at left guard. Mark Spinney shifted from guard to center, and Claiborne took over at right guard. Harris, the ACC’s leading rusher (99.1 ypg), ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland to help keep the pressure off true freshman quarterback Chase Rettig. The Eagles need a similar performance from Harris this week because Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who leads the nation in sacks (1.43 per game) and tackles for loss (2.50 per game), is a terror in third-and-long situations.
Miami (5-2, 3-1 ACC) at Virginia (3-4, 0-3 ACC), Saturday, noon ET
Miami is seeking its first Coastal Division title since it joined the ACC. Virginia is seeking its first ACC victory in more than a calendar year. The stakes are as different for each team as the talent on each sideline.
The Hurricanes, coming off a 33–10 victory over North Carolina in which they scored the game’s final 30 points, appear to have gotten back on track after their 45–17 loss to Florida State on Oct. 9. While quarterback Jacory Harris and coach Randy Shannon get most of the attention from fans and media — and much of it has been negative — Miami’s defense quietly has put together a solid season.
The Hurricanes have been especially tough against the pass, benefiting from the consistent pressure the defensive line has generated. Miami is second nationally in sacks (3.57 per game) and tackles for loss (9.29 per game), which has helped the team lead the country in opponents’ passing efficiency (87.7 rating) while allowing the sixth-fewest passing yards (ACC-best 149.1 per game).
Virginia, which rolled past Eastern Michigan 48–21 last week, will receive a boost this week as it tries to slow Miami’s pass rush. Landon Bradley, who started the first five games at left tackle before breaking his right hand, is healthy enough to return to the lineup. With Bradley back, Oday Aboushi can return to his original position at right tackle and true freshman Morgan Moses can go back to right guard.
Defensively, the Cavaliers have continued to battle without the services of senior cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who has played sparingly this season and has missed almost all of the last two games with a right knee injury. Dowling’s status for this week is unknown, but Devin Wallace has been solid in six starts in Dowling’s place.
The same can’t be said for Virginia’s run defense, which is allowing an ACC-worst 211.4 yards per game. The Cavaliers have their hands full this week against Miami tailback Damien Berry, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in four consecutive games.
Duke (1–6) at Navy (5–2), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Duke has made big strides as a program under coach David Cutcliffe, but the progress has not produced positive results on the field this season. The Blue Devils, who lost 44–7 at Virginia Tech last week, hit the road for this game having suffered six consecutive losses. It’s their longest losing streak in a single season since the 2007 Duke team lost its last nine games en route to a 1–11 season.
Navy, meanwhile, enters this game flying high. The Midshipmen, who already have played ACC members Maryland (17–14 loss) and Wake Forest (28–27 win) this season, are fresh off a 35–17 demolition of Notre Dame. They feature a run-heavy, option-based offense that is ninth nationally in rushing (274.4 yards per game) but just 118th out of 120 teams in terms of passing (104.0 ypg).
The Blue Devils must find a way to do what Notre Dame couldn’t: Force the Midshipmen into obvious passing situations. Duke has struggled on defense all season, so that task won’t be an easy one. In addition to allowing an ACC-worst 38.7 points per game, the Blue Devils rank among the nation’s bottom 15 teams in rushing yards allowed (203.4 per game) and total yards allowed (442.6 per game).
Duke faced an offensive attack similar to Navy’s last month when it played host to Army in a game the Black Knights dominated 35–21. Turnovers killed the Blue Devils that day, a trend that has carried through for most of the season.
Wake Forest (2–5, 1–3 ACC) at Maryland (5–2, 2–1 ACC), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Maryland needs one more win to become eligible for a bowl game, but Ralph Friedgen’s team has even bigger goals in mind. The Terrapins, who went 2–10 last season while winning just one game in conference play, have put themselves in contention in the Atlantic Division.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, has no such momentum. The Demon Deacons have suffered five consecutive losses since opening the season 2–0, and they had a week off to make some corrections after getting blown out at Virginia Tech 52–21 on Oct. 16. Many of the mistakes have occurred on defense, where Wake Forest ranks among the nation’s worst 10 teams in points allowed (37.7 per game), rushing yards allowed (211.0 per game) and total yards allowed (ACC-worst 454.4 per game).
For the second week in a row, Maryland will play a game featuring two freshman starting quarterbacks. Danny O’Brien threw for 179 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Terrapins past Chase Rettig and Boston College 24–21 last week, and this week O’Brien will go head to head with Tanner Price. The Terrapins got shocking news last week when starting right tackle Pete DeSouza suffered fractures in both legs in a traffic accident less than 48 hours before kickoff, but they have had some time this week to make adjustments up front.
On the other side, Wake Forest might have a rising star in freshman tailback Josh Harris, who rushed for 241 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia Tech in the first start of his career.
William & Mary (6–1) at North Carolina (4–3), Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Rarely does a game featuring team from a BCS conference against a team from the Football Championship Subdivision offer so many interesting story lines.
For one, North Carolina offensive coordinator John Shoop is tasked with dialing up the correct play against William & Mary defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, his brother. Then there’s the case of William & Mary quarterback Mike Paulus, who might see action against the team he left last season. And then there’s the game itself, which features a very capable underdog against a depleted favorite.
The Tar Heels, who are 12–0–2 all time against the Tribe, had better not take this game lightly. William & Mary heads to Chapel Hill with a six-game winning streak and the nation’s No. 3 ranking among FCS teams after a 17–16 win last week over Delaware.
Mike Callahan, who had missed two games with a separated shoulder, returned in relief of Paulus to complete 7 of 10 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
Paulus, who was a headliner of UNC coach Butch Davis’ first recruiting class, will likely will be the backup quarterback this week against his former teammates, one of whom will make his season debut.
All-ACC cornerback Kendric Burney, who missed UNC’s first seven games as a result of the NCAA and university investigations into the program, has been cleared to return.
That’s great news for the Tar Heels, who played without starting safety Da’Norris Searcy (concussion) and cornerbacks Mywan Jackson (groin) and LeCount Fantroy (shoulder) for much of last week’s 33-10 loss at Miami.
West Virginia at Connecticut, Friday, 8:00 p.m. EST
This should be a game that showcases two of the nation’s best backs: West Virginia’s Noel Devine and Connecticut’s Jordan Todman. The bigger storyline, however, has to do with the courses of the teams involved.
West Virginia seemed to be the class of the Big East, with the only blemish a close loss at LSU. That is, until Syracuse visited Morgantown and ruined Homecoming for the Mountaineers. Now head coach Bill Stewart is back on the hot seat in the Mountain State at 1–1 in league play. “I hope that (the Syracuse loss) serves as a wake-up call to our football program so that we can get back on track,” Stewart said on Tuesday.
WVU, now 5–2, hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. But previously steady quarterback Geno Smith threw three interceptions against SU, and the rushing attack the Mountaineers used to be known for is now ranked 73rd nationally.
Connecticut, though, has bigger problems. The Huskies are 3–4 overall and in the Big East cellar at 0–2. Also, Randy Edsall has a mess on his hands at the quarterback position. The team’s best QB this season, Cody Endres, has been tossed from the team. Zach Frazer didn’t appear to be the answer. And redshirt freshman Michael Box, who probably will get this start, has completed 6-of-17 passes for 65 yards with a pick.
Watch the standoff between Connecticut’s rushing attack, led by Todman, the nation’s No. 5 runner, and WVU’s rush defense, ranked No. 11 nationally.
Louisville at Pittsburgh, Saturday, noon EST
Charlie Strong has made some early strides in his first season as the Louisville coach. Evidence could be seen last week when the Cardinals shut out Connecticut 26–0. This week? “We’re going to see exactly where we are as a football team,” Strong said.
Seems that way. Both teams are 4–3 overall, but Pitt has averaged 43 points in winning its two Big East games this season and is now looking like the team picked to win the league in the conference’s preseason poll. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are still trying to prove themselves at 1–1 in league play.
The key matchup in this game will be Louisville’s rushing attack, ranked No. 1 in the Big East, against Pittsburgh’s rush defense, also ranked No. 1 in the league. The Cardinals boast the nation’s No. 4 rusher in Bilal Powell, who is averaging 143.29 yards. Also, Strong says that running back Victor Anderson has a “50-50" chance of returning from a shoulder injury.
On the other side, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt hasn’t ruled out the return of standout defensive end Greg Romeus for the contest. Romeus, who was considered one of the nation’s top ends, is recovering from back surgery.
U of L quarterback Adam Froman has been steady this season. The wildcard, however, is Panthers QB Tino Sunseri, who has been on fire the last two games, completing 74.5 percent of his passes for 588 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception.
Syracuse at Cincinnati, Saturday, noon EST
Check this out. On paper, Cincinnati, the Big East’s back-to-back champions, has a battle on its hands with Syracuse, which has been sweeping the league’s cellar of late.
The Orange has sandwiched a blowout loss at the hands of Pittsburgh with victories over South Florida and West Virginia. The latter win was a stunning 19–14 decision over the then-ranked Mountaineers in Morgantown on Homecoming.
“There was a different sense in the locker room after the West Virginia game,” said coach Doug Marrone.
That sense carries over to this game. SU is now in second place in the Big East with a 2–1 record. The Orange have the league’s No. 2 total defense. And when standout tailback Delone Carter went down with a hip bruise in Morgantown, junior Antwon Bailey stepped in and had 94 rushing yards.
What SU will have to contend with, however, is the Big East’s No. 1 offense, which averages 446.43 yards. There is a question, though, whether UC quarterback Zach Collaros will play after suffering a bruised knee in last week’s 38–30 loss to South Florida. If Collaros can’t go, Chazz Anderson is expected to get the start.
This should be interesting. Cincinnati saw its 14-game winning streak at Nippert Stadium end last week as well as its 13-game winning streak against Big East opponents. The team is 3–4 overall. The Bearcats are also ranked last in the league in total defense and No. 64 nationally, allowing an average of 367.71 yards a game.
Athlon's Steven Lassan, Nathan Rush and Braden Gall debate five burning questions for Week 8 in the NFL:
1. Do you think the NFL should be playing games in Europe?
Nathan: The London series was ill-conceived. The pitch at Wembley Stadium has not been in good condition for American football and bordered on dangerous when the Giants defeated the Dolphins in monsoon conditions back in 2007. Also, West Coast teams should not have the burden of that coast-to-coast, across-the-pond travel schedule. It would make more sense for Left Coasters to play in Tokyo, if the league wants to go global during the regular season. Personally, I think the best non-NFL city to host would be Los Angeles. Put a marquee matchup in L.A. on prime time and it would be huge — possibly even the first step to bringing the NFL back to the second-largest market in the country.
Steven: The idea to play games outside of the United States is a good business decision for the NFL. This allows the NFL an opportunity to grow its reach and interest new fans in different markets. However, wouldn't it be wise to choose a better matchup for the fans in London to see? I realize the schedules are made in advance, but sending two teams with a combined three wins isn't exactly the best product the NFL has.
Braden: Trying to grow the NFL brand, as if it needed any help, is always a good thing for most everyone involved in the game. So playing games in Mexico, Canada or London is a sound business decision. My one issue is who is playing where. East coast teams can hop a quick flight to London or Paris. West coast teams should be playing in Tokyo or Hong Kong. That flight from the Bay area to England is not short.
2. What will the Cowboys' record be when Tony Romo returns to the lineup?
Nathan: The Cowboys record will be 0-0 in Week 1 of the 2011 season. After a 1-5 start, why bring Romo back in 6-to-8 weeks unless they win every week until he’s healthy? And if that’s the case, Jon Kitna or Stephen McGee or Vinny Testaverde or whoever started and won all those games without Romo should keep the starting quarterback’s job.
Steven: The Cowboys are holding out hope Romo will return, but I'm skeptical he will be back, especially if Dallas is out of the playoff hunt. If Romo does return after eight weeks, it's likely the Cowboys have four or five wins, with the loss column in double-digits. Since I think there's a good possibility he won't return until 2011, the answer to this question could be 0-0 — and a time when Dallas has a new head coach.
Braden: 0-0. If the Cowboys are, say, 3-10 when Romo starts feeling healthy enough to play (the middle of the 6-8 week estimate), my question becomes, why rush him back and risk further injury? In fact, once and if Dallas is that far out of it, losing games and landing a better pick might actually be a better strategy. I think there is an outside chance that Romo is held back until the start of next season.
1. Did the Pac-10 (12) get it right in how they divided their divisions?
Braden: I personally believe that, for branding purposes, conferences need to be defined easily and clearly (take notes, ACC). The SEC and Big 12 (for now) have easy-to-remember alignments, and I think it helps fans, media, coaches, recruits alike. In that sense, the Pac-10 nailed it. The North and South are clearly defined. Cal and Stanford got what they wanted in playing the two SoCal schools every year (be careful what you wish for), and the each of the paired rivarlies were sustained. I also agree with lumping the four Northwest programs together. To top it all off, the balance of power is fair — today and over time.
Mitch: I think so. The Arizona and Southern California schools really wanted the Bay Area schools in the South, but I think Cal and Stanford are a good fit in the North. Being in the South will really help Colorado and Utah because both of those schools recruit so heavily in Southern California. Just to see how things would shake out, I took a look at our ‘Ranking the Programs Feature’ in our preseason magazine, and I averaged the ranking of each division. For a little background, we ranked all 120 FBS programs based on how attractive each school would be to a free agent head coach. And we did this pre-expansion, so Utah, which ranked 40, would probably be higher now. The teams in the South Division averaged a ranking of 28, and the teams in the North averaged a ranking of 41. So, according to us, the teams in the South are the better ‘football schools.’
Steven: Only time will tell how close the divisions are in terms of competitiveness, but I think the Pac-12 made the best decision for its conference. Dividing the schools by geography should make it a little easier for fans to remember which teams are in which division. Separating the California schools was a big point of discussion for the conference, but California and Stanford are guaranteed games against USC and UCLA every year, which preserves those rivalry matchups. I think you could argue the North might be better in the first year, but once USC is off probation and Colorado turns things around, the divisions seem to be pretty equal.
2. Should Auburn have jumped three other unbeatens to No. 1 in the BCS?
Braden: No. If Auburn wins out and beats Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, they would easily land in the BCS title game. Yet, every tough game they have played has come at home and every one has been close. They have played only two road games (Miss. St, Kentucky) and they were both close. Oregon, in particular, has put together a much more impressive body of work. What a game that would be come January!
Mitch: Auburn moved up to No. 1 because it made a big jump in the computers, up to No. 1. The Tigers only moved up two spots in both the Harris and coaches’ poll, from No. 5 to No. 3. So in the human polls, Auburn only passed one undefeated team, TCU. To answer the specific question, I’d say no, Auburn should not have passed any undefeated team. In the Athlon Sport top 25, we have Auburn No. 4 behind Oregon, Boise State and TCU.
Steven: I have no problem with Auburn becoming the No. 1 team in the BCS standings. The victory over LSU was impressive, especially how easily they carved up one of the SEC's best defenses. The Tigers also have wins good wins over Clemson, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Arkansas. Oregon has a case to be No. 1 in the BCS standings, but I will continue to mention, nothing with the BCS actually matters until late November. Auburn still has to play Alabama, and Oregon still has a couple of tough games remaining too. With a month of the season still to go, a lot is going to change between now and when the national championship game participants are decided in early December.
The Heisman Trophy is college football's most prestigious trophy, so the editors here at Athlon take the voting for the 13.5-inch, 25-pound award very seriously. Each week, the ballots are collected and tallied from inside the walls of Athlon Sports. Each voter may vote for five players (unlike the official three) and a first place vote is worth 5 points, a second is worth 4 points so and so forth down to the fifth place vote earning 1 point.
Follow our voters on twitter: Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie), Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch), Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden), Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster), Nathan Rush (@AthlonRush) and Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman).
Here is this week's results:
1. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn (35 pts, 7 first place votes)
After landing every first place vote from the Athlon staff a week ago, Newton did nothing but improve his standing for Heisman. The Auburn quarterback didn't just beat an undefeated top-10 LSU team. He didn't just rush for 217 yards and two TDs while throwing for 86 yards on 10-of-16 passing. He made a signature Heisman play that every winner almost has to have on the resume. With just over 11 minutes left on the clock, Newton burst up the middle of the LSU defense, broke right, stumbled and almost fell, before creasing back across the LSU secondary. With the goalline in sight and All-American Patrick Peterson nipping at his heels, Newton accelerated away from one of the most talented players in the nation and dove into the endzone for the go-ahead 49-yard scoring run. Newton has now, in eight games, rushed for more yards in a single season (1,077) than any other quarterback in SEC history.
What's Next: A potential trap game looms this weekend. Newton takes his show on the road to play the Ole Miss Rebels. Auburn's last trip to Oxford, Miss., didn't go so well, as Colonel Reb topped Aubie the Tiger 17-7 two years ago.
2. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (24 pts)
The speedster wasn't needed much this weekend as the Ducks rolled over the Bruins on Thursday night. He rushed for a paltry 123 yards (nearly 40 yards under his average) and two TDs. He is still leading the nation in rushing at 161.8 yards per game. James has scored multiple touchdowns in three straight and four out of five while rushing for at least 100 yards in all but one game (94 yards against Arizona State).
What's Next: James and the Ducks have a statement game this weekend when they travel down to Los Angeles to take on the Trojans. The USC defense has not been great this year but is coming off a dominating performance against Cal and has had two weeks to prepare for the Chip Kelly attack. This is a marquee, show-me game for James and the Ducks.
3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (23 pts)
Moore is, once again, the nation's most efficient passer. His 190.35 passer rating is ridiculous and would break Colt Brennan's single season efficiency record (186.0 in 2006). His current TD to INT ratio sits at 16:1, while his career ratio is an unreal 80:14. Moore's biggest claim to the stiff-arm trophy, however, was his play against elite opponents Virginia Tech and Oregon State. He needs a big showing in blowout wins the rest of the way — particularly Nevada and Fresno State.
What's Next: Louisiana Tech and Hawaii are next on the schedule. Perfect spots to pad the stats for Moore.
The only six games that matter
With five weeks remaining, Michigan State fans have already begun to trace their team’s necessary steps to a BCS berth and, perhaps, a crack at the national title. To get there, Michigan State will need to win its remaining games and get some help from the nation’s other top 10 teams. It’s a long shot, even when one considers just how easy the path gets for the Spartans after this weekend.
But Michigan State is not the only team remaining in the Big Ten race, nor are the Spartans the only club with a shot to climb up the polls. Wisconsin is not out of anything, nor is Ohio State. Iowa would need a lot of help, but a strong finish (including games against two ranked foes) could propel them back into the top 10 by season’s end.
Here is a look at the most important six games remaining on the Big Ten schedule. All of these contests could have an impact on the conference race.
(Oct. 30) Michigan State at Iowa – If the Spartans thought the Wildcats were unfriendly, wait until they step into the pink locker room and prepare for a hungry Iowa squad.
(Nov. 13) Iowa at Northwestern – A little history in this one. The Hawkeyes have lost the last two to Northwestern, including last year after beginning the year with a 9–0 record.
(Nov. 20) Ohio State at Iowa – This contest was decided in overtime last year.
(Nov. 20) Wisconsin at Michigan – The only blemish on Bret Bielema’s first season (2006) was the loss in Ann Arbor. When the Badgers visited Michigan last, they blew a 19–0 lead.
(Nov. 27) Michigan at Ohio State – There would be more drama and build-up if this game was not in Columbus, but when these two programs take the field nothing can be taken for granted.
(Nov. 27) Michigan State at Penn State – Imagine the Spartans do win out and have to finish the season in Beaver Stadium with 110,000 fans right on top of them. Lots of pressure.
Week 8 Scoreboard
Penn State 33, Minnesota 21
Illinois 43, Indiana 13
Ohio State 49, Purdue 0
Michigan State 35, Northwestern 27
Wisconsin 31, Iowa 30
Bielema’s play-of-the-year candidate
With Wisconsin facing a fourth down deep in its own territory, and trailing 30–24, coach Bret Bielema made one of the year’s gutsiest calls. Punter Brad Nortman caught the snap and took off running into the open field for the first down. It allowed Wisconsin to keep the ball and ultimately led to a Montee Ball eight-yard touchdown run later in that series.
No contest in Columbus
Ohio State rattled off 42 first half points, including 21 in the final five minutes of the second quarter, in its blowout win over Purdue. Even more lopsided than the score was the total yardage — 489 for Ohio State to 118 for the Boilermakers.
Wasn’t pretty, but Penn State will take it
The Nittany Lions were out-gained and out-performed on third down by an inferior Minnesota squad on Saturday. But Penn State still won the contest, 33–21 — its first win of October. Backup quarterback Matt McGloin threw two touchdowns for the Nittany Lions.
Cam Newton’s impact is only more measurable in one place than Auburn: Gainesville. Sure, Florida would love to roll its eyes and say it doesn’t need Newton’s services as a run-first — second, third and fourth, too — quarterback. But it does. Oh, it does.
Auburn’s 8–0 record, No. 1 spot in the new BCS standings and Newton’s SEC-leading 122.9 rush yards a game speak deafening volumes in the swamps of north Florida. It’s not so much jealousy as what-ifs for the Gators, who still are far from out of it in the SEC East race — even without Newton.
Just imagine if Florida and Auburn meet in Atlanta, and it’s still distinctly possible. Actually, it’s probably something the Gators would rather not think about, given what Newton’s doing to the rest of the league.
How does Newton continue to do it, even with teams knowing precisely what Auburn’s plan is? Newton has averaged 194.8 rushing yards in the Tigers’ past four SEC games — all wins, obviously. He’s special. No one knows it more than the coaches who initially recruited and signed him.
Arkansas 38, Ole Miss 24
Auburn 24, LSU 17
South Carolina 21, Vanderbilt 7
Mississippi State 29, UAB 24
Alabama 41, Tennessee 10
Georgia 44, Kentucky 31
• ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew said fervently Saturday that Georgia was its favorite to win the SEC East. Difficult to argue based on how the Bulldogs have played to get back to 3–3 in the league, blistering Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The road, though, gets tougher. To finish 5–3 and have a realistic shot, the Bulldogs have to beat Florida this week in Jacksonville and then Auburn (in Auburn) on Nov. 13. Even that’s no guarantee, requiring a couple of slip-ups by South Carolina. Think just how tough it is for a team to win five consecutive conference games, even if it is in the wide-open East. The Bulldogs are playing well, no question, but that well?
• South Carolina’s Brian Maddox said he was “devastated” after he was passed over to start Saturday in place of injured running back Marcus Lattimore. He was saying even more intense things behind closed doors. Maddox took out the aggression in a positive fashion, running for a career-high 146 yards to help the Gamecocks get their first SEC road win since 2008, a 21–7 victory at Vanderbilt. Vandy might not be special, but South Carolina needed to leave that monkey in the Music City. Lattimore is expected back for Tennessee this week.
• Florida didn’t play. So it couldn’t lose. And Steve Addazio is still drawing a paycheck.
• LSU finally lost a game that went into the final minutes, but it had nothing to do with faulty clock management. Imagine that. Know who earned some respect with the way it played down the stretch? An Auburn defense that’s been criticized to no end in 2010. LSU is far from the most proficient offense in the league, but Auburn held it to 243 total yards — including 39 on a trick-play TD pass. Maybe Auburn has enough defense to play for a national title? Don’t bet on it based on that week alone, but stay tuned in November. Remember that Gene Chizik is a defensive-oriented mind.
And now for something out of the “Be careful what you wish for” department.
Cal and Stanford didn’t want to be aligned in the North Division of the new Pac-12 unless they could be guaranteed to play UCLA and USC every year. They got their wish. Now, here’s the bad news: They have to play UCLA and USC every year.
Preserving the rivalries the Bay Area schools have with the Los Angeles schools, as well as maintaining recruiting advantages, made Cal and Stanford happy that they were assured yearly games with their Southern California foes. But the down side is while other teams may miss having to play the Trojans in certain years, the Bears and Cardinal will always have them on their schedule.
Couple that with the fact that the conference balance of power in recent years seems to be swinging to the Pacific Northwest, and the Bay Area schools appear to be in for a challenging schedule every season.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announced the details of the new Pac-12 last week. When Colorado and Utah join the conference in July, the new Pac-12 will be split into two divisions. Cal and Stanford will join Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State to form the North Division, while UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah will make up the South Division.
Each team will play every opponent in its division every year, and four of the six in the other division to make up a nine-game conference schedule. But part of Scott’s announcement was that the conference representatives agreed to allow the Bay Area schools and Los Angeles schools to play each other every year, even though they are in different divisions.
While Cal and Stanford have their own rivalry, as do UCLA and USC, there also is a strong rivalry between Northern California and Southern California. Scott said preserving rivalries was one of the conference’s main criteria in determining realignment, and that’s why a special provision was made for the Bay Area and Los Angeles schools to play each other every season.
Every program in the conference would have liked to have been put in the same division as UCLA and USC. Southern California is the biggest recruiting base for every conference team, and coaches want to be able to tell a recruit’s parents that their son will be coming home to play at least once per season.
Part of Scott’s announcement also was that the Pac-12 would hold a conference championship game each season, pairing the winners of each division. The division winner with the best conference record will host the game.
Scott said the conference entertained the idea of playing the game at a neutral site, but it wanted to reward the team that had the best regular season. The conference also wanted to preserve a college atmosphere at the championship game and assure that it would sell out every year.
Oregon 60, UCLA 13
California 50, Arizona State 17
Stanford 38, Washington State 28
Arizona 44, Washington 14
The Duck Machine
After having a week off following a scattered 20-point win over Washington State, Oregon was back in machine mode during a nationally televised rout of UCLA. The Ducks showed why they may not lose again, putting all of their breathtaking offensive weapons on display and using their underrated defense to absolutely dismantle the Bruins, 60–13.
Quarterback Darron Thomas, showing no ill effects of a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the win over Wazzou, completed 22-of-31 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns. For all the Heisman Trophy attention that Oregon tailback LaMichael James is receiving, Thomas may be just as worthy a candidate.
The Ducks are ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press top 25 and No. 2 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings. Can they remain there? Oregon looks pretty much unbeatable at this point. The biggest obstacle might come this weekend when the Ducks travel to USC. For most of this season, the Trojans haven’t appeared to be what they once were. But they did appear to be that in their last game, a thorough 48–14 whipping of Cal.
Besides that, Oregon’s two remaining road games are at Cal and Oregon State.
Narrowing the Gap
It wasn’t as close as the score indicates, but just being able to make a game appear close is a victory these days for Washington State. In the past few weeks, the Cougars have quietly become more competitive. Granted, they have a lot of ground to make up after being woefully non-competitive so many times during the past 2½ years, but things are incrementally looking up in the Palouse.
Washington State lost to Stanford on Saturday 38–28. The Cougars trailed 31–7 and scored a flurry of late points to make the score appear more respectable. But WSU is slowly becoming more competent, which is at least making the Cougars more than just an afterthought for Pac-10 opponents.