By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
Boston College – The Eagles kept their slim bowl hopes alive with a 28-17 victory over Maryland on Saturday. The offense has been a source of concern all year, however, running back Rolandan Finch gashed the Terrapins for 243 yards and two touchdowns. The win over Maryland was Boston College’s first victory over a FBS team this year.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston – Thanks to some bad weather, the Cougars got off to a slow start in Thursday’s win over Rice. However, the final stat line was a one-sided affair. Keenum threw for 534 yards and nine touchdown passes, and likely could have thrown a couple more had he played the entire fourth quarter. The Cougars remain unbeaten at 8-0 and with a favorable remaining schedule, has a chance to finish the regular season without a loss.
Georgia – Beating Florida has been a big issue for Mark Richt, but the Bulldogs scored a huge 24-20 victory over the Gators on Saturday. Georgia fell behind early, but the defense puts the clamps on Florida’s offense in the second half. The Bulldogs were aggressive on offense, scoring two touchdowns on fourth-down throws by quarterback Aaron Murray. Georgia still trails South Carolina in the SEC East race, but the Gamecocks face a difficult upcoming schedule playing Arkansas and Florida, while the Bulldogs get Auburn and Kentucky.
Georgia Tech – Having lost back-to-back games, most of the nation didn’t give the Yellow Jackets much of a chance against Clemson. However, Georgia Tech’s offense clicked behind quarterback Tevin Washington's running, and the defense forced four crucial turnovers. The Yellow Jackets still have a shot to win the ACC Coastal, but need to beat Virginia Tech on Nov. 10.
Louisville – Considering the amount of youth stepping into playing time this year, it was expected the Cardinals might need a couple of weeks to get everything figured out. The pieces seem to be falling into place for Louisville, as it has won back-to-back games, and all four losses have been by nine points or less. Saturday’s win over Syracuse puts the Cardinals at 2-1 in conference play, with a difficult upcoming stretch – at West Virginia, Pittsburgh, at Connecticut and at South Florida.
Minnesota – The Gophers have been awful this year, but Saturday’s win over Iowa was a step in the right direction. Minnesota’s rush defense struggled to stop Iowa’s Marcus Coker, but kept quarterback James Vandenberg in check. The Gophers also got a key performance from quarterback MarQueis Gray and a well-timed onside kick in the fourth quarter. Coach Jerry Kill has been feeling a lot of pressure for the slow start, but he’s the right man for the job. Give Kill and his staff another year to rebuild the roster, and Minnesota will be back in a bowl.
Missouri – Thanks to a difficult schedule, the Tigers have a mediocre 4-4 record. However, those losses came to Arizona State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State – a combined 28-4. Quarterback James Franklin bounced back after a disappointing performance against Oklahoma State, leading Missouri to a 38-31 win over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Tigers still need two wins to get bowl eligible and games remain against Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas.
Nebraska - The Cornhuskers jumped back into the mix for the Big Ten Legends title after a convincing win over Michigan State. Quarterback Taylor Martinez struggled to find his rhythm through the air, but the offense was carried by running back Rex Burkhead. Nebraska's defense had been a disappointment in the early part of 2011, but turned in its best effort of the year, holding the Spartans to only three points.
Ohio State – Whether or not Luke Fickell returns to the Ohio State sidelines next year remains to be seen. However, give Fickell and his coaching staff a lot of credit for the last two games. The Buckeyes have molded the offense around the strengths of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, while relying on a young, but talented defense to keep them in games. Ohio State’s 33-29 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday keeps it alive in the race to win the Big Ten Leaders Division. The Buckeyes need a lot of help to win the division, but after some concern they would not make a bowl, Ohio State is looking at eight or nine wins this year.
Oklahoma – After a disappointing loss to Texas Tech one week ago, the Sooners jumped back into the national title discussion with a 58-17 demolishing of Kansas State. Thanks a loss by Clemson, and the win over the Wildcats, Oklahoma is ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings. Although the loss to the Red Raiders was a blow, the Sooners just need to keep winning and they could still find themselves in position to play for the national title.
Penn State – The Nittany Lions aren’t going to win any style points for their victories, but they survived another close one on Saturday against Illinois to move their record to 8-1. Quarterback play continues to be an issue, but Penn State has been winning with a steady dose of running back Silas Redd, and a defense allowing only 12.4 points a game. The Nittany Lions have a difficult upcoming schedule – Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin – but are the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play entering November.
Stanford – The Cardinal kept alive their national title hopes with a 56-48 victory over USC on Saturday night. The Trojans pushed Stanford to the brink, leading by a touchdown with just over three minutes to go. However, thanks to the steady performance of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Cardinal sent the game into overtime. Stanford forced only one USC fumble, but it was a big one, as the turnover sealed the victory and preserved a chance to play for the championship. Stanford still has a big test upcoming, as Oregon will visit the Farm on Nov. 12.
UCLA – One week after an awful showing against Arizona, the Bruins bounced back with a dominating 31-14 win over California. The UCLA defense forced five turnovers, while quarterback Kevin Prince led the offense with 163 yards on the ground. The Bruins still have a shot to win the Pac-12 South, but desperately need a win over Arizona State this Saturday.
Virginia – Not many people expected to see the Cavaliers win on the road at Miami, especially after losing to NC State one week ago. However, Virginia used a balanced attack on offense, some aggressive calls by coach Mike London, while the defense held Miami running back Lamar Miller under 100 yards. The Cavaliers need just one win to get bowl eligible, and they should get to six wins with games against Maryland and Duke remaining.
Western Kentucky – The Hilltoppers have earned a spot in this column over the past couple of weeks. Western Kentucky continued to turn heads in Sun Belt play with a 31-28 victory over UL Monroe. The win over the Warhawks was the Hilltoppers’ fourth in a row and keeps them within range to Arkansas State for the top spot in the conference.
Baylor – There’s no shame in losing to Oklahoma State, but the Bears had plenty of missed opportunities in Saturday’s game and lost 59-24. The loss to the Cowboys was Baylor’s third in four games and has quieted the Heisman buzz surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin. The junior hasn’t been the issue, but the Bears need to do a better job of punching in opportunities on offense and find some consistency on defense. Baylor has allowed at least 55 points in each of its last two games.
California – After a 3-0 start, there was some promise and hope that the Golden Bears were going back in the right direction. Not anymore. California has lost four out of its last five games, and now faces a quarterback controversy after a poor performance by Zach Maynard on Saturday night against UCLA. With games against Washington State and Oregon State upcoming, California should find a way to get bowl eligible. However, the losses have done nothing to quiet the pressure on coach Jeff Tedford.
Clemson – The Tigers suffered their first defeat of the year, losing 31-17 to Georgia Tech. The loss effectively ended any hopes Clemson had of competing for a national title, but it still controls its destiny in the ACC Atlantic. The offense was able to move the ball through the air, but four turnovers were just too much to overcome. Even though national title hopes are over, the Tigers can still finish with an 11-1 record at the end of the regular season. And there’s plenty of returning talent to get excited about the possibilities of 2012.
Iowa – The Hawkeyes were quietly keeping within range of Michigan State, Michigan and Nebraska in the Big Ten Legends Division. That was until Saturday afternoon. Iowa suffered a disappointing 22-21 loss to Minnesota, dropping it to 5-3 and 2-2 in Big Ten play. Although it’s too early to count out the Hawkeyes in the division race, losing to a Minnesota team with one win is unacceptable.
Kansas – The Jayhawks turned in one of the worst offensive performances of 2011 in Saturday’s loss to Texas. The Kansas offense managed just 46 total yards, three first downs and committed two turnovers. Yikes. Turner Gill should get another year to turn things around, but these losses are not sitting well in Lawrence.
Maryland – It’s been a disappointing season in College Park and things only got worse with the 28-17 defeat to Boston College on Saturday. The loss to the Eagles was Maryland’s fourth defeat in a row and they have only one win over a FBS team this season (Miami). Also, there’s a quarterback controversy again between Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown, while the defense ranks last in the ACC in points allowed. Needless to say, coach Randy Edsall’s dream job has not provided a honeymoon in year one.
Michigan State – The Spartans had a chance to claim full control of the Big Ten Legends Division with a win over Nebraska on Saturday. However, Michigan State was unable to get anything going on offense, while the defense was worn down by a relentless Cornhusker rushing attack. The Spartans remain squarely in the mix to win the division, but will need some help in the form of a Nebraska loss in the next few weeks.
Texas Tech – One week after beating Oklahoma, the dreaded letdown bug bit the Red Raiders. Texas Tech looked flat and out of sync, as Iowa State posted a 41-7 win in Lubbock. Although it’s just one loss, a look at the Red Raiders’ schedule shows just how important Saturday’s defeat could be. Texas Tech still has games against Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri and Baylor remaining. Making a bowl game is going to be no easy task.
Wisconsin – Back-to-back losses have effectively ended any hopes the Badgers’ had of playing for a national title. Wisconsin looked like the No. 1 team in the Big Ten through the first six weeks of the season, but has been sliding down the polls with the recent losses. Although the defense ranks 11th nationally in yardage allowed, this group has not delivered in the final moments of the last two games. The Badgers can still win the Big Ten Leaders Division, but need two losses by Penn State and one by Ohio State.
Looking Ahead to Week 10
A small sample of what’s ahead
Northern Illinois at Toledo (Tuesday)
Two of the best teams in the MAC meet for a Tuesday night shootout.
Temple at Ohio (Wednesday)
Winner of this game should have the inside track to winning the MAC East.
North Carolina at NC State
Tar Heels look to snap a four-game losing streak to Wolfpack.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Can the Panthers stay alive in Big East race without running back Ray Graham?
Louisville at West Virginia
Cardinals improving, but Mountaineers still in control of Big East title destiny.
Notre Dame at Wake Forest
First meeting between these two teams.
Vanderbilt at Florida
Much-improved Commodores should give Florida all it can handle.
Missouri at Baylor
Bears have lost three out of their last four, while Tigers coming off big win in College Station.
Texas Tech at Texas
Winner of this Texas matchup will get bowl eligible.
Michigan at Iowa
Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Legends Division title hopes took a hit with puzzling loss to Minnesota.
South Carolina at Arkansas
Can Gamecocks’ banged up offense score enough points to beat Razorbacks?
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
Cowboys in good shape to make a run at a national title, but every week is a must-win.
LSU at Alabama
Without question, this is the must-see game of 2011.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma
Sooners aren’t finished in national title race, but they can’t afford another loss.
Oregon at Washington
Can the Ducks get LaMichael James and Darron Thomas back on track?
Injuries from Week 9
Air Force QB Tim Jefferson (broken nose) – probable for Week 10
Georgia RB Isaiah Crowell (shin) – probable for Week 10
Georgia RB Richard Samuel (sprained ankle) – probable for Week 10
Georgia OG Dallas Lee (leg) – out for remainder of 2011
Kentucky QB Morgan Newton (ankle, shoulder) – questionable for Week 10
Miami QB Jacory Harris (arm) – expected to play in Week 10
Oklahoma RB Dominique Whaley (ankle) – out for the remainder of 2011
Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham (knee) – out for the remainder of 2011
Pittsburgh WR Cam Saddler (sternum) - out for the remainder of 2011
Stanford TE Zach Ertz (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Tennessee S Brent Brewer (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Texas WR Jaxon Shipley (knee) – questionable for Week 10
USC RB Marc Tyler (shoulder) – questionable for Week 10
USC LB Dion Bailey (concussion) – questionable for Week 10