Tag:Rice
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:30 am
 

DODDCAST: Talking NCAA changes and NCAA records

Posted by Chip Patterson

In this week's edition of the Doddcast, Dennis Dodd and Adam Aizer review Miami's first home loss ever on a Thursday, and credit Mike London for the recent success at Virginia. History was also made in Houston, with Case Keenum breaking Graham Harrell's career touchdown record in a nine-touchdown performance against Rice. Dodd breaks down the NCAA reforms approved this week, discuss Kansas State's chances against Oklahoma, and the crazy state of SEC/Big 12/SEC/Big 12 Missouri.

Nothing is off limits this week as Dodd, an admitted die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, even weighs in on the historic Game 6 Thursday night. They also answer some listener emails, so be sure to submit your question to podcast [at] cbsinteractive [dot] com 
Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer.




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Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Case Keenum sets another NCAA record in 73-34 win

Posted by Chip Patterson

On a night when one of the nation's most prolific passers needed an above average night to tie Graham Harrell for most career touchdown passes, Houston quarterback Case Keenum had an extraordinary night and shattered the NCAA record. Houston battled through an early Rice charge and rainy conditions to burn the Owls for 655 yards and a 73-34 win.

Keenum finished the night completing 24 of 37 throws for 534 yards and nine touchdowns, adding yet another record to his six-year career as a Cougar. Just a week ago, Keenum became FBS's career leader in total offense during Houston's 63-28 win over Marshall. So it wasn't surprising to see the star quarterback repeat a similar performance against Rice on Thursday night.

Rice jumped out to an early 17-7 lead in the first quarter, recovering a Keenum fumble for a touchdown. But the sixth-year senior answered quickly, tossing a 57-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Edwards on the final play of the period. From there it was all standard-issue Cougars offense, as the speedy attack wore down Rice and pulled away over the next 45 minutes of game time. Edwards continued to be a target of choice for Keenum on the record-setting night, finishing with 318 yards and five touchdowns - both career highs for the senior.

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 7:46 pm
 

PIC: Tulsa's shiny helmets are hard to read

Posted by Chip Patterson

Tulsa and Rice are underway as part of a busy evening in Conference USA action (you can keep up with the action HERE) and the Golden Hurricanes have made quite a statement with their headgear.

Are the shiny helmets are some odd combination of an optical allusion and subliminal messaging? Or do you think their stylist is encouraging the team to embrace subtlety? Leave your opinions on these bold skull protectors in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter (@EyeOnCFB).

Screencap courtesy of Mocksession



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Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 2:42 am
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings (Oct. 4)


Posted by Chip Patterson

Just after I wrote last week about how the Big 12 is pushing the SEC for the top spot in the power rankings, Texas A&M shows up with a monumental collapse against Arkansas in Cowboys Stadium. Despite the jokes about it being a "SEC West conference matchup," this was a poor display for the 2011 version of the Big 12. But the most glaring conference realization from Week 5 was in regards to the Big Ten.

Wisconsin handled Nebraska in Camp Randall easily, becoming a conference favorite and national title contender. But elsewhere in the conference, Michigan State and Ohio State - both ranked at the beginning of the season - played out a painful 10-7 Spartan victory that displayed more offensive inefficiencies than defensive dominance. Illinois and Michigan have been the surprises of the Big Ten this season, and if you have watched either team play that should not give the conference a ton of confidence.

The ACC has begun to make their case with the emergence of Clemson and Georgia Tech in the national spotlight. If Virginia Tech and Florida State can bounce back this weekend the league will have four teams in the rankings and boost their stock significantly. Mountain West had a rough weekend, and if the struggles continue it could end up costing Boise State a shot at the title. The most shake up in this week's rankings come near the bottom, where the Sun Belt has fallen two spots to last place.

You can give your opinion in the comment section below, but here are the CBSSports.com 2011 Conference Power Rankings heading into Week 6.


1. SEC (LW: 1)- Alabama and LSU continue on their warpath towards the Nov. 5 meeting in Tuscaloosa, but the conference takes a bit of a hit with Florida's stock dropping. As much as a mess the SEC East is, the West has four teams in the Top 15 of the AP Poll and the conference showdowns once again reminds us how big and bruising these SEC teams are, and why they have won the last five national championships.  The Big 12 was certainly pushing the SEC last week, but Arkansas' come-from-behind victory over future confernece rival Texas A&M has kept Mike Slive's conference in the top spot of the power rankings. 

2. Big 12 (LW: 2) - As mentioned above, the Big 12 does settle back into No. 2 after that monumental collapse by the Aggies in Arlington on Saturday. However, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appear to be dancing their way to a Bedlam showdown for the ages. But Texas will have something to say about that in the Red River Shootout this weekend. The Longhorns have their quarterback situation sorted out, and have looked dominant in road wins over UCLA and Iowa State. Despite the off-field headlines, all seems normal on the field with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas vying for the Big 12 title.

3. Pac-12 (LW: T-3) - Stanford's seventh straight win of 26 points or more has reminded the nation that there is a powerhouse on the West Coast that does not quack. Arizona State survived Oregon State's best shot to preserve a solid representation in the polls, and Washington has emerged as a surprise thanks to a 4-1 start. The addition of Colorado no longer makes Washington State the conference door mat, and the Pac-12 leaps out of a tie with the Big Ten to hold third place to themselves in the power rankings.

4. Big Ten (LW: T-3) - Wisconsin's beatdown of Nebraska on national television cemented their status as a title contender and kicked off Russell Wilson's official Heisman campaign. But outside of Madison, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Big Ten's "frontrunners." Michigan, Illinois, and Michigan State all have displayed frustrating inconsistencies, and if the Cornhuskers are the second best team in the conference there is a huge gap between the Badgers and the rest of the league. Ohio State, on the other hand, is doing a great job of making headlines off the field. If the on-field performance won't cut it, at least the Buckeyes have that - right?

5. ACC (LW: 5) - The ACC is beginning to make a charge up the power rankings, but still don't quite have enough going for them to jump the Big Ten or Pac-12. Clemson's defeat of their third straight ranked opponent makes them the first ACC member to accomplish that feat in the league's history. Georgia Tech has also jumped into the scene with their 5-0 start thanks to one of the most productive offenses in the nation. Predicted division-winners Florida State and Virginia Tech haven't derailed just yet because of their 0-1 conference starts, and will be looking to bounce back in crucial division match ups this weekend.

6. Big East (LW: 6) - South Florida's rising bubble burst on Thursday night, getting embarrassed by Pittsburgh on national television. In the words of Adam Jacobi: "It's the Big East, where nothing that is supposed to happen happens!" West Virginia remains at the top of the pile, but the rest of the conference is up for grabs at this point. Some call it parity, others call it mediocrity, but the fact remains you never know what kind of performance you'll get your opposition in Big East conference play.

7. Mountain West Conference (LW: 7) - The Mountain West has slowly fallen from a borderline premiere conference thanks to several notable losses and a recent hiccup in the non-conference performance. In Week 5, the league went 1-3 in non-conference matchups - with Air Force's overtime victory against Navy as the only win. TCU's overtime loss to SMU is embarrassing for the league, and despite expectations Colorado State and New Mexico losing home games to WAC opponents doesn't help. None of this is helping Boise State's cause, who has continued to steamroll through their schedule.

8. Conference USA (LW: 10) - After a questionable start, Conference USA bounced back in a big way this past week - picking up three impressive non-conference wins. Marshall's takedown of Louisville, SMU's upset of TCU, and even Tulsa's victory over North Texas provided enjoyable entertainment for Conference USA fans. Even lowly UAB hung tight with Troy, one of the top teams in the Sun Belt. Tulane's loss to Army doesn't look great, but it was overshadowed by the big wins mentioned above.

9. MAC (LW: 8) - Western Michigan's takedown of Connecticut was the bright spot this weekend's MACtion, which featured four conference matchups while Ball State, Bowling Green, and Miami were fed to BCS Rancors. Toledo and Temple not nearly as close as I expected, with the Rockets jumping out to 15-3 first quarter lead and never looking back. Owls fans filled less than 22,000 of Lincoln Financial Field's 68,000+ seats, and the game did little but lock in Toledo's status as the conference favorite moving forward.

10. WAC (LW: 11) - San Jose State and New Mexico State delivered non-conference wins over Mountain West opponents while Nevada received the revenge punishment from Boise State on the Smurf Turf. Idaho put together a respectable performance taking Virginia to overtime on the road. Fresno State also came close to knocking off a BCS opponent last weekend, but blew a 28-27 fourth quarter lead to Ole Miss.

11. Sun Belt (LW: 9) - Not a great week for the Sun Belt. Conference favorites FIU suffered their second consecutive loss, and this time at the hands of Duke. Troy struggled to beat UAB, and one of the conference's only non-conference wins was Middle Tennessee squeaking past Memphis. When Louisiana-Lafayette is the conference leader, things aren't' off to a great start for the league.

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 1:28 pm
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings: Week 5


Posted by Chip Patterson


We took Week 4 off for the conference power rankings to put together the Future Conference Power Rankings.  With realignment rumors slowing, we made a few projections and broke down how the conference's would rank in 2014 at the BCS automatic qualifying renewal.  I put together a set of power rankings for football, Matt Norlander did college hoops, then we put our brains together for a joint future conference power ranking.  

The exercise was an interesting look into the makeup of building and sustatining a conference, but I was more than excited to turn the attention back to what we know: football in 2011.  

LSU and Alabama have continued to carry the SEC banner as the game's leading conference.  The two juggernauts have overcome every obstacle in their path so far, heading down a collision course to their Nov.5 meeting in Tuscaloosa.  But the Tide should be on upset alert this weekend, as defeating the Gators under the lights in The Swamp will be no easy task.  Oklahoma showed no signs of slowing from their methodical road victory against then-top-ranked Florida State, and the Cowboys' comeback victory against Texas A&M showed the strength of the conference lies in the Bedlam schools.  Mountain West and Conference USA suffered some embarrassing losses, while Big Ten's weak slate left room for the Pac-12 to move up into the No. 3 spot.  

You can give your opinion in the comment section below, but here are the CBSSports.com 2011 Conference Power Rankings heading into Week 5.


1. SEC (LW: 1)- The giants in the SEC West each pass their Week 4 tests with flying colors, and LSU takes over as the No. 1 team in the nation according to the writers.  Mississippi State avoided dropping two in a row barely, but the Bulldogs can pick themselves up before heading back into conference play.  Florida performed their annual slaughter of Kentucky, and their defense and running game could give them a shot to challenge South Carolina in the East.  

2. Big 12 (LW: 2) - The Big 12 is definitely closing the gap on the SEC for top conference in the nation, which is interesting considering the instability off the field.  While Oklahoma and Oklahoma State continue to lead the way in the polls, the depth of the conference has been more impressive as of late.  With Kansas State knocking off Miami in Coral Gables and Baylor continuing to follow Robert Griffin III's lead the league has five teams in the top 20.  That's just as much as the SEC and an argument could be made for the middle of the Big 12 looking better on the field than the middle of the SEC recently.

3. Big Ten (LW: 3) - The Big Ten gets very little credit for their weak non-conference schedule in Week 4.  While Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State all did their part to take care of the inferior competition the rest of the conference did not fly the banner with pride.  Minnesota and Indiana's losses and Illinois' squeaker against Western Michigan put a stain on what could have been a clean sweep for the B1G.  Legends and Leaders will strap it up in Week 5 though, with five conference matchups on the slate.

3. Pac-12 (LW: 4) - With Oregon showing flashes of 2010 in their rushing game, the Ducks sent a warning shot across Stanford's bow with their performance on Saturday.  Arizona State's victory over USC helped justify what may be the Sun Devils' berth to the inagural Pac-12 title game (due to USC's postseason ban).  The conference has plenty of question marks when you look down the entire membership roster, but the heavy-hitters at the top of the standings keep the conference near the top.  

5. ACC (LW: 5) - Florida State's second loss in a row removes the ACC's lone team from the national spotlight.  However with a victory over Virignia Tech, Clemson could find themselves elevated to that elite group of undefeated teams.  The Tigers have never defeated three ranked opponents in a row, and will be trying to do so on Sunday evening in Blacksburg.  The Hokies have played an unimpressive collection of early season non-conference matchups, so Frank Beamer and Co. will be looking for a win to justify their place in the naitonal scene.  Georgia Tech is also on the rise, but Maryland's loss to Temple and Miami's loss to Kansas State the ACC's "middle" took a hit in Week 4.

6. Big East (LW: 7) - West Virginia deserves credit for giving LSU their best shot.  They were able to move the ball on that touted defense and until Mo Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return TD it looked like the Mountaineers could take it to the wire.  South Florida continues their offensive tear, but that will be put to test in the conference opener at Pittsburgh on Thursday.  Despite only having to vote-getting teams in the polls, the conference moves up a spot in the power rankings thanks to a little bit of hope shown by the league's middle.  Cincinnati looks like they could be headed back to the postseason after their dismantling of N.C. State and while Pittsburgh is still horrendous to watch at times they gave themselves a shot to win at Notre Dame..

7. Mountain West Conference (LW: 6) - Kellen Moore and Boise State will stay on course, and I imagine their revenge victory against Nevada will be quite the offensive output.  TCU is starting to get their footing back as well, but still has not displayed anything on field yet that looks like they could give the Broncos a run for the conference title.  The league takes a one-spot drop in the power rankings after San Diego State looked shellshocked against Michigan in the Big House.  The Aztecs weren't expected to win, but Rocky Long's squad could have definitely put up a better fight against the Wolverines.  

8. MAC (LW: 9) - Nothing quite like some MACtion upsets to make for good conference smack talk.  The fighting Addazio's have lived up to their hype once again, this time picking Maryland apart on their own field.  Temple's strong start, and what should have been a Toledo win against Syracuse have the MAC ranking just below the MWC in terms of non-AQ conferences.  Throw in Ball State's win over Army and it was a blown call away from a MAC sweep in Week 4.

9. Sun Belt (LW: T-10) - The Sun Belt's darling in 2011 was FIU, at least until Wesley Carroll and T.Y. Hilton left Saturday's game with injuries and the Panthers dropped their first contest of the season.  After knocking off Louisville and UCF in back-to-back weeks, it is unfortunate Mario Cristobal's tear came to an end against a conference opponent.  Troy now has second life as they try to pursue at least a share of their seventh straight Sun Belt Confernece title.  North Texas delivered the upset of the weekend for the league, knocking off Indiana 24-21.  

10. Conference USA (LW: 8) - In a weekend that featured several notable non-conference upset opportunities, Conference USA really dropped the ball.  Southern Miss was able to hold on against Virginia, but after the Cavaliers' recent performances even that ACC victory might not be an upset.  UCF lost a very winnable game against BYU on Friday night, and an improved Tulane squad certainly had a fighter's chance against Duke.  As a league, Conference USA went 2-6 in non-conference play during Week 4.  Making their case worse, Memphis continues to make a case for being the worst team in the bowl subdivision.  The jury is still out, but the Tigers are making their case.

11. WAC (LW: T-10) - Lots of "almosts" for the WAC in Week 4.  Utah State almost knocking off Colorado State.  Nevada almost upsetting Texas Tech, and Louisiana Tech almost pulling the upset of the week.  Unfortunately "almost" is only acceptable with horshoes and hand grenards.  Need more W's to move up these rankings. 

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 3:55 pm
 

Big 12 poll reactions, Week 4

Posted by Tom Fornelli

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big 12 fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means. 

(AP/Coaches)

2/1. Oklahoma

The Sooners can no longer lay claim to being the undisputed poll champions of the universe this week as they're knocked down a spot in the AP poll to make room for LSU. Which, if you've been reading these in recent weeks, is the right thing to do. LSU has three wins against ranked opponents already this season, and none of them have come in Baton Rouge. Oklahoma has a nice win on the road against Florida State, but its other two wins against Tulsa and Missouri just don't compete with what LSU has done.  I'm also encouraged to see that the media has taken this into account, unlike the coaches who will only move a team down if it loses.

5/6. Oklahoma State

The Big 12 belongs to the state of Oklahoma, as both of the state's teams are ranked no worse than 6th in any of the polls. What's hilarious to me here, however, is that while the Cowboys jump two spots in the AP poll after beating a Texas A&M team that was ranked 8th last week, the coaches keep Oklahoma State at 6th. They are very impressed with your win on the road, Oklahoma State! Just not enough to actually make any changes. They're still much more impressed by Stanford's wins over bad teams like San Jose State, Duke and Arizona. I won't complain too much about Boise State being ahead of the Cowboys here, but that's debatable as well.

14/13. Texas A&M

As you'd expect, the Aggies tumble in the polls this week following the loss at home against Oklahoma State. It's a logic that is rather hard to really argue against, though I suppose there are a number of undefeated teams below A&M in the polls that could raise a fuss if they wanted to. The real question for the Aggies at this point though is how far will they climb or fall in the polls after facing Arkansas this weekend. They weren't able to get the Oklahoma State monkey off their back, can they get the Razorback off their monkey? (That's a terrible joke, but I'm not going to apologize for it.)

15/16. Baylor

Well look who is moving on up. Yes it's odd that pollsters are showing more respect for Baylor following a win against Rice than they did for the win against TCU, but I don't think Baylor is going to complain. The fact that they appear in a poll is good enough for the Baylor faithful as it is, the fact that the Bears keep on climbing is like a dream. This team goes as high as Robert Griffin wants to take it.

17/17. Texas

Sometimes taking a week off can work to your benefit, and that's exactly what happened for Texas this week. It was able to just sit on the sidelines while a couple of teams ranked above it lost, and the Longhorns get the bye week bump because of it. While the win over UCLA last week made me a lot more optimistic about the Longhorns this season than I had been, as I've said for weeks, this ranking is a bit to high for my tastes. We'll have to wait and see what happens when the Longhorns head to Ames this Saturday looking for revenge.

Others Receiving Votes

Iowa State

Iowa State also received a bye week bump this week, which is somewhat rare for teams that weren't already ranked to begin with. Voters tend to forget about you when you weren't already on the ballot and didn't play. Still, the Cyclones manage to creep ever closer to having that heralded number next to their name, and if they pull off a win against Texas this weekend, I have a feeling they'll finally get it. 

Kansas State

How do you get voters to notice your 3-0 start to the season? You go down to South Beach and beat Miami, that's how. Things have really turned around since the opening week of the season when the Wildcats struggled to beat Eastern Kentucky 10-7. At the moment, receiving a few votes here and there is exactly where Kansas State deserves to be, but if it can pull off a win against Baylor on Saturday, it might sneak into the rankings next week. 
Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 4



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as it frustrates the rest of the country, there's a reason why the SEC is continually touted as the nation's best conference. There's a reason why they've won five straight BCS championships.There's a reason why the league is so competitive. And it's not hard to figure out either.

Defense, and lots of it. S-E-C Speed, S-E-C D.

With nearly half the league ranked 75th or worse in total offense through four games, five ranked teams and a 25-4 non-conference record don't happen by accident. Six teams are in the top 30 in scoring defense, including Alabama and Florida in the top five.

For LSU, the fearsome part of their defense is the backend. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu repeated as Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week thanks to six tackles and two turnovers against West Virginia. A week earlier, his teammate Morris Claiborne was tabbed for the award after two interceptions against Mississippi State. If there's a better pair of corners in the country on one team, they're in the NFL. Mathieu's interception that he took down to the one right before halftime helped stretch the Tigers' lead to 20 and Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown ended all hopes of a Mountaineers rally and kept momentum planted firmly on the LSU sideline.

"West Virginia did a very good job, but our defense showed up to play and we got off to a nice start," Les Miles said after the game. " Morris Claiborne’s return was right on time, and we were able to finish it off. We made some mistakes, but we overcame that adversity."

What was surprising Saturday was just how little pressure LSU's front seven were able to get on opposing quarterback Geno Smith. He finished with a school-record 468 yards of total offense as the Tigers game up more yards in a game than they had since 2005. Giving up chunks of yards to a Dana Holgorsen-led offense is nothing new, but what kept the game in LSU's favor was the big play ability of coordinator John Chavis' defense.

Ultimately, the Tigers don't win by scoring, they win by scoring on defense.

Mathieu, who wears Patrick Peterson's old number seven, is as ball-hawking as you can get. Peterson was a one-man island last season, often taking away half of the field by himself in zone coverage if he wasn't locking up his man one-on-one. While Mathieu isn't as good in coverage as the man he took over for, he has a great feel for the game and reads plays as well as anybody on the back half. When he roams or blitzes, things just happen - as they did in Morgantown on Saturday. Despite losing Peterson, this secondary is better and deeper than it was a year ago as Claiborne and others have elevated their game. As one NFL scout told CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel, there are actually more than four NFL players among this group.

Read more about Tyrann Mathieu in Bruce Feldman's Big Picture

"The offensive game plan was not a problem," Holgorsen said. "Turning the ball over four times is a problem, and they have something to do with that too. They have a pretty good defense."

LSU has scored first and led at halftime in each of the Tigers' games this year. It's all part of the plan: Score first, play defense, be opporunistic and win the fourth quarter.

Alabama uses a similar strategy. Before the season, one person inside the program said what many had been saying: this defense was better than 2009's championship squad and might be one of the most talented ever under Nick Saban. They might have an even faster secondary than LSU and use the speed to play everything in front of them, swarming to ball seconds after the snap.

Against Arkansas, they also delivered shot, after shot, after shot on quarterback Tyler Wilson. The 3-4 the team runs allows Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart to mix in plenty of zone blitzes to create pressure on quarterbacks who rarely can tell where it's coming from before the snap. The Tide recruit athletes who can move well in they scheme more than anything and that's translated into a fearsome unit that is living up to their reputation as the best in the country. They play smart and play well.

"Well we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC, so we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.

Though the highlight of the game with Arkansas was Marquis Maze's punt return for a touchdown, that was nearly the straw that broke the razorback's back. As Saban and others admitted it was a defensive play, DeQuan Menzie's interception, that shifted the momentum after the offense couldn't convert on the goal line.

"That was a big turning point in the game from a momentum stand point, and you know, we need to make more plays like that, get more turnovers," Saban said. "People are going to see what we do and figure out ways to deal with it. Our challenge is to get better every day."

That's a scary thought - for Alabama or for any SEC defense. Can't wait to see them match up with LSU on November 5 as much as the offensive coordinators do not.

Stat of the week

After wrapping up a 56-31 win over Rice, just about everybody was talking about Heisman candidate and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Look up the box score and it's easy to see why: he went a ho-hum 29-33 for 338 yards and five touchdowns as the Bears racked up 673 yards of offense. Even more eye-popping was the fact that he threw more touchdowns than incompletions for the second consecutive game. Griffin has also thrown more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) this season. He is completing 85% of his passes, hasn't thrown an interception and is throwing for nearly 12 yards per attempt. As one would expect, he tops the NCAA efficiency rankings, just ahead of Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.

Other stats of note

- Florida beat Kentucky for the 25th time in a row and by at least 34 points for the fourth straight year.  The Wildcats are on the losing end of the two longest active losing streaks to one team, the other being the 26 game streak to Tennessee.

- Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz set a school record and tied the NCAA record by throwing seven touchdown passes against UC Davis over the weekend. He sat out the second half after the Warriors led 49-0 at half but not before he also passed for a school record 424 yards in a half.

- Notre Dame is dead last in the country in turnover margin at -2.50 a game. The Irish have given the ball away 15 times in four games, more than they did in all of 2009 and 2006. The defense has forced just five this year.

- Quarterback Denard Robinson is the nation's leading rusher at 168.7 yards per game, over 15 yards a game more than runner up LaMichael James. While that's pretty impressive, he wouldn't be in the top spot were it not for the NCAA not counting his stats from the game against Western Michigan - which was stopped early. Of course, who knows, he might have been able to pad his stats during that game and still be in the lead a few weeks later like he is now.

- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray had his nine-game streak of at least 100 yards rushing broken. The Aggies really went away from the ground game in the second half and never did establish Gray against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden set school records for completions (47) and passing yardage (438).

- James was back to putting up video game numbers for Oregon against Arizona this weekend. He rushed for a school record 288 yards and also set the all-purpose mark. His first quarter touchdown run also gave him the Ducks record for career touchdowns as well. His 288 yards were more than the Wildcats have rushed for all year (249).

- Florida Atlantic had just one first down against Michigan State but racked up 20 against Auburn's defense in a 30-14 loss. The Owls are dead last in the country in offense and have scored only 17 points all year. 62% of FAU's offensive yardage this year came against Auburn.

- South Carolina's defense allowed just 77 yards to Vanderbilt and only five first downs all game. Defensive stud Melvin Ingram scored yet another touchdown, his third in as many weeks. By reaching the end zone, Ingram is tied for third on the team for points scored with quarterback Stephen Garcia.

- A few miles away from Columbia, Clemson receiver and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins is leading the Tigers in scoring after 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a victory over Florida State. Through four games this year he has 433 yards receiving and six touchdowns, marks that would have placed him second and third on the team respectively in each category last year.

- Four teams topped the 400 yard rushing mark last Saturday, led by Air Force rolling up 595 yards against hapless Tennessee State. Oregon had 415 yards against Arizona, Florida rushed for 405 against Kentucky and Army pounded Ball State for 402 yards. A team has rushed for over 400 yards 10 times this year while a team has passed for over 400 yards 22 times through week four.

- According to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, Illinois is 4-0 for the first time since 1951. I'm with him, how is that possible?

- Georgia Tech has six plays of 70+ yards this year and seven one-play scoring drives.

Yard-by-yard

-  Hats off to Mike Gundy's halftime adjustments. After being held about 1,000 points below their average in the first half to trail by 17, the Cowboys offense exploded as Brandon Weeden started picking apart Texas A&M's secondary with intermediate passes on their way to a comeback win. The Aggies turned the ball over three times and anytime you give Weeden the ball on a short field, watch out. The most telling sign was the lack of panic on the OSU sidelines as they fell behind. Though they hadn't been in the position before, it was as if they knew what to do and went out and executed. The defense isn't quite as good as Oklahoma's but they'll be able to ride the offense quite far in Big 12 play.

- I'm not quite ready to say the Michigan defense is good but it's certainly much improved and solid enough in a weaker Big Ten for new coordinator Greg Mattison. After the much maligned unit struggled all of last year, they seemed to turn a corner against a very good offense in San Diego State. The Wolverines shutout talented running back Ronnie Hillman and the Aztecs in the first half, the first time they've pulled off the feat in the first half in over two years. Hillman hadn't fumbled since the first carry of his freshmen season last year and yet coughed it up twice. We've been in this position with the Wolverines before last year - a fast start, Denard Robinson being Denard Robinson - before fading badly at the end in Rich Rodriguez' last year as head coach. This year, though, might be different. The schedule is manageable and with the defense being more opportunistic than they have been in the past, Michigan could have a much different ending.

- Michigan's archival Ohio State doesn't have the kind of stability that the Wolverines have but they had to be encouraged with the solid first start for quarterback Braxton Miller. He didn't cause anybody to label him the "next" anything after going 5-13 for 83 yards and rushing for 83 yards but it looks like he's the future after a disastrous passing game for the Buckeyes I saw firsthand against Miami. What's funny is the last time I saw Ohio State play on the road was a couple of years ago at USC. The offense struggled and the next game a talented true freshman by the name of Terrelle Pryor started for the first time. Pryor tossed four touchdowns in that game and led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter. While Miller didn't come anywhere close to looking like his predecessor, he looked comfortable running the offense and playing with what the defense was giving him. No one's saying he'll be able to replicate what Pryor did on the field but it looks like yet again the Buckeyes have another true freshman ready to lead them into Big Ten play this year.

"I slept pretty good," he said of his first start. "I really didn't have any jitters at all."

With improved play from Miller and the rest of the offense, head coach Luke Fickell might sleep better too.

- There's no offense quite like Georgia Tech's. It's an option attack but one that has a dangerous passing game that is part of the reason the Yellow Jackets are leading the nation in yards per game. They piled up 496 yards on Saturday in a nice win over North Carolina. Quarterback Tevin Washington is the triggerman but unlike previous players at the position under Paul Johnson, he looks like he can legitimately get the ball down the field accurately. Of course, it helps to throw the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Steven Hill. There were times where he looked just like Calvin Johnson while making one-handed catches on his way to 151 yards and a touchdown. Hill might be the best receiver no one's really talking about but with Washington throwing the ball and running back Orwin Smith helping out on the ground, expect to hear more about Georgia Tech going forward.

- Poor N.C. State fans. As if it weren't enough to see former quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm for a top 10 team, Thursday's blowout loss to Cincinnati couldn't have given anybody any confidence in what's to come this season. The offensive line gave up six sacks to go on top of three turnovers, two of which were interceptions thrown by Wilson's replacement Mike Glennon without much thought. There's some talent on the team but clearly not enough in a much tougher ACC this year. It's going to be a long season until North Carolina's Committee on Infractions hearing for Wolfpack fans.

- I thought the Clemson game would be a bit of a letdown game for Florida State and while they made it close, the execution just was not there for the Seminoles. Of course they wanted to win and definitely were without some key players, but they invested so much into the game against Oklahoma one would have to think that they spent a little too much time watching film from last week instead of film of the Tigers. Just when it seemed like the defense was ready to make a stop or the offense get going, there'd be a penalty (they finished with 11 for 124 yards). On the other side, it finally appears that Clemson is getting the hang of offensive coordinator Chad Morris' new hurry-up system. Tajh Boyd still has moments that must make Morris rip out some hair but he is looking much more comfortable behind center. With electric freshman Sammy Watkins making plays every time you tune in, it's easy to see why there's plenty of optimism in Death Valley.

"I'm super excited about how our players keep growing this offense and executing. And we're only four games into this offense," Morris said. "It's crazy."

- Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6 as part of the Big Ten's weekend of home games against directional schools to raise money for themselves. The Nittany Lions might have come out with a victory but it was a costly one - starting outside linebacker Mike Mauti will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Considered to be the team's best backer, this is needless to say a big blow to a team that already has struggled some on both sides of the ball. Mauti missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury to his other knee and was limited at times last year due to a shoulder injury. Senior corner D'Anton Lynn was also hurt and had to be transported to the hospital to have his head and neck examined after a hit.

- Speaking of Penn State, the team that almost beat them last week, Temple, ended up routing Maryland 38-7. Steve Addazio has quietly taken what Al Golden left him and turned the Owls in a forced to be reckoned with. Junior back Bernard Pierce is the Northeast's best kept secret, as he rushed for five touchdowns and 149 yards to power Temple's first road win over a BCS foe in nine years.

- How bad is Oregon State? The Beavers lost 27-19 to a UCLA team that is not without their own issues on both sides of the ball. Many expected them to get a boost - they were favored at home - with the return of all-purpose threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni but it was to no avail. It's the worst start of the Mike Riley era and unlike many of his previous teams, there's just no execution. There's been issues behind the scenes and at quarterback on offense while the defense is still breaking in plenty of new players. As Pac-12 play continues, don't expect things to get any easier until the Beavers get back to their roots of playing smart football and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. For UCLA, it was a game they just had to have if they're to sneak into a bowl game this year. According to the LA Daily News , a joyous Rick Neuheisel told a group of fans after the game  "Anybody have fun on the flight here? Not as much as you'll have on the flight home!" Of course, he also added that the Bruins haven't been 1-0 in the conference, "in a long time."

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Related links
Video
Quote of the week

"Big 12! Big 12! Big 12!" - Oklahoma State fans after their victory at Kyle Field. Perhaps it was also fitting that Texas A&M had two 12th man penalties on defense early in the game.

Quote of the week, part II

"The speed of the game, it's kind of lighting struck the outhouse and we were in it." - Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter after the Wildcats' 48-10 loss to Florida.

Tweets of the week

"Arizona will always be a basketball school.. So Child please!" and "If one more person EVER tells me Arizona is turning into a "football" school .. Can kiss the baby"

- Former Arizona forward Derrick Williams during his football team's blowout loss to Oregon. Ouch.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. Wisconsin

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Virginia Tech

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

The big CBS primetime matchup between Alabama and Florida from the Swamp will have Mr. College Football himself, Tony Barnhart, in attendance. Dennis Dodd will be at Camp Randall for Nebraska's first Big Ten conference game against Wisconsin while Brett McMurphy will be listening to 'Enter Sandman' as Clemson plays at Virginia Tech. I've got early duty as I'll be at Texas A&M's first SEC conference game (well, first unofficial one anyway) against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.

Leaning this way

Alabama at Florida (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

The past three meetings has featured one of two teams ranked number one overall and while neither will be in the top spot in the polls this year, a top 12 matchup awaits down in the Swamp. Both the Gators and Tide have tough defenses that are ranked in the top five nationally in the three big defensive categories (total/rushing/scoring defense) so each offense figures to have a little more trouble moving the ball than they have so far this year. Alabama's speed will be the difference as they bottle up Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to come out with a victory.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska. Camp Randall should be jumping around as they welcome in the Cornhuskers and Taylor Martinez. Look for Russell Wilson to continue to be sharp and not turn the ball over and the Badgers' defense to make just enough plays to win. Martinez should be able to move the ball though, Wisconsin's defense hasn't really been tested - much less by an offense like Nebraska's.

Clemson at Virginia Tech

The first big test for both teams as Clemson goes on the road to take on Frank Beamer's squad. Clemson made several key mistakes that kept Florida State in the game last week and if they turn the ball over, that plays right into the Hokies game plan. Virginia Tech should win but don't be surprised if this is a close ACC battle.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: ACC, Air Force, Al Golden, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Army, Ball State, Baylor, BCS, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryant Moniz, Calvin Johnson, Camp Randall, Chad Morris, Chris Rainey, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cowboys Stadium, Cyrus Gray, D'Anton Lynn, Dana Holgorsen, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, DeQuan Menzie, Derrick Williams, Dont'a Hightower, Eastern Michigan, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Geno Smith, Georgia Tech, Greg Mattison, Gregg Doyel, Hawaii, Heisman, Illinois, James Rodgers, Jeff Demps, Joe Halahuni, John Chavis, Kentucky, Kirby Smart, Kyle Field, LaMichael James, Les Miles, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marquis Maze, Maryland, Melvin Inrgam, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike Mauti, Mike Riley, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, N.C. State, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Rice, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Minter, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ronnie Hillman, Russell Wilson, Sammy Watkins, San Diego State, SEC, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Addazio, Steven Hill, Stewart Mandel, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Temple, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Tevin Washington, Texas A&M, Tony Barnhart, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
 
Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:19 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 12:19 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 24)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. The Big Ten can't even get cheap wins correctly. There's no nice way to put this: this was possibly the worst week in Big Ten history in terms of opponent quality. The total amount of AP and coaches poll votes held by the Big Ten's Week 4 opponents? 22, received by Michigan opponent San Diego State, who will likely see that number fall to zero on Sunday after the Wolverines prevailed 28-7. Handfuls of undeserved votes aside, the best team anybody in the Big Ten faced today was Western Michigan, who took Illinois to the limit in Champaign. Again: Western Michigan, a MAC team with no AP or coaches poll votes, looked like the most talented opponent of Week 4 for anybody in the Big Ten. And being that there were no riots on any of the Big Ten campuses, apparently fans are willing to allow this scheduling practice to continue.

So it would stand to reason that the Big Ten went 10-0 this week (Purdue and Northwestern are on bye weeks) then, correct? Well, no. Indiana couldn't overcome a 24-point deficit in a 24-21 home road loss to North Texas, and Minnesota increased its losing streak against North Dakota State to two games (also lost to Bison in 2007) by dropping Saturday's game, 37-24. As for how such a shocking loss could have possibly happened to a Big Ten team, well, look at the picture above. It's Minnesota. There were blowouts everywhere else in the conference, which is the way it ought to be, but 8-2 against a slate of cupcakes? Shame on the Big Ten for that.

2. Speaking of which, Indiana and Minnesota may be worse than we thought. It was obvious already that Indiana and Minnesota were going to be taking up residence in the basements of their respective divisions, what with the Hoosiers losing to Ball State in Week 1 and Minnesota dropping one to New Mexico State already this year. But both teams' losses to low-level competition this Saturday were even worse, because for most of the game, they weren't even close. North Texas was 0-3 on the year coming into the game, and built a 24-0 lead while moving the ball at will on the Hoosier defense, while NDSU held a 31-14 advantage in the second half before holding on for the win. We're talking about a previously winless Sun Belt team and an FCS school who both looked like they belonged in the Big Ten more than the Hoosiers or Gophers. That? That's not good.

3. Braxton Miller is not on Terrelle Pryor's level... yet. Ohio State cruised to a 37-17 victory over visiting Pac-12 doormat Colorado, but the big story here was Braxton Miller's debut as a starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. Miller was a force on the ground, registering 83 yards on 17 carries, and he also threw for two touchdowns. That's the good part. The bad part is that Miller was just 5-13 for 83 yards through the air, and he just doesn't have a very good read progression at this point. Really, he wasn't even supposed to be playing this year, much less starting, but then Terrelle Pryor's eligibility walked out the door and now here we are with a true freshman under center in Columbus.

Miller's going to improve over the course of the year, one would imagine, and that's good because don't let the touchdowns fool you: he's got a ways to go yet before he's as reliable as Luke Fickell is going to need him to be in conference play. Miller did show flashes of the athleticism and play-making ability that made him such a sought-after prospect on Saturday, but the consistency is going to be the key, and that comes mainly with time -- time that, with Michigan State coming to town next Saturday, Ohio State doesn't really have.

4. Michael Mauti's luck is just wretched. Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6, but the real story for PSU is the injuries suffered on the defensive side of the ball. CB D'Anton Lynn was carted off the field in the second half with an apparent neck injury, but he's expected to be fine. The real problem for the Nittany Lions is the absence of All-American candidate Michael Mauti, who suffered a torn ACL on a non-contact injury in the first quarter and will miss the rest of the year. Mauti was forced to redshirt in 2009, his second year with Penn State, after tearing his right ACL; Saturday's injury happened to Mauti's left. It's early enough in the year that he'll likely be able to apply for a sixth year of eligibility in 2013 if he wants it.

This marks the third season marred by injury for the talented linebacker; in addition to the 2009 ACL injury mentioned earlier, Mauti was plagued by ankle and shoulder issues in 2010 and never seemed to be at 100% during Big Ten play even when he was healthy enough to be on the field (not always the case). Mauti had looked great in early play this season, and although Nate Stupar is no slouch in relief, losing a high-caliber player like Mauti is tough for a team that's going to be leaning heavily on its defense this season with the continuing difficulties at quarterback.

We hope Mauti's recovery is swift and complete, and that he finally gets at least one healthy season to put it all together for Penn State. Anything less, frankly, would be unfair.

5. There are going to be a lot of quarterbacks getting All-Big Ten honorable mention recognition. The best quarterback in the Big Ten is probably Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, and if it's not, it's Mr. MichiganDenard Robinson.(seen at left, rushing for one of his three scores Saturday). Short of injury, there's basically no way these two dynamos cede the All-Big Ten first team and second team honors at the end of this season.

That means honorable mention is going to have to accommodate a lot of Big Ten quarterbacks who are off to great starts this season in their own right. Nathan Scheelhaase is basically a job-saver for Ron Zook at Illinois, epitomizing the "dual threat" label with a high option IQ and an accurate arm. James Vandenberg is probably the best pure passer Kirk Ferentz has ever had at Iowa, and the junior has nearly 1100 yards, 10 TDs, and only one interception in his first four games this year. MSU's Kirk Cousins was my preseason pick as 2011's top QB in the Big Ten, and he still may be so when the dust settles. Nebraska's option man Taylor Martinez would be the most dynamic rushing quarterback in the Big Ten since Antwaan Randle-El if it weren't for that Denard fellow in Ann Arbor. And oh yes, Dan Persa is coming back next week for Northwestern; if he can replicate his pre-Achilles injury form, Northwestern's going to be in great shape. That's a lot of very, very good quarterbacks for just one conference, and the scary part is that only Wilson and Cousins are seniors. Meanwhile, Indiana brings in top prospect Dusty Kiel next season and Braxton Miller will be the unquestioned starter in Columbus with a full year of experience under his belt in 2012. The high-profile quarterback isn't going anywhere soon in the Big Ten. 

One school that's conspicuously absent in this discussion is Penn State, who struggled again with quarterback play in the Rob Bolden/Matt McGloin quarterback platoon that seemed to hit a stride of sorts this week... against EMU, who isn't even good by MAC standards. How the Penn State quarterback situation got so dire is a question that gets beaten past any semblance of sense on a weekly basis in Happy Valley, but it doesn't change the fact that Penn State's in a quarterback-heavy league without a true No. 1 quarterback, and it's probably going to cost the Nittany Lions this year. It would be false to ascribe this to an institutional weakness on the part of Joe Paterno, since his last full-time starting quarterback was Daryll Clark, who was only the Big Ten OPOTY in 2008. It would also be false to think this problem will fix itself, though, because if there were a legitimate, game-ready quarterback on Penn State's roster, well, we would have seen him by now.

6. Well, at least that's all done. There are only two non-conference games left for anybody in the Big Ten; Purdue faces Notre Dame next week, and Northwestern has a date with Rice in November. For everyone else, it's nothing but Big Ten play from here on out. No more FCS patsies, no more MACrifices, and no more cupcakes showing up for a paycheck. It's the way the Big Ten was meant to be played. Let's go. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com