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Tag:Winners And Losers
Posted on: October 23, 2011 6:57 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 8



Posted by Adam Jacobi

A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The fans at Spartan Stadium

The scene in East Lansing Saturday night was Big Ten football at its best: a packed house under the lights, a national audience, and two highly-ranked programs duking it out for all 60 minutes. The end of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game was phenomenal beyond comparison, of course, but even without the miracle touchdown from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol to finish the game off it was still probably the best of the year in the Big Ten. This time, there was no collapse, no widespread ineptitude, nothing but a mighty good football game.

So being that the fans at Spartan stadium were nice and loud (and probably, ahem, well-lubricated by the time of the late kickoff) and they got to see such a stellar effort by both sides, the myriad big plays by MSU -- including the blocked punt for a touchdown being celebrated above -- and the astonishing game-winning play, yes, they are all the winners here. I've personally been part of a home crowd who saw a game anywhere close to that once: Purdue at Iowa, 2002. That was an incredible, euphoric experience, and Saturday's MSU win hit those notes of amazement even better than the 2002 game did. Sparty fans, you don't need to be told this, but you just witnessed a game for the ages. Treasure it.  

LOSER: Russell Wilson's Heisman campaign

For the first half of the season, Russell Wilson looked like a great quarterback making fools of bad defenses (Nebraska included). His yards per throw not only led the NCAA, it was a full yard ahead of the pace to set a new FBS record, at 12.16. Wilson was a legitimate Heisman contender, and hey, with what Wisconsin was doing to everybody on its schedule, why not?

Unfortunately, on Saturday, Wilson looked like a quarterback who hadn't played a good defense all year, playing a good defense. The end result was several ill-advised throws, two picks, an intentional grounding call for a safety, and easily the worst start of his brief Badger career: 14-21, 223 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs (Yes, that is his worst start. Like we said, bad defenses). Now, Wilson did engineer four touchdown drives, so it's not as if he was beaten into submission all night, but the offense completely fell apart when Montee Bell was on the sidelines, leading one to wonder if the key to keeping the Badger offense rolling has never actually been Wilson to begin with. 

WINNER: Keith Nichol

Keith Nichol, seen at right with a very good reason to smile, hasn't had very many opportunities to be a hero in his college career, though it seemed at the start that he'd have chances at every turn; he was originally recruited by Bob Stoops to be a quarterback for Oklahoma, and he only went to MSU because of the emergence of one Sam Bradford down there. Once Nichol transferred to Michigan State, he split time in a QB platoon with Kirk Cousins at the beginning of 2009 before Cousins was named the full-time starter.

Now, there are plenty of quarterbacks who would have simply transferred to an FCS school in search of immediate playing time at that point, and nobody would have begrudged Nichol if that was the path he had chosen. Instead, a spate of WR suspensions going into the 2009 Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech prompted Nichol to switch to wideout, and while he hasn't set the world on fire there, he has at least remained a productive 4th option for Cousins -- and a loyal teammate to the rest of the program. It takes a lot of maturity to catch passes from the guy who beat you out for a starting role at QB, and if that doesn't sound true, try beign forced into a different job at work and taking orders from the person who took the job you wanted. Right. Not fun.

So, seeing Nichol go through the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the game without a catch, only to become the hero on the last play like that? That's not only a joy, it's a testament to program stability. Does a hypothetical freshman backup wideout in Nichol's stead know to be in that position to look for a deflection? Does that hypothetical WR also have the will to push the ball across the plane against multiple tacklers? Neither is a given, but we do know the answer is yes for Nichol. The phrase "couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy" is trite to the point that it's usually used sarcastically, but it absolutely applies here.

LOSER: Ron Zook, again

Forget the 21-14 final score of the Illinois-Purdue game, please, because it paints a very inaccurate picture of how close the contest really was. The Boilermakers ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, and Illinois never touched the ball again after bringing the game to 21-14. Despite the large lead Purdue rang up in the win, we'll refrain from saying the game "didn't feel like an upset," because it absolutely did; Illinois had scoring chances but blew them, while Caleb TerBush and the rest of the Purdue offense just flailed ineffectually in the second half and got a win to show for it anyway. 

Illinois should not have been so mentally flat coming into the game, though, especially coming right off a loss to Ohio State (who, like Michigan, was off this week) where the Illini handed the anemic OSU offense scoring chances in the second half time and time again. The mental errors need to be corrected coming off a game like that, not magnified. That is on Ron Zook and his coaching staff, 100%. And so even with Illinois at 6-2, it's that "2" that looms larger at this point in the season, and that threatens to balloon in a hurry if Zook doesn't get the team back on track. Otherwise, there's really no telling how much more patience the Illinois brass will have for him. 

WINNER: Marvin McNutt

Coming into this week's action against Indiana, Iowa WR Marvin McNutt just needed one TD to break the all-time Hawkeye receiving touchdown record of 21 that he shared with Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes. McNutt got that touchdown on Saturday. Then he got two more. In the first half. In related news, the Hawkeyes-Hoosiers game was not very close.

McNutt now has 41 catches for 757 yards and eight TDs in seven games thus far, all of which lead the team by substantial margins. If he keeps that pace up for the rest of the year, he would shatter Iowa single-season receiving records in both yardage and scoring -- and he would also set Iowa career marks in receptions and receiving yardage to go with his touchdown mark. So keep your eyes on No. 7, Iowa fans; he's probably the best wide receiver in school history.

LOSER:  PersaStrength

It would be inappropriate to lay the struggles of Northwestern at the feet of Dan Persa, since he's hardly the worst performer on the Wildcats; for one, Persa isn't responsible for the defense, which currently gives up about 250 yards of passing per game and can't crack the top 100 in FBS in pass efficiency defense.

That said, though, Persa is at least the most visible of the Wildcats, and is so by the direct actions of an athletic department that hyped him as "PersaStrong," even as he (understandably) struggled to recover from a severe Achilles injury. And the fact is, Persa's just not at the level he played at last season. His mobility is hampered to the point that he doesn't run designed rushes, and he doesn't have the same timing down with his receivers that he did last year. He also doesn't seem entirely recovered from that injury, though he's at least at the point in the process where it's going to take play on the field to get back to the "100%" of 2010 and not more time with team doctors.

All in all, though, Persa's barely even beating out Kain Colter for the starting QB role, and while we expect Persa to at least continue that mastery of the starting lineup, the fact that Colter's still getting snaps there every week demonstrates that even the Northwestern coaches don't fully trust Dan Persa's leg yet. And given that, it seems more than a little silly that he was the focus of a Heisman campaign coming into the season, doesn't it? 
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:35 am
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 8



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The Stanford Machine

There are two ways that you can take Stanford's 65-21 win over Washington on Saturday night. You can tell yourself that Washington was just a bit overrated coming into the matchup, or you can tell yourself that Stanford is just insanely good at this sport called football. Odds are, for mental health reasons, the rest of the Pac-12 is going to convince itself that Washington was overrated. I'm not in that camp, as I think the Huskies are a good team and that Stanford is just really, really good.

We're nearly two months into the season and I haven't seen any sign that would indicate there's a Pac-12 team that will be able to slow down this Cardinal offense. Just another mind-numbingly efficient, throat-stomping 65-point performance from an offense that is now averaging 48.6 points per game. Stanford ran for 446 yards on Saturday night. 446! Another 7 yards from Anthony Wilkerson and the Cardinal would have had three 100-yard rushers in the game. Good luck trying to stop that, everybody else in the Pac-12. The Stanford Machine will gladly keep coming out with that unbalanced offensive line and pulling the guard just for the fun of seeing you trampled beneath it.

LOSER: Washington State's bowl dreams

This one hurts me a bit because I wanted to believe in Washington State after its 3-1 start just for the story, but the Cougars have now lost three in a row following a 44-21 loss to an Oregon State team that's been anything but good this year. Now Washington State needs to find three more wins on its schedule to go bowling and with road dates against Oregon, Cal and Washington, along with home games against Arizona State and Utah, I just don't see it happening.

WINNER: Lane Kiffin

Kiffykins finally got that signature win he's been looking for since taking over the USC program. The Trojans marched into South Bend on Saturday night and took care of their hated rival with relative ease. In fact, I'm not sure Kiffin has ever called a better set of plays in his life than he did on USC's first two drives of the game, as his offense had the Notre Dame defense completely off-balance and looking lost. The Irish were able to make things close late, but the Trojans defense came through with some huge turnovers to salt this one away. Making things even better for Kiffin and the Trojans, the Irish had a lot of recruits in the house on Saturday night and they were all witness to the USC victory.

LOSER: Colorado football in general

Man, what a beating the Buffaloes took from Oregon on Saturday. The Ducks came into the game without their starting quarterback in Darron Thomas and leading rusher LaMichael James, but it didn't matter all that much. The Ducks still put up 45 points with ease and had 527 yards of offense despite the fact that Chip Kelly called off the dogs with more than six minutes remaining in the third quarter. The highlight of the night for Colorado was a safety late in the third quarter to account for its only points. Still, there's something about losing 45-2 that seems even worse than just getting shutout.

WINNER: Streakers dressed up as referees

Arizona's 48-12 victory over UCLA on Thursday night wouldn't be all that memorable if not for one fan who decided it would be the perfect time for him to debut his new field-storming techniques. For too long streakers have entered the field of play in street clothes, making them easy to spot for security and others. This innovator, however, entered the field in a referee's uniform so that by the time anybody was really aware of what was going on he was taking off down the field shedding clothing with every step. Now, we here at CBSSports.com don't necessarily condone this type of behavior, but we're not going to discourage it either. Especially when it's so creative.

LOSER: Rick Neuheisel

Was there anybody watching UCLA's loss to Arizona on Thursday night who didn't feel as though they were watching the final nails being driven into the coffin of Rick Neuheisel's tenure at the school? Sure, he may survive the rest of the regular season, but I don't think anybody who read between the lines of athletic director Dan Guerrero's words earlier this week can actually believe that he'll be returning in 2012.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:03 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:11 am
 

SEC Winners and Losers, Week 8


Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 8.

WINNERS: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. On the eve of the 2011 season, the LSU quarterback situation was supposed to be the team's Achilles heel. The senior Lee had spent his entire career as erratic at best and a turnover machine at worst; Jefferson was suspended and might never return; and despite intense fan interest, Zach Mettenberger hadn't been able to beat either out for so much as the backup's job. But after the Tigers' demolition of Auburn, it's time to give the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks their due: not only are they not a weakness, they're a major reason LSU is 8-0 and now preparing for an undefeated megatilt against Alabama.

The stats are argument enough: a combined 16-of-23 for 219 yards (9.5 an attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. (This was LSU's fifth straight game without a turnover, by the way.) But the two touchdown throws they made in the second quarter -- one by each, both of 40-plus yards, both to the rapidly-improving Rueben Randle -- are an even better argument. On the first, Jefferson was leveled by an Auburn blitzer and stood strong in the pocket to deliver Randle a precision strike; on the second, Lee "dropped it in a bucket," as they say, allowing Randle to beat double coverage. The end result was that a quarter that began 7-3 and with Auburn in a dogfight ended with LSU up 21-3 and the game over. If those two throws are examples of what LSU can expect in two weeks, even Alabama might not be good enough to beat the Tigers. At this point, it seems obvious no one else in the SEC can.

LOSER: Houston Nutt. Honestly, this isn't entirely fair to Nutt, who just coaxed the best performance from his team all season and has nothing to hang his head about, final score-wise; losing to a legitimate top-10 outfit like the Razorbacks by five points is an accomplishment, especially when the outcome is still in doubt in the final minute. Still: a 17-0 second-quarter lead over that kind of opponent -- not only one of the best teams in the country, but an opponent whose fans enjoy needling Nutt and the Rebels about their failures -- is the kind of golden opportunity that Nutt and his team simply couldn't afford to let slip through their fingers. In the end, solid performance or not, it's just Nutt's 10th straight SEC loss ... and another few before the year's end could be the end for Nutt.

WINNER: James Franklin. On the other end of the spectrum, we've got a coach for whom beating Army isn't really that big a deal ... but beating them by a comprehensive 23 points is. The Commodores had only one week of study for the Black Knights' triple option and held them to 288 total yards anyway, forcing three turnovers in the process. The 'Dore running game racked up a stout 344 yards and Vandy may have finally found a quarterback in Jordan Rodgers, who didn't set the world on fire (10-of-27, one touchdown, two interceptions) but whose 10 completions did go for better than 18 yards a pop. In short: this was the kind of performance that suggests the 'Dores 3-3 record wasn't a fluke, and that they could go bowling in Franklin's first year. It won't be enough to win him Coach of the Year with Miles and Saban around, but it's still a heck of a job.

LOSER: Drama. Another week, another series of blowouts in the SEC. Save for Arkansas's escape from Oxford, the average score of the four Week 8 games involving SEC teams was 41-13. After another week of winning their two games by some outrageous combined score -- 66 points' worth this go-round -- LSU's and Alabama's average margin of victory has ballooned to a full 30 points. It's a good thing the Tide and Tigers have next week off; not only will it give us another week to savor the buildup to the Game of the Century of the Year, but maybe it'll give us a chance to enjoy more than a single helping of competitive SEC football.

WINNERS: Alabama's receiving corps. The Tide's wideouts were alleged to be the team's one weakness entering this season, and doubly so once Duron Carter was ruled ineligible. But Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Kenny Bell made that expectation look more ridiculous than ever in the second half Saturday night, hauling in acrobatic circus grab after acrobatic circus grab and eventually totaling 11 receptions, 213 yards, and Bell's game-clinching touchdown. AJ McCarron didn't have his best night, but Maze, Hanks, and Bell made him look awfully good all the same.

LOSERS: Auburn's special teams. The way LSU (and their quarterbacks in particular) are playing, it didn't matter what Auburn did today. But the one area where you can't show any weakness vs. Les Miles's team is in special teams, where they will kill you with field position if given the opportunity. Given the Tigers' strength in this area so far in 2011, Gene Chizik was probably expecting a draw in this phase, at least. Nope: punter Steven Clark had his worst game of the year, repeatedly failing to pin LSU deep when given the chance, and dynamic freshman kick returner Tre Mason fumbled away a second-half return to turn the game from decisive LSU advantage to full-on rout.

LOSER: Matt Simms. Ugly as Simms' final line in the box score was (8-of-17, 3.4 yards an attempt, no touchdowns, one interception), he was facing Alabama on the road; lots of quarterbacks would have looked just as bad, and Simms did play a role in getting the Vols to a 6-6 halftime tie. But Derek Dooley's decision to burn Justin Worley's redshirt late could indicate a move towards getting the freshman snaps at Simms' expense, and though he had a lot of company on the Tennessee sideline, he wasn't able to do much in preventing the Tide onslaught in the second half.

WINNER: College football. No. 1 LSU and (now consensus) No. 2 Alabama are going to meet in two weeks, both undefeated, both extremely heavy favorites to finish their regular season schedule perfect and run a way with the SEC East with a win over the other, both having established their national championship contender's bona fides weeks ago. It really, really, really shouldn't get any better than what we now know we'll see Nov. 5.


Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:47 am
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Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:45 am
 

Big 12 Winners And Losers: Week 8



Posted by Tom Fornelli


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: That small town in western Texas known as Lubbock. 

It was quite the week in Lubbock. It all started with a sandstorm that blocked out the sun, and ended with a lightning delay in Norman that caused Tech fans to stay up rather late to watch their Red Raiders. Though something tells me the fact that they were able to see Texas Tech knock off Oklahoma helped clear the sand from their eyes and made everything worth it.

LOSER: Oklahoma's title hopes

Any chance that Oklahoma had to finish its season in New Orleans went on the window on Saturday night. Yes, the end of its 39-game home-winning streak has to sting a bit, but not as much as the title hopes. The good news for Bob Stoops and Oklahoma is that the Sooners can still win the Big 12, though I doubt that is going to help ease the pain from this loss over the next few days.

WINNER: Seth Doege

Seth Doege is just another in a long line of Texas Tech quarterbacks to have success in Lubbock, but I have a feeling most people didn't know his name before tonight, or how to pronounce it (it's pronounced "day-gee"). Well, they'll know it now as Doege threw for 441 yards and 4 touchdowns against an Oklahoma defense that came into the game allowing only 201 passing yards a game, and had only allowed 5 passing touchdowns all season. Not to mention that Doege led a Raider offense to 41 points and Oklahoma had only been giving up 15 points per game this season.

LOSER: Michael Hunnicutt

Make no mistake about it, Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt does not deserve the blame in this Oklahoma loss. The Sooners had plenty of other problems on offense and defense, but most people will probably remember Hunnicutt's 28-yard field goal attempt in the final minutes that bounced off the right upright. In a three-point loss, that's going to stick and make Hunnicutt an easy scapegoat.

WINNERS: Kansas State and Oklahoma State

Nobody benefits more from Oklahoma's loss than both Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They are now the only two teams in the Big 12 that are still unbeaten on the season, though both also have to face Oklahoma and each other before the season is over. Kansas State gets Oklahoma in Manhattan next weekend, and considering Saturday's loss, you can bet that the Sooners will have something to prove in that contest.

LOSER: Hubert Anyiam

Oklahoma State may have beaten Missouri on Saturday but it lost one of its playmakers in the process. Wide receiver Hubert Anyiam broke his foot making a catch in the first half and his season is over. Anyiam had surgery on the foot before the season started, and was third on the Cowboys in receiving this season with 27 catches for 370 yards and 3 touchdowns. There were more problems for Cowboys receivers on Saturday as well, as Justin Blackmon sat out the entire second half with "concussion like" symptoms, though Mike Gundy expects Blackmon to play against Baylor next week.

WINNER: The Texas A&M secondary

It's been much maligned just about all year, but the Texas A&M secondary had a very strong performance on Saturday in Ames. Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett combined to complete only 16 of 40 passes for 180 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Making the feat more impressive was the fact that A&M didn't have Coryell Judie on Saturday, though depending on who you ask, that may have been a reason why the unit fared better. I don't quite see things that way, though.

LOSER: Turner Gill's job stability

Fair or not, the calls for Gill's head are only going to grow louder following Saturday's loss. Nobody at Kansas was expecting Gill to completely turn around the program in two years, but when you consider that the Jayhawks have now been outscored 128-28 in two contests against the rival Kansas State Wildcats, Kansas fans are going to be angry. The good news for Gill is that basketball season starts soon, so hopefully the basketball team can divert the attention of Kansas fans away from failures on the football field.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:45 am
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Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:42 am
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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:14 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 8



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The Big East

Entering conference play, I was curious to see how long it would take the league to figure out a way to slow West Virginia. There are plenty of great coaches in the Big East, and the backloaded conference schedule usually allows plenty of preparation material. Syracuse showed the conference how to beat West Virginia, and also opened up the race for the Big East title with their 49-23 win in the Carrier Dome on Friday.

The Syracuse defense sent extra pressure at Geno Smith all night, getting in his face and bringing him to the ground on four different occasions. The extra pressure got to Smith and he began to force throws from the pocket, which led to two big interceptions for the Orange defense. Until the Mountaineers prove they can counter, look for more Big East opponents to bring extra pressure to try and rattle Smith in the coming weeks.

LOSER: The Big East

While Syracuse's victory did show the rest of the league a way to slow down and possibly defeat the Mountaineers, it also eliminated the Big East's best chance of having a team finish high in the final BCS standings. As conferences look towards 2013 and the renewal of the BCS automatic bids, one concern to meet the requirements involves teams ranked in the final BCS standings.

The Big East has struggled in the polls and BCS standings in recent years, and not meeting the requirements for an automatic bid is one reason why the reported "Global Conference" has become an option. Cincinnati would likely have to run the table to finish with a high ranking, and if this weekend showed us anything it is how hard running the table has become in the Big East.

WINNER: Butch Jones

It is fairly difficult to be on the hot seat after just one season, but Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones was pretty close to it after the Bearcats finished 4-8 in 2010. There was no dissension in the program, but many fans were quick to doubt if Jones was the right choice to replace Brian Kelly.

But here in Week 8 of the 2011 season, there is only one unbeaten team left in the Big East - and it is Jones' Bearcats. Pulling Cincinnati back into bowl eligibility this early in the season takes a lot of pressure off Jones' shoulders, as he can now turn his teams' focus towards claiming their third Big East title in four years.

LOSER: South Florida's defense

BJ Daniels threw for 409 yards, three touchdowns, led the Bulls in rushing, and most importantly threw no interceptions. But it wasn't enough to snap South Florida's losing streak. Daniels put together what appeared to be a game-winning drive with 1:27 left when he found Andre Davis for a touchdown to give the Bulls a 34-30 lead.

But the defense could not come up with a stop, allowing Zach Collaros to march 70 yards in seven plays over a 75 second span. A pass interference call in the end zone was the final mistake for South Florida's defense, allowing the Bearcats to set up 1st and Goal from the two yard line. There were plenty of mistakes throughout the game, but the defense's inability to stop Cincinnati in the fourth quarter led to the third straight loss for the Bulls.

WINNER: Syracuse tight ends Nick Provo and David Stevens

Part of Syracuse's gameplan for taking down West Virginia involved using the play action to match up the tight ends with the Mountaineers linebackers in coverage. What the Orange revealed to the rest of the conference was a dramatic weakness in this year's version of Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense. Tight ends Nick Provo and David Stevens combined for 95 yards and four touchdowns on eight catches. After biting on the play-fake, Ryan Nassib would roll out and locate a tight end off his release in the perfect soft spot of West Virginia's defense. Provo and Stevens are among the better tight ends in the conference, but the gameplan on Friday set them up for a huge night that Syracuse fans will remember for the rest of the season.

LOSER: Rutgers

There is no way the Scarlet Knights could have known it at the time, but they missed out on a great opportunity to gain a leg up on the Big East title hunt on Friday night. With West Virginia falling to Syracuse, Rutgers could have stepped forward with Cincinnati as the only teams left unbeaten in conference play. Until the 16-14 loss at Louisville, Greg Schiano's squad was putting together an impressive body of work. The defense was rigid, and the offense had been able put together enough plays to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory.

But Gary Nova, who had led the comeback against Navy just a week before, showed his youth against the Cardinals' multiple defensive looks. The three interceptions came at the worst times for Rutgers, who couldn't put together the final push in the fourth quarter to stay undefeated in league play. Rutgers has never won a Big East title, and now that dream is going to be a little tougher with West Virginia and Cincinnati left on the schedule.


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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