Tag:Tajh Boyd
Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 1:26 pm
 

ACC poll reactions, Week 6

Posted by Chip Patterson

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

(AP/Coaches)

8/8. Clemson

Clemson got their first big scare of the season on Saturday, with Tajh Boyd leaving the game after falling awkwardly thanks to a hit from Boston College defensive end Max Holloway.  Backup quarterback Cole Stoudt was able to enter the game and help the Tigers hold on to the win, and the good news is Boyd is expected to not miss much, if any, playing opportunities.  The sophomore quarterback is a breakout star in Clemson's new offense, and having him in the game is key to the unit operating at full potential.  If Boyd is able to compete at 100% after straining his hip, the Tigers' will be in a position to continue their quest for an ACC Atlantic Division title.

12/12. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets looked shakier than usual against Maryland, but held on to a three score lead in the fourth quarter to win 21-16.  Paul Johnson was cricital of his team's offense after the game, citing a lack of "continuity" as a reason for their struggles.  The team looked out of rhythm, but leading the Coastal Division and sitting at 6-0 does wonders for maintaining your status in the polls.  Georgia Tech will get healthier defensively heading into this week's game against Virginia, and we have all seen the potential of that offense when things are clicking.

19/17. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech bounced back from their disappointing loss to Clemson in the conference opener with a trilling 38-35 shootout victory over Miami.  For one game, the story of the Hokies' offense was not running back David Wilson.  Tyrod Taylor was on the Hokie sideline, and with his mentor watching sedshirt sophomore Logan Thomas put together the most memorable game of his young career.  Thomas completed 23 fo 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns.  Most importantly, on 4th and 1 Thomas took the ball in his hands with intentions to dive for a first down with less than a minute remaining.  When he looked ahead after faking the handoff to Wilson, there was a giant gap and Thomas ran 19 yards for the winning touchdown.  "Enter Sandman" blared through Lane Stadium, and Virginia Tech was back on track.   



Others receiving votes:
North Carolina
and Wake Forest both received some attention from the voters this week after picking up victories this weekend.  The Tar Heels escaped with an ugly 14-7 victory over Louisville to improve to 5-1, while the Demon Deacons make their first splash near the Top 25 after knocking off Florida State 35-30.  The Seminoles, ranked No. 23 last week and as high as No. 5 earlier in the season, did not receive any votes in either poll. 

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:46 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 3:15 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 6



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: Logan Thomas

The struggles of the Virginia Tech offense and sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas were well documented after the 23-3 loss to Clemson a week ago. But Thomas absolutely silenced his critics with a near-perfect performance in the 38-35 win over Miami on Saturday. With 2010 ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor watching from the sidelines, Thomas did his best Taylor impression orchestrating a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minutes of the game. Thomas may have capped his memorable night with a 19-yard touchdown rush to win the game, but it was performance through the air that showed the most improvement. Thomas completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions against a Miami back seven with NFL-caliber talent at nearly every position. The young quarterback had shown flashes of potential, but not quite put it all together until Saturday's victory. If Thomas can replicate that kind of production, the Hokies may not be as far removed from division contender status as we thought.

LOSER: Miami's defense

Miami defense - For the first time all season, the Hurricanes did not turn the ball over once on offense. Jacory Harris and Lamar Miller had the offense humming in the second half against Virginia Tech, giving the defense an opportunity to win the game in the final minutes. The unit has become significantly thinner in recent weeks, particularly with the loss of seniors Ramon Buchanan and Marcus Forston to season-ending injuries. That lack of depth showed late in the game, with the Hurricanes defense a step slower all over the field as the Hokies stormed back and won the game on a 19-yard Logan Thomas run up the middle.

WINNER: Wake Forest, your new ACC dark horse

With a 3-0 conference record, the Demon Deacons are tied with No. 8 Clemson and No. 13 Georgia Tech as the best team in the ACC. A national ranking may arrive for Jim Grobe's squad on Sunday, but the team's arrival as a contender was made on Saturday with the victory over Florida State. Sophomore Tanner Price and Josh Harris were impressive against a talented Seminoles defense, but the play of Wake's defense has changed the team's outlook in conference play. Nearly the entire starting lineup was part of 2010's disastrous 1-7 ACC record, but the unit is back and playing at an unexpectedly high level. Grobe is notorious for being tagged as a "player development" coach, but 2011's team might be another one of those squads that keeps that reputation going. The unit forced five Florida State turnovers on Saturday, picking off both Clint Trickett and EJ Manuel two times each to set up a short field for Price and the unpredictable spread offense. There are plenty of challenges left on Wake's schedule, including next week's contest against Virginia Tech, but the similarities that some have drawn to the 2006 team don't seem to be that radical.

LOSER: Florida State's offensive line

There are a lot of aspects to Florida State's team that aren't going as planned, but the struggles of the offensive line can be blamed for many of the most glaring problems. The Seminoles were one of the most productive rushing teams in the conference in 2010, and now the running backs have become a non-factor against quality opponents. The line is not opening up the lanes, and the backs are not finding their holes. The inability to rush the ball has now begun to have an increasingly negative effect on the passing game, as Florida State's opponents treat them as a one-dimensional team. The unit entered the season dealing with injury issues, and has continued to search for a working rotation. Getting EJ Manuel healthy brings 2011's best rusher back to the lineup, so that should be a start. But the line has to improve if Florida State wants to try and make the most of the season after this three-game losing streak.

WINNER: Clemson's winning streak

The Tigers improve to 6-0, even losing Boyd to the strained hip. Luckily the Tigers had built a lead at the time of the starting quarterback's injury, so Cole Stoudt's job was not too difficult. But considering how much time Boyd spent mastering the intricacies of Chad Morris' system in the offseason, it has to be comforting for Tigers fans to know that Stoudt can keep the machine moving forward while under center. If Stoudt gets the start against Maryland next week, there will be some drop-off. But after seeing the freshman move the ball against Boston College's defense, head coach Dabo Swinney was able to get some comfort in Stoudt's ability if Boyd is unable to play. Rushing Boyd back and/or causing further injury would be the worst possible situation for the undefeated Tigers, and if there is any question regarding Boyd's health the Tigers should be able to continue performing at a high level with Stoudt.

LOSER: Georgia Tech's ability to close out opponents

Georgia Tech was not a loser on Saturday, but they took a step back with yet another poor defensive showing in the fourth quarter. In their three ACC contests combined, the Yellow Jackets have given up 48 fourth quarter points, while only allowing 31 points in the first three quarters of play. The reasons seem to be different every time, but the result is always the same. Against Maryland, it was allowing backup quarterback C.J. Brown and Davin Meggett to establish a powerful downhill running attack. Against N.C. State it was soft coverage and lack of focus with a big lead. The Yellow Jackets are 6-0 and sitting on top of the ACC standings, but they might not be so lucky if they let another opponent climb back into the contest late.

WINNER: Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown

Maryland's inconsistencies and offensive struggles since their opening night win have been well documented, but a quarterback change in the loss to Georgia Tech introduced a new aspect to the offense. Sophomore quarterback C.J. Brown took over for 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien in the second half, and led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to bring the Terps back into the game against the Yellow Jackets. Brown presented a new rushing threat for the opposition, and was able to get an effective read game going with running back Davin Meggett. The backup quarterback finished as the game's leading rusher, thanks in large part to a 77 yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Brown struggled mightily trying to move the ball through the air, but he at least presents offensive coordinator Gary Crowton the option of possibly using a two-quarterback system to keep opposing defenses on their toes. Imploring the two quarterback tactic can be toxic to a team in certain situations, but at 2-3 Maryland needs something to jump start the sputtering offense.

LOSER: This Clemson fan

Tajh Boyd's hip was not the only Clemson thing slightly out of place on Saturday. CBSSports.com's Adam Jacobi pointed out this lost soul from the Michigan-Northwestern game.





WINNER: N.C. State CB David Amerson

N.C. State's sophomore cornerback was responsible for two of the Wolfpack's four interceptions in the second half against Central Michigan. After the Chippewas came out firing and took an early lead in Raleigh, N.C. State's defense answered with big stops and turnovers in the second half while the offense piled on the points and N.C. State picked up a much-needed bounce back win after dropping two straight.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:39 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 8 Clemson 36, Boston College 14

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WON. The Tigers overcame an injury to their star quarterback to pull away from Boston College and win 36-14. Andre Ellington took over in the second half with freshman backup Cole Stoudt under center, finishing with 118 yards on 22 carries to lead the Tigers to the victory.

HOW CLEMSON WON: Tajh Boyd had the Clemson offense clicking early, leading three scoring drives in the first quarter to help the Tigers build a 17-0 lead. Boston College struggled without Montel Harris (knee) and Andre Williams (ankle) in the backfield, finishing with just 258 yards of total offense. Once Clemson built their lead in the first half, they needed to take care of the ball and execute on defense to hold on for the win.

WHEN CLEMSON WON: Early in the fourth quarter, Ellington broke loose on a 4th down conversion for 35 yards and a touchdown. The score put the Tigers up by three touchdowns and finished off the Eagles for good.

WHAT CLEMSON WON: Bowl eligibility. With Tajh Boyd's injury clouding what was an otherwise impressive afternoon for the Tigers, it is hard to think of what relevance this win will have in the big picture other than the postseason berth.

WHAT BOSTON COLLEGE LOST: Another loss, and I'm afraid they will continue to pile up for the Eagles. In addition to being decimated by injury, they can't even seem to come up with momentum swings after injuries to star players. Just not the Eagles' year I guess.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Clemson escaped with a victory, but the story of this game is the status of starting quarterback Tajh Boyd. His maturation and ability to lead this Chad Morris offense is what has sparked Clemson's success. Stoudt was able to keep the machine rolling against Boston College, but Boyd is a necessary piece for the Tigers to accomplish their goal of winning the Atlantic Division. When Boyd was carted off the field for X-rays, it appeared as though the injury may have been knee-related. Clemson's SID later reported Boyd suffered a hip injury. Either way, all eyes will be on Clemson's training staff as the 6-0 Tigers head to College Park next week to face Maryland.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 8:29 pm
 

UPDATE: Tajh Boyd suffers hip injury against BC

Posted by Chip Patterson

UPDATE: Clemson has announced that Boyd's injury is a hip injury, not a leg injury.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd suffered a strained hip in Saturday’s 36-14 victory over Boston College. Boyd had X-rays at Memorial Stadium, then had an MRI at Oconee Hospital in Seneca on Saturday night. The X-rays and MRI were negative. His status for next Saturday’s game against Maryland in College Park would be termed questionable at this point. An update of Boyd’s status will be given this coming week.
Clemson starting quarterback Tajh Boyd has left Saturday's game against Boston College with an apparent left leg injury. Boyd was hit by Boston College defensive end Max Holloway as he completed a pass to Dwayne Allen inside the Eagles' 10 yard line. Boyd's leg appeared to buckle underneath him as he was brought to the ground, and the trainers were tending to his knee after he was helped off the sideline.

Boyd was carted to the locker room for X-rays, and his return to the game is not expected. He has been replaced by freshman Cole Stoudt. You can follow the rest of the game here.

Be sure to follow our Clemson Tigers Rapid Reports and keep it here at the Eye on College Football for more developments on Boyd's status as the week progresses.

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:26 am
 

ACC poll reactions, Week 5

Posted by Chip Patterson

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

(AP/Coaches)

8/8. Clemson

No surprise here to see Dabo Swinney's squad getting a bump into the top 10 after knocking off their third straight ranked opponent.  The most impressive takeaway from Saturday's 23-3 win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg was the complete effort in all aspects of the game.  Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, and the rest of the Tigers offense was well covered heading into the game, but a dominating performance by defensive end Andre Branch and the Clemson defense stole the show.  In a matter of weeks the Tigers have become the ACC frontrunners, now they just have to avoid the predicted letdown.

13/13. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets also see a boost in the rankings after improving to 5-0 on the weekend.  Georgia Tech once again held off a relentless ACC opponent in the 45-35 win at N.C. State.  Twice the Yellow Jackets scored in three touchdown bursts, and twice the Wolfpack climbed back into the game. Georgia Tech leads the nation in rushing offense averaging 378.2 yards per game, while their total offense ranks second in the nation behind Case Keenum-led Houston.  Up next will be a visit from Maryland, who struggled early before taking care of Towson 28-3.

21/17. Virginia Tech

The Hokies take a predictable tumble down the polls to the edge of the top 20.  The 4-0 start always seemed to have an asterik in many people's mind due to the level of competition in the Hokies' opening games.  But no one wants to give up on a Frank Beamer-led squad after just one conference loss to a hot Clemson team.  Virginia Tech faces Miami this weekend, and digs right in to a challenging ACC conference schedule that should give us an idea if the defending conference champs have a shot to return to the title game.

23/22. Florida State

Florida State had the week off, and did not see much shift in the polls.

Others receiving votes:No other teams in the ACC received any attention from the media, but both North Carolina (10 points) and Duke (1 point) made appearances on the coaches' ballots.

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Posted on: October 2, 2011 12:29 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Oct. 1)



Posted by Chip Patterson

1. Clemson is a contender, Virginia Tech is a pretender - The Tigers made ACC history on Saturday, being the first team to defeat three ranked opponents in consecutive weeks. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech (well huh) have both accomplished the feat once in program history, but neither school was a member of the ACC at the time. Their win against one of the highest ranked team ended up being their most impressive, with Clemson holding Virginia Tech from the end zone at home for the first time since 1995. But as much attention as Chad Morris' offense has gotten under Tajh Boyd's direction, the Tigers had not gotten a performance like that from their defense yet this season. It all seems to be coming together for Clemson, and just at the right time. With the victory over Florida State, the Tigers are in the driver's seat for the Atlantic Division title. If they take care of business, they will find themselves back in the ACC Championship Game.

The Hokies, on the other hand, might not be back in the conference title game. The Coastal Division is much more difficult to project, but Georgia Tech has arguably replaced Virginia Tech as the frontrunner. The Yellow Jackets did allow a relentless N.C. State team to climb back into the contest twice, but you cannot expect any conference road game to be a breeze.

Frank Beamer's squad will have a chance to bounce back immediately, with a divisional showdown against Miami in Blacksburg. The Hurricanes' also have one conference loss, and some consistency issues of their own. A lot more to learn about the Coastal in the week ahead.

2. Georgia Tech is still very impressive, but not unstoppable - With N.C. State missing their leading rusher and severely depleted on defense, the Yellow Jackets were predicted to roll over the Wolfpack in Raleigh. But after jumping out to a quick 21-0 lead, N.C. State's defense clamped down on quarterback Tevin Washington. Middle linebacker Audie Cole directed the defense as they filled the gaps and cut the Georgia Tech lead to one touchdown in the third quarter. Georgia Tech then scored three more touchdowns in under three minutes of game time in the fourth quarter, which was followed by three more touchdowns from N.C. State. The entire period was sloppy on both sides, but the first comeback might provide some helpful insight for the rest of the conference.

3. Giovani Bernard is the real deal. North Carolina has not been known as a program that produces star running backs recently, but they may have one with redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard. Bernard continued his impressive rookie campaign in North Carolina's 35-20 win at East Carolina, picking up 146 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Bernard's numbers on the season rank among the nation's best for freshmen, but they are already good enough to earn him a spot in program history. On Saturday Bernard became the first North Carolina running back to rush for 100+ yards since Pro Bowler Natrone Means did it in 1992. His seven touchdowns on the season already match the count for last year's team leader, Johnny White - now with the Buffalo Bills.

4. Florida State and Virginia Tech should not overlook Wake Forest. Nowhere close to putting either team on "upset alert," but Wake Forest has continued their play that is significantly improved from 2010. Both Florida State and Virginia Tech will travel to Winston-Salem to face Jim Grobe's squad at home in the next two weeks. Few teams returned more starters than the Demon Deacons, and some assumed that would lead to similar results. But Grobe has once again lived up his "player development" reputation, taking basically the same lineup that went 1-7 in ACC play and already doubling that win count in 2011. Hitting the meat of their schedule at 3-1, the Deacons will need to find four more victories on the schedule in order to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Wake Forest's success has been due to noticeable improvement on both sides of the ball. The defense, particularly the back seven, is communicating better and swarming to the ball in space. Tanner Price finally is leading an offensive scheme that fits the personnel with Josh Harris, Chris Givens, and Michael Campanaro all emerging as dynamic playmakers. The one weakness Wake Forest has displayed has been the inability to hold a lead late in the game. It cost them the season opening win at Syracuse, and nearly got them in trouble against N.C. State and Saturday at Boston College. But as far as the visits from the Seminoles and Hokies go, I wouldn't imagine a quick Deacs lead would be in the cards anyway.

5. Miami has consistency issues. Miami's consistency issues aren't just game-to-game, they seem to be half-to-half and even quarter-to-quarter at times this season. The dominant performance against Ohio State is sandwiched between frustrating losses to Maryland and Kansas State, while the first 22 minutes of Saturday's matchup with Bethune-Cookman was vastly different to the 45-3 blowout in the final 30+ minutes of play.

You could put some of the blame on the shifting personnel or distractions from the NCAA investigation. You could look at the new coaching staff, as they try to implement a new culture on a roster that is loaded with talented upperclassmen. But whatever the issues are, the Hurricanes need to get them straightened out quickly. The ACC Coastal is now wide open, and despite the rocky 2-2 start the Canes can still salvage their season with strong conference play.

Unfortunately for Al Golden's staff, those tests are coming now. Miami travels to Virginia Tech and North Carolina in the next two weeks before hosting Georgia Tech on October 22 in the comfy confines of Sun Life Stadium. In the next month Miami's season will be defined. The time to tighten up is now.

6. Duke to bowl game? Three straight wins is a start. Okay, maybe a bit of a stretch there. But the Blue Devils have won three straight games since starting the season 0-2. Most importantly, those three victories have all been against FBS opponents. Duke has nothing but conference games left, so three wins is the magic number to make David Cutcliffe's squad bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Virginia is winnable, but on the road. Wake Forest is looking less winnable, but will be played at home. Steal both of those and one upset victory against Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech or North Carolina and the Blue Devils are golden. Doesn't sound probable, but they've at least go the momentum to make it seem possible.

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Posted on: October 1, 2011 9:29 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:41 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 13 Clemson 23, No. 11 VT 3



Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WON. The Tigers have stepped up to every challenge this season, and for the first time in school history have defeated three straight ranked opponents. The 23-3 victory over Virginia Tech came thanks to a dominating defensive performance and enough just enough big plays from Tajh Boyd and Chad Morris' offense. While freshman standout Sammy Watkins was mostly held in check by Virginia Tech's secondary, tight end Dwayne Allen was once again a reliable target - hauling in four catches for 75 yards and a touchdown to lead the Tigers.

HOW CLEMSON WON: As great as Clemson's offense has been in the last two weeks, the victory over Virginia Tech was in large part thanks to the defense. The Hokies were held to just 258 total yards of offense, and held touchdown-less for the first time since 2006. The Tigers pressured quarterback Logan Thomas relentlessly, forcing him out of the pocket and sacking him on four occasions. Andre Branch, in particular, was a monster in the second half preventing the Hokies from getting back into the game.

WHEN CLEMSON WON: Virginia Tech's first drive of the second half stalled at the Clemson 45 yard line. When punter Scott Demler tried to pin the Tigers deep in their own territory, he ended up with an embarrassing 11 yard punt that was downed at the 34. The next three plays ended Virginia Tech's evening. Tajh Boyd 27 yard pass to Brown, Ellington seven yard run, Boyd to tight end Dwayne Allen for a 32-yard touchdown. With the Hokies' offensive struggles, there was little hope for a two touchdown comeback in the second half.

WHAT CLEMSON FORCE WON: Validation. Before the season this set of games (Auburn, Florida State, Virginia Tech) was supposed to give us an idea of how good Clemson was going to be this season. Perhaps they would win two, and hopefully stay competitive in all three. The Tigers have proved any and all doubters wrong (for the time being) by knocking off

WHAT VIRGINIA TECH LOST: Respect. The defending ACC champions kicked off their season with a cushy non-conference schedule that posed little threat to their status. But the Hokies were exposed on Saturday night, particularly on the offensive end. Combined with Georgia Tech's fast start, Virginia Tech's performance might have removed them from consideration as Coastal Division favorites.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Virginia Tech's inability to find the end zone against the Tigers was rare. In fact, the last time the Hokies did not score a touchdown at home was against Cincinnati in 1995. Another crazy fact? Clemson becomes the first ACC team in league history to beat three straight ranked teams. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have done it, but neither were members at the time.

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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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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
 
 
 
 
 
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