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September 24, 2007

Monday Morsels: Unbeaten, for now

Cast Your Vote: Which unbeaten contender will fall out of the title race first?

ACC
Virginia TB Cedric Peerman rushed for 138 yards and a TD on 28 carries as the surprising Cavaliers upset Georgia Tech and moved to 3-0 in league play. It was Peerman's third consecutive 100-yard game.
Big East
Syracuse QB Andrew Robinson was the latest quarterback to take advantage of Louisville's horrendous pass defense, throwing for 423 yards and four TDs as the Orange stunned the Cardinals. Syracuse, which scored on the first play of the game, came in averaging just under 200 yards a game. It had 234 yards in the first half and finished with 465 yards.
Big Ten
Michigan senior TB Mike Hart ran a career-high 44 times for 153 yards and a touchdown as the Wolverines downed Penn State. It was his school-record 23rd career 100-yard game; Anthony Thomas had held the mark.
Big 12
The Oklahoma State offensive line did a masterful job. The Cowboys ran for 366 yards and four TDs on 61 carries in a victory over Texas Tech. Cowboys TBs Kendall Hunter, Zac Robinson and Dantrell Savage went over 100 yards each; they combined for 364 yards and four TDs on 52 carries.
Conference USA
Houston backup QB Case Keenum threw for two TDs and ran for two others as the Cougars rallied past Colorado State. Keenun, who came on for starter Blake Joseph in the second quarter, completed his first 12 passes and finished 18-of-22 for 197 yards; he also rushed for 66 yards on 12 carries.
Mid-American
Ball State had a 400-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver, but lost at Nebraska. Cardinals QB Nate Davis threw for 422 yards and three touchdowns, and also rushed for 57 yards and a score. RB MiQuale Lewis rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown. WR Dante Love had 10 catches for 214 yards and a score.
Mountain West
UNLV RB Frank Summers, a 5-foot-10, 240-pound junior college transfer known as "Frank the Tank," rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns and also had a scoring reception as the Rebels hammered Utah. The victory snapped the Rebels' 11-game losing streak to the Utes. Summers, who signed with Cal out of high school, had 29 carries.
Pac-10
USC TE Fred Davis had nine receptions for 124 yards and two TDs as the Trojans blasted Washington State. His TD catches came in the first half and helped USC to a 27-7 halftime advantage.
SEC
Florida QB Tim Tebow piled up 427 yards of total offense as the Gators staved off Ole Miss. Tebow threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and added 166 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The rushing total was a school record for a quarterback.
Sun Belt
Another day, another big game for Troy QB Omar Haugabook. He threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns, and added 89 yards and a touchdown on the ground as the Trojans defeated Louisiana-Lafayette.
WAC
San Jose State senior QB Adam Tafralis threw for a career-high 423 yards and three TDs, and led the Spartans on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter against Utah State. Tafralis was 4-for-6 on the final drive, which covered 83 yards in six plays in the final two minutes.

We're one-third of the way through the season, and 23 teams remain unbeaten. Excuse us, though, if we're not believers in all 23.

California, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC and West Virginia can play with anyone, and Ohio State, Texas and Wisconsin appear at least a half-tier below. That leaves 13 unbeatens about which we have big questions.

All but one of the unbeatens (Hawaii) is from a BCS conference. There's no reason the Warriors won't be 10-0 when Boise State comes calling Nov. 23. Hawaii also plays host to Washington, on Dec. 1. But even if Hawaii goes unbeaten, its weak schedule (there are two I-AA teams on there, plus the WAC as a whole looks down even for the WAC) isn't going to be near-enough to get the Warriors into a BCS bowl.

That leaves a dozen: Arizona State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Missouri, Purdue, Rutgers and USF.

Those 12 are a combined 34-0 at home and 12-0 away from home (including neutral-site games). Arizona State, Kansas and Rutgers are a combined 11-0 but haven't played on the road yet. UConn, Missouri and Purdue have combined for six of those away-from-home wins.

Truthfully, though, of those 12 away-from-home victories, only three (BC over Georgia Tech, Kentucky over Arkansas and USF over Auburn) can be termed impressive. Almost all of the others were against, frankly, bad teams.

A majority of the home victories have come against less-than-stellar teams, too. For instance, Rutgers' best win is over Navy, UConn's and Michigan State's over Pitt, Arizona State's and Cincinnati's over Oregon State, Kansas' over Toledo.

In other words, questions abound about the dozen.

Arizona State, Kentucky, Rutgers and USF look to be the best of the 12. Arizona State should be able to get to 7-0 before reality sets in. Kentucky still has games against Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina and Tennessee, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Wildcats win two or even three of those. October will determine Rutgers' fate, as the Scarlet Knights face Cincinnati, USF and West Virginia during the month all at home, by the way. USF will find out how good it is Friday when West Virginia heads to Tampa. Later, the Bulls get Rutgers, UConn and Cincy back-to-back-to back in late October/early November.

BC, Clemson, Michigan State and Missouri are in the middle of the group. We wouldn't be scared to play any of the quartet. All but BC have big games soon. Clemson gets Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech back-to-back starting Saturday (and Wake Forest, BC and South Carolina close out the schedule). Michigan State is at Wisconsin this week, and closes out the season with this quintet: Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue and Penn State. Missouri has Nebraska on Oct. 6 and also must face Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Kansas. BC should be 7-0 before again meeting someone good, with Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech lurking late in the season.

The biggest questions surround Cincinnati, UConn, Kansas and Purdue. Cincy plays at Rutgers and USF and gets West Virginia (and UConn) at home. UConn plays at Virginia, at Cincy and at West Virginia and hosts USF and Rutgers. Kansas plays road games against Kansas State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State and has home tests against Nebraska and Missouri. Purdue still has Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.

What does this all mean? Don't start obsessing now about the large number of unbeatens and how it all shakes out in regard to the BCS. By the time the BCS selections are made, we're willing to beat there will be no more than three unbeatens.

That's one too many for the BCS, of course, but we can worry about that later.

Cast Your Vote: Which unbeaten contender will fall out of the title race first?

Simply offensive

Penn State has some issues at tailback and on offense as a whole.

TB Austin Scott has waited his turn for the starting job, but Nittany Lions coaches cannot be happy that he has lost four fumbles in just 57 carries this season. On top of that, Rodney Kinlaw has been a career backup for a reason.

Michigan held the Nittany Lions to 270 total yards Saturday in beating Penn State 14-9. That's the same Michigan, of course, that was sliced and diced defensively in the first two games of the season.

Penn State QB Anthony Morelli said the Nittany Lions "moved the ball up and down the field on them a bunch of times." Hmm 270 total yards doesn't equate to moving the ball "up and down the field on them a bunch of times."

The Nittany Lions were thought to have some playmakers on the outside, but the trio of Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams has a combined 41 catches, for 442 yards and two touchdowns.

Penn State has the defense to win the Big Ten. It's offense, though, looks to be of MAC caliber.

Simply offensive, part 2

We guess the Oklahoma State and Texas Tech defenses didn't know the teams were playing Saturday. How else to explain the offensive output that occurred in Stillwater?

Oklahoma State won 49-45, with the winning touchdown coming on a 54-yard pass with 1:37 left. That was the 13th touchdown of the day.

The teams combined for 1,328 yards of offense; the Red Raiders had 718 yards, the Cowboys 610. Tech ran 88 plays and averaged 8.2 yards per play. Oklahoma State ran a staggering 94 plays and averaged 6.5 yards per play.

There were just four punts but 16 kickoffs, and the teams combined for 62 first downs (33 by Tech). Plus, Oklahoma State had three 100-yard rushers, and Texas Tech had two 200-yard receivers.

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach went off on his team afterward.

"What we had in this game is an offense that was extremely powerful, extremely productive that probably sits and reads their press clippings, and in arrogant fashion, sat around the sidelines with their arms folded for most of the second half," he said. "Defensively, the entire first half, we got hit in the mouth and acted like someone took our lunch money, and all we wanted to do is have pouty expressions on our face until somebody dobbed our little tears off and made us (expletive) feel better. Then we go out there and try harder once our mommies told us we were OK."

The fallout from Tech's side is that Red Raiders defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich "stepped down" for personal reasons Sunday.

Grid bits

The new guys
There are 24 new coaches in Division I-A this season, and it shouldn't surprise anyone that the vast majority of them already are suffering through trying times. After all, if things are going well, a coaching change generally isn't made.

Four of the newcomers are 4-0: Arizona State's Dennis Erickson, Boston College's Jeff Jagodzinski, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio. (It should be noted that Dantonio was at Cincinnati before leaving for the Spartans.)

A complete look at the new coaches:

SchoolCoachRecord
Air ForceTroy Calhoun3-1
AlabamaNick Saban3-1
Arizona StateDennis Erickson4-0
ArmyStan Brock1-3
Boston CollegeJeff Jagodzinski4-0
Central MichiganButch Jones0-4
CincinnatiBrian Kelly4-0
Florida InternationalMario Cristobal0-4
IdahoRobb Akey1-3
IndianaBill Lynch3-1
Iowa StateGene Chizik1-3
Louisiana TechDerek Dooley1-2
LouisvilleSteve Kragthorpe2-2
MiamiRandy Shannon3-1
Michigan StateMark Dantonio4-0
MinnesotaTim Brewster1-3
North CarolinaButch Davis1-3
N.C. StateTom O'Brien1-3
North TexasTodd Dodge0-3
RiceDavid Bailiff0-4
StanfordJim Harbaugh1-2
TulaneBob Toledo1-2
TulsaTodd Graham2-1
UABNeil Callaway1-2
We talked a lot about Notre Dame last week, but the Irish offense continues to be a train wreck. The good news is Notre Dame finally scored an offensive touchdown Saturday. The bad news is the Irish finished with 203 total yards and a 31-14 home loss to Michigan State. The Irish continue to rank last in Division I-A in total offense, at 137.0 yards per game. Some Notre Dame fans are blaming poor recruiting classes by Tyrone Willingham on the Irish's 0-4 start. Funny, in that you sure didn't hear much about Willingham's poor recruiting classes the past two seasons. The Irish started playing football in 1887, and this is the first time they've started 0-4. This also appears as if it will be the fourth time in the past nine seasons that the Irish finish below .500.

Ball State lost 41-40 at Nebraska, and the Cardinals missed a last-play field goal that would've won it. Overlooked is that the Cardinals missed an extra point early in the fourth quarter; the extra point would've given them a 38-28 lead with 12:50 left in the game. Not overlooked is that Nebraska's defense was absolutely shredded for the second week in a row. Giving up a lot of yards to USC is one thing. But Ball State strafed the Huskers for 610. That kind of defense isn't going to win any Big 12 titles, folks. Heck, that kind of defense isn't going to win any Big 12 North titles.

Kentucky is reaping the benefits of staying the course with Rich Brooks as coach. In his first three seasons, the Wildcats were 9-25, and he was feeling the heat going into last season. UK then went 8-5, including a bowl victory over Clemson. The Wildcats are 4-0 this season after winning at Arkansas on Saturday. Of course, it helps having Andre' Woodson at quarterback. Woodson, a senior, has thrown for 1,008 yards, with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

An impressive victory for Georgia at Alabama; the Bulldogs had to have it if they wanted to stay in the hunt in the SEC East. The only thing missing for the Bulldogs was the voice of longtime radio play-by-play man Larry Munson; for health reasons, he is only broadcasting home games and the road game at Georgia Tech this season. The way the game ended Saturday was ripe for a great Munson line, sort of like his classic, "We just stepped on their face with a hobnailed boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their face," when the Bulldogs stunned Tennessee with a last-second TD pass in 2001. We suggest visiting larrymunson.com for audio highlights from one of college football's most revered radio announcers.

Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy sure lost it Saturday. In the aftermath of his team's dramatic 49-45 victory over Texas Tech yes, in the aftermath of a win he berated Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson for a piece she did on former Cowboys starting QB Bobby Reid. (The video clip of Gundy's "talk" is available on YouTube.) Instead of talking about his team's gut-check victory or taking questions, he went on a harangue lasting almost three-and-a-half minutes. At the end of his tirade, he asked, "Who's the kid here? Who's the kid here?" Uh, it's you, Mike. Maybe you can use some of the money donated to the athletic department by Boone Pickens and get some therapy.

Texas Tech redshirt freshman WR Michael Crabtree already has 52 receptions. That is more than 14 teams.

Florida Atlantic redshirt freshman CB Tavious Polo already has six interceptions. That puts him on a pace to pick off 18 in 12 games. The Division I-A single-season record is 14 (in 10 games) by Washington's Al Worley in 1968.

The first BCS standings of the season will be released October 14.

Under-the-radar games

At first glance, these games don't jump out at you. But upon further review, they look a whole lot better.

Ole Miss at Georgia: The Bulldogs are coming off a huge overtime victory at Alabama and play at Tennessee next week. Can you say "trap game"? Ole Miss' defense isn't much, but Rebels QB Seth Adams has been a surprisingly good passer and will test the Bulldogs' secondary.

Penn State at Illinois: The Illini are 3-1 and coming off a Big Ten victory at Indiana. That's nice but a victory over a legit Big Ten team would be even nicer. Can Penn State's lackluster offense take advantage of the Illini's lackluster defense? This is a chance for the first signature victory of Ron Zook's tenure at Illinois.

Clemson at Georgia Tech: Tech opened the season by hammering Notre Dame in South Bend. But that win looks less impressive each week. And with the Jackets having lost two league games in a row, the season quickly is spiraling out of control. Tech must shut down the Tigers' strong running attack and force Clemson QB Cullen Harper to the air to have a shot.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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