College Football Overtime (cont.)
A sweet, sweet Homecoming
Normally, visiting teams can't wait to get out of town after a road game, but South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels spent the night in enemy territory following his team's 17-7 triumph over Florida State in Tallahassee.
Why wouldn't he? It's home.
Playing in the same stadium where he grew up rooting for the home team, Daniels lived out a dream-come-true fantasy Saturday. Making his first career start in place of USF star Matt Grothe, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last week, the redshirt freshman threw two 70-plus yard touchdowns and racked up 341 yards of total offense for the biggest win in the history of his school's young program.
"I wasn't nervous at all," said Daniels, who played at Tallahassee's Lincoln High School. "I was familiar with my environment, seeing people in the stands I knew and playing in a stadium where I watched so many great players play."
Daniels was more than a little "familiar" with FSU. His father, Bruce, was a campus housing director, and, through the age of 7, B.J. and his family lived in a house next to one of the school's dorms, Smith Hall. His parents, grandparents and two younger sisters were all in attendance Saturday, as were countless hometown friends.
But while Daniels, an avowed Charlie Ward fan, watched "more than 10" Seminoles games from the stands of Doak Campbell Stadium growing up, he'd never previously stepped foot on the field. When did it sink in?
"After that first touchdown," he said. "The stadium was kind of quiet, and I remember just being happy for once that the stadium was quiet."
USF (4-0) has pulled off plenty of big wins before -- in fact, this marked the third straight year the Bulls have beaten a ranked nonconference foe -- but beating one of the state's Big Three for the first time marked a landmark moment for the program. "To me, it changes history," said USF's first and only coach, Jim Leavitt. "I don't think there's any question about it."
Now comes the hard part: continuing the momentum. The Bulls' recent pattern has been to start off strong and finish slow. In their four years in the Big East, they've yet to lose fewer than three conference games.
At least they know they've found their quarterback.
My reaction to the latest AP and coaches polls:
Overrated: No. 4 LSU
I don't mean to pile on the Tigers, who showed up in this same space just two weeks ago. But you'd have a hard time convincing me Les Miles' team -- which currently ranks 105th nationally in total offense and needed a late goal-line stand Saturday to survive Mississippi State -- is just a hair below No. 3 Alabama, which presently boasts both a top 10 offense and defense and just throttled Arkansas.
Underrated: South Carolina (unranked)
The Gamecocks (3-1) can play some defense. They've now bottled up two nationally renowned quarterbacks, NC State's Russell Wilson (12-of-23, 74 yards) and Ole Miss' Jevan Snead (7-of-21, 107 yards). Even in their lone defeat, a turnover-marred 41-37 heartbreaker at Georgia, they allowed just 308 yards. Yet they lag considerably behind the 3-1 Bulldogs, who the coaches rank 14th.
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games.
Title game: Alabama vs. Texas
Rose: USC vs. Ohio State
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
Sugar: Florida vs. Cincinnati
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Iowa
If Florida and Alabama met today on a neutral field (like, say, the Georgia Dome), I'd take the Crimson Tide. Whether I'll still feel that way in two months (or even two weeks) remains to be seen, but for now, I adjusted my title-game matchup accordingly. Virginia Tech reclaimed the ACC's spot in resounding fashion. USC still raises doubts, but who in the Pac-10 doesn't? And after thatIowa-Penn State sludge fest, Ohio State looks like the Big Ten's most complete team, though the Hawkeyes could very well win 10 games and nab an at-large berth.
Spreading the field
It was bedlam at Robertson Stadium early Sunday morning after Case Keenum led Houston on a game-winning 95-yard drive to beat Texas Tech, 29-28. Keenum played outstanding yet again (38-for-58, 435 yards), but give the Cougars' defense credit for shutting out the Red Raiders over the game's final 21 minutes, including a fourth-and-goal stop and forced three-and-out to set up the winning drive.
"That's the biggest difference from last year," Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Our defense has a feel that we're never out of the game, particularly with our offense and our quarterback. If we continue to get stops down the stretch, we're going to be pretty tough to beat."
LSU safety Chad Jones turned in one of the most clutch individual performances to date against Mississippi State. His 93-yard punt return for a touchdown put the Tigers up 30-21 in the fourth quarter. Then, when the Bulldogs drove down to the goal line in the final minute, he made an astounding pass deflection on third down before stuffing Tyson Lee's fourth-down sneak.
Same goes for Georgia receiver A.J. Green. The sophomore caught eight passes for 153 yards and a TD against Arizona State, but that only tells part of the story. With the game tied 17-17 late in the fourth quarter, Green first blocked ASU's 37-yard field goal attempt, then made a 36-yard catch with 2:10 left to help set up Blair Walsh's game-winning 37-yard kick for the Dawgs.
OK, one more: With NC State trailing Pitt 31-17 late in the third quarter, Wilson took over, leading three straight touchdown drives and finishing the day with 322 passing yards, 91 rushing yards and four TD passes. "Russell is a very good under pressure," said receiver T.J. Graham, "whether it's from coach [Tom] O'Brien, pressure from the opponents or pressure playing PlayStation."
USC's offense produced three first-quarter touchdowns (including two long Barkley throws) against overmatched Washington State ... but just one more the rest of the way en route to an uninspiring 27-6 win that included 13 penalties. "We've got a lot of work to do," coach Pete Carroll said. "Gosh, it's just not at all the kind of satisfying win we would've liked to have had."
Meanwhile, Washington returned to reality post-USC with a 34-14 road drubbing at the hands of Stanford. Standout Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart shredded the Huskies for 200 rushing yards while Huskies QB Jake Locker struggled (16-of-31, 191 yards, one TD, two INTs). Washington is still very much in rebuilding mode, and Husky fans should expect plenty more ups and downs this fall.
Illinois quarterback Juice Williams' senior season has not gone as planned. On the heels of a 37-9 loss to Missouri in Week 1, the four-year starter endured a 13-of-25, 77-yard, two-interception day in a 30-0 loss at Ohio State. The 1-2 Illini are inspiring little confidence, even from their own coach. "Everyone's written us off and that's fine," Ron Zook said. "I would, too, if I was in your shoes.''
On the flip side, Ohio State basked in its second consecutive shutout, the Buckeyes' first such achievement in 13 years. Throw in a largely dominant, albeit losing effort against USC, and it seems like OSU has managed to upgrade its defense despite losing James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins. The Buckeyes' new star: linebacker Brian Rolle, who notched eight tackles and a pick Saturday.
After giving up a scourge of big plays against Clemson and Miami, Georgia Tech scrapped its 4-2-5 defense in favor of a 4-3, chucked an estimated 75 percent of its playbook and promptly held North Carolina to 154 total yards in a 24-7 rout. "Instead of playing seven or eight coverages, you play two or three," coach Paul Johnson said. It didn't hurt that Tech's offense held the ball for 42:06.
Oregon didn't touch its playbook, but it simplified its uniforms with similar results.
Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie is a 25-year-old freshman who, after six years toiling in minor-league baseball, showed up on the BC campus this summer. Now, he may be the Eagles' savior. A week after Justin Tuggle completed just four passes in a blowout loss to Clemson, Shinskie went 18-of-29 for 228 yards and three TDs in a 27-24 overtime win against Wake Forest.
Officially, South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley has just one touchdown catch this season, but in an incredible bout of bad luck, the sophomore has had four other touchdown catches nullified by penalties (an offensive pass interference against NC State, ineligible receiver downfield against Georgia and Ole Miss, holding against Georgia). "I don't know if I've ever seen that before," Steve Spurrier said.
Remember when Kentucky was ready to build a statue for Rich Brooks? Excluding Vanderbilt, the Wildcats' coach is now 1-24 against SEC East foes.
Remember when Maryland was ready to build a statue for Ralph Friedgen? His team's lone win this year came against James Madison -- in overtime.
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