College Football Overtime (cont.)
Before we go any further...
I'd like to take a moment to express the deepest sympathies to the family, friends, coaches and teammates of slain Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard, whose fatal stabbing early Sunday morning following a school-sponsored dance on campus stunned the football world. Earlier that same day, Howard had made 11 tackles and forced a fumble in the Huskies' win over Louisville.
I can't even begin to imagine what coach Randy Edsall and his team are going through right now. This picture from the Hartford Courant pretty much says it all.
The latest Heisman contender
On a weekend in which so many Heisman candidates failed to impress, Alabama running back Mark Ingram inserted himself into the thick of the race in dazzling fashion Saturday night against South Carolina. Not since Darren McFadden's days at Arkansas have I seen a running back so singlehandedly dominate a game. At times it seemed like Ingram was the only player on the field.
With quarterback Greg McElroy struggling for a second straight week, Alabama's sophomore tailback carried 24 times for 248 yards and a touchdown in the Crimson Tide's 20-6 win over the Gamecocks. It marked the biggest rushing game ever posted by an Alabama player in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
On Alabama's game-sealing touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter, Ingram carried the ball on all six plays -- the first five coming on direct snaps -- and averaged 11.3 yards per carry.
"Mark did as fine a job today as anybody I've ever been around, and that includes Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown and some really good ones,'' said Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Ingram wasn't exactly a secret coming in. Despite sometimes sharing the load with freshman standout Trent Richardson, the sophomore entered Saturday ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing. But Saturday night's showcase was on a whole other level. He ran hard, he ran fast and he shook off tacklers like they were flies. ESPN noted he gained nearly half his yards after contact.
Saban threw out some pretty big names in his comparison. I'll continue with mine. Perhaps because of all those direct snaps, but more because of the surprising level of speed from a purported power back, Ingram reminds me very much of McFadden, who, as you may recall, was a two-time Heisman runner-up.
My reaction to the first BCS standings.
One thing I've always noticed about the BCS computers (which account for one-third of the standings) is that the quality of your losses matter almost as much as the wins. Case in point: USC and Oregon. The Trojans rank fourth in the human polls but just 10th in the computers due largely to the fact they lost to a 3-4 Washington team. The Ducks, meanwhile, are five spots higher among the computers (ninth) than the voters (12th in Harris, 14th in computers). It's no coincidence that their setback came against undefeated Boise State.
My guess is that if USC wins at Oregon in two weeks, the Trojans will pass Boise State and Cincinnati. They're not that far behind as it is, and they have more ground they can make up in the computers. Which leads us to ...
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. USC
Rose: Iowa vs. Boise State
Fiesta: Texas vs. Georgia Tech
Sugar: Florida vs. Cincinnati
Orange: Miami vs. Penn State
If Texas makes it through the next two weeks unscathed, I'll rethink my title-game projection. And of course if USC loses to Oregon, I'll have no choice. Meanwhile, should the ACC Coastal wind up a three-way tie (Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami are all 1-1 against each other), the 'Canes now stand to win the tiebreaker due to their higher spot in the BCS standings -- and you know Miami-Penn State would be a dream matchup for the Orange Bowl.
Spreading the field
It would be easy to pile on Terrelle Pryor, who turned the ball over four times in Ohio State's ugly loss at Purdue, but his offensive supporting cast has been equally unimpressive. Pryor is the closest thing to a game-breaker in that lineup. The Buckeyes (5-2) still have a shot at the Big Ten title, but if or when they get eliminated, Jim Tressel ought to think about giving some freshmen a shot.
However, there's nobody waiting in the wings to relieve Pryor, who seems to be regressing by the week. Maybe take a jaunt down I-71 to Cincinnati, where Brian Kelly seems to grow backup quarterbacks on trees.
LeSean McCoy's early exit to the NFL last winter seemed devastating at the time for Pitt's program. It turns out the Panthers may have upgraded. With his 31-carry, 180-yard night against Rutgers, freshman Dion Lewis rose to No. 3 on the national rushing list. "Dion Lewis is a special football player," said Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt, whose team is 6-1 for the first time in his tenure.
Another staggering performance by a running back: Boston College sophomore Montel Harris shredded N.C. State for 264 yards and five touchdowns (both school records) in a 52-20 rout. Harris particularly excelled in the Eagles' version of the Wildcat (they call it the "Bazooka"), gaining 167 yards on five direct snaps. Just a week earlier, Virginia Tech held him to 43 yards on 11 carries.
However, the nation's leading rusher remains Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, who racked up 233 yards on just 20 carries in the Bulldogs' 41-21 rout of San Jose State. He had 194 yards by halftime. Mathews, whose biggest performance to date came Sept. 18 against No. 6 Boise State (234 yards, three TDs), is averaging 162.3 yards per game and a staggering 7.44 yards per carry.
Earlier signs that ACC defenses were catching on to Georgia Tech's triple-option proved premature. The Yellow Jackets (6-1) rolled up 309 rushing yards in Saturday night's 28-23 upset of Virginia Tech, the most allowed by the Hokies' defense this decade. This on the heels of a 401-yard rushing night against Florida State and a 317-yard rushing day against North Carolina.
After virtually the entire national media (myself included) jumped on the Nebraska/Ndamukong Suh bandwagon, the Huskers laid an egg against Texas Tech, falling 31-10. We shouldn't have been too surprised, however. The Huskers' offense continues to lag far behind their defense. In 12 quarters against BCS-conference opponents, Nebraska has scored touchdowns in two of them.
Penn State (6-1) faded into oblivion, and rightfully so, following its Sept. 26 loss to Iowa. (Its two subsequent opponents: Illinois and Eastern Illinois.) But as the Hawkeyes keep winning, that defeat seems less damning, while the Nittany Lions' defense continues to dominate. It blanked Minnesota 20-0 on Saturday while holding star Gophers receiver Eric Decker to just one catch.
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles (40-of-51, 415 yards, three TDs) outlasted Stanford freshman Andrew Luck (21-of-35, 435 yards, three TDs, one pick) in a 43-38 shootout Saturday night. Luck's stardom has been predicted for some time, but Foles has been a revelation for the 'Cats, which, if not for Washington's "immaculate interception" last week, would be undefeated in the Pac-10.
Embattled Colorado coach Dan Hawkins got a huge win Saturday when the Buffs (2-4) upset undefeated Kansas 34-30, but now he faces a different criticism: Why didn't he replace his son, quarterback Cody Hawkins, sooner? In his first start of the year, Tyler Hansen (14-of-25, 175 yards) used his scrambling ability to keep plays alive and drew praise from his teammates.
You've got to admire Kentucky's perseverance. Despite suffering an 0-3 start in SEC play and losing starting quarterback Mike Hartline, the Wildcats traveled to 5-1 Auburn on Saturday and notched their first win over the Tigers since 1966. Sophomore speedster Randall Cobb -- running "the Wildcats' Wildcat" -- broke off a 61-yard run to set up his own winning four-yard score for the 21-14 victory.
Now that Idaho (6-1) has reached bowl eligibility, it's time to turn our attention to the mighty Temple Owls (4-2). Saturday's 27-13 win over Army gave Al Golden's team its first four-game winning streak since 1985. Lest we get too excited, however, Temple -- which last posted a winning season in 1990 and last reached a bowl game in 1979 -- has beaten four foes with a combined 6-21 record.
The most stunning score of the day Saturday: Kansas State 62, Texas A&M 14. Mind you, the Wildcats -- which led 59-0 by mid-third quarter -- allowed 66 points and 700-plus yards just a week earlier against Texas Tech. Any faith Aggies fans had in second-year coach Mike Sherman just went out the window.
There won't likely be a next year for Illinois coach Ron Zook, whose 1-5 team hit rock bottom Saturday with a 27-14 loss to Indiana. Quarterback Juice Williams regained his starting job only to lose two costly fumbles, and Zook became the rare sitting Big Ten coach to hold both a Rose Bowl ring and a 19-35 record.
How's this for a night's work: Toledo safety Barry Church made 12 tackles against Northern Illinois, blocked an extra point and blocked the Huskies' game-winning field goal attempt with 37 seconds left to preserve a 20-19 win.
What is former president George W. Bush doing with his spare time these days? Tossing coins. Bush handled pregame duties at Saturday night's Navy-SMU game in Dallas. He did the same last month at the Cowboys' home opener.
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