College Overtime (cont.)
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati ...
Nearly every discussion of Weis' possible departure in South Bend invariably includes Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly atop the list of potential replacements. Viewers tuning into ABC's primetime UConn-Cincy broadcast Saturday night saw a remarkable display of Kelly's quick-strike spread offense, which racked up a school-record 711 yards against the Huskies in a 47-45 shootout.
Former backup quarterback Zach Collaros was so effective -- 29-of-37 for 480 yards and a touchdown; 13 rushing attempts for 75 yards and two scores -- that he may have Wally Pipped one-time Heisman candidate Tony Pike, who is expected back for next week's West Virginia game after missing three starts due to a wrist injury.
"He's made it hard," Kelly said of the sophomore Collaros, whose current passer rating of 210.2 would shatter that of national leader Kellen Moore (169.4) if he had enough attempts. "I think I'll have to reconsider my decision [to start Pike]."
Cincy's national showcase wasn't entirely flattering, however. Its defense and punt return coverage allowed the Huskies (4-5) to rally from a 37-17 third-quarter deficit to cut the score to 40-38 on a Jordan Todman touchdown run with 5:03 remaining, but the Bearcats sacked quarterback Zach Fraser on the two-point conversion. Collaros promptly led a 56-yard scoring drive to seal the game.
With BCS No. 4 Iowa's loss to Northwestern, 9-0 Cincinnati finds itself jostling with 9-0 TCU for the title of "next in line" in the BCS title race (i.e. which team would face presumably undefeated SEC champion Florida or Alabama should No. 3 Texas inexplicably fall down the stretch). The Horned Frogs moved ahead of the Bearcats for No. 4 in the latest BCS standings by a scant margin of .004. TCU figures to build its edge in the short-term if its beats 8-1 Utah next week, but the Bearcats will have a chance to make the last impression on voters when they visit 8-1 Pittsburgh on Dec. 5.
These Bearcats remind me of Urban Meyer's undefeated 2004 Utah team. Both Pike and Collaros run Kelly's offense with deft precision (with the dual-threat Collaros more closely resembling Alex Smith), distributing the ball to a tandem of speedy tailbacks (Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Pead) and a trio of athletic receivers (Mardy Gilyard, Armon Binns and D.J. Woods). Just as we left that '04 season forever wondering how the Utes would have fared against undefeated USC and Auburn's defenses, a BCS matchup pitting the Bearcats against defensive-minded Florida, Alabama, Texas or TCU would be fascinating.
My reaction to the latest polls and BCS standings:
One of the most inexplicable voting decisions of the season took place in the human polls this weekend. Obviously, Oregon figured to drop following its 51-42 loss at Stanford, but in an utter disregard for common sense, voters in the coaches poll dropped the Ducks from No. 8 to No. 16, six spots behind USC (No. 10), a team with the same 7-2 record whom Oregon stomped 47-20 just a week earlier. Voters in the AP poll reacted much the same way -- the Ducks fell three spots below the 11th-ranked Trojans.
This is a classic example of voters arbitrarily punishing a team for a loss without accounting for any context. Consider: Oregon fell more drastically (seven spots in AP, eight in coaches) for losing on the road to 5-3 Stanford than Iowa did for losing at home to 5-4 Northwestern (five sports in coaches, seven spots in AP). But more inexcusable is the failure to account for USC -- which itself rose two to three spots following an unimpressive 14-9 win at Arizona State. Not that the Trojans don't have their own gripe -- they sit two spots behind Ohio State.
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
While Alabama's offense seemed to right itself in the second half against LSU, my No. 1 team right now is Texas. Over his past three games, Colt McCoy has completed 80 percent of his passes for 910 yards, while the 'Horns' defense has held its last six opponents to 182 yards per game. Meanwhile, Ohio State's win at Penn State, coupled with Iowa's loss to Northwestern, has set up an unexpected Rose Bowl play-in game next week in Columbus. Considering how badly the Hawkeyes' offense struggled following Stanzi's injury, the Buckeyes have become the prohibitive favorite.
Spreading the field
No. 3 Alabama's game plan against LSU seemed curious at times, but it worked. Despite having the current Heisman favorite, Mark Ingram, in the backfield, Greg McElroy attempted 34 passes. But it softened up the Tigers' defense enough for Ingram to get going in the second half (110 of his 144 yards), while McElroy connected with Julio Jones for a decisive 73-yard touchdown.
Penn State's soft schedule allowed it to largely mask an inadequate offensive line, but Ohio State -- like Iowa before it -- exploited the Nittany Lions. Facing heavy pressure, quarterback Daryll Clark struggled much the same way he did Sept. 26 against the Hawkeyes. He's gone just 24-of-60 with one TD and four INTs in those games compared with 17 TDs and three INTs in his other games.
Hopefully for C.J. Spiller's sake, Heisman voters were watching Saturday night's Florida State-Clemson game. The Tigers' senior tailback broke his own school record from two weeks ago with 312 all-purpose yards, including a career-high 165 rushing yards and a 58-yard touchdown catch in a 40-24 win. Spiller, who's previously dodged the Heisman talk, even struck a "mini" pose after his last TD.
You would think it difficult for a 9-0 team to experience a "rough" weekend, but such was the case for Boise State. In their attempt to land a coveted BCS berth (a cause for which the WAC has hired a p.r. firm, the Broncos suffered two setbacks -- a closer-than-expected 45-35 win at Louisiana Tech on national television and a loss by Oregon, with whom their fate is inextricably linked.
On paper, No. 1 Florida cruised to a 27-3 win over 2-8 Vanderbilt, but many of its season-long offensive issues resurfaced, most notably the fact the Gators allowed four sacks. Florida now ranks 83rd nationally in sacks allowed (22). Give Tim Tebow credit, though: On the occasions he was left standing upright, the senior was an efficient 15-of-20 for 208 yards and a TD. He's working with what he's got.
Oregon State (6-3, 4-2 Pac-10) is quietly making its now-annual late-season push for Pac-10 contention following a 31-14 win at Cal (6-3, 3-3). Quarterback Sean Canfield posted his third straight game with 300-plus passing yards and the Rodgers brothers (James and Jacquizz) racked up their customary 208 combined yards of offense as the Beavers outgained the Bears 436-239.
The obvious asterisk to that latter stat is that Cal played the second half without tailback Jahvid Best, who suffered a horrifying fall on this touchdown run. After a scary scene in which the entire Cal team stood in a circle and watched paramedics immobilize Best and place him on a stretcher, it was a relief to find out that Best suffered a concussion and regained movement in his extremities.
Safety Matt O'Hanlon notched 12 tackles and three of Nebraska's five interceptions in a typically ugly 10-3 win over Oklahoma. For all its offensive shortcomings, Nebraska (6-3, 3-2 Big 12) will likely play for the Big 12 North title on Nov. 21 against Kansas State (6-4, 4-2). Meanwhile, the Sooners (5-4, 3-2) are closing in on their worst record since Bob Stoops' first season in 1999.
Has USC quarterback Matt Barkley hit a freshman wall? After an impressive seven-game start that earned him recognition as a Davey O'Brien Award semifinalist, Barkley has struggled mightily the past two weeks. Against Arizona State, he went just 7-of-22 for 112 yards, with 75 of those coming on one completion to Damian Williams. A week earlier, he went 5-of-16 in the second half against Oregon.
Props to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson for one of the gutsiest calls of the season. Facing fourth-and-inches at Wake Forest's 5-yard-line and needing only a field goal to send the game to a second overtime, Johnson instead kept the ball in the hands of quarterback Josh Nesbitt. He converted a sneak to set up a game-winning TD, putting the Jackets (9-1) one win from an ACC title berth.
A month ago, Kansas coach Mark Mangino was touting quarterback Todd Reesing for the Heisman. Since then, both player and team have endured a downward spiral. The Jayhawks (5-4) have lost four straight, with Reesing committing 10 turnovers. He was benched last week against Texas Tech but returned for a 17-10 loss to rival K-State, throwing a pick and losing two fumbles.
Arkansas (5-4) creamed South Carolina (6-4) 33-16, which would be notable if the Gamecocks' late-season slides hadn't become so easily predictable. Steve Spurrier's team has reached the six-win mark in all five seasons of his tenure while posting a 34-26 overall record, but their combined record after the seventh game of each season is 9-16.
Texas' McCoy and Jordan Shipley got in some nice target practice during the 'Horns' 35-3 rout of UCF. McCoy threw for a career-high 470 yards and his buddy caught 11 passes for a school-record 273 yards.
Temple freshman running back Bernard Pierce continued his recent tear with a 40-carry, 178-yard, three-TD night in a 34-32 win over Miami (Ohio) that put the Owls (7-2, 5-0 MAC) in prime position for their first bowl berth in 30 years.
ESPN's Lou Holtz compared Florida's off-field turmoil of the past week to Germany's bombardment of England during World War II. Apparently I was the only one watching.
A lot of people watch the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. I'm not normally one of them, but I'll make an exception Monday when Mailbag Crush Katy Mixon guest stars.
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