College Football Overtime (cont.)
Paralyzed Rutgers defensive lineman Eric LeGrand's condition has not changed, but public support for him has been overwhelming. Thousands of Pittsburgh fans at Heinz Field for Saturday's Rutgers game signed a banner and sported "Pitt is Pulling for Eric LeGrand" stickers. Rutgers has started an Eric LeGrand Believe Fund in his honor, while a grassroots "Wristbands for Eric LeGrand" campaign is garnering donations on campus and nationally.
Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano said Sunday that LeGrand was able to watch Saturday's game (a 41-21 Pittsburgh win) from his Hackensack hospital room. "He's going to keep moving on and we're going to keep moving on," said Schiano.
Fourteen years of misery have finally given way to smiles at Baylor, which rang in several milestones this weekend. Following a 47-42 win over Kansas State in which Robert Griffin threw for a career-high 404 yards and Jay Finley ran for a school-record 250, the Bears (6-2) became bowl eligible for the first time since joining the Big 12 in 1996, entered the AP and coaches' polls for the first time since 1993 and, at 3-1 in league play, took over first place in the South Division.
Saturday will bring another rarity: A ranked Baylor team will face an unranked Texas team for the first time since 1986. "I'm just honored and proud to be a part of what happened [Saturday night] and what's continuing to happen at Baylor University," said Bears coach Art Briles.
In a more dubious milestone, Florida and Georgia will meet as unranked foes this week for the first time since 1979. The Dawgs have quietly dug themselves out of their 1-4 hole, routing SEC East foes Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to return to .500. Running back Washaun Ealey rushed for 157 yards and a school-record five touchdowns in Saturday's 44-31 win in Lexington. Coach Mark Richt could go a long way toward quieting his critics if he can notch just his third career win over the struggling Gators this week in Jacksonville.
How thoroughly dominant is No. 4 TCU's defense? Saturday against previously ranked Air Force, Horned Frogs running back Ed Wesley sprang for 209 yards and in so doing personally outgained the Falcons' national-best rushing offense, which netted just 184 ground yards in a 38-7 TCU rout. TCU has now allowed a combined 10 points in its first four Mountain West contests and held Baylor's aforementioned explosive offense to 263 total yards in a 45-10 win on Sept. 18.
After covering an LSU game, I can now see the "wisdom" in Les Miles' two-quarterback system. The Tigers' offense runs more fluidly with Jordan Jefferson because of his threat to run (he carried 16 times for 74 yards). Unfortunately, he can't pass. His 87.7 efficiency rating does not even come close to cracking the Top 100 nationally. There are only 120 teams. And while Jarrett Lee throws a decent ball, Auburn's defensive front easily teed off on him. I see no solution.
In his first start in place of the injured Nick Foles, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott -- who lost his job to Foles early last season -- was an impressive 18-of-22 for 233 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 65 yards in a 44-14 rout of Washington. At 6-1, the Wildcats are off to their best start since their 12-1 season in 1998. Coach Mike Stoops said Foles, out with a dislocated knee cap, is close to returning, but that, "Giving Matt this experience keeps our options open."
It shouldn't be surprising given the direction of the two programs, but Alabama's 41-10 rout of Tennessee on Saturday marked the Tide's most lopsided win ever in Knoxville. After leading 13-10 at halftime, the Tide got their recently struggling offense back in gear, with Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram combining for 207 yards on 26 carries and receiver Julio Jones exploding for a school-record 221 yards on 12 catches.
Even in defeat against Nebraska, Oklahoma State (6-1) showed that its high-powered offense is pretty hard to stop, racking up 495 yards in a 51-41 loss. Star receiver Justin Blackmon made the most of his matchup with NFL-bound cornerback Prince Amukamara, catching an 80-yard touchdown in single coverage, and running back Kendall Hunter went for 201 yards. Defense, though -- that's a problem. Taylor Martinez threw for 323 yards and rushed for 112.
Virginia Tech's offense is finally rolling. Saturday's 44-7 rout of Duke, in which quarterback Tyrod Taylor went 13-of-17 for 280 yards and three touchdowns, marked the Hokies' (6-2, 4-0 ACC) third straight conference game scoring at least 40 points. That said, only one of their four league victories to date came against a foe (N.C. State) with a winning record. That won't be true of their next three (5-3 Georgia Tech, 4-3 North Carolina and 5-2 Miami).
They're starting to get restless in Tempe after Arizona State fell to 3-4 following a 50-17 drubbing at Cal (4-3). Since a 10-3 debut season in 2007, Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils have gone 12-19. "I know how it works," Erickson said. "I'm the head of the program. I take the heat." Saturday's drubbing was a harsh setback, but this is the same team that gave Oregon its toughest challenge to date, nearly won at Wisconsin and lost by a field goal at Oregon State.
I was wrong about Hawaii. I thought the Warriors (6-2, 4-0 WAC), coming off a 27-21 upset of then-19th-ranked Nevada, would fall flat on the mainland against Utah State. Instead, they routed the Aggies 45-7 while posting their best defensive effort (181 yards allowed) in five years. That's good news for BCS title aspirant Boise State, which if things break right might face two more ranked opponents. Nevada and Hawaii were the first two out of this week's AP poll.
Remember when I picked Connecticut to win the Big East? Umm, yeah. The Huskies lost 26-0 Saturday to Louisville to fall to 3-4, 0-2, after starting quarterback Cody Endres left the program following a third failed drug test.
It doesn't get much bigger than this in Conference USA (seriously). When East Carolina (5-2, 4-0 C-USA) and UCF (5-2, 3-0) meet Saturday, it will be the latest two teams with undefeated league records have met since Nov. 20, 2001.
Bizarre factoid: On Saturday afternoon, Niles Paul notched Nebraska's first 100-yard kick return since 1949. Saturday night, Georgia's Brandon Boykin broke his third 100-yard kick return since last season.
Finally, congratulations to Western Kentucky for ending its 26-game losing streak with a 54-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Only two winless teams remain in the FBS this season: Akron (0-8) and New Mexico (0-7).
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