College Football Overtime (cont.)
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's this week's edition:
Title game: Alabama vs. Oklahoma
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs. Nebraska
Sugar: LSU vs. Boise State
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. USF
There was much shuffling this week, including Oregon's return to the Rose Bowl. Not surprisingly, the Ducks' offense has kicked things into high-gear since the LSU loss, and when it's clicking ... wow. LaMichael James scorched Arizona for a school-record 288 yards on 23 carries in a 56-31 win over the 1-3 Wildcats. Meanwhile, Stanford just lost star linebacker Shayne Skov for the season.
Like Clemson, Georgia Tech (4-0) showed it's a legit ACC contender Saturday, as the nation's top-rated offense (630.5 yards per game) piled up another 496 yards in a 35-28 win over North Carolina. Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington (10-of-14, 184 yards) continues to shine as a passer, making the triple option tough to stop. Whether Georgia Tech has the defense to win every week remains to be seen, but given the woes of Miami and others, Virginia Tech may be its lone worthy Coastal Division adversary.
Baylor's Robert Griffin III continues to dazzle, and in so doing may be inventing a new "ratio." Forget touchdowns to interceptions. Following a 29-of-33, 338-yard, five-touchdown performance in a 56-31 win over Rice, Griffin has now thrown more touchdown passes (13) than incompletions (12). That's insane. He's bound to come back to earth at some point, but any Heisman straw poll that doesn't have Griffin in its top three right now is hard to take seriously.
Lesson learned, Matt Barkley. Do not talk trash to Vontaze Burfict. First he will do this. Then he will jump up and intercept your red-zone pass at the line of scrimmage, one of four turnovers by the self-destructive Trojans (3-1) in a 43-22 loss to Arizona State. Lane Kiffin's team ranks 113th nationally in turnover margin (minus-six), 107th in penalties (31) and 99th in red-zone conversions (nine touchdowns on 17 tries). In other words, not much has changed from 2010.
Michigan (4-0) finally got the breakthrough defensive performance it's been waiting for since before Rich Rodriguez's tenure in a 28-7 win over San Diego State. The Wolverines forced three fumbles, held the nation's second-leading rusher, Ronnie Hillman, to 109 yards and kept quarterback Ryan Lindley below 50 percent passing (23-of-48). Now it's time to see if coach Brady Hoke can reverse another recent trend: Michigan went unbeaten in September the past two years before crumbling down the stretch.
The Big 12 may be even deeper than I thought last week. Kansas State (3-0) got its biggest nonconference win in years Saturday, beating Miami 28-24 when it stopped Jacory Harris just short of the goal line on fourth down with 49 seconds left. While touted transfer Bryce Brown continues riding the pine, Wildcats sophomore running back John Hubert had a breakout game (18 carries for 166 yards). "We wanted people to know we're not a pushover," said Hubert.
Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller's first start for Ohio State was a mixed bag. He can certainly run, going for 83 yards on 17 carries in the Buckeyes' 37-17 win over Colorado. He was less inspiring through the air, going 5-of-13 for 83 yards, though two of those completions were 32- and 17-yard touchdowns to receiver Devin Smith. The Buckeyes' (3-1) best playmaker right now is junior running back Jordan Hall, who, after sitting out the first two games, has gone for 87 and 84 the past two weeks, and also had a 90-yard kick return Saturday.
Steve Spurrier is putting on a good face, but behind closed doors he's got to be seething at his team's continued quarterback struggles. Stephen Garcia threw four interceptions Saturday against Vanderbilt (which now has 14 on the year). Fortunately for Garcia, the Gamecocks' (4-0) defense held the Commodores to 77 total yards in a 21-3 win. "I apologize to Gamecock fans for such a putrid offensive performance," said Spurrier, "But we won the game."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is also dealing with maddening quarterback inconsistency. Tommy Rees threw for just 216 yards on 41 attempts Saturday against Pittsburgh, finally leading the Irish (2-2) on an 85-yard go-ahead touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter to pull out an ugly 15-12 win. "Right now Tommy is 6-1 as a starter," Kelly said Sunday. "... He's obviously not a finished product; nobody is. He'll continue to get better and better."
Considering Jake Locker, Washington's starting quarterback the past four seasons, was the No. 8 pick in last spring's NFL draft, it's strange to say, but true: The Huskies (3-1) have made a significant upgrade at the position. Sophomore Keith Price, who coach Steve Sarkisian likened to Charlie Ward in the preseason, was 19-of-25 for 292 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in a 31-23 win over Cal. Price, the nation's ninth-rated passer, is completing 67 percent of his passes, up from Locker's 55.4.
Temple (3-1) made its loudest statement to date in its continued resurgence with a stunning 38-7 rout of Maryland that left the Terps humiliated for more than just their uniforms. Bernard Pierce ran for 149 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. Note to the Big East: If you're looking for new teams, you might want to start with the one you kicked out seven years ago. Coach Steve Addazio, continuing the groundwork laid by Al Golden, certainly has things on the up.
In hindsight, after seeing what both Alabama and Temple did this weekend, it's clear Penn State (3-1) must have a heck of a defense. Unfortunately, it suffered two tough blows Saturday: Linebacker Michael Mauti tore his ACL and is likely done for the year. Cornerback D'Anton Lynn suffered a scary injury after which he lay motionless and was taken to a hospital, where he was released shortly thereafter. His status for next week's game at Indiana is to be determined.
Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz shredded UC Davis on Saturday for seven touchdowns ... in the first half. That tied an NCAA record last achieved by Florida's Doug Johnson in 1997. "It's something we've been working on a lot this week, throwing better deep balls," said Moniz. Presumably the Warriors (2-2) had a lot to work on coming off an inexplicable 40-20 loss at UNLV. The Rebels (1-3), followed up that performance with a 41-16 loss Saturday to Southern Utah.
UCF boasts the nation's third-ranked defense, yet has just a 2-2 record to show for it thanks to some mind-numbing special teams gaffes. In a 24-17 loss to BYU last Friday, it gave up a 93-yard kick return, while freshman J.J. Worton muffed a punt at his own eight, setting up another Cougars score. Worton had replaced Josh Robinson, who himself had muffed three punt returns, including one the previous week that set up a short field for an FIU touchdown in another seven-point loss.
Officially, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is leading the nation in rushing (168.7 yards per game). Ironically, that wouldn't be the case if the NCAA counted the statistics from his rain-shortened opener against Western Michigan.
Remember Utah State coach Gary Andersen's ballsy fake field goal against Auburn? After scoring in double overtime against Colorado State on Saturday, Andersen was at it again: He went for two. He didn't get it, and the Rams won, 35-34.
FIU must have been reading its press clippings (mostly in this column). Louisiana-Lafayette (3-1) knocked off the Panthers (3-1), 36-31.
This is the first time Illinois has started 4-0 since 1951. I find that piece of trivia astonishing. Not once in 60 years? Not even with Dick Butkus (1962-64)?