Week 11 Recap
1. Illinois comes of age in Columbus.
In a game that was measured up as little more than a quick stop on the way to a showdown for the Big Ten crown in Ann Arbor, number one Ohio State ran into some unexpected resistance. And when it was all said and done, the Fighting Illini had a 28-21 win over the Buckeyes, knocking the scarlet and gray out of national title contention. Juice Williams, who some earlier in the season thought should sit in favor of freshman Eddie McGee, threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions in the win. Williams, who also had a key fourth and inches conversion in the fourth quarter, showed the nation that his arm is a weapon as well. Nearly anyone who follows college football knows that Ron Zook can recruit with the best of them, and this win only adds to what he can sell this off-season. With a win over Northwestern next week Illinois would tie for second in the Big Ten. Good stuff for a team many thought was a year away from the upper tier of the conference.
2. Also caught looking ahead to next weekend: Michigan.
Well, that Michigan defense reared its ugly head once again in Madison, ensuring that for the first time since 1959 both Ohio State and Michigan would head into the season finale with a loss. Even with P.J. Hill sitting out most of the game with his assorted injuries and Lance Williams-Smith going down to an injury in the first half, the Badgers ran for 232 yards in the 37-21 win. Quarterback Tyler Donovan threw for 245 yards and a touchdown in addition to forty-nine yards and a score on the ground. Michigan played without Mike Hart and Chad Henne (Henne played the first two series), and their sitting had to have been a case of realizing that they would still play for the conference title next week. The offense was dormant early, and the defense looked to have stayed back in Ann Arbor. Was it a step back, or a reminder of who Michigan beat in their eight-game win streak up to that point? We’ll find out against the Buckeyes. But the seniors are 0-3 against OSU, and Coach Carr is 1-5 against Jim Tressel.
3. Finally, some young men got fed up with the criticism in Lincoln.
One week after having 76 hung on them at Kansas, and after hearing about just how bad they were all week, the Cornhuskers had enough. Unfortunately for Kansas State, they were the ones who walked into the buzz saw at Memorial Stadium. When the sixty minutes of anger release were finally over, the numbers read 73-31. Joe Ganz, now the starter after Sam Keller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, threw for more than 500 yards and seven touchdowns in the win. “The guys are just sick of hearing about how bad we are, and we just came out and unleashed it,” said Ganz to the Associated Press. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Next up for the 5-6 Huskers is Colorado in their final opportunity to become bowl eligible.
4. I thought Miami was supposed to shut the doors on the Orange Bowl.
The scene was set before the game with all the past UM greats and dignitaries on the field in honor of the last Hurricane football game to be played in the Orange Bowl. A lot of great football had been played in the venerable stadium by home teams (the Dolphins as well when they called it home) since 1937, but history was made on Saturday night. Virginia 48, Miami 0…the most lopsided shutout loss in the history of the ‘Canes at the “OB”. The game was flat-out embarrassing, marked by offensive ineptitude combined with a tired defense that didn’t have an answer for QB Jameel Sewell or RB Mikell Simpson all night.
Kyle Wright tried to gut it out through ankle and knee injuries (after Kirby Freeman’s performance last week, he probably didn’t have a choice but to), but it just wasn’t there. Even their probation years in the mid-90s you could find a couple playmakers on offense, but not these days. But with 94 yards through the air and 95 on the ground, at least they had some balance. Now the 5-5 Hurricanes head to Virginia Tech and Boston College in hopes of becoming bowl eligible. At this rate, they’d be better off hoping not to get embarrassed again.
5. Who the best team is in the Big East may still be up for grabs, but the toughest right now is Cincinnati.
Brian Kelly’s Bearcats have to be one of the more confusing teams in America to traditionalists who find it necessary to hit quite a bit during the week of preparation. They don’t hit as much as many teams during the week, allowing them to be fresher than opponents on Saturday. Rest assured it works. The Bearcats pummeled first-place Connecticut 27-3 in a game that truth is told was over once the Huskies realized that Cincinnati was going to take away the run. Ben Mauk, who if there is such an award, is the national comeback Player of the Year, threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another. While they do run a spread offense, if you assume that this team is soft they’ll sock you in the mouth and then give you that “so, what are you gonna do about it?” look. Next up is West Virginia, and for a league schedule that was meant to set up a race between the Mountaineers, Louisville and Rutgers, it’s funny that the Bearcats are the ones calling the shots at this point.
6. The weekend’s biggest loser: the Big Ten. Biggest winner: the Rose Bowl.
With Ohio State and Michigan losing this past Saturday, the Rose Bowl is now assured of at least the Big Ten half of the traditional matchup equation. Arizona State and USC both won as well, so should Oregon win out and end up in the national title game, whichever team wins their game on Thanksgiving Night would have a very good chance to end up in Pasadena. With Ohio State falling, the much-maligned Big Ten finds itself out of the national title race, with a comeback for the Buckeyes rendered nearly impossible because while conference rules dictate that member finish their season before Thanksgiving, other contenders throughout the nation get to play until December 1st. Need to change that rule, and soon. This scenario, combined with the length of time off before New Year’s Day bowl games could make last year’s BCS results for the Big Ten the norm rather than the exception.
7. Kansas just keeps plugging away, winning at Oklahoma State 43-28 to move to 10-0.
It seems like just about every week a different skill position player steps up for the undefeated Jayhawks. This week’s hero was QR Marcus Henry, who caught eight passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns in the road victory. Brandon McAnderson and Todd Reesing had games that seem to be givens for them at this point, and a solid Oklahoma State offense couldn’t keep up with KU on the scoreboard. Lost in the offensive display is a Kansas defense that forced four Cowboy turnovers in the win. All that stands in the way of a showdown with rival Missouri for the Big 12 North is Iowa State, a team that has proven feistier than their 3-8 record would indicate. But at this point, I don’t know who can derail these Jayhawks.
8. For the third straight game Georgia puts up 40 or more points.
This week the number was 45, ensuring that the black jerseys that made an appearance as part of a stadium “blackout” will be available in the future. Auburn hung around for a half, but Knowshon Moreno and the rest of the Bulldog offense proved to be too much for the Tigers. Thomas Brown, hampered by injury this season, even broke off a 53-yard touchdown run in the victory. But while the defense forced four turnovers and an improved offense went off, Tennessee still controls its own destiny in the SEC East due to its win over Arkansas. But the Dawgs are hot, and could be at the least playing themselves into serious BCS at-large consideration (Sugar Bowl if LSU wins out?) if not into the SEC title game.
9. Give it up for Sylvester Croom. Mississippi State is bowl eligible!
This was thought to be an important year in the Sylvester Croom era at MSU, and it certainly didn’t get off to a good start with the 48-0 loss to LSU in the season opener. But now those same Bulldogs are 6-4 and bowl eligible after a 17-12 win over Alabama. The game turned on an ill-advised pass by John Parker Wilson at the end of the first half that was returned for a touchdown by Anthony Johnson. What could have been at the least 12-3 Alabama ended up 10-9 Mississippi State. And while they’re never going to be described as an explosive offensive team, the Bulldogs employ a physical rushing attack that can be tough to stop once it gets rolling downhill (ask Kentucky). With their final two games being against Arkansas and Mississippi, the Bulldogs could very well win eight games. It looks like being patient with Coach Croom has paid off.
10. Colt Brennan ties the NCAA touchdown mark at 121, and Hawaii moves to 9-0.
But the fourth quarter hit that knocked Brennan out of the game could be the most important play of the season for the Warriors. Hawaii held on for the 37-30 victory over Fresno State, but this is clearly a different team when Brennan is out of the lineup. Will he play at Nevada on Friday night? It still remains to be seen, but Brennan missing any time could spell doom for Hawaii’s BCS hopes. More importantly, the win pretty much ensures that the WAC title will be decided on the 23rd when defending champ Boise State visits the islands. And don’t look now, but the Broncos seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time.
11. Clemson blows out Wake Forest and has a chance to win the ACC Atlantic next weekend.
All the talk before the season was about how Clemson was too young to contend in the ACC this season, and how Tommy Bowden was on the hot seat yet again. Well, after the Tigers’ 44-10 whipping of Wake Forest, they’re a win over Boston College away from representing the Atlantic in the ACC Championship game. C.J. Spiller had a kickoff return for a touchdown, and Cullen Harper threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns in addition to running in a score himself. The only issue for Coach Bowden will be to get Spiller and James Davis untracked on the ground. The duo ran for 116 yards on twenty-nine carries combined, and we all know they can be more prolific than that. But all they wanted was a chance at the title, and they’ve got that now. Good news for their offense is that Maryland had success against the Eagles, tallying 472 yards in the 42-35 win.
12. My top five teams as of right now:
1. Oregon: bye week before a trip to Arizona.
2. LSU: Tigers take care of business against Louisiana Tech and clinch the SEC West.
3. Kansas: the Jayhawks should be in New Orleans if they go undefeated.
4. Oklahoma: Sooners whip Baylor, Texas Tech is next.
5. Missouri: Tigers handle A&M, trip to K-State could be tricky.
13. Top 5 Heisman candidates
1. Tim Tebow (Florida): Dennis Dixon will most likely win the Heisman, but Tebow doesn’t have a Jonathan Stewart to take pressure off in the run game.
2. Dennis Dixon (Oregon): stretch run will define his Heisman candidacy.
3. Colt Brennan (Hawaii): three important games (and TV exposure) remain on the schedule, but how effective can he be following the injury?
4. Darren McFadden (Arkansas): Tennessee stacked the box, Felix Jones left with an injury, and the Hogs can’t throw the ball at all…and he still ran for 117.
5. Chase Daniel (Missouri): 352 yards passing, three touchdowns and no picks against Texas A&M.