Week 9 Football Recap

    
November 1st, 2009
Halloween was a rather light Saturday on the schedule in regards to showdowns but we nearly had our fireworks thanks to #4 Iowa, who took awhile to wake up for their 11 AM (local) start against Indiana. The Hoosiers got out to a 21-7 halftime lead and looked to be well on their way to a remarkable upset (keep in mind that Indiana lost 47-7 at Virginia earlier this season) halfway through the third quarter with another Hawkeye turnover giving them the ball in the red zone. Then Iowa's Tyler Sash made the play that, if Iowa goes on to win the Big Ten, will be remembered as a turning point in their run.

Sash picked off Ben Chappell and ran it back eighty-six yards for a touchdown to pull Iowa within 21-14. The Hoosiers were able to close the quarter with ten-point lead (24-14) but Iowa may have had them right where they wanted them, scoring 28 unanswered points to win by a deceptive final score of 42-24. Stanzi threw five interceptions on the day but was bailed out by solid performances from a defense that forced three turnovers and freshman RB Brandon Wegher (118 rushing yards and 3 TDs). Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos both eclipsed the 100-yard mark in receiving, and that's a miracle in itself given how poorly Stanzi played.

It will be interesting to see what the computers make of this result and their answer could be a clue in regards to the hopes that TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati have of moving up the BCS rankings. Iowa will likely be dropped by the humans (at least those who saw the game) but the computers have loved them all season due to their road victories and that final touchdown could make a difference in that area. Many will scoff at their struggles but if you don't win you've got no shot. And while it's an overused saying regarding Kirk Ferentz's team they find ways to win games. Whether or not we can figure out how doesn't matter to them, nor should it.

ACC: Georgia Tech is one of two teams in the conference with just one league loss. The other one is...Duke.

Whether this speaks to the weakness of the conference (Duke did lose to Richmond in the season opener) or the resolve of David Cutcliffe's team is up for debate but you can't discount what they've been able to do thus far. The Blue Devils (5-3, 3-1) scored nineteen points in the fourth quarter to knock off Virginia in Charlottesville 28-17, staying alive in the first three quarters thanks to kicker Will Snyderwine (four field goals; finished 5-5).

Thaddeus Lewis is one of the best quarterbacks in the country few people talk or know about (more people talk about Greg Paulus playing quarterback), and he threw for 343 yards against the Cavaliers. But the real stars of the afternoon: the members of the Duke defense, who held Virginia to 196 yards, 4-16 on third down and scored the touchdown that sealed the win. It would be too much to say that the Blue Devils are a serious contender in the ACC Coastal due to their end of season schedule (they still play Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina)...or would it. This is the ACC, where nearly anything can happen on a weekly basis.

Big 12: Texas dominates Oklahoma State, likely sealing the Big 12 South.

It wasn't the greatest of performances for Colt McCoy and company in Stillwater, putting up just 275 yards of offense. But the great thing about their 41-14 win was that they didn't have to thanks to a dominant performance from their defense. Will Muschamp's unit held the explosive Cowboys to 277 yards and forced five turnovers, returning two of their four interceptions of Zac Robinson for touchdowns.

The Longhorns (8-0, 5-0) have three conference games remaining with the toughest game on paper (Kansas) being in Austin. Of course rival Texas A&M could pull the upset on Thanksgiving night but Texas is still in the driver's seat since either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State has to lose once more (they play Thanksgiving weekend and Texas has the tiebreaker over both).

Big East: It may be a bit early to bury USF.

After their blowout loss at Pittsburgh it was commonplace that the annual October swoon had run its course, ripping the Bulls' season to shreds in the process. But there's nothing that gets Jim Leavitt's team going more than the sight of West Virginia, who they seem to match up quite well with. Unlike the majority of teams in the Big East the Bulls can match up with the likes of Noel Devine in space, and that was evident in the way they handled the Mountaineer spread in their 30-19 win Friday night.

Devine was held to forty-two yards rushing and seventy-five yards of total offense on the night and as a team the Mountaineers rushed for just 118 yards. The star of the night ended up being QB B.J. Daniels, who shook off his struggles in the previous two games to account for 336 yards of offense, three passing touchdowns and most importantly no turnovers. Now that they've run the gauntlet of Big East title contenders look for USF to close with sprinter's speed down the stretch. And with games remaining against both bitter rival Pittsburgh and Cincinnati by no means are the Mountaineers out of the title race.

Big Ten: What's happened to Michigan?

For the second consecutive week Greg Robinson's defense has been shredded, but last week's loss to Penn State is far more acceptable than what happened in Champaign on Saturday. Illinois went into that game without a conference win (their lone win came against Illinois State in fact) and embarrassed the Wolverines by a final of 38-13. Juice Williams and company put up 500 yards of offense, and when's the last time a Michigan defense gave up 377 yards on the ground? Old-school "Michigan men" watching likely stared at the display in horror, and those who rely on the Sunday paper will spit out their morning coffee in disgust.

Backs Mikel LeShoure (150 yards) and Jason Ford (128 yards) each went over the 100-yard barrier and Williams wasn't far behind with his ninety-seven yards. It's not like the Wolverines didn't know that Illinois was going to run the ball; bad things happened when the Illini relied too much on the pass in prior games and Juice attempted only eleven throws on the afternoon. And it doesn't help matters that Michigan was outscored 31-0 in the second half. There's no way to spin this; an extremely poor showing from the maize and blue.

Conference USA: One of the nation's best turnarounds: SMU.

It shouldn't be a surprise that June Jones has turned things around in his second season in Dallas; he did the same at Hawaii, going from one win to nine. The Mustangs are up to four wins thanks to their 27-13 win at Tulsa behind freshman QB Kyle Padron (354 yards and two touchdowns). But despite the success of the "run-n-shoot" system this win should be credited to the defense, which picked off G.J. Kinne twice (he was eventually benched) and held the Golden Hurricane to 322 yards of offense and 3-15 on third down. If not for their efforts there's practically no way in which SMU gets away with being called for fourteen penalties.

Now tied with Houston atop the West Division with a 3-1 league record (the Cougars own the head-to-head tiebreaker) SMU has a realistic shot at the division with three of their last four games at home. The home contests are UTEP (who lost to UAB on Saturday), Rice and Tulane with the lone road game coming against Marshall. Keep an eye on this team in the final month of the regular season.

Independents: Navy fails to take advantage of three Temple turnovers, losing 27-24 at home.

This game featured over 500 yards of rushing offense but if a bet were to be placed on which team finished with more yards you'd likely bet on Navy. But when the game ended it was Temple who won the battle on the ground, rushing for 274 yards in their 27-24 win in Annapolis. This happened in spite of a bad day from QB Vaughn Charlton (5-17, 37 yards and 2 INT) and possessing the football for just over twenty-four minutes. Temple got a huge play in the kicking game immediately following one of the more bizarre special teams plays you're going to see.

Navy returned a punt three yards (not a blocked one but an actual kick that was rushed) for a score to go up 10-7. James Nixon followed that up with a 100-yard kick return to regain the lead and their ability to run the ball eventually earned Temple the win. The good news for Navy is that Ricky Dobbs (knee) did make a short cameo appearance at quarterback and the hope is that he'll be ready to go next week when they visit Notre Dame. But they likely lost a shot at winning ten games this season due to this result.

MAC: Kent State keeps contact with Temple in the MAC East.

On a day in which Miami (Ohio) picked up their first win of the season the most important result may have been Kent State's 26-14 win over Western Michigan. Despite three turnovers the Golden Flashes knocked off Tim Hiller and company due to a stout run defense (thirty-eight yards on 23 carries) and an offense that produced 477 yards of offense. Spencer Keith threw for 373 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the afternoon, with Tyshon Goode catching both touchdowns.

The win moves the Golden Flashes to 4-1 in conference play, one game in the loss column behind the Owls atop the MAC East. Their next two games are both on the road: Akron and Temple. Nothing is ever guaranteed but Kent State has at least made sure that they control their own destiny.

Mountain West: Jordan Wynn rescues the Utes.

Things weren't going well for Utah offensively against Wyoming on Saturday afternoon; while Terrence Cain wasn't turning the ball over the Utes weren't finishing drives either, trailing 10-3 at the half. So head coach Kyle Whittingham pulled the trigger on the switch, handing the keys of the offense to talented freshman Jordan Wynn and the young man didn't disappoint. Wynn being inserted into the lineup gave the offense a boost and the defense sacked Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels five times in the second half of their 22-10 victory.

The question now is who will start next week at New Mexico, the Utes' final tune-up before their showdown at TCU. The pick here is Wynn; at this point in the season you don't turn down the opportunity to redshirt a freshman if he's not going to play.

Pac-10: There's a new sheriff in town thanks to Oregon's beating of USC.

It's one thing for someone to tie with the Trojans for the Pac-10 crown; that's happened before. But to flat-out snatch away the automatic BCS berth, something that hasn't occurred since the 2002 season when Washington State went to the Rose Bowl while the Trojans were an at-large selection (FedEx Orange Bowl). You can likely add 2009 to that list thanks to Oregon's 47-20 demolition of the Trojans in Eugene Saturday night. The Ducks put up 397 yards on the ground (613 yards of total offense) and thirty-one first downs in the win, dominating play in the second half thanks to a hellacious tempo.

Jeremiah Masoli accounted for 386 yards of offense and two total touchdowns, combining with redshirt freshman RB LaMichael James to rush for 347 yards against a USC defense that looked to have some holes in their win over Oregon State. The difference here was that the Oregon defense was able to limit the Trojans' ability to generate yards after first contact. Matt Barkley completed 21 of 38 passes but the yardage (187 yards; 8.9 yards per completion) was a far cry from what he did against the Beavers in the Coliseum. Now in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl, Chip Kelly's team looks nothing like the outfit that sputtered to a loss at Boise State in the opener.

SEC: Nothing like the sight of a bitter rival to jumpstart your offense.

Much of the talk going into Florida's game with Georgia focused on their struggles in the red zone. The Gators can move the football on anyone but it seemed as if once they got into the scoring zone things came to a screeching halt. No such issues in Jacksonville on Saturday as the top-ranked Gators soundly whipped the hideously dressed Bulldogs 41-14. They certainly didn't look like world beaters on offense with 374 yards (210 on the ground) but the fact that Tim Tebow and his mates were far more efficient than in recent weeks bodes well for the future.

And when speaking of the defending national champions one must not ignore that defense, which forced four turnovers and returned a pick for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Already having a trip back to the SEC Championship Game locked up the Gators simply need to keep winning and shoring up their deficiencies; it would take a miracle for them to be dropped out of the top two of the major polls.

Sun Belt: Troy asserts their dominance against UL Monroe.

Saturday's game in Troy was a matchup between the two remaining undefeated teams in the Sun Belt and the defending champions did not disappoint. Levi Brown threw for 378 yards and four touchdowns in the Trojans' 42-21 win over the Warhawks to move to 5-0 in conference play. Troy has a number of weapons on offense, ranging from RB DuJuan Harris to receivers Jerrel Jernigan and one-time Oklahoma commit Josh Jarboe.

And if Larry Blakeney can get production from his defense (forced four turnovers Saturday) on a weekly basis they'll be well on their way to repeating as conference champs. Winners of six straight the Trojans have a chance to win at least nine games, not counting the bowl game.

WAC: The charmed season at Idaho continues with a thrilling comeback.

Things didn't look good for the Vandals in the fourth quarter of their game against Louisiana Tech, trailing 34-21 halfway through the quarter. But if there's been anything to be learned about Robb Akey's team in 2009 it's that they're not going to quit. That determination resulted in an exciting 35-34 victory thanks to a pair of DeMaundray Woolridge touchdown runs in the final 5:51, moving Idaho to 4-1 in the WAC.

If the Vandals are to have any thoughts of beating either Fresno State or Boise State in coming weeks the defense needs to improve; they allowed 547 yards and 29 first downs. But given where they were as a program when Coach Akey took over, this is one of the best stories in college football this year.

Sunday's Game: Marshall (5-3, 3-1) @ UCF (4-3, 2-2) 8 PM on ESPN

Opposite the World Series is a key matchup in the East Division of Conference USA with the Thundering Herd looking to keep pace with East Carolina atop the division. A loss to the Knights would essentially end their hopes of winning the East as they've already lost to the Pirates this season. But they do have one of the nation's most productive running back in Darius Marshall, who leads the conference in rushing and ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game (136). He'll be going up against the conference's best rushing defense as the Knights allow fewer than ninety-three yards per game.

The key for UCF will be the efficiency of their offense especially QB Brett Hodges, who ranks fourth in the conference in pass efficiency. If he can spread the ball around UCF can win this game given the ability of their defense to both stop the run and get after the quarterback. Conference USA title races are rarely straightforward and that means that UCF will vault themselves back into contention with a win tonight.

Updated BCS Rankings

1 Florida 8-0
2 Texas 8-0
3 Alabama 8-0
4 Iowa 9-0
5 Cincinnati 8-0
6 TCU 8-0
7 Boise State 8-0
8 Oregon 7-1
9 LSU 7-1
10 Georgia Tech 8-1
11 Penn State 8-1
12 USC 6-2
13 Pittsburgh 7-1
14 Utah 7-1
15 Houston 7-1
16 Ohio State 7-2
17 Miami (FL) 6-2
18 Arizona 5-2
19 Oklahoma State 6-2
20 California 6-2
21 Wisconsin 6-2
22 Notre Dame 6-2
23 Virginia Tech 5-3
24 Oklahoma 5-3
25 South Florida 6-2