College Weekly Report
by Brent Beaird
LSU AT OLE MISS: LSU's offense took a beating in the Alabama loss -- and it showed Saturday against Louisiana Tech. With oft-maligned quarterback Jarrett Lee starting in place of the injured Jordan Jefferson and top rusher Charles Scott, center T-Bob Herbert and tight end Richard Dickson all sidelined, the Tigers (8-2, 4-2 SEC) managed just 246 total yards in a 24-16 win over Louisiana Tech. Jefferson is expected to return this week. Louisiana Tech did some damage with cut-back runs out of the Wildcat formation. The LSU defense will see a similar threat Saturday from the Rebels' Dexter McCluster
LSU's Keiland Williams ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns in place of the injured Scott in the win over Louisiana Tech. The Tigers (8-2) trailed 13-10 at the half before holding the Bulldogs to three points and 93 yards in the final 30 minutes.. The Tigers overcame a shaky outing by Lee who was 7 of 22 for 105 yards and a score. Lee was booed at times. The LSU defense held the Bulldogs to only a late field goal in the second half. Linebacker Jacob Cutrera made 11 tackles.
The LSU defensive line has improved as the season has gone on. Mediocre over the first half, the Tiger defensive front is doing more to make plays in the backfield and has remained against the run, for the most part. Alabama was held to 176 yards, but Louisiana Tech gained 178 last week. However, the Tigers have only allowed three rushing touchdowns, with two coming from Mississippi State six games ago.. While this might not be the brick wall of a D that LSU is used to, it's been great at keeping points off the board. If Ole Miss goes back to being the sputtering Ole Miss of the first half of the season, this will be a low scoring game and that favors the Tigers. The firepower isn't there to keep up in a shootout.
Louisiana Tech's Daniel Porter and Tyronne Duplessis, two 5-9, 185-pound, speedy Louisiana Tech backs didn't break loose for too many plays, but were productive against the fast Tiger D. McCluster is a similar back, but he's faster, quicker, and a whole lot better. On a tear, he ran for 123 yards against Arkansas, 186 against Auburn, rested against Northern Arizona, and ripped apart Tennessee for 282 yards and four touchdowns. LSU is good enough and smart enough to keep McCluster in check, which makes life far easier for QB Jevan Snead, who has settled down and has been solid over the a meltdown against Alabama. Basically, Ole Miss has more mature offensive talent. LSU has more talent, but Ole Miss gets more out of its playmakers.
The Rebels are 12th in the nation in scoring defense, along just under 16 points per game, while LSU is tenth in scoring D allowing 13.7 points per outing. If this was in Baton Rouge, the pick would be LSU, but with the home field and with a little more offensive pop, Ole Miss pulls out a tough, hard-fought win.
Ole Miss (7-3), off to its best start since 2003, clinched bowl eligibility for the second straight year with the victory over Tennessee. The Rebels still have a chance to put together a memorable season. They haven't won nine or more games in back-to-back seasons since 1961 and 1962. Ole Miss is 6-0 in November games under Houston Nutt. Snead sprained his ankle against Tennessee, but he downplayed any lingering affects. Their convincing win over the Vols on Saturday and the fact that they've finally turned McCluster loose at running back puts them in a position to finish this season on a roll for the second straight year. Unfortunately for the Rebels (7-3), it marked just the third time this season McCluster had more than 15 touches, all in the past four weeks.
It was the Rebels first win against Tennessee in 13 games. McCluster's 282 yards was the 11th best rushing performance in SEC history and the best in the league since Arkansas' Darren McFadden had 321 yards in 2007. McCluster finished with 324 all-purpose yards, setting two Mississippi records. McCluster broke the Rebels' single-game rushing record of 242 set by Dou Innocent in 1995. He eclipsed the all-purpose mark of 317 yards by Deuce McAllister in 1999. McCluster scored on runs of 15, 23, 32 and 71 yards in Ole Miss' first win against the Volunteers since 1983 -- and the best rushing day a player has ever had against Tennessee. Brandon Bolden added 46 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Rebels, who finished with 492 yards of total offense, including 359 on the ground. Snead, 13 of 20 passes for 133 yards, was sacked only once. Ole Miss beat LSU last year, but the Tigers have won four of the past five in the series. The winner of the game will be a favorite for the Capital One Bowl. (Rebelsports.com, Tigerbait.com and Collegefootballnews.com)
KENTUCKY AT GEORGIA: The Wildcats also have three more chances to get to the seven-win mark -- which would be four straight seasons of at least seven wins. The last time that happened at Kentucky was nearly a century ago. The Wildcats won nine in 1909, seven in 1910, seven in 1911 and seven in 1912. Randall Cobb did not finish practice Wed and is questionable. Morgan Newton will start at quarterback again for the Cats. For a school record fourth straight year, Kentucky (6-4) is bowl eligible after the win over Vandy. Cobb and Derrick Locke helped Kentucky rally from a 13-10 halftime deficit to a 24-13 victory. Locke gained 144 yards on 25 carries and Cobb, who ran for 99 yards on 14 carries, added two touchdowns. In the second half, Kentucky scored on two drives of more than 70 yards and outgained Vanderbilt 225-30. The defense allowed Vandy only 31 yards over the last 30 minutes. Quarterback Mike Hartline will undergo surgery to repair cartilage damage in his knee and will miss the final two regular season games. He should return for the bowl game. Hartline returned to action Saturday at Vanderbilt after missing four games. He completed 2-of-6 passes for 10 yards and was intercepted on his first pass attempt, which was deflected at the line of scrimmage. With Hartline out, look for the Wildcats to use both Newton and Cobb. Brooks said Cobb is nursing a bruised shoulder but is expected to be ready for practice.
Kentucky's defense has been terrific. There were problems in back-to-back games against Florida and Alabama, but otherwise, the Wildcats have done a terrific job of keeping almost everyone in check. There was the nightmare of a day in a loss to Mississippi State, getting gashed for 348 rushing yards, but Georgia doesn't run well. The secondary is decent at taking the ball away and is ninth in the nation in passing yards allowed. UK might have issues in the backfield, but there won't be too much of a concern about time to work against a good Georgia pass rush, but not an elite one. It doesn't produce on a consistent basis and should have problems against an O line that's great at protecting the passer.
This isn't a great matchup for the UK offense. There's no passing game whatsoever for the Bulldogs to worry about while the run defense should be able to keep the ground attack in check. For all the problems the defense has had this year allowing points and having issues in big games, it hasn't been bad when it came to giving up yards in chunks. Georgia knows exactly what UK is going to want to do, and it's a question of stopping it. The Wildcats will use a variety of players to run the ball, will incorporate Randall Cobb in a several ways, and it won't try to make anything happen deep down the field because …
Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo has been released from the hospital after a violent collision with an Auburn player temporarily knocked him out and left him with a concussion. Rambo's injury has him out indefinitely, as does the AC joint sprain suffered by wide receiver A.J.. Green. Mark Richt confirmed Sunday that Green will be out indefinitely after suffering the injury to his left shoulder early in the second quarter. Richt said that linebacker Darius Dewberry (elbow) is expected to play Saturday against Kentucky.
The Bulldogs (7-4) beat the Tigers for the fourth straight time after outscoring them 14-7 in the final period. Auburn jumped to a 14-0 lead before the Bulldogs rallied in the fourth quarter. Georgia's maligned defense created turnovers and had a late red zone stand to preserve the victory. The win allows Georgia to become bowl eligible. Georgia which came into the Auburn game with a minus-16 turnover ratio, picked off Auburn's Chris Todd twice, including an interception by Reshad Jones that set up the winning score. The Bulldogs committed no turnovers, the first time that's happened all season. It's also the first time they've had fewer turnovers in a game than their opponent. Georgia sacked Todd three times. A. J. Green, the SEC's leading receiver, sprained his left shoulder when tackled hard along the sideline on a 12-yard reception in the first half. He didn't return in the second half. Early in the second quarter, Cox, who was 9 of 17 for 173 yards, held up the Auburn secondary with a pump fake, and Israel Troupe blew by cornerback Neiko Thorpe to haul in a 50-yard touchdown pass. Tailback Washuan Ealey gained 98 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Georgia defensive back Brandon Boykin made eight tackles, intercepted a pass and broke up another in the win over Auburn Georgia has won four of the past five games in the Kentucky series. (UGAsports.com, Catspause.com and collegefootballnews.com)
MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ARKANSAS: Bulldog quarterback Tyson Lee was 9 of 17 for 99 yards with two picks in the loss to Alabama. Tailback Anthony Dixon gained 81 yards on 22 carries. State is 4-6.
The Hog rush defense stats look great after playing Eastern Michigan, South Carolina, and Troy, but Ole Miss ran for 221 yards in a Rebel win. Auburn tore off 242 yards against the Hogs, and Georgia ran for 155 yards in a Dawg victory. The defensive front is decent at getting into the backfield, but if good backs can get past the line and into the second level, big yards are there to be had. MSU was shut down by Florida and Alabama, but has been terrific on the ground against everyone else including 348 yards and three scores against Kentucky, 260 yards against Vanderbilt, and 151 yards against LSU. Anthony Dixon could control the game and keep Ryan Mallett and the Hog attack off the field.
If Arkansas gets up at all Mississippi State will have a hard time coming back. The MSU secondary has been solid, but it only faced one high-powered passing game and got destroyed by Case Keenum and Houston allowing 434 yards and four touchdowns in a loss.. The Arkansas offensive line isn't great, but it hasn't been awful in pass protection considering Mallett doesn't move. Fortunately for the Hogs, MSU doesn't have enough of a pass rush to throw off the passing timing.
Mallett, with 2,882 yards, has set the Arkansas record for passing yards in a season. He was held to 160 yards by Alabama, but he has been fantastic against everyone else with 408 yards and five touchdowns against Georgia early this year, and he has stepped up his play again over the last few weeks with 329 yards against South Carolina and 405 yards and five touchdowns against Troy. However, he threw a pick against the Trojans, which is noteworthy since he hadn't given one away in the previous five games and has given up just four interceptions on the year.
Mallet completed 23 of 30 passes for 405 yards with five touchdowns and one pick in the win over Troy. For the season, he now has 2,882 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Mallett is making a strong bid for first-team All-SEC honors at quarterback. The Hogs, who gained 592 total yards, ran for 187 yards on 35 carries. Arkansas picked off three Trojan passes and forced a fumble. Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson wasn't at Saturday night's game after being hospitalized on Friday. Robinson has been released from the hospital and is being treated for an infection
In Robinson's place, Reggie Johnson, the linebackers coach, called the plays on defense and helped Arkansas to a 56-20 victory over Troy Saturday night. Johnson said he was notified Friday afternoon by Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino that he would be calling the defensive plays. Arkansas has played seven true freshmen who have started a game at Arkansas this season. The latest is Colton Nash, who started at tight end on Saturday. That is most freshmen starting in SEC and is second in nation. The Razorbacks are +12 in turnover margin this season. The Hogs (6-4) have won four of the past five games against Mississippi State. (Hawgsports.com, Bulldogblitz.com and collegefootballnews.com)
VANDERBILT AT TENNESSEE: Vandy (2-9) has lost seven straight games after the Kentucky defeat. The Commodores' Warren Norman (12 carries for 52 yards and two kick returns for 38) has 1,789 all-purpose yards for the season, second only to Herschel Walker for the league's all-time freshman mark. Vandy turned a pair of interceptions into scores and racked up 178 yards, 122 of them coming through the air on 41 plays in the half. In the second half, Vandy had just one first down, held the ball for just 6:56 and ran only 17 plays.. The second-half absence of linebacker Patrick Benoist (concussion) and Casey Hayward (migraine headaches) hurt the Vandy's defense.
Vol senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton is just 24 pass attempts from matching Casey Clausen's school-record of 143 throws without an interception. Crompton has had 24 or more attempts in seven consecutive games. Cornerback Dennis Rogan is questionable for Saturday.
Fellow senior Montario Hardesty needs just 44 yards on Saturday for his first career 1,000-yard season. UT's Sports Information staff has discovered that Hardesty is on pace for nearly 1,150 yards, which would be the 11th-best single-season effort in the Vols' history.
Crompton finished 20 of 37 for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Ole Miss. He hit Jeff Cottam with a 16-yard TD in the first quarter and Denarius Moore with a 25-yarder in the second quarter, but the Vols' offense gained just total 275 yards, 99 on the ground. Their only other score was a 27-yard field goal by Daniel Lincoln in the third quarter. Kiffin said the Vols are down to their third MIKE linebacker. Nickel corner Marsalous Johnson is out. He added that Lamarcus Thompson came out in the second half.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the latest -- but technically the first -- Volunteer freshman to be arrested is defensive back Nyshier Oliver. The DB was arrested on Nov. 7 for theft by shoplifting, just hours before Tennessee's game with Memphis. The 18-year-old Oliver has played in one game this season. Coach Lane Kiffin said earlier this week that Oliver was not arrested, but cited for shoplifting.
Kiffin announced Monday that freshman wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson and defensive back Mike Edwards have been permanently dismissed from the football team. Janzen Jackson will continue to not be allowed to participate in team activities. Tennessee was optimistic that charges against Jackson were going to be dropped last Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. But sources told Volquest that new evidence was uncovered by investigators late Thursday evening resulting in no change in the charges that Jackson is facing.
Kiffin said on Sunday that he has spoken to all three of his freshmen in some capacity. He met with Jackson and Edwards Thursday night after their release from jail. Richardson was not released until late Friday afternoon, but he has visited with his head coach. From a football standpoint, Kiffin said it's obviously frustrating not to have them on the field.
The Vols (5-5) have won the last three games in the Vandy series and four of the past five. (Volquest.com)
CHATTANOOGA AT ALABAMA: The Tide's defense, ranked fourth nationally, held the Bulldogs to 212 total yards. It's the fifth time this season that Alabama has held an opponent to single digits in scoring. Greg McElroy, who was 13 for 18 for 192 yards and no interceptions, threw scoring passes of 45 yards to Darius Hanks and 48 yards to Julio Jones. Tailback Mark Ingram, who gained 145 yards on 19 carries, had a 70-yard touchdown run as the Crimson Tide improved to 10-0 for the second straight year, something that hasn't happened since the 1973-74 seasons. Mark Barron (third nationally) picked off his SEC leading fifth and sixth interceptions, ending two potential scoring drives. Marquis Johnson batted away two potential touchdown passes, forced a field goal with another strong play in the end zone, and then picked off a pass. Alabama held the Bulldogs to 83 first-half yards and 213 total. This is the 30th time in Alabama's 115 years of football the Tide has reached 10 wins, second only to Oklahoma's 31. Alabama has done it four times this decade. Alabama extended a couple of its NCAA records by starting a season 10-0 for the 17th time and recording its 22nd winning streak of 10 or more games. Alabama coach Nick Saban has won 10 or more games in back-to-back seasons as a head coach for the first time. Chattanooga (6-4) beat The Citadel last Saturday 31-28. The Mocs are quarterbacked by former Tennessee transfer B. J. Coleman. (BOL.com and Al.com)
FIU AT FLORIDA: Meyer is now 32-8 in SEC games (.800), making him the all-time winningest coach in conference play among coaches with a minimum of five years experience. Riley Cooper caught three passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Caleb Sturgis kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:18 left in the first. Sturgis missed wide left from 52, 54 and 29 yards later. Meyer said after the game that senior Jonathan Phillips would get a look during practice this week. However, for the third-straight game, the Gators did not turn over the ball over. No. 1 in the plan to win, higher than playing great defense and special teams, is holding onto the ball.
Running back Emmanuel Moody scored from 17 yards out on an option pitch with 10:28 remaining before halftime to make it 17-7. He left later with an ankle sprain and was seen in a protective boot and using crutches. The severity of his injury is not yet known. Cornerback Joe Haden had a game-high 12 tackles, an interception and a sack and forced two fumbles. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham had two sacks, safety Will Hill had 1.5 sacks, Jaye Howard had a sack and Ryan Stamper was involved in one as well.
Junior defensive end Justin Trattou had his biceps tendon ripped off the bone in his left shoulder in the Arkansas game back on Oct. 17. He ended up missing just one game, and it's a good thing for the Gators that he was on the field Saturday. His interception and 53-yard return on the first play of the fourth quarter changed the complexion of the game. The defense held the Gamecocks to just 41-yards of offense in the second half of the game. South Carolina had the ball for six possessions in the second half - on four of those six possessions they had to punt. On the other two they were intercepted. They were actually held to negative yardage on three of the four possessions that ended in a punt.
The Gators have had two solid offensive games in SEC play, scoring 41 against both Kentucky and Georgia. In their other six SEC games, they've averaged 23.2 points per game. Coaches still are tinkering - true freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon made his first college start. Nixon was the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the Gators since Reggie Green did it back in 1992. Though he was called for a one hold, for the most part he had a very strong outing and more than likely did enough to hold down the starting position for the upcoming game. The play calling has been uneven under new coordinator Steve Addazio, and QB Tim Tebow has developed a tendency to hold onto the ball too long - as evidenced by Florida allowing 24 sacks. But the Gators also are unbeaten and finished 8-0 in the SEC for just the second time in school history. The Gators score 23.2 points per game and allow just 12 points in conference games. Only two conference foes scored more than 17 points and one of those was Mississippi State, which scored 19 thanks to two interception returns for TDs.
FIU has actually won two of their last three games against Louisiana Lafayette and North Texas. The Panthers can't run the ball (109th in the nation in rushing offense) or stop the run (117th in rushing defense). They are 118th (out of 120 teams) in total defense, surrendering almost 500 yards per game. (Gatorbait.net)
AUBURN IS OFF: Auburn had 156 yards on its first two touchdown drives, but was held to 197 yards the rest of the way. Quarterback Chris Todd was 20 of 28 for 238 yards, including a pair of touchdowns in the loss to Georgia. The Tigers (7-4) had nine penalties and two turnovers. After missing the previous two games with an ankle injury, Tailback Onterio McCalebb returned for the game rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries. Tate finished with 67 yards on 20 carries. He now has 3,168 career yards, which is fifth-best, 200 behind Joe Cribbs in fourth. Safety Demond Washington finished with a school-record 202 kickoff return yards including a 99-yard return for a touchdown. Washington's 19-yard punt return in the first quarter was the longest of the season. Chizik said Auburn's run defense suffered after losing linebacker Eltoro Freeman to an injury early in the third quarter. After rushing for just 38 yards in the first half, Georgia gashed Auburn for 131 in the second. Freeman appeared to suffer a lower leg injury and possible concussion against the Bulldogs but he remained on the sidelines and left the field on his own. Coach Gene Chizik didn't offer any specifics on Freeman's status for practice this week. (Auburnsports.com)
SOUTH CAROLINA IS OFF: Gamecock assistant Shane Beamer could be considered for the head coaching job at Murray State. Beamer made an effort Thursday to quash the speculation, which surfaced earlier this week on the popular web site footballscoop.com, which deals primarily with pro and college coaching searches. The web site reported Monday that Murray State "is anxious to talk with South Carolina assistant Shane Beamer."
Thursday night didn't sound anxious to leave Columbia, though his father, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer once coached at Murray State. However, Beamer didn't deny interest in the job either. The website identified several other coaches under consideration, including Ole Miss assistant Chris Vaughn, a former Murray State player.
Defensively, South Carolina (6-5) limited the Florida to 339 yards, exactly 100 yards below their season average. They also held the Gators to 140 yards rushing. South Carolina could manage only a pair of first-half touchdowns and were blanked in the second half. Quarterback Stephen Garcia, who was 17 of 32 for 186 yards, was sacked four times over the final 13 minute. South Carolina finished 3-5 in the SEC for the third time in five seasons under Steve Spurrier. Tailback Brian Maddox, who made his first start since the Ole Miss game, rushed for a career high 82 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown. Yet, lost yardage due to sacks dropped the Gamecocks to 51 yards rushing. Spurrier said quarterback coach G. A. Magnus might call the plays next year. (GamecockIllustrated.com)
10-WIN ACC SEASONS: Five teams in the ACC have a chance to finish the season with 10 wins. (Technically, the most the ACC could have would be five, because BC and UNC both still have to play each other and would need to win out to reach 10 wins.) Still, even four teams with 10 wins would be unprecedented. It's only happened once in the history of the ACC. Since 1953, only once has the conference had as many as three teams finish with 10 wins each. In 2006, Wake Forest, Boston College and Virginia Tech all hit the mark. In 1991, the last time Clemson won the ACC title, the Tigers finished with nine wins. Nobody in the conference had 10 that year.
If the ACC could manage to finish the season with three 10-win teams, it would be a great accomplishment for the conference, which right now only has five teams with winning records in conference play. Only half the conference has winning records, period. Georgia Tech has already racked up 10 wins, but the 7-3 teams-Clemson, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina are within reach. (ESPN.com)
MARYLAND AT FLORIDA STATE: Some think Florida State already has tabbed a defensive coordinator to replace Mickey Andrews, who is retiring. The names most discussed are West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and ousted Memphis coach Tommy West. Casteel has a good relationship with FSU head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher. (Rivals.com)
One area where Mickey Andrews' defense may be turning the corner is the ability to cover receivers. With two big interceptions against Wake Forest last week, the Seminoles have recorded five picks in the past three games and 13 in 10 total games. That's already four more than FSU recorded in 13 games last season and is right at the team's average for a whole season going back to 2001.
If Florida State can become bowl eligible and Thomas averages 118 yards rushing per game, he will break a drought that has hung over the program since Warrick Dunn rushed for 1,180 yards in 1996. If running backs coach Dexter Carter has his way, the goal will be achieved by the conclusion of the regular season.
The Seminoles, playing without Christian Ponder, kept their bowl hopes alive with a 41-28 win at Wake Forest. Backup E.J. Manuel completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score. Rick Trickett's offensive line was fantastic all day long providing ample time for Manuel to throw in the pocket in addition to opening holes for the running game. Jermaine Thomas continued to run well amassing 149 yards and rushing for a touchdown. Thomas, who has now run for over 100 yards in his last three consecutive games, felt that he was getting in a rhythm with each carry. Linebacker Nigel Bradham led the team with nine tackles on the day. It wasn't all good news for the Seminoles. Junior guard Rodney Hudson suffered a right knee sprain in the second half and had to be helped from the field. Junior Brandon Davis served as Hudson's backup for the remainder of the game. Hudson is hoping to be able to play Saturday..
Three wins in the last four games do not mean Florida State has solved its issues on defense. The 'Noles rank at the bottom of the ACC in run defense and pass efficiency defense. The Terps will look to attack with QB Jamarr Robinson and RB Davin Meggett. Robinson, in particular, is the type of multi-dimensional threat that's capable of giving this defense fits. In his debut as a starter, he struggled as a passer, but did rush for 129 yards, showing outstanding athleticism outside the tackle box.
The Terps have been beaten for 74 points over the last two weekends and their tackling has been atrocious. Manuel is hardly a finished product, but like Robinson, he has a live arm and the ability to hurt defenses with his long stride.
A dilapidated Maryland offensive line could create opportunities for DE Markus White, Florida State's best pass rusher, who has notched a tackle for loss in five of the last six games. If he's able to flush Robinson from the pocket, youthful mistakes will be the result. (Warchant.com)
GEORGIA TECH IS OFF: The Yellow Jackets clinched a spot in the ACC title game with a 49-10 drubbing of Duke. Tech trailed 10-0 in the first quarter before getting serious. Georgia Tech left no doubt it was the better team in Saturday's 49-10 romp of Duke and earned a chance to play for the ACC title on Dec. 5 in Tampa. Jonathan Dwyer had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, as the Yellow Jackets clinched the Coastal Division with a 49-10 drubbing of Duke on Saturday. Dwyer finished with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns of three and 13 yards.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson got a contract extension and a nice bump in pay (to over $2 million per season) after his first season. But is AD Dan Radakovich going to have to sweeten the deal again? Johnson took less money to come to Georgia Tech (SMU would have given him more). Georgia Tech is now 10-1, has punched its ticket to the ACC championship game, and has a good shot of beating Georgia for the second straight year. Georgia Tech is being talked about on a national level again with a combination of admiration and fear. In other words, nobody wants to play these guys. Johnson knows he's got a pretty good gig at Georgia Tech but he also knows the phone is going to ring because he's proven that his offense will work at the BCS level. It's going to hurt a little bit, but Georgia Tech needs to lock this guy up with a nice raise and a contract extension. (AJC)
NORTH CAROLINA AT BOSTON COLLEGE: The Tar Heels continued their late-season surge and became bowl eligible with an upset of Miami. The victory gave Butch Davis a 3-0 record against his former school. After defeating a powerful Miami team 33-24 on Saturday, the Tar Heels improved to 7-3, 3-3 in the ACC and have a chance to finish the regular season with nine victories if they can defeat Boston College next Saturday in Boston and N.C. State in the regular-season finale in Raleigh.
Six different offensive linemen missed the Miami game. On Saturday, Carolina inserted two walk-ons into the lineup just to help fill gaps created on special teams by injuries. Safety Da'Norris Searcy missed most of this game with an abdominal strain. The Tar Heels have now won three straight games, and knocked off two of the ACC's ranked teams in the process in Virginia Tech and Miami. Since losing to Georgia Tech, Virginia and Florida State, the Tar Heels have made a remarkable turnaround and now have a bowl bid to prove it. This team looks capable of a nine or 10-win season in Butch Davis' third year. The Tar Heels (7-3) have won five straight against ranked foes dating to last season and have forced a combined 15 turnovers in those games.
UNC cornerback Kendric Burney intercepted three passes and returned them for an ACC single-game record 170 yards, including one for a 77-yard touchdown, in Carolina's 33-24 win over No. 12 Miami. The 170 yards also broke the UNC record for interception return yardage in an entire season. The 170 yards increased Burney's career interception return yardage to 317 to break the UNC career record held previously by Kareen Taylor (206) from 2003-06. Burney's 77-yard return was the seventh-longest in school history, and Burney now has two of Carolina's eight longest interception returns. Burney became the first Tar Heel with three interceptions in a game since Dre' Bly against Georgia Tech in 1996. On his third interception, Burney returned it 46 yards, and then pitched the ball to teammate Melvin Williams for the final 44 yards and a touchdown.
There might not be a better unit in the conference, which is a major concern for one-dimensional Boston College. The Tar Heels are allowing an ACC-low 268 yards and 16 points a game, while creating a mess of sacks and turnovers. What happens if Eagle RB Montel Harris is unable to navigate LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Robert Quinn, and a run defense that ranks ninth in the country and is yielding just 2.8 yards a carry. If QB David Shinskie is asked to do too much, he'll wind completing more passes to corners Kendric Burney and Charles Brown than his own guys.
Don't be fooled by the 33 points Carolina put up last weekend. That was more about the opportunistic defense than an offense that still ranks 113th in the country. Despite losing so many players from a year ago, the Eagles have persevered to once again be a stingy group that limits big plays. They'll cut off running lanes on the Heels with a combination of Damik Scafe and Alex Albright up front, and Luke Kuechly at linebacker. Kuechly has been sensational in his rookie year, leading the team in tackles and tackles for loss. Carolina has no one that can stretch this defense or beat it on the perimeter.
This is one of those nip-and-tuck November games that hinges on the feet of the placekickers. Touchdowns will surely be at a premium. Boston College's Steve Aponavicius has been perfect on his seven field goal attempts and 35 extra point tries. North Carolina's Casey Barth has nailed his last 13 three-pointers dating back to Sept. 26. Both will be in the spotlight as the offenses repeatedly stall in the red zone. (Collegefootballnews.com and ESPN.com)
BOSTON COLLEGE: Boston College is alive for another weekend in the Atlantic Division. It came down to the final 17 seconds of the game, and Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell came up inches short of the first down in the Cavaliers' 14-10 home loss to the Eagles. Both teams struggled offensively -- BC quarterback Dave Shinskie threw two interceptions and Sewell had one -- but the Eagles hung on for their first road win of the season.
DUKE AT MIAMI: The Canes will be without Thearon Collier for their game with Duke this weekend, a source told the Miami Herald.. According to the source, the wide receiver/return specialist suffered an ankle injury this past weekend and was initially in a cast to immobilize the injury. The cast has since been replaced a walking boot. Collier has played in every game this season and has 13 receptions. Additionally, he's returned two punts for a touchdown this season.
Any faint hope the Hurricanes had of getting a BCS at-large big went out the window with a 33-24 loss at North Carolina. Jacory Harris tossed four interceptions, giving him 16 for the season. He has thrown nine picks in the past five games. Harris finished hitting on 28 of 50 throws for 319 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions (he threw three in the first half). Graig Cooper led the ground game with 15 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown. Damien Berry added six rushes for 41 yards and a score. The top receiver was Leonard Hankerson with seven receptions for 92 yards. The Cane defense allowed 329 yards (116 rushing) and had one sack. Miami's offense had 435 yards, but didn't come out with the win. Linebacker Colin McCarthy registered his third double digit-tackle game in the last four games with a 13-tackle performance against the Tar Heels. McCarthy had 11 tackles against Clemson and 11 tackles at Wake Forest. He increased his team-leading season tackle total to 78. The game marked the sixth time this season Miami has compiled at least 400 yards on offense. The Canes' 435 yards was the fifth highest total of the season.
Over the last month, the Miami defense has gotten exposed, allowing at least 27 points three times and struggling with quality quarterbacks. Thaddeus Lewis, who's returning to his native Florida, is capable of keeping the 'Canes reeling. Although the offense has sputtered in recent weeks, the All-ACC caliber hurler is surrounded by an ensemble of capable receivers, who'll keep the chains moving. If Miami continues having problems mounting a pass rush, Lewis will have time to locate TE Brett Huffman and receivers Donovan Varner, Conner Vernon, Austin Kelly, and Johnny Williams.
Against better competition, Duke has wilted, especially on defense. The Blue Devils have had some moments, but the Hurricanes aren't Maryland or Virginia with the ball. Harris has been inconsistent, throwing too many picks, but a visit from the Duke D should get him back on track. A combination of his passing to Leonard Hankerson and LaRon Byrd, and the running of Cooper and Berry will be too much for the Devils. Miami is averaging 31 points a game this fall, a number that'll be within reach on Saturday. (ESPN.com and Canesport.com)
N. C. STATE AT VIRGINIA TECH: A long season got longer with a 43-23 loss to Clemson. The Wolfpack has allowed at least 30 points in seven consecutive games. The Wolfpack have lost 112 games to injury this season. That comes after a 2008 campaign that saw N.C. State lose 94 games because of injury or suspension. (ESPN.com)
VIRGINIA AT CLEMSON: The Tigers showed no signs of a letdown in their 43-23 win over NC State in Raleigh, and need only to beat Virginia this weekend to guarantee the program's first appearance in the ACC championship game. Boston College kept its hopes alive with a 14-10 win over Virginia, but the Eagles will need Clemson to stumble in final conference game of the season if they're going to sneak back into the title game for a third straight year. There wasn't much C. J. Spiller didn't do in the Tigers' 43-23 win over N.C. State. He ran for a touchdown. He caught a touchdown reception and he threw a touchdown pass. Nobody else in Clemson history had ever done that. Spiller rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries and made three catches for 48 yards to help the Tigers keep the lead in the Atlantic Division.
The Cavaliers harbor one of the league's top defenses, which could hinder redshirt freshman QB Kyle Parker. Only once have they permitted more than one touchdown in a game, getting a push up front from Nate Collins and lockdown coverage out of cornerbacks Ras-I Dowling and Chris Cook. Both have picked off three passes and Cook took one back for Virginia's only touchdown in last Saturday's loss to Boston College.
Virginia can't score. Turning things around against this Tiger D is highly unlikely. Clemson is flush with pick-pockets and will pressure Jameel Sewell into ill-advised. With DE Ricky Sapp exploding off the edge, Sewell will be easy pickings for a dynamite secondary that includes corners Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor and safeties Rashard Hall and DeAndre McDaniel. The Tiger offense has scored at least 38 points in each of the last five games, but half that will be enough to get by the impotent Wahoo offense. (TigerIllustrated.com)
BCS: What will the Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls do? Florida, Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, the ACC champion, the Pac-10 champion, the Big East champion and either TCU or Boise State will play in the BCS. That's eight teams for 10 spots. The race for the last two spots will be teams you probably wrote off at some point this season. USC is headed for a second- or maybe even third-tier bowl after losing to Stanford. Miami's slim BCS hopes ended with a loss to North Carolina. I see a few candidates for those last two spots. Two undefeated non-Big Six teams could - and probably should - make it. By taking Ohio State to OT in Columbus, Iowa still may be an attractive team. Oklahoma State was ranked 19th in the BCS going into Saturday and would reach the top 14 if it wins out over Colorado and Oklahoma. Could the Big East get two bids? Could the Cincinnati-Pitt loser get a bid? In any event, there could be a surprise or two in the BCS. (Rivals.com)
TCU AT WYOMING: The reason this particular TCU team seems even better than usual is because it has an outstanding offense to go along with its fearsome defense. TCU was ranked eighth in the nation in scoring before its 55-28 triumph over Utah on Saturday, which marked the second consecutive game in which the Horned Frogs have reached the 55-point mark. QB Andy Dalton has taken a giant leap forward this year and is making the same kind of impact on his team that former Utah QB Brian Johnson had on the Utes last season. Ed Wesley, Joseph Turner and Matthew Tucker give the Frogs three dangerous running backs. Utah likely entered this game thinking that if it scored 28 points, it would have an excellent shot at the upset. As it turned out, it got the Utes barely halfway to TCU's point total. The Horned Frogs jumped to a 35-7 lead barely into the second quarter.
What separates the 2009 Horned Frogs from Patterson's previous teams is an equally explosive offense. Andy Dalton racked up 549 yards on a Utah defense that came in allowing less than 300 per game. They've outscored their last five opponents 233-53. (CNNSI.com)
CINCINNATI IS OFF: Before he got hurt, Tony Pike was a sleeper candidate for the Heisman. But after Zach Collaros replaced an injured Pike and threw eight touchdown passes without an interception in wins over Louisville, Syracuse and Connecticut, we started hearing whispers that Pike wasn't even the best QB on his team. Cincinnati's 24-21 victory over West Virginia on Friday ought to put that talk to rest. Collaros threw for 205 yards with an interception, while Pike came off the sidelines to throw each of the Bearcats' two touchdown passes. Pike could only perform a cameo role because he still isn't at full strength. The Bearcats need him healthy again. Cincinnati has a much better chance of remaining unbeaten if Pike's running the offense against Illinois and Pitt.
Interestingly, TCU moved a bit further ahead of Cincinnati despite seeing its average computer ranking drop a spot, from fourth to fifth. But the Horned Frogs picked up ground in the two human polls, and that enabled them to move further ahead of the Bearcats.
One potential sticking point: TCU's final two games are against five-win Wyoming and winless New Mexico. Cincinnati's final two games are against three-win Illinois and Pittsburgh, which is ninth in the BCS this week. Cincy's advantage in the computer rankings conceivably will grow, meaning the polls ultimately could prove to be the deciding factor in whether TCU remains ahead of Cincinnati.
TCU remains the highest-ranked team from a non-Big Six league. A non-Big Six team is guaranteed a BCS spot in two ways. One is if it finishes in the top 12; the other is if it is ranked in the top 16 and its ranking is higher than that of a conference champion with an automatic berth. This week, the Horned Frogs are higher than any team from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10.
Under BCS rules, only one non-Big Six team is guaranteed a spot if it meets the criteria. Any others would be at-large candidates. At-large candidates must have at least nine victories and finish in the top 14 in the final BCS standings.
UCONN AT NOTRE DAME: Is this the loss that seals Weis' fate? A 27-22 setback at Pitt drops the Irish to 6-4 and gives Weis a career mark of 35-25. That's the same record Bob Davie had when he was canned after the 2001 season. Weis is 1-10 against ranked teams since 2006. With the loss to Pitt, Weis has eight consecutive losses to Top-10 teams, the longest streak in the school's storied history. He has a 1-8 record against ranked teams since 2006, which is the same record as Bob Davie, the same winning percentage as the man he replaced, Tyrone Willingham. Speaking to Matt Hayes of the Sporting News, Irish AD Jack Swarbrick was asked if Weis' $18 million buyout would factor into his fate at the school. The AD's reply? "No." Swarbrick also refused to give Weis a vote of confidence in the midst of yet another disappointing season. "I evaluate programs at the end of the season. I don't evaluate coaches, I evaluate programs," Swarbrick said.
Notre Dame Rivals.com site lists Bill Cowher, Mark Dantonio of Michigan State, Tony Dungy, Randy Edsall of UConn, Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern, Al Golden of Temple, Jon Gruden, Jim Harbaugh of Stanford, Skip Holtz, Paul Johnson, Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer, Chris Peterson, Greg Schiano and Bob Stoops.
MEMPHIS: Tennessee assistant coach Eddie Gran interviewed for the head coaching job at Memphis, a source close to the situation said. Gran, who coaches tailbacks and special teams at UT, met with Memphis officials on Sunday. Gran is considered one of UT's top recruiters, especially in South Florida. Tommy West was fired by Memphis earlier this month after nine seasons. Auburn assistant coach Trooper Taylor, LSU assistant coach Larry Porter and North Alabama head coach Terry Bowden are also thought to be candidates.
UCF is the definition of a second-half team. The Knights, which overcame a 17-3 second-quarter deficit and trailed 17-10 at the half of its eventual 37-32 upset of No. 13 Houston on Saturday, have led at the half just once in their six victories ... and just once all season. Saturday's win marked the program's first ever over a ranked opponent
BRENT BEAIRD IS A SPORTS WRITER FOR MYCLAYSUN IN ORANGE PARK, FLA. HE ALSO WRITES FOR RIVALS.COM, SAMSPORTSLINE.COM AND GATOR BAIT MAGAZINE. HE CAN BE HEARD ON SPORTS RADIO 1010 XL.
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