Few college football coaches work under as big a microscope as Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, whose job was once thought to be in jeopardy after he blew a second BCS Title game in three years.
Imagine that — the coach of your favorite school in trouble for finishing the year in the runner-up chair.
Ohio State demands BCS berths, and accepts nothing short of a Big Ten title. And, during much of his tenure in Columbus, Tressel has delivered. On Saturday, assuming things go as they normally do for the Buckeyes, Tressel will become the 13th Big Ten coach to win 100 games. And he’ll be the third-fastest to get there: Michigan’s Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr accomplished the feat in 119 games; if successful Saturday, it will have taken Tressel 121 games. And among conference coaches with 10 or more years under their belts, only Michigan’s Fielding Yost has a better winning percentage than Tressel’s .825.
One of Tressel’s most likeable qualities isn’t that he wins, but rather how he wins. His teams can go blow-for-blow with the power clubs of the Big Ten, and as evidenced in a win over Miami, Tressel’s teams can go step-for-step with the country’s finest finesse clubs. And Tressel-coached teams are always as classy as his sideline sweater vest.
At some schools, the legends of past coaches are so overbearing that no one can exist outside of their shadow. But Tressel has done nothing but embrace Woody Hayes and the rest of Ohio State’s rich history. That has helped him to build his own legacy, outside of Hayes’ reach. And on Saturday, Ohio State fans may have reason once again to embrace Tressel, and reflect for a day on the history he has helped to build for Ohio State’s program.
The Week That Was
Northwestern 29, Minnesota 28
Ohio State 24, Illinois 13
Michigan 42, Indiana 35
Michigan State 34, Wisconsin 24
Iowa 24, Penn State 3
Buckeye backfield continues to sputter
Ohio State has not found consistency out of any of its backs so far this season, and on Saturday got just 109 yards from Dan Herron and Brandon Saine combined (most of it coming from Herron). Through five games, neither back is on pace to gain more than 700 yards this season, and only Saine has a 100-yard game to his credit.
Chappell and Doss go to work on Wolverines
One of the silver linings in Indiana’s loss to Michigan was the success quarterback Ben Chappell and wide receiver Tandon Doss shared. Chappell completed 45-of-64 passes for 480 yards — all Hoosier records; Doss caught 15 of those passes for 221 yards. Somewhat overshadowed, Damarlo Belcher caught 10 balls for 91 yards. The receiving duo rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the conference.
Gophers find a weapon in Lair
One of the Big Ten’s fastest-rising prospects is Minnesota tight end Eric Lair, who last week caught seven passes for 94 yards against Northern Illinois. On Saturday, the junior caught three for 75 yards, two of them for scores.
Team of the Week:Michigan State
Even without coach Mark Dantonio, who returned to the hospital to take care of a blood clot, the Spartans stepped up in their Big Ten opener against fellow Top 25 foe Wisconsin. Despite committing early turnovers, Michigan State beat Wisconsin at its own game, with hard-nosed defense and a ball control offense (the Spartans actually out-gained the Badgers, 175 to 165 yards).
Disappointment of the Week:Penn State
Just three crummy points. The Nittany Lions converted only three of 13 third down attempts (although, it’s only fair to point out Iowa converted two of 10) and gained just 54 yards on the ground. It was one of the worst offensive performances by a Penn State squad in some time.
Offensive Player of the Week:Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
Nothing out of the ordinary — just another 200-yard passing and 200-yard rushing day to help Michigan get to 5–0. The Heisman talk is starting to grow louder.
Defensive Player of the Week:J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
It’s rare to give defensive player honors to someone from a losing team, but Watt’s performance was difficult to ignore. He applied pressure to Kirk Cousins all afternoon, played thick against the run and even batted a couple of passes. He might be the conference’s most underrated player.
Freshman of the Week: James White, RB, Wisconsin
White was the best freshman for a second straight week. With John Clay noticeably hobbled by a bum ankle, White gave the Wisconsin offense its bounce back, averaging 9.8 yards on 10 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
The Week Ahead
Reeling from its BCS-busting loss to Michigan State, the Badgers are vulnerable against a hungry Minnesota club that gave Northwestern all it could take. The Battle for the Axe is a week before Wisconsin’s highly anticipated matchup against Ohio State. Possible the Badgers will peek past the Gophers? Sure. It’s also possible the Badgers are just plain overrated.
Player to Watch:Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
Leshoure took a step back in last week’s contest (19 carries for 80 yards) and now must regroup in order to help Illinois in its trip to Penn State. The Nittany Lions currently rank fifth in the Big Ten in defending against the run, allowing 3.7 yards per carry. But the Illini’s 230-pound junior is as good as every back Penn State has faced thus far (with the exception of Trent Richardson) and could take Nittany Lions fans by surprise.
Only three schools in the conference are averaging better than 10 yards per punt return; thanks in part to its explosive player, Keshawn Martin, Michigan State is averaging a deadly 17.2 yards. Martin is averaging 18.5 yards on his returns, including last week’s 74-yard game-changing score against Wisconsin.
At present, three Big Ten quarterbacks are leading their respective schools in rushing. Both Denard Robinson (Michigan) and Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State) rank among the conference’s top 10 in the category, while Northwestern’s Dan Persa is not far off.
Oregon's LaMichael James is an emerging Heisman candidate.
Stanford is considered the up-and-coming program of the Pac-10 Conference. Saturday’s game in Eugene proved just that — the Cardinal are coming, but they’re not there yet.
After shocking Oregon early by racing out to a 21–3 lead, Stanford simply didn’t have enough defense to ultimately stop the Ducks’ scoring machine. Behind 355 total yards from quarterback Darron Thomas and a career-best 257 yards rushing by tailback LaMichael James, Oregon sent a message that the conference crown still goes through the Pacific Northwest with a 52–31 victory.
The Cardinal dominated their first four opponents on both sides of the ball, and while they had quality road wins over UCLA and Notre Dame, Oregon provided a whole new challenge, unlike anything Stanford had seen so far. Stanford’s offense was still able to keep rolling, at least in the first half (the Cardinal were held scoreless in the second half). It just couldn’t keep up with the Ducks’ seemingly unstoppable attack.
The Cardinal had moved into the top 10 in the national rankings, and some were even beginning to mention Stanford as a possible national title contender. After the first quarter Saturday, that notion didn’t seem so far-fetched. But ultimately, the better team won.
It will now be interesting to see just where Stanford falls in the Pac-10 pecking order. If the Cardinal truly consider themselves one of the conference’s elite teams, they need to beat USC at home this Saturday.
As for the Ducks, not only are they solidly in the national championship race, but they may also have a situation on their hands similar to USC’s in 2005. Both Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart were in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race all season, with Bush ultimately winning and Leinart finishing fifth in the voting (as we all know now, Bush no longer has the Heisman).
They haven’t got a ton of attention so far, but it may not be long before Thomas and James move up the Heisman watch lists and earn the attention of voters across the country. Both are vital to making Oregon’s machine go, and the Ducks’ on-field success should keep both heavily in the mix.
Thomas added the running threat to his arsenal against the Cardinal, while James simply may be the best running back in the country this side of Tuscaloosa. James is second nationally in rushing at 178 yards per game.
UCLA 42, Washington State 28
Oregon State 31, Arizona State 28
Washington 32, USC 31
Oregon 52, Stanford 31
One week, UCLA goes on the road and cruises to a benchmark win against one of the top programs in the country. The next week, the Bruins stay home and have trouble putting away one of the worst teams in the country.
Call it a letdown or inconsistency, but UCLA’s 42–28 win over Washington State was both alarming and puzzling.
Sure, the Bruins win at Texas the previous week was partly a result of the Longhorns’ own follies. But the bottom line is UCLA capitalized on Texas’ mistakes, and its defense was sharp.
Just being competitive has been a struggle for the Cougars since the start of the 2008 season. And although Washington State has been making incremental improvements, it was stunning to see it lead 28–20 in the third quarter against the Bruins.
UCLA ultimately made the comeback to pull out the win — it needed a goal-line stand on 4th-and-1 from the 1 to prevent the Cougars from taking the lead once again early in the fourth quarter — but the game must have left Bruins fans wondering if their team was more like the one that was dominated by Stanford earlier in the season or the one that had its successful trip to Austin.
UCLA should have a good measuring stick game this week at Cal. Both teams were picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference but each has shown signs it could be better than that.
As USC was winning its first four games of the season, there was a sense that it wasn’t necessarily playing like an undefeated team. That sense was confirmed Saturday when Washington came into the L.A. Coliseum and left with a 32–31 victory.
Once again, the Trojans served a reminder that their defense isn’t what it once was. USC was sliced apart by Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who had a nightmare of a game the previous week against Nebraska. Locker threw for 310 yards and rushed for another 110, while also leading the Huskies on a final drive that culminated in a 32-yard field goal by Erik Folk as time expired.
It was the second year in a row Folk beat USC with a last-second field goal. The difference this year was that it just didn’t feel that surprising when it happened.
Much of the buzz last week surrounding the Big East had to do with expansion and a possible invitation to TCU. Odds are, that will continue to be the case this week, but the league’s teams did go a combined 4–1 in the last full week of non-conference games.
There were no matchups like the previous week, when league teams faced opponents like LSU and Oklahoma, but Connecticut managed a victory over the SEC’s Vanderbilt. For the second straight week, the Huskies found themselves tied at halftime before delivering in the second half in moving to 3–2 with a 40–21 win at Rentschler Field. Now it’s on to league play for UConn, starting with Rutgers on Friday.
“I think we’re heading into (league play) in the right frame of mind, in the right direction,” said Connecticut coach Randy Edsall. “I think in these last two games we’ve done things to get better.”
The Huskies scored the last 21 points in last week’s win against Buffalo and closed against Vandy with 26 unanswered points. Jordan Todman had a career-high 37 carries for 190 yards and two touchdowns against the Commodores.
The league’s biggest disappointment came via Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights suffered the loss of both quarterback Tom Savage and a 17–14 decision at the hands of Conference USA opponent Tulane, which entered 1–2. Green Wave coach Bob Toledo’s staff called a trick play — backup QB Joe Kemp threw a 10-yard lateral to wideout D.J. Banks, who then fired another pass back to Kemp for a 24-yard score — that left Rutgers coach Greg Schiano taking blame afterward. “It’s on me,” Schiano said. “I was unable to get our team ready to go... So as the head coach, everything falls on me.”
Savage didn’t return after being tackled out of bounds in the second quarter.
Otherwise, league teams had few problems against Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Arkansas State. South Florida, now 3–1, defeated FAU 31–3 at Raymond James Stadium. The Bulls registered seven sacks, forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown on a blocked punt return. Bulls QB B.J. Daniels threw for 155 yards and a touchdown while completing 14-of-19 passes. Running back Moise Plancher had 20 carries for 93 yards and two TDs.
Pitt had no trouble despite the absence of incumbent Big East offensive and defensive players of the year Dion Lewis and Greg Romeus, both sidelined with injuries. Panther tailback Ray Graham ran wild, rushing for 277 yards and three touchdowns — the second-best effort by a Pitt runner in school history. Graham added 78 yards on kickoff returns and 19 receiving yards to finish with 374 all-purpose yards in the 44–17 victory over FIU.
Louisville, meanwhile, raced to a 31–7 halftime lead on its way to a 34–24 win at Arkansas State. The Cardinals reeled off 575 yards of offense — their best performance in more than two years. Quarterback Adam Froman completed 20-of-33 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns. The U of L had two 100-yard rushers in tailbacks Bilal Powell (157 yards) and Victor Anderson (108 yards).
Connecticut 40, Vanderbilt 21
Tulane 17, Rutgers 14
Pittsburgh 44, Florida International 17
Louisville 34, Arkansas State 24
South Florida 31, Florida Atlantic 3
A real rush
The Big East may not have a lot going for it this season, but it does have two of the nation’s top four rushers. The 277-yard outburst by Pitt back Ray Graham helped lift him to third among this week’s national rushing leaders, behind only Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and Oregon tailback LaMichael James. He’s now averaging 164 yards a game. Connecticut’s Jordan Todman, meanwhile, is fourth nationally, averaging 159.5 yards. In all-purpose running, Graham is No. 1, while Todman is No. 5.
A grand return
South Florida’s Dontavia Bogan returned from an ankle injury in style against Florida Atlantic. Bogan caught a 38-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker, had five receptions for 66 yards and moved passed the 1,000-yard career receiving mark in the victory.
A grand return II
When Connecticut tailback Jordan Todman ran for 190 yards — two fewer than his career best — against Vanderbilt, it wasn’t just another day at the office. Todman missed last week’s game against Buffalo with a hyper-extended left elbow, but didn’t rest much against the Commodores, carrying the ball a career high 37 times.
Tag this a season of defense within the Big East. While offense usually grabs the headlines, three league teams have performed well on the other side of the ball. West Virginia is ranked eighth nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 249.25 yards. In scoring defense, Rutgers is fourth, allowing an average of 12 points. Connecticut, meanwhile, is tied for seventh in interceptions (nine) and ninth in tackles for loss (8.2 per game).
A sigh of relief
When Louisville held off Arkansas State on Saturday, it snapped a 10-game road losing streak that had been going on since defeating Memphis on Oct. 10, 2008.
Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage’s status is uncertain for Friday night’s game against Connecticut because of an injury to his throwing hand. On Monday, RU coach Greg Schiano said Savage would be a “game-time decision for sure.”
Connecticut offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett hurt his hand last week. Running back Robbie Frey had arthroscopic surgery on his knee Monday.
The Big East is the only league yet to start conference play. That changes this week when Connecticut visits Rutgers Friday for a 7:30 p.m. ESPN game. Syracuse returns from a bye to visit South Florida noon Saturday.
NC State was on its way to a special season. There was no other way to look at it. The team had a 4–0 record, a 17–0 lead over Virginia Tech at home and winnable games against Boston College and East Carolina upcoming. The Wolfpack were going to be 7–0 heading into their Thursday night showdown with Atlantic Division rival Florida State on Oct. 28.
It all sounded good in theory to many in the crowd of 58,083, the third-largest gathering in the history of Carter-Finley Stadium. But Virginia Tech ruined the dream scenario, rallying for a 41–30 victory to register the biggest comeback win in Frank Beamer’s 24 seasons as head coach of the Hokies.
“It was very impressive,” Beamer said. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, proud moments and great players. I don’t know if there is ever a time I’m any more proud of our players than tonight in this dressing room. With the way we started out, we hung in there and battled, we kept believing and never gave up.”
Virginia Tech (3–2, 2–0 ACC) had plenty of chances to quit early in this game — and early in this season. After all, this was the team that started the year 0–2 with a heartbreaking loss to Boise State and a head-scratching defeat at home to Football Championship Subdivision member James Madison. But the Hokies kept chipping away at NC State’s lead until they took the first lead of their own at 28–27 early in the fourth quarter.
NC State’s Russell Wilson and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor each made plenty of big plays in a matchup of two of the ACC’s best quarterbacks; Wilson passed for 362 yards and three touchdowns while Taylor rushed for 121 yards and passed for three scores. But it was Wilson, the closest thing the ACC had to a Heisman Trophy contender, who made more mistakes. Cornerback Jayron Hosley intercepted three passes from Wilson, including one in the final two minutes that set up Virginia Tech’s clinching score.
“Hopefully we can learn from this and get back on track next Saturday,” NC State coach Tom O’Brien said. “We’re 4–1. We’ve got to pick up our heads. Our goal now is to play these guys again.”
For that to happen in the ACC championship game, NC State (4–1, 1–1) must do what Virginia Tech already has done: Get back on track after an extremely difficult defeat. The Hokies have no chance at the national championship — the first two weeks dashed those hopes. But they served notice to the Wolfpack — and the rest of the ACC — that they are very much alive in the race for the league title.
Florida State 34, Virginia 14
Miami 30, Clemson 21
North Carolina 42, East Carolina 17
Virginia Tech 41, N.C. State 30
Maryland 21, Duke 16
Georgia Tech 24, Wake Forest 20
Notre Dame 31, Boston College 13
Hurricanes get big win
Virginia Tech-N.C. State was a big game in terms of early positioning in the ACC standings, but Miami-Clemson was just as important. The victory for the Hurricanes (3–1, 1–0) left them and Virginia Tech as the only undefeated teams in conference play in the Coastal Division. The Tigers (2–2, 0–1), meanwhile, now have less margin for error in their upcoming Atlantic Division matchups.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw four touchdown passes in the first half — three of them to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson — but the difference in the game was the Hurricanes’ defense. Miami forced Clemson, which had turned over the ball just twice in its first three games combined, into six turnovers. The Tigers couldn’t overcome those miscues despite limiting Miami to just three points and 96 total yards in the second half.
Florida State has bounced back in fine fashion from its 47–17 loss at Oklahoma on Sept. 11. The Seminoles, who extended their winning streak to three games with a convincing victory at Virginia, have been solid on both sides of the ball.
Florida State was supposed to be explosive on offense this season, but credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops for how that unit has performed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma embarrassment. The Seminoles (4–1, 2–0) entered the weekend with an NCAA-best 19 sacks, and they added six more to their total while shutting down Virginia.
Florida State was especially dominant in the first half, outgaining the Cavaliers 294-42 en route to building a 27–0 lead. Virginia ended up with 304 total yards, but just 25 of those yards came on the ground.
On the flip side, Florida State has run the ball so effectively with tailbacks Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson and Ty Jones that quarterback Christian Ponder hasn’t had to shoulder the burden. The Seminoles churned out 256 rushing yards against Virginia, rushing for at least 200 yards in three consecutive games for the first time since 2000. That production helped them reach the 30-point plateau for the third consecutive game — something they hadn’t accomplished since 2004.
Florida State’s ability to run the ball also has helped its defense — the Seminoles have possessed the ball more than 20 minutes longer than their opponents over the last three weeks.
“The offense ate the ball and kept them off the field,” Fisher said. “The defense got some three-and-outs. They played together. That’s what we keep saying: offense, defense. Here’s what you’ve got to understand. Defense is getting three-and-outs, and offense is taking six-minute drives, which keeps an offense out of whack for the other team.”
Eagles, Deacs still struggling with QB situations
Injuries and ineffectiveness at quarterback continue to plague Boston College and Wake Forest.
The Eagles started true freshman Chase Rettig under center against Notre Dame in place of struggling sophomore Dave Shinskie, and they were down 21–0 before they knew it. Rettig went three-and-out on the first three series of his career before offering some hope with a 58-yard touchdown strike to fellow freshman Bobby Swigert late in the first quarter.
The problem is that once Rettig got going, he had to leave. He suffered a sprain to his left ankle early in the second quarter — x-rays were negative — and spent the rest of the game standing on the sideline with his foot in a protective boot. Rettig completed 5-of-10 throws for 72 yards and the touchdown before giving way to Mike Marscovetra, who was 22 of 37 for 193 yards and two interceptions the rest of the way.
“(Rettig) looked like the guy we thought he was,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “He did some good things and made some freshman mistakes. Once again, I know we all want to talk about who the quarterback is and what the situation is, but there were other problems that were not the quarterback.”
The Eagles (2–2, 0–1) must begin fixing those problems, one of which was blocking for tailback Montel Harris in the running game. Harris managed just 28 yards on 15 carries against the Fighting Irish, almost 75 yards below his season average entering the game. With Rettig’s status in doubt and trips to Atlantic Division rivals NC State and Florida State on tap for the next two weeks, the Eagles need to give their quarterback position all the help they can.
The same is true in Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has been playing musical chairs at quarterback most of the season.
True freshman starter Tanner Price missed the Georgia Tech game Saturday because of a concussion he suffered the week before against Florida State. His backup, sophomore Ted Stachitas, started against the Yellow Jackets before departing in the second quarter with a back injury. The No. 3 QB, redshirt freshman Brendan Cross, left the game and didn’t return after injuring his non-throwing shoulder on a scramble. And the fourth quarterback, former wide receiver Skylar Jones, had to gut his way through a sore foot because the team had nowhere else to turn.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to find someone that’s durable enough to make it through a football game,” Grobe said. “We went through three of them tonight. It’s hard to go through a week giving a third of the reps to each quarterback, hoping that one of them will come through and stay healthy.”
Jones completed 9-of-20 passes for 105 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Yellow Jackets, avoiding the big mistake and giving the Demon Deacons (2–3, 1–2) a chance to win. But Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt made plays that Jones didn’t, throwing a pair of touchdown passes as the Yellow Jackets outscored Wake Forest 18–3 in the fourth quarter.
Tar Heels hit stride in running game
North Carolina’s first possession against East Carolina was nothing short of bizarre. After an incomplete pass on first down and a 3-yard run on second down, the Tar Heels acted out of character. Quarterback T.J. Yates turned and handed the ball off to tailback Shaun Draughn, who ran straight up the middle. On third and 7.
Draughn gained just 2 yards, and the Tar Heels had to punt. But they had established their offensive mindset for the rest of the day, and the plan paid off in a big way. UNC rushed for 263 yards on 46 attempts against East Carolina after totaling 258 rushing yards on 95 attempts in its first three games combined.
Senior Johnny White rushed for a career-high 140 yards on 16 carries, and Draughn tallied 137 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. It was the second time in the last 16 seasons — and the first time since 2004 — that two UNC players rushed for 100 yards in the same game. The Tar Heels were especially strong in the second half, with White rushing for 102 yards in the third quarter and Draughn rushing for 98 yards in the fourth.
“At halftime we said we were going to stick to the game plan, and our game plan was to come in here and run the ball on them a whole lot,” Yates said. “We just knew that could be a big strength for us coming into this game.”
• Atlantic Division teams had performed better than their Coastal Division counterparts through the first month of the season, but that wasn’t the case this weekend. The Coastal went 3–2 against the Atlantic in five interdivisional matchups.
• Clemson tailback Andre Ellington turned in another strong performance against Miami, rushing for 107 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 17 carries. Ellington, who also caught three passes for 39 yards, now has 380 rushing yards this season. For the sake of comparison: C.J. Spiller, the 2009 Heisman Trophy contender whom Ellington has replaced as Clemson’s top offensive threat, had 288 rushing yards through four games last season.
• Georgia Tech overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest, its first victory since 1998 when trailing by that many points in the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets improved to 11-2 under Paul Johnson in games decided by five points or fewer.
• Maryland improved to 4–1 heading into its bye week, doubling its win total from last season while picking up its 200th victory at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins have been outgained by their opponent in four of five games this season, including Saturday against Duke, but they have a sparkling record thanks in part to their plus-8 turnover margin and two punt-return touchdowns by Tony Logan.
• Miami kicker Matt Bosher saw his streak of 105 consecutive extra points, the second-longest streak in school history, end in the second quarter against Clemson. Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins blocked Bosher’s kick after Mike James’ 18-yard touchdown catch.
• How much has North Carolina missed the players who have been held out as a result of the NCAA investigation into the program? Senior safety Da’Norris Searcy, who was cleared to play after missing three games, provided a quick answer against East Carolina. With his team trailing 14–7 in the second quarter, Searcy intercepted a pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to ignite a 35–3 scoring surge for the Tar Heels. More good news for UNC: The team’s other starting safety, senior Deunta Williams, will be back this week against Clemson after completing his four-game suspension for accepting improper benefits.
• Wide receiver Kris Burd has caught a touchdown pass in each of Virginia’s first four games, becoming the first Cavalier to accomplish that feat since Heath Miller had a touchdown catch in the first five games of the 2002 season. Burd, who had four receptions for 118 yards against Florida State, became the first Virginia player with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Miller in 2003.
Enderle is likely owned in a good percentage of fantasy leagues, but if he’s on the wire, give him a look for the next couple of games. The Vandals have a bye week before facing Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Hawaii and Nevada. Enderle has thrown three touchdowns in back-to-back games and could reach that total in each of the next four games.
QB Adam Froman, Louisville
Not many people expected Froman to work his way into fantasy consideration this year, but the senior has been a steady option the last two weeks. Against Oregon State, Froman totaled three scores and 288 passing yards, while throwing for 308 yards and three scores against Arkansas State. With a porous Memphis secondary up next, look for Froman to be a quality spot starter.
QB Larry Smith, Vanderbilt
Need another option for a spot start at quarterback? Smith isn’t registering on the radar for owners in 120 leagues most weeks, but with Eastern Michigan on the schedule, look for the junior to hit 20 fantasy points.
RB Vick Ballard, Mississippi State
Ballard was a popular spot start last week and didn’t disappoint with 119 yards and three scores against Alcorn State. If Ballard is on the waiver wire in your league, expect another solid outing against a suspect Houston run defense this Saturday.
RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Need a spot starter at running back? Two words: Washington State.
RB Allen Bradford, USC
The USC backfield continues to frustrate fantasy owners, but Bradford may have gained an edge with 223 yards and two scores against Washington. Expect Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter to see some carries going forward, but Bradford should be the starter for Saturday’s game against Stanford.
RB Matt Brown, Temple
With Bernard Pierce’s status uncertain for Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois, fantasy owners should look at Brown for a start. The sophomore gashed Army for 226 yards and four scores last week and should see 20-25 carries if Pierce is unable to go.
RB Darren Evans, Virginia Tech
Ryan Williams’ status is unknown for Saturday’s game against Central Michigan. Even if Williams returns to the lineup, look for Evans to get 15-20 carries in a favorable matchup against the Chippewas.
RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt continues to insist Dion Lewis is his starter. However, the production on the field is clearly in favor of Graham and after his 277 yards against Florida International, this sophomore is a must-add in all leagues. Even if Graham doesn’t start this week, he should see 15-20 carries and should he continue to outperform Lewis, look for a change on the depth chart.
RB Daniel Herron, Ohio State
The Ohio State rushing attack is struggling, but Herron appears to have passed Brandon Saine for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Herron rushed for 95 yards and one score against Illinois and faces a struggling Indiana defense this Saturday.
RB Deantre Lewis, Arizona State
Lewis has been one of the most impressive freshman running backs this year, totaling 382 yards and three scores through five games. Lewis also has three consecutive 100-yard performances and faces a Washington defense that ranks 113th nationally against the run.
RB Stevan Ridley, LSU
The LSU passing attack continues to sputter, but Ridley has churned out back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Although Florida is a tough matchup this Saturday, Ridley faces McNeese State on October 16 and a favorable playoff run to close out the year – UL Monroe, Ole Miss and Arkansas.
RB Derrvin Speight, Utah State
Speight is a risky pickup, but one that could pay dividends this week. Figuring out the carries in the Utah State backfield has been difficult, especially with Michael Smith sidelined the last two weeks due to injury. Keep a close watch on the news coming out of Utah State this week and if Speight is the starter, he could be a top-40 fantasy running back against Louisiana Tech.
RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
Taylor was mentioned as a pickup in last week’s report and is likely going fast after his 113 rushing yards against Oregon. If he’s on your waiver wire, be sure to add him with a favorable upcoming stretch – USC, Washington State and Washington.
RB Eric Williams, Ball State
Ball State has struggled to find a consistent passing attack, but a deep backfield is the anchor for the offense. Williams is in a fight for carries with three other backs, but leads the team with 62 rushing attempts and 309 yards. With Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan coming up, Williams should be a solid RB3/RB4 option.
WR Kris Burd, Virginia
The Virginia passing attack is nothing special, but Burd has been a consistent find for quarterback Marc Verica. Burd has a touchdown catch in all four games and three 100-yard efforts. If you need an option at receiver in Week 6, Burd should be able to find the endzone once again.
WR Theo Riddick, Notre Dame
Although Michael Floyd is having a solid statistical start – 28 receptions, 408 yards and two touchdowns – the junior has been a disappointment for fantasy owners. Hurting Floyd’s value even more has been the improvement of Riddick over the last three games. Riddick has 26 receptions and three scores over the last three contests, likely earning WR3 value for Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.
WR Roy Roundtree, Michigan
Roundtree closed out 2009 on a high note, catching 26 passes in the final three games and appears to have emerged as the go-to guy for quarterback Denard Robinson. Roundtree has back-to-back 100-yard games and if you need a starter for Week 5, take a look at this sophomore receiver with a leaky Michigan State secondary up next.
TE Brandon Barden, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt’s passing attack has shown improvement this season, and Barden has been a favorite target for quarterback Larry Smith. Barden has at least four receptions in three out of the four games and is a top-10 tight end fantasy option against Eastern Michigan this week.
TE Collin Franklin, Iowa State
Franklin had a disappointing performance against Northern Iowa in Week 4, catching one pass for nine yards. However, Franklin rebounded with six receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown. As long as Franklin gets 3-5 catches a week, he’s likely a top 12 option at tight end.
TE Eric Lair, Minnesota
A new strategy proposal – spot start tight ends. With a lack of elite options this year, owners should be able to play the waiver wire and get a quality pickup each week. Lair is coming off a two-touchdown performance and has a favorable stretch upcoming with Wisconsin and Purdue.
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Alabama makes a statement – Following Saturday’s victory over Florida, the gap between Alabama and the SEC looks pretty wide. The Gators were dominated by the Crimson Tide, managing less than 300 yards of offense and turning the ball over four times. Alabama’s rushing attack didn’t post huge numbers, but both sides of the ball combined for a methodical, dominating victory over Florida. The Gators were limited on offense with an injured Jeff Demps at running back and quarterback John Brantley still finding his way in his first season as the starter. The offensive line was supposed to be a strength for Florida, but has struggled in every game. Assuming both teams win out in SEC play, the Gators will have another crack at the Crimson Tide. However, this Florida team has a lot of improving to do before it can think about challenging Alabama. With the win over the Gators, the Crimson Tide now turns to a road contest at South Carolina. The Gamecocks played Alabama tough last season, losing 20-6 in Tuscaloosa. However, if Alabama continues to play like it did on Saturday night, don’t expect Nick Saban’s team to stumble along the way to a national championship appearance.
2. Oregon pulls ahead in the Pac-10 – Stanford-Oregon was hyped as one of the most anticipated games of Week 5 and didn’t disappoint. The Cardinal raced to a 21-3 lead, but the Ducks continued to fight back and pulled away in the second half behind the playmaking ability of quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. Oregon’s offense wasn’t the only factor in the victory, as the defense pitched a shutout in the second half and picked off Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck twice. With the win over Stanford, the Ducks have separated from the rest of the conference and the upcoming schedule is favorable. After taking on Washington State and UCLA, the Ducks hit the road for a game against USC, before facing key games against Arizona and Oregon State in the final two weeks. As long as Oregon keeps winning, this is a team that could have something to say about the national title picture.
3. Virginia Tech, Miami win key conference road games – The ACC’s season got off to a rough start with disappointing losses in non-conference play, but the race to win the Atlantic and Coastal divisions is about to heat up. Virginia Tech rallied from a 17-0 deficit to knock off previously unbeaten NC State. The Hokies have won three in a row, with their next four games at home. The offensive line is still a major question mark, but the Hokies seem to have found some answers on defense. The last three meetings in the Miami-Clemson series needed overtime to decide the outcome, but extra time wasn’t needed this time around. Quarterback Jacory Harris certainly takes some risks with eight interceptions on the year, but also makes up those mistakes with touchdowns and big plays. The Miami defense struggled to stop Clemson running back Andre Ellington, but ranks sixth in the nation in pass defense and 12th in total defense. The Hurricanes have a big test against Florida State this Saturday, and an improving Virginia Tech waiting for them on November 20.
4. Oklahoma takes control of Big 12 South – The annual matchup at the Cotton Bowl between Texas and Oklahoma plays a major role in deciding the Big 12 South champ and usually has an impact on the national title race. However, some of the luster surrounding this matchup wore off with Texas’ defeat against UCLA and Oklahoma’s struggles against Cincinnati last week. After going 1-4 in its last five games against the Longhorns, the Sooners used 115 rushing yards and two scores from DeMarco Murray to earn a 28-20 victory. The Sooners have been involved in some close calls this year and nearly let Texas steal the victory with a sloppy fourth quarter. However, the Sooners were simply the better team, particularly on offense and Saturday’s win puts them in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 South title. After a bye week, the Sooners take on Iowa State, before heading on the road for a key game against Missouri. The Longhorns opened up the offense for quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the second half, but it was too little, too late. The bye week comes at a good time for Texas, with a date at Nebraska on October 16. The Longhorns need to decide if they can continue to use a power rushing attack that isn’t working, or open up the passing game for Gilbert. Should the Longhorns drop that contest to Nebraska, it will be the first three-game losing streak since 1999.
5. Michigan-Michigan State setup showdown – With Michigan posting below .500 records over the last two seasons, this rivalry hasn’t garnered much national appeal. However, that’s about to change this Saturday. Both teams come into this game 5-0 and riding momentum following last week’s victories. The Spartans are powered by a deep backfield, a solid quarterback in Kirk Cousins and a stingy run defense that is allowing 101 yards per game. The Wolverines have been a mess on defense all year, but continue to ride sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson. The Spartans have won the last two matchups in this series, but have to travel to Ann Arbor this Saturday. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has watched his seat cool with each Robinson touchdown, but a win over the rival Spartans would be a huge boost for the program. Will the Wolverines’ leaky defense finally come back to haunt them? Will the Spartans have an answer for Robinson? There’s a lot of questions surrounding Saturday’s game, but this is easily one of the most intriguing matchups on the schedule.
Other thoughts from Week 5
BYU is off to a 1-4 start and after Friday night’s loss to Utah State, defensive coordinator Jaime Hill was fired. Hill was named BYU’s coordinator in 2008 and due to his departure, head coach Bronco Mendenhall will assume the playcalling duties on defense.
An under the radar win from this week was Utah State’s victory over BYU on Friday night. This was the Aggies first win in the series since 1993 and a big one for coach Gary Andersen. Although Andersen is 6-11 in his tenure in Logan, the Aggies have made significant progress and should contend for a winning record this year.
Is quarterback Jerrod Johnson’s shoulder an issue for Texas A&M? In Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State, Johnson threw four interceptions, giving him eight on the season. The senior had eight interceptions all of last year. Johnson had shoulder surgery in the offseason and appeared to struggle at times with arm strength in Thursday’s game.
Six teams remain without a win this season – Akron, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, New Mexico, New Mexico State and Western Kentucky. By next Saturday, this list will be cut by at least two teams, as New Mexico takes on New Mexico State and Florida International plays Western Kentucky.
A rough start for the Big East didn’t get any better with Rutgers falling to Tulane. The Scarlet Knights continue to struggle in each area on offense, putting too much pressure on the defense. The loss to Tulane is even more disappointing when you consider the Green Wave will probably struggle to reach four wins and squeaked by FCS foe Southeastern Louisiana in the season opener.
Although LSU beat Tennessee 16-14 and stands 5-0, the seat under Les Miles continues to heat up. The Tigers rotated Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson at quarterback with mixed results and continue to underutilize receiver Russell Shepard. Another clock blunder is embarrassing for Miles, which is something that has to be corrected with Florida, Auburn and Alabama coming up on the schedule.
Should there be a running back controversy in Pittsburgh? With Dion Lewis sitting because of a shoulder injury, Ray Graham rushed for 277 yards and three scores in Saturday’s win over Florida International. Lewis has struggled all season, rushing for 143 yards and averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Graham has 492 yards and five scores, with an average of 9.5 yards per carry. Although coach Dave Wannstedt continues to insist Lewis is the starter, Graham has proven he is the better option due to the offensive line issues.
Looking ahead to Week 6
A small sample of what’s ahead
Nebraska vs. Kansas State (Thursday)
Nebraska run defense has struggled and now faces one of nation’s best backs in Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas.
Connecticut vs. Rutgers (Friday)
After losing to Tulane, it’s hard to imagine Rutgers contending for the Big East title.
Alabama vs. South Carolina
Can the Gamecocks slow down Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson?
Michigan State vs. Michigan
Can the Spartans find an answer for Denard Robinson?
Florida State vs. Miami, Fla.
Last nine matchups have been decided by eight points or less – expect another tight one on Saturday.
Tennessee vs. Georgia
Volunteers and Bulldogs a combined 3-6 and both desperately need a victory.
LSU vs. Florida
LSU’s anemic offense faces uphill battle against Florida defense.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
Looking for offense? Jerrod Johnson vs. Ryan Mallett should be one of the top quarterback matchups from Week 6.
Oregon State vs. Arizona
Are the Beavers starting to find their rhythm after a traditionally slow start?
Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame
If the Panthers can’t find any improvement on offense, it will be a long afternoon against the Irish.
USC vs. Stanford
Shaky USC defense will be tested once again by Andrew Luck.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Boston College QB Chase Rettig (ankle)
Colorado State RB Raymond Carter (knee)
Florida QB John Brantley (ribs)
LSU DE Sam Montgomery (knee)
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (quad)
Rutgers QB Tom Savage (hand)
Stanford WR Chris Owusu (undisclosed)
Alabama — Just in case there were any doubters, Alabama made another statement Saturday night, cruising past Florida, 31–6, with alarming ease. This game was all about efficiency in the red zone: Alabama scored on all four trips inside the 20-yard line, with three TDs and one field goal, while the Gators went 1-of-4 in the red zone, with one field goal. Nick Saban’s club is the no-doubt-about-it No. 1 team in the nation.
Washington — The Huskies became the first team to beat USC in consecutive seasons since Kansas State pulled the trick in 2001-02. Washington was led by senior quarterback Jake Locker, who bounced back from a nightmare performance against Nebraska by throwing for over 300 yards and rushing for over 100. With home games against Arizona State and Oregon State looming, the Huskies have an opportunity to be a factor in the Pac-10 race early in the season.
Utah State — The Aggies snapped a 10-game losing streak to BYU, rolling past the Cougars 31–16 on national television Friday night. Utah State quarterback Diondre Borel, who threw for 341 yards in a seven-point loss to Okahoma in Week 1, was a very efficient 10-of-13 for 192 yards and one touchdown. The Aggies also picked up 242 yards rushing on 59 carries. It was Utah State’s first non-conference win against an FBS school since a 31–24 victory over UNL in September 2005.
Disappointments of the Weekend
Rutgers — The Scarlet Knights’ 2010 season took a very bad turn last weekend with a stunning 17–14 loss at home to Tulane. With quarterback Tom Savage knocked out with a hand injury (to go along with a rib injury), freshman Chas Dodd was forced into meaningful action for the first time this season. He completed only 13-of-29 attempts for 176 yards with one TD and one interception. Lost in the wreckage of the Knights’ second straight home loss was a banner performance from sophomore utilityman Mohamed Sanu, who rushed for 121 yards on nine carries and caught five passes for 70 yards.
Georgia — The Bulldogs are in the midst of the school’s first four-game losing streak since the final four games of the 1990 season. The latest setback, 29–27 at Colorado, was arguably the most painful. Trailing by two with under two minutes remaining, Georgia lost the ball on a fumble at the Colorado 30-yard line, well within field goal range for All-SEC kicker Blair Walsh. The Dawgs’ defense is taking plenty of heat, but the offense is averaging only 17.3 points against non-Sun Belt conference competition.
Texas A&M — The Aggies had a chance to make a statement that there was, in fact, progress being made in Year 3 of the Mike Sherman era. Didn’t happen. Despite rolling up 535 yards of offense, Texas A&M dropped a 38–35 decision at Oklahoma State Thursday night. One loss does not make a season, but it’s clear that the Aggies aren’t quite ready to be considered a contender in the Big 12.
Player of the Week — Denard Robinson, Michigan
Once again, “Shoelace” could not be tied up, as the Wolverines’ Heisman Trophy candidate completed 10-of-16 passes for 277 yards, three TDs and zero INTs through the air, while tucking the ball 19 times for 217 yards and two scores on the ground — including the game-winning TD with 17 seconds left — during a 42–35 win at Indiana.
Freshman of the Week — James White, Wisconsin
It wasn’t a great week for freshmen around the nation, but White was solid, rushing for 99 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the Badgers’ 34–24 loss at Michigan State. White has 244 yards and six touchdowns over the past two games.
• LSU has only given up three touchdowns in its last four games, all against BCS-conference opponents.
• Six of Vanderbilt’s eight second half drives went for three yards or fewer in the Commodores’ loss at UConn.
• Duke has lost eight straight games against FBS competition dating back to last season.
• Iowa State scored 24 points in the second quarter and 28 in the fourth quarter in its 52–38 win over Texas Tech. The 52 points were the most ever scored by the Cyclones in a Big 12 game and the most they have scored in a conference game since beating Kansas State, 55–22, in a Big Eight showdown in 1972.
• Notre Dame held Boston College tailback Montel Harris to 28 yards on 15 carries in a 31–13 win in Chestnut Hill.
• UCLA has averaged 322.3 yards rushing in its three-game winning streak over Houston, Texas and Washington State.
• Three teams are averaging over 230 yards passing and rushing — Michigan, Oregon and USC.
• Oregon State still has not committed a turnover this season.
• Northwestern has already missed four extra points this season.
• Western Kentucky has only forced eight punts in four games.
Against Washington State, Jonathan Franklin is a must-start this week.
Each week, Athlon will take a deeper look at the fantasy match-ups that effect your lineup. Some players will deserve a second look from managers while others could create some concern. Check out Athlon's College Fantasy Start or Sit for Week 5:
There should be a few obvious themes developing this week. Teams with excellent matchups — like Mississippi State (Alcorn State) and UCLA (Washington State) — should find themselves well represented at nearly every position this week.
QB — Deserves A Second Look
Ryan Colburn, Fresno State (Cal Poly)
It was largely because the Bulldogs were way out of the game last week, but Colburn posted an excellent fantasy week on the road against an SEC team. He completed 32 passes for 390 yards and 4 TDs against Ole Miss last week and has a 9:2 TD:INT rate thus far in three games. Cal Poly should not be able to slow the Fresno attack this week.
Steven Threet, Arizona State (@ Oregon State)
Despite the loss, Threet posted adequate fantasy stats last week against Oregon. He threw the ball 53 times against the Ducks and is fourth in the nation in passing attempts (156). Oregon State has struggled to slow the pass — they are allowing 252 ypg through the air and even allowed a 288-yard performance to Adam Froman of Louisville. Give the former Georgia Tech, former Michigan product a chance this week.
Ryan Radcliff, Central Michigan (Ball State)
The Chips passer trails only Alex Carder in total offense in the MAC. He is averaging 285 yards per game and posted a quality 347-2 line in a Big Ten stadium last week. He is no Dan LeFevour, as his -20 rushing yards will attest, but his passing stats aren't too much worse than the former fantasy stud from CMU.
Austin Dantin, Toledo (Wyoming)
Dantin might be considered a bit underwhelming in the passing statistics category considering what his predecessor Aaron Opelt did for the Rockets last year. However, when you toss in the 137 rush yards and 4 TDs on the ground, his numbers start to look much better. He is getting nearly 14 carries per game. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are 111th in total defense (466 ypg) and 96th in scoring defense (31 ppg).
Much deeper plays at QB:
Chris Relf, Mississippi State (Alcorn State)
Adam Froman, Louisville (@ Arkansas State)
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois (@ Akron)
Tarik Hakmi, Louisiana Tech (@ Hawaii)
Adam Weber, Minnesota (Northwestern)
QB — Better Think Twice
John Brantley, Florida (@ Alabama)
This is turning into a regular segment for Think Twice. Brantley finally topped the 200-yard mark passing last week, but the emergence of Trey Burton — and his TD vulturing skills — has clouded Brantley's value around the goal line. And playing in Tuscaloosa at night is always a breeze, right?
Taylor Potts, Texas Tech (@ Iowa State)
This may seem like a strange spot to see Potts here considering his start to the season — 633 yards and 7 TD through two games. Yet, Potts struggled mightily against Texas, and the rushing game hasn't helped him once this season (116th nationally). Iowa State has actually been pretty stingy in defending the pass; they rank 10th in the nation at 143 ypg. At home, ISU has allowed a total of 267 yards, 0 TDs and 6 INTs in two games. Also, Coach Tuberville came out this week with some mysterious comments about working Steven Sheffield into the mix as well. Maybe look for a more dependable option this week.
Dominique Davis, East Carolina (North Carolina)
Despite all of the issues Butch Davis has had on defense, the Tar Heels still rank admirably against the pass. They are allowing 128 ypg through the air, fourth-best nationally. And UNC should be able to move the ball on offense, controlling the clock and hopefully keeping the ECU offense on the sidelines.
Tricky head-to-heads that make me nervous:
Andrew Luck vs. Darron Thomas (Stanford @ Oregon)
The crowd noise and injuries for Stanford make this an interesting match-up for what should be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft next April. Thomas has played very well under fire this year, but this Cardinal defense is much better than people think. It is very tough to bench these two but the gut feeling says the upside is limited for both.
Jacory Harris vs. Kyle Parker (Miami @ Clemson)
This was a high scoring affair last year, but it took a furious comeback from Parker and C.J. Spiller to get the win last year in Miami. Harris threw 3 INTs against what was a loaded defensive secondary last year, and that group might actually be improved this year. Parker tweaked his back two weeks ago and should be fine to go, but without Spiller, Jacoby Ford and much help on the outside, he should take a major step back from his 326-3 line from last year. It was his single best career game, and he hasn't come close to 300 yards since (he has only topped 200 four times since). The Canes defense also looked very improved last weekend against Pitt.
Garrett Gilbert vs. Landry Jones (Texas vs. Oklahoma)
Colt McCoy and Jones combined for 377 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs in this game last year, and Gilbert has not proven yet that he is anything close to the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Yes, both defenses have struggled at times this season, but you can bet they will play their best this weekend. This game is probably closer to the 45-35 game from two years ago than the 16-13 2009 edition, so Jones might be okay to play. But Gilbert is nowhere near my starting lineup.
RB — Deserves A Second Look
Johnathan Franklin, UCLA (Washington State)
Few players have had a stronger last two weeks in the nation than Franklin. He rolled up 158 yards against Houston before dropping 118 on Texas last week. He scored four times in those two games, and Washington State is certainly not on the same level defensively as the Longhorns. This is a must-start.
Demetris Murray, South Florida (Florida Atlantic)
Skip Holtz has increased Murray's carries in each of the Bulls three games this year, culminating in a very effective 15-carry, 115-yard effort last week. He looks like he has separated himself from the rest of the USF runners and should have plenty of room this weekend against the nation's single worst rush defense — they are allowing over 275 ypg on the ground.
JJ Di Luigi, BYU (@ Utah State)
Against some pretty solid competition, Di Luigi has had an excellent start to the year. He has rushed for 322 yards and a pair of TDs while getting plenty of looks in the passing game. He has caught 18 passes for 200 yards and another score. Utah State is ranked 101st in scoring defense (32.5 ppg) and 88th in total defense (395 ypg).
Look to the SEC this week for RB help:
Vick Ballard, Mississippi State (Alcorn State)
He has scored in every game this year, and Alcorn should be no match.
Micheal Dyer, Auburn (UL Monroe)
Beginning to separate himself as the feature back following first career 100-yd effort.
Stevan Ridley, LSU (Tennessee)
The one thing LSU has done right on offense this year is hand him the ball.
Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss (Kentucky)
Posted huge 228-yard, 3 total TD game last week against Fresno State.
Other strong match-ups:
Zach Line, SMU (@ Rice)
The big power back should be able to rumble through the Owls' poor rush defense.
Ray Graham, Pitt (Florida International)
Graham has looked like the more explosive back, and this defense will struggle.
Adonis Thomas, Toledo (Wyoming)
The Cowboys rank 116th against the run this year so far.
Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett, Maryland (Duke)
This team is running the ball well, and Duke has struggled to stop the run.
RB — Better Think Twice
Eugene Jarvis, Kent State (@ Miami, Ohio)
There have been conflicting reports about Jarvis' status this weekend. Of course, that is never good when the head coach is the one waffling. He did not register a carry against Penn State, and it appears there might some issues with Mr. Jarvis currently. He is not worth the risk.
Evan Royster, Penn State (@ Iowa)
This entire offense has struggled to run the football effectively for some time now. So don't let the 187-yard performance from Royster last week fool you. The Iowa defense will be ready to go, and Royster's stat lines against the Hawks have been relatively uninspiring: 17 att., 69 yds ('09), 26 att., 90 yds, TD ('08) and 16 att., 86 yds ('07).
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois (@ Ohio State)
LeShoure has been the dependable fantasy star that we anticipated thus far in 2010, but this weekend might be pushing things. He got four carries in last year's 30-0 beatdown, and the Buckeye defense isn't much worse this year. He should get the bulk of the carries, so there is always a chance at one big play or a TD, but the upside seems limited here.
Tauren Poole and David Oku, Tennessee (@ LSU)
The Bayou Bengals are sporting the nation's 8th-best rushing defense (74.7 ypg). Poole also is dealing with a nagging deep thigh bruise that limited him to only 23 yards rushing last week. The rest of the Tennessee offense will also struggle in this one as Matt Simms tries to navigate the Baton Rouge atmosphere.
Washaun Ealey, Georgia (@ Colorado)
There is no quicker route to the bench than fumbles — especially ones that are near the goal line. This weekend Ealey will not start, but should still see some time. With A.J. Green returning to the lineup, expect Aaron Murray to be looking #8's way frequently in Boulder this weekend.
WR — Deserves A Second Look
A.J. Green, Georgia (@ Colorado)
If he isn't ready to compete after sitting for four weeks, I can't help him.
Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State (Alcorn State)
He has big-play potential; don't be shocked if the staff turns Relf loose in this one.
Cody Wilson, Central Michigan (Ball State)
This little slot receiver has been very effective in the short to intermediate game.
MarQueis Gray, Minnesota (Northwestern)
Has become a favorite target of Adam Weber, and NW allowed 347-2 passing last week.
Theo Riddick, Notre Dame (@ Boston College)
Over last two: 17 rec., 199 yds, 2 TD. Has clearly become one of Crist's favorites.
WR — Better Think Twice
James Rodgers, Oregon State (Arizona State)
Head injuries make me nervous, and big brother didn't practice much this week.
DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss (Marshall)
Injuries and inconsistency make him a tough start this week.
Julio Jones et al, Alabama (Florida)
The Gators secondary has been very stingy — and is crazy talented.