Week 9 in Review
Oregon, Nebraska and Iowa were the big winners from Saturday's action.
By: Steven Lassan | 11/1/10, 12:33 AM EDT
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Iowa ends Michigan State’s perfect season – Michigan State’s hope of an undefeated season and a possible run at an appearance in the national title game ended in stunning fashion. There was no trick play, fourth quarter rally or last-second field goal in this matchup – it was all Iowa. Behind a suffocating defense and the efficient play of quarterback Ricky Stanzi, the Hawkeyes opened up a 37-0 lead and finished with a 37-6 victory. The Iowa secondary continued to show why it’s among the best in the nation, picking off Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins three times and returning one of those for a score. The Spartans never found any success on the ground, finishing with a paltry 31 rushing yards. Stanzi is quietly having an outstanding season, bouncing back from tossing 15 interceptions last year. The senior has 19 touchdowns to only two picks this year and is second in the nation in passing efficiency, behind Boise State’s Kellen Moore.
Iowa’s win leaves four teams with only one loss atop the Big Ten standings. The Hawkeyes still have to play Ohio State and a tricky road date at Northwestern. Michigan State may have the easiest remaining road, with Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State. Wisconsin’s biggest test is a game at Michigan – where they haven’t won since 1994. Ohio State has home games against Penn State and Michigan, along with the huge road date against Iowa. Although the Big Ten will likely be without a team in the national championship, this will be one of the most entertaining races to watch over the final month of the season.
2. Nebraska takes control of Big 12 North – As more time passes from Nebraska’s loss to Texas, it’s looking like that defeat was a mirage. Since beating Nebraska, Texas has lost back-to-back home games to Iowa State and Baylor. The Cornhuskers quickly erased that loss with a road win over Oklahoma State and Saturday’s key Big 12 North victory over Missouri. The Nebraska defense pressured Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert all afternoon and held the offense to 341 yards – the Tigers lowest output of the season. The Missouri defense entered Saturday’s contest allowing 115 yards a game against the run. However, Nebraska gashed the Tigers for 328 yards on the ground, with 307 coming from Roy Helu. Taylor Martinez suffered a bruised leg at the end of the first half and was unable to go in the second, but with a 24-7 lead and the defense playing well, the redshirt freshman wasn’t needed for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are in firm control of the Big 12 North, but a loss would put Missouri back in the driver’s seat. With games at Iowa State and Texas A&M remaining, the Cornhuskers can’t think about the conference championship just yet. However, it looks like the Big Red will get a shot to erase last season’s painful loss in the title game.
3. Elimination in the SEC East – Thanks for playing Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. With South Carolina’s win over Tennessee and Florida’s victory over Georgia, the race to win the SEC East is down to two teams. Unless Florida loses to Vanderbilt, the November 13 battle in Gainesville will decide who goes to Atlanta. Florida’s bye week tweaks certainly helped its offense against Georgia, scoring 34 points – the most since putting 48 on the board in a win over Kentucky in late September. The Gators were sparked by reinstated running back Chris Rainey, along with the rushing of Trey Burton from the quarterback spot. Although this offense still has concerns and needs to put together back-to-back consistent efforts before we truly know what to expect, Urban Meyer seems to have found a few answers during the week off.
The Gamecocks struggled to put away the Volunteers, along with showing a glaring weakness in the secondary. South Carolina was expected to have one of the top defensive backfields in college football this season, but the Gamecocks are last in the SEC and 105th in the nation in pass defense. Spurrier vs. Florida for the SEC East title is shaping up to be an interesting storyline to Week 11.
4. Oregon dispatches USC – Ranking No. 1 and playing on the road resulted in losses for Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma. For Oregon? No problem. The Ducks fell behind 32-29 early in the third quarter, but never panicked behind the dynamic combination of quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. James was held in check early on, but eventually wore down a USC defense that is thin on depth for 239 yards and two scores. Thomas finished 19 of 32 for 288 yards and four scores. Finding a way to slow down Chip Kelly’s offense has been difficult for every team on Oregon schedule and although USC had some success early, the final tally indicated 599 total yards. The Trojans were able to move the ball, but quarterback Matt Barkley faced heavy pressure from the Ducks and finished with a so-so final line – 26 of 49 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. The key to Oregon’s success is certainly an explosive offense, but the defense shouldn’t be overlooked. Although the Ducks have four games remaining, it would be a major upset if this team isn't playing for the national championship.
5. No letdown for Auburn in Oxford – After last week’s win against LSU, Auburn seemed ripe for an upset. The Tigers were on the road against Ole Miss and Houston Nutt – a head coach known for a pulling a couple of upsets – and have played nine consecutive weeks. Despite falling behind 7-0 after the Rebels’ opening drive, Auburn was never in trouble and cruised to a 51-31 victory in Oxford. The Ole Miss defense aimed to takeaway Cam Newton’s rushing ability, but the junior continued to lead the way in the Heisman race, completing 18 of 24 passes for 209 yards and two scores. Newton even caught a 20-yard touchdown toss from former quarterback Kodi Burns. Auburn’s defense remains a concern, which will face a tough test from Georgia, two weeks before the much-anticipated Iron Bowl matchup against Alabama. However, does any team on the schedule have an answer on how to stop Newton?
Other thoughts from Week 9
The nightmare season for Mack Brown at Texas continues, while Art Briles has Baylor in position to win the Big 12 South. The Bears knocked off the Longhorns 30-22, earning their first win in Austin since 1991. If Baylor wins its final three games – at Oklahoma State and home dates against Texas A&M and Oklahoma – the Bears will play for the Big 12 title. The Longhorns will likely finish with seven or eight wins, but it’s pretty clear this is a team at the crossroads. The offense continues to struggle with mediocre offensive line play and the switch to a run-first attack just isn’t working. Is it time for a new offensive coordinator? Speaking of changes…
Virginia has to be ecstatic with the hire of Mike London as head coach. The Cavaliers won their first ACC game under London – a surprising 24-19 upset over Miami. The Hurricanes lost quarterback Jacory Harris in the first half, but made a nice comeback in the second half behind true freshman Stephen Morris. Since they played two FCS opponents, the Cavaliers need three more wins to reach a bowl game, but London clearly has the program headed in the right direction.
West Virginia opened the year 5-1 and looked like the class of the Big East. However, the Mountaineers have lost back-to-back games, including a 16-13 loss to Connecticut in overtime. The Mountaineers seemed to have full control of the game in the first half, but lost four fumbles, including one in overtime that gave Connecticut the final possession for the winning field goal. The win could salvage the Huskies’ season, but for the Mountaineers, winning the Big East title continues to slip away. After the last two weeks, Bill Stewart is back on the hot seat in Morgantown.
The ACC Atlantic race took an interesting turn on Thursday night, with NC State beating Florida State 28-24. The Seminoles have a favorable conference slate to close out the year, while the Wolfpack hit the road in three out of their final four games. Even if the Wolfpack fall short of the ACC Atlantic title, this is a much-needed rebound season for Tom O’Brien, after a disappointing 5-7 record last year.
One of Saturday’s most surprising scores had to be Stanford’s 41-0 win over Washington. The much-hyped battle between Jake Locker and Andrew Luck was a dud. Locker was 7 of 14 for 64 yards and two interceptions, while Luck completed 19 of 26 for 192 yards and one touchdown, along with 92 yards and one score on the ground. Locker has had his moments this year, but has also disappointed and watched his NFL stock take a nosedive.
Hawaii defeated Idaho 45-10 to improve its record to 7-2 and accepted a bid to play in the 2010 Hawaii Bowl. Although the Warriors are the first team to accept a bid to the postseason, their goal of winning a WAC title certainly gets tougher with a matchup at Boise State this Saturday. The Warriors are the nation’s top passing team, but have a steady ground attack and the defense is much-improved. Although Boise State will be a heavy favorite, the Warriors won’t be a pushover.
After winning at least eight games from 2006-2009 and winning three conference titles in that span, Central Michigan is in danger of finishing in the cellar of the MAC West. First-year coach Dan Enos has struggled to replace record-setting quarterback Dan LeFevour, but the Chippewas have underachieved this year.
San Diego State’s 48-38 win over Wyoming won’t register on many national radars, but the Aztecs are bowl eligible and will likely make their first appearance in a bowl since 1998. Coach Brady Hoke has done an outstanding job in just two seasons as San Diego State’s head coach.
The calls for Mike Sherman’s job at Texas A&M likely won’t stop, but the Aggies have won back-to-back games, largely due to a switch at quarterback. Jerrod Johnson was the preseason pick to be the top quarterback in the conference, but hasn’t looked like the passer that threw for 3,579 yards last year. Ryan Tannehill stepped into the starting job against Texas Tech and threw for 449 yards and four scores, leading the Aggies to a 45-27 victory. With Oklahoma, Baylor, Nebraska and Texas remaining, reaching a bowl game will be difficult, but it’s clear Tannehill has provided a spark for this offense.
Looking ahead to Week 10
A small sample of what’s ahead
Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech (Thursday)
Thanks to Miami’s loss against Virginia, the ACC Coastal division is Virginia Tech’s to lose.
UCF vs. Houston (Friday)
An early preview for the Conference USA title game?
Illinois vs. Michigan
The Illini have won their last two games by a combined score of 87-23, but its defense will be tested by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Arkansas vs. South Carolina
South Carolina’s secondary has struggled all season and that’s bad news against the SEC’s top passing attack.
Maryland vs. Miami, Fla.
Maryland is a quiet 6-2, but could make some noise with an upset against a Miami team likely to be without quarterback Jacory Harris.
NC State vs. Clemson
Which Clemson team will show up? The one that nearly beat Auburn or the one that lost 16-10 to Boston College last week?
Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M
Ryan Tannehill has ignited the Texas A&M offense – but will it be enough to knock off Oklahoma?
Baylor vs. Oklahoma State
There’s no shortage of offensive firepower in this one, get ready for an old-fashioned Big 12 shootout.
Missouri vs. Texas Tech
Can Missouri rebound from last week’s disappointing 31-17 loss to Nebraska?
Hawaii vs. Boise State
The Warriors are improved, but will it be enough to challenge Boise on the blue turf?
Arizona vs. Stanford
Important game for both squads to keep alive in the Pac-10 race, and the last three contests in this series has been decided by five points or less.
TCU vs. Utah
This is easily one of Week 10’s must-see matchups, with major BCS bowl implications and the Mountain West title likely on the line.
Alabama vs. LSU
The LSU defense was torched by Auburn on the ground, can it find a way to slow down Alabama’s one-two punch of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson?
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Arizona RB Nic Grigsby (sprained ankle) – probable for Week 10
Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict (hamstring) – probable for Week 10
Arkansas WR Greg Childs (knee) – questionable for Week 10
California QB Kevin Riley (knee) – likely out for remainder of season
Cincinnati DT Derek Wolfe (neck) – uncertain
Clemson RB Andre Ellington (toe) – likely out two weeks
Hawaii WR Kealoha Pilares (hamstring) – probable for Week 10
Houston RB Bryce Beall (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Louisville RB Bilal Powell (knee) – questionable for Week 10
Miami QB Jacory Harris (concussion) – doubtful to start Week 10
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez (bruised leg) – probable for Week 10
Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard (concussion) – questionable for Week 10
Nevada RB Vai Taua (ankle) – did not play in Week 10, probable for Week 11
Northwestern QB Dan Persa (concussion) – questionable for Week 10
Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist (ruptured patella tendon) – out for remainder of 2010
Notre Dame RB Armando Allen (hip) – done for season
Oklahoma RB Jermie Calhoun (knee) – done for season
South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery (sprained knee) – probable for Week 10
South Carolina CB Chris Culliver (shoulder) – out for remainder of season
Texas A&M RB Christine Michael (broken tibia) – out for remainder of season
Toledo QB Austin Dantin (shoulder) – likely done for season
UL Lafayette QB Chris Masson (knee) – doubtful for Week 10
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