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November 7, 2011

Rivals.com Week 10 Conference Call

Here's a quickie look at the weekend's action in a conference-by-conference manner.

Think of it as one final chance to look back at the weekend that was. We will have this conference call every Monday.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: N.C. State's defense. North Carolina State entered the weekend ranked 82nd nationally in total defense, yet the Wolfpack allowed just 165 total yards and recorded their first shutout since 2006 in a 13-0 victory over North Carolina. The Wolfpack had three sacks, picked off three passes, knocked North Carolina QB Bryn Renner out of the game with concussion-like symptoms and held Tar Heels star RB Giovani Bernard in check.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAMS: Boston College and Maryland: Both teams officially fell out of bowl contention by suffering their seventh losses of the season. For Boston College, it ends a string of 12 consecutive bowl bids. For Maryland, it represents a stunning fall from grace one year after a 9-4 season. Maryland fired 2010 ACC coach of the year Ralph Friedgen at the end of the regular season and replaced him with Randy Edsall, whose star was on the rise after leading Connecticut to a Big East title and Fiesta Bowl bid. Edsall's stock has plummeted this season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Virginia SS Rodney McLeod. It's tough to call anything McLeod does a surprise since the third-year starter has been such a vital performer for the Cavaliers throughout his career, but how often does one player make three interceptions in a game? McLeod led Virginia to a 31-13 victory over Maryland by becoming the first Virginia player to pick off three passes in a game since Anthony Poindexter did it against North Carolina State in 1996.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: North Carolina RB Giovani Bernard and QB Bryn Renner. After rushing for 100 yards in six of his past seven games, Bernard gained just 47 yards on 18 carries against North Carolina State. Renner entered Saturday as the ACC leader in passing efficiency, but he went 9-of-17 for 76 yards with two interceptions before getting knocked out of the game. Then again, perhaps it's unfair to single out North Carolina's skill-position performers since the offensive line also deserves plenty of blame. The Tar Heels didn't create running room for anyone and also allowed the Wolfpack to harass Renner for much of the day.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Cincinnati's fourth-quarter resolve. The Bearcats (7-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big East) are the only Big East team with fewer than three loses, but that doesn't mean it has been an easy road. Cincinnati needed to overcome 10-point deficits in the second half in the past two games to take the Big East lead. Two weeks ago, Cincinnati trailed USF 27-17 entering the fourth quarter, but QB Zach Collaros accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) in the fourth quarter to defeat the Bulls 37-34. This week, Cincinnati was behind again, down 23-13 to Pittsburgh for most of the third quarter. The Bearcats weren't as explosive in the fourth quarter against the Panthers, but they were nonetheless effective. Tony Miliano kicked two field goals and Collaros had another fourth-quarter touchdown run. Cincinnati couldn't put together a sustained drive to keep the ball away from Pittsburgh, but the Panthers couldn't crack Cincinnati's defense, either.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: USF's fourth-quarter performance. The misery continues for USF. The Bulls once were the highest-ranked team in the Big East, but now they're the only winless team in league play after dropping four in a row. This week's loss was by far the most crushing for the Bulls. USF led Rutgers 17-3 with 7:38 remaining in the game before finding creative ways to lose. Jeremy Deering - a Tampa native - returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, then backup QB Chas Dodd led an 80-yard touchdown to tie the game. USF K Maikon Bonani then missed a 27-yard field goal at the end of regulation, which sent the game to overtime. Rutgers won on a field goal by San San Te. USF has led in the second half in the past three games but lost each time.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. For about a month, the freshman gradually has been building to a breakout game. He delivered Saturday in a 38-35 upset at West Virginia. The offense around him has been improving, with C Mario Benavides returning to action and his running backs becoming more and more productive. Against West Virginia, Bridgewater had his best game with a season-high 246 passing yards and a touchdown in a 21-of-27 passing performance. Louisville may not win the Big East - a loss to Cincinnati on Oct. 15 still has Louisville chasing the Bearcats - but each week the Cardinals look more and more secure with their quarterback of the future.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and Antwon Bailey. How does a team turn the ball over five times in a half and get out of it with a tie? Answer: The opposition does nothing to capitalize. Connecticut QB Johnny McEntee was intercepted twice and the Huskies fumbled three times, but the Huskies still were tied 7-7 after the first half. Syracuse responded to the five turnovers with three punts, a Nassib interception and a missed field goal. In the first half, Nassib was 7-of-17 for 94 yards with the pick, and Bailey rushed for 26 yards on nine carries. The failings of the offense in the first half set the stage for an improbable Connecticut comeback as the Huskies relied on "wildcat" QB Scott McCummings for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Northwestern's offense. After losing starting QB Dan Persa to a shoulder injury in the second quarter at Nebraska, Northwestern's offense suffered no letdown. Northwestern never even lost the lead. Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian stepped in as an effective run-pass duo for the second half. Colter was 4-of-6 for 115 yards with an 81-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ebert. He also rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns. More than that, Northwestern's offense pushed around the traditionally stout Nebraska defense in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Michigan's offense. In the final moments of the 24-16 loss to Iowa, the Wolverines failed to convert on a first-and-goal from the 3. A questionable call in the end zone drew the ire of Michigan fans, but it only highlighted Michigan's struggles on offense all day. The Wolverines accounted for only 323 total yards, their second-lowest total of the season and only the second time this season they failed to reach 400 yards. A week after Fitzgerald Toussaint was a surprise contributor, he rushed for just 58 yards. Denard Robinson was similarly bottled up, rushing for 55 yards and completing only 17-of-37 passes.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Iowa's Marcus Coker. It's probably not fair to call Coker a "surprise" after he rushed for 252 yards and two touchdowns in last week's loss to Minnesota. Coker, though, is making a case for first-team All-Big Ten honors. Coker rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries in the 24-16 win over Michigan on Saturday to keep the Hawkeyes in contention for the Big Ten title game. Coker has rushed for 647 yards and eight touchdowns in the past four games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Michigan State TBs Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker. Where has the Spartans' rushing attack gone? In the past three games, Michigan State has rushed for 109 yards against Wisconsin, 101 yards against Nebraska and 106 yards against Minnesota on Saturday. The running game did produce in crunch time Saturday with a 35-yard touchdown run by Bell for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Michigan State failed to run consistently against a team ranked 11th in the Big Ten in run defense.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Baylor's offense. The Bears have been productive all season, but they reached historic levels of effectiveness in a 42-37 victory over Missouri. The Bears set a school record with 697 yards of total offense as QB Robert Griffin III passed for 406 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 64 and another score. In addition, TB Terrance Ganaway rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard run.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Texas Tech's defense. Just two weeks after upsetting Oklahoma, Texas Tech's defense never gave the Red Raiders a chance in a 52-20 loss to Texas. The Red Raiders gave up a season-high 439 rushing yards to the Longhorns, who attempted only nine passes. Additionally, Texas played without leading rusher Malcolm Brown, who sat out the game because of injury.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Texas RB Joe Bergeron. The true freshman started in place of Brown and ran for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Bergeron, who exceeded 100 rushing yards for the second consecutive week, gained 113 yards in the first half alone.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill. Although Tannehill passed for 379 yards and two touchdowns, he also threw three interceptions, two of which led directly to Oklahoma touchdowns in a 28-point third quarter in which a close game turned into a 41-25 Oklahoma rout.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Air Force's defense (in the second half). Air Force ranks near the bottom of the FBS in run defense and struggled for the first two quarters of Saturday's game with Army. The Falcons gave up 286 rushing yards in the first half and were lucky to be behind only 14-0 at intermission, as Army lost a fumble in the end zone and gave up the ball on downs inches shy of the goal line. But the Falcons turned things around, as they allowed just 80 total yards and held Army scoreless in the final two periods of a 24-14 victory. After running 44 times for 286 yards in the first half, the Black Knights mustered just 54 yards on 20 carries in the last two quarters.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Wyoming's defense. The Cowboys allowed 617 total yards and gave up 8.3 yards per carry in a 31-17 loss to TCU. Waymon James, Ed Wesley and Matthew Tuckereach ran for at least 90 yards to lead TCU's 390-yard rushing attack. Wyoming managed to stay close only because TCU committed five turnovers and didn't have any takeaways.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: TCU RB Waymon James. He rushed for a career-high 181 yards on just 12 carries in the victory over Wyoming. James had run for a total of 127 yards in the four games leading up to this one. He hadn't carried the ball more than seven times and hadn't run for more than 52 yards in any of those games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: New Mexico CB DeShawn Mills. Mills was ejected from New Mexico's 35-7 loss to San Diego State. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Mills threw a punch at San Diego State WR Colin Lockett in the third quarter.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: UCLA's offense. The Bruins amassed 416 yards in total offense against Arizona State. That was their highest output since gaining 417 against San Jose State in the second week of the season. QB Kevin Prince passed for 196 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 61 yards. He also led the Bruins on a 10-play drive for a game-winning touchdown with 49 seconds left.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Washington's offense. The Huskies failed to score at least 30 points for only the second time this season and were held to a season-low point total in a 34-17 loss to Oregon. Although knowing they needed to match Oregon's prolific offense, the Huskies managed just 278 yards - their second-lowest total of the season. They also committed three turnovers.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UCLA WR Nelson Rosario. The 6-foot-5 senior had his best performance of the season with five catches for 151 yards - 30.2 yards per catch. That included a 76-yard touchdown catch and a 33-yard reception on third-and 29 to extend the Bruins' game-winning drive in their 29-28 victory.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Arizona State K Alex Garoutte. The freshman previously had converted three field-goal attempts from at least 46 yards, but was 0-of-3 on the night in the loss to UCLA. The most costly miss was a 46-yard try on the final play. Garoutte also missed from 48 yards in the second quarter and from 36 in the fourth.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Kentucky. OK, beating Ole Miss isn't that impressive. Truthfully, it's not impressive at all. Still, a UK team that had been horrendous on offense put up 398 yards and 30 points in pounding the Rebels and likely putting the final nails in Houston Nutt's coffin. True freshman QB Maxwell Smith threw for 283 yards and two TDs, and his play lends some hope that UK can at least be credible on offense the rest of the season.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Alabama. Actually, the Tide's defense deserves a ton of credit; it played superbly,. The rest of the team? Ehhh. The special teams were horrible - why was a hobbled Marquis Maze back attempting to field punts? - and QB A.J. McCarron's play dipped noticeably in the second half. The Tide didn't take advantage of a frenzied crowd and don't deserve a rematch with LSU.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Florida TB dJeff Demps. Demps, a senior, ran for 157 yards against Kentucky on Sept. 24. In the ensuing four games, one of which he missed with an injury, he ran for 16 total. He re-emerged in a big way against a Vanderbilt team that had been solid against the run, finishing with a career-high 158 yards and two TDs.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Alabama's kickers. Going into the showdown with LSU, it was obvious that the Tigers enjoyed a big advantage at punter, and that was borne out. But Alabama's kickers had been solid, if not spectacular. That wasn't the case Saturday, when Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley went a combined 2-of-6. Did anyone rooting for the Tide really think Foster was going to make that 52-yard attempt in overtime? He looked as if he wanted to be anywhere but on that field before the attempt.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Idaho. Idaho was 1-7 and carried a six-game losing streak into its game at San Jose State; the only win was over FCS member North Dakota. But the Vandals for a season-high 183 yards and rallied from a 22-10 halftime deficit to down the Spartans 32-29. Idaho scored three fourth-quarter TDs to come away with the win.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Hawaii. A week before a showdown at Nevada was supposed to decide the WAC championship, the Warriors were stunned at home by a two-win Utah State team. To make matters worse, the Aggies rallied behind their backup quarterback. Hawaii led 28-7 at halftime, then was shut down in the second half of a 35-31 loss. Hawaii's WAC title hopes basically were swept away.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron. Cameron, a junior, made just his second start of the season and but carved up Fresno State to the tune of 358 yards and four TDs through the air. The Bulldogs rolled to a 41-21 win and put themselves in great position to earn one of the WAC's three bowl bids.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Toledo's secondary. It's not like these guys are the second coming of a Ronnie Lott-led 49ers secondary anyway, but, man, they were horrendous Tuesday night in a 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois. (Hey, when you score 60 and lose in regulation, you have some defensive issues.) NIU QB Chandler Harnish completed 17 passes - and six went for touchdowns.

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