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October 21, 2007

Buckeyes a steady force among chaos

After another Saturday of offensive fireworks - and yes, more upsets - Ohio State continues to stand alone.

It has been a chaotic season so full of stunners that no one is surprised when three more top-10 teams fall like they did in Week 8. So many points are being scored that no one blinks when a big game in the defensive-minded SEC produces 82 points (Florida 45, Kentucky 37). What may be surprising is that Florida State and Miami combined for 66 points (average score of their last three meetings: 13-9).

In the middle of it all, there is Ohio State - undefeated and doing it with defense. Don't look now, but the Buckeyes have not lost a regular season game in more than two full years.

One can argue that the Buckeyes should be unbeaten at this point; their toughest games are still to come. But in a season like this one, 8-0 is 8-0. And it's tough to argue with a defense that has allowed only four touchdowns to opposing offenses.

Team of the week: LSU

It didn't take long for the Bayou Bengals to get back into the national title picture.

One week after losing a triple-overtime thriller at Kentucky, LSU faced another tough test at home against red-hot Auburn. Les Miles' crew responded with a clutch win and could find themselves at No. 2 in the BCS standings this week thanks to Rutgers' upset of South Florida. LSU came into the weekend fourth in the BCS standings behind Boston College, but the Eagles were idle while the Tigers were winning a big game on national television.

LSU now gets a well-deserved week off to prepare for a Nov. 3 date with former coach Nick Saban at Alabama.

Breakouts & Breakdowns

Breakout: LSU's offense looks completely different when Early Doucet is healthy. Out since early September, Doucet returned Saturday to catch seven passes for 93 yards. Aside from the numbers, his presence seemed to change the Tigers' whole approach. One week after playing it safe with four consecutive runs in the final overtime in the loss at Kentucky, LSU passed for 319 yards and threw to the end zone in the final seconds for the winning score when a field goal would have won it.

Breakdown: What a difference a week makes for Cal. Last Saturday afternoon it looked like the Golden Bears were going to be the No. 1 team in the land. Two losses later, they are almost an afterthought in the Pac-10. Even the return of Nate Longshore and a big game from DeSean Jackson could not save the Bears from a 30-21 loss at UCLA. Don't even try to figure out the Bruins; they lost to Utah and Notre Dame and yet control their own destiny for a Rose Bowl berth.

What you might have missed
Michigan isn't the only Big Ten team to lose to a team from the Football Championship Subdivison. Minnesota lost at home Saturday to North Dakota State, 27-21, a team that is still in the process of moving up from Division II. But perhaps it should not be a surprise: The Bison dominated the Gophers last year but lost, 10-9, when Minnesota blocked a last-play field goal.
Super Stats: Tulane's Matt Forte carried 38 times for 343 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-34 overtime win over SMU. Forte scored the winning touchdown to cap off the biggest rushing day in the country so far this season.
Super Stats II: Toledo and Ohio combined for 83 points, including 42 in the fourth quarter. Most of the damage was done on the ground as Toledo's Jalen Parmele racked up 241 yards and two scores. Ohio's Kalvin McRae ran for 182 yards and three scores.
Kansas kept alive the perhaps the quietest undefeated season by a Big 12 team. The Jayhawks earned a 19-14 win at Colorado. Despite failing to gain 400 yards for the first time this season, KU won in Boulder for the first time since 1995. How long can they keep it going? Remember, they don't have to face Texas or Oklahoma in the regular season.
Clemson righted the ship after consecutive losses by hanging a 70-14 blowout on Central Michigan. Cullen Harper connected on 20 of 22 passes and threw five touchdowns, and the Tigers rushed for 356 yards.
Breakout: West Virginia still needs South Florida to lose again if it wants to win the Big East, but the Mountaineers should be the conference's highest-ranked team after rolling over Mississippi State. WVU raced to a 31-0 lead and coasted from there. Quarterback Pat White did not play in the second half.

Breakdown: The high-scoring duel between Texas Tech and Missouri never materialized, at least not for the Red Raiders. Tech's Graham Harrell threw for nearly 400 yards, but his four interceptions more than doubled his season total. Mizzou's Chase Daniel got plenty of help; the Tigers rushed for more than 200 yards.

Breakout: We got a glimpse of the future at USC on Saturday. Former five-star prospect Mark Sanchez hooked up with former five-star prospect Vidal Hazelton three times for 80 yards, including a 48-yard score. Yet another former five-star prospect, Joe McKnight, added a 51-yard touchdown run. It was McKnight's second run of more than 50 yards in as many games. Sanchez and Hazelton are sophomores, McKnight is a freshman. Why would Pete Carroll ever even think about leaving?

Breakout: Sticking with the theme, banged up Oregon needed a five-star performance from Jonathan Stewart, and he delivered. The top-rated running back in the class of 2005, Stewart carried 32 times for 251 yards against Washington. The Ducks scored more than 50 points for the fourth time this season, and are back in the Pac-10 race.

Breakdown: South Carolina had a chance to stand alone atop the SEC East with a win over Vanderbilt, and Steve Spurrier always beats Vanderbilt, right? Not this time. The Commodores forced four turnovers and kept the Gamecocks out of the end zone in a 17-6 win. Who will emerge from the SEC East is anybody's guess, though Florida looks to be in the driver's seat. The five of the teams in the division have two SEC losses, and last-place Vandy is just one game out of first place.

Breakout: Alabama's offense will get most of the headlines, and rightfully so with the days had by John Parker Wilson and DJ Hall. But the Crimson Tide's defense also rose to the occasion in the second half against Tennessee, shutting out the Vols after a first-half shootout.

Breakout: Ohio State may not have the weapons it had last season, but the Buckeyes could ride workhorse Chris Wells a long way. Wells dodged a bullet when Michigan State failed to recover his second-half fumble on Saturday, but otherwise he was brilliant with 221 yards on 31 carries.

Breakdown: We're going back to Friday night for this one, but the officiating crew for the Connecticut-Louisville game definitely broke down when UConn's Larry Taylor returned a punt 74 yards to tie the game at 7 in the second quarter. With a Louisville defender right in his face, Taylor made a very late, half-hearted fair catch call, then took off and ended up scoring. Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe called a timeout in an effort to get the officials to take another look, but a fair-catch signal isn't reviewable.

Breakout: Virginia running back Mikell Simpson broke out in a big way in the Cavs' 18-17 win at Maryland. A former wide receiver, Simpson had only two carries and four catches before Saturday. Against the Terps, he produced 271 yards from scrimmage and scored the winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining.

Quotes of the weekend

"I'm going to answer that very cautiously, because I don't want to be called sarcastic using New Jersey rhetoric. So let me just say people better enjoy it now, have their fun now." - Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, when asked if he believes the Irish have hit rock bottom.

"What do we do? Well, we can't trade any of them. We're going to try to coach them as hard as we can." - South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier after the 17-6 loss to Vanderbilt.

Stat that counts: 73.3 percent

After passing for 256 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 78 and another score in the win over Kentucky, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has accounted for 73.3 percent of the Gators' total offense on the season (2,289 of 3,124 total yards). He has also produced 71 percent of The Gators' touchdowns (27 of 38).

All eyes on ...

No. 3 Boston College at No. 11 Virginia Tech, Thursday night: Aside from being a possible ACC title game preview, the Eagles could move up to No. 2 this week ... and that has proven to be a dangerous place to be this season

No. 1 Ohio State at Penn State: The Buckeyes face what many will call their first test of the season, and it comes at the scene of their last regular-season loss. The Nittany Lions beat them 17-10 on Oct. 8, 2005 in Happy Valley.

More elimination games: The SEC East will start to sort itself out next week as Florida takes on Georgia and Tennessee plays South Carolina. Same story in the Pac-10, where USC travels to Oregon and Cal visits unbeaten Arizona State.

Top Performers
Andre' Woodson, Kentucky
35 of 50, 411 yards, five touchdowns in Wildcats' 45-37 loss to Florida.
Woodson didn't play well in UK's first loss; this time he probably helped his Heisman cause despite the final score.
Josh Freeman, Kansas State
36 of 51, 404 yards, three touchdowns in Wildcats' 41-39 loss at Oklahoma State.
He gave K-State a one-point lead with 1:10 left on a gutsy two-point conversion call, but the defense could not hold it.
Chase Holbrook, New Mexico State
36 of 49, 404 yards, three touchdowns in the Aggies' 45-31 win over Idaho.
Holbrook returned in style after missing two games with bruised ribs.
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
44 of 68 for 397 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in the Red Raiders' 41-10 loss at Missouri.
Despite the yardage total, this was by far Harrell's roughest day of the season; he entered the game having thrown just three interceptions.
John Parker Wilson, Alabama
32 of 46, 364 yards and three touchdowns in the Tide's 41-17 win over Tennessee.
Wilson's 32 completions tied a school record and sparked the Tide's biggest win over the Vols sicne 1986.
Matt Forte, Tulane
38 carries, 343 yards, four touchdowns in Green Wave's 41-34 OT win over SMU.
Forte would have topped this list even before rushing for 15 yards and the winning score in overtime.
Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
32 carries for 251 yards, two touchdowns in the Ducks' 55-34 win at Washington.
Career day for the former five-star prospect helped Ducks to a school-record 465 yards on the ground.
Jalen Parmele, Toledo
38 carries, 241 yards, two touchdowns in the Rockets' 43-40 win over Ohio University.
Parmale's fourth consecutive game with 130 yards or more, but his fourth-quarter fumble at the Ohio 6-yard line almost cost the Rockets.
Luke Lippincott, Nevada
36 carries, 236 yards, two touchdowns in the Wolf Pack's 32-28 win over Utah State.
Freshman QB Colin Kaepernick was Nevada's hero last week, this time it was Lippincott's turn.
Chris Wells, Ohio State
31 carries, 221 yards, one touchdown in the Buckeyes' 24-17 win over Michigan State.
Dodged disaster when MSU botched the recovery of his second-half fumble, but otherwise Beanie looked like he could carry the Buckeyes to the national title.
DJ Hall, Alabama
13 catches, 185 yards, two touchdowns in the Tide's 41-17 win over Tennessee.
Hall set a school record with the 13 catches. He has 24 for 325 yards in his last two games.
Kenneth Moore, Wake Forest
15 catches, 182 yards, two touchdowns in the Demon Deacons' 44-24 win over Navy.
Moore tied the school record for catches in a game for the second time this season.
Dorien Bryant, Purdue
9 catches, 167 yards, two touchdowns in the Boilermakers' 31-6 win over Iowa.
The 167 yards are a career high for Bryant, who struggled with just 53 yards combined in his previous two games.
Emmanuel Sanders, SMU
8 catches, 155 yards, two touchdowns in the Mustangs' 41-34 OT loss to Tulane.
Sanders staked SMU to an early lead with two first-half touchdowns to spark a career day.
Mikell Simpson, Virginia
13 catches, 152 yards in the Cavs' 18-17 win at Maryland.
The Cavs' running back had only two carries and four catches before Saturday. He also rushed for 119 yards and two scores on 16 carries, including the game-winning TD with one second left.

John Gworek is the front page editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at jgworek@rivals.com.

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