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October 4, 2008

Winners and losers from Saturday

Pollsters can rest easy this week as far as the top part of their ballot is concerned.

The top teams remained safe (so far). No. 1 Oklahoma cruised past Baylor. No. 2 Alabama escaped a letdown against previously unbeaten Kentucky. No. 3 LSU got out of the bye week without incident.

The winners stayed winners this week while few underdogs could follow up on Pittsburgh's defeat of No. 10 USF on Thursday.

Here are the other early winners and losers from Saturday:

WINNERS

Florida State's run game. Don't look now, but Florida State might have a legitimate running game for the first time since the pre-Jeff Bowden days. Quarterback Christian Ponder ran for 147 yards against Miami. After running for 154 yards last week against Colorado, Antone Smith rushed for 91 yards and four touchdowns, including the 20-yarder that iced the game in the fourth quarter. Florida State out-rushed Miami 283-51.

Nick Saban . The Alabama coach isn't completely happy unless he can get after his team about something. Mission accomplished in a 17-14 win over Kentucky. Alabama didn't put Kentucky away until late in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide committed 10 penalties for 92 yards and turned the ball over three times. And John Parker Wilson reverted to 2007 form.

Jimmy Clausen . After the past two weeks, Clausen should make more visits to his barber. He got a haircut after losing to Michigan State. Since then, Clausen has been magnificent. He was 29 of 40 for 347 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Stanford on Saturday a week after passing for 275 yards and three scores in a win over Purdue.

Embattled quarterbacks. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier decided to start Chris Smelley on Thursday. California coach Jeff Tedford replaced Kevin Riley with Nate Longshore earlier in the week. Both paid off Saturday. Smelley was 22-of-32 for 327 yards with three touchdowns in a 31-24 win at Ole Miss. Longshore was 17-of-28 for 198 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-14 win over Arizona State.

Mackenzi Adams: Vanderbilt's backup quarterback replaced an injured Chris Nickson with the Commodores trailing 13-0 and provided just enough offense to help them rally for a 14-13 upset of Auburn. Adams led two touchdown drives, threw for 153 yards and ran for 54 more while leading Vanderbilt to its first 5-0 start since 1943.

Terrelle Pryor: Held in check for most of the night, Pryor played with a senior's poise while driving Ohio State to the winning touchdown in a 20-17 victory at Wisconsin that snapped the Badgers' 16-game home winning streak. Pryor capped the drive by running 11 yards into the left corner of the end zone with 1:08 left.

Missouri's offense: Can anyone stop this team? The Tigers broke the 50-point barrier Saturday for the fourth time in five games. Their lowest point total of the season was a 42-21 victory over Buffalo two weeks ago. Considering the Big 12 isn't exactly known for its defensive prowess, Missouri might not get held below 35 points all season.

Juice Williams. Way to make your mark on the record book, Juice. The Illinois quarterback took out Red Grange and Michigan Stadium in the same day, passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns and running for 121 yards and two scores. The 431 yards of offense broke a Michigan Stadium record in Illinois' 45-20 win. Illinois set a school record for scoring against Michigan, a record held by a Red Grange-led Illini team in 1924.

Chris Crane. He's no Matt Ryan, but the light may have come on for the Boston College quarterback against N. C. State. In the past three weeks, coach Jeff Jagodzinski benched Crane for stretches against Central Florida and for the final three quarters against Rhode Island. There was no need to pull Crane against the Wolfpack. He passed for 430 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for three touchdowns, including the 13-yard game-winner with 22 seconds left.

Tim Brewster. The second-year Minnesota coach got his first Big Ten victory with a 16-7 win over Indiana. It wasn't pretty the Gophers allowed four sacks and averaged only 1.3 yards per carry but Minnesota is one win away from bowl eligibility after going 1-11 last year.

Kansas. The first half against Iowa State was a disaster; the Jayhawks fell behind 20-0. Then, Iowa State helped Kansas on the final possession by dropping two of four passes. But at least Kansas can say it came from behind in the second half on the road in a 38-36 win in Ames. Earlier this season, Kansas blew a 17-point first-half lead in a loss at USF.

Dez Bryant: The Oklahoma State wide receiver caught three touchdown passes and also scored on a 78-yard punt return in the Cowboys' 56-28 rout of Texas A&M. This marked the third time this season that Bryant has caught three touchdown passes in a game.

Tyrell Fenroy: The best running back you've never heard of rushed for 297 yards and three touchdowns on only 20 carries to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 44-35 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. In his past three games, Fenroy has rushed for 674 yards and nine touchdowns.

Arizona: Vanderbilt isn't the only team that seems poised to end a long bowl drought. Rob Gronkowski caught three touchdown passes to help Arizona throttle Washington 48-14. The victory improved Arizona to 4-1, which puts the Wildcats two wins away from becoming eligible for their first bowl bid since 1998.

LOSERS

West Virginia. West Virginia should be happy. After losing to East Carolina and Colorado, the Mountaineers have won their past two, including a 24-17 win over Rutgers. The Big East is wide open after South Florida lost to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Still, all is not well in Morgantown. For the second game in a row, Pat White left because of an injury. Backup Jarrett Brown will be a capable replacement. But he's not Pat White, and he can't play linebacker. Middle linebacker Reed Williams, West Virginia's top defensive player, will redshirt after an ill-fated return from two shoulder surgeries.

Maryland: After beating California and Clemson in back-to-back games, Maryland responded to its recent upswing the way so many other ACC teams have handled prosperity this season. The Terps fell flat on their faces. Maryland lost 31-0 to Virginia.

Auburn's offense: Remember all that preseason discussion about Auburn's exciting spread offense under new coordinator Tony Franklin ? Forget it. Auburn gained just 208 total yards Saturday against a Vanderbilt team that ranked last in the SEC in total defense. Chris Todd and Kodi Burns teamed to go 10-of-22 for only 97 yards and were sacked five times. You have to wonder why the Tigers relied so much on their ineffective quarterbacks. Ben Tate ran the ball 21 times for 86 yards in the first half, but he didn't carry the ball once in the third quarter - when Vanderbilt took the lead for good.

Wisconsin's poise down the stretch: After playing exceptional football for the first 58 1/2 minutes of the game, the Badgers made two critical mistakes at the end of their loss to Ohio State. Wisconsin's defense looked confused and out of position on the winning touchdown, allowing Terrelle Pryor to get to the outside and into the end zone. As soon as Wisconsin got the ball back, Allan Evridge threw an interception that sealed the Badgers' fate.

Miami's psyche. Once again, Randy Shannon has to console a heartbroken locker room. For the third time this season, the Hurricanes have been on the verge of a program-turning win only to see it wash away. Miami trailed 24-0 in the second quarter, rallied to 34-32, then lost it on Antone Smith's late touchdown for Florida State. Making things worse, these deflating fourth-quarters have come against Florida, Butch Davis and North Carolina and now the Seminoles.

Michigan's hands. Should we praise Michigan for losing only two fumbles? No. The Wolverines have been fumble-free only once this season. At least the loss to Illinois was part of a downward trend. Michigan fumbled four times against Notre Dame, three times against Wisconsin, then twice Saturday.

Kirk Ferentz. Fans love to see coaches take the risky choice if that risky choice pays off. Down 16-13 to Michigan State, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz opted to run for the first down on fourth-and-1 from the 21 rather than kick a potential game-tying 38-yard field goal. Spartans linebacker Adam Decker stuffed Shonn Greene to send the Hawkeyes home with their third consecutive loss.

Special teams. The kicking game is supposed to get better as the season goes along. Several teams are still stuck in week-one mode. Punts were an adventure for Florida State, who lost a bad snap for a safety, then turned the ball over when the up-backs were hit with the snap. Air Force had two punts blocked against Navy.

Kansas State's defense. This game was a disaster waiting to happen for Kansas State. The Wildcats gave up 577 yards to Louisville and 509 to Louisiana-Lafayette in the past two weeks. Saturday was not a good day to play Texas Tech. The Red Raiders ran 89 plays for 629 yards in a 58-28 win. Texas A&M: One week after squeaking past Army, the Aggies got blown out by Oklahoma State in their Big 12 opener. Texas A&M now owns a 2-3 record and isn't too far away from being 0-5. The Aggies beat New Mexico and Army by a combined 10 points.

Oregon's secondary: A star-studded defensive backfield that features such big-name performers as Patrick Chung, Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond has come up small in each of the Ducks' two losses. Two weeks after Oregon allowed Boise State's Kellen Moore to throw for 386 yards and three touchdowns, Mark Sanchez passed for 332 yards and three touchdowns in USC's 44-10 triumph over the Ducks.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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