Welcome to the Week 9 edition of The Professor, a weekly wrap-up of everything you need to know about the weekend in the college football.
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I swear we were just complaining about Jadeveon Clowney's stamina and listening to a Georgia fan cry a week or two ago, but somehow we've reached the point in the season where college basketball is almost ready to start. That means we've also reached the point of worried speculation that [insert team(s)] is/are going to get left out of the BCS title game. Since the creation of the College Football Playoff, we've all been wondering if the BCS system would go out in a blaze of controversial glory, and at the moment it appears that we're headed in that direction: Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor and Miami are all undefeated, creating the potential for a chaotic finish featuring very worried Seminoles and Buckeyes fans.
Of course, as we saw last year, a lot of unexpected things can happen in November, and there's a decent chance that a clearer picture will develop by the end of the month. But whereas teams such as Notre Dame and Kansas State didn't necessarily seem like dominant national championship-type squads when they were unbeaten last year, week after week Alabama, Florida State and Oregon have been leaving no doubt this year, with Ohio State and Baylor often doing the same. So where is the BCS race heading? As we enter November, let's take a look into the crystal ball at the undefeated teams and try to figure out a plausible BCS scenario, knowing full well that something unexpected will probably happen immediately (and non-AQ undefeateds Fresno State and Northern Illinois will probably each lose a game).
Current standing: The kings of college football, thanks to a combination of past reputation and dominant on-field performance. Oddly enough, Alabama's schedule really isn't any more impressive than the other top contenders: The Crimson Tide's best nonconference win was a sloppy (if a three-touchdown win can be sloppy) opener against a Virginia Tech team that has now lost to Duke, and they spent October beating up on Georgia State, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee. But, come on. Since beating Texas A&M 49-42, Alabama hasn't allowed more than 10 points in a game -- Saturday's 45-10 runaway dismissal of the Vols being the "worst." On offense, all those offensive line worries have resulted in AJ McCarron not being sacked since September.
The road ahead: Everything is falling into place. Aside from the injury to safety Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama is healthier, especially with receiver Amari Cooper finally starting to play well. An undefeated season comes down to the next game vs. LSU on Nov. 9, the Iron Bowl against Auburn and the SEC title game against whichever East team decides to stop losing. As always, the LSU game looms large.
Regrettable prediction: LSU's defense can't quite get in shape enough to pull off a monumental upset in Tuscaloosa, although the Tigers take the Crimson Tide down to the wire. Alabama wins out and easily takes down South Carolina in Atlanta to get to Pasadena.
Current standing: Even when Oregon looks lackluster, as it did in the first half against UCLA, it wins 42-14 against a Bruins team ranked 12th in the BCS and pulls off one of the best fake punts in football history. De'Anthony Thomas returned but wasn't the 100 percent healthy player we're used to, and instead Oregon rode Byron Marshall, Marcus Mariota and a great defensive performance, which held Brett Hundley to 13-of-19 passing for a paltry 64 yards with two picks. Of course the offense is great; the Ducks' 42 points were a season low. But their underappreciated defense hasn't come close to being tested, giving up 38 points to a Washington State team hell-bent on passing in garbage time.
The road ahead: A two-game season before the Pac-12 title game, which will probably be against Arizona State. Obviously, Oregon shouldn't take Utah lightly, and Ducks fans are also well aware of things that can happen in Tucson. But there's the Civil War vs. Oregon State on Nov. 29, and most important, there's the trip to Stanford on Thursday, Nov. 7. Stanford is the one team that's figured out how to slow Oregon down recently, and pretty much the entire Cardinal defense is back. They shut down UCLA and Oregon State, and if anyone can slow down Oregon, it's the Cardinal.
Regrettable prediction: Stanford doesn't quite slow down Oregon as much as last season, but it keeps pace thanks to a few big plays. The loss to Utah was baffling, but Stanford's veteran defense is good enough and smart enough to figure out how to limit Oregon, as much as Oregon's offense can actually be limited. The Ducks fall short again.
Current standing: Still looking like the 1990s have returned. Jameis Winston is on top of the world, dominating Clemson and then needing all of five minutes to get revenge for the Seminoles on NC State in a 49-17 win. The Seminoles have only one marquee win, but it couldn't have been more impressive, and the way they win every week except one (at Boston College) is impossible to ignore.
The road ahead: Technically, Saturday night's game against rival Miami is a battle of November unbeatens, which means it is enormous. But Miami will find no shortage of bulletin-board material, because nobody will give the Hurricanes a chance. There's no reason for this Florida State team not to dominate Miami, and then all that's left is Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho and Florida's combination of theoretically good defense and punt-to-win offense.
Regrettable prediction: Florida State runs the table. Florida State is as talented as anyone across the board and Winston is playing as well as anybody, too. Florida's defense provides an interesting test, and Virginia Tech's would, too, if the Hokies somehow beat Miami and get to the ACC title game, but either way, how exactly are the Seminoles going to lose to any of these teams? Famous last words, I know. Florida State needs either Alabama or Oregon to lose, which history says isn't that unlikely.
Current standing: The Wisconsin win was very solid, although the Badgers probably aren't getting enough respect. The win over Penn State on Saturday was obviously the most impressive, though, earning the Buckeyes style points that may end up irrelevant anyway. They beat Penn State 63-14 (Penn State folks should take comfort in watching this and remembering that the series is now tied 1-1 when the final score is 63-14), in a thoroughly dominant performance in which they embarrassed Penn State in every facet of the game. Urban Meyer has not lost at Ohio State, despite numerous close calls against mediocre teams, and the combination of quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde is starting to reach its full potential, which is scary, as is the emergence of players like end Noah Spence on defense.
The road ahead: Even as a lifelong northerner who graduated from a Big Ten university, spent a summer living in Ohio and watches more Big Ten Network than 99.9 percent of humans, I can't bring myself to defend the Big Ten anymore. It's terrible. Ohio State is the only great team, and Wisconsin is the only other one to pick with confidence in any given week. The Buckeyes' remaining games are against Purdue, Illinois and Indiana before going to the Big House to face uninspiring Michigan, and then facing whoever wants to win the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game.
Regrettable prediction: Ohio State somehow finds a way to trail at halftime to Purdue or Illinois but ends up winning rather easily and going 12-0, with a convincing win over Michigan. Michigan State's stingy defense presents a challenge in Indianapolis, but the capital-B Bad Michigan State offense shows up. The Buckeyes finish undefeated and go to Pasadena … only to the Rose Bowl, five days before the BCS title game. It's hard to imagine a scenario for Ohio State going to the title game that doesn't involve two of Alabama, Florida State and Oregon losing.
Current standing: America's best offense. Baylor has feasted on all the worst teams in the bottom half of the Big 12, including a 59-14 drubbing of Kansas in Lawrence on Saturday. The Bears have scored at least 69 points in all five home games thanks to QB Bryce Petty and explosive weapons around him, while their defense has made obvious improvements over last year. Still, Baylor hasn't played anybody better than Kansas State, and we've reached the end of October.
The road ahead: Baylor is a better team at home, so fortunately the schedule features five conference home games and only four on the road, one of which was Kansas. Still, their four toughest games are in the next five: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State and Texas, with a trip to TCU as the next-to-last game. The Big 12 remains a mystery, thanks in large part to Baylor's lack of quality opponents, although the dominance of the Bears should not be dismissed.
Regrettable prediction: Baylor loses a game. This is a very, very good team on a deserving path to a BCS game, but as the Kansas State game showed, it's not a lock the Bears will score 50 every week. More important, the defense is still likely to slip up against someone. Baylor still wins the Big 12 and goes to the Fiesta Bowl, which remains an incredible accomplishment for Art Briles and the program.
Current standing: Needed a comeback to beat Wake Forest at home 24-21 in front of 25 fans. Its best win was against a bad Florida offense that out-gained the Hurricanes 413-212 but coughed the ball up five times. Running back Duke Johnson is a great playmaker, as is linebacker Denzel Perryman and Al Golden has done a terrific job getting this program on track as it emerges from NCAA purgatory. But it's nearly impossible to take Miami seriously as a title contender.
The road ahead: Hello, Florida State. Maybe the Seminoles will finally have a bad game. More likely, the Seminoles take advantage of Stephen Morris' erratic quarterback play and talent advantage at almost every position. Then Miami has to turn around and get lulled to sleep by Virginia Tech on Nov. 9 before finishing with Duke, Virginia and Pitt.
Regrettable prediction: The Hurricanes lose to Florida State and Virginia Tech before rebounding to win the final three and finish 10-2. Hello, Chick-fil-A or Russell Athletic Bowl.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Missouri. Sigh. I've grown past the whole believing in sports jinxes thing, but I'd like to apologize to Missouri anyway for this. Not that the overarching point doesn't still stand: Missouri is still a very good team, and a loss to South Carolina does little to change that. The Tigers just aren't a national-contending type of team. They had no business losing to the Gamecocks, of course, not when they built a 17-0 lead, and not when they had a 24-yard field goal to tie in overtime. But Connor Shaw channeled his inner Kirk Gibson to come off the bench with a knee injury and throw three touchdown passes, and Andrew Baggett missed the chip-shot field goal. Game over, 27-24 South Carolina, and Missouri's darkhorse national championship dreams were dashed. But again: This is a very good team, playing without starting quarterback James Franklin. Missouri has talented skill players and a great defensive line, led by Michael Sam. At 3-1, it still controls its own destiny in the SEC East meaning a BCS bowl is within reach, although the Tigers finish the season with a tough trip to Ole Miss and a home date with Texas A&M. So, as we've seen over the last month in this division, every result is on the table.
Texas Tech. There's no such thing as a "good loss," especially for an undefeated team. But with no quality wins on their resume, on the road in a tough environment, with a freshman quarterback against a defense equipped to contain spread teams, Texas Tech handled itself well in a 38-30 loss to Oklahoma. Disappointing? Sure. But there's a lot to like about the Red Raiders, who had two 100-yard receivers -- tight end Jace Amaro and wideout Eric Ward -- and had spurts of brilliant playcalling from Kliff Kingsbury. An 8-4 record probably would have been considered an overwhelming success in the preseason. Texas Tech is already 7-1, and it's certainly good enough to split its final four games against Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. The future under Kingsbury is very, very bright, regardless of one loss in Norman.
BCS National Championship: Alabama vs. Florida State
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Wisconsin
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Stanford
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor vs. UCF
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A+: Michigan State. OK, first, it turns out Illinois might actually be terrible again, its win over Cincinnati nothing more than fool's gold (after all, Cincinnati ended up losing to South Florida). But 42 points! Forty-two! Again, maybe we shouldn't go overboard with praising the Spartans offense, as they also scored 42 points against Indiana a couple weeks ago, only to beat Purdue 12-0 the next game. But for all the justified grief Michigan State gets for its frequent lack of watchability, it deserves credit: Connor Cook completed 15 of 16 for 208 yards and three touchdowns (however lucky), while the defense held Illinois' improved offense to a miserable three points and 128 total yards. Behind the strength of what is probably one of the three best defenses in college football, Michigan State is now 7-1, 4-0 in the Big Ten, and probably the favorite to win a messy Legends Division, with decisive games against Michigan and Nebraska next. The offense doesn't need to be great; it just needs to be adequate. The defense will do the rest.
A: BYU. Congratulations to the Cougars, who are the first team to officially accept a bowl bid thanks to a prior agreement with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. After an odd first few weeks that included a loss to a terrible Virginia team that punted 13 times, a thorough embarrassment of Texas that got Longhorns defensive coordinator Manny Diaz fired and a 20-13 loss to rival Utah, the Cougars have hit their stride and could be a tricky opponent for Wisconsin and Notre Dame in the next few weeks. Both games, on the road, may be unlikely wins, but this is a solid team that controlled the game against Boise State (albeit one playing without starting QB Joe Southwick) in a 37-20 win, beat a good Houston team by running 115 plays in a 47-46 shootout and beat Georgia Tech by 18. Taysom Hill has morphed into a legitimate dual threat, throwing for 756 yards the last two games, though he's still mostly known for trampling Texas for 259 rushing yards.
A-: Notre Dame. The Irish did what they're supposed to do against the worst Air Force team in years, and in the process, Tommy Rees played one of his best games. The embattled Notre Dame quarterback completed 17 of 22 passes for 284 yards and five touchdowns, as the Irish didn't turn the ball over and played an all-around efficient game in a 45-10 win. They're now 6-2, and despite frequent sloppiness, a BCS bowl is not entirely out of the question.
B+: Texas A&M, Auburn, Ole Miss and LSU. After a wild Week 8, the second tier of the SEC West quietly took care of business Saturday. Johnny Manziel shook off his shoulder injury to throw for 305 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-24 win over Vanderbilt (which featured a five-yard punt by quarterback Patton Robinette). Auburn coasted to a 45-10 win over Florida Atlantic with 422 rushing yards. LSU brushed off a lousy first half to blow out Furman 48-16, with 204 receiving yards from Odell Beckham. Ole Miss predictably trampled Idaho 59-14. That's it: For the most part, uneventful days for good teams after an exhausting previous Saturday. The one major occurrence was the shoulder injury to Auburn QB Nick Marshall, with the severity unknown.
B: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have a reputation for passing prowess under Mike Gundy, and Gundy said it himself that "hell, everybody on the team is wide open," but this was a different sort of performance from a one-loss team that's been underwhelming this season. Instead of passing all over Iowa State, Oklahoma State ran for 342 yards and five touchdowns, while quarterback Clint Chelf completed a miserable 10-of-26 passes for 78 yards. But after limping into halftime with a 28-20 lead (they were ahead 28-7 in the first 15:03), the Cowboys cruised to a 58-27 road win, putting them at 6-1 (3-1 in the Big 12) with an important game at Texas Tech next Saturday. It wasn't pretty, but scoring 58 on the road is never a bad thing, and the Cowboys may have found a running back in Desmond Roland.
B-: USC. There have been some obvious missteps -- or, mostly, the 62 points allowed to Arizona State -- but the Trojans defense is capable of being very, very good, and it showed that again in a dominant 19-3 win against Utah. The Utes managed only 201 total yards with four turnovers as QB Travis Wilson struggled with a hand injury. USC needed its defense to step up, as the offense managed only 19 points with four Andre Heidari field goals after Nelson Agholor got the team on the board with a 30-yard touchdown from Cody Kessler in the first quarter. The Trojans now stand at 5-3, and they desperately need their defense to maintain this high level of play with a trip to Oregon State on Friday night.
C+: Fresno State. Survival, that's all. If Fresno State happens to get to a BCS game, it will likely get torched. But that possibility remains open after the Bulldogs escaped with 35-28 overtime win at San Diego State that ended around 2:30 a.m. on the East Coast. Derek Carr threw for 298 yards and needed 57 attempts to do it, as receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse were both held to less than 100 yards despite catching 22 passes between them. But Fresno State won despite the rare occurrence of getting out-gained, as the Bulldogs blocked a short field goal at the end of regulation, scored a touchdown in OT and held the Aztecs out of the end zone to seal the win. The Bulldogs are almost certainly the best team in the Mountain West, but don't be surprised if Wyoming or San Jose State trips them up, or Boise State gets payback in the conference title game.
C: Clemson. Ugliness should have been expected after the debacle against Florida State, but 40 points on the road ended up looking pretty solid. Still, against a Maryland team missing QB C.J. Brown and its top two playmakers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, Clemson looked sluggish for a while, settling for field goals as Tajh Boyd struggled. Ultimately, though, Clemson's healthy playmakers were too much for Mayland's dearth of available talent: Boyd threw for 304 yards, Roderick McDowell ran for 161 yards and Sammy Watkins caught 14 passes for 163 yards. Clemson survived, and there's no reason it shouldn't be 10-1 heading into a game at South Carolina that may decide its BCS at-large fate.
C-: New Mexico State. Yes, we're reaching here. But we have to give congratulations to the Aggies for their first win of the season, 34-29, behind 146 rushing yards from Germi Morrison. The bad news? It was against Abilene Christian, an FCS independent still playing a bunch of D-II schools, with losses to Pittsburg State and mighty Tarleton State.
D+: Nebraska. The pull is irresistible. Bo Pelini's Nebraska Cornhuskers have lost four games in all five years of his stay in Lincoln, and they will find a way to do it again. Saturday's miserable 34-23 loss at Minnesota puts them at 5-2, with a handful of possible losses left in a jumbled Big Ten that makes no sense aside from Ohio State's supremacy. Ameer Abdullah ended with a good game, rushing for 165 yards, but overall Minnesota dominated the line of scrimmage, rushing for 271 yards and three touchdowns as team (138 yards for David Cobb) and constantly disrupting Nebraska's offense with DT Ra'Shede Hageman. Tommie Frazier wants change, and you better believe Cornhuskers fans are getting restless with the Pelini era.
D: Northwestern. The scene: College GameDay comes to town as undefeated Northwestern hosts undefeated Ohio State in the biggest Wildcats game since the 1990s. Northwestern hangs with the Buckeyes, only to come up short on some close plays. Still, it very much has a case to be the No. 2 team in the Big Ten. … And now we can legitimately ask if Northwestern will even make a bowl game. Northwestern followed that heartbreaking loss with a 35-6 loss to Wisconsin, then a 20-17 loss to Minnesota and now a dreadful 17-10 overtime loss at Iowa. The Wildcats offense has floundered, and with Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State next, it's very possible that the Wildcats will slide to a 5-7 finish.
Is there an identity crisis offensively? Colter: "We suck right now."
- Inside Northwestern (@insidenu) October 26, 2013
D-: Rutgers. Houston quarterback John O'Korn: 24 of 30 for 364 yards and five touchdowns with no picks. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova: 7 of 15 for 138 yards with no TDs and three picks. A good Houston team walked into Piscataway and trampled the Scarlet Knights 49-14 and you can already feel the hype build for next year's Rutgers-Maryland Big Ten showdown.
F: Virginia Tech. Not too long ago, a certain college football writer tweeted Virginia Tech could plausibly finish 11-1. And it still wasn't that crazy; like Michigan State, Virginia Tech has a defense good enough to keep it in every game no matter how incompetent the offense is. Well, almost. In a home game against Duke, the Hokies defense did make life miserable for the opposing offense: Duke QB Anthony Boone completed 7-of-24 passes for 107 yards with four picks and the Blue Devils only rushed for 91 yards while failing to pick up a single first down. They scored only 13 points, six on field goals of 51 and 53 yards by Ross Martin. Somehow, this wasn't enough. Logan Thomas tossed four picks of his own, and Virginia Tech failed to score until the end of the third quarter, ultimately losing 13-10 in one of the worst days of the Frank Beamer era. Virginia Tech finished with four turnovers, turned the ball over on downs twice and missed a crucial field goal in the fourth quarter. Yes, 11 wins were possible. But six wins are apparently possible, too.
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I, for one, welcome our new Duke and Tulane overlords. Remember the day: Oct. 26, 2013, Duke, Tulane and Minnesota beat conference heavyweights to become bowl eligible before November. Duke outlasted Virginia Tech's offensive ineptitude to win 13-10 and qualify for its second straight bowl for the first time; Tulane edged Tulsa in a similar manner, 14-7, to win a sixth game for the first time since its 2002 Hawaii Bowl season and Minnesota beat Nebraska for the first time since 1960, 34-23, giving the Gophers a decent chance at eight wins, including the bowl, for the first time in a decade.
Stanford still has one of the nation's best defenses. Let's not be fooled by that weird loss to Utah. In the last two weeks, Stanford has held UCLA to 10 points and 266 yards and Oregon State to 12 points and 288 yards. On Saturday, the Cardinal beat the Beavers 20-12, holding star Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks to only 80 yards on nine catches, and QB Sean Mannion to just 271 yards on 57 attempts. They have been an impossibly prolific duo so far this season, but Stanford's defense was the biggest test they faced, and again the Cardinal rose to the occasion, sacking Mannion eight times and controlling the game despite an ineffective and conservative outing from Stanford's non-Tyler Gaffney (22 carries, 145 yards, three TDs) offense.
Texas isn't dead yet. Yes, it would still take a miracle for Mack Brown to keep his job, but at least Texas didn't roll over after its awful start. It took many, many hours, thanks to lightning and rain on Saturday against TCU, but Texas enters November one win away from bowl eligibility and tied for the Big 12 lead at 4-0 with Baylor. Obviously, the Longhorns still have significant problems, but with Kansas and West Virginia next, they should be 6-0 in the league heading into the final stretch against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor. Oddly, in Saturday's 30-7 win over the Horned Frogs, Brown finally burned the redshirt of freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, a sign David Ash's return from a head injury is not imminent. The athletic Swoopes remains an unknown, but perhaps he could be looked to as a spark down the stretch due to the erratic nature of Case McCoy's passing.
This week's crushing injury news: Trey Millard. Fullbacks are an endangered species, but a player like Millard stays relevant by being one of the most versatile players in college football: a lead blocker, a ball carrier and a receiver, moving all around the formation in Oklahoma's spread. Unfortunately, Millard tore up his knee in the Sooners' win over Texas Tech, leaving them without perhaps their most valuable all-around offensive player -- in addition to the loss of top defender, linebacker Corey Nelson, a few weeks ago.
All hail future weeknight football. We've already had months of anticipation for Thursday, Nov. 7, when Baylor hosts Oklahoma and Stanford hosts Oregon in a night that will make a significant impact on the national, Big 12 and Pac-12 title pictures. But November also means #MACtion, and rarely has it meant more than Wednesday, Nov. 13, when Ball State plays at Northern Illinois. Ball State first has to get through a bad Central Michigan team Wednesday, Nov. 6, but the meeting between the Cardinals and the Huskies should feature two teams with a combined one loss (Ball State inexplicably blowing a 20-3 first-quarter lead at North Texas) and wins over BCS conference opponents (Northern Illinois over Iowa and Purdue, Ball State over Virginia), possibly having BCS implications if Northern Illinois can stay in the mix.
And the thrilling pillow fight of the year is … Dozens of fans were on hand for UMass' "homecoming" against Western Michigan, a game that, again, took place 90 miles from campus at Gillette Stadium. They were rewarded with a heartbreaking 31-30 loss to the Broncos in which they scored with 22 seconds left but missed the two-point conversion. It was the first win of the season for Western Michigan and enthusiastic new coach P.J. Fleck, and the Broncos and Minutemen now stand at a combined 2-15.
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1. Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina. A week after injuring his knee at Tennessee, a less-than-100-percent Shaw sat out the first half at unbeaten Missouri, watching as the Gamecocks fell behind 17-0 with Dylan Thompson under center. Shaw replaced Thompson with 6:46 left in the third quarter, and proceeded to hit 20-of-29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns in leading South Carolina to a 27-24 comeback win in overtime. If Shaw was healthy enough to play, it's surprising he didn't start, but everything worked out for the Head Ball Coach anyway.
2. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. The statistics don't necessarily show it, but then again that's often the case for a defensive tackle. But Hageman, who was Minnesota's lone star heading into the season, finished with two tackles for loss and a sack while totally dominating the line of scrimmage in Minnesota's impressive 34-23 win over Nebraska, in which both of the Golden Gophers' lines pushed Nebraska around. Hageman is the key on defense, occupying multiple blockers and constantly getting penetration into the opposing backfield.
3. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State. So his play tailed off a bit after the first quarter … It's OK, he only needed one quarter. By the end of the first 15 against NC State, Winston had thrown or 229 yards and the Seminoles led 35-0 in a positively Baylorian performance. Winston, understandably, didn't throw much the rest of the way, and ended up completing 16-of-26 passes for 292 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
4. Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon. Against a good UCLA defense with Oregon not playing its best game -- at least for the first half -- Marshall carried the Ducks. De'Anthony Thomas returned to the lineup but struggled and sat out the second half because of his ankle, while Marshall flourished, rushing 19 times for 133 yards and three touchdowns to lead the way in the Ducks' 42-14 win. Marshall has five straight 100-yard games, with 325 yards and six TDs in the last two.
5. American Athletic quarterbacks. Four games in the American on Saturday, four winning quarterbacks with ridiculous numbers. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (34-3 over USF), UCF's Blake Bortles (62-17 over UConn), SMU's Garrett Gilbert (59-49 over Temple) and Houston's John O'Korn (49-14 at Rutgers) combined to complete 106-of-136 pass attempts for 1,532 yards with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. It's worth noting that, in a losing effort, Temple's P.J. Walker threw for 293 yards with four TDs and no picks and receiver Robbie Anderson had nine catches for 239 yards and two TDs, but it wasn't nearly enough as Gilbert threw for 538 and SMU overcame a 28-7 second-quarter deficit.
6. Desmond Roland, RB, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys entered Week 9 ranked 96th in the nation in rushing, with quarterback J.W. Walsh leading the team with 284 yards in the first six games. Roland, a junior had only 36 carries for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday at Iowa State? Roland vaulted ahead of starter Jeremy Smith and ran 26 times for 219 yards and four touchdowns, including a 58-yarder that broke the game open in the third quarter.
7. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois. Eastern Michigan may be unspeakably bad, but we can't gloss over yet another ridiculous performance from Lynch in a 59-20 win. Lynch played only one series into the third quarter, yet he completed 16-of-20 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns; he ran 18 times for 99 yards and a touchdown and he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass. This all comes a week after he set an FBS record for quarterback rushing yards with 316 against Central Michigan. One month until Lynch plays against the third and final Directional Michigan, a game against Western Michigan in which he'll presumably return a punt for a touchdown and play linebacker.
8. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State. Pick a Buckeye, any Buckeye really. Miller? Sure. Spence? Absolutely. Let's just go with Hyde, who was, again, unable to be tackled by a struggling Penn State defense. He needed only 16 carries to pick up 147 yards and two touchdowns, emerging as one of the best backs in college football the last three games with this on top of 168 yards against Northwestern and 149 against Iowa.
9. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington. After going through the Stanford-Oregon gauntlet, Sankey and Washington sure could have used Cal on the schedule last week instead of Arizona State. But they managed to recover nicely from a three-game skid, as the workhorse Sankey recovered from a nightmare in Tempe to rush for 241 yards and two touchdowns against Cal's get-well defense.
10. David Fales, QB, San Jose State. Fales has had a few hiccups playing for another new coach, but college football's most accurate passer last season is certainly hitting his stride now. After throwing for 431 yards against Colorado State, he completed 27 of 37 for 482 yards and five touchdowns with no picks in a 51-44 shootout win over Wyoming. The Spartans still have a shot at a Mountain West title, with a Fales vs. Derek Carr showdown looming on Black Friday to possibly decide the West division, if San Jose State can get through a tricky set of games against UNLV, San Diego State and Nevada.
Obligatory Baylor player. Bryce Petty, QB. It feels repetitive and unfair to constantly put members of Baylor's offense here, but what else are we going to do? In another ho-hum 59-14 win over Kansas, Petty completed 20-of-32 passes for 430 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score, with no picks. Petty rarely plays a whole game, and he didn't here either, but the 430 yards were a season high, and he's now thrown 18 touchdowns vs. only one interception.
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1. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
3. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Ah, I'm convinced. It doesn't really matter yet anyway, not until the conference title games are played. But these are obviously the three on top at the moment, and all would be deserving. For now, the most deserving is Winston, if only because Manziel has been a bit too turnover-prone and Winston has been more overwhelmingly great than Mariota. But just as arguments can be made for Alabama, Oregon or Florida State to be No. 1 right now, valid arguments can be made for any of these three to rank No. 1 in the Heisman race.
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1. Miami at Florida State. The biggest game of the week, and everyone probably expects it to be a repeat of the Clemson game. Good luck, Miami.
2. Oklahoma State at Texas Tech. Despite Texas Tech's loss to Oklahoma, this is still a crucial game in the Big 12 race between ranked opponents with one loss each.
3. Georgia vs. Florida. The Cocktail Party gained importance again thanks to Missouri's loss to South Carolina, but both teams need help to win the SEC East. Plus, the two teams combined can barely field a healthy starting lineup.
4. Michigan at Michigan State. For better or worse, a crucial game in the race for the Legends Division title between hated rivals. Michigan State's defense is really, really good.
5. USC at Oregon State. A Friday night game, this doesn't quite have the same juice as a Thursday night in 2008. Still, it's a lousy weekend of games, and it's an intriguing matchup for a Friday night as Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks try to recover from Stanford against a good USC defense.
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