Week 6: Who’s Hot And Who’s Not

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello Follow me … @RichCirminiello Who’s Hot: Summa Cum Laude Florida International It’s alive! The Panthers have emerged from the dead

    October 7, 2014

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello 
    Follow me … @RichCirminiello

    Who’s Hot: Summa Cum Laude 

    Florida International 
    It’s alive! The Panthers have emerged from the dead with a rare winning streak, lending hope that Ron Turner is indeed turning things around in Miami. Not only has FIU captured back-to-back games over UAB and rival Florida Atlantic in Thursday’s Shula Bowl, but it won both going away. While the offense comes around slowly, the Richard Leonard-led D is bucking to become Conference USA’s stingiest unit. 

    Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham, TCU 
    Even on a day when the defense produced the winning score, it was the Horned Frog offense that was the difference in the upset of Oklahoma. TCU became a different animal when Gary Patterson was able to lure Cumbie and his up-tempo offense away from Texas Tech. The Frogs had the Sooners on their heels in the first half of Saturday’s win, finishing with 469 yards against one of the nation’s better defenses. 

    Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss 
    The ‘Bama offense appeared unstoppable until meeting its match in Oxford. And then Blake Sims was rendered ordinary, the ground game was held in check and even WR Amari Cooper was prevented from taking the game over. The Rebels were on point for much of Saturday’s upset of the Tide, making stops in the open field and preventing long plays. 

    Stockpile more shares in … Ohio State 
    Since losing to Virginia Tech in Week 2, the Buckeyes have regrouped around rookie QB J.T. Barrett and an opportunistic defense. No, the turnaround hasn’t come against the meat of the schedule, but by winning the last three by a combined score of 168-52, Ohio State has served notice that it’s going to be a factor in the Big Ten race. Barrett has sizzled during the streak, accounting for 15 touchdowns and just one pick. 

    Stockpile more shares in … Clemson 
    Just a hunch, but the Tigers might not lose another game this regular season, while gradually climbing into the top 10. The team is fully recovered from early losses to Georgia and Florida State, and ready to go on a tear. The offense is humming with Deshaun Watson at the controls, and the D just pitched the first shutout of the Dabo Swinney against the same NC State team that tagged the ‘Noles for 41 points a week earlier. 

    Madden Cover Material: Washington State QB Connor Halliday 
    Yeah, the Cougars lost to Cal and Jared Goff, 60-59, and Halliday throws the ball a million times for Mike Leach. But Halliday did establish a new FBS passing record late Saturday night, throwing for 734 yards against a Bear secondary playing D like it was an NBA All-Star Game. In half a season, Halliday has already thrown for 26 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards. 

    Bucking for a promotion: Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers 
    Teams won’t be able to hire Baylor’s Art Briles, but they might be able to get one of his disciples, Babers. The first-year Falcon head coach is the purveyor of a wide-open, high-octane attack that’s thriving even after starting QB Matt Johnson was lost to an injury in the opener. Only Wisconsin has held Bowling Green below 31 points, and the Falcons have jumped out to an early lead in the MAC East. 

    Bucking for a promotion II: Memphis head coach Justin Fuente 
    Fuente is officially turning the corner at Memphis, a tough place to win consistently. The Tigers are off to their best start in a decade, with Saturday’s road blowout at Cincinnati serving as an exclamation point. Fuente’s offense was sensational at Nippert Stadium, racking up 610 yards the week after losing leading rusher Doroland Dorceus for the season. Memphis could be bowl-bound for the first time in six years, which is going to earn Fuente plenty of attention from ADs. 

    Bucking for a promotion III: Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops 
    Well, that didn’t take long, now did it? The Wildcats have a pulse again in football in just Stoops’ second season in Lexington. Kentucky had a terrific offseason in recruiting, and it’s building on that talent haul with its first 4-1 start in six years. After rallying with 21 points in the final eight minutes to beat South Carolina on Saturday, the young ‘Cats are brimming with confidence, a direct result of the work being done by Stoops and his staff. 

    He’s how young?! Virginia S Quin Blanding 
    The Cavs are stout on defense … and getting better because of the development of young stars, like Blanding. The five-star true freshman has quickly adapted to an expanded, making a game-high—and career-high—15 tackles in Virginia’s pivotal win over Pitt. The ‘Hoos head into the bye week 4-2 and unbeaten in ACC play, with an eye on competing for a Coastal Division crown. 

    He’s how young?! Virginia Tech DE Ken Ekanem 
    Raw and a little unpolished? Sure. But, boy, does the Hokie sophomore ever have an explosive first step. Ekanem almost singlehandedly wrecked the North Carolina offense on Saturday afternoon, notching a forced fumble and career-highs with three sacks and four stops for minus yards. Once Ekanem fine-tunes his mechanics and fundamentals, he’s going to be one of the ACC’s rising young defensive juggernauts. 

    Can I be your agent … Dak Prescott? 
    Prescott’s push for the Heisman continued with Saturday’s engineered upset of Texas A&M in Starkville. The junior outplayed Aggie Kenny Hill by accounting for five touchdowns and 336 total yards, including 77 on the ground. If Prescott can continue to polish up his game as a pure pocket passer, he’s going to have a bright future at the next level. 

    Start designing the Fathead of … Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith 
    Smith is the new face of an Irish D that has been outstanding through the first five games. Just a sophomore, he’s a freakishly athletic defender, who’s getting better with each passing week. In Saturday’s win over Stanford, in which the Cardinal managed just 47 yards on the ground, Smith had a game-high 14 tackles, including 2.5 behind the line and a sack. 

    Hail Mary’s From Arizona Schools 
    Two weeks ago, the Wildcats used a Hill Mary to floor Cal on a heave from Anu Solomon to Austin Hill. This past Saturday, the Sun Devils may have one-upped their rivals with a Jael Mary, a beautifully orchestrated connection from Mike Bercovici to Jaelen Strong to bring down USC. Bercovici to Strong was unstoppable, hooking up 10 times for 202 yards and three scores. 

    Guys Named Golson 
    Everett Golson continued his magic this season by finding TE Ben Koyack in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-11 to defeat Stanford and keep Notre Dame unbeaten. It was one of the most clutch plays of the first half of the season. A few minutes later, CB Senquez Golson, no relation, picked off a pass in the back of the end zone to seal a win over Alabama. It was a good afternoon to be a Golson. 

    Team of the Week IV: TCU 
    No one knew quite what to expect from the Horned Frogs after wins over Samford, Minnesota and SMU. By Saturday night, TCU was no longer a mystery. It ended Oklahoma’s drive for a perfect season with a combination of timely defense and the playmaking ability of QB Trevone Boykin. Look out, Baylor, the Sooners are no longer your chief threat to winning another Big 12 title this season. 

    Team of the Week III: Arizona 
    For the second straight year, the Wildcats shocked Oregon, this time beating the Ducks in Eugene as a three-plus-touchdown underdog. Now, the unbeaten team that almost lost to UTSA, and needed a Hail Mary to beat Cal, is suddenly a contender out of the Pac-12 South. Kudos to Rich Rodriguez and his entire staff, which had the defense ready, while once again outcoaching Mark Helfrich and his assistants. 

    Team of the Week II: Mississippi State 
    There isn’t a hotter team in America than the Bulldogs, which have now taken down two top 10 teams, LSU and Texas A&M, in the same season for the first time in school history. Head coach Dan Mullen’s stock is soaring, QB Dak Prescott is suddenly a Heisman frontrunner and Mississippi State has the look of this year’s Auburn, a team that goes from unranked in the preseason to a title contender. The Bulldogs toyed with the Aggies for much of Saturday’s 48-31 rout. 

    Team of the Week: Ole Miss 
    Despite trailing for much of its game with Alabama, the Rebels displayed incredible grit and fortitude by rallying with two touchdowns in the final five minutes. QB Bo Wallace brought his best effort in the second-half, and the Ole Miss D continued to evolve into one of the toughest units in the country. The Rebs are now 5-0 for the first time since 1962, when Archie Manning was a young teen.

    Who’s Not: Summa Cum Lousy 

    Houston 
    Among those teams with talented rosters, the Cougars have been one of the most poorly coached this season. Houston has too many quality veterans on both sides of the ball to be 2-3, which is where they sank after slogging through a 17-12 home loss to UCF on Thursday night. The Cougs outgained the Knights by more than 100 yards, yet never reached the end zone, thanks to three turnovers, 11 penalties and five sacks allowed.

    Is it December yet? Syracuse
    The Orange has lost three games in a row, with Florida State waiting in the on-deck circle. This is not likely to end well. It turns out that the Week 2 rout of Central Michigan was merely a tease, because Syracuse has been dreadfully inconsistent ever since. The team is going in the wrong direction right about the time that the schedule is getting tougher.

    Is it December yet II? Massachusetts
    With mere seconds left on the third-quarter clock, the Minutemen led Miami U., 41-14, in the battle of winless MAC programs. Surely, UMass’ 11-game losing streak was about to end, right? Uh-uh. Shockingly, the Minutemen gave up four touchdowns over the final 16 minutes to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory. QB Blake Frohnapfel, a Marshall transfer, and the rest of the offense deserved a better fate.

    Being Voted Off College Football Island: Oklahoma QB Trevor Knight
    Remember all the hype Knight generated after his breakout performance in last year’s Sugar Bowl? Yeah, he’s yet to live up to it in 2014. Through five games, the Sooner triggerman has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns—five. And in Saturday’s stunning loss to TCU, he completed just 14-of-35 passes, and was picked off twice, including one that LB Paul Dawson returned for the game-winning score in the fourth quarter.

    Heisman Nopeful: Baylor QB Bryce Petty
    Facing a rugged defense for the first time this season, Petty repeatedly misfired in a 28-7 win over Texas. He completed just 7-of-22 passes for 111 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, while repeatedly trying to dodge the rush of Longhorn LB Steve Edmond. It’s a good thing for Petty that he’s on the same team as RB Shock Linwood and an improved defense.

    Heisman Nopeful: Quarterbacks named Hill
    On Friday night, BYU QB Taysom Hill endured a second-quarter leg injury that prematurely ended his junior season. The following day, Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill suffered through the worst game of his rookie year, throwing three picks to LB Richie Brown in a crushing loss to Mississippi State. It was a rough Week 6, in general, for Heisman threats, opening up the door for a whole new collection of contenders.

    Start evacuating the bandwagon of … BYU
    The Cougars and their fans could not have endured a more difficult night than they did on Friday. The once-promising season went up in flames in an imperfect storm of a first home loss to rival Utah State since 1978 and a season-ending leg injury to bell cow QB Taysom Hill. BYU now looks to regroup around JUCO transfer Christian Stewart, who went 10-of-29 for 172 yards, no touchdowns and three picks in his debut.

    You emit a foul and unpleasant odor: UCLA (the week before the Oregon game)
    The Bruins just can’t keep their focus when the Ducks are in the on-deck circle, can they? UCLA squandered the goodwill it captured in last week’s blowout of Arizona State, failing to hold serve at home against Utah. The program with the issue focusing has now dropped its last five games in the week preceding the meeting with Oregon.

    Needing a vote of confidence: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury
    Okay, so Kingsbury has nothing to worry about in terms of job security, but the bloom is off his rose. The coaching profession’s version of a heartthrob has not been delivering on all of his hype and notoriety. Kingsbury has an impressive Holiday Bowl upset of Arizona State, but he’s also dropped eight straight regular-season games to Power Five opponents.

    Oregon 
    Maybe Thursday night’s loss to Arizona wasn’t as shocking as it initially seemed. Remember, this is the same Duck team that two weeks ago didn’t seal a win over Washington State until the fourth quarter. Injuries to the O-line are hampering the entire offense, including Marcus Mariota, and the D is shaky. Oregon might still go on to win the Pac-12 and earn a playoff berth, but its swagger has been stripped away the past two games.

    North Carolina 
    Remember when the Tar Heels were ranked and considered a threat in the ACC Coastal? Yeah, that was a very long time ago. Carolina is officially circling the drain after losing at home to Virginia Tech, 34-17, for their third consecutive defeat. The Heels were never in Saturday’s game with the Hokies, failing to reach the end zone in the first three quarters. This season will go down as a major setback for head coach Larry Fedora.

    Tennessee 
    Losing on the road to Oklahoma and Georgia was acceptable. Falling at home to rival Florida, after leading 9-0 in the third quarter, is not. The Volunteers squandered an opportunity to snap a nasty nine-game losing streak to the Gators, whose rally was engineered by unproven true freshman QB Treon Harris. For Butch Jones in Knoxville, it continues to be a case of one step forward and two steps back.

    Team of the Weak: LSU
    The defection of so many key players to graduation and early entry into the NFL Draft has finally begun to catch up to the Tiger program. LSU has lost its last two SEC games, to Mississippi State and Auburn, and was thoroughly outplayed in both meetings. On the Plains Saturday night, LSU produced just 280 total yards, less than half that of Auburn. The losing Tigers completed just 8-of-24 passes, and got manhandled at the line of scrimmage for the worst loss of the Les Miles era.

    Pac-12 Playoff Hopes 
    Not long ago, conventional wisdom suggested that the SEC and the Pac-12 were locks to be represented in the inaugural College Football Playoff. The SEC is still a sure-thing. The Pac-12? Not so much. Not after four of the team’s signature programs, Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA, lost on the same day. The Pac-12 still might be the nation’s second-best conference, but its penchant for cannibalization is going to be very costly as the 2014 season unfolds.

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