Monday, February 21, 2011 1 comments

The Year in Review

Starting to get into the better teams in the FBS, so there should be less groans of despair at lackluster performances and sieve like defenses. I did say "should".

50. Penn State (7-6, 4-4 Big 10)
The Original Forecast: The Nittany Lions had quite a few question marks heading into the season, but that's never stopped them before. An easy OOC schedule (apart from Alabama) was to give them time to sort out these issues before conference play began in earnest. If their question marks can turn into positives, they have the ability to contend for a Big 10 title and a BCS bowl.

The Outcome: Quick, write Joe Paterno off, the Lions only won seven games. They were a bit of a had read, winning their seven victories by two or more scores, and losing all bar one of their six losses by more than two scores too. Their passing game was poor under freshman Robert Bolden, who threw for 1360 yards, but just 5 TDs against 7 interceptions. Once former walk-on Matthew McGlon stepped in, things picked up. He threw for 1548 yards and 14 TDs, with 9 picks. He wasn't superb, but he gave the whole team a shot in the arm, displaying fine leadership skills. Evan Royster may have finished his career as Penn State's leading rusher, but he his final season was less than satisfactory with just 1014 yards and 6 TDs, nearly half of them coming in just three games. Derek Moye was the leading receiver, pulling in 53 passes for 885 yards and 8 TDs, but he was easily the best of the bunch. MLB Chris Colasanti led the way on defense with 112 tackles, 8.5 for loss. CB D'Anton Lynn and FS Nick Sukay each picked off three passes each in a decent secondary, despite an anemic pass rush that managed just 17 sacks. Paterno knew going into the season that it wouldn't be easy, and it wasn't but not being even competitive against higher tier opposition has to be galling.

Best Game: With Paterno's 400th win on the line, Penn State looked like they were going to make him wait a couple more weeks before he could enjoy it. Northwestern shredded their defense in racing out to a 21-0 lead. QB Dan Persa threw for 201 yards and a score, and ran for 109 and two more TDs in making the Lions look bad. Penn State needed a shot in the arm and they got it when McGloin replaced Bolden. McGloin threw for 225 yards and 4 TDs, and Royster and Silas Redd combined for 265 yards and a score as Paterno's squad turned up the head just before half-time. The Wildcats didn't score again as the whole team rose to the occasion. Paterno got number 400 with the 35-21 win. Apart from the first half, an excellent win.

Worst Game: Penn State played a lot of good teams, and lost to them all, but Illinois where one they could and should beat. They didn't, instead getting run over 33-13. Bolden completed just 8 of 21 passes for 142 yards with a TD and interception which was returned for a score, and the running game was held to just 65 yards. The defense struggled too. QB Nathan Scheelhause completed 15 of 19 for 151 yards and a score, and ran for 61 yards. Mikel LeShoure ran for 119 yards to key the offense. Illinois are a decent team, so it's not quite an embarrassment, but the Lions should do better in games like this.

49. Boston College (7-6, 4-4 ACC)
The Original Forecast: Predicting BCs level of success would have been tough due to their playing in the unpredictable ACC. Their OOC was manageable, and the team was loaded with juniors and seniors. The defense was expected to be solid again, but the offense needed to get going early. A repeat of last season was most probable.

The Outcome: A tale of two seasons and two teams for the Golden Eagles this year. After a 2-5 start, with the two wins over lower tier teams, things looked bleak for BC run of bowl seasons. Then BC went on a five game winning kick before losing to Nevada in the bowl game. This fits in well with the BC team this season - an outstanding defense coupled with a feeble offense. Running on the Eagles was an exercise in futility, and passing was no picnic either. They allowed just 21 offensive TDs and forced 33 turnovers despite just 20 sacks. Luke Kuechly managed to improve on his outstanding freshman season with 183 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and 3 interceptions. DE Max Holloway had 10 tackles for loss but just 4 sacks. Corner Donnie Fletcher chipped in with 5 interceptions, while Mark Herzlich and Jim Noel each had 4 picks. The offense is a sadder state of affairs. Apart from Montel Harris, who gained 1243 yards and 8 TDs despite missing the last two games, the offense was poor all season. QB Dave Shinskie regressed from last season completing just 47.9% of his passes for 618 yards with 5 TDs against 6 picks. He was benched in favor of Chase Rettig and didn't play again. Rettig wasn't much better, passing for 1238 yards with 6 TDs against 9 interceptions. There was a distinct lack of experience at receiver coming into the season, and it showed. Freshman Bobby Swigert led the team with just 39 catches for 504 yards and 4 scores. He had his moments though, and should be good down the road. Even Harris took his time getting started, doing most of his damage in the second half of his season. A season that could have been so much more with even average QB play.

Best Game: The Eagles can't lay claim to beating too many good teams, but the 16-7 win over Syracuse to end the regular season was a good one - one they pulled out without Harris. The defense was at its stifling best, limiting Orange QB Ryan Nassib to 147 yards and an interception, and limiting their running game to 91 yards. The offense still failed to impress with Rettig throwing for a mere 110 yards and an interception. Andre Williams stepped up in Harris' place, running for 185 yards and a score on a massive 42 carries. Nate Freese closed out a good regular season with 3 FGs. A solid win over a solid team.

Worst Game: With the offense misfiring and the defense starting the crack under the pressureof having to win games, the last thing BC needed was a trip to red hot NC State. QB Russell Wilson threw for 328 yards and 3 TDs, and two interceptions, but a blocked punt and an interception returned for a score did the real damage for the Eagles. Shinskie managed just 89 yards and a TD with 2 interceptions, while Harris had just 53 yards, but BC were chasing from the get-go, falling behind 24-3. The 44-17 final score put a surprising end to BCs three year winning streak against the Wolfpack.

48. Syracuse (8-5, 4-3 Big East)
The Original Forecast: Syracuse seemed to be a team on the rise under Doug Marrone, but still had a ways to go before being a player in the division. They had a solid defense and running attack, but needed the passing game to make some plays. They had enough easy OOC games, coupled with a conference in flux, to reach six games and a bowl berth.

The Outcome: The Orange took a big step forward, winning eight games behind a stingy defense. The offense still wasn't great, although the running game was effective enough. QB Ryan Nassib was employed as a game manager, throwing for 2334 yards and 19 TDs, with only 8 picks. He struggled against the better defenses, particularly when coming from behind. The key to the offense was RB Delone Carter, who gained 1233 yards and 9 TDs. His understudy, Antwon Bailey, chipped in with a solid 554 yards and 2 TDs. Nassib tended to spread the ball around, but the leading receiver, Van Chew, had just 41 catches for 611 yards and 5 TDs. He tailed off as the season progressed too. As mentioned earlier, the defense was the big story, ranking 10th in total yardage. The pass defense was excellent, but they did have some issues with power running attacks like Pittsburgh. Derrell Smith led the team with 114 tackles, 9 for loss. One problem on defense was the lack of big plays - they managed 27 sacks, but no one player had more than 4, and 17 turnovers. Still, despite losing big in one or two games, they were competitive in every other game and doubling last years win total makes the season a resounding success.

Best Game: Coming off a thrashing at the hands of Pittsburgh, the Orange needed a signature win to show they were back, and #20 West Virginia were their next opponent. One hard-fought 19-14 victory later and Syracuse had shown they were on their way back. Both teams were defensively strong and it showed throughout the game. Nassib only threw for 63 yards but threw a key TD and didn't throw any picks. The ground game carried them with Bailey and Carter grinding out 169 yards between them. LB Doug Hogue was the star on the day with 2 interceptions and a key sack in the final minute. For the Mountaineers, QB Geno Smith threw for 178 yards and a score, but was picked off three times, Noel Devine ran for 122 yards but they were shutout in the second half. A sterling performance from the Orange.

Worst Game: The aforementioned 45-14 spanking at the hands of Pittsburgh. The Psnthers had struggled out of the gate, going 3-3 and needing to show up in their first conference game. Did the ever. QB Tino Sunseri threw for 266 yards and 4 TDs, and runners Dion Lewis and Ray Graham combined for 133 yards and 1 score as Pitt made a mockery of the Syracuse defense. Nassib threw for 231 yards and a TD, but was picked off twice with one returned 80 yards for a score. Carter and Bailey could only muster 63 yards (and a TD) between them. One bright spot was Alec Lemon, who caught 8 passes for 108 yards. An absolute disaster that showed Syracuse still have some way to go to contend for the Big East.

47. Hawaii (10-4, 7-1 WAC)
The Original Forecast: The Warriors haven't quote matched June Jones success under replacement Greg McMakin, missing a bowl game last season. They have a strong offense, but their defense was weak last year. They have a manageable OOC schedule, and most of the conference is beatable. The also have the best homefield advantage in the FBS, but don't always travel well either. They're good enough to make a bowl game this season though.

The Outcome: After starting 1-2 with losses to USC and Colorado, the Warriors went 9-1 the rest of the regular season, losing only to Boise State. The passing game was 1st in the country and the defense, while not outstanding, did enough for their super offense to win games. Bryant Moniz was the key at QB, throwing for 5040 yards and 39 TDs against 15 interceptions. He also used his good mobility to run for four scores. Greg Salas was his favorite target, rounding out a good career with 119 catches for 1889 yards and 14 TDs, but Kealoha Pilares was far from an afterthought with 88 receptions for 1306 yards and 15 scores. RB Alex Green had just 146 carries, but gained 1199 yards and scored 18 times. The defense was pretty tough, holding opponents to 3.6 yards per carry and despite allowing 221.7 yards per game passing and 24 TDs, they had 40 sacks and 23 interceptions (not to mention 15 fumbles recovered). Their sack total was a group effort, with no one player getting more than 5. This frequent blitzing generally worked in the WAC, but the secondary was shredded by USC and, somewhat shockingly, Tulsa in the bowl game. FS Mana Silva continued his ball-hawking ways, this time with 8 picks, and he also defended 15 passes. OLB Corey Paredes was the leading tackler with 151 stops, 4 for loss, while DE Kamalu Umu had 15.5 tackles for loss. The season ended on a bum not with Tulsa shredding them for 62 points, but it was a fine season otherwise.

Best Game: Conference rival Nevada have never won in Hawaii, and with the Warriors upsetting them 27-21 last season, the streak continued. The defense frustrated Wolfpack star QB Colin Kaepernick, forcing and recovering two fumbles and intercepting him twice, including one in the waning minutes after Nevada had recovered an onside kick. Kaepernick also only threw for 159 yards although with 2 TDs, and was held to 30 yards and a score on the ground. Moniz threw for 287 yards and 3 TDs without turnover, with Salas catching 11 for 153 yards. Pilares caught two of his TD passes. An excellent win that earned the Warriors a share of the WAC come season end.

Worst Game: Getting thrashed by Boise State is bad, but not as bad as the 62-35 loss to Tulsa in the bowl game. No-one expected them to beat the Broncos, but they were favored at home against the Hurricanes. Tulsa's Damaris Johnson was the star of the show, picking up 326 all-purpose yards. He ran 5 times for 98 yards and 2 scores, caught 4 passes for 101 yards and a score, and totalled 127 return yards. QB GJ Kinne was no slouch either, throwing for 343 yards and 3 TDs, repeatedly torching the Hawaii secondary. The Warriors were flustered by Tulsa's much maligned defense, which managed to get pressure with it's defensive line while dropping seven into coverage, and resulted in 6 turnovers in the first half alone. Moniz threw for 411 yards and 3 TDs, but was picked off 4 times. Hawaii fought back after Tulsa took a 24-7 lead, but with the defense incapable of stopping Tulsa's big play offense, their second half efforts were academic.

46. Northern Illinois (11-3, 8-0 MAC)
The Original Forecast: Jerry Kill has been building a fine program here, but there were questions at QB and LB going into the season. They had a reasonably tough OOC schedule, but were capable of winning any MAC games and the West title. Nine wins is within their reach.

The Outcome: An almost excellent season. After starting 1-2 with losses to BCS foes, they steamrolled everyone until they ran foul of an inspired Miami team in the title game. They made up for it slightly with a blowout win over Fresno State in the bowl game, but they should still consider it a success. They were excellent in every facet of the game. Both the offense and defense were great, even the special teams were solid. There were questions about QB Chandler Harnish's knee coming into the season, but he answered them with style. He threw for 2530 yards and 21 TDs, with just 5 interceptions, and ran for 836 yards and 7 scores. He did have the luxury of throwing at his leisure, but came up with the goods when needed and played well against BCS teams. RB Chad Spann was the key to the offense, running for 1388 yards and 22 TDs. The top receiver was Willie Clark with 42 receptions for 602 yards and 7 scores.The defense was tough to run or pass on, with DE Jake Coffman returning and amassing 7 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. The loss to Miami in the title game was disappointing, but the biggest loss for Northern Illinois was coach Jerry Kill, who's leaving to take the head job at Minnesota, a team they beat this season.

Best Game: After the disappointment of a lackluster title game performance, the Huskies raised their game against Fresno State to blow them out 40-17 in a bowl matchup that was never close. Harnish did most of the damage, throwing for 300 yards and a TD, while running for 72 yards and another 2 scores. Spann gained 95 yards and another 2 TDs. The defense came up with six sacks of Ryan Colburn, with Coffman taking him down three times, and shut down Fresno's running attack. Colburn did throw for 288 yards and 2 scores, but hadn't the time to move the ball consistently.

Worst Game: Has to be the title game loss. With no disrespect to the Redhawks, NIU essentially beat themselves with dropped passes. They still had a chance to win it, but couldn't stop freshman Austin Boucher from converting a 4th and 20 pass in the last minute. Boucher was outstanding throwing for 333 yards and a TD in his third start. Mike Merriweather helped keep the pressure off with 85 yards and 2 TDs on the ground, while Armand Robinson caught 14 passes for 176 yards and the game winner with 33 seconds left. A heart-breaking loss for an otherwise dominant Husky team.

Brigham Young (7-6, 5-3 MWC)
The Original Forecast: BYU is always loaded with talent, but this year they lacked the experience to back it up. The schedule was harsh from the start, but finished with 3 or 4 very winnable games before finishing at Utah. Finding a replacement for QB Max Hall is the big issue - QB Riley Nelson has starting experience from his time at Utah State, but super recruit Jake Heaps may steal the job. The odds of them winning ten games this season, though, are very slim.

The Outcome: A 2-5 opening kick followed by a 5-1 finish including a whipping of UTEP in the bowl game. Heaps started from day one but struggled early while learning the ropes. He did improve as the season progressed and ended up with 2316 yards and 15 TDs against 9 interceptions, with 12 TDs and 2 picks coming in his last five games. The Cougars tried to run the ball early on to take the pressure off Heaps, but struggled with teams stacking the box. The holes opened up as the passing game improved, however, and the trio of JJ Di Luigi Brian Kariya and Joshua Quezada combine for 1959 yards and 19 TDs. The receivers didn't get the service early on, and Di Luigi was actually the leading receiver with 45 catches for 443 yards and a score, but they did pick it up late. The defense played tough all season, especially against the pass, but couldn't carry the team against the better opponents early on. SS Andrew Rich was excellent again this season, leading the team with 110 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and 5 interceptions. DE Vic So'oto was the leading sacker with 6 and chipped in with 5.5 tackles for loss. This was a tough defense but didn't make enough big plays. The season was one of transition, and the solid finish gives hope for the future and the improvement of Heaps makes the season a success.

Best Game: BYU and UTEP were heading in different directions when they met in the New Mexico Bowl, and Heaps and the Cougars proved it with as 52-24 blowout that was never close. Heaps threw for 264 yards and 4 TDs, with just one pick, with Cody Hoffman giving flashes of a bright future by catching 8 passes for 137 yards and 3 TDs. Di Luigi and Quezada kept things motoring on the ground with 199 yards and a TD apiece. The defense also held UTEP to -12 rushing yards and picked off QB Trevor Vittatoe 3 times. Vittatoe did throw for 245 yards and 3 scores, but the team was sorely outclassed by a Cougar team on the rise.

Worst Game: With BYU starting to roll, they traveled to face a tough Utah team in the last game of the regular season. And they nearly came out on top, losing 17-16 on a last minute blocked field goal. BYU started hotter, taking a 13-0 lead as Utah played musical quarterbacks. They finally settled on Jordan Wynn, who led the Utes to 17 fourth quarter points, throwing for 199 yards with a TD and pick in the game. Heaps had a decent game, throwing for 228 yards with a TD and a pick, and leading the team into field goal position late in the game only for Utah's special teams to rise to the occasion. A disappointing loss to a fierce local and conference rival.

South Florida (8-5, 3-4 Big East)
The Original Forecast: The Bulls were meant to be rebuilding with losses at key position, and a new head coach in Skip Holtz. They had a manageable schedule, and enough talent on campus to win 7 or 8 games, if not compete for a title.

The Outcome: The Bulls didn't bother with the rebuilding phase, instead winning eight games on the back of an excellent defense. Tough to run and pass on, they also came up with 30 sacks and 15 interceptions. OLB Jacquian Williams led the team with 71 tackles, with 11.5 for loss. This speedy unit spent a lot of time in opposing backfields disrupting play. Unfortunately, praise for the offense is thinner on the ground. BJ Daniels struggled at QB after flashing some major potential last season. He threw for just 1685 yards and 11 TDs against 13 interceptions. He did add 259 yards and 5 scores on the ground though. The running attack was decent with Moise Plancher and Demetris Murray combining for 1326 yards and 9 TDs. Dontavia Bogan led the receivers with 46 catches for 673 yards and 6 TDs, but wasn't helped by the inconsistency at QB. Considering the turnover of talent and Daniels' struggles, Holtz did a fine job squeezing 8 wins out of this squad. A good season, and a sign of better to come.

Best Game: One year after knocking off local rival Florida State, the Bulls added another local scalp to their collection by taking down Miami 23-20 in overtime. Unsurprisingly, it was the defense that won the game for USF. Both teams played the majority of the second half with their backups. Daniels was injured and replaced by freshman Bobby Eveld, while Hurricanes starter Stephen Morris was replaced by Jacory Harris due to ineffective play. But the game ball goes to South Florida's defense. Both Miami QBs combined to throw for just 188 yards and 2 interceptions, one in the dying seconds with Miami driving for a potential game-winning field goal, and forced a goal-line fumble to prevent another score. Outside of a 71 yard TD run, the Hurricanes could do little on the ground either. Plancher and Murray combined for 143 yards and 2 scores to keep the Bulls moving, and Eveld scored a game-tying TD with 2 minutes left. A good win for South Florida, and one that finally cost Miami coach Randy Shannon his job.

Worst Game: The Bulls still have one more Florida scalp to get, and this season they fell way short, losing 38-14 to the Gators. The defense held up well early on, but couldn't maintain the pace with Daniels throwing nearly as many to Gators as Bulls. He completed just 5 passes for 84 yards and a TD, and also 4 interceptions - one returned for a score. He did run for 107 yards though. For Miami, QB John Brantley continued his freshman struggles, throwing for just 172 yards and 2 TDs, but RBs Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody ran for 193 yards and a score to help out. A terrible show from Daniels, wasting a 244 yard rushing day.

43. Texas Tech (8-5, 3-5 Big 12)
The Original Forecast: With Tommy Tuberville taking over the program here, it will be interesting to see the impact in the Red Raiders. His teams had a toughness that Tech have lacked in the past, so there should be a change in philosophy. He intends to hang on to the high octane passing attack, with some increased running, but is switching to a 3-4 defense. The Raider defense was poor last season, so they may struggle while learning a new system. Their schedule has few easy games and Tech are as likely to win five games as ten. Most likely, they'll manage eight.

The Outcome: Eight games it is. They didn't really beat anyone of note other than an over-rated Missouri, and the defense tended to collapse against better teams, but the offense was solid throughout (except Oklahoma). Taylor Potts earned the starting QB job and was very good, throwing for 3726 yards and 35 TDs against just 10 interceptions. Barron Batch and Eric Stephens provided a nice 1-2 punch on the ground with 1484 yards and 11 TDs. They even combined for 65 receptions. Receivers Lyle Leong and Detron Lewis combined for 161 receptions for 1778 yards and 25 TDs. Big plays in the passing attack were few and far between though, and this needs to improve. The defense couldn't stop the run or the pass despite some okay performances. ILB Bront Bird had 106 stops with 5 for loss, while Buck linebacker Brian Duncan led the team with 7 sacks. Corner Jarvis Phillips had a nice first season with 4 picks and 14 passes defended. Not a bad first season for Tuberville, but the team's issues were highlighted to often for his liking.

Best Game: With #12 Missouri coming to town, Tuberville decided to start backup QB Steven Sheffield for the first time this season. It nearly backfired. Sheffield threw for just 99 yards and struggled the whole time he was in as Missouri built a 17-3 lead. He was pulled and replaced by Taylor Potts, and the game changed almost instantaneously. Potts threw for 188 yards and 3 TDs, and had another picked off at the Tiger 2 as he brought Tech back to win 24-17. Leong caught 9 of his passes for 123 yards and 2 scores, and Batch ran for 134 yards as the Raiders worked on their running game. The defense was pretty good too. They allowed Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy to combine for 170 yards and 2 scores on just 9 carries, but 140 of those yards came on two TD runs. QB Blaine Gabbert had a poor game, throwing for just 95 yards and couldn't make plays when it mattered despite the game never being out of reach. An excellent job by the whole team.

Worst Game: The following week they traveled to Oklahoma with upset on their mind. The only upset was how the players felt after getting destroyed 45-7. Sooner QB Landry Jones keyed the win with 317 passing yards and 5 TDs, with Ryan Broyles catching 8 for 119 yards and 3 scores. DeMarco Murray and Mossis Madu combined for 151 yards on the ground as Oklahoma moved the ball at will. Tech got 131 yards rushing from Batch and Stephens, but Potts could manage just 136 yards and an interception as the passing attack went from "high octane" to "2 stroke" in a hurry. A dismal showing that only highlighted how far the team has slipped from it's '08 highs.

42. Central Florida (11-3, 7-1 CUSA)
The Original Forecast: With a relatively easy OOC schedule and many of their principle conference foes rebuilding, the Knights looked in good shape. George O'Leary hasn't had consecutive winning seasons since he took over, but that was expected to change as UCF looked good for a bowl and a 10 win season. A league title looked out of reach with a strong Houston team playing in the West.

The Outcome: With Houston's demise, the title was practically handed to UCF as the racked up 11 wins and beat a spirited SMU squad in the title game. To top it all off, they knocked off Georgia in the Liberty Bowl to cap a fine season. They still weren't great though - the passing game still wasn't great, but at least it was functional with freshman Jeffrey Godfrey at the helm. He threw for 2159 yards and 13 TDs against 8 interceptions after taking over from Rob Calabrese in week 3. He also ran for 566 yards and 9 TDs. The running game was key to the Knights success, with Ronnie Weaver and Latavius Murray combining for 1527 yards and 22 TDs. Brian Watters led the receiving corps with 47 catches, 651 yards and 2 TDs. The defense was outstanding, stuffing the run and forcing teams to pass, with little more success. There were some fine performances, with DEs Bruce Miller and Darius Nall totaling 8.5 sacks each, while SS Reggie Weams had 5 picks. Just to highlight how good UCF were this season, KR Quincy McDuffie averaged over 32 yards a return and scored twice, while PR Josh Robinson averaged over 15 yards. A fine team and a fine season.

Best Game: With the exception of Southern Miss, the Knights beat every non-BCS foe soundly this season, but the 10-6 win over Georgia has to top the lot. The Knights did an excellent job stifling the Bulldog's potent offense when it threatened the endzone, holding them to a pair of field goals. QB Aaron Murray threw for 198 yards and was picked off twice, while Washaun Ealey managed just 60 yards rushing. AJ Green caught 8 passes for 77 yards, but was never allowed to get behind the defense or make his usual big plays. For the Knights, Godfrey threw for just 117 yards and also threw two picks, but Murray got it done on the ground with 104 yards and the game's only TD. The Knights stuck to their MO and it paid off against a team with superior talent. A job well done.

Worst Game: After entering the Top 25 for the first time in their history, the Knights were bounced out just as quickly with a 31-21 home loss to rivals Southern Miss. UCF actually took a 14-0 lead, but Eagles' QB Austin Davis led the comeback with 264 yards and 4 TDs, taking a 31-14 lead with 11 minutes left. For the Knights, Godfrey threw for 190 yards and 2 scores, but also 2 interceptions. Weaver gained 112 yards on the ground, but was shut down after a bright start. A disappointing loss.

41. North Carolina (8-5, 4-4 ACC)
The Original Forecast: The Tar Heels returned 18 starters, including nine from their outstanding defense. Apart from LSU, the OOC schedule was okay, and they were capable of beating anyone in their conference. The big question mark was the offense, which has struggled as of late. If the offense picked up the pace, and they could overcome LSU, big things were ahead.

The Outcome: Not quite what the doctor ordered. The season started with a number of players being suspended for varying NCAA violations. With the team on its back foot, former backups were needed to step up and fill some sizable gaps. For the most part, they got it. Three of their losses were by less than a score, and the defense played tough, improving as the season went on. The real surprise, though, was QB TJ Yates, who finally played to the potential he occasionally flashed over the previous three years. Despite a poor running game, Yates carried the offense on his back throwing for 3418 yards and 19 TDs, with just nine interceptions (six of which came kin two games). On the ground, Johnny White (who missed the last three games) and Shaun Draughn combined for 1357 yards and 13 TDs. Dwight Jones was the leading receiver by a large margin, catching 62 passes for 946 yards and 4 TDs. On defense, DT Quinton Coples led the team with 10 sacks, while DE Donte-Paige Moss had 7. SS Da'Norris Searcy led with 4 picks and 8 passes defended. The Tar Heels may have overcome all the adversity to win eight games, including a bowl win over Tennessee, but the amount of suspensions leaves a sour taste in the mouth and there will be many questions asked over the coming months.

Best Game: The Tar Heels hadn't played well the previous two games, getting spanked by Miami and squeaking past William & Mary, but had a shot at reaching bowl eligibility if they somehow beat a good Florida State team. One 37-35 last minute later, and UNC were likely going bowling. TJ Yates was the catalyst, throwing for a school-record 439 yards and 3 scores despite a running game that could muster just 34 yards. Jones was his favorite target on the day, catching 8 passes for an outstanding 233 yards and a score. Seminoles' QB Christian Ponder picked apart the Tar Heel defense with 264 yards and 3 TDs, with Willie Haulstead catching 10 balls for 154 yards and a score. Florida State took a 35-34 lead with 5:49 left to go after a botched punt gave them the ball at the 1, but Yates drove the team 72 yards to win the game with Casey Barth's 22 yard field goal. Florida State drove down the field quickly to set up their own field goal attempt, but Dustin Hopkins missed from 40 yards out. A nice win in an otherwise disappointing season.

Worst Game: After turning the season around somewhat by winning four games in a row, the Tar Heels headed to Miami to take on the Hurricanes and turnover-prone QB Jacory Harris. After taking a 10-3 lead on a weaving 76 yard TD run by White, the Tar Heels appeared to wilt in the pressure applied by an inspired Miami squad. Yates managed just 14o yards and threw two interceptions, despite White and Draughn combining for 156 yards. Harris, on the other hand, did throw a pick but also 217 yards and 3 TDs. RBs Damien Berry and Lamar Miller pounded the Hurricanes for 176 yards and a score and the defense shut down the Tar Heels, effectively ending any shot at a place in the title game. Very disappointing.
Thursday, February 17, 2011 0 comments

The Year in Review

Welcome to this segment on mediocre BCS squads and decent lower tier teams.

60. Tennessee (6-7, 3-5 SEC)
The Original Forecast: After a surprise bowl season in '09, the Volunteers were jilted by coach Lane Kiffin for USC, and the Derek Dooley era began. No-one expected much of them again this year, especially with a tough conference schedule and a number of key players graduating. It looked like a 3 or 4 win season was imminent.

The Outcome: The Vols just want to keep on surprising. After starting the season 2-6 and appearing to fulfill expectations, UT went on a four game winning streak to earn a bowl appearance, which they lost 30-27 to North Carolina in double overtime. The reasons for the turnaround are many, but QB was definitely a factor. Matt Simms started the season and was solid with 1460 yards and 8 TDs against 5 interceptions. But it was when Tyler Bray took over full time that the Vols really exploded. Bray passed for 1849 yards and 18 TDs, although with 10 picks, 7 in the last three games. He brought a big play element that wasn't obvious is Simms' play. The running attack was almost non-existent outside of Tauren Poole, who ran for 1034 yards and 11 TDs. Denarius Moore provided that big-play threat with 47 catches for 981 yards and 9 TDs. The defense got better as the season went along and they were particularly good against the pass. They gave up some yards, but allowed just 14 TDs against 18 interceptions, despite a pass rush that managed just 26 sacks. FS Janzen Jackson had 69 tackles and 4 interceptions with 11 passes defended, while corner Prentiss Waggner had 57 tackles and another 5 picks, with 9 passes defended. Nick Reveiz led the team with 108 tackles, 6 for loss. After a poor start to the season, the Vols really turned on the jets in the last five games, and the season should be counted as a relative success.

Best Game: A week after pummeling local rivals Memphis 50-14, the Vols went even better blowing out Mississippi 52-14. In a game that was never close, Bray threw for 323 yards and 3 TDs, with Justin Hunter catching 3 for 114 yards and 2 scores. Tauren Poole kept things ticking over on the ground with 107 yards and 2 TDs. For Ole Miss, QB Jeremiah Masoli threw for just 80 yards and 3 picks, although Brandon Bolden ran for 113 yards and 2 scores. But that didn't matter in a game that was never really close. A statement game for Tennessee.

Worst Game: A month before the Ole Miss win, Tennessee traveled to Georgia. With hopes of getting off to a fast start, the Vols instead spotted the Bulldogs a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Simms threw for 179 yards and a score, but the running attack managed only 9 yards. Georgia QB Aaron Murray threw for 266 yards and 2 scores, and ran for 41 and another pair to spark the victory. A tough loss where little went right for the Vols.

59. UCLA (4-8, 2-7 PAC 10)
The Original Forecast: Coach Rick Neuheisel had targeted 8 wins for the season, but not many believed that was possible. After a year in a new offense, improvement was expected this season. but they still lacked firepower. A tough schedule made it unlikely the Bruins would make a bowl game.

The Outcome: I guess Neuheisel was half right, with a mere 4 wins. The running attack was outstanding, but the passing attack actually averaged nearly 35 yards a game LESS than the run. Starting QB Kevin Prince was knocked out early in the season, but he was far from outstanding, throwing for just 384 yards and 3 TDs against 5 interceptions. Sophomore Richard Brehaut stepped in and was a bit better, throwing for 1296 yards and 6 TDs with 7 picks. Jonathon Franklin led the running attack with 1127 yards and 8 TDs, with good backup from Derrick Coleman who had 487 yards and 5 TDs. Taylor Embree was the top receiver with a mere 32 catches for 409 yards with no scores. The defense wasn't bad against the pass, but was terrible against the run allowing an average of 205.5 yards a game. OLBs Sean Westgate and Akeem Ayers combined for 158 tackles with 20 for loss, but big plays were few and far between. A dissatisfying season that promised improvement early but went downhill too quickly.

Best Game: The Bruins headed to Texas off the back of a solid win over Houston, hoping to sweep Texas teams, and boy did they. Texas turned the ball over 5 times in a 34-12 rout. Prince threw for just 27 yards, but still managed a TD pass. Franklin and Coleman combined for 212 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Texas QB Garrett Gilbert threw for 264 yards and a TD, with a pick, but it was four fumbles that cost Texas. A win that seemed far more of a scalp at the time, but a good win nonetheless.

Worst Game: California weren't particularly special this season and the Bruins expected to at least compete when they got there. They were wrong, getting trounced 35-7 with the offense going nowhere fast. Prince managed just 99 yards passing with a TD and an interception in his last game of the season. The vaunted UCLA running game mustered a mere 26 yards and Jonathon Franklin coughed up the ball at an inopportune moment when the game was still in reach. For Cal, QB Kevin Riley threw for only 83 yards and a score, but Shane Vereen ran for 151 yards and 2 scores and Isi Sofele chipped in with 80. A bad loss against local and division rivals.

58. Baylor (7-6, 4-4 Big 12)
The Original Forecast: The '09 season went downhill as soon as star QB Robert Griffin III was injured, and Baylor needed a full year from him in order to compete for a bowl game. The offense is night and day better with him, but the defense needed to pull its socks up and pitch in. The OOC was manageable outside of TCU, and there were enough winnable conference games to hit bowl eligibility. But it's all for nothing if Griffin's knee doesn't hold up against a Big 12 pounding.

The Outcome: The drought is over - Baylor started the season 7-2 behind a prolific offense before the wheels fell off the wagon and they lost their last four games -the tough partof the schedule - by double digits each. The offense was ranked 19th in passing and 24th in rushing, but the defense struggled mightily against powerhouse offenses. And Illinois. Griffin was outstanding, passing for 3501 yards and 22 TDs with just 8 picks, and running for 635 yards and another 8 scores. The offensive line played its part, allowing just 20 sacks and clearing holes for RB Jay Finley to rush for 1218 yards and 12 TDs. Kendall Wright was the top receiver with 78 catches for 952 yards and 7 TDS, but four other guys caught more than 40 passes to give Griffin plenty of options. SS Byron Landor led the defense with 127 tackles and 6 passes defended, but managed just one interception. Much was expected of Penn State transfer Phil Taylor at nose guard, but he managed just 4 tackles for loss, although he led the team with 5 sacks. Gettinng Baylor to a bowl game has to count as a success for coach Art Briles, but the 0-4 finish where they fell flat against string teams shows just how far the team must go to start contending for titles. If Briles keeps getting the Bears to bowl games, he may not be around to see it.

Best Game: This might be the year the Bears beat Texas, but the manner in which they hammered Kansas 55-7 has to count as their best performance. The Baylor offense racked up 678 yards of offense and the defense forced four turnovers. Griffin threw for 380 yards and 3 TDs (a 94 yarder!) and ran for 64 yards and a score. Josh Gordon and Terrance Williams combined for 8 receptions, 262 yards, and 4 scores. The defense not only had the turnovers, but brought an interception back for six, had 3 sacks, and held Kansas to a mere 270 yards of offense. Outstanding!

Worst Game: When you make your first bowl game since '94, you better show up to play. Unfortunately, the Bears took to long to get started, falling behind 24-0 in a 38-14 loss. The defense had no answer for Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure who ran for 184 yards and 3 TDs. Freshman QB Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 242 yards and also ran 55 yards for the final TD. Griffin threw for 306 yards and a score, and got the Bears to within 10 points before the Fighting Illini pulled away. However he fumbled the ball on the first drive that set the tone for the day. A disappointing first bowl for Briles and Baylor.

57. Michigan (7-6, 3-5 Big 10)
The Original Forecast: This was a bowl or bust season for coach Rich Rodriguez, but questions were abound regarding the team. Who would be QB; how would the 3-3-5 defensive scheme hold up against the black-and-blue offenses of the Big 10; and would they be able to compete against a tough schedule. Even if some or all of these questions are answered, the team still might only win 6 or 7 games in a tough conference.

The Outcome: Well, they made their bowl game, but it wasn't enough to save Rodriguez's job. They started surprisingly well, going 5-0 behind an inspired performance from QB Denard Robinson, but finished 2-6 when the schedule got tougher. The offense was great, ranking 3t6th in passing and 13th in rushing, but the defense was dreadful, finishing 108th in points allowed and allowing over 450 yards in total offense. LB Jonas Mouton and SS Jordan Kovacs were the leading tacklers with a combined 233, 17 for loss, but there was practically no pass rush and too few turnovers too help out. The story of the offense was Robinson - he had an amazing year, throwing for 2570 yards and 18 TDs with an okay 11 interceptions, and ran for an outstanding 1702 yards and 14 TDs. Vincent Smith was the leading running back with just 601 yards and 5 TDs, but he was used more as a decoy and was decent. Ray Roundtree was Robinson's favorite target, catching 72 passes for 935 yards and 7 TDs, but he had bouts of drops at inopportune moments. The offense was finally run as Rodriguez wanted it, but the defense has regressed throughout his tenure and cost him his job despite the bowl. An improvement, but just not enough.

Best Game: Robinson showed his talent from Day 1 against Connecticut, but the following week against Notre Dame he showed he could win with the game on the line too in a 28-24 win. He had a great game, throwing for 244 yards and a score and running for 258 yards and 2 TDs, including an 87 yard run to spot the Wolverines a 21-7 half-time lead. Martavious Odoms and Roundtree were reliable targets all night, combining for 15 receptions, 173 yards and a TD. Notre Dame wouldn't go away though, with Dayne Crist shaking off a first half concussion to throw 2 long TDs to lead the Irish back to a 24-21 lead with 3:41 left. TE Kyle Rudolph did most of the damage with 8 catches for 164 yards and a 95 yard TD reception. Robinson marched Michigan back down the pitch, mixing run and pass well, to score on a 2 yard run with just 27 seconds left. Crist nearly brought ND back, but overthrew the endzone with no time left on the clock. A good win over a decent opponent, something rare this season.

Worst Game: Losing to Ohio State hurt, but the 52-14 bowl thrashing at the hands of Mississippi State was downright awful. Don't get me wrong, the Bulldogs are a good team, but not this good. Bulldog QB Chris Relf threw for 281 yards and 3 TDs and ran for another, while RB Vic Ballard picked up 76 yards and 3 TDs. Robinson threw for 254 yards and 2 scores, and ran for 59, but Michigan just seemed to give up after going up 14-10. To highlight the futility of the Wolverine defense, MSU converted 5 first downs on the evening. A bad end to a tough season.

56. Kansas State (7-6, 3-5 Big 12)
The Original Forecast: Kansas State surprised many with their 6 win season in '09, and more was expected of them this season. They had questions at QB, but had the type of runner - Daniel Tomas - who could win games on his own. The defense was also a question mark, but Snyder built a solid foundation through the JUCO route and the Wildcats should be good for 7 or 8 wins.

The Outcome: The Wildcats had a 7 win season and were competitive in most games. The passing game was poor, but Thomas carried the offense for the second straight season. The defense was okay against the pass, but was terrible against the run, allowing 231.4 yards per game. This was despite the efforts of corner David Garrett who led the team with 92 tackles, 15 for loss, and 10 passes defended. Yes, that was a corner. On offense, QB Carson Coffman threw for 2060 yards and 14 TDs against just 7 picks. He also ran for 157 yards and 9 TDs. Backup Collin Klein played some too, throwing for 138 yards and a TD, and running for 432 yards and 6 scores. Thomas was the key though, gaining 1585 yards and 19 TDs. The top receiver was Aubrey Quarles, who had a respectable 51 catches for 760 yards and 5 scores. Not a bad season for the most part. They started fast and used an easy OOC schedule to pad the win column, but they had some good wins too. They need to seriously strengthen the front seven if they have any desire to compete for Big 12 titles.

Best Game: Beating Texas is sweet for any Big 12 team, but the manner of K-State's 39-14 victory made it all the more sweet. What was even more surprising was Klein getting the start over Coffman at QB. Klein only threw 4 passes, completing 2 (to Thomas) for just 9 yards, but he ran for 127 yards and 2 scores, creating a 1-2 punch with Thomas, who ran for 106 yards and another 2 TDs. The defense allowed Texas to move the ball, QB Garrett Gilbert threw for 272 yards and a TD and ran for 93 yards, but they picked him off 5 times in building a 39-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Gilbert finally figured out which team he played for in the fourth quarter and led two TD drives, but the game was well over long beforehand. A great scalp for the Wildcats.

Worst Game: It's no secret that the Wildcats aren't quite ready for beating the big boys week in, week out, but they were competitive in every game bar one - Nebraska. The Cornhuskers shut down Thomas, holding him to just 63 yards in a 48-13 blowout. Coffman managed just 91 yards, a TD and an interception in 14 completions. For Nebraska, QB Taylor Martinez threw just 7 passes, completing 5 for 128 yards and a score, but also ran for 241 yards and 4 TDs, including an 80 yarder. RB Roy Helu ran for 110 yards as Nebraska ran over the Wildcats to the tune of 451 yards. Disgraceful.

55. Connecticut (8-5, 5-2 Big East)
The Original Forecast: With 16 starters returning and the rest of the Big East suffering through change, this was to be UConn's year to take a step up in the FBS after being on the verge for a while. They lacked a passing game, but had a solid running attack and defense. Their OOC schedule wasn't difficult, and the team may pull off and 10 wins, and were to be considered contenders in the Big East.

The Outcome: Pretty much as predicted, except the easy OOC and 10 win season. Michigan and Temple turned out to be stiffer propositions, but the tenacious Huskies went 6-2 in the Big East and got the BCS spot courtesy of beating both West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The passing game was again a problem, especially when Cody Endres was gone. Zach Frazer started the season, and came back in when Endres went out, but only threw for 1425 yards, 5 TDs and 6 interceptions. Endres threw for 471 yards and 5 scores against 2 picks in just three games, but was kicked off the team. The Huskies managed to win 8 games in spite of the passing attack courtesy of superstar RB Jordan Todman, who gained 1695 yards and 14 TDs. Michael Smith was their leading receiver with 46 catches for 615 yards and 2 TDs. Their defense was tough most of the season, ranking 35th in points allowed with just 22 points per game. Lawrence Wilson led the team with 123 tackles, with 10 for loss, while Sio Moore had 110 tackles with 11.5 for loss. FS Jerome Junior and Blidi Wilson-Wreh had 4 picks apiece. DE Jessee Joseph led the team with 8.5 sacks. A fine season for the Huskies, despite the loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, but the success cost them their coach Randy Edsall, who has become head coach at Maryland.

Best Game: A week after beating West Virginia in overtime, Pittsburgh arrived in town with designs on cementing their conference lead. They hadn't counted on Jordan Todman though. Todman ran for 222 yards to pace UConn, and Frazer threw for just 100 yards but 2 TDS, as the Huskies won a nail-biter 30-28. UConn also got a 95 yard kick return TD as the third quarter closed. For the Panthers, QB Tino Sunseri threw for 220 yards and a TD, but was picked off twice. Dion Lewis and Ray Graham combined for 152 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. UConn had a 4th and 1 at their own 19 with 2 and a half minutes left, and Edsall went for it, getting the conversion and running out the clock. An excellent win that spearheaded their BCS charge.

Worst Game: Connecticut traveled to Louisville with the aim of getting back on track after losing to Rutgers the previous week, but did little right in a 26-0 beating. The managed just 195 yards against the Cardinals medicore defense, and turned the ball over three times. What was even worse was the Louisville special teams dominating the Huskies normally strong unit. Four field goals and a 74 yard TD punt return from Doug Beaumont piled on the misery. The other score was a pass Adam Froman, who threw for 195 yards, to Cameron Graham. Bilal Powell ran for for 105 yards. The loss that turned the season around for the Huskies.

54. Navy (9-4 Independents)
The Original Forecast: Navy won ten games in '09 and though it was unlikely, could possibly do it again this season. The schedule was manageable, and they had a Heisman hopeful at QB in Ricky Dobbs. The likelihood of them missing a bowl game for the first time in 8 years was slim to none.

The Outcome: Navy were just 12 points from a 12-1 season, losing to Maryland, Air Force (oops!) and Duke. They were solid all round as usual, with a fine running attack and defense, and were even quite efficient on those rare moments when they passed. Dobbs didn't win the Heisman, but he did throw for 1527 yards, 13 TDs and 6 picks, while rushing for 967 yards and 14 TDs. FB Alexander Teich rushed for 863 yards and 5 scores and plenty of other backs contributed too. Greg Jones did a good job at receiver, catching 33 passes for 662 yards and 5 TDs. On defense, LB Tyler Simmons led the team with 131 tackles, while DE Jabaree Tuani had 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Billy Yarborough on the other end led the team with 6 sacks. A fine year that was somewhat marred by a bowl blowout and losing the Commander-In-Chief trophy to Air Force.

Best Game: The Navy offense rarely scored more than 35 all season, so when they went to East Carolina and hung 76 on the Pirates to their 35, it was an impressive performance. Dobbs completed 6 of 8 passes for 75 yards and 2 scores, and ran for 100 yards and another TD. Teich was the main man though, with 157 yards and a score. In all, eight different players scored TDs. ECU QB Dominique Davis had a big day with 413 yards and 5 TDs, but not he even he could counter an inept defense or an offense that coughed the ball up 4 times, including 3 in 4 snaps. An outstanding example of how to execute the triple option.

Worst Game: Losing the Commander-In-Chief trophy to Air Force after 7 consecutive wins has to sting. Dobbs completed just 6 of 18 passes for 103 yards and 2 interceptions,while running for just 43 yards. Falcon QB Tim Jefferson was the better of the two, completing 5 of 7 passes for 83 yards, while running for 62 yards and both scores. FB Jared Tew kept things ticking over with 111 yards on the ground. A disappointing loss in an otherwise good season.

53. Georgia (6-7, 3-5 SEC)
The Original Forecast: This had the look of a transition year in Athens, with a number of new faces at key positions, including a freshman QB. The schedule was tough from the start (well, week 2) and there was little respite for new guys to get comfortable. There was an abundance of talent with which to contend for the East title, but with inexperienced players at key positions, an 8 win season was probably more likely.

The Outcome: The season started badly, going 1-4, before finishing 5-2 before their bowl loss. The Bulldogs remained pretty competitive throughout, never getting blown away, and there were some bright spots, such as the play of QB Aaron Murray. He threw for 3049 yards and 24 TDs with 8 interceptions, while running for 167 yards and another 4 scores, and looks like he could take Georgia back to competing for SEC titles. He could do with more help from a running game that was inconsistent at best. Washaun Ealey was the leading rusher with 811 yards and 11 TDs, but they finished 73rd overall. Receiver AJ Green rounded out his college career by leading the team with 57 receptions for 848 yards and 9 TDs, despte a four game suspension to start the season. The defense was good, carrying the team for the most part, bot fell asleep on occasion - they had four games with 31+ points in the last five. ILB Akeem Dent led the team with 126 tackles, 6.5 for loss, but OLB Justin Houston was the big play guy with 8.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, and an outstanding 44 QB hurries. They were somewhat unfortunate in their scheduling, and where a much better team by season's end, but the bowl loss to UCF was shocking. This was Georgia's worst season in some time.

Best Game: With one more shot at bowl eligibility, and Georgia Tech coming to town, the Bulldogs needed to do something to try to save something of their season. Step forward Murray, who completed 15 of 19 passes for 271 yards and 3 TDs, and Ealey who 118 yards and 2 scores. Green didn't get in the endzone in his penultimatel game, but caught 8 passes for 97 yards. They nearly blew it too, allowing Tech to run for 411 yards, led by Anthony Allen with 166 and a score. The Yellowjackets got to within a point, but the Bulldogs answered with Ealey's second score and Tech couldn't respond. A big win with the postseason on the line.

Worst Game: With the offense humming in previous weeks, few people expected the bowl matchup with UCF to be close. But the Knights did enough to stop Georgia when it mattered in a 10-6 victory. Murray threw for 198 yards and two interceptions and the running game just managed 82 yards. Green caught 8 passes, but was limited to 77 yards and UCF made sure he didn't beat them. UCF running back Latavius Murray ran for 104 yards and the clinching TD to key the victory. A disappointing finish to a lost season.

52, Clemson (6-7, 4-4 ACC)
The Original Forecast: After winning the ACC title in '09, one would expect something similar from the Tigers again this season. But Clemson never seems to maximize its level talent, usually frustrating fans by falling short, particularly when expectations are high. Many new faces were taking over this season, but Clemson always have a good haul of talent on campus, and were more than capable of contending for the ACC title again. They had a tough schedule after a couple of layup games early on, and most likely this would be a tough season.

The Outcome: And it was - the offense struggled most of the season when even mediocrity would suffice, as Clemson's defense was outstanding, ranking 13th in points allowed. They made both passing and running a chore, but even this defense couldn't stem the tide when it spent too much time on the field. DE Da'Quan Bowers was the man of the hour with 74 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 15.5 sacks and 20 QB hurries. SS DeAndre McDaniel led the team with 84 tackles, 5.5 for loss, and also led with 4 interceptions. These were the stars of the show, but the strong defense was definitely a team effort. On offense, QB Kyle Parker was mediocre at best, throwing for 2213 yards, 12 TDs and 11 interceptions. Freshman receiver DeAndre Hopkins led the team with 51 catches, 626 yards, and 4 TDs, which says a lot about the receivers. To be fair to Hopkins, he got better as the season progressed and looks like a good one. Clemson needed two players to replace '09 star RB CJ Spiller, and they weren't too bad. Speedy Andre Ellington was the better runner, gaining 686 yards and 10 TDs despite missing three games late in the season. He's a small back, but did okay carrying the load. Jamie Harper was a tank, powering for 760 yards and 7 TDs, most of them coming when Ellington was injured. This was a tough season, with most of their losses close (including an OT loss to Auburn). Better QB play would have made the difference, and Parker's performance epitomized the season - average.

Best Game: With the Tigers sitting at 4-4, and #25 NC State coming to town, the season looked to be going downhill in a hurry, especially with some tough games due up too. The Wolfpack were quite the offensive juggernaut with QB Russell Wilson dissecting defenses at his leisure. Not this one - Clemson put the clamps on, holding him to 212 yards and a TD, and intercepting him in the endzone. The Tigers held the NC State running attack to 63 yards, leading the Wolfpack to decide to punt on 4th and 1 late in the game, a punt which managed just 4 yards. Clemson also blocked a 30 yard field goal, and were fortunate to have TD interception return nullified by penalty. For the Tigers, Parker threw for 214 yards and a TD and interception, providing most of the offense as Ellington was out injured and Harper was suffering from a virus. He still managed to run for 60 yards and the game winning TD though. A good win when things were looking bleak.

Worst Game: With bowl eligibility assured, Clemson had a chance to show their ability with the annual battle with South Carolina. They fell flat on their faces, losing 29-7. The defense was pretty solid, holding freshman sensation Marcus Lattimore to 48 rushing yards. Stephen Garcia threw for 227 yards and a pair of TDs, but only Alshon Jeffrey did any real damage with 5 receptions for 141 yards and a score. The Tiger offense, on the other hand, took the day off. Between Parker and Tajh Boyd, they passed for just 190 yards and turned the ball over 3 times. The running attack never got going with just 61 yards. There was one bright spot on offense - Hopkins caught 7 passes for 124 yards and the only TD. An otherwise poor showing when they should at least be competitive.

51. Louisville (7-6, 3-4 Big East)
The Original Forecast: New coach Charlie Strong is a good recruiter who should be able to increase the talent level in Lexington in a hurry, but a tough schedule and the current roster most likely means a winning season is beyond them.

The Outcome: Take a bow, Charlie Strong. Not only did you inspire the team to win 8 games, but you did it with a star performance from RB Bilal Powell, a tough defense, and on the flip side, a mediocre passing game. Powell was easily the star of the show, rushing for 1405 yards and 11 TDs, and catching another 3 scores. The QBs Adam Froman and Justin Burke combined for 2423 yards and 21 TDs against 7 interceptions. They were careful with the ball, but neither will make fans forget Brian Brohm. TE Cameron Graham and receiver Doug Beamount combined for 81 catches, 910 yards and 6 TDs. Beaumont is capable of better. The real story was the defense though, as it has been dire lately. They allowed an average of just 19.4 points per game, and were extremely tough to pass on. Rodney Gnat led the team with 9 sacks, while CB Johnny Patrick was excellent, intercepting 5 passes and defending 17 passes. After being tagged by pretty much every authority to prop up the Big East, the Cardinals and Strong came up with a fine season and topped it off with a nice come-from-behind bowl win.

Best Game: With bowl eligibility on the line and a trip to struggling Rutgers on the cards, Louisville need to pull off the win. In recent seasons they'd most likely have lost, but this year they steamrolled the Scarlet Knights 40-13. The defense was key, sacking Rutgers QBs 9 times and intercepting them twice, with one late in the fourth quarter returned for a TD to close out the scoring. Burke needed just 11 passes, completing 9 for 138 yards and 2 TDs. Powell keyed the ground attack with 123 yards and a score. If there was one negative, Rutgers had some success on the ground, with Jordan Thomas gaining 120 yards and a score. A fine victory nonetheless.

Worst Game: With the Cardinals showing they were no walkover, they traveled to Pittsburgh with the intention of making some noise in the conference. The only noise they made was going belly up against a Panther team that shut them down without Powell. Powell injured his knee early, and Louisville could get nothing going after that. Burke threw for just 82 yards, while the running game sans Powell made just 18 yards. For Pittsburgh, QB Tino Sunseri managed just 123 yards against the tough Cardinals secondary, but Dion Lewis and Ray Graham pounded for 105 yards and a score. With the Louisville offense, they didn't need more. A loss that showed how much work the team has to go.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 0 comments

The Year in Review

BCS teams become more prevalent in the ratings here, as upper tier mediocrity and middle tier success blends nicely. Starting wit Kentucky who had their bright spots, but had a mostly dissatisfying season.
70. Kentucky (6-7, 2-6 SEC)
The Original Forecast: With an easy OOC shedule, the Wildcats were expected to make a bowl due to some decent returning players on both sides of the ball. This did hinge on both QB play, which has been inconsistent the last couple of years, and improvement from both lines, which have also struggled.

The Outcome: Pretty much as expected. They made bowl mostly due to their easy OOC, but they did top South Carolina for a surprise upset. The offense carried the team, with Hartline having a fine season in throwing for 3178 yards, 23 TDs and just 9 interceptions. Big things were expected of Derrick Locke, but he missed nearly five games with injury and ended with a respectable 887 yards and 10 TDs. He was on pace for a fantastic season before injury though. At receiver, Randall Cobb was an outstanding weapon. He caught 84 passes for 1017 yards and 7 TDs, ran for 424 yards and 5 TDs, and even threw 3 scoring passes. Chris Matthews was a fine second option, catching 61 balls for 925 yards and 9 TDs. With just 21 sacks allowed and a solid running attack, the line kept up its end of the bargain too. This was an explosive offense that kept UK in four close games. Unfortunately, the defense couldn't stem the flow in these close games. They managed to allow exactly 2302 yards rushing and receiving, meaning the pass defense wasn't bad but the run defense was weak. The only managed 16 turnovers too. OLB Danny Trevathan was outstanding with 144 tackles, 16 for loss, while SS Winston Guy had 106 stops, 4 for loss, and led the team with 3 picks. To cap off a season where they often seemed to just fall short, they got beaten soundly by Pittsburgh in their bowl game. A mediocre season.

Best Game: After a three game losing streak to start league play, the Gamecocks came to town ranked #10 and coming off an upset of Alabama. They raced to a 28-10 start behind the running and receiving of super-freshman Marcus Lattimore, who ran for 79 yards and 2 TDs and caught 4 passes for 133 yards and a score. However, he hurt his ankle early in the third quarter and the Gamecocks stalled on offense, giving the Wildcats life. Hartline, who threw for 349 yards and 4 TDs, sparked the comeback, with Matthews catching 12 for 177 yards and a score. Once Lattimore went down, Kentucky stifled the SC running attack, but allowed QB Stephen Garcia to throw for 382 yards and 2 scores. They made amends by recovering 2 fumbles and picking off 2 passes, including 1 in the endzone with 11 seconds left by Anthony Mosley. An excellent win in a season short of signature wins.

Worst Game: Florida had been struggling on offense, winning their first three games by virtue of their defense when Kentucky came to town. Florida unleashed Trey Burton on the unsuspecting Wildcats, and he had 5 carries for 40 yards and 5 TDs, and caught 5 passes for 37 yards and another score. He also threw a 42 yard pass. Hartline threw for 242 yards and a score, but had two picks one for a TD. There were few bright spots for Kentucky. Locke ran for 103 hard yards, and Matthews caught 6 balls for 114 yards and 2 scores. Another disaster against the Gators.

69. Army (7-6 Independents)
The Original Forecast: Expectations to start the season were that the Black Knights would be further improved on their '09 version, but a stiffer schedule may not see the results go their way. They are experienced and have some talent suited to their systems, and a bowl game was a likelihood.

The Outcome: The season went more or less as expected, with Army beating who they were expected to beat, and losing to the teams they were meant to. On top of their seven wins, they also had three losses by a TD or less. This was a decent team. To run the option effectively, it all starts with the QB, and Army had a decent one in Trent Steelman. He only threw for 995 yards with 7 TDs and 3 picks, but he ran for 721 yards and generally made the right reads. Having Jared Hassin behind him to carry the ball helps too - he picked up 1013 yards and 9 TDs and had some big games. Injuries hampered the depth at the slots, but whoever played, played well enough. Receiver is generally a forgotten position in this offense, and with a passing game that was ranked plum last in the FBS, they were essentially blockers. Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr combined for a mere 29 catches for 453 yards and 4 TDs. The defense was solid against both run and pass, but failed to hold up against the better attacks. They also had an excellent 30 turnovers. MLB Stephen Anderson was the beating heart of the defense, making 108 tackles, 12 for loss, with 2 picks and 7 passes defended. DE Josh McNary picked up where he left off last season with 10 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries. SS Donovan Travis had 60 tackles, 5 picks and 11 passes defended. The defense came up big in the bowl game win over SMU, capping a good season that bodes well for the future.

Best Game: Duke may not be a BCS powerhouse, but they have an offense that could rip this Army team part on any given day. Except this one. Five turnovers, including 3 interceptions of QB Sean Renfree shut down a Blue Devil offense that required a big fourth quarter to make the score slightly respectable. Steelman keyed the Army offense with 2 passing TDs in just 4 of 6 completions (85 yards). He also ran for 62 yards and a score. The Cadets led 35-7 going into the fourth quarter, holding Renfree to just 67 yards passing, but he racked up 194 yards and 2 TDs in the fourth to pull it back to 35-21, but it was too little, too late.

Worst Game: Sure they had worse losses, but losing to Navy always stings, especially as it runs their losing streak to nine games. Steelman had a decent day, throwing for 128 yards and 2 scores, while rushing for 74 yards, but it was the defense that couldn't contain Navy despite four turnovers. Midshipmen QB Ricky Dobbs was held to 54 yards on the ground, but he threw for 186 yards and 2 TDs on just 6 completions. Wyatt Middleton returned a fumble 98 yards for a score to push their lead to 24-7 in a hard loss where the Knights competed for most of the game.

68. Northwestern (7-6, 3-5 Big 10)
The Original Forecast: The Wildcats opened up the season with a easy enough OOC schedule, then had a number of winnable games before closing out with tough four game stretch. They had a strong possibility of a bowl game, but they needed QB Dan Persa to perform, along with some help from a running attack that was practically non-existent in '09.

The Outcome: A tale of two seasons, with a 5-0 start and closing with a 2-6 finish. They were competitive until the final three games when Persa was out with a torn ACL. Persa had a fine season, throwing for 2581 yards and 15 TDs with just 4 interceptions, and also ran for 519 yards and 9 TDs. Freshman Evan Watkins stepped in for the last three games, but threw for just 378 yards, 2 TDs and 5 picks. The running game improved, but still wasn't great, led by Mike Trumpy and his 530 yards and 4 TDs. Jeremy Ebert was Persa's favorite target with 62 catches for 953 yards and 8 TDs. The offensive line struggled to both run and pass block, allowing 40 sacks. The pass defense came up with a decent 15 interceptions, but couldn't stop the pass otherwise. The run defense was even worse. SS Brian Peters led the team with 107 tackles and tied for the lead with 3 picks. End Vince Browne was one of the few playmakers in the front seven, making 58 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and 7 sacks. A couple more stops and this team could have been higher in the bowl pecking order. They played quite well in the bowl loss to Texas Tech, but one must wonder could they have performed better with Persa in there.

Best Game: What is it with NU and Iowa lately? Last year, the Wildcats knocked out QB Ricky Stanzi and spoiled the Hawkeyes' conference title chances. This year, Dan Persa drives down the pitch to throw the winning TD late in the game, but tears his ACL and is lost for the season. He threw for 318 yards and 2 scores against an interception, and ran for 50 yards and another TD. Stanzi played the whole game this time and threw for 270 and 2 scores with a pick, while RB Adam Robinson picked up 108 yards. Iowa had a chance to come back, but a Brown sack drove them back into long yardage and Stanzi's fourth down pass fell incomplete. This is the 5th timein 6 games that the Wildcats have topped Iowa.

Worst Game: Missing Persa might account for a struggling offense and losing games pretty badly, but getting steamrolled 70-23 by anyone is a team failing, even if it is to a red hot Wisconsin team. With John Clay limited to four carries by injury, Monte Ball and James White combined for 312 yards and 5 TDs as the Badgers ran at will. QB Scott Tolzien completed 15 of just 19 passes for 219 yards and 4 TDs and Aaron Henry returned a pick 50 yards for a score with 2 seconds left to pile on the misery. Watkins threw for just 123 yards and 1 TD with 3 interceptions, although he ran for 34 yards and a score too. Venric Mark's 94 yard kick return TD was a rare bright spot on an utterly, utterly horrible day.

67. Georgia Tech (6-7, 4-4 ACC)
The Original Forecast: Georgia Tech usually pull in enough talent to compete in the ACC, and were expected to again last season. The offense is finally starting to hum, but the defense has been slack lately. Al Groh was brought in as defensive co-ordinator, which should pay dividends down the road, but the switch was expected to hamper Tech this season. An easy OOC schedule would see them in a bowl, but the tough Coastal division was expected to be their undoing. A repeat of last season's 11 wins was highly unlikely.

The Outcome: The Yellowjackets essentially played two seasons, the first half where they went 5-2 to start, then the second was their 1-5 finish, once the competition got tough. Their offense was productive for the most part, finishing first in rushing with an outstanding average of 323.3 yards per game. QB Josh Nesbitt was the key to the running game, making all the right reads and picking up 737 yards and 10 TDs. As a passer he struggled though, completing just 37.1% of his passes for 674 yards and 7 TDs against 4 interceptions. He also missed the last four games with injury, thrusting sophomore Tevin Washington into the limelight. He showed some potential, rushing for 514 yards and 4 TDs, but completing just 41% of his passes for 417 yards, 2 TDs and 3 picks. Anthony Allen was the main ball carrier with 1316 yards and 7 TDs, but Orwin Smith chipped in with 516 yards and 4 TDs on just 53 carries. GT failed to find a receiver to replace Demaryius Thomas, with Stephen Hill leading the way with just 15 catches for 291 yards and 3 TDs. The offensive line deserves a shout out for its outstanding play throughout the year. On defense, they struggled against the run but were decent against the pass. They also managed just 21 turnovers and 17 sacks. ILB Stephen Sylvester led the way with 10.5 tackles for loss, while FS Jerrard Tarrant picked off 3 passes. But big plays were few and far between, and the defense really struggled, particularly down the stretch. A less than satisfactory season.

Best Game: Beating North Carolina was nice, but they were missing 12 starters to suspension, so I find it difficult to put it here, so the 33-21 victory over Virginia gets the nod. They ran for 477 yards and came up with a key goalline stop in the win. Nesbitt only threw for 59 yards, but ran for 109 yards and a score, while Anthony Allen ran for 195 yards and 3 TDs to key the win. For Virginia, QB Marc Verica threw for 239 yards while RB Keith Payne ran for 2 scores, but GT's defense frequently held them on 3rd down, and led 33-14 before Payne's TD in the last minute. A decent win in a season short on them.

Worst Game: For any number of reasons, the 14-7 bowl loss to Air Force has to sting for the Yellowjackets. Things started badly when four players were declared academically ineligible, to go with a number of missing injured players. GT still ran all over the Falcons, with Washington racking up 131 yards and Allen gained 91 yards and the sole TD, but four turnovers continually foiled scoring chances. Washington also struggled passing, with just 41 yards and an interception. For the Falcons, Tim Jefferson threw for 117 yards and Jared Tew picked up 59 yards and their only TD on the ground. A poor performance that was an accurate reflection of their season.

66. Southern Mississippi (8-5, 5-3 CUSA)
The Original Forecast: The Tigers were expected to compete for the East title this season behind an explosive offense and improved defense. The OOC schedule was okay outside of South Carolina, and a bowl game was a certainty, but the lack of depth on offense would more than likely hinder them in the conference race.

The Outcome: The defense may have had more depth than the offense, but they were pretty poor against the pass, which isn't a good idea thing in Conference USA play. Although the run defense was pretty stiff, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry, the secondary collapsed against better passing attacks, costing them four close games. The Tigers were 11 points away from a 12-1 season. MLB Korey Williams was again the top defender, making 92 tackles with 14.5 for loss. DE Cordarro Law led the team with 6 sacks, while SS Justin Wilson had 4 picks. CB Deron Wilson had 3 interceptions and 15 passes defended. The offense was outstanding, coming 35th in passing and 20th in rushing. QB Austin Davis led the way with 3103 passing yards, 20 TDs and just 6 interceptions, and also ran for 452 yards and 10 scores. Kendrick Hardy and Desmond Johnson both missed time, but provided a good 1-2 punch at running back with 1514 yards and 15 TDs. Kevin Bolden and Johdrick Morris were the top receivers, combining for 96 catches, 1406 yards and 10 scores, but five other receivers caught in excess of 20 passes to provide Davis with plenty of options. Losing three close conference games ruined their chances of a title shot, and the defense must shoulder the blame after allowing 150 points in those three games.

Best Game: Knocking off UCF 31-21 to pull within a game of the conference lead was easily their best game. The Eagles fell behind 14-0 early, but Davis rallied them to a 31-14 lead behind his 264 yards passing and 4 TDs. For UCF, QB Jeff Godfrey threw for 190 yards and 2 TDs, but the beleaguered Southern Miss secondary picked him off twice to stay ahead of the game. A good win, and a tough performance from the defense.

Worst Game: Southern Miss' 44-43 loss to East Carolina, a game they had in hand, was particularly galling for their own lack of discipline that cost the game. The Eagles raced off to a 20-0 lead behind Davis 237 yards and a score and a solid running attack that totaled 167 yards. The defense picked of ECU QB Dominique Davis three times, returning one for a score, but the Pirates would not go away. The Eagles committed 15 penalties, including four personal fouls in the second quarter, one of which saw Williams ejected. A disappointing and avoidable loss.

65. Colorado (5-7, 2-6 Big 12)
The Original Forecast: This was the meant to be the year Colorado got back to a bowl game or coach Dan Hawkins moves on. They had a winnable OOC conference schedule, and enough returning starters on both offense and defense to do it. Expectations were that the Buffs would fall short again.

The Outcome: As expected, the Buffaloes failed to make the postseason, although they came close with five wins, and Hawkins and the team went their separate ways. Tyler Hansen started the first seven games at QB, throwing for 1102 yards with 6 TDs and 6 interceptions, but missed the rest of the season with injury. Cody Hawkins took over and threw for 1547 yards, 14 TDs and 5 picks. The running game was ranked just 85th in yardage, despite the efforts of Rodney Stewart who ran for 1318 yards and 10 TDs. Scotty McKnight led the receivers with 50 catches for 621 yards and 7 TDs. The offense wasn't awful, but lacked big-play ability again. The defense was okay against the run, but struggled horribly against the pass. DE Josh Hartigan led the team with 7 sacks, while SLB BJ Beatty had 15 hurries. The defense did manage 34 sacks, but were shredded too often. They lost three games by less than a score, and a better defensive effort could have pushed the Buffs into bowl eligibility.

Best Game: Coming off a five game conference losing streak with the defense struggling, an interim coach in his first game and injuries mounting, Iowa State came to town looking to cement bowl eligibility over reeling Colorado. The Buffalo defense was outstanding, holding the Cyclones to 229 total yards, with -6 coming on the ground, in a 34-14 victory. Cody Hawkins spurred the offense on, throwing for 266 yards and 3 TDs, while Stewart amassed a hard-earned 123 yards on the ground. Colorado even took a 34-7 lead on Michael Sipili's fumble return, before Iowa State scored a consolation TD. A good victory with bowl eligibility still on the line.

Worst Game: After an okay win over Colorado State to start the season, the Buffs traveled to California to take on a good-but-not-great Golden Bears team. In what was easily their worst performance of the season, Colorado came back with their tails between their legs on the back of a 52-7 thrashing. Hansen managed just 166 yards and 3 interceptions, while committing one of two team fumbles, and Stewart was held to 78 yards. For Cal, QB Kevin Riley threw for 197 yards and 4 scores, while the defense returned a fumble and interception for a TD. A disastrous result that told of worse things to come this season.

64. Cincinnati (4-8, 2-5 Big East)
The Original Forecast: The Bearcats were going through a certain amount of change with coach Brian Kelly off to Notre Dame, a new starting QB and a defense that needed rebuilding and tightening up. No-one expected them to repeat '09s success, but with a relatively easy OOC schedule, at least an 8 win reason was on the cards.

The Outcome: This was a shock collapse for the Bearcats, who expected at least a bowl appearance. The offense was solid enough, but the defense struggled to stop the pass. A meager 14 turnovers did them no favors either. OLB JK Schaffer spearheaded a tough run defense with 111 tackles, 3 for loss, while DT Brandon Mills had 6.5 tackles for loss and led the team with 6 sacks. Unfortunately, finding stars in the secondary is a stiffer task. QB Zach Collaros didn't play quite as well as hoped, but did okay with 2902 yards and 26 TDs against 14 picks. He also ran for 202 yards and 4 scores. Isaiah Pead was a fine running threat, gaining 1029 yards and 6 TDs, while receivers Armon Binns and DJ Woods combined for 132 catches, 1999 yards and 18 scores. A poor season that already has some questioning Butch Jones' ability to coach at this level.

Best Game: When things are going downhill in a hurry, what better remedy than a visit from fellow strugglers Rutgers. Despite allowing 38 points, Cinci racked up 661 yards of total offense and scored69 of their own. Collaros threw for 366 yards and 4 TDs, with one pick, while Pead ran for 213 yards and 4 scores, and also caught one. Binns and Woods caught 12 passes for 236 yards and a score between them. Rutgers QB Chas Dodd threw for 335 yards and 4 scores, but was intercepted twice. Mark Harrison was outstanding with 10 catches for 240 yards and 4 TDs. The Cinci defense held the Knights running game to -9 yards in a fine performance.

Worst Game: There were a number of options available here, but getting beaten 28-10 by Pittsburgh to end the season hurt because their normally staunch run defense allowed Panther running back to gain 261 yards and 4 TDs. While Pead had a solid game with 97 yards, Collaros only threw for 109 yards and a score, and was picked off three times. The score could have been worse but for a missed field goal and two redzone turnovers by Pitt. A poor end to a poor season.

63. Temple (8-4, 5-3 MAC)
The Original Forecast: The Owls were favored to win the East this year due to their excellent depth and quality coaching. They're not perfect, they struggled against the pass last season, and if their passing game was even mediocre they'd win the MAC. They do have a tough schedule both in and out of conference, but have the talent to won out. Most likely they'll finish second in the East.

The Outcome: With Miami's rapid ascension, they actually came third. Their three conference losses were all to higher ranked teams, and the closest loss was 8 points. The reason was simple, their passing attack wasn't very good. When the running game broke down, so did Temple. Chester Stewart started the season and threw for 842 yards and 4 TDs with 5 interceptions, but was benched against Bowling Green and didn't play again. Mike Gerardi took over and threw for 1290 yards and 10 TDs against 8 picks, improving the passing attack some, but struggled in big games. Star RB Bernard Pierce was hampered by injures and ran for just 728 yards and 10 TDs, but Matt Brown filled in capably and gained 830 yards and 7 scores. Michael Campbell was their top receiver, catching 45 balls for 724 yards and 6 scores and flashing some big time potential. The defense, particularly against the pass, was outstanding despite forcing only 20 turnovers. DT Muhammad Wilkerson led the charge with 9.5 sacks. Still, the season fell short of expectations, and coach Al Golden has moved on to Miami (Fl).

Best Game: Temple blew all their key games, although they did beat Connecticut. However, their most comprehensive victory was 42-0 over Buffalo, who have given them some fierce battles lately. Gerardi threw for 131 yards and 3 scores, although he had 2 picks, and Pierce and Brown combined for 215 yards and 2 scores. But the defense held the Bulls to 161 yards of total offense and forced 4 turnovers. Buffalo's offense didn't make it into Temple territory until midway through the third quarter. An excellent all round win.

Worst Game: With a trip to Oxford to take on surprise contenders Miami for a shot at tying the East title, Temple fell flat on their faces and had to settle for third place. After scoring first, the Owls could get nothing going the rest of the game. Gerardi threw for just 108 yards and was picked off twice, while the running game could only come up with 70 yards. For the Redhawks, QB Austin Boucher threw for 155 yards and 2 scores, and RB Thomas Merriweather gained 182 yards and a score, a 96 yard TD run. A sad performance with so much on the line.

62. Iowa State (5-7, 3-5 Big 12)
The Original Forecast: The Cyclones were a surprise bowl team last season, but repeating that success would have been equally as surprising. A tough schedule would be their downfall, despite some improvement throughout the team. The offense and secondary should be good, but a 5 win season was in the offing.

The Outcome: Exactly as the doctor ordered, ISU played 6 ranked (at the time) teams and managed to won just five games. They lost a couple of other games by a TD or less, but mostly struggled against better teams. The offense was disappointing, with both running and passing ranked in the lower half of the FBS. QB Austen Arnaud only managed 1703 yards and 13 TDs against 10 picks, and just 282 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Alexander Robinson ran for 946 yards and 9 TDs, but didn't see enough of the ball due to lopsided losses. Colin Franklin was the leading receiver with 54 catches for just 530 yards and 3 TDs in an offense that lacked a big play option. An offensive line that allowed 33 sacks did them no favors either. The pass defense wasn't bad, but they struggled stopping the run. OLBs Jake Knott and AJ Klein had good seasons, combining for 241 tackles, 14 for loss, and 7 interceptions. There were too few big plays outside of these two though. So, the team didn't improve much (if at all) on last season, and the lack of big play ability on both sides of the ball condemned to another quiet postseason.

Best Game: The Cyclones hadn't beaten Texas on the road since '90 when they defeated the then #19 Longhorns 28-21. Arnaud only threw for 136 yards, but passed for 2 scores and also ran for 40 yards, but Robinson was the key, gaining 120 yards and 2 scores. The defense also did a good job, limiting the Texas running attack to just 96 yards. QB Garrett Gilbert passed for 344 yards and 2 TDs, but was picked off three times and fumbled once. The Cyclones led 28-6 in the fourth quarter before Gilbert threw his TDs, but Iowa State managed to control the clock into the last two minutes to hold on. A fine win.

Worst Game: A week after getting blown out 68-27 at home by Utah, the Cyclones headed to Oklahoma with the intention of showing they were a decent team. The result was even worse - a 52-0 thrashing in which they gained just 183 total yards. Sooner QB Landry Jones threw for 334 yards and 3 TDs, DeMarco Murray and Roy Finch rushed for a combined 204 yards and 2 scores. Ryan Broyles made a mockery of the Cyclones normally solid secondary with 15 catches for 182 yards and a TD. A performance that did nothing but show how far the Cyclones have to go in the Big 12.

61. Texas (5-7, 2-6 Big 12)
The Original Forecast: Texas suffered some losses to graduation, but that hasn't stopped them competing for the Big 12 regularly. Having won at least ten games every year since 2000, the were was no reason to doubt it wouldn't happen again. The only concerns were injuries at QB or on the offensive line.

The Outcome: Having gotten used to winning 5 games by midseason, the Longhorns not only took 11 games to do it, but only 2 conference games. So what went wrong? Well, for one thing, the rest of the Big 12 got better. Baylor and Iowa State both came up with rare wins over the Longhorns. The big problem was the passing game - there was a distinct lack of big plays from QB Garrett Gilbert, who threw for 2744 yards, but just 10 TDs against 17 picks. He did add 380 yards and 5 scores on the ground, but he rarely pushed the ball down the field. The running game hasn't been great for a few years in Texas, and this year was no different. They haven't found a bell-cow back, with this year's leading rusher, Cody Johnson, gaining just 592 yards and 6 TDs. The leading receivers were James Kirkendoll and Mike Davis who combined for just 99 receptions for 1185 yards and 4 TDs. The defense was it's usual outstanding self, but 30 turnovers by the offense left them with short fields too often. DE Sam Acho was the star with 59 tackles, 8 for loss, 9 sacks, 17 QB hurries and 5 fumble recoveries, but quality performers were rife. Unfortunately, the defense could not carry the team, and a struggling offense meant their first season less than 9 wins since 1997.

Best Game: After losing two consecutive home games, Texas traveled to #5 Nebraska in a state of shock. They got over it in a hurry, beating the Cornhuskers 20-13 in a defensive battle. Gilbert played an important role despite completing just 4 of 16 passes for 62 yards. He ran for 71 yards and 2 TDs, and combined with Johnson's 73 yards to keep the Longhorns moving on the ground. Huskers QB Tyler Martinez had been shredding opposing defenses until he ran into Texas, completing just 4 of 12 passes for 63 yards, and gaining just 21 yards on the ground. The Texas defense actually held the Husker offense to 6 points. A late 95 yard punt return by Eric Hagg brought them to within 7, but even with the game on the line their offense couldn't do anything. A hard but well-earned victory.

Worst Game: Texas's season was running out of control in a hurry, losing close games to Baylor and Iowa State, and needed a win at Kansas State to steady the ship. They didn't get it, losing 39-14. What was particularly galling is the Wildcats passed for just 9 yards on 4 attempts. QB Collin Klein and Daniel Thomas combined for 233 yards rushing and 4 TDs to key the win. But K-State's offense was the real factor. Gilbert threw for 272 yards, but he was intercepted 5 times to continually short circuit drives. The Wildcats led 39-0 before Gilbert made it a bit more respectable with two fourth quarter TD drives.
Thursday, February 10, 2011 0 comments

The Year in Review

80. Florida International (7-6, 6-2 Sun Belt)
The Original Forecast: Mario Cristobal continues to turn the Panthers into a competitive unit, but they still lack the depth to compete with the big boys in the Sun Belt. They also had a tough OOC schedule and a mid-season away stretch that was likely to consign them to maybe 3 or 4 wins, assuming they can pull an upset or two. Still a work in progress.

The Outcome: Things looked to be normal with FIU going 0-4 in their OOC, but some further investigation might show that were pretty competitive against everyone except Pittsburgh. What does might have helped explain is why they only lost two more games the rest of the season, to earn a share of the Sun Belt crown and their first ever bowl berth. The offense, particularly the running game, was pretty solid all season. Darriet Perry and Darian Mallary combined for 1577 yards and 18 TDs to key the attack. Mississippi State transfer Wesley Carroll added punch to their passing game with 2623 yards and 16 TDs, although he threw 14 interceptions. TY Hilton and Greg Ellingson caught 102 passes for 1460 yards and 10 TDs between them. Hilton was also a superb kick returner and took two kicks back for six. The defense still needs some work, but they came up with 25 turnovers and 33 sacks and made plays when it mattered. SLB Toronto Smith had 91 tackles, with 6.5 for loss, and 4 sacks; fellow linebacker Winston Fraser had 9 tackles for loss; DE Tourek Williams had 7.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks; and Jarvis Wilson had 5.5 tackles for loss and an excellent 9.5 sacks. This would have been a good season even if they hadn't topped it off with a comeback victory over Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl.

Best Game: Lately in the Sun Belt, there's been one team to beat, and FIU surprised many when they took down Troy 52-35. Troy had no answer for the Panthers offense - Carroll only completed 8 of 15 passes, but he threw for 220 yards and 3 TDs with an pick. The real issue for the Trojans was the running attack, with Perry gaining 186 yards and a TD, receiver Hilton had 158 and 2 scores (on 6 carries) and Mallary managed a meager 118 yards and another score. The defense allowed Troy QB Corey Robinson to throw for 299 yards and a pair of TDs, but picked him off twice. They also forced two other turnovers and kept Troy's receivers from breaking big plays most of the day.

Worst Game: Every team has an opponent that it hurts to lose to more than any other. For FIU it's Florida Atlantic. The Owls struggled this season, but still managed to beat FIU, thanks to 4 turnovers and an inability to get into the endzone despite gaining 360 yards of offense. Carroll threw for 210 yards, but also three picks and was the main culprit. Kedrick Rhodes ran for 100 yards, but the Panthers were still unable to punch the ball in on 4th and 1 in the fourth quarter. For FAU, Jeff Van Camp threw for 169 yards and a TD, while Alfred Morris and Willie Floyd combined for 189 yards and 2 scores.

79. Virginia (4-8, 1-7 ACC)
The Original Forecast: With a new coach in place, the Cavaliers were expected to play harder this season, but probably to little avail. Due to some (supposedly) easy OOC games, and a home game against fellow conference strugglers, five wins was possible, but bowl eligibility required an upset or two.

The Outcome: Well, they beat their easy OOC opponents, and got their upset with a surprise victory over Miami, but that was it for the Cavs. Their defense tailed off a little, at least against the run, although they were pretty good against the pass. The Cam Johnson experiment at end proved to be inspired, as he tallied 8 tackles for loss with 6.5 sacks. Corner Chase Minnifield picked off six passes. The offense was pretty good, led by QB Marc Verica. He threw for 2799 yards and 14 TDs and the same amount of interceptions. On the ground, Keith Payne and Perry Jones combined for 1395 yards and 15 TDs to keep things ticking over. The top receivers were Dontrelle Inman and Kris Burd,who had a combined 109 receptions for 1614 yards and 8 scores. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough talent in reserve to maintain their successes over the season. A disappointment for coach Mike London.

Best Game: Has to be the win over the Hurricanes. They weren't awesome, they just did enough. Verica had 176 yards and a TD, while Payne had 81 yards and 2 TDs. Burd had a nice game with 7 catches for 104 yards. The game was scoreless when Miami QB Jacory Harris was lost for the game. In stepped Spencer Whipple and then freshman Stephen Morris who quickly dug the team into a 24-0 hole. Morris did mount a comeback, throwing for 162 yards and 2 TDs, but it was too little too late. The Cavs defense allowed 448 yards of offense, but 5 interceptions spoiled their scoring opportunities.

Worst Game: Virginia hadn't lost at home to North Carolina since 1981, and with the Tar Heels struggling with player suspensions, the Cavs must have fancied their chances. Things went bad quickly though, allowing an 81 yard TD pass on the first play of the game. They drove for a FG, but Verica could only muster 139 yards passing and 3 picks on the day, stopping Virginia from ever getting going. Payne had a nice game with 107 yards and a score, but he as the lone bright spot. NC's QB TJ Yates threw for 325 yards and 3 TDs, with Dwight Jones catching 7 of them for 198 yards and 2 scores. Virginia totalled 5 turnovers on the day, and ended up on the wrong side of a 44-10 thrashing. A poor performance on nearly every count.

78. East Carolina (6-7, 5-3 CUSA)
The Original Forecast: Nothing seemed to favor ECU going into the season with a change in coaching staff, systems, and graduation returning very few players. They had a tough schedule, both in and out of conference, and looked like they'd struggle to a 3 or 4 win season.

The Outcome: Dominique Davis arrived from the JUCO ranks with the hope that he could add some spark to the new passing attack now that the Pirates had run out of Pinkneys. All he did was throw for 3967 yards and 37 TDs, with 16 interceptions. 8 of those picks came in a three game stint early too. They didn't run the ball much, but Jonathon Williams took advantage of his opportunities with 847 yards and 10 TDs on the ground, and also caught 52 balls for 431 yards and a TD. Dwayne Harris caught 101 passes for 1123 yards and 10 scores, while Lance Lewis had 89 catches for 1116 yards and 14 scores. The defense, however, was one of the worst in the FBS and leaked scores at a rapid rate. WLB Dustin Lineback tried to stem the tide with 119 tackles, 6 for loss, while DT Josh Smith had 11 tackles for loss. SS Bradley Jacobs had 4 interceptions and 80 tackles, but for the most part the defense was a liability. Despite the leaky defense, the offense did enough to get the Pirates back to a bowl game, but the 51-20 loss to Maryland has to be considered a bad result to an up and down season.

Best Game: The Pirates defense had few games where it could hold its head high afterwards, and the 37-10 victory over Marshall is one of them. The defense held Marshall's QB Brian Anderson to just 217 yards and a TD and picked him off three times, and shut down the running attack to the tune of 94 yards. The offense was quietly efficient, with Davis throwing for 208 yards and 2 TDs, and running for another, while Wiliams ran for 111 yards on just 10 carries. A good job all round.

Worst Game: Any time a team puts 62 on your defense, it's bad. When the team happens to be a struggling Rice squad, it's very bad. The Owls racked up 639 yards of offense, with freshman QB Taylor McHargue throwing for 220 yards and 3 TDs on just 15 attempts, and he also ran for 93 yards. Jeremy Eddington and Sam McGuffie combined for 257 yards and 5 TDs on the ground, and the latter also caught a 64 yard TD pass. Davis had a tough time of it, completing just 21 of 39 for 308 yards and 3 TDs, while also throwing 2 picks. Williams came up with 100 yards on the ground and receivers Lewis and Harris combined for 14 receptions, 245 yards and 2 TDs. In retrospect, losing a game like this hurt ECU's chances of contending for the division.

77. Mississippi (4-8, 1-7 SEC)
The Original Forecast: The Rebels suffered from graduation woes, and looked unlikely to take contend for the SEC West in 2010. Their OOC schedule was lightweight, and they got the easier opponents from the East, but the Rebels looked like they were going to struggle this season.

The Outcome: Well, losing to Jacksonville State is no way to start a season. They were pretty competitive, Mississippi's defense was poor this season, especially against the pass, and it counteracted the hard work done by a running attack that ranked 18th. Brandon Bolden was the catalyst, picking up 976 yards and 14 TDSs at an excellent average of 6 yards per carry. He also led the team with 32 receptions, gaining 344 yards and 3 more scores. The second leading rusher with 544 yards and 6 TDs was QB Jeremia Masoli (fresh from Oregon), and he added 2039 yards passing with 14 TDs and 13 picks. The receivers lacked either punch or consistency which hurt Masoli, who is a solid passer. MLB Jonathon Cornell was the defensive star with 80 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks, but the starting lineup changed to much due to injury or inconsistency and the defense suffered as a whole. After falling short of expectations last season, the Rebels seemed to meet them this year, but a 4-8 season is unacceptable and the Rebels top brass has fired good coaches before (see David Cutcliffe).

Best Game: The Rebels didn't have a lot of wins this season, and no real signature victory, but the 43-21 beating of Louisiana-Lafayette was about as good as it got. They also managed it without for Masoli for much of the game, although he threw and ran for TDs before he left with a concussion. Nathan Stanley threw for108 yards in his absence. Bolden and Enrique Davis combined for 252 yards and 2 TDs, and Bolden caught 4 passes for 80 yards and a TD to key the offense. But the real story was the defense, holding the Ragin' Cajuns to just 215 yards and turning the ball over 3 times. The score could have been worse, but Melvin White returned an Ole Miss fumble 93 yards for a score at the end of the second quarter to pull within 3 points before the defense shut them out in the second half. Not the best win in their history, but a good one based on last season's results.

Worst Game: Tennessee! The Volunteers were also struggling when the Rebels arrived at Neyland Stadium with bowl hopes still alive. The Vols jumped out to a 21-0 lead and just kept motoring, shredding the Rebels 52-14. Freshman QB Tyler Bray threw for 323 yards and 3 TDs, and Tauren Poole ran for 107 yards and 2 scores to keep Ole Miss on their back foot all day. Masoli was dreadful, throwing for just 80 yards and 3 interceptions, 2 of which were taken back for scores. The sole bright spot was Bolden, who had 113 yards and 2 second quarter TDs to inspire some hope for the Rebels. But UTenn stepped it up in the second half and that was about it for Mississippi on the day.

76. Southern Methodist (7-7, 6-2 CUSA)
The Original Forecast: SMU have a fine offense that's good enough to win games in spite of a suspect defense. They looked to have most of the pieces in place except at running back, where was some talent but little depth. They also had a pretty tough schedule, but were capable of winning some games. They needed their defense to step up to aspire to a title shot, but more than likely would repeat last season's 8 wins. This is a team for the future.

The Outcome: The defense stepped it up and SMU made the title game. Unfortunately, so did tough UCF, who beat them 17-7. Still, it was a fine season, and they were competent in most areas. The run defense was tough, holding opponents to a mere 3.7 yards per carry, and the pass defense allowed just 208.1 yards a game. One area the defense did struggle was turnovers, coming up with a meager 15. They finished with a -12 turnover margin, costing them a better record. The offense was still the star of the show though. Padron showed he wasn't just a flash in the pan, throwing for 3828 yards and 31 TDs with 14 interceptions, and running for 244 yards and 4 scores. Running back Zach Line realised his excellent potential rushing for 1494 yards and 10 TDs. The Mustangs boasted three excellent receivers, with Aldrick Robinson, Cole Beasley and Darius Johnson combining for 230 catches, 3206 yards and 26 scores. On defense, MLB Taylor Reed and "Buck" Pete Fleps were tackling machines, combining for 268 stops, 11 for loss. WLB Ja'Gared Davis had 90 tackles, 7 for loss, and 9 sacks, while corner Richard Crawford defended 12 passes and picked off 4. This was a fine season, and the best is yet to come for the Mustangs.

Best Game: SMU haven't beaten a lot of BCS teams lately, so while Washington State isn't the toughest of tests, they'll take it. In their 35-21 victory, Padron threw for 280 yards and 4 TDs, and also ran for one, with Robinson catching 4 for 111 yards and 3 scores. Line picked up 82 yards on a mere 8 carries. For the Cougars, Jeff Tuel threw for 284 yards and a pair of scores, but failed to convert two fourth downs late in the game. The SMU defense held WSU's running game to a mere 66 yards. A good win that wasn't necessarily as close as the final score suggests.

Worst Game: With QB Case Keenum out for the season, SMU must have felt their high octane offense could easily outscore a Houston team with a freshman QB. Line ran for 106 yards and Padron threw for 318 yards and 2 TDs, but he also threw two interceptions. Piland threw for 233 yards and a TD, but the real story for the Cougars was the running game, with Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall combining for 171 yards and 4 scores. Down 24-10 at halftime, the Mustangs threatened to make a game of it with a third quarter TD, but Tyron Carrier took the ensuing kickoff back for a score to steal back momentum. The Cougars scored two more TDs to round out a 45-20 thrashing.

75. Houston (5-7, 4-4 CUSA)
The Original Forecast: QB Case Keenum has had a superb career here with one exception - a CUSA title. An improved running game and defense were keys in helping him achieve this goal, and also boosting his Heisman chances. They have a very winnable schedule, and could even be BCS busters with an unbeaten season.

The Outcome: UCLA put paid to their unbeaten season, but it was against beleaguered Tulane that their title hopes ended when Keenum tore his ACL. Freshman David Piland stepped in and had his moments, throwing for 2641 yards, 24 TDs and 14 interceptions, but wasn't ready to accept the keys to this offense so soon. The running game tried to take some of the pressure off him, with Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall combining for 1499 yards and 20 TDs, while receiver Patrick Edwards led with 71 catches for 1100 yards and 13 scores. The defense was vulnerable to both run and pass, and meant most games were shootouts, not what a freshman QB needs. ILB Marcus McGraw led the way with 110 tackles, 7 for loss, while OLB Sammy Brown was the playmaker with 76 tackles, 12.5 for loss, and 7.5 sacks. After high hopes on the season, Houston finished losing their last four games, not just failing to make the title game, but not even bowl eligible.

Best Game: In a season of disappointments, it's always nice to take down a local rival, and beating SMU 45-20 was nice. Piland was pretty sharp, throwing for 233 yards and a score without turning it over, but the real story was the running game with Hayes and Beall combining for 171 yards and 4 TDs. The defense had three turnovers and Tyron Carrier too a kick back for a TD when SMU threatened to make a game of it. A nice solid victory with all aspects of the team performing.

Worst Game: After some big victories over Texas State and UTEP, the Cougars traveled to UCLA with BCS busting on their minds. They got sent home with their tails between their legs on the wrong end of a 31-13 defeat. Keenum was knocked out early, although Houston weren't having much success with him as he threw 2 picks. The offense managed 252 yards passing, but five different players threw a pass. The Bruins, on the other hand, only managed 99 yards through the air, but Jonathon Franklin ran for 158 yards and 3 TDs to key the victory. James Cleveland was the sole bright spot for Houston, catching 6 passes for 144 yards and a score. A poor performance against a very beatable team.

74. Troy (8-5, 6-2 Sun Belt)
The Original Forecast: Troy has been the most talented team in the Sun Belt in recent history and were expected to contend for the division title again. They are breaking in a new QB and most of their defense, but are still loaded. The defense was weak last year, and the hope is the new faces can improve on last '09s showing.

The Outcome: The defense struggled again, putting the team through too many shootouts. They allowed over 400 yards of total offense, although they came up with an excellent 30 turnovers and 40 sacks. DEs Jonathon Massoquai and Mario Addison were the stars of the show, combining for 123 tackles, 12 for loss, and 24 sacks, but there were some other good shows too. More consistency could have accounted for more wins, as too much pressure was put on the offense. Freshman Corey Robinson stepped in at QB and had a decent season,throwing for 3726 yards and 28 TDs, although he also had 15 interceptions. The running game was good enough to take the pressure off the passing attack, and was led by Shawn Southward, who had 623 yards and 7 scores, and DuJuan Harris who gained 603 yards and scored 6 times. The top receiver was Jerrel Jernigan, who caught 84 passes for 822 yards and 6 scores, and also added 322 yards and 3 TDs rushing. The season ended with a first-place tie with FIU, who received the 1st place bowl bid courtesy of beating the Trojans. Another fine season, but 4 and half titles in five years sounds slightly tarnished.

Best Game: What better way to make up for falling short of an outright league title than smashing your bowl opponent 48-21? Robinson spearheaded the charge with 387 yards and 4 TDs passing, while Harris and Southward combined for 180 yards and a score on the ground. For Ohio, QB Boo Jackson threw for 208 yards and 3 TDs, but many of those yards (and scores) came long after the game was decided. Ohio's running attack was limited to just 99 yards. An outstanding finish to a slightly disappointing season.

Worst Game: Troy don't lost conference games very often, let alone at home. For perennial strugglers the Golden Panthers to walk in and run over them was shocking. Robinson threw for 299 yards and 2 score, put was picked off twice, and the running game only accounted for 108 yards, although they were playing from behind for most of the game. FIU QB Wesley Carroll threw for 220 yards and 3 TDs on just 8 completions, and they had three hundred yard rushers as the running game totaled a team record 448 yards. A very disappointing loss that essentially cost them a shot at their fifth consecutive outright title.

73. Washington State (2-10, 1-8 PAC 10)
The Original Forecast: Pundits are becoming wary of predicting a breakthrough year for the Cougars, as they have been simply awful as of late. There was hope for this season, with more experience and talent, but they play a tough OOC schedule and play in the increasingly tough PAC 10. They may be a better team, but probably won't have the results to show it.

The Outcome: The defense and running game were still pretty poor, but the passing attack under Jeff Tuel was pretty good. Tuel threw for 2780 yards and 18 TDs against 12 interceptions, and added 199 yards and a score on the ground. Marquess Wilson and Jared Karstetter were reliable targets, catching 117 passes for 1664 yards and 13 TDs. The leading rusher, however, was James Montgomery with a meager 483 yards and 5 TDs. DE Travis Long led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss, but that was about as good as it got for a struggling defense. The team was improved on the field, being more competitive in most games than in recent history, but they're still a couple of years away from bowl eligibility.

Best Game: WSU hadn't won a conference game since '08 when they headed to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. They left happy after flattening the Beavers 31-14 behind a solid performance on both sides of the ball. Tuel was the main man as usual, throwing for 157 yards and a score and running for 79 yards. Montgomery chipped in with 67 yards and a TD. The defense was great, holding the Beavers to 261 yards and turning the ball over three times, while allowing just 2 of 10 3rd down conversions. A bright spot in another dismal season.

Worst Game: Nice to see fewer choices this year, but there was still a few disasters. Getting blanked 42-0 by Arizona State has to rank as their worst showing on the season though. Tuel threw for 200 yards, but was picked off twice, while the running game accounted for just 8 yards. For the Beavers, QB Steven Threet threw for 300 yards and 3 TDs a week after a concussion. The Cougar defense held ASU to 118 yards rushing, but it mattered little with Threet passing with aplomb. In a season in which one hopes for improvement, laying an egg this late is never good. A very poor performance.

72. Fresno State (8-5, 5-3 WAC)
The Original Forecast: The Bulldogs have been one of the WAC's more successful teams, but have lived in the shadow of Boise State for a while now. With most of their starting offense back, they were expected to be competitive again, in spite of a tough OOC schedule. They're not good enough to challenge Boise, but a bowl game was a given.

The Outcome: Pretty much the same as last year. The offense wasn't as good and the defense was a little better, but was still suspect against the run. They got to the QB 37 times, but only came up with a feeble 13 turnovers. DE Cris Carter and DT Logan Harrell were the stars of the show with a combined 101 tackles, with 9 for loss and 21.5 sacks. RB Ryan Matthews was missed on offense, though small but quick sophomore Robbie Rouse racked up 1129 yards and 8 TDs. Ryan Colburn improved on last season, although he still had a couple of howlers. This season he threw for 2817 yards and 23 TDs, with just 9 picks, 5 of which came in two games. Jamel Hamler was his favorite receiver, catching 54 passes for 812 yards and 6 TDs despite some injury issues. It was a typical season for Fresno, knocking off some BCS foes, yet losing to league opponents. To be fair, the WAC was tough this year, so the season was a relative success if you disregard the bowl game.

Best Game: Pat Hill's squads have had a reputation for giant killing over the years, and with last year's BCS bowlers Cincinnati coming to town for the first game, there was another possible scalp in the offing. In a close loss last season, the Bulldogs held the ball for nearly 44 minutes but still lost 28-20. This time, neither team could get anything going on the ground, but Colburn threw for 247 yards and 4 TDs against one interception in a 28-14 victory. The defense was excellent, allowing 15 yards rushing while holding Cinci QB Zach Collaros to 219 yards and a score in 41 attempts. The Bearcats actually led 14-0 at one stage, completely dominating the game, but Fresno's pass rush lit it up from the second quarter on, ending the day with eight sacks. By the end of the season, the win looked less impressive, but at the time it was quality.

Worst Game: No-one expected the Bulldogs to beat Boise State, but it was an opportunity to show they were close. They blew it. Colburn was awful, completing just 6 of 23 passes for 76 yards and 2 interceptions, while Robbie Rouse had 70 yards but over half came on the last drive. Broncos QB Kellen Moore threw for 333 yards and 4 TDs, and one pick, with Titus Young and Austin Pettis catching 18 passes for 257 yards and 4 TDs between them. The 51-0 loss was the first time Fresno was shut out in 13 years. Simply dreadful.

71. Miami, Ohio (10-4, 7-1 MAC)
The Original Forecast: The Redhawks had the look of a team in the middle of a rebuilding phase. They had some talent, but not much depth. They had a nasty OOC schedule, but could probably pull off three or four wins with a couple of upsets. This is a team for the future.

The Outcome: Wow! The defense was night and day better, playing tough against both run and pass and coming up with an excellent 35 turnovers. MLB Jerrell Wedge was again the star with 101 tackles, 15 for loss, but this time he had help. WLB was outstanding, with 94 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 6 interceptions while also defending 9 passes. Corner Dayonne Nunley had 7 tackles for loss and another 6 picks. DE Jason Semmes led all sackers with 6. The running game still struggled despite the efforts of Thomas Merriweather who had 921 yards and 12 TDs. QB Zac Dysert threw for 2406 yards with 13 TDs and 12 interceptions (10 in 3 games), but missed the last 4 games with injury. In stepped Austin Boucher who amassed 1120 yards, 6 scores and 3 picks. Armand Robinson and Nick Harwell led the receiving corps with a combined 158 receptions for 1933 yards and 12 TDs. After winning just one game last season, the Redhawks had one of the biggest turnarounds in FBS history. They lost to Ohio in the MAC and 3 BCS foes, but won every other game, including beating Northern Illinois in the title game and Middle Tennessee in the bowl. The only people who could possibly be disappointed with this season are their opponents.