Winners and Losers from College Football Week 4

John Rozum@Rozum27Correspondent ISeptember 22, 2012

Winners and Losers from College Football Week 4

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    College football just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?

    Of course it does, because Week 4 provided some colossal matchups between ranked teams, and we couldn't ask for much more.

    Could the Alabama Crimson Tide keep rolling? Would Michigan State bounce back? And how is West Virginia faring before Big 12 play kicks in?

    Well, let's move ahead because there's only one way to find out. Also, be sure to check back often, as updates will come with the conclusion of the later games.

Winner: Florida State

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    The Florida State Seminoles obliterated the Clemson Tigers in the second half.

    Down 28-14 early in the third quarter, the Seminoles went on a 35-9 run and won 49-37 to avenge the upset loss from 2011.

    Running back Chris Thompson was huge for the rushing offense, and Florida State scored five times on the ground. Through the air, E.J. Manuel shredded Clemson’s susceptible defense by going 27-of-35 with 380 yards and two scores.

    This balanced attack was impressive, and the Seminoles remain a national title contender. Provided that Jimbo Fisher’s team starts games the way it finished Clemson, Alabama and Co. better take notice.

Loser: Clemson

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    Once again, Clemson’s weakness remains the defense.

    Make no mistake about it—scoring 37 points against Florida State’s defense is impressive, and the Tigers still field an explosive attack.

    Unfortunately, the defense failed immensely at tackling, and the Seminoles compiled more rushing yards than anyone else Clemson has faced thus far. In addition, the offense failed to remain consistent after a strong first half, and it cost Clemson in the second.

    Ranked No. 9 in the coaches’ poll entering this contest, the Tigers have a lot of work to do if they want a BCS bid.

Winner: Oregon Makes a BCS Statement

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    If there's one team that can compete with the SEC, it's the Oregon Ducks.

    The Ducks racked up 495 total yards of offense against Arizona, and Chip Kelly's defense pitched a shutout of a Wildcat offense that averaged 46.3 points per contest coming in. Plus, the Ducks defense recorded four interceptions, and two were returned for touchdowns.

    Oregon simply played a complete game, and the favorable schedule bodes well looking ahead. If the Ducks enter bowl season at 13-0, a BCS title shot seems inevitable.

Loser: LSU

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    The LSU Tigers snuck out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with a win.

    Barely avoiding an epic upset with a final of 12-10 over unranked Auburn, LSU didn't look anything like it had during the previous three weeks.

    After all, Auburn had to win over Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, so surely it would be no contest. However, LSU uncharacteristically lost two fumbles, had nine penalties for 80 yards and managed just 351 total yards despite possessing the rock for over 33 minutes.

    This kind of performance won't go over so well against Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State, so if LSU doesn't buff out the rough spots next week, 2012 will end in disappointment.

Winner: Alabama

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    Just look at Nick Saban's face.

    This is why the Alabama Crimson Tide are college football's best.

    The man is never satisfied, and only a national title counts as success. Hosting Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Alabama quickly led 20-0 early in the second quarter and hit the cruise control button once again.

    Ultimately winning 40-7, the Crimson Tide have allowed just 21 points this season, and quarterback A.J. McCarron must be a Heisman candidate.

    Folks, if Saban runs the table in 2012, this will arguably be the greatest single-season college football team ever.

Loser: Denard Robinson

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    Denard Robinson was responsible for five of Michigan's six turnovers on Saturday evening.

    Throwing four interceptions, Robinson also lost a fumble, and Notre Dame held off the Wolverines, 13-6.

    Excluding Robinson's miscues, the quarterback didn't produce in his typical dual-threat style either.

    The Fighting Irish defense forced him to go 13-of-24 passing for only 138 yards and average just 3.5 yards per carry. Notre Dame held Michigan to fewer points than Alabama, so although the Irish aren't on that level, we can definitely see how disciplined Brian Kelly's defense performed.

Winner: Notre Dame

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    Not since 2002 have the Notre Dame Fighting Irish been 4-0.

    With the 13-6 victory at home over rival Michigan, the Irish have a strong case to be a Top 10 BCS team in 2012.

    Led by linebacker Manti Te'o, who recorded two interceptions of Denard Robinson, Notre Dame limited the Wolverines to 299 total yards and forced six turnovers. It was the Irish's first win over Michigan since 2008, and it was a team effort.

    Quarterback Tommy Rees came on in relief once again and was Notre Dame's offensive difference in the second half. Going 8-of-11 for 115 yards, Rees also carried the ball one time and made it a touchdown.

    The Irish are back, and college football only continues to get more intense.

Loser: Oklahoma Sooners' National Title Shot

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    Ranked No. 5 in the coaches' poll before kickoff against Kansas State, the Oklahoma Sooners were expected to compete for a national title.

    Well, that is now not the case because Bob Stoops' team flopped at home versus Bill Snyder.

    With so many teams capable of being in the BCS title picture by December, the Sooners will need a lot to happen. The good news is that Oklahoma's schedule remains difficult, and this helps because strength of schedule always plays a factor.

    Unfortunately, other Big 12 schools like TCU, West Virginia and Texas will also be looking to knock off the Sooners. Include Notre Dame on the schedule, and 10 wins for Oklahoma is a stretch.

Winner: Bill Snyder

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    Since returning to coach Kansas State in 2009, Bill Snyder hasn't had a losing record.

    And if Kansas State's 2011 season is any indication, the Wildcats are much better under the tutelage of Coach Snyder.

    He was already a legend, and getting the upset win over Bob Stoops in Norman only pads the resume.

    Kansas State is now 4-0 and the Big 12 front-runner. Before facing Oklahoma, the Wildcats were No. 13 in the coaches' poll, and certainly moving closer to the Top 10 is expected.

    In short, the 2012 Wildcats have great potential to finish as Snyder's best team yet.

Winner: Minnesota

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    Don't look now, but the Minnesota Golden Gophers are 4-0, and a strong run is possible.

    After surviving UNLV 30-27 in three overtimes to kick off the season, the Golden Gophers fended off Syracuse 17-10 on Saturday.

    Up next are the vulnerable Iowa Hawkeyes, and Minnesota then gets Northwestern at home.

    Yes, the Gophers could certainly be 6-0 when facing Wisconsin, and the schedule doesn't get overly troubling until late October. Fielding a balanced offense and a solid backfield tandem in running back Donnell Kirkwood and quarterback MarQueis Gray, Minnesota is for real.

    Let's not forget about the defense, which has allowed an average of only 16.8 points per game.

Loser: John L. Smith

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    Although he was the special teams coordinator for Arkansas from 2009 through 2011, John L. Smith hasn't been the right guy at head coach for the Razorbacks.

    On Saturday, the Hogs fell again at home, this time to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 35-26.

    Now 1-3, Arkansas has to play at Texas A&M and at Auburn the next two games.


    If Arkansas doesn't finish 2012 with a winning season, Smith won't have seen a record above .500 since 2003.

    Include the Razorbacks having to close out the regular season with South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU, and 2012 doesn't have much hope left.

Winner: Gators Pass Defense

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    Florida smashing Kentucky 38-0 was not surprising.

    After all, the Gators have had the Wildcats' number on the gridiron for quite some time.

    Still, Will Muschamp's defense needed to gain additional confidence before LSU in early October. Well, it did just that by holding Kentucky to 60 passing yards and recording three interceptions.

    Defensive backs De'Ante Saunders and Jaylen Watkins each snagged a pick, and Watkins took his back for a score. Linebacker Michael Taylor added a third interception just before halftime.

    On a more impressive scale, though, Florida limited Kentucky quarterbacks to just eight completions on 27 attempts.

Loser: Riley Nelson

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    On Thursday night the BYU Cougars fell to the Boise State Broncos, 7-6.

    Certainly a defensive battle, but the Cougars loss can be attributed to five turnovers, whereas the Broncos didn't throw a pick or lose a fumble.

    Four of BYU's turnovers came from quarterback Riley Nelson—three interceptions and one fumble after being sacked. Not to mention his second pick was returned for a touchdown by Boise State, which ultimately was the difference.

    Altogether he went 4-of-9 for 19 yards and three interceptions with one lost fumble.


Loser: Buffalo Bulls Passing Offense

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    On Wednesday night the Buffalo Bulls' passing game was, well, almost impossible to fathom.

    Quarterbacks Alex Zordich and Joe Licata combined to go 5-of-25 for 113 yards and one score to three interceptions.

    Say what?

    Yes, a combined completion percentage of 20 percent and almost as many picks as completions.

    Unsurprisingly, Buffalo lost 23-7, and Kent State's defense gets quite a few pride stickers for the helmet.

Winner: Geno Smith-Tavon Austin Connection

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    Against the Maryland Terrapins, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith went 30-of-43 for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

    Smith can attribute much of his impressive numbers to the dominance of Tavon Austin.

    Austin caught 13 passes for 179 yards and accounted for all three of Smith's scores. Both players have legit first-round potential in the 2013 NFL draft, and it's no surprise the Mountaineers remained undefeated.

    Watch for this connection as the year progresses, because Smith to Austin will be burning up the stat sheet and scoreboard every week.

Loser: Iowa Penalties

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes were upset by the Central Michigan Chippewas, 32-31, at home on Saturday.

    A difference in this game can be broken down to penalties.

    Central Michigan was flagged only four times for 25 yards, while Iowa was penalized nine times for 106 yards. That's an average of 11.8 yards per penalty, and ironically the Chippewas' five fewer penalties resulted in them winning in first-down differential 24-19.

    Obviously five is the magic number here.

    The worst came on Central Michigan's final drive. Facing a 3rd-and-6, the Hawkeyes got called for another personal foul, and it kept the Chippewas' hopes alive.

Winner: David Harman

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    Another big reason why Central Michigan upset Iowa on the road?

    No. 96, kicker David Harman.

    The senior proved to not get rattled in a tough environment and went 4-of-4 on field goals and made both extra points. His first three attempts were from 33, 25 and 20 yards out, and the Chippewas got him one more chance.

    Down 31-29 with less than 10 seconds to play, Harman lined up for a 47-yard kick.

    It was good, and the attempt was his longest of the season. Talk about dealing with pressure.

Loser: Wake Forest Run Defense

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    The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have no idea how to stop the run.

    Despite overcoming the Army Black Knights on Saturday, Wake Forest gave up 429 rushing yards and 5.6 yards per carry.

    Army scored four times on the ground, and this is an offense that simply runs the ball. You would think the preparation wouldn't be as difficult as Florida State or North Carolina, but this obviously wasn't the case.

    After all, the Seminoles piled up 385 rushing yards and averaged 8.6 yards per carry, and the Tar Heels fared well on the ground as well.

    In short, run the rock against Wake Forest.

Winner: Fans Attending New Hampshire-Old Dominion

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    For anyone who likes high-scoring affairs, New Hampshire and Old Dominion have raised the bar.

    In game that featured 1,549 total yards, the Monarchs improved to 4-0 with the 64-61 victory.

    This level of offensive production is insane.

    Keep in mind that those 125 points were scored in regulation and the two schools finished with 16 touchdowns. Interestingly enough, only one interception was recorded despite the quarterbacks combining for 117 attempts.

    Maybe they were playing basketball, but no one could tell the difference.

Winner: Taylor Heinicke

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    The Old Dominion quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, was the standout performer of that offensive juggernaut game.

    Attempting 79 passes, Heinicke completed 55 for 730 yards with five touchdowns and no picks.

    Are you kidding me?!

    Just by the law of averages and probabilities the New Hampshire defense should have gotten at least one interception. To enhance Heinicke's game, though, he also ran for 61 yards on 11 carries and scored once.

    So, the man accounted for almost 800 total yards and six touchdowns. And he's only a sophomore.


Loser: Missouri's Uniforms

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    Missouri is trying too hard with its new uniforms.

    Now, yes, the helmet looks sweet, especially with the new design.

    That said, Mizzou's yellow and black jerseys are a way better combo. Obviously, being on the road a white jersey is typical for any team, but we've seen better designs.

    It's not like the Tigers can match the creativity of Oregon; then again, who can?

    Plus, the new look doesn't get better after the South Carolina Gamecocks crushed Missouri, 31-10.

Winner: Connor Shaw

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    Connor Shaw was almost the definition of flawless on Saturday.

    On South Carolina's first drive, his first pass attempt against Missouri fell incomplete to Marcus Lattimore.

    Thereafter, Shaw connected on 20 straight passes and finished 20-of-21 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Given that Shaw has dealt with durability issues early in 2012, this performance displays how patient and consistent he can be in the pocket.

    Shaw also didn't fumble when running, and his passing presence allowed Lattimore to produce emphatically well on the ground. The confidence in South Carolina's passing attack is simply increasing, and that's important, as the Gamecocks face a gauntlet of a schedule in October.

Winner: Miami Hurricanes

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    Two weeks ago the Miami Hurricanes were blasted off the field by the Kansas State Wildcats, 52-13.

    Despite winning at home last week, the 'Canes still needed to prove themselves for the 2012 season.

    In Week 4, Miami faced the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the road, and it had a must-win feel. Needless to say, this game caused a lot of nail-biting, hair-pulling and anguish at the expense of 'Canes fans.

    Miami led 19-0 after the first quarter but was losing 22-19 by halftime.

    Tech then extended the lead to 36-22 going into the fourth, and the Hurricanes looked defeated. Well, Miami kept pushing along and ultimately tied the contest to force overtime.

    There, running back Mike James scored his fourth touchdown, and the Hurricanes won 42-36. What a game, and Miami will have a strong season after this exhilarating comeback.

Loser: Third Down Costs Bruins

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    UCLA entered its Oregon State contest ranked No. 19 in the coaches' and AP polls.

    Sitting at 3-0 and looking to make some noise in 2012, the Bruins were upset by the Oregon State Beavers, 27-20.

    Certainly a disheartening loss, but it was Oregon State's suffocating defense on third down that really gave the Beavers a competitive edge. Jim Mora's squad was held to just 2-of-15 on third down and punted eight times.

    Additionally, the Bruins attempted three field goals and were 0-of-1 on fourth down. Even without turning the ball over, UCLA still got upset at home, and converting in clutch situations was the difference.

    With Oregon State proving to be much better on the ground, it's no surprise the Bruins struggled to consistently move the chains.

Winner: Beavers Receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton

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    Another reason the Bruins fell to the Beavers was Oregon State's aerial assault.

    More specifically, receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton.

    Cooks caught six balls for 175 yards and scored one time. Wheaton, on the flip side, hauled in nine passes for 150 yards and one touchdown.

    That's 325 yards on 15 receptions between two players.


    Altogether, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 379 yards, so this duo accounted for 85.8 percent of the Beavers' passing attack.

Winner: Le'Veon Bell

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    Le'Veon Bell is Michigan State's offense.

    After Week 1, it wasn't surprising to see his production take a dive, because defenses just keyed on shutting him down.

    Still, Bell is the Spartans' option to move the chains, and his production was imperative to avoid an upset from Eastern Michigan in Week 4. In a game where Sparty was winning only 9-7 heading into the fourth quarter, Bell was called on even more.

    By the end Michigan State won 23-7, and Bell finished with 253 yards on 36 carries, which averages out to seven yards per attempt.


Loser: Kansas Jayhawks

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    It's only getting worse for the Kansas Jayhawks.

    After winning over South Dakota State in Week 1, the Jawhawks have dropped three straight.

    This time, Kansas fell to Northern Illinois of the MAC, 30-23. Kansas was leading 23-13 with most of the fourth quarter remaining, but the Huskies ran off 17 unanswered points and stole one from the Jawhawks.

    Charlie Weis' offense only managed 329 total yards, and quarterback Dayne Crist went just 10-of-26 for 147 yards passing. The Jayhawks haven't seen a winning season since 2008, and the remainder of 2012 doesn't look promising.

Loser: Orwin Smith

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    Down 10-0 in the first quarter, Georgia Tech return man Orwin Smith caught the Miami Hurricanes' kickoff in the end zone.

    And then the mental error occurred.

    At first deciding to take it out, Smith tried to stop himself just as he neared the goal line.

    Unfortunately, he could not keep from barely crossing the proverbial plane, and his kneel-down resulted in a safety.

    The bad luck for Tech never completely left either. Despite Tech regaining the lead and holding a 36-22 advantage in the fourth quarter, Miami made a comeback and won it in overtime.

    It wasn't the sole reason why Tech lost, but those two points did come back to haunt the Yellow Jackets.