50 Lessons We Learned from College Football Week 4

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst ISeptember 24, 2012

50 Lessons We Learned from College Football Week 4

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    Week 4 of the college football season offered fans their first real taste of important conference clashes such as Clemson vs. Florida State, Kansas State vs. Oklahoma and LSU vs. Auburn.

    This past weekend gave us a few very entertaining games as well as a few boring snoozefests. Overall, though, it helped give us a lot of insight into some of the top-ranked teams in the country. 

    Here's a look at 50 lessons we learned from the Week 4 action. 

Florida State Is the Best Team in the ACC

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    Florida State definitely didn't play a perfect game against Clemson on Saturday, but the Seminoles still showed that they're indeed the best team in the ACC with a 49-37 statement win. 

    QB E.J. Manuel looked like a true star as he helped the offense pile up 667 total yards against the Tigers. 

    Jimbo Fisher has truly assembled one of the fastest and most athletic teams in the country.

    Although the offensive line is still a big question mark, the Seminoles have enough top-notch playmakers on both sides of the ball to make a run at both a conference title as well as a BCS championship this season.

Clemson’s Defense Can’t Handle the Big Stage

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    Even though it wasn't as embarrassing as the 70-point massacre at the hands of West Virginia in the Orange Bowl last season, the performance of Clemson's defense against Florida State revealed that the unit still isn't ready for the big stage and the spotlight. 

    Clemson gave up 667 total yards of offense and 49 points to the Seminoles, and the defense looked like a sieve in the second half. 

    The Tigers have some quality defensive talent such as DE Malliciah Goodman, linebackers Stephone Anthony and Corico Hawkins, CB Bashaud Breeland and safety Rashard Hall. They just need to figure out how to step up in big spots. 

E.J. Manuel Has What It Takes to Be the No. 1 Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft

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    Before the season started, many were debating about whether it would be USC QB Matt Barkley or Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas who would ultimately end up being the No. 1 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. 

    Now, though, it looks like the two top contenders are Florida State QB E.J. Manuel and West Virginia QB Geno Smith. 

    During the 2011 offseason, I wrote an article saying that Manuel could be the next Cam Newton. While it took longer than I thought it would, it looks like he's finally ready to take that big step up and have a Newton-like impact in 2012. 

    The 6'5'', 245-pound senior has the total package that NFL scouts are looking for in a potential franchise signal-caller. He's now finally gotten to the point where his mind and his decision-making match his tremendous physical ability. 

    If Manuel leads Florida State to an undefeated season and a spot in the BCS championship game, he'll not only take home the Heisman Trophy, he'll likely establish himself as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in next April's NFL draft. 

Oklahoma Was Overrated Again

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    Last year, it took seven games to figure out that Oklahoma was overrated. 

    This year, it only took three. 

    Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who entered this weekend with a 1-7 record against his former assistant Bob Stoops, finally got the monkey off his back when his Wildcats beat Stoops' Sooners 24-19 in Norman. 

    Oklahoma may have one of the most talented teams in the country, but the Sooners just don't have the heart of a true champion. 

Montee Ball Should Not Have Come Back

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    Wisconsin RB Montee Ball surprised pretty much everybody when he announced that he would be returning to Madison for his senior year, instead of entering the 2012 NFL draft. 

    That's a decision that Ball clearly regrets now. 

    After rushing for over 1,900 yards, scoring 39 touchdowns and finishing fourth in the Heisman voting in 2011, Ball had solidified his status as an early-to-mid second round draft pick. 

    Now, though, after being injured in an offseason attack, getting off to a slow start to the season and then leaving this past weekend's game against UTEP with a head injury, it seems like Ball's stock is fading fast. 

    There's still time to recover, but it looks like Ball will eventually end up regretting that he didn't cash in on his 2011 success when he had the chance. 

Arkansas Is Officially in Free-Fall Mode

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    If you had asked Arkansas fans back in March what the Razorbacks' record would be after the first four weeks of the season, some of the optimistic ones would have told you 4-0, and the rest would have told you 3-1 with a loss to Alabama. 

    None of them could have imagined a catastrophic 1-3 start to the season. But that's the reality they must now face. 

    Interim head coach John L. Smith has officially lost his team (assuming he ever had the players' attention to begin with), and there is now a gloomy energy floating around Fayetteville. 

    It's a shame that disgraced coach Bobby Petrino acted in such a selfish manner.

    If Petrino had been the coach this year, this team truly had the talent to make another run at a double-digit win season. 

    Now, the Razorbacks will be lucky just to make a bowl game. 

Oregon State Is a Team to Watch out for

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    Oregon State has only played in two games this season, but they've already picked up two big wins over ranked opponents. 

    The Beavers look like a totally different team than the one that struggled to a 3-9 record in 2011. This is a squad that has the talent to really make some noise in the Pac-12 this season. 

    The offense is led by the dangerous passing trio of QB Sean Mannion and explosive receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks, while the defense is loaded with key playmakers such as defensive ends Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton, linebacker Michael Doctor and cornerback Jordan Poyer. 

    Don't be surprised if the Beavers give their in-state rival the Oregon Ducks a real run for their money in the North division this year. 

Marcus Lattimore Is Returning to Form

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    South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is the most talented running back in college football.

    Thankfully, he's now returning to the form we saw from him before he tore a knee ligament midway through the 2011 season. 

    Lattimore showed plenty of flashes of his old self in a 31-10 win over Missouri on Saturday. He ran for 85 yards and scored two touchdowns. 

    The powerful 6'0'', 218-pound junior may not be 100 percent just yet, but you can tell that he's getting stronger and growing more comfortable with each passing week. 

Zach Mettenberger Is Not a Great Quarterback

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    Before the season started, some LSU fans were pumping up new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger as a Heisman candidate and a potential high NFL draft pick. 

    So far, though, Mettenberger has looked average at best. 

    Mettenberger struggled mightily in his first road game of the season at Auburn, completing just 15 of his 27 passes for 127 yards, getting sacked twice and fumbling twice. 

    The first-year starter may have the size and arm strength you want to see in a prototypical pocket passer, but he still has a lot of work to do in order to find consistent success against SEC caliber defenses. 

West Virginia’s Offense Isn’t Unstoppable

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    West Virginia's offense put up some insane numbers in the first two weeks of the season. However, those two performances came against Marshall and James Madison, two teams that don't exactly have top-of-the-line defenses. 

    The Mountaineers faced their first BCS opponent this past weekend when the Maryland Terrapins came to town. 

    While they ultimately came away with a 31-21 win, the offense looked sloppy and it didn't come close to resembling the offensive juggernaut it was built up to be.

    QB Geno Smith and WR Tavon Austin hooked up for three impressive touchdown passes. The problem is, the offensive line couldn't handle the blitzes that Maryland sent, and the running game was nonexistent.

    Smith, Austin and fellow receiver Stedman Bailey can only carry this team so far against Big 12 caliber opponents. If the rest of the offense doesn't step up, West Virginia will be out of the national championship race rather quickly. 

Boise State Is Not a Top 25 Team

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    If you made the unfortunate choice to watch the Boise State-BYU game last Thursday, then you know that this year's edition of the Broncos is not nearly the same caliber of team that we've been used to seeing during the Chris Petersen era. 

    Petersen's squad could only muster up 261 yards of total offense and 13 first downs in the sloppy 7-6 victory. 

    First-year starting quarterback Joe Southwick obviously has a lot of work to do before he can even be mentioned in the same breath as his predecessor Kellen Moore. 

    Right now, Boise State just does not have the look of a true top 25 team. If the Broncos don't improve in the coming weeks, they may not even be able to challenge Nevada for the Mountain West championship this season. 

Ezekiel Ansah Is This Year's Sleeper Pass-Rushing Prospect

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    There weren't many great individual performances in BYU's 7-6 loss to Boise State last Thursday night. However, one Cougar who really stood out is outside linebacker Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah. 

    Ansah finished the game with eight total tackles, including six solo tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss, as well as a sack. 

    The 6'6'', 270-pound senior has a reputation for being an athletic freak, and he certainly displayed some truly amazing physical ability against the Broncos. 

    The native of Ghana is still noticeably raw and his technique needs to be refined. But Ansah is the type of rare physical specimen that will really climb up NFL draft boards in the coming months. 

    Although he may not be a household name just yet, Ansah is definitely a sleeper prospect that scouts will be paying close attention to this season. 

Collin Klein and John Hubert Can Lead Kansas State to a Big 12 Title

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    Kansas State has one of the most powerful backfield duos in the country comprised of QB Collin Klein and RB John Hubert. 

    Everyone already knows all about Klein from his breakout performance in 2011, but they're going to get to learn about Hubert this season. 

    The 5'7'', 191-pound junior is a clone of former Wildcats star Darren Sproles. 

    Hubert was the key to the offenses's success in the big 24-19 win over Oklahoma on Saturday, rushing for 130 yards and a critical fourth quarter touchdown.

Arizona Is Not Ready to Play with the Big Boys

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    Arizona may have had a nice win over Oklahoma State back in Week 2. But the Wildcats proved that they had no business being ranked in the top 25 when they got slaughtered 49-0 by Oregon on Saturday. 

    QB Matt Scott went from looking like a star dual-threat playmaker to looking lost against Oregon's defense, completing just 22 of his 44 passes and throwing three interceptions. 

The Oregon Defense Is No Joke

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    Oregon's high-powered offensive attack has been the media's main focus during the last three seasons. But the Ducks defense is now starting to gain some respect of its own in 2012. 

    The defense held Arizona's potent offense in check on Saturday. Oregon shut out the Wildcats and held them to just 332 total yards, while forcing five turnovers. 

    The Ducks may miss their defensive leader, safety John Boyett, but other experienced veterans such as defensive end Dion Jordan and linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso have really stepped up in his absence. 

Chris Thompson Is a Gamebreaker

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    Many were wondering how Florida State RB Chris Thompson would perform this season following a serious back injury that sidelined him for eight games in 2011. 

    So far Thompson has shown absolutely no ill-effects from the injury, and he's currently playing the best football of his career. 

    Thompson proved that his huge game against Wake Forest in Week 3, in which he ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries, was no fluke, as he totaled 182 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns in a 49-37 win over Clemson. 

    The 5'8'', 187-pound senior is an electric and dynamic gamebreaker who can reel off a big play as both a runner as well as a receiver. 

Denard Robinson Is Not an Elite Player

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    Michigan QB Denard Robinson has been built up to be one of the best players in college football since he exploded onto the scene at the start of the 2010 season. 

    The truth is, Robinson is a great athlete and a dangerous runner, but he is certainly not one of the elite players in the sport. 

    The dual-threat senior signal-caller has beaten just two ranked teams in his career, and he's often struggled in the Wolverines' biggest games. 

    Not only has Robinson not developed into a better passer; he actually looks like he's regressed since Al Borges switched the offensive systems from a spread attack to a west coast passing-style offense. 

    I still have the Sports Illustrated  2012 college football preview edition with Denard Robinson on the cover sitting on my desk, and I now get a good chuckle every time I glance at it. 

Stefon Diggs Could Be This Year’s Sammy Watkins

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    So far this season, the three true freshmen that have received the most attention are Georgia RB Todd Gurley, Miami RB Duke Johnson and Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon. However, there's another highly touted prospect from the 2012 recruiting class that is already making a huge impact for his team, and that's Maryland WR Stefon Diggs. 

    Diggs looked sensational against West Virginia on Saturday, catching three passes for 113 yards and scoring two touchdowns. 

    The 6'1'', 185-pound freshman is a big play threat who is capable of taking it to the house any time he gets the ball in his hands. 

    Since Maryland is a mediocre team, Diggs probably won't receive the same type of attention that Clemson's Sammy Watkins did last year during his breakout freshman campaign. But he certainly has the chance to have a special first season. 

Rex Burkhead’s Knee Is Fine

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    Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead sat out the Cornhuskers' games against UCLA and Arkansas State due to a knee injury. However, Burkhead looked just fine when he made his return against Idaho State this past weekend. 

    The 5'11'', 210-pound senior ran the ball eight times for 119 yards and scored two touchdowns in the 73-7 win. 

Braxton Miller Is Not Better Than Tim Tebow...Yet

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    Last week, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was quoted as saying that his current quarterback Braxton Miller was more talented than his former Heisman-winning pupil at Florida, Tim Tebow. 

    Miller certainly looked every bit as good as Tebow in his first three games running Meyer's spread offense, as he totaled 988 yards of offense and scored 12 touchdowns. 

    The sophomore signal-caller didn't exactly live up to the hype against UAB, though, as he threw for just 143 yards and failed to move the offense consistently down the field in a sluggish 29-15 win.

    Miller's got a bright future ahead of him, and he should develop into a star in Meyer's offense. But he doesn't belong in the same conversation as Tebow just yet. 

Tavon Austin Is Still West Virginia’s No. 1 Receiver

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    Stedman Bailey was West Virginia's most productive receiver in the team's first two games. However, Tavon Austin reminded everyone who the Mountaineers' real No. 1 receiver was when he torched the Maryland defense on Saturday. 

    Austin was the key difference-maker in the 31-21 win, as he finished with 13 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. 

Notre Dame’s Defense Is Dominant

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    Notre Dame's defense stepped up in a big way, shutting down Michigan State's offense and holding the Spartans to just three points in Week 3. 

    The unit then followed that up with another tremendous performance against Michigan this past weekend. The Irish held the Wolverines to just six points and 299 total yards and forced five interceptions. 

    LB Manti Te'o looks like an early contender for All-American honors, while DE Stephon Tuitt is growing into a truly scary pass-rusher. 

    The Irish currently rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense and 16th in total defense, giving up an average of just  nine points and 291 yards per game. 

Landry Jones Will Not Be a First Round Draft Pick

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    QB Landry Jones returned to Oklahoma for his senior season with the hope of repairing his damaged NFL stock and showing scouts that he does have what it takes to be a first-round draft pick. 

    After his poor performance on the big stage at home against Kansas State, it doesn't look like Jones will reach that goal. 

    The senior signal-caller averaged just 6.9 yards per pass attempt, he threw one costly interception and had a fumble near the end zone that was scooped up for a Kansas State touchdown. 

    Jones' poor decision-making and his propensity to make key mistakes in big games means that he will be considered nothing more than a Day 2 pick for the 2013 NFL draft. 

Missouri Is Not Ready to Contend in the SEC East

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    It doesn't help that Missouri had to face the two best teams in the SEC East for its first two conference games. But at least it let the Tigers know right away that they're not ready to compete in the division this season.

    After losing to Georgia 41-20 in Week 2, Missouri got hammered at South Carolina 31-10 on Saturday. 

    The Tigers aren't a bad team by any means. They simply aren't ready to handle the "old man football" that they have to face in their new league. 

Marqise Lee Is the Best Receiver in the Country

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    No other receiver in the country has looked as impressive as USC's Marqise Lee has so far this season. 

    Lee caught double-digit passes for the third time this season against Cal when he hauled in 11 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-9 victory. 

    The 6'1'', 195-pound sophomore has already caught 40 passes for 457 yards and six touchdowns in just four games. 

    Although he's not eligible for the 2013 NFL draft, Lee looks like he's the early front-runner to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. 

Giovani Bernard Is Back

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    After totaling 213 all-purpose yards and scoring three touchdowns in just the first half of North Carolina's season-opener against Elon, RB Giovani Bernard was forced to sit out the following two games with what was believed to be a knee injury. 

    Bernard returned to action against East Carolina on Saturday. He showed no signs of rust, as he totaled 102 yards of offense and scored two touchdowns in the 27-6 win. 

    The explosive 5'10'', 205-pound sophomore will now be looking to make up for lost time when North Carolina hosts Idaho this week. 

Cobi Hamilton Is Explosive

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    Arkansas may have experienced a disappointing 35-26 loss at home to Rutgers. However, one Razorback who certainly didn't disappoint was WR Cobi Hamilton. 

    Hamilton set an SEC record, catching 10 passes for a whopping 303 yards and scoring all three of his team's touchdowns. 

    Any time you average 30 yards per catch, that's certainly going to raise the eyebrows of NFL scouts. 

    It's good to see the 6'3'', 209-pound senior handling his role as the team's new go-to receiver so well. 

Knile Davis’ Stock Is Dropping

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    While WR Cobi Hamilton's NFL stock may be starting to soar, there's another heralded Arkansas offensive player, RB Knile Davis, who is watching as his stock plummets. 

    After sitting out the entire 2011 season with an ankle injury, Davis was expected to return and challenge for the SEC rushing title this year. 

    So far, though, the 6'0'', 226-pound junior has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry.

    Davis had his worst game of the season against Rutgers, averaging just 1.7 yards per carry on 10 touches. 

Connor Shaw Is Developing into a Leader

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    South Carolina QB Connor Shaw was unexpectedly thrown into the fire midway through the 2011 season after starter Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team. 

    Shaw handled himself well and managed to rally the Gamecocks and helped lead the team to an 11-win record and a top-10 national ranking. 

    The junior signal-caller now looks like he's developing into a true offensive leader this year, and that was quite evident in the team's 31-10 win over Missouri. 

    Shaw completed 20 of his 21 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns and added another 41 yards on the ground. 

Georgia Tech Doesn’t Have the Defense to Compete for an ACC Title

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    Georgia Tech may have one of the most powerful rushing attacks in the country. However, the Yellow Jackets simply do not have the defense it takes to compete for an ACC title in 2012. 

    Coach Paul Johnson was forced to watch his defense get smoked by Miami, giving up 609 total yards and 42 points in an overtime loss to the Hurricanes. 

    Georgia Tech has some quality talent on defense such as future NFL draft picks LB Jeremiah Attaochu, CB Rod Sweeting and safety Isaiah Johnson. But the group just doesn't seem to know how to play like a cohesive unit. 

Phillip Sims Should Be Virginia’s Starting Quarterback

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    It seems that the time is now for Virginia coach Mike London to name Alabama transfer Phillip Sims as the team's new starting quarterback. 

    Current starter Michael Rocco has been largely ineffective in the last three games, and the offense has had trouble moving the ball with him leading the way. 

    Sims hasn't been spectacular when he's been in, but he has at least added a bit of a spark to the offense when he's gone under center. 

Johnathan Franklin’s Heisman Hopes Have Taken a Hit

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    UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin was one of the most impressive individual performers of the first three weeks of the season. 

    Franklin's breakout performance helped him gain some early Heisman buzz. However, after rushing for just 45 yards in a 27-20 loss to Oregon State, the senior is going to have some work to do to get back into the conversation once again. 

    If UCLA makes a surprising run to the Pac-12 championship game, and if Franklin puts up big numbers late in the season against USC and Stanford, he may still have a shot at earning an invite to New York City. 

Dion Sims Is a Beast

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    Big, powerful RB Le'Veon Bell isn't the only scary beast-like player on the Michigan State offense. 

    TE Dion Sims is also the type of intimidating monster that will have defenders shaking in their cleats.

    Sims had the best game of his career on Saturday against Eastern Michigan, hauling in six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in the 23-7 victory. 

    The athletic 6'5'', 285-pound junior looks like he could just be the best eligible tight end prospect for the 2013 NFL draft. 

Todd Gurley Is Ready for Stardom

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    Georgia RB Todd Gurley has had Georgia fans asking, "Isaiah who?" following his huge performances in the first few weeks of the season. 

    Gurley enjoyed the best game of his young career against Vanderbilt on Saturday when he totaled 143 yards of offense and scored two touchdowns in a 48-3 win. 

    The 6'1'', 218-pound freshman seems like he's destined to become one of the SEC's biggest breakout stars this season. 

Matt McGloin Is Developing into a Decent Passer

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    Last year, Penn State QB Matt McGloin was statistically one of the worst passers in the country.

    McGloin completed just 54 percent of his passes and finished the season with a 118 passer rating, which ranked 89th in the nation 

    This season, however, the senior offensive leader looks like he's really improved as a passer. McGloin had the best outing of his career this past Saturday when he completed 24 of his 36 passes for 305 yards in a 24-13 win over Temple. 

Rutgers Has Earned a Top 25 National Ranking

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    Rutgers has only been ranked in the top 25 for one week since the 2007 season, but the Scarlet Knights have proven that they at least deserve a ranking right now. 

    The team seems to have really bought in to first-year head coach Kyle Flood's philosophy. 

    The Knights are playing with a special type of attitude and swagger that allowed them to go on the road and beat South Florida and Arkansas in consecutive weeks. 

    Right now, Rutgers definitely looks like it could challenge Louisville for a Big East championship and a BCS bowl bid this season. 

Joel Stave Is Wisconsin’s Best Option at Quarterback

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    It only took three games to realize that Wisconsin's offense was going absolutely nowhere as long as Danny O'Brien was under center. 

    Coach Bret Bielema finally made the right decision to put in O'Brien's more talented backup Joel Stave against UTEP in Week 4, and Stave repaid him with a 37-26 victory. 

    The freshman signal-caller completed 12 of his 17 passes, threw a touchdown and finished with a 182 passer rating for the game. 

Louisiana Tech’s Offense Is for Real

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    Louisiana Tech scored 56 points in each of its first two games. However, the Bulldogs had yet to face a defense the caliber of the one they saw against Illinois this past Saturday. 

    Still, Sonny Dykes' squad proved to be just too much for the Illini to handle, as the offense totaled 403 yards in a 52-24 win. 

    QB Colby Cameron and his dangerous receiving duo of Quinton Patton and Myles White are the type of lethal passing combination that no team will want to have to try to slow down this season. 

Casey Pachall Is Underrated

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    West Virginia's Geno Smith, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Kansas State's Collin Klein were the three Big 12 quarterbacks that everyone was talking about this offseason. But there's a new signal-caller in the conference that people better take notice of. 

    TCU's Casey Pachall enjoyed an outstanding first season as a starter in 2011, and he looks like he's raised his game to an even higher level this year. 

    Pachall just completed 21 of his 32 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-7 win over Virginia this past weekend. 

    The big junior signal-caller is definitely a player to watch out for in the Big 12 this season. 

It's Time to Put Kirk Ferentz on the Hot Seat

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    I've never been the type of person that likes to talk about which college football coaches deserve to be fired, but I do understand that "hot seat" chatter is simply a part of the game. 

    One college coach who may have to deal with a backlash from fans in the coming weeks is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. 

    Ferentz has been the head coach at Iowa for the past 14 years, but since 2010, the Hawkeyes have seemingly been on a steady decline. 

    After a disastrous 32-31 loss to Central Michigan at home this past weekend, Iowa is now just 17-13 in its last 30 games. 

Corey Lemonier Is an Elite Pass-Rusher

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    Auburn's defense may not be that impressive this season, but the unit does feature at least one true standout star, and that's DE Corey Lemonier.

    Lemonier solidified his status as an elite pass-rusher with a huge outing against LSU this past weekend.

    The 6'4'', 249-pound junior racked up two sacks and two tackles for loss against the Tigers, and he was constantly bursting into the backfield on a consistent basis. 

    There are a lot of great edge-rushers that are eligible for the 2013 NFL draft, but not many of them can compare to Lemonier. 

Duke Johnson Isn’t Miami’s Only Talented Back

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    Miami's highly touted true freshman running back Duke Johnson has been the offensive player who received the most accolades for his performance in the first three weeks of the season.

    This week, however, his older backfield counterpart, senior Mike James, showed that he could also do plenty of damage to a defense as well.

    James carried the ball 15 times for 89 yards and scored four touchdowns in a wild 42-36 win over Georgia Tech. 

Colorado Will Not Go 0-12 This Year

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    Last week, I said that there's a good chance that Colorado could go 0-12 this year after losing its first three games to non-BCS opponents Colorado State, Sacramento State and Fresno State. 

    The Buffaloes proved me wrong, though, as they pulled off a shocking 35-34 last-second win at Washington State on Saturday. 

    Jon Embree's young, inexperienced squad finally has a reason to celebrate. However, with matchups with UCLA, Arizona State, USC, Oregon and Stanford all coming up, that celebration certainly won't last very long. 

Tommy Rees Can Handle Pressure

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    For the second time this season, QB Tommy Rees has come into a game and helped guide Notre Dame to a crucial victory. 

    Rees entered the matchup with Michigan in the second quarter after starter Everett Golson threw his second interception, and he helped lead the Irish to a 13-6 victory. 

    The junior signal-caller's performance in a pressure-packed situation shows that he's starting to mature and he's now a much more consistent and reliable quarterback than the one we saw in 2011. 

Baylor’s Offense Is Still Explosive

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    Baylor may have lost its two most explosive offensive weapons from 2011—QB Robert Griffin III and WR Kendall Wright. However, the Bears offense has continued to look extremely explosive in the first few weeks of the season. 

    The Bears currently rank fifth in the nation in scoring offense and sixth in total offense, averaging 51 points and 568 yards per game. 

    Art Briles' squad just put together its most impressive offensive performance of the season in a 47-42 win on the road against a feisty Louisiana-Monroe team. 

    QB Nick Florence has handled his role as the starter just fine thus far, and Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson have been one of the best receiving trios in the country. 

Ball State Is a MAC Contender

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    Ohio may be the consensus favorite to win the MAC this season, but don't be surprised if the Bobcats end up getting challenged by Ball State.

    The Cardinals just got done beating their second straight BCS opponent on Saturday when they surprised a visiting South Florida team 31-27. 

    That win comes just a week after Ball State went on the road and beat Indiana 41-39. 

    QB Keith Wenning and RB Jahwan Edwards are two talented playmakers who should continue to thrive against conference competition.

Stefphon Jefferson Is a Workhorse

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    Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson hasn't received much national attention or publicity so far this season, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't deserved praise for his performance in 2012. 

    Jefferson just totaled 246 yards of offense and scored seven touchdowns in a 69-24 victory over Hawaii this past Saturday. 

    The 5'11'', 210-pound junior is currently leading the nation with 122 carries for 697 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. 

    He and QB Cody Fajardo form one of the most dangerous backfield duos in college football. 

Southern Miss Misses Larry Fedora

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    Last year, Southern Miss was one of the most consistent and efficient teams in the country. The Golden Eagles finished with 12 wins and a Conference USA championship. 

    This year's squad clearly misses coach Larry Fedora, who left to take a job at North Carolina. 

    Fedora's replacement, Ellis Johnson, has yet to win a game as the team has started off 0-3. 

    Southern Miss' worst loss of the season came this past weekend when the Golden Eagles were destroyed 42-17 by Western Kentucky. 

    Under Johnson's watch, the team currently ranks 115th in the nation in scoring offense and 116th in scoring defense. 

Taylor Kelly Will Lead Arizona State Back to Relevancy

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    Arizona State hasn't had a winning season since 2007, but that looks like it will change this year. 

    The Sun Devils are currently 3-1 after a huge 37-7 victory over Utah this past weekend. 

    QB Taylor Kelly has been one of the real hidden gems in college football through the first few weeks of the season.

    Kelly has completed 72 percent of his passes for 1,000 yards and thrown six touchdowns compared to just two interceptions. 

    The sophomore signal-caller looks like the type of player who should help Arizona State climb out of the hole it fell into during former coach Dennis Erickson's watch. 

E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith and A.J. McCarron Are the Top Heisman Contenders

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    At this point in the season, it's silly to call any player a "Heisman favorite." However, right now there are three clear-cut top contenders for this year's award.

    Florida State QB E.J. Manuel, West Virginia QB Geno Smith and Alabama QB A.J. McCarron have all enjoyed terrific starts to the 2012 season. Plus, it helps that they all happen to play for top 10 teams. 

    If Manuel, Smith and McCarron keep up their current level of production, and keep leading their teams to wins every week, there's a good chance that all three will be sitting in New York City on the second Saturday of December.