The beauty of college football is regardless of how much guys like me and many other pundits try to predict what is going to happen, anything can happen—the beauty of sports. As Chris Berman says, “That’s why they play the game, folks!”
Check out my column this week as I discuss the UNC upset over Virginia Tech, Oregon's throttling of the USC Trojans, Iowa's improbable run towards a BCS game, and much more!
UNC Stuns VT
The weekend got off to an interesting start as the unranked North Carolina Tar Heels shocked the 14th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg. UNC kicker Casey Barth nailed two field goals in the final three minutes of the contest to lift the Heels (5-3 overall) to the 20-17 victory.
Virginia Tech redshirt freshman running back Ryan Williams made one of the few mistakes of his dazzling freshman campaign thus far, fumbling the ball on his own 24-yard line with 2:09 left in the fourth quarter.
UNC recovered, and all they did was run the football, run the clock down, and take a shot at a field goal. They did just that, and sure enough, the Heels had pulled off one of the more improbable victories of this college football season thus far.
The Tar Heels have been plagued by a rather atrocious offensive line and young and inexperienced receivers that don’t run proper routes. Their senior quarterback, T.J. Yates , is one of the more talented signal callers in the ACC, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his stats this season. He has simply had little or no protection from his offensive line all season long.
It’s definitely a big win for the Heels, but until that offensive line finally begins to gel and block effectively for Yates, they will likely struggle the rest of the way.
The freshman running back Williams was obviously very dejected at the end of the game, and despite numerous attempts by UNC players and Virginia Tech players alike to cheer him up, he still held his head buried in his hands.
It’s understandable why the guy would be so upset, feeling guilty for costing his team the football game, but Williams has done so much for the Hokies as a freshman. He’ll learn from this experience, and another star of a running back has already been born in Blacksburg—a place that seems to produce them year after year.
The Hokies were ranked as high as fourth in the country at one point this season, but have since dropped to 22nd in the AP poll and 24th in the Coaches’ Poll. They will likely need help from Georgia Tech and Duke if they wish to have a shot at the ACC title.
Speaking of Duke
I was thinking before this college football season that Duke would have an awfully good shot of going to a bowl game...yes, you read that correctly, Duke going to a bowl game! Well, sure enough the Blue Devils and their head coach David Cutcliffe have the folks believing down in Durham.
After wins this season against in-conference foes N.C. State, Maryland, and Virginia, the Blue Devils are 5-3 overall and only need two more wins to become bowl eligible.
I’m not gonna lie—I wasn't sure I would ever hear the words Duke football and bowl eligible in the same sentence in my lifetime, but you have to give Coach Cutcliffe all the credit in the world.
He has done what so many other coaches could not accomplish in Durham, and that’s turn the Blue Devils into a very solid football squad. He owes it all to his golden-armed gunslinger this season, as quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is truly one of the most underrated players in college football.
The super senior nearly led the Blue Devils to an upset victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies (they lost 34-26) when he torched the Hokie secondary for 359 passing yards while completing 22 of his 40 pass attempts, tossing two touchdowns and no interceptions.
This season, Lewis has put up gaudy statistics, but simply not enough college football fans could tell you, because it’s Duke. He’s second in the ACC in passing yards per game (289.4 ypg.). Lewis has completed 188 of his 296 (63.5 percent) passing attempts while firing 15 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
Duke is not the Duke football of old, let me tell you, folks. They are a team to be reckoned with. While they won’t be making a BCS title run any time soon, the Blue Devils are a very solid football team that is tough to beat.
As long as Cutcliffe is there, they will compete to be a decent team in the ACC. His reputation as a quarterbacks coach has top-notch signal callers knocking down the door to come play in Durham. He already has the highly touted quarterback Sean Renfree on his roster, who attended the Elite 11 QB camp in high school, a camp for the nation’s elite high school signal callers.
One kid who I’m extremely high on that could end up being a dynamic quarterback of the future for the Duke Blue Devils is QB Brandon Connette, a senior signal caller for Santiago High School in Corona California. He has already committed to Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils for the class of 2010.
In 2008, Connette threw for 1,460 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 861 yards and 10 touchdowns! Simply gaudy statistics, folks. The kid throws a beautiful-looking football on the run and has an excellent sense of when to take off in the pocket. He can beat you with his arm or his legs, and I really love this kid’s overall skill set.
He reminds me in many ways of QB Tate Forcier coming out of high school. A lofty comparison, I know, but this kid has excellent potential. You can’t teach that sixth sense of knowing when the pocket is going to collapse, and Connette has that sixth sense. Look out for him in the years to come for the Blue Devils!
Check out his highlights below from the 2008-2009 season and judge for yourself:
The fourth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes continue to make their improbable run towards a BCS game, possibly even a BCS national championship game. Their luck has to run out at some point, you would think.
Well, their string of luck continued on Saturday—with Indiana leading 21-7 and with the ball on the two-yard line, about to go up three scores, the improbable happened.
Just as if it appeared that Iowa’s dream season was going to come crashing down, Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell dropped back and fired a pass that ricocheted off five different players—yes, five—and then into the waiting arms of Iowa defender Tyler Sash , who raced 86 yards for a touchdown to cut the Indiana lead to 21-14 with less than eight minutes left in the third quarter.
From then on the Hoosiers would only score three points the rest of the contest as the Hawkeyes piled in on in the fourth, outscoring the Hoosiers 28-0. The Hawkeyes ended up winning 42-24, a very deceiving final score.
The loss must be extremely tough to stomach for the Hoosiers; they also blew a lead last week against Northwestern. Indiana was up 28-3 against Northwestern last week in the second quarter but managed to squander that lead as well, losing a 29-28 heartbreaker.
I’d look for the clock to strike 12 on the Hawkeyes on Nov. 14, when they face the Ohio State Buckeyes. Their luck has to run out at some point.
It’s amazing they escaped the Hoosiers, especially since quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw five interceptions. Stanzi threw a game-winning touchdown pass last week against Michigan State at the buzzer, and he nearly went from “Spartan Killer” to “Hawkeye Killer” in a matter of two weeks.
Without a doubt, the Hawkeyes are by far the luckiest team in college football, having won four games by three points or less. Two of those wins are against less than flattering opponents (Northern Iowa and Arkansas State).
Will the Hawkeyes continue their magical run? We shall see next weekend as they face off against Northwestern on Nov. 7.
South Florida knocks off West Virginia yet again
Sure, the players might change at each program, but as the years pass, not much changes when South Florida and West Virginia get together on the gridiron. The Bulls defeated the Mountaineers for the third time in four years on Friday night as South Florida knocked off 20th-ranked West Virginia 30-19 on Friday night.
The Bulls’ “dual-threat” sensation of a quarterback B.J. Daniels made a name for himself in a big way. The dazzling redshirt freshman passed for 232 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 104 more yards in the Bulls' upset victory. The kid clearly has a bright future ahead of him and will be a pleasure to watch once quarterback Matt Grothe graduates next season.
Daniels also racked up over 300 all-purpose yards against the Florida State Seminoles earlier this season in leading South Florida to a stunning 17-7 victory in Tallahassee.
An interesting matchup looming in the coming weeks will be when South Florida hosts signal caller Jacory Harris and the Miami Hurricanes. The way Daniels has been playing, an upset could definitely be in the works for that game—especially since Miami travels to South Florida.
The best quarterback you’ve never heard of
That dubious distinction definitely belongs to Houston QB Case Keenum . All Keenum has done the past two seasons at Houston is set the college football world on fire, but because of the visibility of Conference USA, not enough college football fans could tell you who the guy is.
One of the most gifted quarterbacks in the country, Keenum puts up some of the gaudiest stat lines you will ever see from a quarterback, week in and week out.
His latest victim—the Southern Miss Golden Eagle secondary. The junior quarterback led his troops down the field for a game-winning touchdown pass with 21 seconds left to lead the Cougars to a 50-43 shootout victory over the Golden Eagles.
Keenum had a career day in shredding the Southern Miss secondary for an eye-gouging 559 yards, completing 44 of his 54 attempts while tossing five touchdowns and just one interception.
It’s true that Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin loves to sling the ball all over the yard, but when you have a signal caller like Keenum, why wouldn’t you? The guy has put up video game-ridiculous numbers: Through eight games this season, he’s already completed over 71 percent of his passes for a staggering 3,293 yards, while tossing 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Keenum is a native of Abilene, Texas and has helped to add even more tradition to the signal caller position at Houston, which also produced the likes of the legendary Kevin Kolb under former head coach Art Briles.
It would be nice to see Keenum get some Heisman consideration, but Houston’s loss earlier in the season to UTEP hurt the Cougars’ national profile too much. Either way, he’s just a junior, so if the Cougars could run the table next season and make it to a BCS bowl game, Keenum would definitely be launched right to the forefront of the Heisman Trophy race.
Bearcats Continue to Roll
The closest any team has come to defeating them was when the Bearcats beat Fresno State 28-20 on Sept. 26. Even though they lost starting quarterback Tony Pike to a wrist injury against Louisville on Oct. 24, the Bearcats have not missed a beat since, cruising past Louisville 41-10 and Syracuse 28-7 on Saturday.
The biggest reason for that is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in all of college football, the nimble-footed Zach Collaros . The sensational sophomore is blessed with some of the best footwork you will ever see in a quarterback. Heck, there are a lot of excellent running backs out there that don’t have the feet that Collaros does.
That’s not even mentioning his uncanny passing ability—his ability to throw it on the run and place it with uncanny accuracy. Collaros took the snap on a fake field goal, calmly placed the ball down, picked it up and rolled to his right, bounced back to avoid a defender, and then launched a pass off his back foot from the 22-yard line as he was getting hit by a defender.
The prayer was answered as a wide-open Kazeem Alli caught the pass at the two-yard line and scored to make it 14-7 Bearcats.
Then, in the third quarter, Collaros made one of the most impressive passes of the 2009 college football season.
With 12:29 to go in the third quarter, Collaros took the snap in the shotgun, faked a handoff to the Cincinnati running back, took a step to his right, and then took another step back to the inside of the field, only to see a Syracuse defender, so he circled back around to his right and fired a beautifully lofted pass from the 20-yard line that found the outstretched hands of receiver Armon Binns in the back of the end zone.
Binns made a remarkably acrobatic grab, fully extending his arms in the air while still managing to getting both feet down in the back of the end zone, all the while being blanketed by a ‘Cuse defender.
If you want to see the highlights of the Bearcats' 28-7 win over Syracuse, simply click here .
Collaros is simply a phenomenally gifted quarterback. You might as well nickname him the “great improviser” because there is no better quarterback in college football at improvising in the pocket and finding an open receiver while on the move.
Not surprisingly, it’s something the Bearcats practice quite often. Collaros told reporters after the game that the Bearcats practice a scrambling drill every day. “All I know is I like to improvise a little bit,” he said. That's the understatement of the weekend!
Kudos to Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly , who has been one of the best coaches in college football since he was at Central Michigan and guided the golden-armed Dan LeFevour to one of his best seasons ever.
It seems like no matter who Kelly inserts at quarterback—Ben Mauk, Pike, Collaros—they succeed in his offensive system. He’s a man that knows the quarterback position extremely well and what it takes to succeed at that position. He also knows his offensive scheme (spread) extremely well and knows how to package it around his different personnel.
The Bearcats' athletic department better be ready to open up their wallets, because you better believe a ton of top-tier programs will be going after Kelly in the offseason.
He seems committed to Cincinnati, but they need to show that commitment back by building the proper facilities and spending the money necessary to attract top-flight talent to the Queen City. They do that, and they’ll have a highly successful program for years to come.
Check out his postgame speech after the Syracuse game below on YouTube. Kelly is a charismatic figure who knows how to get the troops fired up and just knows how to get a city buzzing about his football team!
The High-Flying Ducks
How about those Oregon Ducks? After losing their season opener to Boise State, the Ducks have rattled off seven straight victories and currently control their own Rose Bowl destiny. Who would’ve thought it after their tough loss to Boise State and the now infamous post-game punch by star running back LeGarrette Blount ?
When Blount landed that punch, I thought the Ducks’ season was headed down the tubes with him, but sure enough, head coach Chip Kelly has rallied the troops and stuck behind dynamic signal caller Jeremiah Masoli , and things have fallen into place.
Kelly is simply too good of an offensive mind for his system to not finally start working. You can credit Oregon’s offensive line, which got off to a rather slow start and just needed time to gel.
After the Ducks’ 47-20 throttling of the fifth-ranked USC Trojans, it's safe to say the Ducks are a clear-cut BCS contender, maybe even a BCS national championship contender. Masoli showed why he’s such a perfect fit for Kelly’s “zone-read” scheme, shredding the USC defense for 164 rushing yards and a touchdown, while also throwing for 221 yards and a touchdown.
Oregon running back LaMichael James made his official announcement as a college football star, loud and clear—the redshirt freshman running back set an Oregon school record for the most yards in a game by a freshman running back by gashing the USC defense for 183 rushing yards and one touchdown on 24 attempts.
The 5'9", 190-pounder makes up for what he lacks in size with his lethal combination of speed and acceleration. A true burner in the open field, James has already rushed for over 900 yards this season and averages over seven yards per carry for the Ducks. A former track star from the state of Texas, James won the state track title in the 2006 meet in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.51 seconds.
To get their hands on that coveted crystal football, the Ducks will likely need some help from people above them to lose though. Either way, the Oregon Ducks are one of the hottest teams in college football, and if anybody faces them in a BCS game, they will be in for a stiff, stiff challenge from one of the most explosive offensive attacks in all of college football.
That’s it for this week, folks. Remember, “Life is best described in football terms!” Feel free to drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop me a message on Facebook.