2011 Who's Hot & Not
2010 Hot & Nots
Who's Hot & Not Week 1
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Who's Not ... Week 7
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10. San Jose State
The rebuilding being done by head coach Mike MacIntyre is gradually beginning to produce dividends for the Spartans. After shocking Hawaii, 28-27, in a thriller Friday night, San Jose State has taken three of its last four to match its combined win total from 2009 and 2010. The young and improving program received contributions from offense, defense and special teams, including career evenings from QB Matt Faulkner, WR Chandler Jones and DE Travis Johnson.
With all due respect to Houston, the Mustangs are on the verge of carrying the Conference USA banner in 2011. Two weeks after stunning TCU for the Iron Skillet, SMU exacted revenge on UCF, 38-17, for last December's loss in the league title game. June Jones' squad has now won five games in-a-row since an opening day loss to Texas A&M, using big plays on offense, defense and special teams to catch fire as the season has unfolded.
8. Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus
That Illinois lost an ugly game to Ohio State, 17-7, was no reflection on Mercilus, the aptly-named end who continues to evolve into one of the breakout defensive stars of 2011. After whipping Buckeyes linemen for nine tackles, 2.5 stops for loss and 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, the 6-4, 265-pound Akron, OH native now has a Big Ten-high 13 tackles behind the line, including a nation's high nine sacks.
7. Miami QB Jacory Harris
Yeah, this is a strange placement for Harris, the usually erratic and error-prone Hurricanes quarterback. However, he's in the midst of arguably the best three-game stretch of his college career. The catalyst for Saturday's upset of North Carolina in Chapel Hill has thrown eight touchdown passes without an interception over that time, capped by this past weekend's crisp effort. Without much help from RB Lamar Miller and the ground game, Harris went 20-of-30 for 267 yards and three scores.
6. Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
The junior slot receiver had a career day versus Baylor, catching 11 balls for 206 yards and a school-record four touchdowns. Channeling former Big 12 star Wes Welker, Swope has been kept below five catches just once all season, and is the perfect complement for QB Ryan Tannehill to outside receiver Jeff Fuller. At his best once the ball is in his hands, well over half of this year's 619 receiving yards have come after the reception.
5. Wisconsin RB Montee Ball
Ball is the Badgers' scoring machine, displaying an uncanny nose for the goal line. A year after reaching the end zone 18 times, the junior already leads the country with 17 touchdowns, including three more against Indiana in Saturday's rout of the Hoosiers. None of Wisconsin's six opponents has been able to keep the back from scoring at least twice in a game this season.
4. Washington QB Keith Price
Was Price seriously being challenged by Nick Montana for the starting job in the offseason? The sophomore is authoring one of the more remarkable seasons by a Huskies quarterback, including anything predecessor Jake Locker ever did on Montlake. After garroting Colorado for four touchdown passes—all in the first half of a 52-24 blowout—Price has now thrown 21 scoring strikes and only four picks. As difficult as it may be, he might be ready to emerge from the long shadows of the Pac-12's top quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Darron Thomas.
3. The Michigan State D
The Spartans defense continues to be one of this season's biggest unit surprises in the country, ranking among the national leaders in just about every statistical category. They suffocated a dangerous Michigan offense over the weekend, sacking the quarterbacks seven times, and limiting the Wolverines to just 250 total yards. In yet another total team effort in East Lansing, eight different Michigan State defenders had a hand in the team's seven sacks of Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner.
2. Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles
Broyles smashed Taylor Stubblefield's NCAA mark for career receptions in style late Saturday night. The All-American senior, who could have been in the NFL now instead of Norman, pulled down 13 balls for a personal-best 217 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas. At the halfway point in the Sooners' season, he's already caught 60 passes for 815 yards and nine touchdowns, including four consecutive games with at least 100 yards and a scoring catch.
1. Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
By the time he's through playing at this level, fans and observers will have run out of adjectives to describe the ability of Watkins. He defies all common descriptions of a true freshman, abusing opposing defenders who have three or four more years of experience on him. In a game for the ages at Clemson, he broke C.J. Spiller's single-game school record with 345 all-purpose yards, adding three crucial touchdowns to spark a frenetic second-half rally. His final score, an 89-yard kickoff return to put the Tigers up for good with seven minutes left, stamped him as the premier rookie of 2011 … at least.
Who's Not ... Week 7