2011 Who's Hot & Not
2010 Hot & Nots
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Who's Not ... Week 11
Who’s Hot ...
10. The Toledo Offense
Are the Rockets aptly-named these days or what? Tim Beckman’s team has entered a new galaxy in the second half of 2011, scoring a jaw-dropping 175 points over the last three games alone. Toledo has hung up no less than 60 points in each of the last two weeks, slapping around Western Michigan last week for 804 total yards, 419 from the Adonis Thomas-led ground game, and 385 out of quarterbacks Terrance Owens and Austin Dantin. The Rockets might not get past Northern Illinois in the MAC West, but they’ll make some committee happy to have them participating in its bowl game.
9. Southern Miss
Okay, so the Golden Eagles don’t harbor a record-setting quarterback, or hang up 50 points like it’s an involuntary spasm, but they’re every bit as hot as Conference USA front man Houston. Southern Miss has won eight straight since its lone black eye, a Sept. 10 loss to Marshall, getting contributions from up and down the roster. The Austin Davis-led offense is balanced, the D has made a slew of big plays and the special teams are among the best in the country. If the Eagles and Cougars can remain on the rails, it’ll set up a battle of ranked teams, and the most anticipated Conference USA Championship Game in league history.
8. West Virginia WR Stedman Bailey
Next to QB Geno Smith, no Mountaineers player has benefitted more from the presence of head coach Dana Holgorsen than Bailey. He’s had a breakout junior season in West Virginia’s more pass-happy system, catching 57 balls for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Florida native was once again one of the heroes in Saturday’s upset of Big East leader Cincinnati, notching 100 receiving yards for the seventh time in the last eight games, and catching a touchdown pass in the fifth consecutive game.
While it might be a case of too little, too late in the race for the wide-open South Division, the Utes have spent the last three weeks showing that they belong in the Pac-12. After losing its first four conference games, Utah has won three straight, handling Oregon State, Arizona and UCLA behind the running of JUCO transfer RB John White, and the play of an underrated, blue-collar D. With remaining games versus Wazzu and Colorado, the opportunity is in place to enter the postseason 8-4, which would be a terrific debut season in a tougher league.
6. Boston College LB Luke Kuechly
It’s quite possible that Kuechly is being taken for granted, because his team is 3-7, and his play is so darn dependable. Far and away the nation’s leading tackler with 168, he’s posted double-digits in stops in 32 consecutive games dating back to his rookie season in 2009. The quintessential tackling machine had 18 of them in his Eagles’ 14-10 upset of North Carolina State over the weekend, displaying the instincts and fundamentals that the coaching staff hopes will rub off his younger teammates.
If you give Gary Patterson and his staff of underrated assistants a little time, they’ll produce a dangerous club. In this supposed rebuilding year, the Horned Frogs have won five straight, and are poised to take a Mountain West trophy with it to the Big 12 next year. Best of all, the program has its quarterback of the future in sophomore Casey Pachall, who calmly threw for 473 yards, five touchdowns and the game-winning two-pointer to become the first opposing quarterback in almost six years to beat Boise State on the blue turf.
4. Virginia Tech RB David Wilson
Wilson is the reason there wasn’t much concern around Blacksburg when Ryan Williams and Darren Evans both opted to leave early for the NFL Draft last January. The junior figures to be the next Hokies back to bolt as he whets the appetite of scouts and GMs with a breakout debut as the starter. He’s not getting nearly as much attention as, say, Alabama’s Trent Richardson, which is too bad. Wilson ranks among the nation’s leaders in rushing, going for 100 yards in all but one game in 2011, capped by a career-high 175 yards in Thursday night’s key win over Georgia Tech.
3. The Georgia D
The catalyst for the Bulldogs’ eight-game winning streak and SEC East lead, Todd Grantham’s defense has never looked back after getting dissected in the first two games by Boise State and South Carolina. Quick, name the All-American candidate on this unit. LB Jarvis Jones? FS Bacarri Rambo? Maybe, but this crew has been a collaborative effort that’s fifth nationally in run defense and pass efficiency defense, and has yielded just 13 points a game during the winning streak.
2. Kansas State QB Collin Klein
Klein is not a serious Heisman contender for 2011. He could, however, be on a lot of short lists when 2012 begins. The junior has sort of snuck up on a lot of people this fall, his first as a regular. He became a 1,000-yard rusher in the quadruple-overtime win against Texas A&M, and has accounted for 34 total touchdowns on the season. A throwback because of his powerful, north-south running style, he’ll be even more dangerous next year after spending an entire offseason sharpening his throwing motion.
1. The Oregon D
You know you’re doing your job when you can overshadow RB LaMichael James and the rest of the nation’s third-ranked scoring offense. Nick Aliotti’s defense was the story in Saturday night’s pivotal upset of Stanford that put the Ducks in the HOV lane that heads to Pasadena. Oregon isn’t going to be Alabama or LSU from a statistical standpoint, but it is creating all kinds of mayhem for opposing offenses. Over the last two weeks, on the road, the D has kept both Washington and Stanford 18 points below their season average at the time. Oh, and don’t forget that the Ducks’ top defender when the season began, CB Cliff Harris, has been a non-factor in 2011.
Who's Not ... Week 11