2011 Who's Hot & Not
2010 Hot & Nots
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Who's Not ... Week 13
Who’s Hot ...
10. Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers have lost just one time since the beginning of October, bowing to top-ranked LSU on Nov. 12. Behind the running of the school’s all-time rusher, Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky secured its first winning season since 2007 by routing Troy, 41-18. After going a highly improbable 7-1 in Sun Belt Conference play, the program and young head coach Willie Taggart are eyeing their first bowl invitation since becoming an FBS member.
9. Louisiana Tech
It’s been a very special season for the Bulldogs and second-year head coach Sonny Dykes, who haven’t lost a game since Oct. 1. Winners of seven in-a-row, Tech captured its first outright WAC championship with Saturday’s 44-0 whitewash of New Mexico State in Ruston. The program has been fueled by an underrated defense, and an eclectic backfield. Junior Colby Cameron solved the team’s problems at quarterback when he took the reins in late October, and rookie RB Hunter Lee has done a magnificent job since starter Lennon Creer injured his ankle.
When Charlie Strong was hired by Louisville in 2010, he inherited a floundering program that hadn’t had a winning season since 2006. Flash forward to today, and the Cardinals are no worse than co-champs of the Big East. With an impressive comeback win over South Florida on Friday, they finished the regular season winners of five of the last six games. Even better, Strong and his staff have been maximizing the talent of a very young team whose best days lay ahead of it.
7. The Houston Defense
The Cougars have been able to pile up points for years, ever since Kevin Kolb and Art Briles were in Space City. The reason why this edition is closing in on a BCS bowl game is because the defense continues to exceed expectations. Led by Sammy Brown, Marcus McGraw and the rest of the frenetic linebackers, Houston has allowed an average of just 13 points over the last four games. Oh, and forget about rallying late on this unit. The Cougs have yielded only 40 fourth quarter points in a dozen games, a remarkable figure for a team that’s often leading big, and resting the starters late in the game.
6. The South Carolina D
The Gamecocks were absolutely magnificent on defense in Saturday night’s third straight victory over rival Clemson. The pressure up front was non-stop, flushing Tigers QB Tajh Boyd with a combination of linemen Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Travian Robertson. Okay, so Clemson has been struggling lately, but a season-low output of 153 total yards is an astonishing achievement. South Carolina has won 10 games for just the second time in school history in large part because its assertive D was able to pick up the slack after star RB Marcus Lattimore went down for the year.
5. Virginia Tech
This week’s trip to Charlottesville had all the makings of a trap game for the Hokies, right? Uh-uh. Virginia Tech had no problems procuring its seventh win in-a-row, blanking upstart Virginia in its own building, 38-0. The program has gotten progressively better as the season has unfolded behind the play of an evolving defense, the maturation of sophomore QB Logan Thomas and the uber-consistent production on the ground out of RB David Wilson.
4. The LSU Ground Game
The Tigers don’t just beat opponents on the ground. They batter them. While other teams typically know what’s coming, they’re still powerless to stop the wave of bruising runners rolling toward them. LSU boasts depth and talent in the backfield, including underclassmen Spencer Ware, Michael Ford and Kenny Hilliard. The trio spearheaded a 286-yard effort between the tackles in Friday’s pivotal rout of Arkansas, the third consecutive week that the attack produced at least that many yards on the ground.
Yeah, the Bulldogs have plenty to prove this weekend at the Georgia Dome, but 10 straight wins as an SEC member is still a tremendous feat. Georgia rallied from a slow start, a la Virginia Tech in 2010, to cop the East Division, and save the job of head coach Mark Richt. The Jarvis Jones-led defense got progressively better as the season progressed, and Aaron Murray successfully stamped himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in America.
At long last, the eight-year dry spell against hated Ohio State has come to an end. Behind the electrifying play of QB Denard Robinson, the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes on Saturday, 40-34. In an epic all-around effort, Robinson accounted for 337 yards and five scores to offset the play of opposing QB Braxton Miller. Winner of three consecutive games to close out the regular season, Michigan might now have a body of work worthy of at-large BCS consideration.
Save for the Sept. 24 loss to Arizona State, which got worse with each passing week, the Trojans played about as well as could be expected in this final season of postseason ineligibility. With or without Matt Barkley, who deserves more Heisman looks than he’s getting, Troy laid a solid foundation for 2012 and beyond. Since the Tempe trip, it went 7-1, beating Notre Dame in South Bend, Oregon in Eugene and UCLA in one of the most lopsided games in series history. USC finished its regular season as one of the half-dozen or so best programs in the country, an unlikely turnaround for a school that had modest expectations when the season began.
Who's Not ... Week 13