Who's Hot ...Ok St, Honey & UW Badgers, UC
LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu
LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu
Posted Dec 4, 2011

The players, games and teams that rocked in Championship Week

2011 Who's Hot & Not

Week 14

 By Richard Cirminiello | 2010 Hot & Nots

- Who's Hot & Not  Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5  | Week 6
Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13

- 2011 Who's Not ... Championship Week

Who's Hot ...

12. Arkansas State

The Red Wolves put a bow on an improbable 10-win season by blowing past Troy, 45-14, in Jonesboro for their ninth straight victory. It was an apropos triumph over the perennial league honchos, symbolizing a changing of the guard in the Sun Belt Conference. Under rookie head coach Hugh Freeze, whose name is being linked to multiple job openings, Arkansas State has soared past preseason expectations, and delivered its best campaign of the last 25 years. The school is off to just its second bowl game ever, but it remains to be seen whether Freeze will be on the sidelines with his team.

11. Utah State

Nah, it wasn't the Aggies' best effort of the year, but it was still good enough to get past New Mexico State in Las Cruces for a fifth straight win to close out the regular season. Playing without injured QB Chuckie Keeton for the fourth consecutive week, Utah State ensured itself a winning season behind three Adam Kennedy touchdown passes. Now 7-5, the program is about to begin preparations for its first postseason game since meeting Cincinnati in the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl.

10. Northern Illinois

The Huskies capped a magical 10-win season with an improbable comeback win at Detroit's Ford Field on Friday night. Despite trailing 20-0 at halftime, they battled all the way back to win on a 33-yard Mathew Sims field goal as time expired. Beyond being just an eighth consecutive triumph to close out the regular season, the thrilling come-from-behind victory garnered Northern Illinois its first Mid-American Conference Championship since 1983.

9. Southern Miss Head Coach Larry Fedora

When the Golden Eagles made the unpopular decision to fire Jeff Bower four years ago, it was with this express goal in mind—a Conference USA championship. It cannot be overstated how well Fedora and his staff, including coordinators Blake Anderson and Dan Disch, prepared their team for Saturday's daunting task of playing unbeaten Houston on the road. Fedora, in particular, could be a prominent beneficiary as larger programs look to fill a head coaching void. Long heralded as an offensive whiz, his time for a promotion may have arrived.

8. West Virginia (in nail-biters)

In eight of the Mountaineers' nine wins this season, the team has had to rally to the finish line. West Virginia's flair for the dramatic was never more evident than in the last three games, all victories by more no more than three points. In Tampa on Friday night, the Mountaineers scored the final 10 points to charge past South Florida, getting the game-winner off the right foot of PK Tyler Bitancurt as the final seconds ticked off the clock.

7. Baylor RB Terrance Ganaway

Hidden in the long shadow of teammate Robert Griffin III has been Ganaway, an overlooked and powerful complement to his mercurial backfield mate. The well-traveled senior and former member of Art Briles' Houston Cougars team has powered his way to more than 1,000 yards on the ground, many after bouncing after tacklers. One of the key cogs of the Bears' best regular season in a quarter-century has amassed almost 400 yards rushing the last two games alone, including 152 and two scores in Saturday's rout of visiting Texas.

6. The Cincinnati Defense

The Big East's version of South Carolina, the Bearcats have rallied around the play of their defense, especially after losing QB Zach Collaros to an injury. Cincinnati has been opportunistic and frenetic throughout the season, quietly ranking among the nation's leaders in sacks and takeaways. In clinching a share of the Big East title on Saturday afternoon, the ‘Cats collected 13 tackles for loss, five from DT Derek Wolfe, six sacks and first quarter touchdowns from DE Walter Stewart and SS Drew Frey.

5. The Rose Bowl

With Wisconsin's thrilling, 42-39 victory over Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Rose Bowl has more than just its traditional Pac-12-Big Ten matchup. Now, Pasadena will be hosting one of the best games of the postseason outside of New Orleans. The pairing will feature myriad marquee playmakers, such as Oregon RB LaMichael James and the Badgers backfield tandem of QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. Even a month away, you can already sense that this will be one of those BCS bowl games that meets, if not exceeds, all expectations.

4. Oregon RB LaMichael James

Where would James be in the Heisman race had he not missed two full games in October with an elbow injury? Much higher, to be sure. For starters, the nation's leading rusher would have been within striking distance of 2,000 yards, a feat accomplished just a little more than a dozen times in NCAA history. The junior was brilliant in Friday night's Pac-12 Championship Game blowout of UCLA, jetting through the Bruins defense for 219 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

3. Wisconsin Badgers

Wisky got the redemption that it sorely sought after losing to Michigan State on a walk-off heave on Oct. 22. In a seesaw battle between a couple of Big Ten heavyweights, the Badgers came out on top behind the play of QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball, a scoring machine. For Wisconsin, it's back to Pasadena, and a chance to avenge last year's crushing Rose Bowl defeat at the hands of TCU. It'll carry a five-game winning streak into its meeting with Oregon, who'll also be looking to eradicate postseason demons.

2. Honey Badger

It's been a long, long time since college football has housed a non-offensive playmaker as exciting as LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. An instant momentum changer, he's put together back-to-back highlight reel games against Arkansas and Georgia that ought to boost his Heisman credentials into the stratosphere. Sure, he can still be a little raw in coverage, but no individual shifts the tempo of a game faster than No. 7. He was at it again in the Georgia Dome on Saturday, robbing the Bulldogs of a fast start with a 62-yard touchdown on a punt return, and setting up two more scores on a fumble recovery and another phenomenal special teams return.

1. Oklahoma State

The chase for the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings mattered little on this triumphant night in Stillwater. Not only did the Cowboys obliterate Bedlam rival Oklahoma, 44-10, to end a nasty eight-game losing streak in the series, but they also nabbed their first outright conference title since winning the three-team Missouri Valley Conference in 1948. Oklahoma State is now headed for its maiden BCS bowl voyage, likely the Fiesta Bowl, though late game chants of "L-S-U" seemed to indicate that the locals are hoping to spend the holidays in New Orleans.

- 2011 Who's Not ... Championship Week