2012 Who's Hot & Not
Who's Hot ... Week 4
Who's Not ...
13. Southern Miss
Well, the rebuilding job Ellis Johnson inherited from Larry Fedora is quite a bit tougher than most anticipated. The Golden Eagles have opened 0-3 for the first time in 36 years, getting thoroughly waxed by Western Kentucky, 42-17. The defense has been uncharacteristically abysmal, the ground game has disappeared and the situation under center is unsettled. Johnson will need to use this fall as a staging point, with 2013 in mind as his team plays its final nine games.
The Cavaliers are still heading in the right direction for head coach Mike London, but it's going to take longer than anticipated to reach their destination. Virginia has put forth ugly performances in back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and TCU, and would have been on a three-game losing streak if not Penn State's kicking problems. The offense is futile. The D is having problems stopping the run. The Cavs just don't have anyone on either side of the ball who's capable of stemming the tide.
11. The Big East
Rutgers being an obvious exception, it was a rough weekend for the conference. Louisville didn't look like the frontrunner, struggling with Florida International. Connecticut and South Florida fell to teams from the MAC, Western Michigan and Ball State, respectively. Syracuse came up lame versus Minnesota. And Temple was no match for short-handed Penn State. Even future Big East members, like Houston, SMU and San Diego State, have not performed well on the field this fall.
10. UCLA on Third Downs
For as good as the Bruins offense has been in September, much of its success has come on first and second downs. UCLA has not been efficient with the ball so far, converting just 28% of the time to rank 115th in the country. The trend continued in Saturday's deflating loss to Oregon State, with the Bruins delivering on just 2-of-15 tries. Opposing defenses have already learned that if you stack the box to stop RB Johnathan Franklin, QB Brett Hundley probably won't hurt them on third-and-long.
In yet another example of how poorly the Big Ten has played in September, the Hawkeyes were unable to get past Central Michigan at Kinnick Stadium; yup, the same Chippewas that lost to Michigan State, 41-7, only last week. Just as the Mark Weisman-led offense woke up, the defense went AWOL, allowing the final nine decisive points in the last 45 seconds of regulation. Iowa has now barely escaped Northern Illinois and lost to Iowa State and Central Michigan. Kirk Ferentz's kids wouldn't win the MAC West this fall.
8. South Florida head coach Skip Holtz
What has happened to Holtz and his Bulls, which not long ago seemed like a rising star out of the Big East? The bloom is clearly off the coach's rose now that he's gone 3-9 since this time last year. A week ago, his South Florida squad imploded on national TV to Rutgers, falling back a few rungs in the conference. And then on Saturday, it couldn't handle Ball State of the MAC, losing on a last-minute touchdown. Holtz better be careful, because his team's performance over the past 12 months is not being tolerated in Tampa.
7. Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell
A week ago, the Spartans failed to reach the end zone on Notre Dame. Okay, so the Irish are pretty stout along the front seven. However, going 52 minutes before scoring six on Eastern Michigan is the sign of a very serious problem in East Lansing. Michigan State can obviously run it with Le'Veon Bell, who pummeled the Eagles for more than 200 yards, but Maxwell is a liability. His inability to open up defenses will provide Big Ten opponents with an open invite to stack the box to stop Bell.
6. The Michigan Pass Rush
The Wolverines got to Alabama's AJ McCarron twice in the opener, but have been feeble in the pass rush ever since. In the three games since, Michigan has gotten to the quarterback just once, which is going to become a bigger issue now that Big Ten play is beginning. Heck, Greg Mattison's defense only made a pair of tackles behind the line in South Bend Saturday night. Now, that's not the reason why the Wolverines lost to Notre Dame, but a lack of pressure will haunt them over the next two months.
5. Arkansas RB Knile Davis
The symptom of a far bigger problem in Fayetteville, sure, but did anyone expect Davis to have 208 rushing yards and a three-yard average after four games? The junior got bottled up once again this past weekend, managing just 17 yards on 10 carries in a loss to Rutgers. A sure-fire NFL talent mired in an awful situation, he ought to keep his head down, work hard and then declare for the 2013 draft as soon as Arkansas' season comes to a merciful end.
The Tigers are well beyond pointing to moral victories, such as Saturday night's close call at home with No. 2 LSU. Auburn, now 1-3, has suffered three losses before Oct. 1 for the first time in school history. Included in the poor start is an 18-point loss to Mississippi State and a near disaster against Louisiana-Monroe. The offense is horrible, and you're just not going to win many games when you keep turning the ball over. DE Corey Lemonier aside, precious few Tigers have been playing at an all-star level.
3. USC QB Matt Barkley
The Trojans won on Saturday, getting by Cal, 27-9. Barkley, however, didn't look as if he rebounded from last week's rough effort in the face of Stanford's pressure. Now ranked 51st in the country in passing efficiency, he threw two picks for a second straight game, and didn't make many connections downfield. And no, he wasn't sacked this time around. Something is missing. Maybe it's just a mini-bump, but Barkley's Heisman campaign has been suspended since Pac-12 play began.
2. The Clemson D (in Florida)
The Tigers have played two games in Florida this calendar year, January's Orange Bowl versus West Virginia, and Saturday night in Tallahassee. In those two losses, Clemson yielded 119 points, getting ravaged by the speed and physicality of both opponents. The D was horrendous this past weekend, giving up 667 yards to EJ Manuel & Co. At one point in the second half, the once-questionable Florida State O-line was simply mauling the Tigers up front, creating daylight for Chris Thompson and James Wilder Jr. Is the D better under Brent Venables? Who knows? But at least on one night, it looked as if the unit may have regressed.
1. Oklahoma's National Championship Dreams
Can the Sooners run the table, and insert themselves back into the BCS equation? Sure. Will it happen? Nope. As Big 12 contenders go, Oklahoma is a perennial force. When the topic is the national title, though, the program always seems to be a little overrated. Kansas State is a real nice team, but it still shouldn't be walking out of Norman with a win. The Sooners played terribly on Saturday night, hardly befitting a top 10 team. Maybe the close call at UTEP on the opening weekend was a harbinger of things to come after all.
Who's Hot ... Week 4