2012 Who's Hot & Not
Who's Not ... Week 4
Who’s Hot ...
13. The Mid-American Conference
Ever-feisty, the MAC was at its overachieving peak in Week 4. Ohio, which knocked off Penn State in the opener, remained the league’s only unbeaten team. Central Michigan went into Iowa City to stun the Big Ten’s Hawkeyes. Western Michigan knocked off Connecticut of the Big East. Ditto Ball State against visiting South Florida. Northern Illinois handled the Big 12’s Kansas. And Eastern Michigan and Akron gave Michigan State and Tennessee, respectively, all they could handle before fading. The races in the East and the West are going to be fantastic right until the final weekend of the regular season.
12. The TCU D
The names change, but the results on defense remain the same in Fort Worth. Head coach Gary Patterson and coordinator Dick Bumpas just keep quietly chugging along, crafting defenses that are nasty, air-tight and fundamentally-sound. The toughest part of the schedule is still a few weeks off, but the Horned Frogs are gearing up for the start of Big 12 play. Despite being rocked by graduations and dismissals, TCU has only allowed 13 points this month, and Virginia’s touchdown on Saturday came after the outcome had been decided. New stars are birthed all the time, like LB Joel Hasley, who’s been a great complement to senior LB Kenny Cain.
11. Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch
Impossible to replace Chandler Harnish this quickly, right? Uh-uh. Lynch has been revelatory in his fourth year in DeKalb—and first as a starter—guiding his Huskies to three straight wins, including Saturday’s over Kansas. The all-purpose playmaker has rushed for at least 119 yards in all but one game in September, while also tossing seven total touchdown passes. Best of all for head coach Dave Doeren, Lynch is clutch, leading his team back in the fourth quarter in each of the last two games.
10. The Boise State D
The offense is sputtering in Boise, so the defense is picking up more of the slack this season. In three games, including meetings with Michigan State and BYU, the Broncos have yet to allow more than 17 points. Thursday night versus the Cougars, the D was once again the story, creating five turnovers in a 7-6 nail-biting win. Not only did Boise State hold its visitor to only 200 yards, but the defense produced the team’s only points, a 36-yard interception return from blocky NT Michael Atkinson.
9. Louisiana Tech QB Colby Cameron
Are the Bulldogs this year’s Houston, capable of threatening for a BCS bowl bid deep into the regular season? Louisiana Tech has now scored at least 52 points in all three of its games, thrashing Illinois in Champaign Saturday night, 52-24. Cameron has been the ringleader, opening the season with 11 touchdown passes and no picks. In RB Tevin King and WR Quinton Patton, Cameron is surrounded by enough skill position talent to keep the Bulldogs humming against upcoming BCS conference opponents Virginia (Sept. 29) and Texas A&M (Oct. 13), which will likely be the biggest game in program history.
No, things aren’t the same without RG3 in Waco, yet the Bears just keep finding ways to win under head coach Art Briles. In fact, after outlasting UL-Monroe on the road Friday night, Baylor has won nine straight games, its longest streak since 1937, and the second longest current string in the country. Eventually, a leaky D will catch up to the program, but for now it’s piling up the points behind the passing of Nick Florence and big-play catches from Tevin Reese, Lanear Simpson and Terrance Williams.
7. South Carolina
This sure looks like a different team than the one that almost got picked off by Vanderbilt on opening night. The Gamecocks have won their last three games by at least three touchdowns, including Saturday’s obliteration of visiting Missouri. Everything is clicking these days for Steve Spurrier. RB Marcus Lattimore is healthy. The D is yielding only 10 points a game. And a well-rested Connor Shaw just got done setting a school record with 20 consecutive completions. Georgia and Florida have been very good, but haven’t pulled away from South Carolina in the SEC East race.
6. Oregon State
It’s official. The Beavers are no one-game wonder. A gigantic mystery heading into only its second game of the year, Oregon State went into the Rose Bowl and ended UCLA’s perfect start. Mike Riley’s kids have now upset two teams that were ranked at the time they played, also beating Wisconsin in Corvallis two weeks ago. While the attack will still stumble every so often, Mark Banker’s defense already looks light years faster than last season’s unit. The Beavers are quick on the flanks and very tough against the run, holding nation’s-leading rusher Johnathan Franklin 135 yards below his season average.
5. Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson
Chris Ault’s Pistol attack attack churns out prolific running backs the way Nick Saban produces stout defenses. Jefferson is the newest star in Reno, going from career backup to a must-have in fantasy leagues. A week after bolting for 247 rushing yards against Northwestern State, the junior matched an NCAA record by scoring seven touchdowns in Nevada’s 69-24 obliteration of Hawaii. The win snapped the Pack’s seven-game losing streak at Hawaii that dated back to 1948.
The Scarlet Knights used to chop wood under former head coach Greg Schiano. These days, they’re chopping down milestones. The same squad that opened the season with lethargic wins over Tulane and Howard has now beaten South Florida and Arkansas on the road to move to 4-0 and into Top 25 contention. Saturday’s win in Fayetteville goes down as one of the most important in school history. While the D remains the calling card, the emergence of RB Jawan Jamison and QB Gary Nova, who strafed the Hogs for five touchdown passes, is cause for unbridled excitement in Piscataway.
3. Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o
It’s tough to imagine that anyone has been more valuable to his team this month than Te’o has been to the Irish. At a program that’s been driven by the play of the defense, No. 5 has been the pilot of a unit that’s allowing nine points a game. He leads the team in tackles, picked off two Denard Robinson passes this past weekend and pays immeasurable dividends with his leadership. If Te’o and Georgia LB Jarvis Jones don’t sweep the postseason individual awards for defensive players, it’ll be an upset.
2. Kansas State (against name brand opponents)
In quintessential Kansas State fashion, the program played far better against Miami and Oklahoma this month than it did versus Missouri State and North Texas. The Wildcats revel in the opportunity to make national waves by shocking teams that play in bigger stadiums and attract more blue-chip recruits. By beating the Sooners in Norman with a vintage Bill Snyder blueprint of turnovers, tough running and solid D, KSU is now a contender in the Big 12 as long it doesn’t play down to the level of the competition.
1. Florida State
Yes, there were some tenuous moments, but when the Seminoles started to roll in the second half versus Clemson, it seemed as if it was the 1990s all over again. Florida State is loaded, but that’s nothing new. This team just seems different than the past few editions that disappointed, blending the veteran leadership of QB EJ Manuel and head coach Jimbo Fisher with a roster steeped in talent. While there’s a lot of football left to be played, the ‘Noles cleared an enormous hurdle this weekend, one that could eventually lead to a meeting with the SEC champ in Miami in January.
Who's Not ... Week 4