Cavalcade, Part 2 - Under The Radar Stars
Kent State RB/KR Dri Archer
Kent State RB/KR Dri Archer
Posted Oct 16, 2012

Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part 2 - The Under The Radar Stars You Should Know About

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Oct. 16, 2012

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- Oct. 16, Part 1 -  The Big Play For Notre Dame 

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
The ten things you don't know about but need to in order to finally become somebody …

10. Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore
Sean Porter was supposed to be the superstar of the ultra-aggressive Texas A&M defense. The linebacker led the team with 9.5 sacks and was a strong all-around playmaker who did a little of everything for a defense that gave up too many yards, but got into the backfield. Meanwhile, the 6-4, 250-pound Damontre Moore, who had a phenomenal season with 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss, was moving to a true end position under the new coaching staff. Would his production continue? Would he still be disruptive? While Porter has been okay so far with 33 tackles, he hasn't been much of a pass rusher. Instead, Moore has been devastating with a team-leading 52 tackles and an SEC-leading 8.5 sacks with 15 tackles for loss. No, the Aggies didn't do much defensively against Louisiana Tech, but Moore did his part with 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Consistent, quick and disruptive, a case could be made that he has been the SEC's best defensive player at the midseason.

9. Nevada RB Stefphon Jefferson
So much for the running back-by-committee approach. The Wolf Pack lost its running back stars of the last few years and was expected to rotate the backs to find the right guy and the right fit. As it turned out, the 5-11, 200-pound junior showed he could be a workhorse in the opener with 34 carries for 147 yards and three scores in the win over California, and he hasn't stopped handling the load. The nation's leading rusher is the first back to hit the 1,000-yard mark to go along with 14 touchdowns including six against Hawaii. It's asking too much to expect him to carry the ball over 400 times, but at his current pace, and with his speed and home run-hitting ability, he'll end up just shy of the 2,000-yard mark.

8. The Arizona offense
Offense wasn't a problem last season finishing third in the nation in passing because the team had to overcome the major issues on a porous defense. This year, there was a big personnel turnover and a philosophy change with Rich Rodriguez coming in and installing his option attack, but without a Pat White or Denard Robinson to properly run it. Instead, after an offseason of whispers that new starting quarterback Matt Scott was going to be better than Nick Foles, the offense exploded over the first half of the year with Scott ranking fifth in the nation in total offense running well and throwing better. Meanwhile, sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey has emerged as the leader of the ground attack with four 100-yard performances and ten scores in the first six games. The 5-10, 203-pounder has feature back qualities, from his solid frame to his penchant for making people miss, and it's all coming through. The coaching, the players and the system are all coming together for the Pac-12's top attack that's averaging 551 yards and 37 points per game.

7. Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch
Who was going to replace Chandler Harnish, the MAC Player of the Year and do-it-all-star of the conference champion? Lynch was the main backup last year and got a little bit of mop-up work, but this season he's showing he can be another Harnish with even better running skills. At only 6-0 and 216 pounds he's not built to take a beating, but he has proven he can put up big numbers ranking fifth in the nation and seventh in total offense running for 918 yards and 11 scores – with 207 yards and three touchdown runs against Ball State, while completing 61% of his passes for 1,487 yards and 11 touchdowns with three picks. Most importantly, NIU is 6-1 with the lone loss coming in the final moments against Iowa in the season opener, but everything else appears to be back on track.

6. Marshall QB Rakeem Cato
The best quarterback in the state of West Virginia might not be who you think it is. Yes, of course Geno Smith is the better player, destined to be a top draft pick and still deep in the Heisman chase despite the loss to Texas Tech, but at the midseason he has taken a statistical backseat in some ways to Cato, the 6-1, 180-pound playmaker for the Doc Holliday attack. After showing tremendous promise as a freshman, Cato has taken off in his second year leading the nation averaging 385 passing yards per game – Geno averages 379 – with 18 touchdown passes and six picks. While he's not the bomber like Smith and some of the other top quarterbacks are, he's able to dink and dunk effectively throwing a tight, accurate ball with three 400-yard games – including 413 in the loss to West Virginia – and highlighted by a 439-yard, five touchdown day in the shootout loss to Purdue.

5. New Mexico
The last three seasons have been a complete and utter disaster with the team going from awful to even worse, finishing dead last in the nation in scoring – coming up with ten points or fewer in seven games – and had the second-worst scoring defense in college football. You name the category or phase and New Mexico was awful at it. Enter Bob Davie and the new coaching staff, and instantly the program got a shot of credibility, and in just one season the program looks like it's about to go from being a laughing stock to potentially go to a bowl game in just one year. There's no passing game – ranking last in the nation – but the ground attack is averaging 280 yards per game and the sensational turnover margin is making up for a slew of problems. The offensive line has gotten the biggest instant jolt, the run defense is the second best in the Mountain West and a bowl bid is in the picture with wins in three of the final six games.

4. Sun Belt
The Sun Belt conference races have almost always been tight battles, but they've mostly been wars between the mediocre and irrelevant. But last season the conference started to break through with new faces and improved programs stepping up their play including Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State. Those two each have two Sun Belt wins and four overall victories, but they're going to have to fight just to get into position for a bowl bid. Western Kentucky has quickly risen from the dregs to the top under red-hot head coach Willie Taggart, while ULM was the star of the early part of the season with the shocking win over Arkansas and the close calls against Auburn and Baylor. Middle Tennessee stunned Georgia Tech and Troy gave Mississippi State a major push. The league has become really interesting and tremendously entertaining just in time to go into a spin. FIU and North Texas are off to Conference USA next year, and Georgia State and Texas State are joining the fun next year.

3. Iowa LB Anthony Hitchens
Hitchens was supposed to be a big part of the linebacking corps last year, but he ended up making 25 tackles in eight games after not being quite right with a knee injury. The 6-1, 224-pound junior appears to be more than fine now, leading the nation in tackles averaging 13 per game with 15 in the win over Michigan State, 19 in the tight loss to Iowa State, and with double digit stops in each of the last five games. He's not much of a pass rusher and he hasn't done too much in pass coverage, but that's because he's been busy doing a little of everything to help out the nation's 19th best defense that's allowing just 117 rushing yards per game.

2. Maryland
Who's on top of the ACC's Atlantic standings? It's not Clemson, it's not the Florida State team that beat Clemson, and it's not the NC State team that beat Florida State. Maryland might have beaten two conference lightweights in Wake Forest and Virginia, but considering the Terps finished a disastrous 2-10 last season and didn't beat an FBS team after the season opener against Miami, two wins of any sort are impressive. With a win over William & Mary and a better-than-it-looks victory over Temple, the Terps are sitting at 4-2 with a bowl game in their sighs. No, they won't win the ACC title with NC State and Florida State coming up along with road games at Clemson and North Carolina, but head coach Randy Edsall is off the hot seat with a young team loaded with promise and potential. Quarterback Perry Hills and running back Stefon Diggs, both freshmen, are good ones to build around.

1. Kent State & RB Dri Archer
2001 was the last time Kent State fielded a winning team and suffered losing campaigns in 23 of the last 24 seasons. While a 5-1 start might make it a mortal lock to at least get to six wins and a good bet to get to seven and finally get over the winning season hump, you don't have so many problems for so long without finding ways to blow it. The program has been close over the last three years winning five games in each campaign, but this year's team is different. The running game is humming, the defense is fine, and the special teams have been stellar helped by Dri Archer, the best kickoff returner in college football and the nation's No. 1 leader in all-purpose yardage taking three kickoffs for touchdowns averaging 47.7 yards per try – No. 2 man Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee is averaging 38.25 yards per attempt.

The 5-8, 175-pound junior running back from Florida is doing a little bit of everything running for 222 yards and a score on just 12 carries against Army and catching three passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Ball State. In all, he's averaging 229 yards per game, WKU's Antonio Andrews averages 201 yards per game, and no one else is above the 200-yard mark.

Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.

- Crazy nutty call – 0-6 Southern Miss will go bowling. The losses came to the possible Sun Belt (WKU), Big East (Louisville) and Mountain West (Boise State) champions, and there's a shot that UCF wins Conference USA and Nebraska wins the Big Ten. The schedule eases up in a big way with Marshall, Rice, UAB, SMU, UTEP and Memphis to close things out.

- Thank God Mark Cuban was able to get that weird Sketchers pitchman gig so he can finally start making some real money.

- One of the best coaching jobs that no one is paying attention to: Steve Addazio at Temple. He's going to take the Owls to a bowl game despite the move to the Big East.

- Speaking of the Big East and bowls, watch out for the Big East and Conference USA to be woefully short on eligible bowl teams for all their tie-ins. If you're a fan of a mid-range WAC, MAC or Sun Belt team, start cheering hard for Syracuse, Connecticut, Marshall, Pitt and South Florida to keep on losing.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Geno Smith as a Heisman contender before Texas Tech ... Underrated: Geno Smith as a Heisman contender after Texas Tech
2) Overrated: Washington State seniors with an "empty corpse quality" … Underrated: A fantastic album title
3) Overrated: Charlie Weis ... Underrated: The University Daily Kansan
4) Overrated: The "research" for a new Arkansas head coach ... Underrated: The Hogs bouncing back to win a few games
5) Overrated: Voting for a candidate based on a debate … Underrated: Voting for a candidate based on the issues

"Oh, see, I made Louis a bet here. See, Louis bet me that we couldn't both get rich and put y'all in the poor house at the same time. He didn't think we could do it. I won." … ATS: 16-9. For those of you who keep asking about when the Double Digit Home Dog effect should start to kick in, I'm thinking it might be this week. However, I still can't take Buffalo +11 over Pitt, even though I know I'm supposed to.

- Minnesota +17.5 over Wisconsin
- Duke +10.5 over North Carolina
- New Mexico +11.5 over Air Force
- UNLV +28 over Boise State
- Tennessee +21 over Alabama
- Michigan State +10 over Michigan
- Colorado +41 over USC
- Memphis +23.5 over UCF

Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I would've written more, but to paraphrase and lift the greatest one-liner ever uttered, haven't you suffered enough? Thanks, Beano.

- Oct. 16, Part 1 -  The Big Play For Notre Dame