2012 Who's Hot & Not
Who's Hot ... Week 11
Who’s Not ...
Remember when the Warhawks were making national waves back in September, shocking Arkansas, and putting scares into Auburn and Baylor behind the playmaking of QB Kolton Browning? That little-engine-that-could has stalled, and isn’t even going to win the Sun Belt Conference after dropping back-to-back games. Louisiana-Monroe has begun to cave in under the weight of a shaky defense, allowing 40 points to rival Louisiana-Lafayette two weeks ago, and proving unable to stop Arkansas State RB David Oku and QB Ryan Aplin in Thursday’s 45-23 loss.
9. Ole Miss
The Rebels will need to put the brakes on their current two-game skid, or else they’ll squander all that was accomplished in September and October. First-year head coach Hugh Freeze has done a terrific job in Oxford so far, but he and his staff want to close the deal by getting Ole Miss back to the postseason for the first time in three years. After getting picked off at home by Vanderbilt on a last-minute touchdown, though, the team is going to need an upset of LSU or Mississippi State to become eligible. Just missing the postseason is going to haunt the Rebs in the offseason considering how well they were playing in the early going.
8. Auburn Quarterbacks
When Auburn replaces Gene Chizik in a few weeks, it might want to hire a coach who specializes in quarterbacks, because the program needs a ton of help at the position. The Tigers got a mulligan in 2011, the first season after Cam. This year, though, it needed to show some signs of progress from behind center. It just hasn’t happened. The staff has tried three different hurlers, with the results looking eerily similar—poor decisions, poor throws and kids that aren’t ready to play at this level. Kiehl Frazier, Jonathan Wallace and Clint Moseley have combined to throw six touchdowns and 13 interceptions, a mess that some yet-to-be-determined staff will have to clean up beginning in 2013.
7. The Louisville D
The Cardinals defense had shown hints of springing leaks throughout this season. It wasn’t getting to the quarterback or making any big plays off turnovers. On Saturday in the Carrier Dome, Charlie Strong’s unit got thoroughly exposed by Syracuse. The Orange amassed well over 500 yards, and committed no turnovers, handing Louisville its first loss of the season, 45-26. QB Ryan Nassib was sharp, but it was the running of Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley that ensured that the visitors would never be competitive in this one after halftime.
6. Texas Tech
It wasn’t long ago that the Red Raiders were a bona fide ranked team, with a shot of contending in the Big 12. Those days have long since passed. Tech has split its last six games, and needed double-overtime to finally put away 1-9 Kansas at home over the weekend. Maybe worse was the public relations disaster for head coach Tommy Tuberville, who became unhinged as he tried to get grad assistant Kevin Oliver off the field. The wheels have come off the Tech defense, sobering news with road trips to Oklahoma State and Baylor to wrap up the regular season.
5. Florida’s Offense
The Gators remained one of the nation’s last one-loss teams, but it came with far more heavy lifting than anyone might have imagined. Florida trailed the Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Lafayette, a four-touchdown underdog, late in the fourth quarter, needing a blocked punt to finally escape the grip of the mighty Ragin’ Cajuns. The attack, if it can still be called that, has sputtered badly in the last three games, scoring just four touchdowns over that time. On Saturday, Gators quarterbacks were sacked five times, inexcusable for a supposed top 10 team. Mike Gillislee hasn’t rushed for 100 yards since Oct. 6, and it’s not his fault.
4. The ACC Coastal
Does anyone want this division in 2012? The only member that’s been eliminated from contention, North Carolina, may be the best of a rag-tag bunch. After front-running Miami lost to Virginia, 41-40, on a late touchdown pass, not a single eligible school has fewer than three league losses or four total losses. Heck, the 4-6 Cavaliers are still in the hunt. So, too, is middling Duke, which now controls its own destiny in the Coastal. If there was justice in the ACC, Florida State and Clemson would meet in the sequel in Charlotte on Dec. 1.
3. Pac-12 O-Lines
Although there are exceptions, such as Stanford, USC, Oregon and Arizona, offensive lines in the Pac-12 Conference have generally gotten bullied for much of the 2012 season, especially in pass protection. Now, league defenders do deserve credit for getting into the backfield with such regularity. But, it’s also a concern that eight teams from the Pac-12 have yielded at least 21 sacks this fall, and that Cal, Colorado and Washington State have given up more than any other program in the FBS.
2. ND in the Red Zone
If Notre Dame hasn’t been able to figure its offense out in the first 10 games, it’s unlikely to do so in the next three. Brian Kelly’s sputtering attack is the reason that the Irish are ranked behind the nation’s other two unbeaten national championship contenders, Oregon and Kansas State. ND ranks 110th in the country, or just ahead of South Alabama, in red zone touchdown percentage, scoring six points on less than half of its red zone journeys. Also short on big plays, the Irish could only score 21 points on Boston College, a plummeting team that began Week 11 with the nation’s 109th-ranked D.
1. The Mystique of Alabama
In just over a week, the defending national champs went from a perception of invincibility to somewhat ordinary on both sides of the ball.
Sure, the Crimson Tide is still one of the top 5 most talented teams in America, but it could have easily lost to LSU in Baton Rouge, and did fall to Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa. Tigers QB Zach Mettenberger played his best game of 2012 against the ‘Bama D, while Aggies QB Johnny Manziel was sharper versus the Tide than he was earlier against either Florida or LSU. QB AJ McCarron has played terribly in all but one drive of the last two games, and the Alabama O-line was just ordinary on Saturday. The curtain has been pulled back on Nick Saban’s team, and what’s been revealed is a team with more flaws than many expected.
Who's Hot ... Week 11