Who's Hot? ... The Week 12 Stars
UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin
UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin
Posted Nov 18, 2012

Who's Hot? ... The stars and the hot players and teams from Week Twelve

2012 Who's Hot & Not

Week 12

 By Richard Cirminiello 

- 2012 Who's Not ... Week 12

Who's Hot ...
10. Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton
Finally, someone other than Johnny Manziel who can outgun the high-powered Louisiana Tech offense. Keeton, with plenty of help from RB Kerwyn Williams, helped spark a 646-yard outburst that led the Aggies to an exciting OT win in Ruston over the nation's 19th-ranked team. Winners of five straight games, Utah State has only fallen to Wisconsin and BYU in 2012, on the road, by five combined points. During the winning streak, Keeton has channeled his inner-Russell Wilson, calmly accounting for 20 touchdowns, using his arm, his legs and his head to keep opposing defenses on their heels.

9. QB Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois
How badly would the Huskies like a second crack at Iowa? The two played in the opener, which the Huskies won, 18-17, after rallying in the second half. Northern Illinois hasn't lost since, racking up 10 straight wins to capture a third MAC West title in a row. Second-year head coach Dave Doeren has been terrific, possibly positioning himself for a big promotion, but no one in DeKalb deserves more credit for another 10-win season than Lynch, the quarterback who plays with a linebacker's mindset. In just his first season as a starter, he's amassed a war chest of records, including the single-season NCAA mark for 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback.

8. North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams
The storybook journey of Williams is almost complete at this level. The lineman who played just one year of high school football, and was working at a truck radiator parts manufacturer before matriculating at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, is ready for the NFL. He's a cat-quick 6-3, 305-pounder, with the strength to overpower opposing blockers at the point of attack. With one final audition in front of a national TV audience, the certain All-ACC selection collected eight tackles, including two for loss, and a sack in the Heels' 37-13 rout of Virginia on Thursday night.

7. The Oklahoma State Quarterback Situation
Can Mike Gundy and his staff coach up quarterbacks or what? The offensive-based Cowboys are down to their third-stringer behind center, junior Clint Chelf, yet are still winning games. In fact, they've won the last two over West Virginia and Texas Tech by producing a whopping 114 points. The journeyman Chelf has been one of the heroes, tossing seven touchdown passes and just one pick to help get Okie State four games above .500 in a year that the team would have been justified to tank. He's done well to spread the ball around to veterans Josh Stewart and Isaiah Anderson, who've taken turns as the go-to guy.

6. Ohio State DE John Simon
For one of the only times all season, the Buckeyes remained unbeaten because of the D. And Simon—and to a lesser extent sophomore LB Ryan Shazier—were the faces of that effort. The senior end was unstoppable in Madison, sacking Badgers QB Curt Phillips four times, while generally abusing whichever tackle lined up across from him. It was his third straight game with a sack, but it was Saturday's game that really did justice to his potential and ability. The kind of defender that defenses are built around—and NFL GMs adore—Simon plays with maximum intensity on every snap.

5. Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Who could have guessed that the Wolverines were catching a break when starter Denard Robinson injured his elbow at the end of October? No, Gardner isn't quite Robinson yet, but he sure hasn't skipped a beat. Oh, and all of the reps that the junior is earning now will benefit Michigan in 2013. He's been on the field during the team's three-game winning streak, accounting for 13 touchdowns, including six in Saturday's rout of Iowa. Always athletic, Gardner has surprised with his poise and accuracy in the pocket, going 18-of-23 for three touchdowns and more than 300 yards versus the hapless Hawkeyes.

4. West Virginia's Tavon Austin
Is he a receiver? A running back? A return man? All of the above. Austin is simply the best all-around athlete in America, including Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas and Clemson's Sammy Watkins. The Mountaineers moved the senior wide receiver into the backfield a week ago, a shift the staff wishes it had done years ago. Looking like Noel Devine on Red Bull, Austin rushed for a school-record 344 yards on 21 carries, and smashed a Big 12 record with 572 all-purpose yards … all against a pretty good Oklahoma team. Second nationally in all-purpose yards per game, he is going to make NFL scouts pant once the pre-draft process begins.

The transformation is complete. And long, long before the deadline. The Bruins are on a tear under first-year coach Jim Mora, beating rival USC for just the second time in 14 years to capture the Pac-12 South Division. UCLA was in control throughout, getting big days from the backfield combination of Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley, the defense and especially the special teamers. Last year, the Bruins were sacrificial South Division lambs since the Trojans were ineligible. This year, with nine wins and a northern trajectory in the BCS standings, UCLA believes it has a legitimate shot of returning home for its bowl game.

2. The SEC
Welcome back, SEC. Did you enjoy your brief stay on the outskirts of the BCS National Championship Game? Gee whiz, was that a fast turnaround or what?

Neither Oregon nor Kansas State was able to sustain its excellence, opening the door for the Southeastern Conference champ to play for a seventh straight crown, barring some unforeseen disaster in Week 13. Heck, if Notre Dame loses at The Coliseum and Florida beats Florida State, dare we suggest that two SEC teams might square off for the title for a second straight year? Who could have imagined there'd be so much celebration in Tuscaloosa, Athens and Gainesville on a weekend that most of the league was playing teams from the FCS?

1. The Nerdy Schools
There's nothing wrong with being an egghead these days. Just ask Nate Silver, or the student-athletes from Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Northwestern. Each enjoyed banner weekends on the field, in the rankings and presumably in the study hall once the celebrating finally stopped.

The Irish didn't just blank Wake Forest; it also rose to No. 1 once Kansas State and Oregon fell. It was the Cardinal that shocked the Ducks to move into the Pac-12 North driver's seat. And not to be forgotten are the Commodores and Wildcats, which handled rival Tennessee and Michigan State in East Lansing, respectively.

- 2012 Who's Not ... Week 12