2012 Who's Hot & Not
Who's Not ... Week 14
Who’s Hot ...
10. Arkansas State
The Red Wolves lost their relevancy after falling to Western Kentucky on Sept. 29, but quietly haven’t lost a game since then. They capped their seven-game, season-ending winning streak by blanking a Middle Tennessee squad that entered the weekend on its own four-game tear. The offense has really started to gel for first-year head coach Gus Malzahn, scoring no less than 34 points in each of those last seven games. QB Ryan Aplin has been predictably good, but it’s been the emergence of RB David Oku, exiled from Tennessee, that has really balanced out the attack.
For the first time since 2005, the Golden Hurricane is the champion of Conference USA, rallying at home to defeat UCF for the second time in the past three weekends. While Tulsa didn’t deliver a vintage effort on Saturday afternoon, it did get clutch plays out of veteran RB Trey Watts on offense and special teams, and from an attacking defense that ranks among the nation’s leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. With only the Liberty Bowl left to be played, the Hurricane has locked up its fourth 10-win campaign in the last six years.
8. Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk
The one-time can’t-miss recruit of Oregon is making the most of his opportunity in Waco. Slow out of the blocks in the first two months of his Bears debut, he has since caught fire by rushing for at least 100 yards in four of the last five games. The sophomore is a classic homerun hitter out of the backfield, averaging almost ten yards per carry since the beginning of November. Seastrunk is a budding young superstar for one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, erupting for 178 yards and a long touchdown on Oklahoma State this past weekend.
7. Northern Illinois
Only Notre Dame can boast a winning streak as long as the one fashioned by the Huskies, who haven’t lost a game since the opener. The program capped its 12-game run with Friday night’s thrilling 44-37 , MAC-capturing win over ranked Kent State in double-overtime. The game featured four touchdowns in the final five frenetic minutes of regulation, and 524 total yards from the offense. QB Jordan Lynch was once again the sparkplug for Dave Doeren’s team, manufacturing his eight game of 2012 with at least 200 yards passing and 100 yards on the ground.
6. The Boise State Pass D
No, it has not been a vintage season for the Broncos, yet Chris Petersen’s team still won 10 games and a share of the Mountain West title. Not too shabby during a rebuilding year. A lot of the credit has to go to senior cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins, and DE Demarcus Lawrence. With Lawrence applying pressure and the corners neutralizing receivers, Boise State has yielded just three touchdown passes in a dozen games. That’s a number straight out of 1959. Boise State shut out Nevada’s Cody Fajardo in Saturday’s 27-21 win in Reno.
5. Kansas State as Pilferers
Picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the Big 12 before the season began, the Wildcats are improbable conference champs and headed to the Fiesta Bowl. The secret to their success in 2012? Collin Klein, of course. Coach of the Year candidate Bill Snyder. And a ball-hawking team that leads the country in turnover margin. Kansas State generated 31 takeaways during the regular season, including three in Saturday night’s title-clinching win over Texas. It picked off two Case McCoy passes and recovered a fumble, pulling away with 28 unanswered points in the second half.
4. Stanford Head Coach David Shaw
In his two years since replacing Jim Harbaugh, Shaw has done a brilliant job of keeping the Cardinal in the national picture by leading his squad to consecutive BCS bowl games. Now, critics might point out that a lot of coaches would have won with Andrew Luck in the huddle in 2011, but what would they say about this season? Not only is Luck with the Indianapolis Colts, but Shaw masterfully inserted redshirt freshman QB Kevin Hogan into the lineup at the beginning of November … and it worked. The year after Luck graduated, and the year that USC came off probation, the Cardinal is headed to the Rose Bowl, a credit to Shaw and his staff.
The Sooners fell completely off the radar after bowing to Notre Dame in Norman on Oct. 27. Apparently, below the radar is where Bob Stoops’ team does its best work. Since then, it’s won five consecutive games to remain firmly in the mix for a BCS bowl game. For the majority of the run, Oklahoma has thrived behind the offense, specifically QB Landry Jones, whose finish to 2012 has been the antithesis of his final few games of 2011. However, on Saturday, the team showcased a little range and versatility, employing much-needed toughness from the defense to escape a feisty upset bid from TCU.
2. The Wisconsin Running Game
Welcome back, Wisky. For the second time in the last four games, the Badgers carved up an opponent for more than 500 yards on the ground. And this time, it earned them a third straight Big Ten championship. In one of the most dominant big-game performances on the ground in recent memory, Wisconsin obliterated favored Nebraska for 539 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging more than 10 yards a carry. James White, Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball each jetted for more than 100 yards, with the latter two eclipsing the 200-yard barrier against a stunned Huskers D. The O-line did an incredible job, helping send the Badgers back to their familiar January destination of Pasadena.
1. Alabama (when it rushes for 150 yards)
The Crimson Tide, when it grinds out yards on the ground, is about as air-tight and invincible as Mariano Rivera is with a three-run lead in the ninth inning.
How unbeatable is ‘Bama when it rushes for at least 150 yards? After more than doubling that benchmark against Georgia in the SEC title game, the Tide has now won 49 straight games. The ground game was the unequivocal difference on Saturday, absolutely bludgeoning a gassed Bulldogs front wall for 350 yards, 181 on 20 carries from Eddie Lacy and another 153 from precocious rookie T.J. Yeldon. Alabama is back in the BCS National Championship Game because it’s version of smash-mouth football was unstoppable behind the country’s best O-line.
Who's Not ... Week 14