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September 11, 2010

Winners and losers: Bad day in the ACC

The ACC had a chance to make a statement - and it did. In all the wrong ways.

In a roundabout way, the league also hurt Boise State.

Florida State's trip to Oklahoma and Miami's game at Ohio State gave the ACC two opportunities Saturday to assert itself on a national stage. If an upset had occurred in just one of those games, the ACC could have proved it belonged among the nation's elite conferences.

Instead Oklahoma throttled Florida State 47-17 and Ohio State knocked off Miami 36-24.

That was the bad news for the ACC. The worse news?

Defending conference champion Georgia Tech fell 28-25 to a Kansas team that had dropped eight consecutive games over the past two seasons. Kansas was coming off a stunning 6-3 loss to FCS program North Dakota State.

"We just didn't show up to play," Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt told reporters.

But Virginia Tech suffered the most shocking setback of all.

The preseason conference favorite Hokies followed up their 33-30 Labor Day night loss to Boise State by falling 21-16 to James Madison. The stunner made the Dukes just the second FCS program ever to beat a ranked team (Appalachian State's 34-32 upset of Michigan in 2007 was the first).

"I don't know what's going on," Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams told reporters. "I really don't."

Perhaps the only team more disappointed than Virginia Tech was Boise State. Even though the Broncos didn't play Saturday, James Madison's upset left BSU as one of the week's biggest losers.

Boise State was hoping its stirring comeback against Virginia Tech had given them the signature non-conference win that eventually could catapult them to the BCS championship game. When the Hokies followed that up by losing to a JMU at home, the victory loses its luster.

Here's a look at other winners and losers from the second week of the season.

WINNERS

Michigan QB Denard Robinson: Robinson followed up his stellar performance in the opener against Connecticut by carrying the Wolverines to a 28-24 victory at Notre Dame. Robinson ran for 258 yards and two touchdowns - including the game-winning 2-yard score with 27 seconds left. He threw for 244 yards and a touchdown. He committed no turnovers. Robinson looks like the real deal as a Heisman Trophy contender.

Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph: Michigan's late comeback spoiled a strong effort from Rudolph (eight receptions, 164 yards). Rudolph put Notre Dame ahead in the fourth quarter with a 95-yard touchdown.

Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa: Chekwa picked off two Jacory Harris passes in the Buckeyes' 36-24 victory over Miami. Chekwa's first interception led to a touchdown and his second resulted in one of five OSU field goals.

The Dakotas: Last week, North Dakota State delivered a 6-3 victory over Kansas. That seemed more impressive after the Jayhawks stunned Georgia Tech on Saturday. This week, South Dakota stunned Minnesota 41-38. Dante Warren threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more.

South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore: The No. 1 rated running back in the Class of 2010 ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Gamecocks to a 17-6 victory over Georgia. "We finally smarted up and said, 'Run Marcus Lattimore every play,' " South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told reporters.

Air Force: The Falcons should get more respect now that they beat BYU 35-14. They ended a six-game losing streak in the rivalry. Air Force rushed for 409 yards and held BYU to 88 passing yards.

East Carolina QB Dominique Davis: The former Boston College QB threw three touchdowns and ran for two more in a 49-27 rout of Memphis. East Carolina (2-0 in Conference USA) next faces winless Virginia Tech, giving Davis a chance to atone for his poor performance for BC against the Hokies in the 2008 ACC championship game.

Michigan State's rushing attack: One week ago, Le'Veon Bell ran for 141 yards against Western Michigan. Bell gained only 49 yards on 10 carries Saturday, but Edwin Baker picked up the slack by rushing for 183 yards in a 30-17 victory over Florida Atlantic.

Florida's pass defense: While Florida's offense continues to struggle, its pass defense has helped the Gators remain unbeaten. Florida picked off four passes for the second consecutive week in a 38-14 victory over South Florida. Opposing quarterbacks have gone a combined 32-of-69 with eight interceptions and one touchdown pass against the Gators.

West Virginia QB Geno Smith: In his second career start Friday, Smith threw for 316 yards and led the Mountaineers to an improbable 24-21 comeback win in OT at Marshall. Smith engineered touchdown drives of 96 and 98 yards in the fourth quarter as WVU reached the end zone twice in the final 5:12 of regulation. Smith threw a game-tying two-point conversion pass to Jock Sanders with 12 seconds left in regulation.

Wisconsin RB John Clay: Clay rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-14 victory over San Jose State. It was his eighth consecutive 100-yard game over the past two seasons.

Oklahoma's pass defense: The Sooners limited FSU quarterback Christian Ponder to 11-of-28 passing, marking the first time since the 2008 season that he had completed less than half his pass attempts.

Kansas' freshmen on offense: True freshman James Sims rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the upset of Georgia Tech. The MVP was redshirt freshman QB Jordan Webb, who threw three touchdown passes in his first career start.

Auburn's defense: The Tigers limited Mississippi State to just 16-of-35 passing in a 17-14 victory Thursday. The Tigers may have found their next defensive star in T Nick Fairley, who recovered a fumble, picked off a pass, delivered 1.5 sacks.

Northwestern QB Dan Persa: Persa went 19-of-23 for 240 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-3 victory over FCS member Illinois State. Through the first two weeks of the season, Persa has completed 86.4 percent of his passes.

California QB Kevin Riley: After throwing for three touchdowns without an interception in a season-opening rout of UC Davis last week, Riley tossed four touchdown passes and was never picked off in a 52-7 trouncing of Colorado.

Wake Forest and Duke receiving units: Wake Forest and Duke each scored 28 first-half points before the Deacons eventually pulled out a 54-48 victory. Wake got big games from Chris Givens (four catches, 159 yards, one TD) and Marshall Williams (2-51-2). Duke got plenty of production from Conner Vernon (8-181-2) and Austin Kelly (10-73-1).

Alabama RB Trent Richardson: How good is Richardson? Good enough that Alabama's rushing attack hasn't missed a beat without injured Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Richardson reached the 100-yard mark by halftime and finished with 144 yards in a 24-3 triumph over Penn State.

Kentucky WR Randall Cobb: The former quarterback threw a touchdown pass, delivered a touchdown catch and scored on a 50-yard punt return in a 63-28 win over Western Kentucky.

LOSERS

Boise State: Boise State mounted a nice comeback to beat Virginia Tech on Monday, but when the Hokies followed that up by losing to an FCS program at home, it certainly didn't do the Broncos' national title hopes any favors.

Florida's offense: The Gators suffered through their second consecutive slow start and scored just seven points in the first 2 1/2 quarters of their victory over South Florida. Where would they be without Jeff Demps? Demps gained 255 all-purpose yards and kick-started Florida's offense with a 62-yard touchdown run that broke a 7-7 tie midway through the third period.

Georgia's offense without A.J. Green: The Bulldogs just aren't quite the same now that their All-America candidate is serving a four-game suspension. Green's absence left Georgia without a big-play receiver and helped prevent the Bulldogs from reaching the end zone against South Carolina.

Minnesota coach Tim Brewster: "The depth of my disappointment right now - you cannot measure it," Brewster told reporters after falling to South Dakota. This wasn't a new experience. Minnesota lost 27-21 to FCS program North Dakota State in 2007, Brewster's first season. Brewster now must figure out a way to beat USC, which plays at Minnesota next week.

Colorado: The Buffaloes' 52-7 loss to Cal certainly didn't offer much reason to look forward to CU's move to the Pac-10. Nor did it help the precarious job status of coach Dan Hawkins.

Florida State's defense: Florida State gave up 34 points by halftime and allowed Oklahoma's Landry Jones to throw for four touchdowns and to complete 75 percent of his passes.

Georgia Tech's poise: The Yellow Jackets committed nine penalties for 91 yards while falling to a Kansas team that had dropped eight consecutive games over the past two seasons.

Ohio State's special teams: Ohio State gave up an 88-yard kick-return touchdown to Miami's Lamar Miller and allowed Travis Benjamin to reach the end zone on a 79-yard punt return. One week ago, Marshall's Ahmed Shakoor returned a blocked field-goal attempt 61 yards for the Herd's lone touchdown in a 45-7 loss.

Purdue's luck: First, the Boilermakers lost their top rusher from 2009 when Ralph Bolden tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during spring practice. Now they may have lost their top receiver from last season as well. Keith Smith was on crutches with his right knee wrapped late in Purdue's 31-21 victory over Western Illinois. Smith caught 91 passes for 1,100 yards last year, and he had 12 receptions last week at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame's backup QB situation: Dayne Crist wasn't the best quarterback on the field Saturday, but the Irish's 28-24 loss to Michigan showed that he might be the most indispensable QB in the nation. Notre Dame's main backup quarterbacks are true freshman Tommy Rees and former walk-on Nate Montana (Joe's son). Crist led the Irish to an opening drive touchdown and ended up throwing for 277 yards with two scoring strikes and one interception. When an injury forced Crist to sit out most of the first half, Montana and Rees went a combined 8-of-19 with two interceptions. Notre Dame failed to score when Crist was out.

Marshall's late-game execution: Marshall was on the verge of one of its biggest wins in school history. The Thundering Herd, who were winless against West Virginia in nine previous attempts, led their in-state rival 21-6 and had first-and-goal at the 6 when Tron Martinez fumbled the ball with 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Herd proceeded to give up two touchdown drives of 90-plus yards plus a game-tying two-point conversion. The collapse was complete after Tyler Warner's 39-yard field goal sailed inches wide right, allowing West Virginia to escape with a 24-21 overtime victory.

Auburn's offense: For those of us who got carried away with Auburn's 52-point explosion against Arkansas State, this week represented a reality check. Auburn failed to score a point after halftime at Mississippi State on Thursday. The Tigers still won 17-14, but that type of performance won't get it done against SEC West rivals Alabama, LSU and Arkansas.

Last year's top rushers: Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis, UTEP's Donald Buckram and Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams rushed for more yards last season than any other active FBS backs. All three have struggled to establish a rhythm so far this year. Buckram has missed UTEP's first two games with a bruised knee. Lewis rushed for 75 yards in a loss to Utah last week and gained just 27 yards on 10 carries Saturday in a 38-16 win over New Hampshire. Virginia Tech is winless partially because Williams has rushed for only 145 yards on 40 carries through the first two games of the season.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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