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September 26, 2011

Rivals.com Week 4 Conference Call

Here's a quickie look at the weekend's action in a conference-by-conference manner.

Think of it as one final chance to look back at the weekend that was. We will have this conference call every Monday.

ACC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Clemson's run defense. After giving up 224.7 rushing yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry through the first three weeks of the season, Clemson yielded just 29 rushing yards on 15 carries in a 35-30 victory over preseason ACC favorite Florida State. Clemson had entered the weekend with the ACC's lowest-ranked run defense and was allowing 43.7 more rushing yards per game than any other team in the conference.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Maryland. A season that started out with such promise is suddenly in turmoil after a stunningly one-sided 38-7 home loss to Temple. Maryland trailed 31-0 at the half and didn't score its touchdown until only 4:31 remained in the game. Maryland must find a way to end its first-half funks. The Terps have been outscored 58-10 before halftime during their two-game losing streak. That skid has eroded much of the optimism that followed a nationally televised season-opening 32-24 win over Miami. Dishonorable mention goes to N.C. State's defense, which got torched in a 44-14 loss to Cincinnati and has given up 78 points in its two games against FBS opponents.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Georgia Tech LB Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu, a sophomore, went into the weekend with four career sacks. He nearly matched that total Saturday by delivering three of Georgia Tech's seven sacks in a 35-28 victory over North Carolina. Attaochu had a career-high nine tackles. He also forced a fumble and tipped a pass that teammate Isaiah Johnson intercepted in the second quarter. Honorable mention goes to Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett, who threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns at Clemson while making his first career start in place of the injured EJ Manuel.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: North Carolina LB Zach Brown. This potential first-round draft pick had a team-high 24 tackles through the first three games, but he only played on special teams against Georgia Tech because of a disciplinary issue. The Tar Heels certainly could have used one of their top defensive players as they unsuccessfully attempted to slow a Tech offense that leads the nation in points and yards per game.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Cincinnati's defense. The Bearcats can move the ball with just about anyone. The problem is the defense can't stop anyone. That's showing signs of changing. Cincinnati turned in its best defensive performance against a major conference team Thursday by holding North Carolina State to 322 yards, 14 points and minus-26 rushing yards. The Wolfpack is not an offensive juggernaut, but neither were most Big East teams last season. Cincinnati is plus-14 in turnover margin through four games after finishing at minus-15 last season margin all of last season to plus-14 through four games. Cincinnati intercepted Mike Glennon twice and sacked him six times on top of a recovering a fumble in a 44-14 rout.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: The officials in the Syracuse-Toledo game. Hours after the end of the game, which Syracuse won 33-30 on overtime, Big East coordinator of officiating Terry McAulay confirmed what everyone watching the game on TV knew: Syracuse kicker Ross Krautman missed the extra point that gave Syracuse a 30-27 lead with 2:07 to go. Toledo marched down the field to kick a 20-yard field goal, which should have won the game rather than sending it to overtime. In a statement, McAulay said the replay official used the sideline angle, which proved to be distorted. We are led to believe the replay officials see everything the viewers at home can see, but that's clearly not the case. The viewers at home saw the extra point go wide.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Rutgers TB Jawan Jamison. Rutgers made some changes to revive its stagnant running game, but the turnaround came from a somewhat unexpected source. Jamison, a redshirt freshman, rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries in a 38-26 win over Ohio. Rutgers averaged 3.7 yards per carry, its best average in nearly a year. Jamison became the feature back after highly touted freshman Savon Huggins fumbled twice in the first quarter.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Connecticut's tailbacks. Just as Johnny McEntee is starting to separate himself in the quarterback competition, Connecticut's run game is starting to fall flat. The Huskies beat Buffalo 17-3, but they rushed for only 80 yards and averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. Lyle McCombs, the only true tailback who carried the ball, rushed for 61 yards on 30 carries against the Bulls. Connecticut did not have a run longer than 9 yards, and McCombs didn't have one longer than 7. Disregarding the opener against Fordham, the Huskies are averaging 2.3 yards per carry.

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Michigan. The Wolverines are 4-0 and the latest conquest was a 28-7 victory over San Diego State in a game that many felt would be close. But the Wolverines took control early. The Wolverines can thank junior QB Denard Robinson, who ran for 200 yards (on 21 carries) for the third time in his career. He also ran for three scores, all in the first half, to tie a career-best.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Indiana. A week after notching its first win of the season under new coach Kevin Wilson, the Hoosiers lost to a winless North Texas team. How bad was it? Visiting Indiana was losing 24-0 at halftime to a Sun Belt school before staging a furious fourth-quarter comeback that came up short. Will the Hoosiers win another game?

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Ohio State QB Braxton Miller. After senior Joe Bauserman started the first three games with mixed results, Miller - a true freshman - made his first career start Saturday and looked poised in engineering a 37-17 win over Colorado. Miller hit only 5-of-13 passes 83 yards but he had scoring tosses of 32 and 17 yards. He also ran 17 times for 83 yards.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Minnesota QBs MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell. The tandem formed an ineffective rotation in an embarrassing home loss to FCS member North Dakota State. Shortell hit 4-of-8 passes for 71 yards with an interception, a touchdown and a sack; Gray was just 5-of-12 for 53 yards with a pick and four sacks. It was the Golden Gophers' second loss to North Dakota State, which moved from Division II to the FCS ranks in 2004, in three meetings.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Kansas State. True, the Wildcats were unbeaten going into Saturday's game against Miami, but those wins were over FCS member Eastern Kentucky and woeful Kent State. But the Wildcats showed they are a team capable of posting big wins by knocking off host Miami 28-24. They rolled up 398 yards of offense, and the defense mounted a last-minute goal-line stand to seal the victory. K-State plays Baylor this week.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Texas Tech's defense. The Red Raiders surrendered just 23 points in two previous games against inferior competition, but gave up 562 yards and 34 points to Nevada, which managed just 17 a week ago against a bad San Jose State team. Two Nevada players rushed for 139 yards. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, their offense compensated and scored a game-winning touchdown on fourth down in the final minute for a 35-34 win.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Kansas State RB John Hubert. Hubert, a 5-foot-7 sophomore from Waco, Texas, rushed for a career-high 166 yards in the victory over Miami. He scored the decisive touchdown and also had a 47-yard run.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill. He played well in the first half, but threw three interceptions in the second half that helped Oklahoma State rally from a 17-point deficit to a 30-29 win. One interception led to an Oklahoma State field goal and one ended A&M's last hope for a comeback.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Colorado State. The Rams' 35-34 double-overtime victory at Utah State improved their record to 3-1 and allowed them to match their 2010 win total before the end of September. Colorado State, a nine-point underdog, pulled the upset despite playing without four injured starters: OT Joe Caprioglio, DT Nuku Latu, DE Broderick Sargent and LB Mychal Sisson.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS, TEAM: UNLV and New Mexico. The two league schools that lost to FCS programs this week share this dubious honor. New Mexico, which has gone 1-11 each of the past two seasons, blew its best shot at a win this season by falling 48-45 to Sam Houston State in overtime. One week after upsetting Hawaii, UNLV was embarrassed 41-16 by Southern Utah. New Mexico at least showed some gumption by rallying from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime, though its defense gave up an astounding 373 rushing yards and allowed Sam Houston State's Tim Flanders to run for five touchdowns. UNLV got outscored 31-6 in the second half, committed five turnovers and allowed five sacks. "This can't happen," UNLV coach Bobby Hauck told the Las Vegas Review-Journal afterward. "Can't happen. For everybody involved in that locker room, it's an all-time personal low in terms of football."

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Colorado State LB Shaquil Barrett. Colorado State wouldn't have beaten Utah State without Barrett, who moved into the starting lineup after Sisson's injury and has helped the Rams withstand the loss of the All-MWC linebacker. He delivered 14 tackles, recorded a sack and scored on a 15-yard fumble return against Utah State. Sophomore Tanner Hedstrom, the Rams' long snapper, deserves mention after recovering two fumbled punt returns. Hedstrom's second fumble recovery came at Utah State's 15 with 2:43 left in regulation and set up Colorado State's game-tying touchdown.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: UNLV QB Caleb Herring. The good news for Herring was that he threw four touchdown passes. Too bad three of them went to the wrong team. Herring threw three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in UNLV's loss to Southern Utah. The poor performance represented a surprising turn of events for Herring, who had thrown 76 passes with only one interception through the first three weeks of the season.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Arizona State's run offense. The Sun Devils had not rushed for more than 106 yards against an FBS opponent this season and didn't figure to have much success against a USC defense that not allowed an opponent more than 100 rushing yards. But the Sun Devils got a 70-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game and went on to rush for 169 yards and three touchdowns in whipping the Trojans.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Oregon State. The reeling Beavers named Sean Mannion the starting quarterback and had star WR James Rodgers and TE Joe Halahuni returning from injuries. Yet, they gave up 211 rushing yards and lost two turnovers in a 27-19 loss to struggling UCLA to remain winless.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Arizona State RB Cameron Marshall. It was unsure whether Marshall would even play against USC. He had sprained an ankle in last week's loss to Illinois and missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday. Yet, he rushed for a season-high 141 yards and three touchdowns, including a 70-yard burst in a 43-22 win over USC.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: USC QB Matt Barkley. He has had a good season and was coming off a five-touchdown performance against Syracuse. But Barkley struggled in a loss to Arizona State. He passed for a season-low 227 yards and threw two interceptions - one that killed a USC drive deep in Arizona State territory and another that was returned for a touchdown. He also lost a fumble.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: South Carolina's defense. Despite a 3-0 start, the unit had been mediocre this season. But a visit from Vanderbilt helped. Vandy also went into the game 3-0, and there was talk that the Commodores actually could play a role in this season's SEC East race. Uhh ... no. South Carolina's offense didn't do much, but it didn't have to, as the Gamecocks' defense allowed just 77 total yards in a dominating performance. The defense also scored on a fumble recovery in the 21-3 victory.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Arkansas' offense. The Hogs' only hope to pull the upset at Alabama was a big day from the offense. Instead, that offense was a big flop. The Hogs managed just 226 total yards. Two Arkansas quarterbacks combined to complete 24 passes, but the completions went for just 209 yards; you can't dink and dunk your way to a win over Alabama. The Hogs rushed for 17 yards on 19 carries.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: LSU QB Jarrett Lee. He threw three TD passes, one more than touted West Virginia QB Geno Smith, in the Tigers' dominating 47-21 victory. Lee was 16-of-28 for 180 yards and the three scores, and he had another sure TD pass dropped in the end zone.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Georgia K Blair Walsh. He went into the season as the nation's best kicker, but he has been far from an All-American thus far. He kicked two field goals Saturday in a 27-13 victory at Ole Miss, but he missed three others (two 48-yarders and a 35-yarder). He also had one of his kickoffs go out of bounds. He is just 5-of-10 on field-goal attempts this season.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Bowling Green. The Falcons were last nationally in rushing offense last season, but their rushing attack spurred them to a 37-23 win Saturday at Miami of Ohio. The victory stamps Bowling Green as a legit MAC title contender. BG ran for 127 yards after 33 was subtracted because of sacks. True freshman Anthon Samuel rushed for 121 yards and a TD, this third 100-yard outing in four games this season.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Florida International. After back-to-back wins over Louisville and UCF, visions of an unbeaten season were dancing in the Golden Panthers' heads. Those dreams crashed to earth in a big way Saturday, as visiting Louisiana-Lafayette - picked to finish last in the Sun Belt - shocked FIU 37-31. ULL now plays each of its next three games at home, while FIU plays two of its next three league games on the road.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: San Jose State TB Brandon Rutley. Rutley, a senior, rushed for 461 yards and four TDs last season and had 179 yards through the first three games this season. That made his 209-yard, two-TD performance Saturday in a victory over New Mexico State quite shocking. His 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter broke a 24-24 tie, and SJSU went on to win 34-24.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Tulane's defensive front seven. It's one thing to give up a lot of yards to Duke's passing attack. But when the Blue Devils run all over you, you have issues. The Blue Devils rushed for 151 yards - they had managed 111 total in their past two games - and five TDs in pounding the Green Wave 48-27.

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