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October 31, 2011

Rivals.com Week 9 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: Georgia Tech's offense. After scoring a total of 28 points in its two-game losing streak, Georgia Tech's option attack returned to form Saturday in a 31-17 upset of previously unbeaten Clemson. Led by QB Tevin Washington's 176-yard effort, Georgia Tech rushed for 383 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Tech's ability to run on Clemson's defense allowed the Yellow Jackets to maintain possession for 39 minutes. Tech's hardly resembled the offense that had gained 211 total yards in a 24-7 loss to Miami a week earlier.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Maryland. What the heck is wrong with the Terrapins? A team that seemed to have legitimate hopes of contending for the ACC title at the start of the season now must win its last four games just to become bowl eligible. Maryland dropped its fourth consecutive game by falling at home to a Boston College team that hadn't beaten an FBS program all season. The Terps appeared to gain some momentum a couple of weeks ago when they nearly upset Clemson, but they've been outscored 69-33 in two games since. The latest loss was a true team effort. QBs Danny O'Brien and C.J. Brown went a combined 16-of-41 and one touchdown pass, with each player throwing an interception. Receivers dropped plenty of passes. The defense gave up 6.0 yards per carry. And K Nick Ferrara missed a 27-yard field goal and had a 34-yard attempt blocked.

Clemson-Ga. Tech photo gallery [Photo gallery: Georgia Tech hands Clemson first loss]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Boston College RB Rolandan Finch. Finch, a sophomore, rushed for 243 yards Saturday in a 28-17 upset of Maryland. Finch had shown some promise while running for 81 yards against Clemson and 92 yards against Virginia Tech in Boston College's past two games, but nobody could have predicted this. His performance nearly doubled his previous career output of 266. Finch recorded the No. 3 single-game rushing total in BC history. No individual in the ACC had rushed for that many yards in a game all season.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: N.C. State QB Mike Glennon and Wake Forest QB Tanner Price. These two quarterbacks threw three interceptions each while leading their respective teams to one-sided losses. Glennon went 19-of-34 for 130 yards and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time all season as the Wolfpack fell 34-0 to Florida State. Price went 17-of-29 for 146 yards and also didn't have a touchdown pass for the first time this season as Wake was hammered by North Carolina.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Louisville's offense. Last week, Louisville's rushing attack enjoyed a revival against Rutgers. Saturday, the Cardinals were able to sustain a more balanced approach against the same Syracuse team that flummoxed West Virginia a week earlier. Freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater is getting better by the week, going 17-of-24 for 198 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers in the 27-10 win over Syracuse. The Cardinals also rushed for 145 yards, led by 93 yards and a touchdown from oft-injured TB Victor Anderson.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Syracuse. The Orange, particularly on defense, appeared to turn the corner last week with a 49-23 shocker against West Virginia. That team apparently stayed in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse didn't score a touchdown against Louisville until the final 1:31. The biggest surprise, though, was penalties. The Orange had averaged 5.6 penalties per game coming into the loss of Louisville. Syracuse doubled that with 12 penalties for 99 yards, including three personal fouls in the first quarter alone.

[ScarletNation.com: LeGrand leads Rutgers out of tunnel, leaves mark on crowd]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Pittsburgh QB Tino Sunseri. Pitt is facing a handful of injuries, none more serious than the season-ending knee injury to star TB Ray Graham. But Sunseri stepped up his game in Wednesday's win over Connecticut. Sunseri was 29-of-42 for 419 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-20 victory. He also rushed for 40 yards and a score. Connecticut's defense has had its struggles, but Sunseri still didn't seem like a likely candidate to become the third quarterback to top 400 yards against the Huskies, joining West Virginia's Geno Smith and Western Michigan's Alex Carder.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Rutgers QB Gary Nova. Rutgers built a 31-21 halftime lead, thanks to two touchdown passes from Nova. But Nova, a true freshman, showed his inexperience in a disastrous second half as West Virginia scored 20 consecutive points in the 41-31 win. Nova was 11-of-27 for 120 yards with two interceptions in the second half, but the worst error was an unforced fumble that led to a WVU touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Penn State's offense (on its final drive). For most of the game against Illinois, the offense was punchless even by the Nittany Lions' standards. Then came the final possession. Of Penn State's 209 total yards Saturday, 80 came on the possession that ended with the winning touchdown in a 10-7 victory over Illinois. On the final drive, Penn State trotted out injured WR Derek Moye, who was available only in an emergency. Down by four points at home to Illinois with three minutes to go certainly qualified. Moye caught two passes for 29 yards on the drive and redeemed himself for a drop on a third-and-6 play by drawing a pass interference on fourth down in the end zone to put Penn State inside the 10. Silas Redd capped the win with a 3-yard touchdown run and had his fifth consecutive 100-yard game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Wisconsin's pass defense. Allowing 89 passing yards and seven completions on the road against Ohio State should be enough to win impressively - unless one of those completions is a 40-yard touchdown from a freshman quarterback to a receiver standing all alone in the end zone with 43 seconds left. It was Wisconsin's second consecutive morale-crushing loss. Michigan State's winning touchdown pass last week may have been bad luck for Wisconsin, but this one against Ohio State was an all-out defensive breakdown. The two lapses have turned a national title contender into a Capital One Bowl contender. Honorable mention for biggest disappointment goes to Iowa, which spoiled a 252-yard performance form Marcus Coker by allowing two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to lose 22-21 to lowly Minnesota.

Michigan State-Nebraska photo gallery [Photo gallery: Nebraska runs over Michigan State]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Michigan TB Fitzgerald Toussaint. The ... ahem running dilemma for Michigan's offense for two consecutive seasons has been who will take the pressure off QB Denard Robinson. Entering Saturday, Robinson had accounted for nearly half of the Wolverines' rushing yards this season and four of their six 100-yard rushing games. Robinson got some help in Saturday's 36-14 win over Purdue from Toussaint, a junior who rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. It was the best rushing performance of the season for a Wolverines player other than Robinson.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins and WR B.J. Cunningham. After last week's thrilling victory over Wisconsin, Michigan State carried none of that momentum into its game at Nebraska. Cousins was 4-of-15 for 27 yards with an interception - and another near-interception in the red zone - in the first half; he finished 11-of-27 for 86 yards and was sacked four times in the 24-3 loss. Meanwhile, Cunningham went without a catch as Michigan State finished with a season-low 187 yards.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Oklahoma State's defense. Everybody knows the Cowboys can score, but there have been doubts about the strength of their defense. But the Cowboys' defense showed it just might be championship-caliber in a 59-24 victory over Baylor. Yeah, the defense gave up a lot of yards, but the unit held Baylor's high-scoring offense to three points through three quarters and did not allow a touchdown until the Cowboys had taken a 49-3 lead. They also forced five turnovers, including two interceptions of Robert Griffin III.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Texas Tech's offense. The Red Raiders had scored at least 34 points in every game, including last week's 41-38 win over Oklahoma. So how can they explain scoring just one touchdown in a 41-7 loss to Iowa State, which had allowed at least 33 points in five games? The Red Raiders managed a season-low 290 yards of total offense and committed three turnovers.

[Megargee: Week 9 winners and losers]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Iowa State QB Jared Barnett. Making his first career start, Barnett, a freshman, passed for 144 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 92 and another score as the Cyclones hammered host Texas Tech 41-7.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Texas Tech QB Seth Doege. He has been among the nation's top passers all season and had thrown for at least 366 yards in four consecutive games. That streak ended abruptly against Iowa State. He completed just half of his passes for a mere 171 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass and was intercepted twice in an inexplicable loss.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Wyoming. One year after going 3-9, the Cowboys have a legitimate shot at a bowl bid. True freshman Brett Smith threw two passes and ran for two more scores - all in the first half - as Wyoming improved its record to 5-2 and remained unbeaten in conference play by recording a 30-27 road upset of San Diego State. The Cowboys scored all their points before halftime and hung on despite allowing Ronnie Hillman's 99-yard touchdown run and mustering minus-1 net yards of total offense in the fourth quarter. Because two of Wyoming's victories came against FCS teams, the Cowboys must win two more games to lock up bowl eligibility.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: San Diego State. Returning to action after a 15-day layoff, the Aztecs delivered a rusty performance and didn't even bother showing up until the second half. The Aztecs trailed 30-14 at halftime to a Wyoming team that had reached the 30-point mark just once against an FBS program this season. "We weren't ready for the speed of the game, but [Wyoming] had a bye too, so that's not an excuse," San Diego State coach Rocky Long told reporters after the game. Even after the defense recovered in the second half, the Aztecs suffered breakdowns in the kicking game (more on those later) to waste a 224-yard rushing performance by Ronnie Hillman.

College football photo gallery [Photo gallery: Saturday's highlights]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UNLV QB Caleb Herring. After losing his starting job earlier this season following dreadful performances in losses to Southern Utah and Nevada, Herring, a sophomore, could have hung his head. He instead accepted his new assignment and came off the bench Saturday to rally UNLV to a 38-35 victory over Colorado State. Herring went 9-of-13 for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Herring also delivered a winning 5-yard TD run with 1:20 remaining. Honorable mention goes to TCU S Jonathan Anderson, who replaced an injured Tekerrein Cuba in the first half Friday and had 17 tackles and an interception in a 38-28 triumph over BYU. Anderson's 17 tackles represented the third-highest single-game total of Gary Patterson's 11-year coaching tenure.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: San Diego State K Abel Perez. One year after going 17-of-22 on field goals and earning second-team All-Mountain West honors, Perez is struggling through a miserable senior season. His slump reached its nadir Saturday, as Perez missed an extra point and each of his two field-goal attempts in a three-point loss to Wyoming. Perez missed a 39-yarder with 11:37 remaining and a 27-yarder with 1:55 left. Perez is 3-of-8 on field-goal attempts this season.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: UCLA's rush offense. The Bruins rolled up 294 rushing yards against a California defense that had held six of seven opponents to 118 or fewer yards on the ground. QB Kevin Prince rushed for 163 yards and RB Derrick Coleman scored three TDs.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Stanford's rush defense. The Cardinal had been among the nation's best teams against the run, but it didn't look that way against USC. The Trojans' Curtis McNeal rushed for 145 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 61 and 25 in a near upset. Stanford forced him into a ending fumble in triple overtime, but McNeal did enough damage to raise questions about whether Stanford's defense is good enough to win a league championship.

[Buchanan: Luck, Stanford handle adversity at USC]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UCLA FS Tevin McDonald. McDonald, a freshman, had not managed an interception before Saturday's game, but he came up with three against Cal. All three of his picks led to points - two touchdowns and a field goal - as UCLA posted a 31-14 upset.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Cal QB Zach Maynard. Interception have been a problem for Maynard and were again in the loss to UCLA. He was picked off four times and completed only 14 of his 30 passing attempts.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Vanderbilt's offense. The Commodores fell 31-28 to Arkansas, but their offense looked quite good. Vandy had 462 yards of total offense against Arkansas, the second-most the Hogs have allowed this season (and 65 more than Alabama managed against Arkansas). Vandy rushed for 222 yards.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Florida's rushing attack. The Gators rushed for minus-19 yards in a 24-20 loss to Georgia. Six sacks of John Brantley were a big reason for the total, but TBs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey didn't do much, either. In its past four games, all losses, Florida has managed 175 rushing yards total; surprisingly, 113 of them came against LSU.

[Related: Wilds is top freshman in Week 9]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: South Carolina TB Brandon Wilds. In its first game without injured TB Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks still were able to rely on their rushing attack thanks to Wilds, a true freshman. Wilds ran for 137 yards on 28 carries; he had 75 career yards coming into the game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Florida's offensive linemen. We talked earlier about Florida's rushing troubles of late. Part of the problem is that the Gators' offensive line, which can't get any push. Worse, on Saturday, they got pushed around by Georgia's pass rush; the Gators allowed six sacks, including four by OLB Jarvis Jones, who dominated Florida OT Xavier Nixon.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane were dominant on both sides of the ball in a 37-7 rout of SMU. Tulsa rolled up 451 yards and surrendered just 265. The defensive performance was especially noteworthy because the Golden Hurricane had been allowing 431.7 yards per game and SMU came in averaging 431.0.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Bowling Green. The Falcons put themselves in position to become bowl eligible with an upset of Temple last week. But they gave it all back by falling 27-15 to a previously punchless Kent State team. It was Kent State's first win this season over a FBS team, and it means BG is going to have to upset either Northern Illinois or Ohio to become bowl eligible.

[Y! Sports Shop: Show your school colors with college football team gear]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Louisiana-Lafayette TB Alonzo Harris. ULL has been the biggest surprise in the Sun Belt, but it wasn't because of its rushing attack. ULL was averaging just 126.8 rushing yards per game going into Saturday's game at Middle Tennessee. Harris came up big, though, by rambling for 189 yards and two TDs in a 45-20 victory over the Blue Raiders. Harris had rushed for 373 yards and three TDs in ULL's first seven games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: SMU QB J.J. McDermott. SMU's Conference USA title hopes basically died Saturday in a 38-7 rout at the hands of Tulsa. McDermott was brutal, going 17-of-37 for 180 yards and four picks. Ever since throwing for 1,064 yards and nine TDs in a three-game stretch against Memphis, TCU and UCF - all wins - McDermott is 33-of-69 for 353 yards, zero TDs and six picks in the past two games. He has 11 interceptions and 10 TDs on the season.

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