Either defenses overachieved in Week Seven of the college football season, or offenses underachieved. Because we're optimists, we'll go with the former.
Week Seven's Big Winners: Washington, SMU, And Fans Of
Bad Offense Great Defense.
Week Seven's Big Losers: The Big East And Everybody Associated With It.
I swear, no conference has more week-to-week variance than the ACC. Georgia Tech's great, then terrible. Maryland's great, then terrible, then both in the same game. Miami is both spry and lifeless. Florida State is a disappointment and a favorite. Virginia Tech is alternately explosive and inept on offense.
Overachiever: Virginia and Underachiever: Georgia Tech (Projected: Ga. Tech +20.7 | Actual: Virginia +3). It probably goes without saying that "Virgina fans rush the field after the Cavaliers beat Georgia Tech" is not a sentence you thought you would read at the beginning of the season, when the Yellow Jackets were coming off of a 6-7 season. But after Tech started 6-0 and found their way into the Top 15, the stakes got raised a bit. And when Tech's offensive collapse continued in Charlottesville, the Hoos came away with a 24-21 win. It's like Tevin Washington has suddenly begun throwing left-handed or something -- after completing 27 of 42 passes for 821 yards, eight touchdowns and just one pick in his first four games, he has completed 12 of 39 for 255, two touchdowns and three interceptions in his last three. Tech's two home run hitters, Orwin Smith and Stephen Hill, touched the ball six times, and all six touches belonged to Smith (five carries, one catch, 45 combined yards). No pass directed at Hill found its mark. Meanwhile, UVa's Perry Jones ran for 149 yards on 18 carries and caught three passes for 37 more yards, and the Cavs generated just enough offense to pull the upset.
Overachiever: Miami and Underachiever: North Carolina (Projected: UNC +12.1 | Actual: Miami +6). Miami mastered the art of looking good in the box score but faltering on the field last year, and they flipped the script in their 30-24 win in Chapel Hill on Saturday. North Carolina outgained the Hurricanes, 429-311, but they stalled as they entered Miami territory, while Miami took full advantage of their opportunities. The Hurricanes scored on each of their first five possessions and gained 269 yards (7.3 per play) before halftime ... which was good, because they did less than nothing in the second half. They gained just 52 yards in 22 plays in the third and fourth quarters and squandered most, but not all, of their 27-10 halftime lead. Miami back Lamar Miller was ineffective (16 carries, 29 yards), but the Hurricanes' defense kept UNC quarterback Bryn Renner's per-attempt (including sacks) average low with four sacks and eight overall tackles for loss.
You totally knew that Missouri's Henry Josey and Oklahoma's Dom Whaley would be the two best running backs in the conference in 2011, right?
Overachiever: Missouri and Underachiever: Iowa State (Projected: Mizzou +17.2 | Actual: Mizzou +35). If you let Iowa State hang around for a while, they can eventually figure things out and pull an upset. Just ask Iowa or Connecticut. But Mizzou stomped the Cyclones' throat from the very start, scoring touchdowns on their first four drives and building a 28-3 lead, then coasting to an easy 52-17 win. Quarterback James Franklin threw two interceptions in three passes in the second quarter, but for the game overall, he was fantastic: 20-for-28, 289 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions. He threw in 84 yards on the ground, and with help from Henry Josey (19 carries, 129 yards) and Kendial Lawrence (16 carries, 78 yards), the Tigers showed odd balance: 294 rushing yards, 289 passing yards.
Overachiever: Kansas and Underachiever: Oklahoma (Projected: Oklahoma +45.3 | Actual: Oklahoma +30). Oklahoma gained 610 yards and scored 47 points, and the storyline after the game was, without irony, "Kansas' defense shows measurable improvement." That's how low the bar has been set for the Jayhawks this season. Three turnovers (worth 17.7 Equivalent Points, as defined here) allowed KU to stick around for a little while, and once again the Jayhawks showed offensive life in the first half. Unfortunately, games are 60 minutes long. After gaining 241 yards (6.5 per play) in the first half, Kansas gained just 11 (0.4) in the second as the Sooners very much pulled away. Landry Jones completed 29 of 48 passes for 363 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and, ho hum, Ryan Broyles caught 13 of the 19 passes thrown his way, gaining 217 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Pittsburgh got blown up by a team busy getting blown up by a good portion of the Pac-12. Rutgers beat Navy by one point right after Southern Miss beat the Midshipmen by four touchdowns. How bad was the Big East this week? So bad that even future member Central Florida looked terrible. (Granted, it was against another potential Big East addition, SMU.)
Underachiever: Pittsburgh (Projected: Pittsburgh +10.6 | Actual: Utah +12). When I looked at the box score from Utah's 26-14 win at Pittsburgh, my first thought was, "Did a freak ice storm hit Pittsburgh for three hours on Saturday?" It is truly a work of art. Utah gained just 251 yards (3.3 per play) ... and they more than doubled Pittsburgh's output. Pitt gained 43 yards on their first drive ... and 77 thereafter. They scored their touchdowns on a kickoff return and a blocked field goal return. Quarterback Tino Sunseri got sacked five times in 16 pass attempts, completed only four of 11 passes, and therefore averaged 0.6 yards per pass attempt; and this was better than what backup Trey Anderson produced: 5-for-19, 12 yards, two interceptions and a sack (0.1 yards per pass attempt). Running back Ray Graham gained just 46 yards on 12 carries and "led" the Panthers with three receptions for 10 yards. The Pittsburgh defense racked up a semi-incredible 17 tackles for loss ... and they lost, at home, by 12.
Overachiever: Connecticut and Underachiever: South Florida (Projected: USF +8.5 | Actual: UConn +6). South Florida was seen by some as a Big East favorite before the season started, but they're now 0-2 in conference play after following up on their second-half collapse at Pitt with a full-game collapse at Connecticut. UConn beat them, 16-10, despite making only three trips inside the USF 40. South Florida made seven trips of their own and managed only 10 points thanks to two missed field goals, two turnovers and a turnover on downs. USF quarterback B.J. Daniels had managed to avoid turnovers through most of September, but they're coming in droves now. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, and the Bulls lost despite the fact that they registered 12 tackles for loss and sacked UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee seven times in 30 pass attempts. (That's right, two different Big East teams lost despite double-digit tackles for loss.) West Virginia fans: yes, you still have Rutgers to deal with, but I'm just going to go ahead and say that if you wanted to get a jump on others and reserve your Fiesta Bowl hotel rooms now, it probably wouldn't backfire on you.
I've talked Michigan up all season, but Michigan State now controls its destiny in the
Legends Leaders Legends Division.
Overachiever: Purdue and Underachiever: Penn State (Projected: Penn State +29.1 | Actual: Penn State +5). Thanks to a stellar defense, Penn State passes the numbers test. Thanks to a continuously glitch-heavy offense, they are a risky bet to actually meet their projections on any given week. Penn State committed another red zone turnover, and quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden combined to complete just 10 of 23 passes, and despite Gerald Hodges' three tackles for loss and Nate Stupar's two interceptions, the Nittany Lions barely managed to put Purdue away, winning only 23-18. No matter what the numbers say, you might want to avoid putting money on Penn State this year. Then again, you probably didn't need me to tell you that. You probably already knew.
Overachiever: Ohio State and Underachiever: Illinois (Projected: Illinois +9.5 | Actual: Ohio State +10). Speaking of "completely untrustworthy on offense," it's Illinois! The Fighting Illini gained just 285 yards and committed three turnovers (worth 14.9 equivalent points), and they managed to lose to an Ohio State team that threw four passes all game. Braxton Miller completed one of four passes and was sacked four other times, resulting in a per-attempt average of minus-1.0 yards. And yet, Ohio State still pulled off a road win with a true freshman quarterback. Yikes.
Overachiever: Michigan State and Underachiever: Michigan (Projected: Michigan +4.1 | Actual: Mich. St. +14). I wasn't sure what to make of Michigan State's defense heading into this game. Now I know. The Spartans held Michigan to 250 yards (3.7 per play) in the Spartans' 28-14 win, then pick six'd Denard Robinson as he attempted his patented fourth-quarter passing surge. For the game, Robinson's numbers were passing dreadful -- 9-for-24, 123 yards, one touchdown, one pick and four sacks (3.2 yards per pass attempt) -- and he even needed some serious magic to move the ball on the ground.
The projections had a good read on the Pac-12 this week, though Washington continues to surprise.
Overachiever: USC and Underachiever: California (Projected: USC +1.3 | Actual: USC +21). California held USC's offense to 313 yards (4.3 per play) and did a better job of defending receiver Robert Woods than anybody this year (15 targets, five catches, 36 yards), but they still lost, 30-9, because of their own offensive ineptitude. They committed five turnovers (worth 25.3 equivalent points ... in a 21-point loss) and continuously threw away whatever gains they were able to manage. Cal receiver Keenan Allen caught 13 of the 17 passes thrown his way and gained 160 yards, but three interceptions and three sacks negated Allen's phenomenal efforts. Cal's first half drives ended in three turnovers, three punts and a turnover on downs.
Overachiever: Washington and Underachiever: Colorado (Projected: Washington +13.1 | Actual: Washington +28). I'm quickly coming to grips with the fact that Washington is quite a bit better than I thought they would be. That they beat Colorado at home doesn't say much, but they completely dominated -- 52-24 in terms of points, 562-269 in terms of yards. In the first half, the Huskies outgained the Buffs by a 374 to 94 margin. Already missing hit-or-miss receiver Paul Richardson, the Colorado offense took a further hit with the loss of Rodney Stewart to a sprained knee.
Overachiever: Auburn and Underachiever: Florida (Projected: Florida +9.5 | Actual: Auburn +11). It was difficult to escape the stench of bad offense throughout the country on Saturday; Auburn and Florida -- two teams who not so long ago fielded Heisman-winning quarterbacks -- looked like two Big East teams in Alabama, combining for fewer than 500 yards in Auburn's 17-6 win. Auburn quarterbacks Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley combined to complete six of 15 passes, while Michael Dyer managed just 3.2 yards per carry and the Tigers gained just 278 yards overall. Still, AU won easily because Florida couldn't register even 200 yards of their own -- Florida freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett combined to complete 14 of 28 passes for just 120 yards and were sacked four times, resulting in a per-attempt passing average of 3.1 yards.
Overachiever: SMU and Underachiever: UCF (Projected: UCF +2.6 | Actual: SMU +21). UCF won Conference USA last year by chasing and torturing quarterback Kyle Padron and knocking off SMU. This year, with J.J. McDermott behind center for the Mustangs instead, SMU got their revenge, registering a surprisingly easy, 38-17 win over the Knights. SMU averaged 9.4 yards per play, and McDermott completed 20 of 31 passes for 358 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Most impressively, UCF wasn't able to land a single tackle for loss. They had six in last year's title game win. Average starting field position: SMU 37.8, UCF 22.3. UCF best starting field position all game: their own 36.