COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 01: Alshon Jeffery #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks is tackled by the Auburn Tigers defense during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Week Five in review: Arizona State took control of the Pac-12 South, Stephen Garcia bombed, the bottom half of the Big East is truly awful, Michigan broke out a unique formation and Texas looked like Texas again.
There's a reason why Vegas is Vegas: it knows what it is doing. By the end of Saturday night, I felt very good about my Nebraska diagnosis (and my "Michigan will win the Legends division" prediction), I felt a lot better about Notre Dame and Pittsburgh grading out well, I loved that I went 4-0 in upset picks ... in short, I felt good about just everything other than my "Utah will win the Pac-12 South" pick. Then I noticed that last week's F/+ picks went 23-29-1. C'est la vie.
You can win arguments with these numbers, but evidently you cannot win money. Act accordingly.
Though we may have nailed some storylines, we did certainly whiff on others. Below are some of the teams who underachieved or overachieved compared to their projections.
Week Five's Big Winners: Arizona State, fans of two-quarterback formations.
Week Five's Big Losers: Utah, Paul Pasqualoni, fans of Alshon Jeffery.
The ACC certainly had a better weekend than they did last week, with Duke taking out Florida International, North Carolina holding off East Carolina and Virginia avoiding disaster against Idaho. That still only qualifies as a satisfactory weekend because of how low the bar was, but still, progress is progress.
Overachiever: Clemson and Underachiever: Virginia Tech (Projected Margin: VT +9.3 | Actual Margin: Clemson +20). You want to talk about a huge step forward? After pulling away from Auburn and Florida State at home thanks to impeccable offense, Clemson went on the road and took down Virginia Tech, a team to whom they had lost five in a row, by 20 points (23-3) on the road. And they did so with defense. Clemson gained just 323 yards (4.8 per play), but they held Tech to 258 (3.9). Tech quarterback Logan Thomas (15-for-27, 125 yards, one interception, four sacks) averaged just 3.0 yards per pass attempt including sacks, making the Hokies even more one-dimensional than normal. Clemson defensive end Andre Branch probably earned himself a spot in Tuesday's Numerical with this stat line: 8.5 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss (three sacks) and a forced fumble.
Overachiever: Duke (Projected Margin: -13.5 | Actual Margin: +4). Getting marked as an overachiever because they beat a Sun Belt team may be a very Duke thing to do, but there's no question that Duke did well in taking out Florida International, 31-27, on the road Saturday night. The Blue Devils were outgained, 568-384, but they forced a key, late turnover, and they won by getting hot early (their first three drives netted 17 points and 214 yards) and quite simply taking better advantage of their opportunities: in six trips inside FIU's 40, they scored 31 points (5.2 per trip); in eight similar trips, FIU scored only 27 points (3.4).
The numbers had a pretty good read of the Big 12, with Baylor-Kansas State and Texas Tech-Kansas playing out approximately as expected. Oklahoma killed Ball State by a little more than expected, and in the end, the numbers didn't see a second straight A&M collapse coming, but still, only one game was truly out of the projected realm.
Overachiever: Texas and Underachiever: Iowa State (Projected Margin: Texas +7.9 | Actual Margin: Texas +23). It was certainly a bit odd to see a win over Iowa State billed as a "big step forward," but this was the biggest test Texas had faced thus far -- an undefeated team with two wins over BCS opponents -- and in building a 34-0 first-half lead, the Longhorns passed, to say the least. The full-game yardage margin (Texas 400, ISU 380) doesn't tell the tale; the Horns averaged 6.8 yards per play in the first half, compared to the Cyclones' 3.7, and Texas seized control immediately. ISU couldn't pull the commit-early-turnovers-then-recover routine this time around. Texas' David Ash and Case McCoy combined to complete 14 of 24 passes for a cool 255 yards and two touchdowns.
So here's today's poll question: who is more likely to challenge for the Big East crown, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati? One has to figure West Virginia will be involved, and perhaps South Florida will bounce back, but I'm most curious about these two teams.
Overachiever: Pittsburgh and Underachiever: South Florida (Projected Margin: Pitt +0.2 | Actual Margin: Pitt +27). Last week, I couldn't decide if Pittsburgh and Notre Dame were almost excellent or almost terrible. Both programs responded in the affirmative this weekend. The Panthers kicked off the proceedings with a dominant, 44-17 win over South Florida. They clawed out a 20-17 halftime lead, then dominated in the second half, which was a rather momentous accomplishment after their late-game collapses versus Iowa and (to a lesser extent) Notre Dame. Ray Graham was the hero, generating 268 yards on 30 touches (26 carries, four catches), and quarterback Tino Sunseri was at least improved, completing 67 percent of his passes even if he still takes too many sacks (three in 36 attempts).
Overachiever: Cincinnati (Projected Margin: +7.9 | Actual Margin: +27). The Bearcats make the Overachievers list for a second straight week after a third-quarter surge led them to an easy, 27-0 win over Miami (Ohio). It could have been much worse, however. Cincy committed three turnovers inside the Miami 15. Instead, they had to settle for a four-touchdown win. Running back Isaiah Pead (18 carries, 49 yards) was held in check, but Miami had no answer for Zach Collaros, who completed 16 of 30 passes for 251 yards (and, admittedly, two picks) and rushed 12 times for 107 yards.
Underachiever: Louisville (Projected Margin: +9.8 | Actual Margin: -4). One had to figure Louisville was going to take a step backwards this season ... but the Cardinals have now lost at home to both Florida International (who has lost to both Duke and UL-Lafayette) and Marshall (who has lost to Ohio). This is not good. Worst of all, the Cardinals were actually beaten in their 17-13 loss; this wasn't a "turnovers killed them' type of game. The Thundering Herd outgained UL by a 353-281 margin, shut down the Louisville running game (Victor Anderson and Dominique Brown combined for just 35 yards on 12 carries), sacked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater five times and picked him off twice. This was always going to be a rebuilding season for Cardinals, but ... yikes.
Underachiever: Connecticut (Projected Margin: +3.2 | Actual Margin: -7). Quite a few people were underwhelmed when Connecticut replaced head coach Randy Edsall with Paul Pasqualoni; he has probably not won over too many critics in a 2-3 start that has now included home losses to both Iowa State and, on Saturday, Western Michigan. WMU quarterback Alex Carder completed 37 of 51 passes for 479 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt (inc. sacks). The UConn offense finally came alive a bit, after averaging just 19.3 points versus their three previous FBS opponents, but it wasn't enough. They only ended up with points in five of seven trips inside the WMU 30, and it cost them.
Overachiever: Michigan and Underachiever: Minnesota (Projected Margin: Mich. +30.4 | Actual Margin: Mich. +58). Two-quarterback formation? TWO-QUARTERBACK FORMATION!
Overachiever: Indiana and Underachiever: Penn State (Projected Margin: PSU +26.7 | Actual Margin: PSU +6). Thanks mostly to a strong defense, Penn State has graded out reasonably well this year despite an at-times anemic offense. On a per-play basis, they might end up grading out okay again after grinding out 464 yards (5.4 per play) and allowing just 256 (3.4) in a 16-10 win over Indiana, but wow, did they blow chance after chance. Nine trips inside Indiana's 40 netted just 16 points. Quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden combined to complete just 16 of 36 passes, but a 74-yard bomb to Derek Moye helped the Nittany Lions avoid disaster.
Overachiever: Illinois and Underachiever: Northwestern (Projected Margin: Illinois +21.7 | Actual Margin: Illinois +3). Hey, speaking of avoiding disaster ... ever since Illinois entered the Top 25 two weeks ago, the Fighting Zookers have stopped playing like a Top 25 team. They skated past Western Michigan last week, and then they needed two separate comebacks to escape Northwestern at home, 38-35. Northwestern only had an offense for about one full quarter on Saturday, but that was enough. Three consecutive touchdown drives in the second and third quarter allowed the Wildcats to build a 28-10 lead, but to Illinois' credit, they battled back. After generating just 195 yards (4.6 per play) and 10 points in their first eight drives, they gained 296 yards (10.2) and scored 28 points in their next five. A.J. Jenkins (14 targets, 12 catches, 268 yards, three touchdowns) is just a beast, even if it seems like 90 percent of his catches come on the same drag route.
The two Pac-12 South favorites both underachieved against teams from up north. The difference: Arizona State forced five turnovers, while Utah committed five turnovers, and ASU is now probably the runaway South favorite because of it.
Overachiever: Washington and Underachiever: Utah (Projected Margin: Utah +17.3 | Actual Margin: Washington +17). You break my heart, Utah. The Utes committed five turnovers, handing Washington chance after chance in the Huskies' 31-14 win. Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn left the game with a shoulder injury, and though his replacement, Jon Hays (10-for-16, 156 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one sack), wasn't awful, he didn't have enough to help the Utes overcome themselves. Washington's Chris Polk continues to look great, generating 205 yards on 32 touches (29 carries, three catches).
Overachiever: Oregon State and Underachiever: Arizona State (Projected Margin: ASU +26.1 | Actual Margin: ASU +15). OSU actually outgained the Sun Devils in Tempe, but in a game that featured nine turnovers, the Beavers committed five of them, somehow letting ASU off the hook after the Sun Devils committed three turnovers on their first three possessions. Yuck. ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 24 of 37 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, but three interceptions and four sacks would have ruined his day if OSU had its act together on offense.
Overachiever: Ole Miss (Projected Margin: -8.6 | Actual Margin: +10). For at least one week, Ole Miss gets the overachiever treatment. Projected to lose by more than a touchdown in their trip to Fresno State, they actually pulled out a solid win, 38-28. They may have been outgained by the Bulldogs, 444-430, but they were plus-2 in the turnovers department, and they scored on six of seven trips inside the FSU 40. Fresno, meanwhile, scored just four times in eight similar trips. Ole MIss' Randall Mackey connected on only eight of 18 passes, but they went for 214 yards, more than enough to complement the rushing of Jeff Scott (24 carries, 138 yards) and Brandon Bolden (six carries, 43 yards).
Overachiever: Auburn and Underachiever: South Carolina (Projected Margin: S.C. +13.6 | Actual Margin: Auburn +3). Oh, South Carolina. You've got more individual talent and athleticism than at perhaps any point in your history, but your quarterback could complete only nine of 23 passes (only five of 11 to Alshon Jeffery, no less), and you lost at home, 16-13, despite forcing four turnovers, making 11 tackles for loss and allowing just 3.4 yards per pass attempt to Auburn. Auburn's Michael Dyer averaged only 3.4 yards per carry over 41 totes, and Gamecocks defensive lineman Melvin Ingram racked up a ridiculous 4.5 tackles for loss and an interception. No matter. Carolina managed just 289 yards, committed four turnovers of their own (and in just 52 plays, no less), and lost. Are we sure Conner Shaw isn't better than Stephen Garcia yet?
Overachiever: Toledo and Underachiever: Temple (Projected Margin: Temple +14.2 | Actual Margin: Toledo +23). In front of literally dozens of Temple fans, Toledo staked its claim to "Best in the MAC" status with a surprisingly easy 36-13 win over the Owls. Temple looked like they'd been fighting a week-long hangover after a most impressive win over Maryland, and they committed four turnovers and ran out of gas on offense after the first five possessions. Subbing in for an injured Adonis Thomas, Toledo running back Morgan Williams rushed 20 times for 121 yards and a touchdown; once ahead, Toledo was more than happy to throw short, conservative passes and ride Williams to the win.
Overachiever: SMU and Underachiever: TCU (Projected Margin: TCU +14.7 | Actual Margin: SMU +7). TCU was playing from behind most of the game after yet another slow defensive start; they allowed 17 points and 216 yards (9.4 per play) on SMU's first three possessions. They did finally catch up, thanks to Ed Wesley's exploits (14 touches, 160 yards), but SMU took this one in overtime, 40-33.
Who is more likely to challenge for a Big East conference title this year:
Pittsburgh (43 votes)
Cincinnati (12 votes)
55 total votes