by Todd Helmick

October 2, 2007

South Florida is the only team to hold WVU under 27 points in their last 21 games. And they have done it twice. The USF defensive line was more physical and outmanned the WVU front line Friday night. You have to credit the Bulls defense, Coach Leavitt and Defensive Coordinator Wally Burnham. They are not fearful of attacking this spread-option offense that so much dominates college football these days.

Thus far, Cincinnati has lived up to their first national ranking in 31 years. The 5-0 start is the best for a Connecticut team since 1995 when the Huskies went 6-0 as a Division I-AA school. Before anyone gets too excited, much like the paths of Rutgers and West Virginia, neither the Bearcats nor the Huskies have played anyone remotely resembling a ranked opponent. How good is the Big East? It's hard to tell when all they do is play each other given the weak nature of the non-conference schedules. But from top to bottom this is a very competitive conference, as South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt reiterated after his team upset then No. 5 WVU on Friday night, "It's a good win for us but I don't want to get ahead of myself. I really don't," said Leavitt. "In this conference, anybody can beat anybody."

Which Hurricane team is this? The one that gave up 51 points to Oklahoma in a crushing defeat, the one that looked as if they had turned the corner on national television while manhandling Texas A&M or the one that had to have QB Kyle Wright return from an injury to throw a game-clinching TD pass with just over two minutes left while escaping an upset bid by Duke. The Blue Devils racked up 302 yards of offense in the Orange Bowl.

The Badgers get a defensive struggle on the road at UNLV earlier this past month. They get into a “closer than the score appears” offensive battle with The Citadel. They go back to a defensive struggle in a 17-13 home win over Iowa. Now they light up the scoreboard in another offensive showdown with Michigan State, who is not an offensive juggernaut, as both teams combined for 1025 yards of offense. Wisconsin extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 and now second year coach Bret Bielema is off to a 17-1 career start. The contests have not been pretty, but the results sure have.

The Irish fell behind 23-0 at the half this week against Purdue, and Weis let his players know he's tired of playing catch-up. Each week now seems to be an adventure in terms of what part of this Irish team will fail to hold water. Notre Dame has issues everywhere. No one unit on this dam can be patched while the others continue to spring leaks.

The Nittany Lions once talked about winning the Big Ten title but now talk about just winning a conference game. The whole key to Penn State, as pegged this preseason, is going to be the play of senior QB Anthony Morelli. He had three key interceptions in the loss to Illinois and has not been able to get his playmaking receivers the ball. Even more important, the Penn State defense that looked so good against over matched opponents in the first three games has now given up a combined 382 rushing yards in the past two. That formula will not work in the Big Ten.

Musical QBs has always been the theme for the ole ball coach Steve Spurrier when one is not performing up to his lofty standards. Freshman QB Chris Smelley replaced senior starter Blake Mitchell this past week versus Mississippi State and threw for 279 yards. "Yeah, it was fun," Spurrier said. "It's a lot more fun seeing the ball in the air." If the Gamecocks can continue to place a priority on throwing the football, as opposed to just relying on the ground game and defense, they can win the SEC East.

Speaking of SEC East favorites, the Gamecock's next opponent this coming Thursday, Kentucky is the highest ranked team in this East Division. QB Andre' Woodson finally had his 325 consecutive passes without an interception streak broken Saturday. However, he threw a career high five TDs and was 26 of 33 for a season-high 301 yards in just over three quarters against Florida Atlantic.

After being down 24-7, Colorado regrouped and out gained the Sooners 219 yards to 56 in the second half in a shocking upset. After going 2-10 in his 2006 opening season, this was obviously the map-making win Coach Hawkins needed to get this Boulder program back on track. The Big 12 North may not be as bad as once thought. With Colorado and Kansas State getting big wins over South Division big boys Oklahoma and Texas, there is new hope. Outside of a struggling Iowa State, the rest of the North finally seems to be on course with the parity that exists through out college football.

Three QBs were fighting for starting duties this past spring (Jordan Steffy, Josh Portis and Chris Turner). After attending the spring Red & White Game, noted for several newspapers that Turner looked like the best passer of the bunch. In beating Rutgers on Saturday, Turner proved as much while filling in for an injured Steffy. He gave Maryland an avenue of which they had not traveled...a legitimate threat to finally attack down field. Also, bruising Terp RB Keon Lattimore is the true essence of a ball carrier that looks like he is running down hill. He over staged Heisman Candidate Ray Rice who was held to 97 yards rushing, including 38 yards on his last 15 attempts. Maryland made Rutgers look like an average ball club.

Tight wins versus Arkansas State and UCF left a big question mark as to how good this Longhorn team actually could be. The answer may have come this past weekend in Austin as Kansas State harassed QB Colt McCoy into his worst game with a relentless pass rush and four interceptions. The big difference however, outside of McCoy being overrated, Kansas State scored three touchdowns on special teams and an interception.

The best news of the weekend came from the Oregon replay booth given last year's Oklahoma replay debacle. With 22 seconds to go, Oregon's Dennis Dixon hit receiver Cameron Colvin, who fumbled trying to reach the ball into the end zone. The loose ball went through the end zone and was ruled a touchback and possession for Cal. The play was reviewed, the call stood and time ran out. This rule needs changed. If nobody gains control of the fumble before it goes out of bounds, the ball should go back to the spot of the fumble. This is just my opinion, obviously.

Clemson kicker Mark Buchholz missed four field goals, Georgia Tech blocked a punt to set up its only touchdown and recovered a fumble on a kickoff return, leading to a field goal that finished off a 13-3 upset of the No. 13 Tigers. The big news of note in this game was that place kicker Buchholz played in a soccer game the previous night, having assisted on both Clemson goals in a 4-2 loss to Duke before making the two hour drive to Atlanta for the football game. What can coach Tommy Bowden do? Will Buchholz choose soccer if forced to do so?

The Alabama vs. Florida State game was played at the neutral confines of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The 85,412 fans at Saturday's game were the most to see a game in Jacksonville, exceeding attendance at the 2004 Super Bowl game or any of the annual Georgia-Florida rivalry games. Backup QB Xavier Lee looked poised after replacing Drew Weatherford in the second quarter and even more important gave FSU something they are in desperate need of, another dimension for their struggling running game. "He gave them a spark," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "His ability to run made us play different."

USC committed 16 penalties for 161 yards in beating Washington. 16 PENALTIES! No one is blaming the referees calling this game...ahem. But this was ridiculous. The Trojans also committed three turnovers. Senior QB John David Booty looked anything but a Heisman Trophy contender going 20 of 37 passing with two interceptions. This USC team is about running the football and playing defense, a far cry from the dynasty building teams of the past five seasons.

Auburn snapped an 11-game winning streak for the defending national champions, who lost to Auburn last year, and gave the Gators their first home loss under coach Urban Meyer. The Tigers demonstrated that you have to play defense to win in the SEC while keeping a lid on all of the Florida big play offensive capabilities. The unimaginable part of this equation is how Auburn was able to rediscover some offensive The Swamp. Then again, the results may not be so surprising considering how many defensive players the Gators had to replace from a year ago. If defense wins championships, Florida isn't quite there yet.