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October 10, 2011

Rivals.com Week 6 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: Wake Forest. Picked to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division, the Demon Deacons instead are off to a 3-0 start in league play for the first time in their 59 years as an ACC member. The Deacons beat Florida State 35-30 as a double-digit underdog by forcing five turnovers and moving the ball consistently on offense. Tanner Price threw three touchdown passes without an interception, WR Michael Campanaro also tossed a touchdown pass on a trick play and Josh Harris rushed for 136 yards. Wake Forest (4-1 overall, 3-0 in the ACC) already has exceeded its win total from last season.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Florida State. Five games into its season, the overwhelming pick to win the ACC title is 0-2 in league games and is riding a three-game losing streak. The latest loss was a true team effort. An injury-riddled offense committed five turnovers against Wake Forest. The defense gave up 35 points for a second consecutive game. The Seminoles also committed 13 penalties for 109 yards. FSU won't be going to the Orange Bowl. Heck, at this point, the Seminoles (2-3, 0-2) need to worry about getting into any bowl.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYERS: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas and Miami QB Jacory Harris. Thomas headed into Saturday having thrown five interceptions and two touchdown passes in his past four games. Harris had a reputation as an interception-prone guy who made too many mistakes in critical situations. But both delivered huge performances Saturday in Virginia Tech's 38-35 victory over Miami. Thomas went 23-of-25 for 310 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. He also raced 19 yards on a fourth-and-1 play for the winning touchdown with 56 seconds remaining. Thomas' huge game overshadowed a brilliant effort from Harris, who threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns without an interception to rally Miami from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Maryland QB Danny O'Brien. O'Brien, the 2010 ACC rookie of the year, is having a heck of a sophomore slump. Now he may have to fight for his job. O'Brien went 1-of-6 for 17 yards and an interception Saturday before getting replaced by C.J. Brown in the second quarter of a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech. Maryland coach Randy Edsall wouldn't say how he planned to use his quarterbacks next week against Clemson. O'Brien threw 22 touchdown passes and eight interceptions last season. He has four touchdown passes and six interceptions this season.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights' defense has returned to form with a nation-leading 22 takeaways this season, tied with South Carolina. The offense is showing signs of improvement, too. Greg Schiano shuffled his offensive line and had new starters at right guard (Antwan Lowery) and center (Caleb Ruch). The former starting center, David Osei, spent time at left tackle. The biggest move was at quarterback, where freshman Gary Nova replaced Chas Dodd. Nova was shaky early, but was 7-of-13 for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. The offense still can't win a game on its own for Rutgers, but it did enough to defeat Pittsburgh.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Syracuse. The Orange have shown a disturbing trend of playing down to their opponent. That was on full display in New Orleans against Tulane. Syracuse's pass defense is young and dealing with injuries, but that's a weak excuse in a game against Tulane. Green Wave QB Ryan Griffin was 24-of-30 for 320 yards and two touchdowns against the Orange. A late drive led by TB Antwon Bailey and a last-second chip-shot field goal prevented Syracuse the embarrassment of losing to Tulane. Lucky for Syracuse, the Orange has two weeks to prepare for West Virginia QB Geno Smith.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Rutgers DT Justin Francis. Francis, a senior, had the best game of his career against Pittsburgh in what's shaping up to be a banner season. A week after recording an interception against Syracuse, Francis had eight tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and three quarterback hurries in the win over Pittsburgh.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Pitt QB Tino Sunseri. Last week, Pitt coaches were singing the praises of Sunseri for his play against USF. Saturday, the Panthers' offense regressed to early-season form in the loss to Rutgers. Sunseri threw three interceptions and was sacked six times against the Scarlet Knights. Coach Todd Graham was grasping for answers in the second half when he pulled Sunseri briefly for freshman Trey Anderson. That didn't help, as Anderson was 2-of-5 with a pick.

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Purdue. Most thought the Boilermakers would beat Minnesota. But few, if any, envisioned a 45-17 romp. A maligned defense limited the Golden Gophers to 211 yards in what was Purdue's largest margin of victory in a league game since a 62-10 whipping of Indiana in 2008. But the Boilermakers, whose offense was fueled by 217 rushing yards, better savor the victory because three of the next four are on the road, beginning with a trip to Penn State.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Iowa. The Hawkeyes couldn't generate any offense, seeing their Big Ten-leading passing game get muted by Penn State in a 13-3 loss. Iowa entered the game averaging 38 points and 281 passing yards. Hawkeyes QB James Vandenberg was just 17-of-34 for 169 yards.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. He has endured much scrutiny and criticism, but Martinez looked good in rallying the Huskers to the biggest comeback in school history in a 34-27 win over Ohio State. Martinez ran for a score and passed for two more in bringing Nebraska back from a 21-point second-half deficit for the school's first Big Ten victory a week after it was humiliated at Wisconsin. Martinez was 16-of-22 for 191 yards and ran for 102 yards.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Ohio State QB Joe Bauserman. After starting QB Braxton Miller left the game with an ankle injury with 4:46 left in the third quarter and Ohio State holding a 27-13 lead, the Buckeyes fell apart. Bauserman took over for Miller, and Ohio State foundered. Bauserman was 1-of-10 for 13 yards and was sacked once; he also tossed a pick and had a quarterback rating of 0.9. With Bauserman under center, Ohio State scored no points, gained 41 yards and had just three first downs. The Buckeyes (3-3 overall, 0-2 in the Big Ten) face unbeatens Illinois and Wisconsin in their next two games.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Oklahoma's defense. The Sooners' high-scoring offense usually gets most of the attention, but OU's defense was exceptional in a 55-17 annihilation of Texas. OU's defense limited the Longhorns to just 36 rushing yards and posted three touchdowns - one on an interception return and two on fumble returns.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Texas. The Longhorns may be better than they were last season, but OU made it clear Texas did not deserve its top-10 ranking. Texas largely was inept and totally outplayed in every facet of the game against Oklahoma. They even had a first-down opportunity at OU's 15 deteriorate into a fourth-and-49 at Texas' 47. The Longhorns did manage to return a kickoff for a touchdown, but had another touchdown return nullified by penalty.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Baylor TB Terrance Ganaway. Ganaway, a senior, rushed for a career-high 200 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 49-26 victory over Iowa State. His touchdowns covered 3, 2 and 22 yards. Ganaway rushed for just 295 yards all of last season and had 336 this season going into the Iowa State game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Texas QBs Case McCoy and David Ash. Oklahoma exploited their lack of inexperience to force turnovers and make big plays in a 55-17 romp. They had been efficient and taken care of the football in Texas' previous wins. But McCoy fumbled twice, with one returned for a touchdown and another setting up an Oklahoma field goal. Ash threw two interceptions - one for a touchdown and the other setting up a Sooners touchdown.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: TCU's defense. Even after his team fell 40-33 in overtime to SMU last week, TCU coach Gary Patterson insisted his defense was getting better. Maybe he was right. TCU rebounded from that disappointing performance against SMU by forcing four turnovers in a 27-14 victory at San Diego State. TCU picked off three passes Saturday after recording a total of two interceptions in its first five games. The victory gave TCU its 19th consecutive Mountain West victory to break the conference record formerly held by BYU, which won 18 in a row from 2006-08.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: UNLV's offense. The Rebels gained just 110 total yards in a 37-0 loss to Nevada, which had been allowing 37 points per game before Saturday. UNLV went scoreless despite forcing five turnovers. Two weeks after he threw three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in a 41-16 loss to FCS program Southern Utah, UNLV QB Caleb Herring went 1-of-14 for 8 yards and an interception. He was sacked five times and threw his lone completion late in the fourth quarter.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Boise State DB Hunter White. Although he didn't start the Broncos' 57-7 rout of Fresno State, White - a senior nickelback - made a couple of big plays that helped Boise State put the game away by halftime. White stripped the ball from Fresno State WR Devon Wylie in the first quarter to give Boise State the ball at the Bulldogs' 25. Mitch Burroughs scored a touchdown for Boise State on the next play. White also blocked a second-quarter punt to set up a D.J. Harper 6-yard touchdown run that gave Boise State a 30-0 lead.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman and QB Ryan Lindley. San Diego State's two biggest stars struggled in the Aztecs' loss to TCU. Lindley went 15-of-41 for 201 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. Both of his touchdown passes came after TCU had grabbed a 20-0 lead. Lindley headed into the TCU game having thrown just one interception all season. Hillman, who had rushed for at least 109 yards in each of the Aztecs' first four games, gained only 55 yards on 20 carries against TCU.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Oregon State. The Beavers were 0-4, which included a season-opening loss to FCS member Sacramento State. But QB Sean Mannion passed for two touchdowns and the Beavers returned a blocked punt for a touchdown for a 37-27 victory over Arizona.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: California's run defense. The Bears entered Thursday night's game against Oregon ranked ninth in the nation in run defense, allowing just 78.3 yards per game. Oregon exceeded the rushing yardage of Cal's previous four opponents combined. The Ducks rushed for 365 yards in a 43-15 win.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UCLA QB Kevin Prince. He entered the game when starting QB Richard Brehaut broke his leg in the second quarter. Prince responded by passing for 173 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-25 victory over Washington State. He rallied the Bruins from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter by throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Josh Smith and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Shaquelle Evans. Late in the game, he also completed a pass on third-and-7 for a win-clinching first down.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Utah QB Jon Hays. Hays, a junior college transfer, was in a tough spot. He was making his first career start in place of injured starter Jordan Wynn against Arizona State's solid defense. Hays passed for 199 yards and a touchdown, but also threw three interceptions in a 35-14 loss. One interception was in the end zone to quell a Utah scoring opportunity. Another set up an Arizona State touchdown.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Georgia. It's not necessarily a surprise that Georgia beat Tennessee, but the 14-point margin was impressive - especially considering the Bulldogs hadn't played well of late in Knoxville. Georgia held the Vols to minus-20 rushing yards and 270 yards total.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Auburn's offense. You figured Auburn's defense was going to have problems with Arkansas' offense, but the Tigers also figured to be able to move the ball on a Arkansas defense that had been beaten up the past two weeks. Instead, the Tigers looked mediocre with the ball and there evidently is a quarterback controversy brewing. Starter Barrett Trotter hasn't played all that well of late, and backup Kiehl Frazier got a lot of snaps Saturday. One problem: Frazier is a bad passer.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: South Carolina QB Connor Shaw. Not even in Steve Spurrier's wildest dreams did he expect Shaw to throw for 311 yards and four TDs against Kentucky in his second career start. Shaw started the opener against East Carolina but appeared overwhelmed and was pulled after going 3-of-9 for 21 yards. He had barely played since until leading the Gamecocks to a 56-3 beatdown of the Wildcats.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Mississippi State QB Chris Relf. Relf's inability to become a competent passer has grown more and more apparent, and he hasn't been effective as a runner since Game 2 against Auburn. Saturday, he was pulled at halftime against winless UAB with the Bulldogs trailing 3-0. Backup Tyler Russell played well in the second half and guided the Bulldogs to a 21-3 win. Russell was 11-of-13 for 166 yards and three TDs. That's one fewer TD in two quarters than Relf has managed in 22 this season.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Buffalo. The Bulls were 1-4, with the only victory over a FCS team, headed into Saturday's game with Ohio, which was 4-1. But Buffalo got a big game from sophomore TB Branden Oliver, who ran for 179 yards and three TDs, to shock the Bobcats 38-37. Buffalo's point total against Ohio matched the point total from the Bulls' previous three games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Troy. The Trojans had a chance to take control of the Sun Belt race, but instead fell 31-17 at upstart Louisiana-Lafayette, which now looks to be the team to beat in the league title chase. Troy ran for just 77 yards, putting way too much pressure on its passing attack. In addition, Troy enabled ULL backup QB Chris Masson to throw for 211 yards and two TDs in his first extended playing time of the season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UCF TB Brynn Harvey. Harvey ran for 1,109 yards and 14 TDs as a sophomore in 2009, then missed last season with a knee injury. Going into Saturday's game with defense-minded Marshall, Harvey had rushed for just 146 yards this season, with 62 of those coming against FCS member Charleston Southern. But he looked to be in 2009 form against the Thundering Herd, rushing for 180 yards on 30 carries in a 16-6 win. His presumed return to form comes at a good time, as UCF plays at SMU next week in a Conference USA showdown.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: East Carolina QB Dominique Davis. Davis was coming off a school-record 417-yard, two-TD performance against a tough North Carolina defense. With Houston and its sieve-like defense next on the schedule, Davis figured to have a huge game. Nope. He threw for just 169 yards, tossed three picks and was sacked three times before being benched in the second half as Houston eviscerated the Pirates 56-3.

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