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October 12, 2009
We're at the season's midway point, and after an important Saturday of conference matchups in the Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC, things have become somewhat clear in each of the 11 leagues.
Here's a midseason breakdown of each league, including a look at the key remaining games and projected conference winners.
THE NON-BIG SIX LEAGUES
SEMINOLES ARE DEFENSELESS
In the past three games, the Seminoles have given up just 25 completions. That sounds great -- until you realize those 25 receptions have gone for 557 yards, or 22.3 yards per catch, and five touchdowns.
The Seminoles fell 49-44 to Georgia Tech on Saturday -- FSU led 35-28 at halftime -- and are 0-3 in the ACC for the first time. They also are 1-3 at home this season. Doak Campbell Stadium used to be where opposing teams went to get mauled. Not anymore. Since the playing surface at the stadium was named "Bobby Bowden Field" before the regular-season finale in 2004, the Seminoles are 18-13 at home. Eight of those victories are against FCS or non-Big Six opponents, and only one -- the 2005 season opener against Miami -- came against a ranked opponent.
From 1987-2000, the Seminoles finished in the top five every season, and in those 14 seasons, the 'Noles lost three home games. Since that run ended, they have lost 17 at home.
Given the state of the defense and the inconsistency of the rushing attack -- they ran for 180 yards against the Yellow Jackets after totaling 90 the past two weeks combined -- the 'Noles (2-4) face the real possibility of failing to get the six victories needed for bowl eligibility. They have been to a bowl for 27 consecutive seasons, the nation's longest current streak.
After Saturday's setback, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said, "I think the critics will keep criticizing. The good folks won't."
UCLA has issues on offense but still managed to hold a 3-0 halftime advantage over Oregon. It went bad quickly for the Bruins in the second half. First, Oregon's Kenjon Barner returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead. On UCLA's first play from scrimmage of the half, Talmadge Jackson returned an interception for a score to make it 14-3. Then, on the second play of UCLA's next possession, the Bruins fumbled at the 50. Eight plays later, Jeff Maehl scored on a 20-yard pass to make it 21-3 less than four minutes into the second half.
All hail Duke. The Blue Devils hadn't won an ACC road game since the 2003 season finale before pounding N.C. State 49-28 behind 459 yards and five touchdown passes from quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
Following Tennessee's 45-19 whipping of Georgia in which Jonathan Crompton (Jonathan Crompton!) threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns, Vols strong safety Eric Berry said new coach Lane Kiffin on Friday night "basically made a promise to us that we wouldn't lose to them anymore, forever, or until he leaves. He's not going to let Georgia beat us."
Since the season-opening loss to Alabama, Virginia Tech junior quarterback Tyrod Taylor has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each game; he has eight TD passes and just one pick this season after his two-touchdown performance in the Hokies' rout of Boston College. He had thrown seven career TD passes entering this season. In the past two games, victories over Duke and BC, Taylor is 24-of-32 for 553 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He gets to throw against Georgia Tech's mediocre secondary next.
Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes had 22 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the Falcons' 36-35 victory at Kent State. That's one short of the NCAA record of 23 receptions in a game, shared by UNLV's Randy Gatewood (vs. Idaho in 1994) and Eastern Michigan's Tyler Jones (vs. Central Michigan last season). It was Barnes' fourth double-digit receptions game of the season and the third time he had at least 15 receptions. For the season, he's at 75 catches for 722 yards and five TDs. The 75 receptions are more than 14 teams.
What's gotten into Wake Forest senior QB Riley Skinner? He never had thrown for more than 271 yards in his career until he began lighting it up four games ago. He threw for 289 in a victory over FCS member Elon, then 354 in a loss to Boston College, 361 in a victory over N.C. State and 360 on Saturday in a win over Maryland. He threw three TD passes in the first half and four for the game against the Terps.
Arizona State's defense had a nice day in a 27-14 victory over Washington State. The Sun Devils came up with 12 sacks and held the Cougars to minus-54 rushing yards. But the game was much closer than it should have been because Arizona State committed six turnovers.
A reminder: The first BCS standings of the season come out Sunday.