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November 21, 2011
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.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Virginia. Suddenly, this team has forgotten how to lose. Virginia extended its winning streak to four Saturday with a 14-13 victory at Florida State that improved the Cavaliers' record to 8-3, which means they have exceeded their combined win total from the previous two seasons. Virginia found a way to win Saturday even when its running game wasn't up to par. The Cavaliers had been averaging 187.6 rushing yards per game, but they mustered just 78 yards on 29 carries against Florida State. It didn't matter. Michael Rocco went 22-of-31 for 238 yards and engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive that put the Cavaliers ahead for good with 1:16 left. A home victory over Virginia Tech next week would send Virginia to the ACC championship game for the first time. Honorable mention goes to N.C. State, which trounced Atlantic Division champion Clemson 37-13 a week after falling to Boston College.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Louisville's run defense. A week after being gashed by Pittsburgh's rushing attack, Louisville rebounded against a Connecticut team that had been getting better on offense. The Cardinals held the Huskies to a season-low 76 rushing yards, neutralizing redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs (33 yards) and "Wildcat" specialist Scott McCummings (40 yards). LB Dexter Heyman was the individual standout with seven tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception in the 34-20 win.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Penn State's run offense. The Nittany Lions still struggle to pass, but the rushing attack has become more diverse than handing the ball to Silas Redd. Stephfon Green led Penn State in rushing Saturday against Ohio State, running for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The Nittany Lions introduced a "Wildcat" look with backup WRs Curtis Drake and Bill Belton taking direct snaps; they had a combined 65 rushing yards on eight carries. The end result were season-highs of 239 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry against a solid Buckeyes defense.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Iowa State's defense. The Cyclones had allowed more than 30 points in five games, which seemed ominous going into Friday night's game against Oklahoma State's explosive offense. But the Cyclones' defense gave up just 17 points in regulation and forced five turnovers in a stunning upset of Oklahoma State.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Wyoming. On a week that featured plenty of upsets across the country, everything in the Mountain West went according to form. So we'll use this space to salute the conference's biggest surprise of the season. Wyoming's 31-10 victory over New Mexico certainly wasn't a shocker, but it made the Cowboys (7-3) bowl-eligible. And how many people outside Laramie figured Wyoming would go bowling? Wyoming was coming off a 3-9 season and relying on a true freshman quarterback. That freshman - Brett Smith - continued his remarkable season Saturday by rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 212 yards and a third score.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Arizona. The Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak by toppling archrival Arizona State 31-27 in Tempe. Backup QB Bryson Beirne threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner with just over five minutes to play for the lead, and the Wildcats made the margin stand up.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Kentucky's defense. The Wildcats fell 19-10 at Georgia, but they made the Bulldogs sweat it out. Georgia kicked four field goals and managed just one TD against a Wildcats defense that had surrendered 38 points in a 30-point loss to Vanderbilt last week.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: UAB. For whatever reason, the Blazers have Southern Miss' number. UAB beat the Golden Eagles for the third consecutive season Thursday night, coming away with a shocking 34-31 win over a Southern Miss team that came in with one loss and had long-shot hopes of getting into the BCS. UAB had surrendered 150 points in its previous three games, but clamped down - relatively speaking - on Southern Miss.
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