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September 19, 2011

Rivals.com Week 3 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: Clemson. Not only did Clemson knock off the defending national champions, it beat them at their own game. Auburn had won 17 consecutive games by continually delivering down the stretch. Auburn was behind or tied in the fourth quarter in half of its 14 victories last season, including a 27-24 overtime victory over Clemson in which it erased an early 17-0 deficit. But this time it was Clemson that came from behind and took command late in a 38-24 victory. After falling behind 21-7, Clemson scored 31 of the game's final 34 points. Clemson won by racking up 624 total yards, its third-highest total in school history.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Boston College. The Eagles are 0-3 for the first time since 1991 after losing 20-19 at home to Duke. BC's offense has struggled for a while, but the defense and kicking game also suffered letdowns Saturday. The Eagles allowed Duke QB Sean Renfree to complete 40 passes for 359 yards. Boston College blew a shot to win when Nate Freese's 23-yard field-goal attempt hit the left upright with 43 seconds remaining. After going 22-of-25 on field-goal attempts last season, Freese is 4-of-7 this season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Miami WR Allen Hurns. Hurns, a sophomore, made his first two career touchdown catches in the first quarter of Miami's 24-6 victory over Ohio State. Hurns caught 3-yard scoring passes to end each of the Hurricanes' first two drives. He finished with six catches for 54 yards to lead the Hurricanes in both categories. Hurns didn't catch a pass last season, but he ranks as Miami's top receiver this season with 10 catches for 123 yards.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Maryland WRs Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler. After catching a combined 13 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in Maryland's Labor Day victory over Miami, McCree and Tyler were suspended indefinitely Thursday for a violation of team rules. Maryland could have used them Saturday, as Danny O'Brien threw three interceptions and couldn't lead the Terps all the way back from a 24-point deficit in a 37-31 loss to West Virginia.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Cincinnati's defense. Akron may be the worst team in the FBS, but Cincinnati's defensive performance against the Zips can't be disregarded. A week after Tennessee's Tyler Bray passed for 405 yards against Cincinnati, the Bearcats scored three defensive touchdowns in the first half against Akron - a 54-yard fumble recovery from LB Maalik Bomar, a 36-yard interception return by CB Dominique Battle and a 53-yard interception return from CB Camerron Cheatham. Cincinnati's probably not going to have an above-average defense this season, but an adequate defense may be enough to beat some teams on its schedule, starting with N.C. State on Thursday. The Wolfpack are 10th in the ACC in total offense.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh managed to disappoint the Big East both on and off the field Saturday, first by leaving for the ACC and then blowing a 21-point lead to lose to Iowa. Pittsburgh led Iowa 24-3 late in the third quarter and 27-10 with 10 minutes to go in the fourth. But the offense stalled in the fourth quarter, giving up the ball once on downs, once on an interception and once with a three-and-out. Meanwhile, the defense had no answer for Hawkeyes QB James Vandenberg and WR Kevonte Martin-Manley.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater. One of Louisville's biggest recruits in February was Bridgewater, its "quarterback of the future." That future may be here sooner than anticipated. Charlie Strong elected to go with junior walk-on Will Stein as his starter, and Bridgewater had seen limited duty with mixed results. But when Stein went down with a shoulder injury against Kentucky, Bridgewater guided Louisville to its first win in the series since 2006. Bridgewater was 10-of-18 for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Louisville's other young quarterback, Dominique Brown, rushed for 91 yards on 14 carries on direct snaps.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Connecticut TB D.J. Shoemate. Shoemate got the start against Iowa State on Friday after missing the first two games with an ankle injury. His season debut was undistinguished. He rushed for 28 yards on eight carries, but the most discouraging moment was his fumble inside the Huskies' 20 that set up an Iowa State field goal. Shoemate slipped down the depth chart last season because of fumbling issues and that could happen again. In addition, normally reliable UConn K Dave Teggart also had a spotty evening, missing field-goal attempts of 41 and 43 yards in the first half (he did make field goals of 52 and 50 yards in the game).

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Illinois. A 17-14 win over visiting Arizona State stamps the Fighting Illini as legit contenders in the Leaders Division. In fact, Illinois may be Wisconsin's most serious contender in the division. The play of a rebuilt defense has been key. And sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase continues to mature into a solid quarterback with playmaking skills. Ron Zook is alive!

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Northwestern. The Wildcats allowed Army to score the game-winning touchdown with 2:49 left to take a 21-14 decision. Northwestern entered the game 2-0 behind QB Kain Colter, who was starting a third consecutive game for injured Dan Persa. But Colter's magic expired, as he went 12-of-23 for 88 yards. Northwestern had been 14-1 in its previous 15 non-league games.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Indiana QB Edward Wright-Baker. The Hoosiers had little to cheer about in losing their first two games to Ball State and Virginia. But Wright-Baker hit 21-of-27 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 win over FCS member South Carolina State in Indiana's first win of 2011. The Hoosiers finished with 569 yards of offense in Kevin Wilson's first win as IU's coach.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Michigan State's running backs. Neither Edwin Baker nor Le'Veon Bell got traction in a 31-13 loss at Notre Dame. Baker ran 10 times for 27 yards, while Bell carried seven times for 27 yards. With an ineffective ground game, MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins was forced to throw 53 times for a one-dimensional Spartans offense that was easy to defend and attack for the Fighting Irish.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Oklahoma's run defense. The Sooners were thought to be vulnerable to the run, and that was an area Florida State hoped to exploit. Instead, OU limited the Seminoles to a mere 27 rushing yards. Of course, there were 37 yards subtracted from the total because of sacks, but omit those numbers and the Sooners still held Florida State to 64 rushing yards. Seminoles starting QB E.J. Manuel rushed for 49 yards, but 28 came on one play. OU LBs Tony Jefferson, Tom Wort and Travis Lewis, who was a surprise starter, posted eight tackles apiece.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Kansas' defense. Oh, my, where do we start? Well, the Jayhawks allowed Georgia Tech 42 points in the second half - the most the Yellow Jackets have scored after intermission since beating Cumberland 222-0 in 1916. Kansas' defense gave up 604 rushing yards, 768 total yards and touchdown on plays that covered 95, 67, 63 and 52 yards.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Texas TE D.J. Grant. He'd missed the past two seasons because of a knee injury and had only one catch in the first two games this season. In fact, Grant was listed as the third-team tight end. But Grant caught six passes, three of which went for touchdowns in a 49-20 victory over UCLA.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Iowa State QB Steele Jantz. He threw three interceptions in Friday night's 24-21 victory over Connecticut. It was the second time in three games that Jantz had been picked off three times. Iowa State will be in trouble as Big 12 plays begins if interceptions become a recurring issue for Jantz.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: UNLV. The Rebels headed into their home opener as three-touchdown underdogs to Hawaii. They exited as three-touchdown victors. UNLV raced to a 17-0 lead and never looked back in a 40-20 stunner. Tim Cornett rushed for two scores, Phillip Payne caught two touchdown passes and the defense held Hawaii to 6 rushing yards. UNLV also limited potent Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz to 233 passing yards. This hardly resembled the same UNLV team that had been outscored 110-24 by Wisconsin and Washington State in its first two games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: New Mexico's pass defense. The Lobos lost 59-13 to Texas Tech by allowing Red Raiders QB Seth Doege to go 40-of-44 for a .909 completion percentage, an NCAA single-game record for quarterbacks with at least 40 completions. He's not the first quarterback to have a big game against New Mexico. The Lobos have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete an astounding 80.9 percent of their passes so far this season, and they rank 114th in total defense and scoring defense. They're 116th in pass efficiency defense.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Wyoming CB Blair Burns. This true freshman wasn't in the starting lineup, but he still managed to produce three of Wyoming's six takeaways in a 28-27 victory over Bowling Green. Burns picked off two Matt Schilz passes, and his 65-yard interception return early in the second quarter set up Wyoming's first touchdown. Burns also recovered a fumble on a Bowling Green kickoff return early in the third quarter.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Colorado State's wide receivers. No Rams wide receiver had more than three catches or 28 receiving yards in the Rams' 28-14 loss to Colorado. The Rams' starting receivers - Joe Brown, Lou Greenwood and Marquise Law - combined to catch two passes for 9 yards. The Rams' leading receiver was TE Crockett Gillmore, with five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. The only wide receiver to deliver a big gain was true freshman Charles Lovett, who took a lateral from QB Pete Thomas and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Gilmore on a trick play. Through the first three games of the season, no Colorado State wide receiver has a single touchdown catch or more than 75 receiving yards.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Colorado's offensive line. The Buffaloes were without their two starting tackles, but still managed 360 total yards against Colorado State. The CU linemen were especially impressive in controlling the line of scrimmage during a victory-clinching fourth quarter drive that drained 10:03 off the clock. It was Colorado's most time-consuming drive since 1961.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Arizona State's offensive line. That unit was projected as a Sun Devils' strength, but that wasn't the case in a 17-14 loss to Illinois. The Sun Devils allowed the blitzing Illini to sack Brock Osweiler six times. One sack came in the fourth quarter and resulted in a fumble that Illinois recovered in Arizona State territory. It led to the Illini's game-winning touchdown.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Stanford TE Levine Toilolo. Last season, he was in on two plays of the first game before sustaining a season-ending injury. This season, he had no catches and did not play in last week's game. But an injury to TE Coby Fleener provided an opportunity and Toilolo made the most of it. He caught four passes for 102 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown grab, to help the Cardinal pull away to beat Arizona 37-10.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Washington State QB Marshall Lobbestael. The Cougars were hoping to post three consecutive victories for the first time since 2005 and had a chance until the fourth quarter. Lobbestael passed for 368 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-24 loss to San Diego State, but in the final quarter, he lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. Two of the turnovers occurred in San Diego State's end of the field, and all three led to Aztecs touchdowns.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: LSU's defense. It wasn't a surprise that the defense led the way to a victory at Mississippi State, but the Tigers' run defense performed beyond expectations. Mississippi State managed just 52 rushing yards on 34 attempts - 1.5 yards per carry. Bulldogs QB Chris Relf was left battered and bruised after he managed all of 10 yards on 16 carries, thanks to four sacks.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Ole Miss. As bad as Auburn's defense performed (again), Ole Miss' all-round terrible performance "wins" this category. The Rebels were routed, for gosh sake, by Vanderbilt. Vandy outgained Ole Miss 387-234 and had five interceptions in rolling 30-7. Ole Miss allowed 281 rushing yards in losing to Vandy for the fifth time in the past seven meetings.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Vanderbilt TB Zac Stacy. Stacy, a junior, rambled for 169 yards and a TD on just 11 carries in the Commodores' rout of Ole Miss. It was just the second 100-yard game of his career - the first came in his first college game, against Western Carolina in 2009 - and it was just the second time in his career he rushed for more than 50 yards against an SEC opponent.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Tennessee TB Tauren Poole. Tennessee needed at least the semblance of a balanced offense if it was going to snap its six-game losing streak to Florida, but Poole was shut down by a fast Florida front seven. He rushed for 18 yards on nine carries as the Vols finished with minus-9 rushing yards. Poole had 23 yards on 10 carries against the Gators last season.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Florida International's rush defense. The Golden Panthers held UCF to 119 rushing yards and a scant 3.0 yards per carry in upsetting the Knights 17-10. UCF had run all over Boston College last week, but FIU's aggressive defense stifled UCF in helping the Golden Panthers move to 3-0.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: BYU. This was a tough decision, as Western Kentucky, Hawaii and UCF's offense also merited attention. But the "Holy War" was a one-sided rout with Utah crushing host BYU 54-10. BYU fans were streaming toward the exits in the third quarter, and you can't blame them: BYU committed seven turnovers, rushed for 11 yards and let Utah roll up 481 yards. Utah scored five TDs and kicked two field goals in the second half.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Notre Dame DE Aaron Lynch. Lynch, a freshman who enrolled early and went through spring drills, received a lot of preseason publicity. But he didn't do much in the opener, then didn't get off the bench in last week's loss to Michigan. Saturday, though, Lynch flashed his big-play potential. He had five tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and six of Notre Dame's 10 quarterback hurries in the Irish's rout of Michigan State.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: UAB QB Bryan Ellis. UAB had high hopes for its offense this season, but Ellis was brutal in the Blazers' embarrassing 49-10 loss to visiting Tulane. He finished 10-of-25 for 145 yards and tossed two picks - including one returned for a score - as UAB was routed. The Blazers managed just 193 total yards, and their only TD came on a kickoff return.

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