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October 3, 2011

Rivals.com Week 5 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.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Wake Forest. The easy answer here is to go with Clemson, which became the first ACC team to defeat three consecutive opponents ranked in each of the two major polls. But in an attempt to spread the love a little bit, we'll use this space to honor the preseason pick to finish last in the Atlantic Division. Seriously, who expected Wake Forest would be tied for first place in the Atlantic five weeks into the season? The Demon Deacons (3-1) already have matched their win total from last season. Wake Forest's 27-19 victory at Boston College gave the Deacons a 2-0 start in ACC competition for only the fifth time in school history.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Virginia Tech's special teams. Whatever happened to "Beamer Ball"? Virginia Tech's special teams have struggled all season and completely fell apart Saturday in a 23-3 loss to Clemson. Scott Demler averaged just 29 yards per punt and even dropped the ball shortly before attempting a rugby-style kick, resulting in an 11-yard attempt that led to a Clemson touchdown. A personal foul by Wiley Brown on a Clemson kickoff return gave the Tigers favorable field position on another TD drive. Tech also committed a roughing-the-punter penalty and averaged just 12 yards per kickoff return.

[Buchanan: Clemson turns corner at Virginia Tech ]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Clemson DE Andre Branch. After recording only one sack through his first four games of the season, Brown was the dominant figure in the Tigers' victory over Virginia Tech. Branch, a senior from Richmond, Va., returned to his home state and delivered 11 tackles -- five for loss -- and three sacks to set personal career highs in all three categories. The five tackles for loss were the most by a Clemson player in a road game in school history.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas. In the biggest game of his career so far, this first-year starter threw for 125 yards, rushed for 8 yards, threw an interception and failed to get the Hokies into the end zone. This marked the first time Virginia Tech has failed to score a touchdown in a home game since a 16-0 loss to Cincinnati in 1995.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Pittsburgh's offense. Ray Graham's performance (226 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) was the top story to come out of Pitt's 44-17 rout of USF on Thursday, but the entire offense deserves to be commended. Even without veteran Gs Chris Jacobson and Lucas Nix, who suffered a knee injury on the second play of the game, the Panthers' line pushed around USF's defensive front to clear the way for Graham. QB Tino Sunseri had his best game of the season, going 22-of-33 for 216 yards and a touchdown. He's still having problems taking sacks (three against USF), but he was interception-free for the second week in a row.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Connecticut's pass defense. After watching the Huskies' passing game struggle for most of September, Connecticut suddenly can't stop the pass. Western Michigan passed for 479 yards and five touchdowns in a game where the Broncos all but gave up on the run in a 38-31 upset. Connecticut's problems defending the pass couldn't happen at a worse time, with a road trip to West Virginia looming Saturday. Top CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson was out with an injury, so that may explain one 100-yard receiver, but what about the other two Western Michigan had Saturday?

[Rivals.com experts: Week 5 what we learned]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: West Virginia TB Dustin Garrison. The Mountaineers know they can excel in the passing game. The rushing attack, though, has been troublesome. The Mountaineers struggled to hold a lead against Maryland and rushed for only 70 yards against LSU. Saturday, Garrison emerged with 291 yards and two touchdowns against Bowling Green, including 233 yards in the first half. Garrison, a two-star recruit from Pearland, Texas, didn't come to West Virginia with the fanfare of fellow true freshman TBs Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts, but he could be the answer the Mountaineers have been seeking.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Syracuse K Ross Krautman. Maybe this is a case of the football world correcting itself after Krautman was incorrectly credited with an extra point last week against Toledo. Krautman entered the season as one of the Big East's best kickers, making 18-of-19 attempts last season. He doubled his misses from all of last year in the 19-16 double-overtime losses to Rutgers. Krautman missed a 39-yarder after a high snap in the third quarter and had a 44-yarder blocked in the fourth quarter. Syracuse had plenty of opportunities to put away Rutgers, and the Orange's struggles in the kicking game were a glaring problem.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Wisconsin. Yes, most thought the Badgers would beat Nebraska, but few envisioned a 48-17 beatdown. The victory solidifies the Badgers as the Big Ten's best team, with seemingly no challenger. Wisconsin will be favored in every remaining game. And if the Badgers win out, they could find their way to the BCS title game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Ohio State. It's now official: Ohio State is in for a long season. A 10-7 home loss to Michigan State epitomized the Buckeyes' offensive woes. Yes, Ohio State's attack figures to get a boost from the return from suspension next week of OT Mike Adams, WR DeVier Posey and TB Daniel Herron. But will it matter as long as Ohio State continues to get poor play at quarterback? Braxton Miller is trying, but he's a true freshman. He hit 5-of-10 passes for 56 yards with a pick against the Spartans. Senior Joe Bauserman came on and didn't fair much better, going 7-of-14 for 87 yards as Ohio State had just 178 yards and barely avoided its first home shutout since 1982. Are they counting down to basketball season already in Columbus?

[Monday with Mike: High-five for Illinois]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase. Scheelhaase, a sophomore, was 21-of-32 for a career-high 392 yards and three touchdowns in pushing the Fighting Illini to 5-0 with a 38-35 victory over Northwestern. He also led the team with 35 rushing yards. Scheelhaase continues to make strides as a passer and decision-maker in Paul Petrino's attack. There's a good chance Illinois may be 8-0 when it travels to Penn State on Oct. 29.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. The Huskers bombed in their first Big Ten game, and Martinez must shoulder a big amount of the blame. Everyone knew he had to pass well for Nebraska to have a shot at the win. Martinez didn't, going 11-of-22 for 176 yards and three interceptions. He also was sacked twice. Unable to pass, the Huskers' attack became easier for Wisconsin to defend, and the Badgers yielded only 335 yards.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Texas Tech's pass defense. The Red Raiders, who had only one interception in their first three games, grabbed three interceptions in a 45-34 come-from-behind win at Kansas. All three interceptions led directly to touchdowns. Going into the game, Kansas QB Jordan Webb had not thrown an interception.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Texas A&M's pass defense. For the second consecutive week, the Aggies blew a big halftime lead and suffered a heartbreaking loss. The Aggies, who led 35-17 at halftime, did commit two turnovers in the second half, but the pass defense clearly was the culprit. The Aggies allowed Tyler Wilson to pass for an Arkansas-record 510 yards and for WR Jarius Wright to set a school record with 281 receiving yards. And unlike last week's loss to Oklahoma State, in which the Aggies blew a 17-point halftime lead, A&M had the services of star CB Coryell Judie.

[Megargee: Week 5 winners and losers]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Kansas State LB Arthur Brown. Brown, a transfer from Miami, was expected to bolster the Wildcats' run defense, but he did more than that in a 36-35 victory over Baylor. He snatched the first interception of the season off Baylor QB Robert Griffin with 3:10 left in the game to set up the winning field goal. He also had a sack on the ensuing possession to help prevent the Bears from rallying.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Kansas QB Jordan Webb. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 20-0 lead over Texas Tech but managed only two touchdowns the rest of the way, one coming only after the Red Raiders had taken a 45-27 lead. Tech's comeback was boosted by three interceptions thrown by Webb.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Boise State's run defense. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by anything we see from Boise State's outstanding defensive line, but the Broncos did a great job of making amends for their lone defeat of the 2010 season. Boise State surrendered 269 rushing yards in last season's 34-31 overtime loss to Nevada. The Broncos yielded just 59 yards on 35 carries Saturday to win the rematch 30-10. Nevada had entered the game ranked seventh nationally in rushing at 285.3 yards per game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Colorado State. Rather than building on the momentum they had established in a 35-34 double-overtime victory over Utah State last week, the Rams fell back to earth with a 38-31 loss at home to a San Jose State team that had dropped 16 consecutive road games. This marked the fourth time in the past five seasons that Colorado State has lost its homecoming game. Don't be surprised if this upset ends up costing Colorado State (3-2) a bowl bid.

[Fox: Week 5 award winners]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Air Force LB Brady Amack. He delivered an astounding 23 tackles in Air Force's 35-34 overtime victory at Navy. Somebody from Air Force was bound to rack up plenty of tackles since Navy ran 105 plays, but Amack's production still merits plenty of attention. Amack had made 20 tackles through his first three games, so he more than doubled his season total Saturday.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: TCU secondary. It's tough to single out any players here because the entire TCU secondary struggled in a 40-33 overtime loss to SMU. The same defense that helped launch Baylor QB Robert Griffin's Heisman campaign allowed SMU's J.J. McDermott to throw for 349 yards and four touchdowns. TCU CB Greg McCoy managed to collect an interception and two pass breakups, but he also made a huge mistake on special teams by fumbling the second-half kickoff. Chris Parks recovered the fumble in the end zone for an SMU touchdown.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Washington State. The Cougars not only posted their third win -- more than they've managed in each of the past three seasons -- they did it with a remarkable comeback against Colorado. They trailed by 10 points with just more than five minutes remaining. But the defense got a key stop and QB Marshall Lobbestael threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:35. The second one was a 63-yarder to Marquess Wilson with 1:10 left to give the Cougars the 31-27 win.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Utah's defense. The Utes had not allowed more than 17 points in a game but gave up three touchdown passes and allowed Washington's Chris Polk to rush for 189 yards in a 31-14 loss.

[Shutdown Corner: Stanford quarterback shows off his reception skills]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: USC QB Matt Barkley. It comes as no surprise that Barkley would have a strong game, but his performance against Arizona raised eyebrows. Barkley set a USC school record by throwing for 468 yards and four touchdowns as the Trojans won a 48-41 shootout. He ran for a touchdown, too.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Utah QB Jordan Wynn. He was 12-of-17 for 149 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but the fragile Wynn hurt his left shoulder and did not play in the second half of a 31-14 loss to Washington.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Auburn's defense. A group that seemingly could stop anybody suddenly rose up and throttled a South Carolina offense that has one of the nation's best tailbacks and one of the nation's best wide receivers. (The Gamecocks also have issues at quarterback, and Auburn certainly took advantage.) Auburn held TB Marcus Lattimore to a season-low 66 rushing yards and also kept the Gamecocks' passing offense in check except for one 50-yard TD by Alshon Jeffery. The result was a 16-13 road win for a team that many had buried.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Florida's run defense. The Gators went into their “showdown” with Alabama ranked fifth nationally against the run, and they were the only team nationally not to have allowed a rushing TD. But the Tide rushed for 226 yards and four TDs, and basically steamrolled the Gators' front seven.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Georgia QB Aaron Murray]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Georgia LB Michael Gilliard. The Bulldogs had a huge hole at linebacker going into the season, but Gilliard -- a junior who hadn't done much in his career -- continues to step up. He had a career-high nine tackles in Saturday's win over Mississippi State, which struggled to run the ball (just 56 yards). He is tied for the team lead in tackles with 28 and has made 24 of those in the past three weeks. He had made just 15 tackles in his first two seasons.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia. Garcia, a senior, has had a checkered career, but he may have played his worst game Saturday against an Auburn defense that had been shredded all season. But Garcia was just 9-of-23 for 160 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. The TD pass was a jump ball that WR Alshon Jeffery won, then took in for a 50-yard score. Garcia's poor play Saturday was a continuation of what he already had done this season; he has nine picks and four TDs.


BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: San Jose State. Give it up for the Spartans. They had lost 16 in a row on the road and hadn't won back-to-back games since 2008. But they rose up and upset host Colorado State 38-31. They moved out to a 24-7 second-quarter lead and held on. SJSU has won twice this season, one more win than it managed last season and the same number it won in 2009.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Temple. The Owls were coming off a 38-7 rout of Maryland on the road and were playing at home against Toledo in a key MAC game. It's not necessarily disappointing that Temple lost but rather the manner it which it lost: Toledo rolled 36-13. Temple committed four turnovers and also managed just 130 yards of offense in the second half.

[Y! Sports Shop: Show your school colors with college football team gear]

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Western Michigan QB Alex Carder. For the Broncos to have any shot at beating Connecticut, Carder needed to have a big game. He responded with a monster outing. Carder, a junior, was 37-of-51 (72.5 completion percentage) for a career-high 479 yards and five TDs against what had been the best pass defense in the Big East. Western won 38-31 with the winning TD coming on a 41-yard pass from Carder to Caleb Ravenell with 1:35 left.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: BYU QB Jake Heaps. The Cougars rallied to beat Utah State 27-24, but it wasn't because of Heaps. He was benched in the third quarter and finished 11-of-25 for 109 yards. Heaps has struggled mightily this season, with just 962 passing yards, three TDs and five picks in five games.

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