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Week 8 Winners and Losers: Collin Klein makes a strong case for Heisman frontrunner

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Dr. Saturday

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Three weeks ago, the Heisman race was over.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith seemingly had the bronze statue sewn up but needed a fantastic effort Saturday against Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein, a fellow Heisman contender, to keep his spot atop of the heap.

That fantastic effort never came.

Instead, Klein was the shinning star, completing 90.4 percent of his passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 41 yards and four scores. While Klein's numbers were amazing, they were even more impressive because up until Saturday's game, he had done very little with his arm. In fact, his athleticism, grittiness and undefeated record are what got him in the Heisman conversation in the first place. On Saturday, he showed there was another dimension to his game.

For most voters, Klein was behind Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, but Miller was injured in his game against Purdue, had to leave the game and his backup orchestrated a come-from-behind overtime win. Miller was taken to the hospital and released, but a week of practice will show whether he's ready to come back next week.

So does Klein immediately become the Heisman frontrunner?

There's definitely a case to be made. Throughout the season, Klein has consistently willed his team to victories. The Wildcats are at the top of the Big 12 standings and could move up when the BCS standings come out Sunday. On Saturday — albeit against a pretty subpar defense — Klein never flinched. Smith threw his first two interceptions since throwing two against South Florida at the end of last season. He's the opposite of the guy many observed through the first five games of the year while Klein continues to be exactly who we thought he was and maybe even better.

Winners

Louisiana-Monroe: When Western Kentucky led 28-7, we thought maybe we had been talking about the wrong Sun Belt team, as the Warhawks were the story of September with their thrilling upset over Arkansas. We had the right team all along.

Louisiana-Monroe stormed back to tie the game. In overtime, Western Kentucky scored first, then Louisiana-Monroe answered. Instead of playing for another overtime, the Warhawks went for two and the win. "We were going to have a pretty difficult time stopping them and so at that point and time you might as well end it," ULM coach Paul Berry said, according to Bowling Green Daily News beat writer Chad Bishop.

The football gods rewarded Berry. Quarterback Kolton Browning hit Rashon Ceaser for the conversion and the win, and the Warhawks improved to 5-2 and 3-0 in the Sun Belt. They have never been to a bowl game. It's pretty safe to say that will change this year.

USC and Matt Barkley: With his 100th touchdown pass, Matt Barkley passed former USC quarterback Matt Leinart for the Pac-12 record. That was Barkley's 100th touchdown pass of his career, not just in Saturday's game -- because USC was playing lowly Colorado, we can see why there might have been some confusion.

Colorado gave up six passing touchdowns in all to Barkley, whose Trojans won 50-6. Barkley completed 19 of 20 passes for 298 yards, as USC continues to be a lurking one-loss team that nobody is paying much attention to.

Rutgers: Trailing 10-0 at halftime against Temple, the Scarlet Knights didn't look much like a legitimate contender for a Big East championship. But in the second half, they looked like an entirely different team, one that is a major threat in the conference.

Rutgers outscored Temple 35-0 in the second half and won easily. Temple isn't an elite program, but it was 3-2 coming off wins against South Florida and UConn and the Scarlet Knights' utter destruction of the Owls, on the road, is very impressive. Rutgers is now 7-0, and 4-0 in the conference. The Scarlet Knights do have to play at Cincinnati and against Louisville in November, but they look like the type of team that can compete in both of those games.

Michigan: The Wolverines were headed towards a fifth straight loss to "little brother" Michigan State when Denard Robinson saved them. Michigan was losing 10-9 at the Spartans' 41-yard line, well out of field-goal range with less than 30 seconds remaining. Robinson bought some time in the pocket and delivered a clutch 20-yard pass to Drew Dileo. That set up Brendan Gibbons' 38-yard field goal as time expired, keeping Michigan undefeated in the Legends Division of the Big Ten. It was a big play by Robinson, who did not have a great game and isn't having a great senior season either, and finally the Wolverines don't have to hear about Mike Hart and the "little brother" comment anymore.

Duke: When North Carolina's Giovani Bernard scored on a crazy, lucky fumble recovery to take a late lead, we thought Duke football might be cursed and would never get to six wins and bowl eligibility.

But the way Duke got its sixth win made it that much sweeter. The Blue Devils became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 when Jamison Crowder caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree on fourth down with 13 seconds left to lift Duke to a 33-30 win. The Blue Devils deserve to celebrate this win, and the chance to play in the postseason for the first time in 18 years.

Losers

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South Carolina: In a span of eight days, the Gamecocks went from a legitimate national title contender to being an afterthought in the SEC race. The schedule was just about impossible, going to LSU and Florida on back-to-back weeks. But the way South Carolina was defeated by the Gators has to hurt.

The Gamecocks were No. 3 in the AP poll a week ago. They were No. 9 in the poll before Saturday. They did not play like a top 10 team, and didn't look much like a top 25 team either. Florida didn't have much going early on but cashed in a couple turnovers to take a 14-3 lead. After that South Carolina let down and was simply blown out. The Gamecocks will take another steep tumble down the rankings with this loss. Steve Spurrier will have to rally his team, or the losses could linger into the next few weeks.

Jeff Tedford: Remember when Tedford was the hot name in coaching circles? Cal fans were frightened to lose him. Now, it looks like he might be asked to leave.

Cal is 3-5 after a surprisingly uncompetitive 21-3 loss to Stanford, its biggest rival. We imagine Golden Bears fans could stomach another mediocre record, but playing this bad in the Big Game can't sit well. Tedford had 10-win seasons in 2004 and 2006, but there hasn't been a whole lot since. Cal hasn't finished ranked in the AP poll since 2006. The Bears haven't won a bowl game since 2008. They are 15-18 since the start of the 2010 season. Add all of that up, include Saturday's awful performance, and Tedford might be in some trouble.

Northwestern: Cue the Northwestern football jokes. This 29-28 loss to Nebraska is going to hurt for a long time. The Wildcats will remember the two, big fourth-quarter leads they blew, one to Penn State and the other to the Cornhuskers.

Northwestern led 28-16 deep into the fourth quarter. Nebraska scored with 5:55 left, and then the Wildcats had a quick three and out. An energized Nebraska drove down for an easy go-ahead touchdown. Northwestern still had a chance to win, but it missed a 53-yard field goal. The second conference loss, and Michigan's dramatic win, puts the Wildcats two losses back in the Legends Division. That could lead to a lot of regret.

Arizona State: Well, the Sun Devils aren't exactly who we thought they were after the 43-21 beatdown at the hands of the No. 3 Oregon Ducks. The game could have — should have — been much worse, but Oregon seemingly took its foot off the gas after leading 43-7 at halftime. The loss cost the Sun Devils the top spot in the Pac-12 South, which USC took with a 50-6 win over Colorado on Saturday.

But all is not lost for the Sun Devils. Even though they were embarrassed by the class of the conference, the Sun Devils have ample time and opportunity to orchestrate a rematch with the Ducks in the Pac-12 title game. USC still has to play two ranked conference teams, including Oregon, Arizona State. The Sun Devils' schedule is considerably easier with No. 8 Oregon State as the only other ranked opponent besides USC.

Regardless of who wins the South, Oregon has made it clear that winning the overall Pac-12 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl is going to take a lot more work.

Dave Christensen: A week ago, Wyoming's head coach was caught on camera yelling obscenities and other not-so-kind words to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun (on Military Appreciation Day, no less) and this week Christensen's Cowboys were stomped 42-14 by Fresno State.

Could the end be near for the fourth-year head coach?

Well, Wyoming is 1-6 for the first time since 2002, but other than Saturday's loss, the Cowboys have lost three games by an average of two points, two games in overtime and a 20-point loss to Texas to start the year. But having such a bad loss coupled with a rant that made national headlines can't be endearing him to his athletic director and president right now.

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