November 15, 2009
Snap judgments on Saturday's best.
Teachers' Pet: Dexter McCluster, whose fleet feet appear to be peaking just in time to meet a talented but injury-ravaged (and arguably distracted) Tennessee defense. The highlight of the senior's career day in Oxford was gaining more yards all by his lonesome than either Florida or Alabama managed as an entire team against the Vols.
Most Unlikely Couple: Pete Carroll and the Las Vegas Bowl. Slipping to fifth in the Pac-10 standings after being curb-stomped at the Coliseum, a waltz into the Rose Bowl for the annual blowout date with the Big Ten's ritual sacrifice is no longer in the cards, mathematically or otherwise. (Oh, and remember Toby Gerhart? Another 178 yards on the ground for him against the big bad Trojans. Yeah, no big deal.)
Most Creative: C.J. Spiller, who added to his growing legend with one rushing, one receiving, and one passing touchdown to lead Clemson to a 43-23 victory over N.C. State.
Mister Personality: We can't believe Charlie Weis' job is in danger due in part to the actions of Dave Wannstedt. Shouldn't Pitt be losing games they have no business even trailing in by this point in the season? Because, somehow, they're not.
Most School Spirit: Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo made the play of the game in Georgia's 31-24 win over Auburn, breaking up what almost certainly would've been the tying touchdown pass with just over a minute left to play -- and paid for it, suffering a concussion on the collision with Mario Fannin that left him motionless on the turf for several long minutes and required him to be carted off the field on a backboard. It was one of those Obi-Wan, "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine" moments that may end up being a rallying point in the Bulldogs' most difficult seasons in years.
Honorable mention: Defensive tackle Jeff Owens, whose locker-room speech at halftime evidently played a role in the Dawgs' second-half defensive resurgence.
Most Popular: They say the most popular player on any given team is the backup quarterback. In Florida State's case, that was literally true, as E.J. Manuel dissected Wake Forest with a beautifully efficient 15-of-20, 220-yard performance in place of injured starter Christian Ponder. If Manuel can keep it up next week against sinking Maryland, the 5-5 'Noles, left for dead after Ponder's season-ending shoulder injury at Clemson, may claw their way to another bowl yet.
Grape Job! All bets are off when you're facing the mighty South Dakota State Jackrabbits, one of the juggernauts of the Missouri Valley Conference, but plucky Minnesota managed to overcome a second-quarter deficit and vanquish SDSU, 16-13, with a 25-yard Eric Ellestad field goal with just over two minutes to go despite failing to score an offensive touchdown. Keep plugging away, Gophers, and that I-AA blowout will come your way some day.
Honorable mention: Louisville, who beat Syracuse in a 10-9 barnburner to claim its first Big East win of the season and possibly save Steve Kragthorpe's ... no, I'm sorry, I can't even type that with a straight face.
Drama Queen: Ohio State. Terrified that Iowa might garner more sympathy playing without game-changing (in both directions) quarterback Ricky Stanzi, the Buckeyes lolled about in a sullen haze for most of regulation, until they could be absolutely sure they had our undivided attention, then proceeded to flounce their way into the Rose Bowl in a snit.
Class Clown: The only thing funnier than the facial expressions Derek Dooley and Les Miles were making on the sidelines in Baton Rouge was the fact that Louisiana Tech actually led LSU well into the second half of the Tigers' 24-16 escape.
Most Likely To Succeed: TCU. With a monstrous home victory over No. 16 Utah in the books less than a month after a monster road victory at fellow MWC heavy BYU, and only Wyoming and New Mexico standing between the Horned Frogs and an undefeated regular season, it's pretty safe to say it's TCU's time as we hit BCS controversy season.
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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.