Adjusting to the weekend's new realities.
• A new leaf. No, an even newer one. Depending on your perspective, Jacory Harris began the season somewhere on the spectrum between punchline and cautionary tale. Already, he was the owner of more career interceptions than any other active college quarterback. As a junior in 2010, he'd struggled through injuries, turnovers, a direct challenge from freshman Stephen Morris, a postseason coaching change and a catastrophe of a finale in Miami's Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame. Two weeks before the opener against Maryland, he was the most visible player on Miami's current roster to be directly implicated in the most explosive NCAA scandal in 25 years. When the ball kicked on Sept. 5, Harris was watching from home, most likely wondering whether he'd see the field again.
Six weeks on, he clearly has no intention of coming off. With Saturday's 267-yard, three-touchdown, zero-interception effort in a 30-24 win at North Carolina, Harris extended his interception-free streak to 14 consecutive quarters and moved into the top ten nationally in pass efficiency, sporting a touchdown-to-interception ratio (12::3) roughly four times better than last year's (14::15). Last week, his 267-yard, three-touchdown, zero-interception effort in a down-to-the-wire, 38-35 loss at Virginia Tech was the most efficient of his career against an FBS defense.
At the turn of his senior season, then, Harris is finally looking more like the sophomore bombardier who briefly commanded the national spotlight with visions of Hurricanes past in early 2009 than he has at any point over the intervening two years. Depending on how long the best-case scenario lasts this time — and how much help he gets from a badly struggling defense — Miami's window to the ACC Championship Game isn't quite closed yet. If and when it does, there's still a good chance Harris will go out as the top passer in the ACC.
• Putting our Ash on the line. Another week, another new direction for Texas' offense, which officially handed the reins to true freshman quarterback David Ash in Saturday's 38-26 loss to Oklahoma State — almost exactly a month to the day that sophomore Case McCoy seemed to emerge as the heir apparent in his first start, a blowout win at UCLA. Ash started for the first time and took every snap against the Cowboys, with predictably unpleasant results: He was sacked five times, picked off twice — matching the pair of interceptions he threw off the bench last week against Oklahoma — and failed to find the end zone as a passer or runner.
In fact, if you're looking for an argument for Ash over McCoy, you certainly won't find it on paper: McCoy has a dramatically better completion percentage and efficiency rating, more big plays to his credit and hasn't thrown an interception. But Ash is considered the better athlete of the two — he's bigger, a better runner and has a stronger arm — and the better developmental project for the future. Given that Longhorn fans have heard the exact same line about McCoy and recently departed blue-chips Garrett Gilbert and Connor Wood, forgive them if they don't allow themselves to get too attached to the new depth chart right away.
On the bright side, at least the 'Horns get a couple weeks off before Ash's next test against Texas Tech: This weekend is a bye week, followed by an Oct. 29 visit from Kansas, whose "defense" remains purely theoretical.
• Good luck with that. How bereft is South Carolina offensively in the absence of running back Marcus Lattimore? With Lattimore out and quarterback Stephen Garcia booted from the team, the Gamecocks have as many touchdowns behind receiver Alshon Jeffery on defense and special teams (6) as the rest of the offense combined. The new starting running back, freshman Brandon Wilds, has carried the ball 13 times.