First and 10 - Recapping the Week That Was
It's hard to believe we're sitting at the halfway point of the 2012 college football season. We could have sworn Labor Day was just a week or two ago. Regardless, 50 percent of the season is already in the books. Here's what we found noteworthy from Week 7 of the college football slate.
1. Move over Ohio, is New Hampshire the new Cradle of Coaches? Probably not, but this stat (courtesy of Bruce Feldman) is astounding: Coaches from the state of New Hampshire, Chip Kelly and Dan Mullen, currently sit at 12-0 so far this season. Not bad for a state with zero FBS programs and just one FBS signee in 2012.
2. Speaking of the Buckeye State, Ohio stands as the top state in college football right now. Urban Meyer is 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the AP poll in his first season at Ohio State. Butch Jones is 5-0 and ranked No. 21 at Cincinnati. Frank Solich has Ohio at 7-0 and No. 25 in the AP. In fact, the MAC East standings read Ohio, Kent State (5-1, 3-0), Bowling Green (4-3, 2-1) and Miami of Ohio (3-4, 2-1) while Toledo also sits atop the MAC West at 6-1 and 4-0 in the league. Ohio's seven FBS teams are a combined 38-14. Oh yeah, and Mount Union is also 5-0 and has allowed only seven points all season.
3. Arkansas seems to have put the wheels back on the wagon. One week after handling Auburn 24-7, the Razorbacks again looked like the top 10 team many expected to see in a 49-7 dismantling of Kentucky. No coach in the country could use a two-game winning streak more than the embattled John L. Smith. Yes, the wins came against teams that are a combined 0-8 in the SEC. But when you are 1-4, a two-game winning streak is a two-game winning streak.
4. Duke missed its first chance at bowl eligibility. David Cutcliffe's team jumped out in front of Virginia Tech 20-0 only to see the Hokies reel off the game's final 41 points. Duke's next three opponents (North Carolina, Clemson and Florida State) are a combined 16-4 until a date with 2-4 Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Nov. 17.
5. Congrats to James Franklin and Vanderbilt for finally cracking the code to Florida's fourth quarter defense. After not allowing a point in any fourth quarter this season, Vanderbilt managed to register 10 points in the final frame on Saturday night. It wasn't enough to pull the upset as Will Muschamp's team improved to 6-0 with a 31-17 win. After being outscored 72-22 in fourth quarters last season, the Gators hold a 54-10 fourth quarter edge this season. Florida also claims come-from-behind wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Vanderbilt. Conditioning was clearly an emphasis of Muschamp in the off-season, and strength coach Jeff Dillman has definitely succeeded in transforming his team.
6. We're glad to see that Jerry Kill plans to coach again this Saturday. Kill suffered a seizure in his private locker room less than an hour after Minnesota's 21-13 loss to Northwestern on Saturday. Coach Kill was released from a Minneapolis hospital on Sunday morning.
7. Wisconsin has returned to form after a shaky start to the season. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada and interim offensive line coach Bart Miller have found their footing, and the Badgers' offense is back to its old ways. In a 38-14 win over Purdue, the Wisconsin offense rushed 57 times for 467 yards and four touchdowns. Starting tailback Montee Ball contributed 247 yards and three touchdowns on 29 rushes. After rushing for just 3.3 yards per carry over their first five games, Wisconsin is churning out 7.1 yards per attempt over its last two games. The Badgers are 5-2 and 2-1 in the Big Ten, a full two wins ahead of the pack of bowl-eligible teams in the Leaders Division.
8. Oregon will face an interesting challenge at Arizona State on Thursday night. In his first season in Tempe, Todd Graham has the Sun Devils sitting at 5-1 and ranked No. 24 in the Coaches Poll. Paul Randolph's defense is far and away the best unit in the Pac-12 on paper. Arizona State leads the league in total defense by nearly 60 yards per game over second place USC. The Sun Devils is giving up just 3.92 yards per play, nearly a full yard better than the rest of the conference. Randolph's unit also leads the conference in pass efficiency defense (4.86 yards per attempt), and its 3.23 yards per carry allowed is over a full yard better than Oregon's Pac-12 opposition to date. And then there's this: the last time Oregon traveled to the Grand Canyon State on a Thursday night was in 2007 when the No. 2 ranked Ducks lost to Arizona, 34-24. Chip Kelly and co. will hope history doesn't repeat itself this week. Scott and Zach from our staff will be at this game. More on this to come later in the week.
9. Notre Dame trailed for the first time this season on Saturday. The Fighting Irish actually trailed for a full quarter against Stanford after falling behind 10-3 at halftime; they didn't tie the game until a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Brian Kelly's team trailed again 13-10 before scoring the game's final 10 points in a 20-13 overtime win. Bob Diaco's defense still has not (officially) surrendered an offensive touchdown in four full games.
10. Midweek action begins this week in college football. Starting with Louisiana - Lafayette at North Texas tomorrow night, we will have Tuesday or Wednesday night football all but one week through Thanksgiving.