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November 21, 2011

Rivals.com Week 12 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.

ACC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Virginia. Suddenly, this team has forgotten how to lose. Virginia extended its winning streak to four Saturday with a 14-13 victory at Florida State that improved the Cavaliers' record to 8-3, which means they have exceeded their combined win total from the previous two seasons. Virginia found a way to win Saturday even when its running game wasn't up to par. The Cavaliers had been averaging 187.6 rushing yards per game, but they mustered just 78 yards on 29 carries against Florida State. It didn't matter. Michael Rocco went 22-of-31 for 238 yards and engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive that put the Cavaliers ahead for good with 1:16 left. A home victory over Virginia Tech next week would send Virginia to the ACC championship game for the first time. Honorable mention goes to N.C. State, which trounced Atlantic Division champion Clemson 37-13 a week after falling to Boston College.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Clemson. The Tigers didn't have much incentive after clinching the Atlantic Division title a week earlier. They also were playing without star WR Sammy Watkins, who sat out the game with a shoulder injury. They still should have put up more of a fight against N.C. State. Clemson's 37-13 loss to the Wolfpack continued its late-season malaise. After winning their first eight games by a combined 325-200, the Tigers have gone 1-2 and have been outscored 96-61 over their past three games. "[I'm] obviously very disappointed in the way we played, really embarrassed," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told reporters after the game. "Really, really poor job of coaching, poor job of playing, everything involved. And there's no excuse."

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: N.C. State QB Mike Glennon. He ended a recent slump by leading the Wolfpack to its first win over a top-10 team since 2005. Glennon went 19-of-29 for 253 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Clemson. He had thrown four interceptions and only one touchdown pass in the three previous games; the Wolfpack had averaged just 7.7 points during that three-game stretch.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd. One week ago, Boyd rallied Clemson from a 14-point, second-half deficit against Wake Forest even after a shoulder injury had knocked Watkins out of the game. Boyd wasn't nearly as effective without his favorite target Saturday. Boyd went 21-of-34 for 238 yards with no touchdown passes and two interceptions to continue a late-season slide that could cost him the ACC player of the year award. Boyd has been picked off twice in three consecutive games. Boyd threw 24 touchdown passes and only three interceptions in Clemson's first seven games. Over his past three games, Boyd has six interceptions and three touchdown passes.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Louisville's run defense. A week after being gashed by Pittsburgh's rushing attack, Louisville rebounded against a Connecticut team that had been getting better on offense. The Cardinals held the Huskies to a season-low 76 rushing yards, neutralizing redshirt freshman Lyle McCombs (33 yards) and "Wildcat" specialist Scott McCummings (40 yards). LB Dexter Heyman was the individual standout with seven tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and an interception in the 34-20 win.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: USF's offense. The Bulls have found creative ways to lose this season, including Saturday's game in which USF held Miami to just two field goals. True, QB B.J. Daniels left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter, but an injury to Daniels didn't hold USF back in last season's win over UM. On Saturday, Bobby Eveld couldn't repeat the magic of a year ago when USF beat Miami 23-20 on the road. He was 5-of-9 for 36 yards, which was only marginally less effective than Daniels' 11-of-18 mark for 97 yards. TB Darrell Scott returned to the lineup but rushed for only 57 yards on 15 carries.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Rutgers TB Jawan Jamison. Rutgers' maligned offense took a step forward in a 20-3 win over Cincinnati, thanks to its best performance on the ground in two years. Jamison, a redshirt freshman who is earning most of the carries with true freshman Savon Huggins out, rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries against Cincinnati. Entering Saturday, the Bearcats were allowing 81.4 rushing yards per game, second-best in the country. Jamison had Rutgers' first 200-yard game since Ray Rice did it in the bowl game following the 2007 season. With 203 rushing yards, it was Rutgers' first game with 200 rushing yards as a team against an FBS opponent since Nov. 27, 2009, against Louisville.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Cincinnati TB Isaiah Pead. QB Munchie Legaux struggled in his first career start, but he could have used more help from Pead, who is Cincinnati's best player. Pead rushed for only 28 yards on 14 carries in the loss to Rutgers. Normally a big-play threat, Pead had no room to run against Rutgers' defense. He averages 5.7 yards per carry but managed only 2.0 yards per carry against Rutgers, with no runs going longer than 9 yards.

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Penn State's run offense. The Nittany Lions still struggle to pass, but the rushing attack has become more diverse than handing the ball to Silas Redd. Stephfon Green led Penn State in rushing Saturday against Ohio State, running for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The Nittany Lions introduced a "Wildcat" look with backup WRs Curtis Drake and Bill Belton taking direct snaps; they had a combined 65 rushing yards on eight carries. The end result were season-highs of 239 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry against a solid Buckeyes defense.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Illinois' quarterback rotation. Looking to boost a sagging offense that hadn't topped 20 points since the Oct. 8 win over Indiana, Illinois resorted to a rotation at quarterback of starter Nathan Scheelhaase and freshman backup Reilly O'Toole. It worked out fine for a time as Illinois took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter and a 17-7 lead at halftime. All that good fortune dissipated in the second half. Scheelhaase and O'Toole were a combined 5-of-12 for 39 yards and three interceptions in the second half as Illinois lost 28-17.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Iowa QB James Vandenberg. The Hawkeyes have been a different team away from Iowa City. They lost in triple overtime to Iowa State, mustered only a field goal at Penn State and collapsed in the fourth quarter at Minnesota. Saturday, Iowa finally earned its first road win of the season with a 31-21 victory over Purdue. Vandenberg was particularly impressive, going 22-of-32 for 273 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. Marvin McNutt, as usual, was Vandenberg's top target, topping 100 receiving yards for the fifth consecutive game. McNutt caught nine passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Nebraska TB Rex Burkhead. He had his second subpar performance in the past three games, rushing for a season-low 36 yards on 10 carries against Michigan. He was held without a touchdown for the first time this season. Burkhead was particularly ineffective in the first half when he had four carries for four yards. The struggles weren't all on Burkhead, though, as quarterback Taylor Martinez was a paltry 9-of-23 passing.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Iowa State's defense. The Cyclones had allowed more than 30 points in five games, which seemed ominous going into Friday night's game against Oklahoma State's explosive offense. But the Cyclones' defense gave up just 17 points in regulation and forced five turnovers in a stunning upset of Oklahoma State.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys appeared to be rolling toward the Big 12 championship and the BCS championship game. That was before they came out flat and fell at Iowa State 37-31 in overtime. They may still win the Big 12 title, but reaching the national championship game is extremely unlikely.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Baylor QB Robert Griffin. OK, so it's no surprise that Griffin has a big game. He has had a bunch of them. But Baylor never had beaten Oklahoma in 20 games until Griffin led the Bears to a stunning 45-38 upset. He accumulated 551 yards of total offense, with 479 coming via the pass. Griffin threw four touchdown passes, the last a 34-yard game-winner with eight seconds remaining.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden. Some considered Weeden the top contender for the Heisman. But despite throwing for 476 yards, he threw three interceptions, including one in overtime that opened the way for Iowa State to post a 37-31 upset.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Wyoming. On a week that featured plenty of upsets across the country, everything in the Mountain West went according to form. So we'll use this space to salute the conference's biggest surprise of the season. Wyoming's 31-10 victory over New Mexico certainly wasn't a shocker, but it made the Cowboys (7-3) bowl-eligible. And how many people outside Laramie figured Wyoming would go bowling? Wyoming was coming off a 3-9 season and relying on a true freshman quarterback. That freshman - Brett Smith - continued his remarkable season Saturday by rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns while throwing for 212 yards and a third score.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: San Diego State special teams. Leon McFadden fumbled a punt return and Brandon Davis coughed up the ball on a kickoff return in the first quarter of San Diego State's 52-35 loss to Boise State. The Broncos scored touchdowns after both turnovers to race to an early 21-0 lead.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: San Diego State TB Adam Muema. Although his team lost, Muema did a nice job stepping for injured TB Ronnie Hillman, whose sprained left ankle limited him to three carries. Muema ran 13 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard breakaway late in the first quarter. Muema, a redshirt freshman, also caught a 1-yard touchdown pass.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: UNLV QB Caleb Herring. His up-and-down season reached another valley Saturday in the Rebels' 45-17 loss to Air Force. Herring went 6-of-14 for 41 yards with one interception and no touchdown passes. He threw for only 11 yards in the first three quarters.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Arizona. The Wildcats snapped a three-game losing streak by toppling archrival Arizona State 31-27 in Tempe. Backup QB Bryson Beirne threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Juron Criner with just over five minutes to play for the lead, and the Wildcats made the margin stand up.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Oregon. The Ducks were ranked fourth in the BCS standings, had a chance to move up higher, were riding a 21-game home winning streak and were in the discussion to get into the BCS national championship game. That's over. They fell behind early at home to USC, and a furious rally fell short when K Alejandro Maldonado missed a potential game-tying field goal in the final seconds of a 38-35 loss. The Ducks still can clinch the North Division championship next week, but they had a shot at much, much more.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UCLA QB Kevin Prince. He entered Saturday's game against Colorado with just four touchdown passes and six interceptions. But he threw four touchdown passes in a lopsided victory over the Buffaloes.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Colorado QB Tyler Hansen. He had guaranteed the Buffaloes would end their 22-game road losing streak. Instead, the Buffaloes were blown out 45-6 by UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Hansen passed for 127 yards and threw three interceptions.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Kentucky's defense. The Wildcats fell 19-10 at Georgia, but they made the Bulldogs sweat it out. Georgia kicked four field goals and managed just one TD against a Wildcats defense that had surrendered 38 points in a 30-point loss to Vanderbilt last week.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Ole Miss. No one expected the Rebels to beat visiting LSU. But the Rebels played with almost zero heart and were bludgeoned 52-3 in their final home game of the season. LSU led 35-3 at halftime and kneeled down four consecutive times from Ole Miss' 1 with five minutes left in the game to avoid further embarrassing the Rebels. You hope Ole Miss actually shows up when it plays at Mississippi State this weekend.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Georgia TB Brandon Harton. A week ago, we featured Georgia TB Carlton Thomas in this category. This week, though, Thomas was held out for breaking a team rule, and Harton, a little-used sophomore, stepped into the breach. He rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries; he had 146 yards in his career going into the game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers. Rodgers had thrown for 744 yards, five TDs and just one pick in his three previous games, But Saturday in an eminently winnable game against Tennessee, he threw for 193 yards and tossed three picks and fumbled once in a 27-21 overtime loss. His final pick was returned 90 yards for the winning TD in OT.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: UAB. For whatever reason, the Blazers have Southern Miss' number. UAB beat the Golden Eagles for the third consecutive season Thursday night, coming away with a shocking 34-31 win over a Southern Miss team that came in with one loss and had long-shot hopes of getting into the BCS. UAB had surrendered 150 points in its previous three games, but clamped down - relatively speaking - on Southern Miss.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Navy. The Midshipmen had won two in a row to get to 4-6 on the season, and wins over San Jose State on Saturday and Army on Dec. 10 would have meant a ninth consecutive bowl bid. But the defense fell apart in a 27-24 loss that means no postseason for Navy.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: East Carolina WR Reese Wiggins. ECU needed someone to step up against UCF in a game that both teams had to win to have a shot at bowl eligibility. Wiggins, a sophomore, did just that. He had six receptions for 123 yards and two TDs against Conference USA's best secondary to help lift the Pirates to a 38-31 lead. It was the first 100-yard game and first multi-TD game of his career for Wiggins, who went into the game with just 20 career receptions.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYERS: Southern Miss front seven. UAB entered its game against Southern Miss as one of the worst rushing teams in the league and one of the 30 worst in the nation. So how do you explain the Blazers rushing for 189 yards and a season-high three TDs against Southern Miss? UAB had just seven rushing TDs in its first 10 games before getting three against the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss came in with the No. 2 rush defense in the league.

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