Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's now November and conference lines have been drawn in the sand. This is the time for leaders to step up and will their teams to victory. Are their surprise conference contenders? You betcha. One thing is for sure, there is still plenty of football to be played and with it, jockeying for postseason position, both for BCS and other bowl bids.
THE END OF A ERA? One thing that was apparent last weekend was that the Oregon Ducks are for real. Chip Kelly's team handled USC with ease, racking up 31 first downs and an astounding 613 yards of total offense, including 391 yards rushing. To be fair to the Trojans, this season was penciled in as a "rebuilding year," but early success from their freshman QB and solid defensive play for the most part masked a lot of the team's deficiencies. With two losses in-conference and two games back in the standings, Pete Carroll's team will now need a lot of help to claim its eighth straight Pac-10 crown.
UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS: Speaking of Chip Kelly, I thought his season-long suspension of LeGarrette Blount for the punch heard (and seen) around the college football world in the season-opener at Boise State was a bit harsh, but I can at least understand Kelly's message that no player, no matter how talented, was above reproach. Now, Kelly has made it known that there is a chance Blount can rejoin the team soon and if so, I'm sure he has learned a valuable lesson.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is what has happened in Gainesville. The Gators are at the top of the FBS mountain, I get that. However, All-American Brandon Spikes' despicable eye-gouging of Georgia tailback Washaun Early was the ugliest display of unsportsmanlike behavior that I have seen this season, and that includes Blount's act. To make matters worse, Urban Meyer's handling of the situation is laughable.
"There's no place on the field for that," Meyer said. "We're going to suspend him for the first half of the Vanderbilt game."
Wow, that will teach him. He is going to sit for the first half of a game that Florida is favored to win by over 32 points. Great message to the players you are trying to mold into well-rounded young men.
ANN ARBOR ANGST: The nasty taste of last year's truly dismal season was washed from the mouths of the Michigan faithful thanks to a fast start that saw the Wolverines win their first four games, including a huge victory over Notre Dame. However, Rich Rodriguez's squad has bellied-up since, winning just one of their last five outings. The season hit a new low with a 38-13 shellacking on Saturday at the hands of Illinois, which hadn't won a Big Ten game all year. With Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State still left on the schedule, there isn't any reason to believe that Michigan will even become bowl-eligible in 2009.
HEISMAN RACE: I can't remember the last time the Heisman race was so wide-open, but this year's early favorites - Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy - haven't exactly distinguished themselves from the pack, and the result could be a real surprise winner. Could it be yet another sophomore in either Alabama's Mark Ingram (1,004 yards, eight TDs, three receiving TDs) or Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers (922 yards, 14 TDs, 49 receptions, one TD)? Perhaps even more electric than those two is Clemson's C.J. Spiller (574 yards rushing, four TDs, two receiving TDs, three kickoff returns for TDs and one punt return for a score) who is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the football.
C.J. Spiller is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the football.
From the quarterback position, the list starts with Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen (2,318 yards, 18 TDs and just two INTs), who has finally lived up to all the hype that followed him to South Bend. Houston's Case Keenum (3,293 yards, 25 TDs, five INTs) has put up huge numbers and his Cougars in the top-25, putting him in the nation's consciousness as the season winds down. Cincinnati's Tony Pike would have been in the mix as well, but a forearm injury that required surgery had him miss a couple of games of late, costing him any shot at even being a finalist.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Tebow accounted for four TDs (two rushing) in the rout of Georgia this past weekend, surpassing Herschel Walker for the most rushing TDs in SEC history at 50. Staying with QBs, Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli threw for 222 yards and one TD, while rushing for 164 yards and another TD in a lopsided win over USC. Houston's Keenum put up huge numbers again, as he threw for a career- high 559 yards and five TDs against Southern Miss.
Tailbacks of note included Temple's Brandon Pierce (267 yards, two TDs against Navy), Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon (252 yards, two TDs against Kentucky), North Texas' Lance Dunbar (227 yards, one TD against Western Kentucky), Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer (186 yards, three TDs against Vanderbilt), Fresno State's Ryan Matthews (185 yards, two TDs against Utah State) and Texas Tech's Brandon Batch (putting up 123 yards and four TDs against Kansas).
Wideouts that had huge weeks included Houston's James Cleveland (13 receptions, for 190 yards, two TDs against Southern Miss), Southern Miss' Gerald Baptiste (eight receptions, for 186 yards, three TDs against Houston) and Rutgers' Tim Brown (five receptions, 162 yards, two TDs against UConn).
SNEAK PEEK: There are only two top-25 battles on the docket this weekend, with both holding the keys to conference supremacy, as 15th-ranked Ohio State travels to Happy Valley to take on 11th-ranked Penn State and ninth-ranked LSU invades Tuscaloosa to confront third-ranked Alabama.
The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are still both within striking distance of undefeated Iowa in the league standings, but a second loss would all but eliminate one of these teams from Rose Bowl consideration. Should make for a great day of football.
The Western Division in the SEC has two real contenders and they will meet at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers sit just one game behind the undefeated Crimson Tide, but Alabama has revealed itself to be vulnerable of late and a flawless gameplan by Les Miles could have LSU facing Florida in the SEC title game.