Posted by ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel
1. According to the list of 12 Lombardi Award semifinalists, football is rarely played outside the south. Six of the honorees play in the SEC; two in the Big 12 South, and one each from TCU and South Florida. The exceptions are Big 12 North defenders: tackle Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska and linebacker Sean Witherspoon of Missouri. In an age of offense, 11 semifinalists play defense, and none will play in the Rose Bowl -- the Big Ten and Pac-10 got shut out.
2. Four-year starting tackle Sam Young says this is the best Notre Dame offense he has played on, including 2006 with Brady Quinn in charge. "The last touchdown drive to win against Purdue and the (last regulation drive) against Washington," he said, "there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that we we’re going to put the ball in the end zone. Even when Brady was around, it hasn’t been like that." The huddles on those drives? "Calmest thing you’ve ever seen," Young said.
3. One key to watch in the showdown of unbeatens Thursday night: No. 21 South Florida is tied for fifth in the nation with nine recovered fumbles. No. 8 Cincinnati is one of three teams (with Colorado State and Oregon State) that has yet to lose a fumble. Whatever emphasis coach Brian Kelly put on holding onto the ball has worked. The Bearcats have fumbled only twice in five games. A year ago, en route to winning the Big East, the Bearcats fumbled 30 times in 14 games.