Klein moves to the front of the line for Heisman
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Kansas State has never had a Heisman winner, but this time last year, Baylor didn't have one, either.
Robert Griffin III made BU history a year ago, and through more than half the 2012 season, there's no denying it anymore: Wildcats quarterback Collin Klein is in position to do the same at Kansas State.
After racking up seven touchdowns (four rushing, three passing) and throwing for a career-high 323 yards in Saturday's 55-14 win over West Virginia, Klein is the new front-runner for the most prestigious individual award in sports.
After Klein completed 19 of 21 passes Saturday, receiver Chris Harper even took to calling him "John," an homage to Elway, who also wore Klein's No. 7.
In their typical understated fashion, neither Klein or Kansas State coach Bill Snyder had much to say about the award. Klein's main message? It's out of his control. Snyder? "We'll see," he said.
Still, the significance is inescapable. Klein has been the biggest benefactor and catalyst of Kansas State's rise. With the Wildcats' spotless 7-0 record and ascension into the top five of the BCS rankings, he's taken a spot atop the race for the stiff-arm trophy, ousting West Virginia's Geno Smith with his latest move.
"It would be wonderful for Collin and his family and teammates," Snyder said. "It'd be wonderful for everybody."
Klein might have to make sure his team stays undefeated to stay on top of the list, but his lack of eye-popping numbers (Saturday night aside, anyway) don't tell you enough about how he plays.
"His numbers are not always indicative of the fact that he has great command of the game," Snyder said. "His very fine leadership, [he] runs the ball well, manages the game well, throws the ball well and that's not always indicated in the numbers. Sometimes they're up, sometimes they're not."
It's safe to say on Saturday, they were way, way up. Klein turned in a career performance with more on the line than he'd had in any other game of his career. His reward? A spot at the front of the line for the Heisman. Not bad.
"I'm just a man on a great team that's playing extremely hard and playing together, and anything I can do for them, whatever we gotta do, I'll do," Klein said. "That's the mentality of all of us, and it's paying off."
ACC's Coastal Division up for grabs
Miami should now turn its attention from hating Florida State to loving Florida State.
The rival Seminoles play Duke next week in Tallahassee, and the Blue Devils just so happen to lead the ACC's Coastal Division -- and Miami -- with a 3-1 conference record.
So if you are following at home, Miami is not down and out of the division race after losing to No. 14 Florida State 33-20 on Saturday night. Neither is Virginia Tech, after losing to No. 19 Clemson 38-17.
That is the state of the Coastal Division this season.
Duke is the overwhelming story of the ACC weekend, having become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994 after its thrilling 33-30 win over the rival Tar Heels. If the Blue Devils win out, they will play in their first ACC championship game.
That is a big if, given the schedule that remains. After playing at Florida State, Duke will host Clemson, visit Georgia Tech and play Miami at home in the regular-season finale. Keep in mind that Florida State and Clemson will be favored to win those two games.
Miami, meanwhile, has a bye this week before hosting Virginia Tech on Nov. 1, a Thursday game that no doubt will be critical in the Coastal Division standings. (Virginia Tech already has beaten Duke.) Virginia also remains on the ACC schedule for the Hurricanes, a game that Miami will be favored to win. As for the Hokies, they have two winnable games at the end of the season against Boston College and Virginia. But after Miami, they host Florida State in another Thursday night showdown.
There is still plenty of football left, and it seems nothing will be decided until the season ends. The Coastal Division champ could very well be 7-5 overall if all these teams beat up on one another. That would be "so ACC" in this topsy-turvy season.
Wildcats prove they belong with nation's elite
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Kansas State trailed Oregon by three one-thousandths of a point in the initial BCS standings, so the Wildcats will -- some wacky, rogue computer notwithstanding -- pull past the Ducks when the second installment is released Sunday evening.
That's meaningful in some capacity to every member of K-State's team after a 55-14 road whipping of 13th-ranked West Virginia moved the Wildcats to 7-0 and 4-0 in the Big 12. But it means more to senior receiver Chris Harper. He transferred from Oregon to Kansas State, to be closer to his home in Wichita.
"Yeah," Harper, smiling, said late Saturday night. "It means a little something extra."
Harper said he called Ducks back Kenjon Barner (more on him later) on Friday. The former teammates did some friendly chirping and they looked forward to the possibility of their teams meeting in the BCS title game.
"You know, that just might happen," Harper said, stepping out of every player's one-game-at-a-time trance to consider it.
Oregon-K-State still isn't the likeliest of outcomes, not with Alabama and Florida still up top and looking strong Saturday. But it isn't completely implausible, either.
Harper said he "definitely" considers Kansas State to be every bit the team as those around the Wildcats in the BCS standings.
"We just don't get the love that they get," he said. "We beat Oklahoma and everyone's still talking them up. We're like, 'Can we get any kind of love?'
"I hope they [the national audience, media] were watching today. I think we proved something."
To read the rest of Travis Haney's story, click here .
Big Ten's best? How about Penn State?
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It's time to stop talking about Penn State as a nice little story.
The narrative about first-year coach Bill O'Brien getting the most out of his presumably talent-starved, transfer-wrecked roster sounds old, boring and, quite frankly, a bit condescending. Because even in praising O'Brien and his Nittany Lions, there's a subtle hint that things inevitably will fall apart. There's a suggestion that at some point, the letdown will happen -- at some point, Penn State will collapse under the weight of all that has happened to its program in the past 11 months.
Maybe it's time to be honest about Penn State. This is a merciless football team playing with tremendous confidence and urgency on both sides of the ball. O'Brien and his staff are one step -- or, in games such as Saturday night's -- three steps ahead of the competition, and they have more than enough talent to keep on winning.
Right now, the Big Ten has no hotter team than the Lions. A week from now, we could be proclaiming Penn State the Big Ten's best team.
Nice little stories don't come into Kinnick Stadium and destroy Iowa the way Penn State did Saturday night in a 38-14 win before 70,585 stunned souls who had striped the stands in black and gold. Nice little stories don't outgain the host Hawkeyes 504-209, record twice as many first downs (28-14), hold the ball for 38:08 and convert 8 of 17 third downs. Nice little stories don't silence a raucous crowd in less than 13 minutes, continuing a trend of first-quarter dominance. (Penn State has outscored foes 66-0.)
"The sky's the limit for us now," senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said. "Today just speaks a little about how well we can play."
O'Brien talked in July about the season being Penn State's chance to punch back. On Saturday night, the Lions scored a first-round knockout in a place where they hadn't won since 1999. It marked their fifth win in a row after an 0-2 start.
"Every day, we're running out of time," senior linebacker Michael Mauti said. "We don't believe in a lull or anything like that. You only have so many games to suit up in a Penn State uniform. That's something really special that we take a lot of pride in.
"There's so much emotion we bring."
Perhaps Penn State's strongest weapon isn't O'Brien's scheme, which has transformed one of the nation's worst offenses and one of the Big Ten's weakest quarterbacks (Matt McGloin). It isn't a stout defensive front seven or a group of surprisingly dynamic young receivers and tight ends.
It's urgency. The Lions have it, and it shows in their play.
To read the rest of Adam Rittenberg's story, click here.
Stanford dominates Cal with defense
BERKELEY, Calif. -- It wasn't flashy and it won't be all too memorable, but Stanford's 21-3 win over Cal in the 115th Big Game was exactly the type of game Cardinal coach David Shaw was looking for.
"Very proud of our guys for bringing the [Stanford Axe] back home to Stanford," Shaw said. "It was a great effort, in particular on defense. Dominating, suffocating defense."
His description wasn't an exaggeration. The Cardinal held the Pac-12's No. 3 rushing team to just 3 yards on the ground and kept the Bears out of the red zone on all but two occasions. On their first trip, the Bears couldn't punch it in after facing first-and-goal from the 2, and the second ended on sophomore Wayne Lyons' first career interception.
"This was a blueprint game," Shaw said. "This is what we want to do. We don't care about stats. We don't care about any of that other stuff."
What he does care about is staying true to the model the program has been built on. That hasn't necessarily been the case at times this year, but Saturday's win fit the bill.
To read the rest of Kyle Bonagura's story, click here.
Three weekend observations
1. Florida State ranks in the top 10 in nine major statistical categories. The Seminoles blew open a tight game in the fourth quarter on the road to beat archrival Miami 33-20 to go to 7-1. But if you watched the game, you saw a team that needs to get out of its own way. Florida State committed 12 penalties for 121 yards and fumbled the ball five times, losing two. You can do that against Miami and win. What separates the Seminoles from the national elite is self-inflicted wounds.
2. We have decades of data to prove that high academic standards do not translate into high winning percentages. So please explain -- even after Northwestern lost to Nebraska 29-28, the Wildcats, No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 20 Stanford and Duke are a combined 24-6. That record includes the Cardinal's loss to the Irish and the Blue Devils' loss to the Cardinal. With the NCAA ratcheting up academic demands for freshman eligibility, the landscape will be increasingly hospitable to the SAT crowd.
3. The Mid-American Conference has tied its record for nonconference FBS wins with 14 -- a great stat, though it is due in no small part (three wins) to Army's decision to schedule a lot of MAC opponents. Still, let's not quibble. Toledo upset No. 21 Cincinnati 29-23, raising the Rockets' all-time home record against ranked opponents to 5-1. In case you didn't know why the MAC teams struggle to get home-and-homes with the AQ schools.
Highlights: Texas Tech-TCU
GameDay crew final thoughts
Kansas State hasn't grabbed the attention and the imagination of fans because it is not putting up huge numbers. But the Wildcats are a national title threat. I think Oklahoma is also a championship contender if we get to one-loss teams because the Sooners also play great defense.
The teams that are balanced have the best shot at winning a title. Those teams in my judgment are Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State. Florida is getting closer, but I think it needs to be a little bit better on offense. Michigan State is the complete opposite of West Virginia. The Spartans have great defense but can't move the ball at all.
Michigan, you should never storm the field! I don't care who you play or who you beat. You're Michigan! You've won 900 stinking games! Nobody else has won 900 games! There's nobody important enough for you to beat for you to storm the field! You're Michigan! You're supposed to expect to win! Duke, storm the field! Michigan, stand up and yell, but don't storm the field!
There are three very impressive teams in the SEC in Florida and Alabama -- obviously -- and LSU. Georgia's got a chance. The East will be decided next week with the winner between Georgia and Florida holding the key. Florida can clinch it immediately (with a win).
On Nov. 3, LSU plays Alabama and Oregon plays Southern Cal. Oregon State still keeps finding a way to win, so it's just starting to unfold. It looks like Wisconsin is going to represent one division (of the Big Ten) and Michigan the other. In the ACC, we could get Duke and Florida State maybe.
The Big East is playing some critical games against one another. Louisville has won four straight very close games. The conference championship races have narrowed themselves down to about three teams in each conference, and that's the way it should be at this point in the season.
I still don't get why Mack Brown is getting pressure from everybody in Texas. He's finding ways to win even though the Horns are not super impressive. The problem's not with their offense, it's with their defense giving up 50 points. They were fortunate to win against Baylor.
Alabama was just so impressive again on the road against Tennessee. Tennessee was supposedly the offensive firepower the Crimson Tide hadn't faced yet with the great quarterback and wide receivers. The Tide practically shut Tennessee down and stayed in control the entire game. That freshman receiver they have, Amari Cooper, he's a stud with a capital 'S.'
LSU is going to lose again because of quarterback play, and I'm not just blaming Zach Mettenberger. But the Tigers have got to decide if they want to throw the ball 30 times a game and then try to run the ball or just become a running team because when they run the ball, they wear teams out and become dominant.
The Florida Gators? What can you say about that team from top to bottom? When you score 44 points and don't even get 200 yards (of offense), you're finding ways to win. You're grinding things out, and you're making the opponent make plays that it doesn't want to try to make.
And Notre Dame squeaks by again. The Irish just find ways to win. I get on them every week, but their offense looks absolutely horrendous. They probably have the worst offense of anybody in the BCS top 20. They'll definitely get tested next week by the Sooners. We're going to see how good they are.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Collin Klein, Kansas State
323 passing yards, three passing TDs, 41 rushing yards, four rushing TDs in win at West Virginia
• WR Amari Cooper, Alabama
7 receptions, 162 yds, 2 TDs in win at Tennessee
Blog Network: What we learned
Clemson's defense is getting better. The Tigers' much-maligned group had one of its best games of the season against the Hokies.
How good are the Red Raiders? We'll find out that answer next week when they travel to Manhattan.
It is down to two. All three undefeated Big East teams had scares at times Saturday, but only Cincinnati fell, losing at Toledo.
Big Ten football isn't always pretty, but we can say this about the conference: It's not boring.
At 3-5, Cal needs to go 3-1 over the final third of the season to become bowl-eligible. And a losing record could make coach Jeff Tedford's position untenable.
Auburn's 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt will ratchet up the heat like never before on coach Gene Chizik, whose Tigers are off to their worst start in 60 years.
Hey, a win is a win is a win. Notre Dame's players weren't thrilled with their performance in a three-point win over BYU, but they got the job done on a bad day.
Highlights: LSU-Texas A&M
Weekly Leaders: Week 8
Blog Network: Helmet stickers
Every week our bloggers will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
• ACC: Chad Hedlund; Jonathan Meeks; Devonta Freeman
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• Big 12: Joe Bergeron; J.W. Walsh; Seth Doege
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• Big East: Jerome Smith; Teddy Bridgewater; Dan Mason
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• Big Ten: Kenny Guiton; Taylor Martinez; Matt McGloin
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• Pac-12: Matt Barkley; Stepfan Taylor; Marcus Mariota
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• SEC: Kyle Christy; Amari Cooper; Aaron Murray
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• Notre Dame: Cierre Wood; Theo Riddick; Danny Spond
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