College football midseason review

Six down. Six to go.

We've reached the midpoint of the 2011 college football season, and the BCS national championship race really isn't any clearer than when we started on Sept. 1.

No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama are on a collision course for their Nov. 5 meeting in Tuscaloosa, Ala. No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 6 Oklahoma State are on a collision course for their annual Bedlam game in Stillwater, Okla., on Dec. 3.

Here's a look back at the first six weeks of play in the six BCS conferences:


Offensive player of the mid-year: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

New Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris didn't think he could win with Boyd as his quarterback coming out of spring practice. But Boyd has directed Morris' spread offense to perfection, completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,742 yards with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. Boyd, a sophomore, ranks No. 16 nationally in pass efficiency (160.2 rating) and No. 14 in total offense (310.3 yards per game).

Defensive player of the mid-year: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

The Eagles are a disappointing 1-5, but Kuechly is on pace to lead the country in tackles and solo tackles for the second season in a row. Through six games, Kuechly leads the country with 99 total tackles, including 58 solo stops. He is on pace to exceed his totals from last season, when he led all FBS players with 183 tackles and 110 solo stops.

Freshman of the mid-year: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins doesn't look like an average freshman and he certainly doesn't play like one. He leads the No. 8 Tigers with 38 catches for 623 yards with six touchdowns. He ranks third in the ACC with 6.3 receptions per game and second with 103.8 receiving yards per contest.

Coach of the mid-year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

Depending on who you believed in Clemson this summer, Swinney either entered the season firmly on the hot seat or pretty darn close to it. But the Tigers, who haven't won an ACC title since 1991, are among the country's biggest surprises with a 6-0 record. Clemson beat three straight ranked foes, defeating then-No. 21 Auburn, No. 11 Florida State and No. 11 Virginia Tech.

Midseason Honors

Mark Schlabach offers his choices for national midseason honors. For more on his selections, click here.

Biggest surprise (team): Wake Forest

Wake Forest's Jim Grobe has always been one of the country's most underrated coaches, but his program seemed to lose momentum in the past couple of seasons, finishing a combined 8-16 in 2009-10. But the Demon Deacons are 4-1 this season, including a 3-0 mark against ACC foes. Wake Forest could easily be undefeated but blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 36-29 overtime loss at Syracuse in the Sept. 1 opener.

Biggest disappointment (team): Florida State

The Seminoles were ranked in the top five in many preseason polls and were considered potential BCS national championship contenders. But since losing to then-No. 1 Oklahoma 23-13 on Sept. 17, the wheels have come off at FSU. The Seminoles have lost three games in a row and surrendered 30 points in each of their last two losses. Injuries to quarterback EJ Manuel and receiver Bert Reed have stunted the offense's development, too.

Best game: Virginia Tech 38, Miami 35 (Oct. 8)

The Hurricanes rallied from a 21-7 deficit at the half to grab a 35-31 lead on Lamar Miller's 30-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes to play. But Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas scored on a 19-yard run with 56 seconds to play, keeping the Hokies in the ACC Coastal Division race.

Worst game: Temple 38, Maryland 7 (Sept. 24)

The Owls, who had never beaten an ACC opponent in their previous 12 tries, had a 31-0 lead over the Terrapins at the half at Byrd Stadium. Temple ran for 285 yards and tailback Bernard Pierce ran for 149 yards with five touchdowns.

For more on the ACC's first half, check out Heather Dinich's midseason overview.

Big 12

Offensive player of the mid-year: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Until last week, Griffin had thrown more touchdown passes than incomplete passes. He is No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency with a 212.9 rating, completing 114 of 142 passes for 1,520 yards with 19 touchdowns and one interception. RG3 is also a threat to run the ball, gaining 107 yards with one touchdown in Saturday's 49-26 rout of Iowa State.

Defensive player of the mid-year: Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma

Alexander was a one-man wrecking crew in Oklahoma's 55-17 rout of Texas in the Red River Rivalry game and he's been pretty dominant for most of the season. Alexander, a senior from Baton Rouge, La., has 28 tackles, 7½ tackles for loss, 5½ sacks, four pass breakups, one forced fumble, five quarterback hurries and one interception in five games.

Freshman of the mid-year: Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas

Shipley, the younger brother of former Longhorns star Jordan Shipley, leads Texas with 25 catches for 369 yards with three touchdowns. He's also a good punt returner and threw a touchdown pass on a trick play.

Coach of the mid-year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Some wondered whether Snyder, 72, would have the same magic in trying to turn Kansas State around for a second time. But after going 13-12 in his first two seasons, Snyder has guided the Wildcats to their first 5-0 start since 2000. He's getting it done with a menacing defense and Collin Klein, who leads the team with 593 passing yards with six touchdowns and 468 rushing yards with seven scores.

Biggest surprise (team): Kansas State

The Wildcats were slow out of the gate, having to come from behind to defeat FCS foe Eastern Kentucky 10-7 in their opener. But they're 5-0 after beating Miami on the road and Baylor and Missouri in Big 12 play. The Wildcats are playing great defense, allowing only 16.6 points per game, and they're running the ball well with 208.6 yards per game.

Biggest disappointment (team): Texas A&M

The Aggies were supposed to make a lot of noise in their last season in the Big 12, but they're 3-2 after blowing big second-half leads against Oklahoma State and Arkansas. Texas A&M's defense, which was supposed to be better in Year 2 of a 3-4 scheme, ranks 99th in total defense (424.4 yards per game) and dead-last among FBS teams in pass defense (347.6 yards per game).

Best game: Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29 (Sept. 24)

The Cowboys trailed 20-3 at the half, but scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and took a 30-20 lead with 6½ minutes to play in the game. Quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 438 yards and the teams combined for 747 passing yards and 107 pass attempts.

Worst game: Georgia Tech 66, Kansas 24 (Sept. 17)

The Jayhawks couldn't slow down the Yellow Jackets' triple-option spread offense, as Tech set school records for total offense (768 yards) and rushing yards (604) in a game. Georgia Tech averaged 12.1 yards per rushing attempt, setting an NCAA single-game record.

For more on the Big 12's first half, check out David Ubben's midseason overview.

Big East

Offensive player of the mid-year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Smith looks like a tailor-made fit for Holgorsen's spread offense. He leads the Big East in passing, pass efficiency and total offense, completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,159 yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. He threw for 450 yards with four touchdowns in a 43-16 rout of Connecticut on Saturday.

Defensive player of the mid-year: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers

Greene moved from free safety to weakside linebacker in the spring and looks like a natural at his new position. He leads the Big East with 45 tackles and has helped transform the Scarlet Knights into one of the best defenses in the country. Rutgers ranks No. 20 nationally in total defense (306 yards per game) and No. 11 in scoring defense (15.2 points).

Freshman of the mid-year: Dustin Garrison, RB, West Virginia

Garrison is at least the freshman of the month in the Big East. He has 436 rushing yards with five touchdowns this season, with all but 19 yards coming in the last three games. Garrison ran for 291 yards with two touchdowns in a 55-10 rout of Bowling Green on Oct. 1.

Coach of the mid-year: Greg Schiano, Rutgers

Even as the Scarlet Knights were limping through a forgettable 4-8 finish in 2010, Schiano kept chopping wood. He guided his team to a 19-16 win at Syracuse in double overtime and a 34-10 rout of Pittsburgh on Saturday. Schiano has also done a nice job of handling a quarterback battle, with sophomore Chas Dodd and freshman Gary Nova each starting games this season.

Biggest surprise (team): Cincinnati

The Bearcats were disappointing in coach Butch Jones' first season, finishing 4-8 and losing five of their last six games. But Cincinnati is 4-1 this season, scoring 45 points per game. We'll know more about them later this month, when they play South Florida, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Rutgers in consecutive games.

Biggest disappointment (team): Connecticut

The defending Big East champions are 2-4 under new coach Paul Pasqualoni, losing games to Vanderbilt, Iowa State and Western Michigan. The Huskies offense has struggled, averaging 211.5 passing yards, 120 rushing yards and 23.3 points.

Best game: USF 23, Notre Dame 20 (Sept. 3)

The game was delayed for nearly three hours by two weather delays, but Bulls coach Skip Holtz left Notre Dame, his alma mater, after guiding his team to an upset of the then-No. 16 Fighting Irish. Notre Dame gained more than 500 yards of offense, but USF's defense forced five turnovers, giving the Big East its best nonconference win of the season.

Worst game: Iowa 31, Pittsburgh 27 (Sept. 17)

It was a thrilling game but a crushing defeat for the Big East. Pittsburgh had a 24-3 lead over the Hawkeyes going into the final two minutes of the third quarter. But Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg ran for a touchdown and threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

For more on the Big East's first half, check out Andrea Adelson's midseason overview.

Big Ten

Offensive player of the mid-year: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin

The NC State transfer has transformed Wisconsin's offense into one of the most balanced attacks in the country. Wilson leads the country in pass efficiency, completing 74.7 percent of his passes for 1,391 yards with 13 touchdowns and one interception.

Defensive player of the mid-year: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

Mercilus has been, well, merciless in the Illini's surprising 6-0 start. He leads all FBS players with 8½ sacks and is fifth with 10½ tackles for loss. He had four tackles for loss and three sacks in Saturday's 41-20 victory over Indiana.

Freshman of the mid-year: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Abdullah, who picked the Cornhuskers over Alabama and USC, has been a potent kick and punt returner in his first college season. He ranks No. 2 nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 31.9 yards on 20 returns. He's averaging 10.2 yards on 10 punt returns.

Coach of the mid-year: Brady Hoke, Michigan

Hoke, a former San Diego State coach, wasn't the first choice to replace fired Rich Rodriguez. But Hoke might end up being the right choice for the Wolverines. He has directed Michigan to a 6-0 start, and his decision to hire former NFL defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is paying huge dividends. The Wolverines are allowing only 12.5 points per game.

Biggest surprise (team): Illinois

The No. 16 Illini are 6-0 after Saturday's rout of the Hoosiers, their best start since going 7-0 in 1951. Illinois has defeated only one ranked team, beating then-No. 22 Arizona State 17-14 on Sept. 17. They'll have to get through a tough November schedule -- home against No. 11 Michigan on Nov. 12 and No. 4 Wisconsin on Nov. 19 -- to play in the first Big Ten championship game.

Biggest disappointment (team): Ohio State

The Buckeyes have been hammered on and off the field this season. They're 0-2 in Big Ten play after blowing a 21-point lead in the second half of a 34-27 loss at Nebraska on Saturday. Off the field, the Buckeyes have dealt with myriad NCAA suspensions.

Best game: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31 (Sept. 10)

In the first night game at the Big House, the Wolverines and Fighting Irish combined to score three touchdowns in the final 72 seconds. Michigan scored the last one, with quarterback Denard Robinson throwing a 16-yard touchdown to Roy Roundtree with two seconds to play.

Worst game: North Dakota State 37, Minnesota 24 (Sept. 24)

The Gophers have been pretty bad this season, but getting manhandled by an FCS foe at home was rock bottom. Bison cornerback Marcus Williams scored a touchdown on a 52-yard interception return on the final play of the first half and scored again on a 40-yard interception return with 2:36 to go.

For more on the Big Ten's first half, check out Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett's midseason overview.


Offensive player of the mid-year: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

James leads the country in rushing with 170.4 yards per game and is averaging 9 yards per attempt. He ran for 200 yards or more in each of the last three games, including 288 yards with two touchdowns in a 56-31 victory at Arizona on Sept. 24.

Defensive player of the mid-year: Chase Thomas, Stanford

The Cardinal linebacker has 20 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles for the Pac-12's stingiest defense. The Cardinal ranks No. 2 nationally in run defense (61.8 yards per game) and No. 6 in scoring defense (10.6 points).

Freshman of the mid-year: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

Thomas, a highly regarded running back from Compton, Calif., has done a little bit of everything for the Ducks. He has run 25 times for 191 yards with two touchdowns. He is Oregon's leading receiver with 17 catches for 286 yards with four touchdowns. He has three punt returns for 52 yards and 10 kickoff returns for 200 yards.

Coach of the mid-year: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State

With USC on probation, the Sun Devils were preseason favorites to win the Pac-12 South. But Arizona State lost at Illinois 17-14 on Sept. 17, which was the kind of loss that has recently sent ASU into a tailspin. But the Sun Devils rebounded to win three straight games over then-No. 23 Southern California, Oregon State and Utah.

Biggest surprise (team): Washington

The Huskies barely held off FCS foe Eastern Washington 30-27 in their Sept. 3 opener. But besides a tough road loss at Nebraska two weeks later, the Huskies have played pretty well, especially new quarterback Keith Price. They defeated California 31-23 and Utah 31-14 to move to 2-0 in Pac-12 play.

Biggest disappointment (team): Arizona

Wildcats coach Mike Stoops is probably in trouble after his team's dismal 1-5 start. Arizona has lost five games in a row, surrendering 37 points or more in each of its five losses. The Wildcats lost to previously winless Oregon State 37-27 on Saturday.

Best game: Arizona State 37, Missouri 30 OT (Sept. 9)

The Sun Devils squandered a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Brock Osweiler threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Miles in overtime to save them. Osweiler completed 24 of 32 passes for 353 yards with three touchdowns.

Worst game: Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28 (Sept. 3)

We knew the Beavers were in trouble after they lost their opener at home to an FCS foe that had never defeated an FBS team. Sacramento State's Jeff Fleming threw a touchdown and two-point conversion pass to Brandyn Reed in overtime to win the game.

For more on the Pac-12's first half, check out Ted Miller's midseason overview.


Offensive player of the mid-year: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Richardson got off to a slow start running behind Alabama's rebuilt offensive line, but he's been the SEC's most explosive player the last five games. Richardson ranks No. 9 nationally with 121.5 yards per game and he has five consecutive 100-yard outings. He was at his best in Alabama's biggest games, running for 126 yards and catching a 61-yard touchdown pass in a 38-14 rout of Arkansas and 181 yards with two scores in a 38-10 win at Florida.

Defensive player of the mid-year: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

LSU's "honey badger" has emerged as a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate after providing a plethora of big plays during the Tigers' 6-0 start. Mathieu has 41 tackles, two interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 1½ sacks and five tackles for loss.

Freshman of the mid-year: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia

Crowell, who was ranked the country's No. 1 tailback prospect in 2010, has been as good as advertised, running for 573 yards with four touchdowns. He ran for 100 yards or more in two of the last three games, helping the Bulldogs recover from an 0-2 start with four straight victories.

Coach of the mid-year: Les Miles, LSU

The "Mad Hatter" hasn't been nearly as mad this season, taking fewer risks because his defense has been so good. But Miles guided the Tigers to a victory over Oregon in Arlington, Texas, in the season opener and then won road games at Mississippi State and West Virginia. He also worked quarterback Jordan Jefferson back into the game plan after the senior returned from suspension.

Biggest surprise (team): Auburn

The Tigers, the defending BCS national champions, looked to be in serious trouble after they narrowly defeated Utah State 42-38 in their opener. But Auburn defeated then-No. 16 Mississippi State 41-34 and then-No. 10 South Carolina 16-13. After losing Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and a boatload of other starters, Auburn won't compete for an SEC West title this season. But they'll finish better than a lot of people predicted.

Biggest disappointment (team): Mississippi State

Competing against Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU in the same division isn't easy, but the Bulldogs have underachieved so far. MSU is 0-3 in SEC play, and its passing game has been a huge disappointment. The Bulldogs will have to upset South Carolina, Alabama or Arkansas to finish better than 6-6.

Best game: Auburn 41, Mississippi State 34 (Sept. 10)

After the teams combined for 55 points in the first half, Auburn safety Ryan Smith stuffed Bulldogs quarterback Chris Relf at the goal line on the final play to secure the Tigers' victory. The Bulldogs outgained Auburn by 150 yards of total offense and held the ball for more than 36 minutes.

Worst game: Vanderbilt 30, Ole Miss 7

It was a dominating performance by the Commodores, who nearly shut out Ole Miss for the first time since 1946. Vanderbilt intercepted the Rebels five times and defeated them for the fifth time in seven years.

For more on the SEC's first half, check out Chris Low's midseason overview.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.