Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Week eight of the college football season had its share of drama. There were last second heroics and miracle comebacks, huge performances and major letdowns. The second half of the season looks to be every bit as entertaining as the first half.
THE REAL MCCOY - The Texas Longhorns have won six straight games and a big reason for the current success is the play of redshirt freshman Colt McCoy. Filling the enormous shoes of All-American Vince Young was not going to be easy, but McCoy has embraced the opportunity to start under center in Austin in the post-Young Era and has been more than solid. He led the team this week in a superb late-game drive, setting up what turned out to be the winning field goal. His poise on the final drive in Lincoln will do wonders for his confidence (although he doesn't seem to lack in that area) as the 2006 season winds down. On the season, McCoy has completed an efficient 67.7 percent of his passes, for 1,449 yards with 20 TDs and just three interceptions. Young will never be forgotten in the Lone Star State, but McCoy is certainly the real deal.
Troy Smith's 21 TD passes and just two interceptions have him sitting comfortably in the front of the Heisman Trophy race.
MR. SMITH GOES TO GLENDALE? - Is it too early to anoint Ohio State national champion? Probably, but no player in the country has handled the spotlight and scrutiny that comes with leading a contender like Buckeye QB Troy Smith. The Heisman is supposed to go to the best player in the nation and at times being a premier player on the top team in the land often garners unwarranted consideration. However, Smith's performance thus far has him sitting atop the Heisman list with November closing in. Smith threw for 220 yards and four TDs against Indiana this past weekend and has really proved himself as a passer in 2006. Smith has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes this season, for 1,715 yards. The most impressive stat however, is his 21 TD passes, compared to just two interceptions in 193 pass attempts. At this rate, Smith will lock up the Heisman and in the process lead his team to the national title game.
CLOSE CALLS - This week provided plenty of heart-wrenching action. Notre Dame was beaten by UCLA in just about every facet of the game this past weekend in South Bend, as Golden Boy Brady Quinn was tossed around like a rag-doll by an underrated Bruin defense. However, after squandering an opportunity to move the chains and get a first down with just over two minutes left in the game, Quinn and Jeff Samardzija connected on a long TD strike to give the Irish the improbable victory. The Longhorns also stole a victory, converting a late turnover by Nebraska into a two-point win in Lincoln (22-20). California needed overtime to get by a tough Washington squad in Berkeley (31-24), as did Texas A&M in Stillwater against Oklahoma State (34-33). However, the most emotional decision for both participants was the wild shootout in Evanston between Michigan State and Northwestern, as the Spartans won 41-38.
MIRACLE AT RYAN FIELD - John L. Smith's job was in serious jeopardy heading into last week's tilt in Evanston, but he may have just received a stay of execution, as somehow he rallied his troops from a 35-point third quarter deficit to win by three points. The mind-boggling comeback was the largest in NCAA Division I-A history and depending on what the Spartans do the rest of the way, could be the one saving grace that keeps Smith in East Lansing for 2007.
AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR - San Diego State had no business winning its contest this week in San Diego against what looked to be a superior Air Force squad, but a seven-point victory over the Falcons now leaves just four winless teams in Division I-A. Duke (0-7, 0-5) has long been a doormat in the ACC and this year is no different. Walt Harris has had his struggles in Palo Alto with Stanford sitting at 0-8, including 0-5 in the Pac-10. Florida International has showed little grit (with the exception of last week's brawl with Miami- Florida) in amassing an 0-7 overall record, including an 0-3 start to Sun Belt play. Finally, the Temple Owls (0-8) have the longest current losing streak in the nation (20 games) dating back to 2004. The Owls' inept play from 2005 (winless season) has carried over into 2006, with no relief in sight.
MOVE OVER - While Louisville and West Virginia have long been considered the cream of the crop in the Big East, Rutgers (7-0) has quietly gone about its business and in the process is off to its best start since going 11-0 in 1976. The Scarlet Knights are not getting it done with smoke and mirrors either. The team has one of the best defenses in the country and certainly one of the best rushing attacks. Sophomore Ray Rice has been outstanding in 2006. He rushed for 225 yards and one TD against a good Pittsburgh team last weekend and is now second in the nation in rushing (160.6 yards per game). Rice is netting 5.6 yards per carry and has scored 12 TDs. In all the Knights are eighth in the nation in rushing (204.7 ypg). On the other side of the ball, Rutgers ranks 12th in rush defense (78.4 ypg), seventh in pass defense (145.0 ypg), second in total defense (223.4 ypg) and third in scoring defense (8.6 ppg).
WEEK NINE FORCAST - There is just one top-25 matchup on the docket this week, as 19th-ranked Oklahoma travels to Columbia to take on 23rd-ranked Missouri. This game would have been a better matchup had All-American Adrian Peterson not gone down with a broken collarbone. However, the surprising Tigers have been terrific this season and the Sooners will need to play a stellar game to escape with a victory. Other games of note include: 10th-ranked Clemson at Virginia Tech, ninth-ranked Florida vs. Georgia, fifth-ranked Texas at Texas Tech and eighth-ranked Tennessee at South Carolina.