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September 12, 2011

Rivals.com Week 2 Conference Call

Here's a quickie look at the weekend's action in a conference-by-conference manner.

Think of it as one final chance to look back at the weekend that was. We will have this conference call every Monday.

ACC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Wake Forest. Nobody seemed to know who would finish second through fifth in the Atlantic Division before this season, but just about everyone agreed Florida State would win the division and Wake Forest would land in the basement. Wake seems intent on throwing that conventional wisdom out the window. The Demon Deacons raced to a 27-6 lead in their ACC opener Saturday and hung on to beat division rival N.C. State. Tanner Price continued to establish himself as one of the ACC's top quarterbacks, while WR Michael Campanaro showed his versatility by providing a 40-yard touchdown pass and a 31-yard touchdown catch. The Deacons must learn to play a complete game (they nearly collapsed in the fourth quarter for a second consecutive week) but they clearly have come a long way over the last year.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: N.C. State's defense. One week after it forced seven turnovers against FCS foe Liberty, N.C. State couldn't slow Wake Forest. NCSU's veteran secondary allowed 337 passing yards. Three different Wake players (Chris Givens, Danny Dembry and Michael Campanaro) had more than 90 receiving yards. "We haven't played defense like this in God knows how long," coach Tom O'Brien told reporters afterward. "So many big plays."

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Georgia Tech RB Tony Zenon. Zenon, a redshirt freshman, was one of the few Georgia Tech skill-position players who didn't have a big performance last week, which might explain why Middle Tennessee allowed him to get free for a 73-yard touchdown reception Saturday on the game's first play from scrimmage. Zenon's big play sparked the Yellow Jackets to a 49-21 victory. He finished the night with two catches for 85 yards and six carries for 47 yards. One week earlier, he had just one 19-yard catch and one carry for minus-3 yards in a 63-21 rout of Western Carolina.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Boston College QB Chase Rettig. Injuries to star TB Montel Harris and WR Ifeanyi Momah have made Rettig's job much tougher, but he must play better than he did Saturday. Rettig, a sophomore, went just 10-of-23 for 70 yards with two interceptions in a 30-3 loss at UCF. He directed an offense that gained just 141 total yards and went 1-of-12 on third-down conversions.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Rutgers. This wasn't a great week for Big East teams, but Rutgers at least showed competitive spirit in a 24-22 loss at North Carolina. The Scarlet Knights' offensive line was bound to be overmatched (Chas Dodd was sacked four times), but Rutgers capitalized on five North Carolina turnovers to at least keep the game competitive. Rutgers still has problems in the running game (29 yards against the Tar Heels) and with defensive breakdowns, but the team showed it has the potential to get to a bowl game. Now that WR Mohamed Sanu isn't getting beat up in the "Wildcat" formation, he gives the offense a significant weapon. He caught 13 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown against North Carolina.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Syracuse's front seven. The Orange may be in trouble if DE Chandler Jones misses any significant time. Without him, Syracuse struggled to contain Rhode Island QB Steve Probst, who passed for 154 yards and rushed for 46 in a 21-14 Syracuse win. Syracuse escaped, but this was not the kind of statement the Orange wanted to make against a bad FCS program a week before going to USC.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: USF QB B.J. Daniels. His performance against Ball State itself isn't that much of a surprise, but since we didn't mention him in this spot last week (and since it was such a lousy week for the Big East overall), we'll mention him now. Daniels, a junior, was 28-of-39 for a career-high 359 yards and a touchdown. Daniels has completed two-thirds of his passes this season. He threw one interception against Ball State, but coach Skip Holtz credited that to a miscommunication with his receiver rather than a poor decision. Daniels was turnover-free last week against Notre Dame. Considering at this point last season he threw four interceptions in a loss to Florida, Daniels deserves credit for his year-to-year improvement.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Louisville Ss Hakeem Smith and Shenard Holton. Cornerback was the thinner of the two positions in the Cardinals' secondary coming into the season, but the returning starters at safety twice were left in the dust by FIU WR T.Y. Hilton on long touchdown catches (of 74 and 83 yards) in Friday's loss. Louisville knew it would need a group effort to stop Hilton, but even the veteran safeties working together couldn't contain the Sun Belt's best player.

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Michigan. The Wolverines could be a sleeper in the Legends Division following a thrilling 35-31 victory over Notre Dame that included three touchdowns in the final minute. Michigan is 2-0 and full of momentum and confidence, but work remains, specifically with a defense that looked pitiful covering the pass, allowing 315 yards through the air and 513 overall. But Michigan benefited from four Irish turnovers and is feeling good about itself. It has a great chance to be 6-0 when it visits Michigan State on Oct. 15.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Purdue. The Boilermakers needed a last-minute touchdown drive to pull out a victory at home against Middle Tennessee of the Sun Belt last week. This week, Purdue's struggles continued in an ugly 24-22 loss at C-USA member Rice, which blocked a 31-yard Carson Wiggs field-goal attempt as time expired to notch its first win over a Big Six opponent since 2001. The Boilers should win next week at home against FCS member Southeast Missouri State. But it's difficult to envision Purdue, which hasn't been to a bowl since 2007, reaching six wins.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Michigan QB Denard Robinson. He had a pedestrian season debut last week against Western Michigan. But he looked like his old electrifying self in the scintillating 35-31 win over Notre Dame that pushed the Wolverines to 2-0 and gave Michigan its third victory in a row over the Fighting Irish for the first time since 1908. Robinson was only 11-of-24, but the completions went for 338 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 446 yards of total offense a year after he notched 502 total yards against the Irish.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Penn State's quarterbacks. Neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin looked like the Nittany Lions' answer under center in a deflating 27-11 home loss to Alabama. The tandem combined to go just 12-of-39 for 144 yards. McGloin was especially bad: 1-of-10 for zero yards. The good news: Penn State won't see a defense as good as the Crimson Tide's the rest of the season. The bad news: The Nittany Lions need a leader under center to emerge if they want any chance to compete in the Leaders Division.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Iowa State. Iowa State, which a week ago scored a last-minute touchdown to pull out a one-point win over FCS member Northern Iowa, made big plays at the end of regulation and in overtime to upset Iowa 44-41 and claim its first victory over its rival in four years. Iowa State scored a tying touchdown with just more than a minute remaining in regulation, then won in triple-overtime on a 4-yard run by James White.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Iowa State QB Steele Jantz. Jantz, a junior college transfer, bounced back strong from an awful debut a week ago in which he completed fewer than half of his passes and threw three interceptions. Jantz threw four touchdown passes in the victory over Iowa, including a 4-yarder to Darius Darks with just 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Jantz completed passes for first downs on third-and-15 and third-and-20 and converted a fourth-and-1 with a run on the drive for the tying score.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Missouri. The Tigers' defense was among the nation's least-scored upon in 2010 and allowed just six points in the opener. But the Tigers allowed 492 yards in a 37-30 overtime loss at Arizona State on Friday night. Missouri rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but gave up a decisive touchdown pass in overtime. The 37 points was the most Missouri's defense had allowed in 14 games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Texas QB Garrett Gilbert. Though he won a four-way competition for the starting job, Gilbert struggled mightily against BYU and appears to have lost that role. Gilbert was just 2-of-8 for 8 yards and had two interceptions in 1 1/2 quarters of play as the Longhorns fell behind 13-0. Texas had gained just 14 yards of total offense with Gilbert at quarterback. He was replaced midway through the second quarter and the Longhorns rallied for a 17-16 win.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: TCU. After falling 50-48 to Baylor in its season opener, TCU figured to have a tough time winning at Air Force without two injured all-conference selections from last season, TB Ed Wesley and LB Tanner Brock. TCU instead sprinted to an early 21-0 advantage and led by as many as 25 points before going on to win 35-19 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: UNLV. So much for the notion that the absence of injured Washington State QB Jeff Tuel might give UNLV a chance to compete with the Cougars. Washington State scored touchdowns on each of its first five possessions and rolled to a 59-7 victory behind backup QB Marshall Lobbestael, who threw for 361 yards and five scores. UNLV gained just 158 yards in total offense and didn't score until Tim Cornett's 95-yard kickoff return with 5:29 remaining. The Rebels have been outscored 110-24 by Wisconsin and Washington State in their first two games.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: San Diego State WR Colin Lockett. The Aztecs might have found their new big-play receiver to replace departed All-MWC selections Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson. Lockett, who played cornerback last season, continued to thrive on offense Saturday by catching five passes for 113 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown, in a 23-20 victory at Army. Lockett has caught a touchdown pass in each of San Diego State's first two games.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Air Force QB Tim Jefferson. This isn't how Jefferson anticipated his senior season would begin. After throwing two interceptions in a win over South Dakota last week, Jefferson couldn't get Air Force to accomplish much of anything against TCU. Jefferson, a four-year starter, rushed for 40 yards on 13 carries and threw for 83 yards and no touchdowns. While Air Force's struggles on defense put the Falcons in an early hole, Jefferson was unable to spark a comeback. Air Force scored its last 10 points of the game after Connor Dietz replaced Jefferson, who left the game with an injury late in the third quarter.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Washington. Its secondary earned a measure of redemption with a solid showing against Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz, the nation's most prolific passer last season. Moniz did throw for 333 yards, but managed only one touchdown pass in the Huskies' 40-32 victory. That was a major improvement from a week ago, when Washington surrendered 473 passing yards and three touchdown passes to FCS member Eastern Washington.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Arizona State WR Aaron Pflugrad. Pflugrad, a transfer from Oregon whose dad is Montana's coach, had the best game of his career with eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns (covering 60 and 35 yards) in a 37-30 OT win over Missouri on Friday. Going into the game, Pflugrad had just 606 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his entire career. His 60-yard touchdown catch was Arizona State's longest play since 2007.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Oregon State. The Beavers' offense in general and its line in particular was a big letdown in a 35-0 shutout loss to Wisconsin. The Beavers gave up three sacks and could not get the running game untracked. Oregon State rushed for just 23 yards and averaged 1.0 yard per carry. The Beavers reached the Wisconsin red zone once, and that drive ended when they fumbled twice on the same play.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Arizona TB Keola Antolin and his linemen. Arizona was too one-dimensional on offense in its loss to Oklahoma State, as it was all about QB Nick Foles. He played well, throwing for 398 yards and a TD, but Arizona's rushing attack managed just 41 yards. Antolin had 20 yards on 13 carries. Unless Arizona (1-1) finds a way to run the ball, it is going to start 1-4; its next three games are against Stanford, Oregon and USC.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Vanderbilt. Vandy did just enough to get past Connecticut 24-21. While UConn isn't nearly as good as it was last season, when it was a Big East tri-champ and went to the Fiesta Bowl, this still is a good win for Vandy, which is 2-0 for just the third time since 1993. Vandy's defense dominated, as UConn's TDs came on a blocked punt and on a fumble return. Plus, Vandy rallied in the fourth quarter for the win. The Commodores get Ole Miss this week; they won in Oxford last season.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Georgia's run defense. One week after looking OK against the run in a loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs looked bad against the run in a home loss to South Carolina. The Bulldogs had to know they would see a lot of Marcus Lattimore, but it didn't matter, as Lattimore ran for 174 yards and a TD on 27 carries. On a day in which Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia was just 11-of-25 as a passer, with one TD and two picks, the Bulldogs still let Lattimore run roughshod.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: South Carolina DT Melvin Ingram. Ingram was a defensive end last season, when he lead the Gamecocks in sacks. But he moved inside this season to make way in the starting lineup for freshman phenom Jadeveon Clowney. He made a huge impact in the Gamecocks' victory. First, he ran 68 yards on a fake punt for a TD late in the second quarter. He's a 276-pound lineman, but the play was designed for him to get the ball and he showed why, outrunning most of Georgia's defenders and putting a move on Georgia's return man. Later, he scored on a 5-yard fumble return to give the Gamecocks a 10-point lead with 3:21 to go. Finally, after Georgia scored with a bit more than two minutes left to cut the lead to three, Ingram recovered the ensuing on-side kick. Yes, a 276-pound defensive tackle is on South Carolina's "hands team."

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: South Carolina's secondary. Yes, the Gamecocks won over Georgia for a huge conference victory, but for the second week in a row, the Gamecocks gave up four TD passes. Last week, it was against East Carolina, which has an experienced and talented receiving corps. But Georgia's receiving corps really isn't proven. But that didn't stop them from having a big day. One of Aaron Murray's TD passes went to TB Isaiah Crowell, but the other three went to wide receivers, including one to Michael Bennett that was his first career scoring catch.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: New Mexico State. The Aggies' shocking 28-21 victory at Minnesota was marred by Gophers coach Jerry Kill having a seizure on the sideline in the final seconds. But NMSU deserves credit for snapping its 12-game road losing streak, and it came against a team that had taken USC to the wire last week in L.A.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Notre Dame's defense. The Irish gave up 28 fourth-quarter points in losing at Michigan. To make matters worse, two of those TDs came in the final 1:12. The capper was that Michigan drove 80 yards in three plays in 28 seconds to score the game-winner with two seconds left. The big play in that drive was a 64-yard pass-and-run to Jeremy Gallon in which Gallon was so uncovered he had time to read "War and Peace" while waiting for Denard Robinson's pass.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Fresno State TB Robbie Rouse. Rouse, a 5-foot-7, 185-pound junior, rushed for 169 yards on 36 carries in a 42-29 loss to Nebraska. Rouse's success helped the Bulldogs outgain the Huskers 444-438, and Nebraska didn't seal the win until QB Taylor Martinez scored on a 46-yard run with 2:10 left. Rouse's performance was the third-highest of his career, and in six previous games against Big Six foes, he had averaged 43.2 yards per game.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: North Texas TB Lance Dunbar. Certainly, no one expected North Texas to upset Houston, but Dunbar's struggles against Houston's poor defense were surprising. He had 62 yards on 18 carries against a unit that surrendered 232 rushing yards to UCLA last week. Dunbar ran for 1,553 yards last season and had eight 100-yard games. This season, he has rushed for 105 yards in two games; that's nine fewer yards than his worst two-game stretch last season.

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