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November 4, 2007

Kansas, Navy notch historical wins

Forgive Oregon and LSU if they'd rather not move up to the No. 2 spot for now. They've already watched USC, Cal, South Florida and now Boston College, following a 27-17 loss to Florida State, tumble from that pedestal.

Either Oregon or LSU will likely take that cursed ranking, but the national championship picture is far from complete. The Big 12 champion could have a say if it comes from the trio of Kansas, Oklahoma or Missouri three teams that won Saturday by a combined score of 173-63.

The top spot is a different story, though, as Ohio State is becoming a more convincing No. 1 as the season progresses. A week after Todd Boeckman picked apart Penn State in Happy Valley, Ohio State clamped down for 28 unanswered points in a 38-17 win over Wisconsin.

Team of the week: Kansas

Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers could have suited up and scored a couple of times against Nebraska's defense. In defeating the Cornhuskers for only the second time since 1968, Kansas made up for nearly four decades of frustration by rewriting the record books. The Jayhawks broke the Nebraska record for points allowed (76) along with several other Kansas records. Interim athletic director Tom Osborne has seen plenty of games like this only he was on the Nebraska sideline and the Cornhuskers were doing this to other teams.

Team of the week II: Navy

The 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame had to end this year for a couple of reasons: 1. Notre Dame is really bad; 2. In a year when Appalachian State defeated Michigan, Stanford defeated No. 2 USC at home, Kentucky defeated the No. 1 team in the country, Navy had to beat Notre Dame for the first time since the John F. Kennedy administration. It's a landmark win for Paul Johnson at Navy, who has the Midshipmen poised for a fifth consecutive Commander in Chief's trophy and fifth consecutive bowl game.

Breakouts & Breakdowns

Breakout: Introducing your new Heisman front-runner: Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon. Just think, his ability to lead the Ducks was questioned when he left during the summer to play minor league baseball. Now, Oregon is in national title contention thanks to Dixon, who passed for four touchdowns and accounted for 245 yards of total offense before leaving with a knee injury. He appeared to be fine, however, as he congratulated teammates as they walked back to the sideline.

Breakdown: Introducing your former Heisman front-runner: Boston College's Matt Ryan. An ACC championship and a high NFL Draft selection might be in his future, but perhaps not the Heisman Trophy. In the win over Virginia Tech and loss to Florida State, he was shut out in the first half of both games. While his late rally saved the Eagles against the Hokies, mistakes derailed BC's comeback bid against Florida State. Ryan was clearly off his game despite passing for 415 yards. He threw three interceptions, completed less than half of his passes and was called for an illegal forward pass twice in the red zone on the same possession.

What you might have missed
Indiana waited nearly a month for bowl eligibility. The Hooisers started 5-1 but lost three consecutive games. Terry Hoeppner set the goal for Indiana to "Play 13," and now it looks like it will happen. Indiana reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 1993 with a 38-20 win over Ball State.
Florida International's bid to end Division I's longest losing streak will have to wait. FIU led Arkansas State 16-10 at the end of three quarters, but the losing streak was extended to 21 games when Josh Arauco kicked a 32-yard field goal with two seconds left for a 27-24 win.
Hawaii will be on upset alert on Nov. 16 when it goes to Nevada. The Wolf Pack offense has gotten boost from redshirt freshman Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 237 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns in a 40-38 win over New Mexico State.
Tulane's Matt Forte was held to fewer than 200 rushing yards for the first time in five consecutive games. He had 103 yards in a 49-25 loss to Tulsa.
While Forte couldn't break any records Saturday, Rice quarterback Chase Clement did. He set a Conference USA record by accounting for eight touchdowns (six passing, two rushing) in a 56-48 win over UTEP.
Southern Connecticut State tailback Jerom Freeman set a Division II rushing record with 418 yards in a 56-28 win over Bryant on Friday. He carried the ball 34 times with five touchdowns.
Breakout: Speaking of the Heisman, Darren McFadden reminded us 321 times that he was the runner-up for the award last year and then he threw in a touchdown pass. Just to put some of this in perspective, his SEC-record-tying 321 rushing yards surpassed any mark by Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson and Emmitt Smith. He and Walker are the only players in SEC history to run for 1,000 yards in their freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

Breakout: Where has this been Drew Weatherford? The Florida State quarterback was brilliant against Boston College, completing 29 of 44 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns for his second consecutive 300-yard game. Maybe it's time for Florida State to stop playing musical quarterbacks.

Breakout: This is life with Les Miles, LSU fans. Every game has to go down to the wire with fourth-down calls and aggressive blitzes leading to fourth-quarter victories. The risk-taking worked again for LSU against Alabama, with receiver Early Doucet catching the game-tying touchdown pass on fourth and 4 from the 32 and Chad Jones forcing the fumble that set up the game-winning touchdown on a blitz. LSU was in these situations because of three interceptions and 14 penalties.

Breakdown: You have to wonder what might have been for Arizona State if not for a botched possession in the red zone in the final minute of the first half. Rudy Carpenter audibled Arizona State into a run play inside 30 seconds from the Oregon 13-yard line with no timeouts rather than spike the ball. The run went for a loss, and Thomas Weber missed his first field goal of the year on the next play. A touchdown would have narrowed Oregon's lead to 21-20 at halftime, but instead the Sun Devils trailed 21-13.

Breakdown: Call Nebraska's Blackshirts the Bleakshirts and rename Miami Quarterback P.U. instead of Quarterback U. The Hurricanes' Kirby Freeman was 1 for 14 for an 84-yard touchdown and three interceptions. Nebraska apparently abandoned playing defense against Kansas. Hard to believe these two teams played for the national championship in 2001. Since then, the respective strengths of each team have hit rock bottom (you'd think) during the same week of 2007.

Breakout: Playing on the last two Thursday nights has given Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer time to scoreboard watch on Saturday. If he's been watching Virginia, he knows to bring his Tums to the final game of the season. Both teams have a bye and a game against Miami before the Hokies and Cavaliers meet Nov. 24, possibly for a trip to the ACC Championship game. Virginia won another one-point game with a 17-16 win over Wake Forest. Wake missed a 47-yard field goal with 2 seconds left to keep the Cavs tied with Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal lead. Virginia has won three of the last four games by a margin of one point and two more games this year by a margin of two points.

Breakout: The cynic might say Sean Glennon looked like he played for the other team at times, but Glennon looked just fine wearing a Georgia Tech jersey on Thursday. After their Virginia Tech jerseys were lost, Glennon and three teammates wore altered white Georgia Tech jerseys complete with names written in marker on the back against the Yellow Jackets. Glennon completed 22 of 32 passes for 296 yards with two touchdowns in his makeshift uniform.

Breakout: From the "Where did this come from?" file, Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen completed 21 of 36 passes for 299 yards in a 28-17 win over Northwestern just a week after completing only 5 of 15 against Michigan State.

Breakdown: South Florida's No. 2 ranking is a distant memory. The Bulls would just like to get Big East win No. 2 and get out of the conference cellar. South Florida has lost all three conference games since being ranked second in the AP poll and BCS standings. Cincinnati forced eight South Florida turnovers, including four Matt Grothe interceptions as the Bearcats scored 31 first-quarter points. The offense has struggled against in Big East, with Grothe throwing only three touchdown passes to nine interceptions in four conference games. Despite the turnover binge against Cincinnati, South Florida had a chance for the win before a shot at the end zone fell incomplete in a 38-33 loss. That's the fifth South Florida game of the season decided by one score.

Breakout: South Florida fell right into the trademark of this year's Cincinnati team: Forcing turnovers and getting special teams touchdowns. The Bearcats played their brand of Beamerball by forcing four Grothe interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and blocking a punt for a TD.

Breakout: After a promising 2006 season, Connecticut's Donald Brown had been banished to the bench for Andre Dixon, but Brown was productive when called upon against Rutgers. The Huskies remain the leader in the Big East at 4-0 after Brown rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown in a 38-19 win.

Breakout: Texas and Jamaal Charles just won't go away. Back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma appeared to knock the Longhorns out of the Big 12 race. But wait: Don't count Texas out, even if things look bleak. The Longhorns got 216 fourth-quarter rushing yards and three touchdowns from Charles for a 28-25 win over Nebraska last week. Texas followed that by erasing a 21-point fourth quarter deficit against Oklahoma State for a 38-35 win. Charles again came up big with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Colt McCoy thought he was Vince Young and ran for 105 yards to go with 284 passing yards.

Breakout: Zac Robinson is a good kid, too. The benching of Bobby Reid brought about the disparaging column in The Oklahoman and then Mike Gundy's infamous rant, but lost in all of this is how well Robinson has played since the move. Though he lost, the former backup completed 30 of 42 passes for 428 yards and two touchdowns to go with 56 rushing yards and a third score.

Breakout: From the "Where did this come from?" file, Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen completed 21 of 36 passes for 299 yards in a 28-17 win over Northwestern just a week after completing only 5 of 15 against Michigan State.

Breakdown: "Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein," Joe Theismann once said. Fitting that quote came from a Notre Dame alum. Charlie Weis' reputation as a coaching genius has all but faded thanks to a disastrous season in South Bend. There are still a few out there who want to blame Notre Dame's 1-8 season on Tyrone Willingham, but even Willingham can't be blamed for a perplexing call from Weis in the fourth quarter. Given Notre Dame's suspect kicking situation, Weis elected to run an offensive play on fourth-and-8 from the Navy 24-yard line rather than kick a potential game-winning field goal with 45 seconds left. Evan Sharpley was sacked on the play.

Breakout: If you're keeping track: Delaware is better than Oregon if you want to play that game. Delaware beat Navy. Navy beat Notre Dame. Notre Dame beat UCLA. UCLA beat Cal. Cal beat Oregon.

Breakdown: Looks like opponents are starting to figure out how to handle Texas Tech freshman receiver Michael Crabtree. Baylor (yes, Baylor) held Crabtree to four catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns. After 17 touchdown catches in the first six games, the receiver has one in his last four. Texas Tech, though, is getting another rookie into the end zone. True freshman Aaron Crawford had two receiving touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns against Baylor.

Quote of the weekend

"Darren McFadden gave it his all. He is like another Barry Sanders. The bigger the game, the better he plays, and that is why he deserves the Heisman."

- Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who was on the Oklahoma State staff in 1988 when Sanders won the Heisman.

Stat that counts: 22

Consecutive wins Tennessee has over Kentucky, for the longest consecutive win streak over one opponent in an uninterrupted major college football series. That record has a chance to fall Nov. 24 in Lexington.

All eyes on ...

The SEC East: Tennessee remains in control of its own destiny but a trip to Atlanta could be decided this weekend. Auburn goes to Georgia, Florida heads to South Carolina and Arkansas hits the road to play the Vols.

Kansas at Oklahoma State: This could be Kansas' toughest test against the Big 12 South, unless the Jayhawks go to the conference title game.

Michigan at Wisconsin: The Badgers looked like they might pull off the upset of Ohio State on Saturday. Can they complete the task at home against Michigan?

Top Performers
Darren McFadden, Arkansas
34 carries, 321 yards, one touchdown in a 48-36 win over South Carolina
Matching the SEC single-game rushing record puts McFadden back in Heisman discussion
Chris Johnson, East Carolina
20 carries, 301 yards, four touchdowns in 56-40 win over Memphis
Scored on touchdown runs of 16, 44, 70 and 50 yards.
Chad Hall, Air Force
34 carries, 275 yards, touchdown in 30-10 win over Army
Broke his school record of 256 yards he set Oct. 13 against Colorado State.
Louis Rankin, Washington
35 carries, 255 yards, touchdown in 27-9 win over Stanford
Workhorse effort ends six-game losing streak for Washington
Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
17 carries, 201 yards, two touchdowns in 44-17 win over Illinois
Big day comes just in time for a trip to Ohio State
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
37 of 46, 433 yards, three touchdowns in 38-7 win over Baylor
Became the fifth quarterback in Division I-A to have multiple 4,000-yard seasons.
Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State
30 of 42, 430 yards, two touchdowns in 38-35 loss to Texas
Set school records for passing and total offense in a game.
Chase Daniel, Missouri
26 of 44, 421 yards, five touchdowns, one interception in 55-10 win over Colorado
Three of his touchdown passes went to tight end Chase Coffman
Martin Hankins, Memphis
34 of 60, 416 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions in 56-40 loss to East Carolina
Despite prodigious numbers, Memphis never threatened East Carolina
Matt Ryan, Boston College
26 of 53, 414 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions in 27-17 loss to Florida State
No late-game heroics for Ryan here.
Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
13 receptions, 184 yards, one touchdown in 31-20 loss to Iowa State
On the receiving end of a big day for Josh Freeman, but that wasn't enough.
Dante Love, Ball State
14 receptions, 177 yards in 38-20 loss to Indiana
Ball State's upset bid falls in place of an Indiana bowl bid
Jarett Dillard, Rice
11 receptions, 168 yards, touchdown in 56-48 win over UTEP
Set school record with 2,524 career receiving yards.
Brandon Robinson, Boston College
Seven receptions, 163 yards, one touchdown in 27-17 loss to Florida State
Ryan's top target couldn't prevent the upset.
Maurice Purify, Nebraska
Seven receptions, 158 yards, three touchdowns in 76-39 loss to Kansas
Spectacular catches were lost in historical rout.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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