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What we learned from Week 11 in college football

  • By Chase Goodbread, Mike Huguenin and Dan Greenspan
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Garry Jones/Associated Press
Alabama QB AJ McCarron was called college football's "most underrated player" by coach Nick Saban.

Some of the biggest headlines of Week 11 of the college football season were made on Thursday night, when Stanford upset Oregon and Baylor defeated Oklahoma. But there was plenty of action worthy of watching on Saturday. Here are some of the things we learned:

1. College football's Rodney Dangerfield

Does Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron get enough respect for his talent? Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban doesn't seem to think so. Saban described McCarron as the most underrated player in the nation Saturday before Alabama's kickoff against LSU. But with two national title rings, how could he be? Sound off in the comments section.

2. Cool customer

McCarron led yet another win against a ranked team to keep the Crimson Tide unbeaten. But he wasn't hearing any talk about his Heisman Trophy candidacy or the school record he smashed for career passing yards. What he showed was an innate ability to read coverages and make effective check-offs at the line of scrimmage.

3. Farewell home game?

If Saturday represented Johnny Manziel's final home game at Texas A&M, he certainly went out in impressive fashion. Johnny Football thrilled the crowd with five touchdown passes and 446 yards passing, overcoming three interceptions. Six NFL clubs were on hand, likely focusing on four primary pro prospects: Manziel, TAMU receiver Mike Evans, TAMU left tackle Jake Matthews and Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson. Here's what NFL Media draft analyst Gil Brandt saw in Manziel.

4. Heavy heart, light feet

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the SEC, mustered the strength to leave his family and play against Texas A&M Saturday just three days after the funeral for his mother, Peggy, who died of colon cancer. And although Prescott didn't start, his rushing efforts helped MSU give the Aggies a tough game early in College Station.

5. Running wild

The top rushing performance by a quarterback in the SEC this year? The honor doesn't belong to Johnny Manziel. Try Auburn's Nick Marshall, as of Saturday. And after rumbling for 214 yards against Tennessee, it's likely to stay that way.

6. Jack of all trades

Already carving out a name as an outstanding linebacker in an outstanding front seven full of talent, UCLA freshman Myles Jack took two plays and two days of work at running back and rushed for a team-high 120 yards in a 31-26 win at Arizona, a performance that had Twitter in absolute hysterics.

Now comes the more difficult challenge for Jack and head coach Jim Mora -- not managing Jack's usage as a potential two-way player, but the unrestrained expectations of what could come next. An offseason of runaway hype did no favors to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and USC wide receiver Marqise Lee. How the Bruins handle the anticipation will be telling as Jack has all the talent in the world to become an all-time great player, no matter where he plays.

7. Streak snapped

Auburn's Dee Ford entered play Saturday with at least one sack in five consecutive games. But the Tigers defensive end saw the streak snapped in an easy win over Tennessee.

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8. Domination in trenches

Alabama offensive guard Anthony Steen no doubt went a long way toward improving his NFL stock Saturday night with a dominant performance against one of the more talented defensive tackles in the SEC. How dominant was it? College Football 24/7 has the blow-by-blow account.

9. Belue on Landry

Alabama cornerback Deion Belue squared off for much of the night with LSU junior Jarvis Landry, who reportedly is likely to turn pro early after the season. How did the senior Belue, who is ranked in the nation's top 100 senior prospects himself by NFL.com's Gil Brandt, hold up against Landry? Not as well early, but much better late.

10. Disruption eruption

Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy could be a high pick in the NFL draft next spring, if he chooses to leave school a year early. On Saturday against Kentucky, he showed why. And Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow probably won't forget soon.

11. Seminoles' defense dominates

Florida State's defense was dominant in the Seminoles' 59-3 rout of Wake Forest. FSU forced seven turnovers and surrendered just 165 total yards. True freshman free safeties Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews had big days; Ramsey returned a fumble 23 yards for a TD, and Andrews had two picks, including one he returned 56 yards for a score. FSU had six interceptions; Wake quarterbacks managed to complete just seven passes to Demon Deacons receivers.

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12. Robinson sets Penn State record

Penn State junior WR Allen Robinson had seven receptions for 63 yards in the Nittany Lions' loss to Minnesota. He now has 1,106 yards this season, which is a school single-season record. Bobby Engram had held the record of 1,084, set in 1995. Robinson was the only Big Ten receiver with more than 1,000 yards entering the weekend and one of only two with more than 800 yards.

13. Gophers get another big game from Cobb

A new name is emerging as a possible All-Big Ten tailback: Minnesota junior David Cobb (5-11, 225). He ran for 139 yards and a TD on 27 carries as the Golden Gophers beat Penn State 24-10. Minnesota (8-2) has won eight games in a season for the first time since 2003 and just the fourth time since 1967. In addition, the Gophers have won four league games in a row for the first time since 1973. Cobb's performance gives him four 100-yard games in a row, and he has 942 yards on the season despite having single-digit carries in four games. He had a total of 65 rushing yards in his first two seasons on campus. Cobb lacks elite speed (4.59 in the 40), but he is physical, has some shiftiness and can handle a heavy workload; he has 107 carries in the past four games. It was a far less productive day for Minnesota star senior DT Ra'Shede Hageman, who was held to one tackle.

14. Abdullah leads way for Huskers

Nebraska junior TB Ameer Abdullah (5-9, 190) rushed for 105 yards -- his sixth 100-yard game in a row and his eighth this season -- as the Huskers (7-2) rallied to beat host Michigan 17-13. It was Michigan's first home loss since late in the 2010 season. Nebraska's win sets up a huge Big Ten Legends Division showdown next week at home against Michigan State. The Huskers have one league loss, Michigan State none. Abdullah rushed for one TD and also had the game-winning score on a 5-yard reception with 2:03 left in the game; it was his only catch of the game and his first TD catch of the season. Abdullah had 27 carries, the fifth time this season he has had at least 20 carries.

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15. Texas Tech going in the wrong direction

Reality has set in for the Red Raiders, with a 7-0 start under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury giving way to a three-game losing streak, including a 49-26 defeat to Kansas State on Saturday. The run defense has absolutely fallen apart, which does not bode well with Baylor and Texas on the docket to close out the regular season.

Kingsbury is a dynamic young coach with a great offensive system, but he is going to have to up the talent level on the other side of the ball for Texas Tech to really challenge for the Big 12. Convincing tight end Jace Amaro to return for his senior season would help in the short term, as shootouts loom.

16. How low can you go?

OK, is Nebraska's defense that good or Michigan's offense that bad? Answer: It's the Wolerines' offense that is that bad. The Wolverines finished with 175 total yards in their 17-13 home loss to the Huskers, who had seven sacks. That means Michigan's Devin Gardner has been dropped 14 times in the past two games. In those two games (losses to Michigan State and Nebraska), the Wolverines have rushed for minus-69 yards. The Huskers had 15 tackles for loss. Nebraska sophomore DE Randy Gregory (6-6, 255), a highly touted junior college transfer, had three sacks, giving him 6.5 for the season. As a third-year sophomore, Gregory is draft-eligible. He is OK against the run -- he needs to add some bulk -- but it's his overall athleticism and speed off the edge that have caught the eyes of pro scouts.

17. Intriguing mobile QBs key Big 12 wins

Neither Kansas State's Daniel Sams nor TCU's Trevone Boykin have shown the passing ability to be regarded as NFL talents at the quarterback position yet, but each showed off their outstanding athleticism in road wins.

Sams rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in a 49-26 humbling of Texas Tech, while he completed 1 of 2 pass attempts for 11 yards. At 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, Sams runs with good power and balance, breaking tackles and pushing forward even in condensed space near the goal line.

Boykin, now alternating between wide receiver and option QB, ran for all three Horned Frogs touchdowns, including the game-winner with 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter for a 21-17 win at Iowa State to keep TCU's slim bowl hopes alive. Boykin carried the ball five times for 29 yards and caught four passes for 24 yards.

Sams and Boykin still have plenty of time to refine their overall game, but a change of positions could be an option down the road for their professional careers.

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18. Borland plays well in return

Wisconsin senior LB Chris Borland (5-11, 246) had played just one quarter in the past two games because of an injured hamstring. He returned with a vengeance against BYU, leading the Badgers with 13 tackles. He also had two sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry in Wisconsin's 27-17 win. BYU senior LB Kyle Van Noy (6-3, 245) played well, too, finishing with eight tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack. Neither defense played particularly well, but the star linebackers did their jobs.

19. USC finding new stars during surge

No one can dispute Lane Kiffin's recruiting acumen, but what he did once those players actually got to USC is another matter entirely. However, interim head coach Ed Orgeron is turning that talent into tangible results, winning three straight Pac-12 games since Kiffin was fired.

Playing without defensive end Leonard Williams and with wide receiver Marqise Lee held to one catch for 13 yards, the Trojans still came away with a dominant 62-28 win at California thanks to a host of emerging contributors. Running back Javorius Allen ran for two touchdowns and caught another. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor scored twice on punt returns. Josh Shaw, who had been shuffled back and forth between safety and corner but now firmly established at the latter, had three tackles, one tackle for loss and returned a blocked punt 14 yards for a touchdown.

If they can keep it up and match the contributions of linebacker Devon Kennard (five tackles, one sack), Lee and Williams, USC could well end up as winners of the Pac-12 South.

20. Inconsistency continues to plague Oklahoma State offense

The Cowboys cruised past lowly Kansas, but their offense is still unable to put together a complete game. Quarterback Clint Chelf threw for 265 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but the rushing offense averaged a meager 2.7 yards per carry. With Baylor looming in two weeks, balance and consistency will be mandatory to hang in there with the explosive Bears.

21. Indiana puts on offensive show

Indiana rolled up 650 yards of offense in its 52-35 win over Illinois, and three Hoosiers stood out. Junior WR Cody Latimer (6-3, 215), one of the more underrated players at his position nationally, had a monster game: 11 receptions for 189 yards and three TDs. The receptions and yardage were career highs and the TDs tied a career high. Sophomore TB Tevin Coleman (6-1, 205) ran for 215 yards and two scores on 15 carries, and senior TB Stephen Houston (6-0, 230) -- who has the potential and versatility to be a late-round pick -- had 150 yards and two TDs on 17 carries. Coleman and Houston each had scores in the fourth quarter as the Hoosiers broke away from a 35-35 tie. Illinois lost despite a 450-yard passing performance from QB Nathan Scheelhaase.

22. Many happy returns for Duke freshman

Duke FS DeVon Edwards is a redshirt freshman, but it's hard to imagine him ever having a game like he did Saturday against North Carolina State. He returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD, then had two interception returns for scores in a 16-second span in the fourth quarter to spark the Blue Devils to a 38-20 win. His two interception returns were part of a 21-point onslaught in 26 seconds -- yes, three TDs in 26 seconds. Duke (7-2) has clinched its first winning season since 1994. The Blue Devils finish out the regular season with games against Miami, Wake Forest and North Carolina; they have won eight games in a season just twice since 1962.

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23. UM's Morris shows off his arm

While he didn't play as well as Virginia Tech counterpart Logan Thomas, Miami senior QB Stephen Morris (6-2, 218) still threw for 324 yards and two TDs in the Hokies' 42-24 win. Miami lost two fumbles, and the Hurricanes' running game was nonexistent without injured TB Duke Johnson. Both of Morris' TD passes covered more than 80 yards; he threw an 81-yarder to true freshman Stacy Coley in the first quarter and an 84-yarder to senior Allen Hurns in the third quarter. Miami rushed for just 28 yards; the Hokies ran for 183.

24. Rushing attack boosts UCF

UCF turned to junior TB Storm Johnson (6-0, 215) and a strong ground attack to beat Houston and take a giant step closer to a BCS bid. UCF (7-1) is the only team unbeaten in league play in the AAC after holding off the Cougars, 19-14. Houston had a 1st-and-goal at UCF's 7-yard line with 24 seconds left, but couldn't score on four plays. Johnson rushed for 127 yards and UCF had 188 as a team. UCF junior QB Blake Bortles (6-4, 230) was 17 of 24 for 210 yards and a pick; he had thrown six TD passes in the past two games.

25. Price powers Washington past Colorado

The Buffaloes are not a very good team, especially with their best player and top draft prospect, wide receiver Paul Richardson, slowed by an ankle injury. Still, Washington's dominant 59-7 win was an impressive way to secure bowl eligibility, especially for quarterback Keith Price. Playing without the injured Kasen Williams, Price (22 of 29 for 312 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) was content to spread the ball around to seven different receivers. Price has far better tape than, say, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, who had an impressive game Saturday, and an underrated skill set.

26. Sims solid in losing effort

In a move that head coach Dana Holgorsen probably should have made back in September, West Virginia again made running back Charles Sims the centerpiece of its offense, with 29 touches for the Houston transfer on 83 total plays in its 47-40 overtime loss to Texas. Sims finished with 93 rushing yards and three touchdowns and 42 receiving yards, looking every bit a potential three-down option.

27. Sun Devil stars stand up

When Arizona State was in danger of giving away its slim advantage in the Pac-12 South, running back Marion Grice and defensive tackle Will Sutton stepped up to save the day. Grice ran for 84 of his 136 yards in the fourth quarter and Sutton intercepted a pass to seal the 20-19 win at Utah on Saturday.

Grice was held out of the end zone for the second consecutive game, but delivered in the clutch on both of the Sun Devils' fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Quiet for most of the season, Sutton erupted for nine tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup and his first career pick to help ASU maintain its division lead.

28. Receivers have good night in Notre Dame-Pitt

It was a good night for wide receivers in Pitt's upset victory over Notre Dame (7-3). Irish senior TJ Jones (5-11, 195) had six receptions for a career-high 149 yards and a TD. It was his third consecutive 100-yard game and his seventh game in a row with a TD catch. The score was an 80-yarder late in the third quarter that gave the Irish a 21-14 lead. Pitt senior WR Devin Street (6-4, 195) had four catches for 76 yards and two TDs, including a 63-yarder that came three plays after Jones' TD and tied it at 21. Pitt true freshman Tyler Boyd (6-2, 185) had a game-high eight receptions for 85 yards. The loss basically ended the Irish's BCS hopes while also providing a boost for Pitt (5-4) in its quest to become bowl-eligible.

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