September 5, 2011

Rivals.com Week 1 Conference Call

We're introducing a new feature today, 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: Georgia Tech's passing attack. QBs Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days combined for 365 passing yards - the Yellow Jackets' highest single-game total since 1987 - in a 63-21 rout of Western Carolina. Tech's 148 passing yards in the first quarter exceeded the Yellow Jackets' highest total in any game last season. Granted, many of these passing yards came on catch-and-run plays that turned short completions into long gains. This still was an encouraging sign. If Tech can offer any semblance of a passing game to keep opposing defenses honest, it will open up much more running room for the Yellow Jackets' option attack.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Boston College's run defense. BC led the nation in run defense last season, but the Eagles allowed 227 rushing yards on 54 carries in a 24-17 loss to a Northwestern team that was missing star QB Dan Persa. That represented the highest single-game rushing total by a Boston College opponent since Virginia Tech ran for 235 yards in a 28-14 win over the Eagles on Oct. 10, 2009. BC LBs Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis combined for 34 tackles, but the Eagles' inexperienced line failed to clog running lanes. BC's only returning starter in the front four is tackle Kaleb Ramsey, who sat out the second half with a foot injury.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Virginia TB Kevin Parks. Parks, a 5-foot-8 redshirt freshman, rushed for 114 yards in a 40-3 blowout of William & Mary and became the first Virginia player since Bob Davis in 1964 to run for at least three touchdowns in his college debut. Then again, perhaps Parks' performance shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. Parks, a former three-star recruit, graduated from Mount Ulla (N.C.) West Rowan with 10,895 career rushing yards, a North Carolina record and the third-highest total nationwide in history. He also set a North Carolina single-season record with 3,794 yards in 2009.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Duke K Will Snyderwine. Snyderwine, the preseason All-ACC kicker, missed a 28-yard field-goal attempt that would have put Duke ahead with 1:43 remaining in a 23-21 loss to Richmond. Snyderwine was 38-of-44 on overall career field-goal attempts and 13-of-14 from inside 30 yards before his kick Saturday sailed wide right.

BIG EAST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: USF. The Bulls have a solid defense and tend to fare well on the big stage. Nonetheless, this was a landmark victory for USF. Notre Dame gave USF opportunities with turnovers, but the Bulls capitalized early and often.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Syracuse's secondary. Wake Forest was incapable of airing it out last season, failing to pass for 100 yards in a game six times. Yet against Syracuse, the Demon Deacons flourished, throwing for 326 yards. WR Chris Givens was the game's top player with seven catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Had Wake starting QB Tanner Price played the entire game, Wake could have been even more productive. Though the Orange won, Syracuse's pass defense was a major liability when it was expected to be one of the team's strengths.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Connecticut TB Lyle McCombs. UConn still has some quarterback issues, but once again it appears as if it will be able to rely on its rushing attack. Projected starting TB D.J. Shoemate was scratched late with an ankle injury, but McCombs, a redshirt freshman, rushed for 141 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. Granted, McCombs did this against Fordham, but Huskies' offense should be pleased with all the production it can get.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Pittsburgh QB Tino Sunseri. The Panthers led Buffalo by a mere 7-3 until the 10-minute mark of the third quarter. Pittsburgh eventually adjusted, but if the Panthers continue to play as they did against Buffalo, they won't beat more competitive teams. Sunseri finished 16-of-28 for 179 yards with no turnovers, but Pitt struggled to get plays from the sideline to the field early in the game. Pitt has a home game against Maine this weekend to iron out the kinks before visiting Iowa.

BIG TEN

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Michigan's defense. It looked improved in holding a strong Western Michigan attack to 282 yards in a game shortened one quarter by bad weather. The Broncos ran for just 99 yards and committed three turnovers, giving Michigan hope that its defense may have a chance to be at least competent after being one of the worst units in the Big Ten the past three seasons.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Indiana. This was no way for new IU coach Kevin Wilson to debut, losing 27-20 in Lucas Oil Stadium to Ball State. It was the Hoosiers' first season-opening loss in eight years and likely will be the first of many losses for the Hoosiers this season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Northwestern QB Kain Colter. With Dan Persa still not ready after he injured an Achilles late last season, Colter looked like a savvy vet rather than an inexperienced sophomore in leading the Wildcats to a 24-17 victory at Boston College. In his first career start, Colter was 18-of-25 for 196 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He was a star on the ground, running 23 times for 71 yards and a score.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Michigan QB Denard Robinson. The Wolverines won, which is all that really matters. But Robinson had pedestrian numbers against a mediocre MAC defense, throwing for 98 yards and no touchdowns and rushing eight times for 46 yards. True, the game was called with 1:27 left in the third quarter because of bad weather, cutting into his playing time. Still, his numbers weren't close to being on track with last season, when he averaged 130.9 yards rushing and 197.7 yards passing per game en route to being Big Ten MVP.

BIG 12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Baylor. Considering Baylor hadn't beaten a ranked opponent since 2004, its season-opening victory over TCU was a surprise. The manner in which the Bears won was a shock. The Bears rolled up 564 yards on the usually sound TCU defense en route to a 50-48 victory. Baylor had six touchdown passes.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Kansas State. K-State has a long history of scheduling overmatched opponents early in the year, but this time that wasn't the case. The Wildcats had to come from behind for a 10-7 victory over FCS member Eastern Kentucky, which was 6-5 last season. The Wildcats committed five turnovers and did not take the lead until Chris Harper caught a 33-yard touchdown pass with 1:39 left in the game.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III. He established himself as a legitimate Heisman contender by throwing for 359 yards and five touchdowns. TCU allowed just 10 touchdown passes all of last season. Griffin also had a key reception on a clutch final drive for the game-winning field goal.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Kansas State TB Bryce Brown. Once the nation's top-rated recruit, Brown was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team even though he hadn't played since 2009. Yet against Eastern Kentucky, he didn't start, carried just three times for 16 yards and lost a fumble that led to Eastern Kentucky's touchdown.

MOUNTAIN WEST

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Boise State's pass offense. The departures of WRs Austin Pettis and Titus Young and the eligibility concerns surrounding Geraldo Boldewijn were supposed to limit QB Kellen Moore's receiving options. It didn't work out that way. Moore threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns while completing passes to nine receivers in a 35-21 victory over Georgia.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: TCU's defense. The team that led the nation in total defense in each of the past three seasons couldn't find a way to slow Baylor's dynamic duo of Robert Griffin and Kendall Wright. Griffin threw for 359 yards and five touchdowns - two to Wright - as Baylor gained 564 total yards in a 50-48 triumph over TCU. The Horned Frogs had allowed just 229 yards per game last season and hadn't allowed anyone to exceed 361 yards. Dishonorable mention goes to New Mexico's offensive line, which gave up 10 sacks in a 14-10 loss to Colorado State.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Colorado State DE Nordly Capi. Although he didn't start, Capi had 3.5 sacks and set an NCAA single-game record by forcing four fumbles against New Mexico. His biggest play came in the final minute, as Capi stripped the ball from New Mexico QB Tarean Austin and recovered a fumble at Colorado State's 15 to seal the Rams' first road win since 2009.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: TCU CB Jason Verrett. This junior-college transfer will have better days - we think. Although he performed well enough in preseason workouts to win a spot in the starting lineup, Verrett couldn't carry that success over to the playing field in his TCU debut. Griffin picked on Verrett early and often while exploiting the inexperience in TCU's secondary. To be fair, TCU CB Greg McCoy also struggled in pass coverage for much of the night, but he redeemed himself on special teams by setting a school single-game record with 229 yards in kickoff returns.

PAC-12

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: California. Cal was a mystery team, as it was coming off a 5-7 season, has no home games because its stadium is being renovated and is breaking in a new quarterback. The Bears turned in a strong opening performance behind new QB Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, and knocked off Fresno State 36-21.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Oregon State. The Beavers weren't expected to contend for the Pac-12 championship, but the Beavers should be better than FCS member Sacramento State, which was 6-5 last season. Oregon State had to rally in the fourth quarter to force overtime, then gave up a touchdown pass and a pass for a two-point conversion for a 29-28 loss.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: UCLA TE Joseph Fauria: Literally and figuratively, it was Fauria, a 6-8, 252-pounder. Last season, Fauria caught just three passes for 21 yards during the entire season. In the Bruins' 38-34 loss to Houston, Fauria emerged as a productive part of the offense. He had six receptions for 106 yards and scored a touchdown. His receiving yardage total was the highest for a UCLA tight end since Mercedes Lewis had 108 yards against Arizona State in 2005.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Oregon State QB Ryan Katz. There were thoughts that Katz would be even better than he was in 2010, when he threw for 2,400 yards and 18 touchdowns as a first-year starter. But against Sacramento State, Katz was just 11-of-22 for 87 yards and an interception. He was benched for the second half.

SEC

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Vanderbilt's offense. OK, so the competition was relatively weak (FCS member Elon). Still, anytime Vandy scores 45 points in a game, it's noteworthy. Vandy QB Larry Smith threw two TD passes and no interceptions and also rushed for a score. (We won't mention that he, as usual, completed less than 50 percent of his passes.)

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Auburn's run defense. The Tigers' run defense was excellent last season. It was atrocious Saturday in a narrow 42-38 victory over Utah State. The Tigers surrendered 227 rushing yards to the Aggies; Auburn allowed more than 200 rushing yards just once last season (218 to Ole Miss). Auburn's linebackers were active, but they were making tackles downfield, not near the line of scrimmage.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: LSU TE DeAngelo Peterson. He had a big game in the Tigers' victory over Oregon, catching four passes for 62 yards. Peterson caught just 16 passes in 13 games last season, but he has the speed to get down the seam and be a big-time weapon this season for an LSU offense that still doesn't look all that good throwing the ball.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Kentucky QB Morgan Newton. UK gained just 190 yards, but still managed to beat Western Kentucky 14-3 thanks to a solid defensive effort. Newton threw three interceptions and looked lost for most of the night.

OTHERS

BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Utah State. The Aggies gave Auburn all it could handle in a 42-38 loss. Although Utah State fell apart in the final two minutes, the rest of the WAC will now be on the lookout. True Freshman QB Chuckie Keeton was a revelation, passing for 213 yards and running for two touchdowns. Beyond that, Utah State showed it will be a factor in the WAC race because of its strength at the skill positions and a big, physical offensive line.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, TEAM: Notre Dame. It's as if that four-game winning streak to end the 2010 season never happened. Rather than building from that momentum, the Irish opened the 2011 campaign by gift-wrapping a game to USF. Notre Dame failed to score on four trips to the red zone and found a way to lose 23-20 despite gaining twice as many yards as USF.

BIGGEST SURPRISE, PLAYER: Bowling Green TB Anthon Samuel. Samuel, a true freshman from prep powerhouse Miami Monsignor Pace, had a huge impact in his first college game, rushing for 141 yards and a TD on 22 carries in an easy victory at Idaho. BG had the nation's worst rushing offense last season and the highest rushing total for the team in a game was 137 yards against Ohio.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT, PLAYER: Notre Dame QB Dayne Crist. We frankly could have selected quite a few Notre Dame players for this category, but Crist gets the nod because his poor performance well may have cost him his spot in the starting lineup. Crist went just 7-of-15 for 91 yards and threw an interception in the end zone before getting benched in favor of Tommy Rees with the Irish trailing 16-0 at halftime. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he likely would decide by Monday whether to start Crist or Rees next weekend at Michigan.

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