Who's Hot? OU, Johnny Football & More
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Week 7 – Who's Not
10. Western Kentucky Head Coach Willie Taggart
Taggart is young, beginning to earn notoriety and winning at a school with virtually no history at the FBS level. In other words, he'll be like catnip for certain ADs looking to hire a new head coach as early as this December. What Taggart has been doing with the Hilltoppers has been quietly remarkable, guiding them to an improbable 7-1 league mark in 2011 and a four-game winning streak this fall that began with a stirring upset of Kentucky. After getting snubbed last season, Western Kentucky is headed to its first-ever bowl game, which will only increase Taggart's asking price.
9. Kent State RB Dri Archer
Kent State has ever so quietly been home to one of the nation's most exciting players that no one knows about. Archer is the MAC's version of Oregon athlete De'Anthony Thomas, a do-everything playmaker who has helped guide the Golden Flashes to their best start since 1977. After rushing for more than 200 yards and accounting for two scores in Saturday's win over Army, the junior is now averaging well over 10 yards a carry, has caught three touchdown passes, thrown one touchdown pass and taken back three kickoffs for six.
All is right in the world of the Leaders Division of the Big Ten. The Badgers were supposed to be in the divisional driver's seat in the middle of October, and that is exactly where they currently reside. Sure, there were some early hiccups in September, but back-to-back blowouts of Illinois and Purdue have Wisconsin well on its way to Indianapolis and a spot in the December league title game. Saturday was a turning point, torching the Boilermakers in West Lafayette with a combination of the Montee Ball-led ground game and a terrific all-around defensive effort.
7. Arizona State DT Will Sutton
Sutton is gradually becoming a wealthy man with his performance in 2012, especially if he decides to leave school early for next April's NFL Draft. The kind of disruptive tackle that GMs love to select, and opposing linemen hate to block, he has parsed together an All-American start to his junior year. Explosive off the snap and quick from sideline to sideline, he raised his season total to 13 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks with another dominant performance in Thursday night's rout of Colorado. No. 90 has been the catalyst for a Sun Devils D that has been shockingly nasty through six games.
6. The USC Pass Rush
Wasn't the sky falling around over the Trojans D-line, especially after DE Devon Kennard was lost to a preseason injury? USC has embraced the challenge, with plenty of help from unlikely sources, newcomers Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams. Breslin was at Diablo Valley (Calif.) Junior College a year ago, while Williams was finishing his Mainland (Fla.) High School career. They've joined forces in Los Angeles to combine for 20.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks so far, as the Trojans have risen to No. 5 nationally in sacks.
5. Oregon State
The Beavers are 5-0 for the first time since 1939, and the latest victory really stamped this program as a resilient and dangerous bunch out of the Pac-12 North. Not only did they have to travel to Provo to face a rock-solid BYU D, but they had to do so without starting QB Sean Mannion, who was injured. End of the run, right? Not yet. With first-time starting QB Cody Vaz in the saddle, Oregon State scored five offensive touchdowns on a team that had given up just four in its first six games.
4. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
The legend is growing, and it's only going to get bigger over time. Just six games into his college career, Manziel has already captured the attention of the country. Playing as if he's channeling another former SEC newcomer, Cam Newton, he's accounted for 24 touchdowns, and leads the SEC in rushing. Beyond just the numbers, though, Manziel has been the picture of poise and smart decisions in his second year removed from Tivy (Tex.) High School, extending plays with his feet, and making connections on the move. The redshirt freshman in the Kevin Sumlin/Kliff Kingsbury offense is almost too good to be true for Aggies fans.
3. Mississippi State
For just the fourth time in school history—and the first time since 1999—the Bulldogs are 6-0 to start a season. And they're getting it done on both sides of the ball. The offense is balanced, mixing in the running of Ladarius Perkins with the precision passing of Tyler Russell. The D boasts one of the nation's best defensive backfields, a Johnthan Banks-led unit that just got done holding Tyler Bray and Tennessee to a mere 148 yards through the air. Can Mississippi State threaten Alabama or LSU in the SEC West? That's a tall order, but Dan Mullen does have his kids building a head of steam, with the familiar sound of cow bells ringing in their ears.
2. LSU … at home … at night.
When South Carolina travelled to Baton Rouge this past weekend, it wasn't just battling LSU. It was contending with history. After holding on in a true heavyweight fight, the Tigers have now won 22 straight games in Death Valley, and moved to 36-1 when the game took place on a Saturday night. The program is also 18-1 under Les Miles following a loss, which LSU suffered a week ago in the Swamp. Top-ranked Alabama will be looking to buck history in three weeks, because it'll be travelling to Baton Rouge … on a Saturday night … to try and snap the Tigers' three-year home winning streak.
The Sooners have recovered from their Sept. 22 defeat to Kansas State in resounding fashion. A week after handing Texas Tech its first loss, 41-20, Oklahoma put a saddle on rival Texas and rode it into the Red River annals with a historical 63-21 bludgeoning. Not only did the offense rack up 677 balanced yards, but the defense was sensational, keeping an attack that came in averaging 46 points to no offensive touchdowns in the first 55 minutes. OU has earned its way back into Big 12 contention, while a BCS National Championship run cannot be entirely ruled out.
Week 7 – Who's Not
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