Who's Hot? Week 14 Kessler, NIU, Memphis

The stud teams, players, coaches and trends from Week 14

2014 Who's Hot ... Week 14

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Memphis
Prior to this season, the Tigers hadn’t even had a winning year since 2007. But after going 3-9 a year ago, Memphis has flipped the script under up-and-coming head coach Justin Fuente, winning nine and no less than a share of the American Athletic Conference title. The Tigers don’t harbor a single household name or sure-thing to play on Sundays, yet they’ve won six in a row, with their losses coming to Houston, Ole Miss and UCLA. If the program can keep Fuente on the payroll in 2015, it’ll be a minor miracle.

Northern Illinois
New personnel. Same old results in DeKalb. In what would have been a rebuilding year for most, the Huskies rallied from an early deficit in Kalamazoo to capture their five consecutive MAC West crown. Western Michigan was hot and confident on Friday afternoon, but Northern Illinois has a champion’s muscle memory, which it’ll carry into Detroit for next week’s showdown with Bowling Green.

USC QB Cody Kessler
Kessler carved up the Notre Dame defense with surgeon-like precision Saturday, completing 32-of-40 for 372 yards, six touchdown passes and no interceptions. It was the junior’s sixth game of 2014 with at least four scoring strikes, giving him one of the quietest 36-touchdown seasons in recent memory for a Pac-12 pitcher. Kessler will never get the respect he deserves, but Steve Sarkisian is just thrilled to have inherited him at Troy.

Offensive Coordinator of the Week: Ralph Friedgen, Rutgers
Okay, so others produced bigger numbers in Week 14, but there was something poetic and redemptive about Friedgen’s offense spearheading the largest comeback in Scarlet Knight history … at Maryland, the Fridge’s former employer. Rutgers rallied from a 35-10 second-quarter deficit in College Park behind a rare pristine effort from erratic QB Gary Nova, who threw four touchdowns and no picks in the 41-38 win.

Defensive Coordinator of the Week: Lance Anderson, Stanford
Lost in an otherwise mediocre season was the fact that the Cardinal D didn’t skip a beat in Anderson’s first season as Derek Mason’s successor. Stanford clamped down on UCLA Friday, holding the Bruins to a season-low 10 points and 262 yards. Anderson has done a vastly underrated job of adapting to new personnel and a new role, making sure that the Cardinal maintained its tradition as one of the toughest, soundest defenses in the country.

Stockpile more shares in … TCU
It looked as if the Frogs might be on the Thanksgiving menu Thursday, having to travel to Austin to face surging Texas. But instead of falling out of playoff contention, TCU made its case with a statement 48-10 win. It’s won six in a row, with the defense now beginning to share more of the load with a Trevone Boykin-led offense averaging 46 points per game. Oh, and the Frogs’ playoff picture began to clear with a Mississippi State loss and an injury to Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett.

Clemson’s Freshmen
If Chad Morris is the next head coach at SMU, some lucky coordinator is going to have a blast coaching the Tigers’ next generation of offensive stars. Clemson snapped South Carolina’s five-game winning streak in the Palmetto Bowl, with most of the production coming from rookies. QB Deshaun Watson accounted for 282 yards and four scores, Wayne Gallman ran for 191 yards and a touchdown and Artavis Scott hauled in seven passes for 185 yards and two scores. All three have three years of eligibility left.

Madden Cover Material: Alabama WR Amari Cooper
Marcus Mariota and Melvin Gordon are phenomenal playmakers. But Cooper might be the most unstoppable force in the game this season. The classic man among boys on the outside, he almost singlehandedly carried the Tide to a come-from-behind win in Saturday’s Iron Bowl. Cooper caught 13 balls for 224 yards and three touchdowns, his latest audition for being one of the top five selections in next spring’s NFL Draft.

Bucking for a promotion: Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun
If an offer comes his way, Calhoun might not want to pass it up, because his stock may never be higher. A year after going 2-10, the Falcons have nearly flipped the script by winning nine games, capped by Friday’s shocker over No. 21 Colorado State. The Rams entered Week 14 on a nine-game winning streak, but failed to become the first team in 2014 to defeat Air Force at Falcon Stadium.

Bucking for a promotion: Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm
Sure, it was senior Brandon Doughty who threw eight touchdown passes—and the game-winning two-point conversion—in Friday’s stunning 67-66 upset of previously-unbeaten Marshall. But it was the continual guidance of Brohm in his first year as Bobby Petrino’s successor that Doughty’s breakout final season was even possible. The young coach is going to quickly become a hot commodity if he continues to engineer point-a-minute offensive attacks.

He’s how young?! LSU RB Leonard Fournette
The ballyhooed true freshman rushed for 146 yards and a highlight-reel trucking of Texas A&M’s Howard Matthews en route to the end zone, as the Tigers romped for 384 yards on the ground in Thursday’s 23-17 win. Fournette has gradually laid the groundwork this season for what figures to be a monster sophomore year as the focal point of the LSU offense.

He’s how young?! Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
En route to an awful 4-8 campaign, the Red Raiders may have found a quarterback to compete with Davis Webb in 2015. Mahomes has come off the bench to throw 14 touchdown passes over the last three games, displaying poise and a comfort level within Kliff Kingsbury’s attack. The 6-3, 215-pound true freshman nearly rallied Texas Tech back from a huge early deficit Saturday versus Baylor, finishing 30-of-56 for 598 yards, six touchdowns and a pick.

Can I be your agent … DeVante Parker?
Louisville was down to its third-string quarterback, freshman Kyle Bolin, Saturday afternoon, yet still found a way to outgun rival Kentucky, 44-40. Bolin deserves a ton of credit for the way he played in an emergency role, but the rookie’s performance would not have been possible without the heroics of Parker. The big-play, next-level wide receiver lit up the Wildcat secondary for 180 yards and three touchdowns on six pivotal receptions.

Start designing the Fathead of … Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
Mariota is a machine running the Ducks’ offense, getting increasingly difficult to stop as the season unfolds. He made sure Oregon didn’t walk into a rivalry beaver trap on Saturday, accounting for six touchdowns in a 47-19 blowout of Oregon State. For the season, the future NFL star—and Heisman winner—has accounted for 47 touchdowns while only throwing a pair of interceptions.

Georgia Tech
So, the Yellow Jackets are a lot more than simply a product of playing in the ACC after all. The Ramblin’ Wreck never quit in Athens versus Georgia, even after falling behind with just 18 seconds left in regulation. For their perseverance, the Jackets will head to Charlotte to play Florida State with a five-game winning streak … and the confidence of having beaten the Dawgs for the first time since 2008.

Team of the Week II: Missouri
On Oct. 11, Mizzou was decimated, 34-0, by Georgia in front of its home crowd. Anyone who thought the Tigers could go on to win the SEC East would’ve been fitted for a thicker helmet at that point. But that’s exactly what the program wrapped up with Friday’s come-from-behind win over red-hot Arkansas. Missouri has found a way to win six in a row since that game with the Dawgs, and is remarkably heading back to a second-straight SEC title game under Gary Pinkel.

Team of the Week: Arizona
The Wildcats earned one of the most profound wins in program history to move within a victory of their first-ever Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl berth. Not only did Arizona outlast rival Arizona State for the Territorial Cup, 42-35, but also a UCLA loss means Rich Rodriguez’s team is headed to a rematch with Oregon Friday night for the conference crown. RB Nick Wilson was prolific on the ground, while LB Scooby Wright continued to show why he is arguably the nation’s best defensive player.

The ACC
At least for one weekend, the Atlantic Coast Conference held the upper hand on the Southeastern Conference. In a rare role reversal, Clemson beat South Carolina, Georgia Tech stunned Georgia in Athens, Louisville rallied to topple Kentucky and Florida State remained perfect at the expense of Florida. It was a clean sweep for a conference that’s perpetually trying to escape the derogatory label of being a basketball league. Of the ACC’s 14 members, all but Syracuse, Wake Forest and Virginia are bowl-eligible.

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