5 Things to Know: Prolific Beaver; King of Lubbock
The last two weeks of the college football season have separated contenders from pretenders and helped set the field for the national championship race.
There is still much whittling to do, and a few teams are just getting to their first really stiff tests more than halfway through the season.
Oregon State and Texas Tech have a chance to take big steps forward this week.
The Beavers' record-breaking passer and the Red Raiders' rising star coach are among the five things to know about Week 9 of the college football season.
MANNION FOR HEISMAN. Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion leads the nation in yards passing (2,992) and touchdown passes (29), and last week he set a Pac-12 record for most yards passing in consecutive games with 974. The Beavers (6-1, 4-0) started the season ranked 25th, lost to FCS Eastern Washington and haven't been beaten since. The competition has been less than so-so (Sagarin computer ratings have the Beavers' strength of schedule at 79th). But Mannion and his favorite target, Brandin Cooks, have chance to seriously enter the Heisman discussion and get back in the national rankings when No. 8 Stanford comes to Corvallis on Saturday night.
KING OF LUBBOCK. Kliff Kingsbury got a lot of attention when he became the coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech, because he was young (now 34), handsome (he looks like actor Ryan Gosling) and stylish (slim-fit suits, skinny ties, Ray-Ban shades). He can also really coach. The 10th-ranked Red Raiders (7-0, 4-0), picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12, are currently in first. And Kingsbury, who was previously offensive coordinator at Houston and Texas A&M under Kevin Sumlin, is 30-3 as a head coach or play-caller. The Red Raiders (Sagarin strength of schedule No. 87) face their toughest test at No. 17 Oklahoma on Saturday.
MR. PERFECT. No. 4 Ohio State's winning streak is 19 games, currently tops in the nation. The Buckeyes still haven't lost under coach Urban Meyer and if they can beat Penn State in Columbus on Saturday night, they'll have the second-longest winning streak in school history. The longest is 22 set by Woody Hayes' Buckeyes from 1967-69. That streak ended against Michigan. Ohio State has had two previous 19-game winning streaks. The first covered 2005-06 and was stopped in the BCS championship game by Florida. The other spanned 2002-03 and was snapped by Wisconsin.
WINNING UGLY. No. 18 Louisville is a three-touchdown favorite against South Florida (2-4, 0-2), which is currently tied for first in the American Athletic Conference, despite not having scored an offensive touchdown in conference victories against Cincinnati and Connecticut. The Bulls have used three quarterbacks and rank last in the country in passer efficiency rating (83.43), completion percentage (40.2) and yards per pass (5.1). The Cardinals, meanwhile, have star quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
WRAP IT UP. No. 5 Missouri can't officially clinch the SEC East with a victory against No. 20 South Carolina, but the Tigers (7-0, 3-0) would be very hard to catch if they beat the Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2). That would give Missouri victories and the head-to-head tiebreaker against South Carolina, Florida (3-2 SEC) and Georgia (3-2). The Gators still have to play South Carolina and Georgia. The rest of Missouri's schedule is Tennessee, at Kentucky, at Mississippi and Texas A&M. Anything short of a total collapse would send the Tigers to the conference title game in their second SEC season.
NOT-SO-MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. There are seven winless teams in FBS. Western Michigan (0-8) and Miami, Ohio (0-7) in the MAC; UConn (0-6) in the American; Georgia State (0-7) in the Sun Belt; Southern Mississippi (0-6) in Conference USA; Hawaii (0-6) in the Mountain West; and independent New Mexico State (0-7). The best chance to get a win this weekend? Well, New Mexico State is playing Division II Abilene Christian. Otherwise, Western Michigan has a chance to get coach P.J. Fleck his first win against UMass (1-6).