Head Coach of the Week – Mark Richt, Georgia
If it feels like Georgia is the story of every Saturday so far this season, it’s because they are. After playing in the two of the three best games in September, Georgia and Tennessee staged an epic with more twists and turns than anything we’ve seen this season. Playing without its top two running backs, its top two wide receivers, its top two safeties and its punter, Georgia got pulled into one of those games that always seem to happen when you go on the road in conference play. After leading 17-3 at the half, Georgia found itself inside a raucous Neyland Stadium trailing 31-24 with 1:54 to play. Thanks to heady play from a senior quarterback and a case of the butterfingers at a really bad time, Georgia defeated Tennessee 38-31 in overtime and remains in control of its SEC and national championship destiny.
Honorable Mention: Gus Malzahn, Auburn; Al Golden, Miami; Kevin Wilson, Indiana; Gary Pinkel, Missouri; Urban Meyer, Ohio State; Pete Lembo, Ball State; Ron Turner, Florida International; Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Offensive Staff of the Week – Baylor
Speaking of recurring characters, I wanted to honor someone other than Baylor this week. I really did. But I can’t. Not after the Bears put up 846 yards of total offense (396 passing/468 rushing) – the most by any FBS team in a decade – despite putting the engine in neutral early in the third quarter. Not when you consider the Bears, led by head coach Art Briles and coordinator Phillip Montgomery, had 617 yards and 56 points in the first half alone. And not after Baylor became the first team to score at least 70 points in three consecutive games since LSU did it in 1930. How can you say with a straight face that anyone played better offensive football than that? Plenty of offenses turn into a boulder rolling downhill when matched against an undermanned defense, but no one snows its opponent quite like this. Through a third of its season, Baylor averages 775 yards and 70.5 points per game.
After playing its first four at home, Baylor finally goes on the road next week to Kansas State. Baylor has traditionally looked quite different on the road, so we’ll see if they’ve got what it takes to show up in this space yet again. One thing’s certain, the bar keeps getting higher and they keep meeting it.
Honorable Mention: Indiana, LSU, Tennessee, Oregon, Ball State, Michigan State, Miami, Florida State, Clemson.
Defensive Staff of the Week – Florida State
It appeared Maryland had turned the corner under Randy Edsall after the Terps rode a 4-0 start to its first appearance in the AP poll since the end of the 2010 season. Averaging a shade under 40 points per game, Maryland’s resurgence was thanks to a multi-faceted offense that ranked 17th nationally in total yardage and 12th in yards per play.
Jeremy Pruitt’s bunch shutout, shut down and shut the door on Maryland’s offense to the tune of a 63-0 whitewashing, which tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent in college football history. The Terps recorded 14 possessions and punted 11 times. Only three of Maryland’s drives (if you want to call them that) traveled more than 21 yards, and the longest drive of the day went 40 yards. Seven different runners combined to carry 25 times for 33 yards. Maryland registered 234 total yards, achieved just nine first downs and went 2-of-15 on third down. Perhaps the brightest spot of the day for Maryland was that three different passers managed not to throw an interception in 32 attempts.
Honorable Mention: Florida, TCU, UCLA, Nebraska, Louisville, Texas Tech, Wake Forest
Special Teams Unit of the Week – Tulane
The 4-2 start by Curtis Johnson’s Tulane team has been one of the best unsung stories of the season. If the Green Wave manages to make its first bowl appearance since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl, they’ll look back at this 24-21 win over North Texas as the day the dream became a reality. With the score tied 7-7 in the third quarter, Tulane blocked a Zach Paul field goal try and Derrick Strozier strolled 62 yards to pay dirt. Tulane then took a 21-7 on the ensuing North Texas possession after Lorenzo Doss took an interception 59 yards back to the house. North Texas tied the game with two fourth quarter scores, but Cairo Santos won it with a 27-yard field goal as time expired.
With the win, Tulane has not only met its win total from the past two seasons combined, but they also find themselves tied for first place in Conference USA’s West Division.
Honorable Mention: Stanford, Tennessee, Kansas State, Florida International, Ohio State.