For the most part, the top teams in the college football nation escaped Week 8 unscathed. Some big-name SEC schools lost, but both South Carolina and Texas A&M were beaten by teams that had higher rankings. The BCS standings saw Kansas State move past Oregon based on the Wildcats’ win over West Virginia.
This week the Barometer (which is sometimes pronounced "thermometer") will put a special emphasis on the Big East, which has two undefeated teams remaining after Cincinnati was knocked off by Toledo. The Bearcats head to one of the unbeaten teams this Friday against Louisville. Rutgers, the other conference team without a loss, has one of the most ferocious defensive fronts in the country.
Let's look at who's up and who's down this week in college football.
Montel Harris, RB, Temple - Harris struggled early in the season with hamstring issues, and it looked like the high-profile transfer from Boston College (where he has the most rushing yards in school history) would be a bust. The senior can no longer be considered a bust after big games against South Florida and Connecticut followed by 81 yards against that Scarlet Knights defense on Saturday. The Owls offense is solidly ground based, and an ankle injury to Matt Brown has opened up carries for Harris. Upcoming matchups against Pitt and Louisville should offer plenty of holes for Harris to run through.
Joe Bergeron, RB, Texas - Bergeron has shown a specific skill that will be of interest to fantasy owners. When the Longhorns get the ball in the red zone, they can hand off to the 230-pound sophomore and he will put the ball in the endzone. Bergeron had five touchdowns on 19 carries Saturday against Baylor and had four touchdowns three weeks ago in the shoot out against West Virginia. While his rate of 14 touchdowns in 92 carries is unsustainable, he clearly has forged a redzone role, and fantasy owners should pay attention. The Longhorns appear to need every point their offense can muster (see below).
Rutgers Defense - Other than the Week 4 shootout against Arkansas in which the Scarlet Knights defense gave up 26 points and 419 passing yards, the unit has been the best group in the Big East (narrowly edging out the Louisville offense). Prior to their Week 9 bye, the Rutgers defense will be tested by Kent State, which has scored at least 31 points in the last four games (including three games of 41 or more). After the bye, games against Army, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh await before that huge matchup against Louisville on Nov. 29. The defense is allowing just 11.3 points, third best in the country.
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU - Hill graced this report in the "Check Status" portion last week. We’ve pushed the Tiger freshman to "Upgrade" after his second straight 100-yard game. In the last two weeks, Hill has run for 251 yards against South Carolina and Texas A&M on 35 carries with three touchdowns. Even in a crowded backfield, the freshman from Baton Rouge is standing out and will look to become even more incorporated into the offense during the bye week as the Tigers prepare for Alabama on Nov. 3.
Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State - After opening the season as the starting quarterback for the Cowboys, Lunt was replaced by J.W. Walsh, who completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,318 yards in the last four games. Walsh was knocked out for the season with a knee injury, though, so Lunt is back. The 6-foot-4 native of Illinois had 436 yards and four touchdowns in Week 2 against Arizona, but was also picked off three times. It may be that some time to watch the offense from the sidelines will help Lunt. He will return behind center on Saturday against TCU.
B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida - One reason Daniels was a fantasy commodity entering the season was that he is a dual threat. The fifth-year senior was expected to hurt defenses with both his throwing and running. But after suffering an ankle injury three weeks ago against Florida State, Daniels has become a one-dimensional quarterback, and his passing is not good enough to make him a fantasy guarantee. He has been picked off at least once in his last five games. If he can get healthy before the end of the season, Daniels could provide some value. The Bulls have already had their bye, and Daniels still looks limited.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC - It may seem like an inopportune moment to put Barkley on the "Check Status" list after he burned Colorado for six touchdowns to take the all-time lead in Pac-12 passing touchdowns. However, other than big games in the non-conference slate against Hawaii and Syracuse, the Trojans senior had been relatively lackluster prior to Saturday. In four previous games against conference foes, Barkley had six touchdowns and five interceptions. The situation screams sell high.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina - Lattimore proved early in the seaso that the Ole Ball Coach could rely on the South Carolina ground game. The junior, whose sophomore season ended prematurely because of a knee injury, scored at least one touchdown in the Gamecocks’ first seven games. A bruised hip, though, caused him to be extremely limited against Florida on Saturday as South Carolina lost its second straight game. It is a good sign that Lattimore could play at all against the Gators, and he should be back in the starting lineup Saturday against Tennessee.
Tevin Washington, QB, Georgia Tech - Washington is one of the nation's more dynamic Wild Cat quarterbacks with 15 rushing touchdowns in his last six games. In his last five games, the Yellow Jackets quarterback scored multiple touchdowns in each game. However, with the team just 3-4 (and 2-3 in conference), it may be time to look toward the future. That could be a healthy dose of freshman Vad Lee. Keep an eye on this situation because if Georgia Tech throws in the towel on the season, Washington could see reduced playing time.
Marcus Sales, WR, Syracuse - After sitting out last year while under suspension, Sales appeared to slip under the radar of opposing defenses the first three games of the season. The senior looked like he had not missed a beat with quarterback Ryan Nassib and racked up three 100-yard games with four touchdowns. On Sept. 22 against Minnesota, however, Sales was consistently double-teamed, and his production dwindled. He did have 100 yards against Rutgers two weeks ago, but was held catchless Saturday against Connecticut. Fantasy teams won’t get any points from Sales being a decoy, but his early production has allowed receivers like Alec Lemon and Jarrod West to have more opportunities.
Lyle McCombs, RB, Connecticut - The theme of this column could be the Rutgers defense because it will be mentioned once again. McCombs rolled through five games. Even though he had a low yard-per-carry average, he racked up touchdowns in four of the first five contests. The Knights stuffed McCombs for 32 yards on Oct. 6, and the sophomore compounded his problems by being suspended for the first quarter because of a breach of peace arrest. McCombs sat against Temple and only gained 16 yards Saturday against Syracuse. The 5-8 sophomore may be running out of gas this season.
Texas Defense - Ouch. Longhorns fans have to wonder what has gone wrong with the defense, which has now allowed 30 or more points in five straight games. Granted, Texas has won three times in that span, including a 56-50 win over Baylor on Saturday. Maybe it has something to do with former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp moving to Florida, but penalties and missed assignments are plaguing the Longhorns. The Texas defense could get better against Kansas on Saturday, since the Jayhawks have not scored more than 24 points in their last six games, but this is not a fantasy worthy defense.