Riley Nelson

The Fifth Quarter: Week 8 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Four-pack separates themselves
While there is still myriad uncertainty as it pertains to several aspects of the 2012 season, one thing crystallized itself in Week 8: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Kansas State are head and shoulders above anyone else in the nation this season, and any combination of the two could very well find themselves in Miami vying for the right to hoist the crystal at season’s end.  In the games involving those teams this weekend, the undisputed top four teams in the country rambled over, around and through their opponents by a combined score of 186-59.  While it appears in the here and now clear how this quartet stacks up against the rest of the college football world, the final few weeks are fraught with potential scheduling landmines:

Alabama: No. 15 Mississippi State (Oct. 27); at No. 6 LSU (Nov. 3); No. 20 Texas A&M (Nov. 10); and the annual Iron Bowl game with Auburn (Nov. 24)
Oregon: at No. 11 USC (Nov. 3); No. 22 Stanford (Nov. 17); and the annual Civil War game at No. 8 Oregon State (Nov. 24)
Florida: No. 13 Georgia (Oct. 27); and No. 12 Florida State (Nov. 24)
Kansas State: No. 18 Texas Tech (Oct. 27); at No. 23 (in BcS standings) TCU (Nov. 10); and No. 25 (in BcS standings) Texas (Dec. 1).

Certainly if any of those teams navigate those obstacles without a misstep, they deserve a shot at a BcS title.  If three of those teams — Alabama and Florida would hypothetically meet in the SEC championship game — continue traveling the unbeaten path, and are possibly joined by an undefeated Notre Dame team?  The uproar from the two/three snubbed fan bases as well as the media would be deafening and drown out any other college football-related discussion… especially if a one-loss Tide/Gator team faced an unbeaten Tide/Gator team in what would be the second straight all-SEC BcS title game.

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Predictions 101 — Week 7

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Last week on “Shakeup Saturday,” we went 3-4 straight up and versus “the number.” That was typical of our mediocre season so far. It’s amazing to think that John L. Smith had a better weekend than us.

Let’s see if we can at least get into a 4-3 alignment or better this week, which features an intriguing slate of games.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 11, thru Sat., Oct. 13)

1) No. 3 South Carolina at No. 9 LSU
Sat., Oct. 13 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Gamecocks certainly looked like BCS material last Saturday as they dismantled Georgia, 35-7. Impressive in every phase of the game, this “USC” is the one that could make a run at the crystal football.

What remains to be seen is South Carolina’s ability to display that same sort of assertiveness and efficiency in Death Valley. If it can, will it be enough to get past LSU?

The Tigers had a far different experience last Saturday, losing their first regular-season game since Nov. 27, 2010. But let’s not jump to too many conclusions based on Florida’s 14-6 victory. LSU’s offensive limitations can be a sticking point, but its defensive prowess makes up for that.

If not for the crucial Gator drive in which Tiger linebackers Kevin Minter (leg cramps) and Kwon Alexander (broken ankle) were both sidelined, LSU very well could still be undefeated. Holding the Gators to 237 total yards — 85 of which came during the third-quarter drive mentioned above — is typically going to get it done.

No disrespect to South Carolina’s offense, but it will experience far more three-and-outs than usual in Baton Rouge. This will be tailback Marcus Lattimore’s first game against LSU and we don’t expect him to move the chains with his normal regularity.

That’ll put quarterback Connor Shaw in more obvious passing situations and the Tiger defense has the discipline to keep him in the pocket and force tough throws under duress. Not leaving lanes for Shaw to leak out into and run for the sticks is crucial.

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Knee injury will sideline BYU QB for the season

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Oregon State suffered a big loss when it was announced yesterday that quarterback Sean Mannion would be out for this Saturday’s game against BYU with an undetermined timeline for return because of necessary knee surgery.  Turns out that BYU will also be down a quarterback for this week’s game because of a knee injury, though the extent of said injury has been determined.

Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that backup QB Taysom Hill will miss the rest of the season with a torn LCL in his left knee. He sustained the injury during the final plays of last Friday’s win over Utah State. Hill is expected to undergo surgery sometime in the next week and will be out between four and six months, effectively ending his 2012 campaign.

Riley Nelson, who has battled his own injuries this season, will resume his role as the starter. Nelson has missed the past couple of weeks with a back injury.  Senior James Lark will be the backup.

Riley Nelson is BYU’s starting QB (again)

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We mean it this time. Like, for real. Maybe.

A “significant back injury” kept BYU quarterback Riley Nelson on the sidelines last Friday in a win over Hawaii. For this Friday’s game against Utah State, Nelson is apparently ready to go. BYU released its updated depth chart Monday and Nelson is back as the starter with Taysom Hill listed as the backup.

Hill replaced Nelson two weeks ago in a 7-6 loss to Boise State and started against the Warriors last week. However, had Nelson been healthy enough, he would have started against UH.

“Riley is our quarterback. I love him. I want him to be healthy,” Bronco Mendenhall said last week.

Nelson has 754 passing yards on the season with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Hill, a more mobile QB, has 190 yards passing with three touchdowns.

Riley Nelson is BYU’s QB — provided he’s healthy

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Riley Nelson’s stat line was just as ugly as BYU’s 7-6 loss to Boise State Thursday night: 4-of-9 passing for 19 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Nelson was benched in the third quarter in favor of true freshman Taysom Hill, who led the Cougars to their only touchdown of the game.  In fairness to Nelson, though, he’s been dealing with what the Deseret News describes as a significant back injury.

Because of that, head coach Bronco Mendenhall remains committed to Nelson as a starter.  With the proviso, though, that the back  issue isn’t impacting his performance.

“Riley is our quarterback. I love him. I want him to be healthy,” Mendenhall said. “I want him to be able to look me in the eye and say, ‘Coach, I’m absolutely ready.’ I don’t have any different feelings than I did going into this game. … There’s no tougher person on the planet in my mind. He’s a warrior. He won’t come out unless you drag him out. I like him a lot.”

Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman reiterated his boss’ thoughts, saying that switching to Hill full-time is “all dependent upon Riley’s health, and whether or not he can play like he’s capable of playing.”  If he “can’t play Riley Nelson football?”  “[W]e’ll have to go with an alternative plan,” Doman said.