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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

It's only halftime on the season, but there's already been a full slate of surprises

Miami, Iowa and Idaho are among the teams having the most success, but what has happened to Florida State and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor?

October 22, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

It has been a strange season and you only know the half of it.

Biggest half-

year surprise

* Miami. The Hurricanes, basically in witness protection since losing the 2002 season's national title game to Ohio State, began the season unranked but cracked the Associated Press top 10 after opening wins against Florida State and Georgia Tech. Miami then rebounded from an ugly loss at Virginia Tech to beat Oklahoma and holds down No. 10 in the Bowl Championship Series standings.

* Iowa. The Hawkeyes are 7-0, No. 6 in the first BCS standings, and no one is really sure how. Iowa nearly lost at home to Northern Iowa and Arkansas State but wins at Penn State and Wisconsin had a trampoline poll-vault effect. Work left to be done: at Michigan State this week and at Ohio State on Nov. 14.

* Houston. The Cougars received one point in the preseason AP poll, meaning someone cast a No. 25 mercy vote. Houston didn't mind, beating Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, two of the top teams in the Big 12 South. A subsequent loss at Texas El Paso a week after a euphoric home triumph over Texas Tech can be attributed to the kids being kids.

* Cincinnati. The Big East started with no teams ranked in the top 25 and the Mountain West asking why its champion didn't have the Big East's automatic bid to a BCS game. The Bearcats have since done the Big East proud and, at 6-0 and No. 5 in the BCS standings, are poised to make a run for the national title.

But the winner is . . .

* Idaho. Former Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey had his players eat meals out of bowls in the off-season to remind them that's where half the teams in the country play every year. Akey's Vandals are off to an improbable 6-1 start. The defeat was to Washington, which also beat USC. Idaho hadn't had six wins since it went 7-4 in 1999. A Nov. 14 game at Boise State could determine the Western Athletic Conference title.

Biggest half-gainer with a Bobby Bowden belly flop

* Florida State. The Seminoles opened ranked No. 18 and with defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews saying this could be his fastest defense. Florida State is 2-4, Bowden's worst start ever, with Andrews' defense checking in nationally this week at No. 107, right above winless New Mexico. Bowden turns 80 next month and whether he returns next year probably will be tied to the final tally of wins and losses.

Mid-term report

by anatomy

* Hand. Oregon's LeGarrette Blount curled his right one into a fist and punched Boise State's Byron Hout at the end of the Ducks' season-opening loss on Sept. 3 and set off a firestorm that ended with Blount's season-long (um, or less) suspension.

* Shoulder. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma's reigning Heisman Trophy winner, separated his in the Sooners' opening loss to Brigham Young, sending the Sooners' bowl booker down to the end of lonely street. At 3-3, with losses to BYU, Miami and Texas by a total of five points, Oklahoma's national title hopes are gone and Bradford is hurt again. A season after throwing 50 touchdown passes, Bradford's immediate goal is to put his shirt on without help.

* Head. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow hurt his against Kentucky and the two-week break before the Gators played at Louisiana State became a symposium on concussions, stoking a debate about whether putting Tebow back on the field was in the best interests of anyone. Tebow survived the LSU game, but then got sacked six times last weekend against Arkansas.

* Foot. A forward pass thrown by Arizona quarterback Nick Foles bounced off receiver Delashaun Dean's shoe and bounced into the arms of Washington defender Mason Foster, who ran 37 yards for the winning touchdown. Dean, who wears a size-14 1/2 cleat, vowed never to wear that shoe again.

Half a Heisman

Everyone figured it would be one of the Three Amigo quarterbacks -- Colt McCoy of Texas, Bradford or Tebow.

Bradford is hurt and facing surgery; Tebow's offense is struggling; McCoy has already had seven passes intercepted after only eight last year. The trophy then became California tailback Jahvid Best's to lose, and he lost it when the Bears got outscored 72-6 in consecutive losses to Oregon and USC.

Then it became Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen's to lose, and he may have blown his chance by failing to lead a heroic win against USC.

The flavor of this week is Alabama sophomore tailback Mark Ingram, who picked a good week to rush for 246 yards against South Carolina. The Crimson Tide has never had a Heisman Trophy winner.

The pool is so shallow there is absurd talk about USC's Matt Barkley, a first-year freshman who has five touchdowns and three interceptions in five starts, being a contender.

Barkley has been impressive, but he isn't even the top-rated freshman quarterback in the Pacific 10 Conference. Stanford's Andrew Luck ranks second in league pass efficiency, having thrown for 1,589 yards with nine touchdown passes and three interceptions.

The Pac-10 efficiency leader is another first-year starter, Arizona's Foles, a sophomore who has completed 74% of his passes for 1,152 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

Barkley ranks a very respectable third.

Coach of the half year

Brian Kelly of Cincinnati.

Player of the half year

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. The nation's pass efficiency leader has completed 70% of his passes with 16 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.

Biggest disappointment

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Can anyone even think of a close second?

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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