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September 19, 2011

Huguenin: The beginning of the end

So, the first official dominoes to fall in this reckless race to "superconferences" come thanks to ... the ACC?!?!

It's true: While Texas A&M isn't officially a member of the SEC just yet and while rumors continue to swirl that Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are days away from joining the Pac-12, the ACC announced Sunday morning that Pittsburgh and Syracuse officially are members of what now is a 14-team league.

It's certainly interesting, isn't it, that a day after the ACC laid another egg in its quest to be nationally relevant again in football, the league added Pitt and Syracuse - as if that's going to help the league turn around the perception that it can't hang with the big boys in football.

Are you kidding me: Pitt and Syracuse? What, Connecticut and Rutgers didn't want to join? (Actually, in a few days, they may, too. And won't that add more fuel to the "The ACC can't really play football" fire.)

The whole idea of the "superconferences" evidently is to squeeze every available penny from the networks when it comes to TV contracts. How in the world does adding Pitt and Syracuse increase the value of a football deal? (Basketball is a different story, though - again - this never has been about anything but football.)

I still think the move to four 16-team "superconferences" will kill college sports as we know it. You would think someone would step up and say, "Wait a minute. Have we really thought this through?" But because they think there is one more buck out there to be made, the commissioners are in a sort of feeding frenzy.

In a statement she released Sunday morning, UConn president Susan Herbst said she hoped that the realignment issue was settled soon so that universities "can change the national focus away from profiteering and back to student-athletes, where it belongs."

[ Related: King: Additions put ACC hoops back on top ]

I sure would like to hear more from NCAA president Mark Emmert on the subject. In August, Emmert proposed a summit of sorts to discuss how to further approach conference expansion. Truthfully, Emmert can't stop leagues from doing what they want to do, but why is the NCAA president so strangely silent on the matter? If he thinks it's a bad thing, say it. If he has no problem with it, well, let his voice be heard in that regard. Hell, he's the president of the NCAA. The organization he oversees is going to be irrevocably changed in the next few weeks, yet Emmert is mute on the subject.

What about school presidents and the few truly powerful athletic directors? Is it possible that all these folks truly think this is a good thing?

Finally, what about all the elected officials who have been blathering about the BCS for the past three or four years? They thought the college bowl system was ripe for Congressional investigations. The move to superconferences will have a far greater impact than a revamping of the bowl system, so why are they saying nothing?

It has become increasingly difficult to defend college sports - especially football and men's basketball - as being legitimate missions for a university. History and tradition are reasons you can at least half-heartedly defend it. But history and tradition have been trampled in the rush to get to the bank. It's obvious conference commissioners don't care anymore. It's all about greed now, all about the ACC and the Pac-12 and the SEC and the Big Ten being smaller-scale versions of the NFL, MLB and NBA.

Hmm - how soon until we have the first players' strike in NCAA history?

No whine with this cheese

There were a few people who wondered if Russell Wilson truly would help Wisconsin's offense.

It's a safe bet those folks aren't wondering any more. The Badgers blasted Northern Illinois 49-7 on Saturday at Soldier Field behind another big game from Wilson, who threw for 347 yards and three TDs.

Through three games, Wilson is 50-of-66 (75.8 completion rate) for 791 yards and eight TDs. He also has rushed for 110 yards and a score for a Badgers offense that is putting up 45.0 points and 505.7 yards per game.

The single-season record for TD passes at Wisconsin is 21; Wilson is on pace to break that mark in Game 8, though how much he plays next weekend against FCS member South Dakota could affect that.

"He's a good quarterback," Northern Illinois defensive end Sean Progar told reporters after the Badgers' rout Saturday. "Everyone talks about his scrambling - and he got loose on us a couple of times - but he's a good quarterback. He put the ball on the money to his wide receivers."

Wilson's presence hasn't hurt the rushing attack. Wisconsin is averaging 238.3 rushing yards, and tailbacks Montee Ball and James White have combined for 480 yards and nine TDs.

"It's a positive thing that a lot of guys can make a lot of great plays," said Wilson, who guided the Badgers on three TD drives covering at least 77 yards, including a 97-yarder. "I just have to get the ball to the right guys; that's my job."

The Badgers' Oct. 1 visit from Nebraska is shaping up as the game of the year in the Big Ten. They are two of the Big Ten's four unbeaten teams. The other two are Michigan, which doesn't have the defense to remain unbeaten, and Illinois, which doesn't have the pedigree.

Grid bits
USC QB Matt Barkley was razor sharp in the Trojans' 38-17 victory over Syracuse. He was 26-of-39 for 324 yards and five TDs against the Orange, who, granted, have a pitiful secondary. But Barkley is completing 69 percent of his passes for 892 yards this season, with nine TDs and just one pick. He'll get to throw against a shaky Arizona State secondary next week in a key Pac-12 South game. We're just three games into the season, but USC is the only unbeaten team in the division. In addition, the Trojans already have beaten division foe Utah. The other division teams are seriously flawed: Arizona, Colorado and UCLA. Thus, a USC win over Arizona State would stamp USC as the division's best team, even though the Trojans are ineligible for the division title and for postseason play because of their NCAA sanctions.

Houston QB Case Keenum had a big second half as the Cougars rallied from a 34-7 deficit to stun host Louisiana Tech 35-34. Indeed, most quarterbacks would kill for full-game stats as good as his second half. Keenum was 18-of-23 for 279 yards and two TDs in the second half, including 11-of-14 for 142 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter. He finished 25-of-40 for 351 yards and three touchdowns.

You have to feel for Arizona defensive coordinator Tim Kish. Last week, the Wildcats played QB Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State. This week, it was QB Andrew Luck and Stanford. Next week, it's QB Darron Thomas and Oregon. And on Oct. 1, it's QB Matt Barkley and USC. Yikes. Luck and Weeden combined to go 62-of-84 (73.8 percent completion rate) for 722 yards and four TDs against Arizona, which did come up with one pick (against Weeden). Arizona lost the two games by a combined 74-24.

There were 16 FBS-FCS matchups this week, with the FBS teams going 15-1. The lone loser was Western Kentucky, which was routed 44-16 by Indiana State. FBS teams are 71-3 against FCS competition. The other losers were in Week 1: Duke (to Richmond) and Oregon State (to Sacramento State).

Two of the biggest FBS-FCS mismatches of the season occurred this week. California blasted Presbyterian 63-12. The Golden Bears outgained the Blue Hose 581-48, and Presbyterian's TDs came on a blocked field-goal return and an interception return. Missouri beat Western Illinois 69-0 and outgained the Leathernecks 744-44. Western Illinois had one first down.

Five-star recruit Sammy Watkins certainly is making an impact for Clemson. Watkins, a wide receiver from Fort Myers, Fla., had 10 receptions for 155 yards and two TDs in Clemson's win over Auburn. Clemson hasn't had a game-breaking receiver in a few seasons, and new coordinator Chad Morris is making sure Watkins has the ball in his hands. Watkins also had seven rushes Saturday, and through three games, he has 39 touches (including special teams) and four TDs.

LSU owns Mississippi State of late, making Thursday night's result - a 19-6 LSU win - not the least bit surprising. LSU now has won 12 in a row and 19 of 20 against the Bulldogs. In the current winning streak, LSU has held Mississippi State to seven or fewer points seven times.

Amazing but true: North Carolina is 1-0 in the ACC for the first time in 11 years. The Heels won their first league opener since 2000 by downing Virginia 28-17.

Wyoming is 3-0 for the first time since 1996, when Joe Tiller was the Cowboys' coach. Wyoming lost in the WAC championship game to BYU that season. That's also the last time Wyoming started 4-0 - but that seems unlikely this season with Nebraska coming in next week. And, yes, Wyoming is playing host to Nebraska.

The best passing performance of the weekend? How about 600 yards. Casey Brockman of FCS member Murray State was 45-of-67 for 600 yards and six TDs in a 58-27 victory over Tennessee State. The FCS record is 624 yards, by Weber State's Jamie Martin - a future NFL player - in 1991. Murray State is coached by Chris Hatcher, who, not surprisingly given the number of pass attempts, is a Hal Mumme disciple; Hatcher played for Mumme at Division II Valdosta (Ga.) State in the early 1990s.

For those wondering, the first BCS standings of the season come out Oct. 16.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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