Publish date:

Stewart Mandel's Two-Minute Drill

Sizing up the first halfof the 2006 season

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Eighth-ranked Tennessee (5--1) hasn't just shaken off last year's 5--6 disaster, the Vols have buried it. From an opening-week rout of Cal to last week's 51-point explosion at Georgia, Tennessee hasn't looked this good in years.

BIGGEST FLOP: Since its near upset of top-ranked USC last November, Fresno State (1--4) has dropped seven of eight games, including a 13--12 loss at previously winless Utah State last weekend.

COACH OF THE FIRST HALF: Despite losing record-setting quarterback Brad Smith, oft-criticized Gary Pinkel has steered Missouri to its first 6--0 start since 1973, with Smith's replacement, sophomore Chase Daniel, leading the way.

BEST MOMENT: The one-yard touchdown pass from Florida quarterback Tim Tebow (above) to tight end Tate Casey on an old-fashioned run-and-jump play against LSU last Saturday. "Did they have video in 1913?" said Gators coach Urban Meyer. "I think that's where we got that play from."

BIGGEST EMBARRASSMENT: The seasonlong rash of poor officiating that has marred the outcome of several games. The latest: a suspect pass-interference call in overtime that negated Minnesota's game-ending pass breakup against Penn State last Saturday. The Nittany Lions won 28--27.

BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF: Ball State sophomore Darius Hill leads all tight ends nationally in receiving with 551 yards and eight touchdowns.

THUMBS UP: Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, ABC's new Saturday-night games, N.C. State quarterback Daniel Evans, the Big East

THUMBS DOWN: Alabama running back Ken Darby, Michigan State coach John L. Smith, the new clock rules, Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter, the ACC

FIVE TEAMS ON THE RISE: Arkansas, Cal, Clemson, Washington, Wisconsin

FIVE LOSING STEAM: Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest


1 USC's offense, which scored just one touchdown in last Saturday's win over Washington (its fewest in a game since 2001), badly misses the explosiveness of Reggie Bush. Through five games the Trojans' tailbacks have combined for six gains of 20 or more yards. Bush had 39 such plays last season.

2 First-year Kansas State coach Ron Prince made a controversial but wise decision last week to replace his senior quarterback and tailback with a pair of promising freshmen. Running back Leon Patton ran for 151 yards and quarterback Josh Freeman led a game-winning touchdown drive as the Wildcats (4--2) beat Oklahoma State.

3 This week marks the first time since 1982 that neither Florida State nor Miami is ranked in the AP poll. While Seminoles fans have mostly taken out their displeasure on message boards, Hurricanes fans made a bigger statement at last Saturday's game at the Orange Bowl against North Carolina: Only 29,621 showed up.