NCAA Football

Alabama vs. Tennessee: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a game that was personal for both sides, Alabama escaped Knoxville with a win over Tennessee, 34-20, to make its case as the best one-loss team in the country.

A week after blowing out Texas A&M 59-0, the Crimson Tide made another strong statement against the Volunteers. If Bama has any chance of making the first-ever College Football Playoff, it will need to continue the run after visiting Knoxville.

Blake Sims and Amari Cooper spearheaded the Tide's victory, as they connected to torch the Volunteers through the air. Sims finished with 286 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

Along with a hot start with two passing touchdowns in the first quarter, Nick Saban was impressed with how Sims stepped up in the fourth, per Tide 99.1:

Of those passing yards, 224 went to Cooper, who set a single-game Alabama record and added another two touchdowns. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News pointed out how successful Cooper has been in Tennessee:

One of the most explosive plays from Cooper came on the first snap for Bama, per SportsCenter:

The Vols couldn't pull out a pivotal win but found a potential quarterback of the future in Joshua Dobbs. With Justin Worley not able to play, the sophomore took the reins and went 19-of-32 with 192 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Dobbs also proved to be an elusive runner, tallying 75 rushing yards on the ground. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports offered his take on the quarterback:

Much of the talk leading up to the game was about the return of former Vols coach Lane Kiffin, who is now the offensive coordinator for Alabama. Making his first trip back to Knoxville, the former coach exacted some revenge on Saturday night.

Prior to the game, Tennessee coach Butch Jones spoke about what the game meant for his team, via Matt Slovin of The Tennessean: "The game means everything to our football program and our fans because it is the University of Alabama," Jones said, "not because it is Lane Kiffin."

Following the game, Saban spoke about the team's play with the distractions, per Marquavius Burnett of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer:

While Jones couldn't come away with a win, his offense looked more respectable than it did against Ole Miss or Florida. Against a stout defense, Jones' squad put up more points than any other Vols team against Nick Saban's Alabama, per Andrew Gribble of The Birmingham News:

Following the huge matchup, Tennessee travels to take on South Carolina next Saturday. The Gamecocks have also had an up-and-down season but have a potent offense that will be tough to contain for the now 3-5 Volunteers.

Alabama now heads to LSU on Nov. 8 after the Tigers knocked off previously undefeated Ole Miss at home Saturday night. Les Miles and Saban have been involved in several huge contests, and this one could potentially decide Bama's chances of making the College Football Playoff.

Come Sunday, the Tide will likely be the second-highest ranked team in the SEC, as Adam Gorney of Rivals.com notes:

After the loss by the Rebels, Alabama still has a chance to make a run toward yet another title under Saban. If the Tide survive LSU, they have Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl left to decide their fate. A victory against Tennessee helps Bama's case, but the road ahead looks daunting.

 

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South Carolina vs. Auburn: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a shootout between a pair of offensive juggernauts led by Gus Malzahn and Steve Spurrier, the Auburn Tigers held off a furious test from the South Carolina Gamecocks and prevailed 42-35 at home.

The Gamecocks held the lead three different times in the first half, but Auburn answered quickly every time. Both offenses proved unstoppable with each surpassing 530 total yards, but an early fourth-quarter Nick Marshall touchdown run and timely defense late made the difference for Auburn.

Marshall didn't light the stat sheet on fire but was efficient, going 12-of-14 with 139 yards and four total touchdowns. Three came on the ground, as he rushed 10 times for 89 yards to overcome 402 yards and five touchdowns from South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson.

Here's a look at the final box score:

Auburn entered Saturday's game fresh off a bye week and looking to bounce back from its first loss of 2014 two weeks prior against Mississippi State. But despite going up against a struggling South Carolina squad with three losses, the Tigers knew they wouldn't be the only team with a potent offense.

"They don't have a weakness on offense," Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "They're good up front, they're a good receiver corp, excellent tight end grouping, three running backs that can play for anybody and the quarterback is a fifth-year guy who knows the offense in-and-out, coaches' son, great young man."

The Gamecocks offense wasted no time torching Auburn early on. They took some early momentum on the game's opening drive, going 75 yards in seven plays as Thompson hit Shaq Roland for a 32-yard score.

South Carolina threatened to take a two-score lead the next time it got the ball, but Cassanova McKinzy snagged a red-zone interception. And like it's wired to do, Auburn's offense pounded its way down the field. Marshall found Brandon Fulse for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game late in the first.

But when the second quarter came rolling around, the defenses subsided and the shootout was on.

Both offenses were incredibly potent in the second quarter, with Thompson throwing two touchdown passes for South Carolina and Auburn running it into the end zone twice. The Gamecocks briefly held leads of 14-7 and 21-14, but the Tigers quickly answered each time.

That left it a 21-21 game at halftime—but as AL.com's Brandon Marcello notes, Auburn had no trouble dominating the second half in a similar situation earlier this year:

Auburn looked intent on repeating that result coming out for the second half. The Tigers stormed down the field on a 13-play, 88-yard drive as Marshall walked in from four yards out to give Auburn a 28-21 lead.

With South Carolina trailing for the first time, Thompson continued slinging. He went long to Pharoh Cooper, who grabbed a 51-yard touchdown pass to tie it up again at 28-all.

After holding the ball for over five minutes the last time out, Auburn didn't feel like waiting to get the lead back. Receiver Ricardo Louis went 75 yards on a touchdown run on the opening play of the next drive to take the lead back.

A lot of different words could be attributed to the offensive slugfest, but SB Nation's Spencer Hall described it accordingly:

Louis' rushing day had Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington impressed with how Auburn was spreading the ball around:

But nothing Auburn's offense did could thwart what Thompson had going in his own offense. He got the ball back and went 11 plays in over five minutes, tying the game late in the third quarter at 35-35.

Then, Steve Spurrier pulled a trick out of the bag, per Auburn Plainsman's Eric Wallace:

Auburn hadn't been able to stop South Carolina all half and most of the game, but it stood tall when it mattered most.

On a short field, the Tigers forced a big-time stop as Jonathan Jones picked off Thompson for his second interception of the game, per CBS Sports' Eye on College Football:

For those who watched the ebbs and flows of this game, and know of Auburn's offensive potency, you can guess what happened next. Marshall mixed the run and the pass to sprint down the field, and ran it in on his own to give Auburn a 42-35 lead.

That rush moved him up on Auburn's all-time ranks, per the team's official Twitter feed:

South Carolina proved with the earlier onside kick that it didn't trust putting the defense back out there, and that showed again late. The Gamecocks converted a 4th-and-8 in their own territory before turning it over on downs in the red zone. 

Auburn gave the ball back to South Carolina with another chance to tie things up, but it wasn't until the Tigers ran more time off the clock. With only 1:08 to operate, Thompson moved his team into Auburn territory before throwing his third pick of the game to seal the deal.

This shootout of a game wasn't for defensive traditionalists, but as Saturday Down South noted, fans could simply flip to another SEC game to see the conference's balance:

A second straight loss would've been the last thing Auburn needed after falling to Mississippi State its last time out, but perhaps Saturday's result could prove beneficial. It wasn't easy by any means, but Auburn showed its grit and resiliency by constantly answering the bell on offense when the defense folded.

However, there's plenty to be made of Thompson's 400-plus-yard day against an Auburn secondary that gave up at least 35 points for the second straight contest. Traveling to face Ole Miss—who will be hungry for another statement win after falling to LSU—could expose those problems even more.

South Carolina falls to a paltry 2-4 in SEC play with the defeat, all but squashing its already remote chances of winning the SEC East. Now, the Gamecocks need to win two of four to close the season just to make a bowl. 

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Watch All 10 of the TCU Horned Frogs' TDs vs. Texas Tech in Under a Minute

The TCU Horned Frogs had themselves a day against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The offense explodes for 10 touchdowns, scoring 82 points. Watch all 10 touchdowns from this scintillating performance. 

Was this the most impressive offensive game of the CFB season?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Inability to Make Adjustments Proof Whole Michigan Staff Needs Overhaul

Brady Hoke entered today’s game versus Michigan State desperate for a win to save Michigan’s season. But another embarrassing offensive performance has left the season in shambles and insured that Hoke’s time in Ann Arbor is all but finished.

Despite two weeks to prepare for the Spartans, Michigan showed the same plodding offense that doomed it to failure in earlier losses on the year. 

Under Hoke Michigan has become a joke to some or at best an exhibit of morbid curiosity.

How bad is Michigan?

Almost everything went its way in the first half, and the team still trailed 14-3 at the break. If Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had been more accurate the Spartans might have put up 28 points or more in the first half.

With the game still within reach, the coaching staff needed to make changes and take advantage of being within striking range. But the offense which has been in a season long slump hit a new low in the first half totaling 37 overall yards with no net rushing yards and barely improved in the second half.

At a time when Michigan needed to show some originality and challenge the Spartans on their home field, the coaching staff made zero adjustments for the second half.

The results were disastrous. 

"We're very disappointed and we should be," said Hoke. "It's a rivalry game and Big Ten game...We're going back to work."

But that work doesn't seem to be showing results on the field.

Hoke may argue that he can fix what's wrong with Michigan but his move to jumpstart the offense during last offseason has been a spectacular failure. 

Quarterback Devin Gardner had another poor performance (13-of-28 and 121 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions) as Michigan fell 35-11. Gardner is a tough player but continues to throw inexplicable interceptions.

Despite being a fifth year senior, Gardner has regressed as a quarterback. He doesn’t decipher defensive coverages and locks onto receivers—giving defenders crucial clues that lead to turnovers.

Gardner wasn’t alone in coming up short versus the Spartans.

Wide receiver Devin Funchess who has been touted as a top NFL prospect dropped passes that stalled Michigan drives. His poor performance earned the derision of former Wolverine Braylon Edwards who has endowed a scholarship to honor the No.1 jersey that Funchess wears.

In the second half Michigan State put the game out reach with two third quarter touchdowns and the rout was on. After the Michigan State offense got on track, Michigan had no way to catch up.

The game was a huge opportunity for Brady Hoke to prove that his program could challenge a top Big Ten rival; instead his team left the field humbled while chants of “Keep Brady Hoke” rained down from the delighted Spartan crowd.

Michigan (3-5) needs to win three of its remaining four games to make a bowl game while Hoke faces almost certain dismissal. Michigan’s problems (poor quarterback play, bad offensive line and inconsistent defense) have lingered since last season. The team has recruited well, but the coaches haven’t been able to translate raw talent into wins.

In a post game interview on the Michigan radio network, Hoke offered the same tired refrain to explain his team's failure, "...We did some things well and other things we need to improve on."

He shook up his coaching staff last offseason hiring Doug Nussmeier to overhaul the offense. That move failed and now after losses to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Utah, Minnesota and Michigan State it’s time to declare the Brady Hoke era over and move on.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Has Facemask Ripped Upwards

LSU freshman Leonard Fournette made the referees' jobs much easier vs. Ole Miss when he was so blatantly facemasked that the mask itself was ripped almost completely off.

If there's such a thing as a 30-yard facemask penalty this one might have earned it. 

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TCU Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 9

TCU QB Trevone Boykin absolutely dominated this week, making him the top performer. With seven touchdowns, Boykin led his offense to a 82-27 blowout of Texas Tech.

Who do you think had the best performance this week?

Watch the video and let us know!

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West Virginia Is Showing It Is a Legit Contender for the Big 12 Title

It's tough to see a two-loss team making the inaugural College Football Playoff, and that's the boat the West Virginia Mountaineers are in after hiccups against Alabama and Oklahoma. 

But Saturday's 34-10 thumping of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater proves one thing: WVU is squarely in the hunt for the Big 12 title and could very well spoil the conference's chances for a playoff berth in the process. 

Currently, Kansas State leads the Big 12 standings, as they are unbeaten in league play. They're followed by three teams—TCU, Baylor and the Mountaineers. 

What's important about that is that WVU has the head-to-head advantage over Baylor, while still having games with K-State and TCU—both at home—left on the docket. 

So believe it or not, the team picked eighth in the preseason Big 12 poll, ranking ahead of only lowly Iowa State and Kansas, controls its own destiny as it enters the back third of its schedule. 

The Mountaineers have put themselves in this position thanks in large part to the rise of Clint Trickett as one of the best gunslingers in the nation, and that of his partner in crime Kevin White, who leads college football in receiving yards with 1,047. 

On Saturday, Trickett was up to his usual tricks—throwing for 238 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 21-of-30 passing. 

Over the course of the season, he's now accumulated 2,768 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air, thrown just five interceptions and is at the helm of a team that scores 36.8 points per game. 

White's been even more spectacular, hauling in eight touchdowns—although against the Cowboys he was shut down to the tune of 27 yards on three catches. But he still had a touchdown grab. 

This squad is a far cry from the WVU of 2013, a team that went 4-8, lost to Kansas and put Dana Holgorsen on the hot seat. 

Much of the team's resurgence has come on the defensive end. Last year, the Mountaineers were ranked 104th in total defense, giving up 468.5 yards per game. They were also 101st in scoring defense, giving up 34.8 points a game. 

In 2014, the Mountaineers have made slight jumps, ranking 76th in total defense (425.7) and 87th in scoring defense (31.7) through their first seven games. Their scoring-defense rank will likely skyrocket after giving up just 10 points to the Cowboys. 

While those aren't massive jumps, it's still noticeable improvement and enough to give the Mountaineers, who possess one of the best offense in college football, enough of a chance to win ballgames. 

The biggest advantage that the Mountaineers have going forward is that the toughest games they have left are at home. 

Morgantown is often where dreams go to die. Oklahoma State would've won a Big 12 title last year had it not been for an early-season loss there. Then this season, Baylor fell behind the conference eight-ball with an upset loss there. 

WVU is 3-1 at home this year. In their three wins—Towson, Kansas, Baylor—the Mountaineers are averaging a 29-point margin of victory. 

The biggest challenges remain ahead for the Mountaineers. But ever since the Week 1 scare that Alabama suffered at the hands of WVU, Holorgen and Co. have been hard at work making believers out of the college football world. 

It's time to start believing that the Mountaineers can win the Big 12. 

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Laremy Tunsil Injury: Updates on Mississippi Star's Bicep and Return

The Ole Miss Rebels suffered what could be a major blow to their offensive line on Saturday night against the LSU Tigers. In the third quarter, left tackle Laremy Tunsil exited with a bicep injury. According to Joe Schad of ESPN, his return was considered questionable:

Tunsil would later return midway through the fourth quarter according to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

After the tough loss, coach Hugh Freeze didn't sound too concerned with Tunsil's status via Ben Garrett of mississippi.scout.com:

If you want to know how important Tunsil is to the O-line, then look no further than the fact college football writer Phil Steele listed the sophomore on his midseason All-American team, per Ole Miss Football:

Grantland's Matt Hinton wondered what Tunsil's absence could mean for quarterback Bo Wallace, who can ill afford to watch the guy who protects his blind side go down:

Ole Miss will hope that Tunsil's injury is only minor and that he won't have to miss any time. He's the bedrock of the offensive line.

More importantly, Auburn is on tap next week, so the Rebels won't want to enter such an important game short-handed.

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Dak Prescott Injury: Updates on Mississippi State Star's Foot and Return

On the heels of another brilliant game against Kentucky, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a foot injury. The signal-caller was wearing a boot on his right foot following the matchup.

The injury wasn't a serious one, as Prescott told Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger: "Oh yeah, this is just precautionary," Prescott said. "It's just, I got a boot on it."

There was no more elaboration from Prescott, who clearly isn't worried about the boot. After all, he finished with 216 passing yards, 88 rushing yards and three total touchdowns against the Wildcats.

On the season, Prescott has compiled 1,478 passing yards, 664 rushing yards, 24 total touchdowns and four interceptions. His effort this year has made several believe he's a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, including Gil Brandt of NFL.com:

Prescott's value to the team is obvious, so his loss would be a huge one for Mississippi State. Sitting at No. 1 coming into the weekend, the Bulldogs play Arkansas next weekend and Alabama on Nov. 15.

In order to remain as the top team in the country, having Prescott under center will be of the utmost importance. Luckily, the injury doesn't appear serious, but nothing can be taken lightly when it comes to the leader of an undefeated team.

 

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Winners and Losers from Week 9 of College Football

The final college football weekend in October didn't disappoint.

With the College Football Playoff selection committee's top 25 set to be released on Tuesday, this was the final weekend to make a strong impression. 

Mississippi State, the No. 1 team in the country, needed to survive against Kentucky. Meanwhile, TCU had a record-setting day offensively against Texas Tech. LSU disrupted the top of the SEC West and the playoff picture by knocking off Ole Miss at home, and Ohio State survived on the road against Penn State. 

From those games and much, much more, we have it all covered. As you'll notice, Winners and Losers is live even though the day isn't done. Fear not, as this post will be updated throughout the evening as events warrant. 

Which teams, players and moments came away as winners? Which ones didn't? The answers are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

LSU's Jamal Adams Flops After Contact with Ole Miss' Bo Wallace

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was trying to send a message against LSU and instead nearly cost his team some yards.

After Wallace gave a healthy shoulder bump to LSU's Jamal Adams, the true freshman safety showed off his best flop by flinging his hands in the air as he fell right in front of the ref.

Wallace was flagged on the play and earned a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that was offset by another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by LSU.

As SB Nation points out, Adams successfully earned a similar penalty two weeks ago against Florida. 

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Kentucky QB Patrick Towles Makes His Claim as Best QB in SEC East

For Kentucky fans, Saturday was surely disappointing. A young Wildcats team pushed No. 1 Mississippi State extremely hard before falling 45-31 at Commonwealth Stadium, dropping UK to 5-3 on the season, 2-3 in SEC play.

Through the gloom, a light emerged in sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles. Towles had the best game of his young career, completing 24 of 43 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions. He added 76 rushing yards and two scores on 23 carries.

In doing so, he showed that he’s the best quarterback in the SEC East and only has room to grow along with his young teammates.

Think about it. Who else would you pick over Towles?

South Carolina senior quarterback Dylan Thompson entered Saturday with 1,835 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against six interceptions, but his only 300-yard passing game came in the opener against Texas A&M.

Georgia’s Hutson Mason has 1,022 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions and has yet to even hit 200 passing yards in a game this season. Missouri’s Maty Mauk has 16 touchdowns against nine picks, including a two-game stretch against Georgia and Florida that saw him combine for 117 passing yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions.

Against a solid Mississippi State defense, Towles kept Kentucky in the game, showing no fear either running or passing downfield. It was his third 300-yard passing game of the season, joining a 377-yard effort in a season-opening win over UT-Martin and a 369-yard night in a 36-30, triple-overtime loss to Florida.

Kentucky is one of the nation’s most improved teams and needs only one win in its final four games against Missouri, No. 9 Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville to make a bowl game.

With an improving Towles at the helm, that quest has a sense of inevitability. The Wildcats are on the right track, particularly with the young quarterback at the helm.

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TCU QB Trevone Boykin Now a Heisman Dark Horse After 7-TD Performance

After tossing seven touchdown passes in an 82-27 drubbing of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, TCU Horned Frogs gunslinger Trevone Boykin has forcefully inserted himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation. 

Not only did Boykin throw a school record seven touchdowns—the same number he threw all of last season—against the Red Raiders, he also racked up 433 yards passing and ran for 28 yards. 

This season, the Horned Frogs have surprised everybody. They were ranked just seventh in the preseason Big 12 poll but now control their destiny to a Big 12 title and, possibly, a playoff berth. 

And it's thanks to Boykin, who is without a doubt the most improved player in college football. 

It started in Week 1, when Boykin was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 320 yards and accounting for three total touchdowns against Samford. 

He's thrown for at least 250 yards in every game—his season low is 258 against Minnesota in Week 2, a 30-7 blowout where TCU got away from the passing game after taking control. Boykin made headway on the ground that game, though, rushing for a season-high 92 yards. 

But the Heisman voters buy into the philosophy of "what have you done for me lately?" 

Well, over the last two weeks against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, Boykin has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 843 yards. He's also thrown just one interception the last two games and just three all season. 

But the question is, how does Boykin stand up to the two bona fide Heisman candidates at quarterback in Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott?

Here's how Boykin compares to the two in passing yards and touchdowns, total touchdowns, interceptions, record and wins against ranked teams. 

Boykin leads all three in passing yards and is tied with Mariota in wins against ranked opponents. He's close in virtually every category, so it's clear that he's in the same stratosphere as those guys. 

What's more impressive is that Boykin, while he's always been a great athlete, has been all but forgettable until this season. He wasn't even named the starter in the spring, per The Dallas Morning News 

Now, for the time being, Boykin deserves an invite to New York City as a Heisman finalist. And if TCU comes out of nowhere and wins the Big 12, he could very well hoist up college football's greatest individual honor at season's end. 

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Southern Cal vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Southern Cal 14, Utah 10 ; Mid 3rd Quarter

A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in Salt Lake City, as the No. 19 Utah Utes play host to the No. 20 Southern Cal Trojans. 

The game will begin at 10 p.m. ET. It can be seen on Fox Sports 1. 

Odds Shark has Southern Cal as a one-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com. 

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Southern Cal vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Utah 17, Southern Cal 14 ; Late 3rd Quarter A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in Salt Lake City, as the No. 19 Utah Utes play host to the No. 20 Southern Cal Trojans...

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Trevone Boykin vs. Texas Tech: Stat Line, Heisman Impact and Reaction

Anyone who wasn't taking Trevone Boykin's Heisman candidacy seriously better start now.

The TCU quarterback continued his renaissance Saturday against Texas Tech, throwing for 433 passing yards and seven touchdowns through the air. In addition to setting a school record, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info, those seven scores matched his season output as a sophomore:

He didn't even need the entire game to produce those eye-popping numbers. After posting all those stats and 68 points through three quarters, Boykin basked in the glory from the sideline during the final period.

Following the 82-27 onslaught, the Horned Frogs are now 6-1, with their lone loss coming in a 61-58 shootout against Big 12 rival Baylor. Both schools are now fighting for positioning inside the Top 10 and for one of the four playoff spots.

Boykin capitalized on a feeble Texas Tech defense that has now surrendered 45 or more points four times this season. Still, 82 is a lot more 45. This game will teleport him into the heart of the Heisman race. How strong is his case, and can he remain at the forefront of the top contenders throughout the season?

Through seven games, the junior has 21 passing touchdowns and three interceptions, compiling consecutive 400-yard performances. The Dallas Morning News' Ryan Gerbosi analyzed the game's impact on Boykin's national outlook.

"Any whispers you heard about Trevone Boykin being considered for major awards in the last few weeks are about to turn into screams," Gerbosi said.

Nobody would have given the TCU signal-caller any thought to begin the season, but he has already tripled his touchdown tally from last year with five games left to go. Just last season, Boykin had to avoid a slew of criticism, per College GameDay's Chris Fowler:

Two weeks ago, before the peak of his breakout, Boykin described his progress to The Associated Press' Stephen Hawkins, via NCAA.com.

"I guess you can say I'm going in with a lot more confidence," Boykin said. "We're going in on a roll as a team, not just an offense. Right now we just have to click on all three phases, and my performance will be based on what the other 10 guys without the ball do, and my decision-making."

While he needs to be mentioned as a prominent threat, he's still not the favorite despite Saturday's outburst. As great as he's been, his 58.7 completion percentage is actually a slight downgrade from last season. Maybe it's picking hairs, but lofty standards are necessary when comparing him to the nation's top college football standouts.

While Dak Prescott didn't hurt his chances with 304 total yards and three touchdowns against Kentucky, he didn't bolster them either as it was one of his worst passing days of the season. Whether it's fair, Mississippi State's success will sway voters in Prescott's direction.

Unfortunately for both men, Marcus Mariota is still operating at another stratosphere. On Friday night, the junior tallied 362 total yards along with five passing touchdowns during a 59-41 victory over California.

Aside from his sterling 24-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Oregon's star also beats the other contenders in key efficiency measures, making him the most deserving quarterback by a sizable margin.

Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper, however, are also contenders in a stacked field. So one scintillating effort doesn't guarantee Boykin can remain in the discussion. But he's certainly a part of it right now, even though he still has ground to make up. 

Two stark tests await him over the next two weeks. First he'll face West Virginia, which limited Baylor to a season-low 27 points in an upset last weekend. After that, Kansas State awaits, averaging 29.3 points allowed per game after shutting out Texas.

Given his previous two seasons under center, simply emerging as one of the Heisman finalists would be considered a huge success story for Boykin. With a strong finish, that's a feasible goal.

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Josh Robinson Shows Mississippi State Offense Is More Than Just Dak Prescott

During Mississippi State’s unlikely rise to the top of the college football polls, junior quarterback Dak Prescott has become the face of the Bulldogs offense and one of the faces of college football.

With good reason too: Prescott is one of the game’s most dynamic players and a strong contender for the Heisman Trophy. But Saturday afternoon, junior tailback Josh Robinson showed that Prescott isn't the only one capable of carrying the offensive load for the Bulldogs.

While No. 1 Mississippi State was pushed by Kentucky in a 45-31 win, Robinson put together a career-high 198 rushing yards, including two of the best runs we’ve seen this season.

While Prescott had another solid game (216 passing yards on 18 of 33 attempts, one touchdown and one interception, plus 88 rushing yards and two rushing scores), he was clearly banged up after taking a helmet to his knee. That knock made him limp to the sidelines several times.

Saturday was a sign that Prescott doesn’t have to propel State’s offense forward all by himself.

Robinson entered as State’s leading rusher, and this marked his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. He had 197 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the Bulldogs’ breakthrough 34-29 win at LSU.

On Saturday, the 5’9”, 215-pounder showed national viewers just what he can do if given the opportunity.

With the Bulldogs holding a 24-17 third-quarter lead and backed up inside their own 20, Robinson provided a spark. He was met in the backfield by a host of Kentucky defenders but cut back right and broke at least seven tackles on his way to a 22-yard gain. That sparked a quick drive that helped MSU push its lead back to two touchdowns.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had again cut the lead to a touchdown when Robinson struck once more, taking a 3rd-and-1 at the MSU 27 for a rumbling, demoralizing 73-yard touchdown run.

Robinson is a powerful, physical runner who is very tough for opposing linebackers to bring down—the perfect complement to Prescott’s power-running style, he told Gary Graves of the Associated Press. 

"It helps the offense so much,'' Prescott said. "It helps out the run game with myself and the passing game. They have to respect Josh on the run because I can potentially run as well.''

The Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 SEC) still have games left at Top Five teams Alabama and Ole Miss. They’ll need a balanced, productive offense to survive those games and push for a College Football Playoff bid.
With Robinson in the fold, they have the running game necessary to do just that.

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Kentucky vs. Mississippi State: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Wildcats

On the legs of Josh Robinson, the Mississippi Bulldogs were able to avoid the upset and defeat the upstart Kentucky Wildcats by a score of 45-31 on Saturday. 

The talented back rushed for 198 yards on only 23 carries. His ability to break tackles and make people miss in space was truly spectacular. He and Dak Prescott combined for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. 

Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles played exceptionally well in the losing effort. He went 24-of-43 for 390 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Wildcats with 76 yards on the ground, in addition to two rushing touchdowns. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com. Check out first-half and final game grades for the Bulldogs and Wildcats. Additional analysis for positional units will also be addressed. 

Mississippi State Bulldogs Analysis

Passing Offense

After starting 5-of-5, Prescott had some issues with accuracy. Credit Kentucky's defensive line for creating pressure. The presence of Bud Dupree did force an errant throw that led to an interception. Outside of a long completion to Robert Johnson, there wasn't much of an attempt to stretch the field vertically. 

On the day, Prescott finished an efficient 18-of-33 for 216 yards and a touchdown. 

 

Pass Defense

It wasn't a banner day for the unit. Heading into this contest, Mississippi State ranked dead last in defending against the pass. On Saturday, the secondary allowed 401 yards through the air. 

Two missed tackles led to a 67-yard touchdown. Kentucky also accrued pass plays of 55 and 58 yards. MSU attempted to press its corners up against the young UK receivers, but this didn't prove to be too effective. Simply put, it was a struggle. 

 

Rushing Offense

Mississippi State dominated the line of scrimmage up front on run plays. As a whole, the Bulldogs rushed for 326 yards on 51 carries. As mentioned above, Robinson was absolutely brilliant. Before the hit to Prescott's knee, the quarterback also had an impact rushing the football. He finished with 88 yards on the ground. 

The unit did have some problems in pass protection. Credit the staff for making some adjustments—which included chipping Dupree with a running back or tight end in order to slow down the elite defender. 

 

Rush Defense

The Mississippi State defensive line was dominant at times. Towles was sacked seven times on the afternoon. In terms of bottling up the Kentucky running backs, the Bulldogs held the group to only 27 yards on nine carries. 

MSU did get gashed at times by Kentucky's quarterback. The signal-caller picked up yards on both draws and scrambles. Outside of a 48-yard run by Towles, it was a great afternoon by the defensive front seven. 

 

Special Teams

A 42-yard miss by Logan Cooke was the only real blemish on the afternoon. It was a peculiar choice by the coaching staff to insert Cooke, after fellow kicker Evan Sobiesk nailed a 26-yard kick earlier in the game. 

The 61-yard onside kick return for touchdown by linebacker Christian Holmes iced the game for the Bulldogs. 

 

Coaching

Initially, the play-calling was a bit perplexing. MSU opted to throw the football to set up the run, and as a result, Prescott wasn't overly effective. However, the ground game became the focus in the second half. Unsurprisingly, the Bulldogs began to gain traction. 

It was a simple change in philosophy but one that was highly productive nonetheless. The decision to switch kickers was also a bit strange. 

In a statistic that can't be measured, the team demonstrated terrific resolve in winning the contest. The immense and newfound expectations placed on this team never became a burden. Similar to Dan Mullen's personality, the team remained calm, loose and determined.  

Kentucky Wildcats Analysis

Passing Offense

In terms of quarterback play, Towles was fantastic. He displayed not only great arm strength and accuracy but also toughness, grit and precision. Throwing for 390 yards against the No. 1 team in the country is no easy feat by any stretch.

Heading into next year, don't be surprised if Towles is considered one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC. 

The receivers had a mixed day—and Ryan Timmons was a great example. After making a big 55-yard reception late in the game, he followed the play up with two consecutive drops on the same drive. Towles' numbers would have been even more impressive, had it not been for four to five drops from his receivers. 

 

Pass Defense

For the most part, the unit was solid. MSU didn't look to pepper UK's secondary with throws down the field, but Kentucky also didn't allow a passing play longer than 36 yards. 

It did a good job of pressing the Bulldogs receivers at the line of scrimmage and also tackled relatively well. Elite receiver De'Runnya Wilson was held to only two catches for 30 yards. 

 

Rushing Offense

It was an anemic effort by the corps of running backs. Without Boom Williams, UK lacked an explosive athlete in the backfield. Braylon Heard and Jojo Kemp combined for only 27 yards on eight carries. Heard also fumbled deep in UK territory.

Towles was the most effective runner on the afternoon. He led the team with 76 yards on 23 carries. However, Kentucky's offensive line was manhandled up front for the majority of the afternoon. It wasn't able to adequately open up holes necessary for yardage outside of Towles calling his own number and scrambling.

 

Rush Defense

The unit gave up 326 yards of rushing. Any way one slices it, this simply wasn't good enough. Tackling (or lack thereof) was the biggest issue when defending versus Robinson and Prescott. MSU's dynamic duo broke myriad arm tackles. Kentucky didn't wrap up nearly well enough. 

Against the pass, it did get a decent rush. Dupree flashed his immense ability at times, and UK did an adequate job of initially getting after the quarterback. Once MSU prioritized the run game, Kentucky's front seven began to tire. 

 

Special Teams

The coverage was solid across the board. However, the kicking game left a lot to be desired. Kicker Austin MacGinnis missed one of his two field-goal attempts. He also had a poor onside kick attempt—which was returned 61 yards for a touchdown. 

Against the No. 1 team in the nation, these types of mistakes cannot happen if an underdog is to pull off the upset. 

 

Coaching

Credit Mark Stoops and his staff for devising a very good scheme. In this contest, it was a matter of MSU being the more talented, experienced and deeper football team. 

Offensively, the team was explosive. Outside of a few dropped passes, this game could have gone down to the wire. Defensively, the staff did a great job of mixing up looks and making things difficult for Prescott in the pocket.

It's plainly evident this program is on the right track. With its franchise quarterback in tow, there's no telling how good this team can be heading into the next two years—especially if Stoops continues to recruit at a high level.  

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Michigan vs. Michigan State: Game Grades, Analysis for Wolverines and Spartans

Brady Hoke has long praised his players' work ethic, practice habits and attitudes. He says that the Wolverines "work hard every day," but he's disappointed that they're not being rewarded for their labor. 

"We made some progress during the week, we thought, but we've got to go back to work," he said following Michigan's (3-5, 1-3) 35-11 loss to Michigan State (7-1, 4-0) at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. 

The loss marked the sixth in the past seven series meetings. Hoke's 1-3 versus the Spartans. 

Long story short: Michigan State executed at the right times; Michigan did not. 

Let's take a look at the game grades on both sides. 

 

 

Passing Offense

UM: This section gets a "D" for Devin, both Gardner, the quarterback, and Funchess, the No. 1 receiver. 

Gardner avoided being sacked at every turn, but he completed just 15 of 30 passes for 121 yards and zero touchdowns. He threw two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six by Spartans DB R.J. Williamson. 

Funchess, Michigan's top weapon, had five catches for 64 yards, but none of them seemed to make much of a difference. 

MSU: In an effort to coordinate grades with initials, let's give Connor Cook a "C." OK, so it's not to match initials. That was a bad joke. However, Cook was indeed average Saturday. He didn't erupt for huge numbers, throwing for a modest 227 yards, a stat heavily aided by his 70-yard touchdown toss to Tony Lippett. 

 

Rushing Offense

UM: Same story, different week. There is no rushing game at Michigan. None. It gets a "D-" since its leading back was De'Veon Smith, who scored the Wolverines' first offensive touchdown versus Michigan State since 2011. The sophomore finished with a team-high 39 yards. 

MSU: Jeremy Langford's three touchdowns sunk Michigan. Like last year, he delivered a dagger late in the game that deflated any hopes of a Michigan comeback. He finished with 183 yards, the same total as Minnesota's David Cobb, who gashed the Wolverine defense earlier this year.

But more impressively, Langford's riding a streak of 12 consecutive 100-yard Big Ten games, breaking Curtis Enis' record set at Penn State in 1996 and 1997. 

The Spartans will get an "A" for running wild, but not too wild, over the Wolverines. It was a subtle take-down to the ground. 

 

Passing Defense

UM: Cook was decent, so that means the Wolverines weren't exactly on their A-game. But Jarrod Wilson and Jeremy Clark made a couple of key stops. Wilson recovered a fumble. Lippett was the only Spartans receiver to really do damage. 

But all things considered, the Wolverine secondary has now become a weakness. Forget about it being a strength. Michigan's corners, safeties and overall pass defense get a "D," which has been a common grade for the entire team this season. 

MSU: A pick-six by Williamson, holding Funchess to crumbs and not allowing Gardner to do much at all—Michigan State's DBs get a "B+" for the evening. 

 

Rushing Defense

UM: You know the score, just flip things around. Michigan State rushed very well, meaning that Michigan didn't defend very well. During his postgame presser, Hoke said that tackling was an issue that he plans to address this week in practice. 

Team 135's run defense had stood up to most before it met Langford...and then it cracked. It gets a "D."

MSU: The Spartans deserve an "A-" for holding Michigan to 65 net yards rushing. Doug Nussumeier, Michigan's offensive coordinator, may want to start checking the want ads. 

His offense is worse than that of Al Borges, who was fired after the 2013 season for having an offense that was better than this year's group. 

 

Special Teams

UM: Matt Wile made a 48-yard field goal. Dennis Norfleet danced a little bit, which now figures into the game grades, and the Will Hagerup punted well. A grade of "C" seems just fine. 

MSU: Michigan State kicker Michael Geiger hasn't been perfect. The Spartans are used to having kickers who are pretty close to that. Geiger missed his only attempt, a 36-yarder. Mike Sadler averaged 37.5 yards per punt and kept Michigan with a long field. 

The Spartans will get a "B" for special teams. 

 

Coaching

UM: Again, and this can't be stressed enough: Hoke's staff is failing the players, at least when you use winning football games as the standard from which to measure. He's gets an F for Saturday. 

MSU: Mark Dantonio's game plans work wonders versus the Big Ten, especially the Wolverines. He gets an A- for Saturday, but also for the fact that he owns Michigan. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Michigan State Destroys Michigan, but Are Spartans Ready for Ohio State?

Michigan State was not at its best against Michigan. But in 2014, "not-its-best" is good enough to beat the Spartans' in-state rival by 24 points, as they did, 35-11, on Saturday.

The Wolverines didn't score their first touchdown until the 3:40 mark of the fourth quarter, ending a touchdown-less streak against MSU that dated back to 2011. The streak spanned roughly 186 minutes of game time, per Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press:

"Now [our younger players] know what we talk about," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio of the culture he's created for this rivalry, per Rexrode. "Now they know."

But let's be honest: The obvious personal factors aside—revenge, spite, little-brother syndrome, schadenfreude, etc.—Saturday's win was less about what Michigan State did to Michigan and more about what it might do for the rest of the Big Ten season.

Specifically, it was about whether MSU is ready for Ohio State.

The Buckeyes come to East Lansing Nov. 8 for a rematch of last year's Big Ten title game. And when they do, it's a fair bet to say that the Big Ten East will be on the line. If the winner of that game finishes the season with one loss, it will have either a decent, good or great argument for inclusion in the College Football Playoff, depending on what happens with the highly ranked teams in other conferences.

Despite the final score/stats from Saturday's win against Michigan, the Spartans have some work to do before the biggest game of their season in two weeks—or, at least one player has some work to do.

MSU won't beat the Buckeyes unless its quarterback, Connor Cook, can snap out of his moderate funk.

Cook's final stats from Saturday look decent (12 of 22 completions for 227 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions) but belie how much he struggled for the majority of the game.

His leadership was manifest when he plowed through safety Delano Hill on the Spartans' first possession—a hit that Bleacher Report's Michael Felder called a "baptism"—but his footwork, decision-making and accuracy lagged behind his intangible will to win.

Yes, the wind was a factor. But that doesn't excuse some of Cook's poorer throws. He overshot Tony Lippett across the middle on the first drive of the game and Aaron Burbridge on a deep ball that should have been a touchdown a few drives later. The wide-open misses continued well into the second half.

Against Michigan, Sparty could afford for Cook to leave points on the board.

Against Ohio State, it needs every single point it can get.

Cook made his name at the end of last season by playing his two best games in Michigan State's biggest: the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl. He followed suit with a gutsy performance at Oregon earlier this season, playing well in a 46-27 defeat.

But in MSU's two biggest games since the Oregon loss (home tilts with Nebraska and Michigan), Cook has been up-and-down. Not bad, but definitely not good. And definitely, definitely not great.

Cook was great when Michigan State beat Ohio State in Lucas Oil Stadium last season. On that day, he finished with 304 yards and three touchdowns. His 33-yard touchdown pass to Lippett looked a lot like what he was trying to do when he overshot Burbridge on Saturday:

Cook doesn't have a "get right" game between now and Nov. 8. He will take his first snap against Ohio State on the heels of his worst stretch of football since the early part of last season. He has not looked this bad for this long since he first "made the leap" for MSU.

The Spartans defense looked ready for Ohio State against Michigan, as it fed off strong performances from Marcus Rush, Shilique Calhoun, Taiwan Jones, Ed Davis, Darian Hicks and Kurtis Drummond to give Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner an appropriate East Lansing send-off.

The offense—for the most part—looked ready for the Buckeyes as well, supported by a road-grating offensive line and a great game from running back Jeremy Langford to finish with 446 total yards.

There are more positives than negatives to take away from Saturday's game, but that doesn't change the fact that the Spartan who looked the least ready for OSU is the most important player on the team.

So, is Michigan State ready for the Buckeyes? On aggregate, the answer is yes. And it just took a clear step in the right direction. But it can't afford to rest on its laurels during this upcoming bye week.

The Spartans need to get their leader back in sync.

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