NCAA Football

Tennessee Football: Will the Volunteers Win Every Remaining Game?

Tennessee needs to run the table the rest of the way to have a successful football season, even though that table isn't exactly spread with cupcakes and cream puffs.

Still, by SEC standards, coach Butch Jones' Vols have a pretty easy slate to close the season.

After an early gauntlet that included games against an upstart Bowling Green as well as Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama, things lighten up considerably.

UT finishes against Kentucky, South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt. That group has a combined 14-22 record, and the Wildcats, Gamecocks, Tigers and Commodores are just 7-14 in the SEC.

Though Mizzou may be a better team than it's shown with the return of junior quarterback Maty Mauk from suspension, the toughest of the Vols' remaining games may just be this weekend in Lexington against Mark Stoops' rebuilding 'Cats.

It's a game that opened with UT as a 7.5-point favorite, according to Odds Shark, and it has swollen to 8.5 or 9 in some places. 

In other words, the Vols should win out, and they aren't going to look back too painfully at the massive "what-might-have-beens" if they do.

Those include four narrow losses by 17 total points, three blown double-digit leads and a setback to Alabama after holding a lead with less than three minutes remaining.

They proved that against an Alabama team that may wind up being the best in the league. Tennessee hung tight the whole way, even going ahead of the Tide with 5:56 left. It did so banged up and without the benefit of any trick plays or real luck.

Tennessee went head-to-head with the tough, but tired, Tide and lost an ulcer-inducer. It really stung to get beat, but it can't hurt for long.

"There is still a lot to look forward to," senior safety Brian Randolph said, according to Volquest.com's Brent Hubbs. "We have five games left, and we're not going to let Alabama beat us twice."

Indeed, there's plenty left for the Vols. Though it can't be the exceptional season it could have been, it can still be a positive step forward.

Winning all five games on the schedule would mean an 8-4 record, a strong mid-tier bowl eager to accommodate well-traveling UT fans thrilled to be back in the national picture as well as the chance for the first nine-win season since 2007.

Lose just one, and 2015 is a disappointment. Anything other than 5-0 to close the season is unacceptable.

Maybe it isn't fair, but given the way Tennessee lost, the disappointment of botching a golden opportunity to end the streak against the Gators and a frustrating defeat that won't age well to a mediocre Arkansas team, UT can't afford a hiccup to an inferior opponent.

And the Vols are frankly deeper, more talented and more explosive than any team left on their schedule.

As Hubbs said: "The Vols aren't David playing a bunch of Goliaths the rest of the way. The Vols aren't the underdogs and the mentality is not that they should only hope to be able to make it a four-quarter game. The storyline is no longer, 'Are the Vols ready to get over the hump with the big boys?'"

It all starts this Saturday night with a Halloween date against Kentucky. Coming off a knife-twisting loss to Bama, the game against the Wildcats comes at a tenuous time. So, it's certainly a road trip UT can't overlook.

But given how a worse Tennessee team hung 50 on the Wildcats in Neyland Stadium a season ago with Joshua Dobbs at the helm and how atrocious UK looked last week trying to defend dual-threat quarterback Dak Prescott in a lopsided loss to Mississippi State, the Vols should handle business.

Dobbs is a less advanced clone of Prescott, and Tennessee has more offensive weapons and a better offensive line surrounding him than the Bulldogs. But Prescott was a one-man wrecking crew in a Heisman Trophy-worthy performance where he finished with 465 total yards and six touchdowns.

Stoops told A Sea of Blue's Warren Taylor that a week preparing to face Prescott could help against Dobbs: "I think it does. I think it does to some extent. Certainly it put a lot of pressure on us all week. We need to do a lot better job."

After that, Tennessee returns home to face a South Carolina team that's been discombobulated offensively, a mess at times on defense and is now trying to regroup under interim coach Shawn Elliott after Steve Spurrier abruptly resigned.

The Vols beat Carolina the past two years when they weren't expected to, and this season should be no different.

After the game against the Gamecocks, UT plays North Texas, which may be the worst team in all of FBS. The Mean Green lost all seven of their games by an average score of 47-16. Portland State beat them 66-7, if you can believe that.

They're atrocious.

After that contest, Tennessee has to travel to Columbia, Missouri, to face a Tigers team that is nasty defensively but historically awful on offense. The Tigers are converting just 22.4 percent of third-down conversions and were 0-of-14 in a 10-3 loss against Vanderbilt.

The season ends against the Commodores, who are surprisingly playing pretty well in the second year under coach Derek Mason. Though they're just 3-4, they've been in every game, and they always play Tennessee tough.

Still, there's simply no excuse for UT losing either of those last two games, or any game remaining, for that matter.

The margin for error is minuscule the rest of the way. While the frustrating losses at the beginning of the year can be forgiven, the only way for that to happen is an eight-win campaign. It's an obvious step forward to do that, beat one of the big three rivals (Georgia) and play every game ultra-competitively.

Even the staunchest critics would admit that's a strong step forward, even if it isn't quite the one a hype-filled offseason promised.

The recruiting wins Jones enjoyed the past two years should really begin to cash in now that the schedule is loosening up some. A season-long shaky defense now has the catalyst game to build off of after a solid performance against the Crimson Tide, and Dobbs is the X-factor the rest of the way.

There won't be a player with more star potential on the field other than UT's junior signal-caller the rest of the way. He has the ability to take over every single game Tennessee will play this year, and he must do so. 

Dobbs played much better against Georgia and Alabama than he had all season, and it's no surprise the Vols were better because of it.

Last year, around this time, is when Jones' program began turning the fields and planting the seeds of a turnaround. This season, the Vols may have squandered several opportunities to surge to the top of the SEC, but they can cement themselves near the top of the second tier by winning out.

Tennessee has plenty left to play for, and churning out a 5-0 finish may be the start of something special.

 

All stats gathered from UTSports.com unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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College Football Picks Week 9: Predicting Top 25 Matchups Based on Vegas Odds

There aren't many other adjectives to assign the 2015 college football season than "fun."

With upsets seemingly coming every week with some shocking finishes, the AP Top 25 poll has been in constant shuffle mode all season. 

Which, of course, means that Week 9 should be no different with a full slate of games. But before we get into the schedule, here are the current rankings:

Ohio State and Baylor are the two teams that remain in the Top Four from the preseason. Ohio State has not left its perch at No. 1, while Baylor, who started the year in fourth, now sits in second. 

They're joined by Clemson and LSU, who used convincing victories over lesser opponents to assert their dominance among college football. 

Clemson is the only Top Four team in action this week as seven of the Top 25 get to rest up during Week 9. 

Let's take a look at the upcoming schedule, the current odds and who I think you should pick based on those spreads. All odds are courtesy of OddsShark.com:

Game of the Week

No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 21 Temple

Two programs with very different histories will face off at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia as Notre Dame, the national powerhouse, takes on the Temple Owls, who are enjoying their first rankings in the Top 25 since 1979. 

For Notre Dame, who prepares for its eighth game of the season, it is just its third road game of the season. And it hasn't necessarily fared well away from South Bend.

Their second game of the season saw the Irish narrowly escape Virginia with a late touchdown, and they later lost at Clemson. 

Temple, who is undefeated this season, has no problem playing as the underdog. According to ESPN, the Owls are 3-0 in games they aren't favored to win, which includes victories against Penn State, Cincinnati and East Carolina. 

Head coach Matt Rhule spoke with ESPN.com about the upcoming game:

Obviously we're excited about this week, as I know everybody is. A tremendous opportunity to play a great team in Notre Dame, a team we had a chance to play two years ago. They're probably still a national title contender even though they lost one game by a point or two points. They're loaded, they're absolutely fantastic.

ESPN has Temple's chances to win at just 19.5 percent. 

It's not hard to see why it's given such a little chance to win. C.J. Prosise has rushed for 922 yards to lead a trio of dangerous Notre Dame runners, and quarterback DeShone Kizer has one of the nation's top receivers in Will Fuller to throw to all day. 

Only once this season, which was their loss to Clemson, has the Irish been held to under 30 points in a game. 

But Week 9 will bring one of the best defenses they've played against this season in Temple. The Owls allow an average of 14.6 points per game, ranked eighth in the country, to go with 307.0 yards per game, ranked 14th. 

ESPN Stats & Info delved deeper into their defense before last week's win over East Carolina:

Temple will need to get the most of its offensive threats in quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Jahad Thomas—who have combined for 21 touchdowns this season—if it has any hopes of keeping up with the Irish. But if its defense is on point, then we could possibly see an upset brewing. 

And I love upsets. This one is going to be awfully close, and I'm not anticipating a shootout, either. 

Prediction: Temple wins 24-21

Stats courtesy of NCAA.com

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ESPN College GameDay 2015: TV Schedule and Predictions for Week 9 Location

Philadelphia will be the center of the college football universe Saturday. 

Yes, you read that right. Temple, and not a marquee program in the SEC, Big Ten or Pac-12, will host Week 9’s biggest showdown. The undefeated Owls welcome traditional powerhouse Notre Dame in a showdown with College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl implications.

As if that wasn’t enough for arguably the biggest game in Temple’s program history, ESPN’s traveling pregame show, College GameDay, will be there to set the stage. The show shared its decision to host from Philadelphia:

The clash between the No. 9 Fighting Irish and the No. 21 Owls is the only game featuring two ranked teams in Week 9. Here is a prediction for the marquee contest as well as everything you need to know about College GameDay’s schedule.

 

ESPN College GameDay: Week 9 Info

Date: Saturday, Oct. 31

Time (ET): 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Watch: ESPN 

Live Stream: WatchESPN

 

Preview and Prediction

Temple has come full circle under coach Matt Rhule. His first game with the program was a 28-6 loss to Notre Dame in 2013 that highlighted just how far behind the nation’s elite his team was that year. Now, the Owls have the opportunity to prove their worth against that same Fighting Irish program.

There is more than just a marquee win at stake for Temple. The highest-ranked team outside of the Power Five conferences earns an automatic bid to a New Year’s Six bowl, and the Owls are in a tight battle with two fellow American Athletic Conference members and a MAC squad.

Houston and Memphis are both undefeated in the AAC, and the Owls don’t play the Cougars in the regular season. What’s more, the Tigers already have a marquee win over Ole Miss from the SEC boosting their resume. Temple did beat Penn State, but that doesn’t carry as much weight as the victory over the Rebels. A win over a Top 10 Notre Dame would.

The Owls still play Memphis and could meet Houston in a conference title clash, so they control their own destiny in the AAC race. However, Toledo is undefeated and ranked No. 20 and has an easier path to a perfect season in the MAC. Toledo also beat Arkansas and Iowa State earlier this year, but a Temple win over Notre Dame would likely propel it over the Rockets.

As for the Fighting Irish, they are battling for a potential spot in the College Football Playoff, and a win over Temple would provide a quality victory over a ranked team in a game many thought would be a pushover before the season started.

The key matchup pits the Notre Dame offense against the stingy Temple defense.

The Fighting Irish’s list of playmakers begins with wide receiver Will Fuller and running back C.J. Prosise. Fuller is averaging 100.3 receiving yards a game and has eight touchdown catches. What’s more, he posts 21.9 yards per catch (seventh-best in the nation), which is a testament to his big-play ability.

As for Prosise, he’s tallied 922 rushing yards and 11 scores this season and already has five games with more than 100 yards on the ground under his belt.

The Temple defense does rank 14th in the country in yards allowed per game (308) and eighth in points allowed per game (14.6), but these are likely the best playmakers it will face all season.

Star linebacker and team leader Tyler Matakevich will be up for the challenge given the description from Bill Evans of Scout.com’s Owls Daily:

They were really good last year and brought everybody back. So I thought they should be good again. It starts in the middle with linebacker Tyler Matakevich. He might be as good as it gets nationally at the position and this is a very good run defense overall (No. 6 nationally, 91.9 yards per game).  Matakevich can go sideline-to-sideline, maybe he gets a little lost against the pass, but he’s made four interceptions this year and they’ve been big ones. If that’s his weakness, he’s still pretty good there.

Despite Matakevich’s diverse talents, the Owls are vulnerable in the secondary (57th in the country in passing yards allowed per game), which means Fuller should have a big day.

The other matchup pits a struggling Notre Dame defense (85th in the country against the run and 35th against the pass) against an unimpressive Temple offense (109th in the country with 346 yards per game).

However, the Notre Dame front seven that features Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day and Joe Schmidt will provide a physical challenge for the Temple ground attack that relies so heavily on running back Jahad Thomas.

Thomas has 822 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and controlled games against Penn State (135 yards and two touchdowns), Cincinnati (193 yards and a score) and Central Florida (199 yards and three touchdowns). If Notre Dame plans on walking out of Philadelphia with a victory, it has to win the line of scrimmage and prevent Thomas from hitting so many holes.

That will, in turn, force the Owls to air it out, which is not their usual recipe for success.

Outside of the actual on-field matchup, every game Notre Dame plays is an event. It is one of the historically marquee programs in the sport, and opponents circle the Fighting Irish on their calendar every time they come to town. The extra attention with College GameDay and a sold-out crowd will not be anything new for Notre Dame, but it will be for Temple.

Look for the Fighting Irish to jump out to an early lead while the Owls are still adjusting to the bright lights.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly even alluded to the fact Temple may need some time to settle in, per the Associated Press (via FoxSports.com): “They will have to settle into the game and they will. They have played in some big venues. They understand that there's going to be some excitement about it. And I'm sure they will be excited, but they are going to have to settle into the game.”

An early lead for the Fighting Irish will mean Temple must turn away from Thomas in comeback mode during the second half. That, combined with Notre Dame’s offensive weapons, will be too much for the upstart Owls to handle in their first loss of the season. 

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Temple 17

 

*Stats and national rankings as of Wednesday.

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Oregon vs. Arizona State: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Oregon Ducks claimed their ninth-straight victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils Thursday night with a thrilling 61-55 triple-overtime victory at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

Neither team has a chance at the College Football Playoff, but Oregon's win keeps their Pac-12 Championship hopes alive, and moves them to 5-3 on the season.

It was ironic the game came down to a defensive play after the teams combined for 1,242 total yards. 

A touchdown that almost wasn't gave the Ducks the victory. Vernon Adams found Bralon Addison in the back of the end zone from 20 yards out to take the 61-55 lead. It appeared Addison's left foot may have been out of bounds, but the touchdown call stood after the replay. 

The Ducks missed a two-point conversion attempt from the Wildcat formation, but it didn't matter.

Despite the loss, the Sun Devils fought hard in this one. It might have been the greatest tribute they could have had for one of their most cherished former players. Pat Tillman, a former Sun Devil, Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger, was killed in 2004 while serving his country in Afghanistan. The team honored him with one of the most unique tributes to anyone in all of sports Thursday, as seen in this tweet by ESPN:

The most impressive "Tillman" Thursday was quarterback Mike Bercovici who finished 32-of-53 with 398 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. On the other side, Adams threw for 315 yards and four scores, including this crazy one with 12 seconds left in the game to force overtime:

Earlier, Oregon jumped out to a 17-7 lead, and Bercovici closed the gap with 2:36 left before the half when he connected with Gary Chambers for a 39-yard touchdown pass.

The Sun Devils took their first lead on a Demario Richard 22-yard run with 9:27 left in the third quarter, set up by a great defensive play as shown by ESPN:

Arizona State looked like it might pull away five minutes later when Bercovici connected with Richard from one-yard out to give ASU a 31-20 lead.

Then Oregon made the game exciting with a 100-yard kickoff return to get right back in the game, per Pac-12 Networks' Twitter:

The Ducks continued right where they left off two minutes later after stopping the Sun Devils on offense, this time with a 62-yard touchdown run by Kani Benoit.

ASU bounced back with a Zane Gonzalez 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. After forcing an Oregon punt, the Sun Devils wasted no time, finding paydirt once again with Bercovici's fourth passing score of the night to give them a 41-34 lead.

It looked like it was time to celebrate:

Yet, a lead of a touchdown or less is never safe against Oregon, and Adams showed just why when he found Dwayne Stanford on the crazy, game-tying play.

Before the contest went to overtime, Arizona State had more yards in one game than any since 2012, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Although, things took an odd twist once they surpassed the 2005 total and reached 666 yards, per Josh Webb of Athlon Sports:

Whether that means anything to you or not, at the very least, both teams were entertaining everyone who stayed up to watch, including ESPN's Holly Rowe:

Fox 11 Los Angeles anchor Christine Devine had some fun with the game that began on Thursday as it headed into double overtime, and Friday, in the Midwest and on the East Coast:

Once the game finally ended it featured three 100-yard rushers, a 100-yard receiver and two 300-yard passers. The Sun Devils tied a record they probably don't care much about, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Oregon moves to 3-2 in the Pac-12 and is still mathematically alive for a chance to play for the conference championship. At 2-3, with a loss to Pac-12 South leader Utah, the Sun Devils are all but out when it comes to the conference title.

 

Postgame Reaction

Oregon seemed rather lucky to escape with the victory. Not only because of a close call in the end zone, but because the Sun Devils put up an offensive effort that usually would result in a victory.

It wasn't all luck. Adams contributed mightily to the victory, with impressive numbers and multiple big plays that only happened because he kept them alive with his feet.

From the yards given up on defense, dropped passes, close calls and amazing plays, it's a win Oregon fans will take, but Oregonian columnist John Canzano summed it up pretty well with this tweet:

These aren't Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks that lost just seven games in four years during his tenure, but Thursday they found a way to win, and flashed some of that high-scoring offense they are known for.

It's not going to be an easy road for the Ducks if they want a chance at the conference title, as they have Cal, Stanford and USC on the slate the next three weeks. However, their offense, that has now scored 60-plus points three times this season, will always give them a chance to win.

 

Follow @MikeNorrisBR on Twitter.

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West Virginia vs. TCU: Game Grades, Analysis for Mountaineers and Horned Frogs

The No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs improved to 8-0 (5-0) on the season Thursday with a 40-10 win over Big 12 rival West Virginia Mountaineers (3-4, 0-4). 

Quarterback Trevone Boykin passed for 388 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 84 yards and another score. Wide receiver Josh Doctson chipped in with 11 receptions for 183 yards and two scores.

 

Pass Offense: Skyler Howard didn't have a lot of help from his receivers. Way too many drops. He did throw too many balls blindly into coverage—Howard completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Overall, not very good. 

Run Offense: Wendell Smallwood ran for 113 yards, and overall the Mountaineers rushed for 167 yards. Don't believe what you see. Most of those yards came with the game out of hand.

Pass Defense: Four pass-interference penalties sums up WVU's night. No one could cover Doctson. The Mountaineers also dropped an easy interception in the first half. 

Run Defense: WVU allowed over 200 yards rushing. The defense couldn't keep Boykin in the pocket and missed tackles once he escaped. Too many yards after contact were allowed by West Virginia's defense. 

Special Teams: Josh Lambert hit a 51-yard field goal to make it 17-10 in the second quarter. Nick O'Toole averaged 46 yards per punt. 

Coaching: It's tough to knock the coaches for some of the things that happened on defense. Boykin is a special talent, while the Mountaineers are extremely banged up in the secondary. Head coach Dana Holgorsen should've ran the ball more in the first half.

 

Pass Offense: Boykin did whatever he wanted all night. Many of his passing yards came after he escaped pressure and kept his eyes downfield. An outstanding performance that will keep him in the Heisman Trophy race. 

Run Offense: Boykin had several highlight-reel runs in the Horned Frogs' showing of over 200 yards rushing. TCU used the passing game to set up the run. 

Pass Defense: TCU picked off one pass and harassed Howard all night. Some WVU receivers were open, but fortunately for TCU, its receivers couldn't catch the football. 

Run Defense: While the Frogs allowed 167 yards rushing, it is deceiving. Over 100 yards came when the game was decided. TCU did a good job of stuffing the run game in the first half, forcing West Virginia out of its game plan. 

Special Teams: Kicker Jaden Oberkrom connected on all four field goal attempts, including a career-high 57-yarder. TCU did not allow anything in the return game. 

Coaching: TCU is a well-coached football team. Head coach Gary Patterson trusts his coaches, and the offensive staff did a wonderful job of attacking West Virginia's secondary down the field. Give credit to Patterson, too, for trusting his kicker could hit from 57 yards out.

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Motivated J.T. Barrett Exactly What Ohio State Needs for Final Playoff Push

Quarterback J.T. Barrett carried the Ohio State Buckeyes for most of their improbable championship run in 2014, but an ankle injury against the Michigan Wolverines prevented him from carrying the Buckeyes across the finish line. 

That injury opened the door for Cardale Jones, who used his cannon arm and the otherworldly speed of Devin Smith to slice through the Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon secondaries on Ohio State's way to a national title. 

Barrett watched on the sideline as his backup orchestrated that postseason tear, and over the ensuing nine months, he silently listened to people criticize his arm strength in comparison to Jones. 

On Thursday after practice, he couldn't keep quiet any longer. Barrett was asked about his ability to throw the deep ball, which prompted an unexpected rant, according to Eric Seger of Eleven Warriors

I was just like that's crazy to me because if you go back and watch film, I threw a lot of deep balls. Were some underthrown? Absolutely. That was earlier in the year. I got better as the year went on, but I was like, 'Man, do I have a weenie arm?' In the offseason it was in my head all the time lifting weights, because I feel like I can throw the ball deep. I felt like y'all were talking bad about me.

His message was loud and clear, but his play last Saturday against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights may have been the bigger statement. 

In his first start of the season, Barrett completed 14 of 18 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't make a lot of throws as the coaching staff eased him back into full swing, but he was accurate when he worked the ball down the field. He had a pair of nice deep passes to Braxton Miller (45 yards) and Curtis Samuel (30), the latter of whom went for a touchdown. And one of his four incompletions was a perfectly placed pass over two defenders that would have been a 42-yard touchdown, if not for a drop from Michael Thomas.

It served as a reminder of how good Barrett was last year. As a redshirt freshman last year, eight of his 34 touchdown passes went for 40 yards or more, and while all of those weren't deep passes, it's still a credit to his big-play ability.

But Barrett's comments Thursday suggested he grew tired of the negativity thrown his way this offseason, and now as the leader of an offense loaded with firepower, he's motivated to prove his doubters wrong.

And that's exactly what Ohio State needs as it enters the homestretch of the season.

The Buckeyes' schedule was back-loaded this season. They'll come out of the bye week to face a solid Minnesota team before traveling to face the surprisingly improved Illinois Fighting Illini. But of course, that's just the warm-up before Ohio State faces its stiffest competition of the season with season-ending games against Michigan State and Michigan. 

And when the Buckeyes are in crunch time, they'll lean on their leader. 

If Barrett stays healthy and continues to prove his doubters wrong, he won't have to watch from the sidelines during another playoff run.

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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West Virginia vs. TCU: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The one concern for the TCU Horned Frogs heading into Thursday's showdown with the West Virginia Mountaineers was the play of their young defense.

The defense did its part, which was all quarterback Trevone Boykin needed to take over in the second half.

TCU's Heisman Trophy hopeful threw for 388 yards and scored four total touchdowns as the No. 5-ranked Horned Frogs (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) trounced West Virginia (3-4, 0-3 Big 12) 40-10 on Thursday night.

Boykin completed 32 of 47 passes on his way to surpassing the 10,000-yard mark. He became the second quarterback in school history to surpass the number, joining Andy Dalton, per TCU Football.

The game didn't start the way West Virginia had hoped. The Horned Frogs jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter behind two touchdowns from Boykin. Meanwhile, West Virginia's offense couldn't capitalize when the chances were there.

Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard attempted two deep passes on the game's first drive, one to Shelton Gibson and the other to Jovon Durante, but both fell incomplete. The pass for Durante would've been a touchdown, but TCU freshman defensive back Julius Lewis knocked the ball out of the receiver's hands before it landed in the end zone.

Then, Boykin went to work.

Boykin and the Horned Frogs engineered a 12-play, 91-yard drive that was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown pass to star receiver Josh Doctson with eight minutes, 46 seconds left in the first quarter.

USA Today's Dan Wolken shared his thoughts on Doctson's grab:

The onslaught didn't stop there for TCU. After a West Virginia three-and-out, Boykin led the Horned Frogs on an efficient six-play, 81-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard touchdown run by Boykin to help put TCU up 14-0. The star quarterback ran for 84 yards on 11 carries in the game.

TCU Football's official Twitter account provided a clip of the score. If it were possible, Boykin would have received all 10s from the judges:

Just when it seemed as though West Virginia would fold, Howard finally connected on a deep ball against the young TCU secondary.

The junior quarterback from Fort Worth, Texas, who is playing against his hometown team for the first time, found Gibson on a post route for a 32-yard touchdown to help trim the Horned Frogs' lead to 17-7.

West Virginia Football's official Twitter account provided a clip of the touchdown, showing how Gibson got behind sophomore safety Nick Orr:

If not for penalties, West Virginia could have made the game more competitive. More importantly, the timing of the penalties doomed the Mountaineers. West Virginia bailed TCU out four times in the first half thanks to penalties on third down. The Mountaineers finished the game with nine penalties for 114 yards.

The TCU defense pitched a shutout in the second half. Howard finished the game with a rough 16-of-39 line for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The Horned Frogs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions in the second half. One of those was a nine-yard pass to Doctson, who finished with 11 catches for 183 yards and two scores to lead TCU.

Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News was quick to pinpoint what the future looks like for Doctson:

The last three meetings between the two teams have gone down to the wire, but there was no need for dramatics this time. TCU continues to roll and will face a greater test next week against the No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater.

But for another week, Boykin continues to strengthen his Heisman chances, and the Horned Frogs look like a dangerous team that's coming for a College Football Playoff spot.

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UNC vs. Pittsburgh: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The North Carolina Tar Heels took over first place in the ACC Coastal Division with a 26-19 victory over the No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers on Thursday night at Heinz Field. It's the first time North Carolina has started 4-0 in conference play since 1997, per the ESPN telecast.

North Carolina's defense helped solidify the win as Pittsburgh had possession of the ball for 11 more minutes than the Tar Heels. But UNC held Pitt to 41 fewer yards than its offense accumulated. 

A slow start didn't see the game's first big play until the second quarter. The Tar Heels landed it when quarterback Marquise Williams hit Ryan Switzer for a 71-yard touchdown that helped put North Carolina up 10-3.

ESPN College Football shared the replay:

Switzer drew some lofty comparisons from the ESPN commentating crew, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli pointed out:

Switzer had five receptions for 126 yards on the night. The Tallahassee Democrat's Corey Clark thinks Switzer might be on his way to one of Wes Welker's former teams:

Pittsburgh, who saw its deficit grow to 10 points early in the second quarter, couldn't get anything done on offense. Its only success came by throwing toward Tyler Boyd, who caught 10 of quarterback Nathan Peterman's 27 completions on the day for 89 yards.

As SB Nation CFB observed, this was nothing new for Pitt:

With acrobatic grabs, he even impressed the opposition as GoHeels.com's Turner Walston weighed in on Boyd's performance:

Mistakes saw the Panthers' deficit grow deeper before halftime. With four minutes left in the half, Dontez Ford fumbled after an eight-yard reception, giving the ball back to the Tar Heels. 

They took full advantage as Williams hit Mack Hollins for a 32-yard touchdown. ESPN College Football shared the replay:

It was UNC's fourth score on four possessions as the team took a 20-3 lead into halftime, but it was the Tar Heels' last touchdown of the day. Williams utilized the big play to get North Caroilna's points as he completed 14 of 23 passes for 270 yards.

He also added 52 yards on the ground.

North Carolina's offense came to a screeching halt at the start of the second half.

On North Carolina's first drive of the second half, Pittsburgh blocked a punt, gaining possession at the 15-yard line. But the Panthers could muster only a field goal.

Using Boyd to get deep into UNC territory, Pitt scored its first touchdown of the day with 4:10 to go in the third on a four-yard run from Qadree Ollison. 

The Panthers finally scored again with 46 seconds left in the game after Peterman hit Scott Orndoff for a six-yard touchdown pass. North Carolina's Quinshad Davis—who earlier in the game set the school's record for most career receptions with his 182nd catch, per North Carolina's official Twitter account—sealed the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.

 

Postgame Reaction

Whenever a team can go on the road and defeat a ranked opponent in decisive fashion, it's impressive. And North Carolina made a great case as to why it should land in the Associated Press Top 25 next week. 

The Tar Heels' performance pleased head coach Larry Fedora, who spoke with ESPN after the game (via Pro Football Central's Lee Vowel):

For the home team, morale can't be high, as the Panthers likely saw their stay in the Top 25 come to an end Thursday night.

Their losses haven't come against weak sides, however. Pitt lost to the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes in its third game of the season before falling to a UNC team that could be around No. 25 next week. 

But the schedule doesn't get any easier, as the Panthers' next two games will be against the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 22 Duke Blue Devils.

 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Josh Doctson Breaks TCU's Single-Season Receiving Reception Record

Josh Doctson continued his remarkable season in Thursday’s game against West Virginia by breaking the TCU Horned Frogs’ single-season receptions record with his 67th, according to ESPN CollegeFootball.

He surpassed Josh Boyce, who set the previous high in 2012. And TCU still has four games remaining. 

Doctson broke his own school records for receiving yards and touchdowns in a single season earlier this year.

The senior accomplished the most recent feat on a four-yard pass in the second quarter, according to Statbroadcast.com, and was at seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown at the half.

He continues to show why he’s one of the best at his position, courtesy of Dane Brugler of CBS Sports:

Doctson trails only Baylor’s Corey Coleman among Big 12 receivers in receiving touchdowns, 13 to 18, as both are putting the conference on the map for star-studded receivers, per Phil Murphy of ESPN:

The two will go head-to-head in what is shaping up as a top-five matchup and potential play-in game for the College Football Playoff in what will be each team’s regular-season finale.   

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Quinshad Davis Sets UNC Record for Most Career Receptions

Quinshad Davis has now caught more passes than anyone else in the history of North Carolina Tar Heels football.

The senior wide receiver caught a 14-yard pass midway through the second quarter for his 182nd career catch Thursday, passing Hakeem Nicks for the most in school history.

North Carolina's official Twitter account shared the news:

It was a monumental first half for Davis and the Tar Heels. North Carolina jumped out to a 20-3 lead over the No. 23-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers before the break in Pittsburgh. Davis had only two catches for 20 yards, but the team didn't need him to do much more than break records in the first half Thursday night.

Having been a model of consistency for all four of his years as a Tar Heels pass-catcher, Davis projects to be one of the top receivers in next year's NFL draft. NFL.com's Chad Reuter didn't rank Davis as one of his top 20 prospects in May, but he did list the record breaker as one of the players to watch during the early rounds.

"A fractured right tibia in UNC's 40-21 Quick Lane Bowl loss to Rutgers ended any speculation about Davis' departure to the NFL," Reuter said. "Already tied with Hakeem Nicks for the school record for touchdowns with 21 using his height and strong hands, Davis (6'4", 210 lbs) could join Nicks as a first-round pick with a healthy season."

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Notre Dame Football: What Return Home Means to Will Fuller, Mike McGlinchey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As Notre Dame football juniors and Philadelphia natives, Irish wide receiver Will Fuller and right tackle Mike McGlinchey often travel home together for breaks, either booking the same flights or making the 10-hour drive.

A couple college kids traveling together. Classic road trip, right?

“He’s a quiet kid, so sometimes it’s hard to get words out of him,” McGlinchey said while laughing.

Just last week, they flew back together to Philadelphia during Notre Dame’s bye week to enjoy a few days at home. Then there was the time Fuller and McGlinchey drove back to South Bend, as Fuller wanted to bring his car to campus.

“That was pretty fun—10 hours in a car with Will Fuller,” McGlinchey quipped with a smile.

The environment Saturday will be anything but quiet as Fuller, McGlinchey and No. 9 Notre Dame travel to Philadelphia to square off with No. 21 and unbeaten Temple in prime time at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles. ESPN’s College GameDay will air from Independence Mall in the morning, and a sold-out stadium will be the site for the Irish and the Owls in the evening.

Both Fuller and McGlinchey are playing back in their home city for the first time since high school. Fuller was a standout at Roman Catholic, while McGlinchey played at Penn Charter about 15 minutes away. The two knew of each other in high school, took a few of the same recruiting visits and played in some of the same football events, including the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl at the end of their senior seasons.

Fuller was tabbed as the No. 41 wide receiver and No. 278 overall player in the country out of high school.

“Well it’s kind of the same thing as it is now,” McGlinchey said of Fuller’s high school career. “Not too many people knew too much about him because he’s so quiet, so humble. He just goes out and lets his play do the talking. I think that’s what’s happened here as well. He’s just quiet, under the radar, but he’ll strike like a lightning bolt.”

Fuller said Temple offered him toward the end of his junior season. The speedy wideout took a few visits to campus due to its proximity but never really considered playing for the Owls. His first collegiate game, in fact, was against Temple, when he suited up for the Irish in their 2013 season opener.

Twenty-four receiving touchdowns later, Fuller returns to his hometown a marked, if understated, man. And with tattoos of the Philadelphia skyline and the “City of Brotherly Love” etched on him, Fuller said he’s drawn motivation from his city.

“Coming out of high school, I wasn't highly recruited,” Fuller said. “Had to prove myself everywhere I went. I wasn't the best player on my pound ball team, had to prove myself there. Had to prove myself in high school. I didn't get any scholarships to a high school team, so I had to earn a scholarship in high school. And here, I had to earn my spot here. Everywhere I go, you've just got to earn what you're worth.”

Fuller said he could have never imagined such a major college football game—with GameDay in town—happening in his city.

“That’s why I say it’s like a dream come true,” Fuller said.

Fuller said his mother, Megan Mitchell, told him more than 100 friends and family members will be in attendance to watch Fuller on Saturday night. McGlinchey, too, said his cheering section is expected to be close to 200 strong.

“I like to think that having that hometown feel is kind of on my side a little bit more,” McGlinchey said. “It’s just a football game, going into it preparing like you always do. That’s all I’m worried about.”

Notre Dame will hold its Friday walk-through at McGlinchey’s high school, Penn Charter, where the massive tackle captained the squad in 2012 and also played basketball for the Quakers.

“That’s pretty special,” McGlinchey said. “I’ve been joking around with the guys in the locker room about getting to see the school and everything. Penn Charter, I know, is excited about the opportunity.”

McGlinchey actually began his high school career as a tight end before shifting to the offensive line to make use of his 6’8”, 310-pound frame. After redshirting in his freshman season in South Bend, McGlinchey served as a backup lineman last year, earning his first career start in the Music City Bowl victory over LSU. He said the adjustment to major college football, with all its intricacies, was difficult.

“Where I came from, we were a small school, small program; we didn’t really have too much going on, just kind of went out and played,” McGlinchey said of his high school career. “I’ve had to become a student of the game here, and that’s something I really enjoy doing, learning more about and getting a grasp of what football is all about.”

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco on Twitter.

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Dalvin Cook Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Ankle and Return

The Florida State Seminoles will be without their best offensive weapon for Saturday's game against the Syracuse Orange, as star running back Dalvin Cook will be on the sidelines with an injured ankle. 

Continue for updates. 

Jimbo Fisher Declares Cook Out Thursday, Oct. 29

Florida State is coming off a stunning 22-16 loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 24 and needs to rack up wins to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive, but that will be more difficult without Cook. Warchant.com reported head coach Jimbo Fisher said the star running back will miss the clash against the Orange, while Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel noted Cook had a brace on his left ankle Thursday.  

The running back has been the one constant for Florida State this season, at least when he's been healthy enough to play. The sophomore sensation has 1,037 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns and is a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate.         

This isn't his first injury of the season. During a game against Wake Forest, Cook left because of a hamstring injury that kept him out after two carries. He did make one of those attempts count, scoring on a 94-yard scamper in a 24-16 victory. 

Being able to run the ball effectively is essential for Florida State to succeed, but quarterback Everett Golson has been effective under center. He will need to shoulder more of the offensive load in Cook's absence.

Fisher has done a masterful job of steering the ship in the right direction this season. Cook's absence will be a huge hurdle to overcome, but if any coach in the country can do it, it's Fisher. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 SEC Football Schedule Announced: Full Details and Reaction

We're barely halfway through the 2015 SEC schedule, but college football's strongest conference is already looking ahead to 2016. The SEC announced its 2016 schedule Thursday, which runs from a Sept. 1 clash between Vanderbilt and South Carolina until Dec. 3's conference championship game. The full schedule can be viewed in full here.   

As is the case every season, the SEC member schools play eight conference games, one against each member of their division and two from the opposing side. The biggest change from 2015 to 2016 is a new SEC requirement that says schools must play at least one nonconference game against a Power Five school. (Independent teams such as Notre Dame, BYU and Army are also eligible.)       

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive detailed the decision in a 2014 statement, per Ben Estes of Sporting News:

This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule. Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.

Alabama will play USC Week 1 to fulfill that requirement, while LSU (Wisconsin), Auburn (Clemson), Ole Miss (Florida State) and Texas A&M (UCLA) also took the opportunity to schedule a high-profile matchup early in the season. (Florida will also be playing Florida State to fulfill its requirement, but that's an every-year occurrence.)

Of the major contests inside the conference, Week 8 will put on three marquee matchups. Texas A&M travels to Alabama, Auburn hosts Arkansas and Ole Miss travels to Baton Rouge for a head-to-head battle with LSU. Rivalry Week to close the regular season will also draw a ton of attention, but there are no major changes in how that will be handled.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Les Miles Says Some Freshmen Could Be Ready to Declare for NFL Draft

The play of LSU Tigers sophomore sensation Leonard Fournette has put a spotlight on the NFL draft's eligibility rules, which require college athletes to be at least three years removed from high school before they can enter.

The 20-year-old running back leads the country with 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games, and many consider him to be ready for the NFL despite being ineligible for next year’s draft. 

LSU head coach Les Miles doesn’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment, saying Thursday during a teleconference, per SEC Country's Matt Barbato, that some players possess the athletic ability to advance early, though it’s highly uncommon.

"I think that there’s probably guys that could enter the draft just like basketball, one and out," he said. "I think there’s a style of athlete that can do that. But I think they’re rare because in football, with maturity and strength, it really adds to their worth in what is the next level and the next league."

Miles added that even a prospective player of Fournette's caliber can still benefit greatly from a sustained college career:

I think if you found those guys that leave early, most of them they either came from major programs or they’re guys that become with a discipline and a structure that was given to them, whether it’s home or their high school or some place else. I think college, for the most part football, gives a young player that needs to develop that opportunity.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton also discussed the prospect of players leaving earlier than allowed, echoing most of Miles’ comments, per Christopher Dabe of the Times-Picayune:

"I don't think it's necessarily age related or age biased," Payton said. "It's that the percentages are less, and that gradually goes up the further you're educated and the longer you're in school physically and mentally. That's how I feel about that.”

The NBA allows players to enter its draft one year removed from high school. John Walters of Newsweek went as far to call the NFL's three-year draft rule “un-American” earlier this month. 

But given the physical rigors of football, rarely does an argument such as Walters' surface—only when a player of Fournette’s caliber captivates the country. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney (2012) and San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk (1993) are among the few who come to mind.

Despite being the center of dispute, albeit indirectly, Fournette indicated he has no interest in leaving LSU early:

Fournette's phenomenal start, coupled with LSU's emergence as a College Football Playoff contender, has made him the Heisman Trophy front-runner. The No. 4 Tigers are off this weekend and will return for a colossal Week 10 road matchup against the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

West Virginia vs. TCU: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0) are back in action on Thursday, hosting Big 12 rival West Virginia (3-3, 0-3) in Fort Worth, Texas.

Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin at quarterback, the Frogs average 50 points per game—second in the country. Boykin has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,539 yards and 25 touchdowns in addition to rushing for 440 yards and five additional scores.

Statistically, TCU is even better than it was a year ago.

On the other side, West Virginia limps into this game as the loser of three straight. No one has faced a more daunting schedule this October than the Mountaineers. After starting the season 3-0, WVU lost to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor.

In the process, West Virginia lost several key contributors to injury—most notably standout safety Karl Joseph.

The last three meetings between these two schools have come down to the final possession. In 2014, the Horned Frogs eked out a 31-30 victory in Morgantown.

You can watch the game live on Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET, but make sure to stay right here for the latest news, notes, analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

You can find the official box score at NCAA.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Predicting Outcome for the Remaining Major College Football Rivalry Games

November is rivalry month in college football, when several of the country's greatest grudge matches are waged down the stretch. As in most years, several of these games figure to have a major impact on division, conference and playoff races, but even if one or both teams are having a down year, the intensity of these rivalry games remains at a high level.

Being able to knock off a rival can often make or break a season; doing so in the midst of a run toward a title is an added bonus. Because of this, the passion you'll see in these games will be at an all-time high and should make for great competition.

We've picked out some of the top remaining rivalry games that will be held over the next six weeks, including the annual Army-Navy game in mid-December, and will break down how they should play out.

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Paul Wulff Joins Iowa State Football Coaching Staff: Latest Details and Reaction

Former Washington State head coach Paul Wulff is returning to a collegiate sideline. Wulff has agreed to become a volunteer coach under Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.  

The hiring comes days after Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Mark Mangino following the Cyclones' 2-5 start. It's a situation that had been festering for a while, as Rhoads' desire for a run-first offense clashed with Mangino's pass-heavy system. 

“The things that we haven’t gotten on the same page with—it’s been ongoing for several weeks,” Rhoads said, per Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. “We’ve been trying to work that out. In the end, we could not come to a conclusion together—and he decided not to accept the direction that we wanted to go.”

Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer isn't sold on the move:

Wulff, 48, most recently served as South Florida's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 2014. He was fired after a 4-8 season in which the Bulls ranked 120th in yards per game and tied for 119th in points per game. Before arriving in South Florida, he was an offensive assistant under Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers—a job he landed after being fired at Washington State.

The Cougars went 9-40 in Wulff's four seasons as head coach, and he left with the lowest winning percentage in school history. He previously had a semi-successful eight-year run as the head coach at Eastern Washington, posting a 53-40 record that included three playoff appearances.

Based on his recent failures, though, it's hard to see Wulff coming in midseason and suddenly fixing all that ails Iowa State. The Cyclones have lost each of their last three games by three scores and play two of their next three games against ranked opponents.

It's not exactly an ideal situation.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerocnway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Jhajuan Seales Arrested: Latest Details and Comments on Oklahoma State WR

Oklahoma State wide receiver Jhajuan Seales was arrested Sunday on charges of driving under the influence and open container, per Kyle Fredrickson of the Oklahoman.

No further details were given on what led to the arrest. Seales posted a $35 bond and was released after being booked on the two misdemeanor counts, per OColly.com.

A redshirt junior, this is Seales' second arrest for an alcohol-related offense since arriving in Stillwater. He and cornerback Juwan Offray were found asleep last year at a Whataburger restaurant and charged with public intoxication. At the time of his arrest, Seales' car was running.

“It was a learning experience I had to get over,” Seales said last year, per Fredrickson. “I paid my consequences and got back together with the team.”

Oklahoma State has not commented on the arrest. The Cowboys are scheduled to play this weekend at Texas Tech, so a decision regarding his status will likely be made before then.

Seales has made 12 receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown; he has at least one reception in each of Oklahoma State's seven games.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 9

The final weekend of October's college football slate presents another opportunity for America's premier prospects to examine campus environments. If you've ever journeyed to a university during Halloween weekend, you're well aware that few times of year create as much excitement among students. 

Compelling matchups and costumed fans take center stage, as several recruits are set to soak in the action. Here's a look at key visits scheduled for coveted players in different corners of the country.

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Odds on Next College Football Coach to Be Fired

Job security is at an all-time low in college football, with more than half of the 128 FBS schools undergoing a change of leadership at least once since 2013. And this turnover is seeping more and more into the middle of the season, as evidenced by a whopping eight jobs opening up since August thanks to resignations, retirements and firings.

Don't expect this to slow down anytime soon, not with the high-stakes nature of the sport and the current climate in which the need to get a jump on finding the next coach has made an in-season termination more common.

Of the eight FBS openings in 2015, five—Illinois, Maryland, Miami (Florida), North Texas and USC—were because of firings. And odds are we could see more before the regular season is through, followed by a rash of pink slips during the offseason.

Who's most likely to get sent packing next?

We've placed odds on the most likely candidates, updating their current situations and detailing what their futures hold. The coaches are listed alphabetically rather than in order of job security.

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