NCAA Football

Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 6 Rankings Released

In many ways, this week of college football was the calm before next week's storm, when a slew of ranked teams will face off and change the landscape of the pursuit for the playoff. This week, however, the top teams generally survived, albeit with a few scares.   

Below, we'll take a look at the latest Amway Coaches Poll, recap some of the big results from the week that was and take a look ahead to next week's epic slate of games. Things are starting to heat up, folks.

 

Standings

 

Analysis

With very few upsets in the Top 25 outside of South Carolina losing to Missouri, there wasn't too much notable change in this week's Coaches Poll. There are, however, plenty of questions for a few teams in those rankings.

For the second week in a row, Florida State received all it could handle, this time rallying from a 24-7 first-quarter deficit to NC State, winning 56-41. One way to look at the result is to wonder how much longer the Seminoles can live on the edge. The other opinion is that the team can overcome adversity and continues to battle. 

Head coach Jimbo Fisher chose the latter viewpoint, as he told reporters after the game:

We can take a punch and stand up and compete. Now I'd rather start blocking and dodging some and playing, but there's something to that now. I'm going to tell you what: that takes time. That's a culture. That's the way you think, the way you believe in each other and there's a lot of inner trust in that locker room.

Texas A&M was also really tested, needing overtime to survive Arkansas, 35-28. But once again, it was Kenny Hill who had Aggies fans asking, "Johnny Football who?"

Just consider the following, from Fox Sports Live on Twitter:

Things are about to really heat up for the Aggies, however, as they face Mississippi State next, followed by Ole Miss and Alabama. Auburn, Missouri and LSU also remain on tap. Suffice to say, the SEC slate down the stretch is loaded with exciting matchups between top teams. Once again, the conference appears to be the most competitive in college football. 

One of those SEC teams was really challenged this past week, as Georgia was taken to the limit by Tennessee before winning 35-32. Once again it was Todd Gurley that led the Bulldogs to the win, rushing 28 times for 208 yards and two scores. He's going to look very good in an NFL uniform next season. 

And he might just look very good striking the Heisman pose this season.

Stanford's Kevin Hogan won't be striking up that pose anytime soon, but he was the hero for Stanford on Saturday as his late touchdown run carried the Cardinal to a 20-13 win and possibly saved their season. Another loss would have erased any hopes—however slim they may already be—that the club could qualify for this season's playoff.

While they have quite the battle in front of them to reach that goal, it's still a possibility after Saturday. It nearly was taken off the table against Washington. 

And so we head into this week with many of the top teams intact atop the rankings and some truly intriguing matchups to come. Alabama vs. Ole Miss, LSU vs. Auburn and Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State will sort more than a few things out in the SEC and in the playoff picture, while Stanford vs. Notre Dame is a huge matchup for both teams.

In the Big Ten, Nebraska and Michigan State will battle it out in a clash of the two teams in the conference that aren't underwhelming thus far this season, while in the Pac-12 Arizona State and USC face off in a big contest.

It's going to be a brilliant week of action, folks, and these rankings will look at lot different next week. Sit back and enjoy the show.

 

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Notre Dame Football: Potential Cures for Everett Golson's Inconsistencies

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Only one quarterback took snaps for Notre Dame football in its 31-15 win over Syracuse on Saturday night, but it sure felt like two different players under center throughout the night.

Everett Golson was equal parts head-turning and head-scratching, sometimes looking like the rising Heisman candidate and other times appearing to be a slightly off turnover magnet. Golson’s night was Exhibit A in “How to Frame Statistics to Fit Your Argument.”

“It was pretty weird for me,” Golson said afterward. “What I take from it is I’ve just got to get better.”

The signal-caller completed a career-high 32 of 39 passes for a career-high 362 yards. He fired four touchdowns. He completed 25 consecutive passes—one shy of tying the FBS record.

“Oh my gosh, he played phenomenal tonight,” said defensive captain Sheldon Day, one of Golson’s best friends.

To an extent, yes. But Golson also committed four turnovers. He fumbled on Notre Dame’s first and second drives (losing the first, not the second) and threw an interception on the fourth, missing an open Ben Koyack down the center of the field.

He then orchestrated a 95-yard touchdown drive, conducting the proper ensemble of short screens, curls and out routes, deftly placing the ball on his receivers’ mitts in stride.

When Notre Dame got it back the next time, he wasted no time in catapulting a 72-yard beauty to Will Fuller for a one-play touchdown drive.

Next time out? More of the same. Golson drove Notre Dame into enemy territory during the two-minute drill, handling the situation with the moxie of an NFL quarterback in an NFL stadium. Then, all of a sudden, Golson did his best Eli Manning impression and botched an attempted spike, resulting in a lost fumble that could have been worse.

“When I think of this game I think of my play as being sloppy,” Golson said. “I know I just really have to clean that up.”

The mixed bag continued in the second half, with Golson delivering a tailor-made pick-six to the Syracuse defense.

“It was kind of me reverting back a little bit kind of like my younger days,” Golson said. “I expect more out of myself than that.”

As the dust settles from Week 5 in college football, it’s still obvious Golson has all the makings of an elite quarterback, the key cog for a top-10 team. There’s no need to panic after his up-and-down night, but Notre Dame will need a more consistent, stable and discerning Golson as the season wears on.

Notre Dame won’t beat Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State or USC with five turnovers. The Irish know that. Maybe most importantly, Golson knows that.

“I just gotta be better,” Golson repeated afterward.

And that just may be the key takeaway from Golson’s on-field duality Saturday. He wasn’t satisfied. Not with new career highs. Not with a nearly perfect completions record.

Golson doesn’t need to tinker with much. A bit more care with the ball in his hands in and outside of the pocket will help limit turnovers.

Brian Kelly, for his part, wasn’t satisfied either. But there was a telling calmness to Kelly’s postgame comments, as if he already knows Golson will bounce back and put the mistakes behind him, using the miscues as an optimal teaching moment.

“I’m a much better teacher after a win, and certainly tonight, our quarterback learned a lot from really having a great performance, too,” Kelly said. “He did a lot of really, really good things. He threw the ball on target down the field, and his perimeter throws were outstanding, so he did a lot of good things but learned so much from it.

“That’s a great teaching tool.”

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 5 Standings

After Week 5's action, nothing major should change at the top of the polls, nor should the top four teams on track to reach the first ever College Football Playoff have changed.

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks, No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners were all idle. That left only the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles in action.

The Noles nearly lost to the unranked NC State Wolfpack, but a second-half rally saved the defending national champions from disaster. In the end, the 'Noles remained undefeated after a 56-41 win.

If the season ended today, these are the four teams that would likely be playing for the national championship:

  1. Florida State
  2. Oregon Ducks 
  3. Alabama Crimson Tide
  4. Oklahoma Sooners

That's the way the playoff brackets would look if things were decided today, but there's still a long way to go. Based on what we've seen thus far, there's reason to believe there could be a shift down the road.

Even with the shift, the teams should remain the same.

 

Predictions for the Top Four Spots

1. Oregon Ducks

Expect the Ducks to take over the top spot simply because they have a tougher schedule than the Noles. Finishing with an unblemished record—as I predict they will—would be more impressive.

Oregon still has games at UCLA and at home against Stanford. Those contests ensure Oregon's route to perfection will be more difficult.

Normally, the Ducks are a program that gets to the cusp of an undefeated season and has the wheels come off late. This year, things will be different and a lot of that is because of the leadership of Marcus Mariota.

We've seen him rally the troops twice this year already. He brought his team back against the Michigan State Spartans and the Washington State Cougars in Week 4. 

His leadership will keep Oregon undefeated heading into the Pac-12 title game.

 

2. Florida State Seminoles

As shaky as the Seminoles have looked this season, they only have one game remaining against a team that is currently ranked.

Notre Dame will come to Tallahassee on Oct. 18. Aside from that, Florida State has five of its eight games left on the schedule at home before the ACC title game.

The team isn't as sharp as it was last season, but it's still good enough to push through this schedule unscathed.

 

3. Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners' schedule is rather friendly the rest of the way. Sure, they have to tangle with Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, but all three of those games are at home.

If there are top-four teams set up to run the table, it's the Sooners and the Seminoles.

 

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

There's almost no way you can imagine Alabama emerging without at least one loss at the end of the regular season. Then it figures to have its hands full in the SEC title game.

With road games at Ole Miss and LSU, there's obvious reason for concern. There are also home games against Texas A&M and Auburn in the Iron Bowl in the regular-season finale. 

You have to think Bama drops one of those games. Still, based on strength of schedule, the Tide will likely be the strongest one-loss team in the nation.

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Charlie Weis Relieved as Kansas Coach: Details, Replacement, Reaction and More

Charlie Weis' second run as a college head coach is over after less than three seasons. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger announced Weis' dismissal Sunday, one day after the Jayhawks' embarrassing 23-0 loss to Texas in Lawrence. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will take over for Weis on an interim basis. 

"I normally do not favor changing coaches mid-season," Zenger said in a statement. "But I believe we have talented coaches and players in this program, and I think this decision gives our players the best chance to begin making progress right away."

Weis, who previously coached at Notre Dame from 2005-09, was hired before the 2012 season with designs on turning around the struggling program. His plan never got off the ground, as the Jayhawks went a disappointing 6-22 in his tenure, including a 1-18 record in the Big 12.

Though a 2-2 start puts Kansas on pace for its best record under Weis, Saturday's loss to a struggling Texas team made it clear the program isn't progressing fast enough. Montell Cozart threw four interceptions, Kansas committed seven penalties and the Jayhawks allowed three touchdowns to Tyrone Swoope in the home defeat.

"Our Achilles' heel on offense is still making productive plays in the passing game, and that's at the end of the day what ended up costing us," Weis told reporters after the game.

Weis, who cut his teeth as an offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, was never able to build a successful offense at Kansas. The Jayhawks rank No. 124 nationally in scoring offense, which would be their third straight season ranking outside the top 100. Zenger indicated the lack of progress played a big part in the school's decision.

"I appreciate what Coach Weis did with several facets of our football program," Zenger said. "But we have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should. I believe new leadership gives our coaches and players the best chance to make a fresh start."

Weis, who went 35-27 in five seasons at Notre Dame, is 41-49 overall as a head coach. It'll be interesting to see whether he returns to the NFL game as a coordinator or finds another, smaller school who still buys into his resume.

As for Kansas, it's time to start over. Again.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 6 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Week 5 of the college football season may have been missing some of the season's biggest players, but it wasn't short on intrigue. 

The slate was punctuated by two titans being put on upset alert, as No. 1 Florida State and No. 6 Texas A&M both had to prove their mettle by rallying against unranked opponents. Ultimately, both were able to walk away with their records unscathed, but it served as our weekly reminder that anything can happen in college football. 

Here's a look at the results for the entire Top 25 Saturday as well as possible risers and fallers before the new polls are released.

 

Risers

UCLA Bruins

No one can lay claim to making a bigger statement than the UCLA Bruins did on Thursday night. The Bruins were the only ranked team to take on another team in the Top 25 and dominated the game over the last three quarters en route to a 62-27 win. 

As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the win boosted the Bruins chances of winning the Pac-12 South and possibly capturing a conference championship:

But perhaps the best news of all for the Bruins was the play of Brett Hundley. 

After an elbow injury limited the star junior to just four pass attempts against Texas, he was back to his usual game-changing self against the Sun Devils. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports even noted that he looked like a No. 1 pick:

Avoiding a trap game upset against Utah will be the next challenge on the docket before the Bruins get the No. 2 Oregon Ducks at home. 

 

Fallers

South Carolina

Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks entered Week 5 as one of the few one-loss teams who could conceivably make it to the College Football Playoff. As we know in college football, it's often not if you lose it's when you lose. A Week 1 loss to Texas A&M could be forgiven if the Gamecocks ran the table. 

Now, the dream is all but dead. 

Just one week after the Missouri Tigers were defeated by Big Ten ne'er-do-well Indiana, the Gamecocks turned around and lost to those same Tigers. 

The Gamecocks defense played one of its best games of the season to date. The 21 points it surrendered is the least it's given up all year. However, the offense was equally as ugly as Mizzou's for much of the game. Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report summed up the Big Ten-esque game rather nicely:

Offensive issues aside, one thing is for certain—the Gamecocks should be free-falling down the polls after this loss at home. 

 

Florida State?

No, Florida State's inclusion on this list doesn't mean they should be moved from the No. 1 spot just yet. It's just that, as suggested by Stewart Mandel, they don't quite look like the best team in the nation right now:

The Seminoles got off to the worst start imaginable Saturday. Going into Raleigh to take on a scrappy NC State team, they allowed the home team to take a 24-7 lead in the first quarter before slowly crawling back into it and taking control early in the fourth quarter. 

Now, there's a chance this game quickly becomes a memory. After all, Jameis Winston and Co. ended up winning by a score of 56-41. However, the 2013 Seminoles had an aura of invincibility regardless of opponent and location. 

Coming off of an overtime nail-biter against Clemson, this team just doesn't have the same command to win games week in and week out. 

The good news for the 'Noles is that right now, there doesn't seem to be a team that can beat them quite yet. As evidenced by Oregon's narrow victory over Washington State last week, no team has truly laid claim to being invincible this season. 

In essence, Week 6 just reiterated something we already knew: The first four teams to play in the College Football Playoff are far from decided. 

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Fun and Games Are Over, SEC West Will Finally Be Sorted out in Week 6

Week 5 served as the opening act, as the SEC East took its turn on the stage and began to sort itself out. In Week 6, it's the SEC West's turn.

In music terms, that's like Milli Vanilli opening for The Beatles.

Mississippi State will host Texas A&M, Ole Miss will welcome Alabama and LSU will travel to the Plains next week to take on Auburn in what will be a 12-hour marathon of football that will define the landscape of the toughest division in college football.

Unlike the East, there isn't much margin for error in the West. One conference loss could eliminate teams from the chase for Atlanta depending on how the rest of the season shakes out and who that loss is to.

What can you expect in a crazy Week 6?

 

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

The Bulldogs sat back and watched the Aggies get a win in a Texas-sized overtime shootout with Arkansas in Jerry World on Saturday afternoon.

What they saw should make them smile.

Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill was great yet again, but he didn't get a ton of help from his running backs. Tra Carson led all Texas A&M rushers with just 55 yards on the ground, and the Aggies totaled 137 rushing yards against a Hogs defense that's eighth in the SEC in rush defense (139.4 YPG).

Mississippi State's just a little bit better—and by "a little bit," I mean a lot.

Head coach Dan Mullen's crew is giving up just 82.5 yards per game on the ground and an SEC-best 2.39 yards per carry. Mullen will force Hill to be the guy in this one, and while he's capable—after all, he's a Heisman candidate for a reason—that's still a tough proposition on the road in the biggest game of his career.

Yes, that's a subtle shot at South Carolina's pass defense, which pales in comparison to Taveze Calhoun, Jamerson Love and the crew in Starkville—where top-tier cornerbacks like former Bulldogs Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay have become staples.

"Jamerson is a real speed player for us," Mullen said. "Where Johnthan [Banks] and [Darius] Slay also had some size. I think he's up there with those guys as that type of player. He's still improving, and there are some things he can get better at, but he certainly has the talent to play at the next level."

Texas A&M's defense looked great early, but the tandem of running back Josh Robinson and quarterback Dak Prescott will put those fundamentals to the test. That nearly cost the Aggies against Arkansas on Saturday, and there's more to come this week in the form of the Bulldogs' multidimensional attack.

 

Alabama at Ole Miss

ESPN's College GameDay will be in Oxford for the Alabama at Ole Miss game for the first time ever. 

The question to Ole Miss now becomes, "Is this really a good idea?"

Sure, it's great for recruiting and exposure, but it's not like Ole Miss has looked like a team that has earned that Top 15 designation.

Sure, the defense is great, but quarterback Bo Wallace has been a turnover machine. It got worse Saturday, when Wallace tossed two picks and fumbled once in a 24-3 win over Memphis that was much closer than the score appeared.

If "Dr. Bo" can cut down on the mistakes and not help Alabama out, this might be a fun game. After all, the Rebels—who rank first in the SEC in total defense (248.0 YPG)—are, by far, the best defense Alabama will face this year. 

This isn't a game, however, that Ole Miss can skate by with its C-game offensively and expect to win. 

The Crimson Tide have had two weeks to sit on their breakout offensive performance against Florida and scheme against that Rebels defense. Judging from what we've seen from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, that's scary.

Kiffin has brilliantly brought along quarterback Blake Sims, got him into a rhythm early in each game and proved that he is the expert play-caller head coach Nick Saban expected him to be when Kiffin was hired during the offseason.

Alabama's offense versus Ole Miss' defense will be the dominant storyline, but this game will be decided when Ole Miss has the ball. If Wallace doesn't fix his turnover issues—he has six picks through four games—it'll be a long afternoon for the Rebels at home.

 

LSU at Auburn

It took LSU head coach Les Miles a while, but logic finally won the day.

Quarterback Brandon Harris entered the game in the second quarter against New Mexico State and provided the spark LSU's offense needed. The true freshman from Bossier City, Louisiana, finished the day 11-of-14 passing for 178 yards, three touchdowns, no picks, 36 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. 

Assuming Harris becomes the unquestioned starter—which should be obvious to everybody including Miles at this point—this is a whole new ballgame on the Plains.

Head coach Gus Malzahn's crew boasts the SEC's third-best rush defense (90.75 YPG) and will force the quarterback to beat them through the air. Anthony Jennings didn't do a whole lot through five games to suggest that he's capable of doing that.

Harris has.

Meanwhile, Auburn's offense has been sort of disjointed over the last two games, struggling to get going in the first halves of games at Kansas State and at home versus Louisiana Tech. That trend can't continue against LSU with Harris at the helm. 

If you're looking for great SEC atmospheres, this game will be one you can't miss. Auburn rarely gets to host LSU at night, which should make things difficult for Harris and those young LSU playmakers on offense.

"Anybody we play, having them here on a Saturday night is a big advantage for us," said Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. "Our students, they're the best in the nation regardless of when we play, but that night atmosphere will make it a fun, exciting time for football on Saturday night."

Six teams. Three winners. One division. Twelve hours of can't-miss college football.

Get your popcorn ready.

 

Barrett Sallee is the Lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Turning the Page to College Football's Most Exciting Weekend Thus Far

A college football season that has been starved for meaningful showdowns will hunger no more this week. The good stuff finally is about to be served, including the marquee clash between No. 3 Alabama and No. 10 Mississippi.

So far, we’ve seen No. 1 Florida State on the ropes against Clemson and North Carolina State, No. 2 Oregon in danger of losing to Washington State and a host of other top teams flirt with early-season disasters.

But seismic outcomes that shatter the playoff picture have been lacking.

That serene start to the 2014 season is done. Eight games this week will pit ranked teams against each other, and two others will match top-10 teams with an undefeated opponent.

The meat and potatoes will be dished up, at last, instead of more cupcakes.

So who’s on center stage?

Arizona at Oregon

Oregon gets the drama started on Thursday night against unranked but also unbeaten Arizona. The Ducks might wear pink cleats for this game, but it’s the red zone that will be on their minds as they seek to avenge a 42-16 loss to Arizona last year that saw them utterly fail to convert their 506 total yards into points.

 

All of Mississippi will be manic

Saturday conceivably could be the biggest day the state of Mississippi has ever had in college football.

Ole Miss hasn’t won the Southeastern Conference title since 1963 and Mississippi State claimed its lone championship all the way back in 1941. But both schools will be playing at home as they seek to prove they are genuine contenders this year.

Ole Miss, 4-0 for the first time since 1970, understandably might have had Alabama on its mind during an ugly 24-3 victory against Memphis on Saturday. But the Rebels defense allowed only 104 total yards and will be stoked to beat the Crimson Tide for the first time since 2003.

No. 14 Mississippi State is coming off its first win at LSU since 1991 and no doubt is anxious to prove its first road victory against a top-10 opponent since 1986 was no fluke. The Bulldogs will get that chance against No. 6 Texas A&M, which looks vulnerable after needing overtime to survive Arkansas.

Dak Prescott has as eye-catching a two-dimensional game as any quarterback in the nation. Beating A&M would give Mississippi State its greatest credibility since the Jackie Sherrill era and strengthen the case that the Bulldogs have the tools to come out of nowhere and contend for the national title the way Auburn did in 2010.

 

Stanford at Notre Dame

Is Everett Golson worthy of his growing hype as a Heisman Trophy candidate? The Notre Dame quarterback’s 25 consecutive completions against Syracuse say yes. His four turnovers in that game, including a humbling one that came while attempting to spike the ball, say no.

Now the stout Stanford defense that has yet to yield more than 13 points in a game gets a chance to cast a vote while traveling to South Bend.

This game also should shed plenty of sunshine on whether Golson can outduel Jameis Winston when the Fighting Irish visit Florida State on Oct. 18.

Notre Dame is 4-0 but has yet to face a top-quality opponent while playing a schedule that’s heavily back-loaded.

A victory against Stanford would illuminate the FSU matchup as a key factor in deciding who goes to the College Football Playoff. A loss would shift the importance of this game to Stanford’s Nov. 1 date with Oregon.

LSU at Auburn

The case can be made that Auburn is getting the least respect among teams ranked in the top five.

The Tigers weren’t given much credit for a road win against ranked Kansas State (including from me). And with hindsight the Auburn defense seems a lot more impressive. It held Arkansas to 153 rushing yards, back before the Razorbacks went on to run for 438 against Texas Tech and 285 on Saturday against Texas A&M.

So the defending SEC champions and near-national titlists of 2013 may be in the mood to make a statement against an LSU team that’s still sorting out quarterback issues.

Nebraska at Michigan State

A bruised knee and a lopsided score meant unbeaten Nebraska pulled Ameer Abdullah in the third quarter Saturday. So that meant Abdullah ran for, ahem, only 208 yards against Illinois. But the Heisman candidate should be ready to prove himself at Michigan State in a game that will help determine who’s the Big Ten’s best hope for the College Football Playoff.

In its three victories, No. 9 Michigan State has outscored opponents 174-35. But if the Spartans are going to become a serious part of the playoff conversation they need a signature win that will make voters forget they let a lead slip away against Oregon. Nebraska presents that opportunity.

Best of the Rest

No. 4 Oklahoma shouldn’t have much trouble handling TCU, especially with the Sooners coming off a bye week. But the Horned Frogs are unbeaten after humiliating Southern Methodist by the count of 56-0, and they’ll be playing at their house.

The Southern California-Arizona State confrontation looked interesting until ASU eliminated much of the intrigue while getting hammered 62-27 by UCLA.

Speaking of UCLA, if the Bruins can register another wipeout against 3-1 Utah on Saturday their Oct. 11 home date with Oregon will take on even greater playoff implications.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

 

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USC Football: Consistency Key for Trojans to Compete for Pac-12 Title

LOS ANGELESNo. 18 USC showed flashes of Pac-12 championship caliber play in its 35-10 defeat of Oregon State Saturday in the Coliseum. The Trojans were also prone to stretches of sloppiness that must be remedied if they are to compete for the conference title.

“We’ll enjoy this, but it isn’t the end-all, be-all,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said in his postgame press conference. “We’re better than we played tonight, so we’ll get back to work and continue to strive for more.”

The highs were indeed high, and they were evident both on offense and defense. Wide receiver Darreus Rogers grabbed a 48-yard Hail Mary from quarterback Cody Kessler just before halftime, which is sure to be the highlight reel moment of Kessler’s individual effort.

He completed 24-of-32 pass attempts for 261 yards and threw two touchdowns. His pocket presence continues to progress, which was demonstrated Saturday when he evaded would-be tacklers.

Kessler said he placed an emphasis on that facet of his game after taking five sacks against Boston College.

Kessler also effectively spread the ball among his receivers, hooking up with nine different teammates. Saturday’s effort was Kessler’s best distribution since Week 1 against Fresno State.

A promising sign for the USC offense going deeper into Pac-12 play is the integration of the tight ends as pass-catchers. Bryce Dixon and Randall Telfer each caught two passes.

Sarkisian said he "loved" to see Kessler spread the ball among the roster, adding it was one point of emphasis for the offense. Another was establishing the run.

Javorius “Buck” Allen did just that. He scored a rushing touchdown for the first time since Week 1 and notched his third 100-plus-yard game of the season with 115.

Allen slammed the door on the Beavers with a 17-yard run to paydirt early in the fourth quarter.

Behind the play of its leaders Kessler and Allen, the USC offense showed flashes of an explosiveness the Trojans will need to contend in the Pac-12.

The Trojans defense also played at a championship level, putting together its best all-around performance of the 2014 season. The Trojans held the Beavers without an offensive touchdown and routinely had quarterback Sean Mannion under duress.

Sophomore Su’a Cravens in particular was stellar. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s use of Cravens both at safety and SAM linebacker paid dividends: Cravens returned an interception of Mannion 31 yards for a touchdown, made a sack and a tackle for loss.

USC got another interception when freshman cornerback Adoree’ Jackson made an athletic play to break-up a Mannion shot at the end zone. Safety Leon McQuay III had the presence of mind to get to the deflected ball before it fell out of bounds.

After giving up 37 points and 506 yards to Boston College, via USCTrojans.com, the defense answered the bell by holding Oregon State to 181 yards.

“That’s been our main focus this past two weeks, with the bad taste in our mouths,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “Stop the run on first and second down, and getting to the quarterback.”

Wilcox said last week that a problem in the Boston College loss was losing sight of ball-carriers, but against Oregon State, Sarkisian claimed defenders' vision on fly sweeps was one key to slowing the Beavers.

But if the positives from Saturday’s win are potential building blocks to a championship, the negatives are possible stumbling points for Sarkisian and Co. to be wary of.

USC was penalized 14 times for 124 yards, including two unsportsmanlike conduct flags on linebacker and captain Hayes Pullard for facemasking.

Pullard summarized the penalties rather plainly: "That can cost us in a big game."

Sustaining drives also proved problematic for the USC offense, which did not put together a scoring drive until midway through the second quarter when running back Justin Davis scored on a 16-yard wheel route reception from Kessler.

Davis' score was pretty, but the sequences before it were not.

The Trojans also went scoreless in the third quarter. The stingy play of the defense kept Oregon State at arm's length until the flood gates opened in the final period, but that may not be a luxury USC has against some of the more potent Pac-12 offenses.

One such offense, Arizona State, comes to the Coliseum next week.

USC will enjoy its win and 2-0 conference start for now, but attention turns to preparation for the Sun Devils quickly.

"It's basically a 24-hour deal," Pullard said, alluding to the potential of complacency and letdown. "You still remember that bad taste [from a loss] you never want to revisit."   

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of the USC athletics department unless otherwise noted.

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USC Football: Consistency Key for Trojans to Compete for Pac-12 Title

LOS ANGELES — No. 18 USC showed flashes of Pac -12 championship caliber play in its 35-10 defeat of Oregon State Saturday in the Coliseum...

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Oregon State vs. USC: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

It wasn't pretty, but the USC Trojans sent the Oregon State Beavers home thinking about an embarrassing 35-10 loss.

Though USC committed 14 penalties, its defense was the bright spot in a decent overall performance.

 

Passing Offense

Cody Kessler did not dominate, but he spread the ball around and connected with nine different receivers. Eight players tallied at least two catches, with Darreus Rogers' 48-yard touchdown grab being the highlight.

Rogers catch was the most important catch of the game. The Beavers would have been content with a four-point deficit at the break, but they looked deflated during the second half while playing from a double-digit hole.

 

Running Offense 

USC relied heavily on Kessler during the first 30 minutes, but Buck Allen and Justin Davis dominated the second half. Overall, the duo combined to gain 197 yards, and both players found the end zone on rushing touchdowns.

 

Pass Defense

Oregon State's Richard Mullaney hauled in a couple jump-balls downfield, but it's hard to criticize the secondary on well-covered passes in which the receiver makes a tough, contested catch. Su'a Cravens returned a pick 30 yards for a score, and Leon McQuay snared an interception in the end zone for another defensive TD.

USC gave Sean Mannion few easy looks, as the Beaver quarterback never looked comfortable thanks to constant pressure and tight coverage by USC. Mannion completed 4-of-13 passes during the second half for 16 yards.

 

Run Defense

Despite some rather pedestrian rushing numbers, Storm Woods and Terron Ward actually had solid showings against the Trojans. For some reason, however, Oregon State abandoned the ground game and relied on Mannion's arm—unsuccessfully, that is.

Woods and Ward combined for 90 yards on 16 attempts. USC's front seven certainly wasn't complaining about the lack of running plays, but it needs to improve in that area.

 

Special Teams

Andre Heidari yanked a 36-yard field goal but did convert four extra points, so it wasn't all bad for the senior. Kris Albardo averaged 40.5 yards per punt, pinning Oregon State inside its own 10-yard line three times.

The most glaring issue was the Trojans kick coverage, which allowed Ryan Murphy to return a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Fortunately for the Trojans, it didn't come back to haunt them.

 

Coaching

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had his unit prepared for a bounce-back performance, and it shined. Oregon State entered the night averaging 447 yards and 31.7 points per outing, but USC limited its opponent to just 181 total yards.

The offense still has some issues, but Kessler and Co. converting 11-of-22 third and fourth downs was outstanding.

 

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Oregon State vs. USC: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

It wasn't pretty, but the USC Trojans sent the Oregon State Beavers home thinking about an embarrassing 35-10 loss. Though USC committed 14 penalties, its defense was the bright spot in a decent overall performance...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 5

Week 5 was more about what almost happened than what did.

Florida State, Texas A&M and Georgia were pushed to the brink by N.C. State, Arkansas and Tennessee, respectively, and looked for a long while like they might fall victim to an upset.

Ultimately, they all survived those challenges, but the Associated Press Poll voters were taking notes. Were their struggles enough to move them down the rankings in a week where only two Top 25 teams lost? Or will the status quo be maintained when the new poll comes out Monday?

Here is a guess at the answer:

Note: Poll reflects the author's projection of the Week 6 poll—not how he would rank the teams himself.

 

Fun Fact

In this projection—i.e., one where South Carolina falls out of the Top 25 and TCU climbs in—the Big 12 and SEC would both place 50 percent of their teams in the rankings. The former's would be backloaded with three teams ranked in the bottom fifth, but given the Big 12's preseason reputation, matching the SEC would be remarkable nonetheless.

Technically, the FBS Independents also place 50 percent of their "conference" in the rankings with Notre Dame and BYU, but we'll ignore that for reasons of sample size (only four Independent teams).

 

Teams Rising:

UCLA

Let's start with the obvious. UCLA played a road game against a "top-15" team in the country and won by 35 points.

That's an easy way to move up the rankings.

No matter your opinion of the Sun Devils, it was hard not to be impressed by what UCLA did in Tempe, overcoming a slow start to blow away the reigning Pac-12 South champion. Quarterback Brett Hundley gave a Heisman-worthy performance in his return from an elbow injury, combining for 427 total yards and five touchdowns.

That was on Thursday. But the Bruins' stock kept climbing late Saturday night when the Memphis team that everybody gave them grief for barely beating, 42-35, put up a similar fight at Ole Miss.

 

TCU

TCU beat SMU 56-0 Saturday, which is par for the course for opponents of the Mustangs but nice to see nonetheless.

In three games this season, the Horned Frogs have scored 128 points and allowed just 21, appearing to have found a nice offensive rhythm under first-year offensive coordinators Sunny Cumbie and Doug Meachem. Quarterback-turned-receiver-turned quarterback Trevone Boykin has taken well to the spread attack, and he's ready for the big test he'll face against Oklahoma in Week 6.

"Coach says get ready for the games you're supposed to win and the big games will take care of themselves," Boykin said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "We will probably be up on the little things because we have a better opponent coming to town next week."

The Horned Frogs also rise a bit because their best opponent to-date, Minnesota, looked strong in a road win at Michigan. Granted, there are high school teams out there that look like they could beat Michigan right now, but a win at the Big House will always be a win at the Big House.

TCU beat Minnesota in Week 3, 30-7.

 

Teams Falling:

South Carolina

South Carolina lost a game it should have won against Missouri on Saturday, blowing a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter and falling on its home field, 21-20.

The Gamecocks were the better team for more than three-fourths of the night, at one point even holding Missouri to 69 yards of offense over a 40-minute stretch of game time. They were playing strong and sound against a decent opponent, and they appeared to be heading toward an easy (and important) win.

But all of that was erased in the final seven minutes when Missouri scored two quick touchdowns and forced South Carolina into a four-and-out to clinch the win. It returned the favor after last year's game in the other Columbia when South Carolina erased a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Tigers on their own home field.

As a result, Steve Spurrier's team should drop out of the rankings.

 

Arizona State

Arizona State hung tight against UCLA for the first portion of the game, finding success despite the absence of quarterback Taylor Kelly. In fact, it even led by two scores, 17-6, 16 minutes into the game.

Big plays became its undoing, though, and the final result was ugly. An 80-yard touchdown by Eldridge Massington and two 95-plus-yard scores by Ishmael Adams all contributed to the Sun Devils' downfall, exposing their tackling as slipshod on a national stage.

To be honest, Todd Graham's team was over-ranked in the first place. It lost just about everything from last year's defense, and the new unit had not been tested before Week 5. It was only ranked No. 15 in the country by virtue of other teams losing.

It was never one of the 15-best teams.

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Watch USC QB Cody Kessler's Monster Hail Mary TD Pass to Close out 1st Half

The USC Trojans were locked in a close game with the Oregon State Beavers entering the half before Trojans QB Cody Kessler found Darreus Rogers on a ridiculous 48-yard Hail Mary as time expired.  

Was this Hail Mary heave as good as Arizona's last week?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Watch USC QB Cody Kessler's Monster Hail Mary TD Pass to Close out 1st Half

The USC Trojans were locked in a close game with the Oregon State Beavers entering the half before Trojans QB Cody Kessler found Darreus Rogers on a ridiculous 48-yard Hail Mary as time expired...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Scores 2014: Week 5 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

There were a ton of close calls in a wild and wacky Week 5, but in the end, there was just one mild upset. 

A week after falling out of the Top 25, the Missouri Tigers rebounded with a win over No. 13 South Carolina on the road. Russell Hansbrough found the end zone three times, and the final score gave the Tigers a 21-20 lead.

Missouri capped off a nine-play, 51-yard drive with just 3:34 remaining. Mizzou's defense held, and the offense ran out the clock to seal the victory. The win might be enough to push the Tigers back into the Top 25.

The Texas A&M Aggies came close to being bitten by the upset bug. However, the Arkansas Razorbacks fell apart on defense down the stretch and squandered the lead.

Kenny "Trill" Hill spurred on a furious fourth-quarter rally to come back from a 28-14 deficit after three quarters. An 86-yard connection between Hill and Edward Pope made it 28-21. The Aggies would later tie it on a 59-yard strike from Hill to Josh Reynolds.

Hill put a stamp on his impressive performance with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy in overtime. The defense stepped up to stop the Razorbacks on a 4th-and-2 situation to seal the victory. It was just one of the thrilling finishes on the first Saturday of the fall.

Here's a look at all of the scores from the Top 25 teams. 

 

Top Individual Performances

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia Bulldogs

We've seen Gurley truck and juke would-be tacklers. On Saturday, we got to see him hurdle one. In the fourth quarter, with less than eight minutes remaining, Gurley leaped over a diving Brian Randolph and completed a 26-yard gain.

After the game, Georgia head coach Mark Richt admired his star's show of athleticism. Per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), Richt said: "I don't know how high Todd got on that thing. That was pretty impressive to see right there in front of you. You just shake your head and go, 'Wow.'"

All in a day's work for the man who has seemingly established himself as the nation's best running back.

The 208 yards was his highest rushing total of the season. Through four games, he has a total of 610, and his two scores give him six on the season.

At this point, it seems that only an injury could keep him from being invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

 

Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State Seminoles

The Noles avoided disaster on the road against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Saturday. After trailing early, Florida State created some distance between it and NC State to win by 15 points.

Much of the credit should go to Williams. He hadn't had a breakout game yet this season, but with the team in need of a stabilizing force on the ground, Williams came through.

He surpassed his total for rushing touchdowns in the previous three games with three. Florida State will need Williams to continue to shine for it to maintain a balanced attack.

 

Chris Moore, WR, Cincinnati Bearcats

Moore batted .1000 on Saturday. 

He made three catches, and each of them went for touchdowns; however, it was in a losing cause against in-state rival Ohio State.

Still, Moore's day was noteworthy. The 6'1" junior had touchdown catches of 63, 80 and 78 yards. His yards per catch was a whopping 73.6. This performance easily blows away everything Moore has done in college leading up to this point.

Cincinnati surely hopes this is a sign of things to come.

 

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA Bruins

Both Hundley and UCLA needed a big performance against the Arizona State Sun Devils, and they got it.

As part of the 62-27 blowout win, Hundley was nearly flawless in a big-time game against a quality conference foe. His rushing total and score on the ground only augmented his value.

Hundley threw for more yards in the Week 2 win over Memphis, but neither he nor the Bruins were as sharp as they were on Thursday night in Tempe, Arizona.

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska Cornhuskers

If Abdullah isn't a serious candidate for the Heisman, then no one is. On Saturday, he and the Cornhuskers trampled the Illinois Fighting Illini for 458 rushing yards.

Abdullah's rushing totals pushed him to the top spot in the nation in yards with 833. It was his third 200-yard game, and he's now averaging 166.6 yards per contest.

He and the Cornhuskers will get a serious test next week when the team travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.

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College Football Rankings Week 6: B/R's Official Top 25

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are quite a few things that can happen on the field to affect a college football team's ranking.

That can be seen in the Bleacher Report Top 25, which despite no losses among our top 12 teams from the previous week, there was still quite a bit of shuffling in the rankings based on the way those teams came about their victories. Additionally, losses by a few ranked teams either knocked them down the list, or all the way off it.

This week's Bleacher Report Top 25 was voted on by 19 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits his or her ballot based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th. And then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 6 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Nebraska Football: Ameer Abdullah Rewriting the Record Books with Every Run

Watch out, record books, Ameer Abdullah is coming.

After five games, the Nebraska I-back is showing no sign of slowing down. As a result, records, both at Nebraska, in the Big Ten and nationally, are falling one-by-one.

In fact, here's a short list of what Abdullah accomplished against Illinois in one night:

  • Rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts.
  • Rushed for 200 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career (and the first player to do so since Ahman Green in 1997).
  • Had his 21st career 100-yard rushing game, which moved him into second on Nebraska's career list.
  • Scored his 36th career touchdown, which includes 28 rushing touchdowns. His 36 overall touchdowns tie Tommie Frazier for the sixth-most in Nebraska history.

And that's just in one game. What's becoming abundantly clear is that Abdullah is setting himself up for a record-breaking season.

One record that is obtainable by Abdullah is the most 200-yard rushing games in a season for a division I athlete. That currently belongs to USC's Marcus Allen, who crushed records in 1981. More than thirty years later, Abdullah could take the record away.

The Nebraska I-back already has three 200-yard games on the season and he'll likely have more, as long as he has no injuries. If he runs like he did against Illinois when coming up against future opponents, tying or surpassing Allen's record is possible.

Additionally, Abdullah is leaving his mark in the Big Ten. His 212 all-purpose yards against Illinois increased his career total to 5,974 yards, which moves him within 26 yards of becoming the seventh player in conference history with 6,000 career all-purpose yards. Those 212 yards jumped Abdullah ahead of Michigan's Anthony Carter (5,799 yards), Wisconsin's Brandon Williams (5,852 yards) and Montee Ball (5,935 yards).

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman recognized Abdullah's talent after being defeated by the Huskers. "He is very good," Beckman said. "Their offensive line is very good. I think Ameer would be the first one to tell you that. I think that personally, he is probably as good as there is in the country."

At the school level, Abdullah is just breaking record-after-record. In fact, the I-back is only five attempts behind Mike Rozier’s school record of 668 carries. It seems likely he'll surpass that against Michigan State.

Abdullah is making history. Every week, college football fans from across the country are treated to the Ameer Abdullah show, which hasn't been disappointing yet. Head coach Bo Pelini recognizes that.

"I like everything I see from Ameer," Pelini said. "He's a pretty special player."

And if he keeps running, no record is safe.

 

All quotes and statistics were obtained firsthand at Nebraska's post-game press conference, unless otherwise noted.

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Should Notre Dame Be Considered a Favorite for CFB Playoff?

After their 31-15 win over the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are starting to state their case as an elite team. With a huge matchup with Stanford looming next week, is it time to start thinking of Notre Dame as a team that could crash the College Football Playoff?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder debates whether or not Notre Dame will be one of the last four remaining.

Do you think Notre Dame will be in the College Football Playoff?  

Watch the video and let us know!

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 5

With Week 5 in the books, it's time to reassess the Heisman Trophy race. Todd Gurley, Kenny Hill, Nick Marshall and Melvin Gordon all went off on Saturday, while Amari Cooper and Marcus Mariota were idle during their bye week. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee dishes out who he thinks is the Heisman front-runner.

If the season ended today, who do you think would win the Heisman?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Power Ranking the SEC Heading into the Most Exciting Weekend of College Football

After five weeks of college football it's time to rank the SEC. Texas A&M, Missouri and Georgia both won in thrilling fashion, while Ole Miss, Auburn and LSU all won laughers.  

Bleacher Report College Football analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss who's on top in the nation's premiere conference. 

Who is the best team in the SEC?

Watch the video and let us know!

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