NCAA Football

Southern Miss vs. Alabama: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide host the Southern Miss Eagles in a nonconference bout Saturday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. ET.

Quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jacob Coker are still expected to split time under center for the Tide, but the playmaking trio of T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Amari Cooper will lead the offense.

Southern Miss is under the direction of sophomore quarterback Nick Mullens, who is looking to give Southern Miss a two-win season for the first time since 2011.

ESPN2 is carrying the game, and Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Why Big 12 Should Fear Clint Trickett, West Virginia

Quarterback Clint Trickett and the West Virginia Mountaineers scored an impressive 40-37 victory over Maryland on Saturday, putting the rest of the Big 12 on notice.

The box score is generally the first place casual fans go to get a feel for what happened in the game, and Trickett's 511 passing yards to go along with his four touchdown throws are eye-popping indeed. Of course, it's only slightly better than par for the course for head coach Dana Holgorsen's lead weapon, who also had 300-yard games against Alabama and Towson in the first two weeks of the 2014 season.

But the real reason this is more than just a close victory over a middling Maryland squad is because of how the Mountaineers fought through adversity away from home, something the 2013 team would not have done.

After jumping out to a 28-6 lead, the Mountaineers saw the 22-point margin get trimmed down to just seven early in the fourth quarter before a William Likely punt return evened the score at 37. From then on, it became a matter of who wanted it more, and the Mountaineers defense held strong.

Maryland had the ball twice with a chance to take a lead, and both times the Terrapins went three-and-out. Instead of relying on Trickett to lead the offense on the final drive, Holgorsen went with a heavy dose of Dreamius Smith on the ground.

On 2nd-and-11 from their own 34, a 17-yard-pass from Trickett to Daikiel Shorts helped move the ball over midfield, and a 10-yard Dustin Garrison run moved the offense to the edge of field-goal range. Several small gains later, the Mountaineers were in a position to finish things off. Josh Lambert obliged, knocking a 47-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired.

When the dust settles at the end of the season, no one will point to a road victory over Maryland as a major accomplishment, but it signals to the rest of the conference that West Virginia is no longer a pushover.

While Trickett will undoubtedly capture headlines with his video-game numbers, don't ignore the 183 yards on the ground by West Virginia or the fact that Smith was able to churn out several tough runs during crunch time with Rushel Shell apparently dinged up.

Seeing Holgorsen's offense find its groove through the air is scary in itself, but if the Mountaineers can run the ball enough to force linebackers to keep an eye on the backfield, the points should continue to come fast and easy.

Don't forget, this is a Mountaineers team that had a real chance to knock off Alabama in the season opener. Trickett and company weren't able to come up with the plays necessary to steal the game late, but the 6'2" 186-pound senior did throw for 365 yards and a score with no turnovers.

Those are numbers that most quarterbacks who've played the Crimson Tide the past few years would be jealous of, and you'd expect the trend to continue in conference play.

Conference play, oh by the way, starts next week with a home game against Oklahoma. The Sooners will be coming off a game against an improved Tennessee squad, and if Bob Stoops' team plays like they're up against the Mountaineers of 2013, it could be in for a rude awakening.

After the contest against the fourth-ranked Sooners, West Virginia will alternate playing home and away, starting with Kansas in Morgantown, followed by Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State.

Circle the Oct. 18 game against Baylor as well as the Nov. 20 matchup with Kansas State, which comes on a Thursday. Could those contests have implications in the race for the Big 12 title?

Next week should give us a clear answer to that question. Until then, it's time for the rest of the Big 12 to take notice of what Trickett and the Mountaineers are doing. Of course, the naysayers will continue to point to the defense, as was the case in 2012 with Geno Smith at the helm.

But holding the Tide to 33 is nothing to scoff at, and the late stops against the Terps ultimately paved the way for the offense to drive down the field and score the winning points. Again, this is a unit that we'll learn more about in a week when the Sooners come to town. But there are definitely signs that this is not the same team that gave up 63 points and 700 yards to Baylor in 2012.

Just look at how the third-down defense improved throughout Saturday's game:

As is the case with every team in the college football, the health of key players will play the biggest role in how far it goes and how many wins are piled up. Shell is the type of player defenses have to prepare for, and any sort of prolonged absence will likely clip the wings of the high-flying offense.

For now, Mountaineers fans can be happy that competitive football is not just on the horizon, it's arrived and ready for exciting league contests to begin. Will that excitement include a major upset or perhaps even a bid for the Big 12 title?

A win next week would be a step in the right direction.

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East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech: Game Grades, Analysis for the Hokies

One week after stunning the Ohio State Buckeyes, the No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies were upset by the East Carolina Pirates 28-21.

Virginia Tech had a poor overall performance, and it certainly is reflected in underwhelming game grades.

Pass Offense

Michael Brewer may have finished with 298 yards and three touchdowns, but the Texas Tech transfer had a disappointing game. His two interceptions were absolutely terrible decisions, and he never looked comfortable throughout the loss.

Cam Phillips emerged as Brewer's favorite target in the second half, but Joshua Stanford and Ford had a couple costly drops that ended drives.

Run Offense

Though Marshawn Williams was fantastic during his 60-yard third quarter, Virginia Tech gave him a single carry in the final frame. East Carolina defensive tackle Terry Williams was a constant force in the backfield, but the Hokies started to contain him.

Pass Defense

Call it an unsuccessful sandwich. Shane Carden picked apart the VT secondary early, then the unit tightened up. However, Cam Worthy made Brandon Facyson and Kyshoen Jarrett look silly, snaring six passes for a ridiculous average of 37.3 yards.

Overall, the Hokies allowed 427 yards and three touchdowns through the air—a very forgettable performance.

Run Defense

Virginia Tech allowed a couple long runs but was ultimately successful in limiting the Pirates ground game to an average of just 3.0 yards on 25 attempts. Additionally, the team's lone takeaway was a forced fumble that Kendall Fuller recovered at the 1-yard line.

Special Teams

Although Joey Slye missed a 52-yard field goal wide right, he knocked home three extra points. Punter A.J. Hughes averaged 40.8 yards per kick, and Greg Stroman managed a solid 8.0 yards per punt return.

Nothing special, nothing terrible for Beamer Ball.

Coaching

The Hokies offense was essentially nonexistent in the first quarter, but it slowly improved. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler eventually helped turn things around, and Virginia Tech converted on six of its final eight third downs after going 2-of-11.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster constantly used Cover 0 and Cover 1, leaving the cornerbacks hanging out to dry with no safety help over the top. Carden tossed a handful of jump balls, and East Carolina won the majority of those battles.

 

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

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Marcus Mariota vs. Wyoming: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Although Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks got off to a slow start against Wyoming, they were able to eventually show why the Ducks are one of the best teams in the country by building up a 41-7 lead in the third quarter before taking out the starters.

Mariota went 19-of-23 for 221 yards and two passing touchdowns to go with 71 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in less than three quarters. Of course, the stats were not as impressive as the plays themselves.

With the Ducks down 7-0 in the second quarter, they were finally able to get onto the scoreboard thanks to one of the team's patented lightning-fast drives:

The touchdown came on a 15-yard run by Mariota where he lowered his shoulder to ensure he got into the end zone:

Dwight Jaynes of CSN Northwest liked the read-option to get the score:

After Byron Marshall scored a 30-yard touchdown to take the lead, Mariota got his second rushing touchdown on the day on a 19-yard scramble with an incredible finish into the end zone:

Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com was impressed by the play:

Aaron J. Fentress of CSN Northwest saw that as a Heisman-winning moment for the young quarterback:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, who has been high on Mariota all year, thinks this is another reason for him to be the top pick in the NFL draft:

Even the simple plays were impressive, according to Bleacher Report's Curt Popejoy:

Mariota added to his strong day before the half with a touchdown pass to Devon Allen. Moseley noted that this extended a long streak for the passer:

He found a new target in the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the day, as explained by Mark Morical of The Bulletin:

This ended up being the starting quarterback's last play of the game, as he was taken out in favor of Jeff Lockie. Craig Pintens of GoDucks.com provided an impressive stat at the end of the performance:

Overall, this was another incredible effort from a player who has produced quite a few big games in his career.

While Oregon was not expected to have much trouble with Wyoming, every game is important in college football. The Ducks are looking to compete for a national championship, and any sign of struggle could be devastating to their perception.

The good news is that they have one of the best players in the nation in Mariota. If he keeps performing at his current level, Oregon will be in good shape.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Marcus Mariota vs. Wyoming: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Although Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks got off to a slow start against Wyoming, they were able to eventually show why the Ducks are one of the best teams in the country ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

ECU vs. Virginia Tech: Score and Reaction to Pirates' Upset Win

Virginia Tech's run in the Top 25 might be over just one week after it started.  

The 17th-ranked Hokies were upset by the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday at home, 28-21, in one of the biggest surprises of the 2014 college football season thus far. One week removed from a road victory over then-No. 8 Ohio State, the Hokies couldn't overcome an underrated East Carolina team that no one will overlook from here on out. 

Frank Beamer's squad trailed 21-0 early, with the Lane Stadium crowd facing a three-possession deficit before all of the seats were filled. Despite a late comeback, the Hokies couldn't muster enough success to get over the hump against a Pirates defense that hounded them all afternoon. 

Pirates quarterback Shane Carden shredded the Hokies secondary that looked so dominant a week prior, throwing for more than 400 yards, as ESPN College Football captured:

The Hokies did battle back against the odds, with Michael Brewer throwing three touchdown passes, including the game-tying one with just 1:20 left. Virginia Tech's defense clamped down by shutting out ECU from the second quarter to late in the fourth.

But with the game on the line, Carden led his Pirates down the field in 1:04—thanks to a pair of big receptions from Cam Worthy—and slipped around the outside on a quarterback sneak to take the lead for good with 16 seconds left. 

Carden's performance was one of the best of the season, but it also had some all-time significance, as ESPN Stats and Information found:

Brewer had one last chance to tie the game from about 40 yards out on a heave, but he sailed the ball out of the end zone. Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer couldn't think of a more fitting ending:

The defeat marked the continuance of a disturbing trend for Hokies fans, as ESPN's Brett McMurphy illustrated:

The victory was no fluke for the Pirates, who outgained Virginia Tech 502-389 and kept the Hokies under 100 yards rushing for the first time in 2014. For a vast majority of the 60 minutes, the Pirates controlled the tempo up front.

Beamer insisted his team didn't overlook ECU, per Jacob Emert of TechSideline.com:

The Hokies didn't get long to enjoy last weekend's huge victory, as Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis notes:

Believe it or not, East Carolina could have been up by much more early on. Already up 21-0, the Pirates had a touchdown called back that would've made it a four-score game and squandered three straight red-zone opportunities.

Squandered opportunities were much more common on the other side, with Virginia Tech's Brewer—days after the game of his life—throwing two ghastly first-half interceptions to set up those East Carolina chances.

Eventually, Brewer and his receivers started to figure out the Pirates' secondary and amassed 298 yards through the air. But it wasn't enough. 

Virginia Tech's rise and impending fall in the rankings will be quite the contrast. It finished considerably outside of the Top 25 in the preseason and Week 2 Associated Press rankings, but it shot up to No. 17 after its shocking victory over Ohio State on Sept. 6.

Though, as NFL Network's Jenn Brown noted, college football is filled with unpredictability and Saturday was a perfect example:

The rhetoric around Beamer's team quickly shifted from one of rebuilding to championship contending after last weekend, which isn't surprising given how monumental and unexpected the road win over the Buckeyes was. But if Saturday was any indication, this team still has a long way to go.

Last weekend was a dark time for the Big Ten in part thanks to Virginia Tech's victory, but the Hokies' loss on Saturday puts the pressure on the ACC, as ESPN's Edward Aschoff noted:

Voters and coaches haven't already forgotten about what Virginia Tech just did in Columbus, Ohio, but losing to an East Carolina team without a single Top 25 vote won't be a good look for the Hokies. If Virginia Tech stays in the Top 25—and that's a big if—it will likely be seated near the back.

As for the Pirates, well, the kids in Greenville, North Carolina, will certainly enjoy it, as Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples noted:

Many thought East Carolina was the real deal after it nearly knocked off South Carolina last weekend, but it still failed to generate a Top 25 vote in the Week 3 rankings. After simply dominating a Top 25 team for a half and mounting a late game-winning drive in dramatic fashion, the Pirates have put future opponents on notice. 

Putting future opponents on notice is something Virginia Tech did in a big-time way last weekend, but its fellow ACC counterparts will pay attention to Saturday's result just as much. While the Hokies looked like a dark-horse College Football Playoff contender last weekend, now it's apparent that Virginia Tech might be further away from contention than it recently led itself to believe.

Virginia Tech will have to shake off the loss quickly before Georgia Tech (3-0) arrives to open up ACC play. 

Meanwhile, ECU hopes to just keep on rolling as it gears up to host North Carolina—another ACC foe. And after the result the Pirates posted this weekend, it's safe to say Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be rocking in the hopes of another upset. 

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Kent State vs. Ohio State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Buckeyes

After suffering their first regular-season loss under Urban Meyer, the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes took their frustrations out on Kent State in a dominating 66-0 rout Saturday afternoon.

Led by freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes scored 45 first-half points and finished with a season-high 622 total yards. On the other side of the ball, Kent State only produced 126 yards and broke midfield just one time.

How did the Buckeyes grade out after their impressive performance?

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: J.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes receivers torched Kent State’s overmatched defense Saturday afternoon. Barrett threw for 297 yards and five touchdowns in the first half alone before finishing with 312 and six. Ohio State’s lone interception came after a perfectly placed pass bounced off Michael Thomas’ chest and right to a Kent State defender.

Run Offense: The Buckeyes looked much better running the ball on Saturday, piling up 284 yards on the ground. While it was much easier to pound things out against Kent State, the offensive line created huge lanes for the Buckeyes running backs. Curtis Samuel ran the ball 15 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns—the first 100-yard rushing performance from the Buckeyes this year.

Pass Defense: Kent State came into Ohio Stadium averaging 238.5 passing yards per game, according to NCAA.com, but quarterbacks Colin Reardon and Nathan Strock managed just 79 yards against the Buckeyes defense. A trio of Buckeyes—Tyvis Powell, Joshua Perry and Erick Smith—came away with interceptions as the Buckeyes stifled the Kent State offense. 

Run Defense: The Golden Flashes had an even harder time running the ball. Running back Nick Holley found a few lanes, running for 34 yards on six carries. But four other ball-carriers added just 13 yards on 17 carries Saturday afternoon. Linebackers Raekwon McMillan, Joshua Perry and Darron Lee swarmed Kent State's rushing attack.

Special Teams: After an abysmal outing against Virginia Tech a week ago, Ohio State’s special teams were solid against Kent State. Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall had a number of solid punt returns, the Buckeyes blocked a punt and Sean Nuernberger nailed his only field goal attempt from 41-yards out.

Coaching: With the kind of talent disparity this game featured, it would have been hard for the Ohio State coaching staff to make too many mistakes. The Buckeyes, though, executed their game plan perfectly. Barrett established the passing attack early, and then the Buckeyes' deep stable of running backs took the game over in the second half. Ohio State's defense made all the right plays and was never out of position, and even the second-team players came out with energy to preserve the Buckeyes' shut out.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via Ohio State's official website.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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UMass Misses Potential Game-Tying Field Goal, Vanderbilt Player Hugs Kicker

The Massachusetts Minutemen drove down the field in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game against the Vanderbilt Commodores and only needed an easy field goal to tie the game.

Unfortunately, kicker Blake Lucas sent his 22-yard attempt wide left, and the Minutemen lost the game 34-31. Vanderbilt defensive lineman Adam Butler felt bad for Lucas, so he gave him a hug after the miss.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Devin Funchess Injury: Updates on Michigan Star's Knee and Return

Michigan's season is going from bad to worse prior to Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio). The Wolverines will be short four starters at kickoff, including star wide receiver Devin Funchess. 

According to Nick Baumgardner of MLive, Funchess won't dress this week due to a leg injury suffered in last week's blowout loss to Notre Dame.

Junior wide receiver Devin Funchess, senior corner Ray Taylor and junior safety Jarrod Wilson are all off the dress list and will not play Saturday.

Funchess, Michigan's leading wide receiver, injured his right leg during last week's loss at Notre Dame, falling awkwardly after a catch in the second half. Funchess was helped off the field before eventually returning for one play.

Funchess had a breakout season for the Wolverines in 2013, racking up 748 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He was leading Michigan in receiving yards through two games this year with 202; in fact, the junior is the only player on the team with more than five catches and 60 yards. 

After struggling to move the ball against Notre Dame, the Wolverines need all the help they can get. Funchess' absence means the rest of the receiving crew and running game will have to step up their efforts.

 

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Marcus Mariota Flies Through Air for Diving Touchdown vs. Wyoming

The heavily favored Oregon Ducks were down 7-0 after the first quarter against Wyoming on Saturday, but the Cowboys' lead didn't last very long.

With just under seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, junior quarterback Marcus Mariota leaped through the air to get his second rushing touchdown of the game and put the Ducks up 20-7.

Here's a video of the entire play:

Mariota is quickly building another Heisman Trophy resume, as he already had nine total touchdowns with zero interceptions after this diving score. He added a 16-yard strike through the air to Devon Allen roughly five minutes later, giving Oregon a 27-7 halftime lead.

[Twitter]

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Kent State QB Colin Reardon Throws Pass at His Feet vs. Ohio State

Kent State's Week 3 matchup against Ohio State has been a game to forget, especially for Golden Flashes quarterback Colin Reardon.

At one point, Reardon tried to throw a pass down the field while rolling out to the right, but he held on to the ball too long and ended up chucking it right at his feet.

Things didn't get much better from there, as the Golden Flashes were down 59-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Reardon finished the day 14-of-27 for 76 yards and three interceptions.

[Vine, h/t Lost Lettermen]

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Louisville, Virginia End 1st Half with a Scuffle

Both the Virginia Cavaliers and Louisville Cardinals were quite frustrated in the first half of Saturday's game after combining for six turnovers, but things got out of hand at halftime.

After an incompletion on the final play of the first half, a couple of players started wrestling in the end zone, which resulted in several players from both teams getting in a bit of a scuffle.

The Cavaliers had a 10-7 lead at halftime.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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Georgia vs. South Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

 

Early First Quarter

Georgia 10, South Carolina 7

After a long weather delay, things are finally getting under way.  Which team can seize control early in this clash of SEC East titans?

Both teams relied on their passing attacks to score on opening drives, but a South Carolina turnover resulted in a Georgia field goal for the lead.  This could be a shootout.

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Miami (OH) vs. Michigan: Live Score and Highlights

Michigan 17, Miami (Ohio) 10, Early 3rd Quarter

The Red Hawks are hanging with Michigan, which hasn't lost at home in September under coach Brady Hoke.

Alert: Devin Funchess is not dressed for the game. More to come as details become clear. 

 

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

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JT Barrett vs. Kent State: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

After a miserable performance against Virginia Tech, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett turned things around against Kent State to lead the team to a 66-0 win.

The freshman completed just 31 percent of his passes while throwing three interceptions in a Week 2 loss. However, he bounced back with 312 passing yards and six touchdowns before coming out of the game early in the second half. Five of those scores came in an incredible first half as the Buckeyes built up a 45-0 lead.

Barrett look good early as the Buckeyes were able to score on the first drive less than two minutes into the game:

When he found Rod Smith for an eight-yard touchdown on the next possession, Brandon Castel of The-Ozone.net noted it was much easier against this defense:

Despite the weaker opponent, Barrett still showed his ability as he simply could not be stopped. After Smith ran in a touchdown, the quarterback went right back to work with three touchdown passes in the second quarter.

ESPN Stats and Info noted the difference between this performance and what he showed earlier in the season:

Jonathan Hull of the Times Record News provided his thoughts as the strong play continued:

Even the mistakes were not as bad as it seemed. He threw one interception, but Mike Hall of the Big Ten Network noted it was not his fault:

ESPN's College Gameday notes that Barrett wasn't the only quarterback this season to have a dominant half of football:

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder liked a lot of what he saw from the young passer, comparing him to UCLA's Brett Hundley:

He was also impressed by the quarterback's ability to go through his progressions:

After adding another score in the second half, he put himself in the record books next to another "fill-in" quarterback, according to Brent Yarina of BTN.com:

He is also in rare territory as a passer for the Buckeyes, as the school's Twitter account notes:

Terrelle Pryor also threw for 300 yards in 2010 but the records have since been removed.

Barrett ended up coming out of the game early in the third quarter as Cardale Jones got his chance to shine, but this was an impressive showing for a quarterback who received a lot of criticism early in the week.

Fans were ready to give up on the freshman after the home loss to Ohio State, but it is clear Barrett has a lot of talent. Even against a mediocre opponent, it is hard not to be impressed with some of the throws he made.

If he can find more consistency, the Buckeyes should be in good shape going forward as they look to survive without starting quarterback Braxton Miller.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford Hauls in Diving Touchdown Catch vs. ECU

One week after upsetting Ohio State in Columbus, Virginia Tech looks to have a win hangover, as it allowed the first 21 points of the game to East Carolina. 

But Isaiah Ford's touchdown at the end of the first half to get Tech on the board was nothing short of amazing. 

It looks like the ball hit the ground, but the play was reviewed and upheld as a touchdown catch. 

[FanSided, gifdsports]

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Purdue vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

It’s the battle of the Shillelagh Trophy as No. 11 Notre Dame takes on Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in the series finale. The game will be broadcast on NBC, and it will kick off at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

The Fighting Irish are looking to win their seventh straight against the Boilermakers. Quarterback Everett Golson leads the Irish with 521 passing yards and five touchdowns through the first two games.

Purdue started the season with a 43-34 win against Western Michigan. However, it did not have the same success against Central Michigan. The defense missed 17 tackles en route to a 38-17 loss.

Be sure to come back to this blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates, highlights and analysis.

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Is Houston Still Contender in American Athletic Conference After Rough Start?

The Houston Cougars have lost two of their first three games to open the 2014 season. Their lone win, a 47-0 shellacking of Grambling State at home, was notched against a winless Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FCS) school.

Down 23-0 late in the first half, Houston’s comeback bid fell short against BYU on Saturday. BYU escaped in front of their home crowd with a 33-25 win.

Obviously, things are not going as planned for head coach Tony Levine. After opening the season, as well as Houston’s new home, TDECU Stadium, with a 27-7 program-injuring loss to the University of Texas at San Antonio, Houston fans were akin to a big, red balloon being pricked by a pin: All the air of 2014 hopes and expectations flew out of them in one giant pop.

So if Houston fans entered the season with high aspirations of their team earning a bid to the newly formatted college football playoff system or one of the four lucrative selection committee bowl games, those dreams certainly have dissipated by now.

Houston just hasn’t executed well enough to be one of college football’s elite teams this season. In order to accomplish something like that, a team has to have all its biggest issues sorted out well before the opening game. Houston didn’t.

But Houston remains in the hunt for the American Athletic Conference title. They remain 0-0 in that dogfight, and there were some positive signs over the last two games to give Houston fans hope going forward.

Houston’s offense hasn’t been what it should be this season. Whatever the reason—sophomore quarterback John O’Korn’s erratic play or new offensive coordinator Travis Bush’s lack of ingenuity—the Coogs’ high-flying offense has mostly been grounded so far.

But in Saturday’s loss to BYU, Houston’s ailing offense showed signs of new life. O’Korn had his best game of the season. He appeared accurate and in control. He threw for 307 yards on 30-of-52 pass attempts with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Simply put, O’Korn played like the quarterback everyone thought he could be this year after he led all true freshman in passing touchdowns last season. He made plays all over the field and throws only the very elite among pigskin hurlers can make—none better than a his 45-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Spencer as time expired in the first half.

Moreover, Houston’s offense appeared to improve as an overall unit.

If offensive coordinator Bush was in over his head at the beginning of the season, he didn’t appear to be drowning against BYU. Houston’s offense moved the ball and made big plays when it had to.  

No, this wasn’t the Air Raid offense Houston fans enjoyed under previous coordinators Dana Holgorsen, Kliff Kingsbury or even Doug Meacham. But Bush’s multiple-set spread offense looked like something that could actually work, and that’s more than the Cougars had going for them at the season’s start.

And Houston still has one more game to work on things before conference play begins. Houston hosts UNLV Sept. 20—their final nonconference game before AAC play begins.

In contrast to the continued evolution of a functioning offense, other facets of Houston's play regressed against BYU. Their special teams unit in particular lacked discipline and technique in Saturday's loss. In fact, Houston’s kicking game accounted for one missed field goal and two missed extra points—that’s five points left off the scoreboard in a game that was close for most of the second half.

Levine, a former special teams coordinator, has to get his unit back on track.

But let’s face it, while the AAC is the best non-Power Five conference in the nation, it’s not exactly the SEC. Houston has the overall talent to compete with any team in the AAC right now, and improved execution could slot them right in with the conference’s best teams: Cincinnati, Central Florida and East Carolina.

After the BYU loss, Houston players and coaches seemed resilient.

"You have to give a lot of credit to our team for not giving up and not folding. We just kept fighting," linebacker Derrick Matthews told the Associated Press.

Levine echoed the same to the Houston Chronicle’s Jody Genessy:

A loss is a loss. However, I will say coming into a hostile environment, playing a Top 25 team and falling behind 23-0 and never losing confidence or composure on the sidelines, battling back and having an opportunity to come back and tie the game late, I was proud of our student-athletes, our staff and our coaches.

Houston fans haven’t had much to be confident about so far this year. Nor have many of them maintained their composure. Houston message boards are rife with angry messages over the team’s poor start, and a website dedicated to firing Levine already has come out of the woodwork, too.

Fans are mad.

But Houston’s players and coaches seem to have their minds made up. They believe they can still compete for the AAC crown. They believe they can still become bowl eligible. They believe they can still make their season mean something.

And they can. They just need to do it.

 

 

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ESPN 'College GameDay' Headed to Tallahassee for Clemson vs. FSU in Week 4

ESPN's College GameDay is heading to the home of the reigning national champions in Week 4 to see Florida State take on conference rival Clemson in one of the premier ACC contests of the 2014 season.

The show's official Twitter feed broke the news:

This particular matchup is a popular one with the pregame show, as Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard were in Death Valley last fall to watch the Seminoles take on the Tigers in what was supposed to be the biggest test of the season for Jimbo Fisher's club. The exam didn't last long, as quarterback Jameis Winston and company dominated from the get-go, routing Dabo Swinney's team, 51-14.

Clemson opened up the 2014 season in disappointing fashion, falling at Georgia 45-21. The Tigers rebounded with a 73-7 victory over South Carolina State of the FCS, and they'll have the benefit of an extra week off to prepare for the No. 1 team in the nation.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, Florida State will have Week 3 off as well after opening the season with a 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State and following it up with a ho-hum 37-12 win against Citadel. The latter contest turned ugly following the game when Bulldogs offensive lineman Victor Hill admitted in an online post that he and the rest of his line were targeting the knees of the 'Noles defensemen.

"Me and my offensive line brothers preached to each other all week that we would be going for knees from the first play to the last play with the A-backs included," Hill wrote, via ESPN.com. "We saw it as if they [won't] respect us for blocking them then we'll make them respect us for cutting them!"

Hill was later suspended, and it's hard to imagine the Seminoles will want to schedule a rematch anytime soon.

Winston's bid for a repeat Heisman is off to an underwhelming start with two interceptions and just 11 rushing yards although a date with the Tigers should give him a chance to reassert himself to the forefront of the trophy discussion.

He does have over 600 yards passing, but to win the sport's most prestigious award, it's going to take an even greater effort than the one he gave in 2013, especially with Georgia's Todd Gurley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota off to such tremendous starts.

For Clemson, it will be a matter of not wilting when the game reaches the third and fourth quarters. After tying Georgia 21-21, the Bulldogs soared past the Tigers behind the ever-churning legs of the superhuman Gurley.

If this contest remains close in the second half, can Clemson learn from its Week 1 mistakes?

One position battle the nation has its eyes locked in on is quarterback, where dual-threat freshman Deshaun Watson looks to push senior Cole Stoudt for the starting spot. Both have plenty of talent, but Watson, a former 4-star recruit sought after by Alabama, Auburn and even Florida State, is the kind of player who can take the Tigers to the top.

Stoudt has taken the majority of snaps thus far for the Tigers, and his leadership will be critical to keeping the offense focused in Doak Campbell Stadium. But if things get dicey in the first half, we may see Swinney let go of Watson's reigns and see if the freshman can make some magic happen.

The stakes could not be any higher in the ACC showdown, as the conference's weakened perception means that Florida State likely cannot afford a loss if it wants to be in position to reach the College Football Playoff.

Tests against Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida loom, but this is the first opportunity for the 'Noles to identify themselves as serious contenders to win a second straight national championship.

The contest will take place at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Wyoming vs. Oregon: Live Score and Highlights

A week after lodging one of its biggest nonconference wins in school history, Oregon (2-0) will try to keep it rolling against a far less imposing opponent when it hosts Wyoming (2-0) at 2 p.m. ET Saturday.

While the Cowboys don't have the pedigree of Michigan State, whom the Ducks beat 46-29 on Sept. 6, the Mountain West team does come into Eugene riding a wave of confidence under new coach Craig Bohl. Bohl was the architect of a dynasty at North Dakota State, which won the last three FCS national championships, prior to taking over a Wyoming program that is coming off back-to-back losing seasons.

Saturday's game will be a clash of styles, as Oregon runs a wide-open offense that's big on scoring quickly and blowing teams out of the water, while Wyoming has tried to control the clock and win with defense. The Cowboys have allowed 25 points in two games while only scoring 34.

Oregon, on the other hand, has outscored its opponents 108-40.

This will be the first meeting ever between the Ducks and Cowboys. It will be shown live on the Pac-12 Network, but stick with us for real-time updates, including analysis, tweets, pics and GIFs.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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