NCAA Football

Dak Prescott Comments on NFL Draft Decision After Loss to Ole Miss in Egg Bowl

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have been in the NCAA limelight all season long. Much of that credit goes to quarterback Dak Prescott, whose athleticism and leadership abilities have turned him into a talismanic figure in Mississippi.

After a disappointing 31-17 loss to rival Ole Miss in the 2014 Egg Bowl, one that pretty much snuffed out any hope of the Bulldogs securing a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, Prescott's thoughts turned to the future.

According to Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, Prescott will spend another year in Starkville so long as the NFL evaluators don't see him going in the first two rounds.

Prescott cited Saturday's loss to the Rebels specifically as motivation to remain a Bulldog for another year.

"I’m 100 percent sure I want to come back. For this reason tonight, just to win the Egg Bowl and bring it back," he said, via Thamel.

Prescott has turned in some fine performances this season and kept the Bulldogs in the running in a tough-as-nails SEC West division for as long as he could. When pressed for clarification on his answer, Prescott noted the appeal of the NFL, but he promptly relayed his emotional attachment to the program, via Thamel:

When asked to clarify if he’s definitely returning, Prescott admitted that a projection by the NFL that he’ll go in the first two rounds would be 'hard to deny.' (And it may be unlikely, as he’s still not refined as a thrower.) But he quickly added the core of his feelings: 'My heart is in coming back and playing another year.'

Prescott has been one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football this season. He's thrown for 2,996 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 picks this season while picking up another 13 scores on the ground. CBSSports.com has him as the fourth-rated quarterback in the class of 2015.

Still, he's turned in some erratic performances, a three-interception effort in a loss to Alabama the most notable among them and has a long wind-up on his throws, something that NFL corners would have no trouble picking up and pouncing on. 

Another year of seasoning could turn Prescott into a better pocket passer, making his return a good investment both for the Mississippi State program and his potential longevity as a pro. Then again, if the NFL scouts see a player worth molding into a future franchise player, the guaranteed millions would be indeed be tough to turn down.

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Dalvin Cook Saves Florida State from Worst Game of Jameis Winston's Career

Jameis Winston had two interceptions in the first four minutes. And he added a third interception before the first quarter was over.

Florida State University has dug itself out of deficits before this season—but never with Winston playing this poorly, finishing with a career-high four interceptions and a career-low 125 passing yards.

That's when FSU coach Jimbo Fisher went with Plan B: Dalvin Cook to the right, Dalvin Cook to the left and Dalvin Cook up the middle. Cook ran 24 times for 144 yards, with both counting as season-high marks.

"The trump card today was Dalvin Cook," Fisher said. "That defense is extremely good, and our offensive line did a very good job."

It's not ideal to take the ball out of the hands of a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and put it into the hands of a heralded true freshman. But it worked.

Usually, it's Winston who helps FSU piece together drives. But on Saturday, he completed just 12 of 24 passes, and two of them went for touchdowns to tight end Nick O'Leary.

This time, it was Cook who was the workhorse. With senior Karlos Williams injured and on the sideline, Fisher went to Cook.

With the game in doubt, FSU took possession of the ball after Florida's Austin Hardin missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt. FSU led just 21-19 with 9:42 on the clock, and Fisher decided to hand off to Cook.

Cook ran six times and caught a pass in a 10-play drive that ate up six minutes and 19 seconds. While the drive ended in a Roberto Aguayo field goal, FSU had drained the clock down to 3:23 left. 

With Florida having to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown to win, the Gators couldn't deliver. 

But Cook certainly did.

"It just says a lot about that guy's character and his heart—the way he fights and claws for those inches," FSU receiver Rashad Greene said. "And we continue to go down and move that football."

Cook has come through in some pressure situations for FSU. With Williams (ankle) and Mario Pender (concussion) out against Syracuse University on Oct. 11, Cook ran 23 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. And at the University of Louisville, he had nine carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns, as FSU stormed back from a 21-0 deficit.

Two weeks ago, in his hometown of Miami, Cook had 92 yards and a pair of second-half touchdown runs.

FSU's offense is often driven by a senior-filled offensive line, a senior playmaker (Greene) and a senior tight end (O'Leary). And Winston is usually the engine of the offense. But on Saturday, it was a freshman.

"Dalvin's just getting better and better as each week goes by," FSU center Cameron Erving said. "He's a dynamic player. He can break tackles, he's fast [and] he's elusive. There's not enough positive things you can say about Dalvin. He's been very, very vital to our success."

 

Bob Ferrante is the lead FSU writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Stats courtesy of seminoles.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247sports.com.

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Davis Webb Injury: Updates on Texas Tech QB's Shoulder and Recovery

Texas Tech Red Raiders sophomore quarterback Davis Webb will have surgery on his left shoulder, per Nick Talbot of The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Talbot quoted a text message from team spokesman Blayne Beal.

Beal confirmed the procedure and gave a glimpse into Webb's recovery. Beal said: "I can confirm surgery ... expected to make a full recovery and be ready for spring ball."

This prognosis may put to bed some of the concerns originally reported by Travis Haney of ESPN.com that suggested Webb could possibly missing spring practice .

Webb missed the last four-plus games and was replaced by freshman Patrick Mahomes. As a replacement, Mahomes more than made his mark. In the last three games, Mahomes has averaged 439.6 passing yards and 4.6 touchdowns per game.

Many are impressed with the freshman's performance.

Webb originally injured the shoulder on Sept. 25 in the Red Raiders' loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Despite the injury, Webb returned to action the following week against the TCU Horned Frogs. He suffered an ankle injury that ended his season. 

Webb threw for 2,539 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season.

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Lane Kiffin Celebrates Amari Cooper Touchdown Right After Snap

When you have a playmaker like Amari Cooper, sometimes calling plays seems easy. 

In the third quarter of the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin made the perfect play call against the Auburn defense. He knew it was correct when he saw the Tigers playing off his star wideout. 

Kiffin puts his hands up, signaling touchdown before the ball was thrown because he knew that no one could cover Cooper. He was right, as the wide-open receiver scored on the 39-yard pass from Blake Sims to cut Auburn's lead to 33-27. 

[Vine]

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Bo Wallace's Complicated Ole Miss Legacy

There's Good Bo. 

There's Bad Bo. 

There's the quarterback that owns the University of Mississippi records for career offensive yards, total offense in a season and most completions in a season. There's times when Bo Wallace looks like one of the school's all-time greats, like Saturday against Mississippi State University. 

But we can't forget Bad Bo. The Bo Wallace that threw an interception on the last play of the game against LSU this season, despite a game-tying field goal being within reach. The Wallace that threw two picks and no touchdowns in a 30-0 loss to the University of Arkansas didn't make him look like a Rebels legend. 

At the end of the day though, that's what Wallace is. A legend. 

To understand why he is, it's important to know where Ole Miss was before he got there. 

When Hugh Freeze took over in 2012, he inherited a program that had been run into the ground by Houston Nutt. In 2011, Ole Miss was 2-10 overall and lost all eight SEC games. 

They were punching bags. And Freeze, more than anything, needed a quarterback. 

He found Wallace at East Mississippi Community College, where the gunslinger set junior college records for passing yards (4,604), total yards (4,810) and touchdown passes (53). He was also 12-0 and won the national title. 

In Wallace's first season with the Rebels in 2012, he put up better numbers than anybody had since Eli Manning, who last played for Ole Miss in 2003. 

He finished with 2,994 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and completed 63 percent of his passes. More importantly, he won seven games, including the Egg Bowl and the BBVA Compass Bowl. 

That season alone not only gave Rebels fans new faith in the program, but it gave Freeze a bona fide quarterback that could develop into a winner. 

After his first year, fans wanted Wallace to take that next step. In more ways than one, he did. And so, too, did the program. 

He and the Rebels won four SEC games—one more than the year prior. The Rebels also won eight games—one notch higher than 2012. 

For Wallace, 2013 saw him tear up the stat sheet with 3,346 passing yards and 18 touchdowns. 

Two years removed from a two-win season, and the Rebels were making significant progress. Now fans in Oxford wanted more. 

And through the first half of 2014, they got more. 

Through seven games this season, Wallace and the Rebels were brilliant. They were 7-0 and poised for a berth into the playoffs. And they had that season-defining win over the University of Alabama in their belt. 

Through those same seven games, Wallace had 17 touchdowns through the air and just six interceptions, with half of the latter coming in Week 1 in a win against Boise State University. 

Then LSU happened. The Rebels lost 10-7, and the Oxford faithful wanted a scapegoat. All the fingers pointed at Wallace, who not only threw the game-crushing interception on the final play, but was also limited to just 176 yards on 14-of-33 passing. 

Bad Bo had reared his ugly head in that game. 

Against Arkansas, Bad Bo showed up again, as he threw two interceptions, completed just 51 percent of his passes and didn't score a single point. 

But it's important to remember that over the course of his three-year career, which is a bowl game away from completion, he was Good Bo. He was the guy that helped Freeze establish a new culture in Oxford. 

Ask any coach at any level of football what they need to be successful, and their first answer will be a quarterback. 

Freeze, in his attempt to rebuild Ole Miss, found a great one in Wallace. 

Through Good Bo and Bad Bo, there is one important thing to remember: Without him, this program wouldn't be among the elite SEC squads. That's what defines his legacy. 

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Cardale Jones and Ohio State Will Fall to Wisconsin in Big Ten Title Game

Cardale Jones may very well have a great future as a quarterback, but he will not engineer a victory over the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game. 

Jones is being pressed into action after J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending injury to his ankle on Saturday in the Ohio State Buckeyes' 42-28 win over the Michigan Wolverines. ESPN College Football has the bad news:

Barrett is a freshman second-stringer who was only playing because starter Braxton Miller was injured during a summer practice. The Buckeyes are now down to their third-string quarterback. Anyway you spin that, it just isn't encouraging heading into the postseason.

The nature of the Bucks postseason depends on what they are able to do against the Badgers on Dec. 6.

A win would presumably put them right in the thick of things for the fourth spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. That's assuming things stay to form with the top three teams (Alabama Crimson Tide, Oregon Ducks and Florida State Seminoles).

Ohio State would have a great case for making the final four with a quality win over a team like Wisconsin to close out its Big Ten season. Much of those hopes will be riding on the broad shoulders of an untested quarterback.

Jones is a sophomore who has thrown just 19 passes in two seasons. He'll likely be asked to throw more than that on Saturday alone.

He's known for his remarkable athleticism, per teammate Jeff Heuerman and others. Heuerman told Bill Landis of Cleveland.com that "He's a long strider. He's pretty big, about 250 pounds, 6-6, and he brings a lot to the table. He's an incredible athlete, he's got a super strong arm."

Beastly Ohio State offensive lineman Michael Bennett says Jones has the faith of his teammates, per the program's Twitter account:

All of that sounds great, but why wasn't he picked as the starter when Miller was hurt before the season started? A redshirt freshman—albeit a talented one—got the nod over him. That says something about Jones' development and ability, doesn't it?

Now he is going to be thrown into the fire with just a week to prepare for the biggest game of the Bucks season, and of his life.

That's a tall task, even for a man as big as Jones.

It's not just Jones' inexperience that will be an issue. It's also the way his defense matches up with the Badgers offense. Specifically how it will struggle to contain the nation's leading rusher, Melvin Gordon.

The Badgers Heisman Trophy candidate finished up the regular season with 2,260 yards rushing. He topped 200 yards five times this season, and that includes a 408-yard explosion against Nebraska on Nov. 15. At the time, it was a single-game NCAA rushing record, but the mark was broken the following week by the Oklahoma Sooners' Samaje Perine.

ESPN's SportsCenter puts Gordon in some elite company:

Coming into the rivalry game against Michigan, the Buckeyes weren't exactly doing a great job against the run. The team ranked 42nd overall in that category. It allowed a lowly Wolverines team 121 yards on the ground. That's not horrible, but Michigan isn't Wisconsin.

What will happen when Gordon and his dominant offensive line begin to pound the Bucks front seven? Expect Wisconsin to control time of possession. Its dominance of the ball will force Jones to press to make plays.

That will lead to turnovers and a disappointing loss for Ohio State in the conference title game. Oh, what could have been.

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Who Should Win Battle for No. 4 in the Next College Football Playoff Rankings?

With No. 4 Mississippi State's loss to Ole Miss on Saturday, there is a new vacancy in the final spot of the College Football Playoff bracket. Teams like Baylor, TCU and Ohio State have staked their claims for the remaining spot, but who really deserves it?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer give you their pick for the fourth and final spot in the CFP. 

Who should be the new No. 4?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Alabama vs. Missouri: Date, Start Time and More for 2014 SEC Championship Game

No matter what happens in the Iron Bowl, Alabama's headed to Atlanta for the 2014 SEC Championship Game.

With the No. 4 Mississippi State Bulldogs losing the Egg Bowl to Ole Miss on Saturday, the top-ranked Crimson Tide won the SEC West and will meet Missouri to determine the conference champion.

On paper, it looks like a rather one-sided matchup, with Alabama playing like the best team in the country. The Tide have had their problems throughout 2014, however, looking less than convincing in wins over LSU and Arkansas earlier in the year, along with that defeat to Ole Miss.

If this were a seven-game series, you'd give a substantial edge to the Crimson Tide, hands down. In a one-off conference championship, anything can happen.

 

When: Saturday, Dec. 6, at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Watch: CBS

Live Stream:CBSSports.com

 

The Book on Alabama

Everybody knows what to expect from Alabama at this point.

Offensively, the Crimson Tide can bludgeon you with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, both of whom could arguably be the best running back in the country if given the ball on a regular basis.

Then, if you begin creeping up and stacking the box to stop the run, Amari Cooper can kill you over the top. Many have Marcus Mariota atop the Heisman Trophy rankings, but Cooper might be the best skill player in the country.

According to Football Outsiders' Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), Alabama possesses the eighth-best offense in the country, which helps illustrate just how good the unit is. Some might look at the Tide being ranked 19th in total offense (484.8 YPG) and not be impressed.

When Lane Kiffin joined the Alabama coaching staff as the offensive coordinator, it became a bit of a joke, like Nick Saban's conquered college football, so now he's creating obstacles for himself by hiring Kiffin.

Over time, though, the Tide have had the last laugh. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee argued that Kiffin's work hasn't gotten the proper credit it deserves:

He took an offense to the next level with Sims—a quarterback who was largely considered to be a backup in the offseason. Kiffin has done it with creativity, flexibility and patience. He didn't give Sims too much too quickly or try to force too much into the game plan, and that's paying off for the Crimson Tide late in the season.

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson elaborated on some of the contrasts between the Alabama of 2013 and the Alabama of 2014.

"There are a lot of similarities in their formations from last year, but they're whole system is very different," he said, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "It's got a lot of pace in it, a real fast operation, a lot of zone read. The quarterback doesn't carry it a whole lot, but when he does, he's a threat to go the whole way."

As if being incredible on one side of the ball isn't enough, 'Bama also ranks fifth in total defense (283.5 YPG). Missouri isn't a particularly daunting offensive team, so it's hard to see how the Tigers will be able to consistently move the ball against the Crimson Tide.

Alabama does have a tendency to shoot itself in the foot, with a minus-one turnover differential entering Saturday. You could imagine a big fumble or interception turning the tide—no pun intended—and providing Missouri a lifeline.

 

The Book on Missouri

It's impressive that Missouri's been so successful this season despite Maty Mauk being a mostly average to below-average quarterback.

Mauk's performance has risen in recent weeks, but it's worth mentioning that Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas rank 61st, 35th and 53rd, respectively in pass defense. Also, only A&M has a winning record. That wasn't exactly a murderer's row of defenses.

Don't get me wrong. There should be some optimism among the Missouri faithful about Mauk, but major question marks remain as to whether he can win the game if the running game stalls. In his three career losses, the sophomore's gone a combined 48-of-94 for 677 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions.

There aren't any questions about his attitude, though. He said after the win over the Razorbacks that the perception surrounding his ability is far less important than winning football games, via Mihir Bhagat of KOMU 8 News in Columbia, Missouri:

Missouri doesn't need to have Mauk to have a huge game as long as Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough help move the chains.

What offers the most hope for the Tigers is a defense ranked 10th in the FEI, according to Football Outsiders. Missouri's giving up 331.1 yards a game, 19th in the nation. The more pressure it can place on Blake Sims, the better off it will be.

Missouri's best strategy might be to out-ugly Alabama, which LSU nearly did back on Nov. 8. A slow, methodical style wouldn't be pretty, but it would likely produce results.

Les Miles' team pushed the Tide into overtime, eventually losing, 20-13, in overtime. The Tigers probably should've won, too, were it not for the porous defense on Alabama's game-tying drive.

LSU had no passing game to speak of, with Anthony Jennings going 8-of-26 for 76 yards. But the Tigers found a lot of success on the ground. Their cadre of running backs gained 183 yards on 56 carries. LSU possessed the ball for a little over 38 minutes, wore down the Tide defense and kept the Alabama offense off the field.

Gary Pinkel would be wise to follow that same blueprint.

Problems would arise, however, if Hansbrough and Murphy are consistently stifled by Alabama. Against Georgia, the duo combined for 64 rushing yards. Without a ground game to provide support, Mauk shouldered more of the burden and collapsed, going 9-of-21 and failing to break the century mark.

Not coincidentally, Missouri was shut out, 34-0, by the Bulldogs.

 

Note: All stats are courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise noted.

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Tennessee Will Compete for SEC Title Soon After Earning First Bowl Since 2010

When Tennessee freshman running back Jalen Hurd is running over opponents and sophomore quarterback Joshua Dobbs is running past them next season, Saturday's struggle will be looked at as a catalyst. 

When the Volunteers add to the mix a stable of highly coveted defensive linemen in another top-shelf recruiting class compiled by coach Butch Jones, the ulcer-inducing, how-is-this-happening close call against Vanderbilt will be remembered fondly.

Yes, Tennessee had to go into ultimate survival mode with Hurd hurt just to squeak by the Commodores, 24-17, on Saturday night in Nashville. But the bottom line is the Vols did it.

Now, they're going to their first bowl game since 2010.

And it seems like they're standing on the top of that mountain they've tried so hard to get over through the forgettable Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley eras, staring directly at a future where they'll be an immediate contender in the SEC East race moving forward.

Sure, they looked far from championship-caliber on Saturday, but the Vols (most importantly) found a way. You may be disgruntled with the way the game went, but Jones sure wasn't.

Unlike Kiffin and Dooley, Jones is not only recruiting as well as anybody nationally, but players are developing, the team is competitive virtually every week and the Vols have broken through for some meaningful victories. Any team can say it buys in to what its coach is saying, but UT is backing it up on the field.

They did it again Saturday.

The Vols got timely quarterback pressure by defensive ends Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt. They got a dynamic, foot-dragging interception from freshman Todd Kelly Jr. that was parlayed into a touchdown.

With Marquez North out for the year and Josh Malone injured, they combated virtually no downfield passing game with Dobbs' dynamic feet. The sophomore quarterback struggled with passing, but he wound up with 183 total yards and a pair of touchdowns that were just enough.

When absolutely nothing else worked, UT rode Dobbs, and Dobbs came through.

Each of these players return next season, too.

With so many injuries, so much adversity and so little depth, Tennessee had to fight through the cruel present to break through into the daylight of the future. Now that the Vols have secured a bowl berth, that future is very, very bright.

It's easy to forget when a team is struggling to beat Vandy that the offense was decimated by the losses of North and Hurd, not to mention Malone and Jason Croom being limited.

The defense just two weeks ago lost its heart and soul in middle linebacker A.J. Johnson and starting cornerback Michael Williams, who are being investigated for a sexual assault.

But the team banded together, playing a lineup full of true freshmen to somehow get to six wins. Add another massive class of highly ranked prospects into the fold next year, get the playmakers healthy and UT is a team nobody wants to face.

Once Jones and crew inserted Dobbs two series into the Alabama game, the entire trajectory of the program changed.

UT trimmed a 27-point deficit against the Tide with Dobbs under center. Then, the season's turnaround came when the Vols came from two scores behind late to upset South Carolina in overtime on the road, followed by a blowout win over Kentucky.

When Dobbs came in, Hurd came alive. The Vols will add former Alabama running back and the nation's second-ranked JUCO runner, Alvin Kamara, into the fold next year, and that will not only provide depth but quality and talent to an offensive backfield needing it.

UT's victory parade was derailed by the SEC East champion Missouri Tigers last week, but it got back on track against Vanderbilt with UT trotting basically a M.A.S.H. unit out there.

The only real gaping hole heading into the future for UT is that porous offensive line that has been both injury-riddled and downright bad all season. But with that group losing only former walk-on tackle Jacob Gilliam and grooming redshirting JUCO transfer Dontavius Blair for the left tackle, the unit should be more talented and a year better.

Lines get better the longer they play together, so an offseason could work wonders.

Defensively, UT will return a pair of defensive centerpieces in Barnett and Cameron Sutton as well as its emotional leader in Maggitt, who'll be a senior. With those three and a group of star prospects coming in, the Vols should get even better on that side of the ball.

They enjoyed a massive turnaround this season under coordinator John Jancek.

While Tennessee would love to win a bowl game and exit the season with more positive momentum, just getting to one was the biggest deal. Securing 15 extra practices is massive for a program needing to develop depth and find answers for a future full of promise.

The Vols are now 6-6 with a chance to win a seventh game. With a more favorable schedule, 2015 could produce eight wins or maybe even nine. After that, the depth and talent will be back in place for the program to return to its rightful place: competing for championships.

Saturday was the hump, and the Vols finally got over it. It wasn't pretty, but don't deny that it was memorable.

Anybody who believes otherwise failed to see the joy, jubilation and the relief strewn all over the faces of everybody involved with UT's program on the Vanderbilt Stadium football field.

There were plenty of mistakes, and there's plenty of reason for Vols fans to be concerned about the ability to win a bowl game this season with all the injuries and all the holes. 

There are plenty of superstar youngsters around whom a championship-caliber team can be built.

Given the way the way the players already on campus are developing, the resounding response necessary to send this program to the next level was breaking through and getting to a bowl.

Now, that's happened, and it doesn't matter that the Vols didn't earn any style points Saturday in getting there.

It was an ugly game, but it was a beautiful win; for now and for the future.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats gathered from UTSports.com and recruiting information gathered from 247Sports.com, 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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USC's Big Win over Notre Dame Shows Trojans Will Be Strong Contender in 2015

LOS ANGELES — If USC’s 49-14 rout of rival Notre Dame in Saturday’s regular-season finale was a preview of the 2015 season, get ready for the Trojans to make a run at Pac -12 title contention...

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Notre Dame's Embarrassing Loss to USC Makes QB Controversy Very Real

LOS ANGELES — Brian Kelly walked into the Coliseum hoping his offense could win a shootout. He walked out with a quarterback controversy on his hands. 

That alone should give you an idea as to how ugly Saturday was for Notre Dame. The 49-14 loss was the worst of the Kelly era, transporting Irish fans back in time to a Trojan program reminiscent of the Pete Carroll era, when a visit to the Coliseum felt like a death sentence from the opening kickoff.

The patchwork defense the Irish brought to Los Angeles never really had a chance to stop Cody Kessler or the Trojan offense. And that was before six more members of the defense's two-deep went down. 

But the real story of the game is the the quarterback position. After a dreadful first half by Everett Golson, Kelly turned the keys to the offense over to sophomore Malik Zaire. And the sophomore provided a spark, providing a rare glimmer of hope and turning the next month of bowl preparation into a crossroads for the position.  

"Today we thought we had some things early on that we didn’t execute on," Kelly said after the game. "And that’s why we made a change at the QB position."

Golson's afternoon was a nightmare. Notre Dame punted on its first four possessions. And then it got worse. Golson threw an interception that went right through Corey Robinson's hands, leading to the Trojans' fourth touchdown.

Then Golson held on to the football too long looking for an open receiver and was stripped from behind by J.R. Tavai as the ball went right into the arms of Hayes Pullard. Seven plays later, another Kessler touchdown pass, and the rout was on. 

That ended Golson's afternoon, finishing his stat line at an abysmal seven of 18 for 75 yards, with the two turnovers running the tally up to 22 on the season. Golson barely completed more passes than Kessler threw touchdowns. 

From there, Zaire got his chance. And it didn't take long to see what the offense could look like. On his first throw, Zaire hit Chris Brown for a 49-yard gain. The next play he scampered off the right side on a zone-read keeper, capping off a three-play, 64-yard drive with a touchdown in just under a minute. 

After giving up 35 straight, the touchdown didn't mean much with the game essentially already over. But it showed the type of spark Zaire was capable of providing, something desperately needed for a team playing for pride at that point. 

"The only message I wanted to convey was that we need to play with a lot of heart and that we need to have a no-quit attitude," Zaire said after the game. "I felt like we were in the game until the clock hit zero. We cannot quit. And we need to play with a lot of heart even when the scoreboard says something different."

That's likely music to ears not just of Irish fans but Kelly as well. And after declaring "all jobs available" after the loss, Zaire's aggression as Golson continues to fade away has the Irish in a very interesting spot. 

Of course, putting Zaire's performance into proper context is important. With the Trojans able to score at will against the depleted Irish defense, Zaire wasn't facing the Trojans at their most tenacious. And his final stat line—nine of 20 for 170 yards, along with six rushes for 18 net yards—isn't necessarily a job stealer.

But there's no disputing that Zaire shook things up, to the point that Kelly wasn't able to make any statement about the quarterback position after the game.

"I really don’t have an answer for you," Kelly said. "We tried to get a spark offensively, and I think Malik gave us that spark."

That's all Zaire could ask for. And after only seeing the field in garbage time or in his adventures as a holder, postgame Zaire sounded like the type of confident football player who wants to take this chance and run with it.

"Everything in life is about getting an opportunity," Zaire said. "When the opportunity came I didn’t even look at it as this was a make-it-or-break-it point, but it was an opportunity for me to go out and help the team win a football game."

Notre Dame didn't win. And with the Irish defense as undermanned as it currently is, even the most modest of bowl games will be an uphill climb. 

But Zaire's ability to do something offensively turns the next month into an unlikely quarterback competition that seemed preposterous just a month ago. And that suits Zaire just fine. 

"Everyday’s a competition for me. Everyday’s a competition with myself to get better and to be a better leader for this team," Zaire said. "I just want to be a part of this team and be a great leader and help us win games."

That makes things quite interesting for Kelly. Because while Golson has been plagued by turnovers, he's also been productive. But against the 111th-best pass defense in the country, the veteran quarterback shrunk in the moment, a shell of the player we saw earlier this season.

So with just a bowl game before the Irish officially look to next season, the one position that looked settled in early October is now a battle.  

Not exactly the finish people saw coming. 

 

*All quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Baylor vs. Texas Tech: Game Grades, Analysis for Bears and Red Raiders

The Baylor University Bears outlasted the pesky Texas Tech University Red Raiders 48-46 in Arlington, Texas, barely surviving the loss of Bryce Petty to avoid the back-breaking upset.

For now, the Bears remain in the College Football Playoff discussion thanks to Petty's two-plus quarters of work and the defense's four forced turnovers.

But there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about this team that gave up 707 yards of offense to an offense quarterbacked by a true freshman. Even if Petty gets right for next week's game against Kansas State University, this is a flawed team.

 

Game Grades for the Red Raiders

Passing Offense

Patrick Mahomes got knocked around a lot in the first half, but he stood tough and proceeded to shred the Baylor secondary for the rest of the game. He finished the game with 598 passing yards and six touchdowns, completing passes of 40-plus yards to five different targets.

As for the receivers, the numbers are impressive. But plenty of mistakes were made. Three different pass-catchers gave the ball away in Baylor territory, and that was the difference in this game.

Rushing Offense

The Red Raiders ran the ball 26 times, but it didn't feel like it since they were playing catch-up basically from the start. DeAndre Washington had some tough runs, and Mahomes pitched in for 27 yards. But this game was competitive because of the passing game.

Passing Defense

The Red Raiders secondary had no hope of covering the Baylor receivers, and the entire defense struggled to contain Petty. Once the latter was removed from the equation, Art Briles' offense became much more manageable.

Pete Robertson flashed in recording a sack and recovering a Petty fumble.

Rushing Defense

Shock Linwood did whatever he wanted in the first half with his 97 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with 158 yards on the day, while Johnny Jefferson added 47 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Once Petty left the game, these guys pinned their ears back a little bit and were able to force the Bears to lean on Seth Russell. That move allowed Mahomes to do his thing and make this a game.

Special Teams

The fake punt for the first down was nice, but an offsides on a field goal allowed the Bears to finish a drive with a touchdown. Add in the failed onside kick, and there just isn't much to get excited about here.

Coaching

As a play-caller, Kliff Kingsbury is as good as it gets. He refused to let the Baylor pass rush knock him off his game, and his management of Mahomes is the reason the Red Raiders almost pulled off the upset of the Big 12 season.

That said, the defense and the stupid mistakes are just embarrassing. Kingsbury has to bring both down to manageable levels before he can start winning games like this.

 

Game Grades for the Bears

Passing Offense

Basically, Petty gets an "A" and Russell gets a "D." The former needed just two-and-a-half quarters to put up 35 points while completing 72 percent of his attempts. Russell's only touchdown drive came as a result of Petty's work, and he averaged less than five yards per attempt.

Corey Coleman caught a touchdown for the eighth straight game, which is the longest streak in the nation.

Rushing Offense

We already discussed how good Linwood was in the first half and how there wasn't much room at all in the second. Credit the Red Raiders defense for figuring out how to take him away once Petty left the game, but it's no indictment of this offensive personnel.

Passing Defense

Other than getting some consistent pressure in the first half and forcing the turnovers, this unit was a total dumpster fire. The Red Raiders moved the ball at will through the air, getting big play after big play against poor coverage.

Shawn Oakman had a nice game against a very good left tackle in Le'Raven Clark, but he committed two dirty plays on the day, getting penalized on Texas Tech's final drive.

Rushing Defense

Tech never really challenged the Bears on the ground, instead electing to feast on their horrendous secondary. Other than a couple of nice runs by Washington, Andrew Billings and Oakman swallowed things up inside.

Special Teams

The Bears were had on the fake punt in the first half and committed some bad penalties. Other than that, their big test came on the onside kick attempt, and they were all over it.

Coaching

Baylor's final quarter-and-a-half showed off every pitfall of Briles and his offense. The Bears just couldn't protect a 25-point lead and almost blew their shot at making a playoff appearance. Up to that point, everything from Briles was excellent, but it was too close for comfort.

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USC Cheerleader Gets Rocked by Player

Despite fighting a height mismatch of six inches, USC cornerback Jonathan Lockett (5'11") saw his opportunity to beat Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson (6'5") for a potential interception during the Trojans' 49-14 home win Saturday.

Lockett chased the ball out of bounds but ultimately crushed a USC cheerleader. As irony would have it, she was holding up a sign that said "Stand Up" as she got sat down.

Fortunately, the cheerleader got up quickly and appeared to be relatively unharmed.

[Lost Lettermen]

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Ohio State vs. Wisconsin: Date, Start Time, More for 2014 Big Ten Championship

Ohio State booked it's trip to the Big Ten Championship game well before the Week 14 action began and now they finally know just who will be lining up against them at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 6.

The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Minnesota Gophers 34-24 on Saturday to win the Big Ten West division outright.

Running back Melvin Gordon was the star of the show for the Badgers, just as he has been all season long. SportsCenter provided a look at the final score and Gordon's final stat line:

Gordon should be fit for the contest, but the same can't be said for the Buckeyes biggest star, quarterback J.T. Barrett.

The freshman pivot is out for the season after suffering a broken right ankle in Ohio State's 42-28 win over the rival Michigan Wolverines, per MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn:

The Big Lead's Michael Shamburger provided a look at the unfortunate, season-ending play:

Sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones will take the reigns for the Buckeyes and all eyes will be on the untested signal-caller as he looks to keep his team's conference championship and College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Here is a look at the date, start time and viewing information for the championship tilt.



Date: Saturday, Dec. 6

Kickoff Time (ET):  8:17 p.m.

Location: 
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana

TV: FOX

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go



Game Preview

Ohio State came into Week 14 sixth in the College Football Playoff Rankings. A big win over Wisconsin (14th ranked entering Saturday) could go a long way toward opening the backdoor to the fourth and final playoff spot, as Oregon, Florida State and Alabama appear to have the top three spots locked down.

Mississippi State's 31-17 loss to rival Ole Miss could very well knock them out of the playoff hunt, while Baylor's 48-46 win over lowly Texas Tech was hardly convincing. With these results, it appears TCU is the biggest roadblock to Ohio State making the playoffs.

Still, it's an upward climb for the Buckeyes. ESPN.com's Dan Murphy believes the team's playoff stock could take a hit in Barrett's absence:

Ohio State remains in the playoff conversation, but its stock will likely decrease after Barrett's injury. Ohio State's offense clearly won't be the same if its Heisman candidate is unable to play. The committee will have to take that under consideration if it has to choose between the Buckeyes and a Big 12 team or a second SEC school.

Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee described what Barrett has meant to the team this season.

"J.T.'s been a warrior for us all year," he said, via Rusty Miller of The Associated Press (h/t ABCNews.com). "With all the scrutiny he's been under since the loss to (Virginia Tech), for him to rebound the way he did and for him to lead our offense it's been huge. Next man up when it comes to quarterbacks."

Replacing Barrett's production will likely be an impossible task for a quarterback as inexperienced as Jones, who will be thrusting into the starting role in what is likely the game of his life.

The sophomore's best performance came in a 55-14 win over Illinois earlier this season, when he complete five of nine passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns while showing off some incredible athleticism when carrying the football.

ESPN 850's Bruce Hooley can see Jones coming through for his team:

It's a tough situation for the Buckeyes to be in after working so hard all season long just to get to this point, but there is still hope for this squad. 

If Jones performs well and Ohio State can roll to a convincing win over Wisconsin, it could bolster the playoff committee's overall perception of the team as a cohesive unit that doesn't rely on any one player for success. On the other hand, a middling contest and a hamstrung offense could have the committee looking to the Horned Frogs to add a jolt to the College Football Playoff.

It's not all on Jones' shoulders, although it might seem that way. The Buckeyes will have to contend with Gordon, who is perhaps the best running back in college football.

Gordon is the nation's leading rusher, with 2,260 yards on the season. It's a staggering total, one that has the tailback joining some legendary company, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The Badgers offense is painfully one-dimensional and yet the sturdy back puts up fantastic numbers week in and week out. As a team, they put up 343.5 yards per game, thanks to a burly, bruising offensive line. Gordon was quick to give them credit after putting up a record 408 rushing yards against Nebraska.

"It showed Melvin Gordon and 408 yards," he said, via USA Today's Paul Myerberg, "but it should have everyone up there, all the offensive linemen, because they really made it easy for me today. They allowed me to have a lot of one-on-one matchups. It's kind of been like that all season. Those guys have really been looking out for me."

Contrast this with the Buckeyes, who are giving up nearly 150 rushing yards per contest. This matchup bodes well for the Badgers, who could be able to grind out a win if Jones proves to be ineffective. 

Badgers quarterback Joel Stave—who's thrown for more than 200 yards just twice in eight appearances this season—does little to instill fear in any collegiate defense, although he does do a fine job of taking care of the football. Stave's thrown just one interception in his last seven games.

He's no running threat, which should allow the Buckeyes to key in on Gordon—of course if it were that easy, every defense would have done it by now.

The Buckeyes have their own top-tier running back in Ezekiel Elliot, who just might have to carry the offense on Dec. 6. The Buckeyes should still come out with a win in the championship, but it should be a low-scoring affair. If that is the case, look for TCU to pip the Buckeyes for the final playoff spot, despite not playing a Big 12 championship game.

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Can Heisman Contender Melvin Gordon Lead Wisconsin Past OSU for B1G Title?

Saturday afternoon, we learned the matchup for next week’s Big Ten Championship.

And it got even more intriguing than we could have imagined. The Big Ten’s top team, Ohio State, suffered what could be a season-defining injury, while Wisconsin took a hard-fought 34-24 victory over border-rival Minnesota to claim the West Division Championship.

With Heisman Trophy contender Melvin Gordon leading the way, the Badgers were clearly the best of the West but only the league’s third-best team overall (behind Ohio State and fellow East rival Michigan State). But with OSU freshman star quarterback J.T. Barrett suffering a season-ending broken right ankle against Michigan, the Badgers’ hopes of a league title improved significantly.

Can they topple the Buckeyes and take the Big Ten Championship? Absolutely. Matt Barnes of NBC4 noted Barrett's season-ending injury, which will provide the Badgers a significant advantage over the Buckeyes:

Ohio State has emerged as the league’s clear No. 1 team. The Buckeyes shook off an early home loss to Virginia Tech to win 10 consecutive games, capped off by Saturday’s 42-28 win over archrival Michigan. But that win came with a huge cost. Barrett, one of the nation’s breakout stars this fall, suffered a dislocated and broken right ankle, ending his season.

Now, the Buckeyes, still chasing a College Football Playoff spot, must do so with backup quarterback Cardale Jones. Once thought to be the successor to Braxton Miller, Jones was passed on the depth chart by Barrett after Miller’s season ended in August due to shoulder surgery.

Entering Saturday, Jones had attempted just 14 passes on the season, completing eight of them for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He completed two of three passes for seven yards following Barrett’s injury.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin has shown steady improvement following a 3-2 start that included losses to LSU and Northwestern. The Badgers have won seven consecutive games and are one of the nation’s hottest teams.

“We learned as we went through the season,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen told Big Ten Network reporter Lisa Byington following the game on the game broadcast. “They respect and love each other and fight and continually battled through practice. We had some tough losses, but we looked each other in the eye and said, ‘Keep on fighting.’” Coach Andersen emphasized his team's ultimate goal is to walk away with the win in the championship game (via Evan Flood of 247Sports):

They entered the day with the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense, averaging 343.5 yards per game. Gordon is one of the nation’s leading Heisman contenders. He rushed for 151 yards with two total touchdowns against Minnesota and has 2,260 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns this season.

He is within range of Barry Sanders' single-season rushing record of 2,628 yards. He's a big-play back, capable of scoring every time he touches the ball. BTN.com's Tom Dienhart provided Gordon's benchmark rushing-yardage total for the next two games in order for him to surpass Sanders' longstanding record:

Ohio State’s defense is solid: The Buckeyes have a talented defensive line keyed by end Joey Bosa and allow 147.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks No. 42 nationally. They allow an average of 22.9 points per game, which ranks No. 22 nationally.

And Wisconsin does have a major liability at quarterback. Neither Joel Stave nor Tanner McEvoy has been impressive this season. They entered Saturday with a combined 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions between them. The Badgers entered the day averaging 141.7 passing yards per game, which ranks No. 121 nationally.

If the Buckeyes can make Wisconsin one-dimensional, they stand a much better chance of knocking off the Badgers.

Of course, that means controlling Gordon, something few have done this season. Save a 17-yard, 38-carry effort in a 37-3 blowout of FCS foe Western Illinois, Gordon has rushed for at least 122 yards and a touchdown in every game this season. Saturday was the first time he’d been held under 200 yards since a Nov. 1 win over Rutgers.

The game’s tale will really be told, however, by how well Jones can run Ohio State’s offense. Wisconsin has one of the nation’s best defenses. Entering Saturday, the Badgers were fifth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 16.8 points per game, fourth in rushing defense, allowing 97.1 yards per game and third nationally in pass defense, allowing 162.1 yards per game.

If Jones can perform efficiently and his offense can limit Gordon’s damage, the Buckeyes will have a legit shot at winning an elusive league title. If not, the Badgers’ amazing march will roll on.

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Will Florida State's Incredible Luck Ever Run Out?

Believe it or not, the Florida State Seminoles squeaked out yet another close victory, 24-19, over the Florida Gators, setting themselves up for another ACC Championship Game.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer discusses the fashion in which Florida State has been winning games this season.

Will their luck run out this season, or will the Seminoles be back-to-back national champions?

Check out the video and let us know!  

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USC QB Cody Kessler Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 14

Cody Kessler continued his amazing play with another stellar performance on Saturday. The Trojan quarterback went 32-of-40 for 372 yards and six touchdowns.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer explains why Cody Kessler is the recipient of our Lexus Top Performer for Week 14.

Was this the best performance of the day?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Losses to Ole Miss and Alabama Expose Mississippi State as Far from Elite

Mississippi State's College Football Playoff chances disappeared in Oxford on Saturday, as Ole Miss topped the fourth-ranked Bulldogs 31-17 in a game in which Ole Miss' defense rattled quarterback Dak Prescott and the potent Bulldog offense.

In a contest that featured two teams on the rise this season, only one—Ole Miss—looked like it had staying power.

It was the second time this month—the first being the loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa—that the Bulldogs looked outmanned.

What made Mississippi State's 2014 run so special is that they did it with only one 5-star recruit on the roster. By contrast, Alabama had eight 5-star starters on its depth chart entering this season, according to Drew Champlin of AL.com. Scheming, coaching and heart can make up for a lot, but if you are going to be an elite team in the SEC, you need to have elite talent.

A Bulldog defense that was torched all season long by teams that could consistently stretch the field was lit up by Ole Miss on Saturday, as quarterback Bo Wallace hit big passes when they mattered to rack up 296 yards in the 31-17 win in Oxford.

This is a defense that came into the game with the worst pass defense in the conference (281.4 yards per game) and had been living off red-zone defense.

Ole Miss took red-zone defense out of the equation, though, scoring its final pair of touchdowns from outside the red zone to pull away from the Bulldogs in the second half.

This is with two defensive backs—Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love—who were 3-star prospects. This is with a safety—Jay Hughes—who was a 3-star prospect. Those players played great at times, but natural talent creates consistency, and that was what was lacking in Starkville this season.

Recruiting rankings don't matter all that much to Mullen.

"If you get caught up too much in trying to win national signing day and not getting the guys you need, you hurt your program," he said on the SEC coaches teleconference on Nov. 12.

Winning national signing day, though, gets you players like Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, defensive end C.J. Johnson, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon, wide receiver Amari Cooper and safety Landon Collins—all of whom have been instrumental in Mississippi State's only two losses of the season.

It's not just the X's and the O's, it's the Jimmys and the Joes.

Mullen is a tremendous play-caller, and his staff clearly knows how to coach his players up, but when he runs into some of the best coaches in the SEC, sometimes talent wins out.

Talent won out on Saturday, it won out in Tuscaloosa and it is the reason Mississippi State will be sitting at home during the College Football Playoff.

Mississippi State's average recruiting-class rank over the last five years is 30th. The six other SEC West teams combined have only posted recruiting classes lower than 30th five times over that same time span.

This was Mullen's window, as Bud Elliott of TomahawkNation.com points out:

The entire SEC West is bowl-eligible this season, but aside from Alabama, none of those teams are elite. The Bulldogs have 16 seniors on their current two-deep depth chart, and junior running back Josh Robinson and quarterback Dak Prescott will, at the very least, explore their NFL options after the season.

It was a great year for Mississippi State, but if it is going to become a trend and not an occasional blip on the radar, the recruiting is going to have to pick up. A prolonged stint in the national conversation will certainly help that become reality, but when you have Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and LSU recruiting their respective tails off on an annual basis, it has to happen consistently.

 

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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What to Make of ACC Crushing SEC on Rivalry Weekend

Rivalry Week 2014 became less about the teams and more about the conferences Saturday afternoon, when the SEC—the biggest, toughest, haughtiest league in college football—went 0-4 against the supposedly inferior ACC.

It started out at noon, when Louisville beat Kentucky, Clemson beat South Carolina and Georgia Tech beat Georgia, then culminated when Florida State fought off an upset bid from Florida.

The SEC is the undisputed king of college football, and it has been for close to a decade. Whether it deserves to be the king is up for debate—some would argue that the ACC dethroned it in January—but almost every neutral party agrees that it's the class of the sport.

In which case…what the heck are we supposed to make of Saturday?

Before we ring death knells for the SEC at large, it's important to note that all four of Saturday's losers came from the East division.

SEC fans have been ashamed of the East all season, casting it aside as the redheaded stepchild. Florida was so bad that its head coach "resigned" midseason. South Carolina has been an abject disaster since Week 1. Georgia lost to both of the aforementioned teams.

Missouri won the division after losing at home to Indiana.

"I told the guys, ‘6-6 might be what we are,’" South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier told reporters after Saturday's loss. "Clemson was better than us. They played better and they coached better. Give those guys credit, they are better than us."

He might as well have been talking about his entire division.

The West was the flag-bearer for the SEC all season, not the East. And nothing about that changed on Saturday. Results from the Egg Bowl and the Iron Bowl will have bearing on the College Football Playoff. Nothing about the East has been CFP-relevant for weeks.

In that vein, then, the most important takeaway from Saturday's results has nothing to do with the SEC at all. Rather, the biggest thing we learned is that the ACC is better than we realized.

(Or, at least, that it's better than most of us realized. Others—shameless self-promotion alert!—saw this coming weeks ago.)

The ACC does not have any truly great teams (sorry, 'Noles), but it is loaded with very good ones.

Florida State is very good on a bad day. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Louisville are very good on most days. Boston College, Duke and Miami are very good on frequent days. Even Virginia Tech won at Ohio State!

On that note, Florida State might be the biggest winner of Week 14. It did not look overly impressive against Florida, which missed two field goals in a five-point loss, but the strength of its 12-0 record can no longer be disparaged for its conference.

Missouri is 10-2 and will be argued about as a playoff contender if it beats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. It is a massive underdog to actually crack the Top Four, but by winning the nation's best conference, it would have a strong rhetorical case.

No longer, though, can 10-2 in the SEC East be argued as analogous to 12-0 in the ACC. No longer can anything be argued as analogous to 12-0 in the ACC. Florida State is the only undefeated team in the country, and that no longer comes with an asterisk.

#GoACC…but for real.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss: Game Grades, Analysis for the Dogs and Rebels

The Ole Miss Rebels got a big win on Saturday as they defeated No. 4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, 31-17. The final box score can be found here thanks to NCAA.com.

The Rebels got some big plays on offense and did the same on defense. Bo Wallace was on top of his game for Ole Miss, and the run game was at its best against the Bulldogs.

As for Mississippi State, it racked up the yards, but the points were not there because most of those yards came later in the game when it was trying to play catch-up with the Rebels. Now the Bulldogs have all but been eliminated from College Football Playoff contention.

Here are game grades and analysis for the Bulldogs and the Rebels.

Passing Offense: Dak Prescott threw the ball well against a good Ole Miss pass defense. His go-to-guy was De’Runnya Wilson, who caught eight passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. Prescott finished the game with 282 yards after only having 64 yards in the first half. That’s one of the things that did the Bulldogs in. The passing game was non-existent to start the game because Prescott was constantly pressured by the Ole Miss front seven.

Running Offense: It was not the best day for the Bulldogs in terms of running the football. Neither Prescott nor Josh Robinson rushed for more than 48 yards because the Ole Miss front seven read the spread option well and tackled effectively. That was a big reason the Bulldogs lost the game. The run game has to be on point if the Bulldogs are going to win.

Passing Defense: The Bulldogs gave up a ton of yards though the air, and Wallace took advantage of it. He threw for 296 yards and connected with Evan Engram often. Engram had 176 yards on five receptions, and once the game got going, Wallace looked more and more comfortable in his final home game of the year.

Running Defense: This is what killed the Bulldogs. Ole Miss does not have a dominant running back, but the Bulldogs made Jaylen Walton look like the second coming of Deuce McAllister. Walton rushed for 148 yards, and 91 of those yards came on one play. The Bulldogs did not keep contain and never really got off their blocks all game long. And because of that, the Rebels rushed for 205 yards.

Special Teams: Evan Sobiesk made a field goal in the second quarter but also missed one. Devon Bell was efficient with his punts, and the Bulldogs only had one return for 21 yards. It was not a bad effort by the special teams, but the coverage team gave up a few big plays and the return team never made any.

Coaching: The game plan by Dan Mullen was fine; the players just could not execute because the Rebels were playing like it was the last game of the year. Mullen kept the game tight to start the game, but after the second half, the Rebels made great adjustments, and Mullen’s team could not counter until it was too late. This game was a good learning experience for him and his players, just like the Alabama game.

Passing Offense: Wallace started off sluggish as he threw an interception in the end zone early in the contest. But he settled in as the game went on and made some very nice throws to guys like Engram and Cody Core. Wallace was the good version of himself in the Egg Bowl and showed the Ole Miss faithful why he is now the Rebels' all-time leader in passing yards.

Running Offense: This was one of the best showings of the run game all season. Walton was on fire with 148 rushing yards including a 91-yard touchdown run. Jordan Wilkins had 43 rushing yards, and Core also had a 20-yard run. Hugh Freeze committed to the ground game against State, and it worked because the Bulldogs were gashed by the run, especially in the second half.

Passing Defense: Despite giving up 282 passing yards, the defense did a good job of not letting Prescott get going. He was able to hit Wilson with a few big plays in the second half, but the Rebels sacked Prescott three times and tallied three hurries as well. The pass defense did a good enough job to contain Prescott, but that was only one of the reasons the Rebels won.

Running Defense: The Bulldogs' strength is the run game, and the Rebels took that away. The Bulldogs rushed for 163 yards and only had 3.5 yards per carry. One of the biggest reasons why the Bulldogs could not run the ball as well as they would have liked was defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. He tallied seven total tackles with three solo and one tackle for loss. He was disruptive all game long and gave the Mississippi State offensive line fits.

Special Teams: The special teams had a good day. Gary Wunderlich made his lone field goal and had a nice punt as well. The one time the Bulldogs had a chance to return a punt they returned it for 20 yards. And the coverage teams did a great job of only allowing one return, which was a kick return that only went 20 yards. So that was another reason the Rebels won by two scores.

Coaching: Freeze did a great job with his game plan and getting his players ready for a very tough Mississippi State team. The Rebels ran the ball well and played good defense, plus the passing game came on when it needed to. The game was close in the first half, which benefited Freeze, who was able to take advantage of it in the second half. Other than the Alabama game, it was Freeze's best coaching performance this season.

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