NCAA Football

Tennessee Volunteers Honor Former Player Eric Berry for Game vs. Vanderbilt

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is out for the remainder of the season with what the medical staff believes is likely lymphoma, as Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star reported.  

His former college team is offering its support with a sticker on the players' helmets during its game vs. Vanderbilt.

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How Playoff Committee Should Look at Ohio State After J.T. Barrett Injury

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In football circles, the term "system quarterback" is somewhat of an insulting phrase, a backhanded way of discrediting one player in favor of the scheme in which he plays in.

But for Ohio State, its ability to produce such may be its only argument left for making the College Football Playoff.

The Buckeyes' playoff hopes took a significant hit on Saturday, when quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a right ankle fracture in Ohio State's 42-28 win over Michigan. Head coach Urban Meyer confirmed that the Heisman Trophy candidate and star redshirt freshman quarterback will miss the remainder of the season, starting with next weekend's appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game.

That's significant in and of itself, as Ohio State will be without its best offensive player in a game against a Top 25 opponent in Wisconsin. More than that, the selection committee will take into account Barrett's absence when examining Ohio State's playoff candidacy.

That obviously doesn't bode well for the Buckeyes, as Barrett's play was a big reason why No. 6 Ohio State seemed to hold an edge over fellow one-loss playoff candidates TCU and Baylor. While the Buckeyes' Week 2 loss to 6-6 Virginia Tech was the "worst" of the bunch, that blow seemed to be lessened by the progress that Barrett had made since the second start of his college career.

That argument, however, has now gone out the window for Ohio State with the news of Barrett's season-ending injury. The fact of the matter is that the committee simply won't have a complete resume—good or bad—when it picks its final four one week from Sunday.

In this unprecedented playoff era, there's no telling exactly what that will mean for Ohio State. But ultimately, the Buckeyes will first have to win in Indianapolis next weekend—with their third-string quarterback—in order to keep the conversation a relevant one in Columbus.

"I didn't think of it until you said it," Meyer said when asked about OSU's playoff hopes following its win over the Wolverines. "I think it's all going to be how we play next week."

That might be wishful thinking on Meyer's part, but the Buckeyes would obviously benefit from a strong performance from new starting quarterback Cardale Jones in their upcoming conference championship game.

After all, while Barrett's gotten most of the credit, a plethora of playmakers have emerged for Ohio State this season, as the Buckeyes haven't been nearly as quarterback-reliant as they have been in years past.

That starts with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for 1,182 yards through the first 12 games of his sophomore season. The Buckeyes pass-catchers have also been noticeably improved, with 10 players totaling double-digit reception numbers in an offense that entered Saturday's game ranked fifth in the nation in points per game (44.1).

"We're still headed in the right direction. I don't think one player really makes a whole team," Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman said. "Offensively, we have a lot of talented guys that have played a lot of football this year. They're just going to have to step up and make up for the lost ground."

Of course, the playoff committee is going to have to decide whether the production of those players was more the result of their own individual skill, or the precision passing of Barrett. And while he has been aided by his offense, there's no denying the importance of a player who in just 11 games managed to break the Buckeyes' single-season records for total yardage and touchdowns.

But although Barrett was putting up numbers that would have likely landed him in New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist in two weeks, Ohio State could—or will at least try to—make the case that he is mostly a product of Meyer's spread system.

While Braxton Miller managed to put up record-shattering numbers in his two seasons under Meyer, former backup Kenny Guiton also posted eye-popping statistics in his opportunities, despite having admittedly less talent than the player for whom he was the understudy for.

Enter Barrett, Meyer's third quarterback in Columbus and the third to put up nationally noticeable numbers. That can't completely be a coincidence at a storied school like Ohio State, although there's a reason why the redshirt freshman Barrett was able to pass the sophomore Jones on the Buckeyes depth chart this past offseason.

And even if Jones proves capable of running the OSU offense as efficiently as Barrett did, he won't have more than a one-game sample size to do so in front of the committee. Even with a potential conference championship and just one loss on their resume, that likely won't be enough for the committee to consider the Barrett-less Buckeyes one of the four best teams in America, which is its primary criteria.

After all, how can a team still be good when it's already on its third-string quarterback?

"The Buckeyes can be," Meyer insisted. "The Buckeyes certainly can be good. I've said this many times, the quarterback is a product of the guys around him and the guys around him are playing pretty good right now. The good thing is [Barrett and Jones] have a similar skill set, and so it's not like we're going to have to drastically change things."

Maybe not. But Barrett's injury does drastically change things. And fair or not, it will likely be the final blow in Ohio State's once-promising playoff campaign.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Should Dabo Swinney Have Allowed Deshaun Watson to Play with Torn ACL?

The Clemson Tigers (9-3) picked up a huge 35-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6) Saturday to round out the regular season. But the big story coming out of this game was Deshaun Watson's torn ACL and head coach Dabo Swinney's decision to keep the quarterback in the game. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee debate Swinney's decision to keep Watson in the contest.

Was this the right decision?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Jalen Hurd Injury: Updates on Tennessee RB's Upper Body and Return

The University of Tennessee Volunteers will be without Jalen Hurd as they close out the 2014 regular season.

Vols head coach Butch Jones confirmed to Heather Mitts on the SEC Network that the freshman running back had an upper body injury and won't return against the Vanderbilt University Commodores:

Before exiting, Hurd rushed for 21 yards on five carries. He entered Saturday as the team's leading rusher, with 169 carries for 756 yards and three touchdowns.

Wes Rucker of GoVols247.com rued how much injuries are hindering Tennessee's offense:

The Volunteers need to beat Vandy in order to become bowl eligible. In the event they do travel to a postseason bowl, they could still be short-handed if Hurd's injury proves to be more serious.

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Bayou Classic 2014: Score and Twitter Reaction to Grambling vs. Southern

 Southern (9-3) scored its third consecutive Bayou Classic victory over Grambling State (7-5) with a wild 52-45 triumph on Saturday. The game featured nearly 1,000 yards of total offense.

The rivalry is one of the most hotly contested in the country highlighted by the Battle of the Bands that takes place at halftime of the annual clash. This year's game took on an even greater meaning with the winner earning a spot in the SWAC Championship Game as winners of the West Division.

Here's a look at how the latest battle played out from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans:

Despite the importance of the game, Southern head coach Dawson Odums tried to take some pressure off of his players by treating it as a normal week. He explained his philosophy to Chris Hagan of WAFB.

"[It's] business as usual," Odums said. "We don't get too tight. Our guys are going to be relaxed. We're going to have fun. This is what it's supposed to be."

The Jaguars seemed to heed that advice. They came out as the far more effect team on both side of the ball in the first quarter.

They proceeded to open the scoring about midway through the opening period. The drive went nine plays for 80 yards in under four minutes. It concluded with a terrific touch pass from Austin Howard to the dynamic Willie Quinn from 13 yards out for the touchdown.

HBCU Gameday provided a Vine of the score:

After a stop, Southern stretched the lead to 14 a couple minutes later. This time it was Howard finding Mike Jones for a 45-yard touchdown connection.

Grambling State finally came to life in the second quarter. It rattled off 10 points in just over a minute to get back in the game.

Cedric Skinner found the end zone from two yards out. Then the Tigers recovered a fumble deep in opposing territory on the ensuing kickoff. Although they couldn't turn it into another TD, Marc Orozco was true on a 39-yard field goal to make it 14-10.

Trenise Ferreira of the Pac-12 Networks noted the quick turnaround:

The Grambling defense failed to contain the big plays, though. On three straight drives Southern was able to push the ball downfield far too easily.

In turn, the Jaguars went on a 17-0 spurt of their own to open the lead back up. Lenard Tillery found pay dirt from a couple yards out, Greg Pittman made a short field goal and then Jones caught his second long touchdown of the half to complete the surge.

Box To Row Media pointed out the strong play of Howard for the Jags:

Grambling did respond right before halftime. Johnathan Williams led an efficient drive that seen him complete six of seven passes as the Tigers went 75 yards in 1:11 to get back within 14. Verlon Hunter made the TD grab with eight seconds left in the half.

GSU Sports Info passed along the halftime leaders:

A scoring spree opened the second half.

Southern struck first with a 52-yard run by Tillery. Once he got through the first wave of defenders he was off to the races. It was another example of the Grambling defense being unable to contain those game-changing plays.

The Tigers struck right back. On the ensuing kickoff, Ka'Jandre Domino showed some nice acceleration as he got to the corner and then seemed to find another gear. He was on cruise control from there for the 99-yard return touchdown.

The Gramblinite noted the special teams contribution:

It would have been a perfect time for the Grambling defense to get a stop to help turn the tide. That didn't happen. Southern drove right back down again with Howard and Jones linking up again, this time on a 30-yard play to get into the red zone.

Deonte Shorts eventually powered in from four yards out. Less than five minutes were gone from the third quarter and 21 more points were already on the scoreboard. The Southern Digest recapped the score after the dust settled:

The Tigers cut the lead back to 14 before the end of the third on a pass from Williams to Brandon Byrdsong. Every scoring drive in the quarter went at least 72 yards and none of them last longer than three minutes.

Grambling finally got a string of defensive stops. It paid off as a Nicholas Peoples interception set the Tigers up deep in Jaguars territory. Three plays later the tandem of Williams and Hunter hooked up for the second time to get them back within seven.

What happened next perhaps should have been expected. Another big play for Southern as Jaleel Richardson took the kickoff 79 yards the other way to immediately erase the progress made by Grambling.

That score allowed the game to set a new mark in the rivalry, as pointed out by Chris Lewis of Bronco Sports:

The Tigers responded in kind. A mere 20 seconds later a busted coverage by Southern allowed Chester Rogers to break free for one of the easiest 76-yard touchdowns you'll ever see.

Grambling did a quick onside kick despite there being plenty of time remaining and it worked. It failed to capitalize on the ensuring possession, though.

Southern drove down with a chance to put the game on ice. Alas, the field goal try was blocked giving Grambling another opportunity.

The Tigers drove all the way down to the one-yard line and went for the quarterback sneak on the final play. Southern stood tall to secure the victory. The SWAC noted the result:

Grambling finishes the regular season at 7-5, including a 7-2 mark in conference play. Although the Tigers weren't able to secure the division crown with a win on Saturday, it still marked a major bounce-back campaign after going 1-10 in 2013.

As for Southern, it heads to the SWAC Championship Game to face off with Alcorn State. The Jaguars will be looking for their second straight conference title after edging Jackson State last year. They will need to step up on the defensive side to make that happen.

 

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Karlos Williams Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Concussion and Return

Florida State leading rusher Karlos Williams was forced from Saturday's game against the Florida Gators after suffering a concussion. 

Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com has the news:

With Devonta Freeman off to the NFL, the former safety has stepped into the featured role in the Seminoles backfield. After averaging a ridiculous 8.0 yards per carry during Florida State's national championship season, he has continued to rip off big runs while also serving as a legitimate threat in the passing game. 

"He's 6-foot-1, 232 pounds, runs a 10.5 100-meters–can catch, can run, is very natural with the ball in his hand," said head coach Jimbo Fisher, via Fox Sports' Michael Jay Welch. "He can change numbers on a scoreboard."

He's an electrifying talent, and his presence on the field will be sorely missed. The fortunate news, though, is that if he is forced to miss a significant amount of time, the Seminoles have depth at the position, even with sophomore Ryan Green still recovering from his shoulder injury. 

Sophomore Mario Pender and true freshman Dalvin Cook certainly represent the future in Tallahassee, but they've both already proved they can play at this level right now. And like Williams, they each possess world-class speed that can change a game in an instant. 

The Tallahassee Democrat's Corey Clark touched on that after Cook impressed in his collegiate debut against the Citadel:

Neither player has a ton of experience, so Fisher may choose to lean a little more on quarterback Jameis Winston and the passing game, but either way, this offense has enough weapons all over the field to remain efficient if Williams' injury is serious. 

Still, the senior brings an extra dynamic. Fisher and his staff will be hoping he won't be out long. 

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Examining Devin Gardner's Legacy After Michigan's Loss to Ohio State

Devin Gardner’s—and Michigan’s—42-28 loss to Ohio State was the finale of what can only be described as an incredibly inconsistent run for a guy who had the talent but couldn’t put it together when it mattered most.

His tenure at Michigan is difficult, yet easy in some ways, to analyze. Simply put, his impact was felt just about everywhere within the university’s community—everywhere but on the football field.

A champion volunteer and local hero, Gardner could be often found at the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, brightening the day of someone far less fortunate than he.

A friend and companion, the Wolverines' fifth-year senior quarterback spent hours reading to, playing with and being someone for kids who faced situations much bigger than anything he encountered on Saturday.

But it’s all over for No. 98. At least when it comes to football in Ann Arbor. 

Gardner will be remembered for losing games, throwing interceptions, getting sacked and buckling under pressure, but he’ll also be remembered for his sportsmanship, leadership and demeanor.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

There is no right or wrong way to view Gardner, who, for better or worse, played through several injuries and against mountains of adversity for nearly two straight seasons.

His legacy is full of gray area.

 

On the Field

Gardner didn’t beat Michigan State or Ohio State. He went 1-1 versus Notre Dame. This season, he threw for 106 yards and lost, 23-16, to Maryland on senior day. He also threw for 109 yards during a 10-9 road win over Northwestern.

But in 2013, Gardner set a program record with 503 passing yards during a 63-47 victory over Indiana. And despite a 42-41 loss to the Buckeyes, he strung together a memorable 451-yard performance that was oh-so close to something really special during the 2013 finale.

And he did it on a broken foot. 

He’s looked great, and he’s looked painfully mediocre.

If that’s not enough to drive someone crazy, then what is? Inconsistent doesn’t begin to describe Gardner, a 6’4”, 220-pounder with crazy amounts of athleticism but minimal amounts of execution.

However, he’s had some of his best moments in defeat, making it all the more difficult to knock what Gardner’s done between the lines for coach Brady Hoke.

Case in point: During “The Game,” Buckeyes star quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with an ankle injury.

In hindsight, that was a moment that Michigan knew it had to seize—doing so would turn the tides, and it did for a few minutes. However, before planning on how to pounce on a wounded team, Gardner took the time to speak with Barrett, who was on his back, writhing in pain.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit through the season, and you hate to see a player, especially a guy like him—a great guy, a high character guy, a hard worker [get injured],” Gardner said. “He’s been called upon and he didn’t know he was going to get a shot, and he’s executed and done it humbly. It’s like having a little brother out there get hurt.”

He referred to the other team’s star quarterback as a “brother.” Not a “foe.” Not an “adversary.” A “brother”—again displaying a level of class and sportsmanship that makes it difficult to knock him, even if he’s throwing interceptions at a nationally relevant rate. His 14 picks entering play on Saturday ranked No. 8 among FBS quarterbacks.

 

Off the Field

It took Gardner just three years to obtain a degree in Afro-American studies from one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. He could have stopped there, as a four-year piece of paper from Michigan is quite valuable—but he chose to get a Master’s in social work.

And considering his selfless nature, that’d be a perfect fit. It's not hard to imagine him devising a game plan for someone in need of a helping hand. 

College football is in the rear-view mirror, and at the end of the day, it’s just football—it’s 11 guys lining up for one common goal, and that’s to win. For some guys, that’s all they have. For others, those like Gardner, it’s a mere stepping stone for something bigger.

He may or may not play beyond Michigan. But he doesn't have to—he's already on his way to success in life. Looking back at his senior year, Gardner leaves knowing that he did what he could on the field. But he also leaves knowing that he did what he had to—what his heart told him to do—away from it.

“Everybody faces this point in their lives,” he said. “You do everything you’re supposed to do, you work hard, and what do you do once it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would?

You just continue to do the things you do: work hard and be a good guy, and these guys, I’m pretty sure they share the same sentiment. They’re going to continue to work hard and do the things they need to do.”

 

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

Quotes were obtained via Ohio State press release sent to the writer.

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Top NFL Draft Prospect Shawn Oakman Knees Opponent in Face After Big Hit

Boys and girls, don't do this.

Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman leveled Texas Tech freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes with a monster sack on Saturday, but it was what came afterward that got people talking.

Instead of walking away and celebrating with his teammates, the former Penn State Nittany Lion pushed his knee into the quarterback's face. This was especially nasty because Mahomes' helmet had come up and his face was partially exposed.

Here's another look at the hit:

He was not flagged for the knee.

Listed at 6'9" and 276 pounds, Oakman is seen as a potential first- or second-round selection in the upcoming NFL draft. Considering this is one of the final games of his collegiate career, he picked a bad time to give scouts something negative to talk about.

[Vine]

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Devin Chafin Injury: Updates on Baylor Star's Elbow and Return

Baylor University's potent offense took a hit against Texas Tech University, as star running back Devin Chafin was taken out in the first quarter with an elbow injury. 

According to John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald, Chafin dislocated his elbow and won't return to the field: 

David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest provided an update after the game:

Chafin entered Saturday's game third on the team with 76 carries and 368 rushing yards. His eight rushing touchdowns are second behind Shock Linwood's 13. The Bears have good depth at running back, but Chafin was a powerful runner who gave defenses a different look.

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

Urban Meyer and No. 6 Ohio State notched a big 42-28 victory over Michigan Saturday afternoon, but they suffered a huge loss when star quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered a serious ankle injury early in the fourth quarter. 

At that point, the Buckeyes (11-1) were clinging to a 28-21 lead, trying desperately to hold off the upset-minded Wolverines (5-7). Ohio State surged after its quarterback went down, getting big plays in the run game and from its defense to secure the 14-point victory.

How did the Wolverines and the Buckeyes grade out from the latest chapter in one of college football's greatest rivalries? 

 

Michigan Wolverines Grade Analysis

Pass Offense

It looked like Michigan’s pass offense was in for a rough day when the first four plays resulted in an interception, a four-yard loss and two sacks. But Devin Gardner bounced back, finishing the half with 129 yards and a touchdown through the air. His top target was Devin Funchess, who hauled in five receptions for 78 yards through two quarters.

The Wolverines didn't have as much success through the air in the second half. Gardner finished with just 233 passing yards and two touchdowns—and the offensive line that protected him so well in the first half ended up surrendering five total sacks. 

 

Run Offense

Michigan's run offense was fueled by Drake Johnson, who found lanes and pushed piles impressively in the first half. The Wolverines had 74 rushing yards at halftime, which was a big reason the game was tied at 14. 

But Johnson went down with a leg injury on a third-quarter touchdown run, and the running game wasn't the same without him. He finished with 74 yards and two touchdowns, but no other Wolverines ball-carrier finished with more than 21 yards. 

 

Pass Defense

The Wolverines' strength defensively is against the run, but it didn't look that way against the Buckeyes. Barrett had a hard time finding a groove early and missed on seven of his final 11 attempts in the first half. That changed in the third quarter, though, as Ohio State connected on big passes to Devin Smith (52 yards), Nick Vannett (22 yards) and Jeff Heuerman (13 yards) to trigger the Buckeyes offense. 

 

Run Defense

Michigan came into the game with the nation's No. 10 rushing defense, allowing an average of 107.2 yards per game. But the Buckeyes gashed the Wolverines—particularly in the second half—as they piled up 233 yards on the ground. The play of the game came late in the fourth quarter on a 4th-and-1 near midfield. Meyer opted to go for it, and Ezekiel Elliott broke free for a 44-yard touchdown run that sealed the victory for Ohio State.

 

Special Teams

As big underdogs, the Wolverines could have used a big play (or several big plays) on special teams. Those never came, though, as Dennis Norfleet averaged just 19.8 yards per kickoff return and failed to get loose for a single punt return. Michigan didn't attempt a single field goal, and Will Hagerup had a modest day punting the ball, averaging 41.2 yards on four attempts. 

 

Coaching

Despite Brady Hoke's shortcomings as Michigan's head coach, he always had his team ready to go when it faced Ohio State. The Wolverines entered the game as 21-point underdogs, but they didn't play like it in the first half as they battled the Buckeyes to a 14-14 halftime draw. But the second half revealed Michigan's flaws as it was outmanned and outgunned by Meyer and Ohio State. 

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense

Barrett got off to a solid start, completing his first three passes with a touchdown on Ohio State’s first drive. That’s when Michigan turned up the pressure, and he finished the half completing just seven of 14 passes for 65 yards.

Barrett got going in the third quarter, completing four of five passes for 97 yards. He finished with 176 passing yards and a touchdown before going down early in the fourth quarter, and in his absence, Cardale Jones added just seven yards through the air to close out the game. The Buckeyes spread it around again, as nine different pass-catchers recorded a reception, but no player had more than 52 receiving yards. 

 

Run Offense

Fortunately for Meyer, the Buckeyes were able to move the ball on the ground. Elliott led the way with 121 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 carries. Barrett also came up big for the Buckeyes, running for a 25-yard touchdown run in the waning moments of the second quarter to tie the game at 14. He finished the day with 89 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, contributing to the Buckeyes' 5.9 yards per carry. 

 

Pass Defense

Gardner came into this game with 14 interceptions, but even more incredibly, he hadn't thrown a touchdown pass on the road all year. The Buckeyes looked to be in good shape when Vonn Bell picked him off on Michigan's first drive, but the Wolverines came right back with touchdown drives of 80 and 95 yards to secure a 14-7 first-half lead.

But Gardner and the Wolverines had a hard time maintaining that success in the second half. They got creative with a trick play to set up a third-quarter touchdown, but outside of that, Michigan had a much harder time moving the ball through the air. 

 

Run Defense

Ohio State's run defense had been gashed in recent weeks as a trio of the Big Ten's best running backs—Jeremy Langford, David Cobb and Tevin Coleman—combined for 510 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Johnson was well on his way to posting big numbers against Ohio State before a knee injury sidelined him. He still managed to finish with 74 yards and two touchdowns, most of which came in the first half. Outside of him, the Buckeyes bottled up Michigan's ground attack, as it averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

 

Special Teams

Much like Michigan, Ohio State failed to break a big play on special teams. A solid punt return from Jalin Marshall was negated by a holding penalty in the first quarter—but even with the flag, it was the biggest special teams play of the day. Cameron Johnston had another solid day, averaging 49 yards on four punts, but it was an otherwise forgettable outing for the Buckeyes. 

 

Coaching

Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman were conservative in the first half, and Michigan used that to build a seven-point lead. The Buckeyes finally got Barrett involved in the running game during the final drive of the first half, which triggered Ohio State's rally. The Buckeyes had no problem moving the ball from that point on, but the coaching staff's tentativeness kept things unnecessarily close early. 

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

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

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JT Barrett's Ankle Injury Puts Ohio State's Playoff Chances in Serious Jeopardy

Ohio State's College Football Playoff hopes now rest firmly on the shoulders of a sophomore quarterback with 19 career pass attempts to his name and whose role this season has pretty been that of human victory cigar and nothing more.

Cardale Jones entered the Buckeyes' fierce Big Ten rivalry game against the Michigan Wolverines in the fourth quarter after starter J.T. Barrett suffered a gruesome leg injury, per ESPN College Football:

The Big Lead's Michael Shamburger provided a look at the play, which saw Barrett's leg get caught under a defender and bend at a seemingly unnatural angle:

The injury will prematurely end Barrett's phenomenal season, per MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn:

Jones came into the game with his team up, 28-21, and calmly commandeered his side for two drives—not including the perfunctory kneel downs to end the game—en route to a crucial 42-28 victory.

With a place in the Big Ten title game already guaranteed, Jones will likely have to lead the Buckeyes to a convincing win if they are to have any shot at making the inaugural College Football Playoff. This is a tall task for Jones, as following up Barrett is no easy feat.

Ohio State came into the Michigan game ranked sixth in the CFP rankings. Even with Barrett, the Buckeyes would have needed a strong finish to the season and perhaps a couple of upsets in other conferences. With Jones starting, the situation could be dire.

NBC 4's Matt Barnes believes the committee will be watching him closely:

Thanks to a big 44-yard scoring run from Ezekiel Elliot and an aggressive Buckeyes defense, Jones didn't have much to do on Saturday to wrap things up. He finished the game with two completions for seven yards and two carries for 18 yards. It was encouraging to say the least, but cooking up a win from scratch in a conference championship is another entity entirely.

As long as Florida State, Alabama and Oregon avoid choking during rivalry week and win their conference championships, the Buckeyes will be vying for a fourth and final playoff spot with the likes of TCU, Baylor and Mississippi State.

Heading into Saturday's slate, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver gave the Buckeyes a 42.2 percent chance of making the playoff, with TCU likely the biggest impediment due to their wildly successful offense.

However, an unheralded player like Jones stepping into a team's biggest game of the season would arguably be a more impressive achievement than anything TCU (or Baylor) can accomplish at this point, considering the Big 12 does not have a conference championship.

Barrett's story was already quite remarkable, as he wasn't named the starter until just a couple of weeks before the season began as it became clear Braxton Miller would be unable to play with his shoulder injury. Jones stepping in and stepping up is just an extension of Ohio State's wild ride.

ESPN 850's Bruce Hooley does see Jones having success in coach Urban Meyer's system:

Jones' best showing came in a 55-14 win over Illinois, when he completed five of nine passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 18 yards on the ground. Jones was in the game because Barrett was nursing a mild MCL sprain, per Cleveland.com's Bill Landis.

It wasn't a perfect performance by any means, but quarterbacks coach Tom Herman had a positive assessment of the untested signal-caller after the game.

"I don't know if I've learned anything earth-shattering, other than the confidence we have in him, that he instilled in us in practice, that's pretty real, save for the first few kind of jittery plays," he said, via Landis.

He also put up 69 total yards in short order against a lowly Kent State squad this season. It's not bad, but it's nothing like what Barrett has done this season for Ohio State.

His six touchdown passes against Kent State were marvelous, as were his four total touchdowns and 191 rushing yards against Minnesota on Nov. 15. That game elicited Heisman mentions from Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman:

The Buckeyes are slated to play the winner of the Minnesota-Wisconsin matchup. Both teams are currently ranked in the Top 25, so a strong performance from Jones would prove that Ohio State is indeed one of the more well-rounded teams in the country and wasn't relying solely on the magical exploits of Barrett. 

As College Football Talk's Kevin McGuire noted on Nov. 24, the Buckeyes have done plenty as a program to merit consideration:

Ohio State has won two games on the road against teams the College Football Playoff committee has ranked in their most recent playoff rankings, Michigan State and Minnesota. The Buckeyes are third best in the country in third-down conversions. Ohio State has a higher red zone touchdown percentage than any other team in the playoff discussion today. Only Alabama is ranked ahead of Ohio State in total defense among playoff contenders as well.

Even if Jones leads the Buckeyes to a big win, there is still no guarantee they make the playoff. The playoff committee will be splitting hairs no matter what, and they could be swayed by the SEC West's pedigree or the offensive success of Baylor and TCU.

There can be no drop-off for Ohio State, who have done well to put an embarrassing Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech well behind them. 

No matter how well or how poorly Jones plays this season, don't expect him to be in the running for a starting role next year. Barrett should have the inside edge on that assuming his injury isn't completely devastating, while Miller should be highly motivated to reclaim his starting role.

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Florida's Gerald Willis Sent to Locker Room for Cheap Shot on Jameis Winston

Florida's Gerald Willis was sent to the team's locker room during the Gators' rivalry game vs. Florida State after a blatant cheap shot on Jameis Winston, who had scrambled out of bounds to Florida's sideline.

The chain gang guy's face next to him says it all. 

[gifdsports, Vine]

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Georgia Football: Don't Blame Mark Richt for Loss to Georgia Tech

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt won't shun responsibility for his team's disappointing loss at home to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but he should not be blamed for the setback.

According to Seth Emerson of The Telegraph, Richt confessed that his decision to kick a squib with just a few seconds remaining in the fourth quarter was a mistake.

But that kick didn't cost the Dawgs the game any more than the ensuing play, a 21-yard scramble by Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, which set up a game-tying field goal from 53 yards out.

In some regards, that sequence of events was a microcosm of the game itself and the disconnect between what Rich should and should not be blamed for.

In hindsight, perhaps Richt should have kicked the ball into the end zone.  That's easy to see now.  But even in real time, Georgia's defense should have been prepared for Thomas, Georgia Tech's leading rusher by a long shot, to scramble on the next play.  After all, his big-play receiver was already out of the game.  

But the Bulldogs defense did not execute in that situation, which was a theme of the second half, and Thomas ran untouched up the middle of the field and jogged to the sideline for a long first down as Georgia defenders gasped for breath.

That's how things went for Georgia on Saturday, and while credit is certainly due to Georgia Tech for putting the Bulldogs in precarious positions time and time again, it was a lack of execution by players on the field that ultimately cost the Dawgs.

Richt's squib kick call will be questioned for months, but truth be told, it wasn't even the ugliest squib kick of the game for the Bulldogs.  A few moments prior to that, Georgia Tech kicked a short ball that fullback Quayvon Hicks watched without reacting to, and the Yellow Jackets recovered.  Hicks struggled fielding kicks against Kentucky a few weeks ago, but his lack of instinct in this instance was still stunning.

Freshman running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel showed brilliance at times, but both fumbled the football while approaching the goal line on critical first-half runs.  To blame Richt for those two mishaps is to assume that he and his staff have never told the talented halfbacks to protect the football.  Such a presumption is nothing short of ignorant.

Defensively, Georgia Tech wore out a Bulldogs defense that had proved to be susceptible against the run at times this season.  And yet it merits clarification that Georgia Tech's variation of the triple-option is a wrinkle that the Dawgs see just once per year.  So while the end-of-game rushing totals of the Yellow Jackets may seem reminiscent of the gashing the Florida Gators handed out to Jeremy Pruitt's defense, the yards were gained in a very different way.

Whether those defensive shortcomings were a reflection of poor coaching or poor discipline is debatable.  But the level of execution declined steadily for the Bulldog defense as the unit wore down physically after spending nearly two-thirds of the second half on the field.  That trend was in direct conflict with the late-game reputation Pruitt's defense had developed.  Accordingly, blaming Richt for the defense's inability to get off the field is a bit of a reach.

Even the final dagger, a Hutson Mason interception in overtime, seems more indicative of a miscue by a player than a shortcoming by the head coach.  At best, Mason's short throw was ill-advised, which is to say a coach would have advised against it.  Mason zeroed in on his target immediately and telegraphed a pass into double coverage.  As a result, Georgia Tech was able to make a play.

The loss to Georgia Tech is frustrating to fans, and in some regards, that frustration is understandable.  But this was never Georgia's year.  The ugly loss to South Carolina after a weather delay, atrocious officiating and missed chip-shot field goals should have told the Bulldog faithful as much.  The suspension of Todd Gurley and the injury that followed weren't positive omens for Georgia's 2014 campaign, either.  

In light of those events and the disappointing way in which Georgia missed out on the SEC Championship Game, the frustration of Bulldog loyalists is now amplified.  And as seasons wind down, fans have a tendency to seek resolution and closure.  The easy answer is to blame a coach, and the most satisfying answer is to extrapolate those feelings and to conjure up thematic problems.

But for Georgia fans, the easy answer is not the right one in this instance.  Mark Richt probably made some mistakes Saturday.  He probably makes some every week.  But when he says (as tweeted by Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald) that this particular loss is as upsetting as any in his career, that's not necessarily a self-indictment.

It was a collective effort that resulted in a Georgia loss Saturday.  But given the bevy of uncharacteristic shortcomings—a blocked field-goal attempt, 14 points left off the scoreboard due to fumbles, a defense that got worse as the game went on, a quarterback's first interception in 162 attempts, an unfielded squib kick—it's hard to blame Richt for the total sum of Georgia's broken parts.

And if history is any indicator, Richt, the most tenured coach in the Southeastern Conference, will be the man making repairs leading up to the bowl game and through the offseason.

Don't place your frustrations on Mark Richt.  Instead, express some confidence in his ability to further refine this team.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first hand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Former Southern Football Player Uses Team's Band to Help with Proposal

Former Southern University fullback Calvin Mills just raised the bar for sporting-event proposals.

Mills had the help of the school's marching band and even brought a family member out of a giant box to pass off the ring. 

Most importantly, Mills' bride-to-be said yes. 

(h/t SB Nation)

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Could Loss to Clemson Be the End of Steve Spurrier Era at South Carolina?

On Saturday afternoon, Steve Spurrier sounded like a rather defeated man. Following a 35-17 defeat at Clemson, the Gamecocks’ first loss to their in-state rival since 2008, South Carolina’s charismatic head coach was resigned to a 6-6 season.

"I told the guys, 6-6 might be what we are," he told reporters at a post-game press conference.

Is Saturday the last time we’ll see Spurrier on a college football field? It could be.

Following three consecutive 11-2 seasons, the Gamecocks fell fast and hard in 2014. The departures of key pieces like NFL top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and gritty, just-win quarterback Connor Shaw, as well as other defensive stalwarts, proved incredibly difficult to replace.

And it might just push Spurrier into retirement.

South Carolina’s struggles have fueled speculation about the future for Spurrier, 69.

Earlier this month, he told Kendall (h/t GoGamecocks.com) that "the plan is definitely to be back here and so forth."

You probably have some questions that I’m going to have a tough time answering. If it’s got anything to do with coaches coming back next year, me coming back next year, I am just going to refrain from all of that. Let’s get through this season here and see where we are all at is probably the smartest thing for all of us to do right now.

He also declined to address speculation about his staff or his future on Saturday.

Spurrier has done an incredible job at South Carolina, taking the formerly middling program to heights it has never reached before.

But 2014 has clearly taken a toll on him. Following a home loss to Missouri, his press conference lasted less than one minute, and he hasn’t taken nearly as many jabs at rival Dabo Swinney or other rivals.

After all, Spurrier only truly jabs when he feels most comfortable about his own team.

At the very least, South Carolina fans can expect changes on Spurrier’s staff. Speculation centers on defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, whose unit entered Saturday allowing 30.8 points per game, which ranks No. 93 nationally.

Is Ward concerned about his future? "Not at all," he told Willie T. Smith of The Greenville News.

But he certainly should be.

Will Spurrier walk away? That’s the more interesting question.

He left his previous two college jobs on a high, first leaving Duke for Florida following an 8-4 season and a tie for an ACC title in 1989. He then left Florida for an ill-fated stint with the NFL’s Washington Redskins following a 10-2 season and Orange Bowl win in 2001.

Leaving South Carolina wouldn’t fit with his past. It makes sense that a prideful Spurrier would want to go out on a high note, not losing to Swinney on a sunny November day in Clemson.

But if we’ve learned one thing about Spurrier in his career it’s that he is unpredictable. No one but Spurrier really knows what’s next for him, but it wouldn’t be a stunner to see him head for the golf course for good now.

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Ohio State Can Still Make College Football Playoff Without J.T. Barrett

Ohio State star quarterback J.T. Barrett suffered an ankle injury in Saturday's game that will keep the Heisman contender sidelined for the rest of the season, according to Brendan F. Quinn of MLive.com.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee explain how Ohio State can still make the College Football Playoff without J.T. Barrett.

Do you think OSU will be in the CFP?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Georgia Tech's Option Will Cause Problems for Florida State in ACC Title Game

Florida State’s quest for an ACC championship and a College Football Playoff berth hasn’t been easy.

Entering Saturday, the Seminoles had won five games by six points or less and erased three double-digit road deficits.

And the events of November 20 in Durham, North Carolina, made that road even tougher. When North Carolina upset rival Duke, it locked Georgia Tech into the ACC title game as the Coastal Division representative.

That’s bad news for Florida State’s defense.

Paul Johnson’s flexbone option can be incredibly tough to prepare for in a regular week—and even more so this season. On Saturday, the Jackets (10-2) held the ball for 36 minutes, 23 seconds and rushed for 399 yards in a 30-24 overtime upset of No. 9 Georgia.

FSU and Georgia Tech haven’t met since facing off in the 2012 ACC Championship, a 21-15 Florida State victory.

Entering Saturday’s rivalry match with Georgia, the Yellow Jackets were averaging 327.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked fourth nationally.

Sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas has done an exceptional job taking over for Vad Lee as the starting quarterback. He was Tech’s leading rusher entering this week with 827 rushing yards and five touchdowns, over 200 more than No. 2 rusher Zach Laskey.

After losing linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith from last season’s BCS National Championship team, the middle of the defense has been a major concern for Florida State this season. Junior Terrance Smith was the only returning starter from 2013’s linebacker group.

The group has also struggled with injuries. Against Louisville, the Seminoles finished the game with just two scholarship linebackers on the field after Smith missed the game with a pectoral injury and freshman Matthew Thomas left with a shoulder injury.

Both are back in the lineup and healthy, but linebackers remain a concern for the Seminole defense.

Entering Saturday’s game against Florida, the Seminoles were No. 54 nationally in total defense, allowing 379.2 yards per game. They were No. 45 nationally in rushing defense, allowing 148.8 yards per game.

And perhaps most damning, they were No. 97 in third-down defense, making it difficult to get off the field.

That plays right into Georgia Tech’s hands. Paul Johnson loves nothing more than to bleed the clock with slow, methodical drives.

The Jackets were sixth nationally entering this week in time of possession, holding the ball for 33:49 per game. And they lead the nation in third-down conversions, converting 58.3 percent of them on the season.

That’s bad news for the Seminoles, who have made a habit of playing poorly early and revving up their engines for impressive second-half comebacks. Erasing a deficit, of course, is much tougher when you don’t have the ball.

If the Jackets attack the middle of Florida State’s defense effectively, it could be a major speed bump for the Seminoles’ College Football Playoff hopes.

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Florida's Quincy Wilson Dives for Bobbling Interception of Jameis Winston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston started the Seminoles' rivalry game against Florida by throwing two interceptions on his first two drives.

The second interception came from Florida defensive back Quincy Wilson as a result of a beautiful display of athleticism, as he dove and kept the ball off the ground for a bobbling catch. 

[Vine]

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Georgia Tech vs. Georgia: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets

For just the second time in 14 years, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have defeated the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

Behind a dominant performance along both the offensive and defensive lines, resilience in overcoming mistakes and a little good fortune, Georgia Tech ended (at least for now) Georgia's run of dominance.  In doing so, Georgia Tech picked up its 10th win of the regular season.

Georgia Tech will play Florida State University in next week's ACC Championship Game, while Georgia awaits a bowl assignment.

In the meantime, here are game grades for both teams and analysis for each position group. 

 

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Grade Analysis

Passing Offense

Justin Thomas was under duress for most of the first half. As a result, he struggled to find a rhythm in the passing game.  Over the first two quarters, he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and threw for just 64 yards.  He did, however, toss Georgia Tech's lone touchdown pass.  In the second half, the pass was even less viable, but the ground attack heated up.

 

Rushing Offense

As expected, Georgia Tech ran the ball well in the first half.  To be sure, the Yellow Jackets' ground attack didn't catch anyone by surprise and failed to break many long runs, but 25 carries for 119 yards was not a bad showing.  In the second half, the Yellow Jackets torched Georgia's defense on the ground, as the Bulldogs looked gassed and struggled mightily.

 

Pass Defense

Hutson Mason had a field day in the first half, completing 8 of 9 passes for 88 yards.  Several receivers, Malcom Mitchell in particular, shook loose in space.  In the second half, the Yellow Jackets yielded too often through the air to Georgia, but they made a big play in overtime by coming up with an interception to preserve a victory.

 

Run Defense

Nick Chubb ran all over the Yellow Jackets defense, and Sony Michel wasn't too shabby either in the first half.  Georgia Tech was bailed out by a few fumbles late in drives.  In the second half, Georgia struggled to run the football, and with only seven minutes of possession for the Dawgs, the ground attack was obviously limited.

 

Special Teams

Georgia Tech had a field-goal attempt blocked and was otherwise unimpressive in special teams in the first half.  In the second half, the Jackets recovered a squib kick but also had an extra point blocked in overtime.  All in all, Tech won despite special teams mishaps.

 

Coaching

Georgia Tech was completely outplayed in the first half, but the opportunistic style of play kept the Yellow Jackets close.  In the second half, the script flipped and the Yellow Jackets absolutely dominated.  Credit Paul Johnson's team for executing late—and credit him for putting the team in that position.

 

Georgia Bulldogs Grade Analysis

Passing Offense

Hutson Mason was Hutson Mason in the first half.  He completed a high percentage of passes but rarely took shots downfield.  His receivers played well, caught balls and broke tackles.  In the second half, Mason was sharp and aided by some great catches by Mitchell and Chris Conley.  Unfortunately for Mason, his first interception since early October came at the worst possible time—in overtime.

 

Rushing Offense

Two fumbles left black eyes on an otherwise flawless offensive performance by the Bulldogs. But one shouldn't forget the consistency with which Georgia moved the football on the ground in the first half.  In the second half, Georgia was unable to find running lanes.  Chubb was tied up repeatedly, and Michel wasn't a factor.

 

Pass Defense

Georgia was able to pressure Thomas more often than not, and the defensive backs did a fantastic job of refraining from overcommitting to stop the run.  As a result, Georgia Tech struggled to get the passing game going in the first half.  The pass defense was equally strong in the second half, but it came at the expense of surrendering too many yards on the ground.

 

Run Defense

Georgia's defense did a fine job against Georgia Tech on the ground in the first half.  Granted, the Yellow Jackets racked up yardage.  But that's the heart and soul of Tech's offense, and Georgia limited it for the most part.  In the second half, Georgia Tech ran the ball at will, and Georgia's defense looked completely outmatched.  That was the most consistent key to Tech's victory.

 

Special Teams

A blocked field-goal attempt was one of the highlights of the first half.  Otherwise, Georgia did little in the area of special teams. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  In the second half, Georgia watched a kickoff bounce in front of its own sideline as the Yellow Jackets recovered.  That play is inexcusable.

 

Coaching

It's hard to pin fumbles on coaching, so it's important to recognize that Georgia completely manhandled Georgia Tech in the first half.  That credit should go to the coaching staff.  By in large, there were some defensive miscues and some odd play calls in the second half, but most of the mistakes were a result of poor execution.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of NCAA.com.

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Devin Gardner Checks in on J.T. Barrett in Fantastic Display of Sportsmanship

Sometimes there are moments in sports that transcend rivalries or competition. University of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner showed us what that's all about when his Wolverines took on Ohio State University in The Game.

After Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with an ankle injury, Gardner came to check on the quarterback, demonstrating compassion for his opponent.

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