NCAA Football

Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Don't Call It Bad Luck, Tigers Beat Themselves

For the next few days, you're going to hear plenty of discussion about Auburn's luck running out and karma finally coming back to the Tigers after nearly two years of close wins.

Don't fall into that trap.

There was no luck or karma involved in Texas A&M's 41-38 win over Auburn on Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn simply got beat.

Beat by the Aggies and, perhaps more importantly, by itself.

The most obvious self-inflicted wound came with 54 seconds left at A&M's 27-yard line, when center Reese Dismukes prematurely snapped the ball to quarterback Nick Marshall—who was checking at the line of the scrimmage at the time. It will, undoubtedly, be the play that becomes known as the one that sealed the upset.

This game was lost way before that.

Auburn's defense let this game get way out of hand early due to its inability to pressure true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen and, most importantly, to tackle.

Allen wasn't sacked in the first half and only once for the entire game. The absence of a pass rush wasn't a new phenomenon for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's crew. They came in 10th in the SEC with 16 sacks—four of which were last week against an Ole Miss offensive line that was without star tackle Laremy Tunsil.

The bigger issue, though, was Auburn's glaring inability to tackle, as linebackers and defensive backs routinely took horrible angles to ball carriers in the first half—which closed with the Aggies up, 35-17.

As the assembled members of the media covering the game pointed out, the absence of fundamentals was a theme for the entire afternoon.

This game wasn't lost on November 8. It was lost in mid-August and late March, when the Tigers were supposed to be working on fundamentals in a camp setting. If you can't tackle in early November, your window has closed.

In retrospect, this was something that was bound to happen.

Auburn's tackling was atrocious last week in the 35-31 win over Ole Miss in Oxford, too. According to Ryan Black of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, linebacker Kris Frost specifically mentioned that the tackling had to improve from last week.

“We missed a few tackles that were unacceptable," Forst said. "But it's basically all about getting back to the basics and really focusing on what we have to do to improve.”

They didn't.

The missed tackles were precursors to Auburn uncharacteristically beating itself. More specifically, its best players, who have time and time again come up big in clutch spots, let Auburn down.

Marshall and running back Cameron Artis-Payne—both of whom were on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race—fumbled an exchange on a zone-read play from the Aggie 2-yard line. The next drive, with Auburn on the edge of field-goal range, Dismukes—a preseason first-team All-SEC selection—snapped the ball early to end the game.

Its three offensive stars cost Auburn the game in the end, despite Artis-Payne rushing for 221 yards and two touchdowns and Marshall accounting for 286 yards and three scores (two rush, one pass).

They shouldn't have been in this game to begin with, and the mere fact that Artis-Payne, Marshall and Dismukes were in position to toss the game away late is a compliment to what they did to keep Auburn in the game in the first place.

Auburn's defense—the punchline to a bad joke for going on two years—cost Auburn the game. It wasn't luck, karma or magic.

It was time.

 

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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Was the Playoff Committee Right About Notre Dame All Along?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish lost a heartbreaker to the Arizona State Sun Devils, 55-31. With the loss, the Irish are all but certain of falling from College Football Playoff contention.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down why the Irish will be on the outside looking in. 

Are Notre Dame's national title hopes gone?

Watch the video and let us know!

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West Virginia vs. Texas: Game Grades, Analysis for Mountaineers and Longhorns

This was the kind of performance that Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been searching for all season. The Longhorns played very well defensively, holding West Virginia to just 16 points and running the ball at ease at times in the 33-16 win.

The Texas offensive line deserves most of the recognition in this win, as the Longhorns rushed for 227 total yards. Johnathan Gray had 101 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and Malcolm Brown added 90 yards.

West Virginia attempted to make a comeback in the second half after trailing 24-3 at halftime, but ultimately the mistakes were too much to overcome. The Mountaineers turned it over twice and also took a safety on a sack of quarterback Clint Trickett.

The Longhorns move to 5-5 on the season, and they will look to become bowl-eligible with a sixth win next week versus Oklahoma State. West Virginia must recover from this loss quickly, as it faces Kansas State after an off week.

You can find the box score for the game here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

 

Game Grades and Analysis for the West Virginia Mountaineers

Passing Offense

It wasn't the best day for West Virginia, who only had 141 total yards at halftime. Trickett finished 36-of-49 passing with 248 yards, but he failed to find the end zone. The passing offense gets an average grade because Trickett averaged only 5.1 yards per passing attempt and threw an interception.

 

Rushing Offense

The run game gets a B-minus because of the struggles early on. The Mountaineers had only 42 yards in the first half, but they ended with 200 yards on the ground. Dreamius Smith broke off a 62-yard run, and he ended the day with 100 yards on 10 carries.

 

Pass Defense

The numbers weren't there for Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, and that can be attributed to West Virginia's adjustments at halftime. The Longhorns weren't able to run the ball as effectively in the second half, and the West Virginia secondary made plays as a result. 

Swoopes averaged only 4.3 yards per attempt, and West Virginia forced him into an interception.

 

Run Defense

It was a tale of two halves for the West Virginia run defense. Texas ran the ball all over the Mountaineers in the first half, totaling 178 yards at the intermission, but was held to just 49 yards rushing in the final two quarters.

The Mountaineers forced Texas into passing situations on third down, and that helped them come away with some big stops.

 

Special Teams

The Mountaineers weren't able to get points on the board a couple of times, as Josh Lambert went 1-of-3 on his field goals. Punter Nick O'Toole punted four times, but he failed to pin any of them inside the 20-yard line.

 

Coaching

The coaching did a better job in the second half after making adjustments, but the first half was not pretty. The play-calling did not allow the offense to establish any kind of rhythm in the first half, as the Mountaineers failed to take many shots down the field.

The safety in the second half was a direct result of play-calling, so I blame coaching there also. With the ball on the 2-yard line, West Virginia should have got some breathing room with a run or called a short pass. Instead, Trickett dropped back three steps and was sacked before he had a chance to go through his progressions.

 

Game Grades and Analysis for the Texas Longhorns

Passing Offense

As good as Texas looked Saturday, Swoopes did not have his best day. He finished with just 124 yards passing and only averaged 4.3 yards per attempt. Late in the game, he made poor decisions, including one interception.

 

Rushing Offense

The Texas offense earned a great grade in the first half, but the second half wasn't as impressive. The Longhorns totaled 178 yards before halftime, and the offensive line made holes large enough for a monster truck to drive through.

The grade is a B-minus because of the way West Virginia's adjustments affected Texas in the second half. Gray finished with three touchdowns, but as a team Texas was held to 49 yards after halftime.

 

Pass Defense

The secondary played very well on Saturday, keeping Trickett from throwing a touchdown pass. Quandre Diggs played physical and came up with a big interception right before the half. 

Trickett was 36-of-49 passing, but many of his throws were screen passes and short tosses.

 

Run Defense

The run defense was very good in the first half, as Texas held the Mountaineers to 42 yards on the ground. Smith broke off a long run in the second half, and West Virginia finished the game with 200 yards rushing.

I still give the Longhorns a decent grade because of the way they held West Virginia in check in the first half.

 

Special Teams

Punter Michael Davidson booted punts for an average of 43.7 yards, and he pinned West Virginia inside the 20-yard line three times. Nick Rose went 1-of-2 on his kicks, but the kick before halftime was great for momentum.

 

Coaching

The coaching staff was not as impressive with their halftime adjustments, but the defense ultimately played its best game of the season. The offense questionably threw the ball deep at times, and the flow just wasn't there offensively in the second half.

When you take into account how well the defense played, though, it's hard to give this staff a grade lower than a B-minus.

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Michigan vs. Northwestern: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wolverines

What Michigan and Northwestern did on Saturday was perhaps the ugliest display by any Big Ten team this season.

However, the 10-9 decision moved coach Brady Hoke’s Wolverines to 5-5 (3-3 B1G), so they’ll take it. They’ll become bowl eligible with one more victory.

That said, the way they almost lost to the Wildcats was indicative of this year's trends. With seconds to play, Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian found Tony Jones for a three-yard touchdown. Facing an obvious go-for-two situation, Siemian dropped back in hopes of tossing the winning ball.

Instead, he was flattened by Frank Clark, who led an aggressive defense that sacked Siemian seven times. Northwestern (3-6, 2-5) was close, but it was not close enough. The Wolverines, who are hanging on by a thread, had just enough gas to leave Evanston, Illinois, with a win.

So now it’s time to grade it. Of course, the marks will be heavily influenced by Michigan’s poor execution and missed opportunities—otherwise known as its calling card for 2014.

 

Pass Offense

The Wolverines just can’t throw the ball. That’s been emphasized on a weekly basis since 2013 but especially highlighted this season.

Devin Gardner was essentially at his worst Saturday night. He completed 11 of 24 attempts for a measly 109 yards. He also added his standard pair of picks.

Devin Funchess hasn’t been Devin Funchess since Week 1. He had two catches for an unimpressive 23 yards.

There is no other grade to give but D-. It’d be an F, but Jake Butt grabbed a late one, and Amara Darboh—who needs more reps—had four catches. Consider those extra-credit points after being late with your homework.

 

Pass Defense

Delonte Hollowell was burned by Jones, whose touchdown made it 10-9 Michigan. Ordinarily, that would drastically cut the grade. But it won’t tonight because Jourdan Lewis played an excellent game.

His defense on Kyle Prater saved a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Northwestern probably knew it wasn’t to going to win by running the ball. Attacking the secondary was the right move, and Siemian threw for 273 yards. Limiting him to one touchdown—a prayer at that—is a positive sign for a team looking for something to dull the sting of a disappointing season.

Jake Ryan had an interception. That’ll make up for Hollowell’s near-miss.

The pass D gets a B-. The good slightly outweighed the bad.

 

Run Offense

De’Veon Smith ran for 121 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He looked great. He hit holes, he ran with purpose and he picked up yards after contact. He ran like he should have been running all season. The sophomore picked up where Drake Johnson left off versus Indiana University this past Saturday. Johnson led the way with 122 yards in that game, but he couldn’t get going Saturday. He also fumbled, which isn’t a way to earn more carries.

The run offense gets a C. It scored the touchdown but wasn’t spectacular by any means.

 

Run Defense

Justin Jackson rushed for 35 yards. He entered the game with a team-high 726 yards and five touchdowns. He didn’t sniff the end zone Saturday. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s game plan against the run stood the test. This topic will be highlighted in the coaching section.

 

Special Teams

Matt Wile’s 41-yard field-goal attempt was blocked with 27 seconds to play in the first half. However, his 37-yarder in the second half made it through the uprights. Will Hagerup had a punt that pinned the Wildcats just inches from the goal line in the second half.

Jehu Chesson forced a fumble while covering a punt.

Special teams get a B.

 

Coaching

Mattison’s defense isn’t perfect. There are holes everywhere. But it finds a way to keep Team 135 competitive in the ugliest of affairs. It gave up nine points Saturday. It doesn’t matter who you play in the Big Ten—nine points are nine points.

Mattison’s run D continues to stop backs in their tracks. The Wildcats rushed for minus-nine yards, warranting an A. Instead, he’s getting a B+ because his secondary was touched up a bit by Siemian in the first half, and it gave up a late touchdown to Jones. 

Hoke gets a C-. He won. Good for him.

Doug Nussmeier’s offense churned out 147 rushing yards. He made several correct calls with Smith, who charged for 121 yards and the game’s only touchdown.

But poor quarterback play, Funchess being hit by a ball during a snap, Johnson’s fumble (recovered by Joe Kerridge) and several drops by receivers characterized Nussmeier’s ineffective offense as a whole.

He gets a D-. Ten points. That's why.

 

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

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Michigan's Bowl Game Hopes Ride on Devin Gardner Making Improvements

It was ugly, but the University of Michigan beat Northwestern University 10-9, clawing back to even (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) for the season. With two tough opponents remaining on the schedule, Michigan’s bowl hopes rely on quarterback Devin Gardner. Michigan needs to win at least one more game to be bowl eligible.

Gardner has had a tough season in offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s new offense. He’s regressed significantly since last season, when he starred in games versus the University of Notre Dame and Ohio State University. He continues to throw too many interceptions, some of which result in long returns. He also missed opportunities for big plays by holding the ball a split second too long and allowing the defense time to adjust.

The same problems emerged again versus Northwestern, as Gardner turned the ball over and threw dangerous passes. One interception resulted in a long return, and another near interception was a probable pick-six if the Northwestern defender could have held on. Gardner’s totals (11-of-24 for 109 yards and two interceptions) were also hurt by numerous drops by his receivers.

But there are signs that Gardner may be ready to play his best football of the season.

He appears to be recovering from a foot injury that has hampered his mobility for the last several games. He should also benefit from a bye week before Michigan’s next game. Gardner is getting better protection from his offensive line, which is also paying dividends for the Michigan running attack.

Last season, Gardner rallied in the season finale versus Ohio State. Michigan fell short 42-41, but Gardner played brilliantly despite a leg injury that put him on crutches for over a month.

Brady Hoke needs Gardner to summon a similar performance in the final two games. The stakes are bigger than just Michigan’s bowl hopes. Hoke is fighting to keep his job.

He is 2-0 since the resignation of athletic director David Brandon, but those victories came versus Indiana University (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) and Northwestern (3-6, 2-4 Big Ten)—teams racked by injuries.

Michigan will face stiffer competition during the next two games. Michigan has a bye week, and then it returns to play the University of Maryland (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) at home before traveling to play Ohio State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) in Columbus. Michigan will be prohibitive underdogs in both games.

Michigan’s bowl hopes rest in Gardner’s hands. His performance may also determine Hoke’s fate.

Gardner can also salvage his legacy, which has been severely dented during Michigan’s two-year fade.

Gardner has battled competition and injuries during his career to become Michigan’s starting quarterback. The next two games will determine how the story ends.

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Tennessee-Martin vs. Mississippi State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Bulldogs

Mississippi State played down to its opponent for the third straight week and wasn't dominant from start to finish, but it kept its undefeated season alive with a 45-16 drubbing of Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.

The Skyhawks performed admirably despite falling to 1-18 all-time against FBS opponents, racking up 22 first downs to Mississippi State's 21. Their success is shown in the game grades, as you can see below. 

Pass Offense: After some poor throws against Arkansas last weekend, Dak Prescott had no gaffes against UT-Martin. He went 14-of-23 with 206 yards and two touchdowns in limited time, but Damian Williams (2-of-3, 50 yards) struggled in replacement and lost a fumble before throwing a late touchdown.

Run Offense: Josh Robinson had just six carries for 33 yards on limited duty, but Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert took care of things. Each had a touchdown run of 35 yards or more, and as a unit they racked up 254 yards.

Pass Defense: Being forced to commit more bodies to stop the run, the Bulldogs secondary performed well against the pass, allowing five yards per attempt. Other than a missed coverage on a play-action touchdown, Mississippi State was strong in this category.

Run Defense: Mississippi State isn’t known for its run-stopping, and that weakness was exposed again Saturday. Abou Toure and Trent Garland both had more than 50 yards rushing for the Skyhawks, propelling them to 151 yards as a unit.

Special Teams: The Bulldogs gave up a couple of long kickoff returns, but a perfectly executed fake punt gave Mississippi State a boost in special teams. Still, you’d like to see more big plays on special teams against a FCS opponent if you’re a Bulldogs fan.

Coaching: A gutsy fake punt late in the first half allowed for the Bulldogs to add three points, and masterful use of the play action set up some long touchdown passes. It’s safe to say, however, that Dan Mullen saved his biggest tricks for next weekend.

Pass Offense: Dylan Favre brought a spark to the offense in the first half, but the passing game took off when Jarod Neal was re-inserted. He went 14-of-27 for 159 yards, throwing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns (one rushing) to stymie the blowout attempt from Mississippi State.

Run Offense: A consistent running game was huge in the Skyhawks’ efforts, as they ran for 151 yards as a unit and four yards per carry. Toure had a big day with 94 yards but didn’t have to be a workhorse with Garland (10 carries, 54 yards) toting the rock well.

Pass Defense: Other than one 55-yard touchdown pass given up, the Skyhawks did well to thwart Mississippi State’s passing attack. Prescott had 203 yards through the air, but nothing could be established aerially with Williams in the game—not that the Bulldogs were that set on establishing any more passing success with a big lead.

Run Defense: This was one aspect where UT-Martin was just too inferior to keep up. Even without Robinson for most of the game, the Bulldogs racked up 254 rushing yards including three rushing scores of 35 yards or more by three different players.

Special Teams: UT-Martin was a couple of big special teams plays away from actually making this a game, but those plays never happened. Mississippi State pulled off a big fake punt that the Skyhawks weren’t ready for, and UT-Martin didn’t take the same chances.

Coaching: The Skyhawks coaches obviously saw an advantage running to the left, making for some huge success on the ground. You can’t ask for more offensive success from a FCS opponent against the top-ranked team, and the players executed the coaching staff’s game plan well enough to hang with the Bulldogs.

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Texas A&M vs. Auburn: Score and Twitter Reaction

Texas A&M shocked the college  football world defeating Auburn by a score of 41-38, handing the Tigers their first home loss since 2012 and possibly knocking them out of the national title picture.

Auburn erased an 18-point halftime to cut the lead to just three in the final minutes, but a pair of fumbles late ruined any chance to escape with a win.

Freshman quarterback Kyle Allen led the way for the Aggies with 277 passing yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. Malcome Kennedy was a big target for the young passer all day and finished with 118 yards on four catches with a score.

Cameron Artis-Payne had one of the best games of his career with 221 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Auburn. Nick Marshall also added three total touchdowns, but the two dynamic players were responsible for three total fumbles in the loss.

ESPN's Skip Bayless summed up the game and the impact afterwards:

The game starter just about as well as Texas A&M could have possibly hoped. The squad needed only four plays to go 75 yards for the first touchdown, which was followed by Artis-Payne's fumble on Auburn's first play from scrimmage.

Three plays later, the Aggies were able to score again to take a 14-0 lead in just over two minutes of game time.

Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports explained how shocking of a start this was:

Of course, the Tigers were able to answer over the next few possessions, scoring twice in the first quarter to even things up at 14-14.

At this point, most fans watching along figured Auburn would keep this up and blow away its opponent. However, Texas A&M had other ideas as Allen continued to make great plays. The road team scored two more quick touchdowns thanks to an incredible start by the quarterback, as described by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee explained the Tigers' defense had a lot to do with the struggles:

Things just got worse when Auburn attempted a field goal at the end of the first half but end up allowing a blocked kick to be returned for a score with no time remaining. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated had this observation at the time:

Meanwhile, Gil Brandt of NFL.com noted the impact this would have:

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin explained his thought process going into halftime with a 35-17 lead:

Unfortunately, his team did not seem to listen as Auburn was able to claw its way back into contention.

The action certainly slowed down right after halftime as Marshall's one-yard run represented the only touchdown of the third quarter. Sports Illustrated set the scene at the moment:

After holding the Aggies to a field goal, Marshall went right back to work and threw a 31-yard touchdown to Quan Bray. Matt Brown of Sports on Earth was impressed by the pass, which cut the lead to 38-31:

The same formula was repeated as Texas A&M could only manage a field before Auburn answered with a touchdown. This time it was thanks to a 52-yard pass to Sammy Coates, which set up a six-yard run into the end zone for Marshall and just a three-point deficit.

It seemed like the Tigers were set to take the lead with about three minutes remaining, but a fumble at the 2-yard line gave the ball back to the Aggies. Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports discussed the drama:

Auburn got the ball back after a three-and-out with 88 seconds left, but a fumbled snap was recovered by the defense to effectively end the game with a 41-38 win for Texas A&M.

While this loss does not officially eliminate Auburn from the College Football Playoff, it will be very difficult to remain in the hunt with two losses.  

Things only get tougher for the Tigers over the next few weeks, with road games against Georgia and Alabama still looming on the schedule. This team has no margin for error and will have to perform a lot better in the coming games if it wants to avoid any more losses.

Texas A&M will not be playing for a conference title this year, but it can end the year strong with home games against Missouri and LSU. Whether Allen remains at quarterback or Kenny Hill regains his starting job, the future still looks bright for this program.

 

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

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Notre Dame vs. Arizona State: Score and Twitter Reaction

No. 9 Arizona State took advantage of some sloppy play from No. 10 Notre Dame to come up with a 55-31 victory at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday.

ESPN Stats & Info captured the wild, back-and-forth nature of the game:

A disastrous first half from Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson put the Fighting Irish in a 34-3 hole early on. Notre Dame fought back in the second half and came within three points of the Sun Devils at one point, but a Golson pick-six late in the fourth quarter dashed the Fighting Irish's hopes and secured victory for Arizona State.

Here is a quarter-by-quarter look at the score:

ESPN College Football gave a rundown of what to expect before the game:

With the score tied at 3 late in the first quarter, freshman defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood ripped through the Notre Dame offensive line and sacked Golson, forcing a fumble that Smallwood did well to recover on the Fighting Irish's 13-yard line.

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly found Jaelen Strong streaking toward the corner of the end zone on the first play of the drive, and the wideout made a spectacular touchdown grab to give the Sun Devils their first lead.

Golson then threw an interception to Marcus Hardison on the first play of the ensuing drive, setting up a three-play scoring drive for ASU, which ended in a one-yard touchdown plunge from running back Demario Richard.

The Sun Devils defense, looking nothing like the unit that gave up 62 points to UCLA earlier this season, was all over Golson from the end of the first quarter until halftime. SportsCenter noted that Golson was under heavy pressure for much of the first half:

Golson did a bit better on the next drive, moving the Fighting Irish into opposing territory, but the nightmare was not yet over as the beleaguered signal-caller tossed a pick that Damarious Randall took 59 yards to the house to make it 24-3 Arizona State with over 14 minutes to play in the second quarter. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports noted that Randall is a fine NFL prospect:

Notre Dame's next drive ended somewhat mercifully in a punt. Kelly responded with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Smith, cueing bedlam at Sun Devil Stadium.

When the dust finally settled, Arizona State had a 28-point lead and looked to have wrapped the game up early. The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre was about ready to count the Fighting Irish out:

Golson did his best to salvage things after the nightmare spell, throwing a nine-yard touchdown pass to William Fuller with 11 seconds remaining in the first half to make the score 34-10. At that point, it appeared the second half would be all about damage control for Notre Dame, but the late score gave it some much-needed hope.

Golson started off the third quarter with yet another drive-killing pick, but his teammates picked up the slack.

The Fighting Irish defense looked much better in the second half, as it didn't have to deal with short fields from turnovers. 

Notre Dame cut the Sun Devils lead to 34-17 on a one-yard run by Cam McDaniel late in the third quarter. The senior running back came through for his team again early in the fourth quarter following a Kelly interception. His second one-yard plunge of the day cut the Sun Devils lead to 10.

The Fighting Irish forced a punt on the next possession, and Golson tossed his second touchdown pass of the day, although the Sun Devils' secondary made it pretty easy on him, as this still from SportsCenter shows:

His 25-yard touchdown pass to Amir Carlisle made it 34-31 and had the Sun Devils on the ropes. 

Alas, the Fighting Irish would not be able to complete what would have been a truly remarkable comeback. Arizona State finally put together a fine drive behind strong running from D.J. Foster, and Kelly finished it off by hitting Richard for a four-yard score to put the Sun Devils back up by 10.

Golson, despite growing more and more confident with every drive, would throw yet another pick-six, although one could hardly fault him for this one. Golson hit receiver Corey Robinson in the numbers down the right sideline, but the wideout coughed up the ball right into the hands of defensive back Lloyd Carrington, who took it 58 yards to the house for a 48-31 Arizona State lead with 3:41 remaining.

Kelly would add another touchdown on a two-yard run in garbage time to create the final scoreline of 55-31.

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde noted the game ended Golson's Heisman hopes:

What little College Football Playoff hopes the Fighting Irish had coming into the game blinked out of existence under the hot sun in Tempe, Arizona. Their weak schedule and two losses take them out of the discussion with so many hopefuls from the power conferences likely to finish with just one loss.

Arizona State appears to be the class of the Pac 12 South and looks strong enough to challenge Oregon for the conference title should both teams make it to the championship game. However, the Ducks offense may be too much for a Sun Devils defense that needs to create turnovers to hold off the stronger attacks in college football.

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Notre Dame vs. ASU: How Sun Devils' Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

On a day full of important college football matchups, No. 9 Arizona State sent a message with a 55-31 win over No. 10 Notre Dame.

The two squads came into the day as outside contenders for the College Football Playoff. While they each only had one loss entering Week 12, the lack of quality wins kept each side down in the rankings.

However, the Sun Devils now have a new marquee win on the resume with an impressive performance on Saturday.

This battle seemed like it was going to be an easy victory at home based on an incredible start, as described by CBS Sports:

That did not hold up, though, as Notre Dame battled back with four touchdowns in a row until it was 34-31 in the fourth quarter. The Irish simply could not complete the comeback as the mistakes kept piling up. Everett Golson threw his second pick-six of the game with under four minutes remaining to seal his fate.

Jon Solomon of CBS Sports provided a look at the biggest stat of the game:

ESPN's Mark Schlabach examined why Notre Dame's College Football Playoff chances are likely finished with its second loss of the year:

On the other hand, this was a huge moment for Arizona State. Head coach Todd Graham knew before the game what a win in this matchup could mean for the school.

"This is an opportunity to step forward as a program,'' Graham said, via Doug Haller of AZ Central Sports. "(It's) a giant step for us. I told our guys: 'I don't want one person going out there trying not to mess up. Man, go out there and attack it."

Besides setting the school up for future success, this could be an important win for the 2014 season as it keeps the squad as a contender for the CFP.

Much of the playoff talk this season has centered around the SEC. The conference is widely considered to be the best in the nation, and its teams have been high in the rankings all season.

The problem is that a few of these teams still have to play each other and are likely to knock each other out of the running. Mississippi State and Auburn have to play at Alabama, while Ole Miss and LSU also have the ability to play the role of spoiler.

Except for a few circumstances, the most likely scenario is that only one team will represent the SEC in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, this season is a lot more fun based on more teams being involved, as Kevin Sheehan of ESPN 980 pointed out:

It is now clear Arizona State is one of those squads after an impressive win. Assuming Florida State does indeed win out and the SEC only gets one team in the CFP, this likely leaves a spot for one Pac-12 team, one Big 12 team and possibly a Big Ten representative (but only if it is Michigan State).

The Sun Devils would have to win out to get a bid, but the talent is clearly there to pull it off. Earning victories over Arizona and potentially Oregon in the conference title game should be enough.

Although this program does not have the respect of some of the perennial contenders, there would be no legitimate reason to pass on a one-loss Pac-12 team with a number of impressive wins.

All of a sudden, the rest of the playoff contenders have to look in their rear-view mirrors to see what Arizona State is doing.

 

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

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Watch Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong Make Filthy One-Handed TD Catch

Arizona State got off to a great start against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, scoring 17 points in the first quarter...

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Michigan Beats Northwestern in Final Seconds by Stopping 2-Pt Conversion Attempt

Northwestern boldly went for the win in regulation. The move backfired.

Michigan moved to 5-5 and 3-3 in the Big Ten with a 10-9 win after stopping a Northwestern two-point conversion attempt with three seconds remaining.

First, let's just say it: This game was not pretty. The score remained 0-0 until a Michigan strike midway through the third quarter. With time winding down in the fourth quarter, Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tony Jones.

There was just one question left: Go for one and overtime, or go for two?

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald made the gutsy decision to go for the win. Admirable. Brave.

Ultimately, ineffective. Michigan got to the quarterback in blazing fashion, securing the win. 

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Ohio State vs. Michigan State: Live Score and Highlights

Can No. 14 Ohio State avenge last year’s loss in the Big Ten title game, or will No. 8 Michigan State protect its home turf in this highly anticipated prime-time matchup?

We’ll find out Saturday night when the Buckeyes (7-1) face off against the Spartans (7-1) in East Lansing.

Urban Meyer and Ohio State will have to overcome a hostile crowd and a strong Michigan State team as underdogs. Mark Dantonio’s squad is coming into Saturday night’s contest as 3.5-point favorites, according to Odds Shark.

The game is set to kick off at 8:14 p.m. ET and will be televised nationally by ABC.

We’ll be watching the matchup, providing live analysis as the action unfolds.

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Alabama vs. LSU: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide are set to battle the No. 16 LSU Tigers in a critical Southeastern Conference clash on Saturday night.

Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) is a challenger for the College Football Playoff, but Blake Sims and Co. must defeat three top teams to earn a spot in the inaugural competition.

LSU (7-2, 3-2) had two weeks to prepare for the Crimson Tide and knocked off then-No. 3 Ole Miss last time out. The Tigers need a win to stay alive in the West Division.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and can be seen on CBS. Bleacher Report will provide live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please join the conversation in the comments.

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Florida vs. Vanderbilt: Live Score and Highlights

Vanderbilt 7, Florida 0—Mid-1st Quarter

We are underway in Nashville as the Vanderbilt Commodores host the Florida Gators. 

Keep it locked right here as we'll give you live scoring updates, comprehensive analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

You can find the official Florida-Vanderbilt box score at NCAA.com

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Kansas State vs. TCU: Live Score and Highlights

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

With Big 12 and College Football Playoff implications on the line, two dark-horse Heisman candidates square off in Fort Worth, Texas, as Jake Waters and the No. 7 Kansas State Wildcats face Trevone Boykin and the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday night. 

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Michigan Snaps Ball into Receiver in Motion, Can't Figure How to Block Either

Brady Hoke's Michigan Wolverines are under intense scrutiny for their 4-5 record, and plays like these aren't going to help their case any.

First we see the center strike star wide receiver Devin Funchess with a snap, leading to an easy fumble recovery for Northwestern. Again, that's a snap hitting a wide receiver.

#MichiganFootball miscues continue. https://t.co/PQMgw3G2kx

— Adam Biggers (@AdamBiggers81) November 8, 2014

Michigan also showcased their unique blocking tactics, choosing to put one man on two defensive linemen, while two offensive linemen just stand around and try to look busy.

This pic right here. Two guys not blocking anyone. One guy blocking two NW players. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! pic.twitter.com/VWg4rgBMKO

— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) November 8, 2014

Cue the Benny Hill music.

[Twitter]

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Mike Shanahan Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding Florida, Michigan

Legendary football coach Mike Shanahan is still looking for his next head-coaching job, and it could come at the college level.

Shanahan is reportedly interested in taking the reigns at either Florida or Michigan, per 247Sports.com's Clint Brewster:

Sources close to the situation have told Wolverine247 that former Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan would be interested in returning to college football for either the Wolverines or Florida Gators job if they were to open.

Shanahan has college experience early in his career . He’s coached at Florida as an offensive assistant from 1980-1983 and also made stops at the University of Minnesota, and Oklahoma. 

Florida is 4-3 on the season and struggling to keep pace in the SEC under the tutelage of Will Muschamp. Michigan is 4-5 on the year and look to be treading water with Brady Hoke at the helm. The Wolverines head coach has also drawn ire for his handling of a concussion to quarterback Shane Morris earlier in the season.

Shanahan's most recent coaching experience comes with the NFL's Washington Redskins, where he went 24-40 in four seasons before being replaced by Jay Gruden prior to the 2014 season.

He also coached the Denver Broncos from 1995-2008 to fantastic overall success, winning two Super Bowls and crafting a highly effective zone-blocking scheme that opened up holes for running backs from Terrell Davis to Peyton Hillis.

Shanahan's lack of head coaching experience at the college level could work against him, not to mention his tumultuous reign in Washington. It would be interesting to see how he adjusts to the widely used spread offenses, and questions would abound regarding his ability to recruit players and implement an effective defensive system.

That being said, he does posses one of the sharpest offensive minds in the game and is the kind of high-profile leader that would command respect at either Michigan or Florida, two of the more illustrious programs in college football history.

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Texas A&M's Deshazor Everett Returns Blocked Auburn Field Goal for a Touchdown

The No. 3 Auburn Tigers were heavily favored in Saturday's matchup against the Texas A&M Aggies.

However, it seems the Aggies had a different outcome in mind.

In the waning seconds of the second quarter, Texas A&M blocked a Tigers field goal. The ball conveniently landed in the hands of Aggies defensive back Deshazor Everett, who ran it the other way for a score.

The TD gave Texas A&M a 35-17 lead at halftime. 


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Virginia vs. Florida State: Live Score and Highlights

Florida State 21, Virginia 13 -- Middle 2nd Quarter

 

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Can Bob Stoops Ever Get Oklahoma Back to Elite Status?

This was supposed to be a special year for Oklahoma. Coming off a Sugar Bowl rout of Alabama, the Sooners entered 2014 as a preseason Top Five fixture and a strong pick to make the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Well, the Sooners aren’t making the College Football Playoff. They aren’t winning the Big 12 championship. And after Saturday’s ugly 48-14 home loss to Baylor, it’s fair to wonder if they can even end the season on a high note.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has been one of college football’s best coaches, with a BCS national championship and eight Big 12 titles on his resume. But days like Saturday raise the question: Can he return the Sooners to their former position as a national power, or is it time for both sides to explore other options?

There’s plenty of reason for unrest in Norman. The Sooners have lost back-to-back home games for the first time in Stoops’ 16-year tenure, and Saturday marked the program’s worst home defeat since 1997’s 51-7 loss to Texas A&M. The Oklahoman beat writer Ryan Aber quotes Stoops:

Sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight has failed to live up to the potential he flashed in the Sugar Bowl with consistently uneven play. He left Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter immobilized on a stretcher following a hard sack, but was moving his arms and legs and waved to fans as he was carted off.

He missed star receiver Sterling Shepard (who sat Saturday with a groin injury) but hasn’t taken the next step in his development.

A defense that was expected to be nasty and tough hasn’t delivered, either. The Sooners are allowing an average of 31.5 points per game to Big 12 opponents.

Perhaps a change of scenery is in order for Stoops. Per Patrick Stevens of Syracuse.com, Stoops is the third longest-tenured head coach in the FBS. He’s 12 years behind Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, and with the impending retirement of Troy’s Larry Blakeney, he’d be No. 2 nationally (one day ahead of Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz).

This week, Yahoo Sports columnist Dan Wetzel suggested that Michigan, which will likely have an opening very soon, would be a perfect place for “a new challenge and a fresh start.”

NFL.com’s Bryan Fischer reported in September that it would be “feasible” for Stoops to pursue an NFL job with a successful 2014 season. Per NFL Network reporter Albert Breer:

Or can he turn it around in Norman? A core of young talent will remain after this season. Knight is only a sophomore. So are tailbacks Keith Ford and Alex Ross. Shepard is a junior. So is standout linebacker Eric Striker (although he could test the NFL waters following this season). Ball-hawking cornerback Zack Sanchez is only a sophomore. Per 247Sports, OU has the nation's current No. 21 recruiting class, with five 4-star commitments. 

That young talent could help alleviate the current unrest in the Sooners' fanbase. The Oklahoman beat writer Jason Kersey noted Sanchez's reaction:

And don’t forget, transfer wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham would be eligible next season (assuming he doesn’t declare for the NFL draft).

Changes and improvements must be made for the Sooners to return to their former glory. But the potential certainly remains, if Stoops is interested in sticking it out and moving forward.

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