NCAA Football

Washington Huskies Quarterback Cyler Miles Gets Destroyed on Scramble

Washington Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles saw green ahead of him and decided to scramble. He picked up a few yards on this fourth-quarter play, but the UCLA defense made him pay dearly.

Cyler Miles got wrecked https://t.co/ehkveAjaKm

— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) November 9, 2014

[Twitter]

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Virginia vs. Florida State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Seminoles

No. 2 Florida State University (9-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) is still looking for a dominant performance despite another win, which came against the University of Virginia (4-6, 2-4) Saturday night.

FSU struggled on offense in both the passing and running games, and its secondary was uncharacteristically porous against the Cavaliers. But the run defense was masterful in the win at Doak Campbell Stadium, and that made all the difference.

Let’s take a look at the Seminoles’ grades for Saturday’s 34-20 triumph over UVA.

 

Pass Offense

Jameis Winston can’t do everything. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner put up pedestrian numbers against Virginia. He went 22-of-35 for 261 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. But his lackluster performance is more on the offensive line than anything else.

From whistle to whistle, Winston was under pressure and frequently knocked on his back. He never had much time to throw the football. The offensive line—which is still suffering from issues associated with the loss of Austin Barron at center, and the fact that his replacement, Ryan Hoefeld, is not very good right now—was a huge liability Saturday night. The Seminoles are lucky that Winston emerged from this game in one piece—and with yet another victory.

After some early drops, Jesus "Bobo" Wilson stepped up and grabbed a handful of catches in the third quarter to help accompany Rashad Greene’s career-high 13 catches. Nick O’Leary was held without a catch, and only four players actually hauled in passes.

This was a down night for one of the best passing attacks in the country, which gets a “C” grade. This group is so much better than how it played against the Cavaliers.

 

Run Offense

Nine days after a very strong game on the ground against the University of Louisville, FSU struggled to establish anything in the run game against Virginia. The Seminoles finished with 115 yards on 39 carries for a paltry 2.9 yards-per-carry average.

Karlos Williams had some nice carries and racked up 70 yards, but it took him 21 carries to do so. Williams added two touchdown runs, though. Dalvin Cook ran 11 times for 36 yards and left the game in the second half with a leg injury.

FSU looked more like the struggling running team from earlier in the season in this one. The Seminoles just could not consistently move the football between the tackles. For that, the ‘Noles get a similar grade to what they received at that time: a “C” for run offense.

 

Pass Defense

Florida State’s pass rush was terrific against the Cavs; its defense against the pass in the secondary was not.

Virginia had allowed eight sacks all season. But against FSU, the Cavs allowed four sacks alone. Eddie Goldman was a beast, and Mario Edwards Jr. was an absolute monster in this one. The Cavs were held to 220 yards passing, but Greyson Lambert tossed three touchdown passes, and his one interception was on a terrible decision that Terrance Smith easily plucked out of the air for the Seminoles.

If the grade was just for the pass rush, an “A” would be in order. But because the secondary struggled (Ronald Darby will have nightmares about the should-be pick-six he dropped late in the fourth quarter), the pass defense gets a “B” for the night.

 

Run Defense

The difference on Saturday was FSU’s ability to stuff the run and force a mediocre quarterback into leading the offense through the air. 

The Seminoles get an “A+” for run defense because they were simply dominant. The Cavaliers were held to 37 yards on 32 carries for a crazy-low average of 1.2 yards per carry. Virginia could not run the ball on Goldman, Edwards and Derrick Mitchell Jr.

This was one of the best performances—if not the best—of the year for FSU’s run defense.

 

Special Teams

Roberto Aguayo nailed two important field goals, and Cason Beatty, who has been much more consistent this season, had a stellar game for the special teams unit.

Beatty reeled off a career-long 68-yard punt in this game, and he finished with a per-punt average of 48.5.

Together, that’s an “A” in my book.

 

Coaching

Jimbo Fisher and his staff get a “B” for this one. This was an average game all-around for the defending national champions.

There is a lot to work on and improve before the Seminoles travel to an upstart University of Miami team that looks a lot more threatening now than it did earlier in the season. But Fisher and Co. are still undefeated and riding a 25-game winning streak. You can’t grade them too low.

 

Brandon Mellor is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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Washington Huskies' John Ross Returns Kickoff 100 Yards for Touchdown vs. UCLA

After the UCLA Bruins scored a touchdown in the third quarter of Saturday's game, the Washington Huskies found themselves in a 38-13 hole. They needed some magic to get back into it, and fast.

Sophomore wide receiver John Ross was up to the task.

Ross caught UCLA's kickoff just inside his end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-20.

Ross made multiple cuts before breaking it open around the Huskies' own 20-yard line, giving his team some much-needed energy in addition to the points.

[SnappyTV]

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Former UNC Football Player Michael McAdoo Suing School over Quality of Education

Many critics who are against the idea of paying collegiate athletes argue that athletes are compensated with an education and a degree. However, former University of North Carolina defensive lineman Michael McAdoo doesn't think that's enough—at least following the recent scandal involving the Tar Heels.

Tom Foreman Jr. of the Associated Press reported that McAdoo sued the school at a United States District Court in Charlotte, N.C.:

McAdoo's lawsuit says that he was guaranteed a good education while being recruited by football coaches, but was ultimately guided to consider three options, one of which was African-American Studies — the curriculum that formed the basis for the long-running academic scandal.

"We're not out to vilify UNC. We're trying to restore the student-athlete principle that UNC's really been for so long in the forefront of," said Jeremi Duru, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing McAdoo who also teaches law at American University.

"The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became aware yesterday of the lawsuit filed by former student Michael McAdoo," said Rick White, UNC's associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon. "The University will reserve further comment until we've had the opportunity to [fully] review the claims."

This comes after a damning report commissioned by the school revealed how North Carolina was failing to properly educate its student-athletes.

"The report laid bare North Carolina's abdication of academic integrity in order to serve up easy grades that kept athletes eligible and on track to graduate," Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde wrote. According to Forde, over a thousand student-athletes received grades they didn't earn.

Dave Zirin felt the scandal was an indictment of the college athletics model:

Depending on the outcome of McAdoo's lawsuit, schools—particularly North Carolina—could be flooded with litigation regarding the quality of education afforded to student-athletes. In addition, the NCAA itself could come under further scrutiny.

The wave of momentum behind paying college athletes looks almost unstoppable, and McAdoo may have provided more ammunition for its proponents.

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Auburn Football: How the Tigers Can Still Make Playoff After Loss to Texas A&M

AUBURN, Ala. — You can't completely count out the Auburn Tigers.

The college football world saw that in the second half of Saturday's game between No. 3 Auburn and unranked Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Despite being down by 18 at the half to a team that had all the momentum in thanks to its offense and special teams, Auburn rallied in the second half to be down by just three points in the red zone—on two separate late-game situations.

"I am proud of our guys," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "We fought back. We got in a hole early. Obviously the fumble at the end was big...I thought the defense at the first part of the game, (Texas A&M) was getting quite a few yards, and then in the second half we held them to two field goals."

But Auburn's offense literally fumbled away both of those chances at victory, and a 41-38 heartbreaker to Texas A&M puts the Tigers on the outside looking in when it comes to the SEC and national-title pictures.

There is no sugar-coating Auburn's failed comeback bid against the Aggies, a team that had lost three straight SEC games, including a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Alabama. With the obvious exception of Samford, Saturday's defeat was the worst loss Auburn had left on the schedule.

However, Auburn still has two road games left against fellow SEC powerhouses Georgia and Alabama—games where the Tigers could be more than just spoilers.

It is going to take a lot of improvement and a lot of insanity.

 

Improvement

Auburn suffered from problems old and new Saturday night against Texas A&M and dearly paid for it when Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen went for the final kneel-down.

The all-too-familiar slow start put the Tigers in a 14-0 hole with only two minutes and a few seconds off the clock in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Allen, who struggled against Sun Belt opponent UL-Monroe in his first career start last Saturday, put together a better performance in just two quick drives against Auburn, as the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's Ryan Black noted on Twitter:

The Auburn defense couldn't keep up with the Aggies' pass-heavy spread attack in the opening half, continuing a theme from the last three games of the Tigers' 2014 season.

Although the errors attributed to miscommunication and poor adjustments started to dwindle down after halftime, the Tigers defense was still frustrated with the hole it made for the entire team.

"We just didn't play to our potential," junior linebacker Cassanova McKinzy said. "We came out real slow...and we can't come out real slow."

While the execution was sloppy for Auburn's defense early in the game, it was even more deadly for Auburn's offense late in the game.

The Tigers plugged away at the deficit throughout the second half to make it a one-possession game with under eight minutes left, but a fumble by senior running back Cameron Artis-Payne and quarterback Nick Marshall ended Auburn's drive at the Texas A&M 2-yard line.

"It was a poor exchange on my and Nick's part," said Artis-Payne, who overcame another early fumble to post a career-high 221 rushing yards. "It's something that never really happens. It was one of those things that were uncharacteristic of us."

Auburn got the ball back after another stop from a rebounding defense, but a Malzahn offense that thrives on efficiency had its most uncharacteristic slip on its final offensive play with a poor snap from senior center Reese Dismukes.

"We were trying to check a play right there which we have done many times," Malzahn said. "There was just a little bit of miscommunication there."

With Auburn facing a Georgia team coming off a 63-point performance at Kentucky and an Alabama team that—at this exact moment—controls its own destiny in the SEC West race, Auburn must see plenty of improvement from its defense.

"Half of it was that they were making plays and we weren't, and the other half was miscommunication," junior cornerback Jonathan Jones said. "We'll get back to it, get it corrected and move forward."

And although the Auburn offense continued to put up big numbers Saturday night, Marshall and his teammates need to cut down on the late-game errors that hurt against both Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

"We're going to clean up the stuff we can, learn from this loss and move forward as a better team," Artis-Payne said.

 

Insanity

Even if Auburn straightens its issues out on both sides of the ball and manages to pull off back-to-back road wins against its two biggest rivals, it most likely won't be enough to get into the playoff hunt.

A two-loss team will need the boost from a conference championship, and the Tigers will have to emerge victorious in a three-way tie in the SEC West. 

No. 1 Mississippi State still has two big road games of its own left against Alabama and Ole Miss, and Alabama would need to stay at one loss heading into the Iron Bowl.

Each team would have two losses in the West, with one win and one loss to each other. Alabama and Mississippi State would have a loss to Ole Miss, which Auburn defeated last weekend in Oxford.

That road victory against a two-loss team outside of the tie, according to 2.C of the SEC's Divisional Tie-Breaker Rules, would make Auburn the SEC West representative in Atlanta.

From there, the Tigers would need to continue winning out with a successful defense of its conference title and hope the College Football Playoff committee would take a two-loss champion from the nation's toughest conference.

It seems crazy to even suggest, especially right after a loss to an unranked team, but the team that has done so much the last two seasons on improbable finishes can still find its way into the final four.

A lot has to happen for Auburn and for its fellow powerhouses, but it's not impossible.

"You can't get your head down in college football," Jones said. "I've seen crazier things happen, so we just have to remain optimistic and keep playing."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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Inconsistent Everett Golson Throws Notre Dame's Playoff Hopes Away

TEMPE, Ariz. — Notre Dame's playoff hopes disappeared Saturday afternoon, melting away in the desert sun as the Irish offense gift-wrapped 28 points to Arizona State in a 55-31 defeat. And while an injury-depleted defense struggled to keep the Sun Devils from moving the ball, it was Everett Golson and the Irish offense that lost the game, with Golson's five turnovers derailing their late comeback efforts. 

After opening the game with a 14-play drive, Golson short-circuited, giving the Sun Devils three touchdowns as fumbles and turnovers buried Notre Dame in a 31-point hole that even Golson couldn't climb out of. And while the quarterback fought back and had the Irish down just three points with six minutes to go, a second pick-six ended the Irish rally, eliminating Notre Dame from a College Football Playoff race that found itself shook up with Texas A&M beating Auburn Saturday afternoon.

While the Irish earned all sorts of points for not packing it in after falling behind 34-3 late in the second quarter, you'll excuse Brian Kelly for not accepting the consolation prize. 

"Great resolve, great character. These kids are as good a group of kids that I've coached," Kelly said after the game. "But if you're sloppy, this isn't rec ball. There aren't pats on the back for being great competitors. We're doing this to win. We didn't win the game, and it's because of the obvious circumstances in the game: five turnovers."

Those turnovers continued a stretch of football where Golson played more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than a Heisman candidate. For as brilliant as Golson was in the second half—his 13 completions for 296 yards would've been a nice day—there's no escaping the fumbles and interceptions that killed Notre Dame Saturday afternoon. 

So while Golson provided highlight-reel plays with his receiving corps, he also handed over a victory to Arizona State, with Todd Graham's attacking defense taking full advantage of Golson's generosity. That the Irish offensive line couldn't protect Golson, after drilling all week against blitz schemes that generated seven sacks, had Kelly scratching his head. 

"Everything that we practiced, everything that we saw last year, we saw this year," Kelly said. "Absolutely no changes in what they did. It was nothing that we saw out there, which makes it even more maddening and frustrating."

It's worth mentioning that the Irish beat Arizona State with Tommy Rees behind center last year. While the former Irish quarterback doesn't have a fraction of the athleticism that Golson possesses, he is capable of processing information rapidly, a critical skill in taking on a blitzing defense. Golson showed those moments of great talent—as his 446 passing yards tell us—but did so with five game-changing mistakes. 

That's 17 turnovers for Golson in the last five games. Mistakes that have turned the fortunes of Notre Dame from a potential dark-horse playoff contender to a team that needs its offense to right itself as it prepares for three more regular-season battles. 

When asked what else Kelly and the coaching staff can do to help Golson take better care of the football, the head coach beat a familiar drum. 

"We've been working with him. Sooner or later, he's got to take it on himself to take care of the football," Kelly said. "I don't know what else to do. We're at that point now where it hurt us in the game. He knows it.  He's going to walk in here and you're going to ask him the same questions. He doesn't want to turn the football over."

To his credit, Golson owned his mistakes. While two interceptions came on tips at the line of scrimmage and a third clanked out of the grasp of sure-handed receiver Corey Robinson, Golson put the blame on his own shoulders. 

"I think it's the competitor in me, sometimes just trying not to give up on the play," Golson said. "Like I said, burnt today. Just different calls, I had a lot of tipped balls, things like that. We just have to clean it up."

It's too late to turn this mess of a Saturday around, with the Irish now looking to finish the season with a more-than-respectable 10 wins. But in a game where most of the worries focused on a young defense trying to slow down the Sun Devils' up-tempo offense, it was Notre Dame's star who brought the Irish down. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Oregon vs. Utah: Live Blog and Highlights

Oregon 21, Utah 7 -- Late 2nd Quarter

A big Pac-12 clash takes place Saturday night, as the No. 4 Oregon Ducks travel to Salt Lake City to take on the upstart No. 17 Utah Utes. 

The game will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN. 

Odds Shark has the Ducks as a 9.5-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, at NCAA.com.

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Oregon vs. Utah: Live Blog and Highlights

Oregon 14, Utah 7 -- Mid 2nd Quarter A big Pac-12 clash takes place Saturday night, as the No. 4 Oregon Ducks travel to Salt Lake City to take on the upstart No. 17 Utah Utes...

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Texas A&M vs. Auburn: Game Grades, Analysis for Aggies and Tigers

In a wild contest, the Texas A&M Aggies upset the No. 3 Auburn Tigers by a score of 41-38. It was the first time home loss for Auburn since 2012. 

True freshman signal-caller Kyle Allen was spectacular for the Aggies. He finished the contest 19-of-29 for 277 yards and four touchdowns. He was superlative in terms of his poise and awareness in the pocket. 

Self-inflicted wounds—both in terms of penalties and turnovers—killed Auburn. From an offensive standpoint, it also appeared as if Gus Malzahn's team never fully revved up his high-octane offense to its full potential. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com. Check out first-half grades and final grades for both the Aggies and Tigers. Additional analysis for position units will also be addressed. 

Texas A&M Aggies Analysis

Passing Offense

Allen was incredibly effective in his first road start in SEC play. The Arizona native threw for 277 yards and four touchdowns. His accuracy on intermediate routes was very good. Outside of one poor throw in coverage—which resulted in an interception—he was flawless.

More than anything, he displayed tremendous poise and moxie for an 18-year-old. His future is bright. 

 

Pass Defense

Nick Marshall had a very efficient afternoon. Texas A&M did a nice job in the first half of keeping the Auburn wide receivers from getting behind the secondary. The injury to Duke Williams helped A&M's cause considerably. 

Two big passing plays to Ricardo Louis (39 yards) and Sammie Coates (52 yards) lowered the passing defense grade. A 31-yard touchdown to a wide-open Quan Bray also contributed to the overall grade. 

 

Rushing Offense

The Aggies put up a respectable 176 yards on the ground on only 35 carries. The offensive line was dominant at times, opening up gaping lanes for the Texas A&M running backs to run through. This ability on the ground was significant from the standpoint that it gave the Aggies balance on offense. 

In terms of protecting Allen, the freshman signal-caller was sacked only once. It was a great day up front for the offensive line. 

 

Run Defense

The unit gave up 364 yards. Normally, this would equate to an "F" for any defensive unit. However, the Aggies did get stops when they needed to. They also made multiple tackles-for-loss—namely in the first half when Marshall attempted zone-read plays. 

Of the three Auburn fumbles, two were opportunistically collected by defensive end Julien Obioha.

 

Special Teams

The field-goal block and return for a touchdown was a huge momentum shift. Instead of A&M going into halftime up eight, the return made it a 17-point game. Josh Lambo connected on two of his three field-goal attempts. The miss prevented A&M from receiving an "A" grade. 

 

Coaching

Credit Kevin Sumlin and his staff for getting his team ready to play. In the previous week, A&M struggled to defeat Louisiana-Monroe. As a 23.5-point underdog coming into this game, not many people gave his team a chance to remain competitive. 

In a word, the team battled all afternoon. He did a great job of getting Kyle Allen off to a great start early with quick, manageable throws. 

Defensively, the line got after Marshall at times with pressure. There were also some things to clean up from a schematic standpoint. However, this team made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores got an "A" for going on the road and getting a win versus one of the best teams in the country. 

Auburn Tigers Analysis

Passing Offense

The loss of Williams hindered Marshall's efforts to deliver the ball with more frequency. Williams is easily the most productive and consistent receiver on the team. However, Marshall was able to find three of his receivers down the field for big gains. 

On the night, Marshall went 15-of-21 for 219 yards and two touchdowns. 

 

Pass Defense

What an abysmal effort by the secondary. Allen carved up the defense repeatedly in the first half with intermediate throws over the heart of the field. Giving up four touchdowns to a freshman quarterback isn't great by any stretch of the imagination. 

Jermaine Whitehead did salvage some pride—as he read Allen's eyes and made a nice play on the ball for an interception. 

 

Rushing Offense

You can't fault Auburn's effort running the football. It piled up an eye-popping 364 yards and four touchdowns on 59 carries. Cameron Artis-Payne ran for a career-high 221 yards on 30 carries. He rushed with authority and virtually carried the offense in the first half.

However, an Artis-Payne fumble in the first quarter led to an A&M touchdown. The fumbled exchange on the zone read with Artis-Payne and Marshall at the Aggies 3-yard line with less than two minutes remaining was a monumental blow. It effectively lost the game for Auburn.  

 

Run Defense

There was a glaring absence of pressure on Allen. Auburn's front seven never made life difficult for the freshman signal-caller. In terms of stopping the run, the defensive line was blown off the ball consistently up front by the makeshift Texas A&M offensive front. 

The Aggies ran to the tune of 5.0 yards per carry. In total, the unit relinquished 176 yards on the ground. 

 

Special Teams

The blocked field-goal attempt at the end of the half was crippling. Not only did it result in a touchdown, but Texas A&M regained all of the momentum with the single play. 

Kicker Daniel Carlson connected on one of his two field-goal attempts. The miss ultimately was the difference in the contest. 

 

Coaching

Coaching lost the game for Auburn. 

Defensively, the secondary played as if it had never seen a slant before. A&M killed Auburn with crossing routes over the middle of the field. Conventional wisdom would suggest blitzing a freshman quarterback on the road early and often.

However, Auburn rarely brought pressure. This allowed Allen to sit in the pocket comfortably and get into a rhythm early. 

The offense also had some curious calls in the first half. Marshall rarely used his legs, and Auburn never seemed to push the tempo to its capabilities. It's a facet of the Tigers' game that makes them so hard to beat. 

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Unlucky 4th-Quarter Fumbles Likely Cost Auburn Tigers Shot at Playoff

Auburn had multiple opportunities late in its game against Texas A&M, but the Tigers let them all slip away. Two costly fumbles led to a huge loss and likely eliminated Auburn from the College Football Playoff. 

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder talks about the two plays that shook up the CFP.

Do you think Auburn can still make it to the CFP?

Watch the video let us know!

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Biggest Win in Program History Makes Arizona State True Playoff Contender

It's time to start taking Arizona State seriously.

We are past the point where its legitimacy can be denied.

The Sun Devils entered Week 11 ranked No. 9 in the College Football Playoff standings, but it never truly felt like they belonged at the grownup table—i.e., the discussion to make the national semifinal. But the way in which they beat No. 10 Notre Dame, a team that nearly beat No. 2 Florida State in Tallahassee, was not something a team at the kids table could have accomplished.

It was also their first win over a Top 10 team since 2002:

The Sun Devils forced five turnovers in the 55-31 victory, although a cynic might claim they were "given" more than "forced." Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson played poorly—no doubt—but ASU had seven sacks and wreaked havoc at every level.

It also engineered just enough offense to leave a positive impression on that side of the ball. The point total is obviously misleading (Notre Dame actually outgained ASU 487-412), but quarterback Taylor Kelly looked more comfortable in his third game back from a foot injury than he did in his previous two, completing 17 of 28 passes for 224 yards and scoring four total touchdowns.

"Nobody flinched," said Kelly of the mood when Notre Dame pulled within one score, 34-31, per Doug Haller of AZCentral Sports.

It's easy not to flinch when your quarterback's a redshirt senior.

Which isn't to say that things were perfect.

They weren't.

Arizona State didn't bury Notre Dame the way it should have, allowing the Irish to clamber back into the game. The defense was energetic and opportunistic, but too often it was also disorganized.

This, for example, was the coverage Notre Dame exploited to pull within three points midway through the fourth quarter:

The Jekyll-and-Hydeness of Arizona State is what makes it so difficult to count on. But it's also what makes it so fun.

And it might be what makes it so good.

The Sun Devils have survived the first 11 weeks with just one loss on their resume, which is all that matters moving forward. We know how low their basement is—does UCLA 62, Arizona State 27 ring a bell?—but we also know the height of their ceiling.

When they're playing as well as they played in the first half Saturday, they can hang with (and beat) just about anybody.

How many other teams can that be said about?

The only games left on ASU's schedule are at Oregon State (in a pretty glaring letdown spot) next week, home against Washington State and at No. 19 Arizona. That is not a waltz to an 11-1 season and Pac-12 South title, but neither is it exceptionally tough. On a subjective scale from 1-10, I would probably give it a six.

From there, all Arizona State would need is a win in the Pac-12 Championship Game, ostensibly over Oregon, to crash the CFP. Would it be favored in that game? No. And rightfully not. Oregon is the better, more consistent team. It has been that way all season.

But for 60 minutes? We've seen what Arizona State can do.

The Sun Devils needed a Hail Mary to beat USC earlier this season, a fluky result that has colored most peoples' perception of their playoff viability (this author included). But you know who else needed a Hail Mary to finish with one loss? The 2013 Auburn Tigers.

And that team came within 13 seconds of winning it all.

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham was a mentor to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, hiring Malzahn to run his offense at Tulsa in 2007 and 2008. His current offensive coordinator, Mike Norvell, is a Malzahn-esque evil genius who rarely gets out-schemed.

With athletes such as running back D.J. Foster and receiver Jaelen Strong playing at an All-Pac-12 level (if not better), Graham and Norvell have the weapons to parlay that scheme into success. They also have the quarterback, assuming Kelly reverts to last year's form.

Arizona State finishing 12-1, winning the Pac-12 and landing in the playoff sounds ludicrous on paper, but is it any more ludicrous than the run Auburn made last season? ASU entered the week No. 9 in the CFP standings, after all. That's precisely where Auburn entered Week 11 in the BCS standings last year.

This might not be the end of the similarities.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Biggest Win in Program History Makes Arizona State True Playoff Contender

It's time to start taking Arizona State seriously. We are past the point where its legitimacy can be denied. The Sun Devils entered Week 11 ranked No...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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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