NCAA Football

Arizona State vs. USC: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

The USC Trojans had the game locked up Saturday. The score was 34-25 with 3:02 left in the game. But the football gods punished Steve Sarkisian for his "play not to lose" style, ...

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

Another week, another bad loss for Michigan. 

Now at 2-4, the Wolverines must scramble for answers if they hope to even remotely compete with Penn State this Saturday in Ann Arbor. 

But back to this Saturday's last-minute heartbreaker versus Rutgers, who won 26-24 thanks in part to Kemoko Turay's blocked kick. 

Mismanaged and poorly executed third downs yet again played a part in coach Brady Hoke's demise. His stumble in Piscataway, New Jersey, only rekindles the increasingly popular "hot seat" talk. He's been in Ann Arbor for roughly three-and-a-half years, and progress seems further away now than it did when he accepted the job in 2011. 

Now on to the game grades, which are determined by a mixture of stats, frequency of opportunity and overall performance through the first six games of 2014. 

Get the official box score on NCAA.com. 

 

Pass Offense

What pass offense? Devin Gardner moved the ball better with his feet. Devin Funchess made a great catch in the fourth quarter that set up Matt Wile's ill-fated attempt, but that's the problem: His efforts have been few and far between, it seems. Too little, too late. 

The 6'5", 236-pound junior finished with five catches for 71 yards, an otherwise respectable night. But not for guys like Funchess—not in games like Saturday's. No touchdowns and rare red-zone action from the No. 1 throw shade on this grade. 

 

Pass Defense

There's a problem when an average quarterback looks like an All-American. That's not a knock on Gary Nova. He'd probably admit that he's had many highs and many lows. But Saturday night, he was unstoppable, throwing for 282 yards in the first half. 

He finished with 404 yards and three touchdowns. He also eclipsed 8,000 career yards. And (yes, there's more) he led the Scarlet Knights to one of their biggest triumphs in program history. 

Michigan corner Blake Countess wasn't even close to the old Blake Countess. He was beaten on three plays that resulted in touchdowns. Leonte Carroo was the main man entering the game; however, he wasn't targeted much after suffering a blow to the head from Jarrod Wilson in the first half. 

Nova averaged 17.5 yards per completion and provided a lot of fun for Andrew Turzilli and Janarion Grant, who were more than adequate in Carroo's stead. 

 

Run Offense

If Derrick Green continues running the way he did versus the Scarlet Knights, Team 135 may actually have something to work with on the ground. The sophomore running back impressed with a pair of 20-plus-yard runs. However, his stat column wasn't that impressive: 12 carries for 74 yards. 

If you watched the game, you know: Green was much, much better than his numbers suggest. 

Team 135 scored each of its three touchdowns on the ground, so that's a plus. It averaged 4.5 yards per tote, too. 

But De'Veon Smith struggled, bringing down the overall grade. If you count Gardner, well, maybe the night deserves slightly more credit from this grader. But not much more. 

 

Run Defense

Desmon Peoples was supposed to give Michigan problems. He didn't. Instead, he averaged 2.5 yards per touch (team average, too) and was a relative non-factor in his team's victory. Well, that may be unfair. He didn't put up big stats, hence the "non-factor" label, but he commanded attention. That could have opened up things for Nova and the rest of the offense. 

 

Special Teams

Will Hagerup has had difficulty. He kicks too long when his team needs a pooch and shanks it when the Wolverines need a booming kick to the next area code. 

Michigan held its own on both sides of the ball during kick- and punt-return duties. Dennis Norfleet remains due for a touchdown, but he averaged 19.6 yards per attempt Saturday night. That helps with field position. Given the state of their offense, the Wolverines need every yard they can get from Fleetwood. 

What about the real play? You know, the one that decided the game? Ahh, yes. Wile's potential game-winner. Well, just watch the Vine. That explains everything. 

 

Coaching

Michigan has played six games, which leads to this question: What exactly has been worked on during the past month-and-a-half? Other than offensive spurts and the sporadic tackle from the defense, the Wolverines were anything but polished against Rutgers. 

This team has shown severe lapses in fundamentals since Week 2's 31-0 loss to Notre Dame. 

 

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

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Trevor Knight's Poor Play a Cause for Concern in Oklahoma's Loss vs. TCU

Oklahoma's title aspirations took a shot to the stomach during its 37-33 loss to TCU. Although Trevor Knight has never displayed much accuracy during his career, but his inefficiency was put on full display on Saturday.

During a crushing defeat that will slide the Sooners down the rankings, the sophomore completed just 14 of 35 passes. His 309 passing yards on those few completions could not offset the two interceptions that made a mighty difference in this tight contest.

He got outplayed by rising star Trevone Boykin, who now has 10 passing touchdowns to two interceptions on the season, compared to Knight's five scores and picks apiece.

If not for Sterling Shepard, his day could have gotten much worse. He reeled in half of Knight's successful attempts for 215 yards and a 75-yard touchdown pass that saved Oklahoma's aerial assault from a much glimmer outlook.

Knight refuses to let one loss derail the Sooners' 2014 campaign, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

"This isn't the defining moment of our season. There's a lot of football left," Knight said. "Who knows what's down the road. It's early in the season, a one-loss team can still make it."

He's not wrong, as the amount of undefeated teams shrank drastically following an upset-filled Saturday. Should the Sooners defeat Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State en route to an 11-1 season, their championship hopes will remain well and alive.

Yet with such an erratic quarterback at the helm, it's hard to envision such a perfect stretch affording Knight and Co. no margin for error. Through five games, Knight is posting a ghastly 54.5 completion percentage, lower than his 59.0 percent clip from his freshman year. 

To properly gauge that mark, 71 FBS passers entered Saturday with a completion percentage of 60 or higher. Knight will have to labor to maintain a spot in the top 100.

That's not to say he ranks that lowly as a college quarterback, as his deep-play potency offsets some of his inconsistency. His 8.3 yards per attempt puts him on much better footing, yet that's a dangerous formula to sustain on a living basis.

Big plays are tougher to replicate given their tougher nature, so he can't count on escaping inaccuracy every week with long bombs. Eventually he must find a way to routinely move the chains on short strikes.

Knight is still a promising quarterback with a strong arm, but he's not steady enough to lead a premier club to glory. Not yet, at least.

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Nick Marshall vs. LSU: Stat Line, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall put on a brilliant dual-threat display in the No. 5 Tigers' dominant 41-7 victory over No. 15 LSU.

His ability to make scintillating runs and pass the ball efficiently put the game out of reach for LSU by halftime. 

Marshall averaged just 137 passing yards through his team's first four games, good enough for his team to go undefeated, but a sign that improvement would be necessary for the team to march through the gauntlet that is an SEC schedule.

He didn't light up the LSU secondary on Saturday, but his performance was an encouraging sign for the team's prospects moving forward.

"Nick played like one of the better quarterbacks in the entire country," said head coach Guz Malzahn, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).

The senior quarterback was locked in from the get-go in this contest. Marshall threaded a brilliant pass to wide receiver Sammie Coates for the team's first touchdown of the game, a 56-yard score that whipped the crowd into a frenzy that hardly dissipated throughout the game.

247sports.com's Justin Hokanson described the highlight-reel throw:

He put a brilliant move on an LSU defender to score on a seven-yard touchdown run just over three minutes later. Auburn Tigers provides a look at the play, via ESPN:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee described the sensational play:

Marshall was responsible for two more scores before the half. He lofted a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver C.J. Uzomah to open the second quarter, then broke through the middle of the LSU defense for a fantastic 29-yard touchdown run to make the score 31-7 in Auburn's favor at halftime. The Tigers' official Twitter account provides a look:

Sallee aptly described the way the play unfolded:

Marshall didn't have much to do in the second half but managed the game effectively and let the defense take care of LSU's lackluster rushing attack.

With Oklahoma, Alabama and Oregon all losing this week, Auburn takes front-runner status along with Florida State for one of the four College Football Playoff berths. The Tigers would probably like to see Marshall take better advantage of his considerable arm strength moving forward and ensure defenses have to respect the team both through the air and on the ground, but the dynamite rushing performances should do for now.

It's unlikely that they'll get through a schedule featuring the likes of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi State without a notch in the loss column, but this team will have a strong chance with Marshall playing well and taking care of the football.

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LSU vs. Auburn: Game Grades, Analysis for Auburn and LSU

Auburn continues to play great football as they dominated LSU 41-7. The final box score can be found here thanks to NCAA.com.

From offense, defense and special teams, Auburn played great football and showed no signs of slowing down despite a very tough schedule. As for LSU, it’s clear Les Miles has a lot of work to do in order to get back as a contender in the SEC West.

Here are some game grades and analysis for LSU and Auburn.

 

 

Passing Offense

Brandon Harris was supposed to give a spark for LSU, but he fell flat, as he completed only three of his 14 pass attempts for 58 yards. He was overthrowing his receivers and never looked comfortable in his first start. Anthony Jennings came in during the second half and fared a little better, completing five of 10 passes for 84 yards. But he was fighting an uphill battle because the Auburn defense put a ton of pressure on him.

 

Running Offense

The running game for LSU was OK, but it could have been better. LSU was facing a tough Auburn run defense, but they needed to run the ball better to take the pressure off Harris. The LSU offensive line could not contain the Auburn defensive line, and that led to the running backs for LSU not getting anything going all night long.

 

Passing Defense

It was not a good night for the LSU secondary, to say the least. The group gave up explosive plays, and they had no answer for Sammie Coates, who had 144 receiving yards and one touchdown. The secondary is a young group that needed help from the front seven in terms of getting pressure on the quarterback, which did not happen.

 

Running Defense

LSU had fits with stopping Texas A&M two weeks ago in terms of the run game, and it was no different with Auburn as they rushed for 294 yards. The defensive line and linebackers are talented, but they don’t have that leader who will rally the troops and pull everyone together when things are not going their way. Lamar Louis and Kwon Alexander had 15 total tackles, but they were getting the tackles when guys like Marshall and Artis-Payne already got to the second level of the defense.

 

Special Teams

This would have been a game when LSU could have used some big plays on special teams. Jamie Keehn had to punt eight times, and he was the only kicker who saw any action for LSU. The coverage teams were solid, and Trent Domingue did have two returns for 129 yards. But because of the lack of offensive and defensive production, the special teams also took a step back.

 

Coaching

While Gus Malzahn had his team prepared, the same can’t be said for Les Miles. Starting Harris on the road against Auburn was a gamble, and it failed. The coaching staff really did not make any adjustments after the first half, and their clock management—especially at the end of the first half—was questionable. In order for LSU to not fall down in the standings, the coaches have to prepare the players better for a tough SEC schedule.

 

Passing Offense

We always talk about Auburn’s running game, but they are very dangerous through the air. Nick Marshall threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns, while backup Jeremy Johnson threw for 61 yards and completed all three of his passes. Both quarterbacks made great decisions, and the offensive line gave them plenty of time to sit in the pocket and pick the LSU defense apart.

 

Running Offense

Auburn did not shy away from the run game, tallying 294 yards on the ground. Marshall had 119 yards and two touchdowns, while Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 126 yards. Because the passing attack was so good, Marshall and Artis-Payne ran at will, and the LSU defense was worn down in the second half.

 

Passing Defense

The Auburn defense was stout all game long, and it with shutting down Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings. Auburn allowed only 142 yards through the air because the secondary forced both LSU quarterbacks to make bad decisions and the defensive line never made either quarterback comfortable despite getting only one sack.

 

Running Defense

LSU was able to run for 138 yards, but it was almost empty yards because no running back had more than 42 yards. Led by Montravius Adams, the Auburn defensive line whipped the LSU offensive line, which led the run game for LSU to never get going. It was a big night for the Auburn defense and they should get a lot of credit for their production.

 

Special Teams

Daniel Carlson had a productive night as he punted three times and made two field goals. He always gave Auburn an opportunity to either make plays on defense or having the chance to score points. Quan Bray did not have any big returns, but it did not matter because the offense was so strong, they could score from anywhere on the field.

 

Coaching

Malzahn had a great game plan against LSU. He used a balanced attack of running and passing on offense, and LSU was always on its heels. But credit also has to go to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. The Auburn defense knew what LSU was going to run, and they completely shut them down. It was the best defensive game Auburn has played all season long, and it was because of the game plan of Johnson.

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Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 6

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott showed the world that he is not only one of the top QBs in the SEC, but he's one of the best players in the entire country. The performance he gave against Texas A&M makes him our Lexus Top Performer of Week 6.

Did Dak Prescott jump to the top of your Heisman board?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Texas Football: Losses Part of Growing Pains as Charlie Strong Changes Culture

The Texas Longhorns entered Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium in an unfamiliar situation Saturday: The Longhorns were more than a two-touchdown underdog to the Baylor Bears for the first time in program history.

Would the Longhorns be able to slow down the unstoppable train, otherwise known as the Bears offense? Could Texas find an offensive rhythm and put up points against Baylor's defense? Would the team shock the nation and continue down the undefeated path in conference play?

The answer to all of those questions was no.

The Longhorns defense forced Baylor to punt on the first three drives of the game, came up with a huge stop on 4th-and-goal at the one yard line and found a way to hold the almighty Baylor offense out of the end zone in the first half of the game.

At the end of the game, Texas held Baylor to 28 points, which is fewer than half of the number of points the Bears have averaged in 2014.

It sounds like the team was poised to pull an upset, right?

Wrong.

The Texas offense did little to gain momentum on the defense's performance. And little is putting it nicely.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and the offense could not get into a rhythm—at least in terms of scoring points. The Longhorns finally found the end zone with 2:42 left in the game.

The end result was a 28-7 home loss, which puts the Longhorns at 2-3 heading into the Red River Showdown against Oklahoma.

Adversity is almost guaranteed in the first season of any head coach. But head coach Charlie Strong hasn't only been faced with adversity; he has also had to deal with an awful hand to begin with.

If this was a Texas Hold 'Em poker game, Strong would be holding an off-suit seven, two before the flop.

Strong has dismissed nine players from his team for violating team rules. And a handful of those players could have helped the first-year head coach this season. But Strong has made it a point to change the culture at Texas, and the higher-ups have applauded his efforts.

On Friday, the Texas Board of Regents announced their full support of Strong, and the emphasis he has placed on delivering his five core values—honesty, treat women with respect, no drugs/weapons/stealing. A coach having the full support of the Texas Board of Regents in his first year, following a losing record shows the university has faith in Strong.

But it does not mean the team will win on the field. In fact, the schedule, in addition to the increased talent in the Big 12 does not do Strong any favors in his first season. 

The Longhorns have to bounce back from Saturday's loss to Baylor in time to face No. 4 Oklahoma. The Sooners are also coming off of a loss, but are in a much better situation than the Longhorns.

In other words, Strong has one week to get his team ready to face another Top-10 opponent in one of the most hostile environments in college football.

Can the Longhorns bounce back? Of course. But it is going to take a much better offensive performance from Texas to survive the Red River Showdown.

And Texas fans should not be expecting a win over Oklahoma after what the team, primarily the offense has shown in the first five games of the season.

The previous two Texas head coaches may not have had full support of the Texas Board of Regents, but they did win their first game against Oklahoma in their inaugural season coaching the Longhorns.

Unfortunately for Strong, that streak could absolutely be broken Oct. 11.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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Arizona State Beats USC 38-34 on Last-Second Hail Mary

For the second time this season, a Pac-12 matchup was decided on a final-second Hail Mary touchdown pass. 

This time, it was Arizona State coming out on top of USC, 38-34. 

ASU quarterback Mike Bercovici heaved the ball toward the end zone, but it was wide receiver Jalen Strong who did the work. 

Strong, who finished with 10 catches for 202 yards and three TDs, was allowed to walk into the end zone on the final play. 

As you might have expected, the Trojan faithful were stunned.  

It turned out to be USC's fatal mistake, as the one man they needed to stop was the one who scored the deciding touchdown. 

College football. You've got to love it! 

[Vine]

 

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Arizona State Upsets No. 16 USC With Last-Second Hail Mary

When Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly returns from injury, he might not have a starting job. Backup QB Mike Bercovici hit wideout Jaelen Strong with a 46-yard touchdown pass as time expired to upset the No. 16 USC Trojans 38-34 Saturday in The Coliseum.

Between that finish and Arizona's last-second victory over California earlier in the year, Grantland's Matt Hinton thinks the state should officially recognize the Hail Mary:

USC fans were beside themselves with shock, per Sports on Earth's Matt Brown:

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer linked out to the ASU radio call of the final play, and if you're going to listen to it, make sure the volume is low in your headphones:

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham had some fun in the post-game press conference, per Greg Beacham of The Associated Press:

Bercovici was still clueless as to how it all happened, per DevilsDigest.com:

On the other sideline, the emotions were more raw.

Lindsey Thiry of the Los Angeles Times heard more than a few expletives on the Trojans sideline:

A few USC players admitted after the game that the coaches weren't clear with the play the defense ran to end the game, leading to Strong's improbable catch:

Bercovici finished with 510 yards passing and five touchdowns on 27-for-45 passing. He refused to relinquish the game ball after the victory, per Doug Haller of AZCentral.com:

Strong also had a fantastic game, catching 10 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. The Sun Devils won despite rushing for only 30 yards as a team.

It was quite the rebound win for ASU after it was throttled 62-27 by UCLA last Thursday. The team's hopes of winning the Pac-12 South division remain alive, albeit very faintly.

The Sun Devils play the No. 14 Stanford Cardinal in two weeks. That game will go a long way toward setting Arizona State's conference ceiling.

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LSU Will Not Win with This Defense No Matter Who Plays Quarterback

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn's evisceration of LSU's defense was NSFW. 

The Bayou Bengals were outclassed and overmatched in a 41-7 defeat. The defense showed little resistance as Malzahn's offense raked in 566 yards, 298 of which were on the ground.

The Tigers from the Plains have arguably the best offense in college football. But the defensive resolve of LSU and Malzahn's stranglehold of the football game was embarrassing for Les Miles

The spotlight will shine brightly on LSU's inept offense. The hyped debut of freshman Brandon Harris against Auburn was forgettable. Harris suffered an ankle sprain, per Tiger Rag's Robert Stewart, and was eventually replaced by Anthony Jennings, who didn't fare much better. 

LSU has no clue what to do at quarterback. 

Nevertheless, the Tigers were expected to have growing pains on offense with their young skill position players. It was the defense that was supposed to carry the team. Instead, the Tigers are a walking punching bag in the SEC West. 

The laundry list of mistakes the LSU defense has made consistently this season is plentiful.

LSU misses tackles. LSU gets crushed in the trenches. LSU can't get off blocks. LSU loses 50-50 balls to receivers. LSU drops interceptions. LSU gets no pass rush. LSU loses contain on the edge. LSU wears down quickly. LSU doesn't force turnovers. 

But there is hope for next week. 

The Tigers will travel to Gainesville next week to play Florida, which has one of the worst offenses in the country. The Gators will likely give freshman Treon Harris his first career start against the Tigers. There is no excuse for defensive coordinator John Chavis to not have his unit ready to dominate the game.

Nevertheless, the big picture for Miles looks ominous. The Tigers still have to play Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas A&M, all of which have potent offenses. LSU will not win a game in the SEC West unless the defense improves. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.

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Week of Upsets Turns College Football Upside Down: Who Is No. 1?

It was advertised as must-see, the first meaningful—and potentially impactful—week of the youthful college football season. Although often times these instances provide more sizzle than steak, Week 6 was a glaring, glorious exception. 

Take that AP Top 25 Poll from last week and toss it in the nearest wastebasket or fireplace. It will do you no good now. Not after No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 all fell this past week, doing so in a variety of different ways.

It began with No. 2 Oregon on Thursday night. The Ducks, even as more than a three-touchdown favorite coming off a bye and playing at home, were unable to hold off Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats. 

Texas A&M, the nation’s No. 6 team heading into Week 6, fell to Mississippi State in Starkville, albeit as a slight underdog. And to ensure that the entire state of Mississippi had something to celebrate, Ole Miss took out Alabama—the No. 3 team—prompting a field takeover for the ages.

To cap it off, just as the chaos of Oxford was setting in, TCU took out No. 4 Oklahoma following a blitz of touchdowns and turnovers. 

The result is pure, unaltered chaos and the first major shakeup of a season that still has so much more to give. Given the scenario, it also makes the search for the nation’s No. 1 team a taxing task.

As for the unbeaten contenders worthy of consideration, let’s explore the options.

 

Florida State 

Until further notice, this is the No. 1 team. Florida State has acquired that label, and it didn't change on Saturday. Now, despite the label, the Seminoles haven’t looked the part of the nation’s top team for much of this season, although one of the alternatives to winning ugly is losing outright. (See: Above.) 

Florida State started slow once again against Wake Forest—one of the country's most anemic offenses—but quickly pulled away after some initial struggles. The defense played its best game, albeit against a unit it should look good against, and the offense eventually picked up the pace.

But Jameis Winston, at least by the absurd standards he set last year, has struggled. The offensive line has had issues. The defense, at times, has looked vulnerable.

And yet, Florida State still has more overall talent than just about any other team. It simply comes down to putting it together. More importantly, it comes down to staying unbeaten and the Seminoles have managed to do just that.

Until that changes, regardless of the style points attached, Florida State isn’t going anywhere.

 

Auburn 

It’s no longer just a really fast, talented offense. The Auburn defense has taken enormous strides in 2014, something that was evident in an ugly win against Kansas State earlier this year and on Saturday in a blowout win against LSU. 

The Tigers, having put it in cruise control for much of the season, showed off their next level against Les Miles’ youth-infused group on Saturday night.

Quarterback Nick Marshall showed the full range of skills that make him (and this team) dangerous. With multiple touchdowns passing and rushing on Saturday, Marshall showcased his advanced versatility that will continue to keep defenses honest. He also has a lovely buffet of weapons around him.

If Marshall’s defense can come close to matching the production it has delivered early on, this team will be incredibly difficult to beat.

With many meaningful conference games on the horizon—including an enormous tussle against Mississippi State next week—Auburn will have ample opportunities to validate its inclusion in this discussion. 

Speaking of…

 

Mississippi State 

It’s time to start viewing Mississippi State as more than just a good story. And really, this conversation should have started before Week 6. 

Following its dominating 48-31 victory over Texas A&M—and it wasn’t even that close—the Bulldogs have thrown their name in the ring when it comes to consideration for the top team in the country. 

We don’t hand out October Heismans, thankfully, but you could make the argument that quarterback Dak Prescott would be your winner if the award was handed out today. That’s a fancy way of highlighting his incredible production, and his five-touchdown game against A&M was an extension of what he’s done all season.

Add in running back Josh Robinson—maybe the nation’s most underrated back—and offensively this group has been sensational. With the defense playing the way it is, particularly up front, it’s hard to find any glaring holes with this roster.

With Auburn on deck, the celebration will be short. The Bulldogs, no longer content with a “nice” season, are on the verge of something far greater.

 

Ole Miss

When you beat Alabama, you get noticed. That’s not the only reason why Ole Miss warrants your consideration as the nation’s top team, although it’s a fabulous place to start.

The Rebels’ 23-17 victory over the Crimson Tide was a good synopsis of what they’ve done all year. The defense might be the best in the country, or at the very least, one of the most athletic.

The offense, led by quarterback Bo Wallace, hasn’t been embraced quite the same way. After Wallace threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes on Saturday, however, that might change. Still, the reputation surrounding his inconsistent play will continue, even if he’s tired of hearing it.

Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace on the "good Bo, bad Bo" talk: "I think it's the most annoying thing ever."

— Riley Blevins (@Riley_Blevins) October 5, 2014

Like its in-state rival, Ole Miss won’t have to wait long to back up this talk. Hugh Freeze’s team will visit a hungry Texas A&M next week, as the SEC West gauntlet continues.

We’ve been waiting for Freeze’s recruiting success to develop into something more. With no ceiling in sight yet, it would appear that this time is now.

Other Teams to Consider 

Baylor: The offense was stagnant for much of the first half against Texas, although the defense stepped up and has been better than anticipated. With Oklahoma’s loss, Baylor is suddenly the favorite in the Big 12. There’s plenty of work to be done—including a road game against the Sooners along with a lively and alive TCU squad—although the Bears have done more than simply survive. 

Notre Dame: At this point, perhaps it’s a stretch to anoint the Irish as the nation’s top team. And yet, Notre Dame’s victory against Stanford in brutal conditions highlighted the various ways this team can win. It’s so much more than quarterback Everett Golson; this defense has played fabulously thus far. 

An Array of One-Loss Teams: We’re breaking the rules here, but it’s important we do so. Look at your calendar. It is early October. So much can and will happen over the next few months, which is something this sport has taught you time and time again.

A loss isn’t the end of the world, especially with the debut of a four-team playoff. While it can be an enormous, telling setback, the beauty of it all is the finish line is still nowhere in sight.

 

The Verdict

Given the limited sample size that suddenly seems exponentially larger, give me Auburn as the nation’s No. 1 team after six weeks of college football. 

The programs listed above—as well as others not mentioned—could all make strong cases as the top team in the country. With Auburn becoming more balanced each week, however, I’ll give the Tigers a slight edge at the moment.

But, as chaos looms, we’ll see how long this lasts.

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Shakeup Saturday: College Football Playoff Projections After Week 6

After a wild Week 6 that saw three of the top four college football teams fall, you can be sure that the landscape to grab a spot in the final four is in serious flux. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer breaks down the ever-evolving College Football Playoff picture.

Who is in your top four?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace's Incredible Rise from Arkansas State to Top of SEC

What if I told you that the story of Ole Miss' monumental upset of Alabama began 150 miles from Oxford, Mississippi, in Jonesboro, Arkansas. 

It was there, at Arkansas State, in the town of 71,551, where then-Red Wolves offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze and redshirt quarterback Bo Wallace first began their football relationship in 2010.

After a few detours—Wallace to East Mississippi Community College—the two reunited at Ole Miss in 2012.

In one of his first acts as Ole Miss head coach, Freeze signed Wallace—who had just led EMCC to a junior college national championship—to run his hurry-up, no-huddle offense. 

"He needed to mature," Freeze told AL.com regarding Wallace's decision to go the junior college route. "He needed to grow up, like a lot of us do when we get out of high school."

In his his first two seasons in Oxford, Wallace was good—but not remarkable—throwing for 40 touchdowns and 27 interceptions while fighting shoulder injuries during both seasons. His wild inconsistencies earned Wallace the nickname "Dr. Bo" in the Internet world.

"Good Bo" showed up on Saturday in Oxford, completing 18 of 31 passes for 251 yards, three touchdowns and—most importantly—zero interceptions in a 23-17 win over No. 3 Alabama.

"Sometimes these kids take way more criticism than they deserve," Freeze said in quotes emailed by Ole Miss. "I don’t know that they get the equal treatment on the other side of it. In the second half, he made some big-time plays. He just played so solid. On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us."

The win not only made Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0 SEC) a legitimate player in the SEC for the first time since the Manning years but also a contender in the national-championship picture.

That meteoric rise is something that surprises even Freeze.

"If someone would have told me my first spring that we got here that we'd win 15 games and two bowl games, inheriting a team that hadn't won an SEC game and won only two games the previous year, I'd have been thrilled," he told Bleacher Report this spring.

When he took control of the Ole Miss program, it was coming off a 2-10 season under former head coach Houston Nutt and was widely considered the doormat of the SEC West.

If Freeze thought he was ahead of schedule before this season, he better buckle up.

Things are about to speed up.

How did it get here?

Freeze talked about "it" during his introductory press conference (via OleMissSports.com):

Here very shortly when you walk into our offensive meeting room and you ask them what our "it" is, it will be to be a fundamentally efficient scoring machine. When you walk into our defensive room every one of them will say that "it" is to relentlessly pursue the football and to knock the ever-loving stink out of their opponents. That will be our "it".

Our special teams "it" will be to provide the winning edge. When you talk about recruiting our coaches will clearly understand that we are establishing dynamic relationships with everyone that is involved in our decision making process. We will win a championship. We have to win the state in recruiting and it will start with great coaches.

To the Rebel nation the "it" is really simple. We have to be united as one. I understand where things are. I told our team today that we understand that we are in the wilderness and we have to realize why we are here and how we are going to get out.

As Lars Anderson pointed out earlier in the week in his tremendous feature, recruiting played a big factor for Freeze and his staff. In three short recruiting cycles, the staff made Oxford a destination location not just for prospects in the state of Mississippi but for top-tier prospects around the country. 

He plucked 5-star defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche out of suburban Atlanta. Stud wide receiver Laquon Treadwell? He's from Illinois. Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil hails from Lake City, Florida.

Those are not exactly places Ole Miss is known for making recruiting waves. 

Add in a stifling "landshark" defense and special teams that swarm to the ball and force key turnovers—like the two against the Crimson Tide on Saturday—and Freeze has the recipe for success.

And this is not just short-term success; it's long-term success.

This is a team that Freeze recruited with short- and long-term goals in mind. The players from those classes, including Dr. Bo, Treadwell and Nkemdiche—who owned real estate in Alabama's backfield on Saturday—are all playing his way—the Ole Miss way.

This is not a team that's a flash in the pan or one-hit-wonder. The Rebels are in the national spotlight to stay, according to Treadwell (via Scout.com's Ben Garrett):

Ole Miss has been building to this moment for nearly three years, a moment when the eyes of the nation were on the program. That announcement occurred over a four-hour stretch at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday afternoon: "It" is here.

As CoachingSearch.com's Chris Vannini points out, Saturday's win will only help get the program to where Freeze wants it to be:

Scoring efficiency, hard-hitting defense, the winning edge on special teams and dynamic recruiting? Freeze has "it" figured out.

Because of "it," this program isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Well, except maybe to Atlanta in early December.

 

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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Everett Golson Will Lead Notre Dame to Playoff Berth in Bounce-Back Season

Two years ago, Notre Dame earned a spot in the BCS National Championship Game almost in spite of Everett Golson. Now that the senior quarterback has resurfaced as a vastly improved player, he is well equipped to lead the Fighting Irish to a College Football Playoff bid.

In his first game of the young 2014 season, Golson still saved the day late against No. 14 Stanford. With one minute left, he threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Ben Koyack to solidify a 17-14 victory. The big moment came with his back against the wall on 4th-and-long.

After sitting out all of 2013, a reinstated Golson has already exceeded 2012's 12-touchdown tally with 13 passing scores, producing at least two in all five games. Comparing his two seasons as Notre Dame's starting quarterback, it's no contest. This iteration of Golson kicks 2012 Golson's butt.

Head coach Brian Kelly noted his lofty progression on and off the field, per Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde:

He's grown exponentially as a person in terms of his maturity, his leadership, his ability to communicate on a day-to-day basis, take responsibility. I could go on and on. He's a man. Again, he had to go through some tough times to get to that point. As a football player, he's evolving. He's getting better. He can make plays, as you can see, out on the field. But he's got a ways to go, too. He'll tell you that. I love the fact he's a pretty good player right now and he's only going to get better.

After watching the first two games of the season, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville also marveled to Forde about the returning quarterback.

“Gosh almighty, he’s good, now,” Tuberville said. “He’s real good. I think he’s made the most improvement. He’s got the team on his back.”

Saturday marks the first of five games during which Golson failed to complete more than 60 percent of his passes. While he went a lousy 20-of-43 against Stanford, he gets a mulligan, and not just because of his late-game heroics.

Even after the loss, Stanford has allowed an FBS-low 8.6 points per contest. The Cardinal had yielded 296 passing yards all season, limiting their first four opponents to 3.7 yards per attempt and one touchdown through the air.

While Golson didn't enjoy the most accurate game, he moved the ball just enough to keep his team alive. With the Fighting Irish's defense, he'll rarely need a monster outing to come out ahead.

That's another reason to tout Notre Dame's ferocity with a capable quarterback. As usual, the defense is holding down the fort with aplomb. They've allowed 12.0 points and 254.6 total yards per game.

During their run to the BCS title game in 2012, Notre Dame didn't have the offense to keep up with a juggernaut like Alabama once the score inevitably climbed above the teens. This year, however, Golson gives the school a well-rounded offense that can hold its own in a shootout.

That will get put to the test two weeks from now against Florida State, who remains No. 1 at 5-0 despite showing blemishes along the way. Oklahoma State and North Carolina State both pushed the defense's limits in high-scoring affairs. The Seminoles survived because the offense always saved them.

They won't easily tally 40 points against Notre Dame's prestigious defense, putting the game in Golson's hands against a leaky FSU defense. If the Golson from the first five games shows up at Doak Campbell Stadium, they can seize the top ranking then and there.

A loss wouldn't crash Notre Dame's title hopes, as four teams entering Week 6 with a higher ranking than the No. 9 Fighting Irish suffered defeats. The new College Football Playoff has led the way to several more marquee matchups throughout the season, and the SEC will continue to beat up on each other.

There's a solid chance that at least one of the four playoff squads has a loss to its name. USC is the only other ranked opponent to come Notre Dame's way, so 11 or 12 wins isn't too tall of an order to fill.

A game manager/weak link two years ago, Golson is now a big reason to support Notre Dame's claim to a Top Five ranking this week. With his revival under center, the Fighting Irish are poised to snatch one of those four playoff bids.

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Gunner Kiel Injury: Updates on Cincinnati QB's Ribs and Return

Facing a 41-14 deficit to the Memphis Tigers in the fourth quarter, the Cincinnati Bearcats were already having a bad Saturday. Then, Gunner Kiel exited the game.

Ryan Koslen, Cincinnati's assistant athletic director, reported that Kiel suffered a chest injury:

The team later announced the quarterback would miss the rest of the game:

Before leaving, Kiel was 11-for-27 for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Through the first four games of 2014, the sophomore transfer from Notre Dame has been the Bearcats' most important offensive player. Entering the night, he was eighth in the nation in quarterback rating (185.8) with 1,041 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Since a comeback against the Tigers appeared very unlikely for Cincinnati, perhaps the Bearcats staff decided to remove Kiel as more of a precaution. The full extent of his injury will obviously be revealed after the game.

Cincinnati hits the road over the next two weeks, playing the Miami Hurricanes and following up with the SMU Mustangs. Winning those two games will be much more difficult if Kiel is missing.

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Melvin Gordon's Heisman-Worthy Play Won't Save Wisconsin's Season

Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon has carried the ball like a man possessed in the first half of the 2014 season, but his sensational output has done little to guarantee coherent play, let alone victories, for the Badgers.  

Gordon's sensational numbers seem to be almost wholly independent of Wisconsin's overall performance thus far in 2014. Of Wisconsin's most visible players this season, Gordon is the one most deserving of immunity from criticism.

Wisconsin's loss to a tough, but perhaps not elite, LSU team and its 14-point effort against Northwestern demonstrate it lacks the all-around skill to complement its star halfback's mighty individual performances.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman noted the Badgers' inability to muster a single point in the first half Saturday despite Gordon's heroics:

The Big Ten may have lost some of its luster in recent years, but the Badgers will be hard-pressed to salvage their season after two early losses.

Gordon's averaging 7.8 yards per carry and is one of the best big-play threats in college football despite the fact that nearly all of his yards from scrimmage come on the ground. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald even compared him to the late, great Walter Payton before the game.

"(Payton) had great vision and great balance — and you see that from Melvin," Fitzgerald said, via Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. "There are times guys have clear shots at him, and he has an unbelievable ability to make people miss. He can take the first hit and not break stride. And he gets stronger throughout the game."

Some critics may decry Gordon's inability to get involved in the passing game, but he's not the only potential pass-catcher suffering this season.

The Badgers' depressing quarterback situation is the main culprit for the lack of early success. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who played safety last season, has performed well below the expectations of a team looking to rule a power NCAA football conference. Indeed, the team ranks 115th in passing, per ESPN.com.

The team turned to quarterback Joel Stave against Northwestern, only to watch him toss three costly interceptions.

Austin Ward of ESPN.com feels the quarterback play takes away the joy of watching Gordon play: 

Outside of wide receiver Alex Erickson, there are no reliable receiving options on the squad. Erickson is the only Badger with double-digit receptions after five games.

It forces the Badgers to become one-dimensional on offense, turning to Gordon, sophomore back Corey Clement and McEvoy himself to move the ball on the ground time and time again. The predictability also prevents them from extending drives; the Badgers have converted just 39.1 percent of third downs through their first four games, per NCAA.com.

Wisconsin's defense has been terrific, giving up just 15.6 points per game thus far. If this unit can be faulted at all, it's that they don't force enough turnovers—seven through five games against largely inferior competition—to give their offense some much-needed extra opportunities with the football.

The team will also run into some formidable defenses in their remaining Big Ten schedule, which could prove to be disastrous if the Badgers want to keep a run at the conference title intact. Nebraska and Minnesota are giving up just 19 points per game, good for 22nd in the nation, while Iowa ranks 18th in the nation.

Iowa could indeed be the toughest matchup, as they are giving up just 2.93 yards per rush, via NCAA.com. If they bottle up Gordon, the Badgers offense has very little in the way of a plan B.

Two losses at this point in the season are a killer for team looking to stay afloat in the top 25, even with the litany of early upsets. The Badgers still have an outside shot to emerge as the top team in the Big Ten West, but they will have to overcome the aforementioned defensive-minded teams in order to escape the remainder of the season unscathed.

The Michigan State Spartans could very well join the Badgers with two marks in the loss column at some point, but their first loss came against No. 1 ranked Florida State and shouldn't reflect poorly on their status by the end of the season, regardless if the Seminoles slip up at any point in 2014.

Wisconsin will have a difficult run to finish out the season, and Gordon could very well be the only player garnering any high-profile hardware when all is said and done.

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Katy Perry Celebrates Ole Miss Win by Partying in Oxford

Katy Perry was in Oxford, Mississippi, as ESPN College GameDay's celebrity picker, and it looks like she's having a great time. 

Not only did she predict Ole Miss' 23-17 upset of Alabama, she gets to partake in the celebration. And like most of the young adults in Oxford, Perry pounded beers and got after it. 

Katy stormed the field. She's all Hotty Toddy! 



It might be safe to say Perry now has a few hundred thousand more fans.

[Twitter]

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Winners and Losers from Week 6 of College Football

Saturday of Week 6 is coming to a close, but the first week of October got off to a wild start long before ESPN's College GameDay went live in Oxford, Mississippi.

On Thursday, Arizona shook up the Pac-12 and national conversation by upsetting Oregon in Autzen Stadium. On Friday night, Utah State derailed BYU's hopes for an undefeated season.

That was just the beginning. 

Alabama fell to Ole Miss and Oklahoma was unable to survive a shootout with TCU. Arizona State beat USC on a Hail Mary and South Carolina lost to Kentucky. 

The college football world is chaos—and we couldn't be happier about it. According to ESPN, this is just the second time in AP Poll history that four of top six teams have lost in same week (h/t Yahoo Dr. Saturday). 

With that, we wish the College Football Playoff selection committee the best of luck in its future decisions. 

In the meantime, which teams and players came out as winners in Week 5? Which ones didn't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

Florida State Finding Its Rhythm as Other Elite Teams Fall

One by one they lost. No. 2 Oregon fell to Arizona on Thursday. And then, on upset Saturday, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas A&M were beaten.

Florida State, meanwhile, keeps on winning. It has often looked ugly, but the Seminoles are finding their rhythm and showing plenty of fight as the other elite teams have been knocked off.

"We still have a lot of issues that we have to get better at as a football team," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "But we're plugging along."

FSU saw itself drop to No. 2 in the coaches poll a week ago—behind Alabama—after the Seminoles fell behind North Carolina State 24-7, before rallying for a 56-41 win. The lack of style points was clearly a concern for voters.

A week later, voters have a completely different concern: Who is No. 2 after FSU?

The Seminoles, who were No. 1 in the AP poll last week, have not put together a complete, dominating performance against a Football Bowl Subdivision team, a game in which the offense and defense both played well. But the Seminoles can enjoy being 5-0 after Saturday's 43-3 win over Wake Forest and are again in the national-championship picture.

"Watching those games, them losing, we appreciate what we can do to come out and win the game," Williams said. "Even if we're down, we're going to come back and make some stops for our offense, and our offense steps up for us if we're not doing well.

"We appreciate the fight that we have to win games—even tight games."

Let's take a look at what has gone well, and what hasn't, through five games:

 

FSU's Strengths: The Glass is Half-Full

It depends on how you look at things. The Seminoles had to hold off Oklahoma State to win the opener, they needed overtime to edge Clemson and they rallied from a 24-7 deficit to beat North Carolina State.

The positive is that FSU won all of those games while overcoming a variety of obstacles.

FSU didn't have receiver Jesus "Bobo" Wilson in the opener and was replacing 10 starters. But a Nate Andrews interception return for a touchdown and Williams' forced fumble in the fourth quarter helped seal up a win over Oklahoma State.

Jameis Winston was suspended for the Clemson game, and backup quarterback Sean Maguire rebounded from a sloppy first half to throw for 304 yards and help FSU win in overtime.

FSU missed "30-something" tackles in the win over North Carolina State, safety Tyler Hunter admitted, but the Seminoles held the Wolfpack to 17 points in the last three quarters. And Winston had his best game of the year, throwing for 365 yards and three touchdowns, while Karlos Williams had three TD runs.

While Winston wasn't spectacular against Wake Forest, he completed 23 of 39 passes for 297 yards, a touchdown and an interception. That's not bad at all.

 

FSU's Weaknesses: Inconsistency in Every Game

The Seminoles remain wildly inconsistent, and it's hard to tell whether the offense or defense will carry the team on any given Saturday. The lack of a complete game is an indication that FSU could have a loss in its future.

Missing 30 tackles against N.C. State? FSU can't do that against teams such as Notre Dame or Louisville.

The running game struggles, where FSU had negative yards through four quarters in the win over Clemson? FSU simply can't be one-dimensional and expect to get by. While FSU was better on Saturday with 171 rushing yards against Wake Forest, the line play hasn't been consistent.

The wild card, of course, involves the injuries. A potential long-term injury to center Austin Barron will have an effect on the unit's chemistry. FSU has emerging stars at receiver, but the loss of Rashad Greene for any length of time will hurt the rhythm of the offense.

In 2013, FSU didn't experience a major injury. This year, the Seminoles are already dealing with the loss of defensive tackle Nile-Lawrence Stample for the season. If the list grows, will FSU have the depth to overcome those injuries?

 

The Road Ahead

FSU travels to Syracuse (2-3) next Saturday, a game that shouldn't present much of a challenge to the Seminoles. But then the road gets tougher, with Notre Dame coming to Tallahassee, Florida, on Oct. 18. And a tricky road date with Louisville follows on Oct. 30.

The Notre Dame-FSU game now looks more and more like it could be a Top Five showdown after the Fighting Irish defeated Stanford on Saturday. Against one of the nation's top defenses, Notre Dame struggled but was able to put together two scoring drives in the fourth quarter and win 17-14.

Notre Dame will be FSU's toughest challenge to date, and it remains to be seen if FSU will be shorthanded. 

FSU lost a number of players to injury on Saturday, including star receiver Rashad Greene (concussion) and starting center Austin Barron (arm). Fisher said Greene had a concussion and was throwing up but felt better after the game. Barron's arm may be fractured, Fisher said, and it appears he will miss significant playing time.

It's not clear if Greene, along with other injured players such as tailback Karlos Williams and defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell, will be back on the field.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report; all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Utah vs. UCLA: Live Scores and Highlights

Utah 30, UCLA 28; FINAL

Led by a herculean effort on the ground by Devontae Booker, the Utah Utes came into the Rose Bowl and stunned the UCLA Bruins by a score of 30-28. 

Booker had a scintillating game, in which he rushed for 156 yards on 33 carries. Kendal Thompson also played the majority of the contest as the signal-caller. He was a very efficient 10-of-13 for 95 yards. He also rushed for 83 yards on 19 carries. 

For UCLA, it's a massive disappointment. The team came out sluggish and simply couldn't protect Brett Hundley. The UCLA signal-caller was sacked 10 times on the night. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com

 

Bleacher Report appreciates you hanging with us tonight. Stick around for score updates, analysis, social media and much more! 

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