NCAA Football

Ohio State's Michael Thomas Makes TD Catch over Defender in Back of End Zone

With very little space in the back of the end zone and a Maryland defender interfering, Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas still managed to find a way to haul in a 25-yard touchdown on this play.

Thomas—the nephew of former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson—did a great job of going up to get the ball and getting his feet down in the end zone. He did all of that while having a defender, who was called for defensive pass interference on the play, all over him.

After review, the call on the field stood. The touchdown gave the Buckeyes a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter.

[Cork Gaines]

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Tennessee Fans Create Checkerboard Pattern at Neyland Stadium for Florida Game

The Tennessee Volunteers are hosting the Florida Gators on Saturday, and Neyland Stadium was ready for the big game.

The fans in the stands created Tennessee's iconic checkerboard pattern. As cool as "whiteouts" and "blackouts" are, this trumps them all.

[College GameDay]

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Texas A&M-Mississippi State Referee Forgets Where Camera Is, Gets Upset

Referees have a lot to keep track of during games, so every now and then, they may forget the simplest of things.

During the Texas A&M-Mississippi State game Saturday, referee Ken Williamson lost track of where the camera was. Once he realized his mistake, he wasn't too happy with himself.

Hopefully Williamson is able to shake off the embarrassing moment and stay focused throughout the rest of the big SEC showdown.

[Cork Gaines]

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Best Signs from ESPN's 'College GameDay' Week 6

ESPN's College GameDay made its way down to Oxford, Mississippi, this week. Given that its the first time the iconic show has made its way down to Ole Miss, the fans came ready to leave their marks with signs.

Rebels fans were hyped and ready for the show with the Alabama Crimson Tide coming to town. Below are some of the best signs the fans came up with for their first time on the big stage.

Some Ole Miss fans took a shot at former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's wife (note: It should be Katherine McCarron).

Here are the best of the rest:

[Twitter, Instagram; h/t USA Today's FTW]

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Ohio State vs. Maryland: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 38, Maryland 10 — Late 3rd quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 20 Ohio State (3-1) and Maryland (4-1). ABC is televising the matchup from College Park.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Texas A&M vs. Mississippi State: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies and No. 12 Mississippi State Bulldogs square off in an important Southeastern Conference battle on Saturday, Oct. 4.

West Division foes, the programs enter the day undefeated at 5-0 and 4-0, respectively, being led by two of the SEC's top quarterbacks in Kenny Hill and Dak Prescott.

A victory for either squad would assist in overcoming a brutal conference slate but a loss means meetings with Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss carry heightened ramifications.

ESPN will show the matchup, which is scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. ET. Bleacher Report will provide live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Final NCAA Overview of Week 6 Standings

Oregon already made its statement this week. It...wasn't great. Now we're hours away from Florida State's opportunity to avoid the same fate. 

The Seminoles are one of many teams heading into prove-it games in Week 6, though theirs comes much more from an expectation of dominance. Lowly Wake Forest makes a trip to Tallahassee later Saturday afternoon, counting only Gardner-Webb and Army among its two victories. The Demon Deacons have lost at UL Monroe and Utah State and were handily taken care of by Louisville last week despite some sloppiness.

More than anything, Florida State needs to use Wake Forest as a pulpit for re-establishing its dominance. The Seminoles have four straight wins; getting that done isn't the problem. But where their 2013 championship run was defined by weekly embarrassments, Jameis Winston and Co. have looked like they're in a title hangover.

After not allowing a team to come within two touchdowns during last regular season, the Seminoles have already allowed two teams to come within one. Their four games have featured a nail-biter against Oklahoma State, an overtime triumph sans Winston over Clemson and a 17-point comeback against N.C. State last week.

"We're still not playing the football we're capable of, which at times is frustrating," coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters. "But it's also very encouraging, because we're finding ways to win games and we are getting better."

The first team with arguably the most to gain this week, though, is third-ranked Alabama, which plays the game of the week at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium against Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide have settled into a new, offense-first groove under offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, scoring 42 points per game during their 4-0 start. Blake Sims has settled in to become arguably a more dynamic quarterback than A.J. McCarron ever was.

Sims has thrown for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 141 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He'll face his biggest test Saturday—an athletic, dominant Ole Miss front seven. Robert Nkemdiche is a mammoth human being in the middle, pushing the pile and allowing linebackers to eliminate run threats at the line of scrimmage.

The true calling card of the Ole Miss defense, though, has been its secondary. Opponents have thrown for a measly 534 yards through four games, compiling one touchdown against nine interceptions. The Rebels are third nationally in opponent scoring average and play with a physicality reminiscent of a vintage Alabama side. 

The winner of this game will deservedly challenge Florida State atop the rankings.

Alabama-Ole Miss is one of six games pitting two Top 25 opponents against each other, half of which come from the SEC. LSU looks to avoid starting its intraconference slate 0-2 when it visits fifth-ranked Auburn. Les Miles' team got back to its winning ways with a 63-7 thrashing of New Mexico State last week. A trip to Gainesville follows on Oct. 11, so it's at least theoretically possible the Tigers will face an 0-3 start.

Auburn had a scare two weeks ago against Kansas State but has been able to maintain its sunny disposition. Nick Marshall has thrown for 548 yards and six touchdowns and added 273 yards and two scores on the ground. The senior quarterback has been helped along by Cameron Artis-Payne, who takes the Tre Mason role for 2014.

Much like a year ago, the biggest question facing Auburn is whether it can get a stop. LSU has settled into a four-headed running back groove of its own led by freshman Leonard Fournette, and fellow youngster Brandon Harris has been stellar since taking over the starting quarterback job. It will be interesting to see how Harris handles his first major road test.

Also handling a major road test will be Texas A&M, which will try to earn its first 6-0 record in two decades against Mississippi State. The upstart Bulldogs have been the toast of the conference since taking down LSU and have found a star in quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott earned himself looks on Heisman watch lists by leading Mississippi State to its first win in Baton Rouge since 1991.

"I think Dak Prescott is the player that [Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen] has been wanting," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said, per Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com. "[He’s] the complete dual-threat quarterback to make this thing go." 

Saturday's game comes as the second in a string of possibly three straight contests against ranked opponents. Texas A&M is starting its own similar string, as a visit from Ole Miss and a trip to Tuscaloosa round out its October schedule. Such is life in the SEC West.

Outside the rigors of the nation's best conference, Notre Dame and Oklahoma each get their biggest test of the young season. The Sooners visits 25th-ranked TCU, a team that remembers how close it came to an upset last season. The Horned Frogs have allowed 21 total points while racking up nearly 45 points per game in wins over a trio of also-ran opponents. Minnesota is their only semi-legitimate opponent thus far.

Barring a collapse offensively—which, I guess is totally possible considering the source material—Oklahoma should win this game handily. 

More interesting will be Notre Dame's visit from Stanford, which should separate which "undefeated" Irish we're looking at. The ninth-ranked Golden Domers have gone on a cupcake mashing spree to start their season, with their toughest game coming against whoever the hell you think is the best of the Michigan, Purdue, Syracuse trio.

Everett Golson looks like a revelation, the defense looks like one of the nation's best and there really isn't much to complain about. Except the whole latent skepticism we've been conditioned to have any time Notre Dame goes soaring up the rankings. Outside of 2012, which itself was capped with an embarrassing loss, the Irish have an ugly habit of pulling out the rug just when people start to believe.

A home win against a shaky Stanford offense will go a long way toward proving the Irish belong in the national conversation. But given that the schedule is setting up for at least one major upset this weekend, I'm curious to see how this turns out.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Alabama vs. Ole Miss: Analyzing Biggest X-Factors in Clash of SEC Undefeateds

Alabama entered the season with the expectation that it would qualify for the College Football Playoff. It is certainly in position to do precisely that, but it will have to get past a fellow undefeated SEC team in order to keep those hopes alive.

The No. 3 Crimson Tide travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on the 4-0 Ole Miss Rebels Saturday in a game that will have huge implications on both the SEC and the national title scene as well. With No. 2 Oregon having already lost to Arizona this week, the door is wide open for both of these teams to establish themselves.

'Bama is predictably favored, but winning against a rival on the road is never easy, especially when that rival happens to be very good. Both teams obviously need their top stars to shine, but the emergence of some less-heralded players could also play a huge role in this game.

With SEC supremacy on the line, here are the three biggest X-factors to watch in Saturday's tilt between Alabama and Mississippi.

 

Robert Nkemdiche

With both the Alabama and Ole Miss offenses firing on all cylinders, it is understandable why much of the focus heading into this game has been on scoring. With that said, the Crimson Tide and Rebels also happen to have two of the nation's top defenses.

In fact, 'Bama and Ole Miss rank sixth and fourth, respectively, in total defense through four games. The sample size isn't huge, but it is big enough to suggest that these defensive units are very much for real.

The Tide have been elite defensively for years, but Mississippi is just coming into its own on that side of the ball. One of the main reasons for that is the presence of sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who is quickly developing into one of the best linemen in the country.

Nkemdiche's numbers are modest with one sack and one tackle for loss, but he commands attention that allows his teammates to run free. His raw physical skills are incredible, and they already have draft experts like Dane Brugler of CBS Sports salivating over his NFL potential:

Alabama will have to be cognizant of Nkemdiche throughout Saturday's game since he can disrupt both the passing and running games. Tide quarterback Blake Sims won't have a chance if Nkemdiche gets in his face, while the running back tandem of Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon may find it difficult to identify lanes as well.

If Nkemdiche wasn't dangerous enough in an ordinary game, he is clearly pumped about the atmosphere that will be present at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, according to David Brandt of The Associated Press (h/t SunHerald.com).

"It's going to be wild," Nkemdiche said. "Ole Miss has a great fan base. That's one reason I came here. Rebel Nation is going to be rocking and we're going to be locked in ready to go. I can't wait."

The Rebels need Nkemdiche to be a difference-maker in order to win this game. Even if he doesn't dominate statistically, he has to be a disruptive force. If he is able to do that, then Ole Miss has a legitimate chance to pull off the upset.

 

Kenyan Drake

Alabama's offense has been excellent this season despite losing key players such as quarterback A.J. McCarron. Sims has stepped in and played extremely well, but he has had plenty of help. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is a superstar, while the likes of Henry and Yeldon take a lot of the pressure off his shoulders.

One player who doesn't receive enough credit, though, is running back Kenyan Drake. As the third wheel in the running back trio, Drake often gets overshadowed. He makes his playing time count, though, with nearly 300 total yards and four touchdowns on just 26 touches.

Drake is among the most dynamic players in the country, which is something ESPN analyst Danny Kanell believes is evident even on the practice field:

Perhaps the best aspect of Drake's game is his ability to contribute as a pass-catcher. Drake has just four catches, but they have gone for 149 yards and two touchdowns. When Drake finds himself in space, it often proves nearly impossible to catch him and take him down.

Ole Miss has an aggressive defense, which is something that Sims and Drake can take advantage of. Swarming can be a great strategy, but it sometimes leads to overpursuing, which then leaves the defense susceptible to plays like screen passes.

Drake can change a game with one touch, and that is essentially the definition of an X-factor in college football.

 

Jaylen Walton

The Mississippi offense is largely predicated on the play of senior quarterback Bo Wallace. He is among the best signal-callers in the SEC and is averaging over 300 yards and nearly three touchdowns per game thus far. The Rebels can't afford to be one-dimensional on Saturday, though.

That means Ole Miss must commit to the running game and at least present the threat of the run to keep Alabama honest. That isn't something that the Rebels have done a ton of through four games. As seen in this graphic courtesy of StatMilk, offensive balance isn't necessarily Mississippi's strong suit:

The Rebels do have the ability to grind out yardage on the ground, however, with junior Jaylen Walton leading the way. Walton leads Ole Miss with 199 rushing yards and three touchdowns despite carrying the ball just 29 times. He is averaging nearly seven yards per carry, which suggests that head coach Hugh Freeze would be wise to get the ball in his hands a little more often.

In addition to that, Walton is embracing the awesome atmosphere that will be present in Oxford on Saturday afternoon:

Going up against a team like Alabama, it is entirely possible that Walton and the rest of Mississippi's backs are feeling somewhat disrespected. They can change that with a strong performance, and it could potentially lead to an upset victory as well.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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Purdue Boilermakers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Live Blog: In-Game Analysis

It's the battle for the "Cannon Trophy," as the Purdue Boilermakers will visit the Illinois Fighting Illini Saturday afternoon at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN 2. 

Both teams will be looking to notch their first Big Ten victory of the season after starting conference play with a loss. 

Illinois will receive a huge boost with the return of sophomore quarterback Wes Lunt. Lunt missed last week's 45-14 destruction at the hands of Nebraska due to a knee injury, but the talented QB will start against the Boilermakers. In just four games, Lunt has thrown for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Purdue will enter the contest with the worst scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging only 312 yards per game (113th in the NCAA). The Boilermakers have quarterback issues of their own. Danny Etling is in danger of losing his starting position to Austin Appleby after throwing for just 61 yards last week against Iowa. 

This matchup should be competitive and intense, as neither team wants to fall to 0-2 in the Big Ten. I will be posting updates throughout the game, as well as some keys leading up to kickoff at noon. Please join me!

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Bowl Predictions 2014: Latest Projections Before Saturday's Scheduled Action

The first few weeks of the 2014 college football regular season have been entertaining but none compare to the schedule of action and the potential bowl implications on tap for Week 5.

Fans of the sport have already started looking toward bowl season and the latest predictions and projections for which teams will make it to the top games. With a brand new playoff system in place, this will be a wild introduction to a college football postseason.

Here are the latest bowl predictions as college football fans prepare for Saturday’s action.

 

Predicting the Four Teams That’ll Make the Playoffs

The majority of college football fans hated the old BCS postseason format, and the NCAA has granted our wishes and instituted a four-team playoff system that will take effect this season.

While there is a ton of regular-season football left to be played before the new system begins, it’s always fun to speculate about which programs have a chance to be chosen for the inaugural postseason experience.

The first team that will likely make the playoffs is Florida State. As long as the program doesn’t go on a losing streak this season, the Seminoles will be chosen for one of the top four spots as the defending national champions.

Assuming the team makes it through its favorable schedule (one ranked opponent on the schedule for the remainder of 2014), FSU should be a clear-cut playoff contender and possibly even the No. 1 overall seed if the program goes unbeaten.

Another team looking to fight its way into the championship picture is the Alabama Crimson Tide. With one of the toughest schedules in college football, Alabama could easily be challenging for the top spot in the rankings if the team beats the likes of Ole Miss on Saturday and the four other ranked teams on the rest of the schedule.

If the Crimson Tide make the playoffs, the program will have earned it the hard way.

The battle for second- and third-seed in the postseason could become heated if the Oregon Ducks remain in the conversation as the best team in the country. The Ducks have remained unbeaten thus far but a meeting against UCLA coming up and a battle against Stanford later in the season could be trouble for the program.

If Oregon makes it past UCLA and Stanford and remains perfect in 2014, the stage will have been set for the Ducks to make the playoffs and be a legitimate contender. With a tough Pac-12 schedule, Oregon has the potential be the No. 1 seed if the other top programs falter this season.

One team not getting the mainstream attention it deserves is the Baylor Bears. With many of the SEC teams taking each other out during the course of the year, Baylor has the chance to run through the Big 12 and come out as the clear-cut fourth team in the college football playoffs.

Baylor is currently ranked seventh overall and has a very tough schedule. The Bears offense has been amazing in 2014 (first in the country with 56.8 points per game), and if the team can beat the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas State, Baylor will become an unlikely national championship contender.

All four of the aforementioned postseason contenders have very different styles. The two potential semifinals matchups would be unique experiences but neither would be able to hold a candle to the possibilities that could come out of the first championship game.

College football fans are part of a grand experiment this year. If the right four teams make the playoffs and the action lives up to the hype, this could be the most impactful change of the last 25 years in college sports.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com.

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LSU vs. Auburn: Predictions for Colossal SEC Matchup's Key Players

Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama, will be rocking Saturday night for one of the best tilts on the Week 6 college football slate.

In what will be the first of many daunting games for Auburn, the team plays host to LSU in one of the week's premier contests.

For the boys from Alabama, establishing themselves as a legitimate playoff and title contender as well as getting that grueling schedule of games started off with a win is vital.

The Tigers from Baton Rouge look to climb back up the rankings after they took a tumble following a loss at home to Mississippi State two weeks ago.

Who will step up for each team, and who will emerge from this one with a big signature win on its resume?

Here are predictions for the key players in Saturday's clash.

 

Nick Marshall, Auburn, QB

If the Auburn Tigers are to hold off the upset bid from LSU, they're going to need a big day from their dual-threat quarterback, Nick Marshall.

His ability on the ground makes him a tough player to game-plan for and stop. His passing, however, could still use some work, with his pass completion rate barely ranking in the top 100 of college football, per The Game radio show:

That number isn't a promising one, but when Marshall targets his top wideout—D'haquille Williams—he's much more efficient, per ESPN College Football:

If he makes smart decisions with the football, targets Williams more often and uses his ground game, Marshall is poised for a big week.

Keep in mind that he'll be playing the same defense that conceded 268 yards through the air and another 105 on the ground to Mississippi State pivot Dak Prescott.

Reaching triple digits in both rushing and passing isn't unfamiliar territory for Marshall either, per Auburn Football's twitter account:

Prediction: You have to like this matchup for Marshall. He can confuse some of the better defenses in college football, and this week, he's taking on a defensive unit that has shown it struggles when trying to contain a quarterback who has the ability to run and scramble.

If Marshall can stay somewhat efficient through the air, he should be able to throw for 180 yards, dash for another 110 and pick up three scores.

 

Brandon Harris, LSU, QB

From one quarterback to the other.

Since coming in for Anthony Jennings, Brandon Harris has been absolutely lights out.

Up to now, Harris has completed 22 of 30 passes for 394 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. The freshman's numbers eclipse those of Jennings across the board.

Now, the young gun is set to start his first game at the college level, per ESPN College GameDay:

So far this year, having Harris under center has been crucial to the Tigers' offensive success, per GameDay:

According to ESPN analyst Brian Griese, Harris is the quarterback of the future for LSU, and it appears as though the future is now:

Prediction: Harris has looked excellent in the games he's played so far—including that loss to the Bulldogs. The fact that Auburn could also be without a few key players on defense, per The Associated Press, bodes well for Harris and the LSU offense. Having a dynamic wideout like Travin Dural to throw to doesn't hurt, either.

Watch for Harris to play a solid game, but don't get carried away with your expectations. He's still playing one of the top defenses in the country in both yardage and scoring, per Yahoo Sports. Look for him throw for 280 yards and two scored. His inexperience may also cost him in a big conference game, though. He also throws one interception.

 

Montravius Adams, Auburn, DT

Time to give some love to a defensive player.

Montravius Adams has been an absolute monster on Auburn's defensive line and is a big reason why the Tigers rank 12th in the nation at stopping the run, per Yahoo Sports.

Bleacher Report's Auburn lead writer Justin Ferguson noted Adams' impressive first-half stats and recovery time from last week's victory over Louisiana Tech:

Being able to stop the run against LSU is key, as it has five players with over 30 rush attempts and five guys with at least 100 rushing yards through their first five games.

If Auburn is going to contain Leonard Fournette, it'll need Adams to have a big game.

Luckily for the team, the stage has been set for just that.

Adams will probably line up opposite LSU's center—an area of the field where the team has had problems, according to Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune.

Something else to consider: When LSU went up against the tough run defense of Mississippi State—ranked just ahead of Auburn at ninth—Fournette and Kenny Hilliard combined for just 68 yards on 16 carries.

Prediction: With LSU struggling at the position that Adams will match up against—and Adams being so good to begin with—look for him to have a big game.

I wouldn't put it past him to wrap up a slew of tackles near the line of scrimmage on run plays and come up with a tackle for loss or sack when he does break through to the backfield.

 

Game Prediction

LSU has dominated the recent history of this head-to-head, per GameDay:

This year, Auburn gets some revenge, though. It simply matches up too well against this LSU squad.

Not only does it have a versatile quarterback going up against a defense that struggles against that type of player, but it also has a very good run-stopping defense, which could force LSU to put the ball in the air early and often.

Harris may be off to a hot start, but he's still a freshman, and he's still playing on the road in what is sure to be an electric atmosphere. I say he ends up having a solid game, but it's not enough to pull off the upset.

LSU 17, Auburn 31

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College Football: Top 5 Games to Watch in Week 6

Week 6 of the college football season will feature six matchups of ranked teams on Saturday.

The SEC will have a second straight week of important games, except the three big ones will revolve around the race for the SEC West Division title.

The Magnolia state will host two of the best games of the day, with No. 12 Mississippi State hoping to upset No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 11 Ole Miss trying to get a statement win over No. 3 Alabama. At night, No. 15 LSU and No. 5 Auburn will square off in what should be another physical game between these two bitter rivals in Jordan-Hare Stadium. 

No. 9 Notre Dame has hopes of contending for a national title this season, but No. 14 Stanford stands in its way in what should be another close game in South Bend Saturday afternoon.

No. 19 Nebraska and No. 10 Michigan State will be the most anticipated non-SEC game of the day, as the two teams hope to put themselves in position to win a Big Ten Championship. No. 4 Oklahoma will also travel to No. 25 TCU in what will be the Sooners biggest test yet this season. 

With so much to be excited for on Saturday, here are the top-five games to watch.  

 

Begin Slideshow

Florida vs. Tennessee: Live Score and Highlights

The Florida Gators will look to win their first conference game of the year when they travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to face the Vols. The game will kickoff at noon EDT and it will air on the SEC Network.

After having the week off, Florida looks to play better football after being trounced by Alabama two weeks ago. A win against the Vols would not only save the season but put the Gators in the thick of the SEC race.

Tennessee is recovering after losing a tough battle against the Georgia Bulldogs last week. Had it not been for Todd Gurley and his 208 rushing yards, the Vols would have gotten a signature win. But a win against the Gators would give head coach Butch Jones that signature win and show the fans that the program is headed in the right direction.

Be sure to check back here when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates and highlights.

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Utah State vs. BYU: Game Grades, Analysis for the Cougars

The big story from this game, beyond the BYU loss, will be the loss of Heisman hopeful Taysom Hill after suffering a broken leg late in the second quarter.  The season-changing injury for the Cougars didn't, however, have as much impact on the game as many might have expected.

In the first half, Utah State had essentially dominated play, and went into halftime with a 14-point lead.  After the half, despite holding the Aggies in check a little better, the Cougars were unable to answer when it was needed most.  Perhaps Hill could have helped their cause, but it just seemed as all of the breaks (no pun intended) went the way of the Aggies.

Box score via NCAA.com

 

Pass Offense

We can really break these grades down into two quarterbacks.  Our first half grade, a C, really belongs to Taysom Hill and his receivers.  Meanwhile, the final grade belongs more to Christian Stewart.

Hill wasn't all that effective before his injury, going 8-of-11 for 99 yards and touchdown.  Not bad, but certainly not what we were expecting from the Heisman contender.

After halftime, Christian Stewart took over and went 10-of-29 for 172 yards.  He never found the end zone but found three Aggie defensive backs.

Because he was unexpectedly pressed into service, we're willing to give him a little bit of a break.  But not much of one.  A D+ is probably generous.

 

Run Offense

BYU ran the football 34 times for 154 yards and a touchdown, led by Jamaal Williams with 99 yards on 17 carries.  Overall, not a terrible evening, but the run game became irrelevant late in the game as the Cougars fell behind by three scores.

Still, a solid B+.

 

Pass Defense

Here is where the wheels really came off for the Cougars.

Utah State's Darell Garretson, a backup, remember, went 19-of-25 for 321 yards and three touchdowns.  Garrettson and his receivers constantly burned the Cougs' secondary deep, and BYU never really had an answer for the long bomb.

When BYU was able to get pressure on Garretson, it wasn't strong enough to contain him and prevent a throw or a solid scramble for positive yards.

If there was one facet of BYU's performance that cost them the game, this had to be it.  Because of the massive yards put up by a backup quarterback in a big rivalry game, we're handing out an ugly D to the pass defense.

 

Run Defense

The run defense, in contrast to the passing defense, was fairly solid.  No Utah State rusher had more than 57 yards, but the Cougars did allow two rushing touchdowns (although one was on a broken pass play scramble from Garretson).

If Utah State hadn't been able to throw as effectively as it did, this game would have been much different, given the decent night the front seven had when defending the run.  A straight B for the boys up front should be a nice consolation on an otherwise awful night for BYU.

 

Special Teams

Special teams were a mixed bag.  After a questionable first half, a couple of big plays in the second half gave BYU at least a chance to get back into the game.  Of course, the biggest play came on what appeared to be a short kickoff that was muffed by Utah State and recovered by BYU.  Unfortunately, an offside penalty negated the recover and BYU was forced to re-kick.

Special teams were also the only way BYU could score after the half, with a pair of field goals.  We upgraded the first half C to a final B-.

 

Coaching

Bronco Mendenhall has a sterling reputation as a head coach, and for good reason.  Unfortunately, we didn't see the greatest of nights from him or his staff against Utah State.

BYU was constantly put behind the eight ball, and there didn't seem to be enough impetus to get back into the game late into the second half.  We will, however, give credit to the coaching staff for keeping the team's heads up after Hill went down to injury.  At the end of the first half, BYU looked flat and a bit dejected.  After halftime, for a while, the Cougars seemed to be playing with energy.

But, as we mentioned, once Utah State extended its lead to three scores, all of the wind left the BYU sails.  And the coaching staff wasn't able to pull the team out of the doldrums.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Follow Bleacher Report's National College Football Featured Columnist David Luther on Twitter!

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Utah State vs. BYU: Score and Twitter Reaction

The party in Provo is over. Meanwhile, the wagon wheel is heading to Utah State.

Utah State (3-2) trounced No. 18 BYU (4-1) on Friday night, 35-20, in a game that ended any hopes of crashing the College Football Playoff for the Cougars.

The Aggies' victory was passed along after the game went final by Utah State Football:

Not only did the victory for Utah State crush BYU's hopes of a miraculous season, it was also a first for the team in several decades. The Aggies hadn't won in 17 consecutive games on the road against the Cougars.

Prior to the game, Utah State coach Matt Wells was confident in his team's ability to come away with a victory. Wells spoke about the matchup, per Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune:

[BYU is a team] that’s undefeated and deservedly in the playoff talks. They’re going to have to beat Utah State [to stay there]. Our kids are excited and I don’t have any reason to doubt [BYU] will be. It will be a great atmosphere. LaVell Edwards Stadium will be loud with a national TV audience. it will be fun. It’s a great opportunity for us.

By the end of the contest, Wells' confidence in his team showed through the players on the field. Along with the victory, Utah State also made a mark on the rest of the season for BYU.

Potentially as important as the loss, BYU also saw it's star quarterback Taysom Hill go down with a potentially serious leg injury. Hill suffered the ailment in the second quarter and was replaced by an inexperienced Christian Hill for the second half.

BYU Game Notes noted the news of the injury for Hill:

Hill was slowly emerging as a Heisman candidate prior to the injury, but potentially had those dreams gashed as well on Friday. 

Despite the loss of Hill late in the second quarter, the quarterback still had a sensational play early in the game. ESPN College Football provides a look at Hill's early touchdown:

Hill would score again on a 25-yard pass to Mitch Mathews, but it was all Utah State from that point on.

Utah State's backup quarterback Darell Garretson took over, passing for three touchdowns and rushing for another in the first half. Two of those touchdowns went to Devonte Robinson, who finished with six receptions for 98 yards on the night.

Along with Garretson's 321 passing yards, his final touchdown in the first half was a memorable one, per ESPN College Football:

That pass went to Hunter Sharp, who also exploded for the Aggies offense to the tune of 173 yards on five receptions. It took a team effort to take down BYU, and Utah State got it from both sides of the ball.

In the second half, it was two-way player Nick Vigil who put his stamp on the contest. The linebacker also had 16 carries for 57 yards and barreled his way into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter.

It was a big moment for the sophomore in a prime-time game, as Utah State Football points out:

Tack on the fact that he registered 16 tackles for the Aggies, and Vigil had a career night against the in-state rival.

Moving forward, BYU has a difficult road ahead if Hill and several other players that were injured on Friday miss time.

Next on the schedule is UCF, who is currently 2-2 and coming off two straight wins. The Cougars will have to travel to Central Florida next Thursday night in yet another prime-time game that doesn't have the same meaning.

For the Aggies, Friday might serve as the turning point for the 2014 season. Having matchups against Air Force, Colorado State and UNLV coming up, Utah State has a chance to put together a memorable season. After Friday night's stunner in Provo, a party might be starting for Utah State.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Taysom Hill Injury: Updates on BYU QB's Leg and Return

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a fractured leg injury and left the game against Utah State in the second quarter.

The Cougars' official account reported the news on Hill's injury during the Friday night game:

BYU Game Notes noted later that it was indeed fractured:

ESPN College Football passed along a look at the scene on the sideline:

Along with BYU entering the national picture after a 4-0 start, Hill has emerged as one of the best young quarterbacks in the country. The dual-threat quarterback has compiled 975 passing yards, 463 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns.

Christian Stewart will be the quarterback under center if Hill misses more time, but BYU's offense certainly won't be the same.

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College Football Week 6: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Week 6 kicked off with chaos Thursday night with Arizona upsetting Oregon, and Saturday’s slate of games is ready to deliver even more craziness. 

Six matchups of ranked teams vs. ranked teams means this weekend will have serious playoff implications, and the Top 25 poll could look drastically different come Sunday afternoon.

No. 6 Texas A&M travels to No. 12 Mississippi State and will kick off at noon ET on ESPN. No. 3 Alabama hits the road to play No. 11 Ole Miss, kicking off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. 

Will the state of Mississippi be riding high come Saturday night? This is the first time since 1961 that both Mississippi State and Ole Miss take a perfect record into October. 

No. 4 Oklahoma will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox on the road at No. 25 TCU, and No. 9 Notre Dame will host No. 14 Stanford at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.  

No. 15 LSU travels to No. 5 Auburn at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN in what should be a great SEC showdown, and No. 10 Michigan State will host No. 19 Nebraska in battle for Big Ten supremacy at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Saturday is loaded with amazing schedule of games, so make sure to keep it locked right here with Bleacher for live scores, highlights and much more!

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Utah State vs. BYU: Live Score and Highlights

Utah State 28, BYU 14—Early 3rd Quarter

The BYU Cougars are 4-0 and will look to keep their slim College Football Playoff chances alive against the 2-2 Utah State Aggies in the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel on Friday.

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Bo Scarbrough Cleared to Enroll at Alabama: Latest Details and Reaction

Alabama commit Bo Scarbrough has been academically cleared to enroll in January after not being able to join the team during the fall semester.

Charles Power of 247Sports reported the big news for the Crimson Tide. Power also passed along remarks from Scarbrough's mother, Donetris: "Yes it is (true). He's very excited about it. Roll Tide!"

Scarbrough was a huge commit for Alabama's 2014 class, signing back in February to play for Nick Saban. The No. 2 athlete, according to 247Sports, was one of the most explosive running backs in the country during his senior season with IMG Academy.

He was unable to suit up for the Tide, however, due to his academic situation being incomplete, via Andrew Gribble of AL.com. Saban spoke about Scarbrough's situation, and commented on Montel McBride, prior to the season, per Gribble:

"They won't be completed until the end of summer school," Saban said. "I can't really make a prediction on what their status will be until their summer school is over."

As a team, Alabama has certainly survived not having Scarbrough on the field this season. Currently sitting at No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll, the Tide are certainly rolling heading into a full SEC schedule.

When Scarbrough finally is able to join the team, Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will have yet another weapon at their disposal. The 6'2", 225-pound running back might be coming in later than expected, but he can certainly still make a huge impact for the program in 2015.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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LSU vs. Auburn: Key Position Matchups That Will Decide SEC West Showdown

Fifth-ranked Auburn may be noticeable favorites in Saturday's SEC West affair with No. 15 LSU, but the battle of the Tigers will come down to a few positional battles that are sure to tip the scales in one team's favor.

Coming off last year's national title loss to Florida State, Gus Malzahn's Auburn squad has navigated through a couple of early tests. But it's likely that the Tigers will face six straight ranked opponents in the coming weeks as they continue their SEC gauntlet, and that doesn't include the Iron Bowl in late November.

Les Miles and Co. have already felt the tremors of their own gauntlet, falling to previously unranked Mississippi State at home. The Tigers still have plenty of time and big matchups left, but their already frail hopes of contending in the SEC West will be all but exhausted with a loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

These games hinge so much on emotion and momentum, but not lost among the sure chaos will be proper execution from certain position groups. Without production from these key spots, it will be tough for either team to pull out the victory.

Let's break down the matchups that will decide LSU-Auburn.

 

Auburn's Rushers vs. LSU's Front Seven

Even after having some hiccups to start the season, Auburn's rushing attack looks just as dangerous at times as it did a year ago. Meanwhile, opponents have been opening up truck-sized holes in the LSU front seven.

Typically one of the SEC's most feared units, LSU's defensive line is a shell of its former self in 2014 with a heap of youth up front. While there are two juniors and a senior starting on the line, every backup is a true freshman or a sophomore.

That has led to a shocking 70th-ranked run defense so far in 2014, largely distorted by Mississippi State's 302-yard outburst on the ground in Week 4 and Wisconsin's 268 yards in the season opener.

On the other end, Auburn hasn't dominated on the ground but still comes in a respectable 18th in the nation in rushing—which would be much more than respectable had the Tigers not run the ball with such ferocity in 2013. 

Cameron Artis-Payne has emerged with 468 rushing yards and five scores this year, and his downhill running style makes one wonder if LSU will continue its struggles stopping the run. Add that to the zone read of Nick Marshall, and it will be a tall task for LSU to come up with answers on defense.

Mississippi State is one of the best rushing teams in the league, but Auburn is better, and that should strike fear into any LSU diehard.

 

LSU's Brandon Harris vs. Auburn's Secondary

After emerging past Anthony Jennings in recent weeks, LSU freshman quarterback Brandon Harris will be handed his first career start on Saturday. It couldn't come in a more raucous environment.

Harris came on in relief of Jennings in LSU's loss to Mississippi State and nearly led them to a shocking comeback victory. He continued to impress throughout the Tigers' 63-7 win over New Mexico State on Saturday, prompting Miles to give him the nod for Saturday's affair.

Although nobody knows what LSU fans will get from Harris in his first start, it's just as hard to figure out what we'll get from Auburn's pass defense. It has yet to face a potent passing attack and has playmakers in the secondary, but it still ranks just seventh in the league in pass defense. 

Harris has a dual-threat ability that could make him tough to corral, but Auburn's defensive line figures to generate some pressure by stalemating LSU's strong run game. That will put the onus on the freshman to make plays through the air.

LSU will have to score early and often to keep pace with Auburn's offense, and that will largely fall on Harris' shoulders. 

 

LSU's Kicking Game vs. Auburn Specialists

In rivalry games that come down to the wire, the kicking game is almost always overlooked heading into the matchup but ends up playing among the biggest of roles.

The kicking specialists for LSU could end up making said impact if their early stats are any indication. It starts with kicker Colby Delahoussaye, who is a perfect 4-of-4 on field goals this year and only missed one of 14 attempts in 2013. 

But other than keeping LSU out of field-goal range, there isn't a whole lot Auburn can do to change that. When it comes to punter Jamie Keehn, though, it could be a different story.

LSU is averaging 46.64 yards per punt—ninth-best in the land—off the foot of Keehn. But with long punts come the ability for big returns, and Quan Bray has emerged as one of the nation's best punt returners—returning one 76 yards to the house against Louisiana Tech last week.

Keehn has a big leg, but he'll have to use it to LSU's advantage and figure out a way to keep it away from Bray. If he does so and the Tigers get Delahoussaye in position for some deep field goals, it will be a big advantage for LSU.

 

All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com unless otherwise noted.

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