NCAA Football

How Texas Longhorns Must Use Texas Tech Win to Build Momentum for Final Stretch

LUBBOCK, Texas — The Texas Longhorns may not have put up 82 points against Texas Tech, but Saturday's 34-13 win in Lubbock has given the team a much-needed confidence boost before it prepares for the tough road ahead.

The Longhorns had a slow start against the Red Raiders, but a huge hit from Quandre Diggs—which knocked out quarterback Patrick Mahomes from the game—changed the momentum.

"It was just a good hit," Diggs said. "I came in, saw he was running and did what I was supposed to do to get my team fired up. Those are plays I need to make each and every week to get the guys going and do what I do."

It certainly got the team going.

Running back Malcolm Brown picked up his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season. And quarterback Tyrone Swoopes bounced back following an atrocious fumble that was recovered by Texas Tech in the end zone to give the Red Raiders an early lead, and he finished the game completing 13-of-25 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.

"I [asked] them before the game, 'What team will show up today? Is it going to be a team that plays with a lot of passion, a lot of confidence? A team that has a lot of pride and just understands what we have to go get done?'" Texas head coach Charlie Strong said following Saturday's game.

And the head coach got the confident team.

Some critics will disregard the win because it was against a struggling Texas Tech team. But the Longhorns need to ignore any critics and use the momentum from Saturday's game to their advantage.

Strong has been brutally honest when discussing the ups and downs of his Longhorns; the team has been inconsistent all season. 

Even though there is still work that needs to be done, Saturday's game was one of the most complete performances of the year.

"I think we can all get better in each phase of the game, but we played a well-rounded game and [have] got to get back to work this week," Diggs said. "We are going to enjoy this one right now, but once tomorrow hits, we have to get back to work."

November is one of the most significant and telling months in college football. It's the last chance for competitors to put up or shut up.

If the Longhorns want to make it to a bowl game, Texas has to emulate the game plan from Texas Tech for the gauntlet final stretch of the season against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU.

"There are three more games to go," Strong said. "We have West Virginia at home next week, so it's great to get this win, and now we can get back home and get ready to play West Virginia."

 

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

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Steve Spurrier Gives 54-Second Press Conference After Loss to Tennessee

The University of South Carolina lost an overtime heartbreaker to the University of Tennessee, 45-42, and Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was in no mood for questions.

Spurrier was so upset that the postgame press conference, which normally takes 10-to-15 minutes, lasted approximately 54 seconds and involved zero questions.

You can read a transcript of his entire conference below.

The loss to Tennessee marked the third time the Gamecocks have lost after they were up by at least 13 points in the fourth quarter. They're now 4-5 this season and 2-5 in conference play.

[Footballscoop.com]

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Steve Spurrier Is a Legend, but There's No Excuse for Press-Conference Pouting

Steve Spurrier is a legend, but Saturday night in Columbia, the "Head Ball Coach" went too far.

After his team fell 45-42 in overtime to Tennessee at Williams-Brice Stadium and gave up 645 yards to the Vols in the process, Spurrier crossed the line.

Instead of participating in the postgame "press conference," he treated it like a lecture, speaking for 62 seconds before saying "I don't need to take any questions. You guys watched it."

That's unacceptable.

As the leader of his program and the players on his roster, Spurrier should know better. He should set a good example for the program and his players and own up to his problems.

He should own the moment.

Sure, this might get viewed as a media rant, and you might say that Spurrier doesn't owe the media anything.

You're wrong. As the face of the program, he owes the media and fans an explanation for what's gone wrong. If it gets repetitive, that's fine. That's a Spurrier problem, not a media problem.

It is part of his job to meet after the game and, more importantly, be the face of the program. Right now, the face of the Gamecocks program appears to be running from the problems that he played a major part in creating instead of owning them, despite the fact that there's a giant image of Spurrier on the side of Williams-Brice Stadium.

That's not the media's fault, that's Spurrier's fault.

South Carolina doesn't have the personnel on defense to compete for the SEC East—even the 2014 SEC East, which is more of a punchline than a power. It's been that way all season long, and while he may get tired of answering the same questions about his defense, it's his responsibility.

The Head Ball Coach got a contract extension and a raise to $4 million per year this offseason. With that kind of coin coming in, hanging much-maligned defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward out to dry to answer questions isn't something a leader does. Hanging 18-to-22-year-old players out to dry to answer questions isn't something a leader does.

Spurrier gets a pass for a lot of things he says, because...well...he's Spurrier. He's honest, forthcoming and fun in press conferences. Because of that, many will give him a pass in this instance.

Brad Crawford of SaturdayDownSouth.com didn't.

He shouldn't get a pass. 

Not from the media, not from South Carolina fans and not from anybody.

This wasn't "classic Spurrier," this was "coward Spurrier."

This is a guy who willfully allowed his assistants and players to take the heat instead of owning the problems for which he's responsible.

He is the face of the South Carolina program, and right now, that program has the face of a coward.

Not a good look.

 

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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Oregon Is Pac-12's Best Playoff Team but Wild South Division Could Play Spoiler

The single most exciting element of this 2014 college football season is that no team is head and shoulders above the rest. If anything, this is the perfect year to implement a four-team playoff. 

To be clear, there are a lot of excellent teams. Florida State, Mississippi State, Auburn, TCU, Michigan State—the list of undefeated and one-loss teams realistically vying for a playoff spot in November is eclectic. 

Without officially ruling any team out, the Pac-12's best chance to send a team to the playoff would appear to be 8-1 Oregon. The Ducks have a key nonconference win against Michigan State and the inside track out of the North division to the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

That happened Saturday when Oregon stopped a two-game slide against Stanford, statistically one of the best defenses in the country, in a 45-16 win. The score snapped a 31-game streak in which the Cardinal did not allow more than 30 points a game.

Stanford may be average at 5-4, but the dismantling by the Ducks is more impressive than they might get credit for. If anything, it shows Oregon is playing its best football right now. 

If Oregon makes its way to the Pac-12 title, the question isn't whether a South division team can pull the upset. That was answered in early October when Arizona traveled to Autzen Stadium and came away with a 31-24 win. 

Rather, the more pertinent question is whether any team from the Pac-12 South can upend Oregon again given the way the Ducks are cruising. 

As far as the regular season goes, Utah will have an opportunity to do just that next Saturday, Nov. 8, at home. The Utes are coming off of a 19-16 overtime loss to Arizona State, so their playoff hopes are basically over. (A 28-27 loss to Washington State in September is a killer.)

But that doesn't mean Utah can't play the role of spoiler and hand Oregon its second loss of the season. Whether that actually happens, though, remains to be seen. Similar to Stanford, Utah plays solid defense (21.3 points per game allowed, 3.19 yards per rush allowed) and is so-so on offense. 

Assuming Utah doesn't gash Oregon's pass defense—the Utes rank last in the Pac-12 in passing offense—Oregon is probably in the clear if it jumps out to a big lead. 

The Utes are part of a revolving door in the Pac-12 South. Arizona State stands alone atop the division—for now—with a 5-1 conference record. Four other teams—USC, UCLA, Arizona and the Utes—all have two conferences losses. Trying to dissect tie-breakers and possible outcomes is headache-inducing. 

"We're in the driver's seat and that's where we want to be," Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly said, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com).

Does that make the Pac-12 South deep or average? That's a matter of perception, but the fact is four of those teams were ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 heading into Week 10. For what it's worth, UCLA has the nation's 11th-toughest schedule, per Jeff Sagarin's ratings

If nothing else, the South division is exciting and embodies the chaos of the '14 season. 

Are any of those teams legitimate playoff contenders? Arizona State is the most likely choice if it wins out, as Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press points out. At that point, it would have wins over Notre Dame, Oregon, Utah and Arizona. 

However, the Sun Devils' lone loss is a 62-27 rout at the hands of UCLA. Again, all teams this season have blemishes, even the undefeated ones. But 62-27 is a difficult score to overcome regardless. What's happening around the rest of the college football landscape could be a huge factor. 

Clearly, there's a lot at play and just as much still to be decided. The way the Pac-12 South has gone, the title game could feature anyone except Colorado. 

And the way the season has gone, no team is immune to the upset. Oregon of all teams should know that. The Pac-12 has two teams with a playoff shot. In a moment's notice, though, it could have none. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com

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Oregon Is Pac-12's Best Playoff Team but Wild South Division Could Play Spoiler

The single most exciting element of this 2014 college football season is that no team is head and shoulders above the rest. If anything, this is the perfect year to implement a four-team playoff...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 10 Standings

Ole Miss has had a great year so far, but the team has almost no chance of reaching the College Football Playoff after suffering its second-straight loss on Saturday.

A fumble on the goal line by Laquon Treadwell gave the Auburn Tigers the 35-31 win. The seemingly serious injury to Treadwell's left leg made the game secondary and added insult to injury. Treadwell was carted off, and per Dr. Dave Siebert of Bleacher Report, will probably miss the remainder of the season.

With the win, the Auburn Tigers' hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff have been invigorated. It could all wind up coming down to a tussle with the rival Alabama Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl.

That's where Auburn figures to stumble.

Few—if any—team is playing as well as Alabama is right now. Since losing to Ole Miss and inching by the Arkansas Razorbacks the following week, Alabama has outscored its opponents (Texas A&M and Tennessee) 93-20. 

Surely Nick Saban's bunch will make the CFP, right?

Not by my estimation. As good as Alabama has played, it's hard for me to see them going through LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn and the SEC title game—assuming they get there—without a loss.

With a loss already this season, that's more than likely what 'Bama would need to make it in to the top four. Because of that murderer's row of a schedule, 'Bama is not in my projected top four.

 

Who Will Reach the Top Four?

Florida State

The No. 1 Florida State Seminoles has passed all of its significant regular-season tests. It probably won't play another ranked team until the ACC title game. That looks like a matchup with the No. 21 Duke Blue Devils. Jamison Crowder and Co. pulled out a 51-48 double-overtime win over the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday, but they don't figure to trouble the Noles.

Because of the easy schedule, Florida State looks like a virtual lock to hold down the top spot in the final CFP bracket. 

 

Mississippi State

The team that emerges out of the SEC will likely be No. 2. For me, that has to be the Mississippi State Bulldogs. There will be some sentiment that Alabama is the best team in the conference, but with two losses, it will be impossible to elevate the Tide over the Bulldogs whom I see escaping the rigorous SEC West with just one loss.

Losing to 'Bama on Nov. 15 won't plummet the Bulldogs too far to recover, as they will still be the only SEC West team with one loss. Neither the Missouri Tigers or Georgia Bulldogs will be a match for Mississippi State in the SEC championship, thus Dak Prescott and that nasty defense will enter the CFP.

 

Oregon Ducks

Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks exorcised the Stanford Cardinal demon on Saturday with a lopsided 45-16 win. The Ducks still have a tough battle on the road against No. 17 Utah next week, but that is a game Oregon is expected to win.

As long as the Ducks don't stumble in the Pac-12 Championship, they should be the No. 3 seeds.

 

Michigan State

The last seed should belong to the Michigan State Spartans. Everything is riding on the Nov. 8 showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes. If Mark Dantonio's team can beat the Buckeyes, it won't play another ranked team in the regular season.

In the Big Ten championship, the Spartans are likely to play the Nebraska Cornhuskers, whom they have already beaten this season. 

As a one loss Big Ten team, the Spartans are a perfect fit for the No. 4 spot.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 11 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

If we've learned anything to this point in the 2014 college football season, it's that no team is safe on any given week. Plenty of the nation's previously top-ranked teams suffered losses—or, at the very least, major scares—to unranked opponents, and we saw more of the same in Week 10.

No. 1 Mississippi State was pushed to the brink by Arkansas, No. 11 Georgia was pummeled by Florida, fans of No. 10 Notre Dame were given heart attacks by Navy, and No. 3 Auburn emerged victorious in an epic clash against No. 4 Ole Miss. Now, that's quality entertainment.

Almost every Top 25 team was involved in some Saturday madness in one way, shape or form. The College Football Playoff picture has been shaken up after practically every week this season. There's no reason to think that won't happen once again as we head into Week 11.

With the dust settled across the nation, here's a glimpse at how each of college's top teams fared in Week 10.

College Football Playoff rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

The complete AP Poll rankings can be viewed at CollegeFootball.AP.org.

 

Breakdown

The week began with Florida State surviving Louisville to remain undefeated. Perhaps the Seminoles' struggles against the Cardinals proved to be the writing on the wall for the remainder of a crazy week.

Mississippi State suddenly doesn't resemble the juggernaut it once was. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for a career-high 331 yards, but the team simply couldn't get its ground game going, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. A minus-two turnover differential against an unranked opponent is also concerning going forward.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports doesn't appear to believe in the Bulldogs:

Auburn performed as expected, utilizing its ground game to defeat Ole Miss in a shootout. The Tigers racked up 502 yards of offense and scored 35 points against what has supposed to be a very stout Ole Miss defense. Bo Wallace and Co. played well, but the team didn't have enough firepower to compete in the end.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Auburn has become very good at emerging victorious in shootouts:

Oregon put on the most impressive performance of the week. The Ducks torched a very good Stanford defense for 45 points due to another Heisman-worthy performance by quarterback Marcus Mariota. The game snapped the Cardinal's 31-game streak of holding opponents to fewer than 30 points.

The win was a big one for Mariota's college career, via SportsCenter:

TCU escaped West Virginia, as a 37-yard field goal as time expired earned the Horned Frogs a victory. The Mountaineers will be thinking about their five turnovers all week long.

Notre Dame allowed Navy to remain in the mix deep into the fourth quarter, but the Fighting Irish prevailed in the end. Duke had a tough time against Pittsburgh, winning in double overtime on a Thomas Sirk five-yard touchdown run.

Not every contest was a close one on Saturday, as some teams fared extremely well in Week 10. Kansas State, Baylor, Nebraska, Ohio State and Oklahoma all went ahead early and didn't look back, winning by huge margins.

Even the late games on Saturday were chock-full of surprises. Arizona was upset by UCLA after allowing quarterback Brett Hundley to run rampant throughout the contest. Arizona State was pushed to the brink by Utah, but overcame the visiting team with a field goal in overtime.

A couple of teams suffered terrible losses on Saturday. East Carolina was upended by Temple due to a whopping five fumbles lost. Here's a look at the game's odd final numbers, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Georgia's defense looked terrible, allowing the Florida Gators to rack up 418 rushing yards and five touchdowns en route to a lopsided win for the underdog.

The season just continues to get more interesting by the week. At this point in the season, every contending team must treat each contest like a playoff game. Small mishaps must be avoided at all costs, as they continue to be devastating—and potentially season-ending.

A new slate of season-altering games will soon be upon us, as Week 11 looms on the horizon. With potential berths in the College Football Playoff or other prestigious bowl games on the line, every contending team must be at its best. College football in November isn't for the meek.

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Georgia Football: Bulldogs Must Fix Run Defense to Keep SEC Title Hopes Alive

Saturday’s game was supposed to give the Georgia Bulldogs a fourth consecutive win over the Florida Gators and further control of the SEC East.  Instead, an inability to stop the Gators’ ground attack resulted in one of the most embarrassing Georgia losses in recent history.

And while there are still plenty of meaningful goals that can be accomplished by this Georgia team, the Bulldogs must fix their run defense to have any shot at an SEC Championship.

In the case of Saturday’s game, statistics tell quite a story.  Florida ran the ball 60 times while attempting just six passes.  Further review makes it abundantly clear that this disproportionate load had less to do with freshman quarterback Treon Harris’ inability to pass and tons to do with Georgia’s complete failure against the run.

As Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt asked rhetorically (per Seth Emerson of Macon's The Telegraph), "If you can’t stop it, why would you do something else?  When you look up and they’ve got over 400 yards rushing, it’s pretty obvious we couldn’t stop it.”

Florida's 60 carries, 50 of which belonged to Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, resulted in 418 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.  And on a day when things did not go as planned, each and every one of those yards negated something positive for Georgia. 

Freshman running back Nick Chubb accounted for 215 yards while replacing suspended star running back Todd Gurley in the Bulldogs lineup.  But Georgia’s glaring deficiency against the run made that effort fruitless. 

Quarterback Hutson Mason threw for 319 yards, but that didn’t matter because Georgia couldn’t stop the Gators on the ground.

When all was said and done, what appeared to be an even game based on the box score was a blowout win for Florida in which Georgia never really seemed capable of winning.  And the Bulldogs' struggles defending the run leave ongoing cause for concern at two levels.

First and foremost, Saturday’s display calls into question the toughness of coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s unit.  Time and time again, Florida lined up with one sole intention—to run the ball.  And time and time again, Georgia yielded yardage—both in large bunches and in hard-earned five-to-seven-yard gains.

Georgia had shown glimpses of unrest against the run, particularly in the loss to South Carolina when backup running back Brandon Wilds consistently picked up first downs and advanced the Gamecocks’ cause in a narrow victory.  But Saturday’s shortcomings were more alarming, because Florida’s game plan was so abundantly clear from the onset.

Florida attempted just five passes in the first half, so Georgia began stacking the box.  In a second half that saw Florida attempt just one pass, the Gators racked up 256 rushing yards.  And that was with safeties like Quincy Mauger and Corey Moore sneaking up to play the run and Damian Swann cheating in from his star position.

Florida didn’t merely happen upon yards as Georgia’s defense struggled to anticipate play-calling (which was partly the case against South Carolina).  On the contrary, the Gators willed yardage against Georgia’s front throughout the contest, even with clear intentions.  And it should be noted that unlike Georgia’s offense, which played without its best player (Gurley), the Bulldogs defense was fully intact.

The second and more pressing concern is that Florida didn’t just expose a weakness, the Gators exposed a weakness that several future Georgia opponents will be able to exploit.

Two of Georgia’s remaining four opponents, Auburn and Georgia Tech, rank in the Top 10 nationally in rushing offense.  Accordingly, the Tigers and Yellow Jackets must feel awfully good about moving the football against the Bulldogs.  After all, two Gators, Jones and Taylor, ran for career highs against Georgia on Saturday.  And they did so against a healthy Georgia defense and without even feigning a desire to pass.

And if Georgia plays its way into the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, something that seemed all but assured prior to the Florida game but now is entirely up in the air, the Bulldogs will likely face Mississippi State, Auburn or Alabama.  Those three teams combined average more than 250 rushing yards per contest.

The absence of Todd Gurley, the improvement of Hutson Mason and the emergence of the defensive secondary are no longer hindering this Georgia team.  But a much more alarming deficiency defined this team yesterday.  Georgia needs to make the loss to Florida and the onslaught of rushing yards allowed an outlier performance.  Otherwise, the Bulldogs can say goodbye to dreams of an SEC Championship.

 

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

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Alabama Back on the Rise as Tide Rolls Toward Death Valley

For a team that’s riding into Death Valley this week, Alabama’s spirits should be unusually high.

The Crimson Tide spent Saturday on the sidelines, enjoying the rest and healing that comes from a bye week, yet they saw their status for the College Football Playoff soar.

Yes, Nick Saban’s crew is very much back in the hunt for a national championship, even after getting written off by many (including me) when it struggled at Arkansas.

But Alabama will be no worse than fifth when the next round of CFP rankings surfaces on Tuesday, which is a great place to be for a team that’s certain to blow past the only team it has lost to, Ole Miss.

The schedule is also loaded with the control-your-own-destiny factor for Alabama. Both games with higher-ranked teams—Nov. 15 with Mississippi State and Nov. 29 with Auburn—will take place in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s scouting crew no doubt has some fresh ideas about how to unseat those two SEC West rivals after seeing both taken to the wire in narrow victories on Saturday.

That’s what’s really good for the rising Tide. Every team ahead of it suddenly looks as vulnerable as Alabama did after losing to Ole Miss and then grinding out that 14-13 squeaker at Arkansas on Oct. 11 on a missed PAT.

If Alabama deserved to get kicked to get curb after struggling at Arkansas, shouldn’t No. 1 Mississippi State be under the same scrutiny after surviving the Razorbacks at home by the mere count of 17-10?

Dak Prescott wasn’t operating on two good wheels for MSU, but three first-half turnovers made the Bulldogs’ top-ranked status look shaky as they hit a rugged homestretch.

No. 2 Florida State has a relatively weak schedule the rest of the way, but it is developing a bad habit of falling behind early and needing minor miracles to remain undefeated.

Louisville had the Seminoles firmly on the ropes recently, and it’s not unthinkable they could be kept there by one of the two resurgent in-state rivals it must face.

FSU has a Nov. 15 date at Miami, which is 6-3 and climbing after beating its last three opponents by a cumulative score of 132-60. The Seminoles finish at home against Florida, and the Gators just went from doormats to dominators while perhaps saving Will Muschamp’s job with a thrashing of Georgia.

No. 3 Auburn remains the best of the once-beatens, but only because Ole Miss fumbled the ball away inside the 10-yard line twice in the final five minutes on Saturday.

And while Oregon looked strong against traditional nemesis Stanford, Alabama should be able to leapfrog the Ducks if it wins out.

That’s the tough part. But Saturday was probably the perfect time for an off day, as the Tide braces for its trip to Louisiana State. 

Death Valley has been a graveyard for many SEC West hopefuls, including Ole Miss this season. Alabama has been 2-1 there in the Saban era, and they’ve all been nail-biters. The Tide won in overtime in 2008, lost 24-21 in 2010 and salvaged a 21-17 win in 2012.

This year, they’ll head to Baton Rouge with momentum that will justify every “Roll Tide” chant. They’ve won their last two games over Texas A&M and Tennessee by a combined 93-20 score and the Alabama defense has yet to allow 400-yard game.

"This team is getting better and better every week," quarterback Blake Sims told the Montgomery Advertiser last week. "We are becoming even closer. We want to play hard for each other. The coaches fight for each other. We want to play harder for them."

Sims also has added a “Shake and Blake” element to his attack. With touchdown runs of 43 and 28 yards in the last two games, Alabama has the threat of a running quarterback for what seems like the first time in forever.

“He has brought an added dimension that coach Saban has never had at Alabama, with a guy that can run like that,” former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker told the Associated Press.

And for a program with such a rich football legacy, the 2014 edition of the Crimson Tide is on a somewhat surprising pace to set a flock of school records. Projections by AL.com envision Sims raising the bar for most passing yards, Amari Cooper rewriting the receiving section and Alabama setting a new mark for total offense.

On the other side of the ball, Alabama is getting back junior linebacker Denzel Devall just in time for the trip to Death Valley. He’s one of the Tide’s most experienced defenders, and he will add depth to a unit that needs just one more sack to match last season’s total of 22.

If there’s a flaw in the Alabama attack, it’s with the kicking game. Adam Griffith made his first seven field goal attempts this season, then missed four of his next five. He has been used sparingly the last two times out, attempting only one three-pointer, and he missed a point-after at Tennessee.

At a press conference last week, Saban said Griffith has “a little bit of a physical problem” that has limited his practice, but he wouldn’t elaborate.

But with the way Alabama has rebounded, the team looks determined not to let its chances for a fourth national championship in six seasons come down to a kick. 

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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Bowl Predictions: Updated Playoff Projections Heading into Week 11

Surprise, surprise—college football fans were treated to another incredible slate of games in Week 10 that impacted the postseason picture.

The College Football Playoff looms over seemingly every single game that features a top-notch contender, which makes the season feel like a nonstop postseason. The intensity and sense of desperation when Auburn and Ole Miss came down to the final minutes on Saturday was palpable through even a television screen as both SEC teams tried to fight off essential elimination from the postseason picture.

Elsewhere, Mississippi State survived a scare from an Arkansas team that has yet to win a conference game since 2012, TCU overcame a multi-score deficit in the fourth quarter and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired against West Virginia, Notre Dame escaped a dangerous Navy team at the end and the Pac-12 delivered its usual thrilling late-night finishes.

Arizona State stunned Utah in overtime, while UCLA handed Arizona its second loss of the season. The Arizona schools are probably not fond of the Bruins, considering they knocked off both the Sun Devils and Wildcats this year.

The biggest upset of Week 10 was Florida’s victory over Georgia.

The Gators controlled the line of scrimmage and dashed the Bulldogs defense for 418 rushing yards. That was Georgia’s second loss, and it still has to play Auburn and potentially an SEC Championship Game against a daunting opponent from the West Division. That may have spelled the end of the Bulldogs’ playoff hopes.

Here is what the updated playoff projections look like as we head into Week 11 of the season.

 

Playoff Projections

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 4 Mississippi State

Rose Bowl: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Alabama 

Championship Bowl (in Arlington, Texas): TBD (Semifinal Winners)

 

Breakdown

First things first—if a presumed playoff contender is not on this list, the assumption is that it will pick up another loss before the end of the season.

That means teams like Oregon, Arizona State, the Big 12 contenders, Notre Dame and Auburn will all fall between now and the announcement of the initial playoff field.

Those Big 12 teams, like Kansas State, TCU and Baylor, will cannibalize each other (Oklahoma may help with Baylor), the Ducks could trip up against Utah or in the Pac-12 title game, the Sun Devils and Fighting Irish play each other, USC (Notre Dame) and Arizona (Arizona State) and the Tigers play at Georgia and at Alabama.

That is a lot of potential losses.

As for a team that will reach the postseason, Florida State simply continues to find ways to win games.

It looked like the Seminoles’ undefeated dreams were over when they trailed 21-0 to Louisville, but defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston led his team back in impressive fashion. Florida State’s difficult games are behind it (at Louisville, Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame) as well, and fans are in store for another undefeated season.

The Seminoles are simply more talented than Virginia, Miami, Florida and Boston College and should win out.

Bottom line, the defending national champions without a loss are going to crack the field of four.

Michigan State will also reach the playoffs, but it needs to show the selection committee a bit more against top-notch competition. It has been mixed results thus far with a loss to Oregon and a win against Nebraska, so look for the Spartans to seize their opportunity in Week 11 against Ohio State.

Quarterback Connor Cook seemed to understand the importance of this upcoming game when he discussed the fanbase of his opponent, via Mike Griffith of MLive.com:

I think they are pretty crazy actually, pretty outrageous. I remember before the (Big Ten championship) game, there was some crazy old man screaming something at me that I probably shouldn't say right now.

But I just know they are extreme. They're not like arrogant or anything. Ohio State fans, their energy level, if there's one word I could use, it would be extreme, really.

While the Buckeyes will pose a challenge, the Spartans are at home and will throw a stout defense at redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. That will be enough to secure a win and set Michigan State up for an 11-1 regular-season record with games against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State after that.

A potential conference-title matchup with Nebraska could help the strength of schedule right before the final playoff decision as well.

Then there is arguably the biggest constant in college football—Alabama.

The Crimson Tide seem to have hit their stride with three straight wins following the loss to Ole Miss, which will be critical with contests against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn remaining. The good news for Nick Saban’s bunch is that the games against Auburn and Mississippi State are at home.

Alabama will win the remaining games on its schedule, which would give it victories over Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU, West Virginia and whoever the opponent is in the SEC Championship Game. That resume will not be left on the outside looking in for the playoffs, even with a single loss to Ole Miss.

That leaves Mississippi State.

The top team in the initial playoff rankings has looked anything but dominant against some of the lesser teams in the SEC the past two weeks (Kentucky and Arkansas), but there are two different ways of looking at that. 

Andrea Adelson of ESPN seemed to think the Bulldogs were fortunate, but this stat from ESPN Stats & Info gives the Bulldogs credit for either blowing teams out or keeping games close enough to win at the end:

All that truly matters at this point of the season is coming away with a win, especially in the daunting SEC West.

Mississippi State will manage to do just that in three of its remaining four games (UT Martin, Vanderbilt and a suddenly reeling Ole Miss squad) but will lose at Alabama. While that would leave the Bulldogs out of the SEC title game in this scenario, they would still have wins over LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss. 

That will get them into the College Football Playoff field.

 

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College Football Playoff Rankings 2014: Predictions for Week 11

Another wild and unpredictable college football weekend is just fresh in the books, but it's already time to assess the damage and figure out how the College Football Playoff should look entering Week 11.

There were huge tests on tap for every team currently in the CFP top four, and not all of them prevailed. Well, that would be obvious with two teams—Auburn and Ole Miss—facing each other, but the far-reaching implications from Week 10 don't start and end in Oxford, Mississippi by any means.

The first-ever CFP rankings were just released before Week 10, but there's considerable work to be done for the committee before another batch of rankings hits the presses.

Let's do some of the work for them and decide how the CFP is likeliest to play out at the end of the season after what we saw throughout Week 10.

 

1. Mississippi State

Mississippi State is done making statements. The Bulldogs are just trying to stay perfect in the toughest division in college football, and they did so for yet another week with a 17-10 win over Arkansas at home.

The victory improved the Bulldogs to their best record since before the turn of the millennium, as per ESPN Stats and Info:

The Bulldogs were nearly put on upset alert in each of their last two games against Kentucky and Arkansas, but it's not about the style points when you're undefeated in the SEC. It's about simply surviving and advancing, and Mississippi State will know that better than ever down the stretch.

Two of Dan Mullen's toughest matchups are yet to come: facing Alabama on the road on Nov. 15 and Ole Miss also on the road in the Egg Bowl to close out the season.

Despite those gigantic matchups looming, it's hard to bet against Mississippi State. Dak Prescott just gets it done when the game is on the line, and as long as he's healthy and effective, the defense doesn't need to be dominant. 

 

2. Florida State

It's looking less and less likely that Florida State's unbeaten streak will end in the 2014 regular season.

In what many pegged as the last best chance for the Seminoles to fall from the ranks of the undefeated, Florida State slipped past No. 25 Louisville on Thursday night in a tough matchup, 42-31. It suffered an early 21-point deficit, but Jameis Winston found his groove late and didn't look back.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel summed up the Florida State win in the most blunt way possible:

To be fair, he's probably right. Winning out would most certainly put Florida State into the four-team playoff. All that's left are games against Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Florida and the ACC title game more than likely versus Duke again. 

Florida's shocking win over Georgia this weekend may make that end-of-season tilt a bit tougher, but the Gators are no match defensively for Winston. The Seminoles have mastered the art of winning ugly against inferior teams, even when the other team pulls out all the stops.

As far as if that recipe will work in the CFP, the Seminoles look like they'll at least get the chance to find out.

 

3. Auburn

Gus Malzahn once again looks like the guy with the magic tricks in his back pocket this college football season. 

If Saturday's SEC West showdown between Auburn and Ole Miss was indeed a CFP elimination game, then the Tigers are very much alive and well in their quest to make up for last year's defeat in the final BCS title game ever.

They almost never do it in convincing fashion, and there are always deficiencies to point out—like porous tackling or massive penalty troubles, at least on Saturday. But when it comes to winning close games, Auburn is among the best.

They faced a championship-caliber battle from Ole Miss who simply refused to accept a second straight defeat, but the Tigers stepped up to the task again. Travis Haney of ESPN said how Malzahn makes sense of it:

The defeat to Mississippi State hasn't lingered long at all for Auburn, as the team has bounced back with two huge victories over South Carolina and now Ole Miss. The Tigers should out-class Texas A&M and Georgia in their upcoming two games before closing the season at Alabama.

Auburn doesn't control its own destiny in the SEC West, but winning out would most definitely get the Tigers into the top four. Toppling Alabama on the road won't be easy, but Auburn now has two huge road wins on the year against the Rebels and Kansas State.

 

4. Oregon

The Oregon Ducks might not be the fourth-best team in the country after Week 10, but they're in perfect position to make the CFP at the end of the season.

Alabama still has Mississippi State and Auburn both to play. A couple of other SEC teams could throw things for a loop with one upset. The one-loss Big 12 teams all face uphill climbs to win the favor of the committee.

But Oregon? It was the first team out of the top four in the first rankings released and is likely to be the last team in when the Week 11 rankings are out.

The Ducks stomped a Stanford team at home that has given them so many fits in recent memory, taking the 45-16 victory. Oregon can impress again by beating Utah next weekend.

Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn will all stay ahead of Oregon should each continue its winning ways, but the Ducks are on a collision course for the Pac-12 title game. Should they end that game with a 12-1 record, nothing will keep Mark Helfrich's squad from being one of the four.

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Despite Its Flaws and Another Ugly Win, UCLA Still in Pac-12 Title Hunt

PASADENA, Calif.—No. 22 UCLA’s 17-7 win over No. 12 Arizona on Saturday in the Rose Bowl was a reflection of the Bruins’ season: sometimes ugly, at other times impressive and ultimately, enough to keep them in contention in the Pac-12.

“We are sitting at 7-2 and it hasn’t been easy,” head coach Jim Mora said. “They keep fighting.”

No, little has come easily for Mora’s bunch. Saturday was UCLA’s third straight win, and the 10-point margin was its most lopsided in this run.

But despite scoring only a field goal in the first half and racking up an alarming 11 penalties for 118 yards, UCLA pulled even in the loss column with one of the three Pac-12 South teams it was looking up at to start the night.

Combined with Utah’s 19-16 loss at Arizona State, the Bruins moved two steps closer to fulfilling the scenarios needed to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Defense and special teams helped the Bruins through their sluggish start against the Wildcats.

Punter Matt Mengel pinned Arizona inside its own 20-yard line six times, which made UCLA’s stifling defense all the more daunting for the Wildcats.

A Paul Perkins' touchdown run and 70-yard scoring bomb from quarterback Brett Hundley to wide receiver Jordan Payton in the third quarter was all the offense the Bruins needed because of the great play in the other phases.

That’s a big step for UCLA in its final stretch, particularly on the defensive side. UCLA gave up big yards and points in bunches in its previous conference outings.

“Today was the first game that I felt defensively like we did that we were supposed to on every play,” Mora said.

As for the offense, there was a lot of stop-and-go. But gaining 271 yards on 59 carries—“that’s like Bear Bryant,” Mora joked—allowed UCLA to dictate the tempo.

Once it softened the Arizona defense, the opportunities came.

“We just needed momentum,” Perkins said.

Before that quick burst of offense, all the Bruins could muster through one half was a field goal.

The Bruins’ offensive woes were perhaps never more magnified than on a 4th-and-1 from the Arizona 44-yard line when Mora sent the punt unit on the field. The call was met with a chorus of boos from the 80,000-plus in attendance.

Mora attributed his decision to past fourth-down misfires. But with the defense playing its best game of the year, UCLA's conservative offensive approach paid off.

Arizona’s veteran offensive line struggled with an aggressive and persistent pass rush from UCLA. The Bruins got to freshman quarterback Anu Solomon for three sacks, making good on a season-long quest of coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s bunch to generate more pressure in the backfield.

“When we get one, the [offensive] line just…gets off [its] game,” linebacker Deon Hollins said, describing the process of getting sacks as self-fulfilling.

Hollins didn’t record a sack, but he made his presence known to Solomon routinely.

“Our ears are pinned back, we smell blood and we just go,” Hollins said.

That the defense was able to draw blood early was UCLA’s saving grace. The Bruins outplayed Arizona through a disjointed first half, holding the prolific Wildcats offense to just 103 yards through the first two quarters.

Of course, with the good of a tenacious defensive effort came the bad of 98 yards in penalties.

“It’s really the thing that’s holding us back right now,” Mora said of penalties.

Three of the Bruins’ flags came on Arizona third downs that the defense had otherwise stopped, including two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls on Myles Jack that extended the Wildcats’ sole scoring drive.

After its touchdown on the game’s opening possession, Arizona was not in scoring range again until one minute remaining in the third quarter.

Both of the Wildcats’ second-half chances ended with missed field goals.

UCLA comes away from Saturday’s win with plenty it can still improve upon. The penalty yardage remains an albatross, and repeated offensive lulls leave the Bruins vulnerable.

But Hollins described each win like building blocks that move UCLA closer to its goal of winning the Pac-12. It may not have been pretty, but the Bruins laid a sizable block by knocking off Arizona.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via UCLA athletic department.

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Despite Its Flaws and Another Ugly Win, UCLA Still in Pac-12 Title Hunt

PASADENA, Calif.—No. 22 UCLA’s 17-7 win over No. 12 Arizona on Saturday in the Rose Bowl was a reflection of the Bruins’ season: sometimes ugly, at other times ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Utah vs. Arizona State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Sun Devils and Utes

It took overtime, but a front-runner in the Pac-12 South race indeed emerged on Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona as the Arizona State Sun Devils held off the Utah Utes 19-16.

Arizona State blew an early 13-3 lead and had nothing going offensively in the second half, but it found a way to win as it has done all season long. Meanwhile, Utah's magical recent stretch has come to a bitter end in a defeat that all but squashes their conference and outside College Football Playoff hopes.

Here's a look at game grades for both Arizona State and Utah.

 

Pass Offense: Arizona State ran for more yards than it passed for, which says more about the passing struggles than rushing potency. Taylor Kelly looked rusty again going 18-of-32 for 205 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He would've had two or three picks if it weren't for butter fingers in the Utah secondary.

 

Run Offense: Utah had the better rushing attack entering the game, but the Sun Devils ended the game with the superior performance. Freshman Demario Richard had a career day with 14 carries for 116 yards, and Kelly had 55 yards rushing—which would've been much more if sacks weren't factored in.

 

Pass Defense: The Utes can't pass the ball well against hardly anyone, but they struggled especially on Saturday against Arizona State's strong defense. The Sun Devils allowed just 57 yards through the air—2.6 yards per pass attempt. Yikes. 

 

Run Defense: Stuffing the run was where the onus really fell on Arizona State's defense, and the Sun Devils held their own. Devontae Booker had his 146 yards, but it took nearly 40 carries to do so. As a unit, Utah had just 3.5 yards per carry.

 

Special Teams: Zane Gonzalez was 4-of-5 on field goals for the day, including the game-winning kick in overtime. Arizona State certainly lost the punting battle, but if there's one battle you don't mind being on the losing end of, it's that one.

 

Coaching: Arizona State hit a wall in the second half, but it looked largely due to execution rather than poor play calls. The Sun Devils were noticeably conservative at times but decisions almost always paid off in this low-scoring affair that Arizona State was able to squeak out.

 

Pass Offense: What pass offense? Travis Wilson was invisible through the air with only 57 yards for the game on 12 completions. Tight coverage on his receivers and constant pressure had him improvising all game long. Wilson threw for a touchdown, but that was one of very few effective passing plays from Utah.

 

Run Offense: The rushing attack more than picked up the slack for the passing game during Utah's second-half run, even opening up Wilson's rare opportunities through the air. Devontae Booker had another big game with 146 yards, but with every one of his 37 carries, Arizona State became more and more aware of the game plan.

 

Pass Defense: Utah's nasty defense kept them in this game when Arizona State could have blown it open, and the Utes' secondary was making plays. It took some beastly plays from Jaelen Strong to give the Sun Devils the big-play ability, but the Utes otherwise kept Kelly and Co. in check.

 

Run Defense: The Utes got after the passer at ease, but they couldn't get to the running backs with the same effectiveness. Arizona State scampered for 239 yards rushing on the day, and that's even more impressive when you consider a number of sacks diminished those rushing totals.

 

Special Teams: Punter Tom Hackett was Utah's best weapon for much of the game. With field position crucial, Hackett had eight punts and one went for 58 yards. But when the game was on the line, the special teams unit let Utah down as Andy Phillips missed an overtime field goal after going 3-of-3 during regulation.

 

Coaching: Utah's play-calling was head-scratching during many late moments in the game with a stubbornness to run the ball. But you couldn't blame them too much with the way the passing game struggled. Kyle Whittingham nearly looked like a genius when he iced his own kicker before a miss, but then Phillips missed the next try anyway.

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Utah vs. Arizona State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Sun Devils and Utes

It took overtime, but a front-runner in the Pac -12 South race indeed emerged on Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona as the Arizona State Sun Devils held off the Utah Utes 19-16...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football Rankings Week 11: B/R's Official Top 25

After another wild weekend of college football, we'll have to wait until Tuesday to see how these results impact the latest College Football Playoff rankings. But we won't make you wait nearly as long to see the latest version of the Bleacher Report Top 25.

Losses by six teams from last week's rankings led to plenty of shake-up, but not everyone fell as much as you'd expect.

The Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 19 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman, Hunter Mandel and Eric Yates.

Each voter submits their ballots based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th, and then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 11 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 10

Week 10 was a week of scares more than upsets, and the effect it will have on the Week 11 Associated Press poll should be minimal because of that.

Undefeated Florida State trailed 21-0 at Louisville before coming back to win on Thursday. Undefeated Mississippi State trailed 10-7 at halftime before coming to beat Arkansas, 17-10. One-loss Notre Dame needed a full 60 minutes to beat Navy in FedEx Field. One-loss TCU needed a last-second field goal to win at West Virginia.

All of those teams were in last week's Top 10.

Alas, it's not like Week 10 was completely devoid of upsets (*cough* Georgia) and other impactful results, making it a fine appetizer for what's shaping up to be a great slate of Week 11 games.

Here's a guess at what Sunday afternoon's poll might look like:

Note: Rankings reflect a prediction of the Week 11 AP poll—not how the author would rank the teams himself.  

 

Biggest Risers

UCLA

UCLA dominated a lot more than the final score (17-7) indicates against Arizona, outgaining the Wildcats by more than 200 yards.

Jim Mora's team controlled the clock with a ball-possession offense and a finally actualized defense, holding the ball for more than 38 minutes. Quarterback Brett Hundley had 26 passes and 23 rush attempts, not lighting up the box score but lugging his share of the weight.

The Bruins were lucky to win six of their first eight games. A bad bounce here or there could have seen them lose to Cal and/or Colorado, in which case they never would have been ranked in the first place. But now that they've beaten both of the Arizona schools and only lost to one-loss Oregon and two-loss Utah, you'd have to look long and hard to find a two-loss team with a better win-loss profile.

Expect them to rise accordingly.

 

Clemson

Clemson is one of the two biggest risers in the projected poll despite not having played in Week 10.

Yeah…it was that type of weekend.

The Tigers benefitted from a long string of losses or unimpressive wins by the teams around them. Three of the four teams directly ahead of them in last week's poll—Utah, West Virginia and East Carolina—all came up in defeat. And the one-loss team close behind them, Duke, needed overtime to beat a not-very-good Pitt team in the afternoon.

There is no concept of Zugzwang in college football. Sometimes, you're allowed to gain an advantage by passing on your turn.

And that's precisely what Clemson just did.

 

Biggest Fallers

Georgia

Georgia did not just get beaten by a 3-3 Florida team that was combusting at the seams. It got worked by a 3-3 Florida team that was combusting at the seams, falling by 18 points, 38-20.

The loss was not a good look for a Bulldogs team that entered with one loss and ostensibly controlled its fate for the College Football Playoff. Presently, it no longer even controls its fate in the SEC East.

Georgia still holds the tiebreaker over Missouri in the division, but the Tigers are one game up in the loss column with toss-up affairs at Texas A&M and Tennessee and versus Arkansas still looming. Georgia still has to play at Kentucky and versus Auburn in SEC play.

It is not (even close to) a lock to reach Atlanta.

 

East Carolina

When you're right, you're right. And in this case (finally!) I was right.

I spent the entire week before this game honking about East Carolina's fraudulence, specifically the fact that it had not played a single team with a winning record after nine weeks. Temple was its first, and the Owls capitalized with a 21-10 win in the early afternoon.

ECU wasn't as quite bad as the final score indicated. It failed to recover any of the game's eight fumbles, a massive statistical anomaly, and outgained Temple by 293 yards. A losing team winning the yardage battle so decisively is almost without precedent, per Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com:

Still, a team worthy of making an Access Bowl would not muster 10 points at Temple. East Carolina was the only Group of Five team in the first CFP rankings, but it will fall (far) out in the second edition.

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Utah vs. Arizona State: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils (7-1, 5-1) survived a scare in overtime on Saturday night in Tempe, Arizona. They beat the No. 17 Utah Utes (6-2, 3-2) 19-16 on a game-winning field goal by Zane Gonzalez to claim first place in the Pac-12 South. 

The Utes had their chance to possess the ball first in overtime, but the usually dependable Andy Phillips missed the go-ahead field goal to the left of the upright. The official miss was Phillips' second chance to put his team ahead in the extra session.

Moments before he hooked the attempt to the left, he missed wide right. However, Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham called timeout just before Phillips badly missed the first attempt.

Gonzalez's 30-yard attempt from the right mark was true, and it delivered the Sun Devils the win. 

While Phillips' miss will likely be the most talked about issue amongst Utes fans, it's hard to win when a team can muster only 184 yards of total offense. John Coon of AP Sports and Max Preps agrees.

The game was a defensive struggle throughout. The Sun Devils defense gave Utah quarterback Travis Wilson fits. Wilson completed 12 of 22 passes for just 57 yards and a score. He was under duress much of the night and never established any rhythm with his receivers.

Whittingham rode his stud running back Devontae Booker hard. He had 37 carries total, but his 146 yards on the ground weren't enough to deliver the win. Arizona State's Taylor Kelly was solid. He completed 18 of 32 passes for 205 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Demario Richard led Arizona State's ground game with 108 yards.

If the season ended today, the Sun Devils would take on the No. 5 Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 title game, per ESPN's Dave Lombardi.

The team still has a ways to go before it can look ahead to that potentially epic showdown.

It will take on the Oregon State Beavers and Washington State Cougars in the next two weeks before battling the rival No. 12 Arizona Wildcats in the regular-season finale. That game could ultimately decide which team heads to the conference championship game from the Pac-12 South.

The Utes aren't totally out of it.

They too have a battle with Arizona remaining as well as matchups against the Stanford Cardinal and the Colorado Buffaloes. More than likely, the Utes will need to win out and receive some help if they hope to have the chance to play for a conference title.

 

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Arizona vs. UCLA: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wildcats and Bruins

The UCLA Bruins got off to a slow start offensively with only three points at halftime, but the two touchdowns in the second half proved to be the difference.

Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley had arguably his best outing of the season, throwing for 189 yards and adding 131 on the ground.

UCLA's defense really set the tone, forcing Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon into throwing 30 incompletions on the night. The pressure from the Bruins' front four made it tough for Solomon to ever get anything going.

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

 

Game Grades for the UCLA Bruins

 

Passing Offense

Hundley didn’t take a ton of shots down the field, but he was very efficient overall. He finished 19-of-26 passing, including a 70-yard strike in the second half.

 

Rushing Offense

The zone read was very effective for the Bruins Saturday night, and Hundley had his best rushing game of the season. The UCLA quarterback finished with 131 yards on the ground, leading all rushers.

The ability to run the ball allowed UCLA to control the clock and also sustain drives, which in effect kept Arizona’s offense on the sidelines.

 

Pass Defense

The Bruins made things tough on Solomon by getting pressure on him. The Arizona quarterback didn’t throw for many yards because of the amount of pressure.

He finished the game 18-of-48 passing, so it was a good night for UCLA’s secondary.

 

Run Defense

The Wildcats spent the fourth quarter in catch-up mode, so the run totals aren’t going to be as high. The credit has to go to UCLA’s defense, though, which held Arizona to just 80 yards on the ground.

 

Special Teams

UCLA missed a field goal, but the punting is what gives the special teams a high grade. Matt Mengel booted six punts inside the 20-yard line Saturday night.

 

Coaching

The coaching was excellent from head coach Jim Mora and his staff. The crowd didn’t like the decisions to punt the ball at times, but Mora knew what his defense was capable of, and he didn’t put his offense in bad situations.

 

Game Grades for the Arizona Wildcats

 

Passing Offense

Solomon will likely want to forget the night he had Saturday against UCLA. The freshman was 18-of-48 passing and also threw an interception. He ended up with 175 yards, but some of those were in the fourth quarter when the game was pretty much decided.

 

Rushing Offense

The Wildcats couldn’t get much going on the ground either. As a team, they only averaged 2.6 yards per carry, rushing for 80 total yards. Arizona running back Terris Jones-Grigsby led the rushing attack with 50 yards on 11 carries. The ability to run the football could have helped Arizona pick up first downs, but it couldn’t get it going.

 

Pass Defense

Hundley was able to complete 73 percent of his passes, and he connected on a 70-yard pass in the second half. I gave Arizona an average grade here because Hundley only threw for 189 yards.

 

Run Defense

The Wildcats allowed 271 yards rushing on 59 carries Saturday night, which came out to an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Hundley led all rushers with 131 yards, but UCLA running back Paul Perkins was also able to hurt them with 78 yards and a touchdown.

 

Special Teams

Not much went right for the Wildcats Saturday night, including special teams. The final field-goal attempt was blocked, which would have made it a one-possession game. Casey Skowron also missed another kick in this one.

 

Coaching

It’s hard to blame it all on the coaches, but ultimately Arizona’s staff didn’t have any adjustments for what UCLA brought defensively. The Wildcats were unable to consistently move the ball, and the defense gave up some big plays also.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona vs. UCLA: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wildcats and Bruins

The UCLA Bruins got off to a slow start offensively with only three points at halftime, but the two touchdowns in the second half proved to be the difference...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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