NCAA Football

Lane Kiffin, Blake Sims and Amari Cooper Changing Alabama's Offensive Identity

They are Alabama’s two biggest storylines of the 2014 season: Lane Kiffin, the maligned offensive coordinator hired to bring some life to a stagnant Crimson Tide attack, and Blake Sims, the fifth-year senior who scoffed at preseason prognostication to grab hold of the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback job.

On Saturday, in Alabama’s 42-21 stomping of the Florida Gators, Kiffin and Sims—with help from the best player in the country, wide receiver Amari Cooper—teamed up for a devastating offensive effort, racking up 645 total yards.

The Alabama offense, led by that trio, looked unstoppable when it wasn’t getting in its own way. And it’s an attack that at times looked drastically different from Crimson Tide offenses of old under Saban. College Football Talk provided impressive Alabama stats:

Let’s start with Sims, the unlikely heir to AJ McCarron, who has Alabama firing on all cylinders.

The knock on Sims was that he couldn’t throw the ball downfield, that most of his early success came on short throws to playmakers in open space.

Sims came out firing in his first SEC game, with an 87-yard touchdown to Kenyan Drake on a beautifully designed play.

He went on to hit throws of 26 and 37 yards and finished the first quarter with a 79-yard strike to a wide-open Cooper. Sims finished the day with 445 passing yards—the most ever for an Alabama quarterback under Saban and the second-most all time—with four touchdowns and an interception. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News provided Saban's comments about Sims as a passer:

Those downfield passing questions were shot down in a hurry. Sims made every throw he was asked to. He showed great touch on sideline throws and a laser arm over the middle. His only miscues were a tipped-ball interception on the run and a fumble on a botched read option.

It all came through a brilliant game plan from Kiffin.

On the first play of the game, Alabama showed a screen to Cooper on the left side. But lightning-quick running back Kenyan Drake was split out wide on the other side against a linebacker in open space, and Sims dropped in a perfect throw as Drake sprinted down the sideline.

Two drives later, Sims hit Cooper on the 87-yard score, and somehow he was this open, as shared by Cork Gaines of BusinessInsider.com:

Kiffin also didn’t completely abandon the run—even when it wasn’t working early and the passing game was clicking—and kept it simple when Alabama was trying to put the game away. The Crimson Tide rushed for 166 yards in the second half, including 91 by Derrick Henry in that half.

The only thing that could seemingly stop Alabama was itself.

It lost three fumbles in the first half, one that was returned for a touchdown and the other two set up the Gators with great field position. They were the only thing that kept Florida in the game, despite the Gators finishing the day with just 200 yards of total offense.

Otherwise, it was a massive day for the Crimson Tide offense against a good defensive team. Richard Johnson of Jacksonville.com shared the historical significance of the Crimson Tide's performance:

And it kept getting the ball to its best offensive weapon.

Cooper continued his incredible start to the season, catching 10 balls for 201 yards and three touchdowns. His best catch of the day was a fade route over Vernon Hargreaves III in the end zone for his second touchdown.

Led by Kiffin, Sims and Cooper—and surrounded by a complementary cast that makes up arguably the best skill group in college football—Alabama’s offense looked truly terrifying in many different ways.

This isn’t your grandmother’s Alabama offense that will run, run, run and set up play action. It will attack you in every way it can, and it has many ways to do so.

On Saturday, it showed just how dangerous it can be.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from Alabama notes. All recruiting information came from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Alabama's Amari Cooper Vaults into Heisman Consideration vs. Florida

Heisman consideration, meet Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. Amari Cooper, meet Heisman consideration.

The Crimson Tide junior had a phenomenal game in the 42-21 win over Florida in Tuscaloosa on Saturday afternoon, catching 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including 175 yards in the first half.

This performance vs. Florida and third-team All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, on top of a nation's-best 33 catches in three games coming into the game, should vault Cooper squarely into the discussion for the Heisman Trophy. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News provided Saban's comments on the team's strategic plan:

No, the Heisman Trophy hasn't gone to a wide receiver since Desmond Howard in 1991, and part of his resume included 694 yards and two touchdowns on special teams.

This is a different day and age, though.

Sure, the Heisman has become a quarterback-driven award, but it has also become an award where nontraditional candidates can make an impact. Former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch went to New York as a finalist out of the MAC last year, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o did the same in 2012 and former LSU cornerback/punt returner Tyrann Mathieu did it in 2011.

Why not Cooper?

All he's done this season is stabilize an Alabama offense that was in desperate need of stability.

With Blake Sims taking the reins at quarterback after AJ McCarron's successful career, new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin needed someone to help Sims ease into the transition of the starting quarterback role.

He needed somebody to provide that outlet early in games to get Sims into rhythm. He needed somebody to build Sims' confidence so that, when it became time to stretch the field, Sims had the comfort and confidence to do so.

It became time to do so against Florida.

Cooper averaged 20.1 yards per catch and had a big 79-yard touchdown catch to tie the game at 14 late in the first quarter.

With reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston being suspended for the Clemson game, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's injury and early struggles and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall not getting much help from his wide receivers (and, consequently, not putting up big numbers), quarterbacks are doing more to lose the award than they are to win it.

So let's get weird.

If there has been a wide receiver in recent years that deserves to get in the conversation, it's Cooper.

He has 655 yards and five touchdowns in four games this year, he has been an integral part of Alabama's transition to Kiffin and Sims and that production is only going to go up now that Kiffin knows that Sims can stretch the field in addition to managing the game.

The Heisman Trust states that the trophy "recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." 

It'd be hard, if not impossible, to make a case that Cooper isn't one of the most outstanding college football players in the country through the first four weeks of the season.

 

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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Indiana vs. Missouri: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 18 Missouri Tigers were given everything they could handle on Saturday by the surprising Indiana Hoosiers. After a full 60 minutes of back-and-forth action, Missouri was shocked by Indiana, falling at home by a score of 31-27.

Steve Walentik of the Columbia Daily-Tribune had Missouri offensive tackle Mitch Morse's thoughts:

After the Tigers notched three decisive wins against South Dakota State, Toledo and UCF, it appeared as though Saturday's impending contest against Indiana would yield the same result. Well, the Hoosiers had a different idea.

Indiana's talented running back, Tevin Coleman, helped his team strike first. With five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, the ball-carrier capped off a six-play, 66-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. The score earned him a spot in the school's history books, according to David Woods of The Indianapolis Star:

Not to be outdone, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk engineered a five-play, 90-yard scoring drive after completing a 45-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver Jimmie Hunt. No stranger to the end zone, Hunt has gained a reputation for his scoring prowess. Missouri's Twitter account had something to say about that:

Much to the chagrin of the Tigers, Indiana just wouldn't go away.

The Hoosiers marched down their field on the ensuing possession, running 16 plays and covering 75 yards on a clock-killing drive. D'Angelo Roberts put his team back on top with a one-yard touchdown scamper of his own.

Indiana Football's Twitter account posted a picture of the score:

The scoring continued shortly after, thanks to Missouri's speedy running back, Russell Hansbrough. After an 11-yard completion from Mauk to Bud Sasser, Hansbrough took the option handoff and cruised 68 yards for a touchdown.

Here's a look at the play, courtesy of ESPN:

At that point of the game, Hansbrough had carried only three times, but he accumulated a stunning 111 yards on the day.

The Tigers took their first lead of the game after driving 67 yards down the field and settling for an Andrew Baggett 27-yard field goal. That lead was short-lived, as the Hoosiers followed that up with a 69-yard drive that resulted in a 23-yard field goal by Aaron Del Grosso as time expired at the half.

After halftime, Missouri found itself in a scary situation, as Mauk was picked off by Mark Murphy to give the Hoosiers some great field position. Three lackluster offensive plays later and Indiana appeared ready to settle for a field goal. However, that wasn't to be, as Del Grosso missed his 41-yard attempt.

With an interception already in the books, Indiana's defense kept up a great deal of pressure on Mauk. The quarterback was forced to scramble out of the pocket more than he would have liked, and the end result was several punts.

The Hoosiers ended the deadlock in the waning minutes of the quarter.

Coleman rattled off a 49-yard run all the way down to Missouri's 33-yard line, and quarterback Nate Sudfeld completed a touchdown strike to J-Shun Harris II one play later to take a seven-point lead. Eye on College Football tweeted the upset alert:

Missouri needed to rally, and it did on the first drive of the fourth quarter. Mauk and Co. answered quickly with an eight-play, 71-yard drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Sean Culkin. Take a look at the play, via ESPN College Football:

After some nice defensive stands by both teams, Missouri was finally able to claim its second lead of the game. Mauk led an 11-play, 70-yard drive that stalled inside Indiana territory, leaving a 40-yard attempt for Baggett. The kicker split the uprights, and the game appeared to be heavily in favor of the Tigers.

Indiana began its attempt at a late game-winning drive from its own 25-yard line. Coleman struggled to find his receivers, quickly bringing up a fourth down for the Hoosiers. A throw over the middle resulted in an incomplete pass; however, a yellow flag signified pass interference, giving Indiana a first down.

Indiana Football tweeted another impressive stat on Coleman:

That's all the team needed. Coleman burst into Missouri's secondary, ripping off a 44-yard scamper deep into Tigers territory. Two plays later, Roberts capped off the drive with what turned out to be a game-winning three-yard touchdown dive with just 22 seconds remaining.

The Hoosiers now move to 2-1 on the season, with their lone defeat coming in a close contest at the hands of Bowling Green. According to NCAA Football, Sunday marked the first time Indiana defeated a ranked team since 2006:

Indiana will attempt to continue establishing its momentum in Week 5 against Maryland. The Terrapins are capable of putting up points—they defeated Syracuse by a score of 34-20 on Saturday—so we should be in for some compelling football.

As for Missouri, this loss may all but end its chances of maintaining a Top 25 status for the remainder of the season. The team earned its spot as the No. 18-ranked team in the nation by rattling off three consecutive wins to start the season, but one devastating loss can quickly alter the course of a season.

The Tigers will try to right the ship against No. 14-ranked South Carolina next week before a much-needed bye in Week 6. After that, they face Heisman-hopeful Todd Gurley and the Georgia Bulldogs on October 11.

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Sean Maguire Will Struggle to Replicate Jameis Winston's Success vs. Clemson

Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire has had very little time to adjust to his role in the national spotlight for Saturday night's clash against Clemson.

He's gone from opening act to star of the show in the wake of Jameis Winston's one-game suspension for shouting obscenities, up from a half-game due to a "continuing investigation," according to the university (via USA Today's Dan Wolken).

As if the rapidly evolving situation weren't enough, Winston is a decidedly difficult act to follow.

Last year, Winston had one of the finest games of his Heisman-winning campaign against the Tigers. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception. The Seminoles embarrassed the Tigers in their own stadium by a final score of 51-14. The inexperienced Maguire puts Clemson very much in contention to pull off an upset victory.

This isn't to say Florida State is incapable of ending Saturday night with their 19th-straight win, but a win will be a struggle and likely by a slim margin—much to the delight of neutral football fans curious as to how a top-ranked team fares when it is suddenly and unexpectedly forced to compete without its best player.

Maguire is facing an entirely different set of circumstances and will be working through his own lack of experience. He's been in the Seminoles program for two seasons but has attempted just 26 passes in his career. In fact, his lack of extensive experience throwing the ball extends back to high school, per CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli:

Maguire arrived on campus at the same time as Jameis Winston, as both were members of Florida State's 2012 recruiting class. Winston was obviously the quarterback everyone paid attention to, as he was a five-star recruit.

Maguire, on the other hand, was only a three-star recruit out of Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, New Jersey (where he rarely threw as the team ran the Wing-T according to the Florida State website).

He also doesn't have the luxury of facing a tune-up opponent to warm up to calling the shots for a major college football program.

Clemson is the No. 22 team in the nation, per the The Associated Press poll (h/t ESPN.com). The Tigers are 1-1 on the season, but that loss was courtesy of a collapse against Georgia, another ranked team that unleashed star running back Todd Gurley on the nation at the expense of the Tigers' D.

The odds are against Maguire putting up big numbers, but there is a precedent for him to find relative success against Clemson. ESPN College Football noted Seminoles quarterbacks have fared well against the Tigers in recent years:

Of course, Maguire needs only 85 yards to produce a personal career best, and that sum would be highly unlikely to deliver the victory the Seminoles need, let alone measure up to Winston's own performances.

Former Florida State wide receiver Kenny Shaw is also tipping Maguire to find success:

The 'Noles will have to contain Clemson's formidable pass rush as well, as they did last season, for Maguire to find success. Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley is a menacing presence on the gridiron and will be the main conduit through which defensive coordinator Brent Venables channels his blitzes and pass-rushing schemes.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher is adamant his team will run the same offense with Maguire in the game.

"Those [regular starters] rally around them,” Fisher said, reports Tim Linafelt of the Miami Herald. “We have good players. We’ll do what we do. We’ll run our offense. Sean has been running the same offense that Jameis has been running in practice."

It's the same offense no doubt, but likely with a greater emphasis on the run. Fisher should take note of Gurley's success against Clemson in Week 1 and adjust to do the same type of damage on the ground.

Karlos Williams is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, and Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook are sturdy backups capable of knifing through opposing defenses. Williams is very reliable, but he may not be explosive enough to force the Clemson defense to back off from creating pressure.

It should also be noted that some of the tailbacks' success is likely due to Winston's presence (and of course the monstrous offensive line), so they may face more eight-man fronts should the Tigers dare Maguire to beat them with his arm.

Maguire must simply contend with the rush in obvious passing situations, a difficult task for a player with limited experience.

Clemson is also coming off a strong offensive performance against South Carolina State. The Tigers put up 70 points in that contest, despite the fact the team is still trying to strike the right balance between quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson.

The improved play of their own quarterbacks should help the Tigers control the ball and prevent Maguire from getting too many opportunities to put up big numbers in this game.

Should Florida State pull out a victory, it could boost the team to reach even greater heights this season. The confidence coming from winning a game against a ranked opponent with a green quarterback could help the team move on from its (relatively) tepid start to the season.

The Seminoles were hardly convincing in Week 1 against Oklahoma State and cruised past—rather than blowing out—a pedestrian Citadel team. Still, their winning record and overall success as a program is nearly impossible to argue against.

If Winston returns to take over a 3-0 football team, the Seminoles should be all set to reach the NCAA playoffs and make a run at a second-consecutive championship.

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Blake Sims Is the Man to Lead Alabama to the College Football Playoff

The Alabama Crimson Tide took care of business on Saturday, beating Florida 42-21 behind a huge performance from quarterback Blake Sims.

Do you think Sims will be able to lead Alabama to the College Football Playoff?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barett Sallee discusses the talented senior quarterback in the video above.

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SMU vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for the Aggies

On a steamy afternoon in Dallas, Texas A&M had little trouble with in-state foe SMU. The Aggies were able to upend the Mustangs by a score of 58-6.

From the opening snap, the Aggies' speed overwhelmed the opposition. Wide receivers were picking up yards after the catch in big chunks. The run game was spurred on by domination up front by the offensive line. 

The defensive line was also able to bring pressure early and often to SMU's signal-callers Garrett Krstich and Kolney Cassel. The unit had eight sacks on the afternoon. 

Final stats from the game can be found here at NCAA.com.

Check out the first-half grades and final grades for the Aggies. Additional analysis for different position units will also be addressed. 

 

Texas A&M Aggies Game Grades

Passing Offense

The slight blemish on the afternoon came on Kenny Hill's first career interception (which was the result of a misunderstanding between him and a receiver). However, the passing game was clicking throughout the day. 

Jeremy Tabuyo was absolutely electric with his ability to run after the catch. On the day, Hill and Kyle Allen combined to go 24-of-37 for 395 yards and three touchdowns. 

 

Pass Defense

Outside of a 53-yard reception by SMU receiver Der'rikk Thompson, the secondary did a great job of shutting down the SMU passing game. Mustang receivers weren't able to get any sort of separation. The unit was disciplined and had no noticeable breakdowns in coverage.

Again, Armani Watts played exceptionally well. SMU signal-callers only threw for 137 yards on the day. 

 

Rushing Offense

The Aggies' dominance up front on both sides of the ball started with their offensive line. The unit was opening up gaping holes all afternoon. A&M running backs were able to use their speed in order to bounce outside and gash the SMU defense. 

Seven rushers combined for 268 rushing yards on 31 carries. This equates to an impressive 8.6 yards-per-carry average. 

 

Run Defense

SMU came into today's game averaging negative seven rushing yards per game through the first two contests. As the game became more out of reach, the A&M defense naturally schemed to protect against the pass. Due to this, Krstich and Kevin Pope were able to pick up yardage with their legs. 

However, the defensive line was dominant. The unit was able to notch eight sacks against a severely undermanned SMU offensive line. SMU rushed for a paltry 103 yards on 42 carries. The "A-" grade strictly correlates with SMU's immense struggles rushing the football heading into today. Against virtually any other opponent, the Aggies would've received an "A" grade. 

 

Special Teams

Kicker Josh Lambo was perfect on the afternoon, connecting on all three of his field-goal attempts. The one flub came towards the end of the first half. After an SMU field goal, the Mustangs executed a pooch kick to perfection. 

The Aggies' coverage team wasn't able to come up with the ball. Although no points came of the unconventional onside kick, it's a play which prevented an "A" grade for the unit. 

 

Coaching

Sumlin simply let his athletes take over in space. It truly was a simple and somewhat vanilla game plan. With the advantage from a talent and athleticism standpoint, Sumlin didn't need to reinvent the proverbial wheel.

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Florida vs. Alabama: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Alabama Crimson Tide, powered by a standout passing attack, survived an early onslaught of turnovers to handily defeat the Florida Gators 42-21 in a wildly entertaining Week 4 SEC matchup on Saturday.

Here is a look at the quarter-by-quarter scoreline from the game:

Alabama head coach Nick Saban is the epitome of a control-freak coach, and it was a shock that he wasn't spotted frothing at the mouth with the mistake-filled first half the Crimson Tide had.

After the game, Saban acknowledged his team had things to improve on, per John Zenor of The Associated Press: "Obviously everybody that watched the game could tell that there were some things that we did extremely well and some things (that) were pretty sloppy. But I thought in the second half we really controlled the game."

Things got off to a blazing start for Alabama, however, when Blake Sims found running back Kenyan Drake wide open down the sideline for an 87-yard touchdown pass. ESPN College Football provided a quick summary of Alabama's scoring drive:

This incredible start was mitigated by three Crimson Tide fumbles in the first quarter. Drake fumbled the ball on Alabama's second possession, allowing the Gators to score on a short field with a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Driskel to wide receiver Valdez Showers.

Alabama wideout DeAndrew White not only killed his team's drive with a fumble on the next possession, but Florida defensive back Keanu Neal scooped up the ball and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown and a surprising 14-7 Florida lead.

Sims, not known for his ability to throw the deep ball, couldn't help but take advantage of the Gators' wayward secondary. As it turns out, hanging with Amari Cooper is no easy feat for opposing cornerbacks. Sims found his favorite wide receiver wide open down the middle of the field late in the first quarter and hit the receiver in stride for a 79-yard scoring play that tied the game at 14 points apiece.

That play was just one electrifying half of Cooper's receiving-yards total during the first quarter.

Sims' favorite target quickly surpassed the 100-yard mark on the game, as noted by SportsCenter:

Perhaps Sims' big day shouldn't have been too much of a surprise.

ESPN's Alex Scarborough noted he was pumped up before the game:

The oddities and sloppy plays, alien concepts to a Saban-run team, extended into the second quarter.

Alabama punter JK Scott made a glaring error of his own, shanking a punt in the second quarter that just barely carried past the 50-yard line. Fortunately for Saban's blood pressure, Florida fumbled on the second play of the ensuing drive, and 'Bama's Reggie Ragland scooped up the ball, atoning for his team's turnover sins.

At halftime, there was little in the stat line to suggest this was anything resembling a quality SEC matchup.

The Crimson Tide went into the locker room with just 45 yards from their running backs, a microscopic total for a team that features rushers as talented as Drake, Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon.

Driskel completed just five of 17 passes for 53 yards, one touchdown and one interception after 30 minutes of play, and yet the Gators were down by just one score.

The second half showed little signs of a return to normalcy, with Alabama quickly committing another turnover. Sims was the culprit this time around, as his pass was intercepted by linebacker Antonio Morrison, who returned it deep into 'Bama's half of the field.

Driskel carried the ball 14 yards for a score on just the second play of the ensuing drive to tie the ballgame early in the third quarter.

Henry turned out to be the antidote to the majority of Alabama's woes. In true Crimson Tide fashion, he trucked defenders and steadily chewed up the grass at Bryant-Denny Stadium, scoring on a three-yard run with 5:27 to go in the third quarter to hand the Crimson Tide a 28-21 lead they would not relinquish.

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde isn't quite sure Alabama knows what it has in Henry:

ESPN's Peter Burns busted out a fine pop culture reference to describe Henry's marauding exploits:

Alabama received a scare later in the third quarter when Sims suffered an apparent shoulder injury at the end of a long run. Backup quarterback Jake Coker, who transferred to Alabama from Florida State, came in to take the reins for a drive.

ESPN Stats & Info noted Sims was in the midst of a rare performance for a Crimson Tide signal-caller:

Cooper, who finished the game with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns, provided the heroics his team needed without Sims on the field. The star wideout brought down a jump ball from Coker in the dying seconds of the third quarter to extend his side's lead to 14. 

Ken Carman of 92.3 The Fan noted that Cooper looked quite a bit like NFL wideout—and former Alabama star—Julio Jones:

The Crimson Tide were now finally on a roll. Safety Landon Collins made a fantastic one-handed interception early in the fourth quarter on a Driskel pass intended for Quinton Dunbar.

Forde gave a quick take on why that play unfolded the way it did:

Sims returned to the game to quarterback Alabama's next drive. He tossed another touchdown pass to Cooper to make the score 42-21 with approximately 10 minutes to go and put the game well out of reach for the Gators.

Sims finished the game with 445 yards passing and four touchdowns against just one interception. He was close to the Alabama single-game passing yards record, but Saban opted to let Coker finish out the game and get some much-needed repetitions.

Alabama's ability to overcome the early adversity bodes well for its future. The talented stable of running backs and with the evolving play of Sims at quarterback give the team a dangerous offense to pair with its stout defense.

Sims was the team's biggest question mark heading into the season, but he's looking like the undisputed answer at quarterback. At this point in the early college football season, Alabama appears to be one of the favorites to make it to the four-team College Football Playoff.

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Check Out Florida's Dirty Strip Taken Back for Touchdown vs. Alabama

The Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide squared off in a key SEC West showdown in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Saturday. The Gators got on the board early when Keanu Neal recovered a fumble and took it 49 yards to the house. 

Is this the play of the day so far?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Watch Alabama QB Blake Sims Drop Bombs in Tuscaloosa vs. Florida

The Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide squared off in a heated SEC showdown. Quarterback Blake Sims had no regard for Florida's loaded secondary, as he threw for a pair of long touchdown strikes in the first quarter.

Is Sims playing his way into the Heisman discussion?

Watch this video and let us know!

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Kenny Hill vs. SMU: Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Even when Kenny Hill isn't "Kenny Trill," he's still a ton of fun to watch.

The Texas A&M quarterback didn't look his best as the Aggies coasted in the first half against SMU on Saturday, but he did put up impressive numbers for two quarters of football. Before leaving the game, Hill was 16-of-22 passing for 265 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also had 57 yards on the ground.

SMU as a team had 63 total yards over that same period of time, per ESPN College Football:

The Aggies didn't necessarily start the game poorly, but they needed a couple of drives to find their footing. With Texas A&M up 3-0, Hill broke free for a 58-yard run to the SMU 9-yard line. Two Trey Williams rushes later, the Aggies were up 10-0 and didn't look back from there.

Gabe Bock of TexAgs Radio thought that huge run from the QB woke the A&M offense from its slumber:

For ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr., the play was reminiscent of Hill's high school days at Southlake Carroll:

On the Aggies' next drive, Hill connected with Jeremy Tabuyo for a 30-yard touchdown, giving Texas A&M a commanding 17-0 lead:

The lone blemish on Hill's day was that pick, which is his first of the year. He appeared to have a miscommunication with Ricky Seals-Jones about the freshman wide receiver's route. As a result, Hill's pass was way off the mark, per Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman:

Going into halftime, A&M held a 38-3 lead over the Mustangs, and Hill was a big reason for that. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin substituted in freshman Kyle Allen to start the second half:

Looking ahead to the Heisman race, Hill likely didn't gain or lose any ground on the top competition. Heading into the weekend, he was fourth on ESPN's Heisman Watch behind Jameis Winston. Hill should of course jump ahead of Winston, who's out against Clemson, but he's still looking up at Marcus Mariota and Todd Gurley.

Playing SMU isn't a strong test of one's Heisman credentials anyway. The Mustangs are in complete free fall, having lost their first two games by an average of 41 points before going down 58-6 to the Aggies.

Hill's real tests come later in the season, when Texas A&M faces Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and LSU in a six-game span.

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Miami vs. Nebraska: Live Score and Highlights

Nebraska 31, Miami 21—Late 3rd Quarter

The Nebraska Cornhuskers, one of just two remaining undefeated teams in the Big Ten, face a must-win for not only their own playoff hopes but for the general respect of the Big Ten as a conference.

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Clemson vs. Florida State: Live Score and Highlights

Clemson 10, Florida State 10 — Early 3rd quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 22 Clemson (1-1) and No. 1 Florida State (2-0). ABC is televising the matchup nationally from Tallahassee.

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

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Texas A&M Football: Is Kenny Hill the SEC's Best Heisman Candidate?

Saturday afternoon's blowout performance proved one thing—Kenny Hill is not a fad. Rather, he is in fact the top Heisman Trophy candidate in the SEC so far in 2014. 

Sure, the Texas A&M Aggies were facing the SMU Mustangs, one of FBS' most hapless teams this season. 

But nevertheless, it seems like since Week 1, when he toasted the South Carolina defense, we've all been waiting for Hill to slip up. We've been waiting for him to have an off week that proves he's just another product of the Kevin Sumlin spread-offense system—that he actually isn't on the same level as his predecessor, Johnny Football. 

He hasn't slipped up, not yet at least. He's been on point every game this year, and so far he has proved to be the rightful heir to Manziel. 

On Saturday against SMU, Hill torched the Mustangs to the tune of 265 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-22 passing—all in the first half—before being replaced by Kyle Allen. 

His 265 yards and two touchdowns were actually both season lows. He also threw his first pick of the year, but even that may not have been his fault, according to Kirk Bohls of the Austin-American Statesman. 

But his nearly 73 percent completion rating was the second highest of the year behind only his Week 1 showing against the Gamecocks. He also rushed for a season-high 57 yards.

To date, Hill has racked up 1,361 passing yards and 13 touchdowns through the air and has been sacked just five times. He also has the Aggies poised to make a run at an SEC title. 

But to be the top Heisman contender from the nation's best conference, you have to beat out some pretty tough competition that includes Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. 

While those three guys are certainly on an elite level, there is a case to be made for Hill being better than all of them. 

In the case of Hill vs. Gurley, there's a direct comparison between how each performed against a lesser opponent. Against Troy on Saturday, Gurley had just 73 yards—albeit on six carries—and no scores.

Gurley also has a loss on his resume to the team that saw Kenny Hill transform into "Kenny Trill."

The Bulldogs lost to the Gamecocks in a thriller last week. And while Gurley was excellent in that contest with 131 yards, wins and losses are so critical when it comes to Heisman candidacy. Two years ago, former Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein saw his Heisman hopes dashed when the undefeated Wildcats lost to Baylor. 

Last year, the primary reason for Jameis Winston winning the Heisman was the fact that the Florida State Seminoles rolled basically every team they played. 

To be a Heisman winner, you have to win most, if not all of your games. The loss to South Carolina, a team Hill torched, puts Gurley behind the eight ball. 

Looking at Amari Cooper, the simple fact is that so seldom is the Heisman given to a wide receiver. In fact, only Tim Brown and Desmond Howard lay claim to being primarily wideouts who are also Heisman winners. 

While Cooper is undoubtedly the SEC's best receiver, he's not putting up the type of out-of-this-world numbers for voters to rank him over a quarterback who has surpassed 260 yards passing in every game he's ever started.

Finally, there's the only other quarterback from the SEC considered a Heisman candidate—Nick Marshall. 

On Thursday night in front of a rabid Manhattan, Kansas, fanbase, Marshall led the Tigers to their toughest win since the SEC title game last year, as they upended the Bill Snyder-led Kansas State Wildcats 20-14. He had 231 yards and two touchdowns in what many perceived as a trap game for the Tigers. He proved he is the bona fide leader of the reigning SEC champs. 

But regardless, the numbers just aren't there for Marshall. He only has 382 yards passing and five total touchdowns to his credit, as running back Cameron Artis-Payne is proving to be a better replacement for Tre Mason than expected. 

His passing total ranks outside the top 10 in the SEC, behind the likes of Patrick Towles of Kentucky, Justin Worley of Tennessee and Jeff Driskel of Florida. You can't get outgunned by names like that and be worthy of the Heisman over the conference's passing leader. 

The schedule is set up to help Marshall more than Hill. Five of Auburn's last six games are against teams in the Top 15 as of Week 4. If Marshall shines in those games, the "what have you done for me lately" nature of college football will reward him over Hill. 

But if he falters, that will be an irremovable nail in his Heisman coffin. 

Hill's Heisman candidacy is coming together, and everybody is starting to come around to the idea. 

Heading into Week 4, NFL.com's Mike Huguenin listed Hill as the third-best candidate for the award behind only Gurley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota. 

Hill's 511-yard, three-TD performance in the opener against South Carolina took on a little extra sheen with the Gamecocks' victory over Georgia. Hill and the Aggies have cruised past Lamar and Rice in the past two weeks, and get a bad SMU team next weekend. Then comes SEC play, when we will find out if Hill truly is a Heisman contender. He is fifth nationally in passing yards and fourth in TD passes; he also is the only quarterback among the 18 nationally who have thrown for at least 850 yards not to have tossed an interception.

For now, Hill is the best Heisman candidate the SEC has to offer. If he keeps it up, he'll likely become the second Aggies quarterback in three years to win college football's most coveted award. 

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Utah vs. Michigan: Big House Evacuated Due to Lightning in Area

The Utah Utes lead the Michigan Wolverines by a score of 26-10 in the fourth quarter of their Week 4 clash, and the Big House is already empty. Although, it's not due to the home team's lackluster play. According Michigan, some nasty weather rolled into Ann Arbor, causing a delay in the game:

Nick Bumgardner of MLive.com tweeted the precautions that were being taken in the meantime:

Things haven't looked good for the turnover-prone Wolverines so far, making this delay rather fitting.

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Blake Sims Injury: Updates on Alabama QB's Shoulder and Return

All was going according to plan for Alabama in the second half against Florida until Blake Sims was forced to exit the game.

According to John Zenor of The Associated Press, Sims was favoring his right shoulder before making way for Jacob Coker:

Sporting News' Matt Hayes reports that Sims has returned:

The injury was at least serious enough for Sims to get looked at in the locker room, per Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel:

Mandel noted Sims returned to the sideline shortly thereafter: 

At the time of Sims' departure, the Crimson Tide held a 28-21 lead over the Gators and were close to increasing their lead further.

The senior signal-caller has gone 21-of-30 for 402 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He's also got 12 yards rushing on the day.

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Oklahoma vs. West Virginia: Live Score and Highlights

Oklahoma 31 West Virginia 27 - Late 3rd Quarter

The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners visit the West Virginia Mountaineers in a pivotal Big 12 matchup. Both teams look to open up 1-0 in conference play. 

Fox will be showing the match, while Bleacher Report is here to provide live scoring updates and in-game analysis. Feel free to leave your thoughts on all the action in the comments section below.

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South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt: Live Score and Highlights

No. 14 South Carolina finally heads out on the road for the first time this year as it travels to Nashville, Tennessee, Saturday night to face the Vanderbilt Commodores. 

At 2-1 (1-1 in SEC play), the Gamecocks couldn't have a more enticing matchup for their road opener. The Commodores are 1-2, with their lone victory coming last week over Massachusetts. 

Despite being embarrassed by Texas A&M in the season opener, South Carolina has rebounded with two straight wins over East Carolina and Georgia. While the defense remains a work in progress, the offense, led by running back Mike Davis, is starting to come around. 

According to GoGamecocks.com, Davis is probable for tonight's game, as he's battled an ankle injury throughout the season. 

The Gamecocks are 19-4 all time vs. Vandy and have won the last five meetings. 

Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET, and you can watch live on the SEC Network with Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer on the call. 

Make sure to stay right here with us at Bleacher Report for news, notes, scoring updates and analysis for tonight's game. Also, you can follow the live box score at NCAA.com.

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Should Frank Beamer Be on the Hot Seat After Virginia Tech's 2nd Straight Loss?

It's a question that has been asked several times over the past few seasons, and folks in Blacksburg must be sick of it. No, Virginia Teach head coach Frank Beamer does not belong on the hot seat, although he may be eyeing it from the next room over.

The Hokies lost their second straight contest on Saturday—this time a 27-24 defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech where they squandered a late lead and practically handed the Yellow Jackets the game thanks to quarterback Michael Brewer's third interception. Last week, East Carolina walked into Beamer's workplace and left with a win.

Questions will fly around the college football world about whether Beamer ought to be on the proverbial hot seat of coaching, and if you've paid much attention to the Hokies so far in 2014, the answer is no.

That no, however, comes with a caveat: If Beamer doesn't succeed in developing his quarterback, he may end up there and might even find himself in danger of losing his job entirely.

The last great season by a signal-caller on Virginia Tech came in 2010, when Tyrod Taylor had 24 touchdown passes with just five interceptions to go along with 659 rushing yards and another five scores.

Logan Thomas' career got off to a promising start as a sophomore when he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011, but he would fail to hit those numbers again.

In fact, his interceptions went up, while his completion percentage went down. This season, we've seen flashes of greatness from Brewer, and since he's a first-year starter, you have to be more lenient with the mistakes that will inevitably come.

Even still, throwing five interceptions through four games isn't going to cut it. A 2-2 start isn't going to cut it either—not with both defeats coming at Lane Stadium, which has lost every bit of aura and intimidation it previously had.

All of this points toward a coaching staff that should be subject to criticism, and it'll get a fair share of it this week to be sure. But nobody loves the Hokies like Beamer, and hardly anybody walks into The Shoe in Columbus and leaves with a victory over the Buckeyes as his team did on September 6.

This isn't a sinking ship with violinists out on the deck playing a farewell song. But there are holes that must be patched up, and it would be unwise to have the man in charge for the past 27 years walk the plank.

In 2010, the Hokies opened up the season with losses to Boise State and mighty James Madison of the FCS. They followed up the brutal start with 11 straight wins before succumbing to Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

A 2-2 start with a victory over Ohio State should be looked at as another slow start to the season with promising signs and a chance to do some damage in the ACC. East Carolina is not a bad football team, and neither is Georgia Tech.

The Pirates played South Carolina tough on the road, and the Yellow Jackets are 4-0. The problem is that Virginia Tech has talent and shouldn't be satisfied with merely being decent. The Hokies should be winning home games against East Carolina and Georgia Tech, and they should be figuring out ways to move the ball more effectively.

That could mean a switch at quarterback, something Beamer commented on briefly following the latest loss:

Perhaps the change will come via the ground game, where freshmen Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams form a duo that could become something special.

At the end of the first half against Georgia Tech, the Hokies had the ball with enough time on the clock to get into field-goal range. You figured that with Brewer's questionable decision-making, the run game would be the star act on the drive.

Yet the ball was put in Brewer's hands, and twice he had throws that could have been intercepted. He's clearly not ready to be slinging the ball all over the place, so why not develop a game plan that eases him into the offense more?

Start with simple throws before taking riskier shots down the field.

It's that kind of series that puts doubt into the solid foundation built by Beamer over the years. That foundation consists largely of strong play on special teams and solid defense. In fact, Virginia Tech hasn't allowed more than 23 points per game in the past six seasons. That side of the ball looks fine, even with the Yellow Jackets marching down the field for the game-winning field goal.

To get back to winning ACC championships and into the national championship conversation, Coach Beamer must get more creative on offense and see that his teams get better throughout the season, specifically at the quarterback position.

If that happens, any sort of hot-seat talk will die down quickly. But if Brewer can't improve as the season wears on, the blame will naturally fall on Beamer.

As the head coach, that's the way it's always going to be, and if he's to maintain the position he's held for so long, changes must be made.

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Texas A&M Mascot Saved from Getting Hit by Player Thanks to Great Block

The Texas A&M Aggies had a comfortable 38-3 lead at halftime over the SMU Mustangs. However, they were almost unable to protect their mascot/highest-ranking cadet, Reveille VIII, on the sideline.

After Aggies defender Nick Harvey pushed SMU's Der’rikk Thompson near the corner of the end zone, the receiver began losing control straight toward the dog. Fortunately, one of the cadets was able to make a great block to keep her safe.

[Vine, h/t College Spun]

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Amari Cooper vs. Florida: Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Florida apparently omitted Amari Cooper in its scouting report ahead of Saturday's game against SEC rival Alabama.

The Crimson Tide wideout benefited from a massive miscommunication problem in the Gators secondary, hauling down what was a 79-yard touchdown reception that tied the game at 14-14 with 4:12 in the first quarter. It's one of the more comical breakdowns you'll see all year.

There wasn't another Florida defender within 10 yards as Blake Sims' pass floated in over the top of the defense and landed into the hands of Cooper. He jogged into the end zone (via CBS Sports):

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel had some advice for Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin:

Cooper had an impressive stat line through the first two quarters. Most guys would kill to have numbers like this after four quarters, let alone one half of play.

His stats are actually a bit disappointing considering where he stood in the first quarter:

What receiver can't record nearly 800 yards and five touchdowns in a game? Cooper was on pace to do that based on his first-quarter performance:

He and head coach Nick Saban will certainly settle with his actual first-half output. With those 175 yards, Cooper increased his streak of 100-plus-yard games to six, which is the highest active streak in the country, per SportsCenter:

The junior now has 18 career receiving touchdowns as well, which ties him with Dennis Homan for the all-time lead at Alabama, per ESPN Stats & Info:

Although the NFL draft is months away, some are already looking ahead to Cooper's pro prospects. Hall of Fame wideout and current NFL analyst Cris Carter sees the Tide star as a potential top-five pick:

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah thinks Cooper plays a lot like Jordy Nelson, which is high praise indeed:

Clearly, Florida will need to do something else to knock off the No. 3 Crimson Tide. The Gators are down 21-14 going into halftime, and a big reason for that is Cooper.

In order to claw their way back in the second half, the Gators will have to neutralize Cooper and the Alabama passing attack.

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