NCAA Football

UCLA Football: Bruins Offense Clicking at the Right Time as Postseason Looms

The UCLA that college football pundits projected to compete for a berth in the College Football Playoff made an appearance in the 18th-ranked Bruins’ 44-30 defeat of Washington on Saturday.

In particular, the UCLA offense found its rhythm, making good on running back Paul Perkins' prediction after last week's defeat of Arizona.

Perkins said he sensed the Bruins were "on the verge of something great," and the result at Husky Stadium was UCLA's highest offensive output since hanging 62 points on Arizona State in September.    

The emergence of UCLA's offense fittingly started with quarterback Brett Hundley, who looked more like the preseason Heisman Trophy candidate than at any other time this season.

He accounted for 320 total yards and scored four touchdowns, operating behind an offensive line that played one of its better games. The UCLA front helped keep Washington's second-ranked sack-generating defense away from Hundley, taking advantage of linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha's absence for much of the night to allow just one sack.

A confident Hundley completed 29 of 36 pass attempts, improving upon his impressive season-long average of 71 percent coming into Saturday's affair, per CFBStats.com

Hundley's ability to get the ball out quickly to a variety of receivers—10 Bruins caught passes—gave the UCLA offense a fluidity it needs to finish strong in its two remaining games.

Protecting Hundley has been one of the more vexing issues for UCLA on the campaign. Another is penalty yardage. The Bruins addressed penalties Saturday along with their improved blocking, drawing just four flags for 37 yards.

No longer facing downs of more than 10 yards due to penalties, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has more options in his playbook. And there's no doubt UCLA is most effective when it's multifaceted.

That was reflected in how the Bruins scored their five touchdowns. Hundley rushed for two and found Kenneth Walker and Mossi Johnson for one each with the pass.

The fifth came from Myles Jack, whose highlight-reel scoring rush stole the spotlight from two-way counterpart Shaq Thompson.

The Bruins haven't needed Jack to be the ball-carrier he was late last season, but having him as a complement to Perkins, Jordon James and Nathan Starks in the backfield only makes UCLA more dangerous.

And when the Bruins are not getting in the end zone, having kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn connecting is vital.

Fairbairn went 3 of 3 on his field-goal attempts, most notably hitting a 44-yarder that salvaged a fourth-quarter drive nearly stalled by a questionable offensive pass interference call.

Much like the sacks surrendered and penalty yards accrued in past games, missed field goals plagued the Bruins in past weeks.

Head coach Jim Mora said, "We've got to figure out how to put the ball through the uprights when we get in scoring position," after Fairbairn missed a 41-yard attempt on Oct. 11 against Oregon.

With that problem seemingly resolved, UCLA is one facet closer to reaching its full potential for the season's final push.

Better late than never.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via UCLABruins.com.

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UCLA Football: Bruins Offense Clicking at the Right Time as Postseason Looms

The UCLA that college football pundits projected to compete for a berth in the College Football Playoff made an appearance in the 18th-ranked Bruins’ 44-30 defeat of Washington on Saturday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Kansas State vs. TCU: How Horned Frogs Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

Led by the freewheeling exploits of star quarterback Trevone Boykin, TCU notched an important 41-20 victory over Big 12 rival Kansas State on Saturday. The win leaves both teams with 5-1 conference records and keeps the Horned Frogs' College Football Playoff hopes alive.

If nothing else, this season has proven the Horned Frogs belong in the Big 12. Head coach Gary Patterson said prior to the Kansas State game that this team is prepared for bigger and better things.

“Obviously proved to all of those people that said TCU couldn’t win in the Big 12,” he said, via Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "There is still a lot of work to do. We are just touching the iceberg. I told you guys that — 'bout like when I told you someday we'd go to a BCS bowl. You kinda looked at me strange."

As the Big 12 is one of the better conferences in the nation, this bodes well for TCU's chances should it win out. This is a highly likely proposition, as the Horned Frogs' last three opponents—Texas, Kansas and Iowa State—have a combined 10-18 record this season.

The lack of a Big 12 title game could work against the Horned Frogs. It prevents them from another chance to prove their worth as one of the best teams in college football. On the other hand, winning the Big 12 title outright or on tiebreakers and getting a week off preserves their win-loss record, and other teams from the major conferences could slip up and push them through.

TCU's only loss on the season was a 61-58 thriller against Baylor, who is also 5-1 in Big 12 play. The Bears do own the head-to-head tiebreaker over TCU, which means the Horned Frogs will be hoping that Kansas State can come through and beat Baylor on Dec. 6. 

There is a chance the Horned Frogs could move into the College Football Playoff spot without necessarily winning the Big 12 title. TCU was ranked sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings coming into this week, while Baylor was 12th. 

Having the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation lends a certain amount of prestige, but the College Football Playoff committee will be inclined to go with title winners. TCU's schedule is nothing to sneeze at either, as they've gone 4-1 against ranked opponents this season.

Grantland's Matt Hinton noted it will be a tough call between these two teams:

Assuming Baylor slips up, the Horned Frogs should get the final playoff spot alongside Florida State, Oregon (if it wins the Pac-12) and whichever team makes it out of the SEC West alive—which looks to be the Mississippi State Bulldogs at this point.

It's highly unlikely that two SEC teams will make the CFP after Auburn's loss to Texas A&M. However, Alabama is still a possibility to make the cut if it wins the SEC title and the Bulldogs' only loss on the season comes against the Crimson Tide.

Ohio State is still lurking and looks to be in control of the Big Ten, but the sullied reputation of the conference leaves them without any bona fide signature wins on the season.

TCU is still in the playoff hunt with the win, but it might not control its own destiny with so many other worthy one-loss teams from across the nation.

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Watch UCLA's Myles Jack Embarrass Defenders with Nasty Stiff-Arm and Spin Move

Myles Jack decided that stiff-arming a defender to the ground wasn't enough; he had to embarrass the defense further with an elusive spin move on his way to the end zone. UCLA takes down Washington with a score of 44-30. 

Was this the best run of the day?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Watch UCLA's Myles Jack Embarrass Defenders with Nasty Stiff-Arm and Spin Move

Myles Jack decided that stiff-arming a defender to the ground wasn't enough; he had to embarrass the defense further with an elusive spin move on his way to the end zone. UCLA takes down Washington with a score of 44-30...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Utah Player Drops Ball Before Goal Line in Celebration, Ducks Take It 100 Yards

Oh no, he didn't just do that, did he? He didn't actually pull the DeSean Jackson, right? Just who scored the touchdown—Utes or Ducks?!

Early in the second quarter of the Utah-Oregon battle on Saturday night, Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay beat the coverage for a long touchdown. He released the ball in celebration...quite short of the goal line. He rejoiced. His team celebrated. 

Oregon picked up the fumble.

Yes, there was a period of time in which both teams were celebrating, 100 yards apart. Fans and announcers tried to figure out what had happened.

Both Utah and Oregon think they scored a TD 100 yards apart.

— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 9, 2014

The replays showed the answer quite clearly:

As brutal as it gets: Utah's Kaelin Clay clearly drops ball before scoring, Oregon picks it up and runs it back. https://t.co/vR9JUNnVkj

— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) November 9, 2014

Oregon just got burned for a TD, and scored? Best offense a heads-up defense? review coming.

— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) November 9, 2014

Touchdown, Oregon.

[SB Nation, Twitter]

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Kansas State vs. TCU: Score and Twitter Reaction

TCU continued its impressive season with a dominant 41-20 win over Kansas State in a matchup of top-10 teams.

Aaron Green—filling in at running back for the injured B.J. Catalon—was outstanding throughout the game, finishing with 171 rushing yards  on 18 carries and a touchdown. Trevone Boykin continued his Heisman campaign with 219 passing yards, 123 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Tyler Lockett was one of the few bright spots for Kansas State, totaling 11 catches for 196 receiving yards and a score in the loss. Unfortunately, the rest of the team struggled to do anything offensively in an otherwise disappointing day.

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated noted the effect this game could have on the college football landscape: 

TCU came out hot and did a great job moving the football in the first quarter, getting two quick touchdowns to go up 14-0 in a dominant start, as described by Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com was impressed in Boykin's passing ability shown in the early going:

Kansas State was finally able to answer, however, with Jake Waters throwing a beautiful 70-yard touchdown pass to Lockett. David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest described both sides of the play that cut the lead to 14-7:

Still, that play pretty much represented the only offense in the first half for the Wildcats. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports broke down how well the TCU defense performed early on:

The Horned Frogs added a field goal in the second quarter to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.

At the start of the second half, Boykin again showed what he was capable of by leading a 60-yard drive that ended with him doing a flip into the end zone for the score, as captured by Jarrett Payton:

Brent Yarina of BTN.com noted what the play could mean for the talented player:

Kansas State was able to answer with a solid drive of its own as Waters found Curry Sexton in the end zone for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-14.

This did not last long though as Green was able to answer back with a 65-yard touchdown run for TCU, a play that impressed Newy Scruggs of NBC Sports Radio:

A field goal at the start of the fourth quarter put the Horned Frogs up 34-14 as they proved to simply be too much for Kansas State.

After another Boykin rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter extended the lead to 41-14, Wildcats backup quarterback Joe Hubener put one in to cut the lead to the eventual final of 41-20.

There was a lot of hype surrounding a game with two elite teams and a lot on the line. However, TCU head coach Gary Patterson did not want to create any bulletin board material. 

"We talk with our pads,’’ Patterson said earlier in the week, via Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News. “That’s the way good programs do it. We don’t need to go the other way. We need to understand there are things that go along with what we’re given.’’

This ended up being an excellent strategy as the team focused on the task at hand and pulled out an easy win against a very good opponent.

With the victory, TCU now puts itself in good position to play its way into the College Football Playoff if it can keep winning. The one-loss squad now has another marquee win on the resume and should keep moving up in the rankings while the SEC schools keep beating each other up.

On the other hand, Kansas State is likely eliminated from title contention with a second loss on the year. This could still end up being a great year based on the preseason expectations, but the players and fans have to be disappointed knowing there could have been much more.

The Horned Frogs will have a relatively easy road match against Kansas next Saturday, followed by games at Texas and then home against Iowa State. The Wildcats will have a week off before facing West Virginia on the road on Nov. 20. A home game against Kansas and a trip to Baylor also loom on the schedule.

What happens in each of these games will end up deciding which team takes home the Big 12 title.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Washington Huskies Quarterback Cyler Miles Gets Destroyed on Scramble

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

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

— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) November 9, 2014

[Twitter]

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

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

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

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

 

Pass Offense

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

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

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

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

 

Run Offense

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

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

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

 

Pass Defense

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

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

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

 

Run Defense

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

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

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

 

Special Teams

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

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

Together, that’s an “A” in my book.

 

Coaching

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

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

 

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

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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

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

Sophomore wide receiver John Ross was up to the task.

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

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

[SnappyTV]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Improvement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Insanity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Inconsistent Everett Golson Throws Notre Dame's Playoff Hopes Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Oregon vs. Utah: Live Blog and Highlights

Oregon 21, Utah 7 -- Late 2nd Quarter

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

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

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

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Oregon vs. Utah: Live Blog and Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas A&M Aggies Analysis

Passing Offense

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

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

 

Pass Defense

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

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

 

Rushing Offense

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

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

 

Run Defense

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

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

 

Special Teams

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

 

Coaching

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

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

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

Auburn Tigers Analysis

Passing Offense

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

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

 

Pass Defense

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

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

 

Rushing Offense

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

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

 

Run Defense

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

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

 

Special Teams

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

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

 

Coaching

Coaching lost the game for Auburn. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the video let us know!

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Biggest Win in Program History Makes Arizona State True Playoff Contender

It's time to start taking Arizona State seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which isn't to say that things were perfect.

They weren't.

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

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

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

And it might be what makes it so good.

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

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

How many other teams can that be said about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This might not be the end of the similarities.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Biggest Win in Program History Makes Arizona State True Playoff Contender

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

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Don't Call It Bad Luck, Tigers Beat Themselves

For the next few days, you're going to hear plenty of discussion about Auburn's luck running out and karma finally coming back to the Tigers after nearly two years of close wins.

Don't fall into that trap.

There was no luck or karma involved in Texas A&M's 41-38 win over Auburn on Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn simply got beat.

Beat by the Aggies and, perhaps more importantly, by itself.

The most obvious self-inflicted wound came with 54 seconds left at A&M's 27-yard line, when center Reese Dismukes prematurely snapped the ball to quarterback Nick Marshall—who was checking at the line of the scrimmage at the time. It will, undoubtedly, be the play that becomes known as the one that sealed the upset.

This game was lost way before that.

Auburn's defense let this game get way out of hand early due to its inability to pressure true freshman quarterback Kyle Allen and, most importantly, to tackle.

Allen wasn't sacked in the first half and only once for the entire game. The absence of a pass rush wasn't a new phenomenon for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's crew. They came in 10th in the SEC with 16 sacks—four of which were last week against an Ole Miss offensive line that was without star tackle Laremy Tunsil.

The bigger issue, though, was Auburn's glaring inability to tackle, as linebackers and defensive backs routinely took horrible angles to ball carriers in the first half—which closed with the Aggies up, 35-17.

As the assembled members of the media covering the game pointed out, the absence of fundamentals was a theme for the entire afternoon.

This game wasn't lost on November 8. It was lost in mid-August and late March, when the Tigers were supposed to be working on fundamentals in a camp setting. If you can't tackle in early November, your window has closed.

In retrospect, this was something that was bound to happen.

Auburn's tackling was atrocious last week in the 35-31 win over Ole Miss in Oxford, too. According to Ryan Black of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, linebacker Kris Frost specifically mentioned that the tackling had to improve from last week.

“We missed a few tackles that were unacceptable," Forst said. "But it's basically all about getting back to the basics and really focusing on what we have to do to improve.”

They didn't.

The missed tackles were precursors to Auburn uncharacteristically beating itself. More specifically, its best players, who have time and time again come up big in clutch spots, let Auburn down.

Marshall and running back Cameron Artis-Payne—both of whom were on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race—fumbled an exchange on a zone-read play from the Aggie 2-yard line. The next drive, with Auburn on the edge of field-goal range, Dismukes—a preseason first-team All-SEC selection—snapped the ball early to end the game.

Its three offensive stars cost Auburn the game in the end, despite Artis-Payne rushing for 221 yards and two touchdowns and Marshall accounting for 286 yards and three scores (two rush, one pass).

They shouldn't have been in this game to begin with, and the mere fact that Artis-Payne, Marshall and Dismukes were in position to toss the game away late is a compliment to what they did to keep Auburn in the game in the first place.

Auburn's defense—the punchline to a bad joke for going on two years—cost Auburn the game. It wasn't luck, karma or magic.

It was time.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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