NCAA Football

Miami Football: 2015 Recruits Hurricanes Must Land

The Miami Hurricanes are heating up on the football field, and they'll look to continue that success on the recruiting trail.

Currently, Al Golden and his coaching staff have assembled 247Sports' third-best group in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 15th-best nationally.

Whether a particular athlete fits the system, occupies a position of need or is flat-out talented, a handful of high-school stars stand out as must-land players for the 'Canes.

Since recruiting is an ever-changing, volatile landscape, committed prospects—both to Miami and other programs—are included.

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Texas Football: 5 Matchups to Watch for Texas vs. West Virginia

The only way Texas will be able to reach a bowl this season is by knocking off a Top 25 opponent. This week's home matchup with No. 24 West Virginia would be a great move toward a strong finish.

West Virginia has been one of 2014's biggest surprises, riding its all-around offensive attack and stingy secondary to a 6-3 record, with all three losses coming against Top 10 teams. Based on that strength of schedule and a statement win over Baylor, the Mountaineers are one of the few three-loss teams left in the rankings.

That's bad news for the Longhorns, who have struggled with West Virginia's peers of late. Per The Austin-American Statesman's Brian Davis, the Longhorns are 4-19 against ranked teams since 2010, coming up empty all four times this season.

For Texas to reverse that trend, it will need to win at least three of its five key matchups. And it starts with slowing down the Mountaineers' best offensive player.

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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

Although it was nervy for a while, the No. 21 Clemson Tigers were able to pull out the victory on the road against a feisty Wake Forest team by a score of 34-20. 

The Tigers outgained the Demon Deacons 427 to 119 in terms of total offense. Signal-caller Cole Stoudt threw for 282 yards and three touchdowns on the evening. Running back Wayne Gallman chipped in with 106 yards on the ground, including one rushing touchdown and a receiving score. 

Dave Clawson's team put up a valiant effort in the loss. Undermanned, the Demon Deacons went toe-to-toe with the Tigers for three quarters—until Clemson pulled away in the fourth quarter. 

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

Clemson Tigers Analysis

Passing Offense

In the first half, Clemson didn't look to attack down the field very often. Credit Wake Forest for applying some pressure on Stoudt. However, in the second half, Clemson's signal-caller was very effective. He finished with 282 yards passing and three touchdowns. 

Stoudt began to spread the ball around efficiently to his talented receiver corps. Eight Clemson receivers caught passes on the night. Artavis Scott in particular was explosive. The freshman led the team with eight receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns. 

 

Pass Defense

Clemson was fooled on a trick play early in the first quarter. However, the Tigers challenged the Wake Forest receivers at the line of scrimmage—daring Wake quarterback John Wolford to beat Clemson deep. On the night, Wake Forest's longest pass play went for 24 yards—and it was on the reception to Wolford from receiver Jared Crump.

Clemson held Wake Forest to 112 passing yards on 30 attempts. This is an outstanding and highly productive effort. 

 

Rushing Offense

Wake Forest did a very good job of bottling up Clemson's rushing efforts in the first half. The Tigers rushed for only 26 yards. Staying true to their usual form this year, Clemson ran the ball much better in the second half. 

Gallman finished with 106 yards on 19 carries. The team as a whole rushed for 145 yards on 37 carries. While it wasn't a banner evening, the offense got much-needed balance in the second portion of the game. 

 

Run Defense

Wake Forest entered the game as the nation's worst team running the football. On average, the Demon Deacons rush for 34.5 yards a game. In the first quarter alone, the team piled up 30 yards. Wake was actually getting a decent push against Clemson's vaunted defensive front. 

However, this quickly subsided. Pressure up front from Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley (among others) offered little time for the ground game to get its legs going. The negative plays (via sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage) crippled the Demon Deacons' rushing attack. 

For the night, Wake rushed for seven yards on 34 carries. 

 

Special Teams

The muffed punt by Adam Humphries was poor. He should have let the punt go over his head, as opposed to battling a wind gust for the ball. It was exacerbated even further, as Wake Forest ended up scoring a touchdown off of the turnover. 

Kicker Ammon Lakip was solid on the evening, as he connected on both of his field-goal attempts.  

 

Coaching

The staff didn't utilize the considerable speed advantage it had on offense. Early on, there really wasn't much of an effort to test Wake Forest deep, nor was there an attempt to get the receivers in space. However, the third-down screen pass in the second quarter to Gallman for a touchdown was a very nice play call by offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

Defensively, Clemson stood steadfast in its plan to press the Demon Deacons at the line of scrimmage—while rarely mixing things up coverage-wise. 

In the second half, Morris made much more of a concerted effort to find balance on offense. By beginning to run the football with effectiveness, it opened up the passing game. The receivers were lined up in different spots, and the Tigers were able to exploit some mismatches on the perimeter.

Defensively, Brent Venables did a nice job of becoming more diverse in his coverage calls. This helped to confused Wake Forest's inexperienced offense. 

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Ohio State Football: X-Factors for the Buckeyes Against the Spartans

Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team have had 11 months to linger on the devastating and gut-wrenching upset loss they suffered to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game last December.

This Saturday, the Buckeyes will finally get a chance at redemption when they hit the road for a prime-time matchup against the Spartans in East Lansing.

The game has huge implications for not only the Big Ten as a conference, but for the landscape of college football's first-ever playoff. Ohio State and Michigan State represent the league's best chance of making the highly anticipated postseason, and Saturday's showdown will be a pivotal moment for the conference as a whole.

Will the 14th-ranked Buckeyes get the resume-boosting win they desperately need, or will the Spartans prove themselves as the class of the Big Ten once again? Mark Dantonio's squad opened as two-point favorites early this week, but the line has jumped to 3.5, according to Odds Shark

Michigan State is getting the benefit of the doubt thanks to a home-field advantage that will certainly have an impact on a young Ohio State team. That's one of the components working in Dantonio's favor, so the Buckeyes will need to overcome a hostile road environment with some X-factors of their own.

Because when looking at these teams, it's easy to see how even they really are.

 

Mirror Images?

Dantonio and Meyer have been successful in building Big Ten juggernauts—but they reached that pinnacle from two very different paths. 

It took a few years for the Spartans to find their groove under Dantonio, going 22-17 in his first three seasons with the program (2007-09). But since 2010, Michigan State has averaged 10.5 wins per year—relying on a consistently good defense and efficient offenses led by quarterbacks such as Kirk Cousins.

Ohio State has thrived under Meyer, losing just three of its 34 games since the start of the 2012 season. The Buckeyes have buried a majority of their competition behind the strength of one of the nation's most productive offenses, but defense has been a consistent issue.

Even though both teams dropped Week 2 matchups against nonconference opponents, Michigan State and Ohio State have taken their games to another level. The Spartans offense is producing at the highest level of the Dantonio era, and the Buckeyes defense is surging under new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash.

That improvement will pin two evenly matched teams against each other this Saturday.

What will Ohio State have to do to overcome such a strong opponent on the road?

 

When Ohio State's on Offense

Meyer's top priority on Saturday night should be getting J.T. Barrett settled into the game, because the young signal-caller struggled mightily the last time he was on the road. Against Penn state in a prime-time matchup in Happy Valley two weeks ago, Barrett threw for a season-low 74 yards and tossed two costly interceptions in a seven-point double-overtime victory.

Some of those struggles can be tied to Ohio State's conservative play-calling. As the Nittany Lions rallied, Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff buttoned things up, leaning on Ezekiel Elliott and an improving rushing attack. But Meyer knows a similar game plan won't get it done against the Spartans.

"To win this game... We'll have to open up a little bit," Meyer said on Thursday, according to DJ Byrnes of Eleven Warriors

That means Ohio State's pass-catchers will have to step up. 

During the Big Ten title game last year, senior Corey "Philly" Brown hauled in five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. The rest of Ohio State's receivers and tight ends combined for just two catches (one each from Devin Smith and Jeff Heuerman) for 47 yards.

Barrett has been incredible at distributing the ball this season, as Ohio State has eight different pass-catchers with more than 100 receiving yards. Sophomore Michael Thomas and senior Devin Smith, who have combined for 882 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, lead the way for the Buckeyes.

“We’re going to be ready. We know we have a great game plan coming in," Smith said, according to Eric Seger of The Ozone. "We’re going to come in (Thursday), finalize everything and just go out there Saturday and just try to be productive.” 

They'll have to be ready to overcome a challenge, because Michigan State and its eighth-ranked passing efficiency defense await.

 

When Ohio State's on Defense

When these two teams last met, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook gashed Ohio State's beleaguered secondary with 304 passing yards and three touchdowns. 

That was against a unit that finished the year ranking 110th nationally defending the pass. That inefficiency prompted Meyer to make a change, which brought Ash from Arkansas to join Luke Fickell and the Buckeyes defensive staff.

With a more aggressive scheme, the Buckeyes have been much better defensively—especially against the pass. Ohio State ranks 18th in passing efficiency defense, 13th in passing yards allowed and is tied for seventh nationally in interceptions.

But a strong defensive line—fueled by super sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa—is helping Ohio State's young but promising secondary.

Bosa ranks fifth in the country in sacks per game and is tied for third in tackles for loss, which leads the Big Ten in both categories. He is Ohio State's most disruptive defender by a wide margin, and he'll need to be at his best against the Spartans Saturday night.

Michigan State knows the challenge Bosa presents.

"He's a great player," Michigan State left tackle Jack Conklin said, according to Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News. "You see him this season and last season, he bounces around a lot so the whole line is going to have to be ready to play against him."

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 21 Clemson Tigers got all they could handle from a game with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons squad before leaving Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a 34-20 victory Thursday night.

Wake Forest entered the game winless in the ACC and a heavy underdog, even playing at home. However, midweek games have been crazy all year, and some of that magic rubbed off on the Demon Deacons.

Despite being outgained 427-119, Wake Forest remained tied with the Tigers in the fourth quarter until the Clemson offense simply became too much. The home team couldn't keep pace with the Tigers' array of weapons.

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt started a bit slowly but improved as the game went on, finishing 27-of-42 for 282 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. His favorite receiver was Artavis Scott, who led the team with eight receptions, 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Wayne Gallman chipped in 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground in addition to 43 yards receiving and another TD.

Compare that to Wake's leading offensive stars.

Quarterback John Wolford went for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 11-of-29 passing. Both TDs went to tight end Cam Serigne, who was Wake's leading receiver with 34 yards on three receptions. Running back Dezmond Wortham could only grind out 30 yards on eight carries.

By the numbers alone, Clemson dominated the game from start to finish. But the numbers only tell half the story.

The Tigers were by far the better team in the first half but shot themselves in the foot on two occasions with turnovers. As a result, Wake Forest headed into halftime tied with the Tigers, 17-17.

The Demon Deacons grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after Wolford hit Serigne for a four-yard touchdown pass. Wake Forest had a short field after cornerback Kevin Johnson intercepted Stoudt and returned the ball to the Clemson 43-yard line.

Clemson247 felt the turnover was more proof as to injured QB Deshaun Watson's importance to the offense:

In the second quarter, Stoudt made up for his mistake. After an Ammon Lakip field goal closed Clemson's gap to four points, 7-3, the senior quarterback found Gallman for an 18-yard touchdown pass to hand his team a 10-7 lead.

Here's a look, via Clemson Athletics:

The turnover bug bit the Tigers just one drive later, however. After a pass-interference penalty gave Wake Forest an automatic first down, the Clemson defense held strong and forced the Demon Deacons to punt. Tigers return man Adam Humphries then muffed the punt, and Johnson recovered the ball at the Clemson 13-yard line.

Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, wondered what Humphries was doing attempting to field the punt in the first place:

That turnover added to what was a great half for Johnson, as noted by ESPN College Football:

Wake Forest needed all of two plays before Wolford and Serigne connected on a touchdown strike for the second time, this one from 14 yards out, to grab the lead back from Clemson, 14-10. Serigne was the first freshman tight end to get two touchdowns in a game since 1998, per Wake Forest Football:

The Demon Deacons' advantage was short-lived. Stoudt once again responded. He led an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to Scott. The Tigers enjoyed a 17-14 lead with 27 seconds left until halftime.

But that was just enough time for Wake Forest kicker Mike Weaver to line up and connect on a 50-yard field goal as the half expired to tie the game. The 17 points were the Demon Deacons' highest first-half total all year:

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was blunt in the assessment of his team, per ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee took a look at the first-half stats and couldn't believe that the two teams were tied:

Clemson failed to create much separation in the third quarter too. Lakip hit a 39-yard field goal to put the Tigers ahead 20-17 five minutes into the half, but they couldn't pad the lead any more. Clemson's offense was moving the ball better and not turning it over, but it still couldn't find the score that would break the game open.

After missing a 54-yard attempt in the third, Weaver tied the game in the fourth quarter from 31 yards out with 11:08 to play.

Those three points helped bring the Demon Deacons back into the contest and build some confidence among the Wake Forest faithful.

Then, on the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive, Scott went 68 yards on a pitch-and-catch from Stoudt.

Scott's big-play ability was exactly what Clemson needed to shake itself back to life. ESPN.com's David Hale is already looking to the future, during which he sees Watson and Scott anchoring the Tigers offense:

Clemson doubled its lead, 34-20, on its next drive, with Gallman punching it in from 30 yards out. Although Wake Forest had 6:36 left to tie the game, the final touchdown broke the Demon Deacons' spirit.

Although Clemson continues looking up at the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles in the standings, the Tigers' win at least keeps them in the hunt for one of the six big New Year's Day bowls. The Orange Bowl reserves a spot for the highest-ranked ACC team not going to the College Football Playoff, which in all likelihood will be Clemson.

On the other side, Wake Forest's journey to its first conference win won't get much easier. The Demon Deacons play North Carolina State, Virginia Tech and Duke to wrap up the regular season.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Peters' Updated 2015 NFL Draft Stock Following Dismissal

Washington Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team on Thursday for a violation of team rules, as reported by Adam Jude of The Seattle Times.

Peters is arguably the top prospect at his position, presuming he chooses to enter the 2015 NFL draft. In light of his dismissal from Washington, it appears forgoing the final year of his collegiate eligibility is the best course of action for the redshirt junior.

However, The Seattle Times' report states that Peters clashed with the Huskies coaching staff multiple times. His dispute with an assistant during Wednesday's practice, combined with missing practice Tuesday and arguments with his superiors amid Saturday's win over Colorado, led to his dismissal.

As talented as Peters may be, what should turn out to be his final college coach, Chris Petersen, won't exactly be giving NFL talent evaluators a glowing endorsement.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller explains why Peters' solid, first-round stock may not budge despite an alarming, abrupt conclusion to his Huskies career:

CBSSports.com draft expert Dane Brugler expressed similar sentiment in his analysis:

Gil Brandt of NFL.com is on the other side of what should be some heated Peters debates in the coming months:

The good news is that prospective NFL suitors don't have to concern themselves with Peters getting injured for the remainder of the season.

As long as he stays in shape during his gridiron hiatus and can convince teams in pre-draft interviews that he simply couldn't coexist with Petersen, Peters shouldn't fall out of the first day.

Peters' ability to play press coverage translates well to the NFL, where he'll need to be physical right at the point of attack due to the plethora of illegal contact and defensive holding penalties called. It also helps that he tackles well and doesn't shy away from stepping up in run support.

This unfortunate Washington episode should also offer Peters some extra motivation to exonerate himself if there are any lingering, negative sentiments about how he'd jell in an NFL locker room. Teams that need help in the secondary should be running to the podium if Peters falls to them in the draft.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Marcus Peters' Updated 2015 NFL Draft Stock Following Dismissal

Washington Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team on Thursday for a violation of team rules, as reported by Adam Jude of The Seattle Times ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tennessee Football: 2015 Recruits Vols Must Land

As an encore to his seventh-ranked class in his first full season as Tennessee football coach, Butch Jones has pieced together an even more dynamic, versatile class in the 2015 cycle.

The Volunteers currently have a group of 26 prospects that is ranked fourth in the nation, according to the 247Sports. It also features more 5-star prospects (three) than anybody else.

But just because this class is clearly among the best doesn't mean UT is loaded at every position.

Hammering out an exact number of players Jones wants has been a practice in futility each of the past two seasons. Last year, UT brought in 32 players. So, while one would think that means the Vols would have a smaller class this year, it hasn't been the case.

Not only do the Vols already have more than the 25 commits that teams are allotted to sign, but they're actively recruiting several more players—a couple of which could really put this class over the top in terms of talent.

From elite skill-position players to need-meeters across both lines of scrimmage, the Vols have myriad options out there and remain high on the list of some of the nation's top players.

Let's take a look at the six players UT needs to sign in the next three months leading up to national signing day.

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6 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 11

The inaugural college football postseason race may be the most important element of this weekend's pivotal schedule, but it remains imperative to keep an eye on the 2015 recruiting cycle with just three months separating us from national signing day. The second weekend of November features meaningful matchups on the field and several compelling prospect visits across the country.

These coveted players could ultimately reshape future campaigns for each program by providing a serious infusion of talent on both sides of the ball. Here's our weekly look at top recruits who plan to spend time on campuses.

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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Live Score and Analysis

The No. 21 Clemson Tigers (6-2) are looking to avoid the upset tonight, as they take a trip to sleepy Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-6). 

Dabo Swinney's team will be looking to win its sixth straight contest. Clemson has to win out if there's any chance of playing in the ACC Championship Game. Of course, Florida State would have to lose multiple games for this scenario to unfold. 

Wake Forest is looking to win its first game since late in September. Simply put, it's been a tough year for Dave Clawson's team. If Wake has any shot at winning the game tonight, it will have to play well against Clemson's vaunted defensive front. 

The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN. 

Odds Shark has Clemson as a 21-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com. 

 

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Notre Dame Football: How Would Irish Fare in SEC in 2014?

"Yeah, but they'd finish no better than fifth in the SEC."

Versions of the above statement frequently pop up on Twitter and in online message boards, usually by critics who scoff at the success and attention that schools outside the SEC get instead of a team from college football's top conference. It's mostly hyperbole, since actually being able to quantify such claims would prove almost impossible.

Challenge accepted.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's jab at teams ranked above the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff Top 25 play schedules that include what he called "glorified byes"—a thinly veiled jab at SEC schools that frequently line up FCS or low-level FBS teams in November—provides the perfect opportunity to discuss how Notre Dame would fare playing a similar slate.

In other words, how would the Irish do if they were in the SEC?

Ask those down south and you'll get a very firm answer, and it won't be pretty. The opposite goes for Notre Dame's many supporters, who no doubt feel no less than a conference title is the likely outcome. This, despite the fact that Notre Dame's limited recent history against the SEC is...well, let's just say it's not a subject that gets discussed much at Irish fan club gatherings.

That infamous 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game is the last time Notre Dame played an SEC opponent. Before that was in 2007, when the Irish were clubbed 41-14 by LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

The lack of commonality between Notre Dame and the SEC makes direct comparison difficult, as the only common opponent this year was Rice. Both the Irish and Texas A&M handily beat the Owls, but that was early in the season before the defending Conference USA champions righted the ship and are now on a five-game winning streak.

Because of this, most comparisons are hypothetical and based on assumptions, which depending on the source can be biased. Chris Alderson of FootballNation.com took a stab at figuring out how Notre Dame would do if they were in the SEC West, the best division in the country:

"I feel Notre Dame would go 4-4 or 5-3 at best if they played in the SEC West this season. I feel this is a combination of an over ranked team in Notre Dame, but more importantly how dominant the SEC West is this season."

That's an ambitious prediction, though it doesn't factor in which crossover teams the Irish would face from the East. Being on that side of the conference might prove to be far easier, based on how this season has gone for the East's teams and the fact that division is currently led by a school (Missouri) that lost at home to Indiana.

Indiana is 0-4 in the Big Ten, a conference that Notre Dame has gone 2-0 against this season, including a shutout of a Michigan team that just blew out Indiana. A perfect example of the transitive property in action.

Looking at how Notre Dame has performed this season against a schedule that computer ratings guru Jeff Sagarin ranks 49th (NOTE: Sagarin rates every SEC team's schedule as 46th or better), the results don't look like the kind that would translate into success down south. A pair of 16-point neutral-site wins over Purdue and Syracuse, both of whom are 3-6, aren't anything to write home about. Nor is a victory at home against 4-5 North Carolina, a game in which Notre Dame gave up 43 points.

There's been one true road game for the Irish, one pure hostile environment, which also happened to be their only loss. Yet the 31-27 defeat at Florida State stands as their best result because of the atmosphere, the overall effort and the style points they gained for hanging in there with the defending national champs.

"Notre Dame now joins the ever-growing ranks of elite but once-beaten teams, but it may have seen its stature grow by taking FSU down to the wire, on the road," wrote Bleacher Report's Tom Weir.

In that respect, Notre Dame compares favorably to Ole Miss, who despite losing for the first time at LSU found itself in the initial CFP's final four, then after losing in heartbreaking fashion the following week at home to Auburn is still ranked higher than several one-loss teams (and just behind the Irish).

Maybe that means the Irish would do better against tougher competition, that to this point it has played up or down to the opponent's level. Presumably, this would translate to better efforts against SEC foes, but that's as much of an assumption as anything else.

Unless Notre Dame gets paired up with an SEC team in the postseason this year, the next chance to accurately compare it to that conference will be in 2017 when it hosts Georgia. It might be easier to gauge how the Irish would finish in the ACC, thanks to its long-term scheduling agreement with that conference.

Simple answer on that: Notre Dame would essentially be the Duke of the ACC, maybe the Clemson. In other words, good enough to lose to Florida State.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Does Convincing Win over Arizona State Put Notre Dame in Position to Crack CFP?

Notre Dame fans have been feeling slighted by the College Football Playoff committee because of their low ranking despite narrowly losing to the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder discuss whether a win against Arizona State is enough to propel the Irish into the CFP top four.

Do you think Notre Dame will make the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Auburn Football: Tigers Must Get Their Defensive Edge Back vs. Texas A&M

AUBURN, Ala. — Calling Auburn's 38-23 loss to Mississippi State last month a turning point for the 2014 season is definitely an understatement.

The Tigers were plagued by offensive inconsistency and another slow start away from home while their defense had few answers for the Bulldogs' star-studded attack.

Since that loss and an important bye week, the Auburn offense has responded with back-to-back victories featuring more than 500 total yards apiece.

However, the Auburn defense has gone through the wrong kind of turnaround, as it allowed more yards in the South Carolina and Ole Miss games than in any other previous matchup:

The issues have mostly been in the passing game, where opposing quarterbacks have been able to rely on short- to intermediate-range passes to move the ball effectively.

"We’ve got to do a better job with our zones and passing things off and everything that goes with that," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday night. "It all works together on defense, but that’s an area we need to improve on. Our coaches understand that and our players understand that. I’m confident we will."

With Georgia and Alabama coming up, Auburn's defense will have a chance to get its edge back against a Texas A&M offense that, despite its struggles, is exactly the challenge the Tigers need.

"We are playing a team that was ranked in the Top 10 about a month ago," Malzahn said. "They are unbelievable on both sides of the football. Offensively, they have experience up front, they have big, fast receivers, very good running backs and a talented young quarterback."

Although the Aggies went with a more vanilla offense with first-time starter Kyle Allen at quarterback last Saturday, they still lead the SEC in pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns with head coach Kevin Sumlin's offensive scheme.

As the last two weeks have shown, the Tigers have a lot of work to do in tightening up the secondary.

Auburn faced 53 pass attempts from South Carolina's Dylan Thompson two weeks ago, which was the most an opponent has thrown against the Tigers since Washington State's Connor Halliday threw the ball 63 times in the 2013 season opener.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier's no-punt strategy also put extra pressure on an Auburn pass defense that had improved significantly from its 2013 numbers but started to show cracks again.

"We had a lot of miscommunication," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said after the South Carolina game. "We’ve had some of that this year but not nearly to that degree. It was more like they reverted back to where they weren’t sure about some of their adjustments."

Johnson said the Tigers cut down their mistakes in his four key areas of defensive play—penalties, missed assignments, missed tackles and finishing plays—from the South Carolina game to the Ole Miss game, but the mistakes were magnified.

"When we missed a tackle, it was a big, glaring missed tackle," Johnson said.

Ole Miss took advantage of that poor tackling in space with its playmakers on the outside.

A team like Texas A&M is built to capitalize on those same mistakes, and the Tigers could be in for a frustrating afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium if they don't improve in that area.

"We know we need to do better moving on this season," junior linebacker Kris Frost said. "[Ole Miss] had some big-time playmakers, as do all the teams we play each and every week, but they definitely did a great job of getting out in space and making moves on us. We missed a few tackles that were unacceptable, but it's basically all about getting back to the basics and really focusing on what we have to do to improve."

Auburn's play against the run has continued to be its defensive strong suit, and the defensive line showed improvement in the pass rush in the road win over Ole Miss with a season-high four sacks.

But sure tackling and good communication in the secondary were the keys to Auburn's early-season success on defense.

If the Tigers don't reclaim those advantages and take care of business this Saturday, the Aggies could give them a scare—no matter how much the offense is struggling without Kenny Hill.

"We never go into a game with the mindset that we can relax," Frost said. "If anything, it puts us on higher guard against the team we're playing, like a team like South Carolina that has nothing to lose. ... We're going to go into this game with the same attitude we go into every game, which is try to get better and try to do everything we can to dominate from the start."

 

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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The 5 Most Telling Stats for BYU This Season

On the heels of a season-saving win at Middle Tennessee, BYU has a bye week before its final three games. But with most of the season already finished, now is a good time to look back on the first nine games.

Numbers never tell the whole story, but a lot can be learned from this season's statistics. There's no way to describe a convincing four-game winning streak and subsequent losing skid with numbers, but there are several stats that tell a lot about the season.

So, what are the Cougars' five most telling stats? Here they are.

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