NCAA Football

Cal vs. Stanford: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Stanford Cardinal are heading to Levi’s Stadium.

After a 35-22 win over the California Golden Bears on Saturday in Stanford Stadium, the No. 11-ranked Cardinal punched their ticket to the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 5 in Santa Clara, California.

Stanford will be vying for its third conference championship in the last four years under head coach David Shaw. The Cardinal will meet the winner of next week’s USC-UCLA showdown for a guaranteed spot in the Rose Bowl.

In the 118th all-time meeting between the two teams, Stanford faced the challenge of containing Cal quarterback Jared Goff, the projected top quarterback in next year’s NFL draft.

Goff threw for 386 yards and two touchdowns, so the Cardinal didn’t succeed on that front. But Stanford succeeded in keeping the Golden Bears out of the end zone for the majority of the game. Cal didn’t cross the goal line until there were four minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter, when Goff threw a touchdown pass to Darius Powe.

The Cardinal didn’t get much from quarterback Kevin Hogan, who threw for 96 yards and a touchdown in the win. But as has been the case all year, Christian McCaffrey carried the Cardinal to victory, rushing for 192 yards and also returning a kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half.

Stanford's official Twitter account provided a clip of McCaffrey's touchdown as he sprinted down the right sideline and went untouched to help put Stanford up 21-6 at halftime:

The Heisman Trophy candidate has been the biggest reason why Stanford is in this position. His 388 all-purpose yards Saturday set a new Stanford record. He's been putting up numbers like this all year, per ESPN's David Lombardi:

After the Cardinal lost to the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 14, Stanford seemed to be losing its grip on the Pac-12. If Stanford had lost to Cal, Oregon would have been in position to represent the North Division in the conference title game with a win over Oregon State next week.

But Stanford will be in Levi's Stadium for a chance to win the conference championship. That much is certain. This part isn't: Will Stanford be playing to earn a spot in the Rose Bowl or to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff?

The way CBS Sports' Jon Solomon sees it, that answer will come after Stanford's game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish next week in a de facto CFP quarterfinal matchup:

Postgame Reaction

ESPN's Heather Dinich was on SportsCenter after Stanford disposed of Cal on Saturday night. When asked to give her top four teams in college football, she listed Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma.

Iowa was not listed, and when asked about why the undefeated Hawkeyes were not in her top four, Dinich responded with the phrase, "Iowa's best win is against Northwestern."

The same Northwestern team who beat Stanford 16-6 to open the college football season.

It's understandable. The early portion of the schedule should not be considered. A lot has changed since the Cardinal lost to the Wildcats in Week 1. Beating USC in the Coliseum was not expected. Neither was that eight-game winning streak the Cardinal went on.

To discredit Iowa right now is to discredit Stanford. And if the dominoes fall the right way, both of those teams could be playing for a national championship.

If Stanford doesn't lose to Oregon, there's a certain chance Stanford is in the College Football Playoff discussion heading into its showdown with Notre Dame next week. So much can change in a week's time, as Ralph Russo of the Associated Press points out:

For the Cardinal to be 8-1 in the Pac-12 with how that Northwestern game unfolded is a huge accomplishment and a credit to David Shaw as the program's head coach. That's something Shaw will say with pride, per ESPN's David Lombardi:

Stanford has just as much of a chance to make the Final Four as any eligible team at this point. If the Cardinal can beat Notre Dame, then that'll get the committee talking.

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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 12

Backloaded schedules made Week 12 one of the season's biggest.

Long-awaited matchups in the Big Ten, where Ohio State hosted Michigan State, and the Big 12, where Oklahoma State hosted Baylor and Oklahoma hosted TCU, put a large group of fringe contenders in the spotlight during SEC-SoCon Challenge Week.

Those games lived up to the hype—at least in terms of intrigue—with two coming down to the final minute and two resulting in an undefeated team's first loss. The outcome of those games, plus others, had obvious implications on the College Football Playoff picture.

Here's a quick look at what we learned.


Ohio State's Reign Is Over

Ohio State lost to Michigan State on a last-second field goal, but that phrase makes it sound as if the two teams were even.

They weren't.

The Spartans outgained the Buckeyes 294-132, engulfing Ohio State's offense and leaving star running back Ezekiel Elliott, a supposed Heisman Trophy favorite, whining about his coaches and the loss.

Sparty pulled the upset without senior quarterback Connor Cook, who missed the game with a shoulder injury.

Backup Tyler O'Connor made his first career start in The Horseshoe, but Michigan State outplayed the Buckeyes on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

USA Today's Dan Wolken left impressed and thinks the Spartans should control their own destiny:

Head coach Mark Dantonio said he thinks Cook will be back next week against Penn State, per Dan Murphy of, which gives the Spartans an offense as potent as their defense flashed on Saturday.

If Michigan State beats Penn State, and Iowa, which advanced to 11-0 with a 44-20 win over Purdue, beats Nebraska in Week 13, the Spartans and Hawkeyes will meet in the Big Ten Championship with a playoff berth potentially on the line.

Ohio State could still make the playoff theoretically, but doing so would require a win over Michigan, Penn State beating Michigan State, a subsequent win over Iowa and a lot of chaos elsewhere.

For all intents and purposes, the Buckeyes are done.


Big 12 Deja Vu?

The Big 12 drew the short straw last season and has yet to place a team inside the Top Four of a weekly CFP ranking this year.

It added to that trouble by losing its last unbeaten team, Oklahoma State, to a loss against Baylor in Week 11. The Bears looked great on both sides of the ball and stand a modest chance of making the playoff, but Oklahoma State finishing 12-0 would have definitely earned the Big 12 a playoff bid, so the Cowboys' loss was bad for the conference.

Also bad for the conference: Oklahoma nearly choking against TCU. Quarterback Baker Mayfield left with a head injury, and the Horned Frogs mounted a comeback in his absence. They scored what might have been the game-tying touchdown with seconds to play but went for the win and lost when Steven Parker batted down a pass on the two-point conversion. OU stayed afloat but did not land the style points it needed.

The silver lining is that Ohio State lost, which ostensibly opens a playoff spot. That and other factors led my colleague, Adam Kramer, to say the Big 12 is still well situated. And really, in a lot of ways, it is.

But that silver lining comes with a caveat, since Iowa remains undefeated, Michigan State reemerged as a contender and Notre Dame earned a sloppy win over Boston College. If Notre Dame beats Stanford next week and stays ahead of the Big 12's top team, that means Oklahoma or Baylor, assuming a win for one or both next week, could enter championship weekend in the Top Four but then drop behind the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game.

Just like TCU did last season.

That gulp! you hear is Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.


The SEC Needs Alabama

If Alabama loses, the SEC misses the playoff.

It's really that simple.

You could have made the case for Florida, if it beat the Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game, to crash the field as 12-1 conference champions. But the Gators hurt their resume by limping past Vanderbilt two weeks ago, made things worse by struggling at South Carolina and then pulled the plug by needing overtime against Florida Atlantic in Week 12.

Even if the Gators beat Florida State and Alabama to close the season—which, by the way, they won't—they're a tough sell to crash the national semis. With so many quality fringe contenders (see above), how could a team with so many red marks make the field?

It's Alabama or bust in the nation's most lucrative conference. Get ready for a month of conspiracy theories!

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College Football's Month of Mayhem Setting Up Fantastic Road to Playoff

Few have been spared. The nature of an unpredictable sport in the midst of an unpredictable season has been nothing short of madness—regulated, sequenced carnage that's building toward something even larger. And this week, the destruction was delivered by unfamiliar faces. 

There are two names that sum up the current exasperating state of college football brilliantly: Michael Geiger and Chris Johnson.

Before Saturday, these were young men with jerseys on a sideline and names on rosters. Now? They are cogs to the chaos, and better yet, potential fuel to unexpected playoff runs.

Geiger is Michigan State’s kicker. Say hello. It was Geiger who ended Ohio State’s undefeated season with a 41-yard field goal to give the Spartans a 17-14 victory in Columbus. He then celebrated his way into our hearts:

Michigan State pulled this off in the Horseshoe without starting quarterback Connor Cook—who sat out because of a shoulder injury—which is even more amazing. The kick also prompted a chain reaction that carried well into the Buckeyes' locker room and perhaps beyond.

Johnson is Baylor’s third-string quarterback. You probably don’t know him. Say hello to him as well. He’s been playing wide receiver for much of the year, although he recently made the move back to quarterback when Seth Russell went down with a neck injury in late October.

When freshman Jarrett Stidham left the game at halftime due to injury, Johnson took over. He responded by throwing for 138 yards, running for 42 yards and accounting for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). Not every throw was perfect, although he guided the Bears to a 45-35 road win over previously undefeated Oklahoma State.

In total, three teams suffered their first loss—the other being Houston, which fell to Connecticut, 20-17. Oklahoma, the nation’s hottest team, nearly lost to TCU after Baker Mayfield came out of the game with a head injury. Florida, suddenly deeply offensively challenged, nearly lost to Florida Atlantic—yes, that's 2-9 Florida Atlantic.

For the third consecutive week, multiple teams in the Top 10 tumbled, creating the latest shakeup in a long line of change. And now, after three months of carnage, only two undefeated teams remain: Clemson and Iowa. There is a weight to that last sentence that somehow summarizes hundreds of hours.

Seriously, imagine if your future self came back in time and gave you this news in August; now imagine shunning your future self for eternity and laughing him or her back to the future.

The journey itself has been remarkable, but the culmination could somehow be even more satisfying. There is a chance that this whole thing comes together with fireworks, explosions, smiles and tears.

Only a handful of teams now control their own playoff fate; the rest is so hazy, especially after Ohio State—a team we seemingly penciled into the playoff 10 months ago, finally came undone. But we’re not finished.

Chaos and controversy will undoubtedly walk arm-in-arm and meet us in the middle the next two Saturdays. Perhaps it’s ambitious to declare that the best is still somehow out there. Although at this point, nothing is off the table. Rip up that script.

Here are other takeaways from another lovely weekend of college football.


The Wild, Weird and Still Well-Situated Big 12 

The last undefeated fell, which would seem like an enormous detriment for a conference without a championship game. But strangely, even with Oklahoma State’s loss, the Big 12 is still fully functional when it comes to the College Football Playoff. 

Oklahoma is now the most likely candidate, although even this declaration should come with fine print. The Sooners edged TCU 30-29 in a game that became interesting the moment Mayfield departed.

His status moving forward is a huge story. Right now, however, Oklahoma could make a very convincing case for the playoff with a win over Oklahoma State next weekend, even if that victory will be viewed slightly different after the Pokes’ loss.

Paralleling the madness in the conference was Notre Dame’s ugly 19-16 win over Boston College at Fenway Park. Depending on how Clemson, Alabama and Iowa close, style points could certainly matter. Although Oklahoma didn’t exactly bottle this valuable resource, perception could swing back in favor of the Sooners.

And here’s another weird possibility, albeit an unlikely one. With Baylor’s victory over Oklahoma State, does the Big 12 stand an outside chance, if chaos is served in industrial-sized doses, of landing two teams in the playoff?

A lot would have to happen for this to unfold. A LOT. Tons. So much that it’s hard to fathom. But just keep this one in the back pocket if and when the explosions come.


Speaking of...Is the Love for Notre Dame About to Cool After a Close Call?

Playing in a baseball stadium, the turnover-happy Irish didn’t make things easy in a game many overlooked. Five Notre Dame turnovers ultimately kept Boston College in the game longer than many expected.

As a result of an ugly three-point win, it will be fascinating to see how the selection committee handles Notre Dame moving forward.

The Irish's resume didn’t crumble Saturday. In fact, Temple’s victory over Memphis and Navy’s continued dominance likely aided it some. But this was not the optimal time for an effort like this against an inferior opponent, either.

Having held down the No. 4 spot for multiple weeks, Notre Dame still has a great opportunity to be in the selection committee’s four on Tuesday night. Ohio State’s loss leaves a vacancy that will likely be gobbled up by Iowa.

The final spot will be the one worth watching. Will Michigan State see a boost? Will Oklahoma swap spots with Notre Dame?

Heading into its last regular-season game, a Nov. 28 tilt against Stanford, the Irish have a wonderful opportunity to make a final impression. Before that contest is played, it will be fascinating to see what the playoff puppeteers think of Brian Kelly’s team after its close call.


Behold Your New-Look (Sort of) Big Ten Playoff Contenders

Fear not, Iowa fans. Nothing has changed on your end. If the Hawkeyes win out, they’re in. The schedule might not have the same beef as it did with undefeated Ohio State at the end of the rainbow, but it doesn’t matter.

An undefeated Big Ten team makes the playoff; there’s absolutely zero debate about that at this point.

The question now, however, is whether Michigan State also controls its playoff fate. With road wins over Ohio State and Michigan along with a home victory over surging Oregon, the answer is probably yes. 

While Ohio State and Michigan were expected to compete for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game up until Week 12—seriously, next weekend’s headlines were already being written—that is no longer the case.

If Michigan State beats Penn State next weekend, it will represent the East. And while the Spartans were a trendy playoff pick before the season began, they were out of sight and mind until dinnertime Saturday. My, how things change. 

Ohio State and Michigan could both still factor in the playoff if Michigan State loses to Penn State, which is certainly possible given Cook's status.

But right now, the conference’s playoff hopes exist elsewhere—in places many thought they’d never have to look.


Oh, What Could Have Been 

The damage has been done. Oregon will not participate in the College Football Playoff—not with three losses on the resume. But at the moment, after five consecutive wins, the Ducks look like a team that could compete with just about anybody hovering around the playoff bubble. 

Let’s talk about those losses. In two of those defeats—Utah and Washington State—quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. didn’t play because of a broken index finger on his throwing hand. Against Michigan State, a loss that has aged like a fine wine, Adams played with the injury. He clearly was not himself, and the Ducks still almost pulled it off on the road. 

Over the last four games, however, a healthy Adams has accounted for 17 touchdowns and beat Stanford as a significant underdog. Against USC on Saturday, Adams threw for 407 yards on only 25 attempts and found the end zone six times through the air. 

"Tremendous football player,” USC interim coach Clay Helton told reporters after the game. "We knew we would have to get him on the ground and we just didn't get him on the ground enough," Helton said. "Credit to him, I have a lot of respect for the young man."

The rebound is noteworthy, especially for a program many were pronouncing dead not long ago. But one can’t help but wonder what might have been if that pesky digit was intact all along.

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Luke Falk Injury: Updates on Washington State Quarterback's Status and Return

Luke Falk's Saturday night ended prematurely when the Washington State Cougars quarterback exited his team's matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quarter. The sophomore remained down for some time after suffering what appeared to be a head or neck injury.

Continue for updates.

Falk Immobilized and Carted Off Field Sunday, Nov. 21

Colorado defensive lineman Samson Kafovalu wrapped up Falk for a sack, and as he was bringing Falk down, the quarterback's head snapped back and hit the turf. According to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, the training staff quickly removed Falk's facemask to provide the necessary medical assistance.

Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times reported Falk was able to move his arms, and Jeff Nusser of SB Nation's CougCenter provided a Vine of Falk giving a thumbs-up to the crowd at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington:

Losing Falk is a blow to Washington State's offense, since he entered Saturday's matchup with 4,067 yards and 35 touchdowns through the air. But that is secondary to Falk's health. Seeing a player carted off the field on a backboard is never pleasant.

The injury was especially concerning for Falk since it came one week after he suffered a similar injury against the UCLA Bruins.

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Luke Falk Injury: Updates on Washington State Quarterback's Status and Return

Luke Falk's Saturday night ended prematurely when the Washington State Cougars quarterback exited his team's matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes in the third quarter...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

KeiVarae Russell Injury: Updates on Notre Dame CB's Foot and Return

Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell suffered a foot injury in his team's 19-16 win over the Boston College Eagles on Saturday.

Continue for updates.

Russell Diagnosed with Stress Fracture Saturday, Nov. 21

WSBT-TV's Carl Deffenbaugh passed along the update, adding that it is unclear when Russell will be able to return.

Deffenbaugh also posted a picture of Russell being helped off the field at Fenway Park, which was the site of Saturday's showdown:

The senior is a staple of Notre Dame's defensive backfield, and losing him for an extended period of time as the Irish eye a spot in the College Football Playoff could prove to be costly.

Russell came on in October, recording seven tackles against Navy before notching 10 tackles and an interception against USC and another pick in a win over Temple.

Junior Devin Butler should be in line for an increased snap count in Russell's absence. Don't be surprised if opposing quarterbacks target him early and often when the Irish hit the field without one of their top defensive backs.  

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Kyle Allen's Refocused Effort vs. Vandy Exactly What Texas A&M Needs for Future

Kevin Sumlin reopened the quarterback battle at Texas A&M earlier this week, telling reporters he wanted to see two areas of improvement from the position moving forward.

"We’re looking for consistency out of the position, and that’s what this week of practice will be about," Sumlin said Tuesday, per Knox Bardeen of SEC Country. "[And] it’s something that we’ve put an emphasis on, our turnover margin."

On Saturday night, Sumlin watched from the sidelines as sophomore Kyle Allen checked both of those boxes in a 25-0 win for the Aggies.

Allen, Texas A&M's first-string quarterback for the first seven games of the season, returned to the starting lineup in a road game against Vanderbilt. 

While the Commodores only had four wins on the season, they boasted a much-improved defense that was in the top half of the SEC in several major stat categories.

The sophomore finished 18-of-36 passing for 336 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.

Those numbers might not blow many people away, but the 50 percent rate of completions was caused by quite a bit of inconsistency from the Texas A&M receiving corps. 

Drops were a problem all night for the Aggies, even on perfectly placed passes from Allen.

When Texas A&M's wideouts were able to hold onto the ball, big plays happened.

Ten of Allen's 18 completions Saturday night went for more than 10 yards. Seven of those went for at least 20 yards, and four went for at least 30.

Texas A&M's lone touchdown of the evening was a 95-yard bomb from Allen to Josh Reynolds late in the second quarter. It gave Texas A&M a two-score lead and more breathing room for a defense that would go on to pitch a shutout.

While Allen's receivers were responsible for a chunk of his incompletions, the young quarterback maintained consistency throughout the game. After starting 1-of-4, he never threw more than two consecutive incompletions again for the rest of the evening.

In the red zone, Texas A&M went 3-of-4 scoring—all on field goals—with the only failed opportunity coming from a missed 35-yarder from Taylor Bertolet in the second quarter. 

The Aggies would've loved Allen and the offense to turn those trips into touchdowns, but Vanderbilt has been one of the toughest teams in the nation to score on in the red zone this season. The Commodores entered the weekend fourth in scoring percentage and sixth in touchdown percentage.

But the coaching staff would tolerate those red-zone results in a shutout win—especially considering how well Allen took care of the football. 

As Sumlin said earlier this week, the turnover margin has been a defining factor for Texas A&M in games against FBS opponents. 

On Saturday night, the Aggies were in the positives again, with one Kyle Shurmur interception from Vanderbilt up against zero turnovers from the Allen-led offense.

A few weeks ago, it appeared true freshman Kyler Murray was ready to take over as Texas A&M's quarterback of the future. Allen struggled against Alabama and Ole Miss' ferocious defense, and Murray came in to wow against an abysmal South Carolina unit.

But when Murray threw three interceptions in an ugly loss to Auburn and two more against FCS foe Western Carolina, Allen had another opportunity to redeem himself.

The sophomore reestablished his spot as the No. 1 signal-caller in practice during the week, and he took all of the snaps Saturday night against a tougher-looking Vanderbilt defense.

By getting some of that success back Saturday, Allen showed why he should be the quarterback for the rest of 2015 and beyond for Texas A&M.

According to Brian Perroni of 247Sports, Sumlin even confirmed Allen's starter status after the game.

"We're good where we are right now," Sumlin said, per Perroni. "We won't have to make an announcement this week."

Murray is a scary weapon on the ground, no doubt, but Texas A&M needs more of an efficient passer to command Sumlin and Co.'s offense.

Allen has the experience and the consistency to feed the ball efficiently to the likes of Reynolds, Christian Kirk, Ricky Seal-Jones and Speedy Noil. All of those receivers could easily be back next season, too, to build even more chemistry with Allen.  

If he can continue to take care of the ball against LSU and whichever bowl opponent the Aggies will face in the postseason, Allen will have the position on lockdown for 2016. 

That would put an end to the lengthy quarterback drama in College Station and give Texas A&M some much-needed certainty on the offensive side of the ball.

After all, Sumlin's offense has shown before that when it is clicking, it's a force to be reckoned with in the cutthroat SEC West.


Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Baylor Defense Reaches New Level at Oklahoma State, Keeps Bears in Playoff Hunt

Baylor upset Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday, and despite a big performance from receiver KD Cannon—five catches, 210 yards and two touchdowns—the real MVP was the defense.


It may look different on paper, where the box score shows the Cowboys gained 441 yards and hung 35 points, but much of that production came at the end of the fourth quarter, when Baylor had a comfortable three-score lead.

The meat of the game saw Baylor force seven straight empty possessions and nine scoreless trips in 10. It sacked Mason Rudolph six times, owning the line of scrimmage and pulverizing the Cowboys' running game.

Kyle Porter of Pistols Firing summed things up nicely:

The key to Baylor's defense was, per normal, the line.

Tackle Andrew Billings and ends Jamal Palmer and Shawn Oakman flooded the backfield often, making Cowboys blockers look small and slow.

Billings excelled in particular, which was crazy after pregame reports suggested he would sit with an injury. Those reports were quickly amended, and Billings proved his health from the gun. It was arguably his best game of the season—although picking is admittedly hard—and indubitably the best Baylor's defense has played all year.

"We felt like we were together tonight as a defense," Billings told reporters after the game, per Baylor's official Twitter account. "It felt great."

The offense did its part across the line, even after quarterback Jarrett Stidham left with an injury.

Third-string QB Chris Johnson connected on two deep touchdowns at the start of the third quarter, and the offense eventually finished with 700 yards. (Ho-hum.)

Head coach Art Briles gave a somber update on Stidham, saying "he's not very good" and that Baylor will "have to hustle to see if he's able to go" against TCU next week, per journalist David Ubben.

But Johnson has the skills to run this offense, can make enough plays to gash an injured TCU defense and inspires enough confidence to beat any potential playoff opponent. Quarterbacks in this system have proven fungible, much like Ohio State's system, which third-string QB Cardale Jones led to last year's national title.

Especially if Baylor's defense balls out like it did in Week 12, Johnson can steer the ship past just about anyone.

Having said that, Baylor still needs help to make the playoff. Oklahoma beat TCU in Norman, surviving after a wild late comeback attempt, and now stands one win from finishing 11-1.

The Bears could make an argument to pass Oklahoma, even though they lost head to head, because their only loss of the season came against a playoff contender, while Oklahoma dropped a game to non-contender Texas.

The problem is Baylor can't really make that argument after last year, when in order to pass TCU it argued the opposite. The Bears claimed head-to-head was more important than whom one lost to, because it made them look better than the Horned Frogs, whom they beat, despite a loss to non-contender West Virginia.

Pyrrhically, that argument worked, and Baylor passed TCU in the final poll. But neither team made the playoff, and the precedent the Bears set by passing TCU will prevent them from passing Oklahoma. They need Oklahoma State to beat the Sooners next week in Bedlam. There's no good way around that.

But strange things always happen in Bedlam, so Baylor shouldn't count itself out. It just beat a 10-0 opponent with its second- and third-string quarterbacks in a city where it hadn't won since FDR's second term (1939). Its defense also flashed another gear.

The Bears should feel good heading into TCU week.

They are still very much in the hunt.


Brian Leigh covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @BLeigh35 

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TCU vs. Oklahoma: Game Grades, Analysis for Horned Frogs and Sooners

What. A. Game. 

The Oklahoma Sooners added a huge resume booster to their College Football Playoff application bid with a thrilling 30-29 victory that came down to a failed two-point conversion in the game's final moment. 

Both teams had to use multiple quarterbacks—Baker Mayfield left with concussion concerns, while Foster Sawyer struggled and was benched—and the Sooners had the game seemingly locked up early in the fourth quarter. But a furious rally by the Horned Frogs fell just short. 

With that, let's check out the game grades for each team's positional units. 

Oklahoma Sooners

Rush Offense: A+

The Sooners tallied 333 yards on the ground as well as a score, led by Samaje Perine who had 188 yards on 26 carries. Joe Mixon added 87 yards on just 11 touches, providing the perfect complement. Oklahoma ultimately controlled the tempo of the game on the ground, which is so critical against an explosive squad like TCU. 


Pass Offense: B-

The numbers from Oklahoma's aerial attack aren't gaudy by any stretch. Mayfield and Trevor Knight went a combined 14-of-37 passing with 203 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The numbers likely would have been better had Mayfield not left the game with an injury, but Oklahoma didn't make any critical mistakes in the passing game. 


Rush Defense: B

Without Trevone Boykin or Josh Doctson, you knew going into this contest that TCU would try to run the ball. Oklahoma's front line responded by limiting the Horned Frogs to 161 yards on 36 carries. The Horned Frogs did have a few big plays on the ground, but they didn't make a huge difference in the final score. 


Pass Defense: B+

The Sooners would've graded out perfectly had it not been for KaVontae Turpin's huge touchdown grab that gashed the Oklahoma secondary in the fourth quarter. In the end, the Sooners were on the hook for 229 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but they also had three interceptions. Zack Sanchez, who had a terrific game, had two. 


Special Teams: C

Austin Seibert started his day 3-of-3 on field goals. But a missed attempt, followed by a punting snafu in which he fielded a low snap with his knee on the ground, proved costly for the Sooners and were big reasons the Horned Frogs were able to stay in the contest. 


Coaching: A-

The Sooners let TCU hang around longer than they should have, but beating the once-Big 12 favorite is no easy task. Oklahoma did enough to preserve its playoff hopes by scheming out the Horned Frogs on a blistering cold Saturday night in Norman. 


TCU Horned Frogs

Rush Offense: B-

The Sooners knew that TCU would try to rely on its rushing attack without Boykin or Doctson, so a bit of a handicap is necessary in this grade. Aaron Green was impressive with 126 yards on 23 touches and a score, but TCU ultimately couldn't make up for its lack of an aerial assault by pounding the ball. 


Pass Offense: C+

Sawyer clearly wasn't the answer, but Bram Kohlhausen nearly was when it came to finding a solution for the absence of Boykin. The two combined for 229 yards, three touchdowns and as many picks through the air, but Kohlhausen was a huge spark plug in the fourth quarter. Again, a handicap is fair here since these guys aren't the usual starters. The three interceptions were a huge momentum swing in the contest, but TCU got itself back into the game through the air late. 


Rush Defense: D-

The Sooners wanted to control the flow of the game on the ground, and TCU's defensive line allowed them to. Giving up 333 yards on the ground is inexcusable and shows perhaps the Horned Frogs' biggest weakness defensively. 


Pass Defense: B+

While Mayfield looked like a joystick in the first half, that masked his actual performance statistically. He had just 127 yards, albeit with two scores, while only completing nine of 20 passes. Knight wasn't any better, going 5-of-16 passing for 76 yards. 


Special Teams: A

TCU had no issues on this front. Jaden Oberkrom connected on his only field-goal try from 43 yards out, and the Horned Frogs didn't give up any huge returns. 


Coaching: B+

This is perhaps the highest grade for any losing coach this year. Plenty will be made, and debated, about the decision to go for two points after scoring what could have been the game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the game. While the decision itself actually makes sense—TCU didn't have the playmakers to shut down an Oklahoma team that, in all honesty, had dominated most of the game—but the play call was questionable to have Kohlhausen roll out. Then again, a slightly mistimed jump by Steven Parker of the Sooners instead of a perfectly executed one, and TCU could have very well taken the lead on that play. 

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TCU vs. Oklahoma: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs engaged in a battle of the walking wounded Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma, but the No. 7 Sooners battled through bumps, bruises and a stunning late TCU rally to down the No. 18 Horned Frogs, 30-29, and keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive. 

Oklahoma entered the fourth quarter up by 17 points, but TCU head coach Gary Patterson was in a bind and switched from redshirt freshman quarterback Foster Sawyer to senior Bram Kohlhausen with Trevone Boykin (ankle) on the shelf.

Kohlhausen entered and immediately settled the Horned Frogs offense down, leading two clutch scoring drives, including a touchdown with 51 seconds remaining that brought the team within one point.

TCU then opted to go for the two-point knockout punch instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, but Oklahoma's defense came up with a stand to escape with the win. The Big 12 shared the replay on Twitter:

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield completed nine of 20 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns but didn't return to the field in the second half after taking several big shots—including one to the head—throughout the first half.

Junior Trevor Knight came on in relief of Mayfield, and although the Sooners struggled to keep the chains moving, a 72-yard touchdown run by Samaje Perine in the third quarter proved to be the difference, as the Big 12 showed:

Perine finished with 26 carries for 188 yards and a touchdown, while Knight completed just five of 16 passes for 76 yards and an interception.

Sawyer drew the start in place of Boykin, but the Sooners secondary had a bead on the inexperienced signal-caller. Although Sawyer and the Horned Frogs attempted to stretch the field and maintain their aggressive offensive demeanor, the results weren't positive. 

Sawyer completed eight of 18 passes for 107 yards, a score and three interceptions, two of which came when TCU needed to establish a rhythm in the first half.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer used a familiar analogy to describe TCU's strategy prior to Kohlhausen's entrance:

The Sooners outgained the Horned Frogs 536-390 on the evening, with running back Aaron Green (23 carries, 126 yards, one touchdown) representing TCU's lone source of consistent offense. 

For the majority of the first half, the Sooners controlled the tempo and momentum. Mayfield's legs allowed him to repeatedly extend plays, and the junior conjured up images of another famous collegiate scrambler, according to Kramer:

With TCU in trouble as a result of desperate downfield passing attempts, Mayfield found receiver Dede Westbrook for a 36-yard touchdown to help put Oklahoma up by 16 going into halftime, as the Big 12 documented on Twitter:

The second half was a grind for the Sooners, but Mayfield did enough in the first half to lay the groundwork and allow his side to rattle off a sixth straight win. 

In order for Oklahoma to keep its championship flame flickering, it will need to claim intrastate bragging rights next weekend against Oklahoma State when Bedlam descends upon Stillwater.

If Oklahoma turns up the heat against the Cowboys, it will be up to the selection committee to decide the Sooners' fate. And with Notre Dame firmly in the mix and wielding a win over Texas, a key loss to the Longhorns earlier in the season could come back to bite Oklahoma.

But at this rate, all of those concerns are secondary to Mayfield's health. If Oklahoma's star quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful can't return in time for the regular-season finale, the Sooners' 2015 campaign could end in disappointing fashion—just as Saturday's game nearly did.

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

The Texas A&M Aggies defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 25-0 on a cold night in Nashville, and there was not a lot of heat coming from these two offenses. Texas A&M moved the ball pretty well but struggled to convert opportunities into touchdowns, and they had to settle for seven field-goal opportunities. It was the special teams that especially shined for A&M Saturday night, with kicker Taylor Bertolet connecting on six of those field-goal opportunities. 

Vanderbilt on the other hand struggled to get first downs, and head coach Derek Mason's squad finished with only 148 total yards. The struggles started with quarterback play, as Vandy completed just five passes for 23 yards in this game. Whether one views it as bad offense or good defense, it was a solid effort for Texas A&M's defense to hold Vandy to zero points. 

Kyle Allen got the start at quarterback for Texas A&M, his first in three games, and he played very well for the Aggies on Saturday night. Five dropped passes did not help with his completion percentage, but he finished the night 18-of-36 passing for 336 yards and one touchdown. 

The two teams both have conference matchups to prepare for next week. Vanderbilt will travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers, and the Aggies will face the struggling LSU Tigers. 


Texas A&M Game Grades

Passing Offense

Allen had a very good night even though the final statistics may not jump out at you. He made some great throws down the field and proved why he is the best option at quarterback for the Aggies. He totaled 336 passing yards in his return to the starting lineup. 


Rushing Offense 

The Aggies had only 39 yards rushing at the half, but it ended up being a productive night for that unit. Tra Carson had 126 yards on 22 carries, and A&M rushed for 150 yards as a team. 

The game plan was more reliant on the passing game, but the Aggies were able to run the ball in the second half when they needed to. 


Pass Defense

There's not much to say here with Vanderbilt only passing for 23 yards on five completions. The "A" grade is pretty self-explanatory. Vanderbilt's quarterbacks never looked comfortable Saturday night, and A&M did a great job of pressuring them into bad throws. 

Vanderbilt is one of the worst passing offenses in the country, but A&M played well and did what it needed to do in this game. 


Rush Defense 

Vanderbilt ran the ball effectively early on, but the Aggies stepped up and shut down the run game after halftime. The Commodores, who had 107 yards rushing at halftime, finished with only 125 yards on the ground. 

We knew Vanderbilt was not going to light up the yardage totals by passing, so it's impressive that Texas A&M limited the run game, because that made it tough for Vandy to move the ball at all. 


Special Teams 

Bertolet got plenty of practice Saturday night, as he attempted an astounding seven field goals. He connected on six of those field goals, tying a school and conference record for field goals made in a game. 

His lone miss came in the first half, hence the "B" grade for the first half. When someone attempts that many field goals, we can't expect him to make them all, right? 



The offensive game plan worked well, and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital gave Allen plays in which he could step up and get the ball down the field. The Commodores played a lot of single coverage, and Spavital did a great job of attacking those opportunities. 

Defensive coordinator John Chavis has to be proud of the way his defense played, and it all started with him dialing up the pressure on the Vanderbilt quarterbacks. The defense stopped the run when it had to, and that really limited what Vandy was able to do offensively. 

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Notre Dame Can't Afford a Similar Sloppy, Unfocused Effort vs. Stanford

BOSTON — The venerable grounds at Fenway Park hadn’t hosted football since 1968, and Notre Dame football did little on the field to push the sport forward Saturday.

Take away the green, glitzy glamour of the seventh Shamrock Series—Notre Dame’s annual off-site home game—and focus on the 60 minutes of game action inside the warning track. The Irish did trudge away from Boston College with a 19-16 win and a 10-1 record, but Notre Dame left much to be desired and plenty to be developed before it meets Stanford next weekend in what could prove to be a playoff-clinching regular-season finale.

From the opening kickoff that knuckleballed out of bounds, the Fighting Irish and Eagles bludgeoned one another with an unending slew of sloppiness. In addition to Notre Dame’s five turnovers, including three in the red zone, the Irish muffed three punts, dropped multiple sure receptions and batted around would-be interceptions. In the final tune-up before Notre Dame’s main event next weekend, the Irish only created more questions.

“Tonight it was turnovers,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “Just found a way to win against a very spirited Boston College team despite the amount of turnovers that we had tonight. … Would we have planned to turn it over this many times and thought we could’ve won? Probably not.”

In describing the turnovers, Kelly said freshman running back Josh Adams’ fumble “should’ve been secured” and called a pair of quarterback DeShone Kizer’s interceptions “ill-advised” and “careless.”

“If we take care of the football, this game separates,” Kelly said.

Beyond merely the turnovers, the Irish were messy.

There was Will Fuller with a fourth-quarter drop near the goal line, three drives after the standout wideout dropped a crossing pattern over the middle.

Three plays later, there were Jaylon Smith and Matthias Farley deflecting a lifeless John Fadule pass and elongating the Eagles’ life.

There was a kick off the upright, back-foot throws and plenty of worm-burning ground balls that grazed over the would-be infield dirt. In seven trips to the red zone, the Irish scored just two touchdowns.

“It’s like leaving runners in scoring position,” Kelly cracked from Red Sox manager John Farrell’s standard postgame perch. “To keep stubbing our toe down there becomes concerning.”

And no matter how much bite the Boston College defense boasts or how valued each November win should be, there’s no denying the victory was woefully lacking. Take Kizer, who unknowingly misspoke and, in the process, acknowledged how many Irish fans likely felt.

“It’s ugly to have this loss at this time of the year, but at the same time, it’s gonna be a great learning experience for me and the rest of the offense,” Kizer said.

A loss? Not this week.

“It is so hard to win football games. It is so hard,” Irish senior linebacker Joe Schmidt said. “I honestly have no idea what happened in the college football landscape today, but I can guarantee you there was a lot of stuff that happened today that you didn’t exactly think was gonna happen. That’s college football. That’s why people love it. It’s hard to win football games. And we’re happy that we won today.”

But even Schmidt will tell you Notre Dame needs to be better against Stanford. It needs enough to win and maybe even more to convince a committee presented with potential alternatives like Oklahoma, Baylor, Iowa and Michigan State.

“We want to go in and play a clean game against Stanford,” Schmidt said. “Really, we’re not thinking about style points.”

Wins aren’t easy and shouldn’t be taken for granted. But as Schmidt acknowledged, the Irish must be crisper against the Cardinal to accomplish their mission.


All quotes were obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Baylor vs. Oklahoma State: Game Grades, Analysis for Bears and Cowboys

The 10th-ranked Baylor Bears recorded a 45-35 victory to end the championship dreams of the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday in Stillwater.

Baylor amassed 700 yards of total offense, converted 14-of-22 third downs and improved to 9-1 on the season. The Pokes dropped to 10-1.

Pass Offense: Quarterback Jarrett Stidham torched Oklahoma State for 258 yards during the first half, but the freshman quarterback exited the game due to an ankle injury. Backup Chris Johnson took over and tossed two touchdowns. Wide receiver KD Cannon racked up a season-best 210 yards and two scores.

Run Offense: Baylor controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The offensive line helped running backs Shock Linwood, Johnny Jefferson and Devin Chafin reach at least 60 yards, while Johnson added 42 and a touchdown. The Bears finished with 304 rushing yards.

Pass Defense: Although the defensive backs were particularly vulnerable on downfield shots, they broke up a handful of throws. Additionally, on 11 third-down passing attempts, Oklahoma State converted just three. Baylor tallied six sacks.

Run Defense: The Bears made their opponent one-dimensional. Baylor entered the night as the nation's 75th-ranked run defense yet held the Pokes to a stunning eight yards on 23 carries. The College Football Playoff committee should once again pay attention to the team from Waco.

Special Teams: Kicker Chris Callahan missed a 45-yard field goal but buried a 34-yarder later on. Punter Drew Galitz blasted a 50-yard punt that was downed inside the 1-yard line. The kick-coverage unit limited Oklahoma State to 19.0 yards per return.

Coaching: Last week, the coaching staff wasn't particularly aggressive. On Saturday, however, each of the Bears' passing touchdowns were 39 yards or longer. Defensively, Baylor forced a season-best 10 punts.

Pass Offense: The two-quarterback system worked for most of the season, but Mason Rudolph was clearly the best option against Baylor. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, his 430 yards and three touchdowns weren't enough. Three receivers topped 80 yards.

Run Offense: Per Kyle Fredrickson of The Oklahoman, Pokes coach Mike Gundy said, "We didn't run the football effectively enough to give ourselves a chance." Running back Chris Carson trudged to a team-best 20 yards.

Pass Defense: Baylor's success on the ground forced Oklahoma State's safeties to respect the run, which opened up one-on-one opportunities downfield. Statistically speaking, it was the defense's third-worst performance against the pass this season. In reality, it was the worst.

Run Defense: The Pokes surrendered 21 first downs to the Bears rushing attack. When Baylor ran the ball on third down with four yards or fewer to go, it converted 10 of 12 times. Successful fourth-down runs followed the two failed attempts.

Special Teams: Punter Zach Sinor averaged 39.0 yards on his 10 punts. Not only is that not a great per-kick number, the volume of attempts was clearly a serious problem. Kicker Ben Grogan notched five extra points.

Coaching: In every aspect of the game, Baylor thoroughly outcoached Oklahoma State. Making adjustments against the quick-strike Bears offense is always a challenge, but trying to change the game plan while trailing by two scores or more is nearly impossible.


Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Boston College vs. Notre Dame: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

In order to guarantee victory, coaches often say that their team's worst night must be just a little bit better than their opponent's best night.  For Notre Dame, that pretty well sums up the Irish's victory over rival Boston College.

There haven't been many victories uglier than that one, but a win is a win. And considering the Irish were facing off against the nation's top overall defense in Boston College on a night and in a setting overflowing with distractions, any victory is probably welcomed.

Still, we don't issue our weekly report cards to give teams a pass.  Let's break down the good, the bad, and the boatload of ugly in this week's game grades for Notre Dame.

Here is the box score from Saturday's game, via

Fighting Irish Pass Offense

Yardage wise, DeShone Kizer actually performed pretty well against a defense that was giving up barely more than 235 offensive yards per game.  Kizer had 320 yards on 20-of-38 passes.  Unfortunately, three of those incompletions were actually caught by Boston College.

Three interceptions in a game is a season high for Kizer—obviously—and he only managed to make up for his wayward passes by coming up with some much-needed strikes down the stretch in the second half.

Kizer wasn't helped too much by his receivers, either.  The usually sure-handed Will Fuller had three big drops on the night and didn't get his hands on the football for a reception until late in the second half. Fuller finished with three receptions for 72 yards but could have had much loftier numbers were he not participating in the Notre Dame juggling act for much of the game.

Fuller's 72 yards were enough to surpass 1,000 receiving yards on the season.

Chris Brown led all receivers with 104 yards and a score on six receptions.

Fighting Irish Run Offense

The running game wasn't much better.  The big story is the potential loss of C.J. Prosise, who left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.  He didn't return to the game and was seen on the Notre Dame sidelines with crutches in the second half.

Still, Prosise did manage to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark before leaving the game, giving Notre Dame just its fourth season in school history with both a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.

Prosise also added to Notre Dame's turnover margin by fumbling before his exit.  He actually had two fumbles, but one was overturned on review.

Josh Adams didn't have the most productive evening in relief of Prosise.  Not only was Adams guilty of putting the ball on the turf, but he only managed 2.6 yards per carry on 14 attempts.

Sure, Boston College is the nation's top rush defense, limiting opponents to just 71.7 rushing yards per game heading into Saturday night. But if Notre Dame wants to be the No. 4 team in the nation, the Irish have to find a way to solve defenses of 3-8 teams like Boston College. 

Fighting Irish Pass Defense

As great as the Boston College defense is, the Eagles' offense is just awful.  The Eagles ranked 127th (out of 128) in the FBS in total offense before Saturday night, and it wasn't difficult to see why.

John Fadule, a true freshman walk-on, is known as the "passing" quarterback in the carousel of QBs utilized by head coach Steve Addazio.  Fadule was just 7-of-16 on the night for 64 yards.  Jeff Smith, the runner of the group, actually completed 5-of-6 for 24 yards and a late touchdown.

Maybe Addazio should rethink his hierarchy.

Still, limiting any team—other than Army or Navy—to just 88 passing yards is a solid night for the Irish, and we're not going to penalize the defense just for facing off against a lackluster passing attack.

Fighting Irish Run Defense

The run defense, however, wasn't quite as spot-on as the passing defense.  Boston College had some decent success in the second half on the ground, including a run by the aforementioned Smith of 80 yards for a touchdown.  Smith finished with 100 yards on five carries.

The Irish also allowed some space for Fadule to run in the second half, and the youngster exploited the gaps left open by the coverage to pick up 64 yards on eight carries.

Boston College's success is something future opponents can use as a blueprint to exploit Notre Dame's pass coverage and open up running room.  The Irish looked very susceptible to the draw, and a quarterback with good scrambling skills could be devastating to a defense that doesn't always have the most sound fundamentals when it comes to "staying home."

Fighting Irish Special Teams

The special teams only had one little hitch: Kizer couldn't handle a PAT snap and was forced to run around on a broken play before throwing the ball aimlessly into the end zone.

Justin Yoon was 2-for-2 on his field-goal attempts and 1-for-1 on the extra point he did actually get to kick.

C.J. Sanders was eventually yanked from his punt return duties and replaced by Fuller after juggling a few attempts and finishing the night with minus-four yards on three returns.

Fighting Irish Coaching

In the "old days," Brian Kelly may have had an aneurysm at some point during the game.  The play of Notre Dame was enough to drive even a sane person mad, and Kelly hasn't always been a guy known for his calm, cool demeanor.

But if Kelly's blood pressure was through the roof Saturday night, he didn't show it.  He calmly coached up his players when they came to the sideline, and he made quick, decisive changes when necessary.

The Irish did enough to win the football game, and sometimes doing just barely enough is the best a coach can do given the circumstances.

It's difficult to see what else Kelly or his staff could of done; sometimes the players just don't execute or perform to their abilities.  Saturday night was clearly one such night.

Credit goes to Kelly for keeping his players levelheaded when things seemed to be falling apart around them.  That could be a very important factor heading into the final week of the 2015 regular season.



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

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


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In Shredding Mizzou, Jalen Hurd Is Present and Future Workhorse for the Vols

In a game where Tennessee knew it was going to have to play big-boy football to win against a rugged Missouri defense, Jalen Hurd produced a grown-man effort for the Volunteers.

They rode their sophomore running back to a ground-controlled, 19-8 win in frigid Faurot Field on Saturday night to get to seven wins on the season. It was the coldest game UT has played in since 1950, and Hurd gave the Vols a throwback performance.

It was hard-hitting. It was ugly. In other words, it's just the kind of game that a 6'3", 242-pound running back should like. Hurd rose to the occasion, gaining a career-high 151 yards on 34 carries to help propel UT to its fourth consecutive win.

This was a dominant showing against the 14th-ranked rush defense in the nation. Mizzou doesn't allow teams to get the kind of yardage that Hurd racked up Saturday night, much less individual runners. 

On his first run from scrimmage, Hurd gained six yards. On his second, he gained five. That pretty much set the tone for Tennessee, which had every reason to be concerned about Mizzou's vaunted defensive line heading into the game.

Instead of the expected struggles, however, the Vols got star sophomore guard Jashon Robertson back from injury, and the offensive line looked as good as it has all season. It paved the way for Hurd, who churned out tough yard after tough yard.

When he got the opportunity to burst free for a big gain, he didn't squander that, either.

A 31-yard, tackle-breaking, edge-surging run stands out as the highlight in a game full of clouds of dust kicked up by Hurd's sturdy legs. 

Hurd was a one-man wrecking crew, and on a night when controlling the clock was vital against a Missouri offense that wasn't going to put up a bunch of yards, Tennessee's mammoth runner came up huge. He helped move the chains time and time again.

The Tigers defenders will still feel the after-effects of hitting Hurd tomorrow and maybe even the day after. That's what he does: He punishes defenses while he gets stronger.

He doesn't chatter on or off the field too much, as Wes Rucker of 247Sports pointed out; again Saturday night, he let his play alone do the talking:

Plenty of others did talking for him and about him afterward, starting with coach Butch Jones. Hurd represented one of the third-year coach's first big recruiting wins (along with Todd Kelly Jr.), and he's paying major dividends in his second year on Rocky Top.

Teaming with explosive Alvin Kamara, Hurd has stayed fresher, and the numbers have improved because of it. Coach Jones was proud of Hurd:

Entering the season, Hurd didn't get anywhere near the headlines as fellow SEC sophomores Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette, and both of those stars rightfully got their due.

But Chubb went down for the season on UGA's first play from scrimmage against UT on Neyland Stadium's shoddy surface, and Fournette has found tough sledding in three consecutive games after a Heisman Trophy start to the season.

Meanwhile, Hurd has stayed steady, though not spectacular, throughout the year. He's not had the kind of season Fournette or Alabama stud junior Derrick Henry have enjoyed, but in a year where Tennessee's rushing resurgence is the story of its offense, Hurd is the centerpiece.

The Vols entered the night second in the league, averaging 210 rushing yards per game, solidly behind LSU but ahead of an Arkansas team that was expected to dominate on the ground all year. UT even closed that gap with the Tigers a little today, finishing with 246 yards on the ground while LSU had 184 against Ole Miss.

Just how steady has Hurd been? At a school known for producing great running backs, Hurd is getting within viewing distance of a major milestone, according to Nashville's 104.5 radio show host Brent Dougherty:

Hurd eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season with his performance against Mizzou, and while he's only averaging 4.4 yards per carry, he keeps proving he belongs in the conversation with the league's best runners.

The season mark he hit Saturday night was a point of pride for UT senior left tackle Kyler Kerbyson, who tweeted this postgame picture of the O-linemen carrying Hurd:

He's Tennessee's workhorse, and he's the perfect player for the way offensive coordinator Mike DeBord likes to call plays. 

As long as DeBord is UT's coordinator, the Vols are going to run the football a lot. With a young, developing offensive line, it's not difficult to envision Hurd's yards-per-carry average improving, as he becomes the school's all-time leading rusher, perhaps as early as next year.

With his size and durability, there's no reason why he can't.

Hurd proved so far this season that he can move beyond the shoulder injuries that hampered him during high school and somewhat as a freshman in 2014. Most importantly, he's proven he can put the team on his shoulders and carry it to a win.

That's exactly what he did against Mizzou.


All stats gathered from for game stats and for season stats, unless otherwise noted. 

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Ohio State's Playoff Hopes Are Dead After Loss to Michigan State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Much like this time a year ago, Ohio State enters the final week of its regular season with one loss on its resume and its postseason aspirations still up in the air.

But unlike last season, which ultimately resulted in the Buckeyes capturing the first-ever College Football Playoff championship, Ohio State doesn't control its own destiny and is going to need help if it's going to have any shot at defending its crown.

The Buckeyes' 17-14 last-second loss to Michigan State on Saturday transferred control of the Big Ten East to the Spartans, with Ohio State and Michigan still in contention for the right to play Iowa in the Big Ten title game.

The Buckeyes and Wolverines will play each other in Ann Arbor at noon next weekend, with the winner having their championship hopes decided 65 miles away in the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff between Michigan State and Penn State.

If the Spartans beat the Nittany Lions, they win the Big Ten East and advance to Indianapolis for a potential playoff play-in game with the Hawkeyes. If Penn State pulls off the upset, a delayed celebration will occur for the winner in the Ohio State and Michigan's matchup.

In the Buckeyes' dream scenario, they'd beat the ranked Wolverines, the Nittany Lions would take down Michigan State and OSU would go on to add a win over an undefeated Iowa team to their resume.

But with what happened on Saturday, all of that looks much easier said than done.

Particularly when it comes to the Buckeyes offense, which mustered just 132 yards against the Spartans, leading star running back Ezekiel Elliott to emphatically question his coaches' play-calling, before declaring for the 2016 NFL draft. While a heavy dose of rain may have played a factor in Ohio State's conservative approach, it doesn't bode well for the Buckeyes that after struggling against Michigan State, they'll now take on a Michigan team that entered the weekend with the nation's second-ranked defense.

Approached with the possibility of the next two weeks putting Ohio State back in the playoff discussion, Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer's attention immediately went to his team's inability to move the ball.

"Oh, boy, we've got to get a couple of first downs and start finding a way to complete a pass and beat our rival," Meyer said in his postgame press conference. "That's certainly not any conversation. You're right, a lot of things [can] happen, but we've gotta fix some obvious problems."

Even if the Buckeyes, who could find themselves as an underdog for the first time all season next weekend, get by the Wolverines, they'll then find themselves relying on an even bigger upset occurring in East Lansing.

Ranked ninth in the most recent College Football Playoff standings and heading for a climb, Michigan State has momentum on its side and could see quarterback Connor Cook return to the lineup next weekend after the senior signal-caller missed the Spartans' upset over OSU with a shoulder injury.

Penn State, meanwhile, has lost its last two games and will head to Spartan Stadium with a disappointing 7-4 record that doesn't include a win over any ranked opponents.

With quarterback Christian Hackenberg, the Nittany Lions should be able to test an MSU defense that ranked 86th against the pass before coming to Columbus. But outside of Penn State playing its best game of the season and the Spartans laying an egg—sorry, Jim Harbaugh—with its Big Ten East title hopes on the line, it's hard to imagine the Nittany Lions escaping East Lansing with a win.

If that's the case, Ohio State will find itself on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff, even if the Buckeyes lone blemish of the season is the three-point loss to a Top 10 team that they suffered on Saturday.

If the selection committee showed anything last year, it was that conference championships are what matter most and without the opportunity to even play for one, leaving Ohio State out of the four-team format would be an easy call.

But before the Buckeyes can worry about getting any help from Penn State, they'll need to first beat the Wolverines. And after their most recent performance, that might prove to be the toughest part of any equation that could possibly land Ohio State in a position to defend its national title.

"We've just been hit right in the gut," Meyer said. "You've got the rivalry coming up. It's easy to lead when everything is going well, and you won a bunch of games in a row. That's not how you judge a team. That's not how you judge character. That's not how you judge a leader. That's how you judge a front-runner."

After Saturday, the Buckeyes are no longer that. And even if they issue the response Meyer is looking for, it may just not be enough.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Mississippi State vs. Arkansas: Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Razorbacks

Mississippi State topped Arkansas 51-50 in a SEC West shootout in Fayetteville on Saturday night. As you can imagine, both offenses thrived while the defenses struggled to make any impact on the final result. 

The two offenses combined for over 1,100 total yards, and both starting quarterbacks threw for over 400 yards and at least five touchdowns. 

However, the game came down to special teams as the Bulldogs blocked a Cole Hedlund field goal with 40 seconds to go to clinch their eighth victory of the season.

Below we'll examine the good, the bad and the ugly (Look away now, fans of defensive-minded football) in our game grades and analysis from Saturday's high-scoring affair in Fayetteville. 

Grade Analysis for the Bulldogs

Passing Offense

It's hard not to give the highest grade possible to the Mississippi State passing offense after a game like this. However, Dak Prescott did show a few flaws at the beginning of the second half. 

During Arkansas' turnover spree in the third quarter, Prescott threw an interception, and he fumbled before his arm started moving forward on the next drive. But credit must be given to Prescott for responding to adversity and leading the Bulldogs back into the lead. 

Prescott ended the game with 508 passing yards and completions to nine different receivers. With over 550 yards of total offense, Prescott joined Johnny Manziel as the only SEC players ever to record the achievement. 

Rushing Offense

Outside of Prescott's pair of rushing touchdowns, the rushing game didn't make a massive impact on the final score. 

Brandon Holloway was the leading rusher for Mississippi State with 63 yards on 14 carries, but Prescott had one more carry than the running back. Given the nature of the game, it is hard to judge each rushing game fairly since both quarterbacks were on fire. 

Passing Defense

Mississippi State gave up seven passing touchdowns and 406 yards through the air to Brandon Allen. Both numbers will probably be erased from the minds of the Bulldogs defenders quickly. The Bulldogs never really put Allen under duress with the blitz, and even when they did bring pressure, Allen stood in the pocket and completed passes. 

Rushing Defense

The lone positive on defense for the Bulldogs on Saturday was their containment of Alex Collins. Collins only gained 53 yards on 19 carries, and Kody Walker earned just seven yards on seven carries. 

The Bulldogs run defense also made a few key stops on the drive that led to the blocked field goal. So in some way you could say the Bulldogs run defense helped them win the game.

Special Teams 

Things looked bleak for the Mississippi State special teams with 7:04 left in the game as Westin Graves clanked his extra point off the left upright. 

Luckily for the special teams unit, it ended the game on a high note as Beniquez Brown broke through the offensive line and got his paw on Cole Hedlund's field goal. 


Dan Mullen didn't do anything terribly wrong on Saturday. There was a debate in the second half whether he should have gone for two on a few occasions, but his decisions didn't come back to haunt the Bulldogs. Overall, Mullen had a solid game on the sidelines. 


Grade Analysis for the Razorbacks

Passing Offense

Allen was superb in the pocket for the Razorbacks for the majority of the contest. He rarely made a bad decision and spread the ball around to six different receivers. 

Three of his passing touchdowns went to Jeremy Sprinkle, while Hunter Henry caught a pair to go along with his 129 receiving yards. Jared Corneilus and Drew Morgan caught the other two. 

Unfortunately for Allen, the ball was taken out of his hand late in the game as the Razorbacks got too conservative. 

Rushing Offense

Collins did not have a strong day out of the backfield for the hosts. Even when Arkansas needed him to make a breakthrough run into the secondary late in the fourth quarter, Collins was unable to find any success. 

Collins, whose longest run of the game was eight yards, was stopped short in the buildup to the blocked field goal. If he had earned at least one first down, the Razorbacks would have been able to attempt a closer field goal with time winding down or even race into the end zone. 

Passing Defense

The Razorbacks appeared to have an answer for the Bulldogs at the start of the third quarter as they intercepted Prescott once and forced him into a fumble on the next drive. But after that, Prescott opened up the secondary once again.

Mississippi State broke loose for plenty of passing plays over 20 yards, and if the Bulldogs had needed to put together a game-winning drive in 30 seconds to win the game if the field goal was good, they probably could have done it. 

Rushing Defense

Prescott was also a menace to the Arkansas run defense as he scored twice on the ground and recorded 45 yards. Although the Razorbacks didn't allow a 100-yard rusher, they conceded 126 total rushing yards to the visiting Bulldogs. 

The longest run Arkansas gave up was just 12 yards, but it could not make stops on a consistent basis even when the Bulldogs shifted to the run game.

Special Teams

Just like Mississippi State, the Arkansas special teams unit had one good moment and one bad moment. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the unit's bad moment came with 40 seconds left in the game on a blocked field goal. 

Arkansas did force a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half that the offense turned into seven points. We can't rule the unit as a total failure on Saturday night, but it failed to block on the biggest play of the game. 


Bret Bielema will be criticized for quite some time for his decision to run the clock out and kick at the end of the game. 

Instead of relying on his high-flying passing game, Bielema entrusted the fate of the game in his rushing game and special teams. Clearly that was the wrong decision as the Razorbacks failed to earn a first down and had their only field-goal attempt blocked. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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Dak Prescott Continues to Show Why He's Nation's Most Underappreciated QB

Twelve months ago, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott was America's football darling.

He was fresh off five weeks of being the unquestioned front-runner in the Heisman Trophy race, had led Mississippi State from anonymity all the way to the No. 1 ranking and looked like head coach Dan Mullen's version of Tim Tebow in Starkville.

Then Mississippi State faded down the stretch, never really got back into contention this year and other quarterbacks like Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield jumped to the front of the national discussion.

Prescott proved again on Saturday that he should not only be in that discussion, but perhaps near the center of it.

The senior threw for 508 yards and five touchdowns, rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns and out-dueled Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen in a 51-50 win in Fayetteville.

How good is Prescott?

Mullen seems impressed, according to Bob Carskadon of

On the season, Prescott now has 3,159 passing yards on the season, has tossed 23 touchdowns, just three interceptions and scored nine times on the ground.

The dirty little secret in Starkville is that, while Mississippi State isn't in the title picture, Prescott is better in 2015.

Significantly better.

He is a much more polished passer on deep routes, which makes him nearly impossible to stop when added to his timing on short and intermediate routes, as well as his work on the ground.

He joined prestigious SEC company this year when he became just the second quarterback in SEC history to pass for 40 career touchdowns and rush for 40.

The other?

Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who claimed the 2007 Heisman Trophy and is likely the second-best player Mullen ever coached.

Prescott won't win it this year, but he certainly deserves to be in consideration for an invitation. While other contenders like LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott have tailed off in November and Mayfield left his team's game on Saturday against TCU, Prescott is improving on what already was a stellar body of work this season and throughout his career.

That matters to Heisman voters, even if they don't explicitly state that "career achievement" factors in to their voting habits.

Whether it's based solely on this season or to honor one of the game's all-time greats, Prescott deserves recognition for what he has accomplished in Starkville.

He has put Mississippi State on the map, etched his name all over the SEC record book and been consistent over a critical two-year span in which his Bulldogs underwent significant roster turnover on the offensive side of the ball.

He's done so in the SEC West, which arguably has more talented players than any other division in the country. 

He is the nation's most underappreciated player.

In that race, he has put his competition in his rearview mirror.

For the sake of the Heisman Trophy, Saturday night should have put him back into the discussion.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.


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Baylor vs. Oklahoma State: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Baylor third-string quarterback Chris Johnson threw for 138 yards and two touchdowns in relief for the injured Jarrett Stidham, as the No. 10 Bears (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) handed the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) their first loss on the year, 45-35, Saturday night in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

It was the Bears’ first win at Oklahoma State since 1939, per the team's game guide, and Baylor has now won back-to-back games against the Cowboys for the first time since it won nine straight from 1915 to 1942.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, had a chance to start 11-0 for the first time in school history but saw its 12-game winning streak—dating back to last year—snapped by the Bears’ backup to the backup. This loss also put a damper on Oklahoma State’s chances at not only making the College Football Playoff but also its Big 12 title hopes, as well.

In the first Top 10 matchup held at Boone Pickens Stadium since 1985, it was nothing but a scoreboard tilt in the beginning.

The first eight minutes and 20 seconds saw nothing but fireworks. Baylor scored on its first two possessions—which took 2:09 combined—to take a 14-0 lead with 11:56 remaining in the first quarter. Stidham found a wide-open KD Cannon for a 59-yard touchdown on the second score, and the rout seemed to be on.

Coming into the contest, Baylor led the nation in points per game, but it can be surprising at times to see the Bears put up points in such a hurry, as CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd pointed out:

But the Cowboys began to counter the Bears by playing at their tempo.

Oklahoma State responded with a quick 10-play, 77-yard drive capped by a three-yard touchdown pass from J.W. Walsh to Jalen McCleskey to get the Cowboys on the board. Less than two minutes later, the Cowboys only needed two plays to tie the game. Mason Rudolph hit James Washington down the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, but it took a bit of luck to make that happen. The Big 12 Conference provided a clip of the insane catch:

After the fireworks settled, it became a rare Big 12 chess match. The tempo slowed and both defenses settled down, but it was Baylor that took advantage of its opportunities on both sides of the ball. Bears running back Devin Chafin capped a 13-play, 83-yard drive three seconds into the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown.

Baylor's defense began to silence the high-scoring Oklahoma State offense. After tying the game early in the first quarter, the Cowboys ended their next seven possessions with punts—five of the drives were three-and-outs. The Bears outgained Oklahoma State 439-188 in the first half.

Things got interesting at the start of the second half. Stidham did not start the second half due to back issues and a heavily-taped right ankle. The third-string quarterback, Johnson, came in, and the Baylor offense didn't miss a beat. It took 11 plays for Baylor to take a 31-14 lead, but Johnson delivered a perfect pass to Jay Lee for a 39-yard touchdown.

On the next drive, Johnson delivered a 71-yard touchdown pass to Cannon with 6:24 to go in the third quarter that made a potential Oklahoma State comeback nearly impossible.

B/R's Adam Kramer had this to say on Baylor's quarterback situation:

It didn't seem to matter who was throwing the ball for Baylor on Saturday night. Both Stidham and Johnson carved up the Oklahoma State defense. Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel thought a random person off the street could do what they did:

The Big 12 is a topsy-turvy conference that could be decided on the very last week of the regular season. Oklahoma State had a chance to make it a two-team race, but the Big 12 is wide-open once again.

Postgame Reaction

This is how the Big 12 can be won.

Baylor has found life in this race. Albeit those two final games are certainly winnable, asking Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma may be a tall task considering the deflating loss the Bears just handed the Cowboys.

But for the first time all season, a Big 12 defense showed up at the perfect time. Baylor's once-24-point lead with a third-string quarterback was more than comfortable enough of a lead to prevent any magical Oklahoma State comeback.

Paul Myerberg of USA Today thinks that Baylor did more than enough today to play its way back into the College Football Playoff discussion, given things go their way:

Baylor can now imagine its Playoff scenario. Beat reeling TCU and Texas to end the regular season. Have Oklahoma State beat rival Oklahoma. It wouldn't hurt to have Stanford defeat Notre Dame. It's not too far out of the realm of possibility: Baylor is right in the mix. The Bears might even be in good shape, in fact.

Myerberg is definitely right. When Seth Russell went down with his neck injury that ended his season, asking Stidham to carry the passing attack seemed too much of a task for a freshman quarterback.

After Saturday, the lesson is clear: It doesn't matter who Baylor puts at quarterback. Whether it be Stidham or Johnson starting at TCU on Saturday, the Bears have shown there are enough pieces in place on that roster to win any big game. Just ask Baylor head coach Art Briles, per Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News:

Oklahoma State made a habit of making comebacks this year. The Cowboys' luck ran out when they couldn't run the ball. Oklahoma State ran for eight combined yards against Baylor's defense. Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph had -38 rushing yards, due in large part to being sacked six times.

While throwing for 430 yards and three touchdowns would be more than enough for Oklahoma State, the lack of a running game proved crucial for the Cowboys, according to head coach Mike Gundy per Carson Cunningham of KOCO 5:

In the end, it came down to the backup to the backup quarterback that did more than enough in relief of Stidham to get the win. Had Johnson come in and struggled, the thought of a Baylor win on Saturday wouldn't even exist.

The two long touchdown passes that Johnson threw came at opportune times when Oklahoma State's offense was struggling. Had the Bears not scored on those two possessions, the game could've very easily swung in the direction of Oklahoma State. 

For at least one night, Johnson is the big man on campus, per David Ubben of Sports on Earth:

When Russell went down, Baylor wasn't expected to be in this situation. The Bears have had to play resilient football over the last three weeks to be in this position. All they need is two more wins, along with some help, and Baylor could be playing for more than just a Big 12 title.

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Winners and Losers from Week 12 of the 2015 College Football Season

The race for the College Football Playoff just got more interesting. Or less clear. Probably both. But, that's college football for you. 

In a matter of minutes, two undefeated teams, Ohio State and Houston, lost to Michigan State and UConn, respectively. Hours later, a third undefeated team, Oklahoma State, suffered its first loss of the season to Baylor, re-opening the Big 12 race. That means Iowa and Clemson are the lone remaining undefeated teams. Just like we all thought. 

From fall of the undefeated teams to the SEC's nonconference struggles and Oregon's big win over USC, we break down all that happened this weekend in college football. 


As a reminder, Winners and Losers is live while evening games are being played. Fear not, as this post will be updated throughout the night as events warrant. 

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