NCAA Football News

Super 16 Poll Week 9: Complete Rankings Released for 2014 Season

The only word that really matters in college football this season is "playoff." Every game, every result, every non-conference schedule or road loss or upset all comes back to one thing—which four teams will qualify for this year's College Football Playoff?

But what if there were 16 teams? What if the playoff was four times larger? 

Well, that's what the Super 16 Poll asks each week, as they rank the top 16 teams in the nation to give people an idea of what that playoff system would look like. It's a purely theoretical task, of course, but it's also fun to switch the debate from four teams to 16 teams.

Let's take a look at how the poll looks this week.

 

Poll

 

Analysis

The one benefit to a four-team playoff as opposed to a 16-team dance is organizational. Essentially, there are far fewer teams by the end of the season that can make a realistic case for being one of the four best teams in the nation. 

When it comes to 16, however, Pandora's Box is opened. Don't get me wrong—the more that is actually decided on the field, the better. But suddenly, a ton of teams can hold forth their resume, shout "Pick me, pick me!" and actually warrant consideration.

East Carolina, for instance, won't sniff the four-team playoff. But with 16 teams, well, it has to be considered. Oklahoma's chance at a national title this year are over with two losses. In a 16-team playoff, however, you better bet the Sooners would make their case for being one of the top 16 teams. Heck, a 16-team playoff is likely the only way the Big Ten or Pac-12 would get a team into the playoff this season (though don't tell Michigan State, Ohio State or Oregon that).

Baylor's loss to West Virginia seems likely to have caused the Bears a shot at the playoff. In a 16-team dance, they'd have a chance to have their revenge.  

The matchups would be so much more fascinating in a 16-team playoff, however. The difference between finishing No. 1 and, say, No. 8 would be palpable. Mississippi State would rather play an East Carolina or Nebraska or Arizona than a Michigan State or Georgia or TCU, for instance. 

Although at this point, perhaps Mississippi State won't mind playing anyone. Beating LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn in consecutive weeks tends to inspire confidence in a team. Surviving the SEC West this season is basically a national championship in its own right, given how amazing the division is. Whichever team does survive—be it Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama or Auburn—isn't going to be losing too much sleep over who they play in a playoff.

Here's one thing we know—whether the playoff is four teams or 16, it's going to be bedlam. In fact, it might look something like this. 

Notre Dame may not be able to get back into the four-team playoff but, man, it would be fun to see what the Irish could do in a 16-team tournament. We may not be getting that wish anytime soon but it's sure fun to imagine.

 

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Kynon's Korner: Florida State Fans Swaying Alabama Commit, Tough Visit to Swamp

Florida State Win Impresses SEC Commit

Alabama commit Demetris Robertson was one of several big name recruits in Tallahassee, Fla. for Florida State's comeback 31-27 win over Notre Dame. Robertson came away very impressed with the 'Noles. 

"I had a great time last night," Robertson told Bleacher Report. "My favorite part had to be the atmosphere and the fans. I didn't know so many of them recognized me. They showed a lot of love."

Robertson decided to commit to the Crimson Tide last July after Alabama's summer camp. Since that time Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, and USC have offered the 6'1, 165-pound athlete from Savannah, Ga. The Tide will have to fight off a long list of suitors to keep Robertson on the commitment list starting with the 'Noles. 

The 5-star told me, "Their receivers are on point. Travis Rudolph caught my eye. Coach (Charles) Kelly is my primary recruiter. FSU is moving up for me."

Georgia will likely make a move too, but the Seminoles could be a major threat to Alabama for the dynamic athlete from the Peach State. We are going to keep an eye on this situation with a long way to go until National Signing Day in 2016. 

Tough Visit To The Swamp For In-State OL and 5-star RB

The hot seat in Gainesville has now reached it's boiling point following the Gators 42-13 loss to Missouri at The Swamp. A couple of weeks ago I said if Florida could land 5-star defensive linemen Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson combined with a respectable 8-4 record then head coach Will Muschamp may want to ask for a raise. Now Florida limps into into the bye week with speculation that Muschamp may be out following a loss to rival Georgia on Nov. 1

Despite the blowout the defense played exceptional only yielding a total of 119 yards of total offense. In fact, Florida is the only school in the last ten seasons to give up less than 120 yards and lose: 

Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian two-way standout Kendrick Norton took an unofficial visit to Florida for the lopsided loss. Norton said he was impressed with the defense and the environment. 

"It was a great atmosphere. Even the game wasn't close the crowd stayed in it the whole time," said Norton. "The defense played great. I was surprised with how the offense turned the ball over. I figured Florida would win because of their defense and let the offense get a few field goals while holding onto the ball, but they couldn't do that."

Norton lines up at offensive guard and defensive tackle for Trinity Christian. Florida wants the 6'3, 305-pounder 4-star stalwart on defense. 

"I watched Florida's defensive line and they got after them like always," added Norton. "Coach (Brad) Lawing is a great coach. He is always works with them and they have some talented guys."

When asked about the outcome of the game and Coach Muschamp's job status? Norton had this to say, "They've only lost three games, so they would have to lose a lot more for them to drop out of my top (favorites). If something happens and Coach Lawing leaves then I will have to reconsider things with Florida."

For now, Norton still has the Gators firmly in his list of top schools along with Miami and others. He is going to keep an eye on the situation in Gainesville to see if any changes will be made. He is planning his official visit to Miami for the Florida State game in Nov.

 

Last Friday, Muschamp made a final pitch to 5-star running back Jacques Patrick. Recruiting analyst Blake Alderman was the first to report that Patrick was on campus at Florida. 

Patrick told me, "Yes I was at Florida. I'm now certain on what I needed to know and I'll make my decision next week (Oct. 27)."

Patrick will likely decided between Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, and Texas A&M. The 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions have him as a 100% lock to FSU. However, Patrick chose to be in Gainesville over the weekend instead of FSU's game against Notre Dame. Does that meaning anything? Probably not, but give Muschamp credit for giving Florida a fighting chance.

Skylar Diggins' Cousin Visits Notre Dame Rival

On Saturday afternoon, St. John Bosco athlete DJ Morgan was at The Coliseum with his mom and little brother to watch Cody Kessler make USC history. Kessler threw a school record seven touchdowns in the Trojans win over Colorado. Morgan said interacting with players post game after the special moment was the best part of his trip. 

"The excitement in the locker room was amazing," said Morgan. "After I win it was great to see everyone get along and having fun. It was mind boggling to see him go out there and throw so many touchdowns one right after the other. It was strike after strike after strike." 

When asked if 5-star Bosco teammate Josh Rosen is trying to recruit him to UCLA? He replied, "Josh respects everyone and their decision about which colleges they want to go. He understands its not just a four year decision its a forty year decision."

Location will likely be a factor for Morgan. His mom wants him to stay close to home, so she can see him play. She isn't fond of traveling and prefers Morgan to be near the west coast when he makes his college decision. 

The Trojan faithful let Morgan and his family know he is a priority recruit. Morgan said fans knew he who was when he was at the game.

"Some of them knew my name and they were chanting Fight On," laughed Morgan. "They were saying this is the right place to be. Its a great feeling and truly an honor and blessing to get that experience. Not everyone gets that opportunity to say the USC fan base knows you. It's a blessing."

Morgan recently picked up an Arizona State offer. The 4-star playmaker has made plans to take an unofficial visit to Tempe, Ariz. on Nov. 8 for the Sun Devils tilt against Notre Dame.  

 

2016 4-Star John Broussard Impressed by Bama's Dominant D

Yellowhammer State star John Broussard was in Tuscaloosa, Ala. for the Tide's 59-0 romp over Texas A&M. Broussard said the defense and the secondary really stood out in the win. 

"It was great and the atmosphere was cool," said Broussard. "I was watching Landon Collins and Tony Brown in the secondary. I really thought it was going to be a close game and come down to the wire, but Alabama came out strong and came out with the win. The visit was an 8 on a scale of 1-10. I loved seeing Amari Cooper play too."

Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is Broussard's primary recruiter. 

"Whenever we talk we have a real good conversation," noted Robertson. "He's a good guy."

Alabama figures to have some competition for the 4-star cover man. Auburn, Georgia, and Kentucky for the Central High School standout out of Phenix City, Ala. Broussard has been to Auburn twice this fall and each time it gets better according to Broussard.

"The stadium and atmosphere is great," added Broussard. "When you are standing up in the crowd the whole place is shaking."

Broussard said his next trip will likely be to Kentucky for the Georgia game. LSU is the other school in the fold for Broussard. He called the Tigers his dream school and said he talks to defensive backs coach Corey Raymond every two or three days. 

The tough defender is planning to decide later on during his junior year. He told me if he doesn't commit in May he will probably do it on Signing Day of his senior season. 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. 

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UCLA vs. Colorado Complete Game Preview

When: Saturday, Oct. 25; 2 p.m. ET

Where:  Folsom Field; Boulder, Colorado

TV: Pac-12 Networks

UCLA is out of its losing skid and back in the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 25 following a dramatic Week 8 win at Cal.

Marcus Rios’ interception of Cal quarterback Jared Goff completed the Bruins’ first win at Memorial Stadium since 1998, which was also the last season UCLA won the conference championship. 

Controversial interception in the #Cal-#UCLA game: https://t.co/SwEPTyyYtU

— Marshall Cherrington (@MWCherrington) October 18, 2014

A good omen, perhaps?

UCLA has plenty of work to do to contend for the Pac-12 South title and berth into the conference championship game, as it still trails Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Utah in the loss column.

Nevertheless, the Cal win was an important first step toward getting the Bruins back on course to what quarterback Brett Hundley said, per CalBears.com, was a very much attainable goal: the Pac-12 championship.

The Bruins’ next step is a road trip to last-place Colorado. The Buffaloes are winless in Pac-12 play but played Cal and Oregon State within a possession each.

However, the Buffs return home to Folsom Field reeling from a 56-28 blasting at USC.

UCLA can add to Colorado’s woes Saturday and get back on the right side of .500 in the conference with a road win.

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Was Notre Dame Robbed by Officials in Florida State Game?

Was that really pass interference? 

It's a question likely being debated around water coolers everywhere today. The controversial ending to the epic Notre Dame-Florida State game nearly blew up the Internet on Saturday night, with amateur referees everywhere taking to Twitter and Facebook with their interpretation of college football's rulebook and the offensive pass-interference call made by the ACC officiating crew. 

In the chaos of the game's final seconds, just about everyone—including ESPN's Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit—thought the penalty was called on wide receiver C.J. Prosise. But with the roar of Doak Campbell Stadium drowning out referee David Epperley's announcement, it wasn't until after the game that most realized that Will Fuller was the guilty party, with back judge Pat Ryan throwing the decisive flag on the Irish's star receiver.

After the game on Saturday, coach Brian Kelly said he didn't think the play was illegal. On Sunday, he doubled down on that assertion, especially after he found out the flag was thrown on Fuller.

"I have less clarity. I guess it was actually called on Will Fuller, not C.J.," Kelly said in his Sunday teleconference. "Just adds more uncertainty as to the final play. Again, the play itself in terms of what we ask our kids to do, it was pretty clear what happened on the play. Florida State blew the coverage and they got rewarded for it. So it's unfortunate."

The ACC took to the Internet to defend their call. The coordinator of ACC officials, Doug Rhoads, said the following when discussing the controversial call: 

In order to bring a little clarity to the offensive pass-interference call that occurred in last night’s Notre Dame-Florida State game, let me see if I can explain the rule. Offensive players on passing plays are restricted from going downfield and blocking anytime from the snap. If the ball is first touched beyond the line of scrimmage, that would be legal and it’s okay, but if the ball is touched beyond the line, then it’s offensive pass interference.

Officials always have to exercise great judgment in calling a foul. An offensive pass interference—or pick plays as they’re sometimes referred to—are different than other difficult judgments. The key is the official must assess on the play whether there is sufficient restriction for it to be a foul, and he has to differentiate between incidental contact and significant contact or restriction when he calls that foul.

Rhoads is in a difficult situation, defending a judgment call that's essentially impossible to overturn. But by not focusing on the actual foul that was being called but rather the process by which the decision is made, Rhoads' "clarification" might actually do less to support his crew's decision than saying nothing at all.

When asked about the controversial flag, the NCAA's coordinator of officials, Rogers Redding, told The Associated Press, "What you want to look for, is it truly a situation where the offensive player prohibits the defender from making a play?''

"It's got to be obvious, and the rule even says, 'an obvious intent to impede.'''

Rule 7-3-8 is what Redding cites. It's also what has Irish fans still grumbling about Ryan's interpretation of pass interference. The rule book reads:

If opponents who are beyond the line collide while moving toward the pass, a foul by one or both players is indicated only if intent to impede the opponent is obvious. It is pass interference only if a catchable forward pass is involved.

While the initial instinct of both the broadcast booth and rules experts like Fox's Mike Pereria called the penalty a good one, different angles (not to mention clarification on the penalized party) make this less cut-and-dried. 

With most media from the press box allowed on the field in the game's final minutes, new camera angles of the deciding play are popping up everywhere. One view from the South Bend Tribune's Tyler James seems to support Brian Kelly's point of view, with slo-mo and touch screen graphics to help prove it. 

The guys at OneFootDown.com dug in and came to the same conclusion, noticing that the Irish moved to a bunch formation because the Seminoles were in man coverage, the absolute wrong defense for Kelly's play call:

From an X's and O's perspective, Notre Dame wins this play. No doubt about it. They have the right play call for the type of defense FSU is using. Unfortunately, it's not always just about X's and O's.

The ball has just left Everett Golson's hand. Will Fuller and CJ Prosise are both engaged with their respective defenders. This is a problem for Notre Dame. When the ball is in the air, the Notre Dame receivers can't be engaged with the DB's (regardless of who initiated the contact) or at the very least must be working to get away from contact. At the crucial moment they don't appear to be disengaging. That's why the call was made.

I don't know if it was the right call or not from a rule book perspective. From an X's and O's perspective, what Fuller and Prosise did isn't critical. They weren't the focal point of this play. They were at best a third and fourth option. Their patterns were primarily designed to isolate Robinson's route. Even if Fuller and Prosise don't touch the defenders, FSU is in trouble on this play. Notre Dame has them flanked because of alignment, not because of contact. Oddly enough, this is being called a pick play, but the player responsible for covering Robinson was never touched by anyone.

Of course, why contact is taking place is a critical component to the penalty call. While the angle from ESPN's broadcast seems to support the offensive pass-interference call, the look from behind the play shows two Florida State defensive backs doing their best to disrupt both Prosise and Fuller's pass routes with press-man coverage, playing perfectly into Notre Dame's hands, though also leading to the Irish's demise.  

If the debate wasn't enough, no dissection of this play is complete without one other key addition: If the officials were intent on calling the play by the letter of the law, they missed a key penalty that would've given Notre Dame an automatic first down. 

Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams removed his helmet after watching Corey Robinson score what he thought was the game-winning touchdown. That's a dead-ball, unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

Kelly said that the ACC acknowledged the missed call, the result of which would've been a 1st-and-goal from Notre Dame's 9-yard line with 13 seconds remaining. 

In a parallel universe, the Irish and Seminoles returning to the field to square off again for 13 seconds would be a college football event unlike any we've ever seen. It's also a pipe dream, one that will only drive Irish fans crazy as they continue to dig into a 50-50 penalty that could've gone either way. 

But after a week of endless hype for a game that somehow managed to live up to it, the controversial finish almost adds to the legend of this heavyweight bout.

Penalty or not? It'll be debated for years to come. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Will LSU Shake Up SEC West with Win vs. Ole Miss?

Fresh off their 41-3 thrashing of the Kentucky Wildcats, the LSU Tigers play host to the SEC's newest superpower, the Ole Miss Rebels, with their sights set on an upset.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee break down the game and LSU's future.

Can LSU keep its offense going against the stout Ole Miss defense?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Seemingly Drunk Ole Miss Fan Crashes Tennessee QB's Postgame Media Session

If a seemingly drunk fan was able to sneak his way into an opponent's postgame media session, Ole Miss better figure out a way to improve its security at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

After a 34-3 loss to Ole Miss this past Saturday, Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley answered questions from reporters—and a fan who sounds like he might have had a drink or two.

The fan got in a question, but it wasn't very clear. Here's our best guess as to what he asked: "You knew Ole Miss...you knew Ole Miss' defense was gonna be good. Anything that particularly surprised you about that?" 

Unfortunately the clip stops there, so we don't know if Worley ever answered the fan's question.

This has apparently happened before in Oxford.

According to Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger, Ole Miss is looking into the matter and will try to figure out a way to tighten up security. The security guard responsible for checking media credentials was reportedly in the wrong room on Saturday.

[Knoxville News Sentinel, Twitter; h/t SB Nation and Deadspin]

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LSU Tigers vs. Ole Miss Rebels Complete Game Preview

Ole Miss will be a road favorite against LSU on Saturday. Three years ago, nobody would have ever expected the Tigers to be a home underdog when facing the Rebels.

LSU destroyed Ole Miss 52-3 on the way to a SEC championship in 2011. The Rebels finished a disastrous 0-8 in conference play, which led to head coach Houston Nutt's exit after the season's end. 

Ole Miss has experienced an enormous change for the better with head coach Hugh Freeze since then. The unbeaten Rebels are the No. 3 team in the country heading into Saturday's contest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They are now the team looking to make a run to a national championship, not 6-2 LSU. 

Freeze's best coaching performances prior to 2014 has been against the Tigers. In his first trip to Baton Rouge two years ago, his Rebels were narrowly defeated 41-35 in Tiger Stadium. He was able to break through last season in a surprising upset over the Tigers. 

Now Miles has the opportunity to spoil Freeze's party. ESPN's College GameDay will be in Baton Rouge on Saturday for what should be an intense affair. 

Here is a preview of this week's matchup.

 

What You Need to Know

Time: 6:15 p.m. CT 

Place: Tiger Stadium; Baton Rouge, Louisiana

TV: ESPN

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, Ole Miss Radio Network

Spread: Ole Miss by 3; via Oddsshark.com 

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Notre Dame Football: Position-by-Position Midseason Grades for the Irish

Less than 48 hours removed from Notre Dame’s 31-27 loss to Florida State, it’s time to begin to move on from the wild—and disputed—finish and assess the Irish at the bye week seven games into the season.

Notre Dame is 6-1 and ranked seventh in The AP poll. It's had convincing wins (Michigan), dubious wins (North Carolina) and arguably as impressive a loss as a team can have (Florida State).

Let’s go by position by position and assess the team’s performance so far. We’ll judge the overall performance of each group and consider how the units have performed in relation to preseason expectations. A “C” grade is considered average.

Away we go.

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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Tennessee Volunteers Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you were eager for the third Saturday in October to pick up a little steam after the last few years, don’t hold your breath for 2014.

Alabama is fresh off a 59-0 trouncing of Texas A&M, while Tennessee is limping away from a 34-3 loss to Ole Miss and still looking for its first SEC win.

Everything seemed to go right for the Crimson Tide in their win over the Aggies. Offense, defense and special teams all played at a championship level.

Tennessee, meanwhile, is working to build an identity in coach Butch Jones’ second year at the helm.

Can the Volunteers pull the upset? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 25

Time: 6:30 p.m. CT

Place: Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Vol Network

Spread: Alabama by 16.5, according to OddsShark.com.

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Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Complete Game Preview

A week after proving that it maintained its momentum following its second bye in four weeks, the Ohio State football team will head to Happy Valley for a prime-time matchup with Penn State. On the heels of their fourth consecutive blowout victory, the Buckeyes are hoping to make a statement against the Nittany Lions as they continue their push for a potential playoff spot.

Meanwhile, Penn State is looking to breathe new life into its season after suffering back-to-back losses to Northwestern and Michigan. Coming off a bye of their own, the Nittany Lions will be well-rested but appear to have been hampered by the scholarship limitations handed down by their sanctions.

Will Ohio State keep rolling, or will Penn State pick up a much-needed signature? We'll find out on Saturday. But until then, here's everything you need to know about the Buckeyes' battle with the Nittany Lions.

Date: Saturday, Oct. 25

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Place: Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa.

TV: ABC

Radio: Ohio State Football Radio NetworkMaryland Sports Radio Network

Spread: Ohio State (-11.5), via Odds Shark 

 

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Miami vs. Virginia Tech: Complete Game Preview

Two rivals square off on Thursday, Oct. 23, as the Miami Hurricanes travel to Lane Stadium and meet the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Both programs need a victory to remain in the Coastal Division hunt, having dropped two conference contests each.

Miami (4-3, 1-2 ACC) did not play this past weekend but toppled Cincinnati 55-34 two weeks ago, while Virginia Tech (4-3, 1-2) fell to Pittsburgh 21-16 last Thursday.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN. As of this writing, the 'Canes are favored by two points, per OddsShark.

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Florida State Football: Adjustments Seminoles Must Make During Bye Week

Life is good for the Florida State football team—and not because the Seminoles can relax with this being a bye week. FSU players can enjoy being 7-0, but they also know they must make some adjustments on offense and defense going into the final five games of the regular season.

FSU is one of four unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (along with Mississippi State, Mississippi and Marshall) and knocked off a former unbeaten when it held off No. 5 Notre Dame 31-27 on Saturday night.

While FSU remains perfect in the win column, the Seminoles are still a team with weaknesses. FSU has come up with some timely defensive stops in the red zone the past two weeks against Syracuse and Notre Dame, but the team ranks seventh in scoring defense (21 points) and 10th in total defense (374 yards)—in the ACC. And FSU's rushing offense (125 yards per game) is 13th in the 14-team ACC. 

"We find excuses to win," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "This team has tremendous, what I call, 'adversity tolerance.' It doesn't flinch. It can deal with pressure moments, pressure situations."

FSU has handled the pressure well in holding off fourth-quarter challenges from Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame. Let's take a look at where FSU needs to improve during the bye week:

 

Adjustments on Offense

After running for 171 yards against Wake Forest and 165 yards at Syracuse, FSU's ground attack looked like it was improving after a rocky start to the season. But FSU had just 26 carries for 50 yards against Notre Dame.

There are a few good reasons for FSU's rushing struggles against the Fighting Irish. The Seminoles were without Mario Pender (ankle), and true freshman Dalvin Cook earned his first start. Fisher said that Cook started because Karlos Williams, who missed the Syracuse game with an ankle injury, didn't practice much in the week leading up to the Notre Dame game.

FSU also played without offensive line coach Rick Trickett on the sideline. Trickett had a heart problem Friday night and did not coach (Fisher said that Trickett would return to the office this week).

Forced to start a true freshman over a senior at tailback and without its offensive line coach, FSU didn't get much going on the ground early. FSU didn't run on its first drive, a three-and-out. Cook had two carries for minus-one yard on the second drive. Jameis Winston had a 3-yard run on the third drive, but no tailback got a carry. It wasn't until midway through the second quarter that FSU earned a rushing first down, and it was part of a drive where the Seminoles got three first-down carries to set up a Roberto Aguayo field goal.

The good news is that Williams had a pair of second-half touchdowns. But consistency in the ground game is sorely lacking.

Will FSU be able to improve on the ground? A bye week clearly helps from an injury standpoint. Pender and Williams could be at or near 100 percent for the Louisville game. But the Cardinals have the nation's No. 3 rush defense (68 yards per game). Another big challenge for FSU.

 

Adjustments on Defense

FSU continues to escape with wins despite a defense that has gone from No. 1 in the nation in 2013 to 53rd in total defense. The Seminoles lost five starters to the NFL and have dealt with injuries to returning stars (defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. each missed a game). Linebacker Terrance Smith was also suspended for the Wake Forest game.

One of the biggest concerns has been the success of FSU's opponents on third down. Syracuse converted seven of its 14 third-down opportunities, and Notre Dame converted on seven of its 18 third-down chances. FSU is 94th in the FBS in third-down conversion defense (43.4 percent).

It's deflating to a defense when a mobile quarterback like Notre Dame's Everett Golson is able to scramble or just elude tacklers in the pocket only to complete passes. And long drives wear down defenses, especially when opponents use the chance to go to the hurry-up offense and make substituting nearly impossible for the Seminoles.

FSU also gave up too many big plays to Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish ran 87 plays on Saturday, but they had eight pass plays of 15 or more yards and six rushing plays of 10 or more yards, 247Sports' Chris Nee writes (subscription required). That's 270 offensive yards on just 14 plays.

Will FSU's defense improve down the stretch? The Seminoles don't have as many injury concerns on defense. And true freshmen who have seen significant playing time, like defensive end Lorenzo Featherston and linebacker Jacob Pugh, will only get better with experience.

One piece of good news for the Seminoles is that they don't play a top-flight offense down the stretch. Of the five remaining opponents, Miami is the best and is ranked 53rd in total offense.

 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats unless otherwise noted are courtesy of Seminoles.com.

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Does Texas A&M Need to Bench Kenny Hill to Save Season?

After three straight losses, the Texas A&M Aggies are reeling. Kenny Hill, once thought of as the heir to Johnny Manziel, is not the same guy we saw in Week 1.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder discuss the future of Kenny Hill and the Aggies.

Is it time to make a change at the quarterback position?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Adam Choice Injury: Updates on Clemson Star's Knee and Recovery

Clemson running back Adam Choice will miss the remainder of the 2014 college football season after suffering a torn ACL in Saturday's 17-13 win over Boston College.

"I hate it for Adam," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday, per Scott Keepfer of GreenvilleOnline.com. "He was just starting to hit his stride."   

Choice, a freshman, was injured on a three-yard loss in the first quarter. Though the injury did not appear season-threatening on the field, Choice did not return to the game and a subsequent MRI revealed the ACL tear.

A highly touted Class of 2014 recruit, Choice's freshman campaign concludes with a team-high 218 yards and a touchdown. He had slowly moved his way up the Tigers' crowded running back rotation and appeared to be their best option on a per-play basis.

Four non-quarterbacks have carried the ball 35-plus times, as Swinney has struggled to find the right mix. The return of talented freshman Tyshon Dye may help mitigate the loss of Choice. Dye is scheduled to return to practice this week in preparation for Saturday's game with Syracuse.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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USC vs. Utah Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 25; 10 p.m. ET

WHERE: Rice-Eccles Stadium; Salt Lake City, Utah

TV: Fox Sports 1

Saturday’s Week 9 Pac-12 South tilt pitting USC vs. Utah is arguably the biggest game the Utes have played since joining the conference in 2011. And the gravity of this matchup is not lost on Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian.

“We understand it’s going to be a great environment,” Sarkisian said on his weekly conference call Sunday. “We understand it’s a blackout. We understand it’s for first place [in the division]. We understand there’s so much going into it.”

The MUSS—Mighty Utah Student Section—should have Rice-Eccles Stadium rocking for this top-20 showdown, the winner of which moves to the front of the pack in an tightly contested conference.

Both remained tied atop the loss column with Week 8 wins, albeit in much different fashion.

No. 20-ranked USC rode a record-setting performance by quarterback Cody Kessler to a 56-28 dismantling of Colorado, while No. 19 Utah overcame an offensively anemic performance to beat Oregon State in overtime on the road, 29-23.

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Pros and Cons of Firing Will Muschamp Before the End of the Season

After Florida's embarrassing 42-13 loss to Missouri, it's getting to a point where it's not "if," but "when" head coach Will Muschamp will be fired.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told ESPN.com in September that he will evaluate Muschamp's job performance after the season, but after the loss to the Tigers—which dropped the Gators to 3-3 (2-3 SEC) on the season—and with a bye week this week, there's no time like the present to make a move.

What are some of the pros and cons to letting go of Muschamp now as opposed to after the season? We examine both sides in this slideshow.

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Which Pac-12 Team Has the Best Shot to Derail Oregon's Playoff Hopes?

Oregon has been the cream of the crop in the Pac-12 in recent history, and this season is proving to fall right in line. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss which Pac-12 team has the best chance at beating the Ducks.

Will the Ducks be in the College Football Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College QB Throws TD to Himself on Deflected-Ball Play

We should all be so lucky as to have a quarterback of Nelson Hughes’ caliber on our fantasy football teams.

The North Greenville University signal-caller managed to throw and catch his own pass for a touchdown against Mars Hill University on Saturday.

BroBible.com’s J. Camm spotted footage of the play. Hughes dropped back, attempted to thread one through traffic and had his pass swatted back to him by a Mars Hill lineman.

Instead of crumpling to the ground, the NGU quarterback initiated Benny Hill theme song mode and scrambled for his life. After evading several tacklers, Hughes picked up some blockers and turned upfield for a 47-yard touchdown.

Going by a literal interpretation of the play, this would be around an 18-point fantasy football play in most leagues. The Crusaders have it written up as a Hughes to Hughes in their official box score:

So if you started Hughes in your Division II college football fantasy league (and who didn’t?), you’re sitting pretty right now.

Unfortunately for the Crusaders, Mars Hill would go on to win the game 30-27. Brush it off, Hughes. You’ll catch two next time.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Brian Kelly Comments on Go-Ahead TD Play, Penalty from Notre Dame vs. FSU

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was livid after a controversial offensive pass interference call wiped out the Irish's potential game-winning touchdown in their 31-27 loss Saturday to Florida State. With a day to ruminate and further clarification provided by the officiating crew, reporters asked if he better understood the call Sunday.

Nope.    

Per Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com, Kelly said:

Actually I have less clarity. I guess it was actually called on Will Fuller, not C.J. (Prosise). So [it] just adds more uncertainty as to the final play. But again, the play itself, in terms of what we ask our kids to do, it was pretty clear what happened on the play: Florida State blew the coverage and they got rewarded for it. It's unfortunate.

Will Fuller was flagged for offensive pass interference on a two-yard pass from Everett Golson to Corey Robinson, which would have given Notre Dame a 33-31 lead with 13 seconds remaining. In real time, the Notre Dame receivers appeared to be running standard pick routes designed to open up Robinson—plays often run and rarely flagged in short-yardage situations.

However, ACC coordinator of football officials Doug Rhoads defended the crew's call Sunday. Rhoads specifically cites the wide receivers blocking downfield on a forward pass as a violation, noting that neither player attempted to run a route.

“Offensive players on passing plays are restricted from going downfield and blocking anytime from the snap,” Rhoads said, per Zach Barnett of College Football Talk. “If the ball is first touched behind the line of scrimmage then that would be legal and it’s okay, but if it’s touched beyond the line then it’s offensive pass interference.”

The resulting 15-yard penalty pushed the Irish to their own 18-yard line, forcing a desperation heave on 4th-and-goal. Golson's pass was subsequently intercepted by linebacker Jacob Pugh, with the Seminoles wrapping up their NCAA-high 23rd straight victory.

Notre Dame's loss dropped the Irish from No. 5 to No. 7 in The Associated Press Poll, putting their playoff hopes in jeopardy.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

South Carolina vs. Auburn: Complete Game Preview

AUBURN, Ala. — Two months ago, most people expected this Saturday's matchup at Jordan-Hare Stadium would be a battle between two of the top teams in the SEC.

However, with the state of Mississippi taking a hold of the conference's Western division and an early Eastern favorite suffering two early conference losses, the South Carolina-Auburn game will be a matchup of two teams needing some help in order to get to Atlanta.

But don't let the diminished prestige of a game between two preseason Top-10 teams fool you—Saturday night's game is crucial for an Auburn team looking to rebound from a loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago and a South Carolina team needing to stay alive in the East's free-for-all.

Auburn, who has dominated the all-time series against South Carolina with a 9-1-1, is hoping to reap the benefits of an important bye week and put together a complete performance that puts head coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers back into the national spotlight.

Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, on the other hand, are looking for improvements from a lackluster defense as its under-the-radar offense leads the way in an upset bid on the Plains.

Before we get to the full breakdown of this cross-divisional clash, here is all the basic information you need to know:

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