NCAA Football News

Why Fans Should Have Seen Auburn's Late-Season Implosion Coming

ATHENS, Ga. —  An old, way-too-familiar feeling returned for Auburn and its fans Saturday night in Sanford Stadium.

Auburn's slim chances at a successful SEC title defense came to a devastating end with a 34-7 loss in Athens, a venue where the Tigers had lost in their previous three trips.

It was the third loss in five games for an Auburn team that opened the season with high hopes of returning to college football's biggest stage in the new playoff format.

"We have to be big boys," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "We got it handed to us tonight. That’s uncharacteristic of this team, and we have to bounce back."

While Auburn had not previously been "beaten in all three phases" in 2014 like it did Saturday night to the Bulldogs, fans should have seen a defeat like this one coming.

Since the Tigers' loss to Mississippi State in Starkville last month, a few disturbing trends became even more prevalent, even in Auburn's wins against South Carolina and Ole Miss.

These trends came to a head in Athens, and now Auburn must regroup and respond before this late-season slide turns a former national-title contender into an eight-win team.

 

Over-Reliance on the Offense

In the previously mentioned wins against South Carolina and Ole Miss, the Tigers scored 35 or more points and put up 500 or more yards of total offense as the defense continued to struggle.

Auburn had to overcome more defensive woes last weekend against Texas A&M, but two late fumbles on possible go-ahead touchdown drives doomed the Tigers to an ugly loss to the Aggies.

If the late miscues against Texas A&M was a crack in the wall, everything came crashing down against Georgia as Auburn was held to its worst performance of the Malzahn Era, per AL.com's Brandon Marcello:

The mistakes piled up for Auburn's offense, and the defense had to compensate in a major role reversal.

"It was just overall execution," tight end C.J. Uzomah said. "The defense did a good job in the first half. They did their part, but I felt overall, our execution wasn't up to our standard—Auburn football and what Coach Malzahn emphasizes."

The Tigers' mistakes on the offensive side of the ball put more pressure on a defense that had been the weak link.

"Don't get me wrong, Georgia is a really good team," offensive lineman Avery Young said. "They capitalized on all of our mistakes, but making those in a big type of game—it comes down to just inches. Everything has to be perfect. I don't care who you are or what team you are. Everything has to be done like you were taught to do it."

Auburn's recent streak of simply outscoring opponents turned out not to be a sustainable strategy, as one bad night on offense led to a blowout loss for a team that continued to struggle with missed assignments and poor execution.

 

More Missed Tackling

According to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, Auburn's missed tackles led to more than 100 yards of extra yardage for Texas A&M last weekend.

On Saturday night, a defense that usually struggled with tackling receivers struggled even more with tackling Georgia's dynamic rushing duo of freshman Nick Chubb and the returning Todd Gurley.

Auburn's defensive struggles reached a new low in rushing under Malzahn, according to the Montgomery Advertiser's James Crepea:

"[Chubb and Gurley] are great backs," cornerback Jonathan Jones said. "We knew we had to come in and tackle them—and gang-tackle them."

For linebacker Kris Frost, Auburn's struggles in bringing down Georgia's ball-carriers stemmed from a recent rise in the Tiger defense not playing on the same page.

"Most of our missed tackling is coming from overruns," Frost said. "I know for a fact that I had two overruns in this game. Really, I think tackling in our case is just playing with each other and knowing where you're leverage is coming from. You don't have to be the one to make the play all the time. You're playing with 10 other guys on the field."

As the back end of Auburn's schedule was loaded with talented playmakers, opponents were able to frustrate the defense by forcing the Tigers to make sure tackles—something they haven't been able to do consistently in last few years.

 

Too Many Penalties

Auburn entered Saturday night's game against Georgia as the SEC's most highly penalized team with an average of 6.8 per game for 68 yards.

Those errors rose against the Bulldogs as Auburn finished with seven penalties for 78 yards.

"On special teams, we sort of ran into the kicker and they scored right after that and I think that was a big play," Malzahn said. "Offensively, if we got first downs, we had holding penalties that brought them back."

Auburn's roughing-the-kicker penalty in the second quarter, as shown here by Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, turned an Auburn defensive stop into a Georgia scoring drive.

For Auburn's offense, holding penalties erased a few third-down conversions and forced Malzahn to go conservative with his play calls.

"We had penalties that pushed us back into 3rd-and-20, 3rd-and-22, stuff like that," Uzomah said. "We just didn't execute at a high level."

Auburn's lack of discipline in all three phases haunted the team Saturday night and continued what has been a major problem for the Tigers in recent games.

For a team—and a coach—that preaches excellence in execution, penalties continue to keep Auburn from playing at a championship level this season.

 

What Next?

After a crushing loss like this one, Auburn definitely has a lot to work on for the next two weeks until a trip to Tuscaloosa to face SEC West-leading Alabama.

"Anytime you get beat convincingly, as a coach, you have to try and solve the issues that you think you need to moving forward," Malzahn said. 

The Tigers need to address several personnel and playmaking issues through the game week against FCS-level Samford and into preparations for this year's Iron Bowl.

Auburn might not be able to compete for a national championship this season, but an upset victory against Alabama—one that would ruin the big-rival's dreams—could put a bright spot at the end of what has been a frustrating second half of the 2014 campaign.

"We can turn it around," running back Cameron Artis-Payne said. "We're back home next week. We get a win next week, and we're going into the Iron Bowl with some confidence."

 

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

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

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Florida State vs. Miami: Game Grades, Analysis for Seminoles and Hurricanes

For the sixth time this season, Jameis Winston and No. 3 Florida State (10-0) rallied from a dangerous deficit, coming up with a 30-26 victory over Miami (6-4) in Sun Life Stadium Saturday night.

The Hurricanes had the reigning national champs on the ropes, leading 23-7 midway through the second quarter, but the Seminoles scored 23 of the game's final 26 points to remain unbeaten and keep their playoff hopes alive.

How did Florida State and Miami grade out from an entertaining four-point game?

 

Florida State Seminoles Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Winston struggled in a big way in the first half, missing on nine of 20 attempts for 120 yards and an interception. But much like he has all season, Winston thrived in the second half, throwing for 164 yards and a touchdown to help the Seminoles rally. The Seminoles shared the wealth as 10 different pass-catchers registered a reception against the Hurricanes.

Run Offense: Playing from behind almost right out of the gate, the Seminoles only ran the ball seven times in the first half. One of those rushes went 44 yards for a touchdown when Dalvin Cook broke free in the second quarter, but the Seminoles only gained 11 more yards on the ground before halftime. The second half followed a similar pattern. The Seminoles finished with just 19 carries, but Cook was outstanding, running for 92 yards and two touchdowns on just seven attempts.

Pass Defense: The Florida State secondary spent the better part of Saturday night being dissected by freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya. The Hurricanes consistently found big holes in the Seminoles defense, which allowed them to build a 16-point first-half lead. But Jalen Ramsey came up huge late in the fourth quarter, picking off a deep pass on fourth down to preserve the Florida State win.

Run Defense: The Seminoles did a pretty good job of limiting a dangerous Hurricanes rushing attack. The usually explosive Miami ground game was limited to just 4.4 yards per carry on Saturday night, and outside of a 28-yard run from Duke Johnson, there weren't many big plays from the Hurricanes ball-carriers.

Special Teams: What else can be written about kicker Roberto Aguayo? The sensational sophomore was clutch against the Hurricanes, connecting on all three of his field-goal attempts. His 53-yard kick in the fourth quarter brought Florida State within three, setting the offense up to retake the lead on the next possession. The only gaffe from Florida State's special teams came n the first half, when Jesus Wilson fumbled a kickoff return. Otherwise, it was another solid outing for the Seminoles.

Coaching: At some point, blame for Florida State's repeated slow starts has to fall on Jimbo Fisher and the coaching staff. The Seminoles act like two entirely different teams, separated by a 30-minute break at halftime. Just as much credit should be given to Fisher for his second-half sparks, but if Florida State makes it to the playoff, it'll likely be squaring off against a team that won't be so easy to rally against.

 

Miami Hurricanes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Johnson is the biggest talking point when it comes to the Miami offense, but Kaaya was the Hurricanes’ best player on Saturday night. The promising freshman gashed Florida State’s defense in the first half, throwing for 240 yards and two touchdowns. But the Seminoles slowed him down, as he connected on just six of 17 second-half passes. He finished with 316 yards, an interception and two scores.

Run Offense: Establishing the run is an important part of Miami's game plan, and the Hurricanes executed that effectively by piling up 176 yards on the ground. Duke Johnson battled cramps for much of the second half, but he still managed 130 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.

Pass Defense: The Hurricanes did a good job of rattling Winston in the first half, limiting him to 120 yards and an interception before the break. But Miami failed to get any consistent pressure in the second half, allowing Winston to carve up the Miami secondary with underneath routes in front of Miami's zone. The sole passing touchdown the Hurricanes gave up was a bit of a fluke (as seen below), but they still allowed 181 passing yards to Winston in the second half.

Run Defense: On paper, Miami had a pretty good day against the Seminoles' rushing attack, surrendering just 115 yards on the ground. But Florida State only ran the ball 19 times, averaging six yards per carry, and Cook ran through and past the Hurricanes defense with runs of 15 and 26 yards on Florida State's go-ahead touchdown drive.

Special Teams: It was a mixed bag for kicker Michael Badgley, who connected on 45- and 46-yard field goals but had an extra point blocked and missed an easy 29-yarder in the second quarter. The Hurricanes could have used a big play in the return game, but Stacy Coley failed to break free in limited opportunities.

Coaching: Al Golden and the Miami staff called a perfect game in the first half, keeping Florida State off balance with a fantastic blend in the run and pass game. But that diversity faded in the second half as the Hurricanes tried to protect their lead, and the team as a whole lost the aggressiveness that helped it build the big lead in the first place.

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings After Week 12

Week 12 gave us some record-breaking performances that will surely be hard to top. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon broke the FBS single-game rushing record with 408 yards vs. Nebraska, but will it be enough to become the front-runner for the Heisman?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee gives his updated Heisman standings after Week 12. 

Who will win the Heisman Trophy this season?

Watch the video and let us know! 

 

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Miami Football: Hurricanes Show They're Close, but Need to Find Clutch Factor

The Miami Hurricanes had a better collective performance than the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles, but the final scoreboard read 30-26 in favor of the 'Noles.

Miami (6-4, 3-3 ACC) outplayed the rival Seminoles (10-0, 7-0), earning a 492-419 total yard advantage and outgaining FSU in both the passing and rushing categories. Additionally, the 'Canes converted 10 of 18 third-down situations and held Jameis Winston and Co. to a 5-of-11 clip.

Unfortunately for Al Golden's team, the final tally is the only thing that actually matters.

Duke Johnson raced to his sixth consecutive 100-yard showing, tallying 130 and one touchdown. Brad Kaaya amassed 316 yards and two touchdowns, while Clive Walford and Phillip Dorsett both reeled in four passes for 127 and 90 yards, respectively.

Offensive coordinator James Coley called an aggressive first half, though he slowly moved toward a conservative attack during the latter 30 minutes. That change was undoubtedly a factor in the loss, but it wasn't the only negative.

The finger-pointing started immediately following the game, with the Twittersphere erupting that Golden will never beat FSU or that the 'Canes are simply perennial underachievers. However, losing to the nation's No. 3 team because of a couple fluke plays isn't underachieving.

Florida State earned the win—every last bit of it. Sure, its offensive line appeared to get away with holding on multiple occasions, but blaming the officials in this case is a lazy way to cover up where Miami faltered.

Walford and Standish Dobard fumbled after picking up first downs. Braxton Berrios dropped a potential touchdown. Michael Badgley yanked a 29-yard field goal and had an extra point blocked. Raphael Kirby and Jamal Carter both dropped could-have-been interceptions.

Nevertheless, Kaaya and the offense had one last opportunity to overcome those mistakes. After a pair of first downs, the Hurricanes picked up just two yards during their final four snaps. The freshman's ultimate pass fell into the waiting arms of Jalen Ramsey, the Seminoles' most valuable player Saturday night.

To reach the next level, though, Kaaya and Miami must find the clutch offensive moments similar to what Florida State has repeatedly shown in 2014. This was the third game in which the 'Noles staged a fourth-quarter comeback and third occurrence of a 16-plus-point recovery.

The Hurricanes had a chance to win, and it was because of the defense. Yes, that defense, the unit that couldn't stop rain from falling inside the house last season.

Sure, the Seminoles scored 30 points—which was actually a new career-low for a Winston-led FSU offense—but Deon Bush and Co. forced a trio of three-and-outs, field-goal attempts and turnovers. Miami certainly wants a little more from their defenders, but they provided the offense plenty of opportunities to seal the game.

The 'Canes are close to silencing the decade-long question of when they are officially "back," but they're not there yet.

However, this is the same program that was absolutely trounced by Florida State last season, losing by 27 points in a beatdown. This is exactly the process Golden preached ad nauseam during his previous three seasons in Coral Gables.

Pat-on-the-back, you'll get 'em next time, buddy phrases aren't what many Hurricanes fans want to hear during their emotionally fueled reactions following a four-point rivalry loss. But this is college football. Losses hurt. Everyone understands that. Yet to deny the progress Miami has made throughout 2014 is silly.

If Golden, his coaching staff or the players complete any one of the aforementioned shortcomings—yes, excluding the extra point—Florida State is upset, and the narrative changes completely.

The scoreboard said they came up short, but the 'Canes performance showed the program is here to stay. Now, it's a matter of finding consistent performance in clutch moments for Miami to establish itself among the ACC's elect.

And when that happens, we'll know "The U" is back. That's just not right now.

 

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

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


The Missouri Tigers were able to keep their SEC East hopes alive as they defeated Texas A&M 34-27. The final box score can be found here, thanks to NCAA.com.

It was a game where both teams started a little slow, but the Tigers were able to pick things up in the third quarter with a 28-point outburst. Missouri ran and threw all over the Aggies, and they need to continue to win in order to make it back to the Georgia Dome in December. The Aggies are just looking to finish the season with eight wins.

Here are game grades and analysis for the Tigers and the Aggies.

 

Passing Offense

There have been times when Maty Mauk has not looked sharp, but this was not one of those days. Mauk was 23-of-40 with 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He has had better numbers in his career, but he was able to sustain drives with key third-down passes all game long. He is starting to play a lot better since the Georgia loss, and that’s not a good sign for Tennessee and Arkansas.

 

Running Offense

This was by far the best rushing performance for the Tigers all year. The Tigers rushed for 335 yards, and Russell Hansbrough recorded 199 of those yards. The running backs for the Tigers used their speed to get on the outside, and the Aggies had no answer for it.

 

Passing Defense

Trying to stop the Aggies passing offense is a difficult task, because that is their strength. The Tigers were able to do a good job of not letting Kyle Allen go off in the first half, but he still had modest numbers, tallying 237 passing yards and three touchdowns. The defensive line did get after Allen with three sacks and Ian Simon was able to get an interception off Allen. So the pass defense was solid outside of the three touchdown passes.

 

Running Defense

The Aggies aren’t known for running the football, and the Tigers made sure of that. With only 104 yards on the ground, the Tigers front seven got after the Aggies offensive line and never could get the ground game going. Credit goes to Markus Golden and Shane Ray for not only going after the quarterback, but also making sure the running backs did not run wild.

 

Special Teams

Andrew Baggett made two of his three field goal attempts, the Tigers only had to punt twice and, outside of one Speedy Noil return, the coverage teams were on point. So the special teams did what they needed to do, which is put the Tigers in position to score points and pin the Aggies back as much as possible.

 

Coaching

Gary Pinkel has the Tigers playing good football because they are taking it one game at a time. They had a great game plan on offense, and the defense was able to get after Allen. Pinkel and the Tigers are criticized because they are not as consistent as they could be. But Pinkle’s calm demeanor feeds off his players, and they continue to win.

 

Passing Offense

Allen had another strong game with three touchdown passes in the loss. But he did get sacked three times, and he did not look very poised in the first half. As good as Allen is, he still has a lot to learn when it comes to decision-making and being more efficient on third down.

 

Running Offense

One of the things the Aggies need to get better at is running the football. They rushed for only 102 yards and had 3.8 yards per carry. Tra Carson did have 56 yards on 10 carries, but he only had 10 carries. The game was never out of reach for the Aggies, so they really should have put the ball in Carson’s hands more, and that would have made the passing game more of a threat.

 

Passing Defense

Mauk did not have great numbers, but he made timely throws when the Tigers needed them the most. One of the reasons for that is the Aggies could not generate any pressure on Mauk, as they tallied zero sacks. However, the Aggies were missing Myles Garrett—who has 11 sacks this season—so that made a big difference.

 

Running Defense

Another area in which the loss of Garrett showed is the run defense. The Aggies allowed 335 yards on the ground, and the Tigers were not doing anything special to gain those yards. In fact, there were times when the Tigers would run the same play over and over again and the Aggies could not maintain their assignments. This will be an area that needs to be addressed sooner than later.

 

Special Teams

The only highlight from the special teams was when Speedy Noil had a 70-yard kick return in the first quarter. Other than that, it was a solid for the special teams, as Josh Lambo made both of his field goals and the coverage teams did not let Marcus Murphy go crazy in the return game. Noil is going to be a very good return specialist for the Aggies by the start of the 2015 season.

 

Coaching

Kevin Sumlin had the right offensive game plan, but once again the defense did not come through. That has been the case for Sumlin since his arrival at Texas A&M, and they are losing games due to the fact that the defense is getting gashed each week. The talent is young on both sides of the ball, so Sumlin will have to continue to stay on the guys and make sure they continue to learn and improve.

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SEC's Hope for Two Teams in College Football Playoff as Good as Dead

Two SEC teams in the College Football Playoff?

That may seem like more of a possibility now that No. 5 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC) topped No. 1 Mississippi State (9-1, 5-1 SEC) 25-20 and earned the inside track to the SEC West title.

Mississippi State still has a chance to stay in the committee's top four, right?

Wrong.

Unless some major college football chaos ensues over the next few weeks the SEC's hopes of getting two teams into the inaugural College Football Playoff is more myth than reality. 

Sure, Alabama could win out, win the SEC title and Mississippi State could finish the season with one loss. That'd be enough to look attractive to the committee?

Attractive, yes. But it'd still likely place the Bulldogs as the last of several dominoes looking to get in. Unless they start falling, it's unlikely they'll find their way in.

Why?

The Bulldogs' own play is a good place to start.

Mississippi State settled for field goals in the red zone twice—once before halftime and another at the start of the the third quarter. Two of quarterback Dak Prescott's three interceptions came at the 20-yard line or closer and Prescott looked wildly uncomfortable in the face of Alabama's pass rush.

They didn't look anything like a championship-caliber team against the Crimson Tide.

"I think we had the ball six times in the red zone, so that’s potentially 42 points," head coach Dan Mullen said in quotes released by Mississippi State. "If we just score touchdowns in the red zone it wouldn’t have been a close game. We would’ve won big, but give them a lot of credit. They made all those plays they needed to do."

Mississippi State looked blinded by the big stage from the jump, and unless it gets some help from Auburn in two weeks when the Tigers visit Alabama, will be sitting at home on championship weekend as the Crimson Tide battle for the SEC title.

Sure, the 25-20 score looks close. A late touchdown with 15 seconds left will do that. Mississippi State out-gained 428-335, which will undoubtedly be used in attempt to boost the Bulldogs' case.

Don't be fooled. This was the Crimson Tide's game from the get-go, and committee chairman Jeff Long specifically stated that they "eye test" mattered during last week's rankings show.

Mississippi State didn't get any style points on Saturday, and with only Vanderbilt and Ole Miss remaining on the schedule, time's running out.

On top of that, other teams jockeying for position in the four-team postseason made statements on Saturday—Ohio State, in particular.

Led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes took down No. 25 Minnesota 31-24 in snowy Minneapolis on Saturday. Will the Buckeyes be ahead of the Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday? Maybe and maybe not. If they run the table and win the Big Ten, you bet your bottom, top and middle dollars they'll get the benefit of the doubt over the Bulldogs.

Is that fair? Of course it isn't.

Ohio State's only loss came at home by two touchdowns to lowly Virginia Tech. They will have that conference championship to boast, though, and that is one of the selection committee's stated points of emphasis—one that is impossible to predict in the midseason rankings.

Stated or not, the playoff is designed to be a spectacle, and Ohio State carries a little more name recognition than Mississippi State. That shouldn't have anything to do with who makes the playoff, but let's be real, it will. 

Would a one-loss Oregon team with a Pac-12 title be in over Mississippi State without a division title?

Absolutely.

The same can be said for Baylor and/or TCU in the Big 12. Florida State got its last real test of the season, but came back to beat Miami 30-26 at Sun Life Stadium.

Unfortunately, conference championships matter. They shouldn't, because the goal for the playoff should be to reward excellence over granting access, and a team winning its geographically determined conference doesn't necessarily prove excellence. But unless there are no other options out there for the committee, two teams from the same conference getting in is more myth than reality based on the committee's ground rules.

Plus, the Bulldogs' own resume took a hit as well, as Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com notes.

The mighty SEC name carries some weight, but we've seen the committee judge resumes by where they currently stand before. Why else was Alabama ranked No. 5 last week? It didn't have a signature win until Saturday.

That changed, and it came at the expense of the Bulldogs.

The chances of two teams making the playoff were always slim-to-none, regardless of how teams were ranked in any of the polls. Unless there's no other option, the SEC won't get two in—even if the potential second team is one-loss Mississippi State.

 

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

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

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Georgia Football: Blueprint for Dawgs to Crash College Football Playoff

Two weeks ago, Georgia fans were frustrated and downright befuddled as a confounding and embarrassing Bulldog loss to the Florida Gators served as a rude awakening from what had the trappings of a dream season.

Now, just fourteen days later, the dream lives on.

Thanks to a convincing win over the ninth-ranked Auburn Tigers, Georgia now has a chance to re-enter the College Football Playoff conversation.

To be sure, the scenario in which the Bulldogs sneak into the four-team playoff is hardly the most plausible.  But for a team that has had its fair share of highs—Georgia looked dominant in wins over the likes of Clemson, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn—and lows (losses to South Carolina and Florida), even entertaining such outcomes is enough to energize a fanbase.

Georgia took two steps in the right direction over the past two weeks, and undoubtedly the selection committee will recognize the merits of the Dawgs’ play following a dominating performance against Auburn.  After all, an equally impressive win over lowly Kentucky combined with the losses of several other contenders to yield a five-position jump from No. 20 to No. 15 in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings.

Georgia’s 34-7 win over the Tigers on Saturday should once again propel it up the rankings as the Bulldog victory was one of the most impressive wins of the week.  And fortunately for head coach Mark Richt’s squad, the next two weeks should be equally beneficial.

Next week, Georgia should move past Charleston Southern with some degree of ease,and in the regular season’s final week the Bulldogs will take on in-state rival Georgia Tech.  The Yellow Jackets are currently 9-2 and firmly planted in the Top 25, but have struggled mightily against the Bulldogs as of late.

If Georgia continues the rivalry’s current trend it will pick up its 13th win in 14 years, but more importantly the Dawgs will garner another win over a ranked opponent and more confidence from the playoff selection committee.

With any luck, Georgia’s resume-building campaign won’t end there.  If the Missouri Tigers lose to either Tennessee or Arkansas over the coming weeks, Georgia will advance to the conference championship as the winner of the SEC East.  That matchup, presumably against either Alabama or Mississippi State, would give Georgia one final opportunity to show off.

In the interest of earning the best possible win, Georgia fans should probably root for Alabama for the remainder of the regular season as the Bulldogs need the Crimson Tide ranked as highly as possible should they meet in the Georgia Dome in early December.  And of course, Georgia must win this game—regardless of opposition.

If Georgia wins out and claims an SEC Championship, several factors would be in the Bulldogs’ favor. 

First and foremost is the benefit that the Southeastern Conference might receive as the nation’s strongest league.  Winning the SEC could—and possibly should—supersede overall record and negate bad losses.  Closing the year on a five-game winning streak with wins over three ranked opponents (Auburn, Georgia Tech, SEC West champion) and claiming the conference crown would be hard to ignore.

Furthermore, With Mississippi State’s loss to Alabama on Saturday, it is now guaranteed that the loser of the SEC Championship Game will have at least two losses.  If Georgia wins the conference with no more losses than any other team in the conference (which this scenario mandates), it would be unlikely that the Bulldogs would be leapfrogged by another SEC team.  Equally unlikely: the SEC being shunned by the committee entirely.

Outside of the conference, Georgia still needs some help.  This week, several teams including Ohio State, TCU and Florida State struggled against unranked foes.  Those types of performances weigh on committee sentiment, particularly in comparison to Georgia’s lopsided win over Auburn.  The Bulldogs need as many poor performances as possible.

So what does this look like in simplified form?

  • Georgia wins out and does so convincingly.
  • Missouri loses at least once more, securing the SEC East for Georgia.
  • Alabama wins out prior to losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship.
  • Mississippi State defeats Ole Miss and pushes the Rebels below Georgia with a third loss.
  • Arizona upsets Arizona State and pushes the Sun Devils below Georgia.
  • Kansas State upsets Baylor and pushes the Bears below Georgia.
  • Ohio State loses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and falls below Georgia.
  • Arizona, USC, Arizona State or UCLA (all contenders in the Pac-12 South) upsets Oregon in the conference championship game.

Based on the timing of those games, these outcomes would likely vault Georgia above six teams by virtue of resume and record matching.  Along the way, however, Georgia will receive continual bumps for continued success against ranked opponents.

Now, Georgia must focus on handling its business.  After all, an inattention to detail is what got Georgia in this pickle to begin with.  Had the Bulldogs squeezed out a victory over South Carolina earlier in the year or avoided the disastrous performance against Florida, the Dawgs would already have the SEC East locked up and would be focusing on a much more consolidated playoff picture.

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FSU vs. Miami: How Seminoles' Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

Once again, the Florida State Seminoles overcame a sluggish start to find a way to win.

Jameis Winston threw for 304 yards, one touchdown and an interception, but the hero of the game was running back Dalvin Cook, whose touchdown with 3:05 left in the game was the decisive score. The freshman finished with 92 yards and two touchdowns rushing, in addition to 18 receiving yards.

Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman believes that Cook could serve as the heir apparent for Devonta Freeman, who left Florida State after his junior season:

All that really matters is that Florida State won, which means the college football playoff is that much closer for the 'Noles. With Mississippi State's loss to Alabama, FSU might even climb into the top spot.

Following Saturday's results, the top four will likely look something like this when the selection committee unveils its newest ranking.

Winning aside, Saturday couldn't have gone much worse for Florida State in terms of building a case for the playoff. No. 19 Clemson lost to Georgia Tech, 28-6, while 18th-ranked Notre Dame fell in overtime to Northwestern. As a result, the Seminoles' two biggest wins this season became a lot less impressive:

That will really come into play if Florida State falters between now and the conference championship. Boston College and Florida shouldn't present much resistance as long as the Seminoles take them seriously.

FSU would meet either Georgia Tech or Duke in the ACC Championship Game, which could be a nice win to end the season, but beating the Yellow Jackets or Blue Devils won't exactly knock the selection committee off its feet.

Still, it will take a lot of guts for the committee to overlook an unbeaten power-five conference champion for a one-loss Big 12/Big Ten champion. Florida State can only beat the teams in front of it, and that's exactly what the Seminoles have done.

"I thought name of the game was to keep winning," said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher before Saturday's game, per Daniel Uthman of USA Today. "Whether you pick it by computer or that way, hey, we just have to control what we can control. If you don't do that, you're chasing your tail."

The 'Noles haven't been the most convincing, but the final score is all that matters. An unbeaten Florida State deserves a place in the playoff. There shouldn't be any doubt about that.

Where the Seminoles would be seeded right now is up for discussion, but at the very least, they have a top-four spot.

The biggest losers following Florida State's win are one of TCU, Baylor or Ohio State. Most agree that if the season ended now, the playoff would include Florida State, the SEC champion—likely Alabama—and Oregon. That means the Big 12 and Big Ten champions are fighting over the final spot in the playoff.

A one-loss Florida State will almost certainly move to the back of the pack among the power-five champions, so Saturday night was a major blow for the Horned Frogs, Bears or Buckeyes.

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Jameis Winston Shushes Miami Crowd After Comeback Victory

Florida State kept its winning streak alive on Saturday with a 30-26 come-from-behind victory over the University of Miami. 

As he was walking off the field, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston could be seen shushing the Miami crowd as he headed back to the locker room. 

While this is by no means a horrible offense, the fact that it's Jameis Winston acting unsportsmanlike will likely draw the attention of critics.

[CollegeSpun]

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FSU vs. Miami: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Florida State Seminoles pulled another victory out of a hat, overcoming an early  deficit to top the Miami Hurricanes 30-26 and remain undefeated at 10-0.

Florida State once again took its sweet time showing up, spotting Miami a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter. This marks the fourth straight game Jimbo Fisher's squad faced a first-half deficit, yet his team has found a way to win them all.

Playing from behind again, the Seminoles outscored the Hurricanes 20-3 during the second half, cementing another come-from-behind win on a game-winning touchdown from Dalvin Cook with 3:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Amending a slow start, Jameis Winston finished with 304 passing yards. After the game, he silenced the fans at Sun Life Stadium on his way out, via ESPN's Andrea Adelson.

At the half, Miami held 320 total yards to Florida State's 174. Brad Kaaya Winston's production through the air, amassing 240 yards to the Heisman winner's 120. College GameDay provided a complete look at Miami's dominance at halftime.

The freshman displayed more poise than Winston in the early going, showing handling pressure with exemplary success, per ESPN Stats & Info.

A slow defensive start is nothing new for the Seminoles, who continually dig themselves into holes. By ESPN Stats & Info's count, this is their third defensive meltdown during an opening half.

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd noted FSU's steep defensive decline from last season, when the champions allowed 12.1 points per game.

Late rallies, however, are also nothing new for the Seminoles, who were fighting to remain undefeated despite several close calls. College GameDay's Chris Fallica quantified their second-half success playing from behind.

Turning back to ESPN Stats & Info again, no other team has displayed such a zest from escaping defeat's grasp. 

Before the game, Miami running back Duke Johnson acknowledged their ability to finish ahead to the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds, via ABCNews.com.

"You can say what you want about them: 'They had a team last year. They're not this. They're not that,'" Johnson said. "At the end, they find a way to win."

So everyone rooting for an upset held their breath, waiting for Winston to orchestrate another comeback in the nick of time. With some tremendous fortune, a deflected pass directed right to Karlos Williams for a bizarre touchdown that cut Miami's lead to six. 

ESPN CollegeFootball's Twitter page posted video of the play.

St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason, whose Auburn Tigers lost to FSU in the 2014 BCS National Championship, noted his former foe's good timing. 

Following a fumble on Miami's next possession, Florida State chipped away some more with a field goal, closing the gap to 23-20.

Rather than attempt a 4th-and-5 conversion, Fisher sent out Roberto Aguayo to attempt a 53-yard field goal. While that wouldn't make sense for most college teams, the sophomore has only missed twice in his career, making all four of his tries from 50-plus yards.

When the nation's No. 3-ranked squad received the ball down three, the AP's Tim Reynolds figured it wouldn't be difficult to give Aguayo a chance to tie the game.

Cook decided not to test it, instead following a 15-yard run with a 26-yard touchdown. 

After a sizzling first half, Kaaya shut down completely during the latter portion of the evening event, gaining 53 second-half passing yards.

FSU's attention now turns to the rankings, where it will leapfrog Mississippi State while jousting with Oregon and Alabama for the No. 1 spot. At the very least, the 10-0 club will retain its No. 3 placement.

Its already shaky sampling of opponents, however, looks even worse after Notre Dame suffered a stunning overtime loss at home to Northwestern. The team's signature victory is now over a squad that won't be ranked heading into next week.

Despite another imperfect showing, Marshall is the only other team with a perfect record intact. Until the Seminoles lose, they'll maintain a College Football Playoff Spot.

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LSU vs. Arkansas: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers and Razorbacks

Prior to meeting LSU on Saturday night, Arkansas had been winless in 17 previous SEC games.  

But the streak is over.

The Razorbacks have finally won a conference game, and by a fitting score at that: 17-0 over LSU, which was reeling after its 20-13 overtime loss Nov. 8 to Alabama. 

Neither team's running backs lived up to the hype. But Arkansas' got the job done, accounting for both of its touchdowns during a frigid evening in Fayetteville. 

Here are the grades/report cards. Grades for position groups, coaching and special teams are explained below. 

Check out the highlights from the live blog

 

Pass Offense

LSU: Anthony Jennings was rushed, hurried and frustrated all night. He completed 12 of 22 passes for a paltry 87 yards. He was a non-threat the entire game. The pass offense gets a D-. 

UA: Brandon Allen wasn't great, let's get that out of the way. He completed 16 of 27 attempts for a lukewarm 169 yards and zero touchdowns, but he helped manage the game and sustain drives. Since it was Arkansas' first conference win in 17 tries, Allen gets a C-. 

 

Pass Defense

LSU: The Tigers weren't exploited, so a grade of C is fair. Arkansas' Hunter Henry led all receivers with 54 yards, but no catches were in the end zone. It wasn't a bad night for the LSU secondary. 

UA: Well, Jennings wasn't great, so the Razorbacks secondary must have done something right. 

Right? 

Arkansas' defensive backs get a B for holding Jennings to 87 yards. His season-low total was 84, which came during a loss to Auburn. We're not counting the 11 yards versus New Mexico State; that was a blowout. Either way, Jennings had an off-night, and the Razorbacks didn't give him many opportunities to rebound. 

 

Run Offense

LSU: What run offense? What offense, period? The Tigers get an F for rushing for 36 yards. Leonard Fournette, one of the country's top freshmen, finished with five carries for nine yards. 

UA: Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams proved to be enough. Williams led with 55 yards. Collins had 46. They combine for a grade of C-.

They're 1,000-yard backs in the making who were saved by scoring touchdowns. Other than that, they weren't that impressive, evidenced by averaging fewer than three yards per touch. 

 

Run Defense

LSU: Flip Arkansas' rushing offense around and you'll get a B- for the Tigers' run D. Sure, it allowed two touchdowns, but it limited two of the SEC's top backs to the bare minimum. 

UA: The Razorbacks deserve an A for holding the Tigers to 36 yards. 

 

Special Teams

LSU: Colby Delahoussaye missed two field goals (47, 32). He had one miss prior to Saturday. That said, punting was better. But punting isn't something that the Tigers want to brag about. Jamie Keehn had five punts for 222 yards.

UA: Adam McFain kicked a 32-yard field goal. There were two extra points and no big plays surrendered. Punting from Sam Irwin-Hill was fine; he pinned the Tigers behind the 20 twice. Special teams for LSU gets a B-. 

 

Coaching

LSU: Saturday wasn't Les Miles' or Cam Cameron's finest moments. The Tigers staff, as a whole, gets a D-. LSU didn't appear prepared. 

UA:Bret Bielema did it. And breaking the streak against a good team warrants a B. However, the offensive play-calling sags the overall grade to C+. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Winners and Losers from Week 12 of College Football

Yes, Week 11 of the college football season was billed as arguably the best all year long. However, this Saturday, Week 12, proved to have its own share of upsets, thrilling finishes and statement wins. 

From Alabama knocking off No. 1 Mississippi State, to Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon's career day, Week 12 brought fans another eventful few days of football. Come Tuesday when the new playoff rankings are released, there are sure to be some interesting results. 

But there's no use worrying about that just yet. It's time to look back at another great day of college football. Yes, Winners and losers is up while games are wrapping up. Fear not, as this post will be updated as events warrant. 

Which teams, players and coaches came out of Week 12 as winners? Which ones didn't? The answers are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: Irish Can't Win with Turnovers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A seemingly inexplicable game gave way to one simple truism as Northwestern shocked Notre Dame, 43-40, on Saturday.

The Wildcats and the Irish combined for 1,045 yards of total offense, including 474 total rushing yards. As perplexing as it was to see a 3-6 Northwestern squad, fresh off a 10-9 stinker against Michigan, giving the Irish all they could handle, it made perfect sense, in a way. It’s actually quite simple.

Notre Dame cannot continue to turn the football over at such a prolific clip and expect to win games.

“You can't start winning until you stop losing,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said after the loss, resuscitating his popular refrain from his first two seasons in South Bend, when the Irish committed a combined 53 turnovers.

And, recently, the Irish are losing. Notre Dame has lost three of its last four games—the first such stretch since the Irish lost three of the first four games of the Brian Kelly era way back in 2010. For the most part, Notre Dame has lost with self-inflicted wounds.

“All the credit in the world to Northwestern, them going out and playing a great football game, but we should have won,” said Irish senior running back Cam McDaniel, who coughed up a fumble with Notre Dame ahead 40-37 with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Irish looking to salt away the win at a cold, icy Notre Dame Stadium.

McDaniel’s miscue was one of four Notre Dame turnovers. Three Irish possessions earlier, with Notre Dame up five points at the time, junior receiver Chris Brown fumbled at the Northwestern 1-yard line.

“We’re not making small errors,” Kelly said. “We’re making critical errors.”

The major mishaps, of course, aren’t isolated incidents. And they’re not without precedent. In Kelly’s first season, Notre Dame committed four turnovers against both Tulsa and USC. In 2011, the Irish gave it up five times against both South Florida and Michigan.

But after that five-turnover showing in the second game of the 2011 season, Notre Dame went 40 games without committing more than three turnovers in a single game. The Irish only had one turnover total in the first three games of this season. That has all changed drastically.

Notre Dame has at least one turnover in eight consecutive games—the longest consecutive stretch in the Kelly era—including addictive performances such as Syracuse (five turnovers), Arizona State (five) and Northwestern.

“We just don't play clean enough as a football team, and those are the things that prevent us from winning.” Kelly said.

Now, Notre Dame’s string of struggles isn’t exactly comparable to the three losses in 2010, when No. 16 Stanford was the only Top 25 team to which to Irish lost. To be fair, No. 3 Florida State and No. 6 Arizona State present stout challenges. But, still, the turnovers are proving costly.

“The way we lost football games then [in 2010] was pretty similar, wasn’t it?” said graduate student safety Austin Collinsworth, who was mostly a special teamer in his rookie season. “It was turnovers and mental mistakes and stuff that you really can’t do if you want to win at this level.”

For now, Notre Dame isn’t winning. It’s clear why, but the deeper cause isn’t as obvious.

“They’re really just showing up on Saturdays,” McDaniel said of the turnover issues, the critical errors. “… You can’t win football games if you turn the ball over.”

Irish sophomore running back Tarean Folston said Notre Dame has done the same ball-protection drills every day this season.

Whatever the answer is, Notre Dame hasn’t found it yet.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Todd Gurley vs. Auburn: Stats, Highlights and Twitter Reaction to RB's Return

For almost 55 of the 60 minutes, Todd Gurley's awaited return went as seamless as any Georgia fan could have hoped. Then, it turned sour in a heartbeat.

Gurley had 29 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown in Georgia's 34-7 win over  Auburn Saturday night, but suffered a non-contact knee injury with five minutes to go and left with a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the severity of the injury.

He was able to walk off the field, but the nature of the injury had plenty on the scene worried, as 247 Sports' Gentry Estes reported:

Freshman Nick Chubb, Gurley's backfield partner, outshone Gurley for the most part with 19 carries for 144 yards and two scores. With both of their workhorses firing on all cylinders, Georgia rushed for 289 yards and that was more than enough to get the win.

The anticipation was huge entering Gurley's return after missing the last four games for accepting illegal benefits stemming from autographed memorabilia. Georgia's football Twitter account captured a nice sight for Bulldog fans as their star walked out of the tunnel:

The junior running back, who also impacts games in special teams, Gurley took the opening kickoff of the game back for a would-be touchdown. His return looked to start in perfect fashion, but it was called back for holding. 

Either way, ESPN SportsCenter called what everybody saw—Gurley is still on top of his game:

But he didn't immediately make that same impact in the backfield for the Bulldogs. Actually, Chubb got the call on the first series and Gurley's first two carries on the second series weren't pretty, as ESPN's Edward Aschoff noted:

After a sluggish start that saw Auburn lead 7-0, Georgia's special teams recovered a punt and Gurley pounded it into the Tigers' red zone with a signature 11-yard run—you know, those ones where there isn't much of an opening, but he still slices through and falls forward for an extra three yards.

Chubb had the better first half with 67 rushing yards, but a lot of that had to do with Gurley seeming to sport an injured elbow as David Pollack of ESPN and many others noticed:

Coming out for the second half, Gurley continued to split carries with Chubb and kept wearing down a weary Auburn defense. Their dual rushing ability was never on better display than on a seven-play drive (all runs) started by Chubb and capped off by two Gurley runs to extend Georgia's lead to 24-7.

Georgia's defense started to close things out, but Gurley entered the fourth quarter with no carries past 13 yards. That eventually changed, as he scampered free for a 31-yard gain on a late fourth-quarter drive. 

Gurley surpassed the 100-yard mark with that carry, as Georgia athletics noted:

The former Heisman Trophy contender's impact on Georgia's win was huge, but it could end up being costly.

Gurley's 29th and final carry put a hush over the Sanford Stadium crowd, and any resulting celebration from the win was tempered due to the lack of knowledge about Gurley's injury status.

As The Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson noted, Gurley headed straight to the hospital:

Bleacher Report's David Siebert worried of a serious ligament problem, although official word will soon come out:

The late injury undeniably puts a damper on Georgia's big day, but it doesn't change the fact that the Bulldogs are now back in position to possibly win the SEC East. With their conference slate done, they need a Missouri loss to get to Atlanta.

Georgia has Chubb to take over the backfield again if Gurley's injury is indeed serious, but it undeniably takes the Bulldog offense from borderline unstoppable to a one-trick pony. The Bulldogs need both Gurley and Chubb to be firing, if they're going to contend in a potential SEC title game.

None of that seems to matter at all, however, in comparison to what a serious injury might mean for Gurley's career. He's the best rusher to hit college football in some time, and his running style has already generated a wealth of NFL talk. 

It's safe to say Georgia fans, along with the millions who just enjoy watching Gurley run people over, will be hoping for a quick return to health for the star back.

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Auburn vs. Georgia: Score and Twitter Reaction

Todd Gurley grabbed the headlines heading into Saturday's game between No. 9 Auburn and No. 15 Georgia, but his understudy, Nick Chubb, stole the show as the Bulldogs toppled the Tigers 34-7 in Athens.

Much was made of this being Gurley's first game back from suspension and rightfully so. He's one of the best running backs in the country and was a major Heisman Trophy candidate before his four-game absence.

However, Chubb emerged as a bona fide star during that stretch, rushing for 671 yards and five touchdowns in the four weeks without Gurley. The freshman running back served as the silver lining behind Gurley's suspension.

Putting the two together is almost unfair. NFL.com's Bryan Fischer made the parallel to the thunder-and-lightning combo of LenDale White and Reggie Bush from their days at USC:

"Nobody's stopped him and some of them slowed him down a little bit," said Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson of Gurley before the game, per The Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com). "The only guy that stopped him was the autograph guy."

You can add Auburn to the list of teams that have failed to stop the senior. He rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. He also jumped up to second in the Bulldogs' record books for career rushing, per Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph:

Georgia fans had a bit of a scare in the fourth quarter, when Gurley exited with what looked like a left leg injury, per Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald:

Gurley's injury was a bit of a downer, but it couldn't take the shine off Chubb's performance. He led all rushers with 19 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He was also Georgia's leading receiver, catching two passes for 48 yards.

ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler believes Chubb has overshadowed LSU's more hyped Leonard Fournette so far this year:

As good as Gurley and Chubb played, the Georgia defense deserves plenty of credit as well. It held Nick Marshall to 112 yards passing, while limiting the Tigers' ground game to 150 yards, down from an average of 286.4 yards entering the game.

Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for fewer than 100 yards for only the third time all season, amassing 86 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. The Bulldogs dominated this game on both sides of the ball.

But Georgia's finish to the game was in stark contrast to the way it began the proceedings.

Artis-Payne gave Auburn a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game after a 26-yard touchdown run. The Tigers offense is predicated on the running game, so head coach Gus Malzahn will have enjoyed his team's start to the ballgame.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee felt that as great as it was for Georgia to have Gurley back, he wouldn't be able to help the Bulldogs defense try to stop Auburn:

But Gurley is electric almost every time he touches the ball, as evidenced by his 100-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. However, referees called the play back for a flag, wiping out the score, as noted by the Georgia Bulldogs:

The Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot again on the very same drive, as an ineligible-receiver-downfield penalty wiped out a brilliant fake punt that got Georgia down near the goal line. Head coach Mark Richt gambled on the 4th-and-8, and it would've paid off in spades without the flag.

ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach felt that the officials made an egregious error on the play:

Auburn failed to build upon its 7-0 lead, so Georgia would be right back in the game with one big play. And after suffering their fair share of bad luck, the Bulldogs were bound to have something fall their way.

That's exactly what happened with a little over three minutes left in the first quarter. Auburn return man Quan Bray fumbled a punt deep in his own territory, and Georgia recovered on the Auburn 19-yard line. Gurley got the ball down to the 7-yard line, from which Hutson Mason found Malcolm Mitchell for the touchdown.

Chubb handed Georgia a 14-7 lead in the second quarter through a nine-yard run, and Marshall Morgan made it a 10-point game heading into halftime with a 32-yard field goal. The seven points were the fewest Auburn's scored in a first half all season, per the SEC Network:

The Tigers had similar success corralling Chubb and Gurley in the second half—which is to say they had none. The two running backs helped Georgia control the clock and continue moving the ball forward.

One of the issues with Auburn's run-focused offense is that it's not exactly built to close a massive deficit in a short amount of time. That became a major problem for the Tigers in the third quarter, as the Bulldogs' lead swelled to 20 points.

A three-yard touchdown run from Gurley made it 24-7 with 7:28 left in the third quarter.

On its next drive, Georgia was inches away from another touchdown after an impressive run after the catch by Chubb. He nearly ran right through Auburn defensive back Jonathon Mincy before winding his way into the end zone. Alas, Chubb stepped out at the 11-yard line, robbing the Bulldogs of the score and himself of a highlight-reel TD reception.

CBSSports.com's Tom Fornelli joked that allowing the touchdown might have been a preferable outcome for the Tigers, if only because it meant less time having to tackle Chubb:

The Bulldogs settled for a field goal to make the score 27-7.

The Georgia running game continued to dominate the Tigers going into the fourth quarter. The longer the Bulldogs offense remained on the field, the more tired Auburn's defense became, which meant Auburn couldn't get the ball back quickly.

Chubb added an 11-yard rushing TD late in the game to eliminate any chance of a comeback.

Georgia's win doesn't impact the playoff picture all that much, save for perhaps dinging Mississippi State, whose 38-23 win over a then-No. 2 Auburn doesn't look that good anymore.

The Bulldogs still need some help in the SEC East in order to make the SEC Championship Game. Missouri remains 4-1 in the conference. That 38-20 loss to Florida back on Nov. 1 could come back to haunt Georgia in a big way.

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FSU's Karlos Williams Grabs Deflected Pass, Runs It into End Zone

This is a perfect example of when being lucky is better than being good. 

Down 13 points to unranked Miami, Florida State needed some serious help as it faced 3rd-and-goal in the third quarter. The Seminoles got just that in a perfectly defended pass that took an extremely lucky bounce. 

The Karlos Williams touchdown was the first receiving TD of his career and put the Seminoles within five points. 

[gifdsports]

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Notre Dame's Implosion vs. Northwestern Is Worst Loss of Brian Kelly Era

With the sun gone and the sky dark over Notre Dame Stadium, the university's No. 1 landmark—the Golden Dome—was nowhere to be seen on the national broadcast.

And while shortly after 6:00 p.m. the main building awoke, perhaps the guy in charge of the electric bill had an idea of how Saturday was going to go for the Irish. 

In falling to Northwestern and dropping to 7-3, Brian Kelly had his worst day on the sidelines as Notre Dame's head coach.

More unexplainable than the loss to Tulsa in 2010. More self-inflicted than the debacle against USF in 2011. And more egg on Kelly's face than any defeat at the hands of Brady Hoke, Nick Saban or Todd Graham. 

Notre Dame's 43-40 overtime defeat will take a long time to digest, especially when you consider the unlikely ways the Irish looked victory in the face, only to turn away and give it back to Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats.

That explains why, when he met the media, a normally polished head coach struggled to understand how his team managed to lose a game in which it had a double-digit lead with just five minutes remaining. 

"So many things happened in that game that it's hard to put them all in perspective as I'm standing here right now," Kelly said. 

Kelly mentioned some of the key issues. Turnovers (again). A defense that allowed the least explosive offense in power-five football to gain 547 yards. Special teams that missed two field goals and allowed an extra point to be returned for two points—basically a nine-point swing.  

Don't forget coaching. With an 11-point lead and an extra-point attempt pushing the game to a three-score lead, Kelly turned against the advice of his strategy sheet and went for two because he didn't trust his kicking battery.

Between that and some puzzling play-calling near the goal line and down the stretch, all eyes will be on the man in charge of the Irish program. 

And rightfully so.

In Kelly's fifth year at Notre Dame, his program seemed to be well past a loss like this.

But in less than a month, the Irish went from a team that was one offensive pass interference call in Tallahassee away from a Top Four ranking to losing three of its last four, likely falling from the Top 25 and looking at two very difficult games to finish the regular season.

Now, Notre Dame's head coach needs to find a way to stop the bleeding and keep his young football team from imploding.

"It's the critical errors through the game. I mean, we just don't play clean enough, you know, as a football team, and those are the things that prevent us from winning," Kelly explained, his words matching up with the horror show we all witnessed. "You can't start winning until you stop losing." 

Those are comments Kelly has been saying since the beginning of his tenure at Notre Dame. And they are the reason he's in South Bend to begin with, after watching Charlie Weis routinely have his team play at a lower level than its talent suggested

But while it looked like Kelly and his coaching staff might be able to escape the growing pains that come with youthful football teams, the second half of this season has exposed the fatal flaws of the Irish roster. 

While most of the arrows have been aimed at Everett Golson's recent struggles, on Saturday he was just a complementary part of the disaster.

Sure, there were two more turnovers—an interception that ricocheted off his lineman's helmet and into the arms of another defender and a blown zone read near the goal line with Tarean Folston. But veterans Kyle Brindza, Chris Brown and Cam McDaniel all blew key opportunities down the stretch to seal an ugly but important eighth victory. 

And the young defense certainly didn't help. Even though it a perfect opportunity to stop its current free fall, Brian VanGorder's unit gave up yards and points without much resistance—barring a few forced turnovers.

The defense allowed the Wildcats to score more than 20 points against a ranked team for the first time since Northwestern's tailspin began against Ohio State last October.

"We're obviously playing a lot of young guys that are struggling and they're doing their best but, you know, [we've got] too many young guys on the field," Kelly said.

That's with fifth-year senior Austin Collinsworth playing with his shoulder in a harness and fellow fifth-year player Cody Riggs trying to play through a stress reaction in his foot.

And the defense looks to be getting even younger without junior defensive lineman Sheldon Day moving forward. Day was on the sidelines for most of the second half with a brace on his entire leg after suffering what looked like a knee injury.

An offense that couldn't put the game away late. A defense that gave Northwestern a season high in yardage with over a quarter to go. And a special teams unit that finally gave a game away after threatening to do so for the better part of two seasons. 

Add it all up and it's a Saturday that Brian Kelly will likely not forget. And it's also an implosion that could sink Notre Dame's season. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Todd Gurley Injury: Updates on Georgia RB's Knee and Return

Star Georgia running back Todd Gurley suffered an apparent non-contact knee injury late in his return Saturday against Auburn.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Chip Towers broke the news:

Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph supplied a brief update after the game:

247Sports' Gentry Estes had Mark Richt's thoughts after the game:

The injury occurred on a six-yard run as Georgia entered the red zone, looking to add to a 24-7 lead. Gurley cut to the left, advanced through a small hole and seemed to grab at his leg as he tumbled to the turf. He was able to limp off the field during the commercial break.

SEC Network's Greg McElroy sent his thoughts to the touted back:

Saturday marked Gurley's awaited return from a four-game suspension, and he came back in style with 29 carries for 138 yards and a score before the injury. But if the injury is serious, Georgia may have to accept life without the dominant rusher once again.

Freshman Nick Chubb has been magnificent filling in for Gurley, and he will continue to have a large role if Gurley cannot return this season.

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Tennessee Football: Offensive Weapons Make Vols Locks to Become Bowl-Eligible

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With 11 minutes remaining in Tennessee's win over Kentucky, quarterback Joshua Dobbs stood on the sideline, flanked by receiver Von Pearson and running back Jalen Hurd, watching the remnants of a rout.

Everybody else in a frigid Neyland Stadium watched that trio dominate the first three quarters of a 50-16 waltz over the Wildcats. 

This is the way it's supposed to go against Kentucky.

With the Cats dispatched and a fifth win secured, the Vols getting one more victory to become bowl-eligible seems a virtual lock. Though Missouri will pose a threat next week, there's no way Vanderbilt can defend what took place Saturday evening.

Pearson obviously thinks the Vols will be tough for anybody to defend. He told GoVols247's Wes Rucker:

The swagger was obviously oozing in the Tennessee locker room, but why shouldn't it? The Vols are rolling right now, and with the postseason now squarely in their sights, they want more. 

A bowl game would be a major step forward for a rebuilding program, but that doesn't seem good enough at this point. With this arsenal of playmakers and Dobbs to make everything tick, winning out looks like a distinct possibility.

Dobbs knows the magnitude of getting to that sixth win, as noted in his comments, per Tennessee Football.

Next week's night game in Neyland Stadium against Missouri could be a dormant UT program's coming-out party. With Dobbs at the helm, the Vols are a tough out for anybody. 

He has even made an offensive line that struggled mightily prior to his arrival look good. Since Dobbs entered for the third series against Alabama, he has accounted for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns. UT's offensive line that had allowed 23 sacks until that point has given up just three in three games.

"The defensive ends are more aware of Dobbs' ability to run, and it scares them a little bit," UT offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson told The Vol Network on the postgame radio show. "They have to be careful when they rush. Dobbs can make us right where we're wrong, which is a really big thing."

All the playmakers surrounding Dobbs certainly help.

Making his second start and continuing his surge into the national spotlight, Dobbs accounted for 345 total yards and four touchdowns, spraying the ball all over the field to nine different targets. Hurd mopped up with 118 yards on the ground, and a outmanned, gassed Kentucky defense offered little resistance.

Perhaps the best news for the Vols is Pearson's health. During the season-opening rout of Utah State, the junior-college transfer looked like a potential all-conference talent. Then, he suffered a high ankle sprain against Arkansas State and hasn't been the same since.

He was electrifying against UK.

Pearson took a fly sweep from Dobbs on UT's first drive, corkscrewed a Kentucky defender and scampered 21 yards for a touchdown. Dobbs hit him on a short pass a few minutes later, and he did the same thing, making a defender look silly to account for the Vols' third score. 

That kind of open-field talent has been lacking from a UT offense that sputtered until Dobbs took over. Now that the Vols have a dual-threat quarterback who can extend plays and make people miss with his legs, everything is opening up.

Adding a player who can juke defenders and jack-rabbit past everybody such as Pearson gives the Vols a dimension they simply haven't had since Cordarrelle Patterson was in orange and white.

"I've been able to move better left and right, so I'm coming along great," Pearson told The Vol Network. "Every play I go hard, so I'm always 100 percent."

After Kentucky had gained a measure of momentum with a last-second field goal to end the first half, Dobbs hit redshirt sophomore Jason Croom—North's replacement—on a bubble screen.

He split three defenders and raced 52 yards for a score to leave no doubts about the game's outcome.

When the Vols needed short yardage, they gained it, converting two 4th-and-short plays on an eventual touchdown drive. Then, they mixed in some big plays that ignited the crowd and proved they can now beat teams in a variety of ways on offense.

Not only is this good news for now, but also none of the players mentioned are seniors.

Dobbs looks unflappable, especially when he gets to freelance during plays. He told The Vol Network's radio show after the game that's the way he has always been.

"I'm just a chill guy—don't get too high or too low," he said. "When you make a big play, there are still more plays to be made."

The Vols made plenty against Kentucky. Coupled with the 45-point performance against South Carolina, UT now has scored 95 points in the past two games, its highest point total against consecutive SEC opponents since 2003, according to UTSports.com.

The Vols didn't even need the services of its best receiver. Marquez North played just one series before heading to the sideline to rest his banged-up shoulder Saturday night. His teammates picked up the slack.

It feels like old times on Rocky Top. But the Tigers will pose a major threat to Tennessee next week, especially with two of the best defensive ends in the SEC who bolsters the fourth-best scoring defense in the league entering their game against Texas A&M, according to cfbstats.com.

Preparation for Mizzou can wait a day. Saturday was about celebration and getting a step closer to a huge goal for the program. Speaking of celebrations, Vol Photos shared one of those moments Saturday: 

Now, UT has to hear a victorious rendition of "Rocky Top" at least one more time to make a bowl, something that seems almost a foregone conclusion right now.

Getting past the Tigers will be tough, but beating them would really be a step further than many expected. After Mizzou, the Vols' ace up their sleeve is a regular season-ending game at Vanderbilt against a team that hasn't proven equipped to handle dual-threat quarterbacks or dynamic offenses.

UT now has both, something nobody would have expected a month ago.

 

All stats and information taken from UTSports.com, 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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Jaxon Shipley Injury: Updates on Texas WR's Leg and Return

The University of Texas Longhorns are hitting on all cylinders as they hold a 22-0 third-quarter lead on the Oklahoma State University Cowboys on Saturday.

The only bad news for head coach Charlie Strong is the injury to wideout Jaxon Shipley. According to ESPN Texas, the senior will be out for the rest of the game after hurting his leg.

Shipley entered the night as Texas' second-leading receiver with 538 yards and a touchdown on 54 receptions.

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