NCAA Football News

NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 5 Standings

After Week 5's action, nothing major should change at the top of the polls, nor should the top four teams on track to reach the first ever College Football Playoff have changed.

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks, No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners were all idle. That left only the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles in action.

The Noles nearly lost to the unranked NC State Wolfpack, but a second-half rally saved the defending national champions from disaster. In the end, the 'Noles remained undefeated after a 56-41 win.

If the season ended today, these are the four teams that would likely be playing for the national championship:

  1. Florida State
  2. Oregon Ducks 
  3. Alabama Crimson Tide
  4. Oklahoma Sooners

That's the way the playoff brackets would look if things were decided today, but there's still a long way to go. Based on what we've seen thus far, there's reason to believe there could be a shift down the road.

Even with the shift, the teams should remain the same.

 

Predictions for the Top Four Spots

1. Oregon Ducks

Expect the Ducks to take over the top spot simply because they have a tougher schedule than the Noles. Finishing with an unblemished record—as I predict they will—would be more impressive.

Oregon still has games at UCLA and at home against Stanford. Those contests ensure Oregon's route to perfection will be more difficult.

Normally, the Ducks are a program that gets to the cusp of an undefeated season and has the wheels come off late. This year, things will be different and a lot of that is because of the leadership of Marcus Mariota.

We've seen him rally the troops twice this year already. He brought his team back against the Michigan State Spartans and the Washington State Cougars in Week 4. 

His leadership will keep Oregon undefeated heading into the Pac-12 title game.

 

2. Florida State Seminoles

As shaky as the Seminoles have looked this season, they only have one game remaining against a team that is currently ranked.

Notre Dame will come to Tallahassee on Oct. 18. Aside from that, Florida State has five of its eight games left on the schedule at home before the ACC title game.

The team isn't as sharp as it was last season, but it's still good enough to push through this schedule unscathed.

 

3. Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners' schedule is rather friendly the rest of the way. Sure, they have to tangle with Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State, but all three of those games are at home.

If there are top-four teams set up to run the table, it's the Sooners and the Seminoles.

 

4. Alabama Crimson Tide

There's almost no way you can imagine Alabama emerging without at least one loss at the end of the regular season. Then it figures to have its hands full in the SEC title game.

With road games at Ole Miss and LSU, there's obvious reason for concern. There are also home games against Texas A&M and Auburn in the Iron Bowl in the regular-season finale. 

You have to think Bama drops one of those games. Still, based on strength of schedule, the Tide will likely be the strongest one-loss team in the nation.

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Charlie Weis Relieved as Kansas Coach: Details, Replacement, Reaction and More

Charlie Weis' second run as a college head coach is over after less than three seasons. Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger announced Weis' dismissal Sunday, one day after the Jayhawks' embarrassing 23-0 loss to Texas in Lawrence. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will take over for Weis on an interim basis. 

"I normally do not favor changing coaches mid-season," Zenger said in a statement. "But I believe we have talented coaches and players in this program, and I think this decision gives our players the best chance to begin making progress right away."

Weis, who previously coached at Notre Dame from 2005-09, was hired before the 2012 season with designs on turning around the struggling program. His plan never got off the ground, as the Jayhawks went a disappointing 6-22 in his tenure, including a 1-18 record in the Big 12.

Though a 2-2 start puts Kansas on pace for its best record under Weis, Saturday's loss to a struggling Texas team made it clear the program isn't progressing fast enough. Montell Cozart threw four interceptions, Kansas committed seven penalties and the Jayhawks allowed three touchdowns to Tyrone Swoope in the home defeat.

"Our Achilles' heel on offense is still making productive plays in the passing game, and that's at the end of the day what ended up costing us," Weis told reporters after the game.

Weis, who cut his teeth as an offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, was never able to build a successful offense at Kansas. The Jayhawks rank No. 124 nationally in scoring offense, which would be their third straight season ranking outside the top 100. Zenger indicated the lack of progress played a big part in the school's decision.

"I appreciate what Coach Weis did with several facets of our football program," Zenger said. "But we have not made the on-the-field progress we believe we should. I believe new leadership gives our coaches and players the best chance to make a fresh start."

Weis, who went 35-27 in five seasons at Notre Dame, is 41-49 overall as a head coach. It'll be interesting to see whether he returns to the NFL game as a coordinator or finds another, smaller school who still buys into his resume.

As for Kansas, it's time to start over. Again.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 6 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Week 5 of the college football season may have been missing some of the season's biggest players, but it wasn't short on intrigue. 

The slate was punctuated by two titans being put on upset alert, as No. 1 Florida State and No. 6 Texas A&M both had to prove their mettle by rallying against unranked opponents. Ultimately, both were able to walk away with their records unscathed, but it served as our weekly reminder that anything can happen in college football. 

Here's a look at the results for the entire Top 25 Saturday as well as possible risers and fallers before the new polls are released.

 

Risers

UCLA Bruins

No one can lay claim to making a bigger statement than the UCLA Bruins did on Thursday night. The Bruins were the only ranked team to take on another team in the Top 25 and dominated the game over the last three quarters en route to a 62-27 win. 

As ESPN Stats & Info noted, the win boosted the Bruins chances of winning the Pac-12 South and possibly capturing a conference championship:

But perhaps the best news of all for the Bruins was the play of Brett Hundley. 

After an elbow injury limited the star junior to just four pass attempts against Texas, he was back to his usual game-changing self against the Sun Devils. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports even noted that he looked like a No. 1 pick:

Avoiding a trap game upset against Utah will be the next challenge on the docket before the Bruins get the No. 2 Oregon Ducks at home. 

 

Fallers

South Carolina

Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks entered Week 5 as one of the few one-loss teams who could conceivably make it to the College Football Playoff. As we know in college football, it's often not if you lose it's when you lose. A Week 1 loss to Texas A&M could be forgiven if the Gamecocks ran the table. 

Now, the dream is all but dead. 

Just one week after the Missouri Tigers were defeated by Big Ten ne'er-do-well Indiana, the Gamecocks turned around and lost to those same Tigers. 

The Gamecocks defense played one of its best games of the season to date. The 21 points it surrendered is the least it's given up all year. However, the offense was equally as ugly as Mizzou's for much of the game. Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report summed up the Big Ten-esque game rather nicely:

Offensive issues aside, one thing is for certain—the Gamecocks should be free-falling down the polls after this loss at home. 

 

Florida State?

No, Florida State's inclusion on this list doesn't mean they should be moved from the No. 1 spot just yet. It's just that, as suggested by Stewart Mandel, they don't quite look like the best team in the nation right now:

The Seminoles got off to the worst start imaginable Saturday. Going into Raleigh to take on a scrappy NC State team, they allowed the home team to take a 24-7 lead in the first quarter before slowly crawling back into it and taking control early in the fourth quarter. 

Now, there's a chance this game quickly becomes a memory. After all, Jameis Winston and Co. ended up winning by a score of 56-41. However, the 2013 Seminoles had an aura of invincibility regardless of opponent and location. 

Coming off of an overtime nail-biter against Clemson, this team just doesn't have the same command to win games week in and week out. 

The good news for the 'Noles is that right now, there doesn't seem to be a team that can beat them quite yet. As evidenced by Oregon's narrow victory over Washington State last week, no team has truly laid claim to being invincible this season. 

In essence, Week 6 just reiterated something we already knew: The first four teams to play in the College Football Playoff are far from decided. 

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Fun and Games Are Over, SEC West Will Finally Be Sorted out in Week 6

Week 5 served as the opening act, as the SEC East took its turn on the stage and began to sort itself out. In Week 6, it's the SEC West's turn.

In music terms, that's like Milli Vanilli opening for The Beatles.

Mississippi State will host Texas A&M, Ole Miss will welcome Alabama and LSU will travel to the Plains next week to take on Auburn in what will be a 12-hour marathon of football that will define the landscape of the toughest division in college football.

Unlike the East, there isn't much margin for error in the West. One conference loss could eliminate teams from the chase for Atlanta depending on how the rest of the season shakes out and who that loss is to.

What can you expect in a crazy Week 6?

 

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

The Bulldogs sat back and watched the Aggies get a win in a Texas-sized overtime shootout with Arkansas in Jerry World on Saturday afternoon.

What they saw should make them smile.

Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill was great yet again, but he didn't get a ton of help from his running backs. Tra Carson led all Texas A&M rushers with just 55 yards on the ground, and the Aggies totaled 137 rushing yards against a Hogs defense that's eighth in the SEC in rush defense (139.4 YPG).

Mississippi State's just a little bit better—and by "a little bit," I mean a lot.

Head coach Dan Mullen's crew is giving up just 82.5 yards per game on the ground and an SEC-best 2.39 yards per carry. Mullen will force Hill to be the guy in this one, and while he's capable—after all, he's a Heisman candidate for a reason—that's still a tough proposition on the road in the biggest game of his career.

Yes, that's a subtle shot at South Carolina's pass defense, which pales in comparison to Taveze Calhoun, Jamerson Love and the crew in Starkville—where top-tier cornerbacks like former Bulldogs Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay have become staples.

"Jamerson is a real speed player for us," Mullen said. "Where Johnthan [Banks] and [Darius] Slay also had some size. I think he's up there with those guys as that type of player. He's still improving, and there are some things he can get better at, but he certainly has the talent to play at the next level."

Texas A&M's defense looked great early, but the tandem of running back Josh Robinson and quarterback Dak Prescott will put those fundamentals to the test. That nearly cost the Aggies against Arkansas on Saturday, and there's more to come this week in the form of the Bulldogs' multidimensional attack.

 

Alabama at Ole Miss

ESPN's College GameDay will be in Oxford for the Alabama at Ole Miss game for the first time ever. 

The question to Ole Miss now becomes, "Is this really a good idea?"

Sure, it's great for recruiting and exposure, but it's not like Ole Miss has looked like a team that has earned that Top 15 designation.

Sure, the defense is great, but quarterback Bo Wallace has been a turnover machine. It got worse Saturday, when Wallace tossed two picks and fumbled once in a 24-3 win over Memphis that was much closer than the score appeared.

If "Dr. Bo" can cut down on the mistakes and not help Alabama out, this might be a fun game. After all, the Rebels—who rank first in the SEC in total defense (248.0 YPG)—are, by far, the best defense Alabama will face this year. 

This isn't a game, however, that Ole Miss can skate by with its C-game offensively and expect to win. 

The Crimson Tide have had two weeks to sit on their breakout offensive performance against Florida and scheme against that Rebels defense. Judging from what we've seen from offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, that's scary.

Kiffin has brilliantly brought along quarterback Blake Sims, got him into a rhythm early in each game and proved that he is the expert play-caller head coach Nick Saban expected him to be when Kiffin was hired during the offseason.

Alabama's offense versus Ole Miss' defense will be the dominant storyline, but this game will be decided when Ole Miss has the ball. If Wallace doesn't fix his turnover issues—he has six picks through four games—it'll be a long afternoon for the Rebels at home.

 

LSU at Auburn

It took LSU head coach Les Miles a while, but logic finally won the day.

Quarterback Brandon Harris entered the game in the second quarter against New Mexico State and provided the spark LSU's offense needed. The true freshman from Bossier City, Louisiana, finished the day 11-of-14 passing for 178 yards, three touchdowns, no picks, 36 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. 

Assuming Harris becomes the unquestioned starter—which should be obvious to everybody including Miles at this point—this is a whole new ballgame on the Plains.

Head coach Gus Malzahn's crew boasts the SEC's third-best rush defense (90.75 YPG) and will force the quarterback to beat them through the air. Anthony Jennings didn't do a whole lot through five games to suggest that he's capable of doing that.

Harris has.

Meanwhile, Auburn's offense has been sort of disjointed over the last two games, struggling to get going in the first halves of games at Kansas State and at home versus Louisiana Tech. That trend can't continue against LSU with Harris at the helm. 

If you're looking for great SEC atmospheres, this game will be one you can't miss. Auburn rarely gets to host LSU at night, which should make things difficult for Harris and those young LSU playmakers on offense.

"Anybody we play, having them here on a Saturday night is a big advantage for us," said Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs. "Our students, they're the best in the nation regardless of when we play, but that night atmosphere will make it a fun, exciting time for football on Saturday night."

Six teams. Three winners. One division. Twelve hours of can't-miss college football.

Get your popcorn ready.

 

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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Turning the Page to College Football's Most Exciting Weekend Thus Far

A college football season that has been starved for meaningful showdowns will hunger no more this week. The good stuff finally is about to be served, including the marquee clash between No. 3 Alabama and No. 10 Mississippi.

So far, we’ve seen No. 1 Florida State on the ropes against Clemson and North Carolina State, No. 2 Oregon in danger of losing to Washington State and a host of other top teams flirt with early-season disasters.

But seismic outcomes that shatter the playoff picture have been lacking.

That serene start to the 2014 season is done. Eight games this week will pit ranked teams against each other, and two others will match top-10 teams with an undefeated opponent.

The meat and potatoes will be dished up, at last, instead of more cupcakes.

So who’s on center stage?

Arizona at Oregon

Oregon gets the drama started on Thursday night against unranked but also unbeaten Arizona. The Ducks might wear pink cleats for this game, but it’s the red zone that will be on their minds as they seek to avenge a 42-16 loss to Arizona last year that saw them utterly fail to convert their 506 total yards into points.

 

All of Mississippi will be manic

Saturday conceivably could be the biggest day the state of Mississippi has ever had in college football.

Ole Miss hasn’t won the Southeastern Conference title since 1963 and Mississippi State claimed its lone championship all the way back in 1941. But both schools will be playing at home as they seek to prove they are genuine contenders this year.

Ole Miss, 4-0 for the first time since 1970, understandably might have had Alabama on its mind during an ugly 24-3 victory against Memphis on Saturday. But the Rebels defense allowed only 104 total yards and will be stoked to beat the Crimson Tide for the first time since 2003.

No. 14 Mississippi State is coming off its first win at LSU since 1991 and no doubt is anxious to prove its first road victory against a top-10 opponent since 1986 was no fluke. The Bulldogs will get that chance against No. 6 Texas A&M, which looks vulnerable after needing overtime to survive Arkansas.

Dak Prescott has as eye-catching a two-dimensional game as any quarterback in the nation. Beating A&M would give Mississippi State its greatest credibility since the Jackie Sherrill era and strengthen the case that the Bulldogs have the tools to come out of nowhere and contend for the national title the way Auburn did in 2010.

 

Stanford at Notre Dame

Is Everett Golson worthy of his growing hype as a Heisman Trophy candidate? The Notre Dame quarterback’s 25 consecutive completions against Syracuse say yes. His four turnovers in that game, including a humbling one that came while attempting to spike the ball, say no.

Now the stout Stanford defense that has yet to yield more than 13 points in a game gets a chance to cast a vote while traveling to South Bend.

This game also should shed plenty of sunshine on whether Golson can outduel Jameis Winston when the Fighting Irish visit Florida State on Oct. 18.

Notre Dame is 4-0 but has yet to face a top-quality opponent while playing a schedule that’s heavily back-loaded.

A victory against Stanford would illuminate the FSU matchup as a key factor in deciding who goes to the College Football Playoff. A loss would shift the importance of this game to Stanford’s Nov. 1 date with Oregon.

LSU at Auburn

The case can be made that Auburn is getting the least respect among teams ranked in the top five.

The Tigers weren’t given much credit for a road win against ranked Kansas State (including from me). And with hindsight the Auburn defense seems a lot more impressive. It held Arkansas to 153 rushing yards, back before the Razorbacks went on to run for 438 against Texas Tech and 285 on Saturday against Texas A&M.

So the defending SEC champions and near-national titlists of 2013 may be in the mood to make a statement against an LSU team that’s still sorting out quarterback issues.

Nebraska at Michigan State

A bruised knee and a lopsided score meant unbeaten Nebraska pulled Ameer Abdullah in the third quarter Saturday. So that meant Abdullah ran for, ahem, only 208 yards against Illinois. But the Heisman candidate should be ready to prove himself at Michigan State in a game that will help determine who’s the Big Ten’s best hope for the College Football Playoff.

In its three victories, No. 9 Michigan State has outscored opponents 174-35. But if the Spartans are going to become a serious part of the playoff conversation they need a signature win that will make voters forget they let a lead slip away against Oregon. Nebraska presents that opportunity.

Best of the Rest

No. 4 Oklahoma shouldn’t have much trouble handling TCU, especially with the Sooners coming off a bye week. But the Horned Frogs are unbeaten after humiliating Southern Methodist by the count of 56-0, and they’ll be playing at their house.

The Southern California-Arizona State confrontation looked interesting until ASU eliminated much of the intrigue while getting hammered 62-27 by UCLA.

Speaking of UCLA, if the Bruins can register another wipeout against 3-1 Utah on Saturday their Oct. 11 home date with Oregon will take on even greater playoff implications.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

 

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USC Football: Consistency Key for Trojans to Compete for Pac-12 Title

LOS ANGELESNo. 18 USC showed flashes of Pac-12 championship caliber play in its 35-10 defeat of Oregon State Saturday in the Coliseum. The Trojans were also prone to stretches of sloppiness that must be remedied if they are to compete for the conference title.

“We’ll enjoy this, but it isn’t the end-all, be-all,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said in his postgame press conference. “We’re better than we played tonight, so we’ll get back to work and continue to strive for more.”

The highs were indeed high, and they were evident both on offense and defense. Wide receiver Darreus Rogers grabbed a 48-yard Hail Mary from quarterback Cody Kessler just before halftime, which is sure to be the highlight reel moment of Kessler’s individual effort.

He completed 24-of-32 pass attempts for 261 yards and threw two touchdowns. His pocket presence continues to progress, which was demonstrated Saturday when he evaded would-be tacklers.

Kessler said he placed an emphasis on that facet of his game after taking five sacks against Boston College.

Kessler also effectively spread the ball among his receivers, hooking up with nine different teammates. Saturday’s effort was Kessler’s best distribution since Week 1 against Fresno State.

A promising sign for the USC offense going deeper into Pac-12 play is the integration of the tight ends as pass-catchers. Bryce Dixon and Randall Telfer each caught two passes.

Sarkisian said he "loved" to see Kessler spread the ball among the roster, adding it was one point of emphasis for the offense. Another was establishing the run.

Javorius “Buck” Allen did just that. He scored a rushing touchdown for the first time since Week 1 and notched his third 100-plus-yard game of the season with 115.

Allen slammed the door on the Beavers with a 17-yard run to paydirt early in the fourth quarter.

Behind the play of its leaders Kessler and Allen, the USC offense showed flashes of an explosiveness the Trojans will need to contend in the Pac-12.

The Trojans defense also played at a championship level, putting together its best all-around performance of the 2014 season. The Trojans held the Beavers without an offensive touchdown and routinely had quarterback Sean Mannion under duress.

Sophomore Su’a Cravens in particular was stellar. Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s use of Cravens both at safety and SAM linebacker paid dividends: Cravens returned an interception of Mannion 31 yards for a touchdown, made a sack and a tackle for loss.

USC got another interception when freshman cornerback Adoree’ Jackson made an athletic play to break-up a Mannion shot at the end zone. Safety Leon McQuay III had the presence of mind to get to the deflected ball before it fell out of bounds.

After giving up 37 points and 506 yards to Boston College, via USCTrojans.com, the defense answered the bell by holding Oregon State to 181 yards.

“That’s been our main focus this past two weeks, with the bad taste in our mouths,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “Stop the run on first and second down, and getting to the quarterback.”

Wilcox said last week that a problem in the Boston College loss was losing sight of ball-carriers, but against Oregon State, Sarkisian claimed defenders' vision on fly sweeps was one key to slowing the Beavers.

But if the positives from Saturday’s win are potential building blocks to a championship, the negatives are possible stumbling points for Sarkisian and Co. to be wary of.

USC was penalized 14 times for 124 yards, including two unsportsmanlike conduct flags on linebacker and captain Hayes Pullard for facemasking.

Pullard summarized the penalties rather plainly: "That can cost us in a big game."

Sustaining drives also proved problematic for the USC offense, which did not put together a scoring drive until midway through the second quarter when running back Justin Davis scored on a 16-yard wheel route reception from Kessler.

Davis' score was pretty, but the sequences before it were not.

The Trojans also went scoreless in the third quarter. The stingy play of the defense kept Oregon State at arm's length until the flood gates opened in the final period, but that may not be a luxury USC has against some of the more potent Pac-12 offenses.

One such offense, Arizona State, comes to the Coliseum next week.

USC will enjoy its win and 2-0 conference start for now, but attention turns to preparation for the Sun Devils quickly.

"It's basically a 24-hour deal," Pullard said, alluding to the potential of complacency and letdown. "You still remember that bad taste [from a loss] you never want to revisit."   

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of the USC athletics department unless otherwise noted.

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Oregon State vs. USC: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

It wasn't pretty, but the USC Trojans sent the Oregon State Beavers home thinking about an embarrassing 35-10 loss.

Though USC committed 14 penalties, its defense was the bright spot in a decent overall performance.

 

Passing Offense

Cody Kessler did not dominate, but he spread the ball around and connected with nine different receivers. Eight players tallied at least two catches, with Darreus Rogers' 48-yard touchdown grab being the highlight.

Rogers catch was the most important catch of the game. The Beavers would have been content with a four-point deficit at the break, but they looked deflated during the second half while playing from a double-digit hole.

 

Running Offense 

USC relied heavily on Kessler during the first 30 minutes, but Buck Allen and Justin Davis dominated the second half. Overall, the duo combined to gain 197 yards, and both players found the end zone on rushing touchdowns.

 

Pass Defense

Oregon State's Richard Mullaney hauled in a couple jump-balls downfield, but it's hard to criticize the secondary on well-covered passes in which the receiver makes a tough, contested catch. Su'a Cravens returned a pick 30 yards for a score, and Leon McQuay snared an interception in the end zone for another defensive TD.

USC gave Sean Mannion few easy looks, as the Beaver quarterback never looked comfortable thanks to constant pressure and tight coverage by USC. Mannion completed 4-of-13 passes during the second half for 16 yards.

 

Run Defense

Despite some rather pedestrian rushing numbers, Storm Woods and Terron Ward actually had solid showings against the Trojans. For some reason, however, Oregon State abandoned the ground game and relied on Mannion's arm—unsuccessfully, that is.

Woods and Ward combined for 90 yards on 16 attempts. USC's front seven certainly wasn't complaining about the lack of running plays, but it needs to improve in that area.

 

Special Teams

Andre Heidari yanked a 36-yard field goal but did convert four extra points, so it wasn't all bad for the senior. Kris Albardo averaged 40.5 yards per punt, pinning Oregon State inside its own 10-yard line three times.

The most glaring issue was the Trojans kick coverage, which allowed Ryan Murphy to return a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. Fortunately for the Trojans, it didn't come back to haunt them.

 

Coaching

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had his unit prepared for a bounce-back performance, and it shined. Oregon State entered the night averaging 447 yards and 31.7 points per outing, but USC limited its opponent to just 181 total yards.

The offense still has some issues, but Kessler and Co. converting 11-of-22 third and fourth downs was outstanding.

 

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

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 5

Week 5 was more about what almost happened than what did.

Florida State, Texas A&M and Georgia were pushed to the brink by N.C. State, Arkansas and Tennessee, respectively, and looked for a long while like they might fall victim to an upset.

Ultimately, they all survived those challenges, but the Associated Press Poll voters were taking notes. Were their struggles enough to move them down the rankings in a week where only two Top 25 teams lost? Or will the status quo be maintained when the new poll comes out Monday?

Here is a guess at the answer:

Note: Poll reflects the author's projection of the Week 6 poll—not how he would rank the teams himself.

 

Fun Fact

In this projection—i.e., one where South Carolina falls out of the Top 25 and TCU climbs in—the Big 12 and SEC would both place 50 percent of their teams in the rankings. The former's would be backloaded with three teams ranked in the bottom fifth, but given the Big 12's preseason reputation, matching the SEC would be remarkable nonetheless.

Technically, the FBS Independents also place 50 percent of their "conference" in the rankings with Notre Dame and BYU, but we'll ignore that for reasons of sample size (only four Independent teams).

 

Teams Rising:

UCLA

Let's start with the obvious. UCLA played a road game against a "top-15" team in the country and won by 35 points.

That's an easy way to move up the rankings.

No matter your opinion of the Sun Devils, it was hard not to be impressed by what UCLA did in Tempe, overcoming a slow start to blow away the reigning Pac-12 South champion. Quarterback Brett Hundley gave a Heisman-worthy performance in his return from an elbow injury, combining for 427 total yards and five touchdowns.

That was on Thursday. But the Bruins' stock kept climbing late Saturday night when the Memphis team that everybody gave them grief for barely beating, 42-35, put up a similar fight at Ole Miss.

 

TCU

TCU beat SMU 56-0 Saturday, which is par for the course for opponents of the Mustangs but nice to see nonetheless.

In three games this season, the Horned Frogs have scored 128 points and allowed just 21, appearing to have found a nice offensive rhythm under first-year offensive coordinators Sunny Cumbie and Doug Meachem. Quarterback-turned-receiver-turned quarterback Trevone Boykin has taken well to the spread attack, and he's ready for the big test he'll face against Oklahoma in Week 6.

"Coach says get ready for the games you're supposed to win and the big games will take care of themselves," Boykin said, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). "We will probably be up on the little things because we have a better opponent coming to town next week."

The Horned Frogs also rise a bit because their best opponent to-date, Minnesota, looked strong in a road win at Michigan. Granted, there are high school teams out there that look like they could beat Michigan right now, but a win at the Big House will always be a win at the Big House.

TCU beat Minnesota in Week 3, 30-7.

 

Teams Falling:

South Carolina

South Carolina lost a game it should have won against Missouri on Saturday, blowing a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter and falling on its home field, 21-20.

The Gamecocks were the better team for more than three-fourths of the night, at one point even holding Missouri to 69 yards of offense over a 40-minute stretch of game time. They were playing strong and sound against a decent opponent, and they appeared to be heading toward an easy (and important) win.

But all of that was erased in the final seven minutes when Missouri scored two quick touchdowns and forced South Carolina into a four-and-out to clinch the win. It returned the favor after last year's game in the other Columbia when South Carolina erased a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Tigers on their own home field.

As a result, Steve Spurrier's team should drop out of the rankings.

 

Arizona State

Arizona State hung tight against UCLA for the first portion of the game, finding success despite the absence of quarterback Taylor Kelly. In fact, it even led by two scores, 17-6, 16 minutes into the game.

Big plays became its undoing, though, and the final result was ugly. An 80-yard touchdown by Eldridge Massington and two 95-plus-yard scores by Ishmael Adams all contributed to the Sun Devils' downfall, exposing their tackling as slipshod on a national stage.

To be honest, Todd Graham's team was over-ranked in the first place. It lost just about everything from last year's defense, and the new unit had not been tested before Week 5. It was only ranked No. 15 in the country by virtue of other teams losing.

It was never one of the 15-best teams.

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Watch USC QB Cody Kessler's Monster Hail Mary TD Pass to Close out 1st Half

The USC Trojans were locked in a close game with the Oregon State Beavers entering the half before Trojans QB Cody Kessler found Darreus Rogers on a ridiculous 48-yard Hail Mary as time expired.  

Was this Hail Mary heave as good as Arizona's last week?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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College Football Scores 2014: Week 5 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

There were a ton of close calls in a wild and wacky Week 5, but in the end, there was just one mild upset. 

A week after falling out of the Top 25, the Missouri Tigers rebounded with a win over No. 13 South Carolina on the road. Russell Hansbrough found the end zone three times, and the final score gave the Tigers a 21-20 lead.

Missouri capped off a nine-play, 51-yard drive with just 3:34 remaining. Mizzou's defense held, and the offense ran out the clock to seal the victory. The win might be enough to push the Tigers back into the Top 25.

The Texas A&M Aggies came close to being bitten by the upset bug. However, the Arkansas Razorbacks fell apart on defense down the stretch and squandered the lead.

Kenny "Trill" Hill spurred on a furious fourth-quarter rally to come back from a 28-14 deficit after three quarters. An 86-yard connection between Hill and Edward Pope made it 28-21. The Aggies would later tie it on a 59-yard strike from Hill to Josh Reynolds.

Hill put a stamp on his impressive performance with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy in overtime. The defense stepped up to stop the Razorbacks on a 4th-and-2 situation to seal the victory. It was just one of the thrilling finishes on the first Saturday of the fall.

Here's a look at all of the scores from the Top 25 teams. 

 

Top Individual Performances

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia Bulldogs

We've seen Gurley truck and juke would-be tacklers. On Saturday, we got to see him hurdle one. In the fourth quarter, with less than eight minutes remaining, Gurley leaped over a diving Brian Randolph and completed a 26-yard gain.

After the game, Georgia head coach Mark Richt admired his star's show of athleticism. Per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), Richt said: "I don't know how high Todd got on that thing. That was pretty impressive to see right there in front of you. You just shake your head and go, 'Wow.'"

All in a day's work for the man who has seemingly established himself as the nation's best running back.

The 208 yards was his highest rushing total of the season. Through four games, he has a total of 610, and his two scores give him six on the season.

At this point, it seems that only an injury could keep him from being invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

 

Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State Seminoles

The Noles avoided disaster on the road against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Saturday. After trailing early, Florida State created some distance between it and NC State to win by 15 points.

Much of the credit should go to Williams. He hadn't had a breakout game yet this season, but with the team in need of a stabilizing force on the ground, Williams came through.

He surpassed his total for rushing touchdowns in the previous three games with three. Florida State will need Williams to continue to shine for it to maintain a balanced attack.

 

Chris Moore, WR, Cincinnati Bearcats

Moore batted .1000 on Saturday. 

He made three catches, and each of them went for touchdowns; however, it was in a losing cause against in-state rival Ohio State.

Still, Moore's day was noteworthy. The 6'1" junior had touchdown catches of 63, 80 and 78 yards. His yards per catch was a whopping 73.6. This performance easily blows away everything Moore has done in college leading up to this point.

Cincinnati surely hopes this is a sign of things to come.

 

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA Bruins

Both Hundley and UCLA needed a big performance against the Arizona State Sun Devils, and they got it.

As part of the 62-27 blowout win, Hundley was nearly flawless in a big-time game against a quality conference foe. His rushing total and score on the ground only augmented his value.

Hundley threw for more yards in the Week 2 win over Memphis, but neither he nor the Bruins were as sharp as they were on Thursday night in Tempe, Arizona.

 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska Cornhuskers

If Abdullah isn't a serious candidate for the Heisman, then no one is. On Saturday, he and the Cornhuskers trampled the Illinois Fighting Illini for 458 rushing yards.

Abdullah's rushing totals pushed him to the top spot in the nation in yards with 833. It was his third 200-yard game, and he's now averaging 166.6 yards per contest.

He and the Cornhuskers will get a serious test next week when the team travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State.

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College Football Rankings Week 6: B/R's Official Top 25

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are quite a few things that can happen on the field to affect a college football team's ranking.

That can be seen in the Bleacher Report Top 25, which despite no losses among our top 12 teams from the previous week, there was still quite a bit of shuffling in the rankings based on the way those teams came about their victories. Additionally, losses by a few ranked teams either knocked them down the list, or all the way off it.

This week's Bleacher Report Top 25 was voted on by 19 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Leigh, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits his or her ballot based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th. And then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 6 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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Nebraska Football: Ameer Abdullah Rewriting the Record Books with Every Run

Watch out, record books, Ameer Abdullah is coming.

After five games, the Nebraska I-back is showing no sign of slowing down. As a result, records, both at Nebraska, in the Big Ten and nationally, are falling one-by-one.

In fact, here's a short list of what Abdullah accomplished against Illinois in one night:

  • Rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts.
  • Rushed for 200 yards in back-to-back games for the first time in his career (and the first player to do so since Ahman Green in 1997).
  • Had his 21st career 100-yard rushing game, which moved him into second on Nebraska's career list.
  • Scored his 36th career touchdown, which includes 28 rushing touchdowns. His 36 overall touchdowns tie Tommie Frazier for the sixth-most in Nebraska history.

And that's just in one game. What's becoming abundantly clear is that Abdullah is setting himself up for a record-breaking season.

One record that is obtainable by Abdullah is the most 200-yard rushing games in a season for a division I athlete. That currently belongs to USC's Marcus Allen, who crushed records in 1981. More than thirty years later, Abdullah could take the record away.

The Nebraska I-back already has three 200-yard games on the season and he'll likely have more, as long as he has no injuries. If he runs like he did against Illinois when coming up against future opponents, tying or surpassing Allen's record is possible.

Additionally, Abdullah is leaving his mark in the Big Ten. His 212 all-purpose yards against Illinois increased his career total to 5,974 yards, which moves him within 26 yards of becoming the seventh player in conference history with 6,000 career all-purpose yards. Those 212 yards jumped Abdullah ahead of Michigan's Anthony Carter (5,799 yards), Wisconsin's Brandon Williams (5,852 yards) and Montee Ball (5,935 yards).

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman recognized Abdullah's talent after being defeated by the Huskers. "He is very good," Beckman said. "Their offensive line is very good. I think Ameer would be the first one to tell you that. I think that personally, he is probably as good as there is in the country."

At the school level, Abdullah is just breaking record-after-record. In fact, the I-back is only five attempts behind Mike Rozier’s school record of 668 carries. It seems likely he'll surpass that against Michigan State.

Abdullah is making history. Every week, college football fans from across the country are treated to the Ameer Abdullah show, which hasn't been disappointing yet. Head coach Bo Pelini recognizes that.

"I like everything I see from Ameer," Pelini said. "He's a pretty special player."

And if he keeps running, no record is safe.

 

All quotes and statistics were obtained firsthand at Nebraska's post-game press conference, unless otherwise noted.

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Should Notre Dame Be Considered a Favorite for CFB Playoff?

After their 31-15 win over the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are starting to state their case as an elite team. With a huge matchup with Stanford looming next week, is it time to start thinking of Notre Dame as a team that could crash the College Football Playoff?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder debates whether or not Notre Dame will be one of the last four remaining.

Do you think Notre Dame will be in the College Football Playoff?  

Watch the video and let us know!

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 5

With Week 5 in the books, it's time to reassess the Heisman Trophy race. Todd Gurley, Kenny Hill, Nick Marshall and Melvin Gordon all went off on Saturday, while Amari Cooper and Marcus Mariota were idle during their bye week. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee dishes out who he thinks is the Heisman front-runner.

If the season ended today, who do you think would win the Heisman?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Power Ranking the SEC Heading into the Most Exciting Weekend of College Football

After five weeks of college football it's time to rank the SEC. Texas A&M, Missouri and Georgia both won in thrilling fashion, while Ole Miss, Auburn and LSU all won laughers.  

Bleacher Report College Football analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss who's on top in the nation's premiere conference. 

Who is the best team in the SEC?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

ESPN College GameDay Selects Alabama vs. Ole Miss in First Ever Trip to Oxford

The Ole Miss Rebels have burst into the national spotlight this season with a perfect 4-0 start. Now that spotlight will grow even bigger as Oxford, Mississippi will get the College Gameday treatment when they look to move to 5-0 against No. 4 Alabama next week.

GameDay tweeted the news:

According to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, the Rebels needed to take care of business against Memphis for the show to come to Ole Miss next. They did just that with a 24-3 victory over the Tigers. 

With the show heading to "The Grove" for the first time in the school's history, Lee Corso and Co. are sure to be greeted by a raucous crowd.

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ESPN College GameDay Headed to Oxford, Miss., for Alabama vs. Ole Miss

ESPN's College GameDay is coming to Oxford, Mississippi, for the first time in the history of the show.

Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and the crew will be on The Grove to watch Alabama play Ole Miss in a matchup of undefeated SEC West rivals, the show's official Twitter account confirmed Saturday:

Ole Miss played a closer-than-expected game against Memphis in Week 4, struggling to separate from the Tigers in a 24-3 win. It was ugly, but it was enough to keep Hugh Freeze's team undefeated, and it will probably be enough to keep them in the national Top 10.

Alabama is coming off a bye and has dominated (to put it lightly) its recent series with the Rebels. Last year's 25-0 win in Tuscaloosa was actually the closest margin since a 23-10 win in 2010.

All things told, the Crimson Tide have beaten Ole Miss 10 consecutive times and in 21-of-23 meetings since 1989.

The Rebels can be forgiven for their struggles against Memphis—an underrated team—after a week spent looking ahead to Alabama. Freeze did his best to mitigate that, but he knew it was inevitable.

"I'd be foolish to think that they're not hearing all the other," Freeze said before the Memphis game, per Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser. "We're doing everything we can (to combat that)."

But now that the hurdle has been cleared, officially, Ole Miss can begin earnest preparation for one of the biggest games in school history.

If it wins, it will not only position itself for a run at the SEC title, it might also rise to the Top Five of the Associated Press poll, a spot it hasn't occupied since 1970, per Sports-Reference.com.

After Week 4, the Rebels checked in at No. 10.

Other notable games on the Week 6 schedule include LSU at Auburn, Stanford at Notre Dame, Texas A&M at Mississippi State and Nebraska at Michigan State. Any of those games would have made a quality GameDay backdrop, but even in a stacked week, a matchup of two Top 10 teams was a shoo-in to host the show.

This should be one of the best games of the year.

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Dominant Ole Miss Defense Will Give Alabama Its Toughest Game Yet

The SEC isn't always pretty, but Ole Miss showed on Saturday that they don't care. The show that the Rebels defense put on against the Memphis Tigers proves that when they take on the Alabama Crimson Tide next week, they'll be ready for the fight of their lives. 

Though the Ole Miss offense struggled for the first three quarters, the defense, which can be considered the best in the nation, helped the Rebels walk away with a 24-3 win.

Wallace struck gold early in the game, connecting with Laquon Treadwell for a 63-yard touchdown just three minutes into the game to take a 7-0 lead for the Rebels. Memphis tacked on a field goal later in the first quarter, then it wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Rebels finally started clicking offensively. 

Ultimately, it was Ole Miss's defense that produced some truly amazing numbers Saturday. 

The Tigers, who scored 35 points against then-No. 11 UCLA in their second game, were limited to just that field goal. They went 3-of-16 on third downs and racked up a measly 23 yards rushing on 31 carries. 

That's business as usual for the Rebels defense. They give up just 8.5 points per game and, heading into this week, gave up just 375 yards of offense per game. That number is sure to skydive after allowing just 104 to the Tigers. 

Though in the past the SEC West has traditionally gone through Tuscoloosa, Ole Miss would like nothing more than to change that destination to tiny Oxford, Mississippi

The Tide have yet to be tested like the Rebels have. Ole Miss already has blowout wins against two competitive opponents in Boise State and Vanderbilt, while Alabama's best win is against West Virginia, a jump start yet otherwise middle-of-the-road Big 12 squad. 

The Big Blue Wall of Ole Miss is certainly on a higher level than the Mountaineers.  

It's true, Alabama's offense has rolled offensively to start the year, averaging 42 points per game. And its defense has only given up 14. 

But Bo Wallace—like it or not—is the best and most experienced quarterback the Tide will be facing up to this point. 

Can Wallace be careless with the ball? His two interceptions against Memphis and six on the season seem to indicate that. 

Alabama's weakness defensively is in the secondary, though. While the Tide entered Week 5 ranked No. 1 in total defense, they are just 27th against the pass despite facing mediocre passing attacks. 

Against West Virginia, Clint Trickett torched the Alabama secondary to the tune of 375 yards. More importantly, the Mountaineers hung 23 points on the board and lost by just 10. 

Ole Miss won't give up 33 points. You'll be lucky to get 20 on them, especially with how slow both Freeze and Saban operate offensively. 

In 2013, according to 247sports, the Rebels' recruiting class ranked eighth nationally thanks largely in part to guys like Robert Nkemdiche, safety Tony Conner and defensive tackle Lavon Hooks. All these guys have made an impact on this defense, and this class was built for next week's tilt. 

So how does Ole Miss beat Alabama next week? 

Winning the turnover battle and forcing the Tide into mistakes—like the massive amount of penalty yards they forced on the Tigers today—is a big start. Containing Amari Cooper—because you can't truly stop Cooper—is another big step. 

Ultimately, the Rebels just have to let the defense show out and force an untested Blake Sims to make plays against hands down the toughest defense the Tide will face arguably all season. 

It'll be tough against Alabama, who have 10 straight wins against the Rebels and have won 21 of the last 23 meetings. But if this Ole Miss defense can give Wallace enough time to find a comfort zone like they did against Memphis, the Rebels will have an outstanding shot at knocking off the Tide. 

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Illinois vs. Nebraska: Game Grades, Analysis for the Cornhuskers

When a Heisman hopeful like Ameer Abdullah rushes for over 200 yards and three touchdowns in a conference game, you already know what kind of grade the Nebraska ground game is going to receive.  

But what about the rest of the Huskers team?

This game was a great warm-up for next week's showdown against Michigan State in East Lansing, and a fresh set of grades for the Cornhuskers is ready heading into that nationally relevant Big Ten showdown.

Box score via NCAA.com

 

Pass Offense

Tommy Armstrong had a perfectly mediocre performance against Illinois.  Luckily, Nebraska didn't need him to be any better than that in order to win.

Armstrong was 10-of-21 for 166 yards, one touchdown and one pick.  The day started very slowly for the Cornhusker quarterback, mainly because Ameer Abdullah was handling the Illini all by himself.  Armstrong didn't have a single completion until the last play of the first quarter, but he made up for it with a fairly prolific second quarter.

After halftime, with the game in hand, throwing the ball wasn't a priority.

Still, with a sub-50 percent completion ratio, Armstrong's inconsistency shouldn't be rewarded.

 

Rushing Offense

Anyone want to take a guess at Nebraska's grade here?

A total of 458 yards and five touchdowns, 208 yards and three touchdowns coming from Ameer Abdullah, only tells you the final tally.  What those numbers don't tell you is the incredible depth of talent the Huskers have at the position, as each back on the roster seems to possess the power and speed to run over and around defenders.

Abdullah is clearly the lead and should be a legitimate Heisman contender this season, but don't sell Nebraska short by believing he's the only guy capable of making highlight-reel runs in Lincoln.

 

Pass Defense

Holding Illinois' back-up quarterback Reilly O'Toole to 17-of-38 for 261 yards is decent enough. But limiting the Illini to one passing TD while picking off three O'Toole passes is worthy of recognition.

Both halves were pretty even in terms of passing success (or lack thereof) for the Illini, but Nebraska's pass rush was a factor all evening long, thanks to Randy Gregory and pals, so I'm content in giving a solid "B+" for the pass defense.

 

Run Defense

As impressive as the run defense was in the first half (allowing just 71 yards on 15 carries), things got even better after halftime.

The Illini finished with just 87 total rushing yards on the evening.  That early rushing TD hurt the Huskers grade, but Nebraska gets a significant boost for the final mark thanks to its suffocating run defense in the second half.

 

Special Teams

If there's one weakness in Nebraska's game so far, it has to be special teams.  The Huskers were 1-for-2 on field goals, averaged just four yards per return on both punt returns and kick returns (though Nebraska had only one kickoff return), and the punting average was an inflated 37.7 because of some great bounces and rolls in punter Sam Foltz' favor.

That kind of poor performance doesn't matter much against Illinois.  Against Michigan State or Wisconsin on the other hand...

 

Coaching

Bo Pelini is smart enough to stick with what's working.  Right now, that's Ameer Abdullah.  The only gripe (and, believe me, it's a small one) is that it would be nice to see stars like Abdullah, Armstrong and wide out Kenny Bell come out of the game a little bit earlier.

If the game is well in hand in the second half—let's say it's a three-score (or larger) lead—why risk injury?  In fact it appeared that Abdullah tweaked his right knee in the second half.  It didn't appear serious, but the point here is that it didn't need to happen at all.

We're just saying...

 

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

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

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Notre Dame Still Has a Long Way to Go Before It Can Beat Florida State

It's not fair to say that Notre Dame went on prime-time television and laid an egg. But the Irish's 31-15 victory over Syracuse produced more questions than it answered. 

The Irish survived the type of turnover-plagued performance that we haven't seen since 2011, the year of the Brian Kelly purple face. Three lost fumbles, two Everett Golson interceptions—including a late pick-six that could've gotten the Orange back in the game—put Kelly on the brink once again, with Notre Dame making the type of sloppy mistakes that usually guarantee your team will lose a football game.

"They knew they did not play the kind of football necessary to win each and every week," head coach Brian Kelly said after the game, perhaps a mild understatement. 

The Irish never felt like they were in danger of losing the football game. But they also felt miles away from being a team that can walk into Doak Campbell Stadium and beat Florida State, too.

Entering the toughest month of the season with Stanford heading to South Bend next weekend, Notre Dame's sloppy game raised all sorts of questions about the Irish that didn't necessarily exist last week. 

"You can't turn the football over and expect to win all your games," Kelly told ESPN's Heather Cox at the end of the national broadcast. "We did some good things tonight... but five turnovers is just not going to get the job done." 

For a young team traveling to an away game for the first time, Saturday night's environment was a test that Kelly hoped to pass with flying colors. Instead, it's back to the drawing board.

The message this week was dedicated to not looking past the Orange, with Stanford and a trip to Tallahassee on the October horizon. Yet the Irish made critical early (and often) mistakes that took probably a dozen points off the board and kept the Orange in the game, even with Notre Dame's defense shutting down Terrel Hunt. 

In between turning the football over four times, Golson played brilliantly. He completed 25 straight throws, a Notre Dame record and one shy of the NCAA record as he picked apart the Syracuse defense in the short passing game. 

But for as beautiful as his perfect 72-yard touchdown pass was to Will Fuller, his nonchalance with the football was exactly what Kelly talked about fixing earlier in the week. 

"He's very careful with the football, very conscientious throwing the football," Kelly said Thursday. "We worry about how he carries the football. He carries it like he's dribbling a basketball." 

Golson dribbled one off his knee on the Irish's first drive, ending a promising opening series when the ball was knocked loose. He nearly lost another on an overload blitz, but converted guard Steve Elmer recovered. And no basketball metaphor can do his fumbled spike justice, with the ball falling through his hands before he swatted at it, giving the Orange the ball with the Irish already safely in field-goal range. 

Even Golson's decision-making throwing the football was careless at times. His first interception was a misread, looking past a wide-open Ben Koyack and then overthrowing C.J. Prosise. And the interception to Durell Eskridge was one of the worst throws he's made in an Irish uniform, with the safety walking right into Golson's throwing lane before taking the pass back for an easy touchdown. 

If you're looking for a way to refocus your attention and forget about any September Heisman chatter, Golson found the best way. 

"I know my team expects more of me so I've got to come out and be better from the get," Golson told Cox after the game. "I came out and had a very sloppy first half and I was lucky it didn't cost us as much as it should have."

It may be an old coaching cliche, but it's often been said that you learn more from a sloppy win than a difficult defeat. And expect a lot of learning and a few extra hours in the film room to get things squared away. 

What should the Irish be looking at?

Ball security for one, with running back Greg Bryant joining the fumble parade. Blown special teams assignments, with the Irish being fooled by a fake punt. And a two-minute drill by the offense that had receivers lining up incorrectly, just one of the eight penalties Notre Dame committed on the night. 

It's not easy to win in college football; give the Irish credit for losing the turnover battle by four and still winning with relative ease. 

But if the Irish have aims of heading to Florida State and knocking off the defending champs, they've got plenty of work to do. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.  

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