NCAA Football News

Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss: Game Grades, Analysis for the Dogs and Rebels

The Ole Miss Rebels got a big win on Saturday as they defeated No. 4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, 31-17. The final box score can be found here thanks to NCAA.com.

The Rebels got some big plays on offense and did the same on defense. Bo Wallace was on top of his game for Ole Miss, and the run game was at its best against the Bulldogs.

As for Mississippi State, it racked up the yards, but the points were not there because most of those yards came later in the game when it was trying to play catch-up with the Rebels. Now the Bulldogs have all but been eliminated from College Football Playoff contention.

Here are game grades and analysis for the Bulldogs and the Rebels.

Passing Offense: Dak Prescott threw the ball well against a good Ole Miss pass defense. His go-to-guy was De’Runnya Wilson, who caught eight passes for 117 yards and one touchdown. Prescott finished the game with 282 yards after only having 64 yards in the first half. That’s one of the things that did the Bulldogs in. The passing game was non-existent to start the game because Prescott was constantly pressured by the Ole Miss front seven.

Running Offense: It was not the best day for the Bulldogs in terms of running the football. Neither Prescott nor Josh Robinson rushed for more than 48 yards because the Ole Miss front seven read the spread option well and tackled effectively. That was a big reason the Bulldogs lost the game. The run game has to be on point if the Bulldogs are going to win.

Passing Defense: The Bulldogs gave up a ton of yards though the air, and Wallace took advantage of it. He threw for 296 yards and connected with Evan Engram often. Engram had 176 yards on five receptions, and once the game got going, Wallace looked more and more comfortable in his final home game of the year.

Running Defense: This is what killed the Bulldogs. Ole Miss does not have a dominant running back, but the Bulldogs made Jaylen Walton look like the second coming of Deuce McAllister. Walton rushed for 148 yards, and 91 of those yards came on one play. The Bulldogs did not keep contain and never really got off their blocks all game long. And because of that, the Rebels rushed for 205 yards.

Special Teams: Evan Sobiesk made a field goal in the second quarter but also missed one. Devon Bell was efficient with his punts, and the Bulldogs only had one return for 21 yards. It was not a bad effort by the special teams, but the coverage team gave up a few big plays and the return team never made any.

Coaching: The game plan by Dan Mullen was fine; the players just could not execute because the Rebels were playing like it was the last game of the year. Mullen kept the game tight to start the game, but after the second half, the Rebels made great adjustments, and Mullen’s team could not counter until it was too late. This game was a good learning experience for him and his players, just like the Alabama game.

Passing Offense: Wallace started off sluggish as he threw an interception in the end zone early in the contest. But he settled in as the game went on and made some very nice throws to guys like Engram and Cody Core. Wallace was the good version of himself in the Egg Bowl and showed the Ole Miss faithful why he is now the Rebels' all-time leader in passing yards.

Running Offense: This was one of the best showings of the run game all season. Walton was on fire with 148 rushing yards including a 91-yard touchdown run. Jordan Wilkins had 43 rushing yards, and Core also had a 20-yard run. Hugh Freeze committed to the ground game against State, and it worked because the Bulldogs were gashed by the run, especially in the second half.

Passing Defense: Despite giving up 282 passing yards, the defense did a good job of not letting Prescott get going. He was able to hit Wilson with a few big plays in the second half, but the Rebels sacked Prescott three times and tallied three hurries as well. The pass defense did a good enough job to contain Prescott, but that was only one of the reasons the Rebels won.

Running Defense: The Bulldogs' strength is the run game, and the Rebels took that away. The Bulldogs rushed for 163 yards and only had 3.5 yards per carry. One of the biggest reasons why the Bulldogs could not run the ball as well as they would have liked was defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. He tallied seven total tackles with three solo and one tackle for loss. He was disruptive all game long and gave the Mississippi State offensive line fits.

Special Teams: The special teams had a good day. Gary Wunderlich made his lone field goal and had a nice punt as well. The one time the Bulldogs had a chance to return a punt they returned it for 20 yards. And the coverage teams did a great job of only allowing one return, which was a kick return that only went 20 yards. So that was another reason the Rebels won by two scores.

Coaching: Freeze did a great job with his game plan and getting his players ready for a very tough Mississippi State team. The Rebels ran the ball well and played good defense, plus the passing game came on when it needed to. The game was close in the first half, which benefited Freeze, who was able to take advantage of it in the second half. Other than the Alabama game, it was Freeze's best coaching performance this season.

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Notre Dame Football: Irish Defense Has Hit Rock Bottom

After being yanked back and forth through a shredder, whittled down to the bone and whipped for 49 points in two-and-a-half quarters, Notre Dame’s defense has officially hit rock bottom.

The Irish surrendered 577 yards of total offense to the Trojans, who steamrolled the Irish, 49-14, on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the regular-season finale.

"We have to remember where we are after today’s loss," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said to reporters after the loss. "It’s a red-letter day for our football players, coaches alike. Two years ago we were playing for a national championship. And today we got our butts beat. And it wasn’t as close as the score."

Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler picked apart Notre Dame’s secondary with apparent ease. Kessler finished 32-of-40 for 372 yards and six touchdown passes, the first player to ever toss a half-dozen touchdowns against the Irish.

He lobbed a beautiful 48-yard strike down the sideline to wide receiver George Farmer to get the scoring started, burned the Irish linebacker corps with a simple angle pattern to Adoree’ Jackson for the second score before finding Farmer again on the opposite side of the field.

Tick. Tack. Toe.

Three touchdowns in a span of six minutes, seven seconds, and Notre Dame finished the first quarter trailing, 21-0.

When the evisceration was finally over and the blood was mopped off the Coliseum grass, Notre Dame’s defense capped off a historically brutal stretch.

The Irish defense has done a complete 180 since the sterling start to the season in which Notre Dame kept the clamps on Rice, Michigan, Purdue, Syracuse and Stanford. But since then, the wheels have come off entirely. What seemed to be maybe anomalies against North Carolina and Navy and a product of turnovers against Arizona State was verified as deeply problematic in recent losses to Northwestern and the Trojans.

To be fair, the Notre Dame defense’s current status is out of its control, to an extent. Injuries have rocked the Irish through all levels of the defense.

Heading into the game, Notre Dame was already without top defensive lineman Sheldon Day, defensive quarterback Joe Schmidt, defensive lineman Jarron Jones, cornerback Cody Riggs and safety Drue Tranquill.

More bumps and bruises ravaged the Irish on Saturday, as safety Max Redfield (broken rib), safety Austin Collinsworth (separated shoulder), linebacker Greer Martini (quad) and defensive linemen Jay Hayes (ankle) and Jacob Matuska (stinger-like injury) all missed time. 

Say what you want about the program’s depth in the fifth year of the Brian Kelly era or the need for the “next man in” mentality, but how much more can Kelly and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder be expected to do with a unit so depleted?

Hayes had his redshirt ripped off of him last weekend to serve as a necessary body against Louisville. In a twisted turn of events, Hayes was banged up against the Trojans on Saturday. The Irish had to turn to the likes of senior Chase Hounshell along the interior of the defensive line. Asked earlier in the week about the injury-riddled Hounshell, Kelly said the senior is “just not big enough to play inside.”

But that’s exactly what the injuries have necessitated at this point.

"We knew we were shorthanded," Kelly said to reporters afterward. "We’ve lost a lot of players on defense over the last five weeks. It’s been a very difficult run for us with key players on defense, having to play so many young freshmen on defense. We just haven’t been able to stop anybody. It’s been a difficult run for us.

So all things considered, this is likely rock bottom for the Irish defense. There will be a few weeks off for healing and recovery, not to mention film study and practice, before Notre Dame takes part in its bowl game. The defensive performance will improve.

But, wow, Saturday was ugly.

 

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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Arizona WR Samajie Grant Won't Start Pac-12 Championship After DUI Citation

Arizona wide receiver Samajie Grant will not start in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Oregon on December 5 after being cited for a DUI. 

According to Daniel Berk of The Arizona Daily Star, Grant was pulled over by a Pima County Sheriff's Department early Saturday morning and failed a field sobriety test:

"Grant failed a field sobriety test, said Deputy Tom Peine, a spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Grant cooperated with authorities and was cited and released at the scene, Peine said."

The report also says that the officer "smelled marijuana from the car" and asked Grant to exit the vehicle after he was identified as the driver. 

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez released a statement that's also included in The Arizona Daily Star's report, saying the athletic department had discussions with Grant and local law enforcement before arriving at an appropriate punishment:

After communicating with Samajie, local law enforcement and our athletics administration, we’ve decided that the appropriate form of action is to make sure Samajie receives counseling and takes part in community-service activities. 

We’re disappointed in Samajie’s decision-making, but we expect this to be an isolated incident and he won’t be starting in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Grant was Arizona's leading receiver in Friday's victory over Arizona State to secure a spot in the conference championship game. The sophomore had four catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, he leads the Wildcats with 16.1 yards per reception and is second with five touchdowns. 

Rodriguez responded to the news swiftly, meeting with all the appropriate parties to determine how the reported incident would be handled before turning into a media spectacle.

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Winners and Losers from Week 14 of College Football

Like rivalry games? How about not being able to predict how any game is going to go? Then Week 14 was for you. 

Rivalry week was filled with a lot of close calls, a few upsets and a side of chaos. From Marshall's stunning first loss of the season to Georgia Tech's wild win over Georgia, there's a lot to discuss. 

Yes, Winners and Losers is up before and while college football games are ongoing. Fear not, as this post will updated throughout the night as events warrant. 

Which teams and players came out of Week 14 as winners? Which ones didn't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan's Loss to Ohio State is a Fitting End to The Brady Hoke Era

For three quarters, Michigan stood toe-to-toe with Ohio State and threatened to pull off a major upset in the 111th meeting between the two rivals. But just like Brady Hoke’s tenure at Michigan, things deteriorated after a brilliant beginning.

Ohio State’s eventual 42-28 victory not only eliminated Michigan’s bowl hopes but served as a microcosm of the Brady Hoke era.

While Hoke goes through the motions of planning for next season, this game almost certainly marks the end of his Michigan career.

“I believe this program is heading in the right direction,” said Hoke after the game while refusing to go into specific reasons that he should be retained. “I’m disappointed for the players.”

Michigan came out in the first half and quieted the crowd of 106,810—most of whom anticipated an easy victory for Ohio State. After falling behind, 7-0, the Wolverines stormed back with two touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead.

But reminiscent of other Michigan losses, the team surrendered a late second-quarter touchdown drive with Ohio State scoring with seven seconds left before halftime. The Ohio State offense continued rolling, scoring another touchdown on the first possession of the second half to take a 21-14 lead.

The two drives destroyed Michigan’s momentum.

Any hope that Michigan could match Ohio State’s scoring pace evaporated when running back Drake Johnson (15 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns) left the game with a leg injury.

This game versus Michigan’s archrival mimics Hoke’s disappointing arc over his four years at the helm. Michigan went 11-2 in his first season, but the program has had declining win totals since. This year’s 5-7 finish represents a complete collapse for the winningest football program in NCAA history.

The same problems that Michigan exhibited in this game have dogged the program during Hoke’s tenure. The defense sagged at critical junctures. Devin Gardner threw an interception directly to a defensive player with no receiver in sight. He fumbled the ball (with one fumble being erased by an Ohio State penalty) and missed open receivers.

Ohio State stood in stark contrast to Michigan’s lack of quarterback depth. After quarterback J.T. Barrett was carted off with a severe ankle injury, Urban Meyer shuffled his backups, and his offense delivered the knockout punch. No matter how much Gardner struggled after the loss of Johnson, there was no one on the bench to relieve him.

This game is a prime example of why Hoke will soon be fired. Gardner has talent, but his decision-making in the passing game is fatally flawed. Hoke’s failure to develop Gardner as a quarterback (or a suitable replacement) overshadows everything else he’s done at Michigan.

Hoke can claim that his team is young and has many returning players, but his failure to deal with the quarterback position is coaching malpractice.

This rivalry game showed how good Michigan can be with competent quarterback play and why his dream of coaching at Michigan has become a nightmare.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand. All season statistics from mgoblue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department web site.

Follow @PSCallihan

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Oregon Ducks Football Players Get Custom Jordan XX9 PE

Oregon Ducks football players received yet another custom player-edition sneaker with these Jordan XX9 "Oregon Ducks" PE. 

The shoes feature what looks to be a "good" and "evil" Oregon Duck on the back of each shoe along with the Oregon "O" on the tongue and a duck feather pattern throughout.

What do you think of these?

[Black Sports Online]

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Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze and Wife Get Gatorade Bath After Win

No. 19 Ole Miss took down No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 in the Egg Bowl on Saturday, and Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze and his wife were treated to a rare couples Gatorade bath after the win. 

Not surprisingly, CBS announcer Verne Lundquist used a "freeze" pun.

[CJ Zero]

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

Florida State University has been a team of destiny this season.

Overcoming four turnovers, the Seminoles did just enough to extend their win streak to 28. This time around, the team survived an inspired University of Florida squad, 24-19.

Check out the final stats here, and take a look at first- and second-half game grades below.

 

Passing Offense

Quarterback Treon Harris had his fair share of open receivers but couldn’t do much in the first half, only tossing for 88 yards and a touchdown. He did make some costly mistakes though, tossing a pair of interceptions, including one that went 94 yards back for a touchdown.

Things didn’t get much better in the second half, as Harris finished with only 169 yards through the air.

 

Rushing Offense

On a day when the Gators really needed the rushing attack to step up, it fell short. The team only managed 44 yards on 16 carries in the first half.

Florida finished the game with 113 yards on the ground, but that was largely in part to Harris contributing 41 yards off scrambles. 

 

Passing Defense 

Many will remember those two, 10-play drives the Seminoles had, resulting in two passing touchdowns. However, on Saturday, the secondary was tremendous.


The unit troubled Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston all game long, forcing him into a season-low 125 passing yards and career-high four interceptions.

 

Rushing Defense

As good as the Gators were in stopping the pass, they were just as bad against the run.

Whenever the Seminoles needed a big play or first-down pickup, their running backs were up for the challenge. Florida State rushed for 181 yards on 41 carries, led by Dalvin Cook’s 144 yards.

 

Special Teams

It was a tale of two halves for Florida’s special teams units.

After Austin Hardin was perfect on field goals, going 4-of-4 to begin the game, the sophomore looked shaky in his final two attempts, going wide right on kicks of 52 and 42 yards. 

The unit did also step up with a key punt block late in the second half that set up the Gators’ lone touchdown of the game.

 

Coaching

In his final act as head coach for Florida, Will Muschamp left it all on the field.

He must be applauded for his defense’s effort on Saturday. However, the offense just couldn’t get into a rhythm and shot itself in the foot time after time with poor penalties.

 

Passing Offense

Aside from two second-quarter drives, Winston was off his game.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner looked anything but, throwing for just 125 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions on 12-of-24 passing. He did nothing but keep the Gators hanging around in this one.

 

Rushing Offense

On the other hand, the run game all but saved the Seminoles on Saturday.

If the team needed a play, Cook was there to answer. The freshman finished with 144 yards on 24 carries and was easily Florida State’s MVP of the game.

 

Passing Defense

After watching their quarterback put them in short fields with back-to-back-to-back interceptions, the Seminoles secondary stepped up to limit the Gators to just two field goals. 

Then following the third interception, Florida State responded by taking the next play 94 yards for an interception return touchdown. The unit was dominant all night.

 

Rushing Defense

Florida couldn’t do anything with its ground game.

The team constantly tried to get it going, but the Seminoles' front seven had the answer. The Gators couldn’t manage anything more than 113 yards on 33 carries.

 

Special Teams

This was probably the one area that Florida State struggled with the most.

The unit did poor in the return game, including nearly muffing the return. Then the Seminoles allowed Florida back in it by whiffing a punt that resulted in a Gators touchdown on the very next play.

This unit could have been better.

 

Coaching

Jimbo Fisher had a solid game.

He called a good game plan, really relying on the run game. The interceptions have to be blamed solely on Winston, who made poor decisions on those balls.

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Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Egg Bowl

The 2014 Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Mississippi turned out to be one that will have huge ramifications on the College Football Playoff. The Rebels were all over their in-state rivals from the opening kickoff, winning by a final score of 31-17.

While the victory is huge for Ole Miss, which was coming off an embarrassing 30-0 loss against Arkansas last week, the loss is crushing for Mississippi State. 

The Bulldogs entered the game as the No. 4 team in the College Football Playoff rankings. A win would likely have kept them in that spot for at least one more week, while they could have earned a spot in the SEC Championship Game depending on what happens in Saturday night's Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn. 

Now, with its second loss, Mississippi State is all but guaranteed to be out of the Top Four in the playoff rankings and has no chance for a conference title. 

The most surprising part of the outcome is how Mississippi did it. The Rebels are known for their defense, which came to play, but Hugh Freeze's team also gained over 500 yards of total offense. 

Even though Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace didn't have a fantastic day throwing the ball, completing 13 of his 30 attempts for 296 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, he did make history early in the game, per SportsCenter:

Wallace did have a legitimate excuse for the low completion percentage. He suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas, though Freeze told Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger earlier in the week that there was no doubt Wallace would play:

"He's been limited some [in practice] but you would have to chain him down to keep him from going in this game," Freeze said. "He's getting better everyday, so I anticipate him being ready to go."

The difference for Mississippi in this game came on the ground. Junior running back Jaylen Walton did something no Ole Miss running back had been able to do all year, via ESPN Stats & Info:

The big play of the game came when Walton took a handoff from Mississippi's 9-yard line and went 91 yards to give the Rebels a 24-10 lead. The play initially looked like it would only be a short gain, as Bulldogs defenders swarmed Walton. But he wriggled free of the defense and took it to the house. Per ESPN Stats & Info, that was the team's longest play in 17 years:

You can see the wild run here:

This Ole Miss fan had the perfect reaction to Walton's touchdown run, via SEC Football:

In a losing effort, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott likely lost whatever shot he still had at the Heisman Trophy. The junior didn't have a bad day throwing the ball, completing 22 of his 37 passes for 282 yards, but Ole Miss kept him in the pocket and never let him break a big run. He finished with 48 yards on 24 carries. 

Prescott did make history in defeat, becoming the second player in Mississippi State history with at least 30 career rushing touchdowns, via Mississippi State assistant athletic director Bill Martin:

Mississippi State racked up 445 yards in the loss, but the running game wasn't as potent as it needed to be, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry. The Bulldogs also failed to score on four different drives when they got inside Mississippi's 40-yard line, including one missed field goal and a turnover on downs during their final drive. 

The loss by Mississippi State likely means there won't be two SEC teams in the College Football Playoff. The door is now wide open for teams like TCU, Ohio State and Baylor when the new rankings are released on Tuesday.  

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Florida vs. FSU: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Florida Cup

The Florida State Seminoles overcame an early 9-0 deficit and three first-quarter interceptions from Jameis Winston to defeat in-state rival Florida, 24-19, in the 2014 Florida Cup at home in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Winston's performance was perhaps the worst of his career, as he completed just 12 of 24 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and four total picks. It's not often teams overcome a disastrous performance like the one Winston had on Saturday night, per ESPN Stats and Info:

True freshman running back Dalvin Cook did most of the dirty work on offense for the 'Noles, picking up 144 rushing yards on 24 carries. He took on the lead back role after Karlos Williams left the game with a concussion, per ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach:

The Gators stayed in the game thanks to cornerback Brian Poole, who picked off Winston twice, and kicker Austin Hardin, who made four of six field goals, although both of his two misfires prevented Florida from taking a late lead. 

Here is a look at the quarter-by-quarter score from the contest:

This year's edition of the Florida Cup wasn't the titanic contest of seasons past. The Gators, playing with a lame-duck coach in Will Muschamp, have waded through a disappointing campaign that saw a competent defense get routinely undone by a fitful, error-prone offense.

The Seminoles once again played down to their competition—a nasty trend that should have some fans on edge heading into the ACC title game against Georgia Tech Dec. 6, which could very well be a must-win game for Florida State after a less-than-convincing run to the College Football Playoff. 

Winston was out of sorts right from the beginning. He threw his first interception on just the fourth play of the game from scrimmage. Florida safety Jabari Gorman jumped a slant route and made a tumbling catch to procure the turnover.

The Gators couldn't move the ball, but Hardin split the uprights for what would be his first of four made field goals on the night. 

Winston was just getting started with the charitable throws. He short-circuited the Seminoles' very next drive, with Quincy Wilson coming up with a stellar, bobbling interception, as shown by Bleacher Report:

The Gators managed just 26 yards on 10 plays and ended up with another Hardin field goal for an early 6-0 lead.

Florida State punted on its next possession, and Gators quarterback Treon Harris would finally get some offense going by hitting Brandon Powell for a 42-yard gain. However, the drive would stall out yet again and end in, say it with me now, a Hardin field goal.

Winston threw his third pick of the quarter on the ensuing possession, this one going to Poole. Gatorzone.com's Scott Carter encapsulated the quarterback's forgettable first quarter:

This time, however, the interception would lead directly to points for Florida State. Defensive back Terrance Smith picked off Harris on the very next play and returned it 94 yards for an interception. ESPN provided a look:

Winston got his act together in the second quarter. He tossed two touchdown passes to tight end Nick O'Leary in the frame, giving the Seminoles a 21-9 lead with just more than two minutes to go until the half.

Cook did well to get the running game going and provided Winston with a solid foundation from which he could run the offense and calm his own nerves. ESPN's Danny Kanell came up with an apt comparison for Cook's shifty moves:

Florida's offense found it tough to move the ball either through the air or on the ground in the second quarter. Harris' second interception of the night was sandwiched between Winston's two touchdown throws, and running back Matt Jones had little room to gallop.

The Gators would get a nice stroke of luck just before the half, as Seminoles punter Cason Beatty had to scramble on a punt play and coughed up the football. Harris would complete a 15-yard pass to Clay Burton to make the score 21-16 at the half.

Florida started off the second half with an 11-play, 44-yard drive that ended in a Hardin field goal, cutting the Seminoles' lead to just two points.

After an exchange of punts, Florida State found itself in good position to extend its lead after driving to midfield. Unfortunately, Winston fired a low, off-target pass right into Poole's path, giving a flash of hope to the Gators.

The Cauldron's Andy Glockner summed up Winston's erratic play perfectly:

Hardin, who had been so reliable up to this point in the game, would miss his field-goal chance just before the start of the fourth quarter. The Seminoles' next drive ended on a disastrous fake-punt call, which put the Gators in excellent field position on their opponent's 34-yard line.

Alas, the offense couldn't come up with a touchdown drive, and Hardin would miss once again, which drew a fist pump of relief from Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Seminoles would go on a 55-yard, clock-killing drive, capped off by a 37-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal for a 24-19 lead they would not relinquish.

Harris was off the mark on the Gators' last-ditch drive, missing on all six of his pass attempts. The Seminoles got the ball back with 1:42 remaining and ran out the clock on a Beatty punt at the death. CBS Sports' Damon Amendolara summed up Harris' incompetence:

The Seminoles have done little to inspire confidence in most observers this season, but their ability to stay composed late in games is one of the few things about this team that is not in question.

Of course, Coach Fisher doesn't understand the need for anyone to doubt his team's bona fides.

"We're undefeated. We finish every game. Everybody else in the country has not finished at least one game. We've finished every one of them. Isn't that the object?" he said prior to Saturday, via the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone.

He has a point. As the only undefeated team from a Power Five conference, the Seminoles don't really have to answer to anyone, even if the shaky win over the Gators left plenty of questions surrounding this team unanswered. Like it or not, this team is playoff-bound with a win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title contest.

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Minnesota vs. Wisconsin: Game Grades, Analysis for the Badgers

The No. 14 University of Wisconsin Badgers punched their ticket to the Big Ten title game with an inspiring 34-24 comeback against No. 18 University of Minnesota at home Saturday afternoon.

After falling into a 17-3 hole, the Badgers battled back to make it a four-point deficit before halftime. Then, timely chunk-yardage runs by Melvin Gordon and over-the-top throws from Joel Stave led Wisconsin to a tight victory down the stretch.

It was far from a perfect performance from Wisconsin, especially in the first half. But there's plenty to build on as the Badgers prepare for Ohio State University. Let's take a look at their game grades.

 

Pass Offense: Neither Minnesota nor Wisconsin were known for quarterback play entering the game, but Stave made a name for himself. He went 11-of-18 with 215 yards and two touchdowns, with most of those passes coming in clutch moments when Wisconsin desperately needed to take momentum and the running game wasn't going.

Run Offense: Gordon was bottled up early by the Golden Gophers, but he ended with a serviceable 151 yards on 29 carries. The running lanes weren't there early, but they opened up in droves late. Corey Clement had a fantastic day in relief of Gordon, going for 89 yards on seven carries. Both had touchdown runs.

Pass Defense: Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner had a day to forget passing the football. He went 5-of-18 with 95 yards for the entire contest. To make matters worse, 53 of those yards came on a single pass—and it was a short screen that tight end Maxx Williams did most of the work on. Wisconsin's secondary had a pretty easy day.

Run Defense: The Badgers didn't have any answers early for Minnesota running back David Cobb, who was a game-time decision before bursting through for a 40-yard touchdown in the opening quarter. But with Minnesota unable to throw the ball, Wisconsin loaded the box and kept the Golden Gophers to four yards per carry. 

Special Teams: A fumbled punt return directly led to Minnesota's first touchdown, but that was early enough of a blunder for Wisconsin to be able to rebound. After losing the field-position battle for much of the first half, the Badgers constantly pinned the Gophers back.  

Coaching: Without much of a running game early from Gordon and Co., the Wisconsin coaching staff smartly put Stave in positions to make things happen with the play-action pass. That proved to be a big game-changer. Minnesota could no longer load the box with eight to nine men, and Gordon started to take advantage late.

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Notre Dame vs. USC: 2014 Jeweled Shillelagh Winner, Score and Twitter Reaction

 In the annual showdown between Notre Dame and USC for the Jeweled Shillelagh, the Trojans were all over the Fighting Irish with a 49-14 victory. It's the most lopsided victory by either side since a 38-3 win by USC in 2008. 

As is often the case in a blowout, there's a lot of credit that belongs to USC and a lot of blame to put on Notre Dame. The first victim of this loss for Notre Dame was quarterback Everett Golson, who continued his late-season struggles and was benched after USC went up 35-0 in the second quarter, via Gil Brandt of NFL.com:

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had grown increasingly frustrated with Golson's erratic performance each week. Kelly's cup seemed to run over after a loss to Arizona State, as these comments to reporters indicate, via Graham Watson of Yahoo Sports:

There were absolutely no changes in what (Arizona State did defensively), which makes it even more maddening and frustrating. I guess that's what I'm most upset about because we could've moved the ball [Saturday] effectively. It's one of those deals where you take one step forward and two steps back and he comes back in the second half and does some really good things. He's got to strive for consistency. If (Golson) plays clean in the first half, who knows where we'd be right now.

It took a few weeks to make a move, but Kelly finally saw enough after Golson went 7-of-18 with 75 yards and one interception against USC. That interception extended Golson's streak of consecutive games with a pick to nine, per ESPN's College Gameday:

While blaming Golson is the easy thing to do, let's not exonerate Notre Dame's defense. The Fighting Irish have allowed in each of their last seven games. They also allowed USC quarterback Cody Kessler to set a record against them, as noted by ESPN Stats & Info:

To rub a little more salt in the wound for Notre Dame, Kessler's sixth touchdown pass came less than four minutes into the third quarter. 

Notre Dame will just be happy to have this season end, especially the Pac-12 part of the schedule. According to Pac-12 Networks on Twitter, the Fighting Irish were basically doomed before halftime in their games against Stanford, Arizona State and USC:

On the bright side, Notre Dame did come back to win that game against Stanford on October 4. 

Moving back to the winning side, how good was Kessler today? Former USC quarterback and current Fox Sports 1 analyst Matt Leinart noted on Twitter the junior had more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four) in the first half:

This final score is more indicative of how far Notre Dame has fallen as the season has gone on. USC was coming off a loss against UCLA in which the Bruins dominated, so this wasn't like the mismatched games in the mid-2000s that USC controlled before the opening kickoff. 

All told, the Trojans racked up 577 yards of offense and controlled the ball for 37 minutes, 19 seconds. They finished the regular season 8-4 (6-3 in Pac-12). Notre Dame ends the year with four straight losses but will be in a bowl game with a 7-5 record. 

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Oregon vs. Oregon State: Live Score and Highlights

Oregon 16, Oregon State 0 ; Early 2nd Quarter

The Civil War takes place Saturday night in Corvallis, as the Oregon State Beavers (5-6) look to upset Marcus Mariota and the No. 2 Oregon Ducks (10-1). 

Stakes in this game are massive for both teams. An Oregon State win would make Mike Riley's team bowl-eligible.  As for Oregon, a loss would effectively knock it out of playoff contention. 

The game will begin at 8 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ABC. 

Odds Shark has Oregon as a 20.5-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

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Ole Miss RB Jaylen Walton Breaks Tackles, Scores 91-Yard TD

Running back Jaylen Walton gave the No. 19 Ole Miss Rebels a 24-10 lead over No. 4 Mississippi State with one of the best runs of the college football season. 

Walton started right, cut it back to the left and somehow wriggled free from a swarm of defenders. He went up the sideline 91 yards for the touchdown. 

Was this the best run of the day?

Check out the video and let us know!

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Auburn vs. Alabama: Live Score and Highlights

Alabama 14, Auburn 9 — Early 2nd quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 15 Auburn (8-3) and No. 1 Alabama (10-1). ESPN is televising the matchup nationally from Bryant-Denny Stadium.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Bryce Petty Injury: Updates on Baylor Star's Concussion and Return

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty suffered his second injury of 2014 after going down with a head injury against Texas Tech.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach broke down the play:

Jake Trotter of ESPN.com would later provide an update in the fourth quarter: 

ESPN's Brett McMurphy had an update after the game:

Tim Griffin of MySA.com had Petty's thoughts after the game:

Mac Olson of ESPN.com added his thoughts:

Mike Pereira of Fox Sports believed there should have been a penalty on the play:

Expectations were high for the senior star. Petty wasn't considered the favorite for the Heisman Trophy, but he was on the shortlist for the trip to New York City at the end of the season.

His Heisman campaign hit a major snag shortly after it began, though, after Petty picked up a back injury against SMU in Baylor's season-opener. According to The Dallas Morning News, he had two cracked transverse processes.

While the problem wasn't debilitating, it was enough to limit him to 13-of-23 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns. He then missed the Bears' next game against Northwestern State, and the problem continued to hamper him as the weeks wore on.

From a numbers perspective, Petty's season bottomed out in Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU. He completed just seven of his 22 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Two weeks later, he went 16-of-36 for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' 41-27 loss to West Virginia.

For almost the entirety of the 2014 season, Petty has looked less than 100 percent, and this most recent ailment only worsens the situation.

Backup Seth Russell has filled in admirably at various points, but there's no question that Baylor's chances of winning the Big 12 hinge on Petty's health.

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Tennessee Volunteers Honor Former Player Eric Berry for Game vs. Vanderbilt

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is out for the remainder of the season with what the medical staff believes is likely lymphoma, as Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star reported.  

His former college team is offering its support with a sticker on the players' helmets during its game vs. Vanderbilt.

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How Playoff Committee Should Look at Ohio State After J.T. Barrett Injury

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In football circles, the term "system quarterback" is somewhat of an insulting phrase, a backhanded way of discrediting one player in favor of the scheme in which he plays in.

But for Ohio State, its ability to produce such may be its only argument left for making the College Football Playoff.

The Buckeyes' playoff hopes took a significant hit on Saturday, when quarterback J.T. Barrett went down with a right ankle fracture in Ohio State's 42-28 win over Michigan. Head coach Urban Meyer confirmed that the Heisman Trophy candidate and star redshirt freshman quarterback will miss the remainder of the season, starting with next weekend's appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game.

That's significant in and of itself, as Ohio State will be without its best offensive player in a game against a Top 25 opponent in Wisconsin. More than that, the selection committee will take into account Barrett's absence when examining Ohio State's playoff candidacy.

That obviously doesn't bode well for the Buckeyes, as Barrett's play was a big reason why No. 6 Ohio State seemed to hold an edge over fellow one-loss playoff candidates TCU and Baylor. While the Buckeyes' Week 2 loss to 6-6 Virginia Tech was the "worst" of the bunch, that blow seemed to be lessened by the progress that Barrett had made since the second start of his college career.

That argument, however, has now gone out the window for Ohio State with the news of Barrett's season-ending injury. The fact of the matter is that the committee simply won't have a complete resume—good or bad—when it picks its final four one week from Sunday.

In this unprecedented playoff era, there's no telling exactly what that will mean for Ohio State. But ultimately, the Buckeyes will first have to win in Indianapolis next weekend—with their third-string quarterback—in order to keep the conversation a relevant one in Columbus.

"I didn't think of it until you said it," Meyer said when asked about OSU's playoff hopes following its win over the Wolverines. "I think it's all going to be how we play next week."

That might be wishful thinking on Meyer's part, but the Buckeyes would obviously benefit from a strong performance from new starting quarterback Cardale Jones in their upcoming conference championship game.

After all, while Barrett's gotten most of the credit, a plethora of playmakers have emerged for Ohio State this season, as the Buckeyes haven't been nearly as quarterback-reliant as they have been in years past.

That starts with running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has rushed for 1,182 yards through the first 12 games of his sophomore season. The Buckeyes pass-catchers have also been noticeably improved, with 10 players totaling double-digit reception numbers in an offense that entered Saturday's game ranked fifth in the nation in points per game (44.1).

"We're still headed in the right direction. I don't think one player really makes a whole team," Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman said. "Offensively, we have a lot of talented guys that have played a lot of football this year. They're just going to have to step up and make up for the lost ground."

Of course, the playoff committee is going to have to decide whether the production of those players was more the result of their own individual skill, or the precision passing of Barrett. And while he has been aided by his offense, there's no denying the importance of a player who in just 11 games managed to break the Buckeyes' single-season records for total yardage and touchdowns.

But although Barrett was putting up numbers that would have likely landed him in New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist in two weeks, Ohio State could—or will at least try to—make the case that he is mostly a product of Meyer's spread system.

While Braxton Miller managed to put up record-shattering numbers in his two seasons under Meyer, former backup Kenny Guiton also posted eye-popping statistics in his opportunities, despite having admittedly less talent than the player for whom he was the understudy for.

Enter Barrett, Meyer's third quarterback in Columbus and the third to put up nationally noticeable numbers. That can't completely be a coincidence at a storied school like Ohio State, although there's a reason why the redshirt freshman Barrett was able to pass the sophomore Jones on the Buckeyes depth chart this past offseason.

And even if Jones proves capable of running the OSU offense as efficiently as Barrett did, he won't have more than a one-game sample size to do so in front of the committee. Even with a potential conference championship and just one loss on their resume, that likely won't be enough for the committee to consider the Barrett-less Buckeyes one of the four best teams in America, which is its primary criteria.

After all, how can a team still be good when it's already on its third-string quarterback?

"The Buckeyes can be," Meyer insisted. "The Buckeyes certainly can be good. I've said this many times, the quarterback is a product of the guys around him and the guys around him are playing pretty good right now. The good thing is [Barrett and Jones] have a similar skill set, and so it's not like we're going to have to drastically change things."

Maybe not. But Barrett's injury does drastically change things. And fair or not, it will likely be the final blow in Ohio State's once-promising playoff campaign.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Should Dabo Swinney Have Allowed Deshaun Watson to Play with Torn ACL?

The Clemson Tigers (9-3) picked up a huge 35-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6) Saturday to round out the regular season. But the big story coming out of this game was Deshaun Watson's torn ACL and head coach Dabo Swinney's decision to keep the quarterback in the game. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee debate Swinney's decision to keep Watson in the contest.

Was this the right decision?

Check out the video and let us know! 

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Jalen Hurd Injury: Updates on Tennessee RB's Upper Body and Return

The University of Tennessee Volunteers will be without Jalen Hurd as they close out the 2014 regular season.

Vols head coach Butch Jones confirmed to Heather Mitts on the SEC Network that the freshman running back had an upper body injury and won't return against the Vanderbilt University Commodores:

Before exiting, Hurd rushed for 21 yards on five carries. He entered Saturday as the team's leading rusher, with 169 carries for 756 yards and three touchdowns.

Wes Rucker of GoVols247.com rued how much injuries are hindering Tennessee's offense:

The Volunteers need to beat Vandy in order to become bowl eligible. In the event they do travel to a postseason bowl, they could still be short-handed if Hurd's injury proves to be more serious.

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