NCAA Football News

Jim Harbaugh Has Michigan Improving at a Rapid Rate

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh's first season as the Michigan football program's head coach doesn't look like a Cinderella story, but the Wolverines are writing a captivating first chapter.

Michigan is not merely beating outmatched opponents. No, Harbaugh's team is destroying them—like it did Saturday in Ann Arbor, smashing Rutgers 49-16 and ascending to 7-2 on the year.

After a 2014 season where Michigan lost to Minnesota, Rutgers and Maryland, the Maize and Blue have knocked out Oregon State, UNLV, BYU, Maryland, Northwestern and Rutgers by a combined 209-30 score.

While the college football world anticipated Harbaugh would bring the program back into the national spotlight, this level of performance wasn't expected nine outings into 2015. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News compared Harbaugh to Steve Kerr:

The turnaround has started with a mentality change—one that is regularly on display immediately after kickoff. Michigan is flat-out better prepared to take the field each week than last year, last month and last week.

In 2014, Michigan managed a 139-123 advantage during the opening 30 minutes. Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines boast a 165-56 throughout the first half.

And the Wolverines are relentless. Last season's squad was outscored after halftime, but this team holds a 113-51 edge following the break.

Then again, that's merely an extension of the coach.

"He's the ultimate competitor," junior tight end Jake Butt said of Harbaugh. "I think that's pretty clear. At this point, everybody knows that. I think, down to the last tick of the clock, he's going to be competing for everything."

That acquired mentality is most evident on the defensive side of the ball, especially when opponents reach the red zone. Rutgers moved inside the 20-yard line four times, but the Wolverines stood tall and ceded just nine points combined.

"Our red-zone defense was outstanding again today," Harbaugh said. "That's been something that's really, really been good for us. Our defensive coaches do a tremendous job. I don't know if anybody is doing a better job."

In fact, no one is.

Michigan has allowed the fewest red-zone opportunities (16) of any team in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Most importantly for the Wolverines, though, they've given up a touchdown only six times, which would've ranked No. 8 nationally heading into Saturday.

Although the offense isn't perfect, it's good enough to compete with anyone. It's played well enough to win during eight of nine contests. You can comfortably count on one hand how many times Michigan could've said that in 2014.

Senior quarterback Jake Rudock threw for a career-high 337 yards, leading the offense to touchdowns on five straight possessions during the first half. He completed 18-of-25 passes, connecting with 10 different receivers.

"He was just on fire," Harbaugh said of Rudock. "He had a great game, making all the appropriate throws— all the right reads."

Rudock guided the offense down the field for another touchdown on the offense's first possession after halftime, and Michigan was undoubtedly in control. However, even after adding a two-point conversion to go up 27 points, Harbaugh didn't feel that way.

"Maybe it felt like a big lead to you," he said. "We were just battling."

Perhaps that's the biggest change; Nothing felt like a big lead last season. Thanks to Harbaugh and the improvement he's brought to Ann Arbor, it's becoming a regular sight.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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SEC's Nightmare of Missing Playoff Prevented by Yet Another Miraculous Play

On Saturday night in Oxford, Mississippi, chaos somehow prevented even more chaos.

With a here-goes-nothing toss from a falling tight end's here-goes-nothing toss and an improbable bouncing catch by a hard-running teammate's improbable bouncing catch on a do-or-die fourth down in overtime, the SEC took one huge step toward locking down a spot in the second College Football Playoff.

Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry's wild lateral back to running back Alex Collins—and the subsequent conversion on the 4th-and-25 miracle play—kept the Razorbacks alive in their upset bid of No. 18 Ole Miss.

Two plays later, quarterback Brandon Allen found Drew Morgan for the signal-caller's sixth passing touchdown of the game, making it 52-51 in favor of the Rebels. Then, after a facemask call bailed him out of a game-ending sack, Allen plunged into the end zone on a gutsy two-point conversion to give Arkansas a 53-52 victory.

The win was monumental for the 5-4 Razorbacks, who moved closer to locking down bowl eligibility in a season that looked doomed after a 1-3 start. 

But, for the much-larger picture, the shootout upset almost completely eliminated the SEC's worst nightmare of being shut out of the all-important final four.  

Ole Miss entered Week 10 with total control of its path to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Dec. 5, despite its loss to fellow playoff contender and newly crowned SEC East champion Florida last month.

While the upset defeat at Group of Five foe Memphis virtually killed the Rebels' playoff hopes, they still had a shot at being the SEC West's ultimate spoiler.

A Week 3 road victory at now-No. 4 Alabama gave Ole Miss the all-important tiebreaker over the Crimson Tide. With a win over Arkansas on Saturday, the Rebels would have headed into a crucial bye week before their home matchup against No. 2 LSU.

Victories against LSU and Mississippi State to end the regular season would have punched Ole Miss' ticket to Atlanta to face Florida.

LSU and Alabama, no matter their overall records, wouldn't be able to get a shot at the conference title that the playoff committee presumably wants to see in its entrants.

However, Arkansas' unbelievable overtime performance erased that possibility and made Saturday night's heavyweight collision between LSU and Alabama even bigger. Athlon Sports' Braden Gall and SB Nation's Brandon Larrabee expressed the same sentiments, respectively:

Ole Miss now has to beat LSU and Mississippi State, have LSU drop another game on its schedule and have Alabama lose another SEC game in order to get to Atlanta.

To make matters even more complicated, Arkansas now holds the tiebreaker over Ole Miss and has the same number of SEC losses (two).

The Rebels making a miracle push is not impossible—especially in such a crazy college football season—but it's highly unlikely. Perhaps the toughest part of achieving that scenario would be Ole Miss winning back-to-games over LSU and Mississippi State.

The Rebels allowed 605 yards, with 442 coming through the air, against Arkansas on Saturday evening.

They gave up more than 300 passing yards in two of their previous three games heading into Week 10, and now they'll have to face LSU's much-improved quarterback Brandon Harris and Mississippi State's excellent quarterback Dak Prescott.

Ole Miss' offense can put up points and yards with the best of them, but the defense ultimately let the Rebels down in a playoff push and now an SEC West run. Head coach Hugh Freeze agreed that his defense's Saturday performance was a letdown (h/t Ole Miss Spirit's Ben Garrett):

Most eyes in the conference and the entire nation were already firmly on Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

Now they'll be fixed more intently on the winner of that game, which will control its own fate on the road to Atlanta and the College Football Playoff.

Things are much simpler now for the SEC—even though the path to get there was extremely complicated.

 

Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of CFBstats.comJustin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema Accidentally Combines His Thoughts, Results in TMI

Come on, Bret. There are some things you just don't share with the media.

After his Razorbacks pulled out an unbelievable 53-52 overtime victory over the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had an awkward moment at the podium during his postgame press conference when his thoughts got mixed together.

It was something that should've only been talked about between a husband and wife (if it was actually what he meant to say, of course).

Fortunately, Bielema immediately corrected himself and was able to laugh off the slip-up.

[Twitter

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

Oklahoma State pounded TCU 49-29 Saturday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, to move to 9-0 on the season. 

TCU struggled on defense as Oklahoma State shredded the secondary for numerous big passing plays and five touchdowns. The Cowboys defense was solid; although it gave up a lot of yards (665), it kept TCU off the scoreboard most of the night and forced four interceptions. 

The win puts Oklahoma State in the College Football Playoff discussion, while TCU’s hopes may be dashed. Here is a look at how each team graded out by unit.

Pass Offense: A wrist injury knocked out star receiver Josh Doctson just before halftime, which hindered TCU’s passing attack the rest of the game. Trevone Boykin racked up plenty of yards (445), but the offense struggled to turn those yards into points. Boykin tossed four picks, a career high, and only threw one touchdown. In the critical moments of the game, the passing offense was below TCU’s standards. The turnovers were costly, according to ESPN Stats and Info:

Run Offense: Oklahoma State went up big early, which forced TCU to focus on the passing game to catch up. After a slow first half of only 22 yards, Aaron Green ran well in the second half to finish with 97 yards and a touchdown. Boykin also contributed two scores on the ground. Yet, it was difficult for this unit to make a substantial impact with Oklahoma State scoring at such a high rate. 

Pass Defense: TCU’s secondary turned in one of the worst performances of any unit all season. It allowed touchdowns of 48, 50 and 74 yards to James Washington, and Marcell Ateman also scored from 82 yards away. The secondary looked confused and slow all night, which gave the team a minimal chance to win. The unit was laughable, according to Lost Lettermen: 

Run Defense: The defense actually did well in shutting down the Cowboys’ rushing attack. Oklahoma State finished with 81 yards on 26 carries, good for roughly three yards per carry. This was partly due to TCU’s penetration at the line of scrimmage and party because Oklahoma State figured out it could throw with ease on the Horned Frogs. Still, this unit was a bright spot for TCU. 

Special Teams: There was not much special teams could have done to change the outcome of the game, but they were still just average. Jaden Oberkrom, one of the better kickers in the Big 12, was 1-of-2 on field-goal attempts, but he missed his only meaningful kick, a 49-yarder in the first half, by a mile. However, KaVontae Turpin had some solid returns throughout the game, and punter Ethan Perry averaged 42 yards per boot. 

Coaching: When it became painfully obvious that the secondary was outmatched by Oklahoma State and Washington, it would have been smart to not leave him in single coverage. However, Washington burned TCU three times by dominating his man and running toward daylight. TCU failed to adjust on defense as the safeties were routinely caught too shallow in coverage. On offense, the unit made a nice second-half adjustment by turning to a quick passing attack to keep the Cowboys defense on its heels, but it was too late to make a difference. Head coach Gary Patterson put a lot of blame on himself following the game:

Passing Offense: Mason Rudolph was dominant throughout the game as he finished with 352 yards and five touchdowns through the air. Against a porous TCU secondary, Oklahoma State had its way all game. Washington was unstoppable. Here is a look at his third score of the day: 

Oklahoma State could have ended up with 600 yards passing if it kept pressing the whole game. This is undoubtedly one of the best passing attacks in college football. 

Run Offense: The Cowboys struggled to run the ball Saturday, but luckily they did not really need to. Raymond Taylor led the way with a measly 28 yards on nine carries, but J.W. Walsh was able to score on the goal line. This unit will need to do better in the future in order to balance out the offense more effectively. 

Passing Defense: Despite allowing nearly 500 yards passing, the Oklahoma State pass defense was solid. Star cornerback Kevin Peterson set the tone with his physical play, which disrupted TCU’s rhythm through the air. Chad Whitener had two of the Cowboys’ four interceptions, including this pick-six to end the game:

It would have been nice if the unit had allowed fewer yards, but Oklahoma State was excellent at keeping TCU off the scoreboard at critical moments of the game. 

Run Defense: This unit caught a break when Oklahoma State’s offense took a big lead early, which forced TCU to stick with the pass. The defense was in a preventive, pass-first strategy for the second half, so Green’s yardage comes with a slight asterisk. When the game mattered, the run defense was solid. 

Special Teams: Oklahoma State’s special teams were quiet. The team did not attempt a field goal, and the return game did not make an impact. Punter Zach Sinor was great, averaging 42 yards per boot while pinning TCU deep in its own territory multiple times, as head coach Mike Gundy noted:

Coaching: Gundy and the coaching staff quickly realized they could shred the TCU secondary and took advantage accordingly. Oklahoma State’s aggressiveness in the passing game was phenomenal and ultimately made the difference in the game. On defense, the team had an effective game plan to play physical with TCU’s receivers, which proved to be beneficial. Carson Cunningham of KOCO 5 in Oklahoma had high praise for Gundy:

Gundy is one of the most underrated coaches in the country, but people may finally start to appreciate him with another strong campaign this season. 

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Painful Loss to OSU Ends Trevone Boykin's Heisman Hopes, TCU's Playoff Shot

Nineteen plays. 89 yards. Seven minutes off the clock. 

That's how long and how far the TCU Horned Frogs drove midway through the fourth quarter, trailing by 19 but a touchdown away from being within striking distance. 

Except TCU needed 90 yards on the drive. 

Trevone Boykin was stopped a yard short on fourth down from the Oklahoma State Cowboys' 1-yard line, being pulled back by OSU's Kevin Peterson. 

As Peterson yanked the senior gunslinger away from the end zone, he was simultaneously pulling the plug on Boykin's Heisman hopes and TCU's playoff chances. 

Perhaps it was fitting that TCU's chances died on that play. It was illustrative of how the Horned Frogs' season has been thus far, particularly on the road. 

Trips to Lubbock, Texas, and Manhattan, Kansas, have been nightmares that, thanks largely to Boykin, TCU woke up from in time. 

Not this time. Not in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where a team and community that's been rattled to its core by tragedy was too powerful a force to overcome. 

The task of overcoming that wasn't made any easier when TCU star wideout Josh Doctson went down in the second quarter with a wrist injury. His status is still unclear, per Travis L. Brown of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 

The Big 12 is too top-heavy. Teams like Kansas, Iowa State and—if you can believe it—Texas hurt the conference's reputation in the committee's eyes. If the season ended today, its champion likely would miss out on the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. 

So for a Big 12 squad to have playoff chances, undefeated is the only way. From a league perspective, that now leaves just Baylor and Oklahoma State, the former beating Kansas State on Thursday. 

And while Boykin certainly has a viable chance to still earn an invite to New York City, ultimately Heisman voters look for players with that signature moment. 

When you picture Boykin now—and its unfair that this is reality—you'll see Peterson yanking him back from the end zone, falling short of a comeback attempt without his partner in crime—Doctson. 

Boykin is now not even the Big 12's best candidate. That honor likely belongs to Baylor wideout Corey Coleman, whose play against the Wildcats on Thursday made freshman starter Jarrett Stidham, who was starting his first ever college game, look like a star. 

On the flipside, Boykin's four interceptions kept his squad at arm's length from the Cowboys, despite furious attempts to rally. ESPN Stats & Info noted TCU had a record-setting performance; however, it was for the wrong reason:

The 2015 campaign, reminiscent of last year's, is still going to go down as one of TCU's best. The Horned Frogs likely won't have more than two losses, three at most realistically, and they'll be primed for a quality bowl game. If they win out, a trip to a "New Year's Six" bowl is a near-lock. Despite TCU's loss, fans still showed support for Boykin, as Carlos A. Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram highlighted:

But they won't be in the playoffs. And Boykin, with all his charisma, athleticism and stats, won't be hoisting college football's most coveted individual award.

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Alabama Pays Tribute to Kenny Stabler Prior to LSU Game

Even though some fans have been wearing black jerseys in remembrance, it hasn’t been the same at Bryant-Denny Stadium this season.

The warm smile, Southern gentlemanly disposition and silver hair have been noticeably absent from the place was that was essentially his second home for the past 50-plus years. Granted, the trips had been fewer of late, but his presence and influence can always be felt. That part, at least, will never change.

Saturday, the University of Alabama said goodbye with a special tribute to one of its fallen sons, heroes and icons, Kenny Stabler, who died in July from complications associated with colon cancer. The former quarterback and National Football League star who bled Crimson and White as much as anyone was 69. 

“He loved the University of Alabama; he truly did,” said Stabler’s oldest daughter Kendra Stabler Moyes, who along with the rest of the Stabler family was honored on the field before the LSU game. “He was proud to be from Alabama and of the University, and he always said so.”

One would be hard-pressed to find a Crimson Tide fan anywhere who doesn’t have some sort of Stabler story, which only adds to why his absence has been so noticeable. He wasn’t there when the 1965 national championship team was celebrated during Ole Miss weekend and would have described his throwing away the ball on fourth down all over again when Tennessee visited.

Meanwhile, former teammates like Jerry Duncan can still hear his voice in their heads, like when he would enter a huddle and say something such as: “Alright guys let’s take this thing down here, knock it in and get us a touchdown and go out tonight and have a good time.”

“He loved life and he loved to have a good time and he was a tremendous football player,” Duncan surmised.

So many people, so many tales that will continue to be told and handed down.  

“I’ve had the chance to be around some of the best to ever play college and pro football, and Kenny may have been one of the greatest competitors to ever play the game,” Nick Saban said. “He was not only an outstanding football player, he was an all-around great guy and someone I really enjoyed spending time with. We lost a legend.”

One retrospective comment that got Saban’s attention in particular was from Stabler’s former coach with the Raiders John Madden. In addition to saying “The hotter the game, the cooler he got,” he still maintains that if he had one drive to win a game and could pick any quarterback, past or present, he’d go with Stabler.

Saban called it the ultimate complement for a quarterback.

“You think that Kenny is one of those guys that whatever you throw in front of him, it’s not going to get him down. Then, when you hear Kenny Stabler died, it’s like a kick in the gut,” Madden told Raiders reporters in July.

“You think of the good times and the memories, all of the games and all of the practices and all of the meetings. No matter what you throw in front of him, he enjoyed it. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile. He was one of the greatest competitors ever.”

From 1973, when he took over the starting job, Stabler quarterbacked the Raiders to a 50-11-1 regular-season record over an amazing five years and helped lead a 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.

Overall he played 10 seasons for the Raiders (1970-79), and also briefly with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, en route to 194 touchdown passes (222 interceptions) and 27,398 passing yards. His record as an NFL starter was 94-49-1, and he ended up playing in more “name” games than anyone, including “The Ghost to the Post,” “The Holy Roller” and “The Sea of Hands.” Named All-Pro three times, he was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year in 1974, and both the Player of the Year and passing champion in 1976.

But his legacy was arguably even greater at Alabama, where he followed Joe Namath and Steve Sloan, and after taking over as the starting quarterback led the 11-0 season of 1966 that didn’t result in the national championship. Pollsters instead rewarded Notre Dame for pulling off a tie at Michigan State, which remains sore subject to many Crimson Tide fans.

“That ’66 team, he rarely got his uniform dirty at all because no one ever touched him,” joked Duncan, which was ironic for the player known for the “Run in the Mud,” a 47-yard touchdown that was the difference in a 7-3 victory against Auburn in the 1967 Iron Bowl.

Stabler compiled a collegiate starting record of 28-3-2, including a dominating 34-7 victory against Nebraska in the 1967 Sugar Bowl to be named the game’s most valuable player. After his playing career concluded, he again became a fixture in Tuscaloosa while working a color analyst for Alabama football games on the Crimson Tide Sports Network from 1998-2007.

By then he was more than viewed as being a state treasure. 

Stabler was born Christmas Day in 1945 in Foley, Alabama, where he was a highly regarded high school player, and it was after a long, winding touchdown run that coach Denzel Hollis first called him “Snake.” Over the years he raised a lot of money for local charities and spent most of his final years in the Gulf Shores area.

“There is no way to describe the pride an Alabama player feels in himself and the tradition of the school,” Stabler once said about the love affair he had with the university and its fans, and his influence reached both near and far.

AJ McCarron, who also hailed from Mobile and won three national championships, considers Stabler the greatest quarterback in Alabama history, while NFL quarterback Jake Plummer (1997-2006) and professional wrestler Jake Roberts both adopted his Snake nickname as a tribute.

He was part of the famous "Great Taste...Less Filling!" ad campaign by Miller Lite, and when with the Houston Oilers had his own soft drink called Snake Venom (and later admitted in his autobiography that it "tasted about like its name.”)

As a result, when the man who seemed to collect friends and memories like they were the most valuable commodities died, people reached out in droves any way they could, with the family receiving thousands of cards, emails and messages. They were simply overwhelmed.

“We knew that he was loved, but we had no idea the magnitude,” Moyes said. “They were from all over the world, from places like Japan and Germany, and the really cool thing was that 95 percent of the messages had the same theme, about how he made them feel. ‘He made me feel so special.’”

Above all else that may have been Stabler’s greatest gift. Sure he played the rebel part while leading the Raiders, often with a mischievous grin, and maybe he made as many headlines off the field as on. But when a game started, he was all business, and when it was over, he was all charm.

“Travelling the country with him was truly like traveling with a rock star,” said Stabler’s radio broadcast partner Eli Gold. “He’d walk through the airport, and it would take forever because folks would want his autograph, [would want to] take pictures and he’d never turn down a request for any of that. He was just one of those people that everybody knew.

“Kenny loved people, and people loved Kenny. If you didn’t like Kenny Stabler you’ve got a problem. He was just a great, great guy. … The fact that he’s gone now is very, very sad.”

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Did Jimbo Fisher Make the Right Call Starting Sean Maguire over Everett Golson?

Hindsight is 20-20, but Florida State's decision to start backup quarterback Sean Maguire over normal starter Everett Golson felt curious in the moment and even more curious after the Noles lost 23-13 at Clemson.

Golson missed the Syracuse game with a concussion, but he was cleared, dressed and standing on the sideline, while Maguire completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards, no touchdowns and one interception in Death Valley.

Running back Dalvin Cook broke the second play from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown, but after that the Noles scored only six points (no touchdowns) on 11 drives. They drove into the red zone on their second drive, threatening to take a two-score lead, but Maguire threw an ugly interception and never looked the same the rest of the night. Cox Media Group's Benjamin Bornstein provided highlights of the interception:

The pick was Maguire's biggest, most overt mistake, but he also hurt the offense with three delay-of-game penalties.

Losing five yards a pop on the road against the No. 1 team in the country is a bad way to try and spring an upset.

It led Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com to call Clemson's crowd the game's MVP:

Golson has struggled with pre-snap stuff too, but never to the extent Maguire has. He also has experience playing well in road environments, as Florida State learned when he led Notre Dame, his former team, into Doak-Campbell Stadium last season.

And that's not to mention how he started the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

He would not have been afraid of the stage.

Maguire, on the other hand, learned that starting at Clemson is harder than hosting Syracuse. The numbers he posted against the Orange—23 of 35 completions for 348 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions—presumably played a role in his earning the starting nod.

But the Death Valley stage looked too big for him. He's not the sole reason Florida State lost, but he never provided a threat to help it win.

"[We] felt Maguire was the best option going into the game," head coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters after the loss, per Noles 247.

In that case, he was patently wrong.

Cook played like a Heisman candidate, rushing 21 times for 194 yards. The defense held an offense fresh off two straight 50-point games to 23 points. Even punter Cason Beatty, one of the least popular players on the roster, played the best game of his career on special teams.

The only thing FSU missed on Saturday night was a passing game.

Maguire never gave it a chance.

It's natural to blame the head coach when he makes a hard decision between two quarterbacks and then the guy he picks loses.

To be clear: Starting Golson would not have been a cure-all for FSU's problems. It likely would have still lost the game.

Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation thinks it would have lost by as much or more:

In this case, though, it's a matter of ceiling.

Golson—the way he's played this year—would have led FSU to a similar result. But Golson—the way he's capable of playing and the way he's proven, unlike Maguire, he can will himself to play on a big stage—could have pushed FSU over the edge.

The Noles are in their version of a rebuilding year, but they entered the week 7-1 and with a real chance to win the ACC. Clemson has a better all-around team, but the difference is minimal. If they pushed their chips to the middle of the table, they could have caught enough breaks to pull the upset.

Instead they played it safe and tried to beat Clemson straight up. That's noble, but it was probably ill-advised. Golson was more likely to implode and cost FSU the game, but he was also more likely to explode and single-handedly lead the win.

That's what the Seminoles needed.

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Oklahoma State Emerges from Tragedy to Become Serious Threat to Make Playoff

Two weeks ago in the middle of another bucolic homecoming celebration in Stillwater, tragedy struck again for an Oklahoma State fanbase that has sadly become all too familiar with the pain of devastating loss.

Another senseless act of violence at the university—four people killed in a parade allegedly at the hands of a potentially mentally ill woman who was suspected of driving under the influence—turned an otherwise uplifting weekend celebration of being a Cowboy into an incomprehensible Saturday of guilt.

A few hours after the accident not too far from Boone Pickens Stadium, after OSU wound up beating Kansas 58-10, the community that had drawn so close through dark times rallied again to move forward.

So too did their beloved football team. After squeaking out wins against Texas (thanks to a botched punt snap), Kansas State (by two) and West Virginia (in overtime), Oklahoma State has turned into a team consumed with energy and a relentless attack on both sides of the ball.

In doing so, the team has not just served as a feel-good story in the wake of that tragedy. No, the Cowboys have moved from an underrated and skeptical squad into a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.

That could not have been more evident as they swarmed and overwhelmed previously undefeated TCU 49-29 in a game that was not quite as close as the score made it appear Saturday in Stillwater.

They were fast and physical along the defensive line, led by All-American candidate Emmanuel Ogbah’s continuous pressure. Linebacker Chad Whitener was everywhere on his way to a 12-tackle night, including two interceptions (one for a score) and a thunderous goal-line stuff of TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin to salt the game away late in the fourth quarter.

Then there was the big-play offense that continued to look like one of the most explosive in the Big 12— and that’s saying something.

Wideout James Washington had five catches and scored on three of them—each time running over 48 yards to the house. The two-headed attack at quarterback with Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh wasn’t quite as effective on the ground, but they didn’t need to be with Rudolph launching bombs over the Horned Frogs pass defense with regularity.

After a half-dozen weeks of wondering just how good the Cowboys were, the nation found out in a big way Saturday—a very big way.

It is not quite time to call Mike Gundy’s team the favorite in the Big 12 just yet with Baylor still undefeated and Oklahoma looking promising, but after putting up 70 on Texas Tech last week and 49 on a TCU squad that was starting to get healthy, it is certainly time to start taking them seriously as a threat to make the College Football Playoff. The Pokes' path is clear, and they're following it.

On the other sideline, Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs likely saw their thin hopes of making the final four slip away as easily as the ball seemed to out of their hands. Boykin wound up throwing four interceptions to see his Heisman campaign abruptly end, and he lost his favorite target (and a Biletnikoff Award front-runner) Josh Doctson to a wrist injury.

The dynamic receiver did not return for the second half and could be lost for the rest of the year just as the team’s schedule starts to get difficult. And after Patterson boasted about his defense earlier in the week, that unit was the primary culprit in a loss that saw the team lose by 20 despite running 110 plays for 663 yards.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, sat at No. 14 in the selection committee's rankings from earlier this week and figure to see a big boost in their position Tuesday after one of the team's most impressive wins of the year.

And in the middle of announcing to the nation that they were for real on the national scene this season, Oklahoma State also reminded everybody that it’ll close the Big 12’s back-loaded month of November in Stillwater with its raucous crowd cheering it on.

After a trip to lowly Iowa State next week, both Baylor and Oklahoma will travel to the unfriendly confines of the Orange and Black.

On Fox, in a postgame press conference, following the win against TCU, Gundy got a little emotional when talking about his team’s effort. He brought up the great fan support the team had received and noted just how sweet this success was in the wake of what happened just two short weeks ago.

As a school alum, the Cowboys head coach has sadly become a veteran at leading his team through difficult times on and off the field, but 2015 might be his greatest accomplishment yet.

Who knows, it might even be his best team yet given how much it's grown recently.

College football is a season filled with emotional swings from the bottom to the top. Few know that better than Oklahoma State, which has turned into a nearly unstoppable force since learning of an unspeakable tragedy and has given the team’s fans something to believe in between the lines.

The university community—especially the families affected by an unfathomable tragedy—still have a long road to recovery off the field. But for a few hours each Saturday at least, the Cowboys have come together and looked like a team that makes it easy to be proud of its effort.

Such a strong team, in fact, that anything is possible. Even a trip to the playoff isn’t out of the cards for a fanbase that has been through so much.

 

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Arkansas vs. Ole Miss: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Quarterback Brandon Allen rushed for a two-point conversion in overtime as the Arkansas Razorbacks outlasted the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels, 53-52, Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi.

The 5-4 Razorbacks severely hurt the Rebels' chances of winning the SEC West Division and dropped them to 4-2 in conference play and 7-3 overall.

Per Saturday Down South, Saturday's contest was the second-highest-scoring game in the series:

Despite the Rebels playing as heavy favorites, the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum predicted this would be a tough one for Ole Miss:

The Razorbacks took a huge step toward becoming bowl-eligible after a 1-3 start to the season. If they do play in a bowl, they will have Hunter Henry to thank. The SEC on CBS shared video footage of this heads-up, game-saving play by Henry on 4th-and-25:

Had he not had the presence of mind to lateral the ball, Ole Miss would have left victorious.

Running back Alex Collins returned the lateral 26 yards to the Ole Miss 11-yard line for a first down. Allen hit Drew Morgan for a nine-yard touchdown two plays later, setting up his game-wining two-point conversion.

Jason McIntyre of Fox Sports Radio summed up what most viewers were probably thinking after Arkansas pulled off the unlikely upset:

In a game that featured 14 touchdowns, the first 10 minutes were surprisingly scoreless before Arkansas jumped out on top with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Morgan. The teams traded touchdowns for the rest of the half, and then two field goals in the final minute, as they went into the break tied at 17-17.

Allen had himself quite a half, per ESPN College Football:

Defense was optional in the second half as the teams combined to score 56 points. Laquon Treadwell's big game set a school record, per the Rebels' official Twitter account:

Collins reached an impressive milestone himself after a 108-yard performance on the ground, per the Razorbacks' official Twitter account:

But they were not the only players with big games. 

Chad Kelly of Ole Miss threw for 368 yards and had six total touchdowns. Allen threw for 442 yards and six touchdowns. Ole Miss fans were not happy that he shredded their defense, per the Oxford Police Department:

It doesn't get any easier for Ole Miss, who has to host No. 2 LSU on Nov. 21 and then hit the road Nov. 28 against No. 20 Mississippi State.

The Razorbacks will play LSU in their next game as well Nov. 14, and this win could build momentum as they prepare for Leonard Fournette and the Tigers.

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

The No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys likely spoiled the No. 8 TCU Horned Frogs' hopes of a national championship Saturday with a convincing 49-29 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.

It was a two-man show featuring Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington, who proved to be an unstoppable pair.

Rudolph threw four touchdowns in the first half on his way to a 352-yard, five-touchdown day. Three of those scores went to Washington, who made big things happen every time he touched the ball. Washington hauled in five catches for 184 yards.

TCU quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin made the first mistake of the day when Jordan Burton picked him off within the game's first two-and-a-half minutes. Oklahoma State made the Horned Frogs pay for it.

After just missing a wide-open receiver on a deep ball for a surefire touchdown, Rudolph tried again on the following play and hit Washington for a 48-yard touchdown and a Cowboys lead. 

Fox Sports shared the replay:

Long touchdowns are nothing new for Washington, as Tulsa World's Mark Cooper pointed out:

Boykin went on to make more mistakes throughout the day, going 35-of-57 for 445 yards and four interceptions.

Aided by two defensive penalties in the secondary, TCU found a quick answer to Washington's strike with Boykin's one-yard rush. It was the 22nd consecutive game in which the Horned Frogs scored a first-quarter touchdown, currently the longest streak in the nation and a conference record, according to the Fox telecast. 

The ensuing extra point, though, was blocked, and Oklahoma State had a 7-6 lead. 

But it was deja vu for TCU on the next drive as Rudolph went deep again to Washington, this time for 50 yards, helping extend Oklahoma State's lead to 14-6.

No, it wasn't a replay of the first touchdown, as ESPN College Football showed:

WFAA's Mike Leslie had some advice for the TCU defense:

It turns out that the Horned Frogs couldn't stop anyone in the first half—not just Washington, as Rudolph continued to have a field day.

He hit Jeff Carr for a 12-yard touchdown pass to open the second quarter. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that this was a new low for TCU's defense:

Rudolph then bombed one to Marcell Ateman for 82 yards to help put Oklahoma State up 28-9 and hand TCU its largest deficit of the season.

It was Oklahoma State's easiest touchdown of the half, as Ateman just wandered behind the secondary and was wide-open for Rudolph, as the Big 12 Conference showed:

Things went from bad to worse for TCU, which saw its leading wide receiver, Josh Doctson, go down with a wrist injury after his sixth reception of the day.

Freelance journalist David Ubben knew it didn't look good for the receiver:

Doctson did not return to the game.

The teams traded a pair of one-yard touchdowns to open the second half. Boykin's second thrown interception of the game set up Oklahoma State's fifth touchdown, a one-yard rush by J.W. Walsh, which Boykin followed by picking up his second score. 

But Boykin threw his third interception of the day on TCU's following drive. Then came another big play from Rudolph and Washington.

This time, it was a 74-yard touchdown, Rudolph's third of the day in his coming-out party. The Big 12 Conference shared the replay:

It was not a bad performance for a wide receiver who flew under almost every big school's radar, as OrangeBloods.com's Geoff Ketchum pointed out:

The Horned Frogs attempted to mount a comeback, but time was against them, as they had 15 minutes to make up 26 points.

Boykin finally threw his first touchdown of the game to start the fourth quarter, a 32-yard pass to Kolby Listenbee. It was his 24th straight game with a touchdown pass, the longest active streak in the FBS, according to the Fox telecast.

With two minutes and 29 seconds remaining, Aaron Green made it a two-possession game with a one-yard touchdown rush, but TCU was unable to convert the two-point conversion.

Oklahoma State's defense put the icing on the cake after Chad Whitener picked Boykin off for a second time, returning it for a touchdown. Boykin had never thrown four interceptions in a game before he encountered Oklahoma State on Saturday. It was an emphatic way to end the night and announce to the nation that the Cowboys are a team that must be taken seriously moving forward.

Post-Game Reaction

While one Big 12 team falls out of the national championship race, another takes its place as Oklahoma State made a great case to move into the top-10 of the College Football Playoff Rankings. 

For a team that started the season unranked, it's been quite the rise for the Cowboys as Mike Gundy simply summed it up after the win on Saturday:

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Notre Dame's Newfound Level of Offensive Efficiency Is Key to Making Playoff

With its 42-30 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame football accomplished part one of the four-stage sequence standing between the Irish and a playoff berth after they debuted at No. 5 in this week’s College Football Playoff ranking.

“We need to win three more games,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly answered succinctly when asked what Notre Dame needs to do to solidify playoff positioning.

And on Saturday in the Steel City, Notre Dame turned in a thorough offensive performance en route to the victory. The Irish chalked up 437 yards of total offense and committed just one turnover—backup quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s fumble with less than two minutes to play in regulation.

“We needed to be very efficient on offense today, and we were,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “I think that was the difference today. … I think that was the best performance of our offensive line to date this year—most consistent, I would say, probably the most consistent performance for four quarters.”

Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer completed 19 of 26 passes for 262 yards and five touchdowns through the air, plus a two-yard rumble in the fourth quarter to stretch Notre Dame’s lead to 42-17 at the time.

The Panthers entered Saturday tied for 37th in the country in scoring defense (22.1 points per game) and tied for 26th in total defense 325.3 (yards allowed per game).

But the Irish throttled Pittsburgh, as freshman running back Josh Adams collected 147 rushing yards on 20 attempts (7.3 yards per carry) with starter C.J. Prosise only playing the first quarter due to what Kelly later called an upper-body issue.

Star wide receiver Will Fuller hauled in three touchdowns in a seven-catch, 152-yard afternoon. Notre Dame, which began the day 85th in the country in red-zone touchdown percentage (57.6 percent), scored four touchdowns on four trips inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line.

“As a unit we wanted them to be more alert and recognize play calls in that area and just a heightened awareness of where we were, when we were making these calls and more of a sense that we had to be more efficient in there,” Kelly said.

That efficiency helped Notre Dame to an 8-1 record, with regular-season games against Wake Forest, Boston College and Stanford remaining. While the Demon Deacons and Eagles are two of the 12 worst scoring offenses in the FBS, Stanford pairs a stout offense (36.4 points per game entering Saturday) with a strong defense (21.5 points per game).

The Cardinal, led by do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey, have the firepower to expose Notre Dame’s defense, which continues to show holes, especially on the back end of the unit. Against the Panthers, Notre Dame allowed plays of 37, 26, 27, 27, 21, 37, 20, 24, 21 and 51 yards.

But an increasingly efficient offense can help support a hit-or-miss defense. So can Notre Dame sustain its offensive efficiency over these final three weeks of the regular season? The Irish will be tested against three units—Wake Forest (45th in scoring defense), Boston College (third) and Stanford (33rd)—that rank among the better defenses in the country.

One down. Three to go.

 

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

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

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Marcus Smith Injury: Updates on North Texas TE's Lower Back and Return

North Texas Mean Green tight end Marcus Smith suffered a lower-back injury during Saturday's 56-13 loss to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, according to the program's official Twitter account

Continue for updates. 

Smith Taken Off on Stretcher as a Precaution Saturday, Nov. 7

According to North Texas, Smith was moving around before being placed on the stretcher. Sean Isabella of the News-Star reported Smith was taken to the hospital to undergo tests.

A senior, Smith tied a season high with four catches for 37 yards before exiting Saturday's contest.

Considering Smith's freshman season was truncated because of injury, it would be a shame to see his final campaign with the Mean Green follow a similar route.

But given the events that unfolded Saturday, North Texas will be happy if the tight end can make a complete recovery following the scary scene.

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College Football Scores 2015: Week 10 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

Notre Dame was in a tricky position as it headed to Pittsburgh for its first game since landing the lofty No. 5 position in the season's first College Football Playoff poll.

The Fighting Irish are regularly in their opponents' sights when they head out on the road, and the Panthers had the firepower to put a crimp in the visitors' season. Running back Jordan Whitehead and wide receiver Tyler Boyd occupied Notre Dame's preparations. 

Notre Dame was more than up to the task as the Fighting Irish never trailed in registering a 42-30 victory. Quarterback DeShone Kizer threw five TD passes and ran for another to lead the way for the Irish.

The Panthers were able to fight back throughout the game as Whitehead ran for two touchdowns and Boyd caught three passes for 84 yards, but Notre Dame held the lead throughout the game.

Will Fuller dominated the Pittsburgh defense with seven catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns, while Torii Hunter Jr. also caught a TD pass.

The Fighting Irish also received a solid contribution on the ground from Josh Adams, who carried 20 times for 147 yards. Adams was thrust into action after starting running back C.J. Prosise left the game with a concussion and a shoulder injury, according to CBS Sports.

 

 

Stars of the Week

RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern

The No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats needed a late 35-yard field goal from Jack Mitchell to survive a tough battle with Penn State and emerge with a 23-21 victory.

Justin Jackson played a key role in the win, as he carried 28 times for 186 yards to give the Northwestern offense the push it needed. The Wildcats had built a 20-7 lead before Penn State came back to take a one-point lead, but Jackson's ability to carry the ball and grind out key first downs on the final drive helped set up Mitchell's game-winning field goal.

Northwestern's starting quarterback Clayton Thorson had to leave the game early with an injury, and backup Zack Oliver had to take his place. While Oliver did a serviceable job and threw a TD pass, the Wildcats needed a big game from Jackson and he came through with several big runs in the second half as the Wildcats earned the victory.

 

QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State 

While Trevone Boykin of TCU may be one of the leading quarterbacks in the nation and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, it was Mason Rudolph who stole the show in 14th-ranked Oklahoma State's 49-29 victory over eighth-ranked TCU.

Rudolph was razor sharp in his passing throughout the game, and the Cowboys quarterback completed 16-of-24 passes for 352 yards and five TDs in the victory. 

The 6'4", 220-pound quarterback from Rock Hill, South Carolina has thrown 17 TD passes this season for the Cowboys.

 

QB Jake Rudock, Michigan

Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock was razor sharp as the 17th-ranked Wolverine ran roughshod over Rutgers in a 49-16 victory at Michigan Stadium.

Rudock completed 18-of-25 passes for 337 yards with two touchdowns and did not throw an interception. Rudock also scored a touchdown on a four-yard run in the first quarter.

After the game, Rudock explained on the Big Ten Network broadcast how he was able to throw for a career-high in yardage. "I give credit to the big guys up front," Rudock said. "They gave me the time I needed to find my receivers and deliver the ball."

 

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FSU vs. Clemson: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The top-ranked Clemson Tigers survived their final major regular-season hurdle with a gutsy 23-13 victory over the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles on Saturday in Death Valley, winning the ACC Atlantic Division and securing a spot in the conference title game in the process.

In gritty fashion, Clemson silenced its proverbial stigma of blowing its championship hopes late in the season—mostly based on past performances in this matchup—and verified its perch atop the College Football Playoff rankings.

Clemson is 9-0 for the first time since its 1981 national championship season, according to ESPN Stats & Info, and head coach Dabo Swinney is confident that this year will see a similar outcome, per ESPN College Football:

Clemson took its first lead of the game on a 38-yard touchdown reception from Deon Cain in the third quarter. The Tigers scored on a 25-yard run by Wayne Gallman with just over two minutes remaining in the game to take a 10-point lead, then recovered a fumble on the ensuing drive to secure the victory.

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports praised Clemson's play-calling after the Cain's touchdown:

The Tigers did look vulnerable, however. They trailed for most of the first 34-plus minutes and allowed 194 rushing yards to FSU Heisman Trophy hopeful Dalvin Cook.

The Seminoles were also without starting quarterback Everett Golson—though he was cleared to play, per Jared Shanker of ESPN.com—and backup Sean Maguire looked pedestrian, at best, finishing 16-of-29 for 165 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Lost Letterman highlighted that Maguire was holding the Seminoles back:

Florida State's hopes of reaching its second straight CFP are dashed after the team's second loss, which eliminated it from ACC championship contention. The Seminoles can play spoiler in their regular-season finale against the rival and SEC East champion Florida Gators. 

That’s not to say the Seminoles didn’t play respectably. They took an early lead in convincing fashion behind Cook in his first game back from an ankle injury that he suffered in Week 8. 

The sophomore gave the Seminoles a 7-0 lead on their second play from scrimmage with an explosive 75-yard touchdown run. SB Nation captured video of the run and explained how good Cook's start was against a Clemson defense that entered the game ranked 13th in the FBS against the ground attack:

Clemson's Heisman hopeful, quarterback Deshaun Watson, tallied 297 pass yards and a touchdown while adding another 107 yards on the ground. 

The win was Clemson’s first over Florida State since 2011. The Tigers will play Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina—a combined 9-18—to finish the regular season before the ACC title game Dec. 5 in Charlotte, likely against North Carolina.

 

Postgame Reaction

Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated captured the Clemson crowd taking in its tradition of celebrating with the team following a big win:

Swinney hinted at his high hopes by citing Saturday’s game as the first among three major goals, along with winning the ACC title and reaching the playoff. Per Brett McMurphy of ESPN, Swinney crafted a creative metaphor on the Tigers' outlook:

It may seem like a cakewalk to the playoff, but Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde offered warranted speculation at Clemson’s likely opponent in the ACC title game: 

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher fell to 4-2 in his career against Clemson but offered optimism about the Seminoles’ upcoming finish to the season, per Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation:

The Seminoles can still finish a very respectable 10-2, squander the playoff hopes of their in-state rivals at Florida and qualify for a top-tier bowl game.

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LSU vs. Alabama: Live Score and Highlights

LSU 0, Alabama 0—Early 1st Quarter

It's always fun when Alabama and LSU get together for their annual SEC West bash, but it's even more fun when there are massive postseason implications. Saturday night, the No. 4 LSU Tigers hit the road to take on the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide.

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Kansas vs. Texas: Live Score and Highlights

Texas 10, Kansas 0—1st Quarter

A short Nick Rose field goal gives Texas an early double-digit lead.

Coverage of Saturday's Big 12 action can be found on the Longhorn Network. Follow this page throughout for live updates and analysis.

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Minnesota vs. Ohio State: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 0, Minnesota 0 — Early 1st quarter

Game action is now underway between No. 3 Ohio State (8-0) and Minnesota (4-4). ABC is televising the matchup nationally from Columbus, Ohio.

Here we provide live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Oxford Police Dept. Tells Ole Miss Fans to Stop Calling to Report Arkansas QB

No, Ole Miss fans, the Oxford Police Department cannot remove Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen from the stadium during the game—even if he is abusing the Rebels defense.

Allen has been terrorizing Ole Miss so much Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that Rebels fans have apparently been calling the police to try to get him out of the game. Seriously.

Sorry, Rebels fans. It looks like the defense is going to have to figure out a way to stop Allen by itself.

Note: Allen was 26-of-33 with 339 yards and four touchdowns with 10 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

[Oxford Police Department]

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Josh Doctson Injury: Updates on TCU Star's Wrist and Return

TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Josh Doctson suffered an apparent wrist injury Saturday against Oklahoma State, according to ESPN.com's Travis Haney.  

Continue for updates.

Doctson Doubtful to Return Saturday, Nov. 7

ESPN.com's Chris Low provided the update on Doctson's status after the wideout hit the turf hard in the second quarter. 

Jared Christopher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram indicated TCU head coach Gary Patterson wasn't pleased with the play that produced the injury: 

TCU has one of the most dynamic offenses in the entire country, but Doctson’s injury represents a crucial blow if he is forced to miss significant time. He turned the corner during his junior season in 2014, with 1,018 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches, more than doubling his production in both categories from the previous year.

He was expected to continue that production as one of the most talented wide receivers in the country, heading into the 2015 campaign as quarterback Trevone Boykin’s favorite target.

In fact, before the season started, Brandon Chatmon of ESPN.com wrote that Doctson could be the best wide receiver prospect for the 2016 NFL draft in the entire Big 12.

The loss of Doctson would hamper the Horned Frogs offense, and it hurts even more considering Emanuel Porter and Ty Slanina have both been plagued by injuries. 

However, it doesn’t hurt that Boykin is one of the best players in the country and can beat opposing defenses with his legs if Doctson isn’t there to get open downfield.

Still, life will be more difficult for TCU without its best wide receiver. Doctson’s presence alone creates openings for the other pass-catchers and the running game, because opposing defenses focus so much attention his way.

TCU held national championship aspirations entering the 2015 season. It needs Doctson back on the field if it hopes to turn those dreams into a reality.

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Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Live Score and Highlights

Auburn 14, Texas A&M 3—Mid 2nd Quarter

We are underway in College Station as the No. 19 Texas A&M Aggies (6-2, 3-2) host the Auburn Tigers (4-4, 1-4) in an SEC clash..

You can watch live on the SEC Network, but make sure to stay right here for the latest news, notes, analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

The official box score is available at NCAA.com

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