NCAA Football News

Ed Feng's Week 11 College Football Playoff Standings Predictions

How will the College Football Playoff committee rank teams this Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern? 

We use analytics to make an educated guess. Based on last week's committee rankings, my algorithm adjusts teams based on the most recent opponent and margin of victory.

Teams that win keep their place unless they need overtime to beat Jacksonville State. Teams that lose drop—but not as much if they lose to a Top 10 team. You get the idea.

Let's look at the top movers from Week 10.

Alabama surges to No. 2 after shutting down Fournette, LSU

Leonard Fournette picked the wrong game to forget his Superman cape. Either that or Alabama's defenders had Kryptonite in their helmets, as they held the LSU star to 31 yards on 16 carries.

LSU QB Brandon Harris picked up the slack in the first half with a gorgeous touchdown to Travin Dural that kept the game close at halftime. However, Harris threw an early second-half interception that started the Alabama rout.

Alabama's convincing 30-16 win allows it to take over LSU's second spot in the committee rankings. With the loss, LSU drops to 11th among a slew of other one-loss teams.

The Crimson Tide gave LSU a heavy dose of Derrick Henry, who looked like a true Heisman candidate en route to 210 yards and three touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry. This strategy should also work against future opponents Mississippi State and Auburn, both of which struggle in run defense.

In addition to the Alabama win, Ole Miss lost to Arkansas in overtime. With this second conference loss for the Rebels, Alabama will win the SEC West if it wins the two remaining games. Once again, Nick Saban has his team in its usual spot: contending for a national title.

 

Oklahoma State rises with convincing win over TCU

When a team gains almost 200 yards more than its opponent, it usually wins the game. It almost never loses by 20.

However, TCU accomplished this tragic feat against Oklahoma State, as Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin threw four interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. A goal-line stand by Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter also helped the Cowboys win 49-29.

The big win vaults a still-unbeaten Oklahoma State into the Top 10 of the committee rankings. But how good is this team? Oklahoma State entered the weekend 23rd in my rankings that drive the Bleacher Report playoff odds. Winning its first three Big 12 games by a total of 12 points hurts them in my numbers.

The Cowboys also didn't make the top 10 in two other trusted computer rankings: Jeff Sagarin (14th) and Massey-Peabody (21st). Oklahoma State will move up in computer rankings with the win over TCU but most likely not into the Top 10.  

Oklahoma State still has two monumental opportunities to impress the committee in home games against Baylor and Oklahoma. While the Cowboys will be underdogs in both games, the committee will have no choice but to put a 12-0 team into the playoff.

 

Clemson solidifies top spot in rankings

Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware had quite a game. With the Tigers nursing a three-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Boulware stuffed Florida State's Dalvin Cook on 4th-and-short. In case that wasn't enough, Boulware then stripped Travis Rudolph on the next drive to seal the game for the Tigers, who won 23-13.

With a 10-point win over a ranked opponent, the algorithm would normally move Clemson ahead of another team. But since the committee ranked Clemson first and my algorithm now works off these rankings (instead of the AP poll), the Tigers hold onto the top spot.

Clemson finishes up the season with Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina—not exactly a murderers' row of opponents. In the ACC championship game, the Tigers should be eight-point favorites over North Carolina, their projected opponent.

Clemson has not only earned the top spot in the committee rankings but also has the easiest path to the playoff. When Bleacher Report reveals its playoff probabilities Tuesday night, Clemson will most likely have greater than a 75 percent chance to make the final four teams.

 

Ed Feng has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Stanford and runs sports analytics site The Power Rank. You can find him on Twitter @thepowerrank.

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Why Notre Dame Is the True Big Winner in College Football's Shake-Up Saturday

The biggest of many winners from college football's "shake-up Saturday" was Notre Dame, which not only beat Pittsburgh but also, by virtue of what happened around it, essentially guaranteed that running the table would land it in the College Football Playoff.

Conspiracy theorists will say that was true before Saturday—ain't no way they're snubbing Notre Dame and its guaranteed television ratings—but now the 11-1 Irish would deserve a playoff spot based on any objective survey of resumes.

The only realistic scenario in which they don't make the playoff is one with three undefeated conference champions and one-loss Alabama. That is theoretically possible, but it's unlikely enough that Notre Dame, after Week 10, can feel pretty good about its lot.

Let's review some of the key things that happened to help the Irish.

 

1. Notre Dame Beats Pittsburgh, 42-30

This one is self-explanatory. DeShone Kizer threw for 262 yards and five touchdowns, 152 and three of which went to Will Fuller, and the Irish earned a quality road win over a team that was ranked in Week 9. They now play Boston College and Wake Forest, a pair that is 0-11 against the other 12 ACC teams, before heading to Stanford in the season finale.

 

2. Clemson Beats Florida State, 23-13

Notre Dame's quality loss remained a quality loss. No. 1 Clemson survived against its biggest rival, beating Florida State on the strength of quarterback Deshaun Watson, a dominant defense and timely screen passes to ice the game away. The Irish lost by two in Death Valley during a hurricane, so as long as the Tigers keep winning, it's hard to see any one-loss team (save Alabama) ranking ahead of them.

Speaking of which.…

 

3. Alabama Beats LSU, 30-16

The key here is that Alabama left no doubt in its win over LSU, outclassing the Tigers for 60 convincing minutes. A late score made things look more respectable, but the Crimson Tide outgained the Tigers 434-182, holding Leonard Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries. Contrast that to Notre Dame's loss at Clemson, and you'll see how this plays well for the Irish. A close loss at Alabama would have rivaled ND's close loss at Clemson. This loss, however, does not.

 

4. Nebraska Beats Michigan State, 39-38

Speaking of potential one-loss teams that might have outranked Notre Dame: Michigan State dropped the ball. The Spartans melted down at Nebraska, losing on a controversial call and forfeited their margin for error next week when they head to Ohio State. Prior to Saturday's loss, MSU could have lost a close game in Columbus, finished 11-1 and had a one-loss resume commensurate with that of the Irish. Now that long-discussed point becomes moot.

 

5. Navy Beats Memphis, 45-20

It's not just the quality loss propping Notre Dame's resume above other one-loss teams; it's the unexpected quality wins. Chief among those wins is Navy, which upset No. 13 Memphis and remained undefeated against teams that aren't the Irish. The Midshipmen rushed for 374 yards in the win and are on track to reach an access bowl if they finish 11-1. Temple struggled on Friday night, but it and Navy might both be ranked come Tuesday.

That's a convincing list. And all from one day, too!

The Irish did lose running back C.J. Prosise to an upper body injury, but freshman Josh Adams emerged with 147 rushing yards, and head coach Brian Kelly said after the game that Prosise is "doing pretty good right now" and called him day-to-day, per ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna.

It sounds like he'll be back when Notre Dame needs him.

The only other thing that didn't go right for the Irish was that Stanford looked great (and avoided major injuries) in a 42-10 win at Colorado.

Unless the Irish choke against BC or Wake, they will travel to Palo Alto in what amounts, at least to them, as a national quarterfinal. Win and they make the semis. Lose and they go home.

If Stanford enters with one loss, that game will actually be a semifinal. 

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College Football's Ultimate Villain, Alabama, Reigns on Shake-Up Saturday

Like a collection of supersized, supercharged monsters, Alabama announced its emphatic return late Saturday night in a homecoming celebrated by few. It ripped the limbs off an undefeated team and casually tossed them aside. It ripped the heart out of a Heisman campaign and held it upward, smiling.

All the college football world could do was begrudgingly marvel at the remains.

This was destruction in its purest form—a beautiful kind of ugly. This was a demolition masterpiece. This was the sport’s most exceptional villain—a role it plays so exceptionally well—growing in strength on the national stage. This was vintage Alabama. 

Outside of Tuscaloosa, only a small portion of the nation will be happy with this development. Only a small portion will celebrate Alabama’s 30-16 win over LSU and what it means in the bigger picture. 

That’s not to say this same group won’t respect the victory immensely. When a defense can limit Leonard Fournette, the nation’s most electric running back, to 31 carries on 19 yards, there has to be some level of respect. When Tide back Derrick Henry (210 yards, three touchdowns) can make moving at 242 pounds look that easy, there has to be some positive response. And yet, much of the country will not celebrate this effort.

It’s the national championships. It’s the recruiting dominance and the way Nick Saban stockpiles his roster yearly. It’s Saban himself, a smile-less, robotic leader who gasses this great machine.

It’s the way Alabama goes about its supremacy—choosing to suck the life out of its opponents by sitting on them and refusing to get up, rather than attempting to do it with flash. It’s the final drive on Saturday night—a 13-play, nine-minute, 18-second masterpiece that ended in the victory formation.

Oh, is it beautiful. But it’s not for everyone.

Although Alabama isn’t the villain to all, it is the antihero to many. Success will do that. And while being the villain could be perceived by some to be an overwhelming negative, college football needs a villain. It needs Alabama.

It needs a team to assume this role—playing with such a carefree, brutish style—to showcase just how powerful and different one program can operate every once in a while. That happened Saturday night, and not all will be happy about it.

That’s a good thing. That’s exactly how it should be. Alabama certainly doesn't mind.

As for other thoughts on a wild Saturday, a day that saw three of the nation's Top 10 teams fall, here is an assessment of the Week 10 carnage.

 

The Big 12 November Madness Starts Early 

A few days after Baylor struggled at Kansas State, TCU’s undefeated dream season came to a crashing halt in Stillwater.

Oklahoma State didn’t just upset the selection committee’s No. 8 squad. No, the Pokes, No. 14 in the debut ranking, absolutely manhandled the Horned Frogs—sending shock waves through the Big 12 and beyond. A new contender emerged.

In the 49-29 victory, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph threw five touchdowns. He was brilliant. Perhaps more impressive, however, was the way Mike Gundy’s defense slowed the best quarterback in the nation.

Trevone Boykin threw four interceptions. When wideout Josh Doctson left the game with a wrist injury, the offense looked completely out of sync. This was a dominant defensive showing by the Cowboys.

The result will certainly impact our perception of TCU, a team many were pegging for the playoff. On the other side of the result, this game drastically alters the way many, including the selection committee, should view Oklahoma State. An emphatic win like this is impossible to ignore.

There is still much work to be done. The Big 12 slate still will have plenty to say—continuing with Oklahoma-Baylor in Week 11. 

Don’t look now, though. After Iowa State, Oklahoma State plays both Baylor and Oklahoma at home to close the year. Things could stay weird.

 

Michigan State Finally, Unexpectedly, Painfully Goes Down in Flames

Oh, Michigan State got hosed.

There is no other way to shape it. Sure, the game should have been out of reach by the fourth quarter, and the Spartans should have taken care of business. But that doesn’t make this loss any easier to stomach in East Lansing.

Up 38-33 with less than a minute remaining, Nebraska wideout Brandon Reilly scored the go-ahead touchdown that should not have been allowed. Officials ruled that Reilly was pushed out of bounds before making the catch, although replay—and even the live shot—said otherwise. It appeared as though Reilly’s exit from the field was his doing.

"We're going to collect ourselves and understand that our destiny is still in our hands,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio told reporters following the game.

He’s absolutely right. And yet, this loss feels like a dagger. Maybe not a dagger; let's call it a tremendous gut punch.

To many, this has been a long time coming. Michigan State narrowly escaped Purdue and Rutgers before beating Michigan on a walk-off fumble return. So yeah, the writing was on the wall. But still, Nebraska didn’t feel like the team capable of finally pulling this off—not after the Cornhuskers allowed 55 points to Purdue last week. 

Regardless of how or if it should have happened, it happened. And while Michigan State still has a shot at Ohio State and a chance at a Big Ten title, things will have to change in a hurry for this lovely bounce-back story to be written.

 

No Madness Here; Clemson Looks Like the No. 1 Team in the Country

One could look at the final score of Clemson-Florida State, combing over every bit of the box score goodness, and leave somewhat unimpressed that the nation’s No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff standings didn’t win by more.

To me, however, the Tigers’ performance on Saturday generated the opposite response. What range this team has.

In beating Florida State 23-13, Clemson showed its ridiculous depth and resolve. The week prior, the Tigers won a shootout, 56-41 over NC State. This week, in an emotional rivalry matchup that has plagued the program in recent years, Dabo Swinney’s team showed it could both take and give a punch. 

Quarterback Deshaun Watson missed a handful of throws. The running game early on struggled to do much of anything. But then it got going. And then Watson got going, finishing with 297 yards passing, 107 yards rushing and a touchdown through the air. The defense that struggled so badly one week ago took over.

That’s what was so impressive—the fact that Clemson won games in consecutive weeks in such differing, impressive ways. And on a weekend rife with upsets, the Tigers looked very much like the favorite to win the whole thing.

 

Cinderella Is No More

It was fun for about four days. 

When Memphis debuted at No. 13 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings last Tuesday, we embraced the still-unlikely scenario that the Tigers could crash the playoff party. Then Saturday happened. 

First, Ole Miss lost to Arkansas, which took a baseball bat to Memphis’s biggest resume boost. Then the Tigers did the major damage to this unlikely push, losing to Navy, 45-20. That should about do it.

While Houston is still unbeaten and will have a place in the selection committee's Top 25 heading into Week 11, the Cougars just don’t have the resume to approach the top four. That’s not to say that interest is sucked out of these games; Memphis-Houston next weekend is hugely important, and there are still fantastic Group of Five developments to unfold. 

But the playoff? That madness will have to wait for another year.

Still, there will be plenty of madness to go around.

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LSU vs. Alabama: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers and Crimson Tide

It was the perennial showdown between two SEC West heavyweights, and this time, it featured two Heisman-contending running backs. It was billed as a game that would come down to a single play or two in the fourth quarter. We expected fireworks from the Tigers and Tide.

But Alabama was the only team to effectively light the fuse.

The Tide bottled up Leonard Fournette all night, while Derrick Henry ran over, around and through the LSU defense to the tune of 210 yards.

It's time to go over the performances, group by group, in our weekly game grades.

Here is the box score from Saturday's game, via NCAA.com.

LSU Pass Offense

Brandon Harris completed just six passes in the entire game on 19 attempts. The Tigers did manage to find 128 passing yards and a touchdown among those six completions, but it was really the interception to start off the second half that killed any chance LSU had at a comeback.

At that point, LSU was trailing by just three points, 13-10. But in one play, Harris threw the ball right to Dillon Lee, and the Tide took over at the LSU 30. A few plays later, it was 20-10.

Harris was under duress for most of the night, but he didn't find much help from his receivers and certainly not from his offensive line.

 

LSU Run Offense

Yikes, this was bad.

We knew Alabama's defensive front was good, but we thought LSU's O-line and Fournette were up to the challenge. Boy, were we wrong!

Fournette ran the ball 19 times but was held to one yard or less on 13 of those carries. He finished with just 31 yards, and the Tigers totaled just 54 as a team.

There's really no other way to put this: LSU was awful running the ball, and Alabama was equally great at defending against it.

Not only did LSU lose control of the SEC West, but Fournette probably lost control of the Heisman race, too.

 

LSU Pass Defense

Giving up 184 passing yards isn't necessarily a bad night, but considering Alabama attempted just 24 passes (and completed 18 of them), those numbers suddenly don't look so stellar.

LSU did manage to keep Alabama's passing game out of the end zone, and the Tigers were able to bring occasional pressure on Jake Coker. But when it came to crunch time, the Tigers pass defense couldn't get the necessary stops.

LSU's passing defense was just ineffectual enough to open up the Bama ground attack, and in the second half, the combination of trying to defending against both the pass and the run simultaneously allowed the wheels to come off.

 

LSU Run Defense

As great as Alabama's run defense was, LSU's was the opposite.

Henry ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns against an LSU front that seemed completely overmatched for most of the contest.

Kenyan Drake added 68 yards on 10 carries, and LSU's D-line looked like a war-weary group by the fourth quarter.

What's even more concerning is that the Tigers' ability to defend against the run seemed to get worse, not better, as the game wore on. They made no adequate adjustments, and Alabama looked to be a boulder picking up speed as it rolled down a hill.

By the time Alabama scored its final points of the evening, LSU was putting up little more than token resistance.

 

LSU Special Teams

Trent Domingue connected on his lone field-goal attempt of the evening but had an extra point blocked in the second half.

The real pain, though, came in the LSU kick-return game. The Tigers were stopped deep in their own end on multiple occasions, and the long kick return of the night was just 15 yards by Derrius Guice. Donte Jackson averaged just 2.5 yards on his two punt returns (six yards and minus-one yard).

 

LSU Coaching

We know LSU fans love Les Miles and company, and for good reason, but this was not the best performance by the coaching staff.

After the first-half debacle in the running game, we expected some major shifts in the second half that would see Fournette break open a little more or shift the play-calling scheme to something other than what we saw earlier.

Instead, we got more of the same.

Perhaps Miles believes that Fournette is the only worthy weapon LSU has on offense. Perhaps he just thought that time and perseverance were all that were needed. Whatever he was thinking, it was wrong.

LSU was not only outplayed but out-coached.

 

Alabama Pass Offense

Alabama only needed to throw the ball 24 timesjust enough to keep LSU off balance against Henry's rushing attack.

But Coker made the most of his 24 throws, completing 18 of them for 184 yards. And while he didn't find the end zone, he also avoided the one thing that could have allowed LSU to creep back into the game late: interceptions.

Calvin Ridley led the Tide receivers with 51 yards on seven catches.

 

Alabama Run Offense

Coming into this game, Fournette was all anyone could talk about when it came to Heisman contenders. On Sunday, it will be Henry.

Henry torched LSU to the tune of 210 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries, running all over the Tigers defense all night long.

The Alabama O-line was stellar in opening up lanes, and Henry did the rest by shrugging off multiple tacklers on seemingly every play. As easily as Alabama was able to bottle up Fournette, LSU had absolutely no answer for Henry.

Don't be surprised if Henry will be atop many Heisman watch lists from this point forward.

 

Alabama Pass Defense

LSU was looking to lean on Fournette, but when Alabama made it clear that wasn't an option, the Tide still put together a solid performance against the Tigers pass attack.

Harris completed just six passes on the night, and Lee came up with perhaps the quintessential momentum-grabbing play at the beginning of the third quarter, picking Harris off deep in LSU's own end and setting up an Alabama score.

By the time LSU realized that the passing game was going to be its last and best hope, it was too late. The Tide simply covered receivers with blankets and pressured Harris into hurried throws.

Combined with the lockdown run defense, the passing defense came up big in this win for the Crimson Tide.

 

Alabama Run Defense

There is where Alabama won the game. Right from the first few series, it was clear that the front seven was planning on making a statement.

"Leonard who?"

OK, it's more of a question than a statement, but the end result was a defensive statement that the rest of the nation should notice: Run the ball against the Tide at your own peril.

It's not fair to call LSU a one-trick pony this season, but there's no doubt that LSU had been running to glory behind Fournette. Alabama's defense knew this and schemed beautifully to make devastating contact with Fournette in the backfield on almost every carry. Over his first 10 carries, he had just 10 yards. On 13 of his 19 carries, he was held to one yard or less.

We can't just give Alabama's defense an "A" here.  This was easily deserving of the grade reserved for nothing short of exceptional, above-and-beyond performance. Tide defense, you get a solid A-plus. If there was a grade higher, you'd get that, too.

 

Alabama Special Teams

The scuttlebutt has been that Nick Saban doesn't trust Adam Griffith in big-game situations. But after Griffith nailed a 55-yard field goal (along with two more and all three of his extra points), maybe we'll start to see fewer fourth-down conversion attempts from the Crimson Tide in the future.

 

Alabama Coaching

Saban proved once again that he's among the best college football coaches. He and his staff had a game plan to contain Fournette, and the players executed that plan to perfection.

Few coaches could devise a plan to limit a guy like Fournette to 31 yards, regardless of the talent present on defense. Sure, Saban has a lot of talent at his disposal, but that talent is wasted without a plan. Heck, even against teams with solid plans, Fournette has found ways to make defenses look silly.

Not this time. As much credit as we're giving to the Alabama defense for stopping Fournette, we have to give the same credit to the coaching staff for preparing the defense.



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

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

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LSU vs. Alabama: Projecting How Crimson Tide Win Impacts CFP Picture

The No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide made a statement Saturday night, defeating the No. 2 LSU Tigers, 30-16. 

Alabama was the final team to make the field in the first College Football Playoff rankings despite suffering an early-season loss to the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels. It didn't go over well with some, as For the Win pointed out how many teams the CFP committee overlooked:

After the beatdown the Crimson Tide gave to the previously undefeated Tigers, they are proving they belong with the nation's best. Yes, Alabama was embarrassed by Ole Miss at home, allowing the Rebels to score 43 points, but that was a long time ago.

In their six games since the loss, the Crimson Tide have allowed more than 16 points just once and now sit atop the SEC West Division. The defense was stout again Saturday, holding the nation's leading rusher, Leonard Fournette, to 31 yards.

Alabama's front seven impressed the Associated Press' John Zenor, to say the least:

Fournette was the Heisman Trophy front-runner coming into the game, but Alabama's Derrick Henry made a strong case that he should be the leading candidate. The junior rushed 38 times for 210 yards and three touchdowns and now has 1,254 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season.

It's been a while since an opponent has been able to keep Henry out of the end zone, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Alabama's dominance on both sides of the ball helped the team prove its ranking was just. Not only did LSU lose, but No. 1 Clemson and No. 3 Ohio State also had to fight for victories this week.

The Crimson Tide cruised and now have a great shot at moving further up, per Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:

Alabama can occupy only one spot, but Hamilton's point is this: Despite the loss, the Crimson Tide look like the best team in the country. Four previously undefeated teams lost Saturday: LSU, No. 7 Michigan State, No. 8 TCU and No. 13 Memphis.

If Alabama keeps winning and more undefeated teams lose, there will be little question as to why the Crimson Tide are ranked as high as they are.

In fact, with their latest win, they've already started to answer that question.

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Jeremy Johnson, Auburn Defense Show Season-Turning Redemption in Texas A&M Win

Auburn didn't ride into the Lone Star State this weekend with any momentum.

The Tigers, coming off back-to-back close losses in the SEC West, took the nation's No. 108 defense into Kyle Field on Saturday night to matchup with a high-powered Texas A&M offense that found its swagger again last weekend with new starting quarterback Kyler Murray.

On the offensive side of the ball, Auburn quarterback Sean White was ruled out with an injury and replaced by former starter Jeremy Johnson. The news caused the majority of the Auburn fanbase to let out a collective groan.

But then the game kicked off, and Auburn spent the next 60 minutes of regulation turning around that negativity into a dominant 26-10 victory over Texas A&M.

It was a complete team victory for the Tigers, but the postgame emphasis on redemption for a program that looked like it was in danger of missing the postseason were centered on Johnson and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's unit.

The last time Johnson started at quarterback for Auburn—the September road contest against LSU—he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw his sixth interception in three games.

He returned in some packages after losing the job to White, but outside of a risky 44-yard completion in a loss to Ole Miss last weekend, the former starter didn't have much success.

However, when thrown into the starting lineup again, Johnson looked like the quarterback who garnered plenty of preseason hype. 

Johnson went 13-of-17 passing for 132 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers. He was 6-for-6 through the air on the opening drive of the game and hit Marcus Davis for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

The former starting quarterback played with plenty of visible emotion, but he remained precise throughout the night and led his team to victory.

Even when Auburn leaned toward more of a run-heavy game plan in the second half, Johnson continued to make plays, including an outstanding 32-yard, third-down completion to Tony Stevens in the fourth quarter.

His efficient passing opened things up for Auburn to hammer away at the much-improved Texas A&M defense for big plays on the ground.

Running back Jovon Robinson continued his personal resurrection tour with 27 carries for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Auburn finished with 311 rushing yards as a team.

"The running backs did a great job running," Johnson told Maria Taylor of the SEC Network. "Once we get a lot of explosive plays, our offense is pretty much hard to stop."

Johnson's great performance against Texas A&M will undoubtedly give head coach Gus Malzahn a tough decision on who to start if White returns to full health. That was a nearly unthinkable scenario a week ago for these Tigers.

Although some underwhelming plays in the red zone led to four short field goals for an accurate Daniel Carlson, Auburn's offense put together its best yardage performance of the season—443—with a quarterback who seemed to be out of the starting picture.

But Auburn's offense wasn't alone in the statistical excellence Saturday night. The defense gave up the fewest yards it had all season—303—against an offense that had given Auburn so much trouble over the last three years.

Murray, who put up 379 yards of total offense by himself against South Carolina a week ago, threw three interceptions Saturday night against a stingy pass defense. He finished 13-of-23 through the air and only had 37 yards on the ground before leaving the game with a third-quarter injury.

A running quarterback, the constant enemy of Auburn's defense in the Malzahn era, did not score a touchdown Saturday night thanks to the Tigers' overall execution.

"The main focus was boxing Kyler Murray in, staying in our rush lanes and not letting him get out of the pocket," defensive end Carl Lawson told Taylor. "Just keeping him in the pocket so he couldn't scramble around and make plays, just like you see from him on the film against South Carolina."

Murray's backup, Jake Hubenak, tossed a short scoring pass shortly after his injury, and a field goal on the first drive of the game made up the only points of the night for Texas A&M.

Auburn true freshman cornerback Carlton Davis took away a sure touchdown with his interception in the first quarter.

"Our defense played great," Malzahn told Taylor. "They played their best game against a lot of really good athletes. [Murray] is like a lightning bug. That's tough."

As Brandon Marcello of AL.com noted Saturday night, the resurgence of Muschamp's unit featured a few more redemptive performances from several young defensive backs and the long-awaited return of consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.

Although Auburn's defense didn't completely control Texas A&M from beginning to end, it made important plays when it needed them the most Saturday night—from the three interceptions to several third-down stops. 

By the end of the game, the Tigers had their best statistical defensive performance in both yards and points since last year's 41-7 home blowout of LSU.

That win over LSU last October, by the way, was Auburn's second-most recent win against an SEC West opponent. 

After going 0-for-4 against division opponents to start the 2015 season, Auburn snapped its frustrating losing streak against the West on Saturday night. 

The Tigers' fifth win of the year also put them in prime position to make a bowl, especially with a home game against 3-6 Idaho coming up in two weeks.

But the way Auburn won in College Station carries much more weight than the result itself.

The offense went through a change at quarterback and came out on the other side with a victorious and balanced performance. The defense looked like what fans dreamed of when Muschamp arrived on the Plains this offseason.

Now the Tigers will ride out of Texas A&M with some much-needed momentum ahead of a quite winnable home rivalry game against Georgia.

If Auburn was to pick up a win against the Bulldogs and then another one against Idaho, it would have a chance to match its win total from last season against Alabama and its bowl opponent.

Getting to eight wins would ultimately be a step down from what the Tigers hoped for heading into the 2015 season.

But after several weeks of doom and gloom, reaching that mark would breathe some new life into Malzahn's program.

 

Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Sloppy Win vs. Minnesota Proves J.T. Barrett Still Buckeyes' Best Option at QB

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After an additional week of uncertainty, Ohio State's quarterback conundrum once again seems as clear as it ever has in 2015.

Only this time, the ongoing situation seems to have been settled not by one signal-caller winning the job, but rather by one failing to capitalize on an unexpected opportunity.

As J.T. Barrett served a one-game suspension for an OVI citation during the Buckeyes' bye week last weekend, Cardale Jones found himself back in the Ohio State starting lineup after having started the first seven games of the season. And while Barrett's 324-yard, five-touchdown performance in the Buckeyes' eighth game seemed to solidify his status as Ohio State's new starter moving forward, his actions opened the door for Jones to start the ninth game and potentially beyond.

But although Jones now finds himself 8-0 as a starting quarterback this season, his so-so effort in the third-ranked Buckeyes' 28-14 win over Minnesota on Saturday was enough for Urban Meyer to reconsider turning back to Barrett when he returns from suspension next week.

"Yes," Meyer answered when asked if Barrett was now back in the running to be Ohio State's starting quarterback against Illinois next week.

At this point, Barrett's regaining of his starting role may be more of a formality than anything else.

Because while Jones was solid against the Golden Gophers, completing 12 of his 22 pass attempts for 187 yards and a touchdown while adding 65 yards and a score on the ground, he hardly looked like the quarterback Ohio State needs him to be as it enters the heart of its 2015 schedule with games against Michigan State and Michigan ahead.

The Buckeyes offense just simply didn't appear as effective as it was in Ohio State's previous three outings, which saw Barrett's role rise from red-zone quarterback to situational signal-caller and eventually a place in the starting lineup.

In that stretch—which included double-digit victories over Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers—Barrett totaled 544 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns, emerging from an early-season slump when playing time behind Jones was sparse.

Perhaps most importantly, the reigning Big Ten Quarterback of the Year provided the Buckeyes with the dual-threat ability at the quarterback position that they seemed to have lacked with Jones, whose rushing touchdown against Minnesota on Saturday was his first since Ohio State's season opener.

"A little different," Meyer admitted of his team's offense under the direction of Jones. "Probably more so now as the season's gone on than I [thought] earlier in the year. A little different. I think the read [option] game, that's not really a big part of Cardale's game, which is kind of one of the parts of the foundation of the offense."

That's not necessarily the fault of Jones, either, as Meyer's play-calling has seemed to be more conservative with the 6'5", 250-pounder in the lineup than it has been when Barrett has taken the reins of the Buckeyes offense. The OSU offensive line didn't do much to add to Jones' cause against the Golden Gophers, as he was sacked four times on Saturday—which is four times as much as Barrett has been sacked all season.

With Jones—for whatever reason—unable to gain yards on the ground as consistently as Barrett, he would need to find other ways to move the ball down the field. Ideally, that would be with his cannon-like arm, which played a key role in the Buckeyes' run through the postseason at the end of last year and made him one of the top quarterback prospects entering his junior campaign.

And while on occasion—including completed passes of 45 and 44 yards on Saturday—Jones has been able to do just that, he hasn't done it at a clip stable enough to make what he lacks with his legs a moot point.

That was clear when Meyer first opted to make the move to Barrett two weeks ago and again as he briefly evaluated Jones' performance against Minnesota on Saturday.

"You have to get those yards somewhere else," Meyer said. "It has to be [the deep ball]. It looks pretty good when you're hitting that...you gotta hit those passes."

At the moment, no public decision has been made as to who will be lining up behind center for the Buckeyes in Champaign next Saturday. It is worth noting, however, that Meyer mentioned earlier in the week that once a player returns to his roster from suspension, he's fully reinstated and not subject to further benching as a continued punishment.

If that's the case, then Barrett didn't do anything to lose his starting status beyond the one game he just missed.

More importantly, Jones didn't do anything to take it from him, either, as it remains clear that Barrett gives the Buckeyes the best chance to repeat as college football's national champion this season.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Odds provided by Odds Shark. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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How Derrick Henry, Alabama Defense Destroyed Leonard Fournette's Heisman Charge

LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette entered Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night with a chance to essentially lock up the Heisman Trophy

After all, his nearest competitor—TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin—had just thrown four picks in a loss to Oklahoma State, and another 100-plus yards against the stout Alabama Crimson Tide front seven on national TV in a battle of two top-four teams would distance himself from the pack.

Instead, it was another running back who walked off the field Saturday night with Heisman hopes shining bright—Alabama's Derrick Henry.

The 6'3", 242-pound junior from Yulee, Florida, ripped off 210 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries to lead his Crimson Tide to a 30-16 victory over LSU that seemed more like a victory lap than the 60-minute slugfest that it was touted to be.

How did he do it? 

His best work in terms of the race for the Heisman Trophy came when he had his helmet off and was sitting on the sideline chatting with offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

Those were the times his defense was busy bringing Fournette back to the pack. The Bama front seven held Fournette in check all night long, allowing him to gain a season-low 31 rushing yards and just one touchdown and visibly frustrating the sophomore from New Orleans.

Henry was quick to point to his defense for setting the tone in the best game of his career.

"Phenomenal," Henry said of Alabama's defense according to quotes emailed by the school. "They work hard every week, they are physical when they finish. They play tough, and that’s the type of play they play with. They took pride and held them under 100 yards (rushing) and just knocked them down playing physical."

With the defense taking care of its end of the Heisman bargain, the door was open for Henry to make a statement.

He did in a big way midway through the second quarter, when he ripped off a 40-yard run to get the Tide in the red zone and then finished off the drive with a two-yard plunge to build a 10-0 lead. 

From there, it was the "Derrick Henry show" due in part to his talent but also an offensive line that, while talented itself, had been going through some ups and downs this year. 

Cam Robinson played a great game at left tackle, center Ryan Kelly was as dominant as ever and freshman guard Ross Pierschbacher—who has drawn the most criticism of anybody on the offensive line—plowed the road for Henry inside.

"[Henry's] having a great year," head coach Nick Saban said in quotes emailed by the school. "He had a great game today. It couldn’t have happened at a better time against a very good defensive team. But I think he’d be the first one to tell you that the offensive line did a really good job today, and I think it was the whole offensive team being well prepared for what they did and going out and blocking their [defensive] front. He did a great job of carrying the ball, so it was special."

This was important, because while LSU is stout up front, the depth isn't there. As the game wore on and that Tiger front continued to get worn down by Henry and the big men up front, head coach Les Miles and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele simply didn't have an answer.

That's the beauty of Henry. 

We already knew he was the best "closer" in college football. He proved that each of the last two seasons backing up T.J. Yeldon when he'd come in during the fourth quarters of games and beat up on worn-down defenses.

He has proven that he's more than just a bruiser this year by working a defense north/south and east/west early and then leaning on them late to help his team pull away.

If that's not worthy of legitimate Heisman consideration, nothing is.

Henry's emergence has also allowed quarterback Jake Coker to settle in after some inconsistency early. As a result, Coker has become a solid game manager, a difference-maker when needed—like the Tennessee game two weeks ago—and the Crimson Tide have evolved into one of the most complete teams in college football.

Simply put, he's one of the most valuable players in college football in 2015.

As a result, the Crimson Tide are sitting pretty in the race to not only win the SEC West but also to earn a berth in the College Football Playoff and send Henry to New York City with a legitimate shot to claim the school's second-ever Heisman Trophy.

If that happens, it should be considered a team award.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Despite Kansas Win, Texas Faces Uphill Climb the Rest of the Season

The Texas Longhorns took care of business on Saturday, blowing out the Kansas Jayhawks by a 59-20 margin.

At least, that's what it will look like on the surface.

Tyrone Swoopes led the way for the Longhorns, running for four touchdowns and a throwing for another in mop-up duty. Running back D'Onta Foreman provided a spark as well, keying a 35-7 second half with two third-quarter touchdowns, including a 93-yarder up the left sideline. The Big 12 Conference provided highlights:

Starting quarterback Jerrod Heard even broke out of his passing funk, clearing 200 yards after failing to crack 100 in three straight games. At the end of the night, the Longhorns did what had to be done. ESPN.com provided highlights of the Longhorns' 84-yard TD (h/t Remember The Summit):

But before the Horns started pouring it on, there was plenty of cause for concern. Even after the convincing win, it's pretty obvious that they face an uphill battle to lock down a bowl appearance.

For postseason play to be a part of Texas' 2015 season, the Longhorns must win two of their final three against West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor. Based on what we saw in the win over Kansas, it's hard to imagine them pulling that off.

Before the Longhorns ripped off 35 straight in the second half, Charlie Strong's team was as frustrating as ever. The Horns jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but then they let the Jayhawks get back into it with sloppiness both on and off the field.

Missed tackles were a problem, Joe Wickline continuously tinkered with the offensive line and star freshman Malik Jefferson was treated as an "emergency option." Ryan Autullo of the Austin American-Statesman and Anwar Richardson of Rivals.com discussed the Longhorns' notable concerns:

Most of all, the Horns quit playing to win in the second quarter, and David Beaty's team took advantage. By the time halftime rolled around, the Longhorns were an odd-fumble-rule and a missed-field-goal away from being down 27-24.

For reference, this Kansas team lost a home game to South Dakota State and only has 67 scholarship players. Texas has no legitimate excuse for this being close, and it was lucky to have a lead at halftime. ESPN.com's Max Olson pointed out a "crazy turn of events" on one Kansas play that resulted in Texas getting the ball:

The Horns can't expect to be so lucky in these last three games. 

Next week, Strong's team travels to West Virginia. Prior to Saturday's win over Texas Tech, the Mountaineers ranked No. 13 in Football Outsiders' S&P+ ratings, which is ahead of undefeated Iowa. In three road games this season, Texas has been outscored by a 112-10 margin.

Almost two weeks after that, the Longhorns get Texas Tech. Heading into Week 10, the Red Raiders were averaging 47.3 points per game and the Big 12's best third-down offense, per CFBStats.com. According to that same source, the Longhorns were the conference's second-worst third-down defense.

Then Texas closes its season at Baylor, which is an offensive juggernaut even with freshman Jarrett Stidham running the show.

Lose two of those games and the Longhorns' season ends during the first weekend of December. They knew that coming into Saturday's matchup with Kansas, and still they let the Jayhawks hang around. That's inexcusable coming off a 24-0 loss to Iowa State.

The Horns should be proud of their 35-point second-half showing. They found a passing game and, hopefully, accepted Foreman as the featured runner. 

But this team is still doing too much to undermine itself. Until that changes, the Longhorns can't be expected to beat two quality teams in three tries.

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Horrific Blown Call Likely Ends Michigan State's Playoff Hopes

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

But it didn't have to happen like THIS.

Michigan State's luck ran out in a 39-38 loss at Nebraska on Saturday in a game the Spartans first gave away with late miscues before having it snatched away by the refs.

Sparty led by 12 points with under two minutes to play, but Nebraska scored two straight touchdowns by exploiting MSU's porous secondary.

But the second of those touchdowns required an egregious missed call by the Big Ten officials, who ruled Brandon Reilly was forced out of bounds by Jermaine Edmondson, when the video shows clearly that he wasn't and that he should have been flagged for illegal touching.

The refs reviewed the score but upheld their decision, sparking outrage on CFB Twitter and beyond. After a week spent debating the end of Duke-Miami, it seems we're in line for another seven days of discussing why we even have replay in the first place if we can't get basic, plain, unambiguous calls correct after reviewing them.

It turns out whether Edmondson shoved Reilly is unreviewable, per Fox Sports rules expert Mike Pereira, but the fact remains that Nebraska's winning touchdown came on a play that shouldn't have counted.

But the above fact is only part of the story.

Nebraska's winning touchdown shouldn't have counted, but that doesn't mean the Huskers deserved to lose.

Prior to Reilly's touchdown, they drove 61 yards in two plays to get from inside their 10-yard line to within scoring distance.

The ease with which they drove down the field, an ease that existed the entire second half, made Reilly's winning score feel inevitable. Here is Nebraska's official second-half drive chart:

  • 6 Plays, 69 Yards — Touchdown
  • 5 Plays, 52 Yards — Interception
  • 10 Plays, 65 Yards — Touchdown
  • 10 Plays, 53 Yards — Touchdown
  • 4 Plays, 91 Yards — Touchdown

Only a foolish Tommy Armstrong Jr. interception kept Nebraska from pitching a perfect offensive half. It punted only once after its first possession of the game. Michigan State couldn't stop it because Michigan State, in its present form, can't stop anybody.

In that way, the controversial ending will bury the lede from this game. Sparty got what's been coming to it all season. It has flirted with disaster against Oregon, Purdue, Rutgers, Indiana and (most notably) Michigan but managed to survive with no losses.

It was ranked No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings, but anyone with eyes could see at least seven better teams out there.

CFB writer Matt Hinton, formerly of Grantland (RIP), said it perfectly:

To their credit, MSU's players and staff have been graceful in defeat.

"That's not my job," head coach Mark Dantonio said when asked to explain the final call, per ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman. "My job is to coach."

"I don't think the officiating cost us the game at all," linebacker Darien Harris added, according to Sherman.

He's exaggerating, but that's still a healthy attitude.

The pass defense cost Michigan State the game. Dantonio's conservative play-calling—running on third down when one more first down would have clinched it—cost Michigan State the game.

The refs were just the nail in the coffin.

Prior to the week, Michigan State ranked No. 23 on Football Outsiders' S&P ratings. A sample of the teams that ranked higher includes Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia—all of which have at least four losses.

This is why statisticians talk so often about close-game luck. Sparty was undefeated and Tennessee had four losses, but on a play-by-play basis, they'd been equal.

Nebraska, on the other hand, had crumbled under poor close-game luck. It lost on a Hail Mary against BYU, in overtime against Miami and then by five combined points against Illinois, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Narrative-driven writers made assumptions along the lines of "the Spartans know how to win" and "the Huskers can't get out of their way," but Saturday's result, like so many before it, exposes those opinions as bombast.

The truth is that these outcomes are more or less random. They come down to the bounce of a poorly snapped ball—something Sparty learned on the bright side at Michigan—or the review of a poorly called penalty.

When a team has a defense as bad as Michigan State's, it's bound to play a lot of close games. And when a team plays a lot of close games, it's bound to eventually lose one. Those are the laws of regression.

In that way, Michigan State was screwed not only by its secondary, Dantonio's conservative play call and the officials.

It was also screwed by math.

This loss was a long time coming. 

So where does MSU go from here?

Strangely, it is not quite out of playoff contention.

If it beats Maryland next week and Ohio State after that, it still controls its Big Ten fate. Winning out and finishing 12-1 would give the Spartans a shot. The controversial nature of this loss, which came on such an obvious blown call, would not, one assumes, be lost on the CFP selection committee. 

But can Sparty really win at Ohio State on Nov. 21? Michigan State's the best team left on OSU's schedule, but its secondary is still down RJ Williamson, Darian Hicks and Vayante Copeland—arguably its three best players.

Stranger things have happened than Sparty bouncing back in two weeks against a Buckeyes team that's also underachieved despite its record.

But for now, making the playoff seems like a pipe dream.

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

The Auburn Tigers (5-4, 2-4 SEC) upset the No. 19 Texas A&M Aggies (6-3, 3-3 SEC), 26-10, on Saturday night in College Station, Texas. 

Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson returned to the lineup and had his best game of the season. Johnson completed 13 of 17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

However, it was Auburn's running game that was the story on the night. The Tigers rushed for 311 yards on 52 carries, led by Jovon Robinson's 159 yards. 

 

Pass Offense: Johnson was efficient. He was benched earlier in the season because he turned the ball over too much. He didn't turn the ball over against the Aggies. He also made some big throws downfield to keep Texas A&M's defense honest. 

Run Offense: The running game was dominant from start to finish. Robinson had his best game as a Tiger, and other players chipped in with impressive performances, too. Auburn had its way with Texas A&M, converting numerous third downs with strong runs. 

Pass Defense: The Tigers picked off three passes and allowed just 137 yards passing. That's impressive against a dynamic offense. Auburn held Christian Kirk to just 44 yards receiving, and he was never a factor. 

Run Defense: Sure, the Tigers allowed 166 yards, but that doesn't tell the complete story. Texas A&M couldn't sustain drives running the football. 

Special Teams: Daniel Carlson hit all four of his field goals and is arguably the top kicker in the country. Carlson's strong leg also kept A&M's Speedy Noil from making any big plays on kick returns. 

Coaching: Gus Malzahn coached his best game of the year. He'd use misdirection on one play, then come back with power. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's unit was terrific. The defense kept pressure on the quarterback and didn't allow any big plays. 

 

Pass Offense: Kyler Murray turned the ball over three times and didn't make any big plays in the passing game. Texas A&M's only touchdown came from the arm of Jake Hubenak. Overall, the Aggies passed for only 137 yards, and their talented receivers did nothing. 

Run Offense: Tra Carson ran for 109 yards on 21 carries. It was a solid performance, but he had no help. Murray ran for 37 yards before leaving the game. 

Pass Defense: A&M allowed only 132 yards passing. However, Auburn attempted just 17 passes. When Johnson needed a big play downfield, he made it. The Aggies couldn't force a turnover, either. 

Run Defense: Any time you allow over 300 yards rushing, you're unlikely to win. The Tigers ran all over Texas A&M. While the Aggies did buckle down in the red zone in the second half, it wasn't enough. 

Special Teams: Taylor Bertolet hit a 50-yard field goal, his only attempt of the game. Outside of one kick return, the Aggies didn't make any plays in the return game. 

Coaching: Head coach Kevin Sumlin and defensive coordinator John Chavis were outcoached. Sumlin did little to get Murray comfortable, while Chavis had no answers for Auburn's running game. 

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Braxton Miller Injury: Updates on Ohio State Star's Status and Return

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Braxton Miller left Saturday's win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers after a hard fall on the turf, according to Sporting News' Bill Bender.

Continue for updates.

Miller's Injury Not Considered Serious Sunday, Nov. 8

According to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod, head coach Urban Meyer told reporters Miller "may have just gotten the wind knocked out of him."

"I think he's gonna be all right," Meyer added, per Eleven Warriors' Tim Shoemaker. "We'll know more tomorrow."

The former quarterback moved to wide receiver after a tumultuous 2014 that began with Miller as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. But a second shoulder injury sidelined him for the entire season, and a combination of J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones helped the Buckeyes win the national championship. 

The senior announced his position change at the end of July as Ohio State searched for its starting quarterback, whittling the competition down to Jones and Barrett.

Meyer believed Miller was going to produce and become a vital part of his receiving corps, as he told USA Today's Laken Litman:

I was a wide receivers coach for a long time. There’s a tendency to forget how good he is. He’s moved up to the top 5-6 workers (in the weight room) on our team. He’s serious right now. ... He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached. Has an incredible first step. When it’s win or lose time, he’s not the type to lose. My expectation is he’s an impact player.

Miller has seen success at his new position, consistently making plays downfield as a rusher and receiver. He has also been a reliable target with a great set of hands, as the Big Ten Network showed:

While Ohio State is not the kind of team that will pass a defense into submission, it does rely on the air attack to open up the offense. The Buckeyes were averaging 217.6 passing yards per game this season entering Saturday's matchup against Minnesota, but they have big-time target Michael Thomas to anchor the receiving corps, should Miller miss time.

 

Stats courtesy of OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

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Minnesota vs. Ohio State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Buckeyes

Ohio State lost a step without J.T. Barrett, but Cardale Jones did enough to get No. 3 Ohio State a 28-14 victory over a feisty Minnesota team Saturday night.

The Buckeyes (9-0) are still alive in the College Football Playoff race, and they're in sole possession of the lead in the Big Ten East after Nebraska upset No. 7 Michigan State.

Here's how the Buckeyes graded out from their 14-point win over the Gophers. 

 

 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense

Cardale Jones had a golden opportunity to reinsert himself back into the quarterback conversation against Minnesota, but the same struggles that got him benched showed up Saturday night.

Through most of the first half, Jones struggled with his accuracy and was unable to convert on third down. He completed just five of his first nine passes for 44 yards, but he doubled that total on one play when he found Jalin Marshall behind the Minnesota secondary to set up the offense's first score of the game.

Jones finished the game completing 12 of 22 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, although he did fumble the ball late in the third quarter. 

 

Run Offense

With Jones' struggles in the passing game, Ezekiel Elliott and the rushing attack didn't have many lanes in the first half.

That didn't slow Elliott completely, though, as he still managed 55 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He was the only one gaining ground through two quarters, as Braxton Miller and Jones combined for minus-six yards.

Things picked up for the Buckeyes in the second half, though. Ohio State bulldozed its way to 140 rushing yards in the second half, and Ezekiel Elliott finished with 114 yards, eclipsing 100 yards for the 14th consecutive game.

 

Pass Defense

Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner eclipsed 300 passing yards for the first time in his career two weeks ago when the Gophers played Nebraska, and last week against Michigan's stingy defense, he netted a career-high 317 yards.

There was a lot of momentum for Minnesota's passing attack, but that was halted almost entirely by Ohio State's secondary.

The Gophers couldn't get anything going in the air, gaining just 88 passing yards in the first half and 281 total, most of which came in garbage time as Ohio State was preventing the big play. Leidner completed 61.3 percent of his passes, and he was picked off in the second quarter by Vonn Bell, who returned it 16 yards for the game's first score. 

Simply put, it was a dominant performance from the Buckeyes. 

 

Run Defense

Ohio State was just as good against the run.

The Buckeyes had given up some big games on the ground to Maryland quarterback Perry Hills, who ran for 170 yards, and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, who ran for 194. They tightened the screws against Rutgers before the bye week, and against Minnesota, they proved that they hadn't skipped a beat.

The Gophers gained just 33 yards on 26 carries, averaging 1.3 yards per carry. 

 

Special Teams

Jalin Marshall and Cameron Johnston paced the special teams unit in the first half.

Marshall was pretty much the only spark with the ball in his hands through two quarters, averaging 16 yards on three punt returns. Johnston was solid as usual punting the ball, pinning Minnesota inside its own 20 on three of four punts before the break. 

It was a quiet second half that turned disappointing when Jack Willoughby missed a chip-shot 35-yard field goal that would have put the game away midway through the fourth quarter.  

 

Coaching

The Buckeyes had a full week to get the offense ready and adjusted with Jones under center, but they came out extremely flat against the Gophers. Part of that's on Jones, who just doesn't look like the same quarterback we saw tear through the postseason last year. 

Is head coach Urban Meyer saving the package of plays that involve Miller throwing the ball for the two-week stretch against Michigan State and Michigan? If so, that seems counterproductive—the Buckeyes could have used the lift, and it's not like the Spartans and the Wolverines are blind to the possibility.

The offense seemed to be hitting its groove with Barrett at the helm. He'll likely get the nod against Illinois next week, so we'll see if the Buckeyes can get back on track. 

 

David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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LSU vs. Alabama: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

No. 4 Alabama put on a defensive showcase and downed No. 2 LSU, 30-16, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa to take control of its own destiny in the SEC West. 

Derrick Henry paced the Crimson Tide offense with 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns, but it was Nick Saban's defense that set the tone and ruled the day against the NCAA's 14th-ranked scoring offense. 

LSU mustered just 182 total yards as Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette was limited to a season-low 31 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against Alabama's 10th-ranked scoring defense. It was the first time this season Fournette failed to crack 100 yards rushing. 

Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris was effective in spots throughout the first half, but Alabama's pass rush pinned its ears back and applied waves of pressure that left LSU scrambling for answers. Harris completed six of 19 passes for 128 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

His counterpart Jake Coker experienced more success through the air. Although Henry did the heavy lifting, Coker was solid as he completed 75 percent of his passes for 184 yards. Alabama also sprinkled in helpings of running back Kenyan Drake, who rushed 10 times for 68 yards.  

ESPN.com's Chris Low noted Saturday's win may have been a turning point for Alabama in terms of establishing an identity: 

Alabama's offense moved the ball with relative ease and rode Henry's legs into LSU territory time and again throughout the game's first 30 minutes. 

Henry's 40-yard rumble in the second quarter set up an easy goal-line score, and a quarter-and-a-half's work of worth was enough to put him in rare company, according to the Advocate's Ross Dellenger: 

Henry has now rushed for a touchdown in 14 straight games, per B/R Insights, which is the longest streak in the country. 

The story differed for Fournette, who was repetitively stymied at the line of scrimmage by an Alabama front seven that was flying to the ball, as Marq Burnett of the Anniston Star observed: 

Fournette's nine first-half carries went for nine yards, but it was hardly his fault. Alabama loaded the box with seven and eight defenders—daring Harris to beat them. 

And after a few failed drives, LSU's quarterback did just that with a 40-yard touchdown toss to Travin Dural. Harris only completed three of nine passes for 90 yards in the first half, but two deep shots paved the way for the Tigers to enter halftime down just 13-10. 

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder was among those impressed with LSU's play-calling following a lethargic start: 

However, that was as much success as the Tigers would experience. And now, Les Miles' squad is searching for a little help.

By virtue of Arkansas' stunning 53-52 overtime upset of Ole Miss, Alabama is in the driver's seat in the SEC West. In other words, should the Crimson Tide win out, they'll clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators. 

LSU's also primed to drop out of the College Football Playoff picture. Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama all held serve Saturday, and with their first loss of the season in tow, the Tigers could see their spot usurped by an undefeated power like Baylor or Notre Dame. 

As for Alabama, the win served as confirmation of the CFP selection committee's faith. While the Crimson Tide were a controversial pick for the fourth and final spot in last week's rankings, the decisive win over LSU will serve as a serious resume booster for a surging Alabama team. 

With remaining games against Mississippi State, Charleston Southern and Auburn, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Alabama close out the season with nine straight victories.

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Memphis' Slipper Doesn't Fit as Cinderella Season Derailed in Navy Blowout

Undefeated. 

It's the most sought after resume booster for any College Football Playoff hopeful. And until Saturday evening, that's what the Memphis Tigers had.

But no more. 

Keenan Reynolds, a Navy Midshipman on the precipice of history, didn't take sole possession of the FBS record for career rushing touchdowns. He instead affirmed his college football legacy by adding a major upset to his scrapbook with Navy's 45-20 win over the Tigers. 

But while Reynolds' legacy was etched into stone, Memphis' playoff hopes disappeared. No longer are the Tigers close to being a viable player for a berth in the final four. It was the way Memphis lost, though, that truly illustrates why it isn't fit for playoff consideration. 

This wasn't a rout by Navy from the onset or a result of a sluggish start by the Tigers. No, Navy's win over Memphis was a beatdown. Midway through the third quarter, the Tigers tied the game at 17-17 with a one-yard touchdown run by Anthony Miller and the ensuing extra point. 

From there, the Midshipmen outscored Memphis 28-3. This was all without Reynolds finding the promised land on the ground even once—and going 3-of-5 through the air for 85 yards. 

The entire Navy squad was regimented in its ground approach, rushing for 374 yards on 66 carries out of the flexbone. Seven players had at least 28 yards rushing, with two cracking 80. Chris Swain led the Midshipmen with 108 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Meanwhile, Memphis simply couldn't get enough big plays. The Navy secondary did just enough, allowing Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch to throw for 305 yards on 26-of-42 passing but only giving up one touchdown through the air. 

Navy won in nearly every facet of the game. The Midshipmen didn't turn the ball over once. Memphis did three times. The Tigers had only four penalties, but they added to 43 yards. Navy's two accounted for just five. 

In fact, it is now Navy that has the inside track to an American Athletic Conference title, as it's undefeated in league action at 5-0. The Midshipmen's only loss was on the road. At Notre Dame. 

The Tigers' loss now opens the door for the Houston Cougars, a fellow AAC squad which currently sits at 9-0 (5-0), to sneak into the playoff conversation, or at the very least the New Year's Six roundtable. The Cougars have tilts against Memphis, UConn and Navy left on their schedule. 

The AAC is clearly on the rise, and sooner rather than later this conference will produce a playoff team. But after Saturday's loss at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, it's clear the Tigers won't be that squad.

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Minnesota Backup QB Jacques Perra Has a Good Time by Himself on the Bench

Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Jacques Perra is behind Mitch Leidner on the depth chart, so he spends a lot of time on the sideline.

Sometimes, he has to find ways to kill time until the game is over.

This clip is from the fourth quarter of Saturday night's tilt at Ohio State, which was a 28-14 OSU win. The Buckeyes were in control of the contest from the second quarter on, so there wasn't much for the Golden Gophers to be excited about.

As a result, we got this gem from Perra.

[The Cauldron]

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Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Auburn Tigers earned their biggest win of the year, 26-10, against the No. 25 Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday and may have gained some momentum for a respectable finish in the process.

Auburn looked like a completely different team than the one that entered the game with the SEC’s worst-ranked defense and held an Aggies squad that was averaging 32.1 points per game to its second-lowest output of the season.

The defensive dominance the Tigers showcased was atypical, as Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com noted:

Auburn benefited from the above-average play of backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who stepped in for Sean White while the starter continued to recover from a knee injury. 

Johnson, the opening-day starter who lost his job after Auburn’s blowout loss to LSU in Week 3, finished with 132 yards and a touchdown, going 13-of-17, including nine straight completions to start the game.

His antics drew acclaim from the Associated Press' John Zenor and Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee:

The Tigers made their living on the ground, though, rushing for a cumulative 311 yards, with 159 of those coming from bruising back Jovon Robinson, who added a score.

Making his second career start, Aggies quarterback Kyler Murray threw three picks, including two in the red zone, which led to 10 Auburn points. The true freshman left in the third quarter after suffering a head injury, as ESPN showed (via Bleacher Report):

Murray, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in this year’s recruiting class, per 247Sports, assumed the starting role from the struggling Kyle Allen.

Auburn opened the season at No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 and had high hopes for a College Football Playoff run after stumbling late last year and eventually finishing 8-5. The Tigers sit at 5-4 on the year and still have to play their two biggest rivals: Alabama and Georgia.

Texas A&M’s outside hopes of reaching the SEC title game were squandered after its third conference loss. The 6-3 Aggies will play Western Carolina and Vanderbilt before their season finale against No. 2 LSU.

Postgame Reaction

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn referred to the performance as “a true team win,” per Auburn Gold Mine, saying: “We felt like we played well in all three phases. … We played our best game tonight."

Malzahn also offered high praise for Johnson, per Christine Wang of Saturday Down South:

"I’m proud of Jeremy,” Malzahn said. "He’s been through a lot this year and for him to come out and play, he made one of the plays of the game.”

Whether White returns or not, Johnson’s status remains uncertain. But he was humble for the opportunity, per Auburn Gold Mine:

Forrest Buckner of the Auburn athletic department tweeted a graphic encompassing Johnson’s resolve this season:

Shayda Nazifpour of KAGS News reported Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin wasn’t nearly as jubilant in the opposing press conference:

A few other Aggies shared their assessment of Saturday’s performance with Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle:

The Aggies have now lost three of their last four after starting the season 5-0. They have at least one major hurdle on their schedule vs. LSU in the regular season finale. Sumlin is now 34-15 at Texas A&M but the downward trend has the state of the Aggies program at a crossroads.

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Michigan TE Jake Butt's Twitter Celebrates Spartans' Loss; Brother Takes Blame

After having Michigan State beat his team on a stunning walk-off touchdown a few weeks ago, Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt couldn't have been happier to see the previously undefeated Spartans lose to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in heartbreaking fashion Saturday.

No. 7 Michigan State allowed 19 fourth-quarter points to the Cornhuskers, including two touchdowns in the final two minutes to blow a 38-26 lead. The Spartans nearly answered with a score of their own in the final seconds but came up empty.

As a result, Michigan State was handed its first loss of the season, a 39-38 defeat—something Michigan felt should've already happened. Shortly after the final second ticked off the clock, Butt tweeted out his excitement over the result.

The Wolverines star's Twitter feed even went so far as to say that he was an Ohio State fan at the moment, as Mike Sullivan of 97.1 The Ticket notes:

On a related note, Butt did grow up in Buckeye country. He graduated from Pickerington High School North, which is about a 20-minute drive to Ohio State's campus.

The tweet was deleted fairly quickly, however. It appears as though Jake's brother was responsible for the tweet:

[Twitter]

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Michigan State vs. Nebraska: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Controversy in college football lives again for another week. And because of that, the Michigan State Spartans are no longer undefeated.

Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Reilly with 17 seconds remaining lifted the Nebraska Cornhuskers to a shocking 39-38 victory over the Spartans on Saturday night in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The only problem is that it may not have been a touchdown.

The replay appears to show that Reilly stepped out of bounds of his own accord and came back in to make the catch and walk into the end zone. However, the referees seemed to miss the call, "ruling that Michigan State's Jermaine Edmondson pushed Reilly out," according to AL.com'sCreg Stephenson. The line judge threw his hat after the score, which indicated that Reilly went out of bounds.

After further review, the call stood, and Nebraska pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college football season.

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns but was overshadowed by Armstrong, who threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns, including the controversial game-winning score.

Just when it seemed as though it would be easy to escape the controversial finish of the Miami-Duke game last week, it has somehow been topped. Unlike that game, this result had College Football Playoff implications.

Michigan State is a loser for the first time this year, when it seems it should not have been. It's unclear if the Spartans would have made it into the four-team field, but one apparent bad call by a Big Ten officiating crew may ensure that does not happen.

As for Nebraska, this was a storybook win for a struggling program. It's been a struggle for new head coach Mike Riley and the Cornhuskers, but controversial or not, this is a win that could be a terrific starting point to build for the future.

But for the second straight week, college football officiating has been brought into question, and there will surely be a statement made Sunday.

Postgame Reaction

Call it karma, if that’s even possible in this situation. Ralph Russo from the Associated Press definitely thinks so.

It wasn’t that long ago when Michigan State blocked the punt that shook the state of Michigan against the Wolverines.

But even if it is karma, it shouldn’t have ended this way. Not even close.

The replay clearly shows that Reilly stepped out of bounds and came back in to make that catch. What's even more glaring, courtesy of Lost Lettermen on Twitter, showed that Reilly interfered with Michigan State defensive back Jermaine Edmondson before making the catch:

So, once again, two missed calls. If illegal touching was not going to be called, a blatant offensive pass interference was ignored, as well.

ESPN Sports & Business reporter Darren Rovell also made a note that if Michigan State happens to run the table and win the Big Ten title, this one loss could cost the conference $6 million. Even for the Big Ten, a conference that makes plenty of money and consists of the defending national champions, that's a lot of money down the drain.

Despite all of that, Michigan State head coach Mark D'Antonio took the high road in his postgame presser, per Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal:

There was also this nugget from ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman:

D'Antonio has every right to be critical of the officiating, but he also understands that his Spartans had a 31-20 lead going into the fourth quarter and Nebraska outscored Michigan State 19-7 in the final frame.

 

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Navy vs. Memphis: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The ship has sailed on any chance the Memphis Tigers had at qualifying for the College Football Playoff.

Previously unbeaten at 8-0, the Tigers were shocked by the Navy Midshipmen, 45-20, on Saturday night at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.

As per most Navy victories, the Midshipmen won the game on the ground. They rushed for 374 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Chris Swain led the way with 108 yards and three scores.

It was one of the best performances for a Navy running back in nearly a decade, per the Navy Athletics Twitter account:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports summed up the life of a one-loss non-Power Five-conference team:

In addition to the strong rushing performance, Navy got the best of Memphis through the air for one scoring play. ESPN College Football shared video footage of the third-quarter touchdown:

The connection from quarterback Keenan Reynolds to running back DeBrandon Sanders helped give Navy a 24-17 lead that it would not relinquish. It was the longest pass play in nearly five years for Navy, per ESPN Stats and Info:

It was also one of only three completions for the Midshipmen on the night. Memphis couldn't stop the option, however, and allowed 5.7 yards per rush. 

This will be a tough pill for the Tigers to swallow, as they had their sights set on the CFP. If they had finished unbeaten and were left out of the playoff picture, an at-large selection to the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl would have been a possibility.

Now, Navy has a great shot at playing in one of the New Year's Six bowls, per ESPN's Heather Dinich:

Memphis still has two road games against ranked teams on the schedule: the Houston Cougars and Temple Owls. Its season could go downhill after this loss.

Although Navy came in at 6-1, with a loss at Notre Dame as the only blemish on the schedule, the Tigers were supposed to win this game. Per Odds Shark, Memphis opened as an 8.5-point favorite. It would be shocking if anyone outside the Navy locker room thought the Midshipmen would win by nearly four touchdowns.

Per ESPN, this was a victory unlike any other in three decades:

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate, was held in check for the most part, completing 26 of 42 passes for 305 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Navy outgained Memphis by only 21 yards, but three turnovers did in the Tigers. Both teams sit with only one loss, but the Midshipmen are in a better spot with a 5-0 American Athletic Conference record and a great shot at playing in the conference title game.

 

Postgame Reaction

Not only was this the first loss of the season for the Tigers, it was the first in more than a year, per ESPN Stats and Info:

Tigers head coach Justin Fuente tipped his cap to the Midshipmen for their dominating performance, per the Memphis Twitter account:

Tom Fornelli of CBSSports gave high praise on Twitter to Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo:

He may be up for other coaching jobs at the end of the season, but for now Niumatalolo's focus surely is on earning a conference title and getting the Midshipmen to a top-tier bowl.

This victory is a step in the right direction.

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