NCAA Football News

College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 9

The College Football Playoff committee will have its first in-season meeting Sunday before releasing its first rankings. When these rankings are unveiled Tuesday night (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), they will obliterate the polls and all other ratings systems in terms of relevance.

And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Because of that, the rest of the season will be played out in a horse race fashion. Instead of shifting the paradigm on how teams should be evaluated as the CFP so loftily promised, we're back to business as usual. Instead of the polls and the now-defunct BCS standings, we'll have a new rankings system fashioned by not hundreds, but 12 individuals.

Maybe the committee will surprise us with rankings radically different from the polls. But the hunch here is that they won't be. We will find out for sure Tuesday night.

 

Teams That Moved Up

Mississippi State

How does the No. 1-ranked team move up? Simple, at this point, we don't know who's really No. 1, at least in the eyes of the committee. The Bulldogs survived a spirited challenge by Kentucky and will be further buoyed by the loss suffered by in-state rival Ole Miss. By any reasonable measure, Mississippi State should be No. 1 in the inaugural CFP rankings.

 

Michigan State

The other MSU also had a good day, thanks to a severe beatdown the Spartans administered to its own in-state rival. Mark Dantonio scored an oh-by-the-way touchdown late in the game just to make a point (or seven) about how tired he was of the "little brother" nonsense. The Spartans are clearly the class of the Big Ten, and they're making a serious push for a playoff spot.

 

Oregon

Will the committee remember that Oregon actually beat Michigan State by 19? We'll find out Tuesday. The Ducks have recovered from their own hiccup—a loss against then-unbeaten Arizona—and are rolling through the Pac-12, averaging nearly 49 points per game in their last three victories. They represent the conference's best shot of making the playoff but are certainly not the only one with a chance.

 

TCU

If it weren't for the meltdown in the last 11 minutes of their game against Baylor, the Horned Frogs would be near the top of any rankings. As it is, TCU likely will be the top Big 12 team ranked by the committee. Since the Big 12 does not have a championship game, the Horned Frogs can claim a piece of the conference title by winning out—and they'd be best positioned to earn a playoff spot.

 

Teams That Moved Down

Ole Miss

While the gut-wrenching defeat in Death Valley doesn't necessarily snuff out the Rebels' playoff chances, they'll have lots of catching up to do. The loss to LSU was just a major blown opportunity, as Ole Miss will get both Auburn and Mississippi State at home. The silver lining is that the Rebels can still take the SEC West simply by winning out.

 

East Carolina

The Pirates labored to beat a 1-6 UConn team at home in a nationally televised Thursday game, and that's not good for the optics. And their big wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina earlier in the season are losing their luster as both teams have struggled lately and are just 4-4. ECU is still on track to win the American, but it does not have a firm grip on the Group-of-Five spot.

 

ACC

Florida State, as one of just two unbeaten power-five teams, is a lock for a playoff spot if it wins out. But should the Seminoles stumble anywhere the rest of the way, then it's game-over for the ACC. The only other conference team with fewer than two losses is Duke, and no team other than FSU is remotely in the conversation for a playoff spot.

Good thing the ACC has a guaranteed Orange Bowl berth.

 

AP Poll

The most venerable poll in college football survived a challenge from the BCS standings, now it must contend with the committee rankings. Starting Tuesday, it will be rendered irrelevant for the rest of the season—unless it crowns a different champion from the one that wins the four-team playoff. That's happened just once in the 16-year BCS era and is highly improbable in the CFP era.

 

Group-of-Five Team in the Best Position

Marshall, as one of only three unbeaten FBS teams, might be edging ahead of East Carolina in the group-of-five dogfight. Although the Herd have not faced any team in the power-five conferences, their smallest margin of victory in their seven wins was by 15, in the season opener against Miami of Ohio.

The team with the best resume so far is Colorado State, with wins over Boston College and Colorado, but the Rams need help to even win their division, as their loss to Boise State now stands as the tiebreaker. The two-loss Broncos are still in the mix, as is Central Florida, which will face ECU in the regular-season finale to perhaps decide the American title.

 

Projected Conference Championship Matchups

ACC: Florida State vs. Duke

Big Ten: Michigan State vs. Wisconsin

Pac-12: Oregon vs. Arizona

SEC: Mississippi State vs. Georgia

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Is Alabama the Best Team in the Country?

Alabama won convincingly over Tennessee on Saturday by a 34-20 score. The Crimson Tide have been on a roll since losing to Ole Miss earlier in the season, and they are looking like one of the best teams, if not the best team in the country. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss whether Alabama has returned to the peak of college football.

Who is the best team in college football right now?

Watch the video and let us know!

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JT Barrett Injury: Updates on Ohio St. Star's Knee and Recovery

Many wondered how No. 13 Ohio State squandered a 17-0 halftime lead in the Buckeyes' 31-24 double-overtime win over the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday. Head coach Urban Meyer may have provided at least a partial reason.

According to Matt Brown of Sports on Earth, OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett sprained his knee as the second quarter wound down:

Barrett finished the game 12-of-19 for 74 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He added 75 yards and two TDs on the ground. Former Buckeye Dustin Fox thought that the freshman didn't perform well but that playing in Happy Valley provided invaluable experience going forward:

Meyer and the Buckeyes will obviously hope that Barrett's injury is only minor. The team is already down a quarterback after Braxton Miller was ruled out for the entire season back in August.

Ohio State plays No. 8 Michigan State on Nov. 8 in a matchup that will likely decide the winner of the Big Ten East. The Bucks will want to have their starting QB on the field for such a crucial game.

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'Bad Bo' Wallace Finally Costs Ole Miss vs. LSU, Are Playoff Hopes Still Alive?

Dr. Bo giveth, and Dr. Bo taketh away.

The latter happened to Ole Miss Saturday night at LSU, when capricious quarterback Bo Wallace completed 14 of 33 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 10-7 loss that dropped the Rebels to 7-1 and crippled their chances of making the College Football Playoff.

Trailing 10-7 with 1:19 left in the game, Ole Miss got the ball back on its 25-yard line with no timeouts. Wallace drove the offense 50 yards in 70 seconds, looking sharper than he had all night to set up a 42-yard field goal with nine seconds left on the clock.

But the Rebels fell asleep at the wheel, incurring a five-yard delay-of-game penalty before they could get off the snap. Now looking at a 47-yard field goal, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze called true freshman kicker Gary Wunderlich to the sideline and sent Wallace and the offense back onto the field, ostensibly directing them to run a quick play toward the sideline and gain back some of the lost yardage.

And that is when things got…well, here, have a look for yourself:

In the span of one minute of real time, the Rebels went from lining up for a plausible field goal to send the game into overtime to hurling a downfield pass into double coverage and losing the game.

But who, out of Wallace and Freeze, was at fault?

Did Freeze dial up a misdirection, a play designed to beat LSU over the top if it bit on the quick-out to the sideline? Or did Wallace go rogue—something he is sometimes wont to do—and disobey the play call for the sake of what can only be described as "hero ball"?

The face Freeze made after the play says it all:

"I thought we were pretty clear we would take that flat throw or throw it out of bounds," Freeze said after the game, per TJ Werre of WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi. "[I] wish I could do it over."

The "Good Bo, Bad Bo" dichotomy has been used to describe Wallace's lapses in judgement—the type of decision he made on the last play of the game. But the grubby little secret about Saturday is that "Bad Bo" showed up long before the final nine seconds. He didn't throw an interception, but he was just as "Bad" as ever.

Only this time, it was wildly more mundane.

Ole Miss punted on seven consecutive possessions after its only touchdown, at one point gaining minus-30 yards and punting thrice in the span of nine plays. Its defense looked semi-vulnerable for the first time all season, but even an average performance from the Rebels offense might have been enough to survive.

Instead, the performance it got was decidedly below average. Not all of that was on Wallace, who at times was the victim of an outmuscled offensive line, but Wallace deserves more blame than the rest.

If the quarterback is revered when his team is playing well—see: the ridiculous fact that Wallace entered Saturday the No. 8 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, per Odds Shark—he must also be willing to shoulder the blame when his offense turns to muck.

So…where does Ole Miss go from here?

Technically, the Rebels still control their own fate in the SEC West, the SEC and (in all likelihood) the race to make the CFP. If they win the rest of their games—a feat which would include beating Mississippi State in Oxford Nov. 29—they could do no worse than forcing a three-way tie with the Bulldogs and Alabama atop the division.

If either—not both—of those teams lost a second game, Ole Miss would win the West by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.

No matter what happens in the other power conferences and with Notre Dame, a one-loss SEC champion will not be excluded from the playoff. It just won't be. The best team from the best conference will have a spot in the national semifinals. Yes, that is basically a fact.

Mathematically, that means Ole Miss' playoff hopes are more than just alive, but healthy. If it wins the rest of the games on its schedule, its chances of missing the CFP are remote. No matter where it lands in the polls tomorrow, the only thing that has changed for the Rebels is the thinness of their margin for error.

Well…that and their faith in their quarterback.

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Tennessee Is in Better Hands with Joshua Dobbs Under Center

With a massive hole in its injury-riddled offense, Tennessee found the perfect puzzle piece for its scheme Saturday night in third-string quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

Now, regardless of starting signal-caller Justin Worley's future health status, it's going to be difficult taking Dobbs out of the lineup.

The Vols lost yet another game to hated rival Alabama, but they may have found their quarterback of the present and future.

Head coach Butch Jones burned Dobbs' redshirt after two ineffective series by Nathan Peterman in UT's 34-20 loss to the Crimson Tide. The 6'3", 216-pound sophomore responded with a quality performance that was meaningful beyond his 267 total yards. 

Jones agreed, according to Rocky Top Insider:

An offense that had grown stagnant with Worley at the helm was rejuvenated.

The threat of Dobbs keeping the football on the read-option opened up Tennessee's rushing game and, ultimately, its entire offense. Suddenly, receivers were breaking open downfield, linemen were blocking better and UT was moving the ball and scoring points.

All of it was because of Dobbs.

On one occasion, he threaded a pass to Marquez North through the outstretched arms of a defender for a crucial first down at the end of the first half. Another time, he broke two tackles and outran several other defenders for a 30-yard gain on a designed run.

He added another dimension to UT's offense all night.

Now, hope resides where it didn't before—especially during a first half that saw Alabama jump ahead 27-0. Tennessee roared back behind Dobbs, who willed UT down the field at times with his legs, arm and leadership.

Even when UT was down by multiple touchdowns, Dobbs was getting in the ears of his teammates and rallying them on the sideline, actions normally reserved for wily upperclassmen or long-time starters.

At this point, the Vols are sick of moral victories, but with four winnable games on the horizon against South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, UT needed some sort of spark with injuries claiming Vols left and right.

Dobbs provided, and the numbers are the only evidence necessary. A Vols rushing attack that was sixth-worst in the country amassed 181 yards on the ground against the nation's second-ranked rush defense. Dobbs had 75 of those yards.

Tennessee's official Twitter account noted the significance of Dobbs' ground performance:

When he finally got another shot to lead UT's offense, the sophomore aeronautical engineering major took off. Now, maybe Dobbs is on his way to being known for his play on the field as well as his academic prowess off it.

For the night, Dobbs finished 19-of-34 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. 

Dobbs' out-of-nowhere performance has happened before.

After struggling for much of the spring, he came out in the Orange and White Game and put on a show, looking like the best quarterback on the roster.

Saturday night produced a similar showing. The Alpharetta, Georgia, native hadn't taken a single snap all season entering the Alabama game and didn't even start the game against the Tide. But once he got on the field, he shined.

His showing was so impressive, it calls into question why Dobbs is just now getting a chance to display his skills. But considering he was never really a factor to challenge Worley for the starting job, this was surprising to everybody, including the coaches.

Maybe, Dobbs is just a gamer.

His arm strength has improved, and his release was quicker than at any point during his action last season. Though there were questions about his decision-making skills coming into the game, Dobbs was decisive in key moments. 

Even though the Vols must endure an eighth consecutive loss to Alabama, the rest of the season and the program rebuild don't seem as dire as it did. With a dual-threat weapon behind center, offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian has the breathing room to actually call a balanced game.

The Vols were consistently strong offensively after their shell-shocked start. UT finished 11-of-19 in third-down conversions, held a time-of-possession advantage and wound up with 21 first downs.

That's impressive against anybody. Against Alabama, it's really strong, which furthers the idea that Dobbs should get a lengthy look as UT's quarterback.

Not only did the offense look better than it has since the Georgia game with him under center, the players believe in him. 

But now Dobbs must build off this impressive, unexpected performance and gain confidence and consistency.

No matter how good he looked at times against the Tide, Dobbs was far from perfect. He missed on a few passes in which his receivers had a step on the defender, including to a wide open North for a would-be touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Trying to do too much with UT down big early, Dobbs fumbled after a big hit by Reggie Ragland, and UA turned that into a touchdown.

Then, after 'Bama responded to UT's furious comeback and extended the lead to 34-17, Tennessee's offense sputtered to a three-and-out that all but ended the game. Dobbs threw his only interception into double coverage on the next possession.

Despite brief flashes of the inconsistency that had kept him from being the field this season, Dobbs was dynamic against Alabama. This was a solid next step in his progression.

Last year, he was thrust into action as a true freshman against Alabama and really struggled down the stretch as UT lost to everybody else on the schedule besides Kentucky. The real clunker came against Vanderbilt, losing to the Commodoresx with a bowl berth on the line.

The rest of this season is a redemption opportunity.

With Worley's status uncertain, this is Dobbs' team, and UT must beat three of its four remaining opponents to go to its first bowl game since 2009.

Dobbs looked like the clear-cut answer against Alabama, and he's really the only fit on this roster for Bajakian's offense. 

Tennessee needs for Dobbs to play like he did Saturday night the rest of the season. If he does, the Vols are his team, and UT's murky future quarterback situation just became a whole lot clearer.

 

All stats taken from UTSports.com, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Ohio State vs. Penn State: Score and Twitter Reaction

In the midst of a whiteout in Beaver Stadium, the Penn State Nittany Lions showed a great deal of resilience through a full 60 minutes and then some against the No. 13 Ohio State Buckeyes.

However, the home team came up just short and fell in double overtime to the Buckeyes by a score of 31-24 in Saturday's Big Ten clash.

The game started in rather ominous fashion for Penn State. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg completed a pair of quick passes on an opening drive that started deep in his own territory. However, all momentum was quickly halted, as Vonn Bell came up with an interception at the Nittany Lions' 39-yard line—or did he?

There appeared to be an issue with the replay system, as the ball clearly struck the ground, but the call was upheld. Officiating guru Mike Pereira tweeted his confusion over the situation:

After the game, the referee was asked about the situation via Ben Jones of statecollege.com:

Regardless, the play stood, and it didn't take long for the Buckeyes to capitalize.

The ensuing seven-play, 39-yard drive was almost all running back Ezekiel Elliott, as he gained 21 of those yards and capped off the short drive with a 10-yard touchdown scamper. Eye on College Football tweeted its take on the running back's score:

With Ohio State leading 7-0, both defenses began to clamp down. Neither team manufactured a drive lasting more than seven plays or 37 yards, as the teams traded punts until time expired in the first quarter.

The Buckeyes found some momentum near the end of the first quarter and into the beginning of the second, chipping away at the Penn State defense on a long, methodical drive that featured plenty of scrambling from quarterback J.T. Barrett.

After 14 plays and 59 yards, all the Buckeyes could manage was a Sean Nuernberger 49-yard field goal. The Buckeyes' official Twitter account relayed its jubilation as a result of the long field-goal attempt:

Two drives later, Penn State was forced to punt once again. However, punter Chris Gulla had to kick from the back of his end zone and didn't quite catch the ball cleanly. The kick traveled just 35 yards, so Ohio State was given great field position at the Nittany Lions' 39-yard line. This was the Buckeyes' second drive of the day, beginning at that spot on the field, and for the second time, they capitalized.

After a solid ground game between Barrett and Elliott moved Ohio State to the Penn State 1-yard line, a touchdown pass to Jeff Heuerman gave the Buckeyes a 17-point lead and seemingly blew the game wide open.

Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch tweeted the play's design:

Following another Penn State punt, the first half came to a close with Ohio State leading by a clear margin. Richard Scarcella of the Reading Eagle tweeted the home team's unfavorable stat line in this defensive struggle:

Speaking of a defensive struggle, Penn State defensive lineman Anthony Zettel took matters into his own hands. He dropped into coverage and picked off Barrett's pass just three plays into the third quarter. The big man showed some nice speed down the sideline and beat the quarterback to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

ESPN's Desmond Howard had something to say about that play:

The game's defensive trend continued the remainder of the quarter. Ohio State did march into field-goal range, but this time a Nuernberger 41-yard attempt sailed wide. On the following possession, Penn State entered Buckeyes territory, but an ill-advised throw by Hackenberg was picked off by Tyvis Powell.

The quarter ended with Ohio State in control and the score at 17-7.

The Nittany Lions showed a great deal of resilience in the fourth quarter. Hackenberg continued to chip away at the Ohio State defense, moving his team down the field with short completions. Facing a 3rd-and-6 at the Buckeyes' 24-yard line, the quarterback finally let one rip and hit Saeed Blacknall in the end zone to get Penn State within three.

Beaver Stadium simply erupted following the huge score, via Penn State Football:

The offenses traded punts on the following drives, giving Hackenberg and the Penn State offense one last chance. The game's final drive started at the Nittany Lions' own 9-yard line with just 2:58 remaining.

Hackenberg was pressured frequently on the drive, but he circumvented the Buckeyes' pass rush with some short, high-percentage passes. The offense wore the Ohio State defense down, converting three pivotal third downs along the way.

The Nittany Lions caught a big break once the drive reached the 50-yard line, as Curtis Grant was called for roughing the passer after Hackenberg completed a seven-yard pass to DaeSean Hamilton. Four plays later, Sam Ficken was called upon to attempt a game-tying 31-yard field goal.

The kicker's attempt was true and capped off an astounding 19-play, 77-yard drive to force overtime. Bleacher Report tweeted the news of free football:

Penn State elected to begin overtime on offense in an effort to continue its late-game momentum. Two big-time Hackenberg completions to Hamilton quickly saw the Nittany Lions move to the 2-yard line. The receptions earned the wide receiver a new school record, according to Frank Bodani of the York Daily Record:

Bill Belton took advantage thereafter, plunging into the end zone for the score. The touchdown marked 24 unanswered points for Penn State.

Fox Sports Ohio tweeted exactly what the Buckeyes needed to answer with:

Unfazed, Barrett responded promptly. He followed up a 17-yard scamper with a five-yard touchdown run to even the game back up at 24. The Buckeyes offense moved back to the 25-yard line to go at it again, and the end result was similar. Eye on College Football tweeted Barrett's second overtime rushing touchdown:

Unfortunately for Penn State, another touchdown wasn't in the cards. Joey Bosa knifed through the Nittany Lions' offensive line on fourth down to sack Hackenberg and close out the game.

Penn State coach James Franklin wasn't too pleased about every aspect of the game. Here's what he had to say during a press conference, via Josh Moyer of ESPN.com:

Despite the loss, the Nittany Lions must be proud of their performance. Beaver Stadium was electric due to the never-say-die attitude of this football team. Penn State is under a new regime and is chock-full of young, talented and hungry players.

With four wins on the season, the Nittany Lions still have a great chance to reach bowl eligibility with five games remaining on their schedule. Penn State may not have come away with the win on Saturday night, but the future looks bright in Happy Valley.

Ohio State notched a win against a good opponent in the face of adversity. While it wasn't an overwhelmingly impressive showing from the team's offense, Barrett and Co. flourished when under great duress. This team will only get better as this young quarterback continues to develop.

Head coach Urban Meyer praised his young quarterback for playing though an injury suffered during the game, via Lori Schmidt of 97.1 The Fan:

At 6-1 on the season, the Buckeyes are already bowl eligible. Winning out will be difficult with the Michigan State Spartans remaining on the team's schedule. However, if Ohio State's defense can continue performing to the level we witnessed against Penn State, that feat isn't definitely possible.

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Ole Miss vs. LSU: Game Grades, Analysis for the Rebels and Tigers

The only way to describe this game is a good, old-fashioned slugfest between to rivals from the SEC West.  Ole Miss, sporting its best record in nearly half a century and a No. 3 ranking, strolled into Death Valley as a team on a mission to prove to everyone that it belonged in the conversation.  LSU, on the other hand, was looking to prove that its newly rediscovered Top 25 ranking was legitimate.

Both teams showed how good they can be, but LSU edged past Ole Miss, 10-7.

Without further ado, let's dive right into all the analysis and grades for both the Rebels and Tigers.

Box score via NCAA.com

 

 

Ole Miss Pass Offense

Bo Wallace, still struggling against the "Good Bo, Bad Bo" duality of his passing game, came out firing.  He wasn't particularly accurate in the first half, finishing 5-of-16, but he had 105 yards and a touchdown to put his Rebels on top.

In the second half, his accuracy improved slightly, but his decision-making abilities seemed to take a nosedive.

LSU's pass rush was able to keep Wallace off-balance, and he even managed to pick up an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty along the way.  In the end, Wallace finished 14-of-34 for 177 with one touchdown, but it was his costly interception in the game's waning seconds on a bizarre pass decision on an even more bizarre play call from head coach Hugh Freeze that ended up costing Ole Miss the game.

 

Ole Miss Run Offense

We knew LSU's run defense would be playing at their best against Ole Miss, but we didn't expect a defense that ranked 10th in the SEC against the run coming into the night to hold Ole Miss completely in check all game long.

The Rebels never cracked the end zone with the run game, and only managed a measly 36 yards on the ground in the second half.

Bo Wallace led his team with just 40 yards on 12 carries.

We were prepared to hand out some nice grades after the Rebels' 101-yard performance in the first half, but with the Tigers locking things down after halftime, the Rebels are lucky to get out of Baton Rouge with a passing mark.

 

Ole Miss Pass Defense

LSU isn't a passing team, so tonight wasn't a great test of Ole Miss' pass defense.  We weren't even able to give any sort of grade after the first half, considering the Tigers attempted just eight passes.  Things didn't get much better in the second half, as LSU's Anthony Jennings threw just eight more, but the Rebels did have a pair of interceptions (by Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton) after the break, so that's worth noting.

Also worth noting is the fact that the Rebels passing defense gave up the game-winning touchdown through the air after LSU had run 12 straight run plays.

Can we really blame Ole Miss for selling out against the run at that point?

 

Ole Miss Run Defense

As students, we often figured that handing out grades was easy for teachers.  But trying to sift through the plethora of information we received from the LSU running game is no easy task.  The Rebels "limited" the run-heavy LSU offense to 147 yards on the ground in the first half, but also forced two fumbles—one of which came in the end zone, saving six points.

After halftime, however, the Ole Miss front seven was gradually worn down by an unrelenting Tigers rushing attack.  LSU finished with 264 yards on the evening.

Still, Ole Miss managed to do something most teams can't: The Rebels held the LSU running game to zero points.

 

Ole Miss Special Teams

The Ole Miss special teams unit did what it came to do: not screw up too badly.

Ole Miss didn't attempt a field goal (although the Rebels probably should have, more on that later), and the punting game was pretty impressive (downing five punts inside the 20, including a couple inside the five).  The two kick returns by Jaylan Walton both went for 18 yards apiece, and Markell Pack's lone punt return gained a single yard thanks to some great coverage by LSU.

We do have to mention, however, one negative: the field-goal unit suffered a delay-of-game penalty in the game's final seconds, pushing what would have been a 42-yard field-goal attempt to 47 yards—and, boy, did that affect the outcome of the game.

Still, no overwhelming complaints here (since the field goal wasn't attempted in the end), and the punting game was solid enough to flip the field a few times, so we'll send the Rebels out with a healthy "B+."

 

Ole Miss Coaching

Now let's talk about that "should have" field-goal attempt.

It's perfectly valid to have concerns about a kicker from long distance in a big game on the road at a place like LSU.  It's even more understandable when that kicker is a freshman like Gary Wunderlich.

But with just a few seconds remaining in the game, and down by three points, isn't a 47-yard field goal attempt at least worth trying?

We're not prepared to fail Hugh Freeze and his staff, but his decision-making process will likely be questioned by Ole Miss faithful for years to come—especially if the Rebels are left out of the College Football Playoff due to this loss.

 

 

LSU Pass Offense

When you have a passing game like LSU's, usually the best you can hope for is not screwing things up too badly.  The Tigers are all about the run, and that fact is evidenced by Anthony Jennings attempting just 16 passes on the evening.

True to form this season, Jennings completed exactly 50 percent of his throws.  In fact, Jennings was 4-of-8 in both halves tonight, finishing 8-of-16 for 142.

His two interceptions were poor throws, and there's no ignoring those glaring failures on the night.  Still, when you have a passing game that just barely gets by as legitimate, it's impressive to see Jennings able to hit an almost too-wide-open receiver in Logan Stokes (who?) for the game-winning touchdown.

Speaking of Stokes, what a time for his first-ever reception!  The three-yard catch, standing all alone in the end zone, came after LSU had run 12 consecutive run plays on a 95-yard drive that chewed up nearly six minutes of the fourth quarter.

We won't ignore the two picks in the final-grade consideration, but that touchdown was such a thing of beauty (again, considering LSU's general lack of passing proficiency) that we're willing to hand out a very generous "B."

 

LSU Run Offense

If you were hoping to see a power LSU running game tonight, you probably went home satisfied.

The Tigers ran around, over and through Ole Miss all night to the tune of 264 yards on 55 carries.  Leonard Fournette led the way with 113 yards on 23 carries, including some late runs shaking off would-be tacklers and picking up some crucial first downs.

Terrence Magee also got in on the action, putting up 74 yards while Kenny Hilliard added 63.

Ole Miss was able to hold the ground game scoreless, however, and the two first-half fumbles are definitely a cause for concern moving forward.  This game would have likely been over a lot sooner had LSU's ground game been able to finish its early first-half drives.

Still, a win is a win, and 264 yards is nothing to sneeze at.

 

LSU Pass Defense

Holding a quarterback to 177 yards on 14-of 34 passing isn't a bad night, but we're not sure exactly how much of that had to do with LSU's pass defense and how much had to do with Bo Wallace's questionable decision-making.

It could have been much worse for Wallace and the Rebels had LSU been able to hang on to the two dropped interceptions in the first half or the third in the second half, but we do know that Wallace is capable of putting up some big numbers.

Just not against LSU's secondary.

We're also heaping some recognition on Ronald Martin for his game-saving interception in the game's final seconds when Bo Wallace jacked up what we can only describe as a wishful pass on fourth down.

 

LSU Run Defense

You'd think that with LSU loving the run game, the run defense gets quite a lot of practice against solid running backs during the week.

You'd probably be right, too.  The Tigers held Ole Miss to 137 yards on 37 rush attempts, and no Rebel had more than 40 yards on the ground.  The Tigers also kept the Rebels out of the end zone on the ground, and the lack of production in the run game played right into the lack of success available to the Ole Miss passing attack.

 

LSU Special Teams

There wasn't anything spectacular in the special teams game for LSU, other than a spectacularly missed short field-goal attempt in the first half.

It didn't cost LSU the game, but it made things a little more interesting early on.  Colby Delahoussaye made up for his earlier error by nailing a 51-yarder in the second quarter, but we're still a bit puzzled by his miss from 28 yards early in the first quarter.  He's just so reliable, usually...

 

LSU Coaching

The Hat does it again.  Another fourth-quarter comeback for Les Miles, and another big win in a prime-time game for LSU at home against a ranked opponent.

Miles did absolutely everything he needed to do to keep his team in the game despite some early setbacks.  The Tigers were never allowed to get down on themselves, and Miles engineered some great drives in the second half to not only come up with the winning score, but bleed quite a bit of clock.

Speaking of that winning score: Only Les Miles would run the ball 12 straight times from LSU's five to the Ole Miss three and then dial up a play-action pass for the game-winning touchdown.

That's either genius or crazy.  Either way, it worked.

 

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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Lane Kiffin Shows Vols Fans What They Missed out on in Return to Tennessee

It’s not often that an assistant coach is the focal point of a college football game, but that’s what Lane Kiffin was on Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.

Kiffin’s sudden, dead-of-night departure from Knoxville in early 2010 left Tennessee fans stunned after what has been the Volunteers’ only winning season since 2008. Like Alabama coach Nick Saban noted earlier in the season, fans only hate a coach who leaves if he was good.

And this is a rivalry that had become especially stale, with Alabama winning the last seven in the series coming into the game and both teams still on very different ends of the college football spectrum.

So the booing and hissing from Tennessee fans was very much expected.

But once the game got started and the attention turned to the field, Alabama’s offensive coordinator showed just why he was, at one point, a highly in-demand coach. Kiffin called one of his best games of the year in the Tide's 34-20 win over Tennessee, and those Vols fans that gave him hell for the better part of the week and the beginning of the day got an up-close view of what they were missing out on.

The Crimson Tide offense put up 469 yards and featured its best offensive player to put together its most complete road performance of the season.

He couldn’t have scripted the start any better.

On the first offensive play of the game for Alabama, quarterback Blake Sims ran a play-action bootleg that got just about the entire offense moving left. Wide receiver Amari Cooper, lined up on the left side, slipped the other way and after a short toss from Sims outran the rest of the Tennessee defense for a touchdown.

Kiffin was feeling it early.

Alabama jumped out to a 20-0 lead thanks to near-flawless execution from the offense and play calls that seemed to be just a step ahead of the Tennessee defense, which was in the upper half of the SEC for yards allowed entering the game.

After those three drives to open the game, the offense sputtered into halftime. It scored one more time late in the first half after recovering a fumble deep in Tennessee territory but gained just 15 yards on its other two drives.

Following another three-and-out to start the second half, Kiffin turned to a more ball-control approach. The offense went on a 13-play, 76-yard drive that ended with a score that put Alabama up by 17 points, which Tennessee couldn’t overcome.

Fifty-seven of those 76 yards were on the ground, including a 28-yarder from Derrick Henry that capped the drive. It settled Alabama down and got Sims involved in the game. Kiffin had the QB roll out on most of the passing plays and make plays with his arm and feet when he needed to.

This offense is at its best when it goes through Amari Cooper, and Kiffin definitely made sure that happened tonight.

That opening play was only a sign of things to come, as Cooper finished the night with two touchdowns and 224 receiving yards—a single-game Alabama record. Cooper accounted for nearly half of Alabama’s total offense on the night, thanks to Kiffin giving him a featured role on the night.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough for Tennessee fans, consider this: Sims, who threw for 286 yards and two scores, was heavily recruited by Kiffin at Tennessee.

“I was pretty close,” Sims said earlier this week. “If he didn't go to USC, that's where I would have went.”

Kiffin and Sims could have been the duo that took the field on the opposite sideline of Neyland Stadium on Saturday night. Instead, the pair terrorized Tennessee and led yet another Alabama win in one of the longest winning streaks in the rivalry's storied history.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 9

This week in college football was filled with record-breaking performances and nail-biting finishes. The top players in CFB are proving to everyone why they belong in the Heisman discussion. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder tells you who he has for his top five Heisman Trophy candidates.

Who is your favorite to win the Heisman Trophy?

Watch the video and let us know!

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South Carolina vs. Auburn: Game Grades, Analysis for the Gamecocks and Tigers

The South Carolina Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers did battle at the Plains, and it was Auburn that prevailed 42-35. The final box score can be found here, thanks to NCAA.com.

Both teams made plays on offense. Auburn did its damage through the ground, while South Carolina aired it out.

But the reason Auburn was able to come away with the win was the fact that South Carolina made one too many mistakes on offense, and the Tigers were able to take advantage of it.

Both teams showed they wanted to win, but the Tigers were just the better team on Saturday night.

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

 

PASSING OFFENSE

Dylan Thompson had one of his best nights as a Gamecock against Auburn. The senior quarterback threw for 402 yards and five touchdowns. However, he did throw two interceptions that proved to be costly for the Gamecocks, and it was the reason Auburn was able to win.

But Thompson showed toughness in the pocket, was able to hit his receivers downfield and the offensive line gave him more than enough time to throw.

 

RUNNING OFFENSE

The Gamecocks were OK at running the ball, but they could have been better. Mike Davis did have 88 rushing yards on 21 carries, and Brandon Wilds had 26 yards on seven carries. Because of the Auburn offense scoring on every series but two, the Gamecocks could not run the ball as much as they would have liked. But even if they did run it more, they were only gaining around 3.6 yards per carry.

 

PASSING DEFENSE

Despite Nick Marshall only throwing for 139 yards, he only missed on two pass attempts, and he was never pressured. South Carolina's defense has struggled all season long, and it had no answer for Auburn’s passing attack. The Tigers don’t throw the ball a lot to being with, but guys such as Gerald Dixon and Gerald Dixon Jr. needed to do a better job putting pressure on Marshall just to disrupt the timing.

 

RUNNING OFFENSE

It would not have mattered if the Gamecocks would have stopped the pass because they were run over by the Tigers anyway. The Gamecocks surrendered 395 yards, and it could have been more if the game went into overtime.

The offensive line and Auburn receivers pushed the South Carolina defensive front seven all game long. Not one player for the Gamecocks stepped up and decided to take a stand, and that’s got to be tough for the coaching staff because it’s not going to get easier.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

The special teams actually had one of the plays of the season as the kickoff team recovered an onside kick. But nothing came of it, and it was a no-show for the special teams all game long other than that play. The one good thing, though, was that punter Tyler Hull only punted once in the entire game. That showed the offense was either scoring touchdowns or turning the ball over, which was a little of both.

 

COACHING

This was one of the better coaching jobs Steve Spurrier has done in a long time. He was aggressive, made all the right calls and made all the right decisions. The fact that he went for it on fourth down six times and converted on five of them shows how much confidence he has in his players. Unfortunately, he does not have the talent around him this season to be on top of the SEC East.

 

 

PASSING OFFENSE

Auburn does not throw the ball all that often. But when the Tigers do, they are pretty accurate. Marshall completed 10 of his 12 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown. Running is his strong point, but he has shown he can stand in the pocket and deliver a great strike when needed. Just don’t expect him to throw it 25 times a game because this team loves to run the ball.

 

RUNNING OFFENSE

And the Tigers proved how they love to run the ball as they rushed for nearly 400 yards.

Artis-Payne, Marshall and Ricardo Louis each rushed for over 100 yards in the win against South Carolina. The offensive line gave them great holes to run through, but South Carolina had trouble defending the option read the Tigers were running because they became undisciplined quickly. It was just another day for Gus Malzahn’s offense.

 

PASSING DEFENSE

It was a tough day for the Auburn secondary because it could not handle Shaq Roland, Pharoh Cooper or Mike Davis. One of the things South Carolina did was play a lot of one-on-one coverage, and Auburn was losing the battle.

The Tigers made adjustments in the second half, but the Gamecocks also made adjustments, which is what the Tigers gave up 400 yards in the air. But the Tigers did get two interceptions, and they proved to be the difference in the game.

 

RUNNING DEFENSE

The Tigers did a solid job not letting Mike Davis or Brandon Wilds run over them. A lot of it had to do with Cassanova McKinzy manning the middle with six tackles. Montravius Adams was no slouch either as he notched three tackles in the win. The Tigers did not have their best defensive game, but the one thing they did do was not let the run game beat them, which is always a goal for any defense.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

It was a pretty good night for the special teams. The coverage teams were on point, Daniel Carlson only had to punt twice and Quan Bray had a punt return of 28 yards.

However, Bray did fumble the return, which South Carolina recovered and led to points. Bray is as talented as a return man there is in the conference, but he can’t afford to have mistakes like that again. Because if it happens again, the coaches will replace him.

 

COACHING

Malzahn had a great game plan for his offense. And it was simple because the Tigers just ran the ball on South Carolina, mixing it in with a few pass plays, and they scored on every series, except for the first and the final.

I think the one thing the coaches need to work on is a better game plan defensively. Having Auburn play man coverage killed the team all game long, which is why South Carolina had over 500 yards of total offense. They can’t do that with teams such as Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia, three teams the Tigers still have to face this season.

 

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Amari Cooper vs. Tennessee: Stat Line, Heisman Impact and Reaction

Amari Cooper embarked on a trip to Tennessee set to make another Heisman Trophy statement, and it began on Alabama's first offensive snap.

Cooper took a screen pass 80 yards for the score on the team's first offensive play en route to a historic first-quarter performance. He finished with nine catches that went for a career-best 224 yards and two touchdowns, paving the way to a 34-20 victory.

Here's his final stat line:

It was just another big day for Alabama wideouts against the Volunteers, as CBS Sports' Jon Solomon recounts Julio Jones setting records against Tennessee a few years back:

The junior wideout scored a 54-yard touchdown on Alabama's third offensive play against Tennessee a year ago but didn't want to wait that long on Saturday night. He took a screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown on the opening play and returned for the second drive to catch a 41-yard score.

By the end of the first quarter, Cooper was setting records, per ESPN Stats and Info:

He wasn't nearly as potent in the second half, but after going for more than 180 in the first half, he didn't need to be. However, he still hauled in a couple of first-down grabs to increase his yardage total and set a school record.

Cooper burst onto the Heisman scene early in the season and made a huge statement in a 201-yard, three-touchdown performance over Florida, but Saturday's performance was right up there with that breakout.

His stats tapered off along with Alabama's team play for a two-game stretch against Ole Miss and Arkansas, but he emerged again with 140 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M last weekend.

After his explosion on Saturday, Cooper now leads the NCAA in receiving yards with 1,132 for the season. He also has two 200-plus-yard games and three multi-touchdown games—not too shabby.

When Alabama's offense is clicking, Cooper is the main beneficiary. And despite being the focal point of every opposing defense's scouting report, he continues putting up gaudy numbers.

Cooper has had his fair share of Heisman moments, and he added another on Saturday in Neyland Stadium. But he faces the ultimate test of going where no receiver has gone since Desmond Howard in 1991, and that's winning the Heisman Trophy.

One Heisman voter—Lexington Courier-Journal's Kyle Tucker—has moved Cooper all the way up his ballot:

He also has his fair share of company. Running backs Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon are peaking, while Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota still have golden chances to get to New York City if their teams continue winning.

But that's about as far as the indubitable Heisman Trophy contenders go, and Cooper's dominant receiving totals have him up there with the rest of them.

The scariest part? Cooper's best chances for marquee performances are to come. Three of Alabama's toughest games are upcoming against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. 

Should he post another stat line like Saturday's against one of those teams, he'll likely guarantee a spot in New York City. If he does so against all of them, he'll have quite the case to be the first receiver to win the Heisman in 23 years. 

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Alabama vs. Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for Crimson Tide and Vols

The fourth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide survived a mid-game comeback by the Tennessee Volunteers, earning a 34-20 conference win.

Alabama jumped out to a 27-point lead, but 17 straight from the Vols forced Nick Saban's team to refocus and finish strong.

Pass Offense: Blake Sims was efficient once again, finishing the night 14-of-24 for 286 yards. Amari Cooper reeled in nine passes for a school-record 224 yards and two touchdowns, moving into the No. 2 spot for single-season and career yards in program history.

Run Offense: T.J. Yeldon recorded 52 yards and a score before deferring to Derrick Henry, who registered 78 yards and one touchdown. The most impressive scamper of the day belonged to Sims, who bounced off a handful of tacklers en route to a 28-yard score.

Pass Defense: The 'Bama pass rush sacked Nathan Peterman once, and cornerback Cyrus Jones snagged an airmailed ball. Marquez North was blanketed relatively well, which was a key to curbing Tennessee's attack.

Run Defense: Somewhat surprisingly, the Crimson Tide struggled during the first half and allowed a season-high 140 yards on the ground. The front seven settled down throughout the latter frames and limited the Vols to just 41 more.

Special Teams: JK Scott hammered a 60-yard punt, eventually compiling 42.8 per attempt. Adam Griffith missed an extra point for the first time during his Alabama career but made his next five.

Coaching: Lane Kiffin's return to Knoxville was a clear success, and his game plan attacked Tennessee's weaknesses perfectly to build a 27-point advantage. Kirby Smart tightened up his defense after 17 unanswered and buried the Vols.

 

Pass Offense: Peterman started the game under center, but Joshua Dobbs looked confident in the pocket upon entering. He finished his first appearance of the year 19-of-32 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Run Offense: Led by Dobbs, Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane, Tennessee racked up a season-high 181 yards on the ground. It had the most success running outside, and the read-option helped the team's speed turn the corner.

Pass Defense: There's no courteous way to acknowledge that Cooper completely shredded the Vols secondary, so that's that. Sims successfully eluded pressure for most of the night, though Tennessee did record one sack on a third down.

Run Defense: During the first half, Alabama managed just 69 yards. However, failing to contain Sims on a pair of third-down scrambles proved to be killer, and the Tide tallied 185 yards and three touchdowns.

Special Teams: Cameron Sutton nearly muffed a punt, but it was an otherwise uneventful night for the special teams. Aaron Medley connected on two field goals and extra points, while Matt Darr averaged 41.8 yards per punt.

Coaching: It looked like the Vols would be blown out of Neyland Stadium, but Butch Jones sticking with Dobbs was an important decision. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian called an outstanding game, especially since the game marked Dobbs' first snaps of 2014.

 

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

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Ole Miss vs. LSU: How Ole Miss Loss Reshapes Playoff Picture

Just when you thought Bo Wallace finally laid his "Bad Bo" persona to rest, one play reinforces every doubt anyone ever had about him.

The Ole Miss quarterback threw a game-ending interception in a 10-7 loss to No. 24 LSU in Baton Rouge. As a result, the third-ranked Rebels may have done irreparable damage to their playoff hopes.

The Rebels were in position for freshman kicker Gary Wunderlich to attempt a potential game-tying field goal from 47 yards out. Instead, head coach Hugh Freeze opted to run one more play, and Tigers safety Ronald Martin intercepted a pass thrown by Wallace near the goal line.

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde offered a withering criticism of Freeze's decision not to kick the field goal with nine seconds left:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also wondered why Wallace would try to throw through a window that clearly wasn't there:

Freeze explained the decision after the game, per Mike Sands of WLBT in Jackson, Miss.:

The Rebels aren't completely out of the hunt for the playoff, but they've got a tough road to go. They play No. 5 Auburn next week, and then the huge Egg Bowl battle with the top-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs comes at the end of the regular season.

Those are two major hurdles, so it's hard to consider Ole Miss a lock any more. Looking ahead, these four teams are best positioned to qualify for the playoff.

Mississippi State didn't have the most convincing of wins over Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats gained 502 yards on the top-ranked Bulldogs in a 45-31 defeat, with quarterback Patrick Towles combining for 466 yards and four touchdowns.

In short, the Bulldogs defense was far from convincing:

Still, Mississippi State is the only unbeaten team in the SEC and more than deserving of the top spot.

Some will be surprised to see the Alabama Crimson Tide ahead of Ole Miss, considering the Rebels beat 'Bama earlier in the year. However, Alabama looks to be the more complete team and a slightly better bet to finish the season with only one loss.

Saturday night fortified every criticism many had of Ole Miss. The Rebels looked sluggish in their wins over Memphis and Tennessee, and that ended up biting them against the Tigers. In addition, Wallace reverted to his old, inconsistent self, finishing 14-of-33 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The Ole Miss defense wasn't even that great, surrendering 264 rushing yards to LSU.

You could argue that Auburn might deserve to be in ahead of Alabama. The Georgia Bulldogs are also lurking in the SEC East with only one loss. Either way, it's hard to be too high on the Rebels at the moment.

Of course, with so much time left in the season, it's hard to get too worked up about any playoff projections.

Basically barring some unforeseen catastrophe, two teams are locked into the playoff: the SEC champion and Florida State. Outside of that, it's all up in the air, which leads to two big questions.

The first, will the selection committee send two teams from the same conference?

If you truly want to send the four best teams in the country into the playoff, it makes sense to include a one-loss squads Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, depending on the situation. Then again, doing that dismisses the idea of deciding it on the field, so maybe it should only be one team per conference.

Then there's the question of whether a one-loss Oregon team deserves a spot ahead of one-loss programs such as Ohio State, Michigan State, TCU and Notre Dame. Each team has plenty of flaws in its resume, and no perfect answer exists.

But that's all a different discussion for a different day. For now, Mississippi State can enjoy being the best team in the state.

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Ole Miss vs. LSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

Spurred on by a heroic performance from their defense, the No. 24-ranked LSU Tigers defeated the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels 10-7 in yet another upset fraught with implications for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Trailing the majority of a highlight-starved game, LSU went ahead 10-7 on a three-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Jennings to Logan Stokes with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss would get a late chance to win the game, but LSU defensive back Ronald Martin intercepted Bo Wallace's short-armed pass on his own 2-yard line to end the game.

Here is the quarter-by-quarter score from the game:

Turnovers and the field-position battle defined this plodding contest. Ole Miss punted the ball eight times in the game, but it did well to pin the Tigers back in their own territory for much of the game. LSU turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions from Jennings, yet managed to pull off the win.

The Tigers' swarming defense gave Wallace fits all evening long and kept them in the game when their own offense sputtered, which was quite often.

LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette, who finished with 154 all-purpose yards, was a menace throughout the game but botched an early Tigers drive by fumbling just one yard away from paydirt. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler was impressed with his showing despite the fumble:

Ole Miss took an early 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter when Wallace hit wideout Cody Core in the flat for a 15-yard touchdown. Hugh Kellenberger of The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger was impressed by the well-executed play:

LSU went run heavy in the first half with Jennings out of rhythm. Fournette, still struggling to carry those lofty preseason expectations, traded off carries with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard throughout the contest.

Magee fumbled to start the second quarter, but the Tigers would put together a monstrous 17-play, 90-yard drive that somehow ended in a Colby Delahoussaye field goal instead of a touchdown.

The Tigers' long drive dominated the second quarter and left Ole Miss little time to do anything of note.

Both teams traded punts throughout the second half, with Jennings breaking up the monotony by throwing his first interception in the third quarter. ESPN's Peter Burns gave his thoughts on both quarterbacks' shortcomings:

There was a scary moment in the second half when Fournette got his facemask ripped clean off by an Ole Miss defender. Bleacher Report provided a look at the play: 

With neither offense able to put together a cohesive drive, it looked like Ole Miss might somehow hold on for the win.

LSU finally broke through in the fourth quarter after so many squandered possessions. Starting from their own 5-yard line, the Tigers wound down the clock with a steady supply of runs from Fournette, Hilliard and Melvin Jones.

Thirteen plays, 95 yards and the only pass capped off the drive. Jennings hit Stokes in the flat and he took the ball into the end zone, unleashing pandemonium at Tiger Stadium.

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre was in awe of the drive:

Ole Miss failed to convert on a 4th-and-1 on its next drive, but the Rebels defense ensured the road team would have one more chance by forcing an LSU punt with just under two minutes to go. 

The Tigers thought they won the game when Wallace floated an under-thrown pass into the hands of an LSU defender, but a penalty erased the play. SportsCenter provided a recap:

Wallace scrambled on second down for eight yards to put the Rebels in field-goal range. However, a delay of game penalty knocked them further back and Wallace's last-ditch throw was picked off just in front of the end zone with two seconds left on the clock, securing the shocking win for LSU.

College Football Today's Spencer Tillman felt Wallace choked:

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out this stunning nugget of information:

The SEC West falls further into chaos with the Rebels' loss. Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State all won on Saturday, and they all should end up ahead of Ole Miss in the Week 9 rankings. It's almost a foregone conclusion that one of these teams will make the College Football Playoff, but at this point it's anyone's guess as to who will survive.

Alabama still has to play Auburn and Mississippi State this season in what should be two very exciting contests.

It's a signature win for LSU head coach Les Miles, who made good on his penchant of pulling off late victories. The Tigers now have a bit of life in the SEC as well, but it's unlikely they can catch some of the other top teams in the conference. 

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Alabama vs. Tennessee: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a game that was personal for both sides, Alabama escaped Knoxville with a win over Tennessee, 34-20, to make its case as the best one-loss team in the country.

A week after blowing out Texas A&M 59-0, the Crimson Tide made another strong statement against the Volunteers. If Bama has any chance of making the first-ever College Football Playoff, it will need to continue the run after visiting Knoxville.

Blake Sims and Amari Cooper spearheaded the Tide's victory, as they connected to torch the Volunteers through the air. Sims finished with 286 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

Along with a hot start with two passing touchdowns in the first quarter, Nick Saban was impressed with how Sims stepped up in the fourth, per Tide 99.1:

Of those passing yards, 224 went to Cooper, who set a single-game Alabama record and added another two touchdowns. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News pointed out how successful Cooper has been in Tennessee:

One of the most explosive plays from Cooper came on the first snap for Bama, per SportsCenter:

The Vols couldn't pull out a pivotal win but found a potential quarterback of the future in Joshua Dobbs. With Justin Worley not able to play, the sophomore took the reins and went 19-of-32 with 192 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Dobbs also proved to be an elusive runner, tallying 75 rushing yards on the ground. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports offered his take on the quarterback:

Much of the talk leading up to the game was about the return of former Vols coach Lane Kiffin, who is now the offensive coordinator for Alabama. Making his first trip back to Knoxville, the former coach exacted some revenge on Saturday night.

Prior to the game, Tennessee coach Butch Jones spoke about what the game meant for his team, via Matt Slovin of The Tennessean: "The game means everything to our football program and our fans because it is the University of Alabama," Jones said, "not because it is Lane Kiffin."

Following the game, Saban spoke about the team's play with the distractions, per Marquavius Burnett of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer:

While Jones couldn't come away with a win, his offense looked more respectable than it did against Ole Miss or Florida. Against a stout defense, Jones' squad put up more points than any other Vols team against Nick Saban's Alabama, per Andrew Gribble of The Birmingham News:

Following the huge matchup, Tennessee travels to take on South Carolina next Saturday. The Gamecocks have also had an up-and-down season but have a potent offense that will be tough to contain for the now 3-5 Volunteers.

Alabama now heads to LSU on Nov. 8 after the Tigers knocked off previously undefeated Ole Miss at home Saturday night. Les Miles and Saban have been involved in several huge contests, and this one could potentially decide Bama's chances of making the College Football Playoff.

Come Sunday, the Tide will likely be the second-highest ranked team in the SEC, as Adam Gorney of Rivals.com notes:

After the loss by the Rebels, Alabama still has a chance to make a run toward yet another title under Saban. If the Tide survive LSU, they have Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl left to decide their fate. A victory against Tennessee helps Bama's case, but the road ahead looks daunting.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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South Carolina vs. Auburn: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a shootout between a pair of offensive juggernauts led by Gus Malzahn and Steve Spurrier, the Auburn Tigers held off a furious test from the South Carolina Gamecocks and prevailed 42-35 at home.

The Gamecocks held the lead three different times in the first half, but Auburn answered quickly every time. Both offenses proved unstoppable with each surpassing 530 total yards, but an early fourth-quarter Nick Marshall touchdown run and timely defense late made the difference for Auburn.

Marshall didn't light the stat sheet on fire but was efficient, going 12-of-14 with 139 yards and four total touchdowns. Three came on the ground, as he rushed 10 times for 89 yards to overcome 402 yards and five touchdowns from South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson.

Here's a look at the final box score:

Auburn entered Saturday's game fresh off a bye week and looking to bounce back from its first loss of 2014 two weeks prior against Mississippi State. But despite going up against a struggling South Carolina squad with three losses, the Tigers knew they wouldn't be the only team with a potent offense.

"They don't have a weakness on offense," Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "They're good up front, they're a good receiver corp, excellent tight end grouping, three running backs that can play for anybody and the quarterback is a fifth-year guy who knows the offense in-and-out, coaches' son, great young man."

The Gamecocks offense wasted no time torching Auburn early on. They took some early momentum on the game's opening drive, going 75 yards in seven plays as Thompson hit Shaq Roland for a 32-yard score.

South Carolina threatened to take a two-score lead the next time it got the ball, but Cassanova McKinzy snagged a red-zone interception. And like it's wired to do, Auburn's offense pounded its way down the field. Marshall found Brandon Fulse for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game late in the first.

But when the second quarter came rolling around, the defenses subsided and the shootout was on.

Both offenses were incredibly potent in the second quarter, with Thompson throwing two touchdown passes for South Carolina and Auburn running it into the end zone twice. The Gamecocks briefly held leads of 14-7 and 21-14, but the Tigers quickly answered each time.

That left it a 21-21 game at halftime—but as AL.com's Brandon Marcello notes, Auburn had no trouble dominating the second half in a similar situation earlier this year:

Auburn looked intent on repeating that result coming out for the second half. The Tigers stormed down the field on a 13-play, 88-yard drive as Marshall walked in from four yards out to give Auburn a 28-21 lead.

With South Carolina trailing for the first time, Thompson continued slinging. He went long to Pharoh Cooper, who grabbed a 51-yard touchdown pass to tie it up again at 28-all.

After holding the ball for over five minutes the last time out, Auburn didn't feel like waiting to get the lead back. Receiver Ricardo Louis went 75 yards on a touchdown run on the opening play of the next drive to take the lead back.

A lot of different words could be attributed to the offensive slugfest, but SB Nation's Spencer Hall described it accordingly:

Louis' rushing day had Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington impressed with how Auburn was spreading the ball around:

But nothing Auburn's offense did could thwart what Thompson had going in his own offense. He got the ball back and went 11 plays in over five minutes, tying the game late in the third quarter at 35-35.

Then, Steve Spurrier pulled a trick out of the bag, per Auburn Plainsman's Eric Wallace:

Auburn hadn't been able to stop South Carolina all half and most of the game, but it stood tall when it mattered most.

On a short field, the Tigers forced a big-time stop as Jonathan Jones picked off Thompson for his second interception of the game, per CBS Sports' Eye on College Football:

For those who watched the ebbs and flows of this game, and know of Auburn's offensive potency, you can guess what happened next. Marshall mixed the run and the pass to sprint down the field, and ran it in on his own to give Auburn a 42-35 lead.

That rush moved him up on Auburn's all-time ranks, per the team's official Twitter feed:

South Carolina proved with the earlier onside kick that it didn't trust putting the defense back out there, and that showed again late. The Gamecocks converted a 4th-and-8 in their own territory before turning it over on downs in the red zone. 

Auburn gave the ball back to South Carolina with another chance to tie things up, but it wasn't until the Tigers ran more time off the clock. With only 1:08 to operate, Thompson moved his team into Auburn territory before throwing his third pick of the game to seal the deal.

This shootout of a game wasn't for defensive traditionalists, but as Saturday Down South noted, fans could simply flip to another SEC game to see the conference's balance:

A second straight loss would've been the last thing Auburn needed after falling to Mississippi State its last time out, but perhaps Saturday's result could prove beneficial. It wasn't easy by any means, but Auburn showed its grit and resiliency by constantly answering the bell on offense when the defense folded.

However, there's plenty to be made of Thompson's 400-plus-yard day against an Auburn secondary that gave up at least 35 points for the second straight contest. Traveling to face Ole Miss—who will be hungry for another statement win after falling to LSU—could expose those problems even more.

South Carolina falls to a paltry 2-4 in SEC play with the defeat, all but squashing its already remote chances of winning the SEC East. Now, the Gamecocks need to win two of four to close the season just to make a bowl. 

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Watch All 10 of the TCU Horned Frogs' TDs vs. Texas Tech in Under a Minute

The TCU Horned Frogs had themselves a day against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The offense explodes for 10 touchdowns, scoring 82 points. Watch all 10 touchdowns from this scintillating performance. 

Was this the most impressive offensive game of the CFB season?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Inability to Make Adjustments Proof Whole Michigan Staff Needs Overhaul

Brady Hoke entered today’s game versus Michigan State desperate for a win to save Michigan’s season. But another embarrassing offensive performance has left the season in shambles and insured that Hoke’s time in Ann Arbor is all but finished.

Despite two weeks to prepare for the Spartans, Michigan showed the same plodding offense that doomed it to failure in earlier losses on the year. 

Under Hoke Michigan has become a joke to some or at best an exhibit of morbid curiosity.

How bad is Michigan?

Almost everything went its way in the first half, and the team still trailed 14-3 at the break. If Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had been more accurate the Spartans might have put up 28 points or more in the first half.

With the game still within reach, the coaching staff needed to make changes and take advantage of being within striking range. But the offense which has been in a season long slump hit a new low in the first half totaling 37 overall yards with no net rushing yards and barely improved in the second half.

At a time when Michigan needed to show some originality and challenge the Spartans on their home field, the coaching staff made zero adjustments for the second half.

The results were disastrous. 

"We're very disappointed and we should be," said Hoke. "It's a rivalry game and Big Ten game...We're going back to work."

But that work doesn't seem to be showing results on the field.

Hoke may argue that he can fix what's wrong with Michigan but his move to jumpstart the offense during last offseason has been a spectacular failure. 

Quarterback Devin Gardner had another poor performance (13-of-28 and 121 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions) as Michigan fell 35-11. Gardner is a tough player but continues to throw inexplicable interceptions.

Despite being a fifth year senior, Gardner has regressed as a quarterback. He doesn’t decipher defensive coverages and locks onto receivers—giving defenders crucial clues that lead to turnovers.

Gardner wasn’t alone in coming up short versus the Spartans.

Wide receiver Devin Funchess who has been touted as a top NFL prospect dropped passes that stalled Michigan drives. His poor performance earned the derision of former Wolverine Braylon Edwards who has endowed a scholarship to honor the No.1 jersey that Funchess wears.

In the second half Michigan State put the game out reach with two third quarter touchdowns and the rout was on. After the Michigan State offense got on track, Michigan had no way to catch up.

The game was a huge opportunity for Brady Hoke to prove that his program could challenge a top Big Ten rival; instead his team left the field humbled while chants of “Keep Brady Hoke” rained down from the delighted Spartan crowd.

Michigan (3-5) needs to win three of its remaining four games to make a bowl game while Hoke faces almost certain dismissal. Michigan’s problems (poor quarterback play, bad offensive line and inconsistent defense) have lingered since last season. The team has recruited well, but the coaches haven’t been able to translate raw talent into wins.

In a post game interview on the Michigan radio network, Hoke offered the same tired refrain to explain his team's failure, "...We did some things well and other things we need to improve on."

He shook up his coaching staff last offseason hiring Doug Nussmeier to overhaul the offense. That move failed and now after losses to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Utah, Minnesota and Michigan State it’s time to declare the Brady Hoke era over and move on.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Has Facemask Ripped Upwards

LSU freshman Leonard Fournette made the referees' jobs much easier vs. Ole Miss when he was so blatantly facemasked that the mask itself was ripped almost completely off.

If there's such a thing as a 30-yard facemask penalty this one might have earned it. 

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TCU Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 9

TCU QB Trevone Boykin absolutely dominated this week, making him the top performer. With seven touchdowns, Boykin led his offense to a 82-27 blowout of Texas Tech.

Who do you think had the best performance this week?

Watch the video and let us know!

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