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Bleacher Report's Ultimate College Football Playoff Preview

Over the next 72 hours, 12 human beings from various backgrounds will flock to a secluded bunker—well, a Texas hotel banquet room with coffee—and begin the impossible process of selecting the College Football Playoff. 

Good luck. 

The task at hand is familiar yet daunting. It is not new but still somehow unfamiliar. On Tuesday, in front of a national audience, Arkansas athletic director and College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long will reveal the committee’s first Top 25 of the year after hearty discussions behind closed doors.

“It creeps up on you, but it is exciting,” Long told Bleacher Report late last week. “The committee members are very excited to start our debates and see where we stand. That first ranking will be an interesting one. I can guarantee that.”

Many will be outraged by the results. That part is a guarantee.

The committee has been given the impossible chore of picking four teams out of a giant pile. That task is made even more difficult because it's early November. The difficulty is amplified even further given a) the presumed lack of dominant teams and b) the now weekly occurrence of games ending in spectacular, history-defying fashion.

The latest example came between Duke and Miami in Week 9. Although these two teams will not garner playoff consideration, it doesn’t make this final Miami touchdown—a collection of laterals, potentially illegal blocks and beautiful desperation—any easier to digest.

This is what the committee is up against. It happens every Saturday, it seems.

“There is a lot of football left to be played,” Long added. “There are a lot of matchups still to happen. There are a few wrinkles. Every year will have its own controversy.” 

Oh, indeed. Maybe more than one. With those controversies knocking at the front door, consider this a playoff primer with the initial release suddenly near. (And if you’re a committee member traveling, feel free to print off the following to use over the next few days.)

 

The Playoff Chalk Until Further Notice: Ohio State

Let’s ditch the suspense. Unless the selection committee throws us a tremendous debut curveball, Ohio State will be the No. 1 team in its first 2015 rankings. 

J.T. Barrett’s arrest for OVI over the weekend further complicates matters. With that being said, if this is truly a one-game suspension as the school announced, then it really shouldn’t change much. Cardale Jones, despite his struggles, should be able to lead the Buckeyes over Minnesota in Columbus next Saturday. After that, Barrett should be the starting quarterback again. Given the way he’s played recently, it shouldn’t be much of a discussion.

While the Buckeyes looked sloppy throughout much of the early portion of the season—prompting many to question their role as “favorites”—those concerns have cooled in recent weeks with vastly improved play and results.

With games against Michigan State and Michigan still to come, Ohio State has moments to solidify itself as the favorite. For now, through it all, it’s precisely where Urban Meyer’s team will debut. The drama will likely be limited, so we think.

 

The Easiest Path to the Playoff: Clemson 

With all due respect to Florida State, the next opponent on Clemson’s schedule, the Tigers are in a wonderful position—better than any other Power Five team right now.

It wasn’t easy for the Tigers in Week 9. The 56-41 win over NC State was a different kind of victory. And even though that rebuilt defense didn’t make the trip, Clemson heads home in lovely shape.

The Tigers look like a lock for a Top Three spot in the selection committee’s initial rankings. There will be no debate if the Tigers win out. They’ll be comfortably in the playoff.

After Florida State, Clemson plays Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina. It could then match up against North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game, which could be a surprising test. 

Still, compared to the path many others still have to travel, the Tigers are in business. If they beat Florida State next Saturday, the path clears even more. That's not a guarantee, but others will be envious of the opportunity.

 

The Complicated Fixture: Baylor

At the moment, it’s really not all that complicated. On Tuesday night, the selection committee will recognize Baylor for its early-season demolition, even with starting quarterback Seth Russell out for the season with a neck injury.

“We will rank Baylor based on what they’ve done with their starting quarterback,” Long said. “We won’t see a game with their backup quarterback until after our first rankings are released. We will rank Baylor on what they’ve done thus far and then adjust.”

The loss of Russell is enormous; there’s no way to sugarcoat it. But having talented freshman Jarrett Stidham as a backup plan certainly nullifies the loss a great deal. While there is much to learn about this young man, there is ample time to see how Baylor responds with a new quarterback. 

With such a back-loaded schedule, Baylor can eliminate all concerns simply by winning more games. If the Bears get past Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU in consecutive weeks, it will not matter. The Big 12’s insane November will do a lot of the committee’s heavy lifting.

 

The Party Crashers: Iowa and Oklahoma State 

Yes, Iowa and Oklahoma State will enter Week 10 undefeated. This is not a drill. It has not always been pretty for either, but it has been effective. The end result of this September and October success will be playoff presence on Tuesday.

Iowa will likely be the higher seed—maybe as high as No. 8—and Oklahoma State won’t be far behind. The Hawkeyes have a far more manageable schedule moving forward. The Pokes play TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. Action starts next week against the Horned Frogs.

While time will ultimately tell with these teams, the committee’s initial reaction will be telling. How much does brand power matter? Will it be evident Tuesday?

Regardless of where they are, they will be there. Don’t be alarmed.

 

The Sneaky Playoff Contender: Florida

The Gators lost a game and their starting quarterback. At that point, we pretty much decided that we were done with them and moved on. And yet, after clobbering a helpless Georgia team in Week 9, Florida is in a position to keep climbing. Quietly.

Florida plays Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, FAU and Florida State to close out the regular season before a likely date in the SEC Championship Game. If the Gators were to win these games and then beat LSU, Alabama or Ole Miss to win the conference, would the selection committee really leave out a one-loss SEC champion? 

A lot has to happen for this scenario to be realized, although it does exist. Florida will likely be ranked somewhere between No. 10 and No. 12 on Tuesday. Then the climbing begins.

 

The Group of Five Party: The Little Guys Will Have a Big Say

Ah, we lost one on Saturday night. Well, maybe. Temple’s valiant 24-20 defeat to Notre Dame could very well put the Owls out of the initial ranking. Or, perhaps the close call will be enough for them to debut in the Top 25.

Unlike last year, however, Group of Five teams will be featured prominently in the initial ranking. Last year, it took weeks for a non-Power Five program to appear. This year, it’s a matter of how many and how high.

Memphis and Houston are locks to make the cut. Toledo is a near lock. Temple is a definite possibility.

With a win over Ole Miss, the Tigers seem likely to be the first Group of Five team called. Houston, with a convincing win over Vanderbilt in Week 9 and a victory over Louisville earlier, won’t be far behind. It’s worth pointing out that these two teams will play on November 14.

Having a presence is one thing. Making a push for the playoff—something that seemed far-fetched before the season began—is another. Where these teams debut Tuesday could ultimate help dictate how high they climb. Stay tuned.

 

Doing the Work: Predicting the Selection Committee’s Initial Top Eight 

No major surprises. Here’s what I expect the selection committee to reveal Tuesday night. Keep in mind, before you fire off impressive and extensive hate mail, these are predictions of how I believe the committee will react.

(Feel free to send the mail regardless.)

1. Ohio State

2. Baylor

3. Clemson

4. LSU

5. TCU

6. Michigan State

7. Alabama

8. Iowa

How will it shake out? Who will be slighted? Overrated? Underrated? 

I don’t need to remind you that the selection committee’s initial rankings mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme. Ohio State debuted at No. 16 last year. It finished a bit higher than that.

With that fully out in the open, don’t let it curb your displeasure or emotion. The season starts now.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Heisman Watch 2015: Top 5 Rankings for Week 9

With only five weeks left of the college football season, the time for Heisman Trophy candidates to impress is winding down. After huge performances by quarterbacks Trevone Boykin of TCU and Deshaun Watson of Clemson, our Week 9 top-five rankings are very close and competitive. 

Which players round out the top five this week? Has LSU star running back Leonard Fournette been bumped from our top spot? 

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report college football analyst Barrett Sallee breaks it down.

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Tennessee's Arsenal of Weapons Has Vols Ready for Stretch Run After Kentucky Win

Against Alabama last week, Tennessee showed a national audience that it had the team speed and talent to hang with a quality opponent. On Saturday, the Volunteers proved they could run away from a mediocre one.

From the first snap, there was an obvious difference in the type of player on the field for the Vols and for Kentucky. That manifested itself in a 52-21 obliteration of the Wildcats.

The victory was a throwback to last year's 50-16 win over UK, and it should be a sneak peek into what's to come for Tennessee during the rest of the season. The athletes coach Butch Jones recruited over the past three years should help UT outclass South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt the rest of the way.

UT's stable of 4- and 5-star recruits are finally beginning to play like it. A handful of game-breaking plays provided the difference against Kentucky.

Jones alluded to those momentum-shifters afterward, according to Volquest's Paul Fortenberry:

The running back duo of Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara made massive plays, whether it was on the ground or through the air. Josh Malone became the Vols' first 100-yard receiver of the season, and he highlighted his night with a 75-yard touchdown grab.

Evan Berry scored his third kick-return touchdown of the season with a 100-yard return, and Cameron Sutton added an 84-yard punt return for a score. 

And quarterback Joshua Dobbs was the maestro of it all, clearly the best player on the field as he torched the 'Cats with his arm and his legs.

It couldn't have been a better night for the Vols.

Tennessee scored more points against an SEC opponent since it dropped 52 on Ole Miss in November of 2010, and the Vols beat Kentucky for the 30th time in 31 tries. But this was about more than extending streaks.

It was about proving to everybody else that they had too much firepower and too many offensive playmakers to have an emotional letdown after a close, draining loss to rival Alabama last week.

Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord was maligned through the first few weeks, but it's obvious over the past few weeks that he is learning how to utilize the massive amount of weaponry in his offensive arsenal.

He called close to a perfect game Saturday night.

Normally robotic in postgame interviews, Dobbs even said in a roundabout way that it'll be tough for anybody to beat the Vols if they play the way they're capable of.

Though the Vols moved the ball up and down the field early on, a Dobbs fumble returned 77 yards for a Kentucky touchdown and a stalled drive on the Wildcats' 38-yard line kept the game close.

Despite the Halloween candy hangover, the Vols jolted awake in the second quarter. They sandwiched touchdowns around halftime, ending any Kentucky hopes. Once the Vols took momentum, they seized it and ran with it. Those scores were part of a crazy run.

Tennessee converted on eight consecutive scoring drives—seven of them touchdowns—and by then, Commonwealth Stadium was nearly empty besides the orange faithful.

They stayed to see who'd score next. 

This is a confident football team that has grown and gotten better through early-season adversity and happens to be playing its best just as the schedule lightens up.

The Gamecocks looked game against Texas A&M earlier in the day, and both Missouri and Vanderbilt feature stout defenses, but it's tough to see the Vols failing to be anything but heavy favorites the rest of the way.

Too much star potential roams the UT sideline for the team not to be.

Kentucky loaded the box to stop Hurd for much of the first half, and the 'Cats did a pretty good job of it. But they fell victim to Dobbs getting seven different receivers the football as he sprayed it all over the field. He also danced his way to some highlight-reel runs, especially his sideline-hugging first score.

He also shrugged off his doubters who've scoffed at his ability to throw downfield with the long strike to Malone. 

With Hurd bottled up, Tennessee turned to Kamara who broke free for a 63-yard run to the 1-yard line to set up Dobbs' second score.

All those special talents that highlighted two top-10 recruiting classes from the past two years spilled over into special teams as Berry and Sutton highlighted the victory parade with their second-half scores.

Forget haints, goblins and ghouls; the Wildcats will be seeing Tennessee talents in their nightmares. 

Four players had 50-plus yards rushing, and Tennessee averaged more than seven yards per play while generating 482 yards of offense and really not doing anything more than handing the ball off throughout the fourth quarter.

It's how UT is capable of playing, which makes the Vols' 4-4 record at this point of the season all the more frustrating.

Despite the past, the bottom line is Tennessee still controls the ability to finish with eight wins and a solid season that would be a step forward in Jones' program rebuild.

Throughout Saturday, there was no question as to which team was superior.

Really good football teams embarrass teams that aren't, and that's been missing from Tennessee in recent years. Just a month ago, UT jumped up by two scores against a mediocre Arkansas and squandered the game away in an eventual loss.

The next week, they finally broke through for a big comeback win over Georgia, and during that game, it appeared a light of belief came on in the Vols that perhaps changed the program's trajectory. Since then, the Vols are playing like an elite team.

Saturday's win over Kentucky was the culmination of it all. If the Vols keep playing like they have the past three games, they'll steamroll through the rest of the schedule.

 

All stats gathered from NCAA.com unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand 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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Notre Dame vs. Temple: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish stole a victory in the City of Brotherly Love thanks to a late touchdown grab from one of its own—Philly native Will Fuller—and beat the Temple Owls 24-20 in Saturday's only showdown between two ranked teams. 

In what was surely a much-needed College Football Playoff resume builder, the Irish overcame plenty of mistakes by making big plays when they needed them. 

With that, let's check out the game grades for each position unit for the Irish.

 

Rush Offense: B+

Quarterback DeShone Kizer was the team's leading rusher with 143 yards on 17 carries, 79 of those yards coming on one touchdown run. C.J. Prosise added just 25 yards on 14 carries. Those two were the only Irish players credited with any rushing attempts. While the Irish clearly lack depth when it comes to their ground attack, they still have that big play ability.

 

Pass Offense: B

Kizer was 23-of-36 passing for 299 yards and one touchdown, with that touchdown being the winning score to Fuller in the game's waning moments. Perhaps more damning for Kizer were two interceptions in the red zone, one at the very end of the first half that prevented the Irish from extending their 14-10 halftime lead. 

 

Rush Defense: A

Temple struggled all night rushing the ball. Through the first quarter alone, the Owls had minus-13 yards on the ground. Jahad Thomas ended with 82 yards, and the Owls eventually crossed the century mark with 107. But the front lines of Notre Dame's defense was stout all night, making every yard excruciatingly difficult for Temple. 

 

Pass Defense: A-

P.J. Walker was limited by the Irish secondary to just 13-of-30 passing for 188 yards and one touchdown, with his longest completion being 31 yards. The Irish at times gave up medium-to-long third-down conversions through the air, but ultimately Walker couldn't get into a rhythm. Plus, that late interception on the ensuing drive after Fuller's touchdown catch was what sealed the game up.

 

Special Teams: A-

There were no real disasters in the special teams unit for the Irish. One kickoff went out of bounds, but Justin Yoon was perfect on four kick attempts, including a field goal, and the Owls couldn't get anything going in their return game.

 

Coaching: B+

In one of the most hyped-up Temple football crowds in history, Brian Kelly found himself with an opportunity for a playoff resume builder that he probably didn't think he'd have during the preseason. Despite some debilitating penalties and not having the game in hand until the penultimate drive, Kelly ultimately didn't let a feisty Owls squad pull what could have been a program-defining upset. 

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Gutsy Win vs. Minnesota Is Exactly Why Michigan Hired Jim Harbaugh

The win was far from pretty and even a little bit lucky—but none of that mattered in the end for Michigan.

What's important is the Wolverines are 6-2, and the Little Brown Jug is coming back home with them after a Halloween classic Saturday in Minnesota.

The Wolverines pulled out a 29-26 victory over the rival Golden Gophers away from home, snatching victory on backup quarterback Wilton Speight's touchdown pass and an incredible goal-line stand as time expired. ESPN provided the highlight:

It was a type of win previous Michigan teams might not have been able to pull off, especially against a Minnesota squad that was playing with incredible energy after former head coach Jerry Kill's health-caused retirement earlier in the week.

But the confidence head coach Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines playing with in his first season, as noted in his postgame comments, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press, lifted them to this huge win.

Michigan's offense, which was already struggling to generate sustained offense in the second half, suffered a huge blow in the third quarter when starting quarterback Jake Rudock left the game following a nasty hit.

Speight didn't instill much faith in the Wolverines faithful early on, throwing three straight incompletions right out of the gate—including two on third downs.

However, Harbaugh stuck with Speight on what would be Michigan's final drive, shuffling him out on a few snaps for do-it-all redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers.

Speight delivered a pair of strikes to help get Michigan in the red zone. Later, after Peppers was sacked on second down, Speight delivered a 12-yard touchdown dime to Jehu Chesson.

Maize and Brew's Alejandro Zuniga jokingly added Speight to the Heisman discussion:

A Michigan offense that punted on its four previous drives went 40 yards for a clutch go-ahead score with a quarterback who hadn't completed a collegiate pass attempt before Saturday. Per Snyder, Harbaugh expressed confidence in Speight playing well Saturday:

After the incredible touchdown drive, the spotlight then turned to a Michigan defense that had its confidence shaken all night long.

Entering Saturday night's game, Michigan had held each of its opponents to fewer than 400 yards. 

But Minnesota, led by confident veteran Mitch Leidner, recorded 461 yards against the Wolverines. Leidner had 354 of those yards and both of the Golden Gophers' touchdowns.

The Michigan secondary, which allowed 328 yards in the heartbreaking loss to Connor Cook and Michigan State two weeks ago, looked finished when Leidner hit Drew Wolitarsky on a 22-yard pass that was initially ruled a touchdown.

But a review showed Wolitarsky was down at the 1-yard line, and the Michigan defense had another chance to stand tall.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin told his unit to stay strong despite all of its previous mistakes in the game, according to Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press

The defense did just that, forcing an incompletion after Minnesota's strange decision to shift out of a power set and wind the clock down to just a few seconds, which SB Nation CFB noted: 

Michigan took advantage of that break on the next play. Harbaugh admitted to reporters afterward that Durkin told the defense to sell out on the quarterback sneak, and that's what it did as it stonewalled Leidner just outside the goal line.

Having the confidence to get that final stop comes from Harbaugh, the alumnus who has brought so much energy to the program and its fanbase this season. This same team, which missed a bowl game last season under Brady Hoke, is assured a postseason spot at the very least.

Its close losses to highly ranked Utah and Michigan State should keep Michigan from playing for a surprise national championship this season, but the Wolverines can still cause havoc for rival Ohio State and play for the Big Ten title.

The team's self-belief wasn't shaken after the mind-numbing loss to Michigan State and the subsequent week without a game. The team also did not take a hit after falling behind several times at an electric TCF Bank Stadium, where the Golden Gophers were determined to pull off an upset and win one for Kill.

You could see the confidence exuded from the Wolverines after claiming the Jug, especially in this tweet from defensive lineman Taco Charlton:

Saturday night's game was arguably one of the Wolverines' worst performances of the season, but they still got the job done on the road against an amped-up rival.

Call that the "Harbaugh Effect." It's evident on the field—and in the win column—for Michigan.

 

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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DeShone Kizer Bounces Back in Temple Win, Keeps Notre Dame Alive for Playoff

A smooth road start for Notre Dame Fighting Irish football devolved into a horrifying hodgepodge of penalties, interceptions, an ejection and a scuffle. But Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer helped bring Notre Dame back to defeat the Temple Owls and keep his team’s playoff hopes alive Saturday night in Philadelphia.

Kizer overcame two early interceptions and a slew of Irish miscues to spearhead a six-play, 75-yard drive that vaulted Notre Dame in front after the Owls had snatched a three-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

And with that, Notre Dame improved to 7-1 in imperfect but acceptable fashion. Most importantly, the Irish remain in playoff contention.

On 2nd-and-10 from the Temple 17-yard line, Kizer grooved a pristine ball past two Owls to star wide receiver Will Fuller for the go-ahead and, eventually, game-winning score.

No. 9 Notre Dame checked into Lincoln Financial Field as a double-digit favorite against No. 21 and previously unbeaten Temple. And the Irish rolled to a quick start—a 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive followed by a defensive stop.

But Kizer tossed his two interceptions in the red zone after an additional pair of risky throws earlier. Notre Dame led by just four at the halftime break.

The Irish again marched down the field on their first second-half drive. They covered 80 yards on 15 plays and tacked on a 23-yard field goal. From there, Notre Dame fans were treated to a seemingly unending nightmare of trouble.

Multiple offensive penalties, including an offensive pass interference call on tight end Nic Weishar, positioned the Irish with 2nd-and-33. Irish head coach Brian Kelly had to be restrained on the sideline from his own staff members at one point. Soon thereafter, Irish senior safety Elijah Shumate was ejected for targeting in the end zone, which gave Temple a first down and led to a Jahad Thomas touchdown.

A Temple field goal handed Notre Dame a three-point deficit, but the Irish responded quickly enough to save their season.

Facing a third down, Kizer connected with Fuller to the right side for seven yards and a first down. The redshirt freshman quarterback then synced up beautifully with freshman tight end Alize Jones on a corner pattern for 45 yards. Two plays later, Kizer hit Fuller—their second late-game, go-ahead score of the season.

With his standout running back, C.J. Prosise, held to 25 yards on 14 carries (1.8 yards per attempt), Kizer came through with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground, including the where-did-that-come-from 79-yard scoring sprint. He again supplied conversions in short-yardage situations. And he grappled with Temple star linebacker Tyler Matakevich head-on at the beginning of the second half, lowering his shoulder into the bulky 'backer for a conversion on 2nd-and-8.

Just two quarters earlier, after his first rushing touchdown, Kizer stared down Matakevich in the back of the end zone and flapped his arms, presumably a confident nod to the Owls. That moxie, before and after the miscues, helped propel the Irish.

Like its quarterback, Notre Dame wasn’t perfect. But for the seventh time in eight tries, the Irish found a way to win. The margin for error remains razor thin moving forward. But Kizer’s confidence and command have counteracted some errors.

For now, Notre Dame rolls on.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Notre Dame vs. Temple: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish quieted the ambitious No. 21 Temple Owls with a resilient 24-20 win on Saturday, making a case for their worth in the College Football Playoff hunt.

Trailing for the first time with just over four minutes to play, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer engineered a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped with a 17-yard score to wide receiver Will Fuller with just over two minutes remaining. 

Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell secured the victory with an interception on 3rd-and-17 to keep Notre Dame's playoff hopes alive. Dan Wolken of USA Today and Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports each offered sentiment for the Owls:

The Owls' school-best start ends at seven wins. Yet despite a now-blemished record, they shouldn’t fall far in the ranks given how respectable Saturday’s loss was, per Bryan Fischer of Bleacher Report:

Notre Dame remains relevant in the playoff picture with a lone loss to No. 3 Clemson and a looming season finale against No. 8 Stanford that could woo voters. 

The Fighting Irish opened convincingly on a four-yard run by Kizer in the first six minutes—the first time in over a year the Owls had allowed a score on the opening drive, per Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune.

Kizer scored again on a 79-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes to go in the half, but the Fighting Irish then went scoreless until the final minutes. 

Temple scored 10 unanswered and took its first lead on a 36-yard field goal by Austin Jones with four minutes, 45 seconds remaining. This came after the Owls forced a three-and-out then engineered a 14-play, 78-yard drive over seven minutes and 21 seconds to tie the game on a one-yard touchdown by running back Jahad Thomas at 17 earlier in the fourth. 

Temple benefited from two critical interceptions in the red zone by Praise Martin-Oguike and Tyler Matakevich, despite only converting one into a touchdown. 

ESPN College GameDay captured Matakevich from just behind the goal post:

Despite being the only ranked matchup this week, Temple was a 10.5-point underdog, per Odds Shark, and many had written the Owls off. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports encompassed how much of a surprise the close game was:

Temple entered the game ranked behind unbeaten No. 16 Memphis and No. 18 in the American Athletic Conference. Though their playoff hopes are likely dashed, they still play Memphis in Week 12 and are in the driver’s seat to reach the inaugural AAC championship game on Dec. 5. 

Notre Dame likely won’t jump far in the rankings given the six unbeatens ahead and half the Top 10 on a bye. But the Fighting Irish are doing what they need to stay relevant. If they run the table and have their lone loss to a Clemson team that’s arguably the best in college football, they could make a hard case to be included in the final four.

Reaction

Despite a valiant effort, Temple would’ve needed help on top of running the table to reach the playoff—they’re the third-best team in their own conference, which isn’t among the Power Five. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports sarcastically quipped that Temple would’ve been a long shot for the playoff even with a win:

Temple head coach Matt Rhule was proud of his team’s effort, but told John Clark of CSN Philadelphia: “There are no moral victories. We’re not here to lose."

Rhule still thought it was a phenomenal game and weekend, supplemented by the national attention. He took to Twitter to thank all those who tuned in:

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly aggressively confronted conditioning coach David Grimes on the sideline in light of what he claimed were actions that would’ve drawn a flag for verbiage towards an official, per Matt Fortuna of ESPN. Dr. Cork Gaines of Business Insider showed the exchange:

Kelly explained his reaction to JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago: 

David was going to get us a 15-yard penalty, so I had to control the sideline. I wasn’t going to let that happen. He got a little too close and I backed him up out of the way to make sure that we didn’t get a 15-yard penalty.

Notre Dame takes on No. 23 Pittsburgh in Week 10 with another chance to bolster its résumé.

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Miami vs. Duke: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The story begins with the Miami Hurricanes needing one stop. They didn't get it. They were about to lose.

Then they won on what could be described as the most absurd final play in college football history.

After letting the No. 22-ranked Duke Blue Devils drive down the field to take a three-point lead with six seconds left, Miami lateraled the ensuing kickoff eight times, returning it 91 yards as Corn Elder scored a touchdown with no time left to give Miami an improbable 30-27 victory Saturday night.

The Hurricanes' official Twitter account summed it up perfectly:

It was a rough night for the referees, who called 23 penalties against Miami, including three on Duke's final drive, which ended on a Thomas Sirk one-yard touchdown run that helped give Duke a 27-24 lead. After all of the laterals and chaos finally halted on the final kickoff return, the officials called an illegal block in the back against Miami.

The officials went under the hood to take a look at the play to see whether all of the laterals were legal and whether any knees touched the ground along the way.

Neither of those things happened. Then the officials announced the play was under further review—to see whether the block in the back actually happened. USA Today's Dan Wolken had the best summary of the next 10 minutes:

The situation reminded CBS Sports' Will Brinson of another instance of ridiculous officiating:

Finally, after the concluding review, the referee picked up the flag and ruled the play a touchdown. All of that happened with six seconds left on the clock. Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde thought the circus was in town:

All of the hoopla came one week after the Hurricanes suffered their worst loss in program history at the hands of the Clemson Tigers, 58-0. The team fired head coach Al Golden the next day. Miami also had to go into this game without starting quarterback Brad Kaaya, who did not make the trip to Durham, North Carolina. Redshirt freshman Malik Rosier started in his place.

The two-sport athlete threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and it turned out to be a good day for interim head coach Larry Scott.

Just when Miami was on the verge of dropping to 4-4 and falling further away from bowl consideration, the Hurricanes pulled off an improbable victory. They are now one win away from bowl eligibility.

Meanwhile, the heartbreaking loss for Duke takes almost all of the luster away from next week's matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels for first place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Stay tuned for postgame reactions from both sides.

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Michigan vs. Minnesota: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wolverines

The No. 15 Michigan Wolverines took back the Little Brown Jug, beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 29-26 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota attempted a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line as time expired, but Michigan managed to keep Mitch Leidner out of the end zone and escaped with the win.

Pass Offense: Jake Rudock connected on 13 of 21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a rib injury. Wilton Speight replaced him and threw the game-winning score to Jehu Chesson, who caught both touchdowns.

Run Offense: Michigan has a problem up front. The offensive line once again struggled against decent competition, failing to push up to the second level and limiting the running game's effectiveness. Drake Johnson managed 55 yards, while Jabrill Peppers and Joe Kerridge recorded the touchdowns.

Pass Defense: Saturday was by far the worst performance of the season for the Wolverines secondary. The defensive backs blew a few coverages, which Leidner exploited well. Sometimes, even when Michigan was in proper position, Minnesota still somehow snagged the ball.

Run Defense: And it didn't get much better for the run defense, either. Leidner ripped off a 24-yard touchdown run, and Rodney Smith tallied 74 yards, registering 6.2 yards per carry. However, the Wolverines stood tall when it mattered the most.

Special Teams: The only player who could stop Peppers from taking a punt to the house was the punter. Go figure. He also had a 43-yard kickoff return. Blake O'Neill handled every snap and posted a 44-yard average.

Coaching: Michigan's offense wasn't doing much, and then it had to adjust with the backup quarterback. Passing on first down to set up runs on second down did the trick for Speight. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin had a tough day but called a couple of perfect third-down blitzes that resulted in sacks.

 

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

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Twitter Reacts as Miami Beats Duke on Controversial Kick-Return TD

The University of Miami needed every second to pull the upset over No. 22 Duke Saturday night.

In it's largest win of 2015, a 30-27 victory against Duke on Saturday night, Miami used a kickoff return as time expired, lateraling the ball eight times within their own 20-yard-line, to score the game-winning touchdown. 

SportsCenter shows the replay of the jaw-dropping finish:

The referees originally called the play back on an illegal-block-in-the-back call, but after reviewing the play, they rescinded that decision, giving Miami the win.

Of course, a big play like that is going to get the Twitter universe rapidly reacting, and it did so after Corn Elder crossed the goal line. 

But first, Twitter users had to try and wrap their heads around the officiating's decision to pick up the flag. Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer tried to explain:

CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli knew something wasn't right either:

There's a possibility that it shouldn't have even gone that far as Duke alum Nolan Smith caught a moment where the play should have been dead:

Joe Ovies of 99.9 FM also found a punishable offense:

Many were in disbelief, like Fox Sports 1's Julie Stewart-Binks:

Then again, the whole concept up Miami having to pull off a dramatic upset to beat the Duke football program was still weird for the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell:

Maybe in a different sport, things would have played out differently according to USA Today's George Schroeder:

For Miami fans, it was pure elation as a team that has struggled all season pulled out an improbable win. 

Former Hurricane Bennie Blades was pumped:

At the end of the day, though, it is one of the wildest plays in college football history. The Courier-Journal's Tim Sullivan thinks it trumps one of the sport's most historic final plays:

It's been quite a week for Miami. After coming off a record-breaking 58-0 loss to Clemson, the Hurricanes went from the lowest of lows to the highest of peaks with this kind of dramatic win. No matter what happens for the rest of this season, it will be pretty tough to top this ending.

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Texas vs. Iowa State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Longhorns

Just when you think they've figured it out, the Texas Longhorns go and do this.

Watching Texas get shut out by the Iowa State Cyclones, you can't even believe the consecutive wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State even happened. The Horns were awful in their 24-0 loss to Iowa State, which is the first time they've been shut out by an unranked opponent since 1961.

Jerrod Heard's shining star burned out in Ames, as Texas' starting quarterback accounted for just 39 yards on the night. And even though he led the team with 58 rushing yards, Tyrone Swoopes wasn't much better.

In all, the Horns went three-and-out six times, were outgained 426 to 204 and failed to cross the Iowa State 45 until there was 1:17 left to play. It was a pitiful effort for that side of the ball, and the rest of the team isn't good enough to make up for a showing like that.

 

Grade Analysis for the Longhorns

Passing Offense

Where do you even start with Texas' passing offense? Heard plays like he's completely lost confidence in himself, and his indecision has sapped his ability to scramble, as well. Swoopes isn't a better option, as we saw from his 6-of-13 showing.

Until Heard shows he can make plays downfield, teams are going rush three, play coverage and spy him. That strategy rendered him useless in Ames.

 

Rushing Offense

Swoopes' "18 Wheeler" package is the only thing this offense consistently gets right. Heard's scrambling was on that list until a team full-on dared him to beat coverage.

Johnathan Gray continues to play below-average football. His eight carries for 23 yards has become par for the course with him. He should never out-carry the combination of D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren, which he did on Saturday.

 

Passing Defense

The Longhorns mostly did a good job when they could keep Joel Lanning in the pocket, but he picked them apart once he got on the move. The pass-rushers didn't finish several sacks and got burned for it.

 

Rushing Defense

Freshman Mike Warren gashed these guys for 157 yards on 32 carries. Then again, what can you expect from a group that was on the field for almost 40 minutes? The offense set these guys up for failure against one of the nation's best young backs.

 

Special Teams

Punter Michael Dickson was one of the few guys who came to play, averaging 45.8 yards on his nine punts. He even made a tackle on Trever Ryen to prevent a possible return touchdown. The Longhorns got basically nothing in the return game.

 

Coaching

Charlie Strong should be back next season, but he's made things dicey for himself after this one. A team can't be 3-4 and come out flat, no matter who it's beaten in the past three weeks. Losing is one thing, but getting shut out by Iowa State is inexcusable.

Meanwhile, Jay Norvell cost himself a shot at being named the long-term offensive coordinator. The Longhorns were too slow to adjust to what Iowa State was doing on defense and had no idea how to play from behind. Spread offense shouldn't look this difficult.

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Michigan vs. Minnesota: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

A game-winning drive from backup quarterback Wilton Speight, coupled with a goal-line stand in the final seconds, secured a 29-26 win for the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday night.

After Speight hit wide receiver Jehu Chesson for his second touchdown reception of the game with four minutes, 57 seconds to play, Minnesota drove down the field to Michigan's 1-yard line with two seconds left.

With kicker Ryan Santoso—who had already hit four field goals on the day—available for a chip shot, Minnesota interim head coach Tracy Claeys, who stepped in after Jerry Kill retired this week, decided to go for the touchdown. But the Michigan defense stopped Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner's keeper as time expired.

ESPN shared the replay:

Smart Football's Chris B. Brown couldn't comprehend what he saw:

Michigan was sitting pretty four minutes into the second quarter. A 13-yard touchdown reception from Chesson helped put the Wolverines up 14-3. ESPN College Football shared the replay of Chesson's touchdown:

This was something new for Chesson, who had run for two touchdowns this season but hadn't caught one, as Matt Pargoff of Maize and Blue News pointed out:

Back came Minnesota, who used a 52-yard pass from Leidner to Rashad Still to get within one point. 

Bleacher Report (via ESPN) provided the highlight of the big play:

ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberger thought this was something the Golden Gophers should have been doing all game:

The Gophers' most valuable player in the first half was Santoso, who knocked through three field goals. His last of the first half came from 32 yards out as time expired, giving Minnesota a 16-14 lead.

Seeing opposing kickers succeed is an odd occurrence for Michigan, as Mike Hendrickson of the Minnesota Daily observed:

Michigan came up with an answer to start the second half, with Jabrill Peppers' six-yard touchdown run capping off a seven-play, 75-yard drive.

Michigan Football (via ESPN) shared the replay:

It was Peppers' first career touchdown, and the safety had to run over a Minnesota defender to hit paydirt out of the Wildcat. 

Adam Schnepp of MGoBlog liked what he saw from Peppers in the offensive alignment:

It was quite a night for Peppers, who also had a career-long punt return in the first half. 

Minnesota and Leidner came back, with the quarterback sprinting for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Gophers back up by two points. ESPN showed Leidner's run:

Not the most agile of quarterbacks, Leidner surprised Scout.com's Ryan Burns:

Talk show host Steve Deace, on the other hand, was not happy, and he was looking to go to extremes with the Michigan coaching staff:

To make matters worse for Michigan, starting quarterback Jake Rudock was forced to leave the game toward the end of the third after taking a hit to the head area while scrambling. While he has struggled this season, it was still a tough loss, as Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch pointed out:

In stepped Speight, who had never completed a pass in his college career, facing a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter after Santoso's fourth field goal of the game. 

With about five minutes left in the game, Speight delivered Michigan the lead with a 12-yard TD pass to Chesson.

While Speight was not given a warm welcome on Twitter, his performance down the stretch surely changed some minds. Or so the New York Times' John U. Bacon thought:

A two-point conversion gave the Wolverines a three-point lead with 4:57 left in the game before Minnesota's final drive. 

The defense came up big to ensure that Michigan didn't lose a second straight heartbreaker in the game's final seconds, as the Wolverines kept their slim College Football Playoff hopes alive for another week. 

Post-Game Reaction

Going to the bench in the fourth quarter while trailing isn't the best situation to be in, but somehow Michigan managed to pull it out. 

They mostly have to give thanks to Minnesota interim head coach Tracy Claeys, who made the decision to go for the win instead of the easy tie. 

But he didn't seem to broken up about it after the game, according to CBS' Patrick Kessler:

For Jim Harbaugh, the message was simple after the game, according to the Michigan Daily's Max Cohen:

Michigan would not have been able to come back from another last-second loss. They had two weeks to stew over their dramatic loss to Michigan State and following it up with another to a weaker opponent would have been dooming to their season. 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Miami Returns Kickoff for TD After 8 Laterals, Play Nearly Negated by Flag

What in the world just happened?

With Duke leading Miami 27-24 and just six seconds remaining on the clock, a loss for the Blue Devils seemed impossible.

Well, the impossible happened.

Miami lateraled the ball what felt like 100 times (it was really eight) on the kickoff and wound up reaching the end zone.

But, hold on. There was a flag for an apparent illegal block to the back:

After review, the touchdown was upheld (and evidently the flagged was picked up) and the Hurricanes took home an absolute shocker of a victory.

[Twitter]

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Kirk Herbstreit Exits Screen on Live TV After Getting Scared by 2 Monsters

Chris Fowler, you trickster.

While Kirk Herbstreit was trying to drop some knowledge about Notre Dame Saturday night, his partner unleashed the Halloween fury.

Two ghouls emerged in the booth, and Herbstreit was genuinely terrified. He wanted zero part of that scene and darted off-camera.

Fowler cackled as his colleague shrieked in fear, proving once and for all that you can't trust a soul when it comes to the final day of October.

[Vine]

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Jake Rudock Injury: Updates on Michigan QB's Head, Neck and Return

Michigan Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock departed Saturday's game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers to have his head, neck and back examined, per MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner

Continue for updates. 

Rudock Replaced by Wilton Speight Sunday, Oct. 31

According to MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn, ESPN reported during Saturday's broadcast "that Rudock told Speight on the sideline that he's not going to be able to return."

Rudock was starting to come along as Michigan climbed up the Associated Press Top 25. After a nightmare start against Utah in which he threw three interceptions, he helped lead the No. 15 Wolverines to five straight victories before losing to Michigan State.

After transferring from Iowa, where he was a two-year starter, the senior Rudock beat out junior Shane Morris for the starting job.

While he has improved, Rudock has been conservative, almost hesitant to go for a big play, while being inconsistent. ESPN college football analyst Chris Spielman spoke with the Detroit News' Angelique S. Chengelis about Rudock's play.

"To me he's one of those guys, when he's hot and going, he's really, really good," he said. "But he can make a few bad decisions here and there and can be erratic. If he's got it going, he can be really good. Jake is a good fit for Michigan."

While Morris may have seemed to be the next man up, having battled Rudock in the preseason for the job, he hasn't attempted a pass all season. Speight, a sophomore, is the only other Michigan player to attempt a pass this season.

 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Follow Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) on Twitter.

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Winners and Losers from Week 9 of the 2015 College Football Season

And here we thought Week 9 of the college football season was shaping up to be boring. It's Halloween night. How could anyone have been so naive? 

In a matter of minutes, Minnesota came up just short against Michigan and Miami pulled off a kick return miracle. This sport never ceases to disappoint. 

The rest of the college football landscape was eventful as well. The nightmare continues for Nebraska after losing to Purdue on the road. In the SEC, Georgia's offense looked lifeless against Florida. From Kyler Murray's big day for Texas A&M to Gunner Kiel's perfect performance for Cincinnati, it's time to look back at all that happened in college football this week. 

Who were the winners and losers from Week 9? We break down all that was good, bad, ugly, gorgeous and more in the following slides.

 

As a reminder, Winners and Losers is live even though games are still being played. Fear not, as we will update this post throughout the night as events warrant.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer Mocks Temple with Wing Flap After TDs

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer is as cocky as he is fast.

The sophomore signal-caller taunted Temple Saturday night as the Fighting Irish looked to move to 7-1 on the year. Kizer used his legs to convert his team’s first two scores, and he didn’t hesitate to taunt the Owls after either one.

Note the wing flap.

After scurrying for a 79-yard score, Kizer again broke out the mocking gesture.

Was he responding to trash talk, or is Kizer just ruthless?

Probably a little bit of both.

[Vine]

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Clemson vs. NC State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Tigers

It was a wild and crazy game, but the Clemson Tigers escaped Carter-Finley Stadium with a 56-41 win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack. It was a big day for both quarterbacks, as Clemson's Deshaun Watson and N.C. State's Jacoby Brissett combined for 10 total touchdowns. 

Watson was 23-of-30 passing for 383 yards and five passing touchdowns. He also added 54 yards and a score on the ground. Brissett threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns, and he added another score on the ground. His elusiveness was on full display Saturday, as he often evaded Clemson tacklers and kept plays alive. 

The first half started off with a frenzy of points, as the score was 16-13 after the first quarter. The two teams traded quarterback touchdown runs to start things off, but it was the 100-yard kickoff return by Nyheim Hines that put N.C. State up, 13-7, early on. The two teams both scored touchdowns right before the half, and it was the Tigers that held the 26-20 lead at the intermission. 

Clemson jumped up by 20 points late in the third quarter, but N.C. State fought hard and never went away. The Tigers defense was pushed to its limits today—giving up 389 yards of total offense—but it made the big plays it needed to late in the game to preserve the lead. 

N.C. State's offense gave Clemson all it wanted today, but the defense failed to come up with many stops. The Wolfpack allowed 623 yards of total offense and gave up way too many chunk plays in the second half. 

It was the balanced attack offensively that stood out the most from the Tigers, as they passed for 383 yards and rushed for 240 yards. Running back Wayne Gallman rushed for 172 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. 

For the Wolfpack, they will travel to Boston College next Saturday as they attempt to move to 2-2 in ACC play. The Tigers have the big showdown with Florida State in a week that will likely decide the ACC Atlantic, so they have to regroup and refocus quickly.

You can find the complete box score for this game here, per NCAA.com. 

 

Passing Offense

The Tigers found a ton of success through the air in this game. Watson threw for 186 yards in the first half, and he had some big passing touchdowns in the second half as well. He averaged 12.8 yards per completion and was almost perfect throwing down the field. He had touchdown passes of 42, 57, 40, 35, and 36 yards. 

N.C. State struggled to stop the run early on, but after adjustments were made, the Tigers were able to find success on deep passes. Watson completed passes to eight different receivers in this game, so the passing attack was balanced. 

 

Rushing Offense

One of the season's biggest surprises has been the Tigers' ability to consistently run the ball. The offensive line was dominant a week ago versus Miami, and it did not disappoint in this one. Gallman had 74 yards at the half and finished with 172 yards and a touchdown on the ground. It was a masterful effort from this group that totaled 240 rushing yards as a team and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. 

Watson was also dangerous in the running game, going for 54 yards and a touchdown. His ability to run the ball has kept defenses on their heels and opened up holes for Gallman and Zac Brooks. 

 

Pass Defense

Brissett ended up with good numbers through the air—254 yards and three touchdowns—but the Tigers secondary came up with plays when they had to. N.C. State had some chunk plays through the air, but overall, it wasn't a terrible performance from this group. 

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley was in a good position on one touchdown reception, and he came up with a big play on fourth down in the fourth quarter to help preserve the 56-41 lead. 

 

Run Defense

It was probably the worst performance from the defense in regards to stopping the run, but N.C. State still only came away with 135 yards on the ground. There were a couple of long rushing plays—a 41-yarder by Matt Dayes and a 66-yarder by Jaylen Samuels—but the Tigers also had their share of negative stops. 

The two long plays drove the overall total yards up, but the Tigers will have to shore up on the little mistakes before Florida State comes to town. 

 

Special Teams 

There were two sides to the play of the special teams on Saturday, so we give the performance here a B-minus. Greg Huegel was a perfect 3-of-3 on his field-goal attempts, but there were also some glaring issues with this unit.

The Wolfpack had two big kickoff returns, with one going 100 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. The Tigers also missed on two extra-point attempts, but the solid field-goal kicking evens it out here. 

 

Coaching 

The offensive play-calling was excellent on Saturday. We have seen improvements with each game from co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, and it was another solid day at the office on Saturday. It was clear that the Tigers once again wanted to control the line of scrimmage with the running game, but Elliott also called a number of deep passes that gave a perfect balance to the offensive attack. 

The defense allowed some big plays, but it wasn't really anything schematic. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables called a good game and brought pressure at the right times, but it was missed tackles and poor angles that hurt this unit. 

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Is It Time for Georgia to Admit Brian Schottenheimer Was a Bad Hire?

Take away a unit's best player, and the entire group is bound have some sort of drop-off.

But the Georgia Bulldogs may have set themselves up for offensive disaster before Nick Chubb's devastating knee injury against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Bulldogs were a complete mess Saturday in a 26-3 loss to rival Florida in Jacksonville. They didn't score a touchdown and posted fewer than 300 yards for the second consecutive game.

Faton Bauta, who received the start at quarterback despite not recording a single pass attempt in Georgia's seven games, completed less than half of his passes and had four interceptions.

Since obliterating an awful South Carolina defense, Georgia's offense has regressed heavily against SEC competition. It moved the ball and scored 31 points in a loss against Tennessee, sure, but even that performance had some major red flags.

Now, after Georgia's worst offensive performance of 2015—one that somehow came off a bye week—head coach Mark Richt has to face the facts in a season that is going off the rails.

It's past time to reconsider the decision to hire offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Richt's offseason move to replace Mike Bobo, who took a head coaching job at Colorado State, with Schottenheimer received some skepticism when it happened—specifically from Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee.

"Brian Schottenheimer was abysmal in the NFL," Sallee said all the way back in January. "Now granted, he hasn't had much quarterback play to work with at the NFL level, but it's not like Georgia has a proven quarterback, either." 

Those words rang true all the way in October during Saturday's Florida game, as Bauta took over for the inconsistent Greyson Lambert in the starting lineup.

Things didn't go well for the first-time starter—and some of Schottenheimer's decision-making didn't help, either.

Bauta, who was a dual-threat quarterback in high school, had almost as many rushing yards as passing yards in his limited work as a Georgia quarterback.

But Bauta only recorded two runs Saturday, and a sack gave him three official carries for just nine yards. As Morgan Moriarty of Cox Media Group and UPROXX put it on Twitter, the game plan from Schottenheimer was quite confusing:

The Georgia running game, which had been a deciding factor in several of the most recent matchups with Florida, seemed to take a back seat Saturday. The Bulldogs attempted more passes than runs in every single quarter, with Sony Michel only getting 13 touches.

A pass-first mentality is fine when a team is down by multiple scores in the second half, sure, but the Bulldogs came out firing with a brand-new quarterback from the first quarter.

Schottenheimer's play-calling went under the microscope early in the fourth quarter, when Georgia had its longest sustained drive of the game. 

After a couple of completions and a roughing-the-passer call got Georgia into Florida territory, Michel broke a seven-yard run to set up a 3rd-and-short situation. Three plays later, he put the Bulldogs at the 3-yard line with a 10-yard run.

But facing 1st-and-goal three yards away from a touchdown, Georgia called back-to-back pass plays—an incompletion and an interception. The Bulldogs would miss out on scoring again.

As the level of competition has stepped up for Georgia, the offense has gotten worse.

Chubb's injury took one of the nation's best playmakers away from Schottenheimer, but it wasn't like his offenses were necessarily lighting it up with him. Eighty-three of Georgia's 299 yards against Alabama came on just one big run from the star sophomore.

And it's not like Georgia hasn't been in this situation before. Even with injuries to star running backs such as Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, Bobo was still able to put together effective offenses.

Schottenheimer has a former 5-star in Michel to replace Chubb and an experienced offensive line to work with him. That still hasn't prevented a catastrophic drop-off for the offense.

Georgia's quarterback situation didn't look promising this offseason after the departure of Hutson Mason, and even though Lambert had a few bright spots earlier in the season, it's even more bleak under Schottenheimer.

As his NFL resume shows, Schottenheimer wasn't the ideal hire to solve Georgia's problems at the position. 

Georgia's first-year offensive coordinator has somehow taken a bad situation with inconsistent quarterbacking and an injured Chubb and made it even worse.

For the sake of his own future at Georgia, it might be time for Richt to put an end to the Schottenheimer experiment.

 

Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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

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Clemson QB Deshaun Watson Slowly Building Heisman Campaign

Entering the 2015 season, serious Heisman Trophy buzz surrounded Deshaun Watson, and with good reason. Clemson’s sophomore quarterback had impressive size and skills, and piloted a high-powered offensive system. 

But after some sluggish efforts against Louisville and Notre Dame, that buzz died down.

Now, as the Tigers prepare for a final College Football Playoff push, Heisman hype is building around Watson, and deservedly so. Clemson’s offense is hitting a high gear, and so is Watson. Saturday that offense picked up a weak defensive effort in a 56-41 victory at N.C. State, and Watson had the most impressive game of his sophomore season.

While Watson remains on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race, he is making his case for inclusion as the chase for the stiff-arm trophy enters its final month. Saturday, he completed 23-of-30 passes for 383 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

It was Watson’s best game since his first career start, which saw him throw for 435 yards and an ACC single-game record-tying six touchdowns against North Carolina.

Although the Tigers defense wasn’t sharp, Watson was always there to pick them up and give the team a little separation. With Clemson trailing 20-19 late in the first half, a missed field goal gave the Tigers the ball at their own 27 with 48 seconds left.

Two plays later, Clemson was in the end zone, courtesy of a 31-yard strike to Artavis Scott and a 42-yard touchdown toss to Charone Peake. After the teams traded touchdowns to start the second half, Watson uncorked his best pass of the day, a 40-yard pill down the left sideline to Deon Cain. Clemson’s lead never slipped under two touchdowns the rest of the way.

It was an impressive effort, given that N.C. State entered the game No. 3 nationally in total defense, allowing 251.3 yards per game (albeit against a schedule that included Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, South Alabama and Wake Forest).

After failing to hit the 300-yard passing mark in his first five games this fall, Watson has done it twice in his last three, coupling Saturday with a 420-yard effort against Boston College.

And after throwing 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions in his first six games, Watson has thrown six touchdowns with no picks in his last two games.

Despite losing returning 1,000-yard receiver Mike Williams to a neck fracture in the season opener, he has developed chemistry with a wide range of wideouts, including Cain, Scott, Peake and walk-on Hunter Renfrow.

He is also showing increased confidence in running on a surgically repaired knee, carrying 14 times Saturday for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Does Watson have the stats of Heisman frontrunners like TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (2,927 yards, 28 touchdowns against five interceptions, 524 rushing yards and six touchdowns) or LSU tailback Leonard Fournette (1,352 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns)? Not yet.

But a matchup against Florida State will be a major showcase for his abilities, and a closing stretch of Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina could also help Watson pad his stats. A strong November would certainly help him make his case for the Heisman, especially if Fournette or Boykin stumble.

At the very least, Watson has made it clear he’ll be a legit contender for the Heisman Trophy as long as he’s in a Clemson uniform. The next month will tell us how quickly his candidacy will unfold.

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