NCAA Football News

UNC vs. Pittsburgh: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The North Carolina Tar Heels took over first place in the ACC Coastal Division with a 26-19 victory over the No. 23 Pittsburgh Panthers on Thursday night at Heinz Field. It's the first time North Carolina has started 4-0 in conference play since 1997, per the ESPN telecast.

North Carolina's defense helped solidify the win as Pittsburgh had possession of the ball for 11 more minutes than the Tar Heels. But UNC held Pitt to 41 fewer yards than its offense accumulated. 

A slow start didn't see the game's first big play until the second quarter. The Tar Heels landed it when quarterback Marquise Williams hit Ryan Switzer for a 71-yard touchdown that helped put North Carolina up 10-3.

ESPN College Football shared the replay:

Switzer drew some lofty comparisons from the ESPN commentating crew, as CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli pointed out:

Switzer had five receptions for 126 yards on the night. The Tallahassee Democrat's Corey Clark thinks Switzer might be on his way to one of Wes Welker's former teams:

Pittsburgh, who saw its deficit grow to 10 points early in the second quarter, couldn't get anything done on offense. Its only success came by throwing toward Tyler Boyd, who caught 10 of quarterback Nathan Peterman's 27 completions on the day for 89 yards.

As SB Nation CFB observed, this was nothing new for Pitt:

With acrobatic grabs, he even impressed the opposition as GoHeels.com's Turner Walston weighed in on Boyd's performance:

Mistakes saw the Panthers' deficit grow deeper before halftime. With four minutes left in the half, Dontez Ford fumbled after an eight-yard reception, giving the ball back to the Tar Heels. 

They took full advantage as Williams hit Mack Hollins for a 32-yard touchdown. ESPN College Football shared the replay:

It was UNC's fourth score on four possessions as the team took a 20-3 lead into halftime, but it was the Tar Heels' last touchdown of the day. Williams utilized the big play to get North Caroilna's points as he completed 14 of 23 passes for 270 yards.

He also added 52 yards on the ground.

North Carolina's offense came to a screeching halt at the start of the second half.

On North Carolina's first drive of the second half, Pittsburgh blocked a punt, gaining possession at the 15-yard line. But the Panthers could muster only a field goal.

Using Boyd to get deep into UNC territory, Pitt scored its first touchdown of the day with 4:10 to go in the third on a four-yard run from Qadree Ollison. 

The Panthers finally scored again with 46 seconds left in the game after Peterman hit Scott Orndoff for a six-yard touchdown pass. North Carolina's Quinshad Davis—who earlier in the game set the school's record for most career receptions with his 182nd catch, per North Carolina's official Twitter account—sealed the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.

 

Postgame Reaction

Whenever a team can go on the road and defeat a ranked opponent in decisive fashion, it's impressive. And North Carolina made a great case as to why it should land in the Associated Press Top 25 next week. 

The Tar Heels' performance pleased head coach Larry Fedora, who spoke with ESPN after the game (via Pro Football Central's Lee Vowel):

For the home team, morale can't be high, as the Panthers likely saw their stay in the Top 25 come to an end Thursday night.

Their losses haven't come against weak sides, however. Pitt lost to the No. 10 Iowa Hawkeyes in its third game of the season before falling to a UNC team that could be around No. 25 next week. 

But the schedule doesn't get any easier, as the Panthers' next two games will be against the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 22 Duke Blue Devils.

 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Josh Doctson Breaks TCU's Single-Season Receiving Reception Record

Josh Doctson continued his remarkable season in Thursday’s game against West Virginia by breaking the TCU Horned Frogs’ single-season receptions record with his 67th, according to ESPN CollegeFootball.

He surpassed Josh Boyce, who set the previous high in 2012. And TCU still has four games remaining. 

Doctson broke his own school records for receiving yards and touchdowns in a single season earlier this year.

The senior accomplished the most recent feat on a four-yard pass in the second quarter, according to Statbroadcast.com, and was at seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown at the half.

He continues to show why he’s one of the best at his position, courtesy of Dane Brugler of CBS Sports:

Doctson trails only Baylor’s Corey Coleman among Big 12 receivers in receiving touchdowns, 13 to 18, as both are putting the conference on the map for star-studded receivers, per Phil Murphy of ESPN:

The two will go head-to-head in what is shaping up as a top-five matchup and potential play-in game for the College Football Playoff in what will be each team’s regular-season finale.   

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Quinshad Davis Sets UNC Record for Most Career Receptions

Quinshad Davis has now caught more passes than anyone else in the history of North Carolina Tar Heels football.

The senior wide receiver caught a 14-yard pass midway through the second quarter for his 182nd career catch Thursday, passing Hakeem Nicks for the most in school history.

North Carolina's official Twitter account shared the news:

It was a monumental first half for Davis and the Tar Heels. North Carolina jumped out to a 20-3 lead over the No. 23-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers before the break in Pittsburgh. Davis had only two catches for 20 yards, but the team didn't need him to do much more than break records in the first half Thursday night.

Having been a model of consistency for all four of his years as a Tar Heels pass-catcher, Davis projects to be one of the top receivers in next year's NFL draft. NFL.com's Chad Reuter didn't rank Davis as one of his top 20 prospects in May, but he did list the record breaker as one of the players to watch during the early rounds.

"A fractured right tibia in UNC's 40-21 Quick Lane Bowl loss to Rutgers ended any speculation about Davis' departure to the NFL," Reuter said. "Already tied with Hakeem Nicks for the school record for touchdowns with 21 using his height and strong hands, Davis (6'4", 210 lbs) could join Nicks as a first-round pick with a healthy season."

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Notre Dame Football: What Return Home Means to Will Fuller, Mike McGlinchey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As Notre Dame football juniors and Philadelphia natives, Irish wide receiver Will Fuller and right tackle Mike McGlinchey often travel home together for breaks, either booking the same flights or making the 10-hour drive.

A couple college kids traveling together. Classic road trip, right?

“He’s a quiet kid, so sometimes it’s hard to get words out of him,” McGlinchey said while laughing.

Just last week, they flew back together to Philadelphia during Notre Dame’s bye week to enjoy a few days at home. Then there was the time Fuller and McGlinchey drove back to South Bend, as Fuller wanted to bring his car to campus.

“That was pretty fun—10 hours in a car with Will Fuller,” McGlinchey quipped with a smile.

The environment Saturday will be anything but quiet as Fuller, McGlinchey and No. 9 Notre Dame travel to Philadelphia to square off with No. 21 and unbeaten Temple in prime time at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles. ESPN’s College GameDay will air from Independence Mall in the morning, and a sold-out stadium will be the site for the Irish and the Owls in the evening.

Both Fuller and McGlinchey are playing back in their home city for the first time since high school. Fuller was a standout at Roman Catholic, while McGlinchey played at Penn Charter about 15 minutes away. The two knew of each other in high school, took a few of the same recruiting visits and played in some of the same football events, including the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl at the end of their senior seasons.

Fuller was tabbed as the No. 41 wide receiver and No. 278 overall player in the country out of high school.

“Well it’s kind of the same thing as it is now,” McGlinchey said of Fuller’s high school career. “Not too many people knew too much about him because he’s so quiet, so humble. He just goes out and lets his play do the talking. I think that’s what’s happened here as well. He’s just quiet, under the radar, but he’ll strike like a lightning bolt.”

Fuller said Temple offered him toward the end of his junior season. The speedy wideout took a few visits to campus due to its proximity but never really considered playing for the Owls. His first collegiate game, in fact, was against Temple, when he suited up for the Irish in their 2013 season opener.

Twenty-four receiving touchdowns later, Fuller returns to his hometown a marked, if understated, man. And with tattoos of the Philadelphia skyline and the “City of Brotherly Love” etched on him, Fuller said he’s drawn motivation from his city.

“Coming out of high school, I wasn't highly recruited,” Fuller said. “Had to prove myself everywhere I went. I wasn't the best player on my pound ball team, had to prove myself there. Had to prove myself in high school. I didn't get any scholarships to a high school team, so I had to earn a scholarship in high school. And here, I had to earn my spot here. Everywhere I go, you've just got to earn what you're worth.”

Fuller said he could have never imagined such a major college football game—with GameDay in town—happening in his city.

“That’s why I say it’s like a dream come true,” Fuller said.

Fuller said his mother, Megan Mitchell, told him more than 100 friends and family members will be in attendance to watch Fuller on Saturday night. McGlinchey, too, said his cheering section is expected to be close to 200 strong.

“I like to think that having that hometown feel is kind of on my side a little bit more,” McGlinchey said. “It’s just a football game, going into it preparing like you always do. That’s all I’m worried about.”

Notre Dame will hold its Friday walk-through at McGlinchey’s high school, Penn Charter, where the massive tackle captained the squad in 2012 and also played basketball for the Quakers.

“That’s pretty special,” McGlinchey said. “I’ve been joking around with the guys in the locker room about getting to see the school and everything. Penn Charter, I know, is excited about the opportunity.”

McGlinchey actually began his high school career as a tight end before shifting to the offensive line to make use of his 6’8”, 310-pound frame. After redshirting in his freshman season in South Bend, McGlinchey served as a backup lineman last year, earning his first career start in the Music City Bowl victory over LSU. He said the adjustment to major college football, with all its intricacies, was difficult.

“Where I came from, we were a small school, small program; we didn’t really have too much going on, just kind of went out and played,” McGlinchey said of his high school career. “I’ve had to become a student of the game here, and that’s something I really enjoy doing, learning more about and getting a grasp of what football is all about.”

 

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

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

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Dalvin Cook Injury: Updates on FSU Star's Ankle and Return

The Florida State Seminoles will be without their best offensive weapon for Saturday's game against the Syracuse Orange, as star running back Dalvin Cook will be on the sidelines with an injured ankle. 

Continue for updates. 

Jimbo Fisher Declares Cook Out Thursday, Oct. 29

Florida State is coming off a stunning 22-16 loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 24 and needs to rack up wins to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive, but that will be more difficult without Cook. Warchant.com reported head coach Jimbo Fisher said the star running back will miss the clash against the Orange, while Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel noted Cook had a brace on his left ankle Thursday.  

The running back has been the one constant for Florida State this season, at least when he's been healthy enough to play. The sophomore sensation has 1,037 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns and is a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate.         

This isn't his first injury of the season. During a game against Wake Forest, Cook left because of a hamstring injury that kept him out after two carries. He did make one of those attempts count, scoring on a 94-yard scamper in a 24-16 victory. 

Being able to run the ball effectively is essential for Florida State to succeed, but quarterback Everett Golson has been effective under center. He will need to shoulder more of the offensive load in Cook's absence.

Fisher has done a masterful job of steering the ship in the right direction this season. Cook's absence will be a huge hurdle to overcome, but if any coach in the country can do it, it's Fisher. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

2016 SEC Football Schedule Announced: Full Details and Reaction

We're barely halfway through the 2015 SEC schedule, but college football's strongest conference is already looking ahead to 2016. The SEC announced its 2016 schedule Thursday, which runs from a Sept. 1 clash between Vanderbilt and South Carolina until Dec. 3's conference championship game. The full schedule can be viewed in full here.   

As is the case every season, the SEC member schools play eight conference games, one against each member of their division and two from the opposing side. The biggest change from 2015 to 2016 is a new SEC requirement that says schools must play at least one nonconference game against a Power Five school. (Independent teams such as Notre Dame, BYU and Army are also eligible.)       

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive detailed the decision in a 2014 statement, per Ben Estes of Sporting News:

This has been a thoughtful and deliberative process that has resulted in maintaining the current format and adds a provision that will bolster our collective annual non-conference schedule. Critical to maintaining this format is the non-conference opponent factor which gives us the added strength-of-schedule we were seeking while allowing continued scheduling flexibility for institutional preferences, and acknowledges that many of our institutions already play these opponents.

Alabama will play USC Week 1 to fulfill that requirement, while LSU (Wisconsin), Auburn (Clemson), Ole Miss (Florida State) and Texas A&M (UCLA) also took the opportunity to schedule a high-profile matchup early in the season. (Florida will also be playing Florida State to fulfill its requirement, but that's an every-year occurrence.)

Of the major contests inside the conference, Week 8 will put on three marquee matchups. Texas A&M travels to Alabama, Auburn hosts Arkansas and Ole Miss travels to Baton Rouge for a head-to-head battle with LSU. Rivalry Week to close the regular season will also draw a ton of attention, but there are no major changes in how that will be handled.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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Les Miles Says Some Freshmen Could Be Ready to Declare for NFL Draft

The play of LSU Tigers sophomore sensation Leonard Fournette has put a spotlight on the NFL draft's eligibility rules, which require college athletes to be at least three years removed from high school before they can enter.

The 20-year-old running back leads the country with 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns in seven games, and many consider him to be ready for the NFL despite being ineligible for next year’s draft. 

LSU head coach Les Miles doesn’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment, saying Thursday during a teleconference, per SEC Country's Matt Barbato, that some players possess the athletic ability to advance early, though it’s highly uncommon.

"I think that there’s probably guys that could enter the draft just like basketball, one and out," he said. "I think there’s a style of athlete that can do that. But I think they’re rare because in football, with maturity and strength, it really adds to their worth in what is the next level and the next league."

Miles added that even a prospective player of Fournette's caliber can still benefit greatly from a sustained college career:

I think if you found those guys that leave early, most of them they either came from major programs or they’re guys that become with a discipline and a structure that was given to them, whether it’s home or their high school or some place else. I think college, for the most part football, gives a young player that needs to develop that opportunity.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton also discussed the prospect of players leaving earlier than allowed, echoing most of Miles’ comments, per Christopher Dabe of the Times-Picayune:

"I don't think it's necessarily age related or age biased," Payton said. "It's that the percentages are less, and that gradually goes up the further you're educated and the longer you're in school physically and mentally. That's how I feel about that.”

The NBA allows players to enter its draft one year removed from high school. John Walters of Newsweek went as far to call the NFL's three-year draft rule “un-American” earlier this month. 

But given the physical rigors of football, rarely does an argument such as Walters' surface—only when a player of Fournette’s caliber captivates the country. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney (2012) and San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk (1993) are among the few who come to mind.

Despite being the center of dispute, albeit indirectly, Fournette indicated he has no interest in leaving LSU early:

Fournette's phenomenal start, coupled with LSU's emergence as a College Football Playoff contender, has made him the Heisman Trophy front-runner. The No. 4 Tigers are off this weekend and will return for a colossal Week 10 road matchup against the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide.

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West Virginia vs. TCU: Live Score and Highlights

The No. 5 TCU Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0) are back in action on Thursday, hosting Big 12 rival West Virginia (3-3, 0-3) in Fort Worth, Texas.

Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin at quarterback, the Frogs average 50 points per game—second in the country. Boykin has completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,539 yards and 25 touchdowns in addition to rushing for 440 yards and five additional scores.

Statistically, TCU is even better than it was a year ago.

On the other side, West Virginia limps into this game as the loser of three straight. No one has faced a more daunting schedule this October than the Mountaineers. After starting the season 3-0, WVU lost to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor.

In the process, West Virginia lost several key contributors to injury—most notably standout safety Karl Joseph.

The last three meetings between these two schools have come down to the final possession. In 2014, the Horned Frogs eked out a 31-30 victory in Morgantown.

You can watch the game live on Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET, but make sure to stay right here for the latest news, notes, analysis and the best postgame coverage around.

You can find the official box score at NCAA.com.

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Predicting Outcome for the Remaining Major College Football Rivalry Games

November is rivalry month in college football, when several of the country's greatest grudge matches are waged down the stretch. As in most years, several of these games figure to have a major impact on division, conference and playoff races, but even if one or both teams are having a down year, the intensity of these rivalry games remains at a high level.

Being able to knock off a rival can often make or break a season; doing so in the midst of a run toward a title is an added bonus. Because of this, the passion you'll see in these games will be at an all-time high and should make for great competition.

We've picked out some of the top remaining rivalry games that will be held over the next six weeks, including the annual Army-Navy game in mid-December, and will break down how they should play out.

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Paul Wulff Joins Iowa State Football Coaching Staff: Latest Details and Reaction

Former Washington State head coach Paul Wulff is returning to a collegiate sideline. Wulff has agreed to become a volunteer coach under Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.  

The hiring comes days after Rhoads fired offensive coordinator Mark Mangino following the Cyclones' 2-5 start. It's a situation that had been festering for a while, as Rhoads' desire for a run-first offense clashed with Mangino's pass-heavy system. 

“The things that we haven’t gotten on the same page with—it’s been ongoing for several weeks,” Rhoads said, per Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. “We’ve been trying to work that out. In the end, we could not come to a conclusion together—and he decided not to accept the direction that we wanted to go.”

Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer isn't sold on the move:

Wulff, 48, most recently served as South Florida's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach in 2014. He was fired after a 4-8 season in which the Bulls ranked 120th in yards per game and tied for 119th in points per game. Before arriving in South Florida, he was an offensive assistant under Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers—a job he landed after being fired at Washington State.

The Cougars went 9-40 in Wulff's four seasons as head coach, and he left with the lowest winning percentage in school history. He previously had a semi-successful eight-year run as the head coach at Eastern Washington, posting a 53-40 record that included three playoff appearances.

Based on his recent failures, though, it's hard to see Wulff coming in midseason and suddenly fixing all that ails Iowa State. The Cyclones have lost each of their last three games by three scores and play two of their next three games against ranked opponents.

It's not exactly an ideal situation.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerocnway22) on Twitter.

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Jhajuan Seales Arrested: Latest Details and Comments on Oklahoma State WR

Oklahoma State wide receiver Jhajuan Seales was arrested Sunday on charges of driving under the influence and open container, per Kyle Fredrickson of the Oklahoman.

No further details were given on what led to the arrest. Seales posted a $35 bond and was released after being booked on the two misdemeanor counts, per OColly.com.

A redshirt junior, this is Seales' second arrest for an alcohol-related offense since arriving in Stillwater. He and cornerback Juwan Offray were found asleep last year at a Whataburger restaurant and charged with public intoxication. At the time of his arrest, Seales' car was running.

“It was a learning experience I had to get over,” Seales said last year, per Fredrickson. “I paid my consequences and got back together with the team.”

Oklahoma State has not commented on the arrest. The Cowboys are scheduled to play this weekend at Texas Tech, so a decision regarding his status will likely be made before then.

Seales has made 12 receptions for 164 yards and one touchdown; he has at least one reception in each of Oklahoma State's seven games.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 9

The final weekend of October's college football slate presents another opportunity for America's premier prospects to examine campus environments. If you've ever journeyed to a university during Halloween weekend, you're well aware that few times of year create as much excitement among students. 

Compelling matchups and costumed fans take center stage, as several recruits are set to soak in the action. Here's a look at key visits scheduled for coveted players in different corners of the country.

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Odds on Next College Football Coach to Be Fired

Job security is at an all-time low in college football, with more than half of the 128 FBS schools undergoing a change of leadership at least once since 2013. And this turnover is seeping more and more into the middle of the season, as evidenced by a whopping eight jobs opening up since August thanks to resignations, retirements and firings.

Don't expect this to slow down anytime soon, not with the high-stakes nature of the sport and the current climate in which the need to get a jump on finding the next coach has made an in-season termination more common.

Of the eight FBS openings in 2015, five—Illinois, Maryland, Miami (Florida), North Texas and USC—were because of firings. And odds are we could see more before the regular season is through, followed by a rash of pink slips during the offseason.

Who's most likely to get sent packing next?

We've placed odds on the most likely candidates, updating their current situations and detailing what their futures hold. The coaches are listed alphabetically rather than in order of job security.

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Brandon Harris Is the Real Key to LSU's Playoff Hopes

The buzz is palpable, the hype is real and a collision is imminent.

LSU vs. Alabama. The Tigers vs. the Crimson Tide. Les Miles vs. Nick Saban.

For SEC West supremacy and perhaps a reservation in the College Football Playoff.

The two SEC heavyweights will square off in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7 after taking this weekend off, in what will be the most important game of the SEC in 2015.

After all, it's the biggest hurdle standing in the way between the undefeated Tigers, one-loss Crimson Tide and a trip to Atlanta as SEC West champs.

While Tigers running back Leonard Fournette, the Crimson Tide's Derrick Henry and the vaunted Alabama front seven's quest to win the battle in the trenches against LSU's offensive line will all dominate headlines leading up to the showdown, the game's most important player—by far—is LSU quarterback Brandon Harris.

The true sophomore signal-caller from Bossier City, Louisiana, won the job this summer and has slowly progressed from a mystery into the weapon head coach Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron needed him to become. 

He has thrown for over 200 yards in three straight games, thrown nine touchdowns and zero picks, has rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns and has taken enough pressure off of Fournette to keep opposing defenses honest.

"He continues to improve," Miles said. "He's very accurate, very capable and understands where to throw it. A good throw is not good enough (for him) anymore. He wants to be very, very accurate. I like his improvement, his tenacity and his leadership around the team."

That last part of that quote is very important, because while it might seem like Fournette is the leader of this team, that quality was the biggest reason it took so long for Harris to ascend to the starting role.

He enrolled at LSU in January 2014 and immediately entered into a battle with Anthony Jennings, who got backup reps throughout the 2013 season until starter Zach Mettenberger was injured in the final game of the regular season.

Despite Jennings' struggles—he completed just 48.9 percent of his passes—Harris managed just one start on the season, a road loss to the Auburn Tigers in early October.

After a battle in spring, Harris ascended to the starting role due in part to Jennings' brief suspension, but mostly due to his progression as a leader of the team.

"There's no way you can be a leader without being a really quality participant," Miles said. "You have to go onto the field and make plays, have to care and have to want. Brandon Harris has that. His leadership has grown by leaps and bounds."

That growth on and off the field has been huge for LSU because now the offense is balanced after more than a season of uncertainty.

Harris has tossed eight completions of more than 30 yards, which is tied for sixth in the conference and more than Alabama starting quarterback Jake Coker and Georgia's Greyson Lambert. That threat, which is due in part to the emergence of Malachi Dupre opposite Travin Dural, has the attention of opposing coaches.

"They've made more explosive plays in the passing game," Alabama's Saban said. "Their receivers have really played well, and the quarterback has made some really good plays. That's given them a lot more balance and has made them a lot more difficult to defend."

Fournette is awesome, but so is Alabama's front seven. When the unstoppable force meets the immovable object next week in Tuscaloosa, that will put the pressure on Harris to be the difference in the game.

After a slow start to his career, he's peaking at the right time.

If he can clear the Alabama hurdle, it will give himself and his team plenty of confidence as they hit the home stretch that includes games against Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and potentially an SEC Championship Game on Dec. 5.

Fournette is the star in Baton Rouge, but if LSU is going to make a playoff run, Harris has to be its MVP.

 

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

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

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The Chaos Team College Football Needs to Pay Attention to

When you go home this evening, I want you to have “the talk” with your children.

This won’t be easy, but their innocent ears need to hear it. They deserve to hear it. You can’t put this off any longer; now is the time.

Try to map out the words on the way home. It’ll flow better this way. Be firm, but not unsettling. Be thoughtful, but not befuddling. Be the parent you’ve always hoped you’d be in situations such as these. The most impactful conversation of your life is at your doorstep.

You can do this. I know you can.

It’s time for you to talk with your children about undefeated Iowa—the fly in the College Football Playoff ointment.

Welcome to a world where Iowa is without a loss two months into the college football season.

The schedule has been unquestionably favorable. The style points are not exactly stacked neatly in a robust pile. This isn’t Ohio State. This isn’t Baylor. But less than a week before the release of the first College Football Playoff standings, Iowa undeniably finds itself on the outskirts of the conversation, whether you believe it belongs there or not. Smell that sweet, succulent air.

This is news to Kirk Ferentz. Not the fact that his team is 7-0; he’s well aware of that. But just a few short days ago, Iowa’s head coach learned, through a press conference, that the selection committee will unveil its first Top 25 next Tuesday.

He also still has no plans to watch or DVR the festivities.

“We haven’t talked much about it, but these kids aren’t dumb,” Ferentz told Bleacher Report earlier this week. “I can’t imagine there’s a team in our league that doesn’t want to play in the championship game.”

This dream would have sounded foolish back in August. Having lost five of its final seven games last season, Iowa entered 2015 with minimal expectations. One could argue that rock bottom had arrived. The program said goodbye to the nation’s best offensive lineman. It lost an abundance of meaningful snaps.

Even through the wins, there have been losses. Defensive end Drew Ott, the Hawkeyes’ best player, is out for the year with a torn ACL. Running back Jordan Canzeri, the offense’s most dynamic weapon, is still hobbled with an ankle injury.

The offensive line has been an elaborate game of duck, duck, goose. The starting quarterback, C.J. Beathard, has spent the better part of the last month moving with a pronounced limp. And still, zero losses.

The bye week arrived just in time. Well, almost.

“True confession,” Ferentz said. “I thought we needed it the week prior. I thought we might have pushed a little too far going to Chicago. The guys really came through.”

In the 40-10 road win over Northwestern in Week 7, Ferentz watched sophomore running back Akrum Wadley visit the end zone four times. Coming into the game, Wadley had logged eight carries all season.

It’s been that type of year. “Next man up” is a tired and clichéd philosophy, but it’s been adopted in Iowa City. It has not always been pretty or easy on the eyes, but it has come together. Against Northwestern, it really came together.

After the win, Ferentz wanted his players to get away with a week off. Even he decompressed some, spending last Saturday at his granddaughter’s birthday party before doing some evening recruiting.

Before his team shut things down for a few days, the usually reserved head coach delivered a surprising message.

“I encouraged them to think and dream big for a couple of days,” Ferentz said. He then couldn’t help but laugh before finishing the statement. “I don’t want them to think I’m a tyrant.”

There’s something deeper to this sound bite—a movement that has garnered traction over the past month. Suddenly, after 17 years, Ferentz has developed a new nickname.

You ready for this? It's off-the-walls creative.

New Kirk.

It’s simple and somehow appropriate. It’s the product of winning. But more so than that, it’s a newfound aggressive mindset—a mindset Ferentz believes has existed all along.

It’s the play-calling. It’s the fake field-goal attempts. It’s going for it on fourth down rather than settling from three points. Strangely enough, many of these attempts have failed. The aggression has not always resulted in positive results, at least not instantly.

But the energy is palpable. There's an edge to this team. New Kirk.

When asked about his new nickname, Ferentz could only offer up more laughter. Not a deep belly laugh, but a kind of chuckle, chock-full of appreciation. Whether he agrees with the nickname or not, there’s something to be said about a longtime coach being recognized for changing his ways, even if he feels it's business as usual. Clearly others feel differently.

“It’s entertaining,” Ferentz said of the nickname. “If people think this is new, that’s wonderful. But it’s pretty much the same old story here.”

When his team returned to practice after the bye week, having explored the glorious possibilities ahead, Ferentz greeted each of them with a sheet of paper.

Included on this handout was a list of upsets and near upsets that have transpired over the course of the season. The list was all-encompassing, with a focus on the Big Ten.

It was a reminder that now, strangely, Iowa is being hunted rather than doing the hunting. After allowing a few days of stargazing, it was back to reality.

“Nobody knew who we were a month ago, and now there’s a little talk about us,” Ferentz said. “But all that talk doesn’t impact games. We’re not even 40 percent done with the Big Ten schedule yet, so all of that is premature. There is so much football to be played.”

Let’s talk about that football to be played, shall we? This part is important. In fact, it’s the most potent ingredient in this chaos cocktail.

Through seven games this season, Iowa has wins over Pittsburgh, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Those are the greatest hits. It's not the nation's most robust resume. It's probably not as bad as it's made out to be, either. Iowa, now positioned at No. 10 in the AP Poll, is right where it belongs.

Questions exist, and understandably so. The Hawkeyes have not looked the part of a national power. Still, zero losses in a Power Five conference will take you places.

The rest of the schedule is where the fascination kicks up another notch. Iowa will play Maryland at home this weekend. After that, Ferentz's team will play a dangerous game at Indiana. The final three weeks feature home matchups against Minnesota and Purdue, followed by a road finale at Nebraska.

While Iowa will not receive any boosts for its closing strength of schedule, there's a decent likelihood of staying unbeaten for a while longer. None of these games should be assumed wins. Not a single one. But take a gander at what some of the Big 12’s finest teams have in November and stack those schedules next to Iowa’s; it’s not even close.

As outlined by Bleacher Report’s analytics expert Ed Feng, Iowa is a threat to win each one of its remaining regular-season games. The percentages are in the Hawkeyes’ favor.

Of course, numbers provide nothing in terms of guarantees. But they do identify opportunity. And Iowa, a little healthier than it was two weeks ago, is suddenly in a position to carry out the chaos for a few more weeks.

“We normally need a couple good stories to emerge,” Ferentz said. “We need a little luck and some good fortune health-wise, which we haven’t had. We don’t recruit the way a couple others do, so we don’t have guys stacked up at positions. It’s a real fine line for us. But the vibe here is very good.”

There are more than just a few good stories. Cornerback Desmond King has emerged as one of the top defensive players in the conference. His six interceptions are second in the nation. Quarterback C.J. Beathard, while not necessarily a statistical monster, has been excellent, even through injuries. Running back Jordan Canzeri, bum ankle and all, is still fourth in the conference in rushing.

With these few fully highlighted, let's not hide the obvious: The likelihood of Iowa making the College Football Playoff is remote.

This isn’t a chaos theory because these dots are so easily connectable; chaos thrives in the unlikely and the great unknown. It will take everything Ferentz alluded to plus a little more. 

While it has nowhere near the talent of Ohio State, it may not need such talent to take things a little deeper. For that reason, Iowa will be doubted nationally until it’s undone, whenever (or if ever) that day might arrive.

But with so many winnable games on the horizon, the possibility of Iowa playing Ohio State or Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game for a spot in the College Football Playoff is real enough, despite what our instincts tell us. Unlikely, certainly. Possible, indeed.

It's to the point, inching oh, so close to November, that we should at least acknowledge this possibility. You don't have to buy it or even understand it, but at least admit that, right now, it's there.

And if and when it all blows up, we can talk about those fun few weeks. The chaos potential will morph into a story about a quality team that many, including myself, thought would miss out on a bowl game. That's not exactly the worst consolation prize.

In the meantime, you should probably have that talk with your children. Just in case.

They have a right to know. It’s up to you to tell them. Deep breaths.

 

Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Meet the Men Clearing the Path for Leonard Fournette's Heisman Run

We have already put LSU running back Leonard Fournette in the clouds, among the immortals in college football. He has arms and legs that look like they are covered in plates of armor. He is a bold runner who can run over defenders just as easily as he eludes them. His 1,352 yards rushing in seven games leads Division I this season. He was the first player in SEC history to reach 1,000 yards rushing in the first five games of a season.

There are two other things you should know about Fournette.    

First, he is not blocking for himself (though sometimes it seems that way when he lowers his shoulder). Second, he may not be the best story on the LSU football team.

LSU senior offensive tackle Vadal Alexander was 17 years old in July 2011. He was about to bloom as an offensive lineman, one of the best in the country as a rising junior at Buford High School, north of Atlanta.

Preseason workouts had just started and Alexander was on the field working his way through drills. Suddenly, he felt a tingling in his toes and then a slight numbness in his feet.

"I just thought my [ankle] tape was too tight, or maybe I tied my shoes too tight," Alexander said.

His feet started to become more numb. Suddenly, it wasn't just his feet; his legs that were beginning to feel numb.

"Hey, you know, I'm just having a bad practice," he said to himself.

Alexander tried to raise one of his legs. He couldn't.

Then he fell down.

He was helped to the training room and then taken home. It was mysterious, to be sure, but he went to sleep in his own bed that night.

The next morning, Alexander, one of the best high school linemen in the country, couldn't feel his legs.

"Scary," Alexander said.

Somehow his family got him in the car and his father, James, drove him to a hospital. Alexander stayed there for three days as doctors did tests and diagnosed him with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder where the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

The treatment was a plasma exchange, and Alexander said he improved because the illness was caught early. Still, he was no longer a football player. He started rehabilitation, but that was for the basic functions of walking.

"I didn't know when I could play again. I didn't know if I could play again," he said. "A lot of people didn't think I was going to play football again.

"I worked all summer to get back and I came back the eighth game of that season. I worked my butt off."

The college recruiters who stayed on Alexander in recruiting as he went through rehabilitation now wouldn't leave him alone. He grew in their estimation because of his work ethic. "They liked me even more," Alexander said.

The offensive line—whether it was the "War Pigs" who blocked for Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State (1988), the Badgers who bashed for Ron Dayne at Wisconsin (1999)—seldom gets appropriate applause when a running back is dominant. The blockers get shoved right off stage.

For the record, the guys behind Fournette's stampede to the Heisman Trophy are actually the guys in front of him: left tackle Jerald Hawkins (6'6", 305 pounds, junior), left guard Maea Teuhema (6'5", 327, freshman), center Ethan Pocic (6'7", 309, junior), right guard William Clapp (6'5", 303, redshirt freshman), right tackle Alexander (6'6", 315) and tight end Dillon Gordon (6'5", 308, senior). There is also guard Toby Weathersby (6'5", 303, freshman), who is squeezing himself in for some snaps.

Then there is fullback J.D. Moore (6'4", 235, sophomore), who is frequently a lead blocker in the hole for Fournette.

When No. 4 LSU (7-0) plays at No. 7 Alabama (7-1) on November 7, you should pay particular attention to Alexander, who is No. 74. It is not just that he is having a sensational season, it is really a second comeback from the brink. He came back from Guillain-Barre, and then he came back from a weight issue.

Almost two years ago, Alexander weighed 360 pounds. He was sluggish. A knee injury and other nagging ailments were not helping his college football career.

Alexander started to take off the weight in the Spring of 2014. He had a new offensive line coach, Jeff Grimes, and the whole culture of the offensive line started to change. Grimes uses lessons from ancient history to motivate players in his meeting room and preaches aggression and power. You couldn't be sluggish and play for Grimes.

In Alexander's junior season in 2014, he was a decent player the first half of the season as he continued to rehab his physique. The second half of 2014, Grimes said, Alexander started to show his potential. He filled out the paperwork for the 2015 draft, but Alexander decided there was more work to do. He skipped the draft, not only to polish himself as a player, but also to make sure he was on track for his degree (Sports Administration).

Now, he is one of the leaders of an offensive line that moves those tacklers out of the way for Fournette that the running back doesn't move himself.

"He worked hard in the offseason to get the weight down and get himself in better shape," Grimes said. "He's an unusual combination of a guy that is pretty tall, but really broad, with a big barrel chest and really heavy hands. He is pretty nimble for a guy [that size].

"This guy is night and day over what he was last year."

Grimes said he texted Alexander on Sunday night following last Saturday's 48-20 win over Western Kentucky and asked Alexander how he thought he played.

"Crappy," Alexander said.

Grimes had to chuckle at that. The coach gives out a rug every week to the offensive lineman who plays with the most aggression and toughness. There is a Latin verse on the rug: "Oderint dum metuant." Let them hate so long as they fear. The rug has the picture of a sledgehammer because Grimes tells his players, "Always be the hammer, not the nail."

For his "crappy" game, Alexander got the rug this week.

Grimes has experience with superstars and Heisman hopefuls and national championship runs….and offensive lines that go unnoticed. He was the offensive line coach for Auburn's 2010 national championship team, which featured quarterback Cam Newton, who had 1,473 yards rushing, 2,854 yards passing, won the Heisman Trophy and led those Tigers to the national championship.

Fournette is having a similarly spectacular season, but there is a difference. The offensive line for Newton's Tigers did not feature as many potential NFL draft picks as Fournette's Tigers. Auburn's Brandon Mosley, a tackle, is the only one of the interior lineman (tackle to tackle) who has played significantly in the pros.

LSU center Pocic is a legitimate NFL prospect. So are Alexander and Hawkins. The freshmen may turn into Sunday players, too.

The LSU offensive line may be more talented than the Auburn line, but it is still showing the same traits of togetherness and toughness as the Auburn line, Grimes said.

"We have a lot of chemistry; they're coming together," Grimes said. "We have a unique combination, young guys at guard. Center and tackles are older. The older guys are taking responsibility for the group."

The Tigers will not have a bigger test this regular season than the Alabama defensive line, which is loaded with NFL-type talent. The Crimson Tide are fourth nationally, giving up 78 yards per game rushing.

If this LSU line clears some holes against the Crimson Tide, maybe it can squeeze onto a little corner of the Fournette stage and have an even bigger audience for their stories—his and theirs—in January.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report.

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Arizona State to Wear Special 'PT42' Uniforms vs. Oregon in Honor of Pat Tillman

The Arizona State Sun Devils will be wearing throwback uniforms Thursday night against the Oregon Ducks—and they'll be doing so for good reason.

Arizona State is using this week's game as a way to honor the late Pat Tillman, a former Sun Devils football player who died in 2004 while serving in Afghanistan.

Last week, Adidas and Arizona State revealed the Sun Devils would be wearing special "PT42" cleats for the Oregon game:

As it turns out, the cleats were just the start of things to come. The Sun Devils announced Thursday they will be wearing 1996 throwback uniforms in honor of Tillman:

The best part about the uniforms? It has to be either the base layer or the fact that every player will have "Tillman" on the nameplate:

Here's how the players found out about the uniforms:

Oregon and Arizona State kick off at 10:30 p.m. ET.

[Adidas, Arizona State Sun Devils]

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Week 9 College Football Picks: Texas Tech, Auburn, Temple as Home Underdogs

Three college football teams in Week 9 not only have a really good shot at covering the spread as home underdogs, but they also have a solid opportunity to pull off straight-up upsets as well.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3), Auburn Tigers (4-3) and Temple Owls (7-0) are all playing highly ranked opponents according to the AP Top 25 poll. However, they each have favorable situational-betting trends going in their favor.

Texas Tech is hosting the 12th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-0) on Saturday and has won seven of the last 10 home meetings in the series. Oklahoma State has won the past six games against the Red Raiders overall, but the team’s previous three wins overall before routing winless Kansas last week 58-10 were decided by a total of 12 points.

Texas Tech has more than enough firepower to win this one SU as a consensus three-point home dog at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Auburn has really thrived as a home dog, going 8-3 against the spread and winning five of those 11 games SU. The Tigers will be hosting the 19th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels (6-2), who have done poorly in the role of road favorites, going 0-6 SU and ATS in their past six under that scenario.

Auburn has also won five of the past six meetings with Ole Miss SU and ATS, so look for the Tigers to make it six of seven here.

Temple will be playing its biggest home game in school history when the ninth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-1) visit Philadelphia. The Owls are off to their best start ever, and they are 6-2 ATS in winning their last eight games dating back to last season.

Temple just beat East Carolina 24-14 last Thursday as a 2.5-point road underdog to cover for the third time in four games.

Notre Dame has covered five in a row but lost its only game to another unbeaten opponent in the third-ranked Clemson Tigers back on October 3. The Fighting Irish are just 1-4 ATS in their last five games as road favorites of 10 points or more according to the OddsShark College Football Database.

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How Joey Bosa's Suspension Was a Blessing in Disguise for Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Joey Bosa found himself suspended for Ohio State's season opener against Virginia Tech, it left the Buckeyes with a gaping hole on their defensive line—one which head coach Urban Meyer initially thought his team wouldn't be able to fill with just one player.

After all, Bosa was a unanimous All-American in 2014, recording 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss with the type of dominant play where even numbers as impressive as those don't tell the entire tale.

In Bosa's absence, however, the defending national champions didn't merely just survive, picking up a 42-24 road win over the Hokies. Rather, what Meyer saw from his defensive line without Bosa on the field was something that caused his coaching staff to rethink its strategy and ultimately led to Ohio State's most talented defensive lineup.

 

'Rushmen'

As the No. 1-ranked Buckeyes have climbed out to a 8-0 start to the season, opponents have often found themselves facing crucial third downs against Ohio State, predominantly in obvious passing situations. When that's happened in recent weeks, Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson has opted to put his four best pass-rushers on the field, calling on Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard in what the OSU assistant has deemed his "rushmen" package.

But unlike other defensive end-happy lineups, this set hasn't left the Buckeyes susceptible to draw plays or other unexpected runs, with a pair of natural edge-rushers turned NFL-caliber defensive tackles in the 6'6", 275-pound Bosa and 6'4", 290-pound Washington occupying the middle.

"It gives us the ability to rush the passer and also play the run in pass situations. Sometimes teams don't always pass in obvious pass situations, so we still got enough weight in there, meat in there, to still play against the run," said Washington. "That was Coach Johnson's whole thinking going into it."

However, whether Ohio State's super sub-package was something Johnson had pre-planned or happened to fall into this season remains unclear.

According to Washington, the Buckeyes didn't practice the "rushmen" lineup at any point during the preseason and first experimented with it a few weeks following their victory against Virginia Tech. With Bosa back in action, Johnson began toying with ways to keep his one-game replacement, Hubbard, on the field after the redshirt freshman tallied four tackles, 1.5 of which came for a loss, and a sack in the team's season opener.

"We knew nothing about it [in the preseason]," Washington said "I think it was the way Sam played against Virginia Tech...I think that had a big part to do with it."

Reminiscent of the New York Giants' "NASCAR" package, Ohio State's ability to get its four best pass-rushers on the field simultaneously has helped result in a Buckeyes defense that currently ranks 22nd in the nation in third-down defense and ninth in sacks.

"I guess it speaks for itself," Washington said with a smile. "We've been doing pretty good at it."

 

Role Reversals

As is the case with most unique sub-packages, the "rushmen" lineup takes some Ohio State linemen out of their natural positions, although any uncomfortableness they may feel is nothing compared to that of the opposing offensive lines who have faced it.

Nevertheless, Washington said that—for admittedly selfish reasons—the Buckeyes' pass-rush-heavy lineup isn't necessarily his favorite to take part in.

"I have to play nose guard and I just get double-teamed the whole time," he said. "But hey, I'll do it for a couple plays a game. It's all good."

Taking one for the team is nothing new for Washington, who arrived at Ohio State as a 5-star defensive end in Meyer's first recruiting class in Columbus in 2012. Following the emergence of Bosa in 2013, Washington moved inside to defensive tackle a year ago before shifting to nose guard to help free up Michael Bennett during the Buckeyes' run to the College Football Playoff.

Now, Washington's back at defensive tackle. Except, of course, for those few plays a game when he's playing nose guard, this time helping free up Bosa, who lines up next to him as a defensive tackle in the "rushmen" sets.

For his part, Bosa, who has tallied 3.5 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and nine quarterback hurries this season, has no issue with moving inside. For somebody who is as consistently double-teamed as he is, it offers a unique look against opposing offenses that have often shaped their game plans around containing the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

"Especially when I get single-teamed, I like moving down to the middle," Bosa said. "Getting our best pass-rushers out there, it's fun to fly after the quarterback and pretty much have all four of us getting there at the same time."

 

Young Guns

While Washington and Bosa have done the dirty work inside, it's Lewis and Hubbard who have benefited from the attention drawn by their more experienced teammates.

For Lewis, a redshirt sophomore starting for the first time in his college career, it's helped result in a team-high 5.5 sacks on the season, despite the former 4-star prospect being the least heralded of Ohio State's fearsome pass-rushing foursome.

"When the play comes your way, you just have to make it," Lewis said. "You got a one-on-one and you want to win every time. If you feel like you're the best in the country, you've gotta win every time."

In the case of Hubbard, the "rushmen" package has resulted in not just playing time he may not have been seeing otherwise as a backup, but an impressive statistical start to his college career.

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native's box scores have been as unique as one would expect for a high school safety who arrived at Ohio State as a linebacker before converting to tight end and eventually defensive end, as the former 4-star prospect has recorded 18 tackles, 3.5 sacks, five tackles for a loss and an interception in his debut campaign.

If not for Johnson's vision to get Hubbard on the field rather than keeping a traditional nose guard next to Washington, the Queen City product knows that his opportunities would be coming much less frequently.

"It’s just another opportunity to get after the quarterback," Hubbard said of the "rushmen" packages. "I’m excited to make a play when I get on the field."

Like Lewis, Hubbard is well-aware that doing so as often as he has been wouldn't be possible without the work of Bosa and Washington inside. That's what makes Ohio State's unique defensive line look so effective, as its experienced players inside and impressive youngsters on the edge have helped create a unit with no weak links and plenty of ability to get after opposing quarterbacks.

"Inside, it’s just not what guards and centers expect to see," Hubbard said. "Joey Bosa lined up across from you."

Given the way that the "rushmen" package came about, it's not something the Buckeyes necessarily expected to see either.

 

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

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Odds SEC Team Doesn't Make the Playoff

Doomsday scenario?

The SEC's version is still in play following Ole Miss' 23-3 win over Texas A&M last weekend in Oxford.

The Rebels (6-2, 3-1 SEC) have a blowout loss to Florida and another road loss to Memphis out of the American Athletic Conference on their resume, but they still control their destiny in the SEC West thanks to a win over Alabama and LSU's still lingering on the schedule.

That presents a problem for the SEC if the Rebels win out and claim the SEC title, because that second loss could be the roadblock that prevents the SEC from getting a team into the second annual College Football Playoff, as Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated noted on Twitter over the weekend:

Make no mistake—that would also block Alabama from playoff glory even if the Crimson Tide win out.

If they finish 11-1, they wouldn't have a conference championship and would have a head-to-head loss to the team that does on the resume. I don't care how well Alabama would be playing at that point; conference championships matter more than they should. After all, simply winning an arbitrarily determined conference based mostly on geography doesn't make a team elite and should eliminate those that don't.

For that doomsday scenario to play out, though, Ole Miss would have to win out. That is a little more likely after clearing the Texas A&M hurdle, but road trips to Auburn and Mississippi State won't be easy, and home tilts against Arkansas and LSU will be incredibly tough.

Ole Miss is getting healthier thanks to the return of defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and linebacker C.J. Johnson, but it's still hard to trust a team that has proven depth issues on defense and can't run between the tackles.

Odds the SEC's doomsday scenario plays out: 30-1. It's much more likely the SEC champ will have one loss than two.

 

Carl Lawson's Return: Trick or Treat?

For about 20 minutes inside the Georgia Dome during the season opener versus Louisville, Auburn's defense looked more like a power than a punch line.

Then "Buck" Carl Lawson hurt his hip. The unit hasn't been the same since and has regressed into the SEC's worst defense (430.6 yards per game) despite the presence of veteran coordinator Will Muschamp.

Lawson has been practicing this week, but head coach Gus Malzahn is still on the fence on whether his star will suit up Saturday against Ole Miss.

"We don't have any call on whether he's going to play, but he did have a limited practice [Tuesday], and when he was out there, he did fine," Malzahn said.

If he does return, the impact for the struggling Tigers should be apparent.

"The leadership alone and having his presence will be huge," Malzahn said. "He's our defensive leader and one of our team leaders. When we get him back, that will be a lift for our defense."

If Lawson plays, he's not going to line up opposite star Rebels tackle Laremy Tunsil in the same way Texas A&M's Myles Garrett did last week. In the opener, Lawson moved all over the field, including as a linebacker behind tackle Montravius Adams to bring pressure up the middle, and created confusion in the Cardinals offensive line.

That will be huge against Ole Miss, which has suffered from offensive line breakdowns often over the last two seasons even with Tunsil in the lineup.

Gut feeling: Expect Lawson to play Saturday afternoon.

 

Better Than Advertised

Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell has proved to be one of the SEC's best receivers during his three-year career in Oxford. He leads the SEC with 94.5 receiving yards per game, 756 receiving yards and 54 receptions; he has five receiving touchdowns and has recovered just fine from a gruesome broken leg suffered late in last season's loss to Auburn.

Last week against Texas A&M, Treadwell caught five passes for 102 yards and a score. Is he better than he was over the last two seasons?

"Yes," Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin said, "and I told him that after the game...and I hope I don't see you anymore. I think he's one of the better players in the country. He's strong. He's physical. He separated on the big touchdown. He's a heck of a football player and is going to have a successful career at the next level."

That's a pretty strong statement considering Treadwell established himself as one of the nation's best possession receivers as a true freshman in 2013 when he caught a team-high 72 passes and followed it up with 632 yards and five touchdowns in nine games last year.

It's not a huge surprise to Treadwell's coach, though.

"I firsthand witnessed how hard he worked to come back, so it's not quite as surprising that he's doing as well as he is," Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I don't know if it's because of anything physically as much as it is that he's matured mentally. I kind of relate, and I told him this...we talked about tempo a lot around here. After the ball is snapped, the pace in which you play, there were some where he might grade himself a six or seven. This year, there's a lot of nine or 10."

Terrifying.

 

In Need of a Spark

To say Missouri's offense is stagnant would be an insult to stagnant lakes, which can still provide plenty of entertainment on hot summer days.

It's nearly dry.

The Tigers (4-4, 1-4 SEC) have the second-worst offense in the country (277.6 yards per game) ahead of only UCF, are averaging just 4.40 yards per play (125th in the nation), haven't scored a touchdown since the South Carolina game on Oct. 3 and have converted three third downs over the last three games.

There could be help on the way, though.

Head coach Gary Pinkel announced that Maty Mauk's suspension for violating team rules has been lifted after four games, and the redshirt junior is back practicing during the bye week. Could he start next Thursday night against Mississippi State?

"Depth chart and playing-time decisions won't be made until next week," Pinkel said.

Mauk has to start. Nothing against true freshman Drew Lock. He has showed flashes of his potential during his first start—that win over South Carolina. But he hasn't completed more than 50 percent of his passes in any game since and has tossed two picks over that stretch. While he hasn't been the biggest problem, he's not the solution either.

Mauk might be.

He can provide a spark with his legs, has the experience from two straight SEC East titles and might be Missouri's best option.

If that's the case, though, a bowl game might not be an option for this year's Tigers.

 

The Great Unknown

Texas A&M opened up its quarterback competition this week for Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray and Jake Hubenak, which presents an interesting dynamic for South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott in his second game at the helm.

The Gamecocks will visit College Station this weekend and are forced to prepare for all three players—all of whom present different challenges. Allen is more of a gunslinger, Murray is the dual threat with speed to burn and Hubenak is probably the most reliable of the trio.

"Defensively, you have to start looking at all of the characteristics they have and who potentially might play," Elliott said. "At the end of the day, it's going to come down to blocking and tackling, assignment-oriented football and making sure that we're in position to tackle."

It will be a big test for South Carolina, which has had two weeks to prepare for the Aggies but got thrown a curveball this week when Sumlin opened things up.

 

A Second Career?

Finally, a light moment here on SEC Extra Points.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen served as Florida's offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008, so naturally he was asked about his experiences at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party between the Gators and Georgia.

Naturally, that launched him into a golf discussion.

The Gators stayed at Sawgrass during his time with the program, and while he didn't get to play the famed TPC Stadium Course while he was there, he did mention that he and his staff played the famed No. 17 island hole three times the day before his Mississippi State program played Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl following the 2010 season.

The result?

"We each got to play three balls, and I did par one of my three," he said.

Not bad, Coach Mullen.

 

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

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

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