NCAA Football News

Will UCLA Overcome Arizona State Loss to Contend for Pac-12 Title?

Six yards were all the Arizona State Sun Devils needed to get in order to ice their win over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night.

Sun Devils running back Kalen Ballage didn’t get just six; he got 23. And a touchdown.

As if that wasn’t demoralizing enough to the overworked Bruins defense, he racked up roughly 19 of those yards while essentially backpedalling and being hugged by a pair of defenders.

It was an emphatic slamming of the door in the face of UCLA to close the game out, and one cannot help but wonder if the 38-23 loss won’t reverberate even more for the now-former Pac-12 favorites.

The Sun Devils, after all, were among the most disappointing teams in the country coming into Week 5 and were fresh off a 42-14 shellacking against the USC Trojans in their last game. They wound up leading early—Viliami Latu forced a safety less than three minutes into the game—and never looked back.

Aside from a bout of second-half conservatism and a single turnover, Todd Graham’s squad was in control nearly the entire evening, save for about two tense minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter. The win showed flashes of the team many thought could capture the Pac-12 South and possibly play in the College Football Playoff.

But Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl was not about Arizona State’s glimpse of success. No, it was certainly more about the home team.

With defensive holes readily apparent and the Bruins’ true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen reverting to form yet again, it is very much in question as to what Jim Mora’s team will do from here with its first loss of the season representing quite the fork in the road.

In past years, such a loss to a conference foe would be part of the same old story in Westwood. This year, it remains to be seen. The signs however, are not exactly encouraging.

Even Mora, afterward in his postgame presser, seemed to deflect attention away from the loss in a way that only he could. After saying mostly the right things for several minutes, the veteran head coach took a left turn and started to spout on about playing games on Thursday night.

Not a great look. Even more so after making a curious decision to give up a safety in the fourth quarter to go down eight in exchange for a few yards of field position that ultimately didn’t matter. It’s hard to keep believing that this UCLA team will be different when it keeps looking, playing and sounding like past versions that kept hitting speed bumps along the way to success.

Normally reliable running back Paul Perkins averaged just 3.5 yards per attempt and was held in check and under 100 yards rushing. Rosen not only attempted 40 passes but threw a costly interception and was called for intentional grounding that led to the early safety. Injured linebacker Myles Jack’s replacement, Jayon Brown, didn’t even play against ASU.

Outside of beastly defensive lineman Kenny Clark and some solid play out of linebacker Isaako Savaiinaea, though, there wasn’t much to write home about. With a trip to presumed conference top dog Stanford and a suddenly 5-0 Cal on the docket the next two weeks, things may get worse for the Bruins before they get better.

Two weeks ago, a few miles down the 110 freeway from the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw said something very prescient after the Cardinal upended USC.

“The difference between football coaches and the rest of the sane world is we understand sometimes you don’t play well. Outside of the coach world, people look for something to blame,” Shaw said to the media. “Sometimes you just don’t play well. We didn't play well the first week, for whatever reason. We didn’t start the game well the next week. Our guys are a good team and we still have to grow together.”

That statement rang true for Stanford, which now looks like the front-runner in the Pac-12 North. Following Saturday night’s loss to Arizona State, the question is: Will the same case be true for UCLA?

The Bruins played badly against the Sun Devils in a game they needed to have and surely should have won considering how this season had played out beforehand. Was it a one-off performance in front of a mostly lifeless home crowd?

Or was the game representative of something more?

If the Bruins don’t alter course on and off the field, Saturday’s loss could turn them from contenders into pretenders a lot quicker than anybody could have thought.


You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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

The No. 12 Clemson Tigers won ugly on a rainy, windy Saturday night inside Memorial Stadium, upsetting the sixth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 24-22.

Clemson (4-0) held strong on Notre Dame's (4-1) two-point attempt that would've tied the game with seven seconds left. Following Torii Hunter Jr.'s one-yard touchdown reception, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly opted for a quarterback keeper with DeShone Kizer, which the Tigers defense stuffed.

CBS Sports' Will Brinson was disappointed with the final play call:

Kizer was both Notre Dame's leading passer and leading rusher. He threw for 321 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on 19-of-34 passing while rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Clemson did a great job of limiting running back C.J. Prosise, who had 60 yards on the ground but did hit the century mark in receiving.

The Tigers needed every bit they could get defensively since the offense gained just 296 total yards. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was 11-of-22 for 97 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He nearly eclipsed his passing numbers with his rushing yards (93).

Wayne Gallman's steady contributions proved to be invaluable for Clemson as he carried the ball 22 times for 98 yards. When the Tigers needed to eat time in the second half, they knew they could give the ball to their sophomore running back.

Although he played in Notre Dame's 30-22 win over Georgia Tech, this was the biggest test for Kizer since he replaced Malik Zaire at quarterback. Clemson, South Carolina, is a difficult enough atmosphere for even experienced quarterbacks; Kizer was making just the third start of his college career.

Despite Kizer's relative inexperience, Kelly remained confident the sophomore would acquit himself well under center.

"I would be surprised if the moment was too big for him," Kelly said, per JJ Stankevitz of "I'm sure, like everybody else, there will be those butterflies and some nervousness, but I think, once we get into the flow of the game, he's going to be fine."

While Kizer wasn't a disaster under center—he arguably outplayed Watson—this was the worst of his performances so far.

Granted, Kizer and the Notre Dame offense didn't get a lot of help early from the defense, as Clemson scored touchdowns on both of its possessions to start the game.

In a sign of things to come, the Tigers relied heavily on the run, getting 49 of 61 yards on the opening drive via the ground game. Watson found tight end Jordan Leggett in the flat for a six-yard touchdown to help put the home team up 7-0 two minutes, 41 seconds into the game, as shown by ESPN College Football:

ESPN's Marty Smith thought the amount of time Clemson had to prepare for this contest was evident in the opening drive:

Watson then picked up his second passing touchdown of the night after he connected with Artavis Scott on a 13-yard strike. Scott bounced off two tacklers en route to the end zone:

That was largely the extent of Clemson's offensive output for the remainder of the half, which opened the door for Notre Dame to attempt a comeback.

Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, their offense was suffering similar issues. Kizer looked timid through the first two quarters, which had a lot to do with the Clemson pass rush. According to Pete Sampson of, Tigers defensive end Shaq Lawson had 3.5 tackles for loss in the first quarter alone.

Justin Yoon's 46-yard field goal with 5:37 left in the first quarter was the only dent Notre Dame could make on the scoreboard in the first half as Clemson took a 14-3 lead into the locker room.

It looked as though a pair of fumbles to open the second half doomed the Fighting Irish to defeat.

First, return man C.J. Sanders lost possession of the ball after taking a big hit from Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip. ESPN's Robert Flores joked Lakip has been getting tips from former WWE Superstar Edge, given his form on the tackle:

C.J. Fuller recovered the fumble, giving the Tigers great field position at the Notre Dame 29-yard line, and Watson needed just three plays before scoring on a 21-yard touchdown run. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller was surprised to see the normally reliable Jaylon Smith unable to corral Watson before he could get into open space:

On the first play from scrimmage on Notre Dame's next possession, Prosise fumbled on his own 40-yard line, and Ben Boulware recovered for the Tigers. ESPN's Bomani Jones couldn't believe Kelly maintained his composure on the sidelines following back-to-back turnovers:

The future looked bleak for the Fighting Irish, but they slowly worked their way back into the game, eventually closing the gap to eight points in the fourth quarter.

Prosise and Kizer hooked up for a 56-yard touchdown pass with 14:21 left in the game to put six points on the board for Notre Dame. Kelly decided to go for the two-point conversion, which failed, so his team was down by 12 points, 21-9.

Greg Huegel provided a buffer for Clemson after hitting a 35-yard field goal, but Kizer responded 1:53 later with a three-yard touchdown run. Sampson liked the way Kizer incrementally improved as the game went on:

As Notre Dame was on the precipice of tying the contest, the turnover bug bit the team twice more.

First, Kizer threw an interception at his own 35-yard line. Fortunately for Notre Dame, Huegel missed his field-goal attempt to keep the difference at eight points, 24-16.

Then the Irish worked the ball all the way down to the Clemson 12-yard line to set up a 1st-and-10. On second down, Chris Brown caught a pass and looked for six points. Before could reach the goal line, though, he coughed up the ball, and Clemson recovered.

Despite doing everything it could to lose, Notre Dame nearly pulled off the improbable comeback. Many will second-guess Kelly's decision to run on that fateful two-point attempt. Given the way Clemson had defended the run all night, a pass might have been the best option.

The Fighting Irish's hopes of cracking the College Football Playoff aren't gone yet. They still have USC and Stanford on their schedule, so winning out might be enough for Notre Dame to get into the top four if the teams above it slip up as well.

Clemson, on the other hand, is firmly in control of its own destiny, and USA Today's Dan Wolken believes, the Tigers might have cleared their biggest hurdle already:

They'll still play Florida State on Nov. 7 and have the ACC title game, should they reach that stage, both of which will be tricky matchups.

Given Clemson's penchant for shooting itself in the foot in the past, it may be premature to start anointing the Tigers as the ACC's top playoff contender, though.

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ABC Cuts Away During Epic Postgame Speech from Clemson HC Dabo Swinney

Following No. 12 Clemson's tough 24-22 home win against No. 6 Notre Dame on Saturday, Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney was in the midst of giving one of the best postgame interviews of the season.

The only problem is, ABC accidentally cut away from Swinney and instead showed SportsCenter anchors Jay Harris and Kevin Connors preparing for their upcoming show.


Regardless, Clemson is going to enjoy this win, and Swinney will have some fun celebrating with his guys. 


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Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldgos and Aggies

The No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies (5-0, 2-0) took down No. 21 Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2) on Saturday with a 30-17 victory in a battle of SEC West teams.

Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen was terrific, completing 25 of 41 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. Allen also ran for 66 yards on 12 carries. 


Pass Offense: Dak Prescott wasn't bad—he just didn't appear as comfortable as he had in the previous four weeks. He was under pressure all night and was off target on some big throws, including a fourth-down pass that led to a turnover on downs. 

Run Offense: Prescott ran 18 times for 96 yards and looked like the Prescott of 2014 on the ground. It was smart of Dan Mullen to use Prescott as much as he did on the ground, but the Bulldogs running backs combined to run 15 times for 41 yards. Wide receiver Malik Dear had 52 yards on one play. 

Pass Defense: It was a struggle to slow down Allen and Texas A&M's outstanding receivers. The biggest issue for MSU's pass defense was a lack of pressure on Allen. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz needs to bring more pressure if his front four can't create it. 

Run Defense: The Bulldogs didn't get gashed on defense and made the Aggies earn their yards. Overall, Mississippi State allowed 194 yards on 45 carries. While MSU would prefer not to allow almost 200 yards rushing, it was the pass defense that lost this for the Bulldogs. 

Special Teams: There were no big plays for Mississippi State on special teams. The Bulldogs made their only field-goal attempt. However, MSU's punt team struggled a bit in both punting the ball and limiting Christian Kirk in the return game. 

Coaching: Mullen needs to find more ways to get the running backs going. MSU's running game either consists of Prescott or one of the receivers making a big play out of the backfield. Diaz needs to dial up more pressure on defense.


Pass Offense: Allen was unstoppable in the first half. He had some struggles in the third quarter with accuracy but recovered to make some good throws in the fourth quarter. Allen was strong throwing the football downfield and in the intermediate areas, too. 

Run Offense: Tra Carson had a consistent game, finishing with 110 yards on the ground. Allen chipped in with 65 yards as well. Texas A&M's running game was good from start to finish. 

Pass Defense: Texas A&M's pass rush bothered Prescott all night long. Myles Garrett was everywhere. Give credit to A&M's secondary, especially Brandon Williams, who continues to be targeted since moving over to cornerback and answers the challenge every time. 

Run Defense: The Aggies couldn't stop Prescott on the ground, but in all fairness the senior quarterback didn't make any huge plays with his legs. MSU's biggest play came on a handoff to a wide receiver in the first half. A&M stopped the Bulldogs running backs all game long. 

Special Teams: Taylor Bertolet missed one field goal, but he nailed a 55-yarder in the first half. Punter Drew Kaser averaged 49 yards per punt and pinned MSU deep in its own territory on one occasion. Kirk had three punt returns for 41 yards. It was a strong all-around performance by Texas A&M's special teams units. 

Coaching: Kevin Sumlin called a good game for his quarterback. He didn't put him in one bad situation the entire game. Sumlin also deserves credit for even attempting a 55-yard field goal. Defensive coordinator John Chavis could make the Aggies a national championship contender. He was the most underrated coaching hire in all of college football this past offseason. 

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

No. 14 Texas A&M (5-0) hasn't generated a ton of hype just yet, but a wire-to-wire 30-17 win over the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-2) on Saturday night bolstered the Aggies' profile in a major way. 

According to B/R Insights, Texas A&M has now started back-to-back seasons 5-0 for the first time since 1940-41. 

A week after the Aggies scraped past an underwhelming Arkansas Razorbacks side in overtime, Kevin Sumlin's team controlled the pace of play and imposed its will behind the production of quarterback Kyle Allen. 

The sophomore completed 25 of 41 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He's now thrown for at least 300 yards in consecutive games after putting up 358 through the air against the Razorbacks.  

Allen completed passes to seven different receivers in the win, with Josh Reynolds topping the bunch by compiling seven catches for 141 yards.  

"They have guys that can go and make plays that other people can’t," Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said, per the Clarion-Ledger's Michael Bonner. "Good coverage isn’t always an issue for them. You can be all over them and they have multiple guys that can go up and take the ball away.”

The Aggies were all systems go on offense in the early going. Allen kept the chains moving at wildly efficient rates, and Texas A&M came away with touchdowns on its only two drives of the first quarter. 

Texas A&M's opening drive spanned 91 yards and resulted in a Ricky Seals-Jones score from one yard out. The star receiver was later ejected in the second quarter for targeting. Allen's second march down the field lasted just over two minutes and covered 75 yards as Damion Ratley found the end zone, per ESPN College Football on Twitter:

Allen completed his first nine passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns before throwing his first incompletion of the game in the second quarter. 

Tempo was the name of the game for the Aggies throughout the first half, and's Mark Passwaters took note of the rate at which Sumlin's offense was humming: 

Mississippi State's offense had moments of brilliance, but they proved to be fleeting, as the Aggies defense stepped up and forced two fumbles that halted the Bulldogs' chances of a comeback after entering halftime down 14. 

Quarterback Dak Prescott was hit-and-miss in the loss, as he averaged just 6.2 yards per completion while throwing for 210 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. However, he did tote the rock a season-high 18 times for 96 yards and a score.

The Bulldogs fell to 1-2 in SEC play with the loss, but brighter days are ahead. Five of the team's final seven games will come in Starkville, and consecutive matchups against Troy, Louisiana Tech and Kentucky are on deck. It would be a stunner if the Bulldogs didn't enter their Nov. 5 showdown against the Missouri Tigers 6-2. 

Texas A&M's reward for dispatching the Bulldogs is a bye week, but a meeting with the Alabama Crimson Tide looms on the Horizon. The Aggies will be nice and rested for what could be the biggest game of their season, but after the Crimson Tide walloped the Georgia Bulldogs, Sumlin's boys should have their hands full. 


Post-Game Reaction

According to Passwaters, Texas A&M was motivated to strike back after getting trounced, 48-31, by the Bulldogs last October: 

Additionally, Allen told reporters the Aggies were determined to snag a win before they were faced with preparing for Alabama, per the Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman:

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen explained that turnovers ultimately doomed the Bulldogs as they tried to pull the upset: 

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Unleashes His Inner Tiger with Monster Performance

LSU's Leonard Fournette continued to make a strong case for the Heisman Trophy this week with a monster performance in a 44-22 win over Eastern Michigan. 

Just how dominant was Fournette? What plays had us in awe of the LSU back?

Watch in the video above as Fournette, who finished with 233 yards and three rushing touchdowns, shows off his skills.

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Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage Gets Bulldozed 20 Yards into End Zone for TD

Despite being unranked and an underdog on the road, Arizona State played with tremendous toughness against No. 7 UCLA on Saturday night.

We got to see a glimpse of that grit on this play from ASU running back Kalen Ballage and his offensive line.

With a strong push from his teammates, Ballage scored this late fourth-quarter touchdown that cemented the 38-23 upset at the Rose Bowl.


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Arizona State vs. UCLA: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Arizona State was embarrassed by a ranked team from Southern California last week, but the Sun Devils (3-2) refused to relive that sloppy showing Saturday night against the No. 7 UCLA Bruins (4-1). 

Seven days after getting trounced 42-14 by USC, Arizona State rebounded with a 38-23 victory over the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. According to CBS Sports' Jon Solomon, ASU head coach Todd Graham is now 7-1 following losses of 28 points or more. 

While the Cody Kessler-led Trojans shredded Arizona State's secondary in Tempe, UCLA freshman phenom Josh Rosen didn't experience similar success Saturday night. Rosen completed 22 of 40 passes for 280 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. UCLA's offense couldn't reach maximum efficiency due to the absence of a reliable rushing attack. 

Arizona State entered the evening with the FBS' 85th-ranked run defense, one that was allowing 180.5 yards per game. However, UCLA mustered a meager 62 rushing yards and a paltry 2.2 yards per carry as the Sun Devils locked down up front and forced Rosen to try to mount a comeback with his arm. 

With the ground game neutralized, Arizona State's defensive linemen were able to pin their ears back and rush Rosen with relentless pressure. That wasn't exactly a surprise to UCLA head coach Jim Mora, who told reporters earlier in the week that he expected to see waves of rushers try to disrupt Rosen. 

"They are going to come after him, but we've had that a lot already this year," Mora said, according to the Los Angeles Times' Chris Foster. "With a freshman quarterback, we have seen pressure every week."

3TV's Brad Denny observed an uptick in intensity as Arizona State's lead grew throughout the second half: 

However, Rosen was impressive, particularly with his back against the wall. Two fourth-quarter touchdown drives cut Arizona State's lead to six, and the true freshman's poise in the face of adversity was arguably the most stunning piece of his performance. 

NFL Network's Albert Breer said it all with one succinct tweet:

Conversely, ASU signal-caller Mike Bercovici completed 27 of 44 passes for 273 yards and two scores. He also rushed for a 34-yard third-quarter touchdown that put the Sun Devils up, 22-10, per Fox Sports:

Bercovici padded Arizona State's lead with an 11-yard touchdown strike to D.J. Foster, and Graham's squad outscored the Bruins, 14-0, in the third quarter.   

A year after Bercovici threw 68 times in the Sun Devils' 62-27 loss to UCLA, Arizona State was able to keep the Bruins honest with steady doses of running back Demario Richard. The sophomore finished with 79 yards on 23 carries.  

Tailback Kalen Ballage iced things with the most outrageous run of the NCAA season to date, per Pac-12 Networks:

For the Sun Devils, Saturday was an encouraging display of character. While it would have been easy to fold against the seventh-ranked Bruins with a six-point lead, the defense picked up crucial stops and the offense controlled the clock when it mattered most.

As for UCLA, it wasn't all bad. Although the loss may very well drop the Bruins out of the Top 10 in next week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, Rosen flashed glimpses of the fourth-quarter player he may soon develop into. 

If he can develop the mental fortitude necessary to complement his Heisman-worthy skill set in the pocket, UCLA will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. 


Post-Game Reaction

Mora kept things short and sweet following the loss, per Fox Sports' Lindsey Thiry: 

The UCLA boss also expressed his displeasure with the short weeks his team's set to work with against Stanford and California, according to the Orange County Register's Ryan Kartje: 

Meanwhile, Ballage told reporters that the team believed it had a shot of downing UCLA all along, while safety Jordan Simone reiterated that ASU will look to build on the victory moving forward, per Sun Devils Football:


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Ole Miss vs. Florida: Game Grades, Analysis for Rebels and Gators

What a statement from the Florida Gators on Saturday.

Following a miraculous comeback over Tennessee and with their quarterback battling the flu, the Gators proved that they're contenders with a 38-10 win over Ole Miss. Will Grier was lights-out, throwing all four of his touchdowns in the first half to put this one away early.

Gifted a big lead, the Florida defense teed off on the Rebels and Chad Kelly. The Gators forced four turnovers, refusing to allow a touchdown until garbage time.

It's a good thing the Rebels have time to fix their issues, because they have plenty. The offensive line was a liability from start to finish, never allowing Kelly the time to make the right decision. Without the ability to create big plays, this offense looked lost.

One thing is for sure: If you're a Florida fan, you're loving new coach Jim McElwain.


Grade Analysis for the Rebels

Passing Offense

The raw numbers don't look horrendous for Kelly, but he was never in this game. The Florida pass rush lived in the backfield, forcing him into three turnovers (one interception, two fumbles) that put the Rebels in a huge hole early. He has to make better decisions with the ball, and his protection must improve for the Rebels to recover.


Rushing Offense

As a team, the Rebels ran for 69 yards on 33 carries. They also got the ball down to the 1-yard line and failed to get a touchdown on three rushing attempts. That says it all.


Passing Defense

Grier slowed down in the second half, but only because this game was over early. Florida's quarterback had all day to throw, and his receivers were making plays all over the field. The Land Sharks looked like the Puddle Tadpoles, and that was against a redshirt freshman.


Rushing Defense

Ole Miss held the Gators to 84 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries. That looks good in the box score, except the Gators were bleeding the clock for most of the second half and hardly struggled to get tough yardage in the first half. 


Special Teams

Gary Wunderlich missed a field goal, Will Gleeson was solid punting the ball, and the return game didn't do anything special. The near-recovered onside kick would have helped, but it came way after things were done being interesting.



Hugh Freeze and his staff looked like they never saw this coming. When Florida was blowing guys off the ball and pouring on the points, there wasn't much of an attempt to adjust the game plan. The end result was Kelly getting skewered, a horrible showing at the goal line and a weak performance on defense.

This was not Freeze's best work. Fortunately for him, the schedule gets easier over the next couple of weeks. He and this team will bounce back.


Grade Analysis for the Gators

Passing Offense

Grier did his damage in the first half, completing 17 of his 20 passes for 229 yards and all four of his touchdowns. The offensive line gave the redshirt freshman all day to throw, and his receivers made it simple. With a real quarterback throwing him the ball, Demarcus Robinson is going to open some eyes this season.


Rushing Offense

Though he finished with modest numbers, Kelvin Taylor ran hard all night. He ran for 73 of his 83 yards in the first half, contributing to the onslaught that put this one to bed early. Once again, Florida's offensive line did a tremendous job of manhandling a talented Ole Miss front.


Passing Defense

Kelly is going to be sore Sunday. The pass rush was absolutely relentless in harassing the junior into three turnovers, including a fumble that was almost returned for a touchdown by freshman CeCe Jefferson. Vernon Hargreaves reeled in a nice interception, easily outshining Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell on the night.


Rushing Defense

Ole Miss never could get anything going on the ground, especially when the Gators defense hunkered down against the run. This group's stand at the goal line, in which it made three straight stops, slammed the door on any possible comeback attempt.


Special Teams

Jorge Powell hit two short field goals, and Johnny Townsend punted the ball well. Other than Powell's missed extra point, everything was solid in this phase of the game.



McElwain looks like a great hire for the Gators. He and his staff did everything necessary to pull off an upset at home—start fast, force turnovers and make the opposing quarterback uncomfortable. He and the Gators went after the Land Sharks and came out looking like one of the best teams in the SEC.

This team has a brutal schedule, but the Gators have some real talent. They're going to be a team to watch moving forward.

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Eastern Michigan vs. LSU: Game Grades, Analysis for the Tigers

It was not a typical tuneup home game, as the ninth-ranked LSU Tigers got everything they asked for in a 44-22 win over Eastern Michigan in Baton Rouge on Saturday.

LSU boasted the highest point spread of any team in college football on the day as a 44-point favorite, via Odds Shark. Then, the Tigers entered the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead.

So what went wrong? And what saved the day? Take a look below to find out.


LSU Game Grades vs. Eastern Michigan

Pass Offense: For all the promise he's shown in the opening three games, Brandon Harris came crashing down to earth Saturday. He completed just four of his 15 passes for 80 yards with an interception, and 74 of those yards came on three passes. Even with the run game as stout as ever, Harris couldn't deliver aerially.

Run Offense: Leonard Fournette had another big day, rushing 26 times for 233 yards and scoring three touchdowns. The Tigers may not have gotten over the hump without his 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half, and 89 yards from Darrel Williams was a nice addition. Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate noted Les Miles' thoughts on Fournette:

Pass Defense: EMU quarterback Brogan Roback (what a name) had a strong day moving the ball down the field, completing 17 of 24 passes for 161 yards and a score. But the LSU secondary forced three interceptions and made big plays in the red zone.

Run Defense: The Eagles averaged less than three yards per carry, which is strong considering Darius Jackson had scampered for an average of 100 per game before Saturday. LSU's defensive front was far from perfect in giving up two touchdowns and allowing EMU's backs to move the chains, however.

Special Teams: The only good that came from the Tigers special teams was a trio of field goals from Trent Domingue, one from 45 yards out. But LSU's woes on kickoff coverage exposed themselves again, as the unit allowed 149 yards on seven returns.

Coaching: Miles and Co. did the right thing by leaning on Fournette early in the second half, which was practically the difference in the game. But offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was way too intent on establishing the passing attack, which allowed EMU back into the game.


Follow Steven Cook on Twitter. 

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Leonard Fournette Sets SEC Record with 3 Straight 200-Yard Games

The Heisman Trophy front-runner is at it again.

LSU Tigers star Leonard Fournette became the first tailback in SEC history to rush for 200 yards in three straight games, per Matt Barbato of SEC Country, doing so Saturday against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The standout sophomore was just 17 yards shy of the LSU single-game record of 250 yards.

Fournette is on a tear, having amassed 864 yards and 11 touchdowns on 99 carries (8.7 yards per attempt). He’s drawing acclaim as the most NFL-ready player in college football, and some have even speculated that he may sit out his junior year in 2016 to avoid injury—though Fournette refuted that notion earlier this week.

Herschel Walker, the 1982 Heisman winner and arguably college football’s greatest running back of all time, chimed in on Fournette’s strong start, per TMZ Sports: “He’s better than I was. ... It's a bad idea to talk about leaving early, just wait and your time will come."

Fournette is undoubtedly in the driver’s seat for the Heisman. But unforeseen circumstances—injury, losses, etc.—are constantly lurking in the college football landscape. At this time last year, Georgia's Todd Gurley held the pole position before weathering a suspension and a season-ending knee injury upon his return.

But for now, keep an eye on No. 7. He’s something special.

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Will Grier's Stellar Play vs. Ole Miss Boosts Florida into Playoff Conversation

Florida quarterback Will Grier played the game of his life against the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday, leading the Gators to a 38-10 upset and helping them stake their claim as legitimate SEC contenders and—yeah, let's say it—threats to make the College Football Playoff.

The redshirt freshman completed 17 of 20 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns in the first half and finished with a QB rating of 206.8. After starting the year No. 1b on the depth chart behind sophomore Treon Harris, he has wrested away the starting job and developed into one of the SEC's top quarterbacks.

Florida's defense looked stout as always, swarming to the ball and forcing key turnovers, but in Gainesville that's nothing new. What's new (or at least long overdue) is an offense fit to carry its weight.

Say goodbye to Big Dumb Will Muschamp football; Grier and head coach Jim McElwain have already restored this program to prominence.

Even after starting 4-0, Grier hadn't won the starting job for good.

He improved each week and essentially locked it down after leading the comeback win over the Tennessee Volunteers, but McElwain still wouldn't pull the trigger.

"I thought Will did some real good things in the [Tennessee] game, but there’s some things he’s got to get better at, too," he said earlier this week, per Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. "There were a lot of drives there that weren’t executed, so we’ve got a long ways to go."

It's amazing how quickly the Gators covered ground and turned that "long ways to go" into a high-functioning machine. The offense that took the field Saturday was the Platonic realization of McElwain's pro-style scheme.

More than just one player deserves credit. Demarcus Robinson played like a No. 1 receiver. Brandon Powell turned a quick slant into a 77-yard score. The offensive line held its own against Ole Miss' front seven.

But the maestro of the effort was Grier, who tied those performances together like the hub of a bike wheel. He continued to prove his toughness by playing through the flu, and he performed even better than his most passionate defenders could have dreamed.

Despite his ranking as the No. 2 pro-style passer and No. 48 overall player in the 2014 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings, Grier came to Gainesville with a complicated reputation. He played subpar competition in high school, which threw his gaudy numbers into doubt. Combine that with taking a redshirt in 2014 and a tepid start to 2015, and he was inching toward becoming a recruiting bust.

Saturday's performance was just one game, but it felt like the culmination of months. Grier has climbed past Harris, gradually gained confidence, acquitted himself in big situations and slowly become the best Gators quarterback since Tim Tebow.

"Will Grier's decision making and accuracy have been so impressive tonight," tweeted Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus. "So much better than last week against Tennessee."

Because of Grier's emergence, it's officially time to recalibrate Florida's ceiling. How far can this team really go?

The answer might lie in a game of Transitive Property. The Gators just beat Ole Miss by 28 points; Ole Miss beat preseason SEC favorite Alabama by six points; Alabama beat preseason SEC East favorite Georgia by 28 points.

Which team on that list can't Florida beat?

Even after losing Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, this defense remains one of the best in college football. It played its first game near full strength against the Rebels and held an offense averaging 54.6 points per game to just one measly field goal before garbage time.

Florida also has the benefit of a navigable schedule. Its only remaining true road games are at Missouri, LSU and South Carolina. It plays Georgia on a neutral field and hosts Florida State in the regular-season finale, but that's still (by SEC standards) pretty good.

What Florida did to Ole Miss sent a message that reverberates nationally: The Gators are back and mean business; they have a quarterback, a defense and a purpose; they can beat any team in the country, and with Grier they can make those beatings ugly.

Hope you got your kicks in when they were down.

The Gators have official risen.


Brian Leigh covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @BLeigh35

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

The No. 25 Florida Gators may have already turned the corner in head coach Jim McElwain's first season. They earned their biggest win in three years after upsetting the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels 38-10 at home Saturday night.

Quarterback Will Grier was marvelous from start to finish, with the bulk of his work coming in the first half. The Gators didn't need him to throw much after halftime. He finished the game 24-of-29 for 271 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.

Kelvin Taylor provided 83 yards on the ground to help Florida maintain its lead in the second half.

The Florida defense was also exceptional, forcing four turnovers and keeping Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly to 259 yards despite his throwing 40 times. Jaylen Walton and Jordan Wilkins, Ole Miss' two leading rushers on the year, gained just 34 yards on the ground combined.

Although both Michigan State and Ohio State were ranked higher in the Week 5 edition of the Associated Press Top 25, you could have made a strong argument before Saturday's contest that Ole Miss was the best team in the country.

"This is a heck of an Ole Miss team," McElwain said before the game, per Jesse Simonton of the Miami Herald. "They're very good. They're highly rated. They've got great players, and they've done a great job in recruiting and getting some of the top players in the country."

When the Rebels toppled the Alabama Crimson Tide in September, they got up on head coach Nick Saban's team early. Ole Miss led 17-3 for a stretch in the second quarter of that game and took a 17-10 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

On Saturday, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and his players took on the role of Alabama, staring at a 13-0 deficit after the first quarter.

Demarcus Robinson opened the scoring with a 36-yard touchdown reception five minutes, 42 seconds into the game. Grier floated his pass perfectly over the top of the Ole Miss secondary and into the arms of the junior wideout. Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel was more impressed with the way Grier stayed in the pocket in the face of a heavy rush:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee thinks Robinson is the kind of player Florida has sorely lacked in recent years:

Just two plays after the touchdown, the Rebels shot themselves in the foot and gave the ball right back to their opponents. Walton fumbled on his own 28-yard line, and Bryan Cox recovered for the Gators.

Grier needed only five plays before he found tight end Jake McGee from two yards out, per Florida's official Twitter account:

Jorge Powell missed the point-after attempt, but any Gators fan would've been satisfied with an early 13-0 lead.

Ole Miss should've gotten on the board after working the ball into the red zone in the second quarter. The Rebels advanced to the Florida 18-yard line but lost two yards on first down and were unable to move the chains. They settled for a 29-yard field-goal attempt from Gary Wunderlich, but his kick sailed wide right.

With a little over seven minutes remaining in the first half, Grier hit Brandon Powell on a simple slant pass over the middle, and Powell did the rest of the work. He caught the pass and ran 77 yards to the end zone, putting Florida ahead by three scores, 19-0. The Gators attempted to go for two points but failed to convert.

Former Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes was elated to see his alma mater distance itself from Ole Miss:

The Florida Alumni Association provided this humorous approximation of how the Gators were operating offensively:

Putting an exclamation point on its first-half performance, Florida got one more touchdown 27 seconds before halftime. Grier earned his fourth passing TD of the game after hitting Antonio Callaway on what was almost an exact replica of Powell's earlier touchdown.

Callaway moved from right to left as he crossed the middle of the field en route to the corner of the end zone.

To put into perspective how big a hill the Rebels had to climb in the second half, teams that had been down by at least 13 points at the half were 3-154 this year, per the ESPN broadcast (via CBS Sports' Jon Solomon).

Field goals weren't going to cut it for Ole Miss, but that's all the offense could get for much of the second half against the stingy Florida defense. Wunderlich finally got his team on the board with three points in the third quarter.

His field goal was canceled out by two from Powell, who added insurance for the Gators in the fourth quarter. And if the result was still in doubt inside the final seven minutes, Jordan Cronkrite sealed the deal with a one-yard touchdown run to help make it a 38-3 game.

Kelly and Markell Pack connected for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 4:11 remaining, but the result was all but decided by then. SB Nation's Red Cup Rebellion thought Kelly received little in the way of support Saturday:

While Gators fans have every reason to be optimistic following Saturday's win, they should remain realistic. Ole Miss was flying high last year after starting the season 7-0 but then finished 2-3 through its final five games.

Florida should beat the Missouri Tigers next week but has a major test Oct. 17, when it will travel to Death Valley to play the LSU Tigers. A matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs after that doesn't look as tricky now, but the Bulldogs probably aren't as bad as they looked against Alabama on Saturday.

If the Gators remain unbeaten heading into November, then the SEC title and College Football Playoff discussions can begin.

While a defeat isn't a CFP eliminator for Ole Miss, the Rebels will need to be perfect the rest of the way in order to finish in the top four at the end of the year. They'll play Texas A&M, LSU and Mississippi State—and potentially the SEC Championship Game—so finishing with one loss could have Ole Miss in line for a playoff spot.


Post-Game Reaction

"That was sure a lot of fun," said McElwain after the game, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. "I'm sure Ole Miss thought they were going to come in here and beat our butts, but our guys took it to 'em."

Florida's performance was all the more impressive considering how many players—Grier included—were stricken with the flu, per Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated:

Credit Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who maintained his sense of humor following the defeat, per the Orlando Sentinel's Matt Murschel:

While McElwain spoke highly of his quarterback, he ensured the credit for the victory was spread around to the rest of the team, per Scott Carter of

Freeze was blunt in his assessment of the defeat.

"They beat us in every facet of the game," he said, per Mark Long of the Associated Press (via the Charlotte Observer). "We didn't play with the intensity that we needed to and we didn't take care of the football. We had a solid plan, but we didn't execute it."

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It's Time the Rest of the SEC Starts to Fear Florida Once Again

Remember last week when Florida sputtered for three-and-a-half quarters before getting off the deck and stunning Tennessee 28-27?

It was no fluke.

No. 25 Florida boat-raced No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, announcing to the rest of the SEC that the Gators are back and aren't going anywhere.

It was a major statement by Jim McElwain's crew—which now sits at 5-0 and looks like the most complete team in the SEC East. 

If the verdict was still out on quarterback Will Grier, it shouldn't be anymore. After lighting up Tennessee's defense, which was playing soft over the final two drives last week, the redshirt freshman—who was one of several Gators fighting a flu bug this week—lit up Ole Miss' defense, completing 24 of 29 passes for 271 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Florida didn't just make the case that it's the best team in the SEC East. After Georgia's struggles against Alabama, that much is apparent.

Florida is the best team in the entire SEC.

The defense is filthy.

The Gators held the potent Ole Miss offense out of the end zone for the first three quarters, and the Rebels managed just 328 total yards and only 69 rushing yards in the loss. Defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard made a living in the backfield, and Bryan Cox Jr. picked up a fumble.

The secondary is loaded with talented players such as Vernon Hargreaves III, Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor.

What was missing was an offensive identity, which apparently came to Gainesville from Fort Collins, Colorado, when McElwain signed on the dotted line. 

Grier isn't just a caretaker, he's a difference-maker. What's more, he has difference-makers around him.

Demarcus Robinson had eight catches for 98 yards and a touchdown Saturday night, slot weapon Brandon Powell has been solid all year, and true freshman Antonio Callaway topped the century mark and caught the game-winner last week.

There are three playmakers outside for Grier to work with, whereas the search for one lasted through all four of former head coach Will Muschamp's years at the helm (2011-2014) and Urban Meyer's final season in 2010.

That's on top of Kelvin Taylor, who rushed for 83 yards on Saturday night. As Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun noted on Twitter, Taylor is on point so far in 2015:

Welcome back, Florida.

You haven't been relevant since the final weekend of the 2012 regular season, but Saturday night's demolition of Ole Miss when combined with the 5-0 start and an offensive identity proves you're the most complete team in the SEC.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.comBarrett 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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Winners and Losers from Week 5 of the 2015 College Football Season

Say this for Week 5 of the 2015 college football season: Separation Saturday certainly lived up to its name. 

The top three teams in the Big 12—Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU—recorded double-digit victories, with the Sooners grabbing a convincing home win against West Virginia. Meanwhile, Alabama took care of Georgia on the road. Not everything went to script in the SEC, however. Ole Miss lost a stunner to Florida in The Swamp, allowing the Tide to inch back into the SEC West title race. 

Who were the winners and losers from Week 5? We break down all that was good, bad, ugly, gorgeous and more in the following slides.


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

Begin Slideshow

Alabama Muscles Its Way Back into College Football Playoff Picture

ATHENS, Ga. — Apparently there’s nothing like a trip to Sanford Stadium to fix whatever ails the University of Alabama football team.

Similar to the Blackout game of 2008, when it first served noticed what college football could expect with Nick Saban heading the Crimson Tide, Alabama again dominated the preseason favorite in the SEC East on its home field, this time with a 38-10 result.

Like that previous meeting, which ended up with a 41-30 final after Alabama led, 31-0, at halftime, the score and statistics weren’t indicative of how lopsided the game truly was. It simply manhandled No. 8 Georgia in the rain.

No. 13 Alabama (4-1 overall, 1-1 SEC) shook off the growing pains of the season’s first month and played with poise, dominated both lines of scrimmage and again played relentless defense. With some of its younger players beginning to come into their own, it again looks like a strong contender for both the SEC championship and playoff.

"I was really proud of our players today, our team today,” Saban said. “I thought this was a difficult challenge for them. I told them before the game that the plan that we had for them, ordinary men couldn’t go out there and get it done. We needed them to be extraordinary, and that they were, and they were special.”

Although the hyped Derrick Henry vs. Nick Chubb showdown essentially ended up being a statistical draw, 148 yards to 146, respectively, Chubb turned out to be the only bright spot for the Bulldogs (4-1, 2-1 SEC). After being shut down until there were 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter, he took advantage of a botched formation that left a key open gap for his 83-yard touchdown.

With it, Chubb notched his 13th straight 100-yard rushing game to break Herschel Walker’s team record. Of course, Alabama was up by five touchdowns beforehand, but it still bothered Saban afterward.

“I thought we played great defensively minus the one play,” Saban said.

“We can’t let anybody get anything,” senior defensive lineman Jarran Reed said.

Seven of Georgia’s nine possessions during the first half were three-and-out, and it couldn’t even take advantage of a Henry fumble in Alabama territory. With Chubb having 10 carries for 39 yards and quarterback Greyson Lambert on the bench after completing just 7 of 17 passes for 70 yards, the average gain per snap was 9.1 for the Crimson Tide and 3.64 for the Bulldogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama had already found the end zone three times in three very different ways.

The first was Henry’s 30-yard touchdown run that was reminiscent of the season opener against Wisconsin when he turned a hole on the left side into six points.

The second was a blocked punt in which freshman Minkah Fitzpatrick completely smothered the ball coming off Collin Barber’s foot and made it look easy.

Finally, senior quarterback Coker got into the mix by finally connecting on a deep ball, with a 45-yard strike to Calvin Ridley that had offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin doing a celebratory arm-pump on the sideline. The two also had a 50-yard pass play as the freshman wide receiver finished with five catches for 120 yards.

“We had a lot of fun out there,” said Coker, who completed 11 of 16 passes for 190 yards and wasn’t sacked.

Any lingering hope that Georgia still had at halftime quickly vanished on the Bulldogs’ first subsequent play when safety Eddie Jackson picked replacement Brice Ramsey off at midfield and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.

“We did a pretty good of disguising in the secondary,” the converted cornerback said, as Alabama had three interceptions and broke up seven more attempts. “We put good pressure on them and tried to make them make mistakes.”

Not only did it make the score 31-3, but combined with the downpour from Hurricane Joaquin sparked the exodus of fans. Unlike the 2008 game, when Georgia tried to fight back in the second half, this time the Bulldogs just had the one play.

"The dam broke, and unfortunately we just didn’t have enough counterpunches to get back in it,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who then used the same line from the 2008 game: “We got whipped.”

The loss also came after the Georgia players got in the faces of their Alabama counterparts when they were jumping around after coming out of their tunnel and later taunted the Crimson Tide from midfield. Saban later he said he was “really pissed” about his team’s initial focus, but it then simply went about its business and saved everything else for the game.

“Everyone calmed down, and we played really good ball,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “You don’t want to get too hyped up in warm-ups, you want to be able to play hard to the end. You have to stay calm and be cool.”

Alabama also didn’t like being called an underdog in the game, or critics claiming that the Crimson Tide wouldn’t be a factor after the loss two weeks ago to Ole Miss. 

“We didn’t really like it,” Coker said. “It’s not something we’re comfortable with.”

This was Alabama’s answer.

“I know they’ve been criticized a lot, but I thought we played an outstanding game today,” Saban said.

“They believe in this team and I believe in this team.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Ohio State Is Not Playing Like the National Title Favorite Right Now

Ever since he arrived at Ohio State in 2012, Urban Meyer has defaulted to a particular motto when it comes to explaining ugly wins that have occurred while the Buckeyes remained undefeated: The best part about being unbeaten is the opportunity to remain unbeaten.

Following Ohio State's 34-27 win over Indiana on Saturday, Meyer's mantra would sound something like, "The best part about being 5-0 is the chance to go 6-0."

"I've learned to enjoy it," Meyer said in postgame press conference through a forced grin. "To get on the plane here with a victory, I'll take it."

With the way the Buckeyes looked throughout their closer-than-expected escape from Bloomington, that's all the Ohio State has to celebrate at the moment.

Yes, running back Ezekiel Elliott reinserted himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion with a 274-yard, three-touchdown performance as he ran rampant against the Hoosiers and once again looked like the player who entered the season as the favorite to win college football's most prestigious individual award. And the Buckeyes are in fact still unbeaten as the nation's longest winning streak remains active at 18 games.

But outside of Elliott, this Ohio State team looked little like nation's top-ranked team. And perhaps most importantly, it looked even less like the favorite to win this year's national title.

The reality is that the Buckeyes haven't looked like a team deserving of either of those accolades for the better part of the past month.

Ohio State's quarterback play has been shaky, its wide receivers have been inconsistent and a defense that at one time looked like the nation's most talented has suddenly shown issues in the past two weeks that didn't seem to exist in the previous three.

For the second time in three weeks, the Buckeyes found themselves on the ropes late in the fourth quarter, bailed out this time against an Indiana team playing its backup quarterback and down its star running back due to injuries.

Overall, however, the bulk of Ohio State's issues have stemmed from the play of its offense, which starts with a quarterback conundrum that remains in question heading into the sixth week of the season.

The struggles of Cardale Jones continued on Saturday, with an 18-of-27, 245-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception performance that was worse than the numbers indicated. After the game, Meyer said that he didn't consider benching Jones for backup J.T. Barrett following a costly second-half interception but did admit that there were some struggles with his signal-caller.

"That's not awful," Meyer said after reading out his starting quarterback's stat line. "[But] I saw what you saw."

Meyer's actions, however, spoke louder than his words, as he relegated his 6'5", 250-pound quarterback to the role of game manager with the game on the line. That was most clear when Meyer opted to hand the ball off to Elliott on a 3rd-and-10 from the Buckeyes' 26-yard line late in the fourth quarter, a play that ultimately capped off a three-and-out for Ohio State and gave Indiana one of its final two opportunities to tie or take a lead.

Jones' up-and-down play wasn't helped much by the performance of the Buckeyes receivers, which included a pair of lost fumbles from sophomore wideout Jalin Marshall.

"Trying too hard I guess, when you lunge and you lean," Meyer said of Marshall's turnovers. "But it's got to change. And he's a smart enough kid that he'll understand that, and we'll get that fixed."

Ohio State is going to need him to.

Because while a simple solution might be to send such a seemingly turnover-prone player to the bench, Marshall has emerged—fumbles aside—as the Buckeyes' second-most reliable receiver behind Michael Thomas. Against the Hoosiers, Marshall led Ohio State with six receptions for 110 yards on the day, but his untimely turnovers were what stood out most.

Other than Marshall and Thomas (four receptions, 54 yards, one touchdown), it's been hard to find any sort of consistency from the Buckeyes wide receivers, including Braxton Miller, who received just two touches (one rush, one reception) against Indiana and has been a non-factor since Ohio State's season opener against Virginia Tech.

"I'm just sick about Braxton. I want to get him the darn ball," Meyer said. "You just get caught up in the flow of the game."

Defensively, the game came down to one play, with cornerback Eli Apple breaking up a pass in the end zone from Hoosiers backup QB Zander Diamont that would have either tied the game or given the Hoosiers the chance to win with a two-point conversion. Afterward, no one celebrated the victory more than Apple, but that may have had nothing to do with the final play.

Had Ohio State not escaped Bloomington with a win, the sophomore corner very well have been blamed for the disappointing performance due to two costly pass interference calls, including one on the final drive. The Buckeyes defense as a whole struggled on the day with penalties and giving up big plays, including a 79-yard touchdown run from Diamont that put the Hoosiers within a touchdown of tying the game in the fourth quarter.

After trading three-and-outs for three consecutive series, Indiana's final shot came on a 10-play, 48-yard drive, which ultimately ended with the Buckeyes pass rush forcing Diamont's final incompletion.

"We had too many penalties on our pass defense," Meyer said. "A lot of things to work on."

Fortunately for Ohio State, Elliott made up for a lot of the Buckeyes' shortcomings with a performance that saw him bust loose for three big second-half plays. Elliott scored on touchdown runs of 75, 65 and 55 yards, despite not having a consistent passing game to keep the Indiana defense honest.

With what he did last postseason, Elliott has already proven to be one of the nation's best backs. But even Meyer questioned how long he'll be able to sustain his success without some help from those around him.

"We just gotta compliment that with the pass game a little bit," Meyer said. "Once again, the darn turnovers. I think all three of them were in the pass game."

They were, and despite the issues they caused on Saturday, Meyer maintains they're fixable. But until that actually happens, the Buckeyes won't look like the favorites to win this year's college football championship—although Meyer said that's the furthest thought from his mind.

As hard as it may have been to see, he's relying on his trusty motto instead.

"I guess for a 51-year-old man, I'm pretty exhilarated right now," Meyer said. "You can't tell."


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 Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Who Is the Real Favorite to Win the Big 12 Title?

One year ago, the Big 12 had trouble living up to its slogan of “One True Champion,” and it ultimately cost the league a College Football Playoff berth.

When Baylor and TCU wound up tied for the Big 12 championship, the CFP selection committee ultimately threw up its hands and picked Ohio State for the fourth and final playoff spot (which, in retrospect, worked out just fine).

This fall, it’s in the division's best interest to have one, undisputed champion. Which team will emerge as the “one true champion”? It’s not as easy to call as you might think, especially with both Baylor and TCU currently in the Top Five nationally.

Let’s take a look and try to sort it all out, shall we?

First off, let’s determine the true candidates.

At 4-0 following Saturday’s 63-35 win over Texas Tech, No. 5 Baylor is a clear candidate. No. 4 TCU, which ripped hapless Texas, 50-7, Saturday, sits atop the pecking order as well. With new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and prolific, pass-happy quarterback Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (which rolled past West Virginia 44-24 Saturday), is 4-0, ranked in the Top 15 and proving that 2014’s 8-5 record was just an aberration.

While Oklahoma State is 4-0 following a 36-34 win over Kansas State, it’s hard to take it seriously, given the uneven play of sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph.

So that leaves us with three clear contenders: Baylor, Oklahoma and TCU.

The Bears have the nation’s most productive offense. They entered Saturday averaging 64 points per game, best in the nation, and backed that up against the Red Raiders, their best competition to date.

Junior quarterback Seth Russell has transitioned seamlessly into the starting quarterback role vacated by Bryce Petty’s graduation. He has 1,275 yards and 19 touchdowns against five interceptions after throwing for 280 yards and four touchdowns against the Red Raiders defense. He also added 131 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 12 carries Saturday.

Wide receiver Corey Coleman has emerged as one of the nation’s best deep threats. After Saturday’s seven-catch, 110-yard, three-score effort, he has 27 catches for 570 yards and 11 touchdowns. And sophomore KD Cannon is also a returning 1,000-yard receiver.

Throw in an experienced offensive line and tailback Shock Linwood (who terrorized the Red Raiders D for 220 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries), and you have all the ingredients for a scary offense.

Baylor’s defense was a weak spot last fall, and the Bears allowed 35 points against the Red Raiders. But compare that to the 52 points that TCU yielded a week earlier, and that doesn’t look so bad.

TCU’s offense is also frightening. With senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin at the helm, the Horned Frogs entered Saturday averaging 51 points per game, No. 4 nationally, and that ranking is unlikely to drop following the rout of Texas.

Boykin has 1,802 yards passing with 19 touchdowns against three interceptions after torching Texas for 332 yards and five scores through the air.

Aaron Green (who now has 514 rushing yards and six scores) is a talented tailback, and wide receiver Josh Doctson (who has 42 receptions for 722 yards and eight touchdowns) found someone to take defenses’ attention away in freshman receiver KaVontae Turpin, who had six receptions for 138 yards and four touchdowns Saturday.

However, the Horned Frogs defense is a major concern. While Saturday’s shutdown of Texas was encouraging, TCU entered yielding 28.2 points per game, which could be a major issue against higher-powered schemes.

Oklahoma has also emerged as a strong Big 12 contender. Mayfield looks right at home in Riley’s system, throwing for 1,382 yards with 13 touchdowns against three interceptions. And tailbacks Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are a dangerous backfield duo. With Mayfield under center, the Sooners look like a completely different team than with Trevor Knight leading the way last fall.

Ultimately, the Big 12 title will come down to three games over three weekends in November: Oklahoma’s Nov. 14 visit to Baylor, TCU’s trip to Norman on Nov. 21 and the Black Friday showdown between Baylor and TCU in Fort Worth.

If Baylor or TCU can survive the Sooners and then survive the other’s offensive onslaught in what should be a frenzied matchup, it'll be the Big 12 champion.

Through four weeks, Baylor appears to have the more complete offense and a better, healthier defense. Coleman and Cannon are the only returning 1,000-yard receiving duo in America, and together they can strain defenses more than Doctson and Turpin, who is less proven. Linwood, a returning 1,200-yard rusher, is also more proven than TCU's Green, who rushed for 922 yards last fall. 

Meanwhile, TCU's defense has played without six projected starters due to injuries or leaves of absence, taxing a defense that lost its top two linebackers and tacklers from a year ago. 

Both Baylor and TCU look vulnerable defensively, but the Horned Frogs' depth issues makes it harder to trust them against Big 12 offenses. 

The Bears are the favorite to win the Big 12, but it won’t be easy.  

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Auburn Lacking Explosiveness Typical of Malzahn Offense in Frustrating SJSU Win

Although Jordan-Hare Stadium never reached Jacksonville State levels of panic Saturday, some familiar frustrations continued to plague Auburn in a closer-than-expected nonconference victory.

Auburn scored five offensive touchdowns in its 35-21 win over San Jose State—which entered the game as a 21.5-point underdog, according to Odds Shark—and rebounded from netting only three field goals in a home loss to Mississippi State last weekend.

But Gus Malzahn's offense still lacked the consistent explosiveness that has defined it during the previous two seasons.

According to Auburn's official StatBroadcast, the Tigers recorded only seven "chunk plays" to San Jose State's nine.

All three of quarterback Sean White's passing plays of 15 or more yards came in the first half—he only went 1-of-2 passing after halftime Saturday—and two of Auburn's four rushing plays of 10 or more yards came in the fourth quarter against a tired SJSU defense.

That offensive production sounds like a whimper to the big bang Auburn had against the same San Jose State program last season.

In the last two seasons, Auburn finished in the top 30 nationally in offensive plays of 20-plus yards.

Heading into Week 5, the Tigers only had eight so far in 2015, which tied them for the second-worst mark in the country. The five they added Saturday against San Jose State will move them to a tie for 118th nationally at best

Saturday's matchup against San Jose State was a prime chance for the Auburn offense to take the next step and show improvement in its second game with White at starting quarterback.

But the Tigers were outgunned by former Auburn assistant coach Al Borges' SJSU offense, which did almost everything right except for taking care of the ball against a mistake-prone but opportunistic Auburn defense.

The Tigers scored 14 points—the final margin of victory—off San Jose State's four turnovers. One of Auburn's offensive touchdowns came off a short field thanks to Joe Gray's first-quarter interception.

Running back Peyton Barber should get all the game balls in the Auburn city limits Saturday for what he did against the Spartans.

He scored all five of the Tigers' touchdowns and continued his impressive work of dragging an underwhelming offense behind him.

Barber definitely can grind out tough, shorter runs and do everything possible to find the end zone. 

But the 225-pound sophomore doesn't seem to have that extra burst of speed Auburn needs to create explosive runs. His two "chunk plays" came late in the game, when SJSU's worn-down defenders just couldn't bring the hard-running Barber down after early contact.

That's not say Auburn's offense didn't show flashes of finding the next level against the Spartans.

Wide receiver Ricardo Louis and running back Roc Thomas broke free for Auburn's first two runs of 10 or more yards. The duo also recorded long receptions, as Thomas showed better north-south running on a 42-yarder in the first quarter.

And while Malzahn went with a vanilla, run-first offense in the second half, White came close to recording Auburn's longest touchdown pass of the season on a missed deep ball to a wide-open Jason Smith.

As Brandon Marcello of noted Saturday, the lack of explosiveness in the passing game against SJSU fell on Malzahn.

"White delivered some great passes downfield, so why did the play calls stop? His receivers didn't help him out on a few throws," Marcello wrote. "...Malzahn has not expressed confidence calling deep routes and it shows in the stat book."

While there's nothing wrong with Auburn going with a run-first offense—the Tigers went to the national championship game with one in 2013—it just puts more pressure on a young quarterback who isn't a dual-threat and an offensive line that has struggled to open up big holes so far in 2015.

Auburn won't necessarily mind a grind-it-out win in, say, an SEC road game.

But having one of those against what was supposed to be an overmatched nonconference opponent at home is far from encouraging.

The trademark "boom" for Malzahn's explosive offense just isn't there this season.

And until the Tigers can find it again, they'll have to scratch and claw just to gain bowl eligibility in 2015.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of 

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

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Alabama vs. Georgia: Game Grades, Analysis for Crimson Tide and Bulldogs

The Alabama Crimson Tide went to Athens, Georgia, on Saturday afternoon and took down the Georgia Bulldogs 38-10. The final box score can be found on

Alabama dominated on offense, defense and special teams. The Crimson Tide looked like a team that could win their second consecutive SEC title. Georgia, on the other hand, could not get anything going and will have to regroup, because everything it wants to achieve this season is still possible if it wins the rest of its SEC games.

Here are game grades for the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs.

Passing Offense: Jacob Coker had his best game as a member of the Crimson Tide, throwing for 190 yards and one touchdown. He got great protection from his offensive line and was never sacked, and receiver Calvin Ridley came up with some big catches.

Rushing Offense: Derrick Henry had a strong afternoon with 148 yards on 26 carries. He got great help from his offensive line, which made his life a lot easier while running up the middle. Kenyan Drake was quiet with only nine yards on five carries. But so long as Henry gets around 150 rushing yards per game, Alabama will likely win every game it plays this season.

Passing Defense: The Georgia passing attack was non-existent because the Alabama front seven and secondary were able to get after both Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey. Eddie Jackson, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison notched interceptions, and the entire defense came up with seven pass breakups. The defense also held Georgia to 11 completions on 31 attempts.

Rushing Defense: For the most part, the Crimson Tide held the Georgia run game in check. The Bulldogs rushed for 193 yards, but 83 of those came on one play late in the game. Reggie Ragland was all over the field with eight tackles, and he was a big reason why the Bulldogs offensive line could not get any consistent holes for Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

Special Teams: Special teams normally hurt Alabama with missed field goals and miscues in kickoff coverage. That was not the case on Saturday as Adam Griffith made his only field goal, Fitzpatrick blocked a punt and scored on the play, and the coverage unit took Georgia return man Isaiah McKenzie out of the game. The special teams were really the reason the Tide won by a big margin.

Coaching: Nick Saban does it again. He got his players physically and mentally ready for the Bulldogs and the weather conditions when their backs were against the wall. Alabama had a business-like approach to the game and was ready for everything Georgia threw at it. The Crimson Tide had to win this game, but they also knew they had to play their game and not let the distractions get to them, and the coaching staff did a good job of that in Athens.


Passing Offense: Lambert had his worst game as a Bulldog on Saturday. He never got into a rhythm, was inaccurate (10-of-24) and could not handle the weather. Ramsey was just as bad, as he only completed one of his six passes and threw two interceptions. This is a huge concern moving forward because the coaches have to decide who to go with at quarterback as the Bulldogs try to get things right for the rest of the season.

Rushing Offense: Chubb and Michel were bottled up until the second half. Chubb finished with 146 rushing yards, while Michel notched 53. The problem was they really did not get the carries in the first half, and when they did, the Alabama front seven swarmed to them and did not let them run rampant. It was a modest day for the Georgia run game, which tallied 193 yards on 38 carries.

Passing Defense: Coker did not go wild in the passing game, but he made some big plays at the right time because the Georgia secondary had a hard time covering the Alabama receivers while keeping an eye on Henry and Drake. The Bulldogs only allowed 190 passing yards and one score, but all of Coker’s 11 completions came at key moments in the game. The Georgia front seven did not get a sack either, which hurt.

Rushing Defense: Georgia kept Henry in check in the first quarter, but once the offensive line settled in, he was able to get some big runs in the second quarter and the second half. Outside of Tim Kimbrough, who led the team with 13 tackles, the front seven for Georgia was beaten by the Alabama offensive line, as the Crimson Tide rushed for 189 yards on 47 carries.

Special Teams: This had to be the worst special teams performance of the season for the Bulldogs. Not only did they allow a blocked punt for a score, but they were in bad field position all game because of special teams coverage, and McKenzie only had notched three yards on two punt returns. The offense played a factor in the loss, but special teams were the reason this game was not close.

Coaching: Alabama outcoached Georgia. Everything offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was able to read and counteract. The same goes for Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who outsmarted Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Georgia head coach Mark Richt always has one bad loss each season, and while Alabama is a great football team, there is no excuse for the Bulldogs to lose by four touchdowns at home to any team.

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