NCAA Football News

Kentucky vs. Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for Wildcats and Volunteers

The Tennessee Volunteers cruised to a blowout 50-16 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday evening.

Other than a game-opening drive that culminated in a field goal and a brief pass-heavy drive late in the second quarter, Kentucky's once-explosive offense never really put up a fight against Tennessee's rebounding defense.

As dominant as Tennessee's defense was, the offense performed even better. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs ended his night at the beginning of the fourth quarter with nearly 300 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air to go with nearly 50 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground.

Overall, it was a nearly perfect game for the Vols and a disaster on several levels for the Wildcats. 

Here are the halftime and final game grades for both teams using statistics from NCAA.com's game recap

 

Tennessee Volunteers Game Grades

Position UnitFirst-Half GradesFinal Grades Passing Offense B A- Pass Defense C B+ Rushing Offense B B+ Rush Defense A A Special Teams C+ A- Coaching B A

 

Passing Offense

Joshua Dobbs threw for nearly 300 yards, and much of that production came in the first half.

Dobbs is remarkably efficiency at hitting receivers on must-complete third-down situations, but he's still a little shaky at times, as he overthrew a few wide-open receivers. 

In fact, a 300-yard performance could easily have been a 350-yard performance were it not for a few timing errors and overthrows. Had Dobbs played the entire game instead of just three quarters, it's likely he would have gone for 400-plus yards against Kentucky's defense.

 

Pass Defense

Aside from a strong opening drive and a last, desperate gasp of air right before the half, Patrick Towles and his backup, Reese Phillips, were both held in check for most of the game.

Kentucky finished the night with just 168 yards passing, and most of that came on chunk plays right before the half to give the Wildcats 10 quick points. The Vols secondary also broke up several passes, one of which would have been a touchdown.

 

Rushing Offense

Dobbs rushed for nearly 50 yards and one touchdown, and Jalen Hurd added 118 yards and another touchdown on the ground for the Vols. 

Although Kentucky stopped the Vols from breaking off any big runs, Tennessee still managed to average 4.2 yards per carry, which allowed the team to move the chains and march right down the field. 

 

Rush Defense

Towles was Kentucky's leading rusher with 29 yards on the night. Tennessee's front four held the Wildcats' ground game to just 94 total yards, and without a rushing attack to fall back on, Kentucky's offense quickly fell apart.

 

Special Teams

Aaron Medley missed an extra point and a field goal, but he still put 14 points on the board for the Vols.

Medley isn't perfect, but he's a pretty reliable weapon for Tennessee inside the 40-yard line, which is great news considering he's only a freshman. 

Matt Darr also had a solid night punting the game, backing Kentucky's offense up and allowing Tennessee's defense to pin them deep and get great field position. 

Evan Berry's 50-yard kickoff return also provided a huge spark to the offense and led to seven quick points to start the second half and essentially seal the victory for Tennessee. 

 

Coaching

Other than a debatable call to squib-kick before halftime that led to three points for the Wildcats, Tennessee's coaches called a solid game all around. 

The offense fired on all cylinders, and the defense had few breakdowns. It was a solid job by Butch Jones, Mike Bajakian and John Jancek.

 

Kentucky Wildcats Game Grades

Position UnitsFirst-Half GradesFinal Grades Passing Offense C+ C- Pass Defense C C- Rushing Offense C- D Rush Defense D D Special Teams B+ C Coaching D D

 

 

Passing Offense

Towles looked sharp on Kentucky's first drive of the game, but after an ankle injury sent him to the locker room for a couple of offensive series, he never really regained his composure.

To make matters worse, Towles' backup, Phillips, threw for zero yards and one pick-six. 

Without an effective passing game, the Wildcats were dead in the water as soon as Towles left the game. 

 

Pass Defense

Dobbs was 19-of-29, but at least half of his off-target passes were due to poor timing or errant throws. Kentucky's secondary just didn't have an answer for Tennessee's wide receiver corps, and the defensive line only sacked Dobbs once and couldn't keep him from connecting on critical third-down conversions.

 

Rushing Offense

It's not necessarily a bad thing when a quarterback leads a team in rushing, but it definitely is when his rushing only leads to 29 yards.

Kentucky just couldn't get anything going on the ground, and the offensive line appeared gassed and overmatched shortly after the game started. 

 

Rush Defense

The Wildcats managed to limit big runs by Tennessee, but they couldn't stop Hurd from gaining four or five yards on nearly every carry. 

Tennessee's relentless rushing attack eventually wore down the Kentucky defense and allowed the Vols to cruise down the field with ease.

 

Special Teams

Austin MacGinnis made all three field goals, including a huge 54-yarder right before the half.

However, Kentucky gave up a big punt return to Evan Berry that led to immediate points for Tennessee to open the half, and Landon Foster's punts left much to be desired. Not a great performance by this unit for the Wildcats, which is becoming a recurring theme this season.

 

Coaching

It's tough to fault Mark Stoops for losing a game like this, especially playing on the road after eight games without a bye week and four consecutive losses.

However, Stoops' team appeared to lay down immediately after Tennessee scored to open the second half, and in fact, the play-calling in the third quarter even seemed to suggest that Stoops was trying to speed up the inevitable loss.

The Wildcats still have a lot to play for in two weeks when they take on Louisville, but they'll need a much more complete performance to stand a chance.

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Tennessee's Mascot Smokey Got Cold on the Sidelines, Given a Blanket and Hat

With temperatures in the 30s in Knoxville for Tennessee's matchup vs. Kentucky, the Volunteers' live mascot, Smokey, got a little chilly on the sidelines.

It wasn't anything a blanket and a furry hat couldn't fix, though.

Smokey took it like a champ, embracing the hat and blanket for warmth. He made sure to still show his support with a Vols logo on his collar.  

Smokey undoubtedly deserves a spot in the Mascot Hall of Fame for these photos alone. 

[Twitter]

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Northwestern vs. Notre Dame: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

It was supposed to be a bounce-back game for Notre Dame.  It was supposed to be a statement game for Notre Dame.  It was supposed to be a statement to the College Football Playoff committee that Notre Dame was still worthy of consideration for a "New Year's Six" bowl.

Nobody told Northwestern, and the Wildcats strolled into South Bend and hung around until the time was right to strike.  Despite being favored by more than two touchdowns, Notre Dame allowed the Wildcats to stay in the game long enough to eventually pull off the victory in overtime.

From Notre Dame's perspective, it wasn't pretty.  Let's rip off the Band-Aid quickly and dive right into our postmortem of the Irish's shocking loss to Northwestern with some game grades.

Oh, and Notre Dame?  We're going to need a parent or guardian to sign this and get it back to us by Monday.

 

Pass Offense

Don't worry, it's not all doom and gloom.  There were actually some decent moments for the Irish.  Everett Golson, despite a first half that included yet another interception, actually finished with halfway decent numbers.

Golson finished 21-of-40 for 287 yards and three touchdowns, plus that aforementioned interception.  Golson also battled through some obvious pain in his throwing shoulder in the second half after landing awkwardly while being tackled.

William Fuller caught all three of Golson's touchdowns passes and finished the night with 159 receiving yards to lead all receivers in the game.

Still, we're not going to heap too much praise on the passing game as a whole.  As mentioned, the halfway decent showing from Golson only deserves a halfway decent grade—which is further reduced by some pretty ugly drops from the receiving corps.

There really wasn't a single culprit, and both the Irish and Wildcats had a hard time catching balls that were thrown right into their hands.

 

Run Offense

We'll start by breaking down the numbers: 40 credited rushes for 211 yards (5.3 average) and two touchdowns.  OK, not bad.

But you have to dig beyond the box score to get the real story.  It wasn't about the yards or the touchdowns tonight.  It was all about the fumbles.

Notre Dame lost three fumbles on the evening, two of which were particularly costly late in the game.  First, Chris Brown, while reaching for the goal line, lost control of the football, which was recovered by Northwestern in the end zone for a touchback.

Take at least six points off of the board.

Then, with under two minutes to go and Northwestern out of timeouts, Notre Dame simply needed to chew a little clock to seal the victory.  Instead, the typically reliable Cam McDaniel has the ball stripped, giving Northwestern a shot to march down the field and kick the tying field goal—which the Wildcats conveniently did.

Oh, and Golson fumbled the ball once, too, just for good measure.

We're not going to flunk the entire running game (although we're tempted to), but this grade isn't going to be pretty.  Heck, we think even a low C- is a bit of a gift.

 

Pass Defense

Notre Dame's defense continues to battle injuries, but we're not going to buy that excuse forever, especially against a team like Northwestern.  This is, after all, the same Northwestern team that could only manage nine measly points against a pretty terrible Michigan squad last week.

Trevor Siemian put up 284 yards on a 30-of-48 outing that included one touchdown pass.

The Irish did pick off two passes (Matthias Farley and Cole Luke each with an interception), and both were returned for sizable yardage (55 total yards).  But when it really counted, late in the fourth quarter, the Irish couldn't contain the Northwestern receivers.

While defending against the deep pass in the final minute, the Irish secondary apparently forgot about the short-to-medium routes that allowed the Wildcats to move down the field in 10-to-15 yard increments.

When all the other team needs is a field goal to tie, you have to defend everything, not just the end zone.

 

Run Defense

There was once a time when a team—any team—would relish a lone rushing touchdown against the Fighting Irish.  Those days are gone.

Northwestern hung a whopping 263 yards and three rushing touchdowns on Notre Dame.  Now, Northwestern certainly has some talent, but one should never expect an offensive line out of Evanston to push around a defensive line from South Bend, injuries or not.

Certainly the late loss of defensive lineman Sheldon Day to an apparent knee injury was a major loss, but that doesn't make up for the over 200 yards the Irish gave up before Day left the game, does it?

Northwestern averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 48 attempts, and the Irish gave up runs of 45 and 44 yards to Treyvon Green and Justin Jackson, respectively.

 

Special Teams

If you were waiting for us to take a positional unit out to the woodshed, this one is for you.

We try to be fair each week to every grouping, giving credit where credit is due and avoiding flunking the entire class because of the misdeeds of a few.  But there are so few unique pieces to a special teams unit that it's hard to find the good in tonight's performance.

What happened to Kyle Brindza?  This kid used to be automatic from anything inside of around 45 yards.  Now, he can't make a field goal to save his life.

What's worse, some of his opportunities are lost due to bad snaps, bad holds and absent-minded blocking.

Brindza was 0-of-2 on field goals (including one in overtime) and 4-of-5 on extra points.

Why is that missed extra point a big deal?  It was thanks to a botched hold by Malik Zaire, subsequently blocked and returned for two points by Northwestern.  That's a three-point swing.  Take that away and this game never gets to overtime.

Or, add that missed field goal in regulation.  There's six total points right there thanks to the kicking game.

But wait, there's even more!  At the risk of being flagged for piling on, we have to talk about Brindza's punting.  We've become accustomed to seeing punts of 45, 50 or even 60 yards from this guy.  Tonight, we were treated to an average of 35—which included a 17-yard punt in the fourth quarter that set up Northwestern's last touchdown.

You know what?  At this point, it's not even worth going into the return game. (For the record, Notre Dame had zero punt return yards on one attempt and averaged 19 yards on seven kick returns.)  You fail.  You all fail.

 

Coaching

Now, do we dare fail Brian Kelly for this atrocious performance?

If Kelly calls last week the "debacle in the desert," we're anxious to see how he sums this one up.  What we really would like to know, truthfully, is what possible benefit there was to going for two late in the game?  

Notre Dame had just scored a touchdown to go up by 11 with the extra point to come.  To go up by 12 would force Northwestern to score two touchdowns to win.  Going up by 13 doesn't change the arithmetic.  Failing on a two-point conversion, however, would mean that the Wildcats would be a field goal plus a touchdown with two-point conversion away from tying.

Well, guess what happened.

As if to prove the old axiom "it's not over until it's over" true, Kelly gave Northwestern just the opportunity it needed to tie the game.

And with the type of kicking game Kelly has at his disposal, what did he think was going to happen in overtime?  Was Brindza suddenly going to trot out and say, "Just kidding, coach.  I was faking all along.  This is a cinch.  I'll just kick it through, no problem," or anything along those lines?

Yes, the passing game wasn't stellar.  Sure, the run game coughed up the ball.  Yes, the special teams bore a striking resemblance to a sub-.500 prep squad.  But Kelly had his team in a position to win this game, and he gave it away.

Blame Golson or McDaniel or Brown or Brindza if you'd like, but this one, coach, has as much to do with you as it does with any of them.

The only reason—and we really mean only reason—Kelly isn't flunking is because there's still a small shred of truth to the notion that players have to execute the plays called.  That didn't happen tonight.

But in the future, Mr. Kelly, we expect better from you.  Better play-calling, that is.

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer. Box score via NCAA.com.

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

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Arkansas Fan Struggles Mightily with Smartphone with Gloves on in Cold Weather

Weather in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the Arkansas-LSU game was in the low 30s on Saturday night, which definitely warranted a warm jacket and gloves. 

The only problem, however, is that the pesky smartphone screens don't respond to most requests through a winter glove, which this Razorbacks fan found out the hard way. 

On the plus side, at least that jacket is both warm and shows his team spirit. 

[Vine]

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Alabama's Swarming Defense Kills Dak Prescott's Heisman Campaign

Dak Prescott played his worst game of the season in the game in which his team could least afford it, throwing three interceptions in a 25-20 loss at Alabama.

The final score says Mississippi State lost by five points and outgained Alabama by 97 yards, but in this case, numbers do lie. Prescott threw his second touchdown with 15 seconds left on the clock, making things seem closer than they were when in fact the game was over—for all intents and purposes—a few drives earlier.

Two of Prescott's picks came inside the red zone, including one in the end zone in the third quarter and one on Mississippi State's second-to-last possession. Alabama swarmed and hit and confused the Heisman front-runner until he looked like he was anything but.

Prescott's Heisman run crashed and burned in Tuscaloosa—or if you prefer, it was crashed into and set aflame.

Either way, it is now a mound of ash.

Prescott finished with decent enough numbers, throwing for 290 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 82 yards on 22 carries.

But don't let the look of that fool you. Just like Mississippi State was more than five points worse than its opponent, Prescott was more than 100 yards worse than his final stat line.

The Bulldogs' first six drives, for example, ended like this: punt, safety, punt, interception, punt, punt. The interception drive was the only drive that gained more than 30 yards, and the first drive was the only other drive that gained more than six yards.

The other four drives gained an average of less than a foot.

Mississippi State came within three seconds of failing to score in the first half for the first time since…last year's Alabama game (of course). It entered with the No. 13 offense in the country, per the F/+ ratings at Football Outsiders, but Alabama made it look out of sorts.

Never was that more clear than on the Bulldogs' final possession, which took 3:03 of the residual 3:18 off the clock. Time and timeouts were wasted in the red zone because head coach Dan Mullen refused to let Prescott make a(nother) mistake. The offense was running QB draws and sprint options on intuitive passing downs.

"Besides [the mistakes], he played really well," Mullen said of Prescott, per Bob Carskadon of HailState.com. "Gave us everything he got."

Yeah. Except a player they could trust to make a throw.

The reality is that Alabama's defense won at every level Saturday: in the trenches, over the middle and in the secondary.

Defensive end A'Shawn Robinson was a monster, tipping Prescott's third interception at the line. Safety Nick Perry was a missile, finishing with 12 total tackles and a pick. Cornerback Cyrus Jones—once considered the biggest liability on the team—was tested and tested and tested, and he passed and he passed and he passed.

In its previous home game, Alabama pitched a shutout against Texas A&M. The home game before that, it held Florida to 200 total yards. On Saturday, it laid waste to a year-long Heisman campaign.

The Crimson Tide at home are the surest bet in college football, which is bad news for the rest of the conference—and the non-SEC College Football Playoff contenders—because they won't be leaving Tuscaloosa for the rest of the regular season.

Which means they likely won't be losing another game.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon's Insane 408-Yard Game Makes RB Heisman Front-Runner

Entering this weekend, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was the Heisman Trophy front-runner, and justifiably so. The Ducks junior is enjoying an excellent season for the College Football Playoff contender: 29 touchdown passes, two interceptions and 2,780 passing yards.

But while Mariota enjoyed a well-deserved off day Saturday, another candidate surged past him in snowy Madison, Wisconsin.

Following the best single-game rushing performance in NCAA history, Wisconsin junior tailback Melvin Gordon is the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Against a solid Nebraska defense, Gordon carried 25 times for 408 yards and four touchdowns, breaking former TCU tailback LaDainian Tomlinson’s FBS single-game rushing record of 406 yards and keying the Badgers’ 59-24 demolition.

It was the most impressive effort by any player in college football this season, and it should put Gordon into pole position for the Heisman Trophy when it is awarded Dec. 13 in New York City.

Make no mistake: Gordon had been good this season. He entered Saturday with 1,501 yards and 19 touchdowns in nine full games. He’d rushed for at least 122 yards in all but one of those games, going over 200 yards three times (including a 13-carry, 253-yard, five-touchdown effort against Bowling Green).

But Saturday was Gordon’s magnum opus. Nebraska’s rushing defense had been solid this season (allowing 123.8 rushing yards per game, No. 19 nationally), but he ground it into dust, leaving flailing bodies and missed tackles in his wake.

He made all the runs. Gordon was good going up the middle. He was good going around the edges. And you’d better believe he was good streaking down the sidelines with Nebraska tacklers futilely chasing after him. He averaged 16.3 yards per carry.

Most impressive? He didn’t even carry the ball in the fourth quarter. With two regular-season games remaining, Gordon has 1,909 rushing yards and averages 8.6 yards per carry.

While Wisconsin is not a College Football Playoff contender following losses to LSU and Northwestern, the Badgers are a Top 20 team that will challenge for the Big Ten championship.

The Heisman qualifications say nothing about a player’s team and its overall success, or lack thereof. It is ultimately an individual award. As the qualifications read, it is awarded to “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." 

That certainly fits Gordon. That said, where would Wisconsin be without him? The Badgers have struggled to find consistency at quarterback this season, with neither Joel Stave nor Tanner McEvoy finding sustained success. Take Gordon away, and they’d be average at best.

Mariota has been a key for Oregon, but the Ducks also have an excellent running game featuring Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner as well as a passable defense. Take away Mariota, and the Ducks would at least win the Pac-12 North.

Mississippi State junior quarterback Dak Prescott has been touted as a prime Heisman candidate, but he struggled Saturday on his biggest stage at No. 5 Alabama. Prescott threw three interceptions and passed for 290 yards and two touchdowns in the No. 1 Bulldogs’ 25-20 defeat.

Gordon has been the nation’s most outstanding individual player this season. When he hoists the stiff-arm trophy in mid-December, Saturday’s effort will be a prime reason why. 

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Mississippi State vs. Alabama: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Tide

The No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide jumped out to a 19-0 advantage and toppled the top-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs 25-20.

Blake Sims and Co. made a serious case for the No. 1 ranking with a clutch late-game drive, accompanied by an outstanding defensive performance.

Pass Offense: Though Dak Prescott threw for 290 yards and two scores, he tossed three crushing interceptions. De'Runnya Wilson tallied a team season-high eight receptions and accounted for 91 yards, while Jameon Lewis and Fred Ross reeled in a touchdown each. A handful of drops also contributed to the Bulldogs' downfall.

Run Offense: Prescott and Josh Robinson managed just 34 rushing yards during the opening half before Prescott started to find some room after the break. His running ability was a major difference in a near-comeback by Mississippi State, but the effort would've been enhanced by a two-dimensional attack.

Pass Defense: While the Bulldogs ceded a deep completion to Amari Cooper and Jalston Fowler, it was a product of Cooper's leaping ability and excellent play design. Otherwise, the defensive backfield had a respectable performance.

Run Defense: Mississippi State surrendered just two runs of 10-plus yards and only seven first downs, keeping Sims, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry under control. Its front seven were simply outstanding, despite giving up two short touchdowns.

Special Teams: Devon Bell had a couple horrid punts, recording a mere 33.8-yard average. Evan Sobiesk buried field goals from 23 yards and 32 yards.

Coaching: The defense allowed just 335 total yards, so D-coordinator Geoff Collins prepared his unit well for the Tide. On the other side, though, Dan Mullen had questionable clock management and play-calling as the final quarter was winding down.

 

Pass Offense: Sims completed 19 of 31 attempts for 211 yards and one touchdown, connecting with Cooper eight times for 88 yards and the lone score. Sims was confident in the pocket and avoided questionable decisions. The offensive line allowed just one sack on 35 dropbacks.

Run Offense: Mississippi State followed LSU's blueprint and kept Sims in the pocket, but the shifty quarterback converted two crucial third downs with his legs. Yeldon and Henry combined for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Pass Defense: The secondary allowed passing lanes underneath but was only beat deep twice. Nick Perry, Cyrus Jones and Landon Collins each recorded interceptions, each of which came in Alabama territory.

Run Defense: Prescott and Robinson were contained all game long, though the former had 58 yards during the second half. Most importantly, however, the defensive linemen disrupted the line of scrimmage and forced runs to be bounced outside—which is not conducive to beating the Tide.

Special Teams: Adam Griffith nailed a 36-yard field goal but pushed a 37-yarder wide right. Freshman punter JK Scott continued his brilliant season with a 45.6-yard average. Alabama limited the Bulldogs to 17.2 yards per kick return. 

Coaching: Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart showed his brilliance by calling a weak-side safety blitz that resulted in a safety. The offense, however, struggled at times, but Lane Kiffin relied on Sims to lead the Tide to victory—and he did.

 

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

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Beware, College Football, Alabama Has Found Championship Killer Instinct

Blake Sims is just stacking signature moments at this point.

On Saturday, Alabama once again used the run game to salt away a home win over an SEC opponent—only this time the ball wasn't in a big, bruising running back's hands. No, it was Sims' mobility and killer instinct that allowed the Crimson Tide to salt the game away in the fourth quarter.

Sims hit T.J. Yeldon on a third down that kept the drive alive. Then he had third-down scrambles of 10 and 11 yards. They were the kind of plays a championship quarterback makes in a tight game against the No. 1 team.

The gravity of his quarterback's performance was not lost on Nick Saban.

In his postgame press conference, the Alabama coach—not one for bold statements or hyperbole—gushed about the poise of Sims and the importance of the drive:

Sims doesn't deserve all the credit for Alabama's 25-20 win over Mississippi State. The defense set the tone early, and the Crimson Tide running backs certainly played a huge part in demoralizing Mississippi State late in the game.

However, it will be Sims' clutch plays in the fourth quarter that Alabama fans will remember.

Those were the kinds of moments Alabama regularly produced when it was winning three championships in four years. Watching it happen again should have the rest of college football shaking in its boots.

Call it an LSU hangover. Call it underrating No. 1 Mississippi State. Call it whatever you want.

Alabama didn't look its best for stretches of its 25-20 win over the Bulldogs, but the Tide did what champions do and bowed up when it needed to. It got stops when it needed to. And it scored when it needed to, executing a classic break-your-back drive that was season-defining.

And so Alabama took another step toward the College Football Playoff. It added a signature win to its resume, and now the Iron Bowl is all that stands in its way to an SEC Championship Game return and playoff berth.

It’s the killer instinct the Tide that displayed tonight that could be the difference between a championship and another late-season disappointment.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 12

Melvin Gordon, welcome to college football fame. The junior running back broke the FBS single-game rushing record with a staggering 408 rushing yards to go along with four touchdowns, earning him the honor of our top performer for Week 12. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder takes us through one of the best individual performances in college football history.

Does Gordon belong in the Heisman Trophy conversation?

Check out the video and let us know!  

 

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Nebraska's Failure to Make Adjustments Cost Huskers Playoff, Big Ten Title Shot

Football is pretty simple. At least that's what Bo Pelini thinks.

After the University of Wisconsin's 59-24 victory over the University of Nebraska, it felt anything but that. Yet, that's exactly what Pelini said in his postgame press conference.

Maybe football is simple. It hasn't been for the Huskers, though. After what was projected to be a big season for Pelini and his team, Nebraska has now lost its control at winning the Big Ten West and competing for a Big Ten championship title. Instead, Wisconsin holds the honor.

Badgers running back Melvin Gordon played a big part in that. Against Nebraska, he rushed 25 times for a total of 408 yards, which became the most rushing yards in school history against Nebraska.

"Melvin Gordon is a hell of a back, but we played a part in that as well," Pelini said.

And he's right. Gordon is a talented player all on his own. There is no denying that. However, the Nebraska defense did itself no favors in its performance against Gordon.

"I thought it was substandard as the game went on," Pelini said. "That was disappointing."

Most disappointing? Not only did Nebraska lose control of the Big Ten West, but it seems unlikely the Huskers will head to the championship game at this point. Additionally, the outside shot at the College Football Playoffs is gone.

"At the end of the day, I take responsibility for this football team and how we played, and it wasn’t good enough," Pelini confirmed.

It definitely was not good enough. Wisconsin rushed for 581 total yards, which is the most ever against Nebraska. The previous record, believe it or not, belonged to Wisconsin from the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game with 539 yards.

It would seem that Wisconsin has Nebraska's number. Now that the two are on the same side of the Big Ten conference, the Huskers need to adjust. Yet, failure to do so is exactly what plagued Nebraska once again.

In Pelini's seven years as head coach, the Huskers have often failed to adjust as a game went on. Another example of this would be the 2013 UCLA game. While the Huskers led 21-10 in the first half, UCLA ultimately came back to win 41-21. While the Bruins clearly adjusted throughout the game, Nebraska did not.

Against Wisconsin, it happened once again. When asked how exactly Gordon could be allowed to run for so many yards, Pelini didn't have a good answer.

"I have no idea," he said.

That should be alarming. It's the lack of understanding that cost the Huskers a shot at the playoffs and likely a trip to Indianapolis. Failure to adjust was clearly a big part of the overall outcome of this game.

Wisconsin, like UCLA did last year, made the needed adjustments. After all, Gordon only had 49 yards in the first quarter. To go from that to a total of 408 yards proves the Badgers adjusted as the game went on. Nebraska, on the other hand, did not.

If Pelini really has no idea how the Blackshirts could allow that to happen, red flags should be raised. It speaks volumes about the program and the mentality that ultimately goes into each and every game.

Pelini doesn't seem to buy into that idea, though. At least, he didn't during his postgame press conference.

"I don't get into this big picture stuff," he said. "It was one football game. This program has won a lot of games."

It was one football game that meant much more, though. And that ultimately requires getting into the big picture stuff, whether Pelini wants to or not.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand via the Huskers' postgame press conference, unless otherwise noted.

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Northwestern vs. Notre Dame: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a game riddled with costly blunders, Notre Dame dropped its second consecutive loss, falling to Northwestern in a 43-40 epic overtime upset.

During a contest stuffed with little defensive resistance outside of turnovers,  each school moved the ball easily in a game with four giveaways apiece. The last one gave the Wildcats a second life to tie up the game.

After a late fumble sent the game past regulation, a second missed field goal cost Notre Dame dearly in a grave upset. Following a game-winning field goal from Jack Mitchell, ESPNU is just as shocked as everyone else.

Rachel Terlep of The Elkhart Truth had Brian Kelly's thoughts after the game:

Last week, a 55-31 loss to Arizona State vanished the Fighting Irish from the College Football Playoff discussion. Although no longer in the championship picture, they were eager to redeem an ugly loss hampered by four Everett Golson interceptions.

The junior quarterback wasted no time getting to business, taking a 61-yard run to the house within the game's opening minute. Per Michael Bertsch, the school's Director of Football Media Relations, it marked Notre Dame's quickest touchdown strike in three years.

Had someone said Notre Dame would score 20 points in the opening quarter, everyone would have immediately ruled the game over. Northwestern entered Saturday afternoon's clash with 50 combined points produced through its past four games, all losses.

Yet the Wildcats engaged in an early shootout, generating a nine-play, 74-yard opening drive culminating in a Matt Alviti touchdown run. They returned to work with another 75-yard series resulting in a touchdown grab from Kyle Prater to open the second quarter.

Early in the game, Northwestern was on pace to shatter its recent offensive production, according to the South Bend Tribune's Eric Hansen.

Yet drops plagued its receivers throughout a cold Saturday in Indiana. During the opening quarter, Garrett Dickerson got stripped after a seven-yard catch, and Austin Collinsworth took the recovered ball into the end zone. 

Tony Jones continued a brutal first half by dropping a potential touchdown. WSBT-TV Pete Byrne chronicled the senior's struggles.

Later in the same drive, Austin Carr dropped a spot-on throw on fourth down. Even in their best offensive performance of the season, the Wildcats left plenty of opportunities on the table.

Deadspin's Rohan Nadkarni captured the odd, hot-and-cold outing from the underdogs.

Golson extended his streak of games with at least one interception to seven, but it came on a fluke play. Pressured in the pocket during the second quarter, Golson threw a hurried pass that deflected off his offensive lineman's helmet and into Anthony Walker's hands for an interception and 65-yard return.

Freshman Justin Jackson, who ran for 149 yards, punched it in on the first play, giving Northwestern a surprising 23-20 lead that suddenly made an upset look feasible. 

Golson has now thrown 12 picks over that stretch. ESPN's College GameDay broke down his turnover woes before Saturday's game. 

Yet he settled down after the blunder, reclaiming the lead with a touchdown pass to William Fuller. Trevor Siemian threatened to retaliate before halftime, but Matthias Farley picked him off in the end zone, giving the Irish a great chance to turn the tides before entering the locker room. Instead, Kyle Brindza missed a 38-yard field goal.

Considering a routine extra-point attempt turned into two points for the other side, it's easy in hindsight to wonder if Brian Kelly should have kept his offense on the field to convert a 4th-and-2. After all, Notre Dame entered the half with 152 rushing yards on 23 attempts.

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune had Kelly's thoughts after the game:

The scoring subsided during the second half, but the mistakes did not. After zooming down the field, Jackson coughed up the ball deep in Northwestern's own territory. On the second play, Golson lost a fumble on a read-option, gifting the ball right back.

A smarter coaching choice, however, led to Fighting Irish points. Given another fourth-down decision during the third quarter, Kelly kept his offense on the field this time, and his confidence—or lack thereof in his kicker—was rewarded with a 4th-and-7 conversion at the 36.

Two plays later, Fuller went 23 yards on a screen pass to extend Notre Dame's lead to 34-26.

The two teams again traded turnovers in short succession. After Chris Brown fumbled reaching for the end zone, Cole Luke returned the ball to Notre Dame with an interception. Golson and Fuller then hooked up for the game's third touchdown, increasing the sophomore's season total to 13. 

Rachel Terlep of The Elkhart Truth wondered how he's not considered one of college football's best wide receivers.

After a late score and two-point conversion closed the gap to three with four minutes left, the Wildcats received no life on yet another turnover, this time a Cam McDaniel fumble as the Fighting Irish were running down the clock.

Jack Mitchell, who hit a 46-yard field goal earlier in the game, nailed a 45-yard attempt with 20 seconds left, sending the thriller into overtime.

Sports Illustrated's Brian Hamilton described this unnerving matchup heading into extra play.

While Notre Dame missed a field-goal attempt, Mitchell booted home the winning shot to stun the world and solidify a disastrous set of games for the Fighting Irish, whose defense surrendered 547 total yards.

Notre Dame's deteriorating defense has now yielded 211 points through the past five games. Traditionally a proud staple for the prestigious school, the team now must claw out victories in shootouts, which hasn't worked so well in recent weeks.

Before the game, linebacker Jaylon Smith talked the about the young unit's struggles to the Associated Press' Tom Coyne.

"We understood coming into this year that we were a developmental group," Smith said "We're so young and really just trying to get better. We're not surprised by the outcomes of the last four or five games of teams scoring 30 points. It's just about how can eliminate that?"

Once a title contender, the Fighting Irish are now likely to lose their Top-25 ranking after two consecutive losses. As for Northwestern, they have now shocked Wisconsin and Notre Dame in an otherwise disappointing season.

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College Football Scores 2014: Week 12 Results and Top Stars for Top 25 Teams

Week 12 brought more clarity and confusion to the College Football Playoff landscape. The No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide proved they indeed do deserve to be one of the top four teams in the next CFP ranking. Their 25-20 win over the previously unbeaten and No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs was the biggest victory of the day.

It could land Bama as high as the top spot in Tuesday's ranking.

We won't know for sure for a few days, but one has to suspect that Bama will get a ton of respect for becoming the first team to hand the Bulldogs a loss this season. 

That's the top story from a team perspective, but no individual had a better single-game performance than the Wisconsin Badgers Melvin Gordon. The junior came into Week 12's matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers as the nation's leading rusher with 1,501 yards.

By the time he and the Badgers offensive line were finished with Nebraska, Gordon nearly hit the 2,000-yard mark. With 408 yards rushing, Gordon broke LaDainian Tomlinson's FBS single-game rushing record and led Wisconsin to the 59-24 win.

The official Twitter account of the Wisconsin football program is already pushing for Gordon's invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Tomlinson chimed in to show his respect.

Gordon now has 1,909 yards on the season. He found the end zone four times on Saturday to run his season total to 23. That puts Gordon No. 1 in that category as well. With Mississippi State's Dak Prescott struggling mightily against Bama, it would appear that Gordon and the Oregon Ducks Marcus Mariota are in a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy.

Here's a look at the rest of the scores from teams in the Top 25 and two more standout individual performances.

 

Top Individual Perfomances

David Cobb, Minnesota Golden Gophers, 27 rushes, 145 yards and 3 TDs

OK, so he didn't run for 400 yards and his team didn't win, but Cobb did find pay dirt three times. Minnesota pushed Ohio State on Saturday, and Cobb's effectiveness had a lot to do with that.

He scored twice in the second quarter and once in the fourth to draw Minnesota within 10 points. Cobb has 1,305 rushing yards this season.

 

Everett Golson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 363 total yards and 4 TDs

Northwestern pulled out the overtime victory, but Golson did his part. His all-purpose dominance led Notre Dame's offense to 498 total yards. Golson isn't likely to be invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, but the junior is still having a noteworthy season.

The senior has 35 total TDs on the year. He rebounded well from a troubled junior season and has likely raised his stock for the upcoming NFL draft.

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Will the CFP Committee Rank Alabama No. 1 After Win vs. Mississippi State?

The Alabama Crimson Tide gained a huge, decisive victory over the previously No. 1-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs. Alabama was ranked No. 5 in the last College Football Playoff Committee, but the committee may look at it differently after Saturday's big victory. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate whether Alabama should be the No. 1 team for the CFP.

Who should be the new No. 1 team in the CFP?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Blake Sims Is Not Stereotypical Alabama QB, but He Is Perfect for This Team

Remember when Blake Sims was a liability and Jake Coker was the next big thing? 

Ah, the offseason.

All Sims has done in his one and only year as the starting quarterback of the Alabama Crimson Tide is lead the program in positioning it to earn a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, managing games like a seasoned veteran as the Tide have surged to 9-1 (6-1 SEC).

Sims completed 19 of 31 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown pass, zero interceptions and rushed four times for 18 yards in the 25-20 win over No. 1 Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa.

Sims—who once played running back for head coach Nick Saban—isn't the prototypical drop-back passer like many of his predecessors who have thrived at the Capstone, and he doesn't have the arm strength of a gunslinger. What he does possess is the ability to extend plays with his legs, find the hole at the right time and run away from defenders.

He isn't necessarily the quarterback Saban wants, but he's the quarterback this team needs.

Sims was particularly clutch for his team in the forth quarter. With his team up 19-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Sims scrambled for first down two separate occasions on 3rd-and-long and also completed a pass on third down to Yeldon to keep the drive alive. That drive ultimately led to the touchdown that put the game away.

It wasn't the exception; it was the rule.

He had completed 45 of his 65 passes on third down coming in, with 41 of those going for a first down. Eleven of his 19 rushing attempts on third down have also moved the chains. Saban was particularly impressed with Alabama's fourth-quarter TD run, per AL.com's Andrew Gribble:

Simply put, he's clutch in a way that's new to Alabama.

Newer is always better.

What Sims has done this season has been nothing short of spectacular and has ushered in a new era of Alabama quarterbacks.

Do quarterbacks have to be statues in the pocket? Not anymore. 

Not at Alabama.

Sims' ability to help stabilize the offense for first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin sets the tone for future Alabama quarterbacks. That future should include commit Blake Barnett—the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015.

The combination of Sims' play this year and Barnett's loyalty to Athens opens the door for more quarterbacks down the road to sign on the dotted line with the Crimson Tide. 

What used to be an old-school approach to offense has evolved into a system that can produce results for dual-threat quarterbacks who can play within the pro-style system that Kiffin and Saban employ. In the past, dual-threat prospects and Saban's program didn't seem like a match made in heaven.

Now it does, and the Crimson Tide have Sims to thank.

If Barnett takes that torch and runs with it next season, the possibilities for the Tide offense are endless.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Game Grades, Analysis for Huskers and Badgers

Melvin Gordon may have run all the way to New York City on Saturday afternoon as he set the single-game FBS record with 408 yards rushing en route to the University of Wisconsin's 59-24 win over the University of Nebraska. The box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

The Badgers actually trailed 17-3 early after several miscues. But Gordon took over, and Wisconsin never looked back as the snow started to fall at Camp Randall Stadium.

Here are the game grades for both the Badgers and Cornhuskers.

 

Wisconsin

Pass offense: Joel Stave was the only guy to attempt a pass for Wisconsin, and he was 7-of-11 for 46 yards and a touchdown. When Gordon is breaking NCAA records on the ground and you're up by half a dozen possessions, you don't necessarily need a good pass offense. Then again, Wisconsin is never known to air it out. 

Rush offense: Melvin Gordon! Melvin Gordon! My kingdom for Melvin Gordon! It's no secret that the Badgers aced this category. Not only did Gordon set the FBS single-game rushing record, but he also scored four touchdowns. As a team, the Badgers ran for 581 yards and seven touchdowns and had five rushers with 20 or more yards.

Pass defense: Even as Nebraska began to hoist the ball in desperation, the Badgers secondary never gave in. It walked away with an interception and held Tommy Armstrong to just 6-of-18 passing for 62 yards.

Rush defense: This game had been marketed as the battle between perhaps the nation's two best running backs in Gordon and Ameer Abdullah. While Gordon put on a show, Abdullah looked like a shell of himself. He was limited to 69 yards on 18 carries and also fumbled twice. As a team, Nebraska averaged just 2.6 yards on the ground.

Special teams: Not much to complain about and not much to get hyped about in the special teams department. There was the shanked punt early. But besides that, Wisconsin took care of business on special teams. There were no return miscues, nor were there any missed kicks.

Coaching: Gordon offset so many categories this week, and coaching was one of them. When you have a guy rush for 408 yards and you're leading 59-17 in the fourth quarter, there's only so much a coach can do. However, Gary Anderson made the smart move in removing Gordon after the third quarter, and he also made sure his team didn't fall apart after falling down 17-3 early.

 

Nebraska

Pass offense: Armstrong looked horrendous on Saturday despite a decent start that included a first-quarter touchdown pass to Kenny Bell. It's a quarterback's job to lead a team, and Armstrong led the Huskers to a 17-3 lead, only to see everything hit the fan. He finished with just 62 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception.

Rush offense: The Huskers go as far as Abdullah carries them. On Saturday, that wasn't very far. The guy who was supposed to go toe-to-toe with Gordon instead rushed for just 69 yards on 18 carries. His longest carry of the day was just 13 yards. As a team, the Huskers averaged just 2.6 yards per carry.

Pass defense: Wisconsin didn't exactly air it out on Nebraska, but Stave still had an efficient game by some standards, as he had just four incomplete passes, a touchdown and no picks. But the Badgers finished with just 46 yards passing, so the secondary can take that silver lining home with it to Nebraska.

Rush defense: Gordon finished with 408 yards—a number no defense has ever allowed one person before. As a team, the Badgers racked up 581 yards and averaged 11 yards per carry. Enough said. The Huskers' rush defense was awful, just awful.

Special team: Like Wisconsin, Nebraska didn't have any special teams blunders to worry about. It made its extra points, had punts of good distances and didn't give up any returns.

Coaching: After Saturday's game, you wonder if Bo Pelini had ever heard of Gordon before the game. Wisconsin dared Nebraska to stop its best and, at times, only option, and it couldn't. That means Nebraska wasn't prepared, and that's on the coach.

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Mississippi State vs. Alabama: How Crimson Tide's Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

Like so many expected, No. 1 Mississippi State's unbeaten season came to a screeching halt Saturday in Tuscaloosa as No. 5 Alabama ground out a 25-20 win over the Bulldogs.

With a chance to make a statement against the nation's top-ranked team on their home soil, the Crimson Tide pounced early. Alabama led from its early safety all the way to the final whistle, leaving little question that the Tide are still on top of the SEC.

After falling behind 19-0, however, Mississippi State mounted a champions' response and pulled as close as 19-13 early in the fourth quarter. But when T.J. Yeldon scampered for a touchdown to make it 25-13 with eight minutes to go, the Bulldogs could only muster a last-minute touchdown to cut the deficit before a failed onside kick ended the game.

Any game between two Top Five foes is going to shake up the College Football Playoff rankings drastically. And despite both of these teams still having enough games left to either play themselves in our out, Saturday's game carries far-reaching implications.

Here's how it should impact the CFP rankings entering Week 13: 

Some early-season struggles and the loss at Ole Miss will prevent Alabama from jumping all the way to No. 1, but quite frankly, it doesn't need to. 

Now, the Tide are in control of the SEC West. A win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl will clinch that, and whichever SEC East team they pummel in the title game will only help their stock among the committee.

ESPN's Paul Finebaum believes the win should catapult the Tide to No. 1 in the land:

Nick Saban has his signature win of the season that will give Alabama the nod in the CFP hunt, but the loss shouldn't do anything to crush Mississippi State. Dan Mullen and Co. will remain around the Top Five, and a win over Ole Miss would most likely push them into the Top Four regardless of Alabama's performances.

And while losing undeniably feels distasteful for Mississippi State, keeping it at a five-point defeat and battling back into the game should give the Bulldogs a bit of leeway in the rankings. Just as well, winning out—which would include a victory over Ole Miss—could catapult Mississippi State over the likes of TCU even if the Horned Frogs don't lose.

Either way, the debate of whether Mississippi State belongs with one loss will take place plenty down the stretch, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk noted:

General SEC fans should be elated after the outcome. It means that should both Alabama and Mississippi State win out, the two will be almost guaranteed to both make the CFP (sorry, TCU). 

The most intriguing aspect of this final score, however, is how unimportant it could end up in a few weeks. 

If Alabama loses to Auburn and Mississippi State beats Ole Miss in the final week of the season, the Bulldogs will make the SEC title game and remain very much in the CFP with one loss on the year. Should that happen, it will be like Saturday's game never took place.

But after Alabama showed what it did through 60 minutes of play against the nation's top-ranked team, that would be considered a massive shock.

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Myles Garrett Injury: Updates on Texas A&M Star's Status and Return

Texas A&M defensive lineman Myles Garrett has experienced a breakout freshman season. That stellar campaign might have hit a setback, as the star pass-rusher will miss the Aggies' Week 12 game vs. the University of Missouri.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reported the latest on Garrett's injury:

During his first season with the Aggies, Garrett has already compiled over 10 sacks and made his presence felt in the SEC West. Though Texas A&M has taken a step back from its hot start, Garrett has played well all season.

Earlier this year, Garrett eclipsed Jadeveon Clowney's freshman record of eight sacks and continued to climb the ladder. His play also earned respect from University of Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, per Charlie Potter of 247Sports:

They have a young guy. He’s really fast off the ball. ...

He can be very disruptive. He’s very quick. He’s a true freshman, but he has great ball skills. He hustles very hard to the ball, even if it’s not going his way. We’ve just got to stay on him forever. We’ve got to block him forever, no matter what. If it’s backside or frontside, just block him the whole time.

Garrett signed with the Aggies as the No. 1 weak-side defensive end, per 247Sports, and he has more than lived up to the billing. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports and Michael Felder of Bleacher Report offered their takes on Garrett:

If he's forced to miss time, the Aggies would be without one of the most disruptive pass-rushers in the country. Missing time would also stunt the growth of what appears to be one of the brightest young stars.

The defense has already struggled, so the loss would be a critical one for Kevin Sumlin. Kyle Allen—and the offense as a whole—will have to carry the team in order to compete the rest of the way.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Score and Twitter Reaction

If Saturday's showdown between No. 16 Nebraska and No. 20 Wisconsin was a Heisman Trophy elimination contest for contenders Ameer Abullah and Melvin Gordon, it's safe to say Gordon's campaign is more alive than ever after the Badgers' 59-24 victory.

On a snowy field, the Wisconsin rusher set an FBS record for rushing yards in a game. He amassed a whopping 408 yards on 25 carries and added four touchdowns to blow the lid off a one-score game at halftime.

ESPN SportsCenter noted Gordon's historic performance:

Take a look at the quarter-by-quarter final score:

Nebraska shot out of a cannon early with a 17-3 lead, but Wisconsin quickly tightened up on defense and leaned on its unstoppable rushing attack to rattle off 56 unanswered points. The Badgers simply couldn't be stopped on the ground, rushing for 581 yards and only passing for 46 yards.

Saturday's showdown in Madison was undeniably huge with the Big Ten West's two top teams facing off in a game that could decide the division champion. But as far as storylines go, folks couldn't ignore the Abdullah vs. Gordon battle.

The two top Heisman Trophy running back contenders were all the hype heading into Saturday, but the focus for the players remained solely on winning, per Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson.

"Let’s say Ameer rushes for 100 yards and Gordon rushes for 300, and we win, I’d be much more happier with that result," Nebraska offensive tackle Jake Cotton told Christopherson. "We’re really just trying to go out and get a ‘W’ against a really good Wisconsin team."

The Cornhuskers' mind was certainly in the right place out of the get-go.

After forcing a fumble from Wisconsin receiver Kenzel Doe on the team's second play from scrimmage, Nebraska pushed through a 32-yard field goal by Drew Brown to take a 3-0 lead. 

One Wisconsin three-and-out later, the Badgers gave the ball back to Nebraska only for Abdullah to rush them down the field and set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong Jr. to Kenny Bell. 

Wisconsin answered back to get on the board with a 26-yard field goal from Rafael Gaglianone, but Nebraska got right back to it. This time, it was an eight-play drive capped off by Armstrong's five-yard touchdown run aided by an earlier Gordon lost fumble.

USA Today's Nicole Auerbach was taken back by Nebraska's early success:

Meanwhile, CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli noted Wisconsin's shortcomings played a big role in those points:

Early in the second quarter and with their Big Ten hopes slipping away, Gordon took things into his own hands despite his early fumble.

He exploded for a 62-yard touchdown on the very next Wisconsin drive, abusing Nebraska's defenders who had solid angles and sprinting into the end zone. 

That made it 17-10, and Wisconsin forced a three-and-out followed by a fumble from Nebraska's Terrell Newby. On the resulting play, Gordon scampered for 39 yards before Corey Clement ran it in from 17 yards out to tie the game at 17-all.

After early struggles, Wisconsin's defense stood tall and shut out Nebraska for the rest of the first half. That allowed Gordon to continue doing his thing, en route to historic first-half numbers as Big Ten Stats Guys noted:

Behind Gordon's dominant first half, Wisconsin was able to add another score with less than four minutes to go. He had three rushes for 57 yards in a drive capped off by a touchdown pass from Joel Stave to Sam Arneson that made it 24-17 before half.

At that point, it was no contest between the two Heisman contenders, as Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis demonstrated:

Armstrong had a first half to forget (1-of-10), and it didn't get much better to start the second. He threw an interception to Peniel Jean, but Nebraska's defense tightened up to force a three-and-out. 

With a chance to get back level, the Cornhuskers committed a crushing mistake and it was from their offensive juggernaut. Abdullah fumbled on his second touch of the second half, giving Wisconsin the ball near midfield.

Gordon did the rest, running 43 yards to the goal line before bursting into the end zone from one yard out. 

ESPNU said it best:

As the game wore on, Gordon's production didn't taper off—although at any point he could have called it a day and still finished with ridiculous numbers.

Instead, he only continued his dominance. As Tanner McEvoy scampered home for a 5-yard touchdown to make it 45-17 late in the third, Gordon's numbers continued to defy all realistic possibilities as Sports IllustratedCollege Football noted:

In the midst of a historically bad performance from their run defense, Nebraska saw an early 17-3 lead balloon into a 45-17 deficit. The Cornhuskers had allowed 42 unanswered points. 

Heading into the fourth quarter, few Nebraskans had reason for optimism but Fake Bo Pelini remained one:

But before the fourth quarter even came, Gordon effectively ended the contest with one final run. He burst forward for a 26-yard touchdown run that put him over 400 yards for the day and made it 52-17.

That made it official—in one day, Gordon had rushed for more yards than Wake Forest had as a team all year, per ESPN Stats and Info:

But as 247Sports' Ryan Bartow noticed, his rushing has as much to do with a dominant offensive line as anything else:

The continuing snowfall made for a white gridiron for the final 15 minutes of play, but it did nothing to change what had been brewing for three quarters. 

Wisconsin's dominance continued into the fourth with Gordon resting for the remainder of the contest. Dare Ogunbowale ran it in from eight yards out with 5:34 left to make it 59-17. That would prove to be the finishing touches on an unstoppable performance as a team from Wisconsin.

With the victory, Wisconsin moves to 5-1 in conference play and that makes the Badgers the top team in the division. They face Iowa and Minnesota down the stretch, who could both play their way into the conference title game but look to be no match for Wisconsin at the moment.

A 10-win season is still very much alive for Wisconsin, as it is with Nebraska—who can get to 11 wins with a bowl victory. The Cornhuskers have Minnesota and Iowa as well on the slate to finish out, but lost their control of the divisional race on Saturday.

There's still the opportunity for Nebraska to finish out 2014 on a high note, but Wisconsin made no mistake of its place atop the Big Ten West on Saturday.

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Mississippi State vs. Alabama: Score and Twitter Reaction

No. 5 Alabama (9-1) held off a second-half charge from No. 1 Mississippi State (9-1) to move atop the SEC West and greatly improve its playoff chances with a 25-20 victory.

Now the waiting game for the next set of rankings begins. Alabama should move safely into a playoff spot, but it's unknown how high it will rise. On the flip side, where Mississippi State will land after the loss will be a major talking point for next few days.

As expected, there was plenty of hype leading up to the marquee clash. Alabama also had some extra questions to answer after the College Football Playoff Selection Committee moved TCU past the Tide and into one of the coveted top-four positions for Week 12.

The tone from head coach Nick Saban remained the same, though. Michael Casagrande of AL.com passed along comments from the four-time national champion, who kept the focus of his players on taking care of their own business and not worrying about the current standings.

"We have to play really, really good teams in our league and we have a couple of really, really good teams that we have to play to finish the season, starting with the team that we play this week," Saban said. "The emphasis is, if you have success against the teams that you have to play, all those things are going to take care of themselves."

That said, Alabama certainly came out like a team looking to make a statement, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

There was some concern about how the Tide defense would handle the uptempo pace of the Bulldogs along with the dual-threat ability of quarterback Dak Prescott.

The Crimson Tide forced a punt on MSU's first drive. Then, after moving the ball into Mississippi State territory on offense, Alabama pinned the Bulldogs deep in their own end with a nice punt by JK Scott.

Two plays later Alabama was on the board first. Josh Robinson tried to bounce outside on a run up the middle but was swarmed by a group of Crimson Tide defenders in the end zone for a safety.

Yahoo's Dr. Saturday highlighted the effort by the Alabama defense:

The Tide also took advantage of the ensuing possession with a field goal to make it 5-0. Adam Griffith connected from 36 yards to continue his recent return to form, as noted by Ivan Maisel of ESPN:

Interestingly, Robinson, who heard about his mistake on the safety loud and clear on the sideline, didn't get a touch on the next possession for Mississippi State. The result was a three-and-out, but Alabama couldn't capitalize on good field position.

Skip Bayless of ESPN's First Take pointed out the absence of the team's leading rusher:

Following a string of defensive stands for both sides, Alabama scored the game's first touchdown midway through the second quarter.

Blake Sims was perfect on the drive, completing all four passes. It started with a 35-yard dart down the middle to Jalston Fowler and finished with a perfectly placed toss to Amari Cooper from four yards out to make it 12-0.

Chase Goodbread of NFL.com had some high praise for the junior wideout after the score:

Cooper lived up to that standard once again on the next drive. After another punt by the Bulldogs, Sims took a deep shot to his favorite target, and Cooper pulled it down in tight coverage at the 1-yard line.

Derrick Henry plunged into the end zone on the next play but not without some drama. The initial ruling was a Mississippi State fumble recovery, but further review showed the sophomore rusher had crossed the goal line before losing the ball.

Alabama Football celebrated the overturned call:

Mississippi State got on the scoreboard before halftime. Head coach Dan Mullen took a chance by going for it on 4th-and-3 from the Alabama 44. Prescott converted it with a run to the outside. The Bulldogs ended up getting the ball all the way down to the 1 but only came away with a field goal.

Colin Cowherd of ESPN clearly wasn't impressive with Prescott's work in the red zone:

Nevertheless the field goal kept Mississippi State within two scores at halftime, 19-3.

The Bulldogs received the ball to start the second half and put together a second straight solid drive. It was highlighted by a 30-yard connection from Prescott to Malcolm Johnson. They bogged down once again in scoring range, though, and had to settle for another field goal.

ESPN SEC stated what most people were probably thinking:

After Griffith missed a field goal for Alabama, Mississippi State embarked on another extended drive. The Tide defense toughened up once it reached the red zone, though.

This time it was Cyrus Jones who came up with the big play, an interception in the end zone after a poor decision and throw from Prescott.

The Bulldogs' defense stood tall after the turnover, forcing an extremely quick three-and-out by the Tide to get the ball back in good field position.

This time the MSU offense capitalized on it. A nice change-of-direction route by Fred Ross allowed him to get wide open, and Prescott found him for the four-yard score.

As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated wrote, at that point it was game on:

The score seemed to awaken what had become a dormant Alabama offense. It proceeded to put together a 15-play, 76-yard drive to answer the Bulldogs' score.

Sims came up with a trio of crucial third-down conversions to keep the drive alive. The first came on a completion to T.J. Yeldon, and then twice in a row on 3rd-and-long he escaped from the pocket to move the chains with his feet.

The end result, after eating up more than six minutes of clock, was a Yeldon seven-yard touchdown run.

Steve Layman of Newschannel 5 summed up the effort:

Mississippi State, which had little trouble moving the ball in the second half, got down to the Alabama 20 on the ensuing drive. But a tipped ball at the line turned to gold for the Tide, as Landon Collins picked it off to stop the drive in its tracks. It was Prescott's third interception.

After forcing a punt, the Bulldogs scored a touchdown to get back within one score with 15 seconds left, but they did not recover the onside kick to keep the comeback bid alive.

NBC Sports passed along word of the final score:

Looking ahead, Alabama faces off with what should be a completely overmatched Western Carolina squad next week. That's followed by another crucial SEC clash, however, as the Tide welcome Auburn to Tuscaloosa for the latest edition of the Iron Bowl.

It's a similar story for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs return home for a game with Vanderbilt they should win. Then they go back out on the road to face rival Ole Miss in a matchup that could have plenty of SEC and playoff implications.

In other words, there's still plenty to get decided as the regular season winds toward its conclusion.

 

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LSU vs. Arkansas: Live Score and Highlights

ARK 3, LSU (Early 1st Quarter)

The No. 17-ranked LSU Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks are under way at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark. 

Les Miles' team (7-3, 3-3 SEC) is coming off a 20-13 overtime loss to Alabama, while Bret Bielema's squad (4-5, 0-5) is in search of its first SEC win. 

Be sure to keep your browser locked to this live blog for updates, stats and commentary as the sixth-placed Tigers take on the seventh-placed Razorbacks. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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