NCAA Football News

Auburn vs. Mississippi State: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a battle of unbeaten SEC juggernauts, Mississippi State and Auburn provided a rather turbulent, turnover-plagued contest that the Bulldogs won 38-23.

It was all Mississippi State early in the game. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall had a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage that floated into the waiting arms of Jay Hughes for an interception. Three plays later, quarterback Dak Prescott made the Tigers pay, connecting with De'Runnya Wilson for a 34-yard touchdown.

SEC on CBS tweeted an image of Wilson's big frame dragging a tackler across the goal line for the game's first score:

Soon after, the Bulldogs took advantage of another Auburn error. This time Taveze Calhoun forced a D'haquille Williams fumble that was recovered by Benardrick McKinney deep in Tigers territory. Running back Josh Robinson notched the points off the turnover, plunging forward for a one-yard touchdown run.

MSU Football enthusiastically tweeted about the play:

Following an Auburn punt, Prescott took control of the game again. Utilizing his ability to beat the defense with both his arms and legs, the quarterback moved the offense from its own 29-yard line all the way down to the Auburn 2-yard line. Prescott took it upon himself to run it in for a score.

College GameDay tweeted its thoughts on any defense attempting to stop Mississippi State's signal-caller near the goal line:

After a missed Auburn field goal, the first quarter came to a close with the Bulldogs leading 21-0. The nation's No. 2 team was in quite a bind.

It only took one play into the second quarter for the Tigers to finally get on the board, as Daniel Carlson redeemed himself by connecting on a 21-yard field goal.

Continuing the turnover trend, Prescott returned to the field and quickly had his pass tipped and fall into the arms of Auburn's Jonathan Jones. The ensuing Tigers drive stalled in the red zone again, and they were forced to settle for another Carlson field goal.

It appeared as though Prescott was ready to make amends for the miscue on the following drive. A combination of passes to Wilson and quarterback scampers quickly marched the offense all the way down to the Auburn 5-yard line. Then, disaster struck once more, as an ill-advised throw was intercepted by Jones in the end zone.

SI College Football tweeted the occurrence:

That pick didn't result in any points for the Tigers, but Auburn was given another big chance thanks to a muffed punt by Jamoral Graham that was recovered by Brandon King at the Bulldogs' 22-yard line. Marshall took matters into his own hands, tightening up the game even more with a nine-yard touchdown strike to Williams.

Dan Wolken of USA Today summed up the series of plays perfectly:

Prescott wasn't being considered as a potential Heisman candidate for nothing, and he proved that on the following drive. Completing passes to Malcolm Johnson and Gabe Myles, and carrying up the gut for 26 yards, brought the Bulldogs down to the Auburn 15-yard line. From there, the quarterback burst into the end zone for his second rushing touchdown of the day.

At that point in the game, ESPN Stats & Info noted how efficient Prescott was on third downs, as he converted two more on that drive:

Soon after, the stadium was pelted by torrential rain. Based on the way the game began, both teams were lucky to enter the half without another turnover.

ESPN College Football tweeted the halftime graphic:

The teams started the third quarter by exchanging punts, and Marshall began the half's third drive from his own 1-yard line.

A defensive pass interference penalty got Auburn out of the shadow of its own goalpost, and Marshall started picking his way down the field with short passes to Sammie Coates. After a 32-yard gain on a pass to Williams, the Tigers were set up nicely deep in Mississippi State territory. After four short runs, Marshall completed a 15-yard touchdown strike to Williams on third down, pulling the Tigers within eight points.

Matt Hinton of Grantland tweeted his thoughts on the drive and score:

We entered the fourth quarter following some fine defensive play from both teams in the waning minutes of the third.

Mississippi State began the final quarter with a splash, as Prescott followed up a 37-yard run from Robinson by methodically moving his offense down the field to the Tigers' 2-yard line. Although, facing a 3rd-and-1, Prescott was stuffed, and the Bulldogs were held to a field goal.

Auburn didn't exactly answer in the way it had hoped, as Ricardo Louis fumbled the ensuring kickoff and Tolando Cleveland jumped on the loose ball. Two plays later, Robinson plunged into the end zone for his second score of the game.

The score was worthy of a celebration, and SEC on CBS captured Robinson's dance moves:

Following the touchdown, Auburn drove again, but the Bulldogs remained stout deep in their own end, forcing a Tigers field goal with just under eight minutes remaining in the game.

Auburn's defense responded soon after, forcing a punt and giving Marshall another chance. A big 28-yard run by Cameron Artis-Payne kicked off the drive, and Marshall led the offense down to the Mississippi State 11-yard line soon after.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the game continued its turnover trend. Marshall's pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, and a diving Justin Cox came down with the interception, dashing the hopes of an Auburn comeback.

SportsCenter tweeted the incident:

From there, the Bulldogs ran out the clock. 

Did Mississippi State just prove it is the best team in the country? Bleacher Report's Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss:

It was an unfortunate loss for Auburn. The team surged to No. 2 in the nation after a Week 6 plagued by upsets. Head coach Gus Malzahn commented on his team's performance and praised the Bulldogs after the game, via Brandon Marcello of the Alabama Media Group:

Things will only continue to get tougher for Auburn, as games against Mississippi, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama loom on the horizon. However, Malzahn still thinks very highly of his squad, according to a tweet from Auburn Gold Mine:

If the Tigers can emerge from their remaining schedule unscathed, they could climb back into playoff contention; although, the team will need to show dramatic improvement from what we saw today if that is to happen.

The sky is the limit for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were one of the most surprising teams earlier in the season, but they have proved time and time again they are for real and can compete with the best in the nation.

In fact, the Bulldogs earned a place in the history books with their win against the Tigers, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

Prescott remains in the Heisman race due to a big win. His interceptions against Auburn hurt slightly, but earning a victory against the nation's No. 2 team will surely hold plenty of clout with voters. Fox College Football tweeted his final stat line:

Head coach Dan Mullen was asked about the team's recent prowess in the SEC. He responded with this short comment, via Eye on College Football:

The Bulldogs aren't a lock for the College Football Playoff just yet with games against Alabama and Mississippi still on the slate; however, Mississippi State showed on Saturday that it's playing at a high enough level to overcome mistakes and emerge victorious against very good teams.

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Dak Prescott vs. Auburn: Stat Line, Heisman Impact and Reaction

Dak Prescott made some mistakes, but the Mississippi State quarterback continued to boost his profile by leading a 38-23 upset over No. 2 Auburn. 

The junior was impressive with both his arm and his legs to help knock off the previously unbeaten Tigers and put his team in the driver's seat in the SEC West. Here is a look at his numbers from the win:

Prescott was already coming off big performances in upset wins over LSU and Texas A&M, becoming a legitimate contender for the coveted Heisman Trophy. Mike Hill of Fox Sports 1 broke down how history is in the quarterback's favor:

The calls for a Heisman were as loud as ever with an incredible start to the game for Mississippi State. The home team got on the board first with a Prescott touchdown pass to De'Runnya Wilson, which was impressive based on the quarterback's ability to stay in the pocket:

By the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs were up 21-0 over the No. 2 team in the nation. Prescott scored the third touchdown of the game on the ground; stopping him at the goal line has become almost impossible, as ESPN's College GameDay noted:

However, Mississippi State could not pull away thanks to a few mistakes by the star passer:

ESPN's Travis Haney put the pressure on Prescott to respond after a 13-0 run by Auburn:

Fortunately, he did just that by leading a eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended in another rushing touchdown to secure a 28-13 lead by halftime. 

While two interceptions in the first half were disappointing, Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports believes he made up for those with the rest of his performance:

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee was enjoying the show as well:

ESPN Stats and Info explained that he was at his best when it was most important:

After halftime, the Mississippi State defense picked up the slack and made big plays to limit Auburn to just 10 points. At the same time, the squad forced turnovers to help secure the win.

Prescott did not have too many memorable moments in the second half, but he held onto the ball and moved the chains with his legs to earn the important victory.

Looking forward, Mississippi State will pretty much go as far as Prescott takes it, although his Heisman hopes are dependent on the team. If he can keep winning games in the tough SEC West, he will put up big enough numbers to be a true contender for the prestigious award.

Off-field problems for Jameis Winston and Todd Gurley mixed with losses by Oregon's Marcus Mariota and other top players make this race wide open.

If the Bulldogs can keep up the strong play and reach the College Football Playoff, it will be hard to deny Prescott at least a trip to New York City. 

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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UNC vs. Notre Dame: Score and Twitter Reaction

A week before a showdown with the No. 1 team in the nation, Everett Golson and the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish narrowly avoided a letdown in a 50-43 win over North Carolina as turnovers once again plagued Brian Kelly's team.

SportsCenter noted the historical implications of the show put on by Golson and the offense:

After late-game heroics to remain undefeated last week, Golson finished Saturday with a pair of costly fumbles and an interception but redeemed himself in the final frame with a go-ahead touchdown to finish 21-of-38 for 300 yards and three scores. He also registered 71 yards on 12 carries, second only to Tarean Folston's 18 carries for 98 yards and a pair of scores.

That ground game led by Folston bailed out Golson repeatedly, gaining 223 yards and four scores on 41 carries (5.4 per-carry average). The star of the shootout, though, was sophomore wideout William Fuller, who brought in seven catches for 133 yards and two scores.

North Carolina got a superhuman effort from junior quarterback Marquise Williams, who scored as a passer, rusher and receiver Saturday. His 303 yards and two touchdowns through the air kept the Tar Heels in it, while his 132 yards on 18 carries and a score led the team in rushing (and made him the first to eclipse 100 yards against the Notre Dame defense all season). His 23-yard touchdown reception put his team ahead late in the third quarter.

Langston Wertz Jr. of the Charlotte Observer summed up the epic performance from Williams nicely:

The turnover issues that have plagued Golson as of late showed up again early Saturday, as he was hit and lost the football on the Fighting Irish's very first drive.

That put his team in an early 7-0 hole after Tar Heels freshman tailback Elijah Hood found paydirt from six yards away. On the very next drive, Golson put his team down two scores by stepping up into a clean pocket and hitting North Carolina linebacker Jeff Schoettmer in the chest, who took it back for a touchdown.

Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com put it best:

Eventually, Golson was able to calm down. He hit Fuller with their first of two touchdown connections on the day, and then the staff elected to lean on the ground game for production—which resulted in three first-half touchdowns and more than 100 yards.

Even Kelly had admitted prior to the contest that the rushing attack was more of a way to set up the pass this season, as captured by Lou Somogyi of 247Sports.com:

We feel very comfortable where what we’re able to do from an offensive standpoint with our run game. We’re not a run-first, smash mouth, we’re-going-to-run-the-ball-down-your-throat [team]. We definitely use it to set up our play-action passes. I think we’ve been very effective with our play-action down the field. I don’t look at it saying it’s a weakness of our offense.

Directly after the Fighting Irish came out of the tunnel up just 28-26 to start the second half, it was clear Kelly was committed to the ground-and-pound approach with a sporadic dash of deep passes to keep the Tar Heels defense honest. 

That approach would lead to the second Golson-Fueller touchdown connection of the day, this time from 35 yards away, but the vibe of the 35-26 contest took a dramatic turn late in the third quarter. 

Again, it was turnovers. Golson lost his second fumble of the game after a North Carolina field goal brought it to 35-29. One trick play later saw wideout Quinshad Davis hit his quarterback for the score to give the Tar Heels a one-point advantage.

For Golson, not only was the season in jeopardy but his pursuit of individual accolades took a hit, too, as Bryan Fischer of NFL.com pointed out:

The talent discrepancy eventually began to rear its head as the final frame progressed, though, as Williams gunned a late interception and Golson capitalized on poor coverage to toss his third score of the day to put the Fighting Irish ahead for good.

Already up 43-36, Notre Dame got the ball back after a few miscues from the opposition, and Folston punched in his second touchdown of the day to finalize the score, although the final tally does not do the entirety of the hotly contested encounter justice.

Up next for the Tar Heels after the crushing loss is another stiff test, this time against the previously ranked No. 22 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who now rest at 5-1 after Saturday's 31-25 loss to Duke.

Notre Dame has even bigger plans, though. It would not be outlandish to suggest that Golson and his teammates overlooked the Tar Heels a tad—understandable with a date against No. 1 Florida State on the docket next.

The showdown is arguably the biggest of any this season, although many, such as Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News, feel that Notre Dame's performance Saturday suggests troubles are ahead for Golson and Co.:

Given the College Football Playoff implications on the line in Tallahassee, Kelly's up-and-down team will receive its biggest test to date, but the same can be said for Jameis Winston and the Seminoles if turnover issues get cleaned up in the week of preparation.

North Carolina vs. Notre Dame was just an appetizer.

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun Delivers 2nd Monster Suplex of the Season

The Michigan State Spartans got a 45-31 win on Saturday over the Purdue Boilermakers, and this tackle might have summed up the game.

In the third quarter, Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun suplexed a Purdue running back. The hit was huge, but it was actually Calhoun's second suplex of the season.

The first suplex came back in September when he threw down Eastern Michigan quarterback Rob Bolden.

[VineFor the Win]

 

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Washington's Shaq Thompson Returns Fumble 99 Yards for TD vs. Cal

Washington Huskies running back/linebacker Shaq Thompson continues to find the end zone, making another huge play on Saturday.

In the first quarter against the California Golden Bears, Thompson returned Cal quarterback Jared Goff's fumble near the end zone 99 yards for a touchdown, giving the Huskies an early 7-0 lead.

Thompson now has an incredible four defensive touchdowns this season, as well as a rushing touchdown on offense.

[NFL.com]

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Is Marcus Mariota Back in Heisman Race After Huge Win?

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota had a disappointing performance in a loss against Arizona last week, but he silenced most of his critics with a fantastic game vs. UCLA in Week 7.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer discusses whether he has propelled himself back into Heisman contention. 

Is Marcus Mariota the Heisman favorite?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Marcus Mariota vs. UCLA: Stats, Heisman Impact and Twitter Reaction

Coming off an ugly loss last week at home, Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota had work to do on Saturday at UCLA to keep his team in the College Football Playoff race and his own Heisman hopes alive. The junior more than held his own in hostile territory in the team's best performance of the season. 

The Ducks were brilliant early, building up a huge lead. Their defense came to play against Brett Hundley, who was held under 100 yards passing until the fourth quarter. Mariota led the offense with four touchdowns in the first 36 minutes of play.

The 42-30 final score isn't indicative of how lopsided this game was. Oregon was up 42-10 early in the first quarter, and then the defense was basically in prevent mode the rest of the way. 

Since Oregon jumped out to such a big lead early, Mariota didn't have to do much through the air. He was efficient passing the ball, but he really stood out on the ground. We have full analysis of his day coming up after a look at his stats:

After last week's loss against an undefeated Arizona, Mariota was quick to point out what that says about the depth in the Pac-12. Here's what he told reporters, via The Associated Press (via ESPN): "They're undefeated. It's obviously a testament to our conference. If you're not prepared each week, if you're not ready to play, you'll lose."

It's safe to say Mariota and the Ducks were more than prepared to handle their business against 18th-ranked UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Dan Greenspan of Scout.com summed up Mariota's effort in the best and most succinct way possible:

Here's how well things went for Mariota and the Ducks on Saturday: Mariota fumbled the ball on a read-option, picked it up and ran for a 23-yard touchdown that put Oregon up 28-10 in the third quarter. 

Chantel Jennings of ESPN also pointed out that Oregon's offense was going so well that an offensive lineman was able to catch a pass on a deflection that would normally be intercepted:

Even though this hasn't been a banner start to the season for Oregon prior to Saturday, thanks in large part to a patchwork offensive line, Paul Myerberg of USA Today did note that Mariota has never lost his ability to find the end zone through the air:

Another great stat in Mariota's favor is he still hasn't thrown an interception in 155 pass attempts through six games this season. 

Spinning Mariota's performance forward, this will help his Heisman chances. UCLA may not be as good as we expected coming into the year, but there's a lot to be said for winning on the road against a ranked team and accounting for four touchdowns. 

Even though Oregon's loss against Arizona did shine a light on Mariota, the Heisman pundits never really wavered in their support.

According to the latest ESPN Heisman Watch poll published on October 6, Oregon's quarterback was third behind Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott. Gurley's position on the list is guaranteed to drop because of his suspension for an alleged violation of NCAA rules

Prescott has been ascending all season, particularly after last week's win against Texas A&M. He had another marquee game against Auburn on Saturday but threw two interceptions on back-to-back drives in the second quarter, which could knock him down the ranks. 

ESPN's Joe Tessitore offered his Heisman ballot on Thursday's SportsCenter. It had the same top three as the Heisman Watch poll:

Mariota was always fighting an uphill battle to win the Heisman. He's cursed with the burden of knowledge. Everyone in college football knows who he is, so it's not good enough to merely play up to expectations; he has to exceed them. 

The Heisman is as much a narrative award as it is a measurement of what have you done on the field. Prescott will likely be the new favorite this week because he's played well for an undefeated team that no one was talking about before the season. 

It was impossible for Mariota to be under the radar. Oregon started the year ranked third in the AP Top 25 and moved up to second in Week 3, and he has been touted as a potential No. 1 draft pick. You need to have a historic season to win the Heisman with that much publicity around you. 

Ian O'Connor of ESPN New York even tweeted that he wouldn't mind seeing the Jets play so bad this season that Mariota ends up wearing green again next year:

Don't despair yet, Oregon fans. Mariota still has a chance to move into the top spot with a game against Stanford's ferocious defense on tap for November 1. He's never defeated the Cardinal as a starting quarterback, so that will be his statement game of the year for voters. 

The Ducks got back to their winning ways, while Mariota accounted for four of the team's six touchdowns. This win couldn't have been scripted better by anyone associated with Oregon's football program. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter

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Oregon vs. UCLA: Score and Twitter Reaction

Perhaps the rumblings of Oregon's demise were a little exaggerated.

The No. 12 Ducks bounced back from last week's near-crippling home loss against Arizona in impressive fashion Saturday, going into the Rose Bowl and laying a 42-30 thumping on No. 18 UCLA, beating the Bruins for the sixth straight time.

"Every loss is a test of our character to see how we respond," Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu told reporters before the game, via ESPN.com.

Well, Mark Helfrich's team clearly isn't lacking character. Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, added another 75 and two scores on the ground, and the Ducks led by as many as 32 before a late fourth-quarter surge from UCLA narrowed the final margin.

As The National Football Post's Dave Miller noted, it was a performance that quickly quieted Oregon's critics:

Perhaps more importantly than the statistical output or margin of victory, Mariota's offensive line kept him upright. Oregon's big boys in the trenches have received seemingly endless criticism this season—especially after an unsatisfactory performance against the Wildcats—but they allowed zero sacks and opened up cavernous lanes for Royce Freeman (18 carries, 121 yards, two touchdown) and Thomas Tyner (13 carries, 58 yards) to stroll through.

Scout.com's Josh Webb noted the difference in Oregon's speedy offense when the linemen are playing well:

There was no receiving touchdown this week, but Mariota scored in a variety of ways—and made it look easy.

In the first quarter, he kept the ball himself on an option and outraced UCLA's defenders to the outside for a 13-yard score. NFL.com's Bryan Fischer applauded the dual threat:

After opening up the Ducks' lead with a pair of passing touchdowns—a 21-yard screen pass to Tyner and a perfect throw down the sideline to Pharaoh Brown for 31—Mariota began the second half with another running score.

His gaudy athleticism was especially on display in the latter, as he picked up his own fumble and still managed to explode through UCLA's defense. The Pac-12 Networks Twitter feed provided a look at the unique touchdown:

On the other side of the football, UCLA was similarly dominant on the ground. Paul Perkins ran 21 times for 187 yards, while Brett Hundley ran for 89 and a touchdown of his own. But Hundley struggled to move the ball through the air for most of the game and made a pair of critical mistakes.

The first, a fumble on which he failed to recognize pressure, and the second, an interception by Ekpre-Olomu on a poorly thrown ball.

Not only did those turnovers dig the Bruins into an insurmountable hole, setting up Oregon for two touchdown drives under 15 yards, but they seriously bruised Hundley's NFL draft stock, as CBS Sports' Dane Brugler and former NFL scout John Middlekauff noted:

UCLA exploded for 20 fourth-quarter points as things finally started to click for Hundley and the passing game, but it was too little and too late.

The loss puts the Bruins at 1-2 in the conference and ahead of only Colorado in the Pac-12 South. Jim Mora's team will try to right the ship next week at California, but preseason expectations of a conference championship have all but disappeared.

For the Ducks, they remain in the thick of the hunt in the North, and more importantly they control their own fate: After hosting Washington next week, they have meetings with division leaders California and Stanford.

There are bigger goals in Eugene, though, and judging by Saturday's performance on the road, it's far too early to remove them from the College Football Playoff picture.

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Penn State vs. Michigan: Live Score and Highlights

Michigan 7, Penn State 3 (Early 1st Quarter)

Devin to Devin.

Forty-three yards. Touchdown. Michigan.  

Michigan (2-4) is looking for its first Big Ten win, while Penn State (4-1) is looking to turn out the lights in Ann Arbor. 

Keep your browser locked to this live blog for the latest updates, analysis and commentary. 

 

New Duds

Here's a look at the "UTL" fashion.

Little different than the MDen pic RT @darrenrovell: Up close of Michigan jersey for October 11 game vs Penn State pic.twitter.com/xrBAAa56yW

— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) August 9, 2014

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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Florida State Cruises Past Syracuse, but How Ready Are 'Noles for Notre Dame?

Through six games, Florida State doesn't exactly look 2013 good. With so many of the stars of last year's national championship team gone, it's unfair to compare the two teams.

But after a 38-20 win over Syracuse on Saturday, a game in which No. 1 FSU moved the ball at will and often stopped the Orange in the red zone, the Seminoles are finding their rhythm.

Coming off a shaky defensive showing at N.C. State and some offensive struggles against Wake Forest, FSU put together its best effort going into a Top 10 showdown with Notre Dame next Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.

Subtract two starters on offense, center Austin Barron and tailback Karlos Williams, and FSU still found ways to score at will. FSU put points on the board on five of its first seven drives and ran for 165 yards.

Jameis Winston turned in one of his best games, completing 30 of 36 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Winston surpassed 275 passing yards for the fourth time in five games.

FSU won its 22nd straight game and became bowl-eligible for a 33rd straight season. But now the Seminoles turn their attention to Notre Dame.

 

FSU's offense finding success

For all the criticisms of FSU's offensive line and of how Winston has performed a year after winning the Heisman Trophy, here are some numbers to chew on.

Florida State has scored 37, 23, 56, 43 and 38 points against its five Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. That's an average of 39.4 points.

After struggles on the ground in its first two games against FBS teams, FSU has run the ball well. The Seminoles had 166 yards against N.C. State, 171 yards versus Wake Forest and 165 yards at Syracuse. 

And Winston? He has thrown for 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games, an average of 321 passing yards. While completing 70 percent of his passes, better than the 66.9 percent from his Heisman season.

How does that translate versus Notre Dame? Quite well for FSU.

The Fighting Irish are very good against the run, putting together one of the nation's top 15 rush defenses (95 yards per game allowed going into the UNC game on Saturday). But Notre Dame is just 46th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up 220 yards per game. Notre Dame has played a majority of its games against teams that succeed against the run (like Rice and Stanford), while FSU has leaned more toward Winston and the passing game while the rushing game developed.

FSU's balanced attack should give Notre Dame plenty of problems on defense.

 

FSU's defense strong in red zone

Florida State bent on defense in the first half against Syracuse but was at its best in the red zone. Syracuse managed just two field goals in four drives that went inside the 20, with safety Jalen Ramsey coming up with an interception and FSU stopping the Orange on downs with about two minutes to go before halftime.

A game that easily could have been very close was instead 24-6 FSU at the half. This is where FSU's defense is superb: The Seminoles will let a team drive but then find a way to hold opponents to a field goal—or force a turnover—inside the 20.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher makes sure that the Seminoles are situationally sound, and they are one of the top 20 teams in the FBS in red-zone efficiency. Notre Dame has scored on 19 of 22 trips into the red zone going into the UNC game.

One thing that works in FSU's favor is Notre Dame's struggling ground attack (78th nationally). Quarterback Everett Golson is good enough to beat FSU with his arm and his legs, but Notre Dame is too one-dimensional on offense.

Of course, you probably could have guessed which way Holtz was leaning.

Notre Dame at FSU is shaping up to be one of the best games of the season. Give FSU the early edge because of its balance on offense and ability to force turnovers on defense.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report; all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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UCLA's Jim Mora Calms DC by Caressing His Beard After Sideline Shouting Match

The UCLA Bruins were struggling early against the Oregon Ducks, and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was not happy with his team's play.

In order to try and calm his coordinator down, head coach Jim Mora Jr. caressed Ulbrich's beard.

It might seem weird, but the two know each other quite well since Ulbrich was a linebacker back when Mora was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.

[Twitter, SB Nation]

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Alabama vs. Arkansas: Live Score and Highlights

Alabama 7, Arkansas 6—2nd Quarter

We are underway in Fayetteville, Arkansas as No. 7 Alabama takes on the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Stick with us here at Bleacher Report for news, notes and analysis throughout the game. You can find the official box score at NCAA.com.

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Despite Win over Texas, Oklahoma's Trevor Knight Is Not Playoff-Caliber QB Yet

Entering this season, Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight was the Sooners' unquestioned No. 1 quarterback, expected to lead OU in a strong push for the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

As No. 11 Oklahoma’s season reached its midpoint Saturday with a 31-26 win over Texas in the Red River Rivalry, there are questions about whether Knight can be the guy who will carry the Sooners to a playoff berth.

While the Sooners are serious playoff contenders, with a 5-1 record entering next week’s visit from fellow Top 20 team Kansas State, Knight has been less than impressive, completing around 55 percent of his passes, and he simply hasn't shown the consistency necessary to lead a team to college football's promised land.

On Saturday, Knight completed 12 of 20 passes for 129 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Texas outgained Oklahoma by a staggering 482-232, and the Sooners special teams and defense made a huge impact.

Alex Ross had a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown midway through the first quarter, and cornerback Zack Sanchez contributed a 43-yard interception return score early in the second quarter.

Oklahoma did not reach the end zone offensively until Knight connected with Sterling Shepard for a 24-yard touchdown with 4:17 remaining in the third quarter and did not convert a third down until its final drive of the game with under four minutes to go.

Simply put, the Sooners won in spite of their offense, not because of it.

Knight was inconsistent as a freshman a year ago, completing 59 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns against five interceptions. The 2014 Sugar Bowl, which saw him shred a good Alabama defense for 348 yards and four touchdowns, looks more like an outlier than the norm. 

In Oklahoma’s last three games, he has two touchdowns against three interceptions. He threw for 309 yards in the Sooners’ loss to TCU, but completed only 40 percent of his passes, and threw a pick-six that proved to be the winning score in the 37-33 defeat.

On the season, Knight is completing 55.1 percent of his passes, down nearly four percentage points from a year ago.

Oklahoma has an impressive run game, led by bruising freshman Samaje Perine, and an outstanding receiver in junior Sterling Shepard, but it needs a more even effort game in and game out from Knight.

The sophomore signal-caller will have plenty of chances to prove his worth before the College Football Playoff invitations go out in December.

Oklahoma will face multiple Top 20 opponents in K-State, Baylor and Oklahoma State over the next two months. The Baylor game, in particular, could ultimately determine the Big 12 champion and give the winner a leg up on a playoff berth.

It’s far too early to give up on Knight, but it’s not too early to ask for much more from him if Bob Stoops’ team is to reach its goals this fall.

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Georgia vs. Missouri: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Tigers

The Georgia Bulldogs ran away from the Missouri Tigers on Saturday in a statement win.

Georgia star running back Todd Gurley missed the game as part of an indefinite suspension and a pending NCAA investigation, but the Dawgs were still the better team on Saturday, and as a result, the Bulldogs now appear to be in control of the chaotic SEC East.

Below are game grades for position groups (based on expected performance) and analysis.

 

Georgia Bulldogs Grade Analysis

Passing Offense

Hutson Mason did just enough in the first half to make a difference.  He completed a high percentage of passes, as one would expect, and kept the ball moving throughout the game's first two quarters.  In the second half, he continued to make throws as needed, but the onus was placed heavily on the running game and eating of clock.  All in all, this was a solid outing for Mason.  He did everything Georgia needed.

 

Rushing Offense

With Gurley out, freshman Nick Chubb was forced to step up.  He did so in a big way, running for 59 yards in the first half and over 140 yards overall.  Much like Gurley, Chubb got stronger as the game went on.  When he needed a break, Brendan Douglas was more than willing and able to provide a spark.  Credit goes to the offensive line for another stellar blocking performance.

 

Pass Defense

Georgia's pass defense was ferocious in the first half.  Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk never looked comfortable, and his three first-half turnovers breathed life into a Georgia team looking for a Gurley-less lift.  Mauk picked up right where he left off in the second half, throwing two more interceptions while facing relentless pressure.  This was Georgia's best performance against the pass in several years.

 

Run Defense

Missouri had limited success running the football, but once the Tigers fell behind, the ground attack became less viable.  Most of Missouri's ground success came with Georgia in prevent defense at the end of the first half.

 

Special Teams

Georgia's first six points came on two field goals by Marshall Morgan, the kick coverage was sound and the Bulldogs threatened in the punt return game repeatedly.  No news, as always, is good news for special teams play.

 

Coaching

Give credit to Mark Richt and his coaching staff for getting this team ready to play without its star.  Georgia came out on fire on defense, and even the offense looked confident throughout the first half.  After what had the makings of a slow start in the second half, Georgia once again stepped up and made play after play.  Richt and his staff did a stellar job of keeping the team focused and preserving a huge shutout victory.

 

Missouri Tigers Grade Analysis

Passing Offense

Mauk struggled for the entirety of the first half.  His five completions on thirteen attempts were only overshadowed by his two interceptions and his lost fumble.  Unfortunately for him, the second half wasn't much better as he completed just four more passes and threw two more interceptions.  Mauk will want to soon forget a day in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw for fewer than 100 yards while turning the ball over five times.

 

Rushing Offense

An emphasis on the ground game was never present for Mizzou.  Once the Tigers fell behind, the ground attack was not an option.  Both Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough broke a few runs, but the Tigers never put together a consistent string of ground pickups.

 

Pass Defense

Missouri defended well on third downs thanks to a strong pass rush, and that was arguably the highlight of the first half for the Tigers.  Had the pass rush not been productive, the deficit would have been even greater at halftime.  It's hard to give the Tigers too much credit, however, as Mason and backup Brice Ramsey completed just shy of 80 percent of their passes.

 

Run Defense

Nobody broke a long run in the first half, but Georgia still moved the ball somewhat effectively—even without Gurley.  Nonetheless, Chubb's ability to churn out yardage was a factor.  As the game wore on, the Missouri defense wore out.  Chubb picked up yards in bunches late, and Douglas was also successful in moving the chains.

 

Special Teams

Punt coverage was poor for Mizzou, and the recovery of a muffed punt was negated by a Tiger penalty in the first half.  Outside of that, very little of consequence occurred for the Tigers within this phase.

 

Coaching

Missouri was completely outcoached in this contest.  The offense had no answer for Georgia's pressure, and the defense was unable to consistently get off the field.  This game should have been controlled by Gary Pinkel's team, but the Tigers never even threatened the Bulldogs.

 

All stats courtesy of NCAA.com.

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Florida State vs. Syracuse: Game Grades, Analysis for the Seminoles

No. 1 Florida State did what it had to do Saturday in a38-20 victory at Syracuse.

Were the Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) perfect? No. But they got past the Orange (2-4, 0-2) without a look-ahead letdown to Notre Dame and did so without sustaining any major injuries.

 

Pass Offense

Outside of a second-half fumble, Jameis Winston was stellar for FSU. Winston looked a lot like he did last year, competing a high percentage of passes and moving the offense down the field—and doing so while off-field controversy surrounding FSU drove the news cycle.

In a game that saw Rashad Greene set the school record for all-time receptions by an FSU player and Nick O’Leary set the school record for career catches by a Seminoles tight end, Winston did a good job of finding open receivers and spreading the football around. He finished the day 30-of-36 for 318 yards and three touchdowns, with completions to seven different players.

Greene finished with a team-best 107 yards on six catches, and O’Leary set a career high with eight catches. True freshman Travis Rudolph was once again a bright spot for the passing attack, as he finished with six catches for 46 yards.

I gave FSU an “A” for its pass offense because Winston couldn’t be stopped. And when other players are being involved around Greene, the Seminoles aerial attack cannot be stopped.

 

Run Offense

Despite missing starting tailback Karlos Williams (ankle) and then briefly losing his replacement, Mario Pender, for about half a quarter, FSU had no trouble on the ground against the Orange.

True freshman Dalvin Cook was sensational, rushing for a career-high 122 yards with one score. Cook’s 5.3 yards-per-carry average was too much for a Syracuse team made painfully aware that FSU’s third-string tailback was a 5-star high school prospect in this year’s recruiting class.

In his first career start, Pender added 34 yards on eight carries and a rushing score that accompanied a touchdown catch.

The Seminoles got good push up front from a veteran offensive line playing with a youngster at center. Redshirt freshmen Ryan Hoefeld started for the injured Austin Barron and showed strong signs that he can handle the rigors and responsibilities of the position for the rest of the season should Barron not be able to return.

I gave FSU an “A” for its rushing offense because it overcame the adversity of losing two starters while also generating its second-most rushing yards of the season.

 

Pass Defense

Florida State had a total of two interceptions all season entering Saturday’s game at the Carrier Dome but had three in the one game against the Orange. Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews and Tyler Hunter all got in on the takeaway action, creating serious problems for Syracuse quarterbacks A.J. Long and Austin Wilson.

But despite those turnovers, the Orange were still able to experience some success throwing the football. Syracuse finished with 256 yards passing, and Long showed signs that he could be the team’s long-term solution under center. Steve Ishmael also hauled in 93 yards receiving and two touchdowns on three catches, and several Orange receivers made highlight-reel catches.

FSU forced turnovers, but it wasn't dominant defending the pass, thus the “B” grade for the win.

 

Run Defense

The Seminoles allowed 156 yards on the ground, which isn’t terrible, but it’s not great. Prince-Tyson Gulley averaged 5.0 yards per carry against the Seminoles, racking up 80 yards on 16 carries.

FSU did a good job of making tackles—an issue that has been worked on at practice in recent weeks—but Gulley got loose for several big chunks of yardage, including a long of 35 yards.

A good but not great performance? Sounds like a “B” to me.

 

Special Teams

Another perfect game for Roberto Aguayo, who continues his marched toward G.O.A.T. status.

Aguayo was a perfect 5-of-5 for extra points and added one field goal, while Cason Beatty averaged 46.0 yards per punt. 

Those numbers are great, but FSU’s special teams grade dips from an “A+” to a “B+” because Bobo Wilson had a fumbled punt return during the game that gave Syracuse great field position—even if Andrews intercepted a pass one play later.

 

Coaching

Once again Jimbo Fisher called a good offensive game for FSU, taking advantage of what Syracuse was giving the Seminoles all day. The Orange were allowing the Seminoles to throw the football underneath, and that’s exactly what the play-calling reflected.

Defensively, coordinator Charles Kelly’s group bent but didn’t break—especially in the first half. FSU wasn’t quite as stout defensively in the second half, which isn’t a characteristic of this ‘Noles team. Florida State typically makes good adjustments at the break, but Syracuse had some success in the second half.

For that, I give FSU’s coaching a “B+” grade.

 

Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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Oklahoma vs. Texas: Game Grades, Analysis for Sooners

The Oklahoma Sooners got a little bit of revenge against their rivals, the Texas Longhorns, on Saturday.

After struggling on offense for much of the day, the Sooners were able to do just enough to escape Dallas with a 31-26 victory. With the win, Oklahoma avenges last season’s loss to the Longhorns.

Check out the final stats here and take a look at first- and second-half game grades below.

 

Passing Offense

After being exposed against TCU last weekend, quarterback Trevor Knight didn’t look all that better this time around.

Knight lacked confidence in the first quarter and only threw for 21 yards on 4-of-6 passing. The conservative play-calling didn’t help matters either.

In the second half, Knight picked things up, finishing with 129 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-20 passing. However, when it mattered most, he failed to do much of anything more often than not—the Sooners were 1-of-10 on third down.

Knight’s confidence appears all but shot, and the fact that Oklahoma doesn’t seem to trust him in big situations isn’t a good sign.

 

Rushing Offense

Coming into this game, it was a known fact that Texas struggled against the run. In fact, the team ranked No. 100 in the nation in run defense.

After Saturday, expect the unit to see a significant boost.

The Longhorns held the Sooners to just 103 yards rushing on 30 carries. The Big 12’s biggest surprise, running back Samaje Perine, didn’t get his usual production in, rushing for only 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 YPC).

Although the overall effort is demoralizing, the bright spot is that Perine did turn it around on the fourth-quarter touchdown drive and played a significant role as Oklahoma tried to milk the clock late in the fourth quarter.

 

Pass Defense

The secondary was a mixed bag on Saturday.

Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was able to find receivers in space early and often. It went a long way in the sophomore recording a career day. He threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns on 27-of-44 passing.

On the bright side, Zack Sanchez did intercept his fifth pass of the season and took it back more than 40 yards for a touchdown.

The unit continued to flex its muscle in the third quarter and for the early part of the fourth. However, things immediately fell apart as Texas was able to score two quick touchdowns with less than 10 minutes remaining to pull within five points.

There’s still work to be done.

 

Run Defense

Much like the secondary, this was an area that the Sooners had their fair share of ups and downs.

The unit was gashed by running back Malcolm Brown during the first half, conceding 69 yards on 10 carries. As a team, the Longhorns went into the locker room with 106 yards on 24 carries.

Oklahoma looked a lot better in the second half, stuffing Texas at the line time after time and only giving up 42 yards on 16 carries over the final two quarters. However, most of those yards came on the Longhorns' final touchdown drive.

When it mattered most, the Sooners run defense couldn’t stand up to the challenge. Who knows what would have happened if Texas had gotten the ball back with more time remaining?

 

Special Teams

This unit easily deserves the game ball.

It began in the first quarter when Alex Ross took a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. The unit also helped Oklahoma control the battle of field position, as punter Jed Barnett was excellent. He averaged 43.8 yards on nine punts, placing the ball inside the 20 three times.

Place-kicker Michael Hunnicutt also connected on his lone attempt from 44 yards.

There was some shaky coverage late, with Jaxon Shipley able to take back a couple of punt returns deep for the Longhorns. However, for the most part, the unit played excellent on Saturday.

 

Coaching

For the second time in as many weeks, this area of the Sooners looked questionable.

The absolute lack of faith in Knight’s downfield passing was an issue early in the game. Yes, the sophomore has struggled all season long, but at some point, you just have to call the plays and give him an opportunity to make good on those mistakes.

Thanks to the play-calling, the defense wound up on the field for the majority of the game. You could tell the unit was exhausted and gasping for air.

Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel had a couple of terrific calls in the second half. But it wasn’t enough to outweigh the poor ones.

 

All stats courtesy of NCAA.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Despite Gurley's Status, Is Georgia a Lock to Win SEC East?

No Todd Gurley, no problem. The Georgia Bulldogs dominated the Missouri Tigers right from the start en route to a 34-0 road victory in Week 7.

Gurley's replacement, freshman Nick Chubb, filled in more than adequately, rushing for 143 yards on the ground with a score. He also caught four passes for 31 yards against Missouri. 

After the dominant performance, Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder debate just how far the Bulldogs can go this season. 

Is Georgia guaranteed to win the SEC East with or without Gurley? Watch the video and let us know! 

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Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant Catches Ball While Lying on Back vs. WVU

The Texas Tech Red Raiders were facing a third down late in a tie game on Saturday when wide receiver Jakeem Grant made probably the most impressive catch of his life.

With less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter against West Virginia, Davis Webb threw up a prayer to Grant. The wide receiver began to fall over, but he was somehow able to catch the ball after falling on his back.

The play moved the chains, but the Red Raiders couldn't take the lead before the end of regulation. The Mountaineers drove down the field and kicked a field goal as time expired to take the 37-34 win.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Watch Georgia RB Brendan Douglas Do Full Flip for Filthy TD

In the absence of Todd Gurley, two Georgia running backs stepped up during Saturday's big win over Missouri. Brendan Douglas was one of the backs picking up the slack. Watch his incredible leaping touchdown that helped propel the Bulldogs to a crucial victory.

Is this one of the best plays we will see today?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Jameis Winston vs. Syracuse: Stats, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

After a ho-hum performance last week, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston got back on track with a solid showing on the road against ACC rival Syracuse in a 38-20 win. The Seminoles dominated on offense with 482 yards and were good enough on defense in the red zone to keep their undefeated season intact. 

There was some uncertainty about how Winston would respond in this game after ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported the 2013 Heisman winner will "face a disciplinary hearing into charges about whether he sexually assaulted an FSU student in December 2012."

If that was on Winston's mind, you would never know it during the game. He had one of his best games of the season, going 16-of-19 with 181 yards and two touchdowns in the first half to give the Seminoles a 24-6 lead. That trend would continue into the second half. Here's his full stat line from the victory:

In addition to the efficiency which he operated, Winston's performance was notable because he moved ahead of fellow Heisman winner Charlie Ward on the school's all-time passing touchdown list, per ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN College Football's official Twitter feed provided highlights of Winston's 21-yard touchdown pass to Nick O'Leary that moved him ahead of Ward:

Winston currently has 51 passing touchdowns, trailing Chris Weinke on Florida State's all-time touchdown list by 28. Unless he returns to school for his junior season, it's unlikely the controversial quarterback will end his Seminole career in the top spot. 

The win was also notable because Winston tied former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy's record of 19 consecutive victories, per ESPN's College Gameday:

Of all the passes Winston threw on Saturday, his best might have been on Florida State's first drive of the second half. He marched them down the field by going 6-of-7 then finished things off with a beautiful touch pass in the back of the end zone to Jesus Wilson. Brendan Sonnone of The Orlando Sentinel raved about the pass:

It was a beautiful pass from Winston and catch by Wilson, but it was helped out by the fact that Syracuse's secondary looked confused and was playing out of position a lot. Winston more or less just lobbed the ball into a spot where no one was looking even though there were four guys around the area. 

Another reason for Winston's success against Syracuse, as noted by Ben Jones of Rivals, was how conservative the offensive play calling was:

Jones does give Winston credit for making a handful of terrific throws in the game, but more than half of his completions (18) went for 10 yards or less. A lot of the success came as the result of Florida State players breaking tackles and making plays in the open field. 

Credit Winston for putting his receivers and running backs in a position to turn up field and make plays, but you want to see something a little more dynamic from a quarterback with his ability. Given his erratic play this season—Winston did have five interceptions in four games coming into this week—you can't blame Fisher for taking a conservative approach. 

With Notre Dame coming to Tallahassee next week, Winston and Florida State have to get a lot better in a hurry in order to keep this 20-game winning streak dating back to last season going. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

 

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