NCAA Football News

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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Cold Hard Fact for Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fact: The Mississippi State Bulldogs are 1-17 all-time against opponents ranked in the AP Top-2.

Bleacher Report will be bringing sports fans the most interesting and engaging Cold Hard Fact of the day, presented by Coors Light.

Source: ESPN Stats & Info

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Texas vs. Oklahoma: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Red River Showdown

Despite some sloppy play on both sides of the ball, No. 11 Oklahoma defeated rival Texas 31-26 in Saturday's Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The Sooners were outgained 482 yards to just 232 offensively, but they were able to bounce back from last week's upset loss to TCU and improve to 5-1 due largely to scoring contributions from the defense and special teams.

According to CBS Sports' Eye on College Football, the win continued Oklahoma's recent dominance over the Longhorns:

The game was certainly a statistical oddity, which prompted Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News to put it in a category all its own:

Texas entered the game as a big underdog with a record of 2-3 against the 4-1 Sooners, but Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong felt confident that his players would be up to the task, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.

The Texas-Oklahoma rivalry is a special rivalry. We know how big it is. Don't have to say much to the players this week. Don't have to worry about them being down. They know what's at stake here. Last year going into this game everyone was kind of throwing dirt on them, and they were able to bounce back and go win it.

Strong's feeling was confirmed early in Saturday's game as Texas outplayed its chief rival in the first half. Oklahoma widened the margin during the second half, but the Longhorns refused to go quietly. In the end, though, their comeback bid fell just short.

The Sooners very nearly took the lead early with a defensive score off what was called a fumble by Longhorns running back Malcolm Brown. Although it was an extremely close call, the officials overturned it, which Jason Kersey of The Oklahoman agreed with:

Texas rebounded to drive down the field and hit a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. That advantage was extremely short-lived, however, as Oklahoma sophomore running back Alex Ross returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.

According to Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle, Texas' coverage unit was no match for Ross' blazing speed:

Following a Michael Hunnicutt field goal early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 10-3, the Sooners found pay dirt once again.

Despite Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes making some impressive plays in the passing game, he put his team in a very difficult position by throwing a 43-yard pick-six to Sooners cornerback Zack Sanchez, as seen in this video courtesy of ESPN College Football:

Swoopes appeared to stare his receiver down on the play, and Sanchez was able to recognize it. As pointed out by Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting, it was extension of the excellent form that Sanchez has displayed all season long:

With the Longhorns trailing 17-3 despite playing spectacular defense against quarterback Trevor Knight and Oklahoma, Swoopes finally went to work on lessening the deficit. He did precisely that with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the half as he found senior receiver John Harris for a 38-yard touchdown.

The throw was a perfect one into a tight window by Swoopes, and it drew praise from David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest:

Texas would then tack on another field goal with 48 seconds left as Nick Rose connected from 20 yards out. The Longhorns headed into the locker room trailing 17-13 despite the fact that they outgained Oklahoma 278-29 in total offense.

According to ESPN College GameDay, the Sooners offense did little to help the cause during the opening half:

Knight completed just four of his six passes for 21 yards, while the running game sputtered to the tune of eight yards on eight carries. With that in mind, Oklahoma supporters had to be thrilled to hold a lead at the half.

On Oklahoma's first play from scrimmage in the second half, junior wide receiver Sterling Shepard took a jet sweep 31 yards, which topped the Sooners' offensive production for the entire first half, per Bob Przybylo of Scout.com:

OK was still forced to punt the ball away, though, as consistency continued to elude it. That was true for Texas for much of the third quarter as well, with both teams struggling to sustain drives.

That finally changed for the Sooners late in the frame as Knight orchestrated a quick-strike, five-play drive that culminated in a 24-yard touchdown pass to Shepard. According to John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World, Oklahoma's signal-caller was finally able to get in a groove with a perfect drive:

The Sooners extended their previously tenuous lead to 24-13, which put pressure on Swoopes and the Texas offense to recapture some of the magic it had late in the first half.

That score seemed to galvanize the Oklahoma offense, and it resulted in another touchdown just two minutes into the fourth quarter. Freshman running back Samaje Perine scampered for 13 yards, and the Sooners finally managed to regain some of their scoring potency, according to Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman:

Texas managed to keep the game from getting too far out of hand by answering on the next drive. Swoopes found Harris for their second touchdown link-up of the day from six yards out, and the score tightened to 31-20 in favor of Oklahoma.

After an Oklahoma three-and-out, Texas managed to make things even more interesting. Jaxon Shipley's 31-yard punt return set the Longhorns up nicely, and Swoopes put an exclamation point on the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run.

Per Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, it seemed like the sophomore signal-caller was starting to come of age:

Swoopes couldn't repeat the feat on a two-point conversion attempt, though, which meant that Texas trailed 31-26 with just under five minutes left.

Oklahoma then engineered an eight-play drive that chewed up four minutes and 39 seconds off the clock. Texas got the ball back with 18 seconds left, but there wasn't enough time to march all the way down the field.

While Oklahoma wasn't overly impressive in the victory, a win was absolutely necessary in order to keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive. It seems likely that one or more one-loss teams will be in contention at the end of the season, and the Sooners are still among that group.

With that said, Oklahoma has to get much better in short order, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Two of the Sooners' next three games are against No. 17 Kansas State and No. 5 Baylor, which means that the level of competition is increasing in a big way.

Oklahoma can beat anyone if Knight plays like he did against Alabama last season, but it may not be able to top either Kansas State or Baylor if he repeats Saturday's performance.

As for the Longhorns, they are now 2-4 and find themselves in a battle to become bowl eligible. Texas showed some flashes that suggest it can get to that point, but it will have to improve its consistency and limit mistakes such as the pick-six thrown by Swoopes.

The Longhorns displayed signs of progress, but it is still quite clear that Strong's team has a long way to go before it is once again among college football's elites.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Georgia vs. Missouri: How Tigers' Loss Will Shake Up Week 8 Rankings

The No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs overcame the loss of Todd Gurley Saturday on the road with an emphatic 34-0 win over the No. 23 Missouri Tigers to take charge in the SEC East and set off a wide-ranging chain reaction of events in the upcoming Week 8 college football rankings.

With the win, Mark Richt's team moves to 5-1, while the Tigers pick up loss No. 2 on the year and head to unranked land once more. This both welcomes newcomers into the bottom of the polls and puts the newly formed Top 10 into jeopardy one week removed from the most chaotic week of play in recent memory.

College GameDay provided a look at the historically dominant performance:

For reference, here is a look at how The Associated Press Top 25 stood before Saturday's early SEC East encounter:

The encounter was ugly from the start. Georgia had few issues moving the ball without Gurely, going 7-of-11 on third downs in the first half and jumping out to a 20-0 advantage. Conversely, the Tigers had no answer for the Georgia defense in that same span, going 0-of-5 on third down and seeing Maty Mauk toss two interceptions en route to his unit totaling just 76 total yards.

The Missouri offense did not cross midfield until there was about two minutes left in the first half. Shortly after, Mauk fumbled the ball away. ESPN Stats & Info put things into perspective:

By day's end, Mauk threw four interceptions, while his offense never converted a third-down attempt, and the Bulldogs racked up 373 total yards to Missouri's 147. Freshman tailback Nick Chubb was the hero thanks to his 38 carries for 143 yards and a score.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports put it best:

In short, the Bulldogs came in with heads held high, despite the loss of arguably the nation's best player, and they held true to much of their pregame talk.

"We feel great about what we're doing," said wideout Chris Conley, via ESPN.com. "We feel good that we're getting better each week. In order to get back (to the SEC championship game) we have to get better each week and that starts in practice."

For Missouri, the second loss of the season—the other being that strange collapse against Indiana a few weeks back—once again removes the Tigers from the realm of the ranked. This time, there is no potential upset of a ranked opponent in the cards, either, with the upcoming slate reading showdowns with unranked teams such as Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. 

Keep in mind that Missouri's exit from the polls yet again invites teams that received votes last week but did not make the cut, such as USC, Marshall and Clemson, a chance to crack the Top 25 with wins.

How the outcome of Saturday's affair impacts the top half of the rankings is more interesting.

The Bulldogs are assured a jump in the rankings thanks to a win over a ranked opponent, but more interesting is how the rest of Saturday's slate will help Richt's team.

A showdown between No. 9 TCU and No. 5 Baylor will produce a bump for the Bulldogs, as will an encounter between No. 2 Auburn and No. 3 Mississippi State. Upset-watch games, such as No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA, No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 14 Texas A&M and USC at No. 10 Arizona, may also create some additional upward trajectory.

A crushing three-point road loss to then-ranked No. 24 South Carolina near the start of September looms as large as ever for the Bulldogs, but as the team charges ahead with one of the nation's top ground games and defenses, it continues to diminish in impact.

A return to the Top 10 for Georgia seems likely, as the long list of one-loss team continues to grow, but few deserve a spot ahead of the Bulldogs.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com, unless otherwise specified. AP poll via The Associated Press.

 

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Georgia vs. Missouri: Score and Twitter Reaction

Georgia went out on the road without superstar running back Todd Gurley and still managed to score an impressive 34-0 victory over the No. 23-ranked Missouri Tigers.

Nick Chubb picked up a vast majority of the backfield work for the Bulldogs. The powerful freshman racked up 42 touches for 174 yards and a touchdown. Senior quarterback Hutson Mason was also effective, completing 22-of-28 passes for 156 yards and two total touchdowns.

It's a key win for Georgia in the SEC East race. The No. 13 team in the nation moved to 3-1 in conference play and should jump up a few spots in the rankings this coming week. The Tigers, conversely, fell to 1-1 in conference play and will likely slide out of the rankings.

Gurley missed the game after receiving an indefinite suspension earlier this week while the school investigates a potential compliance violation.

Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated reports it's unclear if the running back, who was previously viewed as a Heisman Trophy favorite, will return this season. He also provided some background information on the details Georgia received about the situation:

SI.com has learned that a person confirmed to Georgia's compliance office this week that he paid Gurley $400 to sign 80 items on campus in Athens, Ga., one day this past spring. The person claimed to have a photo and video of Gurley signing the items, but neither the photo nor the video showed money changing hands.

After Georgia announced the suspension, Zach Klein of WSB in Atlanta passed along a statement from Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt. It was brief, but he made clear the main focus was still this week's game:

His team apparently received the message loud and clear, as the Bulldogs were the far more effective team in the early going. They also got some help from Missouri, which failed to take advantage of a few chances and made some crucial mistakes.

Georgia had two early fumbles: one on a punt return by Isaiah McKenzie just 90 seconds into the game; the second on the ensuing drive by receiver Chris Conley after an eight-yard reception. The Bulldogs were able to recover them both, however, and eventually turned the possession into a field goal.

After failing to recover either of those fumbles, the mistakes started for Missouri. Two straight offensive drives ended in interceptions by Maty Mauk. The only silver lining for the Tigers was that the defense stood tall on a short field, limiting Georgia to a combined three points on those two drives.

Tanya Sichynsky of TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution highlighted the strong defensive work by the Bulldogs to set up the second field goal:

The problem for Missouri was that it struggled mightily to get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. It finished the first half with just 76 total yards and six first downs.

In turn, the defense that kept the Tigers in the game early started to wear down. The Bulldogs were able to take advantage in the second quarter.

The combination of Chubb and Mason led a 13-play, 71-yard drive that ate up nearly five minutes of clock early in the second. It finished with Mason keeping the ball on a read option and scampering 11 yards to the end zone to make it 13-0.

CBS Sports' Eye on College Football applauded the read by the senior:

Following another three-and-out drive by the Missouri offense, the Bulldogs started moving the ball with relative ease once again.

This time it was a 10-play, 65-yard effort by the offense that ended with an outstanding pitch-and-catch connection between Mason and Michael Bennett in the corner of the end zone. The nine-yard strike pushed the score to 20-0.

Georgia has a feeling everybody will get a chance to see that score again:

The first half ended with a play that summed up the opening 30 minutes for Missouri.

Mauk delivered his best throw of the half to Wesley Leftwich. He had somehow gotten behind the Georgia secondary despite there being less than 10 seconds left and 62 yards to go. Alas, he dropped what would have been a sure touchdown. As it turned out, a holding call would have wiped out the would-be score anyway.

After the break, it looked like the Tigers were ready to start mounting a rally. They made a quick defensive stop then moved the ball 32 yards in two plays to get into Georgia territory.

Another mistake stopped the drive in its tracks, though. Mauk targeted Jimmie Hunt on a slant, but the receiver couldn't reel it in, causing the ball to deflect into the hands of Quincy Mauger. It was his second interception of the day and the team's third.

Gabe DeArmond of Rivals joked Mauger had enough "catches" to qualify as Missouri's leading receiver at the time:

It was more of the same after that turnover. Missouri's defense kept the game within striking distance, but the offense couldn't capitalize.

Midway through the third quarter, the Tigers drove from their own 16 into Georgia territory. However, Mauk tried to do too much after being forced to scramble out of the pocket. He threw across his body and Dominick Sanders picked off the pass for Mauk's fourth interception of the day.

Just like in the first half, the Bulldogs took advantage of that turnover. Nine plays, 50 yards and five minutes later, sophomore ball-carrier Brendan Douglas got to the outside and scored from 15 yards out to push the lead to 27-0.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee passed along a Vine of the leaping, twisting score:

Chubb was rewarded for all of his hard work on the next drive. He carried the ball on seven of the 10 plays as Georgia started to milk the clock. The final touch saw him go nine yards into the end zone for his third career rushing touchdown.

It even earned him a shout-out from musician Charlie Daniels:

That score, which came midway through the fourth quarter, eliminated any lingering comeback thoughts for Missouri. Mauk's final line of 97 passing yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions says it all about the Tigers' offensive showing.

Looking ahead, Missouri must obviously focus on cutting down on its mistakes. The defense played well enough for extended stretches to win this game, but the offense simply didn't perform at the same level. It faces a tough road test against Florida next week.

The Bulldogs' outlook gets much brighter both because of the result and the manner in which they dominated the game. The situation surrounding Gurley will probably continue to dominate the headlines, but Mason and Chubb showed the offense can still shine without him.

Georgia plays its second straight road game next week as it travels to face Arkansas. A clash with the No. 2-ranked Auburn Tigers looms in the middle of November.

 

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Melvin Gordon vs. Illinois: Stats, Heisman Impact and Twitter Reaction

Running back Melvin Gordon came up huge in Week 7, carrying 27 times for 175 yards and four touchdowns during the Wisconsin Badgers' 38-28 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini. The ball-carrier has been the team's biggest bright spot this season and continues to warrant consideration as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

Entering Saturday's contest, Gordon was already on pace for Heisman-like numbers, carrying 105 times for 871 yards—an impressive average of 8.3 yards per rush—and nine touchdowns. It didn't take him long at all to expand greatly on those numbers against the Fighting Illini.

On Wisconsin's first drive of the game, the offense was already leaning heavily on Gordon—and rightfully so—as the running back carried a total of five times for 42 yards, capping off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown scamper. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports tweeted his reaction:

After two Illinois touchdown drives, the Badgers suddenly found themselves behind by a score. Well, it didn't take Gordon long to make up the difference. He carried five more times on the drive, finishing it off with a six-yard touchdown plunge—his second of the day.

Later in the second quarter, it only took two plays for Wisconsin to reach the end zone again. Kenzel Doe kicked the drive off with a 34-yard sprint, and Gordon took it from there, ripping off a 30-yard touchdown run to reach paydirt for the third time in the first half.

ESPN College Football tweeted the ball-carrier's stats at the half:

ESPN Stats & Info noted Gordon's increased workload on the day:

Adding to the running back's accolades, Eye on College Football tweeted a very impressive milestone eclipsed during the first half of action on Saturday:

Gordon continued his torrid pace midway through the third quarter. After Corey Clement ripped off a 51-yard run, it was Gordon's turn to get back in the mix. After rushing for eight yards to convert a 4th-and-1, he pushed the Badgers deep into Illinois' territory, finishing the drive with a strong one-yard touchdown plunge.

Following the conclusion of the third quarter, ESPN College Football summed up Gordon's day with this tweet:

So, with a big four-touchdown performance in the books on Saturday, how exactly does Gordon stack up against all other FBS running backs? Dane Brugler of CBS Sports tweeted the ball-carrier's outstanding numbers and standing in a very important category:

Gordon's ability to run between the tackles, cut on a dime, utilize great burst out of the backfield and showcase solid straight-line speed in the open field makes him one of the most dangerous running backs in the nation. The clinic he put on against Illinois on Saturday further solidified that notion.

Aside from an uncharacteristic performance against Western Illinois this season—which certainly looks like an outlier at this point—Gordon hasn't rushed for less than 140 yards and hasn't been held out of the end zone in any other contest. Now that's Heisman worthy.

Before Saturday's action, Fox Sports Live tweeted analyst Matt Leinart's Heisman rankings:

Following this performance, it could be conceived that Leinart—as well as other analysts—will be considering moving Gordon up his list in short order. After all, Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin is already alluding toward a trip to New York:

No. 21 Nebraska is the lone ranked team remaining on the Badgers' schedule this season. Favorable second-half matchups should allow for continued big showings from this talented running back. By the end of the season, we should expect Gordon to be fully entrenched in all Heisman discussions.

Wisconsin hasn't been able to proudly display the coveted trophy since Ron Dayne's impressive 1999 season, but Gordon is absolutely on pace to end that drought.

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Georgia's Brendan Douglas Flips into End Zone on Touchdown vs. Missouri

There were a lot of questions about whether or not the Georgia Bulldogs could take down a Top 25 opponent without Todd Gurley, but those questions were answered Saturday.

In the third quarter of Georgia's game against the Missouri Tigers, running back Brendan Douglas jumped for the pylon, but he ended up flipping into the end zone. Fortunately, he was able to get right back up after landing.

Dawg Post's Dean Legge provided a picture of Douglas in midair.

[Vine]

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Texas LB Steve Edmond Fails on High-5, Smacks Teammate in Face

Not even the celebrations can go right for the Texas Longhorns in their game against the Oklahoma Sooners.

During the first quarter of Saturday's Red River Rivalry game, Longhorns linebacker Steve Edmond was pumped up and went to celebrate with his teammates on the sideline. Unfortunately, Edmond was so psyched, he didn't even wait for his teammate to see he was going for the high-five and ended up slapping him in the face.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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UT Chattanooga vs. Tennessee Live Blog: Instant Analysis and Reactions

The University of Tennessee Volunteers (2-3) face off with in-state rivals UT Chattanooga (3-2) at 4 p.m. ET in Neyland Stadium.

The Vols are coming off a loss to Florida that saw Tennessee lead late before the Gators came back to win.

UT Chattanooga routed the Virginia Military Institute last week 55-7, but it enters this game as a 25.5-point underdog.

Check back around 3:30 p.m. ET for the beginning of live coverage.

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Chattanooga vs. Tennessee: Live Score and Highlights

Welcome to the Chattanooga Mocs vs. Tennessee Volunteers live blog.

We're about 30 minutes away from kickoff at Neyland Stadium. 

The Vols are coming off three straight losses and desperately need a win today and a chance to tune-up the offense. 

Can Tennessee put the game away early and rest the starters/get backups the reps they need, or will Chattanooga stick around well into the second half? 

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