NCAA Football News

LSU vs. Florida: Score and Twitter Reaction

Colby Delahoussaye nailed a 50-yard field goal with three seconds remaining to give LSU the 30-27 win over Florida.

Freshman running back Leonard Fournette led the way for the Tigers, totaling 140 rushing yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns in the victory. Quarterback Anthony Jennings only completed 10 of his 21 passes for 110 yards, but he made plays when needed and helped his team win a tough road game in the SEC.

This was a big win for LSU because a loss would have put this team in historically bad territory for the program, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

McMurphy also quotes head coach Les Miles in his thoughts after the game:

Meanwhile, this was yet another impressive comeback on his long resume:

Florida was trying to win this game despite dealing with plenty of distractions throughout the week. Freshman quarterback Treon Harris was accused of sexual assault before the complaint was later withdrawn. While he was reinstated, Jeff Driskel was given the start after practicing with the first team all week. 

While the junior quarterback had only recently lost his starting job, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper believed in the ability to bounce back, via Jesse Simonton of the Miami Herald:

I have never seen him waver. ...He’s a guy that has the right look in his eye. He is confident. Obviously, it’s a challenge when you don’t have the success in a game or in a couple of games that you want to have. The first thing that you do is you start looking at yourself first, and he’s that kind of guy.

Driskel responded with a solid effort that included 183 passing yards, 71 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also had two interceptions, including one on the final drive to give LSU a chance to win.

Both sides came into the game concerned about a lack of offense, so it should be no surprise it was a special teams play that broke the scoreless tie. Andre Debose returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, which helped him set a new school record, according to Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun:

Fournette evened the score with a 12-yard run into the end zone, but then the two sides continued to battle back and forth to a 17-14 Gators lead at halftime. Of course, not everyone was impressed with the effort, including CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli:

It certainly wasn't the passing attacks that led to the scoring, as Mark Long of the Associated Press pointed out:

LSU gained its first lead of the game late in the third quarter thanks to a strong effort from Fournette, including his second touchdown of the night. Of course, a missed extra point kept it at 20-17. 

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted how well the freshman was playing compared to the rest of the team:

Florida continued to struggle offensively, but Debose came through again with just over seven minutes left with a 53-yard punt return to the LSU 9-yard line. The Gators scored two plays later as CBS Sports described the situation:

Down 24-20, the Tigers needed a touchdown to take the lead and did just that with less than three minutes remaining. Anthony Jennings threw a fade to Travin Dural in the back of the end zone and the receiver made a one-handed grab despite being held by the defender. 

However, the Gators were not ready to give up. After going down the field on a long pass to Demarcus Robinson, they came close to scoring a go-ahead but Tevin Westbrook dropped a ball in the end zone. They settled for the field goal to tie the game at 27-27.

Florida then had the chance to win the game in regulation, but he threw a bad interception, as described by Bryan D. Fisher of NFL.com:

LSU only needed to move the ball three yards to give Delahoussaye a shot at the win and he came through.

This game certainly had less fanfare than we are used to when these two teams match up. College GameDay noted the difference in this year's competition:

Strangely, battles like Ole Miss versus Texas A&M and Auburn against Mississippi State took center stage in the SEC. 

Still, the latest win keeps LSU remaining in the conference title race, even if it is on the outside looking in. It might take nothing but wins the rest of the year, but the dream is still alive.

Things get a little easier for the Tigers next week with a home game against Kentucky. This is one of three straight games at Tiger Stadium with the squad also facing Ole Miss and Alabama in coming weeks.

Florida will have some key battles in the SEC East with matchups against Missouri and Georgia. Wins in these games could put the squad in the driver's seat for a spot in the conference title game.

Although neither team is likely happy with how it has performed to this point of the year, there is still a lot of talent on both rosters and it would not be surprising to see either go on a long winning streak as the season continues.

 

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

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Latroy Pittman Injury: Updates on Florida WR's Status and Return

Florida wide receiver Latroy Pittman suffered an injury in the fourth quarter of the Gators' Week 7 matchup with the LSU Tigers.

According to SI College Football, the Gators medical staff called a stretcher over to cart Pittman off the field:

Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel had an update after the game:

Pittman's teammates huddled around him as he left the field, per Kevin Brockway of The Gainesville Sun:

Tigers players also joined in, per Antonya English of the Tampa Bay Times:

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reported that the junior wideout had movement in his arms, which is an encouraging sign for his status:

Pittman had one reception for minus-two yards in the 30-27 loss, which brings his 2014 totals to seven receptions for 35 yards.

With the defeat, Florida's record on the season falls to 3-2 (2-2 SEC). The Gators welcome in the No. 23 Missouri Tigers, who are coming off a 34-0 loss to No. 13 Georgia, next Saturday.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 7

There were some outstanding individual performances in Week 7 of the college football season. Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota led his team to victory, while Dak Prescott and the Mississippi State Bulldogs impressed yet again.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee dishes out his top-five Heisman Trophy rankings for Week 7. 

Who is your Heisman front-runner?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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LSU WR Travin Dural Brings in 1-Handed TD Catch vs. Florida

Despite recent struggles for both LSU and Florida, there isn't a shortage of talent on the field. 

LSU wide receiver Travin Dural showed off his considerable talent with this clutch one-handed touchdown catch that gave the Tigers a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter. 

Here's another angle of the grab: 

Great concentration from Dural, even as he was being held. The Tigers went on to win 30-27. 

[Vine]

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Winners and Losers from Week 7 of College Football

Nothing in Week 7 quite lived up to the insanity that was Week 6 in this college football season, but that doesn't mean there wasn't great football being played. 

From Mississippi State's statement win to Baylor's thrilling come-from-behind victory, there was a lot going on. The list of undefeated teams dwindled ever so slightly and top teams had statement wins.  

Which teams and players were winners in Week 7? Which ones weren't? The answers are in the following slides.

Begin Slideshow

Baylor QB Bryce Petty Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 7

In one of the wildest shootouts in recent college football memory, the Baylor Bears took down the TCU Horned Frogs 61-58. Behind the charge for the Bears was standout QB Bryce Petty. The senior signal-caller put up video-game numbers, throwing for 510 yards with six touchdowns in Saturday's game.

That said, Petty takes home the Top Performer nod for Week 7.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discusses Petty's big night. 

Was this the best individual performance of the season?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Bryce Petty Has His Heisman Moment in Incredible Comeback Win over TCU

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty did not play the best game of his career in Saturday's 61-58 comeback win over TCU. But he did play the most important.

With 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, that did not appear like it would be the case. In fact, it appeared like the opposite would be the case. Petty telegraphed an interception to Marcus Mallet, who jogged into the end zone untouched to give TCU a 58-37 lead.

The obituaries were written with haste:

But Petty didn't allow his team to capsize, leading four frantic scoring drives (three of which went for touchdowns) in the final 11 minutes to steal the win and keep Baylor undefeated. He finished the game with 510 passing yards and six touchdowns against a defense that entered the week ranked No. 4 in the country in opponent QB rating.

In the process, he not only launched Baylor to the top of the Big 12 standings—a place where it controls its own fate with regard to the College Football Playoff—but also registered the most significant "Heisman Moment" of the first seven weeks of the season. No other Heisman contender has done what Petty just did…on the stage in which he did it…against the defense to which he did it…at any point in 2014.

And we might not see anyone do it hereafter.

The first of Baylor's three fourth-quarter touchdown drives did not require that Petty throw a pass.

Four handoffs and 59 seconds were all the Bears needed to drive 45 yards on a short field and get the game within two scores. Petty relied on running backs Shock Linwood and Devin Chafin, his offensive line and the threat of the deep ball he had established in the first three quarters to get the Baylor comeback rolling.

But the next two fourth-quarter touchdown drives required that Petty do the heavy lifting. Both went 90-plus yards in exactly five plays, and neither took more than 90 seconds. The first drive ended on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Antwan Goodley. The second drive ended on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Corey Coleman.

And the only thing more pretty than the former...

...was the latter.

Having just watched Petty march Baylor down the field for three touchdowns in fewer than six minutes, TCU head coach Gary Patterson decided not to punt on a 4th-and-3 at the Baylor 45-yard line with less than 90 seconds left to play. Instead, he dialed up one of several ill-timed fade routes to Josh Doctson, which fell incomplete.

Baylor got the ball back around midfield and still needed to drive 30-or-so yards to feel good about a last-second field goal. But the game felt like it was over the moment that fourth-down pass hit the dirt. TCU had no realistic chance of stopping Baylor—of stopping Petty—from ending the game in regulation.

Nine plays later, that is exactly what Baylor did:

"I told our guys we weren't gonna lose that game," said Petty when the comeback was over, per the team's official Twitter feed. "I just knew looking at guys' faces we were gonna come back in the game."

Leadership is a nebulous but important quality for a quarterback to possess. Some prefer to lead with their actions. Others prefer to lead with their words. Neither way is better or worse than the other.

But the best leaders are the ones who combine those styles, who lead both implicitly and explicitly. Petty told his teammates they were going to win that game, even when doing so seemed ludicrous, then went out and backed up what he said with how he played.

There are not a lot of players who can do that.

Then again, there are not a lot of Heisman-worthy players.

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Vernon Hargreaves III Injury: Updates on Florida CB's Status and Return

Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III missed the entire second half of Saturday night's contest against LSU after suffering an injury.

The Gainseville Sun's Zach Abolverdi has the news:

OnlyGators.com had an update on Hargreaves III's status after the game:

While the sophomore was on the wrong side of the headlines last month when he struggled in a matchup against Alabama star wide receiver Amari Cooper, he remains one of the most talented defensive backs in the nation.

Details of his injury are currently scarce, but if it's something that keeps him out for a significant amount of time, it would be a massive loss for Florida, although burgeoning freshman Jalen Tabor is waiting in the wings.

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Watch Shaq Thompson Recover Fumble and Take It 99 Yards to the House for a Score

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Shaq Thompson was getting ready to attempt a goal-line tackle when the ball popped out of Cal quarterback Jared Goff's hands.

Thompson recovered the gift fumble and ran it 99 yards the other way for a memorable touchdown. 

Was this the play of the day?

Watch the video and let us know!  

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Mississippi State Setting Stage for Epic Clash with Alabama

Three weeks ago, Mississippi State looked like a capable understudy to Alabama and Auburn in the SEC.

Now at 6-0, with five wins coming by double digits, the Bulldogs are now primed to show out on Nov. 15 at college football's Broadway stage in Tuscaloosa, when they face off against the Crimson Tide.

The Bulldogs are now fresh off three straight wins against top 10 SEC opponents—LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Quarterback Dak Prescott and the rest of Stark Vegas have proven they belong, for now at least, in the College Football Playoff.

And after going through the gauntlet, the Bulldogs' next three games leading up to the showdown with the Tide are a breather. 

They travel to Kentucky next week, which could be a trap game as the Wildcats are actually playing good ball. But they did lose to Florida (in three overtimes) and have been the beneficiaries of a much easier schedule than most anybody else in the SEC. 

After that, the Bulldogs get Arkansas—another pesky but still below-average SEC squad that Prescott and Co. shouldn't have a problem with—than a gimme at home against UT Martin. 

Then, Nov. 15 comes. And the country can't wait. 

Alabama has a tougher road ahead of it between now and that date, with matchups against Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU, before squaring off against Mississippi State. 

But knowing Nick Saban, it's hard to see the Tide losing any of those games, as he knows that another loss will likely knock Alabama out of playoff contention.
 
So how do the Bulldogs stack up against the Tide? 

Well, with how Prescott is looking, you've got to think that the Bulldogs will have a decent chance at the game just because of him. He's put himself squarely into the Heisman Trophy conversation and he's poised to boost his numbers over the next three weeks. 

Defensively, the Bulldogs are looking to join the party of elite SEC stoppers, holding teams to just 20 points per game heading into this week. They also held Auburn, a team that had scored at least 40 points in all but one of their games this season, to just 23. 

The Bulldogs earn their paychecks by stopping the run, where heading into this week they ranked 11th nationally, allowing just 98 yards per game on the ground.

Gaining yards on the ground is Alabama's bread and butter, as the Tide rush for 240 yards per game. 

So come Nov. 15, when CFB's biggest game of the year to that point will take place, the battle will be won in the trenches.

If Mississippi State can dominate the line of scrimmage and limit Alabama's rushing attack and put pressure on Tide QB Blake Sims, who already failed his first big test of the year against Ole Miss, then the Bulldogs should come away with a victory. 

And that should put them in the driver's seat to not only stay in the hunt for a playoff berth, but to earn the top seed in the playoffs.

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Everett Golson Does Not Look Ready for Florida State Showdown

There are good ways to enter the biggest game of the year. And then there's the way Notre Dame is entering its showdown with No. 1 Florida State. 

The Irish limped their way to a wild 50-43 victory over North Carolina, overcoming a self-inflicted, 14-point hole early in the game, three Everett Golson turnovers and some suspect defensive play that has Notre Dame looking its worst as it goes into its biggest game of the year. 

If next Saturday night's main event is the heavyweight title fight the Irish have been waiting for, they nearly KO'd themselves following the ring girl up the stairs. And after leading Notre Dame to three impressive wins by playing near flawless football, Golson heads to Tallahassee a quarterback in crisis. 

After producing touchdowns at an amazing rate, the engine of the Irish offense is now piling up turnovers at an equally troubling pace. On Saturday afternoon, the Irish managed to score 50 points for the first time since the season-opening game of 2012 but seemed to do so in spite of its quarterback, not because of him. 

That may sound harsh considering Golson managed to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 71 yards at 5.9 per clip. But Golson's three turnovers led to 21 Tar Heel points.

Needing a fast start, Golson all but kick-started the Tar Heels' upset bid. He fumbled deep in his own territory on Notre Dame's first possession, went three-and-out on his second (a drive that included a dropped interception on an ugly misread) and threw a terrible pick-six on his third.

In a game where a quick Irish start could have taken the Tar Heels out of the game, Golson showed the hospitality of a Notre Dame usher, all but asking North Carolina to stick around for the afternoon and enjoy Notre Dame Stadium. 

The victory was the most important part of a weekend that served as the ultimate (and most obvious) "trap game" of the season. So while leaving 6-0 meant mission accomplished, the Irish have to fix holes on both sides of the ball, springing leaks before their ultimate playoff inspection. But none are more important than Brian Kelly's quarterback. 

"It tested him, because I tested him a little bit," Kelly said of Golson's struggles. "I got in his face a little bit about the first interception. He's above that interception... But I thought he handled it well."  

While it took just minutes after Notre Dame's hard-fought victory over North Carolina for ESPN's College GameDay to announce they were heading to Tallahassee, it'll take all week for Brian Kelly to get his quarterback ready for the trip south. And while Kelly put a good spin on it in his postgame comments, it looks as if Golson is regressing heading into the season's signature game. 

Golson looked like a quarterback trying to be someone he's not. He stuck around in a pocket that too often was collapsing. He locked on receivers early and threw to others too late. And after Kelly and the Irish coaching staff tried to coach the sandlot out of his playmaker, Golson needs to bring a little spontaneity back to his game, remembering that the hardest play to stop for a defense is sometimes the one that wasn't planned. 

Of course, Saturday wasn't all Golson's fault. While the Irish running game found its footing behind Tarean Folston, the offensive line was still plagued by mistakes. The opening series' strip-sack could be pegged on an overwhelmed offensive line. The group missed multiple blitz pickups, with Harry Hiestand's reshuffled offensive line still in need of vast improvements before taking on the Florida State front seven. 

That leaky offensive line led to a game-defining play late in the third quarter. Hit hard by a blitzer as his third-down pass fell incomplete, sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire began warming up on the sidelines. While it was ultimately a medical precaution, for the first time this season Irish fans openly wondered if Kelly had Zaire warming up because his quarterback was ineffective. 

But a questionable roughing the punter call extended Notre Dame's drive, bringing Golson—who was cleared by the medical staff—back onto the field. And the quarterback responded, driving the Irish to two touchdowns to ice the victory.

"He bounced back, threw the ball with authority and he was decisive. He made some good decisions, but he's learning," Kelly said. "That could shut some quarterbacks down.  He took the adversity and got better as the game went on." 

Ultimately, it was enough to beat North Carolina. But with the college football world descending on Doak Campbell Stadium next weekend, Notre Dame needs Everett Golson to be its star. And right now, he's not playing like one. 

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

 

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LSU Player Goes Down with NBA-Style Flop to Draw Flag

And the Academy Award goes to LSU's Jamal Adams!

During the LSU-Florida game, defensive back Jamal Adams pulled off an NBA-quality flop after being contacted by the Gators' Andre Debose. 

The act worked, as Debose was flagged for the incident. 

[Gifd Sports]

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Southern Cal vs. Arizona: Live Score and Highlights

Arizona 0, Southern Cal 0 ; Early 1st Quarter

A Pac-12 South Division showdown takes place in the desert Saturday night, as the Southern Cal Trojans travel east to take on the No. 10 Arizona Wildcats.

The game will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN 2.

Odds Shark has Southern Cal as a one-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

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Devin Gardner Injury: Updates on Michigan Star's Status and Return

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner left Saturday's game against Penn State in the third quarter after limping off the field with an unknown injury.

Derek Levarse of the Times Leader had the report:

Gardner would return, per Michigan football's Twitter:

Gardner, a senior who was expected to break out in 2014, has had an up-and-down season. He threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions while hitting on 13 of 14 passes against Appalachian State to start the season. A week later he self-imploded to the tune of three interceptions and zero points in an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame.

The fits and starts of Michigan's offense have left some in Ann Arbor ready to move forward with the highly touted Shane Morris—just not the Wolverines coaching staff.

"The backup quarterback is always the most popular guy in town, and Shane has done a tremendous job," offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier told reporters. "I said, leading up to the Notre Dame game, he had an exceptional week of practice and had another great week last week and continues to get better and better. I believe Devin is, too."

Garner was able to rebound from his Notre Dame nightmare for a solid outing against Miami (Ohio) and has been putting up the best passing numbers of his career. He's setting career bests in completion percentage and has a solid yards-per-attempt average despite Michigan's lack of downfield production. 

That said, it will be interesting to see if Gardner returns to a starting job when he's fully healthy. It was this time two years ago that Denard Robinson found himself in a similar situation—his injury (which sapped his arm strength) and inconsistencies throwing the ball gave the starting job to Gardner, who has held it for the last two seasons.

Morris is a homegrown talent out of Warren, Michigan, and was one of 2013's most highly sought-after quarterbacks. He was the third-best pro-style quarterback in the nation behind Max Browne and Christian Hackenberg, the latter of whom has already made a massive impact in the Big Ten.

With Brady Hoke sitting directly on the hot seat, he may choose to sell fans and alumni on the future. Morris and running back Derrick Green were the two shiny new faces in an impressive 2013 class that some thought could turn around the program. Green has begun living up to the hype after a difficult freshman campaign; perhaps Morris will do the same. 

Either way, Gardner's injury is going to make an already murky situation even more uncertain going forward.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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Auburn vs. Mississippi State: How Bulldogs' Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

Mississippi State or Florida State? That's the new debate atop college football.

After the Bulldogs' thrilling victory over Auburn Saturday that validated their College Football Playoff status and put the bull's-eye on their backs for the rest of 2014, the only question left to ask is whether Dan Mullen's squad has done enough to supplant the reigning national champions as the top team in the land.

The battle between No. 2 and No. 3 was the talk of college football all week. Everyone wondered if the Bulldogs were for real, and whether the Tigers could repeat last year's magic. While Auburn certainly isn't done in 2014, Mississippi State made its case convincingly.

With Florida State taking care of business against Syracuse, the Seminoles and Bulldogs should duel for bragging rights atop the rankings. But as Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman noted, simply being in this position is incredible for Mississippi State:

The Bulldogs looked hungry to run Auburn out of town Saturday just like it did Texas A&M. They took a 21-0 lead in the opening quarter, and all signs pointed to another thrashing of a SEC West heavyweight.

Auburn took the opening punch and gave one right back—largely aided by four straight Bulldog turnovers and a dominant Gus Malzahn run game. The Tigers battled back into it and trimmed the deficit to one possession in the fourth quarter.

But right when Mississippi State's resolve was being tested unlike it has all season long, the Bulldogs responded like champions do. They forced big plays, took the air out of the ball and pounded their way to a 38-23 win.

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel wondered aloud if Florida State could overcome a lack of quality wins to hold off Mississippi State:

There wasn't any question for ESPN's Paul Finebaum:

Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence challenged Twitter to tell him why the Bulldogs shouldn't be No. 1—a question awfully tough to give a rational answer to:

We're only halfway through the season, so all of these arguments have a few months to work themselves out. But this top-five matchup shook up the current CFP outlook in a huge way, and there should be no doubt after back-to-back top-six wins that the Bulldogs belong as No. 1:

Obviously, Auburn falls out of the CFP for now coming off its first loss of the season. Battling back in this game should be enough to prove that they belong among the nation's elite still, but they made key mistakes when the comeback was very alive.

Indicating Auburn is anywhere near done would be a naive rush to judgment. Should the Tigers run the table against South Carolina, No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 14 Texas A&M and No. 13 Georgia, they would likely be back in a top-four spot heading into the Iron Bowl.

But they may have lost their magic to the SEC West power that snuffed them out Saturday, as ESPN's Skip Bayless says:

Few matchups all season will carry the weight that Saturday's did, with two teams in the top three of the standings going at it. But even Mississippi State—coming off its third consecutive top-10 win—has its work cut out.

But the Bulldogs' next big test might not come until a trip to Alabama on Nov. 15 and the Egg Bowl on Nov. 29. By then, one tight defeat to a national powerhouse could be enough to remain in the mix in the races for both the SEC West and CFP.

Here's a look at both teams' remaining schedules:

What's more, Heisman contender Dak Prescott didn't have his best day through the air. He threw two uncharacteristic interceptions but showed that passing struggles don't impact his ability to make plays with his legs—a scary sight for the rest of the SEC.

Meanwhile, Auburn will have no chance running the table if it turns the ball over like it did Saturday. Four turnovers is a recipe for disaster in any circumstance, much less against the quality foes the Tigers face week in and week out.

Some of the biggest tests for Mississippi State and Auburn are yet to come, but Saturday goes a long way to tell just how serious the national title chances for both teams truly are.

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Louisville vs. Clemson: Game Grades, Analysis for the Tigers

It wasn’t pretty for the Clemson Tigers, but they were able to come up with enough plays defensively to win the game.

On the last play of the game—a fourth down from the 3-yard line—Clemson batted down Will Gardner’s pass to seal the 23-17 win.

It was a terrible performance offensively for both teams, but both defenses found ways to keep the game close. This game saw four combined turnovers and only 22 combined first downs.

Deshaun Watson injured his right hand early in the first quarter and was not able to return to action. Cole Stoudt came in at quarterback and made a lot of bad plays, but ultimately he did enough to give Clemson an opportunity to win.

The defenses dominated, and both units proved to be among the best in the nation, but it was Clemson who made the most plays down the stretch.

You can find the stats for the game here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

 

Passing Offense

The Tigers could not get anything going through the air, finishing with only 157 yards. Stoudt actually finished 20-of-33, but that can be credited to numerous screen passes. He threw one interception but often tossed the ball into traffic.

This was the worst passing performance of the season for Clemson, and I’m not sure how much of a difference Watson would have made. He was 2-of-6 passing with one interception before leaving the game.

 

Rushing Offense

As bad as the passing offense was, the rushing offense was only slightly better. Adam Choice provided a spark, rushing for 61 yards on 16 carries, but he was the only back who got anything going.

Watson, who left the game in the first quarter, finished second in rushing for the Tigers with only 10 yards. Wayne Gallman and C.J. Davidson only carried the ball a combined six times, but Choice gave the Tigers exactly what they needed in the fourth quarter.

 

Pass Defense

Clemson’s defense played well against the pass when Reggie Bonnafon was in the game for Louisville, generating a lot of pressure.

Once Will Gardner entered the game, Louisville started to get production through the air. Gardner made some big plays, and the Tigers had a couple of miscues in the secondary.

The touchdown pass from Gardner appeared to be the result of a blown coverage, and Robert Smith took a poor angle on the long pass late in the game, so the Tigers still have room to improve. Overall, it was a solid performance, and the ability to tackle in space really stood out from the secondary.

 

Run Defense

The Tigers played a tremendous game up front. The front seven was very aggressive and only allowed 52 rushing yards. Louisville’s leading rusher—Dominique Brown—only averaged 2.8 yards per carry, and his longest run was nine yards.

The linebackers were heavily involved in the run game, and it was just a dominating effort in this aspect.

 

Special Teams

If it wasn’t for special teams, the Tigers would have lost the game. A punt return touchdown and three field goals resulted in 16 of Clemson’s 23 points.

Adam Humphries’ 72-yard punt return got the crowd going and put the Tigers up 7-0. Ammon Lakip has struggled at times this season, but he played well and made some important kicks. This group gets the highest grade possible.

 

Coaching

Chad Morris made a mistake by lining up in the shotgun formation on certain plays, and his play-calling was rather conservative at times. I understand it’s tough to be aggressive with Stoudt in the game, but the offense never got into a rhythm because of the lack of first downs.

Brent Venables called a great game defensively, and coach Dabo Swinney handled the game well, so this unit grades out about average.

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Oregon vs. UCLA: Ducks Prove They're Still Legit Playoff Contenders

Count Oregon out of the College Football Playoff picture already? As ESPN’s Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!”                                       

After a disappointing Thursday night loss at home to the Arizona Wildcats, the Oregon Ducks (5-1, 2-1) bounced back in a significant way against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks not only dismantled the Bruins by the score of 42-30—a score that doesn’t fully reflect the nature of the blowout—but also catapulted themselves back into the national playoff picture.

 

Ducks Show Improvement

The Ducks finally looked like themselves again after three subpar performances against Wyoming, Washington State and Arizona. The Bruins stopped Oregon on their first two offensive possessions; however, the Ducks defense stepped up against Brett Hundley on the Bruins second drive by forcing a sack and fumble, which the Ducks recovered deep in Bruins territory. Marcus Mariota ran for a 13-yard touchdown on the following play, and the Ducks grabbed an early 8-0 lead following a two-point conversion.

It was all Ducks from there on out, as Oregon jumped on the Bruins to take a 42-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Despite a late comeback by the Bruins, a Ducks victory was never in question.

Oregon’s biggest concerns coming into the game were the offensive line, poor defensive play and penalties caused by mental lapses. The Ducks improved tremendously in all three areas against the Bruins.

First, Oregon’s offensive line, a unit that had allowed 12 sacks in the prior two contests against Washington State and Arizona, didn’t allow a single sack of Mariota against UCLA. Most of the improvement was due to the return of left tackle Jake Fisher. Fisher did a tremendous job blocking Mariota’s blind side and solidified a line that had been so beleaguered in conference play.

Oregon’s defense, despite giving up 553 yards—including 328 on the ground—managed to allow only 10 points to a potent Bruins offense before letting off the gas late in the fourth quarter. The Ducks routinely put pressure on Hundley, forcing two turnovers along the way—both of which led to Oregon touchdowns.

The Ducks also helped their cause by not committing penalties. After committing 10 penalties against Arizona, the Ducks only committed four against UCLA.

Another one of Oregon’s concerns heading into the game was the rushing attack that had been held in check so far in conference play. Against Washington State and Arizona the Ducks had averaged only 158 yards per game on the ground. However, with a stronger offensive line, the Ducks managed to rack up 258 yards on 41 carries.

Oregon has now beaten UCLA in each of their last six meetings and has defeated two teams—the Bruins and Michigan State—that were ranked in the Associated Press' Top 10 before the season.

If the Ducks can build on this performance, get solid offensive line play for the rest of the year and continue to force turnovers defensively, they’ll be in a strong position in every game the rest of the year.

 

Mariota the Star

The Ducks were once again lead by the redshirt junior quarterback Marcus Mariota, who scored four touchdowns on the day—two on the ground and two through the air. Mariota, who once again vaulted himself to the top of the Heisman rankings, now has scored 19 touchdowns on the season—15 passing, three rushing, one receiving. Mariota has also yet to throw an interception.

The Ducks are only going to go as far as Marcus Mariota can take them. However, they’re going to need the offensive line to keep protecting him, as it did against UCLA.

Mariota is most effective when he has time in the pocket and is able to improvise and make plays with his legs. Against UCLA, Mariota not only had time in the pocket to maneuver but also the Ducks running game finally got going. When the Ducks are able to run the ball effectively, Mariota is even more difficult to stop because defenses have to account for everything the Ducks bring to the table.

On the day Mariota completed 17 of 27 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards and two more touchdowns on seven carries.

In short, Mariota dominated the Bruins with his arm and legs while effectively managing the Ducks potent offense to 42 points.

Mariota not only vaulted himself once again to the top of the Heisman race but also proved he is more than capable of coming through in big conference road games.

More tests are ahead for Mariota; however, if he continues playing at this level the Ducks should be able to beat any team in the Pac-12.

 

The Road Ahead

While the Ducks certainly played their best conference game of the season and perhaps their best game overall this year, they still have a lot of room for improvement going forward.

As we mentioned, the Ducks defense allowed 553 yards of offense to the Bruins, though a significant portion of those yards came in the fourth quarter when UCLA was down by 32 points. Regardless, Oregon’s defense is going to need to improve against the run and solidify its pass defense, both of which have been shaky in conference play.

The offensive line, while it played well today, is still trying to find its way and must stay injury free for the rest of the season in order for the Ducks to have a shot at the playoff.

Lastly, the Ducks must continue to build their identity as a mentally tough team. Coming back and beating UCLA thoroughly after a crushing loss to Arizona is a start. However, Oregon must continue to prove to the rest of the Pac-12 that they’re not going to beat themselves like they did against Arizona.

Oregon, after its second road conference win the of the season, is now firmly back in the playoff chase and now must be considered the favorite to win the Pac-12 North title and advance to the Pac-12 title game on Dec. 5.

Another loss in conference play would almost definitely take the Ducks out of playoff contention. A game against a tough Washington team awaits Oregon next week.

However, the team's toughest test will come on Nov. 1 when the Stanford Cardinal come roaring into town. Fresh off a 34-17 victory over Washington State, the Cardinal are right back into contention for the Pac-12 North title. The Ducks have lost two consecutive games to Stanford—both with Mariota under center.

If the Ducks have playoff dreams they'll have to overcome the team that has prevented them from winning a Pac-12 title the past two seasons. But if the Ducks continue to play the way they did against UCLA, they’re going to be right in the mix come mid-December.

 

Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.

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How Gus Malzahn's Play-Calling Cost Auburn the Game vs. Mississippi State

In a game that featured two teams desperately trying to give the game to each other, it was No. 3 Mississippi State that prevailed over No. 2 Auburn 38-23 in Starkville.

The Bulldogs have Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn to thank.

The Tigers' second-year head coach didn't strike when the iron was hot, got away from his bread and butter in the middle and didn't trust the hot hand when one surfaced early in the first half.

Where did Malzahn go wrong?

 

Early Momentum Left on the Table

Auburn turned the ball over on its first two plays of the game, led to the 21-0 hole it found itself in at the end of the first quarter.

However the Bulldogs set the Tigers up for a fast comeback as gave the Tigers the ball and good field position four straight times.  Surprisingly, the mighty Auburn offense was only able to notch 13 points off these opportunities.

It could have cashed in much more, if Malzahn had not gone ultraconservative with his play calling. 

After Mississippi State punter Logan Cooke threw an interception to Johnathan Ford on an inexplicable fake, Auburn quickly put itself into a 1st-and-goal situation from the 7-yard line, down 21-0.

Four plays to get seven yards isn't too tall of an order, even against Mississippi State's rush defense.

On 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line, you'd figure—down 21—Auburn had two plays to get four yards.

Wrong.

Malzahn called a reverse pass with tight end C.J. Uzomah—who played quarterback in high school—which Mississippi State covered beautifully, forcing Auburn to settle for a 21-yard Daniel Carlson field goal.

Allie Davison of AuburnSports.com questioned the curious reverse pass on third down:

If you run a play like that in that situation following a huge momentum swing, you do it with another in mind on fourth down to cut the lead to two touchdowns. At that point in the game, Auburn desperately needed seven, not three.

Later, Jonathan Jones picked off Bulldog quarterback Dak Prescott on the next drive near midfield.  After driving down inside the 10-yard line, wide receiver Sammie Coates stepped out of bounds and was called for illegal touching on what would have been a touchdown on 3rd-and-5.  The Tigers settled for another chip-shot field goal.

It was a different situation than the previous drive, but with two downs to get five yards leaning on Auburn's rushing attack is the safest and most responsible course of action. 

In that situation, on the road in a hostile environment, Auburn got too cute. It might have cost the Tigers the national title.

Auburn played not to lose early, which is a big reason why it lost late.

 

Pass-Happy Game Plan

Auburn's entire goal this offseason was to be more balanced, but on Saturday, it seemed forced.

Quarterback Nick Marshall was 17-of-35 for 209 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on the day. More balance? Certainly. The Tigers ran 43 running plays (55.1 percent), which is more balance than last year, when the Tigers ran on 71.9 percent of their plays.

Why force it, though?

Marshall is at his best when he's operating the zone read and using tempo to his advantage. Does the absence of tackle Greg Robinson and running back Tre Mason hurt? Sure, but Shon Coleman is more than capable of filling in at left tackle, and Auburn still has a stable of running backs.

In the third quarter on Saturday, Auburn got the ball, down eight, with a ton of momentum. After a completion to D'haquille "Duke" Williams got Auburn near midfield, Marshall threw three straight incompletions before the Tigers punted.

Malzahn defended the decision after the game, according to Brandon Marcello of AL.com:

The next drive, it was more of the same. Marshall threw an incomplete to Quan Bray on first down and got Auburn's offense off-schedule. The Tigers are at their best when they can get into 2nd-and-6-type situations. In the slop, on the road, Malzahn didn't give his team much of a chance to do that.

It seems like Auburn tried to overcorrect this offseason and force a new identity on this offense, rather than letting one develop on its own. It cost them on Saturday.

 

Do You Smell What the Roc Is Cookin'?

Freshman running back Roc Thomas has essentially been a backup for the first five games of the season, but there he was in Starkville in the biggest game of the college football season getting significant carries on Auburn's fourth drive of the game, rushing three times for 36 yards to get Auburn inside the red zone.

He had three carries over the final three-and-a-half quarters.

Known as more of a mix between bruiser Cameron Artis-Payne and speedster Corey Grant, Thomas showed in the first quarter that he has the moves to make defenders miss in space and keep plays alive when Auburn needed it most.

Where did he go?

Auburn has a pretty good rotation working at running back with Artis-Payne and Grant, but why stay married to it if the freshman shows he can handle more responsibility in a tight spot?

Some of those five-yard gains could have turned into 15-yard chunks, which could have drastically changed the game. 

At times on Saturday afternoon, both Auburn and Mississippi State did what they could to hand the game to the other team. Auburn didn't take it, mostly because Malzahn's play-calling was uncharacteristically suspect.

Luckily for Auburn, considering the way this season has gone around the country, it's down but not out.

 

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

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

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Did Mississippi State Just Prove It Is the Best Team in the Country?

Mississippi State has had no trouble against top competition this season, beating three top-10 teams in as many games. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate whether Mississippi is the clear No. 1 team in the nation. 

Is Mississippi State your top team?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Bryce Petty vs. TCU: Stat Line, Heisman Impact and Reaction

Just when it looked like the No. 9-ranked TCU Horned Frogs were going to completely lay waste to the college football preseason rankings by defeating No. 5 Baylor, along came Bears quarterback Bryce Petty

The senior signal-caller led his team to a stirring 61-58 comeback victory over TCU on Saturday, staking his claim to a spot in the Heisman trophy race and sending shockwaves across the college football landscape with his incredible stat line. 

Petty put in some of his best work with his team down 21 points in the fourth quarter. He tossed two touchdowns and confidently led the Bears back from the brink of defeat to a famous victory. His completion percentage notwithstanding, it was an amazing performance that should keep Baylor in the College Football Playoff hunt.

ESPN College Football gave props to Petty and provided a look at the Bears celebrating after the final whistle:

Sports Illustrated's Zac Ellis believes the performance puts Petty right back in the Heisman race:

The Texas native threw for nine touchdowns and one interception in four games, while adding three scores on the ground. It's been plenty good enough for Baylor to put up some monstrous numbers, including a 63-21 win over Buffalo. However, the win over TCU represents Baylor's first victory of the season over a ranked opponent.

Petty did throw two interceptions in the contest, including a pick-six that gave TCU a 58-37 lead in the fourth quarter. However, SB Nation's Wescott Eberts noted that a Petty pick is a rare occurrence:

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer wasn't blown away by his performance, noting Petty's reliance on wide receivers KD Cannon and Antwan Goodley: 

Of course, this ignores Petty's game-tying touchdown throw to Corey Coleman, who finished with eight catches and two scores. 

The back and forth affair was high profile and highly entertaining. Petty was quick to head off criticism the Bears may face after narrowly escaping with a win, per ESPN Central Texas' Craig Smoak:

The Bears will have to answer questions about their defense after this contest, but with Petty leading one of the most explosive offenses in college football, they could very well be the class of the Big-12 this season.

Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is still likely the leading candidate among quarterbacks for the Heisman, but   if Petty can lead his team to a November 8 victory over Oklahoma and put up similar numbers, he could indeed be in line for a surprise run as the nation's best college football player.

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