NCAA Football News

Was the Playoff Committee Right About Notre Dame All Along?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish lost a heartbreaker to the Arizona State Sun Devils, 55-31. With the loss, the Irish are all but certain of falling from College Football Playoff contention.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder break down why the Irish will be on the outside looking in. 

Are Notre Dame's national title hopes gone?

Watch the video and let us know!

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West Virginia vs. Texas: Game Grades, Analysis for Mountaineers and Longhorns

This was the kind of performance that Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been searching for all season. The Longhorns played very well defensively, holding West Virginia to just 16 points and running the ball at ease at times in the 33-16 win.

The Texas offensive line deserves most of the recognition in this win, as the Longhorns rushed for 227 total yards. Johnathan Gray had 101 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and Malcolm Brown added 90 yards.

West Virginia attempted to make a comeback in the second half after trailing 24-3 at halftime, but ultimately the mistakes were too much to overcome. The Mountaineers turned it over twice and also took a safety on a sack of quarterback Clint Trickett.

The Longhorns move to 5-5 on the season, and they will look to become bowl-eligible with a sixth win next week versus Oklahoma State. West Virginia must recover from this loss quickly, as it faces Kansas State after an off week.

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

 

Game Grades and Analysis for the West Virginia Mountaineers

Passing Offense

It wasn't the best day for West Virginia, who only had 141 total yards at halftime. Trickett finished 36-of-49 passing with 248 yards, but he failed to find the end zone. The passing offense gets an average grade because Trickett averaged only 5.1 yards per passing attempt and threw an interception.

 

Rushing Offense

The run game gets a B-minus because of the struggles early on. The Mountaineers had only 42 yards in the first half, but they ended with 200 yards on the ground. Dreamius Smith broke off a 62-yard run, and he ended the day with 100 yards on 10 carries.

 

Pass Defense

The numbers weren't there for Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, and that can be attributed to West Virginia's adjustments at halftime. The Longhorns weren't able to run the ball as effectively in the second half, and the West Virginia secondary made plays as a result. 

Swoopes averaged only 4.3 yards per attempt, and West Virginia forced him into an interception.

 

Run Defense

It was a tale of two halves for the West Virginia run defense. Texas ran the ball all over the Mountaineers in the first half, totaling 178 yards at the intermission, but was held to just 49 yards rushing in the final two quarters.

The Mountaineers forced Texas into passing situations on third down, and that helped them come away with some big stops.

 

Special Teams

The Mountaineers weren't able to get points on the board a couple of times, as Josh Lambert went 1-of-3 on his field goals. Punter Nick O'Toole punted four times, but he failed to pin any of them inside the 20-yard line.

 

Coaching

The coaching did a better job in the second half after making adjustments, but the first half was not pretty. The play-calling did not allow the offense to establish any kind of rhythm in the first half, as the Mountaineers failed to take many shots down the field.

The safety in the second half was a direct result of play-calling, so I blame coaching there also. With the ball on the 2-yard line, West Virginia should have got some breathing room with a run or called a short pass. Instead, Trickett dropped back three steps and was sacked before he had a chance to go through his progressions.

 

Game Grades and Analysis for the Texas Longhorns

Passing Offense

As good as Texas looked Saturday, Swoopes did not have his best day. He finished with just 124 yards passing and only averaged 4.3 yards per attempt. Late in the game, he made poor decisions, including one interception.

 

Rushing Offense

The Texas offense earned a great grade in the first half, but the second half wasn't as impressive. The Longhorns totaled 178 yards before halftime, and the offensive line made holes large enough for a monster truck to drive through.

The grade is a B-minus because of the way West Virginia's adjustments affected Texas in the second half. Gray finished with three touchdowns, but as a team Texas was held to 49 yards after halftime.

 

Pass Defense

The secondary played very well on Saturday, keeping Trickett from throwing a touchdown pass. Quandre Diggs played physical and came up with a big interception right before the half. 

Trickett was 36-of-49 passing, but many of his throws were screen passes and short tosses.

 

Run Defense

The run defense was very good in the first half, as Texas held the Mountaineers to 42 yards on the ground. Smith broke off a long run in the second half, and West Virginia finished the game with 200 yards rushing.

I still give the Longhorns a decent grade because of the way they held West Virginia in check in the first half.

 

Special Teams

Punter Michael Davidson booted punts for an average of 43.7 yards, and he pinned West Virginia inside the 20-yard line three times. Nick Rose went 1-of-2 on his kicks, but the kick before halftime was great for momentum.

 

Coaching

The coaching staff was not as impressive with their halftime adjustments, but the defense ultimately played its best game of the season. The offense questionably threw the ball deep at times, and the flow just wasn't there offensively in the second half.

When you take into account how well the defense played, though, it's hard to give this staff a grade lower than a B-minus.

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Michigan vs. Northwestern: Game Grades, Analysis for the Wolverines

What Michigan and Northwestern did on Saturday was perhaps the ugliest display by any Big Ten team this season.

However, the 10-9 decision moved coach Brady Hoke’s Wolverines to 5-5 (3-3 B1G), so they’ll take it. They’ll become bowl eligible with one more victory.

That said, the way they almost lost to the Wildcats was indicative of this year's trends. With seconds to play, Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian found Tony Jones for a three-yard touchdown. Facing an obvious go-for-two situation, Siemian dropped back in hopes of tossing the winning ball.

Instead, he was flattened by Frank Clark, who led an aggressive defense that sacked Siemian seven times. Northwestern (3-6, 2-5) was close, but it was not close enough. The Wolverines, who are hanging on by a thread, had just enough gas to leave Evanston, Illinois, with a win.

So now it’s time to grade it. Of course, the marks will be heavily influenced by Michigan’s poor execution and missed opportunities—otherwise known as its calling card for 2014.

 

Pass Offense

The Wolverines just can’t throw the ball. That’s been emphasized on a weekly basis since 2013 but especially highlighted this season.

Devin Gardner was essentially at his worst Saturday night. He completed 11 of 24 attempts for a measly 109 yards. He also added his standard pair of picks.

Devin Funchess hasn’t been Devin Funchess since Week 1. He had two catches for an unimpressive 23 yards.

There is no other grade to give but D-. It’d be an F, but Jake Butt grabbed a late one, and Amara Darboh—who needs more reps—had four catches. Consider those extra-credit points after being late with your homework.

 

Pass Defense

Delonte Hollowell was burned by Jones, whose touchdown made it 10-9 Michigan. Ordinarily, that would drastically cut the grade. But it won’t tonight because Jourdan Lewis played an excellent game.

His defense on Kyle Prater saved a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Northwestern probably knew it wasn’t to going to win by running the ball. Attacking the secondary was the right move, and Siemian threw for 273 yards. Limiting him to one touchdown—a prayer at that—is a positive sign for a team looking for something to dull the sting of a disappointing season.

Jake Ryan had an interception. That’ll make up for Hollowell’s near-miss.

The pass D gets a B-. The good slightly outweighed the bad.

 

Run Offense

De’Veon Smith ran for 121 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He looked great. He hit holes, he ran with purpose and he picked up yards after contact. He ran like he should have been running all season. The sophomore picked up where Drake Johnson left off versus Indiana University this past Saturday. Johnson led the way with 122 yards in that game, but he couldn’t get going Saturday. He also fumbled, which isn’t a way to earn more carries.

The run offense gets a C. It scored the touchdown but wasn’t spectacular by any means.

 

Run Defense

Justin Jackson rushed for 35 yards. He entered the game with a team-high 726 yards and five touchdowns. He didn’t sniff the end zone Saturday. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison’s game plan against the run stood the test. This topic will be highlighted in the coaching section.

 

Special Teams

Matt Wile’s 41-yard field-goal attempt was blocked with 27 seconds to play in the first half. However, his 37-yarder in the second half made it through the uprights. Will Hagerup had a punt that pinned the Wildcats just inches from the goal line in the second half.

Jehu Chesson forced a fumble while covering a punt.

Special teams get a B.

 

Coaching

Mattison’s defense isn’t perfect. There are holes everywhere. But it finds a way to keep Team 135 competitive in the ugliest of affairs. It gave up nine points Saturday. It doesn’t matter who you play in the Big Ten—nine points are nine points.

Mattison’s run D continues to stop backs in their tracks. The Wildcats rushed for minus-nine yards, warranting an A. Instead, he’s getting a B+ because his secondary was touched up a bit by Siemian in the first half, and it gave up a late touchdown to Jones. 

Hoke gets a C-. He won. Good for him.

Doug Nussmeier’s offense churned out 147 rushing yards. He made several correct calls with Smith, who charged for 121 yards and the game’s only touchdown.

But poor quarterback play, Funchess being hit by a ball during a snap, Johnson’s fumble (recovered by Joe Kerridge) and several drops by receivers characterized Nussmeier’s ineffective offense as a whole.

He gets a D-. Ten points. That's why.

 

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

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Michigan's Bowl Game Hopes Ride on Devin Gardner Making Improvements

It was ugly, but the University of Michigan beat Northwestern University 10-9, clawing back to even (5-5, 3-3 Big Ten) for the season. With two tough opponents remaining on the schedule, Michigan’s bowl hopes rely on quarterback Devin Gardner. Michigan needs to win at least one more game to be bowl eligible.

Gardner has had a tough season in offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s new offense. He’s regressed significantly since last season, when he starred in games versus the University of Notre Dame and Ohio State University. He continues to throw too many interceptions, some of which result in long returns. He also missed opportunities for big plays by holding the ball a split second too long and allowing the defense time to adjust.

The same problems emerged again versus Northwestern, as Gardner turned the ball over and threw dangerous passes. One interception resulted in a long return, and another near interception was a probable pick-six if the Northwestern defender could have held on. Gardner’s totals (11-of-24 for 109 yards and two interceptions) were also hurt by numerous drops by his receivers.

But there are signs that Gardner may be ready to play his best football of the season.

He appears to be recovering from a foot injury that has hampered his mobility for the last several games. He should also benefit from a bye week before Michigan’s next game. Gardner is getting better protection from his offensive line, which is also paying dividends for the Michigan running attack.

Last season, Gardner rallied in the season finale versus Ohio State. Michigan fell short 42-41, but Gardner played brilliantly despite a leg injury that put him on crutches for over a month.

Brady Hoke needs Gardner to summon a similar performance in the final two games. The stakes are bigger than just Michigan’s bowl hopes. Hoke is fighting to keep his job.

He is 2-0 since the resignation of athletic director David Brandon, but those victories came versus Indiana University (3-6, 0-5 Big Ten) and Northwestern (3-6, 2-4 Big Ten)—teams racked by injuries.

Michigan will face stiffer competition during the next two games. Michigan has a bye week, and then it returns to play the University of Maryland (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) at home before traveling to play Ohio State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) in Columbus. Michigan will be prohibitive underdogs in both games.

Michigan’s bowl hopes rest in Gardner’s hands. His performance may also determine Hoke’s fate.

Gardner can also salvage his legacy, which has been severely dented during Michigan’s two-year fade.

Gardner has battled competition and injuries during his career to become Michigan’s starting quarterback. The next two games will determine how the story ends.

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