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South Carolina vs. Auburn: Game Grades, Analysis for the Gamecocks and Tigers

The South Carolina Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers did battle at the Plains, and it was Auburn that prevailed 42-35. The final box score can be found here, thanks to NCAA.com.

Both teams made plays on offense. Auburn did its damage through the ground, while South Carolina aired it out.

But the reason Auburn was able to come away with the win was the fact that South Carolina made one too many mistakes on offense, and the Tigers were able to take advantage of it.

Both teams showed they wanted to win, but the Tigers were just the better team on Saturday night.

Here are game grades and analysis for the Gamecocks and the Tigers.

 

PASSING OFFENSE

Dylan Thompson had one of his best nights as a Gamecock against Auburn. The senior quarterback threw for 402 yards and five touchdowns. However, he did throw two interceptions that proved to be costly for the Gamecocks, and it was the reason Auburn was able to win.

But Thompson showed toughness in the pocket, was able to hit his receivers downfield and the offensive line gave him more than enough time to throw.

 

RUNNING OFFENSE

The Gamecocks were OK at running the ball, but they could have been better. Mike Davis did have 88 rushing yards on 21 carries, and Brandon Wilds had 26 yards on seven carries. Because of the Auburn offense scoring on every series but two, the Gamecocks could not run the ball as much as they would have liked. But even if they did run it more, they were only gaining around 3.6 yards per carry.

 

PASSING DEFENSE

Despite Nick Marshall only throwing for 139 yards, he only missed on two pass attempts, and he was never pressured. South Carolina's defense has struggled all season long, and it had no answer for Auburn’s passing attack. The Tigers don’t throw the ball a lot to being with, but guys such as Gerald Dixon and Gerald Dixon Jr. needed to do a better job putting pressure on Marshall just to disrupt the timing.

 

RUNNING OFFENSE

It would not have mattered if the Gamecocks would have stopped the pass because they were run over by the Tigers anyway. The Gamecocks surrendered 395 yards, and it could have been more if the game went into overtime.

The offensive line and Auburn receivers pushed the South Carolina defensive front seven all game long. Not one player for the Gamecocks stepped up and decided to take a stand, and that’s got to be tough for the coaching staff because it’s not going to get easier.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

The special teams actually had one of the plays of the season as the kickoff team recovered an onside kick. But nothing came of it, and it was a no-show for the special teams all game long other than that play. The one good thing, though, was that punter Tyler Hull only punted once in the entire game. That showed the offense was either scoring touchdowns or turning the ball over, which was a little of both.

 

COACHING

This was one of the better coaching jobs Steve Spurrier has done in a long time. He was aggressive, made all the right calls and made all the right decisions. The fact that he went for it on fourth down six times and converted on five of them shows how much confidence he has in his players. Unfortunately, he does not have the talent around him this season to be on top of the SEC East.

 

 

PASSING OFFENSE

Auburn does not throw the ball all that often. But when the Tigers do, they are pretty accurate. Marshall completed 10 of his 12 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown. Running is his strong point, but he has shown he can stand in the pocket and deliver a great strike when needed. Just don’t expect him to throw it 25 times a game because this team loves to run the ball.

 

RUNNING OFFENSE

And the Tigers proved how they love to run the ball as they rushed for nearly 400 yards.

Artis-Payne, Marshall and Ricardo Louis each rushed for over 100 yards in the win against South Carolina. The offensive line gave them great holes to run through, but South Carolina had trouble defending the option read the Tigers were running because they became undisciplined quickly. It was just another day for Gus Malzahn’s offense.

 

PASSING DEFENSE

It was a tough day for the Auburn secondary because it could not handle Shaq Roland, Pharoh Cooper or Mike Davis. One of the things South Carolina did was play a lot of one-on-one coverage, and Auburn was losing the battle.

The Tigers made adjustments in the second half, but the Gamecocks also made adjustments, which is what the Tigers gave up 400 yards in the air. But the Tigers did get two interceptions, and they proved to be the difference in the game.

 

RUNNING DEFENSE

The Tigers did a solid job not letting Mike Davis or Brandon Wilds run over them. A lot of it had to do with Cassanova McKinzy manning the middle with six tackles. Montravius Adams was no slouch either as he notched three tackles in the win. The Tigers did not have their best defensive game, but the one thing they did do was not let the run game beat them, which is always a goal for any defense.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

It was a pretty good night for the special teams. The coverage teams were on point, Daniel Carlson only had to punt twice and Quan Bray had a punt return of 28 yards.

However, Bray did fumble the return, which South Carolina recovered and led to points. Bray is as talented as a return man there is in the conference, but he can’t afford to have mistakes like that again. Because if it happens again, the coaches will replace him.

 

COACHING

Malzahn had a great game plan for his offense. And it was simple because the Tigers just ran the ball on South Carolina, mixing it in with a few pass plays, and they scored on every series, except for the first and the final.

I think the one thing the coaches need to work on is a better game plan defensively. Having Auburn play man coverage killed the team all game long, which is why South Carolina had over 500 yards of total offense. They can’t do that with teams such as Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia, three teams the Tigers still have to face this season.

 

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Amari Cooper vs. Tennessee: Stat Line, Heisman Impact and Reaction

Amari Cooper embarked on a trip to Tennessee set to make another Heisman Trophy statement, and it began on Alabama's first offensive snap.

Cooper took a screen pass 80 yards for the score on the team's first offensive play en route to a historic first-quarter performance. He finished with nine catches that went for a career-best 224 yards and two touchdowns, paving the way to a 34-20 victory.

Here's his final stat line:

It was just another big day for Alabama wideouts against the Volunteers, as CBS Sports' Jon Solomon recounts Julio Jones setting records against Tennessee a few years back:

The junior wideout scored a 54-yard touchdown on Alabama's third offensive play against Tennessee a year ago but didn't want to wait that long on Saturday night. He took a screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown on the opening play and returned for the second drive to catch a 41-yard score.

By the end of the first quarter, Cooper was setting records, per ESPN Stats and Info:

He wasn't nearly as potent in the second half, but after going for more than 180 in the first half, he didn't need to be. However, he still hauled in a couple of first-down grabs to increase his yardage total and set a school record.

Cooper burst onto the Heisman scene early in the season and made a huge statement in a 201-yard, three-touchdown performance over Florida, but Saturday's performance was right up there with that breakout.

His stats tapered off along with Alabama's team play for a two-game stretch against Ole Miss and Arkansas, but he emerged again with 140 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M last weekend.

After his explosion on Saturday, Cooper now leads the NCAA in receiving yards with 1,132 for the season. He also has two 200-plus-yard games and three multi-touchdown games—not too shabby.

When Alabama's offense is clicking, Cooper is the main beneficiary. And despite being the focal point of every opposing defense's scouting report, he continues putting up gaudy numbers.

Cooper has had his fair share of Heisman moments, and he added another on Saturday in Neyland Stadium. But he faces the ultimate test of going where no receiver has gone since Desmond Howard in 1991, and that's winning the Heisman Trophy.

One Heisman voter—Lexington Courier-Journal's Kyle Tucker—has moved Cooper all the way up his ballot:

He also has his fair share of company. Running backs Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon are peaking, while Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota still have golden chances to get to New York City if their teams continue winning.

But that's about as far as the indubitable Heisman Trophy contenders go, and Cooper's dominant receiving totals have him up there with the rest of them.

The scariest part? Cooper's best chances for marquee performances are to come. Three of Alabama's toughest games are upcoming against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. 

Should he post another stat line like Saturday's against one of those teams, he'll likely guarantee a spot in New York City. If he does so against all of them, he'll have quite the case to be the first receiver to win the Heisman in 23 years. 

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Alabama vs. Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for Crimson Tide and Vols

The fourth-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide survived a mid-game comeback by the Tennessee Volunteers, earning a 34-20 conference win.

Alabama jumped out to a 27-point lead, but 17 straight from the Vols forced Nick Saban's team to refocus and finish strong.

Pass Offense: Blake Sims was efficient once again, finishing the night 14-of-24 for 286 yards. Amari Cooper reeled in nine passes for a school-record 224 yards and two touchdowns, moving into the No. 2 spot for single-season and career yards in program history.

Run Offense: T.J. Yeldon recorded 52 yards and a score before deferring to Derrick Henry, who registered 78 yards and one touchdown. The most impressive scamper of the day belonged to Sims, who bounced off a handful of tacklers en route to a 28-yard score.

Pass Defense: The 'Bama pass rush sacked Nathan Peterman once, and cornerback Cyrus Jones snagged an airmailed ball. Marquez North was blanketed relatively well, which was a key to curbing Tennessee's attack.

Run Defense: Somewhat surprisingly, the Crimson Tide struggled during the first half and allowed a season-high 140 yards on the ground. The front seven settled down throughout the latter frames and limited the Vols to just 41 more.

Special Teams: JK Scott hammered a 60-yard punt, eventually compiling 42.8 per attempt. Adam Griffith missed an extra point for the first time during his Alabama career but made his next five.

Coaching: Lane Kiffin's return to Knoxville was a clear success, and his game plan attacked Tennessee's weaknesses perfectly to build a 27-point advantage. Kirby Smart tightened up his defense after 17 unanswered and buried the Vols.

 

Pass Offense: Peterman started the game under center, but Joshua Dobbs looked confident in the pocket upon entering. He finished his first appearance of the year 19-of-32 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Run Offense: Led by Dobbs, Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane, Tennessee racked up a season-high 181 yards on the ground. It had the most success running outside, and the read-option helped the team's speed turn the corner.

Pass Defense: There's no courteous way to acknowledge that Cooper completely shredded the Vols secondary, so that's that. Sims successfully eluded pressure for most of the night, though Tennessee did record one sack on a third down.

Run Defense: During the first half, Alabama managed just 69 yards. However, failing to contain Sims on a pair of third-down scrambles proved to be killer, and the Tide tallied 185 yards and three touchdowns.

Special Teams: Cameron Sutton nearly muffed a punt, but it was an otherwise uneventful night for the special teams. Aaron Medley connected on two field goals and extra points, while Matt Darr averaged 41.8 yards per punt.

Coaching: It looked like the Vols would be blown out of Neyland Stadium, but Butch Jones sticking with Dobbs was an important decision. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian called an outstanding game, especially since the game marked Dobbs' first snaps of 2014.

 

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

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Ole Miss vs. LSU: How Ole Miss Loss Reshapes Playoff Picture

Just when you thought Bo Wallace finally laid his "Bad Bo" persona to rest, one play reinforces every doubt anyone ever had about him.

The Ole Miss quarterback threw a game-ending interception in a 10-7 loss to No. 24 LSU in Baton Rouge. As a result, the third-ranked Rebels may have done irreparable damage to their playoff hopes.

The Rebels were in position for freshman kicker Gary Wunderlich to attempt a potential game-tying field goal from 47 yards out. Instead, head coach Hugh Freeze opted to run one more play, and Tigers safety Ronald Martin intercepted a pass thrown by Wallace near the goal line.

Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde offered a withering criticism of Freeze's decision not to kick the field goal with nine seconds left:

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also wondered why Wallace would try to throw through a window that clearly wasn't there:

Freeze explained the decision after the game, per Mike Sands of WLBT in Jackson, Miss.:

The Rebels aren't completely out of the hunt for the playoff, but they've got a tough road to go. They play No. 5 Auburn next week, and then the huge Egg Bowl battle with the top-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs comes at the end of the regular season.

Those are two major hurdles, so it's hard to consider Ole Miss a lock any more. Looking ahead, these four teams are best positioned to qualify for the playoff.

Mississippi State didn't have the most convincing of wins over Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats gained 502 yards on the top-ranked Bulldogs in a 45-31 defeat, with quarterback Patrick Towles combining for 466 yards and four touchdowns.

In short, the Bulldogs defense was far from convincing:

Still, Mississippi State is the only unbeaten team in the SEC and more than deserving of the top spot.

Some will be surprised to see the Alabama Crimson Tide ahead of Ole Miss, considering the Rebels beat 'Bama earlier in the year. However, Alabama looks to be the more complete team and a slightly better bet to finish the season with only one loss.

Saturday night fortified every criticism many had of Ole Miss. The Rebels looked sluggish in their wins over Memphis and Tennessee, and that ended up biting them against the Tigers. In addition, Wallace reverted to his old, inconsistent self, finishing 14-of-33 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The Ole Miss defense wasn't even that great, surrendering 264 rushing yards to LSU.

You could argue that Auburn might deserve to be in ahead of Alabama. The Georgia Bulldogs are also lurking in the SEC East with only one loss. Either way, it's hard to be too high on the Rebels at the moment.

Of course, with so much time left in the season, it's hard to get too worked up about any playoff projections.

Basically barring some unforeseen catastrophe, two teams are locked into the playoff: the SEC champion and Florida State. Outside of that, it's all up in the air, which leads to two big questions.

The first, will the selection committee send two teams from the same conference?

If you truly want to send the four best teams in the country into the playoff, it makes sense to include a one-loss squads Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, depending on the situation. Then again, doing that dismisses the idea of deciding it on the field, so maybe it should only be one team per conference.

Then there's the question of whether a one-loss Oregon team deserves a spot ahead of one-loss programs such as Ohio State, Michigan State, TCU and Notre Dame. Each team has plenty of flaws in its resume, and no perfect answer exists.

But that's all a different discussion for a different day. For now, Mississippi State can enjoy being the best team in the state.

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Ole Miss vs. LSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

Spurred on by a heroic performance from their defense, the No. 24-ranked LSU Tigers defeated the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels 10-7 in yet another upset fraught with implications for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Trailing the majority of a highlight-starved game, LSU went ahead 10-7 on a three-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Jennings to Logan Stokes with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss would get a late chance to win the game, but LSU defensive back Ronald Martin intercepted Bo Wallace's short-armed pass on his own 2-yard line to end the game.

Here is the quarter-by-quarter score from the game:

Turnovers and the field-position battle defined this plodding contest. Ole Miss punted the ball eight times in the game, but it did well to pin the Tigers back in their own territory for much of the game. LSU turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions from Jennings, yet managed to pull off the win.

The Tigers' swarming defense gave Wallace fits all evening long and kept them in the game when their own offense sputtered, which was quite often.

LSU freshman running back Leonard Fournette, who finished with 154 all-purpose yards, was a menace throughout the game but botched an early Tigers drive by fumbling just one yard away from paydirt. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler was impressed with his showing despite the fumble:

Ole Miss took an early 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter when Wallace hit wideout Cody Core in the flat for a 15-yard touchdown. Hugh Kellenberger of The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger was impressed by the well-executed play:

LSU went run heavy in the first half with Jennings out of rhythm. Fournette, still struggling to carry those lofty preseason expectations, traded off carries with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard throughout the contest.

Magee fumbled to start the second quarter, but the Tigers would put together a monstrous 17-play, 90-yard drive that somehow ended in a Colby Delahoussaye field goal instead of a touchdown.

The Tigers' long drive dominated the second quarter and left Ole Miss little time to do anything of note.

Both teams traded punts throughout the second half, with Jennings breaking up the monotony by throwing his first interception in the third quarter. ESPN's Peter Burns gave his thoughts on both quarterbacks' shortcomings:

There was a scary moment in the second half when Fournette got his facemask ripped clean off by an Ole Miss defender. Bleacher Report provided a look at the play: 

With neither offense able to put together a cohesive drive, it looked like Ole Miss might somehow hold on for the win.

LSU finally broke through in the fourth quarter after so many squandered possessions. Starting from their own 5-yard line, the Tigers wound down the clock with a steady supply of runs from Fournette, Hilliard and Melvin Jones.

Thirteen plays, 95 yards and the only pass capped off the drive. Jennings hit Stokes in the flat and he took the ball into the end zone, unleashing pandemonium at Tiger Stadium.

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre was in awe of the drive:

Ole Miss failed to convert on a 4th-and-1 on its next drive, but the Rebels defense ensured the road team would have one more chance by forcing an LSU punt with just under two minutes to go. 

The Tigers thought they won the game when Wallace floated an under-thrown pass into the hands of an LSU defender, but a penalty erased the play. SportsCenter provided a recap:

Wallace scrambled on second down for eight yards to put the Rebels in field-goal range. However, a delay of game penalty knocked them further back and Wallace's last-ditch throw was picked off just in front of the end zone with two seconds left on the clock, securing the shocking win for LSU.

College Football Today's Spencer Tillman felt Wallace choked:

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted out this stunning nugget of information:

The SEC West falls further into chaos with the Rebels' loss. Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State all won on Saturday, and they all should end up ahead of Ole Miss in the Week 9 rankings. It's almost a foregone conclusion that one of these teams will make the College Football Playoff, but at this point it's anyone's guess as to who will survive.

Alabama still has to play Auburn and Mississippi State this season in what should be two very exciting contests.

It's a signature win for LSU head coach Les Miles, who made good on his penchant of pulling off late victories. The Tigers now have a bit of life in the SEC as well, but it's unlikely they can catch some of the other top teams in the conference. 

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Alabama vs. Tennessee: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a game that was personal for both sides, Alabama escaped Knoxville with a win over Tennessee, 34-20, to make its case as the best one-loss team in the country.

A week after blowing out Texas A&M 59-0, the Crimson Tide made another strong statement against the Volunteers. If Bama has any chance of making the first-ever College Football Playoff, it will need to continue the run after visiting Knoxville.

Blake Sims and Amari Cooper spearheaded the Tide's victory, as they connected to torch the Volunteers through the air. Sims finished with 286 passing yards, 42 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.

Along with a hot start with two passing touchdowns in the first quarter, Nick Saban was impressed with how Sims stepped up in the fourth, per Tide 99.1:

Of those passing yards, 224 went to Cooper, who set a single-game Alabama record and added another two touchdowns. Aaron Suttles of The Tuscaloosa News pointed out how successful Cooper has been in Tennessee:

One of the most explosive plays from Cooper came on the first snap for Bama, per SportsCenter:

The Vols couldn't pull out a pivotal win but found a potential quarterback of the future in Joshua Dobbs. With Justin Worley not able to play, the sophomore took the reins and went 19-of-32 with 192 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Dobbs also proved to be an elusive runner, tallying 75 rushing yards on the ground. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports offered his take on the quarterback:

Much of the talk leading up to the game was about the return of former Vols coach Lane Kiffin, who is now the offensive coordinator for Alabama. Making his first trip back to Knoxville, the former coach exacted some revenge on Saturday night.

Prior to the game, Tennessee coach Butch Jones spoke about what the game meant for his team, via Matt Slovin of The Tennessean: "The game means everything to our football program and our fans because it is the University of Alabama," Jones said, "not because it is Lane Kiffin."

Following the game, Saban spoke about the team's play with the distractions, per Marquavius Burnett of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer:

While Jones couldn't come away with a win, his offense looked more respectable than it did against Ole Miss or Florida. Against a stout defense, Jones' squad put up more points than any other Vols team against Nick Saban's Alabama, per Andrew Gribble of The Birmingham News:

Following the huge matchup, Tennessee travels to take on South Carolina next Saturday. The Gamecocks have also had an up-and-down season but have a potent offense that will be tough to contain for the now 3-5 Volunteers.

Alabama now heads to LSU on Nov. 8 after the Tigers knocked off previously undefeated Ole Miss at home Saturday night. Les Miles and Saban have been involved in several huge contests, and this one could potentially decide Bama's chances of making the College Football Playoff.

Come Sunday, the Tide will likely be the second-highest ranked team in the SEC, as Adam Gorney of Rivals.com notes:

After the loss by the Rebels, Alabama still has a chance to make a run toward yet another title under Saban. If the Tide survive LSU, they have Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl left to decide their fate. A victory against Tennessee helps Bama's case, but the road ahead looks daunting.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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South Carolina vs. Auburn: Score and Twitter Reaction

In a shootout between a pair of offensive juggernauts led by Gus Malzahn and Steve Spurrier, the Auburn Tigers held off a furious test from the South Carolina Gamecocks and prevailed 42-35 at home.

The Gamecocks held the lead three different times in the first half, but Auburn answered quickly every time. Both offenses proved unstoppable with each surpassing 530 total yards, but an early fourth-quarter Nick Marshall touchdown run and timely defense late made the difference for Auburn.

Marshall didn't light the stat sheet on fire but was efficient, going 12-of-14 with 139 yards and four total touchdowns. Three came on the ground, as he rushed 10 times for 89 yards to overcome 402 yards and five touchdowns from South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson.

Here's a look at the final box score:

Auburn entered Saturday's game fresh off a bye week and looking to bounce back from its first loss of 2014 two weeks prior against Mississippi State. But despite going up against a struggling South Carolina squad with three losses, the Tigers knew they wouldn't be the only team with a potent offense.

"They don't have a weakness on offense," Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson told AL.com's Joel A. Erickson. "They're good up front, they're a good receiver corp, excellent tight end grouping, three running backs that can play for anybody and the quarterback is a fifth-year guy who knows the offense in-and-out, coaches' son, great young man."

The Gamecocks offense wasted no time torching Auburn early on. They took some early momentum on the game's opening drive, going 75 yards in seven plays as Thompson hit Shaq Roland for a 32-yard score.

South Carolina threatened to take a two-score lead the next time it got the ball, but Cassanova McKinzy snagged a red-zone interception. And like it's wired to do, Auburn's offense pounded its way down the field. Marshall found Brandon Fulse for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game late in the first.

But when the second quarter came rolling around, the defenses subsided and the shootout was on.

Both offenses were incredibly potent in the second quarter, with Thompson throwing two touchdown passes for South Carolina and Auburn running it into the end zone twice. The Gamecocks briefly held leads of 14-7 and 21-14, but the Tigers quickly answered each time.

That left it a 21-21 game at halftime—but as AL.com's Brandon Marcello notes, Auburn had no trouble dominating the second half in a similar situation earlier this year:

Auburn looked intent on repeating that result coming out for the second half. The Tigers stormed down the field on a 13-play, 88-yard drive as Marshall walked in from four yards out to give Auburn a 28-21 lead.

With South Carolina trailing for the first time, Thompson continued slinging. He went long to Pharoh Cooper, who grabbed a 51-yard touchdown pass to tie it up again at 28-all.

After holding the ball for over five minutes the last time out, Auburn didn't feel like waiting to get the lead back. Receiver Ricardo Louis went 75 yards on a touchdown run on the opening play of the next drive to take the lead back.

A lot of different words could be attributed to the offensive slugfest, but SB Nation's Spencer Hall described it accordingly:

Louis' rushing day had Opelika-Auburn News' Alex Byington impressed with how Auburn was spreading the ball around:

But nothing Auburn's offense did could thwart what Thompson had going in his own offense. He got the ball back and went 11 plays in over five minutes, tying the game late in the third quarter at 35-35.

Then, Steve Spurrier pulled a trick out of the bag, per Auburn Plainsman's Eric Wallace:

Auburn hadn't been able to stop South Carolina all half and most of the game, but it stood tall when it mattered most.

On a short field, the Tigers forced a big-time stop as Jonathan Jones picked off Thompson for his second interception of the game, per CBS Sports' Eye on College Football:

For those who watched the ebbs and flows of this game, and know of Auburn's offensive potency, you can guess what happened next. Marshall mixed the run and the pass to sprint down the field, and ran it in on his own to give Auburn a 42-35 lead.

That rush moved him up on Auburn's all-time ranks, per the team's official Twitter feed:

South Carolina proved with the earlier onside kick that it didn't trust putting the defense back out there, and that showed again late. The Gamecocks converted a 4th-and-8 in their own territory before turning it over on downs in the red zone. 

Auburn gave the ball back to South Carolina with another chance to tie things up, but it wasn't until the Tigers ran more time off the clock. With only 1:08 to operate, Thompson moved his team into Auburn territory before throwing his third pick of the game to seal the deal.

This shootout of a game wasn't for defensive traditionalists, but as Saturday Down South noted, fans could simply flip to another SEC game to see the conference's balance:

A second straight loss would've been the last thing Auburn needed after falling to Mississippi State its last time out, but perhaps Saturday's result could prove beneficial. It wasn't easy by any means, but Auburn showed its grit and resiliency by constantly answering the bell on offense when the defense folded.

However, there's plenty to be made of Thompson's 400-plus-yard day against an Auburn secondary that gave up at least 35 points for the second straight contest. Traveling to face Ole Miss—who will be hungry for another statement win after falling to LSU—could expose those problems even more.

South Carolina falls to a paltry 2-4 in SEC play with the defeat, all but squashing its already remote chances of winning the SEC East. Now, the Gamecocks need to win two of four to close the season just to make a bowl. 

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Watch All 10 of the TCU Horned Frogs' TDs vs. Texas Tech in Under a Minute

The TCU Horned Frogs had themselves a day against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. The offense explodes for 10 touchdowns, scoring 82 points. Watch all 10 touchdowns from this scintillating performance. 

Was this the most impressive offensive game of the CFB season?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Inability to Make Adjustments Proof Whole Michigan Staff Needs Overhaul

Brady Hoke entered today’s game versus Michigan State desperate for a win to save Michigan’s season. But another embarrassing offensive performance has left the season in shambles and insured that Hoke’s time in Ann Arbor is all but finished.

Despite two weeks to prepare for the Spartans, Michigan showed the same plodding offense that doomed it to failure in earlier losses on the year. 

Under Hoke Michigan has become a joke to some or at best an exhibit of morbid curiosity.

How bad is Michigan?

Almost everything went its way in the first half, and the team still trailed 14-3 at the break. If Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had been more accurate the Spartans might have put up 28 points or more in the first half.

With the game still within reach, the coaching staff needed to make changes and take advantage of being within striking range. But the offense which has been in a season long slump hit a new low in the first half totaling 37 overall yards with no net rushing yards and barely improved in the second half.

At a time when Michigan needed to show some originality and challenge the Spartans on their home field, the coaching staff made zero adjustments for the second half.

The results were disastrous. 

"We're very disappointed and we should be," said Hoke. "It's a rivalry game and Big Ten game...We're going back to work."

But that work doesn't seem to be showing results on the field.

Hoke may argue that he can fix what's wrong with Michigan but his move to jumpstart the offense during last offseason has been a spectacular failure. 

Quarterback Devin Gardner had another poor performance (13-of-28 and 121 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions) as Michigan fell 35-11. Gardner is a tough player but continues to throw inexplicable interceptions.

Despite being a fifth year senior, Gardner has regressed as a quarterback. He doesn’t decipher defensive coverages and locks onto receivers—giving defenders crucial clues that lead to turnovers.

Gardner wasn’t alone in coming up short versus the Spartans.

Wide receiver Devin Funchess who has been touted as a top NFL prospect dropped passes that stalled Michigan drives. His poor performance earned the derision of former Wolverine Braylon Edwards who has endowed a scholarship to honor the No.1 jersey that Funchess wears.

In the second half Michigan State put the game out reach with two third quarter touchdowns and the rout was on. After the Michigan State offense got on track, Michigan had no way to catch up.

The game was a huge opportunity for Brady Hoke to prove that his program could challenge a top Big Ten rival; instead his team left the field humbled while chants of “Keep Brady Hoke” rained down from the delighted Spartan crowd.

Michigan (3-5) needs to win three of its remaining four games to make a bowl game while Hoke faces almost certain dismissal. Michigan’s problems (poor quarterback play, bad offensive line and inconsistent defense) have lingered since last season. The team has recruited well, but the coaches haven’t been able to translate raw talent into wins.

In a post game interview on the Michigan radio network, Hoke offered the same tired refrain to explain his team's failure, "...We did some things well and other things we need to improve on."

He shook up his coaching staff last offseason hiring Doug Nussmeier to overhaul the offense. That move failed and now after losses to Notre Dame, Rutgers, Utah, Minnesota and Michigan State it’s time to declare the Brady Hoke era over and move on.


Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand

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LSU's Leonard Fournette Has Facemask Ripped Upwards

LSU freshman Leonard Fournette made the referees' jobs much easier vs. Ole Miss when he was so blatantly facemasked that the mask itself was ripped almost completely off.

If there's such a thing as a 30-yard facemask penalty this one might have earned it. 

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TCU Horned Frogs QB Trevone Boykin Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 9

TCU QB Trevone Boykin absolutely dominated this week, making him the top performer. With seven touchdowns, Boykin led his offense to a 82-27 blowout of Texas Tech.

Who do you think had the best performance this week?

Watch the video and let us know!

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West Virginia Is Showing It Is a Legit Contender for the Big 12 Title

It's tough to see a two-loss team making the inaugural College Football Playoff, and that's the boat the West Virginia Mountaineers are in after hiccups against Alabama and Oklahoma. 

But Saturday's 34-10 thumping of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater proves one thing: WVU is squarely in the hunt for the Big 12 title and could very well spoil the conference's chances for a playoff berth in the process. 

Currently, Kansas State leads the Big 12 standings, as they are unbeaten in league play. They're followed by three teams—TCU, Baylor and the Mountaineers. 

What's important about that is that WVU has the head-to-head advantage over Baylor, while still having games with K-State and TCU—both at home—left on the docket. 

So believe it or not, the team picked eighth in the preseason Big 12 poll, ranking ahead of only lowly Iowa State and Kansas, controls its own destiny as it enters the back third of its schedule. 

The Mountaineers have put themselves in this position thanks in large part to the rise of Clint Trickett as one of the best gunslingers in the nation, and that of his partner in crime Kevin White, who leads college football in receiving yards with 1,047. 

On Saturday, Trickett was up to his usual tricks—throwing for 238 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 21-of-30 passing. 

Over the course of the season, he's now accumulated 2,768 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air, thrown just five interceptions and is at the helm of a team that scores 36.8 points per game. 

White's been even more spectacular, hauling in eight touchdowns—although against the Cowboys he was shut down to the tune of 27 yards on three catches. But he still had a touchdown grab. 

This squad is a far cry from the WVU of 2013, a team that went 4-8, lost to Kansas and put Dana Holgorsen on the hot seat. 

Much of the team's resurgence has come on the defensive end. Last year, the Mountaineers were ranked 104th in total defense, giving up 468.5 yards per game. They were also 101st in scoring defense, giving up 34.8 points a game. 

In 2014, the Mountaineers have made slight jumps, ranking 76th in total defense (425.7) and 87th in scoring defense (31.7) through their first seven games. Their scoring-defense rank will likely skyrocket after giving up just 10 points to the Cowboys. 

While those aren't massive jumps, it's still noticeable improvement and enough to give the Mountaineers, who possess one of the best offense in college football, enough of a chance to win ballgames. 

The biggest advantage that the Mountaineers have going forward is that the toughest games they have left are at home. 

Morgantown is often where dreams go to die. Oklahoma State would've won a Big 12 title last year had it not been for an early-season loss there. Then this season, Baylor fell behind the conference eight-ball with an upset loss there. 

WVU is 3-1 at home this year. In their three wins—Towson, Kansas, Baylor—the Mountaineers are averaging a 29-point margin of victory. 

The biggest challenges remain ahead for the Mountaineers. But ever since the Week 1 scare that Alabama suffered at the hands of WVU, Holorgen and Co. have been hard at work making believers out of the college football world. 

It's time to start believing that the Mountaineers can win the Big 12. 

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Laremy Tunsil Injury: Updates on Mississippi Star's Bicep and Return

The Ole Miss Rebels suffered what could be a major blow to their offensive line on Saturday night against the LSU Tigers. In the third quarter, left tackle Laremy Tunsil exited with a bicep injury. According to Joe Schad of ESPN, his return was considered questionable:

Tunsil would later return midway through the fourth quarter according to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

After the tough loss, coach Hugh Freeze didn't sound too concerned with Tunsil's status via Ben Garrett of mississippi.scout.com:

If you want to know how important Tunsil is to the O-line, then look no further than the fact college football writer Phil Steele listed the sophomore on his midseason All-American team, per Ole Miss Football:

Grantland's Matt Hinton wondered what Tunsil's absence could mean for quarterback Bo Wallace, who can ill afford to watch the guy who protects his blind side go down:

Ole Miss will hope that Tunsil's injury is only minor and that he won't have to miss any time. He's the bedrock of the offensive line.

More importantly, Auburn is on tap next week, so the Rebels won't want to enter such an important game short-handed.

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Dak Prescott Injury: Updates on Mississippi State Star's Foot and Return

On the heels of another brilliant game against Kentucky, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a foot injury. The signal-caller was wearing a boot on his right foot following the matchup.

The injury wasn't a serious one, as Prescott told Michael Bonner of The Clarion-Ledger: "Oh yeah, this is just precautionary," Prescott said. "It's just, I got a boot on it."

There was no more elaboration from Prescott, who clearly isn't worried about the boot. After all, he finished with 216 passing yards, 88 rushing yards and three total touchdowns against the Wildcats.

On the season, Prescott has compiled 1,478 passing yards, 664 rushing yards, 24 total touchdowns and four interceptions. His effort this year has made several believe he's a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, including Gil Brandt of NFL.com:

Prescott's value to the team is obvious, so his loss would be a huge one for Mississippi State. Sitting at No. 1 coming into the weekend, the Bulldogs play Arkansas next weekend and Alabama on Nov. 15.

In order to remain as the top team in the country, having Prescott under center will be of the utmost importance. Luckily, the injury doesn't appear serious, but nothing can be taken lightly when it comes to the leader of an undefeated team.

 

Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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Winners and Losers from Week 9 of College Football

The final college football weekend in October didn't disappoint.

With the College Football Playoff selection committee's top 25 set to be released on Tuesday, this was the final weekend to make a strong impression. 

Mississippi State, the No. 1 team in the country, needed to survive against Kentucky. Meanwhile, TCU had a record-setting day offensively against Texas Tech. LSU disrupted the top of the SEC West and the playoff picture by knocking off Ole Miss at home, and Ohio State survived on the road against Penn State. 

From those games and much, much more, we have it all covered. As you'll notice, Winners and Losers is live even though the day isn't done. Fear not, as this post will be updated throughout the evening as events warrant. 

Which teams, players and moments came away as winners? Which ones didn't? The answers are in the following slides. 

Begin Slideshow

LSU's Jamal Adams Flops After Contact with Ole Miss' Bo Wallace

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was trying to send a message against LSU and instead nearly cost his team some yards.

After Wallace gave a healthy shoulder bump to LSU's Jamal Adams, the true freshman safety showed off his best flop by flinging his hands in the air as he fell right in front of the ref.

Wallace was flagged on the play and earned a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that was offset by another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by LSU.

As SB Nation points out, Adams successfully earned a similar penalty two weeks ago against Florida. 

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Kentucky QB Patrick Towles Makes His Claim as Best QB in SEC East

For Kentucky fans, Saturday was surely disappointing. A young Wildcats team pushed No. 1 Mississippi State extremely hard before falling 45-31 at Commonwealth Stadium, dropping UK to 5-3 on the season, 2-3 in SEC play.

Through the gloom, a light emerged in sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles. Towles had the best game of his young career, completing 24 of 43 passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions. He added 76 rushing yards and two scores on 23 carries.

In doing so, he showed that he’s the best quarterback in the SEC East and only has room to grow along with his young teammates.

Think about it. Who else would you pick over Towles?

South Carolina senior quarterback Dylan Thompson entered Saturday with 1,835 passing yards and 15 touchdowns against six interceptions, but his only 300-yard passing game came in the opener against Texas A&M.

Georgia’s Hutson Mason has 1,022 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions and has yet to even hit 200 passing yards in a game this season. Missouri’s Maty Mauk has 16 touchdowns against nine picks, including a two-game stretch against Georgia and Florida that saw him combine for 117 passing yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions.

Against a solid Mississippi State defense, Towles kept Kentucky in the game, showing no fear either running or passing downfield. It was his third 300-yard passing game of the season, joining a 377-yard effort in a season-opening win over UT-Martin and a 369-yard night in a 36-30, triple-overtime loss to Florida.

Kentucky is one of the nation’s most improved teams and needs only one win in its final four games against Missouri, No. 9 Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville to make a bowl game.

With an improving Towles at the helm, that quest has a sense of inevitability. The Wildcats are on the right track, particularly with the young quarterback at the helm.

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TCU QB Trevone Boykin Now a Heisman Dark Horse After 7-TD Performance

After tossing seven touchdown passes in an 82-27 drubbing of the Texas Tech Red Raiders, TCU Horned Frogs gunslinger Trevone Boykin has forcefully inserted himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation. 

Not only did Boykin throw a school record seven touchdowns—the same number he threw all of last season—against the Red Raiders, he also racked up 433 yards passing and ran for 28 yards. 

This season, the Horned Frogs have surprised everybody. They were ranked just seventh in the preseason Big 12 poll but now control their destiny to a Big 12 title and, possibly, a playoff berth. 

And it's thanks to Boykin, who is without a doubt the most improved player in college football. 

It started in Week 1, when Boykin was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 320 yards and accounting for three total touchdowns against Samford. 

He's thrown for at least 250 yards in every game—his season low is 258 against Minnesota in Week 2, a 30-7 blowout where TCU got away from the passing game after taking control. Boykin made headway on the ground that game, though, rushing for a season-high 92 yards. 

But the Heisman voters buy into the philosophy of "what have you done for me lately?" 

Well, over the last two weeks against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, Boykin has thrown for 10 touchdowns and 843 yards. He's also thrown just one interception the last two games and just three all season. 

But the question is, how does Boykin stand up to the two bona fide Heisman candidates at quarterback in Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott?

Here's how Boykin compares to the two in passing yards and touchdowns, total touchdowns, interceptions, record and wins against ranked teams. 

Boykin leads all three in passing yards and is tied with Mariota in wins against ranked opponents. He's close in virtually every category, so it's clear that he's in the same stratosphere as those guys. 

What's more impressive is that Boykin, while he's always been a great athlete, has been all but forgettable until this season. He wasn't even named the starter in the spring, per The Dallas Morning News 

Now, for the time being, Boykin deserves an invite to New York City as a Heisman finalist. And if TCU comes out of nowhere and wins the Big 12, he could very well hoist up college football's greatest individual honor at season's end. 

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Southern Cal vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Southern Cal 14, Utah 10 ; Mid 3rd Quarter

A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in Salt Lake City, as the No. 19 Utah Utes play host to the No. 20 Southern Cal Trojans. 

The game will begin at 10 p.m. ET. It can be seen on Fox Sports 1. 

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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Southern Cal vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Utah 17, Southern Cal 14 ; Late 3rd Quarter A massive Pac-12 South Division clash takes place Saturday night in Salt Lake City, as the No. 19 Utah Utes play host to the No. 20 Southern Cal Trojans...

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