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Notre Dame vs. Temple: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish quieted the ambitious No. 21 Temple Owls with a resilient 24-20 win on Saturday, making a case for their worth in the College Football Playoff hunt.

Trailing for the first time with just over four minutes to play, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer engineered a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped with a 17-yard score to wide receiver Will Fuller with just over two minutes remaining. 

Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell secured the victory with an interception on 3rd-and-17 to keep Notre Dame's playoff hopes alive. Dan Wolken of USA Today and Dr. Saturday of Yahoo Sports each offered sentiment for the Owls:

The Owls' school-best start ends at seven wins. Yet despite a now-blemished record, they shouldn’t fall far in the ranks given how respectable Saturday’s loss was, per Bryan Fischer of Bleacher Report:

Notre Dame remains relevant in the playoff picture with a lone loss to No. 3 Clemson and a looming season finale against No. 8 Stanford that could woo voters. 

The Fighting Irish opened convincingly on a four-yard run by Kizer in the first six minutes—the first time in over a year the Owls had allowed a score on the opening drive, per Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune.

Kizer scored again on a 79-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes to go in the half, but the Fighting Irish then went scoreless until the final minutes. 

Temple scored 10 unanswered and took its first lead on a 36-yard field goal by Austin Jones with four minutes, 45 seconds remaining. This came after the Owls forced a three-and-out then engineered a 14-play, 78-yard drive over seven minutes and 21 seconds to tie the game on a one-yard touchdown by running back Jahad Thomas at 17 earlier in the fourth. 

Temple benefited from two critical interceptions in the red zone by Praise Martin-Oguike and Tyler Matakevich, despite only converting one into a touchdown. 

ESPN College GameDay captured Matakevich from just behind the goal post:

Despite being the only ranked matchup this week, Temple was a 10.5-point underdog, per Odds Shark, and many had written the Owls off. Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports encompassed how much of a surprise the close game was:

Temple entered the game ranked behind unbeaten No. 16 Memphis and No. 18 in the American Athletic Conference. Though their playoff hopes are likely dashed, they still play Memphis in Week 12 and are in the driver’s seat to reach the inaugural AAC championship game on Dec. 5. 

Notre Dame likely won’t jump far in the rankings given the six unbeatens ahead and half the Top 10 on a bye. But the Fighting Irish are doing what they need to stay relevant. If they run the table and have their lone loss to a Clemson team that’s arguably the best in college football, they could make a hard case to be included in the final four.


Despite a valiant effort, Temple would’ve needed help on top of running the table to reach the playoff—they’re the third-best team in their own conference, which isn’t among the Power Five. Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports sarcastically quipped that Temple would’ve been a long shot for the playoff even with a win:

Temple head coach Matt Rhule was proud of his team’s effort, but told John Clark of CSN Philadelphia: “There are no moral victories. We’re not here to lose."

Rhule still thought it was a phenomenal game and weekend, supplemented by the national attention. He took to Twitter to thank all those who tuned in:

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly aggressively confronted conditioning coach David Grimes on the sideline in light of what he claimed were actions that would’ve drawn a flag for verbiage towards an official, per Matt Fortuna of ESPN. Dr. Cork Gaines of Business Insider showed the exchange:

Kelly explained his reaction to JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago: 

David was going to get us a 15-yard penalty, so I had to control the sideline. I wasn’t going to let that happen. He got a little too close and I backed him up out of the way to make sure that we didn’t get a 15-yard penalty.

Notre Dame takes on No. 23 Pittsburgh in Week 10 with another chance to bolster its résumé.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Miami vs. Duke: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The story begins with the Miami Hurricanes needing one stop. They didn't get it. They were about to lose.

Then they won on what could be described as the most absurd final play in college football history.

After letting the No. 22-ranked Duke Blue Devils drive down the field to take a three-point lead with six seconds left, Miami lateraled the ensuing kickoff eight times, returning it 91 yards as Corn Elder scored a touchdown with no time left to give Miami an improbable 30-27 victory Saturday night.

The Hurricanes' official Twitter account summed it up perfectly:

It was a rough night for the referees, who called 23 penalties against Miami, including three on Duke's final drive, which ended on a Thomas Sirk one-yard touchdown run that helped give Duke a 27-24 lead. After all of the laterals and chaos finally halted on the final kickoff return, the officials called an illegal block in the back against Miami.

The officials went under the hood to take a look at the play to see whether all of the laterals were legal and whether any knees touched the ground along the way.

Neither of those things happened. Then the officials announced the play was under further review—to see whether the block in the back actually happened. USA Today's Dan Wolken had the best summary of the next 10 minutes:

The situation reminded CBS Sports' Will Brinson of another instance of ridiculous officiating:

Finally, after the concluding review, the referee picked up the flag and ruled the play a touchdown. All of that happened with six seconds left on the clock. Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde thought the circus was in town:

All of the hoopla came one week after the Hurricanes suffered their worst loss in program history at the hands of the Clemson Tigers, 58-0. The team fired head coach Al Golden the next day. Miami also had to go into this game without starting quarterback Brad Kaaya, who did not make the trip to Durham, North Carolina. Redshirt freshman Malik Rosier started in his place.

The two-sport athlete threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and it turned out to be a good day for interim head coach Larry Scott.

Just when Miami was on the verge of dropping to 4-4 and falling further away from bowl consideration, the Hurricanes pulled off an improbable victory. They are now one win away from bowl eligibility.

Meanwhile, the heartbreaking loss for Duke takes almost all of the luster away from next week's matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels for first place in the ACC Coastal Division.

Stay tuned for postgame reactions from both sides.

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

The No. 15 Michigan Wolverines took back the Little Brown Jug, beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 29-26 on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Minnesota attempted a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line as time expired, but Michigan managed to keep Mitch Leidner out of the end zone and escaped with the win.

Pass Offense: Jake Rudock connected on 13 of 21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a rib injury. Wilton Speight replaced him and threw the game-winning score to Jehu Chesson, who caught both touchdowns.

Run Offense: Michigan has a problem up front. The offensive line once again struggled against decent competition, failing to push up to the second level and limiting the running game's effectiveness. Drake Johnson managed 55 yards, while Jabrill Peppers and Joe Kerridge recorded the touchdowns.

Pass Defense: Saturday was by far the worst performance of the season for the Wolverines secondary. The defensive backs blew a few coverages, which Leidner exploited well. Sometimes, even when Michigan was in proper position, Minnesota still somehow snagged the ball.

Run Defense: And it didn't get much better for the run defense, either. Leidner ripped off a 24-yard touchdown run, and Rodney Smith tallied 74 yards, registering 6.2 yards per carry. However, the Wolverines stood tall when it mattered the most.

Special Teams: The only player who could stop Peppers from taking a punt to the house was the punter. Go figure. He also had a 43-yard kickoff return. Blake O'Neill handled every snap and posted a 44-yard average.

Coaching: Michigan's offense wasn't doing much, and then it had to adjust with the backup quarterback. Passing on first down to set up runs on second down did the trick for Speight. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin had a tough day but called a couple of perfect third-down blitzes that resulted in sacks.


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

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Twitter Reacts as Miami Beats Duke on Controversial Kick-Return TD

The University of Miami needed every second to pull the upset over No. 22 Duke Saturday night.

In it's largest win of 2015, a 30-27 victory against Duke on Saturday night, Miami used a kickoff return as time expired, lateraling the ball eight times within their own 20-yard-line, to score the game-winning touchdown. 

SportsCenter shows the replay of the jaw-dropping finish:

The referees originally called the play back on an illegal-block-in-the-back call, but after reviewing the play, they rescinded that decision, giving Miami the win.

Of course, a big play like that is going to get the Twitter universe rapidly reacting, and it did so after Corn Elder crossed the goal line. 

But first, Twitter users had to try and wrap their heads around the officiating's decision to pick up the flag. Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer tried to explain:

CBS Sports' Tom Fornelli knew something wasn't right either:

There's a possibility that it shouldn't have even gone that far as Duke alum Nolan Smith caught a moment where the play should have been dead:

Joe Ovies of 99.9 FM also found a punishable offense:

Many were in disbelief, like Fox Sports 1's Julie Stewart-Binks:

Then again, the whole concept up Miami having to pull off a dramatic upset to beat the Duke football program was still weird for the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell:

Maybe in a different sport, things would have played out differently according to USA Today's George Schroeder:

For Miami fans, it was pure elation as a team that has struggled all season pulled out an improbable win. 

Former Hurricane Bennie Blades was pumped:

At the end of the day, though, it is one of the wildest plays in college football history. The Courier-Journal's Tim Sullivan thinks it trumps one of the sport's most historic final plays:

It's been quite a week for Miami. After coming off a record-breaking 58-0 loss to Clemson, the Hurricanes went from the lowest of lows to the highest of peaks with this kind of dramatic win. No matter what happens for the rest of this season, it will be pretty tough to top this ending.

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Texas vs. Iowa State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Longhorns

Just when you think they've figured it out, the Texas Longhorns go and do this.

Watching Texas get shut out by the Iowa State Cyclones, you can't even believe the consecutive wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State even happened. The Horns were awful in their 24-0 loss to Iowa State, which is the first time they've been shut out by an unranked opponent since 1961.

Jerrod Heard's shining star burned out in Ames, as Texas' starting quarterback accounted for just 39 yards on the night. And even though he led the team with 58 rushing yards, Tyrone Swoopes wasn't much better.

In all, the Horns went three-and-out six times, were outgained 426 to 204 and failed to cross the Iowa State 45 until there was 1:17 left to play. It was a pitiful effort for that side of the ball, and the rest of the team isn't good enough to make up for a showing like that.


Grade Analysis for the Longhorns

Passing Offense

Where do you even start with Texas' passing offense? Heard plays like he's completely lost confidence in himself, and his indecision has sapped his ability to scramble, as well. Swoopes isn't a better option, as we saw from his 6-of-13 showing.

Until Heard shows he can make plays downfield, teams are going rush three, play coverage and spy him. That strategy rendered him useless in Ames.


Rushing Offense

Swoopes' "18 Wheeler" package is the only thing this offense consistently gets right. Heard's scrambling was on that list until a team full-on dared him to beat coverage.

Johnathan Gray continues to play below-average football. His eight carries for 23 yards has become par for the course with him. He should never out-carry the combination of D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren, which he did on Saturday.


Passing Defense

The Longhorns mostly did a good job when they could keep Joel Lanning in the pocket, but he picked them apart once he got on the move. The pass-rushers didn't finish several sacks and got burned for it.


Rushing Defense

Freshman Mike Warren gashed these guys for 157 yards on 32 carries. Then again, what can you expect from a group that was on the field for almost 40 minutes? The offense set these guys up for failure against one of the nation's best young backs.


Special Teams

Punter Michael Dickson was one of the few guys who came to play, averaging 45.8 yards on his nine punts. He even made a tackle on Trever Ryen to prevent a possible return touchdown. The Longhorns got basically nothing in the return game.



Charlie Strong should be back next season, but he's made things dicey for himself after this one. A team can't be 3-4 and come out flat, no matter who it's beaten in the past three weeks. Losing is one thing, but getting shut out by Iowa State is inexcusable.

Meanwhile, Jay Norvell cost himself a shot at being named the long-term offensive coordinator. The Longhorns were too slow to adjust to what Iowa State was doing on defense and had no idea how to play from behind. Spread offense shouldn't look this difficult.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Michigan vs. Minnesota: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

A game-winning drive from backup quarterback Wilton Speight, coupled with a goal-line stand in the final seconds, secured a 29-26 win for the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday night.

After Speight hit wide receiver Jehu Chesson for his second touchdown reception of the game with four minutes, 57 seconds to play, Minnesota drove down the field to Michigan's 1-yard line with two seconds left.

With kicker Ryan Santoso—who had already hit four field goals on the day—available for a chip shot, Minnesota interim head coach Tracy Claeys, who stepped in after Jerry Kill retired this week, decided to go for the touchdown. But the Michigan defense stopped Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner's keeper as time expired.

ESPN shared the replay:

Smart Football's Chris B. Brown couldn't comprehend what he saw:

Michigan was sitting pretty four minutes into the second quarter. A 13-yard touchdown reception from Chesson helped put the Wolverines up 14-3. ESPN College Football shared the replay of Chesson's touchdown:

This was something new for Chesson, who had run for two touchdowns this season but hadn't caught one, as Matt Pargoff of Maize and Blue News pointed out:

Back came Minnesota, who used a 52-yard pass from Leidner to Rashad Still to get within one point. 

Bleacher Report (via ESPN) provided the highlight of the big play:

ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberger thought this was something the Golden Gophers should have been doing all game:

The Gophers' most valuable player in the first half was Santoso, who knocked through three field goals. His last of the first half came from 32 yards out as time expired, giving Minnesota a 16-14 lead.

Seeing opposing kickers succeed is an odd occurrence for Michigan, as Mike Hendrickson of the Minnesota Daily observed:

Michigan came up with an answer to start the second half, with Jabrill Peppers' six-yard touchdown run capping off a seven-play, 75-yard drive.

Michigan Football (via ESPN) shared the replay:

It was Peppers' first career touchdown, and the safety had to run over a Minnesota defender to hit paydirt out of the Wildcat. 

Adam Schnepp of MGoBlog liked what he saw from Peppers in the offensive alignment:

It was quite a night for Peppers, who also had a career-long punt return in the first half. 

Minnesota and Leidner came back, with the quarterback sprinting for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Gophers back up by two points. ESPN showed Leidner's run:

Not the most agile of quarterbacks, Leidner surprised Scout.com's Ryan Burns:

Talk show host Steve Deace, on the other hand, was not happy, and he was looking to go to extremes with the Michigan coaching staff:

To make matters worse for Michigan, starting quarterback Jake Rudock was forced to leave the game toward the end of the third after taking a hit to the head area while scrambling. While he has struggled this season, it was still a tough loss, as Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch pointed out:

In stepped Speight, who had never completed a pass in his college career, facing a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter after Santoso's fourth field goal of the game. 

With about five minutes left in the game, Speight delivered Michigan the lead with a 12-yard TD pass to Chesson.

While Speight was not given a warm welcome on Twitter, his performance down the stretch surely changed some minds. Or so the New York Times' John U. Bacon thought:

A two-point conversion gave the Wolverines a three-point lead with 4:57 left in the game before Minnesota's final drive. 

The defense came up big to ensure that Michigan didn't lose a second straight heartbreaker in the game's final seconds, as the Wolverines kept their slim College Football Playoff hopes alive for another week. 

Post-Game Reaction

Going to the bench in the fourth quarter while trailing isn't the best situation to be in, but somehow Michigan managed to pull it out. 

They mostly have to give thanks to Minnesota interim head coach Tracy Claeys, who made the decision to go for the win instead of the easy tie. 

But he didn't seem to broken up about it after the game, according to CBS' Patrick Kessler:

For Jim Harbaugh, the message was simple after the game, according to the Michigan Daily's Max Cohen:

Michigan would not have been able to come back from another last-second loss. They had two weeks to stew over their dramatic loss to Michigan State and following it up with another to a weaker opponent would have been dooming to their season. 

Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Miami Returns Kickoff for TD After 8 Laterals, Play Nearly Negated by Flag

What in the world just happened?

With Duke leading Miami 27-24 and just six seconds remaining on the clock, a loss for the Blue Devils seemed impossible.

Well, the impossible happened.

Miami lateraled the ball what felt like 100 times (it was really eight) on the kickoff and wound up reaching the end zone.

But, hold on. There was a flag for an apparent illegal block to the back:

After review, the touchdown was upheld (and evidently the flagged was picked up) and the Hurricanes took home an absolute shocker of a victory.


Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kirk Herbstreit Exits Screen on Live TV After Getting Scared by 2 Monsters

Chris Fowler, you trickster.

While Kirk Herbstreit was trying to drop some knowledge about Notre Dame Saturday night, his partner unleashed the Halloween fury.

Two ghouls emerged in the booth, and Herbstreit was genuinely terrified. He wanted zero part of that scene and darted off-camera.

Fowler cackled as his colleague shrieked in fear, proving once and for all that you can't trust a soul when it comes to the final day of October.


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Jake Rudock Injury: Updates on Michigan QB's Head, Neck and Return

Michigan Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock departed Saturday's game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers to have his head, neck and back examined, per MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner

Continue for updates. 

Rudock Replaced by Wilton Speight Sunday, Oct. 31

According to MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn, ESPN reported during Saturday's broadcast "that Rudock told Speight on the sideline that he's not going to be able to return."

Rudock was starting to come along as Michigan climbed up the Associated Press Top 25. After a nightmare start against Utah in which he threw three interceptions, he helped lead the No. 15 Wolverines to five straight victories before losing to Michigan State.

After transferring from Iowa, where he was a two-year starter, the senior Rudock beat out junior Shane Morris for the starting job.

While he has improved, Rudock has been conservative, almost hesitant to go for a big play, while being inconsistent. ESPN college football analyst Chris Spielman spoke with the Detroit News' Angelique S. Chengelis about Rudock's play.

"To me he's one of those guys, when he's hot and going, he's really, really good," he said. "But he can make a few bad decisions here and there and can be erratic. If he's got it going, he can be really good. Jake is a good fit for Michigan."

While Morris may have seemed to be the next man up, having battled Rudock in the preseason for the job, he hasn't attempted a pass all season. Speight, a sophomore, is the only other Michigan player to attempt a pass this season.


Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

Follow Joe Pantorno (@JoePantorno) on Twitter.

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Winners and Losers from Week 9 of the 2015 College Football Season

And here we thought Week 9 of the college football season was shaping up to be boring. It's Halloween night. How could anyone have been so naive? 

In a matter of minutes, Minnesota came up just short against Michigan and Miami pulled off a kick return miracle. This sport never ceases to disappoint. 

The rest of the college football landscape was eventful as well. The nightmare continues for Nebraska after losing to Purdue on the road. In the SEC, Georgia's offense looked lifeless against Florida. From Kyler Murray's big day for Texas A&M to Gunner Kiel's perfect performance for Cincinnati, it's time to look back at all that happened in college football this week. 

Who were the winners and losers from Week 9? We break down all that was good, bad, ugly, gorgeous and more in the following slides.


As a reminder, Winners and Losers is live even though games are still being played. Fear not, as we will update this post throughout the night as events warrant.

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer Mocks Temple with Wing Flap After TDs

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer is as cocky as he is fast.

The sophomore signal-caller taunted Temple Saturday night as the Fighting Irish looked to move to 7-1 on the year. Kizer used his legs to convert his team’s first two scores, and he didn’t hesitate to taunt the Owls after either one.

Note the wing flap.

After scurrying for a 79-yard score, Kizer again broke out the mocking gesture.

Was he responding to trash talk, or is Kizer just ruthless?

Probably a little bit of both.


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Clemson vs. NC State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Tigers

It was a wild and crazy game, but the Clemson Tigers escaped Carter-Finley Stadium with a 56-41 win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack. It was a big day for both quarterbacks, as Clemson's Deshaun Watson and N.C. State's Jacoby Brissett combined for 10 total touchdowns. 

Watson was 23-of-30 passing for 383 yards and five passing touchdowns. He also added 54 yards and a score on the ground. Brissett threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns, and he added another score on the ground. His elusiveness was on full display Saturday, as he often evaded Clemson tacklers and kept plays alive. 

The first half started off with a frenzy of points, as the score was 16-13 after the first quarter. The two teams traded quarterback touchdown runs to start things off, but it was the 100-yard kickoff return by Nyheim Hines that put N.C. State up, 13-7, early on. The two teams both scored touchdowns right before the half, and it was the Tigers that held the 26-20 lead at the intermission. 

Clemson jumped up by 20 points late in the third quarter, but N.C. State fought hard and never went away. The Tigers defense was pushed to its limits today—giving up 389 yards of total offense—but it made the big plays it needed to late in the game to preserve the lead. 

N.C. State's offense gave Clemson all it wanted today, but the defense failed to come up with many stops. The Wolfpack allowed 623 yards of total offense and gave up way too many chunk plays in the second half. 

It was the balanced attack offensively that stood out the most from the Tigers, as they passed for 383 yards and rushed for 240 yards. Running back Wayne Gallman rushed for 172 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. 

For the Wolfpack, they will travel to Boston College next Saturday as they attempt to move to 2-2 in ACC play. The Tigers have the big showdown with Florida State in a week that will likely decide the ACC Atlantic, so they have to regroup and refocus quickly.

You can find the complete box score for this game here, per NCAA.com. 


Passing Offense

The Tigers found a ton of success through the air in this game. Watson threw for 186 yards in the first half, and he had some big passing touchdowns in the second half as well. He averaged 12.8 yards per completion and was almost perfect throwing down the field. He had touchdown passes of 42, 57, 40, 35, and 36 yards. 

N.C. State struggled to stop the run early on, but after adjustments were made, the Tigers were able to find success on deep passes. Watson completed passes to eight different receivers in this game, so the passing attack was balanced. 


Rushing Offense

One of the season's biggest surprises has been the Tigers' ability to consistently run the ball. The offensive line was dominant a week ago versus Miami, and it did not disappoint in this one. Gallman had 74 yards at the half and finished with 172 yards and a touchdown on the ground. It was a masterful effort from this group that totaled 240 rushing yards as a team and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. 

Watson was also dangerous in the running game, going for 54 yards and a touchdown. His ability to run the ball has kept defenses on their heels and opened up holes for Gallman and Zac Brooks. 


Pass Defense

Brissett ended up with good numbers through the air—254 yards and three touchdowns—but the Tigers secondary came up with plays when they had to. N.C. State had some chunk plays through the air, but overall, it wasn't a terrible performance from this group. 

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley was in a good position on one touchdown reception, and he came up with a big play on fourth down in the fourth quarter to help preserve the 56-41 lead. 


Run Defense

It was probably the worst performance from the defense in regards to stopping the run, but N.C. State still only came away with 135 yards on the ground. There were a couple of long rushing plays—a 41-yarder by Matt Dayes and a 66-yarder by Jaylen Samuels—but the Tigers also had their share of negative stops. 

The two long plays drove the overall total yards up, but the Tigers will have to shore up on the little mistakes before Florida State comes to town. 


Special Teams 

There were two sides to the play of the special teams on Saturday, so we give the performance here a B-minus. Greg Huegel was a perfect 3-of-3 on his field-goal attempts, but there were also some glaring issues with this unit.

The Wolfpack had two big kickoff returns, with one going 100 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. The Tigers also missed on two extra-point attempts, but the solid field-goal kicking evens it out here. 



The offensive play-calling was excellent on Saturday. We have seen improvements with each game from co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, and it was another solid day at the office on Saturday. It was clear that the Tigers once again wanted to control the line of scrimmage with the running game, but Elliott also called a number of deep passes that gave a perfect balance to the offensive attack. 

The defense allowed some big plays, but it wasn't really anything schematic. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables called a good game and brought pressure at the right times, but it was missed tackles and poor angles that hurt this unit. 

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Is It Time for Georgia to Admit Brian Schottenheimer Was a Bad Hire?

Take away a unit's best player, and the entire group is bound have some sort of drop-off.

But the Georgia Bulldogs may have set themselves up for offensive disaster before Nick Chubb's devastating knee injury against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Bulldogs were a complete mess Saturday in a 26-3 loss to rival Florida in Jacksonville. They didn't score a touchdown and posted fewer than 300 yards for the second consecutive game.

Faton Bauta, who received the start at quarterback despite not recording a single pass attempt in Georgia's seven games, completed less than half of his passes and had four interceptions.

Since obliterating an awful South Carolina defense, Georgia's offense has regressed heavily against SEC competition. It moved the ball and scored 31 points in a loss against Tennessee, sure, but even that performance had some major red flags.

Now, after Georgia's worst offensive performance of 2015—one that somehow came off a bye week—head coach Mark Richt has to face the facts in a season that is going off the rails.

It's past time to reconsider the decision to hire offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Richt's offseason move to replace Mike Bobo, who took a head coaching job at Colorado State, with Schottenheimer received some skepticism when it happened—specifically from Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee.

"Brian Schottenheimer was abysmal in the NFL," Sallee said all the way back in January. "Now granted, he hasn't had much quarterback play to work with at the NFL level, but it's not like Georgia has a proven quarterback, either." 

Those words rang true all the way in October during Saturday's Florida game, as Bauta took over for the inconsistent Greyson Lambert in the starting lineup.

Things didn't go well for the first-time starter—and some of Schottenheimer's decision-making didn't help, either.

Bauta, who was a dual-threat quarterback in high school, had almost as many rushing yards as passing yards in his limited work as a Georgia quarterback.

But Bauta only recorded two runs Saturday, and a sack gave him three official carries for just nine yards. As Morgan Moriarty of Cox Media Group and UPROXX put it on Twitter, the game plan from Schottenheimer was quite confusing:

The Georgia running game, which had been a deciding factor in several of the most recent matchups with Florida, seemed to take a back seat Saturday. The Bulldogs attempted more passes than runs in every single quarter, with Sony Michel only getting 13 touches.

A pass-first mentality is fine when a team is down by multiple scores in the second half, sure, but the Bulldogs came out firing with a brand-new quarterback from the first quarter.

Schottenheimer's play-calling went under the microscope early in the fourth quarter, when Georgia had its longest sustained drive of the game. 

After a couple of completions and a roughing-the-passer call got Georgia into Florida territory, Michel broke a seven-yard run to set up a 3rd-and-short situation. Three plays later, he put the Bulldogs at the 3-yard line with a 10-yard run.

But facing 1st-and-goal three yards away from a touchdown, Georgia called back-to-back pass plays—an incompletion and an interception. The Bulldogs would miss out on scoring again.

As the level of competition has stepped up for Georgia, the offense has gotten worse.

Chubb's injury took one of the nation's best playmakers away from Schottenheimer, but it wasn't like his offenses were necessarily lighting it up with him. Eighty-three of Georgia's 299 yards against Alabama came on just one big run from the star sophomore.

And it's not like Georgia hasn't been in this situation before. Even with injuries to star running backs such as Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, Bobo was still able to put together effective offenses.

Schottenheimer has a former 5-star in Michel to replace Chubb and an experienced offensive line to work with him. That still hasn't prevented a catastrophic drop-off for the offense.

Georgia's quarterback situation didn't look promising this offseason after the departure of Hutson Mason, and even though Lambert had a few bright spots earlier in the season, it's even more bleak under Schottenheimer.

As his NFL resume shows, Schottenheimer wasn't the ideal hire to solve Georgia's problems at the position. 

Georgia's first-year offensive coordinator has somehow taken a bad situation with inconsistent quarterbacking and an injured Chubb and made it even worse.

For the sake of his own future at Georgia, it might be time for Richt to put an end to the Schottenheimer experiment.


Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Clemson QB Deshaun Watson Slowly Building Heisman Campaign

Entering the 2015 season, serious Heisman Trophy buzz surrounded Deshaun Watson, and with good reason. Clemson’s sophomore quarterback had impressive size and skills, and piloted a high-powered offensive system. 

But after some sluggish efforts against Louisville and Notre Dame, that buzz died down.

Now, as the Tigers prepare for a final College Football Playoff push, Heisman hype is building around Watson, and deservedly so. Clemson’s offense is hitting a high gear, and so is Watson. Saturday that offense picked up a weak defensive effort in a 56-41 victory at N.C. State, and Watson had the most impressive game of his sophomore season.

While Watson remains on the periphery of the Heisman Trophy race, he is making his case for inclusion as the chase for the stiff-arm trophy enters its final month. Saturday, he completed 23-of-30 passes for 383 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

It was Watson’s best game since his first career start, which saw him throw for 435 yards and an ACC single-game record-tying six touchdowns against North Carolina.

Although the Tigers defense wasn’t sharp, Watson was always there to pick them up and give the team a little separation. With Clemson trailing 20-19 late in the first half, a missed field goal gave the Tigers the ball at their own 27 with 48 seconds left.

Two plays later, Clemson was in the end zone, courtesy of a 31-yard strike to Artavis Scott and a 42-yard touchdown toss to Charone Peake. After the teams traded touchdowns to start the second half, Watson uncorked his best pass of the day, a 40-yard pill down the left sideline to Deon Cain. Clemson’s lead never slipped under two touchdowns the rest of the way.

It was an impressive effort, given that N.C. State entered the game No. 3 nationally in total defense, allowing 251.3 yards per game (albeit against a schedule that included Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, South Alabama and Wake Forest).

After failing to hit the 300-yard passing mark in his first five games this fall, Watson has done it twice in his last three, coupling Saturday with a 420-yard effort against Boston College.

And after throwing 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions in his first six games, Watson has thrown six touchdowns with no picks in his last two games.

Despite losing returning 1,000-yard receiver Mike Williams to a neck fracture in the season opener, he has developed chemistry with a wide range of wideouts, including Cain, Scott, Peake and walk-on Hunter Renfrow.

He is also showing increased confidence in running on a surgically repaired knee, carrying 14 times Saturday for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Does Watson have the stats of Heisman frontrunners like TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (2,927 yards, 28 touchdowns against five interceptions, 524 rushing yards and six touchdowns) or LSU tailback Leonard Fournette (1,352 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns)? Not yet.

But a matchup against Florida State will be a major showcase for his abilities, and a closing stretch of Syracuse, Wake Forest and South Carolina could also help Watson pad his stats. A strong November would certainly help him make his case for the Heisman, especially if Fournette or Boykin stumble.

At the very least, Watson has made it clear he’ll be a legit contender for the Heisman Trophy as long as he’s in a Clemson uniform. The next month will tell us how quickly his candidacy will unfold.

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Florida vs. Georgia: Game Grades, Analysis for Gators and Bulldogs

The Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators went at it on Saturday afternoon, and it was the Gators that came away with the 27-3 win.

The Gators did not play a complete game, but they were able to make plays when they needed to on offense, defense and special teams. The Bulldogs, on the other hand, made mistakes in all three phases of the game, and their chance of going back the Georgia Dome in December is done.

Here are game grades for the Gators and the Bulldogs.


Passing Offense

Treon Harris did not have a great game when it comes to throwing the ball, but when a play was needed to be made, he made it with his arm. Harris completed less than 50 percent of his passes, threw for 155 yards and one touchdown. He was able to hit Antonio Callaway on 66-yard touchdown pass, which started the Florida rout on the Bulldogs.


Rushing Offense

Florida has not done a good job running the ball all season, but they did a solid job on the ground on Saturday as they rushed for more than 250 yards.

Kelvin Taylor had one of his best games this season has he rushed for 121 yards. Harris was able to run for 39 yards on 10 carries.

The Gators were able to attack the Bulldogs with Taylor as well as Jordan Scarlett in the second half, which was why they were able to close out the game with no issues.


Passing Defense

The Gators defense did a very solid job of making things rough for Faton Bauta. They forced four interceptions and Bauta threw for just 154 yards in the loss. The Gators defensive line and linebackers were able to apply a fair amount of pressure on Bauta, which led to Vernon Hargreaves, Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye and Jarrad Davis notching interceptions.


Rushing Defense

One of the reasons Bauta was in the game for the Bulldogs was to help with the run game. Well, Bauta had only three attempts for four yards and the team as a whole rushed for 66 yards. The front seven for Florida did not allow any running room for Georgia all game long, which made the Bulldogs one-dimensional. Davis had a monster game as he tallied six tackles and half a tackle for a loss to go along with his interception.


Special Teams

The Gators scored their first touchdown of the day with a recovery on a muffed punt. They also were able to stop a fake punt by the Bulldogs later in the game. Austin Hardin did miss a field goal early in the first quarter, but overall it was a great showing on special teams as they played with discipline and patience.



Jim McElwain and his coaching staff did a great job preparing for a team that was looking to get back in the mix for the SEC title. The Gators stuck to their game plan on offense, defense and special teams and they were able to capitalize on the numerous mistakes the Bulldogs made the entire game. McElwain has earned the right be in the talks for conference and national coach of the year.



Passing Offense

The Bulldogs have struggled in the passing game all season, but on Saturday night, things took a step in the wrong direction.

Bauta got his first career start and he did not looks sharp, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing four interceptions. Bauta is known for being a dual-threat quarterback, but he spent almost all of his time throwing the football, which was not his strength against Florida.


Rushing Offense

But here’s the thing. Bauta did not run the ball well at all against the Gators. He only had three rushes for four yards and the coaches never really used his skills as a runner.

As a team, the Bulldogs rushed for 69 yards and averaged three yards per carry. Sony Michel never got going, but he also had to leave the game for a little bit due to an injury. And Keith Marshall should have seen more carries than three if Bauta was not going to run the ball.


Passing Defense

Harris did not pass for a ton of yards, but the Bulldogs secondary did not make plays when it needed to. On the Harris touchdown pass to Callaway, Jonathan Abram was on the coverage and he just got beat. At the same time, he did not get any help from the cornerback which led to the score.

The secondary for the Bulldogs is young, with a number of freshmen on the depth chart, so growing pains like they went through in the Florida game are something they have been dealing with all season.


Rushing Defense

This is the second consecutive year the Bulldogs do not have an answer for Kelvin Taylor. He finished the game rushing for 121 yards and two touchdown and the team rushed for 258 rushing yards overall.

The defense was worn out because they were one the field for 36 minutes. It’s not their fault as the offense turned the ball over four times. But that’s not an excuse to get run over by a team that is No. 13 in the SEC in rushing offense.


Special Teams

The Bulldogs had Brice Ramsey as their punter, Reggie Davis muffed a punt which led to a Gators touchdown and they failed to convert a fake punt. It was another bad day for the Bulldogs on special teams and once again it was a key reason the Bulldogs fell short on Saturday. The good news is Marshall Morgan made his lone field goal to prevent the Bulldogs from being shutout.



There were a lot of things that made fans scratch their heads when watching the Bulldogs take on the Gators.

The first is why didn’t the coaches play to Bauta’s strength, which is running the football?

Also, if Richt said he was going to use more than one quarterback, why was Bauta in for the entire game?

And with Bauta not looking sharp throwing the ball and Michel injured, could Keith Marshall not get more than three carries against the Gators?

This was not a great game for the coaching staff, and they need to get the players better prepared the rest of the way if they want to have a respectable record.

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Georgia vs. Florida: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was great if you're a Florida fan, as the Gators' staunch defense dominated the Georgia Bulldogs' anemic offense en route to a 27-3 victory on Saturday.  

Florida's win moved its SEC record to 5-1 (7-1 overall). With every other team in the SEC East having at least three losses, the Gators are one win away from clinching a spot in the conference title game, which they can get next week at home against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Both teams came out of the gate sluggish. Georgia's problems weren't surprising, as quarterback Faton Bauta was making his first career start because of Greyson Lambert's struggles. 

However, Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's early play-calling was not helping his young quarterback, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:

B/R's Barrett Sallee was critical of Schottenheimer after the game:

That's not to say Bauta was helping the situation, as this image from CBS Sports perfectly encapsulated:

Bauta finished the game 15-of-33 for 154 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions. Georgia has not scored a touchdown since the fourth quarter of its 38-31 loss against Tennessee three weeks ago. 

Of course, Florida's defense wasn't giving up much of anything. The Gators held Georgia's running game in check, allowing just 69 yards on 22 carries, and forced four turnovers. The Florida special teams created another turnover by recovering a botched punt return by Georgia's Reggie Davis. 

Florida struggled running the ball in the first quarter before Kelvin Taylor broke out and finished with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

Quarterback Treon Harris, who is still adjusting to his expanded role, threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Callaway late in the second quarter to give the Gators a 13-0 lead. 

At halftime, Scott Carter of GatorZone.com predicted a heavy dose of Taylor in the second half partially because of Harris' poor completion percentage:

Callaway, who was a big-play machine in the game, continues to dazzle and rewrote one page in the Florida record books, per Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun:

Harris struggled for most of the day. The sophomore went 8-of-19 for 155 yards but made plays when he needed to and got help from his stellar defense. In addition to his 66-yard touchdown to Callaway, the two hooked up for a 33-yard connection on a 2nd-and-24. 

Per Carter, Florida head coach Jim McElwain said on the radio heading into halftime the offense wasn't playing up to snuff:

Even though the offense never looked like a cohesive unit, despite strong efforts from Callaway and Taylor, the defense did phenomenal work. Georgia's best drive came early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 20-3, the offense went 86 yards in eight plays to get inside Florida's 5-yard line. 

On 2nd-and-goal, Bauta rolled to his right and tried to force a pass into the end zone with a Florida defender pulling him down. The pass was deflected and picked off by Keanu Neal, ending any hope the Bulldogs had for a rally. 

Not surprisingly, Georgia head coach Mark Richt was the source of criticism for the quarterback situation, notably from Anthony "Booger" McFarland of the SEC Network:

Florida's defense came into the day ranked 14th overall in scoring defense, 16th in total defense and 24th in average passer rating against. That's not the kind of group a head coach wants a first-time starting quarterback to face.

Given the problems Georgia's offense is having, dating back to the season-ending injury star running back Nick Chubb suffered Oct. 10 against Tennessee, there was likely nothing Richt and his staff could have done to overcome the Gators attack. 

This is an excellent bounce-back win for Florida after the team fell to LSU two weeks ago. McElwain has the Gators in position for a rematch with the Tigers in the SEC Championship Game if things fall into place.

Harris has to show more consistency moving forward, but with the defense being among the best in college football and Taylor elevating his game this week, Florida is set to do more damage in its last four regular-season games.


Postgame Reaction

Despite the win, McElwain was not overly pleased with the way his team played, per Carter:

However, also per Carter, McElwain was not about to appear modest about what his Gators have an opportunity to accomplish with a win next weekend against Vanderbilt:

Understanding the situation his team is in, McElwain almost seemed to challenge them, per Chris Harry of GatorZone.com:

Not a lot of coaches would so blatantly challenge their team's maturity, but McElwain wasn't a conventional hire because he lacked the "star" power a major program often looks for. It's hard to argue with his results in year one. 

That's not to say McElwain underestimates his team, as he said at the podium, per Kevin Brockway of GatorSports.com:

On the other side, Richt has been in this situation before, having lost 10 of his 15 games against Florida in this rivalry. 

Per Anthony Dasher of UGASports.com, Richt was exercising caution in his postgame press conference:

Speaking about his quarterback Bauta, Richt did say he's confident in how the junior will respond to a difficult game, per Graham Hall of Alligator Sports:

It's just been one of those years where nothing goes right for a team. Georgia had high expectations when 2015 started, but everyone is seeing how vital Chubb was to making the offense go. The Bulldogs will be good again soon, but they may have growing pains for the rest of the year. 

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USC vs. Cal: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

The USC Trojans pulled out an impressive 27-21 road victory Saturday over the California Golden Bears. 

Running back Ronald Jones II, along with the USC defense, led the way as the Trojans overpowered California with their physical play, which has been an emphasis under interim head coach Clay Helton. 

The victory keeps USC very much alive in the Pac-12 South race, something that was not expected after the turbulent firing of Steve Sarkisian nearly a month ago. Here is a look at how the Trojans graded out by unit in Berkeley: 

Pass Offense

Despite his status as one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, Cody Kessler was more of a game manager Saturday. He attempted only eight passes in the second half as USC leaned on the running game to wear down the California defense. Kessler finished with 186 yards and no touchdowns on 18-of-22 passing. However, the reduced role did not seem to affect the senior after the game, per the Daily Trojan:

A reason for USC’s lack of a passing attack was the ineffectiveness of star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The sophomore was limited with an injury, recording just 55 yards through the air. Helton addressed the situation after the game: 

The passing game was still good enough to command some respect from the Cal defense, which in turn allowed the running game to continue to thrive. 


Run Offense

Jones totaled 80 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries, and Tre Madden added 62 yards and a score to lead the Trojans offense. The team racked up 185 rushing yards in total. This unit sealed the game on its final drive, converting on multiple third downs to run out the clock. The critical play in the series came on a busted play that Madden turned outside for an 11-yard gain on fourth down.

Take a look at what Madden salvaged:

Kessler also noted the importance of the run game, according to Shotgun Spratling of the Los Angeles Times:

The unit would have earned an “A” grade, but logging only 3.7 yards per carry means there was definitely room for overall improvement. 


Pass Defense

Coming into the game, the unit that would decide whether or not USC prevailed was the secondary. California quarterback Jared Goff and his talented receiving group make up one of the nation’s best passing attacks. The Trojans secondary was inconsistent at times, particularly in the first half, but it came up with two huge interceptions, including this pick-six from Adoree’ Jackson:

This play was the difference in the game. USC held Goff to less than 300 yards passing, which is an accomplishment considering his past success. 


Run Defense

The return of Cal running back Daniel Lasco provided another challenge for the USC defense. However, California’s running game was not much of a factor. Lasco finished with 64 yards and a touchdown as his team totaled just 117 rush yards. This allowed USC to turn California into a one-dimensional offense and ultimately resulted in the victory. 


Special Teams

USC’s specialists did not particularly stand out Saturday, which means they did their jobs. Alex Wood connected on both of his field goals, including a career-long 43-yarder. Punter Kris Albarado was superb as well, averaging 42 yard on his four attempts. Wood’s field goals did not appear too significant at the time, but the six points were the difference on the scoreboard. 



All eyes are on Helton to see how he would handle a difficult situation at USC, but he has been excellent so far. He and his staff made a few solid adjustments during Saturday’s tilt. The offense got away from excessive bubble passes and focused on the run, which made a huge impact on the outcome. USC also implemented a nice mix of man and zone coverages in the secondary to confuse Goff, which resulted in two picks.

An increased focus on the run game is something Helton has tried to establish this season, per USC football reporter Paolo Uggetti:

The third-down play-calling was mediocre as Cal stopped the Trojans multiple times on 3rd-and-short because of overly complicated plays. Regardless, Helton seems to have changed the culture at USC.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC vs. Cal: Game Grades, Analysis for the Trojans

The USC Trojans pulled out an impressive 27-21 road victory Saturday over the California Golden Bears. Running back Ronald Jones II, along with the USC defense, led the way ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Should USC Hire Clay Helton as Full-Time Head Coach If Trojans Keep Winning?

Interim head coach Clay Helton led USC to a 27-21 win over Cal, shoring up his bid to become the Trojans' full-time head coach.

The much-maligned USC defense held Cal to a season-low 398 yards, and the somehow-even-more-maligned offensive line, a constant source of frustration, owned the line of scrimmage on the last drive of the game, helping the Trojans run out the clock after Cal cut the lead to one score.

Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer praised Helton for the new brand of football:

For sure, Helton remains a long shot to win the full-time job. He's never led a team in the capacity. If USC let Ed Orgeron, a former SEC head coach who thrived after replacing Lane Kiffin two years ago, walk instead of giving him the real job, why would it promote the greener Helton?

That's a fair question.

But if USC keeps winning, the answer becomes, "why not?"

The Orgeron-Helton parallels are so obvious they smack you in the face.

Both, for example, replaced head coaches who flamed out in messy fashion. Kiffin was fired on the tarmac after returning from a 62-41 loss at Arizona State; Steve Sarkisian was fired after reportedly showing up to a meeting drunk and amid reports of his struggles with alcohol use, according to the Seattle Times' Adam Jude

Both also sparked immediate turnarounds. Orgeron led a 3-2 team to an 8-2 finish, losing to Notre Dame and UCLA but upsetting then-No. 5 Stanford. Helton has led a 3-2 team to two wins in three games, losing, like Orgeron, in a close game at Notre Dame but upsetting then-No. 3 Utah.

The way USC is playing, it's reasonable to think it can run the table. Arizona, Oregon and UCLA remain on the schedule, but all three have been worse this year than last year. If the Trojans win out and Utah drops one more game, they would also win the Pac-12 South.

If that happens, Helton becomes a favorite to win the job. How could he not? He said upfront he wants to be the eventual head coach, and turning Sarkisian's wreckage into a division (or conference) championship requires magic. If magic's not enough to win the job, what would be?

But even if Helton loses to UCLA, following the exact same template as Coach O, he should probably earn a serious interview. If the Trojans had a chance to do it over, would they not just hire Orgeron over Sark? Considering all the chaos that's happened since?

Would they really ignore such a clear chance for redemption?

After Coach O led the upset of Stanford, there was steam for him to earn the full-time job.

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer wrote the following (emphasis my own):

This isn’t about beating UCLA in the final game of the season—although don’t think this won’t loom large in the decision. It's not about one-half of a season and the short-term buzz that has stretched well beyond the West Coast. It’s also not about past failures or how other interim coaches have done when handed the keys to the car. And it's not about landing the big name, the headline-grabbing hire that guarantees nothing but short-term press.

This is about fit, and at this point it’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue that anyone fits this program better than the sword-wielding coach making the most of his opportunity.

Pressure to "land the big name" is normal at USC. How could it not be when former head coach Pete Carroll, who led the Trojans to seven straight BCS bowl games, has since won a Super Bowl (and nearly won a second) with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks?

Trying to reproduce the Carroll years led USC to Kiffin. When that didn't work, it led them to Sarkisian. Both were offensive coordinators under Carroll in the mid- to late 2000s.

Athletic director Pat Haden wanted to thread one regime with another, to hire a coach he could sell for reasons outside of winning. Neither Kiffin nor Sark had ever coached a team to 10 wins. Haden hired them because they fit the story.

Helton would be the opposite: someone hired because of his record, not his resume. He's not the big name USC is looking for, but how many "big names" are even on the market?

Chip Kelly isn't coming, and neither is Brian Kelly. Kyle Whittingham is solid but unspectacular. Brian Harsin, Justin Fuente and Tom Herman remain mostly unproven. Even former Trojans linebacker Jack Del Rio, whose name pops up whenever USC runs a coaching search, seems settled as the Oakland Raiders' head coach.

This all becomes moot if USC falls back, but for now it has a good thing going. Why not ride the hot hand with Helton?

"I am getting more comfortable with each and every game," the interim coach said Saturday, per ATVN Sports.

How good might he be once he is comfortable?

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Should USC Hire Clay Helton as Full-Time Head Coach If Trojans Keep Winning?

Interim head coach Clay Helton led USC to a 27-21 win over Cal, shoring up his bid to become the Trojans' full-time head coach...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...