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Washington vs. Oregon: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Oregon Ducks have been a second-half team all season long, but they changed that Saturday night with a dominant first half en route to a 45-20 thrashing of Washington at Autzen Stadium.

Ducks running back Royce Freeman paved the way, rushing for four touchdowns—three in the first half—on 29 carries for 169 yards. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was efficient, going 24-of-33 for 336 yards and two scores through the air.

SportsCenter tweeted the result:

Washington took the initial lead at 3-0, but it didn't last long. Oregon scored 28 unanswered points after the first quarter, and the Huskies' two touchdowns on the day didn't come until garbage time when the Ducks' victory was all but in the bag.

Here's the final scoreline:

Oregon extended its win streak over Washington to 11 games with the victory, and USA Today's Paul Myerberg noted the statistical difference in those contests:

Coming into this game, Oregon hoped to continue the success up front on offense it found a week before against UCLA—allowing no sacks. The return of left tackle Jake Fisher on Mariota's blind side was a big reason why.

"Jake, he’s the type of guy that there’s not a lot of communication that needs to be said," offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu told Daily Emerald's Justin Wise. “Not a lot of verbal communication needs to be done. We know what’s going to happen next. We always anticipate the next call and we’re always on the same page.”

That was evident very early on in Saturday's game.

The Huskies struck first on a 33-yard field goal from Cameron Van Winkle, but Oregon was quick to take the lead for good right after. A seven-play, 81-yard drive went 44 yards on the ground, 37 of which came on a Freeman touchdown run to make things 7-3.

Fisher's impact on the offense was obvious, as 750 The Game's Fletcher Johnson observed:

Washington continued to find success moving the ball on the very next drive, taking it down the field and kicking another field goal. But the Ducks were set on touchdowns, and they didn't mind going on long drives to get them.

A 17-play, 81-yard drive ended with Freeman breaking into the end zone on 4th-and-goal from three yards out, and after a Washington punt, the Ducks went down the field again. This time, it was a 12-play, 99-yard drive that started on their own 1-yard line.

But as ESPN's Kevin Pelton said, flipping the field position does little to stifle Oregon:

With a 21-6 lead achieved primarily through ground-and-pound success, Oregon's running dominance was on display early, as SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein noticed:

Although Oregon was taking control of the game at 21-6, ESPN's David Lombardi admitted it could have been an even bigger hole for Washington:

It indeed did get worse for the Huskies soon after. Taking a stranglehold of the game, Oregon intercepted a pass from Washington's Cyler Miles and scored on a 23-yard toss from Mariota to Byron Marshall two plays later.

The Huskies' deficit had grown to 22 points by the time the first-half bell sounded. But despite running the ball so well, Oregon's offensive line continued to get banged up as Hamani Stevens limped off.

Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval responded accordingly:

Without another key offensive lineman, Oregon's offense didn't seem to miss a beat. Freeman ran it on six of the Ducks' nine plays to open up the second half, putting Mariota in position to set up the highlight of the day in the passing game.

That came via an insane catch from Dwayne Stanford on a 16-yard touchdown that made it 35-6, and Sporting News captured Stanford high-pointing the ball:

It was like seeing Oregon's offense continue rolling in the second half woke up Washington's offense. Quieted for much of the contest, the Huskies drove down the field and made it 35-13 on a Miles touchdown pass to Deontae Cooper.

The Huskies would add a second touchdown in the fourth quarter before it was all said and done, but they stood no chance with the Ducks matching every touchdown they scored. Freeman scored his fourth touchdown of the day early in the fourth to make it 42-13, before Washington's Troy Williams ran it in from seven yards out with 5:22 left.

An Oregon chip-shot field goal with 1:20 remaining seemed to do nothing but add to the scoreline, but the fans receiving some free food won't complain, per The Seattle Times' Percy Allen:

After seeing its hopes of an undefeated season vanish against Arizona on Oct. 2, the Ducks have now looked solid in back-to-back weeks coming off a 42-30 victory over UCLA. What's more, only two ranked foes—No. 23 Stanford and No. 20 Utah—remain on the schedule.

Up next for Oregon is a week of short rest. A trip to face California on Friday looms, and the Ducks will be set on making sure they don't have a repeat performance of the Thursday night debacle against Arizona. 

Washington could have gotten into a tie for the top of the Pac-12 North with a win, but instead it drops to 1-2 in conference play and 5-2 on the year. A meeting against No. 17 Arizona State is coming next week, and another loss would mark the Huskies' third defeat in four games after starting 4-0.

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Who Will Emerge from the SEC West 'Group of Death'?

The SEC West continues to prove that it is the best conference in college football. With only four spots in the College Football Playoff, the question becomes how many teams will be able to make that playoff out of the toughest conference?

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder offers his insights into how the SEC West will shake out.

Who emerges from the SEC West?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Winners and Losers from Week 8 of College Football

Just when you think you have it all figured out, college football comes in and shakes up all preconceived notions. 

That's what happens when a sport is played by 18-to-23-year-olds. You're never really sure what you're going to get each week. 

Week 8 started off with a bang with both Baylor and Oklahoma falling to West Virginia and Kansas State, respectively. 

From Alabama's shutout over Texas A&M to another embarrassing loss for Florida, we get you caught up on today's busy slate of games.  

As you can see, Winners and Losers is up before the day is over. Don't worry, as this post will be updated throughout the rest of the evening as events warrant. 

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

Begin Slideshow

USC QB Cody Kessler Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 8

Cody Kessler , have yourself a day. The junior signal-caller dominated this week, throwing for seven touchdowns and 319 yards passing in the Trojans' 56-28 win over the Colorado Buffaloes, earning this week's Lexus Top Performer...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

USC QB Cody Kessler Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 8

Cody Kessler, have yourself a day. The junior signal-caller dominated this week, throwing for seven touchdowns and 319 yards passing in the Trojans' 56-28 win over the Colorado Buffaloes, earning this week's Lexus Top Performer.

Can Kessler keep this up?

Watch the video and let us know!  

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Will Cody Kessler's Record-Setting Day Fuel Trojans' Pac-12 Title Hopes?

LOS ANGELES—USC head coach Steve Sarkisian challenged quarterback Cody Kessler to open up the No. 22-ranked Trojans’ passing attack heading into Saturday’s 56-28 win over Colorado at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Kessler responded resoundingly, throwing five of his program-record seven touchdowns in the first half.

"[Quarterbacks] coach [and offensive coordinator Clay] Helton and I coach this guy harder than any other guy on the team," Sarkisian said of Kessler. "He comes to work every day with a mindset to get better."

It doesn't get any better than throwing more touchdowns in a game than anyone in Trojans history, including Heisman Trophy winners like Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

Kessler credited his former teammate and previous record-holder Matt Barkley both in the postgame press conference and via Twitter.

Barkley threw six touchdown passes four times in his career.   

As Kessler approached the mark in the third quarter, running back Javorius "Buck" Allen described an atmosphere like that of a baseball dugout when a pitcher is approaching a no-hitter.

"I didn't want to mess his groove up," Allen said. "I just wanted him to stay in the zone and do what [does]."

His teammates may not have chimed in, but Kessler said he "would be lying" if he claimed he didn't realize he was marching toward history.

Kessler surpassed past USC greats with his showing and, in the process, took a step toward matching another achievement predecessors like Palmer and Leinart reached: winning a conference championship.

The Trojans added to their Pac-12 South-leading tally in the win column, improving to 4-1 in the league. With the more balanced offense it demonstrated against Colorado, USC is better equipped to compete for its first league championship since 2008.

Efforts like the Trojans wide receivers put forth Saturday won't hurt in that pursuit, either.

Kessler's record-setter came on Steven Mitchell’s lay-out grab of a 24-yard laser beam Kessler fired on the move. However, the record-tying strike he threw to wide receiver Nelson Agholor earlier in the third quarter fulfilled a point of emphasis Sarkisian set for his team heading into the week: increasing explosive plays with more downfield passes.

It didn't get much more explosive than Kessler's 75-yard bomb to Agholor, the receiver's personal best third score of the afternoon.

Agholor scored on previous passes of 16 and 18 yards.

The chemistry brewing between the two continues to develop each week and will be a bedrock of the passing game for the remainder of the season.

But perhaps the more meaningful development for USC’s immediate future was Kessler’s connection with John “JuJu” Smith.

Smith set the tone for the day when he snagged a diving catch on USC's opening drive, the first of four catches for 104 yards all made in the first half. One was also his first career touchdown.

"It feels good, man," Smith said. "I was hoping to score this week."

With touchdown No. 1 under his belt, Smith looks ready to break out as a key contributor in the USC offense for the remaining Pac-12 push.  

The Trojans receiving corps has lacked a consistent No. 2 to complement Agholor thus far into the season, but Smith provided the combination attack USC needs to keep defenses back on their heels in the home stretch.

"JuJu's been battling a bad thumb. For him to make a one-handed catch with a bad hand...I think the team appreciates guys fighting through [injuries]," Sarkisian said.

Smith also emerged as the potential deep-ball threat USC has sought for much of the season. He averaged 26 yards on his four receptions, which was vital to Kessler making good on the explosive play pursuit.

With a key date in the Pac-12 South race looming—next week’s visit to No. 20 Utah—USC came out with the kind of focus it will need to take control of the division.

"We're getting better by each game," Smith said.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via the USC athletic department.

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Will Cody Kessler's Record-Setting Day Fuel Trojans' Pac-12 Title Hopes?

LOS ANGELES—USC head coach Steve Sarkisian challenged quarterback Cody Kessler to open up the No. 22-ranked Trojans’ passing attack heading into Saturday’s 56-28 win over Colorado at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tennessee vs. Ole Miss: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Tennessee Volunteers made a game of it early, but in the end, No. 3 Ole Miss was simply too much to handle. The Rebels emerged victorious by a score of 34-3.

While Ole Miss came away with yet another win, the Volunteers' all-around effort should be commended.

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace didn't start out in a very efficient manner. His team went through the entire first quarter without putting a single point on the board, as all five drives ended abruptly with Will Gleeson punts.

Wallace's season has been a roller-coaster ride up to this point. Upon the conclusion of the first quarter, ESPN SEC tweeted the quarterback's poor numbers along with an ominous question:

Luckily for the home team, Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley was even more ineffective. He found himself under duress and was forced to scramble out of the pocket quite often. One instance in particular resulted in a very bad decision by Worley, which led to a Mike Hilton interception.

Bleacher Report's Tennessee Twitter account posted a video of the pick:

An uneventful first quarter ended without any points on the board. That changed rather quickly.

The second quarter began with three consecutive Worley completions. Due to a sack by Denzel Nkemdiche, those passes didn't net enough yards for a first down, and Tennessee had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Aaron Medley.

Despite the lack of a touchdown, the Volunteers suddenly found themselves on top of the nation's third-ranked team. Chris Low of ESPN.com tweeted his thoughts at this point in the game:

Wallace and Worley continued their inability to run their respective offenses, trading several punts until the Ole Miss signal-caller finally caught lightning in a bottle.

After a big 28-yard completion to Vince Sanders, Wallace hit his receiver once more by dropping an absolute dime for a 39-yard touchdown strike. Ole Miss Football tweeted the impressive pass:

It took quite a while, but Ole Miss finally earned its first lead of the game. On the ensuing drive, Worley helped the Rebels increase that lead, as he threw his second interception of the game. This time, Senquez Golson snagged the pass, which resulted in an impressive season statistic, via ESPN SEC:

The Rebels took advantage of the great field position following the pick, and Jaylen Walton found paydirt from seven yards out. College GameDay tweeted a video of the run:

Ole Miss tried to get three more points on the board before the half, but a 52-yard field-goal attempt by Gary Wunderlich didn't find its mark as time expired. Entering the break, the Rebels led the Volunteers 14-3 in a defensive struggle.

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted a telling stat regarding the Rebels' ineffective offense through two quarters:

Following the break, things didn't get much easier for either offense. Quarterback pressures continued to trend, as both Wallace and Worley were sacked, hit and hurried many times over the next several drives. One hurry had devastating results for Tennessee. Worley was flushed from the pocket, made another poor decision and was picked off by Golson for the second time on Saturday.

Ole Miss Football tweeted a video of the play:

That pick gave Golson seven on the season and extended his lead over the rest of the nation. Ole Miss reporter Kyle Cole tweeted his comical take on the defensive back:

Turnovers continued to plague the Volunteers later in the third quarter. Following a Wunderlich 34-yard field goal, the ensuing kickoff was fumbled by the Vols' Evan Berry and recovered by Marquis Haynes at the Tennessee 28-yard line.

As he's done so often this season, Wallace needed just one play to make another huge impact on the game. This time, he found Evan Engram in the corner of the end zone, and the wide receiver came down with a great catch to secure the touchdown.

Take a listen to the call, courtesy of play-by-play radio announcer David Kellum:

With a nice lead, Ole Miss began the fourth quarter looking to take some time off the clock. Wallace displayed his ability to create yards with his feet and his arm, completing two passes and rushing four times on the way to a field goal. The drive was 14 plays long and lasted just shy of seven minutes.

Worley returned to the field, but the Ole Miss pressure was relentless. This prompted Grantland's Holly Anderson to tweet her take on the punishment taken by the quarterback:

The Ole Miss offense returned to the field for one more drive and had every intention of running down the game clock. After four Jordan Wilkins carries and another three from DeVante Kincade, Mark Dodson punched in the final score of the game from eight yards out.

ESPN tweeted the game's final score along with Dodson's touchdown run:

The last-second touchdown run was met with some displeasure across social media sites, but according to Brandon Speck of the Daily Journal, coach Hugh Freeze didn't expect his team to score:

After 60 minutes of action, ESPN Stats & Info tweeted a great achievement for the Rebels and a not-so-great stat for the Volunteers:

Despite the loss, this young Tennessee team has plenty of positive takeaways from Saturday's game. The Volunteers defense put on an impressive showing against one of the nation's powerhouse teams. Worley certainly isn't the answer at quarterback, but young playmakers such as freshmen Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone will be around for quite some time.

Volunteers coach Butch Jones spoke about how this experience will improve his young team in the long run, via Danny Parker of Scout.com:

The coach also expressed his admiration for Tennessee's football program, via Volquest Staff:

Tennessee doesn't have the easiest schedule remaining this season. But following its Week 8 contest against Alabama, games against South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt provide a reasonable chance to claim bowl eligibility.

The Rebels didn't look as solid as they should have on Saturday—especially in a home contest. Yet despite some offensive struggles, the team remained in control of the game throughout. Even though it is a very good defensive team, Ole Miss will need more consistent production to continue its undefeated run this season.

A difficult schedule remains for the Rebels. Games against LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State loom large, and better play from Wallace will be essential to winning those contests. If the quarterback can find his consistency, this team could very well prove to be one of the best in the nation.

College Football Playoff aspirations are still alive and well for this Ole Miss team that should most certainly retain the No. 3 ranking for at least one more week.

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Ohio State Re-Establishing Itself as Big Ten's Best Team

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer wasn't ready to make a statement. At least not yet.

Asked if his team had made a statement with its fourth consecutive blowout victory in which it had scored at least 50 points, the Ohio State head coach declined to accept the premise. But that didn't prevent him from stating his belief that the Buckeyes are a Top 10 team or from setting the table for next week's prime-time showdown with Penn State.

"I think we are," Meyer answered when asked if Ohio State is a team deserving of a top 10 ranking following its 56-17 win over Rutgers on Saturday. "Next week we all know what's coming down the barrel, prime-time game, in a stadium with 110,000 people. That's going to be a great evaluator."

And while Meyer's right in believing that the Buckeyes have more credibility to gain by heading to Happy Valley and walking away with a win, what Ohio State has done in the six weeks since its Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech hasn't gone unnoticed.

With an offense that ranks as one of the best in the country and a defense that's vastly improved, the Buckeyes are firmly entrenched in the hunt for the first-ever College Football Playoff and appear to be the Big Ten's best heading into the second half of the season.

"Someone will blog it out and say, 'Here's Coach Meyer ranting and raving again.' I'm not. I don't really watch the other teams," Meyer said. "But I think we're playing at a pretty high level right now."

The numbers certainly back up the sentiment, with Ohio State averaging 56 points and 614 yards per game in its four contests since its defeat at the hands of the Hokies. Even if you throw out their 66-0 thrashing of Kent State on Sept. 13, the Buckeyes have still averaged 52.6 points 609.3 yards in their last three games, dominating outings that were each decided by the start of their respective fourth quarters.

Of course, a big part of Ohio State's resurgence has been the emergence of quarterback J.T. Barrett, an unlikely Heisman Trophy candidate who was thrust into the starting lineup two weeks prior to the start of the season. But in filling in for two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller, Barrett has blossomed, totaling 1,998 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns through the first six games of his redshirt freshman campaign.

Even with Miller wearing a sling on the sideline, the Buckeyes have managed to possess the Big Ten's top quarterback, with Barrett leading the league in total offense and passing touchdowns despite Ohio State having already endured two bye weeks. His 9-of-29 outing against Virginia Tech remains a blemish on his debut season, but it can't be understated how vital Barrett's play has been in the Buckeyes bouncing back

"Back then, Week 2, it was just not being as prepared as I should have been," Barrett said "Now I'm just learning from that and just trying to get better."

Barrett has clearly done that, as evidenced by his 368-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. Heisman hype once thought to be a fantasy is now turning into a reality, but the Wichita, Texas, native isn't letting his individual success get to his head.

"I don't talk about it," Barrett said. "Is it cool? Yeah. But I've got other things to focus on and that's this team and getting our offense ready to go each and every week so that we really play well against every team we play. Individual goals, I've never thought about that as far as Heisman or anything like that.

"My head coach back in high school was definitely big on that. He was like, 'If you take care of what the team does, your success individually will come along.' That's great, but my focus is definitely on the team and team wins."

With nine receivers catching balls from Barrett against Rutgers, the OSU offense managed to maintain its momentum through the Buckeyes' second bye in the past four weeks, as did a defense that's still finding its footing under new defensive coordinator Chris Ash.

Limiting quarterback Gary Nova to 192 passing yards and the Scarlet Knights to 345 total yards, the unit formerly known as the "Silver Bullets" continued on its upward trend, earning praise from Meyer in the process.

"You can take the first half and that's a credit to our defense," Meyer said. "They took a team that threw 400-plus yards against our rivals and really played well, creating turnovers once again and getting the ball to the offense rather quickly."

That's a pattern that the Buckeyes will need to continue to develop, especially as they appear to be on a collision course for a Nov. 8 matchup with Michigan State that should decide the Big Ten's East Division champion. And if Ohio State can win that, en route to securing the conference crown, a playoff spot could very well be waiting for a team that looks to be light years ahead of where it was six weeks ago.

"We kind of figured ourselves out," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "We kind of have an identity now. The line play's gotten a lot better and everybody's clicking."

But while eyeballs in Columbus find themselves wandering toward a potential playoff appearance, Meyer maintains that his team is focused on the task at hand. Whether that's the truth or simply coach speak remains to be seen, but Ohio State's best football could still be ahead of the Buckeyes—which could make for bad news for the rest of the Big Ten.

"When you watch the film, we could actually have played a lot better in certain situations," Meyer said. "The good thing is that I don't feel like there's a complacent attitude. Complacency is awful in this business."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Watch USC True Freshman WR JuJu Smith Lay Out for Insane 1-Handed Catch

One big highlight from USC's drubbing of Colorado was true freshman WR JuJu Smith's ridiculous one-handed grab. 

The wideout caught four passes for 104 yards as the Trojans rolled over the Buffaloes, 56-28.

Was this catch the best of Week 8?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Nebraska QB Catches Wide-Open TD on Trick Play vs. Northwestern

Nebraska receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El entered Saturday night's game against Northwestern with just one career touchdown catch. The freshman wideout has now thrown for as many touchdowns as he has caught.

The Cornhuskers broke out a trick play late in the first half against the Wildcats, as Pierson-El took the reverse and found quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. all alone for an easy score.

Armstrong Jr. now has a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown this season. 

[SB Nation]

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Should Kevin Sumlin Re-Open Texas A&M QB Competition After Blowout Loss to Bama?

Texas A&M played one of the worst games it has ever played on Saturday, getting outgained by 430 yards (and at one point trailing 560 yards to 50) in a 59-0 loss at Alabama.

The final score wasn't as ugly, but the performance—especially for the first 30 minutes—was every bit as listless as that of "Oklahoma 77, Texas A&M 0," the shameful nadir of the Dennis Franchione era that took place in 2003.

Most concerning of the many concerning performances was that of quarterback Kenny Hill, who took five sacks and completed 17 of 26 passes for 138 yards, no touchdowns and one interception (which easily could have been three if not for drops).

Three weeks ago, Texas A&M was ranked No. 6 in the country, and Hill was considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. But now? He's the first Kevin Sumlin-coached quarterback to ever fail to score in a game—a significant fact highlighed by Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday:

All of which begs the question: Should Sumlin re-evaluate the position, giving true freshman Kyle Allen a chance to start?

He was not entirely dismissive of the idea in his postgame press conference, saying "I don't know about that," when asked if the QB competition would be re-opened, per Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News.

Allen was the No. 10 overall player and top-ranked quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, per the 247Sports composite rankings. He was thought to have a real chance at winning the position before Hill was named the starter during fall camp.

And now might be the time to see what he's got.

Why? Because what does Texas A&M have to lose?

It is heading into a bye week—the perfect chance to integrate a new starting quarterback—and has no chance of competing to win the SEC West. It is not at risk of missing a bowl game (for which it will become eligible when it beats Louisiana-Monroe in two weeks), which means the bottom can't fall too far. The team is at a crossroads, sure, but the risk associated with subbing-in Allen would be manageable.

The Aggies also have Kyler Murray, a 5-star dual-threat quarterback and the No. 27 overall prospect in the 2015 class, committed to join the team next season. His presence makes letting Allen play this year even more imperative. The more information they have on Allen as a potential future-of-the-program-type quarterback, the sounder their decisions will be in 2015, 2016 and beyond (and vice versa).

The only glaring downside to letting Allen play is the effect it will have on Hill, whose body of work this year does not suggest a player who needs to be benched. If he's yanked for a true freshman and knows another blue-chip kid is coming in next year, he might resign himself to his fate and consider looking at other schools.

For obvious reasons, that would be suboptimal.

Hill is only a sophomore, and the ceiling on his game is manifest. He was not the only thing wrong with Texas A&M's offense against the Alabama Crimson Tide, whose defense dominated the line of scrimmage and played tight coverage.

More often that not, Hill had no time to scan the field and nowhere to throw the football. He was not put in a position to succeed.

Still, the Hill who teased Aggies fans in September was good enough to conjure success out of any position.

The "Kenny Trill" version of A&M's sophomore quarterback—the one who blitzkrieged South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Week 1 and led a manic comeback to beat Arkansas in Week 5—would have strung at least a few positive plays together. He would have prodded and poked until he found at least one pocket of space.

He would not have been content with…well, this:

The man who preceded Hill, Johnny Manziel, played two of the four best games of his career against Alabama, leading an upset of the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide during his Heisman Trophy season in 2012 and posting 562 yards of total offense in a 49-42 loss last year.

It's unfair to compare Hill with a singular talent like Manziel, but the comparison does deserve mention after what happened Saturday.

And Hill played like no Johnny Football. 

Allen might be better. He might be worse. He might be exactly the same. And Hill might be a whole lot better than he's looked the past three weeks. A lot of quarterbacks have struggled against the Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama defenses. (And a lot of those quarterbacks have not had to play them consecutively.)

But the Aggies cannot—in Sumlin's own words, per the Houston Chronicle's Brent Zwerneman—"stick their heads in the sand" after a loss this historically lopsided. They need to find a way to right the ship, both now and for the next few seasons.

Who knows what Allen might do if he's given the keys to the offense?

That, I suppose, is the point.

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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College Football Must Beware the Rising Tide

It sounds strange to say that teams should be wary of an Alabama team, as if they weren't already. 

This is still Nick Saban's Crimson Tide of three BCS titles in the last five years. It is still a modern-day college football dynasty.  

This is also the crazy, fickle world of college football where Mississippi State is No. 1 and Top 10 teams seem to lose as much as they win. In this world, Alabama could be considered an underdog in the SEC West. 

At its best, Alabama is still a team that will eat you, chew you up and spit you out on defense and break your back on offense. At its worst it looks beatable.

The Tide were at their best on Saturday. It wasn't just that the Tide beat the Aggies; it was how they beat them. The 59-0 victory was classic bully stuff—dominating and demoralizing, just how Nick Saban likes it.

The way everything is shaking out—how Alabama is improving, how schedules are organized, the chaotic nature of this season—is setting up perfectly for the Tide to make a run to the College Football Playoff.

Every question that faced the Alabama football team after a loss to Ole Miss and an uninspiring, one-point win over Arkansas was answered emphatically Saturday.

Blake Sims needs to get back in a rhythm? How about 268 yards, three passing touchdowns and this thrown in for good measure?

The offensive line hasn’t dominated anybody all year? How about 226 first-half rushing yards and 298 total?

The pass defense looks vulnerable? How about 51 first-half passing yards and 141 total against the SEC’s best passing team?

The team isn’t playing with emotion? Too tight? Not having any fun? How about players mobbing Reuben Foster after a kickoff-coverage tackle? And…this:

On Saturday, the Crimson Tide offense looked like it did the first four weeks of the season—an efficient attack that took what the defense gave it and hit big plays to build momentum.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper was once again the focal point, going for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Sims did what he does best. Outside of an early goal-line throw that could have been taken to the house the other way, he took care of the ball, made plays with his legs when he had to and was out of the game early in the third quarter.

Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was creative in his play-calling, getting running back T.J. Yeldon the ball on the ground and through the air to keep the Texas A&M defense on its heels all game.

But the most encouraging sign from the offense was the way it dominated at the point of attack in the run game. Yeldon and Derrick Henry had massive holes to run through, with the pair averaging eight yards per carry.

On defense, Alabama easily turned in its most dominant performance of the season and showed the potential it has against the SEC’s most prolific offense.

It started up front with a pass rush that generated six sacks and even more pressure.

Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill never had a chance. He finished the day 17-of-26 passing, with just 138 yards and an interception. Hill was pulled late in the game for freshman Kyle Allen.

Texas A&M had just 51 yards of offense at halftime. By that time, the game was well out of hand.

Alabama’s secondary has taken a lot of heat in the first half of the season, oftentimes for good reason. But it very much rose to the occasion on Saturday.

And, hey, the special teams hit a field goal and didn’t fumble a kick or punt return. Saban praised his players for their performance, per a tweet from Marquavius Burnett of The Anniston Star:

Things are shaping up for a run at a fourth national title in six years for the Crimson Tide.

The SEC West will likely have four teams in the The Associated Press Top Five on Sunday, and Alabama still gets to play two of them. The third, of course, is Ole Miss. The Rebels gave Alabama its only loss so far, but they still have a tough row to hoe the rest of the year. Two losses for Ole Miss (which would put Alabama back in the lead for the SEC West) look very possible.

If Alabama wins out—regardless of what happens to Ole Miss—it will have a very compelling case to be one of the top four teams in the country.

Alabama’s schedule works out for that to happen since it gets both Mississippi State and Auburn at home. And that road trip to LSU now looks very manageable.

If Alabama plays like it did against Texas A&M, it is the best team in the country, without question. The Tide took a massive step forward Saturday in all aspects of the game. That kind of improvement will make Nick Saban a very happy head coach Saturday night.

But it will be back to work on Monday, where Saban will push his team even harder, as he’d want to do after a big win.

This is a team very much on the rise. And it's one that is primed to make a whole lot of noise in the final weeks of the season.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. Stats come from cfbstats.com.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Florida State Fans Cover Themselves in Glitter for Notre Dame Game

Don't ask why. Just accept that these Florida State fans love their Seminoles.

With No. 2 Florida State hosting No. 5 Notre Dame on the national stage on Saturday night, the glitter bros made names for themselves. Their team spirit was just too much to ignore.

If you can get your eyes away from the glitter for a second, check out the fan behind them:

That's just perfect.

[Twitter]

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Heisman Voters Must Notice Rakeem Cato After He Breaks FBS Record

It's time for Heisman Voters to take a serious look at Marshall superstar quarterback Rakeem Cato and consider him for a New York City invite after his latest accomplishment. 

On Saturday, in a game against Florida Atlantic, Cato threw a touchdown pass for the 39th consecutive game, breaking former Wisconsin and now Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson's record. 

Per Bill Bender of Sporting News, the record began back on Sept. 10, 2011. 

Cato's record isn't a gimmick or a fluke. He not only broke a record that was thought to be one of college football's unbeatable, but also has Marshall at 6-0. If they finish the season undefeated, that'll put the playoff committee in a tough position to say the least. 

But for Cato, he's earned his Heisman Trophy consideration this season, much like Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois and Colt Brennan of Hawaii did before him. 

Coming into this week, Cato has racked up 1,698 passing yards, another 200 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns. He's also at the helm of the second-highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 47.8 points per game through six games. The Herd have also scored at least 42 points in all of their games. 

Cato himself has been the model of consistency. In only one game this season—against Akron—has Cato been limited to just one passing touchdown. Over his career, he has 107 total touchdown passes after breaking the record, far and away the most of any active player, per ESPN

But where the ceiling rests for Cato lies at the end of the season. Marshall's schedule to finish off the season—Southern Miss, Rice, UAB and Western Kentucky—leads many to believe that the Herd will finish without a blemish on their record. 

Of the four opponents left on the Herd's schedule, none are ranked in the top 50 in pass defense. So expect Cato to boost his stats by teeing off on the weak secondaries. 

There's certainly things that Cato lacks that other Heisman candidates have. Dak Prescott's Mississippi State Bulldogs are ranked No. 1. Marcus Mariota is considered a top 10 draft pick. 

But if the Herd finish the season undefeated, the masses will clamor for Marshall to be in the playoffs, and for Cato to be in The City That Never Sleeps for the Heisman Trophy presentation. 

 

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Todd Gurley's Absence Continues to Be Non-Factor Due to Emergence of Nick Chubb

Except for a slight height differential, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between Toddy Gurley and Nick Chubb as the Georgia Bulldogs continue to steamroll opponents on the ground.

Gurley, the Heisman favorite before his suspension, continues to sit on the shelf as the NCAA investigates its latest autograph scandal.

In his two-game absence, freshman Nick Chubb has stepped up as a workhorse who not only has the Bulldogs over the loss of Gurley, but of other injured players such as Keith Marshall and Sony Michel. No. 27 has only upped his level of play with more usage as the feature back too:

For a back who was lost in the shuffle and had taken a season-high 11 carries entering the contest against Missouri, it is hard to imagine that Chubb was not getting more work, not to mention the fact that this time last year he was bruising his way around the high-school level.

Forgetting 773 yards and eight scores on an 8.2 yards-per-carry average is quite difficult to do, but Chubb has made the task much simpler than most programs in the nation could ever hope for, even if most did not buy into it at first.

Those numbers Chubb posted in his first game as the starter were gaudy, but the per-carry digits were a tad questionable, and really, Missouri is not the most credible team this season on either side of the football.

So in a showdown with an Arkansas defense that had quietly flustered then-ranked No. 6 Texas A&M and then-ranked No. 7 Alabama, two losses by a combined eight points in which no opposing back gained more than 55 yards, Chubb ran wild and proved he was much more than a flash in the pan.

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer put it best:

Nobody is suggesting Gurley could not do the same thing, but it sure is nice to have a pair of dominant backs. Benjamin Allbright of 94.1 FM Denver captures the budding national feeling quite well:

Most important of all, though, is the fact Chubb's teammates have rallied around him in a time of adversity.

“He just fights for those extra yards,” said lineman Greg Pyke, per Fletcher Page of the Athens Banner-Herald. “It does fire us offensive linemen up when it takes four and five guys to tackle somebody. Knowing that a guy is willing to fight for those extra yards fires us up because it all adds up.”

In more ways than one, the Bulldogs have not skipped a beat despite the loss of a Heisman contender. This certainly bodes well for a team that continues to claw its way back up the top 10 and ever-so-slightly continues to improve its chances at being in the College Football Playoff discussion. 

Florida is the opposition up next after a bye week, which will prove another tough test thanks to Will Muschamp's stingy defense. Kentucky follows that as owners of the 16th-best defense in the land. Arguably the biggest game of the season for the Bulldogs happens right after that thanks to a dance with No. 6 Auburn, owners of the No. 14 defense.

Now, Gurley may return at any given point the rest of the way. How the backfield shakes up is quite easy to see—one of the best players in the nation returns on fresh legs and leads the team in rushing.

Even if that is the case, Chubb did his job with efficient brutality by holding down the spot. Should Gurley remain shelved, the freshman has more than proven himself capable.

Chubb is in it for the long haul with the program, but right now his ability to step into the cleats of a Heisman contender and run away has the Bulldogs focused on an SEC East title.

 

Note: Stats and info courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Rutgers vs. Ohio State: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The 13th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes made easy work of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights with a dominating 56-17 win behind freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett on Saturday. Here is just a snapshot of what Barrett did on Saturday at The Shoe:

OSU got rolling right out of the gate. After forcing a three-and-out on their first defensive possession, the Buckeyes orchestrated a six-play, 52-yard drive that culminated in a touchdown pass from Barrett to Nick Vannett. They took the lead on that play and never relinquished it for the rest of the game.

NJ.com's Dan Duggan had a sense that it was just the beginning of something big for OSU on the day:

The two sides went on to trade one-yard TD runs in the first quarter, but that was as close as Rutgers was able to stay with OSU on the scoreboard.

Barrett completed his first nine pass attempts, and on his eighth throw, he connected with Vannett again for a second TD to give the Buckeyes a 21-7 lead.

The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz described the scoring play:

Rutgers' defense was finally able to make a stop on OSU's next possession, but when the Scarlet Knights took the ball over at their own 10, they turned it over on the very first play of the drive.

Wide receiver Janarion Grant fumbled after making a catch from quarterback Gary Nova, and Eli Apple, a player from Voorhees, New Jersey, made a play that perhaps put the game out of the visitors' reach for good.

OSU tacked on another TD with about four minutes to go before the half and headed into the break with a comfortable 35-7 lead.

Despite the score, Duggan suggested that there was still something the visiting fans could look forward to:

And he wasn't wrong.

When the action resumed, the Buckeyes continued to pour on their offense, leading to a 21-3 third quarter that made the score 56-10.

Amid that flurry, Barrett set a new record, according to The Columbus Dispatch's Tim May:

Barrett went on to add a third passing TD, this time connecting with senior Evan Spencer for a spectacular score:

The outburst of offense for OSU also tied a school record:

The win improved OSU to 5-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Big Ten. Behind Barrett's breakout season, it should be safe to say that the loss of former starting QB Braxton Miller, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury, has not hurt the Buckeyes as much as initially feared.

They will return to action next Saturday when they visit Penn State and hope to extend their Big Ten winning streak.

As for Rutgers (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten), this was just a glimpse of what true Big Ten football is all about.

With this much attention and level of competition, the Scarlet Knights need to find a way to get used to all that soon if they want to settle in comfortably in their new conference.

Rutgers narrowly lost to Penn State in its Big Ten debut and edged a subpar Michigan team by two points a couple of weeks ago, but those games are nothing compared to the contests against the elite programs in this conference.

The schedule won't get easier for the Scarlet Knights as they visit No. 19 Nebraska next week, and a month from now, they will head to No. 8 Michigan State. If Rutgers wants to stay relevant in the Big Ten, performances like the one it put up on Saturday cannot become a norm.

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Clemson Football: Tigers Offense Lost Without Deshaun Watson

On the plane ride home from Boston Saturday night, no one would have blamed Dabo Swinney or Clemson’s medical staff if they pulled out their smartphones and Googled “Advanced Finger Healing Techniques.”

Following Saturday’s nail-biting, skin-of-your-teeth 17-13 win at Boston College, those associated with Clemson’s program should be looking for every avenue necessary to get star freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson safely back on the field as soon as possible.

With Watson, Chad Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense kicked into hyperdrive.

Without him, Clemson’s M.O. has changed completely, going from a team capable of racing past any team on its schedule to a group that grinds out games defensively and holds on for absolute dear life.

Saturday, the Tigers outgained Boston College 398-263, with senior quarterback Cole Stoudt (who began this season as the starter and has regained the role in Watson’s absence) completing 29 of 45 passes for 285 yards.

Clemson scored two offensive touchdowns, which was two more than it scored last week against Louisville, including C.J. Davidson’s go-ahead 32-yard touchdown run with nine minutes, 35 seconds left.

But Stoudt has yet to throw a touchdown pass since returning to the starting role. He isn’t a threat to run the ball, and he isn't anywhere near the downfield passing threat that Watson is.

In seven games (including five starts), Stoudt has one touchdown against two interceptions with 985 yards passing.

In six games (including three starts, which counts his brief appearance before leaving with the finger injury against Louisville), Watson has 1,176 passing yards with 12 touchdowns against two interceptions.

He’s clearly the better passer, and Clemson’s offense has consistently looked more lively and vibrant with the freshman under center.

Sophomore wide receiver Mike Williams, the offense’s top deep threat, had 12 receptions for 277 yards and four touchdowns in Watson’s two starts.

He had eight receptions for 128 yards Saturday but has yet to reach the end zone with Stoudt as the Tigers quarterback.

Watson’s absence has also allowed teams to focus even more on Clemson’s anemic running game, which has yet to find a lead back more than halfway through the season. Saturday, the Tigers managed just 113 yards on 36 carries, with Davidson and freshman Wayne Gallman (who scored the other touchdown) tying for the team lead with 39 yards apiece.

Clemson is expected to be without Watson for at least two more games before he targets a return for Nov. 15 against Georgia Tech. Swinney told Eric Boynton of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal that Watson's return against Tech is "a possibility." 

If there is a silver lining, it’s that both games are against weaker opponents in Syracuse and Wake Forest.

A veteran, nasty defense has been impressive, making late game-winning stops against Louisville and Boston College. Until Watson returns, it’s clear that Dabo Swinney will lean even more heavily on its talents, because he and Morris can’t expect anything substantive from their offense.

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Don't Look Now, but Georgia Might Be New Favorite in SEC

While the SEC West steals headlines, the Georgia Bulldogs are quietly positioning themselves for a run at their first SEC Championship since 2005.

The Dawgs may not receive the benefit of the doubt like resident powers Alabama and Auburn, and they certainly aren’t an inspirational Cinderella-like, fairy-tale-like Mississippi and Mississippi State, but head coach Mark Richt’s squad has flown under the radar to a 6-1 record and a 4-1 mark in conference play. 

And for Georgia, there’s no reason to expect its existing formula for success to expire over the coming weeks.  After all, a heavy dose of running and an ever-improving defense is hard to argue with—especially against one of the more manageable remaining schedules in the conference.

When junior running back Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely before the Missouri game, fans assumed the worst about Georgia’s offense.  Quarterback Hutson Mason and the Bulldogs passing game had been solid but hardly spectacular, and the fear was that the offense would stall out without its workhorse. 

To the contrary, Gurley’s plight opened the door for a new star, true freshman Nick Chubb. Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph shared Chubb's stats thus far in comparison to Gurley's:

In two games as the starting tailback, Chubb has carried the football 68 times for 345 yards and three touchdowns.  Most importantly, however, the Georgia offense has rolled on.  Through seven games (all against FBS oppositions), Georgia is averaging more than 43 points per game. 

But if “more of the same” has been the testimony of Georgia’s offense as of late, “less of the same” has been the rallying cry for the defense.  And fewer old mistakes, broken plays and general mishaps is certainly a good look for coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. Coach Mark Richt expressed how pleased he was with the Bulldogs' first-half performance, courtesy of the Athens Banner-Herald's Marc Weiszer:

Arkansas put together several late-scoring drives on Saturday afternoon, but it was too little too late, thanks to a stellar effort in the first half by the Georgia defense. 

And while Chubb’s steady onslaught of offensive production was hard to ignore, so was the Bulldogs defense, which held the Razorbacks to just six first-half points.  Though perhaps that type of production should have been expected immediately following a road shutout against the Missouri Tigers.

In the SEC parity is king, and this year is exemplary of that concept.  When chaos rules, however, consistency has a chance to prevail.  The two constants for Georgia—an unaltered ability to run the football and continual improvements on the defensive side of the ball—could make the Bulldogs the surprise of the season’s second half.

All but written off following a road loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in Week 3, this Georgia team could turn its lurking into hot pursuit over its final five games, four of which will come against currently unranked opposition. 

With or without Gurley, it’s hard to deny the Bulldogs' path to the SEC Championship Game is relatively favorable.  A rivalry game with Florida is never an easy calling, but an extra week to prepare as well as the Gators’ generally haphazard state should bode well for the Bulldogs. 

Kentucky has impressed early, but the Wildcats seem unlikely to upset Georgia.  And even the matchup with Auburn, the defending conference champion, could shake out favorably, thanks to home-field advantage for the Red and Black.

That remaining slate is decidedly more navigable than the road ahead for other SEC contenders.  Mississippi State may have a No. 1 ranking, but it also has two remaining road games against Top 10 opponents (Alabama and Ole Miss). 

Ole Miss still has a trip to LSU and a home game against Auburn on its schedule, not to mention the Egg Bowl.  In addition to these games, Alabama and Auburn still have to play each other as well. 

And in a year in which no one team has looked consistently dominant, the gauntlet among the top half of the SEC West could be crippling—not just to one team but to all of them.

So while Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn steal headlines and trade punches, don’t be surprised to see another team slowly working up the polls, racking up wins and improving upon its already fortified strengths.  And don’t be stunned to see that team, the Georgia Bulldogs, sneak out as the top team in the conference.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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Watch All 8 of Alabama's TDs vs. Texas A&M in Under 60 Seconds

Reports of the demise of the Alabama offense have been greatly exaggerated. On Saturday, the Crimson Tide offense was just as explosive and dominating as it has ever been in a 59-0 victory over Texas A&M.

Early on, Alabama extinguished any hopes the Aggies had with an all-out offensive blitz. The Tide scored on every one of their seven first-half possessions, recording six touchdowns and a field goal.

That attack naturally slowed down in the second half since the contest was essentially over, but Alabama still notched two more touchdowns to raise its tally to eight. Watch every one of those eight in the video above.

Was this Alabama's best game?

Watch the video and let us know!

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