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Florida vs. Vanderbilt: Game Grades, Analysis for the Gators

The Florida Gators picked up their second consecutive SEC win with a 34-10 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville on Saturday.

Behind quarterback Treon Harris, the Gators ran for 214 yards, while Harris had 215 yards through the air.

Florida's defense was outstanding, too. After a first quarter that saw Vanderbilt have one very good drive, that was about it for the Commodores. Two Ralph Webb fumbles led to 10 points for the Gators, and that proved to be too much for Vanderbilt to overcome.

Florida improves to 5-3 (4-3) on the season and hosts South Carolina next week. The Gators still have an outside shot of winning the SEC East, but they need Missouri to lose out. The Tigers have consecutive road games against Texas A&M and Tennessee, before finishing up with Arkansas.

Here is a look at how Florida graded out in its win over Vanderbilt.

 

Florida Gators Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Harris was terrific. He involved little-used receivers Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson in the offense. He made two big plays downfield and took several more shots. He showed patience and did not turn the ball over.

Run Offense: It wasn't like last week when the Gators ran for over 400 yards, but it was an efficient performance. As a team, Florida ran for over 200 yards, and Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones were both solid. Harris had two terrific touchdown runs himself.

Pass Defense: Vanderbilt had one good drive throwing the football, and that was about it. Florida got pressure on Vandy all night and picked off two passes.

Run Defense: The Gators struggled against the run in the first quarter when Webb gashed them, but after his two fumbles, the Commodores couldn't run again. Both of Webb's fumbles were forced by Florida defenders. 

Special Teams: No big mistakes and Florida hit both of its field goals. Punter Kyle Christy had another strong night averaging 48 yards per punt. Florida also stopped Vandy's return game.

Coaching: Florida had a good plan on both sides of the ball. After the Gators saw how Vandy would attack them offensively, they adjusted, and the Commodores never threatened them again. Offensive play-calling was terrific.

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Leon Orr Dismissed by Florida After Leaving Game Due to Backup Role

Florida defensive tackle seems to have had an abrupt end to his career with the Gators.

The senior had started just two games this season but was  apparently expecting to be in the lineup Florida's game against Vanderbilt. However, head coach Will Muschamp opted to go with Jonathan Bullard on the defensive line instead. 

According to GatorZone.com, the player decided to leave the game and take a bus back to Gainesville instead of playing in a reserve role. Muschamp explained, "He was more concerned with starting than being part of the team."

ESPN's Jeff Barlis later reported Orr would no longer be part of the team:

Orr came into the year with high expectations, ranking among the top 10 defensive tackles in the SEC according to ESPN's Chris Low. Unfortunately, he was never able to take advantage of his role with the team and managed just 16 tackles (three solo) while playing sparingly.

It is not yet known where Orr will go from here, but there will not likely be too many coaches interested in the player after this incident.

 

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

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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Foot and Return

The Oregon Ducks defense may have taken a major blow in Saturday's game vs. Utah as star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffered an injury to his left foot.

Steve Mims of the The Register Guard had the report:

Andrew Greif of The Oregonian had more after the game:

Ekpre-Olomu is a two-time All-Pac-12 cornerback and one of the best individual defenders in the entire country. His fourth-quarter interception in the Ducks’ critical nonconference victory over Michigan State helped seal one of the most important games of the 2014 season.

The hope now is that this latest injury doesn’t change that designation.

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T.J. Yeldon Injury: Updates on Alabama Star's Ankle and Return

For the time being, Alabama has lost the most productive piece of its three-headed running back monster. Explosive junior T.J. Yeldon was forced from Saturday's contest against LSU after suffering an apparent ankle injury on a fumble late in the fourth quarter.

Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday had the report:

CBS' Jon Solomon had an update after the game:

While many teams across the country would be crippled by losing a player of this quality, Alabama's depth at the position is unbelievable. Sophomore Derrick Henry and junior Kenyan Drake would be starting for most programs, and they are undoubtedly capable of stepping into a bigger role for as long as Yeldon remains out. 

 

 

 

 

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LSU Player Pulls Down Pants of Alabama Opponent on National TV

Be warned: The Vine below contains some naked booty, and it's quite hilarious.

The No. 16 LSU Tigers were in a close battle vs. the No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday night, and when Tigers tight end Logan Stokes saw an opportunity to gain a mental advantage, he took it.

Stokes pulled down the pants of Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, who looked rather perturbed. He'll likely be hearing from his coach about that one in the film room.

[Vine]

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UCLA Football: Bruins Offense Clicking at the Right Time as Postseason Looms

The UCLA that college football pundits projected to compete for a berth in the College Football Playoff made an appearance in the 18th-ranked Bruins’ 44-30 defeat of Washington on Saturday.

In particular, the UCLA offense found its rhythm, making good on running back Paul Perkins' prediction after last week's defeat of Arizona.

Perkins said he sensed the Bruins were "on the verge of something great," and the result at Husky Stadium was UCLA's highest offensive output since hanging 62 points on Arizona State in September.    

The emergence of UCLA's offense fittingly started with quarterback Brett Hundley, who looked more like the preseason Heisman Trophy candidate than at any other time this season.

He accounted for 320 total yards and scored four touchdowns, operating behind an offensive line that played one of its better games. The UCLA front helped keep Washington's second-ranked sack-generating defense away from Hundley, taking advantage of linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha's absence for much of the night to allow just one sack.

A confident Hundley completed 29 of 36 pass attempts, improving upon his impressive season-long average of 71 percent coming into Saturday's affair, per CFBStats.com

Hundley's ability to get the ball out quickly to a variety of receivers—10 Bruins caught passes—gave the UCLA offense a fluidity it needs to finish strong in its two remaining games.

Protecting Hundley has been one of the more vexing issues for UCLA on the campaign. Another is penalty yardage. The Bruins addressed penalties Saturday along with their improved blocking, drawing just four flags for 37 yards.

No longer facing downs of more than 10 yards due to penalties, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has more options in his playbook. And there's no doubt UCLA is most effective when it's multifaceted.

That was reflected in how the Bruins scored their five touchdowns. Hundley rushed for two and found Kenneth Walker and Mossi Johnson for one each with the pass.

The fifth came from Myles Jack, whose highlight-reel scoring rush stole the spotlight from two-way counterpart Shaq Thompson.

The Bruins haven't needed Jack to be the ball-carrier he was late last season, but having him as a complement to Perkins, Jordon James and Nathan Starks in the backfield only makes UCLA more dangerous.

And when the Bruins are not getting in the end zone, having kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn connecting is vital.

Fairbairn went 3 of 3 on his field-goal attempts, most notably hitting a 44-yarder that salvaged a fourth-quarter drive nearly stalled by a questionable offensive pass interference call.

Much like the sacks surrendered and penalty yards accrued in past games, missed field goals plagued the Bruins in past weeks.

Head coach Jim Mora said, "We've got to figure out how to put the ball through the uprights when we get in scoring position," after Fairbairn missed a 41-yard attempt on Oct. 11 against Oregon.

With that problem seemingly resolved, UCLA is one facet closer to reaching its full potential for the season's final push.

Better late than never.  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics via UCLABruins.com.

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UCLA Football: Bruins Offense Clicking at the Right Time as Postseason Looms

The UCLA that college football pundits projected to compete for a berth in the College Football Playoff made an appearance in the 18th-ranked Bruins’ 44-30 defeat of Washington on Saturday...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Kansas State vs. TCU: How Horned Frogs Win Reshapes Playoff Picture

Led by the freewheeling exploits of star quarterback Trevone Boykin, TCU notched an important 41-20 victory over Big 12 rival Kansas State on Saturday. The win leaves both teams with 5-1 conference records and keeps the Horned Frogs' College Football Playoff hopes alive.

If nothing else, this season has proven the Horned Frogs belong in the Big 12. Head coach Gary Patterson said prior to the Kansas State game that this team is prepared for bigger and better things.

“Obviously proved to all of those people that said TCU couldn’t win in the Big 12,” he said, via Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "There is still a lot of work to do. We are just touching the iceberg. I told you guys that — 'bout like when I told you someday we'd go to a BCS bowl. You kinda looked at me strange."

As the Big 12 is one of the better conferences in the nation, this bodes well for TCU's chances should it win out. This is a highly likely proposition, as the Horned Frogs' last three opponents—Texas, Kansas and Iowa State—have a combined 10-18 record this season.

The lack of a Big 12 title game could work against the Horned Frogs. It prevents them from another chance to prove their worth as one of the best teams in college football. On the other hand, winning the Big 12 title outright or on tiebreakers and getting a week off preserves their win-loss record, and other teams from the major conferences could slip up and push them through.

TCU's only loss on the season was a 61-58 thriller against Baylor, who is also 5-1 in Big 12 play. The Bears do own the head-to-head tiebreaker over TCU, which means the Horned Frogs will be hoping that Kansas State can come through and beat Baylor on Dec. 6. 

There is a chance the Horned Frogs could move into the College Football Playoff spot without necessarily winning the Big 12 title. TCU was ranked sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings coming into this week, while Baylor was 12th. 

Having the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation lends a certain amount of prestige, but the College Football Playoff committee will be inclined to go with title winners. TCU's schedule is nothing to sneeze at either, as they've gone 4-1 against ranked opponents this season.

Grantland's Matt Hinton noted it will be a tough call between these two teams:

Assuming Baylor slips up, the Horned Frogs should get the final playoff spot alongside Florida State, Oregon (if it wins the Pac-12) and whichever team makes it out of the SEC West alive—which looks to be the Mississippi State Bulldogs at this point.

It's highly unlikely that two SEC teams will make the CFP after Auburn's loss to Texas A&M. However, Alabama is still a possibility to make the cut if it wins the SEC title and the Bulldogs' only loss on the season comes against the Crimson Tide.

Ohio State is still lurking and looks to be in control of the Big Ten, but the sullied reputation of the conference leaves them without any bona fide signature wins on the season.

TCU is still in the playoff hunt with the win, but it might not control its own destiny with so many other worthy one-loss teams from across the nation.

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Watch UCLA's Myles Jack Embarrass Defenders with Nasty Stiff-Arm and Spin Move

Myles Jack decided that stiff-arming a defender to the ground wasn't enough; he had to embarrass the defense further with an elusive spin move on his way to the end zone. UCLA takes down Washington with a score of 44-30. 

Was this the best run of the day?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Watch UCLA's Myles Jack Embarrass Defenders with Nasty Stiff-Arm and Spin Move

Myles Jack decided that stiff-arming a defender to the ground wasn't enough; he had to embarrass the defense further with an elusive spin move on his way to the end zone. UCLA takes down Washington with a score of 44-30...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Utah Player Drops Ball Before Goal Line in Celebration, Ducks Take It 100 Yards

Oh no, he didn't just do that, did he? He didn't actually pull the DeSean Jackson, right? Just who scored the touchdown—Utes or Ducks?!

Early in the second quarter of the Utah-Oregon battle on Saturday night, Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay beat the coverage for a long touchdown. He released the ball in celebration...quite short of the goal line. He rejoiced. His team celebrated. 

Oregon picked up the fumble.

Yes, there was a period of time in which both teams were celebrating, 100 yards apart. Fans and announcers tried to figure out what had happened.

Both Utah and Oregon think they scored a TD 100 yards apart.

— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) November 9, 2014

The replays showed the answer quite clearly:

As brutal as it gets: Utah's Kaelin Clay clearly drops ball before scoring, Oregon picks it up and runs it back. https://t.co/vR9JUNnVkj

— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) November 9, 2014

Oregon just got burned for a TD, and scored? Best offense a heads-up defense? review coming.

— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) November 9, 2014

Touchdown, Oregon.

[SB Nation, Twitter]

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Kansas State vs. TCU: Score and Twitter Reaction

TCU continued its impressive season with a dominant 41-20 win over Kansas State in a matchup of top-10 teams.

Aaron Green—filling in at running back for the injured B.J. Catalon—was outstanding throughout the game, finishing with 171 rushing yards  on 18 carries and a touchdown. Trevone Boykin continued his Heisman campaign with 219 passing yards, 123 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.

Tyler Lockett was one of the few bright spots for Kansas State, totaling 11 catches for 196 receiving yards and a score in the loss. Unfortunately, the rest of the team struggled to do anything offensively in an otherwise disappointing day.

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated noted the effect this game could have on the college football landscape: 

TCU came out hot and did a great job moving the football in the first quarter, getting two quick touchdowns to go up 14-0 in a dominant start, as described by Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com was impressed in Boykin's passing ability shown in the early going:

Kansas State was finally able to answer, however, with Jake Waters throwing a beautiful 70-yard touchdown pass to Lockett. David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest described both sides of the play that cut the lead to 14-7:

Still, that play pretty much represented the only offense in the first half for the Wildcats. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports broke down how well the TCU defense performed early on:

The Horned Frogs added a field goal in the second quarter to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.

At the start of the second half, Boykin again showed what he was capable of by leading a 60-yard drive that ended with him doing a flip into the end zone for the score, as captured by Jarrett Payton:

Brent Yarina of BTN.com noted what the play could mean for the talented player:

Kansas State was able to answer with a solid drive of its own as Waters found Curry Sexton in the end zone for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-14.

This did not last long though as Green was able to answer back with a 65-yard touchdown run for TCU, a play that impressed Newy Scruggs of NBC Sports Radio:

A field goal at the start of the fourth quarter put the Horned Frogs up 34-14 as they proved to simply be too much for Kansas State.

After another Boykin rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter extended the lead to 41-14, Wildcats backup quarterback Joe Hubener put one in to cut the lead to the eventual final of 41-20.

There was a lot of hype surrounding a game with two elite teams and a lot on the line. However, TCU head coach Gary Patterson did not want to create any bulletin board material. 

"We talk with our pads,’’ Patterson said earlier in the week, via Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News. “That’s the way good programs do it. We don’t need to go the other way. We need to understand there are things that go along with what we’re given.’’

This ended up being an excellent strategy as the team focused on the task at hand and pulled out an easy win against a very good opponent.

With the victory, TCU now puts itself in good position to play its way into the College Football Playoff if it can keep winning. The one-loss squad now has another marquee win on the resume and should keep moving up in the rankings while the SEC schools keep beating each other up.

On the other hand, Kansas State is likely eliminated from title contention with a second loss on the year. This could still end up being a great year based on the preseason expectations, but the players and fans have to be disappointed knowing there could have been much more.

The Horned Frogs will have a relatively easy road match against Kansas next Saturday, followed by games at Texas and then home against Iowa State. The Wildcats will have a week off before facing West Virginia on the road on Nov. 20. A home game against Kansas and a trip to Baylor also loom on the schedule.

What happens in each of these games will end up deciding which team takes home the Big 12 title.

 

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

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Washington Huskies Quarterback Cyler Miles Gets Destroyed on Scramble

Washington Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles saw green ahead of him and decided to scramble. He picked up a few yards on this fourth-quarter play, but the UCLA defense made him pay dearly.

Cyler Miles got wrecked https://t.co/ehkveAjaKm

— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) November 9, 2014

[Twitter]

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Virginia vs. Florida State: Game Grades, Analysis for the Seminoles

No. 2 Florida State University (9-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) is still looking for a dominant performance despite another win, which came against the University of Virginia (4-6, 2-4) Saturday night.

FSU struggled on offense in both the passing and running games, and its secondary was uncharacteristically porous against the Cavaliers. But the run defense was masterful in the win at Doak Campbell Stadium, and that made all the difference.

Let’s take a look at the Seminoles’ grades for Saturday’s 34-20 triumph over UVA.

 

Pass Offense

Jameis Winston can’t do everything. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner put up pedestrian numbers against Virginia. He went 22-of-35 for 261 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. But his lackluster performance is more on the offensive line than anything else.

From whistle to whistle, Winston was under pressure and frequently knocked on his back. He never had much time to throw the football. The offensive line—which is still suffering from issues associated with the loss of Austin Barron at center, and the fact that his replacement, Ryan Hoefeld, is not very good right now—was a huge liability Saturday night. The Seminoles are lucky that Winston emerged from this game in one piece—and with yet another victory.

After some early drops, Jesus "Bobo" Wilson stepped up and grabbed a handful of catches in the third quarter to help accompany Rashad Greene’s career-high 13 catches. Nick O’Leary was held without a catch, and only four players actually hauled in passes.

This was a down night for one of the best passing attacks in the country, which gets a “C” grade. This group is so much better than how it played against the Cavaliers.

 

Run Offense

Nine days after a very strong game on the ground against the University of Louisville, FSU struggled to establish anything in the run game against Virginia. The Seminoles finished with 115 yards on 39 carries for a paltry 2.9 yards-per-carry average.

Karlos Williams had some nice carries and racked up 70 yards, but it took him 21 carries to do so. Williams added two touchdown runs, though. Dalvin Cook ran 11 times for 36 yards and left the game in the second half with a leg injury.

FSU looked more like the struggling running team from earlier in the season in this one. The Seminoles just could not consistently move the football between the tackles. For that, the ‘Noles get a similar grade to what they received at that time: a “C” for run offense.

 

Pass Defense

Florida State’s pass rush was terrific against the Cavs; its defense against the pass in the secondary was not.

Virginia had allowed eight sacks all season. But against FSU, the Cavs allowed four sacks alone. Eddie Goldman was a beast, and Mario Edwards Jr. was an absolute monster in this one. The Cavs were held to 220 yards passing, but Greyson Lambert tossed three touchdown passes, and his one interception was on a terrible decision that Terrance Smith easily plucked out of the air for the Seminoles.

If the grade was just for the pass rush, an “A” would be in order. But because the secondary struggled (Ronald Darby will have nightmares about the should-be pick-six he dropped late in the fourth quarter), the pass defense gets a “B” for the night.

 

Run Defense

The difference on Saturday was FSU’s ability to stuff the run and force a mediocre quarterback into leading the offense through the air. 

The Seminoles get an “A+” for run defense because they were simply dominant. The Cavaliers were held to 37 yards on 32 carries for a crazy-low average of 1.2 yards per carry. Virginia could not run the ball on Goldman, Edwards and Derrick Mitchell Jr.

This was one of the best performances—if not the best—of the year for FSU’s run defense.

 

Special Teams

Roberto Aguayo nailed two important field goals, and Cason Beatty, who has been much more consistent this season, had a stellar game for the special teams unit.

Beatty reeled off a career-long 68-yard punt in this game, and he finished with a per-punt average of 48.5.

Together, that’s an “A” in my book.

 

Coaching

Jimbo Fisher and his staff get a “B” for this one. This was an average game all-around for the defending national champions.

There is a lot to work on and improve before the Seminoles travel to an upstart University of Miami team that looks a lot more threatening now than it did earlier in the season. But Fisher and Co. are still undefeated and riding a 25-game winning streak. You can’t grade them too low.

 

Brandon Mellor is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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Washington Huskies' John Ross Returns Kickoff 100 Yards for Touchdown vs. UCLA

After the UCLA Bruins scored a touchdown in the third quarter of Saturday's game, the Washington Huskies found themselves in a 38-13 hole. They needed some magic to get back into it, and fast.

Sophomore wide receiver John Ross was up to the task.

Ross caught UCLA's kickoff just inside his end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-20.

Ross made multiple cuts before breaking it open around the Huskies' own 20-yard line, giving his team some much-needed energy in addition to the points.

[SnappyTV]

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Former UNC Football Player Michael McAdoo Suing School over Quality of Education

Many critics who are against the idea of paying collegiate athletes argue that athletes are compensated with an education and a degree. However, former University of North Carolina defensive lineman Michael McAdoo doesn't think that's enough—at least following the recent scandal involving the Tar Heels.

Tom Foreman Jr. of the Associated Press reported that McAdoo sued the school at a United States District Court in Charlotte, N.C.:

McAdoo's lawsuit says that he was guaranteed a good education while being recruited by football coaches, but was ultimately guided to consider three options, one of which was African-American Studies — the curriculum that formed the basis for the long-running academic scandal.

"We're not out to vilify UNC. We're trying to restore the student-athlete principle that UNC's really been for so long in the forefront of," said Jeremi Duru, a Washington, D.C., attorney representing McAdoo who also teaches law at American University.

"The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became aware yesterday of the lawsuit filed by former student Michael McAdoo," said Rick White, UNC's associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, per CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon. "The University will reserve further comment until we've had the opportunity to [fully] review the claims."

This comes after a damning report commissioned by the school revealed how North Carolina was failing to properly educate its student-athletes.

"The report laid bare North Carolina's abdication of academic integrity in order to serve up easy grades that kept athletes eligible and on track to graduate," Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde wrote. According to Forde, over a thousand student-athletes received grades they didn't earn.

Dave Zirin felt the scandal was an indictment of the college athletics model:

Depending on the outcome of McAdoo's lawsuit, schools—particularly North Carolina—could be flooded with litigation regarding the quality of education afforded to student-athletes. In addition, the NCAA itself could come under further scrutiny.

The wave of momentum behind paying college athletes looks almost unstoppable, and McAdoo may have provided more ammunition for its proponents.

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Auburn Football: How the Tigers Can Still Make Playoff After Loss to Texas A&M

AUBURN, Ala. — You can't completely count out the Auburn Tigers.

The college football world saw that in the second half of Saturday's game between No. 3 Auburn and unranked Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Despite being down by 18 at the half to a team that had all the momentum in thanks to its offense and special teams, Auburn rallied in the second half to be down by just three points in the red zone—on two separate late-game situations.

"I am proud of our guys," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "We fought back. We got in a hole early. Obviously the fumble at the end was big...I thought the defense at the first part of the game, (Texas A&M) was getting quite a few yards, and then in the second half we held them to two field goals."

But Auburn's offense literally fumbled away both of those chances at victory, and a 41-38 heartbreaker to Texas A&M puts the Tigers on the outside looking in when it comes to the SEC and national-title pictures.

There is no sugar-coating Auburn's failed comeback bid against the Aggies, a team that had lost three straight SEC games, including a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Alabama. With the obvious exception of Samford, Saturday's defeat was the worst loss Auburn had left on the schedule.

However, Auburn still has two road games left against fellow SEC powerhouses Georgia and Alabama—games where the Tigers could be more than just spoilers.

It is going to take a lot of improvement and a lot of insanity.

 

Improvement

Auburn suffered from problems old and new Saturday night against Texas A&M and dearly paid for it when Aggies quarterback Kyle Allen went for the final kneel-down.

The all-too-familiar slow start put the Tigers in a 14-0 hole with only two minutes and a few seconds off the clock in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Allen, who struggled against Sun Belt opponent UL-Monroe in his first career start last Saturday, put together a better performance in just two quick drives against Auburn, as the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer's Ryan Black noted on Twitter:

The Auburn defense couldn't keep up with the Aggies' pass-heavy spread attack in the opening half, continuing a theme from the last three games of the Tigers' 2014 season.

Although the errors attributed to miscommunication and poor adjustments started to dwindle down after halftime, the Tigers defense was still frustrated with the hole it made for the entire team.

"We just didn't play to our potential," junior linebacker Cassanova McKinzy said. "We came out real slow...and we can't come out real slow."

While the execution was sloppy for Auburn's defense early in the game, it was even more deadly for Auburn's offense late in the game.

The Tigers plugged away at the deficit throughout the second half to make it a one-possession game with under eight minutes left, but a fumble by senior running back Cameron Artis-Payne and quarterback Nick Marshall ended Auburn's drive at the Texas A&M 2-yard line.

"It was a poor exchange on my and Nick's part," said Artis-Payne, who overcame another early fumble to post a career-high 221 rushing yards. "It's something that never really happens. It was one of those things that were uncharacteristic of us."

Auburn got the ball back after another stop from a rebounding defense, but a Malzahn offense that thrives on efficiency had its most uncharacteristic slip on its final offensive play with a poor snap from senior center Reese Dismukes.

"We were trying to check a play right there which we have done many times," Malzahn said. "There was just a little bit of miscommunication there."

With Auburn facing a Georgia team coming off a 63-point performance at Kentucky and an Alabama team that—at this exact moment—controls its own destiny in the SEC West race, Auburn must see plenty of improvement from its defense.

"Half of it was that they were making plays and we weren't, and the other half was miscommunication," junior cornerback Jonathan Jones said. "We'll get back to it, get it corrected and move forward."

And although the Auburn offense continued to put up big numbers Saturday night, Marshall and his teammates need to cut down on the late-game errors that hurt against both Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

"We're going to clean up the stuff we can, learn from this loss and move forward as a better team," Artis-Payne said.

 

Insanity

Even if Auburn straightens its issues out on both sides of the ball and manages to pull off back-to-back road wins against its two biggest rivals, it most likely won't be enough to get into the playoff hunt.

A two-loss team will need the boost from a conference championship, and the Tigers will have to emerge victorious in a three-way tie in the SEC West. 

No. 1 Mississippi State still has two big road games of its own left against Alabama and Ole Miss, and Alabama would need to stay at one loss heading into the Iron Bowl.

Each team would have two losses in the West, with one win and one loss to each other. Alabama and Mississippi State would have a loss to Ole Miss, which Auburn defeated last weekend in Oxford.

That road victory against a two-loss team outside of the tie, according to 2.C of the SEC's Divisional Tie-Breaker Rules, would make Auburn the SEC West representative in Atlanta.

From there, the Tigers would need to continue winning out with a successful defense of its conference title and hope the College Football Playoff committee would take a two-loss champion from the nation's toughest conference.

It seems crazy to even suggest, especially right after a loss to an unranked team, but the team that has done so much the last two seasons on improbable finishes can still find its way into the final four.

A lot has to happen for Auburn and for its fellow powerhouses, but it's not impossible.

"You can't get your head down in college football," Jones said. "I've seen crazier things happen, so we just have to remain optimistic and keep playing."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

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Inconsistent Everett Golson Throws Notre Dame's Playoff Hopes Away

TEMPE, Ariz. — Notre Dame's playoff hopes disappeared Saturday afternoon, melting away in the desert sun as the Irish offense gift-wrapped 28 points to Arizona State in a 55-31 defeat. And while an injury-depleted defense struggled to keep the Sun Devils from moving the ball, it was Everett Golson and the Irish offense that lost the game, with Golson's five turnovers derailing their late comeback efforts. 

After opening the game with a 14-play drive, Golson short-circuited, giving the Sun Devils three touchdowns as fumbles and turnovers buried Notre Dame in a 31-point hole that even Golson couldn't climb out of. And while the quarterback fought back and had the Irish down just three points with six minutes to go, a second pick-six ended the Irish rally, eliminating Notre Dame from a College Football Playoff race that found itself shook up with Texas A&M beating Auburn Saturday afternoon.

While the Irish earned all sorts of points for not packing it in after falling behind 34-3 late in the second quarter, you'll excuse Brian Kelly for not accepting the consolation prize. 

"Great resolve, great character. These kids are as good a group of kids that I've coached," Kelly said after the game. "But if you're sloppy, this isn't rec ball. There aren't pats on the back for being great competitors. We're doing this to win. We didn't win the game, and it's because of the obvious circumstances in the game: five turnovers."

Those turnovers continued a stretch of football where Golson played more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than a Heisman candidate. For as brilliant as Golson was in the second half—his 13 completions for 296 yards would've been a nice day—there's no escaping the fumbles and interceptions that killed Notre Dame Saturday afternoon. 

So while Golson provided highlight-reel plays with his receiving corps, he also handed over a victory to Arizona State, with Todd Graham's attacking defense taking full advantage of Golson's generosity. That the Irish offensive line couldn't protect Golson, after drilling all week against blitz schemes that generated seven sacks, had Kelly scratching his head. 

"Everything that we practiced, everything that we saw last year, we saw this year," Kelly said. "Absolutely no changes in what they did. It was nothing that we saw out there, which makes it even more maddening and frustrating."

It's worth mentioning that the Irish beat Arizona State with Tommy Rees behind center last year. While the former Irish quarterback doesn't have a fraction of the athleticism that Golson possesses, he is capable of processing information rapidly, a critical skill in taking on a blitzing defense. Golson showed those moments of great talent—as his 446 passing yards tell us—but did so with five game-changing mistakes. 

That's 17 turnovers for Golson in the last five games. Mistakes that have turned the fortunes of Notre Dame from a potential dark-horse playoff contender to a team that needs its offense to right itself as it prepares for three more regular-season battles. 

When asked what else Kelly and the coaching staff can do to help Golson take better care of the football, the head coach beat a familiar drum. 

"We've been working with him. Sooner or later, he's got to take it on himself to take care of the football," Kelly said. "I don't know what else to do. We're at that point now where it hurt us in the game. He knows it.  He's going to walk in here and you're going to ask him the same questions. He doesn't want to turn the football over."

To his credit, Golson owned his mistakes. While two interceptions came on tips at the line of scrimmage and a third clanked out of the grasp of sure-handed receiver Corey Robinson, Golson put the blame on his own shoulders. 

"I think it's the competitor in me, sometimes just trying not to give up on the play," Golson said. "Like I said, burnt today. Just different calls, I had a lot of tipped balls, things like that. We just have to clean it up."

It's too late to turn this mess of a Saturday around, with the Irish now looking to finish the season with a more-than-respectable 10 wins. But in a game where most of the worries focused on a young defense trying to slow down the Sun Devils' up-tempo offense, it was Notre Dame's star who brought the Irish down. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. 

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Oregon vs. Utah: Live Blog and Highlights

Oregon 21, Utah 7 -- Late 2nd Quarter

A big Pac-12 clash takes place Saturday night, as the No. 4 Oregon Ducks travel to Salt Lake City to take on the upstart No. 17 Utah Utes. 

The game will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN. 

Odds Shark has the Ducks as a 9.5-point favorite. A full box score can be found here, at NCAA.com.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon vs. Utah: Live Blog and Highlights

Oregon 14, Utah 7 -- Mid 2nd Quarter A big Pac-12 clash takes place Saturday night, as the No. 4 Oregon Ducks travel to Salt Lake City to take on the upstart No. 17 Utah Utes...

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