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2015 NFL Draft: 5 Lesser-Known Prospects Who Will Be 1st Rounders

Now that we're more than halfway through the 2014 college football season, it's time to start analyzing the prospects for the 2015 NFL draft.

With an ample body of work from players to go on, the assessments made at this stage in mid-November are going to be a lot more useful than ones from earlier in the fall. 

There are always a bunch of prospects who start to rise up the boards and make names for themselves this time of year, and this list focuses on them.

Here are five lesser-known prospects who will end up being first-round picks next May.

 

*Stats via ESPN.com taken before games on November 15.

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Texas vs. Oklahoma State: Live Score and Highlights

Texas 16, Oklahoma State 0—2nd Quarter

Nick Rose caps off Texas' third-straight scoring drive with a 51-yard field goal. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray have run the ball 11 times for 66 yards to pace the Longhorn offense.

You can catch tonight's action on FOX, and be sure to follow the box score at NCAA.com.

Keep up with this page for live updates, highlights and analysis of the action, then be sure to stick around to see game grades for both the Horns and Pokes.

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Auburn vs. Georgia: Live Score and Highlights

Late Second Quarter

Georgia 14, Auburn 7

Georgia's offense is clicking on cylinders and the Bulldog defense has tightened up since allowing an opening-drive score.  How will Auburn respond before half-time?

Follow along here for live updates and analysis.

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Kansas WR Nigel King Scores on 78-Yard Tip-Drill TD Catch vs. TCU

Kansas wide receiver Nigel King was definitely focused, tipping a ball to himself multiple times before securing it and running it in for a 78-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The score put the Jayhawks up 27-17, placing TCU in danger of dropping out of contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff with a loss. However, the Horned Frogs scored two quick touchdowns late in the third quarter, giving themselves a 31-27 lead heading into the fourth.

The Horned Frogs went on to win 34-30.

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Gus Johnson Goes Nuts During Arizona Fake Field Goal Against Washington

You're going to want to have the volume on for this.

Fox Sports announcer Gus Johnson was calling the game between the Washington Huskies and Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. In the second quarter, the Wildcats ran a fake field goal in for an 18-yard touchdown, with Johnson going crazy on the call.

The score helped Arizona draw to within three points of Washington, 17-14, with just over 90 seconds remaining in the first half. A late touchdown drive helped the Wildcats retake the lead, 21-17, right before halftime. 

[Vine, h/t The Big Lead]

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Ohio State Quickly Becoming Most Feared Dark Horse in CFB Playoff Chase

To quote former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora: Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?!

Yes, ever since Ohio State's monumental win over Michigan State a week ago, the first-ever College Football Playoff has been on everybody's mind in Columbus, with the Buckeyes climbing to eighth in the most recent selection committee poll.

And while Ohio State's 31-24 victory over No. 25 Minnesota on Saturday may have been a missed opportunity when it came to tacking on some style points, the Buckeyes continued to prove why they are one of college football's most dangerous teams.

"I'd like to see anybody in the country come up here and do this," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said following his team's win over the Golden Gophers. "Any team in the country that wants to schedule this one in November against a very good team: Have at it.

"That's our message."

No, the Buckeyes' margin of victory may not have been as impressive as some would have liked, but Ohio State still managed to score 31 points and compile 489 yards against not only Minnesota, but a steady stream of snow. The Buckeyes also had other opportunities to add to their total tally, but they were hampered by a pair of costly fumbles lost by redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall.

"He's too good of a player," Meyer said. "We've got to get that fixed."

But while Marshall—who led Ohio State in receiving with five catches for 95 yards and a touchdown—may have ultimately done more harm than good for the Buckeyes, his play was ultimately overshadowed by one of his more high-profile classmates.

J.T. Barrett firmly cemented his name as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender on Saturday, totaling 389 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in the Ohio State win. Barrett's 189 rushing yards were critical in the Buckeyes sustaining drives in the inclement weather and were also the most ever in a single game by an Ohio State quarterback.

"He's a tough guy," Meyer said of the redshirt freshman signal-caller. "In these kind of conditions, there's only a few people who you want to touch the ball...a great game by him."

Barrett's great game included a dazzling 86-yard touchdown run to give the the Buckeyes the first score of the game in the first quarter, as well as three touchdown throws, including a 57-yard toss to Marshall.

With his efforts, Barrett eclipsed Braxton Miller's single-season school record for touchdowns accounted for with four games likely left on Ohio State's schedule, as the Buckeyes quarterback is now on pace to tally 4,065 total yards and 49 touchdowns over the course of 13 games.

And while those numbers would more than likely land Barrett in New York City in the second weekend of December as a Heisman Trophy finalist, they speak just as much to the overall success that Ohio State has found since suffering its Week 2 defeat to Virginia Tech.

Despite navigating a choppy schedule that has included two byes in a four-week span and only two home games in seven weeks, the Buckeyes have become one of the hottest teams in the country, rattling off eight consecutive wins, including last weekend's statement over the Spartans.

Ohio State has jumped from 16th to 14th to eighth in the playoff rankings in the past three weeks and could be poised for another leap depending on the outcome of the remainder of Saturday's slate.

Yes, the Buckeyes are currently on the outside looking in at the playoff, based on a perceived soft schedule (ranked 43rd in the country as of Saturday) and the scarlet letter that's become their loss to the now 5-5 Hokies, who beat No. 21 Duke on Saturday.

But with games against Indiana and Michigan remaining, Ohio State is one inevitable win away from clinching a trip to Indianapolis, where the Buckeyes will have the opportunity to make one final case to the playoff committee in the Big Ten Championship Game.

But if the committee is selecting the four best teams and not the four best resumes, the Buckeyes should already be in that discussion. With an offense that could compete with any defense in the country—whether it be Alabama or Michigan State—Ohio State is hitting its stride at the right time and may be the team that no one wants to face by the end of the season.

"Outstanding," Meyer said of the current mood of his locker room. "Like we're one win away from winning the [Big Ten] East championship. That's what it's like."

Where that lands the Buckeyes in the eyes of the playoff committee won't be known until Tuesday, but anybody who's watched this Ohio State team since September knows one truth that was solidified a week ago in East Lansing and only furthered today in Minneapolis: It's for real. And it's only getting better.

 

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.com and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Alabama's Amari Cooper Grabs 50-Yard Pass Between 2 Mississippi State Defenders

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper has been a stud all season, and he certainly didn't slow down against the top-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday.

In the second quarter, Cooper snagged this throw from senior quarterback Blake Sims for 50 yards, putting the Crimson Tide at the 1-yard line. They scored a touchdown the next play to go up 19-0.

Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter recently compared Cooper to Randy Moss. After seeing him make a catch like that between two defenders, it's easy to understand why.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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South Carolina vs. Florida: Game Grades, Analysis for Gamecocks and Gators

The University of South Carolina was able to rally from seven points down late in the fourth quarter to defeat the University of Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The final box score can be found here, thanks to NCAA.com.

South Carolina was able to jump to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. But the Gators responded with 17 unanswered points and looked as if they were going to secure the win in the fourth quarter. But due to special teams miscues, the Gators let the game slip away in overtime and are now eliminated from the SEC East race.

Here are my game grades and analysis for the Gamecocks and the Gators.

Passing Offense

Dylan Thompson started off strong with over 100 passing yards in the first quarter. But the Florida defense made adjustments after that, and Thompson could never get in a rhythm. He finished the game with 206 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, which is not a usual performance from him. But he was going up against a very aggressive Florida defensive line led by Dante Fowler and Bryan Cox Jr. It would have been surprising if he threw for over 270 yards.

 

Running Offense

It was not a great day for the Gamecocks when it came to the ground game. The team only rushed for 95 yards and averaged 2.5 yards per carry. But Mike Davis did run hard in the limited amount of carries that he got and scored the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Thompson scored the game-winning touchdown off a read option. So despite not racking up the rushing yards, the Gamecocks did score all their touchdowns on the ground.

 

Passing Defense

The Gamecocks did not have to do a lot when it came to pass defense because the Gators only threw the ball 11 times. Florida quarterback Treon Harris only had 60 passing yards because he was playing with an injured hand. The two things that were good to see were Sharrod Golightly getting half a sack and J.T. Surratt getting a quarterback hurry. The defense has struggled all season long, and getting any pressure on a guy like Harris is not easy to do.

 

Running Defense

Florida has really gotten the running game going over the last few weeks, and today was no different. The Gators ran for 218 yards, and Harris had about half of them. The Gamecocks did not let Matt Jones or Kelvin Taylor run wild, but the speed of Harris was too much for South Carolina. However, South Carolina was able to tighten things up in overtime, which led to a big win.

 

Special Teams

Kicker Elliott Fry was 1-of-2 on field-goal attempts, the punting game was solid and the coverage teams did their job. But the special teams get a high grade because they blocked a punt and blocked a field goal to get the team back in the game. It’s rare for a team to get one blocked kick in a game, but two in the same quarter is unheard of. And that’s why coaches preach good play in special teams all the time.

 

Coaching

Whenever Steve Spurrier wants to win a game badly, he will do whatever it takes to outcoach his opponent. And while the Gators would have won had it not been for the miscues on special teams, Spurrier was able to work his magic late in the fourth quarter and in overtime to win the contest. It has not been a good year for Spurrier, but the win today at his former school makes things a little sweeter moving forward.

Passing Offense

Because the Gators like to the run the ball, they are not going to pass the ball 20 times a game. However, only 11 passing attempts won't win a lot of ball games. Harris only threw for 60 yards and was 5-of-11. He was playing with an injured hand, but if the Gators want to win out the rest of the season, Harris will need to be more efficient when throwing the ball downfield.

 

Running Offense

It was another day at the office for the ground game, as the Gators rushed for 218 yards on 49 carries. Jones and Taylor were solid, but it was Harris that was the workhorse with 111 yards on 20 carries. The ground game could have been more dominant in the fourth quarter. If the Gators would have been able to burn the clock a little more with the ground game, they would have won.

 

Passing Defense

Credit goes to the Gators defense for not letting Thompson get into a rhythm. Led by Fowler, the Florida defensive line pressured Thompson all game long, and the South Carolina offense was dead until late in the game. Despite the team's record, the defense is one of the better ones in the conference because of how it can get after the quarterback and defend passes.

 

Running Defense

The run defense was no slouch either, as it allowed the Gamecocks to run for 95 yards. Linebacker Antonio Morrison was all over the place as he recorded 16 tackles, while Neiron Ball was right behind him with nine. The linebackers and the secondary were able to make their reads and not miss tackles at the point of attack. But the one thing they have to get better at is preventing rushing touchdowns, as the Gamecocks scored all three touchdowns on the ground.

 

Special Teams

It was not a bad day for the special teams—at least for three quarters. But the fourth quarter is what did them in, thanks to the blocked punt and blocked field goal in consecutive tries. Those miscues can’t happen once in a game because they can be very costly. But when two blocked kicks happen in the same quarter, it’s never a good sign. Those two incidents should be an area of focus when the Gators hit the practice field next week.

 

Coaching

Will Muschamp has been calling great games the last two weeks, and it was the same story against the Gamecocks. But he should have been more aggressive in the play-calling, especially in the fourth quarter. As good as the Gators looked the last two weeks, they looked just as bad in the final stages of this game. And it falls on the coaching staff. Muschamp needs to win out in order to have a chance to be back next year.

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Melvin Gordon Hurdles Defender on Sideline, Scores 62-Yard TD

Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon continues to help out his NFL draft stock with incredible runs like this one.

Gordon showed off his impressive acceleration by sprinting down the sideline, then hurdled to avoid a defender for a 62-yard touchdown against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The touchdown was Gordon's 20th on the ground this season, but the Badgers were still down 17-10 after the play.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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Ohio State vs. Minnesota: Game Grades, Analysis for the Buckeyes

A week after registering its best win of the season, No. 8 Ohio State University (9-1) looked a bit sloppy in a 31-24 victory over No. 25 University of Minnesota (7-3) Saturday afternoon.

The Buckeyes were able to overcome the frigid Minneapolis conditions to pile up 489 yards of total offense, but the Gophers turned three turnovers into 21 points in a closer-than-expected seven-point game.

Ohio State was still able to come out with an important road victory over a Top 25 team. Here's how the Buckeyes graded out. 

Ohio State Buckeyes Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: J.T. Barrett struggled with his accuracy in the frigid Minneapolis cold, completing 15 of 25 passes against an experienced Gophers secondary. He was productive, though, throwing for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

A badly overthrown ball in the first quarter was picked off and gave Minnesota life in the first half, and a fumble from Jalin Marshall going into the end zone on a shovel pass took points off the board. Those were the only gaffes in an otherwise solid performance. Marshall is starting to emerge as a serious threat in the Buckeyes’ passing attack, as he caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Run Offense: It was safe to assume Ohio State would try to establish the run game in the cold conditions, and Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott did that in a big way. The two combined for 280 yards on 35 carries, but it was Barrett who owned the day. His 86-yard touchdown run in the first quarter set the tone, as the Buckeyes averaged an impressive 7.6 yards per carry.

Pass Defense: Minnesota’s passing attack came into the game as one of the worst in the country, ranking 120th nationally with 140.2 yards per game. The Buckeyes made the Gophers look even worse, allowing just 85 passing yards to Mitch Leidner while coming up with two interceptions. Leidner only completed 36.8 percent of his passes, and he couldn't get anything going as the Gophers tried to rally from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit. 

Run Defense: For the second straight week, Ohio State had trouble stopping a strong, bulldozing running back. Last week, it was Michigan State University's Jeremy Langford who dashed through the Buckeyes defense. On Saturday, David Cobb gashed Ohio State with 145 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 27 carries. The Buckeyes did a better job against Cobb in the second half, limiting him to 49 yards on the ground. But it didn't take away from his fantastic outing. 

Special Teams: Ohio State's struggles continued against Minnesota on Saturday. Sean Nuernberger connected on his only field-goal attempt from 22 yards out, but the usually solid Cameron Johnston had a tough day, averaging just 36.8 yards on four punts. Arguably the biggest mistake of the day came in the fourth quarter when Marshall muffed a punt inside Ohio State's 15-yard line. Minnesota pounced on it and cashed in with a Cobb touchdown run two plays later.

Coaching: Urban Meyer and the coaching staff came in with a solid game plan, and Ohio State executed it pretty well on Saturday. The Buckeyes got things going on the ground and pounded their way to nearly 300 yards, which was pivotal in the cold conditions. The Buckeyes have a solid defensive scheme as well, limiting the Gophers to just 303 total yards. It was the three turnovers that made this game appear closer than it really was. 

 

All stats via NCAA.com.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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J.T. Barrett Belongs in the Heisman Discussion After Record-Setting Game

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett had a record-breaking afternoon in the Buckeyes' gritty 31-24 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday. He set a new Ohio State quarterback rushing record with 189 yards.

With the huge performance, Barrett launched himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer brok Barrett's monster performance.

Should Barrett be in the Heisman discussion?

Check out the video and let us know!       

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With Little Help from QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State Is Now Bowl Eligible

Saturday afternoon, Penn State achieved a significant milestone given the program’s troubled recent history. The Nittany Lions’ 30-13 rout of Temple secured Penn State’s first bowl bid since the 2011 season, when they dropped a 30-14 decision to Houston in Dallas’ TicketCity Bowl.

But they did it with little help from one of their most important players, sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. And if the Lions hope to end the season with their first bowl victory since a 19-17 win over LSU in the 2010 Capital One Bowl, they’ll need a stronger all-around effort, most notably from Hackenberg.

Following a strong freshman season that saw him throw for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, the Nittany Lions’ sophomore quarterback has taken a major step backward in 2014.

Saturday, Hackenberg had his worst statistical game of the season, completing 12 of 26 passes for 112 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. On the season, he has thrown just seven touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

It was his worst passing-yardage game of the season and tied his season low for completions (set earlier in the season against Massachusetts and replicated last week against Indiana). After throwing for 454, 319 and 309 yards in the Lions’ first three games this season, Hackenberg hasn’t cracked the 225-yard barrier since, throwing for less than 200 yards five times in seven contests.

An inexperienced, leaky offensive line is partially to blame—Hackenberg has been sacked 39 times this season after being sacked just 21 times in 12 games last year—but he also must make better decisions, as his increased interception total suggests.

Penn State’s ground game gave Hackenberg help Saturday, as Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton combined for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries.

The Lions defense was impressive, too, highlighted by Grant Haley’s pick-six interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

And senior kicker Sam Ficken has been strong all season, making 22 of 26 field-goal attempts. His final-play field goal won the season opener against Central Florida, and he has 87 points on the season, or 40.8 percent of the Lions' total points.

The Lions just need Hackenberg to be better and display the strong arm and confidence that he flashed in abundance last season. The NCAA’s decision to rescind the final two seasons of the postseason ban imposed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal restored some hope and excitement to Happy Valley.

Now that bowl eligibility is a reality, Penn State can focus on finishing the season strong. With hapless Illinois next on the schedule, a mid-range bowl bid is possible. To make the most of it, Hackenberg must find a way to improve quickly.

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How South Carolina's Comeback Win vs. Florida Impacts Will Muschamp's Job Status

Coming into Saturday's showdown with South Carolina, Florida hadn't had a three-game winning streak since it beat Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas in late September and early October 2013. 

Florida had the chance to change that Saturday, but special teams blunders and an unlucky bounce brought back the angst, animosity and frustration that has been building in Gainesville for nearly two seasons.

The Gators fell to the South Carolina Gamecocks 23-20 in overtime Saturday afternoon in The Swamp, dropping them to 5-4 (4-4 SEC) on the season and eliminating any outside chance they had at winning the SEC East via a three-team tiebreaker.

The loss once again fires up head coach Will Muschamp's hot seat, which had cooled off a bit in recent weeks after back-to-back wins. And Muschamp knows it, according to Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel.

It wasn't pretty.

Using a one-dimensional offense that featured 49 rushing attempts and only 11 pass plays, Florida was on the brink of extending its lead to make it a two-score game with 3:31 to go. But a 32-yard field goal from Francisco Velez was blocked by Brison Williams to give South Carolina a chance. 

The Gamecocks didn't capitalize. 

Florida stopped South Carolina on 4th-and-10 and got the ball back with a chance to drain the clock. But after a drive went nowhere, Kyle Christy's punt was blocked with 39 seconds left to give the Gamecocks another opportunity.

South Carolina punched it in on a speed option that featured a bad snap and a fumbled pitch to force overtime, before quarterback Dylan Thompson strolled into the end zone during the bottom of the first overtime to finish off the Gators.

Just how bad was it for Muschamp?

Even South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier—who came into the game with four straight conference losses himself—felt bad for him, via Josh Kendall of The State:

Not only did Spurrier finish off the Gators, he likely finished off Muschamp's Florida career—as the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum notes:

Muschamp needed to beat South Carolina and get help to win the SEC East, but now that's as probable as it is that Muschamp is Florida's head coach next year.

As in 0 percent.

Sure, the defense held the Gamecocks to just 301 total yards, but defense has never been the issue in Gainesville. Even last year, as the Gators were sputtering to a 4-8 record, they finished second in the SEC in total defense (314.3 yards per game).

After another year of a stagnant offense, Muschamp inserted quarterback Treon Harris into the lineup hoping that he could provide a spark. He hasn't been an interception machine, which is a marked improvement from his predecessor Jeff Driskel. But it's clear that the coaches don't trust him to stretch the field, and being one-dimensional in the SEC is a recipe for disaster. 

That's exactly what happened Saturday afternoon.

Florida's issues weren't fixed in the Gators' two previous victories, they were just masked in the Georgia and Vanderbilt games. 

The coaching staff is forced to coach not to lose when up late since the team isn't equipped to do anything else. Because of that, even South Carolina—which came in as the worst defense in the SEC—could load the box and shut down the run when it needed to. 

The margin for error was so small coming into the season, and the way Florida won and lost in 2014 was probably more important to athletics director Jeremy Foley than the win-loss record. Unfortunately for Muschamp, the hurry-up, no-huddle system of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper hasn't done anything to kick-start the offense

As a result, the Gators are still left searching for answers—and possibly a new head coach.

After all, their current one is most known for coaching players who block each other.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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J.T. Barrett vs. Minnesota: Stat Line, Heisman Impact and Reaction

Ohio State's slim margin of victory against Minnesota in a snowy Saturday contest may not have done much for the team's College Football Playoff chances, but freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett's performance certainly looked Heisman worthy.

The Buckeyes signal-caller may be viewed as a long shot to claim the coveted trophy as long as players such as Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott continue to play at a high level; however, after completing 15 of his 25 passing attempts for 198 yards, three touchdowns and one interception while rushing 17 times for 189 yards and another score, Barrett may have slightly narrowed the gap.

Barrett has been a dangerous dual-threat quarterback throughout the season, and his prowess on the ground led to a new team record, according to ESPN Stats & Info:

That wasn't the only school record Barrett set Saturday. His total touchdowns this season are also a new team high, according to CBS Sports CFB:

Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod added that the quarterback is just one passing touchdown away from another impressive mark:

What's significant about that feat? Troy Smith won the Heisman in 2006 with the Buckeyes. Barrett is poised to blow Smith's performance out of the water. That's quite impressive for a quarterback who only started the season due to a devastating injury to Braxton Miller.

Analysts are already weighing in on Twitter with their thoughts on Barrett's potential to be a Heisman finalist. Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports appears to think he's in line for a trip to New York:

Axelrod thinks Barrett is a name away from being a Heisman front-runner:

So, how far off from Heisman contention is the Ohio State quarterback?

Coming into Week 12 of the college football season, ESPN released its top Heisman candidates and their corresponding votes. Here's a look at the 10 players who made the list:

If Barrett is to move his way up the list, his numbers will need to reflect Mariota's. After all, Oregon's quarterback is currently the consensus front-runner and is setting the tone for this year's race.

Following Barrett's performance against Minnesota, the numbers are closer than you'd think:

Ohio State's offense is firing on all cylinders right now, and Barrett continues to show improvement with every passing game. That has become wildly apparent of late, as the quarterback orchestrated a total of 80 points over his last two contests against the stout defenses of Michigan State and Minnesota.

With two games remaining on the Buckeyes schedule, Barrett must make the most of his opportunities. A susceptible Indiana team is next on the slate, and Ohio State finishes off the regular season with a contest against Michigan.

He'll be afforded a chance to continue climbing up the Heisman ranks, and if he continues on his current pace, we could be hearing his name called in New York. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson vs. Georgia Tech: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers and Yellow Jackets

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets moved to 9-2 on the season after a dominating performance in a 28-6 win. The Clemson University Tigers, who lost Deshaun Watson to a left knee injury in the first quarter, never got anything going offensively and only totaled 190 yards on the day.

Clemson’s defense didn’t play terrible, but Georgia Tech scored two touchdowns on interceptions that proved to be the difference. Cole Stoudt, who came in for the injured Watson, had a nightmarish performance, throwing three interceptions and only completing three passes.

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

 

Game Grades for the Clemson Tigers

 

Passing Offense

When your team’s quarterback has as many completions as interceptions, it’s not going to look good in the grade column. The offense just never looked the same without Watson at quarterback, as Stoudt threw for only 19 yards.

 

Rushing Offense

Wayne Gallman provided another bright spot for the future with an 82-yard performance, but the Tigers didn’t get any production from anybody else. Watson rushed for 40 yards in limited action, but only one other Clemson running back carried the ball.

 

Pass Defense

The Clemson secondary allowed Justin Thomas to complete eight of his 11 passes, but it only allowed 102 yards through the air. Georgia Tech doesn’t go to the air a ton, but it was efficient when it did.

 

Rush Defense

Georgia Tech averaged 335.6 yards coming into this game, so Clemson held it under that average today. The Yellow Jackets ran for 251 yards, but it was the long runs that hurt the Tigers the most. Georgia Tech had runs of 46 and 65 yards, and it was very balanced in its rushing attack.

 

Special Teams

Ammon Lakip has continued to be productive since a slow start, and he was 2-of-2 on his kicks today. Those proved to be the only points for Clemson in a lopsided victory, and Bradley Pinion averaged 41.7 yards per punt.

 

Coaching

There were a few decisions by the coaching staff that didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t understand why it took so long to insert Nick Schuessler into the game, and the play-calling was terrible with Stoudt in there. It’s obvious that the deep-passing dimension isn’t there with Stoudt at quarterback, but short passes could have helped him get into rhythm.

The Tigers continued to run it up the middle on first down and set up bad passing situations on third down. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables did an excellent job, though, as the Tigers were constantly in the backfield in the first half.

 

Game Grades for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

  

Passing Offense

Georgia Tech’s offense doesn’t call for a ton of passes, but the Yellow Jackets were efficient when they had to throw it. Thomas was 8-of-11 passing, and he made smart reads throughout the game.

 

Rushing Offense

Georgia Tech was held below its season average, but it was still a solid day on the ground. The Yellow Jackets had four players with more than 30 yards rushing and averaged 5.0 yards per carry as a team.

The Tigers were able to get into the backfield consistently, but Georgia Tech was able to get some big plays on the ground. Broderick Snoddy broke off a 46-yard run, and Thomas ran for 65 yards to start the second half.

 

Pass Defense

The Yellow Jackets kept pressure on the Clemson quarterbacks all day, and they came away with three big interceptions. Stoudt never looked comfortable, and a ton of credit has to be given to defensive coordinator Ted Roof for the job his defense did on Saturday.

 

Rush Defense

A solid rushing game would have taken pressure off Stoudt, but Georgia Tech didn’t allow the Tigers to get much going on the ground either. The Tigers rushed for only 125 yards as a team and averaged only 3.9 yards per carry.

 

Special Teams

This unit played well for the Yellow Jackets, with Harrison Butker connecting on three of his four field-goal kicks. Punter Ryan Rodwell was only forced to punt once, but the kicking game was pretty good for this group on Saturday.

 

Coaching

This was an excellent coaching performance by Paul Johnson and his staff. Johnson called a great game offensively, and Roof had his defense ready to play. The pressure the defense applied kept Stoudt from getting comfortable in the pocket, and it helped lead to three Georgia Tech interceptions.

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Florida Gators Blow Late Lead vs. South Carolina After Having Punt Blocked

The Florida Gators looked like they were going to come away with a big win against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday, but two major late-game special teams gaffes cost them the victory.

Up 17-10 with less than four minutes remaining, the Gators had a 32-yard field goal blocked. Then, with only 39 seconds left in the game, an uncovered South Carolina player burst through and blocked a punt, giving the Gamecocks the ball on Florida's 34-yard line. 

To make things even worse for the Gators, this is how South Carolina scored its game-tying touchdown, with Mike Davis recovering his own fumble in the end zone:

The Gamecocks came away with a 23-20 win in overtime on this game-winning touchdown run from quarterback Dylan Thompson:

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier had to feel good escaping Gainesville with an unlikely come-from-behind win.

Dane Brugler from CBS Sports and Josh Kendall from The State provided postgame quotes from Spurrier, who felt bad for Gators coach Will Muschamp:

[Vine, VineTwitter, h/t The Big Lead and College Spun]

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Washington Football Players Get Stuck in Elevator Night Before Game vs. Arizona

During Week 12 of the 2014 college football season, the Washington Huskies came to Tucson, Arizona, to take on the Arizona Wildcats. None of them were likely prepared for what would happen the night before the game, however.

On Friday night, nine Washington players got stuck in the elevator of their hotel. According to KGUN 9, the Tucson fire department had to remove each player individually from the elevator.

Huskies fans are hoping that the incident doesn't throw off the team heading into Saturday's game against the 7-2 Wildcats.

[Facebook, h/t SB Nation]

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Clemson vs. Georgia Tech: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 22 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets kept their dreams of playing for an ACC title alive Saturday as they cruised past No. 19 Clemson 28-6 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.

Georgia Tech used 251 rushing yards to improve to 9-2 on the season and 6-2 in the ACC, which keeps it in contention for the Coastal Division title along with Duke.

According to ESPN College GameDay, the Jackets' defense also came up huge in the victory:

As for the Tigers, they are now 6-2 in the ACC, which means their chances of catching undefeated Florida State in the Atlantic Division have evaporated. Per Tom D'Angelo of The Palm Beach Post, Clemson's loss allowed the Seminoles to clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game:

The main focus entering Saturday's game was the status of Clemson freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson. After missing three games with a broken finger, he returned to action against the Yellow Jackets.

According to Clemson football's official Twitter account, Watson was confident that his hand would hold up just fine:

Following a fumble by senior running back Tony Zenon on Georgia Tech's first offensive drive, Watson showed that while his hand had just healed, there was nothing wrong with his legs. He rushed four times for 28 yards, which resulted in the Tigers taking a 3-0 lead by virtue of a short field goal.

Although Clemson couldn't cash in with a touchdown, Aaron Brenner of The Post & Courier liked what he saw out of the returning signal-caller:

While driving for another score late in the first quarter, though, disaster struck for the Tigers. There was so much emphasis placed on Watson's hand, but he went down awkwardly on a running play and seemed to be favoring his leg, per Manie Robinson of The Greenville News:

Watson was able to walk off on his own power, but he was replaced by senior Cole Stoudt. As pointed out by NFL.com's Bryan Fischer, Watson's exit was a major blow to the Clemson offense:

That much was abundantly clear just three plays after Watson left the game as Stoudt was intercepted by Georgia Tech defensive back Jamal Golden, who returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. The Jackets went up 6-3, and they were unable to add the extra point after a botched snap.

Clemson went 3-0 with Stoudt as the starter during Watson's previous absence, but the Tigers were clearly lacking dynamism when Stoudt entered Saturday's game.

Georgia Tech added a field goal to make it 9-3 early in the second quarter after a 46-yard run by junior running back Broderick Snoddy. Unfortunately, Snoddy appeared to suffer a fate similar to Watson just a couple series later as he suffered a serious leg injury, according to Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

In a show of support for the their fallen teammate, the entire Georgia Tech squad surrounded Snoddy while he was being tended to, as seen in this photo courtesy of Fox 5's Merissa Lynn:

The Yellow Jackets had a chance to take a 12-3 lead into halftime, but kicker Harrison Butker missed a 48-yard field goal, which left the advantage at six.

During the half it was officially announced that Watson would not return with a knee injury, which meant it would be left up to Stoudt:

That unfortunate news certainly didn't inspire Clemson as Georgia Tech came flying out of the gates in the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas ran for 65 yards into the Tigers' red zone.

He then cashed in with a touchdown pass to DeAndre Smelter to make the score 16-3.

Things continued to go south for Clemson on the ensuing drive as Stoudt was intercepted by junior defensive back D.J. White. According to Brenner, it was a continuation of the senior quarterback's uneven play this season:

That allowed Georgia Tech to take on another field goal, which put the Tigers in a deep, 16-point hole. Clemson was able to answer with a 32-yard field goal from Ammon Lakip, but it squandered an opportunity as Stoudt missed an open receiver in the end zone.

The Yellow Jackets were moving the ball once again following the field goal, but their drive was stalled by their second fumble of the game. This time it was senior running back Zach Laskey who coughed it up in his first action since October, per ESPN ACC:

Clemson was done in by poor quarterback play yet again, however, as another Stoudt interception was returned 62 yards for a touchdown by junior defensive back Chris Milton. According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, it marked the second time that Stoudt essentially handed the Jackets a touchdown:

After that nightmarish play put Georgia Tech up 25-6, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney finally made the decision to replace Stoudt with sophomore Nick Schuessler.

The change didn't do much to spark the Tigers, though, as the offense continued to sputter. With just over eight minutes remaining in the contest, Georgia Tech added another field goal to take an insurmountable lead of 28-6.

Georgia Tech's win means that an ACC championship is still possible. The Jackets will need some help since the Blue Devils beat them a few weeks ago, but Georgia Tech needs to take care of its own business.

A rivalry game against Georgia in two weeks is the only game remaining on its regular-season schedule, which means it can't suffer another ACC loss.

As for Clemson, a game against struggling Georgia State is on tap next week before hosting South Carolina in the finale.

The Tigers are bowl eligible and likely won't finish worse than 8-4, but Clemson fans can't be overly optimistic if Watson is forced to miss a significant amount of time.

There is no question that Clemson was damaged significantly by Watson going down Saturday, but Georgia Tech deserves all the credit in the world for taking advantage of it.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: Live Score and Highlights

No. 16 Nebraska - 17

No. 20 Wisconsin - 17

2nd Quarter

TV: ABC

Time: 3:30 p.m. EST

First to 200 rushing yards wins?

In a critical Big Ten battle, two of the nation's best running backs will duel it out in Madison as Ameer Abdullah and the Nebraska Cornhuskers hit the road to face Melvin Gordon and the Wisconsin Badgers.

 

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Northwestern vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

Northwestern 23, Notre Dame 20—Middle of the 2nd Quarter

After five turnovers last week against Arizona State in a loss that likely eliminates the Fighting Irish from College Football Playoff consideration, Notre Dame will look to rebound at home against a Northwestern team similarly looking to shake off the bad taste of a close 10-9 loss to Michigan.

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