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College Football Playoff Rankings: Biggest Takeaways from Week 4

Survive and advance.

That's what Florida State did after the 11th-hour edict (well, it came down at 11 p.m. ET Friday) that kept Jameis Winston out of Saturday night's ACC showdown against Clemson. Despite the shaky play of first-time starting quarterback Sean Maguire, the Seminoles took advantage of a plethora of Tigers mistakes to pull out a 23-17 victory in overtime.

By winning its 19th consecutive game, FSU kept alive its quest of making the first College Football Playoff and repeating as national champions. The close escape will not harm the Seminoles' chances of making it to the playoff field as long as they keep winning.

Since they have only a single game against a ranked opponent remaining in the regular season—versus Notre Dame at home Oct. 18—their biggest challenge ahead might be to make sure Winston stays out of trouble.

But FSU was hardly the only playoff contender encountering problems this weekend; each of the Top Five teams in the AP poll took a good while before putting away pesky opponents. Auburn stole (maybe not literally) a victory at Kansas State on Thursday, and Oregon stayed up late before finally dispatching Washington State. 

At the end, we have more or less status quo, as No. 7 LSU was the only team in the Top 15 that actually lost. That doesn't mean there isn't any movement at the top. Here's a quick look at what's transpired in Week 4:

 

Teams That Moved Up

Michigan State

The Spartans routed Eastern Michigan, as expected, but what really buoyed them was what the rest of the Big Ten did. 

Much maligned after the first three weeks of the season, the B1G went 12-1 this weekend and 4-1 against Big Five power-conference foes. Indiana's upset of the SEC's Missouri was the highlight.

As the highest-ranked Big Ten team, MSU will try to crawl back into the playoff picture.

 

Mississippi State

Will all seven SEC West teams be ranked in the Top 25 at some point this season? That's looking very likely after the Bulldogs pulled off the day's biggest upset, a 34-29 win in Death Valley over LSU.

MSU has no breathing room, just like any other team in this division. After a bye week, the Bulldogs get Texas A&M and Auburn back-to-back.

 

Oklahoma

West Virginia proved to be pesky, but Oklahoma used a big second half to put the game away.

The Sooners can rightfully claim that their 12-point win over WVU is more impressive than Alabama's 10-point victory since they played in Morgantown whereas 'Bama had a quasi-home game at the Georgia Dome.

 

Alabama

The Tide labored for a while before dismissing Florida. But even with four turnovers, Alabama pulled away thanks to 445 passing yards by Blake Sims and 645 yards of total offense.

So far, Nick Saban's hiring of the lightning rod Lane Kiffin as the offensive coordinator has not been a bust, especially since his former OC, Doug Nussmeier, isn't exactly lighting it up at Michigan.

 

Duke

With the ACC Coastal again looking like the conference's redheaded stepchild, it certainly seems possible, even likely, that Duke might win the division again.

The Blue Devils are one of only two unbeaten teams in the division (Georgia Tech is the other), and their high-octane offense is coming off back-to-back blowouts of Kansas and Tulane.

 

Teams That Moved Down

BYU

After their impressive rout of Texas, the Cougars again labored to put away a team they should handle comfortably at home. As an independent, BYU is in desperate need of style points, as it's guaranteed nothing in the CFP structure.

It didn't get enough in Saturday's 41-33 win over Virginia.

 

LSU 

The Tigers were given a pass after rallying to defeat Wisconsin in the season opener, but they won't get one from the voters after losing to Mississippi State.

They get most of their tough SEC West games late in the season, but by then the Tigers might be out of it.

 

SEC East

Whereas the SEC West is rightfully viewed as the toughest division, the East is anything but. Every team has already lost at least once, and no team has done much to distinguish itself.

Is it too late for the SEC to let two West teams play for the conference title?

 

Oregon

The Ducks blew a chance to cement their claim for No. 1 when they couldn't pull away from a Washington State team that lost to Rutgers and Nevada.

Just like it did for three quarters against Michigan State, Oregon's defense is showing all kinds of signs of being very ordinary.

 

Northern Illinois

After vexing the BCS for the last two years, the playoff committee can relax, as the Huskies will no longer be worthy of any sort of discussion for anything after a blowout loss at Arkansas. 

 

"Group of 5" Team in the Best Position

East Carolina

A week after upsetting Virginia Tech, the Pirates hung 70 points on North Carolina.

While Marshall and Cincinnati are the only teams from "Group of 5" conferences without a loss, ECU has easily the most impressive resume. So impressive, in fact, that if it wins the American Athletic in its inaugural season, it should be a lock for a New Year's Six bowl.

 

Follow on Twitter @ThePlayoffGuru

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Sean Maguire Overcomes Shaky Start to Help Save Florida State's Season

"I can't put it into words," Sean Maguire said. "It's the greatest feeling of my life so far, that's for sure. To get this win for our team, it's just awesome."

In the first half it was painfully obvious that it was the Florida State's quarterback's first start as Maguire was beaten, battered and inaccurate for the first 30 minutes of play. But, the redshirt sophomore shook off his 6-of-17 start to complete 15 of 22 passes for 199 yards and a critical touchdown bomb to Rashad Greene in the second stanza.  It is not a stretch to say Maguire's second half saved the Seminole's season. 

"I can't be prouder of Sean Maguire tonight, all he did for our team, the resolve he had," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

"I saw a guy determined to lead his team to a victory," Greene said. "To give it all he had for us. I just tip my hat off to that guy the way he stepped up and the way he prepared for that game in two days."

Maguire's turnaround started on the Noles first drive of the second half. Playing more frequently in the shotgun, Maguire looked comfortable. He led FSU on a nine-play, 68-yard drive to open the third quarter. Mario Pender's 1-yard touchdown run tied the game at 10 with 11:05 left in the third quarter.

"Coming out of the second half, that first drive, we were like, 'Alright, we got this. We got to go. We got to start driving the ball and scoring some points,' " Maguire said.

The Seminoles have now won 19 straight games and kept their chances of reaching the College Football Playoff alive. They will now enjoy a quick respite in the schedule before an Oct. 18 showdown at home against No. 9 Notre Dame.

The Noles ACC Title game chances also skyrocketed with the win.  FSU (3-0, 1-0 ACC) now enjoys a leg up on Clemson (1-2, 0-1) in the Atlantic Division battle. The FSU-Clemson winner has won the Atlantic Division each season since 2009.

Despite serving as Maguire's clipboard guy for much of the game the suspended Jameis Winston still found a way to impact his team both positively and negatively. 

Winston started as a distraction as he warmed up with the Seminoles an hour before game time, taking snaps and throwing passes while in a full uniform. But he then after a heated chat with Jimbo Fisher went to the locker room and returned with his garnet No. 5 jersey, black warm-up pants and a garnet FSU hat.

However, according to Maguire, Winston's impact on the game itself was unquestionably positive.

"He's been my biggest supporter since I found out I was starting," Maguire said. "He stayed in that room with me until 10, 10:30 at night, watching film. He was telling me what he was seeing, I was telling him what I was seeing. He was awesome."

Winston spent the game on the sideline, effusively cheering on his teammates while helping Maguire following each offensive drive.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of seminoles.com.

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Houston Cougars Offense Finally Shows Promise in 47-14 Beatdown of UNLV

Houston, we have an offense.

The Coogs rolled up and down the field against UNLV on Saturday night at TDECU Stadium, finally exhibiting some of the firepower Houston fans expected to see when the season began.

The Cougars evened their overall record at 2-2 with a 47-14 beatdown of UNLV. Houston heads into American Athletic Conference play a dark-horse contender for the conference crown.  

The offense was efficient and effective.

As a team, Houston rushed for 399 yards. Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson ran for 147 yards on 13 carries, and junior running back Kenneth Farrow totaled 113 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Houston finally looked like it had an offense that could pile up both yards and points.

Things didn’t start that way.

Early in the game, Houston appeared to be continuing its season-long struggle to find some consistency on offense, something head coach Tony Levine and offensive coordinator Travis Bush should still be concerned about as they prepare to host Central Florida on October 2 in a nationally televised conference opener for both teams.

Sophomore quarterback John O’Korn threw two interceptions in the first half, and the Coogs relied mostly on their ground game to build a 13-7 halftime lead.

But O’Korn and the offense found their rhythm in the third quarter. O’Korn tossed two touchdowns, one each to wide receiver Daniel Spencer and running back Jackson, and Houston seemed to find sustained success in its aerial attack.

It was an important step forward for Houston, whose fans remain hopeful Levine will win his first conference title as head coach this season.

For something like that to even be possible, Levine and his O-coordinator, Bush, must find sustainable success in the passing game going forward.

Houston’s recent history is littered with high-flying, video game-like offenses. From 2003-06, Kevin Kolb lit up opposing defenses under former coach Art Briles’ innovative hybrid Air Raid system.

Kolb passed for almost 13,000 yards during his career, totaling 85 passing touchdowns with a 61.6 completion percentage.

Case Keenum picked up right where Kolb left off. Under Briles as a freshman and Kevin Sumlin after, Keenum amassed an NCAA record for total yards, touchdowns and just about every other passing statistic possible.

Keenum threw for 19,217 yards and 155 touchdowns from 2007-11. His career completion percentage was a whopping 69.4.

But Houston’s vaunted passing offense has taken a giant leap backward since third-year coach Levine took over for Sumlin before the 2012 season.

Back then, Levine told the Houston Chronicle’s Sam Khan the Cougar offense would remain unchanged:

We've recruited successfully to this offense. We've got the players in place for this offense. To go out and to hire somebody to come in here and replace the best offense in the history of college football with a new scheme and a new system didn't make sense to me.

But things changed, and not for the better.

Levine has gone through three offensive coordinators since, and none of them have been able to imitate the revved-up offense Keenum and company ran under the previous regime.

Bush, who handled play-calling duties in Levine’s first year after Mike Nesbitt’s early-season resignation, was named offensive coordinator this season after last year’s play-caller, Doug Meacham, departed for TCU.

But things didn’t go as planned for Bush in his new gig. Houston was handled by UTSA 27-7 in its first-ever game at TDECU Stadium. O’Korn tossed four interceptions, and the offense looked absolutely abysmal.

Things improved against Grambling State. Houston rolled to a 47-0 win, but the talent disparity in the game—and O’Korn’s continued erratic play—left Houston fans wondering if things would ever start to click on offense under Bush.

But Houston seems to have settled in since its failed comeback against BYU in Provo last week. Down 23-0 in the second quarter, Houston stormed back to make a game of it.

The Coogs fell to BYU 33-25.

O'Korn threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-52 passing, and Houston’s offense showed real promise for the first time this season.

Against UNLV, O’Korn continued his season-long turnover parade, but he also appeared cool, calm and confident as the game moved past its early stages.

O’Korn finished the game with 135 yards passing on 12-of-27 passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for a score and appeared to be in control of the offense before he was pulled late when the score was out of hand.

Houston will need even more from O’Korn during conference play against the likes of Central Florida, Cincinnati and East Carolina.

For Houston to be considered serious contenders for the AAC title, the Cougars offense will have to continue its progression under Bush.

Gone are the days of 70 pass attempts, and perhaps 70 points in a game, too. But Houston’s multiple-set attack, one that relies on long passes and varied running schemes from players lined up all over the field, finally seems like something that could really work.

If O’Korn can cut down the turnovers, and if the bulk of Houston’s rushing game against UNLV wasn’t just a mirage brought to life by an overmatched defense, the Cougar faithful might have something to smile about after Levine’s third season at Houston’s helm.

If Houston has an offense, it’s as dangerous as any team in the AAC.

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LSU's Defensive Woes Against Mississippi State a Possible Sign of Things to Come

Mississippi State took LSU's defense into a back alley and beat them down. 

Yes, that sounds rough. But it is true. The Bulldogs bullied the Tigers in their own habitat on Saturday night.

Quarterback Dak Prescott was the maestro of an offense that tallied 34 points, 302 rushing yards and 570 total yards. And most of the damage was done right up the middle

The LSU defense was cut up, but the defensive tackles were bludgeoned. The Bulldogs left chalk outlines of Christian LaCouture, Quentin Thomas and Davon Godchaux on the field. 

Mississippi State's free blockers and massive ball-carriers then delivered punishment to LSU's linebackers and defensive backs. It was like Mike Tyson taking lunch money from kindergartners. 

Sure, LSU's defeat does not just fall on the shoulders of the defense. Offensively, the Tigers did not score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. 

But LSU has won games in the past with anemic offenses. The program has been built on dominant defenses that suffocate the opposition. The Tigers will not be competitive if teams are able to run the ball with ease against them.

Prescott's 373 total yards and three touchdowns could be the first of many masterful performances against LSU. Five of the Tigers' seven remaining SEC games will be against mobile quarterbacks. None of these signal-callers are the caliber of Prescott, but they must get better at containing quarterbacks that can run. 

Running back Josh Robinson rushed for a career high 197 yards on only 16 carries. His previous high was 101 yards against Arkansas last season, per ESPN.com

The remaining backs the Tigers will face include T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry, Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant, Matt Jones and Trey Williams. They are all as good, if not better, backs than Robinson. If LSU cannot stop him, then dark days could be ahead for the Bayou Bengals against talented SEC workhorses. 

 LSU head coach Les Miles knows he needs to shake some things up. 

Les Miles: "you'll see us respond. There will be changes made. Some changes that you won't see." @1045espn

— James Haralson (@jamesharalson) September 21, 2014

Miles better make some changes. LSU will play New Mexico State next week, which is the last cupcake team they will face. After that, there are no guaranteed wins for the Tigers.

But the Tigers must recover from the repeated uppercuts they received from Mississippi State. Because beat downs such as those take time to heal. 

 

Stats, rankings and additional information provided by cfbstats.com and LSU Sports Information. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower

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Oklahoma Defense Shows Championship Mettle in Surviving Tough Big 12 Road Test

On the road against West Virginia Saturday, Oklahoma's defense took a jab for the first time this season.

Then it took a hook. And then it took a hard right uppercut to the face. It never quite tumbled to the mat, but it was punch-drunk, fading fast.

With a shootout starting to feel inevitable, however, the Sooners' strongest unit took the reins, holding a skilled and well-coached West Virginia offense to three points in the first 28 minutes of the second half (pre-garbage time) en route to a 45-33 win.

In doing so, it not only showed the backbone of a championship-caliber defense—the type that plays its best when beset with adversity—it kept Oklahoma undefeated and squarely in the thick of the national title discussion.

West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett started the game hot, throwing for more than 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns in roughly a quarter-and-a-half. He looked comfortable inside and outside the pocket, a rare feat against a defense so predicated on breeding discomfort.

Cornerback Zack Sanchez—considered one of the best defensive backs in the Big 12—was burned by Kevin White for a 68-yard touchdown in the first quarter. It was a rare moment where a crack in his armor was exposed, and he didn't recover well in the play's immediate aftermath.

But then, as he's want to do, Sanchez came down with a game-changing interception, ending West Virginia's streak of three consecutive scoring drives (and four touchdowns in five possessions) by picking off Trickett at the end of the first half.

And from there, everything changed:

Oklahoma's defensive uptick helped pave the way for Saturday's offensive hero, freshman running back Samaje Perine.

Perine will be the story Sunday morning—and throughout the subsequent week—after rushing for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries. And rightfully so. He more than aptly filled Keith Ford's shoes in the backfield, plowing downhill with his trademark head of steam and finishing runs. He's not as agile as Ford, whose quick feet added a useful dimension to this offense, but he looks like a definite keeper.

As good as Perine was, though, he certainly benefitted from a tired West Virginia defense in the second half. The Mountaineers looked sluggish and defeated trying to keep up with Perine's physicality, in no small part because their offense kept forcing them back on the field.

A particular defining moment came with just about 5:00 left in the third quarter. OU was up by four points (31-27), but Trevor Knight threw behind his intended receiver and was intercepted near midfield. The never-quiet Morgantown crowd became particularly not quiet, sensing a potential turning point. It had the ball on the outskirts of scoring position with the chance to drive down and take the lead.

Two plays later, it didn't.

Trickett lofted a bad interception to safety Quinton Hayes, who followed up a career-best performance against Tennessee (three tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and fumble recovery) with perhaps an even better all-around showing. He is quickly becoming one of the best playmaking safeties in America.

Hayes' emergence—or, rather, ascent—is a scary addition to a defense whose strength lies along the front seven. West Virginia's underrated (and very good) offensive line played as well as it could, especially in the first half, but was ultimately overwhelmed by the forces of Jordan Phillips, Geneo Grissom and Co. in the trenches.

Chuka Ndulue, for example, flattened Trickett on a 4th-and-5 with less than 10 minutes to play—the last time West Virginia seriously threatened to get back into the game.

Good luck trying to throw with this in your face:

Bob and Mike Stoops took a huge risk last year, shifting from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4/3-3-5. The move came after a poor defensive season, leading to speculation that it was made out of desperation.

But Bob denied that to Matt Hinton of Grantland earlier this week, maintaining that "the reasons (for the move) were personnel-related." He tailored his scheme to his players, a group that can dominate the trenches with only three down linemen and benefits from having more speed in the middle third.

We knew before Saturday that this defense was good, but we didn't know for sure if it was resilient. We knew that it could throw a punch, but not if it could necessarily take one.

Those unknowns both became knowns in Week 4.

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Nebraska Football: Abdullah's Heisman Run in High Gear as Big Ten Play Begins

When the Nebraska Cornhuskers launched a Heisman campaign for I-back Ameer Abdullah, they kept the tagline simple: Fear Ameer. Against Miami, Abdullah lived up to it.

The senior rushed for 229 yards on 35 attempts for two touchdowns. He also added a three-yard touchdown reception to his game statistics for the night.

Folks, like myself, predicted Abdullah would have a quieter day against Miami's front seven. Instead, he proved that, regardless of opponent, he can move the ball.

By the end of the game, the Heisman talk was louder than ever, as Alex Donno of 560 WQAM made clear.

It's time to take Abdullah seriously for the Heisman. With Big Ten play here, many expect him to do just that, like Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com said:

However, Abdullah knows he and his team can't take any opponent lightly. As Nebraska fights to make it to the Big Ten Championship, overlooking opponents cannot happen.

"We're 0-0 right now," Abdullah said. "It's a new schedule every time we play. Big Ten play is next week and we're 4-0, we've got a lot of experience right now but we have a long journey ahead of us."

If Abdullah wants a shot at winning the Heisman, his campaign will rely on the success of his team going forward. With the Big Ten's rough showing to date through non-conference play, the conference isn't doing him many favors. He and the Huskers will have to make up for it.

Head coach Bo Pelini is confident in Abdullah's abilities, though. Against Miami, Pelini believed Abdullah put it all out on the field for the team.

"I've been around a lot of football," Pelini said. "No. 8 showed how special he is tonight. He ran like a man possessed."

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong agreed. "He's being Ameer," Armstrong said. "First three games, he's been doing the same thing."

While Abdullah downplayed his success in the post-game press conference, he had a big night. The senior increased his career all-purpose yardage total to 5,762 yards, which made him Nebraska’s new career all-purpose yards leader. He surpassed 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers to do so.

Additionally, Abdullah's 229 rushing yards against Miami increased his career rushing total to 3,602 and moved him into third place on the Huskers' career rushing list.

These statistics show Abdullah isn't slowing down anytime soon. As he pushes forward as the Huskers' workhorse, Big Ten teams are going to need to be ready.

"The game of football is about passion," Abdullah said.

And that passion is exactly what's putting his Heisman campaign in high gear.

 

All quotes and statistics were obtained firsthand via the Huskers' post-game press conference, unless otherwise noted.

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Miami vs. Nebraska: Game Grades, Analysis for Hurricanes and Cornhuskers

In a game that occasionally showed us shades of those great Miami-Nebraska bowl matchups from the 20th century, the Huskers came out on top, 41-21, to take the lead in the all-time series against the Hurricanes, 6-5.  The Huskers also move to 4-0 all time against the 'Canes in Lincoln.

The story of the night surrounded the two teams' running backs, and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah clearly had the better of things.  We'll take a look at every facet of both teams' performance in our game grades for Nebraska and Miami.

Box score via NCAA.com

 

Miami Passing Offense

Through the first half, Brad Kaaya completed 11-of-17 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw a very costly pick.  As the game wore on, the true freshman acquitted himself nicely, finishing with 359 yards and three touchdown tosses.

But a very costly late pick hurts Miami's final grade in this category, dropping it to a "B-."

 

Miami Rushing Offense

This is where the 'Canes were expected to shine but ended up being the most disappointing aspect of Miami's performance.

Nebraska's stout run defense is definitely in for some credit later, but Miami running back Duke Johnson still looked good for at least 100 yards heading into the game. On 18 carries, Johnson had 93 yards (5.2 yards per carry).  I thought Johnson should've gotten more touches, but that's a coaching issue—which, again, will be addressed a little bit later.

 

Miami Pass Defense

Nebraska doesn't throw the ball much, so Miami's pass defense numbers look pretty darn good as a result.  But the 'Canes still gave up 113 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 pass attempts—not great but certainly not terrible.  

The interception Miami came up with also helps, and we'll give the team a "B" for its effort.

 

Miami Run Defense

There haven't been many teams anywhere in the nation that have had success containing Nebraska's Abdullah.  But Miami did a particularly poor job on the evening.

Abdullah rushed for 229 yards and Nebraska called 54 run plays to just 13 pass plays.  Even knowing that the Huskers were going to run the ball, the Hurricanes still gave up 345 on the ground.  

It could be argued that a "C-" is overly generous.

 

Miami Special Teams

Miami didn't return a single punt in the game, so it's hard to reward or punish the team for that.  On three kick returns, the Canes averaged less than 18 yards.

Again, nothing special.  But unblemished place-kicking—Michael Badgley went 1-of-1 on field goals and 4-of-4 on extra points—was a bright spot, so the special teams gets a solid "B" grade.

 

Miami Coaching

In the first half, Miami did little to impress in terms of adjusting to Nebraska's run-heavy play-calling. The safeties didn't come up in run support, and the Huskers exploited the mismatches up front.

The second half was no different, as Ameer Abdullah continued to run roughshod over the Canes.  As things began to get ugly, we really wanted to see Al Golden do more to take control of his team.  The fact that Miami was flagged eight times for 82 yards, including three personal fouls over a two-play stretch, was very disappointing.

Golden and his staff are very lucky to escape with a "C-" and no player ejections.

 

 

Nebraska Passing Offense

It's hard to give too much credit to a pass offense that throws just 13 passes, one of which is picked off.  But two of those throws did go for touchdowns, and there were 113 yards in there, too.

Plus, expectations were low in regards to Tommy Armstrong throwing the ball, so it's hard to be disappointed.  Not impressed, not disappointed equals a ho-hum "B."

 

Nebraska Rushing Offense

Tell me why the Huskers don't get an "A" for tonight's performance.  In the first half, Ameer Abdullah ran for 121 yards on 19 carries.  By the time the night was over, he had extended those numbers to 229 yards on 35 carries and a pair of scores.

Add in the 96 yards from Tommy Armstrong and a team total of 345 yards on the ground and in the end, I won't give the Huskers an "A."

We'll give them an "A+."

 

Nebraska Pass Defense

Nebraska knew full well that the 'Canes had their own Abdullah-esque running back in Duke Johnson, so the Huskers are to be excused for selling out against the run from time to time.  What can't be overlooked, however, is the pass defense giving up a whopping 359 yards and three touchdowns.

Miami had five receivers with over 40 yards and did a find job of spreading the field.  However, as much the bad can't be ignored, the good shouldn't be dismissed either.

The two interceptions (Joshua Kalu and Jamal Turner) were critical in this win, and are a good excuse for me to give the Huskers pass D a "B-."

 

Nebraska Run Defense

Nebraska's porous pass defense encouraged Miami to stick with moving the ball through the air.  Duke Johnson is no slouch in the Miami backfield, and the Huskers still held him to under 100 yards.

Randy Gregory was a beast from start to finish, and the defensive line for Nebraska frequently got the better of Miami's big uglies.  Despite Johnson's 93 yards, the 'Canes were held to 76 rushing yards and a single rushing touchdown.  Miami is 13-0 in games in which Johnson rushes for 100 or more yards.  When he doesn't hit the century mark, things like tonight happen.

That's easily good enough for an "A" grade.

 

Nebraska Special Teams

Nebraska's special teams got into the action a little bit more than Miami's.  Drew Brown was 2-of-2 on field goals and 5-of-5 in points after attempts.  The lone punt from Sam Foltz went for 49 yards, and the Huskers averaged 20.3 yards on four kick returns.

Arguably, the only negative for the Huskers was a middling 5.5 yard-per-return average on two punt returns.

 

Nebraska Coaching

Bo Pelini had a definite game plan on offense, and it was executed to near perfection.  There weren't too many adjustments made to contain Miami's passing attack, but a win is a win, and it's hard to penalize the coaching staff for winning a football game.

We will, however, give Pelini extra credit for the way he handled the chippiness late in the game, and sending Randy Gregory to the showers a few seconds early, as Gregory was the focal point for Miami's angst during several scuffles.  That turns a coaching performance otherwise worthy of "B" into a "B+."

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

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Mississippi State vs. LSU: Game Grades, Analysis for the Bulldogs and Tigers

Mississippi State and LSU went to war in Death Valley on Saturday, and the Bulldogs came away with the win, 34-29. The final box score can be found here, thanks to NCAA.com.

Mississippi State hit on all cylinders on offense, defense and special teams. The Bulldogs ran the ball effectively, threw the ball with ease and gave the LSU offense zero room to breathe. If not for a couple of turnovers by the Bulldogs in the second half, LSU would have lost the game by 20 points instead of five. The Bulldogs remain undefeated, while the Tigers suffer their first loss of the year.

Here are game grades for the Bulldogs and Tigers.

 

Pass Offense: Dak Prescott played his best game as a Bulldog. He threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to sling the ball so effectively because he had great pocket presence and the offensive line gave him more than enough time to throw. Having guys like De’Runnya Wilson and Jameon Lewis to throw to also helped.

Run Offense: The big reason the Bulldogs were able to pull off the upset was the fact they ran all over the LSU defense. The team rushed for 302 yards, and Josh Robinson had the majority of them (197 yards on 16 carries). Prescott also ran the ball well, scrambling for 105 yards on 22 carries. The Bulldogs wanted to win the battle at the line of scrimmage; they did that in a big way, which led to them wearing out the Tigers toward the end of the game.

Pass Defense: Anthony Jennings could never get going for LSU because the defensive backs kept everything in front of them. Led by Justin Cox and Jamerson Love, the Bulldogs secondary never let the LSU playmakers get anything going in the passing game. Late in the game, Brandon Harris came in and added a spark for the Tigers.

Run Defense: This was another big reason why Mississippi State beat LSU. The Bulldogs allowed only 89 yards on the ground, and no running back for LSU amassed more than 38 yards. The front seven for the Bulldogs reacted to the football and seemingly never missed a tackle. Benardrick McKinney and Beniquez Brown combined for 14 tackles and were huge in attacking the LSU running backs.

Special Teams: It was a solid night for the special teams. Evan Sobiesk made his two field goals, and Devon Bell had two punts inside the 20. There weren’t any big returns, but Jamoral Graham put the Bulldogs in good position to put points on the board.

Coaching: Dan Mullen did a good job of preparing his team for what the Tigers were going to run on offense and defense. He also did a great job of preparing them for the LSU fans because the Bulldogs took them out of the game early. Mullen finally has the pieces he needs to run his offense, and it was on full display against LSU.

 

Pass Offense: Anthony Jennings was inconsistent all game long. He overthrew his receivers and never looked comfortable in the pocket. It wasn’t until Brandon Harris came in late in the game and threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter that the pass offense had some success. Should Harris be the starter, especially with Jennings going down with a shoulder injury?

Run Offense: The strength for LSU this season was a weakness against Mississippi State. No running back ran for more than 38 yards, and as a team, the Tigers ran for 89 yards on 35 carries. They had to abandon the run eventually because they had to throw to get back in the game, but the front seven for Mississippi State gave them no room to run at all.

Pass Defense: The LSU secondary had fits all game long trying to cover Wilson and Lewis. The speed of the two receivers frustrated the Tigers, which is why Prescott was able to go to them early and often. The Tigers had not faced a quarterback like Prescott this season, so it was a good test to see where they are as a defensive unit.

Run Defense: It’s been a while since we’ve seen this LSU defense get ran over like it did against the Bulldogs. The Tigers had no answer for Prescott and Robinson, which is why the Bulldogs ran for more than 300 yards. The front seven will need to tighten things up quickly because Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas are just as good at running the football.

Special Teams: The one good thing for the Tigers is that Jamie Keehn was able to punt the ball effectively. He punted eight times and averaged 51 yards per punt. Colby Delahoussaye made his only field goal, and Leonard Fournette was solid in the kick return game. The special teams for LSU did not make an impact but did not make any costly mistakes either.

Coaching: Les Miles and his coaching staff did not expect the Bulldogs would run the ball all over them, and they also did not expect that they could not run the ball on Mississippi State in return. Miles didn’t underestimate the Bulldogs, but the coaches did not game-plan well against the Bulldogs, and it showed on the field. This game is a good learning experience for the coaching staff as the Tigers get into the thick of the SEC schedule.

 

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Oklahoma vs. West Virginia: Game Grades, Analysis for Sooners

Whatever Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops told his guys at halftime, it certainly worked.

After a back-and-forth first half, the Sooners dominated the final 30 minutes, running the West Virginia Mountaineers out of their own stadium, 45-33.

Check out the game’s final stats here and take a look at first- and second-half game grades as well as analysis below.

Passing Offense

There were some concerns over quarterback Trevor Knight coming in. On Saturday, the redshirt sophomore didn’t do much to put those concerns to rest.

Knight threw for just 205 yards and an interception on 16-of-29 passing. It got worse in the second half, as he only threw for 62 yards.

Thankfully, Oklahoma had its rushing attack to lean on in this one.

 

Rushing Offense

What more could be said about the Sooners' ground game on Saturday?

With leading rusher Keith Ford out, the burden fell down on Alex Ross and Samaje Perine to step up. Perine shouldered most of the load, rushing for an impressive 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries. Ross did his part when called upon, adding another 56 yards on eight carries. 

When Ford returns, this will arguably be one of the toughest rushing attacks to slow down.

 

Passing Defense

The Oklahoma secondary was bombarded by Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett in the opening half. 

Trickett racked up the yards while the cornerbacks were constantly caught out of position and beat by their man. It was a brutal showing by a unit that began the season solidly.

The Sooners can use the bye week to work on their mistakes.

 

Rushing Defense

Coming into this game, Oklahoma had yet to concede a rushing touchdown, limiting opposing offenses to under 90 yards rushing per game.

Although West Virginia found the end zone twice on the ground and ran for 137 yards, the Sooners front seven was stout once again. The Mountaineers only managed two rushes of over 10 yards and averaged a meager 3.4 yards per carry.

Good luck to any team that tries to run on these guys.

 

Special Teams

The obvious standout from this unit was Ross’ remarkable 100-yard kickoff return just before the half. 

But punter Jed Barnett deserves just as much credit. The senior booted six punts for an average of 47.8 yards per kick, pinning West Virginia inside its 20 once.

Placekicker Michael Hunnicutt deserves a shout out as well, as he surpassed DeMarco Murray as the all-time leading scorer in Oklahoma history.

 

Coaching

The Sooners coaching staff got off to a rush start. 

Whether it was defensive coordinator Mike Stoops being unable to slow down Trickett or offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s refusal to hand the ball to Samaje Perine early on, there were several questionable play-calling decisions. Fortunately, both seemed to turn things around in the second half.

Moving forward, Oklahoma will hope both don’t wait until the second half to get things rolling.

 

All stats courtesy of NCAA.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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Clemson vs. FSU: Projected College Football Playoff Picture After Seminoles' Win

No. 1 Florida State increased its winning streak to 19 games Saturday night, surviving the No. 22 Clemson Tigers in an overtime thriller. The Seminoles were highly tested due to a combination of the absence of starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, and a solid effort from the Tigers.

With Winston on the sidelines, Clemson's defense was able to sell out against the run, forcing inexperienced backup signal-caller Sean Maguire to attempt to keep pace with his arm. Maguire provided a valiant effort, and despite his two costly interceptions—and the Seminoles average of 0.5 yards per  rush—the one-sided offense was able to prevail in the end.

The result was a 23-17 Seminoles victory.

Clemson's game plan was fantastic, but without a Seminoles loss, there will be no changing of the guard atop the nation's rankings. With Florida State remaining at the No. 1 spot, here's a look at who is projected to be well in the mix heading into Week 5.

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks shouldn't have much of an issue defeating Washington State during Saturday's late game. However, early in the game, the team wasn't winning any style points, allowing the Cougars to keep up at the half. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network tweeted his take:

Marcus Mariota and Co. have already produced three decisive victories, including one against a very talented Michigan State team, although a win on Saturday will ensure the team retains its No. 2 standing.

The Ducks only have two ranked teams currently remaining on their schedule—the inconsistent No. 12 UCLA Bruins and one-loss No. 16 Stanford Cardinal. It would take an enormous upset for any team to defeat Oregon, and we can assume the team will hold its current position and wait for the Seminoles to falter.

No. 3 Alabama can be expected to retain its position following Florida State's win. The Crimson Tide began the season in shaky fashion, squeezing past West Virginia in Week 1. However, over the team's next three games, it has continuously improved in several facets of the game.

Blake Sims has emerged as a quality quarterback, completing 23 of his 33 passing attempts for 445 yards and four touchdowns against Florida on Saturday. ESPN Stats & Info noted the quarterback's impressive feat:

With a balanced offense now taking shape—along with a solid defense—Nick Saban appears to have a championship-worthy team once again.

The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners should keep their spot as well. The team did give up 33 points to West Virginia during Saturday's victory, but it also proved to have one of the nation's most devastating ground attacks. Samaje Perine torched the Mountaineers for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries—an average of 7.1 yards per rush.

According to David Ubben of Fox Sports, head coach Bob Stoops had some kind words regarding his running back:

The Sooners have playmakers in every phase of the game—the defense picked off Clint Trickett twice, and Alex Ross returned a kick for a touchdown on Saturday—which makes this team worthy of playoff consideration going forward.

After the four projected playoff teams, we come to a bit of a fork in the road in regard to the next teams in the hunt.

On one hand, No. 5 Auburn remains unbeaten and the heir apparent; however, the team's struggles against No. 20 Kansas State on Thursday may not sit well with voters. Then we have No. 6 Texas A&M. The Aggies haven't played a worthy opponent since Week 1, but their 58-6 victory over SMU on Saturday was certainly impressive.

Style points count in a big way with voters, and we shouldn't be surprised when Kenny Hill and the Aggies leapfrog Auburn to take the No. 5 spot in the impending rankings to hover just beyond the four College Football Playoff teams through four weeks of the 2014 season.

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Clemson vs. FSU: Score and Twitter Reaction

A quarterback battle between Sean Maguire and Jameis Winston won't be brewing anytime soon, but the sophomore quarterback did just enough to push the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles through to a 23-17 overtime win at home against the No. 22 Clemson Tigers.

The 'Noles were outgained by nearly 100 yards (407 to 318) and turned the ball over one more time than Clemson, but FSU somehow found a way to win.

After the game head coach Jimbo Fisher praised his players for "knowing how to win," per ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy:

Maguire nearly threw the game away with 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter and the game tied, 17-17. He was intercepted by Clemson safety Jadar Johnson who returned it to the FSU 26-yard line.

Two plays later, Maguire could breathe easy as Clemson running back C.J. Davidson fumbled on the FSU 14-yard line. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach alluded to the Tigers' habit of often being their own worst enemy:

Florida State sat on the ball and settled for overtime.

Clemson turned it over on downs after failing to convert on a 4th-and-1 on the first drive of OT. Seminoles running back Karlos Williams promptly ran the ball twice for 25 yards, scoring the winning touchdown on a 12-yard scamper.

Maguire finished with 305 yards through the air with one touchdown and two interceptions on 21-of-39 passing.

The Seminoles were of course without Winston after the school suspended him for the game for yelling an obscene phrase on campus, per USA Today's Dan Wolken.

The biggest question coming into the game was how well Maguire would perform in his first collegiate start. Beating the No. 22 team in the country is hard enough as is. Beating the No. 22 team in the country while the suspended incumbent Heisman Trophy winner stood on the sidelines is a different prospect entirely.

Former Florida State QB and current ESPN analyst Danny Kanell questioned whether having Winston constantly hovering on the field would do more harm than good:

Winston caused a bit of an issue before the game when he suited up in full pads and warmed up with the rest of the Florida State quarterbacks. Fisher had a word with Winston, and the sophomore returned in street clothes, per Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples:

Through the first half, Maguire looked very much like a QB making his debut against a tough pass rush. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Maguire had eight dropbacks in the first half in which he wasn't under duress:

Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley was a constant presence in the pocket. Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey thought that not having an extra blocker on Beasley courted disaster:

Seminoles offensive tackle Cameron Erving, who's graded as a second-round prospect on CBSSports.com, was lined up most often against Beasley. Grantland's Matt Hinton thought the way Beasley was manhandling Erving was bound to hurt Erving's draft stock:

When starting an inexperienced quarterback, it's always nice to have a steady running game to ease some of the pressure on your signal-caller.

Florida State had the opposite of that in the first half. Williams, Mario Pender and Rashad Greene combined to rush for minus-one yard through the first two quarters. That placed more of the offensive burden on Maguire, and he was clearly laboring under that weight.

The door was open for Clemson to assert itself in the first half, and that's exactly what the Tigers did.

Things didn't really start going Clemson's way until Deshaun Watson replaced Cole Stoudt at quarterback. Stoudt wasn't awful, but the offense remained stuck in neutral when he was under center.

Watson got the Tigers on the scoreboard on his first drive of the game, leading the Tigers 75 yards in 4:43, tying the game 3-3.

The Tigers saw a marked improvement with Watson on the field. He finished the first half 8-of-12 for 132 yards. ESPN.com's Jared Shanker was most impressed with the freshman's poise:

Clemson took a 10-3 lead with 5:56 to go in the half. Taking advantage of great field position, Watson led a six-play, 47-yard touchdown drive, with running back D.J. Howard punching it in from a yard out.

On FSU's first drive of the second half, Maguire went 6-of-7 for 53 yards as Florida State kept moving the chains. Eventually, Pender scored on a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 10-10 a little less than four minutes into the half.

He was a vastly different QB over that stretch, not panicking under pressure and getting his passes off in time.

Clemson nearly went up 17-10 as the third quarter drew to a close. Watson hit tight end Stanton Seckinger for a 19-yard pass to the FSU 1-yard line. The officials initially ruled that Seckinger scored, but after reviewing the play, they marked him down at the 1. That proved pivotal a few plays later, when Ryan Norton's snap sailed over the head of Watson and back to the 24-yard line.

That was the first real moment of "Clemsoning," per CBSSports.com's Will Brinson:

The drive ended when Ammon Lakip missed a field goal from 40 yards.

Luckily for the Tigers, the missed opportunity didn't come back to bite them as Maguire was intercepted by safety Jayron Kearse. Four plays after that turnover, Watson scored on a two-yard touchdown run to give Clemson a 17-10 lead with 11:44 in the game.

Things were beginning to look very bleak for Florida State after Maguire was sacked for a loss of 14 yards a few drives later. The play encapsulated why the sophomore was struggling so much, as he saw Corey Crawford applying pressure but held onto the ball rather than throwing it out of bounds.

Of course, on the very next play, Maguire connected with Greene for a 74-yard touchdown to tie the game with 6:04 to go. Clemson defensive back MacKensie Alexander slipped, allowing Greene to jog into the end zone.

As Hinton pointed out, it was a cruel twist of fate for a Tigers defense that had been great for so much of the game:

The Tigers' bad luck was only the beginning, though. Between two missed field goals and the turnovers, head coach Dabo Swinney will surely be ruing what was a golden opportunity to earn a statement win and take the driver's seat in the ACC.

With the win, the Seminoles cleared one of the biggest regular-season hurdles they have left. Notre Dame is the only top-25 team FSU has on its schedule between now and the ACC championship if the team gets that far.

Clemson's hopes of making the ACC championship took a massive blow on Saturday. Even if the Tigers win out, they can only hope that the 'Noles slip up at some point the rest of the way. Right now, that doesn't appear likely.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt: Game Grades, Analysis for the Gamecocks

The No. 14 Gamecocks defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 48-34 on Saturday in South Carolina's first road game of the season. 

It wasn't easy, however, as Vanderbilt jumped out to a 14-0 lead and dominated the first quarter. Vandy quarterback Patton Robinette got off to a quick start before exiting the game in the second quarter with an apparent head injury.

The Gamecocks never looked back.

Brison Williams' interception return for a touchdown just before halftime gave the 'Cocks their first lead. Quarterback Dylan Thompson was outstanding despite a shaky first quarter, completing 22 of 34 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. 

Here's a look at how each positional group fared on Saturday night in South Carolina's third straight victory.

Pass Offense: Thompson struggled with his accuracy early, but once he settled down, the Commodores couldn't rattle him. He was especially efficient on third down despite Vanderbilt's consistent pressure. Overall, it was another strong performance for the senior.

Rush Offense: Mike Davis didn't have his best game, but he was far from bad. He fumbled the ball twice, although it resulted in just one turnover. Surprisingly, Brandon Wilds only carried the ball three times. Pharoh Cooper ran for 74 yards—71 of them on one run. The Gamecocks as a team rushed for more than 200 yards. 

Pass Defense: This group fared well. It helped that Vanderbilt isn't settled at the quarterback position and Wade Freebeck was playing in his first extended action of his college career. Williams' interception before halftime changed the game for South Carolina.

Rush Defense: The Gamecocks continue to struggle against the run. They entered the game ranked No. 81 against the run and allowed 156 yards against Vandy. If the Commodores had not gotten behind so late, they would have likely continued to run with great success.

Special Teams: Outside of Elliott Fry's consistency, this wasn't a great night for the Gamecocks. They allowed two kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns. If the Gamecocks didn't allow those two touchdowns, this would likely have been a blowout. 

Coaching: Steve Spurrier did a great job calling plays—as usual. When Thompson was struggling with his accuracy early, Spurrier called for shorter routes that got Cooper involved in the offense. Cooper excels at yards after the catch. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward did a good job of pressuring the Vanderbilt quarterbacks all night. 

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Miami Football: Despite Freshman Mistake, Brad Kaaya Shows He Can Carry 'Canes

Brad Kaaya led the Miami Hurricanes offense into a difficult test against Randy Gregory and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, seeking the program's first road win over a ranked team since 2009.

On the biggest stage of his life thus far, Kaaya played like anything but a true freshman for three-and-a-half quarters. He made excellent pre-snap reads, properly identifying pressure and coverages.

Trailing by 10 points with 7:30 remaining, the 'Canes faced a 4th-and-4 at the Nebraska 35-yard line. And only then, Kaaya's inexperience in high-pressure situations became evident with a costly freshman mistake.

He stared down sophomore receiver Malcolm Lewis, the lone wideout in double coverage, and tossed a game-sealing interception. The freshman hadn't locked onto a target that badly all night long.

So, Miami came up short, dropping a hard-fought 41-31 battle to the 'Huskers. Yet even in a losing effort, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who can put the blame solely on the young quarterback.

The defense allowed 229 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Ameer Abdullah, who seemingly fell forward on every carry. Tommy Armstrong picked up 7.4 yards per attempt. Nebraska converted 7-of-10 third-down situations.

What's more, Duke Johnson's costly fumble handed the Cornhuskers a 10-point lead, an advantage that the Hurricanes could not overcome.

"Pretty poised. I don't care what quarterback you are when your defense gets run on for 346 yards. ...By and large, he's had the tremendous resolve we'd heard about coming into this game," ESPN's Brock Huard said of Kaaya on the broadcast.

From the outset, Kaaya kept Miami competitive in a game it likely should've been blown out of.

The offense's first play was an intermediate route to Lewis right over the middle. Miami is notorious for under-utilizing receivers between the hashes, but offensive coordinator James Coley immediately attacked his own team's weakness.

Later in the quarter, Kaaya didn't get any help from Clive Walford on an interception down the left sideline. The ball was ever-so-slightly underthrown, but the senior tight end failed to fight for it.

The next drive on 3rd-and-3, Kaaya hit Braxton Berrios in the hands, but his fellow freshman dropped the potential first down.

Kaaya fired an accurate pass to Walford that only confident quarterbacks would make since the safety was barreling down on his tight end. On the same possession, the freshman a took a high snap, faked a handoff, located his receiver, snapped a strike to Walford in the end zone and absorbed a hit from free-rushing David Santos.

That's not something a nervous, tentative true freshman does in a deafening environment.

Following a Nebraska score on the opening drive of the second half, Miami needed to respond, lest the 'Huskers get a chance to build a sizeable advantage and control the game.

Whether it was a field goal or touchdown didn't matter, but the Hurricanes could not afford to give Nebraska a chance to take a three-possession lead. Kaaya engineered a 10-play, 76-yard drive that took four minutes and 57 seconds and cut the Cornhuskers' lead to three.

Four times, Miami faced possessions when it absolutely needed points—period, end of discussion-type drives. Kaaya finished those demanding drives with one touchdown, one field goal, one Johnson fumble and one personal mistake.

The freshman's final line read 28-of-42 for 359 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, and he connected with eight different receivers. Even in the loss, the true freshman lifted his squad to the brink of beating a ranked team on the road.

Kaaya proved he can carry Miami; he simply needs a little help from his teammates for the Hurricanes to knock off top competition.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of NCAA.com.

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

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Alabama WR Amari Cooper Takes Home CFB's Top Performer for Week 4

Amari Cooper had himself a day vs. Florida. The junior raked in 10 catches for 201 yards to go along with three TDs. It was his fourth-straight 100-plus-yard receiving game, giving him the honor of our college football top performer. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee discusses Cooper's big day. 

Can Cooper keep this up?

Watch the video and let us know!

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Samaje Perine vs. WVU: Stat Line, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Oklahoma Sooners freshman tailback Samaje Perine etched his name into the annals of program history against West Virgina Saturday night in his team's 45-33 win.

With the offense sputtering behind the arm of Trevor Knight and the defense struggling with a potent Mountaineers offense, Perine firmly planted the Sooners on his shoulders and exploded for one of the all-time great performances.

The final line more than speaks for itself:

ESPN.com's Jake Trotter revealed that Perine joined legendary collegiate company after surpassing the 200-yard mark:

He also dove into the record books to reveal that only DeMarco Murray and three others have matched him in terms of touchdowns:

For what it is worth, Perine also wrote his name in permanent marker in the West Virginia record books as well, as noted by Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail:

Perine got his first score of the night on a two-yard rush in the second quarter, but erupted in the second half right out of the gate to break a tie at 24 and give his team a lead it would never relinquish—thanks to his two additional touchdowns later in the half, of course.

Clearly, Bob Stoops is not afraid to go with the hot hand, especially after the loss of No. 1 back Keith Ford to injury earlier in the week. Perine had not registered more than 13 carries in each of the team's first three games before exploding for the huge tally Saturday.

While talented names such as Alex Ross pepper the roster, even Stoops had noted before the game that his star freshman does his best work in the second half.

“Samaje gets in there in the second half, and again he’s fresh,” Stoops said, per Ryan Aber ofThe Oklahoman. “He gets in there and he is pounding it. He is a strong, physical player. He has a great base to him. He does everything you want. He catches the ball. He was a big boost there in the second half.”

A back who gets more effective with each carry should ring a few alarm bells for those familiar with the former collegiate greats at the position. In particular, NFL.com's Bryan Fischer has one comparison in mind:

Now 4-0 on the hunt for a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff, Oklahoma is in good hands now that Perine has had his thunderous breakout game. Even when Ford returns, it is quite apparent Stoops has a ground game that few teams can match.

Perine cannot be expected to carry the team on his own every game just yet, and Heisman talk is unfounded until he strings together a few more great performances, but it is abundantly clear that a new star running back resides on the block that is collegiate football.

His name is Samaje Perine, and it is one history won't soon forget. What lies ahead is even more exciting.

 

Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

 

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Oklahoma vs. WVU: Score and Twitter Reaction

West Virginia gave Oklahoma a tough challenge early, but running back Samaje Perine made the difference in a 45-33 victory for the No. 4 team in the nation.

The true freshman finished with 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries. As Jake Trotter of ESPN.com noted, he put himself in rare company with the performance:

Head coach Bob Stoops is certainly excited for the future after this game:

Trevor Knight had a solid day as well with 205 passing yards, plus a rare receiving touchdown, but it was the running game that helped the Sooners move to 4-0 on the season.

West Virginia also saw key players put up big numbers like quarterback Clint Trickett (376 passing yards and two touchdowns) and receiver Kevin White (10 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown). However, the defense was not able to hold up its end of the bargain to complete the upset. 

With the win, Stoops added another milestone to his resume:

The coach remains one of the best in the sport and is hoping for even bigger things from this year's team.

Saturday's highly anticipated matchup featured plenty of excitement right from the start thanks to a number of huge plays for both sides.

After Oklahoma took the 3-0 lead early, West Virginia answered before the end of the first quarter with a 68-yard touchdown pass from Trickett to White. After the play, Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout was one of many who liked what they saw from the receiver:

The Sooners were eventually able to answer, although it took some trickery to get the first touchdown of the game, as described by ESPN Big 12:

When Trickett was able to throw another impressive touchdown pass, this time to Mario Alford, Sports Illustrated was impressed:

Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer noted the strong effort for the Mountaineers defense early to keep it close in the first half:

Of course, this was not easy as the two sides once again traded blows to make it 24-17 in favor of the home team. Oklahoma then immediately tied it up with a 100-yard kickoff return by Alex Ross.

Fox Sports joked about the action of the game as the two sides went into halftime tied at 24-24:

The scoring continued early in the second half. Oklahoma needed less than three minutes to go 75 yards and finish with a Perine touchdown, which caught the attention of Bryan Fischer of NFL.com:

After the running back scored again to go up 38-27, David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest gave credit to the big men up front:

The Sooners also saw an improved effort from the defense, which forced multiple turnovers in the second half to slow West Virginia's attack. 

In the fourth quarter, the favorites once again turned to its star running back:

West Virginia added another score to make it 45-33 but it was too little, too late as the home team fell to 2-2 on the season.

Oklahoma came into the game preparing for a hostile environment in Morgantown, as Knight explained earlier in the week:

Their fans will be rocking. But it’s important to use some of their crowd’s energy to get you going, to get that momentum going and really just use it. Going on the road is difficult, especially with a team like West Virginia who has been playing great. So we just have to find that energy within ourselves and play for one another and stay even-keeled through it. 

Although there were certainly some scary moments, the sophomore quarterback handled the pressure and did enough to help his team pull out the win.

The national title contenders have a week off but could have another tough challenge on Oct. 4 in a road game against 2-0 TCU. After a close call in this one, the Sooners will likely have a lot to work on if they want to remain undefeated.

Meanwhile, this game represents the second "moral victory" of the year for West Virginia, which also had a 10-point loss to Alabama earlier in the season. Although this does not count for a win in the standings, it will certainly give the group a lot of momentum going forward.

The Mountaineers also have a bye week but will be able to return with a winnable matchup against Kansas at home on Oct. 4. After a 4-8 2013 season, this team appears on its way to a much better year this time around.

 

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

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Winners and Losers from Week 4 of College Football

Week 4 is nearly in the books. Don't be fooled by a smaller schedule of games. There have already been statement wins by Alabama and Mississippi State, and a dramatic overtime win by Florida State over Clemson. That's not to mention a key Auburn win over Kansas State on Thursday. 

It's been a wild weekend, to be sure. 

As you can see, Winners and Losers is up before the full slate of college football games has ended. No worries, as the post will be updated throughout the evening as events warrant. 

So let's get the conversation going. Which teams, players, coaches and/or moments were the best from Week 4? Which ones struggled?

Begin Slideshow

Mississippi State vs. LSU Is the Shocker of the 2014 Season

From a gambling standpoint, Mississippi State's 34-29 upset of LSU Saturday night in Death Valley wasn't the most shocking upset of the season. After all, the Tigers were between a seven- and nine-point favorite when toe met leather, according to OddsShark.com.

The way Mississippi State won, however, made it the most shocking upset of the 2014 season.

There was no fluke, lucky bounce or reverse Death Valley voodoo working for the Bulldogs in this one—although LSU tried to make one happen late coming off the deck to make this game appear closer on the scoreboard than it was in real life.

Mississippi State lined up, punched LSU in the mouth and when it got back up, punched it again.

And again...and again.

Even when LSU's players show up at the complex tomorrow, they'll still be feeling the physical beatdown Dan Mullen's crew gave them in Baton Rouge.

The Bulldogs beat the Tigers up in the trenches like it was a directional Louisiana school, not an LSU program whose hallmark is physical, smashmouth football.

Running back Josh Robinson had 197 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Dak Prescott added 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground in addition to his 268 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air. The 570 total yards gained by Mississippi State set a record that LSU head coach Les Miles has to be disappointed by.

It's an upset that shakes up the entire college football world.

LSU didn't look anything like a team that could compete in the rugged SEC West, while Mississippi State looked not only capable of impacting the outcome, but winning it itself.

Led by three-time defending SEC defensive lineman of the week Preston Smith, the Bulldogs roll nine or 10 players along their defensive line, including all-around freak Chris Jones.

The fresh bodies allow the Bulldogs to keep pressure on for a full four quarters, which was a big reason LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings was sacked three times and running for his life more times than not.

That wasn't a fluke, it was a statement. A statement that this isn't the same Mississippi State team that had a 2-22 record against top-25 teams under Dan Mullen. A statement that Mississippi State isn't afraid to go on the road and win playing its own brand of football.

That's scary.

Other upsets this year were impressive, like Virginia Tech's win on the road at Ohio State and Boston College running it down USC's throat. Neither of those resonated like this one will.

This is a perpetual doormat imposing its will on a traditional power on the road in the toughest division in college football.

Statement made.

 

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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Is Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott a Legitimate Contender for Heisman Trophy?

Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott has emerged onto the national scene. After a huge performance vs. LSU, is it safe to say that Prescott is now in the Heisman conversation?

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate the breakout quarterback.

Does Prescott have the goods to be the Heisman winner?

Watch the video and let us know!

  

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Clemson's Mike Williams Dives for Incredible Catch to Set Up TD vs. FSU

After getting in the red zone twice without being able to put points on the board, the Clemson Tigers punched in the go-ahead score one play after this beautiful catch from wide receiver Mike Williams.

If you look closely, you can see that Williams actually loses his shoe while making the catch. The big play went for 39 yards and set up a two-yard Deshaun Watson touchdown run.

[via gifdsports]

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