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Heisman Watch 2015: Top 5 Rankings for Week 6

The top college football players continued to showcase their talents in Week 6 of the season, influencing our weekly top five Heisman Trophy watch.

Which players made our list this week? Who do we have as our front-runner?

Find out in the video above as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Barrett Sallee breaks it down. 

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Miami vs. Florida State: Game Grades, Analysis for Hurricanes and Seminoles

For the second straight year, Miami came just short of knocking off an undefeated Florida State team.

The Hurricanes (3-2) had rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to take a 24-23 lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Seminoles came up with a clutch eight-play, 84-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive to seal a 29-24 victory.

Here's how both teams graded out from Saturday's close five-point game.  

Pass Offense

Brad Kaaya started the game on point, finding his receivers with precision passes down the field, but his pass-catchers let him down with multiple dropped passes early. The highlight of the first half was a beautiful play by Rashawn Scott, who caught a contested pass and broke a tackle on his way to a 58-yard touchdown. The Hurricanes finished the first half with 176 yards through the air.

Kaaya caught fire in the second half, torching a solid Florida State secondary with a number of huge plays. He finished the game with 405 passing yards and three touchdowns against no interceptions. 


Run Offense

Miami's run offense was the biggest disappointment of the game.

The rushing attack was ordinary coming into the game, averaging 174.8 yards per game, which ranked 62nd nationally. But the Seminoles absolutely shut down the Hurricanes, especially in the first half, when they netted just two yards on 10 carries. 

The second half wasn't any better as Miami finished with just 20 yards on 19 carries.  


Pass Defense

A week after Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore sliced up its secondary, Miami gave up another big game to Everett Golson.

The former Notre Dame signal-caller was comfortable in the first half against the Hurricanes, throwing for 191 yards and a touchdown. He finished the game completing 75.8 percent of his passes for 291 yards and a touchdown.


Run Defense

It's not a fun task trying to stop Florida State running back Dalvin Cook.

Miami was on the unfortunate side of that assignment Saturday night, and with the nation's 57th-ranked run defense, it went about as well as one would have expected.

The Seminoles had their way with the Hurricanes' front seven in the first half, bullying their way to 167 yards on 17 carries and averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt. The Hurricanes did a much better job in the third quarter, but Cook got loose in the fourth as the Seminoles finished with 248 rushing yards on 36 carries. 


Special Teams

It was a quiet night for Miami's special teams, which was both good and bad.

Michael Badgley connected on a 30-yard field goal, and Justin Vogel had a solid night, averaging 41.3 yards on six punts. But the Hurricanes didn't have any game-breaking plays on special teams, which can be the difference for underdogs on the road.



Jimbo Fisher outcoached Miami's Al Golden in the first half, but the adjustments Golden made at halftime were flawless. The Hurricanes mixed the hurry-up offense and methodical play-calling to perfection, which flipped the momentum in a big way in the second half. But Cook just proved to be too much for them to handle down the stretch of the fourth quarter, which wasn't a coaching issue. 


Pass Offense

Golson's first four games at Florida State were solid as he took care of the ball and managed the offense, but he hadn't put together a dominant performance. 

It looked like he was on his way to that in the first half when he completed 14 of 19 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. Kermit Whitfield was a reliable outlet, and the offense was clicking with Cook bringing balance on the ground.

The offense in general faded in the fourth quarter, but Golson finished with a great line, completing 25 of 33 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown. 


Run Offense

Cook gashed Miami in the first half, and it started early when he took a perfectly executed option play 72 yards for the score. That set up a big half for Cook, who ran for 137 yards on just nine carries through two quarters. 

The Hurricanes did a good job against the Seminoles offense in the third quarter, but Cook turned it back on in the fourth. He finished with 222 yards, which included the game-clinching 23-yard touchdown run. 


Pass Defense

Florida State was fortunate that Miami dropped a number of passes in the first half, but that fortune turned significantly in the second half. 

Kaaya torched Jalen Ramsey and the Seminoles secondary, throwing for an incredible 405 yards and three touchdowns. Kaaya distributed it well too, finding 10 different receivers—two of whom (Stacy Coley and Rashawn Scott) eclipsed the 100-yard mark. 


Run Defense

Florida State's defensive line didn't generate much of a pass rush, but it dominated the trenches in the run game.

Miami managed just 20 yards on the ground on 19 carries, averaging just a hair over one yard per attempt. Joseph Yearby came into the game riding a three-game streak with at least 100 rushing yards, but he was shut down by the Seminoles, gaining just 33 yards on 15 carries. 


Special Teams

Like Miami, Florida State had a quiet night on special teams.

The big surprise came in the first half when Roberto Aguayo missed on a 44-yard field goal that could have been the difference in a close game. Kermit Whitfield had an unspectacular night in the return game, but Cason Beatty was spectacular, averaging 57 yards on two punts. 



Florida State looked like a team with a plan in the first half, and that was on display on the first offensive drive of the game. The Seminoles broke tendency and ran the option, which was perfectly executed by Golson and Cook, who raced 72 yards for the opening score of the game. 

The Hurricanes made a strong second-half surge, but the Seminoles stayed calm and executed their game plan. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

TCU vs. Kansas State: Game Grades, Analysis for Horned Frogs and Wildcats

The No. 2 TCU Horned Frogs may be the most electric, exciting team in the country as they survived an 18-point halftime deficit and came back on the road to beat Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats 52-45. 

Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin added some trophy-worthy moments to his resume, with the biggest one coming on a 55-yard bomb to his partner in crime, Josh Doctson, with just over a minute left that ended up being the game-winning touchdown. 

With that, let's check out the game grades for both these Big 12 teams that were locked in one of the best battles of the season.


TCU Horned Frogs

Rush Offense: B The Horned Frogs racked up 239 yards on the ground, with Boykin leading the way with 124 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdowns. Aaron Green nearly matched that, with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. One of those came on the first play of the game as Green gashed the K-State defense for an 86-yard score. 

Pass Offense: B+ Two interceptions by Boykin nearly cost the Horned Frogs this game. Instead, he finished the game with 301 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-30 passing. To nobody's surprise, Doctson led all receivers with 155 yards on eight catches, including both of Boykin's touchdown passes. 

Rush Defense: C While the TCU front line wasn't tested perhaps nearly as much as many analysts think it should've been in the second half, as K-State went to the air more after halftime, the Horned Frogs still gave up 228 yards and six—count 'em, six—touchdowns via the ground game. That's a gaping hole for TCU that Snyder exposed, perhaps not enough. 

Pass Defense: A The TCU secondary held Joe Hubener to just 13-of-33 passing for 157 yards and no touchdowns. K-State seemed hell-bent on testing the Horned Frogs' secondary, and TCU responded to the challenge almost perfectly. 

Special Teams: A- No gripes for the Horned Frogs here. Jaden Oberkrom was 6-of-6 on his kicks with five PAT's and a field goal, while KaVontae Turpin had some nice returns. The only big flaw was a shanked punt that gave K-State the chance to take a 35-17 halftime lead, which it did. 

Coaching: A It's not easy to beat Snyder on his home turf. But the former K-State graduate assistant-turned-TCU head coach Gary Patterson did just that, overcoming a halftime deficit and a delirious sellout crowd to keep his squad's playoff hopes alive.


K-State Wildcats

Rush Offense: A- The Wildcats, for some reason unbeknownst to anybody that watched the game, decided to get away from the run game in the second half. Nevertheless, the Wildcats racked up 228 yards on 48 carries and six touchdowns, with Hubener leading the pack with 111 yards and four scores. Charles Jones did have a breakout game of sorts, picking up 75 yards on 13 touches with two scores after a rough start to the year. 

Pass Offense: D K-State was absolutely convinced that passing the ball was the way to go with an 18-point lead at halftime. The Wildcats were wrong, as they were limited to just 157 yards through the air as Hubener completed just 13 of 33 pass attempts. Had the Wildcats gone to the run more, they could've eaten up valuable clock time and perhaps squashed the second-half momentum of TCU. 

Rush Defense: C+ After giving up an 86-yard run to Green on the first play, the Wildcats actually limited his role for the rest of the game. However, Boykin's legs came up big in the game as he racked up 124 yards and was able to chip away at a K-State defense that just couldn't wrap him up behind the line of scrimmage. 

Pass Defense: C+ K-State had two picks against Boykin and didn't let him get into a rhythm in the first half. However, the Wildcats' secondary was burned all night in the second half, culminating with the 55-yard touchdown pass from Boykin to Doctson as K-State was trying to force overtime. TCU finished with 301 yards and two touchdowns through the air. 

Special Teams: A- The only real complaint for K-State is that, on its final kickoff, it let Turpin have a decent return to the TCU 36. That gave Boykin good field position with TCU only needing a field goal. Of course, the Horned Frogs ended up scoring a touchdown. Besides that, K-State was fine on special teams, as it always is.

Coaching: C It's not often Snyder gets outcoached, but he did on Saturday night in Manhattan by one of his own products in Patterson. Snyder and Co. were bent on passing the ball despite holding an 18-point lead, and that let the Horned Frogs back into the game as they routinely got K-State off the field quickly. Granted, it's tough to beat the No. 2 team in the nation, but the Wildcats had a chance to do it—they didn't because of coaching. 

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Despite Early Struggles, Alabama Should Feel Good About Win over Arkansas

Alabama struggled to pull away from Arkansas in a 27-14 win on Saturday, but despite a sloppy showing against the Razorbacks, the Crimson Tide should feel good about the result.

The Crimson Tide trailed 7-3 until late in the third quarter, but from there they scored 24 straight points against a team that—despite its losing record—took Texas A&M to the brink, beat Tennessee in Knoxville and entered the week ranked No. 17 in Football Outsiders' S&P+ ratings.

Few teams can flip the light switch as easily as Nick Saban's, which turned a small deficit into a small lead and then a small lead into a comfortable lead in the span of seven minutes of game time.

"Very, very proud the way our players responded to the challenge," Saban said after the game, per Josh Gauntt of the local FOX affiliate. "They played a really good game in the second half."

The biggest thing Alabama should feel good about is its defense.

(Stop me if you've heard that one before…)

This unit is a throwback to some of the best of the Saban era: an angry Crimson swarm that makes good offenses look average, average offenses look bad and bad offenses look like they're playing hopscotch.

On Saturday it held Arkansas, which entered with the No. 4 offense in the country, per the S&P+ ratings, to 146 yards and seven points until a garbage-time touchdown. The Crimson Tide defensive line is the best in the country (and not by a small margin), and linebacker Reggie Ragland, an All-American front-runner, finds new ways to outdo himself each week.

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News gave this fitting recap:

The Crimson Tide should feel less good about their offense, which mustered just a field goal in the first 43 minutes, but it made the plays it needed to late.

True freshman Calvin Ridley, a 5-star recruit and the No. 1 wide receiver on 247Sports' composite rankings, toasted Arkansas with a nasty double move to take the lead on an 81-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Alabama never looked back from there:

Senior quarterback Jake Coker, who struggled early with a pair of interceptions, reverted to the form he showed against Ole Miss and Georgia, completing 24 of 33 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns for the game.

He also continued to make plays with his legs, which adds a Blake Sims-esque element to what this offense can do.

It shouldn't have taken 43 minutes to score more than three points, either. Adam Griffith missed two first-half field goals, one from 25 yards out, and red-zone struggles crippled an otherwise fast start.

But all of those things can be fixed, and the red-zone struggles likely will be. Kicking has long hamstrung the Crimson Tide—if anything from Saturday should trouble them, it's that—but Griffith responded with a second-half field goal and is still just a modest red flag.

Ole Miss holds the SEC West tiebreaker after beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but the Crimson Tide likely control their own fate. Even if both teams win out, which would block Alabama from the SEC Championship Game, the Tide would be 11-1 with a loss against, presumably, one of the highest-ranked teams in college football.

This team is far from perfect, but in a year when the supposed top four includes Ohio State, TCU and Michigan State—each of which has won by the skin of its nose against unranked teams either this week or last week—multiple imperfect teams will make the playoff.

Alabama has a strong chance to be one of them.

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Florida vs. Missouri: Game Grades, Analysis for Gators and Tigers

Riding a suffocating defense, the No. 11 Florida Gators took care of the Missouri Tigers on the road by a 21-3 margin.

Kelvin Taylor and the Gators offense got it going early, with the junior running back throwing up two short touchdowns on the road. Jim McElwain's lead back finished with 124 yards of offense, but the defense was the story in this one.

The Gators held Drew Lock and the Missouri offense to three points, only once allowing a conversion on 14 third-down tries. The Florida secondary led the effort, picking off the freshman twice, including a pick-six by Jalen Tabor.

There are a lot of positives from this one, but the Gators definitely have work to do before they travel to LSU to take on Leonard Fournette and Co. next week.


Grade Analysis for the Gators

Passing Offense: It was a pretty ho-hum day for Will Grier, who threw for only 208 yards on 33 attempts. The positive here is that he never made a big mistake with the Mizzou pass rush crawling all over him. There are better days ahead.

Rushing Offense: Taylor was hot early but slowed down as the game wore on and the defenses buckled down. Still, he's second only to Grier in terms of importance to this offense. He can do a little bit of everything, and he just never comes off the field.

Passing Defense: Lock never had a chance against these guys. In addition to Tabor's pick-six, Marcus Maye played an excellent game in coverage, picking up the first interception of the game and dropping another one he should have had.

Overall, Mizzou averaged 3.9 yards per attempt, and its leading receiver had 39 yards. You can't even nitpick these guys.

Rushing Defense: The Gators' early lead forced the Tigers to go pass-heavy for the final three quarters. They gave up over four yards per carry, but it was of little consequence.

Special Teams: Jorge Powell missed a field goal, and the Gators committed another dumb catch interference penalty. Johnny Townsend was pretty consistent on all nine of his punts.

Coaching: With so much movement coming in the Top 10, you would expect a team like the Gators to come out with a little more fire. But a win is a win, and they never put themselves into position to lose this one. 

It gets a stiffer test next week, but this defense has been tremendous these past two weeks. This staff is getting some great football out of guys who don't get a lot of national attention, though that should change here very soon.


Grade Analysis for the Tigers

Passing Offense: You had to feel for Lock in this one. The true freshman, and really this entire offense, was no match for the Florida defense after the Gators went up by double digits. He needs more help.

Rushing Offense: Russell Hansbrough needed only nine carries to gain 74 yards, and you have to wonder why he didn't get more work. The Tigers abandoned him and the run far too early, which played right into Florida's hands. 

Passing Defense: The Tigers actually did a great job getting after Grier, sacking the redshirt freshman six times on the night. The Gator offensive line proved it was no joke last week against the Ole Miss Rebels, so we can expect even bigger games from this unit.

Sophomore Charles Harris looks like the next star defensive end for a program that's been churning them out like none other.

Rushing Defense: Taylor ran all over these guys in the first quarter, then was pretty quiet the rest of the way. The Gators averaged 2.9 yards per carry, so you can't blame this one on anybody on the defensive side of the ball.

Special Teams: Punter Corey Fatony was the Tigers' best weapon, averaging almost 48 yards on his nine punts. Andrew Baggett missed a field goal.

Coaching: Aside from sticking with the run, there wasn't much more the Tigers could do here. The Gators are just a better team and are absolutely deserving of the Top 10 ranking they'll receive this week. The bigger picture is a more significant issue than what we saw on the field today—this offense has been basically rudderless since the end of 2013.

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TCU vs. Kansas State: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

For the second time in three weeks, TCU pulled out a victory in the game's final minutes on Saturday night with a 52-45 win against Kansas State.  

Trailing 35-17 at halftime, TCU managed to outscore Kansas State 35-10 in the second half, with the game-winner coming with 1:10 left in the game—a 55-yard touchdown pass from Trevone Boykin to Josh Doctson to break a 45-45 tie. 

TCU provided the replay of the game-winner:

The duo of Boykin and Doctson dominated TCU's stat sheet. Boykin threw for 301 yards and added another 124 on the ground, while Doctson reeled in eight receptions for 155 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

ESPN College Football showed his first touchdown of the night:

It is the first time since 1988 that TCU defeated Kansas State in Kansas. But a victory looked very unlikely after two quarters.

Kansas State's rushing game was unstoppable as it carved through TCU's defense. Led by quarterback Joe Huebener, Kansas State scored five rushing touchdowns in the first half. Hubener had three of them to go with 97 yards. 

The Big 12 Conference showed his first three touchdowns:

In fact, Hubener outperformed Boykin in the first three quarters. But Boykin turned it on when it mattered the most. 

The Wildcats showed fantastic resiliency, withstanding an early TCU attack that might have staggered many other teams. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Aaron Green took a handoff 86 yards to the house, giving the Horned Frogs an immediate lead. 

The Big 12 Conference had the replay:

The teams traded touchdowns on the next two drives, maintaining TCU's seven-point lead. But then Kansas State took over the game. 

Outscoring TCU 28-3 to close out the first half, Kansas State was improbably going into halftime with a 35-17 lead. Holding a lead at the half is usually a good sign for Kansas State. But recently, it hasn't been so easy as ESPN's Danny Kanell pointed out:

Starting the third quarter, Hubener's arm was getting him into trouble, throwing a pick-six to Derrick Kindred. Instead of using the run game to dictate the game like they did in the first half, Kansas State was trying to throw the ball with the lead. 

Hubener was just 13 of 33 on the day for 157 yards. That wasn't impressing the Dallas Morning News' Shehan Jeyarajah:

After punting the ball away, Kansas State saw its lead shrink to four after Green's second touchdown of the game. 

The Wildcats were given reprieve after reprieve due to TCU's offensive struggles, allowing them to get back to basics on the ground. Hubener nabbed his fourth touchdown of the game, with 12:21 left—another sneak from the goal line that put the Wildcats back up 11. 

Boykin took matters into his own hands, rushing for a pair of touchdowns in the final nine minutes. The last was a 69-yard dash that helped give TCU a three-point lead with six minutes left. ESPN College Football provided the replay of Boykin's second touchdown:

Kansas State managed to muster up enough to drive down into field-goal range, where Jack Cantele nailed a 37-yard field goal to tie the score, with 1:47 left. 

TCU's brushes with upsets are not helping their standing in the rankings. If the Horned Frogs want to keep their spot within the Top Four, they are going to have to make easier work of teams that are out of the rankings, regardless of what conference they are in. 

A performance like this could see them slightly dropping in next week's polls.


Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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If You Don't Believe in Florida Yet, What More Do You Want?

Remember the Florida of old that was littered with questions, average at best and at least a year away from making any kind of noise in the SEC East?

Yeah, me neither.

That quarterback battle? Solved.

The offensive line woes? Fixed.

Maintaining that defensive success from the old staff to the new staff? Accomplished.

Clearing a road test against divisional foe? Taken care of.

Name me a more complete team in college football than the 2015 Florida Gators. Utah certainly could be in that mix. Baylor should be, if you look past the weak schedule thus far and only focus on how well the Bears have played.

But Florida is on the list of the top teams in the country and again proved it should be there Saturday night in Columbia, Missouri, when it stymied the Tigers 21-3 in a game that was reminiscent of Gator wins of the glory days. The win makes Florida the SEC's first bowl-eligible team of the season.

Quarterback Will Grier tossed for 208 yards, running back Kelvin Taylor rushed for 99 and two scores and the offense didn't commit a turnover on the night.

The stingy Gator defense held Tiger quarterback Drew Lock and his crew to just 257 total yards with two interceptions. Jalen Tabor returned one for a touchdown, and Florida controlled the game from the opening whistle to the final gun.

The defense held Lock and the Tigers to 1-of-14 on third down and forced two turnovers on the night.

"I gotta tell you, I was really proud of that," head coach Jim McElwain told ESPN's Maria Taylor in the postgame interview. "We didn't play with great energy, and yet, sometimes you have to win games that way."

Think about that for a second. Florida won on the road over the two-time division champs with its "C" game. In years past, that would have resulted in the game getting sideways in ways that wouldn't please Gator fans.

This, on the heels of McElwain doing everything else right so far this year.

Remember that offensive line? You know, the one that was decimated by graduation and early departure, used to block itself and was pieced together by McElwain this offseason by various means, including via graduate transfer?

All it has done is dominate Ole Miss' front seven in the trenches, control the talented Missouri line and transform itself from a liability into a potential power.

Remember the lack of playmakers outside? 

All Demarcus Robinson, Brandon Powell and Antonio Callaway have done is provide McElwain and first-year starting quarterback Will Grier multiple options who have proven they can perform when needed.

Remember the quarterback issue? 

All Grier has done is take control of the job, toss 10 touchdowns with only three picks and stabilize a position that had been shaky ever since the Tim Tebow era ended in 2009.

Remember the talk all week that the game could be closer than the 6.5-point spread in favor of the Gators, the OddsShark.com-predicted score of 21.2-17.5 and a Missouri defense that would give Florida's new-look offense fits? 

That didn't happen.

If you aren't a believer in Florida yet, what more do you want the Gators to do? 

Beat LSU?

The two old-school cross-division foes will meet next week in Baton Rouge, with SEC supremacy perhaps on the line. LSU finally got a bit of a spark in the passing game this week against South Carolina, but Florida's secondary, led by Vernon Hargreaves III, Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor is slightly more challenging than the Gamecocks'.

Plus, this is a Florida team that can slow down star running back Leonard Fournette at least a little bit and put the game in the hands of quarterback Brandon Harris. If that happens, LSU will be out of its comfort zone and ripe for the picking.

A big win against LSU shouldn't have to happen in order to buy in to the Gators, though. They've answered every offseason question, improved weekly and are in a select group of teams nationwide that have actually gone out and proven they are complete on the field.

That should matter much more than ancillary talking points like perceived strength of schedule, the division in which they play and the manner in which they operate.

The 2015 Florida Gators have proven through six games that they are elite by the standards the season has dictated thus far. 

If not the Gators, who?


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Arkansas vs. Alabama: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Arkansas Razorbacks and No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide engaged in an old-school slugfest Saturday evening at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the Crimson Tide withstood a scare and rediscovered their identity in the second half to capture a 27-14 win.

Matched up against a stout Arkansas (2-4) defense that was coming off an impressive road win over the Tennessee Volunteers, Alabama (5-1) had a tough time establishing anything on offense in the game's first two-and-a-half quarters.

The Arkansas defensive line owned the point of attack all night long, which allowed it to remain competitive against a sputtering Alabama offense. And in a hard-nosed contest that amounted to a battle for field position, with scoring plays few and far between, big plays were the evening's most valuable currency. 

Ultimately, the Crimson Tide proved to be richer in that regard.

Alabama couldn't muster much of anything downfield early despite offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's desire to let quarterback Jake Coker air the ball out, but the Crimson Tide finally broke through with an 81-yard bomb over the top to freshman Calvin Ridley late in the third quarter, per ESPN College Football

Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News summed up the long-distance scoring strike: 

Coker was largely hit-or-miss, and he finished the evening by completing 24 of 33 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His three-yard touchdown toss to Richard Mullaney two minutes into the fourth quarter iced things for Alabama.

All told, Alabama outgained Arkansas 396-220, but those yards didn't come easy. Alabama star running back Derrick Henry received a heavy dose of touches and mustered 3.5 yards per carry on 25 attempts to go with a goal-line plunge that set the school record for consecutive games (11) with a rushing touchdown, per 247Sports.

Arkansas was stymied by comparison, as quarterback Brandon Allen took vicious hit after vicious hit in the pocket from the Tide defensive line. He completed just 15 of 32 passes for 176 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Running back Alex Collins was also limited, rushing 12 times for 26 yards.

But despite those inefficiencies, Arkansas took a 7-3 lead into the halftime locker room, putting an upset in play. 

A week after the Crimson Tide thumped Georgia with the ground game, they tried sticking with that plan of attack early against the run-oriented Razorbacks. Alabama controlled the ball for just over 11 minutes in the opening frame, with Henry and Kenyan Drake rushing between the tackles on play after play. 

However, the Arkansas defense stood tall and withstood those body blows. Despite getting outgained 135-21 in the first quarter, head coach Bret Bielema's squad was in position to capture momentum while Alabama struggled to convert on some golden red-zone opportunities.

It took some time for the Razorbacks to get going, though. 

Eric Bolin of the Arkansas News Bureau put the Razorbacks' struggles through 20 minutes of play into perspective:

Alabama hardly fared better, as the Tuscaloosa News' Aaron Suttles identified a problem with the team's aerial efforts:

That was an issue, too, because the Razorbacks front seven didn't appear to be fazed by Alabama's physical run game, per Suttles:

Some poor special teams play complicated matters over the first 30 minutes, according to AL.com's Matt Zenitz:

Alabama's three first-half points were the program's fewest since 2011 against LSU, according to ESPN College Football, but the Crimson Tide were able to put that futile figure on the backburner and find sources of offensive stability in the second half.

The win gives Alabama three in a row since falling to Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa, which means it should be firmly nestled in the Top 10 when the new Associated Press poll drops. However, as Bleacher Report's Bryan Fischer noted, Georgia's loss to Tennessee on Saturday may wind up hurting the Crimson Tide's College Football Playoff prospects:

Arkansas can take away plenty of positives from its first-half performance, but it didn't have enough juice to compete with a revitalized Alabama team throughout crunch time. A bye awaits the Razorbacks next weekend, which will give them a chance to recharge their batteries.

At this stage, though, their chances of going even .500 look bleak, with Auburn, Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU and Mississippi State all on deck over the next six weeks.


Post-Game Reaction

Saban used a shoddy first half to test his team's will, per Suttles, and the Tide responded accordingly in their coach's eyes, according to Zenitz: 

Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones didn't mince words later on in the locker room when discussing just how good the team's defense is, per the Anniston Star's Marq Burnett:

Bielema, meanwhile, explained how he tried to switch up the offense and what he'd like to see out of his team in the weeks ahead, according to Bolin:

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Arkansas vs. Alabama: Game Grades, Analysis for Razorbacks and Crimson Tide

The Alabama Crimson Tide showed their grit in battling back from a halftime deficit at home against the Arkansas Razorbacks, dominating the fourth quarter en route to a 27-14 victory.

Tide quarterback Jake Coker shook off two early interceptions to throw the game-winning score late in the third quarter, and Alabama never looked back. Leaning on a defense that didn't allow a drive over 30 yards until garbage time, the Crimson Tide flexed their muscle Saturday.

Take a look below for both teams' game grades.


Pass Offense

With Arkansas selling out against the run, Coker had plenty of opportunity through the air. One of his two first-half interceptions led to the Hogs’ only score of the game, but he more than made up for it with an 81-yard go-ahead touchdown toss to Calvin Ridley—who finished with eight catches for 140 yards.

Ridley just continues to break out, as Aaron Suttles of TideSports.com noted:

Run Offense

Constantly running against eight-man boxes, Derrick Henry got stuffed more than he’s used to but still churned out a 27-carry, 95-yard performance and scored for the 11th straight game. A team average lower than 3.5 yards per carry is nevertheless un-Alabama-like.


Pass Defense

Save for a fluky 54-yard touchdown pass with less than two minutes left, the Tide secondary performed well and limited Brandon Allen all night long. Eddie Jackson snarled an interception and returned it 20 yards to set Alabama up for the win.


Run Defense

You won’t see a more dominant outing from one unit than Alabama’s defensive front produced. Arkansas couldn’t run the ball at all, having been manhandled up front as the Tide held them to just 44 rushing yards on 25 attempts.

The constant play of linebacker Reggie Ragland made a big difference, as Ben Jones of TideSports.com noted:

Special Teams

There are still obvious kicking issues to work out, but Adam Griffith did make two of his four attempts. Cyrus Jones' big punt return in the fourth quarter set up an Alabama touchdown, and a late onside kick recovery sealed the game.



The offense went cold in the middle part of Saturday’s game after a hot start, but offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin drew up the right play at the right time on Ridley’s 81-yard go-ahead score. While coaching mishaps doomed the Hogs, Nick Saban and Co. had no such troubles.


Pass Offense

When he looked downfield, Allen couldn’t find much going on as he finished 15-of-32 with 176 yards. He ended with two touchdowns, but one was pretty much in garbage time, and he threw a costly fourth-quarter interception.


Run Offense

After running the ball all over the yard a week ago at Tennessee, the Hogs’ rushing attack was nowhere to be found. Alex Collins produced all of 26 yards on 12 carries, while the rest of the team couldn’t muster much more against Alabama’s stiff defensive front.

Pass Defense

For most of the night, Arkansas’ secondary did more than enough to stifle Coker and put pressure on Alabama’s offense. The Hogs forced two interceptions, one of which led to their only touchdown, but they eventually got burned by giving up two fourth-quarter passing scores.


Run Defense

Limiting Henry and the Alabama running game allowed the Razorbacks to hold a lead for the better part of this game, but it didn’t last. Arkansas’ defensive front eventually got gassed, allowing Henry and Drake to pound the game away.


Special Teams

A banner day from punter Toby Baker (10 punts for 402 yards, five inside the 20) had the Hogs winning the field-position battle for much of the night. But a questionable fake punt backfired with Arkansas trailing by just three, and it never recovered. 

Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com had questions for Bielema after the decision:


There’s a difference between having guts as a head coach and knowing when to use said guts. Head coach Bret Bielema failed in that regard, calling a fake punt that directly led to Alabama running away with the game.

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Georgia vs. Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for Bulldogs and Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — All week long and for much of the first five weeks of the season, Tennessee fans vocalized their frustrations with the 2-3 Volunteers and their coaches across every form of media.

On Saturday night, that frustration turned to jubilation. 

The entire UT team gathered in front of the "Pride of the Southland" band and fans gathered in the Southeast corner of Neyland Stadium to celebrate a 38-31 come-from-behind win over Georgia that featured a 21-point Tennessee comeback.

UGA quarterback Greyson Lambert's final, fourth-quarter pass into the end zone was swatted away by senior safety Brian Randolph, and UT capitalized on the second-biggest comeback in Neyland history to win. The only time the Vols came back from a bigger scoring deficit was overcoming a 25-point situation against Vanderbilt in 1987. ESPN College Football pointed out that, prior to this game, Georgia was undefeated for 12 seasons when leading by 21 points:

For the first time this year, the Vols were on the winning side of a crazy comeback.

"Our hard work has been validated a little bit in terms of finally winning a game like this," UT coach Butch Jones said.

"It's a long season, and it's just one victory, but being down 24-3 against a Top 25 football team, our kids never flinched."

Quarterback Joshua Dobbs was brilliant, accounting for five touchdowns and 430 total yards of offense to help the Vols storm back, and the defense did just enough to keep the Bulldogs a score behind.

Now UGA coach Mark Richt is the coach searching for answers after its second straight setback. Star running back Nick Chubb was injured on a gruesome play on the game's first offensive snap. Therefore, the Dawgs are faced with potential life without their stud workhorse as a result of the injury.

Let's take a look at the game grades for Tennessee and Georgia after the win that may have saved the Vols' season. For the live blog, click here.

Passing Offense

The numbers would have looked a whole lot better had Reggie Davis not dropped Lambert's 56-yard touchdown pass that would have tied the game at 38 in the fourth quarter. The Vols and Dawgs may still be playing. Instead, he dropped it, and UT won. 

"That's the breaks of football," Jones said afterward. "We've had many of those go against us." Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlighted the sad contrast of Lampert's "perfect pass" and Davis' "awful drop":

Lambert failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, but he did throw for 279 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Still, the drop was pivotal, and with one final heave into the end zone, Lambert's last-ditch effort was swatted away.


Rushing Offense 

It could have been a crucial blow to Georgia when star running back Nick Chubb went down with what appeared to be a gruesome injury on the first offensive snap of the game. But backup Sony Michel was brilliant with 124 first-half rushing yards. With UGA needing to put the game away in the second half, however, he was held to just 21 yards. The vaunted Bulldogs rushing attack wilted after the break as offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called just 10 run plays.

Coach Richt expressed optimism regarding Chubb's injury, but he emphasized he wasn't completely certain regarding the extent of the injury, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald:

Passing Defense 

Entering the game, the Vols had the SEC's 11th-best passing offense in the SEC, getting just 192.8 yards through the air per game. There were even the beginnings of rumblings about replacing Dobbs with Quinten Dormady to get the passing game going. There were no issues against UGA, though, as the Vols broke out for 312 passing yards and three touchdowns. To make matters worse for the Dawgs, UT wasn't doing anything dramatic in the passing game, but it worked constantly.


Rushing Defense 

Georgia held Jalen Hurd to just 80 rushing yards, but that wasn't the issue. The Bulldogs couldn't stop Dobbs. The dual-threat quarterback wound up with 118 rushing yards, but, more importantly, he made big play after big play. The Dawgs did stuff him on a 3rd-and-short to get the ball back at the end of the game and give their offense a chance, but that did little to douse the struggles they had throughout the game. Jake Ganus was great against the run, but that's about it.


Special Teams

Davis' 70-yard punt return for a touchdown was a massive play to put Georgia ahead 24-3, but it was sprung by a blatant block in the back that drew a flag but was waived off.

Marshall Morgan missed a 41-yard field goal that wound up being a big play, but the biggest momentum-changer came just before the half. Tennessee's Jakob Johnson hit Michel on a kickoff return, forcing a fumble after UT's touchdown to cut the lead to 24-10. The Vols scored again before the break and turned the game.

"That was a great momentum swing," Hurd said of the two touchdowns in 37 seconds. "It just shows how capable we are of making plays like that."



While Georgia was in position to win the game, there were some serious struggles defensively with Jeremy Pruitt's scheme, and the Vols dissected it. After UGA dominated the first half in the running game, Schottenheimer went away from it.

Now, Richt has swapped places with Jones as the coach who has to answer questions about blowing a huge lead. That's not good news for the Dawgs, who had such high expectations and now sit at 4-2. Richt was outcoached, and he even bristled a bit after the game, as the AJC's Seth Towers pointed out in an article (via AJC colleague Chip Towers):


Passing Offense 

A week ago, Tennessee began trying to throw the ball more downfield in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort against Arkansas. The Vols did it effectively on Saturday. Dobbs was brilliant at times, and he came through with two fourth-down passing conversions right before the end of the first half (including a 39-yard scoring strike to Josh Smith) that seemed to get everybody's confidence going. He set a career high with 312 passing yards, and the receivers were actually threats down the field.

"I felt we had our confidence back and our swagger back for real on the sideline," Smith said. "The receivers came to play, and I'm proud of the plays we made. We came to win."


Rushing Offense

There have been so many times this year when Tennessee and Mike DeBord haven't let Dobbs be Dobbs. Against the Bulldogs, the junior quarterback was allowed to roll the pocket, had designed runs called for him up the middle and performed magic with his legs.

Hurd got the tough yards, and UT outgained the vaunted Dawgs runners 207-165 on the ground. It wasn't a perfect effort, but the Vols did enough to win the game, and a lot of the success came with two freshmen—guard Jack Jones and tackle Chance Hall—who were inserted after injuries.


Passing Defense 

Simply put, Tennessee's secondary is the team's biggest weakness and continues to be. The Vols allowed too many big plays again against the Bulldogs, and UT was constantly beaten in man coverage.

Emmanuel Moseley did some good things, but the sophomore cornerback was scorched a few different times, and on the play where Davis dropped the 56-yard touchdown pass, he had three steps on the defender, and UT got lucky. The Vols did make a big play at the end of the game when Randolph batted the would-be game-tying touchdown away.


Rushing Defense 

Tennessee got better against the run as the game went on, determined to not let Michel beat the Vols with his feet. They put the ball in Lambert's hands, and though the fifth-year senior transfer made several plays, he didn't make enough. With the game on the line in the second half, UGA had just 28 rushing yards. It helped the Vols that Chubb wasn't out there, but the Dawgs still have talented runners who couldn't do much as UT was making its comeback.


Special Teams

Anytime you allow a punt return for a touchdown, it can't be a great score, but Tennessee again was very good on special teams for the most part. Johnson's forced fumble at the end of the first half was the game's biggest play after it was parlayed into a touchdown to help cut the UGA lead to seven.

Cameron Sutton and Evan Berry continue to be forces in the return game. Then, when UT absolutely needed a big play from punter Trevor Daniel to pin Georgia deep, he hit a perfect ball that bounced sideways and out of bounds at the 1-yard line to make the Dawgs have to go 99 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Asked if that was the best punt of his career, Daniel smiled, "Yes," he said. "By far."



For all the heat Tennessee's coaching staff has taken this year, Saturday night was a clutch win and well-coached throughout. Jones recognized his team's desperate need for a touchdown when it was down 24-3, so he went for it on fourth down twice, and the Vols made both.

He and DeBord stayed aggressive for the most part, and they threw downfield more in what felt like a much more balanced offensive attack. Though the defense continued to struggle, coordinator John Jancek dialed up more pressure throughout the night, and it visibly rattled Lambert at times.

Even when Jones could have gone for it at the end of the game and salted the win away with a six-inch sneak from Dobbs, he called for a punt, and Daniel made him look good with a perfect one. 

"It was huge," senior tackle Kyler Kerbyson said of the win. "We were having a lot of outside distractions, and people were, you know, saying, 'We’re done with the season.' I saw stuff, people saying, 'Oh, well, two more losses in a row,' and that's disheartening to see from fans to not support us. But, I mean, we answered. We were able to show that we’re a really good football team.

"I try to not let anything get to me, but all I really wanted was to win this game for all my teammates. I mean, that was…that was the main point, was to win for those guys, not anybody else."

Everything went Tennessee's way with the game on the line. This was the best game UT has coached all season, and it was rewarded with a win.


All stats gathered from UTSports.com unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Dan McCarney Fired by North Texas: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

North Texas Mean Green head football coach Dan McCarney was fired by the school Saturday, according to the Denton Record-Chronicle's Brett Vito.

The firing came after the 0-5 Mean Green lost to the Portland State Vikings of the FCS, 66-7. It was the third straight game in which North Texas allowed more than 49 points and the largest margin of defeat ever for an FBS team against an FCS team, according to Zach Barnett of FootballScoop.com.

Losses don't come any more embarrassing than this, as Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman pointed out the game was over long before the fourth quarter:

The only winless team in Conference USA, North Texas has lost 13 of its past 17 games dating back to the beginning of 2014.

Things took a drastic turn for the worse in recent years for McCarney, who saw some early success after his hiring in 2011. In 2013, the Mean Green went 9-4 and won the Heart of Dallas Bowl against UNLV. But it all fell apart after that, as he finished with a record of 17-25 at North Texas.

The team has yet to announce an interim head coach.


Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.

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Winners and Losers from Week 6 of the 2015 College Football Season

Week 6 of the 2015 college football season was, in many ways, all about the coaches. There were some, like Texas' Charlie Strong and Tennessee's Butch Jones, who desperately needed wins—and got them. Others, meanwhile, have more questions to answer. USC's Steve Sarkisian, Georgia's Mark Richt and Maryland's Randy Edsall are specifically the focus of their respective anxious fanbases. 

One, North Texas' Dan McCarney, has already been let go. 

In between, there was more bad luck for Nebraska, highlight-reel catches and brutal injuries around the game. College football is many things, chief among them is unpredictable. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the opposite happens. 

Who were the winners and losers from Week 6? We break down all that was good, bad, ugly, gorgeous and more in the following slides.

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

Begin Slideshow

Tennessee Keeps Slim SEC East Hopes Alive in Epic Comeback Win vs. Georgia

Tennessee was supposed to be dead.

With just a few minutes left in the first half Saturday, the Volunteers were staring down a 24-3 deficit to No. 19 Georgia. This, of course, was coming after back-to-back losses to Florida and Arkansas in which Tennessee blew a two-score lead in each—and a few weeks after the double-OT defeat to Oklahoma.

But Butch Jones' team didn't fold, and it didn't even take a rousing halftime speech to spark a turnaround.

"I thought their character showed through," Jones said, per Dustin Dopirak of the Knoxville News Sentinel. "They had a different look. This football team was not gonna be denied."

With 3:16 left in the second quarter, quarterback Joshua Dobbs led the offense on a quick drive capped by a touchdown pass to Josh Smith on a gutsy fourth-down call. After Georgia fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Dobbs found running back Alvin Kamara for a short touchdown pass. Coach Jones described the fumble recovery and subsequent touchdown as the game's most crucial play sequence, per Dopirak:

Just like that, the Volunteers were only down 24-17 heading into the locker room. In the third quarter, they scored two touchdowns, which helped to give them 28 unanswered points and an unbelievable lead.

Most importantly, Tennessee retook the lead in the fourth quarter on Dobbs' fifth touchdown of the game and didn't let it go for the 38-31 win.

Sure, Tennessee had caught some breaks in the thrilling victory.

Georgia didn't have superstar running back Nick Chubb past the first play of the game, when he went down with what appeared to be a devastating knee injury. Reggie Davis dropped what would've definitely been a game-tying touchdown pass from Greyson Lambert in the fourth quarter.

But none of that matters for Tennessee. Butch Jones and his team just desperately needed a win of any kind after a challenging few weeks on Rocky Top.

The win over Georgia resurrects a Tennessee season that started with high expectations but appeared to be on life support.

"Any SEC win is a good win, but Saturday was a huge win for Butch Jones' Vols, and it was a bad loss in more ways than one for Mark Richt's Bulldogs," Wes Rucker of 247Sports wrote. "Saturday's game couldn't have started or ended much differently from Tennessee’s 2015 script."

Instead of three straight losses in SEC play, the Volunteers are still mathematically alive in the race for some of their biggest goals—the SEC East division title and the right to play in Atlanta for a championship. Jeff Patterson of the Kansas City Star predicts that a Florida loss Saturday night coupled with Tennessee's win would make the SEC "interesting":

Of course, Tennessee is going to need some help in addition to a possible winning run through the rest of the SEC schedule. That includes a road win in two weeks over Alabama.

Undefeated Florida, which faces Missouri on Saturday night, will have to lose at least a couple of games down the stretch. Two would potentially set up a number of chaotic three-way ties for the division, and three could be enough for an outright title.

While those chances seem slim and even unimportant for Tennessee at the moment, they provide some hope for a program that needed it after a tough opening half of the season.

The win over Georgia gives Tennessee a blueprint for success in the season's second half, and it all starts with Dobbs.

Tennessee turned Dobbs loose Saturday against the Georgia defense. After entering the weekend with a season-high 294 yards of total offense, Dobbs had 430 yards and five total touchdowns in the upset win.

After Tennessee's first three drives resulted in a deflected interception, a three-and-out and a fumble that turned into a long scoop-and-score, Dobbs and the offense maintained composure. The unit kept moving the ball and found a way to finish its drives.

"Dobbs willed us to this win," Jones said, per Patrick Brown of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "Many players willed us to win. This whole team was poised. I think we grew up a little bit."

For the first time since last season's 45-42 win at South Carolina, Dobbs had a game that featured excellent production in passing and rushing.

He completed 60 percent of his passes for 312 yards and added 118 yards on 18 carries, including a powerful touchdown keeper that turned out to be the game-winner. Coach Jones commended Dobbs on his performance, per Dopirak:

Defensively, Tennessee found a way to finish off the game after the frustrations of the last two weekends.

Sure, Davis' improbable drop aided the Volunteers in the fourth quarter. But they also stood tall on the final drive of the game, killing off a potential 99-yard Georgia scoring drive that was started by Trevor Daniel's punt-of-a-lifetime.

In the second half, Georgia punted the ball four times and only entered Tennessee territory twice. Defensive end Derek Barnett acknowledged his team's win, but he emphasized his focus is to keep "winning ballgames," per Rivals.com's John Brice: 

When safety Brian Randolph slapped away Lambert's last-second toss toward the end zone, the script was officially flipped for Tennessee.

Instead of ending another game as the heartbroken, Tennessee got to be the heartbreaker for a change.

Now with momentum heading into a crucial bye week, the trip to Alabama doesn't look quite as daunting. The final few games appear to be stronger opportunities for Tennessee to push even higher in the standings.

The Volunteers have new life again in what has been a wild SEC so far in 2015. Now they must take advantage of it.


Game statistics courtesy of StatBroadcast. Unless otherwise noted, other statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com.

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

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Cal vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Utah 10, Cal 7—Late 1st Quarter

Who would have believed that come the middle of October, we'd be focused on Salt Lake City and this matchup between Cal and Utah for supremacy in the Pac-12? Both the Golden Bears and Utes have put together an impressive first five weeks of the college football season, and Saturday night's game will result in the first loss of the season for one of these two teams.

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Cal vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Utah 10, Cal 7—Early 2nd Quarter Who would have believed that come the middle of October, we'd be focused on Salt Lake City and this matchup between Cal and Utah for supremacy ...

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Notre Dame's Enigmatic Defense Will Be Tested in 2nd Half of Season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — For the second time in four weeks, Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly stood before the media and discussed fullbacks, assignments and defensive personnel decisions based on the unique and always-thorny triple option.

“Thank gosh,” Kelly said, interrupting a question about being finished with the option this season.

Three weeks after Notre Dame stifled Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson’s typically potent attack, the Irish clamped down on Navy on Saturday, topping the Midshipmen, 41-24, and only allowing 95 yards of total offense on 25 plays (3.8 yards per play) after halftime.

The Irish invested plenty of time and resources on preparing for the option. They enlisted special assistant Bob Elliott to research defensive techniques in the offseason, pursued a preferred walk-on quarterback, Rob Regan, to run the scout team and prepped against the option in the spring, summer and fall. The work paid off. Now, Notre Dame is through with the option.

“I couldn’t be any more excited,” junior defensive lineman Isaac Rochell said. “I literally am so happy to be done with it.”

Yet halfway through the season, Notre Dame’s defense is still somewhat enigmatic. The Irish have handled the option against Georgia Tech and Navy. But the option—and the defense needed to combat it—is different, with Notre Dame deploying the likes of linebackers Jarrett Grace and Greer Martini to stop it.

“It’s just a different type of game,” Rochell said. “It takes a different type of physical and mental attitude.”

The Irish held Texas to three points. They were porous against Virginia and gave up 27 points. They allowed UMass to pile up 450 yards of total offense, but 139 of those came on two plays. They gave up two touchdowns to Clemson before all of the Tigers had run down the hill, then proceeded to keep Clemson under 300 yards of offense for the game.

So how does Notre Dame’s defense grade out at the halfway point of the regular season?

“We definitely have a lot of room to grow,” senior captain and defensive lineman Sheldon Day said. “Making sure we focus on the little things and make sure we can’t get beat because of something that we didn’t do.”

“I think we’re getting better,” Rochell said. “I think every game we’re trying to improve on something different and trying to put a complete defense together. Every position needs to play well, and we’re just trying to piece everything together to form a really good, consistent defense.”

Notre Dame will be tested the rest of the option-less way, beginning next week when USC visits South Bend. Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler, Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd and Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan and running back Christian McCaffrey still dot the remaining schedule.

“[Defensive coordinator Brian] VanGorder, he throws new things at us each and every week,” Day said. “It’s all about learning my fits and everybody else’s fits and make sure we can know the defense in and out.”

Notre Dame’s been crisp in certain stretches, such as the fourth quarter against Clemson and the second half Saturday against Navy.

“I was so pleased with the way that they were focused during the week, preparing for Navy, not worrying about anything else,” Kelly said. “They weren’t talking about last week. They weren’t talking about USC. They were focused on playing this football team. And that’s really all you can ask for as a coach. I thought their focus was outstanding, and it paid off.”

The key to defensive consistency and growth in the second half of the regular season, Day said, is focus and attention to detail.

“There’s always areas to improve and areas to learn,” Rochell said. “Obviously we feel confident about ourselves and what we’re doing.”


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Georgia Exposed as SEC Pretender in Loss to Tennessee

Great teams have the killer instinct that allows them to put away teams when they're put on the ropes.

Georgia lacks that instinct.

When it got its opponent on the ropes in the first half on the road in Neyland Stadium on Saturday in the 38-31 loss to Tennessee, it stopped throwing haymakers, put its guard down and let the once-fragile Vols punch themselves out of the corner and throw a knockout blow that will be felt throughout the SEC East.

Despite losing star running back Nick Chubb on the first offensive play, the Bulldogs built a 24-3 lead late in the second quarter on the heels of a tremendous outing from backup running back Sony Michel and a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown from Reggie Davis with 2:23 to play in the second quarter. They appeared to be headed to halftime with enough momentum to fill not only Neyland Stadium but the entire state of Tennessee.

Instead of closing and going into halftime with a cushion, the Bulldogs allowed a ridiculous 39-yard touchdown catch and run from Joshua Dobbs to Josh Smith on 4th-and-8 in triple coverage with 1:04 left, fumbled the ensuing kickoff return and allowed Dobbs to hit running back Alvin Kamara to help bring the Vols within seven at the half.

The inability to close popped up in the second half as well. 

Reggie Davis dropped a potential game-tying score with four minutes to play that was in his hands and would have swung momentum back to the Bulldogs sideline late in a critical situation. 

Prior to the last play of the game, Georgia came out with 12 men on the field before quarterback Greyson Lambert's pass to the end zone fell to the turf as time ran dry.

This was the final nail in the coffin of Georgia's 2015 title hopes, which were built out of a house of cards rather than a slab of cement.

As Seth Emerson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted on Twitter, the Bulldogs set a record that no coach wants to have his name associated with:

Georgia was never a legitimate national title contender. 

The absence of a deep threat opposite receiver Malcolm Mitchell, the frantic search for a quarterback, settling on Virginia's backup and a defensive line that was incredibly unproven were all clear indications that this Georgia team was searching for answers in the offseason rather than preparing for a title run.

There aren't many complete teams in college football this year, but Georgia is woefully incomplete in the passing game and isn't mature in the trenches. That leads to inconsistency in a wide-open (and largely underwhelming) SEC East.

Some of those issues are head coach Mark Richt's fault, since former hot-shot prep quarterback Brice Ramsey didn't evolve into a stud on his watch and wide receivers outside of Mitchell didn't develop as they learned under former star Chris Conley.

But other issues—such as the defensive line—are more products of timing and normal college football attrition than anything else.

Georgia's loss to Tennessee proved that the Bulldogs are pretenders in 2015. 

This roster was never elite. It was par for the course in the downtrodden SEC East, and the lack of a killer instinct and the inability to stretch the field on Rocky Top only solidified that.

Yes, Georgia has recruited well. But so have Florida and Tennessee, and both of those schools have struggled recently. Raw talent doesn't necessarily mean that a team is without major roster deficiencies, and Georgia is no exception.

The Bulldogs lost their star on the first play of the game, but Michel had a career-high 22 touches for 145 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

Chubb's absence didn't prevent the defensive front from collapsing against a Vols offense that pounds the rock despite an offensive line that's less-than-stellar. Chubb's absence didn't allow Dobbs to light up a secondary through the air with 312 yards and three scores despite not even trying to stretch the field all year. Chubb's absence didn't force Davis to drop a surefire touchdown that was sitting in his bread basket. Chubb's absence didn't cause Michel to fumble a kick return late in the second quarter.

All of the issues that made Georgia a pretender did, and they came to the forefront on Rocky Top Saturday afternoon.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Clemson's Offense Showing It's College Football Playoff-Worthy

If you were concerned about Clemson’s offense entering Saturday’s visit from Georgia Tech, the Tigers sent a loud-and-clear message: Calm down, please.

Following sometimes-sluggish efforts in wins over Louisville and Notre Dame, Deshaun Watson and the Clemson attack put together their most complete effort of the season in a 43-24 rout of the Yellow Jackets.

It was the biggest sign yet that Clemson’s offense is ready to carry the load for a push to the College Football Playoff. Entering Saturday, the Tigers offense, in its first season under co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott, had been just average.

Clemson was ranked No. 61 in total offense, rolling up 405.5 yards per game, and averaged 33.5 points per game, which was No. 44 nationally. In addition, sophomore quarterback Watson and the passing game hadn’t been anything special, with 211.8 yards per game to rank No. 78 nationally.

On Saturday, the Tigers were never really challenged while putting together a balanced offensive effort. Tailback Wayne Gallman set the tone with a 66-yard touchdown sprint down the left sideline and added a second score (from one yard out) to help give Clemson a 17-3 lead with 2:52 left in the quarter.

By halftime, it was all but over, thanks to Watson touchdown tosses to Jordan Leggett that helped build a 33-10 advantage.

Clemson’s offense had excellent balance in outgaining Tech 537-230. The Tigers had 336 yards passing and 201 yards rushing, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

Watson didn’t have Heisman Trophy-like numbers, but he was efficient, completing 21 of 30 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while showing excellent touch on his passes and getting up after every big hit. Gallman piled up 115 yards on 13 carries, averaging 8.8 yards per carry.

It was a huge sign for an offense that struggled at times against Louisville and Notre Dame, scoring a combined 44 points with Clemson winning by a combined five points. At times, it looked as if the Tigers were winning despite themselves. Against Notre Dame, they watched a 24-9 lead nearly melt away completely before stopping a late two-point conversion for a two-point victory.

Clemson attempted only one pass in its final three possessions against the Irish, a ratio that would make former Tigers offensive coordinator and current SMU head coach Chad Morris blanch.

On Saturday, the team found the balance that Elliott, Scott and their mentor, Morris, crave.

“Offensively, we flexed our muscles and showed some explosiveness in the run game and passing game,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told ESPN’s Jerry Punch on the network telecast. “There was a lot of rhetoric we wouldn’t be ready to play. We were ready.”

At 5-0, Clemson’s path is relatively clear for a run to the College Football Playoff.

No. 12 Florida State, which visits Nov. 7, is the only current Top 25 team left on Clemson’s schedule. An Oct. 24 trip to Miami is potentially tricky, and the regular-season finale at South Carolina will be emotional, but it’s easy to see the Tigers running the table and finishing 12-0.

That would certainly put Clemson in the conversation for a College Football Playoff bid, if not at the forefront.

“I think we were in the conversation this summer,” Swinney told Punch. “We’re in the conversation. But conversation don’t win. Playing, showing up, making plays consistently every week, that’s what wins.”

If Watson can continue his development with a strong corps of wide receivers that is still finding its way following deep threat Mike Williams’ neck injury that will likely sideline him for the season, and the offense can lean on Gallman’s powerful running, the Tigers will be a serious threat to everyone on their regular-season schedule and beyond.

If the offense can join Brent Venables’ solid defense with week-in, week-out consistency, it’ll be a scary thought for the rest of the nation, indeed.

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South Carolina vs. LSU: Game Grades, Analysis for Gamecocks and Tigers

After a sluggish and lackluster first half of play by both squads, No. 7 LSU surged in the second for an expected blowout victory of conference foe South Carolina, 45-24. Behind the efforts of a trio of Tigers halfbacks and quarterback Brandon Harris, LSU secured the win and maintained its unblemished record. For further details, check out the NCAA box score here

Next up for the Tigers, they will host No. 11 Florida at Death Valley as they aim to improve their already impressive resume. Meanwhile, South Carolina will travel back to Columbia still in search of its first conference victory as it hosts a struggling Vanderbilt squad. 

Pass Offense: Harris finally showed his passing ability against the Gamecocks. It turns out that the kid can sling it when the Tigers need him to. The starting quarterback racked up 228 yards on 18-of-28 passing for two scores and no interceptions, silencing any doubters who had popped up in weeks past. 

Rush Offense: The Leonard Fournette Show split three ways during the second half of the contest, with the star back not even leading his team in rushing yards. Following a tough first half where he racked up just 49 yards, the sophomore scored his lone touchdown on an 87-yard blast before finishing the day with 158 yards on 20 carries. 

Alongside Fournette, Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams racked up a combined 25 carries as well, with Guice putting together 161 yards and a score of his own. Williams found the end zone twice during the game along with his 58 yards. 

Pass Defense: After allowing just 80 yards while snaring an interception in the first half, the LSU pass defense failed on multiple occasions during the second to slow down Perry Orth and Pharoh Cooper, giving up two scores and 120 yards through the air. 

Rush Defense: Incredibly, the LSU rush defense was impenetrable throughout the entire game, allowing just 74 yards on 24 carries with no scores to Shon Carson and David Williams. While the Gamecocks abandoned the run game early as they were forced to play catchup, the Tigers defense was still effective in containing the South Carolina ground game. 

Special Teams: In summary, an average performance during the second half shored up an overall bad performance during the first. The Gamecocks' lone spark of the night came on a 96-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, which allowed South Carolina to stick around much longer than expected. 

Coaching: Les Miles and his staff deserve credit for the strong second-half performance LSU put together. After a lackluster first half overall, the Tigers rush attack was suddenly not only effective but rather decisive against South Carolina, while the defense held its ground in crucial plays down the stretch. 


Pass Offense: Perry Orth went 14-of-28 for 200 yards and two touchdowns after settling down in the second half. The lone interception during the first half didn't provide a crazy momentum swing, and Orth was consistent overall. 

Rush Offense: In all honesty, it's fair to assume South Carolina abandoned its rush attack because of the constant deficit it was fighting throughout the game. However, the LSU defense held the Gamecocks to just 74 total yards on 20 carries, which is dismal even for a team that turned to the passing game more and more throughout the matchup. 

Pass Defense: Brandon Harris had his way against the Gamecocks secondary, compiling a 228-yard, two-touchdown performance with no turnovers. After South Carolina focused on stopping Fournette in the first half, it was obvious the game plan was aimed at forcing Harris to throw the ball; however, the downside was that he can toss the ball around with some accuracy. 

Rush Defense: It was excellent against Fournette but only all right against everyone else. The first half was stellar, even though the Gamecocks allowed 103 total yards, as they contained Fournette and force LSU to revert to its passing game. The second half was a different story, though, as Fournette, Guice and Williams plowed ahead for 293 yards for three scores. It was not exactly a model performance. 

Special Teams: The first-half 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Rashad Fenton provided just the spark South Carolina needed, but the offense and defense were unable to maintain the momentum going into the second half. The field-goal unit drilled the first score of the game, and the kickoff team almost converted on a beautiful onside kick during the second half. 

Coaching: Head coach Steve Spurrier took risks, utilized his players to the best of their ability and forced LSU to throw the ball. Unfortunately, a lack of talent across the board and the Tigers' overall skill wrecked any chance of the upset on the road at Death Valley. Better luck next time, coach. 

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Jim Harbaugh Further Stakes Claim as College Football Coach of the Year

If Michigan's 31-0 beating of then-No. 22 BYU two weeks ago served as a way for the Wolverines to measure themselves, then consider their 38-0 walloping of No. 13 Northwestern on Saturday a warning to the rest of the Big Ten.

Jim Harbaugh's Michigan is here.

And it's not only as good as advertised. It's better.

The Wolverines dominated the Wildcats from the start on Saturday—literally—with wideout Jehu Chesson taking the game's opening kickoff to the house to give Michigan a 7-0 lead 13 seconds into the game. The Wolverines found themselves in the end zone both early and often, scoring three first-quarter touchdowns against a Northwestern defense that had allowed just three total touchdown in its first five games.

The Michigan defense held its own as well, allowing just 168 total yards to the Wildcats while pitching its third shutout in as many weeks. The Wolverines defense outscored the Northwestern offense on its own, with cornerback Jourdan Lewis returning a third-quarter interception 37 yards for a touchdown.

"The shutouts are really a team stat," Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin told the Big Ten Network after the game. "Our special teams are playing great; our offense is doing a great job protecting the ball with long drives and keeping us off the field. It's a team stat, and I'm proud.

But Saturday's game wasn't just about Michigan's dominating performance so much as it was about the culmination of a month's worth of similar showings. With their win over the Wildcats, the Wolverines became the first college football team in 20 years to put together three consecutive shutouts, and Michigan has now outscored its past five opponents by a combined margin of 160-14.

The Wolverines' lone blemish of the year still remains a season-opening 24-17 road defeat at the hands of still-undefeated Utah, who could make the case for having the nation's most impressive resume through the first five weeks of the season.

That could be enough to land Michigan—who ranked 19th in last week's AP Top 25—in this week's Top 10, a seemingly unfathomable rise for a program that went just 5-7 a season ago.

But the Wolverines' return to prominence is hardly surprising for anyone who's followed Harbaugh's coaching career, as this Michigan squad seems to possess many of the same traits as some of his most successful teams.

Dominating defense aside—last year's Wolverines actually ranked 10th in the nation in yards allowed per game—there may not be a team in the country with individual players who have improved as dramatically as Michigan's have. After all, recruiting was never former Wolverines coach Brady Hoke's issue, but rather the ability to get the most out of his highly touted prospects.

In just six weeks, that's changed under the watch of Harbaugh, whose player improvement in Ann Arbor has already been reminiscent of his previous work at San Diego, Stanford and in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. The most obvious example of that has been the play of Lewis, who now has eight pass breakups on the season and has emerged as one of college football's top defensive backs.

"He's the best corner in the country," Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers said of Lewis after the game, per Steve Lorenz of Michigan 247Sports.

It's not just Lewis. Running back De'Veon Smith, wide receiver Amara Darboh, linebacker Desmond Morgan and the entire Wolverines offensive line seem to have taken giant steps forward this season. Coupled with the steady play of quarterback Jake Rudock—17-of-23, 179 yards on Saturday—and it's hard to find an area of the Michigan roster that hasn't shown dramatic improvement from a season ago under the direction of Harbaugh.

But while the Wolverines' newfound talent advantage has been one of the key factors in their success over the past five weeks, so too has been the change in attitude in Ann Arbor. Michigan is no longer a team rattled by the first sign of trouble as it was so often under Hoke, but rather the team causing the trouble for its opponents before using its early leads to build lopsided victories.

"That's a good sign that you're building a good callus when you can play physical and not get beat up yourself," Harbaugh said. "That's a good gauge. Probably the best gauge. That callus is hardening."

With two measuring-stick games down, Michigan won't have to wait long for its next one. The Wolverines will welcome No. 4 Michigan State to Michigan Stadium next Saturday for the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy.

Should the Wolverines stifle the Spartans, it will put Michigan on a path where making the College Football Playoff is a legitimate possibility.

That would be a long way for the Wolverines to have come since last season, but the same could be said of what they've accomplished already.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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