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The Fifth Quarter: Week One Rewind

Alabama Michigan AP

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

The fans
After one of the worst — check that, the worst — offseasons in the history of the game, a full day of the glorious entity called college football was back at a campus or on a television near you.  Certainly, what happened the past few months, particularly at Penn State, wasn’t washed away completely by the start of a new season, but it did allow fans all across the country get back to doing what they love to do — irrationally rooting for a school they may or may not have a direct connection to and obsessing over any and every call that may or may not have gone their way.  Welcome back, college football.  Oh how we’ve missed your on-field glory.

Should Tide rise over USC to No. 1?
We asked this question in our poll tonight, but will expound on it here.  In every way imaginable, in every single phase of the game, No. 2 Alabama was the better team in the defending BcS champion’s 41-14 woodshedding of No. 8 Michigan.  And it wasn’t even really that close.  Ben did an excellent job recapping the carnage in Arlington Texas, so I’ll tackle this the question posed in this note.  And, if you’re a fan of marquee nonconference matchups, you’d answer the same way I would: hell yes.  Teams that schedule these types of games should be rewarded for playing top-ranked programs, and bumping them a spot or two or three or whatever would/should have an impact on athletic directors looking for more of those types of early-season games.  Besides that, it’s rather obvious even as it’s awful early: the Tide will once again be a major factor on the national stage yet again.  That was a textbook evisceration by Nick Saban‘s charges of what’s a very talented Michigan team.  The good thing for the Wolverines?  They have 11 more regular season games to make up the spots they will tumble in the polls when they come out early this week.  And, they can take solace in the fact that they won’t face a better team the remainder of the regular season.

“Wait, what about us?” No. 1 USC says
Yes, yes, yes Trojans.  We’re well aware of your 49-10 throttling of Hawaii.  Yes, you have one of the top teams in the country and, if you can remain healthy, you will be a title contender.  Unfortunately, taking apart an unranked team at home simply doesn’t compare with humiliating a Top 10 team on a neutral field.  Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  Or the way it should be, at least.  If voters have a lick of common sense, of course.

That’s just offensive
In wins over Savannah State and Arkansas State, No. 19 Oklahoma State and No. 5 Oregon, respectively, combined to score a total of 141 points; rushed for 677 yards; passed for 610 yards; and totaled 1,287 yards of offense.  And punted three times — combined.  And that’s with the Ducks scoring 50 in the first half and calling off the dogs the last two quarters.  Those were the final, gory offensive stats — unless they added to them in the postgame, which is entirely possible based on how the two “contests” went.  The 84 points the Cowboys put up, by the way, were the most since 1991 when Fresno State hung 94 on New Mexico.

Urban renewal commences in earnest in Columbus
Bad pun aside, Ohio State couldn’t have scripted a better start to the 2012 season.  Not only did No. 18 Ohio State romp over Miami of Ohio 56-10 — after a sluggish first quarter — in Urban Meyer‘s first game as Buckeyes’ head coach, but sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller showed flashes of brilliance more consistently than he did at all last season, combining for nearly 360 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in less than three quarters of work.  It hardly portends great things for the Buckeyes generally or Miller specifically in 2012; the RedHawks won just four games in 2011.  It does give some reason to hope, however, in a season where there’s no hope of reaching the postseason thanks to NCAA sanctions.

The defense rests… after dominating
Against a good BcS football team, No. 3 LSU will have a really good defense.  Against the likes of North Texas?  They had a really good defense.  While the Mean Green totaled 219 yards of offense — 40 yards per game less than they averaged giving up last year — they averaged just 2.2 yards per carry and were limited to an 80-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown that was the result of a mix-up in the secondary and a meaningless touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.  The No. 3 team in the country did what it was supposed to: easily hold serve at home against a vastly inferior opponent with a 41-14 win.  And, based on the way LSU’s defense played in the opener, we’re guessing that, just like SEC West rival Alabama, the Tigers will be in the thick of the BcS mix deep into the 2012 season.

Coaches with new teams
Putting this under the winners heading may have been a bit of a stretch.  When the last spinning of the coaching carousel came to a stop, 27 FBS football programs had new head coaches.  These past three days, those 26 coaches (Kevin Sumlin‘s debut as Texas A&M’s coach was postponed) went 13-13.  Two of those 12 losses came at the hands of FCS schools: Pittsburgh’s Paul Chryst and Memphis’ Justin Fuente.

Holgorsen has this offensive thing down pat
In the past two games, No. 11 West Virginia’s offense has totaled the following: 1,250 yards of total offense, 748 yards passing and a staggering 139 points.  To put that into perspective, last season New Mexico scored 144 for points the entire 12-game season.  Yeah, the Mountaineers will fit right in in the high-octane Big 12.  About that defense, though; WVU allowed the Herd 545 yards of offense, including 413 yards passing.  Then again, defense is optional in the Big 12, so that side of the ball might not be as big a deal after all.

Perfect Wes
For the first half, at least.  Making his first start at the collegiate level, quarterback Wes Lunt completed all 11 of his first-half passes in what would ultimately become an 84-0 win over Savannah State.  Those would actually be the only throws Lunt made in the blowout win as he gave way to J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf for the rest of the first half and through the end of the “game.”

Lattimore’s return a boon for ‘Cocks
If No. 9 South Carolina entertains any thoughts of getting past defending SEC East champ Georgia, Marcus Lattimore returning to — and remaining at — 100-percent health will be of utmost importance.  Based on one game, that’s the direction the running back, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last year, is headed.  In South Carolina’s season-opening conference win over Vanderbilt on Thursday, Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and scored the Gamecocks’ only two touchdowns in the 17-13 decision.  While Lattimore wasn’t worked as hard as he’s been the past two seasons, the fact that he came out healthy against a stout ‘Dores defense portends — all available appendages crossed — good things for the player and the team in 2012.

Youth romps in uncle vs. nephew tilt
In his first game as head coach at Richmond, Danny Rocco had the misfortune of taking his FCS program into Virginia and going up against an underrated Cavaliers squad.  And, as if a 43-19 pasting wasn’t bad enough, a player very close to the coach helped in the torching.  Michael Rocco, the head coach’s nephew, threw for 311 yards and a touchdown in the 24-point win.  Suffice to say, Thanksgiving/Christmas gifts should be interesting in the Rocco households this year.

LOSERS

Floyd Mayweather
The boxer bet a total of $2.9 million on Michigan to cover the spread against Alabama.  The spread was anywhere between 12 and 14 points.  The Wolverines lost by 27.  That will leave a mark on the ol’ bank account, regardless of how big the purse was for your last fight.

Sooner forgetting this, the better
Forget the final score as it’s more than deceiving.  At halftime, No. 4 (for now) Oklahoma was tied with UTEP at 7-7.  And it stayed that way until the 10-minute mark of the third quarter, with a field goal giving the Sooners a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  And it stayed that way until 10:32 was left in the game, with Landry Jones tossing an 18-yard touchdown pass. Final score?  24-7.  Yes, it’s just one game.  But it was one game against a vastly inferior opponent that’s simply not acceptable for a team with BcS-title aspirations.

Post-JoePa toe stub
For the first time in more than six decades, Joe Paterno was not on the Penn State sidelines as either an assistant or head coach.  Instead, Bill O’ Brien was patrolling Beaver Stadium… and overseeing an embarrassing start to his collegiate coaching career.  How embarrassing?  “Overheard: Ohio fan laughing ‘It isn’t even a big win for us,'” one tweet from a Penn State fan read.  After taking a 14-3 lead into the half, the Nittany Lions were outscored 21-0 the rest of the way as Ohio came away with the nonconference road win.  And that would be the Mid-American Conference’s Ohio University, not Brady Hoke‘s Ohio, incidentally.  Certainly with all of the tumult and turmoil the football program has been through over the past nine months, and with the roster attrition courtesy of NCAA sanctions, a rough start to O’ Brien’s tenure may have been expected.  However, losing by double digits at home to a MAC team that outgained them by nearly 150 yards (499-352) certainly wasn’t a part of the new coach’s plan for rebuilding all that’s been torn down in less than a year.

Gator chomp goes limp
Entering the second season under Will Muschamp, hopes were high that the No. 23 Florida Gators would begin taking the steps that would lead to a return to national prominence for the football program.  While that still may happen, eventually, this season, UF’s performance Saturday gave no sign whatsoever that 2012 will be anything other than yet another rebuilding year.  At home against Bowling Green — they of the five-win MAC Bowling Greens — the Gators slogged its way to a too-close-for comfort 27-14 win over the Falcons. Continuing a theme that’s entering its third year, the Gators were in large part ineffective on the offensive side of the ball.  While they rushed for over 200 yards, they passed for just 145 among two quarterbacks as the struggles through the air continues.

’12 Edsall similar to ’11 model
Sitting atop one of the hottest coaching seats in the country entering just his second season at Maryland, Randy Edsall needed a solid start to the season in order to, at minimum, keep the Terp wolves howling for his dismissal at bay following a disastrous two-win debut.  Uh, whoops?  Against William & Mary Saturday, and at home no less, Edsall’s Terps managed to eke out a 7-6 win over the FCS-level school in a game that was a loss for anyone who witnessed any part of it.  And that win came after W&M dropped what could have been the game-winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.  Yes, the Terps’ lost their starting quarterback and a dozen other players to injuries, but a one-point win against that level of competition isn’t — and shouldn’t — be acceptable.  Edsall has asked for patience from the fan base; more performances like this one, and there’ll be none in reserve.  If there’s even any left at this point.

Tedford: Latin for “damn that seat’s hot!”
And speaking of coaching seats that have gone beyond warm, well hello Jeff Tedford.  Playing for the first time in its refurbished stadium, Cal couldn’t keep Nevada’s pistol holstered in a 31-24 loss.  In and of itself, dropping a season opener wouldn’t impact things one way or the other, even as it represented the first home loss to Nevada in 109 years..  Coming off the past two seasons that saw a combined total of 12 wins?  Seat will be sizzling soon, I think that [/yoda].  Additionally, and after a home game vs. Southern Utah, the Bears travel to Ohio State and USC in back-to-back weekends.  Yep, good luck with that buzz saw Coach Tedford.

Houston had big problem with newly-minted FBS school
And the big problem was a loss.  Tony Levine‘s first game as Houston’s replacement for Kevin Sumlin figured to be a relatively easy one: at home against first-year FBS program Texas State.  A 30-13 loss later, and the Cougars realize how much they’ll miss Sumlin (Texas A&M) as well as quarterback Case Keenum (NFL).  It’s a long season; unfortunately for Houston, this loss will make it that much longer.

Franco Harris
Staunch in his very public support for Joe Paterno after the now-deceased head coach’s controversial ouster at Penn State last November, Franco Harris took that support to a whole other level Saturday afternoon.  In his suite Saturday witnessing the first game of the O’ Brien Era, Harris did, well, this with a cardboard cutout, courtesy of mocksession.com:

Way to keep it about the current coaches and players inside the stadium, Franco.  Excellent work.

Ball State “fans”
Coming off a six-win season in 2011, Ball State opened 2012 with a 37-26 win over Eastern Michigan that was witnessed by less than 13,000 individuals.  That number caught the attention of Fort Wayne News-Sentinel columnist Tom Davis, who skewered Ball State’s supporters — or lack thereof —  for their seeming indifference toward the football program.  “But I’ll tell you who hasn’t delivered? The Ball State students, the Cardinal alumni, and the community of Muncie, who continue to demonstrate year after year … that they simply don’t care whether they have a good football team or not.”  Davis went on to write that he wishes second-year head coach Pete Lembo well “when he eventually bolts for a more supportive environment.”  Ouch.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

–No. 9 South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 14: Unlike most of the other schools that litter this list, the Gamecocks actually opened the season against a quality conference foe.  While it wasn’t pretty — particularly in the passing game — a win is a win is a win, especially when it involves an SEC game.

– No. 12 Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 20: Ahead 26-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the game, the Badgers’ defense allowed allowed the Panthers to score two touchdowns in less than five minutes to close the gap to five points with seven minutes to play.  A failed fourth-down attempt with 2:46 left erased any hopes the FCS school had entertained of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.

No. 14 Clemson 26, Auburn 19: As was the case with South Carolina, the Tigers differed from others on this list as they actually faced a BcS opponent, albeit one of the nonconference variety.  And they pulled out the win with their top receiver, Sammy Watkins, serving the first of a two-game suspension, which certainly bodes well for the Tigers.

– No. 21 Stanford 20, San Jose State 17: In the first game of the post-Andrew Luck era on Friday, the Cardinal eked out a three-point win over a team that was 27(ish)-point road underdogs.

– No. 23 Florida 27, Bowling Green 14: Tied at 14-all midway through the third quarter, the Gators managed to score 13 unanswered points to squeak by with a win in the opener.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how our ballot would look Monday if we, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly preseason poll.

1. Alabama — A school should be rewarded for a quality neutral-field win over a Top-10 team, and we do just that with a two-spot jump. (Last: No. 3)
2. USC — “It wasn’t anything you did honey.  Honest.  It’s just me.” (Last: No. 1)
3. Oregon — Oregon might’ve scored a touchdown or two on Clemson in its obliteration of Arkansas State.  My goodness, that was a mesmerizing first-half offensive display by the Ducks. (Last: No. 7)
4. LSU — With that defense, and continued improvement at the quarterback position, the Tigers are positioned for yet another run at an SEC title.  And more. (Last: No. 4)
5. (blank) — Oklahoma, Georgia and South Carolina all underwhelming in wins. Michigan lost.  Florida State and Arkansas stuffed their collective faces on tasty pastries.  Yep, blank it is.

HE SAID IT
“Tape will say we were fortunate to beat Vandy… they don’t have a bunch of slow dudes like they used to.” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier following the No. 9 Gamecocks’ four-point win over Vanderbilt.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I would think we’re on the short end of the measuring stick.” — Brady Hoke, following Michigan’s 27-point loss to Alabama when asked about the game being a measuring stick for his team.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Despite it being the opening weekend of the 2012 season, the video clip of the week has nothing to do with football.  Sure, we easily could’ve gone with Hundley’s cherry-popping TD or Devin Smith‘s ridiculous TD reception or Kent State’s Andre Parker‘s wrong-way muff run or myriad others.  Instead, it has everything to do with my six-year-old daughter doing her best impersonation of Evil Knievel.  And don’t worry, it’s OK to LOL; with the exception of a bloody nose and a coupla scratches, she’s fine:

REALLY?
From the “Whoda thunk it?” department, by way of Nebraska sports information: Taylor Martinez (no relation) accounted for 249 yards of total offense in the first half of today’s game to push his career total to 5,808 total offensive yards. In the first half he passed Zac Taylor (5,777 yards) (no relation) to move into second place on the career total offense list.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Of the 74 games (Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech, Oregon State-Nicholls State postponed due to Hurricane Isaac) involving FBS programs the past three days, 35 of them featured opponents from the FCS level.  FBS schools, incidentally, were 32-3 in those games.  The three losses?  Pittsburgh to Youngstown State (ROTFL!!!), Memphis to Tennessee-Martin and Middle Tennessee State to McNeese State.

– Official attendance for Alabama-Michigan: 90,413, a record crowd for a college football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

– From Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News: the Big Ten has lost 10 straight nonconference games vs. Top-Five teams by an average of 15.9 points.  Ouch.

– Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon became the first Alabama player ever to top the 100-yard plateau in his first game, rushing for 111 yards on just 11 carries.

– In just over three quarters of work, preseason Heisman favorite Matt Barkley passed for 344 yards and four touchdowns in USC’s romp over Hawaii.  Barkley’s top target was wide receiver Marquise Lee, who caught 10 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown.

– Oregon’s electrifying running back, DeAnthony Thomas, touched the football seven times in the win over Arkansas State — and scored three touchdowns.

– Nebraska’s Martinez set a career high in passing yards (354) and tied his career mark in passing touchdowns (five) in Nebraska’s 49-20 win over Southern Miss.

– Clemson running back Andre Ellington rushed for 231 yards in the Tigers’ 26-19 win over Auburn, while wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins set a school record (Sammy who?) with 13 receptions.

– In West Virginia’s 69-34 thrashing of in-state rival Marshall, Heisman contender Geno Smith threw for 323 yards on 33-of-36 passing and four touchdowns.

– Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib passed for a career-high 470 yards and four touchdowns in the Orange’s 42-41 loss to Northwestern.  He also obliterated the school record for completions with 44; the previous record was 29.

– Boston College’s Chase Rettig completed 32-of-51 passes for 441 yards and two TDs in a 41-32 loss to Miami

– On the fourth offensive snap of Nebraska’s win, running back Rex Burkhead ran 57 yards to open the scoring for the Cornhuskers.  That run represented the longest run of Burkhead’s career.

– In their 62-0 whitewashing of Elon, North Carolina had 14 different receivers catch a pass in the win and no one caught more than three balls.

– From ESPN’s Stats & Info Thursday night: “Cameron Nwosu of Rice blocked 3 PAT attempts tonight vs UCLA, setting an FBS single-game record and tying the overall Division I record.”

– Tulsa running back Trey Watts rushed for 125 yards on 10 carries — with no touchdowns — in a 38-23 loss to Iowa State.

– Florida has won 23 straight season openers, which represents the second-longest current streak in the nation.  The longest?  Nebraska’s 27.

– Last season, New Mexico was dead last in FBS in scoring, averaging just a hair over 12 points per game.  In their opener against Southern, the Lobos scored 38 — in the second quarter.  For the game, the Lobos totaled 66 in a 45-point win over the FCS program.

– For the first time in UT-San Antonio’s history, the Roadrunners have won a road game, dropping South Alabama 33-31 on a 51-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in a game originally scheduled for Thursday.  Of course, UTSA’s history consists of one season and one game, but still.

– Carson-Newman College’s Ken Sparks won the 300th game of his career Thursday, becoming the 11th head coach in college football history to hit that milestone.

– Sam Durley of Division III Eureka (Ill.) College set an NCAA all-division record with 736 yards passing.  He broke the old mark of 731 set back in 2000.

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Les Miles sidesteps questions regarding his interest in the Michigan job

Les Miles

LSU head coach Les Miles was asked about the impending opening at Michigan and his prospective interest in the job should it come open at his weekly availability on Monday, and he didn’t exactly shoot the speculation down with a high-caliber rifle.

“I have given little or no thought to any other jobs, and I am so comfortable with my team and doing what I’m doing,” Miles said, via MLive.com. “I do not read the paper. I certainly respect and love Michigan and wish them the very best.”

Miles played under Bo Schembechler in the 1970’s, and served as offensive line coach under Schembechler and his replacement Gary Moeller from 1987-94. He has turned down the Wolverines before, though, declining an offer following the 2007 job as LSU was in the midst of a national championship march. That job, of course, went to Rich Rodriguez, sending Michigan into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover. Which brings us back to ‘ol Lester.

Asked if he considered it a compliment for his name to be a thrown in the mix, Miles again hemmed and hawed.

“I, uh, don’t really look at it as a compliment or not, I haven’t read the newspaper in a month, just so you know,” he said. “It’s hard for me to tell you what the record of other schools are.”

There is one way for Miles to make the speculation go away, and that is to definitively state he will be LSU’s coach in 2015. But he didn’t do that.

However, that does not mean Miles will be Michigan’s next head coach. Far from it. He could have an interest in holding a conversation with interim athletics director Jim Hackett just to see if he would maybe, possibly be interested – he did the same with Jeff Long at Arkansas before he ultimately hired Bret Bielema - or he could be interested in serving as a reference point in hopes of helping identify another coach to send his alma mater pointed in the right direction.

Anything’s possible. And that’s kind of the point, because Les left it that way.

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Paul Finebaum will do a live simulcast of the Iron Bowl on SEC Network

SEC Network open house

Are you a fan of bombastic SEC personality Paul Finebaum? If you answered that query in the affirmative, the folks at ESPN have something up their sleeve for you.

Playing off the success of the BCS National Championship multi-cast, Sports Illustrated media writer Richard Deitsch wrote Monday that ESPN planned to provide a simulcast of Saturday’s AP No. 15 Alabama at No. 1 Alabama tilt on SEC Network with Finebaum taking calls throughout the game. The show will be called Finebaum Film Room: Iron Bowl Live.

The simulcast was borne out of rare circumstances. First, ESPN had to gain rights to televise the Iron Bowl in the first place – a rarity in recent years, ESPN has aired the game once in the past decade – which it did thanks to CBS reaching its contractual limit of five Alabama broadcasts with the Mississippi State game on Nov. 15.

CBS picked up the Egg Bowl, which meant ESPN was free to grab the Iron Bowl and plunk it in a primetime slot of 7:45 p.m. ET.

Next, SEC Network had to have the free airspace with which to air this Finebaum-mania. The SEC Thanksgiving weekend schedule is traditionally sparse, and especially so this year: LSU visits Texas A&M on Thursday night, Arkansas visits Missouri on Friday, and SEC-ACC rivalries pitting Florida and Florida State, South Carolina and Clemson and Kentucky and Louisville all swung to the ACC’s television package this season. With only Georgia Tech at Georgia and Tennessee at Vanderbilt on the docket, SEC Network had the space to run its simulcast.

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Former Texas RB Joe Bergeron involved in off campus incident, accused of punching a female student

Joe Bergeron

Joe Bergeron has dominated the Division II Lone Star Conference for Texas A&M-Commerce this season, rushing 148 times for 859 yards and 12 touchdowns for the 8-3 Lions. Of course, the only reason Bergeron is a Lion in the first place is because of his July 25 dismissal from the Texas roster by new head coach Charlie Strong.

And now we may have a glimpse as to why Strong cut his talented running back loose.

According to documents obtained by FoxSportsSouthwest.com, Bergeron allegedly punched, slapped and shoved a female student in the post-midnight hours of Oct. 9.

Police were called and a report was filed, but Bergeron was not charged with a crime.

“What we uncovered and found to be accurate was that he was involved in an incident off-campus,” A&M-Commerce athletics director Ryan Ivey told FSSW. “We don’t believe that it was as severe as the incident report is.”

According to the incident report, the victim and Bergeron’s group of friends began arguing at a bar in Commerce, and then argued again outside the Kappa Alpha fraternity house. After a heated exchange, the victim allegedly knocked a cup from Bergeron’s hands, and he responded by punching her in the face.

She then followed him into the house, where he shoved her against a wall. The victim approached Bergeron again, and he then slapped her on the left side of her face, the same spot where he had allegedly punched her moments before.

Texas A&M-Commerce head coach Colby Carthel suspended Bergeron for a violation of team rules for the Lions’ Oct. 11 game with Angelo State, but he returned a week later to rush 11 times for 34 yards in a 48-21 win over West Texas A&M.

“We talked to a number of people, those that were there, those that were outside of it,” Ivey said. “We interviewed a number of people and just felt like what we did, the punishment fit his involvement.”

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Bovada whittles Heisman Trophy race down to two

Marcus Mariota

In the eyes of Bovada, there are now just two Heisman contenders worth fussing over. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon are the only two options on the board for Bovada entering the final games of the regular season. If that is any indication, this year’s Heisman Trophy will come between the two.

The latest updated odds from the betting outlet keep Mariota at 1/3 odds to become Oregon’s first Heisman Trophy winner in program history. Gordon, two weeks after setting a new rushing record for a single game (only to see it topped this past weekend), has been given 2/1 odds to win the award. The rest of the top players in the Heisman conversation appears to be playing for a distant third place finish in the Heisman voting.

Other players that were previously on the Bovada board included Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Florida State quarterback and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

So, who are you betting on to win the Heisman Trophy this season?

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2013 Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award winner Bryce Petty among 16 semifinalists for 2014 award

Kansas v Baylor

The state of Texas has produced a number of great college football players, and this year is no exception. The Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award will go to one of 16 of the best talents to come out of the state of Texas. The semifinalists for the award have been announced, and it includes last year’s inaugural award winner, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty.

Petty is among the players currently in the chase for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Petty is joined as semifinalists by TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman and running back Shock Linwood are also among the semifinalists. So is TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson is also among the list of semifinalists. You will also see the new record holder for most rushing yards in a single game among the semifinalists, Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine.

The full list of 2014 semifinalists for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award follow:

Jay Ajayi, Boise State, RB, Junior – Plano, Texas (Frisco Liberty HS) – Mountain West Conference

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State, QB, RS Freshman – Wichita Falls, Texas (Rider HS) – Big Ten

Trevone Boykin, TCU, QB, Junior – Dallas, Texas (West Mesquite HS) – Big 12

Shane Carden, East Carolina, QB, Senior – Houston, Texas (Episcopal HS) – American Athletic Conference

David Cobb, Minnesota, RB, Senior – Killeen, Texas (Ellison HS) – Big Ten

Corey Coleman, Baylor, WR, Sophomore – Richardson, Texas (Pearce HS) – Big 12

Josh Doctson, TCU, WR, Junior – Mansfield, Texas (Legacy HS) – Big 12

Rashard Higgins, Colorado State, WR, Sophomore – Mesquite, Texas (Mesquite HS) – Mountain West

Aaron Jones, UTEP, RB, Sophomore – El Paso, Texas (Burges HS) – Conference USA

Cayleb Jones, Arizona, WR, Sophomore – Austin, Texas (Austin HS) – Pac-12

Shock Linwood, Baylor, RB, Sophomore – Linden, Texas (Linden-Kildare HS) – Big 12

Keevan Lucas, Tulsa, WR, Sophomore – Abilene, Texas (Abilene HS) – American Athletic Conference

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, RB, Freshman – Pflugerville, Texas (Hendrickson HS) – Big 12

Bryce Petty, Baylor, QB, Senior – Midlothian, Texas (Midlothian HS) – Big 12

Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M, WR, Sophomore – San Antonio, Texas (Jay HS) (Tyler Junior College) Southeastern Conference

Jonathan Williams, Arkansas, RB, Junior – Allen, Texas (Allen HS) – Southeastern Conference

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Wisconsin will keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe in locker room to avoid postgame brawl

Conor O'Neill

One of the great scenes in college football is seeing a team rush to the opponent’s sideline to claim a rivalry trophy. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen is eliminating that possibility this week by storing Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the Wisconsin locker room. The reason? To avoid a potential postgame brawl.

Wisconsin maintained possession of the coveted rivalry trophy for a 10th straight year with a road win at Minnesota last season. As Wisconsin players rushed to the end zone to “chop” down the goal post, Minnesota’s players stood guard around the goal post and prevented Wisconsin players from approaching the goal post and following through on the tradition. This, as you might have predicted, led to some hot tempers and some not-safe-for-work language between the two sides. Rather than allow a rivalry celebration lead to a show of poor sportsmanship by either side, Anderson’s decision to keep the trophy out of sight may not be a terrible decision, although it is a shame for the rivalry and college football in general.

“Last year was unfortunate,” Andersen said Monday. “I don’t think [Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill] and myself liked the way it went down and it ended a year ago. I don’t think it is good for college football and I don’t think it is good for our kids.”

If Minnesota does beat Wisconsin for the first time since 2003, Paul Bunyan’s Axe will be delivered to the Minnesota locker room. At that time, the Axe may return to the field for the traditional chopping of their losing team’s goal post. Here’s hoping whatever happens at that time remains civil and avoids crossing the line of poor sportsmanship.

As long as Minnesota doesn’t go taking Paul Bunyan’s Axe to the visiting locker room, in an out-of-control fashion as UNC did at Duke, we should be OK.

Helmet sticker to Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

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Alabama TE Brian Vogler questionable for Iron Bowl

Brian Vogler

With the Iron Bowl this week and a spot in the SEC Championship Game and possibly another in the College Football Playoff on the line, having as healthy a starting lien-up as possible is key for Alabama. A cupcake of a game against Western Carolina proved to be a bit more bruising than expected, and starting tight end Brian Vogler is said to be questionable for the Auburn game this week.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Vogler is considered questionable for this weekend’s Iron Bowl, but Saban suggested that could change as the week goes on with practices. Saban also noted freshman wide receiver ArDarius Stewart is also questionable for the Auburn game. Both players reportedly left Saturday afternoon’s win with strained knee ligaments.

“We’ll see how they progress throughout the week, but they would be listed as questionable for the game right now, not that everyone will practice today,” Saban said Monday, per Al.com. “As the week progresses, we’re hopeful that everybody will respond and be able to get back and contribute in the game.”

Vogler and O.J. Howard have split top tight end duties this season, and Howard has been the more productive of the two in the receiving game. Howard is third on the team with 206 receiving yards, although Vogler brings some solid blocking skills to the field whenever he is on the field.

Stewart has caught 12 passes for 149 games while appearing in 11 games this season.

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Torn ACL to QB Trevor Siemian puts Northwestern bowl hopes in jeopardy

Trevor Siemian

Northwestern is playing in-state rival Illinois for much more than state pride this week in the regular season finale in Evanston. The Wildcats and Illini are playing for the opportunity to go to a bowl game, with the winning team clinching bowl eligibility this season. The Wildcats will have to go for the win and bowl eligibility without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian. Siemian tore his ACL in a win against Purdue on Saturday, head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Monday.

Siemian, a senior, completed 58.2 percent of his pass attempts for 2,214 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He was picked off 11 times by opposing defenses and was hardly a mobile threat, but he did add five rushing touchdowns and one touchdown reception this season. In his career, Siemian passed for 5,931 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Northwestern will likely go with junior Zack Oliver at quarterback in the season finale. Oliver filled in for Siemian on Saturday after the injury occurred on a fourth down QB sneak. Oliver has played in three games this season and has completed seven of 19 pass attempts for 146 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Matt Alviti has also appeared in three games this season, completing his only pass attempt of the year for a three-yard gain. He should be expected to be the new backup behind Oliver, used only in an emergency situation.

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Time to take a fresh look at Ohio State and the College Football Playoff

Ohio State v Minnesota

There are four playoff spots still to be filled in the first College Football Playoff. Alabama, Florida State and Oregon all appear to be in good shape if they win their final games and conference championship games. The competition for the fourth and final spot appears to be up for grabs though between Mississippi State, Baylor, TCU and Ohio State for now. UCLA can still wiggle into this fight, but for now those are the four main contenders most would likely agree. And each has their strengths and weaknesses. Ohio State may have the best chance to grab the fourth and final playoff spot.

Ohio State was written off after a loss to Virginia Tech in week two, but the Buckeyes have stormed back into the playoff discussion since and now the Buckeyes threaten to prove the dismissive naysayers wrong. Those criticizing Ohio State cling to the one loss to Virginia Tech, which to some seems to outweigh the overall body of work by Ohio State enough to rule them out of contention. This is silly at this point in November, and it is time to move on to assessing Ohio State.

Here is what we are being led to believe in the College Football Playoff era. First, a team’s overall body of work is being used to determine the best teams. Second, the committee wants us to believe that conference championships will matter. It will still be two more weeks before we see just how much they matter, but if winning a conference championship has enough clout to push one one-loss team ahead of another, this figures to be good news for TCU, Baylor and Ohio State and perhaps not as good news for Mississippi State.

Nothing will ever be able to put lipstick on the pig that is a double-digit loss at home to Virginia Tech, especially with the Hokies now on the verge of not even being eligible for a bowl game. Ohio State’s case would look a little stronger had the Hokies kept it together in ACC play and at least made a run for the ACC Coastal Division championship. Instead, Virginia Tech was taken down by East Carolina and is now resting at the bottom of the ACC Coastal Division with one game to play. But rather than focus on Virginia Tech, instead take a deeper look at what Ohio State has done since losing to Virginia Tech.

Consider Ohio State was throwing a young and inexperienced J.T. Barrett into the fire to start the season after losing potential Heisman Trophy candidate Braxton Miller for the season due to shoulder injury. If the committee takes into account injuries, at some point doesn’t this have to be part of the equation when assessing Ohio State? Barrett showed some promise on the road against Navy to open the season, but was ripe for the picking (off) by Virginia Tech’s defense, which tends to feast on young quarterbacks. Barrett was also making his first start in front of the sold out Ohio Stadium crowd under the bright lights for a national television audience. Since then, Barrett has grown immensely and become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate himself. It is no coincidence Barrett’s rise has coincided with Ohio State’s return to the playoff discussion.

Ohio State has won two game son the road against teams the College Football Playoff committee has ranked in their most recent playoff rankings, Michigan State and Minnesota. The Buckeyes are third best in the country in third-down conversions. Ohio State has a higher red zone touchdown percentage than any other team in the playoff discussion today. Only Alabama is ranked ahead of Ohio State in total defense among playoff contenders as well. Ohio State is not back in the playoff discussion by accident. They have earned it on offense and defense.

Does Ohio State still need some help in addition to completing its own job? Yes, probably. A dominating victory over a struggling Michigan would help, as would a Big Ten Championship Game against Melvin Gordon and a surging Wisconsin. That might be enough on its own merit in the eyes of the selection committee, but it would help Ohio State if Ole Miss could rebound with a win in the Egg Bowl. Just in case.

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UNC players trashed visiting locker room following win at Duke

North Carolina at Duke

North Carolina topped their nearby rivals from Duke in Durham last Thursday night. Not satisfied with trashing Duke’s hopes of returning to the ACC Championship Game, the Tar Heels proceeded to shred through the visitor’s locker room in celebration. The University of North Carolina and head coach Larry Fedora have apologized to Duke for the damage done to the visitor’s locker room and UNC has offered to pay for the bill for repairs, according to The Herald Sun.

“We would like to apologize to the Duke Football program and Duke University for some inappropriate actions after last Thursday night’s game in Durham,” a statement from Fedora and UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham stated. “Our players took the celebrations too far when they were painting the bell, resulting in damage to some of the facilities at Duke.  We take full responsibility for our players’ actions and will be paying for all costs associated with the cleanup.  We view this as a rivalry built on mutual respect and we expect our players to behave better in a way that is more befitting of the rivalry.”

According to the report, the locker room was damaged with light blue spray paint in Duke’s practice facility next to Wallace Wade Stadium. the letters “UNC” were painted on a door. The paint was found on walls and carpets and the costs to repair the facility is estimated to be in the thousands.

Why would North Carolina players have spray paint at a game? The tradition of the Victory Bell typically has the winning team coat the bell in the school colors of the winning team. In the event of a win in Durham, UNC players were ready to uphold that tradition by packing some light blue spray paint for the short road trip. The celebration started on the field and continued as the Victory Bell moved inside the facility.

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Division races come down to the wire in Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC

UCLA v Arizona State Getty Images

This is the final week of the regular season for many conferences, and division, conference and playoff spots are on the line. This is something to truly be thankful for this week if you are a college football fan. Great rivalry games will be played, and a handful will have higher stakes than usual. The Big 12 still has another week of regular season games to be played, but here is a look at the division pictures in each of the other power conferences a week before conference championship games are played.

ACC

Nothing to see here as the ACC and SEC do battle this week. We are locked into a Florida State-Georgia Tech ACC Championship Game after Duke lost to North Carolina last week. The Seminoles and Yellow Jackets met in the ACC title game two seasons ago, and Florida State has won two straight ACC crowns. Florida State could very well also be playing for a 13-0 record and a reserved spot in the College Football Playoff.

Big Ten

Ohio State has clinched the Big Ten East Division and is heading to Indianapolis for a second straight Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes will face the winner of this week’s Minnesota-Wisconsin game. The Gophers and Badgers will play for Paul Bunyan’s Ax, but the winner also wins the Big Ten West Division. Wisconsin has won 10 straight meetings with the Gophers, and Wisconsin has played in and won two Big Ten Championship Games since it was introduced three seasons ago.

Pac-12

Oregon had the Pac-12 North wrapped up weeks ago and is waiting to see how the Pac-12 South plays out. This week the focus on the Pac-12 South focuses on two games playing at the same time on Friday afternoon. First, if UCLA beats Stanford, the Bruins return to a third Pac-12 Championship Game since the conference started it up. A loss to the Cardinal will offer the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Stanford has beaten UCLA six straight times, with the Bruins last winning against the Cardinal in 2008. Arizona State has won three of the last four meetings with Arizona.

SEC

Both divisions in the SEC will be determined this week. The SEC East is pretty simple. If Missouri beats Arkansas, the Tigers are making a second straight trip to Atlanta as the SEC East Division champions. If the Tigers lose to the red-hot Razorbacks, then Georgia will represent the SEC East in the conference championship game thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker earlier this season.

The SEC West has a couple of other factors at play, and it starts in the Egg Bowl. If Ole Miss defeats Mississippi State, then Alabama will clinch the SEC West championship before hitting halftime in the Iron Bowl against Auburn. If Mississippi State wins, that puts the pressure on Alabama to win the Iron Bowl. A Mississippi State loss and an Alabama loss to Auburn will give the Bulldogs the SEC West. If both Alabama and Mississippi State lose, the division will still go to Alabama but each team might be in severe jeopardy of playing in the College Football Playoff.

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Butkus Award announces five finalists

Washington State v Washington Getty Images

The Butkus Award, which will be given out Dec. 9, announced five finalists Monday morning:

Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
Denzel Perryman, Miami (Fla.)
Jake Ryan, Michigan
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Among the finalists, Kikaha leads with 17 1/2 sacks (most in FBS) and 23 1/2 tackles for a loss (also most in FBS), Kendricks leads with 124 tackles (sixth in FBS) and three interceptions (48th in FBS).

Each player’s stats:

Kendricks: 124 tackles, 7 TFLs, 2 sacks, 3 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble
Kikaha: 63 tackles, 23 1/2 TFLs, 17 1/2 sacks, 0 INTs, 2 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles
Perryman: 96 tackles, 7 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBUs, 3 forced fumbles
Ryan: 104 tackles, 13 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles
Smith: 89 tackles, 7 1/2 TFLs, 2 sacks, 0 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble

The Butkus Award also announced five high school finalists, headlined by a pair of Ohio State commits:

Jerome Baker, Benedictine – Cleveland, OH (Committed to Ohio State)
Justin Hilliard, St. Xavier – Cincinnati, OH (Committed to Ohio State)
John Houston, Junipero Serra – Gardena, CA (Uncommitted)
Malik Jefferson, Ralph H. Poteet – Mesquite, TX (Uncommitted)
Leo Lewis, Brookhaven – Brookhaven, MS (Committed to Ole Miss)

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Which teams need wins to be bowl eligible this weekend?

Pat Fitzgerald, Tim Beckman AP

Unless you’re an AAC or Big 12 fan, Saturday is the last day of college football’s regular season before Conference Championship week — which means it’s the last chance for a handful of teams to reach six wins and become bowl eligible.

For some teams on here (see: Michigan) making a bowl wouldn’t change a whole lot. But for rebuilding programs like California, getting to six wins and playing an extra game is big — not only does it show progress, but it affords coaches a few extra weeks of practice for young rosters.

Meanwhile, if Kentucky and Tennessee win, 13 of 14 SEC teams would be bowl eligible (sorry, Vanderbilt).

So which five-win teams can become bowl eligible over Thanksgiving weekend?

AAC

Temple (vs. Cincinnati, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNews)
Note: Temple, at 5-5, also could become bowl eligible with a win at Tulane Dec. 6.

Already bowl eligible: Memphis, UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston

ACC

Virginia (at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN)
Virginia Tech (vs. Virginia, 8 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN)
Pitt (at Miami, 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2)

Already bowl eligible: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, North Carolina State, Miami

Big 12

Oklahoma State (OFF this week, @ Oklahoma Dec. 6)

Already bowl eligible: Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia

Big Ten

Michigan (at Ohio State, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC)
Illinois (at Northwestern, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU)
Northwestern (vs. Illinois, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU)

Already bowl eligible: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, Iowa, Penn State, Rutgers

Conference USA

Old Dominion (at Florida Atlantic, 12 p.m. ET Saturday)
UAB (at Southern Miss, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday)

Already bowl eligible: Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Rice, UTEP, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky

Independents

Navy (at South Alabama, 3 p.m. Friday on ESPN3)
Note: Navy, at 5-5, also plays Army Dec. 13.

Already bowl eligible: BYU, Notre Dame

MAC

Akron (at Kent State, 1 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN3)
Ohio (at Miami Ohio, 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2)

Already bowl eligible: Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan

Mountain West

Fresno State (vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m. ET Saturday)

Already bowl eligible: Colorado State, Boise State, Air Force, Nevada, San Diego State

Pac-12

California (BYU, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Pac-12 Network)
Oregon State (vs. Oregon, 8 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC)

Already bowl eligible: Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona, USC, Utah, Stanford, Washington

SEC

Kentucky (at Louisville, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2)
Tennessee (at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m. ET Saturday on SEC Network)

Already bowl eligible: Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas (the entire West division!), Mizzou, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina

Sun Belt

No teams playing for bowl eligibility

Already bowl eligible: Georgia Southern (well, maybe not), UL-Lafayette, Appalachian State (same as Georgia Southern), South Alabama, Texas State, Arkansas State.

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The FBS single-season rushing record is within sight for Melvin Gordon, if Wisconsin beats Minnesota

Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon became the fastest player to 2,000 yards in Wisconsin’s 26-24 win over Iowa on Saturday, hitting the 2k mark on just his 241st carry of the season. Gordon rushed 31 times for 200 yards on the day, brining his season totals to 2,109 yards on 254 attempts.

And that brings a much bigger record into play.

The fleet-footed junior is currently in 10th place on the FBS all-time single-season rushing list, sitting 519 yards away from tying Barry Sanders‘ record of 2,628 yards.

The last two weeks have brought Gordon’s average up to 191.7 yards per game on the season. Three more games at that average would put Gordon at 2,684 yards on the year – breaking the record by 56 yards. Of course, the catch is that Wisconsin doesn’t have three games guaranteed left to play.

Wisconsin hosts Minnesota Saturday with a spot in the Big Ten title game on the line. A victory extends the Badgers’ season by a game, and puts Sanders’ record within reach.

Gordon would have to have outstanding games against not only Minnesota, but Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and a quality bowl opponent as well. That said, Gordon has been up to the task against top competition this season.

Here’s how Gordon stacks up among the best single-season rushing performances thus far:

1. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State (1988) – 2,628
2. Kevin Smith, Central Florida (2007) – 2,567
3. Marcus Allen, USC (1981) – 2,342
4. Troy Davis, Iowa State (1996) – 2,185
5. Andre Williams, Boston College (2013) – 2,177
6. LaDanian Tomlinson, TCU (2000) – 2,158
7. Mike Rozier, Nebraska (1983) – 2,148
8. Matt Forte, Tulane (2007) – 2,127
9. Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) – 2,124
10. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (2014) – 2,109

Barring injury (knock on every piece of wood within a 10-mile radius) or an NCAA waiver allowing 14 defenders on the field, Gordon should be in fourth place by the end of the day Saturday and figures to finish no worse than third regardless of whether or not the Badgers beat the Gophers.

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ACC calls Jameis Winston’s contact with official “insignificant”

Karlos Williams,Matt Milano,Steven Daniels

Mike Peireira won the #HOTSPORTSTAKE of the college football weekend by writing that Jameis Winston should have been flagged and ejected for shoving an official attempting to delay a Florida State snap until Boston College had a fair opportunity to match a Seminoles substitution.

“I’ve looked at this play several times, and in my opinion, Winston should have been penalized for shoving Webster not once, but twice,” he wrote. “In fact, I feel he should have been ejected.” For what it’s worth, ESPN’s own officiating expert agreed with Peireria.

Here’s the play in question:

On Sunday, the ACC issued a statement downplaying the incident.

“The center judge’s positioning, which was due to the experimental year of having an eighth official, combined with the late substitution and by rule the need to allow the defense to matchup, led to contact between himself and the player,” said ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads. “The official believed the contact was incidental and insignificant and did not rise to the level of unsportsmanlike conduct and automatic disqualification.”

We must consider the source and circumstance here, however. Conference offices rarely – if ever – issue a statement to announce they botched it, and the ACC is going to be especially leery of casting a cloud of controversy to join the six or seven already hanging above its lone undefeated team and reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

The ACC needs Florida State’s win over Boston College to be viewed as legitimate, and this statement supports that.

Still, watching the video and reading Florida State’s corresponding quotes makes the situation appear like a highly-publicized misunderstanding. And it’s not like Winston shoved the zebra in question as hard as he could. In fact, it sounds like he wasn’t aware Florida State had substituted.

“He was just holding me because he said we had a substitution,” Winston said. “It was actually a fast-tempo play, so I was trying to get up under there and let it ride.”

Regardless, Florida State has beaten Boston College 20-17, and with this controversy behind them the 11-0 Seminoles will move on to Florida and whatever next week’s controversy brings.

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