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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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Mich. St. finishes off Michigan, will now rest up for B1G showdown

Michigan v Michigan State

And with that, Michigan State is right on schedule for its huge conference showdown the second weekend of November.

Getting today out of the way first, MSU had little problem dispatching its in-state rivals, kicking Michigan to the East Lansing curb by the score of 35-11.  The Spartans held a 14-3 halftime lead, and needed to do little else in the second half to win its sixth in the last seven meetings of what’s currently a lopsided rivalry.

The Wolverines did score their first offensive touchdown against the Spartans since 2011, although that was akin to putting spinnin’ rims on a Yugo.  Sparty has now beaten the Wolverines by a combined 47 points the past two seasons, and punctuated this win with, instead of taking a knee, a rushing touchdown by its top running back with :28 left in the game.

Brady Hoke is now 2-5 in rivalry games against MSU and Ohio State, which is why he will be out in Ann Arbor at season’s end — if not sooner.

Statistically, it was, like the scoreboard, mostly MSU.    The Spartans finished with a 446-186 edge in total offense, including a 158-yard edge in rushing.

Jeremy Langford had 177 of MSU’s rushing yards and scored three of their four offensive touchdowns.

The eighth-ranked Spartans, who will likely remain there giving what’s looking to be a dearth of upsets in the Top 10 this weekend, will now enter its second bye week preparing for what’s shaping up to be a monumental matchup dripping with College Football Playoffs implications.  Coming off the bye, MSU will play host to 13th-ranked Ohio State in a game that will go a long way in deciding the Eastern Division of the Big Ten — and the conference’s potential rep in the first year of the CFP.

If the Spartans can get past the Buckeyes — and that’s not exactly a tiny if — MSU would likely be double-digit wagering favorites for its last three games against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State.

The stage is set for MSU to, if they handle their business in two weeks, to throw its hat into the playoff ring.  Again, though, that’ll be no small task.

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No. 22 West Virginia uses defense, running game to handle OK State, 34-10

West Virginia v Oklahoma State

No. 22 West Virginia kept its Big 12 title hops alive with… defense and the running game? The Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State 34-10 Saturday afternoon in Stillwater.

Clint Trickett had a nice, low-pressure day at the office, completing 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while Wendell Smallwood did the dirty work for the Mountaineers by grinding out 23 carries for 132 yards. Dreamius Smith added five rushes for 72 yards and 40-yard touchdown dash that served as the final nail in the coffin with 3:12 to go.

West Virginia cruised to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter but didn’t score again the rest of the half as Oklahoma State fought back for a 14-10 score at the break.

That would be it for Oklahoma State, as the Cowboys ran only seven plays in the third quarter and gained 133 yards in a scoreless second half.

WVU limited Daxx Garman to 21-of-41 passing for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Oklahoma State did pound out 194 rushing yards on 39 carries (Tyreek Hill led the way with 14 rushes for 78 yards) but never mounted anything substantial outside the second quarter.

Josh Lambert provided the only scoring in the third quarter with a 39-yard field goal, and then pushed West Virginia’s lead to 10 with a 43-yarder early in the fourth quarter. Dravon Henry broke it open for good with a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown with 4:44 remaining in the game, and Smith’s 40-yard run a minute and change later added the exclamation point.

What does it about West Virginia that Dana Holgorsen‘s Mountaineers can not only go on the road in Big 12 play and grab a 24-point victory (earning its first road win over a Big 12 club with a winning record since beating 6-5 Iowa State in November 2012), but do so while imposing its will on both sides of the ball?

It says West Virginia, now bowl eligible at 6-2, is a force to be recognized in a Big 12 title chase that includes nearly half the league. Considering Oklahoma only has two losses and with the Baylor win under its belt, West freakin’ Virginia heads into November not only controlling its own destiny for the Big 12 championship, but does so while getting No. 10 TCU (next week) and No. 11 Kansas State (Nov. 20) at home, with its only road trips to struggling Iowa State and Texas.

Yeah, Holgo will drink to that.

 

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No. 25 UCLA avoids double overtime scare in Boulder

Brett Hundley, Paul Perkins, Nate Iese, Greg Henderson

On Saturday afternoon in Boulder, Colorado No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) was unable to deal a knockout blow to Colorado (2-6, 0-5 Pac-12), but the Bruins found a way to a victory in double overtime. UCLA had a 24-7 lead on the Buffalos in the second quarter but had to hang on to a 40-37 victory to pick up a bowl-eligibility clinching win on the road. Brett Hundley‘s eight-yard touchdown run in the second overtime gave UCLA the hard-fought victory.

Hundley also passed for 200 yards and rushed for 110 yards with two combined touchdowns to lead UCLA to the victory. Paul Perkins broke some big runs early in the game and ended the day leading all players with 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well.

The Bruins scored a late touchdown in the third quarter to pad its halftime lead, but Colorado scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to push UCLA to the final whistle. Myles Jack was inserted at running back as UCLA needed to punch the ball across the goal line in the third quarter. Jack has been used sparingly this season, but his 16th rushing attempt of the year led to his second touchdown of the year. It could not have come at a better time for UCLA, as he ran right through a would-be-tackler for the touchdown on the outside.

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau tossed each of this two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, each being caught by Bryce Bobo. That kept hope alive, but it was the defense that really provided life in the fourth quarter by stopping UCLA twice on a late drive. The first stop on third down ended up having the drive extended with a roughing the passer penalty to allow UCLA a free 15-yards and a first down to retain possession. Colorado held the Bruins once more, this time stuffing a fourth down and short play with three minutes to play. UCLA tried handing off to Eddie Vanderdoes out of a timeout on fourth and short, but Colorado played it perfectly for the stop.

Colorado then went to work on offense, methodically moving downfield into field goal range. While coming up short of a go-ahead touchdown, the Buffs settled for a game-tying field goal off the leg of Will Oliver from 35 yards.

The overtime was brought to a stop as UCLA was driving closer to the end zone. The game was paused for a while after the helmet of Colorado defensive back Tedric Thompson banged into the knee of a UCLA player. The impact left Thompson on the ground for an extended period of time before being placed on a stretcher and carted off the field while being consoled by a Colorado trainer or member of the medical staff. The defense pulled through for a stop on the first two plays after play resumed, holding UCLA to a field goal. Colorado answered on their first overtime possession with a long field goal to force a second overtime. After Colorado kicked a second field goal to take a 37-34 lead, Hundley answered with two good runs on the ensuing possession to seal the win.

So where does UCLA go from here? The Bruins are still well behind the pack in the College Football Playoff hunt, which may be out of reach the rest of the way. UCLA will host Arizona next week in one of many key Pac-12 South match-ups the rest of the way. The Bruins also still have to play at Washington and at home against USC and Stanford. The Pac-12 South is still up for grabs, and the Bruins should have enough pieces to make a run for it, but they will have to play a better game moving forward than they did against Colorado.

Colorado sinks to 0-5 in Pac-12 play and is now on the brink of missing out on postseason eligibility. With six losses, one more and Colorado will be ineligible for postseason play for a seventh straight season. Colorado’s last bowl season was 2007.

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Big plays, turnovers push No. 10 TCU to 37-20 halftime lead over Texas Tech

Texas Tech v TCU

Texas Tech had done it. More than a quarter into their visit to No. 10 TCU and already trailing 24-17, the Texas Tech defense had forced its first punt.

Facing a fourth-and-7 from the Texas Tech 38, Gary Patterson pulled out a fake punt, and Red Raider defender Justis Nelson was flagged for interfering with Josh Doctson on a pass by punter Ethan Perry that may or may not have been catchable. One play later, Trevone Boykin found Deante’ Gray for a 24-yard touchdown pass and TCU grabbed a 31-17 lead.

It’s been that kind of day as the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders have combined for 84 snaps, 30 first downs, 655 yards from scrimmage and 57 points as TCU leads 37-20 at the break.

Aside from a defense that has obviously struggled to stop the Horned Frogs’ offense, Davis Webb hasn’t the cause much with one interception and two lost fumbles – on Texas Tech’s last two possessions of the half – leading to 13 TCU points.

Trevone Boykin has missed on nearly half his passes (14-of-27) but made his completions count, going for 199 yards and three touchdowns. The big play combination of Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson have combined for six grabs for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Green has added six rushes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Webb has posted good numbers, 14-of-26 passing for 286 yards and two scores, but negated much of it with his trio of giveaways. DeAndre Washington has found space in the middle of TCU’s defense, rushing eight times for 64 yards with a long of 48, while Webb’s two touchdown passes have come on plays of 57 (to Kenny Williams) and 56 (to Devin Lauderdale) yards.

After scoring 10 points in the game’s first three minutes and 12 seconds and 17 in the first quarter, the Red Raiders managed only a 38-yard Ryan Bustin field goal in the second quarter.

TCU will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 1 Bulldogs lead Kentucky 17-10 at halftime despite slow start

Dak Prescott

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are playing their very first game as the nation’s No. 1 overall team. How the program reacted to the pressure of being the nation’s top team would be a telling sign as the Bulldogs progressed this season.

Despite the team’s newfound success, the Bulldogs didn’t dominate the first half of Saturday’s game as expected. The Kentucky Wildcats are still within striking distance. The Bulldogs hold a 17-10 lead, and Kentucky has outplayed Mississippi State at times.

“We’re playing a little sloppy, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told CBS before going into the locker room at halftime. “We need to clean it up. We need to play a lot better in the second half.”

Mullen built a winning program due to winning in the trenches and riding the team’s dual-threat quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Kentucky matched Mississippi State along the offensive and defensive lines. Where the Wildcats have been found lacking is at the quarterback position.

Prescott, who may be the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, was 10-of-17 passing for 111 yards and a late interception. Where he made a difference was running the football. The quarterback leads Mississippi State with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown. His ability to make big plays as a runner makes the Bulldogs dangerous even when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders (see: below).

Mark Stoops‘ defense has done a tremendous job containing the Bulldogs for the most part. Outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Bud Sasser have proven to be thorns in the side of Prescott. The majority of Mississippi State’s 114 rushing yards have come up the middle.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s imposing defense surrendered 193 total yards to an erratic Wildcats offense. The big play came when Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles connected with wide receiver Demarco Robinson on a short out pattern which became a long 67-yard touchdown thanks to the senior’s ability to tiptoe down the sideline.

Otherwise, Towles is 8-of-17 passing for only 75 yards.

As the second half approaches, Kentucky needs to maintain its intensity on defense while attempting to get more out of its running game to take pressure off Towles. But it’s far more likely Mississippi State’s superior talent will eventually take over despite coasting through the first two quarters.

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West Virginia punches first, OK State punches back; No. 22 WVU leads 14-10 at the half

Kevin White

No. 22 West Virginia looked like it was going to walk into Stillwater and come away with an easy victory. Seven minutes and 11 seconds into the game, the Mountaineers led 14-0 and quarterback Clint Trickett was making it look easy, hitting Kevin White for a 19-yard score and Mario Alford for a 79-yard catch-and-dash.

And then… it all stopped.

Oklahoma State stopped taking punches and then landed a few of its own, notching a 40-yard Ben Grogan field goal a minute into the second quarter and an eight-yard scoring strike from Daxx Garman to Teddy Johnson midway through the frame to bring us to our 14-10 halftime score.

West Virginia has been conservative, almost too conservative, carrying the ball 19 times for 85 yards while Trickett has hit 10-of-15 throws for 165 yards and those two scores. Wendell Smallwood has the bulk of West Virginia’s ground yards, carrying 11 times for 80 yards. Glenn Spencer’s defense has mostly bottled up All-America candidate White, limiting him to just one grab for four yards other than the touchdown.

Garman has completed 14-of-23 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown and a pick, while the Cowboys have accumulated 123 rushing yards through a committee of Brandon Shepard (one rush, 51 yards), Tyreek Hill (nine for 45) and Desmond Roland (nine for 34).

West Virginia will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Wolverines (somewhat) hanging with ‘little brother’ Sparty at halftime

Michigan v Michigan State

It’s not the embarrassment it’s been most of this season, but it’s still yet another first-half deficit for Michigan.

On a sun-splashed afternoon in East Lansing, Michigan State jumped out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 14-3 lead after two quarters of play.  Jeremy Langford was responsible for both Spartan touchdowns, a two-yard run less than four minutes into the game and a one-yarder with :21 remaining in the half.

As has been the case the past couple/few seasons, though, it was the Sparty defense that set the stifling tone for the game.

Through the first 30 minutes, MSU had allowed its “big brother” to total just 37 yards of offense.  The Wolverines were held to minus-five yards rushing on its 10 attempts, an average of -0.5 yards per carry.

Conversely, and even as the scoreboard doesn’t quite indicate it, Sparty’s offense had little problem moving the ball either on the ground or through the air.  MSU was able to muster 256 yards of offense, 157 passing and 99 rushing.

Langford had 77 of those rushing yards, while quarterback Connor Cook was an efficient 110-of-17 passing.

UM has now trailed at the half in four of its previous six games; just once, against Penn State two weeks ago, were they able to come from behind to win.  Short of the kind of comeback that’s been atypical this season, the temperature underneath Brady Hoke‘s coaching seat will do nothing by rise at game’s end.

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Pitt fumbles way to deep first-quarter deficit vs. GT

Hot potato

And I mean that quite literally.

In a span of eight minutes and 30 seconds at the start of the first quarter of its game against Georgia Tech, Pitt fumbled five times… and lost all five fumbles.  Quarterback Chad Voytik and wide receiver Tyler Boyd were responsible for two apiece.

The first three lost fumbles came on the first five plays from scrimmage for the Panthers.

The five lost fumbles in a single quarter ties the FBS record set by East Carolina (1980 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette) and San Diego State (1982 vs. Cal).  Pitt has a ways to go before tying or breaking the single-game record of 10 set by Wake Forest in a 1969 game against Florida State.

The Yellow Jackets, incidentally, scored four touchdowns after the first four fumbles, and did so on just nine plays.

As of this posting, Tech is maintaining a 28-7 lead.  And, with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter, Pitt has gone nearly 11 minutes without losing a fumble, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

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Mother of Les Miles passed away Friday night

LSU v Auburn

Sadly, Les Miles will be coaching with a heavy heart Saturday night.

Friday night, a school spokesperson confirmed to Ross Dellenger of the Baton Rouge Advocate, the mother of the LSU head coach, 91-year-old Martha, has passed away.  No cause of death has been released.

Despite the loss, Miles is still in Baton Rouge and will be on the sidelines when LSU squares of against No. 3 Ole Miss.  He even appeared on ESPN‘s College GameDay pregame show this morning, but there was no mention of his mother’s passing.

Miles’ father, Bubba, died in 2000.  A car accident in April of 2011 claimed the life of Miles’ 54-year-old sister Ann Hope Browne.

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to Miles for his loss.

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No. 25 UCLA jumps out early, but Colorado making things interesting

Paul Perkins, Caleb Benenoch

UCLA wasted no time in taking a lead on Colorado. Paul Perkins got the scoring started early in the first quarter with a 92-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage for the Bruins offense, following an offensive holding penalty.From there, the race was on for the Bruins, who lead Colorado 24-14 at the halftime break.

Brett Hundley has thrown for 105 yards and a touchdown so far, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton in the first quarter. Perkins would add a 24-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to help keep UCLA in front with a double-digit lead at the break. Colorado has made things a little interesting by finding success against the UCLA defense though. Tony Jones and Michael Adkins II each has a rushing touchdown for Colorado, and both have combined for 98 rushing yards so far.

UCLA snuck back into the top 25 this week, but may have to put together a stronger second half in order to convince enough voters to keep them there tomorrow.

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Illinois hands Minnesota first Big Ten loss

Illinois (4-4, 1-3 Big Ten) may want to wear their gray alternate uniforms more often after today. The Illini rallied in the second half after it appeared the game had slipped away from them to hand Minnesota (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) its first loss in conference play this season. V’Angelo Bentley returned a Minnesota fumble 12 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to give Illinois a 28-24 lead. It proved to be the game-winning score.

Minnesota outscored Illinois 21-7 in the third quarter to take a 24-21 lead on the Illini, but the Gophers proved incapable of holding on to the narrow lead. After taking its first lead late in the third quarter, Minnesota missed a field goal, had a lost fumble returned for a touchdown, punted, and lost another fumble on their following offensive drive sin the fourth quarter. All of this while forcing Illinois to punt on five straight possessions in the second half.

The final punt from Illinois came in the final seconds, which appeared to end with time running off the clock on the return. This led to a celebration by the Illini on the field, but the Big Ten refs threw a flag for defensive holding on the return. This gave Minnesota one untimed down to run a play, but it resulted in a deep pass falling out of play to end the game.

Minnesota let this one get away from them. The Gophers out-gained Illinois in total offensive yards, 411-263. The Gophers had three turnovers, with the one being returned for a touchdown. It took far too long for Minnesota to get the running game going with David Cobb not hitting his stride until it may have been too late. Cobb rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns, but was stymied for much of the game before getting going. Quarterback Mitch LeidnerL was not particularly sharp either, completing just 12 of his 30 pass attempts for 240 yards and a touchdown and interception.

With the loss, Minnesota drops into a first-place tie with Nebraska in the Big Ten West with identical 3-1 conference records. Minnesota will play at Nebraska on November 22. Minnesota is already eligible for postseason play, which is good. The last leg of the season could be brutal for Minnesota, and a loss to Illinois was not necessarily in the plans.

Illinois is two wins shy of clinching postseason eligibility as well. Next week Illinois plays at Ohio State.

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Abdullah runs for 225 yards and 3 TDs as No. 16 Huskers pound Rutgers

Rutgers v Nebraska

Nebraska and Rutgers playing a Big Ten conference game was weird to see. Watching Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah run wild over an overpowered defense was nothing out of the ordinary though. Abdullah added to his Heisman Trophy profile by rushing for 225 yards and three touchdowns as No. 16 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1 Big Ten) blew away Rutgers (5-3, 1-3 Big Ten) by a final score of 42-24.

Nebraska’s victory over Rutgers was fueled by Abdullah, but he had a supporting cast doing its part as well. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong passed for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kenny Bell led Nebraska with 63 receiving yards. Abdullah was the story of the game though, turning in the second highest rushing total of his career. Abdullah rushed for a career-high 232 yards in week one of the season against Florida Atlantic. His 225 yards Saturday afternoon tied the second-highest mark of his career.

Rutgers put up a fight early on. A Gary Nova completion over the middle to Leonte Carroo turned a medium gain for a first down into a 71-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter. Nebraska responded in a big way by scoring two touchdowns off big runs by Abdullah to take a 21-7 lead into the half. Nebraska would later take a 35-17 lead to the fourth quarter, keeping the visiting Scarlet Knights at arm’s length the rest fo the way.

Nebraska only had three more rushing attempts than Rutgers, but Nebraska averaged 7.1 yards per rushing attempt to the 3.8 averaged by Rutgers. Nebraska also ended the game with 149 more rushing yards. Abdullah rushing for touchdowns from 53, 48 and 23 yards certainly helps inflate those numbers. Abdullah was quite the difference-maker.

Nebraska could very well be the favorite in the Big Ten West Division the rest of the way. Minnesota got a test on the road at Illinois today, but the Gophers remain in first place in the division with an uphill battle to climb the rest of the way. Nebraska will still have to play road games at Wisconsin and Iowa as well as a home game against Minnesota. Wisconsin and Iowa are still in the mix as well. Nebraska has a habit of winning nine games per year lately, so the Huskers are either going to break that trend this season or come stumbling down the finish line to the season in spectacular fashion. As long as Abdullah stays healthy and Nebraska keeps feeding his Heisman campaign, these Huskers could be rolling to the Big Ten championship game with double digits in the win column.

Rutgers is still one win shy of becoming bowl eligible in its first season in the Big Ten. Next is a home game against Wisconsin, with the Badgers coming off a pounding of Maryland in Madison. Rutgers will also host Indiana and finish the season on the road against Michigan State and Maryland. There could very well be a win to be had in there for Rutgers.

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No. 11 Kansas State does enough to stay perfect in Big 12

Jake Waters

When the sun comes up on Sunday, No. 11 Kansas State (6-1, 4-0 Big 12) will remain in first place in the Big 12. The Wildcats remain in control of the Big 12 after holding off Texas (3-5, 2-3 Big 12) on Saturday afternoon with a 23-0 victory over the Longhorns.

Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters put together a workmanlike performance, which is to be expected when discussing Kansas State in general. Waters completed 18 of 29 pass attempts for 219 yards. The numbers will not impress much, but the majority of those yards came in key third-down situations. Kansas State converted eight of 15 third-down conversion attempts in the game. This helped to milk as much clock as possible for Kansas State, with the Wildcats controlling the football for over 38 minutes. Everything about the way this game played out is what has made head coach Bill Snyder a College Football Hall of Fame candidate. The Wildcats will not dazzle with flashy play, but there are few teams that are as fundamentally well-rounded as Kansas State right now. The recipe may not work against programs like Florida State, Auburn or Oregon, but it works for Kansas State in the Big 12. This is all that will ultimately matter.

Kansas State also played a very clean game as well. The Wildcats were flagged just three times in the game and the offense did not lose the football. It also helped to have a dependable kicker with Matthew McCrane successfully sending all three of his field goal attempts through the goal posts. Early on, this came in handy as Kansas State was stopped by Texas inside the red zone. Kansas State’s defense held Texas to just 198 yards of total offense too. This is Kansas State football.

Kansas State will host Oklahoma State next weekend before heading to TCU for what could be a pivotal match-up in the Big 12 race coming down the stretch. The Wildcats also have a road trip to West Virginia and a season-ending road trip to Baylor to come as well. It is still premature to suggest Kansas State is the favorite to win the Big 12 at this point. The conference is very much up for grabs for a few teams right now, including TCU, West Virginia and Baylor.

Texas is, without question, far from being in the hunt for the Big 12 championship. This afternoon’s loss drops the Longhorns to 2-3 in Big 12 play with four games to play. The goal now should be to scratch together three more wins to become bowl-eligible. Texas has played in a postseason bowl game every season but two since the formation of the Big 12 in 1997. Charlie Strong is in danger of becoming just the second Texas coach since Edwin Price in 1951 not to lead Texas to a bowl game in his first year on the job. Texas plays at Texas Tech next week and still has West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU on the schedule. Two losses and Texas will be staying home this offseason.

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Kentucky’s Stanley Williams not cleared to play against No. 1 Mississippi State

Kentucky v LSU

The Kentucky Wildcats will face the No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs this afternoon without one of their most potent offensive weapons.

Freshman running back Stanley Williams suffered a concussion last Saturday against the LSU Tigers. He didn’t return to the game nor did he practice all week.

Williams announced on twitter that he won’t be available for today’s contest:

The 5-9, 200-pound running back was third on the team with 222 rushing yards. The talented freshman averaged 7.4 yards each time he ran the ball, though.

Williams was Kentucky’s best all-around threat. The running back already had eight catches for 90 yards this season. He is also the team’s primary kick returner and averages 30 yards per return.

With Williams out of the lineup, the Wildcats have three capable running back that already split time in the backfield. Sophomore JoJo Kemp, junior Braylon Heard and freshman Mikel Horton will continue to rotate at running back against the Bulldogs’ talented defensive front.

On special teams, sophomore cornerback J.D. Harmon is Williams’ likely replacement as the team’s top kicker returner. Harmon returned two kicks this season for 53 yards.

Anytime the No. 1 team in the country comes to town, the underdog needs all the help it can get to potentially pull off an upset. Unfortunately for Kentucky, one of the Wildcats’ most explosive players isn’t available, and they’ll have to adjust.

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Iowa suspends starting LB after alcohol-related incident

Indiana v Iowa

Iowa’s on a bye this weekend, but the Hawkeyes still managed to find a way to make headlines.

In a press release, UI announced that Reggie Spearman has been suspended from the football program for at least one game.  The release stated that the linebacker was cited for an alcohol-related offense early Saturday morning.

Just what the specific citation was wasn’t detailed.

“I was disappointed to hear of the charges against Reggie,” said head coach Kirk Ferentz in a statement. “Reggie will face a minimum one-game suspension, as well as other consequences within the program. We will work with authorities in gathering all the facts. Reggie will go through the UI Student Athlete Code of Conduct process and we will move forward from there.”

The suspension means Spearman will miss at least the Nov. 1 game against Northwestern.

Spearman has started all seven games for the 5-2 Hawkeyes this season. He’s currently tied for seventh in tackles with 34.

UPDATED 2:13 p.m. ET: According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Spearman was charged with operating while intoxicated after being pulled over shortly after midnight local time.

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