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The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

Daniel Rodriguez

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

WINNERS

A true American hero
If you don’t know the story of Daniel Rodriguez, you are truly missing out on one of the most inspirational narratives of the 2012 college football season. Short version: Rodriguez’s father passed away mere days after his son graduated from high school, a tragic turn of events that pushed the aspiring college football player into a military career.  Rodriguez ultimately served two tours of duty in the Middle East — one in Iraq in 2007 and another in Afghanistan in 2009 — and received the Bronze Star Medal of Valor and the Purple Heart for his time during the latter tour.  After leaving the military, he worked his way into becoming a walk-on wide receiver at Clemson.  On Saturday, Rodriguez caught the first pass of his collegiate career [/goosebumps], a mere four-yard reception during the No. 12 Tigers’ 52-27 beatdown of Ball State that was the culmination of well over five years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.  God bless you, Daniel Rodriguez, for what you’ve done for this country and for the inspiration that you’ve surely become to the countless individuals who’ve become aware of your uplifting story over the past few months.

No. 1 holds serve. No. 2? Meh
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 USC were favored by a combined 64.5 against Western Kentucky and Syracuse, respectively; only the former truly held up its end of the bargain.  The Tide, which vaulted past the Trojans into the top spot in the polls following its season-opening thumping of Michigan, had little trouble with 39-point underdog Western Kentucky, easily handling the Hilltoppers 35-0 in posting its fourth shutout in the past 15 games.  Quarterback AJ McCarron was again his quietly productive and efficient self, passing for 219 yards and four touchdowns in the win, while the Tide defense limited WKU to 224 yards and just 1.6 yards per rush attempt.  The Trojans, on the other hand, struggled mightily for 45 minutes against Syracuse in a “neutral-field” game in New Jersey.  Leading just 21-16 after three quarters of play, the Trojans ultimately pulled away from the unranked Orange in what became a 42-29 win.  Matt Barkley tied a school record — his own school record — with six touchdown passes, although he may have lost his starting center to injury for an extended period of time in what would prove to be a significant development given USC’s NCAA-related depth issues.  Add the two results together, and it’s very likely the Tide will do nothing but extend its lead over the Trojans when the next set of polls are released early Sunday afternoon.

Buckeyes’ Braxton ballin’
Braxton Miller accounted for 296 of Ohio State’s 411 yards of offense in the 31-16 win over UCF, the second win in as many tries for first-year OSU head coach Urban Meyer.  And, in those first two games, Miller has essentially been the entire offense for the No. 14 Buckeyes.  The sophomore quarterback has accounted for exactly 70 percent  (664 yards) of OSU’s 949 yards of offense the first two games, and has scored seven — three passing, four rushing — of the Buckeyes’ 11 touchdowns.  Once again, there was a reason Meyer has been downright giddy over the opportunity to coach Miller, and the player has shown exactly why the first two weeks of the season.

Klein’s Cats clobber ‘Canes
Yes, it’s Alliteration Day here at CFT.  And, yes, this very easily could’ve put Miami in the opposite category, what with it being the Hurricanes’ worst loss since the final game at the Orange Bowl in 2007.  Instead, however, Bill Snyder and Kansas State deserve some plaudits and recognition.  Simply put, the No. 21 Wildcats took The U to the woodshed and throttled their non-conference opponents 52-13.  KSU nearly doubled-up the ‘Canes in total offense (498-262); held a Miami offense that had rushed for 208 yards in the opener to just 40; and possessed the ball for nearly 15 minutes more than its competition.  Add in another productive day for quarterback Collin Klein — keep him in mind as the Heisman race creeps into the latter portion of the season — and it totaled a evisceration of the once-mighty U.  It also signaled to Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, et al that, when it comes to the race for the Big 12 title, do not overlook Snyder’s Wildcats.

RichRod rises
Hide your eyes, West Virginia and Michigan fans.  He’s back… with a vengeance.  After turning his back on his home state, and after nearly running one of the most storied programs in college football history straight into the ground, Rich Rodriguez landed on his feet on the other side of the country, taking over for Mike Stoops at Arizona.  And, in just two games, RichRod has scored the signature win of his brief desert tenure.  In a victory that was as dominating as it was surprising, the Wildcats took control of No. 18 Oklahoma State early on and never lifted its foot off the throat, whipping the Cowboys 59-38.  OSU actually outgained Arizona by nearly 100 yards, but four turnovers and 14 penalties for 157 yards ultimately ended up being the Cowboys’ undoing.  Regardless of how or why, though, the magnitude of the win for Rodriguez and the football program cannot be overstated.

LOSERS

Woo pig phooey!!!
With Tyler Wilson on the field, Arkansas was comfortably in control of its game with Louisiana-Monroe, cruising along with a 21-7 first-half lead that grew to 28-7 early in the third quarter.  After Wilson was injured and missed the final two-plus quarters?  All hell broke loose, shattering any hopes the Razorbacks had entertained in pushing its way into the BcS title game picture.  The Warhawks scored the final 21 points of regulation, including a touchdown with 47 seconds left, to send the game into overtime.  After holding the Razorbacks to a field goal on their first possession, ULM scored on a fourth-and-one, a 16-yard touchdown run by Kolton Browning — he of the 481 yards of total offense and four scores — that stunned all of Fayetteville and the whole of college football.  As Ben deftly noted, the 34-31 loss is far from a death knell for UA’s SEC title hopes, but it certainly doesn’t portend anything other than the Razorbacks once again being a West division also-ran — especially if Wilson is out for any length of time. Oh, remember, Arkansas hosts mighty Alabama next week.

College football
Last week, Savannah State was dropped 84-0 by Oklahoma State.  This weekend, the FCS school entered its game with Florida State as 70-point underdogs — and promptly lost 55-0 in a game that featured a running second-half clock and was then halted in the third quarter because of, ahem, inclement weather.  It was yet another insult to any fan with a lick of common sense.  And it’s the kind of scheduling crap that must stop, even as I’m fully aware that the Seminoles had almost no choice after being ditched by West Virginia.  The scheduling of overmatched teams by perennial Top 25 football programs is an embarrassment to the game, especially ones that involves FCS-level teams.  It’s a disservice to the sport and to the school’s fans, fans who are forced to pay regular-season prices for tickets, concessions, parking, etc. in an in-the-toilet economy for what amounts to nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.  Fortunately, the new playoff system that will be in place following the 2014 regular season, provided the new system as expected has a strength-of-schedule element, should go a long way toward ending the abomination that is games such as this one.  Until then, fans have no choice but to deal with the unsightly gorging on cupcakes in which many a program partakes.  And all the while paying full price as they choke on it.

2012 Big 10 football
The start of the new season hasn’t been kind to the Midwestern football conference.  Michigan was taken to the woodshed in front of a national television audience by Alabama, dropped by the defending BcS champions 41-14 in the opener in a game that wasn’t even remotely as close as the final scored may have indicated.  A week later, No. 13 Wisconsin, the odds-on favorite to represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten title game, was stunned by unranked Oregon State in Corvallis, a 10-7 loss that further dented the conference’s image nationally.  Not only that, but No. 16 Nebraska was decisioned 36-30 by UCLA of all teams, making the Big Ten the only conference this season to have three ranked teams go down in defeat.  Arguably the most impressive team in the conference two games in has been Ohio State, but the Buckeyes are ineligible for the 2012 postseason thanks to NCAA sanctions.  Add in Penn State’s off-field “issues” that have morphed into on-field struggles of epic proportions, and it appears 2012 could be a tough row to hoe for the Big Ten.  Speaking of which, Michigan State, the Big Ten hoe’s in your hands apparently.

New kids on the SEC block
It wasn’t the debuts for which either Missouri or Texas A&M were hoping.  Both schools were handed home dates for their new-conference openers, and kicked that gift horse square in the mouth.  The Aggies jumped out to a 17-7 first-half lead against No. 24 Florida before channeling their inner Mike Sherman, allowing 13 unanswered points en route to dropping its first-ever game in SEC play.  Likewise, Mizzou held a 17-9 lead in the third quarter before No. 7 Georgia ripped off 24 straight points to spoil the Tigers’ inaugural foray into the SEC.  There was a silver lining, however: both teams showed, at least for one game, they can hang with some of the best the East has to offer.  The other division, though, might be a different matter entirely, particularly for West member A&M.

Nittany Lions kicking themselves… or the kicker
I really hate to put Sam Ficken in the “Losers” category, but, damn son.  In the 17-16 loss to Virginia, the kicker missed a total of five kicks — four field goal attempts and one point after try.  Included in that total was a 42-yard attempt with no time left that would’ve given Bill O’ Brien his first win as Nittany Lions head coach; almost as soon as it left Ficken’s foot, however, it was destined to sail wide left, leaving O’ Brien and the Nittany Lions at 0-2 on the young season.  The way the loss transpired highlights just how devastating the NCAA sanctions were for the football program.  As part of those sanctions, any current player or incoming freshman was permitted to transfer without sitting out a season.  One of the handful of players to take advantage of those liberal transfer policies?  All-conference kicker Anthony Fera, who left for Texas shortly after the penalties were announced earlier this year.

Northeast football fans
The New York/New Jersey area absolutely loves its NFL football.  College football?  Yeah, not so much apparently.  The No. 2 team in the country, USC, and Syracuse played a game Saturday at MetLife Stadium — the new Meadowlands — in East Rutherford, N.J.  Not that you could tell a game was being played by taking a look at the stands, though:

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Daily News’ Scott Wolf)

The official attendance was announced at 39,507, which likely included anyone within a quarter-mile radius of the stadium.  Yes, the weather was bad — the game was delayed for more than an hour by storms — but the combination of one of the best teams in the country plus a team from the state of New York warranted a stadium that was, at bare minimum, three-quarters full, not one that was at best at a third of its capacity.

0-2=Uh-Oh
In games at Auburn that Gene Chizik has had Cam Newton under center, the Tigers are 14-0.  In games without Newton, AU is 16-12, including a 0-2 start to the 2012 season.  The latest post-Newton loss came at the hands of Mississippi State, which came away with a 28-10 win in the SEC opener for both schools.  The rumblings were there before the start of this season, and will certainly grow louder with the winless start: can Chizik win at Auburn without Newton?  Add in Chizik’s two-year Iowa State tenure, and the coach is 21-31 in games in which the 2010 Heisman winner has not been at his disposal.  It may not be a fair question, but it is a question that many, many individuals will ask in growing numbers if the losing continues.

Did you say “Utes?”
You ever have one of those days where you just knew you never should’ve even remotely considered getting out of bed?  Friday was that day for Utah.  Not only did the Utes loss to in-state little brother Utah State 27-20 in overtime, but — again — lost starting quarterback Jordan Wynn to yet another shoulder injury.  Wynn missed the the last two months of the regular season last year with an injury to the same non-throwing shoulder.  The loss to the Aggies, incidentally, was the Utes’ first since 1996, a streak of 12 straight wins that was snapped by the road defeat.

The state of Colorado
FCS-level Sacramento State 30, Pac-12 member Colorado 28.
FCS-level North Dakota State 22, MWC member Colorado State 7
CFT correspondent Max Cady, take it away…

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

No. 19 Michigan 31, Air Force 25: An Alabama Slammer hangover?  Whatever the case, the Wolverines were fortunate to come out of the home game without a second-consecutive loss to start the season, with the Falcons giving up the ball twice on downs in the last five minutes.

No. 22 Notre Dame 20, Purdue 17: With Tommy Rees coming off the bench in his first game back from suspension, the Irish kicked a 27-yard game-winning field goal with seven ticks left on the clock to escape with the win.

– No. 24 Florida 20, Texas A&M 17: Unlike the previous two games, the Gators were expecting a tussle in the Aggies’ first-ever SEC game.  And that’s exactly what UF got, falling behind 17-7 in the first half before scoring 13 unanswered points to remain unblemished on the young season.

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

1. Alabama — The Tide has outscored its first two opponents 76-17, showing no signs of a 2010-style, post-title malaise. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at No. 8 Arkansas

2. USC — The ho-hum three quarters of play vs. Syracuse notwithstanding, the Trojans are clearly one of the best teams in the country.  (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at No. 25 Stanford

3. LSU — Following an impressive waxing of a quality opponent in Washington, I was tempted to move the Tigers ahead of the Ducks.  And I ultimately gave into that temptation. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. Idaho

4. Oregon — All you need to know about Oregon in Week Two is the Ducks rolled up 383 yards of offense and 35 points in the first half of its win over Fresno State.  Still, I had no choice but to drop the Ducks down a spot. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: vs. Tennessee Tech

5. Georgia — You go into an SEC member’s house — even a sparkling new one — and come out with a party bag that includes a 21-point win, you earn a spot at the big-boy table. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. FAU

HE SAID IT
“It took him seven years and two wars to get his first college reception. But he has no bigger fans than his teammates.” — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, speaking of a true American hero.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
(via KegsnEggs)

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Denard Robinson rushed for 218 yards, threw for 208 more and scored four touchdowns in Michigan’s win.  It was the third time he’s topped 200 yards in rushing and receiving in the same game, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat since at least 1996.  Texas’ Vince Young did it twice last decade.

– Making his first collegiate start in place of an injured Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in No. 9 South Carolina’s 48-10 non-conference romp over East Carolina.  Knowing the Ol’ Ball Coach’s penchant for “shifting directions” at the position, is a quarterback change in the offing for the Gamecocks?

– Clemson’s Spencer Benton booted a 61-yard field goal in the Tigers’ win over Ball State, setting an ACC record in the process.  Benton bested the old conference mark of 60 yards by Florida State’s Gary Cismesia in 2007.  He also broke the school record, which had been 57 yards by two different players.

– Quarterback Collin Klein scored four touchdowns — one passing, three rushing — in Kansas State’s rout of Miami.  He also threw for 210 yards on just nine completions.  In the past 15 games, incidentally, Klein has rushed for 30 touchdowns.

– Yes, it came against an FCS-level opponent, but Tennessee’s Tyler Bray completed 18-of-20 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns in the Vols’ 51-13 rout of Georgia State.  Justin Hunter, returning from a season-ending injury a year ago, was Bray’s top target, catching three of those touchdowns among his eight receptions and 146 yards.

Damien Williams rushed for 154 yards and scored four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 69-13 win over Florida A&M.  Williams became just the fourth player in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first two games.

– Wide receiver Andre Davis broke USF’s single-game receiving record with 12 catches for 191 yards and two scores, including a 56-yarder from quarterback B.J. Daniels with :38 left that gave the Bulls a come-from-behind 32-31 win at Nevada.

– In Minnesota’s drubbing of FCS-level school New Hampshire, Marquies Gray passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more — in the first half.  As the Gophers were up 30-0, the quarterback watched from the sidelines the second half.

– Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez (no relation) had a career-long 92-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter of the loss to UCLA, a run that was the longest by a Nebraska player since Eric Crouch’s school-record 95-yard touchdown run at Missouri in 2001.  On his other 12 carries, by the way, Martinez totaled just 20 yards.

– Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater passed for a career-high 344 yards in the No. 23 Cardinals’ 35-7 win over Missouri State.

– Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo accounted for 405 yards of total offense – 271 passing, 134 rushing — in the loss to USF.

– TCU quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin combined for 17-of-17 passing in the Horned Frogs 56-0 win over Grambling State. Those numbers represent an NCAA record for most team attempts without an incompletion. The previous-best mark was 12-of-12 in 2002.

– With one against Stephen F. Austin Saturday, SMU’s Margus Hunt has now blocked nine field goals in his career, a new NCAA record.  In addition to the fied goals, the 6-8 defensive end has also blocked six extra point attempts.

– Ohio State senior cornerback Travis Howard intercepted three passes in the first six quarters of the young season — two in the opener against Miami of Ohio, one in this weekend’s win over UCF.

BEST WISHES…
… for a speedy recovery to Tulane safety Devon Walker, who suffered a fractured spine in a horrific teammate-on-teammate collision during the loss to Tulsa.  The senior was on the field for several minutes before being taken to a local hospital for further treatment.  In a statement, Tulane stated that Walker “is in traction with a lot of swelling in his neck” and “the current plan is for him to have surgery in the next one to two days.”  From all of us here at CFT, from Ben and I to our readers, many prayers and much positive energy are extended for a full recovery for the young man.

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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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New Hampshire, North Dakota State earn top two seeds in FCS playoff bracket

We’re still two weeks away from Selection Sunday for the College Football Playoff, but the Football Championship Subdivision held its own Selection Sunday with a late morning announcement of the 2014 FCS playoff bracket.

The 24-team tournament will begin this weekend and conclude with the national championship in Frisco, Texas on Jan. 10, two days before the FBS title will be awarded 40 miles south on the George Bush Turnpike in Arlington. This is the fifth straight year the title game will be held in North Texas after more than a decade in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the fourth consecutive year the championship will take place after New Year’s Day.

New Hampshire earned the No. 1 overall seed after posting a 10-1 regular season and winning the always-tough Colonial Athletic Association. Three-time defending national champion North Dakota State grabbed the No. 2 seed, while Jacksonville State checks in at No. 3 and Eastern Washington earns the No. 4 ranking.

The 24-team bracket allows for the top eight seeds to earn first-round byes, meaning Illinois State (fifth), Villanova (sixth), Coastal Carolina (seventh) and Chattanooga (eighth) will take next weekend off.

First-round games break out as follows:

Sacred Heart at Fordham – winner plays New Hampshire
Indiana State at Eastern Kentucky – winner plays Chattanooga

San Diego at Montana – winner plays Eastern Washington
Stephen F. Austin at Northern Iowa – winner plays Illinois State

And on the opposite side of the bracket:

South Dakota State at Montana State – winner plays North Dakota State
Morgan State at Richmond – winner plays Coastal Carolina

Southeastern Louisiana at Sam Houston State – winner plays Jacksonville State
Liberty at James Madison – winner plays Villanova

First and second-round games will be webcast on ESPN3, and the championship is slated for 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

You can click here for the interactive bracket.

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He’s a man! He’s brief! Don’t bother quoting Mike Gundy after loss to Bayor

Mike Gundy

Oklahoma State lost to No. 7 Baylor 49-28 on Saturday night. The loss was the Cowboys’ fifth straight, dropping them to 5-6 and into a do-or-die Bedlam game at Oklahoma next week, but an argument can be made this was actually Oklahoma State’s best overall performance since playing Florida State to a 37-31 final in the opener.

After falling behind 14-0 early, Oklahoma State played Baylor to a 35-28 score over the final 55 minutes of the night. True freshman Mason Rudolph threw for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his collegiate debut. It’s not great, but it counts for something in a tough season.

Still, head coach Mike Gundy was in no mood for conversation following the game. In fact, the man of “I’m a man! I’m 40!” had his very own Rasheed Wallace moment in Waco.

Via The Oklahoman:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 3.49.45 PM

The fastest way to draw the ire of the college football media is to duck the college football media, and Gundy did just that in the eyes of a few high-profile writers.

Gundy is 1-8 in his nine seasons at Oklahoma State against the Sooners, so the odds of Oklahoma State walking into Norman and extending its season appear low. Either way, 2014 will go down as Gundy’s worst season in Stillwater since a 3-8 debut in 2005.

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