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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

Clemson v Florida State Getty Images

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

WINNERS

Guess who’s back… Back again…
Earlier this week on this lil’ ol’ website, the question was posed asking whether Florida State was back after years of keeping the national stage at arm’s length.  Consider that question answered in the affirmative.  And with (late-game) authority.  Early on, though, the Seminoles were staggering, with No. 10 Clemson holding a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter and seemingly having the No. 4 team in the country on the ropes.  Then, all offensive hell broke loose for the ‘Noles.  In a span of just under 17 minutes, FSU exploded for 35 points to send the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium into a frenzy and, ultimately, home ecstatic with a resounding 49-37 thumping.  The win puts the Seminoles in the ACC driver’s seat — FSU will be significant favorites every single conference game the remainder of the season — and, depending on how things shake out above them, could find themselves in the same seat when it comes to the chase for the BcS title chase.  Of course, there are still several obstacles to navigate, none more obvious than themselves and shooting their own foot.  For now, though, every sign points to the Seminoles very much being back.

A RB graveyard in Corvallis
Apparently, Oregon State is the place where top-flight running backs go to die.  In two games this season, OSU has limited Wisconsin’s Montee Ball — third in the country last season in rushing yards — to 61 yards on 15 carries and UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin — the nation’s leading rusher entering this weekend’s game — to 45 yards on 12 carries.  Neither player scored a touchdown.  The Beavers turnaround in that phase of the game is nothing short of astounding.  Last season, OSU ranked 101st in the country, allowing 193.8 rushing yards per game in winning just three games; this season, OSU, 2-0 after their win over the No. 19 Bruins, is giving up just 53.5 yards per game.

Here he comes to Stave the day
The most notable change at the quarterback position this weekend came courtesy of Wisconsin, with the Badgers taking the reins of their offense out of the hands of Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien and handing them to Joel Stave.  And, at least for one game, the redshirt freshman made the UW coaching staff look like a bunch of Norman Einsteins.  In his first collegiate start, Stave threw for 147 yards — in the first half; the Badgers came into the game with UTEP averaging 156.3, a total “good” for 117th out of 124 FBS programs.  For the game, Stave threw for 210 yards — the return of wide receiver Jared Abbrederis certainly helped the first-time starter — as the Badgers held off the Miners 37-26.

Red-hot, dead sexy MACtion
MAC football: it’s not just for Wednesdays any more.  On Saturday, The Little Midwest Conference That Could finished the day with a 6-3 record in non-conference games.  It was the victories, however, that were the story of the day as four of those wins came against members of BcS conferences — Kansas, 30-23 losers to Northern Illinois; USF, 30-27 losers to Ball State; Iowa, 32-31 losers to Central Michigan; and UConn, 30-24 losers to Western Michigan.  Not only that, but Eastern Michigan hung with a ranked Michigan State team through three and a half quarters, as did Akron vs. Tennessee; in fact, the only blowout in MAC vs. BcS matchups Saturday was Virginia Tech’s 37-0 drubbing of Bowling Green.  Add in a 4-0 Ohio University team that should be ranked somewhere inside the Top 25, and it’s shaping up like the MAC could be the best football conference in that area of the country and yes I’m looking directly at you B1G.

AIRBHG on sabbatical?
You have no doubt heard of the curse of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, with the Hawkeyes losing somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 players at the position to on-field injuries and/or off-field “issues” the past several years.  The fullback position is another animal entirely, as Mark Weisman proved Saturday afternoon.  The former walk-on rushed for a career-high 217 yards — the Hawkeyes as a team rushed for 215 — and scored three of Iowa’s four touchdowns.  In the end, however, the AIRBHG had the last laugh as Central Michigan, after recovering an onside kick with less than a minute left, kicked a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to give the Chips a stunning 32-31 win over the Hawkeyes.

LOSERS

Mizzou’s rude welcome to SEC continues
Well, that’s no way to treat the new guy, is it?  After Georgia spoiled Missouri’s SEC coming-out party two weeks ago in a physical 21-point beatdown, South Carolina dominated the Tigers in every phase of the game, pushing and bullying its way to an easy 31-10 win.  That leaves Mizzou 0-2 in conference play, with games against old-man football teams such as Alabama and Florida among others remaining.  Granted, Mizzou has faced the two preseason favorites in the SEC East, but the Tigers had been hoping to send an early-season message to rest of the league.  They’ve actually done that, but it’s not the message they would’ve preferred: simply put, the Tigers aren’t nearly ready to compete with the best the East has to offer, let alone the best that the conference serves up annually.

The forward pass in South Bend
This all you need to know about the aerial circus, replete with clowns and a bearded lady, that reared its ugly head in South Bend Saturday: the last five passes Michigan attempted in the first half were all intercepted by Notre Dame — four by Denard Robinson, one by Vincent Smith.  All told, seven were intercepted between the two teams; the two by the Irish were courtesy of starter Everett Golson, who was promptly yanked in favor of Tommy Rees.  Fortunately for the Wolverines, that was the last of the picks, although Robinson was kind enough to lose a fumble on the first possession of the third quarter.  Unfortunately, the combination of the turnovers and the Irish defense was too much to overcome as the Wolverines fell to 2-2 with the 13-6 loss.

Ramblin’ Wrecked
For the second time in four weeks, Georgia Tech has lost an ACC heartbreaker, with this one likely costing the Yellow Jackets any slim hopes they’d entertained of making a trip to the conference championship game.  In today’s loss to Miami, Tech fell behind 19-0… only to score the next 36 points… only to see The U score the final 23 points, including a touchdown in overtime that gave Miami a 42-36 win.  That game-winning touchdown came after Tech, with the initial possession of the extra session and eschewing a chippie field goal attempt, failed to convert a fourth-and-one from the two-yard line.  Combine that with a three-point overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the season opener, and the Miami game was the back-end of a fatal one-two conference sucker punch to Tech’s gut.

No Moore equals much less for Boise
With the losses of Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and a whole host of other veteran starters, it was widely assumed that Boise State would struggle, especially on offense and early on in the season.  The struggles on that side of the ball, however, have been of a magnitude that no one could’ve reasonably predicted.  During the last three years with Moore under center, the Broncos never finished fifth in scoring and didn’t average less than 42 points a season.  Prior to the ugly win over BYU, BSU was 83rd in the country averaging 26 points per game, totals that will no doubt drop following their seven-point output against the Cougars.  Chris Petersen‘s track record says he will right the Broncos’ listing offensive ship; how soon that happens will determine whether the Broncos can once again crash the BcS postseason party.

Straight up the Wazzu
The highly-anticipated Mike Leach era at Washington State has been one long and  resounding thud.  A 24-point loss to BYU to open the season, then wins over FCS-level Eastern Washington and winless UNLV by a combined total of 12 points.  And then the biggest thud of all: a home loss to Colorado, a “football team” with an under-fire head coach and had just the week before given up 55 points and over 500 yards of total offense in the first half to Fresno State.  And had lost to Colorado State and FCS-level Sacramento State.  For Wazzu to lose a game against a team like that after leading by 17 in the fourth quarter is inexcusable and unacceptable, as explained by CFT correspondent Max Cady:

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

– No. 2 LSU 12, Auburn 10: Facing a road game against an opponent whose lone 2012 win came against Louisiana-Monroe in overtime, the Tigers escaped with win over Auburn.  It wasn’t pretty, but in the big conference picture, a win is a win is a win.  I wouldn’t think the Tigers would drop more than a spot in the polls, but you can never really tell which way the shifting voter winds will blow.

– No. 8 West Virginia 31, Maryland 21: I was on the fence about including this one, but the woeful state of Terrapin football proved to be the tipping point.  The Terps were actually tied with the Mountaineers in Morgantown midway through the second quarter and had outgained the explosive WVU offense by 70 yards.  WVU, as expected, pulled away for a double-digit win, but the fact that the Terps hung around for so long was eyebrow raising to say the least.

– No. 16 Ohio State 29, UAB 15: Trailing 9-0 late in the first half, and leading just 21-16 late in the fourth, Braxton Miller‘s second touchdown of the game — he now has 16 scores (seven passing, nine rushing) in four games — put the game away for the Buckeyes.  A perfect 4-0 in the first season under Urban Meyer, OSU will face its first real test of the season as they travel to East Lansing to face No. 21 Michigan State.

– No. 20 Louisville 28, FIU 20: The Cardinals trailed for the first time this season — 14-7 in the middle of the second quarter — before pulling away with 21 unanswered points in its fourth win to start the season.

– No. 21 Michigan State 16, Eastern Michigan 7: Like the Buckeyes, the Spartans were trailing a lesser opponent in the first half, with MSU actually trailing the Eagles late into the third quarter.  Based on this game and the overall start to the season, if MSU is the best the Big Ten has to offer then the conference is in for a very long, extremely embarrassing 2012 bowl 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 opponents 168-21 in four games and likely won’t be tested for the first time this season — hello, Michigan!!! — until Oct. 27 against No. 23 Mississippi State.  Or the following weekend at No. 2 LSU. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Ole Miss

2. Florida State — An emphatic statement win indeed, one that’s been a long-time coming for the storied football program. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at USF

3. Oregon — Take a Top-25 team to the woodshed?  Stay right where you are, courtesy of FSU’s own woodshedding of a ranked foe. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at Washington State

4. LSU — Win by two points over an unranked team, regardless of whether it’s on the road against a conference foe?  Take two steps back, please. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Towson

5. Kansas State —  Go on the road and beat the No. 6 team in the country?  Go ahead and leapfrog numerous teams and right into this lil’ Top Five. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Kansas

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

– Arkansas’ John L. Smith: The past three weeks, Smith’s Razorbacks have lost to the Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Monroe; were woodshedded by Alabama in a shutout loss; and, Saturday, lost to Rutgers.  All of those losses came at home.  For all intents and purposes, Smith was a one-year rental to bridge the gap between the dismissed Bobby Petrino and a permanent replacement.  Based on the past three games, Smith has all but assured that will indeed be the case.  And will likely burn the bridge down in the process.

– Kentucky’s Joker Phillips: An ugly loss to Florida — which included Phillips sticking with in-over-his-head quarterback Morgan Newton, he of the three first-half interceptions — dropped the Wildcats to 1-3 on the season.  Phillips will be lucky to survive the entire season, let alone making it to 2013 on the Wildcats sideline.

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: For the first time since 1998, the Tigers have started a season 1-3.  For the first time since 1980, AU’s started SEC play 0-2.  We’ll reiterate a stat that says it all about Chizik’s tenure at AU.  With Cam Newton as his quarterback, Chizik is 14-0; without Newton, Chizik is 17-13 overall and 7-11 in SEC play.  In his career, Chizik is 22-30 as a head coach when he’s Cam-less.  If there is such a thing, a two-point setback to the No. 2 team in the country would qualify as a good loss.  For a program like AU and in a conference like the SEC, claiming moral victories is a sure sign you’re headed in the wrong direction.

HE SAID IT
“I don’t need any questions today.” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, channeling his inner Lane Kiffin, after giving his opening statement and promptly walking out of his postgame press conference.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
Tennessee has always had beautiful athletes.” — Akron head coach Terry Bowden, following the Zips loss to the Vols.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– After missing on his first throw of the day, Connor Shaw completed the final 20 passes he attempted in South Carolina’s taming of Missouri.  The FBS single-game record, incidentally, is 26 in a row set by East Carolina’s Dominique Davis in 2011.  Shaw can break Davis’ record of 36 straight completions over two games next week against Kentucky.

EJ Manuel and Chris Thompson combined to account for 585 of Florida State’s 667 yards of total offense — 380 yards passing for Manuel; 103 yards rushing for Thompson; and 102 yards rushing for Manuel.

– Oregon State’s Sean Mannion set a career-high in passing with 379 yards in the Beavers upset of UCLA.

– Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 253 yards in the win over Eastern Michigan.

– West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, second in the country in receptions per game entering today’s tilt with Maryland, caught 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 31-21 win over the Terps.

– A first-quarter fumble in the game against UTEP was the first fumble Montee Ball had lost during his career at Wisconsin.  The fumble came on his 655th carry as a Badger.  Ball ultimately left the game with a head injury in the first half and did not return.

Dustin Harris set a Texas A&M and SEC record with 246 yards worth of punt returns in the Aggies’ 70-14 win over South Carolina State.  He averaged nearly 31 yards on his eight returns, which included a 96-yarder for a touchdown.

– A first-half reception gave Syracuse’s Alec Lemon 140 for his career, breaking the school record of 139 previously held by Scott Schwedes (1983-86) and Shelby Hill (1990-93).

– Arizona took six trips into the red zone in its loss to Oregon, and failed to come away with any points on any of those visits.

– It took a little over 182 minutes of play this season for Iowa to record its first touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss from James Vandenberg to Kevonte Martin-Manley.  Army and UConn also threw their first touchdown passes of the season, leaving Air Force as the lone FBS team with no scoring plays through the air.

– Wake Forest’s run defense has given up a staggering 814 yards rushing the past two weeks — 385 in a loss to Florida State last weekend, 429 in a win over Army this weekend.  Last season, Alabama gave up just 938 yards in 13 games.  Speaking of which…

– An FAU touchdown with 2:46 left in the game was the first points No. 1 Alabama’s defense had given up since the third quarter of the season-opening win over Michigan, a span of 192:28.  This season, the Tide has outscored its four opponents 168-21.

– Nebraska scored 45 points and rolled up 362 yards of total offense in the first half alone of its blowout win over FCS-level Idaho State.  That number represented the most the Cornhuskers have scored in two quarters since scoring 52 points against Baylor in the first half in October of 2000.

– In Georgia’s 48-3 win over Vanderbilt, the 2012 Bulldogs became the first team in the program’s history to score 40-plus points in consecutive games.

– Ohio State’s win over UAB was the 400th for the Buckeyes in the history of Ohio Stadium.

– Florida’s win over Kentucky was the school’s 26th straight over the Mildcats.  In other streak news, Penn State has now won 30 consecutive games it’s played against Temple.

– On the strength of its 17-10 win over Syracuse, Minnesota has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2008.  And, if you want to talk about the state of the Big Ten, digest this little nugget: the Gophers and Northwestern are the conference’s only unbeaten teams that are eligible for the 2012 postseason.  Ouch.  The good news for the Big Ten?  Conference play begins next weekend, so the league is guaranteed to win half its games nearly every weekend.

– With a 31-19 win over Colorado State, Utah State has started a season 3-1 for the first time since 1978.  Senior running back Kerwynn Williams rushed for a career-high 205 yards and scored two touchdowns in the victory.

– North Carolina’s seven sacks in a win over East Carolina was the most for a Tar Heels team since 2000.

– Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke (no relation) threw for 730 yards and accounted for 791 yards of total offense in a 64-61 win over New Hampshire.  Those totals are the most ever in a single game at the Div. 1 level — FBS and FCS — and the third-most at any level.

– Derrick Henry, the No. 1 “athlete” in the Class of 2012, set a state of Florida record with 502 yards rushing in his high school football game Friday night.  Henry, who decommitted from Georgia earlier this year and is now believed to be leaning toward Alabama, broke the record of 501 yards set by Shawn Smith of Tampa Bay Tech back in 1985.

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Bobby Hauck resigns as head coach at UNLV

Bobby Hauck

There is now a third opening for a head football coach at a Football Bowl Subdivision school.

UNLV released a statement Friday that stated head coach Bobby Hauck resigned from his current position.

“Bobby Hauck submitted his resignation, effective Monday, and I have accepted it,” UNLV director of athletics Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in the statement. “No one has worked harder in trying to achieve consistent success with our football program than Coach Hauck and we thank him for his dedication and leadership. He and his staff have worked tirelessly in trying to achieve the results we all want to see but it unfortunately has not happened. We wish Bobby and his family the very best in their future endeavors.”

The decision comes 11 months after Hauck agreed to a controversial extension that raised his pay and added a year to his previous contract.

The extension was a reward for a 7-6 record during the 2013 campaign. Those seven wins more than tripled Hauck’s win total through his first three seasons with the program. It was also the school’s first non-losing season since 2003 when the Rebels finished 6-6 under the direction of John Robinson.

After another 2-10 season (with one game left to play), Hauck decided to step aside and let another coach attempt to resurrect the program.

“We were given an opportunity to get it done here at UNLV and we simply did not win enough games,” Hauck said. “It’s my responsibility to push the program forward and I wish we would have produced better results.

“I would like to thank our University leadership for their support of our program; in particular, President Don Snyder, Athletics Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy and Board of Regents Chair Kevin Page. In addition, I would like to thank our student body, alumni and community leaders for their support of Rebel Football.”

UNLV landed the top coach at the FCS level in Hauck during the previous coaching search. UNLV’s brass now has another major decision in front it to hire the right person for the job. It’s never been easy to win in Sin City. Harvey Hyde was the last head coach to own a winning record from 1982-85.

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Arizona Wildcats bear down, claim Pac-12 South crown over rival Arizona State

Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham

A Pac-12 South division crown and The Territorial Cup will both reside in Tucson, Arizona this year.

The No. 11 Arizona Wildcats claimed a 42-35 victory over the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils in a chippy affair that proved to be a de facto Pac-12 South championship game.

With the UCLA Bruins’ loss, the balance of the Pac-12 South was still in question during the fourth quarter for the Wildcats and the Sun Devils.

Arizona already built a 35-21 lead with the fourth frame about to commence. Arizona State head coach Todd Graham decided to make a change at quarterback by swapping Taylor Kelly for Mike Bercovici. The move paid immediate dividends, but it didn’t prove to be enough.

A 20-yard touchdown reception by sophomore wide receiver Samajie Grant — his second of the contest — was the difference in the game.

With the victory, the Wildcats enter rare territory for the program.

Arizona will now face the No. 2 Oregon Ducks in next week’s Pac-12 Championship Game. It will be a rematch of its Oct. 2 meeting. The Wildcats arrived on the national scene with a 31-24 victory during the Thursday night contest.

The Ducks will be favored again when these two teams meet for the second time:

After failing at the University Michigan and being fired after three seasons, Rodriguez already turned around Arizona’s football program in the same amount of time. With another strong effort against Oregon, Rodriguez could achieve something very special in the desert:

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UCLA squanders Pac-12 South lead with loss to Stanford

Stanford v UCLA

The UCLA Bruins will not represent the South division in the Pac-12 Championship game. And the Bruins have no one to blame but themselves.

All Jim Mora‘s squad had to do was beat the underachieving 6-5 Stanford Cardinal. UCLA may not have beaten Stanford during the last six years, but this season was supposed to be different.

The Bruins were ranked eighth overall, and there were conversations during the week that UCLA could sneak into the backdoor of the College Football Playoff after three impressive victories against the Arizona Wildcats, Washington Huskies and the rival USC Trojans.

Stanford didn’t get the message.

The Cardinal played like the program it had been during previous seasons. David Shaw’s squad dominated at the point of attack and controlled the clock. This led to Stanford claiming a decisive 31-10 victory to extend their winning streak over UCLA to seven straight games.

UCLA took an early lead, though, when quarterback Brett Hundley completed a 15-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Thomas Duarte. Stanford responded with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie the game 7-7.

However, the second quarter belonged to the Cardinal.

During the second frame, Stanford ran 19 plays on two drives and gained 167 yards. Both drives ended in touchdowns. With 21-10 halftime, the game was essentially over for UCLA.

Stanford extended its streak of outscoring UCLA to 14 straight halves when it scored 10 more points in the second half of Friday’s contest.

The biggest difference in the game proved to be the play of the quarterbacks.

While Hundley, a junior, celebrated with the seniors because he is expected to leave UCLA for the NFL, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan was the most impressive signal-caller on the field.

Hogan began the game 12-of-12 passing. He was efficient and particularly deadly on third down. Stanford’s junior quarterback finished the game 16-of-19 passing for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Hundley, meanwhile, never got into a groove and struggled to lead his offense before leaving the game with what appeared to be an injured throwing hand. During Hundley’s last game at the Rose Bowl, the quarterback was only 17-of-32 passing for a meager 146 yards and a touchdown.

Both teams are bowl eligible, but Stanford once again proved to the biggest obstacle for a team hoping to go to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

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Mizzou dashes UGA’s ATL hopes, heads back to SEC title game

Arkansas v Missouri

As it turns out, Georgia tripping all over itself in the latest edition of The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was as costly as it gets for the Bulldogs.

The UGA faithful were rightly optimistic as Arkansas absolutely controlled Missouri in the first half, jumping out to a 14-6 lead that seemed bigger than what it actually was.  What it actually wasn’t, however, was a lead big enough as Mizzou came back in the second half to both win the game 21-14 and stake its claim to a second straight SEC East title.

Mizzou still trailed by that same first-half deficit of 14-6 heading into the fourth quarter.  A pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion, however — Maty Mauk‘s four-yard touchdown pass with 12:41 left, Marcus Murphy‘s 12-yard touchdown run with 4:38 remaining — sent the Tigers to Atlanta.

That Mauk scoring toss, incidentally, was the first touchdown allowed by the Razorbacks defense since the Nov. 1 game against Mississippi State.

UA did have one last chance to tie the game late in the game.  However, Alex Collins‘ fumble was recovered by the Tigers with just over two minutes left and essentially ended the game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, despite the losing effort, you won’t see a more gutsy performance football-wise than what Brandon Allen laid on the field, especially in the second half.  UA’s starting quarterback was questionable heading into the game due to injury, and was visibly hobbled late in it.  He remained in the game, however, and should be applauded for the heart and guts he showed.

What should be questioned, however, is the decision of Bret Bielema and/or his offensive coordinator to throw on all but one down — a carry that ended in the fumble, oddly enough — of a final drive that began with over four minutes remaining and with his quarterback banged up.

Regardless, Mizzou’s win sends the Tigers to their second consecutive SEC championship game appearance in just their third year in the conference.  Thanks to Georgia’s inexplicable loss to Florida, UGA needed a Mizzou loss to send it back to the league title game for the third time in four years.

Just who Mizzou will play next Saturday in the Georgia Dome will be decided tomorrow.

In the SEC West, Alabama and Mississippi State are both 6-1, but the former holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the latter.  Thus, if Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl, they clinch the West and will square off with Mizzou.  Also, if Alabama loses to Auburn and Mississippi State loses to Ole Miss, UA clinches the West.  The only way MSU can win the West is if they beat Ole Miss and Alabama loses to Auburn.

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A&M axes defensive coordinator Mark Snyder

Mark Snyder

And let the Will Muschamp Watch in College Station commence in earnest.

Less than 24 hours after Texas A&M closed out the regular season with a 23-17 loss to LSU, head coach Kevin Sumlin announced that the football program has, ahem, “parted ways” with defensive coordinator Mark Snyder.  Linebackers coach Mark Hagan will serve as the interim coordinator for the Aggies’ bowl appearance.

Snyder, who just completed his third season with the Aggies, will be due $700,000 in salary through March of 2016.

“Mark is an outstanding coach and an even better person, but he understands the production needed to be better on the defensive side of the football,” Sumlin said in a statement. “We wish he and his family all of the best moving forward.”

The fact that Snyder was jettisoned is far from surprising.  This season, A&M’s defense was 11th or worse among the 14 teams in the SEC in nearly every major statistical category.  Entering Week 14, the Aggies were 77th nationally and 11th in the conference — ahead of only Kentucky (30.1), Vanderbilt (32.4) and South Carolina (32.7) — in points allowed per game (27.7). When it comes to yards allowed, they were even worse: at 445.2 yards per game, the Aggies were dead last in the conference and 100th in the country.

“I appreciate the opportunity Kevin Sumlin gave me to come to Texas A&M and to work on his staff,” Snyder said in his statement. “I have been in the business a while now and understand it is a production-based business.”

As to where Sumlin will, or should, begin his search, look no further than the deposed Florida Gators head coach.  While his time in the Swamp was far from a success, Will Muschamp is still widely viewed as one of the top defensive coordinators in the country.  Until there’s a resolution one way or the other, it will be Muschamp’s name that’s first off the tongue of an Aggie fan — and should be first on Sumlin’s coordinator to-do list.

(Photo credit: Texas A&M athletics)

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Offensive fireworks send Marshall’s perfect season up in OT flames

And then there was one.

Entering Week 14, Marshall was one of just two undefeated FBS teams in the country.  The Herd had also just entered the Top 25 of the most recent College Football Playoff rankings.  All of that, though, came crashing down on the Herd as they dropped a wild 67-66 decision to visiting Western Kentucky in overtime.

The Herd sent the game into overtime on a touchdown with :39 seconds left, then scored a touchdown on its first overtime possession to take a 66-59 lead.  However, the Hilltoppers matched that touchdown and added a two-point conversion for the win.

Defense was merely a rumor in this game as the 133 combined points was the second-most ever for a game featuring at least one overtime, behind only the 2007 Boise State-Nevada in which 136 points were scored in the four-overtime affair.  The two teams combined for 1,438 yards of offense, behind the record of 1,640 set in 2001 during the San Jose State-Nevada.  Prior to this season, there had only been 40 games in the history of college football at the FBS/Div. 1-A level in which both teams gained more than 600 yards of offense.

One record that was set?  The most combined touchdown passes by two players in a single game, with WKU’s Brandon Doughty (eight) and MU’s Rakeem Cato (seven) combining for 15.

Marshall has already clinched the East division of Conference USA and will play in the league title game next Saturday.  A win Saturday would’ve ensured that that game would’ve been played in Huntington; now, the location is up in the air.  From the league’s official tiebreaker guidelines:

If Marshall loses to WKU on Friday and Louisiana Tech defeats Rice, both teams would have the same conference record (7-1). Marshall and Louisiana Tech do not play in the regular season, eliminating the head-to-head tie-breaker, the second tiebreaker after conference record. Therefore, the CFP ranking is the next tie-breaker. If neither team is in the top 25 of the CFP Rankings, average select computer ranking (Anderson and Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix and Wolfe) would be used to determine host.

The loss is also a blow to Marshall’s New Year’s Day bowl game aspirations, although not a fatal one — at least not yet.  The highest-ranked Group of Five team will earn a spot in one of the four marquee bowl games that aren’t a part of the CFP rotation this year; Marshall was No. 24 last week, while Boise State was No. 23.  It would seem likely that the Herd will drop out, although the Broncos could tumble out as well with a loss to Utah State Saturday.

Colorado State and Northern Illinois, which clinched the MAC West earlier today to move to 10-2 on the year, are also contenders for that lone Group of Five slot.

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Dawgs calling Hogs? Arkansas up on Mizzou at the half

Arkansas v Missouri Getty Images

The biggest fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks reside in Fayetteville and surrounding areas.  The second-biggest?  At least for this weekend, they reside in Athens, Georgia… and they’re extremely bullish on the Hogs right at the moment.

Through two quarters of play in Columbia, UA is taking it to SEC East-leading Missouri 14-6.  Brandon Allen, whose availability leading into the game due to injury was somewhat questionable, completed 7-of-10 passes for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

While the Razorbacks’ defense saw its shutout streak end — they hadn’t allowed a point in the last two games — they did hold the Tigers to 121 yards of first-half offense, including just 22 on the ground and an average of 1.3 yard per carry.

If Missouri can mount a second-half comeback and win, it would be headed to its second consecutive SEC championship game.  If Mizzou loses, Georgia would claim the East based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Arkansas, incidentally, will get the ball on offense to start the second half.

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‘Huskers rally past Iowa… and save Pelini’s coaching skin in process?

Nebraska v Iowa Getty Images

Those sounds you may have heard toward the end of the second quarter of the Nebraska-Iowa game? It was a mob in Lincoln firing up their torches and sharpening their pitchforks.  Whether what happened over the next two-plus quarters — and extra time — has quieted the grousing and grumbling in the nation’s heartland, however, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that Nebraska mounted a massive comeback, in part because Iowa failed to capitalize on first-half opportunities… and then failed to put the game away late… and then stunned the Iowa City crowd in overtime to “steal” a 37-34 win.

The Hawkeyes took a 24-7 lead at the midway point of the second quarter, although the damage could’ve — and likely should’ve — been much, much worse. Twice in the first half, the Hawkeyes drove into the red zone, and inside the 10-yard line even, only to turn the ball over to the Cornhuskers. At worst the lead at that point should’ve been 30-7; at best, it would’ve been a seemingly insurmountable 38-7 deficit for the ‘Huskers on the road.

Instead, the ‘Huskers dodged those bullets and began firing some of their own. A touchdown with :20 left in the second quarter cut the lead to 24-14. NU then shut Iowa’s offense down for most of the second half while scoring 14 points on offense/special teams to take a 28-24 lead.

De’Mornay Pierson-El‘s 80-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter was looking like the winning score until a Jake Ruddock five-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan Canzeri with 1:49 remaining put the Hawkeyes back on top 31-28. Tommie Armstrong Jr. then led the ‘Huskers on a drive that was capped by a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Iowa’s possession in the first overtime resulted in a field goal.  On Nebraska’s possession, Armstrong Jr. tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell that, after a replay review, gave the Cornhuskers the come-from-behind win.

Despite the dramatic win that showed the tremendous heart on that squad, the questions surrounding Bo Pelini‘s future with the program will still swirl.

Nebraska improved to 9-3 on the season with a bowl game remaining. In each of Pelini’s previous six seasons in Lincoln, the ‘Huskers had lost four games; they’ve won 10 games in three seasons and nine in three others. Is that enough for the fan base and, more importantly, the administration?

It’s not that the Cornhuskers are a bad program under Pelini, it’s that they’re not even remotely the Cornhuskers of Tom Osborne.  Or, more to the point, they’re not even the Cornhuskers of Frank Solich.  In Osborne’s 25 seasons, NU never lost four games in a season and only lost three games in a season eight times.  Certainly Osborne is a lofty barometer for Pelini, but it’s not beyond the pale to think that the Cornhuskers should’ve returned to the national stage at some point during the current coach’s seven-year tenure.  Hell, Solich lost three or fewer games in four of his six seasons — either one or two losses in three of those years — and can claim one conference championship to go along with two other division titles; Pelini hasn’t even won a division title, let alone a conference one, in a tenure that’s one year beyond what Solich got from the university.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Pelini remain with the Cornhuskers.  It also wouldn’t be a shock to see the two sides part ways.  Either way, it’s a situation that bears monitoring as the 2014 coaching carousel gets set to swing into high gear.

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NIU stakes claim to West divisional MACtion

MAC Logo

Northern Illinois came into Friday needing only a win over Western Michigan to secure a spot in the MAC championship game. As it turns out, the Huskies did just that.

Things looked bright for NIU early on as they scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 65-yard catch-and-run between quarterback Drew Hare and wide receiver Daniel Braverman that was 99-percent run. The Broncos, however, scored the next 21 points to take a 14-point lead deep into the second quarter.

From then on, though, it was all Huskies. NIU kicked a field at the end of the first half to cut the deficit to 21-10, then scored 21 second-half points to put the finishing touches on the 31-21 win.

The win means NIU will now face East winner Bowling Green in the MAC championship next Friday in Detroit.  The Huskies have now won five straight West division titles, and have won two of their last four championship game appearances.  They’ve appeared in five total in the 17-year history of the event.

WMU would’ve won the West with a win over NIU and a loss by Toledo this afternoon.  Toledo would’ve won the West with a win over Eastern Michigan and an NIU loss.

The Broncos have nothing to be ashamed of, however, as they went from 1-11 in 2013 to 8-4 in 2014 with a bowl game (probably) still in the offing.

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Ohio State issues statements on missing player

Kosta Karageorge II

As the search a missing Ohio State football player continues, the university has publicly addressed the situation for the first time.

Kosta Karageorge has not been seen since leaving his on-campus apartment very early Wednesday.  The search, which is now in its third day, involves the Columbus Police Department and the player’s family and friends, and came after the family filed missing person’s reports with three different police departments.

Karageorge, a senior walk-on, did not show for practice Wednesday or Thursday.  Karageorge’s head coach asked anyone with any knowledge of the defensive lineman’s whereabouts to contact authorities.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Kosta Karageorge and we pray that he is safe and that he is found soon,” Urban Meyer said in a statement. “He is a young man who joined the football team in August and was a hard worker on the field and pleasant off the field. He has been an important player in practice for us, right up until the time he was reported missing. If anyone knows anything about his whereabouts, please help his family and contact the authorities.”

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Karageorge’s sister, Sophia Karageorge, pointed to a history of sports-related concussions and sometimes becoming disoriented that has the family understandably worried. In that vein, the football program also released a statement attributed to the team’s physician, Dr. Jim Borchers.

“First and foremost, our primary concern is for the health, safety and welfare of Kosta,” the doctor said. “While we are not able to discuss or comment about the medical care regarding our student-athletes, we are confident in our medical procedures and policies to return athletes to participation following injury or illness.”

Again, anyone with any type of information on Karageorge’s whereabouts is being asked to call 614-747-1729.

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Marshall, WKU lighting up first-half scoreboard, stat sheet

Chris Thomas

It appears that Marshall is celebrating its rise to the Top 25 of the latest College Football Playoff rankings by giving its defense the weekend off.  And, in the spirit of sportsmanship, it appears the Herd’s opponent is following suit.

The two teams combined for a staggering 91 first-half points, with the 24th-ranked Herd trailing the 6-5 Hilltoppers 49-42 (not pictured).  They were a mere field goal away from tying the FBS record for most points in a half by both teams set during the North Texas-Navy game in 2007.  That game also set the record for most points in regulation by both teams at 136, a mark that is obviously in reach.

Another record that’s within reach?  Single-game total offense for both teams, set during the 2001 San Jose State-Nevada game (1,640); through two quarters, Marshall-WKU has seen 840, 462 for the latter and 378 for the former.

Of the 13  touchdowns scored in the game, 11 of them came on touchdown passes — six for WKU’s Brandon Doughty, five MU’s Rakeem Cato. The FBS record for a half is seven by several players, most recently by Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz in 201 vs. USC.

Marshall has already clinched the Conference USA East title and, with a win, would host the conference championship game next weekend in Huntington.

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Blech Friday: Hawkeyes atop ‘Huskers in first-half turnover fest

Iowa v Nebraska Getty Images

If you wanted to put a DVD in a time capsule to explain to future generations — or aliens — how Big Ten football is viewed by most of the country, the Black Friday Nebraska-Iowa would do the trick.

At the end of two quarters of play, the Hawkeyes lead the Cornhuskers 10-7 in Iowa City.  The game’s first touchdown, not so unexpectedly, came on a 17-yard interception return by Iowa’s John Lowdermilk in the middle of second quarter.  The only other touchdown, a five-yard pass from NU’s Tommie Armstrong Jr. to Ameer Abdullah with :20 seconds left, came after the sixth turnover of the half.

The offenses from both sides were, well, offensive for the better part of the first half.  Or, if you prefer, the defenses were stellar.  Either way, it was a half that made offensive aficionados cringe and/or throw up a little bit in their mouths.

Midway through the second quarter, the two teams combined for 150 yards of offense (Iowa 110, Nebraska 40); the Hawkeyes would finish the half with 178 yards and the Cornhuskers 92.  The Cornhuskers didn’t complete a pass until there were less than two minutes left in the second quarter, and 34 of their 49 first-half passing yards came on one play.

Iowa had five first-half possessions, and those ended with two interceptions, a fumble, a field goal and taking a knee at the end of the half.  Two of those turnovers, incidentally, came in the red zone, while the fourth of the four led to NU’s lone score.  The Hawkeyes also fumbled a punt back to the ‘Huskers to account for their four turnovers.

Nebraska had six possessions, those of which ended in a pair of punts, a missed field goal, the pick-six, another interception and the touchdown.

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Amidst SMU talk, Chad Morris says he’s ‘completely focused on SC’

Syracuse v Clemson Getty Images

Thanksgiving night, multiple media outlets reported that Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has been tapped as SMU’s next head coach.  One website reported that Morris would make $3 million-plus annually on a multi-year contract, with the hiring expected to be announced the first week of December.

While that may ultimately be the case, none of the sides involved are inclined to confirm.

Clemson officials have not commented on the reports thus far, while SMU athletic director Rick Hart told USA Today in a text message late Thursday night that there is “no deal with anyone yet.”  For his part, Morris downplayed the talk while also stating that his focus is on the game at hand.

Unreal, everyone thinks they know,” the coordinator said in a text message to The Clemson Insider. “Sorry completely focused on SC.”

Clemson is putting its finishing touches on Saturday’s annual in-state rivalry game with South Carolina.

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Search for missing Ohio State football player continues

Kosta Karageorge III

The search for an Ohio State football player who has been missing since the middle of the week continues the day after Thanksgiving.

Kosta Karageorge, a walk-on reserve defensive lineman for the Buckeyes, has not been seen since leaving his on-campus apartment around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.  Karageorge’s family has filed a missing person’s report, and the Columbus Police Department is involved in the search.  A report has also been filed with police departments in Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington.

According to Karageorge’s sister, Sophia, there were “some extenuating circumstances that night that lead us to believe he was upset” prior to him leaving his apartment. Karageorge did not show up for practice Wednesday or Thursday, which only adds to the family’s fears.

He never misses practice,” Sophia Karageorge told the Columbus Dispatch. “I’ve seen him go to wrestling practice with a broken foot. I’ve seen him sick as a dog go to practice. He’s always on schedule. He always has somewhere where he checks in.”

Kosta Karageorge IIThe Dispatch writes that Karageorge “was wearing black sweatpants over his jeans, black Timberland boots, a black hoodie with FOC on it and a black beanie on his head” when he left his apartment; the picture to the left is Karageorge shortly before his disappearance.  On OSU’s official website, Karageorge is listed as being 6-3, 273 pounds. He has a short beard and, according to the paper, he recently shaved his head.

Anyone with any type of information on Karageorge’s whereabouts is being asked to call 614-747-1729.

For those in and around Columbus, a cell phone trace by the Columbus PD showed Karageorge being in the area of W. 3rd and Elmwood avenues in Grandview Heights at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. A motorcycle he owns remains at the apartment complex, while “he does not have his car on campus,” the sister said. Additionally, Karageorge is carrying no identification as his wallet is with his girlfriend.

Sophia Karageorge pointed to a history of sports-related concussions and sometimes becoming disoriented that has the family understandably worried.

“We’re very concerned that he’s not himself and that he maybe doesn’t know what’s going on,” the sister told the Dispatch. “Every time he’s had a concussion, he’s been evaluated and listened to his trainers. He’s been properly taken care of by OSU the entire time he’s been an athlete for them.

“But … his repercussions from them have been long-term or delayed later after the fact.”

Family and friends will be reassembling at 1 p.m. ET this afternoon to resume the search for Karageorge.

(All photos courtesy of the Karageorge family)

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Sorting through the Group of Five conference title scenarios

Tiebreaker

Not surprisingly, most of the college football world’ attention is focused on the Power Five conference teams and the College Football Playoff heading into the last full weekend of the 2014 regular season.

There are, though, other goings on in the sport, namely conference races for the other five conferences dubbed the Group of Five.  All five of those leagues have yet to see an undisputed 2014 champion decided; four of those, though, will crown a champ — or co-champ — this weekend, with the AAC being the lone exception (possibly).

With that as a backdrop, here are those various clinching scenarios for the Group of Five leagues:

AAC
Memphis sits at 6-1 with one conference game remaining (vs. UConn), while Cincinnati and UCF are each 5-1 with two games each left (at Temple and vs. Houston for the former, at USF and at East Carolina for the latter).  This conference, however, does not have a championship game, so its method for determining its champ is laid out in the league’s weekly notes package:

In the event of a tie for the American Athletic Conference title, any tied teams would be declared co-champions. There is no formal conference tiebreaker policy for this season. The College Football Playoff committee would be able to select any of the tied teams for a New Year’s bowl game, based on the committee’s rankings.

Memphis is the only team that could claim the outright championship in Week 14, and that would happen if it won and Cincinnati and UCF lost.  Memphis, with a win, is also the only AAC team that can claim at least a co-championship this weekend.

CONFERENCE USA
EAST
At 7-0, Marshall has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

WEST
This division is nearly as simple as the winner of the Week 14 game between Louisiana Tech (6-1) and Rice (5-2) will face Marshall.

Another issue for the conference to be decided is where the title game will be played.  If Marshall beats Western Kentucky Saturday, the Herd will host the Louisiana Tech/Rice winner in Huntington.  If Marshall loses and Rice wins, Marshall would again host.  If Marshall loses and Louisiana Tech wins?  I’ll go ahead and allow the conference to lay out the particulars:

If Marshall loses to WKU on Friday and Louisiana Tech defeats Rice, both teams would have the same conference record (7-1). Marshall and Louisiana Tech do not play in the regular season, eliminating the head-to-head tie-breaker, the second tiebreaker after conference record. Therefore, the CFP ranking is the next tie-breaker. If neither team is in the top 25 of the CFP Rankings, average select computer ranking (Anderson and Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix and Wolfe) would be used to determine host.

MAC
EAST
At 5-2, Bowling Green has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

WEST
Three teams at 6-1 all remain alive in the divisional race: Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.  NIU and WMU play late Friday morning, while Toledo faces Eastern Michigan a couple of hours later.  What follows are the scenarios for each to claim the West:

Northern Illinois wins the West if… It beats Western Michigan; NIU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Toledo.
Toledo wins the West if… It beats Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois loses; UT holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Western Michigan.
Western Michigan wins the West if… It beats Northern Illinois, Toledo loses.

MOUNTAIN WEST
MOUNTAIN
Boise State, Colorado State and Utah State are all 6-1 entering the last week of the regular season, with Boise State and Utah State playing late Saturday night and Colorado State traveling to Air Force.  Here are the clinching scenarios for each team:

Boise State wins the Mountain if… It beats Utah State; BSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Colorado State.
Colorado State wins the Mountain if… It beats Air Force and Boise State loses to Utah State; CSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Utah State
Utah State wins the Mountain if… It beats Boise State and Colorado State loses to Air Force.

WEST
With two teams at 4-3 (Fresno State, San Diego State) and two at 3-4 (Hawaii, Nevada), the West is a clusterf… well, you know.  So much so, in fact, that I’m just going to let the conference put this one into the barn:

  • Fresno State: wins the division with a win over Hawai‘i.
  • San Diego State: wins the division with a win over San José State and a Fresno State loss to Hawai‘i.
  • Hawai‘i: wins the division with a win at Fresno State and losses by Nevada (at UNLV) and San Diego State (vs. San José State).
  • In the event Fresno State loses to Hawai‘i, Nevada defeats UNLV and San Diego State falls to San José State, it will create a four-team tie atop the West Division standings at 4-4. In that scenario, Fresno State clinches the division based on the MW divisional tiebreaking procedures.

SUN BELT
As is the case with the AAC, there is no conference championship game in the SBC.  Georgia Southern (7-0) has already clinched a share of the 2014 title in its first season in the league, with a win over Louisiana Monroe Saturday giving them the undisputed title.  Louisiana-Lafayette can earn a co-championship with a win over Troy combined with a Georgia Southern loss.

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