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The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

Baylor West Virginia Football AP

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

WINNERS

Geno-logy of a Heisman run
Here at the Fifth Quarter, we — I — won’t be making any type of Heisman watch lists for another couple of weeks.  However, if the stiff-armed trophy were handed out today, Geno Smith would be the winner in a veritable landslide — if it’d even be that close.  In further buttressing his case for the Heisman, all the quarterback  for No. 9 West Virginia did against a (literally) defenseless No. 25 Baylor squad was throw for 656 yards and account for 687 yards of total offense.  Smith also threw more touchdowns (eight) than incompletions (six) in the wild 70-63 win in the Mountaineers’ first-ever Big 12 conference game.  In four games, Smith has thrown for 1,728 yards and 20 touchdowns while completing a staggering 83.4 percent of his passes.  Most impressively, Smith has no interceptions amongst his 169 attempts.  Again, there’s a lot of time between now and the awarding of the Heisman in December.  Still, it appears that the most prestigious trophy in the sport is Smith’s to lose.

Attended an SEC game, and a Big 12 matchup broke out
Annually hailed as the top defensive conference in the country, the SEC prides itself on bringing it on that side of the ball.  Through some tiny rip in the space-time continuum, however, all Big 12 hell broke loose in Athens Saturday afternoon.  Between Georgia and Tennessee, there were 95 points scored; 1,038 yards gained; and 42 first downs earned as the No. 5 Bulldogs held on for a wild 51-44 win over the Vols.  There was also an “ugly” side to the game, with the two teams combining to commit seven turnovers.  Two of those late in the first half allowed the Vols to turn a 27-10 deficit into a 30-27 lead.  Three committed by UT quarterback Tyler Bray in the last six minutes prevented any hopes the Vols had of earning a road upset.

Urban renewal continues in Columbus
Undefeated through his first four games as Ohio State’s coach, Urban Meyer‘s Buckeyes had yet to be tested as the early-season schedule consisted of the likes of Miami of Ohio, UCF, Cal and UAB.  The first real measuring stick of the season, on the road no less, came in East Lansing against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both schools — and OSU passed with flying colors, albeit of a dull hue variety.  And despite the first uneven game of the season for star quarterback Braxton Miller.  In a game that was, for better or worse, the epitome of Big Ten football, and the exact opposite of anything that happens in the Big 12, the No. 14 Buckeyes churned, grinded and pounded out a hard-fought 17-16 win over the No. 21 Spartans.  It was far from pretty from an aesthetic point of view, but it was efficient in that it resulted in a fifth-straight win for Meyer and the Buckeyes.  While Miller accounted for 315 yards of offense (179 passing, 136 rushing), he accounted for three turnovers (one pick, two lost fumbles) that could’ve been OSU’s undoing in such a hostile — and stanky —  environment.  It didn’t, and that’s the mark of a good football team and one that Meyer’s rightly proud of.  Even in this lost season of sanctions, with no shot at a Big Ten championship game or bowl berth, the Buckeyes are clearly the class of the Big Ten.  Granted, that’s like proclaiming someone as the tallest midget, but it’s something for the Buckeyes to continue playing for.  Well, that and a shiny Leaders Division trophy.

Bill O’Brien
Through the NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, through the personnel defections wrought by said sanctions, through an ugly 0-2 start to the 2012 season, Bill O’Brien has persevered.  And, it appears, that perseverance is paying off big time for both O’Brien and the beleaguered Penn State football program.  For the third straight weekend following the laughable start, Penn State heads home on a Saturday with a win stuffed firmly into its back pocket.  The latest victim for O’Brien & Company was Illinois, with PSU coming away with an easy 35-7 win against the team that did the most over the summer to take advantage of the liberal transfer policies.  Quarterback Matt McGloin, one of the more pleasant surprises of the season, accounted for three touchdowns — one passing, two rushing — while the defense limited the Illini to just 74 rushing yards and forced three turnovers.  Certainly the stain of Sandusky’s crimes will linger over the university for years, or even decades, to come, but this coach and these players had nothing to do with either the illegalities or the cover-up that brought the program to its knees.  There are certainly rough times to be had in the coming years, thanks to the scholarship reductions that will hurt for the better part of a decade.  Still, it appears O’Brien was and is the right choice to captain the Nittany ship through the rough waters that lie ahead.

Ess-Bee-Cee!!! Ess-Bee-Cee!!!
One of the more fascinating storylines of the 2012 season has been the play of the Sun Belt Conference through the first five weeks of the year.  Specifically, how the Little Conference That Could has fared against SEC programs.  Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky have already beaten Arkansas and Kentucky, respectively, while ULM — three-point overtime loss to Auburn — and Troy — six-point loss to Mississippi State — had near-wins against the conference.  Now, that ’12 magic has extended beyond the SEC, much to the detriment of the ACC.  In a stunning turn of events, Middle Tennessee State traveled to Georgia Tech and laid a whooping on the Yellow Jackets, heading back to Murfreesboro with a 49-28 win over Tech.  The loss, fueled in large part by MTSU running back Benny Cunningham‘s 217 yards rushing and five touchdowns, was the first by Tech to a non-BcS school since 1996.

Stephen Morris, QB extraordinaire
Wait, what?  Be that as it may, and not that anyone saw it (see below), but Miami quarterback Stephen Morris passed for 271 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter of the Hurricanes’ wild 44-37 win over North Carolina State.  The junior finished the game with a school- and ACC-record 566 yards and five touchdowns as the Hurricanes’ offense rolled up 651 yards of offense — and were outgained by the Wolfpack and their 664 yards.  Yes, defense is a significant issue for the Hurricanes — they gave up 419 yards and 36 points in a win over Georgia Tech; 498 yards and 52 points in a loss to Kansas State; have allowed less than 32 points once, to FCS-level Bethune-Cookman — but The U has started a season 4-1 for the first time since 2007.

Munchie Magic sweeping the ‘Nati
There’s not a better name in college football than Munchie Legeaux.  As it turns out, he has a pretty damn good game to go along with the name.  With just 13 seconds left in Cincinnati’s game against Virginia Tech, Legeaux tossed a 39-yard touchdown pass as the Bearcats stunned the Hokies 27-24 in a “neutral site” game in Landover, Md.  While Legeaux completed well under 50 percent of his 42 passes, he did throw for 357 yards on his 19 completions.  The Bearcats are now 3-0 and, with games against Miami (OH), Fordham and Toledo in between, could very well remain that way when they head into the Oct. 26 game with still-unbeaten Louisville.  The win was huge for the Big East as well, which entered Week 5 with two teams — the ‘Ville and Rutgers — ranked inside the Top 25.  Don’t be surprised that, come Sunday afternoon, another team from that conference is added to that ranked role.

Kain is very much able
In a 44-29 win over Indiana that kept Northwestern unbeaten on the season, Kain Colter finished with 100-plus yards rushing (161) and receiving (131).  Normally that wouldn’t be noteworthy, but, at the start of the season, Colter was the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.  While Colter is still officially listed as QB, he’s given way Trevor Siemian and is being utilized in a Wildcat-type role.  In addition to the 294 yards of total offense — he had two yards passing — Colter accounted for four touchdowns, with all four scores coming on the ground.  Along with Ohio State, and thanks to Minnesota’s loss, the school known more for its academic prowess is one of just two teams in the Big Ten without a loss five weeks into the season.

Catch of the day
And, thanks to the right hand of Middle Tennessee State’s Anthony Amos, it’s not even close:

AIRBHG no match for walk-on
Yes, it might be best not to tempt the patience of the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God.  Yes, it’s just two games.  But, yes, after years of unbelievable bad luck at the position, the Hawkeyes may have found their backfield savior.  Last week, former walk-on and Air Force transfer Mark Weisman rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns in Iowa’s stunning upset loss to Central Michigan.  This week, the “Weisman for Heisman” bandwagon likely got a whole helluva lot more crowded as the sophomore “fullback” (winkwink nudgenudge) ran for 177 yards on 21 carries as the Hawkeyes knocked Minnesota from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 31-13 win.  After rushing for just eight yards the first two games of the season, Weisman has bulled his way to 504 yards the past three.

LOSERS

And on the sixth day, the defense rested
If you are a fan of a little something called “defense” being played in a game of college football, Baylor-West Virginia likely induced night terrors and/or convulsions.  If you’re a fan of offense?  College football porn as far as the eye could see.  Filthy, unadulterated, unfiltered pornography.  The two teams combined for 70 points , 32 first downs and 736 yards of offense — and then they came back out of the locker room at halftime and played two more quarters.  The offensive carnage for the game reads as follows: 133 points (see photo below), 1,507 yards, 66 first downs and 22-of-30 on third-down conversions, with Geno Smith and Nick Florence combining to throw for 1,237 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The game featured a pair of 300-yard receivers (WVU’s Stedman Bailey and BU’s Terrance Williams), while the Mountaineers also had a 200-yard (Tavon Austin) and 100-yard receivers (J.D. Woods).  Baylor had three receivers go over 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history.  There were a total of three punts in the game on a day that old-school souls will likely lament for years to come.  Yes, it was a smashing debut for the Mountaineers in their official Big 12 coming-out-party.  Word of warning, however: no FBS football team can or will win a BcS title — hell, maybe even a Big 12 title — with a defense like that.  Until Joe DeForest and company get a handle on the defensive side of the ball, WVU will be nothing more than an entertaining sideshow while we await the real national title contenders to emerge.

The voters
No, not the ones who will decide which lesser of two evils will serve as POTUS the next four years.  No, the voters we are referring to are the ones who make up the Associated Press and coaches’ Top 25 polls.  The first three games of the season — the opener against Texas A&M was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac — Louisiana Tech rolled through Houston, Rice and Illinois.  For that effort, the Bulldogs were rewarded with seven votes in the AP poll and none in the coaches’ following Week 4.  In Week 5, Tech went out and slayed another BcS-level team, dropping Virginia 44-38 on the road.  Is Tech a Top 10 team?  Hell no, or at least probably not.  But no one should be able to sit there with a straight face and state that there are 25 better teams in 2012 than the Bulldogs.  Hopefully, when the polls are released Sunday afternoon, the voters in both polls will show some common sense and do the right thing by looking beyond how BcS conference schools fared this weekend.  I won’t hold my breath, though.

Player safety?
Over the past several years, the NCAA has made tremendous strides in improving player safety.  Then, Saturday night, one of the Association’s members did this:

That was the scene at Southern Miss for the Conference USA team’s 21-17 loss against No. 19 Louisville, played in what amounted to a monsoon that a duck, Oregon or otherwise, would avoid like the plague.  At various points of the game, and on various areas of the playing field, there looked to be an inch or more of standing water, leading us to openly wonder if there would be a yards-after-hydroplane stat for the game.  Why the non-conference match-up was played in such conditions is unclear, although it was very clear that such weather issues most certainly created a situation that could’ve been very dangerous for each and every player who slopped his way around that field for 60 minutes.

Tale of two Techs
And it was a woeful twin tale, non-conference-wise, for the ACC.  Early on in the day, Georgia Tech inexplicably stubbed its toe — or, more accurately, kicked itself in the groin — against Middle Tennessee State in a 21-point humbling at the hands of the SBC school.  Three hour later, Virginia Tech allowed a last-second touchdown to Cincinnati as the Hokies dropped their second game of the season, both, oddly enough, to teams from the Big East.  In fact, that conference has had the ACC’s number all season long, leading the head-to-head meetings 4-2 and setting up for what should be a very interesting bowl selection process as it relates to the two conferences.

U-S-A!!! U-S-AAARGH!!!
FCS-level Stony Brook 23, Army 3.  We love ya, ‘Merica, but…

Weekly Miami “fan” update
And, yes, it’s just as — or arguably more — embarrassing this week as it has been the past few seasons:

The above photo was taken less than 20 minutes prior to kickoff by South Florida Sun Sentinel beat writer Michael Casagrande.

This wasn’t Bethune-Cookman, either; this was an ACC game against 3-1 North Carolina State.  The lack of “fan” support for the Hurricanes football program is absurd and shameful.  Oh, and embarrassing as well.

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

– No. 2 Oregon 51, Washington State 26: The Ducks were up on the Cougars just 23-19 at halftime.  After that, order was restored as the Ducks we’ve come to know and love/loathe emerged from their first-half slumber for a comfortable win.

– No. 3 LSU 38, Towson 22: It doesn’t matter the final score, a comfortable 16-point margin.  When the third-ranked team in the country is trailing an FCS school at home deep into the second quarter, it makes the cut.  Add this lackluster first-half performance to a lethargic two-point win over a below-average Auburn team last week, and the Tigers may not be who we thought they were after all.

– No. 4 Florida State 30, USF 17: We’ll just chalk this up to a post-Clemson hangover.  As late as six minutes left in the third quarter the Seminoles clung to a 13-10 lead over the now-2-3 Bulls.  17 unanswered points put the game out of reach.

– No. 5 Georgia 51, Tennessee 44: It wasn’t pretty defensively — and UGA could very well have been looking ahead to next Saturday’s showdown with No. 6 South Carolina — but the Bulldogs were able to stave off the game Vols and remain unbeaten through five games.

– No. 6 South Carolina 38, Kentucky 17: The Gamecocks were on the ropes in the first half, trailing 17-7 heading into the locker room  before pulling away for the road win.  Like UGA, USC may have been peeking ahead to next weekend’s game that will be dripping with SEC East implications.

– No. 12 Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36: The Cowboys aren’t your normal unranked opponent, so this was still a very impressive win for the Longhorns.  It’s also a win that could propel UT into the Top 10 of the rankings for the first time since Week 4 of the 2010 season.

– No. 15 TCU 24, SMU 16: In the battle for the coveted Iron Skillet, the Horned Frogs were never in any real danger of losing but still allowed a one-win team to hang around in the same neighborhood much longer than expected.  TCU does, though, own the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 straight games.

– No. 17 Clemson 45, Boston College 31: We’ll just chalk this up to a post-Florida State hangover, part II.

– No. 18 Oregon State , Arizona : A 17-0 lead begat a 21-17 deficit begat a back-and-forth trading of scores begat a thrilling three-point win for the unbeaten Beavers.  The Nov. 24 Civil War matchup with Oregon could be a very, very fascinating affair this season.

– No. 19 Louisville 21, Southern Miss 17: We almost didn’t include this one, given the weather conditions involved.  The Cardinals trailed 17-6 late in the second quarter, but showed tremendous heart in coming back in those conditions and protecting its unbeaten start to the season.

– No. 22 Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 27: Much the same as with Texas’ opponent, the Badgers were not your or the Cornhuskers’ ordinary foe.  After falling behind 27-10, NU ripped off 20 unanswered points to come away with a huge conference home win and the second-biggest comeback in school history.

– No. 24 Boise State 32, New Mexico 29: The Broncos jumped out to a 32-0 halftime lead, only to see the Lobos storm back to nearly pull off the upset.  BSU’s return to the Top 25 last week will likely be short-lived.

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 been biding its time until a date with LSU by outscoring its five 2012 opponents 201-35.  Clearly, UA is far and away the class of the current season. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: at Missouri

2. Oregon — Speaking of domination, Oregon has outscored its five 2012 opponents (262-99).  A Ducks-Tide BcS title game would be a helluva lot of fun, and is definitely a very realistic possibility at season’s end. (Last week No. 3)
Up next: vs. Washington

3. Kansas State — The combination of an impressive bye week showing, the lingering impressions left by the upset of Oklahoma last week and some rather lackluster performances around them pushes the Wildcats up a couple of spots. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. Kansas

4. Florida State — The post-Clemson malaise notwithstanding, the Seminoles remain a viable BcS title contender. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at North Carolina State

5. Georgia — At this point in time, we prefer to view the 44 points given up to Tennessee as an anomaly.  We reserve the right, though, to change our mind. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at No. 6 South Carolina

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: There’s really not much need to go into the well-chronicled train wreck that’s been the start to the season, other than to say the trigger should be pulled sooner rather than later.

– Cal’s Jeff Tedford: Already with cheeks planted firmly on the proverbial hot seat entering 2012, Tedford has done nothing to turn down the temperature through Week 5.  In fact, it may be hotter than ever as the Bears have stumbled their way out of the gate at 1-4, the worst start in Tedford’s 10-plus seasons at the school.  The latest setback for the Bears was a 27-17 loss to Arizona State that dropped Cal to 0-2 in Pac-12 play.

HE SAID IT
“I might need more gun powder for this game.” — Jon Kimble, WVU’s mascot, very appropriately writing on Twitter at halftime of the Baylor-WVU game.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I felt like Clemson’s defense or something.”  — WVU defensive back Darwin Cook after allowing 63 points — seven points less than the Mountaineers scored on the Tigers in the Orange Bowl earlier this year — to be put on the board by the Bears.

PIC OF THE WEEK

That was the “Stripe the Stadium” scene in Morgantown Saturday afternoon as West Virginia made a very successful debut in Big 12 conference play.  And that photo comes courtesy of Mike Florio, who some of you may know from a lil’ website called ProFootballTalk.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– No. 1 Alabama fell behind Ole Miss 7-6 early in the second quarter on a Jeff Scott touchdown run, the first time the Tide has trailed in a game — regulation or overtime — since the Nov. 5 loss to LSU.  The streak ended at 33 straight quarters, but the defending BcS champions started a new one 15 seconds later as Christion Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for both a touchdown and a lead the Tide wouldn’t relinquish.

– Baylor wide receiver Terrence Williams‘ 314 yards broke the Big 12’s minutes-old record set moments earlier by West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, who finished the game with 303 yards.  Bailey’s five touchdown catches, incidentally, broke the school record.

– The last FBS quarterback with at least 550 yards and five touchdowns in a game was Houston’s Case Keenum against Southern Mississippi on Oct. 31, 2009.  Saturday, there were three who hit that mark: WVU’s Geno Smith, Baylor’s Nick Florence and Miami’s Stephen Morris.

– Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel broke the SEC record for total yards in a single game, accounting for 557 (453 passing, 103 rushing) in the Aggies’ shellacking of Arkansas.  Manziel’s total broke the record of 540 shared by Archie Manning and Rohan Davey.

Sean Mannion passed for 433 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon State’s win over Arizona.

– True freshman Keith Marshall rushed for 164 yards on just 10 carries in Georgia’s close win over Tennessee.  UGA also got five touchdowns from a pair of true freshmen — Marshall’s two and Todd Gurley‘s three.

– Miami of Ohio quarterback Zac Dysert threw six touchdown passes and had a ridiculous 624 yards of total offense in a 56-49 win over Akron.

– Baylor’s 63 points against West Virginia tied the record for the most scored in regulation in a loss by an FBS school, joining Rice (2004) and Toledo (2011) in that infamous grouping.

– Stat of the Day, SID Division: With the 5-0 start, Urban Meyer becomes the third first-year Ohio State coach to start their career 5-0. Only two other first-year coaches have started a season 5-0: Carol Widdoes went 9-0 in 1944 and eventually won his first 12 games; and Meyer mentor Earle Bruce opened 11-0 in 1979.

– Runner-up Stat of the Day, SID Division: AJ McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway in the latter part of the second quarter. McCarron entered the game with 176 attempts and entered the locker room with the new record of 195 attempts without an interception.

– North Carolina’s 66 points in a shutout win over Idaho set a school record, surpassing the standard set back in 1928.

– BYU totaled 540 yards of total offense in the shutout win over Hawaii Friday night; in the previous two games, both losses, the Cougars had a combined 512 yards.

– Duke has started a season 4-1 for the first time since 1994.  Oddly enough, that was the last time the Blue Devils qualified for a bowl game.

– After Week 4, there was one team that had yet to throw a touchdown pass.  After Week 5?  There are none as Air Force’s Connor Dietz tossed two of them in the Falcons’ easy win over Colorado State.

(Writer’s note: The Fifth Quarter will be taking a one-weekend sabbatical next Saturday as we officially move into the new CFT West Virginia headquarters.  Try not to miss me too terribly much.)

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No. 15 Arizona Wildcats race past Wazzu 31-16 at halftime

Davonte' Neal, Michael Lowe

The No. 15 Arizona Wildcats set the tone against the Washington State Cougars Saturday evening with the team’s very first touch of the contest.

Arizona’s Devonte’ Neal caught a punt from Washington State’s Jordan Dascalo and blew past the Cougars’ coverage team for 53 yards and a special teams touchdown.

It was the first of four first-half touchdowns by the Wildcats. Arizona leads 31-16 after two quarters of play.

Neal was the game’s early star. The punt-return touchdown wasn’t the sophomore’s only score. The talented running back/wide receiver caught three passes for 29 yards, including a two-yard touchdown reception.

Washington State simply couldn’t match up with the talent Arizona presents at the skill positions.

Arizona’s freshman quarterback, Anu Solomon, was 19-of-28 passing for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Eight different targets caught passes from the young signal-caller.

On the other side of the field, Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday continues to produce in Mike Leach‘s prolific passing attack. The senior was 25-of-37 passing for 209 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Isiah Myers was the primary recipient of Halliday’s passes. Myers caught six passes for 95 yards and both touchdowns.

Since Washington State’s defense isn’t capable of slowing Arizona’s offense, the Cougars will attempt to win this contest like they always do…by outscoring their opponent. However, Arizona’s offense may be far too potent for that to happen.

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No. 10 TCU sets all sorts of records in 82-27 rout of Texas Tech

Trevone Boykin

Trevone Boykin announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy in a major way by leading No. 10 TCU to a rec0rd-setting 82-27 stomping of Texas Tech Saturday in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs’ 82 points were a school and Big 12 inter-conference record and the most ever allowed by Texas Tech. TCU racked up 785 yards of total offense on the day, also a school record.

In three quarters of work, the junior completed 22-of-39 passes for 433 yards and a school-record seven touchdown passes while adding another 28 yards on the ground on seven attempts. Boykin threw for two scores in the first quarter, one in the second and four in the third, meaning one of every three completions (roughly) found pay dirt. His touchdown throws traveled 249 yards on their own, with scoring strikes of 51 yards (to Josh Doctson), 92 yards (to Deante’ Gray) and 57 yards (to Ty Slanina).

As if that wasn’t enough, seven Frogs runners combined to rush 41 times for 305 yards – 7.4 yards a pop – and three touchdowns. Aaron Green rushed six times for 105 yards, opening the scoring for TCU with a 62-yard dash a minute and 14 seconds into the game, and Trevorris Johnson added 10 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns strictly in mop up duty (he didn’t enter the game until TCU had a 61-27 lead deep into the third quarter).

Overall, TCU ran 86 plays, averaged 9.12 yards per snap, threw for 480 yards, rushed for 305, achieved 32 first downs, and punted twice in 16 possessions. Four separate receivers averaged 19 yards or more per reception, while 13 players caught at least one pass. There was some bad news, though, as Josh Doctson was lost for the game and taken for an evaluation with an ankle injury.

The Frogs’ 82 points surpassed the Big 12’s record for points in a conference game, set by Kansas in a 76-39 win over Nebraska in 2007, and came two points shy of Oklahoma State’s conference record for points in any game in an 84-0 rout of Savannah State in 2012.

Bad as it appears, this game wasn’t always a blowout.

Texas Tech opened the scoring 51 seconds into the contest on a 57-yard catch-and-run by Kenny Williams, and played to a 24-17 score through one quarter. The Red Raiders scored only 10 more points for the rest of the game, and only three while the outcome was still in doubt. Davis Webb threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but committed three first-half turnovers that led directly to 13 TCU points, giving the Horned Frogs the space they needed to turn this game into a blowout. Webb left the game with an ankle injury, and Jakeem Grant was also lost with a leg injury.

Patrick Mahomes finished off the game by completing 5-of-11 passes for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and rushed seven times for 18 yards.

As tends to happen in games with a 55-point margin of victory, TCU won the turnover battle 4-0.

TCU moves to 6-1 (3-1 Big 12) with the win and prepares to head for a massive game at No. 22 West Virginia (themselves 34-10 winners over Oklahoma State on Saturday) on Saturday. Texas Tech, meanwhile, heads back to Lubbock for a somebody-has-to-win date with Texas.

 

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No. 1 Miss. St. Bulldogs appear vulnerable during 45-31 victory over Kentucky

Mississippi State v Kentucky

Surivive and advance. That’s all that matters at this point in the season.

The No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs escaped Lexington, Kentucky with a 45-31 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Don’t let the final score fool you.

The Wildcats only trailed by a touchdown as the two teams entered the third quarter. Mark Stoops‘ squad had two opportunities late in the game. During the Kentucky’s drive with five minutes remaining, two dropped passes (one on third down and one in the end zone) kept the Wildcats from getting within striking distance.

It didn’t matter since Kentucky then got the ball back after stopping Mississippi State on the ensuing drive. Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles led his team on a seven-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown run by the signal-caller.

An unheard of touchdown during the onside kick is what turned this contest in a two-score victory for the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State never dominated this contest like the best team in the nation should have. Kentucky is a young and improving program, but their best win this season came against a struggling South Carolina squad. Otherwise, the Wildcats’ other four wins came against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, Ohio Bobcats, Vanderbilt Commodores and Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.

Dan Mullen‘s squad wasn’t crisp on offense, quarterback Dak Prescott struggled in the passing game and the team’s bend-but-don’t-break defense finally broke…multiple times.

The Bulldogs didn’t have an answer for Towles. Kentucky’s quarterback threw for 390 yards and ran for 76 more despite being sacked numerous times.

Kentucky amassed an impressive 504 yards. As the Bulldogs continue their season, an inability to consistently stop opposing offenses becomes a major red flag.

Mississippi State’s backfield once again became the team’s saving grace.

Quarterback Dak Prescott accumulated 304 total yards and three touchdowns to keep his Heisman campaign chugging along. Prescott made multiple highlight-reel runs during the contest, but running back Josh Robinson was Mississippi State’s bell cow Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs’ bowling ball of a running back ran for 198 yards including a 73-yard touchdown romp early in the fourth quarter.

Mississippi State was in unfamiliar territory this weekend. Expectations are sky high after the team received its first No. 1 overall ranking in school history. The Bulldogs could have faltered. Kentucky gave them everything they could handle. Instead, the Bulldogs kept their undefeated season alive. And that is all that matters.

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

Michigan v Michigan State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia v Oklahoma State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, Holgo will drink to that.

 

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No. 25 UCLA avoids double overtime scare in Boulder

Brett Hundley, Paul Perkins, Nate Iese, Greg Henderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Tech v TCU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TCU will receive the ball to open the second half.

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

Dak Prescott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin White

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

And then… it all stopped.

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan v Michigan State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot potato

And I mean that quite literally.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mother of Les Miles passed away Friday night

LSU v Auburn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Perkins, Caleb Benenoch

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

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

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

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Illinois hands Minnesota first Big Ten loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rutgers v Nebraska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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