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Predictions 101 — Week 9

Cocktail AP

There we were, sitting as pretty as pretty can be. Six games already nestled comfortably in P101’s bag, half of which were upsets.

We really didn’t need to pull off a clean sweep. We’d be as proud of 6-1 as Maria Sharapova. And any “player” worth his salt would have hedged his way into the winner’s circle, turning the Florida State-Miami game into an exercise to see how much gravy could be found.

But there we were, watching the Hurricanes do more than hold their own. The pregame smoke and the first quarter mirrors had them up 10-0 … a good thing in our book. We knew what was coming.

It came … and the Seminole margin was oh so sweet in the fourth quarter. That is until the entire gridiron became four-down territory for Miami, which led to a touchdown being gifted to FSU with 2:45 remaining.

The Seminoles led, 33-13, and we’re dealing with opening lines (+17.5) here at P101, not closing ones (+21). So, we were sunk. The Hurricanes still had a couple minutes to work with, but they weren’t going to kick a field goal and hadn’t mounted a touchdown drive since a meager 22-yarder within the first four minutes of the game.

But Brent & Herbie seemed to share some belief, cheering Miami on down the field. They giggled while mentioning “interested mathematicians” a couple times along the way.

Sure enough, the Hurricanes went 75 yards in eight plays and got the job done.

Yes. Finally. Last week, we went 7-0 straight and 7-0 versus “the number.” Holy Toledo (thank you, Rockets), 14-0!

Oh well … on to this week, where we can only go down from here.

TOP 5 GAMES OF THE WEEK (Thurs., Oct. 25, thru Sat., Oct. 27)

1) No. 3 Florida vs. No. 12 Georgia (at Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

If South Carolina players were to judge this fight, there’s no question who they’d predict as winners. Two weeks after they hosted and routed Georgia, 35-7, the Gamecocks got roughed up at Florida, 44-11.

Too bad the transitive property doesn’t apply to college football. If it did, we could just call for a 61-point Gator victory and be done with it.

All that aside, Florida does hold a clear edge in this game.

Despite the fact that Georgia had the most fun at the last “Cocktail Party,” winning 24-20, the Gators have dominated this rivalry for more than a couple decades, taking 18 of the last 22. And this one doesn’t seem to match up well for the Bulldogs.

Last week, Georgia allowed Kentucky to rush for 206 yards. Please note that the Wildcats came into that contest ranked 106th in the country in rushing offense. Granted, the poor run defense and less-than-impressive 29-24 victory in Lexington came without the services of outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was resting a sprained right ankle, and defensive end Abry Jones, who injured his left ankle in the first quarter, but we’re still talking Kentucky here.

It doesn’t look promising for the disappointing Bulldog defense, which is yielding 24 points and 367 total yards per game, as it lines up against the Gators’ powerful run game.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is one of the more efficient passers in the nation, but in the loss at South Carolina he showed that consistent pressure from a variety of sources can really knock him off-kilter. The Bulldogs can’t afford for that to happen since running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are finally starting to look like freshmen.

Last week, we talked up Florida’s excellent punt unit and it did play a large role in the Gator victory over South Carolina. Here we go again. Georgia ranks dead last in the SEC and 109th in the country in net punting. It might be most apparent on special teams, but the Gators have a significant advantage over the Bulldogs in all three phases of the game.

Opening point spread: Florida by 3 1/2

The pick: Florida 31-20

2) No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Sat., Oct. 27 — 8 p.m. ET, ABC

As they roll into Norman for the first time in 46 years, the Fighting Irish will encounter a Sooner team far different from the one Ara Parseghian’s 1966 squad squashed, 38-0, on its way to a national championship.

The current Oklahoma team, which has scored 156 points in its last three games, won’t be blanked. This will be the Sooners’ third consecutive home game and in the previous two — a 63-21 slaying of Texas, followed by a 52-7 rout over Kansas — the offense scored on 15 of 20 drives, 12 of which were touchdowns.

After this week, we won’t be hearing about how Notre Dame hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all year.

We’ll take Oklahoma’s duo of Landry Jones and Blake Bell (leads team with eight rushing touchdowns) over ND’s Everett Golson and Tommy Rees. While Jones and Bell operate efficiently in their clearly defined roles, the feeling here is that the Sooner defense, which has come up with nine takeaways in the last three games, will squeeze game-changing turnovers out of the Irish backfield.

Yes, college football is much better off when the Golden Domers are relevant, but put the hype aside for a moment and take a long look at their schedule and results. You’ll realize that our friends in the desert are seeing this one clearly.

Opening point spread: Oklahoma by 9

The pick: Oklahoma 27-13

3) No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX

This prediction comes courtesy of Shane Hedani from the P101 satellite office in Maunawili, Hawai‘i.

The Red Raiders have the talent and coaching to beat the Wildcats, but do they have the answer for “Optimus Klein.”

Led by quarterback Collin Klein, the current Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Kansas State is also talented and well coached. The Wildcats will scratch and claw to defend their conference and national title hopes. Bill Snyder’s balanced team doesn’t make mistakes. Only one squad in the country (Ohio, which also is 7-0) has had fewer turnovers than the Wildcats (just four).

You wouldn’t know it by his throwing motion, but Klein ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency. His counterpart, Seth Doege, isn’t far behind in fifth and directs an aerial assault that averages 362 yards per game.

But it isn’t all about offense at Texas Tech, which is home to a stout defense that’s ranked seventh in total defense and is particularly effective versus the pass.

Something’s got to give, but maybe it’ll require some extra time to happen.

We’ll take a stab and say that Red Raiders get held to a field goal on their first overtime possession, leaving “Optimus” the opportunity for a Heisman moment as he pounds into the end zone for the win.

Opening point spread: Kansas State by 8

The pick: Kansas State 33-30

4) No. 13 Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama
Sat., Oct. 27 — 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

We can’t remember a game between teams ranked within the top 13 that is so disparate on paper.

Off paper, however, it has the makings of a trap game for the Crimson Tide, who travel to LSU next week. That’s where Nick Saban comes in … and we go back to what we see in black and white.

We’ll be the first to dump loads upon loads of credit at the feet of Dan Mullen for the job he’s done in Starkville. Nine consecutive victories versus anybody, is still nine consecutive victories. No less than 117 FBS teams would love to boast of such a winning streak.

But we have to be honest and point out that the Bulldogs’ sparkling 3-0 record in SEC play comes at the expense of Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. Those three teams not only weren’t able to beat Mississippi State, they haven’t won any conference games so far this season in a total of 14 tries.

Alabama leads the nation in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense, so it ain’t any shock that only one team has lost by less than 27 points to the Tide this season. That tight 33-14 victory over Ole Miss essentially served as their “wake up call.” Saban’s gang isn’t falling into any traps.

Opening point spread: Alabama by 24

The pick: Alabama 41-13

5) Duke at No. 11 Florida State
Sat., Oct. 27 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

How could we exclude a game between the undisputed leaders of the ACC’s Atlantic and Coastal Divisions? Yup, you read that right.

Hooray for the Blue Devils, who are bowl eligible for the first time in 18 years, but still hungry.

After their big 33-20 victory at Miami last Saturday night, the Seminoles will spend a full week in Tallahassee having their backs slapped.

Duke’s defense is porous, but it does force turnovers. Something’s telling us that the Blue Devils will stay within range.

Opening point spread: Florida State by 26

The pick: Florida State 41-17

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK

Mississippi at Arkansas
Sat., Oct. 27 — 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network

Once again, the USOTW prediction comes courtesy of Marc Doche (@MDoche) from the P101 satellite office in Burbank, Calif.

Forgive us if we’re not impressed by blowout victories over Auburn and Kentucky, who are a combined 0-10 in SEC play. We don’t see it as a signal that the Razorbacks ship has been righted after four painful defeats earlier in the season, which produced some epic press conference moments for John L. Smith.

With kickoff at just past 11 a.m. local time in Little Rock, the Hog faithful are likely to lack their typical fervor, if there is any left after the last time Arkansas played at War Memorial Stadium and were knocked from their lofty perch in the Top-10 with a 34-31 overtime loss to mighty Louisiana-Monroe (still the only team Auburn’s been able to beat).

Both teams enter with a pair of conference losses to the same schools, but Ole Miss was much more competitive while falling a field goal short against Texas A&M and losing by just 19 at Alabama. Conversely, Arkansas was taken to the woodshed by a combined score of 110-10 against those same foes.

Each offensive unit can move the ball through the air, but a Rebel defense that allows just 210 yards passing per game is much more likely to slow the opposition down than a Razorback unit that ranks near the bottom of the FBS, allowing 304 yards through the air.

Opening point spread: Arkansas by 4 1/2

The pick: Mississippi 31-27

RIVALRY GAME OF THE WEEK

Cincinnati at No. 16 Louisville
Fri., Oct. 26 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

If the “Keg of Nails” were actually a keg filled with nails, it would be the best rivalry trophy in the land. But even though it’s merely a painted empty keg, it’s still in the conversation. It just sounds so awesome! No wonder the Bearcats and Cardinals annually lay it all on the line for the “Keg of Nails.”

The original “Keg of Nails” (yes, this one is actually “Son of Keg of Nails”) was first awarded in 1929, signifying that the players on the winning team were as “tough as nails.” Ah … college football …

As a side note: We don’t believe the tale about the original “Keg of Nails” being misplaced and lost during some office construction at Louisville. C’mon, who would lose track of a keg of nails, trophy or not? Seriously now, the Cardinals should be docked three points in each game until they come up with it.

Last week, we gave you Toledo over Cincinnati. This week, we’re tempted to give you the Bearcats. Cincinnati has been in control of the series as of late, winning the past four, and should have the emotional edge as they drive along Interstate 71.

But, when your problems are turning over the football and giving up big plays, the corrections aren’t easy to find.

The Cardinals, led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (21-of-25 for 256 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s over South Florida), are much more reliable at this point.

Opening point spread: Louisville by 6

The pick: Louisville 27-26

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After Texas Tech dismissal, former three-star safety expects to transfer

A month ago, the Texas Tech Red Raiders lost a key contributor to their secondary when junior safety Josh Keys was kicked out of the program.

Keys, who was a three-star recruit from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, finally discussed the reason behind his dismissal with WreckEm247.com.

The safety was eventually removed from the program after a second failed drug test.

“I don’t like the way it happened,” Keys told WreckEm247.com’s Daniel Paulling. “I want to learn from my mistakes.”

Prior to the dismissal, Keys registered 14 tackles in five games while serving as the team’s primary backup at both safety positions.

The junior defensive back wants to start over again with another program. He’s currently taking classes at Texas Tech and expects to transfer during the spring semester.

“I’m still looking around; see what’s out there for me,” Keys said.

Keys originally chose to play at Texas Tech over offers from the Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Baylor Bears, Georgia Bulldogs, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Ole Miss Rebels and Tennessee Volunteers. The safety held 20 total offers.

Whether or not those programs that were previously interested in Keys will remain so after his issues at Texas Tech isn’t known. However, it may be in Keys’ best interests to transfer to an FCS program in order to avoid the one-year transfer rule between FBS programs.

Although, his dismissal from Texas Tech’s program could allow him to be eligible next season based on the “run-off rule”, which allows an athlete to be immediately eligible if they’re still in good academic standing and the previous school files paperwork which confirms the athlete isn’t invited back to the program.

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Eight-team playoff system preferred by coaches

College Football Playoff Announces The College Football Playoff Selection Committee - News Conference

With less than one year in the new College Football Playoff system, coaches and at least one commissioner are already breaking ranks and not fully supporting the new setup.

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, 44 percent of 103 coaches who participated in a poll preferred an eight-team playoff structure. Only 29 percent preferred the current setup. While 17 percent want to expand the playoff to 16 teams.

“Most of the coaches who want an eight-team playoff believe it should consist of the conference champions from the Power 5 leagues plus the next three highest-ranked at-large teams, or the top-ranked Group of 5 champion and the two highest-ranked at-large teams,” McMurphy reported.

The poll comes on the heels of ACC commissioner John Swofford saying teams — and, by extension, conferences — will be unhappy once the final playoff rankings are released.

“I don’t think all the controversy’s going to go away,” Swofford told The Herald-Sun. “You have four teams that get a chance to play for the national championship, which is twice as many as before, but whoever’s fifth or sixth is not going to be happy. There will be some conferences that won’t have a team in the playoff.”

Commissioners are already preparing for the possibility of not having a team among college football’s final four. Currently, the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences would be left out of the mix based on the current rankings.

However, change isn’t expected any time soon. The current agreement for a four-team playoff is in place for the next 12 years, and College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock said that “there has been no discussion of expanding.”

Even though Swofford views an eight-team playoff as “ideal” and the majority of coaches currently support that notion, it’s not going to happen any time soon.

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Brian Kelly, Dabo Swinney latest to deny interest in Florida opening

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Since Will Muschamp was officially dismissed as Florida’s head coach — even though he’ll continue to coach the Gators for the rest of this season — multiple high-profile head coaches already denied any interest in the opening.

It started with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. Stoops, who is the favorite in Las Vegas to eventually claim the job, quickly squashed any rumors a day after Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley made his decision.

“All I want to be is a candidate at Oklahoma,” Stoops said during a conference call Monday. “I’m not a candidate anywhere else. I’m finished with that question.”

A 69-year-old Steve Spurrier isn’t making a triumphant return to Gainesville either.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn followed suit Tuesday by saying he was “totally committed” to the Tigers program, per Al.com.

Two more denials came Friday.

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly joked about the possibility of leaving South Bend for sunny Florida.

“I’m going to Florida — in about two weeks to get some sun,” Kelly told WNDU.com. “I’m getting out of here with this weather. What are you, kidding me? So you can write that down. I’m going to Florida. Write it down now, get it out there get it on the news waves.”

When reporters followed Kelly’s sarcastic response with a direct question about the coach’s interest in Florida, the Notre Dame coach continued to lay it on thick.

“Oh yeah. I’ve been interested in the Florida job,” Kelly said. “What else am I up for anything else? Can I be up for the Notre Dame job? Because we are 7-3 right now, [and] I’m hoping to hold on to this job.”

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was more direct with his answer regarding any interest in the opening.

“The more you sit around and talk about that kind of stuff, the more of a distraction it is,” Swinney said. “I love my job. I just signed a long-term contract because of that. And this is a place that’s special to me. And I’ve invested a lot here. My focus is 100 percent on winning here.”

Two reasons prompt these blanket denials.

First, no coach is going to express interest in the middle of the season. It’s detrimental to his team’s progress on the field and recruiting off of it.

Second, Florida is no longer considered one of the elite jobs. It’s close, but it doesn’t fall in the same category as Alabama, Ohio State or Texas anymore.

“If those elite jobs are a 10, Florida is a 9.5,” a source told USA TODAY.

Despite being in a talent-rich state as one of the highest-profile programs in the nation, Florida has fallen behind in regards to facilities. It’s still a desirable job, but it’s not quite as enticing for these top coaches as it used to be.

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UPDATE: Weather forces kickoff shuffling in Houston but not in Waco

Thunderstorm Lightning

In Buffalo, it was massive snowstorm that first caused the postponement, then the rescheduling, and finally the cancellation of a MAC football game this week.  Saturday, it will be a different weather system affecting an AAC contest.  And, possibly, a Big 12 one as well.

Friday, Houston announced that the kickoff time for Saturday’s game against Tulsa has been moved up.  Instead of putting foot to pigskin at 2:00 p.m. ET, the start will come three hours earlier at 11 a.m. ET (10 a.m. local time).

From the UH’s press release:

Administration from the University of Houston Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has been in consultation with the National Weather Service, the American Athletic Conference and the University of Tulsa in making the decision to move Saturday’s game time.

Courtesy of the Weather Channel, here’s Saturday’s forecast:

Houston Forecast

It’s not just Houston, either, when it comes to the potential for severe weather in the state of Texas that could impact games.

Baylor and North Texas both play at home in Week 13. Especially when it comes to the former’s game against Oklahoma State tomorrow night, heavy rain — and perhaps thunderstorms — could be an issue during the contest, with talk that kickoff for BU-OSU could be moved as well.

According to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, not only is an adjustment of the kickoff time being discussed, but there’s also talk of moving the game to Sunday. That, though, would be “a last resort” a source told McMurphy.

UPDATE (5:45 p.m. ET):  Baylor University released a statement Friday that Saturday’s contest against the Oklahoma State Cowboys will proceed as planned.

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Playoff committee chair Jeff Long tries to explain ‘game control’, effect on rankings

Jeff Long

One thing everyone has learned since the advent of the College Football Playoff rankings is that everything is subjective and there isn’t any real rhyme or reason behind where a team is eventually slotted.

The latest example came this week when the Alabama Crimson Tide jumped to the No. 1 overall spot after beating then No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Alabama claimed the top spot despite being ranked behind the Oregon Ducks, Florida State Seminoles and TCU Horned Frogs during the previous week. None of those teams lost this past weekend, yet Alabama still leapfrogged them in the rankings.

There are no hard or fast rules when it comes to theses new rankings. The committee simply takes into consideration certain aspects like strength of schedule, head-to-head meetings, etc. However, it’s at their discretion which team is ranked where. And it’s an inexact science.

The latest example came with a new buzzword emanated from the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. The term “game control” or some variation was used to explain the latest rankings.

While it’s an impressive sounding term to give everyone a reason behind certain decision, there isn’t any actual substance to it.

“There’s absolutely no metric involved,” Long told USA TODAY‘s George Schroeder. “It’s a discussion amongst committee members about controlling the game.”

The term was used in conjunction with Alabama’s 25-20 victory over Mississippi State.

“What I was trying to convey is that it wasn’t a three-touchdown blowout of Mississippi State,” Long said. “They were within less than two touchdowns the whole way. But we never felt Alabama was out of control of that game.

“It’s more of, the committee watches the games, and then we discuss the game and we talk about whether the game was a back-and-forth contest, whether someone assumes control in the game early and keeps it throughout, (or) whether they assumed (control) in the second quarter or the third quarter or the fourth quarter and controlled it to the end.”

This explanation was good enough to rank Alabama No. 1 overall, while Mississippi State only fell to No. 4 and TCU was ranked No. 5 after struggling against the Kansas Jayhawks.

When everyone clamored for a playoff system, it was supposed to solve all the problems the computers created during the BCS era. Instead, the process has become even more subjective and less defined as to what it takes to eventually earn a spot as one of the top four teams in college football.

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Indiana’s Kevin Wilson gets boss’ vote of confidence

Kevin Wilson AP

Whether it’s the “dreaded vote of confidence” remains to be seen.

With a 3-2 record to start the season, there was talk that Kevin Wilson had finally started turning around the Indiana football program.  With a five-game losing streak entering Week 13 — four of them by 16 or more points — the pitchforks are being gathered up and the torches lit in and around Bloomington.

Don’t look for Wilson’s boss to be in that mob, though.  At least not yet.

“To me, the answer is a resounding yes, notwithstanding the lack of wins this year,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said when asked by the Indianapolis Star‘s David Woods if the football program is head in the right direction.

“I just think it takes a little while. That’s why I gave Kevin a seven-year contract.”

Contractually, it’d cost Glass’ athletic department $1.5 million to rid themselves of Wilson at season’s end, which is far from a prohibitive amount.  On at least two occasions during his Star interview, however, Glass noted something that, at least in his mind, mitigates this season’s 3-7 record.

“I get that we’d like to win more games,” Glass said. “But I also think you just can’t overstate the impact of Nate going down. …

“Given the challenges inherent here, Kevin is going the right way. It’s just a shame Nate went down.”

The AD is referring to Nate Sudfeld, the starting quarterback who went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the Oct. 11 loss to Iowa. That loss was followed by four more, with IU set to take a five-game losing streak on its road trip to No. 6 Ohio State.

When Sudfeld finished a game he started this season, the Hoosiers were 3-2 and appeared headed for its first bowl appearance since 2007 and just its second since 1993. Instead, with true freshman Zander Diamont mostly under center, Wilson’s seen his record tumble to 5-25 in Big Ten play in four seasons in Bloomington; Bill Lynch, the man Wilson replaced, was 6-26 in Big Ten play before he and the university “parted ways.”

“I think contracts need to mean something again at Indiana University,” Glass said in October of 2009. “He’s in the second year of a four-year contract … I hope that and really think that coach Lynch will be very successful.”

Exactly one year and one month later, Lynch was “replaced” as the Hoosiers’ head coach, with one year remaining on his contract.

Wilson is currently in the fourth year of his seven-year deal. Despite Glass’ public plaudits, it remains to be seen whether Wilson will see a fifth year.

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Outland Trophy goes on the offensive with semifinalists

Aaron Donald

The Lombardi Award finalists had a decidedly defensive lean. When it comes to another predominately lineman award, though, it’s almost all about the other side of the ball.

The Outland Trophy, handed out annually since 1946, announced its semifinalists for the 2014 award Thursday, revealing a pool of six potential winners. As you may have guessed from the headline, five of the six semifinalists are offensive linemen.

The lone defensive player is Texas tackle Malcolm Brown, who is also one of the finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award. What follows are the other five Outland semifinalists.

  • Auburn center Reese Dismukes
  • Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango
  • Oregon tackle Jake Fisher
  • Florida State guard Tre’ Jackson
  • Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff

Finalists for this year’s award will be announced next Tuesday.  Last year’s winner was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

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Miss. St. suspends starting FS Justin Cox after domestic violence arrest

Auburn v Mississippi State Getty Images

Embarking on a two-game stretch that, with a pair of wins, could potentially earn Mississippi State an early-December trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game, the Bulldogs will, for at least one of those games, be without a key piece of its defensive puzzle.

Very late Friday morning, MSU announced that starting safety Justin Cox has been indefinitely suspended from the football program.  Other than it being related to “an off-campus incident,” no reason for the suspension was given by the school.

However, the Starkville Daily News is reporting that the suspension came a few hours after Cox was arrested and charged following an alleged domestic violence incident.  From the Daily News:

Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Brett Watson said deputies responded to a burglary call on Rocky Road in the Aspen Heights apartment complex at about 3 a.m. Friday. He said upon arrival, deputies found a female victim with an injury to her head.

Cox was ultimately charged with suspicion of burglary of a dwelling and aggravated domestic violence.

The suspension almost certainly means Cox will miss Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.  It also calls into question the defensive back’s availability for the Egg Bowl a week later, which could very well be the most important MSU-Ole Miss game in the rivalry’s history.

Cox has started eight of the 10 games in which he’s played at free safety this season, including the last six.  Cox has four passes broken up and five defensed in 2014.

Cox is in his first season in Starkville after transferring in from the JUCO ranks.

 

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A&M expected to get defensive help for Turkey Day game vs. LSU

Bo Wallace;Myles Garrett AP

And, yes, they could use it.

Ahead of its bye in Week 13, head coach Kevin Sumlin said that a pair of starting defensive linemen — end Myles Garrett and tackle Ivan Robinson — are listed as probable for the Thanksgiving Day game against LSU. Both Garrett and Robinson did not play in last weekend’s loss to Missouri due to unspecified injuries.

Additionally, linebacker Otaro Alaka, injured during the Mizzou game, is listed as probable as well.

All three are starters, although the return of Garrett should provide the biggest boost for an Aggies defense that’s at or near the bottom of the SEC in nearly every major statistical category.

Garrett, a sure-fire freshman All-American, is sixth in the country in sacks per game (1.1) and is tied for 35th in tackles for loss per game (1.3). His 11 sacks are an SEC record for a freshman, shattering the mark of eight previously held by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.

Robinson had started six games in a row prior to missing the Mizzou game, while Robinson has started the last three.

The Aggies are currently 77th nationally and 11th in the 14-team SEC — 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’re even worse: at 445.2 yards per game, the Aggies are dead last in the conference and 100th in the country.

Based on performance, Mark Snyder‘s seat is decidedly hot, so much so that beat writers are already talking about the specifics of a buyout contained in his contract. To his credit, Snyder is not shying away from the speculation.

“I learned at about 30 years old, the second you take a job in this profession, you’re on the hot seat,” Snyder said Thursday according to the Houston Chronicle. “This is a production-based business. Period.”

Snyder does, though, have one very vocal supporter, with defensive leader Deshazor Everett tweeting that the onus for improved performance is on the players.

Whether such strident support will come from Snyder’s boss at season’s end remains to be seen.

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Out of the Hunt: ‘Cuse starting QB done for year

Louisville v Syracuse

Any hope Syracuse held out that Terrel Hunt would return before the end of the season has officially been dashed.

At his weekly Thursday press conference, Scott Shafer confirmed that the quarterback will not play in either of Syracuse’s remaining two games because of injury. Hunt sustained a fractured fibula in early October in the loss to Louisville, and has missed the last five games.

The Orange, at 3-7 not eligible for a bowl game, will close out their season against Pittsburgh and Boston College.

“Terrel’s down,” Shafer said. “He’s getting better, it’s just that bones heal differently in each kid. He won’t be available for the rest of the season, but he’s doing a nice job with school, he’s adjusted to the situation well and he’s helping us with the young guys. He’s been very attentive to meetings, but he won’t be available.”

Hunt, a redshirt junior who’s expected to enter spring practice both healthy and as the starter, started the first five games of the 2014 season, and was responsible for 62.6 percent (1,290 yards) of the Orange’s 2,062 yards of total offense in those games. His six rushing touchdowns are still five more than any other player on the team.

With Hunt out, AJ Long has taken over the lion’s share of the quarterbacking duties. A shoulder issue kept Long out of Syracuse’s last game, a Nov. 8 loss to Duke, but he’s expected to start Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.

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Georgia Tech claims ACC Coastal crown with Duke’s loss to North Carolina

David Cutcliffe

When the Duke Blue Devils hosted the North Carolina Tar Heels Thursday, it was all about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

North Carolina’s dominant 45-20 victory over the rival Blue Devils handed Georgia Tech the ACC Coastal crown and placed Paul Johnson‘s team in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

The school already released a statement with reaction to winning the ACC Coastal:

Meanwhile, Duke fell to 4-3 in the division, while North Carolina improved and now sports the same conference record.

The Blue Devils’ defense simply didn’t show up to play Thursday. North Carolina racked up a whopping 592 total yards. The Tar Heels were dominant at the point of attack and ran the ball for 316 of those yards. Three different players ran for at least 96 yards. Sophomore running back T.J. Logan led the way with 116 yards on 18 carries.

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams also proved to be a difficult matchup for Duke. The dual-threat quarterback accumulated 374 total yards and four total touchdowns. Dukes’ offense only gained four more yards than Williams did.

Williams’ effort placed him in North Carolina’s record books:

The quarterback’s performance almost made everyone forget about the fact he also fumbled the ball three times.

The entire contest was plagued by mistakes. A combined six turnovers were committed. Duke was never able to recover from two early fumbles, though.

Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone also didn’t rise to the occasion. The senior signal-caller was 22-of-40 passing for 262 yards.

Once the first quarter ended, Duke was never in the contest. The Tar Heels went into Wallace Wade Stadium, ran their rivals out of the building and claimed the Victory Bell as their own.

Both teams are still bowl eligible, but the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as bright as it once was for Duke. Instead, the Blue Devils ran smack into a Ramblin’ Wreck.

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Quarterback play defines No. 12 Kansas State’s 26-20 victory over WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia Getty Images

Bill Snyder‘s Kansas State Wildcats are known for playing fundamentally sound, ball-control football. Neither was the case Thursday against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Yet, the No. 12 Wildcats still found a way to beat WVU 26-20 in Morgantown.

Two leaders on Kansas State’s offense, quarterback Jake Waters and wide receiver Tyler Lockett, took over the game and never looked back.

Everything starts with the quarterback. Waters was forced to carry the offense due to West Virginia completely taking away Kansas State’s running game. The Wildcats gained one yard on the ground. Waters was forced to throw the ball 33 times. He completed 22 passes for a career-high 400 yards through the air.

Waters doubled as the team’s leading rusher. The quarterback was credited with 12 carries for 13 yards. And his seven-yard touchdown pass to running back Demarcus Robinson on the team’s initial drive was the only time the offense found the end zone.

Lockett was, as per usual, Waters’ favorite target.

The senior wide receiver caught 10 passes for 196 yards. His biggest contributions actually came on special teams, though. Lockett’s 43-yard punt return for a touchdown granted Kansas State a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. The talented receiver/returner finished the contest with 321 total yards.

Lockett completely outplayed one of the nation’s top wide receivers in West Virginia’s Kevin White. The Wildcats successfully bracketed White throughout the contest, and the nation’s third-leading receiver finished the contest with seven catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.

Waters’ play wasn’t the only interesting quarterback situation in this particular game.

West Virginia sophomore Sklyer Howard took over for senior Clint Trickett, and the underclassman may not hand the job to Trickett with only Iowa State remaining on the schedule.

Howard played much better than Trickett did once he was inserted into the lineup. The sophomore was 15-of-23 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

At 6-5 overall, the future is now for the Mountaineers.

As the Mountaineers contemplate their fledgling quarterback controversy, Kansas State still has an outside shot of claiming a Big 12 Conference championship.

The Wildcats are now tied with the TCU Horned Frogs at 6-1 overall in the division. With a contest remaining against the No. 7 Baylor Bears and TCU playing the Texas Longhorns this weekend, Kansas State can still claim an outright Big 12 title.

Snyder’s squad will have to play better than they did against West Virginia for the program to have a chance of that actually happening.

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MAC cancels contest between Buffalo Bulls and Kent State Golden Flashes

Record Snowstorm Pummels Buffalo Getty Images

Snowmageddon 2014 will prevent all of us from enjoying more MACtion.

With the city of Buffalo completely snowed over and suffering from blizzard conditions, a college football contest became a secondary concern.

The MAC announced Thursday that the meeting between the Kent State Golden Flashes and the Buffalo Bulls, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, has been cancelled.

The two sides hoped to play Friday, but the conference decided the game will not be rescheduled.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it will not be feasible to play the football game between Kent State and Buffalo on Friday,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “The game has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The safety of the student-athletes and fans is paramount. We want to be respectful of the efforts of the emergency service personnel in the Buffalo area who are working to assist those in need.”

The two teams will finish their seasons under revised schedules. Both teams will play their final games on Friday, Nov. 28. Kent State will face the rival Akron Zips at Dix Stadium, while Buffalo will travel to Amherst, Mass. to challenge the UMass Minutemen.

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UNC dominates Duke 28-7 during first half as ACC Coastal starts to take shape

Mack Hollins, Ryan Switzer

If the Duke Blue Devils are trying to earn an Orange Bowl berth, the team has a funny way of showing it.

During a sloppy first half of play, the North Carolina Tar Heels dominated the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels built an impressive 28-7 lead, which appears to be an insurmountable lead due to the mistakes Duke committed.

Overall, the two teams combined to turn the ball over five times. North Carolina actually fumbled the ball three times, but Duke wasn’t able to take advantage. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, scored after both of Duke’s fumbles.

As soon as North Carolina built a lead, questions regarding the ACC Coastal standings started to surface.

A loss by Duke will hand the No. 18 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets an ACC Coastal crown and an appearance in the ACC Championship Game against the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.

Duke still has the second half to redeem itself.

The Blue Devils have to start by stopping the Tar Heels offense. North Carolina amassed 391 yards of total offense through two quarters of play. If not for three fumbles by quarterback Marquise Williams, the score could be worse than it already is.

Sophomore Ryan Switzer proved to be North Carolina’s biggest threat on offense after catching two passes for 107 yards. Whereas Williams, T.J. Logan and Romar Morris combined to run for 203 yards.

Duke needs to get a strong second-half performance from senior quarterback Anthony Boone, who is 8-of-17 passing for 89 yards. If Boone and Duke’s talented corps of wide receivers can’t get the passing game going, the Blue Devils don’t have a chance in the second half and will concede the ACC Coastal to Georgia Tech.

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Fortunate calls allow No. 12 Kansas State to build 17-3 lead against WVU

Kansas State v West Virginia Getty Images

The ball bounced in favor of the No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats during the first half of play against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

A suspect touchdown call and another touchdown being called back proved to be the biggest difference for the Wildcats, who hold a 17-3 lead at halftime.

The fortunate calls in Kansas State’s favor started on the team’s initial drive.

After a 23-yard punt return from Tyler Lockett — and his presence on special teams will come up again — the Wildcats started their initial drive from West Virginia’s 49-yard line. Seven plays later, Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters drove his offense to the 7-yard line. On third-and-goal, Waters scrambled in the pocket and found running back Demarcus Robinson open for a touchdown pass.

However, Robinson dropped the football during the follow through of the catch. Despite the bobbled ball, the referees ruled he had possession before he went to the ground and the touchdown call stood. Kansas State gained an early 7-0 lead.

After the team’s traded field goals, the Mountaineers finally found the end zone on one of the wackiest touchdown catches of the season. Or so they thought.

Kevin White, the nation’s third-leading receiver, came up with an amazing tipped pass for the unlikely score (see: below).

The catch was eventually ruled incomplete upon review. One angle appeared to show the ball hitting the ground before it flipped into the air toward White. The situation was compounded by the fact West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert missed the ensuing field goal attempt.

Locket extended Kansas State’s lead with a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown. The All-American returner averaged 33 yards per punt return through two quarters of play.

As the teams enter the second half, Kansas State wants to return to playing sound football after a sloppy first half. West Virginia, meanwhile, needs to capitalize on its opportunities and find ways to get its vertical passing attack on track.

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