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The Fifth Quarter: Alabama-LSU Rewind

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron celebrates after his team defeated the LSU Tigers during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana AP

Yes, this game was so big it gets its own Rewind.  Your regularly-scheduled “The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind” will appear, in its entirety, later on in the day Sunday.

Ben did a helluva job with the post-game recap of one of the more entertaining football games you’ll see at any level, a 21-17 win for the top-ranked team in the nation.  Below is a little bit of the minutia and talking points that may or may not litter sports radio shows and water cooler conversations throughout the weekend and into the start of a new work week.

THE TURNING POINT
The first five drives of the second half, LSU’s relentlessly stifling defense had held Alabama’s offense in check, limiting the No. 1 Tide to 49 yards of total offense.  In those five series, the No. 5 Tigers forced four three-and-outs and one fumble.

And then came the sixth drive.

After a missed 38-yard field goal attempt gave the Tide the ball at their own 28-yard line with 1:34 left in the game, LSU, which had been in full-blown attack mode on defense throughout, went into full-blown soft-zone mode.  It turned out to be the worst of several questionable decisions made by Les Miles and his coaching staff throughout the game.

In three plays after taking possession, and in less than 40 seconds, the Tide gained nearly as many yards (44) as they had in the entire second half previously, moving from their own 28 to the same yard line on LSU’s side of the field.  Following an incompletion on the fourth play of what would prove to be the game-winning drive, LSU again donned their blitzing caps… and the Tide made the Tigers pay dearly, dialing up a perfectly-executed screen pass from AJ McCarron to T.J. Yeldon that saved both the game and the Tide’s title aspirations.

It’s hard to blame LSU for trying to prevent the one big play that would cost them the game.  It’s not hard to blame LSU, though, for a decision that allowed a trio of mini-big plays, ultimately leading to the big play.

THUMBS UP

Back-to-back still intact
Suffice to say, the biggest winner of the night was Alabama’s title hopes.  If last week was the Tide’s first real test of the 2012 season, tonight was their first real test of the year.  And, while they didn’t pass with the flying colors of a week ago, they passed.  At this stage of the season, that’s all that matters — for the most part.  While the Tide had walked, talked, smelled and played like an unstoppable force through eight games — so  much so, in fact, that the laughable notion of UA being able to beat an NFL team was actually taking hold — they were anything but that for a sizable chunk of the first 58 minutes.  As odd as it sounds, though, that might’ve been the second most important development of the night as it gives Nick Saban‘s coaching arsenal yet another pointed teaching tool to use on what is still, despite all of the wins and lofty rankings, a very young football team.  Complacency will likely be the Tide’s biggest enemy for the remainder of the regular season; the LSU game tape would serve as the ultimate trump card, as evidenced by Saban’s quotes following the game.

“Our players have to be aware that they can take this one way or the other,” the coach said of the hard-fought win. “This one is either going to affect them in a positive way or a negative way with what they do in the future. They can focus on the things they didn’t do and take the next challenge and continue to improve and be ready to play next week and prepare and practice next week or they can say, ‘We’re satisfied for ourselves with what we did.'”

AJ’s Heisman hopes
AJ McCarron, because of Alabama’s style of play, will simply not put up the type of numbers that other Heisman contenders do on a weekly basis, and that was never more evident than this latest Saturday night in Death Valley.  That final drive, however, was the stuff of which legends are made.  And the stuff that attracts the attention of Heisman voters regardless of the stat line for the first 58 minutes.  The raw, from-the-heart emotion McCarron displayed as the final seconds ticked off the clock and then boiled over as he met his parents beyond the end zone after the game were as epic, in a good way, as his engineering of the final drive.  I don’t know if the junior deserves to win the Heisman, but he certainly belongs in the discussion.

The SEC
If you don’t think the SEC was privately and/or publicly rooting for an Alabama win, you might consider removing your head from the sand as it’s awfully hot and hard to breathe down there.  For the conference in general and the Tide specifically, the stakes couldn’t have been higher.  An Alabama loss would’ve left the SEC with no unbeaten teams.  When combined with three other highly-ranked teams still unbeaten — four if you want to consider Louisville as part of the mix — the SEC’s streak of six straight BcS titles would’ve been in serious jeopardy, with the conference in the uncharted territory of relying on outside help for a ticket to the title game.  Fortunately for the SEC, the Tide’s win left the conference with the inside track for one of the two spots in the BcS championship game.  Just as fortunate?  There were no controversial calls that favored Alabama and played a role in the outcome of the game…

Death Valley didn’t disappoint
Forget the fact that LSU lost just its second home game under the lights (Florida, 2009) under Les Miles.  The atmosphere at Tiger Stadium, even from my vantage point a little over 1,000 miles, is simply electric and by all accounts deafening, which makes the Tide’s triumph all the more impressive.  If you were to make a list of the greatest venues for any sport in the country, it wouldn’t take long to call roll before you got to Death Valley.  It’s a credit to the university, the football program and, most importantly, the fan base that such a spectacle exists.  Yes, the loss was certainly disappointing to those that live and die with the Bayou Bengals, but they can take heart in the knowledge that they are a big part of what makes the sport of college football so great.  And, yes, a trip to Death Valley is on my sports bucket list.  Gotta get there at some point for a night game…

Democrats
Regardless of what the polls may or may not say, the Democratic Party has to be feeling pretty good heading into Tuesday based solely on the results of a football game.  Why?  According to research conducted by FanSided.com, the winner of the Alabama-LSU has accurately predicted the results of all seven presidential elections held since 1984.  In years that Alabama won, a Democrat won the election.  In years LSU won, a Republican was sent to the White House. So, with the Tide’s win, is it hello second term for the sitting president?  Your mileage may vary greatly as to whether an eighth-consecutive accurate prediction would be a positive or negative development.

THUMBS DOWN

The Mad Hatter
Take your pick on the daffiest of the daftness of the Mad Hatter in this game.  Was it the failed fake field goal that everybody — including the Tide’s defense and my grandmother, who’s been six feet under for two decades — saw coming?  The failed onside kick, which admittedly would’ve been idiot savant-level genius were it not for a quirky bounce that resulted in an illegal touching penalty on the kicker?  The failed 54-yard field goal attempt that gave the Tide prime field position with just over a minute left in the second quarter, and which the Tide turned into a touchdown and a 14-3 lead heading into the half?  A failed fourth-and-one from the Alabama 24, one in which LSU utilized its version of the gimmicky Wildcat offense after it had been very successful running the football with the standard power game?  Individually, these plays didn’t cost LSU the game.  Collectively, they were part of the subtle flow of the game that set the table for the game-winning drive.

Oh, Copeland…
Midway through the second quarter, a fumbled punt on the part of the Tide was recovered by the Tigers at UA’s 32-yard line.  On the ensuing play, a 19-yard run by Jeremy Hill moved the Tigers down to the 13-yard line… and a post-play personal foul on J.C. Copeland moved the ball back to the 28.  While it was still first and 10 following the penalty, all the momentum gained from the previous two plays was lost as the Tigers gained just one yard the next three, leading to the failed fake field goal.  The penalty almost certainly cost the Tigers at least a field goal, if not a touchdown.  In what was a four-point loss, and even as it occurred in the first half, Copeland’s momentary lapse of reason was a significant moment in the game.

Who are you and what’d you do with the Tide’s defense?
Through the first eight games of the season, Alabama led the country by stingily giving up just a little over 57 yards per game on the ground; LSU churned out 80 rushing yards… in the first quarter alone.  For the game, the Tigers rushed for 139 yards; previously, the most the Tide had given up in a single game this season was 80 to Ole Miss in Week 5.  Add that to some very suspect play in the passing game, and we’re guessing Nick Saban will spend an inordinate amount of time tightening things up on that side of the ball as the Tide preps for the high-octane Texas A&M Aggies’ trip to Tuscaloosa this Saturday.

McCarron’s Heisman hopes
As great as the final drive was, the first 58:26 was as choppy of a game McCarron has played in his one-plus seasons as the Tide’s starting quarterback.  On that final drive, McCarron was 4-5 for 72 yards and a touchdown; prior to that, he was 10-22 for 93 yards and one rushing touchdown.  On what will be his second-biggest stage before votes are cast — the SEC championship being the biggest, provided the Tide can navigate games against A&M and Auburn — the question will become what voters give the most weight to when it comes to McCarron’s stiff-armed candidacy: the first 58, or final two.

QUOTABLE

“I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of guys to overcome adversity. … It’s something I’ll never forget.” — Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

“It was a very hard game. We needed a hard game.” — Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.

“You’ll remember this one forever.  It hurts worse than the [loss to Alabama] in the national championship game.” — LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

– From the UA Sports Information Department: AJ McCarron continues to build his school record of passes without an interception. McCarron ends the LSU game with an active streak of 289 passing attempts without an interception.

– Speaking of McCarron, the junior is one touchdown pass away from tying and two away from breaking Greg McElroy‘s single-season mark of 20 set in 2010.  He’s also 10 touchdown passes away from breaking John Parker Wilson‘s career mark of 47.

– Despite the loss, quarterback Zach Mettenberger came of age for the Tigers.  In unquestionably his finest performance in his first season as a starter, Mettenberger completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and, most impressively considering the opposition’s defense, no interceptions.

– Until late in the third quarter, LSU had gone 169:38 without scoring a touchdown against Alabama, a span that stretched back to 8:13 left in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 6, 2010, win over the Tide and which covered two-plus games.  Then, in a span of 5:37, the Tigers exploded for a pair of touchdowns.

– The 435 yards of total offense by the Tigers was the most surrendered by a Tide defense since a loss to the same team in November of 2007, Saban’s first season in Tuscaloosa.

– The attendance of 93,374 is a new Tiger Stadium record.

– Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU, 47-25-5.

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Maryland loses DE Quinton Jefferson for the season

Wake Forest v Maryland

As good as Saturday was for the Maryland Fighting Edsalls, defeating ever-so-brief ACC rival Syracuse, 34-20, it’s been an equally bad Sunday for the program.

The Terps already suffered the loss of tight end Andrew Isaacs for the year, and now they’ve lost Quinton Jefferson. The junior will undergo season-ending surgery after injuring his knee in last week’s loss to West Virginia, head coach Randy Edsall confirmed on Sunday.

Jefferson recorded eight tackles and a sack this season, and posted 47 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and three sacks as a sophomore in 2013.

Senior Keith Bowers started in Jefferson’s place during Maryland’s defeat of Syracuse and registered three tackles.

Maryland (3-1) begins life in the Big Ten Saturday at Indiana.

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UCLA QB Brett Hundley is practicing, but Jim Mora won’t commit for Thursday

Brett Hundley

We already know No. 15 Arizona State will be without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly for Thursday night’s massive Pac-12 South showdown, but what of UCLA’s own starting quarterback.

Brett Hundley has returned to practice after leaving the Bruins’ 20-17 win over Texas with a left elbow injury, wearing a brace on his left arm. Though observers believe Hundley is on track to play, head coach Jim Mora wasn’t offering the media -and the Arizona State coaching staff – any information.

“All of our players who are out, what we try to do is make the best decisions for them based upon the knowledge we have,” Mora told the Los Angeles Times. “We depend on our doctors to get us good information, and we got the best doctors in the nation in my opinion. If they clear him, and they say he can play, just like everyone else, then we’ll play him.”

In the event Hundley is not ready to go, UCLA appears to be in good hands with backup Jerry Neuheisel. In the sophomore’s first significant action as a collegian, Neuheisel completed 23-of-30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns, including the 33-yard game-winner with three minutes remaining in UCLA’s come-from-behind win over Texas on Sept. 13.

Hundley has completed 57-of-81 passes for 686 yards with three touchdowns and one interception this season.

 

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Deshaun Watson will start at QB for Clemson Saturday vs. UNC

Deshaun Watson

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney finally admitted Sunday what the rest of us have known for the past four weeks: the Tigers are a better team when Deshaun Watson plays at quarterback over Cole StoudtSwinney announced Sunday that Watson would garner his first career start Saturday versus North Carolina.

Stoudt started the game and produced 64 combined run/pass yards on nine attempts, but did not produce points on any of his first drives and, thus, did not see the field again. Watson played the remainder of Clemson’s 23-17 overtime loss to No. 1 Florida State, completing 19-of-28 passes for 266 yards and rushing 12 times for 30 yards and a touchdown.

For the year, Watson notched a 201.1 passer rating with 29 completions in 41 attempts for 479 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 47 rushing yards and the aforementioned touchdown. For his part, Stoudt has not been bad, throwing for 486 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushing for 20 more yards, but the offense just clicks better with Watson standing in the shotgun.

Watson was clearly the future of Clemson’s offense and, with the Tigers at 1-2 and all but eliminated from the ACC championship race, Swinney felt now was the time for the future to melt with the present.

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Old Dominion, North Texas made Conference USA history on Saturday

It was a record-breaking day for a pair of Conference USA teams on Saturday. In Houston, Old Dominion defeated Rice 45-42, thereby giving the Monarchs their first win in Conference USA play.

Taylor Heinicke led the way for Old Dominion, connecting on 27-of-43 throws for 430 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Monarchs built a 28-14 lead at the half and extended it to 35-14, but saw Rice fight back to tie the game at 42-42 on a seven-yard Darik Dillard touchdown run with 1:05 to play. Heinicke responded by marching Old Dominion 67 yards in six plays, setting Ricky Segers up for a 25-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.

Considering this was also their first Conference USA game, Old Dominion now has a C-USA record 1.000 winning percentage. The program restarted football in 2009 after shuttling football in 1941, and has gone 49-15 under head coach Bobby Wilder in its six-year rise from the FCS independent ranks to Conference USA.

Old Dominion has a chance to keep its 1.000 winning percentage alive Friday night at home versus Middle Tennessee (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

As for real, official records, North Texas tied a C-USA record by notching 77 points in its 77-3 annihilation of FCS Nicholls State on Saturday. The 74-point margin of victory was North Texas’ biggest since 1948, and its 10 sacks of Colonels passers tied a school record.

Freshman Dajon Williams made his first start at quarterback and could not have had an easier debut, completing 11-of-14 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns and rushing four times for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The Mean Green averaged 11.9 yards per pass attempt and 8.5 yards per rush, and also notched two pick sixes and one punt return for a touchdown.

Ironically, the Conference USA single-game points record North Texas tied was set against… North Texas. Rice set the record back in 2008 by demolishing then-Sun Belt member North Texas 77-20.

North Texas is off this week before visiting SEC killer Indiana on Oct. 4.

 

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Rutgers loses star RB Paul James for the year

Paul James

Rutgers is off to a strong 3-1 start to its first Big Ten season, and that’s in part because running back Paul James was off to such a strong start to his junior season. The Scarlet Knights, however, will have to play the final two-thirds of their season without him as head coach Kyle Flood confirmed Sunday James has been lost for the season to a torn ACL.

James had carried seven times for 96 yards and a touchdown until the helmet of a Navy defender collided with James’ right knee at the end of a 13-yard run during the second quarter on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights won, 31-24, but James was not seen again throughout the day. As it turns out, that will unfortunately be the last anyone sees of James in a Rutgers uniform this season.

James entered the day as the Big Ten’s fifth-leading rusher, and finishes his season with 63 carries for 363 yards (5.76 yards per pop) with five touchdowns. He started the year with a 173-yard, three-touchdown performance, leading the Scarlet Knights to a 41-38 win at Washington State. James rushed for 881 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago while playing on a broken fibula.

Rutgers will now turn to Desmon Peoples (46 rushes, 205 yards) and Justin Goodwin (26 carries, 104 yards, one touchdown) to carry its ground game for the duration of the season.

Rutgers hosts Tulane on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPNews).

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Upset loss, press conference ripping makes Mizzou-South Carolina an awkward GameDay host

Indiana v Missouri

For the first time since 2006, ESPN’s College GameDay has waited until Week 5 to cover its first game involving an SEC team. It’s about time, really, considering more than half the conference is ranked, and nearly the entire SEC West is placed among the top 17. So it’s only fitting that the SEC’s 2014 GameDay debut is…. unranked Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina?

What?

The announcement was made Sunday morning, sending college football’s premier hype machine to Columbia, S.C., for the seventh time. The Gamecocks are 3-3 in GameDay‘s six previous visits, knocking off No. 1 Alabama 35-21 and No. 6 Georgia 35-7 in its last two turns as host.

Missouri fell from No. 18 to outside the rankings this week after losing 31-27 to Indiana at home on Saturday. South Carolina moved up a spot from No. 14 to No. 13 after beating Vanderbilt 48-34, but head coach Steve Spurrier called it one of the worst wins he’s been a part of as a coach. “We’re not a very good team but we’re 3-1 somehow, and we’ve got all the voters fooled thinking we’re pretty good, I guess because we beat Georgia,” Spurrier said after the game.

Comin’ to your cit-ay, anyone?

In all fairness, there aren’t many other options. Tigers-Gamecocks represents the only ranked-on-ranked matchup on Saturday. No. 12 UCLA at No. 15 Arizona State is the best game of the week, but it’s on Thursday. Unless you want to talk yourself into No. 16 Stanford at undefeated-yet-underwhelming Washington, this was ESPN’s only choice.

The good news, though, is that the schedule ramps up from here.

Assuming No. 10 Ole Miss can beat Memphis at home on Saturday – no easy task considering how Justin Fuente’s Tigers are playing – then GameDay is all but guaranteed to make its maiden voyage to The Grove in Week 6 as the Rebels host No. 3 Alabama. Should Ole Miss lose, No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 14 Mississippi State, No. 17 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, No. 16 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 21 Nebraska at No. 9 Michigan State, or No. 15 Arizona State at No. 18 USC all represent attractive back-up options.

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Alabama, Oklahoma gain ground on No. 1 FSU and No. 2 Oregon in latest AP Top 25

Dak Prescott

Just as they did in Sunday’s Coaches Poll, No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma inched closer to No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon in the latest edition of the AP Top 25.

Florida State saw its totals dip from 1,466 to 1,439 after its 23-17 win over then-No. 22 Clemson, and Oregon slid from 1,424 to 1,400 after squeaking past Washington State 38-31. No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma gained ground, moving to 1,377 and 1,343, respectively. The Tide and Sooners also saw their first-place votes increase to six and four, respectively. Florida State led the way with 34 – down from 37 – and Oregon followed with 12 – down from 17. No. 6 Texas A&M also garnered four first-place votes after ripping SMU 58-6.

LSU dropped from eighth to 17th in the AP poll, which means the Tigers also dropped from fourth to sixth in their own division. Mississippi State moved from outside the polls to No. 14 after defeating LSU 34-29 in Death Valley. Missouri (No. 18) and Clemson (No. 22) moved out of the polls, and were replaced by the 14th-ranked Bulldogs and ACC killer East Carolina at No. 23.

The full poll:

1. Florida State – 1,439 points (34 first-place votes)
2. Oregon – 1,400 (12)
3. Alabama – 1,377 (6)
4. Oklahoma – 1,343 (4)
5. Auburn – 1,268
6. Texas A&M – 1,232 (4)
7. Baylor – 1,143
8. Notre Dame – 967
9. Michigan State – 905
10. Ole Miss – 889
11. UCLA – 806
12. Georgia – 789
13. South Carolina – 764
14. Mississippi State – 706
15. Arizona State – 702
16. Stanford – 564
17. LSU – 541
18. USC – 459
19. Wisconsin – 451
20. BYU – 376
21. Nebraska – 296
22. Ohio State – 196
23. East Carolina – 180
24. Oklahoma State – 132
25. Kansas State – 131

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Melvin Gordon’s epic day places him atop NCAA record books

Melvin Gordon

And to think it all started with a fumble.

Melvin Gordon led an all out obliteration of Bowling Green’s rushing defense in the 19th-ranked Badgers’ 68-17 rout that registered on all sorts of record books from school, to conference, to country. Let’s start with Gordon, because that’s where it all starts for Wisconsin. The junior toted the rock 13 times for a career-high 253 yards and five touchdowns. He did not touch Ron Dayne’s single-game rushing record of 339 yards, but he did set the school record for yards per carry for all Badgers with at least 10 carries in a single game, and also became the sixth Wisconsin runner to notch five touchdowns in a single game. He also pulled into a tie for the NCAA all-time record for career yards per carry with some pretty notable company.

Gordon didn’t even touch the ball until Wisconsin’s fourth offensive play – its first drive found pay dirt in just two plays – and went for no gain after he lost a fumble. His remaining 12 carries went for a scant 21.1 yards per rush.

Impressive as that is, Gordon’s 253 yards accounted for only 39 percent of Wisconsin’s rushing totals. The Badgers rumbled for a total of 644 yards, a school record and the most in the modern era (since 1946) of Big Ten football. Tanner McEvoy completed 9-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and set a school record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback in rushing 11 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. Corey Clement also topped the 100-yard barrier with 111 yards on 16 carries, and Dare Ogunbowale added 14 rushes for 94 yards. You know you’re having a great day when 94 yards only gets you to fourth place on your own team.

Wisconsin’s 756 yards of total offense are also a single-game school record.

The explosive day gives Wisconsin two players among the nation’s top dozen in yards per carry. McEvoy ranks eighth at 9.73 per carry (26 carries for 253 yards), and Gordon checks in at No. 12 with 9.37 yards per carry (46 for 431 yards). As a team, the Badgers now rank second nationally in rushing (359.67 yards per game) and first in yards per carry (7.82). Bowling Green dropped from 71st to 123rd nationally in rush defense.

Next up for Wisconsin: South Florida and the nation’s No. 62-ranked rush defense. Buckle up, Bulls.

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Bama’s Blake Sims, ECU’s Zeek Bigger claim Week 4 Camp honors

East Carolina v North Carolina

One player from a Power Five school and another from a Non-Power Five program have laid claim to a top weekly national honor.

As it does every Sunday, the fine folks at the Walter Camp Foundation announce its national Players of the Week.  This week, those honors go to Alabama’s Blake Sims and East Carolina’s Zeek Bigger.

Sims completed 23-of-33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns as the Crimson Tide defeated Florida, 42-21. Sims’ 445 passing yards were the second-highest single-game total in school history. Two of his touchdown passes went for 87 and 79 yards as the Tide improved to 4-0 to start a season for the seventh consecutive year.

Sims also became the first UA quarterback to win Camp weekly honors.

On the defensive side, Bigger posted a career-high 17 tackles — seven of which were solos — and returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown as pasted in-state rival North Carolina by the score 70-41. Bigger had 11 of his tackles in the first half.

Bigger is the first-ever ECU player, either offensively or defensively, honored by the Camp Foundation as its Player of the Week.

ECU, incidentally, has now beaten ACC teams in back-to-back weekends for the first time in school history, and have won four straight against that conference dating back to last season.  UNC has been a victim twice in that span, while North Carolina State and Virginia Tech were victims once.

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FSU’s stranglehold on coaches’ poll slips as Tide, Sooners close gap

Clemson v Florida State

Much to the delight of Alabama and Oklahoma, close calls for both Florida State and Oregon cost those two squads in the latest release of the coaches’ poll.

FSU, as it has all season, remains No. 1 even as its support slipped in the wake of the overtime win over Clemson in Tallahassee.  The Seminoles received just 36 first-place votes after receiving 50 in the Week 3 poll.

Oregon, meanwhile, saw its first-place support slip from six to three and its standing in the Top 25 slide from No. 3 to No. 4.  The No. 2 Tide collected 11 first-place votes while the No. 3 Sooners, up from No. 4 last week, grabbed 12; last week, those first-place votes were one and four, respectively.

Those were the only teams receiving first-place votes.

Auburn (No. 5), Baylor (No. 6) and Texas A&M (No. 7) remain unchanged from a week ago.  LSU’s upset loss to Mississippi State caused the Tigers to drop from No. 8 to No. 18.  MSU, meanwhile, rocketed up from unranked and second in the “others receiving votes” category to No. 16.  Notre Dame moved up to No. 8 (from No. 9) to replace LSU while Michigan State climbed back into the Top 10 at No. 9 (from No. 11)

The Top 10 is rounded out by UCLA, which at No. 10 is in the same spot it was last week.

A whopping eight SEC teams are a part of this week’s poll, including six of the seven teams from the West.  The only team from that division not in the coaches’ poll is Arkansas, which is 3-1.

Week 4 Coaches' Poll

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Maryland loses starting TE for rest of season with dislocated knee

Maryland v Syracuse

One of the more gruesome sounding and looking injuries in any sport is a dislocated knee cap.  Unfortunately for a starting member of Maryland’s offense, that very injury has befallen him.

In the win over Syracuse Saturday, Andrew Isaacs had his left leg rolled up on by his starting quarterback, C.J. Brown.  The collision triggered an injury that will cost the tight end the remainder of the 2014 season.

“It’s really difficult,” Brown said. “I made a cut inside. I heard him yell. I got up and I saw his knee and I just started waving for the training staff to come over. Dislocated knee, that’s bad.”

The Terps are hopeful that Isaacs didn’t suffer any type of nerve damage.

“My hats off to him,” head coach Randy Edsall said, “because that’s a tough injury. Just to see how he was responding out there. He was just more worried about how he was going to get back and how he was going to come back stronger, and more worried about his teammates than worried really about himself.”

Isaacs is the Terps’ starting tight end, but has just one catch on the season. The sophomore will likely be eligible for a medical redshirt season as the injury occurred in the fourth game of the year, meaning he’ll fall within the 20-percent threshold — the NCAA rounds up — of games played that triggers waiver eligibility.

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‘A little bruised’ and ‘sore,’ Blake Sims says shoulder’s ‘very fine’

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It appears Alabama’s first bye week is coming at a most opportune time.

At the end of a third-quarter scramble in the Tide’s win over Florida, Blake Sims landed awkwardly and injured his right (throwing) shoulder.  The starting quarterback was taken to the locker room for further examination but subsequently returned to both the sidelines and the game.

Following the win, Sims attempted to downplay the severity of the injury.

“It’s very fine,” Sims said. “Just a little bruised. I’m going to get with the training staff and try to get better and let the team know I’m good. I’m going to come out against Ole Miss (Oct. 4) and try to win the game. …

“I’ll be all right. I’m going to get with the training staff and ice it, ice it, ice it.”

Sims’ head coach, though, said the off weekend will prove to be beneficial for Sims as it appears the player will be somewhat limited this week in practice.

“It will probably be something that’s sore for him for a while,” said Nick Saban. “Hopefully that second week he’ll be able to get back to normal in practice.”

Sims, incidentally, suffered the injury in the midst of one of the greatest passing performances in school history.

His 445 yards were the second-most in school history, behind only Scott Hunter’s 484 in a 1969 loss over Auburn.  It was also just the second 400-yard game ever for a Tide quarterback.

A whopping 272 yards of that total came in the first quarter alone, while 202 for the game — and three of his four passing touchdowns to boot — went to stud wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Speaking of Cooper, and while we’re here, Cooper had 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns last season in 12 games played.  This season, and through four games, Cooper has 43 catches for 655 yards and five touchdowns.

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Jimbo ‘hopes and believes Jameis will learn from this’

Jameis Winston

For the first time, Jameis Winston‘s off-field actions very nearly cost his football team on it as Florida State escaped with an overtime win over Clemson.

With the one-game suspension for the reigning Heisman winner in the books, and with the Seminoles’ nation’s best 19-game winning streak still intact, Winston’s head coach is hoping the young quarterback has — finally — learned his lesson.  And that this is the last issue for the duration of however much longer Winston stays in Tallahassee.

“At the end of the day we felt like the one game made the most sense, and I chose to keep that process internal,” Jimbo Fisher said according to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken. “Now he’s served that punishment and he’s ready to move forward.

“You never know the pace kids learn or why they make mistakes, but I hope and believe Jameis will learn from this and use better judgment and his language and decision-making and respect for everything will continue to grow.”

Based on the most recent evidence available, though, Fisher’s getting ahead of himself as his player’s still behind the learning curve.

During pregame warm-ups ahead of the game with the Tigers, the suspended Winston showed up in full football gear. Fisher was not impressed, or pleased, with that development as the perturbed head coach promptly punted the player’s arse back into the locker room and out of uniform.

Plain and simple, Winston just doesn’t get it. At least not yet and even with a suspension that could very well have extinguished the hopes FSU entertained in becoming back-to-back champs.

Hopefully at one point the light switch will come, but right now Winston’s completely in the dark from the neck up.

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No. 1 Florida State’s OT escape highlights a crazy Saturday

Deshaun Watson,Eddie Goldman

Week 4 of the 2014 college football season offered 55 games, and exactly one of them featured a ranked team taking on a fellow ranked team. If you thought that guaranteed a dull day, well, you don’t know college football.

NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE SURVIVES CLEMSON IN OT

Florida State looked every bit like a team playing without the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, as Sean Maguire was sacked five times and threw two interceptions. The Clemson defensive line dominated, limiting the Seminoles to minus-12 rushing yards in regulation (key phrase: in regulation), as the Tigers’ own backup Deshaun Watson (296 total yards, one touchdown, no turnovers) guided the Tigers to a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead. Florida State tied it when Rashad Greene caught a 74-yard catch-and-stroll touchdown after a Clemson defender fell down, but Clemson appeared headed toward the upset after Maguire’s interception gave the Tigers the ball at the FSU 24. But Clemson fumbled on its second play, opened overtime by getting stuffed on a 4th-and-1 (did we mention kicker Ammon Lakip missed 2-of-3 field goals) and closed the night by letting Karlos Williams move the required 25 yards in two plays to give Florida State the season-saving 23-17 win.

Have fun sleeping tonight, Clemson.

BUT NO. 2 WASN’T MUCH BETTER

Marcus Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns and added 58 rushing yards to lead No. 2 Oregon to a 38-31 win at Washington State. The rest of the Ducks’ offense? Fifteen touches for 15 yards. (All numbers approximate.) Oregon averaged an un-Duck-like 4.1 yards per carry, and allowed the Cougars to throw for 436 yards and rush for 63 more. And to top it off, it took the officials ruling this 3rd-and-13 pass  in Oregon territory on Washington State’s would-be tying drive as nothing but good, clean defense to clinch the win.

MISSISSIPPI STATE TAKES DOWN NO. 8 LSU

It’s not often you see a 34-29 decision described as a blowout, but that’s what this felt like. Mississippi State built a 34-10 lead over No. 8 LSU and outgained the Tigers by 140 yards – their 570 yards were the most LSU allowed an opponent since the pre-Nick Saban era – and generally whipped their hosts up front. But then LSU backup signal caller Brandon Harris caught fire, hitting 6-of-8 throws for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and all of a sudden a 24-point game saw LSU throwing into the end zone for a chance to win the game. It was intercepted, and Dan Mullen moved to 3-21 against ranked teams, snapping a 15-game losing streak, and Mississippi State became the first non-No. 1 ranked team to win a night game in Death Valley during the Les Miles era.

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA BEATS WEST VIRGINIA, FINDS A RUNNING BACK

America, meet freshman running back Samaje Perine. Playing for an injured Keith Ford, Perine carried 32 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns to power No. 4 Oklahoma past West Virginia, 45-33. His touchdowns pulled OU into a 17-17 tie, gave the Sooners a 31-24 lead, and then a 38-27 lead, and then put the game away at 45-27.

NO. 2 ALABAMA BLASTS FLORIDA, 42-21

You get the feeling that if Alabama didn’t turn the ball over four times, this would have had a 40-point final margin. Florida took a 14-7 lead in the middle of the first quarter thanks to two early turnovers by the Tide, but Alabama erupted from there, ending the game on a 35-7 run and absolutely blowing the Gators off the stat sheet. Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, Amari Cooper caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and Derrick Henry added 111 rushing yards and a score, as Alabama outgained Florida 645-200. Yep, Cooper outgained the Fighting Muschamps by himself, and nearly outscored them, too.

MISSOURI LOSES TO INDIANA, UNDOES SEVEN YEARS OF SEC DOMINANCE

Missouri left the Big 12 North, and then promptly turned the SEC East into the Big 12 North. The 18th-ranked Tigers lost to Indiana at home on Saturday, 31-27, after blowing a 27-24 lead on a D’Angelo Roberts touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining. It’s never a good thing for your SEC championship chances when you allow Indiana to throw for 252 yards while also outrushing you by 69 yards, right?

SPURRIER RIPS NO. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA’S 48-34 WIN OVER VANDY

Vanderbilt – 37-7 losers to Temple earlier this year – held a 14-0 lead over No. 14 South Carolina in the first quarter, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Steve Spurrier was quite pleased.

THINGS GET TESTY IN LINCOLN AS NO. 24 NEBRASKA WINS REUNION WITH MIAMI You have to really piss off the locals to get booed off the field in Lincoln. Or, be the Miami Hurricanes. Ameer Abdullah rushed 35 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns as the Cornhuskers rallied from a 14-7 first half deficit and never trailed in the second half, but nine Miami penalties and a general touchy-feely nature led to the ‘Canes getting booed out of the most welcoming house in college football as Nebraska won, 41-31.

OFFENDED BY MICHIGAN’S OFFENSE, MOTHER NATURE FLOODS THE BIG HOUSE It’s clear by now that Brady Hoke has no idea how to construct an offense without Denard Robinson, and it’s also abundantly clear by now that Mother Nature is tired of sitting around and waiting for the Wolverines to get it together. Michigan accumulated 4.4 yards per pass, 3.3 yards per rush and a grand total of three points in a 26-10 loss to Utah. And then this happened during the fourth quarter:

HOW’S THIS FOR A NIGHTCAP? ARIZONA BEATS CAL ON HAIL MARY California led Arizona 31-13 entering the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough. The Wildcats launched a mad rally, but the Golden Bears’ lead appeared safe at 45-30 with five minutes remaining. The Wildcats notched two more touchdowns to pull within 45-43 after the Cal offense sputtered, but all they had to do to earn the first Pac-12 win of the Sonny Dykes era was stop a simple Hail Mary. Surely they could do that, right?

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Marcus Mariota near perfect in Oregon’s underwhelming defeat of Wazzu

Marcus Mariota

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota looked every bit the Heisman front-runner he is purported to be on Saturday night, and he had to be as No. 2 Oregon squeaked past Washingon State 38-31 in Pullman.

Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes, including every one of his last 14 throws, for 329 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions, while sprinkling in 13 rushes for 58 yards. It’s a good thing for the Ducks that their quarterback was as good as he was, because they would have lost otherwise. Mariota was sacked six times, and the Ducks ran for an un-Oregon-like 4.2 yards per carry on 42 tries. This was against a Washington State team that ranks 84th nationally in rushing defense.

Connor Halliday completed 43-of-63 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cougars pounded out 17 rushes for 63 yards. The Four Horsemen would be proud.

Washington State scored first and led 14-7 after one quarter, but the Fighting Mariotas took a 21-14 lead before Holliday notched an equalizer to tie it at 21 at the half. Oregon took a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter, and then broke serve by forcing a Washington State field goal to open the fourth quarter.

Washington State forced a 31-31 tie after Halliday hit River Cracraft from five yards out with 8:57 remaining, but Oregon pulled ahead again with Mariota’s fifth passing touchdown of the night, this one a six-yarder to Keanon Lowe. The Cougars were driving for a potential tie when facing a 3rd-and-13 at the Oregon 38 when this play you see below was ruled incomplete with no flag drawn. You be  the judge.

Halliday was sacked on the next play, and that would be that. Washington State never touched the ball again, and Oregon held on for the 38-31 win.

The Ducks take next week off before hosting a fellow 4-0 club in Arizona on Thurs., Oct. 2, while Washington State (1-3) is back in action at Utah on Saturday.

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