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The Fifth Quarter: Week 10 Rewind

Oregon vs USC Getty Images

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

WINNERS

Barner emphatically states his trophy case
Matt Barkley begat Geno Smith, who begat Collin Klein in the progression of Heisman front-runners from the preseason through Week 9.  In Week 10, an Oregon running back not named DeAnthony Thomas made his Heisman presence felt.  And what a presence it was.  In the Ducks’ 62-51 win over USC, Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns, the former shattering a school record in the process.  Barner’s 143.9 yards rushing per game are second nationally, as are his 19 touchdowns; both of those totals would be exponentially higher if the Ducks didn’t perform a first-half evisceration of their opponents on a weekly basis, as evidenced by his full-game performance against the Trojans.  While some voters might hold the “product of the system” argument against Barner, there’s little doubt that, bare minimum, the back has earned a mid-December trip to New York City.

Not your father’s Bruins
In its first year under Jim Mora, and in just nine games, 7-2 UCLA has already won more games than it has since 2009 and is on pace for its best season since 2005.  Hell, if they win out they could break the school record (10, multiple times) for wins in a single season.  The latest example of the Bruins being “back” came Saturday, with UCLA putting a 66-10 woodshedding on then-No. 24 Arizona.  As a result, and for the first time since the 2001 season, UCLA holds a higher ranking than its crosstown rival USC (Obligatory pause for our NBCSports.com editor to throw up a little bit in his mouth) (Still pausing)  (And he’s good)  (For now).  Just as it is for the Trojans, the remainder of the season is really very simple for the Bruins: win out and represent the South — for the second straight season, mind you — in the Pac-12 championship game.  And anyone who says they saw this early-November development coming in the offseason?  Yeah, OK.  Liar.

Huskers slightly tighten Legends stranglehold
On the strength of its win over Michigan last weekend, Nebraska had one simple task: win out and claim its first-ever spot in the Big Ten championship game.  Consider the first of four tests passed.  Barely.  Thanks to yet another conference comeback courtesy of a Taylor Martinez touchdown pass with six seconds left, the Huskers claimed a 28-24 win over free-falling Michigan State to push its conference mark to 4-1.  Three tests remain, however, with home games the next two weeks against Penn State and Minnesota, and then the regular-season finale on the road against Iowa.  Pass all three — or hope for a loss by both Michigan and Northwestern if the Huskers stumble once —  and it’s an early-December road trip to Indianapolis for Husker Nation.

And he won’t… back… down
It’s not too often that a quarterback who barely hits the century mark in passing yards in a 20-point loss lands in the winners section of the Fifth Quarter.  Shawn Petty, though, is no ordinary quarterback.  Hell, he’s not even a quarterback —  literally.  Thanks to an incomprehensible four season-ending injuries at the position in about two months, Petty was moved from linebacker to quarterback and started Maryland’s game against Georgia Tech.  And, much to his credit, the true freshman was serviceable.  Petty, in his first collegiate snaps from under center, completed 50 percent of his passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.  Perhaps most impressively, Petty tossed just one interception.  Yes, the Terps dropped a 33-13 decision to the Yellow Jackets, but, in the loss, Petty showed the type of team player that he is in shouldering the offensive burden under less-than-ideal circumstances.

The Gardner did it
After stating all week that Denard Robinson was probable for the Little Brown Jug matchup with Minnesota, the Michigan quarterback wasn’t mere moments before kickoff as the school announced the senior would be a no-go. Enter Devin Gardner, the quarterback-turned-wide receiver who flipped back to his former position in the week leading up to the Gopher game… and turned in an electric performance in a game that kept the Wolverines in the thick of the Big Ten Legends division race.  In the 35-13 win over Minnesota, Gardner threw for 234 yards and accounted for three touchdowns — two passing, one rushing — in his first action under center since last season.  The good news for UM is that Robinson should be healthy enough to take the field against Northwestern next weekend.  Even better news?  Even if he’s not, or if he’s injured down the road, the Wolverines seem to have found a very viable backup alternative going forward.

Ohio: the heart of it (footb)all
While the eyes of a nation will be focused on the great state of Ohio this Tuesday — an election or something? — there’s something happening on the weekends that deserves some attention as well.  There are eight FBS football teams that hail from the Buckeye State, and five of them — Ohio State, Cincinnati, Toledo, Kent State and Ohio University — are a combined 40-5 in 2012.  Two of them are ranked in the latest Associated Press poll — No. 18 Buckeyes and No. 23 Rockets — while the Bobcats were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in over four decades prior to suffering its first loss to… Miami of Ohio.  When it comes to recruiting, Florida and Texas and California are still the go-to states for mass quantities of high-quality football players.  This season, though, has shown that there’s still some pretty damn good football being played in the Midwest generally and the great state of Ohio specifically.

[/PSA]
[/send me my money Ohio Tourism Board]

College football fans
Les Miles furiously dug a finger deep into his ear canal following the failed fake field goal in the loss to Alabama, with a look that screamed “what the hell was I thinking?  There is a GIF of said digging.  It is the Greatest GIF of All-Time.  This GGOAT can be viewed in all its glory by clicking HERE.

LOSERS

Not-So-Optimal Klein
Simply put, there’s one blow Kansas State can’t absorb: losing star quarterback Collin Klein for one game let alone an extended period of time.  And yet that might be where the Wildcats find themselves as early as this coming week.  Early in the third quarter of the Wildcats’ win over Oklahoma State, Klein left the game with what appeared to be some type of injury to his wrist and did not return.  After being evaluated by the K-State medical staff, and in a preemptive attempt to keep him from returning to the game, Klein’s helmet was taken from him, an ominous sign in so much as the ongoing speculation is that the senior suffered some type of a head injury during the course of the game and didn’t remember scoring his lone touchdown.  As is Bill Snyder‘s policy and prerogative, no specific information related to the nature of Klein’s injury is being released, which will of course fuel speculation and send the rumor mill spinning wildly out of control.  The reality as it pertains to Klein’s health will likely lie somewhere between the wafts of smoke.  The truth as it pertains to Klein’s health will have a significant impact on how the BcS shakes out in the coming weeks, regardless of whether Snyder wants to discuss it publicly or not.

O-ver-ra-ted (clap clap clapclapclap)
Even as Mississippi State came charging out of the 2012 gates at 7-0, more than a handful of observers questioned whether Mississippi State was as good as their record would otherwise indicate.  The last two weeks, the Bulldogs have answered that questioning with a resounding and emphatic “nope, we’re not!”  Last week, MSU took a 38-7 beating at the hands of No. 1 Alabama.  A week later, it wasn’t much better in a worse-than-it-looked 38-13 trampling at the feet of Texas A&M.  Thanks to their membership in the SEC, MSU was gifted a loftier ranking than what they deserved.  Thanks to the past two weeks, they should no longer be gifted any type of ranking, lofty or otherwise.

Clock ticking on Rocky Top
Yes, Tennessee improved to 4-5 on the season.  And, yes, Derek Dooley‘s tenuous grip on his job slipped even further despite the win.  Playing in front of a sparse Neyland Stadium crowd, and with Jon Gruden-to-UT rumors growing louder in and around Knoxville, Dooley’s Vols defense imploded and added further credence to the speculation that the coach is not long for Rocky Top.  In the 55-48 win over SBC member Troy, the Vols totaled a whopping 718 yards of offense — and gave up 721, the most ever given up by the Vols in the history of the storied program.  Were it not for two touchdowns in the final 2:54, Dooley could’ve been out as UT’s coach as early as Sunday.  The win, as limp as it was, keeps the Vols on the path to bowl eligibility, although even that will likely be too little, too late for the third-year coach.  In fact, if you listen to at least one former Vol, it already is too little, too late.

Winless drumbeat goes on
It’s one thing to be winless through eight games.  It’s another matter entirely to hold a 16-0 lead in the first half… a 19-14 lead in the fourth quarter… only to lose your ninth game of the season.  Yet that’s the position in which Southern Miss finds itself as the Golden Eagles dropped a 27-19 decision to UAB to fall to 0-9.  It’s also a position in which Ellis Johnson has found himself on the hot seat as the speculation goes that, despite it being his first year on the job, USM could be in search of a new head coach if the year ends with the worst season in school history; the school has won just two games twice in a season previously, the most recent being 1993.  Major college football is a results-driven business, and posting the worst showing in program history coming off a 12-win season is not exactly optimal when it comes to job security.

Bobby Hebert
Geaux Bobby!  No, seriously, just Geaux away already.  Jackass.

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

– No. 4 Notre Dame 29, Pittsburgh 26 (3OT): Why anyone is surprised by the closeness of this game is beyond me.  Of the Irish’s nine wins this season, five have come by single digits, with two of those games extended to overtime.  For better or worse, that’s the modus operandi of the 2012 Domers.

– No. 8 Florida 14, Missouri 7: Just call this the mother of all World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party hangovers, with the Gators’ offense kneeling before the porcelain throne for a full 60 minutes against the Tigers.  An at-large BcS bid is still possible, even as the offense makes it appear improbable.

– No. 13 Oregon State 36, Arizona State 26: After falling behind 19-10 early in the second quarter, the Beavers scored the next 26 points to pull away and bounce back from its first loss of the season.

– No. 14 Oklahoma 34, Iowa State 20: Going into the Ames giant slayer’s den and coming out with a win is impressive, especially when it comes a week after losing a heavily-hyped matchup with a Top 10 team.

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 — A 13-game winning streak dating back to last November, with the latest coming in one of the toughest night environments in all of sports?  Yeah, the Tide is an easy selection for the top spot in our little poll. (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: vs. Texas A&M

2. Oregon — In its first real test of the 2012 season, the Ducks passed with 62-point flying colors.  How would they match up against the likes of Alabama or Kansas State?  I have no clue, but either would have the potential for equal parts viewing intrigue and hellacious fun. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: at Cal

3. Kansas State — Outside of Alabama, there’s not a more complete or better-coached team in the country in all three phases of game than the Wildcats.  The answer to the injury question when it comes to their Heisman front-runner, however, will make or break K-State’s season. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: at TCU

4. Notre Dame — The pluck of the Irish indeed.  Sixty minutes and three overtimes later, Notre Dame continues to cling to its unbeaten record after surviving yet another close call. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: at Boston College

5. Ohio State — Single-minded and shortsighted arrogance will keep the Buckeyes out of any postseason play this year, but Meyer’s charges are improving on a week-to-week basis.  Which is good, as the only tangible thing left to play for is a win over their hated rivals at That School Up North. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)

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.

– [space left empty] [pouring one out for Joker]

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: Yes, the Tigers secured its largest margin of victory of the season (35 points).  Yes, the Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak.  Yes, Chizik is still on the hottest of hot seats as the win came against one-win New Mexico State, an Aggies team that was tied with the Tigers 0-0 at the end of the first quarter and had outgained the home team 131-29 the first 15 minutes.  At the end of the first half, the Tigers held just a 7-0 lead.  Even worse?  When getting over on a one-win WAC team is described as “something that you can build on” in the coach’s postgame.  That, dear readers, is the current state of Auburn football.

HE SAID IT
“I actually had a talk with coach. We were talking about what we wanted to run, me and Coach Stout. I said screens have been there all night. He called it, and it was great.” — current Alabama offensive lineman and future offensive coordinator Barrett Jones, talking about the screen pass-turned-touchdown that kept the Tide’s hope for a third BcS title in four years alive.

HELMETS OF THE DAY
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Snow Bowl, adidas outfitted Texas A&M and Mississippi State in some new duds for Saturday’s game.  While the uniforms were tastefully understated compared to some of the nauseating fashion statements being made on a weekly basis in college football, the helmets used in the game were utterly spectacular, particularly as it relates to the Aggies:

YOU DON’T SAY?
With the win over Iowa State, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops now has 145 career victories, tying Hall of Famer Bud Wilkinson for second on the all-time OU win list behind Barry Switzer‘s 157.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Tajh Boyd tied a Clemson record with six touchdowns — five passing, one rushing — then sat out the entire second half.  The Tigers had a school-record 487 yards of total offense, then went out and played the last two quarters.  That’s the kind of day it was for Duke in the 56-20 loss to Clemson.

– In Week 9, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee set a single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards receiving.  A week later, Lee set another conference standard: his 251 kick return yards were the most in league history.

Kenjon Barner‘s Oregon single-game rushing record of 321 yards is more than Washington State has rushed for (264) in nine games this season.

– Utah’s Reggie Dunn set what’s believed to be an NCAA record with the fourth 100-yard kickoff return of his career for a touchdown.  It was also Dunn’s third such return in the past two weeks.  Here’s a free tip for future Utes opponents: SQUIB IT!!!

Tyler Bray‘s 530 yards passing set a single-game Tennessee record and was the second-most in SEC history.

– With a 33-yard second-quarter completion, quarterback Taylor Martinez (no relation) surpassed Eric Crouch‘s Nebraska record of 7,915 career yards of total offense set between 1998-2001.

– Nebraska rushed for 313 yards in the win over Michigan State.  The Spartans came into the game allowing just 91.2 yards per game, which lead the Big Ten and No. 7 nationally.

– Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, surpassing the record of 3,731 yards set by Gaston Green between 1984-87.

– Thanks to Alabama snapping LSU’s nation’s best 22-game home winning streak, that honor now belongs to Northern Illinois, who have won 20 in a row at Huskies Stadium.

– SID Note of the Week: Ohio State is 274-0-1 all-time when it scores at least 35 points, as it did in the win over Illinois. The tie was 35-35 against SMU in 1978.

– Notre Dame and Louisville each have won five games this season by seven points or less, tied for the most at the FBS level.

– In the win over Minnesota, Michigan had back-to-back 90-yard-plus touchdown drives in a single game for the first time in school history.

– In a 48-0 win, Stanford limited Colorado to minus-21 yards rushing.  The one-win Buffs had just 76 yards of total offense for the game.

– Louisville’s 45-17 win over Temple pushed the Cardinals to 9-0 on the season, the first time in school history that’s occurred.  The biggest reason behind that historic start is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who passed for a career-high five touchdowns in the win over the Owls.

– Kent State’s 35-24 win over Akron was the Golden Flashes’ seventh straight, the first time that has happened since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House (1940).

– UMass, in its first season at the FBS level, has lost all nine of its games by an average score of 44-10.  The Minutemen have been shut out in three of those games and have scored in double digits just four times.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
If Indiana wins its last three games — vs. Wisconsin, at Penn State and at Purdue — the Hoosiers will finish 5-3 in Big Ten play… and represent the Leaders division in the conference championship game.  Those Mayans may have been on to something.

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Ohio State will honor Troy Smith before Michigan game

2007 BCS National Championship Game: Florida v Ohio State

Ohio State will honor one of its greats from the Jim Tressel era of Buckeyes football. Prior to the regular season finale against Michigan, Ohio State will honor Troy Smith‘s No. 10 jersey number and display it in Ohio Stadium. The number will not be retired, but will be the eighth number put on display around Ohio Stadium.

Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, was 3-0 against Michigan, so honoring him before a game against the Wolverines seems appropriate. Smith was one of the bets players to play during Tressel’s career as Ohio State head coach, and he was the quarterback of some of Ohio State’s best teams of the past 15 years.

“It’s time to honor one of our all-time greats,” Gene Smith, university Vice President and Director of Athletics, said this week. “Troy’s playing days are over. His accomplishments and achievements as an Ohio State Buckeye are legendary. And we are so proud to be able to recognize this young man by honoring his name and number in Ohio Stadium.”

Smith’s uniform number is currently being worn by freshman defensive end Jalyn Holmes. Holmes will continue to wear the uniform number, as the number is not being retired.

“Being recognized like this from such a prestigious university like The Ohio State University usually doesn’t happen until later years down the line,” Smith said in  statement shared by Ohio State. “So this is a special time in my life and an important time.”

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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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