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Sheldon Richardson leaving Mizzou after two years for NFL

Missouri v Kentucky AP

As far as announcements of these types that will come over the next month and a half or so, this one will stand as among the least surprising.

Missouri announced in a press release Friday afternoon that defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has decided to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility and make himself available for the 2013 NFL draft.

“This has been my dream ever since I was a little kid,” said Richardson.  “It’s still not easy leaving Mizzou like this, but I know I’m ready.  I really appreciate all of the support I got here at Mizzou, and I know that they will help me and my family with this next step.  I’ll always be a Tiger.”

Originally a Mizzou-then-USC verbal commitment, Richardson flipped back to the Tigers in December of 2010 following two years at the JUCO level as he got his academic house in order.  Finally cleared by the NCAA in August of 2011, Richardson played 24 games the past two seasons, including starting all 11 games in which he played this season.

The one game he neither started nor played in was due to an academically-related suspension.

All told, Richardson was credited 18.5 tackles for loss and six sacks during his brief two years in Columbia.

“I’ve always said that when guys have opportunities like these, if they’re ready to go, then they should go,” said Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel.  “I have no doubt that Sheldon is ready to play in the NFL, and while we’d love to have him for another year, the important thing is that this is the right decision.  It will be fun watching him play on Sundays.”

Based purely on talent, Richardson, who may be more well-known for his comments off the field than his play on it, is as near a lock for a first-round pick as one can get.

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Butkus Award announces five finalists

Washington State v Washington

The Butkus Award, which will be given out Dec. 9, announced five finalists Monday morning:

Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha, Washington
Denzel Perryman, Miami (Fla.)
Jake Ryan, Michigan
Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Among the finalists, Kikaha leads with 17 1/2 sacks (most in FBS) and 23 1/2 tackles for a loss (also most in FBS), Kendricks leads with 124 tackles (sixth in FBS) and three interceptions (48th in FBS).

Each player’s stats:

Kendricks: 124 tackles, 7 TFLs, 2 sacks, 3 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble
Kikaha: 63 tackles, 23 1/2 TFLs, 17 1/2 sacks, 0 INTs, 2 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles
Perryman: 96 tackles, 7 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBUs, 3 forced fumbles
Ryan: 104 tackles, 13 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles
Smith: 89 tackles, 7 1/2 TFLs, 2 sacks, 0 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble

The Butkus Award also announced five high school finalists, headlined by a pair of Ohio State commits:

Jerome Baker, Benedictine – Cleveland, OH (Committed to Ohio State)
Justin Hilliard, St. Xavier – Cincinnati, OH (Committed to Ohio State)
John Houston, Junipero Serra – Gardena, CA (Uncommitted)
Malik Jefferson, Ralph H. Poteet – Mesquite, TX (Uncommitted)
Leo Lewis, Brookhaven – Brookhaven, MS (Committed to Ole Miss)

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Which teams need wins to be bowl eligible this weekend?

Pat Fitzgerald, Tim Beckman AP

Unless you’re an AAC or Big 12 fan, Saturday is the last day of college football’s regular season before Conference Championship week — which means it’s the last chance for a handful of teams to reach six wins and become bowl eligible.

For some teams on here (see: Michigan) making a bowl wouldn’t change a whole lot. But for rebuilding programs like California, getting to six wins and playing an extra game is big — not only does it show progress, but it affords coaches a few extra weeks of practice for young rosters.

Meanwhile, if Kentucky and Tennessee win, 13 of 14 SEC teams would be bowl eligible (sorry, Vanderbilt).

So which five-win teams can become bowl eligible over Thanksgiving weekend?

AAC

Temple (vs. Cincinnati, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNews)
Note: Temple, at 5-5, also could become bowl eligible with a win at Tulane Dec. 6.

Already bowl eligible: Memphis, UCF, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Houston

ACC

Virginia (at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN)
Virginia Tech (vs. Virginia, 8 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN)
Pitt (at Miami, 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2)

Already bowl eligible: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, North Carolina State, Miami

Big 12

Oklahoma State (OFF this week, @ Oklahoma Dec. 6)

Already bowl eligible: Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia

Big Ten

Michigan (at Ohio State, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC)
Illinois (at Northwestern, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU)
Northwestern (vs. Illinois, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU)

Already bowl eligible: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, Iowa, Penn State, Rutgers

Conference USA

Old Dominion (at Florida Atlantic, 12 p.m. ET Saturday)
UAB (at Southern Miss, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday)

Already bowl eligible: Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Rice, UTEP, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky

Independents

Navy (at South Alabama, 3 p.m. Friday on ESPN3)
Note: Navy, at 5-5, also plays Army Dec. 13.

Already bowl eligible: BYU, Notre Dame

MAC

Akron (at Kent State, 1 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN3)
Ohio (at Miami Ohio, 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2)

Already bowl eligible: Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan

Mountain West

Fresno State (vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m. ET Saturday)

Already bowl eligible: Colorado State, Boise State, Air Force, San Diego State

Pac-12

California (BYU, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Pac-12 Network)
Oregon State (vs. Oregon, 8 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC)

Already bowl eligible: Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona, USC, Utah, Stanford, Washington

SEC

Kentucky (at Louisville, 12 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2)
Tennessee (at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m. ET Saturday on SEC Network)

Already bowl eligible: Alabama, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas (the entire West division!), Mizzou, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina

Sun Belt

No teams playing for bowl eligibility

Already bowl eligible: Georgia Southern (well, maybe not), UL-Lafayette, Appalachian State (same as Georgia Southern), South Alabama, Texas State, Arkansas State.

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The FBS single-season rushing record is within sight for Melvin Gordon, if Wisconsin beats Minnesota

Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon became the fastest player to 2,000 yards in Wisconsin’s 26-24 win over Iowa on Saturday, hitting the 2k mark on just his 241st carry of the season. Gordon rushed 31 times for 200 yards on the day, brining his season totals to 2,109 yards on 254 attempts.

And that brings a much bigger record into play.

The fleet-footed junior is currently in 10th place on the FBS all-time single-season rushing list, sitting 519 yards away from tying Barry Sanders‘ record of 2,628 yards.

The last two weeks have brought Gordon’s average up to 191.7 yards per game on the season. Three more games at that average would put Gordon at 2,684 yards on the year – breaking the record by 56 yards. Of course, the catch is that Wisconsin doesn’t have three games guaranteed left to play.

Wisconsin hosts Minnesota Saturday with a spot in the Big Ten title game on the line. A victory extends the Badgers’ season by a game, and puts Sanders’ record within reach.

Gordon would have to have outstanding games against not only Minnesota, but Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and a quality bowl opponent as well. That said, Gordon has been up to the task against top competition this season.

Here’s how Gordon stacks up among the best single-season rushing performances thus far:

1. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State (1988) – 2,628
2. Kevin Smith, Central Florida (2007) – 2,567
3. Marcus Allen, USC (1981) – 2,342
4. Troy Davis, Iowa State (1996) – 2,185
5. Andre Williams, Boston College (2013) – 2,177
6. LaDanian Tomlinson, TCU (2000) – 2,158
7. Mike Rozier, Nebraska (1983) – 2,148
8. Matt Forte, Tulane (2007) – 2,127
9. Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) – 2,124
10. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (2014) – 2,109

Barring injury (knock on every piece of wood within a 10-mile radius) or an NCAA waiver allowing 14 defenders on the field, Gordon should be in fourth place by the end of the day Saturday and figures to finish no worse than third regardless of whether or not the Badgers beat the Gophers.

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ACC calls Jameis Winston’s contact with official “insignificant”

Karlos Williams,Matt Milano,Steven Daniels

Mike Peireira won the #HOTSPORTSTAKE of the college football weekend by writing that Jameis Winston should have been flagged and ejected for shoving an official attempting to delay a Florida State snap until Boston College had a fair opportunity to match a Seminoles substitution.

“I’ve looked at this play several times, and in my opinion, Winston should have been penalized for shoving Webster not once, but twice,” he wrote. “In fact, I feel he should have been ejected.” For what it’s worth, ESPN’s own officiating expert agreed with Peireria.

Here’s the play in question:

On Sunday, the ACC issued a statement downplaying the incident.

“The center judge’s positioning, which was due to the experimental year of having an eighth official, combined with the late substitution and by rule the need to allow the defense to matchup, led to contact between himself and the player,” said ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads. “The official believed the contact was incidental and insignificant and did not rise to the level of unsportsmanlike conduct and automatic disqualification.”

We must consider the source and circumstance here, however. Conference offices rarely – if ever – issue a statement to announce they botched it, and the ACC is going to be especially leery of casting a cloud of controversy to join the six or seven already hanging above its lone undefeated team and reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

The ACC needs Florida State’s win over Boston College to be viewed as legitimate, and this statement supports that.

Still, watching the video and reading Florida State’s corresponding quotes makes the situation appear like a highly-publicized misunderstanding. And it’s not like Winston shoved the zebra in question as hard as he could. In fact, it sounds like he wasn’t aware Florida State had substituted.

“He was just holding me because he said we had a substitution,” Winston said. “It was actually a fast-tempo play, so I was trying to get up under there and let it ride.”

Regardless, Florida State has beaten Boston College 20-17, and with this controversy behind them the 11-0 Seminoles will move on to Florida and whatever next week’s controversy brings.

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New Hampshire, North Dakota State earn top two seeds in FCS playoff bracket

We’re still two weeks away from Selection Sunday for the College Football Playoff, but the Football Championship Subdivision held its own Selection Sunday with a late morning announcement of the 2014 FCS playoff bracket.

The 24-team tournament will begin this weekend and conclude with the national championship in Frisco, Texas on Jan. 10, two days before the FBS title will be awarded 40 miles south on the George Bush Turnpike in Arlington. This is the fifth straight year the title game will be held in North Texas after more than a decade in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the fourth consecutive year the championship will take place after New Year’s Day.

New Hampshire earned the No. 1 overall seed after posting a 10-1 regular season and winning the always-tough Colonial Athletic Association. Three-time defending national champion North Dakota State grabbed the No. 2 seed, while Jacksonville State checks in at No. 3 and Eastern Washington earns the No. 4 ranking.

The 24-team bracket allows for the top eight seeds to earn first-round byes, meaning Illinois State (fifth), Villanova (sixth), Coastal Carolina (seventh) and Chattanooga (eighth) will take next weekend off.

First-round games break out as follows:

Sacred Heart at Fordham – winner plays New Hampshire
Indiana State at Eastern Kentucky – winner plays Chattanooga

San Diego at Montana – winner plays Eastern Washington
Stephen F. Austin at Northern Iowa – winner plays Illinois State

And on the opposite side of the bracket:

South Dakota State at Montana State – winner plays North Dakota State
Morgan State at Richmond – winner plays Coastal Carolina

Southeastern Louisiana at Sam Houston State – winner plays Jacksonville State
Liberty at James Madison – winner plays Villanova

First and second-round games will be webcast on ESPN3, and the championship is slated for 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

You can click here for the interactive bracket.

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He’s a man! He’s brief! Don’t bother quoting Mike Gundy after loss to Bayor

Mike Gundy

Oklahoma State lost to No. 7 Baylor 49-28 on Saturday night. The loss was the Cowboys’ fifth straight, dropping them to 5-6 and into a do-or-die Bedlam game at Oklahoma next week, but an argument can be made this was actually Oklahoma State’s best overall performance since playing Florida State to a 37-31 final in the opener.

After falling behind 14-0 early, Oklahoma State played Baylor to a 35-28 score over the final 55 minutes of the night. True freshman Mason Rudolph threw for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his collegiate debut. It’s not great, but it counts for something in a tough season.

Still, head coach Mike Gundy was in no mood for conversation following the game. In fact, the man of “I’m a man! I’m 40!” had his very own Rasheed Wallace moment in Waco.

Via The Oklahoman:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 3.49.45 PM

The fastest way to draw the ire of the college football media is to duck the college football media, and Gundy did just that in the eyes of a few high-profile writers.

Gundy is 1-8 in his nine seasons at Oklahoma State against the Sooners, so the odds of Oklahoma State walking into Norman and extending its season appear low. Either way, 2014 will go down as Gundy’s worst season in Stillwater since a 3-8 debut in 2005.

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Auburn “hopeful” to get WR Duke Williams back for the Iron Bowl

D'haquille Williams

Consecutive losses to Texas A&M and Georgia cost AP No. 15 Auburn any shot at competing for an SEC or national championship. Fortunately, the Tigers can still do the next best thing – keep AP No. 2 Alabama from doing the same.

To do so, it will need to be at full strength (or as close to full strength as a college football team can possibly be in late November) and that means having wide receiver D’haquille (Duke) Williams in the lineup.

Williams did not play in the Tigers’ 31-7 win over Samford on Saturday, but AL.com reports sources close to the wide receiver say he should be ready for Alabama.

“We are hoping he will be back this week,” head coach Gus Malzahn said. “I am not ready to make that call yet, but we are hopeful.”

Williams suffered a sprained MCL and a bruised knee in a second-quarter collision with Texas A&M defensive back De’Vante Harris in Auburn’s 41-38 loss to the Aggies on Nov. 8 and has not played since.

Auburn posted its worst offensive output of the Malzahn era in a 34-7 loss to Georgia on Nov. 15, as the Tigers compiled only 292 yards of total offense, averaging just 5.1 yards per pass and 4.3 yards per rush while accumulating a pedestrian 17 first downs (they average more than 24).

Williams leads the team with 38 grabs for 699 yards and five touchdowns. The junior is in his first year on the club after transferring from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

Auburn will visit Alabama at 7:45 p.m. ET on ESPN on Saturday.

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OU RB Samaje Perine, Mizzou DE Markus Golden win Walter Camp Player of the Week honors

Samaje Perine

Another week, another round of what had to be the easiest vote in Walter Camp Player of the Week history – at least on the offensive side.

Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine, holding his mythical FBS single-game rushing championship belt, has been named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s Offensive Player of the Week. Perine bested Melvin Gordon‘s week-old FBS single-game rushing record by toting the rock 34 times for 427 yards and five touchdowns in No. 21 Oklahoma’s 44-7 bludgeoning of Kansas at a rainy Memorial Stadium in Norman on Saturday afternoon. Perine is the fifth Sooner to win the honor, and first since Sam Bradford took it home on Sept. 9, 2007.

On the defensive side, Missouri defensive end Markus Golden won Player of the Week honors for his part in No. 20 Missouri’s 29-21 win at Tennessee. Golden collected six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a fumble recovery and two quarterback hurries. The win kept Missouri ahead of Georgia for the top spot in the SEC East. A win over Arkansas on Friday gives Mizzou its second consecutive division crown.

Golden is the first Tiger to win Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week accolades since fellow defensive end Aldon Smith took it home on Sept. 5, 2010.

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Florida State edges Alabama for top spot in AP Top 25

Boston College v Florida State

Florida State edged Boston College on Saturday, and did the same to Alabama on Sunday, keeping the Crimson Tide at bay by 13 votes for the top spot in Sunday’s Associated Press Top 25. Oregon and Mississippi State remained third and fourth, but a 49-28 win over Oklahoma State was enough for Baylor to pass TCU for the fifth spot – and the Bears did so by one point.

Georgia remains the highest-ranked two-loss team at No. 8, four votes ahead of No. 9 UCLA. Arizona used a 42-10 whipping of Utah to leapfrog Arizona State for the No. 12 spot.

Ole Miss was this week’s biggest loser – just like the Coaches’ Poll – dropping ten spots from No. 8 to No. 18. And for those wearing scarlet, green and purple among us, this is significant because Mississippi State’s resume now includes a solitary Top 25 victory over No. 15 Auburn, and No. 18 Ole Miss this week.

Minnesota was the AP’s biggest gainer, leaping from 31st all the way to 22nd thanks to its 28-24 win at Nebraska.

The full poll:

1. Florida State – 1,458 total votes (37 first-place votes)
2. Alabama – 1,445 (21)
3. Oregon – 1,393 (2)
4. Mississippi State – 1,301
5. Baylor – 1,234
6. TCU – 1,233
7. Ohio State – 1,163
8. Georgia – 1,002
9. UCLA – 998
10. Michigan State – 971
11. Kansas State – 898
12. Arizona – 807
13. Arizona State – 790
14. Wisconsin – 764
15. Auburn – 597
16. Georgia Tech – 581
17. Missouri – 525
18. Ole Miss – 398
19. Marshall – 384
20. Oklahoma – 363
21. Colorado State – 346
22. Minnesota – 232
23. Clemson – 198
24. Louisville – 191
25. Boise State – 96

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Alabama passes Florida State for top spot in latest Coaches’ Poll

Blake Sims

Yet another nail-biting win cost Florida State the top spot in the latest Amway Coaches’ Poll, which was released early Sunday afternoon.

Florida State’s 20-17 squeaker over Boston College coupled with Alabama’s 48-14 blowout of Western Carolina was enough for the ‘Noles and Tide to swap spots, pushing Alabama back to the top spot for the first time since its Oct. 4 loss at Ole Miss.

Speaking of Ole Miss, the Rebels were this week’s biggest losers, as a 30-0 loss to Arkansas saw them fall eight spots from eighth all the way to 19th. Marshall dropped two spots for a 23-18 win at UAB.

Close road victories by Minnesota and Louisville allowed each to move up eight spots, as a 28-24 win at Nebraska bumped the Gophers from unranked to 22nd, and Louisville moved from 31st to 23rd with a 31-28 win at Notre Dame. Clemson and Boise State are also new to the poll.

Here’s how the full poll shakes out:

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 12.36.35 PM

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Week 13, Statistically Speaking

Joey Iosefa, Tau Lotulelei

A statistical snapshot of the week that was in college football…

.592 – Winning percentage of visiting teams in Pac-12 road games (29-20) this season. The six teams ranked in last week’s Associated Press Top 25 (Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah and USC) have a combined overall road record of 23-6 (.793).

.815 – Ohio State’s winning percentage (97-22) in Big Ten play since 2000, the highest league winning percentage among all Power Five schools.  Oklahoma 99-24 is next at .805.

.933 – Career field-goal percentage for Florida State’s Robert Aguayo (42-45).  The all-time career mark, for at least 45 attempts per the 2014 FBS record book, was .900 (45-50) by Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brett Baer (2009-12). The career mark, for at least 55 attempts, is .895 (68-76) by Nebraska’s Alex Henery (2007-10).

0 — Touchbacks this season for Wake Forest punter Alex Kinal, the only player in the Top 25 in punting average who can make that claim.

1 — 400-yard passing games for Jake Waters in his career, the lone one coming in Kansas State’s win over West Virginia Thursday night (400 even).  Waters had only one previous 300-yard game, that coming in November of last year against Oklahoma (348).

Ohio State v Maryland

Brad Craddock

1 – Kickers at the FBS level who have yet to miss a field goal attempt (minimum eight attempts) this season: Maryland’s Brad Craddock (17-17).  Craddock has made 23 straight attempts dating back to 2013, the longest current streak at the FBS level and third-longest in Big Ten history.

1.2 — Yards per play Savannah State averaged in its 64-0 loss to BYU.  The Cougars limited the Tigers to 40 yards passing on 28 attempts and 23 yards rushing on the same number of attempts.

4 – FBS teams currently undefeated in conference play:

Florida State (ACC, 8-0)
Georgia Southern (Sun Belt, 7-0)
Marshall (Conference USA, 7-0)
Ohio State (Big Ten, 7-0)

5 — Consecutive games Auburn allowed 30 or more points prior to playing Samford, the first time that’s ever happened in the history of the football program.

5 – Number of undefeated home seasons in the history of Utah State football: 1968 (4-0), 1972 (5-0), 1982 (4-0), 2012 (6-0) and 2014 (6-0).

6 — Total touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving) for Colorado State’s Dee Hart in a win over New Mexico, the second-highest single-game total in Mountain West History.

Continue reading »

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 13 Rewind

Samaje Perine AP

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

HISTORIC REPEAT
As it turns out, while Samaje Perine made history, the timeframe in which he did it wasn’t historically unprecedented.

In Oklahoma’s win over Kansas, Perine set the FBS single-game rushing record with 427 yards.  That performance broke the record of 408 set a week ago by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.  Most assumed Perine’s breaking of a rushing record that was a week old had never happened before; Anthony Thompson would point out what the word “assume” makes out of all involved.

Back on Nov. 11, 1989, the Indiana running back’s 377 yards broke the previous mark of 357 yards.  That record was first set by Washington State’s Rueben Mayes in 1984 and tied by Cal State Fullerton’s Mike Pringle on Nov. 4, 1989, exactly one week before Thompson broke it.

Below is how the FBS rushing record has progressed over the past four-plus decades:

347 — Ron Johnson, Michigan, 1968
350 — Eric Allen, Michigan State, 1971
356 — Eddie Lee Ivery, Georgia Tech, 1978
357 — Rueben Mayes, Washington State, 1984
357 — Mike Pringle, Cal State Fullerton, 1989
377 — Anthony Thompson, Indiana, 1989
386 — Marshall Faulk, San Diego State, 1991
396 — Tony Sands, Kansas, 1991
406 — LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, 1999
408 — Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 2014
427 — Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, 2014

Perine was also second to Thompson in something else — percentage increase of the previous record.  Thompson bested the old mark by 5.6 percent;  Perine, meanwhile, topped Gordon’s week-old record by 4.7 percent.

Some would say, though, the most impressive record belongs to Gordon.  The Badger back did his record-setting damage in three quarters of work and on just 25 carries; the only other players on that list with less than 30 carries were Ivery (26) and Allen (29).  Gordon’s 16.2 yards per carry is easily the best mark among the group, with only Ivery (13.7) within three yards.   Perine did average 12.6 ypc, the third-best among that group of 11 players.

At the opposite end of the yards-per-carry spectrum were Thompson and Sands, who averaged 7.25 yards on 52 carries and 6.8 yards on 58 carries, respectively.

Of course, Perine is the only true freshman to break the record… and he did it in three quarters plus two fourth-quarter plays after not starting a game played in the rain… and he is the only player to rush for 200-plus yards in both halves of a game, all of which makes his performance arguably the greatest of all-time regardless of how you attempt to parse out the numbers.

PROJECTING CFP TOP FOUR
Unlike previous weeks, there was no upheaval around the top of the College Football Playoff Top 25 in Week 14.  The highest-ranked team to lose was No. 8 Ole Miss, and, with two losses, it’s unlikely the Rebels were a realistic playoff option to begin with.

Continue reading »

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No. 9 UCLA flattens No. 19 USC, moves one step closer to Pac-12 South title

USC v UCLA Getty Images

Brett Hundley‘s first possession ended in complete disaster, a 17-yard pick six by Anthony Sarao to give USC a 7-0 lead. From then on, though, Saturday night could not have been more perfect. Hundley completed 22-of-31 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns while adding another on the ground to lead No. 9 UCLA to a 38-20 win over No. 19 USC at the Rose Bowl.

While Hundley was playing his best football of the season, his counterpart was running for his life. Cody Kessler completed 22-0f-34 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked six times and harassed countless more. USC was also credited with 33 rushes for 62 yards.

Paul Perkins led the charge for UCLA with 24 rushes for 93 yards and a touchdown.

The game was actually tied 14-14 early in the second quarter, but UCLA went on a 24-0 run over the next 17 minutes to put the game away. A Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal gave UCLA the lead, and Hundley’s touchdown pass to Eldridge Massington pushed the lead to 24-14 just before the half.

Perkins opened the second half with a 10-yard scoring burst, and a 15-yard Hundley run all but sewed things up with 9:22 remaining in the third quarter.

The win moves UCLA to 9-2 on the season and gives the Bruins their third straight victory over USC, their first three-game winning streak over their cross-town rivals since winning seven straight from 1991-98. The win also moves Jim Mora‘s team to within one victory of a Pac-12 South title and two wins away from a Pac-12 championship. The Bruins will have to beat Stanford next week to win the division and Oregon to win the conference. It was Oregon who beat UCLA for the Pac-12 championship in 2011, and Stanford who did it in 2012.

USC, meanwhile, drops to 7-4 on the season and will close the regular season with a similarly disappointing 7-4 Notre Dame team at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday night.

 

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Road warriors: Missouri holds on against Tennessee, stays atop SEC East

Gary Pinkel, Markus Golden

It didn’t come easy, but the No. 20 Missouri Tigers edged the Tennessee Volunteers 29-21 in Knoxville.

Gary Pinkel‘s squad has proven to be road warriors over the past two seasons, as they attempt to win a second SEC East title in consecutive years.

When the Tigers joined the SEC two years ago, they were considered an inferior program compared to the Texas A&M Aggies, who joined the league during the same season. Yet the Tigers have proven over the long haul they have what it takes to consistently win in college football’s toughest conference.

Even when Misssouri’s explosive spread offense isn’t firing on all cylinders — and it wasn’t Saturday against Tennessee — the team is now built to still win games.

Strong defense, a solid running game and good coaching always travel well. Missouri has all three.

Quarterback Maty Mauk continues to be erratic. The sophomore signal-caller was 12-of-25 passing, but he finally exploited Tennessee’s secondary in the fourth quarter. At that time, Missouri’s wide receivers began to win one-on-one matchups.

Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser were frustrated by Tennessee most of the contest. However, Mauk found both for a touchdown passes in the final frame. Hunt was the game’s leading receiver with 106 yards on three catches.

But what kept Missouri in the game initially was its ability to run the football and apply pressure on Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. The Tigers gained 184 yards on the ground, while the Volunteers only managed 53 yards.

The strong defensive effort by Missouri is due to owning one of the best defensive lines in college football. Defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden are as good as any duo in the nation. Golden was particularly disruptive Saturday evening.

Those defensive linemen will have to step up next week against the Arkansas Razorbacks’ overwhelming offensive line and rushing attack. The Razorbacks have won two straight games by the score of 47-0 against ranked SEC West opponents. They’re going to bring a different mentality than Tennessee did.

One more win is all Missouri needs to win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship Game again. Like the Tennessee contest, it won’t come easy.

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No. 4 Mississippi State dumps Vanderbilt, sets up Egg Bowl for the ages

Vanderbilt v Mississippi State Getty Images

No. 4 Mississippi State wasted no time in disposing of Vanderbilt, racing to a 37-0 halftime lead en route to a 51-0 win.

The Bulldogs led 13-0 through one quarter and 37-0 at the half on the strength of three Dak Prescott touchdown passes. For the day he completed 17-of-24 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns and rushed six times for 29 yards and a score. Six Bulldogs rushed the ball, and all ran for at least 29 yards; Brandon Holloway led the way with 10 carries for 69 yards.

Vanderbilt mounted only 225 yards of total offense and 16 first downs.

The win moves the Bulldogs to 10-1 on the season, the first 10-win regular season in school history.

Beyond that, though, Mississippi State moves one step closer to a College Football Playoff berth, and set up an Egg Bowl for the ages a week from today. Ole Miss’ 30-0 flattening at Arkansas takes the Rebels out of contention for the SEC West title, but Mississippi State’s win means they can go to Atlanta with a defeat of Ole Miss and an Auburn win over Alabama. Even if Alabama wins, though, Mississippi State has a solid chance of earning a berth as an at-large.

All they have to do, of course, is walk into Oxford and beat an angry Ole Miss team looking to play spoiler.

It’s not as monumental an Egg Bowl as it appeared it could be back in October, but it’s still the biggest game since anyone can care to remember.

Vanderbilt, meanwhile, drops to 3-8 on the season and will close Derek Mason‘s first season against Tennessee next week.

 

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