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Arizona State adds 27 on signing day

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(Below is Arizona State’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State University has signed 27 student-athletes to national letters of intent Wednesday to study and participate in football, head coach Todd Graham announced.

Coach Graham’s second signing class at ASU provides the Sun Devils with excellent talent on offense, defense and special teams and includes players from multiple states across the country.

The class consists of 16 freshmen, five sophomores and six juniors. Four of the student-athletes are midyear transfers already on campus that will participate in spring practice.

ASU’S 2013 Signing Class Includes:

• Student-athletes from nine different home states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio,

Pennsylvania, Texas).

• Nine players rated in the top-40 at their position as high school recruits: Chans Cox, No. 1 Fullback, Scout.com; Christian Westerman, No. 2 Offensive Tackle, ESPN (2011); Viliami Latu, No. 13 Inside Linebacker, Rivals.com; Matt Haack, No. 15 Kicker, Rivals.com; Marcus Ball, No. 24 Athlete, Rivals.com; James Johnson, No. 24 Safety, ESPN; Corey Smith, No. 33 Weakside Defensive End, Rivals.com; Jayme Otomewo, No. 34 Safety, ESPN; William Earley, No. 37 Cornerback, Scout.com.

• Six transfers rated in the nation’s top-100 overall junior college prospects: DL Marcus Hardison (No. 5, ESPN), WR Jaelen Strong (No. 17, ESPN), LB Antonio Longino (No. 32, Rivals.com), WR Joseph Morris (No. 61, ESPN), TE De’Marieya Nelson (No. 78, ESPN), OL Nick Kelly (No. 95, Rivals.com).

• Four Arizona natives: Cox, DL Kisima Jagne, TE Grant Martinez, Westerman; including the most highly-rated offensive recruit from Arizona in over a decade (Westerman, Scout.com).

• Four junior college transfers with three years of playing eligibility: Kelly, Longino, DB Solomon Means, Strong.

• Sixteen defensive players, 10 offensive players and one specialist.

• Six defensive backs, five defensive linemen, five linebackers, five wide receivers, three offensive linemen, two tight ends and one punter.

• Four midyear transfers: Cox, Jagne, Kelly, Westerman.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 27 members of Arizona State’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Marcus Ball • S • Freshman • 6-3, 205 lb. • Westerville, Ohio • Westerville-South HS

One of the nation’s most versatile athletes…played quarterback and safety in high school and can also play linebacker or receiver/tight end…will start his Sun Devil career at safety…is a dangerous mismatch on offense and a rangy, fearless tackler on defense…earned All-Midwest Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated the No. 24 all-purpose athlete in the country by Rivals.com…listed as the No. 46 safety prospect in the nation by Scout.com…ranked by ESPN as the No. 67 all-purpose athlete prospect in the nation…an excellent basketball player in high school as well…scored a school-record 43 points the night before signing with ASU…his older brother, Ray, is an offensive lineman for Wisconsin…passed for 1,600 yards with 16 touchdowns, ran for 500 yards and intercepted seven passes as a junior in 2011…chose ASU over Wisconsin and added reported scholarship offers from Boston College, Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kent State, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Tennessee, Toledo and West Virginia…coached by Rocky Pentello at Westerville-South High… “I really was impressed the most by the academic support,” Ball said after his visit to ASU. “[Senior Associate Athletic Director] Jean Boyd is an amazing guy with high character that is going to be there for many years. Everyone I met there, coaches, players, seems very genuine… Their graduation rate, especially with African-American student-athletes is very high.”…committed to ASU on Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Signing Day.

Nick Begg • DE • Freshman • 6-5, 250 lb. • Santa Margarita, Calif. • Rancho Santa Margarita HS

Athletic lineman with tremendous upside…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated by Scout.com as the No. 95 defensive end prospect in the country…listed as the No. 96 defensive end recruit in the nation by ESPN…Rancho Santa Margarita High also produced Sun Devils Sil Ajawara, Evan Finkenberg and Sean O’Grady…chose ASU over a reported scholarship offer from San Diego State…verbally committed to ASU on July 23, 2012… “I just fell in love with the coaching staff and the entire program at ASU,” Begg said. “The whole visit left a big impact on not just me but my family as well. I like the program a lot and the direction things are going there and I fit in really well.”…coached by Harry Welch at Rancho Santa Margarita High…verbally committed to ASU on July 23, 2012.

Demetrius Cherry • DL • Junior • 6-6, 275 lb • Frostproof, Fla. • Contra Costa College

Versatile defensive lineman with the ability to add immediate value to the Sun Devil defense…is praised for having excellent speed, athleticism and quick feet for his size…uses his size, strength and explosiveness to create pressure…has the size and ability to play any defensive line position…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…originally signed with Washington State in 2011 before spending two years at the junior college level…totaled 26 tackles including 8.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks, one pass breakup and one blocked kick as a junior college freshman in 2011… played at Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy in 2010…collected 92 tackles, 4.0 sacks and four forced fumbles in 10 games as a high school senior in 2009…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from California, Fresno State, Illinois, Iowa State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Purdue, San Diego State, San Jose State and Washington State…coached by Brad Metheny at Frostproof and by Alonzo Carter at Contra Costa…verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 17, 2012.

Chans Cox • LB • Freshman • 6-3, 230 lb • Lakeside, Ariz. • Blue Ridge HS

One of Arizona’s most versatile football players, he excelled at linebacker, running back and also punted in high school…Will play linebacker at ASU…Graduated early from Blue Ridge to enroll at ASU for the spring semester…Will participate in spring drills…Listed as a PrepStar All-American in 2012…One of the top overall prospects in the state of Arizona this year…Rated by Rivals.com as the nation’s 150 overall prospect, the No. 13 outside linebacker recruit and the No. 3 overall prospect in the state of Arizona…Evaluated by Scout.com as a fullback and was rated the top national recruit at the position as well as the No. 148 overall prospect…Regarded as a four-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com…Included in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Western 100 List…Blue Ridge compiled a 40-2 during the 2010-12 seasons with three state championship game appearances and a state title in 2011…Helped lead Blue Ridge to a 14-1 record and a state championship game appearance in 2012… earned Honorable Mention All-Division IV All-State recognition by the Arizona Republic as a senior Was an All-State recipient as a junior in 2011 after posting 61 tackles while also rushing for 682 yards and 16 total touchdowns…Helped guide Blue Ridge to a 14-0 record and the state championship in 2011…Earned All-State and All-Region honors as a sophomore in 2010 after recording 86 tackles and 8.0 sacks…Blue Ridge posted a 12-1 record his sophomore season…Chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from schools including Arizona, Arkansas, Boise State, California, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, USC, Utah, Washington and Washington State…Verbally committed to ASU on June 13, 2012… “[ASU’s coaches] are really instilling discipline and character in the program and that is something that means a whole lot to me. I really love the coaching staff as well and they always impress me when I visit with them. I’m proud to be an in-state guy committing to ASU and I’m happy that I get to play close to my family and friends and have a great fan base that will always be behind me. It’s going to be a great journey and I’m excited to take part of it.”…Verbally committed to ASU on June 13, 2012…Coached by Paul Moro at Blue Ridge High. “Chans had an opportunity to go anywhere in the country and he came here,” coach Graham said. “I think that has a lot to do with what our program is about. He’s big, fast, strong and versatile, and he’s going to be a guy that will be impactful to our program in a hurry. We signed DJ (Foster) and Jaxon (Hood), who were two of the best players in the state last year, and then to add Chans, who is one of the top guys in Arizona this season, is something we’re very proud of. His size, his speed and his character are things that really separate him, but it is the leadership that we think he can provide that really gets us excited.”

William Earley • CB • Freshman • 6-1, 200 lb • Mesquite, Texas • West Mesquite HS

Tall defensive back with great size…evaluators consider him to have quick feet, good hips and a physical style in addition to his excellent size…from the same hometown as ASU head coach Todd Graham…earned All-Midlands Region honors by SuperPrep in 2012…listed by Scout.com as the No. 37 cornerback prospect in the nation…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 55 cornerback prospect in the country and the No. 85 overall recruit in the state of Texas…totaled 26 tackles, six passes defended and two interceptions as a senior in 2012…posted 20 tackles, two passes defended and one fumble recovery as a junior in 2011…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Texas, SMU, TCU and UNLV…coached by Mike Overton at West Mesquite…verbally committed to ASU on Sept. 23, 2012.

Eriquel Florence • LB • Junior • 6-1, 235 lb • Valley, Ala. • Contra Costa College

Physical defender with the ability to play multiple linebacker positions…has great instincts, size and speed…runs a 4.6 40-yard dash…will have three years to play two starting in the fall…was a junior college teammate of fellow ASU signee Demetrius Cherry…his brother, Erique, completed his sophomore season playing at Auburn in 2012…was named the 2012 Bay Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year after posting 91 tackles and 6.0 sacks as a sophomore…totaled 30 tackles including 7.0 tackles-for-loss with 1.0 sack and one interception as a freshman in 2011…earned All-Bay Valley Conference honors…chose ASU over a reported scholarship offers from Houston and Western Kentucky…a 2011 graduate of Valley (Ala.) High School…” “I love the family atmosphere [at ASU],” said Florence. “They have a great campus and a great coaching staff that can help me take my game to the next level. I know that they can make me successful on and off the field.”…verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 24, 2012…coached by Mike Dean at Valley High School and by Alonzo Carter at Contra Costa College.

Matt Haack • P • Freshman 6-1, 185 lb. • West Des Moines, Iowa • Dowling HS

Special teams player expected to compete to replace All-Pac-12 punter Josh Hubner…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 15 kicker in the nation and the state of Iowa’s No. 10 overall prospect…runs a 4.6 40-yard dash…the first signee for ASU from the state of Iowa since 2001…also played running back in high school…chose ASU over a reported scholarship offer from Iowa State…coached by Tom Wilson at Dowling High…verbally committed to ASU on July 31, 2012.

Marcus Hardison • DL • Junior 6-5, 290 lb • Punta Gorda, Fla. • Dodge City CC

One of the most heavily recruited junior college prospects in the country…has three years to play two starting in 2013…has incredible versatility and can play multiple defensive line positions…figures to boost an already prominent Sun Devil defensive line guided by returning Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton and Freshman All-American Jaxon Hood…runs a 4.7 40-yard dash…ranked by ESPN as the No. 5 overall junior college prospect in the country…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 14 overall junior college prospect and the third-best junior college defensive end in the nation…rated as a four-star prospect by both ESPN and Rivals…posted 50 tackles and four sacks as a sophomore in 2012…recorded 46 tackles and three sacks as a freshman in 2011…earned Second-Team All-Jayhawk Conference honors as a sophomore…graduated from Punta Gorda (Fla.) Charlotte High School in 2011…played quarterback early in his high school career before moving to the defensive line…also played tight end…chose ASU over approximately two dozen reported scholarship offers from schools including Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida State, Kansas State, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Washington and West Virginia…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 18, 2013… “All the coaches at Arizona State are straight up good guys,” said Hardison. “They told me that I can accomplish anything I want on and off the field over there (at ASU) if I’m willing to work hard at it. I don’t like when stuff is just given to me so that’s fine by me.”…coached by Binky Waldrop at Charlotte High and by Bob Majeski at Dodge City Community College.

Kisima Jagne • DL • Freshman 6-5, 265 lb • Chandler, Ariz. • Chandler HS

A 2012 graduate of Chandler (Ariz.) High School…Signed with Colorado in February 2012 but opted to delay his enrollment…Began classes at ASU in January and will participate in spring drills…Is eligible to play in 2013 and will have five years to play four…Has an excellent frame to compete for time in ASU’s defensive line rotation…As a senior in 2011 he was ranked one of the top players in Arizona by most of the recruiting sites, including No. 6 by ESPN.com, No. 9 by Rivals and No. 13 by SuperPrep…Rivals also had him as the No. 28 strong side defensive end nationally, while ESPN.com ranked him as the No. 52 defensive end and Scout.com at No. 54….A second-team All-Arizona Division I selection both his junior and senior years along with being named first-team All-Division I Section II both seasons…Averaged over 10 tackles per game as a senior and finished the season with 10 quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (he also blocked two punts on special teams)…Top two prep games came against rival Hamilton, as he combined for 33 tackles and five sacks…as a junior, he finished the season with 71 tackles and 17 sacks to go along with two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries…Along with the punt and field goal block teams, he also played on the kickoff return team that season…Played his freshman and sophomore years at Chavez High School, earning two letters and starting as a sophomore…Also lettered in basketball, averaging 14.2 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as a senior, when he had 74 blocked shots in 27 games; he shot 55.7 percent from the field and had a season-high 28 points against Casa Grande…Earned second-team All-Arizona honors as a junior at Chandler and was fourth-team All-Arizona as a sophomore at Chavez, where he helped his team to two regional championships as a freshman and sophomore; Chandler advanced to the conference playoffs his junior year….Born October 30, 1993 in Phoenix…His cousin, Kenny Wheaton, played football at Oregon and was a third round draft pick by Dallas in the 1997 NFL Draft and played three seasons with the Cowboys (he also played Arena Football and in the Canadian Football League, including a brief stint with the Colorado Crush in the AFL)…Another cousin, Derrek Wheaton, signed to play football at Oregon, but was killed in a drive-by shooting prior to attending the school; the Arizona Junior High Basketball Tournament MVP honors are named in his honor…Another cousin, Marquese Wheaton, recently finished his college career as a defensive back at Southern Mississippi while another cousin, Markus Wheaton, was a First-Team All-Pac-12 selection in 2012 as a senior for Oregon State…Name pronounced “Kiz-ma Jag-knee”…As a high school senior he also had reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State…Coached by Shaun Aguano at Chandler High School….”Kisima, who is another local product, is a guy that fits our hybrid system because, among other things, his great ability to rush the passer,” coach Graham said. “It’s all about getting the right fit and we think he has great promise. He’s played in a system that had him blitzing from inside and outside, and he’s big enough to play defensive end. Getting him in the spring is important and we think he can really develop into something special.”

Ellis Jefferson • WR • Freshman 6-4, 200 lb • Denton, Texas • Guyer HS

Tall, physical wide receiver target…rated by Scout.com as the No. 82 wide receiver prospect in the nation…fearless route runner and tough receiver with the ability to gain yards after contact…earned All-Midlands Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…listed as the No. 136 wide receiver recruit in the country by ESPN…led Guyer to the Class 4A Division I state championship in 2012…starred in the state championship game, hauling in 176 receiving yards with two touchdowns…caught 38 passes for 676 yards with five touchdowns as a junior in 2011…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Colorado, Michigan State, Mississippi State, North Texas, Purdue, San Diego State, Tulsa, Utah State and Vanderbilt…coached by John Walsh at Guyer…”My mom and I loved the school,” said Jefferson. “She loved the education center and liked the way they played football.”…verbally committed to ASU on July 14, 2012…coached by John Walsh at Guyer High.

James Johnson • S • Freshman 6-2, 200 lb • Upland, Calif. • Upland HS

Excellent athlete with outstanding ball skills…played wide receiver and defensive back at Upland… earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…ranked by ESPN as the No. 24 safety prospect in the country…listed by Scout.com as the No. 60 safety recruit in the nation…listed by Scout.com as the No. 10 safety in the West region following the 2012 season…has the ability to play any of ASU’s safety positions…was a three-year varsity starter in the secondary for Upland…Upland High also produced Sun Devil cornerback Osahon Irabor…totaled 45 tackles, seven interceptions and one fumble recover in 2012…added 33 receptions for 599 yards (18.2 avg.) with one touchdown as a senior…also returned punts and kickoffs…totaled 62 tackles and two interceptions as a junior in 2011 and also saw time at wide receiver…helped lead Upland to a 12-1 record in 2011…registered 39 tackles, two forced fumbles and one interception as a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Fresno State, Houston, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon State, San Jose State and Wyoming…coached by Tim Salter at Upland High…verbally committed to ASU on Oct. 6, 2012.

Nick Kelly • OL • Sophomore 6-3, 280 lb • Orangevale, Calif. • American River College

A 2012 graduate of American River College in Sacramento, Calif….Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 95 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 12 junior college offensive line recruit…Graduated from Orangevale (Calif.) Casa Roble High School…Brings a year of junior college playing experience to Tempe but maintains four years to play three for the Sun Devils…began classes at ASU in January and will participate in spring drills…Joins American River teammate Josh Tremblay among ASU’s Class of 2013 midyear signees …Adds a valuable presence at center which also allows ASU’s coaches to rotate other linemen throughout the interior line positions…Combines power, athleticism and versatility to give ASU a promising offensive line contributor…Chose ASU over offers from Nevada and Wyoming…Verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 16, 2012…”I loved my trip to Arizona State so it was an easy decision. The facilities really impressed me on the visit and I had a good time hanging out with the players there. They were great guys. The Arizona State coaches like my leadership and my athleticism. They also like how I can call the protection and call the keys. They feel that I can really help the team.”…Coached by Norman Ryan at Casa Roble and by Jerry Haflich at American River…. “Adding both Nick not only gives us more depth at offensive line, but it allows us to be more flexible and creative in how we utilize our guys up front,” coach Graham said. “Nick is a true center and is someone who understands the game very well and can come in right away and compete.”

Alani Latu • LB • Freshman 6’2, 230 lb • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. • Rancho Cucamonga HS

Key figure in one of California’s better high school defenses…very physical player with great coverage skills for a linebacker…likely to compete for time at ASU’s “Spur” linebacker position… earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…included in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Western 100 List…rated by Scout.com as the No. 41 outside linebacker recruit in the nation…listed by Rivals.com as the No. 49 outside linebacker prospect in the country and the No. 78 overall recruit in the state of California…joins twin brother Viliami as members of ASU’s 2013 signing class… earned Third-Team Cal-Hi Sports All-State as a senior…also a standout basketball player for Rancho Cucamonga…listed by Scout.com as the No. 8 outside linebacker in the West region after the 2012 season…recorded 94 tackles, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble as a senior in 2012…posted a season-high 12 tackles on two occasions and recorded 10 total stops twice as well…totaled 70 tackles as a junior in 2011…had a season-high 10 tackles against Corona (Calif.) Centennial High School on Dec. 2, 2011…saw limited action on the varsity squad as a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Houston, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oregon State, San Diego State, Utah State and Washington State… verbally committed to ASU on Oct. 5, 2012…coached by Nick Baiz at Rancho Cucamonga High.

Viliami Latu • LB • Freshman 6’2, 230 lb • Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. • Rancho Cucamonga HS

One of the most prominent linebackers in the state of California and generally regarded as one of the top-20 linebacker prospects in the nation…considered by recruiting evaluators to be the prototype inside linebacker…physical run-stuffing linebacker who is also talented at dropping into coverage…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…joins twin brother Alani as members of ASU’s 2013 signing class…selected to the CalState Game and West Coast Bowl…included in the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune Western 100 List…Regarded as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com…also rated by Rivals as the nation’s No. 13 inside linebacker recruit and the No. 37 overall prospect in the state of California…rated by Scout.com as the No. 18 middle linebacker recruit in the nation…earned First-Team Cal-Hi Sports All-State as a senior…listed by ESPN as the No. 27 inside linebacker prospect in the nation…registered 107 tackles with 4.0 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2012…exploded for a season-high 18 tackles against Anaheim (Calif.) Servite on Sept. 1, 2012…tallied 13 tackles against Upland (Calif.) High School on Oct. 5, 2012 and registered 12 tackles against Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos High on Oct. 26, 2012…recorded 70 tackles and two interceptions as a junior…earned all-state underclass honors as a junior in 2011…saw limited action on the varsity squad as a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State and Utah State…verbally committed to ASU on Oct. 5, 2012…coached by Nick Baiz at Rancho Cucamonga High.

Ronald Lewis • WR • Freshman 6’0, 185 lb • Harvey, La. • West Jefferson HS

Dynamic threat on offense and special teams…played wide receiver as a senior after spending time at quarterback during his junior season…unselfish athlete who switched positions during his high school career because of team needs…excels on kick and punt returns…earned All-Southeast Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 65 wide receiver prospect in the nation and the state of Louisiana’s No. 25 overall recruit…regarded by ESPN as the No. 127 wide receiver prospect in the nation…listed by Scout.com as the No. 171 wide receiver recruit in the nation…runs a 4.45 40-yard dash…caught 30 passes for 552 yards with three touchdowns and added four touchdowns on kick returns as only a sophomore in 2010…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Baylor, Colorado, Florida International, Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, TCU, Texas A&M and Tulane…coached by Marcus Scott at West Jefferson…verbally committed to ASU on Sept. 5, 2012.

Antonio Longino • LB • RS Sophomore

6-3, 225 lb • East Cleveland, Ohio • Shaw HS • Hutchinson Community College

Physically gifted linebacker who will add a valuable presence at linebacker…has instant-impact potential and likely will battle to replace Second-Team All-Pac-12 member Brandon Magee at linebacker…comes to ASU with three years to play three starting in the fall…rated by Rivals.com as the No. 32 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s third-best junior college linebacker recruit…appeared in seven games in 2012, registering 56 tackles including 6.0 for loss with 1.5 sacks…redshirted in 2011…made an immediate impact at the high school level, ranking second on the varsity squad with 99 tackles as a sophomore in 2008, adding 9.0 sacks…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Toledo and West Virginia…”I got along with all the coaches and players [at ASU],” Longino said after his official visit to Tempe. “Everybody I met was really cool. It felt like family and that was good being far from home. So I’m going to a school where I already know what the people are like. I was really surprised how beautiful the school was.”…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 12, 2013…coached by Rodney Brown at Shaw High and by Rion Rhoades at Hutchinson Community College.

Grant Martinez • TE • Freshman 6-5, 210 lb • Scottsdale, Ariz. • Notre Dame Prep

Unanimously regarded as the top senior tight end prospect in the state of Arizona…combines excellent height, athleticism and hands…earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated by Scout.com as the No. 51 tight end prospect in the nation…earned First-Team Division II All-State honors by the Arizona Republic as a senior…played offense and defense in high school…key three-year varsity contributor…caught 43 passes for 561 yards with nine touchdowns in 2012…topped 100 receiving yards on two occasions…posted career-bests of 115 yards and eight receptions with a touchdown against Scottsdale Desert Mountain High on Sept. 21, 2012…hauled in seven receptions for 110 yards with a touchdown against Scottsdale Horizon High on Oct. 26, 2012…caught at least four passes in six games as a senior…totaled 36 receptions for 411 yards and six scores as a junior in 2011…had a season-best 76 receiving yards on five catches with a touchdown against Tempe McClintock on Oct. 21, 2011…posted five receptions for 59 yards with a touchdown against Rio Rancho (N.M) High School on Sept. 2, 2011…registered 23 receptions for 359 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore on varsity in 2010…helped lead Notre Dame to a state championship game appearance at the end of the 2010 season…also started at center for Notre Dame’s basketball team…ranked second on the team in blocked shots and rebounds and fourth in scoring as a junior in 2011-12…coached in basketball by Chris Stark…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Air Force, Army, California, Colorado State, Colorado State, Duke, Iowa State, Nevada, Oregon State, Rice, San Diego State and Utah…coached by the late Scot Bemis and also Gary Gregory at Notre Dame Prep….verbally committed to ASU on June 25, 2012.

Solomon Means • DB • RS Sophomore 6-1, 170 lb • Stockton, Calif. • Lincoln HS • Butte College

Tall defensive back with a year of college playing experience as well as three additional years of eligibility…has three to play three at ASU starting in the fall…very disruptive in pass coverage, he totaled double-digit pass deflections both as a high school senior and as a junior college redshirt freshman…played in 2012 at the same college that gave ASU recently departed senior receiver Rashad Ross…recorded 38 tackles, a team-high 12 passes defended including one interception…runs a 4.53 40-yard dash…initially signed with Weber State out of high school before attending Butte College…played wide receiver and defensive back in high school…caught 20 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown…finished second on the team in receptions behind eventual All-Pac-12 receiver Brandin Cooks…added 18 tackles, 12 passes defended, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries…chose ASU over reported offers from Houston and Idaho… “It was beautiful,” Means said of his visit to ASU. “It was really different for me being a California boy. I didn’t know want to expect with the Desert and the cactus trees but everything was really nice. I loved the college atmosphere and you can tell the whole college is into the team. Everywhere we went people recognized the players.”…committed to ASU on Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Signing Day…coached by Brian Gray at Lincoln High and by Jeff Jordan at Butte College.

Joseph Morris • WR • Junior 6-4, 200 lb • West Palm Beach, Fla. • American Heritage HS • Pierce College

Big receiver with two years of junior college experience…the first junior college prospect of the 2013 class to provide a verbal commitment to ASU…joined fellow ASU signee Jaelen Strong as Pierce College’s two primary wide receiver targets in 2012…listed as ESPN’s No. 61 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 16 junior college wide receiver recruit…caught 29 passes for 529 yards with six touchdowns as a freshman in 2011…had a long reception of 80 yards and averaged 18.2 yards per reception…led Pierce in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Louisiana Tech, LSU and Middle Tennessee State…coached by Efrain Martinez at Pierce College…verbally committed to ASU on July 23, 2012.

De’Marieya Nelson • TE • RS Junior 6-3, 230 lb • Stockton, Calif. • Chavez Senior HS • San Joaquin Delta College

Excellent athlete with experience at multiple positions between his high school and junior college careers…a perfect fit for the three-back role in ASU’s offense, currently occupied by record-setting receiver Chris Coyle…rated by ESPN as the No. 78 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 7 junior college tight end recruit…caught 26 passes for 218 yards with two touchdowns in nine games in 2012…was named First-Team All-Valley Conference as a sophomore…earned All-State honors in 2011…helped lead Delta to a victory in the Silicon Valley Bowl…was regarded as the No. 19 overall prospect in central California by Scout.com as a senior in 2009…ranked by Scout.com as the No. 158 running back prospect in the nation as high school senior…carried 106 times for 824 yards with six touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 294 yards with three scores as a senior in 2008…added 16 tackles and two pass deflections…played running back and free safety…also played basketball in high school…rushed 88 times for 602 yards with seven touchdowns and added 24 tackles with 3.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2006 at Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln High, playing fullback and linebacker…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Fresno State, Memphis, Nevada, San Diego State, Texas Tech, Utah State and Western Michigan…coached by Eric Duncon at Chavez Senior HS and by Gary Barlow at San Joaquin Delta College…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 20, 2013.

Jayme Otomewo • S • Freshman • 6-2, 190 lb

One of the premier safeties in the West region…an incredible student-athlete, he reportedly carries a 4.0 GPA…participated in the Semper Fi All-American game after his senior season… earned All-West Region honors by PrepStar in 2012…rated the No. 34 safety recruit in the country by ESPN…listed by Scout.com as the No. 45 safety prospect in the nation…listed by Scout.com as the No. 7 safety prospect in the West region after the 2012 season…regarded by Rivals.com as the No. 56 safety recruit in the nation and the No. 79 overall prospect in the state of California…also participated in track and field in high school…was a team captain as a senior…posted 67 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery as a junior in 2011…tallied a season-high 19 tackles against Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High on Nov. 3, 2011…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Colorado, Fresno State, Hawaii, Ohio and San Jose State…was also recruited by Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington…coached by Paul Knox at Dorsey High…verbally committed to ASU on Dec. 3, 2012.

Jack Powers • OL • Freshman 6-6, 260 lb • Salinas, Calif. • Palma HS

Tall, athletically gifted lineman…listed by Scout.com as the No. 61 offensive tackle prospect in the nation…was also evaluated by recruiting services as a defensive lineman…regarded by Scout.com as the No. 10 defensive end in the West region prior to the 2012 season…earned Third-Team Cal-Hi Sports All-State as a senior…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Air Force, Fresno State, Utah, Utah State and Washington State…was also recruited by Nebraska, Notre Dame and UCLA…“On my visit I really liked the coaches, all the players and just everything that is going on with the program,” said Powers. “They have so much discipline and that can’t help but be successful and I really like that.”…coached by Jeff Carnazzo at Palma High…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 16, 2013.

Damarious Randall • DB • RS Junior 6-0, 185 lb • Pensacola, Fla. • Pensacola HS • Mesa (Ariz.) CC

One of the premier junior college defensive backs in the nation…enjoyed a sensational sophomore season at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College as both a ball-hawking defensive back and game-breaking return specialist…can play either cornerback or safety and is very dangerous on returns…has two years to play two at ASU starting in the fall…following his stellar sophomore season in 2012, he was named an NJCAA First-Team All-American, the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) Defensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-Conference member at cornerback and on returns and a First-Team All-Western States Football League (WSFL) pick at both cornerback and on returns…is the second straight ACCAC Defensive Player of the Year to sign with ASU, following Chris Young from last year…totaled 69 tackles (50 solo) with nine interceptions and averaged 18.4 yards on punt returns with five total touchdowns (two receiving, two punt returns, one interception return) in 2012…averaged 28.2 yards on 19 kickoff returns…added 17 total passes defended (nine interceptions, eight pass breakups), 3.0 tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery…led MCC with 1,078 all-purpose yards, averaging 98.0 per game…also played wide receiver at MCC, catching eight passes for 152 yards with two touchdowns…averaged a team-high 19.0 yards per reception…helped turn MCC from a 1-10 team in 2011 to a 6-5 record in 2012 and an appearance in the Valley of the Sun Bowl…redshirted in 2011…played baseball at Butler Community College during the 2010-11 school year…a 2010 graduate of Pensacola (Fla.) High School…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Akron, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kansas, Louisiana, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, San Diego State, South Alabama, South Florida, Southern Miss, TCU, Washington State and Western Michigan…coached by Ryan Felker at Mesa Community College…verbally committed to ASU on Jan. 25, 2013.

Cameron Smith • WR • Freshman • 6-0, 185 lb • Coppell, Texas • Coppell HS

Speedy athlete with great receiving skills…runs a 4.4 40-yard dash…enjoyed a stellar senior season after being limited due to injury as a junior…rated the No. 123 wide receiver prospect in the nation by Scout.com…caught 59 passes for 1,071 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior…helped lead Coppell to a 11-1 record…caught seven passes for 131 yards on a state playoff game played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas…played in only five games due to injury as a junior in 2011…coached by Joe McBride at Coppell High… “He’s a tremendous player who’s extremely fast,” McBride said of Smith. “He’s a smart kid with great character who is a great route runner and has great hands. He’s a very humble and quiet kid off the field, but on the field he is a fierce competitor and always plays hard.”…chose ASU over Iowa….also earned reported scholarship offers from Houston, Illinois, North Texas and Wisconsin…was also heavily recruited by Nebraska, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech… “Cameron really likes the new coaching staff at Arizona State,” McBride remarked. “He also likes the explosive vertical offense that uses multiple wide receivers. He like the warm and beautiful climate and all that had something to with it. I think he made a great decision. He’s going to a very exciting place to be at.”…verbally committed to ASU on Feb. 1, 2013.

Corey Smith • DL • Freshman 6-7, 260 lb • New Orleans, La. • O.Perry Walker School

Brings outstanding size and physical potential to ASU…starred on defense at O.Perry Walker School…uses his hands well and has the frame to be a prominent lineman at ASU…played multiple defensive line positions in high school…listed by Rivals.com as the No. 33 weak side defensive end recruit in the country…rated by Scout.com as the No. 109 defensive end prospect in the nation…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arkansas, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida International, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Purdue, SMU, Southern Miss and Tulane…committed to ASU on Feb. 6, 2013, National Letter of Intent Signing Day…coached by Emanuel Powell at O.Perry Walker School.

Jaelen Strong • WR • RS Sophomore 6-4, 205 lb • Philadelphia, Pa. • West Philadelphia Catholic HS • Pierce College

One of the nation’s most productive junior college wide receivers…regarded as a four-star prospect by ESPN…rated by ESPN as the No. 15 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 5 junior college wide receiver recruit…listed by Rivals.com as the No. 49 overall junior college prospect in the country and the nation’s No. 8 wide receiver recruit…caught 67 passes for 1,263 yards with 15 touchdowns in 10 games in 2012…joins junior college teammate Joseph Morris as members of ASU’s 2013 class…sat out in 2011 and will have four years to play three at ASU starting in 2013…graduated from West Philadelphia (Pa.) Catholic High School in 2011 and had scholarship offers from Eastern Michigan, Villanova and VMI before opting to attend Pierce College…had team highs of 17 receptions for 318 yards and four touchdowns as a senior…had a season-high 109 yards on three receptions with two touchdowns against Philadelphia (Pa.) Archbishop Ryan on Oct. 2, 2010…caught 24 passes for 385 yards with four touchdowns as a junior in 2009…posted season-bests of five receptions for 92 yards with a touchdown against Wyndmoor (Pa.) La Salle College High School on Sept. 18, 2009…chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Arizona, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, Miami, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Oregon State, Purdue, South Carolina and Texas Tech….coached by Brian Fluck at West Catholic and by Efrain Martinez at Pierce College…verbally committed to ASU on Christmas Day 2012.

Christian Westerman • OL • RS Sophomore 6-4, 303 lb. • Chandler, Ariz. Hamilton HS • Auburn

Enrolled at ASU for the spring semester and will participate in spring football drills…Originally signed with Auburn out of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton High School in 2011…Redshirted in 2011…Was limited due to an injury in 2012 but appeared in two games with one start at left guard…Has the ability to play either guard or tackle…Can bench press over 500 pounds…One of the most sought after high school football recruits in Arizona history…widely regarded as a five-star prospect as a high school senior and is one of the most highly rated recruits ever to join the Sun Devil football program…Was the top recruit in the state of Arizona his senior year …Named the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 6 player nationally by ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc….Ranked as the nation’s No. 1 offensive guard and the No. 17 player in the nation by Scout.com…Remains the top rated offensive high school prospect from Arizona since Scout.com began its ratings in 2002…Rated as the No. 3 offensive tackle in the nation, the No. 1 recruit from Arizona and the No. 26 player overall nationally by 247Sports…Listed as the nation’s No. 3 offensive tackle, the No. 1 player in the state of Arizona and the No. 27 player in the nation overall by Rivals.com.. Ranked as the nation’s No. 5 offensive tackle and the No. 16 overall prospect in the MaxPreps Top 100…Named to the PrepStar Dream Team as the No. 8-ranked player in the nation … Named an All-American, the nation’s No. 2 offensive lineman and the No. 2 recruit from Arizona by SuperPrep, and the No. 21 overall player nationally in the SuperPrep Elite 50…Selected to play in the 2011 Under Armour All-American game following his senior season…Named to USA Today’s All-USA first team offense…Listed on Associated Press’ Top 25 best players in the West Helped lead his team to back to back undefeated junior and senior year seasons with an overall record of 29-0… Earned All-Arizona honors by the Arizona Republic in 2009 and 2010…Was a teammate of Sun Devils Jaxon Hood and Anthony Jones at Hamilton High…Was a starter on three consecutive state champion teams for the Huskies …had a multitude of scholarship offers as a senior at Hamilton High including ones from schools such as Alabama, California, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, UCLA and USC in addition to ASU and Auburn…born Feb. 23, 1993…Son of Christian Westerman, Sr. and Jodie Westerman…”We’re excited to be back home and be part of the Sun Devil nation,” Westerman’s father said. “The momentum of this program is unbelievable. I like everything that [Coach Graham is] about which is hard work and accountability, stuff that Christian is used to.”…Coached by Steve Belles at Hamilton High School…”We’re excited to add Christian, who is one of the best players to have come out of this state in a while,” coach Graham said. “When it comes to recruiting, the one thing that you cannot replace is family and what it means. What our program stands for now – character and class – you can stay right here at home and do everything you want to do. That’s compete for a Pac-12 championship, as well as nationally, and also be proud of the team you’re apart of. I think Christian said that he’s gotten more love in the past two days than he got two years somewhere else. That right there tells you a lot about the importance of the community our student-athletes compete in. We’re thrilled to bring one of the best in the state back home.”

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 9 Rewind

Mississippi v LSU 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.

CALM(ISH) BEFORE THE STORM
After a few weeks worth of utter tumult, we were due.

Entering Week 9, we were looking at a slate of games heavy on the mundane and light on intrigue.  Exiting it, the landscape is essentially the same as it began — with one very large exception.

No. 3 Ole Miss’ loss to No. 24 LSU was easily the most high-profile upset of the day, even as it probably shouldn’t be referred to as an upset.  Playing in Death Valley, at night no less, is no easy task for any squad regardless of how highly-ranked they are, especially facing a Tiger team riding an emotional roller coaster after the death of their head coach’s mother Friday night.

Certainly there were, in the weekend before Halloween, some scares for the Top 25.  No. 5 Auburn was able to survive an upset bid by South Carolina, exiting Jordan-Hare with a seven-point win.  No. 13 Ohio State and No. 25 UCLA were even more fortunate, getting taken to double-overtime by Penn State and Colorado, respectively, before scrambling back to Columbus and Los Angeles, respectively, with their closer-than-expected wins.  Even No. 1 Mississippi State had its “lemon-booty” moments in a 14-point win over Kentucky on the road.

That, though, was essentially the gist of the Week 9 tumult, as it were.

Of the 16 teams that played an unranked team this week, exactly none went down in defeat.  The average margin of victory in those games was 17.6.  A whopping 13 of the 16 were decided by at least 10 points, with five of them coming by 20 or more.  Of course, there was also that 55-point shellacking that we mention below.

The four remaining Top 25 teams that hit the field this weekend played each other, with the lower-ranked team winning one (the previously referenced Ole Miss-LSU game) and the higher-ranked team winning the other (No. 19 Utah over No. 20 USC).

In other words, expect very little change in the Top 25 when the polls are released Sunday afternoon, the last polls, incidentally, before the first release of the newly-minted College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night.

SATURDAY RESET
Below is a list of links out to a handful of the gamers posted by the CFT crew, placed in one handy and convenient space for you, our beloved and dear readers.

  • A head-scratching decision at game’s end was the highlight — or lowlight if you lean toward Oxford — of the biggest upset of the day, Ole Miss’ loss to LSU under the lights in Death Valley.
  • On the road against Kentucky, top-ranked Mississippi State looked downright vulnerable but came away with a 45-31 win.  The margin of victory was the Bulldogs’ second-closest of the year, behind only the five-point victory at LSU that wasn’t even remotely as close as the 34-29 final score indicated.
  • Auburn’s offense continued to roll, which was fortunate for the Tigers as so did South Carolina’s as AU was able to hold off the upset-minded Gamecocks for a 42-35 victory on The Plains.
  • It was the Ameer Abdullah show in Lincoln as the talented and prolific running back set a school record with 341 yards (225 rushing, 26 receiving, 90 on kickoff returns) in Nebraska’s 42-24 pounding of Rutgers.  The senior back, if he wasn’t already, should be in the thick of the Heisman discussion.
  • It wasn’t aesthetically impressive — it very rarely ever is when a Bill Snyder-coached team is involved — but Kansas State still did enough to shut out Texas 23-0, the first time the Longhorns have been whitewashed since 2004.  It was also enough to keep K-State (4-0 in Big 12 play) just ahead of the one-loss conference teams of Baylor, TCU and West Virginia.  The Wildcats will face all three of those teams in the last five games.
  • There’s taking a team to the woodshed, and then there’s what TCU did to Texas Tech Saturday night.  The Horned Frogs hung a 82-spot on the Red Raiders, most in a league game in Big 12 history; eviscerated Tech by 55 points, it’s largest margin of victory in a Big 12 game; and dropped a school-record 785 yards of total offense.  That, Double-T, is what happens when you get on the wrong side of Gary Patterson.
  • Surprising West Virginia was able to easily handle Oklahoma State on the road 34-10.  Next up for WVU?  A home date with rampaging TCU, with College GameDay possibly coming to Morgantown.
  • Lane Kiffin was the storyline entering the Alabama-Tennessee game, but it was Amari Cooper who stole the show on gameday as the Tide rolled over the Vols 34-20 at Neyland Stadium.
  • Michigan State drove yet another nail in Brady Hoke‘s coffin in embarrassing in-state rival Michigan 35-11.  The Spartans, heading into its last bye of the season, will now get an extra week to prepare for the Big Ten Game of the Year Nov. 8 against Ohio State.
  • Ohio State didn’t deserve it, but the Buckeyes were able to slink back to Columbus with a double-overtime steal of a win over Penn State.  To say the aforementioned B1G Game of the Year lost a little luster would be an understatement.
  • UCLA avoided an embarrassing double-overtime loss to Colorado — and staved off the “Most Disappointing Team in America” label for at least another week.  If the Bruins, 3-2 in Pac-12 play, are going to get back into/remain in the South Division chase, they will have to play better than they did Saturday. Or all season, really.
  • Arizona tied a school record for points in a Pac-12 game as it thumped Washington State 59-37.  Connor Halliday‘s 489 yards passing in a losing effort was his sixth 400-plus effort of the season in eight games.
  • Arizona State used a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns to both drop Washington and remain one of three Pac-12 South teams, along with Arizona and Utah, with just one conference loss on the ledger.
  • Minnesota had the opportunity to reach 4-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1967, but fumbled that chance as Illinois shocked the Gophers 28-24 in Champaign.  The win was huge for the hot-seated Tim Beckman, who watched his Illini win for the first time in the conference this season even as he improved to just 2-18 in league play in two-plus years.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Sunday if I, ya know, had a real vote.

1. Mississippi State — Go on the road and beat a quality team like Kentucky (yes, UK is quality in something other than basketball)?  Yep, you keep your spot at the head of the class. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Arkansas, Nov. 1

2. Florida State — FSU saw its lead in the polls gradually erode until MSU overtook them earlier this month.  With the Seminoles on a bye and the Bulldogs “struggling,” the ‘Noles could very well return the favor this afternoon. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: at Louisville, Oct. 30

3. Notre Dame — The further away we get from last Saturday night, the more impressive the Irish’s performance in Tallahassee becomes.  Like FSU, the Golden Domers were on a bye after their Week 8 thriller. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Navy (Landover, Md.), Nov. 1

4. Oregon — After a couple of weeks of wobbling, the Ducks have righted what some would describe as a listing ship.  That righting comes at a most opportune time with the annual grudgefest with Stanford on tap. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: vs. Stanford, Nov. 1

5.  Ole Miss — (What, you thought I’d move Alabama into the Top Five and drop Ole Miss?  No thanks, I’m not the coaches’ poll; I don’t rank teams with the same number of losses over teams that have already beaten them.)  The Rebels loss to LSU wil certainly sting, especially the way the coaching staff and the quarterback bungled the ending, but Ole Miss remains very much in the thick of the SEC West race.  In fact, like Mississippi State and Auburn, they control their own fate: win out, and they’re in Atlanta the first week of December for the SEC championship game. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: vs. No. 5 Auburn

(Dropped out: none)

HeismanHEISMAN RACE, BY THE NUMBERS
A statistical look at how some of the top contenders for this year’s stiff-armed trophy fared this weekend, listed in alphabetical order so as not to offend any of the delicate sensibilities readers in the audience may possess. Also, each week at least one name will be sliced from a list that began in Week 6 at a baker’s dozen and, if need be, names will be added as well.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (7-1, No. 16)
Saturday: 19 carries for 225 yards (11.8 ypc), three touchdowns; two catches for 26 yards; two kickoff returns for 90 yards
Season: 161 carries for 1,024 yards (6.4 ypc), 14 touchdowns; 11 catches for 143 yards, two touchdowns; nine kickoff returns for 182 yards (20 ypr)

Trevone Boykin, QB TCU (6-1, No. 10)
Saturday: 22-39 (56.4%) 433 yards, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions; 28 rushing yards
Season: 168-247 (68%), 2,306, 21 touchdowns, three interceptions; 403 rushing yards, three touchdowns

Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina (6-1, No. 18)
Thursday: 38-64 (59.4%), 445 yards, two touchdowns, one interception; 32 rushing yards
Season: 204-316 (64.6%), 2,574 yards, 18 touchdowns, five interceptions; 105 rushing yards, three touchdowns

Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall (8-0, No. 23)
Saturday: 13-24 (54.2%), 218, one touchdown, zero interceptions; 32 rushing yards
Season: 132-228 (57.9%), 2,130 yards, 20 touchdowns, six interceptions; 255 rushing yards, five touchdowns

Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame (6-1, No. 7)
Saturday: bye week
Season: 166-268 (61.9%), 1,996 yards, 19 touchdowns, six interceptions; 239 rushing yards, four touchdowns

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (5-2, unranked)
Saturday: 22 carries for 122 yards (5.5 ypc), three touchdowns; two receptions, 12 yards
Season: 154 carries for 1,168 yards (6.7 ypc), 16 touchdowns; eight receptions, 39 yards, one touchdown

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (5-3, unranked)
Thursday: 29 carries for 249 yards (8.6 ypc), one touchdown; two receptions, 37 yards, one touchdown;
Season: 139 carries for 1,036 yards (7.4 ypc), seven touchdowns; 19 receptions, 224 yards, one touchdown

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (7-1, No. 6)
Friday: 18-30 (60%), 326 yards, five touchdowns, one interception; 36 rushing yards
Season: 150-218 (68.8%), 2,283 yards, 24 touchdowns, one interceptions; 325 rushing yards, five touchdowns; one reception, 26 yards, one touchdown

Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (7-0, No. 1)
Saturday: 18-33 (54.5%), 216 yards, one touchdown, one interception; 88 rushing yards, two touchdowns
Season: 114-189 (60.3%), 1,694 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions; 664 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (7-0, No. 2)
Saturday: bye week
Season: 149-211 (70.6%), 1,878 yards, 13 touchdowns, six interceptions; 47 rushing yards, two touchdowns

(Dropped out: Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, Pittsburgh running back James Connor)
(Added: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, Miami running back Duke Johnson)

Hot Seats

Hot Seats

COACHING HOT SEAT
My weekly look at a couple of the current head coaches who could most likely be ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

1. Will Muschamp, Florida
(Writer’s note: I’m just going to trot this same note out week after week, with the records updated, until athletic director Jeremy Foley finally and mercifully puts Gator Nation out of its collective misery.)
In his three years at UF,Ron Zook was 23-14 overall and 16-8 in the SEC.  Since beginning his Gator career at 4-0, Muschamp has gone 22-20 overall and an embarrassing 13-14 in the conference.  The last 18 games, Muschamp’s record is 7-11 and 5-8.  In other words, there’s been nothing but regression instead of the progression that an 11-2 second season portended.  The worst part?  There’s no hope as far as the eye can see.

2. Brady Hoke, Michigan
(Writer’s note: same goes for the UM fan base.)
In what turned out to be Rich Rodriguez‘s last season at Michigan in 2010, the Wolverines’ began the year 6-1; in what could turn out to be Hoke’s last season at Michigan, the Wolverines are 3-5.  From Oct. 3, 2009, through Oct. 9, 2010, UM went 7-8 under Rodriguez; from Oct. 12, 2013, through Oct. 25, 2014, UM has gone 5-11 under Hoke.  In his first 31 games at UM, Rodriguez was 14-17; in his last 31 games at UM, Hoke is 16-15.  You see where this is going, right?  So should Hoke, athletic director Dave Brandon and the entire UM football program as a different direction is needed on that hallowed sideline.

Bo Pelini

Bo Pelini

HE SAID IT
“We got the win. I’m happy about that. That’s about all I’m happy about. I thought we were sloppy, inconsistent and we didn’t play at the standard we needed to.” — a happily unhappy/unhappily happy Bo Pelini following Nebraska’s 42-24 thumping of Rutgers to improve to 7-1 on the season.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“We try to design something that makes as little sense as possible.” — Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, on lining up an offensive lineman in the shotgun and having him throw a touchdown pass to a long-snapper (see below).

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I think that’s why the women come to the game, to be honest.” — Mississippi State running back Josh Robinson, when asked about his ample buttocks following his 198-yard, two-touchdown performance in the win over Kentucky.

HE SAID IT, THE QUADQUEL
“Why don’t you let us think about it tonight?” — Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, when asked if Devin Gardner is still Michigan’s starting quarterback.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“I said it going in I thought he w a top-three Heisman guy. After watching him live and in-person, he’s got to be the frontrunner. He’s that good. He’s the best player in the country in my opinion.” — Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, after watching TCU’s  Trevone Boykin throw for 433 yards and seven touchdowns.

FROM-THE-HEART HE SAID IT
“After the game, I can’t tell you the number of young men that threw their arms around me and said that they love me coach, which is as touching as anything I’ve had happen. They hand me the game ball, which I only accept on behalf of a great team. A team that really comes out and says we can be a whole lot better, we can improve and they go to work. You guys hear me say this, they’re going to improve, they’re coming, we’re going to be special, this team is ambitious. So, I accept it. Martha Miles, this is a great night considering. I miss you Ma.” — LSU head coach Les Miles, whose mother passed away Friday night.

FLY-OVER OF THE DAY
You want a photographic proof of how bad it’s gotten for Michigan?

That sign requesting the retention of Brady Hoke was flying over Spartan Stadium in East Lansing prior to Michigan State’s game with its “big brother.” When stuff like that happens, the end is truly nigh, which should somewhat assuage the anguish of the great Wolverine fans all across the nation.

FAT GUY TD PASS OF THE DAY
(I touched on this already, but this kind of once-in-a-lifetime greatness deserves an encore.)
That’s right, “Fat Guy” and “TD pass” in the same headline… and it doesn’t involve a lineman-eligible play.  Instead, 350-pound Arkansas guard Sebastian Tretola lined up in the shotgun — in the shotgun! — and tossed a six-yard touchdown pass.  Here it is, in all of its fat-guy glory.

 

“What’s the big deal?” — Jared Lorenzen, at a buffet somewhere.

Incidentally, Tretola’s career quarterback rating is 480.4

Oh, and the player on the receiving end of the pass?  Long-snapper Alan D’Appollonio. All things considered — Tretola busted out the Heisman pose for good measure — it’s likely the greatest touchdown in the history of college football at any level ever. Or close to it.

DEER RUN OF THE DAY
There were reports that someone was blasting air horns at four in the morning outside of the hotel in which Ohio State was staying prior to Saturday night’s game against Penn State.  As it turns out, that wasn’t the only thing happening at a Happy Valley hotel at that time of the morning.

 

The “what the what,” deer-in-the-hotel look on dude’s face makes me chuckle every time.

(Tip O’ the Cap: Land-Grant Holy Land)

FACEMASK OF THE DAY
There are facemask penalties, and there are facemask penalties.  What happened to LSU’s Leonard Fournette was the quintessential facemask penalty.

That one might’ve deserved a 20-yard penalty.

HELMET OF THE DAY
I’m not a fan of myriad uniform combinations that have enveloped the game of college football.  I am, though, a huge fan of retro looks in general and Oklahoma State’s back-to-the-past lid specifically.

OSU may have lost to West Virginia — its second straight loss to drop to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in Big 12 play — but at least they looked good doing it.

STREAKING
Florida State has won a nation’s best 23 straight games, a record for an ACC school.  The Seminoles’ last loss came Nov. 24, 2012, a 37-26 home setback to in-state rival Florida, and FSU has won 18 of those 23 games by at least 14 points.  Mississippi State, at 10 in a row, is the only other FBS team with a double-digit winning streak, although Marshall is closing in with its own nine-game streak.

SMU’s nine straight losses serve as the longest losing streak in the country, and they remain the only winless team at the FBS level in 2014.  Georgia State, meanwhile, has lost seven in a row.

GOING BOWLING
For the third straight week, six or more teams officially qualified for postseason play.  There are now 32 teams eligible to play in this year’s 38 bowl games.  Below are the 16 teams that hit the six-win minimum this week.

Arizona
Arizona State
Clemson
Georgia Southern
Georgia Tech
Kansas State
Louisville
Missouri
Northern Illinois
Ohio State
South Alabama
TCU
UCLA
Utah
West Virginia
Wisconsin

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK
In his first career game against Toledo on Sept. 12 this year, Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel recorded the most passing touchdowns (six) for a quarterback in his FBS debut. The record was previously held by Florida’s John Reaves, who threw five against Houston in 1969. Reaves’ son, David, is the quarterbacks coach for USF, the Bearcats’ opponent in Week 9.

S.I.D. NOTE OF THE WEEK II
In the last two weeks, North Carolina has played in the highest scoring game in Notre Dame Stadium history (93 points, first season in 1930) and the most total offense yards combined (1,190) in Kenan Stadium history (first season in 1927).

OFF THE CHARTS
Entering Week 9, below are the teams with the biggest margins of victories this season:

1. Marshall 30.8
2. Ohio State 26.3
3. Baylor 26.0
4. Michigan State 25.4
5. Mississippi 24.8
6. TCU 24.5
7. Alabama 23.8
8. Georgia 23.4
9. Mississippi State 21.8
10. Nebraska 21.1

OFF THE CHARTS, ENCORE
Entering Week 9, here are the…
Most Passing Yards FBS QB

SAY WHAT?
Washington State’s Connor Halliday is on pace to throw for 5,749 yards on 775 pass attempts.  The current FBS records are 5,833 yards passing and 719 attempts by Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons in 2003 in 13 games.  As Wazzu is currently 2-6, it’s highly doubtful the Cougars qualify for a bowl game, so Halliday will have to do in 12 games what Symons did in 13.

DULY NOTED
There are four FBS teams that have scored a touchdown on at least 40 percent of its possessions in 2014: Marshall, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon.

US actor Don Diamont poses with his wife

Don Diamont, wife

DID YOU KNOW THAT…

… Indiana’s starting quarterback, Zander Diamont, is the son of former “Young and the Restless” and current “The Bold and the Beautiful” soap opera actor Don Diamont?

… Wake Forest’s starting quarterback, true freshman John Wolford, is the brother of Boston College’s starting fullback, junior Bobby Wolford?  The older brother’s Eagles got the best of the youngster’s Demon Deacons Saturday afternoon by the score of .

… Utah State’s Nick Vigil is the only player in the country to start on both offense and defense in the same game this season?  The sophomore started at both linebacker (his main position) and running back in the Week 7 win over Air Force.  He’s played on both sides of the ball each of the past four games, and this season has ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries — and he’s completed both of his pass attempts as for good measure.  His 55 yards in the win over UNLV led the team.

… Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins was the first receiver in the FBS to register at least 175 yards in three consecutive contests since Michael Crabtree accomplished the feat for Texas Tech in 2007?  That streak was stopped in Week 9… when Higgins grabbed 174 yards worth of receptions in the win over Wyoming.

Les Miles is the fastest coach in LSU history to reach 10 wins (11 games), 20 wins (24 games), 30 wins (35 games), 40 wins (48 games), 50 wins (63 games), 60 wins (76 games), 70 wins (87 games), 80 wins (98 games), 90 wins (112 games) and 100 wins (126)?

Texas v Kansas State

Bill Snyder

… Kansas State has beaten Oklahoma and Texas in the same season twice in the last three years?  Prior to that, that double-dip had only happened once: 1926.

… the Notre Dame-Florida State rating of 7.9 last weekend was the highest-rated college football game of the season on ESPN and the highest on that family of networks since the Notre Dame-USC game Thanksgiving weekend of 2012?

… Virginia and North Carolina met for the 119th time Saturday in what the schools describe as the South’s Oldest Rivalry, a series that was first played in 1892?  Thanks to the win Saturday, UVa./UNC now trails/leads the series (60-54-4).

… Iowa State has not beaten Oklahoma in Ames since 1960?  Thanks to Saturday’s loss to the Sooners, ISU’s last win over OU, period, came during the 1990 season.

… at 4-5, South Carolina is off to its worst start to a season since the winless 1999 campaign in the first year under Lou Holtz?  The Gamecocks have also lost three straight in SEC play for the first time since 2009.

… Oregon State is the only Power Five conference team that will play four of its final five games this season at home?

… Wake Forest will not leave the state of North Carolina for its final six games of the season?  The Demon Deacons have four home games and road trips to Duke and North Carolina State remaining.

… Louisiana-Monroe and UMass are the only FBS teams to have a non-conference schedule comprised entirely of Power Five teams? The former has already played Wake Forest, LSU and Kentucky, with a game against Texas A&M still on tap, while the latter has already played Boston College, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Penn State. The two teams are a combined 1-6 in those games, with the lone win being ULM’s 17-10 triumph in the opener against Wake.

… exiting Week 9, Pac-12 road teams are 20-9 in conference games?

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No. 14 Arizona State pulls away from Washington for windy 24-10 win

Taylor Kelly

On a night where winds approaching 60 miles per hour knocked both team’s offensive game-plans – and, at times, the ESPN broadcast – off course, No. 14 Arizona State notched two late touchdowns to beat Washington 24-10 in Seattle.

After Arizona State grabbed a 10-0 halftime lead, Washington pulled into a 10-10 tie with a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by John Timu – Washington’s sixth defensive touchdown on the season – in the third quarter and a Cameron Van Winkle 23-yard field goal with 7:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Arizona State immediately responded by moving 75 yards in nine plays, producing the go-ahead score on a seven-yard pass from Taylor Kelly to Gary Chambers.

Washington then moved to the Arizona State 44 on its would-be game-tying drive, but then suffered a sack, a holding penalty, another sack and, fatally, a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown by Armand Perry. Perry’s score meant that defensive touchdowns equaled the number of offensive touchdowns on the night, 2-2.

Kelly returned to action for the first time in six weeks to complete 14-of-25 passes for 180 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Unfortunately, Kelly was hit hard in the head on his final pass – the score to Kelly – and then was examined by medical staff and had his helmet taken away. D.J. Foster rushed 13 times for 36 yards and caught four passes for 52 yards, while Jaelen Strong nabbed three passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Troy Williams made his first start for an injured Cyler Miles, and the Huskies suffered for it. He hit 18-of-26 passes, but for only 139 yards with two interceptions. Shaq Thompson spent most of the night on offense and rushed 21 times for 98 yards.

The win pushes Arizona State to 6-1 (4-1 Pac-12) with a massive game against Utah waiting Saturday in Sun Devil Stadium. Washington falls to 5-3, but gets the healing elixir of a date with Colorado Saturday in Boulder.

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No. 14 Arizona State leads Washington after wind-swept first half

Taylor Kelly

With gusts of wind reaching 60 miles per hour, points and sustained drives have been hard to come by Saturday night in Seattle. No. 14 Arizona State have combined for more punts (11) than points as the Sun Devils lead 10-0 at the half.

After a scoreless first quarter, Arizona State busted through with a 50-yard touchdown drive, five consecutive rushes for 34 yards by Demario Richard (his only rushes of the half) and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Kelly to Jaelen StrongZane Gonzalez knocked through a 33-yard field goal in the half’s final minute to provide the other score.

Washington’s kicking game has been an adventure. Korey Durkee has punted six times for just a 30 yard average, with a number of kicks barely getting off the ground, and Cameron Van Winkle’s only field goal try was blocked.

While Kelly has completed 8-of-15 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown, Washington has struggled to get anything going through the air; Troy Williams has connected on 9-of-14 passes, but for just 42 yards. Do-everything Shaq Thompson leads all runners with 40 yards on 10 carries, and Washington has out-rushed Arizona State 77-56 at the break.

Washington will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Buckeyes barely escape Happy Valley with double-OT win

Ohio State v Penn State Getty Images

With each passing game, the Nov. 8 showdown between Michigan State and Ohio State was looming larger and larger.

MSU did its part in Week 9, taking “big brother” Michigan to the woodshed yesterday afternoon. A few hours later in Happy Valley?  Meh, not so much on OSU’s part.

What was a comfortable 17-0 halftime lead turned into a nail-biting hair-puller for the Buckeyes, with Penn State putting a scare into the visitors a week ahead of Halloween before OSU was able to escape with a 31-24 win in double overtime.  Penn State capped a 17-0 second half run with a 31-yard field goal by Sam Fickens with :09 left to send it into the first overtime.  After both teams exchanged touchdowns in the first extra session, OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett scored his second rushing touchdown of the game to give the Buckeyes a 31-24 lead.

On fourth down on the ensuing possession, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was “sacked” by OSU’s Joey Bosa — Bosa actually bullrushed his blocker into Hackenberg, knocking him down — to seal the win and send the No. 13 Buckeyes back to Columbus with a 6-1 record.

Were it not for the incompetence of the officiating crew, though, Penn State very well could’ve walked out of Beaver Stadium with its fifth win of the year.  A botched replay in the first quarter allowed the Buckeyes to maintain possession of an interception, turning the pick into seven points.  A delay of game wasn’t called on a 49-yard field goal attempt that was good; a penalty there likely would’ve pushed the Buckeyes out of field-goal range.

To say that some of the sheen has come off the matchup with the Spartans two weeks from Saturday would be an understatement.  The Buckeyes didn’t look like they could hang with a directional Michigan school most of the night let alone the best team in the state.  If OSU can’t improve on its woeful performance — even head coach Urban Meyer acknowledged afterward that his charges didn’t play well — it’ll be a long night in East Lansing.

The good news for Meyer and company is that they have two weeks to work on their issues.  Part of that work will be a home game against Illinois in which they’ll be 20-plus-point favorites, with OSU knowing that, despite the uneven Week 9 performance, wins the next two weeks would place them squarely in the East Division driver’s seat.

Again, however, the Buckeyes need to step their game up, lest Sparty takes a second consecutive rival to its version of the woodshed.  At least based on last night, that doesn’t look promising.

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No. 5 Auburn continues to roll on offense, defeats South Carolina 42-35

The South Carolina Gamecocks threw everything they had at the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers, and it simply wasn’t enough.

Auburn continues to prove week in and week out why its one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. The program’s 42-35 victory over South Carolina Saturday is just another example.

To borrow an old tagline: “You can’t stop Auburn’s offense. You can only hope to contain it.”

The Gamecocks used fourth-down conversions, trick plays and even a surprise onside kick, yet it still didn’t slow Auburn. At one point in the game, the Tigers scored a touchdown during six straight offensive drives.

Auburn amassed an impressive 551 total yards in one of their best offensive performances of the season.

Quarterback Nick Marshall led the way 228 total yards and four touchdowns, including a trifecta of rushing scores. Running back Cameron Artis-Payne also impressed with 167 rushing yards.

The concerns for the Tigers come on the defensive side of the ball. Auburn surrendered 535 total yards. South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson lit up Auburn’s defense with 402 passing yards and five touchdowns.

The effort simply wasn’t good enough for a team expected to be in the top four of the first College Football Playoff rankings.

With the win, Auburn will likely become the No. 4 in the AP Top 25 after Ole Miss lost to LSU. The Tigers still face the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide. As long as the Tigers’ offense continues to click, Auburn will remain in contention even as it runs through the gauntlet of SEC play.

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Lane Kiffin wins return to Neyland Stadium, No. 4 Tide tops Tennessee 34-20

Alabama v Tennessee Getty Images

No. 4 Alabama built a nearly insurmountable lead first half lead and coasted from there, turning a 27-0 early lead into a 34-20 victory over Tennessee Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.

Lane Kiffin‘s much-hyped return to Knoxville quieted the Tennessee crowd from the opening snap, as Alabama scored on its first play from scrimmage with an 80-yard pass from Blake Sims to Amari Cooper. The Tide followed that up with touchdown drives of 79 and 90 yards, grabbing a 20-0 lead. By the time Alabama got the ball with 1:30 remaining in the first quarter, Tennessee had punted four times and saw itself get out-gained 249-78.

After forcing a Joshua Dobbs fumble deep in Volunteer territory and turning it into a 28-yard Blake Sims touchdown run to push the lead to 27-0 three minutes into the second quarter it seemed the Tide was ready avalanche Tennessee the same way it did Texas A&M last week.

But then Tennessee rallied.

The Vols responded with a 10-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to get on the board, and closed the half with a long field goal drive to pull within 27-10 at the break.

Tennessee mounted another long touchdown drive in the third quarter to pull within 27-17, but Derrick Henry put the game away with a 28-yard touchdown jaunt with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.

In the end, Tennessee never pulled within closer than 10 points, but it didn’t pack up shop when things got tough. Tennessee is a program long on moral victories and impatient for actual victories, but the Vols got better tonight.

For one, Dobbs has the makings of being a solution at quarterback. He hit 19-of-32 passes for 192 yards for two touchdowns and one interceptions and led the club in rushing with 19 carries for 75 yards. Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane combined for 107 yards on 19 carries, and Tennessee nearly matched Alabama yard-for-yard on the ground, 183 to 181.

Still, the combination of Sims to Cooper was too much for Tennessee. Sims was 14-of-24 for 286 yards and two touchdowns, and Cooper caught nine of those passes for 224 yards and both touchdowns. Only six players touched the ball for Alabama tonight: Sims, Cooper, Henry (16 carries, 78 yards and the touchdown), T.J. Yeldon (14 carries, 52 yards and a touchdown, one catch for three yards), DeAndrew White (four grabs for 59 yards, one rush for a loss of one) and Jaiston Fowler (two carries for 24 yards).

In all, Kiffin’s offense produced 34 points, 23 first downs, 469 yards of total offense and a cool 11-of-15 mark on third down.

Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) will take next week off before preparing for a trip to No. 24 LSU on Nov. 8, which happens to be its final road game of the season. Tennessee, 3-5, winless in SEC play and weary from playing four Top 12 teams in eight games, will visit South Carolina next week and, deservedly, closes with four games against unranked opponents.

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Poor decision costs No. 3 Ole Miss as Rebels lose to No. 24 LSU 10-7

Mississippi v LSU Getty Images

Death Valley claimed another victim Saturday night.

The No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels fell to the 24th-ranked LSU Tigers 10-7 even though Les Miles‘ squad nearly had the game slip away.

With nine seconds remaining, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze made a dumbfounding decision. After initially allowing his kicker to line up to attempt a game-tying field goal, Freeze decided to take one shot toward the end zone after LSU called a timeout.

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace rolled to his left after the snap. He lobbed the ball toward the end zone for one final attempt to claim a victory. The quarterback didn’t put enough loft on the ball, and it was intercepted by LSU safety Ronald Martin. Game over. Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich never got a chance to prove himself in adverse conditions.

Freeze’s decision was immediately panned on social media:

Those are just a few examples.

Wallace played his worst game of the season at the wrong time. Even if his mind-boggling poor throw at the end of the game is excluded, Wallace was still 14-of-32 passing for 176 yards.

The Rebels were never able to get on track on offense, while LSU dominated in the trences.

LSU ran the ball 55 times for 264 yards against a defense that was ranked fourth overall in stopping the run entering the contest. Ole Miss’ undersized front simply couldn’t hold up as LSU continued to deliver blow after blow. Freshman running back Leonard Fournette led the way with 113 rushing yards.

The Tigers’ resiliency under Miles has been remarkable.

Even after a season-defining victory for LSU, the Tigers won’t be the happiest program due to this outcome. With the loss, Ole Miss will likely drop out of the Top 5 and create a spot for another a one-loss program to slide into the top four once the College Football Playoff committee releases its initial rankings Tuesday.

The No. 5 Auburn Tigers, No. 6 Oregon Ducks, No. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 8 Michigan State Spartans will all be vying for that final spot. With Ole Miss out of the way (for now), one of those program are expected to make a very important move into the upper echelon of college football.

The Rebels season isn’t over, though.

Ole Miss can reclaim its status as one of the nation’s top teams. Next weekend’s contest against Auburn will be vitally important to the program’s future.

It doesn’t get any easier for LSU either. The Tigers host the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide in two weeks.

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Near perfect defense, just enough offense leads No. 21 Clemson to 16-6 defeat of Syracuse

Syracuse v Clemson Getty Images

The Clemson defense was near perfect on Saturday night, and it nearly had to be as the offense struggled to find a rhythm in a 16-6 defeat of Syracuse at Death Valley.

Playing in his first start since losing his job to freshman Deshaun WatsonCole Stoudt turned the ball over three times and managed a meager 209 passing yards on 24 attempts. He also rushed eight times for 36 yards. Dabo Swinney has promised Watson will not lose his job due to a hand injury sidelining him for around a month, and Stoudt’s play affirmed that. If this was professional football – hold your jokes, folks – Watson’s agent would be sitting in front of Swinney tomorrow morning demanding a contract extension.

That said, Stoudt led Clemson to 13 second half points and notched the game’s only touchdown, a 19-yard toss to Stanton Steckinger half a minute into the fourth quarter, to essentially put the game away.

Stoudt’s scoring strike was the only touchdown of the night. This one was a thing of beauty for those who love ugly football: seven turnovers, five field goals and 15 punts. In addition to Stoudt’s three turnovers, Clemson running back C.J. Davidson lost a fumble inside the Syracuse 10-yard line before the half.

Frustrating as the Clemson offense was at times, it didn’t matter because Brent Venables‘ defense was up to the challenge and then some.

Syracuse’s only points came by way of Clemson turnovers. The Tigers limited the Orange to only 170 yards of total offense, 10 first downs, nine punts, three conversions in 16 tries, three turnovers of their own while registering four sacks and a dozen tackles for loss.

The Orange touched the ball seven times after taking a 6-3 lead into the half. Six possessions went 12 yards or less, four ended in puts, two ended in turnovers, and one culminated with a missed field goal.

Clemson (6-2, 5-1 ACC) is off next week before visiting Wake Forest in a Thursday night affair, while Syracuse (3-5, 1-3 ACC) returns home to the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome to face N.C. State.

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No. 15 Arizona ties school record by defeating Washington State 59-37

Arizona v Washington State

Saturday’s meeting between the No. 15 Arizona Wildcats and the Washington State Cougars was the irresistible force against the movable objects.

Washington State entered the game with the nation’s 95th-ranked defense. Arizona was 88th overall. On the other side of the ball, Arizona claimed college football’s fourth-best offense, while Washington State was ranked ninth.

The Wildcats got the best of Wazzu on both ends as Arizona won 59-37. The 59 points was a school record for Arizona in conference play.

Arizona took over very early in the contest. Rich Rodriguez‘s squad built a 24-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Wildcats were up 31-0 before the Cougars even placed a tally on the scoreboard.

Arizona’s freshman quarterback, Anu Solomon, was efficient throughout the game and continued to make the right read and throw. Solomon was 26-of-38 passing for 294 yards and five touchdowns.

Overall, the Wildcats accumulated 451 total yards. A number that was eclipsed by Washington State.

Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday threw the ball 79 times and amassed 489 passing yards. He also threw a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.

Halliday is on pace to shatter passing records this season in Mike Leach‘s Air Raid offense.

After giving up 21 inconsequential points in the fourth quarter, Arizona is now bowl eligible and remains in contention for Pac-12 South.

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Sketchy officiating pushes Buckeyes to first-half lead on Nittany Lions

Ohio State v Penn State Getty Images

Ohio State caught an incredibly fortunate break on a blown instant replay review early in the first quarter, and it was all downhill from there officiating-wise and scoreboard-wise for home-standing Penn State.

The Buckeyes scored on The Interception That Wasn’t seven plays later and never looked back, grabbing a 17-3 lead and heading into the locker room.  A Vonn Bell “interception” on the Nittany Lions’ fourth play from scrimmage obviously hit the ground and should’ve been overturned, but there was some type of issue in the replay booth that didn’t allow the replay official to see the proper feed.

OSU caught a break on its next scoring drive as well as the play clock appeared to be at zero for at least two seconds before the snap on what turned out to be a 49-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 10-0.

The officiating gaffes didn’t necessarily cause Penn State’s double-digit deficit at the half… wait, yes it did.  Well, that and OSU’s punishing ground attack

The Nittany Lions entered the game as the nation’s top defense against the run, giving up 60.8 yards per game; the Buckeyes totaled 84… in the first quarter alone en route to a 119-yard rushing effort in the first half.  Running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback J.T. Barrett accounted for all of those yards, with 76 going to the former and 46 for the latter (there was a minus-three yard run credited to “team” at the end of the half).

Field position also played a pivotal role in each team’s success, or lack thereof.  Penn State started all six of its first-half drive from inside its 25-yard line, including three inside the 20.  Ohio State, meanwhile, started all but one of its six drives from outside its own 25-yard line.  OSU’s starting position was an average of 20 yards better than PSU’s.

The Buckeyes, already up, will get the kickoff to open the second half.

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No. 4 Alabama comes out firing, leads Tennessee 27-10 at the half

Blake Sims

It’s hard to start a game hotter than No. 4 Alabama did at Tennessee tonight.

After forcing a Tennessee punt to open the game, Blake Sims found Amari Cooper for an 80-yard touchdown pass on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage. The Tide immediately forced a Tennessee three-and-out, and then marched 79 yards in seven plays, capped by a 41-yard scoring strike from Sims to Cooper, to take a 13-0 lead six minutes into the game.

Alabama then forced the Volunteers’ third punt of the first quarter, and promptly moved 90 yards in nine plays and exactly four minutes to push the lead to 20-0.

Sims added a 28-yard touchdown run with 12:03 to go in the second quarter to push the gap to 27-0, and Alabama’s overall run to 86-0 dating back to its 59-0 demolition of Texas A&M last week.

Tennessee closed the half on a 10-0 run, getting a nine-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs to Josh Malone and an Aaron Medley field goal to close the half, but the Tide have felt firmly in control of this game from the opening gun.

Sims has hit 8-of-16 passes for 219 yards and two scores, plus the 28-yard run, and Cooper has toyed with the Tennessee secondary, catching half a dozen passes for 194 yards and those two touchdowns.

Dobbs replaced starter Nathan Peterman after a 2-for-4 start for 10 yards and completed eight of his 13 passes for 89 yards and a score while also serving as Tennessee’s leading rusher with 10 carries for 56 yards.

Alabama will receive the ball to open the second half.

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South Carolina goes toe-to-toe with No. 5 Auburn, tied 21-21 at half

Steve Spurrier

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier decided to hold nothing back against the No. 5 Auburn Tigers. And the Gamecocks are standing toe-to-toe with Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers.

After two quarters of play, the two teams are tied 21-12 at halftime. Each and every time the Gamecocks took a lead, the Tigers answered.

South Carolina got on the board first with a fantastic 32-yard pass from Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson to wide receiver Shaq Roland. Thompson was 12-of-19 passing for 197 yard and three touchdowns.

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall wasn’t impressed. The senior accumulated 123 total yards with a pair of touchdowns.

But the most impressive player on the field was South Carolina running back Mike Davis. The junior ran for 40 yards on nine carries. He also proved to be a weapon out of the backfield with three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown.

On the other hand, Cameron Artis-Payne led Auburn with 86 rushing yards on 12 carries.

During the second half, South Carolina must keep its foot on the gas pedal. Spurrier can’t let up as his team attempts to upset one of the most talented programs in the country.

Auburn, meanwhile, simply needs to execute and remain disciplined on defense. The Gamecocks will continue to throw everything they have at them. If Ellis Johnson‘s defense does what it’s coached to do, they’ll likely be able to capitalize on an eventual mistake. Thompson already made one with an interception in the red zone. He’ll be prone to making another.

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LSU not afraid to attack Ole Miss as Rebels lead 7-3 at halftime

Terrence Magee, La'el Collins

The LSU Tigers decided that instead of avoiding the strength of Ole Miss’ defense to attack it.

Ole Miss entered Saturday’s contest as the nation’s sixth-best run defense. LSU didn’t care. The Tigers ran for 147 yards with the Rebels leading 7-3 at halftime.

Despite the attention given to Ole Miss’ “Landshark” defense, it’s an undersized unit. And the biggest advantage for the Tigers is their size and physicality along an experienced offensive line. Les Miles‘ coaching staff took full advantage of the size disparity.

Ball control became a priority for the Tigers. During LSU’s only scoring drive, the Tigers held the ball for nine minutes and seven seconds. LSU eventually settled for a field goal after the 17-play, 90-yard drive.

However, LSU had Ole Miss’ defense on its heels throughout the first half. The score might be different if LSU’s freshman running back, Leonard Fournette, didn’t fumble the football within Ole Miss’ 5-yard line earlier in the contest. LSU turned the ball over twice in the first half.

Ole Miss wasn’t executing at a high level either. Quarterback Bo Wallace has been lauded for the mistake-free football he’s played during the Rebels’ initial conference games. The senior signal-caller has been far more daring with his passes in Death Valley. And it’s nearly cost the team.

Wallace was only 5-of-15 passing during the first half.

Overall, the Rebels were in position to score multiple times when they had possession of the football. Instead, two touchdowns were called back (one due to review and another from a penalty). Ole Miss can move the ball, but it needs to stop LSU’s running attack to gain possession and score.

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Clearly missing Deshaun Watson, No. 21 Clemson trailing Syracuse 6-3 at the half

Cole Stoudt

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney promised injured quarterback Deshaun Watson his starting job will be there for him when he returns from surgery to repair an injured hand. Swinney’s words have proven unnecessary through one half against Syracuse, as backup quarterback Cole Stoudt‘s command of the offense has been all the assurance Watson could ever need.

Behind Stoudt’s 11-of-15 passing for 96 yards with an interception and a fumble, the 21st-ranked Tigers trail Syracuse 6-3 at the break.

Clemson was poised to take the lead just before the half, but a brilliant Chad Morris play-call saw C.J. Davidson drop a pitch and then fail to recover loose ball at the Orange’s eight-yard line. Then, after getting the ball back with 1:22 remaining in the quarter, Stoudt lost the ball as he was being tackled by a host of Syracuse defenders, as the Orange’s Dyshawn Davis came away with the ball.

Stoudt’s fumble allowed Syracuse to take a 6-3 lead as time expired in the half.

Though it’s on the wrong end of the scoreboard, the Clemson defense has been outstanding. Syracuse has mounted only 127 yards of total offense and committed a turnover of its own.

Clemson will receive the ball to open the second half.

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

Davonte' Neal, Michael Lowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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