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The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

Florida v Miami Getty Images

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

WINNERS

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!
Well would you look at what basketball conference has done a little bit of football growing up the first two weeks of the season.  And what football program grabbed a signature win by the throat after years of NCAA turmoil.  It was far from pretty offensively — most games involving the team from Gainesville are — but unranked (for now) Miami was able to punch its way to a 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida, the biggest win for The U since, what, Ohio State in 2011?  Florida State or Oklahoma in 2009?  Regardless, it was Al Golden‘s biggest win in his two-plus years with the Hurricanes, and a clear signal that, while they might not be there yet, The U is certainly pointed in the direction of the national stage.  It’s also a sign that, after Clemson’s win over then-No. 5 Georgia opening weekend, the ACC will no longer be a pushover at the top.  Or that the SEC East is vastly overrated.  One of the two.

Big OBC monkey, be gone!
For both No. 11 Georgia in general and Aaron Murray specifically, there has been a mountain-sized monkey on their respective backs, a South Carolina one for the former and a big-game one for the latter.  In one fell swoop, the simian has left the building thanks to the Bulldogs’ highly-entertaining 41-30 win over the No. 6 Gamecocks.  For UGA it snapped a three-game losing streak against the ‘Cocks, made even sweeter coming off the tough three-point loss to Clemson.  For Murray, it was just his second win — versus four losses — against a team ranked in the Top Ten.  With the Bulldogs defense (again) struggling, Murray turned in a career-like performance, throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns.  Here’s to guessing Murray’s home won’t get TP’d and/or egged this year.

Teddy Heisman?
Tabbed as the gambling Heisman Trophy frontrunner earlier this week, Teddy Bridgewater did little to break that momentum this weekend.  In No. 8 Louisville’s thumping of  FCS-level Eastern Kentucky, the quarterback completed 23-of-32 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns.  On the season, Bridgewater has completed 77 percent of his passes for 752 yards, nine touchdowns and an interception.  Granted, the competition has been a MAC school and one from the FCS — and the schedule doesn’t get much tougher moving forward — but the junior is doing what he has to do: putting up big numbers when he’s supposed to, all the while hoping that some teams from the AAC step up their level of play.

Bryce PettyRG Who? Nick Florence what?
Over the past two seasons, No. 23 Baylor has been forced to replace Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence, who passed for 4,300 yards and 33 touchdowns in his lone season as the Bears’ starting quarterback.  Some thought that the BU offensive machine may have to throttle down with a first-year starter in control.  Um, yeah, not even close.  Coming off a season-opening win in which they rolled up 69 points and 692 yards of offense, Baylor stuffed 56 points and 501 yards of offense in the stat sheet… in the first half alone.  For the game, the Bears totaled a school-record 781 yards of offense in the 70-13 walk over Buffalo.  The first-year starter, Bryce Petty, has completed 84 percent of his 38 passes for 650 yards and four touchdowns in what’s essentially a total of five quarters worth of playing time.  The takeaway from BU’s start?  Never, ever underestimate the genius that is Art Briles when it comes to the quarterback position.

The 100-plus trio, x2
Last week, for just the third time in school history, No. 21 Wisconsin saw three different players rush for over one hundred yards in a single game.  Seven days later, it’s lather, rinse, repeat for the Badgers’ ground game.  This week against Tennessee Tech, it was true freshman Corey Clement with 149 yards; Melvin Gordon with 140; and James White with 109.  Last week it was Gordon with 144; White with 143; and Clement with 101.  Thus far this season, the Badgers have rushed for 780 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging an obscene 8.2 yards per carry.  Those gaudy numbers all came against UMass and an FCS school, though; next week will be a better gauge of where UW stands in its first year under Gary Andersen as the Badgers travel to Arizona State.

Zach attack
It was thought that, given the number of losses the defense had incurred throughout the offseason, No. 9 LSU’s offense might have to carry the other side of the ball, at least for the early portion of the season.  In Game 2, mission accomplished.  Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, somewhat maligned throughout the 2012 season, passed for 282 yards and, more impressively, a school-record five touchdown passes in a 56-17 romp over UAB.  Not only that, the Tigers rushed for 152 yards and added two touchdowns on the ground.  While the Bayou Bengals will certainly face stiffer tests defensively on down the road, Les Miles and his offensive coaching staff — including new coordinator Cam Cameron — have to be privately hopeful that Mettenberger has turned the corner as a quarterback.

No Goff-ing off for true frosh
To say that Jared Goff has taken well to the game of college football would be a massive understatement.  A four-star member of Cal’s 2013 recruiting class, the true freshman has started the first two games of the Sonny Dykes era and passed for 930 yards.  That number is the most passing yards in a team’s first two games of a season since Colt Brennan in 2007 (964).  485 of Dykes’ yards came in the win over Portland State Saturday.  Even more impressive?  415 of them came against a very good Northwestern defense in Week 1.  It may take some time to turn Cal around, but it appears the Berkeley bunch will be set at the quarterback position for at least the next two-plus years.

‘Merica
Why did the whole of the United States of America win Saturday night?  Because we were all witnesses to this:

Eminem

Eminem on a college football broadcast talking NFL point spreads with Brent Musburger.  I can now, finally, die a happy man.

LOSERS

Austin, we have a prob… [/gets run over by large Mormons]
After placing Texas No. 23 in my preseason Top 25 and writing that I’m not buying into a Longhorn resurgence, I received quite a few, shall I say, not-so-nice emails blasting both my intelligence and manhood.  Burnt Orange Nation, here’s your sign.  In Saturday night’s loss , BYU racked up 348 yards rushing… and then the two teams came out and played the second half.   In the end, the carnage was about as bad as you’d expect as the Cougars rolled over, through, around and back over the No. 15 (chuckle) ‘Horns for good measure to the tune of 550 yards on the ground in UT’s 40-21 loss.  That number was, obviously, a school record for both teams.  Following the game, I received the following text from a long-time, diehard UT buddy, which has been cleaned up somewhat because this is kind of a family-friendly website: “[Bad word} that [mother-related bad word] Mack Brown. [Bad word] his coaching staff, [bad word] DeLoss, [bad word] the whole lot of ‘em.  Never been more [bad word] embarrassed to be a ‘Horn. [Bad word] my life.” At bare minimum, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had better pray long and hard tonight that he has a job come Sunday afternoon.  Long-term, the UT athletic department had better think long and hard about Mack Brown and how much he’s humiliating and embarrassing a proud and iconic football program.  Is Brown the 2013 version of Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno?  For the future of the program, the administration had better figure it out and figure it out quick.

Lane duck?
This was the scene at the Coliseum midway through the fourth quarter, with No. 25 USC and Washington State tied at 7-all:

USC

And that was before the Trojans went on to an embarrassing 10-7 loss to Wazzu.  And before the “FIRE KIFFIN” chants from the smattering of fans who remained washed over the historic stadium.

Pat Haden, you’ve been put on notice.  With a sea of empty seats in a close game, the customers are voicing their opinions of Lane Kiffin loud and clear.

Patently offensive
In an attempt to shakeup an offense that’s been in a year-plus lull, Mark Dantonio benched starter Andrew Maxwell in favor of Connor Cook for the game against USF.  The result?  The Spartans could muster just 264 yards of total offense — just 94 passing — and one touchdown in the 21-6 win.  On the season, MSU’s offense has scored two touchdowns; the defense has scored four.  Yes, the Spartans are 2-0 for the fourth straight season, but the offense is light years away from even being average let alone competitive in the Big Ten.

Hilldroppers
When you’re a “mid-major” football program facing an SEC school on the road, the last thing you can afford to do is turn the ball over.  So, of course, that’s exactly what Western Kentucky did Saturday.  Boy, did they ever do it.  In a span of six plays in the first quarter of the loss to Tennessee, the Hilltoppers turned the ball over five times.  Quarterback Brandon Doughty tossed three interceptions, while WKU backs coughed up a pair of fumbles.  Two of Doughty’s picks were returned for touchdowns, while the Vols converted the other three turnovers into 17 points.  After that the Hilltoppers settled down on the turnover front — just two more the rest of the game, all in the first half — but it was too little, too late as the Vols cruised to a 52-20 win, its second consecutive win in the first season under Butch Jones.

Blow that Bridgford up
Coming to Southern Miss from Cal, Allan Bridgford was expected to provide veteran leadership at the quarterback position for a team coming off a winless 2012 campaign.  While that may ultimately end up being the case, it’s not in the here and now.  In Bridgford’s first two starts — both losses — he’s thrown five interceptions.  Included in that turnover tally were three picks Saturday, with two of those returned for touchdowns by Nebraska in the Cornhuskers’ 56-13 blowout.

Fashion faux pas on The Plains
Following the opening kickoff of the Arkansas State-Auburn, the Red Wolves were penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.  While such a penalty is not unusual, even in the opening seconds of a game, the reason for the unsportsmanlike call is: failure to wear contrasting colors.  That’s right, ASU was penalized because AU wore blue jerseys while they came out with grey tops.  Technically speaking, the Red Wolves would’ve needed to wear white in order to avoid a flag.  For those curious, via Jon Solomon of al.com, here’s what the egregious act looked like:

Arkansas State

In fairness to ASU, you’re really not supposed to wear white after Labor Day anyway…

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

– No. 16 Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 7: Not only did the Sooners narrowly escape with a nine-point win over a mediocre Mountaineers squad, but OU could have a quarterback controversy on its hands as Blake Bell replaced an ineffective Trevor Knight (119 yards, two third-quarter interceptions)  in the fourth quarter.  In an ominous sign, head coach Bob Stoops said afterwards that he and his staff would evaluate the position further.

– No. 24 TCU 38, Southeastern Louisiana 17: While the final spread was three touchdowns, the Horned Frogs led the FCS school by just three points at halftime.  To make matters worse, starting quarterback Casey Pachall has been lost for the foreseeable future to injury.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — The bye weekend came at a fortuitous time for the Tide as it gave the coaching staff a chance to tinker with the offense in general and the offensive line specifically ahead of the mammoth rematch in College Station. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: at Texas A&M

2. Clemson — The Tigers’ Week 1 win over Georgia was even more impressive in light of the Bulldogs’ win over No. 6 South Carolina in Week 2.  The 52-13 win over FCS-level South Carolina State merely served as an early-season scrimmage as the Tigers prepare for the ACC opener a week from this coming Thursday against North Carolina State.
Next up: bye weekend

San Diego State v Ohio State3. Ohio State — The Buckeyes made San Diego State pay for its uneven performance in the opener against Buffalo, totaling 445 yards of offense (263 rushing, 182 passing) en route to an easy 42-7 win over the Aztecs.  Making it even more impressive is that they did it in large part without star quarterback Braxton Miller, who suffered a knee injury but should return for the road trip to Berkeley next week. OSU still owns the nation’s longest winning streak, now at 14 straight. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: at Cal

4. Oregon — In two games thus far this season against Nicholls State and Virginia, the Ducks have possessed the ball for a total of 41:11… and scored 125 points, an average of over three points per minute.  Damn, that makes me tired typing it let alone defending it. (Last week No. 4)
Up next: Tennessee

5. Louisville — Get used to variations of this if the Cardinals keep winning: thanks to a cupcake slate, the U of L cruised to an easy 44-7 win over overmatched Eastern Kentucky.  The Cardinals can only control how they look against an underwhelming schedule, and they’ve done that thus far by winning their first two games by an average of nearly 35 points per game.  One slip though — even a close win against a vastly inferior opponent — and Louisville will go tumbling out of this poll and, more importantly, down the polls that actually count. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: at Kentucky

HE SAID IT
“We’ve been through so much. It was almost cathartic, to be honest with you. It was 26 months just unleashed there in the last four or five seconds.” — Al Golden, following Miami’s win over in-state rival Florida.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I take pride in the fact the offense almost does not skip a beat when I come into the game. I just do my best to be a leader in that way. I let the team know everything is going to be okay.” — Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton, who led a seamless transition from an injured Braxton Miller in the Buckeyes’ win.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“The team that loses this game is waiting for the other’s bus to break down. We’ve been chasing them the last thee years. South Carolina has a very good team, and this year, we get a chance to sit in the driver’s seat. … We haven’t been 1-0 in the league in awhile because South Carolina’s been getting us. Today, we got them, and I’m so thankful.” — Mark Richt following Georgia’s huge win over the albatross that had become South Carolina.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“Our job as a team was to try to destroy this team early.” — Art Briles, following Baylor’s 57-point evisceration of Buffalo.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
This sign, from the Notre Dame-Michigan pregame festivities, needs no explanation whatsoever:

GameDay Sign

Well-played, UM fans.  Well-played.

SAY WHAT?
No. 3 Ohio State scored 42 points in its 35-point win over San Diego State Saturday afternoon.  That pushes the Buckeyes’ all-time record when scoring at least 35 points in a game to an astounding 277-0-1.

TRUE STORY
Once three weeks of the 2013 season are officially in the books next Saturday night, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and either Alabama or Texas A&M will have at least one loss apiece.  Chew on that for a minute.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Central Arkansas v Colorado– In the first two games of the season, in his first two games back since a significant knee injury last year, Colorado’s Paul Richardson has caught 21 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.  Included in that total was an 11-catch, 209-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over Central Arkansas.

– In BYU’s embarrassment of Texas, Cougars starting quarterback — quarterback!!! — Taysom Hill rushed for 259 yards and three touchdowns.  Hill had 334 yards and four rushing in six games last season.

J.W. Walsh completed 24-of-27 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns in No. 13 Oklahoma State’s win over UT-San Antonio.  His 88.9 completion percentage broke the school record set by Brandon Weeden in 2011 (85.7%).

Cole Stoudt, playing in place of Tajh Boyd during Clemson’s blowout win over South Carolina State, set a school record by completing 95 percent (19-20) of his passes. The previous record was 94.1 percent when Woodrow Dantzler went 16-for-17 against Citadel in 2000.

– In less than three quarters of work, Johnny Manziel threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score in No. 7 Texas A&M’s 65-28 win over Sam Houston State.

– In just a little over a half of work, Boise State’s Joe Southwick threw five touchdowns in the Broncos’ 63-14 win over Tennessee-Martin.

– In the loss to Georgia, South Carolina’s Mike Davis rushed for 149 yards on just 16 carries.

Chuckie Keaton totaled 433 yards of offense (360 passing, 77 rushing) as Utah State bounced back from the loss to Utah in Week 1 by dropping Air Force 52-20.

– Thanks to an injury to Casey Pachall late in the second quarter, Trevone Boykin led No. 24 TCU in passing yards (133) and tied for the team lead in receptions (three).  He added 35 yards rushing, which was third best on the team on the day.

Christian Hackenberg set a Penn State record for most passing yards by a freshman with 311 in the Nittany Lions’ rout of Eastern Michigan.  The five-star 2013 recruit broke the record of 280 set by Zach Mills, who hit that number twice in 2001.

– In his school’s season opener Thursday night, Taylor Kelly (no relation) passed for 300 yards and five touchdowns — to five different receivers — in Arizona State’s 55-0 romp over Sacramento State.

– In two games this season, Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase has thrown for 728 yard, six touchdowns and one interception.  In 10 games last season, he had four touchdowns and eight interceptions.

– On the first carry of his collegiate career, five-star 2013 Oregon recruit Thomas Tyner scored on a three-yard in the third quarter of the Ducks win over Virginia.Fellonte Misher, Stefon Diggs

– Speaking of former five-star recruits, Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs had six receptions for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown in the Terps’ win over Old Dominion.  His previous high-water yardage mark was 152 against Boston College last October.

– Coming off a one-game suspension, Arizona Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher in 2012, rushed for 171 yards on 16 carries in a win over UNLV.

– USC totaled just 193 yards in its loss to Washington State.  Their longest pass play?  Eight yards.  Their longest run?  19 yards.

– Kentucky rolled up 675 yards of total offense in the 41-7 win over Miami (OH), the third-most in program history and the most since 1998.  The Wildcats had 410 in the first half; they topped that mark in an entire game just twice in 2012.

– In a 38-0 win Friday night, UCF allowed FIU just 31 yards on 29 carries (1.1 yards per carry).  Of course, a team rush for minus-29 yards in the third quarter didn’t help the Panthers’ rushing efforts.

– On the opposite end of the running-game spectrum, Navy rushed for 444 yards in a six-point win over Indiana.

– A crowd of 115,109 people packed the stands of the Big House in Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame-Michigan game.  That’s the largest crowd to ever witness a college football game.  The previous record was 114,804 for the 2011 ND-UM game.

– Speaking of attendance records, and known mainly for no-shows over the past handful of years, Miami’s home game against Florida drew a crowd of 76,869 Saturday afternoon.  That’s the most fans to ever take in a Hurricanes game at Sun Life Stadium.

– With the easy skate past Virginia, No. 2 Oregon has now won 16 straight road games.  That’s the longest such current streak in the nation.

– Wisconsin has recorded back-to-back shutouts to open the season for the first time since 1958.

– Texas A&M tied a school record, first set in 1986, with 38 first downs.

– Duke is now 2-0 on the young season after its win over Memphis.  It marks the first time in 15 years since the Blue Devils started a season with two straight wins.

IN CLOSING…
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Munchie Legaux, who suffered a gruesome lower-leg injury in Cincinnati’s loss to Illinois.  Not only does the UC quarterback possess one of the greatest names in college football history, he’s also by all accounts one of the nicest, classiest kids in the game today.  A statement from the school said that Legaux will remain hospitalized overnight as doctors continue to evaluate his medical situation.  Here’s to hoping Legaux comes back from this devastating injury sooner rather than later.

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A&M axes defensive coordinator Mark Snyder

Mark Snyder

And let the Will Muschamp Watch in College Station commence in earnest.

Less than 24 hours after Texas A&M closed out the regular season with a 23-17 loss to LSU, head coach Kevin Sumlin announced that the football program has, ahem, “parted ways” with defensive coordinator Mark Snyder.  Linebackers coach Mark Hagan will serve as the interim coordinator for the Aggies’ bowl appearance.

Snyder, who just completed his third season with the Aggies, will be due $700,000 in salary through March of 2016.

“Mark is an outstanding coach and even better person, but he understands the production needed to be better,” Sumlin said in a portion of his statement.

The fact that Snyder was jettisoned is far from surprising.  This season, A&M’s defense was 11th or worse among the 14 teams in the SEC in nearly every major statistical category.  Entering Week 14, the Aggies were 77th nationally and 11th in the conference — ahead of only Kentucky (30.1), Vanderbilt (32.4) and South Carolina (32.7) — in points allowed per game (27.7). When it comes to yards allowed, they were even worse: at 445.2 yards per game, the Aggies were dead last in the conference and 100th in the country.

As to where Sumlin will, or should, begin his search, look no further than the deposed Florida Gators head coach.  While his time in the Swamp was far from a success, Will Muschamp is still widely viewed as one of the top defensive coordinators in the country.  Until there’s a resolution one way or the other, it will be Muschamp’s name that’s first off the tongue of an Aggie fan — and should be first on Sumlin’s coordinator to-do list.

(Photo credit: Texas A&M athletics)

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Offensive fireworks send Marshall’s perfect season up in OT flames

And then there was one.

Entering Week 14, Marshall was one of just two undefeated FBS teams in the country.  The Herd had also just entered the Top 25 of the most recent College Football Playoff rankings.  All of that, though, came crashing down on the Herd as they dropped a wild 67-66 decision to visiting Western Kentucky in overtime.

The Herd sent the game into overtime on a touchdown with :39 seconds left, then scored a touchdown on its first overtime possession to take a 66-59 lead.  However, the Hilltoppers matched that touchdown and added a two-point conversion for the win.

Defense was merely a rumor in this game as the 133 combined points was the second-most ever for a game featuring at least one overtime, behind only the 2007 Boise State-Nevada in which 136 points were scored in the four-overtime affair.  The two teams combined for 1,438 yards of offense, behind the record of 1,640 set in 2001 during the San Jose State-Nevada.  Prior to this season, there had only been 40 games in the history of college football at the FBS/Div. 1-A level in which both teams gained more than 600 yards of offense.

One record that was set?  The most combined touchdown passes by two players in a single game, with WKU’s Brandon Doughty (eight) and MU’s Rakeem Cato (seven) combining for 15.

Marshall has already clinched the East division of Conference USA and will play in the league title game next Saturday.  A win Saturday would’ve ensured that that game would’ve been played in Huntington; now, the location is up in the air.  From the league’s official tiebreaker guidelines:

If Marshall loses to WKU on Friday and Louisiana Tech defeats Rice, both teams would have the same conference record (7-1). Marshall and Louisiana Tech do not play in the regular season, eliminating the head-to-head tie-breaker, the second tiebreaker after conference record. Therefore, the CFP ranking is the next tie-breaker. If neither team is in the top 25 of the CFP Rankings, average select computer ranking (Anderson and Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix and Wolfe) would be used to determine host.

The loss is also a blow to Marshall’s New Year’s Day bowl game aspirations, although not a fatal one — at least not yet.  The highest-ranked Group of Five team will earn a spot in one of the four marquee bowl games that aren’t a part of the CFP rotation this year; Marshall was No. 24 last week, while Boise State was No. 23.  It would seem likely that the Herd will drop out, although the Broncos could tumble out as well with a loss to Utah State Saturday.

Colorado State and Northern Illinois, which clinched the MAC West earlier today to move to 10-2 on the year, are also contenders for that lone Group of Five slot.

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Dawgs calling Hogs? Arkansas up on Mizzou at the half

Arkansas v Missouri Getty Images

The biggest fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks reside in Fayetteville and surrounding areas.  The second-biggest?  At least for this weekend, they reside in Athens, Georgia… and they’re extremely bullish on the Hogs right at the moment.

Through two quarters of play in Columbia, UA is taking it to SEC East-leading Missouri 14-6.  Brandon Allen, whose availability leading into the game due to injury was somewhat questionable, completed 7-of-10 passes for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

While the Razorbacks’ defense saw its shutout streak end — they hadn’t allowed a point in the last two games — they did hold the Tigers to 121 yards of first-half offense, including just 22 on the ground and an average of 1.3 yard per carry.

If Missouri can mount a second-half comeback and win, it would be headed to its second consecutive SEC championship game.  If Mizzou loses, Georgia would claim the East based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Arkansas, incidentally, will get the ball on offense to start the second half.

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‘Huskers rally past Iowa… and save Pelini’s coaching skin in process?

Nebraska v Iowa Getty Images

Those sounds you may have heard toward the end of the second quarter of the Nebraska-Iowa game? It was a mob in Lincoln firing up their torches and sharpening their pitchforks.  Whether what happened over the next two-plus quarters — and extra time — has quieted the grousing and grumbling in the nation’s heartland, however, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that Nebraska mounted a massive comeback, in part because Iowa failed to capitalize on first-half opportunities… and then failed to put the game away late… and then stunned the Iowa City crowd in overtime to “steal” a 37-34 win.

The Hawkeyes took a 24-7 lead at the midway point of the second quarter, although the damage could’ve — and likely should’ve — been much, much worse. Twice in the first half, the Hawkeyes drove into the red zone, and inside the 10-yard line even, only to turn the ball over to the Cornhuskers. At worst the lead at that point should’ve been 30-7; at best, it would’ve been a seemingly insurmountable 38-7 deficit for the ‘Huskers on the road.

Instead, the ‘Huskers dodged those bullets and began firing some of their own. A touchdown with :20 left in the second quarter cut the lead to 24-14. NU then shut Iowa’s offense down for most of the second half while scoring 14 points on offense/special teams to take a 28-24 lead.

De’Mornay Pierson-El‘s 80-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter was looking like the winning score until a Jake Ruddock five-yard touchdown pass to running back Jordan Canzeri with 1:49 remaining put the Hawkeyes back on top 31-28. Tommie Armstrong Jr. then led the ‘Huskers on a drive that was capped by a field goal to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Iowa’s possession in the first overtime resulted in a field goal.  On Nebraska’s possession, Armstrong Jr. tossed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Bell that, after a replay review, gave the Cornhuskers the come-from-behind win.

Despite the dramatic win that showed the tremendous heart on that squad, the questions surrounding Bo Pelini‘s future with the program will still swirl.

Nebraska improved to 9-3 on the season with a bowl game remaining. In each of Pelini’s previous six seasons in Lincoln, the ‘Huskers had lost four games; they’ve won 10 games in three seasons and nine in three others. Is that enough for the fan base and, more importantly, the administration?

It’s not that the Cornhuskers are a bad program under Pelini, it’s that they’re not even remotely the Cornhuskers of Tom Osborne.  Or, more to the point, they’re not even the Cornhuskers of Frank Solich.  In Osborne’s 25 seasons, NU never lost four games in a season and only lost three games in a season eight times.  Certainly Osborne is a lofty barometer for Pelini, but it’s not beyond the pale to think that the Cornhuskers should’ve returned to the national stage at some point during the current coach’s seven-year tenure.  Hell, Solich lost three or fewer games in four of his six seasons — either one or two losses in three of those years — and can claim one conference championship to go along with two other division titles; Pelini hasn’t even won a division title, let alone a conference one, in a tenure that’s one year beyond what Solich got from the university.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see Pelini remain with the Cornhuskers.  It also wouldn’t be a shock to see the two sides part ways.  Either way, it’s a situation that bears monitoring as the 2014 coaching carousel gets set to swing into high gear.

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NIU stakes claim to West divisional MACtion

MAC Logo

Northern Illinois came into Friday needing only a win over Western Michigan to secure a spot in the MAC championship game. As it turns out, the Huskies did just that.

Things looked bright for NIU early on as they scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 65-yard catch-and-run between quarterback Drew Hare and wide receiver Daniel Braverman that was 99-percent run. The Broncos, however, scored the next 21 points to take a 14-point lead deep into the second quarter.

From then on, though, it was all Huskies. NIU kicked a field at the end of the first half to cut the deficit to 21-10, then scored 21 second-half points to put the finishing touches on the 31-21 win.

The win means NIU will now face East winner Bowling Green in the MAC championship next Friday in Detroit.  The Huskies have now won five straight West division titles, and have won two of their last four championship game appearances.  They’ve appeared in five total in the 17-year history of the event.

WMU would’ve won the West with a win over NIU and a loss by Toledo this afternoon.  Toledo would’ve won the West with a win over Eastern Michigan and an NIU loss.

The Broncos have nothing to be ashamed of, however, as they went from 1-11 in 2013 to 8-4 in 2014 with a bowl game (probably) still in the offing.

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Ohio State issues statements on missing player

Kosta Karageorge II

As the search a missing Ohio State football player continues, the university has publicly addressed the situation for the first time.

Kosta Karageorge has not been seen since leaving his on-campus apartment very early Wednesday.  The search, which is now in its third day, involves the Columbus Police Department and the player’s family and friends, and came after the family filed missing person’s reports with three different police departments.

Karageorge, a senior walk-on, did not show for practice Wednesday or Thursday.  Karageorge’s head coach asked anyone with any knowledge of the defensive lineman’s whereabouts to contact authorities.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Kosta Karageorge and we pray that he is safe and that he is found soon,” Urban Meyer said in a statement. “He is a young man who joined the football team in August and was a hard worker on the field and pleasant off the field. He has been an important player in practice for us, right up until the time he was reported missing. If anyone knows anything about his whereabouts, please help his family and contact the authorities.”

In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Karageorge’s sister, Sophia Karageorge, pointed to a history of sports-related concussions and sometimes becoming disoriented that has the family understandably worried. In that vein, the football program also released a statement attributed to the team’s physician, Dr. Jim Borchers.

“First and foremost, our primary concern is for the health, safety and welfare of Kosta,” the doctor said. “While we are not able to discuss or comment about the medical care regarding our student-athletes, we are confident in our medical procedures and policies to return athletes to participation following injury or illness.”

Again, anyone with any type of information on Karageorge’s whereabouts is being asked to call 614-747-1729.

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Marshall, WKU lighting up first-half scoreboard, stat sheet

Chris Thomas

It appears that Marshall is celebrating its rise to the Top 25 of the latest College Football Playoff rankings by giving its defense the weekend off.  And, in the spirit of sportsmanship, it appears the Herd’s opponent is following suit.

The two teams combined for a staggering 91 first-half points, with the 24th-ranked Herd trailing the 6-5 Hilltoppers 49-42 (not pictured).  They were a mere field goal away from tying the FBS record for most points in a half by both teams set during the North Texas-Navy game in 2007.  That game also set the record for most points in regulation by both teams at 136, a mark that is obviously in reach.

Another record that’s within reach?  Single-game total offense for both teams, set during the 2001 San Jose State-Nevada game (1,640); through two quarters, Marshall-WKU has seen 840, 462 for the latter and 378 for the former.

Of the 13  touchdowns scored in the game, 11 of them came on touchdown passes — six for WKU’s Brandon Doughty, five MU’s Rakeem Cato. The FBS record for a half is seven by several players, most recently by Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz in 201 vs. USC.

Marshall has already clinched the Conference USA East title and, with a win, would host the conference championship game next weekend in Huntington.

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Blech Friday: Hawkeyes atop ‘Huskers in first-half turnover fest

Iowa v Nebraska Getty Images

If you wanted to put a DVD in a time capsule to explain to future generations — or aliens — how Big Ten football is viewed by most of the country, the Black Friday Nebraska-Iowa would do the trick.

At the end of two quarters of play, the Hawkeyes lead the Cornhuskers 10-7 in Iowa City.  The game’s first touchdown, not so unexpectedly, came on a 17-yard interception return by Iowa’s John Lowdermilk in the middle of second quarter.  The only other touchdown, a five-yard pass from NU’s Tommie Armstrong Jr. to Ameer Abdullah with :20 seconds left, came after the sixth turnover of the half.

The offenses from both sides were, well, offensive for the better part of the first half.  Or, if you prefer, the defenses were stellar.  Either way, it was a half that made offensive aficionados cringe and/or throw up a little bit in their mouths.

Midway through the second quarter, the two teams combined for 150 yards of offense (Iowa 110, Nebraska 40); the Hawkeyes would finish the half with 178 yards and the Cornhuskers 92.  The Cornhuskers didn’t complete a pass until there were less than two minutes left in the second quarter, and 34 of their 49 first-half passing yards came on one play.

Iowa had five first-half possessions, and those ended with two interceptions, a fumble, a field goal and taking a knee at the end of the half.  Two of those turnovers, incidentally, came in the red zone, while the fourth of the four led to NU’s lone score.  The Hawkeyes also fumbled a punt back to the ‘Huskers to account for their four turnovers.

Nebraska had six possessions, those of which ended in a pair of punts, a missed field goal, the pick-six, another interception and the touchdown.

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Amidst SMU talk, Chad Morris says he’s ‘completely focused on SC’

Syracuse v Clemson Getty Images

Thanksgiving night, multiple media outlets reported that Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has been tapped as SMU’s next head coach.  One website reported that Morris would make $3 million-plus annually on a multi-year contract, with the hiring expected to be announced the first week of December.

While that may ultimately be the case, none of the sides involved are inclined to confirm.

Clemson officials have not commented on the reports thus far, while SMU athletic director Rick Hart told USA Today in a text message late Thursday night that there is “no deal with anyone yet.”  For his part, Morris downplayed the talk while also stating that his focus is on the game at hand.

Unreal, everyone thinks they know,” the coordinator said in a text message to The Clemson Insider. “Sorry completely focused on SC.”

Clemson is putting its finishing touches on Saturday’s annual in-state rivalry game with South Carolina.

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Search for missing Ohio State football player continues

Kosta Karageorge III

The search for an Ohio State football player who has been missing since the middle of the week continues the day after Thanksgiving.

Kosta Karageorge, a walk-on reserve defensive lineman for the Buckeyes, has not been seen since leaving his on-campus apartment around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.  Karageorge’s family has filed a missing person’s report, and the Columbus Police Department is involved in the search.  A report has also been filed with police departments in Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington.

According to Karageorge’s sister, Sophia, there were “some extenuating circumstances that night that lead us to believe he was upset” prior to him leaving his apartment. Karageorge did not show up for practice Wednesday or Thursday, which only adds to the family’s fears.

He never misses practice,” Sophia Karageorge told the Columbus Dispatch. “I’ve seen him go to wrestling practice with a broken foot. I’ve seen him sick as a dog go to practice. He’s always on schedule. He always has somewhere where he checks in.”

Kosta Karageorge IIThe Dispatch writes that Karageorge “was wearing black sweatpants over his jeans, black Timberland boots, a black hoodie with FOC on it and a black beanie on his head” when he left his apartment; the picture to the left is Karageorge shortly before his disappearance.  On OSU’s official website, Karageorge is listed as being 6-3, 273 pounds. He has a short beard and, according to the paper, he recently shaved his head.

Anyone with any type of information on Karageorge’s whereabouts is being asked to call 614-747-1729.

For those in and around Columbus, a cell phone trace by the Columbus PD showed Karageorge being in the area of W. 3rd and Elmwood avenues in Grandview Heights at around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. A motorcycle he owns remains at the apartment complex, while “he does not have his car on campus,” the sister said. Additionally, Karageorge is carrying no identification as his wallet is with his girlfriend.

Sophia Karageorge pointed to a history of sports-related concussions and sometimes becoming disoriented that has the family understandably worried.

“We’re very concerned that he’s not himself and that he maybe doesn’t know what’s going on,” the sister told the Dispatch. “Every time he’s had a concussion, he’s been evaluated and listened to his trainers. He’s been properly taken care of by OSU the entire time he’s been an athlete for them.

“But … his repercussions from them have been long-term or delayed later after the fact.”

Family and friends will be reassembling at 1 p.m. ET this afternoon to resume the search for Karageorge.

(All photos courtesy of the Karageorge family)

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Sorting through the Group of Five conference title scenarios

Tiebreaker

Not surprisingly, most of the college football world’ attention is focused on the Power Five conference teams and the College Football Playoff heading into the last full weekend of the 2014 regular season.

There are, though, other goings on in the sport, namely conference races for the other five conferences dubbed the Group of Five.  All five of those leagues have yet to see an undisputed 2014 champion decided; four of those, though, will crown a champ — or co-champ — this weekend, with the AAC being the lone exception (possibly).

With that as a backdrop, here are those various clinching scenarios for the Group of Five leagues:

AAC
Memphis sits at 6-1 with one conference game remaining (vs. UConn), while Cincinnati and UCF are each 5-1 with two games each left (at Temple and vs. Houston for the former, at USF and at East Carolina for the latter).  This conference, however, does not have a championship game, so its method for determining its champ is laid out in the league’s weekly notes package:

In the event of a tie for the American Athletic Conference title, any tied teams would be declared co-champions. There is no formal conference tiebreaker policy for this season. The College Football Playoff committee would be able to select any of the tied teams for a New Year’s bowl game, based on the committee’s rankings.

Memphis is the only team that could claim the outright championship in Week 14, and that would happen if it won and Cincinnati and UCF lost.  Memphis, with a win, is also the only AAC team that can claim at least a co-championship this weekend.

CONFERENCE USA
EAST
At 7-0, Marshall has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

WEST
This division is nearly as simple as the winner of the Week 14 game between Louisiana Tech (6-1) and Rice (5-2) will face Marshall.

Another issue for the conference to be decided is where the title game will be played.  If Marshall beats Western Kentucky Saturday, the Herd will host the Louisiana Tech/Rice winner in Huntington.  If Marshall loses and Rice wins, Marshall would again host.  If Marshall loses and Louisiana Tech wins?  I’ll go ahead and allow the conference to lay out the particulars:

If Marshall loses to WKU on Friday and Louisiana Tech defeats Rice, both teams would have the same conference record (7-1). Marshall and Louisiana Tech do not play in the regular season, eliminating the head-to-head tie-breaker, the second tiebreaker after conference record. Therefore, the CFP ranking is the next tie-breaker. If neither team is in the top 25 of the CFP Rankings, average select computer ranking (Anderson and Hester, Billingsley, Colley Matrix and Wolfe) would be used to determine host.

MAC
EAST
At 5-2, Bowling Green has already clinched a spot in the conference championship game.

WEST
Three teams at 6-1 all remain alive in the divisional race: Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.  NIU and WMU play late Friday morning, while Toledo faces Eastern Michigan a couple of hours later.  What follows are the scenarios for each to claim the West:

Northern Illinois wins the West if… It beats Western Michigan; NIU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Toledo.
Toledo wins the West if… It beats Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois loses; UT holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Western Michigan.
Western Michigan wins the West if… It beats Northern Illinois, Toledo loses.

MOUNTAIN WEST
MOUNTAIN
Boise State, Colorado State and Utah State are all 6-1 entering the last week of the regular season, with Boise State and Utah State playing late Saturday night and Colorado State traveling to Air Force.  Here are the clinching scenarios for each team:

Boise State wins the Mountain if… It beats Utah State; BSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Colorado State.
Colorado State wins the Mountain if… It beats Air Force and Boise State loses to Utah State; CSU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Utah State
Utah State wins the Mountain if… It beats Boise State and Colorado State loses to Air Force.

WEST
With two teams at 4-3 (Fresno State, San Diego State) and two at 3-4 (Hawaii, Nevada), the West is a clusterf… well, you know.  So much so, in fact, that I’m just going to let the conference put this one into the barn:

  • Fresno State: wins the division with a win over Hawai‘i.
  • San Diego State: wins the division with a win over San José State and a Fresno State loss to Hawai‘i.
  • Hawai‘i: wins the division with a win at Fresno State and losses by Nevada (at UNLV) and San Diego State (vs. San José State).
  • In the event Fresno State loses to Hawai‘i, Nevada defeats UNLV and San Diego State falls to San José State, it will create a four-team tie atop the West Division standings at 4-4. In that scenario, Fresno State clinches the division based on the MW divisional tiebreaking procedures.

SUN BELT
As is the case with the AAC, there is no conference championship game in the SBC.  Georgia Southern (7-0) has already clinched a share of the 2014 title in its first season in the league, with a win over Louisiana Monroe Saturday giving them the undisputed title.  Louisiana-Lafayette can earn a co-championship with a win over Troy combined with a Georgia Southern loss.

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Ramifications 101: Setting the table for Week 14

Turkey AP

You may have already cleared your tables of all of the Thanksgiving fixings, but here at CFT we’re just setting ours up.

From rivalry games with little or nothing on the line but pride to matchups dripping with conference and College Football Playoff implications, the plates served up on Friday and Saturday will be a veritable smorgasbord on the final full week of the 2014 regular season. If storylines whet your appetite, be prepared to gorge yourself as these last two days are full of them.

With that in mind, here’s a portion of what we’ll be paying attention to Power Five-wise over the next 36 hours or so.

PLAYOFF PICTURE CLARIFIED?
In a simplistic and minimalist view, the answer to that is no, it won’t be clarified. It very likely will, however, come into sharper focus.

By most accounts, a two-loss team won’t be in the running for one of the four playoff spots. If that indeed comes to fruition, there are seven teams that still hold out viable playoff aspirations: unbeaten and third-ranked Florida State, as well as the one-loss sextet of No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 Mississippi State, No. 5 TCU, No. 6 Ohio State and No. 7 Baylor.

All seven of those teams play this weekend, and all seven will, to some degree or another, be favored. However, five of those seven games involve rivalries; as we all now, though, when it comes to a rivalry game, point spreads and records are tossed out the window.

Especially in the case of the two SEC squads, the favored team would be wise to be on high alert.  So, on a scale of 0-10, with 0 representing “no chance in hell” and 10 being “DEFCON 1 COACH-SPEAK AHEAD,” here are the five rivalry games involving the seven highest-ranked teams:

Chris DavisAlabama-Auburn, 9
Were it not for Auburn entering the Iron Bowl having lost three of its last five games against SEC teams, and it being played in Tuscaloosa, this matchup would’ve rated a solid 10.  Not only is Alabama playing for an SEC title and the right to stay in the playoff mix, they are also looking to exact a little revenge for last year’s Kick-Six.  Even if they wanted to, don’t look for Nick Saban & Company to let his players look past The Plainsmen in any way, shape or form.

Oregon-Oregon State, 5
OSU comes into the Civil War reeling, dropping six of its eight Pac-12 games thus far.  Oregon, though, doesn’t have to look back any further than last year to realize they’d better not peek past their in-state rivals.  In 2013, the Beavers, losers of four straight coming in, put a scare into the 12th-ranked Ducks and came away one point shy, 36-35, from upsetting UO in Eugene.  With this edition of the rivalry being played in Corvallis, and the Beavers looking to snap a six-game losing streak in the series, the Ducks can’t afford to allow their collective minds to wander beyond Saturday night.

Florida State-Florida, 7
With a very quick glance, it all seems to favor FSU.  The Seminoles are riding a 27-game winning streak, while the Gators are about to launch a national search for a new head coach.  The thing is, the ‘Noles have escaped with a handful of wins over the last couple of months.  Meanwhile, the Gators have actually improved over the last month, and their defense (11th in scoring, 23rd in yards) will be one of the best the Seminoles have faced all season.  I’m not saying Florida will upset Florida State in Tallahassee; all I’m saying is that the conditions are ripe for one.  What’s the axiom, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?  2014 Seminoles, meet the 2004 Seminoles.  Enough said.

Continue reading »

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No. 5 TCU makes Texas-sized playoff statement

Trevone Boykin

It was not a particularly good day for football teams from the state of Texas. The Dallas Cowboys were blown away by the Philadelphia Eagles in NFL action. Texas A&M was handled by LSU. At least No. 5 TCU (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) put together a huge win that is sure to create some discussion in the College Football Playoff conversation in the coming days. TCU was in a defensive battle with Texas (6-6, 5-4 Big 12) for a while, but the Horned Frogs pulled away in wild fashion for a resounding 48-10 victory.

TCU quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the fourth quarter and Josh Carraway returned an interception 33 yards to put the final stamp on a blowout victory that took a while to feel so decisive. It was not Boykin’s best night, as he was under pressure from the Texas defense for much of the night. Boykin still managed to throw for 233 yards and two touchdowns and run for another 50 ards and flip into the end zone for another.

The biggest takeaway from this game may have been TCU’s ability to close out a win. They did so in fashion, holding the Texas offense to 290 yards and forcing six turnovers in the game. It was the kind of night that could be enough to help TCU move up a spot in the next College Football Playoff ranking even if Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Mississippi State all win this weekend. It also helps to potentially create some breathing room ahead of Ohio State and, yes, Baylor.

Baylor still owns the head-to-head edge over TCU, but that has not helped the Bears in ranking ahead of the Horned Frogs in the playoff rankings. It is beginning to get to the point where the results against similar opponents are starting to move the needle more in TCU’s favor as well.

TCU beat Texas by 38 points. Baylor beat Texas by 21.

TCU beat Oklahoma State by 35. Baylor beat Oklahoma State by 21.

TCU beat Oklahoma by four. Baylor beat Oklahoma by 34.

TCU beat West Virginia. Baylor lost to West Virginia.

For Baylor, the best thing to do now would be to dominate and blowout Kansas State to level the playing field against teams not named Texas Tech or Kansas. Baylor plays Texas Tech this weekend and Kansas State to wrap up the regular season.

TCU has one final game to play, next week at home against Iowa State. Look for Boykin and the Horned Frogs to pile up points in one final chance for a closing statement while conference championship games are being played.

The regular season is over for Texas, but at 6-6 the Longhorns will be going to a bowl game.

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LSU breaks even in SEC with Thanksgiving win at Texas A&M

Leonard Fournette, Deshazor Everett

LSU (8-4, 4-4 SEC) may not have been a typical power in the SEC this week, but the Tigers managed to end the year with a 4-4 record in conference play. The Tigers needed to hang n for a 23-17 victory at Texas A&M (7-5, 3-5 SEC) to do it, but Les Miles and company will take it.

LSU chewed up big yards on the ground against Texas A&M’s defense. Freshman Leonard Fournette led the attack with 146 rushing yards and a touchdown and quarterback Anthony Jennings added 119 yards. It was a big night for the LSU offense, which racked up 492 yards against the Aggies.

Texas A&M managed to make a game of it in the second half. The Aggies scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to cut LSU’s lead down to 20-17, but LSU put the game away with a late field goal and an interception of Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen. Texas A&M managed just 228 yards of offense against the Tigers.

LSU will now head to the postseason for a 15th straight season. Texas A&M is also heading to the postseason, but will be limping into the bowl line-up out of the SEC. Texas A&M lost five of its final seven games this season, and the need to improve on defense is clear. You know, Will Muschamp is available. Kevin Sumlin can clearly recruit, but the Aggies are going to have to step up on defense in order to catch up with the rest of the conference and make a legitimate run in the SEC West.

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Reports say SMU will hire Clemson OC Chad Morris lead rebuilding of program

Chad Morris

The job search at SMU has reportedly come to a close, although there is no official word confirming this information at this time. According to multiple reports surfacing Thursday night, SMU will hire Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris to be its next head coach.

The news was first reported by Cemetery Hill. Chip Brown of Horns Digest later reported the same information.

Morris is the highest-paid assistant coach college football according to a recent database of coaching salaries in college football compiled by USA Today. Though the highest-paid assistant coach in the game, Morris has continued to be a potential head coaching option if the right job came along. Is SMU the best fit for Morris?

If this does come together as it is being reported, Morris could have a shot at building something at SMU. The program has nowhere to go but up, so he would need to be guaranteed some time to put his plans in motion. This means solid job security for Morris, a Texas native. Being a native of the state should help open some recruiting doors as well. Just because SMU is in Texas though, des not mean recruiting will come easy.

There is also the impact this would have on Clemson. Morris has been a terrific asset for Dabo Swinney’s coaching staff, and the offense has thrived at times under his sideline leadership. If Morris is leaving for SMU, when he would leave the Tigers is also unknown. Clemson plays South Carolina this weekend.

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