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

Syracuse v Clemson

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

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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No. 10 TCU sets all sorts of records in 82-27 rout of Texas Tech

Trevone Boykin

Trevone Boykin announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy in a major way by leading No. 10 TCU to a rec0rd-setting 82-27 stomping of Texas Tech Saturday in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs’ 82 points were a school and Big 12 inter-conference record and the most ever allowed by Texas Tech. TCU racked up 785 yards of total offense on the day, also a school record.

In three quarters of work, the junior completed 22-of-39 passes for 433 yards and a school-record seven touchdown passes while adding another 28 yards on the ground on seven attempts. Boykin threw for two scores in the first quarter, one in the second and four in the third, meaning one of every three completions (roughly) found pay dirt. His touchdown throws traveled 249 yards on their own, with scoring strikes of 51 yards (to Josh Doctson), 92 yards (to Deante’ Gray) and 57 yards (to Ty Slanina).

As if that wasn’t enough, seven Frogs runners combined to rush 41 times for 305 yards – 7.4 yards a pop – and three touchdowns. Aaron Green rushed six times for 105 yards, opening the scoring for TCU with a 62-yard dash a minute and 14 seconds into the game, and Trevorris Johnson added 10 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns strictly in mop up duty (he didn’t enter the game until TCU had a 61-27 lead deep into the third quarter).

Overall, TCU ran 86 plays, averaged 9.12 yards per snap, threw for 480 yards, rushed for 305, achieved 32 first downs, and punted twice in 16 possessions. Four separate receivers averaged 19 yards or more per reception, while 13 players caught at least one pass. There was some bad news, though, as Josh Doctson was lost for the game and taken for an evaluation with an ankle injury.

The Frogs’ 82 points surpassed the Big 12’s record for points in a conference game, set by Oklahoma in a 77-0 stomping of Texas A&M in 2003, and came two points shy of Oklahoma State’s conference record for points in any game in an 84-0 rout of Savannah State in 2012.

Bad as it appears, this game wasn’t always a blowout.

Texas Tech opened the scoring 51 seconds into the contest on a 57-yard catch-and-run by Kenny Williams, and played to a 24-17 score through one quarter. The Red Raiders scored only 10 more points for the rest of the game, and only three while the outcome was still in doubt. Davis Webb threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but committed three first-half turnovers that led directly to 13 TCU points, giving the Horned Frogs the space they needed to turn this game into a blowout. Webb left the game with an ankle injury, and Jakeem Grant was also lost with a leg injury.

Patrick Mahomes finished off the game by completing 5-of-11 passes for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and rushed seven times for 18 yards.

As tends to happen in games with a 55-point margin of victory, TCU won the turnover battle 4-0.

TCU moves to 6-1 (3-1 Big 12) with the win and prepares to head for a massive game at No. 22 West Virginia (themselves 34-10 winners over Oklahoma State on Saturday) on Saturday. Texas Tech, meanwhile, heads back to Lubbock for a somebody-has-to-win date with Texas.

 

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No. 1 Miss. St. Bulldogs appear vulnerable during 45-31 victory over Kentucky

Mississippi State v Kentucky Getty Images

Surivive and advance. That’s all that matters at this point in the season.

The No. 1 Mississippi State Bulldogs escaped Lexington, Kentucky with a 45-31 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

Don’t let the final score fool you.

The Wildcats only trailed by a touchdown as the two teams entered the third quarter. Mark Stoops‘ squad had two opportunities late in the game. During the Kentucky’s drive with five minutes remaining, two dropped passes (one on third down and one in the end zone) kept the Wildcats from getting within striking distance.

It didn’t matter since Kentucky then got the ball back after stopping Mississippi State on the ensuing drive. Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles led his team on a seven-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown run by the signal-caller.

An unheard of touchdown during the onside kick is what turned this contest in a two-score victory for the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State never dominated this contest like the best team in the nation should have. Kentucky is a young and improving program, but their best win this season came against a struggling South Carolina squad. Otherwise, the Wildcats’ other four wins came against the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks, Ohio Bobcats, Vanderbilt Commodores and Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.

Dan Mullen‘s squad wasn’t crisp on offense, quarterback Dak Prescott struggled in the passing game and the team’s bend-but-don’t-break defense finally broke…multiple times.

The Bulldogs didn’t have an answer for Towles. Kentucky’s quarterback threw for 390 yards and ran for 76 more despite being sacked numerous times.

Kentucky amassed an impressive 504 yards. As the Bulldogs continue their season, an inability to consistently stop opposing offenses becomes a major red flag.

Mississippi State’s backfield once again became the team’s saving grace.

Quarterback Dak Prescott accumulated 304 total yards and three touchdowns to keep his Heisman campaign chugging along. Prescott made multiple highlight-reel runs during the contest, but running back Josh Robinson was Mississippi State’s bell cow Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs’ bowling ball of a running back ran for 198 yards including a 73-yard touchdown romp early in the fourth quarter.

Mississippi State was in unfamiliar territory this weekend. Expectations are sky high after the team received its first No. 1 overall ranking in school history. The Bulldogs could have faltered. Kentucky gave them everything they could handle. Instead, the Bulldogs kept their undefeated season alive. And that is all that matters.

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Mich. St. finishes off Michigan, will now rest up for B1G showdown

Michigan v Michigan State Getty Images

And with that, Michigan State is right on schedule for its huge conference showdown the second weekend of November.

Getting today out of the way first, MSU had little problem dispatching its in-state rivals, kicking Michigan to the East Lansing curb by the score of 35-11.  The Spartans held a 14-3 halftime lead, and needed to do little else in the second half to win its sixth in the last seven meetings of what’s currently a lopsided rivalry.

The Wolverines did score their first offensive touchdown against the Spartans since 2011, although that was akin to putting spinnin’ rims on a Yugo.  Sparty has now beaten the Wolverines by a combined 47 points the past two seasons, and punctuated this win with, instead of taking a knee, a rushing touchdown by its top running back with :28 left in the game.

Brady Hoke is now 2-5 in rivalry games against MSU and Ohio State, which is why he will be out in Ann Arbor at season’s end — if not sooner.

Statistically, it was, like the scoreboard, mostly MSU.    The Spartans finished with a 446-186 edge in total offense, including a 158-yard edge in rushing.

Jeremy Langford had 177 of MSU’s rushing yards and scored three of their four offensive touchdowns.

The eighth-ranked Spartans, who will likely remain there giving what’s looking to be a dearth of upsets in the Top 10 this weekend, will now enter its second bye week preparing for what’s shaping up to be a monumental matchup dripping with College Football Playoffs implications.  Coming off the bye, MSU will play host to 13th-ranked Ohio State in a game that will go a long way in deciding the Eastern Division of the Big Ten — and the conference’s potential rep in the first year of the CFP.

If the Spartans can get past the Buckeyes — and that’s not exactly a tiny if — MSU would likely be double-digit wagering favorites for its last three games against Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State.

The stage is set for MSU to, if they handle their business in two weeks, to throw its hat into the playoff ring.  Again, though, that’ll be no small task.

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No. 22 West Virginia uses defense, running game to handle OK State, 34-10

West Virginia v Oklahoma State Getty Images

No. 22 West Virginia kept its Big 12 title hops alive with… defense and the running game? The Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State 34-10 Saturday afternoon in Stillwater.

Clint Trickett had a nice, low-pressure day at the office, completing 21-of-30 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, while Wendell Smallwood did the dirty work for the Mountaineers by grinding out 23 carries for 132 yards. Dreamius Smith added five rushes for 72 yards and 40-yard touchdown dash that served as the final nail in the coffin with 3:12 to go.

West Virginia cruised to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter but didn’t score again the rest of the half as Oklahoma State fought back for a 14-10 score at the break.

That would be it for Oklahoma State, as the Cowboys ran only seven plays in the third quarter and gained 133 yards in a scoreless second half.

WVU limited Daxx Garman to 21-of-41 passing for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Oklahoma State did pound out 194 rushing yards on 39 carries (Tyreek Hill led the way with 14 rushes for 78 yards) but never mounted anything substantial outside the second quarter.

Josh Lambert provided the only scoring in the third quarter with a 39-yard field goal, and then pushed West Virginia’s lead to 10 with a 43-yarder early in the fourth quarter. Dravon Henry broke it open for good with a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown with 4:44 remaining in the game, and Smith’s 40-yard run a minute and change later added the exclamation point.

What does it about West Virginia that Dana Holgorsen‘s Mountaineers can not only go on the road in Big 12 play and grab a 24-point victory (earning its first road win over a Big 12 club with a winning record since beating 6-5 Iowa State in November 2012), but do so while imposing its will on both sides of the ball?

It says West Virginia, now bowl eligible at 6-2, is a force to be recognized in a Big 12 title chase that includes nearly half the league. Considering Oklahoma only has two losses and with the Baylor win under its belt, West freakin’ Virginia heads into November not only controlling its own destiny for the Big 12 championship, but does so while getting No. 10 TCU (next week) and No. 11 Kansas State (Nov. 20) at home, with its only road trips to struggling Iowa State and Texas.

Yeah, Holgo will drink to that.

 

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No. 25 UCLA avoids double overtime scare in Boulder

Brett Hundley, Paul Perkins, Nate Iese, Greg Henderson

On Saturday afternoon in Boulder, Colorado No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) was unable to deal a knockout blow to Colorado (2-6, 0-5 Pac-12), but the Bruins found a way to a victory in double overtime. UCLA had a 24-7 lead on the Buffalos in the second quarter but had to hang on to a 40-37 victory to pick up a bowl-eligibility clinching win on the road. Brett Hundley‘s eight-yard touchdown run in the second overtime gave UCLA the hard-fought victory.

Hundley also passed for 200 yards and rushed for 110 yards with two combined touchdowns to lead UCLA to the victory. Paul Perkins broke some big runs early in the game and ended the day leading all players with 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well.

The Bruins scored a late touchdown in the third quarter to pad its halftime lead, but Colorado scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to push UCLA to the final whistle. Myles Jack was inserted at running back as UCLA needed to punch the ball across the goal line in the third quarter. Jack has been used sparingly this season, but his 16th rushing attempt of the year led to his second touchdown of the year. It could not have come at a better time for UCLA, as he ran right through a would-be-tackler for the touchdown on the outside.

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau tossed each of this two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, each being caught by Bryce Bobo. That kept hope alive, but it was the defense that really provided life in the fourth quarter by stopping UCLA twice on a late drive. The first stop on third down ended up having the drive extended with a roughing the passer penalty to allow UCLA a free 15-yards and a first down to retain possession. Colorado held the Bruins once more, this time stuffing a fourth down and short play with three minutes to play. UCLA tried handing off to Eddie Vanderdoes out of a timeout on fourth and short, but Colorado played it perfectly for the stop.

Colorado then went to work on offense, methodically moving downfield into field goal range. While coming up short of a go-ahead touchdown, the Buffs settled for a game-tying field goal off the leg of Will Oliver from 35 yards.

The overtime was brought to a stop as UCLA was driving closer to the end zone. The game was paused for a while after the helmet of Colorado defensive back Tedric Thompson banged into the knee of a UCLA player. The impact left Thompson on the ground for an extended period of time before being placed on a stretcher and carted off the field while being consoled by a Colorado trainer or member of the medical staff. The defense pulled through for a stop on the first two plays after play resumed, holding UCLA to a field goal. Colorado answered on their first overtime possession with a long field goal to force a second overtime. After Colorado kicked a second field goal to take a 37-34 lead, Hundley answered with two good runs on the ensuing possession to seal the win.

So where does UCLA go from here? The Bruins are still well behind the pack in the College Football Playoff hunt, which may be out of reach the rest of the way. UCLA will host Arizona next week in one of many key Pac-12 South match-ups the rest of the way. The Bruins also still have to play at Washington and at home against USC and Stanford. The Pac-12 South is still up for grabs, and the Bruins should have enough pieces to make a run for it, but they will have to play a better game moving forward than they did against Colorado.

Colorado sinks to 0-5 in Pac-12 play and is now on the brink of missing out on postseason eligibility. With six losses, one more and Colorado will be ineligible for postseason play for a seventh straight season. Colorado’s last bowl season was 2007.

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Big plays, turnovers push No. 10 TCU to 37-20 halftime lead over Texas Tech

Texas Tech v TCU Getty Images

Texas Tech had done it. More than a quarter into their visit to No. 10 TCU and already trailing 24-17, the Texas Tech defense had forced its first punt.

Facing a fourth-and-7 from the Texas Tech 38, Gary Patterson pulled out a fake punt, and Red Raider defender Justis Nelson was flagged for interfering with Josh Doctson on a pass by punter Ethan Perry that may or may not have been catchable. One play later, Trevone Boykin found Deante’ Gray for a 24-yard touchdown pass and TCU grabbed a 31-17 lead.

It’s been that kind of day as the Horned Frogs and Red Raiders have combined for 84 snaps, 30 first downs, 655 yards from scrimmage and 57 points as TCU leads 37-20 at the break.

Aside from a defense that has obviously struggled to stop the Horned Frogs’ offense, Davis Webb hasn’t the cause much with one interception and two lost fumbles – on Texas Tech’s last two possessions of the half – leading to 13 TCU points.

Trevone Boykin has missed on nearly half his passes (14-of-27) but made his completions count, going for 199 yards and three touchdowns. The big play combination of Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson have combined for six grabs for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Green has added six rushes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Webb has posted good numbers, 14-of-26 passing for 286 yards and two scores, but negated much of it with his trio of giveaways. DeAndre Washington has found space in the middle of TCU’s defense, rushing eight times for 64 yards with a long of 48, while Webb’s two touchdown passes have come on plays of 57 (to Kenny Williams) and 56 (to Devin Lauderdale) yards.

After scoring 10 points in the game’s first three minutes and 12 seconds and 17 in the first quarter, the Red Raiders managed only a 38-yard Ryan Bustin field goal in the second quarter.

TCU will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 1 Bulldogs lead Kentucky 17-10 at halftime despite slow start

Dak Prescott

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are playing their very first game as the nation’s No. 1 overall team. How the program reacted to the pressure of being the nation’s top team would be a telling sign as the Bulldogs progressed this season.

Despite the team’s newfound success, the Bulldogs didn’t dominate the first half of Saturday’s game as expected. The Kentucky Wildcats are still within striking distance. The Bulldogs hold a 17-10 lead, and Kentucky has outplayed Mississippi State at times.

“We’re playing a little sloppy, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen told CBS before going into the locker room at halftime. “We need to clean it up. We need to play a lot better in the second half.”

Mullen built a winning program due to winning in the trenches and riding the team’s dual-threat quarterback, Dak Prescott.

Kentucky matched Mississippi State along the offensive and defensive lines. Where the Wildcats have been found lacking is at the quarterback position.

Prescott, who may be the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, was 10-of-17 passing for 111 yards and a late interception. Where he made a difference was running the football. The quarterback leads Mississippi State with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown. His ability to make big plays as a runner makes the Bulldogs dangerous even when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders (see: below).

Mark Stoops‘ defense has done a tremendous job containing the Bulldogs for the most part. Outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Bud Sasser have proven to be thorns in the side of Prescott. The majority of Mississippi State’s 114 rushing yards have come up the middle.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State’s imposing defense surrendered 193 total yards to an erratic Wildcats offense. The big play came when Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles connected with wide receiver Demarco Robinson on a short out pattern which became a long 67-yard touchdown thanks to the senior’s ability to tiptoe down the sideline.

Otherwise, Towles is 8-of-17 passing for only 75 yards.

As the second half approaches, Kentucky needs to maintain its intensity on defense while attempting to get more out of its running game to take pressure off Towles. But it’s far more likely Mississippi State’s superior talent will eventually take over despite coasting through the first two quarters.

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