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The Fifth Quarter: Week 3 Rewind

Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban shakes hands with Texas A&M Aggies Johnny Manziel after their NCAA SEC football game in College Station Reuters

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

WINNERS

One rolled, one to go
When it came to Alabama’s season, most outside observers felt their season would come down to a pair of games against highly-ranked teams.  Mission No. 1?  Accomplished, courtesy of a wildly entertaining shootout win over Texas A&M on the road that aged an old defensive soul like Nick Saban.  Thanks to a schedule that includes Colorado State, Georgia State and Kentucky — Ole Miss might have a puncher’s chance — the two-time defending BCS champions will be heavily favored in every game leading up to Mission No. 2:  Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa against LSU.  Certainly you never count your wins before they’re hatched, but the schedule couldn’t set up any better for Alabama prior to the game against the Bayou Bengals,  The path to Pasadena was cleared; now the Tide just has to traverse and avoid the little obstacles — and one big one — along the way.

Super Mariota
Thanks to the fact that Oregon plays on the West Coast and a sizable chunk of their games end after most of the country has fallen asleep and/or passed out, not a lot of people know — or even care to know — about Marcus Mariota.  Thanks to a certain game in College Station, a rare mid-afternoon start for the Ducks did little to raise the quarterback’s national profile.  Still, it should be raised and people should take notice.  In UO’s woodshedding of Tennessee, Mariota passed for 350 first-half yards, finished with a career-high 456 yards and accounted for five touchdowns — four passing, one rushing — in just three quarters of work.  Mariota’s one of the top players at his position in the country, and it’s a shame some fail to recognize it based on location and time zones.

The Manziel & Evans Show
It may have come in a losing cause, but Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans were about as good as it gets on the offensive side of the football.  The reigning Heisman winner — who should still be at the forefront of the discussion for this year’s award — threw for 464 yards and ran for another 98 for a total of 562 yards; the Aggies as a team had 628 yards.  Manziel also tossed five touchdown passes, one of which went to Evans, who caught seven balls for a staggering 279 yards.  The defense may have let A&M down, but the offense, headed by Manziel and Evans, certainly didn’t.

Jameis WinstonFamous Jameis
With just one game on his résumé, many people scoffed at the mere notion that Jameis Winston might already be part of the Heisman discussion.  While that may be the case, the redshirt freshman is making an awfully good case that those individuals are wrong.  In limited action thanks to Florida State’s 62-7 blowout of Nevada, Winston completed 12-of-15 passes — after misfiring on three of his first five passes — for 214 yards and two touchdowns.  On the season, Winston has completed 40-of-45 passes, meaning he has thrown more touchdown passes (six) than he has incompletions (five).  The fact that Winston has such a firm grasp of the offense and can deliver the ball accurately bodes well for FSU’s future at the position, regardless of if he’s part of any stiff-armed discussion or not.

Gentlemen, start… your… Belldozer
When Trevor Knight was announced as Oklahoma’s starting quarterback before the opener, there were more than a few eyebrows raised as Blake Bell, aka the Belldozer, had been viewed by some (most?) as the likely successor to Landry Jones.  Part of the reasoning behind pulling the trigger on Knight, the theory went, was that he was the more polished passer.  In the game against Tulsa, Bell said, essentially, “polish this.”  Against the Golden Hurricane, Bell passed for 281 yards… in the first half.  He finished the 51-20 win with 413 yards passing and four touchdowns, further solidifying his hold on the starting job in place of the injured Knight.

It can only be Jared
If Jared Goff were a fifth-year senior, the video game-like numbers would be impressive.  The fact that he’s doing it as a true freshman?  Off the charts unbelievable.  The Cal quarterback came into the game against Ohio State leading the nation with 935 yards passing through the first two games of the 2013 season.  Against the No. 4 Buckeyes, Goff continued making a mockery of opposing defenses by throwing for 371 yards in the loss.  If Goff continues at this pace — he likely won’t — the first-year player would throw for a freshman record of 5,224 yards in the regular season alone.  Again, it’s not very likely Goff can keep up this breakneck pace, but if he even sniffs that rarefied statistical air, it will be one of the more impressive accomplishments of the 2013 season that gets little or no notice due to Cal’s record.

LOSERS

WTF was that?
This is what I know about the bizarre ending in the Wisconsin-Arizona State game: yes, the officials jobbed the Badgers, but the Badgers put themselves in a position to be jobbed thanks to whatever the hell that was Joel Stave was attempting to accomplish at the end of the game and with the seconds ticking away.  Why in the name of, well, pretty much anything, did Stave not simply spike it?  Or why didn’t the Badgers, down 32-30 and sitting at the 13-yard line, just simply kick a game-winning field goal with :18 left?  I’ve been on this earth for 45 years, and have been watching college football for as far back as I can remember, and I simply can’t recall anything like what happened in those final 15 or so ticks of the clock in the desert.  We’ll have more on this later, once that game sobers up and gets some coffee in it.

Trojan Nation speaking loud and clear
The question is, will Pat Haden listen?  Yes, USC cruised to an easy 28-point win over Boston College, bouncing back from last Saturday’s debacle against Washington State.  In that loss to Wazzu, chants of “Fire Kiffin!” rang out across the Coliseum.  The collective anger at Lane Kiffin, however, has apparently turned to apathy toward the Trojans.  Check out the scene eight minutes before USC’s home game against BC, courtesy of @uscpsycho:

USC Coliseum

On some level anger’s good as it shows the fan base still cares.  Apathy manifesting itself in the form of empty seats?  That’s never good for the future of a head coach anywhere.

So Manny more problems
If Longhorn Nation thought dumping Manny Diaz in favor of Greg Robinson would magically cure all that ails their beloved Texas football team, the disappointment should be kicking in… right about now.  While the Longhorns offered a glimmer of hope in their loss to Ole Miss — they led 23-14 late in the first half — the defense again could do next to nothing to stop the other side of the ball.  The Rebels scored the final 30 points in the 44-23 win in Austin, thanks in large part due to a running game that produced 272 yards on the ground.  Yes, that’s half the total UT gave up to BYU in another home loss (to BYU) last weekend, but its’ still an embarrassing total for a defense that can’t do something as simple as wrap up on a tackle.  Understandably, the fan base is frustrated.  How frustrated?  They booed Mack Brown when he appeared on the stadium’s Jumbotron to deliver a PSA on helping at-risk students.  How many more opportunities the UT faithful will get to boo Brown remains to be seen, although a continued downward trajectory could make it sooner rather than later.

Starkville needs to be Mullen a change
For some reason or another, just about anyone who discusses Mississippi State football over the past couple of years speaks highly of the job Dan Mullen has done with the Bulldogs.  The stark reality, though, is that he hasn’t.  During his first four-plus seasons at MSU, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to a 17-4 record in non-conference games as well as bowls.  In SEC play?  Mullen is an abysmal 13-20.  Included in that latter total is a 24-20 loss to Auburn this weekend.  At least as far as the conference goes, the Bulldogs have made little or no progress under Mullen.  If MSU hopes to fight its way from conference also-rans to contenders, a change at the top may be in order.  Unless they’re happy with seven- or eight-win seasons and Music City Bowl victories, of course.

Unhappy Valley
A 2-0 start to the 2013 season had the denizens of Happy Valley feeling that the Penn State football program had turned yet another corner in its climb from the Sandusky abyss.  While that’s still the case, the ascent took a bit of a detour Saturday night.  A 31-17 deficit early in the fourth quarter turned into an insurmountable one as the Nittany Lions dropped a 34-31 decision to UCF.  While there’s no shame in losing to the Knights, an underrated squad that’s now 3-0, it says a lot about the current state of the PSU program that hanging close to a team that was in Conference USA just a year ago is considered a type of moral victory.  Bill O’Brien is the right man for the job; patience, though, will be at a premium over the next couple of years,

Akron v MichiganThe Big (Near-Flop) House
Make no mistake: Michigan averted a disaster Saturday that would’ve trumped even the infamous loss to Appalachian State six years ago.  Saturday’s opponent in the Big House, Akron, had lost 27 straight road games… hadn’t beaten an FBS team since 2010… and totaled just four wins the past three-plus seasons.  The Zips are pictured next to “football ineptness” in many a dictionary, and yet the Wolverines allowed the MAC school to come within a failed fourth-and-goal attempt of stunning them in their own house.  Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (no relation) called the win “embarrassing” afterwards; he’s not far off, even as his team appears to be a long ways away from challenging the likes of hated rival Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy.

Taggart’s bus ripe for repo
In a promotional campaign utilized by USF in an attempt to drive up ticket sales, the athletic department urged fans to “get on the bus” with new head coach Willie Taggart.  That bus, unfortunately, has dropped its transmission and is in danger of blowing its motor just three games into Taggart’s tenure.  Including Saturday’s loss to FAU (previously winless), the Bulls have dropped all three games of the 2013 season by a combined score of 102-37.  Included in that was a season-opening loss to FCS-level McNeese State by 32 points at home.  Taggart did an outstanding job at his previous stop at Western Kentucky; how long he’ll get to rectify and undo the damage caused by the horrific recruiting of his predecessor, Skip Holtz, remains to be seen.

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

– No. 5 Stanford 34, Army 20: Thanks to what was by all appearances a nasty case of jet lag, the Cardinal fell behind the Black Knights 6-0 on the road — and led just 20-13 at the half — before righting the ship and pulling away.

– No. 13 South Carolina 35, Vanderbilt 23: A comfortable 25-point lead at the end of the third quarter for the Gamecocks was sliced to 10 after just a minute was played in the fourth.   That was as close as Vandy would get, however, as USC rebounded from its emotional loss last weekend.

– No. 19 Washington 34, Illinois 24:  The Illini made it interesting after falling behind 31-10 at Soldier Field, but the Huskies made enough plays on the defensive side of the ball to push their record to 2-0 on the young season.

– No. 21 Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27: Trailing 17-10 on the road entering the fourth quarter, the Irish ripped off 21 straight points to stave off the Boilermakers upset bid.

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 — Coming back from 14 down on the road against the No. 6 team in the country?  Yeah, that’ll keep you slotted comfortably in the top spot. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Colorado StateTennessee Oregon Football

2. Oregon — You eviscerate an SEC team, even a (being kind here) mid-level one like Tennessee, by 45 points, you deserve to move up a couple of spots. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: bye weekend

3. Clemson — With one of their two byes out of the way, the Tigers were able to get in a little extra prep work for the ACC opener this Thursday. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at North Carolina State

4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes won by 18 or more points for the third time in three games this season against Cal, but the perceived weakness of their schedule will keep them from moving back closer to where they began the season in the polls at this point in time.
Next up: vs. Florida A&M

5. Louisville — The Cardinals looked lethargic and/or positively uninterested in leading in-state rival Kentucky just 10-3 at the half.  A 17-point second half, however, righted what had been a previously listing ship.  Even at a perfect 3-0, the UofL must tighten some things up or risk tumbling in the polls that really matter. (Last week: No. 5)
Up next: vs. FIU

HE SAID IT
“I am really proud of those kids. You can’t believe how tough it was on them. You just can’t. Unless you were at practice, in those meeting rooms, in that locker room, you just can’t. He had such an impact on our team.” — UCLA head coach Jim Mora, following his Bruins’ first game after the tragic death of wide receiver Nick Pasquale.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“Look, it’s all gonna be about what we do on this little 53-yard by 100-yard triangle out here.” — Nick Saban, defying the laws of geometry prior to Alabama’s win.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I’m just sick for my players on how hard, how well and how long they played and not to come away with the W, a victory to stamp on the end of what I consider a great football game that they played. I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime to get some big wins and that would have been the biggest.” — Head coach Terry Bowden, following Akron’s near-upset of Michigan.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“We’ll get all of this righted with a Big 12 championship.” — Mack Brown, presumably with a straight face and everything.

GAMEDAY SIGN OF THE DAY
This beauty comes courtesy of BustedCoverage.com and, as is normally is the case, needs no explanation:

Johnny Manziel GameDay Sign

SAY WHAT?
How negative is the perception of next week’s slate of games?  ESPN’s GameDay show will originate from Fargo for the Delaware State-North Dakota State FCS matchup.  Curious choice, though, given games such as Michigan State-Notre Dame, Tennessee-Florida and Arizona State-Stanford are among those on the admittedly weak Week 4 FBS schedule.

TRUE STORY
Oklahoma City Thunder great Kevin Durant served as the honorary captain for Texas’ game against Ole Miss and no Mack Brown didn’t recruit the NBA superstar as a safety.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Arkansas’ Alec Collins became the first player in SEC history, including the great Herschel Walker, to rush for 100-plus yards in the first three games of his career.  The last player to accomplish that feat at the FBS level was Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson in 2004.

– Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keaton threw five first-half touchdowns in the 70-6 evisceration of Weber State.  The five scoring tosses ties the school record, which Keaton equaled last week as well.

– Cementing his hold on the starting job, Connor Cook passed for four first-half touchdowns as Michigan State easily got past Youngstown State 55-17.

Ford Childress– In his collegiate debut, Ford Childress (if that is his real name) threw for 359 yards in West Virginia’s 41-7 win over Georgia State.

– The 42 points given up by Alabama in the win over Texas A&M was the most under Nick Saban.  The 628 yards of total offense by the Aggies is the most the storied football program has ever allowed in a single game.

– Speaking of Saban, Purdue’s Drew Brees remains the last quarterback to beat the coach in back-to-back games at the collegiate level, performing that feat when the current Tide coach held the same job at Michigan State in the late nineties.

– Colorado State’s Shaq Barrett blocked a pair of field goals to help the Rams upend Cal Poly 34-17.

– Running back Jay Ajayi ran for four touchdowns in Boise State’s 42-20 win over Air Force Friday night.

– Nebraska coughing up a 21-3 lead to UCLA was the Cornhuskers’ largest since Washington came back from a 20-point deficit… in 1920.

– With a 32-21 win over UConn, Maryland has started a season 3-0 for the first time since 2001.

– In Indiana’s 42-10 win over Bowling Green, the Hoosiers punted once… and it was blocked and returned for the Falcons’ only touchdown of the game.

– The 92 points Navy has scored in its first two games this season are the service academy’s most since 1975.

– It took five overtimes, but Buffalo was able to secure its first win of the season by the score of 26-23 over FCS-level Stoney Brook.

– Thursday night, Louisiana Tech forced four turnovers, had 11 tackles and tallied five sacks — and still lost 24-15 to Tulane.  Of course, when you muster just 289 yards of offense, that tends to happen.

IN CLOSING…
Nebraska showed its class as a football program in the first game after the Jerry Sandusky scandal shattered the serenity in Happy Valley.  Today, the ‘Huskers did it again.  Prior to the game against UCLA, over 90,000 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium stood and paid their respects with a moment of silence for Nick Pasquale, the Bruins wide receiver who was tragically killed last weekend after being struck by a vehicle.  When the Cornhuskers took the field, their helmets were adorned with Pasquale’s jersey number.  Pure class, Lincoln.  Pure class.

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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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TCU takes advantage of Texas miscues to build 20-3 halftime lead

Trevone Boykin

You might not think it by looking at the halftime score, but No. 5 TCU and Texas are locked in a solid defensive battle. The only difference has been Texas has lacked the ability to protect the football in the first half. The Longhorns have two turnovers, and TCU has slowly put together a 20-3 lead at the half.

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes has been intercepted once and lost a fumble once. The fumble was extra costly, as TCU’s Terrell Lathan returned it 40 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. That put TCU up 13-0 at the time and was the only touchdown until TCU’s David Porter caught a short pass from Trevone Boykin late in the second quarter. Boykin has completed 13 of 18 passes for 106 yards and the touchdown, and he has added 10 rushing yards.

TCU has not found much to work with on the ground, with just 31 rushing yards on 14 attempts. Texas has played well on defense and is the only reason this game is still somewhat within reach if the offense can start putting points on the board. Texas actually reached the halftime with more offensive yards than TCU (144-137), but that total was boosted by the final play of the half, when Swoopes scrambled for a 27-yard gain as the clock expired. That came after a 17-yard run by Swoopes just before it.

TCU looks to be in good position to pick up a win in Austin, which continues to put the pressure on Baylor in the Big 12 championship race. It also will help keep TCU in good position in the College Football Playoff, entering the week ranked fifth by the selection committee.

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LSU defense locks down Aggies for halftime lead

LSU v Texas A&M

LSU’s offense has been on the field for over 20 minutes in the first half and has out-gained Texas A&M by over 200 yards. LSU is only winning at the half by a score of 17-7, but if the defense continues playing at this level that might be OK.

Texas A&M recorded the first big play of the half when Trey Williams rushed 41 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Aggies, there has not been much else to speak of on offense. Kyle Allen continues to start under center for Texas A&M. In the first half, Allen completed eight of 11 passes for 23 yards. Seven different Aggies have caught a pass, but no player has more than nine receiving yards. Texas A&M has just 80 yards of offense, compared to LSU’s 286 yards.

LSU tied the Aggies with a powerful 22-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Leonard Fournette in the second quarter. LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings has used his mobility to his advantage as well and leads the Tigers at the half with 94 rushing yards. Jennings also threw a touchdown pass to John Diarse late in the first half to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead. LSU added a 31-yard field goal off the leg of Trent Dominique in the final seconds of the half to pad the lead, 17-7.

 

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Jaxon Shipley out for Texas

Jaxon Shipley

The Texas Longhorns will be without wide receiver Jaxon Shipley tonight as the Longhorns look to upset No. 5 TCU in Austin. Shipley will be out of action due to a hamstring injury, which the school officially annoucned just minutes before the start of tonight’s Thanksgiving game.

Shipley is the second-leading receiver for the Longhorns this season with 571 yards and a touchdown in 11 games.

TCU will look to leave Austin with a huge victory to remain in the Big 12 title hunt. TCU is tied with Baylor for the Big 12 lead, but the head-to-head tiebreaker for the Big 12 belongs to Baylor. Texas has won three games in a row with three strong defensive efforts.

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Georgia apparently scheduled to get thumped by Georgia Tech

Clemson v Georgia Tech

This week is rivalry week in college football, and that means trash talk, bets and good old-fashioned pranks. It appears some Georgia Tech fan or fans took to updating te University of Georgia calendar of events with something that was probably not approved by the school.

On Saturday, Georgia will host Georgia Tech in the final regular season football game of the year for each. Coincidentally, at the same time, there is an event for Georgia athletics that may or may not coincide with the game itself. According to the school’s calendar, Georgia Athletics is scheduled to get its @$$ kicked by Georgia Tech.

With this being discovered on Thanksgiving, it may take a little longer for someone to come and address this. Perhaps after and second helping of turkey or a slice of apple pie. Call that good timing by the culprit.

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Texas Tech lineman the personification of perseverance

Tony Morales

If there were a picture next to the word “perseverance” in the dictionary, it’d be that of Tony Morales.

The Texas Tech offensive lineman missed the 2011 season due to an injury sustained in summer camp. The same thing around the same time happened again in 2012. And again in 2013. And, unbelievably, again in 2014.

Even more unbelievable? Morales will be back at it for the Red Raiders next year as well. Wednesday, Tech offensive line coach Lee Hays confirmed that Morales will be a part of the team in 2015.

“He’ll be here in the spring,” Hays said. “Looking forward to him practicing.”

Kid’s got heart,” the position coach added in a monumental understatement.

Morales’ myriad health issues consisted of a torn labrum in his right shoulder (2011); a strained knee ligament (2012); a torn labrum in his left shoulder (2013); and another knee issue this season.

Morales, a four-star member of Tech’s 2011 class rated as the No. 5 center in the country, has yet to play in a game; as he’s a senior, and even as he could apply for a sixth season of eligibility and easily be granted it, here’s to hoping that he gets to see the field in 2015. More than just about anyone else who has ever played this game, he’s damn-well earned it.

(Photo credit: Texas Tech athletics)

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Vols’ receiving corps may have taken another hit

Jason Croom

When it comes to injury luck, Tennessee wide receivers have had little of it in 2014.  Josh Smith is out for the year with a severe ankle injury sustained in early September, while Marquez North (missed the Mizzou game last week) and Von Pearson (missed games earlier in the year) have battled health issues as well.

Tuesday, that unit may have taken yet another hit as Jason Croom went down with what appeared to be a knee injury.  The severity and specific nature, however, remains a matter of debate.

Head coach Butch Jones described it as a cramp in his hamstring and hip.  The Chattanooga Times Free-Press wrote “it looked much worse [than a hamstring] when he went down” after “grabbing his left knee,” while 247Sports.com‘s Wes Rucker noted that Croom grabbed his knee when he dropped to the turf in pain and that Jones’ injury reports are “a bit … shall we say … questionable from time to time” — with a video clip of the GEICO “Pinocchio is a bad motivational speaker” to drive home that latter point.

Regardless, Croom didn’t practice Wednesday and his availability for the in-state rivalry game against Vanderbilt Saturday is unknown.

Among receivers with 10 or more catches, Croom leads the team in yards per catch at 14.5, while he’s fourth in receiving yards (305) and tied for sixth in receptions (21).  His four receiving touchdowns are tied for first on the team, and he’s caught at least one scoring pass in each of the last three games.

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‘Canes to be without DB Bush, WR Waters for regular-season finale

Arkansas State v Miami

As Miami looks to right a listing ship and snap a two-game losing streak, the Hurricanes will have to navigate one very key injury and another more-than-minor one to do so.

On its weekly injury report Thursday, UM confirmed that neither safety Deon Bush (pictured) nor wide receiver Herb Waters will play in the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh Saturday.  Bush will be missing his second consecutive game with a hamstring issue, while Waters is dealing with a neck injury.

Bush started all 10 games to start this season before missing the loss to Virginia Nov. 22.  He’s fourth on the team in tackles with 48, while his two interceptions are tied for the team lead.

Waters is fourth on the team in receiving yards (277) and fifth in receptions (20).  The junior has started four of the 11 games in which he’s played this season.

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FBI probing threats made against trees, shrubs at Ole Miss’ Grove

Auburn v Mississippi Getty Images

I’ll go ahead and answer your question right upfront: I have no earthly idea if anti-arborist Harvey Updyke was or wasn’t involved.

With that out of the way, and a couple of days before the annual Egg Bowl kicks off, Ole Miss has confirmed that the FBI is investigating threats made against the landscape at The Grove at the school.  A handwritten letter threatening damage to the trees and shrubs in The Grove was turned over to the Jackson (Miss.) office of the FBI.

The note was delivered to the campus on Tuesday and given to the FBI a day later:

“What’s going to happen to ya’ll on the field Saturday Aint nothing compared to what’s going to happen on your beautiful campus. You won’t be one of the most pretty campus’s Next year. A lot of shrubs and trees are going to die; especially in the grove. Can’t stop us” (signed) “Hail State Go to Hell TSUN.”

“Hail State,” of course, refers to Mississippi State while “TSUN” is not Michigan but rather Ole Miss, which MSU has taken to referring to “That School Up North” in the vein of Woody Hayes.  The release went on to note that “[l]aw enforcement authorities are taking the threat seriously and are encouraging fans to report suspicious behavior.”

The 111th edition of the Egg Bowl will be played in Oxford Saturday.  An MSU win and Alabama loss sends the Bulldogs to the SEC championship game against either Missouri or Georgia and, potentially, earns them a spot in the College Football Playoff.  The Rebels, meanwhile, could secure a New Year’s Day bowl bid with an upset.

The stakes are certainly high, as high football-wise as they’ve ever been in the rivalry, so authorities and school officials are doing their best to keep emotions down as much as possible.

“This longtime football rivalry has separated families and friends for generations, but while it’s spirited, our attention has been focused mostly on the football field,” Ole Miss police chief Calvin Sellers said. “We encourage everyone to remember that this is a game, after all, not a time for hate. We are hopeful that passions have not escalated to the point that someone is prepared to do damage to a landmark for which all Mississippians take great pride.”

“It has been a remarkable year for football in this state and we have much to be thankful for,” a joint statement from the university’s athletic directors, Ole Miss’ Ross Bjork and MSU’s Scott Stricklin, read. “Both programs and their student-athletes have been on the national stage throughout the year and have represented Mississippi in invaluable ways. We ask that you join us in enjoying the traditions of the Egg Bowl and events surrounding the game in a positive and respectful way.”

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Mom of OSU Buckeye Kosta Karageorge says son is missing

Kosta Karageorge

Thanksgiving is normally a day reserved for giving thanks and celebration, but for the family of one member of the Ohio State football program it’s full of dread and worry.

In a message posted to Facebook, Susan Karageorge said a missing person’s report has been filed for her son, reserve OSU defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge.  According to the mom, Karageorge has been missing since around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The mom added that family and friends have been searching all over campus for Karageorge to no avail, while also relaying where he may have last been seen.

There was also this message posted to what appears to be Kosta Karageorge’s Twitter account early Thursday morning:

OSU has yet to publicly address what if anything is going on with the player.

Karageorge is a former OSU wrestler who joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on earlier this year.  He’s played in one game this season, that coming in the win over Penn State.

Our thoughts go out to the family as they continue to search for their loved one.

(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)

UPDATED 11:24 a.m. ET: The Columbus Police Department has confirmed that they are actively searching for Karageorge.  It’s also being reported that the player was not at practice Thursday morning.

UPDATED 12:19 p.m. ET: From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Karageorge’s sister, Sophia, told cleveland.com that her brother was upset about something Tuesday night. His roommates, who are also Ohio State wrestlers, said he went for a walk from their apartment on East 7th Avenue in Columbus around 2 a.m.

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Pair of Alabama receivers ‘very questionable’ for Iron Bowl

Western Carolina v Alabama Getty Images

Alabama could very well head into Saturday’s Iron Bowl at less than full strength in its passing game*.

In what was essentially a glorified scrimmage last Saturday, tight end Brian Vogler and receiver ArDarius Stewart sustained what head coach Nick Saban described as stretched knee ligaments in the romp over FCS-level Western Carolina. Neither player has practiced this week, leading Saban to continue to call the duo “very questionable” for Saturday evening’s game against Auburn.

Because neither has practiced, it would seem highly doubtful either will be available.

Stewart has started the past two games and has 12 receptions for 149 yards on the season. Nine of those receptions have come in the last five games.

While Vogler has started nine games this season, he has just three receptions for 13 yards as his forte is blocking. One of those catches, though, was a touchdown in the Week 3 win over Southern Miss.

(*With Amari Cooper on the field, they’re still at, what, 99 percent?)

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Buckeyes sending conflicting message with hype video?

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As you get set for your Thanksgiving feast, here’s a little something to chew on in the meanwhile.

During the 2013 edition of The Game between Ohio State and Michigan, a pair of Buckeyes — offensive lineman Marcus Hall and running back Dontre Wilsonwere ejected for throwing punches in the midst of a kick-return fracas. Mindful of that situation, Urban Meyer had a message his players were to carry into this year’s version of The Game.

“He said he wants the game to be very intense, but if anybody throws a punch they’re dismissed,” linebacker Curtis Grant said Monday. “He pretty much put it out there [Sunday]. There’s no telling what will happen if we get in a fight this year.”

Fast-forward a day or so later, and OSU released a hype video for this year’s game — Meyer tweeted it out to his 140,000-plus followers — that featured, you guessed it, fisticuffs and dust-ups from past UM-OSU football battles.

 

“What do you expect?” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said Monday of the volatility of The Game in general and last year’s game specifically. “We just watched this highlight video of Ohio State-Team Up North fights for the last week on repeat with ‘It’s Time for War‘ playing the whole time. Kids wanna fight, that’s just how it is. It didn’t surprise me.”

When it comes to Meyer’s ultimatum, is this is one of those “do as I say, not as I hype video” type deals? You be the judge.

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LSU’s Mike the Tiger ate Texas A&M (logo) for breakfast

Mike the Tiger

Many of us will be feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie and perhaps a green bean casserole or cranberry sauce if you prefer. But tigers need to eat too, right?

LSU is playing Texas A&M Thursday night to add to your football enjoyment. In honor of the occasion, LSU made sure to prepare an appropriate Thanksgiving Eve feast for Mike The Tiger. Today, Mike was fed raw meat in the form of Texas A&M’s logo, with a question on social media asking how many tigers it takes to devour the Aggies.

The answer? Just one.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.35.15 PM

It should be noted, this is a fairly common treat for Mike the Tiger. He has also devoured the logos of Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss this season.

Image via Mike the Tiger’s Instagram.

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