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The Fifth Quarter: Week 5 Rewind

LSU v Georgia 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

Scheduling buzzsaw complete
One of the major storylines of the weekend heading into the Top-10 matchup between LSU and Georgia was current Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and former Bulldogs/current Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger.  While neither disappointed, it was another defining team moment for the squad from Athens that’s had a season’s worth in the first month of the football year.  The huge 44-41 win over LSU was UGA’s second win over a team ranked No. 6 in the country this season, the first coming three weeks ago against SEC East rival South Carolina.  Their lone loss?  A season-opening three-point defeat on the road at the hands of Clemson, which was No. 8 at the time but has climbed to No. 3.  Thanks in large part to the play of Murray — four touchdown passes on the day, including the game-winner with under two minutes left — the Bulldogs still control their own destiny; win out through early December, and UGA will head to Pasadena to play in the last-ever BCS championship game.  Of course, their opponents in Saturday’s game can say the same thing, as can Alabama.  Still, from the heartbreak in the opener to an absolute meatgrinder two of the last three games, Mark Richt has to be beyond ecstatic with the position his football team finds itself in.

Braxton back, boon for Buckeyes
After Kenny Guiton lit up opposing defenses for 10 touchdowns in two starts, many were calling for the senior to start even after Braxton Miller was healthy enough to return from a knee injury.  Urban Meyer wouldn’t hear of it, and Miller showed why.  In his first action since the first quarter of a Week 2 win over San Diego State, Miller accounted for 281 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Wisconsin.  The win was the Buckeyes’ nation’s best 17th straight, and its first over a ranked team since beating Michigan to end the 2012 regular season.  Whether it was enough to impress voters, though, remains to be seen.  OSU’s first four wins of the season came against three FBS teams that had won a combined two games entering Week 5 as well an FCS program.  The fact that OSU couldn’t put away the Badgers after holding a 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter could give those with the power pause.  Regardless, OSU will have another chance to impress next week as they travel to Evanston to face No. 19 Northwestern.

The Camdy Man can
If the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach were given out today, LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron would likely be an easy choice for most voters.  On the bayou, the former head coach who failed miserably at stops in Indiana and with the Miami Dolphins is like water finding its level.  While the Tigers dropped a heartbreaker to the Bulldogs Sunday, Cameron’s impact on the LSU offense in general and Mettenberger specifically is undeniably obvious.  Last season, Mettenberger completed just 58.8 percent of his passes; averaged just 7.41 yards per attempt; and threw 12 touchdowns versus seven interceptions.  This season, with Cameron orchestrating the offense, Mettenberger is completing 64 percent of his passes; averaging 10.9 yards per attempt; and has thrown 13 touchdowns and, even more amazingly, a mere one interception.  Yes, the game between The Hedges was a punch to the gut, but Tiger Nation can take solace in the fact that they finally have a championship-caliber offense to go with an above-average defense.

Class of the Big 12? Oklahoma v Notre Dame
Thanks to Oklahoma State tripping over its own junk in Morgantown Saturday, it appears that Oklahoma is the class of the Big 12 and the road to the conference’s BCS berth will, as it ofttimes does, go through Norman.  Maybe.  Exacting revenge for its loss to Notre Dame last season, the Sooners went into South Bend and went home with an impressive 35-21 win over the Irish.  Certainly OU was helped by three turnovers, which they turned into 21 points, but this kind of performance in a big-game atmosphere is something that’s somewhat eluded the Sooners for the past several years.  Does it, though, signify they’re should be sitting in the league driver’s seat?  That answer will have to wait until back-to-back late October/early November games against No. 25 Texas Tech and No. 19 Baylor in Waco.

UW, short for “Unother Win”
Don’t look now, but there may be another player in the race for the Pac-12 North title.  In handing Arizona its first loss of the season, Washington raised its record to a perfect 4-0 for the first time since 2001.  The Huskies have now won all four by double-digit margins, including a 32 drubbing of (soon-to-be) 3-2 Boise State and a 10-point win over  3-1 Illinois.  The good news for those in the media whose beat is the Pac-12 is that whether the Huskies are pretenders or contenders will be known in short order; next week, UW travels to No. 5 Stanford before playing host to No. 2 Oregon seven days later.  One thing is certain: two weeks from today, we’ll know exactly where the Huskies stand in the Pac-12 pecking order.

A Mannion among boys
Remember that quarterback competition at Oregon State?  Yeah, it appears Mike Riley made the right call.  After throwing for 414 yards in the blowout win over previously unbeaten Colorado, Sean Mannion now has 2,018 passing yards through five games.  He came into the game leading the nation in that category, and the fact that he led by nearly 300 yards (Wyoming’s Brett Smith and Ball State’s Keith Wenning, 1,315 apiece) means he will enter Week 6 as the leader as well.  Last season, Mannion had 15 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in nine games; this year, he’s thrown 21 touchdowns — including a school-record six Saturday — while tossing just two picks in 235 attempts.  The best part of Mannion’s torrid start is the fact that it’s played a significant role in OSU’s 4-1 start to the season, which could’ve been a perfect one were it not for the inexplicable season-opening loss to FCS-level Eastern Washington.

NIU B1GB1G MACownership
Who says the SEC has sole ownership of the Big Ten?  Northern Illinois pushed its record to 4-0 on the season with a 55-17 pasting of Purdue.  It’s the first time one MAC school has beaten two B1G teams in the same regular season, with the Huskies’ other coming in the season opener against Iowa.  NIU also tied a record for the largest margin of victory by a MAC member over the B1G, matching Toledo’s 31-point woodshedding of Minnesota in 2001.  What it also means is that Fresno State might not be the only BCS buster still in play as the Huskies, which crashed the BCS party last season, are on an unbeaten path, although they would need to remain undefeated and get some help from some of the heavyweights in college football to make it back-to-back party crashes.

No UpHill climb this time
Taysom Hill‘s struggles in 2013 aren’t exactly a state secret.  BYU starting quarterback entered Friday night’s game against Middle Tennessee State completing an anemic 35.1 percent of his passes and ranked No. 114 in passing efficiency.  After getting a vote of confidence from his teammates and coaching staff earlier in the week, Hill went out and completed 14-of-19 passes (a career-high 73.7 completion percentage, besting his previous high of 66.7) and 177 yards in the win over the Blue Raiders.  The sophomore also rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns.  Hill’s not out of the offensive woods quite yet, but Friday night was most certainly a step in the right direction.

LOSERS

Bo don’t know THAT defense
Ole Miss starting quarterback Bo Wallace raised some eyebrows earlier this week when he opined that his Rebels offense “can put points on” Alabama’s stingy defense.  Yeah, that didn’t work out too well for anyone with an Oxford lean.  In Alabama’s Tuscaloosa whitewashing of Ole Miss, the Rebels managed just 205 yards of offense and zero points.  Ole Miss came into the game averaging 490 yards (T-26th nationally) and 38 points per game (T-37th).  Ole Miss averaged just 1.8 yards per rush attempt and a staggering 4.9 yards per pass attempt against the No. 1 team in the country.  The Tide defense actually outscored the Rebel offense, with ‘Bama putting a safety on the board — at Wallace’s expense, appropriately enough — in the fourth quarter.  Hint to Wallace for future reference: it’s best to allow sleeping D’s lie, especially one like the Tide’s.

One-Lane road outta town
Thanks to our friend at YouTube, here are the final moments of USC’s epic 62-41 meltdown against Arizona State Saturday night:

 

There’s no way Lane Kiffin survives this season, right?  Right???  For the sake of a very loyal and proud Trojan fan base, he’d better not.

Not-so-OK State
Oklahoma State entered Week 5 as the highest-ranked team in the Big 12.  An inexplicable loss to a not-very-good West Virginia team, however, has cast a pall over a season that began with BCS title aspirations in Stillwater.  In two games against FBS teams this season, the Mountaineers passed for a total of 280 yards; in the loss Saturday, the Cowboys coughed up 320 yards in the air, including 309 by first-time WVU starter Clint Trickett.  OSU is certainly not out of the Big 12 race by any means, but if they’re giving up that type of yardage to a team like West Virginia, what are they going to do when teams like Baylor and Oklahoma come a callin’?

VoLOLOL
Since replacing Phillip Fulmer in 2008, Tennessee has gone a non-UT-like 26-29.  Included in that total was a seven-point win at home against South Alabama, a program that was playing at the FCS level a mere two seasons ago.  The Vols were leading 31-7 early in the early quarter, but allowed three Jaguar touchdowns in less than a quarter and a half to cut the lead to seven with just under nine minutes remaining.  USA had a fourth-and-goal with under two minutes left that could’ve resulted in a game-tying touchdown, but the Vols intercepted the last-gasp attempt in the end zone to preserve the win.  While the Vols are 3-2, those three wins have come against a pair of Sun Belt school (USA and Western Kentucky) and an FCS program (Austin Peay).  In two games against teams from automatic-qualifying conferences, UT has lost by 45 (Oregon) and 14 (Florida).  I liked the Butch Jones hire when it happened, and still do, but he and his coaching staff have a long way to go to dig out of the hole created by previous coaches over the past few years.

Larry FedoraWhat the Heel is going on in Chapel Hill?
After becoming the permanent replacement to Butch Davis, Larry Fedora raised the hopes of Tar Heel Nation by guiding North Carolina to an 8-4 record his first season at the school.  Three of those losses came by a combined total of nine points.  Then the 2013 season started.  An embarrassing 24-point loss to East Carolina Saturday, however, dropped UNC to a surprising 1-3 on the season.  The road to redemption doesn’t get any easier for Fedora’s charges, either, as the Tar Heels will in the next four games face an improving Virginia Tech team on the road; No. 15 Miami; and Boston College and in-state rival North Carolina State.

UConn-not be serious
Exactly one week after having Michigan on the ropes at home, UConn went on the road and were embarrassed by 1-2 (now 2-2) MAC member Buffalo 41-12.  And going inside the numbers might be even more embarrassing than the 29-point loss.  The Bulls entered the Week 5 game 122nd (out of 123) in total defense, giving up an average of 560.3 yards per game; UConn could muster just 220 yards of offense against the worst non-New Mexico State defense in the game.  The Huskies were just 7-of-18 on third down, committed four turnovers and averaged a meager .7 yards per carry.  Add it all up and it’s an 0-4 start for Paul Pasqualoni, who entered the season on the coaching hot seat after winning just 10 games his first two years with the program.  If things don’t turn around in a hurry, he may not make it through his third season let alone make it to a fourth.

MY EYES!!!
During ESPN‘s College GameDay show, veteran pot-stirrer Paul Finebaum stated that former Tennessee and current USC head coach Lane Kiffin “is the Miley Cyrus of college football.”  In response to a tweet to that effect, one of CFT’s followers on Twitter, well, posted this:

Lane Kiffin Twerk

Yeah, good luck going to sleep again.  Ever.

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

– No. 10 Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 33: The Aggies jumped to first-half leads of 17-7 and 24-10, but allowed the Razorbacks to pull to within 24-20 heading into the locker room.  It was 38-33 early in the fourth quarter until a Ben Malena one-yard touchdown run essentially iced the game in a downpour.

– No. 12 South Carolina 28, UCF 25: Placing the Gamecocks into this category is a tad bit misleading as the Knights were 4-0 and on the verge of cracking the Top 25.  UCF led 10-0 at halftime, but a punishing ground game — and the Knights’ inability to cash in on first-half turnovers — in the second half kept the Gamecocks’ (slim) BCS title hopes alive.

– No. 20 Florida 24, Kentucky 7: Why would a team that won comfortably and was never in any real jeopardy be here?  The Gators did it against a team like the Wildcats, that’s why.

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 — It wasn’t pretty (again), but a win is a win is a win is a win.  The Tide’s next four games come against one FCS team and three other teams (Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee) that have combined for five wins against FBS schools in 2013. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Georgia State

2. Oregon —  Neither rain nor bye week can stop the Ducks as UO cruised to a 55-16 win over Cal.  UO’s offense was limited to 381 yards, but that was due more to the “stiff dew” than anything else. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at Colorado

3. Clemson — The Tigers had absolutely no problem dispatching Wake Forest to the tune of 56-7.  A trap game coming up this weekend is the only thing standing between Clemson and a huge Week 7 showdown against the Florida State. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: Boston College

Wisconsin v Ohio State4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes turned a double-digit win that would’ve looked good in the eyes of pollsters into a closer-than-it-should’ve-been over nemesis Wisconsin.  “Redemption,” though, is at hand. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: at No. 19 Northwestern

5. Stanford — After winning their first three games by 21, 14 and 14 points, the Cardinal laid the wood to overmatched Wazzu in a 38-point win.  Stanford is rounding into shape nicely, and it comes at a most opportune time: four of their next five games are against Washington, UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: vs. No. 16 Washington

HE SAID IT
“Ole Miss has a really good team and a really good offensive team, so for us to shut them out was a great job by the defense.” — Nick Saban, presumably with a non-smile on his face.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I’m about to pass out.  I mean, what a game.  What a game.” — Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“What a great team win. We played a complete game for all four quarters. There were no lulls in our play.  We played a ton of guys and they played to our standard of excellence.” — Dabo Swinney, on Clemson’s 49-point waxing of Wake Forest.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“It was like Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.” — Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch, on the back and forth between Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
“I hope not.” — Les Miles, when asked if the SEC is entering a new era of high-powered offense.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK
ESPN‘s College GameDay may just go ahead and call it a career as the pregame show could never possibly top this, regardless of how long it stays on the air:

Tom Rinaldi Jorts

Tom Rinaldi.  In jorts and dark socks.  My life is now complete.

SAY WHAT?
Entering its game against Notre Dame, Oklahoma had three interceptions in three games; the Sooners had three in the first half in building a 21-7 halftime lead en route to avenging last year’s loss.

TRUE STORY
Not only is Miami 4-0 for the first time since 2004, they are doing so in dominating fashion: according to a note from the school, the Hurricanes have not trailed in a game for the last 357 minutes dating back to last season.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

Jameis Winston totaled five incompletions his first two games of the season; he misfired on four of his first six attempts against Boston College Saturday.  The Florida State quarterback settled down, however, by completing his last six passes of the first half and finished the 48-34 win with 330 yards passing and four touchdowns.  He also totaled 67 yards on the ground.

Wake Forest v ClemsonTajh Boyd totaled 380 yards of offense (311 passing, 69 rushing) and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in Clemson’s 56-7 rout of Wake Forest.  The senior also became the second player in ACC history to account for 100 or more touchdowns in his career.

Tommy Rees had two turnovers in Notre Dame’s first four games; he had three in the first half against Oklahoma, helping the Irish dig a hole from which they could never recover.

– In the first half alone, Nathan Scheelhaase passed for 256 yards (on 15-of-20 passing) and a school record-tying five touchdowns.  Playing sparingly in the second half, Scheelhaase added just 28 yards and zero touchdowns to that total in Illinois’ 50-14 win over Miami of Ohio.

– Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo went 38-for-54 for 389 yards with three touchdowns in Nevada’s 45-42 win over Air Force.

– From the “One of the Best QBs You’ve Probably Never Heard Of” department, East Carolina’s Shane Carden totaled six touchdowns — three passing, three rushing — in the Pirates’ romp over North Carolina.

– Bishop Sarkey‘s 40 carries in Washington win over Arizona set a school record.  He rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on those 40 carries.

Barry Sanders — yes, the son of that Barry Sanders —  scored his first career touchdown in Stanford’s win over Washington State.  His 22-yard scoring jaunt was part of a three-carry, 34-yard performance.

Logan Thomas completed 76 percent of his passes in Virginia Tech’s win over previously unbeaten Georgia Tech Thursday night; it marked the first time the quarterback has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in a single outing since Oct. 13 of last year, a stretch of 10 straight games.  The completion percentage in the win was the second-highest of his career, trailing only the 92 percent (23-of-25) he put up against Miami Oct. 8, 2011.

Chuckie Keaton did Chuckie Keaton-like stuff in Utah State’s win over San Jose State Friday night, totaling 312 yards of offense (260 passing, 52 rushing) and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).

Braxton Miller‘s 25-yard scoring toss to Evan Spencer in the first quarter was the first touchdown pass Wisconsin had given up this season.  He would go on to toss three more in the win.

– Wisconsin came into the game against Ohio State averaging 349.8 yards per game on the ground and 7.99 yards per carry the first four games of the season; in four quarters against the Buckeyes, the Badgers totaled a season-low 104 yards and averaged just 3.9 ypc.

– USC had entered last night’s game against Arizona State having given up 44 points in four games; they gave up 62 to Arizona State in a 21-point loss.  It was the most points the Trojans have ever given up in a single game.

Arizona v Washington– Every team that Washington has played this season had been without a loss entering their respective games against the Huskies.

– Florida has now won 27 straight games against Kentucky, the longest such streak in the country.

– Clemson ran its record to 66-0-1 all-time when putting up 500 or more yards of total offense.

– Southern Miss has now lost 16 straight games dating back to Week 1 of the 2012 season.  Prior to that, the Golden Eagles had gone 12-3 in their previous 15 games and prior to the departure of Larry Fedora for North Carolina.

– TCU had six sacks in the win over SMU, the Horned Frogs’ most in a single game since 2009.  They also forced five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble recovery).

– Sticking with the school in Fort Worth, TCU’s 31 four-quarter points are the most scored in the fourth quarter by an FBS team this season.

– Texas A&M and Arkansas combined for 1,003 yards of total offense, 523 for the Aggies and 483 for the Razorbacks.

– Army ran for 414 yards and passed for 16 — on three attempts and one completion — in a 35-16 win over Louisiana Tech.

– In their stunning 24-point win over North Carolina, East Carolina rolled up 603 yards of total offense (376 passing, 227 rushing).  That total, incidentally, was the most given up by UNC since 1989 against Duke… which was coached at the time by Steve Spurrier.

– The Wyoming-Texas State game was delayed for nearly four hours due to lightning.  It was the third time in five games this season that a Cowboys contest has been delayed by lightning.

– UNLV’s 22-game road losing streak came to an end courtesy of a 56-42 win over New Mexico.  The Rebels last road win?  In 2009 against the Lobos, of course.

– UT-San Antonio outgained Houston 493-491… had as many first downs (27) as the Cougars… had just six penalties compared to UH’s 10… and still lost 59-28.  Of course, five Roadrunner turnovers that the Cougars converted into 21 points played a significant role in the lopsided final score.

– Colorado State jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead on UTEP, watched as the Miners tied the score at 28-all in the middle of the third quarter, then scored the next 24 points en route to a 59-42 win.

– Before a one-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter of their loss to Illinois, Miami of Ohio had gone 193:39 without an offensive touchdown dating back to the second quarter of their season opener four weeks ago.

– Georgia Tech came into their game against Virginia Tech No. 4 in the nation with 345.3 yards per game and averaging 5.7 yards per carry; in their win Thursday, the Hokies’ defense held the Yellow Jackets to season-low totals of 129 yards and 3.1 ypc.

helmet_UCIN CLOSING…
The world of college football suffered another loss last weekend, with Cincinnati offensive lineman Ben Flick losing his life due to injuries incurred in a one-vehicle accident Saturday night.  In honor of Flick, Western Michigan, which wasn’t even playing the Bearcats Saturday, wore UC’s helmet logo beneath theirs for their game against Kent State.  A very classy, selfless and moving gesture by head coach P.J. Fleck and the entire football program.

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Air Force Falcons clip Colorado State Rams with last-second field goal

Will Conant

The Air Force Falcons have played the role of spoiler all season.

The latest example came Friday against the Colorado State Rams. A Will Conant field goal as time expired proved to be the difference as the Falcons claimed a 27-24 victory.

With the win, Air Force improved its record to 9-3 this season. Colorado State, meanwhile, dropped to 10-2, and the program’s aspirations of possibly being the highest-ranked Group of Five program quickly vanished.

For Colorado State, the Boise State Broncos still needed to lose Saturday against the Utah State Aggies to become the top team from a non-Power Five conference. Now, it doesn’t matter.

Air Force also upset Boise State earlier in the season which made the Broncos’ trek through the season far more difficult before finally being ranked in the College Football Playoff committee’s Top 25 for the first time this past week.

The Falcons haven’t made life easy for any of their opponents.

The academy also claimed its first Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy since 2011 despite the Navy Midshipmen being considered the favorites to win the award.

But Air Force would never have been in the position it currently resides without a poor decision from Colorado State head coach Mike McElwain.

With 44 seconds remaining, the Rams faced a 4th-and-2 from the Falcons’ 42-yard line. McElwain decided to go for it instead of trying to pin Air Force deep into their own end. Running back Dee Hart, who ran for 115 yards, was stopped short of the first down, and Air Force took over with 38 seconds left.

A 26-yard pass from Air Force quarterback Nate Romine to junior wide receiver Garrett Brown was the big play the Falcons needed to move into field goal position. Conant proved to be up to the task when it came time to attempt the field goal.

Despite the loss, McElwain provided the quote of the day regarding Conant’s field goal:

At 9-4, Air Force is the fourth team in the Mountain West Conference to win at least nine games.

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Report: Tulsa expected to dismiss head coach Bill Blankenship

Bill Blankenship

As the Tulsa Golden Hurricane prepares for Friday’s contest against the East Carolina Pirates, it may be the last time head coach Bill Blankenship leads the team unto the field.

Conflicting reports surfaced earlier in the evening regarding Blankenship’s future with the program.

FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman originally reported Blankenship will be dismissed after tonight’s game. However, the Tulsa World‘s John Hoover spoke with Tulsa University president Steadman Upham, who claimed a decision hasn’t been made. Hoover admitted the dismissal is still expected, though.

The Golden Hurricane is 2-9 this season and currently in ninth place during the program’s first season as part of the American Athletic Conference.

During Blankenship’s tenure, the team fell apart during the past two seasons. Last year’s 3-9 served as a precursor to the current disappointing campaign. Blankenship is 24-26 overall entering tonight’s game.

However, expectations were raised in Tulsa due to the success of the coaches that immediately predated Blankenship. From 2003-10, the Golden Hurricane was 64-39 overall under the direction of Steve Kragthorpe and then Todd Graham.

Both coaches went on to accept higher-profile jobs before the reins were eventually handed to Blankenship, a former Tulsa quarterback who never coached at any level above the high school ranks before being named an assistant coach under Graham.

During two non-competitive seasons, a program that was previously known for producing great offensive football and served as a hotbed for the next top name in coaching circles devolved under Blankenship’s direction.

Upham may be waiting to make his decision, but it’s clear which direction he should be leaning.

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Bobby Hauck resigns as head coach at UNLV

Bobby Hauck

There is now a third opening for a head football coach at a Football Bowl Subdivision school.

UNLV released a statement Friday that stated head coach Bobby Hauck resigned from his current position.

“Bobby Hauck submitted his resignation, effective Monday, and I have accepted it,” UNLV director of athletics Tina Kunzer-Murphy said in the statement. “No one has worked harder in trying to achieve consistent success with our football program than Coach Hauck and we thank him for his dedication and leadership. He and his staff have worked tirelessly in trying to achieve the results we all want to see but it unfortunately has not happened. We wish Bobby and his family the very best in their future endeavors.”

The decision comes 11 months after Hauck agreed to a controversial extension that raised his pay and added a year to his previous contract.

The extension was a reward for a 7-6 record during the 2013 campaign. Those seven wins more than tripled Hauck’s win total through his first three seasons with the program. It was also the school’s first non-losing season since 2003 when the Rebels finished 6-6 under the direction of John Robinson.

After another 2-10 season (with one game left to play), Hauck decided to step aside and let another coach attempt to resurrect the program.

“We were given an opportunity to get it done here at UNLV and we simply did not win enough games,” Hauck said. “It’s my responsibility to push the program forward and I wish we would have produced better results.

“I would like to thank our University leadership for their support of our program; in particular, President Don Snyder, Athletics Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy and Board of Regents Chair Kevin Page. In addition, I would like to thank our student body, alumni and community leaders for their support of Rebel Football.”

UNLV landed the top coach at the FCS level in Hauck during the previous coaching search. UNLV’s brass now has another major decision in front it to hire the right person for the job. It’s never been easy to win in Sin City. Harvey Hyde was the last head coach to own a winning record from 1982-85.

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Arizona Wildcats bear down, claim Pac-12 South crown over rival Arizona State

Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham

A Pac-12 South division crown and The Territorial Cup will both reside in Tucson, Arizona this year.

The No. 11 Arizona Wildcats claimed a 42-35 victory over the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils in a chippy affair that proved to be a de facto Pac-12 South championship game.

With the UCLA Bruins’ loss, the balance of the Pac-12 South was still in question during the fourth quarter for the Wildcats and the Sun Devils.

Arizona already built a 35-21 lead with the fourth frame about to commence. Arizona State head coach Todd Graham decided to make a change at quarterback by swapping Taylor Kelly for Mike Bercovici. The move paid immediate dividends, but it didn’t prove to be enough.

A 20-yard touchdown reception by sophomore wide receiver Samajie Grant — his second of the contest — was the difference in the game.

With the victory, the Wildcats enter rare territory for the program.

Arizona will now face the No. 2 Oregon Ducks in next week’s Pac-12 Championship Game. It will be a rematch of its Oct. 2 meeting. The Wildcats arrived on the national scene with a 31-24 victory during the Thursday night contest.

The Ducks will be favored again when these two teams meet for the second time:

After failing at the University Michigan and being fired after three seasons, Rodriguez already turned around Arizona’s football program in the same amount of time. With another strong effort against Oregon, Rodriguez could achieve something very special in the desert:

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UCLA squanders Pac-12 South lead with loss to Stanford

Stanford v UCLA Getty Images

The UCLA Bruins will not represent the South division in the Pac-12 Championship game. And the Bruins have no one to blame but themselves.

All Jim Mora‘s squad had to do was beat the underachieving 6-5 Stanford Cardinal. UCLA may not have beaten Stanford during the last six years, but this season was supposed to be different.

The Bruins were ranked eighth overall, and there were conversations during the week that UCLA could sneak into the backdoor of the College Football Playoff after three impressive victories against the Arizona Wildcats, Washington Huskies and the rival USC Trojans.

Stanford didn’t get the message.

The Cardinal played like the program it had been during previous seasons. David Shaw’s squad dominated at the point of attack and controlled the clock. This led to Stanford claiming a decisive 31-10 victory to extend their winning streak over UCLA to seven straight games.

UCLA took an early lead, though, when quarterback Brett Hundley completed a 15-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Thomas Duarte. Stanford responded with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie the game 7-7.

However, the second quarter belonged to the Cardinal.

During the second frame, Stanford ran 19 plays on two drives and gained 167 yards. Both drives ended in touchdowns. With 21-10 halftime, the game was essentially over for UCLA.

Stanford extended its streak of outscoring UCLA to 14 straight halves when it scored 10 more points in the second half of Friday’s contest.

The biggest difference in the game proved to be the play of the quarterbacks.

While Hundley, a junior, celebrated with the seniors because he is expected to leave UCLA for the NFL, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan was the most impressive signal-caller on the field.

Hogan began the game 12-of-12 passing. He was efficient and particularly deadly on third down. Stanford’s junior quarterback finished the game 16-of-19 passing for 234 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Hundley, meanwhile, never got into a groove and struggled to lead his offense before leaving the game with what appeared to be an injured throwing hand. During Hundley’s last game at the Rose Bowl, the quarterback was only 17-of-32 passing for a meager 146 yards and a touchdown.

Both teams are bowl eligible, but Stanford once again proved to the biggest obstacle for a team hoping to go to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

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Mizzou dashes UGA’s ATL hopes, heads back to SEC title game

Arkansas v Missouri Getty Images

As it turns out, Georgia tripping all over itself in the latest edition of The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was as costly as it gets for the Bulldogs.

The UGA faithful were rightly optimistic as Arkansas absolutely controlled Missouri in the first half, jumping out to a 14-6 lead that seemed bigger than what it actually was.  What it actually wasn’t, however, was a lead big enough as Mizzou came back in the second half to both win the game 21-14 and stake its claim to a second straight SEC East title.

Mizzou still trailed by that same first-half deficit of 14-6 heading into the fourth quarter.  A pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion, however — Maty Mauk‘s four-yard touchdown pass with 12:41 left, Marcus Murphy‘s 12-yard touchdown run with 4:38 remaining — sent the Tigers to Atlanta.

That Mauk scoring toss, incidentally, was the first touchdown allowed by the Razorbacks defense since the Nov. 1 game against Mississippi State.

UA did have one last chance to tie the game late in the game.  However, Alex Collins‘ fumble was recovered by the Tigers with just over two minutes left and essentially ended the game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, despite the losing effort, you won’t see a more gutsy performance football-wise than what Brandon Allen laid on the field, especially in the second half.  UA’s starting quarterback was questionable heading into the game due to injury, and was visibly hobbled late in it.  He remained in the game, however, and should be applauded for the heart and guts he showed.

What should be questioned, however, is the decision of Bret Bielema and/or his offensive coordinator to throw on all but one down — a carry that ended in the fumble, oddly enough — of a final drive that began with over four minutes remaining and with his quarterback banged up.

Regardless, Mizzou’s win sends the Tigers to their second consecutive SEC championship game appearance in just their third year in the conference.  Thanks to Georgia’s inexplicable loss to Florida, UGA needed a Mizzou loss to send it back to the league title game for the third time in four years.

Just who Mizzou will play next Saturday in the Georgia Dome will be decided tomorrow.

In the SEC West, Alabama and Mississippi State are both 6-1, but the former holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the latter.  Thus, if Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl, they clinch the West and will square off with Mizzou.  Also, if Alabama loses to Auburn and Mississippi State loses to Ole Miss, UA clinches the West.  The only way MSU can win the West is if they beat Ole Miss and Alabama loses to Auburn.

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A&M axes defensive coordinator Mark Snyder

Mark Snyder

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

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

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

“Mark is an outstanding coach and an even better person, but he understands the production needed to be better on the defensive side of the football,” Sumlin said in a statement. “We wish he and his family all of the best moving forward.”

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

“I appreciate the opportunity Kevin Sumlin gave me to come to Texas A&M and to work on his staff,” Snyder said in his statement. “I have been in the business a while now and understand it is a production-based business.”

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

(Photo credit: Texas A&M athletics)

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

And then there was one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dawgs calling Hogs? Arkansas up on Mizzou at the half

Arkansas v Missouri Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebraska v Iowa Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not that the Cornhuskers are a bad program under Pelini, it’s that they’re not even remotely the Cornhuskers of Tom Osborne.  Or, more to the point, they’re not even the Cornhuskers of Frank Solich.  In Osborne’s 25 seasons, NU never lost four games in a season and only lost three games in a season eight times.  Certainly Osborne is a lofty barometer for Pelini, but it’s not beyond the pale to think that the Cornhuskers should’ve returned to the national stage at some point during the current coach’s seven-year tenure.  Hell, Solich lost three or fewer games in four of his six seasons — either one or two losses in three of those years — and can claim one conference championship; Pelini’s won none in a tenure that’s one year beyond what Solich got from the university.

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

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NIU stakes claim to West divisional MACtion

MAC Logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ohio State issues statements on missing player

Kosta Karageorge II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iowa v Nebraska Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syracuse v Clemson Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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