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The Fifth Quarter: Week 6 Rewind

Washington v Stanford 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

Still standing tall on The Farm… barely
Washington outgained Stanford 489-279, and not-so unexpectedly doubled up the Cardinal in first downs 30-14.  Keith Price threw for 350 yards, while Kevin Hogan managed just 100.  Thanks to Ty Montgomery — and a fortuitous replay booth reversal on fourth down with just over a minute left — the Cardinal still managed to escape in spite of the statistical disadvantage with a hard-fought 31-28 win.  Montgomery totaled 204 yards on four kick returns, including a 99-yarder for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.  The junior wide receiver also caught a touchdown pass, and totaled 290 all-purpose yards on the night.  It was far from pretty, but it was a quality win over an above-average and undefeated opponent that should do nothing but strengthen the Cardinal’s résumé in the eyes of the national media.  Speaking of which…

Buckeye beat goes on… barely
You can almost hear the voters licking their chops from here.  Yes, Ohio State pushed its nation’s-best winning streak to 18 games in a row with a victory over a very good and very much unbeaten Northwestern on the road.  No, the Buckeyes didn’t look their best, in large part due to the fact that they were playing a very good and very much undefeated Wildcats team on the road.  No, the game wasn’t decided until the final minute, again due in large part to the fact that they were playing a very good and very much undefeated Wildcats team on the road (noticing the theme?).  Voters will very likely devalue the win because it was “just” Northwestern; they shouldn’t.  Drop the Buckeyes if you must, but do it because you view schools behind them as the better team or teams, not because they eked by a squad that’s not your grandfather’s — hell, your father’s — Wildcats.  Doing that would be a slap in the face to what Pat Fitzgerald is building in Evanston.

Lache Seastrunk, Karl JosephBearly legal offense
I’ve been watching the game of college football for more than 30 years, and, no offense to Oregon, I’m fairly certain that I’ve never witnessed anything like what’s going on in Waco.  The devastating speed and laser-like precision in which Baylor’s offense leaves a trail of defensive carnage in its wake is awe-inspiring.  The Bears totaled 56 points and 617 yards in the first half alone against West Virginia; those totals were the fourth-most WVU has ever given up… for an entire game.  The Bears took their foot off the gas in the second half, totaling 66 points and 745 yards through three quarters and 73 points and a Big 12-record 872 yards at game’s end.  Baylor now has the three highest single-game yardage marks this season with the total last night and 781 twice (Oregon has Nos. 4 and 5, incidentally) and they’ve played just four games.  And it’s not like the Mountaineers are horrific on defense; in three games against Oklahoma, Maryland and Oklahoma State, WVU gave up an average of 24.6 points and 397 yards.  Much like with the Buckeyes, critics will sneer in the general direction of what the Bears are doing, waiting for Art Briles‘ crew to sputter against the likes of, well, Oklahoma mainly.  I, for one, am borderline giddy over the prospects of that Nov. 7 game in Norman.  You’d better believe BU is feeling the same, if for nothing more than the opportunity to silence the doubters as well as put themselves squarely in the conference driver’s seat.

Smokin’ Winston
The talent Jameis Winston possesses is unfair and should be illegal — hell, it may already be illegal in several states as it is.  His play — and the play — against Maryland further solidified the legend that continues to grow by the week: 23-of-32 for 393 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in just three quarters — plus one play in the fourth — of work.  For the season, his first as a starter, Winston is now completing 73.2 percent of his passes for 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.  After just five games, Winston is already establishing himself as the future of the position for at least the next year and a half.  How he factors into this season’s Heisman discussion, however, should be determined in two weeks when the Seminoles travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson in a game that will be dripping with BCS implications. Speaking of which…

Boy oh Boyd
I understand that football is the ultimate team game, but the Tajh Boyd-Jameis Winston game-within-the-game will be utterly fascinating to watch play out.  In a couple of minutes of playing time less than Winston, Boyd lit up Syracuse for 455 yards and five touchdowns, although he did throw his first two interceptions of the season.  Aside from the BCS implications, the Boyd-Winston showdown could go a long way in determining a Heisman front-runner, or at the very least who deserves to be among the front-runners with less than two months until the stiff-armed trophy is awarded.

Gutsy UGA
When you consider the injuries Georgia had coming into this game… and the myriad injuries they incurred during it… and coming off a span of four games that saw them play three teams that were ranked or are currently ranked inside the Top Six, Saturday’s overtime win over Tennessee was as impressive as any they have had this season.  It was a gutsy performance in a game that, in all honesty, the Bulldogs likely deserved to lose.  They didn’t, though, and because of that UGA remains in the thick of the BCS title hunt.  Those injuries, however, could come back to haunt them and hurt them more down the road than a loss Saturday would’ve.

Live at The MettZach Mettenberger, Conner Neighbors
While there has been a plethora of outstanding quarterback play thus far this season, there might not be a more improved player at the position than Zach Mettenberger.  The senior came into the game sixth in the country in passing efficiency (he was 67th last season), and did nothing to hurt that standing.  In the 59-26 win over Mississippi State, Mettenberger completed 25-of-29 passes for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns, although he did throw his second interception of the season.  While a lot of the credit for Mettenberger’s astronomical rise (rightly) goes to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the player deserves as a sizable chunk of it as he put in yeoman’s work this offseason to get better.  Why Mettenberger’s barely on the periphery of the Heisman discussion is beyond me.  A winning team plus eye-popping stats normally equates to stiff-armed talk.  Maybe one of these weeks eyes will open to what’s going on down on the Bayou.

What’s this “running the football” you speak of?
For anyone who’s a fan of passing the football, Saturday’s Washington State-Cal game was like Christmas in early October.  With strippers and booze.  In the Cougars’ 44-22 win, the two teams combined for an astounding 1,027 yards in the air, with Wazzu’s Connor Halliday accounting for 521 and Cal’s Jared Goff 489 more.  Of the 179 plays that were run in the game, 129 of them were pass attempts.  On the carries that were few and far between, relatively speaking, Cal totaled 79 yards rushing while Wazzu mustered just 49.  And, yes, somewhere Woody Hayes is rolling over in his grave at what the game has become.  And punching an angel.  Probably.

Hope on The Plains
To say that the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn has gotten off to a rousing start would be a massive understatement.  With the 30-22 win over No. 24 (for now) Ole Miss, the Tigers improved to 4-1 on the season; in the last year under Gene Chizik, AU won just three games.  Malzahn’s charges have already won two SEC games after going 0-8 in the conference in 2012.  With Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama left on the schedule, any shot at a return to the SEC championship game would appear to be nothing more than a pipe dream.  However, with four very winnable games outside of that, the Tigers should slide comfortably into bowl eligibility, which would be a helluva just — and unexpected — reward for Malzahn and his players.

No quit in SMU
June Jones may be on the losing end of a battle for his job, but if the head coach ends up on the unemployment line it won’t be because his players gave up on him.  SMU came back from not one but two 21-point deficits in their game against Rutgers to force overtime… and another… and another before finally succumbing to the Scarlet Knights 55-52 in three extra sessions.  The wild affair included an absolutely unbelievable two-point conversion with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter to send the contest into its first overtime.

LOSERS

Not-so-merryland
Heading into an unexpected matchup of unbeatens, Maryland had lost all 11 games it had played in Tallahassee and was 2-21 all-time against Florida State, with the last win coming in October of 2006.  Suffice to say, that history doesn’t look any better for the Terps exiting Week 6.  The 63 points the Terps allowed to the Seminoles were the most since they coughed up 70 to Penn State way back in 1993.  The loss was the most lopsided by a ranked team since No. 11 Texas was taken to a 66-3 woodshed by UCLA in 1997.  Maryland’s defense entered the game having allowed four touchdowns in four games; FSU scored touchdowns on eight consecutive possessions at one point and nine total.  After winning just six games total the first two seasons of the Randy Edsall era, the Terps certainly appear to be on the right track.  After today’s derailment, however, they undoubtedly have a long way to go ahead of its move to the Big Ten in 2014.

Still Mullen change
I hate beating a deceased equine (not really), but the situation in Starkvegas bears watching.  In four-plus seasons at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen is 18-4 in non-conference games.  Counting the 33-point beatdown at the hands of LSU Saturday, Mullen is now 13-21 in SEC play, including an 0-2 mark this season.  Hey, if MSU officials are fine with 7-9 wins every season and Music City/Gator Bowl berths, have at it.  If settling for mediocrity is not what they want for their football program, they need to think long and hard about whether Mullen is the coach that can push the Bulldogs to the level of the Alabama’s and Georgia’s and LSU’s of the SEC.

Charlie WeisSorry Charlie… literally
After taking a surprising 10-0 lead on Texas Tech, Kansas allowed the Red Raiders to come back and tie the game at 10-apiece.  Facing a fourth and 13 from his own 16-yard line, Charlie Weis did what any coach with a clear head and sound mind would do in a tie game in the middle of the second quarter: he called for a fake punt.  Of course, the try came up shy as they turned the ball back over to the Red Raiders, which converted the play-calling gaffe into a touchdown as part of a 44-point run in their 54-16 romp.  If there were ever a sequence that sums up Weis’ tenure as a college coach — head, coordinator and otherwise — that was it. Just embarrassing.

Southern aMiss
Or “Southern Missery,” you pick the pun.  Anyway, we now come to the gut-punch part of the program.  Southern Miss entered its home game against winless FIU sporting a nation’s worst 16-game losing streak.  On the final play of the game, a 44-yard field goal attempt that would’ve won it for the Golden Eagles was no good, extending Southern Miss’ misery to 17 consecutive games.  Todd Monken is a good football coach, and it’s hard to see the university doing a one-and-done at the head-coaching position in back-to-back years, but it has to be awfully tempting for the administration to blow it up yet again.  Of course, that would be the absolute worst tack to take, but you never know in this win-now-or-else era.

Grounded Air Force
Apparently, a sizable chunk of the Air Force football program was furloughed even prior to the official government shutdown implemented earlier this week.  How else can you explain what’s happened to the Falcons?  In the first four seasons under Troy Calhoun, Air Force bookended a pair of eight-win seasons with nine-win years.  In 2011 and 2012, however, the Falcons combined to win just 13 games, dovetailing into the tailspin that the 2013 season has become: with the 28-10 loss to Navy, Air Force is now 1-5 on the season, its worst start since a 1-5 start in 1993.  The Falcons’ only win came against FCS-level Colgate, and they’ve lost their five FBS games by a combined total of 108 points.  Calhoun is so well-respected by officials at the academy in Colorado Springs that it’s doubtful his job is in jeopardy.  However, the program had better begin turning itself around in a hurry as, if it doesn’t, you might not keep Calhoun off the hot seat in 2014.

Hoosier non-hysteria
You want to know how I know the college basketball season is fast approaching?  I saw this picture of Indiana’s home “crowd” taken 10 minutes or so before the start of the game against Penn State:

Indiana Fans

Yes, I understand that the weather was not exactly optimal.  However, you live in the Midwest; the weather in that area of the country is rarely ever optimal, especially in October and beyond.  Just a bad look, Hoosiers.  A bad, bad look, especially in light of the fact that the Hoosiers went out and scored its first-ever win over the Nittany Lions a couple of hours later.

Picky beater
If there were ever an opportunity to point to an individual player in a team game and say he singlehandedly lost the contest, it would’ve been Thursday night’s UCLA-Utah matchup.  In the Utes’ loss, quarterback Travis Wilson threw a staggering total of six interceptions.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the Bruins turned those six picks into 24 of their 34 points, which included, appropriately enough, a pick-six.  Five of Wilson’s interceptions came in a second half that saw the Utes tied with the Bruins early in the fourth quarter. “Minus-five in the turnover margin pretty much says it all when you play a team the caliber of UCLA. You turn it over six times and gain one, you’re not going to win,” head coach Kyle Whittingham succinctly stated after the loss.

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

– No. 1 Alabama 45, Georgia State 3: Yes, the Tide won by 42, but they were favored by 54.5 or so.  And they allowed a newly-minted FBS program to not only cross midfield but score.  So there.

– No. 11 Oklahoma 20, TCU 17: The Horned Frogs have one of the toughest defenses in the Big 12, and it showed as the Sooners mustered a season-low 355 yards of offense.  A 76-yard touchdown run by Brennan Clay late in the fourth quarter, however, proved to be almost all of the offense needed.

– No. 12 UCLA 34, Utah 27: As noted above, nothing good happens when you commit six turnovers… unless you’re the beneficiaries of said turnovers as the Bruins were.

Kentucky v South Carolina– No. 13 South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28: The Gamecocks were cruising along with a 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter before the Wildcats exploded for 21 points to make the game closer than it should’ve been.  I’ll just chalk this one up to The Ol’ Ball Coach being bored in the fourth quarter or something.

– No. 14 Miami 45, Georgia Tech 30: This is one of those games where the final score doesn’t tell the whole story as the Yellow Jackets had pulled to within one at 24-23 with 10:38 to go in the game.  The Hurricanes, however, scored the next 21 points in a six-minute stretch to ice the game and remain unbeaten.

– No. 21 Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29: The Cowboys needed a touchdown with just over for four minutes remaining, and a field goal with just over two minutes left, to finally overcome four deficits in a back-and-forth affair and avoid losing its second straight game.

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

1. Alabama — The two-time defending BCS champs scrimmaged this weekend.  The outcome was expected.  Not much to see or say here, other than thank goodness that part of the Tide’s schedule has come to an end… ah crap; Chattanooga the week before the Iron Bowl. Oh well, at least a game against LSU is in the offing. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: at Kentucky

2. Oregon — Another week, another 55-plus points on the scoreboard.  This coming weekend, though, will be where we begin to learn exactly where the Ducks stand nationally as three of their next four games are against teams currently ranked in the Top 15, including a Nov. 7 trip to The Farm. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: at No. 15 Washington

Tajh Boyd,3. Clemson — After a three-point win over then-No. 5 Georgia, the Tigers have won their last four by an average of 33.7 points.  Clemson has its own date with BCS destiny in two weeks, but must avoid, well, ya know this weekend. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Boston College

4. Ohio State — The coaches and media may downgrade the Buckeyes’ win over Northwestern, but I won’t.  That was a quality W in my book, especially coming off a solid win over Wisconsin the week before. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Iowa

5. Stanford — The big win over No. 15 Washington is part of five-week stretch that includes home games against No. 12 UCLA and No. 2 Oregon, as well as a road trip to Corvallis against 4-1 Oregon State.  If The Cardinal comes through that stretch unscathed, they will vault up the rankings. (Last week: No. 5)
Next up: at Utah

HE SAID IT
“Well first of all, I want to thank our great fan base. Electric atmosphere, they definitely created a home field advantage. That’s why they’re the best in the country. I want to thank our student body. Over 12,000 students came out. I think what we learned is we need that environment. We’re going to need that. I need to challenge everyone. I need you to come to the South Carolina game. We’re on winter break and our team needs it.” — Tennessee’s Butch Jones.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“[Guys] are doing their own crap.” — Steve Spurrier, a bit perturbed at how his freelancing South Carolina defense performed in the win over Kentucky.

SAY WHAT?
In Week Six of the 2013 season, three teams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten, and all three losses came against fellow unbeatens: Maryland (to Florida State), Northwestern (to Ohio State) and Washington (to Stanford).  There are now 17 teams at the FBS level that have yet to lose a game.  The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 each have three undefeated teams apiece, while the AAC, Big Ten and SEC have two each.  The other two unbeatens come from the MAC (Northern Illinois) and MWC (Fresno State).

On the flip side, both FIU and USF picked up their first wins of the year, dropping the total of winless teams from 11 to nine.  UConn (0-4) and Temple (0-5) are the only winless teams from an automatic qualifying conference, and both of those are from the AAC.

TRUE STORY
The last 12 games Wisconsin has lost, going back more than three years, have been by a combined total of 53 points, none by more than seven points.  Included in that total are a pair of two-point losses and four more by a field goal.  A full quarter of those 12 losses came in overtime.  The last loss by more than a touchdown?  A 34-21 defeat at the hands of Michigan State Oct. 2, 2010, in East Lansing.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– With a 24-yard pass in the second quarter, Georgia’s Aaron Murray became the SEC’s all-time leader in career passing yards with 11,548.  He surpassed the previous record of 11,528 set by former Bulldog David Greene.

Marcus Mariota totaled 398 yards of offense (355 passing, 43 rushing) and seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in Oregon’s 57-16 win over Colorado.  Mariota is a big reason why the Ducks have scored at least 55 points in all five games this season.

Fresno State v Idaho– Fresno State’s Derek Carr passed for 390 yards and five touchdowns… in the first half.  The Bulldogs as a team put up 557 yards of total offense in jumping out to a 47-0 halftime lead.  Carr finished with 419 yards and the same five touchdowns in the 61-14 win over Idaho.

Garrett Gilbert accounted for five touchdowns passing and another two on the ground in SMU’s triple-overtime loss to Rutgers.

– In the 38-24 win over Kent State, and on his birthday, Northern Illinois running back Cameron Stingily ran 37 times for 269 yards.

Logan Thomas threw for 293 yards in Virginia Tech’s 10-point win over North Carolina; it was the quarterback’s highest total in a winning effort since he threw for 310 yards in an Oct. 8, 2011, game against Miami.  He also tied a career-high with three touchdown passes, which he also did twice in 2011.

Ameer Abdullah ran for a career-high 225 yards on just 20 carries in Nebraska’s easy 39-19 romp over Illinois.

– In 26 minutes of play in Alabama’s scrimmage against Georgia State, AJ McCarron tied a career-high with four first-half touchdown passes.  He also completed 12 straight passes at one point, which is tied for the third-longest such streak in school history.  All told, Tide quarterbacks completed passes to a whopping 15 different players.

– In Iowa State’s controversial loss to Texas, wide receiver Quenton Bundrage caught five passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.  Bundrage’s score was a 97-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter.  And, before you ask, yes, I included this note just so I could type the name “Bundrage” a couple of times.

– Ohio State has now won 29 of its last 30 games against Northwestern, with the Wildcats’ last win coming in 2004.  It’s also been 54 years since NU has beaten a Top-Five team (Iowa, 1959), a streak of 37 straight losses.

– The state of Florida was 7-0 in FBS play Saturday, with FIU and USF picking up its first wins of the season.  The prefect record for the Sunshine State squads is the first time that’s ever happened on the same weekend.

– Thanks to a pair of interceptions each by Clemson and Oregon, New Mexico is the only team at the FBS level that has not thrown a pick this season.

– Colorado (four games) and Southern Miss (five) are the only two teams at the FBS level that has not scored a rushing touchdown this season.

– West Virginia wide receivers caught one pass in a loss a couple of weeks ago; Syracuse went one better as its receivers had zero catches in the blowout loss to Clemson.

– Temple is the only FBS team that has not intercepted a pass this season.

Butch Jones– With the heartbreaking, punch-in-the-gut loss to Georgia, the Vols have now lost 19 straight games against teams that were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.  Their last win against a Top-25 team came Oct. 31, 2009, against No. 22 South Carolina.

– It’s been 1,065 days since Kansas’ last Big 12 win (Nov. 6, 2010 vs. Colorado) and 1,456 days since the Jayhawks’ last conference win over a team still in the league (Oct. 10, 2009 against Iowa State).

– Speaking of conference losing streaks, Illinois’ blowout loss at the hands of Nebraska was the Illini’s 15th straight in Big Ten play.  Their last league victory came against Indiana Oct. 8, 2011.

– TCU was unable to earn a first down until there was 8:35 left in the third quarter of its loss to Oklahoma.

– Navy’s win over Air Force bodes well for the Midshipmen as the last 13 winners of the Navy-Air Force games has gone on to claim the Commander-In-Chief Trophy.

– Boston College’s eight penalties through four game was the lowest total in the country entering Week 6.  In the 48-27 win over Army, the Eagles were flagged six times.

– Miami of Ohio came into their game with Central Michigan with just five third-down conversions in four games; in their 21-9 loss, they converted 5-of-15.

– Wake Forest and North Carolina played for the 104th straight year Saturday, the fourth-longest such streak in college football.

– In their overtime game Friday night, Nevada and San Diego State combined for 95 points, 1,111 yards and 55 first downs.  The Aztecs were able to escape with a 51-44 win thanks to a 13-yard touchdown pass from Quinn Kaehler in the first overtime.

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Melvin Gordon’s epic day places him atop NCAA record books

Melvin Gordon

And to think it all started with a fumble.

Melvin Gordon led an all out obliteration of Bowling Green’s rushing defense in the 19th-ranked Badgers’ 68-17 rout that registered on all sorts of record books from school, to conference, to country. Let’s start with Gordon, because that’s where it all starts for Wisconsin. The junior toted the rock 13 times for a career-high 253 yards and five touchdowns. He did not touch Ron Dayne’s single-game rushing record of 339 yards, but he did set the school record for yards per carry for all Badgers with at least 10 carries in a single game, and also became the sixth Wisconsin runner to notch five touchdowns in a single game. He also pulled into a tie for the NCAA all-time record for career yards per carry with some pretty notable company.

Gordon didn’t even touch the ball until Wisconsin’s fourth offensive play – its first drive found pay dirt in just two plays – and went for no gain after he lost a fumble. His remaining 12 carries went for a scant 21.1 yards per rush.

Impressive as that is, Gordon’s 253 yards accounted for only 39 percent of Wisconsin’s rushing totals. The Badgers rumbled for a total of 644 yards, a school record and the most in the modern era (since 1946) of Big Ten football. Tanner McEvoy completed 9-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and set a school record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback in rushing 11 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. Corey Clement also topped the 100-yard barrier with 111 yards on 16 carries, and Dare Ogunbowale added 14 rushes for 94 yards. You know you’re having a great day when 94 yards only gets you to fourth place on your own team.

Wisconsin’s 756 yards of total offense are also a single-game school record.

The explosive day gives Wisconsin two players among the nation’s top dozen in yards per carry. McEvoy ranks eighth at 9.73 per carry (26 carries for 253 yards), and Gordon checks in at No. 12 with 9.37 yards per carry (46 for 431 yards). As a team, the Badgers now rank second nationally in rushing (359.67 yards per game) and first in yards per carry (7.82). Bowling Green dropped from 71st to 123rd nationally in rush defense.

Next up for Wisconsin: South Florida and the nation’s No. 62-ranked rush defense. Buckle up, Bulls.

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Bama’s Blake Sims, ECU’s Zeek Bigger claim Week 4 Camp honors

East Carolina v North Carolina

One player from a Power Five school and another from a Non-Power Five program have laid claim to a top weekly national honor.

As it does every Sunday, the fine folks at the Walter Camp Foundation announce its national Players of the Week.  This week, those honors go to Alabama’s Blake Sims and East Carolina’s Zeek Bigger.

Sims completed 23-of-33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns as the Crimson Tide defeated Florida, 42-21. Sims’ 445 passing yards were the second-highest single-game total in school history. Two of his touchdown passes went for 87 and 79 yards as the Tide improved to 4-0 to start a season for the seventh consecutive year.

Sims also became the first UA quarterback to win Camp weekly honors.

On the defensive side, Bigger posted a career-high 17 tackles — seven of which were solos — and returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown as pasted in-state rival North Carolina by the score 70-41. Bigger had 11 of his tackles in the first half.

Bigger is the first-ever ECU player, either offensively or defensively, honored by the Camp Foundation as its Player of the Week.

ECU, incidentally, has now beaten ACC teams in back-to-back weekends for the first time in school history, and have won four straight against that conference dating back to last season.  UNC has been a victim twice in that span, while North Carolina State and Virginia Tech were victims once.

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FSU’s stranglehold on coaches’ poll slips as Tide, Sooners close gap

Clemson v Florida State

Much to the delight of Alabama and Oklahoma, close calls for both Florida State and Oregon cost those two squads in the latest release of the coaches’ poll.

FSU, as it has all season, remains No. 1 even as its support slipped in the wake of the overtime win over Clemson in Tallahassee.  The Seminoles received just 36 first-place votes after receiving 50 in the Week 3 poll.

Oregon, meanwhile, saw its first-place support slip from six to three and its standing in the Top 25 slide from No. 3 to No. 4.  The No. 2 Tide collected 11 first-place votes while the No. 3 Sooners, up from No. 4 last week, grabbed 12; last week, those first-place votes were one and four, respectively.

Those were the only teams receiving first-place votes.

Auburn (No. 5), Baylor (No. 6) and Texas A&M (No. 7) remain unchanged from a week ago.  LSU’s upset loss to Mississippi State caused the Tigers to drop from No. 8 to No. 18.  MSU, meanwhile, rocketed up from unranked and second in the “others receiving votes” category to No. 16.  Notre Dame moved up to No. 8 (from No. 9) to replace LSU while Michigan State climbed back into the Top 10 at No. 9 (from No. 11)

The Top 10 is rounded out by UCLA, which at No. 10 is in the same spot it was last week.

A whopping eight SEC teams are a part of this week’s poll, including six of the seven teams from the West.  The only team from that division not in the coaches’ poll is Arkansas, which is 3-1.

Week 4 Coaches' Poll

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Maryland loses starting TE for rest of season with dislocated knee

Maryland v Syracuse

One of the more gruesome sounding and looking injuries in any sport is a dislocated knee cap.  Unfortunately for a starting member of Maryland’s offense, that very injury has befallen him.

In the win over Syracuse Saturday, Andrew Isaacs had his left leg rolled up on by his starting quarterback, C.J. Brown.  The collision triggered an injury that will cost the tight end the remainder of the 2014 season.

“It’s really difficult,” Brown said. “I made a cut inside. I heard him yell. I got up and I saw his knee and I just started waving for the training staff to come over. Dislocated knee, that’s bad.”

The Terps are hopeful that Isaacs didn’t suffer any type of nerve damage.

“My hats off to him,” head coach Randy Edsall said, “because that’s a tough injury. Just to see how he was responding out there. He was just more worried about how he was going to get back and how he was going to come back stronger, and more worried about his teammates than worried really about himself.”

Isaacs is the Terps’ starting tight end, but has just one catch on the season. The sophomore will likely be eligible for a medical redshirt season as the injury occurred in the fourth game of the year, meaning he’ll fall within the 20-percent threshold — the NCAA rounds up — of games played that triggers waiver eligibility.

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‘A little bruised’ and ‘sore,’ Blake Sims says shoulder’s ‘very fine’

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It appears Alabama’s first bye week is coming at a most opportune time.

At the end of a third-quarter scramble in the Tide’s win over Florida, Blake Sims landed awkwardly and injured his right (throwing) shoulder.  The starting quarterback was taken to the locker room for further examination but subsequently returned to both the sidelines and the game.

Following the win, Sims attempted to downplay the severity of the injury.

“It’s very fine,” Sims said. “Just a little bruised. I’m going to get with the training staff and try to get better and let the team know I’m good. I’m going to come out against Ole Miss (Oct. 4) and try to win the game. …

“I’ll be all right. I’m going to get with the training staff and ice it, ice it, ice it.”

Sims’ head coach, though, said the off weekend will prove to be beneficial for Sims as it appears the player will be somewhat limited this week in practice.

“It will probably be something that’s sore for him for a while,” said Nick Saban. “Hopefully that second week he’ll be able to get back to normal in practice.”

Sims, incidentally, suffered the injury in the midst of one of the greatest passing performances in school history.

His 445 yards were the second-most in school history, behind only Scott Hunter’s 484 in a 1969 loss over Auburn.  It was also just the second 400-yard game ever for a Tide quarterback.

A whopping 272 yards of that total came in the first quarter alone, while 202 for the game — and three of his four passing touchdowns to boot — went to stud wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Speaking of Cooper, and while we’re here, Cooper had 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns last season in 12 games played.  This season, and through four games, Cooper has 43 catches for 655 yards and five touchdowns.

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Jimbo ‘hopes and believes Jameis will learn from this’

Jameis Winston

For the first time, Jameis Winston‘s off-field actions very nearly cost his football team on it as Florida State escaped with an overtime win over Clemson.

With the one-game suspension for the reigning Heisman winner in the books, and with the Seminoles’ nation’s best 19-game winning streak still intact, Winston’s head coach is hoping the young quarterback has — finally — learned his lesson.  And that this is the last issue for the duration of however much longer Winston stays in Tallahassee.

“At the end of the day we felt like the one game made the most sense, and I chose to keep that process internal,” Jimbo Fisher said according to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken. “Now he’s served that punishment and he’s ready to move forward.

“You never know the pace kids learn or why they make mistakes, but I hope and believe Jameis will learn from this and use better judgment and his language and decision-making and respect for everything will continue to grow.”

Based on the most recent evidence available, though, Fisher’s getting ahead of himself as his player’s still behind the learning curve.

During pregame warm-ups ahead of the game with the Tigers, the suspended Winston showed up in full football gear. Fisher was not impressed, or pleased, with that development as the perturbed head coach promptly punted the player’s arse back into the locker room and out of uniform.

Plain and simple, Winston just doesn’t get it. At least not yet and even with a suspension that could very well have extinguished the hopes FSU entertained in becoming back-to-back champs.

Hopefully at one point the light switch will come, but right now Winston’s completely in the dark from the neck up.

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No. 1 Florida State’s OT escape highlights a crazy Saturday

Deshaun Watson,Eddie Goldman

Week 4 of the 2014 college football season offered 55 games, and exactly one of them featured a ranked team taking on a fellow ranked team. If you thought that guaranteed a dull day, well, you don’t know college football.

NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE SURVIVES CLEMSON IN OT

Florida State looked every bit like a team playing without the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, as Sean Maguire was sacked five times and threw two interceptions. The Clemson defensive line dominated, limiting the Seminoles to minus-12 rushing yards in regulation (key phrase: in regulation), as the Tigers’ own backup Deshaun Watson (296 total yards, one touchdown, no turnovers) guided the Tigers to a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead. Florida State tied it when Rashad Greene caught a 74-yard catch-and-stroll touchdown after a Clemson defender fell down, but Clemson appeared headed toward the upset after Maguire’s interception gave the Tigers the ball at the FSU 24. But Clemson fumbled on its second play, opened overtime by getting stuffed on a 4th-and-1 (did we mention kicker Ammon Lakip missed 2-of-3 field goals) and closed the night by letting Karlos Williams move the required 25 yards in two plays to give Florida State the season-saving 23-17 win.

Have fun sleeping tonight, Clemson.

BUT NO. 2 WASN’T MUCH BETTER

Marcus Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns and added 58 rushing yards to lead No. 2 Oregon to a 38-31 win at Washington State. The rest of the Ducks’ offense? Fifteen touches for 15 yards. (All numbers approximate.) Oregon averaged an un-Duck-like 4.1 yards per carry, and allowed the Cougars to throw for 436 yards and rush for 63 more. And to top it off, it took the officials ruling this 3rd-and-13 pass  in Oregon territory on Washington State’s would-be tying drive as nothing but good, clean defense to clinch the win.

MISSISSIPPI STATE TAKES DOWN NO. 8 LSU

It’s not often you see a 34-29 decision described as a blowout, but that’s what this felt like. Mississippi State built a 34-10 lead over No. 8 LSU and outgained the Tigers by 140 yards – their 570 yards were the most LSU allowed an opponent since the pre-Nick Saban era – and generally whipped their hosts up front. But then LSU backup signal caller Brandon Harris caught fire, hitting 6-of-8 throws for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and all of a sudden a 24-point game saw LSU throwing into the end zone for a chance to win the game. It was intercepted, and Dan Mullen moved to 3-21 against ranked teams, snapping a 15-game losing streak, and Mississippi State became the first non-No. 1 ranked team to win a night game in Death Valley during the Les Miles era.

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA BEATS WEST VIRGINIA, FINDS A RUNNING BACK

America, meet freshman running back Samaje Perine. Playing for an injured Keith Ford, Perine carried 32 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns to power No. 4 Oklahoma past West Virginia, 45-33. His touchdowns pulled OU into a 17-17 tie, gave the Sooners a 31-24 lead, and then a 38-27 lead, and then put the game away at 45-27.

NO. 2 ALABAMA BLASTS FLORIDA, 42-21

You get the feeling that if Alabama didn’t turn the ball over four times, this would have had a 40-point final margin. Florida took a 14-7 lead in the middle of the first quarter thanks to two early turnovers by the Tide, but Alabama erupted from there, ending the game on a 35-7 run and absolutely blowing the Gators off the stat sheet. Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, Amari Cooper caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and Derrick Henry added 111 rushing yards and a score, as Alabama outgained Florida 645-200. Yep, Cooper outgained the Fighting Muschamps by himself, and nearly outscored them, too.

MISSOURI LOSES TO INDIANA, UNDOES SEVEN YEARS OF SEC DOMINANCE

Missouri left the Big 12 North, and then promptly turned the SEC East into the Big 12 North. The 18th-ranked Tigers lost to Indiana at home on Saturday, 31-27, after blowing a 27-24 lead on a D’Angelo Roberts touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining. It’s never a good thing for your SEC championship chances when you allow Indiana to throw for 252 yards while also outrushing you by 69 yards, right?

SPURRIER RIPS NO. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA’S 48-34 WIN OVER VANDY

Vanderbilt – 37-7 losers to Temple earlier this year – held a 14-0 lead over No. 14 South Carolina in the first quarter, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Steve Spurrier was quite pleased.

THINGS GET TESTY IN LINCOLN AS NO. 24 NEBRASKA WINS REUNION WITH MIAMI You have to really piss off the locals to get booed off the field in Lincoln. Or, be the Miami Hurricanes. Ameer Abdullah rushed 35 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns as the Cornhuskers rallied from a 14-7 first half deficit and never trailed in the second half, but nine Miami penalties and a general touchy-feely nature led to the ‘Canes getting booed out of the most welcoming house in college football as Nebraska won, 41-31.

OFFENDED BY MICHIGAN’S OFFENSE, MOTHER NATURE FLOODS THE BIG HOUSE It’s clear by now that Brady Hoke has no idea how to construct an offense without Denard Robinson, and it’s also abundantly clear by now that Mother Nature is tired of sitting around and waiting for the Wolverines to get it together. Michigan accumulated 4.4 yards per pass, 3.3 yards per rush and a grand total of three points in a 26-10 loss to Utah. And then this happened during the fourth quarter:

HOW’S THIS FOR A NIGHTCAP? ARIZONA BEATS CAL ON HAIL MARY California led Arizona 31-13 entering the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough. The Wildcats launched a mad rally, but the Golden Bears’ lead appeared safe at 45-30 with five minutes remaining. The Wildcats notched two more touchdowns to pull within 45-43 after the Cal offense sputtered, but all they had to do to earn the first Pac-12 win of the Sonny Dykes era was stop a simple Hail Mary. Surely they could do that, right?

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Marcus Mariota near perfect in Oregon’s underwhelming defeat of Wazzu

Marcus Mariota

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota looked every bit the Heisman front-runner he is purported to be on Saturday night, and he had to be as No. 2 Oregon squeaked past Washingon State 38-31 in Pullman.

Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes, including every one of his last 14 throws, for 329 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions, while sprinkling in 13 rushes for 58 yards. It’s a good thing for the Ducks that their quarterback was as good as he was, because they would have lost otherwise. Mariota was sacked six times, and the Ducks ran for an un-Oregon-like 4.2 yards per carry on 42 tries. This was against a Washington State team that ranks 84th nationally in rushing defense.

Connor Halliday completed 43-of-63 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cougars pounded out 17 rushes for 63 yards. The Four Horsemen would be proud.

Washington State scored first and led 14-7 after one quarter, but the Fighting Mariotas took a 21-14 lead before Holliday notched an equalizer to tie it at 21 at the half. Oregon took a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter, and then broke serve by forcing a Washington State field goal to open the fourth quarter.

Washington State forced a 31-31 tie after Halliday hit River Cracraft from five yards out with 8:57 remaining, but Oregon pulled ahead again with Mariota’s fifth passing touchdown of the night, this one a six-yarder to Keanon Lowe. The Cougars were driving for a potential tie when facing a 3rd-and-13 at the Oregon 38 when this play you see below was ruled incomplete with no flag drawn. You be  the judge.

Halliday was sacked on the next play, and that would be that. Washington State never touched the ball again, and Oregon held on for the 38-31 win.

The Ducks take next week off before hosting a fellow 4-0 club in Arizona on Thurs., Oct. 2, while Washington State (1-3) is back in action at Utah on Saturday.

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No. 1 Florida State mounts improbable rally, stuns No. 22 Clemson in OT

Karlos Williams, Robert Smith, Tony Stewart

Let us recount the ways No. 22 Clemson could have beaten No. 1 Florida State Saturday night in Tallahassee:

  • Not under-throw a wide-open tight end on third-and-goal on the first drive of the game.
  • Not miss the ensuing field goal.
  • Not snap the ball over your quarterback’s head while knocking on the door of another touchdown, moving from the four-inch line to the 24.
  • Not missing that ensuing field goal.
  • Not having your defensive back fall down in front of Florida State’s best receiver, allowing an otherwise silent Rashad Greene to stroll in for a game-tying 74-yard touchdown grab.
  • Not fumbling the ball at the Florida State 14 with 1:36 to play, missing a chance at a game-winning touchdown or field goal.
  • Not running the ball on fourth-and-1 against a stacked box in overtime.

Clemson did every one of those things, and thereby turned a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead into a 23-17 overtime loss to Florida State.

The obvious story was the continued struggle of Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire, playing for the suspended Jameis Winston, and the corresponding dominant effort of the Clemson defensive front. Maguire completed 21-of-39 passes for 305 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Take away the 74-yard gift and add in the six sacks for 49 yards and you get a more accurate representation of Maguire’s first start: 182 yards on 43 called pass plays, good for 4.2 yards per attempt, with two interceptions. Oh, and Florida State also ran for minus-12 yards in regulation.

Cole Stoudt started the game for Clemson, played the first three series, and was not seen again. That was partly of his own doing – Clemson did not score in his time on the field – but mostly it was due to the play of his freshman backup Deshaun Watson. He accounted for 296 yards of total offense and one touchdown with no turnovers. Considering the play of the Clemson defensive line, there’s a chance he’d have been the best quarterback on the field even with a certain Heisman winner in action.

After trading field goals to open the game, D.J. Howard powered in from one-yard out to give the Tigers a 10-3 lead with 5:56 remaining in the first half, a lead it would take into halftime. Florida State opened the second half with the ball and put together without a doubt its best possession of the half, moving 68 yards in nine plays, setting up a Mario Pender one-yard run to tie the game with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter. Clearly buzzing after his halftime talk with the coaching staff, this drive was the only time Maguire looked the part of a major college starter, connecting on 6-of-7 throws for 53 yards. Again, take out this drive and the touchdown, and Maguire’s 36 other called passes registered a total of 129 yards.

Watson put Clemson on top again at 17-10 with a two-yard run four minutes into the second half, which Florida State equalized when Maguire found a wide open Greene for a 74-yard catch-and-jog.

Clemson appeared to be in perfect shape to win the game after Maguire airmailed a pass into the arms of Jadar Johnson, which he returned 24 yards to the Florida State 26.

And now we are into the portion of the game where Florida State defensive lineman Eddie Goldman wrecked everything in sight, including the hopes of every Clemson fan in existence. After an eight-yard run by Watson on first down, Goldman forced a Davidson fumble at the Seminoles’ 14, thereby doing just about the only thing possible to keep Florida State from losing.

On the opening possession of overtime, Goldman sacked Watson for a loss of four on second down, and then created the disruption that allowed a host of Seminoles to stuff Adam Choice for no gain on fourth-and-1 to end Clemson’s chance in overtime. Two plays later, Karlos Williams rumbled into the end zone for the game-winning score.

With the win, Florida Stats has obviously survived the Winston suspension, and seemingly will be more galvanized than ever in its drive to repeat. The Seminoles are now officially the clear favorites to win the ACC, and thus become the ACC’s representative in the College Football Playoff. There are hurdles to cleared between now and then, a home date with No. 9 Notre Dame on Oct. 18, and a Thursday night trip to Louisville on Oct. 30, and two six-point wins in its only two games against competent opponents suggest this is not the Florida State juggernaut of a year ago. But a betting man would say this is the closest Florida State and its 19-game winning streak come to defeat until January.

For Clemson, what can you even say? The Tigers will never have a better shot at their first win over an AP No. 1. The schedule gets breezy from here, but that feels like hollow consolation for a team that’s 1-2 and has seen any realistic hopes of a championship evaporate before the end of September. This was a loss every Clemson fan, player and coach will try – and fail – to forget.

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No. 2 Oregon in a dog fight with Washington State, tied 21-21 at the half

Marcus Mariota

No. 2 Oregon is at the Palouse tonight for a date with Washington State, and it’s got a problem on its hands. The Ducks and Cougars are tied 21-21 at the half, and this has every bit the feel of a game headed to the wire.

Oregon’s offensive line has struggled – mightily – to block Washington State and its 84th-ranked rush defense, producing an un-Oregon-like 45 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first half. The problem for Oregon is that when Marcus Mariota is not perfect, it has no chance. Mariota is 7-of-10 for 165 yards with three touchdowns while also leading the Ducks on the ground with eight carries for 24 yards.

Oregon has accumulated 150 yards on its three touchdown plays, and just 60 on the other 21.

Connor Holliday has thrown for 261 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-41 passing, and the Cougars have held their own on the ground with 37 yards on nine carries. Our astute readers will now note that Washington State has doubled up Oregon’s play count through one half, 50-24.

Oregon gets the ball to open the second half.

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No. 4 Oklahoma discovers stud RB during 45-33 victory over WVU

Samaje Perine

The Oklahoma Sooners haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2010 when DeMarco Murray eclipsed the benchmark. Freshman Samaje Perine looked like he could be the next Sooners running back to overtake the mark after his 242-yard performance Saturday against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Oklahoma rode Perine to a 45-33 victory in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Perine got the start due to a foot injury to sophomore Keith Ford. After Perine’s 34-carry, four-touchdown performance, Ford may not have a starting job to come back to once he’s fully healthy in a couple weeks.

Don’t look now but my OU Sooners just discovered another Heisman quality back, Samaje Perine, freshman tank. Welcome to national stage, kid.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) September 21, 2014

Bob Stoops on Samaje Perine: "He’s gonna be special."

— David Ubben (@davidubben) September 21, 2014

The freshman running back helped establish an identity for the Sooners as the team sputtered on offense initially. The realization eventually came to the Sooners coaching staff that they had a 243-pound running back in the backfield who was gaining chunks of yards each time he was handed the ball. And once that realization was made, Perine took over the game.

Of course, any good running back has plenty of help from his offensive line. Oklahoma’s offensive line is highly talented and skilled. Three seniors — left guard Adam Shead, left tackle Tyrus Thompson and right tackle Daryl Williams — set the tone and dominated against West Virginia. Oklahoma ran for 301 total yards.

Perine has been outstanding tonight, but Oklahoma’s OL is bringing it, too. Making life a lot easier on him.

— David Ubben (@davidubben) September 21, 2014

As Perine ran wild, it developed into the same old story for West Virginia. The Mountaineers are good enough on offense to win against talented opponents, but their defense continually disappoints.

Whereas Oklahoma showed it doesn’t have to play its best game to still win a game easily against a conference opponent.

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No. 24 Cornhuskers overcome emotions to defeat rival Hurricanes 41-31

AMEER ABDULLAH

Tensions were running high when the Nebraska Cornhuskers hosted the Miami Hurricanes Saturday in Lincoln. It wasn’t exactly the 1984 Orange Bowl, but the energy between both teams invoked the famous meeting between these two teams.

Bo Pelini‘s squad stood tall and proved it was capable of overcoming their emotions to earn a 41-31 victory. The win was a statement by the Cornhuskers and the Big Ten Conference.

Miami may not be the Hurricanes of old, but it’s still quality win for the Cornhuskers as the Big Ten searches for a program to lead the way this season.

As the Cornhuskers prepare for Big Ten play, three areas seen during the game will translate as the season progresses.

Nebraska will be able to run the ball on any team in the conference. Senior Ameer Abduallah is a dominate running back. Abdullah ran the ball 35 times for 229 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And along the way, he entered the annuls of Nebraska history:

In total, the Cornhuskers ran for 345 yards, and it’s often said a running game travels.

Abdullah isn’t the only superstar on Nebraska’s roster. Defensive end Randy Gregory, who is projected as a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NFL draft, was a terror off the edge. Gregory was a constant presence and got to Miami’s freshman quarterback, Brad Kaaya, multiple times throughout the game.

Gregory also brings attitude to the “Blackshirts.” Nebraska hasn’t had a player that dominated physically and mentally like Gregory since Ndamukong Suh left the program. Gregory was mixing it up with the Hurricanes all evening. His combination of talent, production and attitude influences the entire Nebraska defense.

While Nebraska established itself with a marquee win, Miami melted down. The attitude on the field is nothing new for this program, but its inability to compete with top problems continues to be a major problem for head coach Al Golden.

Nebraska and Miami are clearly going in different directions. The way theses two programs handled themselves Saturday night was a tell-tale sign of what they can achieve this season.

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Mississippi State’s 34-29 win over No. 8 LSU raises questions about both teams

Josh Robinson, Ronald Martin

There’s no other way to say this: this game was weird. Really, really weird. It was a game where Mississippi State legitimately blew out No. 8 LSU, but somehow there the Tigers were throwing into the end zone with a chance to win as time expired. The Bulldogs became the first non-No. 1 ranked team to win a night game at Tiger Stadium in the now 10-year Les Miles era of LSU, joining 2009 Florida and 2012 Alabama. And Mississippi State did it in an authoritative fashion those others couldn’t, building a 34-10 lead and 570 yards of offense before holding on to a 34-29 win.

How did LSU nearly crawl back and steal this thing? Mississippi State employed the ‘ol prevent offense, even passing on a field goal try that would have put them up 37-16, and backup quarterback Brandon Harris caught fire, completing 6-of-8 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns before throwing an interception at the goal line on a last gasp Hail Mary. Oh, and a snap that went over Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott’s head and into the arms of an LSU defender certainly helped, setting up LSU’s final touchdown as Mississippi State hoped to ice away what would have been a 34-23 win.

But despite the ugly ending, Mississippi State looked good tonight. Really good. Prescott looked every bit worthy of the offseason whispers entering him into the Heisman conversation, powering the Bulldogs’ running game with 22 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown and hitting 15-of-24 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Josh Robinson, a Louisiana native alongside his backfield mate, rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown – on 16 carries. It was shocking how many times Mississippi State got the ball in space.

The Bulldogs also contained LSU’s offense, limiting the Tigers to 89 rushing yards, and forcing starting quarterback Anthony Jennings out of the game after producing 157 yards on 26 attempts.

This game was not as close as the final score indicates. This was the Tigers’ worst home performance – especially on defense – since before Nick Saban came to town.

Which leads us to wonder: whom does tonight’s stunning result say more about, the winner or the loser?

On one hand, LSU could prove to be of the ilk of similar purple and gold teams in the past, the one that had never lost to a non-No. 1 ranked team at home under the lights in the past 10 seasons, and Mississippi State could prove to be a legitimate contender in the SEC West.

Or, there could prove to be a reason that LSU has now fallen behind 24-7 and 34-10 in the two games its played against Power Five competition, just as there could prove to be a reason the win moves Dan Mullen to 3-21 against Top 25 competition at Mississippi State.

Does this win prove how good Mississippi State really is, or how bad LSU might be?

The probable answer: it’s likely somewhere in between. One thing is certain, though. We’ll find out very soon. After taking next week off, the soon-to-be-ranked Bulldogs return to Starkville and host No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 5 Auburn.

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Clemson and its ferocious defense leading a battle of backup QBs at the half

Sean Maguire

Let’s go ahead and check in on backup quarterback-turned-emergency starter Sean Maguire‘s numbers through one half: 6-of-17 for 106 yards.

Well, why is Florida State throwing the ball 17 times with its backup quarterback? Let’s check the rushing stats, aaaand the ‘Noles have minus-22 rushing yards on 11 carries. Oh.

Considering Maguire has been sacked three times for a loss of 24 yards, Florida State’s 20 called passes have gained 82 yards, and its eight remaining rushes have produced a grand total of two yards. In short, Vic Beasley and the Clemson front are straight dominating No. 1 Florida State, and 22nd-ranked Clemson leads 10-3 at the half in Tallahassee.

Clemson has also turned to its backup quarterback, although in vastly different circumstances. After starter Cole Stoudt produced zero points in the first three drives of the game (including an unforgivable shortarm to an open tight end on third-and-goal), the Tigers rolled with freshman Deshaun Watson for the remainder of the first half, and he’s looked like the best quarterback on the field – at least the best one in shoulder pads. Watson has completed 8-of-12 passes for 132 yards, compared with Stoudt’s 40 passing yards and 24 rushing yards. C.J. Davidson has put in work for the Tigers on the ground, pounding out 37 yards on eight carries. Senior running back D.J. Howard has the game’s only touchdown, a one-yard plunge with 5:56 remaining in the half.

Meanwhile, Brent Venables’ defense has limited the opposition to 84 yards, four first downs, and 1-of-8 on third down. Florida State just can’t block them.

Florida State will receive the ball to start the second half, and needs an entirely new approach on offense or we’ll have a new No. 1 tomorrow morning.

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WVU’s Kevin White, OU’s Samaje Perine steal spotlight during first half

Oklahoma v West Virginia Getty Images

When the Oklahoma Sooners meet the West Virginia Mountaineers, offensive fireworks are expected. Everyone still remembers the 50-49 shootout between the two teams during the 2012 season.

After a slow start, the teams are living up to expectations. West Virginia and Oklahoma are tied 24-24 after two quarters of play.

Two players proved to be the difference-makers for each team.

West Virginia’s Kevin White entered the contest as the nation’s second-leading receiver with 460 receiving yards during the first three games. White continues to add to his season total with a strong effort in the first half. The wide receiver already has four receptions for 111 yards. White also got the offensive fireworks started with a 68-yard touchdown reception to give West Virginia an early 7-3 lead.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, found its offensive groove during the second quarter once head coach Bob Stoops and his staff decided running the football with 243-pound freshman running back Samaje Perine was the team’s most effective strategy. Perine rumbled for 111 yards and exploited West Virginia’s soft defensive interior.

As impressive as White and Perine have been, there have been plenty of other explosive plays.

The Sooners scored their first touchdown courtesy of a reverse pass from wide receiver Durron Neal to quarterback Trevor Knight. And just when it looked like the Mountaineers would take a seven-point lead into halftime, Oklahoma’s Alex Ross returned a kick 100 yards for the tying score.

The teams combined to score five touchdowns in the final eight minutes and 58 seconds of the second quarter.

The second half game plan is simple for both teams — continue to score as much as possible. It’s a simple plan, but one defensive stop by either team may be enough to eventually claim the victory.

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