Connor Shaw, Matthew Wells

Shaw, defense lead South Carolina over Mississippi State

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There was no hangover effect for No. 14 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) this week. After handing Missouri their first loss of the season last week on the road, the Gamecocks returned home to face Mississippi State (4-4, 1-3 SEC). Although they fell behind early, the Gamecocks never let this one get away from them as they scored 17 straight point before halftime and then outscored the Bulldogs 17-0 in the third quarter in what ended up as a 34-16 victory for South Carolina.

Last week’s hero, Connor Shaw, was not all that accurate but he made the most of the completions he did have. Shaw completed just 10 of 20 attempts but picked up four touchdowns and 147 yards out of those 10 completions. Shaq Roland had two of those touchdowns in the first half. On the ground South Carolina had Mike Davis rush for a game-high 128 yards but Davis did not reach the end zone Saturday afternoon. It was the second game in a row Davis did not have a rushing touchdown after starting the year with at least one touchdown rush in every game of the year.

South Carolina was actually out-gained in this game, with Mississippi State’s offense recording 385 yards to South Carolina’s 307, but five Mississippi State turnovers killed any momentum that could have been had. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott was intercepted three times.

South Carolina remains in a decent position as far as the complicated SEC East race is concerned. South Carolina has now clinched their sixth winning regular season in a row. On the other side, Mississippi State and head coach Dan Mullen may be starting to feel the pressure. At 4-4 overall, Mississippi State needs to win two games against Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss to become bowl eligible. That certainly will be easier said than done, and it is not all that easy to say.

Could this be Mullen’s final year leading Mississippi State? Mullen is now 33-26 at Mississippi State, which is not exactly terrible when you look back through the program’s history. But the bottom line is Mississippi State is in danger of being left behind in the SEC West with Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Auburn and Ole Miss all at the top or showing strides of progress, and who knows what the future holds for Arkansas with Bret Bielema.

Things could get interesting.

Brian Kelly’s decisions see No. 6 Notre Dame fall two points shy of No. 12 Clemson

Brian Kelly

No. 12 Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC) seemed to have No. 6 Notre Dame under firm control as the rain came down Saturday night. A sure win, with Clemson leading the visiting Irish 21-3 in the fourth quarter, nearly washed away, but the Irish rally fell two points shy. Clemson stuffed a two-point conversion attempt by Notre Dame with seven seconds to play to preserve a 24-22 victory in the rain.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson struggled to get a  grip on the football and completed just 11 of his 22 pass attempts for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His counterpart, freshman DeShone Kizer, had a much better day through the wet air after a sluggish start. Kizer ended the game with 321 passing yards and two touchdowns in leading the Irish rally from 21-3. Watson did add 93 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to remind those watching just how effective he can be as a dual-threat.

Clemson’s offense got stuck in the mud after going up 21-3 in the third quarter, but the defense managed to hold on for the win. It was not easy, but forcing four turnovers helped. None may have been more critical than a forced fumble by Jayron Kearse on Notre Dame’s Chris Brown as the receiver was moving inside the five-yard line on a drive that looked to be reaching the end zone for Notre Dame. B.J. Goodson came away from the pile with his hands on the football, but Clemson’s offense would go three-and-out to give the Irish one last chance in great field position. It nearly paid off.

There were two decisions by Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly worth second-guessing that may have cost Notre Dame a win, or at least a chance to do something in overtime. Both occurred in the fourth quarter and involved two-point conversion attempts.

Notre Dame had a chance to make it a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter. After C.J. Prosise managed to stay in the field of play down the right sideline for a 56-yard touchdown pass, Kelly opted to go for two points instead of kicking the extra point. Had Notre Dame kicked the extra point, the Irish would have been down 11 points. Instead, after a failed conversion attempt, the Irish were down 12 points. As it turned out, had Notre Dame kicked the extra point, that would have put Notre Dame just one point away from tying Clemson in the final 10 seconds.

Speaking of that last Irish touchdown, Notre Dame obviously needed to go for the two-point conversion to force a tie game. The call was to run the football, and the ball was kept in the hands of Kizer. Kizer did end the game as Notre Dame’s leading rusher, but he had little room and no ability to make any push as the line collapsed on him. Prosise carrying the football may have been too obvious to fool Clemson’s defense must have been the logic in that situation. But this situation never had to happen in the first place.

Behind Kyle Allen, A&M joins LSU atop SEC West with win. vs. Miss. St.

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 03: Kyle Allen #10 of the Texas A&M Aggies avoids the tackle of Beniquez Brown #42 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs and throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter on October 3, 2015 at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Prior to the start of the 2015 season, most prognosticators had the SEC West coming down to either Alabama or Auburn.  Five weeks into the season, neither of those teams sit at the top of the divisional heap.

With Kyle Allen triggering the offense and John Chavis orchestrating a virtuoso defensive performance, No. 14 Texas A&M had little trouble dispatching No. 21 Mississippi State in a 30-17 win that, for whatever reason, seemed much easier than the score makes it look.  The 5-0 Aggies carried a 24-10 lead into halftime, and the 3-2 Bulldogs could only get as close as 10 points, 27-17, early in the fourth quarter on a Dak Prescott touchdown run.

As was the case in the first half, the true sophomore Allen was a big reason for the Aggies success.

Allen accounted for a career-high 385 yards of total offense, 322 passing and 63 rushing.  The passing yardage is second only to the 358 he put up in last Saturday’s win over Arkansas, while the rushing yards are the most of his young career.

Tra Carson added 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to supplement the passing game.

The Bulldogs were able to move the ball in the second half — 233 yards in the last two quarters, compared to 173 in the first two — but could never mount much of a scoring threat outside of Prescott’s run that capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive.  Prescott finished with more than 300 yards of offense, 210 passing and 96 rushing.

With the win. A&M moves to 2-0 in SEC play.  LSU, also at 2-0, is the only other undefeated team in league play in the West.  After a bye weekend, A&M will have its hands full the next two games as it hosts Alabama and travel to Oxford to face Ole Miss.