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Marshall stuns ECU, claims Conference USA East title

Rakeem Cato

On the final Friday of its regular season, Conference USA saw one of its members claim a spot in the conference championship game next weekend.

With a stunning 59-28 blowout win of East Carolina in Huntington, Marshall staked its claim to the East division championship.  It’s the Herd’s first division title as a member of Conference USA and is the football program’s first title of any kind since winning the MAC in 2002.

The Herd and the Pirates had entered the game tied atop the East standings at 6-1.

As has been the case all season long, Rakeem Cato played a significant role in the win.  The junior quarterback accounted for 272 yards, two touchdowns passing and another two on the ground.  Tight end Devon Johnson scored two rushing touchdowns on his only two carries of the game; he entered the contest with two receiving touchdowns in the first 11 games this season.

As for who the Herd will face in the conference championship game, that’s to be determined.

At 6-1, Rice currently sits alone at the top of the West and would clinch its first-ever Conference USA division title with a win over Tulane Saturday.  If the Green Wave upsets the Owls at home, North Texas, Tulane and UT-San Antonio, all of which are 5-2, could be a part of a multi-team tiebreaker if they finish the season with a win.

(Photo credit: Marshall athletics)

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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

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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Mississippi State nearly perfect over first half, leads No. 8 LSU 17-3

Dak Prescott

Through one half in Baton Rouge, it looks like Mississippi State may walk out of Death Valley alive. The Bulldogs put together what has to rank among the best halves they’ve ever played under Dan Mullen, and lead No. 8 LSU 17-3 at the break.

Mississippi State forced a three-and-out on its first possession, and swiftly moved 57 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead. After trading punts, LSU moved 52 yards to within three feet of Mississippi State’s goal line, but the Bulldogs mounted a goal line stand, stuffing LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings on an option play on fourth-and-goal. Mississippi State then raced down the field, moving 98 yards in five plays capped by a three-yard Josh Robinson run to take an unexpected and commanding 14-0 lead.

The teams exchanged field goals in the second quarter to bring us to a 17-3 score.

Dak Prescott has played near flawless for Mississippi State, hitting 8-of-11 throws for 141 yards and a touchdown. He did, however, have one ill-advised shovel pass while in the grasp of an LSU defensive lineman that nearly turned into a pick-six, but LSU’s Tre White dropped it. That’s the kind of night it’s been for both teams.

Fellow Louisiana native Robinson has rushed six times for 111 yards and the aforementioned touchdown to pace the Bulldogs’ ground game.

Jennings has completed 7-of-12 passes for 78 yards, but he’s not the type of quarterback that can dig out of 14-point holes on the strength of his arm. LSU needs a touchdown early to get back into this one.

Mississippi State will receive the ball to open the second half.

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B1G redemption? Indiana stuns Mizzou in Columbia

Nate Sudfeld, Tevin Coleman AP

Rightfully so, the Big Ten has been kicked around for its poor and embarrassing performances in 2014, looking very much like the Power Five conference that won’t have a seat at the College Football Playoff table at season’s end.

At least for one weekend, however, the skies were bright and sunny across the Midwest in general and in Columbia in particular.

In a stunning turn of events, Indiana took homestanding and defending SEC East champion Missouri to the carpet and headed back to Bloomington with an impressive 31-27 win.  The game-winning score came with 22 seconds left on a three-yard touchdown run from D’Angelo Roberts.

It’s the Hoosiers’ first win over a ranked opponent since 2006, a 31-28 victory over No. 15 Iowa.  It was the Tigers’ first loss for the 2014 season.

The defeat was not well-received by arguably the SEC’s biggest media cheerleader.

Tevin Coleman, who came into the nonconference matchup leading the nation in rushing yards per game, ran for 132 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for another 57 yards in the win.  Coleman has now scored a rushing touchdown in 12 straight games, tying the school record set by Anthony Thompson in 1988-89.

The two teams were nearly identical statistically, with No. 18 Mizzou holding a slight 506-493 advantage in total offense.

The IU win was a microcosm for what was a wildly successful Week 4 for the Big Ten, especially going by the very low standards set through the first three weeks of the season.  Of the nine games involving B1G teams that have been completed, that conference has won all nine.  A 10th team, Minnesota, is up on Fresno State 17-7 late in the third quarter.

It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows for the league, however, as Michigan is getting embarrassed 26-10 by Utah in the Big House in a game that’s been delayed by weather while Illinois is losing to Texas State 21-19.

Still, after the rough start, this was just the elixir needed for the wounded and bleeding conference.

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Lane Kiffin gets last laugh as Alabama rolls past Florida

Lane Kiffin

Love him or hate him, Lane Kiffin is making a positive contribution to the Alabama Crimson Tide offense.

No. 3 Alabama rolled up 645 yards of total offense during its 42-21 victory over the Florida Gators.

While Alabama has been known as a run-first, methodical offense during head coach Nick Saban‘s tenure, the team’s new offensive coordinator has his unit rolling during Alabama’s 4-0.

The performance was impressive on many levels.

First, Kiffin added tempo which created explosive plays for the Crimson Tide. Alabama had two touchdown passes of 79 yards or longer in the first quarter.

Second, the offensive coordinator is doing exactly what a good coach does. He’s putting his quarterback in a position to succeed. The tempo and overall play calling helped first-year starter Blake Sims post a career day with 445 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Third, Kiffin is getting the ball to his play-makers. Amari Cooper is arguably the best wide receiver in college football. The junior wide receiver was targeted numerous times and finished the game with 10 receptions for 201 yards, which was third-best effort in Alabama history. Cooper would have broken Julio Jones‘ single-game receiving record if he didn’t have two big plays called back due to penalties.

The wide receiver shouldn’t expect his load to decrease as the season continues, though:

Finally, Alabama is still a balanced attack. Members of the Crimson Tide ran the ball 52 times. And Kiffin found a way to distribute the ball between multiple talented running backs. Derrick Henry led the team with 20 carries for 111 yards. T.J. Yeldon also had 18 carries.

All of this was accomplished against a very talented Gators defense. Excellent play calling simply exploited Florida’s weaknesses. After this drubbing at the hands of Alabama, the temperature of Florida head coach Will Muschamp‘s hot seat continues to rise.

Kiffin, meanwhile, makes Alabama’s offense as dangerous as it has ever been under Saban.

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BYU keeps undefeated season, Playoff push alive, but reckoning day is coming

Taysom HIll

No. 21 BYU defeated Virginia 41-33 at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, moving the Cougars to 4-0 and giving them a nice resume-builder over an ACC program that will almost certainly play in a bowl this December. When it comes time to fill the non-playoff New Year’s Six bowls, the selection committee running the College Football Playoff will like this one.

Impressive as this win was on the surface, it also highlighted why BYU won’t go undefeated and won’t be around when those Playoff discussions occur.

First, the obvious: penalties. BYU committed 12 of them, docking themselves 133 yards. This was an increase from the 10.7 flags per game the Cougars usually average, the second most in college football. These aren’t the 2001 Hurricanes. This team is not talented enough to overcome this kind of self-hatred.

The defense isn’t good enough, either. BYU allowed Virginia to run 111 plays (57 passes/44 rushes) and convert 10 of 22 third downs, meaning the Cavaliers sat on the ball for nearly 41 minutes on Saturday. Two quarterbacks played for the Hoos, and both were effective. Greyson Lambert started the game and threw for 188 yards and rushed for 49 more with a touchdown. After he left with a leg injury, Matt Johns entered the game and completed 14-of-23 pases for 139 yards and a touchdown, and sprinkled in three rushes for 22 yards.

Twice BYU needed one stop to effectively end the game, and twice Virginia scored touchdowns. The first came after a Taysom Hill touchdown pass put BYU up 34-19 with 10:17 to play. Virginia immediately marched 75 yards in 2:11 to pull within 34-26. Adam Hine took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to make the score 41-26, but Virginia possessed the ball again with 5:21 to play, and methodically moved 98 yards in 13 plays to again pull within one score.

That’s not what championship (err, undefeated independent) defenses do.

Hill had an impressive day in the short time he was on the field, connecting on 13-of-23 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the BYU ground attack with 17 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. He remains a treat to watch, an all-terrain vehicle in shoulder pads.

Sadly enough, though, the team around him isn’t good enough or disciplined enough to send him to New York to watch someone else win the Heisman Trophy.

BYU takes next week off before hosting Utah State on Friday, Oct 3. It’s not clear when this team is getting beat, maybe by the Fighting Chuckie Keetons, maybe six days later at Central Florida, maybe at Boise State on Oct. 24, or maybe not until the finale at California on Nov. 29. Reckoning day is coming, though.

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Blake Sims quiets critics as Alabama leads Florida at halftime

Southern Miss v Alabama Getty Images

If one half of play is any indication, there is no longer a quarterback competition in Alabama.

The No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide are leading the Florida Gators 21-14 at halftime in a sloppy affair. In the first half, there were multiple fumbles, an interception, dropped passes and busted coverage.

But the play of Alabama’s senior quarterback, Blake Sims, was the bright spot.

Sims is 17-of-23 passing for 335 yards and three touchdowns. The Alabama quarterback made the right decisions throughout and capitalized on poor defensive play by the Gators. Sims found junior Kenyan Drake racing down the sidelines for an 87-yard touchdown connection. Later in the quarter, the senior signal-caller completed a 79-yard touchdown pass to the dynamic Amari Cooper.

Due to Sims’ outstanding play, junior Jake Coker didn’t see the field in the first half. Considering the current score and how well Sims is playing, no one should expect Coker to receive any repetitions in the second half.

Although, Alabama head coach Nick Saban wasn’t entirely thrilled with Sims play. The fiery coach tore into his quarterback when he fumbled the football in the second quarter.

Florida, meanwhile, isn’t getting close to the same level of play from their quarterback. Jeff Driskel. The Gators’ signal-caller is 5-of-17 passing for 53 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Gators defense, though, made plays to keep the team in the game. If the Florida’s defense can prevent big plays in the second half, Florida has a chance to steal a game from Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Otherwise, Alabama has been the better team sans the turnovers. Saban surely tore into his team at halftime. We should all expect Alabama to play sound football during the second half.

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Virginia leads BYU 16-13 after mistake-filled first half

Greyson Lambert

No. 21 BYU’s quest to post an undefeated regular season and nab an at-large spot in the College Football Playoff appears to be standing on tenuous ground. The Cougars trail visiting Virginia 16-13 after a mistake-filled first half.

BYU has committed eight penalties for 85 yards, committing critical mistakes to both end its own drives prematurely and extend drives for the Cavaliers. In a related story, BYU has committed the second-most penalties in college football this season. For its part, Virginia is on pace to draw 11 flags for 100 yards.

Virginia opened the game with a 47-yard kickoff return by Darius Jennings. After (you guessed it!) a pass interference penalty on Virginia’s first snap and a 37-yard run by quarterback Greyson Lambert, Virginia was on the BYU 1-yard line less than 30 seconds into the game. Lambert punched it into the end zone two plays later.

It’s been a good first half for Lambert and the Cavs, but it could have been better. They settled for three Ian Frye field goals in the second quarter, the first after setting up a 1st-and-goal at the four and getting stuffed on third down from the one. Lambert hitting on 15-of-27 passes for 145 yards, but he closed the half by completing only four of his final 14 throws for 37 yards and an ugly interception. He’s added four carries for 48 yards and the Cavs’ only touchdown.

Taysom Hill has completed 7-of-11 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown and added seven rushes for 29 yards, but much of his progress has been deleted or negated by bad penalties. Like, multiple 15-yard flags on the same drive type of penalties. Or delay of game flags after dead ball situation penalties.

That Type of undisciplined play will get to Bronco Mendenhall and company at some point, possibly today.

BYU gets the ball to open the second half.

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