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CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: 12-Pack of Top Games

The Swami AP

In 17 days — 16 if you’re a degenerate like me who counts Abilene Christian at Georgia State the day before — the 2014 college football season kicks off, with all eyes focused on Texas A&M, playing its first game without Johnny Manziel under center since 2011, traveling to Columbia to face what could very well be the best team Steve Spurrier‘s had in what will be his 10th season at South Carolina.

As we have been and will continue doing throughout the month of August, CFT trudges on with previews of the upcoming season, with the 12 games that could have the biggest impact on both key conference races and the national landscape.  Said national landscape will include, for the first-time ever, a College Football Playoff.  Of course, the reality once we get into the season can change greatly from the preseason perceptions — see: 2013 Auburn Tigers — but the following 12-pack should form some sort of solid guide through what’s certain to be yet another eventful season in the great game of college football.

So, without further ado and for your reading pleasure, here’s a sampling of some of the top games on the 2014 slate.  And, as always, you can whine/bitch/moan in the comment section that your team was snubbed…

TEXAS A&M AT SOUTH CAROLINA, AUG. 28
LAST MEETING: First meeting
SERIES RECORD: 0-0
THE SKINNY: This contest has a handful of firsts going for it.  Most importantly to the business side of the conference, it will be the first-ever football game televised on the fledgling SEC Network, a network that’s expected to drop tens of millions of dollars annually into the coffers of each conference member.  Additionally, as noted above, it’s the first-ever meeting between the two football programs.  And finally, both the Aggies and Gamecocks will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks for the first time in two and two-plus years, respectively, with the former going with (Kenny Hill or Kyle Allen) and the latter Dylan Thompson.  While neither Hill nor Allen have started a game at the collegiate level, Thompson at least has some experience in that capacity — he’s 3-0 in his career as a starter replacing Connor Shaw, and has thrown passes in 20 of the games in which he’s played the past three years.  Even as the Aggies will face a deficit in experience at the most important position on the field, it’s not their most pressing concern as Kevin Sumlin could probably throw you or I in at quarterback and still put up 30-plus per game.  Rather, it’s the defense that should cause the most consternation, especially facing a running back as talented as Mike Davis.  A defense that was suspect throughout 2013 is even more so in 2014, with attrition via dismissals, graduation, etc.  This game could be the beginning of an uneven season in College Station, which would be the first since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: South Carolina 41, Texas A&M 27

WISCONSIN VS. LSU IN HOUSTON, AUG. 30
LAST MEETING: Sept. 30, 1972, a 27-7 LSU win in Baton Rouge
SERIES RECORD: LSU leads 2-0
THE SKINNY: Any time teams from the Big Ten and SEC meet it’s a big deal, especially when it’s two programs that have been at or near the top of their respective conferences for the past few years.  At least football-wise, this game is the dictionary definition of unstoppable force vs. immovable object: the Tigers will bring their always-stout run defense ( 35th nationally, third in SEC in 2013) into the neutral site affair against a Badgers football that thrives on running the football (8th in rushing offense) and would much rather take a pair of steel-toed boots to the groin than pass it (93rd in passing offense).  Perhaps most importantly, especially as far as fans are concerned, this game will give the winning league bragging rights until bowl season as this marks the only marquee match-up between the Big Ten and SEC during the regular season.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: LSU 24, Wisconsin 17

MICHIGAN STATE AT OREGON, SEPT. 6
LAST MEETING: Sept. 2, 1999, a 27-20 Michigan State win in East Lansing
SERIES RECORD: Tied at 2-2
THE SKINNY: There might not be a game this season featuring a pair of teams that are such extreme polar opposites of one another.  The Spartans’ 2013 success was predicated on a physical, dominating defense complemented by a methodical and productive rushing attack, with the passing game managing games and putting up big numbers when necessary.  The Ducks are the antithesis of the Spartans.  UO is a balls-to-the-wall, pedal-mashed-to-the-floor offense that is equally adept — and deadly — at running or passing the football.  Oh, and the Ducks can play some defense as well, as evidenced by the fact that they finished 13th nationally in scoring defense last season (MSU was third).  This game has the potential to be one of the more fascinating matchups for the upcoming season, and it’s probably the non-conference game that I’m looking at with the most anticipation — even as I foresee a blowout in Eugene for the East Lansing boys.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 48, Michigan State 27

GEORGIA AT SOUTH CAROLINA, SEPT. 13
LAST MEETING: Sept,. 7, 2013, a 41-30 Georgia win in Athens
SERIES RECORD: Georgia leads 47-17-2
THE SKINNY: After being unceremoniously shoved to the side by Missouri last season, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks are once again expected to be the cream of the SEC East crop.  And, because of that, this game will go a long way in determining just who will represent the division in the SEC championship game against their West counterparts.  USC has won three of the last four in the series, with the lone blemish being the 11-point loss in Athens last season.  This year, and as is the case throughout the conference, both teams will be breaking in new starting quarterbacks.  The Gamecocks’ situation is a little different from most, though, as Dylan Thompson is a very seasoned backup with nearly two dozen games played and three starts. Hutson Mason, meanwhile, got a taste of what it’s like to be a starter in the SEC as he took over under center for the injured Aaron Murray the last two and a half games and performed well, throwing for over 800 yards and four touchdowns in that stretch.  The good news for both is that they will have very talented and accomplished running backs at their disposal, Mike Davis for the Gamecocks and Todd Gurley for the Bulldogs.  How those two go, so should their respective teams as this game could be a rarity these days: one that’s determined in large part by the running game.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: South Carolina 34, Georgia 21

UCLA AT ARIZONA STATE, SEPT. 27
LAST MEETING: Nov. 23, 2013, a 38-33 Arizona State win in Tempe
SERIES RECORD: UCLA 18-11-1
THE SKINNY: For everything that Oregon-Stanford is as far as the Pac-12 North is concerned, Arizona State-UCLA is fast becoming the same for the South.  Like 2013 when ASU tripped up UCLA to help stake its claim to a spot in the conference championship game, 2014 should be no different.  Both teams will feature very experienced and extremely talented quarterbacks, Taylor Kelly for the Sun Devils and Brett Hundley.  Both could, or even should, be in the thick of the Heisman chase when this game rolls around, which would be a testament to both their individual performances and their team’s success.  The Bruins, though, easily return the most talent with 18 starters (eight each on offense and defense to go along with both kickers) coming back while the Sun Devils return just 10, including a paltry two on the defensive side of the ball.  Is that advantage, along with being at home this around, be enough to put the Bruins back in the title game?  Time will tell, although USC may have a little something to say about the latter before it’s all said and done.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: UCLA 48, Arizona State 38

OREGON AT UCLA, OCT. 11
LAST MEETING: Oct. 26, 2013, a 42-14 Oregon win in Eugene
SERIES RECORD: UCLA leads 39-27
THE SKINNY: Depending on how things play out, this very well could be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game.  The Bruins’ loss to the Ducks last year, the second of back-to-back conference losses, all but handed the South division to Arizona State.  Getting UO in Los Angeles should make the task a little less treacherous, but not much as the Ducks are expected to be the class of the league and the odds-on favorite to represent the Pac-12 in the College Football Playoff.  Last season’s win was Oregon’s fifth straight in the series; a sixth straight could further push the Ducks toward their ultimate postseason goal, while snapping that skein would go a long way in helping the Bruins get back to the top of the conference — and perhaps climbing back on to the national stage for the first time in a very, very long time.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 49, UCLA 31

STANFORD AT OREGON, NOV. 1
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2013, a 26-20 Oregon win in Stanford
SERIES RECORD: Stanford leads 43-30-1
THE SKINNY: In all three years of the Pac-12 championship game, either the Cardinal or the Ducks have been the North’s representative — 2012 and 2013 for the former, 2011 for the latter.  That’s not expected to change in Year 4 as both teams are, once again, the class of the division.  UO, in fact, may end up being the class of college football at year’s end.  Both teams return a ton of starters, 15 (nine on offense) coming back for the Ducks and 14 (seven on defense) for the Cardinal.  Four of the starters who don’t return to The Farm, however, come from the offensive line, so David Shaw and his offensive staff have to hope the new players plugged in have gelled into a cohesive unit by the time this game rolls around.  Even if that happens, can the Cardinal keep pace with a high-powered offense triggered by Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota?  The answer was resounding “hell yes!!!” in 2013; whether that’s the case in 2014 will go a long way in determining which team takes this game — and which team likely punches its ticket to another conference championship game.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Oregon 41, Stanford 27

ALABAMA AT LSU, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Nov. 9, 2013, a 38-17 Alabama win in Tuscaloosa
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads 48-25-5
THE SKINNY: This one of those games where, when the schedule comes out, you always check to see when it will be played.  For all of the hype it receives, however, it’s been a bit lopsided of sorts of late, at least results-wise.  The Tide was won three straight in the series, including the BCS title game following the 2012 season and a blowout win last year.  There are very few certainties in college football, but here’s one you can just about chisel in stone: there won’t be many points scored when the two teams clash in Tuscaloosa in early November.  Thanks to what’s ofttimes a pair of suffocating defenses, just once has a team scored more than 30 points — the Tide in its 38-17 win last year — in the last eight meetings.  In the last thirteen meetings, one or both of the teams failed to score at least 20 points a whopping 10 times.  The microcosm of the series?  The 9-6 Battle of the Kickers in 2011 that was the epitome of the defensive duels between the two SEC West programs.  As both teams reload their respective defenses the way most people change their underwear, and both offenses will be manned by first-year starters at quarterback, it should be lather, rinse, repeat on the defensive front once again.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Alabama 24, LSU 14

OHIO STATE AT MICHIGAN STATE, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Dec. 7, 2013, a 34-24 Michigan State win in Indianapolis (Big Ten title game)
SERIES RECORD: Ohio State leads 28-14
THE SKINNY: This will easily be the most anticipated Big Ten game of the year, with the Buckeyes looking to avenge a double-digit “upset” loss to the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game.  A loss, incidentally, that both ended No. 2 OSU’s 24-game losing streak and knocked the Buckeyes out of a likely spot in the BCS title game against Florida State.  As was the case last season, one key in this year’s game will be MSU’s stifling defense’s ability to contain Braxton Miller.  While the OSU quarterback did rush for 142 and a pair of touchdowns, he was held to a paltry 8-of-21 passing for just 101 yards.  Connor Cook, on the other hand, riddled a porous Buckeyes pass defense for 304 yards and three touchdowns.  Throw in Jeremy Langford‘s 128 yards rushing, and MSU was able to flip a 24-17 deficit late in the third quarter to a 10-point win that propelled the Spartans into the Rose Bowl.  So, yes, “revenge” will be a key storyline heading into this game — along with MSU looking to prove yet again that it belongs on the national stage.  And one more tidbit: thanks to the additions of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten and subsequent shifts in the divisions, this game will now likely be a contest for East supremacy and a spot in the conference championship game.  Just a little bit on the line in this game, in other words.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 27, Michigan State 24

BAYLOR AT OKLAHOMA, NOV. 8
LAST MEETING: Nov. 7, 2013, a 41-12 Baylor win in Waco
SERIES RECORD: Oklahoma leads 20-2
THE SKINNY: The Sooners have absolutely owned the Bears for the whole of the series, but the tide is certainly shifting.  After losing the first 17 meetings to OU — all but three by 12 points or more, and 11 by 20-plus points — BU has won two of the last three.  Included in that total was last year’s evisceration, a 29-point beatdown in early November that signaled the  Bears were the team to beat in the Big 12.  Can that trend continue?  If it does, it’ll do so with some new pieces in place.  The Bears must replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including a pair of first-team All-Big 12 performers and three members of its secondary.  Bryce Petty is still Bryce Petty and Art Briles‘ offense is still Art Briles’ offense, so the Bears will maintain the ability to outscore most of the defensive liabilities it may possess.  On the flip side, the Sooners return 14 starters, including quarterback Trevor Knight.  Whether that’s a positive or a negative remains to be seen as no one knows which Knight will show up: the one who struggled to hold on to his job throughout the season or the one who strafed Alabama’s defense in the Sugar Bowl.  The answer to that question will go a long way in determining who wins this game and, as a result, who controls the Big 12 and a likely spot in the College Football Playoff.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Baylor 38, Oklahoma 35

AUBURN AT ALABAMA, NOV. 29
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2013, a 34-28 Auburn win in Auburn
SERIES RECORD: Alabama leads 42-35-1
THE SKINNY: The annual Iron Bowl grudge/hate match would make this type of list year-in and year-out.  After last year?  This one comes in at or near the top of the 2014 version of these lists.  Of course, I’m referring to the most memorable play of the 2013 season, “The Kick-Six” at Jordan-Hare that stunned the Tide and propelled the Tigers into the SEC championship game and, ultimately, the BCS title game.  The questions entering the season for AU are twofold: one, can they replace 1,800-yard rusher Tre’ Mason and, two, how many more miracles does Gus Malzahn & Company have tucked into their hip pockets?  The Tide has its own questions to answer as well, not the least of which is just who will replace three-year starter AJ McCarron under center.  The knowns, though are that AU will have Nick Marshall, who’s expected to do nothing but get better in his second season as a starting quarterback, while UA will have what’s become an annual twin tradition under Nick Saban: a punishing rushing attack with its stable of backs to go along with a physical, suffocating defense.  This year’s version may not match the drama of last year’s, but it’s still compelling, must-see TV.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Alabama 38, Auburn 31

MICHIGAN AT OHIO STATE, NOV. 29
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2013, a 42-41 Ohio State win in Ann Arbor
SERIES RECORD: Michigan leads 58-45-6
THE SKINNY: Regardless of the records or prospects of either or both teams, The Game is and always will be a destination event for college football viewers.  While the Wolverines have owned the overall series, it’s the Buckeyes who’ve owned That School Up North this century as OSU has won (on the field) nine of the last 10 and 11 of the last 13.  Both teams will enter the season with question marks littering the offensive line, with the Buckeyes needing to replace four starters while the Wolverines, which had significant issues in that group last year, must replace an All-American tackle and the starter on the other side as well.  Where this game may be won or lost is at the quarterback position, which bodes well for OSU.  Braxton Miller, the reigning two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, returns and looks to take his game to the next level as a senior, while the Wolverines will go with either the inconsistent, turnover-prone Devin Gardner or the unproven Shane Morris.  Decided advantage, OSU.  If the Buckeyes can cure its secondary woes, woes that are directly to blame for its two-game losing streak to end last season, they should have little problem in dispatching their bitter rivals and possibly continuing on a Big Ten/CFP title run.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 45, Michigan 31

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 13 Rewind

Samaje Perine AP

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

HISTORIC REPEAT
As it turns out, while Samaje Perine made history, the timeframe in which he did it wasn’t historically unprecedented.

In Oklahoma’s win over Kansas, Perine set the FBS single-game rushing record with 427 yards.  That performance broke the record of 408 set a week ago by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon.  Most assumed Perine’s breaking of a rushing record that was a week old had never happened before; Anthony Thompson would point out what the word “assume” makes out of all involved.

Back on Nov. 11, 1989, the Indiana running back’s 377 yards broke the previous mark of 357 yards.  That record was first set by Washington State’s Rueben Mayes in 1984 and tied by Cal State Fullerton’s Mike Pringle on Nov. 4, 1989, exactly one week before Thompson broke it.

Below is how the FBS rushing record has progressed over the past four-plus decades:

347 — Ron Johnson, Michigan, 1968
350 — Eric Allen, Michigan State, 1971
356 — Eddie Lee Ivery, Georgia Tech, 1978
357 — Rueben Mayes, Washington State, 1984
357 — Mike Pringle, Cal State Fullerton, 1989
377 — Anthony Thompson, Indiana, 1989
386 — Marshall Faulk, San Diego State, 1991
396 — Tony Sands, Kansas, 1991
406 — LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, 1999
408 — Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 2014
427 — Samaje Perine, Oklahoma, 2014

Perine was also second to Thompson in something else — percentage increase of the previous record.  Thompson bested the old mark by 5.6 percent;  Perine, meanwhile, topped Gordon’s week-old record by 4.7 percent.

Some would say, though, the most impressive record belongs to Gordon.  The Badger back did his record-setting damage in three quarters of work and on just 25 carries; the only other players on that list with less than 30 carries were Ivery (26) and Allen (29).  Gordon’s 16.2 yards per carry is easily the best mark among the group, with only Ivery (13.7) within three yards.   Perine did average 12.6 ypc, the third-best among that group of 11 players.

At the opposite end of the yards-per-carry spectrum were Thompson and Sands, who averaged 7.25 yards on 52 carries and 6.8 yards on 58 carries, respectively.

Of course, Perine is the only true freshman to break the record… and he did it in three quarters plus two fourth-quarter plays after not starting a game played in the rain… and he is the only player to rush for 200-plus yards in both halves of a game, all of which makes his performance arguably the greatest of all-time regardless of how you attempt to parse out the numbers.

PROJECTING CFP TOP FOUR
Unlike previous weeks, there was no upheaval around the top of the College Football Playoff Top 25 in Week 14.  The highest-ranked team to lose was No. 8 Ole Miss, and, with two losses, it’s unlikely the Rebels were a realistic playoff option to begin with.

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No. 9 UCLA flattens No. 19 USC, moves one step closer to Pac-12 South title

USC v UCLA Getty Images

Brett Hundley‘s first possession ended in complete disaster, a 17-yard pick six by Anthony Sarao to give USC a 7-0 lead. From then on, though, Saturday night could not have been more perfect. Hundley completed 22-of-31 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns while adding another on the ground to lead No. 9 UCLA to a 38-20 win over No. 19 USC at the Rose Bowl.

While Hundley was playing his best football of the season, his counterpart was running for his life. Cody Kessler completed 22-0f-34 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked six times and harassed countless more. USC was also credited with 33 rushes for 62 yards.

Paul Perkins led the charge for UCLA with 24 rushes for 93 yards and a touchdown.

The game was actually tied 14-14 early in the second quarter, but UCLA went on a 24-0 run over the next 17 minutes to put the game away. A Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal gave UCLA the lead, and Hundley’s touchdown pass to Eldridge Massington pushed the lead to 24-14 just before the half.

Perkins opened the second half with a 10-yard scoring burst, and a 15-yard Hundley run all but sewed things up with 9:22 remaining in the third quarter.

The win moves UCLA to 9-2 on the season and gives the Bruins their third straight victory over USC, their first three-game winning streak over their cross-town rivals since winning seven straight from 1991-98. The win also moves Jim Mora‘s team to within one victory of a Pac-12 South title and two wins away from a Pac-12 championship. The Bruins will have to beat Stanford next week to win the division and Oregon to win the conference. It was Oregon who beat UCLA for the Pac-12 championship in 2011, and Stanford who did it in 2012.

USC, meanwhile, drops to 7-4 on the season and will close the regular season with a similarly disappointing 7-4 Notre Dame team at the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday night.

 

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Road warriors: Missouri holds on against Tennessee, stays atop SEC East

Gary Pinkel, Markus Golden

It didn’t come easy, but the No. 20 Missouri Tigers edged the Tennessee Volunteers 29-21 in Knoxville.

Gary Pinkel‘s squad has proven to be road warriors over the past two seasons, as they attempt to win a second SEC East title in consecutive years.

When the Tigers joined the SEC two years ago, they were considered an inferior program compared to the Texas A&M Aggies, who joined the league during the same season. Yet the Tigers have proven over the long haul they have what it takes to consistently win in college football’s toughest conference.

Even when Misssouri’s explosive spread offense isn’t firing on all cylinders — and it wasn’t Saturday against Tennessee — the team is now built to still win games.

Strong defense, a solid running game and good coaching always travel well. Missouri has all three.

Quarterback Maty Mauk continues to be erratic. The sophomore signal-caller was 12-of-25 passing, but he finally exploited Tennessee’s secondary in the fourth quarter. At that time, Missouri’s wide receivers began to win one-on-one matchups.

Jimmie Hunt and Bud Sasser were frustrated by Tennessee most of the contest. However, Mauk found both for a touchdown passes in the final frame. Hunt was the game’s leading receiver with 106 yards on three catches.

But what kept Missouri in the game initially was its ability to run the football and apply pressure on Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. The Tigers gained 184 yards on the ground, while the Volunteers only managed 53 yards.

The strong defensive effort by Missouri is due to owning one of the best defensive lines in college football. Defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden are as good as any duo in the nation. Golden was particularly disruptive Saturday evening.

Those defensive linemen will have to step up next week against the Arkansas Razorbacks’ overwhelming offensive line and rushing attack. The Razorbacks have won two straight games by the score of 47-0 against ranked SEC West opponents. They’re going to bring a different mentality than Tennessee did.

One more win is all Missouri needs to win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship Game again. Like the Tennessee contest, it won’t come easy.

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No. 4 Mississippi State dumps Vanderbilt, sets up Egg Bowl for the ages

Vanderbilt v Mississippi State Getty Images

No. 4 Mississippi State wasted no time in disposing of Vanderbilt, racing to a 37-0 halftime lead en route to a 51-0 win.

The Bulldogs led 13-0 through one quarter and 37-0 at the half on the strength of three Dak Prescott touchdown passes. For the day he completed 17-of-24 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns and rushed six times for 29 yards and a score. Six Bulldogs rushed the ball, and all ran for at least 29 yards; Brandon Holloway led the way with 10 carries for 69 yards.

Vanderbilt mounted only 225 yards of total offense and 16 first downs.

The win moves the Bulldogs to 10-1 on the season, the first 10-win season in school history.

Beyond that, though, Mississippi State moves one step closer to a College Football Playoff berth, and set up an Egg Bowl for the ages a week from today. Ole Miss’ 30-0 flattening at Arkansas takes the Rebels out of contention for the SEC West title, but Mississippi State’s win means they can go to Atlanta with a defeat of Ole Miss and an Auburn win over Alabama. Even if Alabama wins, though, Mississippi State has a solid chance of earning a berth as an at-large.

All they have to do, of course, is walk into Oxford and beat an angry Ole Miss team looking to play spoiler.

It’s not as monumental an Egg Bowl as it appeared it could be back in October, but it’s still the biggest game since anyone can care to remember.

Vanderbilt, meanwhile, drops to 3-8 on the season and will close Derek Mason‘s first season against Tennessee next week.

 

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No. 9 UCLA pulls away from No. 19 USC for 24-14 halftime lead

Brett Hundley, Juda Parker

A spirited Battle for the Victory Bell opened with Anthony Sarao stepping in front of a Brett Hundley pass and returning it 17 yards for a USC touchdown.

It’s been pretty much all Bruins from there, though, as Hundley tossed touchdown passes to Devin LucienThomas Duarte and Eldridge Massington – the last of which came just before the half - to give No. 9 UCLA a 24-14 halftime lead over No. 19 USC at the Rose Bowl.

The Trojans got a two-yard touchdown toss from Cody Kessler to Justin Davis to tie the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter, but missed a golden opportunity when stuffed on a 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line on an earlier drive.

Hundley has been near perfect outside of the interception, completing 15-of-19 passes for 201 yards and those three touchdowns, and Paul Perkins has carried 11 times for 44 yards.

Kessler has completed 10-of-19 passes for 119 yards, but has been harassed by his Bruin counterparts much more than Hundley. Buck Allen has rushed eight times for 38 yards.

UCLA will receive the ball to open the second half.

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Everything going right for No. 4 Mississippi State through one half vs. Vandy

Dak Prescott

Nothing cleanses the palette quite like playing Vanderbilt.

One week after suffering its first loss of the season, No. 4 Mississippi State is dominating Vanderbilt in every way possible, leading 37-0 at the half in Starkville.

Dak Prescott has completed 13-of-16 passes for 151 yards with three touchdowns, while also rushing five times for 21 yards and a touchdown. Josh Robinson has added seven carries for 63 yards and a 14-yard touchdown catch.

Christian Holmes also picked up a fumble and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 20.

Overall, Mississippi State has out-gained Vanderbilt 270-109 and holds a 17-8 edge in first downs.

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

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No. 20 Missouri tied 13-13 with Tennessee as SEC East hangs in the balance

Butch Jones

The No. 20 Missouri Tigers control their destiny. If they win out then they will claim an SEC East crown and a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

Tennessee apparently didn’t get the message.

Butch Jones‘ squad has given Missouri everything it can handle through two quarters of play. The two teams are tied 13-13 at halftime.

Neither team has been particularly sharp on offense, but Missouri has an edge in yardage with 181 total yards. The Volunteers only mustered 126 yards, and 31 of those came courtesy of a fake field goal.

Tennessee required a little trickeration to reach the end zone against Missouri’s vaunted defense. Backup quarterback and holder Patrick Ashford found tight end Alex Ellis racing down the field for the Volunteers only touchdown of the half (see: below).

Otherwise, Missouri’s talented defensive front has applied consistent pressure on Volunteers quarterback Josh Dobbs. The SEC’s sack leader, Shane Ray, already registered a pair of sacks in the first half.

“We have to continue to mix it up,” Jones told ESPN at halftime. “They’re a very, very disruptive front. So, we have to stay ahead of the sticks. A lot of the sacks have come on third-and-long situations.”

Running back Marcus Murphy proved to be the catalyst for the Tigers offense. While Russell Hansbrough led Missouri with 46 rushing yards, Murphy found the end zone twice. A missed extra point is the only reason the game remains tied.

As the two teams prepare for the second half, Missouri’s coaching staff needs to get quarterback Maty Mauk into a rhythm. The sophomore signal-caller was only 6-of-15 passing.

Tennessee, meanwhile, should continue to leave everything on the field and continue to dig deep into the team’s playbook.

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Marcus Mariota sets Pac-12 record during Oregon’s 44-10 victory over Colorado

Marcus Mariota

Move over Matt Barkley. Marcus Mariota now sits atop the Pac-12 record books.

With his four-touchdown performance against the Colorado Buffaloes, Mariota became the Pac-12′s all-time single season leader with 42 total touchdowns.

Mariota was nearly flawless in what could be his final appearance at Autzen Stadium.

The junior quarterback, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft, completed 24 of his 32 pass attempts. Mariota added 323 passing yards to his resume and a trio of touchdown tosses. The signal-caller also ran the ball eight times for 73 yards and a touchdown.

One of Mariota’s former teammates took it a step beyond calling him the favorite for the Heisman Trophy:

With the 44-10 victory, the No. 2 Ducks improved to 10-1 overall with only the “Civil War” remaining against the Oregon State Beavers.

On the other hand, Colorado dropped to 2-9 overall. It’s a disappointing season after improving to 4-8 last year during Mike MacIntyre‘s first year as head coach of the program.

For Oregon, this is the season for the Ducks to take the next step as a program. Mariota is playing at an elite level. The team already conquered its previous stumbling block by defeating the Stanford Cardinal. Pac-12 championship and College Football Playoff appearances are within the Ducks’ grasp.

Expectations should be sky high for a program ready to compete for a national championship.

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Woo pig sooie! Arkansas wins second-straight contest with victory over No. 8 Ole Miss

Bret Bielema

Don’t look now, but the Arkansas Razorbacks are one of the hottest teams in the country.

After a 4-5 start to the season, Bret Bielema‘s squad has won two in a row against a pair of ranked SEC West opponents. Arkansas latest victory came courtesy of a 30-0 stomping of the No. 8 Ole Miss Rebels.

Bielema told ESPN after the contest he believes his team can play with anyone. And that’s clearly the case at the moment.

Saturday’s effort was Arkansas’ second straight shutout victory. The Razorbacks officially beat LSU and Ole Miss by a combined score of 47-0.

The win also makes Arkansas bowl eligible at 6-5 overall. Every team in the SEC West is now eligible to go to a bowl game.

Ole Miss was dominated at every level, and the Rebels are no longer in position to possibly claim an SEC West crown or play in a New Year’s bowl. After starting the season 7-0, including a victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide, Ole Miss lost three of their last four games.

Arkansas’s formula against Ole Miss was simple. The Razorbacks ran the ball 50 times for 159 yards and held an advantage in time of possession by eight minutes. Arkansas’ defense also forced six turnovers, including a 100-yard pick-6 by Rohan Gaines.

The Razorbacks will have opportunity to ruin another season next weekend when they face the No. 20 Missouri Tigers. Another impressive effort by Arkansas could knock Missouri out of the SEC championship game as the representative from the SEC East.

The way Bielema’s squad is currently playing, Missouri better be prepared or the Tigers will find themselves watching the SEC Championship game instead of playing in it.

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Badgers hang on, set up B1G West play-in game with Gophers

Wisconsin v Iowa Getty Images

Whenever Wisconsin and Iowa get together, it’s rarely pretty.  At the end of the game, however, the scoreboard looked like a supermodel to the visiting team from Madison.

The Badgers jumped out to a 16-3 halftime, then extended it to 19-3 with 5:33 left in the third quarter.  The Hawkeyes, though, refused to rollover as they scored 21 of the next 28 points to pull to within two at 26-24 with just over five minutes remaining.

However, the Hawkeyes, down a controversial timeout that was taken from them by the officials, could not stop the Badgers on the last drive of the game, with UW picking up a pair of first downs to bleed the remaining five minutes off the clock and secure the 26-24 win.

Melvin Gordon, who saw the rushing record he set a week ago broken this afternoon, ran for an even 200 yards and two touchdowns on the game. Gordon now has 2,109 yards on the season, tying the single-season Big Ten record set by Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in 1996.  He’s also the 17th player in FBS history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in a single season

Interestingly, Gordon was also the Badgers’ leading receiver as he caught four passes for 64 yards, both career-highs.  His 10-yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the game.

With the win and Minnesota’s dropping of Nebraska, UW set up a Week 14 play-in game to the Big Ten championship game.  The Badgers will play host to the Gophers next Saturday, with the winner representing the West in the conference title game against East winner Ohio State.

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Kicking again fails Notre Dame as Irish fall to No. 24 Louisville

Kyle Brindza

It happened again.

A week after foot-inflicted vomit cost it a win over Northwestern, holder/back-up quarterback Malik Zaire and kicker Kyle Brindza were determined to not let it happen again.

It happened again.

Brindza missed a 32-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining, and Notre Dame fell to No. 24 Louisville 31-28 at a soggy Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday evening. The loss is Notre Dame’s third in a row and fourth in five games, sending a once-promising season into absolute free fall.

Of course, a three-point loss can’t be blamed on a solitary kick, and this is no exception. Trailing 31-20 in fourth quarter, Everett Golson hit William Fuller for a 28-yard touchdown and ran in a two-point conversion to pull the Irish within 31-28 with 11:17 to go, and then benefitted from a missed field goal on the ensuing possession. Starting at its own 20 with 5:03 to go, Notre Dame moved to a first-and-goal at the 10 with a golden opportunity to win the game, but Golson was sacked on second-and-goal from the 9 and threw incomplete on third down, setting up Brindza’s fateful field goal.

Notre Dame lost this game at the point of attack, as Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff rushed 17 times for 136 yards and a touchdown, while Michael Dyer added 13 rushes for 61 yards and quarterback Reggie Bonnafon added 35 rushing yards and two touchdowns to go with 180 yards and a score through the air.

Golson completed 16-of-24 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, but threw an interception in Notre Dame territory that set up a Louisville field goal in the second quarter, and coughed up a fumble that the Irish eventually recovered but killed a promising drive in the process, turning a 2nd-and-6 at its own 44 to a 3rd-and-38 at the 12. Both mistakes contributed to a 17-6 halftime deficit for Notre Dame.

The Irish scored consecutive touchdowns to grab a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter, but Bonnafon hit DeVante Parker for a 21-yard touchdown to put Louisville back on top at the 5:46 mark of the third quarter, and Radcliff raced in from 15 yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter to provide the winning score.

The win pushes Louisville to 8-3 on the season and gives the Bobby Petrino‘s bunch a shot at a 10-win campaign with a win over Kentucky next week and in the bowl game.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, closes out the regular season at USC next week. Other than bowl positioning and the satisfaction of beating a rival, the Irish will travel to Tinseltown with purpose of improving this 2014 season from “completely” to only “moderately” disappointing.

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No. 15 Arizona defeats No. 17 Utah 42-10 despite QB concerns

Anu Solomon

The No. 15 Arizona Wildcats can take multiple positives away from its 42-10 victory over the No. 17 Utah Utes.

Unfortunately, the main concern for the Wildcats is the health of their starting quarterback, Anu Solomon. Solomon put together a strong first-half effort before injuring his ankle. The freshman didn’t play during the second half and was reportedly wearing a walking boot on the sideline.

Senior Jesse Scroggins took over for Solomon. Scroggins played well during his first extended action of his career. The senior wasn’t asked to do much, but he kept his team in position to win without making too many mistakes.

Solomon’s status for the coming week is in question as Arizona continues to compete for a Pac-12 South crown. A feat that won’t come easily. The Wildcats need plenty of help despite a 6-2 conference record:

If Solomon isn’t ready to play next weekend against Arizona’s primary rival, the Arizona State Sun Devils, the Wildcats can continue to rely on freshman running back Nick Wilson. The talented runner set a career-high against Utah with 218 yards on 20 carries.

The Wildcats’ defense was also impressive against Utah.

Arizona forced four turnovers and only allowed 4.5 yards per pass. The play of senior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant continues to be a highlight of the Wildcats season. Bondurant forced a fumble and snapped a pick-6 against Utah.

With a strong running game, talented wide receivers and an opportunistic defense, Arizona still has a chance to represent the Pac-12 South in the conference championship game even without Solomon in the lineup.

Utah, meanwhile, fell to 7-4 with the Colorado Buffaloes remaining on the schedule. An 8-4 finish might place Utah toward the bottom of the Pac-12 South, but it’s still a successful season for Kyle Whittingham‘s squad.

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Cardiac ‘Noles survive another scare, extend win streak to 27

Boston College v Florida State Getty Images

No matter what else happens this season, the defining trait of this 2014 Florida State team will be its propensity to allow its opponents into standoffs and come out alive. Seemingly every week this season the Seminoles invite a new opponent to take its undefeated record, and so far every opponent has blinked. Clemson blinked when fumbling on a would-be game-winning drive. Notre Dame did the same on that controversial offensive pass interference penalty. N.C. State, Louisville and Miami built large early leads but just couldn’t get that one last score they needed to knock Florida State off.

In a rain-drenched Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday evening, Boston College blinked and once again Florida State made them pay for it.

With the game tied 17-17 with 13:29 left in the fourth quarter, Boston College accepted the ball at its own eight-yard line. The Eagles called 14 straight runs, grabbing every available shred of momentum, until they set up a 2nd-and-9 at the Florida State 26. Boston College called a throwback pass from wide receiver Josh Bordner to quarterback Tyler Murphy, and Bordner had an open Murphy but waited a tick too long; Murphy was unable to come down with the ball at the FSU 2. It was the only pass of the 17-play drive, and it was the one that killed them. Murphy ran for one yard on third down, and Alex Howell missed the ensuing 42-yard field goal.

You know how the story goes from here.

Florida State cooly moved 66 yards in 12 plays, eating up all but three seconds of the remaining 4:37, to set Roberto Aguayo up for the game-winning 26-yard field goal.

No. 3 Florida State held off Boston College 20-17, keeping its 27-game winning streak and national championship hopes intact.

if a 6-4 team was ever going to knock off the Seminoles, it was this 6-4 Boston College team. Coached and quarterbacked by former Gators and sandwiched after an emotional Miami win and before the pressure-cooker Florida game, Boston College out-rushed Florida State 240-110, didn’t turn the ball over and turned a Jameis Winston interception into a touchdown, limited the Seminoles to only eight offensive possessions, and it still wasn’t enough.

The key Florida State possession of the game, other than the final one, when Boston College intercepted Winston in Florida State territory and turned it into a five-play, 67-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 49-yard pass from Murphy to Shakim Phillips, to tie the game at 10-10 with 5:29 remaining before halftime. Like they always do, Florida State responded when it had to, marching 75 yards in seven plays as Winston hit Nick O’Leary for a 30-yard score to give the ‘Noles a 17-10 lead at the break.

Murphy (6-of-10 passing for 73 yards and a touchdown, 15 carries for 48 yards) rushed for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game in the third quarter. It was the only score of the second half until Aguayo’s game-winner.

Dalvin Cook rushed 14 times for 76 yards and Karlos Williams added 41 yards and a score to go with Winston’s 281 passing yards, but the hero for FSU – as it has been so many times this year – was Rashad Greene. He left the game in the first half with an apparent arm injury but returned before halftime to grab eight passes for 106 yards, including a couple on the game-winning drive.

Florida State will wrap up its regular season against Florida next week in Tallahassee before meeting Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship in Charlotte on Dec. 6.

Boston College wraps up its regular season against Syracuse next week.

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Marcus Mariota continues to build Heisman resume against Colorado

Marcus Mariota

There have been plenty of spectacular performances by multiple players attempting to enter the race for the Heisman Trophy in recent weeks. Marcus Mariota remains the favorite for the award, though.

As the national conversation shifted this week to “game control”, Mariota and his Ducks aren’t having any trouble with the Colorado Buffaloes. The No. 2 Oregon squad leads Colorado 30-3 at halftime, while Mariota continues to pad his resume.

The junior quarterback was efficient and effective. Mariota was 14-of-20 passing for 176 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback is also the game’s leading rusher with six carries for 74 yards and another touchdown.

In fact, Mariota’s performance in the first half propelled him to elite territory in college football history:

Plenty of other Ducks got into the act as well.

Freshman running back Royce Freeman ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mariota also connected with eight difference targets. Senior Keanon Lowe led the way with four catches for 43 yards.

Oregon’s quarterback was also helped by a spectacular catch from wide receiver Darren Carrington, who caught a tipped pass while on his back:

During the second half, Oregon should continue to overwhelm an outclassed Colorado squad. The Buffaloes can build some confidence by moving the ball and slowing the Ducks offense. While Oregon has a much bigger aspirations this season, Colorado can still earn a moral victory with better play during the third and fourth quarters.

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Ryan Broyles’ career receiving mark broken by ECU’s Justin Hardy

East Carolina v Cincinnati Getty Images

Earlier this afternoon, one Oklahoma player added his name to the NCAA record books.  A short time later, a former Sooner found his name erased from the same book.,

Early in the first quarter of East Carolina’s game against Tulane, Justin Hardy hauled in a seven-yard catch from quarterback Shane Carden, the 349th of his career.  That tied the FBS record set by Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles.

The next possession for the Pirates, Hardy grabbed a 22-yarder that was No. 350 and broke the record Broyles had set from 2007-11.  Hardy added two more catches and now has 352 for his career with the rest of this half plus three more games — two in the regular season and one bowl game — to add to the record.

Hardy has been a significant weapon in ECU’s passing game from the moment he stepped on the field as a redshirt freshman.  He pulled in 64 receptions in 2011 — 11 of them in his first-ever game at this level — then grabbed 88 and 114 in 2012 and 2013, respectively.  He currently has 86 this season.

If you recall, Hardy was also the subject of an unusual rebuke earlier this week, with the AAC’s commissioner calling out the Biletnikoff Award for not including Hardy among its 10 semifinalists

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