Halftime: Amari Cooper passes ‘Wizard of Oz’ against Southern Miss

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The No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide may have played a sloppy first half against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, but Nick Saban‘s squad still leads 21-6. Junior wide receiver Amari Cooper is once again the most impressive player on the field. The 6-1, 210-pound target has five receptions for 72 yards.

At this point, Alabama quarterback Blake Sims only seems to look in Cooper’s direction. Sims completed seven passes in the first half. Cooper caught five, and the rest of Alabama’s receivers only added nine yards through two quarters of play.

With his first catch of the game, Cooper entered elite territory for an Alabama wide receiver.

Teams haven’t been able to stop Cooper during the first three games of the season. The wide receiver already has 30 receptions and 391 yards through two and a half games. There is no reason for Sims to spread the ball around if Cooper continues to produce.

But Cooper isn’t expected to produce too much in the second half. With a solid lead and Southern Miss unable to move the football, Alabama’s backups are expected to receive plenty of playing time in the third and fourth quarters.

Arkansas fires Bret Bielema after season-ending loss to Missouri

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The Bret Bielema era at Arkansas has officially come to an end, but at least Arkansas went down fighting. Arkansas (4-8, 1-7 SEC) came up just short at home against Missouri (7-5, 4-4 SEC) in the regular season finale as a late go-ahead field goal lifted the Tigers to a 48-45 victory. Arkansas announced a press conference for later in the evening to officially address the dismissal of Bielema.

The win clinched a winning season for Missouri, which is an incredible feat given how this season started out. The Tigers were really struggling in the first half of the season after suffering blowout losses at home to South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn and on the road against Georgia. During that rough stretch, head coach Barry Odom came off sounding like he was under extreme pressure when he passionately defending himself as being the right coach for the job. Turns out, he was right. Missouri ended the season on a six-game winning streak as they now prepare to go to a bowl game few would have seen coming back in October.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock passed for 448 yards and five touchdowns in the game as the Tigers managed to dig out of an early hole and then come up with just a few more plays than the Razorbacks. Missouri racked up 696 yards of offense and 35 first downs. And it didn’t hurt when Bielema made some bizarre coaching decisions in the fourth quarter.

As Missouri goes on to prepare for whatever bowl game may be coming their way, Arkansas has some work to do with its football program. This is the second losing season under Bielema for Arkansas, with the first being in his first season on the job since leaving Wisconsin and the Big Ten. In five seasons at Arkansas, Bielema was 29-34.

San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny becomes 22nd 2,000-yard rusher in FBS history

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San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny became the 22nd player in FBS history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season when he rattled off a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a game against New Mexico.

Penny eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark a season after former Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey accomplished the same feat. That also made some history, with San Diego State becoming the first school in FBS history to have two different players run for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.

We may not be quite done with the 2,000-yard rushers this season either. Stanford running back Bryce Love begins the week with 1,723 rushing yards this season. This week, Stanford faces a Notre Dame team that has allowed 200+ rushing yards each of the past three weeks. There is also the possibility Love gets to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game for another opportunity to tack on the yardage. Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor is also in striking distance with 1,657 yards this season, and he is guaranteed a chance in the Big Ten championship game.

Penny had been on the Heisman Trophy radar earlier in the season, and some will argue he is worthy of a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as much as any other players who may be heading there. Penny was not named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back. Love, Taylor and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley were named finalists for the award earlier this week.

Toledo punches ticket to MAC Championship Game to face Akron

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The preseason favorite to win the MAC is now one step closer to coming through on that expectation. Toledo (10-2, 7-1 MAC) clinched the MAC West Division on Friday afternoon by defeating the defending MAC champ, Western Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC), by a score of 37-10.

Toledo will play Akron, the East Division champion, in the MAC Championship Game on Dec. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit. Toledo will be playing in the MAC Championship Game for the fifth time, but this will be their first trip since 2004. Akron is also ending a championship game drought by making their second appearance and their first since 2005. The two schools have not faced each other in the MAC Championship Game until this season.

Western Michigan represented the MAC in the New Years Six bowl lineup a year ago after going undefeated in the regular season and being the highest-ranked conference champion among the Group of Five conferences. The stakes will not be that high this season for Toledo or Akron. With two ranked teams in the American Athletic Conference expected to play for the AAC championship (UCF and Memphis are currently ranked, but USF would likely be ranked with a win over UCF), and Boise state floating in the bottom of the top 25 from the selection committee, even a Toledo blowout of the Zips would not likely be enough to make a push in the final week.

Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Rockets were 7-of-14 on third down conversions in the game. The Rockets are expected to be a sizable favorite against Akron next week.

At 6-6, Western Michigan is bowl eligible.

USF WR Tyre McCants sets school receiving record in first half, but UCF leads by one

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With the stakes as high as they could possibly be in the War on I-4, No. 15 UCF is holding on to the narrowest of leads after getting off to a fast start against rival USF. UCF is leading the Bulls 21-20 at the half as USF has battled back from an early hole.

USF opened the scoring on the first possession of the game with Quinton Flowers completing the first of many passes to Tyre McCants, who managed to drag a defender on his way to the endzone on a 47-yard touchdown pass. UCF answered with quarterback McKenzie Milton running in from three yards out for a score, and UCF would score two more touchdowns while USF missed a field goal in the first half to help build a 21-7 lead.

USF battled back in the second quarter with a couple of touchdowns, and the Bulls had a chance to get to halftime with a lead before Quinton Flowers had a pass picked off in the final minute of the half.

If there has been thing that has been working incredibly well for USF, it is McCants, who has been finding all of the available open space in the first half and helping to bail out Flowers time and time again, setting a new school record in the process.

McCants actually ended the first half with 210 receiving yards. And we still have a half to play.

The winner of this game takes on Memphis in the AAC Championship Game next week. UCF would clinch home field advantage with a win.