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Mike Williams, tough defense helps Clemson top Auburn

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Deshaun Watson’s Heisman Trophy campaign didn’t get off to the fast start he was likely hoping for but the Clemson quarterback probably doesn’t mind escaping Auburn with a 19-13 on Saturday night.

The victory by the Tigers (ACC edition) answered plenty of questions about the No. 2 team in the country and, perhaps more interestingly, gave us insight into just what kind of year the Tigers (SEC edition) face as the 2016 season gets underway.

There were not a ton of question marks about Clemson after all. But for everybody who wondered if Dabo Swinney and coordinator Brent Venables could reload on defense for the third year in a row, it appears the answer is a resounding yes. The Tigers were swarming from start to finish at Jordan-Hare Stadium, limiting Auburn to 262 yards of offense and forcing three turnovers.

Even more impressive was the emergence of Mike Williams. The wideout was injured in the team’s opener last year and missed the entire 2015 campaign as a result. He didn’t show any signs of rust though, ending the game as Watson’s favorite target with nine catches for 174 yards and making life miserable for Auburn defensive backs on every snap.

The feel good story of Week 1 helped the offense survive some rough patches against a fairly fast SEC defense, including turning the ball over twice and getting bogged down several times when entering Auburn territory. Still, the addition of Williams to go along with Watson and tailback Wayne Gallman (123 yards and a touchdown) gives Clemson perhaps the best trio in the country on offense.

While Auburn struggled on offense all night — using three different quarterbacks — the Tigers’ defense kept them in the game under the first outing with new coordinator Kevin Steele. The offense will be what keeps head coach Gus Malzahn, firmly on the hot seat on the Plains, up at night though.

Speaking of answers, the home team bizarrely had a chance to win the game at the end thanks to a miscue by Swinney. With just 47 seconds left on the clock, Clemson opted to go for it on 4th and 4 instead of attempting a field goal from the Auburn 17 yard line. Gallman failed to pick up the first down and the team promptly turned the ball over on downs.

Auburn got as close as the 40 yard line before Sean White launched a pair of Hail Marys into the end zone. Clemson knocked both down but it was certainly a nervous ending for both teams after such a tense — and at times inexplicable — game.

South Alabama makes change at offensive coordinator

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Another college football coordinator has been given his pink slip before hitting October. This time it is South Alabama offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent. On Monday morning, South Alabama announced Vincent has been relieved of his duties effective immediately.

“Sunday afternoon Coach Vincent came to me and expressed concern about our current status and what is best for our program moving forward.  After meeting with him, a decision was made to relieve him of his duties,” South Alabama head coach Joey Jones said in a released statement.  “Bryant is a great friend and has always had the best interests of our student-athletes in mind.  I sincerely appreciate all of his hard work.  I wish him the very best.”

Who will serve as the offensive coordinator will be moving forward has not been clarified by the school at this time. Vincent was also South Alabama’s quarterback coach too. Jones may just take on the playcalling himself for the remainder of the season if he does not promote anyone on the staff to the position.

South Alabama’s offense ranks 91st in the nation in scoring offense and is 130th in the nation (out of 130) in third-down conversions with just nine third-down conversions out of 45 attempts. The Jaguars dropped a home game against Idaho on Saturday, 29-23 to fall to 1-3 with the lone win coming against Alabama A&M. The first two losses of the year, however, came against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State, so it’s not as though South Alabama was expected to be too much better than they are at this point after four weeks of play.

James Franklin: I am not Keegan-Michael Key

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College GameDay was in Times Square on Saturday and decided to do the most New York thing possible: respond to a Mike Francessa rant.

Francessa ripped Penn State head coach James Franklin, calling him a “horses’s ass,” for trying to prevent a field goal to preserve the Nittany Lions’ 56-0 blanking of Georgia State last week. To respond, ESPN didn’t talk to Franklin, but instead asked comedian (and Penn State graduate) Keegan-Michael Key to speak for him.

This is not the first time Key has leverages his resemblance to Franklin for comedic purposes.

Nevertheless, Franklin addressed the bit to close his post-game press conference following Penn State’s 21-19 escape of Iowa in an answer that toed the line between seriousness and wry sarcasm.

Boston College loses WR Charlie Callinan for ‘an extended period of time’

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Boston College will be without wide receiver Charlie Callinan for “an extended period of time,” the program announced just before the Eagles’ date with Clemson on Saturday.

Callinan suffered a foot injury. The nature of the injury was not disclosed.

A senior from Westfield, N.J., Callinan was one of the most experienced players on the roster with 41 career appearances and 31 starts under his belt. He is the third BC player with at least 30 career games to be lost for an extended period of time this season.

Callinan posted the best game of his career in what may go down as the final game of his career, hauling in seven catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-20 loss to Notre Dame a week ago.

Without him in the lineup, BC passed for 141 yards on 34 attempts in a 34-7 loss to the second-ranked Tigers.

Don’t let Saquon Barkley distract you from the season Stanford’s Bryce Love is having

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Saquon Barkley is incredible. The Penn State running back is every bit a deserving Heisman front-runner, what with his 66 carries for 518 yards and four touchdowns, his team-leading 23 grabs for 335 yards and two touchdowns, and his 22.86-yard average on seven kickoff returns. This isn’t a criticism of him.

But I want to introduce an idea to you right now, and I want you to take a deep breath first: it’s possible Barkley is not having the best season of any running back in college football. At least not to this point.

Take a look at Stanford’s Bryce Love‘s first four games:

  • 13 carries for 180 yards and a touchdown in a 62-7 destruction of Rice
  • 17 carries for 160 yards and a touchdown in a 42-24 loss to USC
  • 13 carries for 184 yards and two scores in a 20-17 loss to San Diego State
  • 30 carries for 263 yards and a touchdown in last night’s 58-34 defeat of UCLA

Add it all up and you get 73 carries for 787 yards and five touchdowns, which not only means Love leads the nation in rushing yards per game — he leads the nation in rushing while averaging 10.78 yards per carry.

Love not only leads the nation in total rushing yards, he not only leads the nation in rushing yards per game, he leads the nation in yards per carry for all players anywhere in the neighborhood his carry total. Four players rank ahead of Love in yards per carry thus far, and those three players have toted the rock 76 times — combined.

The next closest player on the yards per carry rankings with at least 70 rushes is San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, who averages 7.87 yards on 91 carries. That’s an incredible number, and still 27 percent lower than Love’s average.

Stanford may not win enough for Love to join Barkley in the Heisman conversation, but right now it appears the two running back spots on every All-American team are locked up until further notice.