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Texas C Dominic Espinosa breaks ankle, may miss rest of the season

Mississippi v Texas

In an otherwise stellar debut, just about the only thing to go wrong for Charlie Strong and Texas was losing veteran center Dominic Espinosa to an apparent ankle injury late in the Longhorns’ 38-7 defeat of North Texas on Saturday night.

One day later, the results are in and they don’t look good for the ‘Horns.

As first reported by Orangebloods.com, Espinosa suffered a broken right ankle and will likely miss the rest of his senior season. The report was later confirmed by HornsDigest.com and the Austin American-Statesman.

A fifth-year player with 40 starts under his belt, Espinosa was supposed to be the glue of a revamped offensive line under coach Joe Wickline. Espinosa was replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson and the offense suffered for it. Texas suffered numerous center-quarterback exchange issues following Espinosa’s injury, including one inside its own end zone that directly led to the Mean Green’s only touchdown.

Strong did not provide any comment on Espinosa’s situation following the game, and the school has not issued any statement today. Strong is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday.

Texas faces BYU on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

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Baylor unveils Robert Griffin III statue, is indeed RGIII

Robert Griffin III

Still six months shy of his 25th birthday, Robert Griffin III may be the youngest person in America with his own statue. Though, if you’d brought to Baylor what RGIII has – a Heisman Trophy, boatloads of wins, a brand new (and since shattered) offensive record book and, perhaps most importantly, a basis for the support needed to construct a new stadium – in your first quarter-century on Earth, perhaps you’d have your own statue, too.

The 9.5-foot statue stood under a black cloak before its ceremonial unveiling in advance of tonight’s McLane Stadium opening game versus SMU.

“It just wasn’t me,” Griffin told the San Antonio Express-News. “If you look at the guys who came in with me, the guys who were there before we got here. They are all a part of it from Grant Teaff to Coach Briles. Kendall Wright, Lanear Sampson, Terrence Williams, Phil Taylor, Danny Watkins, Jason Smith, I can go on for days.

“I know my guys and I know they know when I say this is for them, they believe me. They know we couldn’t have done it without each other. So I appreciate them. I know a couple of them will be here today and I can’t wait to see them.”

Griffin, on leave from his job as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins, wore a sport coat on top of jeans and tennis shoes because, as he told the assembled green and gold crowd, “I’m here to party.”

No. 10 Baylor and SMU kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

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South Carolina RB Mike Davis “sort of doubtful” for East Carolina

Mike Davis

Nothing went according to plan for No. 9 South Carolina in its 52-28 opening-night loss to No. 21 Texas A&M on Thursday. There were the 511 passing yards allowed to Aggies quarterback Kenny Hillthe missed opportunities to retaliate against a spacious Texas A&M secondary by Gamecocks signal caller Dylan Thompson, and then there was the impact for South Carolina running back Mike Davis.

More accurately, the lack of an impact.

Hamstrung by rib issues, Davis carried just six times for 15 yards, and caught one pass for a solitary yard on the evening. Davis did not touch the ball after the midway point of the second quarter.

Four days later, Steve Spurrier lists his star runner as “sort of doubtful” for Saturday’s East Carolina game, according to the Associated Press.

Davis was a bell cow for the Gamecocks last season, toting the rock 203 times for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns, and catching an additional 34 passes for 352 yards. A a nagging rib injury that reared its head in fall camp follows him into September, Davis faces an uphill climb to match those numbers in his junior season.

South Carolina (0-1) hosts East Carolina (1-0) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU on Saturday.

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Oregon opens a TD and a half favorite for Michigan State showdown

Marcus Mariota

The last time Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans went west, they came home with a 24-20 Rose Bowl title over Stanford, a team that just happened to have its way with Oregon last November.

Nine months later, No. 8 Michigan State is an 11-point underdog to those third-ranked Ducks, according to VegasInsider.com. Sure, The transitive property does not apply to football. And, yes, styles make fights. But, still, 11 is a lot of points for a team to give to a team that doesn’t often allow very many points at all.

Michigan State opened its season Friday with a 45-7 drubbing of Jacksonville State, while Oregon began its season with a 62-13 defeat of South Dakota. Just enough work for Marcus Mariota, Shilique Calhoun and their charges to rev the engines a time or two in preparation for Saturday.

A year ago, Oregon ranked third nationally in scoring offense, ninth in rushing and second in total offense, while Michigan State placed second in total defense, second in rushing and third in scoring. In other words, this is the most intriguing inter-sectional non-conference game in some time.

It should be a barn burner, unless Vegas is to be believed.

ESPN’s CollegeGameDay will be in Eugene to hype the action, which can be seen nationally on FOX at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Forget Oregon? USC may have the new up-tempo offense

Steve Sarkisian

The start of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC had a rough introduction leading up to the game itself, but once the ball was kicked it was a completely different story. USC’s offense showed some new wrinkles as Sarkisian started to leave a new stamp on the Trojans. It was only one game, but a preview of things to come certainly seems to suggest the Trojans are going to keep the pressure on with their offense.

As noted in John’s week one round-up, USC ran 104 plays in a victory over Fresno State. The total number of plays is a new Pac-12 record, which says something given Oregon is in the conference and up-tempo coaches like Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham are picking up the pace on offense. USC will not be running 104 plays every week, but the trend could see the Trojans running more plays than usual.  For the sake of comparison, USC ran an average of 68.4 plays per game in 2013 (67.5 plays per game in 2012, 70.6 plays per game in 2011).

It was only one game, naturally, but the Trojans were on fire on offense. USC converted 1 of 18 third-down attempts and racked up over 700 yards of offense. Cody Kessler had a great game, passing for 394 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Javorious Allen led the way running the football for 133 yards. Eight different Trojans ran the football and 10 different players caught a pass as USC spread things around.

One other point to consider is USC’s offense looked far more promising than their city rivals from UCLA did in week one. Of course, UCLA flew across the country to play on the east coast at noon eastern. That is no easy task for any team from the west coast, college or pro, but the Bruins were sloppy on offense. UCLA’s offense was probably not as weak as it looked against Virginia, and USC’s offense may not be quite as explosive as it was in this match-up. Letting the schedule play out will provide more time to evaluate it all more fairly.

Sarkisian’s debut could not have gone much better.

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Mike London has a QB question to answer

UCLA Virginia Football

College football is a sport that demands quick attention and response to various situations. If a head coach makes a change too late, it can cost his team a game or a season. As a result, it can end up costing a coach a job. Such is the case at Virginia, where head coach Mike London faces a quarterback situation that may demand a swift response.

It was only one game, but Virginia’s performance against UCLA was truly a tale of two quarterbacks. Greyson Lambert got the start for the Cavaliers against UCLA. Lambert found way to move the Virginia offense against the Bruins defense, using safe and accurate passes to move the offense. It was the costly mistakes that really took a toll on Virginia’s chances for an upset bid of one of the top programs from the Pac-12. Lambert was intercepted twice by the Bruins, and both happened to end up in the end zone for UCLA touchdowns. It was a brilliant day by the UCLA defense, which put up more points than either team’s offense in the season opener, so a bit of bad luck came into play.

Regardless, London needed to try something different. Enter Matt Johns, who took over under center after the UCLA defense had turned three turnovers into a 21-3 lead in the first half. Johns was not as accurate with his pass completions, but he threw for more yards and got the offense in the end zone twice through the air. Who knows if Johns would have avoided the trouble of the UCLA defense scoring three touchdowns, but Virginia seemed to be more assertive once Johns entered the game. The damage may have already been done by the time he came in, but now London has something to think about heading into week two against his old program, Richmond.

At the moment, London is holding off on making a decision on where the quarterback position goes from here.

“Greyson is a young man who understands that, as the game is going, there are decisions made that are in the best interest of the team,” London said, according to The Roanoke Times. “Right now, we haven’t seen film, we haven’t talked to the coaches and haven’t gotten the grades,” London said, “so, to speak on that [next week’s starter] right now… we just don’t know.”

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Report: Miami and FIU scheduling 2018-2019 series

Raymond Jackson

The last time Miami and Florida International got together for a football game, it was ugly. Really ugly. Here’s hoping tempers will be a bit cooler the next time these two schools get together. According to one Miami sportswriter, a two-game series could be announced soon.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports in his Sunday column Miami and FIU are working on details for a two-game series in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 game will reportedly be played in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. Where the 2019 game will be played is unknown at this time, although it would be unlikely Miami would agree to play a game at FIU when the game could draw more potential fans for both schools in Sun Life Stadium, or whatever the stadium will be called by that point in time. Jackson suggests playing the game in Marlins Park, home to baseball’s Miami Marlins, could be an option for the 2019 game.

The last time Miami and FIU played was in 2007, but the 2006 game was the cause for a temporary cancellation of all sporting events scheduled between the two schools. Following a Miami touchdown in the third quarter, a brawl broke out between the two teams following the extra point attempt. Punches were thrown, kicks were landed, and body slams and choke holds were executed in the madness. In all, police had to take the field to help calm things down and 13 players were ejected from the game.

Miami and FIU are separated by just nine miles, and there is very much a potential for big brother-little brother mentality here given Miami’s place in the ACC and FIU’s place in Conference USA.

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Georgia’s Gurley, UCLA’s Kendricks earn Walter Camp POTW honors

Todd Gurley

The first weekend of the college football season is not quite in the books (two games on tap today and Louisville-Miami on Monday), but Georgia running back Todd Gurley and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks have been singled out for their individual performances by The Walter Camp Football Foundation. Each was named the foundation’s players of the week for week one.

Gurley was a monster in Georgia’s victory over Clemson in Athens. Gurley set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards with 198 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was certainly a performance worthy of early Heisman hype. The Georgia back played a key role in allowing Georgia to pull away from Clemson in a 24-0 second half of a 45-21 victory over Clemson. Gurley is the ninth Georgia football player in school history to be honored by The Walter Camp Football Foundation’s weekly award since 2004.

The defensive weekly honor went to UCLA’s Kendricks. The redshirt senior linebacker led the Bruins with 16 tackles and forced a fumble on the road against Virginia. It was a particularly strong defensive showing for UCLA with 21 points scored in the second quarter. In that mix was an interception returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Kendricks. Kendricks is the fifth UCLA player to win the defensive weekly award since 2004.

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Hospitalized Wisconsin lineman Zagzebski out of hospital

Konrad Zagzebski, Michael Caputo, Marion Grice

Wisconsin suffered a tough loss Saturday night in Houston against LSU, but the concern for injured fifth-year senior Konrad Zagzebski was far more serious than the result of the game.  Zagzebski was taken off the field on a stretcher following a collision in Saturday night’s game. He was taken to a hospital and has since been released, which is always good news.

The defensive end was taken to Methodist Hospital in Houston for medical treatment, but was able to leave the hospital and return home with his teammates.

When Zagzebski was being attended to on the field, it was one of those rough moments in football when you see concern grow on both sidelines. Even in the heat of competition, a moment like that shows the respect and compassion each team has for each other. As Wisconsin’s team took a knee on their sideline while Zagzebski was being cared to by medical staff, LSU’s team also took a knee and the stadium grew quiet. Nerves were calmed as Zagzebski gave a thumbs up on the stretcher on his way out.

The rush to the hospital was initially deemed a precaution, which is standard procedure for injuries of this nature. Whether or not he will be right back on the field for Wisconsin’s next game will be determined later.

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Chris Petersen’s Washington debut was no vacation in Hawaii

Chris Petersen

As a head coach at Boise State, Chris Petersen won four straight games against Hawaii by a combined score of 172-37. The margin of victory in his debut as head coach of the No. 25 Washington Huskies (1-0) was significantly closer. Washington won their 2014 season opener on the road in Hawaii by a final score of 17-16.

This game proved to be more of a gut check than anticipated. Hawaii jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the visiting Huskies in the first quarter. Washington got in the end zone before the quarter came to a close when John Ross dashed 20 yards on a reverse for the score. Ross struck again on the receiving end of a 91-yard pass play from Jeff Lindquist, who got the start at quarterback for Washington. Washington took a 17-10 lead to the half. Washington’s offense was unable to score in the second half against the Rainbow Warriors, allowing the home team to chip away.

Hawaii had chances to grab a win but failed to capitalize on a couple of opportunities throughout the game. A trick play inside the Washington 10-yard line resulted in a turnover on downs, when a field goal could have been the difference. One play later came the 91-yard touchdown play for Washington. Hawaii also missed a field goal at the end of the first half from 40 yards out after two incomplete passes. A fumbled punt by Washington in the third quarter was also recovered by the Huskies at the Washington 33-yard line.

Where Washington goes from here should be interesting to watch unfold. Cyler Miles was suspended from the season opener but should slide into the starting lineup soon enough. His skills at the position should help boost the offense a bit. Lindquist was mostly unreliable with 10 completions on 26 attempts, mostly capitalizing on the 91-yard play for his stats. Washington should be better than the performance against Hawaii would suggest.

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Week one around college football shows why preseason rankings stink

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but Oklahoma State sure looked like a top 25 team to me as I watched the Cowboys give defending national champion and consensus preseason umber one Florida State all they could handle. The Pokes forced Jameis Winston to look vulnerable at times (although the best player in college football overcame that by showing just why he won the Heisman Trophy in 2013 when needed) with a pair of interceptions. Oklahoma State held Florida State to just four third down conversions on 14 attempts and nearly countered every punch thrown by Florida State in the second half, pushing the Seminoles to the final second. Oklahoma State lost the game, of course, and there is not much of a chance any voter will include them in a top 25 poll this week.

But would it be fair to say Oklahoma State’s loss to Florida State was more respectable than No. 25 Washington’s 17-16 win at Hawaii? Maybe, depending on whom you ask.

The controversy and debate over preseason rankings are nothing new. The reason they exist is purely for debate, conversation and in this day and age, page views. We’re all guilty of it, even those of us who question why preseason rankings exist. We all check them out, even if we say we do not care about them. This week in college football will add some fuel to that discussion, but nothing will change.

Is No. 21 Texas A&M and new Heisman contender Kenny Hill really 24 points better than No. 9 South Carolina? What do we make of No. 7 UCLA beating Virginia by eight points when the offense only scored seven points (that defense is good, but they will not put up 21 points each week)? How much should we boost No. 12 Georgia or drop No. 16 Clemson after Todd Gurley muscled the Bulldogs’ 24-point victory? Ohio State was ranked fifth in the preseason polls, before quarterback Braxton Miller was lost for the year. They pulled away from Navy in Baltimore, but could possibly fall in the rankings without doing anything wrong.

Aside from the mismatches with FCS competition, the only game that may have been the best representation of the preseason rankings was No. 13 LSU coming from behind to defeat No. 14 Wisconsin, and the Badgers sure did not look like a top 15 team while letting a 24-7 second-half lead evaporate. Injuries on defensive line were one thing, but giving Melvin Gordon the football just three times for one yard, turning over the football twice and going three-and-out three times is not what a top 15 team does, even against a team as talented as LSU.

The good news is things should be different this season. With no BCS computer formulas adding various rankings into the equation and a selection committee chosen to determine the tp four teams at the end of the season, where teams fall in the preseason rankings may not have as much of an impact. It will be hard for the selection committee to stray from the long, storied tradition of poll and ranking philosophy, but they will not be influenced as much by preseason rankings as they are results on the field. But then again, isn’t the weight of the results on the field influenced by the preseason rankings? Oh boy.

The new Associated Press top 25 will be released on Tuesday this week, to account for games being played Sunday (No. 10 Baylor vs SMU, Tennessee vs. Utah State) and Monday night (Louisville vs. Miami).

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

Oklahoma State v Florida State Getty Images

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

THUMBS UP

Shaky title defense begins
Last year, Florida State rolled over, through and around its regular season opponents by an average score of 53-10, with their “closest” call being a 48-34 win over Boston College on the road in Week 5.  They did not score less than 41 points in any game, and allowed more than 17 points just once.  Based on the opener, the Seminoles won’t be steamrolling through its 2014 slate.  At first it looked as if it would be lather, rinse and repeat as the Seminoles jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter.  Then  reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston began misfiring — two interceptions, just over 60-percent completion percentage — and the Cowboys outscored the ‘Noles 31-20 the rest of the way.  It wasn’t enough to dig out of that big early hole, however, as FSU extended its winning streak to a nation’s best 17 straight while Winston threw for 370 yards on an “off” night.  It did, though, offer some teachable moments for a coach looking to ensure his team doesn’t suffer through a post-title malaise as the ‘Noles go from being the hunter to the hunted.

Super Mario
Marcus Mariota has already been recognized as one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in Oregon history.  Now, the record books officially backup that stance.  In the Ducks’ season-opening romp over South Dakota, Mariota passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns, running for one other score — and setting or tying two school career standards and getting closer to a third in the process.  Mariota now has 82 career touchdowns (66 passing, 15 rushing, one receiving), breaking the tie he had been in with Joey Harrington. He’s also now tied with Darron Thomas for career passing touchdowns (66) and is within 22 yards (8,140 to 8,119) of breaking Bill Musgrave‘s record for total offense.  Suffice to say, Mariota, one of the preseason Heisman favorites, will break both those latter marks at some point during the Ducks’ highly-anticipated showdown with Michigan State next Saturday.

This one’s for you, bro
Early last November, Carl Pelini “resigned” as FAU’s head coach amidst drug allegations that were later recanted.  Nine months later, Pelini’s younger brother gave birth to a little bit of payback.  Saturday in Lincoln, Bo Pelini‘s Nebraska Cornhuskers pummeled FAU by the score of 55-7.  NU totaled a Big Ten-record 779 yards of offense — the most for the ‘Huskers since 1991 — and included 493 on the ground.  Ameer Abdullah ran for 227 of those yards, a career-high performance, while Tommie Armstrong passed for a personal-best 271 yards.  It won’t get the elder Pelini his job back with the Owls, but his former team’s evisceration could provide him with a little satisfaction.

Continue reading »

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No B1G statement: Tigers roar back, top Badgers

Wisconsin v LSU Getty Images

Ahead of the first-ever College Football Playoff, the Big Ten has two non-conference games in which to make a statement to the committee that will select the four teams that will take part in the mini-tournament: Week 1, Wisconsin vs. LSU, and Week 2, Michigan State vs. Oregon.

Shortly after midnight, Wisconsin officially fumbled away the conference’s first opportunity.

After taking a 17-7 lead into the halftime locker room, and pushing that lead to 17 early in the third quarter, the Badgers watched helplessly as the Tigers outscored them 21-0 the remainder of the second half to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  A wide asleep Tiger offense abruptly awoke in the third quarter, aided in large part to a pair of key losses to Wisky’s defensive line.

The Tigers opened the game with eight of their first nine offensive series consisting of four plays or less.  Six of those drives ended in punts, one a turnover and the other an 80-yard touchdown pass.  From the third quarter on, however, it was like someone flipped a switch on LSU’s offense as the Tigers scored points on their first four drives of the half — two field goals, two touchdowns — to turn a 10-point halftime deficit into a four-point lead midway through the fourth.

Conversely, the Badgers’ offense suffered from a serious case of second-half narcolepsy, aided in large part by a suffocating Tiger defense.  After giving up 202 yards of total offense in the first half, including 173 on the ground, LSU allowed just 116 the rest of the game.  The Badgers were highly ineffective in the passing game, totaling a meager 50 yards in the air.

Tanner McEvoy aided the Tigers’ cause greatly as the Badgers quarterback, who was a starting safety last season, threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions.  The first of those picks led to the go-ahead, and what turned out to be game-winning, touchdown.

In the end, the more talented, athletic team won out.  It was, though, a missed opportunity for a Big Ten team to show that it could not only play with, but beat one of the best the the SEC has to offer.

And, if MSU goes down in flames like UW did Saturday night?  The Big Ten could very well find itself on the outside of the inaugural playoff looking in.

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Charlie Strong debuts with dominating defensive performance

Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong wasn’t brought to Austin to take Longhorn decals off of helmets, move upperclassmen back onto campus and make players walk to campus. He was hired to coach defense and restore Texas’ identity as a hard-nosed football team.

So far, so good.

Texas completely shut down North Texas on Saturday night, defeating the Mean Green 38-7. The defense actually pitched a shutout – UNT’s only touchdown came on a botched snap inside the Longhorns’ own end zone – and actually outscored their counterparts by posting a touchdown of their own.

How about these defensive highlights?

- Texas allowed only 94 yards of total offense on 60 plays. That’s 1.57 yards per snap.

- North Texas quarterbacks completed 3-of-17 attempts for 15 yards with no touchdowns, four interceptions and a pick six. That’s a quarterback rating of minus-21.9.

- In 43 carries, eight North Texas rushers combined for a long rush of eight yards.

- North Texas was 3-of-15 on third down, and carried an 0-fer deep into the second half.

- Texas forced more punts (nine) than it allowed first downs (eight).

- When considering Texas accounted for 68 yards in interception returns, the North Texas offense had a net impact of 26 yards. That’s 16 inches per play.

The offense was a work in progress, as was expected. David Ash completed 19-of-34 passes for a modest 190 yards with a touchdown. Malcolm Brown, Johnathan Gray and true freshman D’Onta Foreman combined to rush 31 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns.

The only downer on the night was the loss of senior center Dominic Espinosa to an apparent ankle injury.  Strong offered no update in his post-game press conference.

Texas hosts BYU next week, while North Texas opens its home schedule against SMU.

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One game in, Florida State already learning title defense is different than a title chase

Jameis Winston

Florida State has not been tested like that since, well, the last time they took the field. Aside from the BCS National Championship barn burner, Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles were not seriously tested at any point during the 2013 regular season, unless you want to count a four-point third-quarter lead versus Boston College being seriously tested.

One game into their title defense, though, and these 2014 Seminoles have been seriously tested. Florida State built a 17-0 second-quarter lead, but was never able to shake the pesky Pokes. Oklahoma State pulled within 17-10 at the half, 20-17 in the third quarter, 27-24 in the fourth quarter, and had the ball with a chance for the lead with under five minutes to play in the game.

Unranked Oklahoma State proved every bit No. 1 Florida State’s athletic equal at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night, outrushing the Seminoles 161-106 and sacking Jameis Winston twice. More seriously, Pokes quarterback J.W. Walsh kept a zone read and raced around the left side with 50 yards of green artificial turf ahead of him, and opportunity that would have given Oklahoma State the lead with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, until Florida State defensive back P.J. Williams forced and then recovered a fumble. Walsh completed 15-of-27 passes for 203 yards with a touchdown and a back-breaking pick six, and added 11 rushes for 51 yards and a career-best two touchdowns.

Winston hit Rashad Greene with a 50-yard catch-and-run two plays later to put Florida State up 37-24 with 3:58 to play. Greene had a career night, collecting 11 receptions and 203 of Winston’s 370 passing yards.

Though Walsh would notch a three-yard scoring burst two minutes later, Oklahoma State never again had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Final score: Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31.

Saturday night’s extravaganza showcased the absolute best of these made-for-TV neutral site match-ups. Each team will be better for the opportunity, and the nation got to see the defending national champion pushed by a rebuilding program that appears to be better than anyone – perhaps including its own coaching staff – ever anticipated.

Florida State hosts The Citadel and then takes a week off before opening its ACC schedule against No. 16 Clemson in Tallahassee. Oklahoma State returns to Stillwater to face Missouri State next week and, though there are plenty of land mines throughout, does not face another team currently ranked in the AP Top 25 until Nov. 1.

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