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And then there were four undefeated teams

Rakeem Cato

Florida State handed Notre Dame its first loss of the season last night, thanks in large part to an offensive pass interference call wiping off a go-ahead touchdown scored by the Irish in the final minute. With Notre Dame taking a loss, the number of undefeated teams in college football was reduced to four: Florida State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Marshall. At this point in the season, the college football season can finish with three undefeated teams at most, because Mississippi State and Ole Miss will play each other in the final game of the regular season.

We are starting to get close to a situation where all four of the undefeated teams could be given a lucrative postseason assignment by the College Football Playoff selection committee too. Odds are probably good if Florida State continues to run the table in ACC play and wins the ACC championship, the Seminoles will grab one of the four playoff spots. The same holds true for either Mississippi State or Ole Miss if either can manage to go undefeated and win the SEC championship. An undefeated ACC and SEC champion will be extremely likely to be in the playoff. If the loser of the Egg Bowl ends the season with that being the only loss, it would be arguable they would be the nation’s best one-loss team, and that could stack up well against any potential one-loss champion from the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12.

Marshall can go undefeated but there is no fooling anybody into thinking the Thundering Herd will be considered for a playoff spot. Marshall’s biggest problem is being a dominant program in a weak conference and not having a relatively marquee opponent on the non-conference schedule. Marshall may still go undefeated and be passed over for a spot in one of the access bowls by a team like East Carolina. The Pirates have lost a game, but East Carolina has two wins against ACC opponents on their resume, which would be expected to help a one-loss ECU trump an undefeated Marshall team.

So, which of these four teams has the best chance to go undefeated at this point in the season?

Marshall looks like the best bet based on what is in front of them. Marshall’s biggest challenge will come against Rice (3-3) and Western Kentucky (2-4), but both of those games are at home. Florida State should have the second best chance to go undefeated. The Seminoles get a week off before playing on a Thursday night at Louisville. As long as Florida State avoids an upset bid on the road against the newest ACC member, then Florida State should be staring down a 12-0 record with Virginia, Miami, Boston College and Florida remaining.

Ole Miss may have the most difficult path to a 12-0 regular season, with games against LSU and Auburn next up and Mississippi State in the final game. Mississippi State still must play at Alabama in mid-November, but that should be the only roadblock before facing Ole Miss on the road in the Egg Bowl.

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The Fifth Quarter: Week 8 Rewind

Notre Dame at Florida State AP

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

FSU IN SEEDING DRIVER’S SEAT
Entering Week 8, seven weekends of the 2014 college football season were already in the books. Seven more after this weekend await. That means Week 8 served as the official midway point of the regular season… and again reminded us of the chaos awaiting us at season’s end.

Thanks to losses by Baylor and Notre Dame, there are just three undefeated teams left at the Power Five level: Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida State.  The first two will square off in what could be an epic Egg Bowl at season’s end, meaning there will be, at most, two undefeated teams at season’s end — and that’s provided either the Bulldogs and the Rebels make it through the SEC West meat grinder unscathed leading into the rivalry game.

At least on paper, however, FSU looks like a shoe-in to make it out of the regular season unblemished.  The five remaining teams on the Seminoles’ schedule — Louisville, Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Florida — are a combined 21-14. The road trips the remainder of the season consist of visits to the Cardinals and the Hurricanes.  Should FSU run that no-so-daunting gauntlet sans a loss, the defending BCS champions will cement a seat at the first College Football Playoff table, and likely either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

The chaos of the last couple of weeks, though, is ensuring that a gaggle of one-loss teams remain very much a significant part of the discussion — and that a two-loss team could be part of it as well.

Counting the three remaining undefeated teams, there are more than a baker’s dozen squads, with seven weeks left in the regular season, who could make a valid argument that they should be a serious part of the playoff discussion: Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn.  And that’s without even mentioning teams like 5-1 Arizona, 5-1 Arizona State, 6-1 Nebraska or 7-0 Marshall, the only Group of Five member still unbeaten.

And what of a team like a two-loss LSU?  Down the stretch, they have games remaining against No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 7 Alabama and No. 21 Texas A&M.  If they were to run the table, what kind of case could the Tigers make, especially if all hell continues to break loose at or near the top of the polls?

In that same vein, a number of those one-loss teams mentioned above could possible absorb one more loss and potentially remain in the mix.

Any way you slice it, we’re in for one hell of  stretch run in college football.  And for all of the doom and gloomers when it comes to the new system for determining a national champion?  We’ll let Dan “Death to the BCS” Wetzel handle that part of the equation.

As has been evidenced the past couple of weeks, what was always a straw man’s argument that “a playoff would devalue the regular season” has been further exposed for what it was: a scare tactic by those too narrow-minded to realize that the exact opposite would happen with a bigger postseason field.

Continue reading »

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No. 2 Florida State pushes win streak to 23 with dramatic defeat of No. 5 Notre Dame

Notre Dame at Florida State

Give Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston and No. 2 Florida State credit: they’re making their quest for a second national championship much more entertaining than their mostly-unchallenged drive to the 2013 title.

In the same stadium where the Seminoles used every one of the Clemson Tigers’ nine lives to survive 23-17 in overtime, Florida State hung on for a dramatic 31-27 win over No. 5 Notre Dame. So dramatic, in fact, was this win that the script had been written for an Irish win for the briefest of moments. Facing a 4th-and-18 at his own 44 with just over a minute to play, Everett Golson scrambled to his right and found a wide open Corey Robinson for the improbable conversion. Then, facing a fourth-and-goal at the two inside of 20 seconds to play, Golson (who, you must remember, beat Stanford with a 4th-and-10 touchdown pass) hit a wide open Robinson for the winning touchdown.

But Notre Dame was hit with an offensive pass interference call, taking the winning points off the board and giving Notre Dame another shot at the 18. Jalen Ramsey, the same defender interfered with the play before, pressured Golson into a hurried throw, and the pass sailed through the end zone incomplete.

Florida State would survive. The win streak is now at 23.

In truth, the Seminoles worked for this win like few before it. Notre Dame led on five different occasions, outgained FSU by nearly 15o yards, achieved eight more first downs, limited the Florida State rushing attack to 50 yards, and held Winston under 275 passing yards. Florida State did not take the lead until a Karlos Williams one-yard touchdown spurt with 7:39 remaining, which also happened to be the winning score.

Golson completed 31-of-52 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 11 times for 33 yards, and Tarean Folston rushed 21 times for 120 yards. Robinson hauled in eight receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns, and William Fuller added eight grabs for 79 yards and a score.

Winston’s final stats (23-of-31, 273 yards, two touchdowns, one pick) look better on the box score than they did on the field. Florida State, playing without offensive line coach Rick Trickett after he was forced to stay home due to health concerns, struggled handling Notre Dame’s pressure throughout the night. Williams was FSU’s leading rusher at 25 yards, while Rashad Greene caught eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown.

The win pushes Florida State to 7-0 and keeps the ‘Noles in control of their own destiny. They’ll play next at Louisville on Thursday, on Oct. 30.

For Notre Dame, this has to be an extremely bittersweet loss. On one hand, the Irish played like the better team for much of the night. They walked into the house of the defending champions and more than held their own. On the other hand, they did all that and still lost. They’ll need help to reach the College Football Playoff now, and will have to do so without an FSU win on their resume.

Notre Dame is off next week, and faces Navy at FedEx Field on Nov. 1.

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No. 17 Arizona State out-Stanfording No. 23 Stanford, leads 14-0 at the half

D.J. Foster

What is Arizona State doing? Don’t they know it’s supposed to be Stanford that chokes the life out of its opponent like a boa constrictor?

It’s been the 17th-ranked Sun Devils that have taken the fight to the 23rd-ranked Cardinal, leading 14-0 at the half in Tempe.

Arizona State has stifled everything Stanford has tried to do offensively, limiting the visitors to four first downs and 69 yards of total offense. Kevin Hogan has led the way – if you want to call it that – by completing 5-of-11 passes for 64 yards. Four Stanford runners have combined for a grand total of five yards on 11 carries.

D.J. Foster opened the scoring with a two-yard touchdown plunge with 8:28 remaining in the second quarter, only the second rushing touchdown allowed by Stanford this season. Mike Bercovici found Jaelen Strong for a three-yard score with 1:58 to play in the second quarter to push the lead to 14.

Arizona State has registered 113 passing yards and 58 rushing yards which, if it can keep it up, would be the best offensive output against Stanford this season.

Stanford will receive the ball to open the second half.

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No. 9 Ducks fly high after 45-20 trouncing of the Washington Huskies

Washington v Oregon Getty Images

Don’t look now. The Oregon Ducks are getting better at the right time of the season.

As teams in the Top 10 fall by the wayside each week, Mark Helfrich‘s squad could be one of the last teams standing when it’s all said and done.

Oregon mounted another impressive victory Saturday with a strong 45-20 effort against the Washington Huskies. The win comes a week after the Ducks defeated the formerly Top 20 UCLA Bruins 42-30.

What’s most encouraging for the Ducks is their offense is finally on track.

Over the past two weeks, Oregon posted 468 yards against the Bruins and 554 yards against Washington. This is significant, because the Ducks weren’t able to consistently move the ball during previous games due to an injury-plagued offensive line and a lackluster rushing attack.

Both the offensive line and the running backs played well Saturday for Oregon.

Washington owns one of the most talented defensive lines in college football. Yet, they struggled to apply pressure on quarterback Marcus Mariota. Part of the reason behind the Ducks’ success was establishing the run early. The Ducks gained 218 yards on the ground. Freshman Royce Freeman exploded for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

Oregon should also be proud of its defensive effort. The Ducks surrendered a couple late scores, but they generally frustrated Washington’s offense throughout the evening. Washington gained 317 yards, which was the Ducks’ best defensive effort of the season.

With Saturday’s win, the Ducks currently reside atop the Pac-12 North standings with a 4-1 conference record. The program’s biggest game of the season will come in two weeks against the Stanford Cardinal. But Oregon has to get through an explosive Cal Golden Bears offense next week.

The collegiate season has reached a point where the Ducks can once again aspire to make the College Football Playoff. The team’s victory against the Huskies could be the first step in achieving that goal.

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No. 3 Ole Miss dispatches Tennessee, 34-3

Jaylen Walton,

We’re headed to late October and Ole Miss still has not allowed more than 20 points in a game this season.

The third-ranked Rebels’ defense continued its claim as the best unit on either side of the ball in college football, manhandling an overmatched Tennessee squad to the tune of a 34-3 win in Oxford.

The Volunteers actually opened the scoring at the 12:40 mark of the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal by Aaron Medley. Needless to say, the highlights began and ended there for Tennessee.

Dave Wommack’s defense victimized Tennessee for seven sacks, three interceptions, one fumble recovery, minus-two rushing yards, just three third-down conversions in 16 tries, only 10 first downs and 189 yards of total offense. Justin Worley completed 19-of-34 passes for 191 yards and those three interceptions, while Jalen Hurd managed 40 rushing yards on 13 carries. No Tennessee possession lasted more than nine plays, and seven of its 15 touches went three-and-out. The Volunteers punted nine times.

To put Ole Miss’ dominance in perspective: Tennessee’s only scoring drive started in Rebel territory. Every one of the other 14 possessions started in Volunteer territory, and only two crossed midfield.

Bo Wallace put Ole Miss on the board with 5:08 remaining in the second quarter what turned out to be the winning score, a 38-yard toss to Vince Sanders. He also found Evan Engram for a 28-yard scoring strike late in the third quarter to truly put the game away at 24-3, and hit 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards with 33 additional rushing yards on the night.

Seven Rebels combined to rush 47 times for 180 yards and three scores, led by Jaylen Walton’s 10 rushes for 60 yards and one touchdown, a seven-yarder with 1:51 to play before halftime.

The win pushes Ole Miss to 7-0 (4-0 SEC) with a trip to LSU waiting Saturday, while Tennessee falls to 3-4 (0-3) SEC with a visit to – gulp – Alabama next week.

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Could Will Muschamp be out after Gators’ 42-13 loss to Missouri?

Will Muschamp, Andre DeBose

Just when everyone thinks it can’t get any worse for the Florida Gators and head coach Will Muschamp, it does.

After Saturday’s 42-13 loss to the Missouri Tigers, Muschamp’s hot seat has been burnt to cinders.

It isn’t simply that the Gators lost; its how they lost.

Missouri scored 42 points despite only 119 total yards of offense. The Tigers scored courtesy of a kickoff return, punt return, fumble return and interception return.

Tension is clearly building within Florida’s athletic department after such a decisive win by Missouri.

With no visible improvement on the offensive side of the football, it may be time to pull the plug on Muschamp’s tenure. It clearly hasn’t worked despite a Sugar Bowl appearance two years ago.

The primary problems for Muschamp stem from the coaching staff’s inability to develop a legitimate starting quarterback. Against Missouri, Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris combined to complete 15 of 31 passes for 148 yards and five turnovers.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team turned Missouri’s Marcus Murphy into a star. The senior running back returned a kick and a punt for a touchdown and rushed for a third score.

Now the Gators must lick their wounds after a 3-3 start as they enter a bye week. It won’t get any easier when the No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs travel to Gainesville for this year’s rendition of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”

The question remains: Will the Gators still be led by Muschamp when they take the field Nov. 1?

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No. 5 Notre Dame controlling No. 2 Florida State, leads 17-10 at the half

Everett Golson

No. 5 Notre Dame did not walk into Doak Campbell Stadium with the intention of offering itself as a sacrificial meal to second-ranked and defending national champion Florida State. Through one half in Tallahassee, the Fighting Irish lead 17-10.

The Irish live and die on the right arm and brain of quarterback Everett Golson, and so far he’s made more good decisions than bad, hitting 15-of-26 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns with eight rushes for 32 yards while also throwing an interception and a couple failed fourth down conversions. Golson found Corey Robinson, son of Basketball Hall of Famer David, for both of his touchdowns, a one-yarder to open the scoring in the first quarter and a nine-yarder to put the Irish back up 14-7 in the second.

Most importantly, Notre Dame and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder have kept Jameis Winston and the ‘Noles offense out of rhythm. Florida State has rushed just nine times for 19 yards, and pressured Winston on seemingly every pass. Relatedly, they are playing without offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who had to stay home due to health concerns.

Winston has hit 8-of-15 passes for 82 yards with a touchdown and an ugly interception, which came one play after Golson’s interception and directly led to Notre Dame’s second touchdown.

Overall, Notre Dame has out-gained Florida State 254-111 and own a 15-5 advantage in first downs. This is where we remind you Notre Dame is 9-0-1 all-time in games were both teams are 6-0 or better.

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

 

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No. 9 Ducks prove to be too much, build 28-6 halftime lead over Huskies

Washington v Oregon Getty Images

When the Oregon Ducks’ electric offense met the Washington Huskies’ aggressive defense, Oregon was clearly winner after two quarters of play. The No. 9 Ducks lead the Huskies 28-6 at halftime.

Washington was thought to have an advantage with its defensive line against Oregon’s patchwork offensive line. The Huskies entered Saturday’s game in Autzen Stadium tied as the nation’s second most prolific team in sacks. However, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota hasn’t been harassed, because the Ducks have been able to establish the run which set up a strong passing effort.

While it’s been a struggle at points this season for the Ducks’ offense, it hasn’t been Saturday. Oregon already accumulated a whopping 380 total yards.

The Ducks were particularly effective running the ball despite Washington’s stout defensive front. Freshman Royce Freeman and junior Byron Marshall combined for 111 rushing yards on only 18 carries. Freeman took full advantage of his opportunities with three first-half touchdowns.

A strong running game allowed Mariota to get comfortable in the pocket. The junior quarterback is 16-of-23 passing for 239 yards and a touchdown.

On the flip side, the Huskies struggled to move the ball, while Oregon’s defense stood tall.

Washington’s sophomore quarterback, Cyler Miles, was 12-of-19 passing for only 98 yards. The young signal-caller also made a poor mistake throwing a pass into coverage over the middle of the field, which eventually resulted in another touchdown by the Ducks.

The Huskies also found Oregon’s defense difficult to run against. The Ducks only allowed 27 rushing yards in the first half. Washington’s leading rusher is actually sophomore wide receiver John Ross, who had one carry for 12 yards.

As the second half approaches, Washington needs its defense to step up and make a few plays. The unit disappointed through two quarters and allowed Oregon to do too much on offense. If the Huskies can make the Ducks one-dimensional, Washington could mount a second-half comeback (although, it’s unlikely).

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Gators QBs continue to fail as Missouri leads Florida 20-0 at halftime

Louisiana State at Florida

Two quarterbacks played for the Florida Gators during the first half of play against the Missouri Tigers. Neither junior Jeff Driskel nor Treon Harris proved to be effective as the Gators trail the Tigers 20-0.

Florida’s two signal-callers were 6-of-13 passing for 33 yards and an interception.

It’s a familiar scene in the Swamp since Will Muschamp took over the program. The defense plays well each week, yet the Gators offense continues to let the other side of the ball down. Not only are the quarterbacks playing poorly, but they continue to make mistakes as well.

In fact, the Tigers haven’t really been able to move the ball all that effectively either.

Missouri only managed 99 yards of offense during the first half. But Gary Pinkel‘s squad took advantage of strong special teams play and a pair of turnovers.

The Tigers worked with a short field twice due to a fumble and an interception from Florida’s quarterbacks. In both instances, Missouri began drives inside the Gators’ 20-yard line. Kentrell Brothers‘ strip-sack at the 19-yard line resulted in a Marcus Murphy five-yard touchdown run. Whereas Driskel’s interception was converted into three points by Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett.

The Gators didn’t help themselves by surrendering an 89-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff by Murphy.

Muschamp now has a decision to make entering the second half. Which quarterback will take over the offense? The decision may have been made for him when Driskel suffered an injury late in the second quarter.

Driskel went directly to the locker room after the injury, and his status for the second half is questionable. The Gators may be better served seeing what they have in Harris at this point.

If the Gators decide to go with the freshman quarterback during the second half, Missouri’s talented defensive line will certainly be licking their chops.

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Defense carries No. 3 Ole Miss to 14-3 halftime lead over Tennessee

Senquez Golson

Defense continues to carry the day (err, night) for No. 3 Ole Miss as the Rebels lead visiting Tennessee 14-3 at the half.

Good and Bad Bo Wallace have taken the night off to give rarely-seen Mediocre Bo some reps. The Tennessee defense controlled much of the first half, as Wallace hit 8-of-19 yards for 128 yards and a touchdown with eight carries for minus-four yards. As a team the Rebels have pounded out just 46 yards on 20 carries, and achieved seven first downs while going 2-of-11 on third down.

Tennessee opened the scoring with a 27-yard Aaron Medley field goal at the 12:40 mark of the second quarter, but Ole Miss rallied with a 39-yard scoring strike from Wallace to Vince Saunders and a Jaylen Walton run.

The read ‘em and weep stats for the Tennessee offense: five sacks, two interceptions, four first downs, one third down conversion in nine attempts, minus-29 rushing yards, 109 total yards and, of course, just the three points. The second of Justin Worley’s interceptions was grabbed by Senquez Golson and returned 18 yards to the Tennessee 35, setting up a five-play drive capped by Walton seven-yard run to put the Rebels up 14-3 to close the scoring in the first half with 1:51 remaining.

Ole Miss had a chance to add to the lead, but Gary Wunderlich’s 52-yard field goal try as time expired was wide left.

Tennessee will receive the ball to open the second half.

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TCU becomes Big 12 favorite after 42-9 victory over Oklahoma State

Gary Patterson

With the No. 4 Baylor Bears falling to the West Virginia Mountaineers Saturday, the Big 12 Conference became a wide open race. The No. 9 TCU Horned Frogs made a case they are the league’s best team with a dominant 42-9 victory over the No. 15 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

While Gary Patterson‘s teams have been known for their stout defenses, the Horned Frogs showed how explosive they can be on offense against the Cowboys.

TCU accumulated 675 total yards of offense. Trevone Boykin became the fourth quarterback in TCU history with 400 or more passing yards. He finished with 410 passing yards. Junior Josh Doctson exploded onto the scene with a seven-catch, 225-yard effort. And running back B.J. Catalon racked up 102 rushing yards on only 10 carries.

Oklahoma State simply didn’t have an answer for TCU’s offense.

The two biggest differences in the Horned Frogs’ offense was Boykin’s precision and Doctson’s big-play ability. The quarterback correctly identified the open man on nearly every occassion, while Doctson scored two touchdowns that were 77 yards or longer.

With the impressive win, TCU can establish itself as the top contender on the Big 12.

The Horned Frogs and the Baylor Bears were as evenly matched as they come, and it required a strong fourth-quarter effort from Art Briles‘ squad to escape with the victory.

The difference between these two teams is who they face in the coming weeks.

TCU will play the Texas Tech Red Raiders and West Virginia Mountaineers before facing its toughest test in the second half of their schedule, the No. 14 Kansas State Wildcats. Baylor, who lost to West Virginia 41-27 Saturday, still has to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas State Wildcats.

With the Horned Frogs’ newfound explosive offense, everything is setting up in their favor to claim the school’s first Big 12 Championship and possibly sneak into the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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No. 10 Georgia rides monster first half to second straight Gurley-less win

Georgia Bulldogs v Arkansas Razorbacks Getty Images

Turns out maybe the biggest detriment to Todd Gurley’s Heisman Trophy campaign is his own backup, Nick Chubb.

Following a 38-carry, 143-yard performance in a 34-0 win at Missouri, true freshman Chubb powered No. 10 Georgia to a 45-32 defeat of Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark.. with a career-high 202-yard, two-touchdown effort. Without the help of Gurley, or fellow tailbacks Keith Marshall and Sony Michel, Chubb has rushed 68 times for 345 yards (5.07 yards a pop) and three scores.

Chubb got most of his work in early, carrying 12 times for 127 yards and both of his two touchdowns (from three and 43 yards) in leading the Bulldogs to a 38-6 lead at the break. Of course, you can’t build a 32-point lead on the strength of just one player. Hutson Mason threw and ran for a first-half score, and the defense produced three sacks and three turnovers, and one of each on the same play as Jordan Jenkins sacked Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen and forced a fumble, which Dominick Sanders collected and returned 54 yards for a touchdown to close the scoring in the first half with 2:08 to play and gave the Dogs a 38-6 lead.

The game looked like anything but a Georgia romp to start as the Hogs accepted the ball to start the game and ate up more than half the first quarter on a 13-play, 75-yard drive (12 rushes, one pass) for a one-yard Alex Collins touchdown plunge. But John Henson’s PAT was blocked, the second consecutive block dating back to last week’s 14-13 loss to Alabama, and it was pretty much all downhill from there for Bielema’s boys.

To its credit, Arkansas showed much more fight in the second half than one might expect from a team headed toward its fourth straight loss. The Razorbacks out-scored Georgia 26-7 in the second half, but never pulled closer than the final margin of 13 points. Allen finished the day with a less-impressive-than-it-looks 296 yards with three touchdowns and two picks (plus the disastrous fumble) on 28-of-45 passing. Jonathan Williams led the way for Arkansas’ running game with 18 carries for 108 yards, while Collins added 11 carries for 31 yards and two scores.

Mason hit a workman-like 10-of-17 passes for 179 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, plus another score on the ground. Chris Conley caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Georgia will now take a week off before meeting Florida in Jacksonville, giving its bevy of injured running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs an extra week to heal and Gurley 13 more days to have his case resolved.

Arkansas, losers of its last 16 SEC games, will see that week stay alive for at least one more week as the Hogs step out of the conference to host UAB on Saturday.

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All is not right with Texas A&M after No. 21 Aggies lose to No. 7 Alabama 59-0

Kevin Sumlin

Where have you gone Johnny Manziel?

The answer is Cleveland, and the Texas A&M Aggies obviously miss their former quarterback’s presence.

The No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide annihilated the No. 21 Aggies 59-0 Saturday. Nick Saban‘s squad dominated every level of the game.  The Crimson Tide racked up 602 total yards. Meanwhile, the Aggies’ explosive offense was held to only 172 total yards.

While Alabama earned an opportunity to move up the national rankings, Texas A&M is going in the opposite direction after its third-straight loss.

Over the past two weeks, the Aggies have been outscored 66-0 during the first half against the Ole Miss Rebels and the Crimson Tide.

After the past three seasons, Sumlin’s squad lost multiple top talents. Manziel, wide receiver Mike Evans and offensive tackles Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel were first-round draft picks. Players such as running back Christine Michael, defensive end Damontre Moore, linebacker Sean Porter and wide receiver Ryan Swope were also drafted. As well as Sumlin has recruited for the Aggies, it’s still a young team at key positions and lacks talent in others.

The Crimson Tide easily exploited Texas A&M’s problem areas. It starts up front with an undermanned defensive line. Alabama’s offensive line mauled its way to 298 rushing yards. Texas A&M couldn’t counter.

The Aggies’ normally explosive offense couldn’t stretch the field. Quarterback Kenny Hill was under pressure throughout the contest and forced off his spot. Alabama played sound football by keeping everything in front of them and not allowing yards after the catch.

These problems became a recipe for disaster.

Fans of Texas A&M should expect plenty of changes after this week. Sumlin already stated at halftime of the game some players would be replaced.

No one should be safe after Texas A&M laid another egg, including Hill after throwing six interceptions the past three games.

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Buckeyes continue stating CFP case with woodshedding of Rutgers

Rutgers v Ohio State Getty Images

Numerous observers (sheepishly raises hand) left the Big Ten dead playoff-wise after the first couple of weeks of the season. Thanks to the last couple of weeks, that conference in general and Ohio State specifically are right back in the conversation.

After jumping out to a 35-7 halftime lead, the Buckeyes kept their foot on Rutgers’ throat en route to a 56-17 win over the Scarlet Knights in Columbus.  Since the inexplicable home loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2, OSU has been on a roll as it has outscored its four opponents (RU, Maryland, Cincinnati and Kent State) by the combined score of 238-69.

Even as OSU’s margin of victory was 39 points, the game wasn’t nearly that close against a team that was 5-1 coming in.

The Buckeyes scored on seven of its 10 drives that didn’t involve the end of halves — one ended in a punt, one a fourth-quarter fumble and the other a turnover on downs.  They outgained the Scarlet Knights 587-345, tying a school record for most consecutive 500-yard games in school history in the process with four in a row (1998 team).

Once again, the play of J.T. Barrett has a growing number of people wondering if there will be a quarterback controversy when a healthy Braxton Miller returns in 2015.

In a little over three quarters worth of work, Barrett produced 361 yards of total offense (354 passing, 107 rushing) and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).  The redshirt freshman led the team in rushing as well.

In the loss to the Hokies, Barrett threw three interceptions and a touchdowns; in the last four games, his TD-to-INT ratio is a stellar 17-1.  Throwing in rushing scores, and he’s produced 20 touchdowns and no turnovers in that span.

With the win, the 13th-ranked Buckeyes improved to 6-1 on the season.  OSU has two more games (at 4-2 Penn State in primetime, home against 3-4 Illinois) before getting to what will be the biggest game of the season for both the teams and the conference: the Nov. 8 trip to East Lansing to take on Big Ten title game nemesis Michigan State.

If both teams continue winning between now and then — MSU only has to get past the sinking ship that is big brother Michigan at home — it will set up a matchup of squads that will most likely be ranked inside of the Top 10 of the major polls at kickoff.  The winner of that game would then have the inside track on the East Division’s spot in the league championship game.  It would also, with no offense intended toward Nebraska, leave the winner as what would likely be the conference’s lone hope for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

And, courtesy of the October chaos and its two high-profile team rebounding from early-season losses, the Big Ten can once again realistically talk playoffs, even if some would still consider a spot at that exclusive table a long-shot.

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