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USC QB Cody Kessler, WVU DL Shaq Riddick earn Walter Camp Player of the Week honors

Cody Kessler

USC quarterback Cody Kessler and West Virginia defensive lineman Shaq Riddick have earned Walter Camp National Player of the Week honors following outstanding efforts on Saturday.

Kessler set a USC single-game record for passing touchdowns – consider what that statement means for a moment – with seven scoring strikes in a 56-28 blowout over Colorado. His seven touchdown passes came on 19-of-26 passing for 319 yards, a passer rating of 264.98. Even better, Kessler was a scorching hot 11-of-16 for 159 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter alone as the Trojans sprinted to a 28-0 lead.

Kessler’s seven touchdowns tied a single-game record for the Pac-12 Conference, and his five first-half touchdowns tied a school record for touchdown passes in one half. It was also the fourth time Kessler has thrown for 300 yards or more in his career.

Riddick wreaked all sorts of havoc on Baylor’s undefeated record by collecting five tackles (four solo), three sacks and four tackles for loss in a 41-27 upset of the then fourth-ranked Bears. Riddick’s effort helped limit Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty to 16 completions in 36 attempts, and a season-low 95 rushing yards, nearly half their previous low of 189 yards in a 63-21 win at Buffalo.

The win pushed West Virginia back into the AP and Coaches’ poll for the first time in nearly two full years, the Mountaineers’ first appearance since Oct. 28, 2012.

 

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Who is the best team in the Big Ten?

Big 10 Championship Game - Ohio State v Michigan State Getty Images

With the drive to the College Football Playoff now about to hit fifth gear, the Big Ten is creeping up in the rear-view mirrors of the Pac-12 and Big 12. As those conferences begin to pick themselves apart and SEC West cannibalism about to get really interesting, the Big Ten could once again be fielding two teams worth considering in the playoff hunt; Michigan State and Ohio State. So, which team has the best case to represent the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff?

Both Michigan State and Ohio State lost their premier non-conference match-ups this season. The Spartans let one get away on the road against Oregon. Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. Since then though, both teams have hit a stride and continue to string together strong performances. The Spartans dodged a bullet last week on the road at Purdue and followed that up by managing to pull away from Indiana on the road once again this week. Ohio State has been more convincing in recent weeks with blowouts of Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers. The two programs appear to be heading toward the Big Ten’s game of the year in East Lansing trending in slightly different directions, but the rematch of last season’s Big Ten championship game should bring out the best in both teams.

Neither team should be looking ahead, but Michigan State and Ohio State should be considered solid favorites in Big Ten play this week. Michigan State hosts Michigan. Ohio State plays on the road at Penn State. Both the Wolverines and Nittany Lions had bye weeks to prepare for these tests, but considering the state of each program, Michigan State and Ohio State should still have a decided advantage once the teams take the field. Assuming both get by without being upset this week, the stage will begin to be set for the colossal meeting on November 8. Michigan State has a bye week after playing Michigan and Ohio State has a home game against Illinois.

With the discussion about best one-loss teams starting to pick up steam, it will be important to know just how the College Football Playoff selection committee would view each potentially one-loss team with a Big Ten championship. The Spartans, in theory, could go 12-1 with a Big Ten championship game victory over a potentially ranked Nebraska or perhaps Wisconsin (or Minnesota?). A victory over a ranked Ohio State team would be nice as well, but up agianst a one-loss Pac-12 champion in Oregon would likely give the Ducks an edge if it came down to one spot remaining.

How would a one-loss Ohio State be viewed though? The Buckeyes have certainly played better on a weekly basis and quarterback J.T. Barrett has come a long way since his week two defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech. Would Ohio State be rewarded for improving along the way? If injuries are to be taken into consideration, would the committee not recognize Ohio State was playing with an inexperienced quarterback against Virginia Tech after losing Braxton Miller for the year, and would the committee not consider how the team has played as the season played out?

This is all hypothetical conversation, of course. One of these teams will lose at least one more game, but the Big Ten’s two best teams are beginning to warrant the same kind of consideration a number of other one-loss teams might be getting.

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A quick briefing on the Big 12 tiebreakers, just in case

Kansas State v Oklahoma Getty Images

After winning on the road at Oklahoma and Baylor stumbled on the road at West Virginia on Saturday, Kansas State currently sits on top of the Big 12 standings. The Wildcats are 3-0 in conference play, but the three teams right behind Bill Snyder’s team share an identical 3-1 conference mark. West Virginia, Baylor and Oklahoma State are all 3-1, and TCU is 2-1. There is still a good chance this conference sorts itself out without much controversy, but as we sit here in mid-October it might be worth taking a quick look at the Big 12 tiebreaker, just in case we need them later on.

The most simple tiebreaker is the two-team tiebreaker. In the event two teams tie for first place in the Big 12 at the end of the season, the winner of the regular season’s head-to-head match-up will be rewarded with the Big 12’s spot in the Sugar Bowl or alternate bowl spot. The Big 12 has a deal with the Sugar Bowl, but if the Big 12 champion is not chosen to play in the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 champion will be placed in another bowl game, perhaps the Fiesta or Orange. So, if West Virginia and Baylor end the season tied for the Big 12’s best record, the Mountaineers would get the bowl spot.

It gets more complicated once more than two teams are involved. The following four steps will be used until a winner is chosen. The steps will be used to eliminate one team from any tie-breaking scenarios until there is just one remaining. Per the Big 12’s official website, the tiebreaker procedures for more than two teams are;

  1. The records of the three teams will be compared against each other
  2. The records of the three teams will be compared against the next highest placed team(s) in the conference (4, 5 and 6….).
  3. The highest ranked team in the first College Football Playoff poll following the completion of Big 12 regular season conference play shall be the representative unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of the other in the College Football Playoff poll. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the College Football Playoff.
  4. The representative will be chosen by draw.

Ah yes, the Big 12 could come down to a good old-fashioned draw. How appropriate. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that point. Kansas State can do everyone a favor and run the table to avoid any potential headaches.

The Big 12 tweaked these procedures as a formality before the start of the season. The third tiebreaker used to go off BCS rankings, but because there are no more BCS rankings the conference had to adjust.

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Top Five in the Group of Five

Colorado State vs Utah State

The chase for a spot in one of the access bowls under the College Football Playoff format is starting to really heat up, but East Carolina still seems to hold enough of a lead over the rest of the field. Marshall has the best chance to stay undefeated, but Colorado State is making some serious noise right now as well.

Here is how I would rate the top five contenders in the Group of Five (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference) right now.

1. East Carolina (5-1)

The Pirates have tow victories over ACC schools, Virgina Tech and North Carolina. Both of those schools could be going to a bowl game this season. East Carolina would probably love to have another crack at South Carolina. The Gamecocks handed ECU its only loss of the season in week two, but have stumbled since then. Throw ECU in the best one-loss team category if you wish, but it should be access bowl or bust the rest of the way.

2. Colorado State (6-1)

After winning a defensive battle against Utah State, the Rams are now eligible for postseason play and have won five straight games. Like East Carolina, Colorado State also owns two victories over power conference teams, Colorado from the Pac-12 and Boston College from the ACC. Both of these wins came on the road, or at least away from home (Colorado was on a neutral field in Denver). The only loss came at Boise State, but the Rams are in a good spot now to win the Mountain Division if Boise State stumbles.

3. Marshall (7-0)

Yes, the Thundering Herd are undefeated but they lack any real signature victories. Rakeem Cato is a record-setting quarterback and will continue to rack up huge numbers to keep Marshall in the hunt, but the Conference USA favorites will probably need some help in order to get by East Carolina or Colorado State even with a perfect record.

4. Boise State (5-2)/Air Force (5-2)

Feel free to take your pick here. Air Force owns a head-to-head victory over the Broncos, but Boise State has defeated Colorado State and now a loss to Ole Miss on a neutral field isn’t looking too terrible. Boise State has also just beaten Nevada and Fresno State in cross-division match-ups. The Falcons, on the other hand, need one more win to become bowl eligible and should easily be able to pick that up with a somewhat favorable schedule remaining. They even get Colorado State at home in the final week of the season, and now that game could be pretty significant.

5. Georgia Southern* (5-2)

Yes, the newest member of the Sun Belt Conference deserves some praise. Off to a 4-0 start in its new FBS conference home, Georgia Southern has  made it clear to the rest of the Sun Belt they intend to compete right away. Georgia Southern’s two losses have come on the road against ACC opponents, but the Eagles gave North Carolina State and Georgia Tech all they could handle and lost by a combined five points in those games. Still some work to do, but Georgia Southern may be playing the best football in this conference.

* It should be noted Georgia Southern is not eligible to participate in the postseason as a first-year FBS school. Georgia Southern is eligible to win the Sun Belt Conference championship, but it will be prohibited form playing ina  postseason bowl game until 2015.

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Marshall’s Rakeem Cato sets NCAA record for consecutive games with TD pass

Rakeem Cato

Marshall trailed early on the road against FIU on Saturday, but quarterback Rakeem Cato still led the Thundering Herd to a win to remain undefeated. He did so while making some history as well. Cato’s first of four touchdowns on Saturday set the NCAA record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Saturday’s game was the 39th straight game Cato has thrown a touchdown. The record (38 games) was previously held by Russell Wilson of NC State and Wisconsin.

”It was a team effort for all 39 games and we still got more games to play,” Cato said after the 45-13 victory. ”We’ve got to keep finding a way to find seven points.”

Through seven games, Cato has passed for 1,912 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions. His play is a large reason why Marshall is one of the four remaining undefeated teams and also why Marshall will remain in the hunt for an access bowl spot among the Group of Five contenders. East Carolina likely still has the edge in that category, and Colorado State has a pretty decent case as well.

There will be some talk that Heisman Trophy voters should be paying attention to what Cato has done as a result of this record, but keep in mind the Heisman Trophy is an annual award and not a career achievement award. That said, Cato is piling up some huge numbers, but his odds of being recognized by the Heisman voters are still slim due to the level of competition Cato is facing. This is not a slight on Cato’s achievements, but more so a dose of reality. Cato may have a shot to be invited to the Heisman presentation in New York if he keeps this up, but in the end he will have as realistic a chance to win the Heisman as players like quarterback Kellen Moore of Boise State or former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch.

But he sure is darn fun to watch.

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FSU still No. 2, Miss. State remains on top of coaches poll

Jameis Winston

Florida State actually lost ground following a win over Notre Dame, and Mississippi State remains on top of the Amway Coaches Poll this week.

Mississippi State remains in first place in the coaches poll with 36 first-place votes. Florida State follows in second place once again this week, now with 22 first-place votes. Ole Miss picked up the remaining four first-place votes in this week’s coaches poll and remains ranked third. Alabama moved up three spots this week following a demolishing victory over Texas A&M. The one-loss Crimson Tide are now ranked fourth in the coaches poll, followed by Michigan State, Auburn and Oregon. Notre Dame dropped three spots following the loss at Florida State, and is now ranked eighth, followed by Georgia and TCU to round-out the top 10.

No. 11 Kansas State moved up three spots following a road win at Oklahoma.. Ohio State moved up one spot to pass falling Baylor behind the Wildcats. No. 14 Arizona State and No. 15 Arizona continue to stand side-by-side in the rankings as well. No. 16 Nebraska jumped up three spots this week, passing idle East Carolina (No. 17) and old rival Oklahoma. The Sooners dropped seven spots to No. 18. Utah and Clemson wrap up the top 20.

No. 21 USC (up four spots), is followed by No. 22 Marshall (up two spots). No. 23 LSU is back in the coaches poll. Minnesota also debuts at No. 24 and West Virginia makes an appearance at No. 25.

Oklahoma State, Stanford and Texas A&M all dropped out of the coaches poll this week.

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Week 8, Statistically Speaking

stats word on a lptop computer

A numerical snapshot of the week that was in college football…

0 — Rushing yards for Tennessee as it was tripped up by Ole Miss in Oxford.  Three different Vols had negative yards rushing, led by quarterback Justin Worley‘s minus-41.

0 — Through seven games, the number of interceptions Wyoming has, the only team in the country to not yet pick off a pass this season.

1 — True road games each played by Ohio State, Texas and Wisconsin through eight weeks, the lowest total at the FBS level. The Badgers don’t play on the road again until Nov. 1 (Rutgers), while the Buckeyes and Longhorns will travel to Penn State and Kansas State, respectively, next weekend.

1-2 — Oklahoma’s record since Katy Perry propositioned quarterback Trevor Knight on ESPN‘s GameDay show prior to the loss to TCU.  Knight has thrown a pick-six in both losses, including the “upset” at the hands of Kansas State.

2 — Number of wins shy Ohio State’s current 18-game Big Ten winning streak is from tying the Buckeyes’ conference record of 20 straight set in 2005-07.

2 — FBS quarterbacks who have attempted at least 100 passes without an interception this season, with both coming from the Pac-12: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (188) and Utah’s Travis Wilson (111).

4 — Non-offensive touchdowns (punt return, kick return, interception return, fumble return) in Missouri’s 42-13 pasting of Florida that could very well mark the end of the Will Muschamp error era.

4-3 — South Carolina’s record in 2014, its worst to start a season since 2005. That year also happened to be Steve Spurrier‘s first season with the Gamecocks.

5 — Since 1944, the number of times Duke has started a season 6-1 or better: 7-0 in 1994, 6-1 in 2014, 1960, 1953 and 1952.

7 — School-record touchdown passes Cody Kessler tossed in USC’s blowout win over Colorado.  Kessler threw those seven touchdowns in just 27 attempts.

8 — Consecutive games in which Clint Trickett has thrown for 300-plus yards, including 322 in West Virginia’s upset of Baylor in Morgantown in Week 8.  That extends Trickett’s school record he set earlier this season.

8.8 — Yards per carry average on 15 attempts by Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, the nation’s leading rusher, in the loss to Michigan State.  MSU came into the game giving up 2.8 yards per carry, good for ninth in the country.

9 — Boise State players who caught passes in Friday night’s win over Fresno State, none of whom totaled more than 43 yards receiving.

13 — Nation’s longest current home winning streak by Alabama, Auburn and Baylor. Marshall, at 11 in a row, has the longest of the Group of Five schools.

14 — Fewest number of 100-yard rushers allowed since 2005, by Alabama. Following the Tide are Ohio State (19) and Boston College (21).

29 — Unanswered points scored by Nevada to overcome a 28-13 halftime deficit in beating BYU 42-35.

30 — Number of consecutive opponents Stanford has held under 30 points, the longest such streak in the country. Louisville and Ole Miss are tied for second at 14 straight.

35 — Points in the second quarter of Alabama’s woodshedding of Texas A&M, the most in a quarter in program history (records dating from 1945 to present). The previous high was 34 at Ole Miss on Oct. 7, 1989. The 56-point win was the Tide’s largest margin of victory since downing Vanderbilt 66-3 on Sept. 29, 1979 and the largest shutout win since beating Tulane 62-0 on Oct. 12, 1991.

37.9Jeff Driskel‘s quarterback rating in Florida’s embarrassing loss to Missouri.  The NCAA’s official stats website lists 114 quarterbacks in its passing efficiency ratings; Driskel is dead last at 95.5.

38-3 — Record of Urban Meyer-coached teams coming off bye weeks, which Ohio State defines as “season openers, games after an ‘off’ or open week, and bowl games.” Meyer went 5-1 at Bowling Green, 7-0 at Utah, 19-1 at Florida and is 7-1 at Ohio State. The three losses were to Miami of Ohio while at BGSU in 2001; to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl following the 2007 season; and to Clemson in the Orange Bowl following the 2013 season.

39 — Total number of points SMU has scored this season in six games. There are 13 teams averaging more points per game than the Mustangs have put on the scoreboard in 2014.

39 — Marshall’s Rakeem Cato consecutive game streak of throwing a touchdown pass, breaking his tie of 38 straight he had held for a week along with Russell Wilson. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (33 straight) can surpass Wilson’s old mark this season as well. Mariota, incidentally, has thrown at least one touchdown pass in every game in which he’s played the past two-plus seasons, while Cato didn’t throw one in three of the first seven games of his Herd career (2011) but has thrown one in every game since.

43 — Kansas State has won that many games in a row when leading at halftime, including Saturday’s road win against Oklahoma.  That’s the best current streak in the nation and three behind tying OU’s all-time record of 46 straight.

53 — Unranked opponents in a row beaten by Alabama, tops in the nation. The Tide’s last loss to a non-Top-25 team was in 2007 to Louisiana-Monroe. Clemson is a distant second with (23) in a row.

100 — Wins for Div. III Wisconsin Whitewater’s Larry Leipold in his first 106 games, making him the fastest head coach to reach the century mark in college football history.  Michigan’s Fielding Yost had held the all-division record at 108 for over a century, with Yost’s 100th win coming during the 1908 season.

150 — Receiving yards running back Jahad Thomas had on three receptions during Temple’s loss to Houston Friday night.  Two of Thomas’ receptions went for 74 and 72 yards, although neither resulted in a touchdown.  The sophomore came into the contest with 66 receiving yards in his career.

194 — David Cobb‘s rushing total in Minnesota’s 39-38 win over Purdue that pushed the Gophers to 3-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1990 and made them bowl-eligible for the third year in a row as well.

197 — Receiving yards for Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, on 15 receptions, in the loss to Kansas State.  The junior’s topped 100 yards receiving in five of seven games this season, including efforts of 215 and 177.

202 — In his second game replacing Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb‘s rushing yards in Georgia’s easy win over Arkansas in Little Rock.  Along with Herschel Walker and Rodney Hampton, Chubb is one of three UGA freshmen to rush for 200-plus yards in a single game.

216 — Career-high receiving yards for Carlos Harris in North Texas’ loss to Southern Miss.  His previous career high was 120 set two weeks ago.

Josh Doctson

Josh Doctson

225 — Receiving yards for TCU’s Josh Doctson in the win over Oklahoma State, one shy of the school record 226 by Jimmy Young against Wyoming in October of 2008.

250 — Mississippi State and Ohio State are both averaging more than that number per game in both rushing and passing yards, the only two teams coming out of Week 8 that can make that claim.

287 — Combined rushing yards for Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford in Michigan State’s thumping of Indiana.  Hill, incidentally, averaged 11.1 yards on his 16 carries.

313 — Combined rushing yards for Drew Hare and Cameron Stingily in Northern Illinois’ win over Miami of Ohio.

314 — After 272 in Week 8, number of yards Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion needs to surpass USC’s Matt Barkley (12,327, 2009-12) as the Pac-12’s career leader in passing yards.  This week, Mannion passed another former USC quarterback, Carson Palmer (11,818, 1998-2202), for No. 2 on the conference’s all-time list.

 323 – Career victories by Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks, tying him with Alabama legend Bear Bryant for sixth on the NCAA’s career list.

333-104 — Cumulative score of the USC-Colorado series, with the Trojans owning a 9-0 all-time advantage.

351 — Penalties yards for both teams in West Virginia’s win over Baylor.  The Bears had 213 of those yards, eclipsing the Big 12 record of 183 set by Texas Tech in 2007.  The FBS record for one team, incidentally, is 238 (Arizona State vs. UTEP 1961), while the Div. I record for two teams is 421 (Grambling vs. Texas Southern 1977).

360 — Career-high in passing yards for Colin Reardon in Kent State’s win over Army.

364 — Days between Texas Tech’s last Big 12 win (37-27 over West Virginia Oct. 19, 2013) and its most recent (34-21 over Kansas Oct. 18, 2014).

408 — Passing yards for BYU’s Christian Stewart in a losing effort to Nevada.

416 — Yards of total offense (321 passing, 95 rushing) for Tyrone Swoopes in Texas’ win over Iowa State.

424 — Yards of total offense (330 passing, 94 rushing) for Brett Hundley in UCLA’s win over Cal.

441 — Rushing yards for Appalachian State in its 53-14 blowout of Troy.  The Mountaineers averaged 8.2 yards on their 54 carries.

463 — Yards of total offense (390 passing, 73 rushing) for Marquise Williams in North Carolina’s win over Georgia Tech, the second-highest total in Tar Heels history.  Williams also set school records for completions in a game (38) and a half (23).

489 — Games, out of 490, in which BYU has scored in since 1975, the lone exception being a 3-0 loss to Utah in 2003.

551 — Yards in receptions for Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins the last three games, including 187 in the three-point win over Utah State.

563 — Yards Utah’s Devontae Booker has gained the last three games after rushing for just 179 the first three. 229 of those yards came in the double-overtime win over Oregon State Thursday night.

1,000 — With 1,024 yards this season, Ameer Abdullah becomes the first player in the storied history of Nebraska football to rush for 1,000-plus yards in three straight seasons.

1,065 — Days since Michael Dyer‘s last 100-yard rushing game.  The running back rushed for 173 yards in Louisville’s win over North Carolina State, his first 100-plus rushing effort since a 157-yard performance against Samford Nov. 19, 2011, when he was a member of the Auburn Tigers.

1940 — Until Saturday, the last year Notre Dame had lost its seventh game of the year after starting a season 6-0. The loss to Florida State snapped a 15-game winning streak in such contests.

1990 — Last year Minnesota had started its season 3-0 in Big Ten play before it moved to that mark with the one-point win over Purdue.

106,795 — Attendance at Ohio Stadium Saturday, the largest crowd to witness a Rutgers football game in its 145-year history

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Sumlin says Texas A&M loss was “unacceptable and embarrassing”

Kevin Sumlin

Some coaches say there are performances that make you just want to burn the game film and never speak of it again. If Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin subscribes to that philosophy, this weekend’s loss at Alabama may see the game film burned right away in College Station. Alabama thumped the Aggies in Tuscaloosa to the tune of a 59-0, with a 35-0 second quarter dropping the hammer on a Texas A&M program that has been slowly and surely slipping in the rankings and standings since its season-opening victory at South Carolina. Sumlin did not mince words when summing up his team’s performance on Saturday.

“However you put it, that performance was unacceptable and embarrassing,” Sumlin said after the game. “Alabama had a lot to do with that. We’ve got to get back to work and examine where we are.”

So where does Texas A&M go from here? The Aggies have a bye week to start to regroup, but when Texas A&M gets back on the field Sumlin does not expect to see too many changes with the roster, including quarterback.

“I’m not talking about wholesale changes,” Sumlin said. “Whenever something like this happens, you can’t stick your head in the sand and just keep doing the same stuff. You’ve got to make some changes. What those are, I couldn’t tell you right now. But the bye week comes at a good time for us.”

Sumlin was asked about his thoughts on the quarterback situation and whether a change may be coming. Kenny Hill was pressured by Alabama until he was relieved of his on-field duties by freshman Kyle Allen. Sumlin said it was a move to try and generate any kind of a spark, but Hill will likely remain the starter under center moving forward. After the game Hill suggested Texas A&M did not play as hard as Alabama, but was at a loss of words to explain how it happened.

“They played a lot harder than we did, it felt like,” Hill said in his postgame media session. “I wish I could tell you. It’s something we’re trying to figure out.” Hill suggested the team is lacking confidence on offense and needs to get it back to start rolling.

Texas A&M better hope to get its confidence back quickly. The Aggies will play Louisiana-Monroe after the bye week, with a win clinching bowl eligibility for the Aggies. After that, Texas A&M ends the season against Auburn, Missouri and LSU.

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Baylor loses another starting offensive lineman to season-ending injury

Seth Russell, Troy Baker

Baylor’s loss on the road at West Virginia came with a hefty penalty, and now one of the 18 penalties for a Big 12 record 215 penalty yards either. Troy Baker, a starting right tackle on the Baylor offensive line, tore his ACL according to head coach Art Briles. The injury brings an end to the playing career for the Baylor senior, and also leads to some offensive line concerns moving through the second half of the season for the defending Big 12 champions.

Just a few days ago Baylor lost starting right guard Desmine Hillard for the remainder of the season. A wrist injury in a win against TCU required surgery and will keep him out for the rest of the season. Unless Baylor completely shuffles the line around, this will leave Baylor having to go the rest fo the season with a pair of back-up linemen on the right side of the line to protect quarterback Bryce Petty. Sophomore Jason Osei is listed as Baker’s primary back-up on the team’s most recent two-deep depth chart. Jarrell Braxton took over for the injured Hilliard against West Virginia and is expected to continue in that role the rest of the season.

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Time to debate which one-loss team is the best

Florida v Alabama Getty Images

There may be just four undefeated teams remaining in college football, but the real watch is on the one-loss teams that are now battling for positioning in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. This much is certain; there will be a team with at least one loss in the College Football Playoff. With four spots to fill and a maximum of three undefeated teams possible this season and one undefeated not expected to be considered for playoff consideration, the debates will carry on over which one-loss team has the best overall profile.

There are a number of teams with one loss with a solid case to make for a playoff push if they can keep winning football games. There are others who may face an uphill battle due to upcoming schedules or other factors. Here are the one-loss teams, broken into two categories based on the chance they can make a playoff case or not.

THE TOP CANDIDATES

Alabama (6-1) – Crimson Tide coming off a resounding thumping of Texas A&M, will host Mississippi State and Auburn later this year.

Auburn (5-1) – Off this week but Tigers have a challenging schedule remaining including resurgent Georgia and Alabama.

Baylor (6-1) – Suffered first loss at West Virginia, still has Oklahoma on the schedule too.

Georgia (6-1) – Clearly the best in the SEC East, favorable schedule includes home game against Auburn.

Kansas State (5-1) – Coming off huge win at Oklahoma, in first place in Big 12. Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor still to play.

Michigan State (6-1) – Still holding on to team-to-beat status in Big Ten for now, but still has Ohio State on schedule.

Mississippi State (6-0)/Ole Miss (7-0) – Both are currently undefeated, but will face each other in final game of regular season, so we’ll include them each in this conversation for now.

Nebraska (6-1) – Cornhuskers have a manageable path to Big Ten championship game but road trips to Wisconsin and Iowa not automatic.

Notre Dame (6-1) – Irish pushed Florida State to the limit and still has road games against Arizona State and USC.

Ohio State (5-1) – Buckeyes have been getting stronger each week since losing to Virginia Tech. Road trip to Michigan State looms.

Oregon (6-1) – Best team in the Pac-12? Oregon still has to solve Stanford’s defense and a road trip to Utah looks a bit more imposing now.

TCU (5-1) – The big tests are now behind TCU, but road trip to West Virginia followed by home vs. Kansas State could be challenging.

THE OTHERS

Arizona (5-1)/Arizona State (5-1) – These Pac-12 rivals still have to play each other, so one will be knocked down to a minimum of two losses. Arizona State also gets Notre Dame at home. Arizona plays at UCLA and both have Utah remaining.

Colorado State (6-1) – Rams will not enter playoff discussion, but a case is beginning to become stronger for access bowl consideration. Rams probably get edge over undefeated Marshall.

Duke (6-1) – Duke could very well be heading back to the ACC Championship Game this season, but can they get by Florida State in a rematch? ACC Coastal still wide open too, but Duke is capable of getting through it.

East Carolina (5-1) – East Carolina would love to have that South Carolina game back. Pirates will not enter playoff conversation, but currently feel like leader among pack for Group of Five access bowl spot.

Minnesota (6-1) – Gophers off to a terrific start (only loss at TCU), but Minnesota faces brutal second half schedule with Iowa, Ohio State, @ Nebraska, @ Wisconsin to end season.

Utah (5-1) – Utes also off to great start but face challenging second half with games against USC, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona in consecutive weeks.


Which one-loss team do you feel has the best chance to reach the College Football Playoff? Starting next week (October 28) we will all get a sense of how teams are stacking up in the eyes of the selection committee. The selection committee will begin sharing its top 25 ranking to allow for an inside look at the committee’s logic.

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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.

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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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