Nick Florence

The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

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

WINNERS

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!
Well would you look at what basketball conference has done a little bit of football growing up the first two weeks of the season.  And what football program grabbed a signature win by the throat after years of NCAA turmoil.  It was far from pretty offensively — most games involving the team from Gainesville are — but unranked (for now) Miami was able to punch its way to a 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida, the biggest win for The U since, what, Ohio State in 2011?  Florida State or Oklahoma in 2009?  Regardless, it was Al Golden‘s biggest win in his two-plus years with the Hurricanes, and a clear signal that, while they might not be there yet, The U is certainly pointed in the direction of the national stage.  It’s also a sign that, after Clemson’s win over then-No. 5 Georgia opening weekend, the ACC will no longer be a pushover at the top.  Or that the SEC East is vastly overrated.  One of the two.

Big OBC monkey, be gone!
For both No. 11 Georgia in general and Aaron Murray specifically, there has been a mountain-sized monkey on their respective backs, a South Carolina one for the former and a big-game one for the latter.  In one fell swoop, the simian has left the building thanks to the Bulldogs’ highly-entertaining 41-30 win over the No. 6 Gamecocks.  For UGA it snapped a three-game losing streak against the ‘Cocks, made even sweeter coming off the tough three-point loss to Clemson.  For Murray, it was just his second win — versus four losses — against a team ranked in the Top Ten.  With the Bulldogs defense (again) struggling, Murray turned in a career-like performance, throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns.  Here’s to guessing Murray’s home won’t get TP’d and/or egged this year.

Teddy Heisman?
Tabbed as the gambling Heisman Trophy frontrunner earlier this week, Teddy Bridgewater did little to break that momentum this weekend.  In No. 8 Louisville’s thumping of  FCS-level Eastern Kentucky, the quarterback completed 23-of-32 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns.  On the season, Bridgewater has completed 77 percent of his passes for 752 yards, nine touchdowns and an interception.  Granted, the competition has been a MAC school and one from the FCS — and the schedule doesn’t get much tougher moving forward — but the junior is doing what he has to do: putting up big numbers when he’s supposed to, all the while hoping that some teams from the AAC step up their level of play.

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CFT Preseason Top 25: three in a row, Roll Tide Roll

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I have some good news and bad news for you, Tide Nation.

The good? In the 2011 edition of CFT’s preseason Top 25, I predicted the Tide would rise again and claim its second BCS title under Nick Saban; five months later, Alabama did just that. The bad? More times than not, my preseason prognostications are historically and prodigiously horrendous… and that doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

In 2009, 2010 and 2012, Oklahoma, Florida and USC, respectively, ranked as CFT’s preseason No. 1. Five losses later for the Sooners and Gators, and six for the Trojans, none of those three finished the season ranked in either the final Associated Press or coaches’ poll. The eventual BCS champions those seasons — Alabama (2012), Auburn (2010) and Alabama again (2009) — were ranked No. 3, No. 15 and No. 19 by CFT in the preseason.

So, will 2013 be CFT’s Nostradumbass norm for the Tide, or will the 2011 exception take hold? Or, will the Tide fall somewhere in between? More than anyone else, and based on my track record, I don’t have a clue; that’s why they play the games, as the saying goes.

And that’s why, for better or worse and for posterity’s sake, the complete 2013 edition of CFT’s fifth-annual preseason Top 25 appears after the jump.  By conference, you’ll find six teams from the SEC — all in the Top 12 — five from the Big 12, four each from the Big Ten and Pac-12, three from the ACC and one apiece from the AAC, MWC and Independents.

I’d ask y’all to be some semblance of kind and/or gentle in the comments section, but there’s really no point…

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Baylor’s defense helps Bears slaughter UCLA

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Baylor’s defense was one of the worst statistically in 2012, but it looked as though the Bears turned a bit of a corner last month when it physically dominated Kansas State’s offense and then-Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein.

Baylor built on that defensive success in a 49-26 Holiday Bowl win over No. 17 UCLA. The Bears held the Bruins to just 33 rushing yards, one third-down conversion on 17 attempts and less than 50 percent on fourth down conversions. UCLA’s two touchdowns* came when the Bruins started inside the Baylor 40-yard line after recovering fumbles. Had Baylor held on to the ball, it’s possible UCLA would have had fewer points.

(*Technically, UCLA had three touchdowns, but the one as time expired in the game was clearly short of the goal line.)

Speaking of points, Baylor had plenty of ’em. Art Briles‘ offense had 35 in the first half after running out to a 21-0 start. Though quarterback Nick Florence attempted just 13 passes  he still broke the school’s single-season passing record for yards previously held by some guy named Robert Griffin III (4,293).

But the Holiday Bowl was Florence’s last game. Who takes over the offense next year is to be officially determined, but the Bears still have talent at skill positions led by Lache Seastrunk.  The Oregon transfer is a self-proclaimed preseason Heisman contender next year, rushing for over 1,000 yards this season. He had 138 yards and a touchdown tonight.

This is beginning to feel redundant, but Baylor should be a team to keep an eye on for 2013. Briles’ name has been tossed around for other jobs, but he appears committed. If nothing else, the Bears should be an exciting team to watch once again.

UCLA’s second-leading tackler will miss Holiday Bowl

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It’s the season for giving — as in teams giving opponents an advantage during bowl season.

UCLA’s gift to Baylor for the Holiday Bowl next week is safety Tevin McDonald, nicely-wrapped and ready to watch the game from Los Angeles. Per a release from the school, McDonald did not travel with the Bruins to San Diego for violating an unspecified team policy.

The Los Angeles Times reports that McDonald tested positive for marijuana.

McDonald was the team’s second-leading tackler and had nine pass break-ups. He also forced a fumble and recorded an interception this year.

That’s not particularly great news as Baylor is third in the nation in passing yards and fifth in scoring. Bears quarterback Nick Florence has thrown for over 4,000 yards and wide receiver Terrance Williams was a Biletnikoff finalist.

The Holiday Bowl will be on Dec. 27 at 9:45 p.m. ET.

Predictions 101 — Holiday Bowl

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No. 17 UCLA vs. Baylor
Thurs., Dec. 27 – 9:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
San Diego – Qualcomm Stadium

The Bruins went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams in five of their last eight quarters. The heart-breaking loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game gave added credence to P101’s belief that first-year head coach Jim Mora packed it in for the final three quarters of the regular-season finale versus the Cardinal to avoid a trip to Eugene, in favor of a replay up on The Farm.

With those two opportunities to post a 10-win season gone, UCLA (9-4) needs a win to avoid losing three consecutive games to close its “turn-around” campaign.

Through the first three decades of this bowl, we came to expect shootouts with an average of 59 points scored, but over the last three years the total has been nearly cut in half. That means we’re due for a heaping helping of offense and these are the perfect teams to oblige.

After losing five of six in the middle of its schedule, Baylor (7-5) turned things around by crushing the hopes of then-No. 1 Kansas State on Nov. 17, sparking a three-game win streak.

Despite losing last year’s Heisman Trophy recipient to the NFL, quarterback Nick Florence kept the Bear offense rolling right along, racking up a national-best 578 yards per game. He’ll do plenty of damage against UCLA’s 88th ranked pass defense, but it won’t be enough to keep up with the generosity of a Baylor defense that ranks next-to-last, allowing 514 yards per game.

Those numbers have Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin licking their chops after churning out 461 yards in the Pac-12 title game against one of the nation’s best stop units.

UCLA needs to avoid souring the accomplishment of ending USC’s monopoly and produce its first meaningful bowl win since defeating Texas A&M in the 1998 Cotton Bowl.

Opening point spread: Baylor by 1

The pick: UCLA 47-38

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