Week 3 Wrap

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Cal drops Texas in a wild game to put Big 12 playoff hopes in peril

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Just three weeks into the season and the Big 12’s chances of putting a team into the College Football Playoff are suddenly in peril. After Saturday night, one probably wouldn’t be all that wrong in saying they’re hanging on by a thread.

That’s the case after the conference’s top-ranked team Texas fell to California 50-43 in just about the wildest way possible.

After a back-and-forth shootout of a first half gave way to a scoreless third quarter, the two teams traded scores once again in the final 15 minutes before Cal quarterback (and Texas Tech transfer) Davis Webb marched the Bears down the field on a seven play, 65 yard touchdown drive. That gave the Bears the lead for what turned out to be for good with 3:41 left in the game but it wasn’t quite that easy for either squad.

Texas ended up getting the ball back needing a score to tie but promptly went three and out. Head coach Charlie Strong bizarrely punted the ball away with the Longhorns on their own 21 yard line and just under two minutes left on the clock. That was the only opening the Bears needed to salt away the game but not before some strange Pac-12 after dark magic popped up in Berkeley.

Needing just a yard to ice the game away for good on third down, Cal tailback Vic Enwere busted through the UT defense for what appeared to be a 55 yard touchdown run. But in a move that was appropriate for the alma mater of DeSean Jackson, Enwere actually dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

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Despite a Texas player picking up the ball as it rolled on the ground in the end zone, officials ruled that there was “no immediate recovery” and Cal was allowed to keep the ball. Two kneel-downs later and the Bears had bizarrely concluded a two-year sweep of the Lone Star State school.

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele played solidly in his first road start (196 yards, one TD, one INT) for the Longhorns but missed time early after suffering an injury. The night was his counterpart’s in blue and gold though, with Webb throwing for 396 yards and four scores. Receiver Chad Hansen went off against a shaky Texas secondary to the tune of 196 yards and two touchdowns as the primary target in the passing game.

As big of a win as it was for Sonny Dykes’ Golden Bears though, it was a crusher for Strong’s young Longhorns and in particular the Big 12. The loss gives the league just two undefeated teams after three weeks and likely none in the top 15 of the polls after Oklahoma was crushed by Ohio State on Saturday night.

The Big 12 isn’t completely out of the running to place a team in the final four but the result in Berkeley coupled with the one in Norman certainly makes it an uphill battle in 2016 for a conference that has already been left out of the playoff once before.

Josh Rosen and a stifling defense help power UCLA past BYU

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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has received almost all of the attention for UCLA this year but took a bit of a back seat to his teammates on the other side of the ball on Saturday night.

The Bruins defense put together their best effort in a long, long time against BYU to leave Provo with a 17-14 win that was a much more dominant outing than the score line indicated.

The Cougars managed just 0.9 yards per rush, failed to get much of anything going in the passing game and saw quarterback Taysom Hill throw one interception and record four sacks. While there was plenty of issues on the BYU offense, the fact of the matter was that the team from Los Angeles simply had defenders that looked faster, stronger and quicker on just about every snap.

It was a good thing that the defense rose to the occasion for Jim Mora too because the Bruins offense still hasn’t found much of a rhythm this season outside of their quarterback making some NFL-caliber throws. Rosen finished the night 26-of-40 for 307 yards, two scores and a pick but was only able to pick up six third down conversions all game in a bit of a one-man effort.

Nate Starks made his season debut at tailback and rushed for 39 yards on 15 carries as part of a mediocre ground game against a tough BYU front seven. The team’s leading rusher, Soso Jamabo, did not even suit up for UCLA while backup Bolu Olorunfunmi chipped in with 15 yards in limited action.

The win rounds out the non-conference slate for the Bruins and sets up a big showdown next Saturday at the Rose Bowl with defending conference champion Stanford. The Cardinal have been the one team that Mora has not been able to solve since arriving in Westwood but if the defense plays like it did against BYU, it could be an interesting Pac-12 contest between the two division favorites.

No. 3 Ohio State dismantles No. 14 Oklahoma

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It was a heavyweight bout the college football public waited three-and-a-half decades, plus an extra 90 minutes, to see. But in the end, the third ever meeting between the top two programs in the history of the AP poll wasn’t much of a fight as No. 3 Ohio State rolled No. 14 Oklahoma 45-24 in Norman.

After a three-and-out on their first possession, the Buckeyes scored six of the next seven times they touched the ball. The deluge started with a 36-yard Curtis Samuel run and continued with a 68-yard Jerome Baker interception on a tipped 4th-and-3 pass to give Ohio State a 14-0 lead at the 4:34 mark of the first quarter.

Oklahoma answered with a 97-yard Joe Mixon kickoff return for a touchdown. But replay showed Mixon actually dropped the ball at yard 96. The play was not reviewed, however, and the score stood.

Ohio State (3-0) responded, though, with an 89-yard drive capped by the first of four Noah Brown touchdown catches from the arm of J.T. Barrett. Barrett found Brown from 37 yards out one play after another interception of Baker Mayfield and, with just six seconds to go before the half, a 21-yarder that Brown pinned against defender Micah Brown‘s back to give the Buckeyes a 35-17 halftime lead.

Barrett found Brown again, from eight yards out this time, to cap Ohio State’s drive to open the second half and push the edge to 42-17.

Oklahoma (1-2) notched its only score of the second half when Mayfield found tight end Mark Andrews for a 5-yard score at the 4:06 mark of the third quarter, but never seriously threatened beyond that.

Barrett played like the true Heisman contender in a showdown of stiffarm hopefuls, hitting 14-of-20 passes for 152 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 17 times for 74 yards. Mike Weber added 18 carries for 123 yards, and Samuel carried 11 times for 98 yards and a score.

For Oklahoma, Mayfield hit 17-of-32 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions proved extremely costly. The combination of Mixon and Samaje Perine combined to rush 26 times for 138 yards.

Ohio State enters Big Ten play now squarely in the Playoff hunt and an undeniable heavyweight in the 2016 title chase. Oklahoma, though, faces a season where a Big 12 title is still on the table, but chances of winning the program’s first national title since 2000 are all but gone.

Florida QB Luke Del Rio ‘likely’ out vs. Tennessee Week 4

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Tennessee’s defense won’t be at 100-percent for its huge SEC East showdown with Florida next.  As it turns out, neither will the Gators’ offense.  Probably.

In the third quarter of Florida’s win over North Texas Saturday, starting quarterback Luke Del Rio went down with an injury to his left knee…

… which prompted Jim McElwain to go ape spit on the officials as the Gators head coach thought a penalty was warranted.

In the aftermath of the win, McElwain all but ruled Del Rio out for the Vols next Saturday. In fact, the coach indicated it’s an injury that could sideline the quarterback for multiple games.

Should Del Rio be officially ruled out at some point this week, Purdue transfer Austin Appleby would likely get the start, at least initially.

In his first year as the Gators’ starter, Del Rio had completed just over 63 percent of his passes for 576 yards and six touchdowns. Most importantly, he had just one interception as UF has run out to a 3-0 record for the second straight year under McElwain.

Michigan State survives late Notre Dame rally to win 36-28 in another classic

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College football is often a game of runs. No game was a better example on Saturday night than the latest classic between Michigan State and Notre Dame.

The Irish opened scoring with a nice quarterback scramble from DeShone Kizer to go up 7-0 in the first quarter but watched rather helplessly as the team found all sorts of ways to allow the Spartans to take control of the game.

During a 36 point run by Michigan State, just about every wild thing that could go wrong did for Notre Dame. There was a muffed punt recovered in the second quarter that was followed quickly by quarterback Tyler O’Conner lofting a pass into the end zone that receiver Donnie Corley simply snatched away from the hands of a defensive back.

As if that play was bad enough, the Spartans converted a two-point conversion out of a swinging gate formation, recovered another fumble and picked off Kizer to help fuel the run. It was an impressive swing of momentum that seemed to signal a runaway in South Bend.

The Irish had other ideas however.

Kizer eventually started to make things happen and helped swing momentum back in favor of the home team by finding Equanimeous St. Brown, who made a circus catch in the corner of the end zone to kick off a 21 point run.

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Notre Dame cut Michigan State’s lead to just one score with over six minutes left when Kizer found Durham Smythe for yet another touchdown pass and it was the Spartans who suddenly found themselves in a second half drought.

Kizer eventually got the ball back with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter but was sacked on third down to end stop a streak of three straight touchdown drives. With 3:37 left, Brian Kelly curiously opted to trust his defense and called a timeout to punt the ball instead of going for it on fourth and seven.

The decision would end up costing the Irish head coach as Michigan State salted the game away behind a clutch O’Conner throw and some quality runs Gerald Holmes.

The win gives the Big Ten another big non-conference victory early in the season and should vault MSU even higher in the polls as a potential conference title contender.

As for Notre Dame, it could be a long season for Kelly and his staff with such a young and inexperienced defense. The Irish still have a few remaining marquee games left but dropping two of their first three all but knocks them out of the College Football Playoff race and could signal some potential changes coming on the team as soon as next week.