The College Football Playoff picture became much clearer after the No. 3 Auburn Tigers’ 35-31 victory over the No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels.
It came at a steep price.
One of the best games of the season was marred by a gruesome injury to one of college football’s best wide receivers.
Auburn trailed by four points as the Tigers began a drive on their 48-yard line with 3:22 to play in the game. The team was able to move the ball to Auburn’s 20-yard line before it faced its first third-down play of the drive. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace completed a quick screen pass to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
The wide receiver raced toward the end zone and was pulled down from behind as he crossed the goal line. The play was initially ruled a touchdown to give the Rebels the lead.
Unfortunately, Treadwell suffered a major injury to his left leg as it got caught under the body of Auburn linebacker Kris Frost. Treadwell’s injury required an air-cast before he was carted off the field.
Insult was added to injury when the officials reviewed the play and found Treadwell fumbled the football just prior to it breaking the goal line. Auburn recovered the ball in the end zone.
An outpouring of well wishes overtook social media upon seeing Treadwell’s injury.
Heartbreaking to see a great individual effort by a great young player end that way. Get well Laquon Treadwell. #AUBvsMISS
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) November 2, 2014
Despite the end result, Auburn should be credited with making a strong effort and a hustle play to secure the eventual victory.
So as bad as Auburn's tackling has been all night – including that play – Frost forces a fumble at goal line. Miller hustles to recover.
— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) November 2, 2014
The pivotal matchup during the contest was Auburn’s explosive offense against Ole Miss’ “Landshark” defense. Despite not firing on all cylinders, Auburn still amassed 502 total yards while facing one of the nation’s elite defenses.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall made plays when the team needed them the most. The dual-threat quarterback was 15-of-22 passing for 254 yards and a pair of touchdown completions. Marshall also added two touchdowns in goal-to-go situations.
Wide receiver Sammie Coates and running back Cameron Artis-Payne contributed heavily as well. Coates is a big and athletic target for Marshall to simply throw the ball up and allow him to come down with it. The wide receiver did just that against Ole Miss with five catches for 122 yards. Meanwhile, Artis-Payne continues to amass big yardage via the ground attack. The running back added 138 yards.
These strong performance allowed the college football landscape to sort itself out to a degree.
SEC West rivals were expected to beat up on one another, and one or two of those three teams in the initial top four of the College Football Playoff would eventually fall out of contention. That team appears to be Ole Miss, while it opens the door for a team from another conference to step into the vacated spot.