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No. 6 Notre Dame passes road test at No. 24 Virginia Tech with big second half

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Lane Stadium was rocking and the home team was dreaming of pulling off another late night upset in Blacksburg. No. 6 Notre Dame shook off a bit of rust and responded by saying thanks, but no thanks.

The Irish used a big third quarter featuring a few key plays on both sides of the ball to secure a 45-23 win over the 24th-ranked Hokies on Saturday night and look more and more like a team that is making plans to find a spot in the College Football Playoff this season.

That’s not to say it wasn’t an easy, breezy trip below the Mason-Dixon line for Brian Kelly’s team. Quarterback Ian Book threw his first interception of the season right to an undercutting linebacker but found his rhythm as the game went on and finished with a respectable 271 yards and two touchdowns. His relatively quiet night won’t cause any fans to call for backup Brandon Wimbush by any measure but it did allow others to take the offensive spotlight as a result.

Once again it was running back Dexter Williams who provided the spark the team needed, breaking off a 97-yard run on the seventh play of the second half on his way to 178 yard, three score effort. Book also hooked up several times with Miles Boykin, who had a big night with 117 yards through the air and two touchdowns down the stretch that essentially sealed the result on the scoreboard.

Kicker Justin Yoon also set a school record for career scoring with an extra point in the fourth quarter and Julian Love recorded a scoop-and-score touchdown just before halftime as part of a strong defensive effort from Notre Dame.

Virginia Tech did have their chances early in the game but never could quite capitalize on short fields and miscues. Signal-caller Ryan Willis was under siege most of the night with a hand in his face but threw for 309 yards, two scores and two picks — doing well to only get sacked twice. Steven Peoples led the way on the ground with 64 yards but the Hokies had to take the air most of the second half as they fell further and further behind.

The victory makes the Irish bowl eligible as they move to 6-0 but, perhaps more significantly, gives the team their first road win against a ranked team since 2015. The trip to Blacksburg was viewed by many as a tricky one but the group passed the test with flying colors and put together yet another impressive second half to pull away against a solid team.

It will also lead to even more speculation that this is going to be a special season in South Bend with the Playoff looking not just like a possibility, but a real likelihood given the upcoming schedule. Notre Dame will return home to play Pitt on NBC next weekend and do not have a top 25 caliber team left on the docket. A rivalry game against Navy in San Diego and against USC in L.A. to end the year could be tricky but there certainly a path to 12-0 if the team keeps playing like they have been on this remarkable run in 2018.

Sam Ehlinger working his way back into the lineup for No. 6 Texas

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After the most well-timed bye week of all time, No. 6 Texas is back on the practice field to prepare for a trip to Oklahoma State on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC). Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger left the team’s previous outing, a 23-17 win over Baylor, during the first drive with what was later diagnosed as a Grade 1 AC sprain in his throwing shoulder.

Ehlinger began throwing again over the weekend, and Texas head coach Tom Herman on Monday outlined the club’s plan to work its starting quarterback back into the lineup.

“I think he’s scheduled to do 25 or 30 (throws) with a regular football today,” Herman said. “He was out there at practice yesterday, doing everything in the run game, all the handoffs and run game checks and reads. Being very cautious with how we accelerate his throwing. There’s a protocol, if you will, for overhead throwers with AC sprains that we want to make sure we adhere to as aggressively as possible while making sure we don’t have any major setbacks that could be lingering.”

Texas does not practice on Mondays, so any real update as to Ehlinger’s availability for Saturday will have to wait until Tuesday. Ehlinger will throw 25 full-padded throws on Tuesday with the aim of “ratcheting” it up to 50 later in the week, Herman said. A normal practice day calls for 75 to 80 throws.

“Barring any setbacks from (a) pain standpoint or if we see something mechanically that’s just not right, we’ve got to make some decisions,” Herman said. “Probably won’t know anything as far as game status until Thursday, I would imagine.”

Herman said if Ehlinger feels healthy, he will start.

If Ehlinger does not start, Texas will go with backup Shane Buechele. A junior, Buechele is among the most experienced backups in the country. He started all 12 games as a true freshman in 2016 and threw for 1,405 yards and seven touchdowns in on-again/off-again duty last season. Against Baylor, his only action thus far this season, Buechele completed 20-of-34 throws for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

In six games plus one drive, Ehlinger is completing 65.7 percent of his throws for 1,534 yards (7.4 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. His ongoing streak of 168 passes without an interception is a school record. Crucially, Ehlinger has also run 76 times for 230 yards and six touchdowns, including 72 yards and three scores against No. 8 Oklahoma on Oct. 6. Herman said Ehlinger’s health and willingness to be a factor in the run game will be a data point in Texas’s decision this week.

TCU QB Shawn Robinson to have season-ending shoulder surgery

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It has been a rough morning for TCU football news. On top of news of an arrest of wide receiver KaVontae Turpin (who has now been suspended by TCU) on Sunday comes injury news that will impact the quarterback position for the rest of the season.

Shawn Robinson, who had been TCU’s starting quarterback this season, will see his season come to a premature ending after head coach Gary Patterson announced he will be undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Michael Collins, a transfer from Penn who stepped in to provide a spark on offense on Saturday against the Sooners, will take over as the starting for the Horned Frogs moving forward.

Robinson, a sophomore, played in all seven games for TCU up to this point in the season, in which he passed for 1,334 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. He also rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns. Prior to being taken out of the Oklahoma game on Saturday, Robinson had completed just three of eight passes for 21 yards. Robinson started against Oklahoma, although Robinson appeared to have injured his shoulder in a previous game against Iowa State.

Collins came into the game in the second quarter and quickly led TCU to an offensive flurry before halftime, but the magic seemingly ran out in the second half as Oklahoma pulled away from the Horned Frogs in the Big 12 contest. Collins ended the day completing seven of 17 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

With Robinson unavailable and Collins taking over as the team’s starter, senior Grayson Muehlstein will be the new backup option for TCU. Muehlstein has appeared in two games this season, completing one of three pass attempts for 11 yards. He has appeared in just seven games for TCU during his college career.

TCU also has former four-star recruit Justin Rogers on the roster. The freshman has not seen any game action this season and the new redshirt rule could allow for the possibility of seeing what he can do in a total of four games without sacrificing a year of eligibility. But his status remains questionable according to recent updates offered by Patterson. Rogers was limited in training camp and has yet to be completely cleared by medical staff members as he is coming off a torn ACL from the season opener of his senior year of high school football last year.

Oklahoma State wearing Barry Sanders era uniforms vs. Texas

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Throwback uniforms have been all the rage lately, and Oklahoma State is getting in on the fun this weekend. With their big game coming up against the Texas Longhorns, the Cowboys will be suiting up in a look inspired by the 1988 Heisman Trophy season of legendary running back Barry Sanders.

Oklahoma State is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Oklahoma State team that went 10-2 and featured Sanders on his run to the Heisman Trophy. Sanders, who won the only Heisman Trophy in Oklahoma State history, rushed for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns. He and members of the “War Pigs” offensive line are grand marshalls for Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade this coming weekend.

The uniform, as expected, is perfect and should absolutely be given more opportunities to be worn by Oklahoma State. The uniforms will also include a patch commemorating the anniversary of Sanders’ Heisman Trophy season.

At 1-3 in the Big 12, Oklahoma State needs to go on a big winning streak and hope for some help if the Cowboys are going to play for the Big 12 championship. The Longhorns are sitting on top of the Big 12 standings with a conference record of 4-0.

Super 16 Poll sees Buckeyes drop, Cougars and Aggies debut

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Just as they did in the AP and coaches polls this week, Ohio State fell down the ladder in this week’s Super 16 Poll from the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. The Buckeyes tumbled from No. 2 down to No. 9 after their blowout loss at Purdue, while seven teams moved up one spot at their expense. When all was sorted, however, Alabama remained the dominant team in the poll just as they have all season long.

The Crimson Tide received 50 of 51 first-place votes this week to continue their dominance in the Super 16 Poll. Only LSU managed to secure a first-place vote from the firm grasp of Alabama, but the Tigers managed to move up to just fourth. Undefeated Clemson and Notre Dame stand in the way behind Alabama.

Two new additions were made to the Super 16 poll this week. No. 14 Washington State finally cracked the top 16 after popping up in the voting a few weeks ago and slowly waiting for their chance to make a move. Their win over Oregon did just that and also dropped Oregon from the top 16 in the voting. Texas A&M, at No. 16, also mad their first debut in the top 16 this season after floating around in the voting for over a month. They fill the second vacancy that was left by NC State, who fell to the bottom of the others receiving votes category this week.

Iowa and Penn State, who meet this weekend in Happy Valley, are the first two teams out of the Super 16, so the winner of that Big Ten crossover matchup may have a shot to jump into the poll next week.

Here is this week’s Super 16 Poll.

  1. Alabama (50)
  2. Clemson
  3. Notre Dame
  4. LSU (1)
  5. Michigan
  6. Texas
  7. Georgia
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Ohio State
  10. Florida
  11. UCF
  12. Kentucky
  13. West Virginia
  14. Washington State
  15. Washington
  16. Texas A&M

As a disclaimer, three contributors to College Football Talk are voters in the Super 16 poll: Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, and myself (Kevin McGuire).