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National college football columnist. FWAA Super 16 voter. Travel virtuoso.
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No. 19 Colorado knocked from unbeaten ranks as USC scores wild Saturday’s final upset

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It was a wild Saturday in college football filled with top 25 upsets across the board. Pac-12 After Dark was sure to get a pelt on the wall as well.

USC quarterback J.T. Daniels threw two first quarter interceptions but bounced back in a big way as the Trojans knocked No. 19 Colorado from the ranks of the unbeaten 31-20 on Saturday night and managed to reinsert the defending champions back into the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South.

Daniels, who tossed one of those picks on the first play of the game, basically was the Trojans offense on the night as the program known for ‘Student Body Right’ had just seven yards rushing at halftime and didn’t improve much on that number as the game wore on. The freshman signal-caller wound up with 272 yards passing and three touchdowns when all was said and done in the game, giving the half-full crowd a few things to cheer about while keeping head coach Clay Helton a perfect 19-0 at the L.A. Coliseum as head coach of the cardinal and gold.

Michael Pittman Jr. led the way as Daniels’ best friend, recording 144 yards on just five catches — two of which went for scores, one from 65 yards out. Tyler Vaughns also found the end zone through the air in an encouraging sign for USC’s receivers breaking out at the right time as they hit a critical stretch in conference play.

Defensively, the Trojans were able to put together one of the best efforts of the season. Ajene Harris recorded a pick-six in the second half that essentially put this result to bed and they held the Buffs to one of their worst performances on the offensive end in some time. That they did so without captain and star middle linebacker Cameron Smith spoke volumes and especially so given that his replacement, freshman Palaie Gaoteote, suffered a concussion (on a questionable play that also could have been called for targeting) and the team was forced to put a walk-on in the middle of the field.

As for Colorado, it was a night to forget for the program as they finally slipped up against a team with a winning record on the season. The big plays defensively were one thing but the lack of any real productivity on offense all but doomed Mike MacIntyre’s group in a game they generally had control of until a few minute stretch before halftime turned things on its head.

Quarterback Steven Montez threw for only 168 yards and one interception on a night where he mostly had to check it down whenever he wasn’t being pressured (which was quite often). He didn’t get any help from the rushing attack and the score made the Buffs one-dimensional as things wound down.

All-purpose star Laviska Shenault scored on a wild 49 yard run out of the wildcat formation to help lead the team in rushing and receiving (72 yards) but it wasn’t enough. He was one of a number of key players who got banged up during the game too, missing most of the fourth quarter with an injury that isn’t too concerning going forward but did keep him out down the stretch.

The end result not only gives CU their first loss of the season and keeps them from hitting bowl eligibility at the midway mark, but also shakes up the Pac-12 South race and all but certainly drops the Pac-12 out of the College Football Playoff race at the same time given events elsewhere in the league. The flip side is it makes USC the team to beat once again as they try to defend their crown following another slow start to the year. The trip to Salt Lake City next weekend to play Utah very well could determine the division and who makes that trip to Santa Clara as a result.

The Trojans seem to have a knack for getting better as the year gets going and the Buffs found that out first hand to cap off another crazy Saturday night.

J.T. Daniels bounces back to help USC to halftime lead over No. 19 Colorado

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USC’s true freshman quarterback bounced back from a rough first quarter to throw a trio touchdown passes and help the Trojans secure a 21-7 lead at halftime in a pivotal Pac-12 South battle with No. 19 Colorado at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

After an extremely ugly (and slow) start for both sides, it was the Buffs that started to get things going in the second quarter thanks to, who else, all-everything star Laviska Shenault. The receiver not only led his team in yardage through the air, but he was also CU’s leading rusher thanks to a 49 yard rushing touchdown for the game’s first points. QB Steven Montez couldn’t find his favorite target as much as he would have liked to, being forced to check down plenty while completing 14 passes for only 60 yards and taking a number of sacks.

Opposite number J.T. Daniels wasn’t any sharper early for USC but rebounded as the game went on deep into the cool Los Angeles night. Following two first quarter interceptions (one of the first offensive snap of the game), the freshman signal-caller started launching bombs to his wideouts down the field and seemed to find plenty of success as a result. All told, Daniels threw for 255 yards in the half and found both Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. (twice) for a trio of touchdowns all told.

The Trojans didn’t have any sort of ground game to lean on at all with a paltry seven yards rushing, making the throws their quarterback was making even more impressive. They also limited the Buffs’ ground attack, aside from the Shenault run, despite the absence of senior linebacker Cameron Smithwho was in street clothes for the game with an injury.

This is the biggest test yet for undefeated Colorado against the defending conference champions and doubles as the first of several key games in the South Division for both sides. There was already a shakeup in the North earlier in the day and as #Pac12AfterDark started setting in L.A., it appears one on the other side of the league is starting to take hold as well given the way this one is trending.

Tua Tagovailoa among several starters to suffer injuries in No. 1 Alabama’s romp over Missouri

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On a day full of chaos across college football, No. 1 Alabama had no issues taking care of business against Missouri on Saturday night in a 39-10 victory. Even the Crimson Tide’s sometimes questionable defense had a good outing against a potential first round quarterback too.

But not even the return of ‘Dixieland Delight’ to Bryant Denny Stadium could make up for the stunned silence in Tuscaloosa when quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (265 yards, three touchdowns) went down with a knee injury on a first down scramble in the third quarter of the game and spent nearly 20 minutes in the team’s injury tent. Concern was ratcheted up another few notches when his parents made a visit to the tent to check in on him and again when the sophomore emerged with a heavier knee brace on and a minor limp.

Given the 20 point margin, it’s understandable that the signal-caller did not return to the game — and was officially listed as questionable after emerging back on the sideline — but the entire episode was enough on a day full of wild results to show why even the best team in the country can be at least a little vulnerable in this crazy sport of college football.

Tagovailoa wasn’t the only Tide starter to make the trip to the medical tent or locker room either. Receiver Henry Ruggs III missed the bulk of the third quarter after an injury but did return while fellow wideout Devonta Smith suffered a hamstring pull in the first half and was not seen the rest of the night.

Those absences were the story of the game even on an overall off night for Alabama’s offense. When he was in, Tagovailoa threw 10 incompletions (as many as he did in the previous three weeks combined) and the team squandered several opportunities inside the red zone that Nick Saban seemed visibly mad about. Damien Harris had 62 yards rushing (one score) and Najee Harris chipped in with another 57 on the ground while backup QB Jalen Hurts accounted for 137 total yards — including his first reception of the season in the first quarter.

The Crimson Tide being who they are though, were picked up by their defense several times as that unit recorded four sacks and managed to get a safety as well. They held potential first round quarterback Drew Lock to only 142 yards passing with one touchdown throw and two picks. The Tigers managed only 69 yards rushing too in a game that they had a few chances to make interesting but never did.

On a day where numerous top 25 teams faltered in a big way, most of the state of Alabama will likely breathe a sigh of relief that the Tide got the win and that the injuries to key players didn’t look too terrible all things considered. Saban wanted something to nitpick after an incredible start to the year and after the victory against Mizzou, he will have no problem coming up with things to work on going into the Third Saturday in October.

No. 1 Alabama still rolling on offense, leads Missouri heading to halftime

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It’s been a day full of upsets in the top 10 of the polls, could top-ranked Alabama also fall prey to a surprise upset? No, not at all.

Even with their star quarterback throwing more incompletions than he has in the past two weeks combined, the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 30-10 lead over visiting Missouri in what is well on its way to becoming yet another rout at Bryant Denny Stadium.

Tua Tagovailoa was a measly (by his standards) 12-of-20 in the first half for 265 yards and three touchdowns going to the locker room, continuing his assault on a number of school records in the process. Jalen Hurts actually saw action earlier than normal in the first quarter as he threw a pass for 11 yards and then wound up catching a pass for seven yards in another nod to his versatility when not running the second-team offense.

Damien Harris led the way in the backfield with 44 yards on the ground as the Tide racked up a robust 9.3 yards per play but only recorded three touchdowns in six trips to the red zone.

There were a few bright spots for the Tigers despite the lopsided score. Quarterback Drew Lock had all day to throw a 20 yard touchdown to Jalen Knox and finished with 110 yards and a pick in a game that NFL scouts will certainly be examining closely for the potential first rounder. Tyler Badie rushed for 38 yards but two turnovers for the offense overall and an inability to sustain drives kept this one from being more interesting than it should be.

To add to the issues facing head coach Barry Odom, linebacker Terez Hall, one of the team’s best defenders and a senior, was ejected for targeting in the second quarter.

There’s plenty for Nick Saban to nitpick in that first half overall but the bottom line remains the same: Alabama is good and does not appear to be threatened in this SEC test.

No. 17 Oregon upsets No. 7 Washington in OT to deal Pac-12’s College Football Playoff hopes another blow

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A few weeks ago, No. 17 Oregon let a second half lead slip through their hands and lost in overtime against Pac-12 North rival Stanford.

Thanks to a few clutch plays down the stretch and the luck of a missed kick as time expired, the Ducks did not have history repeat itself as they upset No. 7 Washington 30-27 in overtime to just about knock out the Pac-12 from the College Football Playoff by mid-October.

Quarterback Justin Herbert had all eyes on him with a throng of NFL scouts in attendance but wasn’t quite as sharp as he was coming in. Even though the numbers weren’t great however — 18-of-32, 202 yards and two touchdowns — the lanky signal-caller was still able to come up with some clutch throws when his team needed and most importantly did not turn the ball over against one of the nation’s best defenses.

The story of the game might have been the guy he was sharing the backfield with as tailback CJ Verdell redeemed himself from that loss to the Cardinal by rushing for 111 yards and two touchdowns, the latter of which set off a wild celebration at Autzen Stadium in the extra period. Dillon Mitchell also impressed among the Ducks’ offensive skill position players with 119 yards receiving and a touchdown but it was teammate Jaylon Redd who turned in the highlight of the day with a tip-toe catch in the end zone with 14 seconds left in the first half.

Just as big of a development for the program going forward is the continued toughness up front and improved defensive play in delivering Mario Cristobal his first signature win since taking over in Eugene.

Washington, meanwhile, spoiled their head coach’s birthday on Saturday with a series of regrets and offensive struggles. Peyton Henry missed a 37 yard field goal as time expired that would have won the game and the team scored on just one of their four second half drives.

It was another ugly game numbers-wise for Huskies quarterback Jake Browning as the signal-caller finished just 15-of-25 for 243 yards and a touchdown.  Things got off to a rough start with an interception on the second play of the game before eventually improving as the second half wore on but his limitations once again popped up for the team as they struggled to finish when the moment required.

Tailback Myles Gaskin recorded a nice 69 yards on the ground but missed the bulk of action with an injury and mostly gave way to backup Salvon Ahmed, who had 61 yards and two scores.

The result will almost surely knock the Huskies out of the running to reach the College Football Playoff with their second loss and may have done the same for the Pac-12 as a whole. It also makes the Pac-12 North a bit of a toss up going forward given Oregon’s earlier loss to Stanford and Washington State lurking with a surprising 5-1 start to the season before they host the Ducks next week.

Undefeated Colorado may wind up being Larry Scott’s only hope of reaching the playoff if they win out but the Buffs have a tough test ahead with USC later on Saturday night and a trip to Montlake to face what will surely be an angry Washington team next week.