What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 9

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
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Some things we learned about the Pac-12 in Week 9:

[+] EnlargeTravis Wilson
AP Photo/Rick BowmerWith the win over USC, Travis Wilson and the Utes have finally erased any notion that they don't belong in the Pac-12.
Utah arrives: Utah beat USC 24-21 with a late touchdown, improving to 6-1 and 3-1 in the Pac-12. The Utes, already bowl eligible after two consecutive losing seasons, have now beaten Stanford, UCLA and USC as Pac-12 members. In fact, the Utes have wins over eight of their 11 Pac-12 rivals over the past three-plus seasons in the conference. Any residual sense of Utah being a "Junior Member" of the conference is done. Gone. And the heat on Kyle Whittingham cools quite a bit in suddenly ebullient Salt Lake City. Just imagine where the Utes might be if not for that unfortunate fourth quarter against Washington State. (Sorry for bringing that up again, Utes).

Muddled South picture should clear this week (maybe): Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah won this weekend. The Wildcats, Sun Devils and Utes have one conference loss, while UCLA and USC have two. Utah has wins over UCLA and USC, so its visit to Arizona State on Saturday is a biggie. Arizona, which lost to USC, will visit UCLA on Saturday. The winners of those two games take a big step forward toward the division crown and the Pac-12 title game. If Utah beats the Sun Devils, the visit from Oregon on Nov. 8 suddenly becomes an unexpected national matchup. If both Arizona schools win, well, the Territorial Cup on Nov. 28 could become epic. Of course, there are likely plenty of plot twists remaining.

It's a big story when Marcus Mariota makes a mistake, which tells you a lot about how good he is: Mariota passed for 326 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-41 win over California but the biggest news for the Heisman Trophy candidate was he threw his first interception of the season -- his first in 253 passes extending back to last season's Civil War versus Oregon State, in fact. That was the factoid lead, but the substance is Mariota is playing well -- and, apparently healthy -- as he prepares to lead the Ducks against Stanford on Saturday. For all he has accomplished, Mariota is 0-2 versus the Cardinal. He needs to win that game to punch his ticket to New York for the Heisman ceremony.

UCLA doesn't like making things easy: UCLA led Colorado 17-0, 24-7 and 31-14 entering the fourth quarter, but the Buffaloes didn't quit and forced overtime. While the Bruins prevailed 40-37 in double-OT, it was a slog of a win that should have been a dominant one. The Bruins are 6-2 and, at 3-2 in conference play, are solidly in the South Division hunt. But six of their eight games have been decided by eight or fewer points, including three by a field goal or less. This is a flawed team that often looks sloppy on both sides of the ball, but it's still hanging on, figuring out ways to survive and fight another day.

Stanford's offense shows signs of life: Stanford outgained Oregon State 438 yards to 221 in a dominant 38-14 win, and there's no question the 438 and 38 are the most important numbers for the Cardinal, which have paired a dominant defense with an anemic offense much of this season. But coach David Shaw shook things up a bit, using tempo and being more aggressive in the passing game and the plan worked against a solid Beavers defense. The timing for the offense shaking off its woes couldn't be better with a trip to Oregon coming up.

Pac-12 reveals a bottom: Colorado and Washington State both fell to 2-6, which means both need to win out to become bowl eligible. So big longshot. Every other Pac-12 team has at least four wins, and nine or 10 bowl teams doesn't seem unrealistic. Yet while the Buffs and Cougs appear to be the bottom teams in the South and North, respectively, it's notable that Washington beat Utah and Colorado has pushed UCLA, Oregon State and California to the brink. Neither is a gimme, and it wouldn't be shocking if one or the other posts a major upset.

Video: No. 14 Arizona State 24, Washington 10

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
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Arizona State scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the game to beat Washington, 24-10, on Saturday night.
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Egg Bowl still might decide the SEC West champion, but the dream matchup between unbeaten Ole Miss and unbeaten Mississippi State won’t happen.

LSU made sure of that with its 10-7 comeback win on Saturday night. Tiger Stadium, after all, is where LSU coach Les Miles often says that opponents’ dreams go to die.

No. 3 Ole Miss’ dreams aren’t entirely dead, but the Rebels must regroup in a hurry with No. 5 Auburn coming to Oxford next week.

“They’re hurt. They’ve got to figure out how they’re going to handle it,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said after his team’s loss left Mississippi State, Florida State and Marshall as the nation’s only unbeaten teams. “They’re not the only team in America that is going to go through this. If you’d have told me this team was going to be where we are right now in August, we’d be pleased. We’re obviously not pleased to leave here after the season we’ve had."

[+] EnlargeLSU defense
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsAn interception by Ronald Martin, No. 26, with two seconds left sealed Ole Miss' first loss of the season.
Ole Miss fans hadn’t been this enthusiastic about their program in years, especially after they made it through the first three-quarters of a tough October stretch -- versus Alabama, Texas A&M and Tennessee -- unscathed. But LSU safety Ronald Martin ruined the Rebels’ chances at a perfect season when he picked off a Bo Wallace pass at the Tigers’ goal line with two seconds to play.

Frequently plagued by poorly timed turnovers earlier in his career, Wallace hadn’t turned the ball over once in Ole Miss’ first four SEC games. He picked an awful time for his first of 2014 -- particularly since Freeze instructed him to either throw into the flat so the receiver could get out of bounds or throw it away, leaving open the possibility for a game-tying field goal try.

“I think Bo would tell you, I thought we were pretty clear we were either going to take the flat throw or throw it out of bounds and try the field goal,” Freeze said. “He must have felt like he had a shot at the touchdown play there. … I wish I could do that over for sure.”

Wallace fought back tears after the game when asked about his decision on the final throw.

“I’m not going to talk about it,” he said. “One-on-one, threw it up -- [it’s] done.”

The common refrain from the Rebels afterward was that this game might be done, but their division title hopes are not. At 7-1 (4-1 SEC), they own a head-to-head advantage over Alabama (7-1, 4-1) and still must face Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0) and Auburn (6-1, 3-1). Win out and they will represent the division in the SEC championship game.

“We’ll bring them in [Sunday] and we’ll sit down and have a heart-to-heart,” Freeze said. “Again, we’re not the only team in this league -- I don’t know if anybody’s going to go through it unscathed, it’s that tough. But you have to respond to adversity the right way.”

That’s what LSU has done. Three weeks ago at Auburn, the Tigers (7-2, 3-2) suffered possibly the ugliest loss of Les Miles’ tenure, 41-7. They’re 3-0 since then and entered a bye week preceding Alabama’s Nov. 8 visit by posting easily their most impressive win of the season.

“One thing about these Tigers, you put them in Tiger Stadium and give us a little bit of time to fix things, they can be very special,” Miles said. “This team wanted to make this night special and they did.”

Beyond what the win means for his team’s season, it was special for another reason entirely to Miles. His mother, Martha, died Friday night at age 91, and Miles said he struggled to determine the proper way to inform his team without affecting the players’ psyche before one of their biggest games of the season.

“I spent time thinking about the way that I need to tell them that when they see me on the sideline, it has not to do with who’s passed and what’s going on,” Miles said. “It has only to do that I’m looking for every opportunity and advantage for us to win, and they need to see me as an aggressive man.

“After the game, I can’t tell you the number of young men that put their arms around me and said they love me, Coach, which is as touching as anything I’ve had happen.”

The players presented Miles with an honorary game ball, an award only given out after victories. Those are always difficult to come by in the SEC West, but this one was unique even by the standards of college football’s toughest division.

There’s a reason why some of the first words out of Freeze’s mouth in his postgame news conference were, “This league is brutal.”

Everyone knew that already, but Saturday’s game was just another reminder of the peril that awaits SEC West teams each Saturday on their division schedule. As Freeze noted, the odds are against anyone in the division finishing with a spotless record. If his team can refocus quickly, the Rebels are still in the thick of the West race.

“It wears on you physically and mentally, but the thing is we still can control everything we want with the schedule that lies ahead,” Freeze said. “We’re going to have to play really good football. They’re sore, they’re down, they’re disappointed, but hopefully we’ll respond in the correct way.”
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The MUSS was out in full force in Salt Lake City for a critical South Division showdown between Utah and USC. The Utes pulled off the 24-21 win in dramatic fashion. Here's how it all went down at Rice-Eccles.

How the game was won: With a lot of sweat and soon-to-be-sore muscles. It was a physical game with four lead changes. But it was the last one that stuck. Travis Wilson engineered an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kaelin Clay with eight seconds left.

Game ball goes to: The Pac-12 blog believed that if the Utes got "marginal" quarterback play, they would have success against USC. It's why the blog unanimously picked Utah to win. Well, they got marginal quarterback play for most of the game and outstanding quarterback play out of Wilson on Utah's final drive. He finished the game 18-of-32 for 193 yards and the one touchdown pass. But his poise and athleticism were on display during his 18-yard scramble that set up first-and-goal and the game-winner.

What it means: The Utes are in control in the Pac-12 South, but they have a vicious schedule looming. With win No. 6, Utah is now bowl eligible after missing the postseason the last two years. For USC, which already has a loss to ASU in the South, its chances of winning the division have taken a serious hit.

Playoff implication: The Utes are still in the conversation. The Pac-12 blog firmly believes a one-loss league champion will be one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff. Win out, and the Utes will be there. But given the schedule ahead, that's easier said than done.

Play(s) of the game: There were a lot of big little moments. Third down conversions, fourth-down stops, etc. Steve Sarkisian's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 late in the game will be highly debated. But for as much flak as Utah's quarterbacks have taken over the last couple of weeks, you have to say the combination of Wilson's run and subsequent game-winning touchdown qualify. Adoree' Jackson's 100-yard kick return does not go unnoticed.

Up next: Both teams are on the road. The Utes, who are a perfect 3-0 away from home, make the trip to Tempe, Arizona, to face the Sun Devils. That has South drama written all over it. The Trojans make the trip to Pullman, Washington, to face the Cougars, where they'll try to avenge last season's 10-7 loss to WSU in Los Angeles.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 9

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
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Imagine that. Last week, there wasn't a single competitive game on the SEC slate. This Saturday, every game was must-see TV, even though Alabama-Tennessee lacked the fourth-quarter drama of the other games.

With three primetime games going bonkers, to the delight of three terrific crowds, you could have made a serious case for an SEC RedZone channel. Picture-in-picture just wasn't enough.

Hugh Freeze is kicking himself: No. 3 Ole Miss fell to No. 24 LSU 10-7 when the Tigers intercepted a Bo Wallace pass with two seconds left. Freeze has to live with a couple bad decisions that cost the Rebels a shot at overtime. First, a mind-numbing delay of game pushed their freshman kicker back from a 42- to a 47-yard field-goal attempt. Then Freeze chose to have Wallace sneak in a pass with nine seconds left in figuring they'd either get something underneath and out of bounds to set up an easier field goal or Wallace would take a shot at the end zone, where only his receiver could catch the ball. Technically, there was enough time to go for the win and, if it fell incomplete, kick the game-tying field goal. Neither scenario happened, and now Ole Miss has to live with a haunting first loss of the season. With more SEC West bloodletting to come, the possibility of getting two teams into the playoff took a serious hit.

[+] EnlargeTrey Quinn
Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY SportsNo. 24 LSU upset No. 3 Ole Miss by limiting the Rebels to just seven points and controlling the time of possession.
Here's to old-school football: As expected, the Rebels' Landshark defense shut down the airways and owned the takeaway advantage (four to LSU's one). What wasn't expected, however, was the Tigers' success running against a unit giving up an average of 97.1 yards a game. LSU piled up an astounding 264 yards on the ground and gradually wore down Ole Miss. The Tigers defense also played its best game of the season and thrived in an electric Death Valley atmosphere. The Rebels led for most of the game, until a 13-play, 95-yard, fourth-quarter drive by LSU that featured only one pass attempt -- the game-winning touchdown. It was Les Miles' 24th fourth-quarter win at LSU. The man is a warlock.

Mississippi State looks vulnerable: It would be so easy to devote this space to some well-deserved gushing over MSU's unstoppable dynamic duo -- running back Josh Robinson (198 yards, two touchdowns) and quarterback Dak Prescott (216 yards passing with one touchdown and 88 yards rushing with two scores). It's only fair to give Mark Stoops and his Wildcats all the credit in the world for Kentucky's improvement. But the story of this game with lasting implications concerned the Bulldogs' leaky defense. Mississippi State came into Saturday's game ranked 121st in passing yards allowed and gave up 401 yards to UK. Having your defense exposed in your first game as the No. 1 team in the land is not the best look for the playoff committee.

A desperate Spurrier is a dangerous Spurrier is an entertaining Spurrier: Steve Spurrier definitely put the fun back in the Fun n' Gun offense Saturday night on the Plains in a 42-35 loss to Auburn. The Gamecocks came in with a 2-3 record in the SEC, and Spurrier called plays like he had nothing to lose. And you know what? It worked. South Carolina's defense is still a disaster in cleats, but Riverboat Steve dialed up an epic shootout. Reverses, double reverses, quarterback throwbacks, wildcat bombs, onside kicks, fourth-down insanity ... it was all on glorious display. This was vintage Spurrier. The Gamecocks went for it on fourth down six times and converted five. For their part, the Tigers looked comfortable all night. They know a thing or two about winning with offense, so this one felt a lot like 2013. Auburn isn't in control in the West Division but has to like its chances to still get to Atlanta or slip into the playoff as a worthy one-loss team.

Lane Kiffin makes for great theater: Neyland Stadium was packed with Big Orange fans thirsting for some revenge against their former coach in his return. But on Alabama's first play, Kiffin dialed up a bootleg perfectly executed by Blake Sims and Amari Cooper, who ran 80 yards for a touchdown. Kiffin ran with Cooper down the Bama sideline for a bit before flashing a sly grin under his visor. On the Tide's next drive, Cooper continued to dominate and caught three more passes for 75 yards. After Cooper's second score, he shoulder-bumped Kiffin, who was smiling broadly this time. Vols fans probably doubled over with nausea. The Crimson Tide never lost the lead in the 34-20 win over Tennessee. What we really learned in this one was just how good Cooper is. His 185 yards in the first quarter were the most for any SEC receiver in a quarter in the past 10 seasons. When it was over, Cooper had 224 yards to break Julio Jones' single-game school record of 221 yards receiving (also against the Vols, in 2010).
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The Nittany Lions' defense swarmed and nearly came away with the upset win Saturday night. Nearly.

Instead, they walked off the field silently after falling 31-24 against No. 12 Ohio State in double overtime. The Buckeyes scored two touchdowns in the overtime periods and sacked Christian Hackenberg on the final play.

Penn State's Anthony Zettel returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown, and the defense held J.T. Barrett to just 74 passing yards.

The Buckeyes showed they were the better team with a strong defense and ground game. Penn State didn't enter the red zone until the final quarter, and Ohio State limited PSU to 16 rushing yards on 31 carries.

With the win, Ohio State improves to 6-1, 3-0 in the Big Ten. Penn State drops to 4-3, 1-3 in the conference.

How the game was won: Ohio State’s defense dominated, as the Nittany Lions just couldn’t get anything started until the final quarter. Penn State finished with 240 total yards -- and didn’t reach the red zone until the final quarter. By then, it was too late. Two controversial calls in the first half also helped Ohio State, as a questionable interception call led to an Ohio State touchdown and a field goal counted despite the snap coming after the play clock had expired.

Gameball goes to: Ohio State's Joey Bosa. He finished with six tackles and 2.5 sacks -- but his final sack was most important of all. He tackled Hackenberg in the backfield to end the game. Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Hull also deserve mentions here, but Bosa's play had the biggest impact.

Playoff implications: The Buckeyes are still in this. For them to truly be considered, though, they’ll have to win out. Nothing is guaranteed, but the College Football Playoff committee might be willing to overlook the Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech – as long as the Buckeyes beat Michigan State in two weeks and then win the Big Ten title.

What’s next: Ohio State will take on Illinois at the Horseshoe next week, while Penn State remains at home against Maryland. The Illini are coming off a surprise win against Minnesota, and the Terrapins are coming off a big loss to Wisconsin.
Observations from an illuminating Saturday in the Big Ten:

Shake up the West: The leader going into the weekend might have been exposed as a pretender. A preseason favorite written off after an early loss turned in perhaps the most impressive overall performance in the league all year. Sandwiched between Minnesota’s stumble at Illinois and Wisconsin’s rebirth against Maryland, Nebraska simply handled its business without incident as the West Division came into somewhat clearer focus, as we head into what could be a crazy November in that half of the conference. As Wisconsin’s ability to right the ship proved, it can be dangerous to discount any program in the West after they lose just once. But the Gophers have a murderous slate ahead of them after their bye next week, and falling to the Illini doesn’t leave much reason to consider them a legitimate contender down the stretch now. On the flip side, with some improvements in the passing game, the Badgers are rounding into form offensively and can be a truly terrifying matchup when a defense can’t just focus on Melvin Gordon. Nebraska might not be thrilled to allow 24 points to Rutgers, but it was never really threatened -- and the stage might be set for a huge clash with the Badgers on Nov. 15.

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsJ.T. Barrett and the Buckeyes can learn from their mistakes after squeaking by Penn State on Saturday.
Buckeyes not a finished product just yet: J.T. Barrett is resilient, tough and mature enough as a redshirt freshman to go on the road and win in a hostile environment in overtime. All of those are positives for the Ohio State quarterback, obviously, but maybe it was a bit premature to think he and his young counterparts on offense were all grown up after they rolled over Rutgers and Maryland. Penn State’s tenacious defense gave Urban Meyer’s attack all it could handle, and though Barrett appeared slowed at times by a knee injury, he struggled for the first time since the loss to Virginia Tech with his decision-making and his accuracy, as a 17-point lead vanished and put Ohio State’s chances of climbing back into the College Football Playoff on the ropes. The end result is all that ultimately matters heading into November, and in some ways Ohio State might feel it has two weeks to get ready for Michigan State, given the weakness of the Illinois defense. But the Buckeyes are going to face another tough test on the road against the Spartans, and they’ll need to be sharper with the football.

Michigan State keeps rolling: A sluggish start had to be overcome, and an ejection actually needed to be overturned to ensure the roster stayed in one piece, but the Spartans ultimately stayed right on track for the Nov. 8 showdown with Ohio State. Jeremy Langford relentlessly pounded away at Michigan on the ground, the opportunistic defense chipped in another touchdown and Michigan State appeared to stay relatively healthy heading into a bye week that comes at a good time with the de facto East Division title game looming. The Wolverines aren’t the stoutest competition, at least not for a College Football Playoff contender, but Mark Dantonio and his club kept their focus and emotions in check to keep the train rolling along into the final month of the regular season.

Flying Illini: The writing appeared to be on the wall a few weeks ago, but Tim Beckman applied a fresh coat of paint to his tenure with an upset win at home over Minnesota. The Illini coach might not be completely in the clear, given that was just the second Big Ten victory of his career, but he deserves credit for the gutty defensive effort his team turned in and the way the offense has responded without Wes Lunt available at quarterback. Even the loss to Purdue doesn’t look quite so bad as it once did, thanks to improvement from that team as well. And now, with a .500 record through eight weeks, earning a bowl bid isn’t out of the question for Illinois. One win doesn’t magically fix everything, but it might help Beckman buy more time with the program.

Gophers grounded: Minnesota isn’t suddenly going to become a pushover down the stretch, not with its stout defense and a powerful rushing attack led by David Cobb at its disposal. With every team in the West Division having lost a game, it can’t be ruled out quite yet as a contender, either. But if it’s going to navigate a closing stretch that includes home games with Iowa and Ohio State followed by consecutive road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin, Jerry Kill’s team is going to need to find some consistency through the air. Mitch Leidner has proven his toughness while battling injuries this season, and on occasion Saturday, the quarterback looked more than capable of making difficult throws against the Illini. But he didn’t do it often enough, and completing 12 of 30 passes isn’t going to be good enough for the Gophers late in the year. Finding some answers will no doubt be an emphasis during the upcoming bye week.

Video: No. 21 Clemson 16, Syracuse 6

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
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Cole Stoudt threw for 209 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the Tigers’ 16-6 win over Syracuse.
videoAUBURN, Ala. -- Steve Spurrier tried his luck one too many times. South Carolina converted five consecutive fourth downs, four in its own territory, but an incomplete pass on yet another fourth down late proved to be the difference.

In a game that featured 1,086 yards and 55 first downs between the teams, Auburn escaped with a 42-35 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday.

How the game was won: There was no stopping Auburn. Nick Marshall was great. He had three touchdown runs and a clutch throw to D'haquille Williams on third down to seal the game. Cameron Artis-Payne ran with an extra chip on his shoulder. But it was the offensive line that dominated. The Tigers had only eight drives in the game; they scored touchdowns on six of them.

Gameball goes to: Nobody was better than Marshall. The Auburn quarterback went 12-of-14 for 139 yards and a touchdown through the air. He rushed for 89 yards and three touchdowns. He was simply tremendous. Marshall might have seen his Heisman hopes disappear against Mississippi State, but he played like a Heisman Trophy candidate on Saturday.

What it means: Auburn will need to ride its quarterback as far as he'll take them. With not much of a defense to lean on, it's going to be up to Marshall and Co. to outscore opponents each week from here on out. If Marshall plays like he did Saturday against South Carolina, Auburn will be fine. If he turns the ball over like he did against Mississippi State, it's going to get dicey.

Playoff implication: It wasn't a pretty win, but Auburn remains alive and well in the race to the College Football Playoff. And on a night when Ole Miss fell on the road at LSU, you take what you can get. With games against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama remaining, Auburn has its fate in its own hands. Win out and the Tigers are all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff -- even if Mississippi State makes the SEC championship game.

Best play: Who would’ve guessed a surprise breakout performance from Ricardo Louis on Saturday? The Auburn wide receiver, who had seven rushing yards coming in, rushed for 102 yards and this 75-yard touchdown that put the Tigers back in front early in the second half. Bottom line – Louis is fast.

video What's next: It doesn’t get any easier for the Tigers. Auburn travels to No. 3 Ole Miss next Saturday in a critical SEC West showdown. Meanwhile, South Carolina will return home to face Tennessee.
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Lane Kiffin's return to Neyland Stadium was a successful one, as Alabama rolled up 469 yards of offense in a 34-20 win over Tennessee. Things got a little interesting after the first quarter, but Alabama held strong in front of a crowd of 102,455. Here's how it happened:

How the game was won: Alabama put on a clinic in the first quarter, leading 20-0 and outgaining Tennessee 253 to 80 yards. Alabama added another touchdown in the second, but Tennessee made a nice comeback during the second and third quarters, after Joshua Dobbs replaced Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Alabama converted 11 of 15 third downs, and Derrick Henry's 28-yard touchdown run late in the third put the game away.

Gameball goes to: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was outstanding, as 185 of his 224 yards and both of his touchdowns came in the first quarter, alone. Cooper made plays down the sideline and over the middle. He was easily the best player on the field all night, and continues to look like the country's best receiver.

What it means: Alabama didn't look as sharp after the first quarter, but the win means it's still very much in the SEC -- and playoff -- race. With Ole Miss losing to LSU, Alabama is right back in the thick of the SEC race, especially with Mississippi State playing in Tuscaloosa in November. Tennessee might have lost its eighth straight to Alabama, but Dobbs might have played himself into the starting role for as long as Justin Worley is out after looking more confident that we've seen in the past and throwing for 192 yards with two touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards.

Playoff implication: Alabama is in great position, really. After two straight dominating wins, Alabama still has an ever-improving LSU team to play (on the road) and No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 5 Auburn at home to close the season. Alabama is hitting its stride and strength of schedule won't be a problem for the Tide at all.

Best play: It has to be Cooper's touchdown on Alabama's first play from scrimmage. What started as a routine pass underneath to the right flat turned into a back-breaker for Tennessee's defense, as Cooper sprinted toward the sideline, made a move on a defender and was gone. Who was jacked about it? Oh, that would be Kiffin, who sprinted alongside him some.

video What's next: It cools down this week for Alabama, as the Tide have a bye next weekend. However, the following week brings a trip to Baton Rouge to play LSU. Tennessee travels to South Carolina next week.
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A breakdown of LSU's 10-7 upset win over Ole Miss on Saturday night.

How the game was won: Defense. LSU held Ole Miss to 313 offensive yards and got two critical stops in the final two minutes. The first came with 1:44 remaining on a fourth-and-1 try in which the Tigers stuffed the Rebels, and the second came with two seconds left when, instead of trying a 47-yard field goal, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze elected to try one more play. The Tigers made him pay for the decision. LSU senior safety Ronald Martin intercepted a pass from Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace with two seconds left to seal the upset win.

Game ball goes to: Leonard Fournette. The true freshman running back, who was the No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class, came up big after Terrence Magee left the game with an injury. Fournette finished with 113 yards on 23 carries, including some critical runs in LSU’s final scoring drive. He even got his face mask ripped off by an Ole Miss defender, but his work on the last scoring drive help set up the game-winning score. Give the LSU defense a ton of credit also for keeping the Tigers in it even though they turned the ball over four times.

What it means: We have a big shakeup near the top of the rankings and in the College Football Playoff race. Previously undefeated Ole Miss (7-1, 4-1 SEC) will drop and LSU, a team that is in the midst of what many have called a "rebuilding year" seems to be getting stronger. The Tigers (7-2, 3-2 SEC) have now won three in a row and are building momentum.

Playoff implication: Ole Miss’s chances take a hit. How much of a hit? We’ll find out when the playoff selection committee’s rankings are released on Tuesday. But a team that once controlled its own fate no longer does.

Best play: Without a doubt, the play that sealed the win for LSU ... Martin intercepting Wallace:

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What's next: Ole Miss must regroup quickly as it returns home to Oxford to host No. 5 Auburn a week from today. LSU has an open date next week and doesn’t return to the field until Nov. 8 when it hosts No. 4 Alabama in Baton Rouge.

Video: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn discusses his team's 42-35 win against South Carolina on Saturday.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 9

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
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Here's what we learned in the ACC in Week 9:

[+] EnlargeGus Edwards
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsMiami is rising in the Coastal division and dominated the Hokies on Thursday.
Miami fans can calm down. It's been an up-and-down start to the season for Miami, but Thursday night's 30-6 win at Virginia Tech was a high point. The Hurricanes looked terrific on both sides of the ball, as the defense held the Hokies to just 262 yards of offense, while Duke Johnson rushed for a 249 yards and a touchdown (and added 37 more and another touchdown through the air). In the crowded Coastal standings, Miami is trending upward and has a win over first-place Duke that could loom very large as the season moves into the home stretch.

Virginia Tech fans are getting restless. There are some valid excuses for Virginia Tech's struggles this season. Quarterback Michael Brewer didn't arrive until the summer. Freshmen are receiving playing time all over the offense. Injuries have decimated the starting lineup. But for all the reasonable explanations, what Virginia Tech fans care most about is the Hokies are just 12-13 against Power 5 teams in the past three seasons, and Thursday's home loss to Miami might have been the most listless performance Frank Beamer's squad has had in a while.

Georgia Tech is going bowling. After a 5-0 start to the season, this seemed obvious, but two straight losses soured much of the early momentum the Yellow Jackets had created. Add an injury that kept second-leading rusher Zach Laskey off the field against Pitt, and things weren't looking good. So what happens? Pitt fumbles on each of its first five drives, Tech rushes for 465 yards -- most in the ACC this season -- and the power dynamic in the Coastal shifted yet again after a 56-28 Georgia Tech win. More importantly, though, Georgia Tech got back to doing what it does best: Running the ball down the opposition's throats, avoiding mistakes and capitalizing when the opposition coughs up the ball. The result, of course, is Tech will be in a bowl game for the 18th straight season.

Mitch Trubisky can throw it, too. North Carolina entered Saturday's game at Virginia with the ACC's hottest quarterback in Marquise Williams, but it was Trubisky, the backup, who won the game for the Tar Heels with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 4:05 to play. Trubisky was in the game only because Williams' helmet popped off on the previous play, but his toss to T.J. Thorpe on a third-and-15 was the difference in the 28-27 UNC win. It was his only throw of the game. For the second straight year, a once-struggling Tar Heels team is finding ways to win down the stretch and is right back in the thick of things in the Coastal.

Clemson's defense is frightening. The offense hasn't done much in Deshaun Watson's absence, but the Tigers have managed to win their past three games behind a defense that has utterly smothered the opposition. Clemson manhandled Syracuse 16-6, held the Orange to their lowest yardage total since 2008 and racked up 12 tackles for loss along the way. In its past four games, Clemson's defense has allowed just three touchdowns, given up an average of just 3.5 yards per play and recorded 40 tackles for loss.

Video: No. 15 Arizona 59, Washington State 37

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
9:51
PM ET
video

Anu Solomon threw five touchdown passes in No. 15 Arizona's 59-37 victory over Washington State on Saturday.
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It took Mississippi State 115 years to reach No. 1 in the polls. The Bulldogs then spent a bye week lapping up congratulatory back slaps at home in Starkville before taking that digit into an actual game.

So some might see the warts from Saturday’s 45-31 win at Kentucky, which wasn’t decided until the final couple of minutes, and question why they didn’t dominate like a top-ranked team. But the simple answer is they didn’t really know how to play that role.

Head coach Dan Mullen thought his team was so tightly wound in the first half -- dropping passes, missing blocks and tackles, trying not to make mistakes instead of being aggressive -- that his big halftime speech was more like a yoga session. Take a deep breath, he told his guys.

[+] EnlargeJosh Robinson
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMississippi State running back Josh Robinson proved tough to tackle on Saturday.
“We felt a little pressure because now you have a target on your back,” defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls said. “It was like first-time jitters, playing as No. 1 for the first time.”

The Bulldogs’ final exhale didn’t arrive until much later. Three different times in the second half, they grabbed a 14-point lead only to see Kentucky score a touchdown to make it a one-score game again. The resilient Wildcats sliced the lead to 38-31 with 2:31 left and went for the onside kick.

But the ball zoomed straight to the 230-pound Christian Holmes, and the player nicknamed “Turtle” ran like a rabbit for the 61-yard, decisive score. Holmes said he scored on a similar play in practice last week, but he was so surprised to do so in an actual game that the referee had to ask him for the ball.

“I still had it high and tight,” Holmes said. “I was so excited, I didn’t know what to do.”

This wasn’t exactly how Mississippi State would have scripted its first game as No. 1, especially in giving up 504 yards of offense to an unranked opponent. But afterward, Mullen and his players seemed loose and relaxed while cracking jokes with reporters. The burden of that initial ranking had clearly been lifted.

“Hopefully, we get all that ranking stuff behind us now,” Mullen said. “You can drop us if you want, I don’t really care. It certainly will ease the pressure right now."

Josh Robinson helped make sure that the Bulldogs didn’t enjoy a short-lived time at the top.

The junior tailback ran for a career-high 198 yards on 23 carries, including a 73-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave his team some breathing room. Chugging his tree-trunk legs, the 5-foot-9 Robinson was virtually impossible for the Wildcats to bring down, never more so than on a 22-yard run in which it seemed like everybody in the stadium got a piece of him.

“They don’t call me ‘The Human Bowling Ball’ for nothing,” he said. “I try to live up to that name the best I can.”

Robinson, who had a 197-yard day earlier this year at LSU, joked that he begged Mullen for another carry when the team was in victory formation so he could get to 200. Mullen told him he had had 59 minutes to get those extra two yards.

If he keeps making highlight-reel plays like he did Saturday, Robinson will get to 200 some day. He didn’t think anything he did against Kentucky was too special.

“Go to YouTube and type in J-Rob,” he said. “You’ll see that a lot.”

Robinson was the offensive star on a day when Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott put up his usual efficient numbers (18-for-33 for 216 yards passing, 18 carries for 88 yards, a touchdown pass and two rushing touchdowns). Prescott wore a walking boot on his left foot to the postgame news conference. But before Mississippi State fans could sound the alarm cowbells, he shrugged it off as merely precautionary.

Still, details like that get magnified beyond just the Magnolia State when you’re the No. 1 team in the country. The polls people care about will change on Tuesday night when the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first Top 25. The Bulldogs may or may not be on top of that one, but they will surely check in safely in the top four.

Mullen said he probably won’t watch the reveal of the first committee poll.

“I imagine we’ll be in the mix, and that will be a great honor for us,” he said. “If the playoffs were next week, I’d definitely be watching. But since they don’t start for quite a long time, I don’t know. I might be having dinner.”

The Bulldogs got their first game as a No. 1 team out of the way. Now they relax before trying to finish there.

“You can just refocus on what you do,” Eulls said. “No worrying about the rankings at all, just what you’re doing.”

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