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No. 1 Florida State 23, No. 22 Clemson 17

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
12:27
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With Jameis Winston suspended for the entire game, Florida State needed overtime to get past Clemson, 23-17.
Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football.

1. The Big Ten can step up in key games: After two weeks of justified bashing, the Big Ten deserves some credit for bouncing back nicely in the last meaningful Saturday of nonconference play. The league went 3-0 against the ACC and recorded a huge road win against a ranked SEC opponent as Indiana stunned No. 18 Missouri in Columbia. Iowa finally found its swagger -- and, potentially, its new quarterback (C.J. Beathard) -- in rallying to beat Pitt. Nebraska didn't lose its composure in a chippy game against Miami and outlasted the Canes behind star back Ameer Abdullah. And both games against MAC teams -- Michigan State-Eastern Michigan and Wisconsin-Bowling Green -- turned into routs by the Big Ten squads. Michigan remains a black eye for the league, but everyone else took a step forward and the Big Ten bolstered its record against Power 5 opponents. It doesn't erase the damage done the previous two weeks, but the Big Ten can feel a little better as league play cranks up next week.

[+] EnlargeRalston Evans
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesIndiana had plenty of reason to celebrate on Saturday after notching a signature win over No. 18 Missouri.
2. Indiana is back on track: Same old Hoosiers. That's what everyone said in Week 2 when an Indiana defense that hasn't stopped anyone for two decades let Bowling Green march downfield for the game-winning score. The loss made bowl eligibility seem unlikely and raised questions about the program's direction under fourth-year coach Kevin Wilson. And then Indiana did the most un-Indiana-like thing imaginable: beat Missouri on the road, 31-27, thanks in large part to its defense. The Hoosiers limited Missouri to one second-half touchdown, and Tevin Coleman (132 yards, one touchdown) showed why he's one of the nation's best big-play backs. It added up to the biggest win of the Wilson era and the biggest in recent memory for IU. The coaches and players deserve a ton of credit for rebounding from the Bowling Green setback. IU has teased us before, but a win like this suggests the program is truly turning a corner under Wilson.

3. Michigan's offense is just getting worse: Brady Hoke hired Doug Nussmeier to fix Michigan's offense and save his job as head coach. But Michigan's offensive woes clearly run deeper than the playcaller, as the unit has amazingly managed to backtrack this year. The Wolverines have yet to reach the red zone in 23 drives against Power 5 opponents (Notre Dame and Utah). The turnover troubles that plagued them in the past have only intensified, as four more giveaways against Utah leave Michigan with 12 on the season and a minus-10 turnover margin. There was a rock-bottom feeling about the 26-10 Utah loss, which ended at a mostly empty, waterlogged Michigan Stadium following a weather delay. Athletic director Dave Brandon repeatedly gave Hoke a vote of confidence before the season, but if the offense doesn't improve in Big Ten play, Hoke could be in serious trouble.

4. B1G's newcomers are better than expected: The Big Ten might have added Maryland and Rutgers because of their favorable locations, but the league is getting an added bonus so far this season. Both programs could be undefeated and both have won two games away from home in the first three weeks. Maryland responded from a last-second loss to West Virginia and beat Syracuse, 34-20, behind big plays in all three phases. Will Likely continued his excellent season with a 88-yard pick-six, while quarterback C.J. Brown and running back Brandon Ross connected on a 90-yard score on a screen pass. Rutgers beat an always-tricky Navy team, 31-24, in Annapolis, Maryland, despite losing star running back Paul James in the first half. Quarterback Gary Nova responded from his five-interception debacle with a clean performance (12-of-15 passing, no interceptions), and running backs Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples picked up the slack with James sidelined.

5. Melvin Gordon is going to be just fine: Until Saturday, things had not gone as expected this season for the Wisconsin star. He barely saw the field in the second half of a Week 1 loss to LSU and was held to 38 rush yards on 17 carries against FCS Western Illinois in Week 2. But after an early fumble against Bowling Green, Gordon could not be stopped. He rushed for a career-high 253 yards, the most by an FBS back this season, and tied the team record with five touchdowns in a 68-17 win. And he did it on only 13 carries, recording the best single-game yards-per-carry average (19.5) in team history, by a wide margin (14.5 was next best). Gordon even put himself in the company of the great Glenn Davis, as he's tied with the Army star for the NCAA career yards-per-carry record (8.26). Although Gordon will face better defenses this season, he appears to be just fine for Big Ten play. "The unselfishness of Melvin Gordon ... has been incredible," coach Gary Andersen said. "I'm so proud of the way that he's handled it. Today was his day."
video Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State’s best defensive player, didn’t play a down in the second half after suffering a concussion. His backup, Chris Casher, a headache most of his career in Tallahassee, was asked to replace him.

He did so admirably, coming up with the biggest play of the game in overtime. On a fourth-and-inches that Dabo Swinney had little choice but to go for, it was Casher who awaited Clemson running back Adam Choice. It was destined for a head-on, man-against-man collision, and Casher gave no ground. He held Choice until Reggie Northrup cleaned it up to force the turnover on downs.

Two plays later, Florida State running back Karlos Williams waltzed into the end zone to keep the No. 1-ranked Seminoles undefeated.

Casher was asked to do what few players in the country can do in replacing Edwards, who has a rare size of power and speed. Casher made play after play throughout the second half as the Tigers wanted to test the backup. Casher answered the bell every single time.

It is a career-defining moment for Casher, who was injured early in his career and has been engulfed in controversy since. During the summer, FSU had placed Casher on probation for one year for two violations of the university's student code of conduct stemming from the sexual assault investigation into quarterback Jameis Winston. And in 2012, police briefly detained Casher and Winston after a person reported two men were carrying a gun on campus, which turned out to be a pellet gun. He was also part of a BB gun incident that damaged an apartment complex’s property.

Whether Edwards returns in time next week, Casher might have done enough to earn a starting job back with his clutch performance. He lost his spot to sophomore DeMarcus Walker, but Casher gave Seminoles coaches something to consider with his performance.

Video: Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21
12:05
AM ET
video Ameer Abdullah's 229 yards and two touchdowns lead Nebraska to a win over Miami.

No. 4 Oklahoma 45, West Virginia 33

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:52
PM ET
video Samaje Perine rushed for three of his four touchdowns in the second half as Oklahoma powered past West Virginia 45-33.

What we learned in the SEC: Week 4

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:47
PM ET
Well, that was an interesting day in the SEC. Here's what we learned:

1. The SEC West is clearly the best ... again: It's the same story in the SEC: The West is the best. None of these teams are perfect, but they are the best of the bunch in the SEC. Alabama throttled Florida at home, Auburn went on the road and gutted out a tough win over No. 20 Kansas State, Texas A&M just continues to roll over everyone, Arkansas can run on anyone, Ole Miss is a top-10 team, and Mississippi State walked into Death Valley at night and beat No. 8 LSU team in what turned into a late thriller. We know this LSU team has issues with its passing game and young defense, but give Mississippi State a lot of credit for that performance. There's a reason the West entered the weekend with five ranked teams -- all in the top 10. On the other side of the conference, everyone in the East has issues. The thing about the West is no team is really sticking out as the dominant team in the division, and every one of them is a work in progress, but they've all had really good moments. This is easily the toughest division in all of college football. Whoever comes out of this division might have an automatic ticket to the playoff on principle alone.

[+] EnlargeDak Prescott
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertDake Prescott had 373 yards of offense and three touchdowns in a return to his home state.
2. Florida's offense and defense have issues: Where do you even start with Florida's performance in that 42-21 loss to third-ranked Alabama? Despite plenty of opportunities afforded to the offense, the Gators continuously stalled with the ball. Quarterback Jeff Driskel struggled with the same issues that have plagued him his entire career. He was off with his deep throws and had trouble with his reads and threw for just 93 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions on 9-of-28 passing. Even with decent protection for most of the day, Driskel never got into a rhythm and couldn't take advantage of an Alabama secondary trying to find its identity. The defense gave up some big plays in the passing game, especially when the ball went to Amari Cooper (10 catches, 201 yards and three touchdowns). Blake Sims torched Florida's secondary, which struggled with coverage issues all day, for 445 passing yards and four touchdowns, including one of 87 and 79 yards. Yes, Florida's defense was on the field for a very long team, but the Gators allowed 645 total yards ... the most allowed in school history.

3. Mississippi State will challenge for the West title: I wondered why this team wasn't ranked in the Top 25 to begin the season, and then the defense fell asleep in Week 2 and I started to wonder if Mississippi State was for real. Now, after a 34-29 win over LSU in Baton Rouge, you can't sleep on Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs. Sure, this was a rout that got pretty tight late in the fourth quarter, but this is a win the Bulldogs should be ecstatic about. And how about quarterback Dak Prescott? He had his best performance to date in his home state with 373 yards of offense and three touchdowns. Fellow Louisiana native Josh Robinson wasn't too shabby either, as he rushed for 197 yards and a score. Take the Bulldogs lightly at your own risk.

4. The East race is a total crapshoot: Besides a dominating performance from Georgia over Troy, the SEC East didn't have a great day. Florida was blown out by Alabama, Missouri was stunned at home by unranked Big Ten representative Indiana 31-27, and South Carolina slogged through a 48-34 win at Vanderbilt. We saw that Florida's offense still has major issues and Missouri's interior defensive linemen need a lot of work, as Indiana ran for 241 yards on the Tigers. South Carolina still controls its own destiny when it comes to going to Atlanta for the SEC title game, but no one would be shocked to see the Gamecocks drop another one. Will Georgia's defense get better? Will Florida have an offense? Was this a fluke loss for Mizzou? Is Tennessee a real sleeper? A two-loss SEC East champ is not out of the question with so many uncertainties.

5. Will Muschamp's seat is hotter than ever: I have a feeling Bill from Gainesville won't be calling into many radio shows this week. With a loss in which the Gators faded quickly in the second half, Muschamp's seat is roasting in Gainesville. Last year's injury-riddled, 4-8 season was one thing, but Florida has regressed in the past two games this season, which means the Gators have to show vast improvement in two weeks at Tennessee in order to perk an already downtrodden and disheartened fan base. You have to let the season play out, but this was a bad loss for Muschamp's squad, even if Alabama was the No. 3 team in the country. Florida should be competitive in games such as this, and the Gators just weren't after Alabama cleaned up its mistakes in the second half. There were plenty of opportunities for Florida in this one, but the Gators just didn't execute. Florida fans are frustrated with their coach and their quarterback, who are both in their fourth years at UF.

Video: Mississippi State's Dak Prescott

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:22
PM ET
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Louisiana native Dak Prescott returned to his home state to lead Mississippi State’s 34-29 upset over LSU.

Mississippi State 34, No. 8 LSU 29

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:20
PM ET
video Dak Prescott threw for 268 yards and ran for another 197 with three scores as Mississippi State upset LSU 34-29.

Stormy night clouds Michigan's future

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:20
PM ET
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The announcement at the start of the fourth quarter thundered ominously, perhaps even forebodingly, from the public address system Saturday night at Michigan Stadium.

The detached voice informed a thinning crowd that severe storms were approaching Michigan’s campus and were expected to reach the stadium within 20 minutes. The sheets of rain and lightning strikes arrived on schedule and delayed a painful day for the Wolverines an extra 144 minutes. The few hundred fans who returned to the Big House after the weather cleared witnessed the end of a 26-10 loss to visiting Utah (3-0) and, if things continue in this direction in Ann Arbor, perhaps the beginning of the end of something much larger and ominous.

Brady Hoke started his fourth season as head coach at Michigan on thin ice, and the first month of the 2014 season has done nothing to halt the melting. Hoke’s team fell to 2-2, with a 31-0 shutout loss to rival Notre Dame and a sound defeat at the hands of the Utes filling the loss column.

It’s not so much the record that created a feeling of woe following Saturday’s game. The manner in which the day unfolded left a locker room disappointed and searching for answers.

“I’m concerned about everything that we’re doing,” Hoke said. “We need to play better. We need to make sure we execute better.”

[+] EnlargeDoug Nussmeier, Brady Hoke
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioMichigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and head coach Brady Hoke are looking for ways to fix a turnover-prone offense.
The frustration of the Michigan coaching staff started to boil over before halftime, when the score was still 10-10 and Michigan’s defense looked stout enough to keep the game close. Cameras captured Hoke jawing with defensive coordinator Greg Mattison following a sideline-infraction penalty late in the second quarter.

Hoke said their “discussion” was nothing out of the ordinary for the two coaches who have worked together on and off for the past 30 years. Michigan’s players defended their coaching staff after the game and echoed Hoke’s mantra that execution and “the little things” are what continue to trip them up.

“It comes down to execution, and we didn’t execute,” said senior middle linebacker Jake Ryan, who made a team-high 13 tackles. “We have the best coaches there are. I’ve got to give all the credit in the world to them.”

Most of the flubbed execution for the Wolverines this season has come on the other side of the ball.

Michigan’s offense didn’t score after the first drive of the game Saturday. It hasn’t run a play inside the red zone in either of its two losses this season. It ran one play inside the Utah 40-yard line in the final 49 minutes Saturday, and that was a pass intercepted by Utah’s Brian Blechen.

That was the first of three interceptions thrown by Wolverines quarterbacks, which sunk the nation’s worst turnover margin to a minus-10. Senior starter Devin Gardner (14-of-26 passing for 148 yards) was responsible for two of the interceptions, with the second one coming on his final play of the day with 13 minutes, 37 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Shane Morris replaced him and threw an interception on his first drive. He also fumbled on the next drive after play resumed.

Hoke said it was too early to assess who his starting quarterback will be when the team starts Big Ten play next Saturday against Minnesota. Turnovers have been the biggest bugaboo thus far for Michigan, but the changes the Wolverines need, if Hoke is going to survive for a fifth season in Ann Arbor, are broader than one player.

“I don’t think there has to be an overhaul. I think it’s our execution, the little things that we need to do. And again, that starts here,” Hoke said, pointing to himself.

What is certain is the Wolverines are in need of a change. Michigan has lost seven of its past 11 games and three of its past four against FBS competition at Michigan Stadium. The program has trended steadily backward since its overtime victory over Virginia Tech at the Sugar Bowl in Hoke’s first season.

Michigan scheduled this home-and-home series with Utah the summer after that BCS victory. The fact that the Wolverines offered Utah $1 million to travel to Ann Arbor, the type of carrot big-time programs typically use to lure sacrificial lambs into their stadiums, speaks volumes about how much has changed since then. Hoke’s team is 17-13 in the past three years.

“I don’t know if I have all the answers,” center Jack Miller said.

Doubt that anyone has the answers -- at least those outside the walls of Michigan’s locker room -- must be creeping in.

Hoke hasn’t lost control, or hope, yet. It’s still September, after all. He reminded his players after the game of the 1998 Michigan team he helped coach to a share of the Big Ten title after it lost its first two games.

Michigan has eight games remaining against teams from the Big Ten, a league that did a lot to bolster its reputation Saturday after two rocky weeks in nonconference play. Even an imperfect run through conference play -- perhaps capped with a win over rival Ohio State -- could be enough to inspire optimism for the future.

Hoke can still salvage the job he called his dream destination before it ever opened to him, but he’ll be fighting an uphill battle from here. Michigan has been sufficiently warned: The storm is coming.

Video: Bama's Blake Sims, Amari Cooper

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:57
PM ET
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Quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper talk about their on-field chemistry after No. 3 Alabama's 42-21 win over Florida on Saturday.

Indiana 31, No. 18 Missouri 27

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:14
PM ET
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Tevin Coleman had 132 rushing yards and a touchdown and added 57 receiving yards to lead Indiana to a 31-27 victory upset at No. 18 Missouri.

No. 21 BYU 41, Virginia 33

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
8:00
PM ET
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Taysom Hill threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another to lead No. 21 BYU to a 41-33 comeback win over Virginia.

Video: BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
7:54
PM ET
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BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall talks about his team potentially being a "fly in the ointment" for the College Football Playoff after the No. 21 Cougars defeated Virginia, 41-33, on Saturday.

Video: BYU aims to crash playoff

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
7:51
PM ET
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BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is keeping his unbeaten team focused on becoming the fly in the ointment for the College Football Playoff after a 41-33 victory over Virginia.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Florida took its best shot at No. 3 Alabama on Saturday, but between near-perfect quarterback play, a Heisman-esque performance from Amari Cooper and a solid effort from the defense, the Crimson Tide proved to be too much. Nick Saban's bunch overpowered the Gators in the second half en route to a 42-21 home victory.

It was over when: The Gators had no answer for Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense in the second half, and the clincher came early in the fourth quarter when Tide safety Landon Collins intercepted Jeff Driskel on third and long. It was Driskel’s second pick of the game, and Alabama turned it into seven points on a TD pass to Cooper, extending the lead to 21 points.

Game ball goes to: It’s not hard not to give it to Blake Sims, who answered the critics with Saturday’s performance, but Cooper was simply uncoverable. The junior finished with 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. It didn’t matter which Alabama quarterback was throwing him the ball. If Cooper wasn’t at or near the top of the Heisman Trophy watch before this week, he will be now.

Stat of the game: Think Sims was good? How about this stat? Sims accounted for 457 total yards, second-most in Alabama history, and the most since Scott Hunter’s 484 yards in 1969. The Tide quarterback finished 23-of-33 for 445 yards and four touchdowns through the air, and he added 12 yards on the ground. He wasn’t perfect, fumbling once and throwing an interception on a tipped pass, but he was darn near close.

What it means: After the first three games, nobody really knew how good Sims and this offense could be. How would they fare against a historically strong SEC defense? That question was answered and then some Saturday. The Tide finished with 648 yards of offense, and Sims put an end to any quarterback controversy in Tuscaloosa. For Florida, the defense just ran out of gas in the second half, but the bigger concern is with Driskel, who finished 7-of-25 for 80 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If the Gators expect to compete in the SEC East, they must have better quarterback play.

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