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  • Washington LT Adams (ACL), Miller (ankle) out for season
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 16, 2017

    The No. 12 Washington Huskies lost two starters to season-ending injuries in Saturday night's upset loss at Arizona State, including starting left tackle Trey Adams to a torn ACL, coach Chris Petersen said Monday.

    • Adams, a junior, was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last season and is rated as the 59th-best prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft, according to NFLDraftScout.com.

      Cornerback Jordan Miller suffered a broken ankle late in the 13-7 loss. He has 23 tackles, two interceptions and a team-high five pass breakups. Washington also is down starting cornerback Byron Murphy, who suffered a broken foot in practice in September. He could potentially return in early November.

      At left tackle, senior Andrew Kirkland stepped in for Adams against Arizona State. Redshirt freshman Luke Wattenberg is another option for the rest of the season, according to Petersen.

      Washington (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) is off this week before hosting UCLA on Oct. 28.

  • Clemson being cautious with QB Bryant after concussion
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, October 16, 2017

    Clemson will be "cautious" during its bye week with quarterback Kelly Bryant, who suffered a concussion in Friday night's loss at Syracuse, coach Dabo Swinney said on a conference call Monday morning.

    • "Kelly has responded well over the weekend," Swinney said, according to the Greenville (S.C.) News. "They were pretty encouraged with him ... after evaluating him again this morning."

      Bryant did not practice Monday and the team is off Tuesday.

      "Hopefully by Wednesday he'll be out there moving around, but we're going to be really cautious with him this week," Bryant said. "Come Wednesday we'll have a much better feel for what he's going to be able to do practice-wise. Then they'll be off for the weekend."

      Bryant, who had been hampered early in the Syracuse game because of a previous ankle injury, was knocked out of the contest late in the first half following a hard hit.

      Bryant, a junior, has completed 107 of 159 passes for 1,259 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He also leads the seventh-ranked Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) in rushing with 401 yards and seven touchdowns on 97 carries.

      Clemson hosts Georgia Tech on Oct. 28.

  • Nebraska names Moos as new AD
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    Nebraska hired Bill Moos to be its athletic director on Sunday as it attempts to stabilize its football program.

    • Moos was lured away from Washington State, where he had been employed since 2010. He replaces Shawn Eichorst, who was fired in mid-September just days after the Cornhuskers lost to Northern Illinois.

      Former Nebraska star Dave Rimington was serving as interim athletic director during the school's search.

      Moos, 66, reportedly agreed to a five-year contract worth $5 million plus incentives. He will begin his duties on Oct. 23.

      "To lead one of the most storied and successful athletic programs in the nation is a true honor," Moos said. "Nebraska is a very special place, known far and wide for its phenomenal fans, for doing things the right way, for supporting its students, honoring its athletic legacy and maintaining excellence in athletics success across the board. I am proud to help build upon these Husker traditions."

      One of Moos' first big decisions will be evaluating whether to retain football coach Mike Riley. Moos said he will soon meet with Riley for a discussion.

      "As we speak right now, he's my football coach," Moos said at a press conference. "I'm going to support him and certainly hope for some victories here toward the latter part of the season."

      The Cornhuskers were drubbed 56-14 by Ohio State on Saturday night to drop to 18-15 during Riley's three-season tenure. The 42-point margin of defeat was the school's largest home loss since 1949.

      Moos also is familiar with Riley as the latter had two stints as Oregon State's head coach during Moos' tenure at heated Pac-12 rival Oregon.

      "Dee and I had a chance to meet briefly with Bill and Kendra this afternoon and it was great to reconnect," Riley said via statement, also referring to his wife and Moos' wife. "I've known Bill for a number of years from our time in the Pac-10 and Pac-12. I have great respect for the job he did at both Oregon and Washington State, and the success he built at those schools. I look forward to working with him in the near future and to talk about our vision for the Nebraska football program."

      Moos revived Washington State's football program with the hiring of coach Mike Leach. He also has served as the athletic director at Oregon (1995-2007) and Montana (1990-95).

      Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green said the university found the right person to lead the department.

      "Nebraska has secured a proven winner in Bill Moos to lead Husker Athletics into a new era of excellence," Green said in a news release. "It was clear that Bill stood out in a very competitive, tremendously gifted pool of candidates, not only because of his proven ability to lead programs to greatness, but because of his reputation for integrity in building and leading those programs."

      Moos said he has long admired the Nebraska program and is aiming to restore the Cornhuskers to their former level of success.

      "We need to get back into that position where everybody's putting Nebraska (in red) and circling it on the schedule," Moos said. "I believe that's the Huskers' rightful place, and we're going to see what we can do to get back there."

  • Alabama survives shakeup, stays atop AP poll
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    A flurry of upsets caused a shakeup in the latest Associated Press poll as Alabama solidified its control of the top spot and Penn State moved up to No. 2.

    • The Crimson Tide received all 61 first-place votes for the first time this season while the Nittany Lions reached their highest ranking since also being ranked second on Oct. 31, 1999.

      Four of last week's Top 10 teams lost to cause the upheaval. Second-ranked Clemson, fifth-ranked Washington, No. 8 Washington State and No. 10 Auburn all dropped their contests with only Clemson (No. 7) remaining in the Top 10.

      Washington slipped to No. 12 after a damaging loss to Arizona State, Washington State fell to 15th after being routed by California and Auburn plummeted to No. 21 due to its loss to LSU.

      Penn State moved up one spot due to Clemson's loss to Syracuse. Georgia also moved up one place to No. 3, while TCU (No. 4) and Wisconsin (No. 5) each moved up two places.

      Ohio State moved up three spots to sixth. Miami (eighth) and Oklahoma (ninth) also moved up three places while No. 10 Oklahoma State jumped up from 14th.

      It wasn't just Top 10 teams that suffered untimely defeats. Three other Top 25 squads also went down -- San Diego State (19th), Texas Tech (24th) and Navy (25th) and each slipped out of the rankings.

      USC stands at No. 11 as it enters a road contest at No. 13 Notre Dame. Saturday's contest will mark the first occasion since 2009 that the teams will both be ranked when meeting.

      Virginia Tech sits at No. 14 while ACC mate North Carolina State is tied for No. 16 with South Florida.

      Michigan State (No. 18), Michigan (19th) and Central Florida (20th) round out the Top 20.

      Three newcomers follow No. 22 Stanford to round out the poll. West Virginia is No. 23 after defeating Texas Tech, LSU is 24th after a win over Auburn and Memphis enters the poll after beating Navy. Memphis is ranked for the first time since 2015.

      The Big Ten leads with five schools in the rankings.

  • First and 20: Pac-12 hurting itself
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 15, 2017

    If a Pac-12 team doesn't make the College Football Playoff, the league might have nobody to blame but itself.

    • Every league is a slave to television and its capricious kickoff times and the need for broadcast windows outside of those on Saturday. We get that. That's the new normal. But the Pac-12 -- twice this season -- has put one of its best teams in peril by scheduling it for back-to-back road games on a short week.

      Preseason favorite USC had to go to Colorado and then get right back on a plane to Washington State for a raucous Friday night game. The Cougars hadn't even played a road game at that point. A late field goal gave Washington State a 30-27 victory and national attention, while the then-No. 5 Trojans suffered their first loss and were knocked off their high horses.

      Washington State now knows how that feels.

      Put into the uncomfortable Saturday-Friday road combination, the eighth-ranked Cougars meekly bowed to Cal 37-3 in Berkeley last week, the kind of totally unexpected result that was the hallmark of a Week 7 slate in which four Top 10 teams went down to unranked teams.

      The upshot of the 24 hours of chaos is that the Pac-12 is in the worst shape of the Power Five Conferences in terms of making the four-team playoff.

      USC has one loss and it seems only a matter of time before it falls off the high wire it has walked in wins vs. Texas, Cal and, on Saturday night, Utah, surviving a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute. The Trojans, because of their strength of schedule, remain the league's best shot at a playoff team.

      The lack of nonconference strength of schedule means one-loss Washington State and Washington -- which fell at Arizona State on Saturday night with the rested Sun Devils coming off a bye (another scheduling quirk) -- means those teams need lots of help.

      The Pac-12, fresh out of undefeated teams, has to get in line behind six unbeaten Power Five Conference teams -- Alabama, Georgia, Penn State, Wisconsin, TCU and Miami. One-loss teams with better resumes than Pac-12 schools include Clemson, Oklahoma and even North Carolina State. Ohio State and Oklahoma State still loom among the one-loss class.

      Washington showed last season that a one-loss champ with a horrible nonconference strength of schedule can squeeze into the playoff. But the Pac-12 is going to need some help. It is going to need chaos in other leagues to pick off contenders.

      The league has stumbled into a marketing slogan and a social media hashtag in the past few years -- #Pac12AfterDark. But #Pac12AfterDark has its, well, dark side.

      Those Friday night games weren't the only reason USC and Washington State lost, but the schedule didn't exactly allow them to be at their best.

      Not all schedules are equal. They aren't always fair. But the Pac-12 schedule-makers have done the league no favors in its now-uphill chase to the playoff.

      10 thoughts on Week 7

      1. College football has a new superstar. Arizona sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate has rushed for 557 yards on only 29 carries in the past two weeks, scoring on runs of 58, 28, 47, 75, 45 and 71 yards. He's the first FBS quarterback, according to ESPN, to rush for at least 200 yards in consecutive games since Navy's Chris McCoy in 1997. Tate also completed 21 of 26 passes for 302 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, in those two games. The Lamar Jackson of the West?

      2. Texas A&M has survived its gut check. The opening-game collapse at UCLA could have been devastating for the Aggies, but they have gone 5-1 since then -- losing only to No. 1 Alabama -- including getting a last-minute field goal to outlast Florida 19-17 on Saturday in The Swamp. Since being outscored 28-0 by the Bruins in the fourth quarter, A&M has a 75-33 edge in the final period. Kevin Sumlin might be OK after all.

      3. Why wait on Mike Riley? The last two weeks -- at home against Wisconsin and Ohio State -- felt like a last stand for Nebraska's third-year head coach. Pretty much. The Cornhuskers were clobbered by a combined 94-31. Go ahead. Make a change now. Nebraska nation turns its lonely eyes to Scott Frost.

      4. Speaking of Scott Frost. In addition to the shakeup in the Top 10, two Group of Five conference teams -- San Diego State and Navy -- were knocked from the unbeaten ranks. That leaves Frost's UCF team and Charlie Strong's USF team -- or, Central Florida and South Florida, if you prefer -- as the favorites to earn a bid into a New Year's Six bowl. The teams meet in Orlando on Nov. 24 to end the regular season.

      5. This era of the Red River Showdown is going to be great. There's no reason to think Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and Texas' Tom Herman won't be in their jobs for a long time, and Saturday's rivalry game seemed to be a sign of what's to come -- high-level teams, elite draft prospects and a thrilling finish amid the unique pageantry at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas.

      6. It's the Year of the True Freshman Running Back. Boston College's AJ Dillon ran for 272 yards and four touchdowns in a win at Louisville. Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor has three 200-yard games this season. Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins has 775 yards, averaging 7.8 per carry. Malik Davis leads Florida with 84.3 yards per game. Oklahoma's Trey Sermon, Florida State's Cam Akers and Clemson's Travis Etienne are playing huge roles at traditional powers.

      7. Clemson will be fine. Syracuse shocked the Tigers on Friday night, giving college football fans another glorious locker room video of passionate Orange head coach Dino Babers. As for Clemson, as long as quarterback Kelly Bryant gets healthy in the bye week, we still like its chances of getting to the playoff -- and winning it.

      8. Arizona State can play defense? The Sun Devils had allowed at least 30 points in 11 consecutive games ... and then they beat No. 5 Washington 13-7 with repeated red-zone stops. Never stop making sense, college football.

      9. Alabama is getting great play from a walk-on. Amid the five-star talent and future first-rounders on Alabama's defense, take notice of senior cornerback Levi Wallace, who walked-on in 2013 after receiving no FBS scholarship offers. He's moved from 2016 special teams contributor to pass coverage ace, breaking up three passes against Arkansas on Saturday, giving him a team-high nine to go with his team-best three interceptions.

      10. Our revised playoff predictions: Alabama, Penn State, Clemson, Oklahoma.

      5 top Heisman candidates

      1. Stanford RB Bryce Love. He did it again Saturday, extending his streak of games with a 50-yard run to nine. He cruised to 147 yards in a little more than a half of work as Stanford -- now in first in the Pac-12 North -- easily dispatched Oregon 49-7.

      2. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield. The senior had some Heisman moments in the win over Texas, connecting on timely deep balls and making key scrambles. He leads the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 207.3.

      3. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. The opportunity is all right in front of him: The Nittany Lions have Michigan on Saturday, followed by road games at Ohio State and Michigan State. Check back on Barkley's status on Nov. 4.

      4. Ohio State QB JT Barrett. Are we all-in on the Buckeyes, who have impressively stomped on inferior opponents since losing to Oklahoma? No. But Barrett's 21-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio deserves some kudos as Ohio State prepares to swing away in a challenging final month that will define the Buckeyes' season.

      5. Alabama CB Minkah Fitzpatrick. Offered here for the defenders everywhere and as the top candidate from the top team in the nation.

      5 top games for Week 8

      1. Michigan at Penn State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET) -- The Nittany Lions aim offensive stars Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley into the teeth of Michigan's defensive front in a key Big Ten East battle.

      2. USC at Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET) -- The rested Irish are coming off a bye week while the Trojans continue to stagger like a beat-up boxer. Notre Dame can make a playoff statement but must conquer USC's Rocky-like resolve.

      3. Oklahoma State at Texas (Saturday, noon ET) -- The Longhorns clearly aren't all the way back, but true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a joy to watch ... hey, so is Mason Rudolph and the Cowboys offense. This should be fun.

      4. Syracuse at Miami (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET) -- Will the Orange have a hangover from its upset of Clemson? What does Miami have left in the tank after back-to-back weeks of late and improbable wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech?

      5. Oklahoma at Kansas State (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET) -- Teams going into Manhattan are always on upset alert -- TCU managed just fine Saturday, though -- and then there's this nugget: The youngest head coach in the FBS (Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley, 34) will take on the oldest (Kansas State's Bill Snyder, 78).

  • LSU's Chark picks perfect time to Flash elite skills
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 14, 2017

    At LSU, wearing the No. 7 jersey is a big deal.

    • It is the same jersey that previous superstars Leonard Fournette, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson (among others) have made famous in the Bayou before taking their talents to the NFL.

      Behind a breakout performance from senior wide receiver D.J. Chark -- this year's No. 7 for the Tigers -- LSU pulled off the third upset of a top 10 team this weekend, stunning Auburn 27-23 in the final minutes in front of a delirious crowd in Baton Rouge, La.

      Chark, currently ranked fourth among senior receivers on NFLDraftScout.com's board, caught five passes for a career-high 150 yards Saturday -- a staggering 73 percent of the 206 yards thrown Saturday by senior quarterback Danny Etling in the win for LSU (5-2, 2-1 SEC) .

      It was Chark's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, however, which proved the game's biggest play, helping to turn what had been a 20-0 first-half deficit into a just a two-point Auburn lead, one erased with two late field goals by LSU to complete an improbable comeback.

      As noted on the CBS telecast, Chark earned the nickname of "The Flash" at LSU, a testament to the 6-foot-3, 198 pounder's rare straight-line speed, currently projected at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash by NFLDraftScout.com.

      Chark showed off his game-breaking acceleration on the return, initially backpedaling and drifting to secure the catch near the numbers on the right sideline. Pinned into the corner, Chark made the risky choice to catch the ball on the run and attempt to out-flank the coverage -- a gamble only the speediest athletes can pull off against SEC competition.

      Racing full steam across the field, Chark saw a seam and exploded, angling toward and eventually down the right sideline for the momentum-turning score, his second punt return for a touchdown already this season.

      Chark's punt return was the perfect highlight-reel play to cap the day. From a scouting perspective, however, signs of his development as a receiver were arguably the bigger news, especially given that scouts had circled his matchup this week opposite Auburn's flashy junior cornerback Carlton Davis (a projected early NFL draft pick, himself), as one to watch.

      Broad-shouldered, with a tapered, athletic frame and outstanding overall athleticism, Chark looks the part of a star NFL receiver. Terrific body control -- including agility, balance and burst -- allows Chark to elude defenders as a returner and after the catch and suggest that he could develop into a terrific route-runner.

      For all of his gifts, Chark remains quite raw in the finer points at the position, struggling, at times, with consistent route-running and drops, especially in traffic. He entered the season with just 43 career receptions for 843 yards and three scores -- a stark contrast to the trio of senior receivers ahead of him on NFLDraftScout.com's board, Oklahoma State's James Washington (180-3,570-31), Washington's Dante Pettis (137-1,911-23) and Iowa State's Allen Lazard (197-2,729-20).

      On Saturday, however, Chark showed improved polish, settling in the holes against zone coverage to move the chains, as well as extending his hands away from his body, at times, to pluck the ball. Unlike previous years in which LSU receivers often were only asked to run a few routes in a run-based, play-action vertical offense, Chark was used in the short, intermediate and deep zones Saturday.

      A fourth-quarter deep ball down the right sideline that helped LSU maintain momentum was a huge play in this game. Just as important was the run-after-the-catch skills shown late in the second half when Chark caught a quick out in front of Davis, shrugged off a would-be tackle and sprinted 37 yards for one of LSU's only big plays of the first half.

      To be fair, the 6-1 Davis enjoyed early wins in the showdown, recovering a fumble by Chark and showing off the length, fluid hips and route awareness that have the junior contending for All-SEC accolades. Further, Davis did not cover Chark on every pass Saturday, though he did at times shadow him across the formation when the wideout went in motion.

      Following the game, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said that Chark "was challenged to be the bell cow." The senior receiver also noted that the presence of his former head coach, Les Miles, and members of LSU's 2007 national championship team at Saturday's game helped inspire him, stating that this game -- and not the stunning home loss two weeks ago to Troy -- felt more like a homecoming game to him.

      If Chark continues his inspired play throughout the rest of the season and performs as expected in pre-draft drills, he may very well wind up the first senior receiver selected in the 2018 NFL draft.

  • Top 25 roundup: Arizona State knocks off No. 5 Washington
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 14, 2017

    TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State's defense sacked Jake Browning five times and shocked fifth-ranked Washington with a 13-7 upset win on Saturday night.

    • Kalen Ballage scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Brandon Ruiz kicked two field goals as the Sun Devils (3-3 overall, 2-1 Pac-12) built a 13-0 lead in the first half and held on from there. It was Arizona State's first win over a top-five team since Pat Tillman and the Sun Devils shut out top-ranked Nebraska 19-0 in 1996.

      Manny Wilkins threw for 245 yards for Arizona State, which has beaten Washington in 11 of the last 12 meetings, including seven in a row at home. Jake Browning threw for 139 yards and scored for Washington on a 1-yard run with 5:32 left. The Huskies (6-1, 3-1) had gone 21-2 since losing at ASU in 2015.

      Washington dominated the third quarter with its two best drives to that point. But Van Soderberg missed field goal attempts of 27 and 21 yards.

      No. 12 Oklahoma 29, Texas 24

      DALLAS -- A series that has produced so many tight games produced another Saturday as No. 12 Oklahoma built a big lead early and then hung on for a win over Texas in the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl.

      Oklahoma's defense, a problem in the loss to Iowa State a week earlier and a liability for much of a win over Baylor before that, came up big when the game tightened up.

      The Sooners stopped Texas on four of the Longhorns' last five possessions, and one huge Baker Mayfield touchdown pass led Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) to its second consecutive win in the series and its fourth in the last five years.

      With just less than seven minutes lef, Mayfield found a wide-open Mark Andrews open along the sidelines for a 59-yard touchdown to put the Sooners back in front. Mayfield finished 17 of 27 with 302 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

      No. 1 Alabama 41, Arkansas 9

      TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Top-ranked Alabama extended its streak to 11 straight victories over Arkansas with a lopsided victory.

      A stingy defense and running back Damien Harris, who had 125 yards and two touchdowns, powered the Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC). Quarterback Jalen Hurts finished 12 of 19 for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

      Alabama flexed its muscle early, taking a 24-0 lead into halftime in Bryant-Denny Stadium. It took all of 15 seconds for the Crimson Tide to get on the scoreboard. On the first play from scrimmage, Harris broke free for a 75-yard touchdown down the left sideline.

      No. 4 Georgia 53, Missouri 28

      ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 4 Georgia rolled up 696 total yards to rout Missouri in a victory that will likely push the Bulldogs into the third spot in the poll.

      It was certainly a good night to pad the stats for the Bulldogs (7-0, 4-0 SEC), who found themselves tied with Missouri at 21 before scoring the next 26 points. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm enjoyed a stellar day, completing 18 of 26 passes for a career-high 326 yards and one touchdown. Georgia rushed for 372 yards.

      Sony Michel recorded 86 yards and two scores, freshman D'Andre Swift totaled 94 and Nick Chubb added 70. Wide receiver Mecole Hardman scored twice -- on a 35-yard run and a 59-yard pass. Drew Lock accounted for all the points for Missouri (1-5, 0-4), completing 15 of 25 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns. Emanuel Hall caught a pair of 63-yard TD passes for the Tigers.

      No. 6 TCU 26, Kansas State 6

      MANHATTAN, Kan. -- No. 6 TCU overcame a day of weather interruptions and offensive inconsistencies to defeat Kansas State in a game that was delayed at the start for three hours by severe weather.

      TCU (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) scored on its first possession of the second half to open up a 20-3 lead and was never threatened. The Horned Frogs hold sole possession of first place in the Big 12, after Texas' loss to Oklahoma. Quarterback Kenny Hill was 27 of 37 for 297 yards. He also had a 10-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.

      Kansas State (3-3, 1-2) provided little resistance. The Wildcats mustered just 216 yards of total offense and averaged 2.4 yards per carry. There was another delay of one hour in the fourth quarter.

      No. 7 Wisconsin 17, Purdue 9

      MADISON, Wis. -- Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had 30 carries for 219 yards and a touchdown as No. 7 Wisconsin beat Purdue for the 12th straight time.

      Taylor, a true freshman, has accumulated 986 rushing yards in six games for the Badgers. Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) had three turnovers and eight penalties for 65 yards, but its defense kept the Boilermakers (3-3, 1-2) from scoring a touchdown. And senior linebacker Leon Jacobs came up big with a late save for the Badgers.

      With Purdue posing a red-zone challenge on the 7-yard line, Jacobs picked off Elijah Sindelar with 8:14 left in the game. The pass was intended for freshman wide receiver Jackson Anthrop. Wisconsin held Purdue to 221 yards, including 155 passing.

      No. 9 Ohio State 56, Nebraska 14

      LINCOLN, Neb. -- JT Barrett tied a school record by accounting for seven touchdowns in Ohio State's romp over Nebraska.

      Barrett set the mark last September in a win against Bowling Green. Barrett had five touchdowns passing, two rushing and 325 passing yards in a game that was over early. Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) scored on its first eight possessions and finished with 633 total yards, dispiriting a Nebraska fan base that expressed itself initially with anger, then absence.

      Nebraska (3-4, 2-2) finished with 44 rushing yards on 16 carries in what was its third home loss of the season. The loss continued an angst-riddled season for the Cornhuskers. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst was fired last month days after a loss to Northern Illinois. Speculation has swirled much of the year that coach Mike Riley, now 18-15 in three seasons in Lincoln, could be next.

      LSU 27, No. 10 Auburn 23

      BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU erased a 20-point first-half deficit and freshman kicker Connor Culp kicked two field goals in the final 2:36 to lift the Tigers to an upset victory against No. 10 Auburn.

      LSU (5-2, 2-1 SEC) trailed by 20 midway through the second quarter, but the Tigers rallied by holding Auburn (5-2, 3-1), which had averaged 48 points in its last three games, scoreless over the final 32 minutes to beat a ranked team for the second consecutive week.

      Trailing 23-21, LSU moved the ball to the Auburn 25, where on fourth-and-1, Culp came in and split the uprights on the go-ahead 42-yard kick. After stopping Auburn on its next possession, Culp hit a 36-yard field goal with 38 seconds left to make it 27-23.

      No. 11 Miami 25, Georgia Tech 24

      MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Quarterback Malik Rosier found wide receiver Darrell Langham for a crucial 28-yard fourth-down completion to help set up kicker Michael Badgley's 24-yard field goal as No. 11 Miami rallied for a victory over Georgia Tech.

      Just a week after throwing the decisive touchdown pass to Langham in a 24-20 victory over Florida State, Rosier again found Langham down the right side. Langham appeared to catch the ball off his facemask as he tumbled to Georgia Tech's 15-yard line with just 33 seconds remaining.

      Three plays later, Badgley kicked the decisive field goal with just four seconds remaining

      The win kept the Hurricanes (5-0, 3-0 ACC) unbeaten while the Yellow Jackets (3-2, 2-1) lost for the first time since their overtime defeat to Tennessee in the opener. Rosier finished the game 23 of 37 for 297 yards. Sophomore Travis Homer, subbing for an injured Mark Walton, rushed for 170 yards, scoring on a 27-yard run and a 17-yard reception.

      No. 13 USC 28, Utah 27

      LOS ANGELES -- No. 13 USC rallied from a two-touchdown halftime deficit to defeat Utah.

      The Trojans (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) trailed the Utes (4-2, 1-2) 21-7 at intermission, the result of three first-half fumbles. Quarterback Sam Darnold threw two of his three touchdown passes, running back Ronald Jones II scored on a front-flip into the end zone to give USC the lead, and defensive back Ajene Harris stopped Utah quarterback Troy Williams on a game-deciding two-point conversion attempt with an open-field tackle to preserve the win.

      Darnold finished 27 of 50 for 358 yards. Jones rushed 17 times for 111 yards. Williams finished 16 of 27 for 262 yards for Utah (4-2, 1-2).

      No. 14 Oklahoma State 59, Baylor 16

      STILLWATER, Okla. -- No. 14 Oklahoma State piled up a school-record 747 yards of offense and seven players scored touchdowns in a rout of Baylor.

      After a fast start and a 7-0 lead by the Bears, it was all Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1 Big 12). Quarterback Mason Rudolph tied a school record with his seventh career 400-yard passing game, finishing with 459 yards and three touchdowns. Wideout James Washington tied another school mark with his third career 200-yard receiving game, going for 235 and a touchdown.

      Marcell Ateman posted a 119-yard receiving day, with a score. And running back Justice Hill ran for 117 yards and a touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 400-yard passer, two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher for just the fourth time in program history.

      Baylor fell to 0-6 for the first time since 1969, when it finished 0-10. The Bears are 0-3 in league play.

      No. 17 Michigan 27, Indiana 20 (OT)

      BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Karan Higdon rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner, to lead No. 17 Michigan to an overtime victory against Indiana on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

      Indiana's Griffin Oakes hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired in regulation to tie the game 20-20. On the first play in overtime, Higdon ran 25 yards for the touchdown, breaking around the left corner after Indiana appeared to have him bottled up as Michigan improved to 5-1 and 2-1 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers fell to 3-3, 0-3.

      Leading 13-10 in the fourth quarter, Higdon broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run to give the Wolverines a 20-10 lead with 10:25 to go. Hoosiers quarterback Peyton Ramsey completed 20 of 41 passes for 178 yards with two interceptions.

      No. 18 South Florida 33, Cincinnati 3

      TAMPA, Fla. -- Quarterback Quinton Flowers totaled more than 260 yards of offense as South Florida lengthened the nation's longest streak with a rout of the University of Cincinnati.

      Flowers had game highs in rushing (80 yards) and passing (178 yards) for the No. 18 Bulls (6-0, 3-0 AAC East), who have won 11 straight games and are 6-0 for the first time since 2007. Despite recording their lowest point total since Sept. 2 against Stony Brook, the Bulls reached the 30-point plateau for the 23rd straight game, tying the University of Oregon (2011-12) for the longest streak all-time.

      Darius Tice rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown for South Florida, which remained perfect under head coach Charlie Strong despite being flagged for 137 yards of penalties. The Bearcats (2-5, 0-3) were limited to 95 rushing yards in losing for the fourth straight time.

      Boise State 31, No. 19 San Diego State 14

      SAN DIEGO -- Boise State ruined San Diego State's hopes of an unbeaten season and damaged its New Year's Day bowl bid, taking a 21-0 halftime lead en route to a Mountain West Conference victory at SDCCU Stadium.

      The Broncos (4-2, 2-0) were led by a defense that had four sackles and 12 tackles for loss. The Aztecs (6-1, 1-1), notching four sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Boise State allowed only 83 rushing yards on 39 carries.

      Boise State sealed the verdict with a 70-yard, nine-play touchdown drive. Alex Mattison powered into the end zone from the 4 with 4:52 left for the final points. He rushed 23 times for 128 yard.

      No. 20 North Carolina State 35, Pittsburgh 17

      PITTSBURGH -- Nyheim Hines was the difference-maker with two electric touchdowns as No. 20 North Carolina State overcame a slow start to beat Pittsburgh.

      The Wolfpack (6-1, 4-0 ACC) failed to score on the opening drive of the game for just the second time this season and went into halftime tied at 14 with the Panthers (2-5, 0-3). After Pittsburgh started the scoring on a 33-yard pass from Ben DiNucci to receiver Jester Weah, Hines broke free two plays later for an 83-yard touchdown run to tie the game.

      After a defensive stop by N.C. State, Hines then returned a Ryan Winslow punt 92 yards straight up the middle to give N.C. State the lead. Hines finished with 249 all-purpose yards.

      No. 21 Michigan State 30, Minnesota 27

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Junior running back LJ Scott rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries to help No. 21 Michigan State squeak by Minnesota a week after taking down then-No. 7 Michigan on the road.

      The Spartans built a 23-6 lead after three quarters but Minnesota quarterback Demry Croft threw a trio of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to wide receiver Tyler Johnson to make things interesting. The Spartans extended the lead to 23-6 heading into the fourth quarter on a pair of Matt Coghlin field goals. Minnesota closed the gap to 10 when Scott fumbled at the Michigan State 27 with 12:45 left and Croft hit Johnson for a 28-yard touchdown two plays later.

      The Spartans responded immediately, however, when Connor Heyward received the ensuing kickoff at the goal line and returned it 55 yards to the Minnesota 45-yard line. Just four plays later, Scott carried in from 6 yards for his second touchdown of the game to restore Michigan State's 17-point cushion.

      No. 22 Central Florida 63, East Carolina 21

      ORLANDO, Fla. -- Central Florida scored in every phase of the game, nine players found the end zone and the impressive Golden Knights cruised past East Carolina.

      McKenzie Milton completed 21 of 27 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns in just three quarters. Mike Hughes returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and defensive back Tre Neal scored on an interception return as the Knights improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the American Athletic Conference.

      It's the first 5-0 start for UCF since 1988, when the Golden Knights were playing in Division II. The Pirates (1-6, 1-3) have dropped three in a row and 10 of 11 dating to last season under second-year coach Scottie Montgomery.

      No. 23 Stanford 49, Oregon 7

      STANFORD, Calif. -- Bryce Love rushed for 147 yards in a little more than one half and Keller Chryst had a strong game as Stanford pounded Oregon.

      Stanford (5-2, 4-1 Pac-12) has won four straight games and is now in first place in the Pac-12 North. The Ducks (4-3, 1-3) have lost three of their last four.

      Love ran for two first-quarter touchdowns, including one that covered 67 yards. Although his 147 yards represented a season low, he rushed for more than 100 yards for the ninth consecutive game, tying a school record.

      Stanford, which had 504 yards of total offense, used two quarterbacks, but Chryst got most of the playing time. He was 15-of-21 passing for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

      Royce Freeman had 143 yards on the ground as the Ducks amassed 276 rushing yards. However, Oregon had virtually no passing threat.

      West Virginia 46, No. 24 Texas Tech 35

      MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Will Grier threw five touchdown passes, including four unanswered during the second half when West Virginia climbed out of an 18-point hole to defeat No. 24 Texas Tech.

      After suffering close losses to Virginia Tech and TCU, the Mountaineers (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) snapped a nine-game skid against Top 25 teams that dated back to 2014. Grier finished 32 of 41 passing for 352 yards, salvaging an offense that rushed for only 44 yards. The Big 12's leading rusher, Justin Crawford, finish with 47 yards on 14 attempts.

      David Sills caught three touchdowns, adding to his FBS lead, now at 12. Ka'Raun White scored twice in the fourth quarter, one on a leaping 32-yarder and again on a 17-yarder that gave West Virginia its first lead at 39-35. Nic Shimonek tossed four scores for Texas Tech (4-2, 1-2), which led 35-17 midway through the third quarter.

      Memphis 30, No. 25 Navy 27

      MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis used five Navy turnovers to propel it to victory over the No. 25 Midshipmen.

      The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) got two interceptions from safety Austin Hall, the second of which clinched the win for Memphis with 1:42 to play.

      The anticipated offensive show was dulled by an opportune Tiger defense, which gave up 314 rushing yards to Navy (5-1, 3-1), but that was an improvement over Memphis' last two games against the Mids, both losses.

      Riley Ferguson threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns for Memphis.

  • Memphis dismisses DE Suttles after rape charge
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 14, 2017

    University of Memphis senior defensive end Ernest Suttles was dismissed from the team Saturday morning after Suttles was charged with rape.

    • The Memphis Police Department announced the charge on Twitter before the Tigers' home game against Navy. The school announced he had been dismissed due to a violation of team rules in an off-campus incident.

      Earlier, the department had tweeted that police responded to an alleged assault near campus at 3:15 a.m. and that one male suspect was in custody.

      Suttles had eight tackles, including four for a loss and two sacks, in five games. He entered this season with 19 career starts in 38 games, making 51 tackles, including 12 for loss and six sacks.

  • Pitt QB Browne has season-ending shoulder surgery
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Pittsburgh quarterback Max Browne underwent season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder, Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi announced Thursday.

    • Browne injured his right shoulder during last Saturday's 27-24 loss to Syracuse.

      The injury ends the college career of the graduate transfer, who played at USC before joining the Panthers prior to this season.

      "It's not a great thing for our program, it's not great for him, but he's hanging in there and he's good," Narduzzi said of Browne.

      Sophomore Ben DiNucci will be the new starter, beginning with Saturday's game against North Carolina State.

      Browne passed for 997 yards and five touchdowns against two interceptions this season. He completed 71.1 percent of his passes.

      DiNucci is 36-of-65 passing for 442 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

  • Auburn investigating allegation of academic fraud
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    Auburn is investigating an allegation of academic fraud involving a part-time academic staff member and a football player.

    • The university hired Birmington, Ala., attorneys Lightfoot, Franklin & White to determine whether a mentor took an online final exam for at least one player in 2015, ESPN's Outside the Lines reported Wednesday.

      The part-time employee was placed on administrative leave in August after the allegations surfaced.

      An athletic department spokesman said in a statement that there was no academic fraud, calling the allegations "false."

      "It's simply not true," the statement read. "The person making the accusation is a part-time employee placed on administrative leave on Aug. 31 because of a dispute with a co-worker. She is making claims not supported by facts, and based on what ESPN told us, she keeps changing her story.

      "Neither she, her attorney nor our investigation have produced anything to support her claims."

      University president Steven Leath also issued a statement saying the independent investigators have failed to find evidence that indicates the allegations have credibility.

      According to the university, the player in questions returned to school to finish his degree. He contends that the allegations are false.

      Meanwhile, the mentor told Outside the Lines that she left the university in August after eight years to care for an ill family member and not because of the allegations.

      The same Birmingham law firm also is investigating Auburn's softball and men's basketball programs for others issues.

      Men's basketball assistant coach Chuck Person was one of 10 men arrested last month by FBI agents as part of a two-year investigation of alleged corruption and bribery in college basketball.

      Person is accused of accepting $91,500 in bribes during a 10-month period to steer players toward financial advisers, shoe companies and agents.

      Auburn indefinitely suspended Person without pay. After a court appearance in New York on Tuesday, he was released on $100,000 bond.

      The former Auburn standout faces up to 80 years in prison if he is convicted.

      The softball investigation involved allegations that former assistant coach Corey Myers behaved inappropriately with players. He resigned in March.

  • No. 18 South Florida looks to stay unbeaten vs. Cincinnati
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    No. 18 South Florida hosts Cincinnati on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference battle between two first-year coaches who have gotten off to opposite starts at their new programs.

    • Charlie Strong has the Bulls off to a 5-0 start in his first year at South Florida. The Bulls (5-0, 2-0 AAC) are averaging 44.8 points per game and are outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 25 points per game.

      A win over the struggling Bearcats on homecoming Saturday would match South Florida's best start ever.

      "You have a really good football team," Strong said this week. "We just need the support and we need everybody onboard.

      "We don't talk about how many games we've won in a row, we don't even mention that (to players)," Strong added. "I may not have to say anything about our record. It's just getting ready for the next game."

      Things haven't been nearly as rosy for Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, who came over from Ohio State after 15 seasons as an assistant at his alma mater. It hasn't been an easy transition for Fickell, who admitted this week that things had been tougher than expected.

      The Bearcats (2-4, 0-2 AAC) have lost three in a row and are coming off of a 51-23 drubbing by Central Florida. Cincinnati allowed UCF to score on each of its possessions and surrendered more than 500 yards of offense in just three quarters, before inclement weather moved in and forced officials to call the came before the fourth quarter.

      The Bearcats have lost six consecutive conference games dating back to last season. Their two wins this year have come against Austin Peay and Miami-Ohio.

      "I haven't been in a whole lot of these situations," Fickell told reporters this week. "But what is most draining is when you're working so darn hard, you've committed so darn hard to doing something and then you don't get the results you want. Those are the things that go through my head. Where are these guys? Because they've done everything we've asked them to do and then they don't get the results that you want.

      "That's when you look them in the face and say that's a part of life," Fickell added. "We told you from the get-go you could rip your chest open and hand us your heart, do everything we ask you to do and guess what it guarantees you? Nothing. And we all live in that ADD world that we want it now. When you want it right now that makes it more difficult."

      The Bearcats have their hands full against a South Florida offense that is led by dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers. Flowers has thrown 10 touchdown passes and has run for five more, and he is the center piece of a physical, balanced attack. Running backs Darius Tice and D'Ernest Johnson, each have rushed for more than 400 yards, and six different players have touchdown receptions.

      "We're a physical football team," Strong told reporters during a Tuesday press conference. "You have to be physical because if you're physical on offense, you're going to be physical on defense. That's the way you practice."

      Cincinnati could not match up with Central Florida's physicality or speed. It won't get any easier against the Bulls.

      "We're holding up pretty good," Cincinnati senior linebacker Jaylyin Minor said. "With the coaches and the chemistry that we have it's something that we've learned to deal with. We have to be there for each other. There isn't anybody else outside this building. It really doesn't matter. When it comes right down to it, we have to be there for each other.

      "We have to learn to grow as a team and handle adversity and look at the bigger picture. We still have a lot more to go in the season. You just can't look at the bad things that have happened or the games that we haven't won. We've just got to keep moving forward. (Fickell) keeps us up no matter what and tells us that we can't get down about the bad things."

      South Florida won last year's game between the two teams 45-20 in Cincinnati. The Bearcats turned it over four times and were shut out in the second half.

  • High-powered offenses face off in Navy-Memphis matchup
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    Navy unveiled a new wrinkle to its typically potent option attack in last week's thrilling victory over Air Force, an added dimension that bewildered Memphis coach Mike Norvell when he was reviewing film in preparation for Saturday's showdown with the undefeated Midshipmen in Memphis.

    • Navy orchestrated its option attack out of the shotgun against Air Force and rushed for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-45 victory. Running back Malcolm Perry had a 91-yard touchdown run, and quarterback Zach Abey had a 75-yard touchdown run for the No. 25 Midshipmen, who are 5-0 for the first time since the 2004 season.

      Abey finished with 214 yards rushing on 29 carries and led a game-winning drive in the final minutes that left his coach emotional in the post-game press conference.

      "So proud of our players; what great, great kids," a tearful Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo told reporters after the win. "I don't know why I'm so blessed to coach these guys."

      Norvell was showing a different kind of emotion at this week's press conference, one of concern about his Memphis defense, which that ranks 93rd in the nation against the run.

      "I think they're averaging 412 yards a game rushing," Norvell said of the Midshipmen. "So it's very, very efficient. And then last week, they had to have a two-minute drive to go win the game and they marched right down the field and were excellent in their conversion on that. This is a team that is definitely difficult to prepare for. Our guys are excited about doing our best in getting prepared for them."

      Memphis (4-1, 1-1 AAC) also is coming off an impressive offensive performance in a 70-31 rout of Connecticut on Friday. Tigers quarterback Riley Ferguson threw seven touchdown passes and made Niumatalolo do a double take, while scoreboard watching last Friday.

      "Is that a 7 and a 0?" Niumatalolo joked to the media this week. "Unfortunately, it was what I thought it was: a high-scoring, really good team. Both teams recognize that this is going to be a huge game for our confidence."

      The only thing that really slowed down the Tigers against Connecticut was themselves. Memphis was called for 12 penalties, costing the Tigers 104 yards and drawing the ire of their coach.

      "We've got to eliminate the penalties," Norvell said. "We've got to continue playing with a better focus, and not putting ourselves behind the chains or making it easier for them by giving them a free down.

      "It's going to be a huge factor in this game. I think that when you look at it statistically, Navy doesn't get called for many penalties. They play with really good discipline. That's one of the strengths of their team, so if we go out there and we are penalized and they're not, then those are the hidden yards that puts somebody in a position to have better success. So we've got to make sure we're working to win that penalty battle."

      Navy won last year's meeting 42-28, rushing for 532 yards in a key conference victory that propelled the Midshipmen to the American Athletic Conference Western Division title.

      Memphis is hoping for revenge, but knows it won't be easy.

      "For us, everybody's going to have a job," Norvell said. "Everybody's going to have an assignment, and then once you execute that assignment, you've got to do it in a physical nature, and you've got to make the play.

      "I think there's an excitement for the opportunity. They've competed for the divisional championship, and then the conference championship last year. We know this is one of the best teams in our league.

      "They've proven it, they're top 25; they're undefeated. They're doing an exceptional job again this year. So to say that for our team to look at it as anything more than just another opportunity, it's a great opportunity because it's against a great football team."

      Memphis could get two key players back for the Navy game in running back Patrick Taylor Jr. and linebacker Curtis Akins. Taylor and Akins each sat out the Connecticut game with injuries, but Norvell said both will be evaluated in practice this week.

  • No. 6 TCU tries to keep Kansas State down
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    A team that is exceeding expectations hits the road to face an underachieving one as TCU visits Kansas State on Saturday morning at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

    • The Horned Frogs were unranked entering the season, while the Wildcats were ranked 20th. But after five straight victories to start the year, including road wins at Arkansas and No. 14 Oklahoma State, TCU (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) is sixth in the latest poll.

      Meanwhile, Kansas State (3-2, 1-1 in the Big 12) is smarting from road losses at Vanderbilt and most recently Texas. The Wildcats won their first two non-conference games before falling flat at Vanderbilt. Following a defeat of winless Baylor, K-State lost to Texas in double-overtime in its most recent game.

      TCU has a legitimate chance to reach the Big 12 title game, if not the College Football Playoff. But TCU players are not wanting to hear any part of it.

      "It's cool, but it's a long way to go," quarterback Kenny Hill said. "We've played five games. We've still got another seven and hopefully eight. It's a long way to go.

      "We don't even try to really look at it like that. It's going to the next game and trying to get a win. But it definitely does feel good to get those wins."

      Coach Gary Patterson, who played safety and linebacker at Kansas State in the early 1980s, is 2-3 all-time against his alma mater. But this is probably the best team he's taken into Manhattan to play the Wildcats.

      The Horned Frogs are excelling on both sides of the ball. They're averaging 220 yards per game on the ground and 259 yards through the air. They lead the Big 12 in rushing defense (104 yards per game) and are fourth in total defense.

      Hill has been a key for TCU. He's passing for 230 yards per game passing on 69 percent completion percentage. His success has not escaped the notice of Kansas State coach Bill Snyder.

      "He wasn't all that bad when he came into the ballgame against us a year ago," he said. "They talk about him being improved, and I certainly can see that. That is how it should be. You should be getting better and better all the time even us old people should be getting better over time.

      "He is throwing the ball well and is 10th in the nation, completing 69 percent of his passes. He can bring the ball down when he wants to. There are times when you're watching him on tape and see he has above-average speed. Then you watch a few more plays and you can tell he has excellent speed. I do not know what is clock time is, but he can run."

      Kansas State still appears to be searching for its identity. Early-season success made it appear that the offense could do whatever it wanted, depending on what the opponent's defense allowed. But the Wildcats have not been as consistent in two league games.

      Kansas State is less than one yard per game better than Baylor for last place in total offense in the Big 12.

      Much of the question for Saturday is who will be under center for the Wildcats. Jesse Ertz has started every game, but he came out of the Texas game with an undisclosed injury, and back-up Alex Delton lit the offense on fire. He ran the ball 12 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

      Snyder said that Ertz is still the starter, but that could change.

      "Jesse is number one, Alex is number two," he said.

      "Alex has a strong arm. He is an athlete. He throws the ball well. As for anybody at that position, he wouldn't be there if he couldn't throw the ball. I think the important thing is to manage the process and go through the progressions and make the right decisions about where to go with the ball."

      Both teams are still in control of their own destiny for playing in the Big 12 championship game. TCU also has realistic aspirations of reaching the College Football Playoff.

      The Horned Frogs have to maintain focus on each week's game to keep that goal in front of them. And the Wildcats must do the same to get the season back on track. The team that does that best is the one likely to come out on top Saturday.

      "I think for players it truly does make a difference," Snyder said of playing a ranked team.

      "From a coaches' standpoint, they are all good. People talk so much about the balance and you look across the league and see the things that are happening. It just makes sense that there are a lot of good football teams in this conference. I would like to think that everybody would be highly motivated no matter who you were playing.

      "The way I look at it, they (Big 12 teams) are all Top 25 teams. I guess it is hard for people to understand that, but that is what makes college football so great. Just look at Iowa State and Oklahoma. Obviously anybody can beat anybody on any given day. It is all about the same thing -- who prepares the best, who plays the best and who coaches the best. That will never change."

  • No. 14 Oklahoma State braces for improving Baylor
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy isn't exactly sure what to make of Baylor as the Bears prepare to visit Saturday.

    • Yet Gundy does know there's no sense making anything of Baylor's first three games, a disastrous run that included losses to Liberty, UTSA and Duke. The Bears have become healthier, better and more dangerous since.

      They're still winless (0-5, 0-2 Big 12), but two conference games have seen them push Oklahoma and Kansas State deep in the fourth quarter of those setbacks, scoring a combined 61 points in the games.

      "We haven't looked at their first three games since they changed quarterbacks," Gundy said. "I'm fairly certain that this is who they're going to be offensively. You can pretty much throw the first three games away."

      The No. 14 Cowboys (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) will keep their first three results -- all blowout wins. Their fourth game, a 44-31 loss to No. 6 TCU, is the game they regret for now, forcing a major rally for any hopes of a College Football Playoff berth.

      Oklahoma State took the first step with a 41-34 victory at Texas Tech. And before the Cowboys hit a critical stretch of games against Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma, there's this tricky potential trap game against Baylor.

      For senior quarterback Mason Rudolph and other Cowboys, there's plenty of motivation.

      "I think obviously what sticks out most to me is I haven't beaten those guys, and I want to beat them," said Rudolph, who is 26-7 in his career at Oklahoma State, but 0-3 against Baylor. "This is kind of one I've had circled on the schedule for a while now. So I'm preparing hard, getting ready to go and lead my team and play my butt off."

      Rudolph is the nation's second-leading passer at 381.8 yards per game and ranks tied for third nationally with 16 passing touchdowns. He's the trigger man on an offense that averages 583.4 yards (second) and 46.8 points (tied for second) per game.

      "Oklahoma State has great players, a great quarterback and a great offensive scheme," Bears coach Matt Rhule said. "There is no better deep receiving corps in the country. It definitely won't be easy, but we're going to have to find ways to get some pressure on the quarterback and stop the run."

      Quarterback play has spurred Baylor's improved play, if not wins.

      Zach Smith took over as the Bears starter three games ago and has returned an explosive element to the offense. He's already thrown for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns.

      Smith's play has freed up receiver Denzel Mims, a big-play wideout who has caught 25 passes for 533 yards and seven touchdowns.

      "It looks like, to me at least, they've reverted back to the Baylor of old in the past couple of weeks," Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said.

      The Bears have lagged in the running game, ranking No. 106 in averaging only 118.4 yards per game on the ground. But there's hope for a boost, with top backs Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty returning to health after missing much of the action so far.

      "I'm excited about it," Rhule said. "The toughest thing will be deciding who will carry the football. We'll go with the hot hand once we get into the game."

      The series has often featured shootouts, which could put both defenses in the crosshairs, especially now that Baylor has gained traction on offense.

      "They are definitely a good team," said Cowboys running back Justice Hill, who has 516 rushing yards in five games. "They had a lot of guys suspended the first couple of games, but coming back when they played OU they had a good game. Kansas State was a good game. They are a good team."

      Both teams were off last week, meaning they've had extra time to rest and be ready for the season's final seven weeks.

      The Cowboys need a run of wins to reposition themselves for a spot in the Big 12 championship. The Bears simply need a win.

      "Once we get a win," Smith said, "all this stuff is going to feel a lot easier ... 0-5 is never good, but I think we're a strong team, we've got a strong coach and I think we're unified. We've got our heads on straight, and now we've got to go get this first win."

  • No. 1 Alabama aims to avoid 'poison' vs. Arkansas
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After pounding two SEC opponents 125-3, Alabama needed all 60 minutes to put away Texas A&M last Saturday.

    • As you might expect, coach Nick Saban wasn't happy with how the team finished the 27-19 victory and used the media to send a message to the players.

      "I'm trying to get our players to listen to me instead of listening to you guys (reporters). All that stuff you write about how good we are, all that stuff they hear on ESPN, it's like poison. It's like taking poison. It's like rat poison," he said.

      Saban's comments have gotten a lot of run this week, so one of the storylines heading into this Saturday's home game against Arkansas is how well his players have avoiding swallowing the poison.

      No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) is about a 30-point favorite over Arkansas (2-3, 0-2), so it's reasonable to think complacency could set in for the Crimson Tide heading into its homecoming matchup.

      Arkansas is coming off a 48-22 loss at South Carolina.

      "You can sit here and talk about what they have not done as a team or you can say they should have beaten Texas A&M and they're very capable of scoring a lot of points and being a very good team," Saban said of the Razorbacks.

      "Their defense is a very sound and solid group that doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and you've got to work hard to execute well to beat them. This is going to be a challenging team. It always has been for us and we're certainly going to prepare that way."

      Arkansas is averaging 32.6 points per game. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema typically fields a physical team with a strong running game. The Razorbacks are averaging 185 rushing yards but have been inconsistent, running for 106 on 32 attempts against the Gamecocks.

      Moreover, senior quarterback Austin Allen's status was unclear early in the week after he suffered a shoulder injury last week. He was able to practice some Tuesday but not at 100 percent.

      Coach Bret Bielema said Monday that Allen was "still in an evaluation process."

      Backup quarterback Cole Kelley, a redshirt freshman, led the Razorbacks on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives against the Gamecocks, but also threw an interception that was returned 45 yards for South Carolina's final touchdown.

      Bielema indicated there's no quarterback controversy brewing for the Razorbacks.

      "Cole said, 'If Austin can go, he's our quarterback,' " Bielema said. "I think that's a great indicator of a guy being in the right frame of mind."

      Regardless of who's under center, Bielema said the Razorbacks have to get back to their run-first philosophy.

      "Offensively, we've got to get back to what we know how to do," Bielema said. "When we're not running the ball effectively, we don't have success in any phase, and we've got to do that consistently."

      For Alabama, its game against Texas A&M was below average for the offense. The offensive line missed some assignments in the run game and pass protection. There were also some missed throws and dropped passes.

      Alabama had 355 yards of total offense and averaged 5.3 yards per carry (232 yards on 44 carries), but it never felt like the Crimson Tide imposed their will on the Aggies.

      Alabama struggled on third downs, converting 4 of 14 attempts.

      Still, the Tide leads the SEC in rushing (301.7 yards per game), led by quarterback Jalen Hurts (517 yards). Alabama has a deep stable of running backs, led by Damien Harris (500 yards, 8.5 per carry) and Bo Scarbrough (294 yards).

      Hurts hasn't had to do a lot in the passing game, but he's been efficient -- 70 of 111 for 870 yards, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

      While everyone on the outside may be overlooking this matchup, Saban wants all of his players and Alabama's fans to take this contest seriously.

      "Arkansas, I think, has got a really, really good team," Saban said.

      "I think they've got some players that can really make a difference in the game, starting with the quarterback, who certainly played well against us last year -- made some fabulous throws and really good plays. They've got three running backs that have helped them be one of the most effective teams running the ball of anybody that we've played to this point."

  • No. 11 Miami begins life without Walton vs. Georgia Tech
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    MIAMI -- The loss of running back Mark Walton to a season-ending ankle surgery will impact more than just Miami's running game.

    • Coach Mark Richt notes there will be a trickle-down effect on special teams as well when the 11th-ranked Hurricanes (4-0, 2-0 ACC) host Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0) on Saturday afternoon.

      Walton's replacement in the backfield, sophomore Travis Homer, has been a key performer on Miami's special teams in addition to backing up Walton in the early going. He is eager about the task, refusing even to take a break in last week's 24-20 victory over Florida State when Richt said he could sit out coverage on a kickoff.

      "Homer was the special teams player of the game this past game," Richt said. "Last year, at the end of the season, he was the special teams player of the year. He starts on all four specials, and he does them great. Does them very, very well.

      "He can run, he's agile, he's tough, he can tackle, he's smart and he tends to have a lot of stamina. When he becomes the No. 1 back, we have to be careful about watching him out there."

      Homer has rushed for 207 yards in a backup role behind Walton, averaging 8.3 yards a carry and catching five passes for 71 yards. Walton rushed for a team-best 428 yards in four games despite dealing with ankle issues the since the second game of the season.

      He injured his left ankle against Toledo but continued to play through that until last week, when he suffered an injury to his right ankle that required surgery. Walton averaged 14 carries per game and Homer just over six, but offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he thinks that Homer will be able to handle the extra work.

      "I think he is in phenomenal shape," Brown said. "He's taken a bunch of snaps on special teams. He played 25-30 snaps in the Florida State game, so I think he is in great condition.

      "We've pulled back on some special teams for him because of the load he's going to take on offense. That's the biggest thing. Obviously, we need him to continue to be consistent."

      Walton is not the only injury Richt will be dealing with against Georgia Tech. Wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, who missed the first two games with a hamstring issue, is questionable for this week, and guard Navaughn Donaldson also is questionable with an ankle injury.

      "Ankle sprains, you kind of have to go day-by-day and see where they are," Richt said.

      Georgia Tech comes into the game as somewhat the forgotten team in the ACC race. But after losing the season-opener opener in overtime to Tennessee when they couldn't hold onto a late fourth-quarter lead, the Yellow Jackets have rolled to three consecutive wins by an average score of 35-11.

      Junior quarterback TaQuan Marshall has led an offense that is crushing opponents to the tune of 396-102 yards a game rushing. Marshall accounts for about 131 of that himself.

      "I think that the moment just hasn't gotten too big for him," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said of Marshall, who, like Miami junior quarterback Malik Rosier, is in his first year as a starter. "That's the thing I was worried about the most, especially in that first game.

      "For the most part, he's kept his composure really well and has just gone about it. Now it's going to heat up, and this is also his first road game, too. I think he's a pretty confident kid. He works hard and wants to get better, so hopefully we'll continue to see improvement."

      The Yellow Jackets' ability to control the pace of the game with its punishing ground attack (396 yards per game, second in the nation) is what concerns Richt.

      "A 10-play, 12-play, 18-play drive is not a shock," Richt said. "It happens. If they're backed up on the 10, you almost get nervous that they're backed up on the 10 because they're going to methodically go down the field and probably chew up 10 minutes and stick it in the end zone on you.

      "The key to this game is going to be to get some stops. The turnover margin is going to be huge."

  • Surprising No. 24 Texas Tech runs to West Virginia
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    There are a lot of surprising things about Texas Tech this season, none quite as stunning as the No. 24 Red Raiders' proficiency for running the ball and taking some pressure off their vaunted Air Raid attack.

    • That newfound success will be challenged when Texas Tech, a ranked team for the first time since November 2013, travels for a key Big 12 battle with West Virginia on Saturday. Kickoff is at noon ET at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.

      The Red Raiders (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) head to West Virginia on the heels of a dominating 65-19 win Saturday at Kansas, a team that played the Mountaineers much closer a week earlier.

      Texas Tech was also ranked prior to its 2013 meeting at West Virginia, when the Red Raiders secured a 37-27 victory in Morgantown. The 4-1 start equals their best record since that 2013 season, when the Red Raiders won seven consecutive games to start the year.

      Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury has spoken at length this year about Texas Tech's desire to run the ball effectively, and so far, he is following through.

      Texas Tech gashed Kansas for 313 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, its top rushing total since amassing 325 yards against New Mexico in 2012. Justin Stockton racked up 161 of those yards, and Desmond Nisby pitched in with four touchdown runs.

      The Red Raiders threw for 290 yards, marking just the second time since moving to a high-flying passing offense in 2000 that Tech had more rushing yards than passing yards in a game. The other occurrence came in 2010 against Oklahoma.

      "Texas Tech's numbers are up," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Their runs per game are up. Their yards per rush are way up. It looks like something they're focusing on. It's concerning because they do such a good job throwing the ball and then, you add that, it's more challenging."

      Texas Tech defeated Eastern Washington (56-10), Arizona State (52-45) and Houston (27-24) in addition to Kansas, while losing 41-34 at home to then-No. 15 Oklahoma State.

      Texas Tech isn't looking at this game as a test of where the program stands. The Red Raiders still have TCU, Oklahoma and Texas on the upcoming schedule.

      "When you talk about Oklahoma State and the University of Houston and Arizona State, those are some quality teams that we've played," Kingsbury said.

      West Virginia (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) lost to then-No. 21 Virginia Tech and, last week, to then-No. 8 TCU by identical 31-24 scores. Both games went down to the final seconds with the ball in the hands of Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier.

      Grier passed for 366 yards with three scores and an interception in the loss to the Horned Frogs. He is the first West Virginia quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in each of his first five career games.

      West Virginia wants to run the ball. With senior Justin Crawford (111 yards on 19 carries against TCU), the Mountaineers have the chance to get meaningful yards on every snap and control the game, although their four-game streak of running for at least 200 yards ended at TCU. Backup Kennedy McKoy had just 12 yards on seven carries, and Martell Pettaway had 10 yards on five totes.

      "When (Crawford) was out, we weren't very effective," offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said after the Mountaineers' loss to TCU. "We need to find some other answers when we have to pull him out."

      The Mountaineers ended a four-game losing streak to Texas Tech in 2015 by beating the Red Raiders 31-26 in Morgantown. Texas Tech, in fact, hasn't won in the series -- led 4-2 by the Mountaineers -- since West Virginia's 4-8 season in 2013.

      "We've had good defensive players that have been able to make plays the last couple of years," Holgorsen said. "Hopefully we can do the same this Saturday. It's going to be every bit as challenging."

      Last year in Lubbock, the Mountaineers rolled to an easy 48-17 victory that had Kingsbury shaking his head.

      "West Virginia is a team we've struggled with," Kingsbury said. "There's no doubt they've gotten after us the last couple of years, and we need to play better, otherwise we'll go up there and get embarrassed. We've been working hard at it and hopefully we can be more competitive this season."

      West Virginia has lost nine games in a row to Top 25 teams.

  • Texas, No. 12 Oklahoma meet in Red River Showdown
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and Texas coach Tom Herman will be head coaches in the Red River Showdown for the first time when the teams meet Saturday at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

    • But both are plenty familiar with the rivalry.

      Herman was a graduate assistant under Mack Brown with the Longhorns in 1999 and 2000. Riley spent the last two seasons as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator.

      "I think when you go into one of the most storied rivalries in college football, if not the most, I think it is important that you recognize that this is a big game for a lot of people in both states," Herman said.

      "It's a big game because it's a conference game. It's a big game because of the uniqueness of the Texas State Fair and it being on a neutral site every year -- half the stadium is burnt orange and half the stadium is crimson."

      It's the first time since 1947 that this long-standing rivalry has featured new coaches on both sides in the same season. That year, Blair Cherry's Texas squad beat Bud Wilkinson's Sooners 34-14.

      For both Riley and Herman, the game could be an early reputation-making game.

      Struggles in the series have helped lead to coaches on both sides being shown the door, while successes can lead to a longer grace period.

      "Responsible is probably the word that comes to my mind," Herman said when asked about how this rivalry can affect a coach's legacy.

      "Leading this program is definitely a responsibility unto itself. But I would be naive not to tell you that this rivalry is important to a lot of people -- a lot of stakeholders in this program, a lot of alumni, fans, Texas citizens in the great state of Texas in general. So with that comes a responsibility.

      "I think the only time that can be a negative thing is if by recognizing that responsibility it causes you to perform you jobs or your duties differently that you would if you were preparing for any ballgame."

      Since their season-opening loss to Maryland, Texas (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) has steadily improved, with its only loss since coming in overtime at USC.

      A win over No. 12 Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1) would be a signature victory in Herman's first season -- a year after his Houston Cougars started the season with a signature win over Oklahoma.

      Oklahoma climbed as high as No. 2 in the rankings after beating Ohio State on the road Sept. 9, but has struggled in three games since, winning the first two before last week's 38-31 loss to Iowa State.

      The Sooners haven't lost back-to-back regular-season games since 1999 -- Bob Stoops' first season in Norman.

      The second loss of that stretch came against the Longhorns.

      Riley is trying to avoid a repeat of that stretch.

      "I think in the past after a tough loss -- we haven't had many around here -- but when we've had them, we've been able to respond regardless of who we've played," Riley said. "I would hope that we have enough pride -- and I feel we do have enough pride as a team -- that we'd be motivated to go play Norman Junior High this week."

      That 1999 game was Herman's first Red River game, although the second sticks with him more.

      In 2000, Oklahoma whipped Texas 63-14.

      "I still remember that score," Herman said. "It's embedded into my brain."

      Riley was always aware of the rivalry, growing up in West Texas as the son of two Texas alums.

      But he didn't get his first up-close experience with the Cotton Bowl tradition until 2015, when Riley's offense sputtered and unranked Texas upset No. 10 Oklahoma 24-17.

      "It was a learning experience for me," Riley said of his first game against the Longhorns.

      "It's a different game. It's a different atmosphere. It's closer to a bowl game to me than anything else. I think you've gotta have the kids in the right mind-frame for it, the right mindset, and you've got to be there as a coach and know regardless of what you've seen on tape from either team it's gonna be probably the best and hardest that both those teams have played all year.

      "I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if we'd won, but it was a good learning experience. I sort of felt more prepared going into last year."

  • Defensive lines set stage for No. 13 USC and Utah
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    LOS ANGELES -- Pac-12 football has a longstanding reputation of high-scoring games and wide-open offenses. USC and Utah -- picked to finish first and second in the Pac-12 South media poll prior to the season -- defy the reputation.

    • The No. 13 Trojans (5-1, 3-1) and Utes (4-1, 1-1) can put up points, evident in scoring averages of 35.5 and 32 points per game, respectively. However, each owes its success in the season's first half to defenses with similar traits.

      "Physical guys up front," said Stanford coach David Shaw, whose team is the only opponent to face USC and Utah this season.

      "(Rasheem Green) from USC, he was tough for us to handle. Utah has a couple guys up front, you try to block them and you think you have them, and at the last second you don't have them."

      Keying off the performances of their defensive lines, USC and Utah head into Saturday's matchup at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum boasting impressive statistics. The Utes allow 3.4 yards per carry and 108.8 rushing yards per game, ranking No. 20 nationally against the run.

      USC has been tremendous in generating turnovers, tying Washington State for most in the Pac-12 with 15. The Trojans' consistent pass rush causes fumbles and creates opportunities for interceptions.

      Safety Chris Hawkins credited defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast for consistently introducing new looks that opponents "have never seen before," thus throwing quarterbacks out of rhythm and opening up chances for takeaways.

      "Coach Pendergast, I've got a lot of respect for," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I think he's one of the top defensive coaches in the country."

      Utah has generated 14 turnovers.

      "Looking at Utah's defensive front: No. 1, they're huge," Helton said with a laugh. "They're 300 (pounds) across the board, so really terrific size."

      Utah features tackles Filipo Mokofisi (6-foot-4 and a shade below 300 pounds) and Lowell Lotulelei, a prototype NFL prospect at 6-2, 320 pounds. The Utes also use Leki Fotu, a 6-5, 323-pound presence on the interior.

      The Trojans cannot match the Utes' size up front, but Whittingham said he sees "philosophical" similarities in their schemes.

      The two sides have also faced similar adversity, with two of their top pass-rushers -- defensive ends Kylie Fitts for Utah and Porter Gustin for USC -- sidelined due to injury.

      USC has been without Gustin since the second half of the Trojans' Sept. 16 win over Texas. In that time, Christian Rector has emerged as a primary playmaker along the USC front, playing a variety of positions.

      "The thing that impresses me is how football-smart he's been in playing those positions," Helton said.

      "He's been able to back up Rasheem Green when he's been dinged. He's been able to play opposite of Rasheem on third-down situations in the three-technique, to get a man-on-man matchup on the guard. And now with Porter down, he's been able to move out to defensive end and be productive."

      Rector played his best game statistically last time out, recording seven tackles, including one for loss, and recovering a fumble in USC's 38-10 win over Oregon State on Saturday.

      Utah lost Fitts on Sept. 22 in a win at Arizona. Defensive end Bradlee Anae had his most productive outing in that Arizona contest, recording four tackles and a sack.

      Injuries also shape the offenses taking the field Saturday in the Coliseum. USC's tenacious pass-rush will be in pursuit of one of two quarterbacks: Troy Williams or Tyler Huntley. Huntley was injured at Arizona, forcing 2016 Utah starter Williams back behind center.

      Williams struggled in Saturday's loss to Stanford, going 20-of-39 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions.

      USC sustained a number of injuries along the offensive line in recent weeks. Veterans Toa Lobendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Chuma Edoga were all scratched from the lineup either before or early into the Sept. 29 loss at Washington State. Lobendahn returned last week, and Edoga should start against Utah, but Talamaivao is lost for the season due to his pectoral injury.

      The line will have to protect quarterback Sam Darnold, who hasn't posted Heisman-like numbers. He is 136 of 210 for 1,705 yards and 12 touchdowns, but the interception total -- nine -- has been troublesome. He threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns versus Oregon State, though.

      "Once we get the flow going, we're going to be a hard team to stop," he said. "It's just a matter of when."

  • No. 9 Ohio State poses major challenge for Nebraska
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    A matchup between two of the winningest programs in college football history normally would be a marquee date on the schedule, but Saturday night's Ohio State-Nebraska game does not have that cache this season.

    • The ninth-ranked Buckeyes go into Lincoln, Neb., for the Big Ten matchup (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1) as prohibitive favorites over the Cornhuskers.

      Ohio State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) has rattled off four consecutive victories after a loss at home to Oklahoma in the second week of the season. The Buckeyes won those three games in dominating fashion but, as coach Urban Meyer admits, against weaker opponents.

      "They've been hitting on all cylinders for sure," Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. "Defensively, playing fast, and they're talented and they're well coached, and same thing offensively."

      The same can't be said for Nebraska. Quarterback Tanner Lee has thrown a Big Ten-worst 10 interceptions, and the Cornhuskers (3-3, 2-1) have been just average on both sides of the ball, which is reflected in their .500 overall record.

      Nebraska is coming off a 38-17 home loss to then-No. 9 Wisconsin in a game that was tied at 17 in the third quarter. One of Nebraska's nonconference losses, to Northern Illinois, was the first in school history to a Mid-American Conference team.

      This week, the Cornhuskers face another Top 10 opponent. The last time Nebraska played Top 10 teams back to back was in 2008 when it lost to Missouri and Texas Tech while still a member of the Big 12.

      The Cornhuskers faced the Buckeyes a year ago in Columbus, and it didn't go well for in a 62-3 loss.

      "It was tough to watch," Lee said. "I mean, obviously, they will have the same talented team as they do, as they seem to have every year. They will be quick, athletic, and strong up front. So that will be a good challenge again for us this week."

      Ohio State and Nebraska have met three times since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, with the Buckeyes winning two. Their lone loss was in Lincoln in 2011, when they blew a 21-point lead in a 34-27 win for Nebraska.

      The following year, Meyer took over as Ohio State's coach and the Buckeyes have proved almost impossible to beat on the road in Big Ten games since then. They're 21-1 away from home in conference player under Meyer.

      A Nebraska win this year would be a significant upset, though the Cornhuskers are expected to put up a better fight that the Buckeyes' last four opponents.

      "I think about the way they're playing right now, they're playing at a high level since that one loss and outscoring opponents," Riley said of Ohio State. "They're versatile and productive offensively in almost every category, near the top (nationally) in everything. Same thing defensively, so it's a major, major challenge for us."

      Ohio State's offense, led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, is No. 1 in the Big Ten in total offense and scoring offense, and is second in rushing. The Buckeyes possess multiple weapons at running back (Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins) and at wide receiver (Parris Campbell, Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill).

      The question mark on offense this week is up front. Right guard Branden Bowen suffered a season-ending injury last week in Ohio State's 62-14 win over Maryland. Matt Burrell finished the rest of that game, but Meyer said there's a three-way competition to win the starting job.

      "It's wide open right now (between) Malcolm Pridgeon, Matt Burrell and Demetrius Knox," he said.

      Ohio State's defense couldn't have been much more dominant last week. Maryland managed to gain just 66 total yards.

      Since the defense was manhandled by Oklahoma, it has been on an upward trajectory. But linebacker Jerome Baker, who returned a fumble for a touchdown against Maryland, believes the Buckeyes are only scratching the surface of their potential.

      "We have so much to improve on and so much to do," Baker said.

      Nebraska will have its hands full with Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa (Big Ten-leading 10.5 tackles for loss) and company. The Buckeyes also welcome back defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones after he missed two games with an injury, and safety Erick Smith is back on the depth chart after sitting out due to disciplinary action.

      Ohio State will be without cornerback Damon Arnette for the first half after he was called for targeting last week. Safety Denzel Ward also was called for targeting in the same game on a fumble-causing hit, but the Big Ten acknowledged Tuesday that the replay official erred.

      That means Ward will be available against Nebraska. But Meyer was not happy about the call.

      "Concerned, irate, all of the above," he said. "It's not the person on the field. Those are snap judgments. I still to this day don't understand how that happens. That's for the higher-ups to figure out. 'Concerned' is probably not strong enough."

  • No. 17 Michigan seeks to extend mastery of Indiana
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- If you like punting, Michigan-Indiana might be the game for you.

    • "You got the top two teams in the country defensively in three-and-outs coming to play on Saturday," Indiana coach Tom Allen said.

      The Hoosiers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) are ranked No. 2 in three-and-outs and will be hosting the leader in that category, No. 17 Michigan, on Saturday in Big Ten action.

      History indicates that Indiana will blink first. The Wolverines (4-1, 1-1) have won 21 consecutive games in the series. The Hoosiers' last win over Michigan was 30 years ago in Bloomington.

      Allen said Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is one of the best around.

      "I have a ton of respect for him," Allen said. "I always kind of studied what they do. Don't really know him, never met him, but have always watched (his teams)."

      The Wolverines rank No. 1 nationally in total defense, allowing 213 yards per game.

      Michigan senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is playing superbly in the trenches with 26 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, while senior outside linebacker Mike McCray (34 stops, 5.5 for loss) is also playing at a high level. Defensive end Chase Winovich leads the Big Ten with 5.5 sacks.

      "They create a lot of havoc, a lot of movement, that's why they create a lot of sacks," Allen said.

      Indiana is averaging just 3.59 yards per carry, which is a troublesome stat against the Wolverines' stout front. Freshman running back Morgan Ellison leads the Hoosiers with 358 on 69 carries.

      The Hoosiers are ranked No. 47 in total defense but are coming off a 27-0 win over visiting Charleston Southern on Saturday.

      "To hold a team to a shutout, the first time since 1993, is a big deal," Allen said. "I think it's hard to do that, no matter who you're playing."

      Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said senior John O'Korn will remain as his starting quarterback, not that he has a lot of good options. O'Korn took over when senior Wilton Speight sustained multiple cracked vertebrae in his neck in the first quarter at Purdue on Sept. 23.

      Harbaugh said Speight would be out multiple weeks, but wasn't sure if the quarterback would miss the rest of the season.

      Behind O'Korn on the depth chart are redshirt freshman Brandon Peters and true freshman Dylan McCaffrey. Peters has thrown one collegiate pass, while McCaffrey hasn't taken a snap.

      O'Korn has completed 35 of 62 passes for 503 yards with four interceptions and one touchdown this season. He threw three interceptions Saturday in the Wolverines' 14-10 loss to Michigan State.

      "We'll go through it, we'll make corrections, we'll make improvements and we'll move on," Harbaugh said.

      O'Korn struggled against Indiana last season in his first start for Michigan, when he was just 7 of 16 for 59 yards.

      Allen said Speight and O'Korn have similarities.

      "I don't think there is a huge drop-off; there is not a big difference," Allen said. "It's a very similar skill set, similar size. I think O'Korn is more mobile, he creates more issues there, for sure."

      Harbaugh said there is no frustration carryover from the loss to the team's in-state rival.

      "We're fortunate to have an opponent to play this week and ready to attack this week's opportunity," Harbaugh said. "(The Hoosiers are) a good football team. We've had competitive games with them. They're playing very good this year, especially at home. They have a very good defense, very athletic."

      Hoosiers redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who had been sharing time with fifth-year senior Richard Lagow, made his first start against Charleston Southern. Lagow did not play. Ramsey completed 32 of 41 passes for 321 yards.

      "I thought Peyton did a nice job of running the offense and being a good distributor of the ball, throwing for over 300 yards in a very methodical type of way," Allen said.

      Harbaugh is impressed with Ramsey and Lagow.

      "Both their quarterbacks are good players and comfortable throwing the ball from their pocket or moving and making athletic plays," Harbaugh said.

      Allen expects Michigan to be plenty motivated.

      "There's no question they will come back with resurgence in their focus in some ways," Allen said. "It's a Big Ten game, and we expect to get their very best."

  • No. 10 Auburn begins tough road stretch against LSU
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    When No. 10 Auburn visits LSU on Saturday, both sets of Tigers will have something to prove.

    • After losing to No. 2 Clemson and handling an otherwise relatively soft schedule, Auburn (5-1, 3-0) aims to prove worthy of its ranking and should be taken seriously as an SEC and College Football Playoff contender. This game is the first of three straight SEC road games.

      After being routed by Mississippi State in its SEC opener and being stunned by Troy, LSU beat then-No. 21 Florida on the road last week. Now a second consecutive victory against a ranked team would show that LSU (4-2, 1-1) is an SEC contender despite the slow start.

      Auburn has won four in a row since the 14-6 loss at Clemson. The last three have come against SEC opponents Missouri, Mississippi State and Ole Miss, who have a combined conference record of 1-7 with the only victory being Mississippi State's 37-7 victory against LSU.

      "Our message has been each week to get better, and the last three weeks I feel like we've done that," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "I told our team we have not arrived and that I will let them know when we arrive."

      After visiting LSU, where Auburn has lost eight consecutive games, Auburn travels to Arkansas, has an open date and visits Texas A&M. The next home game is Nov. 11 against No. 4 Georgia and two weeks later, Auburn hosts No. 1 Alabama.

      "The meat of our schedule is coming up," Malzahn said.

      Auburn's only road games have been against defending national champion Clemson and Missouri.

      "It's going to be a long stretch not playing (at home), but we're ready for it," Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham told AL.com. "We're a very confident team right now. We're jelling at the right time, but we're not complacent. Obviously, we've had some really good games the last couple of weeks."

      Auburn has scored at least 44 points in each of the SEC wins. Kerryon Johnson has scored 11 of his nation-leading 12 touchdowns in those games, and Stidham has completed 79.1 percent of his passes in the last four games.

      "We knew we were underachieving the first couple of weeks," Johnson told AL.com. "That's almost 50 points for three straight weeks; that's a pretty good stride."

      So is the performance of Auburn's defense, which ranks in the Top 25 nationally in most defensive categories, including No. 6 in scoring defense.

      LSU hopes it started to hit its stride in the victory against Florida. After the loss to Mississippi State, LSU had trouble shaking off Syracuse before prevailing 35-26, and then lost to Troy.

      That three-game stretch had many supporters questioning whether LSU made a mistake when it hired Ed Orgeron as its full-time head coach after last season. Orgeron had been promoted from defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator to interim head coach after an 18-13 loss at Auburn dropped LSU to 2-2 last season. The team went 6-2 under Orgeron.

      "We gave it all we had all week," Orgeron said of the bounce-back win at Florida. "It was every ounce of energy, every person in the building gave it. And that's what it takes, and our mindset was of that.

      "And we finally galvanized as a team. I don't think before we were playing as a team. I think we galvanized as a staff. I think that was important. We had better practices."

      LSU running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams have been hobbled by leg injuries, but both should be ready to go Saturday.

      Guice, who led the SEC in rushing last season, has not had a 100-yard game since Sept. 9.

      "Is he hurting? Yes," Orgeron said of Guice. "Is he limited right now? Yes. But he is getting better."

      So too is defensive end Rashard Lawrence, who has been nagged by ankle injuries most of the season. Fellow end Frank Herron will make his season debut after being sidelined for an undisclosed reason.

      With LSU getting key players back, it has a chance to show it's a better team than it was in its two losses. This game is also a chance for Auburn to show it's in the upper tier of teams in the SEC and the country.

  • No. 21 Michigan State tries to continue resurgence vs. Minnesota
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    Michigan State is surprisingly back on the national radar and the reason can be summed up quickly.

    • The No. 21 Spartans have already won more games this season than they did all last year.

      Michigan State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) looks to continue its impressive rebound from last season's 3-9 campaign when it visits Minnesota on Saturday.

      The Spartans are fresh off consecutive victories over Iowa and Michigan, and coach Mark Dantonio will be closely observing how his team handles the success.

      "The message to our football team right now is, 'What are you going to do now? How are you going to respond?'" Dantonio said during a press conference. "Whether it was after a loss or after a win, how are we going to handle anything that comes our way now?

      "We're going to be judged by our next thing. The next thing on our agenda is Minnesota. We go north and think (about) them."

      The Golden Gophers (3-2, 0-2) have dropped their last two games as they adjust to the methods of first-year coach P.J. Fleck.

      Minnesota allowed 31 points in each setback to Maryland and Purdue, and fifth-year senior quarterback Conor Rhoda has come under fire for his miscues, which include a lost fumble and an interception in last Saturday's 31-17 loss to the Boilermakers.

      Fleck said he isn't considering a quarterback change -- he is mindful that Rhoda threw only 17 career passes prior to this season.

      "Well, he's the best quarterback we have right now," Fleck said. "That's the easiest way to be able to go through it in my mind as a head football coach. I mean, we wouldn't be 3-2 if it wasn't for Conor Rhoda, right?

      "But one thing I'll say about Conor Rhoda is, you know, he's played six total games in his entire career and we want him to have 60 years of experience or 60 games of experience in six games, and say: 'Why do you do this? Why do you do that?'"

      Rhoda has passed for 786 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions. His top target is sophomore Tyler Johnson, who has 17 receptions for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

      Juniors Rodney Smith (398 yards, two touchdowns) and sophomore Shannon Brooks (315 yards, five scores) form a fine backfield duo. Smith has career eight 100-yard games.

      Minnesota averages 28 points per game but could find it tough to approach that against the stingy Michigan State defense that forced five turnovers in Saturday's 14-10 victory over Michigan.

      The Spartans rank fourth nationally in total defense at 258.6 yards per game. Michigan State is tied for 11th in rushing defense (97.2 yards per game), and is 13th in scoring defense (16.4) and passing defense (161.4).

      Three sophomores have played a major role in the defensive success. Middle linebacker Joe Bachie has a team-high 44 tackles (including five for losses), defensive end Kenny Willekes has a team-best six tackles for loss and safety David Dowell has a team-leading two interceptions.

      Offensively, the Spartans are far from flashy while averaging 22.4 points per game.

      Sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke is a scrappy player who is completing 61.3 percent of his passes and also leads the team with 309 rushing yards. Lewerke has passed for 1,057 yards and nine touchdowns against two interceptions.

      Junior running back LJ Scott (214 yards, one touchdown) is expected back after missing the Michigan game. Dantonio said Scott sat out because he was "nicked up."

      The Spartans will look to find ways to get junior Felton Davis (22 receptions, 265 yards, four touchdowns) and sophomore Darrell Stewart (20 for 212, one score) open downfield against a Minnesota secondary that could be without starting safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Duke McGhee.

      Winfield, a sophomore, is nursing a hamstring injury, while McGhee, a senior, has missed two straight games because of suspension. Fleck hasn't yet decided whether to reinstate McGhee.

      "Duke will possibly be back," Fleck said. "We'll see how his week of practice goes."

      Senior linebacker Jonathan Celestin is Minnesota's leading tackler with 41.

      Momentum aside, Dantonio isn't expecting an easy time Saturday.

      "I think Minnesota is a football team right now that's growing," Dantonio said. "Obviously has a new culture there. There's new things going on. I think Coach Fleck is doing an outstanding job up there. They play extremely hard. They've been in every football game and had opportunities to win."

      Saturday's game will mark the first meeting since Michigan State recorded a 14-3 home win in 2013. The Spartans have won the last four matchups and lead the series 29-17.

  • No. 5 Washington faces ASU after dark
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    TEMPE, Ariz. -- ESPN's snarky cupcake graphic mocking Washington's early schedule did not get in the way of the poll voters this week, when the No. 5 Huskies used another victory to take another step in their gradual ascent in the rankings.

    • All a team can do is beat the teams it plays, and Washington has done all it can toward securing its second straight appearance in the four-team College Football Playoff before the selection committee's initial poll -- the only one that really matters -- comes out on Halloween.

      The Huskies (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) will attempt to keep rolling in their third Pac-12 road game in four weeks against Arizona State (2-3, 1-1) at Sun Devil Stadium at 10:45 p.m. ET.

      It will be Washington's second straight late start on an ESPN telecast -- and a fact that drew Washington coach Chris Petersen into a dispute with the network last week over late Pac-12 start times.

      "I'm not really a political guy," Petersen said. "I just try to be honest. There are certain times you do stand up for certain things, and then you move on. What I need to do is move on and concentrate on Arizona State. That's the most important thing for us."

      Washington is led by junior quarterback Jake Browning, junior running back Myles Gaskin and a defense that is ranked No. 2 nationally in yards allowed (228.8 yards per game). The Huskies are third in the country in rushing defense and have held each of their conference opponents to one touchdown apiece.

      Browning, the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, has completed 122 of 173 passes for 1,466 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. Gaskin has rushed for 559 yards and eight touchdowns, and he set a career high with 202 yards rushing on 24 carries in a 37-10 victory at Colorado on Sept. 23.

      Washington is averaging 43 points a game, tied with Alabama and Oregon for 10th in the FBS. The Huskies are averaging 432.2 yards of offense. Freshman tight end Hunter Bryant had a breakout game last week against Cal with nine receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown.

      "You've got to stop the run," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "Gaskin is a really good back. (Lavon) Coleman is a really good back as well. They're going to run the ball. I think where they've really matured is on the offensive line. Their offensive line is very good, very physical."

      On the other side of the ball, California's only touchdown in a 38-7 loss at Seattle last week was on a fumble recovery by the defense. Washington limited the Bears to nine first downs and 93 yards of offense. The Huskies have a plus-7 turnover margin, with 13 takeaways, and have scored two touchdowns on interception returns.

      "Each week we've kind of grown in certain areas," Petersen said. "That's kind of what it's all about. There are certain things we come out of every game where we're like, 'That just didn't feel like or look right, and how we get better from that?' Each week I think the kids have really responded."

      With junior quarterback Manny Wilkins leading the way, Arizona State can move the ball. The Sun Devils are averaging almost 427 yards a game. Wilkins has thrown for 1,452 yards -- just 14 fewer than Browning -- and has eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

      At the same time, Arizona State has given up an average of 484.2 yards a game, ranked No. 118 among the 129 FBS teams.

      The Sun Devils had a bye last week after a 34-24 loss at Stanford on Sept. 30 in which the Cardinal had 504 yards in total offense. Stanford halfback Bryce Love rushed for a school-record 301 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Wilkins was sacked three times and threw his first two interceptions of the season.

      Arizona State senior halfback Demario Richard rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns at Stanford, and the Sun Devils had a season-high 214 yards. Richard also had 57 receiving yards to reach 3,019 career all-purpose yards.

      ASU can be dangerous at home. The Huskies' 44-10 victory in Seattle last November ended the Sun Devils' 10-game series winning streak, and Arizona State has won six straight in the series at Sun Devil Stadium, dating to 2001.

      Arizona State beat then-No. 24 Oregon at home on Sept. 23, and it can gain motivation from the fact that the Pac-12 South is wide open. Each of the six teams has at least one loss.

      "They are obviously the team to beat in our league," Graham said of Washington. "Very good personnel. Defense, seems like those guys have been playing together for three, four years. They are very, very good at what they do."

  • No. 4 Georgia's task: stay focused vs. Missouri
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 4 Georgia is looking to move to 7-0 for the first time since 2005, which is also the last time the Bulldogs won the SEC championship.

    • It's that kind of talk that makes coach Kirby Smart worry about his team losing focus.

      Don't let him hear that Saturday's opponent -- the struggling Missouri Tigers (1-4, 0-3 SEC) -- will be a pushover when the teams meet in Sanford Stadium.

      "We don't talk about what we're ranked. We didn't talk about what we were ranked last week. There's really no difference because none of it matters. All we talk about is a race," Smart said.

      "The race is after the 50-meter mark and that's where the race is. I don't know one person that ever talked about (Justin) Gatlin being ahead of (Usain) Bolt at the 50-meter mark. Nobody cared. They only care about where you finish and they only care about what you do next. That's our objective -- to do what's next."

      Georgia (6-0, 3-0) ranks first in the SEC in total defense (third nationally), allowing just 242.7 yards per game. The Bulldogs are also fifth in the NCAA against the run (86 yards per game) and 10th against the pass (156.7), while Georgia's offense is bolstered by a punishing ground attack that ranks 11th in the nation, averaging 268.3 yards per game.

      Missouri, meanwhile, is struggling defensively as much -- if not more -- than of any of the 14 teams in the SEC. The Tigers are allowing 40.0 points per game.

      They have lost four straight since beating Missouri State 72-43 in the season-opener, last week dropping a heartbreaking 40-34 decision to Kentucky, a game in which the Tigers overcame a 13-0 deficit to tie the game twice in the second half.

      Turnovers again proved costly for Mizzou, as the Tigers' two miscues (both fumbles), were converted into 14 points by Kentucky, while Missouri's one interception gained was not turned into points.

      "All losses are difficult and hard, but this one hurt a little more because our preparation and the fact everybody was buying in," Missouri coach Barry Odom said.

      "We had some very competitive practices going into the bye week, and felt every one of our guys was prepared and invested as a team to be successful. We just came up short. It hurts but that is probably a good thing because it shows we've got guys who care. We've made some progress, we've just got to break down a wall."

      As Smart is quick to point out, the Tigers can play some offense.

      Led by quarterback Drew Lock, Missouri is averaging 469.8 yards per game (294 yards passing, 175.8 rushing) and averaging 27.2 points per game. But so much of those numbers are boosted by the game against FCS Missouri State. Against four Power Five conference teams, the Tigers are averaging just 16 points.

      "My first thing is that I would say people mistake Mizzou," Smart said.

      "Mizzou is a very 50/50 balanced team and a lot of the passes you see from Mizzou are RPOs, which are dictated by what the defense does -- so they are a designed run with a pass attached. They are a very, very good running football team when it comes to execution. They get people out of the box. they spread you out and then they attack you.

      "If you do not control the run game, it will be a long night because they will just do that. Now, can they throw the ball vertically down the field? Yes. They throw it well and they have some weapons to do it with."

      Georgia counters with a tenacious front seven, led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who has a team-high 45 tackles.

      Missouri, meanwhile, will have to deal with a Georgia running game that gashed Vanderbilt for 423 rushing yards, 138 from senior Nick Chubb, who ranks seventh in SEC history with 4,042 yards. Teammate Sony Michel led the way with 150 against the Commodores.

      True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has been poised and efficient, completing 57 of 95 passes for 836 yards, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

      "They've got as good a stable of backs as anybody in the country," Odom said. "They play tough and physical on the offensive line, and their quarterback is playing well. We've got our work cut out."