College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Michigan State's Cook expects to return in 2015
    By The Sports Xchange

    On The Dan Patrick Show this week, Michigan State junior quarterback Connor Cook said he intends to bypass the 2015 NFL Draft and return to the Spartans for his senior season.

    • "That's the main goal," Cook said in response to possibly going pro early. "I've always talked about it with my parents and stuff, and you want to use up your eligibility. Michigan State's a great place, and I've had a lot of fun here and I had a lot of great relationships.

      "My goal, my main priority is to use up my years here at Michigan State."

      Cook is currently ranked as the No. 3 draft-eligible quarterback for the 2015 NFL Draft by NFLDraftscout.com and a possible first-round pick.

      At 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds, Cook has the requisite size and arm strength for the NFL, displaying adequate athleticism and mobility to extend plays with his legs.

      Cook became the Spartans' starting quarterback last season and has started the past 21 games, with a 19-2 record during that span while showing consistent improvement in several areas. Cook has impressive confidence and command on the field, and his game tapes are filled with NFL throw after NFL throw.

      In the Super Bowl era, Michigan State hasn't had a quarterback drafted among the top 40 picks, but Cook has the talent and potential to change that, whether he is in the 2015 or 2016 NFL Draft.

      Cook did add that "things could change" between now and the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2015 NFL Draft if he were to be assured of being a top-10 pick. But Cook quickly followed by saying, "I don't think that's gonna happen."

      Cook has completed 120 of 198 passes for 1,868 yards with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He has passed for 200 yards or more six times this season.

      The Spartans (7-1, 4-0) have a bye this weekend before their Big Ten showdown with Ohio State the following Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Michigan AD Brandon resigns
    By The Sports Xchange

    Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon resigned Friday after being at the center of controversy all season, including the football team's mishandling of quarterback Shane Morris' head injury and issues with students' ticket prices.

    • University president Mark Schlissel, who took office in July, made the announcement at a Friday afternoon news conference.

      "Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and the university to continue without daily distractions," Schlissel said.

      Schlissel said he would begin searching for Brandon's replacement immediately. The president said previous ties to the school or its sports teams are not a prerequisite for the job.

      "I think we need the very best person possible to do this job," Schlissel said. "Certainly, people that have a connection to Michigan know many things about the university. I can tell you, though, despite the fact that I've only been here for about 110 days, I feel like a Michigan man already."

      Jim Hackett, who played under legendary coach Bo Schembechler and has a long career as a corporate executive, will fill the AD job on an interim basis. Hackett, a 1977 Michigan graduate, comes back to the university after two decades as chief executive of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Steelcase Inc., one of the world's largest office furniture makers. He currently sits on the board of advisors for two academic programs at the university.

      "Dave was a teammate of mine in the '70s, and I knew him during my business career here in Michigan," Hackett said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and thank him again for an extraordinary commitment to this university."

      Hackett, who retired in February 2014, was credited with steering Steelcase Inc. through a major reorganization that shed half the company's Grand Rapids workforce. Over the years, he eliminated 12,000 jobs and cut the company's 57 facilities by more than half, according to the Detoit Free Press.

      Schlissel said Hackett will help him select a permanent replacement and will have all the powers of the athletic director until a new hire is made.

      Brandon, whose contract had been extended through June 2018, did not attend the news conference. His salary for the 2014-15 academic year was $900,000 and was scheduled to reach $1 million annually within the next two years.

      Brandon, the former CEO of Dominos Pizza, was hired as the athletic director in January 2010 and took office two months later.

      Brandon had been under intense scrutiny this year, particularly during the past five weeks.

      Earlier this week, Mgoblog.com posted emails that fans wrote to Brandon with their concerns about the athletic department. The website reviewed email exchanges between Brandon and several different fans in which he allegedly told one to "quit drinking and go to bed" and another to "find a new team to support." Reached for comment, a Michigan spokesman told ESPN.com the school had "nothing else to add."

      Students were upset when Brandon, who was in his fifth year as AD, reworked the seating arrangements for football games without consulting them and raised season ticket prices for students to the highest in the Big Ten. Brandon then attempted to fix the issue by dramatically dropping the price and promising to be more connected to the student body.

      The Michigan Daily reported that students had planned to distribute 2,000 "#FireDaveBrandon" T-shirts for Saturday's homecoming game against Indiana.

      The Michigan football program has floundered under coach Brady Hoke in his three seasons. The Wolverines are 3-5 overall after last weekend's 35-11 loss to Michigan State, their sixth loss in seven seasons against their rival. Hoke is 18-16 since winning the Sugar Bowl in his debut season as the Wolverines coach in 2011.

      A month ago, Brandon said in a statement sent to the media at 12:50 a.m. that mistakes were made in handling Morris' "probable, minor concussion."

      "Shane came off the field after the following play and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury," Brandon said on Sept. 30. "Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play."

      Hoke had said that the quarterback aggravated a leg injury he suffered earlier in the game against Minnesota.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Stoops gets another contract extension
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kentucky extended the contract of coach Mark Stoops for the second time in six months on Friday.

    • The school announced an agreement that adds six months to the deal, from June 30, 2019, to the end of 2019. No mention was made of any possible changes to Stoops' salary.

      In Stoops' second season at Kentucky, he has taken the program form two wins in 2013 to a 5-3 record this year. One more win and the Wildcats will be bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

      "Mark is guiding our program in the direction we all want it to go and we are proud to reward that," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart wrote on Twitter. "I was confident Mark was right for this job when I hired him, but he has exceeded my expectations. From leading a group of young men to recruiting to fundraising, Mark has embraced and excelled in all facets of this job.

      "I am excited about the progress our team has shown on the field, but this is as much about the next five years as it is the last 1.5. As I've said before, I believe we can compete at the highest level in the toughest conference. @UKCoachStoops is the coach to take us there."

      Stoops has upgraded the talent at Kentucky, with his 2014 recruiting class finishing in the top 25 nationally and his 2015 class already among the top 25.

      As a result of Stoops' success, the university plans a $110 million renovation to Commonwealth Stadium.

      Kentucky finishes the regular season with games against Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee and Louisville.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Texas A&M benches QB Hill
    By The Sports Xchange

    Five-star freshman quarterback Kyle Allen will start for Texas A&M on Saturday, sending Kenny Hill to the bench.

    • Allen lost a competition in fall camp to Hill, who started the season with a school-record 511 yards passing at South Carolina and pushed the Aggies to a 5-0 start.

      But the ride became bumpy during a three-game losing streak that culminated last week with a 59-0 loss at Alabama. The numbers aren't there for Hill, either. He has 264 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games.

      Head coach Kevin Sumlin sent a messsage to the entire team when he said after the loss to Alabama that all starting positions were re-opened. Sumlin said he will not announce starters before Saturday.

      Allen ran the first-team offense in Thursday's practice.

      Louisiana-Monroe comes to A&M this week, but the schedule is challenging for the Aggies. On Nov. 8, A&M plays at Auburn with Missouri and LSU left on the Southeastern Conference slate.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Georgia vs. Florida
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

      TV: CBS

      SERIES: Georgia leads Florida 49-40-2 or maybe 50-40-2 depending on whom you ask. Florida does not recognize its 1904 loss to the Bulldogs. Whatever, what's plain is that the Bulldogs have won three in a row in the series after last year's 23-30 victory.

      RANKINGS: Georgia 9th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Georgia sophomore linebacker Leonard Floyd is learning the intensity of the Florida-Georgia rivalry.

      "There's a lot of trash talk going on out there," Floyd said. "We've got bad blood for 'em. We're going to be pretty amped up and ready to play them."

      Georgia will look to win its fourth straight game against the reeling Gators. The Bulldogs enter the game as a double-digit favorite, but they aren't taking the Gators lightly.

      Without running back Todd Gurley, who will sit out his third game as a penalty for taking money for autographs, Georgia has rallied for back-to-back wins over Missouri and Arkansas behind an opportunistic defense (a combined nine forced turnovers in the two games) and the strong play of freshman running back Nick Chubb.

      Chubb has averaged 172.5 yards per game over his last two outings. Like Florida, Georgia is coming off a bye.

      "We're looking forward to this game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "It's very meaningful to us. We're all trying to get to Atlanta (for the SEC title game), so that's what we're trying to do this weekend."

      Embattled Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose job could be on the line, knows both sides of the Florida-Georgia rivalry and is aware how meaningful a Gator win would be over the rival Bulldogs.

      "It's a critical game," Muschamp said. "It's an East rival. It's an SEC rival. It's a rival of the University of Florida. And it's very important to our university."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Bulldogs

      --QB Hutson Mason will be starting his first and only game in the Florida-Georgia rivalry. Mason has been efficient this season, completing 69.2 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

      --RB Nick Chubb has proven more than a capable replacement, averaging 172.5 yards per game in two starts as RB Todd Gurley's replacement. For the season, Chubb has rushed for 569 yards and 5.7 yards per carry with five touchdowns.

      --LB Amarlo Herrera has remained the heart and soul of Georgia's defense. Herrera has been strong against the run as an inside linebacker all season long with a team-high 57 tackles, which includes six tackles for loss and three sacks.

      --CB Damian Swann is putting together a strong senior season. Swann is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and also has two forced fumbles.

      Gators

      --QB Treon Harris will get his first career start in one of the biggest rivalry games of Florida's season. In three career games, Harris is 12-of-18 for 263 yards with three TDs and one interception.

      --WR Demarcus Robinson was tabbed by coach Will Muschamp as "the lone consistent productive receiver for the Gators this season." Robinson has a team-high 34 catches, 524 yards receiving and four TDs.

      --DE Alex McCalister is quietly emerging into a reliable pass rusher for the Gators this season. McCalister has five tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks.

      --LB Antonio Morrison has been one of the bright spots on the Gators defense this season. He has a team-high 52 tackles 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Notre Dame vs. Navy
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland

      TV: CBS

      SERIES: Notre Dame leads Navy 74-12-1. The Irish have won three straight in the series, including last year in South Bend 38-34.

      RANKINGS: Notre Dame 6th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Handling Navy's triple option is worrisome to a team that doesn't face it very often.

      But with yearly meetings with the Midshipmen -- now 88 and counting -- the Irish know full well what to expect.

      Still, the Notre Dame defense will have to be alert and adaptable in facing the Middies.

      "They do what they do better than anybody can defend it," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "So you have to change up your looks, and you have to be extremely disciplined in what your plan is, and that's really the bottom line.

      "You've got to go in there knowing that they do it better because they practice it every day. ... You've got to change it up on them and you have to be very disciplined at what you do. If you do that, then you've got a fighting chance."

      The Irish are coming off a 31-27 loss to Florida State and had a bye week as Navy beat San Jose State 41-31 last Saturday.

      After losing 43 straight times to Notre Dame (1964-2006), Navy has won three of the last seven meetings and taken the Fighting Irish to the wire in two defeats, including last year in South Bend, 38-34.

      The Midshipmen have struggled this year, mirroring the play of quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

      The junior had his best game last week San Jose State, completing four of his seven pass attempts for 56 yards and rushing for a whopping 251 yards on 39 carries. He also scored three touchdowns.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Fighting Irish

      --QB Everett Golson had his fourth three-TD pass game of the year and the fifth of his career against the Seminoles. His 31 career TD passes tie Joe Theismann (1968-70) for seventh in Notre Dame history.

      --RB Tarean Folston had his second career 100-yard rushing game two weeks ago against Florida State. He had a 140-yard effort against Navy a year ago.

      --DL Jarron Jones had three tackles for loss vs. the Seminoles. He entered the game with three TFLs in his 18-game Irish career

      --LB Joe Schmidt recorded his second career interception during the second quarter against the Seminoles. His other came on Sept. 13 against Purdue.

      Midshipmen

      --QB Keenan Reynolds was his former self last week against San Jose State rushing 39 times for 251 yards, both career highs. In Navy's triple-option scheme, everything hinges on the play of Reynolds and his ability to take care of the ball.

      --FB Noah Copeland is averaging 8.7 yards per carry from a spot that is key to Navy's ability to control the football. He gained 70 yards on just nine rushes against San Jose.

      --LB Chris Johnson is one of Navy's most athletic defenders will play a big role as the Mids try to keep Golson in the pocket. He has 52 tackles with three for losses on the season.

      --S Parrish Gaines lead the Midshipman in interceptions with three of the team's six picks. He has also broken up two other passes and is credited with 24 tackles.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Stanford at Oregon
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:35 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

      TV: Fox Sports

      SERIES: Stanford is 46-30-1 against Oregon in a series that dates back to 1900. The Cardinal has won its last two games against the Ducks, beating them 17-14 in overtime in 2012 and 26-20 in 2013.

      RANKINGS: Oregon 5th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Oregon can practically wrap up the Pac-12 North Division with a win over Stanford, but history shows that will be a tough task.

      Oregon has watched its national-title and conference championship hopes end with a loss to the Cardinal in each of the past two years. Oregon went 12-1 with a lone loss to Stanford in 2012 and last year the Ducks started out 8-0 before a loss to the Cardinal.

      The Ducks are one game ahead of Stanford in the division heading into November and with a victory would have a two-game cushion with three to play as they seek their first division title in three years.

      But if the Cardinal defeats the Ducks, the two teams would be tied for first place.

      Oregon is trying not to get too hyped for the matchup.

      "I think one mistake we might have made last year was putting a little too much focus on this game," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "We had the game -- in my mind, it was circled at the beginning of the year. I think a lot of players had it circled in their minds at the beginning of the year and we didn't play our best."

      Stanford is coming off one of its best offensive performances of the season with 438 yard in total offense in the 38-14 victory over Oregon State, but coach David Shaw was already thinking of his defense and the task in faces against Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who leads one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.

      Mariota, a Heisman Trophy candidate, has thrown for 2,283 yards, with 24 touchdowns and one interception. He also has rushed for 325 yards and five touchdowns.

      "The matchup with Oregon starts with Marcus Mariota," Shaw said. "Forget about what we do on offense. The matchup starts with him -- not trying to stop him, trying to contain him as best we can.

      "He's the best player in college football."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Cardinal

      --QB Kevin Hogan struggled in last season's 26-20 victory over Oregon, completing just 7 of 13 passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns. In the win over Oregon State, he threw for 277 yards and two long touchdown passes on 18-of-28 passing.

      --RB Remound Wright was shut down against Oregon State. Wright had a team-high nine carries but gained only eight yards.

      --RB Christian McCaffrey should get more touches against Oregon following a breakout performance against Oregon State. McCaffrey had three carries for 19 yards and caught two passes for 52 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown reception early in the first quarter.

      --LB Blake Martinez tied for the team lead with six tackles and recorded 2.5 of Stanford's six sacks in the win over Oregon State. Martinez is 10th in the Pac-12 in tackles.

      Ducks

      --QB Marcus Mariota became Oregon's all-time passing leader when he threw for 326 yards in the win over Cal. With 8,625 yards, he passed Bill Musgrave, who had 8,343 yards from 1987 to 1990.

      --TE Pharaoh Brown had two catches for 30 yards against Cal and both went for touchdowns. Brown had only 10 catches in his first five games, but he has 10 catches for 213 yards and three touchdowns in his last three.

      --WR Charles Nelson had a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown, his second score on a punt return this season. He also lined up at running back for the first time all year and had three rushes for 35 yards.

      --S Erick Dargan appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury when he was helped off the field in the first half, but he returned on the next series. Playing through injury, Dargan had 11 tackles against Cal and now has 53 on the season.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Auburn at Ole Miss
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Mississippi

      TV: ESPN

      SERIES: Auburn leads the series with Ole Miss 18-10 and is 9-3 in games played in Oxford. The Tigers won last year's meeting 30-22.

      RANKINGS: Auburn 4th, Ole Miss 7th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Even before the first College Football Rankings were released with Auburn getting the No. 3 spot and Ole Miss earning No. 4 there was a lot riding on Saturday's matchup in Oxford.

      With a loss each in SEC play, both the Tigers and the Rebels already were looking at playing a virtual elimination game as far the Western Division race is concerned.

      Now a spot in the first college football playoff likely is one the line as well.

      Well, sort of.

      The loser may be out of it with a second defeat in both the division race and playoff consideration, but the winner still will have a lot of work to do, especially Auburn.

      The game at seventh-ranked Ole Miss (in the AP poll) is the first of a month-long gauntlet for the Tigers.

      By the time all the turkey from Thanksgiving weekend has been digested (including some leftovers), the Tigers also will have hosted unranked but potentially dangerous Texas A&M, gone to Athens to play now No. 9 and current East leader Georgia, and finished in Tuscaloosa against current No. 3 Alabama.

      Also tucked in there will be a home game against Samford, an FCS team that will serve as a tuneup for the outing against the Crimson Tide.

      Ole Miss is looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season. The Rebels gave up 264 yards rushing to LSU in dropping the 10-7 decision.

      The Rebels gave 264 yards to LSU rushing and now face an Auburn team that averages 281 yards on the ground, but in a slightly different way. Auburn's No. 2 rusher is quarterback Nick Marshall, who has gone over the 100 mark four times this season with seven touchdowns.

      Ole Miss also will be without outside linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, who will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his ankle against LSU.

      "We've got our hands full," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "We've got to, hopefully, get healthy and get ready to go at home."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Tigers

      --RB Cameron Artis-Payne is well on his way to a 1,000-yard season with 831 yards rushing in seven games, an average of nearly 119 yards a game. He has rushed for six touchdowns and has eight receptions for 99 yards.

      --WR Duke Williams continues to make play after play for the Tigers. He has 34 receptions, more than twice as any other Auburn receiver, for 527 yards and five touchdowns.

      --DE DaVonte Lambert could play a key role against Ole Miss with his pass rush. He leads the Tigers in sacks with 3.5.

      --CB Johnathan Jones intercepted two passes in the win over South Carolina, giving him five for the season. He also has broken up six other passes to go with his 18 tackles.

      Rebels

      --QB Bo Wallace's fast start to the season has come to a halt. The senior is a 63-percent passer for his career but hasn't completed 50 percent in either of his last two games after recording a season-worst 41 percent against LSU.

      --WR Cody Core caught four more passes, including Ole Miss' only touchdown, against LSU and now leads the Rebels with five touchdown grabs. Core was a virtual unknown for Ole Miss until putting together the best fall camp of his career to grab the starting slot receiver position.

      --S/LB Tony Conner has started from Day 1 as a freshman and has been productive ever since. Conner leads the team with 47 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss, and has one interception, a pass breakup and a pair of quarterback hurries.

      --S Trae Elston continued his quietly good season in the loss to LSU. The junior rover tallied a team-high 11 tackles to run his season total to 42.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Arkansas at Mississippi State
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, Starkville, Mississippi

      TV: ESPN2

      SERIES: Arkansas leads Mississippi State 15-8-1. The Bulldogs have won the last two games, including last year in Little Rock 24-17 in overtime.

      RANKINGS: Mississippi State 1st

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pulled a neat trick out of his coaching hat last Saturday when offensive guard Sebastian Tretola took the snap on a fake field goal and threw a six-yard scoring pass to long snapper Alan D'Appollonio.

      But Bielema knows it will take meat-and-potatoes football for his unranked Razorbacks to pull off the upset when they visit top-ranked Mississippi State. That means going back to the running game.

      "It's got to be part of our DNA," Bielema said of sticking with a physical ground game. "You can't fake it."

      It will be strength against strength in this one.

      Mississippi State's strength on a defense that ranks last in the SEC overall is against the run. The Bulldogs are allowing opponents 118 yards a game rushing.

      But they are last in the conference defending the pass in giving up nearly 322 yards a game.

      The key for Arkansas, which has rushed for nearly 259 yards a game, will be its ability to pick up ground in chunks of five and six yards to help set up advantageous match-ups in the passing game.

      Hogs quarterback Brandon Allen has done a better job of capitalizing on those this year.

      But that's just one side of the ball.

      Mississippi State will go at the Razorbacks' defense with a two-pronged attack that is getting for 273 yards a game on the ground and passing for 258.

      Quarterback Dak Prescott is a legitimate dual threat as the league's overall No. 5 rusher (95 yards a game) and its No. 6 passer (242).

      The Razorbacks are giving up 138 yards on the ground, 215 through the air with just five interceptions and eight sacks.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Razorbacks

      --QB Brandon Allen delivered solid numbers against UAB, hitting 15-of-24 passes for 205 yards and two TDs. What's more, he hit a deep ball for the first time in a couple of weeks, finding WR Drew Morgan for a 44-yard gain in the second quarter.

      --RB Jonathan Williams had a big game against UAB (153 yards rushing) to take over the team leading in rushing with 830 yards. That ranks fourth in the SEC.

      --DE Trey Flowers enters the game third in school history with 40 tackles for loss. The senior has been in on nine this season with six of them solo stops.

      --LB Martrell Spaight leads the Razorbacks in total tackles with 72. That ranks him second in the SEC.

      Bulldogs

      --QB Dak Prescott is one of the top rushers in the SEC (95 yards a game) as well as passer (242 average). He ranks second in total offense (337) behind Texas A&M's Kenny Hill, who does most of his damage passing the ball.

      --RB Josh Robinson has played "Robin" to Prescott's "Batman" all season, but he broke out of the shadow in a big way in last Saturday's victory over Kentucky. Robinson lived up to his "Bowling Ball" nickname with career highs in carries (23) and yards (198).

      --DT Kaleb Eulls is usually creating plays for his teammates by drawing double teams but against Kentucky he was wreaking havoc. He had a personal best two sacks -- the first of which he pulled down Patrick Towles with one arm.

      --LB Christian Holmes not only finished third on the team in tackles against the Wildcats but also sealed the game in the fourth quarter on special teams. "Turtle" answered a touchdown that pulled UK within seven points by scooping up an onside kick and racing up the right sideline for the score with 2:22 to go.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Arizona at UCLA
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

      TV: ESPN

      SERIES: UCLA leads the series with Arizona 21-15-2. The Bruins won 31-26 in Tucson last season, when they gave linebacker Myles Jack his first time at running back, and he carried six times for 120 yards. UCLA routed Arizona 66-10 in 2012 in Pasadena.

      RANKINGS: Arizona 12, UCLA 22

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Pac-12 road teams are a head-scratching 20-9 in conference games this season. Arizona has the best win of the bunch, taking down No. 2 Oregon in Autzen Stadium.

      After a win like that, what can't the Wildcats do?

      Arizona is 3-0 on the road this season, including a 2-0 mark in league play, and Rich Rodriguez's team will be full of confidence heading into an important Pac-12 South game at UCLA on Saturday night.

      "Being successful on the road is mostly because of how close our team is," senior free safety Jourdon Grandon said. "When a team goes on the road, they need to have a tight bond with one another. Having a strong team bond and the chemistry we have going into it makes all the difference.

      "Another thing is that our attitudes have definitely changed within the past year. We believe that we can win anywhere against any team; it's just a matter of having the confidence."

      Arizona (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) is ranked 14th in the country heading into Saturday's game at No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2). A couple of months ago, no one would have expected the Wildcats to be the higher-ranked team heading into this matchup, but the Bruins haven't been as dominant as expected, struggling in their wins and losing to Utah and Oregon. UCLA needed double overtime to win at Colorado last Saturday.

      "I'm not surprised at anything in our league," said Rodriguez, whose team won 59-37 at Washington State last week.

      "It doesn't matter whether you're home or on the road because every week is a challenge. People say the Washington State game was a good road win, but any win in our league is a good win. I think because of the parity, our league has never been better than it is today and I think it will keep getting better in the next few years as well."

      The parity helps explain the success of Pac-12 road teams. As for his team, Rodriguez credits a business-like approach while embracing the hostile environments.

      "Anytime you get a 'boo' or have stuff said to you, you should get a smile on your face rather than making it worry you because it at least means they think you're important enough to boo," Rodriguez said.

      The Bruins entered the season with high expectations -- starting the season in the Top 10, with some high-profile pundits picking the Bruins to advance to the national title game.

      So, in that sense, UCLA has been disappointing. Starting with the opener at Virginia, the Bruins usually haven't looked good in victory, and they lost back-to-back conference games at Utah and Oregon.

      After UCLA eked out a double-overtime win at Colorado last week, coach Jim Mora was asked what needed to change.

      "You mean winning? Well, we're 6-2. So I hope nothing changes," Mora said. "I hope we keep winning."

      He continued the theme a day later.

      "We're only two and a half years into our tenure here, and we've won 75 percent of our regular-season games with a completely overhauled roster," Mora said. "I don't know if you guys know that, but we're 24-8 in regular-season games here since we've been here, with a completely overhauled roster."

      UCLA is on the fringe of a tight Pac-12 South race at 3-2 in league play. But the Bruins are far from out of it, as they have a win over Arizona State (4-1), still have to play USC (4-2) and get Arizona (3-1) in the Rose Bowl this Saturday. Utah is 3-1 in the league but is facing an incredibly difficult stretch.

      Yes, UCLA needs some help to win the division, but -- back to Mora's point -- the situation isn't as dire as some make it seem. Mora, who took over for fired Rick Neuheisel after the 2011 season, inherited some major pieces -- linebacker Anthony Barr, quarterback Brett Hundley -- and then added toughness and discipline to the mix (as well as his own excellent recruiting).

      "As much gloom and doom as there is out there," Mora said, "I would challenge anyone to go find a UCLA team in the history of UCLA that has done what this group has done in two and a half years, with the youth that we have and the turnover we've had."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Wildcats

      --LB Scooby Wright was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance at Washington State. Wright is normally the middle linebacker in Arizona's 3-3-5 scheme, but the coaches went with a 4-1-6 look against pass-happy Washington State, moving Wright to a stand-up rush end position. He thrived, forcing three fumbles against Connor Halliday and recording three sacks. No matter where he lines up, he's Arizona's biggest playmaker on defense and a potential All-American.

      --RB Terris Jones-Grigsby ran 13 times for 107 yards against Washington State last week, his third 100-yard effort in five games this season (he missed two because of injury). Jones-Grigsby, a senior and a former walk-on, is a tough between-the-tackles runner who is, pound-for-pound, one of the strongest players on the team.

      --WR DaVonte' Neal is starting to make the impact most expected this season out of the Notre Dame transfer. Neal was slowed early because of an ankle injury, but he has 10 catches in the past two games, including a touchdown reception against Washington State. He's also had two long punt returns in that time -- a 43-yarder against USC and an 81-yarder for a touchdown at Washington State. He is one of Arizona's fastest and most dynamic players and could be a big factor down the stretch.

      Bruins

      --RB Paul Perkins went 92 yards down the sideline for a touchdown last week at Colorado, finishing with 180 yards on 19 carries as he nursed a wrist injury. He has been the most consistent player on the UCLA offense this season, and he has 996 rushing yards, poised to become the 13th rusher in school history to record a 1,000-yard season.

      --LB Eric Kendricks tied his season high with 16 tackles in the double-overtime win at Colorado. That marked the 21st double-digit tackle game of his career. He also intercepted a pass last week and broke up a third-down pass late in regulation that forced Colorado to go for a tying field goal attempt rather than keep marching for a go-ahead touchdown.

      --CB Marcus Rios, one week after making a potential game-saving interception in the final minute against Cal, came up with another key interception last week at Colorado, picking off a pass late in regulation. This week, Rios will be going up against an Arizona team that has been very efficient behind redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Illinois at Ohio State
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

      TV: ABC

      SERIES: Ohio State leads Illinois 66-30-4. The Buckeyes have won nine of the last 10 meetings and have a 39-18-4 record in Columbus. The two teams have played for the Illibuck Trophy since 1925.

      RANKINGS: Ohio State 16th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      In one week's time, the mood went from gloom and doom to smiles and pats on the back at Illinois.

      Facing the possibility of another season gone awry, the Fighting Illini at least for one week changed the outlook from stormy to partly sunny in Champaign, Ill., with a 28-24 upset victory over Minnesota on Saturday.

      The Gophers entered the game on an upward trajectory, having won their first three Big Ten games and leading the West Division, but were shot down by the opportunistic Illini.

      Illinois cornerback V'Angelo Bentley returned a fumble 12 yards for the winning score in the fourth quarter. The Big Ten victory was just the second under coach Tim Beckman since the start of the 2012 season.

      "After three losses back-to-back to some good football teams, I thought their resiliency, their effort and the way we responded to adversity is as good as I've seen us have in three years (at Illinois)," Beckman said.

      This week, the challenge will be more daunting with a night game in the Horseshoe in Columbus against Ohio State (6-1, 3-0). Illinois hasn't won two consecutive Big Ten games since 2011.

      "It's going to be difficult. They're a really great team," Illinois quarterback Riley O'Toole said. "We're just going to have to play smart, play hard, take care of the ball.

      "We're going to have our hands full. But if we take care of the ball, play together, play smart, we'll have a good chance."

      As an Ohio native, Bentley understands as well as anyone the atmosphere that awaits the Illini in Ohio Stadium. A large contingent of family and friends will be in the crowd of more than 100,000 fans to watch.

      "It's going to be a good challenge (against Ohio State) and I'm looking forward to it," Bentley said.

      Last week in the win over Minnesota, Bentley became to first Illini player in history to score a touchdown on a fumble return, kick return, punt return and interception return during his career.

      Beckman also is from Ohio and knows what to expect against the Buckeyes. He's a former Ohio State assistant under Jim Tressel and was on the staff at Bowling Green when Urban Meyer was head coach.

      "They're very, very athletic on defense, more than I've seen them," Beckman said. "No question it'll be a challenge, but we're used to challenges."

      Illinois' win got the Ohio State's attention, but of greater concern for the Buckeyes is the health of quarterback J.T. Barrett. He suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in the 31-24 win at Penn State but played the second half and overtime with the injury.

      Barrett toughed it out and scored two touchdowns in overtime to help Ohio State salvage a win after letting a 17-0 lead in the third quarter slip away. Barrett rushed for 32 yards on four carries in overtime but passed for just 74 yards in the game.

      Showing that kind of grittiness in a tough environment and coming away with a win should help the Buckeyes when they travel to eighth-ranked Michigan State for the Nov. 8 clash.

      "You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. That builds toughness," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said.

      In Meyer's eyes, no one is tougher on his team that Barrett, who will be limited in practice leading up to Saturday night's game in the Horseshoe (8 p.m. ET on ABC) but is expected to play. The Buckeyes will attempt to tie a Big Ten record set by Ohio State in 2005-2007 with their 20th straight regular-season win

      "He's got a sprained knee, MCL, but obviously there's no surgery or anything," Meyer said. "I think he will be limited. We're going to see how it goes. He's probably going to be a guy that we won't tell him he's limited, but we'll make sure he's limited. It's not throwing that's a concern, it's running."

      The Buckeyes will be facing a team with its own injury issues. Illini quarterback Wes Lunt suffered a broken leg earlier this month and is not expected to return until mid-November. The good news for Illinois is that backup Riley O'Toole has playing experience and was solid against Minnesota.

      "Illinois is much better," Meyer said. "I know they lost their quarterback, but they're playing much better.

      "And to overlook Illinois, Illinois just won a big game. -- So there's no there will be no overlooking anyone."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Fighting Illini

      --QB Riley O'Toole will start again Saturday in place of injured Wes Lunt. The senior led Illinois in rushing with 59 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and completed 14-of-21 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions in the 28-24 win over Minnesota last week. "I thought Reilly (was) efficient in what we asked him to do," coach Tim Beckman said. "He didn't hurt us and he made some important plays for us that gave us opportunities to move the chains and score some points."

      --WR Mike Dudek led Illinois receivers in the win over Minnesota with five catches for 41 yards. He also completed a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Geronimo Allison. The freshman leads the Illini in receiving this season with 42 catches for 639 yards and three touchdowns.

      --LB Mason Monheim had an interception against Minnesota last week and eight tackles, including one for loss, and was credited with a half sack. The Ohio native is averaging 9.0 tackles per game.

      --LB/DB Earnest Thomas III made his presence felt in the upset win over Minnesota, collecting a career-best 2.5 sacks among his six tackles and also forcing the seventh fumble of his career. Thomas also is an inspirational leader for the Illini. "He's the one that's speaking to the team prior to the game, at halftime," coach Tim Beckman said. "He's the energetic one. -- He's loud, he's very, very enthusiastic. When Earnest speaks, our players listen."

      Buckeyes

      --QB J.T. Barrett played through a knee sprain in the second half against Penn State and scored in the two overtime periods to help Ohio State come away with a 31-24 victory. Barrett threw a pick-six and had only 74 yards passing, but the injury and Penn State's had some effect on him in the second half of that game. Part of Barrett's game is using his legs and therefore his mobility against Illinois will bear watching.

      --DE Joey Bosa was named Big Ten defensive player of the week for good reason. The sophomore standout finished with six tackles, but the highlight was his walk-off sack of Penn State Christian Hackenberg in the second overtime. Bosa, who leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 11.5, drove a blocker into Hackenberg on fourth down to end the game. He extended his streak with at least one tackle for loss in a game to 13.

      --RB Ezekiel Elliott faced the nation's top-ranked run defense at Penn State and still managed to top 100 yards on the ground for the third consecutive game. The sophomore finished with 109 yards rushing and scored the first touchdown against Penn State in the Buckeyes 31-24 victory in two overtimes.

      --LB Joshua Perry led the Ohio State defense at Penn State with 18 tackles, giving him a team-high 63 for the season, and had two tackles for loss. His 9.0 tackles per game is the fifth-best average in the Big Ten. The junior also has five tackles for loss this season.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Kansas at Baylor
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas

      TV: Fox Sports1

      SERIES: Baylor leads Kansas 9-4. The Bears have never lost to the Jayhawks in Waco, compiling a 6-0 record at home in the series.

      RANKINGS: Baylor 12th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Coming off an open date following its loss at West Virginia, Baylor may be getting just what it needs when Kansas visits.

      Despite Bears coach Art Briles claiming Kansas is "a team that's played extremely well" and other similar comments, the Jayhawks don't look to have the goods to take advantage where Baylor is at its weakest, the secondary.

      Kansas ranks 10th in passing yards per game at 185.1, more than 150 yards less per game than West Virginia. The Bears are giving up 213 yards a game but was slashed for 456 yard by West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett.

      The Jayhawks have made strides since Michael Cummings was inserted at quarterback in the second half of Clint Bowen's first game as interim coach, a loss at West Virginia.

      But they don't even have a quarterback in the top 10 of most categories in conference stats with their figures eclipsed by Baylor backup Seth Russell's numbers.

      If there is one area, however, where Briles may not be too far off it is on defense, even though the Jayhawks rank only No. 7 in the 10-team league statistically.

      "They've got nine guys back on defense from last year and, actually, number 31, I think is a stud without question," Briles said, referring to Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney.

      With an inconsistent offense, however, much stress is played on that Kansas defense.

      Kansas has dropped 30 straight games away from home.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Jayhawks

      --QB Michael Cummings has taken over the direction of the Kansas attack after subbing for Montell Cozart at the beginning of the second half in the first game Clint Bowen served as interim coach. Cummings has shown better command of the offense as a serviceable passer (49-of-88 for 594 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions).

      --TE Jimmay Mundine is a resourceful outlet receiver the Jayhawks tend to turn to after exhausting other play calls. Mundine led the Jayhawks with seven receptions for 82 yards in the Texas Tech defeat, including a 21-yard touchdown catch.

      --LB Ben Heeney recorded a career-best 21 tackles in a 34-21 loss at Texas Tech, giving him 84 for the season. It was the most tackles by a Big 12 defender in a game this season.

      --LB Michael Reynolds has five sacks among his 10.5 tackles for loss. He also has forced three fumbles and is credited with four quarterback hurries.

      Bears

      --QB Bryce Petty has been dynamic for one quarter in the Bears' last two games, but it was enough to win him multiple national player of the week honors after he led a comeback for Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU. It was a different story in the loss to West Virginia two weeks ago when Petty completed only 16 of 36 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns.

      --WR Corey Coleman has picked up the slack as freshman WR KD Cannon's production has gone down. Coleman caught five passes for 77 yards against West Virginia, the second best totals for the bears.

      --DE Shawn Oakman posted 2.5 tackles for loss and recovered a fumble against West Virginia. He didn't do much else, finishing with four total tackles.

      --LB Taylor Young has been a bright spot for the Baylor defense. He posted 12 tackles, 11 solo and two sacks against West Virginia.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: Oklahoma State at Kansas State
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas

      TV: ABC

      SERIES: Oklahoma State leads Kansas State 35-24. The Cowboys forced five second-half turnovers a year ago to outlast the Wildcats 33-29.

      RANKINGS: Kansas State 11th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      Mike Yurcich is a stand-up coach who will not use some convenient, and logical, excuses such as lack of experience and too many injuries when assessing Oklahoma State's struggles on offense.

      The Cowboys' offensive coordinator accepts blame and vows to coach up his players after seeing his charges score just 19 points in back-to-back losses against TCU and West Virginia.

      Fears over how the Cowboys would fare once they tackled the meat of a backloaded schedule seem to have been confirmed.

      Yurcich will try to deal with the problems and try to find a more consistent rhythm for Daxx Garman, a junior quarterback who was thrust into duty after J.W. Walsh suffered a foot injury in the second game that will probably keep him out the remainder of the season.

      "What am I supposed to do? Throw someone under the bus?" Yurcich asked. "I think every coach feels that way. I think every player should feel that way. It's accountability, leadership. I just speak from the heart."

      Kansas State, meanwhile, is having to deal with trying to quiet talk about rolling to the Big 12 championship and a possible berth in the first College Football Playoff.

      "We have a lot of football ahead of us. We are only as good as today, and tomorrow is a different day," coach Bill Snyder said. "To have the continuity and to be able to do it continuously would be a good thing.

      "We have not done it continuously all year. We've got a long ways to go."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Cowboys

      --RB/KR Tyreek Hill enjoyed a tremendous debut when he sprinted for 278 all-purpose yards against No. 1 Florida State, but his heroics since then have been somewhat hit and miss. He has two touchdown returns on kickoff returns, including the decisive score in the Kansas win, and averages 5.2 yards per carry on a limited rushing workload.

      --WR James Washington, a freshman, made the first start of his career last week against West Virginia and recorded five receptions, a career high for the freshman. They were good for 87 yards to match his best this season.

      --DE Emmanuel Ogbah leads the Big 12 and ranks third nationally among defensive linemen in both sacks (eight) and tackles for loss (12.5). In the last three games, all against Big 12 opponents, Ogbah recorded five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.

      --CB Kevin Peterson certainly boosted his stock with an outstanding performance in the 34-10 loss to West Virginia last week. Peterson held the Mountaineers' star receiver, Kevin White, who came into the game leading the nation in receiving yardage, to three receptions for 27 yards.

      Wildcats

      --QB Jake Waters dealt with soreness in his non-throwing shoulder stemming from a hard fall to the turf in the win two weeks ago at Oklahoma, but he still managed to complete 19 of 30 passes for 224 yards with no interceptions against Texas. He has passed for over 236 yard a game and rushed for 370 yards for the season, second-best on the team.

      --WR Tyler Lockett leads the Wildcats in receptions with 43 good for 558 yards and four touchdowns. He also is averaging 23.6 yards running back punts (one touchdown) and 18.2 on kickoff returns.

      --PK Matthew McCrane continues to excel since moving into the lineup following the three field goals Jack Cantele missed in the Auburn defeat. McCrane made all three of his attempts against Texas from 19, 30 and 38 yards.

      --SS Dante Barnett was in on four pass breakups and also assisted in a key fourth-down stop in the red zone early in the fourth quarter against Texas. Barnett was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after getting in on seven tackles

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    CFB Preview: TCU at West Virginia
    By The Sports Xchange

    KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET

    • GAMEDATE: 11/1/14

      SITE: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia

      TV: ABC

      SERIES: West Virginia leads 2-1. Both meetings as Big 12 rivals were decided in overtime, with TCU winning on the road in 2012 and West Virginia winning on the road last season.

      RANKINGS: TCU 10th, West Virginia 20th

      KEYS TO THE GAME

      After generating 82 points last week, TCU attracted much attention. Not all of it was the kind Gary Patterson wants to deal with as a coach.

      He was asked if he ran up the score against Texas Tech after scoring with 1:16 left.

      That final touchdown, however, came on a 25-yard rush by backup running back Trevorris Johnson, who was left free and really had no choice but to bolt to the end zone.

      "I had a 21-point lead a couple weeks ago and lost it playing up-tempo offense, so it's hard," Patterson said, referencing the 61-58 loss in which Baylor ended the game with 24 unanswered points. "Never do you want to get to a point where you want to be in that kind of situation. At least I haven't. I've always been a guy that's run the ball out, run the clock out."

      In throttling Texas Tech 82-27, quarterback Trevone Boykin set a career best with 433 yards passing and set a TCU record with seven touchdown strikes. He ranks third nationally -- and tops the Big 12 -- in total offense, with a 382.9-yard average.

      West Virginia, however, may not be all that impressed with such numbers.

      The Mountaineers have two wins over teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time of the meeting (Oklahoma and Baylor) and still remains the only team to defeat Baylor and its high-powered offense.

      West Virginia proved it can be diverse on offense if it needs to be, rushing for 210 yards and holding a decided edge in time of possession last week in a 34-10 win at Oklahoma State. Wendell Smallwood, filling in for injured starter Rushel Shell, ran for a career-best 132 yards.

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      Horned Frogs

      --QB Trevone Boykin became the first quarterback in the 14 seasons Gary Patterson has coached the Horned Frogs to top 250 yards passing in seven consecutive games. In addition, Boykin rates a close second on the TCU rushing chart with 374 yards.

      --WR Deante' Gray was the latest receiver to sparkle for the Horned Frogs. He enjoyed his first 100-yard performance, with four catches for 165 yards in the blowout of Texas Tech to give him has six touchdown grabs in the last five games.

      --CB Kevin White has an interception in two of the last three games and a team-high four pass breakups. White has drawn 34 consecutive starts, tops among TCU's active players.

      --WR Josh Doctson leads TCU in receiving with 35 catches for 573 yards. He has seven catches for touchdowns, one more than Deante' Gray for team honors.

      Mountaineers

      --QB Clint Trickett is having an outstanding season with 17 touchdown passes against only five interceptions. He has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,763 yards.

      --WR Kevin White was often double-teamed by Oklahoma State after going into the game leading the nation in receiving yards. He has 72 receptions for 1,047 yards (third nationally) and eight touchdowns

      --DT Kyle Rose played a key role in last year's win over TCU and he notched a season-high six tackles last week at Oklahoma State. His career high of seven tackles came against TCU last year.

      --FS Dravon Henry got his first two interceptions in WVU's win at Oklahoma State. Henry became the first Mountaineer with two interceptions in the same game since Brodrick Jenkins had two against Rutgers in 2011.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Winston, Seminoles escape hole, down Louisville
    By The Sports Xchange

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Second-ranked Florida State apparently wants to do things the hard way.

    • Overcoming a 21-0, second-quarter deficit Thursday night, the Seminoles outscored 25th-ranked Louisville 35-10 in the second half to pull out a 42-31 Atlantic Coast Conference win at sold-out Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

      Quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns to lead Florida State (8-0, 5-0). Third-string running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 110 yards on nine carries, including the go-ahead, 38-yard touchdown with 3:46 left in the game.

      "We put ourselves in tough circumstances," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said, "but all we worried about was the next play. I thought our players and assistant coaches made some great adjustments at halftime."

      Winston threw a career-high three interceptions, the first two resulting in Louisville touchdowns off short fields, and he played most of the second half with an injured right ankle. However, he still threw for 278 yards after halftime, including a game-clinching, 35-yard scoring strike to fullback Freddie Stevenson with 2:11 remaining.

      It was the fourth time this season that Florida State, which was never pushed last year until the national championship win over Auburn, trailed in the second half. However, this one seemed a bit more perilous than earlier escapes.

      Louisville (6-3, 4-3) entered the game with the nation's top-ranked total defense and an improved offense, fueled by the recent return of senior wide receiver DeVante Parker and running back Michael Dyer.

      The defense flustered Winston for most of the first half, aided by a spate of Florida State penalties. Parker finished with eight catches for a career-high 214 yards, while Dyer rushed 28 times for 134 yards and three scores, including a 1-yard run that gave the Cardinals their last lead at 31-28 with 9:20 left in the game.

      It still wasn't enough.

      "That hurts a lot," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "We got ahead of them and had our opportunities. You have to give Florida State a lot of credit for them being able to make plays when the pressure was on."

      The Cardinals could have made things much harder on the Seminoles when they got the ball on their 12 with 5:55 left after sacking Winston and forcing a punt. However, the Cardinals went three-and-out, and a 31-yard punt from Ryan Johnson set up Florida State in Louisville territory.

      The speedy Cook cashed in on the next play, zipping around right end for his second long scoring run of the game. With 6:17 left in the third quarter, he drew the Seminoles within 24-21 thanks to a 40-yard jaunt.

      Coming into the game, Cook had just 270 yards on 59 attempts. He is one of a handful of freshmen who are adding to Florida State's already enviable depth.

      "We trust them," Fisher said of the newbies. "They are allowing us to expand our offense and defense because of their development."

      Quarterback Will Gardner completed 20 of 38 passes for 330 yards for the Cardinals, who rolled up 488 total yards and 24 first downs in one of their best offensive performances of the season. Even so, they were left wanting more.

      "We knew we had to keep playing, but we fell short at the end," Gardner said. "Our offense took big strides, but I guess you have to say the negatives outweighed the positives since we didn't get the win."

      NOTES: According to the latest NFL Draft Rankings compiled by NFLDraftScout.com, 12 of the top 100 prospects for the 2015 draft played in Thursday night's game. Nine of those are from Florida State. ... Seminoles LB Terrance Smith, the team's leading tackler this year with an average of 10.2 per game, was declared out in pregame drills due to a neck strain. ... At No. 2, Florida State is the highest-ranked opponent to play in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium since 2006, when No. 3 West Virginia absorbed a 44-34 loss.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Gurley suspension stays at four games
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NCAA upheld Georgia running back Todd Gurley's four-game suspension on Thursday, denying an appeal by school officials to reduce the penalty.

    • Gurley, who has sat out two games already, will miss the Bulldogs' next two games against Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., and at Kentucky before he is eligible to play on Nov. 15 against No. 3 Auburn.

      The NCAA ruled previously that Gurley had to sit out four games, or 30 percent of the team's competition, after he accepted $3,000 for sigining memorabilia for dealers during the past few years.

      The junior also must pay back part of the money he received to a charity and complete 40 hours of community service in order to be reinstated.

      Gurley was a front-runner for the Heisman Tophy until he was suspended. He had rushed for 773 yards and eight touchdowns and averaged 8.2 yards per carry this season.

      "We are very disappointed in tonight's decision by the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee regarding our appeal on Todd Gurley's eligibility reinstatement," Georgia said in a statement. "We believe our case to the NCAA for Todd's immediate reinstatement was strong and compelling. However, we now have exhausted all available options and look forward to Todd's return to competition on Nov. 15.

      "The full attention of Bulldog Nation now needs to be focused on our team and Saturday's important game against Florida."

      Without Gurley, No. 11 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) has won its last two games, beating Missouri and Arkansas behind 345 yards and three touchdowns by his replacement, freshman Nick Chubb.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Gamecocks' top tackler out Saturday
    By The Sports Xchange

    Sophomore linebacker Skai Moore, South Carolina's leading tackler this season, will miss Saturday's game against Tennessee because of an ankle injury.

    • Moore sprained his right ankle in the Gamecocks' 42-35 loss to Auburn last Saturday. He has 51 tackles this season.

      Sophomore Jonathan Walton will replace Moore, who also South Carolina's leading tackler last season, in the starting lineup for Saturday's SEC game. Walton will be backed up by T.J. Holloman.

      Moore' s injury was bad news for the Gamecocks (4-4, 2-4), who have struggled on defense this season. They rank last in the SEC and 98th in the country in scoring defense, giving up 32.8 points per game.

      South Carolina backup safety Kadetrix Marcus has a sprained shoulder and also will not play against Tennessee (3-5, 0-4).

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Georgia Tech will run without top two RBs
    By The Sports Xchange

    Georgia Tech will be without its top two rushers Saturday against Virginia.

    • Senior B-back Zach Laskey, the Yellow Jackets' leading running back (595 yards), will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury suffered Oct. 18 vs. North Carolina. He missed the Yellow Jackets' 56-28 win against Pittsburgh last weekend.

      Senior A-back Charles Perkins scored on a 79-yard pass play against Pitt, but he suffered a knee injury shortly after. His 261 rushing yards are second on the team.

      Without Laskey and Perkins, the Jackets will again count on senior Synjyn Days and junior Broderick Snoddy.

      Days started in place of Laskey against Pitt and led the Jackets with 110 rushing yards -- his first 100-yard game -- on 22 attempts.

      Snoddy, 5 feet 9 and 190 pounds, ran for 82 yards and three touchdowns (4, 34 and 28 yards) on six carries.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Sooners RB Mixon reaches plea deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon avoided trial on a misdemeanor charge of acts resulting in gross injury in which he was accused of punching a female in July and breaking multiple bones in her face.

    • Mixon received a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and behavior counseling after entering an Alford Plea, which means he can assert his innocence.

      Mixon, a five-star running back recruit, is dismissed from all football activities in 2014. He was accused of punching Amelia Rae Molitor at PIckleman's Gourment Cafe celebrating his 18th birthday on July 25, breaking four bones. Molitor is a female student at OU, who said he nose and sinuses were broken with the single punch.

      Mixon's attorney, Kevin Finlay, said in a statement that his client no longer wanted the distraction.

      "Today, Joe has made the decision that entering an Alford Plea to the misdemeanor and accepting the short period of probation was the best course of action at this point in his life. Joe does not want to be a further distraction to his family, friends, teammates, and the University of Oklahoma. Joe would like to apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate chain of events. Joe looks forward to continuing towards his goal of becoming a successful student and athlete at the University of Oklahoma."

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    College football roundup: Georgia appeals Gurley suspension
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NCAA announced Wednesday that Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley must sit out two more games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia.

    • Georgia said it will appeal the decision "immediately."

      According to the NCAA, Gurley received the cash for signing memorabilia and other items over two years and must repay a portion of the money he received to a charity of his choice. He also must complete 40 hours of community service as conditions of his reinstatement.

      Gurley has already missed two games for the No. 11 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC). Unless he wins his appeal, Gurley will miss Saturday's game against the Florida Gators in Jacksonville and next week's game at Kentucky. He would be eligible to return Nov. 15 against Auburn.

      ---Utah senior wide receiver Dres Anderson will miss the remainder of the 2014 season because of a knee injury, according to the school.

      Anderson is currently ranked as the No. 14 wide receiver prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft by NFLDraftScout.com and No. 90 prospect overall. He was considered a second day draft pick, but the severity of his injury could push him out of the top 100.

      Anderson, a team captain, apparently was injured in the fourth quarter of last week's 24-21 win over USC.

      ---When you're No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings and have only one game left against another ranked team, you're relying on a lot of help to eventually reach the first ever Final Four, football style.

      That's exactly where Michigan State is after the initial rankings were released Tuesday. The Spartans are the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten, but that doesn't mean much considering each of the other Power Five conferences has a team rated higher.

      The committee is supposed to give extra weight to conference champions, and Michigan State is banking on that being the case. It will need the four SEC teams ahead of it to beat each other up, maybe hope for a loss from Florida State and hope teams like Kansas State, Notre Dame or Georgia don't run the table and jump ahead. All of this, of course, is assuming the Spartans don't lose again.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Utah WR Anderson out for season
    By The Sports Xchange

    Utah senior wide receiver Dres Anderson will miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to a knee injury, according to the school Wednesday.

    • Anderson is currently ranked as the No. 14 wide receiver prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft by NFLDraftScout.com and No. 90 prospect overall. He was considered a second day draft pick, but the severity of his injury could push him out of the top-100 picks.

      Anderson, a team captain, apparently was injured in the fourth quarter of last week's 24-21 win over USC.

      His readiness to work out for scouts prior to the 2015 NFL Draft is in question.

      Anderson, the son of 10-year NFL veteran receiver Willie "Flipper" Anderson, was leading the Utes this season with 355 receiving yards and four touchdowns, averaging 16.1 yards per catch. He will finish his college career with 2,077 career receiving yards, which ranks fifth-best in school history.

      As a NFL prospect, Anderson is highly thought of due to his speed to release off the line of scrimmage and stretch the field.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Number say Michigan State likely needs a hand
    By The Sports Xchange

    EAST LANSING, Mich. -- When you're No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings and have only one game left against another ranked team, you're relying on a lot of help to eventually reach the first ever Final Four, football style.

    • That's exactly where Michigan State is after the initial rankings were released Tuesday.

      The Spartans are the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten, but that doesn't mean much considering each of the other Power Five conferences has a team rated higher.

      The committee is supposed to give extra weight to conference champions, and Michigan State is banking on that actually being the case. It will need the four SEC teams ahead of it to beat each other up, maybe hope for a loss from Florida State and hope teams like Kansas State, Notre Dame or Georgia don't run the table and jump ahead.

      All of this, of course, is assuming the Spartans don't lose again. That might not be as big of task as it is for a lot of the teams ranked ahead of them, but it's far from a guarantee.

      Michigan State is off this week but has its biggest conference game of the season on Nov. 8 against Ohio State, the No. 16 team in the rankings. And if the Spartans get past that game, they could potentially have a rematch with Nebraska (No. 15) in the conference championship game.

      With so much left to be decided, coach Mark Dantonio has decided not to start worrying about where his team is slotted at this point.

      "I think our focus will be on our next football game," Dantonio said. "We'll spend most of our time on that and that's where the challenge is. This is the starting point for everything now, from a media perspective. And I'm really not quite sure how it will all even work, so we'll just let things happen as they do. I think the focus has to be on winning football games."

      After Ohio State, Michigan State has road games against Maryland and Penn State with a home game with Rutgers in between. None of those will be especially impressive to the committee, meaning a conference championship could be the one thing that eventually makes a difference.

      "My thought is the cream is gonna rise to the top," Dantonio said. "The eventual champion out of this conference will have a great opportunity.

      "It's another poll and I'm sure they have their methods and it will be interesting to watch as it moves through. But the focus of our football team needs to be on the next challenge and we need to try and live in the present and that's two weeks from now with Ohio State."

      PLAYERS TO WATCH

      --RB Jeremy Langford: The senior ran for a career-high 177 yards last week in the victory over Michigan and added three touchdowns. He has no run for more than 100 yards in 12 straight games against Big Ten opponents and appears to just be rounding into form with four games left in the regular season. At 105.1 yards a game, Langford is fifth in the Big Ten in rushing while giving up a substantial amount of carries to backups Nick Hill and Delton Williams.

      --WR Tony Lippett: The senior continues to have an outstanding season, leading the Big Ten with 111.1 receiving yards a game. He went over the 100-yard mark again in the win over Michigan and added a 70-yard touchdown to give him nine for the season.

      --LB Ed Davis: The junior continues to be one of the biggest playmakers for the Spartans and shares the team lead in sacks (6) with defensive end Shilique Calhoun. In the victory over Michigan, Davis had two tackles for loss and now leads the team with 10 while ranking third in total tackles with 34.

      DRAFT PROSPECTS, as rated by NFLDraftScout.com:

      --DE Shilique Calhoun (No. 3 defensive end, No. 11 overall) – The junior had another sack in the victory over Michigan, giving him a sack in five straight games. He has also now caught teammate Ed Davis with six sacks for the season.

      --QB Connor Cook (No. 3 quarterback, No. 13 overall) – The junior wasn't as efficient in the win over Michigan, going 12-for-22, but he took care of the ball by not throwing an interception and was once again a spark in the running game.

      --CB Trae Waynes (No. 4 cornerback, No. 35 overall) – The junior shut down Michigan's Devin Funchess last week and his pass breakup would have been a sure interception if not for a great play by a Michigan receiver.

      --FS Kurtis Drummond (No. 3 free safety, No. 75 overall) – The fifth-year senior had one of his best games of the season, breaking up two passes and recording a tackle for loss among his six stops.

      ROSTER REPORT:

      --With a bye week, fifth-year senior linebacker Mylan Hicks (broken arm) could have a chance to return next week against Ohio State.

      --Junior defensive tackle Joel Heath left the Michigan game with a lower-body injury but returned in the second half and isn't expected to miss any time.

      --Junior defensive tackle Damon Knox got his most extensive action of the year filling in for Heath. Knox missed the first five games of the season with an undisclosed injury.

  • Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    NCAA says Gurley must sit out two more games
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NCAA announced Wednesday that Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley must sit out two more games for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia.

    • Georgia said it will appeal the decision "immediately."

      The NCAA membership committee which oversees the reinstatement process will review the appeal this week.

      According to the NCAA, Gurley received the cash for signing memorabilia and other items over two years and must repay a portion of the money he received to a charity of his choice. He also must complete 40 hours of community service as conditions of his reinstatement.

      Gurley has already missed two games for the No. 11 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC). Unless he wins his appeal, Gurley will miss Saturday's game against the Florida Gators in Jacksonville and next week's game at Kentucky. He would be eligible to return Nov. 15 against Auburn.

      Gurley, whom the NCAA said acknowledged violating NCAA rules, was indefinitely suspended Oct. 9 while the school investigated allegations he received improper benefits for signing autographs.

      The junior tailback has rushed for 773 yards with eight touchdowns and has averaged 8.2 yards per carry.

      Gurley, considered the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy before the suspension, has continued to practice with Georgia during the suspension.

      Freshman Nick Chubb stepped in for Gurley and rushed for 345 yards and three touchdowns as the Bulldogs clicked off SEC road wins over Missouri and Arkansas in their last two games.

  • Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    CFP committee is on right track
    By The Sports Xchange

    The first-ever College Football Playoff rankings, revealed Tuesday night on ESPN, were longer on historical significance than actual significance.

    • We already knew that Mississippi State and Florida State would claim the top two spots. That it fell in that order, matching the polls, wasn't surprising.

      So what did we learn? At least three things.

      We learned that the committee is as close to being unbiased as it can be. Contrary to the paranoia of fans in the South, there is no pro-Notre Dame agenda.

      We learned that, contrary to the fans outside the South who are weary of the Southeastern Conference dominating the national championship, there was no evidence of a pro-SEC agenda. Heavy SEC influence, yes, but far from an agenda.

      We learned that the committee is sticking more to the stated criteria than the so-called "eye test." Those criteria are (presumably in no particular order):

      --Conference champions

      --Strength of schedule

      --Head-to-head

      Of course, conference championships will not be decided for another five weeks or so. But three of the top five teams -- Mississippi State, Florida State and Oregon at No. 5 -- either lead or are tied for the lead in their conference division.

      Start with Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish earned major cred points by going into Tallahassee and nearly upsetting Florida State. That's nice. But that is like building a resume on getting fired from a great job. The 12-member selection committee put a lot less stock in Notre Dame's "quality loss" than in the Fighting Irish's victories, which are very weak.

      The Irish have no wins over any teams in the CFP Top 25. They have two wins over teams with winning records -- 17-14 over Stanford and 48-17 over Rice. They will have a chance to earn their way up the rankings if they beat Arizona State, Southern Cal and Louisville.

      As for the SEC, it may seem like a stretch to say the committee has no bias when the conference placed three teams in the top four -- Mississippi State, No. 3 Auburn and No. 4 Ole Miss. Alabama is right on the brink at No. 6, and Georgia looms on the fringe at No. 11.

      As Jeff Long, the selection committee chairman, reminded everyone, "We're still early in the process." Long added that the rankings reflect what the teams have done to this point.

      So settle down, folks in Oregon. The SEC will not place three teams in the playoffs. There are still four games remaining between those top four SEC teams. The gleaning begins this weekend when Auburn visits Ole Miss. The loser will drop out of contention. Two weeks later, Mississippi State visits Alabama -- on the same day Auburn travels to Georgia. On the last weekend of the regular season, Auburn plays at Alabama while Mississippi State and Ole Miss clash in Oxford.

      And the winner of the SEC West still has to turn around and play Georgia (in all likelihood) the next week in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game.

      If the committee really were pro-SEC, then Alabama wouldn't be ranked below Oregon. But as impressive as the Crimson Tide looked the last two weeks in beating Texas A&M and Tennessee, their resume overall is underwhelming. Their next-best win is over West Virginia.

      Also, the CFP poll ranks Georgia lower than the two traditional major polls. A loss to South Carolina proved costly, but the Bulldogs also lack a signature win other than that season-opening rout of Clemson. However, they will get their chance against Auburn and in the SEC Championship Game.

      Finally, we learned that sticking to the criteria does matter. That is an imperfect process by nature because head-to-head can become an unending debate. TCU and Oregon lost to Baylor and Arizona, respectively, but are ranked higher.

      For the most part, though, head-to-head results are reflected in the rankings. Ole Miss is ahead of Alabama. Oregon is ahead of Michigan State, which is ahead of Nebraska. Auburn is ahead of Kansas State.

      Above all, if we learned anything at all, it is that this process will play itself out. Despite worries that it will cause chaos, college football will have as close to a true national champion as it ever has.

  • Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    3 SEC West teams, FSU in CFP's top four
    By The Sports Xchange

    Three teams from the Southeastern Conference's West Division made the top four in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday.

    • No. 1 Mississippi State (7-0), No. 3 Auburn (6-1) and No. 4 Mississippi (7-1) are joined by an Atlantic Coast Conference team, No. 2 Florida State (7-0).

      The top four teams as selected by a committee on Dec. 7 will compete in college football's first-ever playoffs. The semifinals will be played Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl, with No. 1 facing No. 4, No. 2 playing No. 3. The winners will compete for the championship Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

      As the rankings currently stand, the semifinals would feature an all-Mississippi matchup.

      Rounding out the top 10 in the CFP rankings are No. 5 Oregon (7-1), No. 6 Alabama (7-1), No. 7 TCU (6-1), No. 8 Michigan State (7-1), No. 9 Kansas State (6-1) and No. 10 Notre Dame (6-1).

      The Crimson Tide are ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Top 25, which has the Rebels at No. 7.

      The rest of the CFP's top 20: No. 11 Georgia (6-1), No. 12 Arizona (6-1), No. 13 Baylor (6-1), No. 14 Arizona State (6-1), No. 15 Nebraska (7-1), No. 16 Ohio State (6-1), No. 17 Utah (6-1), No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2), No. 19 LSU (7-2) and No. 20 West Virginia (6-2).

      No. 21 Clemson (6-2), No. 22 UCLA (6-2), No. 23 East Carolina (6-1), No. 24 Duke (6-1) and No. 25 Louisville (6-2) complete the CFP list.

      Marshall (8-0) is unranked despite being one of just three unbeaten teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Thundering Herd are No. 23 in the AP poll.