College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • CFB notebook: School's out for Summers
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 22, 2017

    Halfway through the 2017 season, Georgia Southern is looking for a new football coach after firing Tyson Summers on Sunday.

    • The Eagles fell to 0-6 -- their worst start since 1981 -- after a 55-20 loss to Massachusetts on Saturday. UMass had not won a game this season before rolling past Georgia Southern.

      Chad Lunsford, a longtime assistant at Georgia Southern, will take over as interim coach. The Eagles' next game is Saturday at Troy in a Sun Belt Conference matchup.

      Summers had a 5-13 record at the school, which is located in Statesboro, Ga. He was in the second year of a four-year contract that paid him $500,000 annually.

      --Michigan dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time in two years, while Notre Dame jumped into the top 10 for the first time this season in the Associated Press college football poll.

      No major upsets shook up college football this weekend, as the top eight teams remain unchanged from last week. The Fighting Irish are ninth after routing USC on Saturday.

      Alabama, which beat Tennessee 45-7, remains a unanimous No. 1 in this week's media poll. This is the 98th time Alabama is ranked No. 1, tying Notre Dame at No. 3 on the all-time list.

      --Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson will miss the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament.

      An MRI exam revealed a torn posterior cruciate ligament in Patterson's right knee.

      Patterson, a sophomore, suffered the injury during the Rebels' 40-24 loss to No. 24 LSU on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss. He left the game after a second-quarter interception and checked into the medical tent before going to the locker room.

  • Georgia Southern fires football coach
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 22, 2017

    Halfway through the 2017 season, Georgia Southern is looking for a new football coach after firing Tyson Summers on Sunday.

    • The Eagles fell to 0-6 -- its worst start since 1981 -- after a 55-20 loss to Massachusetts on Saturday. UMass had not won a game this season before rolling past Georgia Southern.

      Chad Lunsford, a longtime assistant at Georgia Southern, will take over as interim coach. The Eagles' next game is Saturday at Troy in a Sun Belt Conference matchup.

      Summers had a 5-13 record at the school, which is located in Statesboro, Ga. He was in the second year of a four-year contract that paid him $500,000 annually.

      The Georgia native replaced Willie Fritz in 2015 after serving as defensive coordinator at Colorado State and Central Florida. Summers got off to a promising 3-0 start in 2016 since then the Eagles have gone 2-13 over two seasons.

      "I thank Tyson and his family for their contributions to Georgia Southern," athletic director Tom Kleinlein said in a statement. "Being the leader of a college football program is more than just coaching games; it's managing academics and leading 120 young men. Tyson did a great job in areas that the public doesn't see, but at the end of the day, the results on the field weren't where we needed them to be as we continue our growth as an FBS program."

      Georgia Southern had enjoyed success as an Football Championship Subdivision program, winning six national titles, and then after moving up to FBS.

      The Eagles won 18 games during its first two seasons at college football's highest level, but Summers decided to move away from a triple-option offense that had brought the program success over the years.

      After Georgia Southern faltered last year, Summers brought in former Navy assistant coach Bryan Cook to reinstall the triple option, but the offense hasn't improved.

  • Michigan drops out of AP poll
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 22, 2017

    Michigan dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time in two years, while Notre Dame jumped into the top 10 for the first time this season in the Associated Press college football poll released Sunday.

    • No major upsets shook up college football this weekend, as the top eight teams remain unchanged from last week.

      Alabama, which beat Tennessee 45-7, remains a unanimous No. 1 in this week's media poll. This is the 98th time Alabama is ranked No. 1, tying Notre Dame at No. 3 on the all-time list.

      The Crimson Tide are idle this week, then face No. 23 LSU on Nov. 4.

      Penn State, which defeated Michigan 42-13, is No. 2. Michigan, which was 19th last week, is out of the Top 25 for the first time since Sept. 20, 2015.

      Georgia is No. 3 followed by No. 4 TCU and No. 5 Wisconsin. Ohio State, which had a bye, is the highest-ranked one-loss team at No. 6 and hosts Penn State on Saturday.

      Notre Dame rose four spots to No. 9 after beating USC 49-14. The Trojans slipped to No. 21.

      The Irish were 10th to start 2016, but they finished 4-8 last year. Notre Dame was unranked in this year's preseason poll.

      Iowa State moved into the rankings at No. 25. The Cyclones (5-2) are ranked for the first time since September 2005.

  • First and 20: Notre Dame's win displays it is again a force
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 22, 2017

    Notre Dame was a wreck last season, Brian Kelly was on the coaching hot seat, and the Fighting Irish seemed joyless after this season's Week 2 home loss to Georgia.

    • Now, of course, the Fighting Irish are one of the hottest teams in the country and on a path to reach the College Football Playoff, no questions asked.

      College football comes at you fast, and the Irish -- in a rare bout of being unranked and undervalued at the start of a season -- are, along with unbeaten TCU, one of the fastest risers in the nation.

      They haven't done it with flash. They are getting it done because Kelly went back to identifying the running game as his offenses' bread-and-butter, while new defensive coordinator Mike Elko -- a savvy but un-sexy pick from Wake Forest -- has transformed his unit into a tougher outfit up front that specializes in turnovers.

      The results Saturday night: 394 yards rushing, 111 rushing yards allowed, a plus-3 turnover margin and a 49-14 home victory over then-No. 11 USC that screamed: "WE'RE BACK."

      "I wrote on my card tonight in my locker room, and I said if we didn't win really big, I would be disappointed," Kelly said.

      What would have been disappointing is if Notre Dame didn't take advantage of having two NFL players on the left side of its offensive line -- tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson, both seniors, and both projected as first-rounders by NFLDraftScout.com.

      The Irish were 80th nationally in rushing last season with DeShone Kizer at quarterback but are now sixth, averaging 317.9 yards per game as Josh Adams has emerged as a Heisman-caliber running back. Adams (191 yards) and quarterback Brandon Wimbush (106) led the relentless ground attack against USC.

      "Credit Notre Dame," said USC coach Clay Helton. "They won the battle in the trenches tonight."

      Last season, when Notre Dame went 4-8, the Irish had a minus-4 turnover margin and had one of the nation's lowest sack totals -- 14. Elko's Wake Forest defense, surprisingly lethal, made 41.

      He has brought that edge to South Bend. Notre Dame is more than doubling its sack rate -- from 1.17 per game to 2.57 -- and is among the national leaders with a turnover margin of plus-1.43 per game.

      "We want more," Kelly said after the USC game. "This was a great victory. We're excited about the win, beating a very good USC team. But our guys want to be unique. So there's more out there for them."

      Yes. There is.

      Notre Dame hosts yet another fast riser this season -- North Carolina State this Saturday. The Irish play at currently unbeaten Miami on Nov. 11. Always tricky Navy awaits on Nov. 18. They close at nationally ranked Stanford on Nov. 25.

      If Notre Dame runs the table -- with those quality wins and only a one-point loss to Georgia on its resume -- it is getting into the four-team playoff, no questions asked.

      "Mindset wise, I think we're in a good place," Kelly said.

      5 thoughts on Week 8

      1. The Pac-12's playoff hopes just got worse. Preseason favorite USC is on the canvas, and one-loss Washington and Washington State have lousy nonconference strengths of schedule. Don't sleep on two-loss Stanford, which could close with wins over the Washington schools, Notre Dame and in the conference title game.

      2. Jeff Tedford is the first-year Coach of the Year. Remember when this guy was at Cal and considered one of the best minds in college football? Now, he's revitalizing his alma mater, Fresno State, which is 5-2 and has a two-game lead in the Mountain West's West Division after a 27-3 road win at San Diego State, which spent a few weeks in the Top 25 this season. Oh, the Bulldogs were 1-11 last season.

      3. Derrius Guice is still Derrius Guice. Finally looking healthy again, LSU's preseason All-American running back ripped off 276 yards on 22 carries against Ole Miss. With Guice and another first-round prospect -- edge rusher Arden Key (two sacks vs. the Rebels) -- returning to full strength, the Tigers still might have something to say when they visit Alabama on Nov. 4.

      4. Something is hot in Arizona. And it's not the seats of coaches Todd Graham (Arizona State) and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona). Job security is no longer the main topic for both of these sixth-year coaches, whose teams sit 3-1 in the Pac-12 South, each showing recent surprising strengths -- the Sun Devils with defense, the Wildcats with stunning quarterback play. It's not crazy that the Territorial Cup rivalry game on Nov. 25 could be for the division title.

      5. More proof that nobody knows college football. Boston College has scored more than 40 points in a game for the first time since 2002; Rutgers has won consecutive Big Ten games for the first time ever; Iowa State is 3-1 and controls its destiny in the Big 12 race.

      5 numbers to note

      1. 35 -- Consecutive seasons with a bowl for Florida State, which dropped to 2-4 after a home loss to Louisville with five games left (a game against Louisiana-Monroe was cancelled because of Hurricane Irma). Can the Seminoles get to six wins? Let's assume a win over Delaware State. That means FSU has to go 3-1 vs. this slate: at Boston College, vs. Syracuse, at Clemson, at Florida. Not easy.

      2. 3 -- Consecutive games in which Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate has scored on a run of at least 70 yards. He is the first quarterback to have such a streak in at least the past 10 years, including to ESPNStats.

      3. 32 -- Years it has been since Army qualified for bowl games in back-to-back seasons. That's what the Black Knights have already done, getting to 6-2 with a win over Temple and accepting a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl.

      4. 804 -- Yards of total offense for Florida Atlantic in its 69-31 win over North Texas. Never forget that Lane Kiffin can coach some offense. His Owls are 4-3 overall and 3-0 in Conference USA, tied for the East Division lead with Marshall.

      5. 15 -- Touchdowns receptions for West Virginia receiver David Sills V. Nobody else in the country has more than nine. Now the chase is on for Sills, with five regular-season games remaining, to get the national record of 27, set by Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards in 1998.

      5 top Heisman candidates

      1. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. His highlight plays in Saturday's rout of Michigan (and what had been a stout defense) makes him the favorite, but games against Ohio State and Michigan State in the next two weeks will further tell the tale.

      2. Stanford RB Bryce Love. The Cardinal were off on Saturday. Next up: More long Love runs against an Oregon State defense that is 100th nationally against the run.

      3. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield. An 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to beat Kansas State? Yeah, the nation's leader in passing efficiency did that to cap a 410-yard passing day against the Wildcats.

      4. Notre Dame RB Josh Adams. He's sixth nationally in rushing (138.1 yards per game) after his 191-yard outing against USC, and now he and the Irish have everyone's attention.

      5. Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor. He's reached 1,000 yards in only seven games as a true freshman. Here's the list of other FBS freshman who have done that: Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson, Jamario Thomas and P.J. Hill.

      5 top games for Week 9

      1. Penn State at Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). The Buckeyes have rolled since losing at home to Oklahoma in their second game, but the competition hasn't been great. The prove-it part of schedule begins ... now.

      2. North Carolina State at Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). Sure, the Irish dominated a banged-up USC defensive front. The Wolfpack, led by end Bradley Chubb, will be a much stiffer challenge in a game with College Football Playoff implications.

      3. Oklahoma State at West Virginia (Saturday, noon ET). It's the nation's top-rated passing offense (Oklahoma State) vs. the nation's fourth-rated passing offense (West Virginia) and, it's almost not fair, both can run the ball, too.

      4. Georgia vs. Florida (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Jacksonville, Fla.). Georgia is looking for revenge in one of college football's best rivalries, having lost three in a row to the Gators, including 24-10 last season.

      5. USC at Arizona State (Saturday, 10:45 p.m. ET). Here is your late-night entertainment, with the surging Sun Devils looking to establish themselves as the Pac-12 South frontrunner against the wobbly Trojans and their suddenly turnover-prone QB Sam Darnold.

  • Ole Miss QB Patterson tears PCL, out rest of season
    By The Sports Xchange / Sunday, October 22, 2017

    Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson will miss the rest of the season with a torn knee ligament, the school announced Sunday.

    • An MRI revealed a torn posterior cruciate ligament in Patterson's right knee.

      Patterson, a sophomore, suffered the injury during the Rebels' 40-24 loss to No. 24 LSU on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss. He left the game after a second-quarter interception and checked into the medical tent before going to the locker room.

      Patterson came back out during halftime warmups after the initial diagnosis was a sprained knee and played during the second half with a brace on his right knee. He played the entire third quarter and a majority of the fourth but walked with a considerable limp.

      Patterson completed 10 of 23 passes for 116 yards with three interceptions against LSU.

      "We felt like he gave us the best chance to win," interim coach Matt Luke said of Patterson. "We were told he wasn't going to further damage it so that's what we went with."

      Patterson is leading the Southeastern Conference with 2,259 yards, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

      Junior quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, who played in Patterson's absence against LSU, is expected to become the starter when the Rebels (3-4, 1-3 SEC) host Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) this Saturday. Ta'amu completed 7 of 11 passes for 78 yards against LSU.

  • Top 25 roundup: No. 2 Penn State clobbers No. 19 Michigan
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 21, 2017

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley scored three touchdowns as No. 2 Penn State routed No. 19 Michigan 42-13 on Saturday night.

    • Barkley scored on runs of 69 and 15 yards in the first quarter, and a 42-yard reception from Trace McSorley with 13:11 left in the game.

      The national leader in all-purpose yards per game when play began (217.0), Barkley finished with 176 yards -- 108 yards on 15 rushes, 53 on three receptions and a 15-yard kickoff return.

      McSorley, who ran 11 times for 76 yards and three touchdowns, clicked on 17 of 26 passes for 282 yards and the score to Barkley. He was also intercepted once.

      Playing before a Beaver Stadium-record crowd of 110,823, the Lions (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) piled up a 506-269 yardage advantage despite facing a team that began the night allowing an FBS-best 223.8 yards a game.

      Michigan fell to 5-2, 2-2 in the Big Ten.

      No. 1 Alabama 45, Tennessee 7

      TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama recorded nearly 500 more yards than the Volunteers and extended its winning streak over Tennessee to 11 straight games.

      The Crimson Tide's stingy defense allowed only 108 total yards and held redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, making his second career start, to 44 yards on 9-of-16 passing. He was intercepted once as Alabama held Tennessee's offense scoreless.

      The Crimson Tide's balanced offense rolled to 604 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground.

      Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) led 21-0 at halftime as the Volunteers (3-4, 0-4) remained winless in conference play.

      No. 4 TCU 43, Kansas 0

      Quarterback Kenny Hill threw for five touchdowns and 278 yards as the Horned Frog shut out overmatched Kansas in Fort Worth, Texas.

      Hill completed 19 of 26 passes for the Horned Frogs (7-0, 4-0 Big 12), while the Jayhawks (1-6, 0-4) never came close to scoring in suffering their 44th straight road loss, dating back to 2009.

      They started the fourth quarter with minus-6 yards of offense and needed a late surge to finish with 21 total yards. Kansas picked up four first downs for the night, two via penalty.

      The game was played with a mostly continuous running clock for the last 12 minutes in order to finish it before a cell of severe thunderstorms hit the area.

      No. 5 Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13

      MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor rushed 22 times for 126 yards and one touchdown and also had a 24-yard reception as the Badgers (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) earned their best start since a 7-0 mark in 2004.

      Taylor has 144 carries for 1,012 yards and 11 touchdowns, tying the FBS freshman record for fewest games to reach the 1,000-yard milestone. He joined Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson, Jamario Thomas and P.J. Hill as freshmen to hit the 1,000-yard mark in seven games. Maryland drops to 3-4, 1-3.

      No. 8 Miami 27, Syracuse 19

      MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their 11th straight game, beating the Orange (4-4, 2-2), who had upset Clemson last week.

      An 85-yard touchdown drive that started with less than five minutes remaining clinched the win for Miami.

      Quarterback Malik Rosier passed for 344 yards and two touchdowns, and Miami's defense intercepted Orange quarterback Eric Dungey four times.

      No. 9 Oklahoma 42, Kansas State 35

      MANHATTAN, Kan. - Rodney Anderson scored on a 22-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left to give the Sooners (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) the victory.

      Oklahoma rallied from a 21-7 deficit to capture the win over the Wildcats (3-4, 1-3).

      Kansas State tied the score 35-35 when Alex Delton threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Zuber with 2:25 remaining.

      But Baker Mayfield led the Sooners on a 76-yard march to win the game.

      No. 10 Oklahoma State 13, Texas 10 (OT)

      AUSTIN, Texas -- Oklahoma State safety Ramon Richards intercepted a pass from Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the end zone in overtime to provide the Cowboys with the win.

      Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) took the lead in overtime with a 34-yard field goal by Matt Ammendola, who missed from 29 yards late in regulation. Texas (3-4, 2-2), in field goal range to tie the game at the Cowboys' 6, got greedy as Ehlinger tried to lob a pass to Jerrod Heard that was intercepted, ending the game.

      No. 13 Notre Dame 49, No. 11 USC 14

      SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Running back Josh Adams and quarterback Brandon Wimbush led another impressive Notre Dame rushing attack in the rout of USC.

      Adams (19 carries, 191 yards) and Wimbush (14 carries, 106 yards) combined for five touchdowns. It marked the fourth time this season Notre Dame has had multiple players rush for at least 100 yards.

      Notre Dame (6-1) gashed USC (6-2) for 377 yards on the ground, well above the Trojans' defensive average of 146.7 rushing yards allowed entering the game. The Fighting Irish outgained USC 497-336.

      USC quarterback Sam Darnold completed 20 of 28 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception before giving way to reserve Matt Fink for much of the fourth quarter.

      No. 14 Virginia Tech 59, North Carolina 7

      BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech set school records for points and margin of victory in an ACC game while becoming bowl eligible for the 25th straight season.

      The Hokies (6-1, 2-1 ACC) scored on offense, defense and special teams while dispatching the Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5) for the 11th time in 14 meetings as ACC opponents.

      Virginia Tech forced three turnovers, recorded six sacks and had 13 tackles for loss.

      No. 15 Washington State 28, Colorado 0

      An outstanding defensive effort powered Washington State (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) on a night when driving rain and just-above-freezing temperature rendered mounting an offensive attack difficult in Pullman, Wash.

      The Cougars held Colorado (4-4, 1-4) below 100 total yards of offense until the third quarter, and just 174 yards on the night. Colorado changed quarterbacks at halftime, with Sam Noyer replacing Steven Montez. Neither had much success.

      Washington State quarterback Luke Falk threw three touchdown passes while completing 17 of 34 passing for 197 yards.

      No. 16 South Florida 34, Tulane 28

      NEW ORLEANS -- Quarterback Quinton Flowers accounted for 265 yards from scrimmage, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as South Florida held off a 21-point Tulane second-half rally.

      USF (7-0, 4-0 AAC) is off to its best start in school history and extended the nation's longest active winning streak to 12 games.

      The Bulls scored at least 30 points for an FBS-record 24th consecutive game, surpassing the 23-game streak posted by Chip Kelly's Oregon teams in 2011-12.

      Flowers threw for 127 yards, completing 10-of-24 passes, and ran for 138 yards on 13 carries.

      No. 18 Michigan State 17, Indiana 9

      EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The Spartans (6-1, 5-0 Big Ten) trailed most of the game but scored two touchdowns over the final 5:59 to earn the win and reclaim the Old Brass Spittoon.

      Indiana (3-4, 0-4) led 9-3 entering the fourth quarter but has now lost to four ranked teams in conference play.

      Michigan State finally found the end zone with 5:59 remaining on a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Lewerke to wide receiver Felton Davis to put the Spartans ahead 10-9.

      No. 20 Central Florida 31, Navy 21

      ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Adrian Killins Jr. ran 15 times for 122 yards and two touchdowns, and McKenzie Milton threw for one score in the Knights' victory.

      The Knights (6-0, 4-0 AAC), who were 0-12 in 2015, are off to the best start in school history. Navy had won 17 games in a row at home.

      Navy (5-2, 3-2) was led by quarterback Zach Abey, who ran 25 times for 126 yards. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in eight straight games, a school record. But Abey was shaken up on a run with 11:16 left in the third quarter. He left the game and didn't return.

      No. 21 Auburn 52, Arkansas 20

      FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Junior running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson rushed for a combined 153 yards and four touchdowns as Auburn bounced back from a disappointing road loss last week at LSU.

      Auburn piled up 629 yards of total offense and scored touchdowns on five of its seven second-half possessions to break the game open after leading 17-6 at halftime.

      Pettway rushed for 90 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers.

      Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley, a redshirt freshman who made his second consecutive of start of injured senior Austin Allen, completed 15 of 26 passes for 163 yards. Kelley was sacked six times and fumbled the ball away twice.

      No. 23 West Virginia 38, Baylor 36

      WACO, Texas -- West Virginia let a 25-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter, but still won.

      Quarterback Will Grier passed for 375 yards and five touchdowns and the Mountaineers came up with a crucial late defensive play.

      Baylor backup quarterback Charlie Brewer passed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter. He hit running back Trestan Ebner for a 9-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left, bringing the Bears (0-7, 0-4 Big 12) within a two-point conversion.

      But West Virginia linebacker Xavier Preston sacked Brewer on the two-point attempt, preserving the win for West Virginia (5-2, 3-1).

      No. 24 LSU 40, Mississippi 24

      LSU running back Derrius Guice rushed for 276 yards on 22 carries to lead the Tigers to victory in Oxford, Miss.

      Guice holds the school record with 285 yards, achieved last year against Texas A&M. He is the first running back in SEC history to rush for more than 250 yards in at least three games.

      It was a sweet win for LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who was the Rebels coach from 2005 to 2007.

      LSU (6-2, 3-1 SEC) has won three consecutive games since losing its homecoming contest to Troy on Sept. 30.

  • NFL prospects leading undefeated Miami's resurgence
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, October 21, 2017

    The Miami Hurricanes, undefeated and ranked eighth in the nation, are one of the best stories at the midway point of the 2017 season.

    • Head coach Mark Richt and his staff deserve plenty of credit for Miami's return to prominence, but it is not simply the X's and O's delivering for the 'Canes. The sheer talent that for so long personified "The U" appears to have returned.

      A handful of previously underrated NFL prospects enjoyed impressive performances in Miami's entertaining and hard-fought 27-19 win over a gutty Syracuse squad on Saturday.

      The difference-maker offensively was senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV, a 6-foot-4, 254-pounder currently ranked sixth on NFLDraftScout.com's board at the position.

      A moveable chess piece on offense for the Hurricanes, Herndon lined up as a traditional tight end, split out wide as a slot receiver, as an H-back on the wing and in the backfield. He caught a career-high 10 passes for 96 yards against Syracuse, including the game's first touchdown on a quick drag across the middle.

      If Herndon's name sounds familiar, it should. After all, he was Miami's starter last year over David Njoku, whom the Cleveland Browns made the 29th overall pick in the spring.

      While perhaps lacking his former teammate's raw explosiveness, Herndon is a much more polished player, as his multiple roles indicate. He is a coordinated athlete with easy movement skills, consistently gaining separation despite running relatively simple routes.

      Herndon possesses soft mitts and excellent hand-eye coordination to haul in passes thrown high, low and to the outside -- all of which was on display Saturday. Herndon's 10th grab of the day -- a quick toss outside from quarterback Malik Rosier early in the third quarter -- was a difficult one-handed reception that the tight end made look easy before breaking through an arm tackle to fall forward and pick up a first down.

      Perhaps most exciting of all for Miami fans is that Herndon was not Miami's only standout on offense -- a significant concern after the 'Canes lost flashy junior running back Mark Walton to a broken right ankle in a big win over Florida State two weeks ago.

      Rosier, a 6-1, 218-pound redshirt junior, impressed with his velocity and poise, completing 26 of 43 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns, while also chipping in another 45 yards on the ground. Further, the raw athleticism of true freshman receiver Jeff Thomas and sophomore wideout Ahhman Richards (who combined for eight grabs for 160 yards and a score) should keep the middle wide open for Herndon to exploit.

      While Herndon was clearly Miami's most productive player, a trio of defenders played every bit as big of a role in the 'Canes victory Saturday.

      Defensive linemen Chad Thomas and RJ McIntosh helped Miami control the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, redshirt junior cornerback Michael Jackson played the "Thriller" role, intercepting two of Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey's four interceptions.

      The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Thomas is currently Miami's top-rated senior on NFLDraftScout.com's board, checking in sixth among defensive ends and 125th overall. Though his imposing frame suggests he is a run-stuffing specialist, Thomas entered the contest leading the team in big plays near the line of scrimmage, with six tackles for loss and three sacks.

      Although Thomas' best asset is his power, he is surprisingly quick off the snap and locates the ball quickly, showing good effort in pursuit. His long arms and core strength show up on bull rushes, including when he is asked to loop back inside on stunts.

      The experience playing inside and out should help Thomas' transition to the next level, just as it did with previous Miami defensive linemen with similarly imposing frames -- like longtime NFL standouts Calais Campbell (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Allen Bailey (Kansas City Chiefs).

      Thomas signed with Miami as one of the more highly touted preps in the country, choosing the 'Canes over the likes of Alabama and Florida State. He emerged as one of Miami's top players a year ago, breaking out with a career-high 37 tackles, including 11 for loss and six sacks.

      Thomas was Miami's standout defensive lineman early in the game but after suffering a shoulder injury that briefly sidelined him in the second quarter (and required a brace when he returned), it was the 6-4, 280-pound McIntosh who turned in the big plays late, deflecting two passes at the line of scrimmage and making his presence felt as a pass rusher and run defender.

      A true junior still growing into his frame, McIntosh already looks the part of a future NFL player with broad shoulders and solid overall musculature. He shows good initial quickness and, as noted on ESPN's telecast, McIntosh can overwhelm blockers as an interior rusher because of his core strength and pad level.

      It remains to be seen if any of Miami's prospects will be able to match Njoku's first-round grade of a year ago. It is clear that these 'Canes are not only gifted but deeper and more technically sound than in recent years, a combination that should keep fans of "The U" happy, including those working as scouts in the NFL.

      Rob Rang is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

  • USC defense braces for Notre Dame's ground game
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, October 20, 2017

    No. 11-ranked USC relied on its defense to pick up the slack through the first half of the season.

    • When the Trojans travel to historic rival and No. 13-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday, their short-handed defense will face one of its biggest tests, courtesy of a prolific Fighting Irish rushing attack.

      The Fighting Irish (5-1) average 308 rushing yards per game, with outings of 422 and 515 yards on the season. They are averaging 6.9 yards per carry and have rushed for a whopping 23 touchdowns in six games.

      Fighting Irish running back Josh Adams (129.3 yards per game, 9 yards per carry) is the most productive ball-carrier USC has seen at this point in the season, save for Stanford's nation-leading rusher Bryce Love. Love took a carry 75 yards for a touchdown early in the Sept. 9 matchup with USC, but the Trojans limited him to 85 thereafter.

      Similarly, in its 28-27 win over Pac-12 Conference foe Utah last Saturday, the Trojans surrendered big plays early -- including a few on the ground to running back Zack Moss.

      Head coach Clay Helton delivered a halftime speech with USC trailing 21-7, which USC linebacker Cameron Smith said "revamped" the Trojans defense.

      "We started out pretty flat on both sides of the ball and that's not how football should be played," Smith said.

      The Trojans (6-1) might be emotionally charged this week, but there's the slight problem of being shorthanded on the defensive line.

      Defensive tackle Josh Fatu, who played his most productive game of the season against Utah, will not play this week because of a concussion suffered in multi-car accident. He made seven tackles, including two for loss and a sack last week.

      USC is down two other defensive tackles. Touted true freshman Marlon Tuipulotu underwent back surgery last week and will miss the rest of the season. Oft-injured senior Kenny Bigelow decided to step away from football this week to begin focusing on a coaching career.

      True freshman defensive tackle Brandon Pili is expected to see more playing time. He has four tackles in two games after being pulled out of his redshirt.

      "I feel like there's a big burden on me," Pili said. "Everyone's depending on me to step up and fill the role of the nose guard, the heart of the defense."

      Notre Dame has a pair of potential first-round picks on the offensive line. Senior guard Quenton Nelson is rated the 20th-best prospect by NFLDraftScout.com and tackle Mike McGlinchey is No. 29.

      There still might be questions about the ability of Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush to consistently throw the ball downfield when the Irish are in obvious passing situations. But the Irish will play to their strengths until USC shows it can stop the run.

      Helton is ready for a big dose of Adams.

      "You just don't bring the guy down with an arm tackle," Helton said. "He just runs right through it."

  • Life in the fast lane: Michigan State's Scott arrested again
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    Michigan State running back LJ Scott was arrested earlier this week for driving with a suspended license, the seventh time the Spartans' leading rusher has been stopped for a license issue in the past two years.

    • The latest arrest occurred Wednesday in East Lansing, Mich. It marks the fourth time Scott will face license-related charges in Michigan. The other three incidents occurred in Ohio.

      Scott, a junior, faces up to one year in jail if convicted because he has a prior conviction.

      According to the Lansing State Journal, Scott has paid more than $1,300 in fines stemming from his previous incidents.

      Scott rushed for a career-high 194 yards in Michigan State's win over Minnesota on Saturday.

  • Alabama's Saban boots walk-on off team following arrest
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    Alabama receiver Donnie Lee Jr. was dismissed from the football team by coach Nick Saban after being arrested on a domestic assault charge on Thursday.

    • Lee, a walk-on, was charged with third-degree domestic assault, according to the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

      Lee, a senior, was reportedly involved in a physical altercation with a female he was dating, according to Birmingham television station WBRC.

      "Donnie Lee Jr., a walk-on who has not been participating in team activities since a knee injury in August, has been dismissed from our football team and is no longer part of our program," Saban said in a news release. "This behavior will not be tolerated from anyone and is not representative of our football program."

      Tuscaloosa police spokesperson Teena Richardson told the Tuscaloosa News that injuries were involved in the altercation.

      "It started as a verbal altercation that led to a physical altercation," Richardson said. "He was charged with domestic violence assault because of her visible injuries."

  • Florida State set to host Louisville in unranked matchup
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, October 19, 2017

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Early in the season, Florida State vs. Louisville looked like a showdown with College Football Playoff implications, featuring a pair of Heisman-hunting quarterbacks.

    • Now, not so much.

      These two unranked teams meet Saturday just looking to begin to salvage what's left of their disappointing seasons.

      Florida State (2-3, 2-2 ACC) started the season ranked No. 3, but the Seminoles lost their opener to No. 1 Alabama -- and lost their star quarterback Deondre Francois (knee) for the season in the process. The Seminoles have struggled since then, losing to Miami and North Carolina State, and barely beating Wake Forest and Duke.

      Louisville (4-3, 1-3) began the season ranked No. 16, fueled by reigning Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, but the Cardinals were waxed by Clemson, thumped by N.C. State and then lost a stunner at home last weekend against Boston College for their second straight defeat.

      Boston College, which came into the game as 21-point underdogs, had been 0-3 in the ACC before the victory.

      "Every team in America has adversity, and certainly, we're going through that right now, and it will make us stronger, and it will make us better," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said Monday.

      "The Green Bay Packers lost their quarterback, Clemson got beat. That's part of what this game is supposed to teach young men. ... Stick to it, believe in it, keep getting better, have a great work ethic, and show mental toughness."

      Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher delivered a similar message about resilience in the face of adversity.

      "(Beating Duke was a) nice win on the road, getting better," Fisher said of the 17-10 victory against the Blue Devils last Saturday. "But at the same time, we had to finish more. Should have been 34, 37 points on the board. Still got to equate into points, and we gotta translate that and that's the next step. But I think we're headed in the right direction."

      The next step would be exacting revenge against Louisville and Jackson, who embarrassed Florida State 63-20 a year ago. In that game, Jackson rushed for four touchdowns and threw for another, amassing 362 total yards in what ended up being the worst loss in Fisher's eight-year tenure with the Seminoles.

      Fisher swore last year's defeat wasn't on his mind as he headed into practice this week.

      "That game's over with. Different team, different place," Fisher said. "You know what they're capable of. You know (Jackson) is the most dynamic player in college football. They're well coached; they do a great job. You don't take any of that personally.

      "If you take it personally, then it gets in your head, and then you can't play; you make bad decisions. You've got to play the game with the team you have right now, with the team they have. They had a great game; they got us. OK? Let's line up and play this week."

      NOTES: Florida State RB Cam Akers finished with 15 carries for 115 yards against Duke, carrying the ball three less times than starter Jacques Patrick. Patrick is not as fast as Akers, and if there is one player who can burn the Louisville defense Saturday, it's Akers. ... Louisville QB Lamar Jackson has passed for 2,322 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first seven games of the season. ... Florida State versatile DB Derwin James is rated as the No. 4 prospect for 2018 by NFLDraftScout.com. He leads the team in tackles with 29.

  • No. 10 Miami has eyes wide open against Syracuse
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    MIAMI -- What once looked like a setup win for Miami took on a much different look after last week's results.

    • Syracuse's 27-24 upset of then-No. 2 Clemson got the attention of the 10th-ranked Hurricanes (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who look to stretch their winning streak to 11 games when they host the Orange (4-3, 2-1) Saturday afternoon.

      As is their custom, Miami's players were gathered in a local hotel last Friday night before their next day's game with Georgia Tech and watched the Orange's impressive showing against the Tigers.

      "Our guys were watching it live and saw for themselves what was about to come up this weekend," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "I didn't have to really explain much of anything."

      What the Hurricanes saw was an impressive offensive show led by Orange quarterback Eric Dungey, who passed for 278 yards. Six of his completions went to wide receiver Steve Ishmael for 73 yards and a touchdown, and four went to Ervin Phillips for 94 yards and a touchdown.

      Ishmael ranks second in the nation in receptions per game (8.9) and third in receiving yards (802). Phillips is tied for fifth in receptions per game (8.0).

      "It's amazing what they've done," Richt said. "Philips actually caught 17 catches in one game."

      That came in a 33-25 loss to North Carolina State that put the Orange in a 2-3 hole overall and got them off to an 0-1 start in league play. The Orange got back to even for the season with a win over Pittsburgh the next week, then stunned Clemson.

      As key as the offense was to the win over the Tigers, it was the Orange's defense that may have been the difference. It gave up only 17 points -- one of the Tigers' touchdowns came on a fumble recovery by the Clemson defense -- and 113 rushing yards. Syracuse recorded four sacks while shutting out the Tigers in the fourth quarter.

      "The momentum kept changing," Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. "We'd go ahead and they'd come back. The guys never put their heads down and never had any doubt. That's the part that I am most proud about. We kept fighting back."

      Babers singled out junior defensive tackle Chris Slayton for his play. Slayton had one of the four sacks among his three tackles, all solo efforts.

      "He plays his position like a grown man in a grown man's league," Babers said. "He is the key to what we do on defense, and he is going to be a professional football player."

      Richt noticed.

      "Their defense has improved by 14 points per game to this point in the season to where they were a year ago, which is a monster change," he said. "You can see why. They're super-fast, physical -- they bring it to you.

      "They don't sit back. They rush hard, they pressure the quarterback, they outnumber the run game and play a bunch of lockdown coverage and do it extremely well. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

      Miami running back Travis Homer had a spectacular debut as a starter in replacing the injured Mark Walton against Georgia Tech. He showed a toughness in rushing for 170 yards on just 20 carries, carrying would-be tacklers for extra yards inside.

      The Hurricanes are coming off two emotional, heart-stopping wins that came down to the final seconds. A touchdown pass to little-used wide receiver Darrell Langham provided the deciding score in a 24-20 win at Florida State, and another long pass to Langham set up the game-winning field goal in a 25-24 decision over Georgia Tech.

      Quarterback Malik Rosier is a hot-and-cold passer who has been hot at the right times in engineering those come-from-behind wins. He has completed 59.1 percent of his passes for 274 yards per game, even though his potential top target, receiver Ahmmon Richards, has played in only one game while coping with a hamstring issue. He is considered day-to-day.

      Miami is in the Top 10 for the first time since last season, when they started the year by winning their first four games. Richt demurred, however, when asked if the rise from No. 18 in the preseason was an indication he was ahead of schedule in his rebuilding project with the Hurricanes.

      "First of all, you're not a Top-10 program unless at the end of the year you're a Top-10 program," he said. "We were ranked 10th last year and lost four in a row, so we became unranked. We were happy to be ranked at the end of the year."

      The Hurricanes finished No. 20 in the final postseason poll after beating West Virginia 31-14 in their bowl game.

      "We were at least a little bit relevant," Richt said. "We finished with five wins and a bowl win, which was big. But we're not at the point where we can just line up and impose our will on people."

  • No. 1 Alabama looks for annual win over Vols
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The question was simple, but Alabama coach Nick Saban took offense.

    • Is a rivalry still a rivalry if only one team is winning?

      Alabama has not lost to Tennessee during Saban's tenure, giving the Crimson Tide a 10-game winning streak in the series.

      The top-ranked Tide (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) enters Saturday's matchup against the Volunteers as about a 35-point favorite, the largest point spread in the history of the rivalry.

      While it is one of the more lopsided rivalries for Alabama, Saban maintains Tennessee (3-3, 0-3) is a tough matchup.

      "It's been very competitive," Saban said. "I can remember two games we had here -- one when we won the national championship -- we had to block a field goal to win the game at the end of the game. The last time we played here, we had like a seven-point game or whatever. A very close game, right down to the end.

      "So I think players get up for games because of the competition and maybe because of the games they've had with them in the past."

      In 2009, Alabama needed a blocked field goal to hold off the Vols. The Crimson Tide went on to win the national title that season. That was almost a decade ago.

      Tennessee's last trip to Tuscaloosa produced a close matchup. The Crimson Tide needed a late touchdown from Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, plus a strip-sack from the defense to defeat the Vols 19-14 in 2015.

      Those are the only two close meetings during Saban's tenure. Alabama has outscored Tennessee 351-119 during Saban's time in Tuscaloosa.

      Speaking of scoring, the Vols haven't been doing much of that lately.

      Tennessee was shut out by Georgia two games ago, then lost 15-9 to South Carolina on Saturday. The Vols haven't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters, dating to the second half against Massachusetts.

      Tennessee is last in the SEC when it comes to big plays. The Vols have registered just 19 plays of more than 20 yards. Alabama has 39 plays of 20 yards or more.

      "We are missing plays," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Not just on offense, but on defense and in special teams. It's overall one of the missing elements is the big plays."

      The same story can be told through turnover margin, where Tennessee is a minus-4 on the year. Alabama is plus-11.

      "Alabama is maybe the most complete team I've seen in years," Jones said.

      The Tide is rolling on offense. Alabama leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (302.57), yards per carry (6.54) and total rushing touchdowns (24). Damien Harris has been Alabama's best running back, averaging 9.2 yards per carry.

      Harris leads the Tide with 625 rushing yards and nine TDs on the ground. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has 558 rushing yards and hasn't had to do much heavy lifting in the passing game, where he has thrown eight touchdown passes with just one interception.

      On defense, the Crimson Tide lead the nation against the run, allowing 66.7 yards. Alabama is second in scoring defense, yielding an average of 10.1 points.

      Tennessee redshirt freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano made his first career start last week, throwing for 133 yards in the Vols' loss to the Gamecocks. He faces an Alabama secondary that leads the SEC with 10 interceptions.

      Tennessee running back John Kelly has 552 rushing yards and six touchdowns, but the Vols often have stalled in the red zone. They have an SEC-worst 73.7 scoring percentage inside opponent's 20-yard line.

      Tennessee's Evan Berry was back at practice this week. The speedy return man has been sidelined since the season opener, in which he returned a pair of kicks for 86 yards. While Jones said he was encouraged about Berry's return to practice, there was still uncertainty early in the week whether or not Berry would suit up against Alabama.

      Saban said there is a case to be made for Tennessee potentially being 5-1 on the season, given close losses to Florida and South Carolina. Of course, there is also a case to be made for the Vols to be 1-5. Tennessee needed double overtime to beat Georgia Tech in the opener and narrowly downed UMass in a 17-13 home win.

      Saban took reporters to task for even suggesting that the rivalry isn't competitive.

      "I think you all, like always, you're always looking for all these assumptions because they have issues, they have problems some kind of way," Saban said. "Why can't that be a motivating factor for them and they play their best game of the year? Y'all ever think about that?"

  • No. 24 LSU tries to keep Ole Miss grounded
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    Ole Miss' passing offense is humming and No. 24 LSU is trying to get its rushing offense to do the same as these longtime rivals meet Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.

    • The Rebels (3-3, 1-2 SEC) lead the conference in passing yards per game at 357.2 -- 70 more than the next-best passing offense (Missouri). LSU (5-2, 2-1) ranks sixth in rushing yards per game (191) and has a chance for a breakout game.

      "They've got one of the best quarterbacks that we're going to face in the country in Shea Patterson," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said of Ole Miss. "Probably the best group of receivers we've seen."

      Rebels wide receivers A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge have each caught six touchdown passes, and Brown is averaging 19.4 yards per catch and Lodge 18.2. Patterson completes 65.8 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.

      Tigers cornerbacks Greedy Williams, Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver II all played a big part in shutting out Auburn in the second half last week as LSU rallied from an early 20-0 deficit to prevail 27-23.

      They're the main reasons LSU is second in the SEC in passes defensed (35). It's also second in sacks and fifth in passing yards allowed (170.6). Only one opponent (Syracuse) has passed for more than 180 yards against the Tigers.

      "They know the stakes are high for us as a football team," Orgeron said of his cornerbacks. "They know the stakes are high for them as individuals, especially going against the great receivers that Ole Miss has."

      The Tigers' ground game has been hampered by injuries to running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams, and tackles K.J. Malone and Toby Weathersby. Guice and Williams have been playing, though limited, but Malone and Weathersby missed the Auburn game. Malone is unlikely to play this week, but Weathersby has returned to practice and has a better chance of playing.

      LSU has run the ball well enough the last two weeks to beat two ranked teams -- Florida, which was 20th, and Auburn, which was 10th.

      In both games, the most explosive runs were made by wide receivers on speed sweeps.

      "Obviously we want to get our running game better inside the tackles," Orgeron said.

      The running backs and the receivers should be able to accumulate more than their average rushing totals against the Rebels, who are allowing the 13th-most rushing yards per game in the country (238.5).

      "(Speed sweeps) have been working really well for us," center Will Clapp told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "We can't rely on that all season to win us games -- got to be more balanced with our run."

      In order for the run game to be more consistently effective, Guice has to get back on track. He hasn't had a 100-yard game since Sept. 9.

      "You've got to stop Guice. That's first," Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. "They do a good job with their speed sweep motions to different people. If you load the box up, they'll hurt you with the speed sweeps. They've got some guys who can beat you on the perimeter. But the big focus is stopping Guice."

      The Rebels ended a three-game losing streak with a 57-35 victory against Vanderbilt last week. Before that, they had been outscored by a combined 110-26 in SEC losses to Alabama and Auburn.

      "I don't think everything is the way it needs to be," Luke said. "We still have a lot of improvements we need to make offensively and defensively. I think that's important to not let a win mask those things."

      Orgeron coached Ole Miss from 2005-07 and was fired after compiling an overall record of 10-25, 3-21 in the SEC (including 0-8 in his final season).

      "This game has nothing to do with me. This is about the team," Orgeron said. "I had a tremendous opportunity at Ole Miss. I didn't get it done. It was a stepping stone. It was something I needed, and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful for the mistakes that happened there. Hopefully I don't make them here."

      Luke, who's an interim coach just as Orgeron was last season before being hired full time, was Orgeron's recruiting coordinator for one season (2005).

  • No. 2 Penn State begins brutal stretch vs. No. 19 Michigan
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Second-ranked Penn State is well-rested, and needs to be.

    • The Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten), idle last week, begin a season-defining three-week stretch by hosting No. 19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday night.

      The game is scheduled to be a "white-out" in 106,572-seat Beaver Stadium.

      "The only thing I like more than Christmas is a white-out football game," Lions coach James Franklin said Tuesday.

      It's probably safe to say he has far less affection for the Big Ten schedule-maker. After Saturday's test, Penn State travels to No. 6 Ohio State and No. 18 Michigan State.

      For now, the Lions are focused on a Wolverines squad that blasted them 49-10 last Sept. 24 in Ann Arbor. PSU won nine straight games afterward en route to the Big Ten championship, and is 15-1 since. Its only loss was a 52-49 Rose Bowl thriller against USC.

      Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer said the Lions are "a different team" than they were last season against the Wolverines, when in his estimation they "weren't ready to play."

      "We have a different mindset," he said.

      Cornerback Amani Oruwariye said the Lions don't view Saturday's rematch as a revenge game, but rather as "a platform to build from."

      Farmer agreed.

      "The numbers speak for themselves -- 15-1 since the last time we played them," he said. "We told ourselves we're not going to prepare the way we did, we're not going to come out the way we did, we're not going to have the energy that ... we did. I think every team needs that kind of game, to just look at themselves in the face, look at each other in the face -- just, 'Let's get it done.'"

      Franklin, a self-described "live-in-the-present guy," believes several factors beyond that loss have contributed to his team's hot streak. He listed player development, added maturity and improved chemistry as factors.

      "I really don't think last season's game has a whole lot to do with this Saturday's game," he said. "I don't think past historical records have a lot of factor into this game Saturday."

      Lions running back Saquon Barkley, the FBS leader in all-purpose yards per game (217.0), has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and quarterback Trace McSorley has also played well. Saturday's game, however, looms as a defensive struggle.

      Penn State is atop the FBS in scoring defense (9.0 points per game), while Michigan leads the way in total defense (223.8 yards per game).

      Franklin described Wolverines coordinator Don Brown, with whom he used to work at Maryland, as a "greedy" defensive boss -- i.e., a coach who tries to muffle every offensive strength of an opponent. During his film study, Franklin has been particularly impressed by defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who in his eyes "looks like a first-rounder" in next spring's NFL draft.

      The Wolverines are also in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, rush defense, pass defense and pass-efficiency defense.

      "I think we are getting better each week," Hurst said of the defense. "I think we are really starting to create our own identity and are starting to really gain an understanding of who we are as a defense. I think that is really important.

      "We kind of knew what we had last year, and this year has been a little more unknown, but I think we have really started to develop into our own."

      The Wolverines followed up a loss to Michigan State with a 27-20 overtime victory at Indiana last Saturday, as junior Karan Higdon ran 25 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns -- all career highs. His 25-yard scoring run in the extra period proved to be the difference.

      Quarterback John O'Korn was only 10 of 20 for 58 yards through the air, however, and said Monday that his outing was " definitely not up to my own goals and aspirations."

      "I need to pick it up," he added. "Simple as that."

      The Wolverines are eighth or worse in the Big Ten in every major offensive category except rushing, and have scored only six touchdowns on 18 visits to the red zone. As a result, coach Jim Harbaugh has not been eager to single out O'Korn for criticism.

      "We're trying to get all 11 (guys) on offense playing more precise," Harbaugh said Tuesday. "That's what we're working on. That's what our preparations are."

  • No. 15 Washington State tries to be less 'sorry' vs. Colorado
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Colorado is coming off its first Pac-12 victory while No. 15 Washington State is trying to bounce back after suffering its first overall loss, a humbling 37-3 setback at California last week.

    • The teams play Saturday in Pullman, Wash., with the Cougars (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) hoping to get back on track toward a league title and a big bowl game.

      "We played sorry and got what we deserved," coach Mike Leach said of the loss to the Golden Bears. "The team is pretty determined to improve, pretty determined to focus in."

      The loss to Cal included five interceptions from senior quarterback Luke Falk, who was sacked nine times.

      NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Dane Brugler noted: "When in a rhythm, Falk is one of the best touch passers I've ever scouted. But when defenses crowd his first read and put pressure on the pocket, he often wilts and makes mistakes. That was the case against the Bears as he was stubborn with his reads and forced throws instead of reading the coverage, coming off his preferred target and finding the open man."

      Falk and the Air Raid offense, which ranks third nationally with 380.9 passing yards per game, will face a less-demanding challenge defensively against Colorado (4-3, 1-3).

      Last week, Colorado allowed 33 points to Oregon State, which had only reached 30 points once before this season. The Beavers gained 569 yards in total offense.

      "We're going to have to be all over him," Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said of Falk. "He's going to make some plays. Hopefully, we can slow him down enough and cause enough turnovers to make a difference.

      "That's really how you stop them -- you cause a few turnovers and make them kick some field goals."

      Colorado's defense ranks fifth in the conference against the pass and the run.

      "They're pretty good. They fly around. They're aggressive," Leach said.

      "They're big, strong, aggressive guys that bat around everything they see. We have to stay away from them. We have to knock them down, run around them or throw over the top of them."

      How Colorado defends against Falk is one aspect to watch; another is how Washington State will try to contain Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay.

      The senior has carried 69 times for 466 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games, against Arizona and Oregon State. He has been a focal point of long, time-consuming drives for the Buffaloes.

      Lindsay had a 74-yard burst for a touchdown against the Beavers, but a majority of his carries have been consistent, short runs that have kept the chains moving.

      "It helps the defense stay off the field and try to stay fresh," MacIntyre said after Monday's practice. "We're not playing a ton of guys on defense and we've had some injuries, especially on the D-line."

      The Buffaloes are one of only two programs in the country with four scoring drives of at least 15 plays. That kind of ball control will be essential against Washington State to keep Falk and the Cougars' potent passing game off the field.

      "That's ball control and that's being efficient on offense," Colorado co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. "The last couple of games we've been a lot more efficient. We've wasted a couple of drives here and there, but I think we had four drives in the second half against Oregon State and we scored on three of them.

      "We had two in the fourth quarter and scored on both of them. That's being efficient and playing to your strengths."

      Washington State will combat Colorado's will to run behind Lindsay -- mixing in play-action passes from quarterback Steve Montez -- with an aggressive front seven.

      The Cougars rank fourth in the Pac-12, allowing only 125.9 yards a game on the ground.

      Defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa has been selected to multiple midseason All-America teams. He leads the conference with 12 tackles for loss. He had two of those -- occurring on sacks --against the Golden Bears.

      He leads active Pac-12 players with 36.5 career tackles for loss and 18.5 career sacks.

      Teammates Dale Hunter and Frankie Luvu are among the conference's leaders in tackles for loss -- Hunter with seven and Luvu with 6.5.

      Despite Washington State's productive defense, Cal outgained the Cougars in total yards 365-337. Cal sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers threw for 259 yards while completing 21 of 38 passes with one touchdown and no interceptions.

      "Washington State is excellent on offense," MacIntyre said.

      "They had an anomaly last week. On defense, they're stemming and moving everywhere. They played good defense last year, too. They're a very good football team and I think they're better than they were last year (when the Cougars won nine games)."

  • No. 21 Auburn runs into vulnerable Arkansas' defense
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Auburn is looking to bounce back from its second loss of the season, while Arkansas still searches for its first SEC victory when the teams collide Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

    • The No. 21 Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) plummeted 11 spots in the poll after last week's 27-23 loss at LSU, when Auburn blew a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.

      Arkansas, meanwhile, is 0-3 in conference play and coming off a 41-9 road loss to No. 1 Alabama.

      Both coaches were maintaining an optimistic outlook.

      "It's our first SEC loss," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of the setback to LSU.

      "We still control our own destiny. We've got to win. We've got to win out. And that's what's on our mind. I'm frustrated, but it's not the end of the world. We're going to finish this season strong, and there's no doubt in my mind our players feel that same way."

      Malzahn said the loss at LSU was his responsibility.

      "Blowing a 20-point lead was tough to take, and I just want to say this," Malzahn said. "I've got good coaches, I've got good players, and any time that happens, that's on the head coach. That's on me. That can't happen again, it won't happen again, but I take full responsibility."

      Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pointed out that the Razorbacks (2-4, 0-3) were 2-4 heading into their home game with Auburn in 2015. Arkansas won that game 54-46 in four overtimes to start a run in which the Razorbacks went 6-1 for an 8-5 finish.

      "We battled back, kind of starting with this game against Auburn, so I'm excited," Bielema said.

      Beating the Tigers in an offensive shootout might be more of a challenge for the Razorbacks this time around. Arkansas has scored a total of 31 points in its last two games and will likely be without senior quarterback Austin Allen for the second consecutive game.

      Redshirt freshman Cole Kelley started in place of Allen against Alabama and completed 23 of 42 passes for 200 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception.

      Allen, who suffered an injured right shoulder in a loss at South Carolina on Oct. 7, hasn't been officially ruled out for the Auburn game, but Bielema said Monday that he is probably "a couple of weeks away" from returning.

      Malzahn said he expects Arkansas to play hard.

      "They're a team right now with their back against the wall," he said. "We know we're going to get their best."

      Auburn sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham struggled in the loss to LSU, completing 9 of 26 attempts for 165 yards and a touchdown. For the season, however, Stidham has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,510 yards and eight touchdowns with two interceptions.

      Stidham's passing complements a bruising Auburn running attack led by junior Kerryon Johnson. Johnson, who missed two games earlier this season with a hamstring injury, has run for 476 yards and seven touchdowns on 82 carries in the past three games.

      "They're a good football team," Bielema said. "I think their quarterback is a very, very good player who throws a very good football. (Johnson) is a very explosive player."

      Arkansas' defense has struggled against the run, allowing its four Power Five opponents to gain an average of 236.8 yards per game on the ground. In last season's meeting, Auburn rushed for 543 yards -- the most by an Arkansas opponent -- and beat the Razorbacks 56-3.

      "It would be fair to say that from the time they walked off the field last year to where we are they've made themselves aware of it," Bielema said.

      Arkansas' running attack, on the other hand, has been inconsistent. The Razorbacks rushed for 27 yards on 29 carries against Alabama behind a revamped offensive line that also allowed five sacks by the Crimson Tide.

      Auburn has held four of its seven opponents to 100 yards or less rushing and no team has rushed for 200.

      Arkansas quarterbacks have been sacked 18 times this season. Auburn's defense has been credited with 19 sacks, led by 6.5 from junior outside linebacker Jeff Holland.

  • No. 4 TCU faces Kansas as last unbeaten Big 12 team
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    TCU has gone from unranked in the preseason to No. 4 in the country and the only unbeaten team in the Big 12.

    • The Horned Frogs' rise has mirrored that of senior quarterback Kenny Hill. The Texas A&M transfer was uneven last season in his first year of eligibility at TCU, throwing a conference-high 13 interceptions and not getting a lot of help from a slippery-fingered receiving corps.

      But things have fallen into place nicely for TCU (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) this season as it heads into Saturday's home game against Kansas (1-5, 0-3).

      Hill's 69.8 completion percentage (127 of 182) ranks sixth in the nation and is on pace to shatter the TCU season record.

      He also has been clutch, completing 70.6 percent (24 of 34) of his third-down passes. He was 9 of 11 for 144 yards in those situations last week in TCU's 26-6 win at Kansas State.

      TCU's 133 receptions have been spread among 18 players, which is tied for the second most nationally, one behind Clemson. The Horned Frogs are tied for first nationally with 10 players having a touchdown catch.

      "Honestly, no," Hill said when asked whether he thought TCU would be the Big 12's lone unbeaten team at the halfway point of the season. "To get to this point, I wasn't expecting that at all. I mean, it's a good feeling, but you've got to keep pushing, keep plugging away and keep trying to get another win."

      That shouldn't be too hard against Kansas. Jayhawks coach David Beaty has 27 losses in 28 tries against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. One of those was a 45-0 setback at Iowa State last week.

      First-year starting quarterback Peyton Bender began the season with three 300-yard passing performances, and running back Khalil Herbert had a 291-yard rushing performance in a loss to West Virginia.

      Against Iowa State, however, Herbert was sidelined with a hamstring injury and Bender threw an interception on the Jayhawks' first snap. The offense never got any better, averaging 1.8 yards per play on 106 total yards as the defeat stretched Kansas' road losing streak to 43 games, one short of the all-time record set by Western (Colo.) State from 1926 to 1936.

      "Last week's offensive performance is unacceptable," Beaty said. "There is just no other way to say it. We all shoulder that burden -- myself, our staff, all of our players -- and we have to do a good job of looking inside. Really, our entire team does.

      "Some of the issues that you run into, it's just real easy to say, man, can you believe that happened? But that's not how you deal with it. There is a reason why some of those things can be happening, and it forced us as a team to really look inside and really go back to the very foundation of how we're building this program. And it starts with being entitled to nothing and grateful for everything."

      Herbert, who had limped off the field after a 45-yard carry against Texas Tech on Oct. 7, figures to be a game-time decision this week, Beaty said Tuesday. So, too, will starting center Mesa Ribordy, who missed last week's game with an undisclosed injury.

      Either way, it figures to be tough sledding against TCU, which leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (17.3 points per game), total defense (336.3 yards per game) and rushing defense (98.3 yards per game).

      Defensive end Ben Banogu has been dominant with 25 tackles, including eight for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. The Louisiana-Monroe transfer is making a name for himself as the next great TCU defensive end.

      In addition to Hill's skill on offense, TCU's running backs have been solid through six games. Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua have six rushing touchdowns apiece, with Anderson leading the team in carries (79) and yards (470).

      Anderson's dynamic play in the big win at Oklahoma State (160 yards and three touchdowns) was his coming-out party, but he has been a little quieter in recent games after the return of Kyle Hicks to the rotation as he works his way back from injury.

      Hicks, who rushed for 1,042 yards last season, might still be the Horned Frogs' best overall runner. The three have combined for 163 carries, 884 yards and 13 touchdowns.

      TCU already has equaled its number of wins from 2016, when it went 6-7.

      "All I know is, we're bowl eligible," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "That's my first goal, is to get to six, and now it's going to be to get to seven. But you got to have six first."

  • Stakes high for No. 11 USC, No. 13 Notre Dame
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    LOS ANGELES -- The rivalry between No. 11 USC and No. 13 Notre Dame stands as one of the most hallowed in college football, with a lineage that transcends individual season records.

    • "I think it's the best intersectional rivalry in college sports," USC head coach Clay Helton said.

      With a combined 22 national championships and 14 Heisman Trophy winners between the programs, the USC-Notre Dame rivalry has the hardware to back up Helton's claim. Both teams enter Saturday's matchup at Notre Dame Stadium ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2009, and the game has College Football Playoff implications.

      The 89th installment of the series looks to be more befitting its lofty history than recent editions.

      Last year's rain-soaked 45-27 USC win at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum ended with the future of Notre Dame football uncertain, as head coach Brian Kelly fielded questions afterward about his status.

      "Last year, Coach Kelly was dealt a hard hand because of the injuries he had (on the roster), especially late in the season," Helton said. "Right now, they're a healthy club."

      Playing with a complete lineup -- including quarterback Brandon Wimbush, whom Kelly said Tuesday was 100 percent coming out of a bye week -- Notre Dame has stormed to a 5-1 start. Its only loss came to currently third-ranked Georgia by one point on Sept. 9.

      The Fighting Irish have relied on a multifaceted run game, paced by running back Josh Adams' 129.3 rushing yards per game -- seventh in the country -- and supplemented by the dual-threat playmaker Wimbush at 80.4 yards per game.

      Combined with a defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown, Notre Dame has already exceeded its 2016 win total. Talk of change has given way to championship aspirations.

      USC, at 6-1, is also a viable national championship contender -- contingent on Saturday's result, anyway.

      No team has advanced to college football's four-team playoff in the three years of its existence. That's a small sample size, but it indicates that Saturday's clash might a de facto elimination game, raising the stakes beyond one side taking home the Jeweled Shillelagh.

      Notre Dame's fifth-ranked rushing offense (308.0 yards per game) takes aim at a USC defense that has been central to the Trojans' strong start. USC won in its last outing, 28-27 over conference opponent Utah, as quarterback Sam Darnold said the Trojans "wouldn't be able to win that game without (the defense)."

      Linebacker Cameron Smith was critical to the win over Utah -- as he has been to USC's defense throughout the season. Notre Dame's Kelly described Smith as his "favorite player on the (Trojans) defense." The linebacker made 16 tackles against the Utes with an interception, and he figures to be pivotal in USC's efforts to slow Adams.

      "He's all over the field," Kelly said. "He's smart. Great tackler in space, the ability to do a lot in coverage but plays well in the box."

      Among Smith's contributions the last time out was an interception made in the red zone. USC's defense has been excellent with its back against the end zone, holding opponents to a 41.4 percent touchdown conversion rate inside the 20-yard line.

      Only 11 defenses in the country are better. Notre Dame has one of them, allowing 35 percent.

      "We've done a really good job of matching personnel there, and (stopping opponents on) first down," Kelly said. "Leverage has been with us in down-and-distance in the red zone, and leverage has been with us in matching personnel in the red zone."

      Should Saturday's game come down to a red-zone play, it will call to mind the game at Notre Dame Stadium 12 years ago when Trojans running back Reggie Bush pushed quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone for a winning touchdown.

      USC played for a national championship that season; Notre Dame went to the Fiesta Bowl, finishing just outside of the BCS title picture. Such are the potential stakes this year -- for the first time between these programs since the 2006 season.

      "It's great for college football when both teams are doing well, and there's so much excitement around the game on a national scope," Helton said. "It makes it fun for the players, the coaches and the fans."

  • No. 16 USF rides Bull market into Tulane territory
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    NEW ORLEANS -- University of South Florida coach Charlie Strong has been around great football programs before, so comparisons come rather easily for a man who has seen his share of undefeated starts.

    • The No. 16 Bulls (6-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) will put their nation-leading 11-game winning streak on the line against improved Tulane (3-3, 1-1) on Saturday night in Yulman Stadium, but Strong isn't afraid to tell the world how good his team is.

      A victory over Tulane would give USF its best start in school history and continue the Bulls' search for national affirmation.

      "We're good enough to go and compete with anyone," Strong said Tuesday after his Bulls garnered their highest poll ranking since 2008. "We have a good football team. I've seen some of these (other) teams play, and I wouldn't be afraid to play them."

      The Bulls have done much more than win 11 straight games. During their last 23 contests, USF has scored at least 30 points, matching a mark set by Chip Kelly's 2011-12 Oregon teams for the longest such streak in NCAA history.

      The streak opened with a 44-23 victory over Temple on Nov. 14, 2015, and USF has averaged 42.6 points in those games. The Bulls are averaging 42.8 points this season, but Strong is concerned about his defense stopping Tulane's rejuvenated option offense.

      "We know this, whenever you go on the road, you've got to play your best and you've got to be at your best," Strong said. "We're going to get their best. Tulane has a really explosive offense."

      Strong's calling card has always been defense, and that's been the case in his first year with USF. The Bulls rank No. 3 in the nation in rushing defense (77.8 yards per game) and No. 8 in rushing offense (293 yards). Top-ranked Alabama and No. 3 Georgia are the only other teams that rank in the top 10 in both categories.

      USF also ranks first in the nation in interceptions (15) and turnover margin (plus-13).

      Making the offense go for USF is senior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards in a 33-3 romp over Cincinnati last week. He has rushed for more yards as a quarterback than Florida's Tim Tebow.

      "I came here to do what I'm doing now, make my family proud, make my mom proud, just be a difference maker on the team," Flowers said. "I've just got to continue doing it."

      Tulane, revived under second-year coach Willie Fritz, is coming off a disappointing 23-10 loss to Florida International on Saturday. Fritz said the Green Wave will have their hands full trying to stop the USF attack.

      "Their quarterback (Flowers) is a Heisman Trophy candidate and they run the ball extremely well," Fritz said. "They've got big back and a big offensive line, but they also throw the ball very effectively. And, defensively, I don't think they get enough credit. They've got good corners and they play a lot of man coverage. They have a big defensive line."

      After rolling up 653 yards in total offense in a 62-28 rout of Tulsa, Tulane couldn't make many offensive plays against FIU. Running back Dontrell Hilliard rushed for only 90 yards and junior quarterback Jonathan Banks was 5 of 16 passing for 36 yards.

      "Dontrell didn't get enough touches last week," Fritz said.

      USF's special teams have also been superb. Senior kicker Emilio Nadelman made all four field goal attempts against Cincinnati and is 14 of 15 this season.

  • No. 5 Wisconsin aims for clean game vs. Maryland
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin junior left tackle Michael Deiter dwells on improvement, even after the Badgers rose to No. 5 in this week's rankings.

    • He looks at the statistics following Wisconsin's 17-9 win over Purdue in which the Badgers committed eight penalties, had three turnovers and had a punt blocked.

      "Turnovers, penalties, it makes for a sloppy game," Deiter said. "It's uphill sledding, and it's something we have to fix. It's too many. We've got to get better."

      Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) will attempt to get better and maintain its unblemished record on Saturday against Maryland (3-3, 1-2) at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers are seeking their first 7-0 mark since 2004.

      Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said the mistakes are fixable.

      "I think a lot of the negatives come from indecision," Chryst said. "So if you can make sure that your players know what they're doing, how to do it, understand it, then they go out and play. So I think there's a lot you can do during the week, and need to do."

      The Badgers have persevered despite some inconsistent play from sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who completed 13 of 18 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Boilermakers.

      For the season, Hornibrook has completed 82 of 125 passes (65.60 percent) for 1,210 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.

      The Saturday game will pit two young quarterbacks against each other in Hornibrook and Terrapins sophomore Max Bortenschlager, who has completed 54 of 109 passes (51 percent) for 561 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.

      Because of injuries, Bortenschlager is the third Maryland starter in six games. Maryland coach DJ Durkin said not forcing things and making the right decisions are keys to Bortenschlager's success.

      Bortenschlager, in his third start last week, completed 17 of 38 passes for 255 yards and three scores in a 37-21 home loss to Northwestern. He has yet to throw an interception in his three starts and has thrown 83 consecutive passes without a pick, the school's longest streak since Chris Turner went 132 consecutive passes without an interception in 2008.

      "Whether that's him delivering the ball down the field or handing the ball off or getting us into the right run -- when he's done that, he's done well, which in turn our offense has done well," Durkin said. "When he hasn't, well, we've seen how that goes. That's really what it comes down to with Max."

      Players on defense will have their hands full with two standouts, Maryland junior wide receiver D.J. Moore and Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor.

      Moore posted career highs with 12 catches and 210 receiving yards in the Northwestern setback. He paces the Big Ten in touchdown catches (seven), receiving yards (624), receiving yards per game (104) and receptions per game (7.3).

      Taylor had 30 carries for 219 yards and a touchdown in the win over Purdue to earn his third Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.

      Taylor, a true freshman, has accumulated 986 rushing yards in six games. He ranks first in the Big Ten -- and third among FBS players -- with an average of 164.3 rushing yards per game. Taylor is the Big Ten leader with 10 rushing touchdowns.

      "He's a freak. It's pretty ridiculous to see some of the runs that he makes," Hornibrook said. "We see him do that every day in practice; we don't always expect him to make it, but we're not always surprised when he does it."

      Durkin said he is particularly impressed with the Badgers' tenacity on the line of scrimmage.

      "Whether it was right away in some of the (games), or as the game wore on eventually, that's what they did -- they took over at the line of scrimmage," Durkin said. "It will be a great challenge for our guys, on both the offense and defensive line. We've got to be great tacklers on defense.

      "They're a tough team to prepare for, and they're good at what they do, obviously. Our guys get it, they understand it, it's a big challenge. I think they'll step up and respond to it."

      Maryland didn't respond in the past two games. Ohio State and Northwestern gashed the Terrapins, rushing for 281 and 238 yards, respectively. Central Florida, the other team that defeated Maryland, rushed for 250 yards.

      The Saturday game marks the second meeting between Maryland and Wisconsin. The Badgers upended the Terrapins 52-7 in 2014 at Madison.

  • Stock Report: Michigan's Hurst could be No. 1 senior
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Here is a look at NFL prospects who helped and may have hurt themselves this past weekend:

    • Who helped themselves?

      --Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan, rSR. (6-2, 282, 4.93, #73)

      With the Michigan offense struggling to put together a complete game, the Wolverines' defense has had to carry the team this season, led by Hurst on the defensive line. Against Indiana, he posted six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack and a blocked field goal, but, as is often the case, the box score doesn't do him justice.

      Hurst, who was the only returning starter on the Michigan defensive line, has the versatile skill-set to play any position up front, including his primary position at nose tackle. Indiana had few answers for his combination of power and quickness, using his initial burst to surge off the snap and explosive power to reset the line of scrimmage.

      Hurst flashed the body control and hip flexibility to sidestep blocks, swim and penetrate without losing his speed. Although he plays mostly as a nose, he projects best as a three-technique or even on the edges where his quickness and backfield instincts lead to disruption.

      Hurst, North Carolina State DE Bradley Chubb and Boston College DE Harold Landry have separated themselves as the three best senior prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class, regardless of position.

      --Steve Ishmael, WR, Syracuse, SR. (6-1, 211, 4.53, #8)

      Few outside of Syracuse anticipated Clemson losing Friday night, but that was the result as the Orange offense did just enough to outscore the Tigers, 27-24. Junior QB Eric Dungey (6-3, 225, 4.67, #2) had a fantastic game, often relying on Ishmael, the only FBS player with 60-plus receptions so far in 2017. Against the Tigers, Ishmael posted six catches for 73 yards and one touchdown and was sought out by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney postgame to compliment his performance.

      Lining up inside and outside on both sides of the formation, Ishmael was excellent vs. the Tigers' jam technique, fighting through contact, staying on his route and staying unfazed by hands-on coverage. He has adequate vertical speed, but what makes him so impressive deep is his ability to create last-moment separation with his frame.

      Ishmael's physical nature will get him in trouble at times as he was flagged twice for offensive interference for pushing off, but he is a very detailed receiver who gets the most out of his ability and relies more on instincts than physical measureables. Ishmael is a senior prospect on the rise.

      --Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB, Oklahoma, rSR. (6-0, 242, 4.78, #31)

      If the Oklahoma jerseys didn't have names or numbers, one would still be able to easily spot Okoronkwo because he always has the dirtiest uniform on the field. And that was certainly the case against Texas as the Houston native lived in the Longhorns' backfield, finishing with five tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and five quarterback hurries.

      At 6-0 and 245 pounds, Okoronkwo doesn't have the prototypical build of an edge rushers, but he rushes with the initial burst and balance to bend the edge and infiltrate the pocket. While he is short, he certainly isn't small, sporting a muscle-bound frame with the core strength to fight off blocks and maintain his forward momentum through contact.

      Okoronkwo needs to expand his pass rush repertoire, which especially shows if he doesn't win with his first step, but he earns extra points for his relentless nature, leaving it all out on the field (hence the dirty jersey each week). Although he doesn't fit the traditional mold of what NFL teams look for at the position, Okoronkwo has intriguing tape and shows flashes of Yannick Ngakoue.

      --Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA, SR. (6-6, 255, 4.77, #93)

      If you're looking for a prospect who will "rise" throughout the draft process, Davenport is a name to remember. An athletic big man with a basketball background, he was nearly unblockable against North Texas on Saturday, finishing with a team-best eight tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Davenport is quick off the snap and converts speed to power with his initial quickness, forward lean and physical attitude. He has great feet for his size to play in space and uses his flexibility to leverage the edge, dip and capture the corner.

      From a technical perspective, Davenport plays tall and is still figuring out how to efficiently string together hand/arm moves, but the effort never quits. Tipping the scales at 198 pounds when he arrived at UTSA, he is close to his goal of 265 pounds, developing his body and building his muscle, which backs up the glowing words from his coaches regarding his work ethic.

      Look for Davenport to continue to rise this season and throughout the pre-draft process.

      --D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland, JR. (5-10, 215, 4.55, #1)

      Entering last weekend, Moore had three 100-yard receiving performances in his career and on Saturday he produced his first 200-yard receiving performance against Northwestern. He finished with a career-best 12 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Moore has impressive playmaking skills with the ball in his hands, showing the ability to create after the catch, turning short catches into big gains.

      He doesn't simply rely on his athleticism, however, separating from man coverage due to sharp angles in his routes and quick feet out of his breaks. Moore doesn't have ideal height for the position, but he is physically put-together with excellent functional strength to out-physical defensive backs and win 50-50 throws his direction.

      Due to injuries, Maryland is now on their third starter at quarterback, but Moore has been a constant for the offense, leading the Big Ten in receiving through six games with 44 receptions for 624 yards and seven touchdowns.

      Who hurt themselves?

      --Luke Falk, QB, Washington State, rSR. (6-3, 225, 4.87, #4)

      Falk has enjoyed an impressive collegiate career at Washington State with several productive performances. But when he is off, it can get ugly, which gives NFL scouts pause about his next level future. Against Cal on Friday night, it was one of those ugly performances with five interceptions after throwing only two in the first six games of the season.

      When in a rhythm, Falk is one of the best touch passers I've ever scouted. But when defenses crowd his first read and put pressure on the pocket, he often wilts and makes mistakes. That was the case against the Bears as he was stubborn with his reads and forced throws instead of reading the coverage, coming off his preferred target and finding the open man.

      With his production and toughness, it is understandable why he has fans across the NFL. But he has never been a tight-windowed passer and will need time to learn how to operate an NFL offense to have a future at the next level.

      Other notes:

      --The Oklahoma State offense set a school-record with 747 yards against Baylor on Saturday, including 235 yards receiving by senior WR James Washington (6-0, 205, 4.50, #28). In six games this season, Washington has gone over 120 yards receiving in five of them (he posted 98 yards on two catches in the one game he fell short) and he leads the FBS with 147.0 receiving yards per game. He also leads the nation with eight catches of 40-plus yards and needs 782 yards in the final seven games of his career (eight if OSU makes the Big 12 conference championship game) to become the Big 12's all-time receiving yards leader. With his athleticism and strong hands, Washington is the favorite to be the first senior wide receiver drafted next spring.

      --While understandably overlooked at times playing next to Washington, Oklahoma State redshirt senior WR Marcell Ateman (6-3, 215, 4.57, #3) also had a 100-yard performance against Baylor with 119 yards on four catches and a touchdown. In fact, Washington and Ateman each have 100-plus yards in four straight games, which has never happened by a pair of teammates in Big 12 history. Ateman is a big, sturdy athlete with good straight-line speed, using his physicality before and after the catch to be effective. He has worked himself into the draftable territory as a possible No. 4 receiver at the next level.

      --Washington Huskies' fans received good news and bad news regarding junior LT Trey Adams (6-7, 320, 5.30, #72), a projected first round pick. First, the bad news: Adams suffered a torn ACL on Saturday in the loss to Arizona State, an injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. The good news? According to The Seattle Times, Adams plans on returning for his senior season at Washington.

      --With 191 yards rushing against LSU and a strong senior season overall, Troy redshirt senior RB Jordan Chunn (6-0, 231, 4.59, #38) is a lot closer to being a draft pick than anyone thought over the summer. However, one key area that could keep him undrafted is ball security. Chunn holds the ball too loose and has fumbled three times over the past two games with several other close calls. His surprisingly productive final season at Troy is a great story, but NFL teams won't be as impressed if they can't trust him to hold the football.

      --The performance by USC redshirt sophomore QB Sam Darnold (6-3, 225, 4.74, #14) on Saturday night was basically a microcosm of his 2017 season thus far. Facing a physical Utah defense, he played maybe the worst two quarters of his collegiate career in the first half with three fumbles (one returned for a Utah touchdown), a dropped interception and only one score. But in typical Darnold fashion, he was at his best when it mattered. USC had five drives in the second half, which resulted in three touchdowns, one punt and one victory formation. Darnold faced eight money downs (third or fourth down) in the second half and he converted seven of them, using his legs to extend plays and his arm to give his receivers a chance to make a play. Despite the three turnovers, it was the first game this season Darnold didn't record an interception.

      Dane Brugler is a Sr. Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

  • No. 9 Oklahoma can't afford a slip at Kansas State
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Neither team is where it expected to be at this point, just for different reasons, as No. 9 Oklahoma heads on the road to face Kansas State in a crucial matchup for both clubs on Saturday.

    • The Sooners (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) still have a shot at the College Football Playoff, although a home loss to unranked Iowa State took away much of the margin of error. Running the table might be necessary for a playoff berth.

      Meanwhile, the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) are facing the possibility of struggling to scrape together enough wins for bowl eligibility when they, too, came into the 2017 season with conference title aspirations and even an outside shot at the playoff. There is only one game left on the schedule -- at Kansas -- in which they will be clear favorites, with several toss-ups and some probable losses filling out the slate.

      Oklahoma entered the season ranked No. 7 and got to as high as No. 2 after a win at Ohio State, but the loss to Iowa State undid that progress. An emotional 29-24 victory over rival Texas last week seems to have corrected the course, but coach Lincoln Riley knows Saturday's game won't be easy.

      "(The Wildcats) bring great effort," Riley said.

      "They bring toughness. Manhattan is always a tough place to play. And I think they're a prideful group, I'm sure they're feeling like we did a week ago, that they didn't put their best foot forward. I don't want to put words into their mouth, but I know they'll be a very motivated and hungry team to play.

      "(They're) a very well-coached team. You know what you're gonna get with Kansas State. You get it every single time. It's always a challenge, certainly going up there is. So we're expecting a four-quarter fight with them, and that's something we've got to be ready for."

      Not much has gone right for Kansas State. Following season-opening blowout wins against weaker non-conference opponents, K-State has lost three of its last four games. The Wildcats have seemed ill-prepared for their past two opponents, something K-State fans are not used to with Bill Snyder-coached teams.

      "There are a lot of things that aren't taking place, and that falls in my lap," Snyder said following the latest loss, a 26-6 defeat at the hands of unbeaten TCU last week. "We were 0-for-7 or 0-for-8 on third down in the first half."

      Kansas State is averaging 208 yards per game on the ground and 186.2 yards per game through the air. Their receivers are dropping way too many catchable passes. A position considered a strength in the offseason sees walk-on Dalton Schoen leading in receiving yards (286) and touchdowns (three). He is second in catches (13).

      Quarterback Jesse Ertz started strong, but he was replaced in a 40-34 double-overtime loss at Texas by Alex Delton because of an undisclosed injury. Ertz, who did not play against TCU, is completing just 55 percent of his passes. He's still the team's leading rusher (336 yards), but not for long, as running back Alex Barnes should pass him this game if Ertz doesn't play.

      Delton, a redshirt sophomore, started his first career game against TCU and could not get untracked. He was 11 of 29 for 146 yards and no touchdowns. A run-first quarterback, he ran for 39 yards on 19 carries.

      "Alex really struggled, but he had a lot of help in that respect," Snyder said. "It wasn't all his fault."

      Despite the struggles, the Wildcats insist they have not lost confidence.

      "We just try to stay focused," senior defensive tackle Will Geary said. "Coach Snyder told us that he was going to do his best to get us ready for next week. It's up to us to buy in and give it our all."

      The Sooners, led by Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield, are averaging 377.7 yards per game through the air and 197.8 on the ground. They have scored an average of 42 points per game.

      Building big leads hasn't been a recent issue. In the first half of their past three games, the Sooners have jumped ahead 28-10 on Baylor, 14-0 on Iowa State and 20-0 on Texas. Each time, the other team came back to take a fourth-quarter lead.

      "If we can get the mentality right, which I think we made some strides on, and get the execution along with it, then that's when you start to knock people out," Riley said.

  • Grier leads No. 23 West Virginia into winless Baylor
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    WACO, Texas -- West Virginia prides itself on its running game, although it managed just 44 yards on the ground against Texas Tech last week.

    • No matter.

      Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier is turning the Mountaineers' offense into a pass-first attack. He threw for 352 yards and five touchdowns in the comeback win over the Red Raiders, and he has quality receivers to throw to, including David Sills V, whose 12 touchdown catches are three more than anybody else has nationally.

      No. 23 West Virginia (4-2, 2-1 Big 12) will be looking for more when it travels to play Baylor (0-6, 0-3) on Saturday evening.

      "They have great receivers, just like Oklahoma State has great receivers," Baylor coach Matt Rhule said of the Mountaineers. "They run the football and are rugged up front. This is another one that's going to take what you give them."

      West Virginia running back Justin Crawford is averaging 101.5 rushing yards per game, with seven touchdowns, but it is Grier that has taken the lead role.

      He has thrown for at least 300 yards in every game, having completed 151 of 230 passes (65.6 percent) for 2,092 yards, with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions.

      Baylor, meanwhile, is sinking to the bottom of the college football total defense rankings -- it stands 125th out of 129 teams, allowing 517.7 yards per game. The Bears are on a 12-game regular-season losing streak after falling to Oklahoma State by 43 points and allowing 747 yards last week.

      The potential worry for West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is that his team takes Baylor too lightly.

      During his weekly press conference, Holgorsen pointed to the fact that the Mountaineers are seeing a Baylor program under Rhule for the first time, which might make Saturday's game difficult to navigate.

      "First time in six years that this is a little more challenging week with Baylor, based on my experiences with what I have known Baylor to be and what they currently are," Holgorsen said. "There's a lot more unknowns than what there has been."

      But instead of traveling to play a Baylor team that is capable of competing for a Big 12 title -- as the Mountaineers did in 2013 and 2015 (both 30-point losses) -- West Virginia will be trying win a game in which it is a heavy favorite.

      That doesn't matter, Holgorsen said.

      "For nine straight weeks and hopefully 10 (if the Mountaineers make the Big 12 championship game), you better play really good or you're going to get beat," Holgorsen said. "That makes it hard, I don't care if you're playing a 1-1 Tech team or an 0-3 Baylor team in conference. I don't view it any differently."

      It will help that Holgorsen is able to point to Baylor's last home game.

      Although Oklahoma defeated the Bears, 49-41, Baylor battled the then-No. 3 Sooners for longer than most expected. Holgorsen said Baylor should have beaten Oklahoma, which is debatable, considering the Sooners trailed for less than two minutes in the second half and had an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.

      But then again, Holgorsen's team used a 29-point rally in the second half to defeat Texas Tech last week, so the Mountaineers have a fresh memory of how influential momentum can be on a team's home field.

      "There's a confidence that tends to exist when stuff like that happens," Holgorsen said. "The momentum got going in the fourth quarter and I couldn't be prouder of our guys. I would hope that would carry over, and I think that's going to give us confidence going forward."

      Baylor sophomore QB Zach Smith struggled against Oklahoma State as he completed just 11 of 28 passes for 127 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He was briefly replaced by freshman Charlie Brewer, who didn't fare much better.

      Rhule is tasked with continually getting his team up off the mat this season.

      "I said it after the game, these kids are unbelievably mentally tough," Rhule said during his Tuesday press conference. "They've been through a lot, and they continue to fight and scratch and claw, and I'm proud of those guys that go out and represent us on Saturdays. I hope our fans come out and cheer for our kids.

      "And my message to our kids is simple. It hasn't worked yet on the scoreboard but there are a lot of guys playing significantly better football."

  • No. 18 Michigan State surges into home game vs. Indiana
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Circumstances certainly are a lot different for Michigan State this week than they were the last time the Spartans prepared for a home game.

    • Three weeks ago, Michigan State was getting ready to host Iowa following a lopsided 38-18 home loss to Notre Dame, and some felt the wounded Spartans were staring at a 2-4 record, given their upcoming schedule.

      The Spartans had to gear up for a stretch of games against a typically solid Iowa team that nearly upset No. 2 Penn State a week earlier, play at rival and top-10 foe Michigan and then travel to Minnesota for a night game.

      Michigan State raised a lot of eyebrows by not only surviving that stretch, but thriving with three consecutive victories.

      Now, No. 18 Michigan State (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) returns home for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Indiana (3-3, 0-3) as a contender for the conference title.

      What a difference three weeks makes, especially on the heels of a 3-9 record last season and a roster full of freshmen and sophomore starters.

      "It speaks to tradition that we have here," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.

      "2015 was not, 'Oh hey, they won a (Big Ten) championship in 2015. How did they do that?' We had won others. We have won a lot of football games here. The expectation and foundation was to win football games and go to bowl games. We have had double-digit wins here five times. Those are the expectations."

      Indiana is coming off a 27-20 overtime home loss to Michigan on Saturday.

      Redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey made his first start, replacing Richard Lagow, after recently sharing time. Ramsey was 20 of 41 for 178 yards, with two interceptions and a touchdown, against the stout Wolverines defense.

      The Hoosiers scored 10 points in the final 3:27 of the regulation but gave up a 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime and never recovered to remain winless in conference play. In fairness to Indiana, those three conference losses have come to Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.

      "I look at where we are at in our schedule and we are the only Big Ten team that in our first seven games is playing four Top 20 teams," Indiana coach Tom Allen said. "That's been a great challenge for us and a great opportunity to compete against really good programs right out of the gate. It has really been good for our guys to be locked in and focused."

      Unlike in past years where a pass-happy offense was Indiana's strength, the Hoosiers this year have relied more on their defense. Indiana is seventh in the Big Ten in total defense and fourth in pass defense, despite playing the heavyweights of the conference. Linebacker Tegray Scales, a preseason All-American, has a team-high 48 tackles, including 3 1/2 sacks. Rashard Fant is rated the ninth-best senior cornerback by NFLDraftScout.com.

      "I have been very impressed with how they have played the games," Dantonio said. "They play hard, they come get you on defense and tackle effectively. On offense, they give you a variety of problems."

      Michigan State is coming off a 30-27 win last Saturday night at Minnesota, a game in which the Spartans were in control of until a late Minnesota rally made the game interesting. Michigan State led 30-13 early in the fourth quarter.

      Running back LJ Scott finally broke out last week with career-highs in carries (25) and rushing yards (194) while scoring two touchdowns. Michigan State had been getting decent rushing numbers overall this season, but much of that production was coming from sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke and receivers on jet sweeps.

      Although the Spartans allowed the Gophers to score touchdowns on their last three possessions, defense has also been a strength for Michigan State.

      The Spartans are second in the Big Ten in total defense. One two opponents have scored more than 14 points.

      "They are playing good football on that side of the ball, for sure," Allen said. "There are not a lot of superstar guys. Maybe they are a better team that plays well together and complements each other well."

      This will also be a trophy game, with the winner claiming the Old Brass Spittoon.

      Indiana broke a seven-game losing streak in the rivalry last year, reclaiming the trophy with a 24-21 win in overtime. The Hoosiers haven't beaten Michigan State in consecutive years since the 1993 and 1994 seasons.