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College Football
NCAAF News Wire
  • No. 14 Kentucky making bid to rule SEC East
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    No. 14 Kentucky finds itself in unfamiliar territory, competing for the Southeastern Conference East Division title weeks into October.

    • The Wildcats return to the football field for the first time in two weeks on Saturday when the Wildcats face Vanderbilt at Kroger Field.

      Kentucky (5-1, 3-1 SEC) need only beat Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-3) and Missouri (3-3, 0-3) over the next two Saturdays to set up a showdown with No. 8 Georgia on Nov. 3 in Lexington. The winner will be in control of the East.

      Coach Marks Stoops wanted no part of looking down that road.

      "We're going to be one week at a time. I've said that all year," Stoops said. "We have six one-week seasons left."

      More importantly, Stoops is looking for his team to bounce back from its only loss of the season, 20-14 in overtime at Texas A&M on Oct. 6. He sees no cakewalk in Vanderbilt.

      "You see a team that's very hungry, that plays very hard. They're just looking for that breakthrough," Stoops said. "They had a great opportunity to beat Notre Dame and then had a great opportunity against Florida. Two very, very good football teams. You see what they're capable of. Vandy is a good team."

      Vanderbilt is riding a two-game losing streak, both to ranked teams. The Commodores were defeated 37-27 last weekend by Florida and lost 41-13 at Georgia before that.

      "Kentucky is coming off a bye week and I'm sure they'll have some stuff for us. It's going to present some challenges," coach Derek Mason said. "I told our guys, ‘We have to perfect the details.'"

      Kentucky is led on offense by Heisman Trophy candidate running back Benny Snell. He has 699 rushing yards and seven touchdown through six games. The UK defense ranks No. 4 nationally at 13.8 points per game.

      "They've got a great defense and a great defensive front," Vandy's Mason said. "Those guys don't get enough credit. They're big and they're physical."

      UK will be looking for a bounce back from first-year starting quarterback Terry Wilson, who struggled mightily in the Texas A&M loss.

      "Terry will learn from that experience, and he'll get better," Stoops said. "He certainly did some things in that game that needs corrected, that maybe he will get corrected."

      Vanderbilt is led by quarterback Kyle Shumer, who ranks No. 24 in the country with 1,629 passing yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. His top receiver is Kalija Lipscomb, who also ranks No. 24 with 560 yards and six touchdowns. Saturday's game will also feature the return of running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn from the injury list.

      "He's explosive. He is extremely fast," Stoops said. "I talked to a few people that played him and they said as fast as he looks on film, he's faster in person. So that means, that you definitely could feel him on the field."

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 3 Clemson runs into ACC showdown with 16th-ranked NC State
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Given the presence of highly regarded quarterback Trevor Lawrence and a stable of outstanding receivers, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had plenty of confidence in the Tigers' passing game heading into the season.

    • What he didn't forecast was the effectiveness of the running game.

      "We've ripened up," Swinney said. "Those guys up front are doing a really good job. It has been a long time since we've been able to run the football like we are right now. If we continue to do that, it's going to create some problems for some people."

      It already has.

      Clemson is coming off a 471-yard rushing performance against Wake Forest and has risen to No. 4 nationally in rushing offense at 280.8 yards per game.

      Although the Tigers had three backs run for more than 100 yards against the Demon Deacons, sophomore running back Travis Etienne has been the catalyst. He has 654 yards over the Tigers' last four games, with a gaudy average of 10.2 yards per carry.

      Slowing that running game will be a top priority for No. 16 N.C. State on Saturday when it challenges No. 3 Clemson in a battle of undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division teams at the Tigers' Memorial Stadium.

      "Their tailback position is really dynamic," N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. "And I think Etienne is a fun guy to watch. He's fast, he gets to top speed in a hurry. He sees things well and he's definitely somebody that you've got to be really concerned about tackling, getting him on the ground. Then the guys who come in after him all average over five yards per carry, which is impressive."

      Clemson (6-0, 3-0) has won six straight games against N.C. State (5-0, 2-0), but the last two meetings have gone down to the wire.

      Two years ago, Clemson won 24-17 in overtime when the Wolfpack missed a 33-yard field goal late in regulation and had to rally from a 21-17 halftime deficit to hold off N.C. State 38-31 last season.

      "It wouldn't matter if they were 6-0 or 3-3 or 1-5 - it's Clemson vs. N.C. State and it's always a great game," Swinney said. "They always get excited to play the Tigers and we always get excited to play them. It ought to be a lot of fun."

      The game also may present the biggest challenge to date for Clemson's highly regarded defense, which ranks third nationally in total defense. N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley is the league's passing leader, averaging 324 yards per game, and has a plethora of tall and talented wide receivers at his disposal, including Kelvin Harmon, an NFL prospect who leads the ACC with 106.8 receiving yards per game.

      This much is certain: Saturday's winner will have an inside track to the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the Dec. 1 ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C.

      "We're excited to have that kind of opportunity in October against a really good team," Doeren said. "I have a lot of respect for Dabo, his staff, their program and what they've done for our conference. For us it's an opportunity to go play them when they're playing really good football."

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 25 Wazzu anxiously awaits No. 12 Oregon
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Oregon is fresh off a dramatic victory that prevented the Ducks from all but falling out of the Pac-12 North race.

    • No. 12 Oregon is looking to record another critical win against a rising Washington State squad with the backdrop of ESPN's national pregame show live on the scene to add energy and impact for the home club.

      The Ducks and No. 25 Cougars are two of the division's four one-loss teams in Pac-12 play as they meet for an expected shootout on Saturday night in Pullman, Wash.

      Oregon (5-1, 2-1) handed Washington (3-1 Pac-12) its first conference setback last Saturday with the thrilling 30-27 overtime victory.

      Washington State (5-1, 2-1) is well-rested after having a bye last weekend and is looking to record its 11th consecutive home victory. Stanford (2-1) is the other one-loss team in the Pac-12 North.

      The tight race is on the mind of Ducks coach Mario Cristobal and he's also concerned about how his team will respond after the pivotal triumph over the then-No. 7 Huskies.

      "That's what Coach Cristobal addressed after the game," standout junior quarterback Justin Herbert told reporters. "He came up and mentioned we have a great opportunity next week and not to sit on this one. It's a great win and we're looking forward to (Washington State)."

      Playing the Cougars hasn't been much fun for Oregon in recent seasons. Washington State has won the past three meetings.

      "They've been really hard-fought games, all of them," Cougars coach Mike Leach said at a press conference. "I think this one will be the same. They're very fast guys. They always seem to be very fast moving games too. There's always a quick pace to it. It's come down to whoever is willing to slug it out in the end."

      Or perhaps who slings the football better.

      Herbert is a top NFL prospect who has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 1,613 yards and 17 touchdowns against five interceptions. His prowess is helping the Ducks average 43 points per game.

      But Washington State senior Gardner Minshew II has even better statistics. Minshew leads the nation with 2,422 yards to with a 68.7 percent completion rate, 19 touchdowns and four interceptions for an offense averaging 41.8 points.

      When Leach was asked to rate where Herbert ranks among Pac-12 quarterbacks he faced, he didn't endorse Herbert's reputation and instead criticized the way NFL scouts rate quarterbacks. Asked a second time, Leach didn't place Herbert in the upper echelon.

      "That's difficult to answer in a lot of ways," Leach said. "I think he's a good quarterback. Where he belongs as far as the top of this conference, there's been a lot of good ones in this conference, so, that's a fairly crowded field."

      The Cougars allow an average of 23.8 points per game and rank 14th nationally in total defense (311.2 yards per game) and 10th in passing defense (163.0). Senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer is the unit's leader with 50 tackles this season and 304 for his career.

      Oregon is giving up an average of 24.8 points and senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi and true freshman safety Jevon Hollins each have three interceptions. Amadi has returned two for touchdowns.

      Meanwhile, Cristobal is trying to keep his team's focus on this matchup and not the highly competitive division race.

      "You always address it because it's out there and they're going to hear it," Cristobal said at a press conference. "They're always going to hear that this thing is a tight race how wide open the Pac-12 is, not to mention the North division."

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 10 UCF enters as ECU turns to freshman QB
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    East Carolina is ready for quarterback Holton Ahlers to handle more responsibilities this week.

    • That comes against a Central Florida team with one of the most productive quarterbacks in the country.

      The teams meet in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C. Ahlers, a true freshman, will draw his first starting assignment.

      "Holton does not have a leash this week," East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery said. "I'm taking it off. He will play as long and as hard as he can."

      So there will be quite a bit of contrast at the quarterback position. No. 10 Central Florida (6-0, 3-0 AAC) features junior McKenzie Milton.

      The Knights are coming off a 31-30 escape at Memphis, so they extended their nation's-best winning streak to 19 games despite a significant scare in which they overcame a 16-point deficit. They didn't allow a second-half point.

      "We talk about adversity. We talk about begin in tough situations," Central Florida coach Josh Heupel said. "You continue to fight and find ways to win those games. ... You have to go into every contest expecting it to be a tough game. Expect that same type of output from East Carolina this Saturday."

      The Knights were pleased how they handled a less-than-ideal situation at Memphis.

      "The way we stuck together throughout that game is a huge testament to the kind of guys we have in the locker room," Milton said of the close call. "Hopefully we'll not be in too (many) of them."

      Milton, who has thrown for 16 touchdowns with four interceptions this season, has helped the Knights to 45.7 points per game. Montgomery heaped praise in Milton's experience.

      "McKenzie Milton is the ultimate general of a college football team," Montgomery said. "He is doing things out there that seven-, eight- and nine-year professionals don't have the understanding to do."

      So this makes it quite a task for East Carolina (2-4, 0-3).

      In last week's 42-20 loss to Houston, the Pirates threw 63 passes. Ahlers was 11-for-18 for 137 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a touchdown while gaining a team-high 45 yards on the ground.

      "With Holton, we all have to realize that there will be some bad plays in there but also some really good ones," Montgomery said. "We will have to work through it."

      Montgomery didn't rule out using Reid Herring, who has been starting at quarterback.

      Central Florida holds its highest regular-season ranking in school history.

      "They have definitely done what they are supposed to do to get themselves ranked so high and probably should be ranked a lot higher," Montgomery said.

      Last year, the Knights pinned a 63-21 loss on the Pirates while racking up 600 yards of total offense. East Carolina, though, leads the all-time series 10-6.

      This is Central Florida's second-to-last road game on the schedule.

      This would have been Central Florida's second visit to the state of North Carolina this season, but a Sept. 15 game at North Carolina was called off in advance of Hurricane Florence.

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 6 Michigan, Harbaugh downplay visit to No. 24 Michigan State
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Jim Harbaugh doesn't have a whole lot to say about the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry at the moment.

    • Pressed about the meaning of this annual in-state Big Ten showdown, Harbaugh offered only that it was "great opportunity" and a "big game" for No. 6 Michigan.

      Harbaugh's critics have said plenty about his inability to defeat the Wolverines' main rivals. Since taking over as head coach at his alma mater, Harbaugh is 1-5 against the Spartans and Ohio State.

      He'll look to improve upon that record when Michigan visits East Lansing on Saturday afternoon. Harbaugh's lone victory in those rivalry games came at Spartan Stadium two seasons ago.

      The Spartans have otherwise owned the series over the past decade, winning eight of the last 10 meetings and four of past five.

      There'a a lot more on the line than just bragging rights. Michigan has moved into the Top 10 at No. 6 after winning six straight, including a 38-13 pounding of Wisconsin last Saturday.

      The Wolverines (6-1 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) are tied with Ohio State atop the Eastern Division standings. No. 24 Michigan State (4-2, 2-1) is tied with Maryland in third place after surprising Penn State 21-17 on the road Saturday night.

      Harbaugh is much more eager to comment on his quarterback. Shea Patterson has thrown 10 touchdown passes while getting intercepted just three times. He showed another dimension against the Badgers, scampering away from the defense on an 81-yard run and adding a 7-yard rushing touchdown.

      "He does a great job of taking care of the football," Harbaugh said. "He had one (throw) that he forced in this ballgame last week and that's the first one I can remember."

      Leading rusher Karan Higdon has surpassed the 100-yard mark in the last five games he's played.

      If he extends that streak, he'll do it against the top rushing defense in the nation. The Spartans have allowed just 2.34 yards per carry.

      "They're very stout up front," Harbaugh said. "They've got some real hard-playing guys and their linebackers are some of the best in the league."

      Michigan State's defense and Brian Lewerke's 25-yard touchdown pass to Felton Davis III with 19 seconds left at Penn State allowed the Spartans to stay alive in the conference race.

      "If you can play well in October, then you're going to be in the hunt for things in November," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "So that's our intent as we move forward. I think it intensifies things."

      Lewerke has thrown eight scoring passes but has been intercepted in every game this season.

      Top running back LJ Scott has missed the last four games with an ankle injury and his status for Saturday is uncertain.

      The team with the most productive ground game has won 43 of the last 48 games in the series.

      --Field Level Media

  • Rolling Boilermakers welcome No. 2 Ohio State
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Ohio State entered the post-Nick Bosa era Tuesday when the Buckeyes announced that their injured star defensive end was leaving school immediately to prepare for the 2019 NFL draft.

    • Bosa, like his father and big brother, is predicted to be one of the first picks.

      The No. 2 Buckeyes (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) are well training in going about their business without the All-American junior since he sustained a core muscle injury in the third game of the 2018 season against TCU on Sept. 15 and underwent surgery the next week.

      There was hope that might be able to play in November, but those were nixed just as Ohio State is readying to play Saturday night at Purdue (3-3, 2-1).

      "We prepared for Nick not coming back," quarterback Dwayne Haskins said. "I'm excited for him and his decision and wish him the best of luck."

      Players interviewed hours after the news of Bosa's departure broke said the situation is not a distraction.

      "If he was coming back, he was coming back. If he didn't, he didn't," safety Jordan Fuller said.

      Besides, the Buckeyes need to focus on Purdue, which has a history of playing them tough. Since 2000, the Boilermakers' four wins against Ohio State are second in the conference to Penn State's five.

      "It's an exciting time for our team to play this opponent," Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. "I know our fans are excited and we're looking forward to this game on our home turf."

      Purdue has won three straight, including a 30-13 win against then-No. 23 Boston College on Sept. 22 for the Boilermakers' only win in four games at Ross-Ade Stadium this season.

      The Boilermakers last Saturday compiled 611 total yards (384 passing and 227 rushing) in the 46-7 win at Illinois that marked the most points Purdue has scored on the road in 11 years.

      Purdue allowed Illinois 69 yards on the ground after the Illini had run for at least 212 yards in each of its first five games. That could bad news for the Buckeyes, who had 92 yards on a 2.9 yards per carry average against Minnesota following 154 yards and a 3.2 average the previous game vs. Indiana.

      The great equalizer is Haskins, who has 28 touchdown passes to only four interceptions. He has completed 33 of 44 passes in each of his past two games, throwing for a total of 867 yards and nine TDs in them.

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 18 Penn State, Indiana duel to avoid double downer
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Penn State and Indiana, coming off a kick-in-the-gut losses, vow to avoid licking their wounds as they prepare to meet Saturday in Bloomington.

    • The Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) fell from No. 8 to No. 18 after a 21-17 last-minute loss to Michigan State that voided any hope of a shot at a national championship and also put a conference title in the longshot category.

      "We can't let this get to us. A loss is a loss. There's nothing you can do about it," Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler said.

      Nothing with the exception of making sure things don't deteriorate into what would be a third straight loss. The Nittany Lions fell to Ohio State a week before the loss to the Spartans.

      Penn State's four losses before the one against Michigan State were against ranked teams. A loss this week would be two in a row against teams outside of the top 25.

      "We have to bounce back," Hamler said. "There's really nothing else to do. We have to come together as a team."

      The Hoosiers (4-3, 1-3) are saying much the same coming off a 42-16 homecoming loss against Iowa that coach Tom Allen said was like "getting hit upside the head with a two-by-four."

      Monday, the weekly team meeting was led by players.

      "We had to look Saturday in the face, call it what it was," Indiana senior guard Wes Martin told the Indianapolis Star. "We got our butts whooped on Saturday. We had to face that and move on."

      Seniors asked Allen if they could conduct the meeting.

      "My point was basically just being able to move on, just knowing that we're in control of our future," senior safety Jonathan Crawford told the Star. "No point having negative thoughts about the past week. Stay positive and understand the season's not over. We have a lot of football left and I feel like, if we go head-on, we can finish the season strong."

      One matchup to watch is Penn State's passing game against an Indiana defense that has given up 718 passing yards over its past two games.

      Nittany Lions senior quarterback Trace McSorley's 192 yards against Michigan State made him the school's all-time leader with 8,611 passing yards, but his 54.4 percent completion rate is more than 10 percent below his rate from last year.

      "It's too many drops, not enough detail in the routes and execution, protection a little bit longer so he can be a little more comfortable in the pocket more consistently," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

      "I think what happens is early in the game, if he gets in a situation where he's expecting one route to be run and they don't, it gives him hesitation. He's got to have a one-play mindset where that may have happened earlier in the game, but you've got to trust it's going to happen (successfully) the next play."

      --Field Level Media

  • Tennessee out to end 11-game losing streak to No. 1 Alabama
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    The Third Saturday in October -- the name given to the annual Alabama-Tennessee game - is here again, and the top-ranked Crimson Tide can proclaim a major historical edge.

    • As one-sided as this series has become under head coach Nick Saban, Tennessee is a big underdog at home but coming off an upset at Auburn, there is some spring in the Vols' step.

      Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) travels to Tennessee's Neyland Stadium to face the Volunteers in a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff broadcast nationally on CBS.

      Saban expects his sophomore sensation quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to play in Knoxville after aggravating a knee injury last Saturday in a 39-10 win over Missouri.

      "Tua hasn't missed a day of practice and could have gone back in the game," Saban said on Monday in his press conference. "As long as the medical staff clears him, we'll keep working him to try to get him ready to play in the game."

      Tagovailoa (88 of 123 passing, 1,760 yards, 21 TDs, no interceptions) declared himself "fine" on Monday after practice.

      The two SEC schools - Alabama in the West Division, Tennessee the East -- are common inter-division rivals, and the series dates back to 1901 with the Tide holding a 55-38-7 advantage.

      Tennessee hasn't beaten Alabama since the Volunteers, ranked No. 7 at the time, won 16-13 in 2006 in former Tide coach Mike Shula's final season - the year before Saban arrived.

      Tennessee (3-3, 1-2) played well in the second half two weeks ago in a loss at Georgia, and that momentum carried over last Saturday on the Plains at Auburn.

      Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano passed for a career-high 328 yards and the defense forced three turnovers to help break an 11-game conference losing skid and stun their SEC West foe 30-24.

      The Tide rides a streak of 11 straight wins in the series under Saban, but Tennessee won 10 of 12 before he arrived in Alabama.

      A native of Rainsville, Ala., just south of the Alabama-Tennessee border, Vols first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt has served three separate stints as an assistant in Tuscaloosa under Saban, and his goal is to relocate the rivalry's success north of his hometown.

      "This game means a whole lot to a whole lot of people," said Pruitt, Alabama's defensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017. "We've got to do our part to create this rivalry again. It's not been much of a rivalry the last few years.

      "We've got to uphold our end of it."

      The Volunteers will have two key defensive players missing.

      Senior outside linebacker Jonathan Kongbo tore his ACL against Auburn. Middle linebacker Daniel Bituli, the team leader in tackles the last two seasons, will miss the first half due to a fourth-quarter targeting penalty.

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 15 Washington aims to bounce back vs. Buffs
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    The Colorado Buffaloes wanted to go into their matchup with Washington undefeated and prepared to get a signature win. The Huskies were hoping to bring momentum into their Saturday game against the Buffaloes.

    • Both schools instead looking for a bounce-back game, but only one will accomplish the feat.

      Colorado (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) was rolling before a 31-20 loss at Southern California last Saturday. The 15th-ranked Huskies (5-2, 3-1) are kicking themselves for, well, missing a kick at the end of regulation in a 30-27 overtime defeat at Oregon on the same day.

      As quickly as those losses went into the books, the teams switched their focus to each other. Colorado, second in the Pac-12 South, needs a win to keep its conference title game hopes alive, which is why right after the loss to the Trojans they were thinking about the Huskies.

      "Guys in (the locker room) are down, but also their heads up," sophomore linebacker Nate Landman told reporters after the USC setback. "This game is over we're now looking on to Washington. We're going to watch the film and learn from our mistakes."

      The Buffaloes will have to earn the win without defensive lineman Jase Franke and possibly their biggest playmaker, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.

      Franke is done for the season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament. Shenault was wearing a walking boot early in the week to protect his injured toe, and if he can't go, it takes away quarterback Steven Montez's biggest weapon. Shenault leads the country in catches and receiving yards per game and was just named to the AP midseason All-America team.

      Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said the team can't dwell on who can't play.

      "No excuses, no regrets," MacIntyre told reporters. "Nobody cares. They just expect you to show up and win on Saturday, so that's what we have to do."

      Washington will be without defensive lineman Jaylen Johnson for the first half against Colorado. Johnson was ejected for targeting in the fourth quarter at Oregon on a helmet-to-helmet hit. By rule, he has to sit out the first half of the next game.

      "I think that play was really critical to that whole game, I really do," Huskies coach Chris Petersen told reporters. "We had them and then we gave them a first down. With all that being said, I do want that called. I think that's good for the game of football. There's no messing around in college football. And it's painful. With Jaylen, there was no intent. We all know that. It was just bang-bang. It just happened."

      Not having Johnson will make stopping Colorado's diverse offense harder. Montez can find receivers and tuck it and run, while running back Travon McMillian had three consecutive 100-yard rushing games before the Trojans held him to 32 yards on the ground.

      Washington counters with strong skill players, too. Quarterback Jake Browning has passed for 1,751 yards and 10 touchdowns, and running back Myles Gaskin has rushed for 623 yards and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. However, Gaskin (shoulder) and fellow running back Salvon Ahmed (hyperextended right knee) are banged up. Petersen said they were week-to-week.

      Both players were lobbying to get back into the Oregon game after sustaining their injuries.

      "Well, they're tough guys," Petersen said. "It's that fine line between you can really go and help us and just the guy standing next you can help us more. They were both doing what they can do."

      The Huskies will also be without junior wide receiver Quinten Pounds, who was lost for the season due to a knee injury.

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 20 Cincinnati enters as underdog at Temple
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Luke Fickell came to Cincinnati after a successful stint as Ohio State's defensive coordinator, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the No. 20 Bearcats are off to a 6-0 start in part because they have been so stingy.

    • Heading into an American Athletic Conference game at Temple on Saturday, Cincinnati is permitting just 13.7 points per game, which ranks third in FBS. The Bearcats also lead the nation in pass efficiency defense while ranking in the top 10 in five other defensive categories, including total defense (fourth) and fewest first downs (fifth).

      "What we've done has been pretty good so far," Fickell said. "Let's make sure we're not outthinking ourselves. We've been able to have balance, pressuring and playing coverage on defense. Now we have to find ways to continue to enhance this."

      Yet there are still plenty of skeptics when it comes to the Bearcats. Few FBS teams have played a softer schedule. None of the six teams they've beaten presently owns a winning record, and only Ohio (3-3) can even claim a .500 mark.

      That's why Cincinnati is an underdog against the Owls (4-3, 3-0), who are actually tied with No. 10 Central Florida for first place in the AAC East, a half-game up on the Bearcats and No. 21 South Florida.

      While Cincinnati took last week off after dealing Tulane a 37-21 loss on Oct. 6, Temple neutralized Navy's tricky triple-option attack in a come-from-behind, 24-17 win at Annapolis. The Owls didn't allow the Midshipmen to score over the game's final 28 minutes and permitted just 284 total yards.

      "They threw some new things at us, but our guys settled down and got used to them," Temple coach Geoff Collins said. "We held them to 24 yards offensively in the fourth quarter. We handled some adversity, and what stood out to me is how the kids finished."

      Owls quarterback Anthony Russo enjoyed his second straight efficient outing, completing 23 of 31 passes for 300 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Russo took over the starting role for a Sept. 15 win at Maryland and has hit nearly 60 percent of his passes, although he has tossed seven picks in his five starts.

      The Bearcats are also getting good play from a new starter under center, freshman Desmond Ridder. He is connecting on nearly 66 percent of his passes with a 10-to-2 touchdown-interception ratio. Ridder is also proving to be a threat with his feet, collecting 315 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

      The Owls own a 12-7-1 lead in the all-time series, winning three consecutive matchups.

      --Field Level Media

  • No. 5 LSU has score to settle vs. No. 22 Mississippi State
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    No. 5 LSU is coming off an exhilarating 36-16 victory over previously No. 2-ranked Georgia last Saturday, but now the Tigers must maintain their focus as they prepare to host No. 22 Mississippi State on Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

    • Not only has Mississippi State (4-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) seemingly found its stride, pounding Auburn 23-9 on Oct. 6, but coach Joe Moorhead's run-oriented team also has had the luxury of a week off while getting ready for the Tigers (6-1, 3-1).

      With LSU set to host No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 3 in a game that could decide the SEC West, coach Ed Orgeron knows his players can't let up following the 20-point rout of Georgia in which LSU compiled 475 yards in total offense, including 275 yards rushing, converted all four fourth-down attempts and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter.

      "It's just a feel," Orgeron said when asked about how he hopes to keep his players on an even keel. "Been coaching for 35 years, trying to feel the pulse of the team. Look at practice, see if we're practicing hard enough, No. 1. No. 2, if we're practicing too hard, scale back. Know that each week is going to be different. You're dealing with 18- to 22-year-old men."

      Orgeron shouldn't have to do too much convincing to have his players wary of the threat the Bulldogs pose. Last year, Mississippi State routed LSU 37-7 in Starkville, and that's not something the Tigers will soon forget.

      "We still have that taste in our mouth from last year," Orgeron said. "They out-physicaled us on both sides of the football."

      In their dominant performance against Auburn, the Bulldogs went back to their strength -- a pounding running attack. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has had trouble with accuracy, but he is a load to tackle on read-option runs. He and running back Kylin Hill combined for more than 300 rushing yards in the upset win over Auburn.

      "He is a very dangerous runner," Orgeron said of Fitzgerald. "He can pick and choose his holes. He likes to run them between the tackles. Big, strong quarterback. He's very dangerous. He can get up the field, can make you miss. Very smart with the football, makes decisions. This is going to be one of the best quarterbacks we see all year."

      Moorhead, Mississippi State's first-year coach, isn't overemphasizing last year's hammering of LSU. He knows it will be difficult playing in front of 100,000 Tigers fans.

      "To me more than anything, the great thing about college football is the passion of the fan base," Moorhead said. "They get fired up and get after you and they're into the game and they're going to make it a challenging atmosphere. This is a line-of-scrimmage football league, and the margin of error is slim."

      LSU guard Garrett Brumfield, who sustained a knee injury Sept. 22, practiced this week but is not expected to play against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are healthy coming off their bye week.

      --Field Level Media

  • FAU's Kiffin makes offer to Matt Leinart's son, 11
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Lane Kiffin broke his personal record by offering a scholarship to 11-year-old quarterback Cole Leinart, the son of former Southern California star Matt Leinart.

    • Kiffin, the head coach at Florida Atlantic, once offered QB David Sills, then 13, a scholarship to play at USC. The report that the coach made the offer to Cole Leinart, who is a 5-foot-7 sixth-grader, was confirmed Tuesday by The Athletic and ESPN.

      Kiffin was USC's wide receivers coach, then the offensive coordinator, when Matt Leinart played for the Trojans. As a junior in 2004, Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy. He was a first-round pick (10th overall) by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 NFL Draft, and played in the NFL from 2006-12.

      No telling what will happen to Cole Leinart by the time he is inundated with college offers when he actually enters high school. Sills eventually decommitted at USC when Kiffin was fired, and he is currently a wide receiver at West Virginia. He scored his seventh touchdown of the season Saturday in the Mountaineers' loss at Iowa State.

      --Field Level Media

  • College football notebook: Bosa finished at Ohio State
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Ohio State junior defensive end Nick Bosa intends to withdraw from the school to focus on rehab and training as he prepares for the NFL draft, the school announced Tuesday.

    • "I was hopeful that Nick would be able to return to play again for us," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. "I know this was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for Nick and his family, and I wish him well as he moves on to get himself 100 percent healthy and ready for his next chapter."

      The announcement came shortly after the Columbus Dispatch reported that Bosa and his family decided to focus on preparing him for his NFL career, rather than having him return from an injury to play for the No. 2 Buckeyes this season. Bosa had core-muscle surgery on Sept. 20.

      A contender for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Bosa had 4.0 sacks and six tackles for loss in just three games this season after posting 13.5 and 23.0, respectively, through his first two years with the Buckeyes.

      --Louisville tight end Kemari Averett pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree wanton endangerment and domestic violence after allegedly holding a gun to his girlfriend's head and threatening to kill her.

      Averett, 20, was arrested Monday night. He had his bail set at $10,000 at his arraignment Tuesday. The school announced that Averett is suspended indefinitely pending further investigation.

      The sophomore had played in six games (four starts) this season, catching eight passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns.

      --The health of Tennessee State linebacker Christion Abercrombie continues to improve and he will be discharged from the hospital and transferred to a brain rehabilitation facility on Wednesday, the school announced.

      Abercrombie has been at Vanderbilt University Medical Center since suffering a head injury during a Sept. 29 contest against Vanderbilt. He underwent emergency surgery shortly after his arrival.

      Abercrombie is in stable condition and will be transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The facility specializes in brain injury rehabilitation and is ranked among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the country, according to Tennessee State.

      --Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate will not play against UCLA on Saturday in order to rest his injured ankle, Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin announced.

      Tate aggravated the injury early in last week's 42-10 loss at Utah and was replaced by Rhett Rodriguez, who will make his first career start when the Wildcats (3-4, 2-2 Pac-12) face the Bruins (1-5, 1-2) in Los Angeles.

      Rodriguez, a sophomore, completed 20 of 38 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown against the Utes. He is the son of former Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.

      --Oregon freshman left tackle Penei Sewell is out for approximately six weeks due to a right ankle injury, the school announced.

      Sewell was ranked sixth in the nation among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus based on grading his performance in games this season.

      He went down during the Ducks' 30-27 overtime win over Washington on Saturday.

      --Field Level Media

  • Tennessee State's Abercrombie moving to rehab facility
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    The health of Tennessee State linebacker Christion Abercrombie continues to improve and he will be discharged from the hospital and transferred to a brain rehabilitation facility on Wednesday, the school announced Tuesday.

    • Abercrombie has been at Vanderbilt University Medical Center since suffering a head injury during a Sept. 29 contest against Vanderbilt. He underwent emergency surgery shortly after his arrival.

      Abercrombie will be transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The facility specializes in brain injury rehabilitation and is ranked among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the country, according to Tennessee State.

      Abercrombie remained in stable condition on Tuesday.

      "We thank everyone for their love, support and prayers," Abercrombie's mother, Staci, said through the school. "Keep praying."

      Abercrombie was injured during the first half of the game against Vanderbilt and told trainers he was experiencing headaches. He soon collapsed and was transported to the nearby hospital.

      Tennessee State coach Rod Reed said he visited Abercrombie on Monday night, and saw Abercrombie open his eyes.

      "It just shows the power of God," Reed said in a statement on Tuesday. "This is, in my opinion, a miracle that he's being discharged after such a traumatic experience. Thank you for all of those who sent up prayers. We're looking forward to a speedy recovery."

      Abercrombie began breathing on his own on Sunday, according to the school. His condition was also updated from critical to stable.

      Abercrombie (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) is in his first season with Tennessee State after spending two years at Illinois.

      --Field Level Media

  • Volunteers LB Kongbo out for season with torn ACL
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Tennessee senior linebacker Jonathan Kongbo will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in Saturday's upset victory at Auburn.

    • Coach Jeremy Pruitt said an MRI exam confirmed the injury and that Kongbo is expected to undergo surgery this week.

      Kongbo had two tackles and an interception during the 30-24 victory against the Tigers, which snapped the Volunteers' 11-game SEC losing streak.

      The fifth-year senior had 11 tackles and four quarterback hurries this season for Tennessee (3-3, 1-2).

      He played in 30 games for the Volunteers after transferring from Arizona Western College, registering 51 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two picks.

      --Field Level Media

  • Arizona QB Tate won't play against UCLA
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate will not play against UCLA on Saturday in order to rest his injured ankle, Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin announced Tuesday.

    • Tate aggravated the injury early in last weekend's 42-10 loss at Utah and was replaced by Rhett Rodriguez, who will make his first career start when the Wildcats (3-4, 2-2 Pac-12) face the Bruins (1-5, 1-2) in Los Angeles.

      Rodriguez, a sophomore, completed 20 of 38 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown against the Utes. He is the son of former Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez.

      Tate, a junior, originally hurt his left ankle on Sept. 8 against Houston. He has completed 53.4 percent of his passes for 1,415 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

      With the extra rest, Arizona hopes Tate can return to the starting lineup on Oct. 27 when the Wildcats host No. 12 Oregon.

      --Field Level Media

  • Louisville TE charged with threatening to kill girlfriend
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Louisville tight end Kemari Averett pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of first-degree wanton endangerment and domestic violence after allegedly holding a gun to his girlfriend's head and threatening to kill her.

    • Averett, 20, was arrested Monday night. He had his bail set at $10,000 at his arraignment Tuesday.

      The school announced Tuesday that Averett is suspended indefinitely pending further investigation.

      "He will not have access to our facility or be involved in any team activities during this suspension," Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino said in a statement. "We work hard every day to develop a culture of accountability that everyone in our program must live up to. Any conduct that does not meet these expectations will not be tolerated within the Louisville football program."

      According to the arrest citation, the incident occurred while a woman was returning a backpack to Averett on Monday night. After Averett saw that his laptop was missing from the backpack, he put a gun to the woman's temple and said, "(expletive), I will kill you," the citation said. It added that Averett told the woman, "I'll have my people looking for you," and threatened to pistol whip a witness in the back seat.

      Police referred to the woman as Averett's girlfriend and called him the father of her baby, but wrote that Averett "has been denying he knows the victim and it's not his baby."

      Averett has a court appearance scheduled for Oct. 26.

      Averett, a sophomore, has played in six games (four starts) this season, catching eight passes for 65 yards and two touchdowns.

      --Field Level Media

  • Ducks lose LT Sewell until bowl game
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Freshman left tackle Penei Sewell is out for six weeks with a right ankle injury, Oregon announced Tuesday.

    • Sewell was ranked sixth in the nation among offensive tackles by Pro Football Focus based on grading his performance in games this season.

      He went down during the Ducks' 30-27 overtime win over Washington on Saturday. He could return in early December, but the program said he would miss "approximately six weeks," which would put Oregon in bowl preparation territory.

      "Penei is a relentless competitor and I have no doubt he'll return better than ever," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said in a statement.

      When No. 12 Oregon visits No. 25 Washington State on Saturday, the Ducks are likely to use right tackle Calvin Throckmorton at left tackle and install backup Brady Aiello at right tackle.

      --Field Level Media

  • Injured Ohio State DE Bosa withdraws with NFL focus
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 16, 2018

    Ohio State junior defensive end Nick Bosa intends to withdraw from the school to focus on rehab and training as he prepares for the NFL draft, the school announced Tuesday.

    • "I was hopeful that Nick would be able to return to play again for us," head coach Urban Meyer said in a statement. "I know this was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for Nick and his family, and I wish him well as he moves on to get himself 100 percent healthy and ready for his next chapter. I want to thank Nick for the remarkable efforts he gave for this program. He is a first-class young man who we have been honored to coach."

      The announcement came shortly after the Columbus Dispatch reported that Bosa and his family have decided to focus on preparing him for his NFL career rather than returning to play for the No. 2 Buckeyes this season. Per the report, Bosa met with Meyer and other coaches on Sunday to inform them of the decision.

      Bosa had core-muscle surgery on Sept. 20 after being injured against TCU on Sept. 15, and Meyer said shortly after the surgery that Bosa would be out "a few more weeks, but we expect him back." However, Bosa's father, former Miami Dolphins first-round pick John Bosa, responded to those comments with a much different timeline, saying Bosa wouldn't be re-evaluated until November.

      Widely considered a contender to go first overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, Bosa had 4.0 sacks and six tackles for loss in just three games this season, after posting 13.5 and 23.0, respectively, through his first two years with the Buckeyes.

      His brother, Pro Bowl Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio state. John Bosa went 16th overall in the 1987 draft to Miami out of Boston College.

      --Field Level Media

  • UCLA's Phillips, Jamabo lost for season
    By Field Level Media / Monday, October 15, 2018

    UCLA sophomore linebacker Jaelan Phillips and senior running back Soso Jamabo will miss the rest of the season due to concussions, Bruins coach Chip Kelly told reporters on Monday.

    • Kelly said the decision was reached last week.

      "We met with the doctors at the end of last week," Kelly said. "Both those kids, from a concussion standpoint, were declared out for the year."

      Phillips, a prized 2017 recruit, played in just four games, so he will be able to redshirt and be a sophomore again next season. He had 20 tackles and one sack this season.

      Jamabo saw his role reduced up Kelly's arrival and has carried the ball just five times for 12 yards. He rushed for 446 yards and six touchdowns last season.

      UCLA (1-5) is coming off its first win of the season, a 37-7 romp over Cal. The Bruins host Arizona this Saturday.

      --Field Level Media

  • Alabama QB Tagovailoa avoids serious knee injury
    By Field Level Media / Monday, October 15, 2018

    Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is slated to practice Monday, less than 48 hours after reinjuring his right knee, coach Nick Saban said at a news conference.

    • Tagovailoa departed Saturday's game against Missouri and didn't return after aggravating the sprained knee on a slide in the third quarter.

      Saban also expects his star signal caller to play this Saturday when the top-ranked Crimson Tide visit Tennessee.

      "He's going to practice today," Saban said. "Probably better this week than he was last week, so we're going to see how he does in practice and continue to evaluate him.

      "As long as the medical staff clears him, we'll keep working him to try to get him ready to play in the game."

      Tagovailoa initially hurt the knee the previous week against Arkansas. After reinjuring it against Missouri, he was in the sideline pop-up tent for more than 15 minutes before emerging.

      Tagovailoa passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns before departing. Overall, he has thrown for 1,760 yards and 21 touchdowns against zero interceptions this season.

      Junior Jalen Hurts replaced Tagovailoa and the former two-year starter connected on 7 of 8 passes for 115 yards.

      The injury news wasn't as positive for sophomore receiver DeVonta Smith, who injured a hamstring against Missouri.

      "From an injury standpoint, Smitty's probably the guy that's probably most questionable," Saban said. "You never know how hamstring injuries are going to respond and how fast guys will be able to recover. But at his position, probably have to be pretty full-speed to be able to play, so we'll have to play that one day-to-day."

      Junior defensive end Raekwon Davis faces some diminished playing time, according to Saban, for throwing three punches at Missouri guard Kevin Pendleton at the end of a play in which Pendleton was on the turf. Saban said he discussed the situation with SEC commissioner Craig Sankey.

      "I visited with (Sankey) about Raekwon's actions and we will handle that internally," Saban said. "We will have him do some things. I think it should affect his playing time in the future."

      --Field Level Media

  • Ole Miss WR Metcalf suffers season-ending neck injury
    By Field Level Media / Monday, October 15, 2018

    Mississippi receiver D.K. Metcalf will miss the rest of the season with a neck injury, Rebels coach Matt Luke announced during Monday's news conference.

    • Luke said Metcalf will likely require surgery.

      "Metcalf hurt his neck, and it is worse than we originally thought," Luke said. "He'll be done for the season. ... Long term, he'll bounce back and he'll be fine. We'll make sure he gets the very best care."

      Metcalf, who leads the squad with five touchdown receptions, suffered the injury during the second quarter of Saturday's contest against Arkansas.

      The sophomore has 26 receptions for 569 yards, a splendid 21.9 average yards per catch.

      Ole Miss (5-2, 1-2 SEC) hosts Auburn this Saturday.

      --Field Level Media

  • LSU fined $100K for fans going on field
    By Field Level Media / Monday, October 15, 2018

    LSU was fined $100,000 as a result of its fans storming the field Saturday after the Tigers beat Georgia.

    • The Southeastern Conference announced the fine Monday morning, stating in a news release that the action violated the conference's "access to competition area policy" for the second time since it took effect in 2004.

      LSU fans also went onto the field in 2014 after a defeat of Ole Miss. Any future LSU violation will bring a $250,000 fine.

      The on-field celebration came after LSU rolled over Georgia, 36-16, in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs were ranked second in the nation.

      With the win, the Tigers (6-1) jumped from No. 13 to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 poll. The Bulldogs fell to No. 8.

      LSU's fine money will help fund the SEC's post-graduate scholarship fund.

      --Field Level Media

  • UConn LB Thomas recovering from stroke
    By Field Level Media / Monday, October 15, 2018

    Connecticut linebacker Eli Thomas suffered a stroke last week prior to a team weightlifting session, the school and the player's family announced Monday.

    • UConn said Thomas, 22, is in stable condition at an undisclosed hospital, where he was admitted last Wednesday.

      "Thank you all for your love and well wishes for Eli," Thomas's mother Mary Beth Turner said in a statement. "To say we are stunned by this turn of events is an understatement! A strong, healthy, 22-year old man having a stroke is not anything we anticipated. However, Eli will fight back as he has with every challenge that has come his way with ‘Eli Style.'"

      Thomas, originally from Elmira, N.Y., is a redshirt junior. He played two seasons at Lackawanna Community College in Pennsylvania and transferred to UConn before the 2017 season. He missed the year while rehabilitating a knee injury.

      He entered the 2018 season as starting linebacker and also played at defensive end in the first four games for the Huskies, posting 11 total tackles and the game-sealing sack against Rhode Island.

      Thomas missed the past two games with a neck injury he suffered last month against Syracuse.

      "Every day, you just never know what can happen," UConn coach Randy Edsall said Monday. "Things like this are just very unfortunate. It's one of those things where [you take it] one day at a time and do the very best you can every day because you just never know what can happen."

      --Field Level Media

  • Tennessee State player upgraded to stable condition
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, October 14, 2018

    The Tennessee State football player who collapsed with a head injury during a game against Vanderbilt late last month and has been hospitalized since has been upgraded from critical to stable condition.

    • Linebacker Christion Abercrombie has been breathing without a ventilator for more than 24 hours, according to a social media announcement posted by the school on Sunday.

      The announcement comes on the heels of the player's mother, Staci Abercrombie, posting early last week that she was seeing significant signs of improvement.

      "He is moving in a positive direction and making progress. Christion is so strong. He squeezed my hand so hard, my knuckles were popping," she tweeted.

      Tennessee State head football coach Ron Reed told the Tennessean on Sunday the he spoke with Staci Abercrombie on Saturday night.

      "His mom said he's giving thumbs up," Reed said. "He's counting to four on his fingers. He's opened one of his eyes and followed her around the room a little bit. He's responding to stuff that they're talking to him about; he understands what they're talking about."

      During the game Sept. 29 in at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Abercrombie complained to trainers about having a headache shortly before halftime, and he collapsed a short time later. He was rushed to nearby Vanderbilt Medical Center and underwent emergency surgery.

      Reed said Abercrombie "was taking on a block" when he suffered the injury.

      "It wasn't anything malicious or dirty or anything like that. Just an unfortunate situation," Reed said.

      Abercrombie made five tackles in the game.

      --Field Level Media