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Road to Atlanta: Tampa Bay has its day

By Times staff, wires
UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (18) celebrates after returning a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Austin Peay at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. UCF won, 73-33. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) 1214501

Deja vu, Big 12?

Well, the Big 12 is fun. Kyle Kempt passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns and No. 25 Iowa State upset fourth-ranked TCU 14-7, leaving the conference without an undefeated team heading into November. Kenny Hill was intercepted — his second pick of the game — with 1:16 left to seal it for the host Cyclones, who forced a pair of turnovers in the red zone in the second half. "The reality of it is, it’s hard to stay the course. But these kids are doing that," said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. Iowa State’s win may have seriously hampered the league’s ability to get a team into the playoff after missing out a year ago. TCU (7-1, 4-1 Big 12), Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1) and Iowa State (6-2, 4-1) are tied atop the league — and the Cowboys play in Ames in two weeks.



Dueling QBs

Mason Rudolph outshined former Gator Will Grier. Rudolph threw three touchdowns and ran for another to lead No. 11 Oklahoma State to a 50-39 win at No. 22 West Virginia. Rudolph earned his 29th win as a starter, breaking the school record set by coach Mike Gundy (1986-89). He finished 20-of-34 for 216 yards for the Cowboys (7-1, 4-1 Big 12). Grier, who entered the game first in Division I-A with 26 TD passes, threw four interceptions — look, Gators, a bright spot. His streak of seven straight 300-yard passing games also ended. He finished 20-of-42 for 285 yards and two TDs.



Dueling QBs, Part II

Alex McGough (Gaither High) threw a pair of touchdowns as Florida International held on to beat Marshall 41-30. His QB counterpart, Chase Litton (Wharton High), threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns, including two TD passes in the fourth quarter. McGough was 14-of-18 passing. The Panthers (5-2, 3-1 C-USA) are off to their best start in school history. It was also their second straight win vs. the Thundering Herd and first at Marshall (6-2, 3-1). Another local, Napoleon Maxwell (Admiral Farragut), shined for FIU, running for 93 yards and a TD.



Class warfare

Florida State (2-5, 2-4) hasn’t looked this bad since Bobby Bowden’s first season in 1976. The last time the Seminoles missed a bowl game? 1981. "I just feel like we’re scared to lose now," kicker Ricky Aguayo said after Friday night’s 35-3 loss to Boston College. "It shouldn’t be that way. We have to come out fired up, focused on the game and not focused on the season and on whether we can make a bowl game or not." The fall of FSU, ranked third in the nation at the start of the season, is even more baffling considering the program’s top-five recruiting classes over the past four seasons. Here’s how the Seminoles stack up, talent-wise, to the ACC teams that have beaten them this season:

FSU: 60 (11 5-star recruits; 49 4-stars)

Miami: 32 (1 5-star; 31 4-stars)

N.C. State: 6 (0 5-stars; 6 4-stars)

Boston College: 0 (0 5- and 4-stars)

Source: 247Sports composite rankings from 2014-17



Local spotlight

Jeff Smith: Lost in FSU’s latest meltdown, QB turned WR Smith (Clearwater Central Catholic) threw Boston College’s first TD of the game on a 34-yard double-reverse pass.

Damian King: Indian Rocks Christian alum had eight receptions for 108, including a 22-yard TD, in Liberty’s 33-17 victory over Gardner-Webb. He entered Saturday’s game fourth in receiving yards in the Big South.

Janarion Grant: Pasco High product was a bright spot for Rutgers in a 35-14 loss to Michigan. He ran for a 65-yard score early in the second quarter to pull the Scarlet Knights to a 7-all tie.

Brad Mayes: The ex-Berkeley Prep QB threw for 257 yards and three scores in Lehigh’s 45-35 loss to Fordham.



He said it

"It was time. Like a bird leaving the nest, a kid leaving the house." — Jim Harbaugh, on benching starting QB John O’Korn during Saturday’s game. O’Korn was 3-of-6 for 13 yards with an interception and two recovered fumbles (his own) off snaps.



He said it, Take II

"I don’t know how that team shouldn’t be in the conversation for the playoffs." — Austin Peay coach Will Healy on No. 18 UCF. Coach Scott Frost’s rebuttal? "I don’t think we played our best game."



Knights lights out

Thanks to USF’s loss, UCF controls its AAC and possible New Year’s Six fate. McKenzie Milton (24-of-26) threw for 275 yards and three TDs as the host Knights thumped Austin Peay 73-33. The 73 points were a school record for the Knights, who lead the nation in scoring. UCF (7-0) scored on 11 of 12 possessions. A local highlight: Lakewood High grad Shaquem Griffin returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown.



Fist of the Day

Those in glass houses … shouldn’t throw hissy fits or punches. Dartmouth defensive quality control coach Dion King did this damage to a window after a fumble. Ivy League rage, for the win.



By the numbers

6 Season-high sacks of Lamar Jackson in Louisville’s 42-32 loss to Wake Forest.

24 Deficit Arkansas rallied from to beat Mississippi 38-37.

4 Seconds left when Connor Limpert made the winning 34-yard field goal for the Razorbacks.

3 Overtimes needed for Jacksonville to beat Campbell, 54-48. Irvin Riley ran for the winning 25-yard TD.

3 Overtimes needed for Northwestern to beat No.?16 Michigan State 39-31. Clayton Thorson threw the winning 22-yard TD to Flynn Nagel on third down, then the Wildcats intercepted Brian Lewerke.

23 Seasons with a losing record in the SEC for Vanderbilt after a 34-27 loss at South Carolina.

6 Straight wins for Notre Dame (7-1), which avenged a 10-3 loss at N.C. State last year in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

6 Straight wins for No. 14 N.C. State before Saturday’s 35-14 loss at Notre Dame.



Power Five forecast

The first College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Halloween. Here’s how the top five conferences stack up going into Tuesday:

ACC: Yes, Miami is unbeaten. Yes, it is No. 8 in the country. But the Hurricanes are eking out wins. That’s scary considering who’s coming up: No.?13 Virginia Tech and No. 9 Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks. No. 7 Clemson (a 24-10 winner over Georgia Tech on Saturday night) got in with one loss a year ago — and won it all — but a tricky N.C. State team awaits.

Big Ten: There’s the haves — Ohio State and Penn State — and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes control the East after toppling the Nittany Lions. But their path to the playoff might be muddled by an earlier loss to Oklahoma. The Badgers (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) are unbeaten. But the West’s leader hasn’t played a competitive slate; its remaining regular-season schedule is the 65th toughest in the country.

Big 12: See, "Deja vu, Big 12."

Pac-12: This conference might out-Big 12 the Big 12 and be sitting home New Year’s Day. No team has a perfect conference record. One-loss Washington and Washington State meet in late November. There’s work to be done and late games Saturday night, so we’re begging off.

SEC: If you’re going to knock No. 1 Alabama, take a shot at its strength of schedule (thanks, FSU). The Tide, on a bye week, entered Week 9 with a schedule ranked 34th in the nation. No. 3 Georgia rolled Florida, and though the powers-that-be frown on having teams from the same conference in the semis, things will sort themselves out. ’Bama and UGA are on a collision course for the SEC title game — assuming the Tide doesn’t slip up vs. ranked foes LSU and/or Auburn; the latter also is on the Dawgs’ schedule.

Wild card: Don’t forget about No. 9 Notre Dame, whose only loss was by a point to Georgia.



Comeback of the Day

Twitter hate for J.T. Barrett before the Penn State game

Twitter love for Barrett after the Penn State game

Twitter middle ground after the Penn State game