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Costly Turnovers Doom Clemson Tigers in Rivalry Clash with South Carolina Gamecocks





Rivalries of any kind always come with a certain amount of animosity attached, but an in-state feud where the combatants are within one tank of gas apart totally takes the disdain to a different level. Such is the case for the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks whose yearly reckoning always comes with its fair share of ill will. 2013’s installment had plenty of build up coming into the game, but unfortunately for the Tigers turnovers ultimately cost them any opportunity to get a victory.

The calamity of errors for Clemson began in the first quarter with an interception thrown by wide receiver Sammy Watkins when the Tigers were on brink of end zone. It didn’t stop there as Adam Humphries muffed a punt which would be recovered by South Carolina setting them up on a short field. Another fumble by quarterback Tajh Boyd, a second muffed punt by Humphries, and an interception by Boyd would seal the deal for the Gamecocks with the turnover battle going in their favor by a count of five to none.

Turnovers themselves are bad enough, but it’s what the team forcing them does with the ensuing possession that really counts the most. That’s where South Carolina really made their money on the evening as the Gamecocks turned those five giveaways by Clemson into 21 points. I’m not mathematician, but in a game where the final score was 31 to 17 it seems fairly obvious that turnovers were the difference.

What this win does is it really puts a stamp on the SEC’s dominance of late over pretty much every conference in question and especially the ACC in this case. This was the fifth consecutive win in this rivalry for the Gamecocks which is somewhat unbelievable given the fact that South Carolina had only won this yearly event five times in a 20 year span from 1988 up until 2008.

Perhaps the biggest side plot from this narrative is the fact that Tajh Boyd officially ends his Clemson career without a win against the team’s fiercest rival. That really has to sting for a signal caller who accomplished so much during his time on campus. Many are wondering about Boyd’s pro prospects heading into the NFL Draft in the coming spring, and this stain on his resume can’t do him any favors.

It’s hard to win any game when you turn the ball over five times, but it’s even more impossible when your defense fails to force a single giveaway from the other side. Ultimately that’s what made the difference in this fight for the state of South Carolina on Saturday night.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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USC Trojans Regain National Relevance In Upset of Stanford Cardinal





It’s been a wild ride for the USC Trojans this season. From their unsettled quarterback situation to begin the season from the bizarre mid-year firing of former head coach Lane Kiffin, these young guys from Southern California have had a season full of intrigue. All of that came to a head in the team’s hosting of the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal in a quest to regain some national relevance on Saturday night, and the Trojans showed some serious intestinal fortitude with their late-game heroics.

Throughout the game the running of Tyler Gaffney seemed like it would inevitably cost USC the contest, but lifeline after timely lifeline in the form of turnovers and miscues set the Trojans back up for a victory. Of course the win wasn’t just handed to Ed Orgeron’s crew as quarterback Cody Kessler showed some serious poise on the evening. He stood in the pocket and delivered strike after strike to his receivers under the gun. Starting Kessler is proving to be the best decision the team has made this year – aside from the dismissal of Kiffin of course – after Max Wittek’s struggles under center led him to the bench. Rest assured the Kessler’s recent string of success will keep him there indefinitely after the team notched its fourth consecutive Pac-12 victory.

The clutch factor didn’t end with the man under center, however, as wide receiver Marqise Lee proved both clutch and gutsy in the win. Lee made a critical fourth down grab when the Trojans went for it with around a minute left in the game near midfield. A perfectly timed throw was only one-upped by a magnificent catch and run by an obviously hobbled Lee who needed help getting off of the field following the grab. NFL scouts will love seeing him stay out on the field and playing through the pain to make a big catch for his team, and there’s no doubt he will be an early selection when the draft rolls around in May.

Adversity has been the theme for this USC squad this season, and this game seemed to perfectly illustrate the plight of the Trojans in 2013. A huge fumble by Kessler set the Cardinal up in the red zone in the second half, but after forcing a field goal attempt USC managed to block the kick and regain their lost momentum from that point forward.

This team really shows fans what college football is all about with its ability to stare down difficult circumstances and rise up to overcome them. After this victory the Trojans will surely be back in the Top 25, and their rise back from relative obscurity to national relevance has been due to the courage shown by the entire squad.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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Alabama QB A.J. McCarron’s Heisman Trophy Case Gets Another Boost vs. Mississippi State





You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually expects Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide squad to lose any games this season, but if ever there was a contest that screamed “trap” game it was the road game at a scrappy Mississippi State team boasting a very formidable defense. Though the Bulldogs gave the Tide some troubles in the first half with quarterback A.J. McCarron struggling to find a rhythm and seeing his receivers drop balls when they were delivered in stride the better team ultimately showed up in the second half.

As much as McCarron and the Tide struggled to find consistency in the opening half, the second was an absolute clinic by the two-time defending national champion quarterback. His numbers continue to be underwhelming in terms of yardage and touchdowns, but there’s no denying 35 wins in 37 starts with the Tide. The NFL arm talent that everyone has been clamoring for showed up as well in the second half with a variety of balls thrown with zip or touch when necessary on time and on target.

The Heisman Trophy talk is sure to heat up with McCarron now that a lot of his competition has fallen by the wayside. Although Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston remains the consensus favorite to take home the bronze statue this season, his impending investigation for an alleged sexual assault could drastically impact the minds of voters. Given McCarron’s pristine reputation and absolute dominance of college football over the past three seasons, there’s reason to believe he could end up taking votes away from Winston due to that dark cloud.

If this game didn’t vault McCarron to the top of the Heisman list his opportunity will surely be available when the Tide face the still miraculously one-defeated Auburn Tigers in the yearly installment of the Iron Bowl in two weeks. A big win over another top 10 ranked SEC foe would certainly get the Bama QB a firm grip on that highly coveted award.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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Alabama Reminds College Football World of Their Dominance in Win Over LSU





For much of this season the Alabama Crimson Tide haven’t exactly looked like the team we have come to expect over the past few seasons of dominance. Despite the undefeated record and the same lightning rod of a head coach in Nick Saban, this Bama team has established an identity as a high-flying offense with a lackluster defense, a direct contrast to their previous form of dominant defense and power run on offense. Let’s just say at least part of that equation changed on Saturday night against the LSU Tigers.

After LSU really dominated the action in the opening quarter the Crimson Tide just seemed to flip a switch and make the game theirs. Although the level scoreboard lasted until the third quarter, a successful fake punt by Alabama really shifted the tide (pun definitely intended) in their favor. A dominating run game powered by T.J. Yeldon’s 25 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns fueled a complete takeover of the contest from that point on as Bama scored the final 21 points of the game.

Coming into the contest the team that had rushed for the most yards had won the previous five meetings between these two SEC heavyweights, and that amazing stat improved to the last six as Bama out-rushed LSU by a 202 to 62 margin. Even though Heisman hopeful quarterback A.J. McCarron was really an afterthought for the Crimson Tide on offense in the second half, his efficient 14-for-20 performance for 179 yards and three touchdowns did nothing to hurt his push for the most prestigious award in college football. Right now he has to be mentioned in the same breath as Florida State Seminoles signal caller Jameis Winston when it comes to holding up that hardware next month.

LSU may not get much ink after a game where they faded into the SEC background, but quarterback Zach Mettenberger along with dynamic receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry continued to prove their worth to the scouts at the NFL level. Beckham is a budding star while Landry is simply a consistent threat to get open each and every snap. There’s no doubt that this trio will get some serious consideration in the first round this May when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around.

But the main takeaway from this one as far as the collegiate landscape is concerned is that Alabama is back (as if they ever went away). This team has all of the traits of their national championship predecessors and then some with the running game finally coming back to the forefront on Saturday night. Look for the Crimson Tide to continue to roll on through the remainder of their schedule in pursuit of their third straight crystal ball on January 6 in the Rose Bowl.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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Johnny Manziel Proving To Be Most Interesting Watch in College Football





This hasn’t been the same fairytale out of nowhere season as last year for Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies, but that doesn’t mean it’s been devoid of intriguing storylines. Unfortunately for head coach Kevin Sumlin and his football team the bulk of those narratives have centered around a lackluster defense and Manziel having to win shootouts for the team to have any hopes of getting a win on a weekly basis.

Saturday’s tilt with the Mississippi State Bulldogs was no exception to that as the Aggies again struggled mightily on the defensive side of the football. A soft run defense has been a recurring theme for A&M this year, and Dak Prescott led the way for State on the ground. His 154 yards on 16 carries came in bunches on the day as the Aggies really had no answer for the mobile signal caller. That A&M defense made No. 15 Prescott look like another famous No. 15 from the SEC from the archives in one Tim Tebow.

The only cure for a suspect defense is an offense with some serious firepower, and there’s no denying the fact that A&M is well stocked in that department. Manziel powered the offense to another huge day going 30-for-39 through the air for 446 yards with five touchdowns. Unfortunately his performance didn’t come without some hiccups as the gunslinger found a way to keep things interesting with three costly interceptions, including two in the red zone.

It may not always be a pretty watch for fans of the Aggies, but there’s not denying the fact that Manziel is the most interesting spectacle on Saturdays on a weekly basis. If this is his final year before declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft, college football fans should savor these precious moments. There really hasn’t been a guy with as much moxie grace a field in recent memory, and there probably won’t be a similar example any time soon.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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Florida State Should Return to Deserved No. 2 Spot in BCS After Beatdown of Miami





Most were already familiar with the storied history shared between the Florida State Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes coming into Saturday night’s contest. Despite that impressive list of epic battles in the past this rivalry has lacked the pizzazz of yesteryear for much of the past decade. And following the Seminoles’ dismantling of Miami on national television it may be awhile before that air of importance returns to this intrastate clash.

The bulk of the attention coming into this game was focused on FSU quarterback Jameis Winston and his improbable rise from relative unknown to Heisman Trophy front-runner. While Winston was plenty deserving of the spotlight it seems some forgot just how impressive the entire Seminoles team was heading into this game.

Obviously the BCS was one of the entities discounting the rest of the Florida State squad with its complex formulas and completely backwards tactics having the Oregon Ducks jumping them in this past week’s standings. It seems safe to say that after the Seminoles’ impressive showing in a rivalry game in front of a national audience this team should return to its deserved spot at No. 2 in the standings.

Apparently someone forgot to tell Stephen Morris and the Hurricanes that Florida State has a pretty decent defensive unit as well. That defense stifled the Canes offensively and held them to just 275 total yards in addition to forcing two big turnovers. The defensive performance combined with an impressive rushing effort in a clock control offense powered the Seminoles to an easy 41 to 14 victory. Their time of possession edge was staggering in the contest with 38:33 of game time spent with the pigskin as opposed to Miami’s meager 21:27.

Devonta Freeman led the Noles on the ground with 23 carries for 78 yards, but James Wilder Jr. added nine totes for 42 yards along with Winston’s solid six rushes for 27 yards to aid the cause for FSU. This certainly wasn’t the type of game the Heisman contender was looking for with two interceptions, but whether they should or not wins count to the majority of voters. As long as he keeps his team unblemished you can expect to see Winston at least in attendance for the most decorated award in college football next month.

The game may not have lived up to the billing with two teams ranked in the top 10, but at least the ACC can hang its hat on Florida State being a serious national title contender.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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