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17 things you need to know: Melvin Gordon lifts Heisman hopes

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Brynn Anderson / Associated Press
Dak Prescott's rough performance Saturday was good news for Melvin Gordon in the race for the Heisman.

Wisconsin star running back Melvin Gordon couldn't have done more to enhance his Heisman Trophy chances Saturday in rushing for an FBS record 408 yards against Nebraska, launching himself into the center of the conversation -- along with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota -- while outshining fellow (and probably former) Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska in a matchup of two of the nation's elite rushers.

But more was done, anyway.

Because some 900 miles away from Camp Randall, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott threw three passes into the hands of the Alabama secondary, and probably threw his Heisman votes to Gordon at the same time. The top-ranked Bulldogs suffered their first loss of the season, 25-20 to Alabama, and Prescott's performance more than likely lost him whatever Heisman votes he had going into the game.

With FSU's Jameis Winston presumably too hot to touch with a Heisman vote, Prescott had been the only quarterback commanding attention in the award's South region of voters. And assuming those voters are now looking for a new name for the top of their ballots, Gordon's explosive performance comes at the perfect time.

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2. The 'Noles did it again. Behind 23-7, defending national champion Florida State pulled out yet another comeback win on the road, knocking off rival Miami 30-26. It wasn't a great game for Jameis Winston, but it was a huge game for defensive back Jalen Ramsey (four pass breakups, interception, blocked extra point), whose pick-off came in the final minute to seal the comeback. FSU haters will have to grit their teeth for another week. Or longer.

3. Don't count Georgia out of the SEC East race just yet. Behind the return of RB Todd Gurley from suspension, the Bulldogs hammered Auburn 34-7 to maintain hopes of reaching the SEC title game in Atlanta. Gurley went out in the fourth quarter with an injury, but not before he piled up 138 rushing yards.

4. Christian Hackenberg's slump continues, but Penn State's bowl slump will not. The Nittany Lions became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011 with a 30-13 win over Temple. Hackenberg, the program's much-heralded quarterback, struggled against the Owls, completing 12 of 26 passes for 112 yards and two interceptions. He's completed less than 50 percent of his passes for three games in a row, with five interceptions in that span. If he's the franchise, hold off on expansion.

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5. Postseason triple-option football, anyone? Don't look now, but Georgia Tech is back in the race for the ACC Coastal Division. The Yellow Jackets hammered Clemson 28-6 Saturday. And although Duke still holds a tiebreaker edge over Tech, it must win its last two ACC games to clinch the division. Georgia Tech's regular-season conference slate is finished at 6-2, so a Duke stumble puts Paul Johnson's raging rushing attack in the ACC title game.

6. And the news got even worse for Clemson. Heralded freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a left knee injury against the Yellow Jackets and did not return. Cole Stoudt, son of former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Cliff Stoudt, was ineffective in relief.

7. The J.T. Barrett Show stopped by Minnesota. And once again, it lived up to the billing. The Ohio State quarterback pulled out a 31-24 road win in blustery conditions with 189 rushing yards, a school record for a quarterback. Braxton who?

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8. Remember the name Antonio Morrison. That is, if you've somehow managed to forget this already. The Florida Gators junior linebacker has been playing lights-out of late and amassed 16 tackles in an overtime loss to South Carolina Saturday, 23-20. He is now the Gators' runaway leader in tackles with 88. Nobody else on the team even has 50.

9. It was back to defense Saturday for Shaq Thompson. The Washington two-way star, after rushing for 100 yards against UCLA last week, recovered a fumble as a linebacker for the Huskies against Arizona. But it wasn't enough to win the game, as a late Wildcats field goal gave UW its fifth loss in seven games.

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10. Tevin Coleman can pick his holes, but he can't pick his days. Because on any other day, the Indiana star rusher would gotten a lot more attention for a career-high 302-yard game against Rutgers. Instead, he played the best game of his career on the same afternoon that Melvin Gordon notched the best game of anyone's career.

11. Call it a test case. If you want to know if the College Football Playoff selection committee is at all prone to herding winners forward as losses by higher-ranked teams permit, pay close attention to TCU this week. The Horned Frogs grappled with Kansas -- one of the worst Power Five conference teams in the nation -- for an ugly 34-30 win. Ranked fourth last week in the CFB Playoff rankings, TCU will hope for a "slotting vote" slide up to the No. 3 spot if Mississippi State falls out of the top four. If the committee is paying attention, however, TCU should watch its rear-view mirror Tuesday.

12. Turnovers have killed Notre Dame's season. And they did it again Saturday. The Fighting Irish dropped a 43-40 game to Northwestern and committed four more turnovers, giving them 23 for the season. Coach Brian Kelly has put the onus on quarterback Everett Golson, who played well overall, but was responsible for two of them (fumble, interception).

13. Meet the Tennessee quarterback Butch Jones discovered too late. Josh Dobbs' impressive late-season play to lead a resurgent Volunteers team continued Saturday in a 50-16 pasting of Kentucky. Dobbs threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for another 48 and a touchdown, and generally made Kentucky fans glad basketball season is here. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks recently said Dobbs has franchise QB potential.

14. The wait finally ends in Fayetteville. Arkansas won its first SEC game of the Bret Bielema era nearly two full seasons after it began. The Razorbacks shut out LSU, 17-0, behind a defense that rendered LSU's power running game useless (32 carries for 36 yards).

15. Missouri's pass rush keeps on dominating. But this time, it wasn't Shane Ray who turned in the big performance. The Tigers' Markus Golden, a strong pro prospect himself, tallied 2.5 sacks in a 34-27 win over Texas A&M. Ray made half a sack, combining with Golden on the play. Golden now has seven sacks on the year, and has combined with Ray for 19.5. Meanwhile, with the comeback win, the Tigers stayed on track to win the SEC East.

16. When the other team scores 50, bright spots can be hard to find. But in Kentucky's 50-16 loss to Tennessee, UK defenders Bud Dupree and Josh Forrest combined for 35 tackles. With Tennessee piling up more than 500 yards, a lot of those tackles were probably made at the heels. But 35 is 35 -- and it had to leave UK coach Mark Stoops wondering what his other nine starters are made of.

17. The Pac-12 South is a mess. With Arizona State's surprising late-night loss to Oregon State (where title dreams go to die), there are a number of teams in the most competitive division in college football who still have a chance to win it. USC is atop the standings, but UCLA controls its own destiny, and those two face each other next weekend if you want to get a sense of how crazy things are.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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