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Clemson keeps rolling, Saban outlasts Kiffin in college football’s wild Week 6

We’re trained to root for the hero in stories because we all want to believe we’re the good guy, too. But if we’re being honest, the villains make a story fun. Superman has the powers, but Lex Luthor has the personality.

And so it is with Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin, the stoic hero (Saban) pitted against his former protégé turned diabolical usurper (Kiffin). Marvel has nothing on this story.

In a year in which movie theaters went dark, Alabama and Ole Miss gave us our blockbuster. The Tide won 63-48 on Saturday, and the two teams piled up an SEC-record for yardage. A nation on the edge of its seat wondered if Kiffin had somehow accumulated a fistful of infinity stones this offseason.

There were other stories Saturday, of course, with their own heroes and villains. At Clemson, a ferocious defense reminded Miami that being back on top also requires having at least one receiver who can get open. Miami’s Keontra Smith also delivered a nasty hit on Trevor Lawrence that resulted in a targeting flag and forced the Clemson QB to the sideline. Limited attendance made it easy to hear what the socially distanced Clemson fans thought of the play, too. Lawrence returned and teamed with Travis Etienne to lay waste to yet another would-be ACC contender in a 42-17 win.

Etienne and Clemson dominated Miami and proved they’re still the team to beat in the ACC. Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson’s win — as messy as it was at times — including Dabo Swinney’s unfortunate decision to try to kick a 61-yard field goal at the end of the first half — offered a sense of normalcy on a day that had plenty of other drama.

At LSU, Bo Pelini’s defense imploded again, with Ed Orgeron furious about a performance so embarrassing that Nebraska called to ask if it could fire Pelini again. In College Station, Jimbo Fisher finally got his signature win, $75 million well spent. At Georgia, there was Stetson Bennett — definitely the name of a superhero alter ego — leading the Bulldogs to another big win over Tennessee and assuming firm command of the SEC East. Mike Leach’s Air Raid amounted to two points, and he said after the game that some players might need to walk the plank.

But those were all sideshows.

In Oxford, Mississippi, we watched the best kind of drama.

Aside from Saban and Kiffin, there were plenty of other plot points worth following. Mac Jones continued to prove he is a worthy successor to Tua Tagovailoa. The Alabama defense showed signs that it is a long way from its glory days. Ole Miss looked, again, like a team that’s going to hit the over in Las Vegas on a weekly basis. But the backdrop for it all was an X’s-and-O’s battle — and maybe a little subterfuge, too — between two coaches with a shared history and a completely divergent approach to the job.

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College football top 25 scores, overreactions, Week 6: The SEC has become the Big 12 as offenses run wild

The Big 12’s chicken or the egg conundrum has fully engulfed SEC country: Are the offenses really that good or are the defenses really that bad?

Just a fair warning, SEC: it’s a tired debate that goes in circles. The Big 12 spent years fighting the notion that its teams didn’t play defense. In some respects, it’s still fighting it. But like most answers, the reality was/is somewhere in the middle. Big 12 defenses always should have been graded on a curve given how good the offenses were. 

Much of the same can be said for the SEC and the ACC exiting Week 6 with overs on totals hitting in 13 of the 14 games played. Are the offenses that good, or are the defenses that bad? In short: yes. 

How could you not look at No. 2 Alabama’s 63-48 win over Ole Miss and not be blown away by the offenses? The 1,370 total yards of offense between the two were the most in the history of a regulation SEC game. There’s first-round talent up and down Alabama’s offense, but Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss’ Xs and Os dialed up for maximum point scoring. There was some truly great football being played. 

At the same time, Alabama’s defense is clearly not what it used to be. The Tide have allowed at least 42 points three times in the last eight games. Before that, Alabama had allowed at least 42 in three of its previous 65 games, per CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. And Ole Miss’ defense? Somehow even worse. 

Let’s switch to No. 21 Texas A&M’s 41-38 win over No. 4 Florida. Was that good offense? Of course. Quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts have been dominating the stat sheets through the first three games, connecting for seven touchdowns. These two guys are going to be playing in the NFL. Same with Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller, who had 174 yards and two touchdowns. And say what you will about Kellen Mond, but he threw some great passes against the Gators. 

At the same time, Florida looked all out of sorts on defense. Bad angles, bad tackling … just a lot of bad in general. That’s something the Gators have been able to mask because they were winning. The same can’t be said for No. 17 LSU, whose defense has now been torched by Mississippi State and Missouri as part of a 1-2 start. The rebuild that the Tigers are undergoing on that side of the ball is proving to be a bigger task than many realized. New defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has had an awful start as well. 

So, to answer the question. It’s both. And sometimes it’s another thing entirely. In the ACC, No. 19 Virginia Tech was without 15 players against No. 8 North Carolina in a 56-45 loss, including two starting safeties, because of COVID-19 and contact tracing. Depth charts all across the landscape are taking massive hits this year because of it. 

Oklahoma defeats No. 22 Texas in wild, four-overtime thriller

DALLAS — Spencer Rattler threw a 25-yard scoring pass to Drake Stoops in the fourth overtime, and Oklahoma survived a late rally from No. 22 Texas in regulation for a 53-45 victory Saturday as a most unusual version of the Red River rivalry ended with familiar dose of drama.

Rattler’s successful completion on the required 2-point conversion didn’t matter when Sam Ehlinger’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Tre Brown to end just the second Big 12 game to go four OTs.

Because of the pandemic, the crowd was limited to 24,000 in the 93,000-seat Cotton Bowl, with the surrounding Texas state fair shut down for the first time since World War II. On the field, it was the first time since 1999 neither team was in the Top 20.

But the small crowd, low rankings and previous losses didn’t matter much by the time the final five minutes came.

Ehlinger threw two touchdown passes in the final 3:28 of regulation after what appeared to be a game-sealing interception by Woodi Washington in the end zone with the Sooners leading 31-14 with five minutes remaining.

After tossing a 2-yard score to Keaontay Ingram with 14 seconds left in regulation, Ehlinger opened overtime with his third rushing TD, from 3 yards.

Rattler answered with a an 11-yard touchdown pass to Austin Stogner, then plunged over from the half-yard line on fourth down after his initial scoring run was overturned over review to start the second OT.

Ehlinger’s career-best fourth touchdown run forced the third overtime, but the Longhorns (2-2, 1-2 Big 12) couldn’t avoid a second straight loss.

The Sooners (2-2, 1-2) had a chance to win in the third overtime, but Gabe Brkic’s 31-yard field goal attempt was wide left after Perrion Winfrey blocked Cameron Dicker’s 33-yard try to start the extra period.

Rattler was replaced by sophomore Tanner Mordecai in the second quarter after throwing an interception and losing a fumble. He returned to start the second half.

Rattler was 23 of 35 with three touchdowns, and T.J. Pedger ran for 131 yards and two scores.

Ehlinger threw for 285 yards and three TDs and ran for a career-high 112 yards to with the four touchdowns.

No. 21 Texas A&M 41, No. 4 Florida 38

Texas A&M kicker Seth Small celebrates with his teammates.

Texas A&M kicker Seth Small celebrates with his teammates after kicking the winning field goal against Florida on Saturday.

(Sam Craft / Associated Press)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Isaiah Spiller rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 21 Texas A&M beat fourth-ranked Florida 41-38 on Seth Small’s 26-yard field goal as time expired Saturday.

Spiller helped get the Aggies get into position for Small’s decisive kick, giving Jimbo Fisher his first win over a top-five team since taking over as Texas A&M coach.

Kellen Mond threw a 51-yard pass to Caleb Chapman for a tying TD with about 4{ minutes to go.

The Gators were driving when Buddy Johnson forced a fumble by Malik Davis, and it was recovered by

Agriculture Department Killed 1.2 Million Wild Animals in 2019

Among the animals the Wildlife Services program killed this year are 61,882 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 251 destroyed dens.

Among the animals the Wildlife Services program killed this year are 61,882 adult coyotes, plus an unknown number of coyote pups in 251 destroyed dens.
Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

The mission of Wildlife Services, an office in the Department of Agriculture (USDA), is “to provide federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” In practice, that means slaughtering animals in droves.

New data the USDA released this week shows that in 2019, the program killed approximately 1.2 million animals native to North America. That includes hundreds of gray wolves, black bears, and bobcats, thousands of red foxes, tens of thousands of beavers, and hundreds of thousands of birds. Fewer than 3,000 of those animals were killed unintentionally.

Program employees are deployed to deal with dangerous feral hog populations and keep bird populations at airports under control so planes can safely takeoff and land. But the primary reason for the blood on Wildlife Services’ hands is their allegiance to the ranching industry, which relies on the service to clear out wild animals that prey on livestock and make way for industrial farming in states like Texas, Colorado and Idaho.

There is arguably no kind way to kill an animal, but some of the program’s methods are pretty brutal. Internal documents place focus on the use of “noise making devices,” “predator-proof fencing,” and other non-lethal methods. But a 2016 investigation by reporter Christopher Ketcham found that the agency used poisoned bait and spring-loaded cyanide traps to kill animals. It also uses leghold traps, which are banned in 88 countries.

Trappers with the service also use guns. A lot. An internal safety review document states that “employees fire tens of thousands of rounds while conducting wildlife damage management activities,” which it notes is more than any other federal or state agency except the military—more, even, than federal law agencies.

Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that this is largely unnecessary carnage because in most cases, killing predators is not a scientifically sound population control method.

“When coyote populations are exploited, the remaining individuals increase their reproduction by having a second litter that season or by increasing litter size,” she wrote in an email. “As such, killing coyotes only results in a temporary population decline followed by an increase and more conflicts.”

All of this killing also creates other ecological problems, throwing balanced ecosystems out of whack. “Many of the animals killed by Wildlife Services are ecologically important, including carnivores like wolves and mountain lions,” Adkins said. “Removing these top predators disrupts the ecosystem and can cause increases in their prey, such as rodents that damage crops and spread disease.”

The misguided approach to predators has been a hallmark of U.S. conservation policy, though it’s being challenged and overturned in some cases. Wolves, for example, were reintroduced to Yellowstone 25 years ago, and scientists have observed numerous positive ecosystem