NCAA Football

Jeff Driskel's Struggles Raise Questions About Florida's Lost Quarterbacks

Remember when the University of Florida was known a school that turned out Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and innovative offensive schemes?   

Those days are gone. And, as a result, the Gators have become an afterthought in the national polls and the SEC.   

A year ago, the Gators tumbled to a stunning 4-8 mark, which was even grimmer when you looked at numbers: Florida ranked 12th or lower in four of the SEC's leading offensive statistical markers—total offense, scoring offense, passing offense and rushing offense

This season has been only moderately better. After a cakewalk over Eastern Michigan, the Gators needed three overtimes at home to beat Kentucky and then watched starting quarterback Jeff Driskel complete only nine of 28 passes for a total of 93 yards and throw two interceptions in a 42-21 loss to Alabama.

On Saturday, the pain was less direct, but perhaps just as acute. Just two weeks after former Florida QB Tyler Murphy engineered an upset of then-No.9 USC for Boston College, another former Gators quarterback, North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett, threw for three scores and 359 yards against Florida State in playing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to a virtual dead heat in a wild shootout.

That both Brissett and Murphy are former Gators has left coach Will Muschamp and his quarterback little cover from a growing barrage of criticism, even on a week when the Gators had a bye as they prepare for this week's SEC battle at Tennessee.

The displeasure has even been growing from inside the program, as former Gators running back Emmitt Smith expressed his feelings after the loss to Alabama.

"put Driskel on the bench, please, I've seen enough"

Smith later apologized to Driskel and Muschamp, but the unhappiness remains. The embattled Muschamp's future has become tentative at best and more and more people are now questioning his evaluation process in a allowing two clearly talented quarterbacks to escape, while sticking with the struggling Driskel. 

That could ultimately prove fatal to Muschamp's future in Gainesville. But it was Muschamp who recruited Driskel, a consensus No. 1 QB prospect as well as the Maxwell Football Club High School Player of the Year and the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year. And it was Muschamp who chose Driskel over Brissett and Murphy.

"Jeff gives us the best opportunity to win right now," said Muschamp in a press briefing last week.

It hasn't worked out that way; Driskel has connected on a total of only 19 touchdown passes in three-and-a-half years with the Gators and was slowed down by the broken leg he suffered last season. This year has seen him throw three picks in his last two games and guide a passing attack that ranks 106th in the country.

Things could get worse soon, as Florida faces a gauntlet of upper-tier SEC teams following the matchup with the Volunteers, starting with LSU and then Missouri and then Georgia.

For now, though, Driskel is running the show, but should he be?

 

 

 

Like Driskel, Jacoby Brissett came to Florida with blue chip credentials, ranked by Rivals as a four-star recruit. He started two games in his freshman year and competed with Driskel for the starting job in his sophomore season in 2012.

Driskel won the job and guided the Gators to a 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl berth, which prompted Muschamp to set up a spring depth chart that had Driskel ahead of Brissett. Soon, NC State had a new quarterback-in-waiting, as Brissett sat out last season after transferring to the school.

"Driskel won the job and [Brissett] wanted to play," wrote Gainesville Sun columnist Pat Dooley in a text message to a Bleacher Report.

Second year Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren knew right away that Brissett, voted the team's Scout Team Player of the Year, was the best quarterback he had on his roster even when Brissett was sitting out.

After watching Brissett take apart his defense, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who recruited Brissett out of high school in Florida, saw a comparison. "He's a lot like the guy (Winston) we got," Fisher told reporters after the game. "He's big and strong-armed and can make plays."

The former Gator has NC State off to a 4-1 start and has emerged as the ACC leader in total offense.

Murphy also has made a mark in the ACC, leading BC to a 3-2 start while tallying the second-most rushing yards in the conference and ranking third in total offense.

Although his fourth-quarter interception didn't help matters in the Eagles' loss to Colorado State on Saturday, Murphy has been a star on the rise, particularly in BC's 37-31 upset of USC. Murphy didn't do it all, but it seemed like it at times as he ran for a 191 yards and scored a game-preserving fourth-quarter, 66-yard touchdown.

"It was just a good situation," said BC coach Steve Addazio, explaining Murphy's arrival at the school. "It was a good fit. It gave him a chance to run the reigns of his own program."

Murphy had that only briefly at Florida a year ago when he moved into the starting job after Driskel broke his right leg and was finished for the season. In seven games with Murphy under center, the Gators went 3-4, as Murphy threw for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns.

But Murphy injured his right shoulder and missed Florida's final three games. Muschamp said there would be competition in the spring, but Driskel looked like the frontrunner. Or at least it seemed that way to Murphy.

"[Murphy] was told after last year that the position was open but he felt Driskel would be favored," wrote Dooley to Bleacher Report.

 

 

The fact that Murphy, Brissett and Driskel all were on the Florida campus at the same time may show that Muschamp knows how to lure talent, but there are lingering questions about how that talent was used and developed or squandered, which may be a key factor in whether Muschamp keeps his job.

Muschamp, well aware of his seemingly tenuous hold on his job, dumped offensive coordinator Brent Pease in the offseason and replaced him with Kurt Roper.

What has encouraged some Gators fans is that there may be more talent in the QB system. Will Grier, Parade Magazine's 2014 Player of the Year, and redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg (son of New York Jets offensive coordinator Mary Mornhinweg) are on call, but the immediate future would seem to be in the hands of another freshman, Treon Harris, who is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart.

"I see talent," said Roper before the season began when asked to evaluate his quarterbacks. "It takes a little bit of time to pick up [the new system]. But I see talented players."

Time is a luxury Muschamp and his staff may not have. Last week, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley told reporters that Muschamp will coach for the entire 2014 season, but that he will be judged on the evaluation of the entire season.

If that's the case, it is doubtful Driskel will get that much longer to prove that he can be the Gators quarterback of the present, much less the future.

If the Gators lose to Tennessee on Saturday or Driskel has another ineffective game, Harris could get the call, a move Muschamp told the Gainesville Sun he's already considered.

"I thought about it," Muschamp said of the possibility to switching to Harris late in the Gators' loss to Alabama. "Especially late in the game, from that situation."

And the worse that situation gets, the more likely that switch becomes.

 

Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds.

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Answering College Football's Biggest Questions Heading into Week 6

One of the craziest weeks on the college football schedule is quickly approaching. With that, Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer came together to play a classic game of "Would You Rather?" 

Who would you rather have: Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss or Su'a Cravens of USC?

Watch the video and let us know!  

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The 1 Thing Florida Must Do to Beat Tennessee and Save Will Muschamp's Job

Let's run down a list of things Florida head coach Will Muschamp can put on his resume.

Fix the offense? Nope.

The Gators are tied for 10th in the SEC in yards per play (5.90) despite the move to a more uptempo style with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.

Keep the stellar defense performing at a high level? That's not happening either.

The Gators rank next to last in the SEC in total defense (415.7 YPG).

Beat your biggest conference rival? Nope.

Muschamp is 0-3 as Florida's head coach against Georgia, a series that the Gators dominated since George Bush was president.

The first George Bush.

What does Muschamp have left to hang his hat on? A nine-game Florida winning streak over Tennessee is pretty much the only thing left, and even that looks tenuous at the moment. The Gators will walk into Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon as 2.5-point underdogs, according to OddsShark.com.

If that streak goes the way of the dodo bird as well, Muschamp will no longer be fighting to keep his job, he'll be fighting to earn it back for the rest of the season. As Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples notes, that'd be similar to the situation Michigan head coach Brady Hoke finds himself in—minus the concussion debacle, of course.

For the Gators to spring the upset, they're going to have to fix their pass defense.

Thought to be a strength coming into the season, Vernon Hargreaves III and the rest of that defensive backfield has been lit up like a Christmas tree this season, giving up 287.7 yards per game through the air and 409 passing yards per game against conference foes.

Changes are coming in the Florida defensive backfield.

"Brian [Poole]'s repping some in the nickel," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "Duke Dawson's repping some at the safety position. Between Jalen [Tabor] and Quincy [Wilson] at corner, trying to find the right combination there and continuing to rep Marcus [Maye] in the nickel and at safety as well. Keanu Neal has done a nice job with some things and Jabari [Gorman]. We're just continuing to find the right combination."

Muschamp better figure out the right combination in a hurry, because Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley can sling it all over the field.

The wide receiving corps of Marquez North, Josh Malone, Pig Howard, Jason Croom and the rest of the Vols are deep, talented and versatile. Florida state can bring pressure and prevent that, right? Georgia tried, got pressure on Worley, and it didn't matter. All Worley did was throw for 264 yards, three touchdowns and miss two-thirds of the third quarter with an elbow injury.

"Justin Worley, I think, is playing very well," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "Completing over 60 percent of his passes, averaging about 250 yards a game. They've really improved themselves at the receiver position."

If Florida can shut down Tennessee's passing game, it'll not only help them win on Rocky Top, but also help Muschamp stay employed.

The defense is the most fixable problem Florida has right now. With Hargreaves, Tabor, Gorman and the rest of that crew, the talent is there and the coaches have proven that they know how to get the most out of their defensive backs.

If that happens, it will take some pressure off the offense. 

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was in a horrible position against Alabama. The defense was a sieve, and forced Driskel and Roper into a tough spot where they had to open things up on the road in a hostile environment.

Fix that, and maybe the offense can make enough plays to help the Gators win some games and keep Muschamp employed.

Maybe.

 

Barrett Sallee is the Lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Ohio State Football: Grading J.T. Barrett After 4 Games

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For somebody as detail obsessed as Urban Meyer, it's rare that the Ohio State head coach isn't prepared to answer any and every question about his team.

But at his weekly press conference Monday, one inquiry in particular caught Meyer off guard.

"It's a good problem to have, but if J.T. keeps playing well, have you thought much about the situation next year?" a reporter asked.

Meyer initially squinted his eyes, confused, until he realized the direction that the question was heading.

"Not until you said that," he responded with a smile.

The premise to the question was a reference to Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett, the reigning Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week who just threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns Saturday in the Buckeyes' 50-28 win over Cincinnati.

The question itself brought in Braxton Miller, the two-time MVP who Barrett replaced and who plans on returning for the 2015 season after recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury.

"Braxton's our quarterback," Meyer continued with his answer. "To be fair, Braxton's the Big Ten Player of the Year. But it's good to know we've got both of them."

The fact that the question—a legitimate one—was even asked of Meyer on Monday is telling of just how far Barrett has come, and not just from the start of the season. After all, it was a mere three weeks ago that his status as the Ohio State starter could have been called into question after a 9-of-29, three-interception performance in the Buckeyes' Sept. 6 loss to Virginia Tech.

But since OSU and Barrett were dealt their defeat at the hands of the Hokies, the redshirt freshman signal-caller has been on a roll. In two post-Virginia Tech contests, Barrett has tallied a total of 642 passing yards, 85 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception, all while directing the Ohio State offense to a combined 116 points in wins over Kent State and Cincinnati.

"I had a lot of confidence in J.T.," Meyer said. "I love J.T. He's fun to coach. He's a guy that has a great demeanor on the sideline. He's a student of the game."

Those traits have certainly assisted Barrett lately, albeit against two Ohio teams with less-than-stellar defenses. But regardless of the competition he's faced, it's worth noting that his two latest efforts have made Barrett the first Buckeye to throw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games since Troy Smith did so to end the 2005 season.

No, Smith never did during his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2006, nor did Terrelle Pryor in his three seasons as a starter or Miller in his three. Barrett's recent progress in the pocket has been a breath of fresh air in the Ohio State offense, which has struggled to throw the ball with consistency since Meyer took over the program in 2012.

"I'm being more confident, I'm being more relaxed," Barrett said following the Buckeyes' beating of the Bearcats. "I was trying to make sure everything was right. Now I'm knowing that I'm going to make mistakes, and learning from them throughout the game. I'm not going in there trying to be perfect."

And while Barrett hasn't been perfect in his past two games, he also hasn't been far from it.

Earning a pair of Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors with a bye week sandwiched in between, Barrett has thrived in his role as a distributor, completing passes to 11 different receivers against Kent State and 10 different players against Cincinnati. Those are the type of numbers that the Ohio State coaching staff expected this season from Barrett, who is admittedly less of a one-man show than the more physically gifted Miller.

But what Barrett lacks in measurables, he's made up for mentally. As the Hokies' 46 Bear defense threatened to become a blueprint for beating the Buckeyes, Ohio State has shown that it will take more than just a single scheme to stop it—a big part of which has been the stellar play of its signal-caller.

"He's an extremely intelligent guy. He understands that we want to run the play, but there's certain looks where [we] don't run that play," Meyer said. "They went to a Bear, we had a 'bear beater' and he immediately got us into it, we hit two big plays and they got out of it.

"That's what a quarterback has to do."

Barrett obviously still has room for improvement—Meyer pinned a pair of false starts of his young quarterback and called for him to use his voice to have a better command of the offense—but his recent progress has been the catalyst in a revitalized OSU offense that has finally found its footing in Miller's absence.

And as for Miller? Meyer insists that the plan's still for him to reclaim his starting spot in 2015 should he recover from the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that put his senior season on hold.

But should Barrett continue on the trajectory he's on, there's no telling what the future of the Buckeyes' quarterback position could hold, as Meyer may find himself spending a little more time on a question he previously thought he'd never have to answer.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Week 6 Standings and Top 25 Team Records

So far, the Top 25 teams in college football reads like a who's who in terms of the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Jameis Winston and Florida State are obvious contenders. Alabama solved its quarterback question thanks to Blake Sims and is a contender. Marcus Mariota and Oregon are not going anywhere for the time being. Oklahoma continues to run right into contention.

As things bleed into Week 6, though, conference play does nothing short of kick things up another notch. The teams set to make it to the playoff become even more difficult to predict.

Let's take a look at the full standings and dial in on a few teams that seem sure to seize a playoff if a member of the top four falters.

 

2014 College Football Week 6 Rankings

 

 

College Football Playoff Sleepers

Texas A&M

The first big test of the Kenny Hill era for Texas A&M proved to be a close call, but it was a game the sophomore was more than ready to handle.

Arkansas' elite ground game and stingy defense took the Aggies to overtime at home a week ago, but Hill saved his best for last en route to 386 yards and four touchdowns to one interception, as illustrated by College GameDay:

Hill's play has been of a higher quality than most could have ever predicted, which in turn has made the Aggies a serious playoff threat. He is completing 65.6 percent of his passes and has 1,745 yards and 17 touchdowns to just two interceptions on the year.

For the time being, it is safe to assume that the Texas A&M defense's allowing 285 rushing yards is an anomaly rather than a rule. The team did hold South Carolina to 28 points to start the season and allowed a total of 19 over the course of three games after that.

While the schedule the rest of the way is brutal thanks to road trips to Alabama and Auburn, along with visits from Missouri and LSU, the saving grace for the Aggies is that they tout the best quarterback out of the teams listed and can certainly lose one game in the wild SEC West and still make the playoff.

 

Baylor

It is entirely too easy to forget about Baylor, another program with a downright wicked offensive attack—no matter who lines up under center.

Bryce Petty would firmly be in the Heisman conversation at the moment if he had been on the field for every snap so far, but the system in place is so potent that even his backup has been able to post gaudy numbers in spot duty:

There have been no close calls for the Bears to date. The latest contest was a 49-28 drubbing of Iowa State, which saw Petty get some help in the form of a dominant ground game (244 rushing yards and six scores) behind the talented legs of starter Shock Linwood.

The Bears rank No. 1 in the nation with an average of 56.8 points per game and eighth overall in terms of total defense as the unit surrenders less than 14 points. While these numbers are inflated due to an easy schedule to date, it is hard to not be impressed with the alarming consistency.

Baylor has yet to be tested and must overcome a schedule that includes Oklahoma and TCU. Remember, though, that Petty is back and this is a team that went 11-2 last season and lost just one game in the conference.

To discredit the Bears entirely because of strength of schedule to date is a good way to set oneself up for disappointment.

 

Auburn

What, forget about the Tigers already?

Gus Malzahn's team has a wicked schedule in comparison to the rest of the current playoff hopefuls, but that is no reason to write off the team that shocked the globe last year.

As long as Malzahn is at the helm, the Tigers offense is going to score. It helps, though, that he has more confidence than ever in his passing attack.

"I feel good about where we are. I'm confident we’ll improve," he said, per Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com. "This year, unlike last year, I feel a lot more confident in our passing game, too. We don’t just have to rely on one thing."

The team has Nick Marshall to thank for that. In limited action, the senior has 548 passing yards and six touchdowns to a single interception, not to mention 273 yards and two more scores on the ground.

Marshall's raw ability, paired with a strong defense, allows Auburn to rank No. 15 overall in points for (42.3) and against (16.3) averages. There was a brief hiccup on the road against then-ranked No. 20 Kansas State, but that seems to speak more to the ability of the 3-1 Wildcats than any Auburn deficiency.

The biggest concern for Auburn at this point is simply the schedule. LSU is in town Saturday before a trip to Mississippi State. Then South Carolina comes to town, which is followed by encounters with Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia.

Then a clash with Alabama to end the season.

That is a lot to digest. It is even more to overcome. But the Tigers seem better than last year's squad, and again, a loss—perhaps two—may not ruin things for a member of the SEC West.

 

Stats via ESPN. Amway Poll via USA Today. AP Poll via The Associated Press.

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Will LSU's New QB Brandon Harris Answer the Tigers' Problems?

After Brandon Harris' stellar performance versus New Mexico State, LSU Tigers head coach Les Miles has named the true freshman the team's new starting quarterback. Harris accounted for five touchdowns—three passing and two running—in LSU's 63-7 drubbing of the Aggies. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee discuss the move in the video above.

How far can Brandon Harris take the Tigers this season?

Watch the video and let us know! 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona vs. Oregon: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

No. 2 Oregon is back in action Thursday as it looks to secure some semblance of revenge against Arizona, a Pac-12 foe that single-handedly ruined last year for the Ducks.

Through four games apiece, both teams appear favorites in the conference thanks to explosive offenses led by talented quarterbacks. Both received their first serious tests their last time out on the field, meaning adjustments will reign supreme in a contest seemingly destined to turn into a shootout.

In one of the top contests of the week, not to mention in the conference overall, anything goes in Eugene between two teams with a serious amount of firepower.

 

Arms Race

Fans know the deal with the No. 2 team in the land. Led by Heisman contender Marcus Mariota, who returned to school for contests such as this, the Ducks tout the nation's No. 4 offense that scores an average of 48.5 points per game.

Mariota has himself 1,135 yards through the air and 13 scores to no interceptions. He is also a close second to Royce Freeman on the team's rushing list thanks to his 214 yards and three scores.

In his team's biggest game to date against then-ranked No. 7 Michigan State, a perennial defensive powerhouse, Mariota calmly went for 318 yards and three scores.

Now for what most can be forgiven for not knowing—Ka'Deem Carey is now a member of the NFL, but the Wildcats are still an offensive giant that ranks No. 16 in the country thanks to an average of 42 points per game.

In fact, the Wildcats actually rank eight slots higher than the Ducks in terms of passing yards per contest thanks to freshman signal-caller Anu Solomon. In fact, Solomon's numbers could be misconstrued for those of a Heisman contender—1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns to three interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his attempts has a way of doing that.

Unlike the Ducks, the Wildcats also have a strong presence on the ground. The credit goes to another freshman, Nick Wilson, who's averaged 6.3 yards per carry so far on the way to 482 yards and four scores.

That ground presence will prove critical for the Wildcats in order to keep Mariota off the field, but if all else fails, Solomon certainly has the composure and talent to stand a chance in a shootout while down on the scoreboard.

 

Exploiting the Problem Areas 

Even with a week of rest under their belts, all is not well for Mark Helfrich's team.

Specifically speaking, the offensive line is a mess.

Tackles Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher missed the team's last game, a near upset at the hands of a 2-3 Washington State team. In that contest, the Cougars were able to generate seven sacks on Mariota before the Ducks escaped with a 38-31 victory.

To be fair, Helfrich did not sound too concerned about the patchwork line right after the close call.

"We know going forward people will have a plan for that, and obviously we have some things in our back pocket," Helfrich said, per Andrew Greif of OregonLive.com.

As Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com noted during the seven-sack performance, the Ducks appeared to up the tempo to compensate:

The problem is, if Mariota is under pressure all night, it may breed mistakes, which is what doomed the Ducks last year in that crushing loss to Arizona. While he was hurt last year, consistent pressure can and will create similar turnover issues in time.

To date, Arizona has generated all of five sacks, but Washington State was not exactly known to tout that as a strength either. If the week off was not put to good use, the Wildcats will find similar success Thursday.

 

When: Thursday, October 2, 10:30 p.m. ET

Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 70
  • Spread: Oregon (-22.5)

 

Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.

 

Prediction

This one will score highly thanks to strong quarterback play of both the expected and unexpected variety.

Mariota will be hindered behind a shaky offensive line, but one still has to love his chances of another great performance. On the road in the face of those aforementioned seven sacks, the Heisman favorite still managed five touchdown passes and no turnovers with all of four incompletions.

That sort of calamity under pressure is enough to outgun a freshman at home, as promising as he may look. The Ducks have rattled off a 28-0 mark at home since a loss in 2008 for good reason. Mariota, with the help of his line or not, will see the team through and keep the playoff dreams alive.

Prediction: Ducks 48, Wildcats 40

 

Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

 

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Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Best Coaching Jobs to This Point in the 2014 Season

The Pac-12 Conference may be lacking in experienced head coaches, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more energetic, innovative group of leaders in any other league throughout college football.

Before the season, coming up with a list of coaches for the hot seat was a difficult exercise, and now it's a near-impossible task given the success every team has had at some point during the 2014 season. Who has impressed you the most?,

Without giving away too much, any coach whose team has more than one loss just can't make a case for inclusion on this list. On the other hand, those whose teams haven't lost yet—three such individuals—will definitely have a place here.

So who will the other two spots go to? Should they go to coaches overachieving with teams lacking in talent, or perhaps to the guy who's grinded through the most early-season adversity? And where do major victories factor in to the equation?

Let's take a look at the best Pac-12 coaching jobs through the first month of the 2014 college football season.

 

All stats via cfbstats.com

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Best Coaching Jobs to This Point in the 2014 Season

The Pac-12 Conference may be lacking in experienced head coaches, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more energetic, innovative group of leaders in any other league throughout college football...

Begin Slideshow

Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

The first full month of the 2014 season has come to a close and the Bulldogs still control their own destiny when it comes to the SEC East race. After a dominating win against Clemson, the Bulldogs fell to South Carolina, dominated Troy and won against Tennessee in a close one.

Now the Bulldogs start the second full month of the season, and they will face Vanderbilt in Athens, Missouri in Columbia and Arkansas in Little Rock. Can the Bulldogs win out and have a ton of momentum when they face Florida or will they have another slip-up and fall in the SEC East?

Here are the game-by-game predictions for the Bulldogs in the month of October.

Begin Slideshow

LSU Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers Complete Game Preview

LSU's tilt against Auburn on Saturday is proof of how quickly things can change in the SEC. 

Last season, the Bayou Bengals defeated the Tigers from the Plains 35-21 behind 184 yards and three touchdowns from running back Jeremy Hill. LSU looked as if it would be a national championship contender, not Auburn.

The opposite ended up being true.

Auburn went on a magical unbeaten run to the last BCS National Championship. LSU would lose three games, all to teams Auburn beat along the way.

This season, Auburn looks like a College Football Playoff contender. Head coach Gus Malzahn and his Tigers are 4-0 with a conference win over Arkansas under their belt.

LSU has looked average, despite being 3-1. Head coach Les Miles' squad played poorly in its only SEC game against Mississippi State. 

Here is a preview of this week's matchup.

 

What You Need to Know

Time: 6 p.m. CT 

Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium; Auburn, Alabama

TV: ESPN

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, Auburn IMG Sports Network 

Spread: Auburn by 9; via OddsShark.com

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Michigan State Spartans Complete Game Preview

Nebraska heads to East Lansing for what could be a defining matchup of the Huskers' 2014 season. Bo Pelini and his team are looking to extend their record to 6-0, but that requires defeating Michigan State on the road.

The Huskers hold the edge in the all-time series with the Spartans at 7-1. However, that one loss came last season at home when the Spartans won 41-28. One year later, Nebraska is looking to get redemption.

What people will be pointing to is that this is a matchup of Nebraska's stellar offense vs. Michigan State's powerful defense. As of now, the Spartans are only allowing 78.3 rushing yards per game, which should challenge I-back Ameer Abdullah. Pelini doesn't think that'll be an issue, though.

"We've run the football on them for three years," Pelini said, per the Detroit Free Press. "They're a quality football team, but we've run the football on them before, and we'll run it on them again."

While Nebraska may run the ball on Michigan State, Pelini has never gone 6-0 to start a season in his time with the Huskers. Will this be the year?

 

Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

When: Saturday, October 4, at 8 p.m. ET

Watch: ABC

Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 91, XM 91

Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (+8)

Begin Slideshow

Tennessee Football: 10 Reasons Why Volunteers Will Blow out Gators

The Tennessee Volunteers are playing with a serious edge and have more talent now than they've had in several years. Compare that to a Florida team that is teetering on the precipice of collapse, and you see why I believe the Vols will blow the Gators out on Saturday, October 4.

The Vols have always seemed to get off to a slower start than the Gators, which made the third Saturday in September a particularly hard game to win. It's traditionally been the first SEC game of the season for each team, but this year, Tennessee has already played two top-12 opponents, including SEC East foe Georgia.

For the first time since 2001, the game is being played later than September. With a series record of 6-18 dating back to 1990, the Volunteers are surely open to any changes in the circumstance of the game, including one as simple as calendar date.

But there's something more this year with the team than just the date. A tenable level of confidence, talent and energy around the program has some thinking the Vols can end the nine-year drought. A few even say Tennessee can win with comfort.

I believe the Tennessee Volunteers will rout the Florida Gators 35-10 in front of 102,455 people on Saturday, and I've got 10 reasons why.

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Nebraska Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

“Wake me up when September ends.”

"Wake Me Up When September Ends," Green Day

Nebraska football fans are quite pleased to see NU putting September in the rearview mirror with the team sitting at 5-0, including a cathartic 41-31 win over Miami in Lincoln. For the first time since 2010, Nebraska is undefeated through five games and, much like that 2010 season, has a monster national showdown coming up in Week 6.

(Although, in fairness, Michigan State has no shot to replace Texas and the disastrous “Red Out Around the World” game from 2010.)

Getting through September is a prerequisite for having a special season. But that doesn’t mean much if Nebraska can’t take care of business in October. So let’s look ahead and see what Nebraska faces as the calendar turns.

All stats from cfbstats.com.

 

October 4: at Michigan State

Without question, this Saturday’s game in East Lansing is the marquee game in the Big Ten to date. Michigan State comes into the game ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, and Nebraska comes in at No. 19. The Spartans have only one loss, a 46-27 defeat in Oregon where Michigan State held a lead in the third quarter. Michigan State’s other wins have been gigantic blowouts against overmatched opponents.

Nebraska comes into the contest at 5-0, with the most impressive win against a talented Miami team in Lincoln. Nebraska has also blown out three overmatched opponents and had an ugly win against FCS McNeese State, needing an “Ameer-acle” with 20 seconds remaining to avoid overtime.

In many ways, this game has an “immovable object/unstoppable force” vibe going. Michigan State has the No. 6 rushing defense in the nation, allowing only 80.75 yards per game. Nebraska has the No. 3 rushing offense in the nation, gaining an average of 354.8 yards per game.

A smart and particularly handsome analyst picked before the season that Nebraska would beat Michigan State, and the rationale for that pick holds up. Last year, Nebraska lost to Michigan State not because of superior Spartan talent but because of a minus-five turnover margin. When Nebraska wasn’t giving the ball away, it was going blow for blow with Michigan State.

Add in to the mix this year Ameer Abdullah’s raised level of game play and a healthy Randy Gregory and the setting for an upset. That guy at the start of the season might have been on to something.

Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24.

 

October 18: at Northwestern

Yes, Northwestern got a huge conference win last week, going into Happy Valley and knocking off Penn State. But that win doesn’t really change the underlying dynamic—that with the departure of Venric Mark and the loss of Christian Jones to injury, the Purples are devoid of true game-changing playmakers on offense.

Combine that with a baseline of talent level that is below Nebraska’s, and ultimately this game becomes less frightening than previous contests.

Sure, Northwestern will play hard and play smart. And going to Northwestern is a challenging trip, although having a week to prepare after Michigan State will be a big help. Look for Nebraska to take care of business in the windy city.

Nebraska 35, Northwestern 17

 

October 25: Rutgers

At the start of the season, Rutgers looked to be a few years away from being competitive. Don’t look now, but the Scarlet Knights may have hit the fast-forward button on their development.

Rutgers is 4-1 and really should be 5-0 with a tough-luck three-point loss at Penn State. The Knights have wins on the road at Washington State and Navy, two teams that may not be world-beaters but are challenging foes to face.

The knock on Rutgers coming into the Nebraska contest before the season was that it was going to go through a gauntlet beforehand, getting Michigan at home and away to Ohio State before arriving in Lincoln.

Well, things have changed a bit. Michigan looks like a gimmie, and Ohio State has not looked to be the national powerhouse expected by many. At this point, Rutgers coming into Lincoln anything less than 4-2 would be a disappointment, and it’s not impossible to imagine the Knights pulling off an upset in Columbus. After all, Virginia Tech already has.

This year feels a little different from years past, so maybe this is the year Nebraska puts the four-loss hoodoo behind it. So no call for an upset yet on this one, but watch this space.

Nebraska 30, Rutgers 27

 

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Complete Game Preview

The Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up their non-conference schedule with an unconvincing 27-10 victory over the South Florida Bulls to move to 3-1 before opening up Big Ten play with a trip to Ryan Field to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten).

After three sub-par games to open up the 2014 season, the Wildcats traveled to Happy Valley, where they surprisingly pulled off a 29-6 victory over a previously undefeated Penn State team.

That was probably both teams regressing to the mean as Penn State's early season victories came against UCF, Akron, Rutgers and UMass—with perhaps only Rutgers instilling any fear—though the same could be said about the previously limp Wildcats.

No current Badgers have played at Ryan Field, with the last visit coming all the way back in 2009 despite the close proximity of the two campuses.  

The Badgers haven't actually won at Ryan Field since the 20th century—1999 to be more exact—but have won the past two meetings between the two teams, including a 35-6 thrashing last season.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Complete Game Preview

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (4-0) will have revenge on their minds when the Arizona Wildcats (4-0) come storming into Autzen Stadium on Thursday night. 

Last season in Tuscon the Wildcats dismantled the Ducks 42-16, thereby ruining Oregon’s hopes of reaching a fifth consecutive BCS game and winning the Pac-12 conference title. The Ducks offense sputtered due to quarterback Marcus Mariota’s sprained MCL; however, Oregon’s defense was just as bad as it allowed the Wildcats to gain 304 yards on the ground and convert 11 of 16 third downs.

The Ducks and Wildcats have both had 12 days off following extremely close victories in their conference openers. Oregon managed to escape Washington State by the score of 38-31, while the Wildcats miraculously rallied past California 49-45 on a last-second Hail Mary from quarterback Anu Solomon to wide receiver Austin Hill.

The Wildcats were down 31-13 heading into the fourth quarter against Cal but managed to come back by scoring 36 points in the final quarter.

Oregon and Arizona have combined for some interesting games over the past decade. There was the Dennis Dixon ACL-injury game in 2007, a 55-45 Oregon win in 2008, a double-overtime thriller in 2009, not to mention last year’s stunning upset by the Wildcats.

While Oregon is heavily favored on Thursday night, this could be a game that comes down to the final possession.

Here's what you need to know:  

Date: Thursday, Oct. 2

Time: 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time

Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)

TV: ESPN

Spread: Oregon -23, according to OddsShark.com.

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Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats Complete Game Preview

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (4-0) will have revenge on their minds when the Arizona Wildcats (4-0) come storming into Autzen Stadium on Thursday night...

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Former UCF Coach Paul Ferraro Sues School for Wrongful Termination

UCF head football coach George O'Leary is at the center of a lawsuit filed by a former member of his Knights coaching staff, ex-defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro.

According to Bright House Sports Network's Ryan Bass, Ferraro is suing the UCF Board of Trustees and UCF Athletic Association for racism and wrongful termination of his contract. The suit, filed on Sept. 26, seeks more than $15,000 in damages and accuses O'Leary of discrimination and bullying.   

Bass' report documents what UCF Vice President of Communications and Marketing Grant Heston had to say on the matter, as he denied any wrongdoing by the school:

UCF immediately investigated the allegations Mr. Ferraro made when he abruptly abandoned his job. The university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office found the allegations to be untrue.

[...] None of the individuals alleged to have been the subject of, or to have overhead, these supposed statements corroborated Mr. Ferraro’s claims. In fact, until seeking compensation after abandoning his job, it does not appear he ever discussed this with anyone at UCF. UCF is an inclusive and diverse institution and our investigation shows that these claims are without merit.

Ferraro was hired in December 2013 but left the program for personal reasons before the 2014 season began. The Knights gave up a total of 62 points in losses to Penn State and Missouri to start the year.

These bold accusations have been dismissed by UCF, so it remains to be seen whether anything will come of them. It's worth noting Ferraro has worked with O'Leary before—at Syracuse and Georgia Tech.

Fox Sports Net's Shaun King has praised the job O'Leary has done as coach:

Amid his 11th season at the helm, O'Leary has helped put the Knights on the national map. Led by current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, UCF won the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor to cap off last season's impressive 12-1 record.   

Monday's report makes O'Leary's job a little more difficult after a couple of early setbacks on the field. Rumors courtesy of Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports have suggested that O'Leary, 68, is considering retirement, though he has denied them, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.

O'Leary will prepare the Knights for Thursday's road game against Houston (2-2).

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina: Complete Game Preview

It wasn't as easy as expected, but the Virginia Tech Hokies ended their two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 35-17 win over Western Michigan. Next, the Hokies travel to North Carolina to resume their ACC schedule.

Tech enters this week's game with a record of 3-2, 0-1, in ACC play. The Tar Heels, coming off of two straight losses, are 2-2 on the season after losing last week's ACC opener at Clemson. 

Virginia Tech leads the all-time series, 19-11-6, and has won eight of the previous 10 meetings. Last time the teams met in Chapel Hill—in 2012—the Tar Heels embarrassed Bud Foster's defense to the tune of 533 total yards, including 339 yards on the ground.

Giovani Bernard's 262 rushing yards were the most ever given up by Tech to a single player. 

Both teams desperately need a win, as a 0-2 conference record would severely damage both the Hokies and Tar Heels' chances at ACC Coastal Division supremacy. 

  • When: Saturday, October 4, 2014
  • Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area. 
  • Spread: The Hokies are presently two-point favorites, via Odds Shark

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North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. Clemson Tigers Complete Game Preview

Last Saturday’s 50-35 win over North Carolina was a great opportunity for the Clemson Tigers to get things back on track, but they must now turn the page to another conference foe.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack roll into Clemson's Death Valley this Saturday without a notable win but plenty of momentum.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is probably still having bad dreams after the Wolfpack gave the No. 1 Seminoles a good scare on Saturday. N.C. State jumped up 24-7 after one quarter, but the Seminoles were able to pull out the victory with 28 points in the second half.

Putting points on the board was the least of the Tigers’ worries against the Tar Heels, but this next matchup will be a chance for the defense to redeem itself, after giving up 478 yards of total offense to North Carolina.

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