The Pac-12 was in the spotlight in Week 4 and delivered narratives that shook up the landscape of the conference and college football as a whole. Utah's statement win in Oregon vaulted the Utes squarely into the playoff conversation, while UCLA's dismantling of Arizona was one of the most complete performances of the entire season.
But this week, the action returns down South, as the slate of the week's best features three high-profile SEC matchups.
The biggest of them sees Georgia host Alabama in Athens. It's a chance for the Bulldogs to prove that they belong in the upper echelon of the SEC. If they can get past the Tide, they will have a very real shot to run the table the rest of the regular season. Alabama will look to hold onto its playoff hopes as well in its first true test since being upset by Ole Miss in Week 3.
Speaking of the Rebels, they visit the Swamp to play a pesky Florida squad that still sits unbeaten after a dramatic comeback win over Tennessee on Saturday. Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly will get to test out his high-powered offense against arguably the best defensive back in college football, Florida's Vernon Hargreaves III. The Rebels better bring it too, or they'll find what so many other teams have found this season—your seat on top of the world often only lasts until your very next game.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Texas A&M will look to stay unbeaten as it hosts Mississippi State. This is a revenge game of sorts for the Aggies. Last season, they stood at 5-0 and a lofty Top 10 ranking before heading to Starkville and getting thumped 48-31. It was the start of a slide that saw them lose five of their next seven games. Mississippi State is hoping to keep itself in the conversation in the brutal SEC West and needs a great performance from QB Dak Prescott to have a shot at pulling the upset.
Perhaps the most intriguing game of the week sees Notre Dame travel to Clemson to face the Tigers, where one of these as-yet-unbeaten teams will see their playoff hopes take a hit. Can Notre Dame's running game continue to carry it forward against a stout Clemson defense? Or will Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson grab the national spotlight and lead Clemson to a win in what is the biggest game of his young career?
The final game on the slate should keep the scoreboard operator busy, as Texas Tech visits Baylor in a Big 12 showdown. The Red Raiders, who lost a heartbreaker to TCU in the waning seconds last week, rank third in the nation in total offense. They'll face a Bears team that ranks fifth in the category and leads all of FBS with an astounding 64 points per game this season.
Who will emerge as the week's best performer, and whose picks do you disagree with? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below about who you think will win in Week 5.
*All picks made straight up. Spread is not a factor.
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Many have compared LSU running back Leonard Fournette to legendary collegiate star Herschel Walker, but the former University of Georgia standout believes the Heisman Trophy hopeful is even better than he was.
According to TMZ, the 1982 Heisman winner tabbed Fournette as the Heisman Trophy favorite and paid him the ultimate compliment, as an argument can certainly be made for Walker being the greatest college running back of all time.
"He's like a fullback because he can take punishment and keep on going," he said.
The 230-pound sophomore has rushed for 631 yards and eight touchdowns through just three games, and he has almost single-handedly led the Tigers to a 3-0 start.
In addition to his Heisman candidacy, Fournette has been a hot topic due to the fact that he is NFL ready but cannot declare for the draft after the 2015 season since he is only a sophomore.
ESPN's Mike Greenberg is among those who believe Fournette shouldn't be held back based on the rigid rules laid forth by the NFL and NCAA:
Walker, on the other hand, feels as though Fournette and others should focus on the great things he is doing at the collegiate level, per TMZ.
"It's a bad idea to talk about leaving early, just wait and your time will come," he said.
Every indication is that Fournette will be a stud when he does ultimately make his way to the NFL, but until then, he has a chance to break a string of quarterback dominance with regard to the Heisman Trophy.
Of the past 15 Heisman winners, 13 of them have been signal-callers, but Fournette is undoubtedly standing out above the passers thus far in 2015.
Hype is a big part of the drive toward the Heisman Trophy, and with Walker firmly behind him, Fournette is well on his way to capturing the honor.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.
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The month of October is almost here. By Week 5, September will officially be in the past. But that doesn't mean it'll be forgotten. On the contrary, September brought the 2015 college football season some memorable moments.
And, thanks to several cupcake games, September skewed some national stats in a major way. For other teams and/or players, September exposed some blemishes perhaps not previously seen.
In the following slides, we examine and rank the good, the bad and the generally ridiculous numbers that made the month of September so special. Stats listed can be either individual game performances or month-long trends for both players and teams. In some instances, stats are compared to previous years for context.
Got any other crazy stats that we missed? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.
After attempting to battle through a knee injury for the first three games of the 2015 season, Virginia Tech junior cornerback Kendall Fuller's year has come to an end.
Continue for updates.Fuller Out for Season After Undergoing Knee SurgeryWednesday, Sept. 30
According to Virginia Tech football's official Twitter account, both head coach Frank Beamer and Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine Mike Goforth confirmed that Fuller will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered in August:
NFL.com's Chase Goodbread offered his take on Fuller's prospects as a player moving forward and what his loss means to the Hokies:
The brother of former Virginia Tech players Vincent, Corey and Kyle Fuller, Kendall has emerged as one of the nation's most polished defensive backs despite battling a fractured wrist throughout his sophomore season.
In 13 appearances as a sophomore, Fuller tallied 54 total tackles—including 32 solo—and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. As a junior, he's racked up seven tackles and one sack, but he has been limited.
Fuller didn't play in Virginia Tech's loss to East Carolina on Saturday due to a knee sprain, although Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster revealed he initially intended to fight through ailment, per Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"I didn't know until the beginning of the game. We were planning on playing him," Foster said. "They injected him this week. He was feeling pretty good in the morning but when we went out on the field, it just didn't feel very good."
Unfortunately for Fuller and Virginia Tech, the injury got to the point where he simply couldn't deal with it any longer.
With Fuller now officially out of the picture, the Hokies must rely even more heavily on fellow starting cornerback Brandon Facyson, as well as nickel corner Greg Stroman.
Virginia Tech has some depth at the cornerback position, but since most of it is fairly inexperienced, the 2-2 Hokies are likely to feel the sting of Fuller's absence.
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NC State running back Shadrach Thornton was arrested late Tuesday after reportedly striking a pedestrian while riding a scooter near the school.
Jodi Leese Glusco of WRAL reports police tracked down Thornton at his apartment after he left the scene of the accident. He was charged with failure to stop and render aid and failure to provide information. He posted $500 bond and returned home.
ABC11 Eyewitness News provided the player's mugshot:
The victim, Jimmie Woodard, suffered only minor injuries, including lacerations to his lip that required stitches, his mother told Joe Giglio of the News and Observer.
"I'm just grateful it wasn't worse than it could have been," Sharon Woodard said.
The News and Observer report notes Thornton also faces charges of operating a motor vehicle on a sidewalk and for operating an unregistered motor vehicle.
Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com passed along information about Thornton's previous issues. He was suspended for the first two games of this season for a violation of team rules. He also missed games during the 2013 season for charges of misdemeanor assault against a female and misdemeanor marijuana and paraphernalia possession.
The senior out of Georgia has thrived when on the field. He's racked up 203 yards and three touchdowns on just 30 carries this season since returning from the suspension.
NC State didn't immediate release a statement on the situation, so it's unclear whether or not the running back could face further punishment for the latest incident.
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Losing an experienced starter ahead of a conference game is usually bad news.
But the feeling around Missouri seems different this week as junior quarterback Maty Mauk will miss the Tigers' home matchup this Saturday against South Carolina.
According to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri announced on Tuesday that it has suspended Mauk and backup left tackle Malik Cuellar for the South Carolina game "for disciplinary reasons related to a violation of team policies."
The Missouri quarterback's suspension comes during a time of great frustration for the entire Tigers offense.
Through the first four games of the season, Missouri is ranked near the bottom nationally in several major categories and is coming off a 21-13 loss to division foe Kentucky.
Mauk has been at the center of that offensive inefficiency for Missouri, which had to replace its top four wide receivers heading into 2015. The junior has only completed 51.8 percent of his passes for 654 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.
According to Matter, Mauk's completion percentage and efficiency rating (112.5) are the lowest for a Missouri quarterback in a four-game stretch since the 2001 season.
By comparison, those two figures for Mauk are both worse than those of Auburn's Jeremy Johnson, who was benched after three games in favor of redshirt freshman Sean White.
While Missouri's situation is different because of Mauk's suspension, these Tigers will also have to go with a freshman at quarterback for their SEC home opener.
True freshman Drew Lock has played in all four games this season for Missouri, getting at least one second-quarter series in each. Lock also played in the fourth quarter against Southeast Missouri State and Connecticut.
According to Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel opted not to use Lock in the second half of road games against Arkansas State and Kentucky. Against Kentucky, Lock's only drive pushed the Tigers into field-goal range before a 15-yard sack on third down.
So far this season, Lock has completed 15 of 25 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception, giving him a pass efficiency rating of 140.8.
While Lock will presumably be forced into his first career start this weekend against South Carolina, the new blood should be a good thing for the Tigers offense.
Bill Connelly of Rock M Nation writes that Lock represents something different for Missouri—potential.
"When you are devoid of proven playmakers, you look first for consistency, then for potential," Connelly wrote. "Even in his best days, Maty Mauk isn't particularly consistent ... At this point, there's no question that the player with the most potential on this offense is Drew Lock. Or, more specifically, Lock's right arm."
Before the news of Mauk's suspension broke on Tuesday, former defensive star Michael Sam voiced his opinion on Missouri's quarterback situation on Monday, favoring Lock because of what he's showcased through the first few games of the season.
"I think you start Drew Lock in (this week’s South Carolina game)," Sam said, per Brendan Marks of InsideSTL.com. "See how he does, then he might be the guy. ... I played against Maty. He’s a great talented quarterback. But I don’t know where his mind is right now."
Lock will be in a tough situation on Saturday, as Missouri is looking to stay alive in the SEC East race and avoid the 0-2 start in the conference.
But Missouri is far from doomed without Mauk because South Carolina's defense will give Lock plenty of opportunities to show what he's capable of doing with a full workload.
After all, these are the same Gamecocks who allowed Georgia's Greyson Lambert to bounce back from a rough start against Vanderbilt and break an all-time completion percentage record in a 330-yard, three-touchdown performance.
Kentucky's Patrick Towles completed 72.4 percent of his passes against South Carolina, while North Carolina's Marquise Williams broke the 60 percent mark despite three bad interceptions in the Gamecocks' season opener.
If there's any ideal SEC East opponent against which to break in a first-time starting quarterback, it's probably South Carolina.
While Missouri hopes to improve through the air with this change, a major question mark will be how the Tigers replace the rushing talents of their former starting signal-caller.
Through his passing struggles, Mauk is Missouri's second-leading rusher with 145 yards on 36 carries, and he's the only Tiger to find the end zone on the ground this season.
A former 4-star, pro-style quarterback, Lock hasn't had the chance to run the ball yet this season for Missouri. However, he's not completely stationary in the pocket.
According to 247Sports, Lock rushed for 282 yards and six touchdowns in his senior season of high school. Those numbers aren't outstanding, but they should give the Tigers some confidence as they try to figure things out with a rushing attack that is among the worst in the FBS this season.
If Lock can continue to be a more precise arm for Missouri and help open things up in the running game, he might be exactly what the Tigers need to snap out of this cold start to 2015.
As the numbers show, things can only go up from here for this Missouri offense.
Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.
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As September fades into October, we’ve officially finished the first month of the college football season. All of the speculation and hype surrounding the 2015 season has turned into a month’s worth of evaluation, with all teams playing at least three games (and most four), giving their fans multiple chances to evaluate them.
There have been surprises and disappointments, just as there are every season. Those glossy preseason magazines that flew off the stands at $7.99 a pop in June and July look more dated by the day as teams evolve and improve.
Let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from the first month. These are teams that either exceeded or failed to meet expectations during September.
While there’s plenty of time left to turn around a struggling season or lose the positive vibes carried into October, these winners and losers begin the second month of the season on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Following his team's 31-0 victory against No. 22 BYU—his first signature win as Michigan's head coach—Jim Harbaugh knew the headlines that were coming.
So as one would expect a quarterback-turned-head-coach like Harbaugh to do, he took the offensive in an attempt to warn his Wolverines of the pitfalls that can come with reading one's own press clippings.
"It’s a little early to start patting ourselves on the back too much," Harbaugh said after the game.
That very well may be the case, but Harbaugh can rest assured that whether he wants it or not, the positive press is coming. While Michigan may not be reading it, the rest of the Big Ten is, as the Wolverines look like one of the league's more pleasant surprises through the first month of the 2015 season.
After all, it's never a bad thing for a conference to add another ranked team to its resume, with Michigan ranking 22nd in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll following its shutout of the Cougars.
Considering that Michigan hasn't been relevant when it's come to poll discussions for the better part of the past eight seasons, it's a safe bet that the Big Ten is more than happy to have one of its blue-blood programs seemingly back on track.
But when it comes to the other teams in the conference and not the league itself, the Wolverines' resurgence might be coming a bit too soon—especially at the top of the Big Ten, which happens to be the home of the country's top two teams in both major polls in No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2. Michigan State.
The Buckeyes and Spartans also happen to reside in the Big Ten East and have dates with Harbaugh and Michigan already circled on their respective schedules.
And while both teams have long considered the Wolverines to be their chief rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State's annual meetings with Michigan now each appear to possess a higher degree of difficulty than they have for the better part of the past decade.
That could prove especially troubling for the Spartans, who have won six of their past seven matchups with the Wolverines and will head to Ann Arbor on Oct. 17 for their next one.
Despite its status as the nation's second-ranked team, Michigan State already finds itself being counted out by some in its upcoming battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. According to ESPN's Joe Schad, the ESPN Football Power Index now favors the Wolverines to win their next seven games—including their showdown with the Spartans.
A loss to Michigan would undoubtedly put a dent in Michigan State's goal of crashing the College Football Playoff, especially with a matchup with the defending national champion Buckeyes looming about a month later.
"We can’t think that just because we beat a ranked team that we’re one of the best teams in the Big Ten yet. We still have to work at it," Wolverines defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow said, per ESPN.com's Brian Bennett. "But you can’t think you've made it, because we haven’t."
Maybe not. But with the way it's playing at the moment, Michigan could very well be on its way to playing the role of spoiler to the Spartans' season.
The same could also eventually be said in Columbus, where despite all of the talk of Ohio State's seemingly subpar schedule, the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves facing a hellacious three-week stretch to close the 2015 season.
After going through what could be 10 consecutive games without a game against a ranked opponent, Ohio State may need to beat three in as many weeks to make the College Football Playoff for the second straight year.
On Nov. 21, the Buckeyes will host the currently second-ranked Spartans, before heading to Ann Arbor to take on the now-No. 22 Wolverines.
Assuming it survives its Great Lakes State two-step, Ohio State would then play in the Big Ten Championship Game against the league's representative from the West Division, which currently contains two ranked teams in No. 16 Northwestern and No. 19 Wisconsin.
Even though the Buckeyes would likely possess a significant talent advantage against either team, three consecutive games against ranked opponents could ultimately take their toll on Ohio State.
And as the Buckeyes have looked sluggish through the first month of the season while the Spartans and Wolverines have shined—Michigan's lone loss came by seven points to a now-10th-ranked Utah team that just throttled Oregon—making it back to Indianapolis for the third straight season suddenly looks easier said than done.
Ohio State is still favored to repeat as national champions, with Bodog (h/t Odds Shark) currently giving the Buckeyes 7-4 odds to capture college football's crown, but there's still a lot of football left to be played between now and December.
That line of thinking, however, could work both ways, as there's no telling what Michigan will look like in two weeks against Michigan State, let alone two months from now against Ohio State.
The play of Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock has been inconsistent through the first four weeks of the season, and Harbaugh isn't yet ready to crown a defense that currently ranks second overall nationally.
"We’re not getting out in front of our headlights and all patting ourselves on the back yet," Harbaugh said of his defense. "It’s been good."
Perhaps a little too good for the rest of the Big Ten's liking.
In previous years, both the Buckeyes and Spartans would have welcomed the opportunity to take on another quality opponent in order to boost their respective resumes when it comes to postseason considerations.
But this year, Ohio State and Michigan State have each other, in a game in the second-last week of the regular season that at one time appeared to be the culmination of a collision course between the country's top-ranked teams.
With the Wolverines' sudden emergence, that may no longer be the case. Besides each other, there's now another legitimate threat to knock off one or both of the Big Ten's top-ranked teams this season.
Although if that proves to be the case, the conference may not find itself with one fewer playoff contender—perhaps just one that it didn't expect to be a part of the conversation in Michigan.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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With the college football season in full swing, teams across the country are also jockeying for position with the nation’s top recruits in hopes of landing an elite class in February.
While things slowed down a bit in September recruiting-wise, there were still some developments that made headlines—good and bad.
Some teams landed commitments while others were dealing with decommitments.
Meanwhile, a handful of schools benefited from large visit weekends while other programs lost momentum they had built up in the offseason.
Which schools represented the biggest winners and losers on the recruiting trail over the first full month of the season?
The SEC stars continued to shine in Week 4 as LSU and Ole Miss survived sluggish patches to dispose of Syracuse and Vanderbilt, respectively, and hold onto their spots atop the league.
Texas A&M passed a major test against a reeling Arkansas in overtime, and Florida used some fourth-quarter heroics to remain undefeated against a Tennessee team that had stormed to a 13-point lead.
Those were just warm-ups for this week, though.
This is when the big-time battles begin, starting with what may be the league's regular-season game of the year between Alabama and Georgia. A week after the Swamp played nasty host to the Volunteers, Ole Miss must travel to the lowland.
Then, there's Mississippi State and Texas A&M dueling in yet another battle between two ranked conference teams. Finally, Tennessee and Arkansas will try to stop early-season slides in Neyland Stadium.
Marquee matchups dot the slate this weekend, more than making up for a blah bottom end of the schedule.
Let's take a look at the conference's games, ranking them from the ones you should pass on to the ones you can't miss.
The Michigan Wolverines football team has a few surprise players through four weeks of the 2015 season, though that's not always a positive situation.
De'Veon Smith has emerged as the No. 1 running back, but that has left someone whom many expected to start toiling for playing time in a deep rotation at the position.
While Chris Wormley and Jourdan Lewis have shined on defense, the unit was supposed to be one of the nation's best. Consequently, most of the players listed are from what has surprised nearly everyone: the Michigan offense.
Ohio State has fielded one of the most explosive offenses in the country during Urban Meyer's tenure in Columbus, but three breakout defenders have the Buckeyes playing some dominant defense this season.
Co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Chris Ash returned seven starters to a unit that surged down the stretch of the 2014 title run, but one returning starter, one new starter and one key reserve are fueling the key turnaround.
Ohio State had three starters back from a secondary that made huge strides in Ash's aggressive—yet simplified—4-3 scheme a season ago, but the hole the unit had to fill with the departure of senior cornerback Doran Grant was a big one.
The leading candidates to replace Grant—sophomores Gareon Conley and Damon Webb and redshirt freshman Marshon Lattimore—were talented but inexperienced coming into the season.
Conley emerged during spring practice after a forgettable freshman campaign, when a lack of confidence plagued his ability to make the impact he was capable of. He locked down the starting spot in fall camp, and through four games, he's been one of the Buckeyes' top defenders.
“Last year I was a thinker,” Conley said, according to Austin Ward of ESPN.com. “I thought a lot about making mistakes and worrying about what-if this, what-if that. Now I just play to my ability and I know that my coaches and my teammates are confident in me."
There's plenty of reason for that confidence. Conley has been sensational in coverage this year with three pass breakups to go along with an interception. He's been the perfect addition to a secondary that already features rising cornerback Eli Apple and a pair of ball-hawking safeties in Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell.
His emergence has fueled the Buckeyes secondary, which has allowed just 131.5 passing yards per game this season—a mark that ranks eighth nationally.
Ohio State was dealt a heavy blow when it announced that consensus first-team All-American defensive end Joey Bosa was suspended for the season-opening showdown with Virginia Tech.
The defensive line was already replacing defensive tackle Michael Bennett and weak-side defensive ends Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, and now it was facing its toughest early-season opponent without its best player.
But that suspension allowed Sam Hubbard to step up, and the redshirt freshman responded in a big way.
Splitting time with Jalyn Holmes against the Hokies, Hubbard showed what he was capable of, registering a sack and racking up four total tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. But what's most impressive is the improvement he's shown in the defensive line rotation with Bosa back in the fold.
"You see him making huge improvements, really, every day he goes out there," Ash said, according to Craig Merz of the Associated Press. "From Week 1 against Virginia Tech to where he was this last Saturday, a completely different player.
"It's hard to explain his development because it's been off the charts, to be honest with you."
Of all the players who have made a leap this season, arguably none has made a bigger impact than defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.
The 6'4", 290-pound standout came to Ohio State as a 5-star defensive end, according to 247Sports, but he has transitioned to the interior over the course of his collegiate career. Last year he lined up at nose tackle for the Buckeyes, playing out of position to allow current Jacksonville Jaguar Michael Bennett to play the true defensive tackle position.
Now in his preferred spot, Washington has become a one-man wrecking crew for the Buckeyes, disrupting the flow of opposing offenses and occupying bodies for the linebackers.
“He’s eating up everything in front of me,” middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan said of Washington, per David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News. “He lets me play free."
Washington ranks fifth on the team with 18 tackles, but it's not just his pass-rushing and run-stuffing abilities that have been on display. Against Western Michigan last Saturday, the senior sniffed out a screen pass, read the quarterback perfectly and picked off the pass before returning it 20 yards for a touchdown.
Washington's emergence has been huge for a Buckeyes defense that's only getting better.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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Do nothing on Saturday. This is not meant to be a threat, but rather a friendly alert from your College Football Viewership Ambassador.
But even when you do nothing, keep in mind that this is actually doing something: By locking yourself in front of a large flat screen and a full fridge, you’re doing far more than most. You are observing the proper protocol for weekends of this magnitude.
Week 5 demands the utmost devotion. It has everything one looks for in a robust lineup of games—midweek intrigue, landscape-shifting matchups, fascinating scheme clashes and a lovely slate of undercard tussles.
The primary focus will certainly be on Notre Dame-Clemson and Alabama-Georgia. That’s understandable and not wrong. But don’t zero in exclusively on these high-profile moments and forget the rest. This lineup is deep, and with the season of unpredictability upon us, things could get predictability strange.
What can you expect in Week 5? Let’s explore the games, identify the teams trending upward and rank the sport’s most untackleable players. (Hint: One of them is named Leonard Fournette, because any list without him would be deemed void.)
The Buffet: Previewing the Top 5 Games of the Week
5. West Virginia at Oklahoma (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
This game will not be discussed enough this week, although don’t let that temper the interest between two teams that are still being processed and dissected. West Virginia and Oklahoma could very well deliver the most entertaining game of Week 5.
The Mountaineers manhandled Maryland in Week 4, outgaining the Terps 601-326 in total yardage. The final score, 45-6, probably could have been worse. In fact, up 38-0 deep in the third quarter, West Virginia called (and executed) a fake punt. Perhaps that 37-0 loss to Maryland a season ago was still fresh in their minds.
"We rectified that in the first half,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen told reporters after the game. Well, don’t expect a Christmas card from the Edsalls now, buddy.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, enjoyed a bye following its 52-38 victory over Tulsa in Week 3. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 487 yards and scored six touchdowns in that matchup. Bigger yet, he has looked fabulous all year. Mayfield has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and found the end zone 14 times thus far.
The Sooners will be a deserving favorite, although the Mountaineers should not be taken lightly. This is a team deeper than its offense and quarterback Skyler Howard.
4. Ole Miss at Florida (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
I’ll be the first to admit it: Back in May, I did not believe that these two teams would be a combined 8-0 entering Week 5. Both have exceeded expectations thus far in unique ways.
Ole Miss is now a team being discussed with purpose for the College Football Playoff. Florida isn’t there just yet—and probably won’t reach that threshold this season—although there is something to be said about what the Gators are accomplishing.
Florida's come-from-behind victory over Tennessee last Saturday was capped off by Antonio Callaway’s 63-yard touchdown on fourth down in the fourth quarter—a play that didn’t feel real live. It was very real.
The prize for Florida following the win is one of the nation’s hottest programs. No, Ole Miss did not look like an elite team against Vanderbilt in Week 4, although we’ll give it a mulligan after beating Alabama the previous week. (In the business, they call that a hangover.)
Playing a team that is already offensively challenged, Robert Nkemdiche and the Ole Miss defense will make life difficult for Florida. However, if the Gators can continue to hang around—and if the defense can continue to look like the elite group that it is—perhaps the magic carpet will levitate a little longer.
3. Texas Tech at Baylor (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Oh, this poor scoreboard. This poor, poor scoreboard. It stands absolutely no chance. There is no saving it this week—not with these two offenses. Actually, perhaps we should start worrying about ourselves. Baylor and Texas Tech are about to play a football game that could open up a wormhole and change the universe
Just last weekend, Texas Tech nearly upset TCU. In fact, it took one magnificent tipped ball in the end zone to give the Horned Frogs the 55-52 win at the very end. The entire closing sequence was nothing short of madness. The underdog nearly had it.
"The older Gary Patterson is just glad we won by three points," TCU’s head coach told reporters after the game. Oh, indeed.
The Red Raiders are clearly better than we thought. Regardless of what happens next, this much is clear. The concern in this particular game, however, is the health of quarterback Pat Mahomes. Despite finishing the game on Saturday, it was clear that Mahomes was not right. He hurt his leg earlier in the game, and he simply was not himself after that.
To beat Baylor, Texas Tech needs its quarterback. It’s simple, really.
After the Bears dismantled Rice, that much is clear. Quarterback Seth Russell completed just 12 passes on Saturday. Six of these 12 completions went for touchdowns, and he still threw for 277 yards on just 16 throws. It was startling production, even for this offense. Right now, it's clicking on all cylinders.
Baylor is going to score a lot—probably more than Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will score plenty, too. This game may take eight hours.
2. Alabama at Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
There could be history made in this particular matchup before foot meets leather in Athens. Unless something drastically changes, Alabama will be an underdog for the first time since the 2009 SEC Championship Game against Florida.
That’s 72 games—a miraculous run—for those keeping score at home.
There’s a reason Alabama is poised to assume this unfamiliar role. No, Nick Saban’s team isn’t suddenly bad, but it certainly doesn’t have the same dominant look about it in its current state. The Crimson Tide handled Louisiana Monroe just fine at home, although questions across the offense—particularly at quarterback—still exist.
Georgia entered the season with similar queries, although early returns on graduate transfer Greyson Lambert have been promising. In the past two games, Lambert has connected on 33 of his 35 throws. Granted, it came against South Carolina and Southern University, but it’s also far better than the alternative.
If watching large running backs make hopeful tacklers look unfortunate in their efforts is your fancy, this is your spot. Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry are each poised to put on a show. More on them in a bit.
This game always means quite a bit for both teams, and 2015 is no exception. Let’s see what underdog Alabama has in store.
1. Notre Dame at Clemson (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC)
I circled this game back in the middle of January. It was clear then—before a run of injuries reshaped the matchup entirely—that this would be one of the most meaningful and entertaining moments of the season. Things look mighty different now, although the basic theme hasn’t changed.
This will almost certainly be glorious. It's also incredibly important for both teams.
Without its starting quarterback, running back, tight end and multiple key defensive contributors, Notre Dame has looked far more than serviceable. The Irish were pushed by Massachusetts longer than expected in Week 5, although they eventually pulled away to the tune of 62-27.
Safety-turned-wide receiver-turned-running back C.J. Prosise was brilliant for Notre Dame yet again—just like he’s been all year. And surprise, surprise, wideout Will Fuller scored another touchdown. This offense, even without so many pieces, is still so dangerous.
Clemson enjoyed a well-timed bye week after barely getting by Louisville on the road during Week 3. With wideout Mike Williams out due to injury, the offense has yet to really click.
The same can be said more directly about quarterback Deshaun Watson, who will eventually be a superstar. It’s simply a matter of time and staying healthy. This stage might be just the time to confirm such a conclusion.
The winner of this game, despite the bumpy journeys to arrive here, will add a lovely win to the resume. Seriously, don’t mess around here. Do everything possible to watch this game.
The Factory of Sadness Bowl: Arkansas at Tennessee (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. This particular Week 5 showdown was supposed to feature two teams nestled comfortably in the Top 25. Perhaps one (or both) would be playing well and inching closer to the top.
It was supposed to be an early College Football Playoff elimination game—a game that could catapult one lucky winner. Then the season happened.
Tennessee lost back-to-back heartbreakers to Oklahoma and Florida—games it controlled for nearly the entire duration. Arkansas is coming off its own heartbreaking loss to Texas A&M after losing to both Toledo and Texas Tech in the previous weeks.
The message board servers for these two programs are barely holding up. They are tired and in need of water.
Now these two get to play, and the end result is a matchup between two fanbases that could really use a hug. Or maybe just a drink. Or maybe both.
The “Could Things Really Get This Weird?” Game of the Week: Ohio State at Indiana (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2)
Indiana enters Week 5 undefeated, which is a statement that is true and also strange to type. Ohio State enters Week 5 undefeated, which is a very true but also deserving of some fine print.
The Buckeyes played better against Western Michigan in Week 4, although they’ve yet to look as dominant as anticipated—particularly on offense.
While the talent gap between these two teams is significant, would you be at all shocked to see Kevin Wilson’s team push Urban Meyer to the brink once more?
(Probably, if we’re being honest. But keep an eye on it anyway. History says so.)
Dedicated Fan of the Week
Here’s an Internet friend who if flying 1,000 miles to watch two average teams play football in bad weather. Celebrate him accordingly.
i am traveling 1000 miles to watch virginia tech play pitt in the rain, ama https://t.co/QruHJ6hUyT— furrer4heisman (@furrer4heisman) September 29, 2015
The Blacksburg, Virginia, forecast for Saturday’s Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh game does not look promising thanks to a tropical storm hovering in the distance. (We hope this thing misses all land entirely, although it is likely going to rain hard.)
When you sit down to watch this Saturday’s glorious slate of games from the comfort of your couch or warm stadium seat, I want you to think about this man. I want you to think about the miles traveled, the weather that will likely alter his day and the likelihood of doing these things to watch a football game that may not be all that easy on the eyes.
This is wonderful dedication. Some might call it insanity. Here, we celebrate the thin line being walked.
“I Would Rather Not Tackle This Person” Power Rankings
It’s worth nothing that tackling any running back at the collegiate level would be a bad idea. However, tackling the following individuals would probably be the worst idea.
3. Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
Statically, Derrick Henry is doing just fine in his first season as Alabama’s feature back. Through four games, Henry has tallied 422 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging more than six yards per carry.
This is a solid start for a solid player, although it would be a disservice to stop there. At 242 pounds, Henry is one of the more unique running backs to ever play the position. Not simply a big back, he’s more than capable of pulling away in the open field. Along those same lines, he’s really not someone you ever want to meet in a random Oklahoma drill outside your office. Let's just hope it never comes to that.
2. Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Last Saturday, Nick Chubb tied none other than Herschel Walker with his 12th consecutive 100-yard game at Georgia. Chubb has quietly ran for 599 yards this season. He has been as good as anticipated.
Chubb is 220 pounds, although he runs nothing like a 220-pound man. He’s fast, agile and gracefully violent. While he’s currently operating in the shadows of the robot running back at the No. 1 spot, Chubb is a freak in his own right.
Fast enough to run past you; strong enough to run you over; fast and strong enough to ruin a weekend or four.
1. Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Here’s a startling bit of information, per Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman. In the past two games alone, Leonard Fournette has 163 yards after contact. It’s worth reiterating that this is only two games. That is remarkable.
Fournette is terrifying in the most magnificent way. We can use the word “magnificent” here only because we’re not tasked with bringing down a 230-pound train. Forget about being the football player I wouldn’t want to tackle at just the collegiate level; he might be the most untackleable human being on the planet right now.
The Overlooked Contingent: Teams I am Cautiously Buying
In two weeks, Memphis has allowed its opponents to throw for more than 1,000 combined yards. It has also won both of those games to stay unbeaten at 4-0, which might be how it has to be all season. The defense has issues, although the offense is cooking. And if quarterback Paxton Lynch stays healthy, this team can go places.
Ole Miss comes to town after the Tigers play USF and then get a bye. While there is work to be done if Memphis hopes to pull off the upset, the fact that we can have this conversation shows how radical the transformation has been under head coach Justin Fuente.
I can’t quite put my finger on why the Gators are so intriguing. The offensive line is still a mess and the offense as whole comes and goes. And yet, there’s something about this team—the way it has handled late situations, mainly—that generates some blind confidence.
If Florida somehow beats Ole Miss in Week 5, everything changes. And even if it doesn’t, it feels like the Gators are poised to soar beyond initial expectations for the year.
The schedule, up until this point, has not been all that impressive. NC State has played Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama in the first four weeks of the season—winning all four games without breaking a sweat.
This week the Wolfpack draw Louisville, which will be a significant step up in class. Behind quarterback Jacoby Brissett—who has really emerged in the past two years—they might just handle this game and then some. The offense has options and the defense might be one of the conference’s better groups. Fascinating potential here. Let’s see what happens next.
Parting Shot: The Big 12 is Now Required Saturday Entertainment
Please don’t take this as a way to push a conference’s superiority to the forefront. That is not the goal of this text-packed infomercial for the conference that was excluded from the College Football Playoff a season ago.
Yes, the Big 12 could make a case for being the nation’s premier league right now. Baylor and TCU have held up as favorites, the Horned Frogs doing so despite enduring a swell of significant injuries.
Oklahoma has looked like the team we expected to see last season. Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas State have all showed spunk at some point. Even Texas, drowning in losses and conspiracies over referees, has had its moments despite what the record says.
Above all, however, the Big 12 teams have been wildly entertaining. These games have been magic.
In one weekend—last weekend—we watched TCU beat Texas Tech 55-52 on a miraculous tipped touchdown reception and Oklahoma State beat Texas on what was essentially a walk-off dropped punt. That was in a few hours.
The week before, Texas mounted a miraculous comeback against Cal only to lose on a botched PAT. The week before that, Oklahoma surged past Tennessee on the road with a late, suspenseful rally.
When you combine quality offenses with not-so-quality defenses, throw in some fascinating coaching personalities and rosters that are generally full of talent, ultimately you will get fascinating, mistake-filled, offensively-charged games. Oh, is it fun.
It hasn’t always been perfectly played, and it won't be moving forward. But it will remain entertaining.
What does it mean for the College Football Playoff or the conference as a whole? It’s really too early to tell. And right now, who really cares about that?
Having endured a robust amount of Big 12 football in the early part of the season, it seems abundantly clear that things will probably stay unpredictable until the very end. Do watch.
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Reigning champions Ohio State sit atop the rankings and have a favorable schedule on the horizon until the latter stages of the season. Yet while the Buckeyes remain entrenched at No. 1 heading into Week 5, there's plenty of drama elsewhere around the world of college football.
From the steady rise of teams like Michigan State and Ole Miss to the meteoric jump of Utah, there's been plenty of movement during the first month. That's a trend likely to continue as conference play starts to really heat up around the country.
With that in mind, let's check out all of the important viewing information for this week's entire slate. That's followed by a breakdown of some of the top games likely to shake up the rankings.
Week 5 Schedule
No. 13 Alabama at No. 8 Georgia
This is a statement game for Georgia and a virtual must-win for Alabama. The Crimson Tide already have one loss on their resume, and it's hard to imagine a two-loss team getting into the College Football Playoff unless chaos reigns supreme in the weeks ahead.
The Bulldogs are inside the Top 10 but are still seeking a notable victory. Beating a merely average South Carolina squad is their claim to fame so far. Knocking off Bama would go a long way in proving they are a legitimate playoff contender.
A heavy burden sits on the shoulders of running back Nick Chubb. He's tied Herschel Walker's Georgia record with 12 straight 100-yard rushing games and must now try to break it against the nation's fourth-ranked rushing defense. Nick Saban gave him high praise, per Matt Zenitz of AL.com:
Stopping the run is clearly the top priority for the Tide because otherwise, Georgia will be able to dominate possession. That said, they also must do a much better job of taking care of the football. They have turned the ball over eight times in four games.
It's too early to write off any scenario, but it sure feels like Alabama either gets back squarely in the playoff race or falls out of it completely this week. That's a lot of pressure, especially when going out on the road, so it's up to Saban to make sure his team is ready for the challenge.
No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 25 Florida
It wasn't much of a surprise to see Ole Miss struggle against Vanderbilt last week. The first game after an emotional win like the one the Rebels had against Alabama is always tricky. Now they can put that behind them and regroup for a serious test on the road.
Florida is quietly 4-0, and although the level of competition by SEC standards has been low, the Gators have showed impressive poise in close games. If they can establish Kelvin Taylor on the ground and prevent the Rebels from finding a rhythm offensively, they can cause a scare.
Of course, that's easier said than done. Ole Miss has a wealth of weapons on offensive, highlighted by the receiving trio of Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo. Preventing them from taking over the game is the biggest factor, according to Gator Sports Radio:
Gators defensive coordinator Geoff Collins must take some chances—in particular, dialing up some blitzes while playing tight coverage on the outside. It will expose them to some potentially big plays if the pressure doesn't materialize, but it's their best chance to disrupt Chad Kelly.
If this turns into a wide-open shootout, Ole Miss probably pulls away rather easily. But if Florida can turn it into a more run-oriented game and utilize the crowd to its advantage, that's when a serious upset bid could arise.
No. 6 Notre Dame at No. 12 Clemson
DeShone Kizer has held down the fort for Notre Dame following the loss of Malik Zaire. It's hard to know how he'll react Saturday night, however, as the Fighting Irish face off with Clemson in what's sure to be a raucous crowd.
Every program hypes the value of its fanbase, but there are few that can match the atmosphere in "Death Valley" for a big game. This week's game definitely qualifies, as illustrated by comments from Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney, via Aaron Brenner of the Post & Courier:
Getting off to a strong start is essential for Notre Dame. The last thing it needs is to fall behind early, both giving the crowd a reason to get more involved and allowing Clemson to let its pass-rushers loose at every opportunity.
If the Irish avoid those early pitfalls and Kizer settles in, they'll be in good shape. That means C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams, who are both averaging better than eight yards per carry so far, will be leaned on heavily in the early going.
Ultimately, this game could be the week's most entertaining. It has fourth-quarter thriller written all over it. And to the winner goes a crucial victory that could ultimately put them over the top in the playoff race when the dust settles at season's end.
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The night of Sept. 27, 2008, was supposed to be a banner night for the 4-0 Georgia Bulldogs.
The team that entered the season with the No. 1 ranking had slipped to No. 3 despite beating Arizona State and South Carolina on the road but had the chance to make a statement against the eighth-ranked upstart Alabama Crimson Tide, then in year two under head coach Nick Saban.
ESPN's College GameDay was there.
The Bulldogs wore black jerseys for the third time over a two-season span.
This was the game that would solidify Georgia—which was on an 11-game winning streak and had stars like quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Knowshon Moreno—as a national power.
Instead, it became the game that launched Alabama into the SEC's 900-pound gorilla.
While unproven, the Crimson Tide entered the game ready to make a statement.
"They're wearing black because they're going to a motherf--king funeral," strength and condition coach Scott Cochran said during game preparation (at the 1:05 mark of the video below; contains NSFW language).
That's a bit aggressive, but considering where each program was, it turned out to be quite prophetic.
"We didn't know where we were as a team there in 2008 coming off a 7-6 season in 2007," quarterback John Parker Wilson, who was a senior on the 2008 Crimson Tide, told Bleacher Report. "We beat Clemson in a big game in the Georgia Dome to start the 2008 season, but still, Georgia was one of the top teams in the country, and we were still trying to find our identity. They came out with the black jerseys earlier in the week, and we used that as motivation."
That motivation worked.
Alabama jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead on the heels of touchdown runs from Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch and Glen Coffee, a 22-yard strike from Wilson to Julio Jones and a 23-yard field goal from Leigh Tiffin.
"It was an 'us vs. the world' mentality," Wilson said. "We go in there and were in the zone from the time we stepped off the bus. It was just one of those games where everything clicked."
The Crimson Tide absolutely demoralized Georgia right out of the gate, moving 80 yards on 11 plays for the game's first score. They followed it up with scoring drives of five, six, seven and eight plays during the game's first 30 minutes, all while holding Georgia to three drives that went three-and-out, forcing two fumbles and allowing just 99 total yards.
"Everybody was just a little bit overconfident," former Bulldogs tight end Aron White, who was a redshirt freshman in 2008, told Bleacher Report. "I think we lost some leadership from that 2007 team that was so good. We had some great players but not necessarily the leaders in place to keep everybody in line and remind us what made us so good in the first place."
After running roughshod through the Bulldogs, Georgia fans were understandably frustrated.
Former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator and current Florida head coach Jim McElwain left the press box at halftime and walked through the stadium to get to the locker room and found out just how angry Dawg Nation was.
"When we were walking out of the press box to go down at halftime, a couple of guys started throwing some stuff at me," he said on last week's coaches teleconference. "I thought, 'Wow, man, we must have done something right.'"
It wasn't on the field where the Crimson Tide proved they were a championship-caliber team; it was in that locker room.
Instead of the coaches reminding players it wasn't over and to keep their foot on the gas, the leaders of the team took control to keep their own teammates in line.
"It was huge," Wilson said. "That's what any coaching staff would want. The coaches always say that it's a process and that they're trying to find leadership. We took the bull by the horns and didn't wait on anybody else like a coach or anybody else to do it.
"When you get the players to lead and coach themselves, that's a recipe for success."
Georgia found some life in the second half and at least made the final 41-30 score look respectable. Make no mistake, though, the game wasn't nearly as close as the shootout score indicated.
Alabama dominated the Bulldogs between the hedges, put to rest those black jerseys and announced to the world, "We're back."
"People forget that we were on probation with Coach [Mike] Shula," Wilson said. "The older guys, meshing with the young guys like Julio and Mark Ingram who produced so much, it was fun to be a part of the turning of the tide."
Instead of a defining moment for the Bulldogs, the blackout game on Sept. 27, 2008, was the night the lights turned on in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama has been shining bright ever since.
Saban and Co. ran through the regular season undefeated before losing to Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide would then win three of the next four BCS National Championships.
Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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Since West Virginia joined the Big 12 three seasons ago, it's lost all three meetings with new rival Oklahoma. However, playing as underdogs each time out, the Mountaineers covered the spread twice.
West Virginia and the Sooners open Big 12 play when they meet on Saturday afternoon in Norman.
Point Spread: The Sooners opened as 7.5-point favorites.
Odds Shark Computer Pick: Sooners 33.9, Mountaineers 23.8
Why the West Virginia Mountaineers Can Cover the Spread
West Virginia is off to a 3-0 start to this season, 2-1 against the spread, after a 45-6 dismantling of Maryland last week.
As 17-point favorites, the Mountaineers had the spread covered 10 minutes into the game, led 38-0 at the half, eventually racked up 601 yards of offense (304 on the ground), all while the defense forced six Terrapins turnovers.
WVU opened this season with victories over Georgia Southern and Liberty by a combined score of 85-17. So the Mountaineers have allowed a total of 23 points through three games.
After going 1-4 straight up and 2-3 ATS in its last five games in 2014, West Virginia hoped to get off to a quick start this season, and so far, so good. If they can get the running game going this week, play good defense and avoid turning the ball over, the Mountaineers could pull off an upset here.
Why the Oklahoma Sooners Can Cover the Spread
Oklahoma is also 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS after topping Tulsa 52-38 two weeks ago. The Sooners built a 31-10 first-half lead and held on from there, although in retrospect, they were probably favored by too much (31 points).
Quarterback Baker Mayfield went off for a school-record 572 yards of total offense and six touchdowns, running back Samaje Perine ran for 152 yards and wide receiver Sterling Shepard caught eight balls for 144 yards.
The OU defense gave up 427 yards through the air, but most of that came in modified prevent mode, as the Golden Hurricane threw the ball 51 times while playing catch-up.
The Sooners then had last week off.
Oklahoma opened this season with a 41-3 victory over Akron (covering the 31-point spread), then rallied to beat an improved Tennessee team in Nashville 31-24 in overtime (covering as a field-goal favorite).
The Sooners think they can win the Big 12 this season, but they know they can't do it by losing one of their four conference home games.
Oklahoma has beaten West Virginia in each of the past three seasons, but all three were good games. The Mountaineers defense, of all things, may have the biggest impact on this game. The smart choice here is with West Virginia, plus the points.
- The total has gone under in 11 of West Virginia's last 12 games.
- West Virginia is 2-7 ATS in its last nine games in October.
- Oklahoma is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games in October.
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Missouri will be without its starting signal-caller when it hosts South Carolina in a pivotal SEC clash Saturday.
According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, the Tigers have suspended quarterback Maty Mauk and offensive lineman Malik Cuellar for Saturday's showdown for a violation of team policies. The specific policies were not disclosed.
The program's official statement did not indicate a specific return date for either player. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Dave Matter, both players' statuses "will be evaluated after the game."
Missouri has yet to announce who will start under center Saturday against the Gamecocks, but as Matter noted, backup Drew Lock projects as the team's temporary solution at quarterback.
Following a 21-13 loss to Kentucky in which Mauk completed just 15 of 30 passes for 180 yards, the junior has passed for 654 yards and six touchdowns while completing just 51.8 percent of his attempts. He's also rushed 36 times for 145 yards and a score.
For at least one game, the keys to the offense will presumably be handed over to Lock. A freshman and former 4-star recruit, per 247Sports, Lock has completed 15 of 25 passes for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception since arriving in Columbia.
Lock has seen action in all four of the Tigers' games to date, with his most extensive playing time coming in Missouri's season-opening win over Southeast Missouri State.
As for Cuellar, his absence shouldn't hinder Missouri too much so long as the offensive line can stay healthy. According to College Football Talk's Zach Barnett, Cuellar was listed as a second-string left tackle on the team's depth chart Saturday.
The man to watch moving forward will be Lock. Since Mauk hasn't impressed through four games, the true freshman has a chance to impress head coach Gary Pinkel and win the job for the rest of the season.
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The date circled by many on the Notre Dame football calendar finally arrives Saturday night when the No. 6 Irish travel to South Carolina to battle No. 12 Clemson under the lights.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly didn’t simply spew standard coachspeak Tuesday, instead noting the prime-time matchup is one Notre Dame has “been looking forward to certainly all season.”
“Everybody wants to get that opportunity to compete at the highest level, and this will be one of those opportunities,” Kelly said.
Kelly admitted the vibe around the team is different than a typical week.
“You know when your team is, I would say, detailed on the very first meeting,” Kelly said. “They know who they’re playing, and they know what they need to do and how they need to play if they want to win.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney joked that he’s received phone calls from people he hasn’t spoken with in 20 years looking for tickets.
“They need to keep a level head,” Swinney told reporters regarding his team. “But they’re all excited. When you’re a competitor, how many people get to compete on a national stage?”
Date: Saturday, October 3
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Place: Memorial Stadium in Clemson, South Carolina
Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129
Spread: Even, according to Odds Shark
It's never too early for season-ending predictions, and this time around we'll focus on picking the teams likely to win college football's power conferences.
There are some familiar powers on this list, but 2015 already has the feel of a changing of the guard, a trend that will be reflected below.
We'll learn a lot about Deshaun Watson and the Tigers when they face Notre Dame this week. While it won't have ACC implications, it will show us just how much of a contender the team is both nationally and in the conference traditionally dominated by Florida State.
But Clemson, to this point, looks like the class of the ACC. They have another dominant defense—although again, Notre Dame will put that to the test—and a star in Watson leading a talented supporting cast on offense.
Clemson's goals should be sky-high for this season—this is a team that has the talent to qualify for this year's College Football Playoff.
Big 12: Baylor
Good luck figuring out this conference. It seems unlikely any team will come out of conference play unscathed.
TCU came into the year as the favorite, but injuries have decimated the Horned Frogs. It seems unlikely they'll be able to survive a tough Big 12 schedule given the players they've lost.
Baylor has one of the nation's best offenses, but the defense is a question mark and they haven't played anybody yet.
Oklahoma State and West Virginia have great defenses, but do they have the offensive weapons to survive the shootouts against the league's better offenses?
Oklahoma has become one of college football's enigmas in recent years, always flashing elite talent on paper and always seeming to underachieve on the field.
Grab a dartboard, post the names of the above teams on it, put on a blindfold and toss your dart. There, you have your winner.
In all seriousness, I'll take Baylor, for now, to win the Big 12. We know they will score a ton of points in every game, they haven't been ravaged by injuries and last year's playoff "snub"—though let's be honest, Ohio State was obviously the right choice—should keep them motivated throughout the year. Were it not for injuries, however, TCU would be the pick.
Big Ten: Ohio State
No, Ohio State hasn't seemed like the team that marched to a national championship a year ago. Yes, this is still the most talented team in the country...
On paper, at least.
The Buckeyes weren't great to start last season, of course, even losing to Virginia Tech, so for now the slow start can be excused. Urban Meyer is a great coach, and he'll find a way to pull the right strings at the right times to get this team going.
Figuring out which quarterback best suits the team may be another matter entirely, of course. Meyer was critical of starting quarterback Cardale Jones after the team's win over 38-12 win over Western Michigan this weekend, despite Jones throwing for 288 yards and two scores, per Vinnie Duber of CSN Chicago:
Fundamentally he wasn't sound. The way he transferred back to front, dragging his back leg, and that's (quarterbacks coach) Tim Beck, and they'll work at it. And then J.T. underthrew one, too. J.T., if you remember early last year, struggled with that, and then he started throwing beautiful deep balls.
So that's just something you've got to work on. But you can see certainly in that arm strength, it's just the fundamental flaw of not being able to weight transfer and driving the ball.
Michigan State is going to test this team and its quarterbacks, yes. The Spartans might even win. But for now, it's hard to bet against Ohio State figuring things out, which means it's hard to bet against the talent they've accumulated against pretty much any other team.
Injuries didn't slow down UCLA against a good Arizona team this past week, so the balanced Bruins should be able to overcome them as the Pac-12 schedule only gets more difficult. It's begun to look pretty clear that this is a down year for Oregon and another down year for USC, giving UCLA an excellent chance to win the Pac-12 this season.
The Bruins are likely to go as freshman quarterback Josh Rosen goes. To this point, the highly regarded recruit has passed every test, throwing for 964 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions in four games. There will be speed bumps along the way for the frosh, but he has the talent to lead UCLA to a conference championship this season.
SEC: Ole Miss
Beating Alabama put them on the national radar, but this is a very talented, very balanced team led by defensive star Robert Nkemdiche—who might just be the best player in the country this season, outside of perhaps that Leonard Fournette fellow—and excellent receiver Laquon Treadwell.
A lot in the SEC will be cleared up this weekend when Alabama faces Georgia, but for now, the win over the Crimson Tide and a stacked roster makes Ole Miss the favorites in the conference.
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