NCAA Football

Five Oregon Football Players with the Most NFL Potential

Ever since Chip Kelly took over as the head coach in 2009, the University of Oregon program has turned into an NFL factory.  

The Ducks have had a phenomenal 13 players drafted in the past three years, most notably running backs LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and De'Anthony Thomas.

This year is no different, as the Oregon roster is filled with players who have the potential to play on Sundays.

It is one of the most talented teams in the nation, and you can assume that once the 2015 NFL draft comes around, there will be plenty of Oregon players called to the stage.

In this slideshow, I lay out my thoughts on the Oregon players with the best chance to succeed in the NFL. Check it out and see what you think.

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Five Oregon Football Players with the Most NFL Potential

Ever since Chip Kelly took over as the head coach in 2009, the University of Oregon program has turned into an NFL factory...

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College Football's All Week 3 First-Team: Top Performers at Every Position

While it wasn't the greatest slate of games in college football history, Week 3's schedule still managed to provide us with great finishes, big surprises and outstanding efforts, both individually and by teams.

Just how we like it.

With the possibility that every game can be a great one, each weekend we're glued to our couches, laptops and mobile devices hoping to catch a glimpse of the next amazing performance. But you can't catch them all live, not without risking a blown synapse or two in the brain, so we've culled through all 58 games from Week 3 to find the best individual efforts.

While statistics play a big role in determining top performers, sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story. We looked at the numbers, but also the way players impacted their game's outcome from an overall standpoint.

Take a look at Week 3's top performers, then let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Freshmen Power Rankings of the Week: Top 5

Another week of college football is behind us. It was another opportunity for freshmen across the country to make an impact for their team.

That's why the B/R freshmen power rankings are back. 

The freshmen on this list didn't technically have to start—as in, they didn't have to be the first player on the field at their respective position—but they did have to play at least a complementary or rotational role with at least one recordable stat. 

These rankings are also subject to change from week to week depending on who shines. As the season progresses, power rankings should even out more. 

So which freshmen stood out in Week 3? Which ones had the most jaw-dropping highlights? Which ones underwhelmed? The answers are in the list below.

 

The Standout 

I keep coming back to a pair of freshman defensive ends: Myles Garrett for Texas A&M and Malik McDowell for Michigan State. Since Sparty was off this week, the attention was solely on Garrett. And he didn't disappoint.

In a 38-10 win over Rice, Garrett had two-and-a-half sacks. That gives him five-and-a-half three games into the season, which is already a school record for a freshman, according to the Associated Press. A&M has a few key freshmen contributing this season, but Garrett has been a force since the first game. 

Through three games, he's second in the country in sacks and is closing in on Jadeveon Clowney's single-season record. 

Think about how good he's going to be when he gets better. It's terrifying. 

 

The Highlight

Duke running back Shaun Wilson had nine carries for 89 yards—averaging just a touch under 10 yards per carry—heading into the Blue Devils' Week 3 game against Kansas.

If you can believe it—and against Kansas, perhaps you can—Wilson doubled his yards per carry. Twelve rushes, 245 yards, three touchdowns. That's what Wilson recorded in a 41-3 win. Through three weeks, Wilson is the No. 18 rusher in the country on just 21 carries (h/t Ben Swain). 

 

Who's Rising?

How much longer can you overlook Baylor wide receiver KD Cannon? The competition to date has been sub-par, but Cannon nevertheless leads the nation with 471 yards. 

Following his 223-yard, three-touchdown performance against Northwestern State, Cannon had 189 receiving yards and a score in a blowout win over Buffalo.

Without a doubt, he's the Bears' best deep threat, filling in the role that Tevin Reese had last year. Like all true freshmen, he's still learning, but it's been mostly a seamless adjustment to college for him. 

"I've watched a lot of receivers, seen a bunch over 30-something years in coaching," said head coach Art Briles about Cannon after the Week 2 win against Northwestern State (via ESPN.com). "I came back and said that's the best guy I've ever seen as a high school receiver, no doubt. He's good. He's different."

 

Who’s Falling?

USC wide receiver/defensive back Adoree' Jackson. Look, everyone's going to have freshman moments and Jackson had them at the wrong time in an upset loss to Boston College as noted by the Los Angeles Register

Adoree’ Jackson set up USC’s second touchdown with a 50-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter. On the next BC kickoff, Jackson muffed the ball, returning it just 3 yards to the USC 10-yard line. That tilted field position in the Eagles’ favor.

Jackson also had a reception of the game, but it was for a loss of four yards. It just wasn't his best game. It wasn't USC's best game. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. 

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Is Auburn Ready for First National Test vs. Kansas State?

Is Auburn a contender or pretender?

Through two games, that question remains largely unanswered.

Sure, Auburn's defense buckled down in the second half against Arkansas and San Jose State, and the offense generally looks unstoppable—which is, for the most part, exactly how it looked last year.

If you thought Auburn was more of a contender heading into the season, the first two games confirmed your thoughts. If you thought last season's run to the SEC title was founded more on luck, you probably have spent the first three weeks of the season picking apart what you perceive to be the team's holes.

The world will find out who's right on Thursday night, as head coach Gus Malzahn will lead No. 5 Auburn to the "Little Apple" to take on 20th-ranked Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas. Not the easiest task. According to Brandon Marcello of AL.com, the Wildcats are 130-31-1 at home since 1990.

But not all opponents are created equal.

The national broadcast on a Thursday night between two contenders will provide a big-time barometer for each team, and define the national landscape.

Is Auburn ready?

It certainly looks like it.

Replacing running back Tre Mason and offensive tackle Greg Robinson didn't seem to be an issue for these Tigers. All running back Cameron Artis-Payne has done is top the century mark on the ground in his first two games and averaged 6.88 yards per carry. Quarterback Nick Marshall joined him last week against San Jose State, when the senior signal-caller rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown. Speedster Corey Grant has settled back into his role off the edge with an eye-popping 8.8 yards per carry.

As I wrote last week, Marshall's progress as a passer—which was discussed at length during the offseason—isn't a necessity, it's a luxury.

This isn't a wide-open spread offense the Wildcats are accustomed to seeing in the Big 12. This is a smashmouth, two-back, run-it-right-down-your-throat rushing attack that will challenge Bill Snyder's crew at the line of scrimmage and test it endurance with tempo.

It's a philosophy which helps the Tigers on both sides of the ball. That brings me to a question that was asked of me and my co-host Michael Felder on the College Football Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sirius 93 XM 208) on Sunday morning.

Not really.

In fact, Arkansas' performance against Texas Tech actually makes me more impressed with Auburn's offense than anything else. This, admittedly, doesn't make a ton of sense on the surface.

Arkansas didn't get out of its game plan against Texas Tech. It imposed its will on the Red Raiders, who couldn't hang.

This is exactly what Auburn did to it Arkansas the week before in the season opener. The Tigers offense just kept coming, and one mistake—in this case, a pick-six thrown by Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen—forced the Hogs out of their game plan, which ultimately led to a Tigers' blowout win.

Business as usual for Auburn's defense, which has been successful in the second halves of games under Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. The Tigers have given up only three total points in the second half this year, and allowed just 11.2 points per game in the second half of games last year.

Auburn is so efficient with its offense that it almost always forces the game to be played at the pace head coach Gus Malzahn wants it to be played. When you have the opponent playing your game, it's usually "game over."

The Tigers are playing their brand of football, which will make them tough to beat anywhere.

Manhattan included.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Hits and Misses from Week 3

Well, that was interesting. 

Week 3 is in the books, and now the college football landscape appears even more confusing than ever. It's certainly tough to put together a top 25 after Saturday's action.

South Carolina showed it wasn't, in fact, dead (a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and busted the SEC East race wide open with a 38-35 win over Georgia. 

Meanwhile, USC was unable to overcome a trip to Boston College in a stunning 37-31 upset. Virginia Tech couldn't capitalize on its win over Ohio State in Week 2, falling at home to East Carolina 28-21. 

Now The Associated Press, USA Today and Bleacher Report have the unenviable task of ranking the top 25 teams. The top 10 seems pretty set, but beyond that, it's a bunch of guesswork.

How did the polls look? Which teams are the hits and misses? The answers are in the following slides. 

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College Football Rankings 2014: Twitter Reacts to AP and Amway Week 4 Polls

What a difference a week can make in college football.

Last weekend, USC was riding high after a 13-10 win over Stanford and entered the Top 10 in both the Associated Press and Amway polls. On Sunday, the team plummeted after losing to Boston College on the road.

South Carolina and Georgia both had their roles reversed in the eyes of SEC followers. The Gamecocks pulled off the upset at home to heal the wounds from a blowout loss to Texas A&M, while the Bulldogs likely dropped out of the College Football Playoff picture.

Here's a look at the full AP and Amway Week 4 polls following yet another enthralling weekend. The Amway Poll can be found here and the AP Poll can be found here.

 

Reaction

A loss to Boston College meant a huge drop for the Trojans, but just how far?

The loss knocked USC outside of the Top 20 in the Amway Poll. As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the loss was a huge shock this early in the season:

The numbers were staggering for USC, as its defense allowed 452 rushing yards. A nonconference loss hurts the Trojans in the national landscape, but Josh Furlong of KSL.com points out how much it hurt the Pac-12:

Georgia shared USC's upset woes, as the Bulldogs also dropped out of the Top 10 in both polls.

South Carolina was able to pull off a thrilling 38-35 win over UGA, moving to 2-1 on the young season. It wasn't all bad news for the Bulldogs, though, as they remained ahead of the Gamecocks in the Amway Poll.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports shares his thoughts on the change for the two programs:

Both are talented teams and remain contenders in the SEC. Unfortunately for both teams, early losses have likely dashed their hopes of participating in the College Football Playoff.

One team that has now entered the Playoff discussion is 3-0 Notre Dame. The Irish followed up a 31-0 win over Michigan with a decisive 30-14 victory against Purdue.

The early results have pushed the Irish into the Top 10 in the Coaches poll, per Comcast SportsNet:

With Everett Golson back under center, Notre Dame has looked strong thus far. But opponents such as Florida State, Arizona State and USC await them.

One trend that continued was the fact that preseason favorites in the Amway Poll have been underwhelming. The Gamecocks and Cardinal bounced back in Week 3, but were among teams that fell early.

But they weren't alone, as Jon Solomon of CBS Sports points out:

Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports also notes just how rare the occurrence is this early in the year:

Another wild week in college football means the rest of the season promises to bring more shakeups. Notre Dame and South Carolina may be on the rise for now, but each has a tough road ahead.

Several shocking results in Week 3 appear to be setting the stage for an interesting stretch leading up to the first College Football Playoff. The class of the country remains Florida State, but the season is far from over.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

AP College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 4 Rankings Released

Most probably looked at the Week 3 college football schedule and expected a mundane, breezy slate of games in which the elite of the elite went on one last cupcake-mashing spree before conference play begins. 

Most would have been wrong.   

While the majority of the Top 25 was able to sneak through unscathed, Saturday's games were defined by a couple of notable upsets and closer-than-expected outcomes. The five teams atop the standings were able to avoid the wreckage, with idle Florida State retaining its No. 1 spot. 

Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma—all big winners on Saturday against unranked opponents—stay in the same order. Auburn, which was off this week, rounds out the Top Five. Here's a full look at the latest AP rankings along with Bleacher Report's Top 25.

The notable changes begin at No. 6, with Texas A&M ascending after Georgia's slight upset loss to South Carolina in Columbia. Spurred by Dylan Thompson's 271-yard, three-touchdown performance, the Gamecocks held a consistent lead throughout, staving off multiple Georgia comeback bids.

Their last game-saving play was one of the most memorable quarterback sneaks of 2014. Facing a 4th-and-inches and attempting to ice the game, Thompson barreled forward on a designed run—only to seemingly be stopped right at the first-down marker. A measurement gave South Carolina the first down by the tip of the football, and Thompson sealed the 38-35 victory.

“Some wins are better than others,” Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier, whose team moved up from No. 24 to No. 14, told reporters after the game, via Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com. “This one was better than most others.” 

The win keeps South Carolina's hopes of an SEC East championship alive. A Top 10 outfit coming into 2014, the Gamecocks' national title chances were probably dashed with a 52-28 shellacking at the hands of Texas A&M in Week 1.

A couple of weeks later, Spurrier handed a similar fate to Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose play-calling was questioned during the fourth quarter. Richt gave star running back Todd Gurley 20 carries, which he promptly took for 131 yards. But Richt didn't give Gurley the ball on a 1st-and-goal at South Carolina's 4-yard line, quarterback Hutson Mason was called for an intentional-grounding penalty and three plays later, Marshall Morgan missed a 28-yard field goal that would have tied the game.

"If I had to do it again, I'd have hammered it," Richt told The Associated Press, via ESPN.com.

Richt's decision not to "hammer it" results in the Bulldogs dropping to No. 13.

Also on the losing end of an upset was USC, which saw its run defense implode in a 37-31 defeat against Boston College. Tyler Murphy rushed for 191 of the Eagles' 452 yards on the ground, leading a comeback from an early 17-6 deficit. Boston College averaged 8.4 yards per carry, as Myles Willis, Jon Hilliman and Sherman Alston each rushed for more than 50 yards. 

USC, meanwhile, couldn't muster 50 rushing yards total. Javorius Allen had 31 yards on 15 carries and Justin Davis gained only 10 on his six rushes, leaving quarterback Cody Kessler essentially on an island by himself. Kessler threw for 317 yards, four touchdowns and didn't turn the ball over, but it wasn't enough against an Eagles team that frankly just looked better.

"We had a great game plan to run the ball, but Boston College did a great job of loading the box," Kessler told the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "They did a good job of getting to me. We missed some assignments up front, and we should have made some better calls both offensively and by me."

The Trojans, who came into Week 3 ranked ninth, moved back to No. 17. Boston College, which a week ago lost to a shaky Pitt team, remains unranked.

The other notable upset of the week struck a team that was celebrating its own triumph just seven days prior. Virginia Tech's toppling of Ohio State last Saturday vaulted the Hokies to No. 17, sparked talks of a Beamer Ball revival and made Columbus again bemoan the loss of Braxton Miller. This Saturday, they were on the other end, as East Carolina scored a touchdown with 16 seconds remaining to give the Pirates a 28-21 win in Blacksburg.

Shane Carden accounted for all four East Carolina touchdowns, highlighted by a 21-0 run in the first quarter. The Hokies slowly chipped their way back into the game and scored a touchdown with 1:20 remaining that seemingly signaled overtime. But Carden came through once more in the clutch, completing two downfield strikes and then sneaking the ball in from one yard out.

"Just believing," Carden told the Associated Press, via ESPN.com, of how his team fought back after the Virginia Tech score. "Just continuing to believe. We just made some routine plays. They were playing some good defense there in the second half and we couldn't get a lot going. But we just kept believing, believing in our coaches."

East Carolina has become a popular foil. It nearly knocked off South Carolina on the road last week, and will have an opportunity to take down North Carolina at home next Saturday. The American Athletic Conference outfit is establishing itself as an early conference championship favorite.

The Tar Heels will have to be on upset alert next week after watching their conference foes fall on Saturday.

Louisville was the only other Top 25 team to lose in Week 3, as Virginia's defense sent a strong reminder that Teddy Bridgewater is irreplaceable in a 23-21 win. Will Gardner completed only 14-of-34 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns against two interceptions. Cavaliers quarterback Greyson Lambert also struggled, but he accounted for two critical touchdowns during Virginia's 20-7 run through three quarters.

The Cardinals and Hokies are the two teams to drop outside the Top 25 this week.

Replacing them at No. 24 and No. 25, respectively, are Nebraska and Oklahoma State. The Cornhuskers atoned for their near upset loss to McNeese State last week with a 55-19 domination of Fresno State on Saturday. Oklahoma State has beaten up on cupcakes the past two weeks in Missouri State and UTSA, but its only loss of the season was a nail-biter to Florida State.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 4 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

Not many upsets were on the forecast for Saturday's slate of games, but that all changed when said games were played. A handful of surprising outcomes shook up the Week 4 Associated Press and Amway coaches polls that were released Sunday.

Week 3 only featured one game between two Top 25 teams, as No. 24 South Carolina hosted sixth-ranked Georgia and mounted the upset over the Bulldogs. But that doesn't mean that the rest of them were safe—a few were anything but.

With unpredictable upsets on one hand, and touted schools taking care of tests elsewhere, the Top 25 jostled around again in a big way.

Here's a look at the new Week 4 Amway poll courtesy of USA Today, the newest AP poll per The Associated Press and the Week 4 Bleacher Report Top 25. 

 

The biggest loser from the new Top 25 has to be the Georgia Bulldogs.

A convincing, season-opening win over Clemson was all washed away with a trip to the SEC East-rival South Carolina Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier's crew took a 24-13 lead into the locker room and rose up with a late goal-line stand to help seal the victory.

Georgia has never posted back-to-back wins over ranked teams to start the season, and failing to do so in 2014 has made it an uphill climb to get back into College Football Playoff contention. The Bulldogs fell to No. 14 in the Amway rankings. 

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks—who know all about discouraging defeats after a season-opening loss to Texas A&M—shot back up the rankings. It's safe to say they were tired of hearing about their fellow SEC East contenders, per Josh Kendall of The State (Columbia, South Carolina):

The Gamecocks had fallen all the way to No. 24 in Week 3 after escaping East Carolina but have nearly pulled ahead of previously No. 6 Georgia in Week 4. 

Speaking of East Carolina, the Pirates got in on the action Saturday by surprising Virginia Tech. The formerly 17th-ranked Hokies were upset at home 28-21, forcing them to plummet out of the Top 25 altogether.

The Pirates notched 35 top-25 votes in the coaches poll, good for 33rd overall, and could sneak closer by beating North Carolina at home next weekend. 

The upsets continued with the previously 21st-ranked Louisville Cardinals falling to Virginia, which slipped Bobby Petrino's team out of the Top 25 after a brief two-week stay. 

The USC Trojans know something about a deflating upset. After climbing up to No. 9 coming off a road win over Stanford, the Trojans headed east to face Boston College and fell in a 37-31 affair.

The Trojans were in the Top 10 in all three aforementioned polls last weekend but now fell to No. 17 in the AP and all the way to No. 21 in the coaches poll. 

The Oregon Ducks, on the other hand, continue to prove why they can't be overlooked as one of the top teams in the standings. Marcus Mariota led the Ducks to a 48-14 win over Wyoming, allowing them to slide into No. 3 in the Amway poll and remain No. 2 in the AP.

Alabama took care of things once again at home Saturday, toppling Southern Miss 52-12 behind a big day from quarterback Blake Sims and another huge day from Amari Cooper, as ESPN SportsCenter noted:

The win allowed the Crimson Tide to remain No. 2 overall in the Amway poll, but they couldn't climb past Oregon in the AP and will look to make a statement next weekend against Florida.

It's no surprise that all of them are still looking up at Florida State. The Seminoles were on a bye this weekend but face Clemson on Sept. 20, and a big win there will further validate their No. 1 spot for the defending champs.

Analyzing the Week 4 standings too much can be counterproductive with so many games on tap in upcoming weekends that will shake things up even more. The only guarantee is change, and that is being proven in 2014 yet again.

Whether it's USC slipping up after a big upset of Stanford, Virginia Tech losing following the Ohio State win or South Carolina bouncing back to beat Georgia after their early-season shortcomings, early signs for many teams have been up-and-down. 

If those trends continue, we could be in for one of the craziest college football seasons yet—and that's saying something.

 

Stats via ESPN

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College Football Playoff 2014: Updated Outlook After Release of Week 4 Rankings

There was a whole lot of offense in Week 3 of the 2014 college football season.

Ohio State dropped 66 points on Kent State in a shutout. Baylor notched 63 against Buffalo. Alabama torched the Southern Miss defense for 52. And those results were just the tip of the iceberg.

Ranked teams were largely successful in Week 3. Georgia, USC, Virginia Tech and Louisville were unable to beat their opponents, though the Bulldogs loss came at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

With Week 3 now in the books, it's time to look ahead to Week 4. The college football season is in full swing. While the standings will continue to shift week to week, each passing game day will bring more clarity to the playoff picture.

Below are the updated rankings after Week 3.

 

Outlook

The Florida State Seminoles weren't in action during Week 3, but that doesn't mean they need to be bumped from the top spot. There's plenty of reason to love this squad just as much as last year's national championship team.

Jameis Winston is a Heisman candidate, and the offense has looked solid through two games—granted, Oklahoma State and Citadel aren't exactly the cream of the crop of college football.

Another Heisman candidate, Marcus Mariota, put on an absolute show on Saturday. The Oregon Ducks signal-caller completed 19-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns against Wyoming. He also ran five times for 71 yards and another two scores.

Mariota drew rave reviews from Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, who spoke to reporters after the game.

"I don't know if anyone in this room has a vote for the Heisman Trophy, but I encourage you to take a look at your ballot there for [this] quarterback. He's a tremendous player and I thought he played extremely well."

Oregon's fast start to this season is reminiscent of its dominant stretch to start last year. Beating up on South Dakota and Wyoming isn't all that impressive, but dropping 46 points on a stellar Michigan State defense is noteworthy.  

It's worth considering that all three of Oregon's wins have come at home. It'll be interesting to see if the Ducks can keep this blistering pace up when they hit the road in Week 4 against Washington State.

The Alabama Crimson Tide were dominant on both offense and defense against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The defense allowed just three points in each quarter, stifling Southern Miss's offense and holding it to just 263 total yards.

Their offense more than doubled that mark (547). Quarterback Blake Sims was 12-of-17 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. It was a pretty pedestrian performance, as the running game took center stage. 

Eight rushers, including Sims, combined for 333 yards. Derrick Henry led the way with 73 yards, but Kenyan Drake totaled three touchdowns on his nine carries (59 yards).

In this offense's first season without AJ McCarron, the running game has really stepped up. This will keep the Crimson Tide in contention for the playoffs and 2014 title.

Week 4 presents fans of college football with incredible matchups. Auburn and Kansas State kick off the week on Thursday night, while Clemson and Florida State square off in one of the final games on Saturday.

The rankings could see a significant shakeup following the results of Week 4.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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The SEC East Favorite Might Not Be Georgia or South Carolina Anymore

Do you hear that noise coming from the "Show Me State?"

That's the defending SEC East champion Missouri Tigers cruising right along, doing exactly what they were doing last year when they finished the regular season with one SEC loss and played Auburn tough in the SEC Championship Game.

With South Carolina and Georgia—the two preseason favorites in the division—each having conference losses, and Florida looking less-than-impressive against Kentucky, is it time to start thinking about Missouri as the SEC East favorite?

Yep, and it has more to do with how the Tigers are playing than anything else.

Missouri topped UCF 38-10 on Saturday afternoon to run its record to 3-0 and has looked very impressive in the process. 

Maty Mauk completed just 51.1 percent of his passes last season as a backup and fill-in starter with three wide receivers who resembled NBA power forwards. All three of those players left after the 2013 season, and all Mauk has done is complete 62.3 percent of his passes (48-of-77) for 647 yards, an SEC-best 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions, while adding 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The best is yet to come.

“Wait until he gets good," head coach Gary Pinkel said after the game, according to Missouri's quotes. "There are a lot of things out there that he can do to improve and he knows that. He’s a great, gamey player, he can make plays, he does those things and he’s got some players making some plays for him. But he can get considerably better.”

That's scary. 

Part of the reason Mauk has been successful early on has been the connection he has established with wide receiver Bud Sasser.

The senior has a team-high 12 catches for 215 yards and four touchdowns, leading a talented wide receiving corps that includes Darius White and Jimmie Hunt. All three of Mauk's primary targets have double-digit receptions and have helped him transition into the role as a full-time starter.

No Henry Josey? No problem.

Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have picked up right where Josey left off on the ground. Hansbrough is averaging 86 yards per game through three games, and Murphy is adding 68 himself as more of a changeup, home-run hitter.

Both of those players were banged-up in the win over UCF, but according to Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, they should return quickly.

Defensively, it's the same recipe as last year.

Markus Golden and Shane Ray are tied for second in the SEC with four sacks each, and Ray leads the conference with 7.5 tackles for loss. They're generating pressure with four, and then capitalizing with a conference-best nine turnovers gained and four fumble recoveries.

“Each week me and Marcus just go out and try to play to the best of our abilities, make as many plays as we can," Ray said in postgame quotes released by Missouri. "Just play how we are expected to play by [defensive coordinator] coach [Dave] Steckel, run to the ball and be physical. It doesn’t really matter if Marcus is in the spotlight or I’m in the spotlight as long as we are doing what we are supposed to do as a defense.”

This is the same Missouri team that was picked to finish fourth in the division at SEC Media Days. 

Pinkel doesn't care, he just goes about his business playing "Missouri football."

"I don't get into what is said or what's predicted," he said at SEC Media Days in July. "Someone apologized to me a little while ago the way they voted after this thing. I said, I don't know how you voted for us, I don't really care."

In an SEC East, why not Missouri?

Because the Tigers haven't played anybody?

UCF isn't exactly a "nobody," but that argument can certainly be made to a point. It'd be cancelled out, though, by the ability of Missouri to play the same old brand of football it was successful with last season with several new pieces in place of last year's stars.

It's about to get tricky, though.

After hosting Indiana this week, the Tigers visit South Carolina, get a needed bye week, host Georgia and visit Florida. By the end of October, we're going to know full-well if Missouri is a contender or pretender.

So far they've looked like a contender while flying under the radar. Which is, not surprisingly, the same path Missouri took early last year during its run to the SEC East title.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and 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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 4 Rankings Released

Even in a week without many big-time showdowns, the college football slate provided plenty of surprises.

There was only one game in Week 3 between Top 25 opponents as South Carolina pulled out a win over Georgia. However, four ranked teams went down in total this weekend, including two in the Top 10. None of them was more surprising than USC's loss to Boston College.  

This has caused a relatively notable shift in the rankings heading into Week 4. Here is a full look at the latest Amway Coaches Poll from USA Today, along with Bleacher Report's Top 25.

Arguably the best battle of the past week went to the SEC as South Carolina came through with a narrow 38-35 win over Georgia.

This was an exciting game that featured huge performances from Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson and Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley, but after all the scoring it came down to a quarterback sneak in the middle of the field.

Holding a three-point lead in the closing minutes, South Carolina went for it on fourth down with Thompson running it up the middle. After the spot was placed, the call was a first down by this much:

ESPN's Michele Steele interviewed head coach Steve Spurrier about the decision to go for it after the game:

His team dropped in the rankings after a Week 1 loss to Texas A&M, but this latest win puts it right back in the discussion for the best teams in the SEC East. South Carolina moved up to No. 16 in the latest rankings while Georgia fell to No. 14 as a playoff berth now seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, USC is also trending downward after a shocking loss at the hands of Boston College. The Pac-12 team was coming off a huge win over Stanford and was once again looking like a national title contender. However, this no longer appears to be the case after a classic letdown game.

Boston College rushed for 452 yards and five touchdowns, including 191 yards on the ground by quarterback Tyler Murphy on just 13 attempts. The Trojans defense simply had no answer for the rushing attack and fell 37-31.

Eagles coach Steve Addazio explained it all by saying, "We out-desired them," via Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.

USC fell to No. 21 in the latest poll, but more importantly might have taken itself out of the national title picture. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead provides an updated look at the College Football Playoff:

While there is clearly a lot of time left in the season, these types of disappointing losses end up becoming huge down the line.

Week 3 also featured a letdown performance from Virginia Tech, which lost at home to East Carolina after defeating Ohio State a week earlier. Louisville also fell from the rankings after a loss to Virginia. 

The good news is the top teams remained undefeated as Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma took care of business against unranked opponents.

UCLA also had a notable win over Texas after starting quarterback Brett Hundley was injured early, as Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com reported. While Jerry Neuheisel helped the Bruins improve to 3-0 with a 20-17 victory, they will certainly hope Hundley is able to return soon.

The action continues to pick up next week as No. 1 Florida State welcomes its first real test of the season in No. 24 Clemson. The Seminoles embarrassed the Tigers 51-14 last season, but this is a new year and there is always the chance at revenge.

Auburn also takes on Kansas State in an intriguing non-conference game, while Oklahoma has a potentially tricky road battle in West Virginia.

In a sport where one bad game can ruin your season, there will be plenty to watch in the coming week.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Everett Golson's Ability to Carry Notre Dame Is Key Difference in 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — On a night when Notre Dame football quarterback Everett Golson wasn’t at his best, he showed how far he has come.

A quick glance at Golson’s stat line tells one story. He completed a career-high 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for a team-best 56 yards and a score. He didn’t turn the ball over.

A conversation with Golson and Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly tells another.

“Offensively, missed opportunities for the most part,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s 30-14 win over Purdue in the Shamrock Series at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We needed to play better. Everett is going to get a lot of the blame. Obviously, he's the quarterback. He'll tell you he needs to play better.”

While Kelly went on to say it’s the entire offense that needs to improve—from the offensive line to the wide receivers to the running backs—Golson agreed he wasn’t at his best.

“We didn’t play to the best of our abilities,” Golson said. “There’s still things that we have to correct. We have to execute better obviously. We have to communicate better.”

But with the Irish defense lethargic in the first half and the rushing attack anemic throughout the contest, Golson proved he could carry the team. And that was one major difference in an otherwise standard Purdue-Notre Dame matchup of recent years—when the Irish play a little below the expectation and the Boilermakers rise above. Golson, however, made sure the meeting point wasn’t all that central in the end.

After Notre Dame fell behind for the first time this season with three minutes to play in the second quarter, Golson went to work. He maneuvered the offense in slow, choppy bits—eight yards here, seven there, five here and six more there—before Notre Dame burned a timeout with 51 seconds remaining in the half. With an empty backfield, Golson fired a 32-yard strike to Corey Robinson over the top of the Purdue defense. Two plays later, Golson ran 15 yards around the right side to put the Irish ahead 17-14, a lead they would never relinquish.

It was sometime right around then—Golson and his teammates didn’t remember the exact moment—that the senior leader called the offense together.

“He just said, look guys, we need to focus,” Robinson said. “I know we’re going through some really tough adversity right now. It’s not going our way, but we’ve got to pull together—not for anyone else, just for us. We put too much work in for us not to succeed.”

With the defense holding stronger in the second half, Golson started moving the chains as the offense looked to pull away. He converted four of five third downs through the air on the first two drives in the second half. With relative ease, Golson made the right reads, and Notre Dame kept driving. The Irish soon padded their lead and rolled to the victory.

It wasn’t a perfect Golson on display Saturday—and it was only Purdue—but it was a different Golson from his redshirt freshman season in 2012.

“He just understands the game,” Kelly said. “The game is slower for him than it was when he was here in his first year. The game has slowed down. He sees the field better.”

And it adds up to a much-improved Golson and a much-improved Irish offense. Despite the first-half stupor, Golson is good enough to key a Notre Dame victory—even when he doesn’t play exceptionally well.

“I had confidence through it all,” Golson said. “For me there never was a point … that I thought we were going to lose.”

If Golson keeps developing quickly, Irish fans could start feeling the same way.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Tyrone Swoopes Silver Lining in Horns' Missed Opportunity vs. UCLA

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes put the Longhorns in a prime position to upset No. 12 UCLA Saturday night. 

The sophomore quarterback led the team on a 10 play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead with little more than five minutes left of the game clock.

The defense then seemed to have sealed the deal after forcing a fumble and giving the offense the ball just a minute later.

But questionable play-calling and a no-huddle offense in the final minutes caused the Longhorns to go three-and-out, which ultimately cost the team from upsetting the Bruins.

Texas will enter conference play with a losing record for a second consecutive season, but Saturday night's loss was not all bad.

In fact, the Longhorns showed it was not going to lie down after the embarrassing the loss to BYU in Week 2.

One of the brighter moments against the Bruins came from Swoopes.

In only his second career start, Swoopes managed the game plan in superb fashion, and he did not give up any turnovers to the Bruins.

He completed 24-of-34 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns in the 20-17 loss.

"I felt a lot more comfortable. I played last week and with that I built confidence," Swoopes said. "I thought I played well, but at the end, it is not about me. We still didn't win, so we have to build confidence off this and try to get the win next time."

The quarterback has two weeks to build his confidence, which will also help the offense throw more of the playbook in his direction.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has been conservative in his play-calling with Swoopes under center. But it's not because he doesn't have faith in the young quarterback, rather because Swoopes has not had enough time to learn the entire playbook in such a short period.

And the lack of veteran offensive linemen around him has made the coach hold back from throwing everything at him. Watson commented:

Ty is really moving a lot faster than I thought. He's playing very confident football right now. We just need to get all the tools around him. I like that our receivers are starting to come around with him. I like what's happening with that aspect of our game. Once we can get back at full speed, it will be interesting to see how far he can go because I think he's really an exceptional player.

The Longhorns have yet to test Swoopes' arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball.

But having a bye week could be exactly what the team needs.

The Longhorns still have two suspended offensive linemen in Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison. If the team can get those guys back in the mix, it could give the young quarterback the protection he needs to throw down the field.

Texas fans will have to wait until Sept. 27 to see if Swoopes can continue his growth against conference opponents, but his performance Saturday night was a step in the right direction.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 3 Standings

With just under a month of college football action already in the books, it's time to take a look at which four teams look worthy of featuring the the NCAA's inaugural college football playoff at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Florida State got the week off, but one less playoff audition at this point in the season doesn't preclude them from the playoff conversation.

Let's take a look at the four teams that appear to be playoff bound after three weeks of college football.

 

NCAA Playoff Predictions

Florida State

Florida State is here by virtue of their 18 straight wins and status as defending national champions. It's hard to see this talented squad continuing to underwhelm and missing out on a shot at another title.

In order to make good on their talent and reputation, they will need to use Week 3 as a rare early-season opportunity to get players healthy.

According to ESPN.com's Jared Shanker, Seminoles defensive tackles Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Justin Shanks all suffered lower leg injuries in the first half of the team's win over The Citadel.

"When you play these kinds of teams, they're constantly cutting those knees and ankles," Fisher said, via Shanker.

A depleted front line could put Florida State's repeat title hopes in jeopardy, especially with a game against No. 23-ranked Clemson coming up on Sept. 20. It's a tough contest, but it's one the Seminoles should win. There is no reason as of yet to doubt this team's ability to reach the College Football Playoff.

 

Alabama

No. 3 Alabama once again features a dominant rushing attack and superb defense in 2014. What makes this year so special is the talent overflowing in the Alabama backfield.

The three-headed hydra of T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry look set to punish front sevens for the remainder of the college season. Head coach Nick Saban really can't lose with his cadre of halfbacks. Should one player get injured, he will still have a dynamic duo to rely on.

Even freshman Tyren Jones has done well when thrown into the mix. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored a touchdown against Southern Miss. ESPN producer Phil Savage came up with a historic comparison for all the running talent on display:

It often seems that all fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Sims has to do is avoid mistakes and get out of the way. (Note: Sims is also great at running the football. This team can't lose in the rushing department.) This isn't a glamorous recipe for success, but it won't matter to 'Bama fans if it gets the Tide into the playoffs.

It's a tough road ahead for the Crimson Tide, with four current top-25 ranked teams on the slate in the coming weeks. If they can navigate this tough schedule, Saban and his charges will book a trip to the playoffs in Arlington, Texas and have a shot at continuing their dynasty.

 

Oregon

No. 2 Oregon appears to be in prime position to roll to a Pac-12 Championship. Both USC and Stanford already have losses on their records in the early going, while the UCLA Bruins haven't looked like worthy challengers in the early goings of this season, although they are still undefeated.

Simply put, the Oregon offense will blow away any and all comers this season with quarterback Marcus Mariota at the helm. The junior passer has racked up 11 total touchdowns (eight passing, three rushing) through three games this season.

He also continues to provide weekly feats of astonishing athleticism.

SportsCenter showed off his incredible dive and flip into the end zone against Wyoming in Week 3:

The Oregon defense isn't without merit, especially with stars like cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu lurking in the secondary. Safety Erick Dargan also acquitted himself well against the Cowboys, snagging two interceptions in that contest.

Oregon officially put the other national title contenders on notice when they hung 46 points on then-No. 7 Michigan State in Week 2. 

If the Ducks can rack up that many points against the vaunted Spartans defense, while also showing the requisite grit and determination in coming from behind to win in that contest, they should have very little problem blazing a path to the NCAA playoffs.

 

Baylor

They haven't faced a program of note yet, but the No. 8 Baylor Bears offense looks to be comprised of several world-class athletes running a system to near perfection. 

The team has averaged 59.3 points throughout their first three games this season. The defense, when it's on the field, has done a fine job of stifling opponents and getting the ball back in the hands of well, whoever happens to be playing quarterback on that particular drive.

Bryce Petty was great against SMU in Week 1 and phenomenal in Week 3 against Buffalo, passing for 416 yards and four touchdowns in the latter contest.

Petty didn't play in Week 2 due to cracked bones in his back that head coach Art Briles wanted to let heal, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), but the offense didn't skip a beat.

Backup signal-caller Seth Perry merely stepped in and threw five first-half touchdowns against the Northwestern State Demons.

Usually a top-ranked team doesn't have to shuffle quarterbacks so early in the season. The fact that the Bears have made it a painless process up to this point is a testament to the organizational ability of Briles.

The Bears biggest test will come on Nov. 8 against No. 4 Oklahoma. That game could very well decide which of these two teams makes the playoffs, providing they are both still undefeated at that point in time. 

A Baylor-Oregon matchup in the playoffs, whether it's the final or a semifinal, would be a neutral fan's dream come true and a can't-miss sporting event.

 

All rankings updated as of September 13 and courtesy of AP poll via ESPN.com.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 4 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Week 3 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, and the preseason's top-25 rankings suddenly seem like a distant memory. There's already been a bevy of changes atop the nation's standings, and after Saturday's action, we can expect plenty more.

Each week, we learn more and more about each squad. Some teams appear to only get stronger with each passing contest, but others begin to show weaknesses. This is when we begin to see separation between teams that are actually contenders and others that are just pretty good.

With a few ranked teams inactive, others suffering devastating loses and even more holding strong with big victories, the current Top 25 will look a whole lot different in short order. Here's a look at each team's current standing with their corresponding Week 3 outcomes.

 

Week 4 Projected Movement

Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks

Saturday proved to be an enormous disappointment for the Bulldogs. The nation's No. 6 team lost in an extremely close contest to South Carolina. While the game came down to a matter of inches, a loss is a loss, and Georgia's ranking will be greatly affected.

According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, this outcome could have been expected:

Losing to the nation's No. 24 team that held a .500 record entering Week 3 will no go over favorably with the voters. Georgia will easily fall out of the Top 10, and possibly outside of the Top 20—just as South Carolina did after losing to Texas A&M in Week 1.

The Gamecocks began their season in ominous fashion, losing to Texas A&M in a rout and struggling to get past East Carolina. Due to those games, don't expect them to climb the standings significantly. However, a trip inside the Top 20 is certainly warranted.

 

USC Trojans

Just one week after an impressive win over Stanford, the Trojans fell back down to earth, losing to unranked Boston College by a score of 37-31. While Cody Kessler was impressive under center yet again—he passed for 317 yards and four touchdowns—USC didn't have a running game to speak of, gaining just 20 yards on 29 carries.

As bad as the Trojans were on the ground on offense, they were even worse against it on the defensive side of the ball. Boston College torched USC for an improbable 452 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The Trojans simply didn't have an answer for this one-dimensional offense through four quarters of action.

Hopefully, USC didn't get too comfortable in the Top 10, as this loss will drop them well down the standings and could prevent them from getting there again.

 

Virginia Tech Hokies

Here's another team that followed up a big win with a dud one week later. Virginia Tech took care of business against Ohio State in Week 2, winning by a score of 35-21, and followed it up with a horrid effort Saturday against East Carolina.

The Pirates jumped out to an early lead thanks to three first-quarter passing touchdowns from Shane Carden. While the Hokies stifled East Carolina's offense soon after, and eventually tied the game late in the fourth quarter, they gave it right back, allowing a three-play, 65-yard scoring drive in the waning seconds of the game.

Here's a telling tweet regarding Virginia Tech's passing defense, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Virginia Tech wasn't ranked before its Week 2 win against the Buckeyes, and the team may not find itself in the Top 25 once more after Saturday's upset.

 

Louisville Cardinals

One thing is for sure: If Virginia Tech is out of the Top 25, Louisville is definitely out after losing to Virginia by a score of 23-21 on Saturday. While the Cardinals defense was sharp for the most part throughout the contest, the team had no offense to speak of.

Quarterback Will Gardner completed just 14 of his 34 passing attempts for 164 yards, two scores and two interceptions, while the team carried 27 times for just 79 yards—an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Those aren't top-25 numbers, especially against an unranked opponent.

Don't expect to see the Cardinals ranked in Week 4.

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College Football: Week 3 Recap, Pick Results and Final Thoughts

College football fans got more than they expected on a Saturday full of wild finishes. There were game-winning plays and drives along with huge upsets. 

After nearly an hour-and-a-half weather delay, rivals Georgia and South Carolina faced off in what would be the best game of the day.

Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks felt they had been backed into a corner after a blowout loss to Texas A&M and an unimpressive win over East Carolina in the last two weeks. South Carolina appeared to be ready for this one though, as quarterback Dylan Thompson picked apart the Georgia secondary and helped give his team a 24-13 lead heading into halftime.

The Dawgs clawed their way back into the game with help from workhorse running back Todd Gurley, who finished the game with 131 rushing yards and one touchdown. 

Both teams exchanged blows throughout the second half. With South Carolina leading 38-35 with almost five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Thompson threw an interception to senior cornerback Damian Swann. Swann returned the interception to the Gamecock 6-yard line, and it appeared Georgia was going to silence the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium with a come-from-behind victory. 

However, an intentional grounding penalty by Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason on first down backed the offense up to the 14-yard line, putting one of the best field-goal kickers in the country, Marshall Morgan, in for a 28-yard field goal. Morgan, who had an SEC record of 20 consecutive made field goals, missed his second field goal of the day. South Carolina eventually managed to get a first down on 4th-and-inches on the next drive and sealed a much-needed 38-35 win. 

The night would continue with more drama, as both UCLA and Penn State snuck out close victories. 

Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley injured his left elbow in the first quarter, leaving the offense up to Rick Neuheisel’s son, Jerry. Neuheisel’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter gave UCLA a 20-17 victory over Texas.

The Nittany Lions got all they could handle from a Rutgers squad that led 10-0 heading into the second half. Penn State battled back with two field goals and eventually made an impressive game-winning drive led by sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The drive ended with a five-yard touchdown run from Bill Belton for a 13-10 Penn State win. 

Speaking of intense finishes, a much-improved Kentucky team gave Florida all it could handle at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. In a must-win situation for the Gators, they escaped with a triple-overtime 36-30 victory over the Wildcats. Kentucky lost its 18th consecutive game at Florida and has not won in "The Swamp" since 1979. 

East Carolina went into a hostile Lane Stadium and upset No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-21, but the biggest upset of the weekend was Boston College running all over a No. 9-ranked USC team which had defeated Stanford 13-10 just a week ago. The trip east for the Trojans didn’t go as planned, as a subpar Eagle team rushed for an astounding 452 yards. Florida-transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy accounted for 191 rushing yards and one touchdown in a 37-31 win. 

Iowa State also pulled off a 20-17 upset road victory at Iowa on a game-winning 42-yard field goal from Cole Netten as time expired. 

 

Pick Results

Overall Record: 8-7

Week 2 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick

 

Prediction: Georgia 38, South Carolina 31

Result: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35

 

Prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa State 16

Result: Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Tennessee 17

Result: Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10

 

Prediction: UCLA 35, Texas 13

Result: UCLA 20, Texas 17

 

Prediction: Penn State 24, Rutgers 21

Result: Penn State 13, Rutgers 10

 

Final Thoughts 

We’re only three weeks into the college football season, but there are already questions surrounding the competition in the Pac-12 South Division. 

Heavy division favorite UCLA has won its first three games by an average of only six points. Not to mention that it's unclear how Hundley will be affected by a left-elbow injury he suffered in the first quarter against Texas Saturday night.

Myles Jack and the Bruin defense stepped up against Texas, but so did backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel and running back Paul Perkins. The Bruins are still 3-0, which means something, but will this win be the confidence-booster it needs heading into Arizona State on Sept. 25? 

After an impressive win at Stanford just a week ago, USC’s defense was manhandled by Boston College. The 37-31 score doesn’t even indicate how much the Trojans were outplayed Saturday night in Chestnut Hill. They recorded only 20 rushing yards and gave up 24 unanswered points to the Eagles. Steve Sarkisian’s squad will look to bounce back at home against Oregon State on Sept. 27.

Arizona State is hoping to make it back to the Pac-12 Championship game for a second consecutive year, but starting quarterback Taylor Kelly was injured in the second half in a 38-24 win at Colorado. Kelly was shown using crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot. If it’s an injury that will keep Kelly sidelined for awhile, it will be a devastating blow to the Sun Devil offense.

The team that could have the opportunity to make a run at the South Division title right now could be the Utah Utes. They’ve won their first two games by an average of 37 points and are averaging 57.5 points per game. Junior quarterback Travis Wilson has passed for 446 yards and six touchdowns this season as well. The Utes will travel to Michigan next week and then begin conference play the following week at home against Washington State. 

Plan on the Pac-12 South not being decided until the final week of Pac-12 Conference play on Nov. 29. Chances are it could be a three- or four-team race.  

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Nebraska Football: When Properly Prepared, Huskers a Threat to Win Big Ten

There are currently only two undefeated teams in the Big Ten. One of those teams is Nebraska.

After barely defeating McNeese State 31-24, it was hard to imagine that would be the case for the Huskers. One week later, Nebraska proved, much like it did against Florida Atlantic, that the team has what it takes to win the Big Ten. It's all about proper preparation.

"This week, we didn't prepare with as much enthusiasm as we did the week before," Ameer Abdullah said after the McNeese State game. "That's on me as a captain. I'm going to nip that in the butt starting tomorrow with a fresh slate and with Fresno State, I assure you that won't be the case."

Needless to say, it's clear Abdullah did just that. Although there were a couple mental mistakes (like David Santos punching the football into the end zone for a safety), Nebraska came away with a 55-19 victory over the Bulldogs. The win snapped Fresno State's 13-game win streak at Bulldog Stadium, which also ended the nation’s longest home-winning streak.

It would have been easy to overlook Fresno State, too. The Bulldogs had already lost 52-13 to USC and 59-27 to Utah. With Miami on the horizon, this had every chance to be a trap game for the Huskers. Instead, McNeese State appeared to be the wake-up call Nebraska needed.

"Just like Ameer said today, we aren't good enough yet to take anybody lightly," cornerback Josh Mitchell said after the Huskers defeated the Cowboys. "We're not there, we're not even close. All we can do is bring it at practice and just not talk about it, but be about it."

With the rest of the Big Ten hanging on by a thread, the Huskers now have an opportunity to be a major threat to win the conference championship. Big Ten media members original picked the Huskers to finish third in the West, per the Omaha World-Herald. That could be very different now. It all depends on how the team prepares, though.

As Abdullah made it clear post-McNeese State, the lack of preparation won't happen again. Mitchell agreed, saying it was time to "put up or shut up."

Well, the Huskers put up against Fresno State. As a result, Nebraska is beginning to emerge in the West division of the Big Ten. There's still a lot left to learn about what the Huskers are capable of, but it's clear that when the team puts in the effort in practice, it pays off.

Armstrong completed 12 of 21 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Abdullah ran for 110 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts. Receivers Kenny Bell and Lane Hovey made big plays when needed, while Jordan Westerkamp secured the first touchdown of the game.

Even the tight ends got in on the action against the Bulldogs. Both Sam Cotton and Cethan Carter snagged touchdowns for the Huskers.

As a team, Nebraska walked away from Fresno State with 562 total yards and only one turnover. The defense secured four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Despite small errors here and there, it was a well-balanced game on both sides of the ball.

When CBS Sports Network asked Armstrong what the Huskers' game plan was after the game, his answer was simple: "just come out here with a statement."

Head coach Bo Pelini understands the challenge his team faces moving forward. "There's a lot out there for this team," Pelini said in the Fresno State postgame press conference. "The key is to do it every day. That's the challenge. That's the challenge for me, for us as football coaches and for our team."

If McNeese State was a wake-up call, the Huskers are ready to move forward from it. It also sounds like the team, including Pelini, plans to be ready for Miami and every team that comes after.

With the Big Ten wide open, the pressure is now on for the Huskers to meet that challenge. With proper preparation, it will be an easier goal to accomplish.

After all, as Abdullah said after the McNeese State game, the Huskers simply need to have "respect of the opponent, respect of our game plan." Following through on both should put Nebraska in a good position to win the Big Ten title.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

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What the USC Trojans Need to Do to Remain Favorites in the Pac-12 South

The USC Trojans lost to the Boston College Eagles 37-31 Saturday in Week 3. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how their future looks. Will they still contend for the Pac-12 Championship?

Watch the video and let us know.

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What the USC Trojans Need to Do to Remain Favorites in the Pac-12 South

The USC Trojans lost to the Boston College Eagles 37-31 Saturday in Week 3. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how their future looks...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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