NCAA Football

#FailForCardale: Is Cardale Jones Destined to Be a Cleveland Brown?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On the first day of August, on one of his final days of freedom before the rigors of fall camp began two hours down Interstate 71 South, Cardale Jones spent an afternoon in Berea, Ohio, watching the Cleveland Browns take part in their training camp.

At the time, Jones' visit to the Browns facility seemed innocuous.

After all, Berea is just down the road from Jones' hometown of Cleveland. More importantly, one of his top targets from his playing days at Glenville High School, Shane Wynn, was in the process of trying to make the Browns as an undrafted free agent.

But following Ohio State's season-opening win over Virginia Tech on Monday, Jones' late-summer visit to Berea could prove to be more prophetic than it was anything else. Because in his re-debut as the Buckeyes starting quarterback, Jones' play elicited audible gasps from more than just the NFL scouts who were in attendance at Lane Stadium.

By the time Ohio State had wrapped up its 42-24 victory over the Hokies, #FailForCardale was not only trending on Twitter but had been specifically linked to Browns fans. The message from the Cleveland fanbase was clear: Lose as many games in the upcoming season as it takes to wind up with a draft pick high enough to select Jones in 2016, where he is already viewed as one of the top quarterback prospects.

Sometimes, the tweets were done in jest, and sometimes, they were serious. But it's already apparent it will be more than just the portion of Browns fans who double as Ohio State loyalists keeping an eye on the Buckeyes this season.

"'Fail For Cardale' is definitely a real thing among Browns fans," said Sean Pullins, a 35-year-old Cleveland fan whose Twitter handle, @TheKardiacKid, pays homage to the glory days of the 1980s Browns and has built a following from like-minded fans. "Most of us think we're a QB and a [general manager] Ray Farmer firing away from being a playoff team.

"And by the way, this 6'5", 250-pound quarterback just happens to play at everybody’s favorite college, is from Cleveland and plays like Big Ben [Roethlisberger]."

The Browns' issues at football's most important position over the past decade and a half have been well-documented. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, Cleveland has been the home of 22 different starting signal-callers, four of which the Browns have selected with a first-round pick.

There's been Tim Couch, Jeff Garcia, Derek Anderson, Jake Delhomme, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden and plenty of other forgettable stopgap passers in between. There's also been Spergon Wynn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Thaddeus Lewis, Connor Shaw and no shortage of third-stringers who have found themselves atop Cleveland's depth chart by the end of one merciful season after another.

This year, the Browns enter the season with journeyman Josh McCown being backed up by former first-round pick Johnny Manziel. As Pullins explained, #FailForCardale won't truly hit its stride until each proves he isn't the answer to the question that has plagued the Browns for the past 16 seasons.

But should that be the case—and perhaps it's only inevitable that will be—watch out.

"Right now, it's probably in a holding pattern because we're a proud group and hold out a slight glimmer of hope that this could be the magical year where it all turns around," Pullins said. "The first three games will determine if #FailForCardale thrives. The Browns have three winnable games against the Jets, Titans and Raiders. If they don't win at least two out of those three, the season is essentially over. Then you'll hear the cries to #FailForCardale get louder.

"We're dopes when it comes to hope and loyalty."

Jones offers plenty of both, however, with his rocket-like arm and Cleveland upbringing—he "gets us," as Pullins put it. He wouldn't be the first hometown hero to Browns fans, either, as long after Bernie Kosar quarterbacked the Browns to three AFC title games in four seasons, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn and Brian Hoyer have each served as Ohio natives taking snaps behind center in Cleveland, each of their turns coming to unceremonious ends.

But none of those players were the pro prospect Jones already is after having started just four games in his college career. There's even a more than decent chance Jones would have already landed with the Browns had he opted to enter the 2015 NFL draft following his remarkable three-game run to the national title last winter.

"He would have easily been the third QB drafted," Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller said of Jones.

In a draft where Jameis Winston went first, Marcus Mariota went second and no other signal-caller was selected until the third round of the draft, Jones would have made plenty of sense for the quarterback-needy Browns, who owned the Nos. 12 and 19 picks in last spring's draft.

Instead, he opted to return to school for his redshirt junior season with a degree and improved draft stock in mind. And after edging out J.T. Barrett for the Buckeyes starting job in fall camp, he will now have the opportunity to be the first quarterback selected in the 2016 draft.

With one game of his junior campaign in the books, Jones looks like a player capable of becoming just that.

Jones' stat line against Virginia Tech—9-of-18 passing, 186 yards, two touchdowns and one interception—left something to be desired, although he did add 99 rushing yards and an additional score on 13 carries against the Hokies' stout defense. Numbers, however, hardly tell the story of the upside of Jones, who at times appeared impossible to bring down, giving him more time to show off his cannon of an arm, just as he did against an Alabama defense loaded with NFL talent in last January's Sugar Bowl.

And for the statistically inclined, it's worth noting Jones' total QBR ranked seventh in the nation for college football's opening weekend, according to With a schedule that may not see the Buckeyes truly challenged again until a Nov. 21 matchup with Michigan State, that number only figures to climb in the coming weeks.

After all, there's a reason why Miller currently projects Jones to be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

And to who else, but the Cleveland Browns?

Because just as easy as it is to project Jones' ascent, the Browns being in position to pick him next spring would be anything but a surprise. According to, Cleveland's over-under win total for 2015 sits at 6.5, the third-lowest of any team heading into the season.

Perhaps fortuitously for the Browns, the four teams (Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) with over-under win totals listed at either 5.5 or 6.0 have each invested recent draft picks in young quarterbacks, making it unlikely they would use another on Jones.

Should Cleveland be in position to take him, Jones would obviously be an appealing fit for the Browns, especially considering the pressure to take him that's already building from the fanbase. Whether that feeling would be mutual remains to be seen.

"I'd like to play in the NFL," Jones told reporters when asked if he'd want to spend his professional career in Cleveland during his trip to training camp last month, via George Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal.

But with what will likely be the final season of his college career having just started, a Jones homecoming in 2016 already seems like a match made in heaven. #FailForCardale may not be in full effect just yet, but with the Browns kicking off Sunday, it may just be a matter of time before it does.

In Cleveland, when it comes to looking for what's next on the football field, it usually is.


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 Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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10 Biggest Questions Facing Top 25 Teams Heading into Week 2

Well, that was fun. Let's do it again, shall we?

With Week 2 of the 2015 college football season on the horizon, it's time to look ahead at the biggest questions facing Top 25 teams. The problem, however, is that not many Top 25 teams are playing compelling games in Week 2. 

It happens. And who knows, maybe it inspires a bunch of surprising losses, which in turn would inspire next week's edition of "Biggest Questions" to revolve around "What the heck happened?" 

For the time being, we'll double up on huge games between Associated Press Top 25 teams: Oregon at Michigan State; Oklahoma at Tennessee; and LSU at Mississippi State. We'll sprinkle some other storylines into this week's top 10 as well. 

Let's get to it. What should you be watching for this weekend? We provide the answers based on last week's results, upcoming matchups and more.

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College Football Week 2 Betting Picks: Wisconsin, Michigan State, BYU

Week 2 of the college football season should be even more exciting than Week 1 for bettors, as it features a few outstanding matchups with solid value on home teams.

When handicapping the second games for schools, it is important not to overreact to how they looked in their season openers.

A perfect example is Wisconsin. The Badgers were steamrolled by the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide last Saturday on national television in a 35-17 loss.

They were held to their lowest rushing total in almost three years with 40 yards on 21 carries, but on Saturday, they will face a Miami-Ohio RedHawks team that gave up roughly 200 yards per game a year ago.

Even though the point spread is high on Wisconsin at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, the team has a successful history playing teams from the Mid-American Conference, going 10-0 straight up and 7-3 against the spread in its last 10 games.

The biggest game of Week 2 pits the fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans against the seventh-ranked Oregon Ducks in a rematch from last season. Both teams are coming off wins last week, and neither team's defense looked particularly good.

The Spartans have the more experienced quarterback of the two schools in Connor Cook, and they will not have to deal with 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota in this one, as he is in the NFL playing for the Tennessee Titans.

Michigan State is a small home favorite and will be seeking revenge from a last year’s 46-27 loss at Autzen Stadium.

Another game in which the polls seem to be impacting the spread will take place in Provo, where the 20th-ranked Boise State Broncos will visit the BYU Cougars.

The Broncos are small road favorites, but they will be taking on a BYU team that should be extra motivated in its home opener after losing starting quarterback Taysom Hill for the season with a foot injury.

The Cougars are coming off an incredible comeback road win against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and have a talented backup replacing Hill in Tanner Mangum, who threw the game-winning touchdown pass on a Hail Mary play as time expired.

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Ranking the Best ACC Matchups of Week 2

Week 2 of ACC action is here!

We saw an eventful first week of the season—which included Notre Dame thumping Texas, Louisville taking Auburn down to the wire, Virginia Tech giving Ohio State all it could handle (before VT's signal-caller got injured) and a dominating effort by Miami. 

In this installment, we will yet again rank the matchups involving ACC competition for Week 2 of the regular season. While many of the teams will be playing "cupcakes," there are some intriguing games featuring big-name programs. 

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Bret Bielema Calls out Ohio State

We're Talking About Scheduling

Did you notice the schedule graphic that ESPN put up during Monday's Ohio State-Virginia Tech game that details the remaining games on the Buckeyes' schedule?

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema did, and he noticed something much different on their schedule than what's on his.

"I'm sitting there watching the other day—the Monday night game—and I spent a lot of time in that other conference," Bielema said. "Ohio State's ranked No. 1 and they have one game remaining on their schedule against anybody ranked right now—Michigan State. I look at it, and we're going to play eight opponents that are ranked."

Is he right?


But what did we learn about snap judgments in Week 2 a year ago when the Big Ten had its worst week ever and the conference's College Football Playoff hopes were as likely as pigs flying?

That there's plenty of football left to be played. 

The ebbs and flows of the college football season are what makes it the greatest sport in the world, and rankings in Week 2 don't matter.

With that said, though, LSU head coach Les Miles thinks that 10 teams in this week's Associated Press Top 25 isn't good enough.

"I feel like we should have 25 teams ranked in the Top 25, to be honest," he said. "They didn't use the opportunity to rank the second teams."

Never change, Mad Hatter. Never change.


Blame It On The Rain

A lot has been made of LSU's game against McNeese State being rained out last weekend, and what it means to a Tiger team that is loaded with questions and has a tough September schedule. We've wrote about it here on Bleacher Report, it's been discussed all week on radio and will surely be a talking point during Saturday night's game at Mississippi State.

But what about Mississippi State? 

Head coach Dan Mullen is entering this weekend's matchup against the Tigers with very little game tape on new starting quarterback Brandon Harris, whose lone start came last year on the road against Auburn.

"He's going to be a much different quarterback this year than we saw in that game," Mullen said. "He came in the fourth quarter against us, and I know he didn't start, but he was lighting it up and making throws all over the field. We know he's a very talented player. Obviously, a whole year under his belt in development, but I imagine he'll be much improved from where he was last year."

For the Bulldogs, this game is almost like the sequel to the season opener in the sense that there's not much to work off of during game prep.

"They're a new team," Mullen said. "Even though there are some players who are carryovers, every year, each team is unique. So you have to know the personality of this team, not just with Brandon Harris and their offense, but how they're going to utilize him and what changes they'll make. It's not just him, but a whole new defense and defensive staff."

"In some ways, in preparation, you're preparing like it's the opening game of the season where you just have to focus on yourself and execute at a high rate because you don't know what the other team is going to do," Mullen continued.

The rainout has upped the ante for Saturday night's game in Starkville. The element of the unknown, coupled with the importance of getting out to a good start within SEC West play makes it one of the most intriguing matchups of the season.


They're Supposed To Be SEC

It's Week 2 and the SEC talk has already reached a fever pitch with those 10 SEC teams in this week's AP Top 25. 

Oklahoma doesn't care about the SEC.

"I don't know why people blow gas up their [expletive deleted]," linebacker Eric Striker said on Tuesday, according to

This comes on the heels of head coach Bob Stoops taking a little offense to being asked about hostile environments in the SEC, according to Jake Trotter of

Why are Oklahoma players and coaches being asked about this? The Sooners have beaten SEC teams in each of the last two seasons (Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and Tennessee during the 2014 regular season), have played in many big games on the road and are loaded with experience.

It may come as a shock to those who trumpet the SEC nonstop, but there is good football played elsewhere and there are hostile environments outside of the SEC footprint.

I get it. "Checkering Neyland" is a big deal and it's been a long time since Tennessee has had a game of this magnitude. Oklahoma has them every year, and isn't going to be intimidated by anything it sees on Saturday night on Rocky Top.


Welcome Back

You got a small glimpse of what the new-look Alabama offense is going to look like in their season-opening win over Wisconsin on Saturday, and that offense is going to include a heavy dose of running back Kenyan Drake.

The senior suffered a brutal leg injury against Ole Miss last year that ended his season, but he looked as good as ever against the Badgers with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown—and two catches for 48 yards.

"Kenyan has been a really good player for us, and you hate to see a guy get injured," head coach Nick Saban said. "Sometimes it's part of the game. You always like to see guys have the right attitude about rehabbing and coming back and being positive and confident when they come back. Kenyan is certainly that. It's good for us and good for him, and we're just hopeful that he can have a great year for us."

He's going to be huge piece of the puzzle in 2015.

It wasn't the time or place in AT&T Stadium to let quarterback Jake Coker loose and see if he could stretch the field consistently, and mixing Drake in as the "Reggie Bush" for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is a great way to provide insurance for Coker in case he can't do that consistently. 

We saw how good fellow running back Derrick Henry is, but Drake will provide the lightning to Henry's thunder and needs to keep it up moving forward for the Crimson Tide.


No News Isn't Good News

Ole Miss star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was held out of action last week amid an NCAA investigation related to his contact with agents. 

Will he suit up this week for the Rebels when they play host to Fresno State? That's the biggest mystery in Oxford (and perhaps at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis) at the moment.

"There's no update," head coach Hugh Freeze said on Wednesday. "It's just the ongoing process. I'm hopeful that it will wind up soon. I try to condition my mind. I don't even think about the possibility of this week or next week, but just trust the people involved and hope they get it right for the young man and our program."

Has Freeze spoken with the NCAA?

"Not in regards to Laremy, no," he said.

Next week is key. Ole Miss will travel to Alabama in Week 3, and if you watched the Crimson Tide's opener against Wisconsin, you saw one of the most fearsome front sevens in college football.

That's probably a big reason why he's still getting reps.

"He's still practicing," Freeze said. "Sometimes he's in with the twos, sometimes he gets a break."

If it's not resolved by next week, Ole Miss' hopes of a dream season could be dashed in T-Town.


Rotation Domination

For the first time in a long time, Florida's quarterback position looked like a position of strength in the season opener versus New Mexico State. Will Grier threw for 164 yards and two touchdowns, Treon Harris threw for 215 yards and two more and the downfield passing attack looked functional.

"It's something that we expect," head coach Jim McElwain said. "I was very pleased with the way they distributed the ball and how they took what the defense gave them and weren't just looking for one target to bail them out and throw it to. That's what we try to do in coaching that position."

So what happens moving forward?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to be more of the same.

The offensive line looked good against the overmatched Aggies, but that might not be the case for a full season against good defenses. McElwain is best served to go with the hot hand—whoever it is—and keep a rotation in the cards based on need, scheme and situation.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially since both seem capable of operating within the whole playbook while excelling in different areas. 

Congratulations, Gators. You finally have a quarterback.

In fact, you have two.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of

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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College Football Players Ready to Explode in Week 2

Week 2 of the college football season is upon us, and some players have the potential to put up huge games.

Who should you keep an eye on this weekend? Who will dominate the headlines?

Watch as Bleacher Report college football analysts Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the must-watch players of Week 2 in the video above.

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College Football Rankings 2015: Records for Top 25 Teams and Week 2 Standings

After a Week 1 that mostly served as a setup for what's to come despite some notable upsets along the way, the 2015 college football season kicks into high gear this week, highlighted by the year's first matchup of Top 10 teams.

Oregon vs. Michigan State is the marquee game of the weekend, providing the Spartans with a chance for revenge at home after dropping a 46-27 shootout against the Ducks in Oregon last season.

That game will certainly have the most impact on the top of the rankings, which look like this:


Team With Most to Prove: Oregon (at Michigan State)

Singling out a road team playing in the weekend's biggest game as having the most to prove is almost too easy, but that doesn't make it any less true for this year's Oregon team. 

The Ducks are a different team than the one that has run all over college football for years. Key players like quarterback Marcus Mariota and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu are gone, leaving head coach Mark Helfrich to fly with a new net. 

This 2015 version of Oregon was able to maintain its offensive firepower through one game, putting up 731 yards of offense and 61 points. The defense, however, often looked lost in allowing 549 yards and 41 points.

In last year's matchup with Michigan State, it was the defense that really helped turn the tide in that game, as noted by's Chantel Jennings:

After Oregon gave up 24 points in the second quarter, it held the Spartans to just three points the entire second half. Cook, who completed 68 percent of his passes in the first half and threw for two touchdowns, completed just 55 percent of his passes and threw for zero touchdowns in the second half.

The good news for Helfrich as he game-plans for the Spartans is Michigan State's vaunted defense allowed 365 passing yards to Western Michigan. This game could easily turn into one of the best shootouts in 2015. 

Yet Michigan State returns a lot of key players, like quarterback Connor Cook and defensive end Shilique Calhoun, who provide the kind of stable foundation Oregon lacks because everyone knows what those players are capable of. 

This is the first major test of Vernon Adams Jr.'s career, as he will lead Oregon's offense into hostile territory. If the team is going to be a national title contender again this year, the seeds for that run will be planted in this game. 


Team in Danger: LSU (at Mississippi State)

LSU learned all about the dangers of playing Mississippi State with Dak Prescott at quarterback last September, as the Bulldogs announced their presence as a national power in a 34-29 win at Tiger Stadium. 

However, the biggest reason LSU looks to be in danger of another upset against Mississippi State is due to bad weather. The Tigers' season opener against McNeese State last week was canceled due to lightning in the area. 

That means head coach Les Miles needs to have his team on point without a warm-up act heading into hostile SEC territory.

Miles also showed last week, briefly before the weather caused problems, he's going to utilize a lot of freshmen this season.

"On one offensive play, the Tigers used four true freshmen: running backs Derrius Guice and Nick Brossette lined up on either side of quarterback Brandon Harris in the shotgun, and receivers Tyron Johnson and Jazz Ferguson were on opposite sides of the field," noted's David Ching.

Ching did add that particular played went poorly, with Guice losing four yards on a screen play because Ferguson missed a block. 

Quarterback play always seems to be a question for LSU, and that remains the case this season. Harris showed brief flashes of being a dynamic playmaker in 2014, throwing for 452 yards and six touchdowns in just 45 attempts and running for 159 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. 

However, how much can really be gleaned from 71 plays? That leaves star running back Leonard Fournette to shoulder the load. He seems ready to break out as one of the nation's best players after racking up 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns on 187 carries. 

Mississippi State did have Fournette's number last year, limiting the sophomore sensation to 38 yards on seven carries. 

It's easy to mock some of the early-season opponents for major programs, but LSU desperately needed that matchup against McNeese State to work out some bugs before traveling to Starkville. 


Team Most in Need of a Win: Texas (vs. Rice)

While not a matchup of ranked teams, the storylines for Saturday's Rice vs. Texas matchup are too intriguing to pass up. 

Fans in Texas were already skeptical about head coach Charlie Strong after last season's 6-7 campaign, even though Mack Brown won five games in 2010 and wasn't being thrown to the wolves by everyone. 

Perhaps a better way of talking about this particular battle is to frame it as the coach who is most in need of a win, but there's something to be said for Texas being able to right the ship after Notre Dame cruised to a 38-3 win last week.

While it seems silly to think a coach's status could change dramatically following one bad game, Strong is feeling more heat after the Longhorns were picked apart in every way against Notre Dame. 

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd has already speculated Strong's lack of on-field success at Texas could make him expendable sooner than later:

It tortures my soul that Charlie Strong's job security is a talking point this week. The man has done everything the right way at Texas ... except win.

No matter what your knee-jerk reaction is, Texas' performance Saturday at Notre Dame cannot be ignored. The Horns were dominated in just about every way possible. They were manhandled up front. Notre Dame's skill athletes were better. The talent gap in quarterbacks was astounding.

This is still a rebuilding program. Strong hasn't had enough time to recruit his players and get them enough experience to at least be competitive in a hostile environment like Notre Dame. 

For example, Strong won seven games in each of his first two seasons at Louisville before an 11-win campaign capped off with a Sugar Bowl win in 2012. He followed that up with a 12-win season. 

Given the proper time, there's no reason Strong can't do the same at Texas. He brought in a top-10 recruiting class this year and already has four 4-star recruits for next season, according to 247Sports' rankings. 

Texas does currently have a 12-game winning streak against Rice, with its last loss coming in 1994. If that run ends Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Strong's hot seat may catch on fire.

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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 2: DraftKings Optimum Lineup, Matchup Advice

With daily fantasy college football Week 2 on the horizon, it's time for owners to take off the training wheels.

Going into the 2015 opening weekend, the most owners could do was look at projections—whether it was point projections, depth chart projections or how the house out in Las Vegas figured each matchup would shake out.

Some of these factors still come into play, of course. Now owners have a week of concrete proof at their fingertips. Below, let's build the DraftKings optimum lineup using the busiest time of Week 2 while walking a value-upside tightrope.


DraftKings Optimum Week 2 Lineup

Saturday games (12 p.m. ET to 4:45 p.m. ET) only listed. 



Greg Ward Jr., Houston ($7,900)

Quarterbacks are the big moneymakers most weekends, but an owner doesn't have to go wild in the $9,000 price range and handicap the rest of a roster. 

Look at Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., a former receiver who took things over under center in 2014 and continues to improve. Last weekend against Tennessee Tech, he went 21-of-27 with 275 yards and a score and added another 101 yards and two scores on the ground.

This is what owners want when crafting an optimum lineup—a quarterback who can post points through various means.

Next up for Ward is Louisville, and while Las Vegas has Houston as underdogs by almost two scores, the over-under is 54, and Houston playing from behind means more scoring opportunities for Ward, who has an entire offense constructed around his versatile skill set.


C.J. Beathard, Iowa ($6,300)

Again, versatility is the name of the game when it comes to finding high-upside quarterbacks. 

C.J. Beathard for Iowa is a great example. The junior threw for 211 yards and a score while completing better than 60 percent of his passes last week against Illinois State and added another 26 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

With starting action under his belt, Beathard next encounters Iowa State, a team with a prolific offense of its own. While the Hawkeyes are favored by a bit, even more attractive is the over-under of 50.5.

In other words, this one figures to be a shootout and Beathard looks poised for another big performance.



Patrick Skov, Georgia Tech ($4,400)

Remember Stanford reserve Patrick Skov?

It's time to get to know the Georgia Tech back, who is in his first year with the team and started with a bang by receiving a team-high 12 carries against Alcorn State and racking up 72 yards and three scores.

Skov is a sledgehammer who will continue to see plenty of opportunities. Next up is Tulane and a defense that allowed 206 yards and a score on 49 rushes in its opener. This over-under sits at 54.5 with Georgia Tech as the big favorite, so expect Skov to once again make the most out of his carries.


Brandon Radcliff, Louisville ($5,900)

The aforementioned Louisville-Houston showdown looks like a hotbed for fantasy production. Cardinals back Brandon Radcliff is chief among those set to get in on the fun.

Radcliff led the team in carries last week against Auburn by a landslide if one doesn't count quarterback Lamar Jackson. He turned the opportunities into an impressive 76 yards and two scores, which Louisville Fan Base brings to life:

If Radcliff can post those sort of numbers on an SEC powerhouse under the watchful eye of the globe, imagine what he has in store against Houston.



Leonte Carroo, Rutgers ($6,700)

A wideout who averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game last year isn't a bad get at this price. 

Just don't expect the price to remain this way for long. Leonte Carroo out of Rutgers might be one of the most underrated players in the country, something he reinforced with three grabs for 129 yards against Norfolk State.

Each catch went for a score. Rutgers on BTN captured the jaw-dropping display:

It only figures to get better. Rutgers next meets Washington State, the team that just lost in spectacular fashion to Portland State.

Here's the fun part: Las Vegas has this at an over-under of 63 with Rutgers as the favorite by less than a field goal. It's a shootout in the utmost sense, and Carroo is the top attraction through the air.

Jake Butt, Michigan ($4,400)

Don't look now, but DraftKings classifies Michigan's Jake Butt as a wideout. 

Butt wasn't the biggest name entering the season, but it's a perception he's changing in a hurry after grabbing eight receptions for 93 yards and a score in the team's season-opening loss to Utah. 

Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News explained the offensive situation best:

Quarterback Jake Rudock isn't going to look much of anywhere else, especially not against an Oregon State team the Wolverines should handle with ease.


Robert Foster, Alabama ($4,800)

He's no Amari Cooper (yet?), but Alabama's Robert Foster looked like the man for the job this past weekend in a high-profile showdown with Wisconsin. 

There, the sophomore caught four passes for 50 yards and a score. The yards were a team high, the receptions tied with ArDarius Stewart.

The Crimson Tide next take on Middle Tennessee, a team it's supposed to squash by about 35 points. It's a 56.5 over-under, so to get to these predictable numbers, somebody will have to do the scoring.

At this price, Foster is a safe bet to help get Alabama there before sitting on the bench.



Dare Ogunbowale, Wisconsin ($3,900)

Injury replacements give owners a nice punt option, which is the case here with Wisconsin back Dare Ogunbowale.

Corey Clement is the starter, but he suffered a groin injury last week. It sounds like he wants to play against Miami (OH.), but owners have to bank on one simple thing—will the coaching staff really risk Clement's health against Miami, one of the worst teas out of the MAC?

Miami isn't a threat, just ask Las Vegas, which puts the Badgers as more than 30-point favorites with an over-under of 51.5. The Redhawks just allowed Presbyterian College back Darrell Bridges to run for 125 yards and a score.

As for Ogunbowale, he's second on the depth chart. He's also versatile, carrying the ball three times against Alabama and, more importantly, catching six passes for 39 yards, the catch number tied for the team high.

Josh Hicks, Rutgers ($5,600)

Sometimes a team stack isn't the worst idea, especially in the likely Rutgers-Washington State shootout.

Some will recall the name Josh Hicks, a talented Rutgers back who took home the MVP award in the Quick Lane Bowl last year. He picked up right where he left off last week, bullying Norfolk State for 118 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 carries.

Now, some are right to point out Hicks might not see the most carries despite leading the team in every single rushing category last week thanks to the presence of Paul James.

But consider this: Washington State's loss to Portland State? The Vikings ran 48 times for 233 yards and three touchdowns.

Every Rutgers back will get a taste of the action, but mostly Hicks, who has the talent the coaching staff won't be able to ignore in favor of more senior players.


Pricing information and scoring data obtained from Odds via Odds Shark

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Oregon vs. Michigan State: Ticket Info, Date, TV Schedule and Live Stream

It's Week 2 rematch time when the No. 7 Oregon Ducks travel across the country to clash with the No. 5 Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing on Saturday.

Both programs haven't forgotten last year's epic Week 2 showdown in which the Ducks rattled off 28 unanswered points over the final 20 minutes to seize a 46-27 victory. The classic pushed Marcus Mariota further into the Heisman Trophy conversation and was a major talking point on Oregon's resume for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Mariota is gone, and both programs appear in transition, though. Oregon just got by Eastern Washington last week, 61-42, while Michigan State put on an odd show in a 37-24 win against Western Michigan.

Provided the issues on both sides get ironed out, this one might also wind up a classic. Here are the details to know.


Plugging the Holes

This year is all about moving into a new era for the Ducks—hence why oddsmakers have penned them the underdog for the first time since 2011, per Odds Shark.

Vernon Adams Jr. is the man Oregon's pegged to replace Mariota, and last week he posted 246 yards and two scores before taking a hit to the head—a hit that got the defender ejected—and leaving the game.

Adams will suit up Saturday and look to build on his encouraging performance, but it sure helps that running back Royce Freeman went for 180 yards and three scores.

Of course, Oregon's offense isn't a concern. It's the defense, which allowed the Eagles to go 6-of-14 on third downs, 3-of-4 on fourth downs and tally 549 total yards. Coach Mark Helfrich spoke with Rob Moseley of about the issues:

"A lot of guys made mistakes," he said. "They weren’t all defensive backs. Everyone on offense made mistakes; everyone on defense made mistakes. The beauty of it was, most of it was guys playing their first time ever in that stadium, and they were correctable."

Replacing an elite collegiate corner such as Ifo Ekpre-Olomu hasn't received enough attention when it comes to the Ducks, but it's the focal point for the team entering a battle with a seasoned quarterback such as Connor Cook.


Stealing the Limelight 

It should go without saying, but the Spartans weren't too happy with last year's loss to the Ducks. 

In fact, it seems the Spartans don't enjoy their overlooked status. There's some merit to the chip-on-shoulder posture of the program too, given its wild amount of success over the years.

For coach Mark Dantonio, Saturday is a chance for his team to prove to the globe it belongs in the top-program conversation. Per

We've lost three games out of the last 30, and we know the teams we've lost to. Our M.O. was to try to reach higher, and to do that, right now, it runs through Oregon. I also think that if you look at last year's football team, if we win that football game, you're talking beyond, and you just keep trying to move your program forward.

Logic says the Spartans will need to perform better on the offensive side of the ball to keep up with the Ducks. Last week, they turned the ball over once, lost the time-of-possession battle, and Cook looked sluggish with a 15-of-31 line with 256 yards and two scores.

Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press captured Dantonio's thoughts on Cook:

Call it two birds with one stone—Cook can get back into rhythm and fix the team's biggest weakness against a rebuilding secondary under the national spotlight, proving to everyone the Spartans belong.

If it all goes according to plan, of course.


Viewing Info

When: Saturday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan

Television: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN


Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 67
  • Spread: Michigan State (-3.5)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports courtesy of USA Today.



This one feels ripe for a bit of role reversal. 

It's Oregon making the trip across the country this time into hostile territory, which will have a negative impact on an offense still learning to play with one another. Freeman should have a decent game, but the passing offense won't have the usual Oregon whip to it.

On the flip side, Cook should look better than he did one week ago with the rust shaken off, especially against an Oregon defense with some clear issues to fix. In the confines of home, expect it to be him this year who uses this prestigious matchup to make a Heisman statement with a big win.

Prediction: Michigan State 42, Oregon 38


Statistics courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.

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Oklahoma vs. Tennessee: Ticket Info, Date, TV Schedule and Live Stream

On-the-rise programs collide in one of Saturday's top showdowns when the No. 19 Oklahoma Sooners hit the road for an encounter with the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville.

Both programs got off on the right foot with Week 1 victories, although both came away with obvious areas of improvement to focus on if they are to contend in their respective conferences. 

For Oklahoma, a 41-3 thumping of Akron looks good, but coach Bob Stoops remains adamant there are issues to correct. It's much of the same for Tennessee coach Butch Jones after a 59-30 victory against Bowling Green.

In what figures to be one of the week's most physical and entertaining encounters, there is much at stake. Here's everything to know about the collision.


Correcting the Little Things 

What Oklahoma's rout of Akron doesn't say outright is just how much the Sooners struggled out of the gates.

Over Oklahoma's first six drives, the offense managed just a single field goal against a sluggish Zips defense out of the MAC. Things improved when the flags stopped, and Baker Mayfield wound up throwing for 388 yards and three scores.

Oklahoma did most of its damage in the second and third frames. Stoops wants the performances there to stretch for the course of all four, per "For a period of time, we executed really well and avoided penalties that hurt us and operated like we feel we can."

It wasn't just the passing game, though. Starting back Samaje Perine managed just 33 yards and a score on 11 totes, while the team as a whole rushed for just 100 yards and 3.0 yards per carry.

The potential of Oklahoma's offense seems obvious. The trick now is taking lessons learned a week ago into hostile territory and escaping with a win.


Preventing An Air-Raid

The story around the Volunteers happens to be the exact opposite.

Tennessee's final score against Bowling Green doesn't hide anything. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw for 205 yards and a pair of scores, and, well, the ground game didn't have any issues:

The problems for the Volunteers came on defense, especially in the secondary. Falcons quarterback Matt Johnson threw for an eye-popping 424 yards and two scores, while wideout Gehrig Dieter ran wild with seven catches for 133 yards and a score. Five Bowling Green receivers averaged at least 15 yards per catch.

"We had too many mental errors and to play winning football you can't have the amount of mental errors that we had," Jones said, per "Again, first game, going fast, a lot of things happening, but that's inexcusable."

If the Tennessee defense is to stop Mayfield and Co. from taking the proverbial next step at its expense in front of a home crowd, the unit needs to better prevent big plays.

Of course, this is easier said than done, especially under the bright lights of a highly anticipated matchup.


Viewing Info

When: Saturday, September 12, 6 p.m. ET

Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN


Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 64
  • Spread: Oklahoma (-1)


Team Injury Reports

No listed injuries for Oklahoma.

Injury reports via USAToday.



There's a reason Las Vegas won't commit to one side or the other here—it could go one of two ways as easy as a flip of the coin. 

Tennessee could grind up Oklahoma on the ground, or Oklahoma could run roughshod on the shaky Tennessee secondary with big play after big play.

Bank on the former. This affair goes down at Neyland Stadium, and the noise level is sure to have an effect on the Sooners' passing game, which should help the secondary, a unit with a week of mistakes to digest and improve upon.

On the ground, Alvin Kamara and Co. should be able to control the pace of the game and keep the Oklahoma offense off the field anyway, so look for the Volunteers to pull out a close one.

Prediction: Tennessee 24, Oklahoma 21


Statistics courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Vanderbilt Commodores: Complete Game Preview

After a dominating performance against Louisiana-Monroe, the Georgia Bulldogs look to keep the momentum going as they face the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs beat ULM on a lighting-shortened game 51-14 last Saturday. They did it with a strong rushing attack (243 yards) and a stingy defense (255 total yards allowed). The Bulldogs are facing a Vanderbilt team that is coming off a 14-12 loss to Western Kentucky.

Georgia may be the heavy favorites, but head coach Mark Richt knows that it’s going to be a very physical game.

“Defensively, I know it's early in league play, but they are No. 1 in the league in rush defense, No. 3 in first downs allowed and No. 4 in the league in total defense,” Richt said in his Tuesday press conference. "So like I said, going on the road for the first time, playing SEC, Eastern Division opponent for the first time, is something that we all work towards and are looking forward to.”

The last time these two teams faced each other in Nashville, Vandy was the one that came out on top 31-27. So the Bulldogs know it’s not going to be a walk in the park on Saturday.


Date: Saturday, Sept. 12

Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT

Place: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.


Radio: Bulldogs Radio Network, Sirius XM 83/190

Spread: Georgia is favored by 20.5 points according to Odds Shark


When Georgia Has the Ball

Greyson Lambert had a solid debut against ULM on Saturday as he went 8-of-12 for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He threw zero interceptions and did not get sacked.

Lambert did not do anything special, but he was smart with the football. Part of the reason for his stability was the success of the running attack. Nick Chubb rushed for 120 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Keith Marshall also had a strong performance with 10 carries for 73 yards and two scores.

Georgia will try to do the same thing with Vanderbilt. They will try to attack the defense with the run, then throw off of play action.

That will not be an easy task, because the Commodores are looking to build off a performance where they only allowed 38 rushing yards against Western Kentucky. Cornerback Torren McGaster, linebacker Darreon Herring and safety Andrew Williamson each had six tackles in the loss against the Hilltoppers.

Also, when the Bulldogs decide to throw the ball, they may want to stay away from safety Oren Burks because he had two passes defended to go along with his four tackles last week.


When Vanderbilt Has the Ball

The Commodores had a difficult time scoring against Western Kentucky last week. They could not convert in the red zone, and quarterback Jonathan McCrary's two interceptions thrown did not do them any favors.

However, McCrary did have a solid game, as he threw for 217 yards and one score. He was also able to hit nine different receivers in the game, so he’s learning how to see the entire field.

Running back Ralph Webb is another player who was strong on offense last week, rushing for 76 yards and recording 23 receiving yards. He will be the go-to guy on offense.

The Bulldogs defense only allowed 245 yards of offense last week. They were led by Quincy Mauger, who had eight tackles, half a sack and one pass defended. Aaron Davis had an interception, and the duo of Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd had a combined 15 tackles.

The Bulldogs defense played with a lot of speed last week, and it will not change on Saturday.


Player to Watch for Georgia: RB Keith Marshall

Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are two guys who could make up one of the best running back duos on the country when it’s all said and done. But Keith Marshall proved that he should not be forgotten in the running back rotation.

Welcome back Keith Marshall.

— Brian L Jones (@Brian_L_Jones) September 5, 2015

Marshall who has been dealing with an ACL injury since 2013, rushed for 73 yards on 10 carries and scored twice last Saturday. He showed the speed that he had in 2012 and was also able to run between the tackles.

Chubb and Michel will get the bulk of the carries because they are No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart. But because of how he played last week, Marshall will see plenty of action, and he will have a chance to do some big things against Vanderbilt because he can do a little bit of everything.


Player to Watch for Vanderbilt: RB Ralph Webb

In order for the Commodores to be efficient on offense, Webb will need to have a big day.

The sophomore running back made an impression last year. He rushed for 907 yards on 212 attempts. Webb was the second freshman-leading rusher in the SEC behind Chubb, and he made the All-SEC Freshman team.

.@VandyFootball OL 'rather have Ralph Webb than Nick Chubb any day'

— Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) September 8, 2015

As it was mentioned earlier, Webb had a strong game against Western Kentucky, but the offense made too many mistakes for Webb to be an impact player. Vanderbilt will do more on Saturday to be sure they put Webb in the best positions to make plays.


Prediction: Georgia 35, Vanderbilt 10

Georgia was able to do what it wanted to on offense last week against an experienced ULM defense. However, Vanderbilt’s defense will be ready for the task at hand, especially as nine returning starters will be on the field from last season.

That doesn’t mean the Commodores will have enough to stop the Bulldogs rushing attack. The three-headed monster of Chubb, Michel and Marshall will be too much for Vandy to handle. Then add the fact that the Commodores offense has issues scoring; the Bulldogs defense will be licking its chops to have an even better performance this week.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Vanderbilt is able to keep it close early. But the Bulldogs have too much depth and talent on both sides of the ball for Derek Mason’s group to keep it close for four quarters.

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College Football Picks: Week 2 Predictions for Every Game

The opening week of the 2015 college football season featured a lot of very predictable results, thanks to the presence of a whopping 48 games pitting FBS schools against FCS opponents. Even with that many lopsided matchups, we still saw a handful of the little guys (Fordham, North Dakota, Portland State and South Dakota State) rise up and beat some of the low-hanging big boys (Army, Wyoming, Washington State and Kansas, respectively).

There were some other notable upsets, such as BYU using divine intervention (and a great catch at the goal line) to win at Nebraska, while Temple notched its first win against Penn State in 74 years and Northwestern contributed to the Pac-12 Conference's rough opening week.

We also had two games canceled because of weather, another pushed back a day due to inclement conditions and two schools spending an extra week in the offseason before getting underway.

What's in store for Week 2? While overall it might not seem like a very enticing slate thanks to another 25 FBS-FCS pairings, there are three games featuring a pair of ranked teams. And those are among the 10 clashes of power-conference schools, including some early SEC tilts that highlight the start of conference play across the country.

Check out our predictions for all 76 games, starting with Thursday's intriguing Conference USA matchup, then give us your picks in the comments section. 


NOTE: Rankings are from the Associated Press Top 25. 

Last week: 76-9 (.894)

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Texas Football: What to Expect from Longhorns' New Play-Caller Jay Norvell

Push finally came to shove for Charlie Strong, who has named Jay Norvell the new play-caller for the Texas Longhorns.

What that means for the rest of the season remains to be seen.

Ranking in the nation's bottom three in scoring offense, total offense and yards per play (per, it was obvious that Texas had to replace Shawn Watson. During his 14 games as the play-caller, the Longhorns have scored 10 points or less six times, losing by 20-plus points each time. 

Now Strong's tied his future at Texas to Norvell, who was hired this spring to coach the wide receivers. The former Oklahoma, UCLA, Nebraska and NFL assistant will finally take this offense back to the spread in hopes of riding Texas' team athleticism to some points.

Charlie Strong on Jay Norvell: "We talk about an up-tempo offense. That's what everyone wants to see."

@BDavisAAS, 8 Sep 2015

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of time to implement the revamped attack, and the pending schedule makes a 1-5 bye-week record all too possible. The change can only make this team better, but will it be enough to stave off disaster?

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Diddy Reportedly Won't Be Charged for Alleged Fight with UCLA Coach Sal Alosi

Diddy will reportedly not face charges for an alleged fight he had on June 22 with UCLA football strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi.

TMZ reported the latest development in the case on Wednesday, adding that a hearing will be held on Oct. 15 with Diddy—also known as Sean Combs—his lawyer, Mark Geragos, and others involved in the alleged altercation.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office had previously rejected the case. Diddy had been charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of battery and one count of making terrorist threats. He allegedly used a kettle bell as the weapon.

Bruins defensive back Justin Combs is Diddy's son. According to TMZ Sports, during a practice Diddy was attending, Alosi chewed Justin Combs out, leading Diddy to spring into action and confront Alosi in the coach's office.      

After the informal hearing takes place next month, it stands to reason Diddy's case will officially go without any legal consequences.

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Diddy Reportedly Won't Be Charged for Alleged Fight with UCLA Coach Sal Alosi

Diddy will reportedly not face charges for an alleged fight he had on June 22 with UCLA football strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi. TMZ reported the latest development in the case on Wednesday, adding that a hearing will be held on Oct...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Former Rutgers Football Players Plead Not Guilty to Home Invasion Charges

Two former Rutgers football players, defensive back Dre Boggs and wide receiver Tejay Johnson, pleaded not guilty to home invasion charges in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on Wednesday.

The Associated Press reported the news on 20-year-old Boggs, 23-year-old Johnson and another student, Jianan Chen, 19, who allegedly planned the robberies. Jim Donohue, Boggs' attorney, stated that the alleged victims were drug dealers, and he is also seeking to reduce his client's current $600,000 bail.

Assistant Middlesex County prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet claimed that knives, a hammer, a baseball bat and a revolver were used by the ex-football players to carry out the robberies. One of the victim's cellphones allegedly had Johnson's fingerprints on it.

"These were brutal, violent and aggressive home invasions where people should be sacrosanct," said Kuberiet.

In all there were allegedly three home invasions and an attack on a 19-year-old student that left him with a broken jaw, per's Ryan Dunleavy. Johnson is thought to be involved in all three home invasions, while Boggs is suspected in two of them.

According to the prosecution, per the AP, the players are also said to have taken photos of the crimes they committed and sent incriminating text messages.      

Boggs and Johnson are being charged with weapons offenses in addition to robbery and conspiracy. The Scarlet Knights dismissed those two along with three other players last week, all of whom were previously suspended.

Johnson's career was already cut short by injuries, but Boggs is a rising sophomore who made one start and appeared in 10 games last season.

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A Season with Notre Dame Football: Preview, TV Schedule for Showtime Show

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish competed for the BCS National Championship as recently as 2012, but it feels like only now is head coach Brian Kelly seriously building the program up to be a true title contender.

As a result, Showtime's A Season with Notre Dame Football series should offer a nice look at how Kelly is going about making the Irish a national powerhouse once again.

You can view the schedule for the first eight episodes below:    

Unlike with Hard Knocks, the HBO series that follows NFL teams, Showtime will follow Notre Dame throughout the season rather than just spring practices and additional stages of the preseason.

Of course, the series is part documentary, part recruiting tool, so A Season with Notre Dame Football isn't going to be a no-holds barred, hyper-critical look at the program. Plus, Kelly won't want to lend any sort of advantage to the Fighting Irish's opponents by giving cameras carte blanche to practices and meetings in the film room.   

Kelly said in August he wants the show to strike a balance between being a public relations piece and giving fans an idea of what truly happens behind the scenes, per JJ Stankevitz of

I think anytime that you’re putting together a weekly show, you want to make sure that you’re real and it’s not, you know, a public service announcement each week. We get that, and Showtime and their production people want something that is certainly indicative of what goes on here on a day-to-day basis. Having said that, we never want to embarrass any players, coaches, or the university. I think we’re pretty clear on how we’ll collaborate in getting that to that end.

A Season with Notre Dame Football will be entertaining for fans of the Fighting Irish or simply those who follow college football in general. It's always interesting to see how head coaches interact with their players.

Plus, Showtime will also follow the players through their everyday lives as a students as well, which surely makes for quite the spectacle for those walking across Notre Dame's campus, per Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated:

The trailer for the series premiere offered a brief look of what to expect in the first episode and beyond:

One of the more fascinating aspects of A Season with Notre Dame Football will be watching the progression of Malik Zaire as the season goes on. It's one thing to watch the junior quarterback improve on the field during games. But the series should offer a better understanding of what he's doing on the practice field to become a better passer each and every week.  

Zaire certainly got the year off to a great start, going 19-of-22 for 313 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-3 win over the Texas Longhorns last Saturday.

It's still a little early to call the Fighting Irish favorites for the College Football Playoff, but if Zaire proves to be the real deal, a top-four spot isn't out of the question for Notre Dame.

Given everything that is going on with the team, Showtime couldn't have picked a better time to follow Kelly and his players as they navigate the campaign ahead.


Note: All episodes of A Season with Notre Dame Football are available on demand on Showtime Anytime. You can see view times and dates for additional airings of the series on Showtime's website.

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Reputation as College Football Elite on the Line in Michigan State vs. Oregon

Figuring out college football’s elite teams this year should be as simple as looking up who occupies the top spots in the AP Top 25 poll.

Team A is ranked No. 1, Team B is No. 2 and so on. Those at the top are far superior to everyone else—no need to even look beyond the top couple of programs to figure out who’s good and who qualifies as great.

Things just are not quite that simple, especially early into the 2015 cycle. That’s particularly true given today’s poll mentality that dictates teams drop significantly after losses but barely move up with wins.

Ohio State is a known quantity at this point. Alabama appeared to be in its select company based on the Tide’s opener against Wisconsin. TCU and Baylor, on paper, will be right there until their clash after Thanksgiving creates separation. But who else can join the ranks of the few and the destination of the many?

On Saturday in East Lansing, at least one team will. Week 2’s clash of the titans—it’s the first Top 10 matchup at Spartan Stadium since the Game of the Century with No. 1 Notre Dame in 1966—figures to be our early opportunity to christen a new team among the cream of the crop. That it comes between two squads who sport a handful of questions to go with their abundance of talent only serves to make things that much juicier.

As the home team, there is plenty of pressure on Michigan State to make up for last year’s second-half falter in a 46-27 loss. The final score was not indicative as to how close the contest was, and a lot of the momentum on Sparty (they’re 10-11 favorites on Odds Shark) stems from the return of seasoned veteran Connor Cook and defenders on NFL radars like end Shilique Calhoun.

Those two will certainly have to come up big if they’re to keep pace with the Ducks, who face their first major test without Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. But they do sport a wealth of talent, which is enough to keep the MSU coaches up late at night.

Quarterback Vernon Adams will draw most of the attention on him this week. But that would overlook key contributors like tailback Royce Freeman, all-purpose threat Byron Marshall, potential first-round defensive end DeForest Buckner, plus 2013’s leading receiver, Bralon Addison, and veteran left tackle Tyler Johnstone all being in the fold.

In short, these are two talented teams. Each has a few question marks, especially defensively after shaky openers. But both are more than capable of earning an early slot in the College Football Playoff field.

Entering that discussion among this year’s elite means a little more to the Spartans than it does to the Ducks, who have been in the conversation for several years. Michigan State under Mark Dantonio has won a Rose Bowl, upended Baylor in the Cotton Bowl and is the only the second Big Ten team that Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has ever lost to in his career.

It has been a top-notch program in recent memory and is certainly among the best to not have made it to the national title game. Its excellence isn’t being debated, and it is in many ways a model team and program.

It’s just that, well…it has never been looked at as an elite team. A very good one, yes, but one that appears to have a glass ceiling in a world where the national title looks like it will make several more stops in Columbus. Combined with the perception of the Big Ten outside of the region, and it’s not a stretch to say that Dantonio’s bunch can rightfully play Rodney Dangerfield and claim no respect. 

In more ways than one, this year’s motto for Michigan State—“reach higher”—is apt. That can start this weekend. 

Oregon can go on to have a fantastic season if it loses on Saturday, possibly even making a run at the playoff based on the strength of the Pac-12 slate it has to face. The same could be said of Michigan State, who could make a loss disappear from everybody's minds with a huge upset of Ohio State in late November.

But for now, a place at the table among college football’s elite programs for this season is at stake on Saturday, and only one team can emerge to claim it.

Who will step up? That remains to be seen, but it certainly should be plenty of fun to see who does.


You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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5-Star Alabama Legacy Ben Davis Details the Latest in His Recruitment

Auburn secured a significant recruiting victory Sept. 4 when top-ranked in-state defensive end Marlon Davidson committed to the Tigers, catching attention from a fellow 5-star Alabama standout.

"Knowing that he's going to play down there definitely bumps Auburn up for me," linebacker Ben Davis told Bleacher Report. "Marlon and me are best friends. We're like brothers. Auburn was already one of my top schools, but that's a big deal."

Davidson, a 6'4", 260-pound prospect from Greenville High School, is already putting in recruiting work with his buddy.

"We've been talking and texting back and forth since Marlon committed. He definitely wants me there too, but I'm not picking a school anytime soon. I'm focused on setting up visits," Davis said.

The Gordo High School senior, rated 17th overall and No. 1 among inside linebackers in 2016 composite rankings, expects to utilize all five official visits. Davis, considering dozens of scholarship offers, is entering a pivotal stretch of a high-profile recruiting process.

"I'm going to sit down with my family during the next few weeks and decide what's best for me. I'll put together a top-five list, and those are the schools I'm going to visit," he said.

Davis identified Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Alabama and Auburn as his strongest contenders at this stage, though he admits it's a very fluid situation.

"Things could change in the next few weeks," Davis said. "There's a lot to think about."

He mentioned Notre Dame and USC as possible destinations beyond the Southeast region, though most analysts expect him to end up in the SEC. Family ties near Georgia and a strong relationship with the LSU coaching staff are key factors among conference contenders.

His father, Wayne Davis, is the Crimson Tide's all-time tackles leader. Every prediction in 247Sports' Crystal Ball projects him to sign with Alabama.

Despite his status as a decorated program legacy, Davis maintains he doesn't feel immense pressure to attend college in Tuscaloosa.

"My parents tell me all the time, wherever I choose they're going to be behind me 100 percent," he said. "The most important thing is to find the best fit where I feel comfortable."

Davis, a 6'3", 240-pound playmaker, predominately lines up at middle linebacker in high school. That's exactly where LSU, Alabama and Florida State envision his future, while Auburn and Georgia have left the door open for a role along the outside edge. 

"I see myself as a team leader at the heart of a defense," Davis said. "I'm a guy who works every day to make my teammates better."

The same can be said for Lyndell "Mack" Wilson, another 5-star Alabama linebacker who holds offers from Auburn and the Crimson Tide. Davis explained he wants to be a "package deal" with Wilson on national signing day.

Throw in the fact that Wilson played alongside Davidson last season at Carver High School, and it becomes apparent how paramount the Tigers' latest commitment could ultimately become.

Davis calls them "The Trio" and continues to express serious interest in teaming up with both defenders for the next few years. He plans to attend the Iron Bowl at Auburn in November a year after heading to Tuscaloosa for the annual matchup.

His father's history at Alabama and a longstanding relationship with Nick Saban doesn't prevent Davis from imagining playing in the Iron Bowl as a Tiger.

"If I was with Auburn, I'd be pumped up for it more than any other game. But I'd feel the same way as an Alabama player too. It's one of the biggest rivalries in sports," he said.

Davis remains at least weeks away from trimming things down to five favorites, but the drama is already building between Alabama and Auburn for this homegrown recruit. Expect Davidson's decision to make a difference moving forward, but it's just one of several factors to monitor here in the months to come.


Quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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Meet the Man Who Holds the Key to Dak Prescott's Heisman Campaign

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Rufus Warren is a marked man this season, and he knows it.

Wearing No. 77, the Mississippi State senior is a first-time starter—one of three on the offensive line—and playing a crucial role on the 2015 Bulldogs: left tackle.

That means his primary responsibility is to protect Dak Prescott’s blind side. With the quarterback who finished eighth in Heisman Trophy voting last year as the undeniable key to MSU’s success this season, one could argue that Warren is therefore the most important player on the roster.

If that doesn’t put enough pressure on his shoulders, consider that Warren is a converted tight end.

“When you got a guy like Dak behind you, yeah,” Warren said. “Every freaking snap you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I just have to make sure that my man doesn’t even get close to him.’ 

“That’s what makes it good and fun, but it’s also a lot of pressure. It’s a pressure that I want.”

Fittingly, when Warren was recruited out of Gentry High School in Indianola, Miss., it was more for his potential than anything else. Rated by 247Sports as the 40th-best prospect at tight end and 25th-best player in his home state, he arrived in Starkville as a 6’5”, 238-pound project.

After redshirting, he spent the next two years working his way up to playing maybe 10-15 plays a game—mostly on special teams—and caught the only pass thrown his way for a 23-yard gain.

The thing was, Warren was still growing and filling out. The scale continued to rise up to 240, 250, 260...

“He was underdeveloped when he got here as a recruit,” offensive line coach John Hevesy said. “I told him about three years ago if he keeps eating he’ll end up in my room and he was like, ‘No, I’m not.’”

When Warren got to the point that it was a challenge for him to keep his weight near 270 pounds, the coaches gave him a choice. He could continue to fight against his natural body size at tight end or try playing on the offensive line and probably have a better shot at eventually starting.

Knowing that Blaine Clausell’s third season starting at left tackle in 2014 would also be his last, Warren agreed to the switch and to serve as an understudy for a year.

“It just kind of became a situation for us where you’re almost fighting the inevitable,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “Instead of trying to make him lose this weight and stay as small as he can to remain at tight end, [we said] “Hey, go have another burger at lunch or eat a biscuit at breakfast and go play left tackle.”

Warren’s now listed at 6’7” and 299 pounds without looking heavy. He played in all 13 games as a reserve last season—including some at right tackle—and in addition to doing a lot of film study, he continues to pick the brains of his predecessors about what to look for and expect.

Like with most first-time starters, his debut was a bit of a mixed bag last Saturday against Southern Miss.

He had the key block on what should have been a 10-yard touchdown run by Ashton Shumpert, only the running back fumbled into the end zone for an early turnover.

When pulling, which is more typical of an interior lineman, Warren contributed to both a 35-yard run by Brandon Holloway and 49-yard carry by Prescott.

However, late in the second quarter on 3rd-and-11 at the MSU 10-yard line, he was bull-rushed by Ja'Boree Poole, a 6’2”, 250-pound defensive lineman who sacked Prescott from behind.

In the third quarter, he got beat on the outside by linebacker Darian Yancey, who subsequently flushed Prescott out of the pocket. The quarterback tried to force a bad pass over the middle that came very close to being a pick-six.

Mississippi State finished with 205 rushing yards and 237 passing yards, and the line was flagged just twice—both holding calls, but neither on Warren—despite being on the road. Prescott didn’t necessarily play like a top Heisman candidate during the 34-16 victory, but he also didn’t take too many hits.

“I think all them improved very alike during the course of the game,” Mullen said about the new starters. “Hopefully I’ll see huge improvement this week because now they’re used to what game situations are like, making adjustments, talking on the sideline and playing. A lot of times at practice you have a bad play, you can do it over if something goes wrong.”

“To be honest with you, from start to finish I thought all three of the starters handled the situation very well. We can play a lot better.”

It’s kind of crucial with the upcoming schedule. Although Warren is really looking forward to facing Missouri because of the Tigers’ reputation for having a strong defensive line in the past couple of years, next up on the schedule is LSU on Saturday (8:15 p.m. CT, ESPN).

Two weeks later, Mississippi State begins a nasty back-to-back road swing through Auburn and Texas A&M. The Tigers notched four sacks against Louisville and the Aggies had nine against Arizona State.

So junior Jamaal Clayborn may be new at center and junior Devon Desper has taken over at right guard, but there’s little doubt who will be challenged the most: the former tight end.

“To me, it’s much easier,” Warren said about his position change. “At tight end, I have to know what the receiver’s doing, what the running back is doing, while with the O-line it’s just strictly learning how to protect Dak and [my assignments]. It’d definitely easier and it’s fun.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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