NCAA Football

UCLA Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for Month of October

The month of October is a big one for Jim Mora and the No. 8 UCLA Bruins. A home matchup versus a stingy Utah team precedes a monumental clash against the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl...

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Updated Rankings of the Top 10 2015 Quarterback Recruits

The 2015 quarterback class is packed with talented prospects and future college stars. A strong crop of California passers places this group among the strongest we've seen this decade.

Through one month of their senior seasons, we've been able to develop a stronger sense of how these playmakers are trending in terms of development. After extensive film review and previous discussions with many of the top recruits, here's how we rank the top 10 quarterbacks in this class.

We place a premium on potential and promise, favoring refined fundamentals over high school statistics.

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Why Tennessee Will Stop Its Nine-Year Losing Streak to Florida

Tennessee is going to beat Florida on Saturday.

Finally.

The last time that actually happened—not just boasted about by optimistic Volunteers fans—was in 2004. That season, UT kicker James Wilhoit booted a 50-yard field goal to beat UF 30-28 in Neyland Stadium after missing an extra point.

To put into perspective how long it's been, that was three years before the first iPhone hit the shelves. Facebook had been online for seven months. George W. Bush had not yet been re-elected for his second term as President. Ron Zook and Phillip Fulmer still roamed the sidelines.

It was a long time ago.

But all of that suffering for UT is about to end. Head coach Butch Jones' group of fresh-faced Vols are battle-tested, playing well, and after road games against Oklahoma and Georgia, are on the brink of pulling off something significant.

Even though the Gators aren't the powerhouse they traditionally are, this would definitely qualify.

Everything appears aligned for the Vols to end the streak. The Vols just have to go out and make it happen.

Here are the top reasons why they will.

 

The Vols Are Ready to Win Now

This is the best chance for UT to get a win over a marquee program this season.

The Vols may be young, having played 22 true freshmen already, but they are talented and certainly not timid. They expect to win and are no longer shackled by shock when they're actually in a game with the chance to win late.

Now, they've just got to learn to close the deal.

UT's renewed swagger was evident in a Georgia game where the Vols got ahead 10-0, fell behind and then fought back once quarterback Justin Worley returned from an injured elbow.

Just the way the Vols handled themselves on the field said so much about how far the program has come, such as freshman running back Jalen Hurd daring a Georgia defensive back to blitz in his direction.

They surged back into the game but made a pivotal mistake when Hurd's fourth-quarter fumble was recovered by Georgia defensive lineman Josh Dawson for a touchdown.

After that, UT simply ran out of time.

Moral victories stink, but the Vols' performance made a lasting impression on Georgia coach Mark Richt.

That word "time" is becoming an ugly one in Knoxville, especially for an impatient coach and a fanbase frustrated by close losses. But it's still true.

Jones told the media against on Monday, according to Knoxville's WVLT:

"We're going to be a good football program and we're going to win a lot of games around here. The only variable is time, but we're going to do it right and we're making progress. Now we have to make progress this week versus an extremely talented football team."

The time may not be right for UT to completely turn around its fortunes, but Saturday will be the start.

One of the advantages to being extremely young is that the historical hangover from continually losing to the Gators no longer exists. Florida has lost its psychological edge.

UT matches up very well against a struggling UF offense devoid of a superstar. While the Gators have playmakers on defense, the Vols already have faced two comparable front sevens in Georgia and Oklahoma and improved dramatically.

Despite the UT-UF game not getting a favorable television slot and taking a back seat to several higher-profile SEC games this weekend, this rivalry is still a huge deal to the Vols.

Only one game will matter inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday.

It's the biggest game of Tennessee's season and the biggest game of Jones' tenure so far, and UT is going to be ready—ready to win.

 

This Isn't Your Father's Florida

Back in 1990s and early 2000s, the cocky Gators routinely took to the newspapers to provide bulletin board material that fueled the rivalry.

Then, they went out and backed it up.

When struggling UF quarterback Jeff Driskel reportedly talked of "emptying the stadium" at Florida's press conference this week, according to Gainesville's 850 WRUF reporter Jeremy Rogers, it didn't ring the same way as the smack talk of old.

It felt kind of forced.

Florida may have prided itself on that once, but the stadium the Gators have been emptying most recently is their own.

Coach Will Muschamp's team is 10th in the league in total offense. Take away a season-opening 65-0 slaughter of Eastern Michigan, and they're even more average. The Gators amassed just 200 total yards in a loss to Alabama and needed overtime to beat Kentucky in Gainesville.

UF had five combined turnovers in those two games.

While new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's first season is going better than Brent Pease's last year, there are still numerous issues.

Star receiver Demarcus Robertson re-tweeted a tweet that was in favor of switching quarterbacks from Driskel, according to Alligator Army's Andy Hutchins.

While dual-threat freshman backup quarterback Treon Harris may eventually get the call, Roper backs his incumbent for now, according to a tweet from Inside The Gators reporter Landon Watnick:

UF may get things back on track this week, but it's been another rocky start to the season. The last time Driskel played in Neyland Stadium, he finished with a career day, so he will try to resurrect his career in a place that has been good to him before.

But neither of these teams is remotely close to the one it was in 2012, either.

Driskel's words were about as close to trash talk as it has gotten between the two teams this week. Despite the quiet, UT linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said you don't have to look too hard to know who the Vols are playing.

 

Worley Emerging as a Star

The importance of senior quarterback Worley to the Vols is now undeniable following last Saturday's heroic performance against Georgia.

Last year, Jones was searching for a spark when he made the poor decision to start Nathan Peterman in Worley's stead at Tennessee. What followed was one of the worst halves of football you'll ever see from a quarterback.

This year, UT hopes Peterman doesn't see the field unless it's mop-up duty.

Worley is the unequivocal leader of Tennessee, and the Vols' success is directly tied to his health. In the face of almost constant pressure, Worley has still thrived, completing 60 percent of his passes for 985 yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.

While several league quarterbacks have put up better numbers than Worley, nobody is a bigger catalyst for his team. He received a "game ball" from 247Sports' JC Shurburtt (subscription required) for his gutsy performance in the loss to Georgia.

That loss was frustrating, but it proved that Worley and the Vols could hang with high-scoring teams and score quickly if necessary. It marked another step forward for a program to go into a hostile environment as a 19-point underdog and take a top-15 team to the brink.

The next step for this young team is finishing a big victory, something that is attainable and even expected this weekend.

Then nine years of frustration can be put in the history books along with Florida's recent reign over the Vols.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics gathered from CFBStats.com.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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Michigan Shirt Company Creates T-Shirts to Lure One of the Harbaughs

Michigan shirt company Alternative Hero has had enough of Michigan Wolverines coach Brady Hoke. Not only do they want him fired, but they have already come up with his replacement.

Alternative Hero created a shirt that turned the Michigan logo into an endorsement of Harbaugh. Although San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is who many Michigan fans want to see leading the Wolverines, most fans would take his brother, John, on the sideline over Hoke, too.

The Wolverines are 2-3 on the season, so if things don't turn around quickly, this shirt could become very popular in Ann Arbor.

[Alternative Hero, h/t Darren Rovell]

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Can TCU End Oklahoma's National Championship Run?

The Oklahoma Sooners take on the TCU Horned Frogs, looking to keep pace in the ever competitive College Football Playoff conversation. The Horned Frogs will do all they can to not only spoil the Sooners party but build on their impressive 3-0 start. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the big game in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Will Oklahoma be able to hold off the explosive TCU Horned Frogs?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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What's Wrong with Florida State's Defense?

ATHENS, GA. — You may have noticed that Florida State looks vulnerable on defense. You may have also noticed that the Seminoles switched bald-headed guys as defensive coordinators before this season. Charles Kelly replaced Jeremy Pruitt, who is a Nick Saban guy, which might explain why Pruitt doesn't have any hair left.    

The first four games of this season would explain why Kelly doesn't have any hair left. Pulled it all out watching a defense cripple itself with bad reads and bad plays.

Florida State was a bunch of marauders in 2013, allowing just 12.1 points per game, which was first in the nation. The Seminoles were a bunch of malingerers in the first half against North Carolina State on Saturday in a 56-41 escape. They lost edge discipline and missed tackles and botched assignments.

FSU is 66th nationally in points allowed (25.3 per game) after four games.

One plus one equals two, right? Pruitt is no longer there, thus the defense stinks, right?

I'm not so sure this is all about Pruitt leaving for Georgia. I'm not so sure this can be tied neatly around Kelly's neck as blame.

Pruitt was a significant loss for Florida State, no doubt. He did not allow the Seminoles to play with the light switch in their heads, turning off their considerable talent, then turning it on when threatened. He was a motivator.

Pruitt is a schemer, too. He could win the down prior to the ball being snapped. He could get hybrid defensive back Lamarcus Joyner loose on a blitz against just the right protection scheme and get a sack. Pruitt could sniff a rub route coming from the offense and have his nickel back pass off the slot receiver to the cornerback outside so the nickel does not get picked leaving a receiver open.

When Pruitt left for UGa in January, Kelly and Jimbo Fisher kept the same adjustment-heavy defense for 2014. The principles are the same: affect the quarterback, take away the middle of the field and be complex on the back end. The FSU defense, which is a simplified version of the adjustment-heavy scheme at Alabama, has an answer for every formation, every motion.

It does not seem to be working as well with a new maestro. The Seminoles gave up 31 to Oklahoma State and 41 to North Carolina State.

On the second play of the North Carolina State game, the Wolfpack had a freshman receiver run a route right at the FSU safety, fake right, then go deep for an easy touchdown toss. It was simply being asleep.

On a pass play from the FSU 8-yard line in the second quarter, State quarterback Jacoby Brissett slipped out of one tackle, then another, and threw a ridiculous touchdown pass. The ball went over the heads of three FSU defenders in the end zone.

North Carolina State beat up the 'Noles with pace and passion. FSU lost contain and allowed Brissett acres of opportunity to make plays.

Don't be so quick to blame it on Kelly. For now, blame it on the personnel upheaval at FSU. If it doesn't get better, then paint an X on top of Kelly's noggin.

 

Subtracting stars

Florida State really misses linebacker Telvin Smith. The NFL viewed him as merely a fifth-round draft pick, but he was so much more valuable than that to the Seminoles. Smith made sure the Noles were lined up in the right spots. He made sure there was edge discipline. Smith could see the offense's formation and not have to look to the sidelines; he knew what the defense needed to be in. He slid players into position; he played with fire.

Smith's replacement is Terrance Smith, who started 10 games in 2013, but the 'Noles are also working in a new guy, inside linebacker Reggie Northrup. Watch the tape of the North Carolina State game. The Seminoles linebackers were not nearly as productive as Telvin Smith was in 2013.

Think about Alabama when you think about the Mike linebacker Trey DePriest. He is only a so-so player, nothing like the inside backer before him, C.J. Mosley. DePriest does not change direction well, he does not play well in space, he does not run well. He is a thumper, and only OK at that.

But, man, does he know the Alabama scheme and the adjustments and how to get his guys lined up. DePriest did not play against West Virginia, and the Mountaineers went for 393 yards of offense. The Crimson Tide used newbie Reuben Foster at that spot to call signals and there were issues in passing off routes and who had what responsibilities against different formations. Alabama is a different defense with a veteran Mike linebacker.

"Florida State really misses the experience of Telvin Smith," said an NFC scout, who is not permitted to talk on the record to the media. "It is a complex system, and it takes time to learn when you are new to running it. They have played four games—one game against a nobody. If there are still problems after six games, then maybe you can criticize.

"But I am expecting them to play better. Charles Kelly is a good coach. This is not just about Jeremy leaving."

He's right. This is not all about Pruitt calling Georgia two days after the Seminoles won the title and him going to the SEC for the $850,000 salary, which was about a $350,000 pay increase according to ESPN.

Here are some things to consider before you bludgeon Kelly.

Think about the Seminoles this season playing without the best hybrid player in all of college football in 2013, Lamarcus Joyner. He was a corner, he was a safety, he was a nickel, he was a blitzer. He was the everywhere man.

The Seminoles have a player just like Joyner, just not quite as seasoned. Jalen Ramsey is going to be a better version of Joyner and he is bigger (6'1", 204 pounds). When he learns to regularly time up those blitzes like Joyner, look out. Last Saturday against North Carolina State, he came steaming around the corner, grabbed Brissett's elbow and forced a fumble and turnover.

The Seminoles were missing defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. and nose guard Nile Lawrence-Stample against the Wolfpack. Edwards was out for the game with a concussion. Stample is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

The 'Noles lost Smith, Joyner (second round), safety Terrence Brooks (third round) and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (second round) to the draft.

 

No alibis for a powerhouse

But….Florida State is supposed to be the mirror of Alabama. Reload and dominate. The Seminoles, if they are a true national powerhouse, should be able to backfill with All-Americans when two players are out. Look at Alabama. The Crimson Tide lost three first-round picks off the 2011 national championship team's defense and came back and won the title the next season.

The 'Noles have plugged holes in the back end of the secondary. They may be better this year than 2013. They are deeper.

"There might not be a better back end in the country," said the NFC scout.

But what about the other players, the linebackers Smith and Northrup, the defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, linebacker Chris Casher? When do they arrive? I talked to Georgia players Monday night about Pruitt and asked if he was schemer or teacher. They had to pause because Pruitt can draw up plays, but he can also teach the game.

"He shows how he wants it done, gets right down in there with you," said Georgia nose tackle Mike Thornton. "He's a teacher all right, but then he can come in at halftime and without looking at notes can diagram the play they were hurting us with and make an adjustment. I guess he's a schemer, too."

So, are the next wave of Seminoles being coached up sufficiently? Are they in the right spots?

"After about six games, they begin to define themselves as players and you see more of what they are going to be this season," the scout said. "Even if you're recruiting well, it takes time."

Florida State's defense has behaved like those October thermometers in Florida. Hot then cold, then hot then cold. You saw it against Oklahoma State. You saw it against North Carolina State.

Florida State's showing on defense has made some so nervous they have dropped the 'Noles down to No. 4 in their Final Four, or dropped them altogether out of the playoffs. Jameis Winston can fix things against North Carolina State, but can he carry the load against Oklahoma or Oregon? He is going to need some help.

 

Ray Glier covers college football for Bleacher Report. He has covered college football and various other sports for 20 years. His work has appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and Al Jazeera America. He is the author of How the SEC Became Goliath (Howard/Simon & Schuster, 2013).

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Michigan Football: How Greg Mattison's Wolverines Defense Can Rebound

Greg Mattison doesn’t always “believe in stats a lot."

But the Michigan defensive coordinator has to believe that his Wolverines defense has to be better than it was during Saturday's 30-14 loss to Minnesota, when it was torn by running back David Cobb. 

While there may have been a few positive moments for the defense, namely a handful of second- and third-down stops, it’s difficult to overlook the 5'11", 229-pound Gophers senior who quietly destroyed Team 135 with 111 rushing yards in the first half, the most surrendered to any individual or team all season.

He finished with 183 (net), just 17 shy of his third 200-yard game in 2014. He did what he wanted to, when he wanted to do it. But Mattison disagrees with the notion that the Wolverines were “ran over.”

“I don’t think he ran over us, but he did better against us than we want anybody to do,” Mattison said. “He’s a very good running back. We already addressed that [“Lack of execution,” per LB Joe Bolden on Saturday] with our linebackers and our defense. We’ve got to play a lot more physical."

“That was the first time that I felt that we weren’t the leaders in being physical against that offense—it was guys not getting off blocks, it was guys punching…the things that we worked very hard on all camp. You know, just not being physical. I just didn’t feel we were as physical as we should be and have to be. We’re working on correcting that right now.”

Mattison’s high-powered defense was supposed to be one of the strengths of this year’s Wolverines. But hiccups continue to impede progress.

The secondary’s had woeful outings, but it somewhat rebounded Saturday versus Minnesota. Quarterback Mitch Leidner threw for a modest 167 yards and a touchdown, not an air show by any means, due in part to coverage from Raymon Taylor and Blake Countess, who each had probable touchdown-saving pass deflections in the first half.

Their efforts could have influenced the Gophers to run the ball more often, which shouldn’t have been an issue for a defense that had allowed just 1.83 yards per carry in the three previous games. Mattison admitted that things didn’t go as planned in that regard.

The D-line has shown glimpses of promise—particularly sophomore Willie Henry, a 6’3”, 293-pound defensive tackle who had a pick-six versus Utah—but overall, the defense has just 10 sacks on the year, good for No. 53 overall, per ESPN’s count.

Where, exactly, is the problem? Why’d the defense look so lethargic in its Big Ten opener?

“Total defense. Not just one position,” Mattison said firmly. “It was total defense…we take pride, and have all year, [we] take pride on ourselves being a very physical team on defense. I just don’t think we did as well as we should have there in that game.”

Despite the catastrophic loss, Mattison stands behind his players. He doesn’t feel as if they were “exposed” by the Gophers, who essentially did as they pleased over the weekend at The Big House.

“My confidence in our guys is as high as it’s ever been,” he said. “I haven’t lost one bit of confidence in this defense,” later adding that “Minnesota’s a good football team. You’ll see as they go forward. But we have to play at our very best each and every week. Not doing that doesn’t [make me] lose my confidence in these guys at all. Because I know they want to [improve] and they’ll work to do it.”

Can Michigan put Rutgers in a Rut?

Paul James, Rutgers’ leading rusher (363 yards, five touchdowns), suffered a season-ending ACL injury two weeks ago against Navy; it’s a major blow, of course, but the Scarlet Knights have Desmon Peoples ready to take over in the backfield.

At just 5’8” and 175 pounds, the sophomore running back is doing a respectable job of filling in for his predecessor, evidenced by his tuning up of Tulane this past weekend. His 21 carries for 83 yards and two catches for 50 yards helped his team cruise to a 31-6 victory.

Mattison said that he spent five hours Sunday night watching film of Rutgers. He realizes that Peoples, an emerging dual-threat, could be trouble this weekend in Piscataway.

“He’s quick,” Mattison said. “He’s a very good football player; he’s not as big, but he’s a very quick, hard-playing football player and very adequate…very good football player.”

 

How to stop Peoples:

Linebackers must contain, and Michigan can’t lose sight of him. He’s Rutgers’ Dennis Norfleet, minus a fraction of the speed. Peoples’ durability is a concern. He’s not very big, as Mattison mentioned, so it’s possible that the Wolverines may want to send an early message: Run, we dare you.

As a defensive coordinator, ruling the trenches is the name of the game. Players can’t get to the quarterback or make tackles for losses if they can’t penetrate the opposing O-line. Mattison said that Rutgers has a “very good offense” with a “seasoned” O-line, plus a “winner” at quarterback “who doesn’t get sacked” and “gets out of trouble.”

That quarterback is Gary Nova, a 6’2”, 220-pound senior who’s thrown for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns thus far.

 

How to stop Nova:

He’s not the most mobile guy, but he has a decent arm, evidenced by his nearly 11-yard average per attempt. Forcing him to throw the ball wouldn’t be a bad idea, but the defensive backs have to be in position. Backs turned to quarterbacks, and to the ball, has been a constant thorn in the secondary’s side.

Nova also has “very explosive wide receivers,” says Mattison, who is absolutely correct. Leonte Carroo, a 6’1”, 205-pound junior, is quickly becoming one of the most talked about wideouts in the country. His 475 yards have him at No. 14 in FBS, and his five touchdowns have him in the top 10.

If there’s one receiver capable of putting the Wolverines’ weaknesses on display, it’s Carroo, who gouged Tulane for 140 yard and three scores.

 

How to stop Carroo:

Carroo has the ideal frame to battle Michigan’s physical secondary. Jourdan Lewis, a sophomore corner, has shown the ability to run down plays from across the field. He may want to pack a pair of track spikes for the trip to Jersey.

Michigan probably won’t completely cap Carroo, but it’ll have to double- and triple-team him in order to avoid looking like Tulane.

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer

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Texas vs. Baylor Complete Game Preview

The difficult road continues for the Texas Longhorns as they prepare to take on No. 7 Baylor Saturday afternoon.

Texas head coach Charlie Strong knew his team would not be favored against Baylor, but he seemed a little shocked to hear how large the spread was in favor of the Bears.

"What's the spread? A couple of touchdowns? Wow. They're something," Strong laughed. "But they deserve every bit of it."

The Longhorns are coming off a game where the defense shut out their opponent, but the team knows a shutout will not happen Saturday.

The pressure will be on the defense to limit the number of points Baylor puts up in order to keep the Longhorns in the game.

 

When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas

TV: ABC

Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300

SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 202; Sirius 117; Internet 969; Spanish 550

Last meeting: Dec. 7, 2013; Floyd Casey Stadium, Waco, Texas

Last meeting outcome: Baylor 30, Texas 10

Opening spread: Baylor (-13), per OddsShark.com

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Steve Sarkisian Using More Trojans to Jump-Start the USC Offense

A bye week between No. 16 USC's loss at Boston College and win over Oregon State gave head coach Steve Sarkisian additional time to tinker with the Trojans offense.

More preparation time meant more Trojans involved in the game plan, which translated to more yards and more points.

Sarkisian said in the week leading up to USC's 35-10 rout of Oregon State that diversifying the offense was crucial after the Trojans' Week 2 and Week 3 struggles.

USC scored just 13 points with quarterback Cody Kessler completing passes to just four targets at Stanford, while Boston College limited the Trojans' rushing attack to 20 yards the following week. 

Sarkisian's plan to incorporate more players paid off. Nine different receivers caught passes from Kessler Saturday, while sophomore running back Justin Davis helped rejuvenate the run game with 82 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. 

"I love the fact we got Justin Davis more involved," Sarkisian said on his conference call Sunday. "I think that helped [redshirt junior running back Javorious "Buck" Allen]."

Indeed, with his backfield partner sharing carries, Allen shook off the frustration of a 31-yard effort at Boston College to gain 115 yards against Oregon State. 

"I've just got to be patient—it's going to come sometime," Davis described as his approach to breaking out despite a slow start to the 2014 season. 

As a freshman in 2013, Davis had games of 74, 96 and 122 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns before an ankle injury cut his season short. He was slow to get going through USC's first three games of this campaign, averaging 2.5 yards per carry against Fresno State and Stanford and just 1.67 yards per carry at Boston College. 

But after Saturday's breakthrough performance—which also included a receiving touchdown of 16 yards—Davis said he feels more comfortable.  

"Hopefully I never look back from here," he said. 

This week, Davis faces an Arizona State team against which he had a career night a year ago, rushing for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He's regaining his stride at the right time. 

Sarkisian hopes Davis won't look back either. The head coach said his aim is for the two-pronged run game to remain a bedrock of the USC offense going forward. 

 

Tight Ends, Harris Factor into Passing Game   

As crucial as a multifaceted run game is to the USC offense, so too is a multidimensional look via the pass. 

"When the ball's getting spread around, we're much more difficult to defend," Sarkisian said. 

Kessler didn't just find nine different targets on Saturday night—he connected with eight the previous game and nine in Week 1. 

Different this time was that eight of the nine caught multiple passes, including a few Trojans whose role in the passing game was previously limited. 

Tight ends Bryce Dixon and Randall Telfer both had a pair of catches. Dixon's first was a diving grab of 31 yards on third down, vital to USC's first offensive scoring drive of the night. 

Sarkisian said calls for Dixon and Telfer were made in previous weeks, but "the coverage told us the ball shouldn't go there.

"We called similar stuff [against Oregon State] and the ball went their way, and they were able to make plays," he added.  

Freshman Ajene Harris also made some plays for the first time on the year, catching three passes for 30 yards. 

Harris was given his first real look at slot receiver, a position junior Nelson Agholor manned previously this season. Sarkisian made the decision to move Agholor to the outside, which opened the door for Harris. 

"Ajene showed up. What a huge third-down catch that was over the middle," Sarkisian said, adding with a laugh: "I wish he would have thrown that double-pass better." 

Harris took the ball on a reverse and heaved a pass to the end zone that just missed. But it was one of the few misfires on the night for a wide receiver who figures to have a growing role as the season develops. 

 

Walker Bolsters Offensive Line 

Both the run and pass games benefited from more Trojans working into the offensive line rotation as well. Senior Aundrey Walker made his presence known for the first time on the season, playing 28 snaps.

"Outlook for him is to continue on a positive path," Sarkisian said. "Aundrey's done that. He's healthy from his [ankle] injury."

Walker was slow to reintegrate in preseason camp. Sarkisian told Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News in August that Walker "[was] not bouncing back the way we hoped." 

His return gives the USC front much-needed depth. Sarkisian mentioned that Walker's 28 snaps meant redshirt sophomore Zach Banner's load was lightened to 50 plays. 

Walker is also a rare veteran on a line leaning heavily on three true freshmen in Toa Lobendahn, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao. He was a starter for much of the 2013 campaign.

 

Starting Early  

The focus for the offense now is parlaying the strong finish of the more balanced USC offense a week ago into a faster start this week against Arizona State. 

Kessler said there was an initial feeling-out period the Trojans had to adjust to in Saturday's win.  

"The first couple of drives we were getting used to what they were going to give us the whole game," he said. "They've been playing teams different." 

However, scoreless spells have plagued USC in each of the last three contests: After a first-quarter touchdown against Stanford, the Trojans didn't reach the end zone again; they went 40 minutes between scores at Boston College; and against Oregon State, USC went the entire first and third quarters without offensive scoring drives. 

Continuing to spread the ball throughout the roster will be key to USC keeping pace with the many explosive offenses the Trojans will see in the upcoming Pac-12 schedule. Five of USC's remaining opponents currently rank No. 36 or better nationally in points per game.

Sarkisian said following Saturday's win that having everyone ready in practice is key to that end.

"As a staff, we're going to look to how we can tweak things, and we're going to look to how we can improve each individual player," he said. "We have to raise our level of play as the season goes on."  

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of CFBstats.com

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Steve Sarkisian Using More Trojans to Jump-Start the USC Offense

A bye week between No. 16 USC's loss at Boston College and win over Oregon State gave head coach Steve Sarkisian additional time to tinker with the Trojans offense...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Watch FSU Commit De'Andre Johnson Break Tim Tebow's Record with 7-TD Performance

The name Tim Tebow still resonates in the state of Florida. His high school records are almost mythic. That's why when monster dual-threat QB De'Andre Johnson broke Tebow's high school career touchdown record with seven scores, people took notice.

Florida State Seminole fans will be in for a treat when Johnson is taking snaps from under center in Tallahassee come 2015. Watch the video above where he breaks down his epic performance. 

Do you think Johnson will make a direct impact at Florida State?

Watch the video and let us know! 

 

Highlights courtesy of Hudl

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Oregon Unveils New Pink Uniforms That Support Breast Cancer Awareness

Nike has provided Oregon with a seemingly endless amount of uniform options over the years. With their latest uniform design, the Ducks are helping raise awareness for a good cause.

Last year, the Ducks wore pink helmets during a game in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October). The team will do something similar this season.

On Tuesday, Oregon and Nike unveiled new pink uniforms that will be worn in the Ducks' game on Thursday against Arizona.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich spoke about the opportunity to raise awareness with special uniforms, per Nike: “Cancer has affected so many lives and we are honored to again partner with Nike and the Kay Yow Cancer Fund to create awareness in the united fight against all cancers."

When a team has the ability to make a difference just by wearing special uniforms, it should take advantage of the opportunity. With the help of Nike, the Ducks are doing what they can to help the cause. 

[Nike]

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Will Nebraska Crush Michigan State's College Football Playoff Hopes?

Michigan State has rebounded wonderfully from a loss at Oregon in Week 2. The Spartans have put themselves in prime position to be in the College Football Playoff discussion, but Nebraska is standing in their way. 

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss the Huskers' chance to knock off the Spartans.

Will the Spartans make the CFB Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

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SEC Football Q&A: Would Kevin Sumlin and Dan Mullen Be Targets for Florida?

Things just got interesting.

During Week 5, the SEC East took center stage. We learned a lot about the lesser division in the SEC when Georgia survived a scare from Tennessee and South Carolina was upset at home by Missouri. All the while, Florida head coach Will Muschamp was sitting back in his office watching Tennessee's furious charge back to make a game with the Bulldogs thinking, "Uh-oh."

In Week 6, it's the SEC West show, with No. 3 Alabama traveling to No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 5 Auburn hosting No. 15 LSU and No. 6 Texas A&M going on the road to No. 12 Mississippi State.

Let's wrap up some of Week 5's biggest questions and look forward to Week 6 in this week's SEC Q&A.

 

I touched on Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen's job status after his team upset LSU two weeks ago and how it relates to a potential opening at Florida. 

In years past, I'd say it's a possibility. Now, not so much.

Mullen is winning his way with his players and is making a comparable salary to Muschamp. Unless Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley starts throwing stacks of cash at Mullen, why would Mullen give up precious job security in Starkville if his team is competitive in the division?

To win now? 

He's already on the brink of that with Mississippi State, and doing so in Starkville will buy him much more longevity than it would in Gainesville. For proof, look back to 2012, when Muschamp's Gators finished with an 11-2 record and were in the discussion for the BCS title during the final week of the regular season.

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin won't happen, either, even if Foley backs up a Brinks truck to his front door. He's in a much better situation in College Station.

He's making $5 million per season and has a $5 million buyout if he leaves before 2016, according to Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News. He's in a talent-rich state that he's been tearing up on the recruiting trail, and that's only going to get more pronounced as younger players further associate Texas A&M with the SEC.

Why leave that gig—with his in-state rival struggling—for Florida, a team whose in-state rival just won the national championship? There's no compelling reason for Sumlin to do that unless there's something going on behind the scenes, and there's nothing to suggest that there is at this point.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris or—gasp—Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin would be much more realistic options.

 

No, of course not.

The future looks bright at running back even if Todd Gurley leaves early—which he will and should—thanks to freshmen running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The offense is still loaded with potential playmakers, and the defense should certainly progress once first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt gets his guys in the program to join the veterans, who will benefit from more time in the system.

Plus, the future looks bright.

The Bulldogs currently boast the nation's second-best recruiting class in the 247Sports composite index, and it could get better, according to 247Sports' Rusty Mansell.

Sure, Tennessee looks like it's going to be a force in the coming years. Other than that, though, where's the power coming from?

South Carolina essentially has the same problems and potential as the Bulldogs minus the stable of running back replacements. Florida is a hot mess that could be going through a coaching change in the coming months. Kentucky is on the rise but certainly has a few steps to make. Missouri has been good but inconsistent this year. Vandy is Vandy.

No, the door for Georgia isn't closed.

In fact, it's just as open as it has ever been, if not open wider.

 

It's hard to say where it'd finish because we can't determine a hypothetical SEC East schedule for the Hogs midseason. 

I would, however, put them at the top of the division if we were doing simple divisional power rankings.

I had Missouri in that spot following last week's action (see above), and it has obvious and multiple flaws. The defense gave up nearly 500 yards to Indiana in a home loss last week, and the offense could only manage 280 yards Saturday in a win over South Carolina. That Gamecocks defense currently ranks last in the SEC in yards per game (440.0) and yards per play (6.27) even with Missouri's futile effort factored in.

Georgia's pass defense is more of a punch line than a power, Tennessee's offensive line looks like it's bullfighting rather than pass-blocking at times, and Florida is a mess on both sides of the ball. 

Arkansas leads the SEC in rushing (316.6 YPG) and is efficient in the passing game (148.76), and its defense has been average. An average defense coupled with a dominant rushing attack and efficiency in the passing game is more than any other team in the East can say.

The East is a hot mess right now, and Arkansas is certainly more dependable and reliable than the teams at the top of the division this year.

 

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

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

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B/R CFB Committee: Playoff Predictions Heading into Week 6

Week 6 of the college football season is sure to be one of the craziest, with multiple games bearing huge importance towards the ultimate goal: the College Football Playoff.

Luckily, our Bleacher Report Committee is ready to make its decision. Our analysts, Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer, unite to make their College Football Playoff if the season ended today. 

Who is in your top four?

Watch the video and let us know! 

 

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Florida State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

After successfully navigating a tougher-than-expected month of September, the No. 1 Florida State football team enters October undefeated for the third time in as many seasons.

Now 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference following back-to-back come-from-behind triumphs over Clemson and North Carolina State, FSU's attention turns to Wake Forest before its first league game at the Carrier Dome against Syracuse. The Seminoles then face perhaps the most difficult two-game slate they will see all season when Notre Dame comes to town for a potential top-10 matchup before hitting the road for a daunting Thursday night affair at Louisville to close out the month.

Can the 'Noles stay out of the loss column and remain in the national-title hunt?

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

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Texas Football Getting Its Swagger Back off the Field

Texas is still Texas. Baylor is still Baylor. What that implies, though, depends on who you ask. 

If you ask Longhorns wide receiver John Harris, it implies that Texas is unwilling to yield to Baylor as the top Big 12 team in Texas—or perhaps the best team in Texas regardless of conference. 

"They're still Baylor," Harris said Monday, via Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. "Just because they started playing better in this era, that's good for them. We're still Texas."

The comments echo the ones issued by Horns linebacker Steve Edmond, who referred to Baylor as "trash" in April before later issuing an apology.*

(*Which was undoubtedly forced.) 

Here's the obvious: Texas isn't better than Baylor right now. The Bears won the Big 12 championship last year and have been generally steamrolling opponents; Texas has underachieved since 2010. 

The Bears travel to Austin this Saturday as 17-point favorites, according to OddsShark.com. The series between the two has been mostly one-sided since 2010, with Baylor winning three of the last four. Two of those wins have come by 20 points or more. The lone loss, in 2012, was by six points on the road in a 56-50 shootout. 

Yet vocal Texas players still think they're better. Frankly, it's kind of refreshing. Humorous, but refreshing. 

It doesn't matter if it's Texas, Baylor or anyone else, players and coaches should think they're the best. Judging by how easily Bears coach Art Briles dismissed Harris' comments, via Shehan Jeyarajah of The Dallas Morning News, it doesn't sound like Baylor's threatened by them: "What am I supposed to say? We’re still Baylor, TCU is still TCU, Oklahoma is still Oklahoma. I don’t know what that means."

When asked whether the comments make a difference, Briles continued:

I honestly don’t know. I was unaware of any comments that were made. It helps with the four to five days prior to the game, but I don’t think it has any bearing on the football. Whether we’re getting under people’s skin, I don’t know. How people view us, that’s their right. We can’t define that. We can just think about ourselves.

That's likely because Baylor thinks it's pretty amazing, too, and it would be correct.  

As Finger tweets, coming across as confident (or, as some might say, arrogant) isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Finger believes that head coach Charlie Strong likes the edge on display in some of those comments: 

Arrogance by itself didn't mark the downfall of Texas football. Complacency, poor assistant coaching hires and several key misses in recruiting did. 

The final years of the Mack Brown era were many things. Among them was the fact that the program was extremely buttoned up. That's not the case now. 

The attitude adjustment Texas is undergoing isn't translating into wins and may not for some time. There's far more to fix in Austin than just confidence. 

Whether the "new" Texas can get the program back to a championship level remains to be seen, but there's already an edge with the 2014 Longhorns that wasn't there over the past couple of years. 

That's fun to watch, even if the results don't always match. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Winners and Losers from September

The first month-and-change of the college football season is complete, lending us a decent-sized sample with which to declare some early winners and losers.

For certain players, coaches, teams and conferences, the end of September is a shame given how kindly this first month has treated them. For others, the calendar cannot turn soon enough.

The criteria of this list is pretty self-explanatory: Winners are entities that improved their public standing; losers are entities that hurt it.

For players, that could mean improving or worsening one's NFL draft stock and Heisman candidacy. For coaches, it could mean improving or worsening their job status and general repute. For teams and the conferences they play in, it's all about the College Football Playoff.

Sound off below, and let me know whom you would add.

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Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Florida State Seminoles: Betting Odds, Analysis

The defending national champion Florida State Seminoles bring a 20-game winning streak into this ACC matchup with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Saturday. However, the Seminoles have been less than impressive since earning their way into last year’s BCS Championship Game with an 0-5 mark against the spread (ATS) in their last five games.

 

Point spread: The Seminoles opened as 38-point favorites at Doak Campbell Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 51.1-16.5 Seminoles

 

Why the Wake Forest Demon Deacons can cover the spread

The Demon Deacons have not done much right over the last couple of seasons, dropping eight of their last 10 games. However, they have covered the spread in three straight games this season, following a 20-10 loss at Louisville last week as 21-point underdogs.

While Wake Forest has been outscored 111-3 in losing the past two meetings with Florida State, it was just three years ago that the team pulled off a 35-30 upset of the Seminoles as 10-point dogs. The Demon Deacons have not lost by more than 12 points since last year’s 59-3 loss to Florida State as 34-point home underdogs.

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

The Seminoles have trailed by at least one touchdown in the first half of each of the last two games, and sooner or later, they will remember that fast starts were the key to their national championship run a year ago.

The return of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston helped them in a 56-41 victory at North Carolina State last week after it hurt them early on. Winston threw two interceptions in the win but also tossed four touchdown passes and totaled 365 yards through the air as Florida State rallied from a 24-7 first-quarter deficit.

In their last three wins against Wake Forest, the Seminoles have allowed only three points.

 

Smart Pick

Florida State does not look like a very motivated team right now, but facing the Demon Deacons might be exactly what the team needs to get back on track and end its ATS skid. The Seminoles are 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings with Wake Forest and 5-2 against the line in their past seven home games against ACC opponents.

This is one of those games in which Florida State should just explode and make all the critics forget about the team’s struggles with and without Winston over the last few weeks. Watch for the Seminoles to do just that and bust out of their slump with their biggest win of the year.

 

Trends

  • Wake Forest is 1-4 ATS in its last five games when playing Florida State.
  • The total has gone over in 12 of Florida State's last 18 games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, and all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Month of October

The Texas A&M football team will play one of the most challenging schedules in the nation in the month of October. The Aggies will face three teams ranked in the Top 12 but should be able to scrape by with a 2-1 record. 

Texas A&M is 5-0 on the season with a 2-0 conference record and the No. 6 ranking in the latest Associated Press poll. They are one of the top teams in the nation but are not without flaws. They still have a couple of weaknesses that can be exploited by their opponents. 

The Aggies are going to play No. 12 Mississippi State, No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 3 Alabama in consecutive weeks. That is a very challenging schedule, especially when you consider that two of those contests are on the road.

This is a look at the expected outcome of the Aggies' October slate of games.   

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