NCAA Football

South Carolina vs. North Carolina: Game Grades, Analysis for Gamecocks

The South Carolina Gamecocks may have struggled in their season opener against border rival the North Carolina Tar Heels, but late heroics on both sides of the ball permitted the SEC representative to walk out of Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium the victor, 17-13. 

What was expected to be an offensive, back-and-forth affair quickly turned into a defensive slugfest, with both squads held to under 450 total yards and a combined 30 points. 


South Carolina Game Grades vs. North Carolina (Week 1)

Positional UnitFirst-Half GradeSecond-Half Grade Pass Offense B- C Run Offense B- A Pass Defense C+ B+ Run Defense B+ C- Special Teams A- B+ Coaching B B+








Pass Offense

Overall for the game, starter Connor Mitch and backup Perry Orth combined for 12-of-26, 140 yards and a single touchdown. Despite the much-anticipated return of wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, the stud junior failed to do more than just pull in the Gamecocks' lone passing TD. In the first half, South Carolina proved to be more deadly through the air, but a poor start by Mitch and a few drops lowered its grade. 

The second half only showed even more passing weakness, as the deep throw was essentially eliminated by UNC coverage and Cooper became less of a factor. By that point, though, the Gamecocks had converted to a more potent rushing attack.


Run Offense

The first half proved tough on the ground, as the UNC front held the Gamecocks to 122 rushing yards with no scores. Cooper's use of the wildcat, however, opened up the pass and led to the team's sole field goal. 

The second half, however, was a different story, as Shon Carson busted a 48-yard game-winner midway through the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks, as a whole, snared 132 yards on the ground in the latter half, but more option by Mitch and power running by Carson and Brandon Wilds wore down a tired UNC defense. 

Shon Carson's 48 yard touchdown run was the go-ahead score for the #Gamecocks tonight! 🐔🏈🏃💨🔥#HereSC #UNCvsSC

A photo posted by Gamecock Football (@gamecockfb) on Sep 3, 2015 at 7:07pm PDT


Pass Defense

A rough first half against UNC quarterback Marquise Williams and wide receiver Bug Howard gave the Gamecocks an early deficit, but three total interceptions throughout the game, including two by linebacker Skai Moore, led to a more positive game grade. 

Further, the fact that South Carolina was able to shut down the Tar Heels through the air in critical situations, such as a 4th-and-8 in the red zone late in the game, only proved the pass defense played an essential role in the Gamecocks' victory.

Tarheels intercepted AGAIN in the redzone by SCAR! #UNCvsSC

— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) September 4, 2015


Run Defense

Oppositely, the South Carolina run defense was much stronger in the first half and proceeded to crack during the second, letting UNC running back Elijah Hood create big plays on the ground on multiple occasions during the third and fourth quarters. Overall, Hood ran for 139 yards on just 12 carries, including an incredible 29-yard ricochet in the Tar Heels' final drive of the game.  


Special Teams

Outside of a long missed field goal to end the first half, the South Carolina special teams unit excelled throughout the game. With three touchbacks on each kickoff, a made field goal and a successful fake punt, the Gamecocks were solid on special teams with little room for improvement. 



As Steve Spurrier said following the half, his staff had been "outcoached" throughout the first two quarters of play. However, an obvious recovery in the second half spearheaded a more focused attack on power running, short passing and a traditional Spurrier approach. 

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Even in Ugly Win, South Carolina Shows Signs of Improvement for 2015

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier offered a little perspective on his team's nosedive last year when he spoke at SEC media days in July.

"Listen, you ever lost four out of five, you had a chance to win, and two of them by two touchdowns? You've never lost the way we were losing. It wears on you a little bit," he said.

The season opener against North Carolina at the Belk College Kickoff Game in Charlotte, North Carolina, provided a little relief for the Head Ball Coach.

The Gamecocks topped the Tar Heels 17-13 on opening night, survived a late—and perhaps mismanaged—drive and closed the door.

Spurrier wasn't exactly pleased with how his team played in the win, according to Josh Kendall of the State:

It wasn't pretty.

First-year starting quarterback Connor Mitch had first-game jitters early, misfired on his first five passes and finished the day 9-for-22 for 122 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury. According to ESPN (h/t's Chris Clark), the team was looking at Mitch's left hip.

In true Spurrier form, the head coach didn't hold back in the postgame press conference, according to Matt Connolly of the State:

The rush defense, which gave up a whopping 212.2 yards per game last year, allowed 208 on Thursday night (6.5 per carry). Elijah Hood accounted for 138 of those yards but was noticeably absent from the Tar Heel lineup when they got in the red zone down four with under five minutes to play.

Unlike last year, the Gamecock defense came up big when it mattered most. Skai Moore picked off Tar Heel quarterback Marquise Williams in the end zone for the second time in the game to seal the win.

It's a cliche, but it's appropriate for this particular South Carolina team: "A win's a win."

It was clear that South Carolina didn't have its A-game, and probably not its B- or C-games either. As Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Sanjay Kirpalani noted on Twitter, the Gamecocks showed heart:

Mitch's inconsistency and subsequent injury prevented the offense from getting into a groove until running back Shon Carson caught fire late, starting with his 48-yard scamper for the game-winning touchdown.

The defense got some pressure at times, including from newcomers Marquavius Lewis and Dante Sawyer, which is certainly an improvement from the remarkable absence of a pass rush last year.

Things didn't go South Carolina's way—so much so that ESPN college football analyst Danny Kanell said at halftime on the broadcast that North Carolina was clearly in control of the game despite a minuscule 13-10 lead.

Last year, Spurrier's crew would have found a way to lose this game. This year's crew found a way to win.

That's great news for the future because South Carolina's season is going to be made or broken in the first half of the season.

The Gamecocks visit Georgia in Week 3, Missouri in Week 5 and host LSU in Week 6. Those are all tough opponents, and the two big division games on the road will be challenging.

But all of those teams are loaded with roster holes, and South Carolina just overcame some of its own roster deficiencies in a big out-of-conference, neutral-site game against a border rival.

Talk about a confidence boost heading into the meat of the schedule.

South Carolina survived, and that's a major change from last year's crew that became known for folding late in games.

That kind of progress is huge for a program that's loaded with questions in a division that's there for the taking.


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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UNC vs. South Carolina: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The South Carolina Gamecocks sought a better start to 2015 than last year's debacle in Thursday's gridiron showdown with North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium. And coach Steve Spurrier's team overcame a rough start to begin its year in ideal fashion.

Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams threw three interceptions, including one with three minutes and 40 seconds left to Skai Moore on 4th-and-goal from the 8-yard line, to cost UNC as South Carolina emerged with a gritty 17-13 victory in Charlotte, North Carolina.

ESPN Stats & Info illustrated how careless Williams was with the ball so close to paydirt:

A combination of Gamecocks quarterback Connor Mitch's inexperience and the improved North Carolina defense under new coordinator Gene Chizik allowed the visitors to overcome their errors for the first 45 minutes of the game.    

Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer praised the job Chizik did in his debut calling the shots—albeit with some hyperbole:

Everything changed on one play 2:11 into the final quarter. Gamecocks running back Shon Carson took off down the sideline for a 48-yard touchdown scamper to give South Carolina a 17-13 lead after the ensuing point-after attempt.

ESPN CollegeFootball provided footage of Carson's explosive run that turned out to be the game-winning jaunt:

The Gamecocks then relied almost exclusively on Carson and Brandon Wilds to ice the win, and the ball-carriers delivered in a big way. Carson registered 75 yards on four carries, while Wilds had 51 rushing yards on 14 attempts.

Spurrier acknowledged prior to Thursday's contest that he was rather uncertain about his team, implying a cautious approach as opposed to last season ahead of an eventual 52-28 loss to Texas A&M in the opener.

"Hopefully, we're not as overconfident as maybe we were last year," said Spurrier, per Sporting News' Jeff Owens. "We're not overconfident, I can say that for sure. Hopefully, we'll be anxious to show the country that we're a pretty good team."

The opening half of Thursday's game didn't inspire much confidence at all in the "Head Ball Coach," per College GameDay:

North Carolina marched down the field on its opening drive before Moore intercepted the talented but inconsistent Williams on 3rd-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

After a three-and-out to start, Spurrier dialed up a fake punt to avoid another brief possession. His sophomore signal-caller, Mitch, then misfired on three straight passes to trigger another punt.

Williams bounced back from the pick with three long completions capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard to give UNC a 7-0 advantage. ESPN CollegeFootball had footage of the highlight:

To Mitch's credit, he rallied his side to even the score at 7-7 on an 11-play, 75-yard drive completed with a nine-yard TD strike on an underneath route to star Gamecocks receiver Pharoh Cooper. Two field-goal drives orchestrated by Williams allowed UNC to enter halftime up 13-10.

South Carolina responded to Spurrier, to say the least, in shutting out the Tar Heels in the last half.

Williams threw another interception in Gamecocks territory to Jordan Diggs in the third quarter; again South Carolina didn't transfer it into any points. ESPN's Danny Kanell lamented how Cooper couldn't clone himself for South Carolina's offense—though he did wear multiple hats as a Wildcat QB and receiver:

On Mitch's best throw, which could've led to at least a game-tying field goal on that next possession following Williams' second pick, he received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and ultimately stalled the drive.

Mitch finished 9-of-22 passing for 122 yards and the score to Cooper. Thankfully the defense and rushing attack picked up enough for the Gamecocks to come out on top.

South Carolina didn't even receive a top-25 vote in this year's initial Associated Press poll, though. The team faces an uphill battle to get into the national-rankings picture even after Thursday's win—especially in the difficult SEC.

The Gamecocks seem to be finding their footing in the post-Jadeveon Clowney era. The defense hasn't been the same since he left after 2013, but it appears South Carolina is turning a corner on that side of the ball to a degree. It will simply have to endure Mitch's growing pains under center and lean on the backfield on offense.

As for North Carolina, this is a tough defeat for the program. Still under fire from the NCAA amid an academic probe, the Tar Heels at least have some decent talent to work with in 2015.

If Williams can cut down on the turnovers and the defense holds form under Chizik, it stands to reason UNC can salvage a solid 2015 campaign.

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Meet the Man Set to Lead Jim Harbaugh's Offense

Given the standard Jim Harbaugh set for the position at his alma mater in the mid-1980s, it's not a surprise that so much of the speculation surrounding his first offseason as Michigan's head coach focused on who would be his first starting quarterback in his debut season in Ann Arbor.

And when the Wolverines offense took the field for its season opener against Utah on Thursday night, we finally received our answer, as it is Jake Rudock inheriting the same position that Harbaugh manned for the Maize and Blue 30 years ago.

But unlike his head coach, don't expect any guarantees from Rudock, who couldn't be more dissimilar from Harbaugh when it comes to both his playing style and personality.

Whereas Harbaugh's brash, in-your-face reputation has followed him throughout his coaching career and dates back to his playing days at Michigan, Rudock could be seen as shy and mild mannered. Asked to describe his strengths as a quarterback upon arriving in Ann Arbor this summer as a graduate transfer from Iowa, Rudock dodged the inquiry.

"I hate that question," Rudock said quietly. "The media loves that question."

Perhaps the reason Rudock isn't fond of discussing his playing style is because any compliments of it could be viewed as backhanded.

Rudock is safe but not spectacular, as evidenced by a 2014 campaign with the Hawkeyes that saw him complete 61.7 percent of his passes for 2,436 yards and 16 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions.

The 6'3", 208-pounder's passer rating of 133.5 as a junior ranked fourth in the Big Ten but wasn't enough to prevent Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz from naming C.J. Beathard the Hawkeyes' quarterback of the future at the end of the season, paving the way for Rudock to wind up in Ann Arbor.

And while Rudock may not possess the same personality traits as his new head coach, it was clear that Harbaugh's presence was one of the primary factors that led to his landing at Michigan.

"He's competitive as hell," Rudock said of Harbaugh. "He likes to have fun. Very energetic. I think that's the biggest thing."

But just because he doesn't show it doesn't mean he doesn't have it in him, too, as Rudock has already been lauded by his new teammates for his leadership, despite the Weston, Florida, native having been on campus for just a few months now. Tight end Jake Butt said it's apparent that Rudock "has been there before" given the two seasons he spent as the starter in Iowa City.

"He's already established himself as a starter," Butt said. "He knows what it takes to win."

A record of 14-11 from 2013 to 2014, however, wasn't enough for Rudock to keep his job at Iowa, as Ferentz moved on to Beathard in hopes of getting more playmaking out of his quarterback position. But Rudock's safer, more efficient style of play should be a welcome addition in Ann Arbor after quarterback Devin Gardner threw 15 interceptions during the Wolverines' 5-7 campaign in 2014.

In fact, Rudock's ability to take care of the ball was likely one of the deciding factors in Harbaugh choosing him as his first starting quarterback at Michigan over junior Shane Morris, a gunslinger type who is more reminiscent of Harbaugh as far as playing style goes but has yet to live up to his 4-star billing coming out of high school.

"I definitely think Jake’s a guy that can come in and cement things offensively and with the team that could take them to play at the next level for a lot of guys," said Ken Mastrole, Rudock's personal quarterbacks coach who has worked with him since high school. "Maybe playing above what they’re used to from a push."

Having won the starting job—at least for now—Rudock will have the opportunity to do just that. He'll likely be more Alex Smith than Colin Kaepernick in Harbaugh's system, but as the former Michigan signal-caller proved during his time coaching the San Francisco 49ers, that can still win you a lot of games.

How many it will help the Wolverines win this season remains to be seen, but Harbaugh has finally named his man as the most anticipated Michigan season in recent memory is officially underway.


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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Michigan vs. Utah: Cat Conti Becomes 1st Female Official in Power 5 Game

The start of the 2015 college football season on Thursday will also be a history-making night, with Cat Conti serving as an official during the Michigan vs. Utah game. 

According to Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel, citing colleague Mike Pereira, Conti will be the first female official to work a game featuring two teams from the Power Five conferences in college football.

Conti's star has been on the rise in the officiating ranks, though as she told Yahoo Sports' Graham Watson last year after she was assigned to a game between Southeast Missouri and Kansas in the Jayhawks' stadium, it didn't change much.

“Everyone saw the assignments, everyone saw I was assigned a Big 12 game,” Conti said. “It was a big deal, but it wasn’t.”

There has been a rise in the role women play in sports, as more opportunities are being made for them in roles traditionally filled by men. 

In April, the NFL made Sarah Thomas the first full-time female official after she spent eight years as an official in Conference USA.

Three months later, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter to be a training camp/preseason intern who worked with the inside linebackers. She is no longer with the team after her internship ended on Wednesday but did break ground as the NFL's first female coach.

In the NBA, Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs) and Nancy Lieberman (Sacramento Kings) have been hired as assistant coaches.  

These are small steps that will eventually lead to big, positive changes for everyone in sports. To echo Conti's statements, hopefully there will be a day when a female officiating games doesn't have to be a big deal because it's happening everywhere.   

Even though there is still a long way to go before women are getting the same opportunities as men in the sports realm, the work being done by Conti, Thomas, et al. is paving the way for future generations.

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College Football Picks: Predictions for Week 1's Top Matchups

Football is back!

Well, college football, at least, with a slew of excellent matchups to open the season. Let's break down the top games on the schedule and offer up some predictions for the opening weekend.


Louisville vs. No. 6 Auburn

Generally speaking, it's not a great situation for a team when there might be a three-way platoon at quarterback. Such is the case for Louisville, as Reggie Bonnafon, Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin could all potentially play against Auburn.

Yes, head coach Bobby Petrino has picked a starter. And yes, he's being cagey by not naming him, so Auburn doesn't know who to game-plan against. But no, he hasn't guaranteed that the starter will play the entire game, though he'd prefer that was the case. 

"That's how you'd like to have it play out," he told reporters, via Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal. "One guy goes out there, starts and has a great game, throws it all over, makes a lot of plays.. We do feel comfortable with the experience and the depth that we have at the position, but obviously we would just like it to play out that way."

Bonnafon is probably the front-runner, as he has been for most of the summer, but Auburn will have to wait until the game starts to know for sure. No matter who gets the start, Louisville's excellent offensive line should keep him protected. 

Auburn's starter at the position will be no surprise, as talented young quarterback Jeremy Johnson will lead the Tigers. He'll have excellent wideout Duke Johnson to throw to, though Auburn might find moving the ball on the ground tough against Louisville's excellent front seven. 

Ultimately, Auburn has too much talent for this Louisville team. But expect this game to be a very competitive contest nonetheless. 

Prediction: Auburn wins, 31-23


No. 15 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M

Arizona State's offense can score in bunches, led by talented, versatile playmaker D.J. Foster. The Sun Devils will find ways to get him into space, a dangerous proposition for the Aggies. 

The Aggies are no slouch on offense themselves, however, with the talented Kyle Allen at quarterback and wideout Ricky Seals-Jones moving the sticks.

Frankly, this one has all the makings of a shootout. Look for the Aggies to win a close, high-scoring affair and make the one or two key stops that the Sun Devils can't come up with.

Prediction: Texas A&M wins, 42-38


Texas vs. No. 11 Notre Dame

Malik Zaire turned a lot of heads when he finally earned the starting gig late last season. Tyrone Swoopes, at times, made Texas fans turn away with his mediocre play. Both quarterbacks will be the key players for their teams this season.

For Texas, though, the key against the more talented Fighting Irish will be running the ball successfully with Johnathan Gray. If they can control the clock and win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball—forcing Zaire to beat them through the air on defense—they'll have a shot to pull off the win.

It's unlikely to happen, however. An inexperienced line will struggle against Notre Dame's solid defense, and Zaire and Notre Dame's solid running attack will make enough plays to get past Texas.

Prediction: Notre Dame wins, 35-21


No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama

This is, without question, the game of the week. Nick Saban's unit is as talented as ever, led by a talented front seven on defense and amazing athletes all over the field. Wisconsin will likely need to run the ball successfully this season, as running back Corey Clement looks to replace Melvin Gordon.

He's up for the task—he already has seven games with 100 rushing yards in his career. Whether a patchwork offensive line is up for the task is another matter entirely. 

Of course, Derrick Henry is no slouch for Alabama. Henry likely will be the focal point of an offense that thrives when it runs the ball successfully, per the Associated Press via Fox Sports:

The key stat for Alabama is 140 yards rushing. The Tide are 69-3 since 2008 when rushing for at least that total, with the losses coming against Auburn in 2013, and Mississippi and Ohio State in 2014.

Being able to depend on a strong running game again will be imperative for Alabama, which is still dealing with an unsettled quarterback situation. Saban has yet to name a starter, choosing between Jake Coker, Cooper Batemen and Alec Morris.

Win the line of scrimmage and you'll win this game. In that battle, Alabama will be favored over most teams.

Prediction: Alabama wins, 17-13


No. 1 Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech

Ohio State, on paper, is the most talented team in the country. Few people are going to argue otherwise. Ezekiel Elliott is a Heisman front-runner, Braxton Miller gives the Buckeyes one of the most unique offensive weapons in the country, Joey Bosa might be the best player in the country, period, and Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett would start for just about every team in the country. 


Ohio State lost exactly one game last year, and that was to Virginia Tech. This time, they go on the road to Blacksburg. Will history repeat itself?

Probably not.

Should the Buckeyes be taking the Hokies very, very seriously?


Prediction: Ohio State wins, 35-24


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Baylor President Releases Statement on Art Briles' Handling of Sam Ukwuachu

Baylor University president Ken Starr released a statement in support of the Bears' head football coach, Art Briles, whom Starr maintains was unaware of Sam Ukwuachu's previous history of violence prior to his arrival in Waco, Texas.

Briles and former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen have engaged in a public back-and-forth about who knew what and when regarding the circumstances of Ukwuachu's transfer from Boise State. On Friday, Starr wrote a firm defense of Briles:    

At no time did any Boise State official ever disclose any record of physical violence toward women. A variety of news sources ultimately corroborated the accuracy of Coach Briles’ account. In addition, in recent days, Coach Briles has made it absolutely clear that he is fully supportive of the independent investigation which will – among other things – ensure the thoroughness of the transfer admission of student-athletes, as well as of policies and procedures designed to safeguard the character and well-being of our entire student body.

"I know and respect Coach Petersen and he would never recommend a student-athlete to Baylor that he didn't believe in," said Briles in his statement about the situation back in August, per USA Today's George Schroeder. "In our discussion, he did not disclose that there had been violence toward women, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression."

A McLennan County judge sentenced Ukwuachu to 180 days in jail and 10 years for probation after the former Bears player was found guilty of sexual assault.

The ongoing investigation of the sexual assault charges had largely gone unnoticed in the public eye until a report from Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon in Texas Monthly. That report also called into question the veracity of Baylor's own investigation into the claims.

According to Tommy Witherspoon of the Waco Tribune, Bethany McCraw, Baylor’s associate dean for student conduct administration, testified that "a preponderance of the evidence" essentially cleared Ukwuachu during the internal investigation.

The school has since enlisted the services of a Philadelphia law firm to examine how the school handles sexual assault allegations on campus, per Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News.

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Michigan vs. Utah: Live Score and Highlights

Utah 3, Michigan 0—Early 1st Quarter

The Michigan Wolverines and Utah Utes are squaring off in a nonconference battle. Fox Sports 1 is broadcasting the matchup.

Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.

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Mike Riley Reveals Names of 5 Suspended Nebraska Players vs. BYU

Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach Mike Riley announced Thursday that five of his players are suspended for Saturday's season opener against BYU.

Samuel McKewon of the World-Herald reported Michael Rose-Ivey, Cethan Carter, Jonathan Rose, Robby Painter and Joe Keels will be held out of action to kick off the 2015 season. McKewon also added context for the first three players mentioned:     

Riley is in his first year at the helm in Lincoln, taking over for Bo Pelini after a 12-year stint at Oregon State. He had previously confirmed that five players were suspended for one game in mid-August, per the Journal Star's Brian Christopherson, but didn't reveal their names until Thursday.

Nebraska beat writer Michael Bruntz of 247Sports hinted at the uncertainty entering the BYU contest with a new coach in Riley taking over.

"I think it will be a pretty close game. Finally going to see what [nine] months of work looks like for [Nebraska]," said Bruntz, per ESPN 99.1 FM.

The Cornhuskers lost three of their last four games last season to finish with a 9-4 mark. The hope is Riley will provide a fresh start to get the program over the hump in a talented Big Ten.

At least Rose-Ivey, a 2013 member of the conference's All-Freshman Team, is the only marquee Nebraska player who will be held out of the impending showdown with the Cougars. But Riley's side could have used Rose-Ivey's help in facing a dynamic, dual-threat quarterback in BYU's Taysom Hill.

Tommy Armstrong Jr.'s skill set provides Nebraska with an athletic signal-caller of its own. It will be interesting to see how Armstrong fares considering he completed just 53.3 percent of passes in 2014 and no longer has the services of running back Ameer Abdullah, now a member of the Detroit Lions.

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TCU vs. Minnesota: Live Score and Highlights

The second-ranked TCU Horned Frogs and Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Trevone Boykin start their run toward a national championship tonight against a Minnesota team they'd better not overlook.

Last year in Fort Worth, Texas, coach Gary Patterson's squad rolled over the Golden Gophers by a score of 30-7 in a game where TCU held Minnesota's vaunted rushing attack to just 99 yards.

Gone are star runner David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams, but that hasn't stopped several from hyping the Gophers as an upstart team that could seize control of the Big Ten West division. It's safe to say these two programs are on the rise.

Minnesota's Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun are both Bednarik Award watch list members, and they anchor a strong secondary. A standout performance from Boykin could make him an early favorite for a slew of postseason awards. 

If the Gophers' offense can generate first downs and keep TCU off the field, this could be a grind-it-out game. If it turns into a high-powered air assault, it'll be difficult for Minnesota coach Jerry Kill's team to stay in it.

Stay tuned here as we at B/R will have all the scores, highlights and live-blogging action when the game starts at 9 p.m. Eastern.

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UNC vs. South Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

South Carolina's Carson busts a 40-yard dagger for a TD, and USC takes its first lead...USC 17 UNC 13  

The live updates will keep on rolling in throughout the evening, so stay tuned for more comments, highlights and analysis. 

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5 Things Cougar Fans Should Watch for During Houston's 2015 Season Opener

It’s that time of year again in Houston, when the Cougar faithful don the red and white and head down to TDECU Stadium to see their football team. Historically speaking, Houston Cougar football is exciting, high-scoring and innovative. While most of that was lacking the last few years under the direction of departing head coach Tony Levine, Houston fans are hoping the newly hired Tom Herman can restore the Coogs back to their winning ways.

Here are five things to watch for during Houston’s 2015 season opener against Tennessee Tech.

Begin Slideshow

4-Star William Poole III Is Racking Up Offers, Wants to Major in Computer Tech

With Sept. 1 being the first day college coaches can reach out to rising juniors in the 2017 class, it was a pretty hectic day for 4-star corner William Poole III.

Included in the barrage of contact from colleges were offers from Big Ten powers Michigan State and Ohio State. Purdue and UCF also offered him this week, bringing his total to 33 offers.

The 6’0”, 170-pound Atlanta native admits the offer from the defending national champions was one he was looking forward to.

“That was a highly anticipated offer,” Poole told Bleacher Report. “They came to see me back in the spring. [Cornerbacks] Coach [Kerry] Coombs came to one our practices to check me out, and he spoke with me afterward and told me that he liked me and thinks that I’d be pretty good on the next level. A couple of months later, when the rules allowed them to, they came back to offer me.”

Poole admits that he’s still not as familiar with the Buckeyes program as he’d like to be, but he expects that to change now that head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have made it known they plan to recruit him hard.

“I know they are a good program,” Poole said. “Speaking with Coach Coombs and the rest of the staff up there, I know I have a good relationship with them. It’s only going to get stronger. With that said, I’m still learning about Ohio State. I’ve never been up there. But now that they’ve offered, I can begin to learn more and get that process moving with them.” 

The offer from the Spartans also caught his attention due to the program’s reputation of producing elite players on defense.

“[Michigan State has] a good tradition with producing defensive backs,” Poole said. “Maybe I could be on that train one day, you never know. I’m not very familiar with their coaching staff. I’ve only talked with their defensive backs coach [Harlon Barnett], but I do want to grow that bond with all of their staff, including the defensive coordinator. Maybe next summer, I can take a visit up there to check them out and see what they have to offer.

With his ever-expanding offer list seemingly growing by the day, Poole insists he’s in no rush to name any leaders. However, there are a few programs that he communicates with frequently.

Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia Tech make up the early group of schools he’s developed strong relationships with at this stage.

He also notes that he hopes to hear more from SEC powers Tennessee and Texas A&M—both of whom have already offered him. Of schools that have yet to offer, Oklahoma and USC are two programs he hopes to see officially jump into the picture.

Still, he admits that he’s already thought of a timeline for how his recruitment will play out.

“I sat down with my parents about that recently,” he said. “After my junior season is over, I want to start trimming my list down to a Top 10. I will take some visits in the spring and summer. Before my senior year begins, I want to cut it down to a Top 5. Those would be the only five schools that I would then focus on. Whenever the time is right after that point, I will commit.”

Poole reports a 3.0 GPA with tentative plans to major in a field related to computer technology.

As for his criteria in eventually picking a school, Poole is looking for a good fit on and off the field and somewhere not too far away from the metro Atlanta area. 

“I just want to go somewhere where I feel most comfortable at,” Poole said. “I want to find a program where I fit in with what they are doing on defense. The relationship with coaches is also important. Right now, I prefer to be closer to home because I’d want my family to be able to come and see me play.”


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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Multiple Rutgers Football Players Arrested for Assault: Latest Details, Reaction

Five Rutgers football players were charged Thursday with a variety of crimes related to the alleged assault of multiple individuals in April. 

According to documents obtained by Keith Sargeant of, five current Rutgers players—Nadir Barnwell, Ruhann Peele, Andre Boggs, Delon Stephenson and Rahzonn Gross—were among 10 people charged in multiple violent crimes that vary from robbery to the breaking of another student's jaw.

Nine of the 10 defendants were arrested Thursday, but Daryl Stephenson—brother of Delon and former Rutgers student—remains at large. Rutgers has officially suspended the students pending the investigation. 

"The students involved are currently suspended from our program," athletics director Julie Hermann said in a statement, per Sargeant. "We continue to monitor the situation. We will have no further comment as this is a pending legal matter."

The arrests come as part of an ongoing investigation into multiple crimes committed this spring. The Rutgers players have been indicted on charges relating to an April brawl, in which they allegedly jumped other individuals unprovoked following an altercation. The man, a 19-year-old student, suffered a broken jaw. 

News of the arrests comes in the same week that it was revealed Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is under investigation for academic impropriety. Sargeant reported Flood contacted a university professor in an attempt to help Barnwell gain eligibility. The head coach allegedly went behind the university's back and emailed a professor from his private account, perhaps in hopes of changing the grade.

"Any correspondence that I had with a professor in regard to a student-athlete would really be of this nature: One, to be in support of whatever decision that faculty member made, and two, to inquire as to whether or not there would be an opportunity to earn a better grade," Flood said.

Barnwell was a projected starter at cornerback, while Peele was expected to be an integral backup. Delon Stephenson was the team's projected starting free safety. 

Even if Flood is found not guilty of attempting to coerce a professor, his program appears to be going up in flames just days before the 2015 season opens against Norfolk State. Flood was already facing pressure after an up-and-down first three seasons as head coach, and these controversies are only going to make his seat hotter. 


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

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College Football Title Contenders with Easiest 2015 Schedules

For college football's top teams as the 2015 season begins Thursday, the goal is clear: Put themselves in position to play for a national championship four months from now.

But as all teams aren't created equal, neither are the obstacles they're scheduled to face on their journey toward a title. Some have a much easier road than others, to the point that not being able to navigate the slate would be the biggest argument against their case to be worthy of a playoff bid.

Using teams that had the best odds to win the national title entering this season (according to OddsShark), we've ranked those championship contenders based on the ease of their 2015 schedules. Factors include the record of their opponents from last year, how many were bowl teams and how many of those bowl foes are being played on the road.

This isn't a list of all the potential title teams, since some have schedules that are considered far too difficult and thus have their hands full this season. Rather, this only ranks teams whose schedules are on the easier side of the spectrum.

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Oregon Football: Realistic Expectations for QB Vernon Adams in 2015

“Now what?”

That was the question Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich and his top lieutenants asked themselves when the reality of the 2015 season finally hit them despite the months and months of talk, foreshadowing and declarations.

Marcus Mariota, arguably the best quarterback in school history, Heisman Trophy winner, team leader and all-around great guy was gone.

Now what?

Enter Vernon Adams, a much-discussed transfer from the Eastern Washington Eagles who was named Oregon’s starting signal-caller last week for the team’s opener against…Eastern Washington. As if that storyline wasn’t juicy enough, a former FCS player taking over for the Heisman winner surely adds to the level of intrigue.

Expectations will be high this season for Oregon, a Pacific Northwest powerhouse with a lofty ranking in the polls and designs on capturing another Pac-12 title. With Adams under center, he’ll be frequently compared to his predecessor, but once the games begin, the year becomes about him and not the ghost of number eight.

“The honest truth is Marcus bailed us out of three or four games last year with his play,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost told USA Today's George Schroeder. “I don’t think with the guys around him the quarterback has to be Superman to make it go, but you never know how the season is gonna go.”

If we peer into our crystal ball, though, what can we expect to see out of Adams?

While he may think of himself as Superman given the swagger he displays on the field at times, asking him to reach and repeat Mariota’s numbers is hard to fathom. Adams is bound to throw more interceptions—Mariota had just 14 in his career and only four last year—and it will be equally tough to match the 10 yards per attempt the veteran had either.

Adams is good, but he is not that good.

A run at a repeat trip to the College Football Playoff can’t be ruled out, however, with the Ducks’ new starter given the talent that has been assembled in green and yellow. A one-loss regular-season campaign can’t be the expectation, as some backsliding needs to be expected after a magical 2014. A tougher schedule, especially in Pac-12 play, will contribute to that as much as anything the team’s signal-caller does.

Still, no matter how prolific any dual-threat quarterback is, his primary job description remains the same: distribute the ball to the team’s playmakers. This is where Adams may have a leg up on Mariota due to the experience around him at the skill positions.

Sophomore Royce Freeman is a fringe Heisman Trophy contender himself. Bralon Addison, the team’s most explosive receiver two years ago, returns to action fully healthy after a devastating knee injury and finds himself as a backup due to the amount of depth the team has at wideout. Charles Nelson proved to be a speedy option in space as a true freshman receiver, and Byron Marshall brings a wealth of experience out of the slot as well.

Throw in tight ends Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt, a fair amount of experience returning along the offensive line, and there’s a reason why many still believe a championship season is possible in Eugene even if there is some regression when it comes to the play behind center.

Much has been made of Adams’ transition from FCS star to FBS starter, and it’s certainly something to keep an eye on. But don’t discount the fact that he’s got an impressive resume that leads one to believe that it won’t be as big of a jump as going from college to the NFL that some are making things out to be.

At Eastern Washington, all Adams did was put up a 110-to-31 touchdown/interception ratio. Read that line again while parsing out the relevant stat: 110 touchdowns in three seasons. It wasn’t just against overmatched FCS teams either. He beat a then-top 25 team in 2013 by topping Oregon State with 518 yards of total offense. Last year, against a defense that featured three early NFL draft picks, Adams rolled up 475 yards and seven touchdowns in a narrow loss to the Washington Huskies.

The bottom line is that Adams has what fellow quarterback Jeff Lockie did not in the race to replace Mariota: experience being the guy. In the coaches’ eyes, that outweighed any advantage Lockie had when it came to knowing the Ducks’ offense—something that became clear when Adams won the job in just two weeks of fall camp.

It will be difficult for anybody to replicate what Mariota was able to do in Eugene. That’s not Adams’ aim nor should that level of play be the expectation. Given the success in Oregon’s offense that others like Darron Thomas and Dennis Dixon have had, however, it’s not unreasonable to think similar numbers will be there for Adams at the end of the year just as double-digit wins will be.

Whether that translates into FBS accolades or an early, season-defining win in Week 2 over Michigan State won’t be answered until the red contact jersey is ripped off and the snaps start counting for real.

After months of speculation, a minute-by-minute update on a math test and a tight quarterback battle, it’s time for fans, the media and NFL scouts to ponder that same question that Ducks coaches did several months ago.

Now what, Vernon?

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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Oregon Football: Realistic Expectations for QB Vernon Adams in 2015

“Now what?” That was the question Oregon Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich and his top lieutenants asked themselves when the reality of the 2015 season finally hit them despite the months and months of talk, foreshadowing and declarations...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Alabama's Toughest Schedule Ever Will Make or Break the Tide in 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of things that appeals to many prospects who end up playing football for the University of Alabama is the chance to play in numerous high-profile games like Saturday’s season opener against Wisconsin.

It’s one of the few Week 1 matchups of ranked teams, No. 3 vs. No. 20, according to the preseason Associated Press Poll. It will be played in arguably football’s finest venue, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and in the brightest of spotlights thanks to the ABC/ESPN media conglomerate.

One has to wonder, though, if Alabama had known how the rest of its 2015 schedule would look like, if it might have passed on this game.

Probably not. Nick Saban has always preferred to face a high-profile opponent outside of the eight-game league schedule—the next three being Southern California, Florida State and Louisville—and there are too many rewards to be gained.

“We've liked the neutral-site games, the quality of opponents that we're able to play, the focus that the players have on playing a big game the first game,” Saban said. “I think the exposure that the program gets on a national level playing in these kind of games are all important factors.”

So is the sizable payout of $4 million along with nice recruiting bump. While the Cotton Bowl is always interested in hosting Alabama, the last visit was the 2012 opener when it dismembered Michigan 41-14. This time it returns with numerous players from the Lone Star State including quarterback Alec Morris, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson and defensive backs Tony Brown, Kendall Sheffield, Deionte Thompson and Maurice Smith.

But this is just the start of what most consider the toughest schedule in college football this season, and it could potentially be the most difficult ever.

Thanks to facing the two most hyped teams in the SEC East, Georgia and Tennessee, Alabama is slated to play seven teams ranked in the preseason poll, along with the two top vote-getters outside of the Top 25, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. It’s likely only a matter of time before both move up.

There isn’t a coach in the SEC West who can say that they’ve seen something like this before, because no one has—ever.

Last season was close with Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all in the top five of the Associated Press Poll at some point, with only Arkansas never cracking the Top 25. The Razorbacks just missed, knocking off two ranked teams in November before trampling Texas 31-7.

“It’ll be challenging, but that’s why you come,” said LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the former Ole Miss head coach who is back in the league after serving as USC’s interim head coach in 2013.

“I really believe this, the front-seven play in the SEC is just more dominant—not that they don’t have great players out there, there’s more of them here. When I was back out West, I thought the offenses were more wide open with the spread and score more points, but now in the SEC everyone spreads. It’s kind of equaled out.”

When Alabama won the 2009 and 2012 national titles, it played six different ranked opponents along the way. In 2011 it was five.

Should the Crimson Tide hit each opponent right and reach this year’s SEC Championship Game, that’s 10 ranked opponents plus possibly two more in the playoffs.

That’s never occurred in college football. No team has come close.

The record for the most ranked teams a national champion faced is eight, by LSU in 2007 when it went 12-2 and beat Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. Some consider it the toughest schedule ever played.

(Incidentally, the Notre Dame record is seven, in 1989 and 1990 when Lou Holtz was the coach. The record for a national champion facing teams ranked in the top five of the AP poll is four by Penn State in 1982.)

Alabama faced eight ranked teams in 1970 and 2010, when it went 6-5-1 and 10-3, respectively, and that 2010 squad faced six straight SEC opponents that were coming off a bye.

But seeing such a loaded schedule is becoming more commonplace, especially with how tough the SEC West has become. Arkansas played eight ranked teams last season, and Auburn has faced seven in each of the last two years.

Just one or two years ago, Alabama was being criticized for its “soft” schedule, although a lot of that had to do with the SEC schedule rotation and the decline of other programs like Tennessee.

This fall it’s the biggest hurdle the Crimson Tide has to clear and could decide if the season will lead to a championship or be more like three-loss 2010.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” junior defensive end Jonathan Allen said about the challenge. “We love playing a demanding schedule, and we love getting up for games week in, week out.”


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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Cardale Jones Released from Hospital After Migraine

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones appears to be doing much better after a severe migraine headache forced him to the hospital Wednesday. 

According to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod, citing an Ohio State spokesperson, Jones was released from Wexner Medical Center and is "doing fine."

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, speaking to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, provided details on Jones' ailment:

Per Rabinowitz, Meyer also said Jones will be fine but will be limited in practice Thursday.

With Jones and J.T. Barrett returning, Meyer has not named a starting quarterback for Monday's season opener against Virginia Tech, but he told reporters, via Bill Landis of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, he has "an idea" of who will be under center to start the game.  

Jones became a breakout star for the Buckeyes during their run to a national title. He took over as the starting quarterback after Barrett was injured in the regular-season finale against Michigan, throwing for 860 yards and seven touchdowns in three games. 

Fortunately, Jones' health scare seems to have been a contained incident that will allow him to remain in the mix for the quarterback job when Ohio State begins its quest to defend the national championship. 

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Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 1

The college football season starts this week, launching long-awaited championship chases across the country. It also opens the door for star high school prospects to take a closer look at campuses and game day atmospheres, especially for senior athletes slated to take expenses-paid official visits with family members this fall.

Each week at Bleacher Report, we'll examine anticipated recruiting visits that may ultimately shape the outcome on national signing day. Here's a look at key travel plans for the 2015 campaign's opening weekend.

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