NCAA Football

Alabama's Amari Cooper Emerging as 2015 NFL Draft's Top Wide Receiver Prospect

After a disappointing sophomore season cast some doubt, Alabama’s Amari Cooper is proving early in his junior season that he is one of college football’s best wide receivers and a top prospect among players eligible for the 2015 NFL draft.

It’s been clear since Cooper’s true freshman year in 2012, when he had 59 receptions for precisely 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, that the wideout was a special talent.

In his second season for the Crimson Tide, Cooper failed to take the next step to stardom. As he battled drops and a nagging foot injury, Cooper never topped five catches and 75 yards in the first 10 games of his sophomore year, and he finished the season with just 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns.

He’s already made up for last year’s letdown with a remarkable start to this season.

Cooper has nearly matched his 12-game production from last season in just four contests this year; his 43 catches and 655 receiving yards both lead the Football Bowl Subdivision, while he has already topped his touchdown total from last year with five scores.

Dating back to the last two games of his sophomore campaign, when he finally started to get his groove back in Alabama’s losing efforts to Auburn and Oklahoma, Cooper will go into the second month of the college football season on a run of six straight performances in which he has accumulated at least 121 receiving yards.

Those numbers are neither fluke nor simply the product of a well-oiled offensive system. Cooper’s on-field play clearly demonstrates that he is making his greatness happen with his own tools.

Those tools should enable Cooper, a junior who will be draft-eligible after this season, to continue to be highly productive in the NFL.

 

Tools for Greatness on Display

It’s not a surprise that Cooper has played exceptionally this year. He faced high expectations coming into the season as he was already ranked as the top prospect at his position by many draft analysts, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay (both subscription required).

That said, it remained important for Cooper to prove he could perform at a consistently high level.

So far this season, he’s doing exactly that.

Cooper possesses many qualities that should attract scouts to him as a potential high first-round draft pick.

Not the least of those qualities is Cooper’s big-play ability. He’s already had plenty of flashy, exciting moments in his career, but perhaps his most memorable (although Auburn cornerback Chris Davis ultimately ensured that it wasn’t the biggest play of the day) was his 99-yard catch-and-run touchdown in last year’s Iron Bowl.

A natural runner who glides to the football, Cooper can take a well-thrown deep ball to paydirt. He excels at adjusting his stride to track the ball downfield, has the speed to run away from a defensive back like he left Auburn’s Jonathon Mincy in the dust on that play and he possesses the balance to run through contact.

Another dangerous trait of Cooper’s is his lateral quickness. He doesn’t have to rely on his ability to beat a defender downfield to make a big play; as the following example from last season’s Orange Bowl versus Oklahoma demonstrates, even a screen pass can turn into a huge gain once the ball is in Cooper’s hands.

Cooper regularly extends plays by making defenders miss with his sharp cuts. His quickness also extends to route-running, which might be the most spectacular aspect of his game.

There will be receivers in the 2015 draft with faster 40-yard dash times and longer arms, but there’s unlikely to be anyone who gets open as fluently as Cooper does.

The key to running great routes is to waste as little motion as possible. Cooper makes crisp breaks that force defensive backs to react immediately or get burned.

The following 11-yard catch against West Virginia from this year’s Alabama season opener was a textbook display of route-running 101 by Cooper. After beating a jam off the line of scrimmage with a fluid double move, Cooper made a clean turn toward the middle of the field to separate from WVU cornerback Daryl Worley.

While Cooper had some issues with catch consistency in 2013, he’s had no such problems this season. Typically, the Crimson Tide star has been able to pluck the ball out of the air and secure it in his hands, even on plays like the following example from last year’s Auburn game, in which he had to make an adjustment back to an underthrown ball.

Cooper has the downfield receiving capabilities on the outside that a No. 1 NFL receiver is expected to have, but it’s really at the intermediate level of the field where he does his best work. With 27 plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or more already this season—the most of any player in the FBS, according to CFBStats.com—Cooper is making it clear that he can make the chains move.

Red-zone skills won’t be a selling point for Cooper, but he’s also proven that he’s a competitive receiver who doesn’t back down from physical opposition.

One of the best one-on-one wins of his career came in last week’s Alabama win over Florida—a game in which Cooper accumulated career-high totals of 201 receiving yards and three touchdowns—when the wideout made a four-yard catch in the end zone over one of the most talented cornerbacks in the nation, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III.

 

How High Could Cooper Be Selected?

In the most recent NFL draft this May, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins was so highly regarded that the Buffalo Bills traded their first- and fourth-round picks for the 2015 draft to move up just five spots, to No. 4 overall from No. 9, to select him.

Their decision to make that move, in a draft that ended up having five wideouts go in Round 1 and 15 off the board in the top 100, made it clear that Watkins was viewed as an elite talent.

Even with regard to how highly Watkins was valued, NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah believes that Cooper might be an even better prospect.

“I think he's a better football player just all-around, just polished in everything, as a route runner, I think he's a little bit ahead of Sammy,” Jeremiah recently said on the College Football 24/7 podcast, according to NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread.

Jeremiah isn’t the only one with glowing praise for Cooper. A talent evaluator for an AFC team, who also compared Cooper to Watkins, told Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm earlier this week that he views Cooper as a top-10 level talent.

Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver and current ESPN NFL analyst Cris Carter also recently praised Cooper on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, according to Charles Power of BamaOnLine:

I don't know what he's going to do in the pros, but since Ozzie Newsome, Alabama has the best wide receiver that they have had in the history of their school and his name is Amari Cooper. He is a true junior from Miami and he is fabulous. His ability to run routes- I met Amari when he was in high school at a football clinic and he's probably the most advanced wide receiver that I have seen at a young age since Randy Moss.

Not everyone, however, believes that Cooper is a rare talent. Ryan McCrystal, the founder of DraftAce.com and a Bleacher Report contributor, sees Cooper as a complementary player rather than a star of an NFL offense.

McCrystal presents a valid point. Listed at 6’1” and 210 pounds by Alabama’s official athletics website, Cooper will not have a universal size advantage over cornerbacks at the next level. And while he runs well with the ball in his hands, there are likely to be other receivers in the first-round mix who run faster 40-yard dash times.

Compare Cooper to Watkins, however, and there’s reason to believe Cooper might also end up a top-five draft pick.

Cooper’s official measurables aren’t likely to be far off from those of Watkins, who measured in at 6’1” and 211 pounds and ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, according to NFL.com.

Watkins was neither the biggest nor the fastest receiver drafted in Round 1, but he was the most complete. How Cooper’s speed compares to Watkins is to be determined, but he displays similar open-field playmaking skills and route-running ability.

If there is one real weakness in Cooper’s game, it’s his blocking. Cooper’s game tape regularly shows him whiffing chances to pick up defenders, such as the example below, while he lacks the strength to generate significant movement even when he does get his hands on a potential tackler.

While blocking is a capacity that Cooper’s NFL team will expect him to improve in, it’s probably not a shortcoming that will make a team pass on him.

Cooper could decide to delay the NFL until 2016 and return for his senior season at Alabama, but that would come as a surprise.

So long as Cooper continues to catch the ball consistently and avoids the pitfalls of his 2013 season, he’s a good bet to be a top-10 overall selection.

 

All GIFs were made at gfycat.com using videos from DraftBreakdown.com. All statistics courtesy of Alabama’s official athletics website unless otherwise noted.

Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

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ESPN College Gameday 2014: Week 5 Schedule, Location, Predictions and More

The ESPN College GameDay crew is heading to Steve Spurrier's neck of the woods this week, with the show set to broadcast from Columbia, South Carolina, on Saturday ahead of No. 13 South Carolina's conference clash with Missouri.

GameDay revealed the news on Sunday:

The Gamecocks announced on Twitter that country singer Kenny Chesney will perform a short concert on campus and serve as GameDay's guest picker:

This game admittedly lost some luster when the Tigers fell to the Indiana Hoosiers last Saturday. What was an intriguing game between two Top 25 SEC teams became slightly less interesting. The Hoosiers exposed some of Missouri's biggest flaws and grounded the team's expectations.

Spurrier threw a subtle dig at the Tigers when talking about GameDay's impending arrival in The Palmetto State, per David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

According to Odds Shark, the Gamecocks open as 5.5-point favorites. With the game in Williams-Brice Stadium, many will expect South Carolina to pick up its fourth win of 2014.

 

When: Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014

Time: 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET (Game is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET)

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina

Watch: ESPN

Live Stream:Watch ESPN

 

South Carolina Player to Watch: Gerald Dixon, DE

Nobody expected South Carolina to seamlessly replace Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive line, but the Gamecocks' inability to get after the quarterback through four games is a bit of a concerning sign. They've recorded four sacks on the year, which on average ranks 105th in the country.

"We're just sort of a little limited, I guess, as far as one of those natural rush guys that we used to have around here," Spurrier said about his front seven, per Josh Kendall of The State in Columbia. "We really don't have quite the guys we used to have around here with Jadeveon, even Chaz Sutton. Kelcy Quarles got a bunch of sacks last year."

One of the players Spurrier will hope can help stem the tide on Saturday is defensive end Gerald Dixon, who's not to be confused with his half-brother, defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. Dixon is one of four Gamecocks players to record a sack in 2014. He's also recorded two tackles for loss, which ranks first on the team.

If Dixon can help put early pressure on Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk, then it will be a long day for the Tigers.

ESPN.com's Sam Khan Jr. wrote that the offensive line is a major question mark for Missouri:

The Tigers struggled mightily in its loss to Indiana. They committed three false start penalties, allowed two sacks and Indiana collected 11 tackles for loss, the most the Hoosiers have had in nearly two years. There were bad snaps and even worse, the Tigers lost senior left guard Anthony Gatti to a torn ACL during the game. Missouri hasn’t run the ball as well as it did a year ago (the Tigers are averaging 4.76 yards per carry, ninth in the SEC, compared to 5.66 yards per carry last season) and quarterback Maty Mauk was under pressure often against the Hoosiers. If the Tigers are going to bounce back from Saturday’s loss and start SEC play on the right foot at South Carolina, the offensive line play has to be better.

The Tigers might be exactly what the Gamecocks need to spark their pass rush. Playing at home against a suspect line makes for a great confluence of factors for USC.

 

Missouri Player to Watch: Maty Mauk, QB

This is admittedly an obvious choice, but the Tigers will go as far as Mauk takes them in this game. In last year's home loss to the Gamecocks, he completed 10 of 25 passes for 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy helped keep Mizzou in the game by rushing for a combined 132 yards and two touchdowns. Josey won't be there this time around, making this a little more difficult for the visitors and heaping more pressure on Mauk.

Efficiency has been the name of Mauk's game so far. His completion percentage is up a little over 10 points from last year (51.1 percent in 2013 to 61.6 percent in 2014), and he's thrown 14 touchdowns to four interceptions.

Mauk said that losing to South Carolina was more down to mistakes from Missouri rather than USC going above and beyond, per Morrison:

This is a great time for him and the rest of the Tigers to set the record straight.

 

Prediction

The further away we get from South Carolina's one-sided 52-28 defeat to Texas A&M, the more that result looks like a bit of an outlier. The Gamecocks were thoroughly outclassed by the Aggies, but Spurrier and his coaching staff looked to be at a major disadvantage by having no idea of the extent of Kenny Hill's abilities.

It's hard to get a proper read on Missouri because the Tigers have yet to beat a power-five opponent this year. Losing at home to an Indiana team fresh off giving up 571 yards to Bowling Green isn't a good look, either.

Expect the South Carolina offense to overwhelm the Tigers early. This game won't turn into a blowout, but it could be one of those final scores that ends up looking deceptive. The Gamecocks should be in control for much of the game.

Final Score: South Carolina 37, Missouri 28

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Game Grades for Bruins, Sun Devils

Led by an Arizona native in Brett Hundley, UCLA stormed into the desert Thursday night and smashed Arizona State by a score of 62-27.

UCLA's signal-caller didn't let his hyperextended left elbow deter him at all. He threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns on the night. Hundley also scrambled for 70 yards and a touchdown in the process. He looked confident, comfortable and clinical. 

Arizona State was absolutely crippled by the big play. The Bruins had five plays of at least 80 yards. Shoddy kick coverage and poor tackling were the culprits behind much of UCLA's success. 

Mike Bercovici did have a solid game, in which he went 42-of-68 for 488 yards and three touchdowns. However, his inexperience did rear its ugly head at times.

An ill-advised throw on the final drive of the first half led to an Ishmael Adams' interception return for a touchdown. This was arguably the biggest play in the game, firmly shooting momentum over to the Bruins. 

A full box score can be found here, courtesy of NCAA.com.

Check out first-half grades and final grades for both the Bruins and the Sun Devils. Additional analysis for different positional units will also be addressed. 

 

UCLA Bruins Game Grades Analysis

Passing Offense

Hundley was terrific. His vision on throws down the field was immensely impressive. Although he had five incompletions, two of those were egregious drops. He was constantly in control the entire evening. 

Despite wearing a bulky elbow brace, Hundley had his best game this season and perhaps ever as the UCLA quarterback.

 

Pass Defense

This wasn't a tremendous effort across the board. ASU's quarterback did throw for almost 500 yards. However, the Sun Devils were forced to throw on almost every play in the second half (due to the scoreline). As a result, these numbers are a bit skewed.

Adams' interception return for a touchdown was the biggest play of the game. It gave UCLA the momentum, which ultimately propelled the team to the victory. Anthony Jefferson's coverage of Jaelen Strong was particularly solid. His interception will go down as one of the more impressive plays Thursday night (in a night full of impressive plays). 

 

Rushing Offense

Although the team got off to a slow start early, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone stuck with the ground game. Hundley's ability to evade the rush and scramble for first downs was demoralizing for the ASU defense. 

Perkins really picked up his effort in the second half. His ability to gash ASU's defense up the middle enabled UCLA to chew up time on the clock. His juke of ASU safety Jordan Simone in the fourth quarter was absolutely ridiculous.

The offensive line also deserves a good bit of credit. Not only did the unit keep Hundley protected but the running backs (and quarterback) rolled up 225 yards on the ground. 

 

Run Defense

It was apparent UCLA's defensive scheme was set on stopping D.J. Foster. The defensive line did a great job of stuffing plays between the tackles. As a result, ASU was forced to get Foster out on the perimeter, simply as a way to get him more production. 

UCLA held one of the nation's best to 30 yards on nine carries. ASU in total rushed for a paltry 3.7 yards per carry average. Credit especially goes to Eddie Vanderdoes and Eric Kendricks. Both were all over the place. Kendricks in particular was tremendous in shooting through gaps to make plays.

 

Special Teams

What more can Adams do? The electric returner displayed why he's one of the nation's best in this specific category. His ability to stop and start on a dime makes him truly special. 

Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was perfect on all of his field-goal attempts. Punters Matt Mengel and Adam Searl were also solid in pinning ASU deep in its own territory.

 

Coaching

Mazzone called a great game offensively. The play-calling was dynamic, especially in terms of throwing the ball down the field. Jeff Ulbrich didn't have a great start to the game schematically. ASU was picking up yards in big chunks. However, he made adjustments and held ASU to only 10 points after the first quarter. 

In short, UCLA outscored ASU 56-10 after the first quarter. This sort of domination could truly galvanize the Bruins going forward. UCLA is now 20-0 under Mora when leading at halftime. 

 

Arizona State Sun Devils Game Grades Analysis

Passing Offense

A bright spot was the statistical output by the reserve signal-caller. Bercovici threw for 488 yards and three touchdowns. A few of his throws were beautiful, and much of his effectiveness came when he was afforded time to sit in the pocket and deliver the ball down the field. 

The poor throw at the end of the first half was a back-breaker. However, his play as a whole has to be encouraging. "Berco" is a solid option for ASU until (or if) Taylor Kelly can come back. In this game, Bercovici set school records for completions (42) and attempts (68). 

 

Pass Defense

In a word, abysmal. Blown coverages led to big plays by Thomas Duarte over the heart of the field. Three missed tackles turned a five-yard Eldridge Massington catch into an 80-yard touchdown. Jordan Payton started the second half with an 80-yard touchdown reception. 

It was a bad night for the secondary. Nothing else needs to be said. 

 

Rushing Offense

The rushing attack never was able to fully get its footing. UCLA did do a good job of winning the line of scrimmage with its defensive line. Foster, Kalen Ballage, Demario Richard and Deantre Lewis weren't having the luxury of running through gaping holes or lanes. 

By the time ASU got down by three touchdowns, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell was forced to effectively abandon the ground game. In totality, ASU rushed for only 134 yards on 36 carries. 

 

Run Defense

ASU's biggest problem was its inability to tackle well in space. On multiple occasions, Perkins was able to juke defenders for extra yardage. Hundley's scrambling also posed big time issues.

On the night, the young defense relinquished 225 yards rushing. UCLA ran to the tune of 6.4 yards per carry. 

 

Special Teams

Aside from its own kicking game, ASU had immense trouble all night. Adams' ability to slice the kick coverage was a constant problem. The 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown effectively ended the game early in the third quarter. 

 

Coaching

The last drive in the first half sticks out the most. Throughout the first half, Todd Graham's propensity to call timeouts at strange moments left ASU with none during this final stretch. Down three points with less than a minute left, a bizarre quarterback draw was called. 

The ill-advised decision to throw the ball on the next play led to an interception return for a touchdown. It was truly poor clock management and game management for that matter.

Defensively, ASU had no answer for UCLA's ability to throw the ball down the field. In terms of adjustments made at halftime, there were apparently none. 

I do consider Graham to be a very good coach. However, Thursday night wasn't his best showing. 

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Game Grades for Bruins, Sun Devils

Led by an Arizona native in Brett Hundley, UCLA stormed into the desert Thursday night and smashed Arizona State by a score of 62-27. UCLA's signal-caller didn't let his hyperextended left elbow deter him at all...

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With Brett Hundley Back in the Fold, UCLA Is Still a Threat for Pac-12 Title

Sun Devil Stadium may have gone quiet after the third of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's four touchdown passes Thursday night in the No. 11-ranked Bruins' 62-27 defeat of No. 15 Arizona State.

However, a message reverberated loud and clear through the silence that followed Hundley's 80-yard connection with Jordan Payton to open the second half: UCLA is still very much a threat to win the Pac-12 championship.

Officially, it was Hundley's second 80-yard score of the night, though considerable yards-after-catch made both possible. The first was Eldridge Massington's pinball play to cut into Arizona State's 17-6 lead early in the second quarter.

Massington's run gave Hundley his first touchdown since returning from an elbow injury that sidelined the quarterback most of UCLA's Week 3 win over Texas. Once that first one was under his belt, Hundley got rolling en route to his best game of 2014 and arguably the top performance of his college career.

"It's nothing that I did. It's what the team did," Hundley said in his postgame interview with Fox Sports 1. "[Offensive] line did a great job and I give them all the credit."

UCLA surrendered 11 sacks through its first three games, but the previously maligned Bruins' front gave Hundley plenty of time operate Thursday.

Hundley also praised the wide receiving corps for "balling out." Payton and Thomas Duarte led the group with a combined nine receptions for 246 yards.

But UCLA's quarterback deserves plenty of praise, as well.

Hundley went 18-of-23 passing for 355 yards. He scored a fifth touchdown on the ground and rushed for 72 yards with reckless abandon—perhaps a bit too reckless at times. 

The quarterback may have had all of Westwood, California, holding its collective breath when he hurdled a defender on a first-quarter carry eerily reminiscent of the play on which he injured his elbow.

That wasn't all Hundley jumped on the night. The redshirt junior may have jumped right back onto the Heisman Trophy radar with his stellar performance.  

Likewise, a UCLA team whose bandwagon lightened considerably after three close calls against Virginia, Memphis and Texas should reemerge in the championship conversation.

The winner of the UCLA-Arizona State game has represented the South in every Pac-12 Championship Game since the event's inception in 2011. Those previous three meetings were decided by a combined eight points.

Unlike its last three meetings with Arizona State—or its first three contests of the 2014 season—UCLA didn't need to sweat out a single-digit decision.

The deluge started on the Massington touchdown reception, kicking off a 56-10 run spanning the final three quarters.

While Hundley guided the offense with precision, Ishmael Adams scored UCLA's fourth defensive touchdown of the season.

His 95-yard return of a Mike Bercovici interception just before halftime completely swung the game's momentum, as B/R College Football Playoff guru Samuel Chi noted.

Adams also ran back a kickoff of 100 yards—the first UCLA kick returned for a score since 2007. That touchdown, an 89-yarder by Matthew Slater? It came against Arizona State, per Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News.  

While everything went right for UCLA, just about everything went wrong for Arizona State. The Sun Devils were playing without their own preseason Heisman contender, quarterback Taylor Kelly, and the Bruins took advantage of the inexperienced Bercovici.

The Bruins intercepted Bercovici twice, the first of which came on Anthony Jefferson's takeaway from Sun Devils wide receiver Jaelen Strong.

UCLA capitalized on some big plays and the Sun Devils' quarterback situation. But also credit UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who crafted a masterful game plan for Arizona State running back D.J. Foster.

Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham called Foster the "best player [he] ever coached" on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches conference call, and the running back earned his coach's praise with a remarkable 9.4-yard per carry average coming into Thursday's contest, per CFBstats.com.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks led an aggressive pursuit by the UCLA front seven. Foster managed just 30 yards on nine carries.

With the UCLA defense slowing Arizona State's high-octane attack, and the Hundley-led Bruins offense firing on all cylinders, the Bruins put together a truly complete game.

And now that it has that elusive, all-around performance under its belt, UCLA has a championship contender's look to it.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled courtesy of ESPN.com.

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With Brett Hundley Back in the Fold, UCLA Is Still a Threat for Pac-12 Title

Sun Devil Stadium may have gone quiet after the third of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's four touchdown passes Thursday night in the No. 11-ranked Bruins' 62-27 defeat of No. 15 Arizona State...

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UCLA vs. ASU: Score and Twitter Reaction

Many college football fans wondered when the real UCLA would finally show up. Thursday night, the No. 11 Bruins put together their best game of the 2014 season so far, recovering from a sluggish first quarter to beat the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils 62-27 in Tempe.

Coming into the game, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's health was an ongoing storyline. He was absent at the end of the Bruins' 20-17 win over Texas two weeks ago, with backup QB Jerry Neuheisel throwing the game-winning touchdown.

As a more mobile passer, Hundley opens himself up to further injury when he tucks the ball and runs. Bruins head coach Jim Mora admitted that if the junior was to play Thursday, any sort of restrictions on his touches were out of the question.

"It wouldn't be fair to him, it wouldn't be fair to our team, to ask him to go out there and be somebody that he's not," said Mora, per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times. "I don't think we can limit him that way. If he does play, he's got to be able to do everything."

Hundley showed few ill effects from his elbow injury, throwing for 355 yards and four touchdowns on 18-of-23 passing. He also carried the ball eight times for 72 yards.

Question marks also hovered around Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici, who replaced the injured Taylor Kelly and made his first collegiate start on Thursday.

Bercovici performed admirably in Kelly's absence, completing 42 of 68 passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns. Turnovers were a big facet of the game, however, and the junior was culpable on three of them—two interceptions and one fumble.

Things started off well enough for Bercovici and the Sun Devils, as they carried a 10-6 lead into the second quarter. Kicker Zane Gonzalez began the proceedings with a field goal, and then Bercovici found tight end Kody Kohl for a five-yard touchdown pass (via Pac-12 Networks):

A little over 30 seconds into the second quarter, Bercovici picked up his second TD of the night, with wideout Cameron Smith on the receiving end of a 29-yard pass.

With 14:24 left in the first half, ASU had already jumped out to a quick 17-6 lead. Things were looking pretty good for the home side.

Hundley and the Bruins offense quickly stormed back. The Heisman Trophy candidate picked up two quick touchdowns, first hitting wide receiver Eldridge Massington for the first of his two 80-yard TD passes and then hooking up with Nate Iese near the goal line.

All of a sudden, UCLA was up 20-17 with 2:13 to go until halftime, and the worst was yet to come for Arizona State.

The game swung irrevocably toward the Bruins as halftime was mere seconds away. Bercovici led the Sun Devils all the way down to the Bruins' 15-yard line, and ASU looked poised to at the very least tie the game.

However, he made the worst mistake possible, throwing an interception to Bruins defensive back Ishmael Adams, who went 95 yards to the house for the touchdown, increasing UCLA's lead to 10 points, 27-17, with two seconds left in the first half.

Perhaps more impressive than the interception was how quickly Adams motored down the field:

Many Sun Devils fans were likely upset with Bercovici for the turnover, but NFL.com's Bucky Brooks laid much of the blame at Smith's feet:

You can't overstate the impact of that pick-six, which resulted in a 10-point and maybe even 14-point swing. UCLA also received the ball to start the second half, making matters even worse for the Sun Devils.

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Hundley connected with wide receiver Jordan Payton for an 80-yard touchdown, doubling up on Arizona State and giving the Bruins a 34-17 lead.

Athlon Sports tracked how quickly fortunes changed for both Arizona State and UCLA. Within the span of a few minutes of game time, the Bruins went from being down four points to up 17:

Former Sun Devils linebacker Vontaze Burfict was on hand for the game, which led USA Today's Paul Myerberg to joke that ASU might be debuting a new linebacker to help stem the tide:

Gonzalez hit a field goal on Arizona State's next possession, making it 34-20, but on the ensuing kickoff, Adams went 100 yards for the touchdown, immediately undoing all of the progress made by the Sun Devils' scoring drive:

As Doug Haller of AZCentral.com pointed out, Adams has become a major nuisance for ASU over the last two years:

On the very next play from scrimmage after Adams' touchdown return, Bercovici was hit in the pocket and fumbled. The ball was recovered by UCLA defensive lineman Kenny Clark at the ASU 23-yard line.

The Bruins quickly scored, increasing their lead to 28 points, 48-20, with 8:27 to play in the third, which all but signaled the end of any Arizona State comeback attempt.

One of the biggest reasons for UCLA's win was how well the Bruins shut down ASU running back D.J. Foster. The junior entered Thursday averaging 170 yards a game. UCLA held him to 30 yards on nine carries.

The more Foster struggled, the more pressure was placed on Bercovici as a result, and eventually, Bercovici wilted under that pressure.

This win came at a great time for UCLA. The Bruins play the 3-0 Utah Utes next Saturday, and the week after that, they get the No. 2 Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl.

Arizona State is only through the first stage of a three-game series against current Top 25 opponents. The Sun Devils travel to Los Angeles to meet No. 18 USC next Saturday. Two weeks later, they play No. 16 Stanford at home.

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Ranking 10 Best Players from Tennessee-Georgia Rivalry

As Tennessee prepares for its journey to take on the No. 12 Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia on Saturday, there are several players in this year's contest on both teams who will undoubtedly go on to have storied careers both in college and the NFL.

The Tennessee-Georgia rivalry isn't college football's most heated, and each team falls somewhere between fourth and fifth in each other's list of "most hated rivals."

Nevertheless, there's no shortage of bad blood between these two programs, as the Volunteers have regularly pulled elite players from the Peach State and each win gives the other team a sizable recruiting advantage for the next 364 days.

Tennessee has lost four in a row to the Bulldogs, although the Vols came tantalizingly close to a victory last year in Neyland Stadium.

Part of the reason behind the series' recent lopsidedness is the overall lack of talent on Tennessee rosters. Georgia has remained relatively well-stocked in terms of loading up on blue-chip players, but Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has a lot of ground to make up in order for the rivalry to become truly competitive again on a year-to-year basis.

Georgia's star running back Todd Gurley and Tennessee's senior All-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson will likely meet head-to-head several times during Saturday's matchup, and both could easily earn spots on an updated version of this list in a few years' time. 

But until they do, here's a list of the 10-best players of the Tennessee-Georgia rivalry in recent years. 

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Oregon Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2014

Quarterback Marcus Mariota undoubtedly leads the second-ranked Oregon Ducks; however, there are five players whose contributions have surprised us and have carried the team to an unblemished 4-0 record.

The Ducks reached their first bye week unbeaten by defeating South Dakota, Michigan State, Wyoming and Washington State. Two of those victories—Michigan State and Washington State—were hotly contested battles that the Ducks would not have won without the contributions of some of their younger and previously unproven athletes.

Here are the five players who have surprised us so far in 2014.

Begin Slideshow

Oregon Football: 5 Players Who Have Surprised Us in 2014

Quarterback Marcus Mariota undoubtedly leads the second-ranked Oregon Ducks; however, there are five players whose contributions have surprised us and have carried the team to an unblemished 4-0 record...

Begin Slideshow

Arizona State Lineman Blocks No One, Is Oblivious to Fact His QB Is Being Sacked

Arizona State's Christian Westerman needs to learn to keep his head on a swivel, or at least broaden his field of vision.

On a play when his quarterback was getting strip-sacked, Westerman was looking for the closest person to block, with no one to be found.

To be fair to Westerman, it looks like everyone on the offensive line did a poor job on the play.

[edsbs]

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Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State: Game Grades, Analysis for Red Raiders and Cowboys

In a game that featured a ton of passing, a ton of penalties and not a ton of defensive prowess, the Oklahoma State Cowboys bounced back from a relatively slow start to blow past the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 45-35, en route to a 1-0 start in the Big 12 conference.

The Red Raiders piled up nearly 160 yards of penalties, taking big plays and touchdowns away when they were most needed, and Oklahoma State took advantage, eventually securing the victory. Oklahoma State has now won its last 25 home contests against unranked opponents.

Here is the box score via NCAA.com.

 

Texas Tech Passing Offense

At first glance, you'll see Texas Tech with nearly 400 passing yards and five completions for touchdowns and think "A-plus." But scratch just below the surface, and you'll notice that as a team, Texas Tech completed 37 passes on 60 attempts, and those five touchdowns are tempered by three interceptions.

While Davis Webb played well before leaving the game with a separated non-throwing shoulder, Texas Tech was hounded all night by dropped passes. Add in a comparatively low completion percentage and we'd be hard-pressed to give the Red Raiders' passing offense anything better than a B-minus for Thursday night's fitful effort.

 

Texas Tech Rushing Offense

The Red Raiders put up only 118 yards on the ground against Oklahoma State, with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 85 yards.

As a team, Texas Tech averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and failed to reach the end zone. The fact that we're handing out a C-plus for a pretty poor showing should remind Texas Tech fans that Oklahoma State won't be the toughest run defense the Red Raiders will face in 2014.

 

Texas Tech Pass Defense

It's hard to like what the Texas Tech pass defense did against Oklahoma State, but then again, not many teams fare well against the Cowboys passing attack.

Still, the Red Raiders gave up 370 yards and four touchdowns on just 31 attempts. The only reason we're not flunking the entire secondary is the fact that J.J. Gaines and Jah'Shawn Johnson each came up with an interception on the night.

Since we're handing out some pretty generous grades to TTU, we'll keep that going with the pass defense by awarding some extra credit for the two picks. A grade of C is still all we can manage.

 

Texas Tech Run Defense

Here, Texas Tech actually exceeded expectations. After giving up literally a quarter mile (0.248, to be exact) of rushing yards against Arkansas in their last game, the Red Raiders held Oklahoma State to just 158 yards on the ground.

In the first half, OSU was held to 72 yards on 18 carries before giving up a couple of scores on the ground. We dropped the first-half A-minus to a final grade of a straight B, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury and new sole defensive coordinator Mike Smith should be pleased with the improvement. 

 

Texas Tech Special Teams

If you want to know where most of Texas Tech's painful penalties came from, just watch a tape of the special teams plays from Thursday night.

Time after time, the Red Raiders saw impressive returns wiped out due to holding, a block in the back or some other silly penalty. One even managed to wipe a 99-yard kickoff return by Jakeem Grant off the scoreboard.

These plays are also where so much of that "phantom penalty yardage" comes into play. A holding call on the 99-yard kick return only counts as 10 yards' worth of penalties, although its true impact is about 85 yards and six points.

Add in a few miscues on punts, and the special teams is lucky to get any credit at all. A D-plus is the result, and we'll need this letter to be signed by a parent.

 

Texas Tech Coaching

Kliff Kingsbury didn't have any great trouble in the first half coaching Mike Gundy down to the wire. After halftime, there weren't too many great adjustments made, but we didn't see a need for many, either.

In the end, Kingsbury and his staff just didn't have the horses to keep up with the Cowboys. Because of the plethora of penalties, however, we can't give the staff anything better than a grade of B for the evening.

Penalties reflect poorly on the coaches—something the Texas Tech staff will surely make clear to the players come their next practice.  

 

Oklahoma State Passing Offense

Like Texas Tech, you look at the raw numbers and think "A-plus."  But also like Texas Tech, there's more to look at than gaudy passing totals.

Still, Daxx Garman nearly out-passed Davis Webb (shy by just four yards) and did so on 23 fewer pass attempts. We will mark down for the two picks thrown by Garman, but we'll award him and his receivers a higher grade than we did his counterparts from Texas Tech. He gets a B-plus.

 

Oklahoma State Rushing Offense

Both halves were fairly equal in output, both resulting in around 75 yards and a touchdown.

Desmond Roland carried the ball 23 times for 86 yards to lead the way for the Cowboys. Oklahoma State didn't rely too much on the run game mainly because it didn't need to, so it's hard to mark down for that. It's similarly hard to give a sterling grade for a relatively easy evening, so we'll settle on a B-plus.

 

Oklahoma State Pass Defense

The pass defense for Oklahoma State did its job, holding the Red Raiders out of the end zone when needed and coming up with some big stops in the second half.

The Red Raiders quarterbacks were thrice intercepted on the evening, and that's certainly worthy of some recognition—and extra credit. Kevin Peterson, Seth Jacobs and Ramon Richards each got in on the action, and the Cowboys did something the Texas Tech interceptors didn't do: add a little return yardage (although it was just seven combined yards).

We think a B sounds like a nice, solid final grade. 

 

Oklahoma State Run Defense

The Cowboys put up nothing short of a B-plus performance on run defense against Texas Tech. Oklahoma State held Texas Tech to less than four yards per carry and zero ground points on the evening. 

 

Oklahoma State Special Teams

This is actually a difficult category in which to grade the Cowboys. On one hand, statistically the Cowboys did a fine job of holding Texas Tech in check. On the other hand, if you watched the game, you'll note that the Red Raiders did an excellent job of shooting themselves in the foot.

Can we really reward the Cowboys for Texas Tech's error-prone performance?

The Cowboys, for their part, had a pretty mediocre showing on special teams, averaging 21 yards on kickoff returns but just 0.7 yard on three punt returns.

We will, however, note that Ben Grogan connected on his only field-goal attempt of the night (42 yards) and was a perfect 6-of-6 on extra points.

Still, we can't get all of those electric returns by the Red Raiders out of our minds. A B-minus is about as good as we can do here.

 

Oklahoma State Coaching

Despite not seeing enough in the first half to give Mike Gundy and his staff much of a grade, when the final whistle blew, we didn't have any major complaints. Play-calling was about as expected, leaning heavily on the pass. And since it was working most of the evening, why change things?

The Cowboys did make some nice adjustments on defense in the second half...or was it that the Red Raiders just couldn't keep up with a deeper, more talented Cowboys squad?

Either way, we're happy with a B from Gundy and Co., and Oklahoma State fans should be, too. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

Follow Bleacher Report's National College Football Featured Columnist David Luther on Twitter!

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UCLA's Ishmael Adams Returns a Kickoff 100 Yards for a TD vs. Arizona State

No. 11 UCLA is putting a whooping on No. 15 Arizona State, and Ishmael Adams put the icing on the cake with this 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to put the Bruins up 41-20.

The return is Ishmael's second return touchdown of the game.

[SnappyTV]

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Texas Tech Coaches Facepalm in Unison During Game vs. Oklahoma State

Texas Tech coaches and staff had a shared moment of struggle as the team played Oklahoma State that resulted in a synched facepalm on the sidelines. 

The Red Raiders struggled all night with penalties and interceptions vs. Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys won 45-35.

[CJ Zero]

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Ohio State Football: Previewing Surprisingly Important Recruiting Weekend

The No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes are busy preparing for Saturday's prime-time matchup against Cincinnati, but off the field, Urban Meyer is getting ready for a surprisingly important weekend on the recruiting front.

As a result of on-the-fly visit announcements from two of Ohio State's top targets, this weekend has turned into a pivotal event for the Buckeyes' 2015 class.

Meyer called the Virginia Tech game "probably the biggest of the year" for Ohio State recruiting, according to Mike Barber of The Richmond Times-DispatchThe Buckeyes hosted numerous 2015 and 2016 prospects, including No. 1 overall recruit and 5-star defensive end Josh Sweat, 5-star running back Damien Harris and 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell.

But this weekend could have just as big of an impact on the Buckeyes '15 class.

 

Rolling out the Red Carpet for Torrance Gibson

Ohio State was set to host Torrance Gibson for the Virginia Tech game, but due to a scheduling conflict with his high school football team, he was unable to make the trip.

Forced to reschedule, Gibson entertained the idea of visiting for the Michigan game, per Ari Wasserman of the The Plain Dealer. But earlier this week, the star quarterback announced his intentions to visit Columbus this weekend.

The 4-star quarterback out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was very high on Ohio State early, but the Buckeyes dropped down his list throughout the past summer. That changed in a big way when he visited during Ohio State's Friday Night Lights football camp in July—a trip that vaulted Ohio State to the top of his list.

According to the Crystal Ball Predictions from 247Sports, the Buckeyes have a heavy lead over Tennessee for Gibson's commitment.

Meyer and the Buckeyes can further their lead for Gibson this weekend.

 

Flipping Jerome Baker?

Jerome Baker is one of the top prospects in Ohio (ranking No. 2 behind Ohio State commit Justin Hilliard), and naturally, he was one of Meyer's most heavily recruited players in this year's class.

The Buckeyes were heavy favorites to land Baker's commitment this summer, but the momentum of his recruitment shifted greatly the week leading up to his announcement, when the talented linebacker verbally pledged to the Florida Gators.

That never stopped Meyer from recruiting the Cleveland product, according to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer.

"I don't think they are going to just let me go at all," Baker said of the Buckeyes. "They are still coming after me."  

Meyer will have a great chance to impress Baker when he makes the trip south this weekend. The visit has Bucknuts editor Dave Biddle and 247Sports' Steve Helwagen openly wondering whether Baker will flip to the Buckeyes if Will Muschamp's struggles continue with the Gators.

If Florida can't bounce back from its loss to Alabama and string together a nice season, Baker could be wind up with the Buckeyes.

 

Stealing from the SEC

Baker's not the only recruit who could be pulled from the SEC's grasp this weekend.

The Buckeyes are also set to host 5-star Kendall Sheffield—one of the nation's most highly recruited prospects—this weekend.

Sheffield is the No. 3-rated cornerback and the No. 16 recruit nationally, boasting offers from programs such as Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC. Texas A&M has an overwhelming lead for the home-state product, though, with Alabama trailing, according to 247Sports.

Ohio State is facing a long, uphill battle in his recruitment, but getting him to Columbus for a visit has given Meyer and the Buckeyes a chance.

 

All recruiting information and stats via 247Sports.

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma State: Score and Twitter Reaction

The legend of Daxx Garman is alive and well.

Oklahoma State's gunslinging junior quarterback broke out in his third collegiate start, overcoming an offensive explosion from Texas Tech and inconsistent passing to lead his 24th-ranked Cowboys to a 45-35 win Thursday night over the Red Raiders in both teams' Big 12 openers.

Garman stole the show, going 17-of-31 with 370 yards and five total touchdowns. His two interceptions helped Texas Tech stick around, but he more than made up for his lapses with a number of huge completions down the field.

Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb had an impressive day of his own with 374 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw two untimely momentum-swinging interceptions and did not return after suffering a late injury. 

Texas Tech-Oklahoma State hasn't been a game circled by defensive traditionalists over the last decade, and it stuck to that narrative again Thursday night. Both teams surpassed 500 yards, and there was a grand total of 11 touchdowns. 

But it was almost always the Cowboys in front. Texas Tech was able to mount an early 14-7 lead, but that was quickly followed by a 21-0 Oklahoma State run, and late efforts to pull back into the game proved unsuccessful.

Take a look at the final box score:

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy conceded after the game that there's still plenty to work on for both his team and quarterback, per The Oklahoman's Kyle Fredrickson and Fox 23's Martina Del Bonta:

Kliff Kingsbury, understandably, took a bit more exception to his team's performance, per KAMC-TV's Brian Holland:

The fireworks started early on Thursday night, with Webb leading the Red Raiders on a touchdown drive to start the game. Things slowed down until late in the first quarter, when Garman connected with James Washington on a 33-yard touchdown to tie things at 7-7.

Webb kept firing against the Cowboys' secondary heading into the second and rattled off an eight-play drive capped off by an 18-yard strike to Bradley Marquez that gave Texas Tech a 14-7 lead.

Early struggles from the Cowboys defense helped lead the way to Texas Tech's surprise lead; KFOR's Bob Barry Jr. noted what needed to change for Oklahoma State to get back in it:

But the advantage went as easily as it came. The Red Raiders turned the ball over on downs threatening to add to their lead, and after Desmond Roland drew the teams level on a one-yard touchdown run, Kevin Peterson picked off Webb to set up Oklahoma State in Texas Tech territory.

One play later, Garman hit Washington for a 39-yard score to make it 21-14, and the sudden offensive explosion prompted reactions like this one from Andrew Gilman of Fox Sports Southwest:

The Cowboys took that lead into halftime—a lead they were lucky to have after giving up a heap of passing yards to Texas Tech in the opening half. 

Early in the third, Oklahoma State extended its lead even further. And again, it was a splash play in the passing game as Garman hit Blake Jarwin for a 47-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up 28-14.

The Red Raiders would never really go away, though. Despite the Cowboys making every effort to pull away, their defense just couldn't contain Kingsbury's air-raid attack. 

The Oklahoma State lead was 14, then seven, then 10, then 17. But even after Garman scampered for an eight-yard score that made it 45-28 with 7:39 left and Texas Tech's Webb left with an injury, backup Patrick Mahomes stepped right in to cut it to 45-35 with 5:52 remaining.

No matter what kind of fight Texas Tech put up, it didn't much matter when Oklahoma State would return fire so easily, as Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated noted:

The Red Raiders defense eventually gathered itself together enough to force some late stops and gave Mahomes the ball down 10 with four minutes left. But the Cowboys dialed up some pressure on the inexperienced quarterback and seemingly wrapped up the game by forcing a turnover on downs.

The struggles were there for Garman at times, constantly pushing the ball down the field in an effort that resulted in two picks. But when he connected, it was for long gains, as Big 12 noted:

As RJ Young of SoonerScoop.com put best, Garman had an all-or-nothing performance:

The loss marks the second straight defeat for Kingsbury's Red Raiders, as they're coming off a 49-28 drubbing at the hands of Arkansas. Despite that, there were obvious improvements from last week, and they should be feeling confident of their chances against other top Big 12 opponents.

The Red Raiders need that confidence immediately, as they travel to face No. 25 Kansas State next weekend before playing West Virginia. 

As for Oklahoma State, it's the third straight morale-boosting win for Gundy's squad coming off a 37-31 loss to No. 1 Florida State in Week 1. After getting their conference slate off to a promising start, the Cowboys will turn around to face Iowa State at home Oct. 4.

 

Follow Steven Cook on Twitter to chat about college football.

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Arizona State's Poor Tackling Leads to 80-Yard TD vs. UCLA

The Arizona State Sun Devils football team will not have fun watching this play in the film room next week.

During the second quarter of Thursday night's game against the UCLA Bruins, Eldridge Massington was able to run 80 yards for a touchdown because of some awful tackling from the Sun Devils.

Here's another angle of the play.

[SnappyTV, Vine]

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Davis Webb Injury: Updates on Texas Tech Star's Shoulder and Return

The Texas Tech Red Raiders will be without their starting quarterback as they attempt to claw back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday night.

Davis Webb landed awkwardly on his shoulder in the fourth, per Yahoo Sports' Dr. Saturday:

Red Raiders sideline reporter Chris Level (h/t RedRaiderSports.com's Aaron Dickens) reported that the sophomore quarterback suffered a dislocated left shoulder:

ESPN's Sam Ponder (h/t Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel) reported Webb's night was done at that point:

Losing Webb is a hammer blow to Texas Tech's offense. Before exiting, he had thrown for 374 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben believes that Tech made the right decision to take him out for the game, though, considering the unpredictable nature of the injury:

The road doesn't get any easier for the Red Raiders after Thursday. Next week, they travel to Kansas State to take on the No. 25 Wildcats. The week after that, they welcome in a dangerous West Virginia Mountaineers team.

In order for Texas Tech to be a serious threat in the Big 12, Webb will need to make a speedy recovery.

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Nebraska Football: How the Cornhuskers Can Avoid Looking Ahead to Michigan State

Nebraska football fans will still be savoring the Cornhuskers’ win over Miami last week, but by this stage will already be worrying about facing Illinois on Saturday. Not about the Illini themselves, of course, but about how Nebraska could be overlooking Illinois in preparation for a monster game against Michigan State the following week.

Of course, if Nebraska stubs its toe against Illinois on Saturday, that game in East Lansing won’t be nearly as monster as it would be otherwise. So how will Nebraska stay focused and get the job done on homecoming against Illinois?

 

Remember Wes Lunt and Josh Ferguson

Yes, Illinois is 3-1, but that’s with needing comeback wins over football powerhouses like Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. So it would be easy to dismiss Illinois as a cakewalk for Nebraska after a big win against a talented (if under-coached) Miami squad.

But Illinois has talent. Quarterback Wes Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has a big arm—maybe the best raw talent at quarterback Nebraska will face all season. While Illinois has much poorer talent at both receiver and offensive line than Miami, Lunt will make throws and ask questions of Nebraska’s secondary.

And Josh Ferguson has the potential to be a big-time back in the Big Ten. The junior is averaging 6.38 yards per carry with three touchdowns in four games (courtesy of cfbstats.com). He’s no Duke Johnson from Miami, but Ferguson has plenty in the tank to give the blackshirts problems. And when combined with Lunt’s arm, Illinois’ offense can carry a one-two punch that could threaten Nebraska if given an opportunity.

Bo Pelini and the coaching staff will surely point this out to the blackshirts this week in practice, which should get their attention.

 

Remember McNeese State

In fairness, other than Miami, McNeese State might be the most talented team Nebraska has faced in 2014. And yes, that is as much an indictment of Florida Atlantic and Fresno State as it is a compliment to the Cowboys.

But at the end of the day, McNeese State and Nebraska were tied with 20 seconds to go in the game, and it was only a miraculous (perhaps Heisman-esque?) play by Ameer Abdullah to spare NU’s blushes at home.

After the contest, Nebraska knew it dodged a bullet. Abdullah said that the team “didn’t respect the game” in preparation for the Cowboys (as quoted by Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star). And in the next two games, against Fresno State and Miami, Nebraska has looked sharper and more focused, perhaps taking Abdullah’s advice to heart.

“I was reluctant to say something,” Abdullah said about his concerns regarding the team’s preparation for McNeese State, “but I promise that is the last time it will happen.”

After his performance against Miami, Abdullah and the coaching staff should have the team’s full attention, making a letdown against Illinois less likely.

 

Remember Red Rising

In addition to a bizarre 8 p.m. kickoff time, Nebraska will be breaking out the alternate “Red Rising” uniforms against Illinois. While the alternate uniforms haven’t always been a success (see UCLA last season), as a fan of the superhero costumes I can only hope that Nebraska will find success with the cool threads and avoid further superstitions.

After all, it took seven years for Nebraska to break out the “Stormtrooper” all-white look against Fresno State this year. The convincing win should, hopefully, wash away the taste of the “surrender white” look Nebraska had in Bill Callahan’s last game, a loss to Colorado in Boulder.

One can only hope that the extra juice of coming onto the field in alternate uniforms will help sharpen Nebraska’s play on Saturday night.

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Oklahoma State Football Fan Is Very Confused During Game vs. Texas Tech

This face is the definition of complete confusion.

During Thursday night's game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Tech Red Raiders, this Cowboys fan was left speechless just before the end of the first half.

[Vine, h/t Twitter]

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