The 2014 college football season has officially turned the corner. We’ve passed the halfway point of the season, with midseason All-America teams appearing and bowl projections popping up with more urgency. Next week, the fun really starts when the College Football Playoff selection committee releases its first Top 25 rankings, which will further shape conversation for the inaugural four-team bracket.
Per Daniel Uthman of USA Today Sports, everyone is chasing Florida State and Mississippi State.
As we work our way to the homestretch, it seemed like an appropriate time to take a crack at projecting every team’s final regular-season record. We took into consideration the season to date and the difficulty of teams’ remaining opponents, as well as momentum.
Some may wonder why Michigan State fans would bother messing with Michigan this year, but there's nothing like kicking a rival while it's down.
The Spartans (6-1) will host the Wolverines (3-4) on Saturday, and rivalry week is off to a great start for the team in green. On Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, someone—presumably a Spartans fan—painted the block "M" on the University of Michigan's campus green and added "SU" to the right of it in white.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out which fanbase is (probably) responsible for this prank.
By late Wednesday morning, the block "M" had been cleaned up.
[Twitter, h/t Uproxx]
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Before he was suspended for allegedly being paid to sign autographs, Todd Gurley was one of the Heisman Trophy favorites. Through five games, he racked up 773 yards and eight touchdowns on 94 carries, averaging 8.2 yards per rushing attempt.
Can Gurley still lift the trophy if the NCAA reinstates him? Watch the video and let us know!
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AUBURN, Ala. — Gus Malzahn used to wear a boring hat.
Around 2000, however, the Auburn head coach said he decided to make the switch to a visor—a style popularized by South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
As Malzahn rose through the high school coaching ranks in his home state of Arkansas, he admired the success and innovation of the visor-wearing "Head Ball Coach" roaming the sidelines at Florida.
"I’ve always looked up to Coach Spurrier," Malzahn said Tuesday. "I’ve had nothing but respect for the way that he operates. He’s got a great offensive mind."
On Saturday, the two great offensive minds will face off as opposing head coaches for the first time.
According to Odds Shark, the younger Malzahn and the defending SEC champions will have the upper hand as 17.5-point favorites over the struggling Gamecocks, but Malzahn said he expects a tough challenge from Spurrier's team.
"He’s a great competitor," Malzahn said. "He’s one of the better coaches to ever come through the SEC. You know he’ll have his team ready. They were ranked in the Top 10 to start the season for a reason. They won 11 games two or three years straight and they have good players. We expect to get their best. That’s how we’re coaching."
The two SEC head coaches have a mutual admiration on the field and a friendship off it.
Malzahn said when the two get together during the SEC's spring meetings, he is looking for much more than just sideline fashion advice.
"It’s really more of a respect deal, and you get to know somebody off of the field," Malzahn said. "He’s a great person and a guy that, from time to time, I’ll bounce things off of him. We visit at the spring meetings...I don’t get into X's and O's. It’s more of the wisdom part. He’s been there and done it and had unbelievable experiences—especially in our league."
Spurrier, who Malzahn admitted was the winner of their offseason golf games, said in his weekly press conference that he admired the Auburn head coach as one of the new wave of SEC coaches calling their own plays in a league historically dominated by defense.
"I think most all of us coaches, offensive coaches, that call plays, we sort of all like each other because we have so much in common," Spurrier said. "Hugh Freeze, Dan Mullen, it seems like we've got more head coaches calling plays now than hardly any time I remember."
The two offensive-minded coaches might get along off the field, but there is no denying there are several major differences between them.
While Spurrier makes headlines and sets Twitter ablaze regularly with his free-wheeling style of answering press conference questions, Malzahn plays it closer to the vest—more specifically, the sweater vest.
The two coaches also had different upbringings in coaching. Spurrier is a former Heisman Trophy winner who was already an SEC legend at Florida, but Malzahn played small-school football and flew under the radar at the high school level.
However, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who was Spurrier's assistant head coach at South Carolina from 2008 to 2011, sees one major similarity between the two.
"The one thing they have in common is both of them...invented their offense," Johnson said Sunday. "That offense wasn’t borrowed from this guy and that guy, and this job I had four years ago and another guy that taught me how to do this. Both of them took an offense that they saw as a vision, and they both have such command for it because they know exactly what they want to do when you do something on defense."
Johnson said both coaches have such a handle on their personal offensive styles that the common practice of halftime adjustments doesn't necessarily work—these unpredictable offenses can change on the fly.
"You better get it adjusted the next play, because if you did something or took something away, it wasn’t going to take him another series or halftime adjustment to get you," Johnson said. "He knows his offense. He knows when to pull the trigger, and if you take something away, he knows how you did it and he knows what he’s doing to do to hurt that."
Malzahn said he enjoyed watching how Spurrier could do just that in the SEC by communicating and strategizing in a way the opposition in the SEC wasn't used to seeing.
Although Spurrier did it with the passing game in his "Fun 'n' Gun" offense in Gainesville, Malzahn has done it primarily on the ground with his "hurry-up, no-huddle" brand of football.
"I think what they've done is run the ball extremely well against everybody, just about everybody they've played," Spurrier said. "He has an excellent scheme."
But both coaches have become more balanced in their approaches to the game recently.
Spurrier's South Carolina teams have had star running backs such Marcus Lattimore and now Mike Davis, and Malzahn's Auburn team is inching more toward passing with the development of Nick Marshall, Duke Williams and Sammie Coates.
Those schematic tweaks will play a major factor in Saturday's game.
"(Spurrier) likes to pass the ball, but his offense, he wants to run the ball," said senior defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker, who was part of Auburn teams that beat South Carolina twice in 2010 and once more in 2011. "You've just got to win your battles, because Coach Spurrier is a Hall of Fame coach because a lot of people tried to make him one-dimensional."
If Malzahn can secure a home victory against one of his coaching heroes this weekend, it could go a long way in getting his team back on the right path to Atlanta for another SEC Championship Game berth.
If the Tigers can once again run the table after their off week, Malzahn could join Spurrier as one of the only coaches to repeat as conference champion in the title-game era. From there, Malzahn would be well on his way to his plan for a Spurrier-esque dynasty of lighting up scoreboards and winning championships.
"We have high goals," Malzahn said. "We know we have to play well. We have to get better. Our players are committed to that."
For Malzahn, that would be something taken from Spurrier that matters a lot more than an item of headwear.
Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.
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Tennessee's upstart, rebuilt defense has vastly improved in 2014, but the most frustrating takeaway from coordinator John Jancek's unit is its lack of takeaways.
That has to change immediately if the Vols are going to keep from getting blown off their home field against Alabama on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium.
To slow an offense that features fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Sims, a two-headed running back monster in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry that most NFL teams covet and star receiver Amari Cooper, UT must force turnovers.
I thought we [had] many, many opportunities to impact the game Saturday night, and we weren't able to do that. ... That is part of, that is how you win football games. I thought we started fast defensively which we spoke about in the post game press conference. 37 yards in the first seven possessions. But we need to start taking the ball away defensively.
The Vols are eighth in the SEC with 14 forced turnovers, and they are also tied for eighth with Florida in turnover differential.
Those numbers have to improve in Saturday night's rivalry game against the Tide. There's no way UT can beat Bama without creating extra possessions. Then, the offense has got to take over and turn those turnovers into touchdowns.
It's a tall task, but without stealing some scores, UT can't expect to hang with a team as complete as its heated, hated rival to the South.
The Tide have been susceptible to mistakes this year, losing 11 so far.
Nick Saban is miffed at his team's failure to take care of the football, telling Bleacher Report's Marc Torrence earlier this season: "One of the disappointing things to me about our team is we have made more emphasis on ball security and getting turnovers this year than I can ever remember in all the teams I've been a coach. And we continue to not play the ball correctly and turn the ball over."
Then, the Tide went out the following Saturday and put on a gaffe-fest in a narrow 14-13 win at Arkansas.
The rash of miscues is uncharacteristic of Alabama in recent years, and it has a decisive advantage against UT in that department. In Alabama's current seven-game winning streak over the Vols, the Tide forced UT into 12 turnovers while committing just five.
Now, UT must reverse that trend in a big way Saturday following the Tide's spotless 59-0 win over Texas A&M where Saban's team committed no penalties or turnovers.
Though the Vols have improved dramatically on defense, impacting the game with turnovers hasn't been their forte. Said Jones at his press conference this week:
We spend so much time on ball disruptions and working the fine details of it. That is what I spoke to our defensive players about is, how do you go from good to great? Everything we do, we want to be elite...That is a mindset of a champion. So the next stage of growth and development defensively is being able to impact the quarterback and take the ball away defensively.
That's perhaps the biggest step remaining for a defense that already made huge strides.
It's evident on the scoreboard how takeaways keep this year's young Vols in games.
Against Georgia, the Vols forced two miscues, and they had three interceptions when they played the Gators. Though UT didn't win either game, they were right in the thick of both before losing 35-32 to the Dawgs and 10-9 to UF.
On the road against the third-ranked Ole Miss Rebels, UT didn't force any.
Jones opened his postgame press conference with the topic after the Vols offense committed four in their 34-3 loss to Ole Miss. A team as undermanned and short on depth and talent as UT can't win big games committing them, and they can't win without causing them, either.
Tennessee's speed-based, opportunistic defenders keep putting themselves in position to make big plays, but they've got to break through. Struggling to complete the big, momentum-swinging play has been a deterrent for much of the year.
A memorable time came when star cornerback Cameron Sutton baited Florida quarterback Treon Harris into throwing a would-be fourth-quarter pick-six. Sutton instead slipped just a bit, and though he batted the ball away, an interception returned for a score would have meant a UT win.
Jones told the media there were other squandered chances against the Rebels, according to Volquest.com's Grant Ramey (subscription required): "We thought we had great opportunities for a couple interceptions, we had the right defensive call with the right down-and-distance. You know, robbing a dig route and we are waiting for it to be thrown and it is thrown and we kind of freeze in the moment."
The funny thing is, two weeks ago, the narrative on turnovers was flipped.
It wasn't until the lopsided loss at Ole Miss (against a superior team, by the way) that it became a talking point. But the bottom line is, regardless of how well the Vols have done taking the ball away at times, they've not made the game-changing plays.
Bama, at its worst, has proven this year it's mistake-prone. At their best this past weekend, the Tide manhandled the Aggies partly because of their near-perfect effort. Part of the reason for that game is A&M's defense was a sieve.
UT's defense is much better than A&M's. But without forcing turnovers and parlaying them into points, the Vols are in for a similar fate.
All stats taken from CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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It's a good time to be an SEC team. Then again, it was a good time to be in the SEC last year, and the year before that and the year before that, and so on.
As of Sunday, SEC West teams Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama and Auburn are ranked inside the top five of the Associated Press poll. Meanwhile, the Amway coaches poll has those four teams in the latest top six. Playoff projections from USA Today—which aren't really projections; they're more of a result "if the season ended today"—have two SEC West teams in the four-team field.
The SEC is the king of college football—or, at least, that's the narrative being pushed. However, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini takes issue with that, as well as the business partnership between the SEC and ESPN.
On how good the SEC West is
I don’t know. I think that will play out as the season goes on. We will find out. We will see how that goes. They play good football, and I know there is some good football played in some other conferences, too. It’s hard to say because you just don’t see unfortunately in this day in age a lot of crossovers. So you don’t get a lot to make that decision on to be able to compare and contrast. You have to go off what the media says to a certain extent and what some people say.
On ESPN’s and the SEC’s relationship involving the SEC Network
I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football. That’s just my opinion. Anytime you have a relationship with somebody, you have a partnership, you are supposed to be neutral. It’s pretty hard to stay neutral in that situation.
Pelini was asked about the SEC West and ESPN, and he gave his honest answer. You can't fault him for that, but you can disagree about the relationship between ESPN and the SEC.
Yes, ESPN and the SEC have a partnership: the SEC Network. Of course ESPN is invested in the success of the SEC.
However, ESPN also has rights to the Big Ten, the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and just about everybody else in major college football. ESPN is the single largest rights holder for college football games by a country mile. Under no circumstances would the World Wide Leader ever want to lose out on any conference's rights.
Similarly, the Big Ten Network has its own agreement with Fox, which owns about half of the network. Of course, Fox doesn't have the same fingerprint on the sport as ESPN does, but the same question Pelini raised could apply there as well.
While ESPN has an interest in the SEC's success, there are interests in every conference's success. For example, Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing points out that ESPN's Saturday Night Football showcase for Week 9 is Ohio State's road trip to Penn State. The Nittany Lions aren't even ranked and there's little intrigue about this game. Nevertheless, the storyline is that the Buckeyes, ranked No. 13 in the AP poll, are clawing back toward being in the playoff picture.
You could even go so far as to say there's an interest in Notre Dame's success, even though NBC has been the rightsholder for Irish home games, because of the brand of the program.
That being said, it's understandable that Pelini would question the relationship. Securing rights with the SEC and Texas (Longhorn Network) is always going to raise concerns about objectivity. However, ESPN employs plenty of personalities and analysts from outside the SEC footprint, including Chris Fowler, Scott Van Pelt, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard.
Ultimately, the only opinion that matters anyway is that of the playoff selection committee. What skeptics like Pelini hope is that its opinion isn't swayed by outside forces.
Pelini is right about one thing: The season will work itself out. By year's end, the Big Ten could be in the playoff picture. If a Big Ten team makes the playoff, it cools the bias discussion.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for college football.
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MARTIN, Tenn. — The least interesting thing about Brett Favre's nephew is that he's Brett Favre's nephew.
It's true. No matter how many times the information is shared. No matter how many newspaper articles include "Brett Favre's nephew" within the first four sentences. No matter how many times the three words are robotically cobbled into a brick-like substance, then slammed over your head, then slammed over your head again and again and again and again until you're bloodied and dazed.
Yes, Dylan Favre is, indeed, Brett Favre's nephew. There. We said it. The information has been conveyed.
Yet the information is—ho-hum—a tiny part of the story. Brett Favre's nephew is a survivor. A star. A bust. A failure. A success. An inmate. A saint. A father. A soon-to-be college graduate. A quarterback. Oh, and he rarely talks to his most famous relative.
"He's a great guy," says Dylan. "But my uncle and I have different lives. We're different people."
Brett Favre's nephew is sitting inside something called the Kathleen Elam Multipurpose Room, which overlooks the football stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Martin. The town sits 135 miles east of Memphis, 155 west of Nashville and features the annual Tennessee Soybean Festival (where the Little River Band recently made an appearance!), a sandwich shop named Sammies, a nice yet unremarkable college campus and, um...ahem...eh...little else.
OK, nothing else.
"It's not a place you come to for entertainment," says Dylan. "It's quiet."
As he speaks, Brett Favre's nephew glances down toward the empty Poland Spring water bottle positioned in his right fist. He stops from time to time, repositions the black goop from his cheek to his tongue, drools into the container and pinches some Grizzly Wintergreen out of a tin. Then drools again.
"Repulsive habit," he says, shrugging slightly, words trailed by a slight drawl. "I'm not proud of it."
He is 22 years old—handsome, muscular, soft-spoken and the senior quarterback for the UT-Martin football team. Actually, Dylan Favre is one of the quarterbacks for the UT-Martin football team. Actually, Dylan Favre is the second quarterback for the UT-Martin football team, clawing for playing time behind Jarod Neal, a strong-armed yet erratic junior from nearby Henderson.
Which is where the story of Brett Favre's nephew gets interesting.
Life as Brett's Nephew
See, he isn't supposed to be here. Not on this underwhelming 3-5 team, not in the underwhelming Ohio Valley Conference, not fighting for time at the position he once owned. Football glory was his destiny, as was—he truly believed—an NFL future.
Dylan Favre will tell you so much as long as one understands he's neither bragging nor complaining, that—deep down—he knows 95 percent of his missteps are of his doing.
"I have no one to blame," he says—pinch, drool. "No one else to look at..."
Wait. Stop. At this moment, let's suspend the initial premise. Let's talk about being Brett Favre's nephew and all that comes with the status. Just for a second.
First, the good: Dylan Favre has attended some cool events. He walked the red carpet at the ESPYs, met Samuel L. Jackson and stood on the sidelines in Green Bay tossing balls with Aaron Rodgers before a game. Being Brett Favre's nephew means, on occasion, receiving free sporting goods apparel and bumping into interesting people.
"I once rode to a practice with Dom Capers," he says.
There is a momentary pause, the unspoken mental debate of whether Capers—longtime Packers defensive coordinator—qualifies as interesting.
Now, the bad: Dylan Favre's father is Jeff Favre, Brett's younger brother and a man who only speaks with his sibling on rare occasion. Yet wherever Dylan Favre has gone, he has been compared to Brett. Among other items that have been noted through the years: Dylan's arm isn't as strong as Brett's. Dylan doesn't have Brett's size (nephew stands 5'11"; uncle stands 6'3"). Dylan doesn't have Brett's charisma. Dylan doesn't have Brett's instincts. Dylan doesn't have Brett's savvy or moxie.
"The comparisons are unfair," says Scott Favre, Brett and Jeff's older brother and Dylan's uncle. "How can you live up to the level of a star NFL quarterback?"
Dylan's parents conceived their son when they were students at Hancock High School. Rhonda Doyle was 16 at the time, Jeff a year older. On March 19, 1992, the day his son was born, Jeff was on a recruiting trip to Southern Miss.
"I was a senior, and I wasn't ready for it," Jeff says. "I was surprised, taken aback, not sure what to do. I was still a kid myself. You're told to be responsible, but you're so young. What do you know?"
"I was disappointed," says Bonita Favre, Jeff's mother. "It was a very bad decision, and it was upsetting. But then you think about it, and all you can do is accept and hope for the best."
Baby Dylan was raised by Rhonda and her mother, Cindy, in a small apartment in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and was bequeathed the last name Doyle. Shortly after Jeff (who played linebacker at Southern Miss) and Rhonda married in 1999, he became Dylan Favre.
"What would have happened had I stayed a Doyle?" he asks. "It'd all probably all be a lot less complicated."
A Vagabond Upbringing
Though Dylan was born in Picayune, Mississippi, his childhood was a wayward one. His father worked as a casino executive, a job that took him from city to city and state to state. When Dylan was five years old, the Favres moved to Muskego, Wisconsin. That was home for two years until they returned to Mississippi.
In fifth grade, Dylan relocated to Livingston, Texas, then shortly thereafter came back to Mississippi again. That didn't hold for long, and the Favres took off for Nixa, Missouri. The stay lasted for two-and-a-half years until yet another homecoming.
It was dizzying and uncomfortable, and the you're-not-Brett jabs probably started, oh, 15 years ago, when Dylan began playing organized youth football. Because Favres play quarterback, Dylan found himself at the position. And he was good—very good. Quick. Smart. Feisty. Instinctive. He threw off his back foot like his uncle, made plays out of nothing like his uncle, improvised like his uncle. But he wasn't his uncle. Couldn't be.
"Ain't too many Favres outside of Mississippi," Dylan says. "People probably figured out we were related."
Dylan completed seventh grade in Kiln, Mississippi, the town where Brett came of age and where most of the Favres still live. He attended Hancock Middle School but transferred to Saint Stanislaus—a Bay St. Louis-based Catholic school with a strong football program—for the 2005-06 academic year.
It took Dylan but a couple of days to recognize a dream setting. The school staff was passionate about sports and seemed to know it was being gifted a future star. For the first time in forever, he felt at home.
"I'm in my second week of school, going through workouts, loving every minute of it," he says. "We were about to play our first game. Then Hurricane Katrina hit."
Mother Nature Intrudes
As he begins the story, Dylan spits, then pauses. The black goop makes a sound when it hits the bottom of the bottle. Splunk. He wipes his lip with a forearm.
While his features remain young and boyish, his words carry the heaviness of a veteran. Oftentimes, there's a subtle sadness to Favre. Unspoken, but present. When you've seen a lot and those around you are worried most about keg parties and the new iPhone, it has a way of revealing itself.
On the afternoon of August 29, 2005, Dylan and a large handful of family members and friends were in Kiln, preparing for the storm inside his grandmother Bonita's home at the end of Irvin Favre Drive.
"We're boarding the windows, making sure we have enough food and gas for the generators," he says. "My grandma had experienced many hurricanes, and she never had much of a problem."
The house, situated at a dead end, is wedged between a lake and the bayou. During especially fierce past storms, water tended to rise up a hill, approach the front door then meekly run back down.
"The main worry were trees falling," Dylan says. "But we weren't scared or anything. Hurricanes are excuses for big parties. You eat, talk, hang out. It can be a good time."
At 6:30 that morning, Dylan woke to the sound of wind whistling against the trees.
"No big deal," he says. "We go outside, and we're watching the storm from the porch. We have that big hill, and the water's rising, but not so we're scared."
As the hours passed, the water crept closer to the house. And closer. And closer. And closer.
"It gets to the front door and starts leaking through the bottom," he says. "Still, no one panicked. The thinking was, 'It'll stop, and we'll just have to replace the floor.'"
The water didn't stop. Before long, it was two feet deep. Then four feet deep. Young children (and two dogs) were placed in the attic space. The water kept rising. Five feet. Six feet.
"All the water backed up all the sewage, and it's all floating through the house," Dylan says. "You would literally see what people put in the toilet floating around the house."
The Favres owned a party barge, and Scott and Jeff swam to the boat, hoping it could provide an escape.
"It wouldn't crank," Dylan says. "They came back. We're all freaking out. I'm crying. My dad and uncle opened a door in the house, and more water came pouring in."
Dylan was 13 and terrified. He glanced out the kitchen window and decided his odds of survival were slim.
"Please let me out!" he begged his father. "I'll take my chance holding onto a tree before I drown in this house."
Ultimately, everyone put on life jackets and swam 50 yards from the home to the nearby pool house, which was raised and, apparently, dry.
"My great grandmother [Izella French, Bonita's mom] was alive, and my dad is swimming her over," Dylan says. "She pukes everywhere, all over him. Everything was gross. Our clothing, our house, our bodies."
That night, all 20 people slept in a single bedroom. The next morning, they woke up to a destroyed house, a destroyed yard, a destroyed town. The mile-long road leading down to the Favre property was covered with downed trees. Dylan and another uncle slowly, carefully navigated their way around the destruction.
"He hands me a pistol because there were reports of looting," says Dylan, chuckling. "I'm in eighth grade, walking down the street with a pistol in my hand."
The recovery would take months. Jeff and Rhonda relocated to Alexandria, Louisiana, where another casino gig awaited. Dylan and Bonita, meanwhile, flew to Green Bay to stay with Brett, his wife Deanna and their two daughters.
"I went from one of the worst times in my life to one of the coolest," he says. "Every morning, I would wake up and go to the stadium with him."
As Brett and the Packers practiced, Dylan would remain inside the locker room, playing video games, eating to his heart's content. He stood on the sidelines during games.
"All my clothing was ruined," he says. "But my uncle had a deal with Nike, and I pretty much got Nike everything—shoes, socks, underwear. It was amazing."
After three head-spinning weeks, Dylan moved yet again. He returned to Nixa to live with a family friend and play football and basketball at Nixa Junior High, where he knew the coaching staff and had a handful of friends.
"Then in January, I moved to Louisiana to be with my family. And I kind of lost it."
He was 13 years old and fed up with rented homes and strange doorbells and unfamiliar pillows and beds that were too hard and too soft but rarely just right. He was tired of new coaches, new offenses, new teammates, new uniforms. He desperately craved familiarity and stability—Mom and Dad be damned.
Finding a Football Home
That's why, come his freshman year of high school, Dylan moved back to Kiln to stay with Bonita and Scott (both live on the same property, in different houses) and attend Saint Stanislaus.
"Not for one or two years," he says. "For four years. To have a home."
It was the time of his life. As a freshman, Dylan quarterbacked the JV team (and played wide receiver and special teams for the varsity) to a 5-1 mark. The varsity football offensive coordinator was Stu Rayburn, a former Kent State quarterback who, over two college seasons in the early 1980s, threw seven touchdowns and 34 interceptions. For whatever he lacked in Division I statistics, however, Rayburn was an offensive visionary.
As the majority of Mississippi high schools operated either the Oklahoma wishbone or the Delaware Wing-T, Rayburn installed a spread formation that placed the quarterback in the shotgun and featured four (and sometimes five) wide receiver sets. The varsity, behind quarterback Chad Boos, ran the offense well. The JV, with Dylan Favre behind center, was a Tchaikovsky symphony.
"There wasn't anything he couldn't do," says Boomer Scarborough, a wide receiver on the team. "He was just electricity, making plays, making big plays. You're talking about a quarterback who was also the hardest worker, the best teammate, the leader. Dylan was a star, no question."
The following season, Dylan took over as varsity quarterback, and the roll continued. Rayburn was now his direct offensive coordinator, and in Favre, he had an on-field extension of his philosophy. Dylan was allowed to audible whenever he felt the need. He carried the ball more than any running back and picked apart opposing defenses to the tune of 36 touchdowns.
"You're talking about someone who threw for more than 3,000 yards as a 10th-grader," says Casey Wittman, the Rockachaws coach at the time. "He had an Archie Manning thing about him where he'd make these awkward sidearm throws that somehow worked. He was all about accuracy, and he was really tough. There aren't many kids at that age who played like he did."
With the success, however, came the comparisons. And the complications. Thanks both to his achievements and his name, Dylan's final three high school seasons were a whirlwind of articles, interviews, news features, hype. He wasn't merely a successful prep quarterback. He was a star. A stud. A wizard. In Happy Days speak, he was the BMOC. Yet he was also, by his own admission, immature and somewhat lost.
He believed his own clippings—partly because they were true, partly because, well, he was a kid. In and of itself, the inflated ego wouldn't have been such a problem. Yet with his parents in another state, Dylan says he often felt as if he were raising himself. Sometimes, he stayed with Bonita. Sometimes, he stayed with Scott. Sometimes, he stayed at this friend's house. Or that friend's house.
He was 15 when he got his first tattoo (his initials on the rear of his forearm), a spur-of-the-moment decision that involved showing up at the nearby parlor and saying, "Um, I guess just do letters—that'll be cool."
As a 10th-grader, Dylan and three friends decided—spur of the moment—to drive the 279 miles to Panama City, Florida, for three days of spring break debauchery.
"I just took off," he says. "It's not like I had to ask Mom and Dad for permission and say, 'Is this OK?' We just hopped in the car and drove. No one ever knew.'"
Dylan came and went as he pleased. He'd sleep on couches, on beds, on cots. When he stayed with Scott, breakfasts were prepared and rides to school offered. But nothing was mandatory. He was allowed to be his own man.
"You never really knew where Dylan would be from day to day," says Scarborough, his teammate and closest friend. "He'd pick and choose and float. Wherever he ended up that week, whatever clothes he had in his truck, there wasn't much to it. He'd stay where he'd stay. Oftentimes that was at our house—which was cool with us. Is that an ideal way to grow up? Probably not. But I think Dylan made it work."
The Glory Days
If Favre emerged as a sophomore, he exploded as a junior, setting a state record with 45 passing touchdowns and rushing for 448 yards and seven more scores. He was named the Sea Coast Echo's Offensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-district selection. And yet as Division I recruiters prowled the sidelines of Mississippi high school games, seeking out the next generation of college stars, Dylan found himself overlooked and ignored.
Whereas his famous last name and video game-esque statistics made sportswriters drool, his famous last name and video game-esque statistics made scouts wonder whether this was a case of hype trumping substance. They questioned his size, arm strength and ability to run a conventional offense. They wondered whether he knew how to take the snap from under center. Dylan Favre was deemed a quirky curiosity—entertaining to behold, but more question than answer.
Plus, there was the strut. The walk. The smirk. Dylan rubbed many as unlikable even though one is hard-pressed to find those who actually dislike him. In person, he's warm and charming, looks people in the eye and asks about their day. But from afar, the perception wasn't great.
He just seemed like a kid who thought himself God's gift to football. It probably didn't help that Favre says (with the school's blessing) he rarely attended classes on Mondays after games—his time to stay home and reflect.
"I've always had a swagger in football," he says. "I admit that. But I really think a lot of that was perception. People saw my name in the paper all the time, and they thought I saw myself as big time. Which I really didn't. There are people I don't know who can't stand me. It's weird."
"Dylan was cocky, confident...whatever you want to call it," says Forrest Williams, the Saint Stanislaus head coach for Favre's final two seasons. "But not in a malicious or mean way. He knew he was good, and he took pride in what he did."
Favre’s senior season was, by all measures, unparalleled. He completed 341 of 539 passes for 5,539 yards (yes, 5,539 yards), 63 touchdowns (yes, 63 touchdowns). He ran for another 18 touchdowns (yes, 18 touchdowns), intercepted six passes as a safety and averaged 41.4 yards per punt. He was named the state of Mississippi's Mr. Football and 4A Player of the Year.
No one in the history of United States organized high school football has ever scored more touchdowns in a season. Not Barry Sanders. Not Herschel Walker. Not Joe Namath. Not Joe Dudek.
Favre led his team to a 14-1 mark and its first state championship—a 35-16 win over Lafayette County that still ranks as his No. 1 personal highlight.
A Frustrating Recruiting Process
Surely, the recruiters would now come flocking.
Surely, they'd see the title and the numbers and the highlights and...and...and...
Rivals.com failed to rank Favre among its top 30 in-state prospects.
"Dylan is a limited guy physically," Barton Simmons, one of the service's analysts, said at the time. "He's undersized, maybe 5'10", so that's a concern from the quarterback position. He's put up some great numbers and won a state championship, and I think his greatest attribute may be his competitiveness, but from a physical standpoint, I think he's going to have a hard time playing quarterback in the SEC."
Signing day was February 3, 2010. By mid-December he had a single offer, from Northwestern State—a school he'd never heard of. While attending the Ole Miss football camp before his senior year, Favre had been approached by Houston Nutt, the Rebels head coach.
"You've got a swagger about yourself that I love," Nutt said. "Would you consider maybe trying another position?"
The one college Favre expected to hear from was Southern Mississippi, the school where, 23 years earlier, his uncle rose from sixth-string nobody to legend. Yet throughout his senior season, the Golden Eagles showed no interest.
"I mean, I'm right there in your backyard," Dylan says. "My dad played there, my uncle played there. And...nothing. They offered me a scholarship the night before the state championship game, but I'm sure it was only because of alumni pressure. It was insulting."
Adding to the insult fest, Favre was bypassed for the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game, the nation's elite prep showcase. He did, however, play in the North-South Mississippi All-Star Game on December 19, completing his first 13 passes en route to winning the MVP trophy. In attendance was Dan Mullen, Mississippi State's second-year head coach.
Two weeks later, the primary name on the Bulldogs' quarterback wish list—some kid out of Blinn College named Cameron Newton—committed to Auburn, leaving a gaping hole in the program's recruiting plan. On January 2, 2010, Dylan received the call he'd been waiting for.
"We're offering you a scholarship," Mullen said. "We want you to be a Bulldog."
"It was," says Dylan, "a dream come true. I was going to be an SEC quarterback."
A Dead End at Mississippi State
The worst three-year span of Dylan Favre's relatively charmed life began with the naive hope of emerging as an instant collegiate superstar.
He arrived in Starkville, Mississippi, midway through the summer of 2010 certain that great things awaited. Tyson Lee, Mississippi State's quarterback, had graduated, leaving a wide-open gap in Mullen's offense.
There were three candidates for the job—junior Chris Relf, redshirt freshman Tyler Russell and Favre—and the gunslinger from Kiln believed, in his heart, he was the man.
"I just want a shot to prove myself," he told Sports Illustrated. "I think that's all I need."
Thanks to his pedigree, Favre was one of the hot topics of the incoming class. He played well in practice as well as in the annual Maroon-White spring game. Then, one week before the Sept. 4 opener against Memphis, Favre was sitting with Russell and Relf in a quarterback meeting. Mullen entered the room, and the two players left.
"Dylan," Mullen said, "we're going to redshirt you this season. It's a good thing because..."
Shortly thereafter, Dylan Favre began to cry.
He didn't understand. Hadn't he played well? Wasn't he a proven winner?
"Looking back now, I know Coach was right," he says. "But at the time, no. I was a competitor. I wanted to play and play immediately. It crushed me."
Because he was the third quarterback on the roster, Favre dressed for every game knowing he wouldn't appear. As his fellow redshirts worked out Friday mornings then did as they pleased over the weekends, Favre felt as if he were playing pretend backup quarterback.
He'd travel to away games, slip into a uniform, hear the pep talks up close yet sulk internally.
"Yeah, it's cool seeing some of the amazing stadiums," he says. "Going to Death Valley, going to Alabama. But mostly, it sucked standing there, soaking in the atmosphere but knowing I wasn't a part of it."
The Bulldogs finished the season with a 9-4 mark, destroying Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl. The one thought that kept Favre afloat was that, come 2011, he could no longer be redshirted or ignored. Despite being inactive as a freshman, he studied hard and felt well-versed in Mullen's wide-open offense. On paper, he was competing with Russell for the task of backing up Relf. In his heart, he was shooting for No. 1.
On April 9, 2011, Favre excelled in the Maroon-White spring game, completing 17 of 26 passes for 199 yards and rushing for a team-high 41 yards. He was dashing and energized, and his 24-yard touchdown pass to Robert Johnson was a breathtaking sight.
Five months later, however, Mullen suspended Favre and four teammates for the opener at Memphis, citing "various violations of team rules."
"I was just stupid," Favre says. "Not doing some things I was supposed to do."
"Honestly, I don't really want to go back there. But it's painful because we were up big late (the Bulldogs beat Memphis, 59-14), and I probably would have gotten in. Just really dumb of me."
The dumb continued. Favre was restricted to punt coverage in a Week 2 loss at Auburn, then again in a Week 3 setback at No. 3 LSU. On the night of Sept. 15, maybe an hour after returning to his room following the defeat, Favre sat at his computer and, under the now-defunct Twitter handle @DnoB_favre_6no4, wrote, "Is an opportunity too much 2 ask for?" He then went to sleep.
"I had a couple of hundred followers," he says. "When I woke up Sunday morning, I had more than 3,000. I'm like, 'What did I just do?'"
He immediately called Mullen to apologize, and the coach offered a kind word and quick forgiveness. However, the season was quickly spiraling down the toilet. Mississippi State was a mediocre team, and Favre's opportunities rarely came.
He made his collegiate quarterbacking debut at Georgia on Oct. 1, went 0-of-2 passing, accounted for minus-10 yards of offense and barely touched the turf. For the season, he played in nine games, completing 13 of 26 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. Favre was clearly skilled and athletic, but also lacked any sort of patience or perspective..
On November 19, the Bulldogs traveled to Arkansas, where they were crushed by the No. 6 Razorbacks, 44-17. The only offensive bright spot was Favre, who ran for one touchdown and threw for another. A few days later, Mullen told Favre and Russell that Relf, back from a concussion, would likely play the entire final regular-season game against Ole Miss. Favre seethed, and everyone on the team could feel it.
"Once I found that out, I was already so mad and immature, and I was unable to see the big picture," he says. "I was only seeing right now. The moment. And the truth is, I was a redshirt freshman with plenty of time. But I wanted the ball at that moment, every single play. It was stupid. I was stupid. And I reacted...badly."
Those who know Dylan Favre well—really well—agree his passion is his greatest strength and his stubbornness is his greatest weakness. He says something, he stands by it. He makes a decision, the decision sticks. It matters not if he's proven wrong, shown a different way, made to understand alternative methods. No. When Dylan puts his foot down, he rarely—if ever—picks it back up.
Even though Mississippi State routed Ole Miss, 31-3, Favre found the experience to be an intolerable one. Instead of cheering on his teammates or making suggestions to Relf, Favre pouted. Now, some three years removed, he admits it was selfish and petulant, that he allowed football frustration to engulf his life. But at the time, the pain was real.
When the game ended, Favre sought out Mullen to tell him he would not be sticking around for whatever bowl game the Bulldogs might qualify for. He wanted to go elsewhere. He wanted to be a star.
"That's fine," Mullen said. "I hope it works out for you."
Dylan Hits Rock Bottom
Considering its considerable charm, its breathtaking beaches, its grassy plains and eye-catching landscapes, the state of Mississippi can offer a whole lot of physical ugly.
Thanks to BP, rainbow-hued oil slicks continue to plague too much of the Gulf. Thanks to the intensive heat, there are wide, unflattering swaths of dry, brown nothingness. Jackson, the capital city, is rundown and dilapidated in spots—one boarded-up window after another.
Yet when it comes to pure dreariness, few places match the inside of a cell at the Pearl River County Jail, where random hair follicles reign supreme, peeling paint dangles from the walls like dead bugs in discarded webs, and toilets are repositories for lingering excrement samples from inmates past.
This may well be one of the worst places in America.
This is where, for three nights in April 2012, Dylan Favre resided. Still, to this day, the experience scars Favre like few other moments from his life.
The initial trouble began shortly after midnight on April 19, when Favre's silver Dodge Charger was pulled over by police for not having a functioning taillight. At the time, he was in Poplarville, Mississippi, to work out with his new teammates at Pearl River Community College, the place where, Favre presumed, he'd spend one year before landing at Hawaii or Texas Tech or one of countless Division I programs.
Years earlier, Scott Favre, Dylan's uncle, starred as a quarterback for the Wildcats, and he strongly encouraged Dylan to follow suit.
"They threw a lot, they had strong teams," says Scott. "I was a big influence in him going there. I feel very guilty for that."
On this morning, with the sky dark and the police lights flashing, Dylan watched as officers removed three bags of marijuana, empty sandwich bags and a set of digital scales. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
"Stupid," he says now, still spitting tobacco juice, still holding a bottle. "Just really, really stupid..."
He was handcuffed, loaded into the rear of a police car and taken to Pearl River County Jail. When he closes his eyes, Favre can still picture the cell.
"There was a bench shaped like an L," he says. "They gave me a little mat, a toothbrush, a little cup to get water out of the sink, then a sheet. It was gross. There was hair all over the floor. Dirt, too. It was freezing. I tried to sleep the time away, but I couldn't sleep. I had to put on the yellow jump suit, and they gave me some Crocs. You had to put stuff in your hair so you don't spread lice. They spray you down, rub it in your scalp. You're not a person. You're an animal."
Shortly after being admitted, Dylan was granted one phone call. He thought about his parents. His grandmother. His Uncle Scott. Then, he picked the person whose voice he needed most to hear. Her name was Brianna McLeod, an Evans, Georgia, native and junior soccer player at Mississippi State. The two initially met during a freshman class, Life Skills of a College Athlete, and shared a passion for sports and conditioning.
They were, on the surface, opposites—the African-American daughter of a Harvard-educated physician; the white kid from rural Mississippi.
"We were just friends at first," McLeod says. "My freshman year, I tore every ligament in my left knee and was on crutches. From that first day, if Dylan saw me crutching somewhere, he'd offer a ride, help me get to class, help carry my stuff. He'd come watch movies with me because there weren't many places I could go."
Friendship morphed into love, and when Dylan initially told her of his plans to leave the SEC powerhouse for a middle-of-nowhere junior college, McLeod urged him to reconsider.
"Not for myself or any selfish reasons," she says. "Honestly, I just thought it was shortsighted and kind of dumb. But Dylan does what he wants to do. It's hard to convince him otherwise."
Now, in the early hours of April 19, McLeod picked up her cell phone, unsure of what she was hearing. Was that Dylan...crying?
"I thought he was joking at first because I'd never seen this boy cry, I'd never heard this boy cry," she says. "When I realized he was serious, I asked what he wanted me to do. He didn't really have an answer—he just told me he wanted to explain why he wasn't answering his phone."
Over a span of 72 hours, as his lawyer tried to get his release, Dylan Favre sat in his cell and thought. He thought about awful mistakes. He thought about the possible ruination of his football career. He thought about the embarrassment he brought upon his family. He thought about Brianna having to explain this to her parents. He thought and thought and thought and thought.
"As soon as I saw my grandma after my release, I bawled," he says. "I was ashamed and embarrassed."
Dylan pauses to think about this. Spits out tobacco juice yet again.
"It's weird," he says. "That was as low as I've ever been. But I wouldn't change it. You sometimes need moments like that—really bad, really awful moments—to wake you up. I always had things go my way. Then I was sitting in jail. I think it served a purpose for me. Maturity, maybe."
The news went viral—almost always presented beneath a headline that included the familiar words "Brett Favre's Nephew." Tim Hatten, the Pearl River football coach, had no choice but to suspend Dylan—more out of public relations survival than genuine intent to punish.
"The truth is, what hurt Dylan most was his name," says Hatten. "If he wasn't related to Brett Favre, it's not even news. I was aware of that. Plus, I've always devoted myself to giving kids second chances, third chances, to turn things around. I wasn't going to give up on Dylan."
Favre was placed in a pretrial diversion program, which allows first-time, non-violent offenders the chance to not have a criminal record as long as they complete a series of goal-oriented, community service-related conditions, which Favre did.
The Pearl River Mistake
The quarterback was reinstated in time for the season and returned to endure the worst beating of his career. Favre had envisioned Pearl River as a glorious stepping stone; he'd inevitably dominate the lesser competition en route to a full scholarship elsewhere.
There was just one problem: The 2012 Pearl River Wildcats stunk. The offensive line was abysmal. The receivers were, with rare exception, Division III-caliber. During his amazing high school run, Favre would drop back and have a good five...six...seven seconds to throw. Here, it was one, two—splat!
On September 1, the team traveled to Scooba, Mississippi, to face East Mississippi—and was walloped, 35-15. Pearl River followed with a triumph over Mississippi Delta then lost five of seven. It was, by all measures, a complete failure. The stands were usually packed with invisible entities. Division I scouts rarely showed up.
His statistics (16 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions, 2,204 yards passing) were unremarkable. In the third game of the season, a 39-34 loss to Jones County Junior College, a defensive lineman named Julian Boochie slammed into Favre's right knee, tearing the meniscus. As he stood on the sideline, tears streamed down Dylan's cheeks. He turned to Hatten.
"Coach, this is not how it was supposed to go," he said. "Not at all."
One weekend later, against Coahoma Community College, Favre released a pass as a Tigers lineman drove him backward into the ground, left shoulder first. The pain shot through his body, and when he rose, he felt his collarbone touching his shoulder pad.
"My season probably should have ended right there," he says. "My knee is messed up, my shoulder is messed up. But if I sit, we'd have won one game out of four, and my college career probably ends. I couldn't go out like that."
Favre returned the following week and played out the season. He was, Brianna says, far from the ideal teammate or student.
"He was home all the time at his grandma's," she says of Bonita's house, a 40-minute drive from campus. "He probably went to some classes, and he probably did some workouts. But mostly, he stayed in Kiln, as far away from Pearl River as possible. I can't blame him—he was miserable. Nothing went right that year. Nothing."
Well, there was one thing. Depending on how you look at it.
Life Interrupts Football
She felt weird.
That's the best way Brianna McLeod describes it. Just, weird. Not right.
In the summer of 2012, leading up to her junior year at Mississippi State, her body was...off. Yes, she'd skipped her period. But that happens, right? Certainly to athletes in the heat of training.
Regardless, en route to visiting Dylan at his Uncle Scott's house that July, she picked up a home pregnancy test from the local drugstore.
"I didn't tell Dylan what I was thinking because I didn't want to upset him with a false alarm," she says. "But it was on my mind."
It was a weekend night when she slipped into the bathroom to take the test. Dylan was on the couch watching his favorite film, Friday. The room was dark.
"I came up to him, and I was really, really quiet," Brianna says.
"What's the matter?" Dylan asked, pausing the movie.
Brianna began to cry. "I'm pregnant," she said. "I just took the test. I'm pregnant."
Three months earlier, Dylan sat in a jail cell, bemoaning life. Now, he sat in a living room, numb. But not numb in the traditional sense.
"I was shocked, but excited," he says.
He thought about his own childhood, about coming and going and going and coming, about seeing his parents then not seeing them.
"It's going to be OK," he said. "Let's go to the doctor and find out for sure. But it's OK. I love you. I know I want to be with you. Stop crying. I know we're gonna make this work."
Truth be told, he didn't know. His dreams of being a professional football player were all but dead. His SEC scholarship was gone. He was about to play awful football for an awful football team.
"I don't think it hit me until much later," he says. "I don't get how you can be fully prepared for that sort of news."
With her pregnancy confirmed, Brianna dropped out of college to live with her parents in Evans, Georgia. Dylan played out the season at Pearl River, head foggy, mind racing.
"I was arrested in April," he says. "I found out I was going to be a dad in June. Then in September and October, I had two injuries that would later require surgery. It was a very strange year."
The one thing he truly believed was that his football career had ended. Pearl River was an unmitigated disaster. No colleges—Division I, II or III—were in the market for unproductive, injury-prone, undersized quarterbacks with arrest records and pregnant girlfriends.
"Nobody was after me," he says. "I was old news."
A Helping Hand
Then, a rare stroke of fortune. The University of Tennessee-Martin employed a quarterback coach named Eric Stuedemann, who had been a graduate assistant at Mississippi State during Favre's time at the school. Though Dylan Favre was a cold product, the Skyhawks—members of the Football Championship Subdivision—didn't have the luxury of ignoring former Division I players. Especially when they came recommended.
Stuedemann was insistent that Favre had matured and would be an enormous asset to Martin's offense. It hardly hurt that Jason Simpson, the team's head coach, had attended Southern Miss, where he starred in baseball at the same time Jeff Favre played football.
With some trepidation, he invited Dylan for a campus visit. The quarterback arrived with his left arm in a sling, a result of postseason shoulder surgery.
"Here's the truth...Dylan had a bad reputation," says Simpson. "He had baggage. There were some coaches who warned me not to take him. Two, in particular, said he'd ruin the program. But then you meet Dylan. And you know what? He's personable and funny. He's passionate. I was drawn to him, and I could see he was hungry for another chance."
Favre accepted a scholarship offer from Martin and moved to campus for the spring 2013 semester. He was happy to have a home but heartbroken over being apart from his pregnant girlfriend, who remained in Georgia with a rapidly expanding belly. There are 533 miles separating Martin and Evans, and while he visited as often as possible, it wasn't an easy journey.
On the afternoon of Friday, March 1, Dylan told Brianna—18 days away from the due date—that he wanted to delay his latest trip for one day. He was tired, he'd endured a taxing practice that morning, it was a relentless drive.
"Well," she said, "it would really suck if I went into labor today."
"Fine," he said. "I'll take a nap then start driving."
There was no way the baby—a boy, they knew—would arrive so soon. The due date was March 19, one day before Dylan's birthday. He was convinced it was meant to be. Father and son would share a birthday.
At 12:30 in the morning on March 2, Dylan texted Brianna from Atlanta. He was two hours away. After reading the words, she went to the bathroom.
"That," she says, "is when my water broke."
This is how the texts went:
Brianna: WATER BROKE
Dylan: YOU SURE?
Dylan called his mom, who assured him these things take time. Then Brianna's mother, Sonia, timed her contractions, which were four minutes apart. Four minutes!
She called Dylan—"Drive fast," she said. "This baby is coming well before tomorrow." Jeff Favre texted his son—IF YOU GET A SPEEDING TICKET, I'LL PAY FOR IT.
That was all he needed to hear. Dylan averaged, oh, 95 mph en route to Augusta's University Hospital. He barged into the delivery room at 2:20.
"I'm here!" he shouted. "I'm finally here!"
Xavier DeWayne Favre was born at 2:56.
Finding a New Identity
There's an unwritten rule in the world of sports journalism: Endings need to work out.
There has to be a last-second Hail Mary that's snagged from midair by the undersized runt with the heart of gold. There has to be a record set, a roster spot earned, a glorious final on-field scene that makes the entire piece worth reading.
Dylan Favre's career as a UT-Martin quarterback has been, at best, OK. Last season, while splitting time with Neal, he started five games, throwing for 1,081 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. There were some good moments (he tossed three touchdowns in a 24-23 upset of No. 7 Central Arkansas) and some boneheaded ones (he fumbled six times on 60 carries).
He ranked second in the nation with a 71.1 completion percentage but also whined when his playing time was cut. This year, playing infrequently for a bad team, Favre has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions. His one start, against Jacksonville State on Oct. 4, was awful. He completed just six of 20 passes for 25 yards. The Skyhawks lost 38-14, prompting the school's website to run the awesomely optimistic headline, "Satterfield Breaks School Punt Record but Skyhawks Fall." He hasn't appeared in the last two games—both UT-Martin victories.
"Dylan is a good player," says Neal. "But he's spastic. He's always moving around a lot, running a lot. He's got his uncle in him. That gunslinger mentality. He's anything but prototypical."
"Dylan probably hasn't had the career he's wanted," says Simpson. "And I feel bad about that. He expected big things of himself. But I also think he's probably OK with life. Maybe that's surprising, but I really think so."
Indeed. When Xavier was born, Dylan decided he would drop out of UT-Martin and move to Georgia, where he could be with his girlfriend and newborn and finish his degree requirements at Augusta State College.
"You're an idiot," Brianna told him. "Your education is being paid for. What are you thinking?"
Dylan acquiesced but with the understanding that they find a way to be together. Last July, four months after the birth, Brianna and Xavier relocated to Martin.
"My parents were terribly sad," says Brianna, who is enrolled in school as an occupational therapy major. "They wanted us to stay so they could help raise their grandson. But a family needs to be together. And me, Dylan and Xavier—we're a family."
These days, as a forgettable football season comes to a close and the Martin leaves turn from green to yellow to brown, Dylan Favre's existence revolves not around the game he once lived and died for, but the child who waddles back and forth, a nonstop blur of motion.
Inside their off-campus apartment in a development called The Meadows, Dylan and Brianna spend most of their time chasing Xavier from room to room, picking up his pacifier, cleaning out bottles, changing dirty diapers. He is a handsome boy with his mother's eyes and his father's smile, and when he picks up the ball lying at his feet, it zips across the room with notable velocity.
"If I could change some things, would I?" says Dylan, who will graduate at semester's end with a degree in accounting. "Maybe. But at the end of the day, I can't ask for much more. I mean that. I have a son who's healthy, who brightens my day regardless of what happens. Which is big time for me. Because back when I was only concerned with football, football, football, everything in my life depended on how I played. The decisions I made, the mood I was in, how I interacted with other people. If I had a bad day, I would be so mad about it. I didn't even want to see anybody.
"Now, I come home every day—whether I had a good day or a bad day—and as soon as I walk in the door and see my son, he's saying 'Dah! Dah!' He's smiling and wanting to play. It sounds silly, but I mean it. How can anything else bring me down after that?"
He grins knowing that, at long last, his days being known as Brett Favre's nephew are coming to an end.
He is now, simply, Dylan Favre.
Xavier Favre's dad.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Talk all you want about freshman running back Nick Chubb’s emergence as a replacement for star running back Todd Gurley, but the Georgia Bulldogs defense is the most praiseworthy facet of this team.
Just a few short weeks ago, the high expectations for new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt seemed patently misplaced. Entering October, the Bulldogs were 3-1 but had more than a few causes for alarm on defense.
A Week 3 loss to South Carolina fell, by Pruitt’s own admission, squarely on the shoulders of the defense. “You ought to be raking me over the coals,” he told Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding blame for the loss to the Gamecocks. He had a point given the 27 first downs, 447 yards and 38 points surrendered to the Gamecocks.
Just two weeks later, it took late-game heroics and 208 rushing yards from Gurley to survive against a mediocre Tennessee team as Volunteers quarterback Justin Worley torched the Bulldogs for 264 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Things looked bleak for Georgia off the field as well. Junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng, who was expected to contribute in the secondary, underwent surgery in late September and was ruled out for the season. A few days later, Sheldon Dawson, a contributor at cornerback, was dismissed from the team. Then, defensive back Rico Johnson was medically disqualified and freshman cornerback Shaquille Jones was dismissed.
For a team in desperate need of answers, things went from bad to worse over the course of just a few days. By conventional logic, the indefinite suspension of Gurley, which was announced two days prior to an October 11 date at Missouri, would put further pressure on the defense and likely sink the team.
But then it didn’t.
To that end, the cohesive rally of Georgia’s offense, led by Chubb, has stolen headlines. But lost in that deserving tale of defiance by the seemingly down-and-out Dawgs is the fact that Pruitt’s defense has turned things around decisively.
And while the offense has made do by plugging in more-than-competent talent to replace a star, the defense has played to a different tune—one composed equally of steady reliance on its existing strength and ongoing improvement in an area of concern.
That strength, of course, is the Bulldogs front seven, and that unit is no secret. Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson continue to pace the team with 57 and 55 tackles respectively from their middle linebacking spots. Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd terrorize opposing quarterbacks from the outside with their quick first steps and use of leverage. To date, the two outside pass-rushers have combined for 12.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and an astonishing 32 quarterback pressures.
And the defensive line has certainly done its job in eating up space, occupying blockers and making plays in the backfield. Ray Drew, who appeared lost in the depth chart this spring, has racked up 10 quarterback pressures. Toby Johns, Sterling Bailey and Mike Thornton have been persistent forces as well.
Ironically, improved play in the secondary has furthered the showcase of Georgia’s athletic front seven. In that light, Pruitt’s defensive backs’ ongoing improvement has been the most pleasant surprise of the past few weeks. This unit is playing knowledgeably within the defensive scheme, aggressively when necessary and with a newfound sense of urgency. The result is a higher success ratio in one-on-one matchups and more time for the defensive front to disrupt.
And these improvements are widespread in the secondary. Damian Swann, who has started more than 30 games over the course of his Bulldogs career, has never played better. On Monday, he was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. On the other end of the experience spectrum, true freshman Dominick Sanders has risen from unheralded recruit to full-time starter and star.
The stellar play of the defensive line and linebackers and marked improvement of cornerbacks and safeties has vested itself in stellar performance—even from a statistical standpoint. Georgia ranks 19th in the nation in scoring defense, 16th in yards allowed per game and 11th in turnovers forced.
But perhaps the most telling improvement of this Georgia defense is on a game-by-game basis.
Georgia has held each of its last three opponents below their season scoring average, and on the year, only two opponents (Tennessee and Vanderbilt) have surpassed their average yard production against Georgia.
Yesterday, ESPN analyst and former Bulldogs David Pollack told ESPN Radio (per Chance Linton of 247Sports) that Pruitt was making “a big difference.” He added, “I think you gotta start paying more attention to Georgia now.”
Future opponents probably are taking notice. And it’s not just the Georgia offense they’re worried about.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of GeorgiaDogs.com.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The benefits of scoring big victories on the recruiting trail can quickly change the fortunes of a program that is struggling on the field.
For example, take the 2013 class that Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff put together—a class that finished No. 8 nationally.
In the two years prior to signing that class, the Rebels went 9-16. Since then, they’ve gone 15-5, including a 7-0 start this year and a current ranking of No. 3 nationally in the polls.
There are several recruits in the 2015 class who could help struggling programs turn things around quickly.
Which 2015 recruits could change the fortunes of teams who are struggling in 2014?
Recruits are listed in alphabetical order.
Travis Rudolph's progress in the preseason was evident as he practiced to glowing reviews from coach Jimbo Fisher and teammates. And while a foot injury slowed him at times, Rudolph is one of a large group of freshmen that have answered the call and had an impact on the Florida State football team.
Rudolph had his best game against Notre Dame, grabbing six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter of Florida State's 31-27 win on Saturday night. Of Rudolph's six catches, one was an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston and four went for a first down.
"I think he's got a chance to be a very good player and he's developing in a lot of ways," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
No. 2 FSU needed freshmen and sophomore receivers to emerge this fall after Kelvin Benjamin left early for the NFL and senior Kenny Shaw graduated. While FSU returned top receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary, there were plenty of holes to fill.
Rudolph, a 5-star receiver from West Palm Beach, Florida, didn't play much in FSU's first three games as he recovered from a foot injury. He had his first reception in the win at North Carolina State on Sept. 27 and had his first touchdown a week later in a win over Wake Forest. Rudolph has 17 catches for 232 yards and two touchdowns this season, helping to turn what was a depleted group into one of the strengths of the offense.
"Travis Rudolph is going to be an amazing player," Winston said. "You can't be prouder than a young guy just stepping up in the clutch."
FSU has had plenty of players hit the field for the first time this season and help the Seminoles to a 7-0 start heading into the bye week. In addition to Rudolph, Let's take a look at FSU's true and redshirt freshmen who have made significant contributions this fall:
Five that have made an impact
The true freshman from Miami, a 5-star prospect who was Florida's Mr. Football in 2013, helped FSU wear down Syracuse with a 122-yard effort. With Karlos Williams (ankle) out, and fill-in starter Mario Pender (ankle) injured in the first half, Cook had a season-high 23 carries. He has run for 270 yards and three touchdowns this season.
The 4-star defensive end from Greensboro, North Carolina, leads the true freshmen with 17 tackles. He had a breakout game at N.C. State with five tackles and a forced fumble and then added seven tackles and a fumble recovery against Wake Forest.
Austin Barron was just getting settled in at center when he fractured his arm in the win over Wake Forest. Hoefeld, a redshirt freshman who was a 3-star prospect from New Orleans, played well in the final three quarters against the Demon Deacons and made his first start in a loud dome at Syracuse. While Notre Dame constantly brought pressure up the middle, Hoefeld was better in the second half. And that kind of challenge early in his career will only help his progress.
The 4-star linebacker from Tallahassee had a huge night against Notre Dame, intercepting a second-quarter pass and then picking off Everett Golson's final throw of the night. While the true freshman is viewed often as a rush end, he also showed that he was in the right place at the right time in pass coverage. Pugh has eight tackles in 2014.
The 5-star linebacker from Miami played quite well against Notre Dame after serving an NCAA-mandated six-game suspension. While FSU often plays just two linebackers in its 4-2-5 scheme, Thomas had six tackles against the Fighting Irish and the redshirt freshman showed that he deserves increased playing time.
Three others to watch
The true freshman, a 4-star defensive tackle from Virginia Beach, Virginia, has made eight tackles, seeing playing time as a reserve and giving coaches another option when Nile Lawrence-Stample was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
The 4-star receiver from Homestead, Florida, has made five catches for 105 yards, although most of the true freshman's playing time came earlier in the year. But he will be in line for increased playing time in 2015.
The 4-star defensive back from Lake City, Florida, has missed the last three games with a concussion. But the true freshman played well as a reserve earlier in the year and had four tackles.
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All stats are courtesy of seminoles.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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Travis Waller is a 4-star dual-threat quarterback who is committed to Oregon. He is a fantastic athlete with loads of potential.
Bleacher Report's college football team sat down to get to know the future Duck a little bit better.
What sort of impact can Travis Waller have for the Ducks?
Watch the video and let us know!
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Todd Gurley may soon commence his domination of SEC defenses. After being suspended by the University of Georgia after allegedly taking impermissible benefits, the junior has applied for reinstatement. The school released a statement on the decision Wednesday:
Since completing its initial review of the eligibility matter involving UGA student-athlete Todd Gurley on October 9, the University has been supporting Todd and cooperating with his legal counsel as they review the matter.
Todd has confirmed his desire to seek reinstatement, and the University fully supports Todd's request. The University plans to file the necessary paperwork with the NCAA later today.
Gurley talked about the process in the statement, as did his attorney:
'I want to thank the University, coaches, teammates and the Bulldog Nation for their patience and support,' Gurley said. 'I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made, and I can’t thank the University, my coaches and teammates enough for supporting me throughout this process. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field with my teammates.'
Gurley’s attorney, William King, said, 'Todd has taken responsibility for his actions and is ready to rejoin his teammates. The University has been great throughout the past two weeks and has done everything it can to support Todd. I would especially like to thank President Morehead, Greg McGarity and Coach Richt for standing by Todd.'
Gurley, who was considered a Heisman favorite before his suspension, has been held out of two games due to the investigation. The school suspended him Oct. 9 for "an alleged violation of NCAA rules" to investigate claims he received a cash payment in exchange for autographing memorabilia. Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated reported Gurley was paid $400 for his signature on 80 items.
The situation drew comparisons to a similar case involving former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. In 2013, Manziel was investigated for allegedly signing autographs for brokers on multiple occasions, accepting thousands of dollars for his signature following his Heisman-winning freshman campaign. The NCAA ultimately found no proof of wrongdoing despite circumstantial evidence, though Manziel was suspended for a half for allowing his likeness to be improperly used.
Gurley's lengthier absence was mostly due to timing. The NCAA and Texas A&M had more than three weeks to investigate the claims and clear Manziel's name—all happening before the regular season began. Gurley was suspended midway through the season; in the two games he missed, the 6-1 Bulldogs took down Missouri (34-0) and Arkansas (45-32).
The standard suspension for accepting impermissible benefits in the $400 range is two games.
In the season's first five games, Gurley rushed for 773 yards and eight touchdowns on 94 carries. He and Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott were viewed as co-favorites for the Heisman Trophy, with the victor likely being the one whose team had the most success down the stretch.
Gurley has no legitimate shot at winning the Heisman even if he is reinstated for Georgia's next game versus Florida; he's probably out of the running for every major collegiate award. Even if he has a stellar stretch run to the season, there will likely be a sect of voters who will outright refuse to award someone accused of wrongdoing.
That said, Gurley's potential return would allow him to put his talents on display for pro scouts. Before the scandal, he was viewed as a contender to break the two-year streak of running backs not going in the first round—the first two such years in NFL history. While there will be a small sect of NFL teams that are turned off a bit by the ordeal, it's unlikely this situation will do much harm to his stock.
Manziel, after all, was the No. 22 overall pick in the 2014 draft despite character concerns. This is the only transgression on Gurley's record. Odds are, he'll recover from this.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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With the new College Football Playoff format established, one loss on your record doesn't necessarily have the same negative impact on your playoff hopes.
Which one-loss team will make it to the College Football Playoff?
Watch the video and let us know!
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Brady Hoke is barely hanging on to his job in the midst of his team’s collapse that began last season with a 29-6 loss to Michigan State. Since then, the Wolverines are 4-9 as they prepare for another visit to East Lansing, thanks to an unkind scheduling quirk.
Hoke desperately needs a victory over Michigan’s instate rival to save his job.
The fates of the two teams stand in stark contrast since they last met. Michigan State went on to win the Big Ten Championship followed by a Rose Bowl victory—all goals that Hoke has striven for and failed to attain since returning to Ann Arbor.
Michigan went into a tailspin, finishing in the basement of the Big Ten and getting embarrassed in a minor bowl game. Hoke also had to answer uncomfortable questions about how he handled the suspension of kicker Brendan Gibbons and Taylor Lewan, whose temper got him in trouble both on and off-the-field.
This season, Michigan State picked up where it left off and is competing for another Big Ten title while fighting for a berth in the the inaugural College Football Playoff. Michigan also stayed on the same course, spiraling down as Hoke was once again forced to answer uncomfortable questions—this time about the team’s handling of backup quarterback Shane Morris’ head injury and his team’s failure to generate offense.
Hoke is under fire from all sides: Fans are disappointed in his team’s performance; the national media for his garbled response on the Morris injury; his own boss, athletic director David Brandon, even threw him under the bus, releasing a contradictory late-night statement less than 24 hours later after Hoke talked with the media about Morris.
But even as Hoke’s fate seems all but sealed, his current players seem united in defending him.
Statements to the press are nice, but Hoke needs victories and a bowl berth to have any chance of returning next season.
The Michigan offense came out strong in its first game versus Appalachian State but has stuttered and failed since. The offensive line that reeked last season has only marginally improved. Freshman phenoms Jabrill Peppers and Freddy Canteen have all but disappeared while injuries on both sides of the ball have taken a toll on Michigan’s depth.
The nation will be watching this game, expecting a Michigan State beatdown and waiting to gauge if the Spartans are worthy of making the playoffs despite an early-season loss to Oregon. The stage is set for Michigan to put on an old-school performance that Hoke has been promising since he took over as head coach.
The odds against Hoke saving his job are long; but any hope hinges on Michigan’s performance this Saturday. Unfortunately for him, Michigan State is too talented and too focused on a larger mission to get tripped up by a struggling Michigan squad.
Michigan will fight for Hoke, but just putting up a good fight won't be enough to save his job.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand
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Dak Prescott has been opening eyes with his outstanding play this season for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The junior signal-caller has skyrocketed to the top of many Heisman Trophy boards.
What many don't know is the story of his late mother, Peggy Prescott, and one of her wishes for her talented son.
Bleacher Report took some time to sit down with Prescott and head coach Dan Mullen to hear his inspiring story.
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College football pollsters certainly could use an upset-free weekend to help catch their breath. But if we've learned anything from the first two months of the season, it's not to count out the improbable even when it's not predictable.
Spectacularly enough, only two matchups between Top 25 teams will hit viewers' television sets this weekend. There may not be Top 10 showdowns in the SEC or two College Football Playoff-caliber teams going at it, but that doesn't mean we're in for a boring weekend by any stretch now that the conference slate in full swing.
Will SEC elites Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Alabama continue pushing for a CFP spot, or will they fall victim to a conference upset? What about Kansas State's perfect Big 12 start? Will it be derailed by a Texas team looking to get Charlie Strong his first marquee win?
Florida State, Notre Dame, Auburn and more might be off this weekend, but plenty of questions are set to be answered in Week 9.
Note: Week 9 schedule courtesy of ESPN.com
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Game of the Week
No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU
The Ole Miss Rebels are new at being the hunted instead of the hunters, but they're not showing it, sprinting past every tough test in their way. Saturday, they'll visit an LSU team tired of being the punching bag in a SEC West that it used to rule.
It's not the marquee matchup of the weekend that we've grown accustomed to experiencing in October (see Notre Dame-Florida State or Auburn-Mississippi State). But on a weekend in which most of the nation's elite won't be tested, this game has the best chance to be a memorable one.
Fittingly, ESPN College GameDay will be there:
These two teams are in very different positions than last year. Hugh Freeze notched his first huge win at Ole Miss by topping then-No. 6 LSU. Now, it's Les Miles needing a win to generate some momentum for his fanbase, and Freeze is the one with his eyes set on a national title.
It's not really a secret as to why, either. LSU hasn't found continuity on offense, and its run defense has been a big problem after losing a heap of defensive talent to the NFL in recent seasons.
On the other hand, Ole Miss' recent top recruiting classes are now sophomore and junior playmakers balanced out by experienced leaders such as quarterback Bo Wallace, cornerback Senquez Golson and defensive lineman Denzel Nkemdiche.
Facing such a big-time team at home has the energetic Miles giddy for Saturday to come, per The News-Star's (Monroe) Glenn Guilbeau:
'This game here is one that you will enjoy,' said LSU coach Les Miles, who basically turned his press conference Monday into a promotional ad as he asked fans to attend, eat, stay late and be merry. 'I can tell you, it will be a magical place, and you will add to it. So to that crowd that will come in—come on! Let's have some fun!'
An Ole Miss letdown was almost expected after the Alabama win, but the Rebels instead trounced both Texas A&M and Tennessee. But even in what's been a down year, LSU has shown it can wear opponents down with a bruising run game.
And after all, those only two losses were to Auburn and Mississippi State.
Ole Miss has already shown it belongs in that category, but elite teams have to be at their best every week in the cutthroat SEC. The Rebels have shown they have the superior talent, but crazy things can happen in Death Valley.
Another resounding win will have more clamoring that Ole Miss is deserving of the No. 1 spot over Mississippi State, but a loss will put the Rebels' CFP hopes on life support.
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Todd Graham landed a major addition to his 2015 recruiting class Tuesday, securing the commitment of 4-star outside linebacker Khaylan Thomas.
A star out of Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Thomas chose Arizona State over Oregon, Oklahoma, UCLA and Arizona, among other top programs. He announced the news on Twitter:
He talked about his decision, via Scout.com's Greg Biggins:
I'm very excited to be a Sun Devil. I've honestly been leaning to ASU since the summer after my visit there. "I thought I wanted to take my trips and go through the process but the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to be a Sun Devil. I woke up this morning and it just felt right to me so I decided now was the best time to go ahead and do it and get it over with.
Thomas is ranked No. 271 overall in the class of 2015 by the 247Sports' composite rankings. He is 20th in America among outside linebackers, and No. 35 in the state of California.
CronkiteSports.com's Adam Stites noted the positive effect on the class ranking for Arizona State, which also picked up a recruitment from the nation's top junior college linebacker, Davon Durant, on Tuesday:
Thomas is an explosive, instinctual talent who brings a physical, hard-hitting style. Biggins offered a comparison to former Sun Devils stud and current NFL standout Vontaze Burfict. It's high praise, but it's an understandable connection to make when you see Thomas' punishing hits:
At 6'2" and 210 pounds, he could stand to add some bulk, but that will come once he gets onto a college campus.
Arizona State has churned out some impressive linebacking talent—Burfict and Terrell Suggs, to name a few—over the years, and Thomas looks to be another tantalizing addition.
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