NCAA Football

Oregon Football: Realistic Expectations for QB Vernon Adams in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Cardale Jones Released from Hospital After Migraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 1

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

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

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Ranking the Best SEC Matchups of Week 1

It's been two years since an SEC football team hoisted the national championship trophy, a drought that seemed unthinkable during the conference's seven-year run of dominance.

Now that Week 1 of the 2015 college football season is upon us, several programs will start their quest to end that lull and knock Ohio State off its lofty perch.

Others will either try to make a leap to another level or battle into a bowl game.

While it isn't a week full of top-10 showdowns, a few teams have some strong early-season tests at neutral-site venues. A couple of them will match up teams that are ranked in B/R's preseason top 25 poll.

No. 4 Alabama must play 21st-ranked Wisconsin in Dallas in one of the marquee games of the first week. Everybody will get a taste of whether No. 25 Texas A&M is a contender or pretender in a showdown with the 16th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils.

Before all that, on Thursday, there's the battle of the Carolinas between the Gamecocks and Tar Heels in Charlotte.

Other teams play tough lower-tier programs, and then there's the usual slate of early-season cupcakes to iron the kinks out of teams (against Skyhawks, Warhawks and Redhawks, etc. No, seriously).

With 14 games on the slate involving SEC teams, let's rank all the Week 1 action in the conference.

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Prepare for Alabama's Freshmen Playmakers

Bama Freshmen Set to Explode

While the majority of the focus in Tuscaloosa has been on the constantly evolving quarterback battle, a funny thing happened—freshmen playmakers started to surface.

Running back Damien Harris and wide receiver Calvin Ridley, in particular.

The former 5-star prospects in the most recent recruiting class both play in positions of need for the 2015 Crimson Tide, and head coach Nick Saban thinks that's a perfect storm for the two to be instant-impact youngsters.

"Running back and receiver are probably the two areas that are simplest for a guy to play, because you can minimize what he has to know," Saban said. "You can only play him on things that you know that he knows."

Both appeared on Alabama's first two-deep depth chart of the season when it was released on Monday. When asked specifically about how much they'll play, Saban didn't do anything to suggest a redshirt was in the future for either of his future stars.

"Damien Harris has had a really good camp, and certainly we have no apprehensions about using him in a game," Saban said. "Calvin Ridley has made progress. I think he needs to continue to improve and develop confidence in what he's doing. He's got a chance to be a real contributing player for us this year."

There's no doubt that the offense could use them. With running back Kenyan Drake likely moving all over the field, Harris might be forced to be the true No. 2 tailback behind junior Derrick Henry. At 5'11", 205 pounds, he has the size to be a force between the tackles and the speed to be dangerous in space.

Ridley is bracketed as a co-starter with Robert Foster at the "X" receiver spot entering the opener against Wisconsin. At 6'1", 188 pounds, he could become a key contributor to a receiving corps that is looking to replace the production of Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper.

Keep an eye on the two stud freshmen in Tuscaloosa. They're going to be stars sooner rather than later.


A Little Help, Please?

Last season, Georgia running back Nick Chubb burst onto the scene and topped the 1,500-yard mark in essentially a half-season as the starting running back, filling in for suspended/injured star Todd Gurley as well as Keith Marshall and Sony Michel.

What will he do for an encore?

Not that, according to head coach Mark Richt.

"Having other healthy backs around him is going to help him," he said on Wednesday's teleconference. "I don't know if he'll carry it 37 or 38 times per game or whatever we had to do a couple of times—sometimes we just had to do it by virtue of the fact that we didn't have a lot of depth at that time. We do have more depth now, and guys know what they're doing and are quality backs as well."

With that said, though, expect "Chubb 2.0" to be much different than the first version. 

Richt spent the majority of the offseason refining parts of this game that were lacking during his freshman campaign.

"He is a better pass protector now and he is a better route-runner," said Richt. "He does catch the ball better. We spent most of our time in the spring on those skills. We mostly scrimmaged him on third downs. We didn't give him a lot of first- and second-down snaps in the spring. We did try to get him better in those areas, and I think he has improved."

Gurley jumped from 16 catches as a freshman in 2012 to 37 as a sophomore in 2013. If Chubb can make a similar jump from his 18 receptions a year ago, it will go a long way toward stabilizing the Georgia offense.


Position of Strength?

LSU's quarterback position is one of the biggest mysteries in college football, as has been the case virtually every offseason since 2007—when Matt Flynn led the Tigers to their last national title.

This year, it will be sophomore Brandon Harris getting the first snaps over returning starter Anthony Jennings in Saturday's season opener versus McNeese State. Jennings completed just 48.9 percent of his passes a year ago, and has been behind Harris—who has one career start (at Auburn a year ago)—ever since the close of spring practice.

Did Harris actually win the job or simply not lose it to a guy who completes less than 50 percent of his passes? The former, according to head coach Les Miles.

"Brandon Harris will take the first snap," Miles said. "He's taken the first snaps in every practice throughout the fall. We look forward to seeing him participate against McNeese. That's not to say that at some point we might not put in Anthony Jennings. He's had a productive fall camp. We look at that position as it continues to improve to be a strength for us." 

It better be.

LSU isn't going to be an SEC West contender if it's one-dimensional out of necessity, as it was a year ago. Harris has a big arm, is electric on the ground and can make throws on the run. Whatever held him back a year ago better be in the rearview mirror, because just a little explosiveness out of the quarterback could go a long way for the Tigers.


Duke On The Loose

Auburn wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams' fall camp didn't start out great.

The 6'2", 224-pounder was suspended for about a week last month by head coach Gus Malzahn, and has "slowly been working his way up the depth chart" ever since.

With the showdown against Louisville looming, it seems like perfect timing that he's now a co-starter for the Tigers along with 6'4", 205-pounder Tony Stevens. When asked if Williams was running with the "ones" this week, Malzahn did his best to keep Louisville guessing.

"All of our receivers kinda mixed and matched. All of them have had opportunities to go with the orange and blue," Malzahn said. "On the depth chart, we listed 'or,' so we'll just see where we're at."

Since Malzahn is keeping the world guessing, I suppose it's appropriate to take a shot at what's going on myself. Williams won't start, might sit out a series or two, but will be a factor in the season opener at the Georgia Dome.

Write that down in pencil, and then erase it if I'm wrong.


How a Job Was Won

To the surprise of no one, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze announced that junior college transfer Chad Kelly will take the first snap at quarterback on Saturday versus UT-Martin over sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

That's a departure from where the trio stood coming into fall camp, when Buchanan was the leading the three-man battle.

How did Kelly seal the deal?

"It's solely based on us charting who's ahead," Freeze said. "We had 10 categories that we charted (in fall camp), and he was leading in seven of them. That's the reason he's scheduled to get the first snaps."

Seven out of 10 isn't too bad, especially for a newcomer up against a couple of veterans in the system.

With that said, all three will play.

"Ultimately, I have confidence that all three could do good things with our football team," Freeze said. "They each have some strengths. The ultimate deciding factor will be how they play on game day."

OK, fine.

But is it a coincidence that Freeze is playing coy with his quarterbacks headed into a cupcake in the opener and a lackluster matchup against Fresno State in Week 2 before the showdown with Alabama in Week 3?

Probably not. Ole Miss will be the first real test for the new-look Crimson Tide secondary, so expect Freeze to keep things under wraps until the showdown with the Tide.


A Step Forward

If Mississippi State is going to dance with the SEC West's big boys again in 2015, it's going to need help from one of its biggest defensive linemen.

Chris Jones came to Starkville with a ton of recruiting hype, but has been more of a rotational player for the majority of his two seasons with the program. With turnover in the trenches, head coach Dan Mullen is counting on his 6'6", 308-pound monster defensive tackle with cat-like quickness to become a stabilizing force up front.

"He had success as a freshman," Mullen said. "When you do that, and have success as a freshman, you don't understand the strain of what you have to put in to continue to develop. He kind of plateaued a little bit last year. We've talked about him being desperate. If you want to be a great player, you have to be desperate to be great. I've really seen him that way. His demeanor in practice has really picked up."

Watch out for Jones in 2015. 

New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz intends to get Jones in one-on-one situations this year, and could move him over to end at times, according to Gene Swindoll of

He'll get to show what he's made of against Southern Miss in a late-night tilt in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on Saturday night, and could set the tone for his breakout season.


Saban Wants More

A lot was made of Alabama head coach Nick Saban's statement this week on how many national titles he feels that he should have under his belt.

Three at Alabama and one at LSU apparently isn't good enough.

"People talk about you won four national championships," he told ESPN's Paul Finebaum (via Connor Smolensky of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). "Well, I feel like we’ve had good enough teams to win eight. So I feel like we failed four times. I feel like I failed four times."

I'll say this once, and hope we can get it out of the way: What's the big deal?

It's the same reaction I had when Auburn's Gus Malzahn said he should have dropped 60 on Saban's Crimson Tide in last year's Iron Bowl. These are college football coaches who are brimming with self-confidence and confidence in their teams.

Of course they expect more, and think about what might have been.

It's not arrogance, it's confidence.

If you show me a head coach who doesn't have it, I'll show you a coach who will be out of work in the very near future.


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

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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College Football Picks: Week 1 Predictions for Every Game

It was nearly eight months ago the last time we had a real-life, this-counts-for-something college football game involving teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision, when Ohio State capped off an amazing 2014 season with a win over Oregon in the National Championship Game. And at times since that January tilt in Arlington, Texas, it felt like we'd never reach the next season.

But we somehow made it through that interminable span, and the 2015 season is upon us. In droves.

There are college football games scheduled for the next five days, beginning with an ACC/SEC clash of border states Thursday and wrapping up with the start of Ohio State's title defense on a Labor Day visit to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia, to face the only team it lost to a year ago.

In between are a lot of other games.

Thanks to the shortened regular season (which has reduced bye weeks) and a whopping 48 teams playing FCS opponents, there are 87 games on the Week 1 schedule. And we've got a prediction for each and every one of them, along with a semi-educated explanation as to why we're making that choice.

Follow along for our picks to every Week 1 game, then give us your selections in the comments section.


Last season's record: 578-191 (.752)

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Biggest Questions Facing Each Top-25 Team Heading into Week 1

Major college football is back. It's really, really back. 

The action kicks off Thursday night at 6 p.m. ET, when North Carolina and South Carolina take center stage on ESPN in Charlotte, North Carolina. Until then, let's get you prepped with the biggest storyline facing each Associated Press top 25 team heading into Week 1. 

Which storylines are we focusing on? With so many cupcake games, it usually revolves around key position players (i.e. quarterbacks) who will be taking the field for the first time.

If there's a key question mark heading into the season, can it be answered (or close to answered) right off the bat? For bigger games, the focus usually lies on key matchups that could decide the game.

With that, let's get to it. The top storyline for each top-25 team heading into Week 1 can be found in the following slides. 

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Ranking the Best ACC Matchups of Week 1

ACC action is back!

With week one of the 2015 regular season upon us, looking at the matchups from within the conference seems like the prudent thing to do. 

There are your standard cupcakes strewn about. It's a commonality for virtually every conference to feature weaker opponents early. However, there are a handful of games with tremendous intrigue. 

This piece will rank the 14 season-opening games for all of the ACC in order from the worst to best matchup. 


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Daily Fantasy College Football Week 1: DraftKings Optimum Lineup, Matchup Guide

College football fans rejoice—the wait is over. The 2015 season has finally arrived, with Week 1 set to start things off with a bang, beginning with a number of Thursday night showdowns and continuing into a busy first Saturday.

In a tough-to-predict industry such as daily fantasy sports, the early weeks of the college football season can be a breath of fresh air. There are always marquee clashes, but the opening weekend contains more lopsided matchups between Power Five powerhouses and overmatched opposition than you'll find any other Saturday this season.

Add a couple of interesting non-conference battles sprinkled in with the many inevitable blowouts, and DraftKings will be flooded with Week 1 players. With that said, let's break down some of the best plays for the weekend.


DraftKings Optimum Week 1 Lineup

Saturday games (11 a.m. ET to 3 p.m. ET) only listed.



Tommy Armstrong Jr., Nebraska ($7,000)

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. offers DraftKings players a top-dollar gunslinger without having to buck up the salary for one. BYU's defense isn't the ideal matchup, but it is much more formidable against the run than the pass.

Armstrong's dual-threat ability will loom large, and producers around him should be hungry to fill the voids left by Kenny Bell and Ameer Abdullah.


Jaquez Johnson, Florida Atlantic ($6,200)

A $6,200 quarterback who averaged 22.9 DraftKings points per game last season is worth taking no matter the matchup, and it just so happens that Jaquez Johnson and Florida Atlantic are going up against an overmatched Tulsa defense.

Johnson's running ability will pad his already-strong stats from this Week 1 matchup.


Running Backs

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee ($6,900)

Tennessee bruiser Jalen Hurd was the workhorse in the Vols' backfield as a true freshman in 2014, and he's primed to take on an even larger role this season. Priced as the eighth-highest running back for his time slot, Hurd should finish near the top against a favorable matchup.

Bowling Green allowed over 200 rushing yards per game last season and also lost seven starters from that unit.


Sony Michel, Georgia ($4,700)

A certain blowout of Louisiana-Monroe will have star rusher Nick Chubb ($10,200) struggling to get the touches necessary to fulfill his heavy price tag. Instead, look toward Sony Michel, the speedy sophomore who broke the 150-yard plateau once last season

Even with star backs, the Bulldogs have remained committed to a by-committee approach, and that should surface again in this one.


Flex Option: Jordan Canzeri, Iowa ($3,900)

The travesty of Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri being listed below the $4,000 plateau is something DraftKings players should take complete advantage of. A tough matchup with Illinois State is a reason why, but it should only reassure daily fantasy owners that Canzeri will be getting plenty of the ball into the fourth quarter.

If the Hawkeyes rely on their biggest strength (a stout offensive line and running game), Canzeri will surpass 20 points.


Wide Receivers

Devin Lauderdale, Texas Tech ($5,200)

Get in on a sure-fire aerial assault while still preserving salary by nabbing Devin Lauderdale from Texas Tech. The Red Raiders' second-leading receiver in DraftKings' price books finished the season with 17 or more points in five of his last six games, and Texas Tech can expect to run the score up on Sam Houston State much like LSU did early last season.


Dom Williams, Washington State ($4,800)

It's a completely different story regarding their running backs, but Washington State's offense produces the best out of its receivers, and that should sway owners toward Dom Williams.

The Cougars' second-leading returning wideout had a three-game stretch of 23 points or more in 2014 and will benefit from DraftKings' point-per-reception system against a Portland State squad that went 2-6 in the Big Sky last year and finished on a four-game skid.


Play the DraftKings CFB "Dive for the Pylon" contest and win $300,000!

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Georgia's Mark Richt Should Be Excited About 'Apex Predator' Jaleel Laguins

Head coach Mark Richt and the Georgia coaching staff have a knack for finding linebacker commits that are capable of taking over SEC games.

Could in-state talent Jaleel Laguins be the next in line?

Watch as Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder looks at the recent Georgia linebacker commit and his freakish athleticism in the video above.

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How TE Mark Andrews Overcame Near-Death Experience to Shine for Oklahoma

Before he would become a spring-game sensation in April, before he would be a bona fide member of the offensive two-deep depth chart, Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews needed to be saved.

At 6'6" and 247 pounds, Andrews is a 19-year-old in a man's body—a body that had gone completely limp one afternoon last September. He lay on his bed, his eyes, usually full of expression and light, fixated straight ahead, yet not on anything at all. His body was motionless, an immovable mass.

He was lifeless.

That's 247 pounds of dead weight, which someone had to prop up in his dorm room in Headington Hall. Someone had to act fast in order to boost his glucose levels. Someone had to call the paramedics, all while relaying the situation on the phone in real time with Andrews' mother. Someone had to.

How was Andrews even alive?

"Wesley," Andrews said, referring to Sooners long snapper and roommate Wesley Horky. "He saved my life."


The Call

"It was a Thursday during the bye week. Those Thursday practices always throw you off," Horky said.

The Sooners normally practiced from 3:30-5:45 p.m. during the season. On bye weeks, like the one following a 45-33 win in Morgantown on Sept. 20, they have Thursday morning practices. It's not a huge difference, but it can be enough to disrupt a routine.

Andrews is a Type 1 diabetic. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 is a genetic disorder in which the body does not produce insulin on its own. A routine is critical for him. His life every day is a math project: Count carbs, take insulin and never deviate. Even then, Type 1 is a condition of instability, especially for an athlete like Andrews, for whom there can be extreme spikes and lows in glucose levels. A mistake—something as simple as miscalculating the amount of medicine needed—can result in discomfort.

Or it can be much, much worse.

That Thursday afternoon following practice, Horky called from across the suite-style dorm to see if Andrews wanted to grab dinner before his flight back to his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona.


There was no response.

Horky entered Andrews' room. One more time, he called out.


Lying on his bed, his eyes wide-open and staring at the ceiling, was Andrews. He was in a state of hypoglycemia, a severe low in blood sugar levels, and was unresponsive.

"I was scared," Horky said.

"Mark's parents [Paul and Martha Andrews] told my family and I about his condition," Horky continued, "but I've never dealt with diabetes before." It's normally not an issue. Andrews is militant about his glucose levels. No one needs to remind him what to do or when to do it. But even the most dedicated Type 1s understand that their condition is unpredictable.

"There's no rhyme or reason to it, that's the thing about Type 1 diabetes," Martha said. "You have to ask yourself, 'What did you do today that you didn't do before?'"

No one's sure if Andrews worked out too hard, took too much medication after eating or whether it was the arbitrary nature of being Type 1. Horky didn't know how long Andrews had been unresponsive, either.

Scared, but calm, Horky called Martha. "I don't know what's going on," she recalled him saying, "but I can't get Mark to wake up."

The pit in Martha's stomach returned. She had dealt with her son's hypoglycemia before, but never over the phone from nearly 1,000 miles away. Her role was instructional.

Get sugar in Mark's system, she thought. He didn't even have to chew. Just get the sugar to mix with his saliva.

"Are his fruit chews nearby?" she asked.

Horky checked. "Yes."

"See if he'll chew them."

Listed on his bio page as 6'1" and 220 pounds, Horky isn't that much smaller than Andrews. That doesn't make lifting him up any easier. "He's a big kid," Horky said.

There was Horky, on the phone while holding up his roommate, his teammate, his friend, shoving fruit chews in his mouth. "He wasn't chewing, though," Horky said. "He wasn't saying anything."

He was still staring straight ahead.

This went on for minutes, 10-15 by both accounts. That's 10-15 minutes that undoubtedly felt like hours. Martha instructed Horky to go across the hall, find someone and get help, but he refused. "I'm not leaving Mark," he said.

Still, the paramedics had to be called. Horky dialed 911, unsure of how to describe what was happening, while Martha notified OU's medical training staff. "They do an amazing job of taking care of Mark," she said.

A few minutes later, approaching sirens could be heard in the distance. A full team of paramedics plus the Sooners training staff packed the room right around the time Andrews started to come to. The sugar dose worked.

He doesn't remember what happened, but Andrews knows one thing: He was fortunate.

Martha was strong and focused then. She needed to be. This time was different, though. Speaking about it now nine months later, she did what any parent would do.

She wept.


The Battle Inside His Body

Andrews was diagnosed with Type 1 when he was just nine years old. Paul, a urologic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, didn't need to be a doctor to know something was wrong. His youngest son was urinating frequently, a telltale sign of diabetes.

At the time of his diagnosis, Andrews' blood sugar was 300 mg/dL; a normal blood sugar reading for fasting children is about 100 mg/dL. The Andrews family was heartbroken. "The news was unexpected," Andrews said. "I thought, 'Is this going to affect my life forever?'"

Andrews never got down on himself, though. His life was still his life, and he was going to make the best of it. It would just be different.

"He never asked, 'Why me?'" Martha said.

"He has an inner strength," Paul added. "He never cried.

"I did. I cried."

Andrews' willingness to battle diabetes comes from one of his most prominent traits: competitiveness. In every facet of his life—sports, academics or in health—Andrews wants to win.

"He wants those glucose levels to be right like he wants to score points in a basketball game," Paul said.

It's not always that simple, of course. Paul recalled one night when Mark woke up disoriented with extremely low glucose levels. There's never a schedule for these setbacks, after all. The paramedics had to be called, and it took a while before Mark came to.

But that evening, Mark, probably against better judgement, attended high school football practice. Afterward, the team ran gassers. According to Paul, Mark won every single one.

The whole situation sounds foreign and life-altering, and make no mistake—it is. There's a strong support system in place, Andrews said. OU's coaching staff always make sure he has the attention of the athletic trainers. His teammates are curious about his Type 1, though only his closest friends on the team actually know about last September.

But the reality is that others make more of Andrews' condition than he will ever make of it himself. Rather, he chooses to make his life about helping others. He's volunteered for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's charity walks and has mentored others who have Type 1.

People like Desert Ridge High School offensive lineman Nick Hannon.

When Hannon was diagnosed with Type 1 two years ago, he had two questions for his doctor: Could he still play football, and could he still eat cheeseburgers? His mother, Heidi, had more pressing questions. Chiefly, could her son continue to live his life as normally as possible?

Searching for answers, Heidi Googled "Arizona High School Football + Type 1 Diabetes." Up popped Andrews on the first page. Heidi coordinated a chance for Nick to meet Mark in person before practice one afternoon and he advised Hannon on how to take control of his glucose levels during games. Don't be afraid to get tested often, he said, and make sure blood sugar levels stay in between 100-200 mg/dL.

For the Andrews and Hannon families, however, talking is as much about therapy as it is about information.

"I just try to help families who need encouragement," Andrews said. "But then I'm getting help, too, because they know what I'm going through."

That season, in 2013, Desert Ridge and Desert Mountain played twice, with Hannon's Jaguars winning both games. On one occasion when Andrews was playing defensive end, Hannon lined up right across from him.

So who won the one-on-one battle?

"The play was to the opposite side, so I pushed him and ran to the second level," said Hannon, who is 6'3" and 250 pounds this year as a senior, "but I feel like he would have done some damage."

Andrews laughed, probably because Hannon's opinion struck him as an honest one. But he replied modestly.

"I think I would have given him a run for his money."


The Athlete

There is seemingly nothing that can stop Andrews from playing sports—all of them. He's a pure athlete in body and mind.

He always has been. He was described by his father as a "6'6" kid who can run a 4.6 (40-yard dash)." The Andrews family is filled with those types of athletes. Paul himself was a Texas high school football player who went to college at SMU. Mark's three older siblings—Jack, Charlie and Annie—were competitive soccer players.

So too was Mark, who began playing soccer at around five years old. As a striker, his game was unique. Usually, his parents said, Andrews was the tallest kid on the field.

Great strikers— like Wayne Rooney—aren't generally tall. It's a position that requires impeccable ball-handling skills, elusiveness and speed. Strikers are scorers but also targets for aggressive defense and slide tackles. It's not a position suited for clumsy giants. Yet Andrews played striker for club teams like Sereno Soccer Club all the way up until high school. 

In a family of tall children, Mark was the tallest. By the time he arrived at Desert Mountain High School, he was 6'4", according to his high school football coach, Tony Tabor. "He already looked like an adult," Tabor said.

It was only then as a freshman in high school that Andrews started playing football. For years, it was soccer, basketball (in which he played power forward) and baseball. He was always practicing. It never felt like there were enough days in the year for him to get it all in.

So why football, all of a sudden?

He was influenced in part by his second-oldest brother, Charlie, who in addition to playing soccer was a successful football player with college offers. Additionally, he wanted to play with longtime friend Kyle Allen, currently the starting quarterback at Texas A&M.

Football came naturally for Andrews. He played instantly as a freshman, and he recorded 81 catches for 1,590 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior in 2012. In addition, he served as the team's punter and place-kicker. His soccer skills would come in handy after all.

In many ways, soccer was an important prerequisite for football because it taught him the concept of passing lanes and zone coverage. Andrews naturally understands those concepts in the same way others instinctively understand math. It wasn't just soccer, though. Basketball not only taught him many of those same concepts but also how to use his body to create separation.

Knowing how to get open on offense transcends all team sports. Basketball, football and soccer are all similar in that regard. But there was one thing that made football different enough to pique Andrews' interest.

"Mark liked football because he got a chance to hit someone," Paul said. "In soccer, he would get carded before someone else. In football, he thought, 'Now I'm going to play a sport where I can hit you and not get in trouble.'"

This distinction is important. There are plenty of athletes—more than anyone can count—who can catch a ball and avoid contact. It takes a different mentality to actively seek out that contact. It's a mentality that can't really be conditioned, either, because it requires a certain breed of player more than it requires a certain kind of coach.

It's the kind of breed that makes a great tight end.


Accepting Change

That's the thing: Andrews wasn't supposed to be a tight end. He was adamant about it, in fact, as a 4-star wide receiver recruit. In an August 2013 article, Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic claimed Andrews verbally committed to Oklahoma in part because he was being recruited as a wide receiver and not a tight end (Mark's oldest brother, Jack, is a med student at OU, which was another factor in his decision).

Shortly into his redshirt season, though, OU's coaching staff approached Andrews about making the full-time transition away from receiver.

Redshirting was demoralizing enough, Andrews explained. "It's difficult coming out of high school and thinking you're going to play again." Now he was going to switch positions.

However, it turned out to be a necessity for Andrews to physically and mentally mature. Being the team player that he is, and knowing it was his best path to the next level, Andrews agreed.

There is upside in Andrews' game at tight end—a lot of it. It was on display in the Sooners' spring game on April 11. He caught two passes for 56 yards, one of which was highlight-reel material: a long pass down the middle of the field. At around the 25-yard line, Andrews evaded two tackles and carried Sooners cornerback Tito Windham down to inside the 10.

The crowd inside Memorial Stadium erupted in delight. This was Andrews' defining moment.

He was euphoric, while simultaneously overcome with a sense of relief—the type of feeling that culminates from a year of hard work and no playing time to show for it.

That could change in 2015. The big-bodied Andrews has already drawn comparisons to ex-Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro by former Red Raiders quarterback (and current OU signal-caller) Baker Mayfield. At the very least, Andrews could be the complementary weapon to receiver Sterling Shepard that the Sooners sorely missed in their receiving unit in 2014.

First-year offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley loves the possibility of using Andrews as a sixth offensive lineman as well as a fifth wide receiver. Having that combination is a luxury. The lack of a good tight end doesn't hurt an offense, Riley explained, but having one does help present mismatches.

It's a high ceiling for someone who's still learning the position.

"A lot of this is really foreign," Andrews said. "It's like a different game to me."


It's Not About Him

Martha made a point that being diabetic is only part of her son's life and not his defining characteristic. This is 100 percent true, but it'd be wrong to omit the fact he's fought an unenviable battle. Andrews has never been hospitalized for his condition, but there have been close calls.

He overcame them—not for his own sake, but for others. That's how he chooses to lead his life. It's not about him. It never was.

The world, you see, is not so bad as long as you know there are people out there who want to help. "Being an athlete puts you on a pedestal," Paul said. "For Mark, he can use his status as an athlete to help others.

"That awareness of other people makes you a better teammate."

It's not a forced act of charity. Andrews is, by all accounts, someone who genuinely cares about others, whether it's his family, his friends, his teammates or someone he just met. When Paul wanted Mark to play quarterback for Desert Mountain, he refused on principle because it was Allen's position. That's just who he was—and who he is.

He's the type who, as Tabor explained, "walks to the beat of his own drum." That suits him. Andrews hasn't always been given the easiest path, but it never sounded like he wanted it.

"Right now there's nothing given to me," Andrew said. It's a mentality apropos of life as a Type 1 and as an athlete.

This isn't high school, after all. Andrews is no longer the biggest or fastest player on the field. Every practice, he goes up against guys like defensive end Charles Tapper, a First-Team All-Big 12 selection in 2013. That's ultimately how Andrews gets better.

"I'm still getting used to it," Andrews said. "Going up against Tapper, I'd be lying if I said I didn't get knocked on my ass a few times."

He can handle it. In a way, it wouldn't be the first time.


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter, @BenKercheval.

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College Football Betting Picks: UCLA Among Week 1 Odds Selections

Motivation plays a key role when handicapping most sports, but especially when it comes to betting on college football. Season openers can be some of the toughest games to wager on because it's simply too early to tell how good or bad certain teams are based solely on the offseason and previous year.

However, you can use public perception against the sportsbooks in hopes of beating them in Week 1.

For example, the No. 13 UCLA Bruins are comparable home favorites against the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark to what they were on the road when they met in the season opener a year ago. The Bruins edged the Cavaliers 28-20 but failed to cover the spread as 18-point road chalk on the way to going 1-7 against the number to start the season.

They did finish the year strong, though, covering four of five games down the stretch, and have a new freshman phenom quarterback under center in 247Sports 5-star recruit Josh Rosen.

UCLA may have been a disappointment last season, but that does not mean the same will be the case this year. Virginia also covered its first five games in 2014 before going 2-5 against the spread in the last seven games. Look for those most recent betting trends to continue for both teams as the Bruins win by more than three touchdowns this weekend.

Another team coming off a disappointing campaign is the Texas A&M Aggies, who face the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils at Houston's NRG Stadium on Saturday. The Aggies find themselves as small favorites in this matchup, and many bettors may just jump on the Sun Devils because they are the Top 25 team getting points.

However, Texas A&M is trying to turn the page and has an outstanding head coach in Kevin Sumlin, who will get the team back on track and into the rankings again with a solid victory here.

Finally, the Nebraska Cornhuskers have a 29-game winning streak in season openers, although most of the opponents during that stretch have been cupcakes.

That will not be the case Saturday when the BYU Cougars visit Lincoln with dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill looking to pull off the upset. Hill is a dark-horse Heisman Trophy pick and will at least keep this one close in covering the spread at Nebraska.

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The Cardale Jones You Don't Know

It is July 15, and the woman who helped save Cardale Jones from himself is putting the finishing touches on a modest ESPYs watch party in Willoughby, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.

Hours from now, sitting beside family and friends, Michelle Nash, Jones' guardian, will watch him suffer his first defeat in more than four years. The ESPY for Breakout Athlete will be presented to Little League magician Mo'ne Davis. The award for Best Team will be presented to U.S. women's soccer.

The Buckeyes will leave Los Angeles empty-handed, and Jones will wash away his sorrows by publicly courting Ronda Rousey, the most perilous female fighter on the planet, through social media. The latest chapter of 140-character stardom will surprise no one.

In another world more than 2,300 miles away, hours before the show begins, Nash and Chloe Michelle Jones—Cardale's eight-month-old daughter—are enjoying a sublime Ohio summer day. Away from the spotlight and hysteria, they walk together, smiling, behind a giant curtain. Chloe coos in the background as Nash takes a trip back in time.

We go back to January 12, the night everything changed. Hours after Jones' Buckeyes won a national championship, Nash sat in a Dallas bus on the way back to the hotel as she tried to process what she just saw. Unable to see Jones after the game, she couldn't wait to wrap her arms around his enormous shoulders. Suddenly, her phone buzzed.

She looked down, and a text message came into focus. It was from Jones.

"If it had not been for you," it said, "I wouldn't be here."

This is Cardale Jones. Not the young man who faked a transfer to Akron, verbally sparred with an NBA All-Star and bragged about destroying a sick kid in a video game, all in a matter of months.

Hidden behind the grandiose social media persona and even the cannon right arm attached to the magical right shoulder, there is happiness. There is compassion. There is a love of children. There is lingering immaturity. There is tremendous pain.

And the journey to this point started long before anyone cared to know his name. 

"A lot of people don't know that Cardale is an honor roll student. He's great in school and is never in trouble. He was known for being goofy all the time, but I felt like playing in a game has made him grow up more. He knows in order to play, you have to take it a bit more serious. When he was thrown into the fire like that, he grew up." —Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington

Earlier in life, Nash managed a daycare. These days, she works with young people on the verge of throwing it all the way at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Corrections Office.

"I have murderers," she said. "I have robbers. In some shape or form, I have always worked with the juvenile population."

Her clients are no longer small children; they are 18-to-21-year-olds who have lived rough lives. Helping them is as much her calling as it is a job. In many ways, this is how she stumbled upon a sophomore high school student named Cardale Jones.

Unable to have children of her own, Nash reached out to her cousin in 2008, curious if she knew a child she could mentor. Married to Ronnie Bryant, the father of Christian Bryant, Jones' teammate at Glenville High School and Ohio State, the two connected with Glenville head coach Ted Ginn Sr. Within one week, they found someone.

"They told me they had an amazing kid with a beautiful smile," Nash said. "But behind that smile, there was a lot of pain."

Nash met Jones for the first time after football practice, a sport she knew little about. Over the next month, they met regularly. The foreseen awkwardness never surfaced. "It was just natural," she said.

Roughly six weeks after they first met, a distressed Jones phoned Nash in the middle of the night.

"He said, 'Ms. Michelle, I don't want to live like this anymore. Can you come get me?' I went to pick him up," Nash said. "He's been with me ever since."

Jones has stated publicly that he's never met his father. His mother,Florence Jones, worked to provide for her six children—Cardale being the youngest. Ultimately, he wasn't happy with the way things were. Nash sensed the desperation. She opened the door.

For the first three months, Jones slept on an air mattress. When it dawned on her that this was no longer temporary, Nash bought him a bed set and made the room his.

Jones' arrival hit Nash in a way she wasn't expecting. Raised by her grandparents, she lost her grandmother in 2004. Four years later, and one month before she first met Jones, she lost her grandfather. There was an empty hole. She needed something or, in this instance, someone.

"I truly believe God does things for a reason," Nash said. "I needed Cardale, and Cardale needed me. The dots connected." 

"He had to mature as a person and not just a quarterback. I think he took it to heart, and throughout the season, he prepared properly and handled himself with proper demeanor. When he got his shot, he shined." —Ohio State offensive lineman Taylor Decker

There are barely any streetlights in Fork Union, Virginia. The nearest Wal-Mart is 17 miles away. There is a post office, a thrift store, a few churches, a florist and a handful of restaurants. There is also Fork Union Military Academy, a buried treasure chest of football talent rarely visited by choice.

This seclusion is by design.

John Shuman has been with the program for the last 35 years and the head coach for the last 28 of them. During that time, players such as Vinny Testaverde, Plaxico Burress and Eddie George have passed through the program. More recently, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde played for Shuman before finding stardom in Columbus.

A combination of academics, drills, chores and football, Fork Union is a place young men go for repair. They wear uniforms and operate on an exact schedule that they do not create.

"We're off the beaten path," Shuman said. "There's not much here. The first week is homesickness. The second week is 'I miss my girlfriend.' The personal problems come in the third week because it's so wired up every day."

In the fall of 2011, Jones arrived at Fork Union with fellow Buckeye Michael Thomas—a move orchestrated by Ginn, Nash and then-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.

When he first met Jones, Shuman assumed he was a lineman because of his size. Then he saw him throw and move. There were no issues on the football front, but the day-to-day at Fork Union did not come as easy.

The rigid agenda, lack of female students and overbearing structure shocked Jones' system. Shuman recalled that he and Jones clashed over the particulars—shaving, making the bed, wearing his hat sideways, throwing out the trash, hiding cell phones and things of that nature.

Progress was slow but apparent. Jones never settled into a routine, but he did adjust.

"I told him that when his mind caught up to his talent, he would be a pro. He'll make it where he dreams to go," Shuman said. "As soon as he started maturing, you could see some flourishing. We didn't straighten him out, but he was a better product as a human being when he left." 

"It's been pretty amazing. When I came in, he was just Cardale the goofball. A lot of things weren't serious, nothing was too urgent for him, and you could see the growth. He was thrown into a position where we needed him in order to be successful, and he did it. We're really proud of that." —Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry

Sent by his boss to deliver a specific message, Tom Herman made the voyage to Fork Union to speak with a quarterback who possessed a special right arm, so he was told.

Wearing combat boots and his military uniform, Jones met his future offensive coordinator shortly before he enrolled at Ohio State. Herman did not mince words with his future player. There was work to be done.

"He was just a big, overgrown child," Herman recalled on their first encounter. "Not a bad guy, not a thug. Doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, not disrespectful, but just lazy. He didn't understand the urgency of playing college football or the urgency of life in general."

In 2012, Jones said goodbye to Fork Union and hello to Columbus. Shortly after he did, he hit "send" on a tweet that would define him for some time.

"Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL," Jones wrote. "We ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS."

The social media lapse resulted in a one-game suspension. More importantly, it moved Jones into Urban Meyer's lavish doghouse. It nearly led to his departure.

"I wanted him to go somewhere else," Nash said. "It wasn't so much of him not playing. I felt that Cardale's spirit was being broken. Sometimes when I talked to him, he would be very, very down. I had a real hard time with that."

With Jones inching closer to a new program, Herman intervened. He made the quarterback his project. Helping him was an unexpected source: Michelle Herman.

"My wife dove into his life pretty good," Herman said. "She would text and call him on a regular basis to see how he was. She would provide the good cop version to my bad cop. Urban was ready to kick him off the team a couple of different times, and we told him to give us a chance and let us turn this guy around."

On days when Herman would really lay into Jones, he would quickly text his wife right after. "Hug him up a bit," he would write. And she would. It was an unorthodox tag-team effort that was surprisingly effective.

It didn't happen in an instance. There were lapses sprinkled between advancements. But slowly, Jones worked his way back into good standing.

"On a 1-10 scale, it's a 10. I did not see that in him. That's not a shot at him. That's an honest evaluation. His preparation for the Alabama game changed my whole perception, and really it has continued all the way through." —Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer

Ohio State's starting quarterback walked through the front doors of the Nationwide Children's Hospital four days before he won a national championship. Having clobbered Wisconsin and Alabama, Jones' next opponent before Oregon was a 16-year-old recovering from his seventh open-heart surgery.

Inside a crowded room, Jones demolished young Jared Foley 98-35 in a game of EA's NCAA Football. It was a spectacular beatdown, one that became national news.

"The Superstar, Big-Armed Quarterback Clobbers Sick Kid" headlines were printed in bulk.

Man I wish everyone stop saying I beat a kid in the hospital 91-35.... It was 98-35, had 91 with 1:26 left in the 4th

— Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) February 10, 2015

The headlines written inside the hospital walls were drastically different. Jared needed someone to help him figuratively heal—someone to make him laugh—and he found it from an unexpected source.

The score of the game was inconsequential. If anything, it made it that much more special.

"These are things I was doing before the spotlight ever came," Jones said after the visit. "It means a little more to people now because they see a guy with some influence, but this has always been me. I don't want people to think that because I'm in the spotlight, I'm doing outreaches. These are things I really enjoy doing. This is my passion."

There is more to this story—a sequel that has yet to truly be told.

This summer, Foley suffered a very serious stroke—a complication from a blood thinner that wasn't thinning his blood enough. Foley spent days in the ICU, and the initial prognosis was troubling.

Jones learned of Foley's latest hospital return and wanted to see his friend immediately. In fact, he tried to visit the very next day, but Foley simply wasn't ready for visitors.

Jones remained persistent, and a few days later, when Foley's latest miracle recovery began, he made his way back to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. They were two doors down from where they first met back in January.

Jones stayed past visiting hours, bringing with him a signed mini-helmet and a national championship T-shirt.

"It was nice to see him again," Foley said. "We watched baseball and talked the whole time."

Three days later, Jones returned to the hospital. This time, he was not alone. He brought his daughter Chloe.

As Jared and Jones played a rematch of NCAA Football, a game that resulted in a far less one-sided victory for the Ohio State QB, Foley's father walked Chloe around the hospital, showing her off to nurses and patients.

"It's been exciting for Jared. He has had a rough life, but to have somebody that has taken to him like this has been so good for him," Jared's mother Stacey Foley said. "Cardale has always said that it's been good both ways. He likes having someone to look after, because he's always had someone looking out for him."

The Foleys hope to make it to at least one Ohio State game this season, regardless of who is named the starting quarterback.

The sound of camera lenses opening and closing at a tremendous pace pepper the Columbus air at Ohio State's media day. It sounds like a torrential rain bouncing off a skylight.

This is not unusual for one of the nation's premier football powers. The main attraction—a former third-string quarterback who, this time a year ago, blended seamlessly into the backdrop—certainly is. The face of college football, an ascent still not at its apex, is now fighting for his job.

"If I'm not the starter, I won't look at it and say I should have gone out last year," Jones says. "If I'm not the starter, then I should have worked harder this offseason, and I should have worked harder in camp. It's simple."

Seated at a makeshift table, drowning in microphones, tape recorders and noise, Jones and his daughter look completely at ease amid madness. It is three weeks and one day before Ohio State will travel to Blacksburg to open up its championship defense against Virginia Tech.

On occasion, Chloe—who is attending her first press conference—looks up at her father in his scarlet jersey as he fields questions. Her Ohio State pacifier bobs up and down. Jones addresses the decision to forgo the allure of possible NFL fortune to return to Ohio State.

If J.T. Barrett ends up reclaiming the job he won a season ago, many will deem Jones' decision to return a fault of judgment. They will declare that the young man who wanted nothing more than football when he arrived should have cashed in his lottery ticket when he had the chance.

Having built his brand through touchdowns and Internet cannonballs, Jones finds comfort in an unexpected place.

"The only individual award that I want and came back for, outside of playing for my teammates this season, is a degree. I think my degree is more important than having a career in the NFL," he says, looking down at his daughter. "It's about her. She's the No. 1 priority. Everything I do now is not just for me. It's for her."

Jones takes off his wristband and hands it to his daughter as she grows restless. The questions regarding fame and success persist. With so much still to be answered—with many chapters in a remarkable journey still to be written—Jones flashes his trademark smile as he searches for the answers he simply doesn't have. Not yet.

He looks down again at Chloe and sends a smile her way as she lifts the wristband toward the sky like a trophy, a ritual her father knows well. The camera lenses never stop shuttering.

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Arizona State vs. Texas A&M: Ticket Info, Date, TV Schedule and Live Stream

Prolific offenses take center stage to help start the 2015 college football season when the Texas A&M Aggies encounter the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils Saturday at 7 p.m. ET in NRG Stadium

Expect nothing short of a shootout as a seasoned Sun Devils offense enters somewhat hostile territory despite the neutral field. The Aggies have the ammunition to fight back, too, thanks to a strong returning cast of its own.

While games such as Wisconsin-Alabama and Texas-Notre Dame receive the lion's share of the hype, this one has the blueprint of a show-stealing collision thanks to firework-worthy offenses and improving defenses.

Here's everything to know about the game.


Sticking With What Works

Other than a better display of depth and consistency on the defensive side of things, Arizona State doesn't have to change much going into Saturday.

Last year was a 10-win effort for the Sun Devils and a win in the Sun Bowl against Duke. Now coach Todd Graham gets to start Mike Bercovici full-time and keep him surrounded with a star-studded cast.

Brett Deckert of Cronkite Sports provided a bit of background on Graham's success:

Bercovici looked great last year when in the game for the hobbled Taylor Kelly, completing 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,445 yards and 12 scores. Continuity and years of experience lend credibility to the notion he'll do nothing short of improve.

Jaelen Strong might be gone, but D.J. Foster stuck around and will be the focus of the offense. He ran for 1,081 yards and nine scores last year while also catching 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. Don't forget bruising back Demario Richard, either, who last year averaged 5.7 yards per carry with 478 yards and four scores.

In other words, Saturday's contest figures to be right up Arizona State's alley, though there won't be much time to get warmed up against an opponent capable of matching stride for stride. 


Finding a Balance

Like their opponents, it's hard to imagine the Aggies don't come out with a potent offense.

Quarterback Kyle Allen looked good at points last year before finishing with 16 touchdowns, while receiver Speedy Noil showed glimpses of elite play with 46 grabs for 583 yards and five scores.

An eight-win season wasn't what coach Kevin Sumlin and Co. had in mind, but the obvious area of improvement stuck out—defense. Now the team has highly regarded defensive coordinator John Chavis on board, who stressed the unit's new approach will mix well with flashes shown last year, per Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News:

Football has changed a good bit, and we’ve had to tweak things. But ultimately, we’ve got a simple philosophy. We’re going to play the run with numbers, we’re going to try to outnumber you in the box, get an unblocked player to the point of attack, and we’re going to rush the passer with speed. When you say that, you better have corners that can handle those one-on-one situations.

In fact, star sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett might dwarf anyone on the roster in popularity and importance at this point.

Garrett is one of the country's most-feared defenders after breaking Jadeveon Clowney's freshman sack record with 11.5. Even better, at least for Texas A&M, is the fact he'll get to run wild in the new scheme against an Arizona State offensive line debuting two new starters at tackle.

The Texas A&M offense gets the attention, but it's a revived defense that's ready to put the Aggies over the top, starting Saturday.


Viewing Info

When: Saturday, September 5, 7 p.m. ET

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

Television: ESPN

Live Stream:WatchESPN


Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 69
  • Spread: Texas A&M (-3.5)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.



This one reeks of an upset, and not just because it's what Las Vegas seems to think will happen.

First of all, the contest goes down in Texas. Aggies faithful earned the moniker "12th Man" for good reason. But this also feels like last year, when the underdog Aggies went to then-No. 9 South Carolina to start the season and exploded for a 52-28 win.

Arizona State isn't a bad team by any means, but Garrett's talent in a new scheme against an unproven line smells of an exploitable situation. If the Aggies can jump out to a lead, it will also force the Sun Devils into a predictable attack, which might help Garrett even more.

Prediction: Texas A&M 42, Arizona State 34


Statistics courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Wisconsin vs. Alabama: Ticket Info, Date, TV Schedule and Live Stream

Respected juggernauts collide Saturday at 8 p.m. ET in AT&T Stadium when the No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers out of the Big Ten meet the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide of the SEC.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst and his program find itself in transition mode, both along the coaching staff and in the offensive trenches. Nick Saban's Crimson Tide return with another top-tier recruiting class and a bit of transition of their own with quarterback Blake Sims gone.

Prestigious programs or not, these heavyweights play strong defense and smashmouth offense, a volatile combination even  Jerry World might be unable to contain.

With conference titles and College Football Playoff aspirations in mind, this isn't a season-opening contest to miss. Here's a look at the pertinent info.


Perception-Changing Opportunity

A win in the Outback Bowl against Auburn was a nice feather in the cap for Wisconsin to end last year, but the program still lost coach Gary Andersen, and it's not so easy to forget about a 59-0 drubbing at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

The Badgers haven't been shy about the retribution angle, either.

"If we win this first game, if you look at the rest of the schedule, it's pretty much set up to hopefully go undefeated this season," running back Corey Clement said, per's Jesse Temple.

Clement later brought up Ohio State, too: "Hopefully this game is going to bring out our best. We just don't want to put on the same show we did against Ohio State."

Speaking of Clement, he's the key behind a line that returns just two players who have started a game. He's free of Melvin Gordon, but will have to shoulder the majority of the load behind unproven starters. Last year he averaged 6.5 yards per carry with 949 yards and nine scores, but Alabama might be the ultimate test for his new role.

Still, the opportunity is there and Clement might not be far off about the undefeated comment. Other than trips to Nebraska, Maryland and Minnesota, the schedule doesn't look too intimidating sans encounters with Ohio State and Michigan State.


Keeping the Tide Rolling

Alabama took care of business last year until it too ran into Ohio State.

Now it stares down another Big Ten team, albeit with a 3-4 defense featuring five seniors and an offense led by a monster of a back named Derrick Henry. He too moves into a workhorse role a year removed from grabbing 990 yards and 11 scores on just 172 totes.

There is concern for the offense considering Amari Cooper won't be around to bail out a new starter under center, but on paper, it doesn't look like it will matter much thanks to the defense. 

If there's a team able to counteract Wisconsin's massive offensive trenches, it's Alabama.'s Alex Scarborough detailed some of the changes made to keep things clicking:

Monster defensive tackles such as the immovable Terrence Cody are now obsolete, replaced by slightly smaller but significantly more nimble linemen such as Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson. The days of big, run-stuffing defensive ends are almost over, too. They've been replaced by hybrid linebackers such as Da'Shawn Hand and Rashaan Evans, who sacrifice size for athleticism so they can better play in space.

There might be nothing scarier than an Alabama defense that held Texas A&M to no points, Mississippi State to 20 and Ohio State to 42 (albeit in a loss) last year getting more athletic and experienced.

For Saban and Co., it's a must with lingering questions on offense through the air.


Viewing Info

When: Saturday, September 5, 8 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Television: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN


Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 55.5
  • Spread: Alabama (-11)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.



Las Vegas doesn't expect Wisconsin to keep this one close, and it's not hard to see why.

The Badgers' inexperienced line will run into some issues creating room for Clement and won't do any favors for quarterback Joel Stave, either, who managed just a 53.4 completion percentage last year with nine touchdowns and 10 picks.

Alabama's game happens to be Wisconsin's game, but it doesn't shine a favorable light on the Badgers. The Crimson Tide are more experienced in the right places and will control the tempo of this one.

Sometimes the lines from out West aren't arguable. Henry and a deep defense will provide proof.

Prediction: Alabama 27, Wisconsin 17


Statistics courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Texas vs. Notre Dame: Ticket Info, Date, TV Schedule and Live Stream

Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, the No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish play host to the Texas Longhorns under the bright lights of Notre Dame Stadium and a national audience.

Call it a proving ground for both programs. Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly wants to show the world his team can build on an 8-5 campaign one season ago and flirt with the idea of the College Football Playoff.

On the opposite side of the field, Longhorns coach Charlie Strong heads into the second year of his tenure working with a mixture of leftovers and his own recruits and hopes to prove one of the nation's dormant powers is on the upswing.

Below, let's take a look at the most important info surrounding the showdown.


Two Better Than One?

Last year didn't unfold how Strong would have preferred on either side of the ball. The defense imploded, especially down the stretch with a 48-10 drubbing at the hands of then-No. 5 TCU followed by a 31-7 whipping against Arkansas in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.

More concerning was the offense, led by Tyrone Swoopes. He managed 2,409 yards but threw 13 scores to 11 picks, and his leading rusher hardly surpassed the 700-yard mark.

Swoopes returns as the starter in a tweaked offense. His return is all the more intriguing when one realizes redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard will see time as a runner, too. It's a point Kelly stressed to LaMond Pope of the Chicago Tribune:

You start with the quarterback. Tyrone now is much more comfortable at the position. He can throw the ball. In particular, he does a great job pushing the ball down the field. He's got a strong arm and the offense suits him very well. They are in the kind of offense that takes advantage of his skill set. …

And then another quarterback, Heard, who can run the football. So you have to prepare for both of them. Certainly it's a challenge.

It's always a point worth monitoring when the opposing coach brings it up. If a versatile, new-look spread offense balanced by Swoopes and Heard can dictate the pace of the game, an upset might be in the cards.


Riding the Momentum

Then again, on paper, Notre Dame looks much better off on the turnaround track.

Malik Zaire takes over the job under center with Everett Golson gone, and things look great around him considering the Fighting Irish return the top six leaders in yards from scrimmage from last year.

Back Tarean Folston is chief among these names after averaging 5.1 yards per carry with 889 yards and six scores as part of a committee a season ago.

Perhaps even more daunting for the Texas defense? Notre Dame's new run-heavy approach behind a monster of an offensive line led by potential top-tier NFL draft pick Ronnie Stanley. Associate head coach Mike Denbrock talked about the new approach, per the Associated Press (via

We've got a big powerful group of guys up front that have a little bit of an edge to them and a little bit of a nastiness to them. So we're going to lean on them. We've got a quarterback who can do some things with the ball in his hands. We've got some good backs. So we're structured that way.

When it comes to controlling pace, Notre Dame seems to have all the right pieces. Folston and those behind him are talented, and Zaire's only start last year saw him carry the ball 22 times.

Behind a great line, the new run-first approach gets its first major test Saturday.


When: Saturday, September 5, 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana

Television: NBC

Live Stream:NBC Live Extra


Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 50.5
  • Spread: Notre Dame (-9.5)


Team Injury Reports

No reported injuries for either team yet.

Injury reports via USA Today.



At home, Notre Dame stands at a stark advantage.

Texas is on the right path, especially with Strong being able to lure top-tier recruits to town such as linebacker Malik Jefferson. Right now, though, it isn't enough in the first game of the season to roll into Notre Dame and pull off an upset.

Look for Texas' two-quarterback offense to backfire in the tempo department as it works out the kinks, whereas the Notre Dame offense won't have issues churning out yards behind proven producers.

Both teams will leave Saturday's encounter with encouraging points, but the home team remains ahead in the critical areas.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Texas 17


Statistics courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.



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Louisville vs. Auburn: Ticket Info, Date, TV Schedule and Live Stream

Transition is the name of the game for two of college football's bigger programs Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET when the Louisville Cardinals clash with the No. 6 Auburn Tigers at the Georgia Dome.

It's year No. 2 for Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, who orchestrated a nine-win campaign a season ago and finds himself armed to the proverbial teeth with options under center. Gus Malzahn is one year ahead of the pace with his Tigers and hoping to improve on last year's miserable 4-4 SEC record.

In short, it's a befitting showcase to help usher in the new season between two teams more than capable of making some serious noise in their respective conferences.

Below, let's take a look at the top storylines and more.


Cards Close to Vest

Petrino isn't abiding by the normal rules.

No, the Cardinals have decided to buck conventional wisdom and keep the starting quarterback a mystery for the sake of gaining an advantage against their SEC opponent.

Steve Jones of the Louisville Courier-Journal provided the details:

Petrino reiterated that he knows personally whom the Cardinals will start at quarterback and is comfortable with the pick, but he sees 'no advantage' in announcing it publicly before the game. U of L's depth chart on Tuesday said only that any of Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, Will Gardner or Lamar Jackson could be the starter.'s Brett McMurphy offered a humorous take on the unconventional situation:

It's a large amount of options. Will Gardner started last year and threw for 1,669 yards and 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. Where he's a stout pocket passer, though, Reggie Bonnafon is a versatile threat who threw five scores last year and rushed 72 times for 164 yards and five touchdowns.

The diverse options might just work, too, as the Cardinals needed an equalizer to Auburn's defensive athleticism and the return of defensive mastermind Will Muschamp as coordinator.

Who starts and how they perform will play a large role in how the contest unfolds.


Back to Basics

Auburn isn't masking what it wants to do on offense.

Nick Marshall is gone, meaning 20 touchdown passes and the team's second-leading rusher from a season ago won't be back. In is Jeremy Johnson, though, who looked good in spot duty with 436 yards and three scores on 37 attempts.

The team's leading receiver, Sammie Coates, is also gone, but that just means more opportunities for D'haquille Williams, who caught 45 passes last year for 730 yards and five scores. He's listed on the injury report, but not in a concerning way.

For Malzahn, it sounds like the transition at certain spots isn't as difficult as just getting his guys to tune out the preseason hype.

"We have the same approach and I like where our guys are at," Malzahn said, per the Associated Press' John Zenor. "They're not reading the press and predicting, all this stuff. They're worried about this first opponent, and they've got a good mindset."

There's hype because the players who step into bigger roles this year have looked great in splotches. Hype because a Malzahn offense always moves the ball. Hype because Muschamp is back and bringing big-name recruits.

Saturday looks like a major test for the program, because the Tigers can either come out looking like a finished product or take care of business against an opponent most expect them to beat.


Viewing Info

When: Saturday, September 5, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

Television: CBS



Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 55.5
  • Spread: Auburn (-10.5)


Team Injury Reports

No listed injuries for Louisville.

Injury reports via USA Today.



Las Vegas seems in line with how this one should pan out. 

The fact Louisville wants to give itself an advantage by not announcing a starting quarterback shouldn't rattle Muschamp, as the difference between one of the two likely starters is swapping out a linebacker for a nickel corner or vice versa.

Auburn has a proven leader under center and more talent at the skill positions than Louisville can handle. A Malzahn offense isn't going to stagger out of the gates like Louisville might, so expect the Tigers to jump to an early lead and slow things down.

Prediction: Auburn 35, Louisville 27


Statistics courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Complete Game Preview

The Georgia Bulldogs will kick off the 2015 season on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe at Sanford Stadium. This will be the third time these two teams have faced each other, with the first meeting being in 1994.

This is an exciting time for the Bulldogs because it is the beginning of what could be a very special season if things bounce their way.

“We're all excited for the season at this point,'' head coach Mark Richt said to  ''We don't want to temper the guys' enthusiasm much.”

This is also good time to see when the team is in terms of chemistry and execution. And with Richt announcing Greyson Lambert as the starting quarterback, the competition is now over and the Lambert era begins.

It was a long offseason and even a longer camp for the Bulldogs. But now it’s time for them to take the field and prove that they deserve to be a top 10 team.


Date: Saturday, September 5

Time: Noon ET

Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

TV: SEC Network

Radio: Georgia Bulldog Sports Network, Sirus/XM 113/191

Odds: Georgia by 35 points according to

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Cardale Jones Reportedly Rushed to Hospital with Migraine

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was reportedly rushed to a local hospital Wednesday with what is being described as "severe head pain."

Tony Zarrella of Cleveland 19 News spoke with one of Jones' family members, who indicated the junior signal-caller is still undergoing testing at this time. It is believed Jones is suffering from a migraine headache and "should be good," according to Eleven Warriors.

It's unclear what this means for Jones' status for Monday's season-opening matchup with Virginia Tech. He has been battling with J.T. Barrett throughout camp for the starting job. Head coach Urban Meyer has not announced whether he was planning to start Jones or Barrett, though he's indicated both will play.

“I made this comment—and I met with both quarterbacks—is when you have a good player, what do you do with them? You play ‘em,” Meyer told Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday. “So we’re going to play both quarterbacks at some point.”

Barrett started the first 12 games of the 2014 season, leading Ohio State to an 11-1 record while emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Jones came in for the final three games of the Buckeyes' season, leading them to a Big Ten championship win over Wisconsin before taking down Alabama and Oregon en route to a national title.   

While choosing the starting quarterback for Ohio State has been categorized as perhaps the most difficult decision in college football, Jones' injury may wind up giving the job to Barrett—at least for Monday night.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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