NCAA Football

Tennessee Football: How Vols Can Stop Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton

Chuckie Keeton represents the most challenging, versatile quarterback the Tennessee Volunteers will face all season.

If he's healthy, Utah State's 6'2", 200-pound senior signal-caller may be the best all-around player on the Vols' schedule.

He can beat teams with his arm and legs, something Todd Gurley, Amari Cooper and Mike Davis can't do. Nimble on his feet, accurate, strong-armed, smart and seasoned, Keeton is blessed with numerous attributes.

He's good enough that he has been the recipient of dark-horse Heisman Trophy buzz, and one national writer—Grantland.com's Michael Weinreb—even picked him to win.

Keeton is more than capable of starring and leading the Aggies to a stirring win that could shell-shock the young Vols and extinguish the positive vibes surrounding the program.

So, how does the young UT defense keep that from happening?

 

Hit Him Early, Often

It's no secret that Keeton tore his anterior cruciate and medical collateral ligaments last Oct. 4 against BYU, normally a devastating injury that can take more than a year to heal.

Yet, according to the Deseret News' Jeff Hunter, teammates and coaches believe Keeton appears better than ever.

Those are scary words for Tennessee, considering how electric Keeton can be and how few mistakes he makes. He even shines on the biggest stages.

Regardless of how much lip service those around USU's program pay Keeton, there are always mental hurdles to get over when coming back from an injury of that magnitude.

The Vols have to do everything within the rules to keep Keeton from feeling comfortable.

USU returns just one starter on its offensive line, and the Vols must exploit that perceived fissure. A rusty quarterback—even one as skilled as Keeton—is more vulnerable behind a shaky line.

Rattling Keeton is easier said than done, especially considering UT's young, small and untested defensive line is the team's biggest question mark.

According to ESPN.com, UT hasn't cracked the league's top five in sacks since 2007. The past three years, Tennessee has finished last, last and next-to-last. Oh, and the Vols must replace all four starters from a season ago.

The Vols have gotten a surprising surge from freshman defensive end Derek Barnett, who earned a starting job with his relentless play. Curt Maggitt is healthy and moving well again, he told GoVols247's Wes Rucker (subscription required).

Corey Vereen was UT's best pass-rusher a season ago. The Vols also traded big, clunky defensive tackles for quicker starters—Danny O'Brien and Jordan Williams—and they both need to have a huge game.

UT's defensive front will attempt to use speed to counter speed. Williams told Volquest.com's Grant Ramey (subscription required):

Really, we have one true D-tackle in there, and that's [Danny O'Brien]. Everybody else is either an end or used to be a linebacker. I was a linebacker two years ago. [Corey] Vereen could've been one. So we have a lot of hybrid guys in there.

In theory, this approach seems like the right game plan. But when Sunday night comes, the Vols have got to get to Keeton and put him on the ground, something they've been historically bad at recently.

If he has time to throw, Keeton could have a field day.

 

Press Up Front, Shrink the Field

One of the most noticeable differences in Tennessee's fall camp with the infusion of so many defensive newcomers is the upgrade in team speed.

That was a major emphasis for coach Butch Jones in sculpting his first full recruiting class.

Now it's time for it to translate onto the field. Keeton provides a similar test to the one UT has failed so many times before.

A study of UT's official 2013 statistics shows opposing quarterbacks had 701 rushing yards by themselves against the Vols a season ago, running for nearly 6.1 yards per carry. Tennessee simply couldn't stop it.

Now, they play a guy in Keeton who looked extremely familiar to another UT opponent:

"[Keeton] can make something out of nothing; just a real explosive guy," Williams told Volquest.com's Grant Ramey. "We're going to get after him. He throws pretty good when he's outside the pocket. We just have to get somebody in his face."

Containing Keeton is dicey. While the Vols want to force him to move, he throws well on the run. Also, as the statistics against dual-threat quarterbacks show, UT routinely fails to stay disciplined in its rush lanes.

All week, the Vols have been attempting to simulate Keeton's threat, but that's impossible when few in the nation possess his skill set:

If the ends and secondary do their job, UT may even be able to use a linebacker spy such as athletic sophomore Jalen Reeves-Maybin to follow Keeton like a shadow.

Keeton is a master at sucking in secondaries who come up to tackle him before he reaches the line of scrimmage. When that happens, the senior quarterback's arm is strong and accurate enough to beat the Vols for huge gains downfield.

Keeton is tough for any defense to defend. With 11 to 13 newcomers expected to play for coordinator John Jancek, the coach told GoVols247's Rucker, those guys must play beyond their years.

 

Take Away His Support System

Finally, Keeton has plenty of moxie, but he can't beat an SEC team on his own.

That's why containing receivers JoJo Natson, Ronald Butler and especially running back Joe Hill is a necessity. If UT can limit the running game and make USU one-dimensional, all of the focus can be shifted squarely on Keeton.

Hill, too, is returning from torn knee ligaments suffered last season. He is talented enough to be included on the Doak Walker Award watch list, but he will likely take a while to get reacclimated.

As for the receivers, Natson is electric, but at 5'7", 151 pounds, he isn't going to beat UT cornerbacks Cameron Sutton (6'1"), Emmanuel Moseley (5'11"), Michael Williams (5'11") or nickelback Justin Coleman (5'10") too often. Those guys are fast, too.

If Tennessee's talented cornerbacks can lock down Natson and Butler, Keeton is going to start pressing, believing he has to do everything himself. That's when the Vols will gain an advantage.

But they've got to accomplish it first.

The test that looms for the Vols isn't lost on anybody in orange, as they've spent months preparing for Keeton as much as a team can when he's not staring back across the line of scrimmage.

The Vols are not going to be able to escape with a victory unless they can harass Keeton, limit the playmakers around him and force him into some uncharacteristic miscues.

Stopping Keeton is asking the young Vols to do something few teams have in his illustrious career. But slowing him down, keeping him from breaking free for long runs and negating big plays will result in a 1-0 record heading into the season's second week.

 

All statistics gathered from CFBStats.com, unless otherwise noted. Quotes and observations were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

@Brad_Shepard

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Who Will Be the Next Vernon Hargreaves for the Florida Gators in 2014?

The Florida Gators are starting the season with a chip on their shoulders. With a disappointing 4-8 record in 2013, Will Muschamp and Co. are looking to bounce back.

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and GatorCountry.com's Nick de la Torre discuss some things to watch on the defensive side of the ball. How well do you think the Gators will do this year?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: Live Score, Highlights and Analysis

Keep it locked right here as we bring you live coverage of the 2014 college football opener between No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 9 South Carolina!

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Anthony Brown Quits USC Football Team, Claims Steve Sarkisian Is Racist

USC was already having a bizarre week in light of the Josh Shaw ordeal. Now things have only gotten worse for the school, as senior running back Anthony Brown has quit the team and alleged that head coach Steve Sarkisian is a racist.

In an Instagram post Brown has since removed from his account, he wrote, "Sark treated me like a slave in his Office...Can't play for a racist MAN!!!!! #Fighton." The message was posted alongside an image that simply said, "Couldn't play for a racist man!!!!"

Ryan Abraham of Scout.com took a screenshot of that image and has more on the story:

Steve Sarkisian just came into the media room to inform us that Anthony Brown has quit the football team. Brown went on Instagram and Facebook, accusing Sarkisian of being a racist. Sark said he was "shocked" at these allegations, called them "ridiculous" and welcomed us to talk to anyone in or around the program and they would tell us that it simply wasn't true.

Sark said they tried to accommodate Brown, moving him to running back. He was unfortunately hurt but Sark said they still tried to get him to stay on the team. Sark felt he could help the team. Brown refused, quit the team...

This certainly feels like a story with a lot of unanswered questions at the very least. Perhaps the most pertinent piece of unknown information was raised by Bomani Jones of ESPN:

On the other hand, at least one player, nose tackle Antwaun Woods, has already come to Sarkisian's defense.

It will be interesting to see how other players comment on their relationship with Sarkisian in the coming days.

It will also be interesting to see how USC recovers from two bombshells in the same week. On Wednesday, Shaw admitted that he fabricated the story about spraining both of his ankles while rescuing his nephew, per Tess Quinlan of USA Today.

His lawyer, Donald Etra, claimed he injured his ankles after falling from a balcony on Aug. 23. Shaw was promptly suspended indefinitely.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports pointed out the recent issues facing the program:

Not only does USC have to now put out the fires started by both of these situations and try to mitigate the distractions and media flurry they have now caused, but they also are now without two players and have some serious on-field concerns to address, as Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated notes:

Shaw was a captain, remember, while Brown started several games in his USC career at cornerback and had been moved to running back this season. Both were expected to contribute to the team this year in some capacity.

Now, however, USC is down two men and left dealing with the public spotlight that is currently shining brightly on the program. It certainly has not been an easy start to the Sarkisian-era this summer.

 

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Anthony Brown Quits USC Football Team, Claims Steve Sarkisian Is Racist

USC was already having a bizarre week in light of the Josh Shaw ordeal. Now things have only gotten worse for the school, as senior running back Anthony Brown has quit the team and alleged that head coach Steve Sarkisian is a racist...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

How Melvin Gordon Became College Football's Most Underappreciated Superstar

You don’t realize how extraordinary Melvin Gordon is until you stand next to him, when he has finally stopped moving. Then, when the blur comes into focus and you study his enormous frame, you start to ponder how you could possibly bring down the game’s most explosive player.

As much as you casually still brag about your 40-time in high school—which gets faster each year, somehow—that ain’t happening. Let’s just forget about that.

Should you get in front of him? He’s 6’1” and nearly 215 pounds. Although Gordon hasn’t acquired the reputation of being a battering ram, he could be if it was necessary. When you can essentially run past or around anyone and everyone with uncanny consistency, why do anything else?

Then you remember something else. You remember that Gordon, who ran for more than 1,600 yards last season, has yet to actually start a game for the Badgers. That moment will finally come on Saturday when Wisconsin takes on LSU in the most exciting (and important) game of Week 1. 

“His role will be amped up, without question,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. “He’s ready, he’s excited and so are we.”

For the past three years, Gordon has been utilized in a reserve role. That term should come with an asterisk the size of a cartoon-ish Wisconsin Bloody Mary, because this isn’t your average backup. In 2013, for example, he logged just 28 fewer carries than starter James White.

But it has never truly been his show; he’s always shared duties, and thus, the spotlight.

Because of this, the buzz regarding the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native has never been what it should be. The Heisman whispers have started and the limelight has intensified, although the attention on his play has never matched the excitement of the long, juke-filled runs and dumbfounding numbers.

“He wants to be a great team leader and he wants to be a feature back on a great team at the University of Wisconsin,” Andersen said. “So we’re going to work like crazy to help him make that happen.”

Corey Clement, who served as the team’s third back last season, will essentially step into Gordon’s role in 2014. The sophomore, who showed tremendous promise during his freshman season, is a name you will learn quickly, perhaps as early as Saturday night. Like everyone else, however, Clement is just watching, learning and observing as his teammate does unthinkable things.

“Melvin is just Melvin,” Clement recently said to Zach Heilprin of ESPNWisconsin.com. “He pulls out some things that you thought weren’t humanly possible."

On the eve of Gordon's coronation as the next leader of the legendary Badgers backfield, it is apropos to remember his "Hello World" moment. 

It was the opening drive of the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game; Wisconsin sent its third-string running back in motion. As the lanky back glided behind the corn-fed wall of designated human movers—a Madison specialty, and a huge part of the yearly running success—the unknown ball-carrier took the handoff and darted for the outside.

If you’re a Nebraska fan, now would be the appropriate time to close your computer, light it on fire and go for a stroll.

The play looked doomed. Nebraska safety Daimion Stafford read the exchange perfectly. He closed, although an unforeseen juke toward the sideline forced Stafford to dive in a last-ditch effort to keep his man from running free. He caught only jersey and held on for as long as he could. As he did, the “25” on the back of the vibrant red uniform seemed to double in size, foreshadowing things to come.

No. 25 broke free, and the number vanished as the mystery player turned up field. It was then P.J. Smith’s turn to try and bring him down, although the next safety up didn’t stand a chance in the open field. One simple juke—well, it was simple for him—and Smith, like his teammate, was grasping at shoelaces.

A great block from wideout Jared Abbrederis was all that remained: 56 yards later, No. 25 coasted to the end zone, erasing the zeroes that had just been placed on the scoreboard. A stadium of onlookers and a nation of television viewers scrambled to figure out who that was.

Melvin Gordon had arrived.

He finished the evening as Wisconsin’s leading rusher despite only logging nine carries. He turned those nine carries into 216 yards. The Badgers won 70-31.

Gordon parlayed his success in this game into a monster 2013, a year in which he turned 206 carries into 1,609 yards. He also had three runs of 70 yards or more—which was tops in the nation—and delivered at least a 20-yard run in nine of 13 games.

Over the past two seasons, Gordon has seven rushes of 50 yards or more. Most running backs would be thrilled with a handful.

More impressive than the game-breaking plays and total yardage, however, is how he’s been able to reach these thresholds while sharing the football with other NFL-caliber backs. 

Since stepping foot in Madison, Gordon has averaged 8.1 yards per carry.

I repeat, 8.1 yards per carry.

No matter how many times you take his career rushing yards (2,328) and divide by the total carries (288), it still doesn’t make much sense. To further drive home this point, here’s how Gordon’s YPC compares to some of the recent and all-time greats.

That’s not to say Gordon belongs in the conversation with some of these historic giants just yet, but the sample size is big enough where you almost feel obligated to match up certain aspects of their resumes side by side.

You can’t help but do more math.

If Gordon carried the ball just 206 times and managed to run for more than 1,600 yards last year, what kind of season could be within reach with a bigger workload against a schedule that eases up plenty after LSU? Two thousand yards? A Heisman?

The questions are both fair and legitimate, although the move to starter might not be as significant as some might make it out to be. At the very least, this is where Gordon’s on-field carnage and off-field calm go their different ways at the fork in the road.

"If I get 30 to 35 carries a game, that means Corey is hurt, and we can't have that," Gordon told Brian Bennett at ESPN.com. "I like splitting the ball. It keeps us fresh throughout the season. Me and James were really fresh last year, and that helped us play so well."

It would appear that he and his head coach have talked this out.

“Melvin is not going to carry the ball 35 times a game,” Andersen said. “But he will be much more involved as an every-down back for us.”

Gordon’s debut as every-down back will come at NRG Stadium in Houston against LSU, one of the nation’s most successful college teams of the past decade. A Melvin Gordon-like performance in the bright lights of opening weekend will only propel his football reputation closer to where it should be. It will also, almost certainly, propel Wisconsin to a win.

It’ll be up to LSU head coach Les Miles to ensure that doesn’t happen.

“He’s one of those guys that gives you a concern because he’s a big strong physical back that can make you miss,” Miles said, via Hunter Paniagua of Tigers Sport Digest. “You’re going to have to tackle well. Tackling is what you do on defense and it’s the first thing you do. It’s tremendously important in this game. We have to tackle well.”

It’s a daunting task. It’s even more daunting now that the offseason is over and Gordon will no longer be standing still. The blur is back in business.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

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Darvin Taylor to Florida State: Seminoles Land 4-Star DT Prospect

Darvin Taylor, the prized defensive tackle recruit from Thomas Dale High School in Virginia, has both present skills and room to get exponentially better, which he will do at Florida State.

Taylor made his college decision official Thursday, announcing at a press conference that he will become a Seminole starting in 2015, via Noles247.com: 

There was a cluster of eight schools that Taylor was deciding from, per a tweet he released in June:

Looking at the early recruiting rankings for 2015, Taylor's addition gives Florida State 18 total commitments and 11 ranked in the four- or five-star category, according to 247Sports.com.

Football recruiting classes don't live or die on the shoulders of one player, but Taylor is the kind of prospect you can build a group around. He is ranked as the No. 16 defensive tackle prospect in the country and 165th overall for the 2015 season, also per 247Sports.com

Taylor's decision to attend college in Tallahassee seemed to be in the works for months, as the defensive tackle had nothing but praise and respect for Florida State defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins in March, per Christopher Nee of 247Sports.com: "He's like another dad to me. My dad tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear and that's what coach Odell does too."

While that doesn't exactly sound like a game-changing talent on paper, Jamie Uyeyama of VTScoop.com and SonOfACoach.com raved about Taylor's raw potential and upside before acknowledging he is a huge project:

Taylor seems to have that knack for just being around the ball. Whether it’s a fumble, tipped pass, or chasing down a player to make a tackle, he shows that he can produce splash plays.

He shows the ability to play strong at the point of attack and take on the double team when he fires off the ball. The problem is that he plays too passive and relies on his eyes to try and figure out the play rather than feeling his block which will tell him where the ball is. He’s big and strong enough to blow up his man on each play, but doesn’t do it on a consistent basis.

With "prospect," the one term that people simultaneously love and hate to hear is "project." It's a term designed to get you excited about a player because you can see the moments of brilliance that can make him a superstar. 

However, it's also one of the worst terms in sports because it means that for whatever reason something hasn't clicked. Taylor is a coach's dream as a teenager who is already 6'2" and over 300 pounds playing defensive tackle. 

In a defensive scheme with four linemen, whether it's 4-3 or 4-2 nickel coverage scheme, Taylor can just be that anchor in the middle, taking up blockers and opening holes for defensive ends to get sacks and stop the running back behind the line of scrimmage. 

There will be more pressure on Taylor's development as a pass-rusher in a 3-4 setting. He's not the kind of prospect who is going to make an instant impact, likely needing a redshirt year to turn his skills into ability at the college level. 

Florida State is the perfect spot for Taylor to develop into the player everyone thinks he can become. He's joining an already-loaded roster that won't put a lot of pressure on him right away while being able to come out of the shadows in the next few years to become a star for Jimbo Fisher's defense. 

Whatever path Taylor takes in college, there's enormous physical potential for the defensive tackle. He can become the anchor on a defensive line, which is what every coach in the country is searching to find. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.

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Inside the World of Twitter Hashtags on the College Football Recruiting Trail

For college football coaches, the celebration of winning the grueling wars on the recruiting trail is normally reserved for national signing day. That’s mainly because NCAA rules prohibit coaches from discussing potential recruits by name.

However, thanks to the rise of social media in recruiting, a handful of coaches across the country are being creative in their use of outlets such as Twitter to send coded messages that serve as an unofficial welcome to new commitments.

As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated noted, there are no rules against coaches announcing a commitment as long as the player isn’t mentioned by name.

While some coaches such as Nick Saban avoid social media, others such as Kevin Sumlin embrace it. Additionally, assistants and support staff members at bigger schools use it as a tool, and it’s often the prime means of communication with the recruits of today.

Which schools and coaches have created hashtags and phrases alerting fans and recruits alike of a victory on the recruiting trail?

 

Arizona: #ontothenextone

The Wildcats have put together a strong 2015 class under the guidance of head coach Rich Rodriguez.

However, Matt Dudek, who serves as Arizona’s recruiting coordinator, is the main man getting the message out about the Wildcats program on Twitter. 

According to Daniel Berk of the Tuscon Star, Dudek uses the hashtag #ontothenextone to get the word out about a new Wildcats pledge. 

“After a game at Pitt that we won, I put it out there somewhere, and it just kinda stuck,” said Dudek, who borrowed the phrase from Jay-Z. “It became fitting. It has a little bit of swag to it, but it’s not offensive. It just became a thing, but it really blew up here. The fans here really took a liking to it, and I just ran with it.”

 

Georgia: #CommitToTheG

There’s been no hotter team on the recruiting trail lately than Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs.

Beginning with 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson’s pledge on Aug. 12 and culminating with 4-star receiver Van Jefferson’s commitment on Tuesday, the Bulldogs have surged to the No. 3 spot overall in the 247Sports Team Rankings.

The ‘Dawgs 2015 class has been a hit on social media thanks to the hashtags #CommitToTheG and #fam15. Richt and ace recruiter and running backs coach Bryan McClendon are among the members of the staff who have been actively using those hashtags throughout this cycle.

 

Miami: #WelcomeToTheU 

Considering Pete Carroll was one of the first coaches to embrace social media dating back to his days at USC, it’s no surprise to see that his son—Miami recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll—is one of the foremost voices among the coaching fraternity on Twitter. 

He and offensive coordinator James Coley are two of the more vocal members of Al Golden’s staff, and each of them are sure to be found moments after the ‘Canes have added another pledge. 

#WelcomeToTheU has become a mantra for the arrival of new ‘Canes and is only picking up steam as Miami’s 2015 class continues to grow.

 

Oklahoma: #Unmatched

While his brother Mark Stoops has made waves for the way he and his staff have used social media, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has quickly caught on after joining Twitter in Sept. 2012.

He and offensive coordinator Josh Heupel are among the members of the Sooners staff using the hashtag #umatched in tweets.

Stoops used it last week following the commitment of 3-star California offensive lineman Dru Samia.

As a bit of a personal touch with each message following a commitment, Stoops uses the area code from which the newest pledge hails.

 

Penn State: #PSUnrivaled

James Franklin turned the Vanderbilt program around in large part due to his ability to recruit top-notch talent to a school that had long been mired in the cellar of the SEC. 

After moving on to Penn State in January, Franklin and his staff—led by offensive line coach Herb Hand—have hit the ground running. The Nittany Lions currently have the No. 6 class in the country.

With more than 5,700 tweets on his account, Hand has been one of the more active coaches on social media. After the Lions land a commit, Hand is not far behind with a message using the hashtags #WeAre and #PSUnrivaled.

Hand and Franklin are one of the more dynamic duos of recruiters who are constant presences on sites such as Twitter.

 

Texas A&M: #WRTS

While Sumlin’s trademark “yessir” is one of the more widely known phrases in recruiting circles, one of his assistants created a newer hashtag that has taken off in recent months.

As Taylor Hamm of GigEm247 noted, defensive coordinator Mark Snyder tweeted out #WRTS after the commitment of 5-star quarterback Kyler Murray in May. The hashtag is an acronym for “We Run This State.” 

“People can argue all they want but it’s the facts,” 5-star Aggies defensive tackle commit Daylon Mack told Hamm. “We have the best class in the state of Texas, with the best team in the state of Texas. I feel like people are trying to catch us. We’re already in front.”

While the move to the SEC has certainly helped Sumlin and his staff, their presence on social media has caught the attention of big-time recruits such as Mack.

 

Coaches across the country are always searching for an edge that helps them win on the recruiting trail, and these schools are examples of how a little creativity on social media can go a long way toward helping accomplish those goals.

With social media now playing an important role in the recruiting process, expect the race on platforms such as Twitter to continue to grow moving forward.

 

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

 

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Why LSU's QB Battle Isn't Biggest Key to Tigers Win over Wisconsin

The LSU Tigers take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the first week of the 2014 season.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down exactly what Les Miles and the Tigers will do to have success. Who is the most crucial player for this offense in Week 1?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Washington Huskies vs. Hawaii Warriors Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Washington Huskies begin the Chris Petersen era and hope he can lead the team to the type of 92-12 mark he achieved at Boise State in the previous eight years.

Petersen could not beat the Huskies in losing last year’s season opener, 38-6, so he joined them and now faces a much easier opponent to kick off 2014 when his new team visits the Hawaii Warriors Saturday.

 

Point Spread: Washington opened as 21.5-point favorites; the total was 58.5 at Aloha Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: 43.3-18.9 Huskies

 

Why Washington Can Cover the Spread

Washington plays in a far superior conference in the Pac-12 compared to the Mountain West, where Hawaii went winless a year ago at 0-8 straight up and just 3-5 against the spread.

Petersen will also find that he has much better talent with the Huskies even though they will eventually face tougher competition down the road in conference play.

Under former head coach Steve Sarkisian, Washington went 5-1 ATS in its last six nonconference games, and his replacement may even be considered an upgrade based on his history at Boise State. The Huskies have also covered the last two meetings with the Warriors, splitting the games straight up.

 

Why Hawaii Can Cover the Spread

Hawaii has also enjoyed great success against nonconference opponents recently, beating the line in five straight games under that scenario, including three times as a double-digit underdog.

Opponents have also been known to have trouble staying focused in the beautiful backdrop of Honolulu, which is normally considered a prime vacation destination.

USC and Fresno State both failed to cover in each of the first two home games for the Warriors last season, as they also beat the number in three of their first four overall. And of Hawaii’s 11 consecutive losses to start last year, only three were decided by more than 17 points.

But they face a team that has failed to cover the past four season openers.

 

Smart Pick

The Warriors will get what could end up being an added bonus here with Washington projected starting quarterback, sophomore Cyler Miles, suspended for the season opener due to an offseason altercation.

Miles got some experience last year backing up the departed Keith Price, and now the Huskies will turn to fellow sophomore Jeff Lindquist to run Petersen’s offense.

Lindquist has appeared in only three games without attempting a pass, and he could fall into the dangerous trap of struggling mightily with his first career start coming on the road. For that reason, it may be a good idea to fade Washington and back the home team Hawaii in this spot.

 

Trends

  • Warriors have not won as double-digit home dog since 1997
  • Hawaii is 6-1 ATS vs Pac-12 since 2009
  • Past four Hawaii openers have been ATS covers and OVER bets
  • Huskies are 0-4 ATS past four openers

 

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

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Washington Huskies vs. Hawaii Warriors Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Washington Huskies begin the Chris Petersen era and hope he can lead the team to the type of 92-12 mark he achieved at Boise State in the previous eight years...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Ohio State Football: Kirk Herbstreit on Impact of Braxton Miller's Injury

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has teamed up with Allstate to give fans nationwide the chance to attend two of the biggest games of the college football season. As part of a season-long celebration of the 10th anniversary of its “Good Hands” field-goal nets, Allstate is launching the It’s Good Sweepstakes, featuring an ultimate prize package of $100,000 and a trip with three friends to the 2015 Allstate® Sugar Bowl.®

The grand prize also includes a trip to Arlington, Texas to watch the first-ever College Football Championship Game alongside Herbstreit. Fans can enter the sweepstakes at allstatecfb.com.

On the morning of Aug. 18, ESPN college football analysts were required to provide their national champion and Heisman Trophy predictions for the upcoming season. Kirk Herbstreit—perhaps the sport's most prominent pundit—opted to stay close to home with his picks, choosing Ohio State and Braxton Miller to sweep college football's two most prestigious trophies.

A homer pick? Perhaps. But the former Buckeyes quarterback had his reasons.

Playing in a still-rebuilding Big Ten, Ohio State had arguably the easiest path to the first-ever College Football Playoff. And with a quarterback as experienced and talented as Miller, it was not far-fetched to think that the Buckeyes could win it all.

"The light had finally gone off for him as far as really understanding defenses and his offense and how to attack," Herbstreit told B/R. "I think he was ready to have a big year. The overall athletic ability around him was at a whole different level. I think he was going to flourish."

But just hours after Miller downplayed Herbstreit's bold prediction—"He said that," Miller reminded reporters—both Ohio State and its senior signal-caller were sacked with a season-altering moment. A simple seven-yard throw in the Buckeyes' afternoon practice session resulted in Miller's right shoulder falling out of place, a torn labrum that will sideline him for the entirety of the 2014 season.

Unsurprisingly, Herbstreit revised his predictions, forecasting Florida State to repeat as national champion and UCLA's Brett Hundley to win college football's most prestigious individual award. As the Centerville, Ohio, native explained, Miller's injury is simply too much to overlook in Columbus, given what the two-time Big Ten MVP meant to the Ohio State offense.

“Oh yeah. They have to," Herbstreit responded when asked if expectations for the Buckeyes changed with Miller's injury. "This would be like Florida State losing Jameis Winston or UCLA losing Brett Hundley or Oregon losing Marcus Mariota or Baylor losing Bryce Petty. He’s at that level.

"To sit here in August and say, ‘Oh, no problem, next guy up, they’re still going to have the same year,' I mean, you’re talking about one of the elite players in the country and a four-year starter. So obviously it’s going to be a hit."

How much of a hit for Ohio State will it be? Herbstreit admits that's something that remains to be seen. Noting that the Buckeyes will still likely be favored in 11 of their 12 scheduled games this season, Herbstreit believes that OSU could still be in line for a special third season under head coach Urban Meyer, but it will all depend on what it gets from Miller's replacement.

And while that player appears to be redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, Herbstreit's not so sure. It may be Barrett who's currently listed atop the Buckeyes depth chart at quarterback, but the former Ohio State signal-caller expects both he and redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones to see significant snaps when the Buckeyes take the field for their season opener against Navy on Saturday.

"My guess is Ohio State plays both quarterbacks early to figure out, ‘OK, now we know, whoever it is—'J.T.’s definitely the guy or wow, Cardale is playing well,’" Herbstreit said. "It’s one thing to announce that [Barrett's] the backup to Braxton Miller. But to announce that he’s a starter—that’s a totally different thing. I’m expecting them to play both guys and find out if one of them takes a big step when the bright lights are on and the game is real.”

Like Meyer and OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman have done this week, Herbstreit described the Buckeyes' new quarterback's role as that of a "distributor." And although Herbstreit praised Ohio State's skill position players—singling out sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson and freshman running back Curtis Samuel—he also noted that he wouldn't be surprised to see the Buckeyes experiment with a Wildcat attack in order to replace what they lost in Miller's running ability.

"These two quarterbacks, neither one of them are real threats running the ball," Herbstreit said of Barrett and Jones. "It wouldn’t shock me to see a Jalin Marshall or somebody incorporated in a package to run the ball from that zone-read look. Jalin Marshall was an outstanding high school quarterback at Middletown."

But regardless of who it is behind center or what outsiders—like himself—are saying, Herbstreit pointed out that he doesn't see the expectations inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center changing for the upcoming season. Well-versed in the pressures of playing at Ohio State, the 1992 Buckeyes captain knows that it's championship or bust in Columbus, no matter who's on the field.

“I still feel like in their minds, despite the loss of Braxton Miller, I still think a successful year is a Big Ten championship," Herbstreit said. "The fact that they’ve won so many games since Urban has been there, for them to say, ‘Hey, a successful year would be 9-3 or 10-2 and let's get to a Jan. 1 bowl game,’ you’ll never hear that out of Columbus. A successful year is always winning a Big Ten championship and trying to make a run at a national title.”

Will that even be possible without No. 5 at quarterback for the Buckeyes? Maybe. But it will certainly be a lot more difficult.

After Meyer got off to a 24-2 start with the players that he inherited from Jim Tressel, he now has arguably the most talented team that he's possessed since arriving in Columbus. Whether or not it's capable of reaching its potential will depend on the play of Ohio State's new quarterback—whoever it is—which is something that even Herbstreit himself knows that he can't project.

And given his most recent track record with predictions when it comes to his alma mater, that may be for the better for the Buckeyes.

"Before Braxton’s injury, I thought this was the year based on the recruiting and having a four-year starting quarterback. I would’ve thought they could’ve had a shot to win a national title," he said. "Now I think they have a shot to have a really, really good year. It’s impossible to predict how these quarterbacks for Ohio State will play. We’ll know more in the next few weeks."

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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UCLA Bruins vs. Virginia Cavaliers Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The UCLA Bruins have been recharged under head coach Jim Mora, winning 19 games and a division title over his first two seasons with the program.

They've also been making some good money, going 17-10 against the spread under Mora, including 6-2 ATS as double-digit favorites. UCLA falls into that category again when it opens this season with a cross-country trip to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday afternoon.

 

Point Spread: UCLA opened as 24-point favorites; the total was 58 at Scott Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: 38.9-13.7 Bruins

 

Why UCLA Can Cover the Spread

The Bruins come back loaded this year, with 17 starters back from a team that won 10 games last year. Nine starters are back on offense, including Heisman candidate QB Brett Hundley (24-9 TD-INT ratio, 700 yards rushing as a redshirt freshman last year) and four along the offensive line.

Hundley rates third currently in Heisman Trophy odds, so he is motivated to start quickly here to keep up with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

And eight starters are back on defense, including LB Myles Jack and the entire secondary. UCLA is 8-4 both straight up and ATS on the road for Mora, and last year it won its opening road game at a ranked Nebraska by 20 points.

This team has big goals this season and is hoping to get off to a running start.

The Bruins face a Virginia squad that has been outscored 128-31 in its past three games against Pac-12 programs, according to the Odds Shark database.

 

Why Virginia Can Cover the Spread

The Cavaliers also have 17 starters back this year from a team that underachieved last season. Eight starters return on offense, including 1,000-yard rusher Kevin Parks and three along the offensive line, and nine starters are back on defense, including the entire back seven.

Virginia got blown out a few times last year, sure, but it also lost several games that had a chance to go either way.

The Cavs averaged just 20 points per game last year while giving up 33 PPG, but they have a good chance to improve on both of those figures this season.

 

Smart Pick

UCLA comes in as the big favorite, with the big-time quarterback and the preseason hype, but it's a long trip from Southern California to the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, Virginia might be playing this season for head coach Mike London's job.

If the Cavs can get their running game going—they did average 157 yards per game on the ground last year—and get some stops on defense, they could make this one interesting. And despite an initial glance at this matchup, that seems possible. So the pick for this one is with the home dog.

 

Trends

  • UCLA 6-1 SU, 5-2 ATS as road chalk since 2008
  • UCLA 7-2 ATS past nine as double-digit favorites
  • Virginia ended 2013 on nine-game losing skid
  • Virginia outscored 128-31 past three games vs. Pac 12
  • Virginia is 3-12-3 ATS in its last 18 games at home

 

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

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College Football Week 1: Top 25 Upset Alert

Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is underway with some big-time matchups just around the corner.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer breaks down some potential upset alerts this week. Which programs will get upset in Week 1?

Watch the video and let us know.

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Baylor Bears vs. SMU Mustangs Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

With a point spread nearing five touchdowns and the betting public continuing to pound the heavily favored Baylor Bears, there should be plenty of interest in a potentially high-scoring affair between them and the SMU Mustangs when the two Texas teams square off in a nationally televised matchup.

The Bears led the nation in scoring last year with 52.4 points and 619 yards per game, and oddsmakers could not make totals high enough for them in their first four games, when they scored 70 points or more three times and averaged 70.5.

 

Point Spread: Bears opened as 30-point favorites; the total was 74 at McLane Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: 58.1-25.4 Bears

 

Why Southern Methodist Can Cover the Spread

Whenever a team like Baylor enjoys as much offensive success as the school did last year, opposing defenses eventually tend to catch up and figure out a way to at least contain it.

That’s exactly what happened at the end of last season, when the Bears suffered both of their losses in the final four games, averaging 32.5 points, including a season low in a 49-17 setback at Oklahoma State.

The big question: Can SMU’s defense do the job here? Maybe so, as the Mustangs surrendered more than 28 points only once in their last five games to close out 2013 with the under cashing four times. If SMU can hold Baylor in check, a cover is definitely possible.

 

Why Baylor Can Cover the Spread

Conversely, an offense like the Bears can score points like crazy and knock out an opponent from the start. Even though they failed to cover three of their last four games, Baylor started the year on fire, beating the spread eight times during a season-opening nine-game winning streak.

Half of those covers had lines of 30 points or more, showing just how lethal the Bears can be when their offense is running on all cylinders. As home chalk of 10 points or more, the Bears have rewarded backers with 13 trips to the payout window in 14 tries, according to the Odds Shark NCAA football database.

Baylor also returns quarterback Bryce Petty for his senior year, which can only help fuel head coach Art Briles’ offensive machine.

Petty could follow in the footsteps of former Bears QB Robert Griffin III as the school’s second Heisman Trophy winner (he currently rates as a 12-1 shot) if he gets off to a good start here and nearly puts up better numbers than last season.

 

Smart Pick

Going against the grain is not a popular way to bet in a game like this, especially with Baylor’s offense expected to get even more hype heading into the season opener. As the public continues to move the total even higher leading up to kickoff, sharp bettors should get an excellent opportunity to bet below a bigger number in taking the under.

The Mustangs saw a total as high as 80 last year on the road against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, resulting in a 42-13 loss that obviously fell well below the closing number. Watch for a similar outcome in Waco.

 

Trends

  • Southern Methodist is 4-1 ATS in its last five games
  • Baylor is 15-2 straight up in its last 17 games
  • Baylor is 13-1 ATS as double-digit home favorites since 2010
  • SMU is 3-13-1 ATS vs. Big 12 since 2002

 

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

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Will Ohio State Buckeyes Prove They Are the Best Defense in the Country vs Navy?

The Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Navy Midshipmen in Week 1 of the college football season.

There are some questions surrounding the defense leading into the 2014 campaign for head coach Urban Meyer. Has he created a dominant squad? 

Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson and Ben Axelrod discuss the Buckeyes defense in the video above.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Rice Owls Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The resurgent Rice Owls are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games as underdogs on the road. Meanwhile, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are just 1-6 ATS the last seven times they've been favored by double digits at home.

So the betting trends will not be with the Golden Domers when they host Rice Saturday afternoon in Week 1 of the college football season.

 

Point Spread: The Fighting Irish opened as 24.5-point favorites; the total was 51.5 at Notre Dame Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: 28.8-28.5 Owls

 

Why Rice Can Cover the Spread

The Owls have 12 starters back this season, balanced out with six on each side of the ball. They've got some holes to fill, after the losses of their starting QB, leading rusher and top two tacklers, but enough talent remains in place for a run at a third straight winning season. Two years ago, Rice had only 10 starters back and won seven games.

The Owls are 17-10 straight up and 16-10-1 ATS over the last two seasons, which includes covers at plus-21 at Tulsa two years ago and at plus-28 at Texas A&M last season. Rice is probably not going to win this game, but it has shown it can cover on the road.

 

Why Notre Dame Can Cover the Spread

The Irish may not have everybody they thought they'd have available for this contest, but they're very happy to have back the QB who took them to the national championship game two years ago then sat out last year on suspension.

Everett Golson went 10-1 as a starter in 2012, hitting on 59 percent of his throws, compiling a 12-6 TD-INT ratio and just generally making things happen.

Notre Dame also returns last year's top rusher and three along the offensive line. If Golson can shake off the rust and the defense can limit the Rice running game, the Irish could cover the number.

 

Smart Pick

Both teams have holes to fill, but Rice has one at quarterback and Notre Dame doesn't. However, the Irish are likely to be missing those three projected starters, two on defense, who are waiting to hear about an investigation into academic shenanigans.

Two years ago, with Golson at QB, Notre Dame covered numbers like minus-14 against Navy, minus-14 against Miami and minus-24 against Wake Forest. But it couldn't cover minus-14 against Purdue, minus-13 against BYU, minus-17 against Pitt or minus-20 against Boston College.

So despite their offseason losses, the pick for this one is the Owls plus the points.

 

Trends

  • Rice is 14-7 ATS in its last 21 games
  • Notre Dame is 20-5 SU in its last 25 games
  • Rice 7-1 ATS past eight as road underdog
  • Irish 1-6 ATS past seven as double-digit home favorites

 

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

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Which Offensive Weapons Will Step Up for Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Rice Owls

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are starting Week 1 against the Rice Owls.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down who will be a big part of this offense. Who do you think will make an impact this week?

Watch the video and let us know. 

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Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Central Florida Knights Betting Odds, Prediction

The Penn State Nittany Lions seemed to be on the upswing under former head coach Bill O’Brien, and now James Franklin inherits a team that will be out for revenge early Saturday in Ireland.

The Nittany Lions face a Central Florida Knights squad that upset them as 4.5-point underdogs in Happy Valley last year.

While Central Florida closed out last season on a nine-game winning streak, the team’s offense will have a new look without former star quarterback Blake Bortles and running back Storm Johnson, both of whom graduated to the pros with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Point spread: The Nittany Lions opened as three-point favorites; the total was 48 at Croke Park Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 37.9-27.9 Knights

 

Why the Penn State Nittany Lions can cover the spread

The Nittany Lions should have an edge offensively without having to deal with Bortles (288 passing yards and three touchdowns) and Johnson (117 rushing yards and two TDs overall), who connected on the first score of the last meeting and rarely looked back until a late Penn State rally fell just short in a 34-31 victory for the Knights.

Penn State sophomore QB Christian Hackenberg stayed true to the school despite risking fallout from the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky controversy, and he played well against Central Florida last year with 262 yards and one TD.

Hackenberg was recently named the first sophomore captain in school history. Senior running back Zach Zwinak also ripped up the Knights run defense to the tune of 128 yards and three TDs, and he should become Franklin’s main bell cow this year in the offensive backfield.

 

Why the Central Florida Knights can cover the spread

Central Florida has covered its last six non-conference games, including that early road win against the Nittany Lions in Week 3 of last season. While Bortles and Johnson are gone, the Knights are led by a very experienced head coach in George O’Leary, who signed a new four-year deal to stay at the school following a successful 12-win campaign capped by a wild 52-42 win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl as 17-point underdogs.

Central Florida started last season by covering its first four games along with six of seven, with big wins coming against Penn State and Louisville during that stretch. The Knights also snapped a seven-game losing streak against Big Ten opponents with the win over the Nittany Lions, which should help their confidence.

UCF also snapped its seven-game losing skid versus Big Ten schools last year and would like to make it two in a row.

 

Smart Pick

Both teams are traveling a long way for this nationally televised ESPN2 matchup, and although O’Leary may have Irish roots, he will likely need some luck to beat Penn State two years in a row. Hackenberg is on the verge of becoming a star, and he could end up helping his draft stock the same way Bortles did last season.

Franklin called coaching the Nittany Lions his "dream job" when he was introduced as O’Brien’s replacement in January during a news conference. He helped lead Vanderbilt to four covers in his last five games there, including a 41-24 win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Look for Penn State to get even for last year’s home loss by beating Central Florida this time.

 

Trends

  • UCF snapped a seven-game losing skid versus the Big Ten last year.
  • The total has gone UNDER in four of Central Florida's last six games.

 

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

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Michigan Still in Search of Legacy Lost in Wake of Appalachian State Upset

The details of that blue-sky day seven years ago are still seared into Phil Callihan's mind like a first kiss gone awry, a gut-wrenching event he can't stop replaying on the grainy film of his memory, no matter how hard he tries.

Callihan, 44, a Michigan alumnus and a Wolverines fan down to the marrow of his bones, believes that the afternoon of Sept. 1, 2007—the one that featured the greatest upset in college football history—was the moment that everything changed for Michigan football.   

And he's right. The Michigan program, put simply, hasn't been the same since precisely 3:40 p.m. CST on that September day, when the scoreboard at The Big House froze with numbers that now live in college football lore: Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32.

"I remember so clearly walking out of the stadium that day thinking, 'This is the end for Lloyd Carr,'" recalls Callihan, who lives in Ann Arbor and writes for the Michigan fan site, GoBlue.com. "The national championship that Carr won in 1997 seems like a lifetime ago. The spiral can really be traced to Appalachian State."   

In the 124 games before the Mountaineers rolled into Ann Arbor in '07—a rematch that will be reprised on Saturday at Michigan Stadium—the Wolverines were 96-28 (a winning percentage of 77.4). Since then Michigan is 49-41 (54.4). The Big Blue Nation has endured the category–five disaster of the Rich Rodriguez era, who never had a winning record in Big Ten play in any of his three seasons, and the ho-hum tenure of Brady Hoke, who, entering his fourth season in Ann Arbor, has a 15-9 conference record. No, they haven't exactly stirred the ghosts of Yost and Schembechler.

For the true believers like Callihan, it's been an exhausting seven years. And today, on the eve of the rematch, when he closes his eyes he still can travel back to the hour of the unraveling…

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin was desperate. Needing an opponent to fill out its '07 schedule, Martin was running out of time as the calendar flipped from December '06 into the New Year. He eventually a cut a deal with a Division I-AA team from Boone, N.C.: For a payout of $400,000, Appalachian State, coming off two straight I-AA national titles, would travel to Michigan for the Wolverines' season opener. In the narrative of the time, the Mountaineers were to be chum fed to the shark.

The Wolverines, it appeared, were loaded. They had started the previous season 11-0 and came within three points of playing for the national title. They had a senior quarterback, Chad Henne, who had an NFL arm, and an experience-laden offensive line, led by tackle Jake Long, a one-man mauling machine who would become the top pick of the '08 NFL draft. The Wolverines were ranked No. 5 in the nation. Hopes for a national championship were high.

But even before kickoff, the contest was freighted with history: It was to be the first live football game to be carried on the freshly launched Big Ten Network.

Michigan had lost only one season opener in the Carr era, which dated back to 1995. Las Vegas sportsbooks didn't put a betting line on the game because they thought it was such a colossal mismatch, and indeed most observers believed this would be little more than a glorified scrimmage for mighty Michigan. They were the 18-wheeler blasting down the interstate at 80 mph; Appalachian State was the bug about to meet its splattered fate on the windshield. 

During the week, Carr told reporters that Appalachian State "would enjoy the experience" of playing before more than 100,000 fans. He was almost patting the lads from North Carolina on the head.

Meanwhile, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a summer heat wave gripped the town of Boone. In the week of practice leading up to the Michigan game, the Appalachian State players worked on their no-huddle, spread-option attack in triple-digit temperatures. Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore would play only 27 players against the Wolverines—an astounding seven players from that '07 I-AA squad would be selected in the NFL draft—but they were in the best shape of their young lives. And when Moore found out that the game-day forecast in Ann Arbor called for a sun-drenched afternoon, he couldn't have been happier. He was hand-on-bible certain that his players would be in better shape than the bigger, stronger and faster Michigan players.

Game time—12:07 p.m. CST—arrived. The press box was only two-thirds full, many regional media members opting to attend other games. No national writers were in attendance. At first, it seemed that this was going to be another giant feasting on a cupcake. After receiving the opening kickoff, Michigan's offense breezed down the field, like a machete through tall prairie grass. Running back Mike Hart, another one of the team's talented seniors who opted to return to school rather than enter the NFL draft, ran into the end zone to cap a 66-yard drive. The rout appeared on.

But then, moments later, Appalachian State wide receiver Dexter Jackson got behind the Wolverines defense and scored on a 68-yard touchdown reception. In the second quarter Jackson hauled in a 20-yard pass for another score. The Mountaineers were ready for battle and held a 21-14 lead after 20 minutes. For the first time, an oh-my-heavens silence fell over the blue-clad masses, all 109, 218 of them.

The halftime whistle blew. Michigan trailed 28-17. As the Wolverines jogged to the locker room, boos rained from the crowds like lead balloons. Several Michigan players gazed up in wonder, as if living in a fog-like haze, as if they were as confused by the scene as the fans. Carr, his face already ashen, looked like a man being led the gallows as he disappeared into the concrete catacombs of the stadium and the locker room.

But the Wolverines fought back. Led by Hart's 188 rushing yards, Michigan held a 32-31 lead late in the fourth quarter. They faced a 4th-and-6 on the Appalachian State 26-yard line. If Carr had opted to go for it and the Wolverines had converted, the game likely would have been over. But instead, he decided to try a field goal. It was blocked.

With no timeouts, the Mountaineers drove more than 60 yards in just over 60 seconds. Then, with 26 seconds left to play, Julian Rauch kicked a 24-yard field goal to give Appalachian State a 34-32 lead. The exits were jammed with fans when Henne completed a desperation 46-yard pass to Mario Manningham with six seconds to play. The Wolverines lined up for a 37-yard field goal attempt, but safety Corey Lynch blocked it. For the first time in history an FCS team had beaten a ranked FBS opponent.

Carr appeared bewildered in the post-game press conference, almost dazed, in shock. He stammered on about how much all losses hurt and how he felt his team was prepared. What was left unsaid—because it couldn't be understood at the time—was that this marked the end of something in Ann Arbor.  

The upset was the lead story on SportsCenter. It made the cover of Sports Illustrated—even though the magazine didn't have a writer in the state when the final whistle blew. Michigan dropped out of the Top 25, which was the first time that had ever happened to a Top 10 team after a loss. And the next week Oregon traveled to Ann Arbor and spanked the Wolverines 39-7, its worst home loss since 1968.

"The Appalachian State game still hurts, even to this day," Callihan says. "But at least I saw something historical."

Yes he did. And in the pantheon of great upsets—that most seductively alluring aspect of sport—Appalachian State over Michigan now lives alongside N.C. State over Houston, Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson and USA over Russia.

There's only one unknown remaining from that afternoon in '07, a question that haunts the sleep of fans like Callihan: Will Michigan ever be the same?

 

Lars Anderson is the author of the new book The Storm and Tide, the story of how the efforts of Tuscaloosa, Alabama to recover from a tornado that left 53 dead in 2011 helped forge a bond with the Crimson Tide and gave rise to Nick Saban's Alabama football dynasty. Lars previously covered college football and NASCAR for Sports Illustrated and will be doing the same for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @LarsAnderson71. 

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