NCAA Football

7 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 4

The fourth weekend of 2014 college football action is nearly upon us. As usual, programs are set to welcome coveted prospects to campus for game-day festivities with an opportunity to take strides toward crucial commitments.

The recruiting trail that leads these athletes to national signing day is long and winding, featuring stops at various universities along the way. Several talented prospects will make another step in the process before Sunday by spending personal time with collegiate coaches, players and, of course, frenzied fanbases.

Here's a look at key campus visits to keep an eye on this weekend and how they could impact various recruiting classes.

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The 14 Biggest Disappointments from the 2014 College Football Season so Far

We're not mad, we're just disappointed.

Using the royal "we" to represent college football fans as a whole, we had certain expectations of players, teams and coaches heading into the 2014 season. Big numbers, great performances, utter dominance. You know, the usual embellishments and conjecture that percolate during the way-too-long offseason.

The hype machine built up these figures, made us believe they were going to considered among the best ever at their position, or rank up there with the best coaches or teams in college football history.

Instead, through three weeks we've just been left with a lot of dissatisfaction.

Taking into account past results and preseason hyperbole, we've identified the season's biggest disappointments to this point. Disagree with our choices, or think we've left someone out? Please let us know in the comments section.

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Why College Football Fans Should Prepare for Chaos in Week 4

College football fans, get your ice packs and ointment ready for all the jaw-dropping that will happen this weekend.

Not even a quarter of the way through the season and we’ve already had a year’s worth of craziness, chaos and wild action.

What have we learned from all this? Expect the unexpected. Not just this weekend, but for every Saturday until December...when it becomes a daily expectation thanks to bowl season.

 

Expect GIF-worthy moments

Expect ridiculous penalties called, such as for phantom punches that don't land. That's what happened when BYU center Tejan Koroma tried to swing at a Houston blocker but ended up getting only air, yet he was ejected.

Expect players, coaches and fans to act and react in ways that only a few of us will notice in real time but thanks to the beauty of the Internet will get captured (and looped into an animated GIF, or a Vine) for posterity so that we can all enjoy it over and over again.

Like this awesome display of ball boy speed:

Or footage from one of the worst fake punts in college football history, but will forever be remembered for one player executing the "fainting goat" in an effort to trick the defense:

The big touchdowns and long runs will get plenty of views on TV and online in video form, but it's the little, off-the-wall moments that stick with us.

 

Expect the skies to open up

Through three weeks there have been more than a dozen games delayed by lightning and rain, including one cancellation with Florida's opener against Idaho washed out Aug. 30 after The Swamp became a, well, swamp and too many bolts hit too close to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

And with the remnants of a hurricane that hit Mexico and rolled into the Southwest U.S. expected to impact weather throughout the Midwest on Saturday, storm delays are possible.

 

Expect a major upset. Or several

There weren't many people who predicted Virginia Tech to go to Ohio Stadium and beat Ohio State in Week 2, and even fewer who picked Boston College to rise up and run past USC in Week 3. Some backed Texas A&M at South Carolina in Week 1, but to project the Aggies would not only win but dominate, that wasn't part of anyone's expectations.

That means teams like Oregon (at Washington State), Oklahoma (at West Virginia) and Wisconsin (vs. Bowling Green), among others, should be on upset alert.

It also means the 11 FBS schools playing FCS teams this week shouldn't be surprised if that team that got paid a lot of money to come in and (presumably) lose big decides to actually put up a fight. Five FCS teams have won already this season, and though North Dakota State's win at Iowa State counted as the most significant there were several other close calls.

Purdue is hosting a 3-0 Southern Illinois team, and could join that infamous list this Saturday.

 

Expect to be entertained

Even with nearly 20 percent of FBS teams on a bye this week, including nine ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, there are only a handful of big-time matchups on the schedule. One of those kicks off the slate on Thursday night, between Auburn and Kansas State, while on Saturday we'll see four conference games pitting unbeaten teams against each other.

But if the first few weeks have taught us, the best games don't have to be the most anticipated ones. Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee went three overtimes last week, as did Florida and Kentucky, while last Friday a quarterback who was top-rated passer in the 2012 recruiting class went out and had the kind of debut—Gunner Kiel threw for 418 yards and six touchdowns in Cincinnati's 59-38 win over Toledo—that made it hard to believe he had to sit out two seasons before getting into a game.

What will wow us this weekend? We can't say for certain, but we do know this: when it happens, we should have been expecting it.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Florida State's Ground Game—Not Sean Maguire—Could Be Difference vs. Clemson

The national narrative may state otherwise, but a Florida State victory over Clemson Saturday night doesn’t depend on the right arm of Sean Maguire, who will get his first career start because of Jameis Winston’s first-half suspension

No, a potential Seminoles triumph over the Tigers is all about the legs of a running game with a lot to prove.

Maguire can’t make mistakes and will have to rely on proven pass-catchers Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary when FSU does go to the air in the opening two quarters, but the ‘Noles’ all-senior offensive line and its stable of game-breaking tailbacks can make it that much easier on the team’s new—albeit brief—starting quarterback.

Sounds easy enough but there’s a catch. If FSU’s rushing attack is to exert its will against the Clemson defense inside Doak Campbell Stadium, it will mark the first time this season the Seminoles’ ground game will have lived up to its potential. Despite the return of the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, FSU’s offensive identity was expected to be run first, break games open in the passing game second.

But that hasn’t happened. Yet.

The potential is there for senior Karlos Williams to have his first big game as a full-time starter. Williams boasts impressive size, speed and ability (he averaged a nation’s sixth-best 8.0 yards per carry as a reserve last season and notched 11 touchdowns) but has yet to match that skill set with output in 2014. Through two games, Williams, a former safety that switched to tailback prior to the second game of the 2013 season, is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, hasn’t had a rush go for longer than 20 yards and has just one touchdown.

The Seminoles also have the services of redshirt sophomore Mario Pender and true freshman Dalvin Cook that Maguire can rely on as Williams replacements or together in two-back sets. Sophomore Ryan Green has not yet played this season while rehabilitating a fall-camp hamstring injury but could be in uniform Saturday, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said at his Monday press conference.

Like Williams, both Pender and Cook possess elite speed that could change the scoreboard on any play. They have shown flashes in the first two games—Pender had a memorable first career carry that went for a score against Oklahoma State, and a week later Cook showcased his ability to bounce the ball outside and find the end zone against The Citadel—and similar performances against Clemson would be important for a team under the offensive direction of an inexperienced quarterback.

In the season-opening loss to Georgia, the Clemson defense let Bulldogs Heisman trophy candidate Todd Gurley register 198 yards on just 15 carries. FSU doesn't have a tailback as talented as Gurley on its roster, but the trio certainly has the athletic prowess to churn out a large number of yards if given the opportunity.

A renewed focus has also been placed this season on featuring the tailbacks in the Florida State passing game, and before his suspension Winston was doing a much better job of checking down and letting FSU’s rushers make their mark through the air. Williams enters the game third on the team with seven catches this season, and Maguire would be wise to utilize his playmakers when Fisher dials up a passing play.

“Last year you might have seen us in a little bit more three or four wide [sets] at times,” Fisher said this week, “but our guys out of the backfield are dynamic and can match up on linebackers. Reads have taken us there and I think their capabilities are there.”

The capability to dictate the game also extends to Florida State’s offensive line. Even though the group lost center Bryan Stork to the NFL draft, FSU was expected to be dominant up front in 2014 with the return of future NFL selections Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Tre’ Jackson and Bobby Hart and Stork’s senior replacement, Austin Barron.

But again, the first two games of the season haven’t reflected that popular notion.

FSU averaged 203 yards rushing per game in 2013 but so far this season ranks 73rd nationally in yards per game with 158 per contest. Against Oklahoma State and The Citadel, the same consistent gaping holes weren’t there like they were last year when Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Williams were delivering sustained blows to defenses.

Like it was in last season’s 51-14 FSU victory over Clemson in Death Valley, pass protection by the offensive line will be key, and the premier matchup will be Erving versus superstar Tigers pass-rusher Vic Beasley. Erving handled Beasley in that FSU win, and the Seminoles benefited as Winston had time throw for more than 400 yards and Freeman churned out 84 yards on the ground.

Without consistent pressure, Winston was able to pick apart the defense and convert third-down conversions on 8-of-12 attempts.

A similar performance Saturday night will help keep the pressure off Maguire. And if he gets steady production from his stable of tailbacks, FSU’s replacement quarterback may get to experience some of the same success Winston did a season ago in a game with early-season College Football Playoff implications.

 

Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

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Texas A&M Football Recruiting: Latest Update on 2015 Commits, Visits and Targets

The Texas A&M football coaches have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation committed for 2015. If the Aggies are able to land a couple of their remaining targets, they will have a chance to end up with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country on national signing day.

If the Aggies sign all of their current commitments, they will have done a good job addressing most of their major needs. There are still some holes that need to be filled at linebacker and in the secondary, and the Aggies could also use an extra pass-rushing defensive end in the class.

There are still three months left in the high school football season, so there will be multiple prospects who will jump onto the Aggies' radar. The Aggies currently have 19 commits in their 2015 class and will likely add four or five more players by national signing day.

This is a look at the latest news on the Texas A&M commits and targets in their 2015 recruiting class.  

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Texas Tech DC Matt Wallerstedt Fired: Latest Details and Reaction

Texas Tech has reportedly fired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt after he was suspected of being under the influence at the football facility on campus.    

Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com first reported the firing, noting that Wallerstedt joined head coach Kliff Kingsbury on the Red Raiders staff in 2013 after the pair spent one year together under Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.   

Jake Trotter of ESPN.com confirmed the firing, adding that Wallerstedt got "sent home from the facility Monday" for appearing to be "under the influence of an unknown substance":

Wallerstedt is expected to be replaced by co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Smith, who played for the Red Raiders and graduated from Texas Tech in 2004.

...

The Red Raiders are off this weekend, before traveling to play Oklahoma State next Thursday night.

Trotter cited sources as saying that Texas Tech's inept performance on defense—the group allowed 438 rushing yards in a blowout loss at home against Arkansas—had nothing to do with Wallerstedt's firing. 

Wallerstedt was in the second year of a three-year deal he signed after coming to Texas Tech, despite allowing 30.5 points per game (h/t Sports-Reference.com). In August, Kingsbury spoke to Don Williams of RedRaiders.com about bringing back his defensive coordinator for this season despite the poor stats :

"I just wanted there to be some consistency here on that side of the ball," said Kingsbury. "For so long, they’d seen a guy leave, a guy leave, a guy leave. I just felt that (length of contract) would kind of promote that."

Including Wallerstedt's dismissal, the Red Raiders will be using their fifth defensive coordinator since the start of 2010. For the football team, having a week off before traveling to play a conference rival does allow them to get acclimated to a new voice. 

In addition to his work at Texas Tech and Texas A&M, Wallerstedt served as the defensive coordinator at Air Force from 2008 to 2011 and was the linebackers coach at Kansas State for two years from 2006 to 2007. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football: The Best 2015 NFL Draft Prospect from Each School

Each and every year, it seems the Big 12 is loaded with quality NFL draft prospects. 

While it doesn't necessarily clock out the type of NFL talent that the SEC does, the Big 12 still had two first-round picks and five picks in the first three rounds in the 2014 draft. 

The 2014 NFL draft was also the first time since 1937 that the Texas Longhorns failed to have a player selected. That'll surely change with Quandre Diggs and Malcolm Brown this year. 

With that, let's check out the best NFL draft prospect from each school in the league. 

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4-Star DaMarkus Lodge Decommits from Texas A&M: Where Should He Turn Next?

Texas A&M suffered a rare setback on the recruiting trail Thursday when wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge decommitted from the Aggies after a three-month pact, per Taylor Hamm of 247Sports. The 4-star in-state recruit initially pledged in June but feels he may have limited his options too early.

“I still haven’t ventured out to everywhere I want to look at," Lodge told 247Sports. "This is all about me being able to go see other places.”

The 6'2.5", 190-pound Cedar Hill High School prospect rose to prominence as a junior. He stepped into a starring role for the perennial powerhouse program in 2013, catching 72 passes for 1,255 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Lodge landed offensive MVP honors in Cedar Hill's 5A Division II state championship victory over Katy High School. He punctuated a breakout campaign with two touchdowns in the title game.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin lost his grip on one of the region's premier prospects. Lodge is rated seventh overall in Texas and eighth among receivers in 247Sports' composite rankings.

The Aggies are deep at receiver but must now intensify efforts to secure a commitment from 5-star target Christian Kirk, who spent an official visit at College Station last weekend. Texas A&M signed top-ranked Class of 2014 receiver Speedy Noil and holds a verbal pledge from 4-star Houston pass target Kemah Siverand.

Lodge's decision to reopen his recruitment leaves a hole for Sumlin to fill moving forward. It also sets the stage for another frenzied pursuit of a player who ranks among the top uncommitted athletes in the Class of 2015.

Several programs could pique his interest as national signing day nears, though 247Sports identifies Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU as potential landing spots worth watching. The report cites his desire to stay home as a reason schools like LSU and Ole Miss face an uphill climb in the recruitment.

Lodge displays excellent body control downfield, utilizing strength and savvy to gain separation. He plucks the ball away from his body and is fearless across the middle when asked to come down with receptions in traffic.

His power and wingspan enable Lodge to contend for passes in press coverage. He is perhaps at his best in red-zone situations, where he does a lot of damage along the boundary and can climb the ladder for high targets.

"I think I've come a long way during the past year," Lodge told Bleacher Report this summer. "It's important to focus on improving every day."

Naturally, collegiate teams took notice of Lodge's skill set early and often. He holds more than two dozen offers from across the country, but we'll focus on the possibilities pointed out by 247Sports.

Baylor is a burgeoning Big 12 program that produces at an elite level on offense. Quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Bryce Petty have orchestrated the attack with proficiency, helping enhance the program's national image under head coach Art Briles.

The team can certainly sell its willingness to use true freshmen early and often based on what we've seen from 2014 signee KD Cannon so far this season. The former 5-star recruit has 14 catches for 471 yards and five touchdowns through three games.

Cannon was added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this week, putting him in the mix as America's top receiver. The Bears' vertical attack should continue to shine as more top prospects put their trust in the program, and Lodge could be the latest young playmaker to enjoy immediate success at Baylor.

TCU is still looking to make strides in the Big 12 Conference, and Lodge is exactly the kind of in-state talent who can take the team to another level. The Horned Frogs have done a quality job attracting capable recruits but haven't been able to consistently corral highly rated athletes while contending with the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Houston and Texas Tech for top homegrown talent.

A commitment from Lodge could truly begin to reshape that narrative and present an opportunity for him to take over as an immediate go-to receiver.

Oklahoma presents an intriguing option beyond state borders. The Sooners have overcome a slow start this recruiting cycle to assemble a top-20 class that challenges for best in the conference.

Bob Stoops continues to secure Texas athletes splendidly, pulling in pledges from three 4-star 2015 prospects. Receiver is a position of need in this class at Oklahoma, as several other targets remain on the radar aside from Lodge.

The team will undoubtedly reciprocate interest and look to line up an official visit with Lodge. Oklahoma hosted several high-profile 2016 quarterbacks during last Saturday's game against Tennessee, and a receiver of Lodge's caliber would bolster sales pitches to those passers about the Sooners' offensive future.

It remains to be seen if Texas A&M can return to the forefront here or if other SEC squads could sneak in late to join the chase. Regardless, Lodge is clearly open to an array of possibilities, providing an intriguing and unexpected twist in the recruitment of one of Texas' finest.

Quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

Recruit ratings and info courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Throwback Thursday: Tom Brady Leads Michigan Past Alabama in 2000 Orange Bowl

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady decided to do a "Throwback Thursday" post this week, so here's one all about him to thank him for sharing his pre-NFL resume.

On January 1, 2000, Brady played in his final game as quarterback of the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl.

His opponent: the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Michigan fell behind 14-0 in the second quarter, but Brady was able to lead his team back and tie the game in the third.

Alabama answered right back with two touchdowns of its own, still in the third, before Brady once again brought his team back to see the game tied at 28-28 by the time the fourth quarter arrived.

However, neither team scored in the fourth, with Michigan blocking a 36-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to send the game to overtime.

On the first play of the additional period, Brady hooked up with Shawn Thompson for a 25-yard touchdown. The Wolverines went on to win the game when Crimson Tide kicker Ryan Pflugner's extra-point attempt in the first overtime missed wide right.

Brady passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-34 win. A few months later, he would be drafted by the Patriots with the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.

Michigan went 10-2 in Brady's final season and finished No. 5 in the polls. 

[ESPN

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Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer Reacts to Tumultuous State of Football

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Ohio State enjoying a bye, Urban Meyer has had a little extra time to hit the gym this week. But what the Buckeyes head coach has typically used as a distraction during his daily treadmill trips hasn't been particularly enjoyable in recent days, as SportsCenter has showcased a steady stream of off-the-field football issues.

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg HardyJameis Winston and Jonathan Dwyer have dominated headlines in the sports world for the past two weeks, and for all the wrong reasons. Meyer, for his part, has taken notice, and claims to have used each case as a lesson for his team.

"They know it, they see it. How do you not see it? I go work out, and I put on the thing and I noticed today every one of them, for I want to say 20 to 30 minutes, was issues. Not just NFL—college. They’re all teachable moments," Meyer said on Wednesday. "I think everybody in the country is using it.”

Meyer and disciplinary issues have always seemed to go hand in hand, ever since he oversaw a Florida program that endured 31 player arrests from 2005-2010. In less than three full years at Ohio State, no fewer than 10 Buckeyes have been arrested since Meyer took over the program in 2012.

How Meyer has handled discipline since coming to Columbus from Gainesville has evolved, although a few of the current issues in the news have certainly hit home for the Ohio State head coach. Domestic violence was at the core of the arrest of Gators running back Chris Rainey in 2010, as well as a 2013 investigation of former Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, which didn't result in any charges being filed.

“We had a couple issues that we had to evaluate, but yeah," Meyer responded when asked if he had a zero tolerance policy toward domestic violence. "That’s one of the core values."

The other core values can be found plastered across a wall inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, underneath bolded red letters that spell out "DECISIONS." It should be noted, however, that not all of the Buckeyes' core values carry a zero tolerance policy, as evidenced by Ohio State's decision to stick by suspended All-Big Ten defensive end Noah Spence following his second failed drug test in less than a year, per ESPN.com's Austin Ward.

Nevertheless, this week's bye, coupled with football's seemingly never-ending barrage of bad news, has created a perfect storm for Meyer to preach the importance of off-the-field conduct to his players. Additional meetings on the topic have been held according to Buckeye players, who, like Meyer, haven't been shielded from the negativity surrounding their sport in recent weeks.

"We had some sessions over it," said sophomore safety Tyvis Powell. "Just basically telling us to be smart and make the right decisions."

Seems simple enough, at least in a team meeting or press conference setting, where saying or doing the right thing is more of a formality than anything else. But when one gets away from the coaches and cameras, it can be a different story, which was the lesson that the Ohio State players took away from the latest incident involving Winston.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Winston will be suspended for the first game of Florida State's clash with Clemson this weekend after the sophomore quarterback was caught shouting a vulgar phrase (link contains NSFW language) at an FSU dining hall. And while Powell maintains that neither he nor his teammates would ever put themselves in that predicament, he also noted that the spotlight rarely dims for high-profile figures.

"People just gotta be smart about what they're doing," Powell said. "With or without a camera in front of you, you should always try to live your life right and do the right things. The fame might be getting to them or they get caught up in the fame and they forget about who they really are and what they're trying to do with their lives."

That was the sentiment echoed by senior wide receiver Evan Spencer, who expressed disappointment, in particular, with the current ongoing domestic violence issues in the NFL. The son of former NFL running back and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant Tim Spencer, the Ohio State wideout said that he believes that professionals should be held to a higher standard, given their status in society.

"So many people look up to them, when they go out and do something that's maybe not viewed as right or obviously not moral, they have to live up to the standard that they perpetuate on the field," Spencer said. "They have to take responsibility for what they've done."

But as Powell pointed out, society's problems aren't only persistent on the football field. In fact, a recent study conducted by FiveThirtyEight.com's Benjamin Morris showed that the arrest rate in the NFL for domestic violence is significantly lower than the national average.

"Although it seems like it's all football players that's doing it, it's not just football players," Powell said. "Everyone in society is doing it."

And while that may be true, Meyer is determined to prevent his players from becoming a part of that problem. Which is why the last image that the Buckeyes see before leaving their training facility is their head coach's list of values, a notice that their decisions affect more than just themselves.

"It’s a reminder every time that we leave the Woody [Hayes Athletic Center] that you have to represent something that's one, for yourself and two, that’s bigger than yourself," Spencer said. "When we look at it, we really try to set an image after we leave here that we are gonna be respectful and be trustworthy and honest and treat everybody with respect and just be a good citizen."

As football has shown us in the last few weeks, sometimes that's easier said than done.

 

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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Showdown vs. Alabama a Make-or-Break Game for Florida QB Jeff Driskel

The arrival of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was supposed to be the cure for the downfield passing blues in Gainesville, but so far in 2014, the offense only looks like it has taken a half-dose.

Sure, the Gators offense is light years ahead of where it was last year from a statistical standpoint. After all, it is second in the SEC in total offense (593.5 YPG)—a stat that is partially skewed by the 72 yards it gained in the three overtimes against Kentucky.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel did, however, miss on quite a few shots deep despite hooking up with wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for 216 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Driskel's head coach, Will Muschamp, agrees but noticed improvement as the game went on.

"You take a couple drops here and there in the game, a little off-kilter on the deep balls," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "[Driskel] came back in the second half and really performed well."

There is a silver lining to Florida's passing game against Kentucky; Driskel developed a chemistry with a reliable receiver for the first time since Muschamp got the job in 2011, and despite being "off-kilter" on the deep balls, receivers were open.

Both are signs of progress for a Gators team that struggled in both departments for the better part of this decade. 

Saturday is a make-or-break game for Florida's offense.

Alabama was lit up to the tune of 365 yards by West Virginia's Clint Trickett in the opener due in large part to the connection Trickett had with Kevin White and apprehensive play from cornerbacks Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones.

Eddie Jackson slid in for Sylve for Week 2, and true freshman Tony Brown has been working with the first-team cornerbacks in practice this week in place of Jackson (quadriceps), according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

Alabama only gave up 147.5 yards per game over the last two games, but was that a product of weak competition—as was the case last year—in Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss, or has head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart fixed the glitch?

Driskel needs to find out because he now knows that not only does he have a receiver he can trust but a scheme that he can rely on against a secondary that, while talented, is still very questionable.

On the ground, Driskel hasn't been the threat he was supposed to be. This offense was supposed to feature his ability to run more, but he only has seven carries through two games as opposed to the 9.8 carries per game he had in 2012.

"We had a couple keeps that I felt like he could've kept on some plays in the zone read that he didn't, and a couple that we don't want him to keep," Muschamp said in quotes emailed by Florida. "So a lot of that is by call in those situations, but we'll continue to work that as a week-by-week process as far as how many carries he's going to have."

All eight of Alabama's losses since 2008 have come against quarterbacks who can move. While not all had great games on the ground against the Tide, they did pose the threat, which puts stress on the defense.

If Driskel can pose that threat while staying in rhythm with his receivers—which is one of the "secrets" mentioned in this story from earlier this week—Florida has a great chance to spring the upset. It'd also signal that Driskel was written off way too early in his career and is finally in a scheme that fits his dual-threat abilities.

If he struggles, then it'll "business as usual."

For Driskel and the Gators, that'd be a bad thing.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Which SEC QB Could Play Himself into Heisman Contention in Week 4

The Mississippi State Bulldogs head to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the LSU Tigers in a heated SEC West battle. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee debate how each team's performance can set them up for success in the future.

Who do you have as the winner of this matchup?

Check out the video, and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 4 Predictions: Picking Top-25 Games Against the Spread

Every underdog has its day—or in this instance, week—and Week 3 was a celebration of the little guys. Size and expectations for these teams varied greatly in nature, although the overall performances were noteworthy. 

The underdog covered the spread in 12 of the 18 games featuring Top 25 teams. In a few of these matchups, these teams—Boston College, East Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia—did much more than simply cover the spread.

What do underdogs have in store for an encore? Week 4 is here, as is our weekly feature where we pick each matchup featuring a team from the AP Top 25.

We don’t just predict a winner and loser—that would be incredibly boring. Instead, all games are handicapped with the point spreads in mind. (Texas A&M and SMU, for example, requires this number for the sake of making it watchable. Even then it might not be enough.)

After a respectable 10-8 showing in Week 3, we’re hoping to add more winners this time around.

That movement begins...now.

 

All spreads are courtesy of Odds Shark unless noted otherwise.

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Which Under-the-Radar Powerhouse Will Crash the CFP?

The Baylor Bears are a team on the rise. Art Briles and his squad are off to a 3-0 start and are quickly entering the College Football Playoff debate. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Adam Kramer and Barrett Sallee discuss just how far they can go.

Do you think Baylor will be a Top Four team at season's end?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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How Will Nation's Top WR Match Up Against Dominant SEC Defense?

Florida and Alabama square off this weekend in a key SEC showdown. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses how Alabama's wide receiver Amari Cooper will fare going up against a physical secondary in Florida. 

Will Florida's secondary have its hands full with Amari Cooper and company?

Watch the video and let us know! 

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Georgia Insider: Coaches Limiting Todd Gurley's Carries for Late-Game Heroics

In wake of Georgia's stunning loss to South Carolina, the usage of star RB Todd Gurley has come under criticism. Bulldawg Illustrated beat writer Logan Booker joins Bleacher Report's Stephen Nelson to discuss the powerful back.

Is Georgia using Todd Gurley properly?

Watch the video and let us know!

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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Blake Sims' Big Test vs. Florida

Time to Shine

Over the first three weeks of the season, one thing became abundantly clear in Tuscaloosa—Blake Sims is Alabama's starting quarterback.

This isn't a case of Sims being No. 1 and Florida State transfer Jake Coker being "1A," and it hasn't been from the moment toe met leather in the Georgia Dome in the season opener vs. West Virginia.

Sims is the man—regardless of what is said in press conferences—and is going to have to be "the man" this week with the vaunted Florida defense rolling into T-Town.

Sims has developed a chemistry with star wide receiver Amari Cooper over the first three games, helping Cooper vault to head of the pack with a nation's-best 33 catches for 454 yards and two touchdowns.

This week, though, lining up opposite Cooper will be third-team All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Florida head coach Will Muschamp commented on Hargreaves' ability on Wednesday.

"He's got great instincts," Muschamp said. "He's very quick. He's got good long speed. He has natural ability to play with his back to the ball, which a lot of players really struggle with. The guy really has a lot of poise with his back to the football, and the way we play, we end up in those situations quite a bit."

Hargreaves might not win all the one-on-one battles with Cooper, but he'll win some.

That means Sims is going to have to look to spread the ball around more to his other receivers—something that he hasn't done enough of over the last three games.

Don't be fooled by the 369 passing yards Florida gave up last week in a triple-overtime win over Kentucky. The Wildcats run an air raid attack, and if all of quarterback Patrick Towles' weapons stay healthy, Kentucky is going to do that to a lot of teams—even those with top-notch defenses.

Sims has been solid thus far, but the inability to stretch the field and spread the love around to his other targets have been the only remaining points of contention.

Solve one or both against the Gators, and Sims will suddenly look more like a difference-maker than just a game manager.

 

Double Standard

When is a flaw not a flaw? When one team belongs to a traditional SEC power and the other belongs to a traditional SEC doormat.

That's exactly what's going on ahead of the LSU-Mississippi State game, where perception doesn't seem to equal reality.

The reality is this: LSU has struggled with consistency in the passing game—quarterback Anthony Jennings is completing just 51.9 percent of his passes—while Mississippi State has struggled in pass defense, giving up 311.7 yards per game through the air.

One unit (LSU's passing offense) seems to be considered the exception because Jennings has shown a knack for hitting the deep pass, while the other (Mississippi State's pass defense) seems to be considered the rule despite the fact that the numbers are more due to one bad game (UAB rolled up 435 passing yards against the Bulldogs in Week 2).

Look beyond that.

Led by cornerbacks Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun, Mississippi State's pass defense has only allowed opponents to complete 48.9 percent of their passes on the season. The Bulldogs have also forced five interceptions on the season, which is tied for the second-best mark in the SEC.

Mississippi State's "awful" pass defense is as much—if not more—of an anomaly as LSU's inconsistency in the passing game.

With a stellar front seven that will not only stop the run, but force Jennings to make quick decisions—something he has struggled with in the past—this could be the breakout game for Mississippi State's defense.

 

West Is Best

There's a recurring theme in this week's AP Top 25 poll, as five of the top 10 teams in the country reside in the SEC West.

That's right, 71.4 percent of the division is in the top 10, with No. 3 Alabama, No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 8 LSU and No. 10 Ole Miss.

Fair? Appropriate? Absolutely.

The last team in that group may shock you. After all, Ole Miss looked sloppy in its season opener against Boise State and then beat up on two cupcakes in Weeks 2 and 3.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze assessed the situation during a press conference:

If you look in our half alone all seven teams should be ranked in the top 25. The SEC West is that strong. I just want to be sure our kids and everyone hears the message that it is great and awesome, and we’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, but let’s not lose sight of enjoying the journey and keeping our eyes focused on the process and not so much the results.

There have to be 10 teams in a top 10, so if you take out Ole Miss, who slides in?

The Rebels boast a top-20 defense (296 YPG), a top-20 offense (44 points per game) and a quarterback in Bo Wallace who leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5 percent).

Does Wallace's success shock you? It shocks me. I was very critical of his performance against the Broncos in Week 1, and whether his gaudy completion percentage is a result of Dr. Bo becoming "Captain Checkdown" or not, it's still impressive.

The Rebels are undefeated, statistically impressive and boast one of the most fearsome defenses in the nation. What more do you want?

 

South Carolina Back? 

South Carolina's performance against Georgia on Saturday night in what was a must-win game was nothing short of impressive, but there's still work to be done.

The Gamecocks are back in the SEC East discussion, but don't tell head coach Steve Spurrier that.

"We're not talking about division championships or anything around here," he said. "I can assure you of that. I don't know, and none of us know what kind of a team we have yet. If we can show improvement and play the game a little smarter at times, maybe we will have a chance at a big season."

After the blowout loss in Week 1 to Texas A&M, that's all South Carolina wanted. A chance.

With Auburn and Florida both on the road and Missouri coming to Williams-Brice Stadium next week, it's still a rocky road for the Head Ball Coach and the Gamecocks.

He may not want to talk about it, but he can at least think about it now—which is progress from where the program was seven days ago.

 

Quick Outs

  • No, Arkansas won't struggle with NIU. The Hogs' offensive line will control the line of scrimmage, help produce another big day for the running backs and lead to a Hogs runaway. Arkansas imposed its will on the road at Texas Tech, and doing the same at home against a Middle Atlantic Conference team shouldn't be much of an issue.
  • What's that sound? It's Kenny Hill lighting up the stat sheet vs. SMU.
  • Tennessee is off this week, and it's the perfect time for it. The Vols played Oklahoma tough before being worn out by grown men on both lines of scrimmage. Despite that, the defense forced five straight three-and-outs in the game and only allowed 75 yards following the first drive of the second half. Moral victory? Yes, which is important for a team as young as Tennessee.
  • Missouri announced a home-and-home series with UConn. No, Missouri, SEC teams aren't supposed to go to UConn. Ever.
  • Yep, Kenny Hill just torched SMU again.
  • Vanderbilt is going to start Patton Robinette at quarterback this week. At least for a play. Then, who knows?
  • Kenny Hill may toss "eleventy" billion touchdown passes against SMU. No, that's not a real number. Hill's about to make it real—or "trill"—though. I'll show myself out.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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JUCO Standout Wesley Collins Adjusting Comfortably at the Collegiate Ranks

Independence Community College running back Wesley Collins was asked recently to assess his relationship with the Pirates coaching staff.

"Me and the coaches on staff here at ICC have a great relationship," Collins told Bleacher Report on Wednesday. "But as for the running back coach, I couldn't have asked for a better mentor and coach. He's the type of coach you will go out there and fight for."

Collins, a redshirt freshman, was alluding to Independence running backs coach VanDyke Jones II. Now in his second season as a member of the ICC coaching staff, Jones II also serves as the Pirates strength and conditioning coordinator as well as works intensely with a number of players on the Pirates special teams.

Jones II has played a pivotal role in helping Collins become acclimated to the team's potent rushing attack, particularly after the former Field Kindley High standout made the transition from Butler Community College.

To his credit, it's safe to assume that Collins has taken heed to the advice Jones II has passed along to him considering he has emerged as the team's top rusher.

Heading into Saturday's home game against cross-state rival Coffeyville, Collins leads the Pirates with 180 yards on 36 carries through three games. His longest run, a 28-yard scamper, came in last week's home loss to Dodge City.

Collins' 36 rushes are first on the team, ahead of fellow back Courtney Allen, who has generated 34 carries through three outings.

Add to the fact that Collins appears to be adjusting comfortably to his new team, and it's no wonder many believe the sky's the limit for a speedy back who's finally fulfilling his dream of playing collegiate football.

Also, Collins doesn't shy away from the fact that he's still somewhat fazed over the Butler coaching staff electing to release him after last season.

How else is there to explain why he labeled ICC's season opener a "statement game"?

"With my debut being against Butler, I wanted to make a statement," said Collins, who finished with a team-best 80 yards on 18 carries in a 57-16 loss to the Grizzlies. "I played well, and I definitely felt I left a sour taste in their mouths about my release. Versus Iowa Central, I didn't have the game I strived to have, but I didn't play bad. Versus Dodge City, I played well again, very similar to Butler, but definitely not as good as I would have wanted to play."

For Collins and Co., there is still much more football to be played to erase the memory of ICC's 0-3 start. The Pirates have seven regular-season games remaining, more than enough time to regroup, let alone get more stellar performances from Collins, their featured back. He was recruited by a host of major Division I colleges while at Field Kindley, most notably Tulsa, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri Southern, Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois, among others.

Now that he is starting to flourish in this, his first full season of college football, the possibility exists that these schools could continue their pursuit of the Pirates' featured back.

"Personally, I felt that my performance during the spring was good even with the mistakes, especially during the spring game where I led the team in rushing yards," Collins said. "Through (spring practices), I felt really good. I felt I blossomed into my own."

That’s quite evident given how quickly he's becoming acclimated at the collegiate ranks.

 

Andre Johnson is a regular contributor for Bleacher Report. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NFL and the NBA's Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

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Miller: Off-the-Field Issues Not Keeping Jameis Winston from Being a Top Pick

Florida State QB Jameis Winston has seen some ups and downs during his collegiate football career. The redshirt sophomore is currently suspended for the first half of FSU vs. Clemson this Saturday.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is looking to bring back-to-back national championships to Tallahassee, Florida. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder and NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller discuss his potential as a future NFL quarterback.

How well do you think Winston will translate into the NFL?

Watch the video and let us know!

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USC Defense Emphasizing Basics to Shut Down Zone Read

Temperatures at Loker Track Stadium Wednesday morning crept into the 90s, but the sweltering Southern California sunshine paled in comparison to the heat Boston College's zone-read offense put on the USC defense Saturday.

The Eagles put up a blistering 452 rushing yards, and the resulting 37-31 loss had USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox going back to the basics.

"I obviously didn’t do a good job preparing us, so I’ll take that [responsibility] 100 percent,” he said following Wednesday's practice.

USC is emphasizing the elementary components of defending the zone read because that's what Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy was able to most effectively exploit. The Trojans were off-balance even before the snap because of misalignment and missed assignments.

Safety Su'a Cravens put it thusly: "When teams run the zone read, and you don’t really know what you’re doing or what your assignment is, that’s the result you’re going to get."

That's a result the Trojans certainly don't want repeated, but the problems leading up to it must be remedied before they return to Pac-12 Conference play. USC's South Division rivals Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA all run schemes similar to that of Boston College, with mobile quarterbacks akin to Murphy.

A fourth Pac-12 South team, Utah, has integrated more zone-read principles into its offense since the arrival of coordinator Dave Christensen last offseason.  

Put simply, USC's conference championship aspirations hinge on its ability to shut down the zone read.

The good news for the USC defense, according to cornerback Chris Hawkins, is that the system's nuances should not take the Trojans quite as much by surprise.

"I'm feeling good about it because now we’ve seen it," he said. "It’s not going to be new to us."

One of the more unexpected facets of Boston College's zone read was that it actually allowed USC preseason All-American defensive tackle Leonard Williams to dictate the play.

"They were zone-reading off of Leonard—not blocking him, and just seeing where he goes, then taking it the opposite [direction]," Hawkins said. "He’s our best player on defense and they just took him out of the game. It was something we’re not used to."

Williams made 11 tackles the week prior in USC's 13-10 win at Stanford. He was limited to five at Boston College.

With USC's most disruptive playmaker taken out of his element, the rest of the Trojans defense was thrown out of balance. Murphy and Co. took advantage of USC's confusion to the tune of 8.4 yards per carry.

The quarterback in particular used the Trojans' misalignment to average nearly 15 yards on his 13 rushes.

According to Hawkins, Boston College's plan may become a blueprint for future zone-read opponents facing the Trojans. The difference going forward?

USC will be anticipating it.

"If Arizona State or Arizona watches the [Boston College game] film, I expect they’ll try to do the same thing to Leonard," he said. "So it’s something we have to practice and be ready for, and I think we will be.” 

The Trojans will have to be ready for it or risk giving up the home run plays that doomed them Saturday. Wilcox attributed those to more basic miscues the coaching staff is emphasizing in the practices to come.

"The explosive plays showed up, whether it was due to technique error [or]…we had eyes in the wrong spot. We had a lot of missed tackles," he said.

Seven runs accounted for 268 yards of Boston College's total rushing output, via USCTrojans.com. Sixty-six came on Murphy's fourth-quarter touchdown, which effectively slammed the door on USC.

Murphy's career-high night is hardly the first time the USC defense has struggled against a mobile quarterback operating out of the zone read. The issue predates the current coaching staff and actually spans three defensive leaders.

In 2013, Wilcox's predecessor, Clancy Pendergast, saw Arizona State's Taylor Kelly and UCLA's Brett Hundley gash the Trojans out of the zone read.

In 2012, Monte Kiffin's 4-3 base formation looked outdated against opponents like Arizona and Oregon, a defense that B/R lead national writer Michael Felder examined.

Shutting down the zone read is a recurring problem for the USC defense, but 2014 is a new season and new opportunity to remedy its woes.  And it just might be a lot more simple than a major overhaul, as Cravens described.

"Discipline," he said. "Knowing your assignment, and do your own job. That’s what we need to do."

 

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

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