The Clemson Tigers will travel to Tallahassee to take on the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles on Saturday night. The game will be nationally televised, so it’s an opportunity for both teams to make a statement.
The Seminoles return a lot of talent from last season’s national championship team, while the Tigers will continue to rely on new faces offensively. Both defenses play physical, which should make for an exciting matchup.
5-star Iman Marshall Announces Top 5
Long Beach (California) Poly defensive back Iman Marshall announced his top five over the weekend. Marshall tweeted out his list consisting of Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oklahoma:
All five programs recruit out of state well, so it's no surprise to see each in the mix for Marshall. However, only Notre Dame and Oklahoma have players on their roster from the Golden State.
As far as when he will take his official visits, that is still up in the air, according to Marshall's father. Mr. Marshall told me via text message, "He hasn't set any dates. He will not be able to take any of his officials until November because of the NCAA requirement that he must take the SAT and/or ACT first."
Despite the fact that Marshall didn't list any West Coast schools in his top five, the buzz is USC is still in play. The 247Sports Crystal Ball has him as a 100 percent lock to the Trojans.
I spoke to Scout.com West Coast recruiting analyst Greg Biggins about Marshall's recruitment.
Biggins told me, "Marshall grew up a fan of USC. He has been to campus unofficially multiple times. He has a good relationship with the coaching staff. Stanford and UCLA want him. At the next level he is looking for a school that can showcase his ability early as a freshman.
"Scheme-wise he wants a school that allows him to be aggressive and play press man. Academics are important, so a school on his list like Notre Dame could use that. He has referred to LSU as DBU. All the schools have a chance, so it will be interesting to see."
It sounds like Marshall is going to take his out-of-state visits but keep USC, UCLA and Stanford in the fold before making a pledge. Despite Marshall announcing his five official visits, expect the Golden State schools to be there come decision day.
Sooners Make a Huge Jump With 4-Star LB from Ohio
Outside linebacker Anthony McKee from Columbus, Ohio, returned home from his official visit to Oklahoma and raved about his time in Norman. Heading into the trip, Michigan State was McKee's standout school. However, the 4-star defender said the Sooners are now even with the Spartans.
"Oklahoma is now tied with Michigan State. They are my top two for sure," McKee told me directly. "I almost committed. If my family was there I probably would have. They showed a great time. My host was the linebacker, Curtis Bolton. The defense was impressive. That stood out. I also liked being with the team during warm-ups."
Next up for McKee is a visit to East Lansing for the Michigan State-Ohio State game on November 8. He said it will likely come down to that visit when breaking down the Spartans and Sooners.
"I have a good relationship with Coach (Mike) Tressel at Michigan State. Same for Coach (Tim) Kish at Oklahoma," added McKee. "I like how both defenses get after it. That's what makes it so hard because both are great places with great people."
McKee said he doesn't have a timetable on when he will commit, stating, "It could happen after my next visit or later on."
When asked for a prediction for the Spartans-Buckeyes contest? The Columbus native said, "Michigan State should win by two touchdowns. I'd say 28-14."
'Dawgs in Good Shape with 4-Star Athlete
The Georgia Bulldogs are looking to make some headway in Louisiana for the Class of 2015. Head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt have made Donte Jackson a major priority for the 'Dawgs. Jackson attended the UGA-Clemson game in Athens two weeks ago for an unofficial visit.
Jackson told me, "That visit was real nice. All the fans up there were happy to see me. I got a chance to talk to the players and Coach Richt, and they happy to see me back there after visiting for their summer camp. It was a productive visit. Coach Pruitt stresses to me a lot that I'm his No. 1 guy. It was a lot of love."
The 4-star speedster said his relationship with the coaching staff is one of the reasons he is considering Georgia.
"I really like Coach Richt. He is a laid-back guy, but he really focuses on building better men and not just football players," added Jackson.
"I grew up a fan of college football, and Georgia was one of the schools I really liked," he said "I was fan of players like A.J. Green and Knowshon Moreno. It helped when they got Coach Pruitt over from Florida State. That made me start liking them a lot. They want me at cornerback and as a returner. They want me to come in compete for playing time early."
Jackson is a well-rounded athlete. As a junior he won state championships in the 100 and 200 meters, and he plans to continue participating in both sports at the next level.
"All of the schools that I'm considering have offered me for football and track," noted Jackson. "It helps me stay healthy and helps me keep my speed up when I play that corner position so no one is running past me."
LSU is still working hard to keep the New Orleans native home. Ace recruiter Frank Wilson has led the charge for Jackson along with defensive backs coach Corey Raymond.
"Me being a New Orleans guy, I've always had love for LSU. They had a place in my football heaven," stated Jackson. "My lead recruiter is Coach Frank (Wilson). He is pretty much like an uncle. I call him Uncle Frank. I talk with Coach (Les) Miles a lot. He is a cool guy. Coach Raymond is always telling me how much he needs me and how I can come in early to play the nickel position."
So is this an SEC showdown for sticky cover man? He replied, "I can't necessarily say it's a SEC battle, but my lead two schools are LSU and Georgia."
Jackson is planning to make his decision at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 3. He said Ole Miss, Texas Tech, UCLA and USC are schools he is still considering.
Miami Loses a 4-Star RB Commit
On Saturday morning, 4-star running back Jordan Cronkrite decommitted from the Hurricanes and took a road trip to Gainesville to check out the Gators.
Cronkrite was one of Miami's four 4-star commitments at tailback. Running back is a position of need for the 'Canes, as standout Duke Johnson is eligible for the NFL draft. However, some recruiting insiders feel Miami will be just fine with its trio of verbal pledges.
I caught up with recruiting veteran David Lake of 247Sports site InsideTheU.com.
"In the big picture it's not a huge loss because of the guys committed like Jordan Scarlett, Dexter Williams and Mark Walton. They are ranked higher than Cronkrite," stated Lake. "Jordan is a good back, but his best position at the next level could be safety. It's not a slight to him. I watched him on Friday, and he made more plays in the secondary."
The loss still stings a little because Miami head coach Al Golden has made recruiting the tri-county area of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach a key factor for his staff. UM is still in great shape for the future. Lake said Miami could be close to returning to the days of Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore with this class.
"I think this is as close it has been if all three stick. What I like most about Scarlett, Williams and Walton is they have embraced the competition," remarked Lake. "They have said the right things publicly that they want to share carries like Portis, McGahee and Gore. It would be easy to say they want to be the featured guy."
Williams was the first of the backs to commit. Lake said keep an eye on him down the stretch.
"When he committed it came as a surprise. Florida has been involved with him, and his family likes the Gators," added Lake. "Yet he is still firm. In fact he has already signed his financial aid agreement papers. It's hard to say this is a situation to watch, but I think it is."
Miami is currently ranked No. 12 in 247Sports' team rankings.
Magnolia State 4-star Checks Out Ole Miss
Offensive guard Javon Patterson took his second unofficial visit of the fall. Patterson was in Oxford, Mississippi, for the Rebels' 56-15 thrashing of Louisiana-Lafayette. The rugged lineman liked what he saw from Ole Miss.
"My favorite part was the Grove. Ole Miss is a great school with lots of tradition," Patterson told me directly. "I'm going to try to take an official visit. I feel comfortable with Ole Miss and Auburn."
Mississippi State is heavily involved with the road grader from Petal. The 6'2", 290-pounder was in Starkville on August 30 for the Bulldogs' home opener. He currently has a top five of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. When asked who is recruiting him the hardest? He quickly replied, "All of them."
Last week the Rebs added a commitment from 4-star offensive lineman Drew Richmond. I asked Patterson if that would affect his decision.
"I did see Drew committed. I would not really have an impact, but it would be great to play with him," answered Patterson.
As of now, the 247Sports Crystal Ball gives him an 83 percent chance to commit to the Rebels. It would be an impressive haul for head coach Hugh Freeze to get Patterson and Richmond in the same class.
4-Star Micah Abernathy Talks Oregon Visit
Last weekend, Norcross (Georgia) Greater Atlanta Christian cornerback Micah Abernathy took his first official visit to Oregon and returned with rave reviews.
"It was my first time out there. My favorite part about it was getting to know the coaches better," Abernathy told Bleacher Report. "I didn't know them too well, but I feel better about them after this visit. My recruiter is Coach (John) Neal and he is a real cool guy. I'm getting to know Coach (Mark) Helfrich more, and he is a genuine guy."
When asked if his family wants him to stay closer to home, he responded: "No it doesn't matter where I go. They will support me."
The in-state Bulldogs hosted Abernathy for an unofficial visit in their season opener. He said it was good to get up there again after participating in their summer camp.
Abernathy stated: "It was a cool environment. The fans were loud, and that was one of the things you notice when you get there. I got a chance to talk to Coach Pruitt again. He is a cool guy."
He said he is going to talk to his parents about setting up his next official visit. They didn't accompany him to Oregon.
"All of the schools are even right now, but Georgia, Oregon and Tennessee recruiting me the hardest right now."
Ohio State and Penn State sit firmly in his top five. The 247Sports' Crystal Ball has him leaning toward Georgia with a 75 percent chance he picks the Bulldogs.
Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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The first of many SEC tests for LSU and Mississippi State will kick off Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers are 3-0 fresh off two shutouts against Sam Houston State and UL-Monroe. The Bulldogs boast the same record but without a win against a team from a power-five conference.
LSU head coach Les Miles is 9-0 against Mississippi State. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen has only been within 10 points of the Tigers once, which was his first season in 2009.
Here is a preview of this week's matchup.
What You Need to Know
Time: 6:00 p.m. CT
Place: Tiger Stadium; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Spread: LSU by 10, via Oddsshark.com
One-time powerhouses renew a classic rivalry when the Miami Hurricanes enter Memorial Stadium to challenge the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET.
ESPN2 will carry the the nonconference clash, which is highlighted by a pair of the nation's best running backs in Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah. According to Oddsshark, the 'Huskers are favored by seven points.
The last meeting between the programs was the 2001 BCS National Championship, where the 'Canes plastered Nebraska 37-14.
Nebraska and Miami last met each other in the regular season in 1976. That doesn't mean these two programs haven't seen each other plenty of times between then and now.
Instead, the Huskers and Hurricanes became accustomed to meeting in the postseason. The last time the two met was the 2002 Rose Bowl, where Miami won 37-14. Hurricane quarterback Ken Dorsey led a big charge against the Huskers and Heisman winner Eric Crouch.
Twelve years later, the two finally meet again. The all-time series is tied at 5-5, making this matchup more interesting than ever. Adding fuel to the fire, Nebraska is 3-0 against Miami in Lincoln, per Huskers.com.
It's hard to believe that these two programs have only met a total of 10 times. Despite so much time in between, it's clear both are anxious to meet once again.
Will the Huskers come away victorious in this final nonconference matchup for the season?
Where: Memorial Stadium; Lincoln, Nebraska
When: Saturday, September 20, at 8 p.m. ET
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 113, XM 196
Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (25-2)
Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb underwent a surgical procedure Monday to address a fractured left thumb and could miss extended time, beyond just this week's upcoming game versus Troy.
Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported what Chubb's mother, Lavelle Chubb, said regarding her son's status moving forward after his operation at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens.
"He's doing good; he's just resting right now," said Lavelle Chubb. "They said they would see how he's doing (Tuesday) before they make that decision. Possibly this week but they’re not really sure (how long he'll be out)."
Chubb had a breakout performance of sorts in Georgia's 45-21, season-opening victory over Clemson, racing 47 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter of that contest. Chubb finished with four carries and 70 yards.
Although the Bulldogs suffered a letdown and lost to South Carolina this past Saturday, it was another strong outing for Chubb, who ran for 34 yards on just four attempts. Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com highlighted Chubb's promising start:
Per 247Sports' composite rankings, Chubb was the No. 6-ranked running back in the high school class of 2014.
The Troy game shouldn't be too much of a problem for Georgia to handle, particularly with regard to its rushing attack. Superstar Todd Gurley is already in place, and Sony Michel and Keith Marshall are fully capable of spelling Gurley when he's taking a break on the sidelines.
This setback isn't ideal for Chubb, given how much of an immediate impact he's had in his brief time in Athens. However, his future is bright, and the Bulldogs would be wise not to press him back into action.
A deep backfield affords Chubb plenty of time to fully recover and still make his presence felt later this season, amid what promises to be a difficult SEC schedule.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The preseason is over, and it’s time for the real football to begin. Or something like that.
With a tip of the cap to West Virginia, which is looking better and better every week, Alabama’s three-game, warm-up stretch of the Mountaineers, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss is over, and SEC play gets ramped up into full gear this week. The Florida Gators are coming to Tuscaloosa and will test the Crimson Tide with the most talent they’ve seen so far on defense and a much more physical offense.
Plenty of newcomers will be tested on both sides of the ball, as the pressure of SEC play ramps up the level of competition across the board.
Florida is coming off of a triple overtime win over Kentucky. It’s hard to get a good read on the Gators, since their season opener against Idaho was cancelled due to weather and their only other game was against cellar-dweller Eastern Michigan.
We’ll probably know a lot more about both teams after the weekend.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 20
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Gator IMG Sports Network
Spread: Alabama by 14.5-15, according to OddsShark.com.
Florida State hasn't had troubles putting up points on Clemson the past two years.
Since Brent Venables arrived from Oklahoma and was hired as the Tigers' defensive coordinator before the 2012 season, he has helped the team improve gradually. Last season, Clemson allowed just 22.2 points per game (24th best in the Football Bowl Subdivision).
But FSU has been able to put some impressive numbers on the board. In 2012, FSU shook off a sluggish start to win 49-37 behind EJ Manuel's 380 passing yards and two touchdowns. And last year, in a top-5 showdown, visiting FSU routed Clemson 51-14 as Jameis Winston threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
That's 1,232 offensive yards by FSU the past two seasons against the Tigers.
Clemson will try again to slow down FSU's offense when the teams face off on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET (ABC).
The jury is still out on just how good Florida and Alabama really are, but it won't stay that way for much longer.
The third-ranked Crimson Tide will host the unranked Gators on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, with both teams needing to make a statement to prove that they're actually back.
For Alabama, the cornerback issues that haunted head coach Nick Saban's crew appear to have been solved in wins over Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss. Was that a byproduct of Eddie Jackson's return and Cyrus Jones' development, or more due to weak competition?
At quarterback, Blake Sims has settled into the starting quarterback role. The senior has completed 75 percent of his passes (48-of-64) for 646 yards, four touchdowns, one pick and a 177.29 passer rating—third-best in the SEC among qualifying quarterbacks.
Florida's offense has rolled up 593.5 yards per game and 6.59 yards per play against Eastern Michigan and Kentucky, but at 6.2 yards per attempt, quarterback Jeff Driskel has yet to stretch the field.
Could the two traditional powers have been holding things back during the early part of the season, despite both playing close games?
Perhaps, and they could be unveiled this week.
Time for OJ?
The search for Alabama tight end O.J. Howard has entered its fourth week, with the 6'6", 240-pounder nowhere to be found.
Sure, Saban has been asked.
"O.J. Howard is a guy that we need to get more involved in probably what we're doing," he said during last Wednesday's coaches teleconference. "I think he has some capabilities to make plays that we need to take advantage of. He has been open a few times and we just haven't gotten him the ball."
Nothing changed against Southern Miss, as Howard finished the game with a grand total of zero catches on the season.
That's going to change at some point, and there's no time like the present. Alabama has a small village of ultra-talented wide receivers outside, but Florida's secondary is legit—despite the way the stats looked against Kentucky's air raid offense last weekend.
According to The Associated Press' John Zenor, Saban knows that Amari Cooper, his star wide receiver, is going to have his work cut out for him going up against Vernon Hargreaves III:
Instead of Sims getting into a rhythm with Cooper—as has been the case for the first three weeks—hooking up with Howard might be an attractive alternative early. This would keep the Gator defense on its heels throughout the game.
An Added Dimension
Remember when Florida's new offense was expected to put stress on opposing defenses by utilizing Driskel's skills on the ground?
"I think this offense fits him better as opposed to what we may have been doing before," head coach Will Muschamp said at SEC media days in July. "To utilize his athleticism and space, some of the things he's able to do athletically, is going to benefit him and us."
Driskel feels the same way.
"I think teams know that I'm fast," Driskel told Bleacher Report in June. "I've put on film that I can run by DBs, and that's talked about during the week when defenses are getting ready for us. It's just something else that the defense has to account for and is kind of where the game is moving."
Through two games this season, though, Driskel hasn't seen his production on the ground pick up. He has only posted seven carries for 24 yards on the season—3.5 carries per game.
For reference's sake, Driskel averaged 9.1 carries per game in 2012, when he led the Gators to a Sugar Bowl appearance.
Has he been making the wrong reads?
Just to make sure, Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports went back to look at the tape from the Kentucky game:
That doesn't necessarily mean he won't run more in the future, though.
Whether he's been told not to run or the plays haven't called for him to take off, he hasn't been as much of a weapon on the ground as anticipated. Don't count on it staying that way forever.
Driskel has legitimate breakaway speed, and Alabama's defenses have struggled with mobile quarterbacks such as Auburn's Nick Marshall and former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the past.
Even Oklahoma's Trevor Knight—who lit the Tide up through the air—made an impact with his legs, getting outside of the pocket and making throws on the run in last season's Sugar Bowl.
Can 'Bama Stretch The Field?
For the most part, Sims has been used as a game manager through three games. Sure, he's averaging 10.1 yards per attempt, but that stat is inflated quite a bit by receivers—namely, Cooper—getting chunks of yards after the catch.
Is this the week when Sims stretches the field?
We talked about the possibility of Howard making more of an impact, and Sims' lone interception of the season was on a seam route downfield into double coverage against West Virginia.
Whether it's Howard down the seam, the likely return of wide receiver DeAndrew White—as reported by TideSports.com's Aaron Suttles—Cooper simply beating Hargreaves or all of the above, a downfield passing attack would keep opposing defenses honest.
Those running lanes for Sims and Alabama's stable of running backs would then be the size of the Grand Canyon.
Can Sims do it?
He hasn't had many chances, and maybe that's by design. At some point, though, the Crimson Tide offense is going to have to take a few risks.
If the defense struggles with Driskel and/or top receiving target Demarcus Robinson on Saturday, it'll be time to see if Sims has what it takes deep downfield.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.
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As Notre Dame takes its first week off, the Irish find themselves in an enviable position—an undefeated record, a difficult schedule looking less daunting by the week and an opportunity to get their thin roster healthy after multiple injuries hit during their 31-14 victory over Purdue.
But if there's one main objective to accomplish over the bye week, head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand must fix a unit that's underperforming.
The Irish front five played perhaps its worst game of the season on Saturday night, giving up four sacks to the Boilermakers. That number could've been even uglier if quarterback Everett Golson had not shown his elusiveness on multiple occasions, escaping pressure as he scrambled and ran his way to leading rusher status for the Irish offense Saturday night.
That's an unnecessary—and dangerous—role for the engine of the Irish, especially with a talented trio of backs capable of carrying the load. But it can't do that if the offensive line doesn't open up any holes.
After starting the season strong with 281 yards on the ground against Rice, the Irish have seen that output plummet the past two weeks.
Why that's happening remains to be seen. After being held to just 54 yards on the ground against Michigan, Kelly explained that the Wolverines' scheme played a large part in that struggle. But after seeing Notre Dame held to just 3.7 yards a carry against Purdue, you start to wonder if these comments have a bit of spin to them.
"The way [Michigan] decided to play the game, there was six, seven guys [at the line of scrimmage], it was just how they decided that they wanted to take those opportunities away from us," Kelly explained after the 31-0 victory over the Wolverines. "We were glad to oblige them and throw the football. If somebody is going to play the game so one‑sided defensively, we're going to throw the football."
That wasn't Purdue defensive coordinator Greg Hudson's scheme, and the Irish still didn't run the ball well. So after back-to-back weeks of struggling on the ground, Kelly acknowledged a problem up front. And while there doesn't seem to be one glaring issue, the lack of chemistry in the starting five has the head coach understanding that improvements must be made.
"We're falling off a block here. We miss a fit here," Kelly said on Sunday. "And maybe it's just the continuity took us a little bit longer. It's nothing big, but it's everything. ... They've got to get cleaned up before we get to where we want offensively."
Kelly acknowledging continuity points back to a training camp restack. After playing all spring with Steve Elmer at left guard and redshirt freshman Mike McGlinchey at right tackle, Notre Dame opened camp with Elmer at tackle and unproven veterans Matt Hegarty and Conor Hanratty sharing time at left guard.
Teamed with center Nick Martin and fifth-year senior Christian Lombard, that trio was expected to be an asset while Elmer and left tackle Ronnie Stanley got acclimated to new positions. But an ankle injury suffered against Rice for Lombard has forced both Hanratty and Hegarty into the starting lineup surrounding Martin, and it's created question marks.
"Quite frankly, we've got to find a little bit more push inside, and that's what we're going to try to come up with," Kelly said. "So we're in the process right now of kind of sorting that out ourselves."
One place the Irish won't look is to their talented freshman, Quenton Nelson. After impressing during fall camp, it seems that Kelly and Hiestand want to keep a redshirt on Nelson if at all possible. Beyond that, the focus likely turns to Elmer.
An elite recruit and a physical specimen, the sophomore held his own last year at guard, thrown into the lineup after Lombard required season-ending back surgery. But after shifting outside to tackle, a position he profiles at nicely at 6'5.5" and 315 pounds, the Irish staff needs to decide if it works its way through growing pains or moves Elmer back inside.
"I think you could look at it one of two ways. One, let's hang in there and let him continue to work through a new position. Or two, he's much more comfortable at guard," Kelly said.
A third scenario likely plays into the equation even more: Is McGlinchey ready to be an every-down player?
As physically talented as any offensive lineman on the roster, McGlinchey is still growing into his 6'7.5" frame. And at only 310 pounds, he'll be asked to hold up against defenses like Stanford and Florida State thrown into the October fire fairly quickly.
Or Kelly could shift Lombard back outside to right tackle, where he started in 2012 for the 12-1 Irish. Lombard dominated Rice's Christian Covington during the season opener, but he isn't necessarily healthy with an ankle sprain and hasn't played tackle in two seasons.
Over the past three seasons, Notre Dame has collected some elite talent along the offensive line. Credit Hiestand's ability to recruit and teach, something on display last season as the Irish offensive line didn't miss a beat even after losing three starters to injury.
But without first-rounder Zack Martin and third-round pick Chris Watt, the Irish front five needs to find its identity if Notre Dame wants to turn 2014 into a season to remember.
"We're going to evaluate where we are after three weeks because we have to get better," Kelly said. "We know we've got some good players. We have to figure out whether we have them all in the right place."
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The Oklahoma State Cowboys welcomed the UTSA Roadrunners to town this past Saturday and turned what looked like an intriguing matchup into a bona fide rout.
UTSA had the Stillwater faithful on upset alert. Luckily for Oklahoma State fans, the Pokes were having none of it.
Oklahoma State came out strong and never really looked back. It didn't look completely dominant, but it played well enough to erase any doubt about its ability take care of the teams it's expected to beat.
The Cowboys were the big winners in this one, but who are the individual winners and losers from this game? Read on to find out.
National signing day 2015 has the look of a potentially historic date in USC football recruiting history.
It marks the first time in more than three years that the program has a full allotment of scholarships with which to work, the result of a 10-scholarship reduction each year since 2012 as part of USC's sanctions from the Reggie Bush affair.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff are using the Trojans' replenished allotment to the fullest. USC already has 16 verbal commitments for the 2015 class.
The most recent additions are Tristan Payton—a 4-star wide receiver from First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida—and Cole Smith, a 3-star center from nearby Mission Viejo High School. Both pledged to USC in August.
The Trojans are ranked atop the Pac-12 currently and check in at No. 10 in 247Sports' national rankings. The rest of the conference may once again have to get used to looking up at USC when it comes to recruiting.
"Consider yourself an up-and-coming recruiting power in...the Pac-12? If so, you'd better buckle up, because the ride is about to get a lot bumpier, especially on the recruiting trail. ...[T]he big boys are back," is AL.com's Gary Laney's advice to the rest of the conference with USC returning to full scholarship strength.
It's hard to find anyone who isn't both excited and relieved that college football will finally have a playoff to determine a national champion this season. But there are some folks who believe that a four-team playoff doesn't go far enough.
Consider the members of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation among them. The two groups decided last February that they would conduct a weekly poll of the top 16 teams in the nation, essentially giving fans an idea of which teams would qualify for a 16-team playoff.
It was perhaps the perfect week for the Super 16 poll to debut. A pretty quiet week in terms of top matchups meant the poll wasn't going to have to deal with a number of ranking controversies in its debut week.
The major questions for any pollsters this week were pretty simple: How far would USC drop after being upset by Boston College, and where do South Carolina and Georgia belong in the rankings after the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs, 38-35, in the weekend's premier matchup?
Thankfully, we don't have to debate whether or not USC would belong in a 16-team playoff—and we'd certainly never have to debate that argument this early in the season—because the polarizing viewpoints on that topic would rage for days on end. Had they lost at home, it would be easier to argue they deserved no consideration for a top-16 spot, but a road loss is a road loss, even to a team you're expected to defeat.
All is not lost for USC, of course. Far from it.
"The goal, obviously, of being Pac-12 champs is very alive for us," coach Steve Sarkisian told reporters after the game. "I thought we came out playing well, and for whatever reason I thought we lost it. I've got to figure that out."
Meanwhile, South Carolina saved its season, defeating Todd Gurley and Georgia. In fact, perhaps it was how Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo utilized Gurley—or perhaps more accurately, didn't utilize him—that was the difference in this game. Martin Rickman of SI.com took a closer look at that:
Still, star tailback Todd Gurley had just eight carries for 44 yards in the first half. The Bulldogs had just 14 for 71. Mason went 9-of-12 for 132 passing yards, but that left the Bulldogs in a 24-13 hole at the break.
Gurley finished with 131 yards and a touchdown, a two-yard scamper with 9:23 to play in the third quarter that cut South Carolina’s lead to 24-20. Yet on the next possession, after the Gamecocks had extended their advantage to 11, Bobo went away from the ground game. He called for an empty-backfield set on a key third-and-two. Mason’s pass fell incomplete and the Dawgs were forced to punt.
As Rickman would go on to note, "When a team has the best running back in college football, it should use him." Perhaps it will be a lesson that Georgia takes with them going forward.
There were other upsets on the day, of course, as Virginia Tech fell to East Carolina, while Louisville was knocked off by Virginia. Suffice to say, neither team will be cracking the top 16 anytime soon.
A few teams that should be entrenched in these rankings for much of the season find themselves atop the rankings, however. It should come as little surprise that some combination of Florida State, Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma should be in the top four. Auburn, Texas A&M, Baylor and LSU have all impressed early as well.
If nothing else, the SEC teams should continue picking one another off and providing us all with very intriguing football as they do. One would imagine plenty of SEC squads will make their way into the top-16 throughout the season.
And one would imagine that, while we won't actually get a 16-team playoff at the end of the season, it will be quite fun debating who would belong in such a system throughout the year.
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Oh, Drizzy. Where would we be without your revolving-door fanship of all things shiny and winning?
Adding another front-runner to his stable of sporting allegiances, Drake walked out in two different Marcus Mariota jerseys at a concert on Saturday.
Complex’s Chris Yuscavage reports that the singer/rapper/feeler of feelings was performing in Washington state when he decided to update his college football allegiances for this season’s Heisman Trophy race.
Forgoing his former promotion of Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, Drake alternated black and white Oregon jerseys in support of the Ducks quarterback—a Heisman hopeful entering the 2014-15 season.
Twitter user @WordonRd tweeted out a picture of Drake's Oregon gear. This is what a real Ducks fan looks like.
Drake—a member of the Nike family after signing with the sneaker giant in December of 2013—completed the circle of personal and corporate promotion by throwing on Air Jordan "Oregon Duck" 4s and 5s.
So there you have it—Drake is an Oregon fan, and will be so until Mariota totes a clipboard in the NFL or Kenny Hill wins the Heisman. In any case, the state of Drake’s allegiances, as always, remains fluid and subject to change based on geography and success.
Welcome him as one of your own, Oregon fans. Or shun him entirely. It doesn't really matter. He'll be on the wagon for the next two to three months regardless.
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Each week of the high school football season features explosive performances from America's premier college prospects. The second slate of September action didn't disappoint, as several standouts commanded an expansive spotlight and carried their respective squads to victory.
We go beyond the headlines every Monday, giving you the inside look at players who shined on game day. From a ferocious Florida rusher to gunslingers in the Lone Star State, here's our examination of who shined.
5-star RB Damien Harris, Madison Southern High School (Barea, Kentucky)
It's been quite a senior season already for the country's top-ranked running back. Last week, we witnessed Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops take a helicopter to watch Harris as he gained 318 yards and scored four touchdowns on 17 carries.
His most recent effort also warranted attention. The 5'11", 205-pound playmaker scored seven touchdowns, including a 91-yard kick return, in a 49-35 victory over Paul Dunbar High School, per Ben Roberts of Kentucky.com. He ran for 321 yards on 19 attempts and finished the game with more than 400 all-purpose yards.
Harris surpassed 6,000 career rushing yards and 100 touchdowns, continuing to work his way up the state's all-time records list. He needs just three more rushing scores to supplant former NFL MVP Shaun Alexander for fourth in that category.
Through his first four games, Harris has 1,019 yards on the ground, averaging 18 per carry, and 15 touchdowns (eight from 50 yards or more). His top five features Kentucky, Texas A&M, Florida, Ohio State and Alabama.
4-star Brandon Wimbush, St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, New Jersey)
The Penn State commit should be making James Franklin very optimistic for life after star quarterback Christian Hackenberg's departure. Wimbush, who showed tremendous progression as a pocket passer this summer in Elite 11 action, has carried that momentum into his senior season.
The 6'2", 205-pound prospect posted incredible statistics Thursday night in a nationally televised matchup with fellow New Jersey powerhouse Bergen Catholic High School and coveted 2016 quarterback recruit Jarrett Guarantano.
Wimbush torched his opponents on ESPNU, utilizing elite arm strength and mobility throughout.
Wimbush completed 19 of 24 pass attempts for 330 yards and five touchdowns, per Braulio Perez of NJ.com. He added 72 yards and another score on the ground.
“It felt great and this was probably the biggest game of my career,” Wimbush told Perez. “It was exciting that it happened on ESPN too because I was able to show the world what I can do.”
Rated fourth nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, Wimbush continues to validate the hype that warranted offers from Ohio State, Alabama and Miami, among others.
Though he's played less than six full quarters in two lopsided victories, Wimbush has managed to complete 76 percent of his passes, compile 500 total yards and account for nine total touchdowns.
4-star TE Alize Jones, Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Alize Jones' latest effort was a combination of elite athleticism and clutch timing. The nation's No. 1 tight end prospect helped national title contender Bishop Gorman rally from a late deficit against Southern California power Centennial High School.
The 6'4", 222-pound UCLA commit is used as a hybrid receiver in high school and simply couldn't be contained during crucial late stages of the contest. He caught the game-winning two-point conversion with just over two minutes remaining to give Bishop Gorman a 43-42 victory.
Aside from the successful conversion, Jones hauled in eight passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He now has 369 yards and four touchdowns on 14 receptions through four games, putting him on pace to obliterate his 2013 totals (35 catches, 571 yards and 10 scores).
5-star QB Kyler Murray, Allen High School (Allen, Texas)
The staggering statistics this Texas A&M pledge has assembled during his brilliant high school career make big performances appear routine. But keeping things in perspective, each and every one is pretty special stuff.
Murray opened district competition with yet another virtuoso effort, throwing for 228 yards and five touchdowns on 13 pass completions, per John Machota of The Dallas Morning News.
In typical fashion, the 5'10, 180-pound playmaker created opportunities as a rusher, surging downfield for another 137 yards.
"Individual accomplishments are cool, but at the end of the day it's all about getting wins," Murray told Bleacher Report this summer.
That's the only thing he's done in three seasons as a starter. Murray is now 29-0 at Allen and appears primed to track down a third straight state title.
After scoring 107 total touchdowns as a sophomore and junior, he's up to his old tricks again this season. Through three games, Murray has thrown for 1,002 yards, rushed for 427 yards and tallied 19 scores.
4-star RB Jacques Patrick, Timber Creek High School (Orlando, Florida)
Patrick ranks among the most coveted uncommitted prospects for a reason. He simply gets it done against top Florida talent on a weekly basis.
After rushing for 448 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games as a senior, Patrick picked things up in a 55-42 victory Friday evening. The 6'1.5", 230-pound running back raced for 327 yards and five touchdowns, further inflating lofty statistics.
Patrick, who reached 6,000 career rushing yards earlier this month, spent Saturday at Texas A&M. The Aggies are among several squads still jockeying for position in his recruitment, along with Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State.
3-star RB Rob Ennis, Millville High School (Millville, New Jersey)
The 5'10", 170-pound speedster shattered his own single-game school rushing record Friday night in a memorable season-opening victory. Ennis erupted for 315 yards and four scores on just 17 carries, resulting in a 39-24 win over Mainland.
He hit another gear in the second half, racing for touchdowns of 30, 52 and 68 yards, per Mike McGarry of The Press of Atlantic City.
"Breaking that record was a goal of mine coming into the season," Ennis told McGarry. "And it wasn't just me gaining those yards. I had all those guys blocking up front for me. They helped me break the record."
Ennis, a Purdue pledge, has rushed for nearly 3,000 yards since the start of his sophomore season and also received interest from the likes of Rutgers and Oregon.
3-star QB Tucker Israel, Lake Nona High School (Orlando, Florida)
Israel has quickly turned his senior season into an onslaught of high school record books in the Sunshine State.
He connected on 26 pass attempts, giving him the new state completions record (720). The previous mark (706) was held by Wake Forest freshman starter John Wolford.
Wolford also held the old career passing yardage record, which was vanquished by Israel during the game. He tallied 437 yards through the air, giving him 10,726 total passing yards.
Israel, a Clemson commit, through five touchdowns Friday. He will break the state record for scoring passes (126) with five more.
4-star QB Chason Virgil, West Mesquite High School (Mesquite, Texas)
The Mississippi State commit continues to play the best football of his career, operating with more polish than in previous seasons. Virgil decimated the Red Oak High School defense Friday night, keeping an unbeaten campaign intact.
He spread the ball in impressive fashion, finding four different receivers for scoring strikes, per Devin Hasson of the Mesquite News. His four touchdowns tosses led West Mesquite to a 51-7 win.
The Bulldogs appear set to bring in a passer making serious strides at the right time. Virgil has thrown for 635 yards and nine scores in the past two games.
Recruit information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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State bragging rights will be on the line this Saturday afternoon at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when the ACC’s North Carolina Tar Heels tangle with the AAC’s East Carolina Pirates. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. (EDT), and the contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU.
North Carolina comes into this matchup 2-0 straight up after posting wins over Liberty and San Diego State, but it failed to cover against the spread, according to Cover’s betting trends, in either game as a double-digit favorite at home. The Tar Heels now have to go on the road. They are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 games away from home.
The Pirates followed up a tough 33-23 loss to South Carolina as 14-point road underdogs in Week 2 with a stellar performance: Last Saturday, East Carolina was a 9.5-point underdog playing on the road yet came away with a 28-21 win over then-No. 17 Virginia Tech, capturing the betting public’s full attention. East Carolina is now 7-1 against the spread in its past eight games.
North Carolina at East Carolina Betting Storylines
North Carolina came into the new season ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. While it has won both of its games by a combined 31 points, its stay in the rankings did not last long. Part of the reason is a defense that allowed 29 points to Division IAA Liberty and 27 points in a tight four-point victory against San Diego State.
The offense has done its part with a total of 87 points so far behind a balanced attack between the pass and the run. Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams has thrown for 424 yards and four touchdowns in his first two games while completing 67.2 percent of his 58 passes. However, his biggest contribution has been on the ground, with 115 yards and two scores on 18 rushing attempts. North Carolina has the offensive firepower to stand toe-to-toe with the Pirates as long as its defense can get off the field.
East Carolina joined the AAC this season after an extended stint in Conference USA, and it has immediately positioned itself as one of the top teams in the conference following its close call against the Gamecocks and its upset of Virginia Tech. A victory this Saturday could put the Pirates in position to possibly crack the Top 25 if enough higher-ranked teams lose.
East Carolina has done a great job getting out of the gate quickly, and the key to last Saturday’s upset was a 21-point first quarter that paced the win. Quarterback Shane Carden continues to impress with 1,031 yards passing in his first three games. He has thrown seven scoring strikes while completing 63.3 percent of throws. Justin Hardy has been on the receiving end of 23 balls for 267 yards, but Cam Worthy is the deep threat with an average of 27.5 yards per catch.
North Carolina at East Carolina Betting Odds and Trends by Doc’s Sports
Pointspread: East Carolina -3
Total Line: OFF
According to Covers’ betting trends, the Tar Heels are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games but just 6-13 ATS in their last 19 games following a SU win. The total has stayed “under” in 10 of their last 14 games overall.
The Pirates are a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last five home games and 4-0 ATS in their past four games against a team from the ACC. The total has stayed under in five of their last seven games against the ACC.
Head-to-head in this in-state rivalry, the favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings, and the total has stayed under in three of the last four games.
College Football Picks: North Carolina at East Carolina Betting Predictions
I went against the Pirates last week, but I am not going to make that mistake again. This team is solid on both sides of the ball and highly motivated to keep knocking off teams from the ACC. They hammered North Carolina 55-21 last season as 12.5-point road underdogs. While the Tar Heels may have revenge on their minds, they are walking into a very difficult situation to actually get a win. Lay the three points and stick with East Carolina to make in two in a row over its rivals.
Take: # 332 East Carolina (-3) over North Carolina - 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20
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No. 12-ranked UCLA featured plenty of touted individual names when it kicked off the 2014 season, but some breakout Bruins through three games are playing key roles in the team's 3-0 start through nonconference play.
UCLA's stars are indeed well-recognized.
The nation got to see quarterback Brett Hundley, a preseason Heisman Trophy contender. Linebacker Myles Jack became a sensation for his two-way play at running back. Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes was one of the most heavily recruited prospects in 2013, and captain linebacker Eric Kendricks has an NFL future.
The Bruins' stars have been vital to the unbeaten start, as have their breakout performers. New stars are emerging both on offense and defense and should be central to the Bruins' push for a Pac-12 Conference championship.