NCAA Football

Marcus Mariota Flies Through Air for Diving Touchdown vs. Wyoming

The heavily favored Oregon Ducks were down 7-0 after the first quarter against Wyoming on Saturday, but the Cowboys' lead didn't last very long.

With just under seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, junior quarterback Marcus Mariota leaped through the air to get his second rushing touchdown of the game and put the Ducks up 20-7.

Here's a video of the entire play:

Mariota is quickly building another Heisman Trophy resume, as he already had nine total touchdowns with zero interceptions after this diving score. He added a 16-yard strike through the air to Devon Allen roughly five minutes later, giving Oregon a 27-7 halftime lead.

[Twitter]

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Kent State QB Colin Reardon Throws Pass at His Feet vs. Ohio State

Kent State's Week 3 matchup against Ohio State has been a game to forget, especially for Golden Flashes quarterback Colin Reardon.

At one point, Reardon tried to throw a pass down the field while rolling out to the right, but he held on to the ball too long and ended up chucking it right at his feet.

Things didn't get much better from there, as the Golden Flashes were down 59-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Reardon finished the day 14-of-27 for 76 yards and three interceptions.

[Vine, h/t Lost Lettermen]

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Louisville, Virginia End 1st Half with a Scuffle

Both the Virginia Cavaliers and Louisville Cardinals were quite frustrated in the first half of Saturday's game after combining for six turnovers, but things got out of hand at halftime.

After an incompletion on the final play of the first half, a couple of players started wrestling in the end zone, which resulted in several players from both teams getting in a bit of a scuffle.

The Cavaliers had a 10-7 lead at halftime.

[YouTube, h/t College Spun]

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Georgia vs. South Carolina: Live Score and Highlights

 

Early First Quarter

Georgia 10, South Carolina 7

After a long weather delay, things are finally getting under way.  Which team can seize control early in this clash of SEC East titans?

Both teams relied on their passing attacks to score on opening drives, but a South Carolina turnover resulted in a Georgia field goal for the lead.  This could be a shootout.

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Miami (OH) vs. Michigan: Live Score and Highlights

Michigan 17, Miami (Ohio) 10, Early 3rd Quarter

The Red Hawks are hanging with Michigan, which hasn't lost at home in September under coach Brady Hoke.

Alert: Devin Funchess is not dressed for the game. More to come as details become clear. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter: @AdamBiggers81.

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JT Barrett vs. Kent State: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

After a miserable performance against Virginia Tech, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett turned things around against Kent State to lead the team to a 66-0 win.

The freshman completed just 31 percent of his passes while throwing three interceptions in a Week 2 loss. However, he bounced back with 312 passing yards and six touchdowns before coming out of the game early in the second half. Five of those scores came in an incredible first half as the Buckeyes built up a 45-0 lead.

Barrett look good early as the Buckeyes were able to score on the first drive less than two minutes into the game:

When he found Rod Smith for an eight-yard touchdown on the next possession, Brandon Castel of The-Ozone.net noted it was much easier against this defense:

Despite the weaker opponent, Barrett still showed his ability as he simply could not be stopped. After Smith ran in a touchdown, the quarterback went right back to work with three touchdown passes in the second quarter.

ESPN Stats and Info noted the difference between this performance and what he showed earlier in the season:

Jonathan Hull of the Times Record News provided his thoughts as the strong play continued:

Even the mistakes were not as bad as it seemed. He threw one interception, but Mike Hall of the Big Ten Network noted it was not his fault:

ESPN's College Gameday notes that Barrett wasn't the only quarterback this season to have a dominant half of football:

Bleacher Report's Michael Felder liked a lot of what he saw from the young passer, comparing him to UCLA's Brett Hundley:

He was also impressed by the quarterback's ability to go through his progressions:

After adding another score in the second half, he put himself in the record books next to another "fill-in" quarterback, according to Brent Yarina of BTN.com:

He is also in rare territory as a passer for the Buckeyes, as the school's Twitter account notes:

Terrelle Pryor also threw for 300 yards in 2010 but the records have since been removed.

Barrett ended up coming out of the game early in the third quarter as Cardale Jones got his chance to shine, but this was an impressive showing for a quarterback who received a lot of criticism early in the week.

Fans were ready to give up on the freshman after the home loss to Ohio State, but it is clear Barrett has a lot of talent. Even against a mediocre opponent, it is hard not to be impressed with some of the throws he made.

If he can find more consistency, the Buckeyes should be in good shape going forward as they look to survive without starting quarterback Braxton Miller.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford Hauls in Diving Touchdown Catch vs. ECU

One week after upsetting Ohio State in Columbus, Virginia Tech looks to have a win hangover, as it allowed the first 21 points of the game to East Carolina. 

But Isaiah Ford's touchdown at the end of the first half to get Tech on the board was nothing short of amazing. 

It looks like the ball hit the ground, but the play was reviewed and upheld as a touchdown catch. 

[FanSided, gifdsports]

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Purdue vs. Notre Dame: Live Score and Highlights

It’s the battle of the Shillelagh Trophy as No. 11 Notre Dame takes on Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium in the series finale. The game will be broadcast on NBC, and it will kick off at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

The Fighting Irish are looking to win their seventh straight against the Boilermakers. Quarterback Everett Golson leads the Irish with 521 passing yards and five touchdowns through the first two games.

Purdue started the season with a 43-34 win against Western Michigan. However, it did not have the same success against Central Michigan. The defense missed 17 tackles en route to a 38-17 loss.

Be sure to come back to this blog when the game kicks off for the latest scoring updates, highlights and analysis.

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Is Houston Still Contender in American Athletic Conference After Rough Start?

The Houston Cougars have lost two of their first three games to open the 2014 season. Their lone win, a 47-0 shellacking of Grambling State at home, was notched against a winless Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FCS) school.

Down 23-0 late in the first half, Houston’s comeback bid fell short against BYU on Saturday. BYU escaped in front of their home crowd with a 33-25 win.

Obviously, things are not going as planned for head coach Tony Levine. After opening the season, as well as Houston’s new home, TDECU Stadium, with a 27-7 program-injuring loss to the University of Texas at San Antonio, Houston fans were akin to a big, red balloon being pricked by a pin: All the air of 2014 hopes and expectations flew out of them in one giant pop.

So if Houston fans entered the season with high aspirations of their team earning a bid to the newly formatted college football playoff system or one of the four lucrative selection committee bowl games, those dreams certainly have dissipated by now.

Houston just hasn’t executed well enough to be one of college football’s elite teams this season. In order to accomplish something like that, a team has to have all its biggest issues sorted out well before the opening game. Houston didn’t.

But Houston remains in the hunt for the American Athletic Conference title. They remain 0-0 in that dogfight, and there were some positive signs over the last two games to give Houston fans hope going forward.

Houston’s offense hasn’t been what it should be this season. Whatever the reason—sophomore quarterback John O’Korn’s erratic play or new offensive coordinator Travis Bush’s lack of ingenuity—the Coogs’ high-flying offense has mostly been grounded so far.

But in Saturday’s loss to BYU, Houston’s ailing offense showed signs of new life. O’Korn had his best game of the season. He appeared accurate and in control. He threw for 307 yards on 30-of-52 pass attempts with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Simply put, O’Korn played like the quarterback everyone thought he could be this year after he led all true freshman in passing touchdowns last season. He made plays all over the field and throws only the very elite among pigskin hurlers can make—none better than a his 45-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Spencer as time expired in the first half.

Moreover, Houston’s offense appeared to improve as an overall unit.

If offensive coordinator Bush was in over his head at the beginning of the season, he didn’t appear to be drowning against BYU. Houston’s offense moved the ball and made big plays when it had to.  

No, this wasn’t the Air Raid offense Houston fans enjoyed under previous coordinators Dana Holgorsen, Kliff Kingsbury or even Doug Meacham. But Bush’s multiple-set spread offense looked like something that could actually work, and that’s more than the Cougars had going for them at the season’s start.

And Houston still has one more game to work on things before conference play begins. Houston hosts UNLV Sept. 20—their final nonconference game before AAC play begins.

In contrast to the continued evolution of a functioning offense, other facets of Houston's play regressed against BYU. Their special teams unit in particular lacked discipline and technique in Saturday's loss. In fact, Houston’s kicking game accounted for one missed field goal and two missed extra points—that’s five points left off the scoreboard in a game that was close for most of the second half.

Levine, a former special teams coordinator, has to get his unit back on track.

But let’s face it, while the AAC is the best non-Power Five conference in the nation, it’s not exactly the SEC. Houston has the overall talent to compete with any team in the AAC right now, and improved execution could slot them right in with the conference’s best teams: Cincinnati, Central Florida and East Carolina.

After the BYU loss, Houston players and coaches seemed resilient.

"You have to give a lot of credit to our team for not giving up and not folding. We just kept fighting," linebacker Derrick Matthews told the Associated Press.

Levine echoed the same to the Houston Chronicle’s Jody Genessy:

A loss is a loss. However, I will say coming into a hostile environment, playing a Top 25 team and falling behind 23-0 and never losing confidence or composure on the sidelines, battling back and having an opportunity to come back and tie the game late, I was proud of our student-athletes, our staff and our coaches.

Houston fans haven’t had much to be confident about so far this year. Nor have many of them maintained their composure. Houston message boards are rife with angry messages over the team’s poor start, and a website dedicated to firing Levine already has come out of the woodwork, too.

Fans are mad.

But Houston’s players and coaches seem to have their minds made up. They believe they can still compete for the AAC crown. They believe they can still become bowl eligible. They believe they can still make their season mean something.

And they can. They just need to do it.

 

 

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ESPN 'College GameDay' Headed to Tallahassee for Clemson vs. FSU in Week 4

ESPN's College GameDay is heading to the home of the reigning national champions in Week 4 to see Florida State take on conference rival Clemson in one of the premier ACC contests of the 2014 season.

The show's official Twitter feed broke the news:

This particular matchup is a popular one with the pregame show, as Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard were in Death Valley last fall to watch the Seminoles take on the Tigers in what was supposed to be the biggest test of the season for Jimbo Fisher's club. The exam didn't last long, as quarterback Jameis Winston and company dominated from the get-go, routing Dabo Swinney's team, 51-14.

Clemson opened up the 2014 season in disappointing fashion, falling at Georgia 45-21. The Tigers rebounded with a 73-7 victory over South Carolina State of the FCS, and they'll have the benefit of an extra week off to prepare for the No. 1 team in the nation.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, Florida State will have Week 3 off as well after opening the season with a 37-31 victory over Oklahoma State and following it up with a ho-hum 37-12 win against Citadel. The latter contest turned ugly following the game when Bulldogs offensive lineman Victor Hill admitted in an online post that he and the rest of his line were targeting the knees of the 'Noles defensemen.

"Me and my offensive line brothers preached to each other all week that we would be going for knees from the first play to the last play with the A-backs included," Hill wrote, via ESPN.com. "We saw it as if they [won't] respect us for blocking them then we'll make them respect us for cutting them!"

Hill was later suspended, and it's hard to imagine the Seminoles will want to schedule a rematch anytime soon.

Winston's bid for a repeat Heisman is off to an underwhelming start with two interceptions and just 11 rushing yards although a date with the Tigers should give him a chance to reassert himself to the forefront of the trophy discussion.

He does have over 600 yards passing, but to win the sport's most prestigious award, it's going to take an even greater effort than the one he gave in 2013, especially with Georgia's Todd Gurley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota off to such tremendous starts.

For Clemson, it will be a matter of not wilting when the game reaches the third and fourth quarters. After tying Georgia 21-21, the Bulldogs soared past the Tigers behind the ever-churning legs of the superhuman Gurley.

If this contest remains close in the second half, can Clemson learn from its Week 1 mistakes?

One position battle the nation has its eyes locked in on is quarterback, where dual-threat freshman Deshaun Watson looks to push senior Cole Stoudt for the starting spot. Both have plenty of talent, but Watson, a former 4-star recruit sought after by Alabama, Auburn and even Florida State, is the kind of player who can take the Tigers to the top.

Stoudt has taken the majority of snaps thus far for the Tigers, and his leadership will be critical to keeping the offense focused in Doak Campbell Stadium. But if things get dicey in the first half, we may see Swinney let go of Watson's reigns and see if the freshman can make some magic happen.

The stakes could not be any higher in the ACC showdown, as the conference's weakened perception means that Florida State likely cannot afford a loss if it wants to be in position to reach the College Football Playoff.

Tests against Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida loom, but this is the first opportunity for the 'Noles to identify themselves as serious contenders to win a second straight national championship.

The contest will take place at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Wyoming vs. Oregon: Live Score and Highlights

A week after lodging one of its biggest nonconference wins in school history, Oregon (2-0) will try to keep it rolling against a far less imposing opponent when it hosts Wyoming (2-0) at 2 p.m. ET Saturday.

While the Cowboys don't have the pedigree of Michigan State, whom the Ducks beat 46-29 on Sept. 6, the Mountain West team does come into Eugene riding a wave of confidence under new coach Craig Bohl. Bohl was the architect of a dynasty at North Dakota State, which won the last three FCS national championships, prior to taking over a Wyoming program that is coming off back-to-back losing seasons.

Saturday's game will be a clash of styles, as Oregon runs a wide-open offense that's big on scoring quickly and blowing teams out of the water, while Wyoming has tried to control the clock and win with defense. The Cowboys have allowed 25 points in two games while only scoring 34.

Oregon, on the other hand, has outscored its opponents 108-40.

This will be the first meeting ever between the Ducks and Cowboys. It will be shown live on the Pac-12 Network, but stick with us for real-time updates, including analysis, tweets, pics and GIFs.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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Miami Hurricanes vs. Arkansas State Live Blog: Instant Reaction and Analysis

Both the Miami Hurricanes and the Arkansas State Red Wolves enter Saturday's game with a 1-1 record. Last weekend, the Hurricanes defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers 41-7 for their first victory of the season. Arkansas State wasn't as successful last weekend, as it lost to the Tennessee Volunteers 34-19. 

Hurricanes wide receiver and returner Stacy Coley suffered a shoulder injury against Florida A&M and won't play against Arkansas State. As a true freshman in 2013, Coley led the team with 1,461 all-purpose yards, which was the 10th-highest single-season total in school history. 

Miami’s freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya will be playing against a Red Wolves defense that returned eight starters from a season ago, including Qushaun Lee. The senior linebacker was a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection after recording 134 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2013. So this will be a test to see how much Kaaya has learned from the Hurricanes’ 31-13 loss to the Louisville Cardinals in Week 1.

The Hurricanes defense will have to watch out for Red Wolves quarterback Fredi Knighten. While Knighten may not strike fear in many defenses with his arm, he is an excellent runner who can improvise with his feet. In addition to throwing for 166 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee, Knighten also ran for 65 yards and rushed for a touchdown.

Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. You can also watch the game on WatchESPN.

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Best Signs from ESPN's 'College GameDay' Week 3

ESPN's College GameDay crew hit Fargo, North Dakota, before North Dakota State's showdown against the University of the Incarnate Word at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Here are some of the best signs from fans, including a few that didn't make it on air. 

Sam Ponder certainly had fans in attendance. 

A nice throwback of Kirk Herbstreit. 

ESPN and Fargo, best friends? Yup! 

This North Dakota State weighs in on rapper Gucci Mane's legal issues. 

That's cold. 

Lee Corso picked the Bison! 

But some people haven't gotten over last year's snub. 

[ESPN]

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College Football Week 3: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Week 3 of the 2014 college football season will bring us two SEC rivals battling for the top spot in their division, as well as some very intriguing out-of-conference matchups.

South Carolina will host Georgia at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS, looking to get revenge for last season’s loss as well as gain some ground in the SEC East race.

Will the Gamecocks be able to handle Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs’ potent offense? Or will Steve Spurrier once again spoil the hopes and dreams for Georgia?

Tennessee travels to Oklahoma to duke it out with the Sooners at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Trevor Knight has a great opportunity to put his name in the Heisman race with a strong performance, whereas the Volunteers hope to show the national audience that their program is back on the rise. 

Texas and UCLA will play at 8 p.m. ET on Fox on a somewhat neutral field at Arlington's AT&T Stadium, with both programs hoping to take advantage of the national spotlight. 

Keep it locked right here with Bleacher Report for live score updates, highlights and much more for all of Saturday’s Week 3 action! 

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West Virginia vs. Maryland: Live Score and Highlights

West Virginia 28, Maryland 20—HALFTIME

The 2-0 Maryland Terrapins are off to a quick start during their first season as a member of the Big Ten, but the Terps get their first real test on Saturday afternoon, when the Mountaineers from West Virginia come calling.

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Kent State vs. Ohio State: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 45, Kent State 0 — Halftime

Game action is now underway between No. 22 Ohio State (1-1) and Kent State (0-2). ABC and ESPN2 are televising the matchup regionally from Columbus.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech: Live Score and Highlights

East Carolina 21, Virginia Tech 7—Late 2nd Quarter

The Virginia Tech Hokies are squaring off against the East Carolina Pirates in a nonconference clash.

ESPN is carrying the nonconference clash, and Bleacher Report is providing live scoring updates and analysis. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Last-Minute Look at Week 3 Polls

Coming off a weak schedule of games last weekend, college football has a lot of work to do providing fans with the kind of quality and entertainment that they are accustomed to seeing. Despite that poor slate of matchups, there was plenty of shifting in the polls due to upsets and underachieving teams. 

Before we get to the start of Week 3 games, which don't look a lot better on paper than last weekend, we want to look at where everything stands in the polls and which games are going to provide the most drama on Saturday. 

September is traditionally a slow time in college football, with teams purposely scheduling cupcakes to get their bearings straight, but we have seen the biggest upsets happen when the games didn't seem to count for much. 

 

Week 3 Games To Watch

No. 6 Georgia at No. 24 South Carolina

This SEC battle is the easiest game to highlight because it's the only one of the weekend to feature two ranked teams. It also benefits from featuring Georgia's Heisman contender, running back Todd Gurley, and trying to figure out what South Carolina is. 

The Gamecocks started the season ranked in the Top 10 of both polls, proceeded to allow 52 points to a Texas A&M team that didn't have Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans or Jake Matthews in the season opener and looked sluggish defeating East Carolina last week. 

In Pete Iacobelli's preview for The Associated Press (via CBS Sports), Steve Spurrier is quoted as saying that last week's win spoke volumes about his team's mental toughness.

''It worked out for us," said Spurrier. ''Not quite as talented as some of our teams in the past, that's obvious. But the kids hung in there.''

Spurrier is at least honest in his assessment by saying that this year's Gamecocks team isn't as talented as what he had before. However, you can't help but wonder how long they can survive in the SEC based on how uninspired their first two games have been. 

One thing that figures to change for Georgia, in a positive way, is the effectiveness of Gurley in this game. As ESPN's College GameDay Twitter account noted, the star running back hasn't fared well against South Carolina in previous meetings:

The Bulldogs are coming off a bye following an impressive 45-21 win over Clemson in which they outscored the Tigers 24-0 in the second half. Gurley needed the rest after racking up 293 all-purpose yards in the victory. 

This should be an offensive slugfest with the Gamecocks averaging 30.5 points per game and allowing 37.5; Georgia's defense was on point in the second half against Clemson, but the Tigers were able to move the ball in the first half with 306 total yards. 

Until South Carolina figures out a way to stop a quality opponent, it's hard to see a scenario where Spurrier's team comes out on top against a Georgia team that's rapidly rising in the polls and national title conversation. 

 

Southern Mississippi at No. 3 Alabama

This is one of those games that's fascinating for one team, even though the outcome isn't going to be in doubt. Alabama is the superior team in every way. Nick Saban should have no problems getting the Crimson Tide to 3-0 before starting SEC play next week. 

However, the questions about Alabama's quarterback position haven't come into focus through two games. Blake Sims has solid numbers across the board with a completion percentage of 76.6, 478 yards and two touchdowns. 

Digging deeper into the numbers, via ESPN's College Football Twitter feed, Sims struggled throwing the ball down the field against West Virginia:

Jake Coker, who seemed like the favorite to be the starter before the season, looked pedestrian (at best) against Florida Atlantic. He completed 15 of 24 attempts for 202 yards and one touchdown, but Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com noted that his inability to "manage the offense, minimize mistakes" was problematic. 

Sims hasn't done anything special to separate himself from Coker, which is why Saban said in the postgame press conference last week that he would go with the player who gave the team the best chance to win without naming names. 

This is another soft week for the Crimson Tide. Southern Mississippi got shut out 49-0 against Mississippi State in Week 1, so any notion of an upset in Tuscaloosa is someone looking for attention rather than applying logic to the situation. 

Until we have a clear answer for Alabama at quarterback, this team will be one of the most difficult to assess in the country. It may be ranked third right now, but what will happen when good teams are on the other side of the field?

 

No. 12 UCLA vs. Texas (Game at AT&T Stadium)

How good is UCLA? The Bruins started the season with as much hype as they've ever had, ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Poll and boasting a Heisman hopeful at quarterback in Brett Hundley. Then came the ugly win against Virginia in which the defense scored three touchdowns in a 28-20 victory. 

OK, you can chalk that one up to working out the kinks from the offseason. You expect more from a Top 10 team, but at least the Bruins secured a victory. Last week, however, proved that there are real problems with this team. 

Memphis put up 35 points and 469 total yards against UCLA's defense at the Rose Bowl. Hundley held up his end of the bargain with 396 passing yards and three touchdowns, but the running game averaged 3.5 yards per carry and the defense got lit up. 

Hundley used very choice words after that game, via The Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), about why UCLA was struggling.

"I think everything went pretty well today," Hundley said. "You can see when we put together a solid and complete game, we can be a special team. We hamper ourselves with mental lapses, but we can be a great team."

Mental lapses are everything in football. How many times have we talked about how great the Detroit Lions could be if they could just get out of their own way? 

Nothing about UCLA's performance thus far warrants it being ranked in the Top 15. At least things aren't as bad in Southern California as they are in Texas. Charlie Strong's first year as head coach is going about as well as Mack Brown's final season. 

The Longhorns got a give-me win in Week 1 against North Texas before getting a healthy dose of humble pie, allowing 248 rushing yards in a 41-7 loss against BYU.

It's going to be a process for Strong to get the kind of players to Texas who can run his system, but patience is not a virtue afforded to Longhorns fans. He's been put at a disadvantage with quarterback David Ash out indefinitely, but that doesn't excuse the pathetic defensive effort last week. 

With neither team looking impressive thus far, something has to give. You would expect UCLA to capitalize on a weak Texas team, but we've seen too much bad from the Bruins to guarantee that in a game that's being played in Texas. 

 

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

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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Exploring Championship Implications of Week 3 Games

There is still a great deal that can happen between now and the end of the 2014 college football season as it relates to the College Football Playoff, but there is no question that a few teams have separated themselves in the early going.

Florida State, Oregon and Alabama are the top three teams in the nation in terms of the AP rankings, and that doesn't figure to change this week with the Seminoles idle and the other two teams going up against relative cupcakes.

Teams like Oklahoma, Georgia and Texas A&M are very much in the mix for that fourth and final CFP spot while USC, Notre Dame, LSU and UCLA are lurking just outside the picture currently.

The college football landscape changes on a weekly basis, and Week 3 certainly figures to impact the balance of power. Here is a projected look at the current CFP picture along with further analysis regarding which Week 3 games will affect it most.

 

Week 3 Games With Biggest Implications

No. 6 Georgia vs. No. 24 South Carolina

Many figured this game might be an SEC East eliminator prior to the season. It still may be, but No. 24 South Carolina has already lost once while No. 6 Georgia is very much in CFP contention. These appear to be two teams moving in different directions although the Gamecocks have defeated the Bulldogs in three out of their past four meetings.

South Carolina was absolutely thrashed by Texas A&M's offense in Week 1, and it was unconvincing in a 10-point win over East Carolina last week. Conversely, Georgia beat Clemson by 24 points in Week 1, and it is coming off an idle week, which means head coach Mark Richt has had extra time to prepare.

Above all else, though, the Bulldogs have elite running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley at their disposal. According to Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is well aware of what his team is up against.

(Gurley) is a big, strong back. Either he or the quarterback at Oregon (Marcus Mariota) are the Heisman leaders right now. But hopefully he may not be the leader, hopefully we can slow him down a little bit. But he's gonna get his yards, there's no question about that. He's going to get his yards against everybody. They ran out the last nine minutes of the game against us last year. So we certainly know what they're capable of doing.

With that said, South Carolina has been relatively successful against Gurley over the past couple years, as seen in this graphic, courtesy of College GameDay. Gurley has struggled to run against the Gamecocks more than any other team:

As evidenced by the first couple games of the season, though, this isn't the same South Carolina team that college football observers have seen in recent years. Georgia is the clear favorite even on the road, and it will improve its CFP case significantly with a win on Saturday.

 

Tennessee vs. No. 4 Oklahoma

While Oklahoma has rolled through its first two opponents this season, it has yet to be truly tested. That will change in Week 3 when the Sooners host undefeated Tennessee. The Volunteers haven't beaten top competition to get to 2-0, either, but they are an SEC team with plenty of raw talent if nothing else.

Oklahoma is favored to win the Big 12 this season, and Tennessee is the type of team it needs to beat in order to truly be a CFP contender. It is tough to peg the Sooners' strengths and weaknesses after beating Louisiana Tech and Tulsa, but quarterback Trevor Knight has been impressive after breaking out against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last season.

With over 600 total yards and four touchdowns through two games, the sophomore has proved capable of leading Oklahoma's offense. He also seems to have the intangibles that head coaches like Bob Stoops look for in their signal-callers.

Some Oklahoma supporters might be looking past Saturday night's game with even bigger encounters on the horizon, but Knight understands its importance, according to Bob Przybylo of Scout.com:

Tennessee will be a definite step up in competition for Knight and the Sooners this week. If they can clear this hurdle, then one can only assume that their confidence and spot in the CFP race will be secure for the time being.

 

No. 11 Notre Dame vs. Purdue

After routing Michigan 31-0 last week, observers are starting to recognize No. 11 Notre Dame as a legitimate CFP contender. The Fighting Irish played in the national championship game just two years ago, and they appear to be approaching that form once again.

Notre Dame shouldn't have a particularly tough game against a middling Purdue team in Week 3 although the Boilermakers could potentially surprise their rivals. While Notre Dame's defense has looked great through the first two weeks, the difference will almost certainly be quarterback Everett Golson.

The dual-threat quarterback has been doing damage through the air and on the ground with eight total touchdowns already. He has looked so good, in fact, that NBC's Cris Collinsworth has labeled him a potential Heisman Trophy candidate:

Golson is clearly a far better passer in terms of accuracy and decisiveness than he was when he led Notre Dame to the title game two seasons ago. The Irish have a sneakily difficult schedule in 2014, but they figure to be players this year.

A win over Purdue is a must, and beating the Boilermakers in convincing fashion could really bolster their CFP resume.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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College Football Playoff 2014: Final Outlook Before Saturday's Week 3 Games

Without question, the most impressive win of Week 2 was the Oregon Ducks' 46-27 victory over the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans. The Ducks were at home and expected to win, but they answered a strong first half from the Spartans by outscoring them 28-3 in the second half to make it look easy.

Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota did nothing to hurt his chances of winning the award or of remaining the top prospect for the upcoming NFL draft.

Mariota threw for 318 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against a pretty solid Spartans defense.

The win impressed voters in the Associated Press poll so much, the Ducks leapfrogged the Alabama Crimson Tide and took over the No. 2 spot in the rankings. Alabama defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 41-0, but it struggled a bit in Week 1 against the unranked West Virginia Mountaineers. 

Apparently, that was enough to make the Tide vulnerable.

Would it be enough to push Bama out of the College Football Playoff if it began today? That's unlikely. Bama would still likely keep its edge over the bevy of other undefeated teams in the country for the third or fourth spot.

Here's the way the top-four teams should look at this point.

1. Florida State

2. Oregon

3. Alabama

4. Oklahoma

The distance between the Tide and teams like the Texas A&M Aggies, who have been downright scary in two games, is not very wide. Because of the parity, Week 4 should be interesting. It will bring about a whole new load of questions and answers as we make our way to the final four teams that will compete for the national championship.

Here's a look at the games from Week 3 that could have the biggest impact in the playoff picture.

 

No. 9 USC Trojans at Boston College Eagles

As one of those highly regarded undefeated teams, USC can't afford to slip up early if it hopes to make the top four. The Pac-12 is stacked this season with Oregon, UCLA and Stanford. A conference loss down the road is near inevitable.

Losing an unexpected nonconference game could kill the team's chances.

The Trojans came away with a huge road win against the Stanford Cardinal in Week 2, but they must guard against a letdown on the road at Boston College. 

The young Trojans defense will be without disgraced defensive back Josh Shaw indefinitely and linebacker Hayes Pullard for the first half. Shaw admitted to lying about trying to save his drowning nephew. Pullard was ejected from the Stanford game for targeting, which carries a subsequent suspension.

The defense must be prepared and ready to step up the way it did against Stanford.

Boston College senior quarterback Tyler Murphy has been quite the dual threat for the Eagles. In two games, he's racked up 210 yards rushing and two scores. If he and the Eagles can find a way to run the ball against USC, it could make for some anxious moments.

 

No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs at No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks

The Gamecocks are on their way out of the Top 25. The team hasn't looked good yet this season. That said, they are still ranked and will be when the Bulldogs invade the Palmetto state.

Based on the way Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs ran the ball in Week 1 against Clemson, the team shouldn't have a problem moving the chains on the ground against the Gamecocks.

South Carolina is allowing an average of 150 yards per game on the ground through two contests, and it hasn't faced a rushing attack anywhere near what it'll see with Gurley.

A dominant win from Georgia will put it right on the cusp of breaking into the top four with two wins over ranked opponents. If one of the top teams should fall, Georgia will be a prime candidate to move up.

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