The BYU Cougars saw their unbeaten season come to an end last week and will try to move on without star quarterback Taysom Hill when they visit the Central Florida Knights Thursday. Hill fractured his leg in the first half of a 35-20 home loss to Utah State last Friday, as the Cougars were stunned as 21-point favorites and failed to cover the spread in their third straight game.
Point spread: Knights opened as three-point favorites at Bright House Networks Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 27.6-26.7 Cougars
Why the BYU Cougars can cover the spread
Hill’s loss is likely the difference in making BYU a road dog in this spot rather than a favorite, and maybe his teammates can rally around his absence to pull off the road victory. The Cougars have been double-digit favorites in four of their first five games this season, and the other game resulted in a 41-7 rout of Texas on the road in Week 2 as one-point underdogs.
They have not been on the road since then and covered two in a row away from home to start the season, beginning with a 35-10 win at Connecticut as a 15-point favorite.
Why the Central Florida Knights can cover the spread
The Knights have won their last two both straight up and against the spread since losing 38-10 at Missouri in their second game of the season. They are coming off a 17-12 road victory at Houston as 2.5-point underdogs and played very well defensively in holding the Cougars to just four field goals.
Central Florida picked off Houston quarterback John O’Korn twice in the win and also recovered a fumble, and the defense could again be the key against inexperienced BYU quarterback Christian Stewart, who will be making his first career start on the road and had attempted only two passes before replacing Hill in the last game.
Hill was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate for the Cougars this season, and he will be sorely missed. Stewart completed just 10 of 29 passes for 172 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions in relief of Hill last week, and that game was at home where he at least had the support of his own fans.
This will be a tough environment for Stewart to make his first start, and BYU will find it very hard to get past the loss of Hill here. The Knights have gone 7-2 ATS in their past nine home games, while the Cougars are 2-6 vs. the line in their last eight overall. Central Florida will make it eight of 10 covers at home with a double-digit win over BYU.
- BYU is 2-4 ATS in its last six games on the road
- Central Florida is 11-2 SU in its last 13 games at home
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Alabama owns a seven-game winning streak in its rivalry with Arkansas, going 5-2 ATS, winning the last two games by identical scores of 52-0. But the Crimson Tide are only 1-5 ATS in their last six SEC road contests. Alabama is on the SEC road again this week, visiting the Razorbacks Saturday night in Fayetteville.
Point spread: Crimson Tide opened as nine-point favorites for the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium encounter, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).
Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.5-22.2 Crimson Tide
Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread
The Tide are coming off a 23-17 loss at Ole Miss last week, so they'll probably be angry coming into this one. Alabama led the Rebs 14-3 at the half but gave up a Dak Prescott touchdown pass with three minutes to go to lose. The Tide lost last week despite out-gaining Ole Miss 399-323 and out-rushing the Rebs 168-72.
Alabama has out-gained every opponent this season by at least 73 yards and out-rushed each foe by at least 89 yards. On the season the Tide ranks third in the nation in both total defense and run defense, and, somewhat surprisingly, 10th in total offense.
Why the Arkansas Razorbacks can cover the spread
The Hogs are 3-2 SU, 4-1 ATS after losing at Texas A&M two weeks ago 35-28 in overtime but covering as nine-point underdogs. Arkansas led that game 28-14 into the fourth quarter but couldn't quite hang on. In the end the Razorbacks had out-rushed the Aggies 285-137 and won the time-of-possession battle by a 37-23 margin. For the season Arkansas has out-rushed opponents by a 317-139 yards-per-game margin, while quarterback Brandon Allen has compiled a 9/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The only game the Hogs didn't cover this year came in the opener against Auburn, when, after a 21-21 first half, they lost the second half 24-0.
This will be an important test for Arkansas, and whether Bielema Ball can work in the SEC. The Hogs are also working off their bye week. But after losing last week Alabama might be seeing red heading into this one. So the pick here is with the Tide, on the road, giving 20 points less than it was in this spot last year.
- The total has gone OVER in five of Alabama's last seven games
- Arkansas is 2-4 ATS in its last six games when playing at home against Alabama
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Auburn is 11-2 straight up and 8-5 against the spread in its last 13 games with Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs are coming off an impressive SEC victory over Texas A&M. Can the Tigers continue their recent domination of this series when the teams meet Saturday afternoon in Starkville? Or can Mississippi State knock off another SEC West foe?
Point spread: The Tigers opened as three-point favorites at Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 38.8-27.4 Tigers
Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread
The defending SEC champion Tigers showed they're game for another run at another conference title with a 41-7 drubbing of LSU last week, easily covering the spread as seven-point favorites. Auburn outgained the other Tigers 566-280, racked up 298 yards on the ground and held LSU to an 0-for-13 effort on third downs.
The Auburn Tigers are averaging 268 yards rushing per game while holding foes to just 100 yards per game. Auburn also has no qualms about playing in hostile territory, going 4-0 ATS in its last four SEC conference road games.
Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs can cover the spread
The Bulldogs are 5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS and 2-0 in SEC play after bombing Texas A&M last week 48-31. MSU spotted the Aggies the first touchdown of the game, then scored the next 28 points to take an insurmountable lead.
The Bulldogs racked up 559 yards of offense, 289 yards on the ground and got five total touchdowns from quarterback Dak Prescott, a new leader in the Heisman Trophy race. Mississippi State ranks 12th in the country in total offense and has outrushed foes so far by a 274-98 yards-per-game margin. Last year the Bulldogs lost to the Tigers on a late score 24-20 but covered the spread as six-point road dogs.
Both teams are coming off big wins, so emotionally this matchup is about a wash. But Auburn owns an edge on defense, and Nick Marshall still runs the show. So the pick here goes with the visiting Tigers, giving the short spread.
- Auburn is 4-1 SU in its last five games on the road.
- Mississippi State is 5-0 SU in its last five games.
All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates, and get the free odds tracker app.
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A number of upsets shook up the college football landscape, but entering Week 7, no team suffered a bigger blow than the Oregon Ducks.
Losing at home to Arizona knocked them out of the playoff picture at the moment, dropping the Marcus Mariota-led Ducks from second to 12th in the AP Top 25 poll. A previously No. 8 UCLA team quarterbacked by another premier prospect in Brett Hundley lost 30-28 to Utah, falling out of the top 10 in the process.
Ole Miss also catapulted into the thick of the postseason race thanks to a rousing victory over the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide.
But with some of the letdowns for several premier programs, there were a number of sensational performances that saw drastic changes take place in the rankings.
Analyzing Best Top 25 Teams
No. 1 Florida State Seminoles
Falling behind 3-0 to Wake Forest in the first quarter was a bit of a scare for the reigning national champions, who'd had close calls in three previous games this season.
Then Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston led the team on myriad scoring drives, as FSU scored 43 unanswered points for a statement win. ESPN's College GameDay noted how steady coach Jimbo Fisher's team has been:
Winston has kept the passing attack operating at a high level, as it's averaged 325.4 yards per game. The concerning thing is that big-bodied ball-carrier Karlos Williams has had a hard time getting it going on the ground.
But Williams has been banged up, and Jared Shanker of ESPN reports that the running back likely won't be in action at Syracuse:
That might be fine for now. When Florida State plays host to Notre Dame in the game thereafter, it will be a different story. The Seminoles need balance to complement Winston, especially with a defense ranked 54th in the nation versus the run, per NCAA.com.
If top receiver Rashad Greene can't recover from a concussion in time for the Fighting Irish game, it will be all the more up to Winston to carry the weight.
As long as Winston is under center operating Fisher's complex, pro-style offense, though, FSU has a great chance to remain atop the rankings.
No. 2 Auburn Tigers
Apparently there isn't much of a hangover from Auburn's national title game loss to Florida State last year. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn continues to make magic with his run-heavy offense.
Against vaunted LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis in Week 6, Malzahn drew up a game plan that saw Auburn crush its SEC adversary 41-7. Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com highlighted how Auburn came flying out of the gates in that one:
Something similar will be necessary to seize the momentum on the road this next Saturday, when the Tigers take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. That will mark the biggest game on the 2014 college football slate thus far.
ESPN Stats & Info's numbers suggest the Bulldogs are the first of several potential pitfalls that could hamper Auburn's bid to return to the championship game:
But what does help is that the defense is vastly improved from a season ago, conceding just 14.4 points per contest, which ranks ninth in the nation. As long as QB Nick Marshall can avoid critical throwing mistakes and the well-oiled ground game stays intact, Auburn will be a tough out.
With the ability to defend so well and chew up a ton of clock on offense, opponents will be hard-pressed to get into any rhythm against the Tigers for the rest of the season.
No. 3 Mississippi State Bulldogs
Given the massive implications of their tilt with Auburn on Saturday, the Bulldogs are the team worth delving a bit deeper into among the two tied at No. 3 in the AP—not to take anything away from Ole Miss.
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott has been playing like a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Former Florida signal-caller Tim Tebow took home that hardware wearing No. 15, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport offered some insight in that context:
Prescott had five total TDs in the Bulldogs' rout of Texas A&M last week, but the defense was most impressive in slowing down Kenny Hill and the Aggies' air-raid offense until the outcome was well decided.
Most of Texas A&M's scores came in garbage time after the Bulldogs had taken a 41-17 lead into the fourth. The numbers reflect MSU's dominance:
ESPN's Mike Greenberg believes Mississippi State is the best overall team in the country:
The Bulldogs will certainly get a chance to prove that versus Auburn. If the strong front seven, led by linebacker Benardrick McKinney, can stuff the Tigers' prolific run game, that will open up Prescott to take the game over. MSU is yielding just 2.91 yards per carry through five games.
As deep and competitive as the SEC is, Mississippi State has the chance to protect its home Davis Wade Stadium and secure a landmark triumph for the program. It will justify the retention of coach Dan Mullen following three seasons of hovering around .500.
Most important, the turnaround from a 7-6 campaign in 2013 to national-championship contention this year would be among the most amazing achievements in recent college football history.
We will find out what the Bulldogs are truly made of come Sunday against an Auburn team whose nucleus rose from even greater obscurity to be an elite team a year ago.
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Michigan (2-4) football is in total collapse following three straight losses on the gridiron and embroiled in the swirling controversy of quarterback Shane Morris’ delayed concussion diagnosis. Two games into its conference slate, Michigan is dead last in the Big Ten East Division and is desperate for a win.
The team’s struggles on and off the field have both coach Brady Hoke and athletic director David Brandon fighting for their jobs. But the team is not giving up, vowing to “win the week” for their embattled coach. The Wolverines rallied against Rutgers, falling short after a potential game-winning field goal was blocked in the closing minutes.
Next up is a game under the lights at venerable Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines have been able to muster some magical moments during previous home night games and will need some to beat Penn State.
The game has no impact on the national rankings—neither team is ranked—but Michigan will be under the microscope for its performance on the field and at the gate. Hoke is trying to spark his team back to life in an attempt to salvage the season while hoping for a boost from the home crowd. The crowd’s size will also be a factor—Michigan’s streak of consecutive 100,000 crowds is on the line, with rumors of protest against Michigan’s increasingly unpopular athletic director.
Date: Saturday, October 11, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Place: Michigan Stadium (109,901), Ann Arbor, Mich.
Series vs. Penn State: Michigan leads 10-7
Radio: Michigan Sports Network, Sirius (113), XM (195)
Spread: Penn State by 2 via Odds Shark
Live Stats: MGoBlue.com GameTracker
Last Meeting vs. Penn State
Last year’s 4OT 43-40 loss marked the beginning of a downward spiral for the Wolverines that has carried over to this season. Michigan is 4-9 since that loss at Happy Valley. The Wolverines lead the all-time series (10-7) but have lost the last four games versus the Nittany Lions.
*Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine Football game notes.
The Super 16 poll is one of the truly great theoretical situations going. It's as fun as wondering who would win in a fight between Batman and Wolverine, or one bear versus 300 organized Yorkies (the organization is a very key caveat in such a fight).
It's just fun to imagine which 16 teams would deserve to be in a College Football Playoff if the sport ever undertook such a format. Thankfully, a group of voters does just that each week in the Super 16 poll.
Let's take a look at how they voted this week.
Well, anything you might have thought you knew about a theoretical 16-team playoff and how it might have shaped up by the end of the year changed this week.
Just consider this, from SportsCenter on Twitter:
Or this, from Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press:
That's the AP poll, though, and of course, we're more concerned here with the Super 16 Poll and what a 16-team playoff might look like. The above tweets provided a nice context for the historical number of upsets we saw this weekend, sure, but in truth, the weekend that was wouldn't have completely altered the state of a larger playoff format.
Yes, there has been some moving and shaking around on the rankings. After this weekend, there was always bound to be. Oregon was always going to drop down the rankings after losing to Arizona. Alabama was going to take a hit losing to Ole Miss. Ditto for Texas A&M and UCLA.
Of course, the beauty of a 16-team playoff is that one loss wouldn't really hurt the top teams in the nation and would instead give them the chance to prove themselves on the field against the other top 15 teams at the end of the year. This might negate the impact of certain victories on the national level, but it would add a whole new level of drama to the final tournament.
Obviously, the story of the week is Ole Miss after its stunning victory over Alabama on a Saturday that saw the SEC West truly shaken and stirred and turned on its head.
“It’s one of the greatest victories in the history of our school," Hugh Freeze said on his postgame radio show, per Rusty Hampton of The New York Times.
It sure was. And it sure opened up things in the SEC West, where Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all looking to earn the top billing, while Alabama and Texas A&M are left wondering if they can fight their way back into a place in the SEC Championship.
It's basically a given that at least one team from the SEC West is going to be represented in this year's College Football Playoff. And that's a shame, because in a 16-team playoff, it currently looks as though five teams from the toughest conference and division in college football would have the chance to prove on the field against other conferences that they were the best team in the country.
It's fun to dream.
More than a few schools in the Big Ten and Pac-12 would be left dreaming in this format, as it appears each conference lacks a truly elite team, and quite a few squads would be left fighting it out for one of the last spots. That, of course, is where the Super 16 Poll would become truly intriguing—for the teams around 12-21 on the polls and rankings looking to prove they deserved a shot in the big dance.
Alas, for now it's only a top four, and one that looks as though it will include Florida State, two SEC teams and either Notre Dame, the top Big 12 team or perhaps Michigan State.
It's a better format than we had before. It's just not as compelling as it could be.
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The Pac-12 took a lovely stroll through the park in the month of September before quickly strapping on a parachute and jumping out the nearest airplane on Saturday. All five home teams lost thanks to some memorable performances, several of which will be featured here.
But outstanding individual efforts have highlighted every week of the season thus far, and we're here to rank the Top 10. Keep in mind that two factors are considered in the creation of this list: quality of opponent and statistics put up. In other words, having a good game against a great team could mean more than having a great game against a bad opponent.
Then again, some players like, er, the one shown above, are putting up numbers so mind-boggling that it doesn't matter who they've come against.
Take a look at the Top 10 single-game performances in the Pac-12 thus far, and as always, be sure to point out the glaring omissions in the comments!
All stats via cfbstats.com
The halfway point of season is here, and the Georgia Bulldogs are closer to achieving the goals that they set at the beginning of the year, including winning the SEC East.
And while the Bulldogs have the talent to win the SEC East, they will go only as far as Todd Gurley will take them. Gurley is statistically the best running back in the SEC.
Gurley leads in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry and yards per game, which is not a surprise to anyone. But he also leads in one category that is almost unreal.
Here are four startling statistics though the first five weeks of the season.
Could anyone have predicted a Pac-12 football weekend in which Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and USC all lost?
Was there a crazy dream in which the highest-ranked Pac-12 football program in October's first week would be Arizona?
Words like chaos and havoc float freely after this unlikely scenario unfolded.
I would add one more word: parity.
That was the word uttered in a discussion with some Colorado coaches Friday in Boulder, in the aftermath of Oregon's loss. The point was made, and echoed, that the chasm between Pac-12 top and bottom has narrowed.
The size of the divide could be argued, but Utah and Arizona State supported the contention Saturday.
To try to make sense of the chaos, havoc and parity, let's analyze a few snapshots from the upsets:
Terris Jones-Grigsby runs over Oregon's best defensive back for a second-half touchdown.
Is Oregon soft? It's a word no football team wants to hear, but the Ducks must confront this.
In August, it was the top question we posed about this team's championship hopes. In September, a win over Michigan State calmed fears. But on October 2, Arizona exposed Oregon for the second consecutive season.
Jones-Grigsby played the role of Ka'deem Carey for this year's Wildcats. After catching a pass on a wheel route down the left sideline, one obstacle blocked the goal line, Oregon's top-rated DB Ife Ekpre-Olumu. Jones-Grigsby ran right through and over Ekpre-Olumu to score. Blunt force overcame a defender. Win for Arizona.
The play's symbolism may last throughout the rest of this season.
In Oregon, they like to refer to "Chip Kelly's offense." The truth is that Rich Rodriguez was a pioneer of the up-tempo spread offenses that have mushroomed through the game. He knows how to attack those with his 3-3-5 "stack" defense, and his own offense is thriving with its third quarterback in the last three years. First-year starter Anu Solomon held his own against Marcus Mariota. Arizona had 13 third-quarter first downs and won the second half.
Utah runs for 242 yards and sacks Brett Hundley 10 times.
Utah's offense was subpar against Washington State. Coach Kyle Whittingham was emphatic in pinpointing that shortcoming. So when Utah stalled on its first three drives at the Rose Bowl, Travis Wilson was out and Kendal Thompson became the Utes quarterback.
Thompson is not a strong passer, but Wilson was unable to generate a consistent pass attack. So Utah turned to the ground and won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Highlights focused on UCLA's missed field goal on the final play, overlooking the drive engineered by Utah to win the game. The Utes ran the ball on nine consecutive plays. UCLA knew the run was coming but could not stop it.
The Bruins also knew Utah was going to rush strong at Hundley but could not prevent 10 sacks. UCLA's offensive line has been unsettled early in the season. Between different pass-protection schemes and Hundley adopting a determination to save sacks by throwing incompletions, UCLA has to correct that problem by Saturday's visit from Oregon.
Stanford fails to cover Notre Dame's Ben Koyack on the game's biggest play.
When Stanford doesn't run, it loses its offensive identity.
Blessed with blocking tight ends and fullbacks, the Cardinal have been the welcome antidote to today's 100-plus-play spread offenses, with an abundance of sideways passing. But no running back has emerged in a lead role, thus Kevin Hogan has been asked to create more offense. With more experience and a strong receiver combo in Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste, the Cardinal should have a stronger pass attack. Yet, in key moments, Hogan still does more damage with his legs than his arms.
Ben Gardner, closest to Koyack in the slot at the fourth-down snap, ran toward the wide receiver on that side in a double-cover. As Koyack ran by Gardner, there was no Stanford defender deep. Such a glaring defensive mistake, coupled with the miniscule 47 rushing yards, spoiled an otherwise brilliant day by the Cardinal.
USC stands and watches Jaelen Strong catch the game-winning pass.
Who were the impostors wearing Trojan uniforms Saturday? Late in the game, needing one first down to clinch a win, USC lined up in the pistol formation.
The pistol? This is USC! Student-body left, student-body right with five vending machines dressed as offensive linemen leading the way. It was a jaw-dropping series of plays. Three Buck Allen runs gaining a handful of yards. USC couldn't move the ASU defensive front.
Now a punt and Cody Kessler attempts a pooch punt. It was not good. Not his fault. USC doesn't have a long snapper and punter that can execute in the fourth quarter?
Finally, the Hail Mary. What was Hayes Pullard doing standing on the goal line, looking as if he was going to fair catch a high-hanging punt? Again, not his fault.
USC looked as if they had never seen a Hail Mary attempt before (they did throw one themselves against Oregon State last week.) A nightmare ending that must make this week interminable for the Trojans coaches.
Washington State passes for 734 yards and asks a kicker to win the game.
To this observer, the most bizarre finish in recent memory occurred after four hours in Pullman.
In an arena football-style game played with 11 to a side on a full field, Washington State had the last possession, drove the field, failed to run for a score from second down inside the 2-yard line, and then sent out a kicker.
Seven-hundred and thirty-four passing yards. Cal hasn't stopped anyone from doing anything they want in the last three seasons.
And you send out a kicker!
With a down and a timeout to use. You could run a pass play, trusting the QB (Connor Halliday) who has positioned you to win. You could run to center the ball and use the timeout to give the kicker a straight-on attempt. You had those things under your control.
The Cougars did none of those. And the kicker missed. It was a kick he should make. But the Cougars inaction in the final seconds will haunt them.
How do you pass for 734 yards and lose?
Ted Robinson has been around the Pac-10 and Pac-12 for 30 years as the voice of Stanford football and now the Pac-12 Networks. He also is the San Francisco 49ers' radio play-by-play man, as part of his wide-ranging broadcast work on national and international sports.
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The bye week has arrived for the Virginia Tech Hokies, and it couldn't have come at a better time. With injuries to players like Luther Maddy and Marshawn Williams, the extra rest could prove beneficial for the second-half stretch run.
The Hokies finished the first half of their schedule with a 4-2 record, including a 1-1 mark in conference play.
Virginia Tech is right in the middle of things in the Coastal Division race. Tech is just one game behind the division leaders with six games remaining.
But for the Hokies to finish the season on a strong note, they need to make some adjustments during the upcoming bye week.
Here are three adjustments Tech must make during its week off.
The Clemson Tigers have plenty of momentum heading into this game, thanks to a 41-0 rout of North Carolina State on Saturday. Now they must turn their attention to the Louisville Cardinals, who are 5-1 on the season.
Bobby Petrino is known for his offense, but the Cardinals defense is what is catching national attention. Louisville will bring the No. 6 defense in the country—that ranking is based on points allowed per game—into Death Valley on Saturday, but it will have its hands full stopping Clemson’s offense.
In the last two games, Clemson has scored 91 points, and quarterback Deshaun Watson has thrown eight touchdowns over that span.
The honeymoon ended for Michigan and head football coach Brady Hoke a while ago, and prolonged on-field struggles have increased speculation he may be headed toward his final stretch in Ann Arbor. Since starting the 2013 season with a 5-0 record, the Wolverines are 4-10 and recently suffered a public relations disaster surrounding the handling of quarterback Shane Morris' head injury.
The effects of program uncertainty in Ann Arbor are being felt far beyond the win-loss column, creating a significant toll on the team's recruiting efforts. A 2015 class that once challenged for the top overall spot in national ratings has slipped to 25th in 247Sports' national class rankings.
Hoke and his staff, facing mounting questions about their tenuous situation, have failed to pick up a commitment during the past two months and recently lost Darian Roseboro, a 4-star defensive end from North Carolina who opted to reopen his recruitment in late September:
From several standpoints, the floodgates actually opened long before a 2014 campaign that currently features Michigan mired in a three-game losing streak. The Wolverines recruiting bandwagon began to veer off the tracks months prior to an embarrassing home loss to Minnesota and before giving Rutgers its first Big Ten victory.
Damien Harris, the nation's top-ranked running back, and dynamic wide receiver George Campbell, considered one of the class' most extraordinary athletes, each ended verbal pacts with the program last winter. Coveted Ohio defensive back Shaun Crawford flipped from Michigan to Notre Dame this spring.
In all, Hoke has lost grips on four 2015 prospects regarded as 4- or 5-star talents without adequately replacing them in a class that could continue to disintegrate.
“We were building a great class, but I know we've had some guys leave, and others are starting to check out other schools," Alex Malzone, a 4-star quarterback commit said. "Obviously, it's not really something we want to see happen, but I understand it, and I respect it. This is a big decision for all of us players, and you sort of need to be selfish about it."
High school athletes have been reluctant to attach themselves to a Wolverines coaching regime that may not be in place on national signing day. Some, like Florida athlete Javarius Davis, have decided to look elsewhere altogether.
"I'm not visiting Michigan anymore," he said when asked about an upcoming scheduled trip to Ann Arbor.
Keisean Lucier-South, a 5-star pass-rusher from California, has concerns about the Wolverines' current situation but plans to go through with his official visit to campus this weekend.
"It's going to be very interesting when I get there because there are some unknowns," he said. "I don't know if Coach Hoke is going to be there at the end of this season or the start of next year. They're still recruiting me hard as ever, but it's definitely a little weird and a situation I'm not dealing with at other schools."
Lucier-South, who is also considering Oklahoma, UCLA, USC and Oregon, believes he won't be the only guest feeling some awkward tension in the air this weekend.
"There's no doubt I'm going to have some questions about what's going on with the coaching staff and program's future when I arrive on campus," he said. "I'm sure other recruits will, too. Honestly, my parents will probably be the ones who address it because they're concerned."
Mook Reynolds, a 4-star Virginia Tech cornerback commit, also plans to attend Michigan's upcoming game against Penn State. While he isn't exactly sure how to approach the subject of possible changes with the coaching staff, Reynolds recognizes the subject as an elephant in the room.
"It's a difficult question to answer because we're all still trying to figure out what's going to happen," he said. "Really, the only thing I can do is to get to know these Michigan coaches who are there now as best I can and form relationships. If something happens and new coaches are brought in, I'll have to deal with it then."
Uncertainty swirling around Michigan's present will continue to impact its future until the university's long-term intentions are revealed.
"Personally, I don't think they'll get rid of (Hoke), but people are definitely wondering what's up," elite 2016 athlete Ahmir Mitchell said. "He has an outstanding track record, and I think a lot of guys want to play for him. Michigan is definitely a team I'm interested in, but if he was to leave, that would definitely change things in my eyes. The new coaches wouldn't have recruited me, and that bond wouldn't be there."
Standout high school juniors like Mitchell are a secondary issue for Michigan's staff these days. The primary goal is to salvage a 2015 class that still offers serious promise.
Roseboro's departure was quickly followed with a new development in Chris Clark's recruitment. The nation's No. 2 tight end and Michigan pledge remains committed, but he's decided to explore other options, including official visits to Texas and USC:
If "everything going on at Michigan" continues to move in a downward direction, it will be difficult for Hoke to maintain his grips on key commitments, much less the job he's held since 2011.
Malzone, who'd love to become the leader of a potentially program-altering class, summed up the situation in succinct fashion.
"I think Coach Hoke has this team playing its heart out right now, but it's important to win games," he said. "The recruits know that. I know that. The coaches know that. If Michigan doesn't start picking up some wins, they could be in trouble. That's just the way it is."
All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue.
Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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Nebraska football fans had a lot to digest after NU’s near-miss comeback against Michigan State, coming up on the wrong end of a 27-22 score. So they can be forgiven for not diving into the numbers as Nebraska reaches the midpoint of the 2014 season.
That’s what we’re here for, of course. So here are three numbers that you wouldn’t have expected to see and how those numbers either explain where Nebraska is or help gauge where it is going in 2014.
All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
No. 8 Nationally in Rushing Offense
Many Nebraska fans turned Saturday's game against Michigan State off as things got into the third quarter. While not laudable (and boy, did they miss a show!), that decision was understandable given how anemic Nebraska’s offense looked. Coming into the game, Nebraska was No. 3 nationally in rushing offense, and NU was expected to pound Heisman candidate Ameer Abdullah and make its hay on the ground.
Nebraska ended the game—and that includes NU’s fierce comeback, remember—with 37 carries for 47 yards.
But it does give you an idea of how good Nebraska had been running the ball in the five weeks prior to Michigan State that even after such a dismal performance, Nebraska only dropped from No. 3 to No. 8 nationally. It suggests that Nebraska’s rushing attack is still formidable, even with the disastrous disappearing act it did against the Spartans on Saturday night.
No. 20 Nationally in Punt Returns
Hey, remember last year when Nebraska’s punt return game was a huge hindrance? Last year, Nebraska was No. 123 (out of 125) in punt returns, averaging 3.04 yards per return. Which, basically, represented the Nebraska punt returner catching the ball and immediately falling forward.
With the discovery of true freshman De'Mornay Pierson-El, though, everything has changed. Nebraska is now No. 20 nationally in punt returns, averaging 14.95 yards per return. In addition to the obvious benefits of the additional 11-plus yards of field position with every punt, Nebraska has scored two touchdowns. The second, against Michigan State, was truly the turning point keying Nebraska’s near comeback.
In other words, Nebraska’s punt return game has gone from a liability to hide to a strength that can put NU in position to win a game it had no business making even close.
No. 21 in Both Polls
This might be the most remarkable statistic of all, particularly if you were one of those people who turned the Michigan State game off shortly after halftime. Nebraska came into the game ranked No. 17 in the AP poll and No. 19 in the coaches poll. When Nebraska was down 27-3 going into the fourth quarter, NU fans were primarily worried about the game becoming a complete blowout.
The fourth-quarter comeback made many Nebraska fans feel better but certainly didn’t make up for how humbled NU’s offense was in the first three quarters. But apparently, the comeback also registered with poll voters, who only dropped Nebraska two and four spots, respectively.
Is that relevant? Well, to an extent. Yes, the College Football Playoff committee is independent from the polls. But it’s hard to imagine that the perception of Nebraska as not falling too far—even with being held to only 47 yards rushing—won’t have some effect on the committee.
And before you write a comment reminding me that Nebraska looks miles away from a playoff team (which is a fair observation), remember that the committee also picks the rest of the “big six” bowls based on their rankings. Should Nebraska end the season at 10-2 or 11-1—not at all an unreasonable objective given NU’s remaining schedule—that cushion from the Michigan State loss could be crucial for Nebraska to make a big-time bowl game.
For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.
Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.
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The No. 12-ranked Oregon Ducks and the No. 18-ranked UCLA Bruins face off on Saturday at the Rose Bowl in what amounts to a make-or-break game for two teams that entered the season with dream of earning a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Both UCLA and Oregon got off to 4-0 starts this season and were each ranked within the top eight of the AP poll heading into last week. However, this past weekend the college football landscape experienced a seismic shift.
Five of the top eight teams in the AP poll lost—including UCLA and Oregon. Out of those five teams that lost, only UCLA and Oregon lost at home. Even worse for the Pac-12, only UCLA and Oregon lost to previously unranked opponents—Utah and Arizona.
The Bruins and Ducks were both favored to win their Pac-12 divisions and meet in the Pac-12 Championship. While both teams have now suffered their first conference loss, they each still have a legitimate shot at winning a Pac-12 title, especially when you consider the fact that every Pac-12 team other than Arizona has a loss in conference play.
The winner of this matchup will, once again, earn an inside track at the conference title, while the other will likely lose out at a chance to earn a bid into the College Football Playoff.
So what should you expect out of this matchup between the Ducks and Bruins? Well, we hope you like good quarterbacks and awful offensive lines.
Oregon’s offensive line, decimated by injuries, has allowed 12 sacks over its previous two games. Meanwhile, UCLA’s offensive line allowed 10 sacks last week against Utah. Ten!
Meanwhile, both teams possess quarterbacks who were preseason favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.
There’s a lot on the line at the Rose Bowl this Saturday. Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 11
Time: 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Place: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
Spread: Oregon -3, according to OddsShark.com.
The Magnolia State is the talk of the college football world, and rightfully so.
On Saturday, Mississippi State knocked off previously No. 7 ranked Texas A&M, 48-31. It was the second consecutive win over a then-Top 10-ranked team, as the Bulldogs upset LSU on the road in Baton Rouge two weeks ago.
Shortly after Hail State's newly minted signature win, Ole Miss rallied to defeat Alabama, 23-17, to give the Rebels their first victory over a No. 1-ranked team in the program's history.
As important as the wins are to this year's squads, these victories will also serve to benefit the Mississippi schools on the recruiting trail. Evidence of this was immediate as Ole Miss landed a 4-star running back out of Alabama, Denzel Mitchell, less than 24 hours after the goal posts came down.
Jefferson was enamored with the atmosphere and environment of Oxford judging by his tweets:
Ditto for Newsome, who took this picture of Katy Perry—who was on hand as a guest of ESPN's College GameDay—and later tweeted it out:
Ryan Bartow of 247Sports said Lodge predicted the Ole Miss upset in this tweet:
Smith told me nothing compared to his trip to the famed Grove.
"I loved Oxford. There is nothing like it," he said. "The best part were the coaches. Really just the place itself. Nothing like it along with the The Grove. It was cool."
The 247Sports Crystal Ball has Smith is an 81 percent lock to Georgia. However, the Peach State star said Ole Miss is firmly in the discussion. When asked where Ole Miss stands following the visit? He answered, "Yes, they are now in the mix."
For head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff, this isn't anything new. They've closed big out-of-state targets in recent years, like former No. 1 prospect Robert Nkemdiche, Florida prospect Laremy Tunsil, Illinois native Laquon Treadwell and Lone Star State native Quincy Adeboyejo. I expect to see the same kind of scenario for the Class of 2015 and beyond.
On the other side of the state, Hoover (Alabama) outside linebacker Jeremiah Moon was at the Bulldogs' blowout win over the Aggies, a victory the 4-star defender said he picked.
"I actually told Coach (Geoff) Collins they would win two weeks ago. I can see myself playing there," said Moon. "I went down there for the pregame and when they ran out with all the smoke and the fire. I heard Coach (Dan) Mullen's speech. Their fans were so in to it. The cowbells were so loud. It was a fun environment."
I asked Moon was his favorite part of the visit was. He replied, "Their overall improvement from last year. I went to the Alabama game last year and watched the A&M game a year ago. You can tell there is a big difference. Everything was clicking. The visit was a 10."
Moon grew up an Alabama fan, but he is still awaiting an offer from the Tide. The rangy 6'4", 200-pounder said he has the Bulldogs in his top five along with Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Ole Miss. Moon said he is planing to go back Starkville this weekend when the Bulldogs take on the Auburn Tigers. He will be joined by committed 4-star safety Jamal Peters.
Big-Time RB Elijah Holyfield Visits Tennessee
Woodward Academy (Georgia) standout Elijah Holyfield is using the fall to take as many trips as possible to check out his favorite college teams. Holyfield, the son of former world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, continues to blaze his own path on and off the gridiron.
Last month, the 5'11", 200-pound tailback visited Columbus, Ohio, to see the Buckeyes trounce Cincinnati, 50-28. This week, Holyfield made the trek to Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Vols-Gators game at Neyland Stadium. The 4-star running back said it was everything he expected. Holyfield stated, "The atmosphere was great. It kind of surprised me. I've been to so many games, but it was crazy up there."
"I'm looking to go back there during the offseason, and I'm sure I will see Coach (Robert) Gillespie when he comes down here. He's a cool guy and we talk almost once a week."
Despite the Vols' 10-9 loss to Florida, Holyfield likes what he is seeing from the program. "I've been up there two times and I've had a chance to talk Coach (Butch) Jones," said Holyfield. "Both times he said they're in the rebuilding process, but everyone is going to want to be a part of it when it gets rolling. I'm really excited about them."
Next up for Holyfield are visits to Auburn later this month followed by road trips to Louisville and Michigan State in November. He will check out the in-state Bulldogs in mid-November. The California Golden Bears are keeping tabs on him, and Holyfield wants to visit sometime in the spring or summer.
California, Louisville, Ohio State and Tennessee are recruiting him the hardest at the moment. He said he is going to take his time and likely won't decide anytime soon.
5-star Keisean Lucier-South Set to Visit Ann Arbor
California standout Keisean Lucier-South is heading east this weekend for an official visit to Michigan. The Wolverines have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Lucier-South isn't worried about the football program because he knows what it has to offer.
However, if there is a coaching change in Ann Arbor, Michigan, it could impact Lucier-South.
"I want to see what's going to happen because that staff offered me, so if a new staff comes in I don't what's going to happen," said Lucier-South. "This weekend I want to see if the campus is going to fit me or not. I want to see how the academics are. I already know about the program. Academics are important because for the other nine months after you are by yourself, so I want to see if there's a fit for me."
Lucier-South said he has a good relationship with his primary recruiter, Dan Ferrigno. Head coach (Brady) Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison check on him frequently, according to Lucier-South. Michigan told the 5-star defender they wanted him at outside linebacker, but the Wolverines have lost a couple of commitments recently, so they could take him at defensive end.
"I feel comfortable at outside linebacker, so it's not a problem," noted Lucier-South. "Most schools want me there, although I could play both."
The 6'5", 225-pound hybrid front-seven defender took an official visit to Oklahoma in September. He will take an official visit to Oregon when the Ducks play Stanford at the end of the month. His remaining visits are still up in the air.
Recently, he added USC back to his list of top schools, and he may check out UCLA for an official visit. Florida remains in the picture, and he wanted to check out The Swamp when the Gators host South Carolina. However, with USC pushing hard, he isn't sure if he will make it to the Sunshine State. The Trojans appear to be making a push based on his bond with defensive line coach Chris Wilson.
"He's a great guy. I love him. We probably talk every day," stated Lucier-South. "We don't always talk about football, that's what I love him about him."
Although Lucier-South said he has a great relationship with Coach Wilson, he feels comfortable with Coach (Jerry) Montgomery at Oklahoma, Coach (Jeff) Ulbrich at UCLA, and Coach (Erik) Chinander with Oregon. When he isn't playing football, he tries to watch Denver Broncos defensive stalwart Von Miller and Oklahoma Sooners pass-rush specialist Eric Striker to work on his game.
DE Darian Roseboro Talks Michigan Decommitment, NC State Visit
Two months ago 4-star defensive end Darian Roseboro committed to Michigan over offers from LSU, N.C. State, Nebraska and others. The Wolverines were able to lock up their top defensive end target and all seemed well.
Last weekend, Roseboro took an official visit to N.C. State to see the Wolfpack battle Florida State. Days later he decommitted from Michigan and left the Maize and Blue without a commitment along the defensive line.
Roseboro told me, "It was a place I didn't feel comfortable. With everything going on I felt it was best to keep my options open. When I told them my reasons why they said they understood."
Oklahoma was the first school to offer after Roseboro's decommitment. Roseboro said "It was pretty exciting. They are a top-ranked program with good tradition."
Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina, Ohio State and Tennessee were on the phone with Roseboro shortly after to gauge his interest. The versatile front-four defender said he is going to sit down with his family to plan his remaining official visits.
Roseboro said he liked the effort by the Wolfpack against the defending national champions. He stated, "I thought it was the best game they've played. It was a highly ranked opponent. It was their game. They had a chance to beat them. They tell me to stay close to home and that I can come in and play early. I talk to Coach (Mike) Uremovich every other day. My parents liked it, but they said they are going to support me wherever I go."
The Crimson Tide are strongly courting Roseboro in addition to N.C. State. Roseboro said he spoke to Coach (Nick) Saban and Coach (Kevin) Steele recently.
"Coach Saban wants me to get down there for an official visit, and he wants to come to one of my games," remarked Roseboro. "I talk to Coach Steele on an every-other-day basis. He tells me about coming and playing for their program with the best defensive players and seeing it for myself."
Roseboro's 247Sports Crystal Ball has him with 67 percent chance to end up at N.C. State, but with the Tide and Sooners lurking, the odds could change the Wolfpack's momentum.
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After losing 27-22 at the hands of Michigan State, the Nebraska Cornhuskers now get a week off to recover. Never has a bye week arrived at a better time.
There was no denying that the Huskers fought from start to finish against the Spartans. In fact, it could have been a shutout had Nebraska not stuck with it in the second half. However, Michigan State also exposed a couple of things that the Huskers need to work on during the bye week.
First and foremost, Nebraska's offensive line needs to regroup. Prior to facing Michigan State, the offensive line actually looked like the Huskers' X-factor. Plenty of people were singing the unit's praises, like Illinois head coach Tim Beckman.
"Their offensive line is very good," Beckman said after losing to Nebraska. "I think Ameer [Abdullah] would be the first one to tell you that."
However, things were much different against the Spartans. Nebraska was only able to get 47 rushing yards on 37 attempts, which equals only 1.3 yards per attempt. Beyond that, the communications and general discipline seemed to go out the window.
Mark Pelini struggled with snapping the ball on the correct clap count, leaving quarterback Tommy Armstrong unprepared a number of times. Alex Lewis racked up holding call after holding call, while the entire offensive line allowed five sacks. That's a season high, for the record.
And then there was Jake Cotton's false start. Not exactly what the offensive line wanted to be remembered for against the Spartans.
In the week off, the group needs to re-evaluate. While Michigan State was a superior opponent to any team the Huskers previously faced this season, there really is no excuse for the abysmal performance the offensive line put forward.
Whatever the Huskers do in the week off, the first thing that needs to be addressed is getting the offensive line back to where people like Beckman are singing their praises. Without them, Abdullah won't be able to run like the Huskers need him to, and Armstrong will be error-prone.
Speaking of which, Armstrong also needs to readjust during the bye week. The sophomore reverted to old habits against Michigan State, something he was so clear he would avoid, as reported by Josh Harvey of Big Red Report (subscription required):
I’m a lot different. It was new to me. It was my first year actually starting as a redshirt freshman. I saw new things. I saw certain guys. It was just different. I think things have slowed down. I’m getting more physical when it comes to running. I’m trying to make smarter decisions and stuff like that, just putting my offense in the right position.
Armstrong can't be fully to blame. As pointed out, his offensive line wasn't exactly giving him much protection. However, the quarterback often looked rushed when he didn't need to be.
Prior to Michigan State, Armstrong had thrown for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Spartans were daring Armstrong to win with his arm, which he could have done, but the sophomore couldn't find his groove.
An improvement over last season was that Armstrong was visibly louder on the sidelines as he attempted to keep his team motivated. He now needs to take that leadership and also use it on himself.
Where do the Huskers go from here? The team still controls their own destiny in the Big Ten and could likely face Michigan State again.
"Oh, we're going to respond," Abdullah said after Michigan State. "We're going to get to Indiana."
If nothing else, that's the attitude the whole team needs to build upon during the bye week.
Quotes were obtained firsthand at multiple Nebraska post-game press conference, unless otherwise noted.
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After three straight home games, BYU will hit the road for a contest at Central Florida. The Cougars won the last meeting between the two teams, a 24-17 victory in 2011, and will look to rebound after last week's loss to Utah State.
BYU not only lost the game against USU, but it also lost star quarterback Taysom Hill, who is out for the rest of the season. The story is very different for UCF, who beat Houston on the road last weekend.
This game will likely be a close one, and it could be a turning point for both teams' seasons. Here is a complete preview.
Date: Thursday, October 9
Time: 5:30 p.m. MDT
Place: Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)
Spread: UCF -3