NCAA Football

Nebraska Football: 3 Startling Statistics Through 6 Weeks

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Ducks vs. UCLA Bruins Complete Game Preview

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.)

TV: Fox

Spread: Oregon -3, according to OddsShark.com.

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Oregon Ducks vs. UCLA Bruins Complete Game Preview

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.

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Kynon's Korner: Ole Miss' Huge Recruiting Boost, Celeb's Son Visits SEC School

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. 

Premier recruits CeCe JeffersonRyan NewsomeDamarkus Lodge and Roquan Smith were also on hand in Oxford, Mississippi, on Saturday, and all came away impressed. 

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. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted. Team rankings per the Amway Coaches Poll. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nebraska Football: Adjustments Cornhuskers Must Make During Bye Week

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.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BYU Cougars vs. Central Florida Knights: Complete Game Preview

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

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Spread: UCF -3

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Alabama Football Fan Goes on Angry Rant During Paul Finebaum's Show

Alabama Crimson Tide football fans are still a bit upset after losing their first game of the season on Saturday 23-17 against Ole Miss, but don't you dare tell them their dynasty is over.

During The Paul Finebaum Show, a diehard Alabama fan went on an angry rant at Finebaum, even calling him a "cow turd." The fan was originally hoping to talk to ESPN's Colin Cowherd, but she still got her message across.

The "cow turd" reference was from an earlier phone call calling Cowherd "Colin Cowturd."

[YouTube, SoundCloud]

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State vs. Syracuse Complete Game Preview

While Florida State survived Upset Saturday unscathed, the Seminoles suffered plenty of injuries in a 43-3 win over Wake Forest.

It's too soon to tell how shorthanded FSU could be when the No. 1 Seminoles (5-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) play at Syracuse on Saturday at noon, but it's possible that they could be without their leading receiver and rusher as well as their starting center.

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday afternoon that Rashad Greene is responding well in the days following a concussion suffered against Wake, but it's not clear if the star receiver will be able to play. If Greene can't go, FSU will lean on receivers like Bobo Wilson, Kermit Whitfield, Christian Green and Travis Rudolph (along with tight end Nick O'Leary).

Tailback Karlos Williams also has an ankle injury and is questionable. If Williams can't play, FSU will likely start sophomore Mario Pender but should give true freshman Dalvin Cook plenty of carries.

The Seminoles know center Austin Barron will be out for an indefinite amount of time. Redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefeld filled in for Barron for three quarters against Wake, and Fisher said that Hoefeld played well.

Here's a look at FSU's matchup with Syracuse:

 

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How Michigan's Run Game Can Survive Without Derrick Green for Rest of 2014

Derrick Green was finally showing the Wolverines what he could do for them. Now they’ll have to find out what they can do without him.

The sophomore was having one of his best games for Michigan on Saturday—74 yards on just 12 carries—before breaking his clavicle during the late stages of the 26-24 loss to Rutgers.

Coach Brady Hoke said it best Monday: The season-ending injury, especially its timing, is “unfortunate” for Green, who just recently got around to showing everyone why he was so heavily recruited. He ran hard in Piscataway, New Jersey, and helped the offense string together what was arguably its best overall outing of 2014.

“We’re going to miss him, but it’s De’Veon [Smith] and Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson…” said Hoke, who’ll count on Green to become a pseudo coach while the backfield adjusts to his absence.

At this point, there's no sense in completely altering the game plan. Michigan has to roll with what it has, and it's as simple as that. De'Veon Smith is capable of shouldering the heavy duties, while Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson—and who knows, maybe even Dennis Norfleet?—will be tasked with the rest. 

 

De’Veon Has to Lead

Despite just 31 yards on 10 carries, Smith, a 5’11”, 223-pound sophomore, moved the ball with great force on Saturday.

His totals don’t stand out or jump off the page, but he certainly held his own within the red zone, evidenced by his hard-fought one-yard touchdown that gave the Wolverines a 16-12 lead with 1:43 to play in the second quarter.

Like Green, he’s been a slow starter. That has to change, and fast, if the Wolverines want to advance their power-running technique, which popped up every now and then this past weekend.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said that Smith is similar to Green, which has been known for some time. However, “without giving away strategic things that we would want to do,” he said that Smith wouldn’t be pigeonholed as another Green, adding that Hayes and Johnson won’t be limited due to their smaller statures.

“We’re going to do some different things with each one of them,” Nussmeier said.

Sure, try different things. But make sure that Smith, who's been shelved early in games to make way for Green, gets somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 attempts per game. He can't be left to cool off on the sidelines, which is one of the reasons why it takes a few series to set the wheels in motion. 

 

It’s Not Over

As this tweet from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press indicates, Michigan players have recently felt good about running the ball. Jack Miller, the team's center, said so during Monday's player presser. 

Nussmeier and Hoke agree, Team 135 will be different without Green, who was one of the top recruits of the 2013 class.

But Smith wasn’t a throw-in for Michigan; he was the No. 21-ranked running back, per 247Sports. Neither was Hayes, who was one of the nation’s top 100 prospects in 2011, per Rivals. Once committed to Notre Dame, Hayes ultimately flipped the script because Michigan felt more comfortable than South Bend.

With 19 carries, one more than his previous career high of 18 set in 2012, the former Grand Blanc superstar is in position to get comfortable in Nussmeier's backfield. The 5'10", 194-pound junior has waited years for this chance, and due to a deficiency within the offense, he could be the perfect remedy for the situation.

The Wolverines are No. 10 in the Big Ten when it comes to converting third downs, touting an unhealthy success rate of 41.6 percent. But Hayes’ shiftiness, along with his experience, ability to catch the ball and read defenses, should pay dividends.

Hoke said that Hayes has “primarily been a very good third-down back.” So there you go. Problem solved.

OK, so it’s not that cut and dried. But Nussmeier isn’t calling it a day just yet. He’s confident in his reinforcements. 

“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose Derrick. [Saturday] was one of his better games,” said Nussmeier. “I felt like he was really dialed in, focused, ran extremely hard. So, you know, we got great expectations for the other guys.

“De’Veon’s done an outstanding job all season, as has Justice. You know, and then…some other guys have got to step up. Drake’s got to step up, and we’ll continue to move forward and feel good about those guys moving forward.”

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references to were obtained firsthand by the writer

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama’s attempt to get back on top of the college football world will begin in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide are on the road for the second straight week to face the Arkansas Razorbacks a week after losing their first game of the season 23-17 to Ole Miss.

This week is more of a return to old-school, smashmouth football, as Arkansas has bucked the trend of wide-open, hurry-up offense in the SEC and instead prefers a mauling, physical rushing attack to wear teams out.

Arkansas is No. 1 in the SEC and the country in rushing touchdowns and first and sixth in rushing yards.

The Razorbacks are looking for their first SEC win in two years, and Alabama wants to bounce back after slipping up last week.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Date: Saturday, October 11

Time: 5:00 p.m. CT

Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

TV: ESPN

Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, IMG Razorback Sports Network

Spread: Alabama by 9.5 to 10, according to OddsShark.com.

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8 College Football Recruits Who Had an Explosive Week

October arrived with a flurry of phenomenal high school football performances. We've reached the stage of the season when postseason fortunes begin to hang in the balance with every showdown. 

College prospects picked up their intensity to kick off a crucial stretch of the 2014 campaign, commanding attention with game-changing plays. Each week at Bleacher Report, we highlight several of these dominant displays that helped carry programs.

Here's our latest breakdown of big-time efforts from college football's stars of tomorrow.

 

5-star 2016 defensive tackle Rashan Gary, Paramus Catholic High School (Paramus, New Jersey)

We were in attendance to watch Gary and company continue an in-state rivalry with Bergen Catholic. Instead of a dogfight, we witnessed total domination by the junior defender and Paramus Catholic. 

Gary, rated fifth overall nationally in the 2016 class, collected six sacks, according to the team's statistician. He led the charge for a squad that finished the game with a school-record 12 total sacks. 

The 6'4" lineman, who shared he's now up to 295 pounds and certainly looks the part, was unstoppable, whether he penetrated the offensive backfield through the edge or interior.

Gary effectively neutralized the efforts of Bergen Catholic quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, a 4-star 2016 prospect whose top four collegiate options are Alabama, Oklahoma, Clemson and Ohio State. 

Guarantano was pummeled throughout the matchup and routinely rushed by Gary. He completed just 11 of 28 pass attempts for 115 yards and two interceptions. Here is Guarantano getting chased:

Gary said he feels at home following his offseason transfer from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. Paramus Catholic featured 5-star athlete and current Michigan freshman Jabrill Peppers last season and hasn't suffered much of a fall-off thanks in large part to its prized newcomer.

"I'm very comfortable here, and it feels great to battle with my brothers for wins like this," he told me. "This is probably the best game I've had."

Gary added a third-quarter punt block before scooping the ball up and taking it to the end zone. His all-around performance confirms he belongs in the discussion as the nation's No. 1 defensive prospect, regardless of age.

He headed up to Rutgers after the game to watch the Scarlet Knights defeat Michigan. Gary mentioned Florida State, Miami and Alabama among several schools he'd like to visit at some point during the recruitment process.

 

5-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, Fort Bend Marshall High School (Missouri City, Texas)

The 6'0", 181-pound playmaker impressed on both sides of the ball in a victory over Texas City High School. Sheffield helped his team snap a two-game losing streak by starring at receiver and in the secondary, where he is expected to spend his collegiate career.

He started off the scoring with a 27-yard touchdown reception, flashing quickness that also shines on the track. Sheffield is a state champion hurdler who clocked some of the country's quickest times as a junior.

Sheffield finished the contest with three catches for 58 yards.

A pick-six helped put the game away, as Sheffield returned an interception 48 yards for a score in the 27-14 victory, per Wes Swift of The Galveston County Daily News. He secured six interceptions during the past two seasons and continues to be a ball hawk this fall.

Sheffield followed up the performance with an official visit to USC. His recent campus trips include Ohio State, Texas A&M and Alabama, while a journey to Florida State is expected later this month. 

 

Unranked wide receiver Ellex Davis, Monarch High School (Pompano Beach, Florida)

Many wondered, for obvious reasons, how the Monarch offensive attack would fare without 5-star Alabama commit Calvin Ridley in the lineup. As it turns out, the nation's No. 1 receiver had quite an understudy ready to step up.

Davis, a 5'10", 170-pound playmaker, rose to the occasion and did his best Ridley impression during a 70-31 victory over Coral Springs. He pulled in 12 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns, per Scott Salomon of the Miami Herald.

He also made an impact on defense, returning a second-quarter interception 34 yards for another score. Though his collegiate offer sheet remains a work in progress, perhaps the player they call "Pooh" will emerge as another premier Pompano Beach prospect.

“I knew that once Calvin wasn't coming back, I would have to be more productive in games,” Davis told Salomon. “I am looking to take his place as the main part of our offense and show the guys that they can count on me to get the job done. I just want to do what is best for the team and play to the best of my ability.”

He's on the right track so far.

 

3-star 2016 running back Da'Leon Ward, Skyline High School (Dallas, Texas)

Ward helped Skyline wallop district opponent Jesuit High School 56-30 Friday night, running wild throughout the onslaught. He gained 224 rushing yards and contributed as a receiver in the victory, per Tommy Cummings of The Dallas Morning News.

His 75-yard touchdown run fueled a huge first half for Skyline, which scored 35 points prior to intermission. Ward, a 5'11", 180-pound junior, added two more scores on the ground.

ESPN Big 12 recruiting analyst Damon Sayles was impressed with Ward:

He flashed dual-threat skills by also making an impact in the passing game. Ward turned a relatively short reception into a 38-yard scoring play, pushing his touchdown total to four for the day.

His offer list includes Louisville, TCU and UNLV. Ward has also warranted interest from multiple in-state schools as he continues to state his case as a respected Texas offensive weapon.

 

4-star wide receiver Juwan Johnson, Glassboro High School (Glassboro, New Jersey)

The Penn State commit kept his team unbeaten with a monstrous downfield performance Friday night. Johnson, the younger brother of Detroit Lions defensive end George Johnson, flashed the big-play skills that make him a coveted prospect throughout a 45-6 win over Gloucester High School.

He scored three first-half touchdowns, setting the tone for a route. Johnson snared in scoring receptions of 20, 29 and 48 yards before intermission, per Joseph Santoliquito of NJ.com.

The 6'4", 200-pound prospect spent much of the second half sidelined as the game got out of hand. He finished the contest with four catches for 105 yards and three scores.

"I think I'm a guy who can come down with the tough catches close to the line of scrimmage, but I'm more than just a possession receiver," Johnson told me this summer. "I can make plays in space and use my quickness to run away from defenders."

He chose the Nittany Lions over offers from Alabama, Michigan State, Rutgers and Ohio State.  

 

5-star quarterback Josh Rosen, St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, California) 

The country's top-rated 2015 quarterback didn't waste any time proving his team was ready to move forward after its first defeat since 2012. Rosen, who committed to UCLA this spring, tossed five touchdowns before halftime Friday in a 65-7 win over Crenshaw.

He carved up the Crenshaw defense with a level of precision that has come to largely define his approach. Rosen completed 12 of 16 pass attempts for 264 yards and five scores, per MaxPreps.

UnderTheRadar provided highlights of Friday night's game:

The 6'4", 205-pound passer has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,260 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception through five games this season. He's added 169 yards and three scores on the ground.

Rosen, who committed to UCLA this spring over Michigan and Cal, intends to compete for the Bruins starting job as a true freshman if current quarterback Brett Hundley elects to leave for the NFL draft.

"I'd love to take snaps on opening day," he told me this summer. "I'm going to work as hard as I can to make that happen."

 

2-star wide receiver Emmanuel Moore, Northwest High School (Justin, Texas)

The late-rising recruit didn't land his first FBS offer until this summer, but he could be on the verge of blowing up based on his performance as a senior.

Moore, a 6'0", 185-pound prospect, provided a major spark for his squad in a near-upset of perennial Lone Star State powerhouse Denton Guyer. 

Though Northwest suffered a 43-33 defeat, Moore starred and was largely unstoppable throughout the showdown. He tallied a game-high 13 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns, per MaxPreps.

Moore has accumulated at least 100 receiving yards in three of five games this season, including double-digit reception totals in each of the past two contests.

His breakout season features 45 catches for 648 yards and 11 touchdowns, placing him among state leaders in all three categories. 

He announced his commitment to North Texas in September, citing the program's belief in him as a motivating factor. 

“North Texas is the only team that showed that they really wanted me and offered me a scholarship,” Moore told Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle.

Moore is bound to attract increased attention, and his recruitment could ultimately mirror that of 2014 DeSoto High School recruit Desmon White, who pledged to North Texas when his first offer arrived but is now a freshman at TCU.

 

4-star quarterback Zach Gentry, Eldorado High School (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

The Texas commit continues to come up big in the clutch, leading his team to thrilling victories. Eldorado claimed its second straight one-point win Friday night when Gentry collected nearly 500 yards of total offense in a 57-56 affair.

The 6'7", 230-pound prospect completed two touchdown passes, compiling 327 yards through the air. He added another 120 yards and three scores on the ground, per James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal.

Gentry vaulted his team ahead with a two-point conversion run with just 32 seconds remaining in regulation. A two-yard touchdown pass put him in position to push Eldorado ahead.

Through six victories this season, Gentry is completing 75 percent of his pass attempts for more than 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. The past pair of contests have required gutsy performances during late stages.

“Two wild games,” Gentry told the Albuquerque Journal. “I can’t believe it.”

Longhorns fans should feel ecstatic about his latest achievements.

 

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks: Louisville Cardinals vs. Clemson Tigers Odds

The Louisville Cardinals continue their initial run through the ACC with a huge matchup this Saturday afternoon against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium. The game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be available nationally on ESPN3.

The Cardinals ran their current straight-up winning streak to three games with this past Friday's 28-6 romp over Syracuse as 1.5-point favorites on the road. They are now 5-1 SU on the year with a healthy 4-2 record against the spread. The total has stayed under in five of their first six games this year.

After Clemson lost that 23-17 heartbreaker to Florida State in overtime on Sept. 20 as a 9.5-point road underdog, it rolled over North Carolina and North Carolina State by a combined score of 91-35 while covering as a 14-point home favorite in each contest. The total stayed under the closing 64-point line in last Saturday's 41-0 shutout over the Wolfpack, and it has now stayed under in two of the Tigers' last three games.

 

Louisville at Clemson Betting Storylines

Louisville came over from the American Athletic Conference this season with high expectations in its new conference despite the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. So far, it has held its own in the ACC with the exception of a 23-21 loss to Virginia on Sept. 13 as four-point road favorites. Last Saturday's win over the Orange left the Cardinals 3-1 SU in conference play.

The offense has definitely lost some of its punch with a passing game that is averaging only 231.8 yards a game, but the ground game has helped to pick up the slack behind Brandon Radcliff and Dominique Brown, who have each rushed for over 300 yards so far.

The biggest strength of this team has been on the other side of the ball with a defense that is ranked sixth in the nation in points allowed. This unit is giving up an average of just 12.7 points a game, and the Cavaliers were the only team to score more than 21 points against it this year. It is ranked seventh in the country in total yards allowed and third against the run.

The Tigers also had a pretty big hole to fill at quarterback, but so far, the duo of Deshaun Watson and Cole Stoudt has done a great job in an offense that is averaging 335.8 passing yards a game. Mike Williams has been the biggest target on the team with 21 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns. Clemson's run offense has been a whole different story, averaging just 155 yards a game and ranking 78th in the FBS.

The defense rose to the occasion last week by shutting out NC State, but this unit has been shaky at times this season. It gave up 45 points in an opening weekend loss to Georgia and even in a fairly one-sided affair against North Carolina, it was tagged for 35 points. Overall, the defense is allowing an average of 22 points a game.

 

Louisville at Clemson Betting Odds and Trends by Doc's Sports

Point spread: Clemson -13

Total Line: OFF

Covers betting trends have the Cardinals listed at 21-8 ATS in their last 29 road games, and they are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games overall. The total has stayed under in seven of their last eight road games.

The Tigers are 5-0 ATS in their last five home games and 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a SU win. The total has gone over in seven of their last 10 games played at home.

This will be the first meeting between these two teams in recent memory.

 

College Football Picks: Louisville at Clemson Betting Predictions

Louisville should be able to use the lack of familiarity between the two teams to its favor in this matchup. While the Cardinals offense will really need to step things up to have any chance of getting the SU win on the road, I am confident that their defense will be able to keep things close enough to cover with the 13 points.

 

Take: # 173 Louisville (+13) over Clemson, 3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 11

 

Odds and point spread information courtesy of Covers unless otherwise noted.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

After Wild Weekend, Can 2 SEC Teams Make the College Football Playoff?

The SEC is loaded with possible College Football Playoff candidates. This past weekend just made the playoff picture extremely more ambiguous with top teams seemingly dropping like flies.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Barrett Sallee debate whether this power conference can get two teams into the College Football Playoff.

How many teams from the SEC will be in the Playoff?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Which Undefeated Team Will Lose Next?

There are few unbeaten teams left in college football after last week ravaged much of the top competition. The question now becomes which of the remaining undefeated teams will not make it through Week 7 without a loss.

Bleacher Report college football analysts Adam Kramer, Barrett Sallee and Michael Felder give their picks for the next undefeated team to lose.

Which undefeated team will go down in Week 7?

Watch the video, and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Alabama Football: How Will Kenyan Drake's Injury Impact Lane Kiffin's Offense?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama will be without a key component of its offense for the rest of the season.

Running back Kenyan Drake, who broke his leg in the second quarter of the Crimson Tide’s game against Ole Miss, will miss the rest of the season with the injury, Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday.

“I think probably eight to 10 weeks before he really can start doing things that would allow him to be able to even think about being able to play football again,” Saban said.

It was a gruesome injury, one that won’t escape the minds of many who saw it live or on replay. The nature of the injury and recovery time aren’t much of a surprise.

But now Alabama will have to finish the season without one of its most explosive weapons—one who had been used all over the place so far this season—and suddenly finds itself with limited running back depth.

“Kenyan’s got a lot of production for us and he’s done a really good job all year long,” Saban said. “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that when you lose a player like that, it does have some impact. But I do think we have other players that can do those things. Now they’re going to get the opportunity to do it and we’re going to have to have some other people to step up.”

Drake was the Crimson Tide’s most versatile player and one of new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s favorite toys through four games.

In Alabama’s three-back backfield, he was the home run hitter of the group. He has an argument for fastest player on the team and was used a lot on off-tackle runs. He also led the team in touchdowns with four.

Kiffin was using Drake more in the passing game, and he was thriving.

Drake’s speed and 6’1”, 202-pound frame allowed him to be used as a receiver at times. He was split out wide against Florida Atlantic and took a screen pass 39 yards to the house. His most impressive play as a wide receiver came against Florida.

The Gators matched up Drake with a linebacker who had no chance against his speed in the open field. The safety couldn’t get over in time, and Drake was off to the races.

Alabama has plenty of talented offensive weapons on its roster but can’t just replace him straight up.

T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are two talented running backs in their own rights, but neither has the skill set to replace Drake. Henry is very much a physical, between-the-tackles runner. Yeldon uses his vision and quickness to hit holes hard and fast. He has speed in the open field but can’t hit the accelerator like Drake.

The trio made for an effective combination, with each bringing a different set of talents to the table. Now that Drake’s out, it limits more of what Alabama can do in the run game.

It also gives the team's running back depth another hit.

Tyren Jones is already out “several weeks” with a torn tendon in his finger. Drake’s injury leaves Altee Tenpenny as the only other true running back on the roster.

Tenpenny was a 4-star prospect out of high school and has looked fine in mop-up duty. He is more in the mold of a downhill runner, too. It’s unclear if Tenpenny will get in the rotation, but if he does, he won’t be able to bring what Drake does.

As Alabama tries to make the climb back to the top of college football, it will have to do so without one of its best and most versatile offensive weapons.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from cfbstats. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA vs. Oregon Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET 

WHERE: Rose Bowl Stadium; Pasadena, California

TV: Fox

One of the most highly anticipated Pac-12 Conference tilts before the season has taken on a decidedly different look after a wild Week 6. 

Oregon and UCLA were the media's preseason picks to win the North and South divisions—still an attainable goal for both. 

However, the Ducks and Bruins face more of a must-win scenario coming into Saturday's affair after both suffered losses at home. 

UCLA only lead in a 30-28 defeat against Utah came on quarterback Brett Hundley's touchdown pass to wide receiver Eldridge Massington late in the fourth quarter.

Otherwise, UCLA followed the script of Week 6 upheaval to the letter. The Bruins' loss capped a weekend filled with chaos around college football, which fittingly started with UCLA's Week 7 opponent. 

The Ducks are trying to rebound from a 31-24 loss at home to Arizona last Thursday, the first of the week's many upsets. 

Another conference loss for either makes reaching December's Pac-12 Championship Game considerably more difficult. Expect both preseason favorites to come out with renewed urgency in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. 

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UCLA vs. Oregon Complete Game Preview

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 11; 3:30 p.m. ET WHERE: Rose Bowl Stadium; Pasadena, California TV: Fox One of the most highly anticipated Pac-12 Conference tilts before the season has taken on a decidedly different look after a wild Week 6...

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Could Trae Elston's Suspension Cost Ole Miss Game, Perfect Season vs. Texas A&M?

Ole Miss topped Alabama 23-17 on Saturday to vault into the No. 3 spot in the latest AP poll and announce itself as not only a contender for the SEC West title, but also the national title.

For the Rebels to keep the national title train going in the right direction, they're going to have to get a big performance this weekend from their stout pass defense, which leads the SEC, giving up just 152.4 yards per game through the air.

They're going to be doing it without starting safety Trae Elston for the first 30 minutes of the game after Elston attempted to stomp on Alabama running back Kenyan Drake during Saturday afternoon's win over Alabama (Warning: the incident occurred on the same play in which Drake suffered a gruesome ankle injury, so watch at your own risk).

Will Elston's absence be a big loss for the Rebels? Absolutely.

He is fifth on the team with 24 tackles, has one pick and one forced fumble on the season and has started at the "Rover" position this year. Ole Miss is equipped to replace him with either backup "Rover" David Kamara or by moving a reserve—like freshman C.J. Hampton—into a more prominent role.

That's not good news considering Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill is completing 66.9 percent of his first-half passes (97-of-145) and tossed 12 of his 21 touchdown passes during the first 30 minutes of games.

As NFL.com's Chase Goodbread notes, Aggies offensive coordinator Jake Spavital will pay special attention to Elston's absence.

Elston's suspension will not, however, cost Ole Miss the game and its perfect season.

That would've happened regardless.

Ole Miss simply doesn't match up well with Texas A&M.

The Aggies' biggest hole on defense is their inability to stop the run up the middle, which is where Arkansas and Mississippi State both found success over the last two games. The Aggies rank next to last in the SEC in rush defense (178.83 YPG) and are giving up 5.34 yards per rushing attempt against conference foes. 

The Rebels don't run between the tackles, though. 

Jaylen Walton (238 yards) and I'Tavius Mathers (152 yards) are their top two rushers, and both are more dangerous off the edge than they are between the tackles. As was the case the previous two seasons, quarterback Bo Wallace shouldered some of the load on the ground, notching 11 carries—tied for the team lead on Saturday with Walton.

He's not the type of running threat who can expose the Aggies like Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams, Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson have over the last two games.

If Ole Miss is going to spring the upset—the Rebels are three-point road underdogs according to Odds Shark—it's going to have to pass. That means Wallace—who's tied with South Carolina's Dylan Thompson and Florida's Jeff Driskel with an SEC-worst six interceptions—will have freshman phenom Myles Garrett and his 6.5 sacks coming at him.

Different than Alabama, though, Texas A&M will almost certainly force Ole Miss into more of a shootout than the Crimson Tide did. A shootout means more passing situations, which means more opportunities for Garrett to pin his ears back and for "Bad Bo" to make an appearance on the road in a hostile, late-night environment.

Elston's half-game suspension doesn't help. In fact, it makes a shootout more likely. 

That was going to happen anyway, though. The matchups in this game were going to cause Ole Miss' perfect season to come to an end on Saturday night in College Station whether Elston was there or not.

 

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

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

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cincinnati vs. Miami: Complete Game Preview

The Cincinnati Bearcats and Miami Hurricanes both attempt to rebound from embarrassing losses in a nonconference matchup on Saturday, Oct. 11.

A rib injury forced Gunner Kiel out of the 27-point blowout against Memphis, which racked up 610 offensive yards on the Bearcats.

One week after earning an important win over Coastal Division foe Duke, Miami collapsed during the second half of a 27-17 loss to Georgia Tech.

This is the 12th meeting between the two programs and first since 1998. The Hurricanes hold a 10-1 series advantage over Cincinnati, including a 5-0 mark at home. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET and can be seen on ESPN3.

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LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators Complete Game Preview

LSU and Florida have average football teams in 2014. For the first time in the Les Miles era, the two traditional powerhouses will meet with both teams unranked.   

LSU is 4-2 and winless in conference play. The Tigers have been dominated on both sides of the ball by Auburn and Mississippi State. Miles will look to avoid his first 0-3 start in SEC play in his illustrious career. 

Florida is 3-1 on the season, with a 2-1 conference mark. The Gators were fortunate to defeat Kentucky in triple overtime in mid-September. Last week, true freshman quarterback Treon Harris led a late charge to beat Tennessee 10-9.

Florida will be without Harris on Saturday though, as he has been suspended indefinitely by the program, per The Orlando Sentinel. The true freshman is being investigated by the University of Florida Police Department for sexual assault.  

Nevertheless, Gators head coach Will Muschamp will take comfort in being in "The Swamp" on Saturday. The home team has won this annual cross-divisional rivalry the past three seasons. 

Here is a preview of this week's matchup.

 

What You Need to Know

Time: 6:30 p.m. CT 

Place: Ben-Hill Griffin Stadium; Gainesville, Florida

TV: SEC Network

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, Gators IMG Sports Network

Spread: LSU by 1, via Oddsshark.com

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