NCAA Football

Utah State vs. BYU: Game Grades, Analysis for the Cougars

The big story from this game, beyond the BYU loss, will be the loss of Heisman hopeful Taysom Hill after suffering a broken leg late in the second quarter.  The season-changing injury for the Cougars didn't, however, have as much impact on the game as many might have expected.

In the first half, Utah State had essentially dominated play, and went into halftime with a 14-point lead.  After the half, despite holding the Aggies in check a little better, the Cougars were unable to answer when it was needed most.  Perhaps Hill could have helped their cause, but it just seemed as all of the breaks (no pun intended) went the way of the Aggies.

Box score via


Pass Offense

We can really break these grades down into two quarterbacks.  Our first half grade, a C, really belongs to Taysom Hill and his receivers.  Meanwhile, the final grade belongs more to Christian Stewart.

Hill wasn't all that effective before his injury, going 8-of-11 for 99 yards and touchdown.  Not bad, but certainly not what we were expecting from the Heisman contender.

After halftime, Christian Stewart took over and went 10-of-29 for 172 yards.  He never found the end zone but found three Aggie defensive backs.

Because he was unexpectedly pressed into service, we're willing to give him a little bit of a break.  But not much of one.  A D+ is probably generous.


Run Offense

BYU ran the football 34 times for 154 yards and a touchdown, led by Jamaal Williams with 99 yards on 17 carries.  Overall, not a terrible evening, but the run game became irrelevant late in the game as the Cougars fell behind by three scores.

Still, a solid B+.


Pass Defense

Here is where the wheels really came off for the Cougars.

Utah State's Darell Garretson, a backup, remember, went 19-of-25 for 321 yards and three touchdowns.  Garrettson and his receivers constantly burned the Cougs' secondary deep, and BYU never really had an answer for the long bomb.

When BYU was able to get pressure on Garretson, it wasn't strong enough to contain him and prevent a throw or a solid scramble for positive yards.

If there was one facet of BYU's performance that cost them the game, this had to be it.  Because of the massive yards put up by a backup quarterback in a big rivalry game, we're handing out an ugly D to the pass defense.


Run Defense

The run defense, in contrast to the passing defense, was fairly solid.  No Utah State rusher had more than 57 yards, but the Cougars did allow two rushing touchdowns (although one was on a broken pass play scramble from Garretson).

If Utah State hadn't been able to throw as effectively as it did, this game would have been much different, given the decent night the front seven had when defending the run.  A straight B for the boys up front should be a nice consolation on an otherwise awful night for BYU.


Special Teams

Special teams were a mixed bag.  After a questionable first half, a couple of big plays in the second half gave BYU at least a chance to get back into the game.  Of course, the biggest play came on what appeared to be a short kickoff that was muffed by Utah State and recovered by BYU.  Unfortunately, an offside penalty negated the recover and BYU was forced to re-kick.

Special teams were also the only way BYU could score after the half, with a pair of field goals.  We upgraded the first half C to a final B-.



Bronco Mendenhall has a sterling reputation as a head coach, and for good reason.  Unfortunately, we didn't see the greatest of nights from him or his staff against Utah State.

BYU was constantly put behind the eight ball, and there didn't seem to be enough impetus to get back into the game late into the second half.  We will, however, give credit to the coaching staff for keeping the team's heads up after Hill went down to injury.  At the end of the first half, BYU looked flat and a bit dejected.  After halftime, for a while, the Cougars seemed to be playing with energy.

But, as we mentioned, once Utah State extended its lead to three scores, all of the wind left the BYU sails.  And the coaching staff wasn't able to pull the team out of the doldrums.


Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

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Utah State vs. BYU: Score and Twitter Reaction

The party in Provo is over. Meanwhile, the wagon wheel is heading to Utah State.

Utah State (3-2) trounced No. 18 BYU (4-1) on Friday night, 35-20, in a game that ended any hopes of crashing the College Football Playoff for the Cougars.

The Aggies' victory was passed along after the game went final by Utah State Football:

Not only did the victory for Utah State crush BYU's hopes of a miraculous season, it was also a first for the team in several decades. The Aggies hadn't won in 17 consecutive games on the road against the Cougars.

Prior to the game, Utah State coach Matt Wells was confident in his team's ability to come away with a victory. Wells spoke about the matchup, per Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune:

[BYU is a team] that’s undefeated and deservedly in the playoff talks. They’re going to have to beat Utah State [to stay there]. Our kids are excited and I don’t have any reason to doubt [BYU] will be. It will be a great atmosphere. LaVell Edwards Stadium will be loud with a national TV audience. it will be fun. It’s a great opportunity for us.

By the end of the contest, Wells' confidence in his team showed through the players on the field. Along with the victory, Utah State also made a mark on the rest of the season for BYU.

Potentially as important as the loss, BYU also saw it's star quarterback Taysom Hill go down with a potentially serious leg injury. Hill suffered the ailment in the second quarter and was replaced by an inexperienced Christian Hill for the second half.

BYU Game Notes noted the news of the injury for Hill:

Hill was slowly emerging as a Heisman candidate prior to the injury, but potentially had those dreams gashed as well on Friday. 

Despite the loss of Hill late in the second quarter, the quarterback still had a sensational play early in the game. ESPN College Football provides a look at Hill's early touchdown:

Hill would score again on a 25-yard pass to Mitch Mathews, but it was all Utah State from that point on.

Utah State's backup quarterback Darell Garretson took over, passing for three touchdowns and rushing for another in the first half. Two of those touchdowns went to Devonte Robinson, who finished with six receptions for 98 yards on the night.

Along with Garretson's 321 passing yards, his final touchdown in the first half was a memorable one, per ESPN College Football:

That pass went to Hunter Sharp, who also exploded for the Aggies offense to the tune of 173 yards on five receptions. It took a team effort to take down BYU, and Utah State got it from both sides of the ball.

In the second half, it was two-way player Nick Vigil who put his stamp on the contest. The linebacker also had 16 carries for 57 yards and barreled his way into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter.

It was a big moment for the sophomore in a prime-time game, as Utah State Football points out:

Tack on the fact that he registered 16 tackles for the Aggies, and Vigil had a career night against the in-state rival.

Moving forward, BYU has a difficult road ahead if Hill and several other players that were injured on Friday miss time.

Next on the schedule is UCF, who is currently 2-2 and coming off two straight wins. The Cougars will have to travel to Central Florida next Thursday night in yet another prime-time game that doesn't have the same meaning.

For the Aggies, Friday might serve as the turning point for the 2014 season. Having matchups against Air Force, Colorado State and UNLV coming up, Utah State has a chance to put together a memorable season. After Friday night's stunner in Provo, a party might be starting for Utah State.


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Taysom Hill Injury: Updates on BYU QB's Leg and Return

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a fractured leg injury and left the game against Utah State in the second quarter.

The Cougars' official account reported the news on Hill's injury during the Friday night game:

BYU Game Notes noted later that it was indeed fractured:

ESPN College Football passed along a look at the scene on the sideline:

Along with BYU entering the national picture after a 4-0 start, Hill has emerged as one of the best young quarterbacks in the country. The dual-threat quarterback has compiled 975 passing yards, 463 rushing yards and 15 total touchdowns.

Christian Stewart will be the quarterback under center if Hill misses more time, but BYU's offense certainly won't be the same.

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College Football Week 6: Live Scores, Highlights and Reaction

Week 6 kicked off with chaos Thursday night with Arizona upsetting Oregon, and Saturday’s slate of games is ready to deliver even more craziness. 

Six matchups of ranked teams vs. ranked teams means this weekend will have serious playoff implications, and the Top 25 poll could look drastically different come Sunday afternoon.

No. 6 Texas A&M travels to No. 12 Mississippi State and will kick off at noon ET on ESPN. No. 3 Alabama hits the road to play No. 11 Ole Miss, kicking off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. 

Will the state of Mississippi be riding high come Saturday night? This is the first time since 1961 that both Mississippi State and Ole Miss take a perfect record into October. 

No. 4 Oklahoma will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox on the road at No. 25 TCU, and No. 9 Notre Dame will host No. 14 Stanford at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.  

No. 15 LSU travels to No. 5 Auburn at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN in what should be a great SEC showdown, and No. 10 Michigan State will host No. 19 Nebraska in battle for Big Ten supremacy at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Saturday is loaded with amazing schedule of games, so make sure to keep it locked right here with Bleacher for live scores, highlights and much more!

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Utah State vs. BYU: Live Score and Highlights

Utah State 28, BYU 14—Early 3rd Quarter

The BYU Cougars are 4-0 and will look to keep their slim College Football Playoff chances alive against the 2-2 Utah State Aggies in the battle for the Old Wagon Wheel on Friday.

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Bo Scarbrough Cleared to Enroll at Alabama: Latest Details and Reaction

Alabama commit Bo Scarbrough has been academically cleared to enroll in January after not being able to join the team during the fall semester.

Charles Power of 247Sports reported the big news for the Crimson Tide. Power also passed along remarks from Scarbrough's mother, Donetris: "Yes it is (true). He's very excited about it. Roll Tide!"

Scarbrough was a huge commit for Alabama's 2014 class, signing back in February to play for Nick Saban. The No. 2 athlete, according to 247Sports, was one of the most explosive running backs in the country during his senior season with IMG Academy.

He was unable to suit up for the Tide, however, due to his academic situation being incomplete, via Andrew Gribble of Saban spoke about Scarbrough's situation, and commented on Montel McBride, prior to the season, per Gribble:

"They won't be completed until the end of summer school," Saban said. "I can't really make a prediction on what their status will be until their summer school is over."

As a team, Alabama has certainly survived not having Scarbrough on the field this season. Currently sitting at No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll, the Tide are certainly rolling heading into a full SEC schedule.

When Scarbrough finally is able to join the team, Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will have yet another weapon at their disposal. The 6'2", 225-pound running back might be coming in later than expected, but he can certainly still make a huge impact for the program in 2015.


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LSU vs. Auburn: Key Position Matchups That Will Decide SEC West Showdown

Fifth-ranked Auburn may be noticeable favorites in Saturday's SEC West affair with No. 15 LSU, but the battle of the Tigers will come down to a few positional battles that are sure to tip the scales in one team's favor.

Coming off last year's national title loss to Florida State, Gus Malzahn's Auburn squad has navigated through a couple of early tests. But it's likely that the Tigers will face six straight ranked opponents in the coming weeks as they continue their SEC gauntlet, and that doesn't include the Iron Bowl in late November.

Les Miles and Co. have already felt the tremors of their own gauntlet, falling to previously unranked Mississippi State at home. The Tigers still have plenty of time and big matchups left, but their already frail hopes of contending in the SEC West will be all but exhausted with a loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

These games hinge so much on emotion and momentum, but not lost among the sure chaos will be proper execution from certain position groups. Without production from these key spots, it will be tough for either team to pull out the victory.

Let's break down the matchups that will decide LSU-Auburn.


Auburn's Rushers vs. LSU's Front Seven

Even after having some hiccups to start the season, Auburn's rushing attack looks just as dangerous at times as it did a year ago. Meanwhile, opponents have been opening up truck-sized holes in the LSU front seven.

Typically one of the SEC's most feared units, LSU's defensive line is a shell of its former self in 2014 with a heap of youth up front. While there are two juniors and a senior starting on the line, every backup is a true freshman or a sophomore.

That has led to a shocking 70th-ranked run defense so far in 2014, largely distorted by Mississippi State's 302-yard outburst on the ground in Week 4 and Wisconsin's 268 yards in the season opener.

On the other end, Auburn hasn't dominated on the ground but still comes in a respectable 18th in the nation in rushing—which would be much more than respectable had the Tigers not run the ball with such ferocity in 2013. 

Cameron Artis-Payne has emerged with 468 rushing yards and five scores this year, and his downhill running style makes one wonder if LSU will continue its struggles stopping the run. Add that to the zone read of Nick Marshall, and it will be a tall task for LSU to come up with answers on defense.

Mississippi State is one of the best rushing teams in the league, but Auburn is better, and that should strike fear into any LSU diehard.


LSU's Brandon Harris vs. Auburn's Secondary

After emerging past Anthony Jennings in recent weeks, LSU freshman quarterback Brandon Harris will be handed his first career start on Saturday. It couldn't come in a more raucous environment.

Harris came on in relief of Jennings in LSU's loss to Mississippi State and nearly led them to a shocking comeback victory. He continued to impress throughout the Tigers' 63-7 win over New Mexico State on Saturday, prompting Miles to give him the nod for Saturday's affair.

Although nobody knows what LSU fans will get from Harris in his first start, it's just as hard to figure out what we'll get from Auburn's pass defense. It has yet to face a potent passing attack and has playmakers in the secondary, but it still ranks just seventh in the league in pass defense. 

Harris has a dual-threat ability that could make him tough to corral, but Auburn's defensive line figures to generate some pressure by stalemating LSU's strong run game. That will put the onus on the freshman to make plays through the air.

LSU will have to score early and often to keep pace with Auburn's offense, and that will largely fall on Harris' shoulders. 


LSU's Kicking Game vs. Auburn Specialists

In rivalry games that come down to the wire, the kicking game is almost always overlooked heading into the matchup but ends up playing among the biggest of roles.

The kicking specialists for LSU could end up making said impact if their early stats are any indication. It starts with kicker Colby Delahoussaye, who is a perfect 4-of-4 on field goals this year and only missed one of 14 attempts in 2013. 

But other than keeping LSU out of field-goal range, there isn't a whole lot Auburn can do to change that. When it comes to punter Jamie Keehn, though, it could be a different story.

LSU is averaging 46.64 yards per punt—ninth-best in the land—off the foot of Keehn. But with long punts come the ability for big returns, and Quan Bray has emerged as one of the nation's best punt returners—returning one 76 yards to the house against Louisiana Tech last week.

Keehn has a big leg, but he'll have to use it to LSU's advantage and figure out a way to keep it away from Bray. If he does so and the Tigers get Delahoussaye in position for some deep field goals, it will be a big advantage for LSU.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Johnny Manziel to Reach out to Jameis Winston, Wants to Offer Advice

No one knows what it's like to be in the college limelight more than Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. From his frequent trips to Vegas to drinking champagne on an inflatable swan, his life off the field has been well-documented.

Florida State QB Jameis Winston is the current collegiate poster boy for what not to do. He's already been reprimanded for shoplifting crab legs and screaming obscenities.

NFL teams are growing wary of drafting the 6'4", 230-pound prospect.

According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Manziel plans to reach out to Winston to offer some advice: 

Jameis is a guy I've had a good relationship with and want to help him in as many ways as I can. For him right now, just try to let as much time pass by to try to let some of these things blow over and worry about the position [the Seminoles] are in as the best team in the country and worry about football in the ACC. ... Everything else will be OK. He's continuing to grow up. He's a young guy, too. Really, I think he'll figure it out.

Manziel, who won the Heisman in 2012, knows taking the trophy home just adds to the pressure:

The burden of following a Heisman bid is 'heavier than the trophy.'

There's a lot of responsibility, a lot of scrutiny now over the past two years ... the last 2-5 years. That's going to come with it. It's a lot of weight to have on your shoulders. But that's part of what comes with winning the trophy.

[Jeremy Fowler]

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Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Iowa State Cyclones: Complete Game Preview

The Oklahoma State Cowboys welcome the Iowa State Cyclones to Stillwater this weekend after last week's exhilarating victory over the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

This game marks the final game of the Pokes' current four-game homestand and represents a game the Cowboys should (and probably must) win. The Cyclones are 1-3, and Oklahoma State should be the heavy favorites at home.

And that's good news for Pokes fans, as their team really needs this game, with a devastating stretch of games looming after next week's tilt with the Kansas Jayhawks. Oklahoma State really needs to enter that slate of games at 5-1, making a victory here key for the Cowboys' bowl chances.

Will the Cowboys take care of business? Or does Iowa State have it in it to break Oklahoma State's heart in Stillwater? Read on to find out.

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Ole Miss vs. Alabama: Why the Crimson Tide Are on Upset Alert in Week 7

There are going to be some fireworks on Saturday afternoon in Oxford, Mississippi.

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at Hollingsworth Field will feature two of the premier teams in college football so far this season. Both sit at 4-0, but Alabama comes in as the No. 3 team in the country. Ole Miss comes in at No. 11.

This game has the potential to equal last year's Auburn upset over Alabama. Auburn was expected to compete, but the Tigers' win crippled the Crimson Tide's season.

The circumstances are a little different in this instance, as it is still relatively early in the season. That said, a win by the Rebels would still be quite a blow to Alabama's season.

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt is confident heading into the game, via Brandon Speck of Fox Sports:

We understand that we haven’t played a team that’s going to be as good as ’Bama. But we don’t really think ’Bama is as good as they have been, and we’re better than we have been. We’re looking forward to getting to the game plan and really nailing down all the tweaks and stuff that we’re going to have to put into ’Bama.

Below are a few reasons why the Crimson Tide are on upset alert during Week 7.


Stifling Defense

The Rebels defense is phenomenal. Currently third in the nation in points allowed per game (8.5), Ole Miss has a variety of different players who can make quarterback Blake Sims uncomfortable in the pocket.

Having allowed just three points against Memphis in the previous game, the Rebels are hot on the defensive side of the ball. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, an alum of Ole Miss, spoke about the defense last week, via Dan Graziano of "They [Alabama] have a new quarterback, so you look and say maybe our defense can rattle him a little bit, and then our quarterback's got to play well."

Alabama quarterback Blake Sims has played well overall this year, but his performance against West Virginia was just pedestrian. He was 24-of-33 for 250 yards. He didn't throw a touchdown, but he was picked off.

Ole Miss possesses a much more aggressive, hard-hitting defense. With that being the case, Sims has to be on his game in order for his offense to move the ball down the field.

Of course, he has some help. Amari Cooper has been his favorite weapon in the passing game, and Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon are strong rushers to complement the passing game.

But Ole Miss' defense appears strong enough to take down any opponent. Even a 20-point performance against Alabama would be notable—and certainly good enough to win.


Up-Tempo Offense and Mismatches

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has run this up-tempo system for three years now. He has a perfect grasp of how it works and how all the parts need to work together to wreak havoc on defenses.

Because he can run the system so well (despite the fact that he's prone to turnovers at times), he puts players in good positions to succeed. Look for that to happen against Alabama.

Most of Ole Miss' weapons, however, are bound to create mismatches anyway. Alex Scarborough of wrote about those weapons:

Running back Jaylen Walton is tough to get a hand on, as evidenced by his 6.9 yards per carry coming into this weekend. 

Tight end Evan Engram is a matchup nightmare with the size to overpower defensive backs and the speed to run past linebackers. 

All wide receiver Cody Core seems to do is catch touchdowns. 

Then there’s Laquon Treadwell, arguably one of the top-five receivers in the country. He alone can wreck a secondary. 

In regard to Laquon Treadwell, Alabama coach Nick Saban is well aware of his ability to dominate defenses. Marquavius Burnett of The Anniston Star tweeted a thought from Saban about the matchup:

The Tide have been the class of college football for several years, but they are more vulnerable now than they have been in quite some time. A balanced program like Ole Miss should be able to take down the Alabama and put an exclamation point next to the biggest win in college football this year.


Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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LSU Run Game Key to Tigers Upsetting Auburn

LSU will hope it packed its rushing attack when the team travels to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on SEC-rival Auburn on Saturday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Over the years, LSU has developed a reputation of being able to pound the football on the ground at will. This season has proved no different, as the team has averaged 222.1 rushing yards over five games.

With national title aspirations on the line, LSU will have to do much of the same this weekend.

Auburn won’t make it easy, as the defending SEC champions boast a much-improved run defense. Through four games, the unit ranks No. 14 in the nation against the run (90.8 yards per game) while conceding a meager 2.65 yards per carry.

It is worth noting, however, that Auburn has only faced one formidable rushing attack thus far. And that attack, Arkansas, racked up 153 yards on the ground and was knotted up with Auburn 21-21 at halftime.

Not to mention, Auburn may be without two key members of its front seven in linebackers Cassanova McKinzy (concussion) and Kris Frost (knee), per’s Joel A. Erickson.

That means LSU should run the ball early and often. After all, the team is 46-0 since 2008 when rushing for 150 yards or more, compared to just 11-14 when failing to reach that mark:

If ever LSU could use a breakout performance by running back Leonard Fournette, this would be the game.

The true freshman currently leads the team in rushing with 322 yards and four touchdowns on 56 carries. However, in LSU’s only two games against ranked opponents—Wisconsin and Mississippi State—Fournette finished with just 18 and 38 yards, respectively.

Ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in last year’s recruiting class, expectations were high for the New Orleans native. But if Fournette wants us to take his Heisman Trophy hopes seriously, he’s going to have to start living up to that hype sooner rather than later.

After Fournette, seniors Kenny Hilliard (57 CAR, 298 YDS, 4 TDs) and Terrence Magee (34 CAR, 144 YDS, 1 TD) along with true freshman Darrel Williams (33 CAR, 165 YDS, 3 TDs) will carry the load.

“There’s a number of guys,” LSU head coach Les Miles said of his running backs, via Erickson. “I like the way Fournette’s carried himself. I like the way Kenny Hilliard’s carried himself, Terrence Magee, so there’s a lot of guys.”

But running the ball isn’t important simply to put up points. It will also help take some of the pressure off quarterback Brandon Harris.

Athlon Sports editor Steven Lassan appears to agree:

A true freshman, Harris has looked good in limited playing time, throwing for 394 yards, six touchdowns and one interception on 73.3 percent passing while adding another 108 yards and three scores on 16 carries. However, this will be his first appearance in a hostile environment.

If LSU can get the run game going early and convert on third downs, look for momentum to change in its favor quickly. Not only that, but it will also keep Auburn’s high-powered offense off the field.

Team of destiny or not, no offense can beat you when its quarterback is sitting on the sidelines.


All stats, recruiting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of and 247Sports.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at

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Tennessee Vols Paint Lil Jon's Face on 'The Rock'

Tennessee football players and fans have fully embraced Lil Jon.

Their anthem "Third Down for What" is based on the rapper's "Turn Down for What" hit single.

Now, they've taken their love for the rapper one step further by painting his face on "The Rock."

Coach Butch Jones is on board with the Lil Jon love.

It seems the love is being reciprocated by the rapper.

[Twitter, h/t For the Win]

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Louisville Cardinals vs. Syracuse Orange Live Blog: Analysis and Reactions

The Louisville Cardinals will travel to the Carrier Dome for an ACC battle with the Syracuse Orange on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. 

Bobby Petrino and the Cards are looking to move to 5-1 (3-1) on the season. Unlike many of Petrino's past teams, it is the defense that is carrying UL this season. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has worked wonders with this defensive unit, which ranks high in the NCAA in many defensive categories.

That defense figures to be tested tonight by a relentless rushing attack from the Orange. Led by dual-threat quarterback Terrel Hunt, Syracuse is averaging 232.5 yards on the ground through four games. After dropping consecutive games to Maryland and Notre Dame, the Orange (2-2) are hoping to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2011. 

I will be posting keys to the game as kickoff approaches, as well as my insight throughout the contest. Please join me for what has the makings of a great matchup. 

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Jordan Whitehead Commits to Pitt: Where Do PSU, OSU and WVU Turn Now?

Plenty of prognosticators projected coveted cornerback Jordan Whitehead to remain in his home state of Pennsylvania for college, but few predicted Pittsburgh as the preferred landing spot. He provided a slight surprise Friday afternoon, committing to the Panthers over Penn State, West Virginia and Ohio State during an announcement ceremony at Central Valley High School, per KDKA TV sports director Bob Pompeani:

The 6'0", 190-pound playmaker ranks among the Northeast's top defenders, establishing a reputation as an aggressive ball hawk in recent years. Whitehead has picked off 14 passes during his high school career, including three interceptions this season, per Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports.

Rated 20th nationally among cornerbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, he commanded offers from an expansive array of college programs. Scholarship opportunities arrived from Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Tennessee and several others.

His decision ultimately centered on a collection of four finalists, with Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State and West Virginia rising to the forefront.

The Nittany Lions were largely viewed as a favorite during the final stretch of his recruitment, commanding 59 percent of expert predictions in 247Sports' Crystal Ball. Penn State has picked up a multitude of top in-state talent en route to assembling the nation's eighth-ranked recruiting class in 247Sports' composite rankings.

Head coach James Franklin's haul includes homegrown 4-star cornerback John Reid, but work remains necessary to stockpile a defensive secondary slightly depleted by past scholarship sanctions. Penn State has several other possibilities on its radar, including in-state talent Jay Stocker, who attended camp in Happy Valley this summer, and current 5-star Alabama commit Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is teammates with Lions quarterback commit Brandon Wimbush.

Ohio State, which ranked second in Whitehead's 247Sports Crystal Ball projections, has done an efficient job filling holes at cornerback. In-state defender Eric Glover-Williams and Florida product Jamel Dean are both committed to the Buckeyes.

Urban Meyer and company hosted 5-star LSU pledge Kevin Toliver for an official visit weekend in September. 

West Virginia arguably needed Whitehead more than his other finalists, as the squad has frequently struggled to deal with explosive aerial attacks during its brief Big 12 tenure. The Mountaineers narrowly missed on highly recruited New Jersey cornerback Kareem Ali a few months ago and must again search elsewhere for a solution at the position.

Whitehead, who spent an official visit weekend in Morgantown last month, takes the team's most highly rated defensive back off the board, but there are other available options. Watch for West Virginia to further invest in the pursuits of Miami prospects Davante Davis and Sheldrick Redwine

The Mountaineers can take solace in the fact that former Florida State commit Tyrek Cole flipped to the team in September.


Recruit ratings and recruitment info courtesy of 247Sports.

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Marcus Mariota Deserves to Be Heisman Favorite After Loss vs. Arizona

Oregon's national championship aspirations may have hit a bump in the road with a home loss against Arizona on Thursday, but Marcus Mariota's Heisman campaign remains very much intact. 

The whole Heisman voting strategy, much like the one used for both MVP awards in baseball, is maddening and incredibly stupid. It's based more on narrative than actual validation of what a player did. 

If Florida State would have lost one regular-season game last year in which Jameis Winston still threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers, does that mean he wasn't the best player in the country because the rest of the team couldn't hold up its end of the bargain?

Mariota has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Ducks this season. The team has scored 29 offensive touchdowns this season, of which Mariota has been responsible for 19 (15 passing, three rushing, one receiving). He's one of only four FBS quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts and no interceptions, and his 15-0 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions is the best in the country. 

Before the Arizona game, Chantel Jennings of ESPN, in a debate with Edward Aschoff making the case for Todd Gurley, definitively declared Mariota the best player in the country:

As a quarterback, he has the highest passer efficiency rating in the nation. There are only 10 quarterbacks in the country who haven’t thrown a pick yet, and none of those signal-callers has thrown more than 10 touchdowns. Mariota has thrown 13. Then, look at his feet. He doesn’t even play running back but he still has about a third of Gurley’s rushing yardage and half the number of rushing touchdowns (Mariota: 214 yards, three touchdowns; Gurley: 610 yards, six touchdowns).

After the Arizona game ended with the Wildcats on top 31-24, no one was declaring Mariota's Heisman hopes dead, but people were using caveats to suggest why he could still win. Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated wrote that Mariota is lucky because of the timing:

Another problem that Mariota deals with is playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. Three of the original starting five before the season are hurt (Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher), and that has left a true freshman (Tyrell Crosby) and walk-on (Matt Pierson) starting games. 

It's also worth pointing out, as B/R's Matt Miller did on Twitter, that the talent around Mariota just isn't that good:

Despite a bad offensive line and not-great-talent around him, Mariota has still been the best quarterback in college football this season. Even in the loss, he was 20-of-32 for 276 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't his best game, by any stretch, but hardly one that should be condemned. 

It can, and should, be pointed out that Mariota was stripped of the football on the final drive when Oregon was looking to tie the game. If you want to talk about that moment, though, point out that he was scrambling again because of poor protection from the offensive line. 

If you want to say that Oregon was overrated, that's absolutely a valid point. The Ducks haven't been able to stop anyone of substance this season, allowing 89 points and 1,460 yards in three games against Michigan State, Washington State and Arizona. 

The schedule doesn't get any easier with UCLA next week and Stanford on November 1, but until Mariota actually plays a bad game and the Ducks lose directly because of him, don't try to say that his Heisman candidacy falls apart because the team around him isn't very good. 

There's only so much that a quarterback can do, especially when there's no protection or pocket to throw from. Oregon isn't a title contender based on what we've seen thus far. Mariota is the only thing that makes this team competitive, which only further validates his Heisman stock. 


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Marcus Mariota Deserves to Be Heisman Favorite After Loss vs. Arizona

Oregon's national championship aspirations may have hit a bump in the road with a home loss against Arizona on Thursday, but Marcus Mariota 's Heisman campaign remains very much intact...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

4-Star Penn State QB Commit Brandon Wimbush Set to Visit Notre Dame

The recruitment of coveted quarterback prospect Brandon Wimbush grows more complex this weekend as he heads to Notre Dame for an official visit. The 4-star Penn State pledge is expected to depart for South Bend on Friday and attend the team's game against Stanford, per Braulio Perez of

These plans were publicly unknown until Friday morning when St. Peter's Prep (New Jersey) head coach Rich Hansen revealed his senior standout's intentions. Wimbush, rated fourth nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks in 247Sports' composite rankings, committed to Penn State in May and serves as a catalyst for James Franklin's 2015 class. 

"Brandon Wimbush's game is smooth," 4-star Penn State wide receiver commit Juwan Johnson told me in June. "He has a strong arm and great football IQ. I would love to play with him."

The 6'2", 205-pound passer picked up a scholarship offer from Stanford in June after attending camp in Palo Alto. However, no major college football recruiting outlet currently lists him as holding a Notre Dame offer.

"Getting an offer from a school like Stanford means a lot," Wimbush told me at Elite 11 finals this summer. "It's definitely something to think about, but right now I'm fully committed to Penn State and doing whatever I can to help take things to another level in Happy Valley."

The element of his interest obviously adds intrigue to the visit, along with the fact that Notre Dame still doesn't have a quarterback in its 2015 recruiting class.

Blake Barnett, a 5-star California prospect, initially pledged to the Fighting Irish last November. He backed off that verbal pact this spring and shortly afterward switched allegiances to Alabama.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly could be tempted to pull the trigger on an offer to Wimbush this weekend. The prospect has impressed throughout his senior season and appears polished enough to compete for a starting role at the FBS level as an underclassman.

He is completing nearly 80 percent of pass attempts through four games this fall, including a 19-of-24 effort against Bergen Catholic in a Sept. 11 victory on national television. Wimbush has 1,187 passing yards and 15 total touchdowns through one month of action this season.


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

Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Win over Stanford Would Make Notre Dame True College Football Playoff Contenders

As Notre Dame prepares to host Stanford on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC), there’s a whole lot of optimism around South Bend.

And for good reason, as the Fighting Irish are 4-0, ranked No. 9 in the nation and have scored 30 points or more in each of their outings while yet to allow an opponent to top 17. Not to mention, Everett Golson is leading a dark-horse Heisman Trophy campaign, and the defense is finally living up to its billing.

Still, given Notre Dame’s level of competition—a combined 7-11 record—the team’s credibility as a College Football Playoff contender is up in the air.

A victory over a formidable Cardinal side could go a long way in changing that.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, as Stanford has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Irish in recent years. The Cardinal have won four of the last five meetings between the teams, including a 27-20 win last season in Palo Alto: 

Throw in the fact that Notre Dame is 0-4 against opponents ranked in the Top 20 since 2012, and it comes as no surprise that the team is largely considered the underdog even though it is ranked higher and playing at home.

But instead of casting a shadow over the Irish, all that doubt should only serve as the spark to ignite another national title run.

Let’s not forget that Notre Dame is an impressive 14-1 with Golson under center. Through four games in 2014, the senior appears poised to help the team return to the pinnacle of the sport, throwing for 1,142 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions on 69.5 percent passing while adding another 104 yards and four scores on 39 carries. He also recently set a school record, completing a ridiculous 25 consecutive passes against Syracuse last weekend.

If Golson wasn’t already considered a Heisman Trophy front-runner, exposing one of college football’s toughest defenses on Saturday could firmly place him in the pole position—Stanford ranks No. 1 in both total defense and scoring defense.

But the Irish defense will also look to grab the spotlight on Saturday.

Thus far, the unit has been solid, ranking No. 38 in total defense (343.8 yards per game) and No. 4 in scoring defense (11.5 points per game). The secondary has really stepped up, picking up seven interceptions—ranked No. 12 in the nation—and conceding just four touchdowns through the air.

Against a Cardinal offense that ranks No. 70 in total offense and No. 121 in the red zone, expect the Notre Dame defense to flex some muscle and gain some swagger.

Such confidence from both sides of the ball will be key, as the brunt of the schedule is still to come for the Irish. Four of the team’s final six contests will be on the road, including showdowns with No. 1 Florida State, No. 16 USC and Arizona State. 

But as tempting as looking down the road is, head coach Brian Kelly isn’t biting.

“We really focus on what we need to do to get better,” Kelly said, per The Associated Press, via “We turned the ball over. We gave up some big plays on the perimeter. We focus a lot more on that stuff than the bigger picture issues.”

Kelly may not be quick to say it, but we will: Win on Saturday, and there’s no denying Notre Dame its rightful moniker as a true College Football Playoff contender.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?


All stats, betting information and rankings used in this article are courtesy of and

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Twitter and via email at

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Notre Dame Football: The Importance of the Deep, Growing WR Corps

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Excuse Brian Kelly if he seems cautiously enthused about his wide receivers. Four games into Notre Dame football’s regular season, maybe Kelly simply can’t believe how well his receivers have played.

Asked Tuesday to assess the young group of receivers, Kelly tempered his praise.

“A third of the way, I think that they have made pretty good progress,” he said. “There’s a ways to go, but pretty good progress in the first third.”

Notre Dame entered the 2014 season without T.J. Jones and Troy Niklas, two of its top three pass-catchers from last year’s squad. The third, DaVaris Daniels, hasn’t played a snap this season. That left junior Chris Brown, he of the 17 career receptions, as Notre Dame’s most prolific returning receiver

But with Brown sputtering out of the gate (four catches in the first three games), Notre Dame still hardly missed a beat.


Will Fuller, sophomore
Career catches entering 2014: Six

Sophomore wide receiver Will Fuller has traded in his No. 15 jersey for the No. 7 previously worn by Jones, and he has played the part, too. The slender speedster has racked up 25 receptions for 344 yards and five touchdowns. He has at least 85 yards or six receptions in each game.

Kelly lit into Fuller after one effort against Syracuse on Saturday, a play in which Fuller came up shy of gaining the first down. The confidence, Kelly says, is still being cultivated.

“He's a young guy that is gaining confidence, and I just think he has a lot of ability that we're really trying to get him to think in those terms, really believe in himself,” Kelly said Sunday. “I believe in him, and I think, at times, I want him to carry himself in that fashion, that you get me the ball, I'm going to make plays.”


Amir Carlisle, senior
Career catches entering 2014: 14

In two-plus games, senior slot receiver Amir Carlisle posted 11 receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by his seven-catch, two-touchdown breakout night against Michigan.

Carlisle suffered an MCL injury against Purdue that forced him to miss last week’s win over the Orange, but Kelly said this week Carlisle has progressed “surprisingly very well.”

Carlisle has been nimble making grabs along the sidelines, and the former running back still has the ability to motion into the backfield for quick-hitting handoffs.


Corey Robinson, sophomore
Career catches entering 2014: Nine

With Carlisle out against Syracuse, sophomore receiver Corey Robinson shined on the perimeter, reeling in eight receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.

“A big part of Corey’s game tonight was his ability to be a complete wide receiver,” Kelly said Saturday night after the win.

Robinson’s matchup ability in the red zone is well known, but he showed a different side of his game last week.

“He caught six passes on the perimeter where he had to turn back that big body, catch it with a cast on and then run after the catch through traffic,” Kelly said. “That says a lot about his development as a complete wide receiver, so I think tonight was a big night for him.”


Trending Upward

The Irish receiving corps is in the process of melding those young, high-upside players with various skill sets into one reliable group for quarterback Everett Golson.

“I think it's a group that is gaining confidence along the way,” Kelly said. “They are making some plays, and I think as you make plays, I've always felt that that's how you gain confidence.”

In addition to Fuller’s downfield ability, Robinson’s red-zone presence and Carlisle’s sudden sure-handedness, Brown, junior C.J. Prosise and sophomore Torii Hunter Jr. have also contributed.

“Now we're starting to develop some real pieces within that wide receiver corps that we can develop because these are all new guys for us,” Kelly said. “They're going to be around for a while. ... So we're starting to develop some consistency with that group.”

Prosise and Fuller, in particular, also drew praise from Kelly this week for their blocking prowess. Notre Dame dinked and dunked around Syracuse’s three-down pressures and exotic looks by utilizing the screen game. Small bit plays for Notre Dame-bred scoring drives.

But Kelly will need the receivers to evolve again Saturday against Stanford. Boasting the nation’s top-ranked defense, Stanford has only surrendered four plays of 20 or more yards this season—second-fewest in the FBS. Whether it’s blocking on the perimeter for Notre Dame’s yet-to-emerge ground attack or streaking downfield themselves, the Irish wide receivers will be needed for big plays.

“We won't win if we don't get big chunk plays,” Kelly said. “We are not going to go five, seven, 10 yards and score enough points to win. No, we'll have to find our chances. We'll have to create opportunities, and we'll have to make some plays down the field, there's no question.”

Four games into the season, Notre Dame’s receivers appear poised to do so.


All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Ole Miss Fans Rush the Grove to Secure Tailgating Spots

No. 11 Ole Miss will host No. 3 Alabama this weekend, and as you’d expect, Rebels fans are already losing their sweet minds.

In a week sprinkled with trash talk and rising expectations, the Ole Miss faithful are quite literally already rushing fields in anticipation of the game.

Vine user Jim Weber brings us footage of the scene in Oxford, Mississippi, on Friday morning. Rebels fans who had waited through the night were unleashed on the Grove to grab their tailgating plots, and like the stampede that ended Mufasa, they spilled past security personnel with terrifying ferocity.

Not since the California Gold Rush has America seen such a greedy and vigorous grab for land. If Dawn of the Dead zombies fed on Natural Light, the film would’ve started with this scene.

Way to show off those wheels, pledges and assorted Ole Miss bros. Enjoy the next 24 hours of sitting, waiting and delivering food to your pledge brothers in the tents.


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