NCAA Football

Miami Football: 5 Corrections Hurricanes Must Make Against Florida A&M

The Miami Hurricanes have plenty to correct after the 2014 season opener, despite the sample size being admittedly small. Florida A&M enters Sun Life Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 6, so "The U" doesn't have much time to prepare.

Superior teams can sometimes win on talent alone, which is certainly the case for this coming Saturday. Miami is expected to rout the Rattlers, but the final box score may not be indicative of the way Al Golden's team truly performs.

While first-game nerves contributed to mistakes in Kentucky, Miami needs to correct its early problems before future ACC play.

Fortunately, the meeting with Florida A&M provides the 'Canes an excellent opportunity to recover from a disappointing performance at Louisville.

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Trey DePriest's Return Is the Spark Alabama's Defense Needs

Alabama's defense didn't exactly look like itself on Saturday afternoon in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against West Virginia when the Crimson Tide gave up 365 yards through the air in a 33-23 win over the Mountaineers.

The absence of senior linebacker Trey DePriest was a big reason why.

DePriest sat out the opener with what head coach Nick Saban termed a "minor NCAA infraction," and the absence of the quarterback of the defense caused confusion in the back end of the unit.

"We made a lot of errors," Saban said after the game. "When you have leadership out there, you know, a guy who calls the defenses and everybody's really confident in the call that they're making and directing the whole thing just like a quarterback. We didn't have that in this game. We didn't have anybody who's every played before."

Saban announced on Wednesday that the quarterback of his defense is back.

"He's back on the team," Saban said on the SEC coaches teleconference. "He wasn't suspended by me, so he made a mistake, he paid for it, and he's available to play. And we're looking forward to him having the opportunity to play and hopefully affect our team in a positive way as well as him performing like he's capable of."

That's big news for the Crimson Tide because while inconsistency in the secondary was the most glaring issue for the defense on Saturday, Saban consistently brought up the absence of a leader on defense in the postgame press conference when discussing what the problem was.

DePriest finished third on the team last season with 65 tackles and was being counted on to fill the leadership role vacated by superstar C.J. Mosley, who exhausted his eligibility after last season.

Assuming DePriest is healthy—he has been dealing with a minor knee injury during fall camp—the confusion that reigned supreme on Saturday won't be there this weekend when the Crimson Tide host Florida Atlantic in the home opener in Tuscaloosa.

Will the execution be there, though?

DePreist's return is coupled with the possibility of cornerback Eddie Jackson moving into the starting lineup in favor of Bradley Sylve, who was picked on by the Mountaineers. Jackson practiced with the first team opposite Cyrus Jones on Tuesday, according to AL.com, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll start this week.

"He has practiced, he has done well, and I feel like we'll play him some in this game in some kind of way trying to ease him back into what he has to do to become a player at his position, which he's totally capable of," Saban said on Wednesday. "A very good player who we're anxious to get back in the lineup, but certainly not at the expense of putting him at any risk."

Whether the secondary issues are fixed or not, getting DePriest back is a huge boost for the Tide. Saban specifically referenced the importance of having a veteran linebacker making the calls against today's exotic offenses, which are prevalent on the schedule.

Alabama's next four opponents run some variation of the spread. Florida Atlantic is veering more toward a run-based spread, Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken's offense thrives with tempo, Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was brought in specifically to pick up the pace, and Ole Miss has been playing "fastball" since Hugh Freeze was hired prior to the 2012 season.

The quarterback of the defense is back, and if all goes according to plan, DePriest will bring some stability to the Crimson Tide prior to the start of the SEC schedule.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

 

 

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Grading the Top 5 College Football Offenses Heading into Week 2

Typically, Week 1 is a cupcake-fest for the best teams in college football, allowing the top offenses to post numbers that (even by their standards) seem a little over-the-top.

This year, however, four of the five best projected offenses in the country (per the F/+ projections at Football Outsiders) matched up with an FBS opponent, three matched up with a power-conference opponent and one even matched up with a ranked opponent.

This allowed a better early look than usual at the state of the nation's top offenses, an assessment of how quickly they've come together. And the one that was toughest to gauge because it didn't play an FBS opponent (Oregon) will provide us the best glance of all when it hosts Michigan State this Saturday.

The season is still in its infant stages, and every unit has places where it can (and probably will) improve, but based on a fairly telling slate of Week 1 games, here is how the top projected offenses grade out. 

 

A Note About the Five Offenses Included (and the Countless Offenses Not)

One quick reminder before we proceed. 

The offenses graded below were projected as the top five offenses in the country before the season, per the F/+ projections at Football Outsiders. We are grading how they performed relative to preseason expectations. We are NOT grading the five most impressive offenses from the first week of the year.

The reason for doing it this way is simple: The five most impressive offenses from the first week of the year would inherently grade out well. This whole list would be A's and (more likely) A-pluses. It would be like grading the five highest-grossing movies of 2013 based on how high-grossing they were. It wouldn't make any sense.

Please bear this in mind before you take to the comments section and complain about your team's exclusion. It's not because we don't like your team or think its offense is overrated. It just didn't fall within the framework of this article.

 

 

5. Alabama Crimson Tide

Points per Game: 33.0 (60th)

Yards per Game: 538.0 (30th)

Yards per Play: 6.56 (46th)

Blake Sims got the start and threw 8.2 solid innings against West Virginia, giving way to Jake Coker for the final out. His final stat line (24-of-33 passing, 250 yards, no touchdowns, one interception; six carries for 42 rushing yards) paints a fair depiction of his performance: solid but unspectacular.

Alabama doesn't need anything more than "solid but unspectacular," however, which is ostensibly why Sims got the start. You'd like to see him eliminate plunging ducks such as this first-quarter pass to DeAndrew White, but for the most part, his job is just not to screw up.

To call an Alabama quarterback a "game manager" is reductive, but it's not altogether untrue. Especially with champion-of-the-bubble-screen Lane Kiffin at offensive coordinator, a big part of Sims' job on Saturday was getting the ball into his playmakers' hands early and watching them go.

Here, for example, is the first offensive snap of the season: a 24-yard gain on a quick pass to Amari Cooper:

One of Sims' other major jobs was even simpler than throwing bubble screens: handing the ball off to T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry.

I ranked Alabama's running backs the top position group in the country before the season, and its two bell-cows did nothing to confute that in Week 1. Each back rushed for more than 110 yards, averaged more than five yards per carry and found the end zone at least once.

Alabama was certainly one of the biggest disappointments of Week 1, but more of that had to do with the secondary than the offense. Sims was underwhelming compared to late-period AJ McCarron, but he was no worse than early-period McCarron or all-periods Greg McElroy. The offense still posted 538 yards and averaged more than 6.5 yards per play against a defense that was underrated when healthy in 2013.

According to Marc Torrence of Bleacher Report, head coach Nick Saban said he still doesn't "hesitate to say that there’s a quarterback competition," which is fine given some of the reviews we've heard on Coker. There's a chance he can bring this offense to a new level; he certainly has the rocket arm to stretch the field.

If Sims remains the starter, though, it shouldn't be cause for panic in Tuscaloosa, at least based on what he showed in Week 1. This was a solid B-plus debut for him and Kiffin's Alabama offense.

Final Grade: B+

 

4. Florida State Seminoles

Points per Game: 37.0 (51st)

Yards per Game: 479.0 (49th)

Yards per Play: 6.70 (38th)

Jameis Winston was the Heisman Trophy winner, Kelvin Benjamin was the first-round NFL draft pick and Devonta Freeman is the Year 1 NFL fantasy sleeper, but the true heart and soul of Florida State's offense last year was the lineman, not the skill players.

The group was supposed to be even better in 2014, despite the loss of perhaps its best player, center Bryan Stork. The other four starters returned—as seniors—and a game-worn senior in Austin Barron was replacing Stork up the middle. Tackle Cameron Erving and guard Tre' Jackson were supposed to be All-America candidates.

All of which made what happened against Oklahoma State disconcerting. We'll have to see how the Cowboys' front seven looks against other opponents, but for one night, it made the Seminoles' big uglies look bad. Especially in the running game, where Florida State averaged just 3.42 yards per carry, they were outmuscled.

"On run blocking, I don’t think we were as physical as we needed to be," admitted head coach Jimbo Fisher, per Brendan Sonnonoe of the Orlando Sentinel, "And I think they will say the same thing. We played well enough to create space and make plays, but not up to our potential."

In the passing game, Winston looked alright for the most part but made a few uncharacteristic mistakes. His QB rating of 138.45 was the second-lowest of his career, leading only his second-most-recent game, the BCS National Championship against Auburn.

The pair of interceptions Winston threw were particularly jarring, both coming as the result of a poor decision. In 2013, he didn't throw his second interception until his 91st attempt of the season.

This year, he threw it on attempt No. 22:

The biggest bright spot for the Seminoles was wide receiver Rashad Greene, who is a safe bet to the lead the team in receiving for a fourth consecutive season. His 11 catches for 203 yards bailed FSU out of a tight spot, especially during the fourth quarter, when he took a tightly threaded pass 50 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.

Without Benjamin and Kenny Shaw on the roster, Winston looked Greene's way even more often than usual, which is cause for concern going forward. Along with dominant offensive line play, last year's offense was so good because of balance, because opponents didn't know who to defend. It could beat you in so many different ways.

This year's offense looks a little more predictable, or at least it does after one game. Tight end Nick O'Leary needs to become a bigger part of the passing game plan, and freshman receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane need to expedite their game-readiness.

Otherwise, the 'Noles might be in trouble.

Grade: C+

 

3. Baylor Bears

Points per Game: 45.0 (26th)

Yards per Game: 574.0 (17th)

Yards per Play: 5.92 (62nd)

It's difficult to give Baylor a complete offensive grade after quarterback Bryce Petty, the second-most efficient passer in the country last season, was forced to leave the game with a back injury.

According to Shehan Jeyarajah of The Dallas Morning NewsPetty plans to play against Northwestern State in Week 2, and even if he doesn't, the injury (two cracked transverse processes in his lower back) is not one that should jeopardize his season, so there's no cause for serious panic in Waco. Nonetheless, watching their star player leave the game in the first half was not how Baylor fans had hoped to open McLane Stadium.

Before Petty was forced to the locker room, he was 13-of-23 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The Bears didn't get out to the same indomitable start as they did in last year's nonconference games, but once they got rolling, they looked sharp.

Petty's 46-yard touchdown pass to 5-star freshman KD Cannon, in particular, was something to feel good about: 

Seth Russell looked decent—not great, not awful—in relief of Petty, and the running game flashed its depth by giving 16 carries to Shock Linwood and 12 to Johnny Jefferson. Neither back topped the 90-yard mark, but once Petty returns to the lineup to keep defenses more honest against the pass, they should find more room to run.

Baylor was by no means the juggernaut we saw against Louisiana-Monroe and Buffalo last season, which is reflected in its sub-six yards per play, but that it still put up 574 yards of offense on a night where it didn't fire on all cylinders is good enough to salvage a B.

With room to improve going forward—not to mention a defense that earned an A-plus-plus on opening night—the Bears still have to feel great about their prospects in 2014.

Grade: B

 

2. Oregon Ducks

Points per Game: 62.0 (3rd)

Yards per Game: 673.0 (7th)

Yards per Play: 9.61 (3rd)

Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com put it best on the Eye on College Football podcast this weekend, referring to what Oregon does to inferior teams in the first few weeks of a season as "empty calories."

Delicious as it looks to rank in the top eight of points per game, yards per game and yards per play, the Ducks get no substance from beating up on the likes of South Dakota. It comes sizzling out of the kitchen, but there's not enough nutrition in those numbers for an offensive reputation to subsist upon.

Sensible judgement on Oregon's offense will be withheld until after Week 2, when it hosts a formidable, Pat Narduzzi-coached Michigan State defense, but for now, based on what we have to work with, this unit looks just as good as one would expect. Marcus Mariota coasted to 310 offensive yards on 20 passes and six carries, looking healthy and confident on the left knee that ailed him last year.

The most important takeaway from Saturday's win was the utilization of Byron Marshall, last year's leading rusher, in the role of a "taser" hybrid. After Bralon Addison tore his ACL during spring camp, the Ducks were left dangerously thin at receiver, but with Thomas Tyner (a sophomore) and Royce Freeman (a freshman) appearing to be the future in the backfield, they had running back depth to spare.

And this was their decision on what to do with it:

The role Marshall occupied in Week 1 was similar to the one De'Anthony Thomas occupied the past few seasons, and although their skill sets are not completely congruent, it should be interesting to see how he fares in that role against Michigan State on Saturday.

Chris Brown of Grantland published a thorough breakdown of the Spartans defense Tuesday, highlighting their adherence to one basic set, the 4-3 Over, a man-zone hybrid that relies on linebackers to cover the middle of the field against inside receivers and running backs.

If Marshall looks as good flexed out wide against the Spartans as he did in the tuneup (which he finished with eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns) and the offensive line can overcome not having left tackle Tyler Johnstone (torn ACL), Oregon might be able to give Michigan State a rare bout of trouble.

Based on what we saw in Week 1, there is no reason to think that it can't…but what we saw in Week 1 was admittedly not much.

Grade: A (but incomplete)

 

1. Texas A&M Aggies

Points per Game: 52.0 (15th)

Yards per Game: 680 (6th)

Yards per Play: 6.87 (32nd)

Texas A&M was bar-none the biggest story of opening weekend, obliterating South Carolina for 680 yards of total offense and 52 points in Williams-Brice Stadium, and doing it on national TV.

For adherents of the F/+ ratings, however, that did not come as a total surprise. Despite the losses of quarterback Johnny Manziel, receiver Mike Evans and left tackle Jake Matthews (all first-round picks in the 2014 NFL draft), the system at Football Outsiders projected the Aggies as the top offense in college football.

But not even F/+ could have predicted the magnitude of A&M's success. Quarterback Kenny Hill completed 44 of 60 passes, a wide array of throws at every level of the field, and finished with more passing yards (511) than Manziel had in any single game of his career.

Hill was (and is) just as light as Manziel on his feet, but unlike his forerunner, he doesn't look to tuck and run as soon as he leaves the pocket. He extends the play rather than transmuting it, keeping his eyes downfield for open receivers on broken/adjusted routes:

In this regard, Hill might be the perfect quarterback for a Texas A&M team with myriad pass-catching options.

Senior Malcome Kennedy is a savvy route-runner with an advanced understanding of Kevin Sumlin's offense, Speedy Noil was a top-10 recruit in 2014 and projects as the ideal shifty slot weapon and Ricky Seals-Jones (6'6"), Edward Pope (6'4"), Josh Reynolds (6'4") and Cameron Clear (6'6") are football players in basketball players' bodies who are always technically open (sort of) thanks to their physical gifts.

Combine all this with the rest of A&M's offensive weapons, and you have a unit that deserves to be called the best in the country. Especially in the trenches, this did not look like a one-game fluke.

Cedric Ogbuehi looked just as good as Luke Joeckel and Matthews at left tackle, and Germain Ifedi looked just as good as Matthews and Ogbuehi on the right. Matthews' younger brother, Mike, is no slouch starting at center, the position their father, Bruce, enjoyed a Hall of Fame career playing in the NFL.

Save the inexperience, there is nothing not to like about this offense. And if inexperience were ever going to be a problem, one would think a prime-time road game in Week 1 against a Top 10 team would be the framework that exposes it, right?

Suffice it to say that wasn't the case.

Grade: A+

 

Note: Recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT

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Cody Kessler Injury: Updates on USC QB's Toe and Recovery

USC starting quarterback Cody Kessler will not let a foot injury prevent him from playing in one of the biggest games of the season.      

According to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, the junior missed practice on Tuesday as he was "treated for an infection." Head coach Steve Sarkisian explained the issue to reporters:

He had a deal with his toe that had been bothering him throughout the ballgame. We felt like we wanted to take care of it sooner rather than later. 

This morning was the first chance we could to have a procedure done to get it, in our opinion, cleaned up.... It obviously didn't affect his play Saturday.

Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com notes the quarterback was ready to compete on Wednesday.

Kessler is coming off one of the best games of his career in Week 1, totaling 394 passing yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He also added 28 rushing yards and another touchdown on the ground in the 52-13 win over Fresno State.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports points out this game had a big effect on his Heisman potential:

However, things will be much tougher against No. 13 Stanford and the defense that shut out UC Davis 45-0 in the Cardinal's first game. While it is obviously still early in the year, this is an important battle that could easily be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

The Trojans will certainly hope Kessler is 100 percent for the first conference game of the season. Otherwise, freshman Max Browne will be asked to take over the role after going 3-of-4 for 30 yards in his first appearance on Saturday.

 

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

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Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Odds: Analysis, Prediction

It wasn't exactly pretty, but Ohio State got by Navy in its season opener and even got lucky with a cover as 14-point favorites.

This week, the Buckeyes are favored by almost two touchdowns again, this time for an ACC/Big Ten showdown with Virginia Tech on Saturday night at the Horseshoe in Columbus.

 

Point spread: Buckeyes opened as 12-point favorites; the total was 47 in midweek wagering at Ohio Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 32.9-27.5 Buckeyes

 

Why the Virginia Tech Hokies can cover the spread

The Hokies opened their season last Saturday with a 34-9 victory over William & Mary. Tech led 17-6 at the half and 27-9 after three quarters, outgained the Tribe 488-193, held the ball for almost 33 minutes and covered the spread as 23-point favorites.

Junior quarterback Michael Brewer, making his first college start, completed 23 of 30 throws for 251 yards, complimenting a Hokies ground attack that accounted for 222 yards. Virginia Tech returned 14 starters this year, nine on offense, including four along the offensive line.

Finally, the Hokies were dogged on the road twice last year; they won both those games outright.

 

Why the Ohio State Buckeyes can cover the spread

The Buckeyes outlasted the Midshipmen last Saturday in Baltimore 34-17, scoring two late touchdowns to cover as two-touchdown chalk.

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, playing in place of the injured Braxton Miller, hit on 12 of 15 throws for 226 yards and led the team in rushing with 50 yards. Ohio State has won 24 of its last 26 games outright, including 15 in a row at home.

The Buckeyes only returned four starters on offense this season but seven on defense, including the entire front four.

Ohio State is constantly battling big point spreads, and it's still managed to go 6-4 against the spread the last 10 times it's been favored by two touchdowns or more.

 

Smart Pick

Barrett played well in his debut, but losing Miller is still huge. If he were playing in this game, Ohio State would probably be favored by 20 points.

But he's not, so this becomes a matchup of two quarterbacks with a combined two collegiate starts going against what should be two pretty good defenses. Points may be hard to come by, so the pick for this one is with the points and the underdog.

 

Trends

  • Virginia Tech is 2-10 ATS in its last 12 games on the road.
  • Ohio State is 23-2 straight up in its last 25 games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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Can Eddie Jackson's Return Be Shot in Arm Alabama's Secondary Needs?

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  — It looks like Alabama will be getting a remedy for the secondary blues that crept up in the Crimson Tide’s opener against West Virginia.

Cornerback Eddie Jackson, who sustained a torn ACL in the spring, has made a faster recovery than most expected and will get his first bit of playing time since injuring his knee in a spring scrimmage.

“He has practiced and he has done well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on the SEC teleconference Wednesday. “I feel like we'll play him some in this game, some kind of way, trying to ease him back into what he has to do to become a player at his position, which I think he's totally capable of and a very good player that we're anxious to get back in the lineup, but certainly not at the expense of putting him in any risk.

“From a medical standpoint, he's been cleared. So now we're sort of working him into it, and he's looked pretty good.”

His practice reps would seem to indicate that, too.

During Tuesday’s media viewing period, Jackson worked with the first-team at cornerback in nickel drills, taking Bradley Sylve’s spot opposite Cyrus Jones.

“I think Eddie has done a great job getting the rehab and working hard to get better,” Jones said on Monday. “I don’t really know too much about where he is physically, but if he says he’s ready, I guess he is.”

Jackson’s return to the Alabama defense is a shot in the arm for a Crimson Tide secondary that got beat up against the Mountaineers and got even more bad news this week.

Sylve was the main culprit on the back end for Alabama. He was frequently in coverage against West Virginia’s Kevin White, who caught nine balls for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Sylve actually had good positioning on White most of the time, but his errors were in technique, like not playing the ball on the fade route for a touchdown or missing open-field tackles.

“He's coached to play the ball, he's capable of playing the ball, he didn't play the ball,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “That's poise and confidence. He's supposed to look for the ball and play the ball.”

If Jackson does take Sylve’s place at corner, like his practice reps indicated, it will be a welcome upgrade in several departments.

Jackson wasn’t perfect by any stretch as a freshman in 2013. His high point came against Ole Miss, when he read a wide receiver pass and picked off Laquon Treadwell. But he struggled with consistency, and his playing time was limited.

In the spring, Saban praised Jackson, calling him “probably our best corner, most consistent” before his injury.

He also gives Alabama a big-bodied presence. At 6’0”, 188 pounds, he’s more equipped to handle big SEC receivers than the smaller Sylve. And he can pack a punch, as he also showed in that Ole Miss game.

Jackson’s return will also help, somewhat, to mask an injury that hurts Alabama’s secondary.

Safety Jarrick Williams, a glue guy and veteran for Alabama on the back end who plays in nickel and dime situations, will miss at least four weeks with a foot fracture, according to Saban. Geno Smith likely steps into his role at Star, with a number of younger options at Money when Alabama goes with six defensive backs.

Throwing more inexperience into the mix was the last thing Alabama needed in the secondary. But getting Eddie Jackson back will help to mask some of that and is another step toward getting the defense back on track.

 

Marc Torrence is the Alabama lead writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats come from CFBStats. All recruiting information comes from 247Sports.

Follow on Twitter @marctorrence.

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Southern Cal Trojans vs. Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Both the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal are coming off impressive season-opening wins, but each will face a serious test in an early Pac-12 battle that could go a long way in determining who eventually wins the conference title.

Even though the Oregon Ducks and UCLA Bruins were preseason favorites to win their respective divisions, USC and Stanford are also right in the mix, making this matchup even more important early on.

 

Point spread: The Cardinal opened as four-point favorites; the total was 55 at Stanford Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 27.1-23.5 Cardinal

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans can cover the spread

The Trojans could not have looked much better than they did in a 52-13 rout of Fresno State last week, with quarterback Cody Kessler completing 25-of-37 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns and running back Javorius Allen rushing for 133 yards on 22 carries with one score.

That offensive balance is exactly what new head coach Steve Sarkisian was hoping for, and his defense also played very well with four interceptions. All this in the aftermath of USC cornerback Josh Shaw’s indefinite suspension for lying about rescuing his nephew, showing the team was able to rally round the controversy and show team unity together on the football field.

That’s a great sign for Sarkisian, whose Trojans have now covered the spread in six of their last eight games dating back to last season with a 7-1 straight-up mark during that stretch.

 

Why the Stanford Cardinal can cover the spread

The Cardinal routed UC-Davis 45-0 in its season opener. It may not have played the same level of competition as USC, but Stanford still turned in an outstanding all-around effort.

Stanford led 38-0 at halftime with QB Kevin Hogan throwing for 204 yards in the first two quarters while RBs Kelsey Young and Barry Sanders Jr. combined for 80 rushing yards on 14 carries.

The Cardinal enter this game against the Trojans with a lot of confidence against them, knowing Stanford has won four of the last five meetings SU with a 5-2 ATS record in their past seven matchups. Stanford is also 18-1 SU in its last 19 home games and will be out for revenge after losing at USC 20-17 as a 3.5-point favorite last year.

The Cardinal finished a perfect 7-0 SU at home last season, including big wins against UCLA (24-10) and Oregon (26-20).

 

Smart Pick

Bettors will find out just how good these Pac-12 teams are when they face each other, as both were able to rest starters last week to get ready for this showdown in Palo Alto.

The Trojans have won four of the last six meetings there with only one bad game in their past eight overall, including that home victory last season vs. Stanford. Kessler is the better QB of the two and played like it in winning last year, throwing for 288 yards and one touchdown.

Hogan struggled with 127 yards and two interceptions, and former RB Tyler Gaffney (158 yards and two TDs) was the only reason Stanford was able to hang in there. With Gaffney gone, the Cardinal’s inexperience in the offensive backfield will be a concern and show in a rare home loss.

 

Trends:

  • Stanford is 18-1 SU in its last 19 games at home.
  • Southern Cal is 3-10 ATS in its last 13 games on the road.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Southern Cal Trojans vs. Stanford Cardinal Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Both the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal are coming off impressive season-opening wins, but each will face a serious test in an early Pac -12 battle that could go a long way in determining who eventually wins the conference title...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCLA Football: Quiet Jim Mora Means Bruins Must Make Statement on Field

Apparently, UCLA head coach Jim Mora is opting to let his team's performance do the talking in Week 2. 

Coming off a 28-20 win at Virginia Saturday in which the 11th-ranked Bruins scored only one offensive touchdown, Mora's answers on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference call Tuesday were short and broad. 

On the team's attitude: "Great. Feeling good."

On changing anything in the offensive line's preparation: "No, just [practicing] our normal stuff." 

On concerns about the offensive line: "I'm concerned about everything. I'm concerned about every position on our team. We've just, as a team, got to get better every day." 

On defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa building off his Week 1 performance: "We take it one day at a time."  

Mora does not need to make bold proclamations about his team in preparation—others have taken care of that.

Media at large did an about-face on UCLA after just one game. The trendy national championship pick plummeted four spots in the most recent Associated Press Top 25. For context, consider that UCLA fell as many places in a road win as Wisconsin dropped in a neutral field loss.

It isn't just media making superlative statements about UCLA's Week 1 showing, however.

After quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked five times and under constant duress at Virginia, Bruins offensive line coach Adrian Klemm told Everett Cook of the Los Angeles Times the front five's performance ranked among the worst he's ever experienced. 

Justin Fuente will be on the sideline opposite Mora and his staff this week in the Rose Bowl. The Memphis head coach had much more to say about UCLA's offense than the Bruins head coach.

"Offensively they provide plenty of problems and will continue to improve," Fuente said in his weekly press conference, via GoTigersGo.com. "I don't think they're over there freaking out or panicking about their offense.

"They'll score plenty of points over the season," he added.

Fuente would obviously prefer the Bruins offense not come to life Saturday. His team's talented defensive line, led by American Athletic All-Conference selection and NFL draft prospect Martin Ifedi, will do what it can against an injury-plagued offensive line.

UCLA was without starters Jake Brendel at center and Simon Goines at right tackle against Virginia. Their statuses are unclear.   

Mora told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News that last week was UCLA's first game in Mora's three-year tenure without Brendel starting at center. It showed, as Virginia exploited the matchup problem the Bruins faced lining up sophomore Scott Quessenberry at center with frequent blitzes up the middle. 

UCLA countered in the second half with Hundley taking off on designed runs. Running back Paul Perkins also injected some life into the ground game, getting 13 of his team-high 16 carries after intermission per UCLABruins.com.

At five yards per carry, Perkins was much more effective than Jordon James, who mustered just three yards on five rushes.

Establishing an effective run game early is critical if the Bruins are to alleviate some of the pressure on Hundley. 

In the first quarter last week, UCLA ran just five times for 25 yards. Take away Perkins' runs of four and 18 yards just before the end of the period, and the Bruins managed all of three yards on three carries. 

That ineffectiveness on the ground allowed Virginia to blitz more aggressively. Expect offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to turn to Perkins much earlier this week. 

Meanwhile, overshadowed in the critiques of the UCLA offense is the performance of its defense. 

One of the three Bruins defenders to get into the end zone was redshirt senior Eric Kendricks. Despite finishing as UCLA's leading tackler, Kendricks' 2013 was cut short by an ankle injury that required surgery.

In addition to his 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, Kendricks notched a career-high 16 tackles en route to earning both Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and the Football Writers Association of America Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors. 

Another Bruin making his first appearance since an injury, Odighizuwa, did not appear to miss a beat despite a 20-month layoff from game action. 

"Those guys you mentioned," Mora said when I asked him about Kendricks and Odighizuwa, "They're our two defensive captains. When your best players are playing well, that's a good thing for you." 

Myles Jack was also impressive, playing exclusively at linebacker and racking up 13 tackles and two pass breakups. 

Memphis hung 63 points on an overmatched Austin Peay in Week 1. How indicative that performance is of an offensive renaissance for the Tigers remains to be seen—the Governors ranked No. 113 among Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense at 39.7 points per game as season ago, via NCAA.org

The Bruins defense will test Memphis from the outset and give the UCLA offense a sizable cushion with which to operate. 

Capitalizing with a few early touchdowns on the other end will speak volumes for UCLA—even if its coach isn't saying much. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com unless otherwise noted. 

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UCLA Football: Quiet Jim Mora Means Bruins Must Make Statement on Field

Apparently, UCLA head coach Jim Mora is opting to let his team's performance do the talking in Week 2. Coming off a 28-20 win at Virginia Saturday in which the 11th-ranked Bruins ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Boston College Eagles Betting Odds, Analysis, Prediction

Former Big East conference rivals renew acquaintances when Boston College and Pitt meet for the first time as ACC rivals Friday night up in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

The Eagles are on a good home run, going 5-1 both straight-up and against the spread over their last six games at Alumni Stadium, and they've covered their last four games as home dogs. Can they continue that run against the Panthers?

Point spread: BC Eagles opened as one-point favorites but are now four-point underdogs; the total was 49 at Alumni Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.

Odds Shark computer prediction: 30.2-24.2 Panthers

 

Why the Pittsburgh Panthers can cover the spread

The Panthers opened their season with a 62-0 whitewash of Delaware, easily covering the spread as 24-point chalk. Pitt led 21-0 after one quarter and 42-0 at halftime, and it ended up outgaining the Blue Hens 501-57.

The Panthers have 13 starters back this season, including last year's top two rushers, leading receiver, four along the offensive line and three of last year's top four tacklers.

Pitt went just 2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS on the road last season, but those numbers are slightly misleading considering the Panthers missed the cover by two points at Duke, by four points at Virginia Tech and by two points at Georgia Tech.

 

Why the Boston College Eagles can cover the spread

The Eagles opened this season with a 30-7 victory at Massachusetts, covering the spread as 17-point favorites. BC started slowly, only leading 6-0 at the half, but pulled away in the second half for the win.

The Eagles outgained the Minutemen 511-202, ran 61 times for 338 yards, held the ball for over 42 minutes and would have pitched a shutout if not for a 77-yard UMass touchdown pass late in the third quarter.

Senior QB Tyler Murphy, a transfer from Florida, had a good debut for BC, hitting on 17 of 24 throws for 173 yards and a score and running for 118 yards and another score.

 

Smart Pick

This looks like it should be a very close game. BC might have an advantage at quarterback, but the Panthers have an edge up front. The Eagles only return nine starters, fewest in the ACC, but have been tough at home recently while Pitt has more returning talent but has struggled on the road.

In the end, this game might come down to a field goal and, if that's the case, the smart money would be with the home dog.

 

Trends:

  • Pittsburgh is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games
  • Boston College is 1-4 SU in its last five games when playing Pittsburgh

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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Ohio State Football: Unanswered Questions Heading into Virginia Tech Showdown

After quickly reviewing it for effort and basic execution, Urban Meyer did something with the defensive game tape from Ohio State's season opener against Navy that the Buckeyes' obsessive head coach doesn't typically do.

He threw it out.

Because while the Midshipmen may have rushed for 370 yards in the 34-17 Ohio State victory, the reality is that Navy's success with the triple-option raised a headache more than it did a red flag for Meyer and the Buckeyes. There will be no carryover defensively for Ohio State from last weekend to the next—or any other this season—making the game film exceptionally expendable for Meyer.

"You don't take much from that," Meyer said. "I didn't see a lot of missed tackles. I saw a couple of execution errors on a new play they put in. First game of the season, those things happen. I'm not concerned about that."

The still virtually unknown status of the Buckeyes' revamped defense is just one of many reasons why this weekend's showdown with Virginia Tech will serve as Ohio State's de facto season opener. The Buckeyes left Baltimore with a win—but also several unanswered questions, chief among them being where Ohio State's pass defense stands at the start of the 2014 season.

What follows is the top three unanswered questions that the Buckeyes still face, heading into their prime-time matchup with the Hokies this weekend.

 

Unanswered Question 1: How improved will the Silver Bullets be?

Perhaps the largest question that loomed in Columbus in the long eight months following last season's Orange Bowl, Ohio State fans have been anxious to see how the Buckeyes will bounce back from a 2013 that saw them rank 118th (out of 125) teams in passing yards allowed per game.

In replacing Everett Withers as Ohio State's co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, Chris Ash has been tasked with overhauling what was a poor (and that may be kind) Buckeyes pass defense a year ago. Since arriving in January, Ash has implemented a quarters coverage system that places an emphasis on press coverage—a system that stifled Ohio State in 2012 when Ash was Wisconsin's defensive coordinator.

And while the Buckeyes' new defense drew rave reviews from Meyer in the offseason, its debut was put on delay against a Navy team that attempted just four passes in the season opener. That only left the Ohio State head coach even more anxious to see how his defense will play this Saturday, when it gets its first look at a conventional offense this season.

"[I'm] real curious. We have to shift gears," Meyer said of his defense on Monday. "Getting ready for that game is tough enough. It's just now you have to go back to pass defense that's brand new. So we actually started in earnest yesterday on the field. We usually we don't do much on Sunday. Yesterday we did, getting back to seeing if we improved our pass defense."

Meyer should get a pretty good answer on Saturday when his team goes up against a Hokies squad that attempted 31 passes in its season-opening win over William & Mary. VT starting quarterback Michael Brewer completed 23 of his 30 attempts for 251 yards and two touchdowns, a far cry from the 2-for-4, 20-yard performance to Midshipmen signal-caller Keenan Reynolds "enjoyed" against OSU on Saturday.

With the Hokies being one of the more talented teams that the Buckeyes will face this season, Saturday should be a good gauge of just how far Ohio State has come with its one glaring weakness from a season ago. The Buckeyes defense cost them a chance at playing for a national title a season ago and will only be relied on more heavily with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm of its counterpart.

 

Unanswered Question 2: What should we make of J.T. Barrett?

Speaking of J.T. Barrett, all eyes will once again be on the redshirt freshman quarterback this Saturday, as he makes the second start of his college career.

Earning Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week honors, Barrett performed admirably in his debut, connecting on 12 of 15 pass attempts for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while also rushing for a team-high 50 yards. But like the Ohio State defense, it was hard to tell what you could take away from Barrett's season opener, as his responsibilities were similarly limited.

The Buckeyes' game plan was admittedly conservative with Barrett starting in place of Braxton Miller on just two weeks notice, but that should change as Ohio State's new starter gets more comfortable with his new role. Like he did with Miller two years ago, Meyer has insisted that Barrett's role will grow with each passing week, which could mean new plays for the OSU offense to work with on Saturday.

"We went into a very vanilla last week," Meyer said. "We will keep giving him more and more."

But while Barrett may have new tools to work with, he'll also be facing a tougher test in the second start of his college career. The Midshipmen may have played hard, but the Hokies have much more talent on the defensive side of the ball, including a secondary that college football expert Phil Steele ranked as the best in all of college football heading into the season.

That's where Saturday could get tricky for Barrett and the Buckeyes, as they match up with a defense that Meyer says is one of the two best Ohio State will see all season. For each of the past three seasons, the Buckeyes have had Miller's legs to bail them out sticky situations, a luxury that Meyer knows OSU will no longer be able to enjoy.

"He's just not the dynamic guy," Meyer said of Barrett's running ability. "[I] wouldn't mind, when you go, go."

Given the talent mismatch that the Buckeyes enjoyed last week and Barrett's limited role, it was tough to take a lot away from his college debut. That shouldn't be the case this week, as Ohio State will need to rely on its quarterback to execute more than just a "vanilla" game plan in order to walk away with a win against one of the tougher teams on its schedule.

 

Unanswered Question 3: Which half was the real Ohio State offensive line?

Last Saturday was a tale of two halves for the Ohio State offensive line, a unit attempting to replace four multiyear starters from a season ago. After a bad start for the Buckeyes in the opening two quarters, the offensive line finished the game strong, helping pave the way for a 28-point second half.

The good news is that the OSU offensive line progressed and only got better as the game wore on.

The bad news? As good as the Buckeyes got, Meyer knows that the unit will have to get even better to beat Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster's aggressive front.

"We have to get much better fast on the offensive line," Meyer said. "The second half, we played pretty good. But pretty good is not what we expect. You play pretty good this week you won't win that game."

At the very least, Meyer has found some consistency on the line, eliminating two "ORs" from the opening depth chart and settling on a starting lineup that includes left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Pat Elflein, center Jacoby Boren, right guard Billy Price and right tackle Darryl Baldwin. Of that group, only Decker and Elflein had seen significant snaps in their college careers prior to last Saturday, indicative of the inexperience that the unit entered the 2014 season with.

But with one game under their collective belt, the OSU offensive line is hopeful that its second half progress from a week ago was not the result of a talent mismatch, but rather the start of a trend that will continue for the remainder of the season. The Hokies will certainly put that theory to the test on Saturday, and should serve as a true measuring stick for where the revamped Buckeyes offensive line truly stands.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Odds: Analysis, Pick

With Notre Dame moving to a part-time ACC schedule, a great Midwestern rivalry comes to a close when the Irish host Michigan on Saturday night in South Bend.

Notre Dame has lost six of their last eight meetings with the Wolverines, going 2-6 ATS over that span, and got mocked with the “chicken dance” after losing at the Big House last year. Might the revenge factor be in play for this one?

 

Point spread: The Fighting Irish opened as 6-point favorites; the total was 55.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 35.4-30.0 Wolverines

 

Why the Michigan Wolverines can cover the spread

The Wolverines opened their season with a 52-14 victory over Appalachian State, covering as 28-point chalk. In fact, Michigan had that line covered at halftime, leading 35-0.

They out-gained the Mountaineers 560-280, piling up 350 yards on the ground. Michigan returned 15 starters this year, seven on offense, led by senior quarterback Devin Gardner, who threw just one incompletion last week. There are three returning starters along the offensive line, and eight on defense.

Last year, Gardner had one of his best days as a collegian against Notre Dame, throwing for 294 yards and four scores and running for 82 yards and another touchdown. UM has covered just seven of 23 road games, but this is a number they can handle, and the computer is picking the upset.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

The Irish, with QB Everett Golson back behind center, dispatched of Rice last Saturday 48-17, covering the spread as 20-point favorites.

The Golden Domers scored twice in the last three minutes of the first half to take a 28-10 lead into the locker room and pulled away from there. Notre Dame piled up 576 yards of offense on the Owls, as Golson threw for 295 and two scores and ran for three more.

The Irish are now 11-1 SU and 7-4-1 ATS when Golson starts. Notre Dame, without Golson, lost at Ann Arbor last year 41-30, missing the cover as four-point dogs, but that game was up for grabs midway through the fourth quarter.

 

Smart Pick

Michigan has held the upper hand in this rivalry recently, and with 15 starters back they should not be intimidated by playing in front of a hostile crown at Notre Dame Stadium.

This rivalry has also featured several close games recently; from 2009-11 the Wolverines won three straight games by four points before the Irish won by a touchdown in 2012.

And as mentioned above, last year's game was a four-point affair until Michigan scored with four minutes to go to win by 11. So for what should be another close game, the smart pick is with the Wolverines and the points.

 

Trends:

  • Michigan is 4-1 ATS in its last five games
  • Michigan lost nine of 10 SU as an underdog since start of 2012 season
  • Notre Dame is 26-2 SU in its past 28 games as favorites

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

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Auburn's Potential Dark-Horse Heisman Trophy Candidate

Move over Nick Marshall, there's a new Heisman Trophy candidate on the Plains.

Wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams.

While most of the focus for the stiff-arm trophy is centered on quarterbacks, Auburn sent a running back—Tre Mason—to New York last December as a Heisman finalist.

Judging from his Week 1 performance against Arkansas, Williams could be the second non-quarterback in as many years to throw his hat into the Heisman ring.

Williams caught nine passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in his debut for head coach Gus Malzahn's crew, showing off the big-play ability that followed him to Auburn as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the class of 2014.

"He’s very talented and we saw that in the spring and saw that in fall camp," Malzahn said in quotes emailed by Auburn. "I was happy for him that he was able to transition success in practice to the field. It’s like anything else—the more comfortable he feels in our offense, the better he will be."

Why might Williams jump into the Heisman fray?

 

Matchup Nightmare

At 6'2", 216 pounds with long arms and catlike agility, Williams presents a matchup problem for opposing defensive coordinators.

Should coaches line up their No. 1 corner on Williams or Sammie Coates—the 6'2", 201-pound junior who finished third in the nation in yards per catch last year at 21.48? Who should be double-teamed?

Even the best corners in the country would struggle with Coates on an island, which leaves a corner and/or a safety alone with Williams. Not an easy task.

In the opener against Arkansas, we saw Williams score on an 18-yard catch-and-run on a slant over the middle and gain 62 yards on a post route. On both plays, he was lined up in the slot, which allows Williams to use that big body and catch radius over the middle against players who simply can't cover him.

Tight end C.J. Uzomah knows how much this helps, via Ryan Black of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer.

Uzomah said having D'haquille Williams lining up in the slot creates an "awful matchup" for opposing defenses.

— WarEagleExtra (@wareagleextra) September 2, 2014

Malzahn agrees.

"He's one of those guys who's big and can also run. He gives you the best of both worlds," he said. "It takes a lot of versatility to play that inside receiver in our offense. We moved him around a little bit on Saturday, and you'll see us move all of our guys around more as the season goes on."

What should opposing defensive coordinators do? Double Williams and leave Sammie Coates one-on-one? Coates will win those matchups more often than not, and something like this might happen:

Having Coates outside coupled with Williams' versatility is a big problem for the opposition and a tremendous luxury for Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

 

Touchdown Machine

Williams' lone touchdown reception against the Hogs came on a quick slant and run over the middle, where he powered through a defender and reached the ball into the end zone. 

He's just scratching the surface.

Williams' ability to put his body in position to make a catch and then hit top speed in a hurry makes him a weapon to score from just about anywhere on the field. 

In the red zone, Williams' leaping ability and body control make him a prime option for Malzahn and Lashlee on corner routes and fade routes. He showed off these traits in the spring game, nabbing a perfectly placed fade from Marshall in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

Are 15 touchdowns out of reach? Not in the least. If that happens, those touchdowns could help Williams punch his ticket to New York City.

 

His Part of Nick Marshall's Progression

Fair or not, Marshall is viewed as a system quarterback by a large portion of the country. He's a runner first, and he takes advantage of secondaries that creep up to defend the multidimensional Auburn running game. The goal this year for Auburn's passing game was to be more balanced with Marshall.

"We led the country in rushing last year. When you do that, defenses have to take some chances," head coach Gus Malzahn said at Media Days in July. "We've got to do a better job this year of making them pay when they do take chances."

The staff worked with Marshall this offseason to be more consistent through the air. If he progresses, it's likely that Williams' presence as a versatile weapon will be a big reason for that in the minds of Heisman voters.

Will Marshall still be viewed as a system quarterback?

By some, yes, and for those who still hold that card against him, the obvious beneficiary will be Williams, who will get credited for Marshall's development.

It's going to take a lot for a wide receiver to become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. Being a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate, however, isn't as difficult.

Williams has the skills, system and exposure to make a pretty strong case if Week 1 is any indication of what's in store for him and the Tigers in 2014.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

 


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Florida State Shirt Burns SEC for Losing 2014 BCS National Championship Game

The Southeastern Conference won seven straight BCS National Championships from 2006 to 2012, but as SEC haters like to point out, the conference also lost two of the final three championship games.

Florida State's 34-31 victory in the 2014 title game not only marked the end of the BCS, but it also put an end to the SEC's reign atop the college football world. The Seminoles' victory also gave one Florida State fan the perfect opportunity to troll the SEC.

[Twitter, h/t Sporting News

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Memphis Tigers vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

UCLA survived a cross-country trip and upset bid from Virginia last week but couldn't cover a big number on the point spread.

The Bruins now head home to entertain Memphis this Saturday at the Rose Bowl, where they will be favored by a big number once again.

UCLA has had good luck covering large spreads recently, but the Tigers haven't been too bad at covering big numbers themselves. Of course, these teams have been on opposite sides of those numbers, but it still makes for a tough pick.

 

Point spread: The Bruins opened as 24-point favorites; the total was 55 midweek, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 33.9-13.1 Bruins

 

Why the Memphis Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers began their season with a 63-0 romp over Austin Peay, covering the spread as 38-point favorites. Memphis had the line covered at halftime with a 42-0 lead and clamped down from there, out-gaining the Governors 545-146, racking up 303 yards on the ground and holding the ball for 34 minutes.

The Tigers also return 17 starters this year, including their starting quarterback, last year's leading rusher, the entire receiving corps, three along the offensive line and eight on defense.

Memphis has been dogged by 20 points or more six times over the last two seasons, going 4-2 ATS and nearly pulling off a couple of upsets.

 

Why the UCLA Bruins can cover the spread

The Bruins won at Virginia on Saturday, 28-20, and actually had the spread pushed late in the second quarter when they led 21-3.

Statistically, the game was about even, but the UCLA defense scored three touchdowns. This year, the Bruins return 17 starters, five more than last year when they went 10-3. Nine starters are back on offense, led by Heisman candidate QB Brett Hundley, as well as last year's top three rushers and four along the offensive line, and eight are back on defense.

UCLA is 10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS at home under head coach Jim Mora and 4-1 ATS when favored by three touchdowns or more. Their foes have lost 22 of 25 road games dating back several seasons.

 

Smart pick

If UCLA plays like it did last week, it will not cover this spread. However, after last week's lackluster performance offensively, the Bruins will be looking to break loose this week.

And Memphis is not Virginia, and the Rose Bowl is not in Charlottesville. Also, Hundley needs some good numbers to enhance his Heisman status.

So the smart money on this one should go with the favorite, minus the points.

 

Trends:

  • Memphis is 3-22 SU in its last 25 games on the road
  • UCLA is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted; check out Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Memphis Tigers vs. UCLA Bruins Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

UCLA survived a cross-country trip and upset bid from Virginia last week but couldn't cover a big number on the point spread...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Michigan Football: Wolverines QB Devin Gardner Leads by Doing Less

Devin Gardner has learned that being a leader doesn't mean that he needs to do everything himself. 

The last time Michigan played Notre Dame, Gardner had one of the best games of his career, leading the Wolverines in both passing and rushing yards. On last year’s squad Gardner had to be Superman for Michigan to win.

But under Doug Nussmeier’s new offensive scheme Gardner needs to be more Clark Kent—a mild-mannered part of the team, showing leadership by allowing his teammates to shine.

After a restless offseason, Michigan unveiled its new offense during a cathartic 52-14 bludgeoning of Appalachian State last week. Lost in the statistics was Gardner’s rushing totals, as he had five carries for nine yards.

Last season that stat line would have translated into a crushing defeat. But now, leading an offense built to feature his talented teammates, Gardner has been freed up to manage the game and has immersed himself in learning the team’s new streamlined offense.

His knowledge of the playbook allowed him to make a key adjustment that resulted in a huge play against Appalachian State.

"I think the one, biggest offensive play of the game was when Devin checked us out of a play," said Hoke. “On a 3rd-and-1, in the third quarter and then he checked us into a great play that goes for 60, and it was communicated all the way down the front, out to the Mike point and to the wide receivers and how that was going to block out. ... When you look at that communication, his awareness, that was big.”

Last season Gardner repeatedly put the team on his back, relying on his talent and playmaking ability to win games. For a while, it worked. But as Michigan’s offensive line deteriorated, the season took a toll on Gardner physically and emotionally. His season ended after being injured during a gutsy performance against Ohio State.

Gardner returned motivated to lead his teammates and humbled by the talent surrounding him.

Last week he grudgingly acknowledged that he was no longer the best athlete on the team when questioned about freshman defensive back Jabrill Peppers.

"Him and [Devin] Funchess are probably the top two athletes on the team,” said Gardner. “I kind of get pissed a little bit, because I used to always like to think I was the top athlete on the team. But these two guys…they’re pretty elite."

Last year Hoke admonished Gardner for trying to do too much and taking unnecessary risks in attempting to make big plays, “but Superman has to be smart too. He doesn't eat kryptonite.”

The new offense allows Gardner share the load with receiver Funchess, running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith and tight end Jake Butt, who will soon return from an ACL injury.

Surrounded by an arsenal of talented offensive weapons, Gardner’s key contribution is now leadership.

On Saturday against Notre Dame, we'll get an indication of how far that leadership can take the Wolverines this season.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conferences or in person.

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@PSCallihan

All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, official University of Michigan athletic department website.

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Nebraska Football: Players Who Must Step Up in Randy Gregory's Absence

It wasn't what Nebraska fans wanted to see. In the Huskers' first matchup of the season, defensive end Randy Gregory sat himself on the bench with an apparent knee injury.

Pelini later confirmed that an old injury resurfaced for the junior, per Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald. While Pelini believes Gregory could have finished playing against Florida Atlantic, further injury wasn't worth the risk. He's expected to return by the Fresno State game.

Until then, a couple of players will have to step up to fill the void left by Gregory. Who will those players be?

 

Jack Gangwish (DE, Junior)

In Gregory's absence against Florida Atlantic, walk-on junior Jack Gangwish was tasked with stepping up. The defensive end did a fine job, too.

Defensive coordinator John Papuchis was pleased with his performance against the Owls. As the Omaha World-Herald reported, he thought the junior handled the opportunity well:

Obviously I want Randy to play. He’s certainly one of our best players, but also there’s something to be said for having an opportunity to find out about some of your other guys, especially early in the year. And I think we found out a little bit about Jack. I thought Jack did a really nice job today.

Beyond just his performance, Gangwish's attitude was spectacular following the game. As Hail Varsity's Brandon Vogel noted, he was exceptionally excited to talk with the media.

“They did a lot of work with me and put in a lot of extra time and molded me into a new football player,” Gangwish said, per Vogel. “I’m pretty happy about it.”

Gangwish only had one tackle against Florida Atlantic, but the experience is truly what matters. The mix of a positive attitude and some experience under his belt should allow another good game for Gangwish against McNeese State.

 

Greg McMullen (DE, Sophomore)

With Gregory out, Greg McMullen is going to have to step up as a leader. Gregory will still be able to lead from the sidelines, but when it comes to those moments on the field, it's going to fall on McMullen's shoulders.

The good news is that McMullen appears to have found some attitude in the offseason, as the Omaha World-Herald's McKewon noted. McKewon also when on to say that McMullen "was more physical and demonstrative Saturday than he was at any time last year."

As for his responsibility going forward, McMullen plans to remain calm, despite temporarily losing Gregory. He also plans to keep improving.

“When first-team, All-American Randy Gregory goes down, it is a big concern because that is a critical part of our defensive line and also one of our leaders,” McMullen said, per The Daily Nebraskan. “But when you’re a competitor in this sport, stuff is going to happen.”

Against Florida Atlantic, McMullen had four total tackles with one sack, per ESPN.com. The sophomore believes he and his teammates can get better.

“We beat Florida Atlantic, but let’s take it with a grain of salt,” McMullen said, per The Daily Nebraskan. “There’s a lot of things that need to be fixed. We start preparation for next week. The reality is on the film, so we will watch it and get better.”

 

Marcus Newby (LB, Redshirt Freshman)

The Florida Atlantic game was a big game for Marcus Newby. It was the redshirt freshman's big debut for Nebraska. It became even bigger when Gregory was injured.

As the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple noted, Newby's role as a pass-rushing specialist could be even more important now that Gregory is out. As for his first performance, Newby is already looking to improve.

"I feel it went alright. I think I could do a lot better," he said, per Sipple.

In Gregory's absence, Newby will play a crucial role as he will occasionally be used to give Gangwish a breather in potential pass-rush situations. Newby ultimately showed against Florida Atlantic that he can step in and help after losing a key defensive player in Gregory.

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Awful Fan Murders Innocent Beach Ball at Arizona vs. UNLV Game

We can’t have anything nice anymore.

For reasons we’ll never fully understand, a cross section of human beings are born on this planet without the capacity to enjoy anything.

They frown at birthday candles, despise dancing and smack pay phones off their receivers whenever the opportunity presents itself. They are Fun Suckers, and one from their ranks ruined a good time in progress at Friday’s college football season opener between the University of Arizona and UNLV.

The incident occurred when one Arizona fan intercepted a beach ball making its way around the stadium and crushed it underfoot.

Redditor @DannyMB87 (h/t NextImpulseSports.com’s Pete Blackburn) spotted footage of the man and his callous act. He is a no-good, cargo-short-wearing schlub, and he must be brought to justice.

The worst part of this entire exchange might be the perpetrator’s self-congratulation after popping the ball. He gives himself a hand and encourages others to do so, as if he did something novel or benefitting the community.

Let’s be clear: This man did nothing more than ruin a good time for the sake of being a contrarian. He’s the football equivalent of the jackwagon who deliberately ended a pay-it-forward line at a Starbucks and acted like he saved the public from a rising menace.

You did not save anyone from anything, Wildcats bro. You popped a child’s balloon. Just check out the kid giving you a thumbs down.

For shame. For shame.

 

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