NCAA Football

Charlie Strong Is Just What College Football Needs, but He Won't Last at Texas

Every college football program believes in its myths.

At Notre Dame, where it's about blending championships and godliness, five players expect to have a hearing next week in the team's most recent cheating scandal. At Michigan, where it's about winning in the tough, old-fashioned way, the tough, old-fashioned coach they brought in to replace the modern one is about to be fired.      

This is all to explain what is already starting to happen to Texas coach Charlie Strong, who is in just the first month of his first season on the job. It's already starting, and within a few weeks Strong will be in deep trouble. You can smell it coming.

The thing is, Strong is a great fit for the college football world, a compassionate disciplinarian, which makes him a great fit for society, too. At Texas, he is, and always was going to be, a bad fit.

As the NFL drowns in off-field scandals, we claim to want discipline in football. And on Tuesday, Strong kicked a player off his team for the ninth time since spring.

Two players charged with sexual assault were kicked off immediately, and Strong didn't have to see a tape of the incident. Most of the others, according to Horns Digest's Chip Brown, were kicked off for failed drug tests.

So Strong is doing things the right way. His problem, though, is that Texas isn't interested in the right way. It wants the Texas Way. At least, that's what Texas' big dollar power brokers want. They never wanted Strong in the first place, as he wasn't big enough or showy enough, and they still can't even believe the school had the nerve to hire him without their approval.

"(At the time) I was talking to a coach who I think is one of the top five coaches in the nation," billionaire Texas oilman Red McCombs told's Dennis Dodd this month, specifying only that he wasn't talking about Nick Saban. "I think I had him at the 5-yard line. The next day, they announced they'd hired Coach Strong. Obviously, something happened...

"It fell out like I was disappointed in Coach Strong. I was disappointed in the decision being made."

Revisionist history. When Strong was hired in January, McCombs said on ESPN radio that Strong was better suited as a position coach, or maybe a coordinator.

The mix of 1) players being kicked out; 2) recruiting shortcomings of former coach Mack Brown; and 3) quarterback David Ash quitting football because he had suffered too many concussions has left the Longhorns at 1-2, including a 41-7 home loss to BYU.

It's going to get worse. This team is going to go 5-7, maybe a game better or a game worse. And the powerbrokers are already expecting improvement.

They expect winning now, while Strong is trying to rebuild a program from the ground up. He preaches what he calls his five core values, and has put them on signs in the football building. There were signs like that last year at Louisville, too.

Honesty. Treat Women with Respect. No Drugs. No Stealing. No Guns.

The player kicked off on Tuesday was offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle, and Horns Digest wrote that Estelle and Desmond Harrison came to Strong a few weeks ago and said they had substance abuse problems. The school, according to Horns Digest, wanted to kick Estelle and Harrison out. But Strong talked officials into allowing them to keep their scholarships, go to rehab, go to class, and not practice or play football. If they followed the rules for six weeks, they could be reinstated on the team.

Estelle, according to the publication, did not follow the rules. So he's out.

Strong is sending his message. It's a message about doing things right, developing as young men, going to class. It's developing as men, and then winning from that core.

Sure, he's not perfect. He's not a myth. But he appears to be just what we need.

And yet, even if there is no outcry about him yet, it's coming. Soon. Believe me. ESPN already did an Outside the Lines on Wednesday on the criticism surrounding him. Analyst Danny Kanell, the former Florida State and NFL quarterback, said he's "concerned that Charlie Strong is losing that locker room" that his "my way or the highway approach" is not working.

Kanell is wrong. Strong isn't losing the locker room; he's building one. He is laying down laws and showing compassion and strength at the same time. And he has a record of success.

Strong is working to change the locker room culture, but that's not the culture that's going to defeat him.

Mack Brown did not leave the program in the best of shape. He rebuilt it, got Texas back into the national elite, won a national title and lost another one in the championship game. He told me last year that after that loss, he dropped into a funk. He admitted to making mistakes in recruiting and coaching. Strong has to pay for that now.

Any reasonable person can see that. But Brown built that program partly through his coaching, but partly by being the world's greatest PR man, masterfully bringing together all the powerbroker forces through his personality.

Strong doesn't have that personality. He might not have a personality at all. When he was hired in January, he sat on his hands and mumbled during the press conference. The Texas Way wanted a splashy announcement.


Strong isn't splashy. Unlike Mack Brown, he doesn't seem like one of them. And I hope race isn't involved in that, but as ESPN has pointed out, he is the first black head coach Texas has ever hired for a men's sport.

Whatever it is, he doesn't fit. His resume said Louisville on it. He's not Saban or Gruden or Mora. The power boys undermined Brown in the first place, publicly pressuring him to leave while dropping Saban's name.

The power boys thought that all the money in the world could make everything right in 30 seconds. Apparently, Saban didn't think so.

But they wanted the myth.


Greg Couch covers college football for Bleacher Report. He also writes for The New York Times and was formerly a scribe for and the Chicago Sun-Times.

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Michigan Football: Why Wolverines Need Blake Countess, Secondary More Than Ever

Blake Countess accepted responsibility this past season, during the offseason and during camp. And on Monday, the redshirt junior continued owning the mistakes of Michigan’s secondary, some of which he's committed over the years.

The 5’10”, 180-pound defensive back isn't satisfied about recent events. He believes that he's part of a special position group, and he believes that the group can and will deliver when push comes to shove. 

“No doubt about it," Countess said. "We’re a group that’s growing, just like the rest of the team. We definitely have the talent do it; it’s just about getting better every week and proving it [on the field]. But absolutely—my confidence in my secondary has not waivered at all.”

With growing uncertainty on offense—particularly how it’ll accumulate points and who will be the quarterback—the Wolverines secondary must provide better pass coverage to complement coordinator Greg Mattison’s superb run-grinding defense. Giving up any kind of points, even a single touchdown pass, could result in another loss. 

Countess and his counterparts are the ones who have to tighten their belts. 


Stories with Numbers

In 2013, Michigan had the No. 13-ranked total defense in FBS football. It allowed 28 offensive touchdowns and 4.93 total yards per play—or about a half-yard more than Michigan State’s defense, which was widely recognized as the best in the nation.

Part of the Wolverines’ success on defense was due to their secondary, which finished No. 2 in the Big Ten with 17 interceptions. However, they gave up 40 or more points thrice a year ago, and they could do the same in 2014. But the key theme here is consistency: The defense has it, despite hiccups. It showed that in 2013, and if Team 135 is to truly reclaim its stake in the Big Ten, it’ll have to do so during the eight remaining games of 2014—starting Saturday against Minnesota. 

Look at the numbers thus far: Michigan gives up 4.12 yards per play. That's padded by the three-game stretch of allowing 1.83 per rushing attempt. But it’s still among the lowest averages in all of college football. Considering that Mattison’s defense has seen 248 plays, nearly 50 more than No. 1-ranked (total D) Stanford, the numbers shine through a little more.

Forget opponents and the fact that Michigan’s four games into the season. The stats are the stats. Take them for what they’re worth. This defense is producing with a secondary that’s contributed two interceptions on the year.

Imagine what a slight increase would do for the overall flow. With an ounce or two more effort from Countess and the rest, the likelihood of winning would increase. College football has shown us enough teams to win league titles and bowl games with very little offense.

Who’s to say the 2014 Wolverines can’t be one of those teams?  


Overcoming Hurdles

The Wolverines have yet to get a full dose of Jabrill Peppers, a 6’1”, 205-pound super frosh who’s supposed to be the next greatest thing in life. He will be when he’s fully restored. Since getting dinged on the ankle in Week 1 versus Appalachian State, Peppers has seen limited action in limited roles.

He hasn’t wowed anyone yet.

The former 5-star “ATH” was one of the apples of the 2014 recruiting class. But he’s still a true freshman. He’s started games, so that says something. Mattison has propped Peppers numerous times. He likes what he sees in the Jersey kid. That endorsement means something, too.

It's safe to assume that the secondary will be better once Peppers gets on track. 

Raymon Taylor and Jarrod Wilson have had injuries, too. The losses can't be blamed on the bruises of a few, but they're not helping the situation. 



The defensive backs are a strength of this team. Well, maybe saying “will be” is more accurate. Nevertheless, there aren’t many reasons not to like what Michigan has at corner and safety: Channing Stribling, Taylor, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark and Reon Dawson, to name a few, give Michigan incredible depth at the position.

Improvement has been a real thing, not a concocted story sewn by coaches and relayed by media types. Wins will be more frequent when the defensive backfield gets it together.

But right now, losing is losing. No one is saying otherwise. However, there are some positives, and Jourdan Lewis is one of them. His play on Utah running back Bubba Poole saved his school a ton of embarrassment. Imagine the endless chatter about Michigan surrendering a 90-yard touchdown, at home, to a nonconference opponent.

The jokes would be plentiful. 

But Lewis didn’t let that happen. He came from out of nowhere before stopping Poole about 25 yards shy of the end zone. Effort is there. Players aren’t calling it quits. Lewis’ play was proof, and it certainly serves as a battle cry for the DBs.

“Absolutely,” Countess said, adding that the play would “go down in history” at Michigan. “The big play happened because of a miscommunication. But the good thing about that play was that we have guys that are getting to the ball. Jourdan came as a back-side corner and ran that guy down and saved a touchdown.

"They only got three points out of that drive. When we get that miscommunication corrected, then that big play won’t happen.”

Michigan doesn’t have time to live and learn. At this point, it’s win or cease to exist in the big-boy landscape. The Wolverines have split their first four this season and barely hang by a thread. They need their secondary to make a donation.

They need Countess, who has slipped more times than he should have thus far, to be the all-conference corner he's capable of being. He was on the Jim Thorpe preseason watch list. He's not an Average Joe corner. 

They need them now, or they'll risk wasting the best team coach Brady Hoke's had in Ann Arbor. 


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

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Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Odds, Analysis, Prediction

The Ohio State Buckeyes have enjoyed success at home after their bye week in the past and will try to continue that trend on Saturday when they host the Cincinnati Bearcats.

The Buckeyes have won six straight games off a bye, including all three since head coach Urban Meyer took over the program, to go along with a 4-2 mark against the spread.


Point spread: The Buckeyes opened as 12.5-point favorites at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, but the number climbed to 16 points by Thursday. The total was 63.5 (line updates and matchup report).


Odds Shark computer prediction: 35.1-17.5 Buckeyes


Why the Cincinnati Bearcats can cover the spread

The Bearcats have played just two games so far this season, making it difficult to tell which team is the one that will be facing Ohio State. In a 58-34 rout of the Toledo Rockets in their season opener on September 12, quarterback Gunner Kiel completed 25 of 37 passes for 418 yards and threw a school record-tying six touchdown passes in his first college start to help the Bearcats cover the spread as 9.5-point favorites.

The transfer from Notre Dame who sat out last season threw four more touchdown passes last week in a 31-24 win over Miami (Ohio), but Cincinnati failed to cover as a 30-point favorite. The Bearcats have performed well recently as road underdogs, going 3-0 ATS in their past three.


Why the Ohio State Buckeyes can cover the spread

In addition to playing well at home off a bye, Ohio State picked up some momentum following a 35-21 loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies by blanking the Kent State Golden Flashes 66-0 on September 13 as a 31-point favorite.

The Buckeyes saw redshirt freshman QB J.T. Barrett tie a school record with six TDs, including five in the first half when they built a commanding 45-0 lead. Ohio State’s Meyer will no doubt have his team prepared for Cincinnati, as he reportedly gave his players only two days off so they could practice as much as possible leading up to this game and avoid another possible letdown with Big Ten play on deck.


Smart Pick

The Buckeyes are 2-6 ATS in their last eight games and do not seem to be the same team without injured QB Braxton Miller under center. While Barrett has put up some good numbers, you could argue Kiel is the more talented signal-caller as he was highly recruited coming out of high school.

Both QBs remain inexperienced at the college level, and that showed for Barrett in the loss to Virginia Tech when he threw three interceptions. Kiel threw two picks in his last game against Miami, but they did not cost his team the game.

Ohio State still has a lot to prove to be favored by this many points against a quality opponent like the Bearcats, who should keep this within the number.



  • Cincinnati is 3-0 ATS in its last three games as road underdog
  • Ohio State is 22-3 SU 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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SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: Dillon Day Justly Suspended, Medicore East

Getting It Right

After trouncing LSU 34-29 in Death Valley on Saturday night in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated, Mississippi State was the talk of the college football world for all the right reasons—and all the wrong reasons.

Center Dillon Day was suspended for one game for what the SEC phrased in an emailed release as "multiple flagrant and unsportsmanlike acts during the [LSU] game, as well as previous disciplinary action for similar behavior."

Day stomped on two players in the LSU game, both of which caused play to be stopped.

He issued an apology Monday afternoon on Twitter.

The SEC clearly didn't believe Day's "apology," nor should it have.

Day has a track record with similar dirty play. He was suspended for a half last year for stomping on an Auburn player, according to Michael Bonner of the The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), and the two incidents on Saturday were clearly intentional with the intent to injure.

Had Day not wanted to step on opposing players, he would have twisted, rolled, or moved to avoid the contact. Yes, he's a 299-pound offensive lineman, but he's a 299-pound offensive lineman who not only earned an FBS scholarship but starts in the SEC. It's not like he's a statue.

Let's be real, similar incidents happen during football games all the time. Typically, though, they happen in piles and in the trenches, out of the view of television cameras. When they happen out in the open, though, the conference has no choice but to crack down to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.


Will the Real SEC East Contender Please Stand Up?

After Week 1, it was Georgia that looked like it wanted to step up to the big-boy table and contend with the SEC West powers. Two weeks later, South Carolina topped the Bulldogs and announced themselves as "back." That same week, Missouri cruised to a 3-0 record only to fall to—gasp—Indiana the following week.

The SEC East is looking like a division where the team that wants to lose least will play in the Georgia Dome for the SEC championship. Which team or teams fit that description could be determined this weekend.

Tennessee (2-1, 0-0 SEC) will travel to Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC) and Missouri (3-1, 0-0 SEC) will make the journey to South Carolina (3-1, 2-1 SEC) in two pivotal games within the division.

The winners of each will and should be considered the favorites. The two road teams haven't played SEC games yet, and wins over teams that already have losses would be huge in tiebreaker scenarios. The two home teams can't afford more conference losses, and avoiding them while giving the two remaining unblemished teams loses would create more chaos.

Chaos for Georgia and South Carolina equals opportunity.

As for the division power being slanted toward the West, where six of the seven teams are ranked in the AP Top 17, it's "just one of those years."

"These are things that all kind of run in cycles," said head coach Nick Saban. "You run in cycles from team to team, and you run in cycles from division to division. This just happens to be one of those years where it seems like the West has a lot of really good teams. There have been years where the West has a lot of good teams and the East has good teams too, and I think they [East] have a lot of good teams this year."

"Good" relatively speaking, of course.


Keeping Them Honest

Texas A&M has become known as one of the most explosive teams in the SEC since head coach Kevin Sumlin took over prior to the 2012 season, and this year is no different. The Aggies lead the conference in plays of 30 or more yards with 18—six more than second-place Kentucky.

That'll be the key for the Aggies' offense Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium against Arkansas.

The Hogs are 3-1 but have been susceptible to the big play on defense, giving up six of their own—eighth in the SEC.

Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema prides himself on winning the time-of-possession battle, but if A&M scoring quickly contributes to that, winning that battle could be a bad thing for the Hogs.

Keep an eye on the secondary. Beilema said that safety Rohan Gaines, who suffered a stinger against Northern Illinois, is back, healthy and had three picks during Tuesday's practice. If Gaines and the rest of that Arkansas secondary can limit those big plays and perhaps force a turnover or two, it might be all Arkansas needs to spring an upset.


Polishing up the Offenses

LSU and Auburn won't play each other until the first weekend of October, but each has the chance to get right offensively this weekend against group-of-five FBS programs.

Auburn will host Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon, and job No. 1 for head coach Gus Malzahn is to get the ground game cooking again after Kansas State held the Tigers to just 128 rushing yards last Thursday night.

Was quarterback Nick Marshall making poor decisions in the zone read? Malzahn isn't worried.

"I'm very happy with his decision-making," he said. "There have been some things around him that haven't been completely cleaned up, but I've been happy."

As for Marshall's progress through the air? There shouldn't be a concern. Sure, he missed a few passes against the Wildcats, but he still managed 231 yards and fell victim to numerous big drops from his wide receivers. Had they held on to the balls, most of which were perfectly placed and, at times, in tight coverage, Marshall could have been dancing around 350 passing yards.

Clean those two things up, and Auburn will be just fine.

LSU might not be, though.

Only Vanderbilt has completed a fewer percentage of passes than head coach Les Miles' crew. Anthony Jennings has completed just 51.3 percent of his passes—last in the SEC among qualifying quarterbacks. True freshman Brandon Harris came in for mop-up duty against Mississippi State and nearly led one of the most miraculous comebacks in college football history.

You'll see both against New Mexico State.

"We'll play in a like fashion that we have in the past, with Brandon Harris getting a little more playing time," Miles said.

Miles better figure things out in a hurry. Auburn boasts the nation's 11th-best rush defense (86.00 YPG) and is seventh in terms of yards per carry (2.48). The Tigers from the Plains force whoever is taking the snaps to beat them through the air, and Miles needs to not only figure out who that is but let that person gain confidence this week vs. the Aggies.

Otherwise, it'll be a long night on the Plains next weekend.


Quick Outs

  • Vanderbilt still has an "or" on the depth chart at quarterback. This time, it's between Patton Robinette and true freshman Wade Freebeck. This isn't a game of musical quarterbacks anymore, though. Robinette suffered a concussion last week, and while Freebeck will have packages in the offense regardless, the uncertainty now has more to do with Robinette's status than anything else.
  • Tennessee announced a meeting with UMass on Nov. 4, 2017. Considering the Vols' gauntlet this season and meetings with Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and USC appear on its future schedule, a cupcake here or there is acceptable.
  • Psst...Ole Miss, beware of Memphis. The Tigers have notched 11 sacks and 26 tackles for loss through three games, and if Ole Miss gets behind the chains, that front four can pin its ears back against a Rebel offensive line that's been on the express to struggletown this year (22 TFLs).
  • No, this slate of SEC games isn't great. Yes, everybody is looking forward to Oct. 4. Don't sleep on this weekend, though. This weekend features matchups between teams that have several unanswered questions, which means shenanigans could be on the horizon. Let's get weird.


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

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

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College Football Picks: Week 5 Predictions for Every Game

Bring on the conference games.

Week 5 of the 2014 college football season gets us almost fully into conference play, as 36 of the 54 games scheduled between Thursday and Saturday are league tilts spread among the 10 FBS conferences. That includes 10 of the 18 games featuring teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Conference games tend to be the most hard-fought contests because old rivalries are rekindled and postseason aspirations ride on their outcomes. Even with the massive realignment that has occurred in college football the past few years, the games against teams in one's league still take on the most importance.

Check out our predictions for every game this weekend, as well as our experts' picks (against the spread) for this week's top games, then give us your choices in the comments section.

Last week: 46-11 (.807)

Season record: 221-52 (.810)

Begin Slideshow

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M Aggies Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

Is "Bielema Ball" taking hold in Arkansas?

The Razorbacks are off to a 3-1 start, both straight up and against the spread, in their second season under the former Wisconsin coach, Bret Bielema, but they will get a much better idea of where the Hogs stand when they take on Texas A&M Saturday afternoon in Arlington.

Bettors will get a better idea as well.


Point Spread: The Aggies opened as 12.5-point favorites at AT&T Stadium, but the line was bet down to nine points as of Thursday.

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: Aggies 41.8, Razorbacks 22.2


Why the Arkansas Razorbacks Can Cover the Spread

The Razorbacks have won three in a row after crushing Northern Illinois last week 52-14, covering as 14-point favorites. Arkansas returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, then returned a fumble for a score. It led 21-0 after the first quarter.

The Hogs ran for 212 yards on 45 carries and held the ball for almost 35 minutes. Yep, that sounds like Bielema Ball.

Two weeks ago, Arkansas held the ball from Texas Tech's pass-happy attack for 40 minutes in a 49-28 upset victory on the road.

The Hogs are 3-1 ATS, and should be 4-0 but for that scoreless second half against Auburn in the season opener.


Why the Texas A&M Aggies Can Cover the Spread

The Aggies are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS after cruising to a 58-6 victory over SMU last week, covering as 34-point favorites.

Kenny Hill, who's completed 70 percent of his throws and averaged 613 yards and 55 games per game so far with a 13-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, hasn't missed a step as Johnny Football's successor.

The season-opening victory at South Carolina was particularly impressive, racking up 680 yards of offense on what's supposed to be at least a decent Gamecocks defense, winning outright as 10-point dogs. Last week, the Aggies put up 663 yards on the Mustangs and made it look easy.


Smart Pick

Arkansas put on one of its best efforts of last season against A&M, losing 45-33 but covering as a 14-point underdog. The Hogs look like they're on the upswing this year. They'll have to figure out how to deal with Hill and that Aggies offense, or at least slow them down.

But part of that game plan includes keeping the ball to themselves, which is something they're capable of doing. So the pick here is with the Razorbacks and the points to extend their 9-2 SU run.



  • Arkansas is 3-10 SU in its last 13 games.
  • Texas A&M is 5-0 SU in its last five games at home.


All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates.

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USC RB Buck Allen Putting Trojans Offense on His Shoulders

Win or lose, USC running back Javorius "Buck" Allen is ready to bear the burden.  

"I feel like you can put it on me. I messed up or whatever, I'll take the blame. Live to see another day," he said Tuesday after practice at Howard Jones Field.

Allen and the No. 18-ranked Trojans return to action this Saturday following a bye week. Their last time out, they lost 37-31 at Boston College in a decision for which the redshirt junior running back takes responsibility.

Never mind Allen produced 149 yards of total offense and scored at least one touchdown for the eighth time in his last nine appearances.

Such is the duty of a leader, a role Allen welcomes as USC's top rusher and arguably most dangerous offensive weapon. He sets the tone both with his performance on game day and his demeanor preparing for it.

"As a leader, if guys see you up and grinding, they'll keep going. If you come out, have a bad day and [you're] down, they feel like they can be down," he said. That carries over into dealing with a loss, he added.

"If you dwell on it, they're going to beat you the next week," Allen said.  

It's with that attitude in mind that Allen has taken charge in turning the page from the loss to USC's return to Pac-12 Conference play. The Trojans are back in the Coliseum for the first time in nearly a month hosting Oregon State.

The Beavers were the first opponent against which Allen emerged as a focal point of the USC offense. Starting in place of injured Tre Madden, he rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns.

A star was born that November night in 2013, but Allen credits a total team effort.

"My [offensive] line did a great job, and as for me, just trusting my reads," he said. "Gaining confidence and trusting the person next to me that as long as I do my job, he's going to do his job."

USC could use a renewed shot of confidence after the Boston College loss, particularly in the run game.

The Trojans were stymied for just 20 total rushing yards. Allen finished the night with 31, though made up for his lost production on the ground with 118 yards on nine receptions.

Head coach Steve Sarkisian said last week that while his offense is tailored to use Allen's ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, the running back's receiving workload in Week 3 was excessive.

Still, Sarkisian remains committed to his play-calling philosophy, which builds heavily off the run. The coach is unmoved by the team's struggles at Boston College.  

"I've had worse games than scoring 31 points," he said last week.

In other words, the pertinent question isn't whether Sarkisian will shy away from the run, but rather how USC will try to establish it Saturday against Oregon State.

The Trojans could still be without Madden, who has yet to appear in 2014. Madden went through a series of individual workouts Tuesday but was not in pads. Sarkisian said the back is close to receiving medical clearance from his toe injury, though gave no timetable for his return.

Meanwhile, sophomore change-of-pace back Justin Davis is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry on the season.

That leaves the bulk of the run responsibility on Allen's broad shoulders—a role that's suited the back just fine previously.

In USC's first two games of 2014, Allen rushed for 133 and 154 yards. He may have been stifled in Week 3, but one big play may be all he needs to reinvigorate the Trojans' ground attack. And he's taken on the mindset to make it happen.

"I always think, every play, I'm going to bust out," he said.

When he does bust out once again, Allen will take the entire USC offense with him.


Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via

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USC RB Buck Allen Putting Trojans Offense on His Shoulders

Win or lose, USC running back Javorius "Buck" Allen is ready to bear the burden. "I feel like you can put it on me. I messed up or whatever, I'll take the blame. Live to see another day," he said Tuesday after practice at Howard Jones Field...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Texas A&M Can Prove It Is a Playoff Contender by Stopping Arkansas' Run Game

The Texas A&M defense is in for a tough test against one of the nation's top rushing attacks. The Arkansas Razorbacks feature two magnificent running backs that will put the Aggies to the test. Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder discusses why the Arkansas running game has been so effective and how to stop it.

Will the Razorbacks run all over the Texas A&M defense?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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College Football Players Most Likely to Explode in Week 5

The 2014 college football season is entering Week 5 with the top players in the country ready to strut their stuff. Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder, Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss who they believe will explode onto the scene five weeks into the season.

Who do you think we should look out for?  

Watch the video, and let us know!

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4-Star 2016 CB Chad Clay Earns LSU Offer: Family Ties Helping Tigers' Case?

Rising 4-star junior corner Chad Clay is well-versed when it comes to recognizing excellence in the secondary, especially considering his father Willie was a standout defensive back in college at Georgia Tech and in the NFL. 

That’s part of the reason he was thrilled when LSU coach Les Miles and defensive backs coach Corey Raymond—who was a teammate of Willie in the NFL—extended an offer to the Suwanee, Georgia, standout last week.

“It’s a real big offer,” Chad said. “I feel like it’s an honor. If you get offered by LSU, it means that you are one of the best defensive backs because that is what they are known for. It was a really big honor. I was very excited about it.”

Willie—who, according to, recorded 27 interceptions over an eight-year career in the NFL with three different teams—pointed out that the offer didn’t come simply because of his relationship with Raymond. Instead, Chad earned the offer after Raymond dug into his body of work to date on the prep level.

“Obviously, he knew I had a son that was playing,” Willie said. “But he hasn’t seen Chad in four or five years. We came down (to LSU) last weekend and he had done his due diligence and research. So when we got down there, we weren’t there but for five minutes before he (Corey) came in and they offered him a scholarship. It was a ‘if he wants to come today, he can come today,’ type of offer.”

For Willie, having that comfort level with Raymond is a big plus for the Tigers in their quest to earn his son’s pledge.

“He’s been coaching for a while and we do talk periodically,” Willie said of LSU’s defensive backs coach. “I think there’s a level of trust there that is big with him since I’ve known him for so long. As you go through the process with recruiting, I think anybody has to feel comfortable with whoever your kid is going to sign with.”

Chad’s interest in playing in Baton Rouge became magnified after his visit there last weekend to catch the LSU vs. Mississippi State game. It’s safe to say that his visit left an impression on the 6’1”, 178-pounder.

“It was probably the loudest place I’ve ever been,” Chad remarked. “It was awesome. I liked it. The fans, I just liked everything. It’s one of the greatest places I’ve ever been to.”

The Tigers' loss didn’t have any effect on Chad. In fact, he paid close attention to the secondary—which prefers to put their corners on an island and let them play tight man-to-man coverage.

“I feel like I could see myself fitting in well down there,” Chad said. “From watching them play, they play a lot of press coverage and bump and run coverage, and I feel like that’s something I’m good at and why I would fit good into their system.”

If the Tigers are able to pull him out of the metro Atlanta area, they will have to beat out powers such as Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson, Auburn, Texas A&M and Nebraska—all of whom have offered Chad and make up his top group of schools.

Chad’s ascension to becoming one of the top corners in the 2016 class began with a grueling offseason workout plan with a number of other top recruits in the metro Atlanta area who trained together at Elite Talent Football Academy.

He is also one of several talented underclassmen at Peachtree Ridge High School sharing a secondary with 2017 4-star corner DeAngelo Gibbs and 2016 3-star corner and Louisville commit Baylen Buchanan. After his training sessions in the summer and lining up in a loaded secondary every day in practice, Clay has developed a strong work ethic that has paid off with his laundry list of college offers.

“Coach (Derrick) Tatum, he’s a great trainer and a great coach,” Clay said. “He teaches a lot and he prides himself on working hard and making us work hard. Playing at Peachtree Ridge in the secondary I’m playing in with players like Baylen Buchanan and DeAngelo Gibbs, it helps because we’re all good players and we just go hard in trying to make each other better every day. Because when you try to outwork the person next to you, it just makes you better in the end.”

While he’s only in the infant stages of his recruiting process, Chad stated tentative plans to return to LSU for its home game against Alabama on Nov. 8, plus he's planning a visit to Georgia for its game against Auburn on Nov. 15. He also mentioned Florida State and Florida as teams that he is hoping to hear more from.

Even though recruiting is heating up for Chad, Willie is encouraging his son to focus on the present in school and on the field.

“These college trips are fine and OK, but right now all that really matters is what happens in school and on Friday nights for him,” Willie said. “It’s a long journey between now and college because he’s only a junior. My goal for him is that when he leaves high school, that he is ready to compete on that next level”

While he admits that he’s sometimes a tough critic because of his experience playing the same position, Willie tries to balance that out by encouraging Chad to enjoy the recruiting process.

“My biggest thing with him is just trying to teach him those small things, and also helping him to enjoy the process,” Willie said. “I think the biggest thing is, it’s a good time right now but it’s a tough time. As a dad and a parent, you just want them to enjoy the process more than anything. You only get a chance to go through it once.”


Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

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Notre Dame vs. Syracuse: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Notre Dame and Syracuse meet for the first time in six seasons Saturday at MetLife Stadium in the Fighting Irish's first trip away from home this season.

Surely, the Notre Dame faithful would love to forget the last time these two teams met, the result being a humiliating 24-23 loss in 2008.

This time around, though, the Fighting Irish are clicking on all cylinders on the offensive side of the ball and playing sound defense, as the Orange enter off a loss and with plenty of issues to patch up before the showdown.

Though things appear lopsided on paper, keep in mind Notre Dame's biggest test to date came against a hapless Michigan program and that Syracuse can tout a potent offense when not shooting itself in the foot.

They play the game for a reason, after all.


Stopping the Beast

Few imagined Brian Kelly's offense would look this prolific so quickly with Everett Golson back under center.

Golson is a surefire Heisman contender with 780 yards and seven scores to his name already, including an astounding 226 yards and three scores while completing 67.7 percent of his passes against Michigan.

To top it all off, the Fighting Irish are 14-of-14 in the red zone so far this season thanks to his high level of play.

"He's preparing so much better than he ever has, and I think it's allowing his athletic ability to shine in the game, but, again, having said that, I think there is really a lot more out there for him to accomplish," coach Brian Kelly said, per

Golson will once again need to be at the top of his game Saturday. Syracuse actually touts a very strong run defense, with its issues coming against the pass. Only Villanova tallied more than 100 yards on the ground against the Orange, and it needed 60 carries to do so.

In that same vein, Golson will need to be deadly efficient. The Orange also prefer to run the football and control games. Against Villanova, Scott Shafer's team ran for 136 yards; then 289 against Central Michigan. A further improvement was seen with 370 against Syracuse.

If there is a formula that can slow Notre Dame, it is forcing the team into a one-dimensional attack and downright keeping the ball out of Golson's hands via an effective ground game. Golson has the talent to overcome it on his own, but actually doing it is quite different than talking about it.


Staying Cool Under Pressure

For all the good Syracuse has done en route to that 2-1 record, it sure cannot stop hurting itself in the process.

Composure has been a major issue for the Orange as is, and now the team is headed to national television at a neutral site to take on a major program. Those within Syracuse are concerned about the late start and magnitude of the event—not to mention the skill of the opponent.

"As far as the jitters when you come out, those teams like Florida State and Clemson and Notre Dame, they make it hard to get in a rhythm," quarterbacks coach Tim Lester said, per Nate Mink of "You're going to have to do a couple good things early so everyone kind of relaxes and goes play."

Again, composure has already been a red flag. In a one-point win over Villanova, the Orange racked up seven penalties for 55 yards. Things were even more sloppy in the blowout of Central Michigan, with nine penalties for 41. The behavior finally caught up to the Orange in the loss to Maryland, with eight more for 69 yards.

Syracuse does a lot of great things. The ground game is superb, but drive-killing flags will cripple the Orange against a team like Notre Dame.


When: Saturday, September 27, 8 p.m. ET

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Television: ABC

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 48
  • Spread: Notre Dame (-12)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.



Many will point to the fact Notre Dame has yet to be truly tested and that the team struggled to dispatch of Purdue.

Both of those are true, but to be fair, the historic rivalry against the Boilermakers is always tough. In fact, over the course of the past few seasons, that 30-14 win is the most dominant the Fighting Irish have looked in that annual showdown.

No, the real issue here is the propensity for the Fighting Irish to overlook the Orange entirely. The week after is a showdown with No. 16 Stanford. Two games after that is No. 1 Florida State.

The Fighting Irish are the superior team by far, but it is quite a young one taking its first road trip out of state with even bigger matchups to look forward to down the line. Golson will lead the team to a win, but not in a dominant way most would anticipate.


Prediction: Fighting Irish 36, Orange 28


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Missouri vs. South Carolina: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Even though fans are not soon to forget the double-overtime classic put on by Missouri and South Carolina last season, the two programs are set to go at it again Saturday in one of the SEC schedule's biggest matchups.

Last year, South Carolina rattled off 17 fourth-quarter points and then got a field-goal miss from the opposition in the waning moments of the second overtime period to secure the massive upset.

Some of the heroes from that epic encounter have since moved on to other ventures, but the now-ranked No. 13 Gamecocks are hoping a home contest against an unranked Tigers squad produces a comfortable win this time around.

As if. The SEC East rivals are bound to put on another show to remember, as a visit from ESPN's College GameDay suggests.


The Hunt for a Rebound

These are two angry teams, to say the least.

Gary Pinkel's Tigers are a team in transition that still managed to sneak into the realm of the ranked to start the season. Three dominant wins later, the most notable being a triumph over UCF, the squad had worked its way up to No. 18 overall.

Then Indiana came for a visit last weekend. Indiana, a program that has not won more than five games in a season since 2007. A program that has not strung together back-to-back winning seasons since the 1993 and 1994 campaigns.

That Indiana went to Columbia and compiled 493 yards of total offense, converted just one third down on 14 tries and escaped with a 31-27 win.

Not that things have been much better for Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks. The team got blown away by Texas A&M to start the season. It then only scored a 10-point victory over East Carolina. A three-point upset of Georgia. Last week, Spurrier's team bumbled its way to a victory against an overmatched Vanderbilt squad.

Spurrier said, per The Associated Press, via

We still believe we have a chance to have a good team this year. We're 3-1 and have won some close ones. We've played some pretty good teams. We didn't think Vandy was going to be that good, but they played their hearts out. Probably out-played us. Probably out-hustled us in a lot of areas.

Considering a win Saturday would put either team's SEC fate in its own hands the rest of the way, it makes sense the men in charge are none too thrilled. Whether the teams were overlooking last week's games in favor of this one or not, both sides have a ton of work to do.


An Unheralded QB Battle

In a game such as this, the praise or blame will fall on the man under center.

For South Carolina, that is Dylan Thompson, who left last year's game against the Tigers in favor of injured starter Connor Shaw, who proceeded to lead the Gamecocks to the epic comeback. Looking back, Thompson has managed to (impressively) find the silver lining, as captured by Matt Connolly of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal:

Now a senior, Thompson has thrown for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. In the loss to the Aggies, he completed just 50 percent of his passes but managed to get 366 yards and four touchdowns on the day.

Sophomore Maty Mauk is at a bit of a disadvantage in the quarterback showdown given his limited experience, but he has shined so far with 978 yards and 14 scores to four picks while completing 61.6 percent of his passes.

Mauk has looked increasingly confident under center each week and is clearly having no issues with the leadership role, as one can glean from his comments after the upset at the hands of Indiana.

"When was the last time we faced adversity?" Mauk asked, per "Obviously, you don't want that, but we're going to bounce back and I have no doubt everybody's going to get healthy and we're going to come out ready to play Saturday."

Here is more adversity for Mauk to overcome on the road—senior guard Anthony Gatti is out with an injury, as is the team's No. 2 receiver, Darius White (15 catches for 230 yards and three scores).


When: Saturday, September 27, 7 p.m. ET

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 62.5
  • Spread: South Carolina (-6)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.



Neither of these teams inspire on the defensive side of the football, whereas both offenses have managed to post impressive offensive numbers through a handful of contests thus far.

Mauk is one of the conference's better passers already, but on the road in a hostile environment against his first true SEC test without a few key members of the offense, it is difficult to see him posting enough points to win this one.

Once South Carolina establishes a lead, it can ride tailback Mike Davis and others against a Missouri defense that surrendered 241 rushing yards to Indiana a week ago.

The home team grinds it out in the end.


Prediction: Gamecocks 38, Tigers 35


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Arkansas vs. Texas A&M: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

The Arkansas Razorbacks and No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies are not shy about how they go about winning games.

Now in his second year at the helm, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has his power-based attack looking like a serious threat to any team in the SEC, including the Aggies.

Kevin Sumlin's aerial-based attack is no slouch, though, making a star out of its newest captain, Kenny Hill. The Aggies have not skipped a beat despite a new face under center, and an SEC title and spot in the inaugural playoff are certainly possibilities.

As College GameDay reveals, both have the look of SEC powers thanks to prolific offenses:

Something has to give Saturday.


War of Strengths

Bielema is content to run the ball down the opposition's throat, control the pace of the game and walk away with an emphatic win.

“This is Arkansas football, hog-ball, hog-strong, whatever you want to say it, this is what we are,” Bielema said, per's Sam Khan Jr. “I know at times it ain't that pretty, but it's a heck of a lot of fun.”

Behind the churning legs of runners such as Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, the Razorbacks have rattled off three consecutive wins with a minimum of 49 points in each. The numbers themselves are rather eye-opening:

It all makes sense when taking into account a nugget from Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee—the Arkansas offensive line averages 328.4 pounds per player. In other words, bigger than a big handful of NFL lines.

Now contrast that with the Aggies, a team that already has 1,359 yards and 13 scores to one interception from Hill, an impossible-to-ignore Heisman candidate.

The system flat-out works, with few areas of the field being off-limits, as ESPN CollegeFootball visualizes:

Interestingly enough, on the flip side of the ball, Arkansas struggles against the pass and Texas A&M has its issues against the run.

Both attacks have the ability to control the game and keep the other off the field. In turn, this makes one key facet of the contest all too critical.


Turnovers Matter

It sounds obvious, right? 

Well, one would not know it given the Aggies' track record so far. The team started off on the right foot with no turnovers against South Carolina. A 73-3 win over Lamar saw the team turn it over three times. There was another in a 38-10 win over Rice. Yet another in a 58-6 thrashing of SMU.

Eventually, this habit of carelessness with the rock will hurt the Aggies in a bad way.

Perhaps as soon as this weekend.

"Two weeks in a row we lost the turnover battle," Sumlin said, per "The things we are continuing to work on are our penalties, our turnover margin and third downs. We accomplished some things but have areas to improve on."

Now, the Razorbacks have turned it over four times, but the brutal, clock-grinding ground game is more conducive to making opponents pay for letting go of the ball.

We are talking about a Razorbacks team that threw the ball just 12 times in a 49-28 thumping of the high-flying Texas Tech Red Raiders. A total of 68 rushes produced 438 yards and seven touchdowns, not to mention gave Arkansas the ball for better than 40 minutes of play.

If the Aggies give the ball away, a similarly lopsided box score is not out of the question.


When: Saturday, September 27, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Television: CBS

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 70
  • Spread: Texas A&M (-9)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports via USA Today.



The mettle of the Texas A&M defense has yet to be truly tested, and the contest against South Carolina is not a reliable judge considering the Gamecocks were in a period of transition under center and at other spots.

Arkansas is a stout test, and that ground game will make this one closer than most would have predicted beforehand.

That said, the Razorbacks defense is not exactly on par with its offense. The unit will surrender plenty of points to Hill, while the offense will settle for field goals on a few critical drives. That will make the difference above all else.

Prediction: Aggies 38, Razorbacks 30


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Tennessee vs. Georgia: TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Game Time and More

Forget SEC East implications, Tennessee and No. 12 Georgia have something to prove Saturday.

The visiting Volunteers fell flat on the road in Week 3 against No. 4 Oklahoma and have yet to prove that second-year head coach Butch Jones has made serious headway after a 5-7, two-conference-win season a year ago.

Meanwhile, Georgia beat up on Troy in what amounted to a bye week, but the sting of a three-point loss to South Carolina two weeks ago has the Bulldogs on the hunt to prove themselves worthy in the SEC, not to mention in the hunt for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

There is clearly plenty at stake in one of the week's marquee matchups, and not just within the confines of this season. On the field, programs in transition will need key performances to gain serious momentum before a deeper dive into SEC play.


Demons of the Past

Mark Richt and the Bulldogs understand better than anyone what a trap game this may turn out to be.

The team is angry over the loss to the Gamecocks, but last year's contest against the Volunteers should weigh heavily on those still on the roster. Georgia won by a field goal in overtime against Jones' lowly team but lost running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for the season in the process.

The Bulldogs finished the rest of the season at 4-4.

A more desirable result this time around means the Bulldogs must heavily lean on junior back Todd Gurley. He owns 402 yards and four scores on a ridiculous 9.8 yards-per-carry average already, and those numbers would be higher had the staff not pulled him in the game against Troy to preserve his health.

Gurley's 131 yards and a score on 20 totes in the loss to South Carolina speaks volumes to his ability against top defenses. It also sounds as if his eyes have been set on this matchup for a few weeks now, as captured by Anthony Dasher of

Tennessee is quite the test, too. Against Oklahoma, the Volunteers limited top Sooners backs Keith Ford and Alex Ross to a 3.7 yards-per-carry average or less although Samaje Perine (who broke out for huge numbers a week later against West Virginia) did find room for 67 yards on nine carries.

At home, the ground game needs to prove capable once again because Tennessee has a habit of not going down easily.


Undercover Problems

Tennessee just so happens to have a few strengths in areas many would consider weaknesses for Georgia.

That is what makes the spread here so strange and perhaps explains why it has started to shift in the visitors' direction after opening, as illustrated by Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee:

Bad news for the Bulldogs—Tennessee has the pure athletes to take advantage of the team's propensity to give up deep passing plays. The numbers for the Volunteers' top three receivers—especially the per-catch averages—show that the iffy Bulldogs secondary will get a major test:

Considering the Bulldogs gave up 271 yards and three scores to Dylan Thompson, Marquez North (who caught a touchdown pass against Georgia last year) figures to give the secondary fits.

That works on the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Gurley figures to get his on the ground, but senior Hutson Mason may prove to be a liability once again. Look at it this way: South Carolina allowed 832 passing yards in its first two games, but Mason failed to cash in on a weak unit and managed just 191 yards.

Tennessee touts a strong pair of corners in Cameron Sutton and Justin Coleman. Also remember that Tennessee has had two weeks to prepare for this matchup in particular.

Jones has done an incredible job in a short amount of time by turning the tides in the recruiting war. It has yet to truly show in the win column, but it will sooner or later. That may begin Saturday if Georgia cannot mask its weaknesses at home.


When: Saturday, September 27, 12 p.m. ET

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia

Television: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 55.5
  • Spread: Georgia (-17)


Team Injury Reports

Injury reports courtesy of The Sports Network (via USA Today).



As always seems to be the case between these two, it is safe to presume this one will be hotly contested throughout.

A few timely big plays from the Tennessee offense are to be expected, but a star player such as Gurley usually takes control in such a contest. Last week was essentially practice for the real thing this week, and if he takes more than 20 handoffs, Tennessee will eventually fold.

The Volunteers are certainly on the right path and already strong in two areas that are critical to success in the current era at the top of college football. But right now, especially on the road, Jones' team does not have the overall balance that suggests it can overcome the Bulldogs.

Prediction: Bulldogs 34, Volunteers 30


Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.


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Oregon Football: What Marcus Mariota Must Do to Win 2014 Heisman

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the favorite to win the 2014 Heisman trophy; however, there’s a lot to be done by Mariota and the Ducks if he’s going to take home the statue. 

There’s no doubt that Mariota has carried the Ducks so far this season. On the year, the Ducks quarterback is completing 74 percent of his passes, has thrown for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns, and has rushed for 214 yards and another three scores. He’s also yet to turnover the ball.

But winning the Heisman isn’t just about pure stats. Your team has to be one of the best in the nation and you have to unequivocally be the leader and face of the program. It also helps if you create that “Heisman Moment,” which voters will remember when it’s time to submit their ballots.

Here’s what Mariota and the Ducks have to do the rest of the season to ensure that Oregon secures its first Heisman Trophy winner.


Throw for 3,500 yards and Score 35+ Touchdowns 

The Heisman Trophy is an award that has been given to quarterbacks in nine of the last 11 seasons—including Reggie Bush’s win in 2005.

The quarterbacks who’ve won the award in the past 11 seasons—Jason White, Matt Leinart, Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston—have averaged 3,625 passing yards, 35 touchdown passes and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Here’s a breakdown:

Let’s say that Mariota plays 13 games this season before the Heisman ceremony takes place in December, including a potential Pac-12 Championship game. Currently he is on pace for 3,688 passing yards, 42 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns. If he keeps up with that pace, Mariota will have equaled or bettered the averages of the past nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman trophy.

Of course, statistics don’t tell the entire story. Wins do.


Beat Stanford

Stanford has been Mariota’s Achilles' heel. The Ducks redshirt junior quarterback is in his third year as starter for the program and has a nearly flawless record of 27-3. However, two of those losses have come at the hands of the Cardinal.

If the Ducks are to win the Pac-12 North title and advance to the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 5, they are going to have to beat Stanford. In order for Mariota’s Heisman candidacy to be taken seriously, he has to lead the Ducks to a victory over Stanford on Nov. 1.

Without a victory over Stanford, Mariota could still theoretically win the Heisman; however, it would be a much tougher road and that road would be filled with a lot more questions than answers.

When the Heisman voters go to cast their ballots you don’t want there to be any room to ask questions. The race needs to be over before it had even started. By beating Stanford and overcoming his Achilles heel, Mariota will have proved that he’s the best candidate for the prestigious award.


Win the Pac-12 Championship

Despite the fact that Mariota is the best quarterback in the history of the Oregon program, as evidenced by his school records including most touchdown passes thrown and total offense, he has never won a Pac-12 Championship.

While it’s not a prerequisite for a Heisman winner to win their conference championship, in fact only five of the past nine quarterbacks to win the Heisman have, Mariota is going to need to accomplish this feat in order to secure his place on the ballot. Mariota needs to win the Pac-12 championship because not only will it highlight his accomplishments on one of the best teams in the nation, but also because it will alleviate concerns that Mariota can’t win the big game and get past Stanford in the Pac-12 North division.

Can Marcus Mariota win the Heisman trophy if the Ducks go 11-1 in the regular season and fail to reach the Pac-12 title game? Yes, it’s possible. However, if Mariota is to lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 title, it would cement his legacy at the University of Oregon and propel his Heisman trophy candidacy.


Earn a Spot in the College Football Championship

Six of the past nine quarterbacks to capture the Heisman trophy have gone on to play in the national championship game, though only three winners have captured the title—Matt Leinart in 2004, Cam Newton in 2010 and Jameis Winston in 2013. 

It's possible to have a remarkable season and capture the Heisman without making it to the national championship game; however, the trophy is usually presented to the best player on one of the best teams in the country. While Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel all won the Heisman without their teams being in serious contention for the national title, it's the road less traveled.

With the new College Football Playoff allowing four teams to compete in a playoff for a national title, it should open up the door for more Heisman trophy candidates.

This is where Mariota fits in. The Ducks, currently ranked second by the Associated Press, have a very realistic shot at reaching the inaugural College Football Playoff. If Mariota can lead the Ducks into the playoff, he should be one of the top contenders for the Heisman trophy.

He can win the trophy without reaching the playoff, but, as we said, it’s the road less traveled. With a playoff berth, Mariota can capture the Heisman trophy.


Create The “Heisman Moment”

While the Heisman trophy is a reward based on individual statistics and team results, the voters also award “style points.” Most of the past winners have not only succeeded individually, but they’ve provided theatrical moments on the field that are remembered and immortalized forever.

When we think about the Heisman trophy, we often don’t think of the entire resume of the winner. What we—and the voters—think about is that one moment, that one play that separates a college football player from the pack and leaves a mark on history.

Think about Reggie Bush in 2005 cutting back across the field against Fresno State or Desmond Howard striking the Heisman pose in 1993 after a punt return against Ohio State. How about Johnny Manziel’s scramble, fumble, scramble some more touchdown pass against Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2012? These are moments we’ll never forget.

In order to win the Heisman trophy a candidate needs to have one of these moments and usually they come in high-pressure moments against a top opponent.

Has Mariota already had his Heisman moment for the Ducks this season? It’s possible.

We could talk about Mariota’s “Flyin’ Hawaiian” rushing touchdown against Wyoming. While that’s a moment, it’s not “the moment.”

However, Mariota’s flip pass against Michigan State may qualify.

With the Ducks down 27-18 and struggling mightily on offense against the tough Spartans defense, Oregon faced a third-and-11. Mariota felt pressure in the backfield, as he had all day. With defenders barreling down on him, Mariota miraculously escaped the pocket and cut to the left. He could have run for a first-down; however, he was beginning to trip.

Out of the corner of his eye, Mariota spotted true freshman running back Royce Freeman. Mariota flipped a gorgeous little pass to Freeman as he was falling to the turf that resulted in a 17-yard gain and a first down. That play changed the entire momentum of the game. The Ducks would go on to score on that drive, as well as the subsequent three drives. That moment, which we've dubbed "the flip," will go down in Oregon lore. 

Was the Mariota's Heisman moment? Only time will tell.

In order for Marcus Mariota to capture the Heisman trophy, he’s going to need once again provide that indelible moment with the game on the line. It’s imperative to his Heisman candidacy.

Mariota has an incredible shot to win the first Heisman trophy in the history of the University of Oregon. If Mariota succeeds individually, beats Stanford, leads the Ducks to a Pac-12 title and Oregon earns a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff, he will be crowned as the winner of the 2014 Heisman trophy.


Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter@TheSportsGuy33.

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Oregon Football: What Marcus Mariota Must Do to Win 2014 Heisman

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the favorite to win the 2014 Heisman trophy; however, there’s a lot to be done by Mariota and the Ducks if he’s going to take home the statue...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Conference's Top Freshman Classes Through September

We're over a month into the college football season, and while a pecking order has been established in the Pac-12, no team looks head-and-shoulders above the rest.

One thing we do know, however, is that as talented as the conference is at present, the future looks even brighter.

Freshmen on nearly every team have made an instant impact, and that experience early on should turn the group into leaders, playmakers and top-notch NFL talent down the road.

From a running back in the desert to wide receivers all over the place and even a few defenders, the Pac-12 has no shortage of freshmen who've arrived on the college scene and delivered immediately.

But which teams have the best freshman classes through the month of September?

Let's take a look at the top five through the first four weeks of the season. Will this be a sign of who's set to dominate over the next few years?


All stats via Redshirt players included. Just missed: UCLA, Colorado.

Begin Slideshow

Pac-12 Football: Ranking the Conference's Top Freshman Classes Through September

We're over a month into the college football season, and while a pecking order has been established in the Pac-12, no team looks head-and-shoulders above the rest...

Begin Slideshow

Big 12 Football: Predicting Bowl Appearances for Big 12 Teams

We're already past the quarter pole of the 2014-15 college football season. But is it ever too early for bowl projections? 

We don't think so. 

The Big 12 has already had some major shakeups this season, from the dismissals at Texas to the emergence of West Virginia as a dark-horse contender, this conference is up for grabs. 

The two teams in the league that aren't projected to make a bowl game are Iowa State and Kansas—both failed to earn bowl eligibility last season. 

With that, let's check out the bowl projections for the rest of the eight teams in the Big 12.

Begin Slideshow