Atlantic Coast Conference play is right around the corner as the No. 15 Miami Hurricanes prepare for a nonconference bout with the South Florida Bulls. The Hurricanes are 3-0 for the first time since 2004, so there is some buzz starting to surround the program.
But Miami has to keep focused on South Florida, because there are a few areas in which Miami can and must improve before the ACC season kicks off for Golden's team.
Head coach Willie Taggart and his 0-3 Bulls do not appear as if they will be a massive challenger to the 'Canes, but taking Saturday's game for granted would be a huge mistake.
Miami has a golden opportunity for its leader to get into a rhythm, and avoiding a certain bug is necessary too.
No More Injuries
Miami's glorified scrimmage against Savannah State was supposed to be a chance for key reserves and younger players to receiver a solid number of snaps.
What wasn't supposed to happen, however, was quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson and wide receiver Herb Waters each leaving the game due to injury.
The bumps and bruises did allow players such as Ryan Williams, Stacy Coley, Eduardo Clements and Gus Edwards extra reps, but the Hurricanes did not intend for the additional snaps to happen that way.
Plus, Duke Johnson has had an injury scare in each of the first three games—a testament to how hard the sophomore back plays. But each injury scare is just that—scary. Whenever Duke limps off the field or is slow to get up, Miami fans hold their collective breath.
And of course, Stephen Morris exited the game with a bone bruise on his right ankle, but he expects to play, according to Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald. Morris definitely needs the game action too, as he has thrown for just 404 yards through three games, and for perspective, Morris threw for 404-plus in three games last year.
The 'Canes must leave the South Florida contest relatively injury-free as the pivotal part of the season—conference games—begins the following week.
Find Their Offensive Rhythm
Some of Miami's offensive struggles against Florida Atlantic can be chalked up as first-game jitters, but the Hurricanes starting unit still has not quite meshed.
Morris and Co. showed strides during the first quarter vs. Florida, but the Gators' defense kept the 'Canes at bay for the rest of the game.
Savannah State, as mentioned earlier, was an opportunity for reserves to get more snaps, but the game also provided an outstanding chance for the Miami offense to get on the same page. While the Hurricanes showed no ill effects after Morris left the field, it would have been beneficial for the receivers to work with the senior quarterback in a game situation.
Georgia Tech is the first opponent during conference play, and the Yellow Jackets have played admirably through three games (and two ACC matchups). Paul Johnson's team allowed just 319 yards to Bryn Renner and the North Carolina offense, and although it was raining, the number is quite low for the Tar Heels.
The Yellow Jackets host Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and that Coastal Division clash is a DVR-worthy game to see where both teams—especially Georgia Tech—currently stand.
South Florida has not been playing awful defense, allowing just 305.7 yards per game which ranks 23rd in the nation, so Saturday is certainly not a "gimme" for the Hurricanes.
Nonetheless, Morris and his receivers must start connecting on a regular basis, and Johnson (101.3 yards per game) needs to continue running the ball effectively.
Dominate the Game
Overall, though, South Florida is bad, you guys.
To understand how far the Bulls have fallen, consider this: Miami was beaten by USF 23-20 in 2010 and clipped a Skip Holtz-coached team 6-3 on a last-second, game-winning field goal.
Last season, the Hurricanes left no doubt who the superior team was by thrashing South Florida 40-9 at Sun Life Stadium.
Fast forward to 2013, and the Bulls were beaten by McNeese State 53-21.
Yes, the FCS' McNeese-stinkin'-State.
Two weeks later, South Florida fell to Florida Atlantic 28-10—a squad this Miami team beat by 28 in the season-opener. But Al Golden refuses to overlook the Bulls and believes USF's offense will be especially tough to handle coming off a bye week, according to Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post.
The Bulls' offense hasn't impressed many, ranking 116th in the nation in passing yards, 121st in points scored and 120th in total yards. Golden, however, disregarded the numbers. ... "If you’re going to put any wrinkles in, that’s the time to put them in," Golden said. "I think it’s going to be a great challenge, especially in the first 15 plays. Whatever adjustments they have made, we have to adapt and adjust quickly so we don’t incur any damage on defense."
The 'Canes must now allow this matchup to become a trap game and dominate the 12 p.m. ET contest on Saturday.
As in 2012, Miami must leave no doubt once again and then the team can begin preparing for Georgia Tech and ACC play at full-strength and in rhythm.
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The Virginia Tech Hokies narrowly avoided a crushing defeat with last week's triple-overtime win over Marshall to move to 3-1. Unfortunately for the Hokies, they are on a short week and must be ready to play on Thursday as they travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech in their first ACC contest.
The Yellow Jackets enter Thursday on a short week too, having defeated North Carolina 28-20 at home. The Jackets improved to 3-0, 2-0 in ACC play.
Since the Hokies entered the ACC in 2004, Georgia Tech has been their primary rival in the Coastal Division of the ACC. In fact, since the ACC championship game was instituted in 2005, either the Hokies or Jackets have represented the Coastal every year.
The Hokies have won the last three meetings between the schools and are 7-3 all-time against Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson's only win over VT occurred in 2009, but his flexbone offense has given Bud Foster trouble over the years.
The two schools opened the 2012 season with the Hokies winning an overtime thriller in Blacksburg. Will this game be as exciting as that one?
- When: Thursday, September 26, 2013
- Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Ga. (55,000)
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
- Spread: Georgia Tech is currently a seven-point favorite.
Week 3 featured just one matchup between top-25 teams. With that, there were several lopsided scores, as some of the better teams in the country faced inferior competition.
Top teams facing bottom-feeders led to many teams stuffing the stat sheet with dominant performances.
As we near Week 5, we are starting to get a good feel for which teams are legitimate defensively. Don't look too much into Texas A&M's Week 3 loss to Alabama. Yes, it was a bad performance, but how many teams in all of college football could shut down the Crimson Tide?
The new No. 1 team in our defensive power rankings earned it last week. They continue to get better each week.
Is it your favorite team?
Here is a look at the top 10 defenses in college football as we rapidly approach Week 5.
The Tennessee Volunteers are one-third of the way through the 2013 season. This year has featured blowouts, turnover extravaganzas and a quarterback switch, but few are surprised by the ending result—a 2-2 record.
The individuals involved in that 2-2 record, though, have been surprising. Sure, the offensive line was going to be good, and yeah, we knew the running backs were experienced and talented. But the youth of the wide receivers and progression of the secondary have been really impressive.
Here are the five players who have surprised us in the early part of the 2013 season.
It’s a rare day when Notre Dame collides with a Big 12 opponent. It’s an even rarer day when the Irish lose to one.
Notre Dame heads into Saturday’s showdown in South Bend with No. 14 Oklahoma sporting a 28-4-1 all-time record against the 10 current members of the Big 12. Those 33 games have come against just six teams, as the Irish have never faced Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
Of the six conferences with automatic bids to BCS bowls, Notre Dame has lost to at least one team from the ACC, American, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC within the past 24 months.
The last Fighting Irish loss to a Big 12 team? That would be the 1970 Cotton Bowl, a 21-17 defeat to Texas in Notre Dame’s first postseason appearance after lifting its self-imposed bowl ban that had been in place for nearly half a century.
The Fighting Irish’s .863 winning percentage against the Big 12 isn’t simply a product of beating up on the league’s bottom feeders. Notre Dame has won nine of 10 meetings with the Sooners (you’ll hear that stat once or twice or 37 times this week) and eight of 10 against the Longhorns, including all four meetings since that loss in Dallas almost 44 years ago.
Two victories over Big 12 opponents have won national titles for Notre Dame. The Irish and Longhorns met on New Year’s Day 1978, and No. 5 Notre Dame rolled to a 38-10 victory over Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell's top-ranked Texas, helping vault them to the top spot in the polls.
Eleven years later, West Virginia was the victim, as the Irish claimed a 34-21 victory in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl to win the program’s most recent national championship.
That was the first of four victories for Notre Dame over the Mountaineers, who also fell to Bob Davie's Irish teams in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Kansas is the only Big 12 team besides Oklahoma and Texas to record a win over Notre Dame, doing so all the way back in 1904. The Jayhawks also tied the Irish, as the teams played to a scoreless draw in 1933. The teams have met four other times, with the Irish winning each, but only once since 1938, a 48-13 Irish victory in the 1999 Eddie Robinson Classic in South Bend.
Notre Dame outscored Baylor 68-3 in their two meetings (1925 and 1998 in South Bend), and the Irish blanked TCU 21-0 at Notre Dame Stadium in 1972.
Having Oklahoma on their schedule has generally boded well for the Fighting Irish. They used a 38-0 win in Norman in 1966 to help jump-start a national title run. Just last season, Brian Kelly’s team played its best game of the year en route to the BCS Championship Game in a 30-13 victory over the Sooners, also in Norman.
National-title hopes for this season are barely flickering, but a win over Oklahoma on Saturday could be the victory that leads Notre Dame back to a BCS bowl for the second year in a row. A loss would likely require the Irish to sweep their final seven games to qualify for the BCS.
Of course, when discussing Notre Dame and Oklahoma, it would be unjust not to mention the 1957 7-0 Fighting Irish win at Owen Field that ended the Sooners' NCAA-record 47-game winning streak under legendary coach Bud Wilkinson.
While the 1957 Irish finished a respectable 7-3, even some of Notre Dame's lesser teams had success against the Sooners. The 1999 Irish, which finished 5-7, defeated Oklahoma 34-30. That was Bob Stoops' first defeat as head coach of Oklahoma.
Given its track record against the Big 12, perhaps it was wise for Notre Dame to schedule an upcoming four-game series with Texas, with games in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020. If the Irish complete a home-and-home sweep of Oklahoma on Saturday, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick may consider dialing up his Sooners counterpart, Joe Castiglione, about another series between the teams.
However, with the Irish locked into five ACC games every year beginning next year and annual games with Navy, Purdue, Stanford and USC, games against Big 12 teams in the future will likely be rare. In addition, with the Big 12 having moved to a nine-game conference schedule in 2011, Big 12 teams now play just three non-league games each season.
Notre Dame fans should savor the uniqueness of Saturday’s game—an intersectional collision between two historical powers—a rarity in today's world of increasingly weak non-conference schedules. Despite receiving a bit less hype than last October’s battle of top-10 teams in Norman, the game has significant national implications for both the 3-0 Sooners and the 3-1 Fighting Irish.
If history holds true, they’ll also enjoy the outcome.
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Nebraska football fans had any lofty expectations for their season dashed when NU coughed up an 18-point lead en route to a 41-21 drubbing at the hands of UCLA. For many, the rest of the season really became an afterthought, certainly nothing to look forward to.
That may have been premature. Nebraska’s schedule remains very manageable (which is the polite way of saying “full of not very good teams”). At the start of the season, fans circled the November 9 trip to Ann Arbor as the game of the season. Is Nebraska, even with all the weaknesses exposed in the first quarter of the season, good enough to make it through the next four games between now and November 9 unscathed?
The Case For
Nebraska’s next four opponents are home to Illinois, away to Purdue, away to Minnesota, and home to Northwestern. The first three of that foursome are conference foes that have been struggling. Illinois posted the worst conference record in 2012. Purdue is currently 1-2, with its only win being a 20-14 victory over Indiana State. Minnesota has lost its last two games against Nebraska by a combined score of 79-28. And Northwestern will have to come to Lincoln to face Nebraska.
Sure, the Northwestern game will be tough. Given Michigan’s recent struggles against Akron and Connecticut, it’s possible the Purples might be the sternest test on Nebraska’s schedule this year. But the game will be at home, where Nebraska will (likely) be 6-1 and coming into the contest full of confidence. Plus, it’s not like Northwestern’s defense is much better than Nebraska, with the Purples checking in at No. 89 nationally in total defense (compared to Nebraska at No. 108).
Plus, one of the reasons for Nebraska’s struggles on defense has been a lack of experience given all the youth and new players that have been plugged into the system. Seven games in should be enough to get all those fresh faces enough game experience to make them at least a little battle-hardened and ready for the meaty part of Nebraska’s schedule.
The Case Against
It would be unwise to write off the chances for a Nebraska loss at any point in the season, particularly in conference play. Illinois quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase, is the type of dual threat that Nebraska’s defense has struggled against throughout Bo Pelini’s tenure in Lincoln.
And the Illini are making a nice turnaround in year two of Tim Beckman’s time in charge. They dominated Cincinnati, 42-17, and held in there against nationally-ranked Washington to a 34-24 loss. Illinois’ visit to Lincoln might not be the gimme a certain smart and particularly handsome analyst thought it would be before the season.
Purdue is still trying to put things together, but the Boilermakers did hang with Notre Dame, last year’s national runners-up, losing 31-24. More importantly, the game is Nebraska’s first road trip, which means it will be the first time a very young and inexperienced defensive unit has to face a hostile environment. Yes, Nebraska should win this game, but funny things can happen to kids on the road.
While Nebraska has dominated Minnesota since joining the Big Ten, the Gophers are undefeated this season. They also have Donnell Kirkwood, one of the conference’s best rushers. Plus, the game is away from home, another challenge for a young squad.
And then Northwestern comes to town. The Purples came to Lincoln and knocked off Nebraska in 2011, 28-25, a score that flattered the Cornhuskers in terms of the overall performance of the two teams. Last year, Northwestern would have made it two straight wins over Nebraska, absent Taylor Martinez leading an amazing fourth-quarter comeback.
There is a plausible scenario where Nebraska loses each of the four games between now and Michigan, although a loss to Northwestern is the most plausible of the four.
Nebraska’s two toughest games between now and Michigan are against Illinois and Northwestern. Nebraska is fortunate to have them both at home, a big advantage. And both teams certainly have their flaws.
Neither team plays much defense. As mentioned, Northwestern is No. 89 nationally in total defense. Illinois is No. 116. And while Northwestern’s offense is closer to Nebraska’s (No. 31 nationally in total offense compared to Nebraska’s No. 22), the Purples’ schedule has been softer than Nebraska’s. Look for the disparity in those numbers to rise.
Illinois, on the other hand, is No. 56 nationally in scoring offense. Yes, the Illini have the firepower to challenge Nebraska, but given that NU has performed significantly better on offense and (amazingly enough) on defense, and that the game is in Lincoln, Nebraska should be able to get a win.
The remaining two games are on the road, which present its own challenges. Purdue did play Notre Dame close, but for whatever reason is always able to keep things close against the Irish. In 2012, when the Boilermakers went 6-7, they only lost to Notre Dame 20-17 in South Bend. So that tight game may be a bit deceiving.
And Minnesota’s undefeated start is likely a bit of a mirage, as the wins have come against UNLV, New Mexico State, Western Illinois, and San Jose State. If Minnesota is still undefeated when it plays Nebraska, that means the Gophers will have wins over Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern, and then they can be considered a danger.
Yes, it’s awfully hard to invest any trust in this squad of Cornhuskers, given how the defense is putting in performances that would make the 2007 squad blush. The ghost of the UCLA collapse will be haunting both the team and the fans, to be certain.
But none of the teams between now and Michigan have the kind of offensive firepower that can do what UCLA did to Nebraska’s defense. So, based on the evidence presented, the verdict is that Nebraska will likely be 7-1 on November 9 when it takes the field in Ann Arbor.
All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.
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The injury bug has hit the Texas Longhorns early this season, with one of the more serious situations surrounding Texas quarterback David Ash.
Ash left the Longhorns second game of the season against BYU with a concussion and subsequently sat out the third game against Ole Miss. Ash was released to play in the Longhorns Big 12 opener against Kansas State, but Ash started experiencing concussion-like symptoms after taking a couple of big hits early in the game and did not return for the second half.
With the quarterback situation up in the air, the Longhorns will need to rely on the running game to carry the offense.
The amount of talent and depth of the running back unit is impressive. Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron have the ideal combination of speed, strength and skill. But Gray has three times the number of carries of Brown and Bergeron, which could mean Gray will receive the bulk of the carries this season.
Johnathan Gray was a stud during his time at Aledo High School and holds six Texas High School football records: Career rushing carries (1,218); 100 or more rushing yard games in a season (16 in 2009 and 2011); career 100 or more rushing yard games (51); most rushing touchdowns in a season (65 in 2011); most career touchdowns (205); and career scoring (1,232). But the consensus 5-star running back has not consistently performed up to his potential at Texas.
This season, Gray ranks 45th nationally in rushing yards per game but is tied for 21st in rushing attempts. Seventeen sophomore running backs are averaging more rushing yards per game than Gray, who was the No. 1 running back in the 2012 recruiting class according to Rivals.com. To make matters worse, Gray ranks 116th in yards per carry.
There is zero chance that hundreds of recruiting analysts from ESPN.com, Rivals.com, Scout.com, etc. over-ranked Johnathan Gray—the 2011-2012 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. The talent is obviously there and considering his high school track record, Gray should be averaging 100 yards or more in nearly every game. So why does he only have three 100-yard games at Texas?
A lot of the blame for Gray's underwhelming numbers falls on the Texas coaches' inability to properly utilize the offensive weapons. Last season, Gray had 149 carries compared to the 2012 rushing attempts leader Le'Veon Bell's 382 carries, so it is no surprise Gray's freshman year was nothing special. But the uncertainty at quarterback should be the push the coaches need to start building the game plan around Gray and the other running backs talent.
When Ash went down at halftime against Kansas State, Gray's carries increased and his second-half yardage nearly doubled his first-half stats. Gray kicked off Big 12 conference play with his first 100-yard game this season, earning himself the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award and College Football Performance Awards honorable mention of the week. This is the Johnathan Gray Texas fans have been waiting to see.
It's unfortunate that it took an injury to the starting quarterback for Texas to rely on Johnathan Gray's talent. Gray showed a glimpse of his potential against Kansas State, but that performance should be the first of many 100-yard games for the sophomore. At this point, Texas fans can only hope Gray continues to be given the opportunity to live up to the expectations of being the No. 1 running back recruit in his class.
With no timetable currently set for David Ash's return, the time is now for Johnathan Gray to lead the Texas offense through Big 12 play and prove he has the ability to be an impact player at the college level.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar
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The No. 9 ranked Texas A&M Aggies take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville in Saturday. If the Aggies want to notch their first Southeastern Conference win of the season, they will need to find a way to shut down Arkansas' running game.
The Razorbacks are 3-1 on the season behind a strong defense and a very powerful running game. The Hogs are averaging 246 yards rushing per game.
The Aggies have struggled tremendously on defense in 2013, particularly in their front seven. The Texas A&M defense is allowing 218 yards rushing and 5.9 yards per carry.
The Aggies defense is going to have to improve by leaps and bounds if they are going to slow down the Arkansas running game. This is a look at the steps that the Aggies will have to take if they want to hold the Hogs in check.
When Georgia takes the field on Saturday, it will be against yet another Top-10 team, the LSU Tigers.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST
Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 3, via 5Dimes
The script for Saturday's showdown between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame closely resembles the 2012 edition.
Oklahoma enters the contest as the favorite, with Notre Dame familiarly relishing its role as the disrespected underdog.
And like last season's matchup in Norman, Okla., this meeting has BCS implications written all over it. A Notre Dame loss would place the Irish's BCS aspirations on life support, while a victory would keep them in the thick of the chase.
Doing so isn't a remedial task, as the 14th-ranked Sooners are off to their first 3-0 start since 2011, which includes a 51-20 victory against Tulsa two weeks ago. And one would assume having the bye week to prepare for Notre Dame will be a positive for head coach Bob Stoops and Co.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame is in the throes of a relatively uneventful four-game stretch in which a slew of seemingly non-fixable issues has presented itself.
A 100th-ranked rushing attack, a suspect secondary and stagnant offensive stretches have plagued the Irish thus far, particularly during a monotonous 17-13 victory against Michigan State last week.
Will those issues be exploited and embarrassingly revealed by Oklahoma?
We'll see come Saturday.
Here's what you need to know about the game.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Notre Dame Stadium
Radio: Notre Dame IMG Radio Network, SoonerSports.com
Spread: Oklahoma by 3.5, per VegasInsider.com
Upset alert! Upset alert!
You can bet the cry will go out among some college football sages who think the Gamecocks will be prime for an upset playing at unbeaten Central Florida.
It's easy to understand the logic.
The Knights have knocked off Akron 38-7, which in turn almost beat Michigan. Then UCF routinely trounced Florida International 38-0 and followed up with a 41-31 victory at Penn State.
Even though the victory carries an asterisk (*probation-ravaged Penn State), any victory over the Nittany Lions at their place is another notch in the belt for Central Florida, a program carrying big-time aspirations.
South Carolina is 2-1 following a season-opening victory over North Carolina, a 41-30 loss at Georgia and a 35-25 home victory against Vanderbilt.
Both teams enter following an off week.
Who: South Carolina (2-1) at Central Florida (3-0)
When: 12 p.m. ET, Saturday
Where: Bright House Networks Stadium
Series history: South Carolina leads 3-0
The NCAA is attempting to dig itself out of the hole it created by digging deeper, hoping to crack the surface on other side. And even in an instance where the governing body finally got it right—as it did on Tuesday by announcing reduced sanctions for Penn State—we’re reminded how we got to this point in the first place.
More importantly, we’re still unsure as to how or why the NCAA is reacting the way it has, seemingly rewriting the rulebook as it goes. One arbitrary, unexplainable punishment has given way for an arbitrary solution (albeit a partial one), with motives that differ greatly from the disingenuous reasoning provided.
Regardless of the intent behind this dramatic move, the NCAA announced on Tuesday that it would “gradually restore” Penn State football scholarships and that further modifications to the heavy-handed punishment handed down in 2012 could be coming. Via NCAA.org:
Due to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity, the NCAA Executive Committee is gradually restoring football scholarships the university lost because of sanctions more than a year ago. These changes were endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors and based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State and former U.S. Senator.
Beginning next academic year (2014-15), five additional initial scholarships will be restored to the university’s football team. This amount will continue to increase until they reach the full allocation of 25 initial in 2015-16 and 85 total football scholarships in 2016-17.
The NCAA also didn’t rule out the possibility of shortening the team’s four-year postseason ban saying, “The group may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress.”
That could prove to be significant, and the changes, as laid out, drastically alter the dreary outlook of the next five to eight years. The added scholarships will greatly help soften the inevitable depth concerns, and the additions will go into effect starting next year, with five. Not only that, but Bill O’Brien can use these changes as ammunition on the recruiting trail, where he has thrived in his time at the school despite the difficult circumstances.
Attracting marquee talent has yet to be an issue (see: freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg and a 2014 recruiting class currently ranked fourth in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports). Dealing with limited scholarships, however, has greatly impacted how this team operates. That won’t be the case for much longer.
For the NCAA, the decision sets yet another dangerous precedent—as much as it says otherwise—in an attempt to repair the precedent it set (and denied) from the very beginning.
It did not conduct its own investigation, choosing instead to rely on the Freeh Report and push aside all other NCAA cases at the time—we’re still waiting for a decision on Miami, by the way—in an effort to reach a resolution before the 2012 season began.
A little more than a year later and the NCAA is rewarding Penn State’s cooperation by reducing penalties. That reads just fine in a press release, but the lessening of such punishments is a clear admission after ample reflection. And at a time where the NCAA is trying to garner as much positive PR as possible—talking about dramatic change on the horizon—the timing of this news is curious.
NCAA President Mark Emmert combated this notion while speaking with reporters on Tuesday, deflecting the decision as the “right thing to do” versus an attempt to improve the image of his organization.
Mark Emmert said this decision was made because it was "the right thing to do" and was not about a "public relations position"...— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) September 24, 2013
If this is “the right thing to do,” what exactly does that say about the initial decision?
More than anything, however, the decision to reduce the sanctions against Penn State lacks consistency and reasoning—the two things we’ve been craving when it comes to NCAA enforcement.
The idea of NCAA enforcement in this instance can be questioned altogether, and the NCAA appears to be doing just that with its latest response. Mark Emmert can fight the idea of "precedent" all he wants, but there's no other way to look at it.
Emmert: "This should not be seen as a precedent for handling other cases." Notes this has been handled in "extraordinary manner."— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) September 24, 2013
“Extraordinary manner” is a fancy way to say arbitrary, and the NCAA is poised to fill in the blanks with pencil for as long as it pleases and is allowed to do so. In Penn State's case, it attempted to quantify the appropriate fine, scholarships lost and postseason bans for a scandal that warranted something beyond NCAA action.
As it admitted without actually saying so on Tuesday, this initial response was flawed.
And in an attempt to correct such results, the NCAA has again turned to its own set of guidelines—the ones that are being created right before our eyes. It will continue to claim this power as harnessed until it surfaces yet again.
All the while the notion of precedent will be ignored as the NCAA continues to dig, searching for the other side.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
When Wisconsin and Ohio State fans look at their schedules heading into the season, they usually find each other and circle the game on their schedule—at least in recent years.
It wasn't always that way, but a series of close games and battles for division and conference titles in the past decade-and-a-half had a way of making sure this game became a rivalry.
Neither team shies away from saying so, it just takes a back seat to more bitter and long-standing rivalries for both teams.
However, upon Bielema's departure at Wisconsin, things were about to change in this rivalry once again, as the Badgers hired Gary Andersen—a former coach under Meyer at Utah.
The two are close friends, despite only coaching together for one season at Utah.
During the Big Ten Media Days, Meyer even told the gathered media that Andersen was, "One of the best two or three hires I have ever made."
It's doubtful that we would've ever had nice things being said by Meyer and Bielema unless they were downplaying or deflecting comments made to the media before.
So, how does the relationship between Meyer and Andersen change the way this rivalry has been for the past few years?
Well, instead of making it about the coaches and what they've been saying or not saying throughout the year, this matchup will be all about the kids on the field.
For guys like Chris Borland, a senior from Ohio that was never recruited by the Buckeyes, it means one last shot at the school that spurned them.
While on the other side, there's the whole 16 game win streak and the lack of conference titles—caused by the Badgers—to be played for.
Of course, changes in the rivalry are nothing new over the last 13 years or so.
First, there was Wisconsin taking down the defending national champions with a 17-10 victory in 2003—gone were the national title hopes for the Buckeyes.
Following a second consecutive win by the Badgers the next year, it was the Buckeyes' turn to be the thorn in the side of Wisconsin—winning the next three contests from 2007-09.
However, one play changed this from a fringe rivalry to a bitter feud that would extend for some time to come:
Ohio State turned it all around a year later, winning on their own memorable play:
Now, the Buckeyes are owners of a two game win streak in this rivalry and look to close out the final year of these two teams being bitter divisional rivals with a win at home.
It would also be sweet on the Buckeyes side of things to take this one on the way to holding the Badgers out of the Big Ten title game for the first time ever and be the team to replace them in the game themselves.
While the fans and players may continue to hate each other to ends that may only be topped by "The Game," don't expect the two coaches at these schools to participate in said hate—and that's something that will take some getting used to.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer here at Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Andy on Twitter for more things Big Ten.
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On Sept. 24, 1994, Kordell Stewart and the University of Colorado trailed Michigan 26-21 with :06 remaining.
With the ball on their 36-yard line, Stewart heaved the ball the length of the field for the 64-yard Hail Mary pass that was caught after a deflection by Michael Westbrook for the team's second TD in the final 2:16, resulting in one of the greatest finishes in college football history.
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"Games are won in the trenches" is one of those dime-store coaching colloquialisms doled out without much meaning. However, when applied to Saturday's matchup pitting USC against Arizona State, rhetoric commonly applied to front-line play carries particular gravity.
At Arizona State, there is a talented and experienced defensive line that has yet to break loose in the same manner that produced 56 sacks a season ago. Meanwhile, USC is initiating a young group up front offensively while also struggling to establish an identity on that side of the ball.
The unit that finds its rhythm Saturday is most likely to score its team a victory in what could fairly be qualified as a must-win game. An 0-2 hole to open Pac-12 Conference play spells disaster, and that's precisely the reality Saturday's loser faces.
Of the opportunities USC missed in its 17-14 win over Utah State last week, a few notables emanated from an inexperienced offensive line.
Redshirt freshman left tackle Chad Wheeler allowed a sack resulting in a fumble after he was badly beaten at midfield one possession. It was one of nine sacks the Trojan front has given up through four games, which, at 2.25 per outing, ranks USC 103rd nationally.
Conversely, Arizona State has made just three sacks through three games, a departure from last year's prolific output in the opposing backfield.
The Sun Devils recorded 56 sacks a season, and the drop-off thus far into 2013 is by opponent design. All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton has been sandwiched between frequent double-teams, as to be expected.
But where the Sun Devils compensated last year with additional pressure off the edge, opponents have countered by going to the ground.
To wit, Stanford neutralized the Sun Devils' big-play potential with a steady dose of the rush—49 times to be exact, with just 17 pass attempts.
By employing that strategy, the Cardinal didn't just eliminate arguably the Sun Devil defense's greatest asset; Stanford also attacked a problem area for that defense.
USC has become an increasingly run-based offense as the young season's progressed, whereas stopping the run is a point of emphasis Arizona State head coach Todd Graham has addressed multiple times since the offseason.
Graham's initial concerns are somewhat well-founded—Arizona State is allowing nearly 4.7 yards per carry.
Graham said Monday he is happy with the defensive line’s play against Stanford, citing the team’s limiting of long yardage plays like those surrendered to Wisconsin in Week 3. But Arizona State also suffered losses up front that cloud outlook in the Valley of the Sun.
Tackle Jaxon Hood is a likely scratch from Saturday’s lineup after spending the second half against Stanford on crutches. Said Graham during his press conference Monday, Hood is “very doubtful.”
The Sun Devils are also without defensive end Junior Onyeali, a star last season who is out for the year.
Establishing running back Tre Madden early is essential for the Trojans to steal an important road win. Maintaining blocks long enough to force overpursuit from Sun Devil rushers would open holes for the hard-running Madden to break off considerable gains.
The preparation of Graham and his staff has shifted to countering such a strategy.
"We haven't been in a game where anybody has attempted very many passes, and we knew that going in," he said. "That's why we spent so much time working on 22-, 23-personnel power running game."
If Arizona State sheds the young Trojans and grinds down Madden's production, USC will be forced into more passing plays. That could spell trouble for a unit that has struggled with pass protection and that will be paired opposite a line hungry to tee off for the first time this season.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.
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Tennessee returns home after a rugged two-game road trip where the Vols crossed the country twice and lost in two of the most hostile environments in all of college football.
Awaiting them will be their second Sun Belt Conference opponent of the season in South Alabama, a team UT has never faced. The Vols are 8-0 all-time against current Sun Belt teams according to the official game notes, and they hammered Western Kentucky, 52-20 earlier this season.
After a dismal season last year, the upstart Jaguars stunned the Hilltoppers two weeks ago to move to 2-1. Meanwhile, the Vols followed a 59-14 thumping at Oregon with a 14-point loss to Florida.
This game marks a brief reprieve from nationally ranked opponents for the Vols, who'll follow this contest with games at home against Georgia and South Carolina before going on the road to Alabama.
Here's everything you need to know about the showdown with the Jags.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28
Time: 12:21 p.m. ET
Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: SEC TV
Radio: Vol Network, Sirius Premier Channel 112/XM Channel 199
Spread: Tennessee by 20 points, according to Vegas Insider
Top-ranked Alabama features a roster stocked with talent across the board, but four weeks into the season, Nick Saban has gotten contributions from several players who entered the season without the fanfare afforded to stars such as AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley.
Some players have stepped up in the absence of others, while some have climbed their way up the depth chart and made the most of the opportunities given to them.
Which players have been the biggest surprises of the season so far?
Notre Dame's 2013 season has been a roller coaster ride for Fighting Irish fans.
Many expected the defense to be better than it was in 2012, but so far, that is not the case. On the other side of the ball, clear leaders are emerging in the battle for running back and primary receiver, and they may not be who you expected.
Here are four players who have surprised us—either by exceeding or not living up to their preseason expectations this season.
For all things Notre Dame follow Emily O'Neill Elmer on Twitter @emilystorms.
With Blake Bell leading the charge for the Oklahoma Sooners, the Fighting Irish defense is going to be faced with its toughest challenge of the young season. Due to OU's ability to run and throw the ball, Notre Dame will be in for a long afternoon.
A year ago the Fighting Irish were the tougher team, going to Norman, Oklahoma looking to impose their will on the finesse-focused Sooners. What a difference a year makes, as the Irish have lost the punch that punctuated their 2012 beatdown of coach Bob Stoops' team.
Defensively, Notre Dame has taken several major steps back; going from a team ranked near the top of every major defensive category in 2012 to a middling unit at best during the current season. The Irish defense exists in a vortex where both youth and experience are combining to pull the unit away from success.
Where youth is concerned, uncertainty with respect to adjustments, coverages and fits have created issues. On this play notice the new, true freshman starter, Jaylon Smith (No. 9):
On the motion adjust, another new starter, safety Elijah Shumate, drops to the deep third as the other safety, Mathias Farley, checks for Smith to slide closer to the formation and drops down in the box. The Irish are set to play Cover 3 with Farley buzzing down into flat coverage, Smith and fellow linebacker Jarrett Grace playing the inside hook-to-curl and Carlo Calabrese playing the weak-side flat zone.
Instead of the four underneath defenders and three deep-third defenders, what occurs is Smith chasing the flat route, while Farley drops into the same area, leaving Smith's coverage zone, the defense's left-side hook-to-curl, wide open:
That is where Michigan's Jeremy Gallon finds his opening, and the completion itself was a solid play. Notre Dame then compounds the defensive missed assignment by failing to tackle, allowing the touchdown to be scored.
For Oklahoma, taxing Cover 3 is something the Sooners are no stranger to in the passing game. Here, Blake Bell has trips to his right. and although the defense is holding a Cover 2 shell, on the snap the safety spins down to cover the flat. This leaves the corner with two vertical threats, too far for the middle safety to help. Thanks to the linebacker jumping the shallow cross, it's ultimately a touchdown.
The Sooners are going to put some special pressure on the inside linebackers and push them to operate in space. Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel, will force the linebackers to expand horizontally, then push them to decide between the running back swing and the wide receiver shallow cross. Notre Dame is going to have to figure out what to concede in pass coverage and then push to tackle in space, which is something the Irish have not done particularly well this year.
In theory, the smart play here is for the Irish to go with more nickel and dime packages to combat the threat of Oklahoma's passing attack. Unfortunately, the Sooners have shown a re-dedication to getting physical at the point of attack—and therein lies the problem.
Oklahoma still works tempo into its offensive attack, and tempo, coupled with its quick usage of the "Sooner Formation," creates a need for some run-stopping ability. And that means linebackers.
Both Damien Williams (back from a suspension) and Brennan Clay will power the Sooners' ground game against Notre Dame in South Bend. Both are physical running backs who follow the blockers and can make one cut and get up field. The Sooners are going to run zone at the Irish, and with the linemen pushing to the second level, there will be success in the run game.
Heupel's offense also brings Blake Bell to the table, a quarterback capable of scooting out of the backfield. Bell made his college football bones as the "Belldozer," working in short-yardage situations and as a primary run threat upon entering the game prior to 2013.
Now, after showing his arm off against Tulsa with a very vanilla game plan, look for Heupel to pressure the Irish with Bell's dual-threat ability. That means run-action fakes, packaged plays, some zone-read plays and even working the Belldozer out of the Sooner Formation on occasion.
Stoops' team is averaging 50 rushing attempts a game, more than the Irish have seen this season, as is the 80-plays-a-game pace the Sooners look to employ. That pacing is going to help with substitutions and handcuff Notre Dame's ability to match personnel and get into effective defensive sets.
Oklahoma is going to exploit the Irish defense in multiple ways. The Sooners are going to use motions and formations pre-snap to try and confuse Notre Dame and force missed alignments and missed assignments. Stoops' team is also going to expose the soft underneath coverage of the Irish linebackers.
And, ultimately, despite all of the finesse and scheming, the Sooners are going to try and see just how tough the Irish defense really wants to play. Last year, Notre Dame rose to the challenge and the Sooners disappeared. This year, Oklahoma has the better hand, and the Sooners plan on playing it against the Irish.
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