The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes are set to host the Florida A&M Rattlers to close out their nonconference slate this Saturday in Columbus.
The Buckeyes (3-0) are coming off a 52-34 road victory over Cal—a game which featured more than 1,100 combined yards of offense. With backup quarterback Kenny Guiton starting in place of the injured Braxton Miller, Ohio State controlled the game, racing out to a 21-0 lead six minutes into the first quarter.
Cal showed resilience in closing the gap to 11 before halftime, but the Buckeyes proved to be too much for the Golden Bears in an 18-point victory.
Even with Miller's playing status still in question, Florida A&M will travel to Columbus as heavy underdogs. According to Vegas Insider, Ohio State is favored by 57 points over the Rattlers.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21
Time: Noon ET
Place: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Big Ten Network
Nebraska faces its final nonconference foe when South Dakota State (also known as SDSU) travels to Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday. This is the third time the two programs have met.
The Huskers have defeated the Jackrabbits in both prior meetings, 17-3 in 2010 and 58-7 in 1963, respectively.
Nebraska has 13 natives on the SDSU roster. Eight of those players are on the Jackrabbits' two-deep depth chart.
Coming to Memorial Stadium, SDSU is 3-0 and ranked No. 6 in the FCS. Nebraska, on the other hand, has dropped out of both the coaches poll and AP poll after a 41-21 loss to UCLA.
Who will come out victorious at the end of Week 4?
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
When: Saturday, Sept. 21, at 3:30 p.m. EST
Watch: Big Ten Network
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 134, XM 194
Betting Line: Nebraska (-22)
Saturday's 95th engagement of the Holy War pitting the University of Utah against Brigham Young University is the last until 2016.
These two fierce, in-state rivals last took a hiatus from their annual series in 1945. Barring the necessary stoppage of World War II, the current incarnation of a series that began the same year Utah was granted statehood has been played every year since 1922.
Proximity and familiarity have bred a particular level of competitiveness between these programs.
"You certainly have no problem getting your players up for this game," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said on his teleconference call Tuesday. "The emotion and passion and all that takes care of itself."
While future engagements of the rivalry are planned, nothing is guaranteed beyond an agreement for dates in 2017 and 2018, finalized Monday and announced via the BYUCougars website. Many players on both rosters this Saturday will be gone when the series renews in 2016.
"It doesn’t put any more emphasis on the game," Whittingham said. "[Saturday's game] isn’t any more important this year than the year before, or the year before."
Still, the layoff means Saturday is their last opportunity to claim bragging rights, a feat Utah has accomplished each of the last three years. Taysom Hill, Cody Hoffman and Kyle Van Noy want to snap the skid and go out winners. Trevor Reilly and Co. want to end the current run of the series with the ultimate boast of four straight victories.
These are two quality teams. They are also programs growing apart.
For the Utes, the future is rested in the Pac-12. The Utes are in their third season in the conference and are still playing catch-up with their new counterparts.
Before the program embarked on its first season as a power conference member in 2011, Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports quoted Whittingham as saying: "I just think rosters in the Pac-12 from top to bottom are deeper. They're a little faster, a little bigger, a little stronger."
That's a harsh reality relegating Utah to a 13-12 record over the last two years, a stark contrast from the program's 57-20 mark in six full seasons under Whittingham as members of the Mountain West Conference.
"We've closed the gap," Whittingham said Tuesday. "We feel that we’re a much better football team right now than we’ve been the last couple years."
"We’ll see how that translates," he added. "The league itself is a lot better than it was a couple years ago."
The continued improvement of the conference and reaching that same pace must be Utah's No. 1 priority. An unfortunate casualty in that process is a guaranteed Holy War.
However, BYU finds itself in a similar territory as an independent as its rival in the Pac-12. Utah is one of seven BCS conference opponents on the schedule that is the Cougars' strongest in three years since leaving the MWC.
The Cougars are forging new partnerships with prominent programs like Notre Dame and Texas. The latter maintains a spark of the rumored interest from the Big 12.
Rather than lament the hiatus and the rivalry's uncertain future beyond 2018, it could be celebrated as a sign of each program's growth.
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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After leaving last Saturday's game against Southern Miss in the first quarter with a bruised right shoulder, the status for sophomore starting quarterback Brandon Allen remains uncertain this weekend at Rutgers.
Allen injured his shoulder diving for a touchdown, forcing backup A.J. Derby to play the majority of the game. Luckily for Derby, he didn't have to do much with Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams each running for more than 100 yards for the third straight game.
Bret Bielema told the Associated Press, via Fox Sports, he isn't going to make the mistake of playing him when he's not ready. Matt Jones, editor for WholeHogSports, said that, though Allen has nothing broken, it will depend on how fast his shoulder heals:
The situation is eerily similar to 2012, when Allen came in against Louisiana-Monroe after Tyler Wilson went down with an injury, and Allen also started the following week versus Alabama.
It comes at an inopportune time, as the Razorbacks have their first road game of the season this weekend at Rutgers. However, the Scarlet Knights are also uncertain whether their head signal-caller Gary Nova can play after sustaining a concussion last week.
So, what kind of impact will this have on the game if Allen can't go?
It will put a heavy load on the legs of Collins and Williams, though Bielema said they would "unleash" Derby if he starts. He is inexperienced, and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was hesitant to let him throw against Southern Miss. He attempted just six passes, completing four of them for a modest 36 yards.
It would be a much bigger deal if Collins and Williams weren't running over everyone in their paths. Regardless, if Allen isn't able to play, it could slow down the run game. Rutgers will more than likely commit to loading up the box and forcing Derby to make plays with his arm.
It also brings concerns for the weeks after, as the Razorbacks' next four games include Texas A&M (Sept. 28), at Florida (Oct. 5), South Carolina (Oct. 12) and at Alabama (Oct. 19). With that set of games, you'd like for Allen to get as many snaps as possible to keep progressing.
He showed flashes of a promising future and vastly improved his accuracy in the first two games, completing 61.5 percent of his passes compared to just 42.9 percent in 2012. He gives the Hogs the potential to stretch the opponent's defense and keep them honest, while it'ss unclear whether Derby can as well.
Bielema was obviously playing his cards close to the chest when talking about Allen's status for this weekend. Even if he did know if he was going to play, it works to his team's advantage to not let Rutgers know.
"So, to me, there's a certain gamesmanship or element to, you know, you don't have to show everything that you've got," Bielema said. "Just kind of show the things that you need to."
Derby will practice with the first team this week in case Allen can't play. It isn't an ideal situation for the Hogs with their first road game looming, but then again, overcoming adversity is a part of football.
With murderer's row ensuing the next four weeks following this Saturday's matchup at Rutgers, it's better to be safe than sorry with Allen.
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On Tuesday, Deadspin released an audio recording of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini slamming Nebraska football fans in a profanity-laced tirade. You can hear the (very not safe for work) audio here, but the relevant portions of the audio are the following:
"F--- you, fans. F--- all of you. F--- 'em." ... "Our crowd. What a bunch of f---ing fair-weather f---ing—they can all kiss my ass out the f---ing door. 'Cause the day is f---ing coming now. We'll see what they can do when I'm f---ing gone. I'm so f---ing pissed off."
The rant happened as Pelini was preparing for his postgame interview with Gary Sharp on the Husker Sports Network after the Ohio State game in 2011. Nebraska had just completed the biggest comeback in school history, erasing a 21-point deficit to beat the Buckeyes 34-27.
Pelini, already angry about what he felt was an unfair article about quarterback Taylor Martinez by Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald, was reacting to fans leaving the stadium at halftime of the Ohio State game when Nebraska was behind 20-6.
Late on Monday night, Pelini issued an apology, acknowledging it was his voice on the tape, saying he was "venting" and that the comments were "in no way indicative of my true feelings," per Huskers.com. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst and chancellor Harvey Perlman both said they were disappointed by Pelini's comments and were reviewing the situation.
The release of the tape, of course, comes at a terrible time for Pelini. It comes on the heels of Nebraska's collapse against UCLA and less than 24 hours after Pelini responded to Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier's call for his job by saying, as reported by USA Today, "if he feels like that, we don't need him."
So, yeah, not a great couple of days for Pelini.
Some Pelini defenders, like Steven Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star, have attacked the messenger. And they're right; there is little doubt that someone with an ax to grind kept that recording safe until Pelini was at his weakest. The ick factor is high, no doubt.
But that doesn't matter. The information is out there, and the damage is done. So what happens to Pelini now?
That's up to the fans. In 2007, one of the reasons Bill Callahan (and Steve Pederson) were shown the door was because the fanbase as a whole rejected the leadership of the program. Empty spaces started showing up in Memorial Stadium. Donations and suite sales started to dry up. The sellout streak, one of Nebraska's most prized assets, was in jeopardy.
That could happen in 2013. I wrote earlier, before the Deadspin report, that a trust had been broken between Pelini and the fans. That was just referring to fans being able to trust the team to perform well when the lights are brightest.
After the Deadspin article, the breach of trust runs deeper. Pelini was calling Nebraska fans "fair-weather" because they were leaving early from the Ohio State game. In Pelini's eyes, a man who values loyalty above all else, seeing the fans bail on him and his team upset him.
But let's remember the context. In the third quarter of that Ohio State game, Nebraska was behind 27-6. The week before, Nebraska had been run off the field by Wisconsin, losing 48-17. That meant, in Nebraska’s first seven quarters in the Big Ten, it had been outscored 75-23.
That's the kind of performance that would test any fanbase, particularly on a rainy night in Lincoln. And sure, you want your fanbase to stick with you through any adversity. But for Pelini not to acknowledge what he was asking of the fans is shocking in its hubris.
It's a two-way street, a relationship between fans and a team. In a land blessed with neither beaches nor mountains, Nebraska differentiates itself by the white-hot loyalty of its fans to the Scarlet and Cream. But those fans need something in return from their team. At the very least, they don't deserve to be disregarded, particularly by a coach who hasn't been holding up his end of the bargain.
But to me, the more disturbing part of the recording was right at the end. Look again at this part of what Pelini said in a candid moment:
[T]hey can all kiss my ass out the f---ing door. 'Cause the day is f---ing coming now. We'll see what they can do when I'm f---ing gone.
Again, consider the context. Pelini had just knocked off Ohio State, his alma mater, and felt like he was on top of the world. Ohio State had just fired Jim Tressel as head coach, and it was clear that interim head coach Luke Fickell was not going to get the job long term.
The day is coming, Pelini said. We'll see what they can do when (not if) I'm gone, he said.
I'm convinced Pelini thought he had the Ohio State job if he wanted it, and at that moment, he very clearly wanted it. And he was willing to burn the bridges he built with Nebraska and its fanbase to do so.
Is that a wound that winning can heal? According to ESPN's Mitch Sherman, Pelini thinks so. And sure, winning can be a great deodorant, but for it to work in the long term, you have to keep winning at the highest level.
I am reminded of when Creighton basketball coach Dana Altman accepted the head coaching position at Arkansas in 2007, then changed his mind the next day. Altman was never really accepted back into the hearts of the fanbase after that, even when Creighton continued to succeed at a high level. Eventually, three years later, Altman left for Oregon to a collective shrug from the Bluejay faithful.
In a sense, Altman never really returned from Arkansas.
I wonder if the same will hold true for Pelini. Yes, fans will be thrilled to see Nebraska win. And if Nebraska starts winning conference titles and competing for national titles, of course all will be forgiven.
And it should be remembered that Pelini has done a tremendous amount of good for Nebraska, even setting aside the resuscitation of a program left for dead by Callahan and Pederson.
It was Pelini who was instrumental in how well Penn State's first game went after the Jerry Sandusky story went public. It was Pelini who helped honor the memory of Nick Pasquale, a UCLA player who died suddenly prior to the game. It was Pelini who helped engineer Jack Hoffman's touchdown run at this year's spring game, which will always be No. 1 on my list of greatest touchdowns in Memorial Stadium history.
Does the good that Pelini has done outweigh the shocking disregard for the fans—the reason he is the highest-paid employee of the state of Nebraska? That's up to a fanbase that has already had a trust broken with the performance of Pelini's teams. Add in Pelini calling it "fair-weather" right after sellout No. 321 in a row, and it makes the whole package a lot more difficult to swallow.
Forty-eight hours ago, when it was "just" the loss to UCLA to deal with, a particularly smart and handsome analyst said Pelini wasn't coaching for his job. Now he is, I think. If Nebraska fans were on the fence about Pelini's tenure before hearing what he said about them in a private moment, then it's hard now to see how the momentum for his departure gets derailed if Pelini doesn't deliver.
Pelini has said all he can say to mitigate the damage from his comments. But if Pelini is going to survive past 2013 in Lincoln, he's going to need to take some advice from the mentor of his predecessor.
Just win, baby.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.
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After two tough games away from home to open up the season, Alabama will finally get to play in the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday against Colorado State.
The matchup is highlighted by the return of former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who led coach Nick Saban's offense from 2008-2011, winning two national championships along the way.
McElwain is facing a tough rebuilding project at Colorado State, going 4-8 in his first year as head coach and off to a 1-2 start this year.
Alabama, meanwhile, will have a much lower pressure week. There are no longer the demands of opening the season on a national stage or going on the road to face the best player in college football.
Here's everything you need to know:
Time: 6 p.m. CT
Place: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Colorado State Sports Network
Spread: Alabama by 39.5 points, according to Vegas Insider
Every championship-caliber team always seems to overlook a certain opponent that—on paper—have no business keeping the game exciting.
Whether the championship aspirations are of the conference or national variety, these trap games can ultimately destroy a team's season—and the Miami Hurricanes are no different.
For example, an Akron squad that had not beaten an FBS team on the road since 2008 nearly took down the Michigan Wolverines at the Big House last Saturday.
Now, for the 'Canes this coming weekend, Savannah State will certainly not cause an issue similar to Akron.
Yes, I know Akron (or Appalachian State) was not supposed to be capable of causing problems at Michigan, but I'm stubborn, and it cannot happen to my favorite team.
Once Atlantic Coast Conference play arrives, a few less-heralded teams lurk in the shadows of the Hurricanes' schedule, waiting for an opportunity to spring an upset on Miami.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, October 5
Recent Miami teams have bested the Yellow Jackets, winning four consecutive games over the Coastal Division opponent.
But in 2013, the Yellow Jackets appear to be one of the ACC's more underrated teams. Georgia Tech's offense, under the leadership of sophomore quarterback Vad Lee, has not been completely reliant on the run game.
During Tech's season-opening win vs. Elon, Lee threw for 189 yards. No, Elon is not anywhere near a formidable opponent, but Lee tallied 189 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-11 passing.
Against Duke last weekend, Lee tossed four touchdowns, completing 8 of 16 attempts and added another score on the ground.
Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. Georgia Tech had four passing touchdowns in one game.
Now, it would be rather ridiculous to crown Paul Johnson's triple-option as a changed scheme due to two mediocre passing games, but Tech has shown an improved effectiveness through the air. The Jackets need not possess a prolific passing attack, but the ability for Lee and his offensive counterparts to catch a defense off guard is lethal.
All Georgia Tech needs is one mental breakdown and blown coverage assignment by an opposing defensive back, and it practically has a free touchdown.
This Saturday, September 21, when Georgia Tech hosts North Carolina, we will learn more about real threats the Yellow Jackets pose (and UNC, for that matter).
But as of this moment, Tech looks rather dangerous since it has shown two productive dimensions offensively.
Virginia Cavaliers, November 23
The Virginia Cavaliers own Miami.
Why? I don't know, but they do.
Virginia scored the final 10 points of the 2012 matchup to pull out a 41-40 win, and Mike London improved his already perfect record to 3-0 against the 'Canes.
The loss cost Miami a chance at an outright division title, and it is entirely possible the Hurricanes are in the same position this season.
After playing at North Carolina on November 9, the Cavaliers have an off week before heading to Miami. Virginia will be rested from its treacherous three-game stretch against Georgia Tech, Clemson and UNC and completely focused on the 'Canes.
Plus, if the Cavs are going to make an unexpected run at the Coastal Division title, Virginia will absolutely need to beat Miami.
The Hurricanes will have home-field advantage, but unlike vs. Georgia Tech, recent history is not on Miami's side.
Pittsburgh Panthers, November 29
If you are an avid Hurricanes follower, you have heard me preach the potential weather factor of this game.
This first-ever matchup between former Big East foes takes place on November 29 (the day after Thanksgiving) at Heinz Field.
According to Weather Underground, it was approximately 40 degrees with winds reaching about 20 miles per hour on November 29, 2012. Even if it did not or does not snow this year, 40 degrees is cold for Florida boys.
The two most recent notable cold-weather games Miami has played were both against Notre Dame, and Miami lost 33-17 during the 2010 Sun Bowl and was trashed 41-3 at Soldier Field last year.
Bad things can happen when the Hurricanes finds their way into the elements, let alone a snowstorm.
Through two games, Pitt has allowed 4.3 yards per rush and 34.0 points per contest. Conversely, the Panthers offense has gained 6.2 yards per carry and, after being held in check by Florida State, racked up 49 points vs. New Mexico.
The Steel City is known for smashmouth football because of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Hurricanes may have to prepare for a ground-and-pound game against the Panthers.
Miami has the offensive talent for this type of battle, but, like it did vs. Florida, the 'Canes defense will be they key to earning a victory over the Panthers.
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Auburn received a commitment from 4-star quarterback Sean White on July 16. He is a talented passer from Florida who could be a great distributor of the football in head coach Gus Malzahn's spread offense.
The Tigers have a big fanbase, and playing quarterback on The Plains is a huge deal in the SEC. White has enjoyed a great offseason, which has helped him rise up the recruiting rankings, so many Auburn fans are becoming more intrigued with the quarterback prospect.
His skills and potential warrant a more in-depth look.
The North Carolina Tar Heels will try and snap a four-game losing streak to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets this upcoming Saturday afternoon at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The kickoff for this ACC matchup slated for noon (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Tar Heels opened the season with a 27-10 loss to No. 12 South Carolina as 11-point road underdogs and followed it up with a 40-20 rout of Middle Tennessee as 19.5-point home favorites the following week. They will be coming off a bye heading into this Saturday’s matchup.
Georgia Tech rolled over Division I-AA Elon on opening day 70-0 as a 44-point home favorite and, after a bye week of its own, hammered Duke 38-14 it is ACC opener this past Saturday as an 8.5-point favorite on the road.
North Carolina at Georgia Tech Storylines
The one thing that North Carolina has been able to do very well in its first two games is move the ball through the air behind quarterback Bryn Renner. He has thrown for 533 yards and two touchdowns while completing 63.6 percent of his attempts.
He has also done an excellent job of spreading the ball around, with 12 different players catching at least one pass in the first two games.
The rushing attack is averaging 116.5 yards a game behind Romar Morris and A.J. Blue. Morris has 115 yards on 25 attempts while Blue has rushed for 81 yards on 18 carries. The Tar Heels’ defense is allowing an average of 23.5 points a game, but the majority of the points against the Blue Raiders came in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand.
The Yellow Jackets have been chewing up yardage on the ground in their first two outings. They are currently ranked third in the nation in rushing with an average of 356 yards a game.
The workhorse in this offense has been quarterback Vad Lee. He has thrown the ball for 314 yards and six touchdowns while adding another 125 yards and two scores with his legs. Georgia Tech is as deep as it comes in the running game with 14 different players carrying the ball so far.
Robert Godhigh and Micheal Summers have led the way in the passing game with a combined eight receptions for 162 yards. DeAndre Smelter has two touchdowns on three receptions, and David Sims’s only catch of the season was for 59 yards and a score, so there is some proven big-play capability in this receiving corps.
The Yellow Jackets’ defense has allowed only 14 points this season, but it has yet to be tested against a team that can throw the ball.
North Carolina at Georgia Tech Betting Odds and Trends (from 5Dimes)
Point Spread: Georgia Tech -6.5
Total Line: 61
The Tar Heels are 8-3 straight up in their last 11 games overall but just 2-8 SU in their last 10 games on the road. The total has stayed “under” in three of their last four games.
The Yellow Jackets are 6-2 SU in their last eight games and a perfect 4-0 against the spread in their last four. The total has stayed under in five of their last six games.
Head-to-head in this ACC Coastal Division showdown, Georgia Tech is 5-0 SU in the last five meetings at home and 4-2 ATS in the last six games played at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The total has gone “over” in five of those six contests.
College Football Picks: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Betting Predictions
Right off the bat, I like a play on the over as both teams have an offense that can put points on the board, and the recent trends in this series favor a high-scoring game. Last season these two combined for 118 points in a 68-50 Georgia Tech win as an eight-point road favorite.
While I do not expect another basketball score like that this time around, I do see both teams putting up enough points to take this game over the total.
Take: North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech Over the 61-point total (noon, Saturday, Sept. 14)
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What if top-caliber quarterbacks like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Florida State’s Jameis Winston are all that have been missing from the ACC’s quest to return to football relevance?
Will an increase in quarterback quality equal a return to the BCS National Championship Game for the first time since 2001?
Though the ACC has some heavy hitters at the top of its quarterback depth chart in 2013, gauging its overall strength requires a more sweeping review.
ACC Quarterbacks, From Top to Bottom
When posed with the question, “who are the best quarterbacks in the ACC?” it might be hard to come up with names beyond Boyd, Winston, Miami’s Stephen Morris and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas.
But three weeks into the season, there is more to like than just the familiar faces.
Using passer rating as the measuring stick, here are how the ACC quarterbacks who have made a start in 2013 rank.Jameis Winston Florida State 234.8 Terrel Hunt Syracuse 231.9 Vad Lee Georgia Tech 219.2 C.J. Brown Maryland 187.4 Tajh Boyd Clemson 148.6 Tom Savage Pitt 148.0 Chase Rettig Boston College 137.4 Brandon Connette Duke 134.6 Anthony Boone Duke 133.6 Tanner Price Wake Forest 129.1 Bryn Renner North Carolina 127.8 Pete Thomas NC State 121.9 Stephen Morris Miami (Fla.) 115.3 Drew Allen Syracuse 101.3 Logan Thomas Virginia Tech 92.3 David Watford Virginia 89.6
Winston tops the ACC with a rating of 234.8 through two games. Next comes Syracuse’s new starter, sophomore Terrel Hunt, with a 231.9 rating in the win over FCS Wagner State.
The only other quarterback beyond 200 is Georgia Tech’s Vad Lee, with a 219.2 in wins over FCS Elon and Duke. It’s important to remember that the Yellow Jackets run the option and that Lee has only thrown 27 passes this season.
Next up is Maryland’s C.J. Brown with a healthy 187.4 via wins over Florida International, Old Dominion and at UConn. Brown leads the ACC with 833 yards passing.
With a full game in the win over Georgia and limited participation in the contest with FCS South Carolina State, Clemson’s Boyd is next at 148.6.
After Boyd comes a group of guys who represent the middle of the pack; Tom Savage from Pitt, Chase Rettig from Boston College and Brandon Connette from Duke. Connette replaced the injured Anthony Boone in Week 2.
With a completion percentage of 58.8, next is senior Tanner Price from Wake Forest. Price suffered losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe and scored a win over FCS Presbyterian.
After this comes North Carolina’s Bryn Renner at 127.9. Renner and the Tar Heels have faced South Carolina’s stingy defense and then a more hospitable Middle Tennessee.
NC State’s Pete Thomas—who transferred from Colorado State—is next at 121.9. Thomas and the Wolfpack are 2-0, but he’s thrown zero touchdowns and three interceptions in his first 58 attempts.
Next is Syracuse’s Drew Allen, who earned a 101.3 rating in the Orange’s first two games before being replaced by Terrel Hunt.
The bottom of the chart includes Miami’s Morris, Virginia Tech’s Thomas and Virginia’s David Watford. Low lights for this group include Morris’ 52 completion percentage, Thomas’ even more dismal 47 percent and Watford’s one touchdown and four interceptions in 73 attempts.
So, how does this group stack up with the quarterbacks from the other major conferences?
The Big 12
Often considered “the” passing league, the Big 12—through three weeks—is led by Baylor’s Bryce Petty with a 249.5 passer rating fueled by an 80 percent completion rate.
Other top dogs in the Big 12 are Oklahoma’s Blake Bell who has a 188.6 in one big win over Tulsa and Texas’ David Ash who has a 168.9.
The quarterbacks that hurt the Big 12’s power ranking include Kansas’ Jake Heaps (a transfer from BYU), who has completed 48 percent of his passes. Also worth noting is Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight, with a completion percentage of 44 in the Sooners’ first two games and a 94.6 rating.
The Big Ten
Leading the Big Ten is Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld who has thrown for 917 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him a passer rating of 195.3.
At the bottom are Minnesota’s Philip Nelson who has thrown one touchdown and two picks in three games and Michigan State’s Andrew Maxwell with a rating of 81.9. After two games Maxwell was replaced by Connor Cook.
The top passer in the Pac-12 is Oregon State’s Sean Mannion who has thrown for a whopping 1,237 yards and 12 touchdowns in the Beavers’ 1-2 start. Mannion has a passer rating of 181.9.
Next are Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Washington’s Keith Price, who are tied with a passer rating of 179 and have combined for a 5-0 start.
While the Pac-12 doesn’t have a guy below the 100 mark in passer rating, it does have Arizona’s P.J. Denker with a 118.2. Of course he plays for a team that primarily runs the ball.
Topping the charts in the SEC is LSU’s Zach Mettenberger with 797 yards, nine touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 205.3.
The “bottom” of the barrel in the SEC—a relative term—is Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels at 138.1.
Where Does the ACC Rank?
Calculating an average passer rating for each conference (a number which includes every quarterback who has started a game in 2013), provides a good indicator of the ACC’s relative strength at quarterback.SEC 162.73 Pac-12 157.50 ACC 147.05 Big Ten 143.55 Big 12 143.24
After a mere three weeks of play, the ACC comes in above the Big Ten and Big 12, but well below the Pac-12 and SEC.
What’s made clear from a national perspective is that while the SEC has its talent spread from top to bottom, the high flying Big 12 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In other words, quantity doesn’t always equal quality.
For the ACC it’s a respectable showing, and perhaps it’s an early finding fraught with hidden meaning.
Indeed, maybe this is the ACC’s year.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.
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The Georgia Bulldogs did not have a game last Saturday, but that did not mean head coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff could take a break.
They were probably hard at work scouting future opponents like LSU, Auburn and Vanderbilt. But there is no doubt they were watching the Alabama-Texas A&M contest, despite both teams not being on the Bulldogs schedule.
If the Bulldogs win the next six of seven SEC games this season, they will likely win the SEC East title for the third consecutive year and will face the Crimson Tide or the Aggies (or maybe LSU) in the SEC Championship game depending what happens with the SEC West.
The Alabama-Texas A&M game was as good as anticipated. The Aggies jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Crimson Tide responded with 35 unanswered points, the Aggies then scored 14 more points to cut the lead to seven, and both teams exchanged scores to end the game.
If Richt can take anything away from the game, it’s a couple of things.
The first thing is the Bulldogs defense has to continue to improve. They showed glimpses of what they can be in the second half of the South Carolina game as they only surrendered six points. But they are ranked 13th in the SEC in rush defense, 11th in pass defense and 13th in total defense.
If the Bulldogs were to face Alabama in the SEC championship, the linebackers for the Bulldogs would have to make sure the wrap up the running backs as they meet them at the point of attack because the Crimson Tide is really good at running at defenders.
If the Bulldogs were to face the Aggies, the entire defense would have to keep Johnny Manziel in front of them and never over pursuit. Manziel is good at making plays with his legs, but he is even more dangerous with his arm.
Another thing that Richt can take away from the game is that they can match both teams body-to-body on offense. With the Aaron Murray, Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley and an experienced group of receivers and offensive line, the Bulldogs offense is one of the best in the SEC.
What the Bulldogs did in the SEC Championship game against Alabama is what they would have to do again this year. They would have to give the ball to Gurley and Marshall, and let Murray make plays with arm off of play action.
The same scenario goes for A&M. The Aggies defense is very suspect, ranking last in the conference in total defense. Murray knows how to attack a defense that can and will give up a lot of plays. Alabama just ran at the Aggies on Saturday with their slew of backs. The Bulldogs can do the same with Marshall and Gurley.
But what it comes down to is the fact that Bulldogs have to take care of their own business. They have to get through the rest of their SEC opponents before even thinking about playing in the SEC a title game.
The Bulldogs’ next conference opponent will be LSU a week from Saturday. This will be a good test to see if they can hang with the Crimson Tide and the Aggies.
LSU is rebuilding on defense and their offense is not the same caliber as Alabama or Texas A&M. But they are a top-10 team that is hungry to get back in the national title picture. And they are always talented on both sides of the ball, so the Bulldogs will have to play better than they have been in order to take down the Bayou Bengals at Sanford Stadium.
If the Bulldogs do beat the Tigers, then fans will be confident that they can take on Alabama or Texas A&M in the conference title game. But if the Bulldogs lose, then they know they will have some work to do in order to beat the elite teams in the SEC West.
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The Arizona State Sun Devils are off to a 2-0 start, and even though they have only played two games, there have been plenty of surprises that have fans talking.
One of the most glaring issues thus far has been the lack of special teams productivity.
Punter Dom Vizzare has Sun Devil fans cringing each time he comes into the game, and Zane Gonzalez hasn't quite lived up to expectations as the answer at kicker.
It's not all bad in Tempe, though.
The Sun Devils have a potential Heisman candidate at running back and, for the first time in recent memory, it seems like ASU has luck on their side.
Nobody still really knows exactly what transpired at the end of the game against Wisconsin, but Sun Devil fans can agree that usually ASU would be on the losing side of the debacle.
It's a welcome sight to see ASU come away with a win in a game where they got some breaks.
With that being said, let's take a look at some early season surprises for ASU football.
All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from ESPN.com.
Ole Miss Football is exploding right now, and so too is its 5'7'', 162-pound running back Jeff Scott.
Only three games into the season, the Archbishop-Carroll High School (Miami, FL) product has amassed 330 yards on the ground, 89 yards on punt returns and 36 yards through the air. Due in large part to Scott's enhanced production this fall, the No. 21 Rebels are undefeated and 1-0 in the SEC.
If he were to stay on pace with his current output through the final nine regular season contests (not to mention a bowl game), the senior speedster would rack up 1,320 yards rushing, 144 yards receiving and 356 punt return yards. Based upon that projection, Scott would finish with 1,820 all-purpose yards in 2013 (not even considering the time or two he'll likely throw the ball).
That's big time. Particularly big time for a player of his deceiving stature.
As much as he's rising on the all-time charts at Ole Miss, currently No. 4 in career all-purpose yards (3,421) and No. 8 in career rushing yards (2,134), Scott remains focused on winning above everything.
When we talked about his ascension on the charts, the senior said:
I don’t think about them (record books) much, but the coaches and fans bring it to my attention. It’s a huge honor. I feel like the years that I’ve been here, they’re starting to pay off. But at the end of the day, what’s most important is me is winning games.
While Ole Miss currently ranks No. 25 nationally in rushing offense, individually Scott sits at No. 18 (110 YPG). Further, the senior's average of 151.7 all-purpose yards per game ranks No. 5 in the SEC.
This weekend, Scott and his teammates find an opportune open week in their schedule before traveling to Tuscaloosa on September 28 for a date with No. 1 Alabama.
Trending in the Right Direction
A member of former Rebel head coach Houston Nutt's 2010 recruiting class, oddly Scott was a player that didn't garner very much of national attention coming out of high school.
During his freshman year in Oxford, playing behind RB Brandon Bolden, Scott ran the ball 66 times for 529 yards and three touchdowns. The highlight of the year was 134 yards rushing against eventual national champion Auburn, including an epic 83-yard score.
As a sophomore in 2011, Scott would stall a bit, only rushing for 529 yards on 116 carries. His rushing yards per attempt dropped from 6.5 yards per carry in 2010 to 4.6 yards per carry in 2011. However, he did account for six rushing scores on the season.
Then last year in Hugh Freeze's inaugural season at Ole Miss, Scott's workload increased significantly.
He rushed nearly 200 times (197) for 846 yards and six touchdowns. In addition, the junior caught a career-high 23 passes for 177 yards and a score. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner knew what a player like Scott could bring to the table, and is doing his best to help Scott maximize his potential.
The senior is also doing all he can to help younger backs like sophomores Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers prepare themselves for when it's their time to shine. Scott said of the two sophomores, "I’ve been impressed with both of them, and look forward to them seeing more carries."
When asked what advice he would give the younger backs in Oxford, Scott suggested:
Be patient, Your time will come. They have two years left. Coach Nix is always trying to coach them up, and I try and add to it. I coach them the best I can, so that they won’t make some of the same mistakes I may have made when I was in their shoes.
Now early into the 2013 season, the senior leader is playing like a man on a mission.
Most remarkable is his 9.4 yards per carry average this fall, over twice what it was in 2012 (4.3).
What's the diminutive back done in the fourth quarter this season? Just carried the ball seven times for 157 yards and an 22.4 yard average per rush. That's a big-time number by a big-time player when games have mattered most. In 2013, he's making the most of every time his number is called.
The Next Three for Scott
Through the first three contests of the fall, Scott has broken on to the national scene.
After an open date this weekend, the Rebels will travel to Alabama for a date with the Tide. Last season, Ole Miss fell 33-14 on the road in a game that was closer that the score indicates. He carried the ball 19 times for 49 yards during that contest.
That being said, the Tide run D currently ranks No. 10 in the SEC in 2013 (allowing 158.5 YPG).
The following Saturday, Ole Miss makes its way to the Plain of Auburn to face another beleaguered run defense. Yielding 157.3 yards per contest on the ground, the Tigers rank No. 9 in SEC run defense.
Finally returning to the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 12, after having played four of their first five on the road, Scott will get his shot against the worst rushing defense in the conference in Texas A&M (allowing 260 YPG on the ground).
Against these same three clubs in 2012, Scott rushed 63 times for 294 yards (4.7 YPG) and two scores.
Knowing that and knowing how well he's playing this fall, there is a good chance he improves upon his numbers against Alabama, Auburn and A&M in the weeks ahead.
Despite the fact that Scott increased both his workload and production last year in Freeze's system, the senior feels like he's now much more prepared each time he takes the field:
Last year was our first year in the new scheme, so it wasn’t that clear to everyone. This year in our second year, everyone is a little bit more confident. We’ve learned the blocking schemes and what the coaches want out of us. When you understand not only your job, but the guy's next to you, it makes things a whole lot easier.
The Best May Be Yet to Come
As incredible as he's been thus far in 2013, Scott's best days may actually be ahead of him.
That's right. Let me explain.
When asked where he feels this offense is after three games this fall, Scott told me:
We’re still early in the season, but as the weeks go on we’re going to continue to get better. With guys like Itavius and Vince getting back in the mix, it’s just going to make us that much better on offense. When we have all hands on deck, the sky’s the limit for this team. The sky's the limit.
The Rebel offensive juggernaut, and it is just that, has weapons galore to choose from each series.
Averaging 490 yards of offense per game, Ole Miss ranks 33rd nationally in total offense.
Coming back from offseason shoulder surgery, Wallace has looked back to his old self thus far with a 64.4-percent completion percentage, 648 yards passing, 149 yards rushing and seven scores. While wide receivers Donte Moncrief and Ja-Mes Logan have been familiar faces on offense, that's about it.
The team's two leading receivers heading into the Alabama game are two true freshman phenoms (TE Evan Engram and WR Laquon Treadwell) who will only finesse their games more each week. Further, WR Vince Sanders has been sidelined with an injury. By the time September 28 arrives, Wallace should have in Engram, Treadwell, Moncrief, Logan, Sanders and the Wes Welker-esque Jordan Holder.
The more explosive and experienced the passing attack becomes each Saturday (attracting even more defensive attention), the more opportunities will open up for Scott to reel off some of the same huge runs we've seen over the first three games.
As for the Rebel running game outside of Scott, QBs Wallace and Barry Brunetti have combined to rush 53 times for 291 yards (5.5. YPC) and six touchdowns. When his number has been called this year, Brunetti has taken care of business in solid fashion. He's become a key element of the offense.
However, there hasn't been a lot of production behind Scott by true running backs yet in 2013.
If Mathers (ankle) returns to full form as is expected at Bama, a combined 15 to 20 carries per game between he and Walton would lessen the workload on Scott. With a slightly reduced workload, his legs would be even fresher in fourth quarters.
The Sky is the Limit
In a senior year in which he can help the Rebels do something special, Scott has the opportunity to leave a true mark on the storied Ole Miss program.
He knows it, too, stating, "This is it for me. It’s my senior year. I wanna go out on top. If we go out there and play all 60 minutes, the sky’s the limit."
After the Texas win, Scott's 2,134 career rushing yards is only 927 yards from supplanting Rebel great Deuce McAlister. To achieve the feat, the senior would need to average 103 yards per game for the rest of the regular season.
In terms of all-purpose career yardage, the shifty back is now only 1,469 yards away from passing McAlister as the all-time leader in that category at Ole Miss. Scott would need to average just over 163 all-purpose yards through the regular season to eclipse McAlister.
Beyond the legacy he can leave in the history books, Scott is drawing well-deserved attention from NFL scouts. If he can stay healthy and stay driven to succeed each and every week, the sky is truly the limit for one of the smallest guys on the field.
Based on what he's shown thus far, there's no reason to believe he won't be playing on Sundays.
In the meantime, Scott remains focused on doing all he can to make a great year a truly special one for his Ole Miss Rebels.
All quotes obtained first hand, unless unless otherwise noted.
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Merriam-Webster defines "dominant" as being "more important, powerful, or successful than most or all others."
In the world of college football, "dominant" often comes to mind when mentioning Nick Saban and Alabama. Three national championships in four years speaks for itself.
But who are the most dominant players in college football? Specifically, who are the most dominant linebackers?
When we think of dominant linebackers, players like Ray Lewis and Lawrence Taylor first come to mind. While we certainly aren't about to compare any of the players on this list to Lewis or Taylor, there are several outstanding college linebackers who will soon appear on an NFL field near you.
Here are the 10 most-dominant linebackers in college football. Keep in mind that this list isn't a ranking of the 10 best NFL prospects.
Top-ranked Alabama is barely into the 2013 season, but Nick Saban’s club has already navigated several tough challenges through eight quarters of football.
As the Tide prepares for its first home game against Colorado State this weekend, Saban and his staff are hoping to see more consistency in all three phases of the game moving forward.
What are the biggest surprises for the Tide through Week 3?
For the first time since Mack Brown's debut season, the Texas Longhorns have started the season 1-2.With Big 12 play beginning this weekend, is there still time for the 'Horns to turn things around?
If there is any solace fans can find from Texas' two embarrassing losses, it is that both came against non-conference opponents. The 'Horns could have lost by both games by 100 and it would not affect their ability to win the Big 12.
Since this is a down year for the conference, the Longhorns can still get things turned around with a 9-0 or even an 8-1 record in Big 12 play. Yes, that means a team that has given up 926 rushing yards in three games could still make a BCS bowl as the Big 12 champion.
Whether that will actually happen is another matter. Texas is still in disarray, and its nine-game Big 12 slate is littered with teams that would like nothing more than to give the program a swift kick to the ribs.
Given the status of this team on both sides of the ball, a lot of these eager squads stand to do just that.
Kansas State comes to Austin this week having beaten the 'Horns five times in a row dating back to their Big 12 opener in 2007. After that, five of Texas' final seven games are against mobile quarterbacks, to which it has already surrendered 366 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Longhorns have also been wrecked by opposing running backs, allowing 182 yards to BYU's Jamaal Williams and another 164 to Ole Miss' Jeff Scott. At that clip, even Kansas' James Sims stands to light up this defense, and fans should just pretend Baylor's Lache Seastrunk does not even exists for a few weeks.
But defense is far from the only problem. The Longhorn offense has only scored seven second-half points in its last two games, averaging under 3.5 yards per carry in each contest. Worse is that the nation's most-exprienced offensive line has allowed 19 tackles for loss, according to SB Nation's Wescott Eberts.
Only adding to the turmoil, the injuries are piling up as well. Do-it-all receiver Daje Johnson has been ruled out for Kansas State, while quarterback QB David Ash, WR Mike Davis and two starting offensive linemen are all listed as questionable.
There are just not many positive things to say about the Longhorns with nothing but must-win games remaining on the schedule. The issues are crippling both now and for the foreseeable future, especially with so many Big 12 offenses sporting mobile quarterbacks and talented tailbacks.
What Texas does have working in its favor is talent, and experienced talent at that. Worst-case scenario is that Texas fields 15 returning starters on Saturday, and most of those guys possess the type of skill other Big 12 schools can only wish for.
Once, if ever, that talent comes together and this team starts playing with some toughness, these Longhorns still have the potential to run the table in conference play.
Until Brown and his staff figure out a way to coax that toughness out of their guys, this will continue to be a mediocre-at-best team, and any Big 12 aspirations will be based outside the realm of reality.
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Notre Dame will face their other Michigan-based rival this Saturday in the form of the Michigan State Spartans. While the Spartans are not exactly a central fixture of the national sports media, they have quietly worked their way to the No. 1-ranked total defense in the nation.
The acolytes do not end with their ranking. MSU defensive end Shilique Calhoun has been named the National Defensive Player of the Week by The Football Writers Association of America in their latest press release.
Notre Dame, conversely, has been struggling on defense, leaving Tommy Rees and the Irish offense to pick up the slack.
With the Spartan D only allowing 177 yards per game, Brian Kelly will need to have the offense in top form when they take on the Spartans at Notre Dame stadium.
Here are four ways he can get around the Michigan State defense:
1. Run Power
In the stable of running backs available to Kelly, Cam McDaniel has emerged as the go-to guy for power rushes. Sure, he only averages 4.3 yards per attempt, but add three of those together and you have a first down and then some.
MSU has the No. 4-ranked rushing D in the nation, so the scat back, outside-the-line style the Irish have been fond of in the past runs the risk of producing negative yardage.
Running power may not always produce huge runs, but the risk of negative yardage is substantially reduced as the rusher runs north-south directly into the line, not out and around.
2. Continue to Deliver on Special Teams
One area the Irish have markedly improved in this year is special teams. When I say special teams, I am specifically referring to kick and punt returns.
Notre Dame is currently ranked 12th in kick return and 44th in returning punts. That might not blow your hair back but consider that last year they were ranked 93rd and 116th, respectively.
Getting good field position is critical to the success of the hot and cold Irish offense.
If George Atkinson III and T.J. Jones are able to continue their hot streaks in returning the ball and avoiding costly mistakes, it will ease pressure on the offense.
3. Rees/DaVaris Daniels in the End Zone
The MSU defense has one Achilles heel: the red zone. The Spartans are tied for last (ranking 91st) inside the 20-yard line.
Daniels has been on fire this season, with 17 receptions for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
He is averaging a whopping 17.6 receiving yards per reception. Yes, you read that correctly. To put that into perspective, consider that Heisman-hyped USC wide receiver Marqise Lee is only averaging 13 yards, and Oregon State Biletnikoff Award candidate Brandin Cooks sits just below Daniels at 17.2.
For those of you who say a wide receiver is defined by more than just his receiving yard stat sheet, I'd like to point out Daniels' 82-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter against Purdue.
If Rees can continue the success he has had with Daniels into the red zone, the Irish offense will be able to put points on the board.
Execution must be stressed above all else this week during practice. The best laid plans mean nothing without proper execution and Notre Dame has stalled on execution several times in the last three weeks.
This is the most obvious of the four points, but that does not make it any less valid. Without execution, none of the points made above will mean anything.
I'm going to finish this article with a quote often attributed to Mark Twain via Twainquotes.com: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
Michigan State may have the No. 1 overall defense in the country at the moment, but that is largely due to their strength of schedule—or lack thereof.
I'm not saying the Spartan D should be taken lightly, but if all offensive cylinders are firing, this will be a manageable game for the Irish.
For all things Notre Dame follow Emily O'Neill Elmer on Twitter @emilystorms.
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After much inquiry encompassing the offensive identity of the Oklahoma Sooners at the start of the season, the Sooners offense showed last Saturday in their matchup with Tulsa that there are a lot of strengths to build upon moving forward.
Blake Bell took the offensive reins at quarterback, replacing injured Trevor Knight; in doing so, Bell managed to rack up impressive statistics from a historical standpoint, throwing for more yards than any other Sooner QB in their first career start.
“Well, that’s pretty obvious, yeah,” Stoops said. “So much for your controversy … you can’t deny what he just went out there and did.”
According to ESPN.com, Bell went 27-of-37, passing for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
Quite impressive, but will Bell's success continue?
Bell was able to showcase his rushing ability last season for the Sooners by coming in during short-yardage situations and accounting for 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Despite finding a decent amount of playing time last season, Bell did not get many opportunities to throw the football, which left a huge question mark on his throwing ability coming into this season.
But one thing we learned of Bell last Saturday was that he is not only an exceptional runner, but a highly accurate passer as well.
Bell's passes were crisp, accurate and well timed to receivers, which is certainly a good sign for the Sooners' passing game moving forward.
Other than great passing, another thing Bell has going for him is his backfield weaponry.
The Sooners' rushing game has been solid through the first three weeks of the season, combining for 815 yards, three touchdowns and an average pickup of 5.4 yards per play.
The depth at the running back position for the Sooners is the secret to their success. Brennan Clay, Damien Williams, Roy Finch and Keith Ford split time at running back, posing great threats with fresh legs to opposing defenses.
The Sooners' running game proved to be the difference in their Week 2 matchup with West Virginia as they relied on the legs of Clay and Williams to wrap up the closely contested game. With Knight struggling at QB, Clay and Williams carried the offensive weight with a combined 265 yards on 43 carries.
With that said, the Sooners offense is certainly capable of moving up and down the football field with ease against Big 12 foes. Unlike the SEC, Big 12 teams have not been built around exceptional defense.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Big 12 teams gave up 420 yards per game last season, which certainly is not ideal.
A combined rushing and passing attack from the Sooners will prove to be a lot to handle for opposing Big 12 defenses. If Bell continues to shine at QB as he did last Saturday and the running game continues to impress as it has all season, then the Sooners will undoubtedly be the team to beat in the Big 12.
Follow @JaredPorter_BR on Twitter.
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