NCAA Football

Texas Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Texas Starter

There was a lot to like in the Texas Longhorns' 38-7 romp over North Texas. The defense was impenetrable, both Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown looked spry and new starter John Harris had a career night at wideout.

In a 31-point win with so many positives, the hope is the rest of the new starters can catch up with Harris before too long.

The Horns entered the night with seven new first-teamers, including three up front on the offensive line. This group struggled as much as anyone, allowing several hits on David Ash and serving up spotty run blocking for most of the night.

Harris gets the highest marks after his dominant night, while the majority of the group must still figure out how to turn their significant talent into on-field success.

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Wisconsin vs. Western Illinois Complete Game Preview

After a heartbreaking Week 1 loss to the LSU Tigers in Houston, Texas, the Wisconsin football team looks to rebound against the Western Illinois Leathernecks, who rolled to victory against Valparaiso in their opening contest.

Going into halftime against LSU, everything seemed to be going right for the Badgers after the injury to defensive end/nose guard Konrad Zagzebski.  They were up 17-7 with the ball coming to them first after the break, and their defense held the Tigers to virtually no yards, save one 80-yard pass.

When the second half came, Melvin Gordon opened things up with a 63-yard run, capping off the drive with a touchdown plunge by Corey Clement.  From that point, the Badgers scrounged up nary a positive play, looking out of sorts on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball while sieving away their lead en route to a 28-24 defeat.

Returning to the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium, a place that has seen the Badgers dominate nonconference opponents, the Badgers look to get back on track as their schedule becomes considerably more favorable for the coming weeks.

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Notre Dame Football: Report Card Grades for Every New Starter

SOUTH BEND, Indiana — A young and inexperienced Notre Dame football team debuted 15 new starters Saturday in its 48-17 trouncing of Rice at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish had their share of breakdowns and miscues, but, all things considered, Notre Dame put together a complete performance against the Owls.

Let’s go through each of Notre Dame’s new starters and analyze their performances. We’ll define new starters as those who weren’t at the top of the depth chart last year—even if they may have made a few starts or earned consistent reps.

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LSU Tigers vs. Sam Houston St. Bearkats Complete Game Preview

LSU is lucky to be 1-0. 

Head coach Les Miles performed one of his patented comebacks Saturday night against Wisconsin. The Tigers were down by 17 in the third quarter to Wisconsin, but a fake punt sparked 21 unanswered points and a 28-24 victory. 

The Tigers will open their home season against Sam Houston State on Saturday. The Bearkats notched their first victory in their home opener last weak against Alabama State. 

  

What You Need to Know

Time: 6:30 p.m. CT 

Place: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

TV: SEC Network

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network, KSAM 101.7  

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Players Who May Have Ruined Their Heisman Trophy Chances in Week 1

You can't win the Heisman in the first week of the season, and realistically, you can't lose it either. But you can definitely come closer to the latter than the former.

A small group of players who were listed on the final preseason Heisman odds board at Bovada (via Odds Shark) sought to prove that this weekend, starting their 2014 seasons with less-than-stellar performances. Some of them turned a small uphill battle into a huge one, and others turned a huge one into Everest.

There is time for (most of) them to compensate, but after getting off on the wrong foot in Week 1, the following players no longer have the buffer of a margin for error to work with. Heisman Trophy winners do not struggle for consecutive weeks in August and September.

It's almost time to rip up their tickets.

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Georgia Football: Dawgs' Win vs. Clemson Best Season Opener of Richt Era

The Georgia Bulldogs opened their 2014 campaign with the best possible scenario—a blowout win over the Clemson Tigers. To be sure, the 45-21 victory bears great significance for head coach Mark Richt and his team's aspirations for the season.

But equally impressive is how staggeringly unique the season-opening thrashing of the Tigers was within a historical context.

The Dawgs' win vs. Clemson was the best season opener of the Richt era.

That's saying something for Richt, who has now coached in 14 season openers as the leader of the Bulldogs.

 

A Lesson in Recent History

By practically any statistical measure, Saturday's win ranks among the best.

Against major conference opposition, only a 30-0 victory at Clemson in 2003 was more lopsided. Against ranked foes, only a 35-point margin of victory over Boise State in 2005 was larger.

Numbers don't tell the whole story, though. What stands out about Saturday's win was the bold statement made in the face of unknowns, as the Bulldogs turned question marks into exclamation marks.

Certainly, Richt was a bit of an unknown quantity when he took over the reins as head coach in 2001, and any new coach brings a degree of concern. But Arkansas State, the Bulldogs' debut opponent that season, entered the year hoping to merely improve on a 1-10 2000 season. Little was learned from the Bulldogs' 45-17 win over the Red Wolves.

From 2002-2004, the Bulldogs perennially contended for SEC Championships thanks to stars like David Greene and David Pollack. However, it helped that the Dawgs opened those three campaigns against unranked opponents Clemson (twice) and Georgia Southern.

The 2005 team broke in a new full-time starter at quarterback in D.J. Shockley, who—like Hutson Mason—was known by fans for his proficiency as a backup but was new to the spotlight as a first-teamer.

Much like this year, the Bulldogs transitioned to a new defensive coordinator in 2005 and opened the year at home against a ranked opponent in Boise State.

In that game, a 48-13 Georgia win, it was evident from the outset that the Broncos from Idaho were outmatched. The talent differential was exceedingly clear and a host of returning defensive stars for Georgia made the afternoon very long for Boise State.

On Saturday, there was no overwhelming gap in the quality of personnel, as both Georgia and Clemson recruit extremely well. As demonstrated by the first half, the game could have been a close contest.

A well-rounded second-half effort by the Bulldog coaching staff and players resulted in holistic domination of the Tigers. A lot more was learned about the Bulldogs in this year's win over Clemson than from the team's 2005 win over Boise State.

Beginning in 2009, Georgia's early-season scheduling increased in difficulty.

After taking on just one ranked opponent in an opener over his first eight seasons, Richt has now started four of the Bulldogs' last six seasons against a ranked foe.

Obviously, losses to Oklahoma State and Boise State in 2009 and 2011, respectively, don't merit consideration relative to this weekend's victory. Similarly, a heart-breaking, narrow loss on the road to Clemson last season missed out on this conversation by three points.

 

Significance Moving Forward

Of course, isolated single games—regardless of when they occur—mean very little within the grander scale of a full season.

Case in point: A convincing win over Western Kentucky did not carry over to prolonged success as the Bulldogs lost four games over a five-game stretch in 2006. Conversely, an embarrassing loss to Boise State in 2011 did not doom the Dawgs, who rallied back for a trip to the SEC Championship Game.

Perhaps the most important statistic for Bulldog fans to remember at this time is 8.33. As in, Georgia is only 8.33 percent through the regular-season gauntlet.

Richt acknowledged this notion in his weekly teleconference by saying, "I think we've played one game and we've got a long way to go."

Though Richt is not ready to celebrate, it helps that Georgia addressed concerns on Saturday, and there's great encouragement to be found in the momentum that comes with what Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called the Bulldogs' "most complete" game since 2007.

But this is a long season.

So while it can be said that this was the best season opener of the Richt era, the Dawgs want this game to ultimately leave a different legacy.

For Georgia, the hope is that this win—one defined by mistake-free offense, sound defensive adjustments and clean special teams play—will later be viewed as a game that accurately reflects the entire 2014 season.

That would be an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

San Jose State vs. Auburn Complete Game Preview

With a fantastic second-half performance and an important conference win now in the rearview mirror, the Auburn Tigers will begin a trio of nonconference games this Saturday with a home matchup against San Jose State.

Auburn's offense was back to its impressive ways in the season-opening victory against Arkansas, compiling 45 points and almost 600 yards while giving a half to both quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. The Tigers defense turned the tie game into a convincing Auburn win by shutting out the Razorbacks after halftime and showing signs of improvement in several areas.

This weekend, head coach Gus Malzahn and Auburn will focus on improving its overall game with a visit from a team that isn't expected to trigger any upset alerts. 

The Spartans were a .500 team last year out of the Mountain West and had to replace several key players from a team that struggled with superior teams away from home. A commanding 42-10 season-opening win against FCS-level North Dakota will give Ron Caragher and Co. some momentum heading into Jordan-Hare Stadium, but it appears that a lot of things will have to fall their way in order to pull off the shocker.

Before we get to the breakdown of Auburn's first nonconference game of the season, here are all of the game's basics you need to know:

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Jameis Winston, Florida St. May Find Path to Keeping Title as Hard as Winning It

Unbeaten? Very possible.   

Invincible? Not so fast, my friend.   

When preseason No. 1 and defending national champion Florida State opened its season against Oklahoma State on Saturday night, the Seminoles were poised to parade a variety of assets for the world of college football to view.

• A 16-game winning streak—the longest in FBS football.

• A national championship trophy won last January in Pasadena.

• A returning Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston.

• Fifteen returning starters.

Though they entered their game against Oklahoma State an 18-point favorite, the Seminoles seemingly wanted to show everyone they were just as good and just as mean and just as hungry as last season. Players even noted that the site of the game, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will be the site of the first championship game in the new College Football Playoff, adopting the slogan "Dallas to Dallas" as a way to frame the season ahead.  

Well, coach Jimbo Fisher's team might indeed make it back to Texas in January, but if anything was proven in FSU's 37-31 win over Oklahoma State, it was that this season will not be a leisurely stroll back to Dallas for the Seminoles.

They certainly played like it would be, taking a 17-0 lead that seemed to leave the 'Noles satisfied they had established themselves as the best team. Winston got sloppy, throwing a pair of interceptions to open the door for Oklahoma State. It wasn't enough of a let-down to lose, but it was far from the razor-sharp performance Winston had in demolishing Pittsburgh a year ago in his debut game, which made him and FSU a factor from the start.

Fisher had tried to put some space between last season's success and this season's goals with words of warning for his players before the game.

"Don't eat the cheese" Fisher told his team. "It means don't buy into everything everybody's telling you'," Fisher explained to reporters. "How great you are, how this, how that, don't eat the cheese."

After a win that wasn't assured until Winston's final clock-killing pass bounced on the stadium turf, Fisher conceded that his team may have been nibbling on the cheese.

"I think they felt the pressure of being No. 1," Fisher said in his postgame press conference. "I really do. Now I think we can relax and play football."

Yes, they can, since FSU will host The Citadel on Saturday in their home opener next week and has a bye week before returning to regular-season business with its ACC conference opener against Clemson on Sept. 20.

Being No. 1 is hard enough. Staying No. 1 is even tougher. In the 16-year BCS era, only two teams managed to put back-to-back national championship seasons together—USC in 2003 and '04 (but that accomplishment has an asterisk next to it since USC was forced by the NCAA to vacate the '04 championship because of improper benefits given to Reggie Bush) and Alabama with a repeat effort in '11 and '12.

Miami came within a delayed and questionable penalty of pulling off a repeat in '01 and '02.

Before that, you have to look back to Nebraska in 1994 and '95 and Alabama in '78 and '79 to find repeat national champions. (Although Alabama split the '78 crown with USC).

With the steady drain of players leaving for the NFL before their eligibility expires, more and more teams are having difficulty maintaining continuity in their programs, even for only a two- or three-year period.

Auburn used a one-and-done Cam Newton to win the national championship in 2010 and then tumbled out of site until it put together another dream season last year, which took the Tigers to the BCS title game against Florida State.

Even the vaunted Crimson Tide have found it difficult to retain the crown. In the fall of '10, Alabama entered the season as the overwhelming favorite to defend a championship they had won the prior year thanks to quarterback Greg McElroy and a 14-0 record. A total of 54 (out of 60) first-place AP votes were cast for 'Bama, which won its first five games before losing at South Carolina on Oct. 9 and dropping to No. 8 in the polls. 

The Tide finished the season No. 10 with a 10-3 record.

A year ago, Alabama again started the season as defending national champions and ranked No. 1 with 58 of the 60 first place AP votes. Even with a sluggish win over Virginia Tech in their opener, the Crimson Tide held onto the No. 1 spot through 14 weeks of polling, before their last-second loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl dropped them to No. 4. With a Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, the Tide finished at No. 3 in the final rankings.

Indeed, Winston and FSU have company on the road they face. Nor were they alone in their opening week struggles. No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Auburn and No. 7 UCLA all experienced some tense moments into the second half before taking control of the proceedings.

And No. 9 South Carolina never got out of the box, getting routed by No. 25 Texas A&M, 52-28.

The early trouble wasn't completely unexpected.

Alabama was breaking in a new QB. So was Ohio State, which also had to deal with an always-feisty Navy team and its tricky option offense. Auburn was playing an SEC opponent in Arkansas, and UCLA was playing a noon Eastern start game on West Coast body time. Still, everyone but South Carolina figured it out.

While there might be some gloom and doom among the poll leaders after bumpy efforts in the first week of the season, consider the "challenges" ahead next week:

Florida State faces The Citadel at home.

Alabama faces Florida Atlantic at home.

Auburn faces San Jose State at home.

South Carolina faces East Carolina at home.

Florida State can and will improve in Week 2, but who'll notice against a team FSU likely could beat with its scout team.

No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Ohio State will need to pay attention in facing No. 8 Michigan State and Virginia Tech, respectively, but on the whole, next week should bring a lot of bounce-back performances.

But the championship won't be won on a September Saturday against The Citadel. It will be won against the likes of Clemson on Sept. 20, in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and at Louisville in October, at Miami in November and in the regular-season finale against Florida.

Maybe the Saturday night scare against Oklahoma State was just a matter of scraping off the rust. Winston again proved he is still a Heisman-caliber quarterback by matching every mistake he made with a Heisman-worthy play which kept the Seminoles in control. Despite the two picks, Winston also had 370 passing yards, while running and passing for a touchdown each.

The Seminoles aren't short on confidence. They know who they are and what they have done. As Fisher said in his post-game press conference, "It's not about being great, it's about playing great."

FSU has the players to do just that. Now all they have to do is do it while playing with the target on their back that is part of the No. 1 team's wardrobe.

 

Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, the Dallas Morning News and the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds.

 

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Week 2 Is a Great Example of Why SEC Should've Gone with 9-Game Schedule

It seems like every offseason for the last three or four years, one of the hot-button issues has been the future SEC schedule—which became a pressing issue when the conference added Texas A&M and Missouri, extending the time it takes to get through the opposite division.

The conference put to bed any discussions in the near future in April by announcing its long-term scheduling format through the year 2025. That format keeps the "6-1-1" structure, which means each teams will play their six divisional opponents, one rotating cross-division opponent and one permanent cross-division rival. There is also a requirement to play at least one team from a power-five conference each year.

Week 2 of the 2014 season is clear evidence that the eight-game conference schedule was a bad choice.

There's only one conference matchup in Week 2—Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt at LP Field in Nashville—and none of the out-of-conference matchups are against teams from power-five conferences.

This isn't the exception, it's the rule.

Ten of the 14 teams in the SEC will play teams from the power-five conferences in 2014 even without the mandate in place.

Sure, there are some teams that have two or more "power five" games set up in the future, including Georgia's intra-state rivalry game with Georgia Tech coupled with a home-and-home series with Notre Dame in 2017 and 2019. That's no different than life without the mandate. Georgia just wrapped up a home-and-home with Clemson, while keeping its rivalry with Georgia Tech intact.

Weeks like this—with no compelling matchups on the slate—are likely to continue in the future.

The SEC isn't just an athletic conference anymore. It's a television programming department. The programming this week on its shiny new network leaves a lot to be desired.

Take a look at the SEC Network schedule of games on Saturday. Anything of interest?

@SEC_Chuck We DirectTV customers are in a quandary. We have no alternate channels. Suggestions? pic.twitter.com/7Ub5Gy16Jt

— Brad Logan (@BradLoganCOTE) September 1, 2014

Unless you're a fan of a specific team, that's a weak schedule with the exception of the Eastern Michigan at Florida game—which will be the debut of new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's offense in Gainesville following last week's rainout.

What would have been good this weekend?

Alabama vs. South Carolina would have been fun. How about Auburn vs. Florida? LSU vs. Tennessee, perhaps?

Any game that would have determined the landscape of either division would have been fine. Any game of importance would have been fine. Any game worth watching would have been fine.

Instead, the encore of the SEC Network's Week 1 splash echoes with a resounding thud.

As it stands, there are 56 SEC games each year on the schedule.

A nine-game schedule would bump that number up to 63. At least a few of those seven additional SEC games would fall on weeks that are typically devoid of compelling matchups, and they'd, at the very least, have an impact on some aspect of the SEC standings.

Would it impact the college football playoff? There would be pluses and minuses. There would be more changes for top teams in the hunt for the playoff to lose, sure. But a ninth conference game would eliminate criticism from coaches in other conferences—which has already begun.

With nine of the top 10 distributors on board, the SEC Network's launch will go down in history as one of—if not the—most successful launch of a cable network in television history.

It'd be great if some the early-season games made it worth watching in Week 2.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. 

 


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College Football Picks Week 2: Predictions and Odds for Top 25 Schedule

Week 1 of the 2014 NCAA football season has already exposed the difficulty of making preseason rankings. 

Wisconsin is in trouble at the quarterback position, UCLA and Alabama failed to look otherworldly, and it's very possible Georgia—led by sensational running back Todd Gurley—wasn't ranked high enough.

For the majority of teams, fans and pundits, the preseason polls are merely a soon-to-be-discarded signpost to frame early college football discussions. Yes, some powerhouses will validate their earliest positions in the college football pecking order, but the list will eventually become a relic.

However, it still works as a reference point for Week 2's action as some teams make a second run at showing why so many observers held them in high esteem before the action began.

The teams and rankings included here are from the AP preseason poll. There will, of course, be some movers and shakers after all the action that took place Saturday, but fans who want to keep track of the teams originally designated as the 25 best—and keep tabs on how ridiculous that list may look in a couple of weeks—should check out this schedule and these predictions.

  

Top Matchups To Watch In Week 2

Michigan State at Oregon

This is an excellent matchup in terms of pitting strength versus strength. Oregon's high-powered, scything offense takes on the nasty, brutish defense of the Michigan State Spartans. Neither team gave observers any reason to doubt its preseason ranking in Week 1.

Oregon rolled to a 62-13 victory over South Dakota State behind superlative play from quarterback Marcus Mariota. He played just one half of football and still managed to throw for three touchdowns and run for another. He also broke the school record for career touchdowns during the contest.

As SportsCenter noted, he's No. 2 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board for the 2015 NFL draft, to the surprise of absolutely nobody:

Michigan State has a highly touted defense, but even the crew led by star players such as defensive end Shilique Calhoun won't be able to slow down the Oregon offense enough for the Spartans to keep pace. Quarterback Connor Clay has plenty of experience, but he's not a particularly explosive player.

Oregon won't blow away the Spartans, but it will affirm its preseason ranking and win this contest rather handily.

Prediction: Oregon 38-24 Michigan State

 

USC at Stanford

USC hasn't been in the national title conversation for a couple of years now, as the NCAA sanctions against the program prevented it from developing deep rosters and may have driven away some wary top prospects. 

For Trojan fans who can't wait to see their team return to dominance, quarterback Cody Kessler must look like a godsend. The junior passer threw for a career-high 394 yards and accounted for five total touchdowns in USC's 52-13 victory over Fresno State. 

His favorite target was true freshman Juju Smith, who reeled in four catches for 123 yards on the afternoon.

Kessler noted that head coach Steve Sarkisian has made the new era of Trojan football an enjoyable one.

"His whole thing is we’re going to compete, we’re going to play hard, but at the same time we’re going to have fun," Kessler said of his head coach, via Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News.

USC fans should know just how high to set their hopes after the team takes on Stanford, who played brilliantly in a 45-0 win over UC-Davis.

The new-look, no-huddle Trojan offense could prove to be problematic for Stanford, but the Trojans are apt to make more mistakes in this contest. The team racked up nine penalties for 76 yards against Fresno State and, as the team's official Twitter account noted, relied on a bevy of true freshmen:

This sets up USC for a bright future, and it could very well take control of the Pac-12 South behind Kessler. However, this game is Stanford's to lose. Head coach David Shaw will make sure there is no letdown in Stanford this weekend, although the final score will probably be much closer than he would prefer.

Prediction: Stanford 35-31 USC 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Kynon's Korner: The SEC's New Recruiting Power, Skylar Diggins' Cousin on Irish

Texas A&M opened the 2014 season with a 52-28 thrashing of No. 9 South Carolina on the road. The Aggies' impressive victory was the talk of social media on Thursday night, as pundits and recruits wanted to see what life was like for head coach Kevin Sumlin and the 12th Man in the post-Johnny Manziel era. 

One recruit in particular, 5-star running back Damien Harris, took notice of the high-octane offense. The Berea (Ky.) Madison Southern standout has a top five of Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio State and Texas A&M. During the game, Harris tweeted this: 

He shared with Bleacher Report, "I love Texas A&M and their fast-paced offense. I love the way they keep the defense on their heels. I feel like they proved they will be fine without Johnny. Although the offense has a pass-first mindset, it doesn't affect me with the Aggies." 

Over the weekend, Harris unofficially visited Lexington to see the in-state Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky has been working hard to keep Harris home and getting him on campus to start the season is a good move. 

"I always have a great time when I'm on campus at UK. Its always a great atmosphere," added Harris. "Especially being an in-state kid. They show me a lot of love from the fans, coaches and players. My favorite part other than the game is being with Coach (Mark) Stoops and Coach (Chad) Scott. I love trying to develop a closer relationship with them."

When asked to rate the visit on a scale of 1-10? Harris replied, "It was a definite 10."

Next up, Harris will take his first official visit to Ohio State for the Buckeyes contest against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6. Harris checked Ohio State last spring. 

Harris went on to say about the Buckeyes, "The running back tradition would be what I look forward to the most at OSU. Along with trying to become another great player Coach (Urban) Meyer has developed."

 

Skylar Diggins' Cousin Diggin' the Irish  

Two-way 4-star D.J. Morgan was set to attend USC's home opener against Fresno State this weekend, but his plans fell through, forcing him to miss the Trojans' 52-13 romp over the Bulldogs. He grew up a fan of UCLA, USC and Texas—although he feels out of his childhood favorites that the Trojans are the closest to offering. The junior prospect reports two current offers from Utah and Vanderbilt.  

"I've known Coach (Johnny) Nansen since his time at Washington," Morgan told Bleacher Report. "He is a real good guy. They recruited me when he was up there. I like SC a lot. They are recruiting me as a defensive back. After their win I feel they could be back to winning Pac-12 championships again."

Morgan said he is going to check his schedule to see when he can make a USC game during his bye week. The 4-star standout said he also wants to check out games at Cal, Notre Dame and Texas. 

"Texas is known for sending guys to the NFL. They are a great program and they have a new coach," mentioned Morgan. "Charlie Strong did a great job at Louisville too. My cousin Skylar Diggins went to Notre Dame and now she's in the WNBA. I try to talk to her as much as possible, but she has a busy schedule. I stay in touch with her grandmother. I have family in South Bend, so that helps with Notre Dame."

The 6'2", 185-pounder said his mom prefers to stay close to home because she doesn't like to fly, but he said heading out of state won't be an issue when he decides. The Golden Bears provide another in-state option for Morgan with USC in the picture. 

"Coach (Greg) Burns and Coach (Rob) Likens are recruiting me from Cal," stated Morgan. "One of the things that pulls me to Cal is the chance to play as a true freshman. I want to play early and Cal is a good school academically."

Morgan said even if Cal, Notre Dame, Texas or USC offer, he won't commit on the spot. He wants to take his time and enjoy the recruiting process because "it's a once in a lifetime opportunity." 

 

Commonwealth Stars Check out UVA, Virginia Tech  

This is a big season for Virginia head coach Mike London, who enters the year on the hot seat according to most media outlets. The Cavaliers turned in a strong effort in their 28-20 loss to No. 7 UCLA. Mechanicsville (Va.) Atlee 4-star outside linebacker Ricky Deberry was in attendance for the stout defensive performance. The Wahoos have done a great job keeping talent in the Commonwealth in London's tenure, landing Taquan Mizzell, Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown, among others. 

On Aug. 4, Deberry tweeted his final four of Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Deberry has set official visits to Alabama on Sept. 19 and Texas A&M on Oct. 10. He is still trying to figure out his remaining official visits. 

Elsewhere in the state, 4-star defensive tackle Tim Settle took in the Virginia Tech home opener with teammate Reggie Floyd.

Ryan Bartow of 247Sports weighed in on the chances of both stars staying home. 

"The three schools that have been on Deberry the hardest are Virginia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. He likely won't take official visits to those schools because he has been to all three so many times. Virginia feels good about him because of their proximity. In addition to the opportunity of early playing time. I feel Virginia and Virginia Tech will be right up there, but he is a long away from making a decision," explained Bartow. 

Bartow feels Settle could be headed out of state despite this weekend's trip to Blacksburg, Va. 

"You can't count out the possibility of him staying in state, but I think he went there to accompany Floyd. Tim goes on so many unofficial visits, so its hard to tell with him. I think Penn State, Tennessee and Clemson are the ones standing out right now," remarked Bartow.

 

Wideout Ryan Newsome Takes In Oklahoma State-Florida State  

Athletic 4-star flanker Ryan Newsome was in Arlington, Texas on Saturday night for the Cowboys' showdown against the Seminoles. Oklahoma State came up short in a 37-31 hard-fought loss to the defending national champions, but Newsome came away impressed with the Pokes.

I watched the game, and the Cowboys are in need of some playmakers on the perimeter. Newsome would be an ideal fit in head coach Mike Gundy's uptempo spread offense and as a return man with his track speed.

"It was a great game. Honestly, Oklahoma State outplayed them, but they made a couple mistakes," Newsome told me on Sunday after the contest. "I noticed they need some weapons on offense. Tyreek Hill did his thing out there, but he was returning kicks, punts, and was the primary ball-carrier. That is a lot to ask. No. 13 (David) Glidden is scrappy and made some plays."  

The 4-star receiver attended the contest with Oklahoma State commit and close friend, Ronald Jones II. Newsome says they text every other day and Jones is always in his ear about the Pokes. 

"My five official visits are pretty firm, but don't count out Oklahoma State from the schools I'm considering," added Newsome. "I talked to all the coaches there and have a good relationship with them. Coach (Jemal) Singleton and Coach Jason Ray are great. Their track coach Diego (Flaquer) even hits me up about running for him and playing football there."

Speaking of track, Newsome said he will do both in college and he wants a strong program for both sports. That was an important factor for him when he decided he would take official visits to Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and UCLA. His first visit will be this weekend to Oregon for the Ducks' marquee matchup against Michigan State.

"This summer I took a west swing to Oregon, UCLA and USC. I've seen the campus before, but I can't wait to see Autzen Stadium for a game like this against Michigan State. I predict a 28-21 win," stated Newsome. "The facilities are so far ahead of everyone else in terms of technology. I'm good friends with Bralon Addison, and I like how they use him and their players in space on offense. Plus there's no secret that Oregon is known as Track Town, USA. So they have some advantages, but everyone is still equal. I don't have a leader."

Newsome plans on making his college announcement at either the US Army All-American Bowl or the Under Armour All-America Game in January. He is being considered for both games. The 5'8", 168-pound speedster said distance will not be a factor in his decision. 

 

Jacques Patrick Rolls with Aggies, Sets Up an Official Visit, Talks Ohio State Trip  

Like Harris, Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek 4-star running back Jacques Patrick took to Twitter to let his followers know he was rolling with the Aggies over South Carolina. Patrick currently doesn't have a list of top schools. However, talks between Texas A&M and the power back have heated up over the last few weeks, thus Patrick's comfort level to take to social media with his interest in the Aggies. The Florida native first reported to Bleacher Report that he would take an official visit to College Station in two weeks when A&M plays host to Rice.

"I'm taking a visit to A&M on Sept. 13. This will be my first time there. I'm trying to get a good feel for the place," Patrick told me exclusively. "A&M just started recruiting me. Coach (David) Beaty was the one that reached out to me. He had great things to say about my film and he told me he is very excited about me. Their offense is so explosive. What they've been doing on offense in the SEC appeals to me. They looked just fine without Johnny Manziel."

This weekend, Patrick will take his first official visit to Ohio State when the Buckeyes host Virginia Tech. OSU will have a star studded list of official visitors in Columbus for the prime-time game with the Hokies.

Look for Ohio State to put on the full-court press, with many experts having Florida State in front followed by Alabama. The 'Noles are the heavy favorite with the 247Sports Crystal Ball showing a 100-percent lock for Patrick's services. His mom has been a fan of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett for a long time. Ohio State has done a great job recruiting him since his sophomore year.

Patrick told me, "I've been building relationships with Coach (Urban) Meyer and Coach (Stan) Drayton for a long time. I've been up there twice already for unofficial visits. I liked it a lot. After my first time being there I knew it was a school that I would take an official visit during my senior year. This time I just want to get that home feeling when I'm there. I'm graduating early, so this will be another chance for me to interact with the coaches one last time."

Recently, Florida State and Ohio State offer Patrick's younger brother Peter Hayes-Patrick. Smart move by both schools, as Patrick will make his college announcement on his brother's birthday, Oct. 28. 

 

Will K.J. Hill's Commitment to Arkansas Help with TE Will Gragg?  

Last Friday, talented split end K.J. Hill committed to Arkansas over offers from Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Hill was a huge addition for head coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks staff. Arkansas fans are now expecting Dumas (Ark.) 4-star tight end Will Gragg to follow when he makes decision later this month. 

The Natural State target told Dalton Person of Hawgs247 on Aug. 26 to expect a decision on Nov. 18 (subscription required). However, Gragg made headlines when he attended Hill's press conference and told reporters a decision could come earlier than the Nov. 18 date. 

Gragg told me via text message, "I decided to move up my decision because I just felt that my birthday (Tues., Sept. 23) was the best date."  The 247Sports Crystal Ball has him as a 72-percent lock to the 'Hawgs. His brother, Chris Gragg, spent his college career in Fayetteville, Ark. and is now a tight end for the Buffalo Bills. 

"My brother played at Arkansas, so that helps them," Gragg added. "That along with KJ does have some influence on my decision. KJ wants me there with him very bad." 

As of today, Gragg said he is still "open" despite the ties to his home state. He watched the Arkansas-Auburn game over the weekend and he told me he enjoyed watching the tight end production. Senior TE AJ Derby and freshman TE Hunter Henry each had receiving touchdowns. 

"I really liked what I saw from them, they both scored," said Gragg. "I'm looking at schools that involve their tight ends as a big factor in my decision. My favorite tight end is Jason Witten."

Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas are the other schools he is considering before his big announcement. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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College Football Rankings 2014: Latest Standings and Predictions for Week 2

The 2014 college football season kicked off with a bang in Week 1.

Texas A&M lit up the scoreboard against South Carolina, Florida State staved off a physical Oklahoma State team and Ohio State was dominant against Navy. There's plenty more in store for Week 2.

Rankings don't mean a whole lot early in the season, as they are always subject to change as the season progresses. That said, there are two interesting matchups between ranked teams this week. Predictions for those two contests are below.

Before you look ahead to those two scintillating matchups, check out the college football standings after one week, courtesy of ESPN.

 

No. 15 USC at No. 11 Stanford

Ready for a one-possession game?

That's the only way this game will finish. Both USC and Stanford are destined to finish highly in their divisions, and this matchup serves as a litmus test for both the Trojans and Cardinal because of the intense competition.

The Trojans are coming off a 52-13 drubbing of Fresno State, while Stanford just shut out UC Davis, 45-0.

While it's difficult to deem one victory more impressive than the other, both Stanford and USC are quality teams destined to play a competitive matchup on Saturday.

One concern in regard to Stanford has to be the running game. The Cardinal cumulatively ran for 149 yards on 32 carries, but 10 different runners contributed to that mark. Barry Sanders led the charge with seven carries and 43 yards, but he'll have to do even better against USC.

The Trojans relied heavily on quarterback Cody Kessler and running back Javorius Allen. Kessler tossed four touchdowns and racked up 394 yards, while Allen notched a touchdown and 133 rushing yards.

This game could really go either way, but it's hard not to like the explosiveness of USC's offense.

Prediction: USC 31, Stanford 27

 

No. 8 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon

It will be difficult to rival the matchup of USC and Stanford, but Michigan State and Oregon will certainly put on a show. The Ducks flash serious offensive potential, but Spartans play-by-play announcer George Blaha noted that the Spartans' talent can't be overlooked, via Bill Bender of the Sporting News:

I think flash vs. smash is the best way to describe it, and the Spartans are happy to be smash. Oregon definitely has the flash, but there is some flash in that Michigan State offense with Connor Cook at the controls, Jeremy Langford at running back and a loaded group of wide receivers. Michigan State can score enough to play with anybody, they have all kinds of depth and they're well coached. It's an awesome opportunity for the Spartans. I think it's a great opportunity to show the capability of Michigan State, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Those players are definitely difference-makers, but Oregon's Marcus Mariota is destined to be one of the top players in college football this year.

The signal-caller has even been picked as a favorite for the Heisman Trophy, via ESPN College Football:

Look for Mariota to take over. The Spartans boast a strong defense, but Mariota should carve them up through the air. He'll also rack up his fair share of yards on the ground. He'll build his Heisman case with this one.

Prediction: Oregon 40, Michigan State 28

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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