Former UCLA recruit Cordell Broadus provided some insight about his decision to end his football career in a message posted on social media Tuesday that wished his father, rapper Snoop Dogg, a happy birthday.
Broadus, a 4-star prospect coming out of high school based on 247Sports' composite rankings, didn't show up for the program's fall camp. Head coach Jim Mora later explained the wide receiver had decided to pursue "other passions," including film.
The announcement came as a surprise given his potential as a football player and his dad's love for the sport, though he'd long been a fan of the Bruins' rivals at USC. A message posted by Broadus on Instagram shed some light on the situation:
I played football for my father because I thought that was the only way he would love me [and] be apart of my life. It took me 12 years to realize he loves Cordell Broadus the person not Cordell Broadus the football player. The best day of my life was when I heard those exact words; I love you dad hope you have a great birthday.
It's not an uncommon theme for young athletes to keep playing a sport with hope of continuing to please their parents. Snoop Dogg's love of football was further illustrated in the duo's documentary miniseries on ESPN, which was called Snoop & Son.
That said, it sounds like Broadus didn't share the same lasting love for the sport despite being so highly ranked as he arrived at UCLA. His heart was elsewhere, and that led him to walk away rather than make the commitment it takes to succeed at the collegiate level.
It's good to see he was able to reach an understanding with his father about the issue and that it didn't fracture the relationship. And if he ever gets the itch to play football again, his raw talent should ensure there will be a roster spot for him somewhere.
Dan Lyons of College Spun notes Broadus remains at UCLA as he works toward interests beyond the football field. On the flip side, 247Sports' commitment list shows the Bruins have landed three wide receivers for the 2016 class as they look to restock the receiving group without him.
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Prized Pennsylvania defensive back Damar Hamlin is primarily focused on four universities following his first official visit.
Fresh off a trip to Notre Dame, Hamlin listed the Fighting Irish in a group of favorites that also features Ohio State, Penn State and Pittsburgh:
The 4-star prospect anticipates official visits at each school, according to Brian Dohn of Scout.com, leaving the door open for a fifth and final destination before his decision. Dohn reports UCLA and Clemson are main contenders to fill that slot.
Hamlin, a 6'1", 175-pound senior at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, is rated 14th nationally among cornerback recruits in 2016 composite rankings. He carries dozens of scholarship offers, including Stanford, Auburn, Michigan State and Tennessee.
Though a decision isn't expected until at least January, per Dohn, this recruitment officially reached crunch time with Hamlin's announcement. Considered the top 2016 defender in his home state, he has plenty to consider in coming months.
Based on developments to this stage, here's a look at how Hamlin's favorites stack up with commiment odds assigned to each team.
Things seem to be trending toward his hometown team. The Panthers have gained recent momentum in the eyes of recruiting analysts, warranting five consecutive experts' predictions in his 247Sports Crystal Ball.
These sentiments are at least in part reactionary to a recent commitment from fellow 4-star defensive back Paris Ford. The local 2017 safety pledged to Pittsburgh last week and there have been previous indications he and Hamlin are a package deal.
Pairings like this are often difficult to pull off, particularly when prospects are part of separate recruiting cycles, but it's certainly a notable element in play. Hamlin, recruited by two Panthers coaching regimes, could also be swayed by Pittsburgh pledges from two high school teammates—safety Bricen Garner and defensive tackle Rashad Wheeler.
The Panthers currently rank 12th overall among FBS squads in passing yards allowed per game. A big-time local addition would further solidify the defensive secondary next season.
Ohio State: 3-to-1
Hamlin is scheduled to visit Columbus next month when the Buckeyes host Michigan State in a pivotal Big Ten Conference showdown. He impressed during a Nike regional event on campus this spring while wearing Ohio State apparel:
At the time, sources told Bleacher Report that Hamlin is among a select group of 2016 defensive backs head coach Urban Meyer is willing to wait on as long as it takes. The Buckeyes extended a scholarship offer to 3-star Georgia cornerback commit Malek Young this past weekend, which may come as a sign the coaching staff is starting to intensively explore alternative options at the position.
Hamlin, who attended Ohio State's Friday Night Lights Camp in July, has a strong impression of Buckeyes cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs.
"He's intense. He's always intense. I like that," he told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "He knows what he's talking about. I came on a visit last time and we sat in a room and broke down my film and that was impressive to me that he would take out his time to do that just for me."
Ohio State holds a narrow advantage in Hamlin's Crystal Ball, claiming 36 percent of experts' predictions.
Penn State: 4-to-1
Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin aims to make a major splash in the WPIAL league of Western Pennsylvania, an area that's vital to recruiting efforts in Happy Valley. Penn State identified Hamlin as an early priority, establishing itself as a mainstay among his potential landing spots.
Though it now appears Pitt has gained ground as his top in-state option, the Nittany Lions are undoubtedly a central part of this equation. Johnny Petrishen, Hamlin's former star Central Catholic counterpart in the defensive backfield, is now a Penn State freshman.
Franklin continues to ardently pursue the Pennsylvania product and attended one of his games earlier this month, per Gary Horvath of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In a fluid recruitment, it wouldn't surprise to see Penn State rise during the final stretch toward national signing day.
Hamlin is targeting an Oct. 31 game against Illinois for his next visit, per Tom Loy of 247Sports.
Notre Dame: 6-to-1
The Fighting Irish welcomed Hamlin to campus last weekend. He was hosted by freshman cornerback Shaun Crawford and watched Notre Dame defeat USC.
"[Crawford] was real cool. He was telling me about the basic aspects of it and how his day goes, every day, and stuff like that. It was stuff that you couldn't just ask a coach," Hamlin told Loy.
Notre Dame landed his first official visit but now must attempt to weather the storm as he likely takes four more campus trips. That may put the Irish at a disadvantage during latter stages of his decision-making process, as Hamlin probably won't return to South Bend before signing day.
Defensive secondary coach Todd Lyght will continue to put in work here, but we view Notre Dame as a slightly distant underdog in this chase.
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Nicholls State and former Alabama Crimson Tide running back Altee Tenpenny died Tuesday night from injuries suffered in a single-car accident.
According to John Talty of AL.com, the wreck occurred outside Glen Allan, Mississippi, and resulted in the 20-year-old being ejected from his vehicle after hitting a highway sign and utility pole.
After news of his death broke, many remembered Tenpenny on social media, including former Alabama teammate Kenyan Drake:
Also, Arkansas recruiting analyst Luke Matheson of Rivals—who witnessed the North Little Rock, Arkansas, native's rise through the high school and college ranks—offered some kind words regarding the late running back:
Tenpenny was a highly regarded recruit in the Class of 2013 who originally played for the Crimson Tide. He tallied 218 rushing yards and a touchdown on 48 carries but found himself behind the likes of Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon and Drake on the depth chart.
The best game of his career came in November 2014 in a blowout win against Western Carolina when he carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards in relief of the starter, Henry.
Given the lack of playing time with the Crimson Tide, Tenpenny elected to transfer to UNLV in May. However, he was dismissed from the Rebels program in August for breaking team rules and joined Nicholls State during preseason practice.
Tenpenny was recently in the news when he was reportedly arrested for possession of a firearm and discharging a weapon, per Sam Cooper of Yahoo Sports. Nicholls State suspended him indefinitely from the football team in the aftermath of the arrest.
He never appeared in a game for Nicholls State.
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Seven games into the 2015 season, all of the Michigan Wolverines positional units have largely succeeded—especially compared to the previous campaign.
Michigan has a balanced team that is consistently playing well all over the field, but one group sticks out above a slew of slightly above-average units.
The offense remains a work in progress, and the defense has established itself as one of the best in the nation, but identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their parts provides further insight into the Wolverines' performance.
At the beginning of the 2015 college football season, just about everybody could lay claim to being a playoff contender. That's the benefit of being 0-0.
Through seven weeks, however, that list has realistically narrowed to a series of undefeated and one-loss teams making up the Top 25 polls. From perennial powers like Alabama and Ohio State, to surprises like Utah and Iowa, the list of playoff contenders is still wide open enough to provide intrigue, but narrow enough to create focus.
Not all of these teams are created equally, though. Some, like Stanford, are playing their best football now. Others are recently coming off loses and hoping to rebound before the playoff hopes are gone for good. With that in mind, we're checking in on teams ranked in and around the Associated Press Top 15 with a chance to win their conference title. Midseason grades are based on performances, signatures wins, injury problems and depth/key position concerns. Additionally, we look at how things could shape up in the second half of the year.
Teams are ordered alphabetically.
The Georgia Bulldogs are at the midway point of the season, and after losses to Alabama and Tennessee, they are still in the thick of the SEC East race.
What makes things even better is they are on a bye this week, so they have extra time to get ready for the Florida Gators.
Most people would say the win against Missouri last week was ugly because the Bulldogs did not score a touchdown. However, they were able to do some good things as well. They did not allow a touchdown on defense and made some plays on special teams, as Marshall Morgan kicked the game-winning field goal.
With that said, if the Bulldogs want to beat Florida and win the SEC East, there are a few things they need to fix during the time off.
Convert 3rd Downs
The offense has been inconsistent because it has not been able to convert third downs. The Bulldogs did convert nine of 19 third-down attempts last week, which is good, but overall they rank 12th in the conference with a 33.3 percent third-down conversion rate.
In the losses to Alabama and Tennessee, the Bulldogs only converted 23 percent of their third downs. In the wins, the Bulldogs converted 40 percent of them.
This falls on the lap of quarterback Greyson Lambert. He has to be more consistent when it comes to making plays in the passing game. It’s more difficult with Nick Chubb out for the season, but Lambert will have to use all his skill players to make up for Chubb’s loss.
The Passing Game
Speaking of Lambert, he needs to find a way to make plays down the field and be more accurate.
Looking back at the Missouri game, Lambert was able to complete 71.9 percent of his passes. However, he threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage, and some of his incomplete passes were close to being picked off.
It the last three games, Lambert threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions. In the first four games, Lambert threw seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
As the competition gets tougher, Lambert is feeling the pressure. He has to be more poised in the pocket and have more confidence in his throws.October 10, 2015
According to Seth Emerson of DawgNation, Lambert recently discussed where he needs to improve:
I’m still kinda focusing, like I did this past week, in what coach Schotty was saying with streaks of completions, and check-downs, getting the ball—whether it’s down the field or short—allowing them to have a shot to make a play. Continuing to get that mindset that it’s not all-or-nothing on each pass.
Spread the Run Game
Sony Michel had a strong performance in the game against Tennessee, rushing for 145 yards on 22 carries. However, he did not have much success running the ball in the Missouri game, gaining 87 yards on 26 carries.
With Chubb gone for the season, Michel has been thrown into the starting role.
But based on what he’s done in the first four games of the year when he was a backup, the Bulldogs might be better off utilizing all their running backs on the roster.
Michel scored six total touchdowns in the Bulldogs' first four games of the season and only carried the ball 32 times. Because of the Bulldogs being down a running back, they have to be careful with Michel—especially with him having injury issues last season.September 22, 2015
By the looks of things, Keith Marshall looks healthy and has been effective in the limited action he’s seen this year. Marshall has rushed for 179 yards on 33 carries and scored three times. Brendan Douglas is another back who has looked sharp in limited snaps, rushing for 84 yards on 19 carries.
And what about A.J. Turman?
According to Emerson, head coach Mark Richt said that Turman is doing good work in practice and has been getting a lot of snaps with the scout team. It doesn’t seem like Turman will be elevated to the rotation, but the Bulldogs have options.
Losing Chubb hurts, but they can make up for it by using all their running backs in an equal capacity over the rest of the year.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Urban Meyer announced on Tuesday that he was promoting J.T. Barrett to the Ohio State starting lineup, he did so in hopes of providing the Buckeyes with a sense of stability that had been missing from their quarterback position through the first seven weeks of the 2015 season.
But for the signal-caller Barrett will be replacing, the future has never been more uncertain than it is now.
And after quickly processing what Barrett's return as Ohio State's starter would mean for the Buckeyes moving forward, Meyer's move left many contemplating the same thought: What's next for Cardale Jones?
In what marks just the latest chapter in Jones' already bizarre college career, the redshirt junior quarterback now finds himself returning to the same bench that he occupied for the better part of the previous three seasons. That, of course, was before Barrett's broken ankle in last year's regular-season finale opened the door for Jones to start in three postseason games, with the 6'5", 250-pounder leading the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Playoff championship.
Jones played so well, in fact, that despite having just three starts to his credit, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would be entering the 2015 NFL draft.
"He would have easily been the third QB drafted," Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Analyst Matt Miller said of Jones' prospects in a draft that ultimately saw quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota selected first and second overall, and no other quarterback picked until the third round.
Only Jones never entered that draft, opting rather to return to Ohio State for one last season, in hopes of both obtaining his degree and improving his draft stock. As of the summer, the Cleveland, Ohio, native was still on track to accomplish the former at the end of Ohio State's fall semester in December.
With Tuesday's development, the latter now finds itself more in flux.
After all, save for the New England Patriots selecting Matt Cassel in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, it's hard to find examples of teams picking players who were backup quarterbacks during the final seasons of their college careers. The draft picks and roster spots in the NFL are just too valuable to be used on players who weren't perceived as good enough to be starting on their own college teams.
Given the circumstances surrounding his recent benching, Jones, however, could qualify as the exception.
While it's Jones' big arm and size that NFL scouts were drooling over last winter, the strong-armed signal-caller has never seemed like a perfect fit in Meyer's spread offense. It was telling that in explaining Barrett's increased playing time in recent weeks, Meyer often cited his mobility, which is shiftier than Jones' power running style.
Ten months ago, that didn't seem like an issue when the Buckeyes were beating Wisconsin, Alabama and Wisconsin en route to winning the national title. But with more film of Jones on tape, opponents have had more to study and, consequently, plan for.
"He looks really disjointed. I think that's the best word for it. I don't think he's a good fit in that offense," Miller said. "Last year it was so simple—throw it deep to Devin Smith—and he was allowed to 'just play.' Now teams are game-planning for him, and he's asked to do more in the offense."
That's resulted in a seven-game stat line that's included 1,242 passing yards, seven touchdowns, five interceptions and a 62.4 percent completion percentage while having connected on just three passes of 40 or more yards. But not all of Jones' struggles can be attributed to his fit in Meyer's spread system, as Miller admitted that the player he once projected to be the No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft no longer looks worthy of a first-round selection.
"His decision-making hasn't been fast enough or accurate enough," Miller said. "I had moved him out of my Top 100 prior to the benching, so I think that's a starting point...he won't get back to [the first round] on my board."
The good news for Jones is that even if he doesn't play another snap for Ohio State this season, he still has plenty of opportunities remaining to re-prove himself to NFL front offices. Assuming he gradates in December as planned, Jones would be eligible to participate in the Senior Bowl, where he'd undoubtedly receive an invitation as a big-name prospect.
That could be Jones' best opportunity to show off his skills in a game setting, in advance of the predraft combine and workout circuit.
"That's a must in my opinion," Miller said of the Senior Bowl. "He has to get on a stage to show his talent."
Miller went on to point out that former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel parlayed a strong Senior Bowl showing into a first-round selection in 2013, despite having entered the draft process as a projected third-round pick. That's the type of uphill climb Jones could now find himself facing—a far cry from the #FailForCardale social media campaign NFL fans started earlier this season when Jones still looked more the part of franchise savior than college clipboard holder.
"If he interviewed well, I think he's still drafted," Miller said. "But he's a project based on potential, and not being able to show that potential makes him a Day 3 [rounds 4-7] guy."
Six months still stand between Jones and the NFL draft, and as we saw at the end of last season, plenty can change between now and then. In the meantime, Jones can still improve—or further worsen—his draft stock based on how he handles his recent benching, which will be especially important for a player who's had issues with immaturity in the past.
"You always want to see a prospect in an uncomfortable situation," Miller said.
Certainly, this would qualify as such. It's not the first, and it likely won't be the last that Jones finds himself in, given all that he's already been through in his college career.
But while he'll now find himself standing on the Ohio State sideline for the foreseeable future, don't expect to have heard the last of Jones.
That much—if nothing else right now for him—is certain.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of cfbstats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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Remember last offseason when first-year Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was supposed to be the magic elixir that transformed Auburn's defense from punchline to power and join head coach Gus Malzahn to create one of the most feared coaching forces in college football?
So far, not so good.
The Tigers rank last in the SEC in total defense (426.2 YPG), 11th in yards per play (5.75), 13th in rush defense (197.67 YPG), 11th in pass defense (228.5 YPG) and tied for 12th in scoring defense (25.7 PPG).
Six games into the season, is it time to call the Muschamp experiment a bust at Auburn?
Early on, yes.
While the offense has taken the brunt of the criticism due to the ineffectiveness of former starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson, the dismissal of wide receiver "Duke" Williams and an identity that was missing in action for the majority of the first half of the season, the defense has been par for the course for Auburn...and that's bad.
The Tigers haven't finished in the top half of the SEC in total defense since 2007, which was the last year of Muschamp's first stint as the defensive coordinator on the Plains. With the talent Auburn has on its roster, there's no reason why a somewhat adequate defense shouldn't be attainable.
Sure, the loss of "Buck" Carl Lawson in the first half of the first game hurts, but with players like Montravius Adams, Kris Frost, Cassanova McKinzy, Byron Cowart and others in the front seven, one player shouldn't make that much of a difference—even in a transition year.
Even a player as talented as Lawson.
The early returns on the Muschamp era at Auburn have it looking more like his head coaching career at Florida rather than his work as a coordinator at Texas and Auburn in the 2000s that made him one of the hottest coordinators in the country.
But there is reason for hope.
With Auburn up three and reeling defensively late in last week's game versus Kentucky, Malzahn was faced with a 4th-and-1 from his own 47-yard line with 2:19 to play. After thinking about going for it when one first down would ice away the game, he punted and handed the game to Muschamp and his defense—which had already given up 458 yards on the night.
Muschamp's defense held Kentucky on 4th-and-3 at the Tiger 44-yard line and escaped Lexington with its first conference win of the year.
Will that matter moving forward?
The Tigers travel to Arkansas this week to take on a Razorback offense that's loaded up front with a massive offensive line, a talented running back in Alex Collins, a veteran quarterback in Brandon Allen and a unit that is achieving much more balance than it has in years past.
"As a linebacker, you have to enjoy contact," linebacker Tre' Williams said, according to Wesley Sinor of AL.com. "With Arkansas, you're going to come out of this game pretty sore. You have to get your mind right from Day 1. We knew what we were getting into ever since the beginning of the season... It's going to be a big one and it's a must-win, so we're going to do whatever we can do to get that W."
After that, Ole Miss comes to town and the Tigers will travel to Texas A&M—both of which can move the ball up and down the field.
Good luck, Muschamp.
The defense is a bust as of now. There's far too much talent on Auburn's roster to regress further from last year's group, especially since Muschamp's presence was supposed to make an immediate impact on the Plains.
But the close to the Kentucky game and Malzahn's willingness to put the game in the hands of Muschamp at least provided a small spark.
If Muschamp can transform that into a fire during the little bit of extra time he received following last Thursday's game against momentum, he can change the narrative of Auburn's defense down the stretch.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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What looked last week like one of the marquee games of the season has instead taken a much different tone.
After Texas A&M lost to Alabama and Ole Miss lost to Memphis, the Week 8 matchup between the Aggies and the Rebels is no longer a critical College Football Playoff qualifier; it's a game in which the loser leaves town.
Both teams are still ranked in the Associated Press poll—Texas A&M at No. 15, Ole Miss at No. 24—but whoever loses Saturday will likely drop out. Ole Miss won last year's meeting 35-20, but that was with a far better defense and against former Aggies quarterback Kenny Hill.
Presumably, Kyle Allen is an upgrade from Hill, but he looked worse against the Crimson Tide last weekend. Kevin Sumlin's team played careless, sloppy football, but if it rectifies those issues against the Rebels, it still has a clear path toward a playoff berth.
It just no longer has a margin for error.
Date: Saturday, October 24
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium; Oxford, Mississippi
Line: Ole Miss -6, according to Odds Shark
This is the part of a weekly college football preview where the author tells you how magnificent the next Saturday will be. It’s up to the author—in this exact portion of the piece—to build the appropriate hype for the games ahead, doing so with care and enthusiasm. His editor demands it; otherwise, it will be sent back.
So allow me to tell you that Week 8 of the college football season is gargantuan in scale. It’s the biggest weekend in the history of sports and life.
Don’t bother hunting down the schedule; we’ll get to that shortly. Just know that this is the greatest lineup of games any sport has ever seen. Now, run right through that screen door and into the sunlight to embrace this magnificent truth.
Well, perhaps it’s not the best slate of games ever. Perhaps it’s not even the best slate of games of this month. After a loaded Week 7, however, Week 8 seems like one of those Saturdays that could produce unexplainably weird results. The way this season has gone, it seems reasonable.
It may not have the hype or the plethora of Top-25 matchups, but these are often the weekends that provide unexpected, wall-to-wall entertainment. Don’t sleep on college football; you know better.
As for the games to watch, one to avoid, the wide receiver doing wizard things and some thoughts on Ohio State’s rich-program problem, let’s get to it.
The Buffet: Previewing the Top 5 Games of Week 8
5. Western Kentucky at LSU (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
If you are at all surprised that Western Kentucky made the buffet, don’t be. That’s not to say that the Hilltoppers are a lock to pull an upset that would result in countless broken Louisiana flat screens, but this team is dangerous. Keep the remote out of reach.
With one loss on the year, Western Kentucky has found an offense. And if you have not watched quarterback Brandon Doughty work, you have missed out. This season, Doughty has thrown for 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Hilltoppers have won six games thanks in large part to his presence. He can take a game over.
LSU knows all about this. After all, no one takes over a game quite like running back Leonard Fournette. In Week 7, Fournette ran for a ho-hum 180 yards and two touchdowns against an excellent Florida defense. It’s incredible how his absurdity is now almost assumed.
But LSU also found a bit of a passing game, and Brandon Harris suddenly looks comfortable. If he can continue to grow, the Tigers will continue to be in the playoff conversation. Still, before Alabama, LSU has to get by Western Kentucky.
This may not be the most taxing stop on the schedule, but the Tigers had best be careful.
4. Clemson at Miami (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC)
If Al Golden wants to make an emphatic case to keep his job, a win over Clemson won’t hurt that cause. In fact, results like these are precisely what the Hurricanes have lacked since he took over.
As a result, the weekly banners demanding his firing are flying high. Here was the latest bit of air messaging.October 17, 2015
In a 30-20 win over Virginia Tech last Saturday, the formula was there. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was excellent, throwing for 296 yards and two touchdowns. The Miami defense also forced four turnovers, which would be a solid trend to carry onward. This will be slightly more challenging now that linebacker Raphael Kirby, the team’s leading tackler, is out for the year.
Clemson, meanwhile, has done exactly what it needs to since beating Notre Dame. The Tigers followed up a win over Georgia Tech with a 34-17 win over Boston College. And while we’ve spent a great deal of time talking about Deshaun Watson and this offense, the Clemson defense has been the key cog.
This game feels strange. It feels like Miami could surprise. Then again, that feeling has been wrong before. Clemson is the more talented team, but the Hurricanes have the quarterback to make it a game.
Regardless, the banners will be flying high. Seriously, isn’t this getting expensive? I’d love to know their budget.
3. Utah at USC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
Give USC credit. It has not packed up shop and and looked ahead to being coached by USC savior Jon Gruden. (Please note: This is not actually going to happen, probably. But let’s start the rumor regardless.)
The Trojans played hard last week; this part is very real. Although they lost to Notre Dame 41-31, the fight was evident. Interim head coach Clay Helton did his best Ed Orgeron impression and pushed the Irish to the brink. He did so thanks in large part to a heavy dose of offense.
This week, USC comes home to play one of the nation’s elite teams. Utah and Arizona State played close for a while on Saturday, although running back Devontae Booker, having been held in check the entire game, uncorked two long touchdown runs in the fourth to seal it.
Utah finds itself in a wonderful position. Two months into the year, and the Utes—with a manageable schedule laid out before them—are suddenly eyeing the playoff. And yet, this game, like a few other high-profile matchups this week, feels like anything but a given.
USC has absolutely nothing to lose and a wealth of individual talent. It’s a dangerous spot for the opposition. Oh, and Las Vegas has made the Trojans the favorite at bet-taking establishments.
Keep an eye on this one.
2. Texas A&M at Ole Miss (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Oh, this one had potential. In an alternate universe, both Texas A&M and Ole Miss won last Saturday, prompting ESPN’s College GameDay to pick up its things and sprint immediately to Oxford, Miss. for one of the games of the year.
But that did not happen. Texas A&M’s undefeated season was undone by Alabama, and more specifically, three passes that Nick Saban’s defense took back the other way for a touchdown.
"It's virtually impossible to win when you are giving away 21 points and four interceptions total," head coach Kevin Sumlin told reporters after the game. "Whatever offense you're running, it's hard to win when you play that way…when you play a quality football team like that, particularly defensively, your mistakes are amplified."
The Aggies made a push to make it a game before halftime, but the 41-23 score at home certainly was a setback, something Ole Miss knows plenty about following a loss to Memphis as a double-digit favorite.
Defensively, the Rebels were carved apart—especially after the first quarter—allowing the Tigers to total nearly 500 yards. Offensively, quarterback Chad Kelly still played a respectable game minus the two interceptions. The main problem? Ole Miss finished with just 40 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Who can bandage wounds best? The SEC West can still be had with some breaks, although it has to start somewhere. Here, for example.
1. Tennessee at Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
This was supposed to be the year that this lovely, hate-heavy rivalry got an injection of new energy. A few early losses for Tennessee have tempered that sentiment some, although this game is still extremely meaningful for both. And there’s always that magnificent hate.
Alabama’s destruction of Texas A&M, as documented above, was another step in the right direction. The secondary is making plays, and running back Derrick Henry has taken to this full-time running back role better than anyone could have anticipated. His 236 yards, many of which came in the first half, changed the perception of the game entirely.
The one major advantage Tennessee has heading into the week is the time off. As has been a theme in recent years, Alabama must play an opponent coming off a bye.
I'm not saying there is a conspiracy in the works, but maybe you should email your local politician regardless, Alabama fans.
Re: Alabama's schedule. This is pretty remarkable. Note that no other SEC team has more than 10 games. pic.twitter.com/z7EIuShCR9— Aaron Suttles (@AaronSuttles) October 15, 2015
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs was brilliant in his team’s win against Georgia, throwing for 312 yards, running for 118 yards and scoring five touchdowns. This brand of quarterbacking has given the Alabama defense fits in recent years; Dobbs certainly is capable of making it another long day in the film room.
The Vols, however, also have to deal with Henry, which will not be an easy task. This year, they’re allowing more than 170 yards on the ground per game on 4.61 yards per carry.
Tennessee has the offensive formula to push Alabama to the brink. The Crimson Tide has the offensive formula to make sure that doesn’t happen. Should be fun and hate-filled, per usual.
Sad Scoreboard Game of the Week: Missouri at Vanderbilt (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network)
If you fancy points being scored in copious amounts, here's a game you should avoid. In fact, even if low-scoring games are your thing, I’m not sure this is the one you want to watch, either.
Just run, friend.
Missouri has scored nine points in the past two games. Vanderbilt has scored a gaudy—well, it is by such reserved standards—27 points the last two times out. Both teams play above-average defense; both offenses have spent much of the season looking like lost puppies.
The only major redeeming quality of this matchup is that it could produce some very odd score. Perhaps a 3-2 game. Or maybe, somehow, both teams will head into overtime tied at 0-0 or 11-11. Things will be undoubtedly strange.
Scratch that. Maybe you should watch this game just to say you actually did.
One-on-One Matchup of the Week: Laremy Tunsil vs. Myles Garrett
There’s a distinct possibility that the next two No. 1 overall picks in the NFL draft are going head-to-head on Saturday. Sure, that’s an ambitious declaration. But do yourself a favor and watch Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett just in case.
After sitting out seven games because of NCAA matters, Tunsil will make his season debut for a team in desperate need of some offensive line assistance. Even with the injury concerns coming into the year—along with the NCAA stuff—Tunsil is widely regarded at one of the top prospects at the position and one of the nation’s best juniors overall. (Chances are he says goodbye after the season.)
Welcoming him back will be the most destructive force currently operating on the defensive side. Although the Aggies fell to Alabama last Saturday, it was through no fault of their star. Garrett logged another sack, pushing his yearly total to eight-and-a-half, and two tackles for loss.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but NFL teams are already salivating over what he can do off the edge.
Oh, this will be fun. It’s wonderful to have Tunsil back on the field. Now we get to watch two of the sport’s great forces literally collide.
A Reminder to Watch Baylor Play Every Week Because Corey Coleman Is a Sorcerer Capable of Magical Powers
A few weeks ago I highlighted Baylor wideout Corey Coleman for his statistical destruction. He has followed that up with, well, more statistical destruction. In six games this season, Coleman has scored 16 touchdowns.
This is a real stat and a single-season record for the Bears. IT'S OCTOBER. HE HAS PLAYED SIX GAMES.
But this young man isn’t about the numbers. In fact, it’s the nuances to his game that make him one of the most exciting players in all of college football. Just look at him last week against West Virginia, creating new science.
Corey Coleman's footwork against WVU was insane. Slowed this clip down, check out the hurdle. pic.twitter.com/4B8qQkthD2— Max Olson (@max_olson) October 19, 2015
With Baylor playing Iowa State this weekend as an enormous favorite, Coleman will probably score and do something that defies gravity.
Don’t miss it.
Parting Shot: On Ohio State’s First-World Problem and Making the Right Call
Urban Meyer made it official on Tuesday. He announced that he was making a change at quarterback.
Cardale Jones has been benched in favor of J.T. Barrett—the young man many, including myself, thought would start when the season began.
"J.T. has earned the right to start Saturday at Rutgers," Meyer told reporters. "It was a difficult decision."
Think about this for a moment. The nation’s No. 1 team just benched its national championship-winning quarterback who is without a loss in his career. Jones’ next regular-season defeat will be his first. He still has more rings than losses. It's staggering.
And yet, given the way Ohio State’s offense has evolved, struggled and had to absorb losses, the move makes perfect sense. It comes at the perfect time. And as a result, there has not been an ounce of backlash to a historically unprecedented decision. Strangely, it feels right.
When Barrett was in the game against Penn State last week, there was a sense of unpredictability and explosiveness the team has lacked with Jones taking the majority of the snaps. In the red zone, it was even more apparent.
Jones hasn’t played heinous outside of a few wayward throws. The play-calling hasn’t helped him out, either. Given the way the team will rely more on the H-backs and misdirection—and less on downfield passes—this is the move that had to be made.
The role Jones plays moving forward will be fascinating. Meyer will still find ways to get him involved, and just the threat of his arm will keep coordinators in the office after hours. He will play a significant role at some point.
He won’t disappear into the deepest depths of the roster. There is still some flash left in this giant machine. Just watch.
Still, the change was strange news to hear and process. It’s strange to even write about. The Buckeyes just benched the mortar-armed, national championship-winning quarterback two months into an undefeated season ad the No. 1 team. Things like this don't normally happen, and no one's really seems to have noticed.
It’s good to be king.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
The slate of games is smaller, and the quality is certainly down compared to the past couple of weeks, but it's still not going to be difficult for SEC football fans to find something entertaining to watch this weekend.
There's only one game involving two ranked conference opponents, and that will take place in Oxford, Mississippi, as the sliding Ole Miss Rebels try to end their recent skid against Texas A&M, which lost its first game of the year in lopsided fashion last week against Alabama.
Those same Crimson Tide players will return home to renew one of the most storied rivalries in all of college football when the Tennessee Volunteers come to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the "Third Saturday in October" showdown on the fourth Saturday of the month.
Kentucky will travel south to take on its second consecutive SEC West opponent, and Auburn will try to capitalize off the momentum of winning in Lexington last week on the road in Starkville.
There's also a defensive struggle shaping up in Nashville between Missouri and Vanderbilt, and LSU must face an upstart out-of-conference opponent.
Some potentially intriguing storylines are possible this weekend, so even though it isn't a banner week for SEC showdowns, there could still be twists and turns. Let's take a look at the top games of the week.
Reigning champions Ohio State overcame another sluggish start to crush Penn State and retain its spot atop the AP and Coaches polls. At least five teams are receiving first-place votes in both polls, however, which showcases the muddled landscape at this stage of the college football season.
Week 8 could create further havoc in the rankings. That's because 12 of the 19 ranked teams in action are on the road, including Utah, Clemson, Florida State and the Buckeyes from the Top 10. So there should at least be some marquee upset alerts around the country.
Let's check out the complete slate of games involving Top 25 squads along with viewing information for each contest. That's followed by a look at some of the most intriguing matchups on tap.
Week 8 Top 25 Schedule
Top Games to Watch
No. 6 Clemson at Miami (Fla.)
The Tigers have quietly rattled off six straight victories to open the season and moved firmly into the playoff conversation. That said, their only high-profile win so far came over Notre Dame, and that was at home. Facing a talent-laden group from Miami on the road will be a good measuring stick.
While the Hurricanes already have two losses, quarterback Brad Kaaya headlines a roster with plenty of explosive playmakers. They lost by just five on the road against rival Florida State and are 3-0 at home with wins over Nebraska and Virginia Tech.
This matchup has also created some hard-fought battles as of late. Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret provided some interesting notes about the recent series history:
One key question for the Tigers is whether the offense can still produce big numbers if Canes corner Tracy Howard slows down top target Artavis Scott. It should be a terrific battle and, if Howard gets the upper hand, it will put extra pressure on the likes of Deon Cain and Charone Peake.
For Miami, the story remains much the same as the individual talent is in place, but bringing everything together to create a title contender remains elusive. That doesn't make the Hurricanes any less dangerous as they attempt to derail Clemson's push toward the Top Four, though.
No. 15 Texas A&M at No. 24 Ole Miss
Games in which both teams are coming off crucial losses always come with an extra bit of uncertainty. That's the case here, as the Aggies lost a clash with Alabama that could have moved them into the playoff hunt and the Rebels fell short against Memphis, likely ending their playoff dreams this season.
In each case, the defense failed to hold up its end of the bargain. Texas A&M gave up 41 points to Alabama. Ole Miss allowed 37 to Memphis, including 31 straight at one point. The onus is on each of those units to bounce back in a major way this week.
On the offensive side, the Rebels should benefit quite a bit from the return of star lineman Laremy Tunsil after serving a seven-game suspension. Gil Brandt of NFL.com noted there will be no shortage of people watching his return:
Now, getting back a lineman isn't the same as a star quarterback. That said, Tunsil should provide an immediate boost as the Rebels are forced to deal with Texas A&M edge-rusher Myles Garrett, who already has 8.5 sacks this season.
Both teams are feeling the heat after losing last week, and their margin for error to reach a marquee bowl, or possibly the playoff in Texas A&M's case, is razor-thin. That type of pressure usually showcases what a team is truly made of, and that should make for an entertaining battle.
No. 3 Utah at USC
The outlook is promising for Utah. The Utes already have victories over Oregon, Cal and Michigan on their resume, and the remaining schedule is certainly navigable. They can't afford to overlook an underperforming Trojans squad, though.
USC entered the season as a popular choice to crack the playoff out of the Pac-12. Instead, its lost three of its past four games and dealt with off-field turmoil that led to Steve Sarkisian's exit. But they still have enough ability to rebound and finish the season on a high note.
So Utah, which has survived close calls against Cal and Arizona State in recent weeks, needs to put together a more complete performance Saturday. The silver lining is head coach Kyle Whittingham has been happy with the fight his team has shown in difficult moments, per Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.
"You get an idea going in what type of team you might have and the personality," Whittingham said. "But it really starts to take shape as you hit about midseason, which is now. ... They're a tough group of guys. Very physical. Just warriors."
If the Utes can continue that trend and take down USC, they will have a golden opportunity to run the table. While there are some tests (Washington and Arizona on the road, UCLA at home), it's nothing a championship contender shouldn't overcome.
Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com
Tennessee's top-heavy first half of the football season is over, and after this week's Alabama game, the rest of the year looks manageable.
That would be good news for a fanbase that has been through the emotional roller coaster so far through a 3-3 start.
The Volunteers have endured coaching gaffes, blown leads and a huge comeback in a big win against Georgia. They've almost won national-stage games against Florida and Oklahoma, only to lose in heartbreaking, finger-pointing fashion.
In the midst of the season, the Vols broke in heaps of young, talented players and endured enough season-ending injuries to last a couple of years. It's been a crazy year when positions expected to be weaknesses have emerged as strengths and areas full of talent have become major concerns.
While the win over the Bulldogs entering the bye week has fostered a little bit of goodwill on Rocky Top, there have been rocky moments. And there are plenty of areas for improvement as coach Butch Jones tries to lead his program into another step forward.
An 8-4 (or perhaps even 9-3) season is still possible if UT can reach its talent-filled potential, but in order to do that, the second-half grades for each positional unit need to be better than these.
Given all the hype entering the year, the first part of the season has been below satisfactory, but there's still time for the Vols to bring up their grades. Let's take a look at the position-by-position breakdown.