NCAA Football

Kenny Hill Must Be Included in Early 2014 Heisman Discussion

Week 1 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, so it's high time the Heisman discussion starts, right? All right, so it's still a little bit early to pinpoint this year's outstanding player, but there is one name that must be recognized in any early conversation. That would be Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill.

Sure, it seems like a bit of a stretch to consider Hill part of the Heisman discussion considering he wasn't even solidified as a starter before the season began, but one game can change things rather quickly.

Hill led the No. 21 Aggies to a 52-28 rout of the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks on Thursday after completing 44 of his 60 passing attempts for 511 yards and three touchdowns for a rating of 91.5. His yardage broke a Texas A&M single-game record that was previously held by a guy named Johnny Manziel.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the win is a pretty good omen:

The aforementioned Heisman Trophy winner was cheering on his successor during the game:

Although, Hill remained humble during a press conference with The Associated Press, via ESPN.com after the game, "I don't really like 'Kenny Football.'"

Hill successfully stepped out of Manziel's shadow in a big way in Week 1. In fact, there were NFL scouts in attendance who came away rather impressed with the sophomore signal-caller, according to Ryan McGee of ESPN.com (subscription required). Said one scout:

This was a perfect storm kind of deal tonight in that he had a lot of time to pick his spots, and the lanes in the secondary were huge. But he still had to drop it in there. I didn't see him make but one or two questionable decisions. Good quarterbacks take little openings and make them look huge with accuracy. He did that. That builds confidence. Now he has a month against second-tier competition to keep building that confidence.

That comment is a big reason why Hill should be mentioned in early Heisman discussions. Many analysts or causal onlookers could view his performance as a number-padding effort due to facing a very shaky defense and relying upon offensive weapons who do well with the ball in their hands.

Not so fast.

While Hill had plenty of time to work with in the pocket, he displayed nice velocity, placement, anticipation and poise in the pocket. Even more impressively, he wasn't rattled by the pressure of the limelight.

His first career start resembled that of another Heisman-winning quarterback:

This isn't to say the Texas A&M quarterback should be crowned after one performance. After all, early Heisman discussions include such enormous talent like Todd Gurley, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. But who's to say Hill won't remain among college's elite by season's end?

Fox Sports Live's Matt Leinart knows a thing or two about winning the Heisman, and he has Hill pegged as his dark-horse pick:

Yes, the season is very, very young. But there's every reason to think another Heisman could be headed to College Station much sooner than anticipated.

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Michigan State vs. Oregon: Matchups to Watch in Week 2 FBS Clash

The No. 8 Michigan State Spartans travel to Eugene to face the No. 3 Oregon Ducks in what promises to be the 2014 college football season's early marquee matchup. Both of these teams have plenty to gain with a win on Saturday—especially taking the Week 1 struggles of No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Alabama into consideration.

Both the Spartans and Ducks surged out of the gate in Week 1. Jacksonville State fell victim to a well-rounded Spartans team by a score of 45-7, and South Dakota was trounced by the high-octane Ducks 62-13.

Each team was certainly impressive; however, those Week 1 contests will pale in comparison to what's in store on Saturday. Will Michigan State's stout defense prevail, or will Oregon continue to run over the competition? Let's begin to draw a conclusion by examining the matchups to watch when these squads hit the gridiron.

 

Byron Marshall vs. Michigan State's Front Seven

Junior running back Byron Marshall lit it up against the Coyotes in Week 1. An incredibly dynamic weapon, Marshall rushed eight times for 90 yards—an average of 11.3 yards per carry—and added eight receptions for 138 yards and two scores.

The Ducks offense is built around its speed and ability to get the ball to playmakers in the open field. Those qualities were on display each time Marshall received a touch against South Dakota.

Bryan Fischer of NFL.com tweeted his impression of Marshall's slot duties on Friday:

On the flip side, Michigan State prides itself on a stout defense with the capability to contain even the most prolific of offenses. While Jacksonville State may not fall into the prolific category, they were completely stymied by the Spartans gaining 222 yards through the air—while tossing three interceptions—and just 22 yards rushing.

After just one game, Michigan State picked up right where it left off from last season and is currently ranked fourth in the nation against the run.

Marshall is far shiftier than any of the Gamecocks running backs, and Oregon's uptempo offense will only enhance the degree of difficulty to contain him. Watch for the Ducks to look for mismatches against Michigan State by moving the playmaker all over the field.

 

Connor Cook vs. Oregon's Secondary

Junior quarterback Connor Cook burst onto the scene last season by passing for 2,755 yards and 22 touchdowns against six interceptions. He continued his stellar play in Week 1 and looked as efficient as ever in the process. Cook completed 12 of his 13 attempts for 285 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game after only one half.

While Michigan State's defense will have its hands full with Marcus Mariota, Cook may be an even bigger concern for the Ducks entering their Week 2 clash.

ESPN Stats & Info tweeted exactly how impressive Cook's performance was:

Oregon fared nicely against South Dakota in Week 1, allowing opposing signal-callers to complete just 18 of 34 passing attempts for 198 yards. Although, All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffered an ankle injury in the contest, further complicating things for Oregon's secondary.

Luckily, according to a press conference, via Molly Blue of The Oregonian, the cornerback said his ankle is "fine."

We'll see how close he is to 100 percent when these teams take the field on Saturday. He'll certainly be needed against Cook and Co.

 

Michigan State's Offensive Line vs. Oregon's Pass Rush

The Spartans are a little dinged up along the offensive line. Right guard Connor Kruse suffered a leg injury during camp, and there is no definitive timetable as to when he will return. To make matters worse, left guard Travis Jackson left the team's Week 1 contest with an apparent injury as well.

Jacksonville State was able to get a bit of pressure on Michigan State's quarterbacks in the second half of Friday's contest, and the Spartans were only able to average 4.2 yards per carry as a team.

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News tweeted an update on Jackson's situation:

This could be something Oregon can take advantage of on Saturday. The Ducks showed a bit of a pass rush against South Dakota, as Juwaan Williams, Tyson Coleman and Alex Balducci all came away with sacks, according to CFBStats.com.

Even if Oregon's secondary has some trouble dealing with a red-hot Cook, the presence of a reliable pass rush could certainly pick up the slack.

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Bryce Petty Injury: Updates on Baylor Star's Back and Return

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty left with a back injury during the Bears' season opener against SMU Sunday night. It leaves the Big 12 contenders in limbo while awaiting further details.

Bears head coach Art Briles told Fox Sports 1's Kris Budden that the senior star would likely ride the bench in the second half, via Fox College Football:

John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald reports Petty did not start the second half:

Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News provides an update on Petty's injury:

Although the No. 10 team in the country carried a comfortable 31-0 lead into halftime against the Mustangs, Petty didn't look himself. He completed just 13 of his 23 pass attempts for 161 yards and two touchdowns.

Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben noted that Petty was visibly favoring his back:

ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon questioned some of Baylor's play-calling when it was clear that the Bears QB was less than 100 percent:

Petty entered the season as one of the most-hyped quarterbacks in the nation. He finally got his chance to start last year and delivered. He completed 62 percent of his throws for 4,200 yards along with 32 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also added 14 rushing touchdowns.

His presence leading the offense made Baylor a major threat to win the Big 12. It went 11-2 last season and featured enough talent and experience on both sides of the ball to take another step forward.

The Bears were even a little surprised to see Oklahoma get the nod atop the conference's preseason poll. Brandon Chatmon of ESPN passed along Petty's response to the vote: "That's not up to us to vote, it's up to us to play. That tells us that we're not there yet, and that's fine with me. I don't think you're ever there. Once you think you've arrived, that's when you're in trouble."

Petty is a crucial piece of the championship puzzle, though. If he's forced to miss an extended period of time due to the ailment, the team's chances of winning the Big 12 take a major hit.

He also has something to prove before making the NFL jump after the campaign ends. Although he's put up outstanding numbers, there are always question marks when it comes to quarterbacks coming out of high-powered offenses like Baylor.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com is among the skeptics after studying tape from last season despite numbers that would suggest Petty was among the best quarterbacks in the country:

Petty didn't exhibit the arm talent, accuracy and playmaking ability I would expect from a franchise quarterback; I would need to see dramatic improvements in his mechanics and overall play to place him in the conversation with Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Brent Hundley as the top quarterback in the 2015 class.

Petty was working to prove he was more than a simple-system quarterback. Now, his efforts are on hold until further testing shows the severity of the injury. Baylor and its fans will hope it's nothing more than a scare, and he can make a relatively swift return.

Seth Russell will fill the void until the senior leader is set to return. The sophomore backup flashed some upside during limited playing time last season. He will need to cut down on his interceptions if he's forced to start for awhile with Petty sidelined.

Once more information is provided, the Big 12 outlook for Baylor could shift considerably.

 

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All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson Asks Les Miles for a Selfie After LSU's Comeback Win

No. 13 LSU was on the verge of losing its first home opener in many years as it trailed the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers, 24-7, in the third quarter on Saturday.

The Tigers went on to score 21 unanswered points to win the game. Afterward, a clearly excited Patrick Peterson sought out coach Les Miles for a selfie. Miles appeared flattered to see the love from the three-time Pro Bowler for the Arizona Cardinals.

Here's the result:

Me and the Hatter after a big win. #geauxtigerspic.twitter.com/drWlborLjP

— Patrick Peterson (@RealPeterson21) August 31, 2014

[LSU Tiger TV, h/t College Spun]

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the Top 25 After Week 1

Welcome back, college football. You never disappoint.

The first game of the 2014 season ended on a last-second field goal, and the second saw a top-10 team lose by 20-plus points at home. The SEC brought the weird from start to finish, and so did the Croke Park Classic out in Dublin.

Week 1 was one of those quintessentially awesome debuts: the kind that has us tearing up our previous rankings, questioning our predictions and wondering why in the heck we do those things in the first place. It's not like we stand any chance of being right!

Accordingly, the Week 2 Associated Press poll should look much different than the preseason version. Unrecognizably different. And how could it not? With so many top teams looking less than dominant, the whole entire pecking order must be reconsidered.

Let's try to make sense of it all:

Note: Rankings reflect a prediction of the Week 2 AP poll—not how the author would rank the teams himself. Predictions made under assumption that all remaining Week 1 games finish as betting spread would indicate.

 

Fun Facts

- South Carolina tumbles from the preseason Top 10 to outside of the Top 20. Last year, the lowest faller from the preseason Top 10 was Florida to No. 12. In fact, if South Carolina indeed falls below No. 20, it will be the first time that has happened to a preseason Top 10 team since Michigan in 2007…the year it lost to Appalachian State.

- Washington falls out of the poll despite starting 1-0, the result of a one-point win at Hawaii. A 1-0 team hasn't dropped from the poll since Auburn (four-point win over Utah State) and USC (two-point win over Minnesota) in 2011. The Tigers finished that season 8-5, but the Trojans went 10-2 and finished No. 6 in the final AP rankings.

 

Teams Rising

Texas A&M

Kenny Hill led the Aggies to a stunning upset of South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium—not just because of its occurrence, but because of the way it occurred. Hill broke Johnny Manziel's single-game passing record for an offense that hung 52 points (with ease).

According to Dan Wolken of USA Today, head coach Kevin Sumlin credited a story calling Texas A&M the "most overrated team in the nation" for giving his team the fuel it needed to come out and abuse the Gamecocks. Expect that the media has learned its lesson.

Now…let the wild, 10-hour rumpus start

 

Georgia

Todd Gurley was out of control, putting up roughly 300 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns on 16 touches, and the running game in general helped overcome a boring (if not safe and reliable) full-time starting debut from quarterback Hutson Mason.

More than that, the Bulldogs' defense held Clemson to 15 yards in the second half. Fifteen! Despite the embattled secondary, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had his group looking good.

With Gurley carrying the offense and the best group of linebackers in the country (Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera) carrying the defense, plus the apparent ineptitude of South Carolina as a rival in the SEC East, this team looks like a strong College Football Playoff contender. 

 

Texas

The only new addition to the poll this week is Texas, which replaces a Washington team that struggled to beat Hawaii.

The Longhorns looked good in the first game of the Charlie Strong era, holding North Texas to 94 total yards and coasting to a 38-7 win.

Defense is the staple of every Strong-coached team, and this group has the talent to rank among the best he's ever had. The offense, though, looked a little bit rough, and things will only get rougher if center Dominic Espinosa is in fact out for the year with a broken ankle.

 

Teams Falling

South Carolina

Touched upon earlier, but it would be remiss not to mention the Gamecocks again.

You can't get depantsed on your home field in front of a national audience and not free-fall down the poll.

 

Clemson

Things started well in Athens, Georgia, Saturday evening, but Clemson's offense withered in the second half and eventually went AWOL. It was a profoundly un-Chad Morris performance.

More concerning than that, the defensive front seven—supposedly one of the strongest in the country—could not handle Gurley for the second consecutive season, despite having another full summer to prepare.

The Tigers are probably not as bad as they looked in the second half Saturday, but with a road trip to Florida State looming shortly, that might not matter. Starting 1-2 is a recipe for falling out of the poll.

 

Ohio State

Only part of this has to do with Ohio State's struggle against Navy. A big part of it also has to do with the Braxton Miller injury, which happened after the release of the preseason AP poll.

Still, the Buckeyes could have mitigated how far they fell with a more convincing Week 1 effort. Navy is a good team, and there is no shame in beating it by 17 points, but there was a long stretch of that game where it really looked like OSU would lose.

Urban Meyer's team still has some proving to do.

 

Wisconsin

Of all of the curious curiosities from the first weekend of the season, Wisconsin's second-half disappearing act stands out.

The Badgers were so, so good in the first half, and their first drive of the third quarter—bolstered by a 63-yard run from Melvin Gordon—went for a touchdown. They were rolling toward a program-defining win.

Then, all of a sudden, everything changed. Gordon found himself on the bench because of something head coach Gary Andersen called "a scenario" that happened at halftime, per Brian Bennett of ESPN.com. And from there, things collapsed on both sides of the football.

And as a result, Wisconsin is dropping.

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