NCAA Football

College Football Playoff 2014: Final Outlook Before Saturday's Week 2 Games

The college football playoff system is the best thing to happen to the game in a while. The closer we get to the end of the season, the more apparent that will be.

After just one week, not much has materialized.

Despite a close call against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the defending national champion Florida St. Seminoles are still considered the top team in the land. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston helped will his team to a 37-31 win in Week 1.

Winston had 370 yards passing and one spectacular run, but he did throw two interceptions.

The No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide had to hold off a determined West Virginia team 33-23. The No. 3 Oregon Ducks and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners had much easier matchups against the South Dakota Coyotes and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, respectively.

With all four teams winning, it's hard to suggest any of them lost or gained ground. However, that could certainly happen in Week 2. 

 

Top Four Team With Best Chance to Make a Statement: No. 3 Oregon

In the unquestioned game of the week, Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota and the Ducks will host the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans.

The Spartans defense was downright nasty in 2013, but it did lose seven key defensive players from last year's team—including Denicos Allen and Darqueze Dennard.

Last week, the Spartans beat Jacksonville State 45-7, but they did allow 254 yards of total offense. It's safe to say the Ducks' attack will be a little more formidable.

Based on this and the fact that the Ducks haven't lost a non-conference game at Autzen Stadium since 2008, you have to like their chances at home. If the Ducks win, a victory over a Top 10 team would have to at least make some of the voters from the playoff committee think about putting them ahead of Alabama.

 

Team Outside of Top Four With Chance to Make a Move: No. 7 Michigan State

The game of the week is a double-edged sword. If the Spartans can go into Oregon and win, it would make an even bigger statement than a Ducks victory.

There are real questions as to whether the Spartans defense is as good as it was last season after losing so many key players. If the team can rally behind junior quarterback Connor Cook and find a way to slow the Ducks offense down, it may have a chance to pull a pretty big upset while making a quantum leap up the rankings.

 

Easiest Week 2 Matchup: No. 1 Florida State vs. Citadel

The Seminoles will be happy to see The Citadel Bulldogs coming after last week. I'm sure the Bulldogs will give it their all, but don't expect to see Winston and many of the starters past halftime.

The Southern Conference squad was 5-7 last season. The Clemson Tigers were the only ranked team it played, and the Bulldogs lost that game 52-6.

Last week, they lost to Coastal Carolina 31-16. It's going to be a long day for those kids on Saturday.

 

All stats per CFBStats.com

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Final Overview of Week 2 Standings

Preseason college football rankings are always to be taken with a grain of salt, and that is never more apparent than the moment that Week 2 standings are released.

All it takes is one game for certain top-10 schools to prove that the hype might be unwarranted. Meanwhile, an upset victory for a team near the end of the Top 25 can propel them all the way near the front of the rankings.

I'm looking at you, South Carolina and Texas A&M. 

Although the Top 25 in Week 2 looks significantly different from how things will stand at the end of the season, it's still a much more accurate measuring point after seeing—almost—all of college football's best teams play their opening 60 minutes.

But with top-10 matchups on the slate for the weekend, we're only a few days away from another big shakeup.

Here's a final look at the Top 25 as Week 2 gets ready to unfold.

 

Associated Press poll found at AP.org, USA Today coaches' poll found at USAToday.com.

 

Top 25 Overview

It didn't involve No. 1 falling, but Week 1 showed just how vulnerable the top dogs are in college football entering the season.

Few expected anything other than another Florida State blowout when Jameis Winston's crew took to the AT&T Stadium field to face an unranked Oklahoma State team. Instead, last year's Heisman Trophy winner got all he could handle as he threw more interceptions than touchdowns in a close 37-31 victory.

Not as noticeable as Winston's struggles but even more alarming were the defensive lapses. The Seminoles gave up 364 total yards, and they conceded more points than they did throughout a portion of last season as ESPN Stats and Information noted:

Florida State wasn't the only powerhouse to struggle to an opening win. Alabama faced an early deficit to West Virginia and struggled on defense, before pulling out a 33-23 win that was closer than expected.

Of course, neither of the close wins did anything to deter Florida State and Alabama's status as the top two teams in the rankings. But don't think for a second that the reset of college football didn't notice their vulnerability.

Elsewhere, many less proven teams made huge statements in Week 1. Most notably were two SEC heavyweights—Georgia and Texas A&M.

The Bulldogs started the season off with a marquee matchup against Clemson, and a tight affair at halftime was blown open thanks to Todd Gurley's massive day—15 carries, 198 yards and four total touchdowns, including a kickoff return to the house.

From a team lurking outside of the top 10 entering the season, that performance wasn't too shocking. The Aggies' domination of South Carolina, however, was just that as freshman Kenny Hill dazzled with more than 500 yards of offense. 

Both were rewarded in Week 2 with huge boosts in the rankings, but with Georgia facing South Carolina this upcoming weekend, don't be surprised if things get shaken up again.

The movement was far and wide across the Top 25, including Louisville sneaking in after dominating Miami. CampusInsiders.com's Russ Mitchell added more schools to keep an eye on as potential sleepers:

Week 2 guarantees more movement across the board. ESPN's College GameDay will be at a game with College Football Playoff implications as No. 3 Oregon hosts No. 7 Michigan State, USC battles Stanford and Notre Dame hosts Michigan.

Most of the top schools can ease into the season with easy matchups on Week 1, but Week 2 begins the true season for those who start with a cupcake team.

There will be few strolls in the park for the nation's marquee teams from here on out. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Picks Week 2: Final Predictions on Odds for Top 25 Matchups

After one week of the 2014 college football season, the AP Top 25 Poll was shaken up in a big way thanks to some unexpected performances—both good and bad—from the nation's top squads. With some highly contested matchups in store on Saturday, we're left asking one question: Which teams will survive Week 2?

Vegas oddsmakers have already been hard at work deciphering which teams deserve to be favorites and which should be underdogs in Week 2. Odds have been established, and point spreads have shifted due to early betting—now it's time for some final predictions.

Based on what we saw from the nation's Top 25 teams in Week 1, let's project how they'll fare—both against their opponents and against the spread—on Saturday.

Game odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.

 

Notable Matchups

(3) Oregon vs. (7) Michigan State

We only had to wait until Week 2 to witness a clash of heavyweights. These two teams are built in complete opposite fashions, and that's what makes this contest so compelling.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is absolutely part of the early Heisman Trophy discussion. A dual-threat signal-caller, Mariota has the ability to torch defenses with his arm and his legs. In the team's 62-13 Week 1 victory over South Dakota, Mariota completed 14 of his 20 passing attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns while rushing six times for 43 yards and another score.

Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports tweeted exactly how fast and athletic Mariota really is:

What makes Mariota even more dangerous is Oregon's high-octane offense full of speedy playmakers. Byron Marshall is predominantly a running back with good hands; however, the team experimented with him in the slot in Week 1. It was a huge success. Marshall accumulated 228 yards from scrimmage and two scores on a mix of eight carries and eight receptions.

On the flip side, Michigan State owns one of the most feared defenses in the nation. In Week 1, the Spartans held Jacksonville State to just seven points and a total of 244 yards of offense.

The Gamecocks put three different quarterbacks in the game, and only Max Shortell produced any kind of offense, completing 10 of 18 attempts for 117 yards and a score. The other two signal-callers were intercepted a combined three times.

On the ground, Jacksonville State didn't fare any better. The team rushed 25 times for 22 yards—that's an average of 0.9 yards per carry.

Here's a telling stat from ESPN College Football regarding Michigan State's fierce run defense:

A matchup between one of the nation's most prolific offenses and one of the most stout defenses is just around the corner. This leads us to one question: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

 

(13) Stanford vs. (14) USC

Stanford didn't have much of a contest in Week 1 against UC Davis, and while the team won in decisive fashion by a score of 45-0, it didn't go as swimmingly as it probably should have.

Kevin Hogan had his moments under center, but against an average Aggies defense, he had a nice chance to shine. Instead, he completed 12 of his 16 attempts for 204 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Not bad numbers by any stretch, but not great.

While Hogan didn't light up the scoreboard, he's fared nicely against top teams, via ESPN College Football:

As for the Cardinal running game, the loss of Tyler Gaffney was a big one. It appears as though the team is replacing the workhorse with a committee approach featuring Barry Sanders and Kelsey Young. Both backs were solid but couldn't find enough room to break a run longer than 17 yards.

USC had a bit more of a challenge in Week 1 against Fresno State. The offense didn't seem to miss a beat, and quarterback Cody Kessler really looked the part. The junior completed 25 of 37 attempts for 394 yards and four touchdowns without throwing a pick. He also added a one-yard touchdown scamper on the ground.

According to Eye on College Football, Kessler is on track to play again Saturday after an injury scare in Week 1:

The quarterback isn't at a loss for weapons, either. Javorius Allen looked to be every bit the part of a workhorse running back, carrying 22 times for 133 yards and a score. JuJu Smith torched Fresno State's secondary for 123 yards on four receptions. Nelson Agholor proved to be a solid red-zone target, reeling in five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns.

Needless to say, the Trojans are boasting a very well-rounded offense.

However, USC did allow 157 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries to Fresno State, which could prove to be the team's Achilles' heel. If Stanford is to earn the win, getting its running game going should be priority No. 1.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Week 2: Previews and Predictions for the Top 5 Games

There was excitement in Week 1 of the 2014 college football season, but Week 2 will be even better. 

The game of the week, as well as the best nonconference game of the 2014 season, will be between Top 10 teams Michigan State and Oregon. Both programs will battle it out in the Pacific Northwest to stay in the running for a spot in the College Football Playoff.  

While much of the focus will be on the Ducks and Sparty, Michigan and Notre Dame will play their final game against each other for the foreseeable future. The Wolverines need a big road win to gain momentum after a rough 2013 campaign. 

The other two games in the national spotlight will be USC at Stanford, as well as Virginia Tech at Ohio State. Steve Sarkisian and his Trojans will try to make it two straight against the Cardinal, while the Hokies look to earn a win over a ranked nonconference opponent for the first time since 2009.

With a lot of anticipation heading into Week 2, here are the top five games to watch Saturday.    

Begin Slideshow

Butch Jones Must Find Senior Leadership on Young Tennessee Volunteers Team

After Tennessee cruised past the Utah State Aggies Sunday evening, fans and media pundits alike raised their expectations for the Volunteers' 2014 season.

And while the team certainly looks improved over last season—particularly on defense—it's up to second-year head coach Butch Jones to find a solid group of veteran leaders who can keep the team focused, particularly once they hit the meat of one of the toughest schedules in college football.

 

Looking Ahead at Tennessee's SEC East Schedule

It's still too early to determine if Tennessee is one of the most improved teams in the SEC or if Utah State simply regressed since posting a 9-5 record in 2013. Regardless, the Vols' blowout win against the Aggies was one of the most impressive Week 1 performances in the SEC East. 

South Carolina and Missouri looked vulnerable in their debuts, while hapless Vanderbilt may be headed back toward the dark ages under first-year head coach Derek Mason. 

Although Florida has yet to play and Georgia may have one of the strongest offenses in the conference, the 2014 season still presents the Vols with their best chance to finish in the top half of the SEC East since 2009. 

Leading the charge for Jones and Tennessee are two key senior players: Justin Worley and A.J. Johnson.

 

Worley's Leadership Under Center

Although he may not have the arm strength and natural talent of Tyler Bray, there's a good chance Justin Worley will leave Tennessee with a greater legacy than his predecessor at quarterback. 

Looking back at the 2013 season, Worley leading the Vols to a last-second win over No. 11 South Carolina may have been the biggest SEC upset of the year. 

Much of that win was due to Worley playing the best football of his career against the Gamecocks. 

However, his excellent performance against Utah State—27-of-38 for 273 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions—shows that he still hasn't peaked as a quarterback. 

One of Worley's biggest assets is his overall command of the offense. ESPN.com's Chris Low reports that Worley's teammates, including senior tailback Marlin Lane, have great confidence in his ability to call the right plays and keep everyone on the same page:

We have a new offensive line, other new players, but he did a great job of communicating and getting everything going. I love Justin.

 

A.J. Johnson: Tennessee's Best Overall Player

With a career stat sheet as loaded as A.J. Johnson's, it's hard to pick any glaring deficiencies in his game—although lack of speed in pursuit is his biggest drawback. Or maybe the right word is "was."

If Sunday night's game is any indication, Johnson shaved a few milliseconds off his 40-yard dash time during the offseason, as he seemed to be everywhere on defense and special teams for the Vols.

Not only did he have nine tackles and an interception on defense, but he also helped strip the ball from Utah State's kickoff return man, setting Tennessee up for a quick touchdown to take a two-score lead.

Placing Johnson on special teams when he's such a valuable player on Tennessee's defense may seem risky, but Jones told Lauren Moore of The Leaf-Chronicle that Johnson was ready for the opportunity: 

We need to improve our kickoff coverage from last year, and Johnson has a great sense of getting to the ball. We thought with the youth and inexperience on this football team that he needed to be on that football team and he wanted to do it.

Johnson's decision to return to Tennessee was pivotal for the team's chances of making the postseason in 2014. With so many young faces on defense, his leadership, aggressive play and knowledge of defensive coordinator John Jancek's playbook will be invaluable for his inexperienced teammates taking the field beside him. 

 

Other Seniors Must Step Up

While Worley and Johnson are certainly the leaders of the Vols' offense and defense, the other seniors on the team, rare as they may be, also must become vocal presences on the field and in the locker room.

Lane struggled running the ball against the Aggies during Week 1, and he needs to quickly find his groove as the season continues to give freshman Jalen Hurd time to adjust to playing in the SEC.

Fellow senior Jordan Williams may be on the verge of a breakout senior season as a defensive lineman, and his 4th-and-1 stop against the Aggies helped establish Tennessee's defensive dominance for four quarters.

The Vols' 2014 class may be the largest stockpile of talent on the roster, but it's up to Jones and a handful of seniors he inherited to push Tennessee toward another big upset win on their way to a bowl berth.

If they can pull it off this season and prove to the nation and potential recruits that the Vols are on the rise, Jones' rebuilding project in Knoxville may finish ahead of schedule. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Nevada Linebacker Brock Hekking Has the Best Mullet in College Football

Nevada defensive end Brock Hekking has the best hair in College Football, and it's not even close. 

He went full '80s with his headband during pregame warmups Friday. It's undeniable, Hekking is business up front and party in the back.  

Even Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton bows down to the mullet: 

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee put it best: Brock Hekking is a winner at life. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages