NCAA Football

Michigan Football: Devin Funchess Key to Keeping Wolverines Alive in Big Ten

Brady Hoke’s refusal to discuss injuries keeps both the public and future adversaries guessing about whom quarterback Devin Gardner may be targeting this weekend.

It also prevents him from having to face questions about the grim reality of Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes if Devin Funchess doesn’t soon return.

Hoke likes to repeat the old coaching adage “the most important game is the next game,” but Michigan’s nonconference slate has already been spoiled by its 31-0 whipping to Notre Dame.

Michigan faces several obstacles to make its first appearance in the Big Ten title game, but none are more daunting than road games versus Michigan State and Ohio State.

Michigan’s best chance to compete in those games hinges on Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess lighting up the scoreboards in East Lansing and Columbus.

Without Funchess, the offense stumbled in the second quarter in Week 3 when Miami of Ohio managed a brief run sparked in part when one of his replacements, Amara Darboh, fumbled the ball. Hoke also blamed Gardner’s interception as being tipped at the line of scrimmage and sailing over the intended receiver. Funchess' imposing size (6’5”) and long reach make him a hard target to miss even when Devin Gardner is under fire.

Take a look at this Funchess highlight reel. Count how many times he makes a play using either his leaping ability or by using his frame to create space to make a catch—and hurdling an Ohio State defender is just a bonus.

Now look at the play he makes versus Jabrill Peppers in this drill.

Michigan may be able to beat other teams with his backups, but Hoke needs Funchess to have a shot at beating Michigan State or Ohio State.

Utah is a dangerous opponent, averaging the third-most points per game in the country (57.5). A loss to the Utes would put the Wolverines at .500 heading into the Big Ten slate, and the heat would undoubtedly be on Hoke.

But make no mistake, Michigan’s Big Ten hopes, and perhaps Hoke’s future, depend on Gardner and Funchess playing pitch and catch against conference opponents.

Michigan needs Funchess to start dominating Big Ten rivals and being the topic of SportsCenter tweets again as soon as possible.

 

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

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Sure, Auburn Won, but Is It Better Than Alabama and Texas A&M?

Yes, Auburn defeated Kansas State 20-14, but it was a sloppy performance. The Tigers will have a tough time beating Alabama or Texas A&M if they come out sluggish on offense again.

Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss where Auburn stands in the SEC West. 

Do you think Auburn is still the top team in its division?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Head-to-Head College Football Matchups to Watch for in Week 4

Make no mistake. College football is a team game. It’s 11-on-11, my guys against your guys, and the best team wins.

One player can’t beat an opponent all by himself. Victories typically go to the most talented teams that make the fewest mistakes.

That said, games can be swung by the most important one-on-one matchups. One false move, one bad coverage, and it can mean six points the other way or a big-yardage play.

Mano-a-mano showdowns are crucial, and Week 4 of the college football season is full of them.

From coast to coast, talented, high-profile players will square off in important matchups that will play major roles in game outcomes.

Here’s a look at the most important among them. 

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Ranking the 5 Best Moments in the Nebraska-Miami Rivalry

For most fans of a certain age, the Nebraska-Miami rivalry holds a very special place in history. Nebraska helped put Miami on the national stage with the Hurricanes’ amazing 31-30 victory in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Nebraska’s humblings at the hands of Miami in Orange Bowls of 1989 (23-3) and 1992 (22-0) led Tom Osborne to a wholesale change in his recruiting and defensive schemes. And that, as a result, led to Osborne’s first national championship—fittingly, against Miami in the Orange Bowl—in 1994.

Overall, Miami and Nebraska have split, playing each other 10 times, with each team winning five. So in looking back through history, here are the five best moments (from a scarlet and cream perspective) of the Nebraska-Miami rivalry.

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Auburn vs. Kansas State: Score and Twitter Reaction

There were plenty of tense moments for the Auburn Tigers in their Thursday night test at Kansas State, but a combination of mistakes from the Wildcats and timely plays from the Auburn offense was enough to seal the 20-14 victory.

SportsCenter pointed out just how notable the win was for the Tigers:

Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle had Bill Snyder's thoughts on the loss:

Nick Marshall led the way for Auburn with 231 passing yards and two touchdowns, but it was his third-down throw to D'haquille Williams in the final two minutes that put the game on ice. Williams finished with 110 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Kansas State was right in the game for the entirety of the contest, but three missed field goals, two interceptions and a lack of production in the red zone proved to be its undoing. 

The Wildcats have not exactly been dominant against ranked teams and were certainly looking to change that Thursday. Kansas State writer D. Scott Fritchen shared the details:

The Wildcats seized the early momentum, but mistakes cost them dearly. They fumbled on a promising drive in the first quarter, as Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News pointed out, and then Tyler Lockett dropped a touchdown pass that bounced up and turned into an interception in the end zone.

Brandon Marcello of the Alabama Media Group described that brutal turnaround for Kansas State:

Kansas State also missed a field goal at the end of the first quarter. It is incredibly difficult to pull off an upset over a top-five SEC team with miscues like turnovers and missed scoring opportunities.  

At least the Wildcats had some famous fan support in the form of Rob Gronkowski, whose younger brother, Glenn, plays for K-State:

Even with so many Kansas State mistakes, Auburn only led 3-0 after a quarter. SI College Football noted that Auburn was once again finding strange ways to win:

Kansas State seized some momentum in the second quarter with an interception but did not turn it into points despite the favorable field position. It did pin Auburn at its own 1-yard line with an impressive punt, but the Tigers would have finished a 99-yard drive with a long touchdown pass had Williams not dropped a perfect strike from Nick Marshall.

Marcello described the play:

The Wildcats finally made Auburn pay and marched down the field to take a 7-3 lead, as CBS Sports noted:

Still, that lead didn't last long, as Auburn answered with a Ricardo Louis 40-yard touchdown catch. It was certainly set up by some poor tackling on Kansas State's part, as Joel A. Erickson of AL.com said. 

ESPN SEC had a highlight of the play:

The Wildcats had a chance to take the lead or tie it up at the half, but Jake Waters took a sack. The team missed the subsequent field-goal attempt, and Auburn led 10-7 at the half.

Neither offense got much of anything going at the start of the third quarter. In fact, Auburn had a familiar problem, as War Eagle Extra of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer pointed out:

Perhaps the best offensive factor all game for the Wildcats was the field position they would get every time Auburn punted to Lockett. War Eagle Extra seemed to be frustrated with the proceedings:

Kansas State took the favorable field position after yet another impressive punt return and nearly found the end zone. Instead, it settled for a chip-shot field goal to tie the game.

Or at least that's what the Wildcats had in mind.

Jack Cantele missed his third field goal of the game, which was very unusual, as Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star noted:

Paul Finebaum of ESPN had a very poignant question:

Kansas State likely wanted to avoid making such crippling mistakes heading into this game because of the overall talent disparity that head coach Bill Snyder discussed before the game, via AL.com's Erickson.

"We don't have the personnel to work against that emulates the speed and the quickness and the strength and the size that they present," Snyder said. "I don't know (what's most difficult to defend). Take your pick."

The Tigers held on to a narrow 10-7 lead after three quarters, largely because of Kansas State's mistakes.

Eventually, all those missed opportunities were going to come back to haunt the underdog, and that is exactly what happened in the beginning of the fourth quarter. CBS Sports and Stewart Mandel of Fox Sports described Auburn's backbreaking touchdown, while Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press thought that falling behind 17-7 was the final straw for the Wildcats:

The next drive would be critical for Kansas State as it tried to avoid the wrong kind of history for its conference, according to Fritchen:

However, Kansas State did the exact opposite of score—it turned the ball over. SI College Football and ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit both thought that was the nail in the coffin:

To Kansas State's credit, it held Auburn to a field goal on the subsequent drive, which stretched the lead to 20-7. LostLetterman.com pointed out that the defense did its part against an explosive Auburn attack that frequently lights up the scoreboard:

Mandel added to that notion:

As the fourth quarter wound down, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports pointed out that Auburn was entering some uncharted territory if it could hold on for the win:

For all the discussion about this game being over, the Wildcats marched all the way down the field and scored with just less than four minutes remaining to cut the lead to 20-14. All of a sudden, we had a game again.

Russo certainly didn't think the touchdown changed anything:

Unfortunately for Kansas State, Russo was exactly right. Williams hauled in a deep pass on 3rd-and-9 with less than two minutes remaining to put the contest on ice.

It was one of the most impressive throws of Marshall's career and sealed a critical nonconference victory for the Tigers. 

Chris B. Brown of Smart Football took note of the gutsy play call:

Auburn won 20-14.

 

What's Next?

Auburn gets a warm-up game against Louisiana Tech after this nail-biting win before jumping back into SEC play with a showdown against LSU. The Tigers still have games against Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina remaining on the slate as well, so this victory was critical in terms of their postseason chances.

You simply don't want to lose in nonconference play with so many challenges coming up within the league.

Kansas State also has something of an easy game against UTEP next before starting conference play. The Wildcats will have opportunities to pick up the marquee win they narrowly missed out on Thursday against Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State later in the year.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Virginia Tech Football Recruiting: Latest Updates on Commits, Visits and Targets

This weekend is shaping up to be one of the biggest recruiting weekends in Virginia Tech football history. The Hokies are set to host a number of talented high school players, including three 5-star recruits, per 247Sports (subscription required). 

Since new athletic director Whit Babcock took over earlier this year, Virginia Tech has amped up its recruiting efforts. Two new positions were created: Chuck Cantor was hired as the program's first director of player personnel, while Thomas Guerry was later hired as the director of high school relations. 

So far, the Hokies have gotten off to a modest start for the class of 2015. They currently stand at 15 verbal commitments, some of whom were 2014 signees and are in prep school for the fall semester. According to 247Sports, Tech is currently ranked No. 34 nationally in recruiting. 

The Hokies' big win over Ohio State almost two weeks ago was even bigger in terms of recruiting. Some of the nation's top talent was present at the game, including the nation's No. 1 overall player, Josh Sweat of Chesapeake, Virginia. 

Here's a look at how Tech presently stands with some of its biggest remaining targets and current commitments. 

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BYU Football: 3 Keys to Beating Virginia

While riding an impressive 3-0 record, BYU will host Virginia on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN). The Cougars and Cavaliers played last season, and after a bizarre lightning delay, UVa squeaked by with a 19-16 win.

This will be BYU's second home game of the season, as they beat Houston last week in Provo. Virginia is also coming off of an impressive win after upsetting then-No. 21 Louisville a week ago.

The Cavaliers will definitely be a tough team for BYU to beat, but what must the Cougs do to pull off a win? Here are four keys to a BYU victory against UVa.

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Alabama Dining Hall Serves Gator Bread During 'Beat Florida' Week

The Alabama Crimson Tide will be taking on a big SEC rival in the Florida Gators on Saturday, and their campus is coming up with some creative ways to get excited for the game.

People will be eating these gator-shaped bread loaves at the dining hall on the Alabama campus during "Beat Florida" week. 

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Parents of FSU Backup QB Sean Maguire Gave Away Tickets Before 1st Start

After Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first half of Saturday's game against the Clemson Tigers, Sean Maguire found out that he'll be getting his first career start in a big conference showdown.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like his parents are going to be there.

According to Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel, Maguire's parents already sold their tickets to relatives, assuming that there was no way their son would start ahead of the Heisman-winning quarterback.

Maguire will have his hands full against the Tigers, but the Seminoles are hoping he can keep them in it until Winston returns for the second half.

[Twitter, h/t College Football Talk]

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Tennessee Football: What the Volunteers Must Do to Upset Georgia

The Tennessee Volunteers are enjoying a week of rest before traveling to Athens, Georgia, on Sept. 27 to take on the No. 13 Bulldogs—the first of many opportunities for the team to score an SEC upset this season. 

As odd as it sounds, the Vols are renewed following a blowout 34-10 loss to No. 4 Oklahoma last Saturday. Most teams that lose by 24 points find few positives in their performances. But for Tennessee, three plays were the difference between a resounding loss and giving the Sooners a run for their money well into the fourth quarter.

Tennessee fans, coaches and players are fed up with moral victories, but when a team is forced to rely on brand-new offensive and defensive lines and one of the youngest rosters in college football, you take what you can get.

And in this case, what you get is a surprisingly stout defense, a vastly improved quarterback and, most importantly, a team that doesn't give up. 

For Tennessee to pull off a win between the hedges two Saturdays from now, it'll need all of the above—and then some. 

Here are the team's four keys to victory. 

 

Establish the running game

Tennessee has no chance against the Bulldogs if the offensive line can't open up running room for Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane. Georgia's defense, while not elite, is still upper-echelon in the SEC.

And while Justin Worley is vastly improved over last season, he's not at a level where he can pick apart the Bulldogs secondary if the defense doesn't respect the ground game.

Getting manhandled by the Sooners may have done the Vols' young offensive line a big favor, as the Bulldogs' defensive front isn't nearly as fast and disruptive and should be slightly easier to contain. 

Meanwhile, Jalen Hurd, who is looking more and more like the Vols' marquee running back, needs to continue running hard and getting tough yards after contact.

In fact, Hurd's 48 carries so far is third in the SEC behind only Vanderbilt's Ralph Webb (58) and Arkansas' Alex Collins (50), according to Ben Frederickson of the Knoxville News-Sentinel

Despite his number of touches per game, the offensive line simply doesn't have the experience and push to allow him to reach the second level untouched, and he'll need to break tackles to move the chains and set the offense up for 3rd-and-short conversions.

 

Contain Todd Gurley and Sony Michel

Injuries have made Georgia's unbelievable depth at running back a little less terrifying for Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek.

Freshman running back Nick Chubb just had surgery on his thumb, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution's Chip Towers, while junior tailback Keith Marshall is still battling knee issues from an injury suffered against Tennessee last season.

Unfortunately for the Vols, that still leaves Georgia with Sony Michel, one of the top running backs in the 2014 class, and Todd Gurley, the top running back in the country.

Tennessee's defensive front isn't the anemic and inexperienced group many thought it would be prior to the season, but it also hasn't been tested by an athlete of Gurley's caliber. 

Unlike previous seasons, the Vols have enough speed to mostly contain Gurley on the perimeter, but where he excels is breaking tackles and gaining huge yardage straight up the middle.

Luckily for Tennessee, the interior defensive line will have a familiar face for that test, as redshirt junior Trevarris Saulsberry is back from a knee injury, according to GoVolsXtra's David Cobb

The Vols will need Saulsberry in order to keep fresh legs on the field and prevent Gurley from breaking long runs and putting the Bulldogs offense in scoring position. 

 

Get the ball to Marquez North

Marquez North is simply Tennessee's best player on offense. He runs excellent routes, makes defenders miss and is athletic enough to come down with tough, contested catches.

While Worley has been great at spreading the ball around to multiple wide receivers this season, North should always be his main target. Georgia's defensive backs aren't as small as some in the SEC, but North's 6'4", 225-pound frame gives him a huge advantage both at the line of scrimmage and in the air when fighting for jump balls.

Last season, North hauled in his only touchdown catch of the year against the Bulldogs. I expect him to add at least two more to that tally in two weeks.

And while North isn't quite the same caliber player as former Vols wide receiver/kick returner/freak athlete Cordarrelle Patterson, it wouldn't surprise me to see the coaches use him similarly in a few packaged plays just to get the ball in his hands. 

 

Keep the crowd out of the game

The Vols caught a break when it was announced the matchup against Georgia is scheduled for a noon kickoff. Playing under the lights is almost always bad news for the away team, especially against a conference rival eager to claw its way back into the hunt for a divisional title. 

While the Bulldogs' loss to South Carolina last week means there's no way they'll overlook the Vols, Tennessee can take advantage of the early start time and surprise Georgia with a quick score. 

If that fails, the Vols really can't afford to get behind early and let the Bulldogs feed off the crowd and gain momentum. If Jones needs any inspiration, he need look no further than Tennessee's disastrous trip to Athens in 2010, where nearly everything that could go wrong for Tennessee did go wrong that day.

 

Final thoughts 

Tennessee has the talent to steal a win in Athens in two weeks, and Jones scored the biggest win of his career last season against South Carolina coming off a similarly tough loss and bye week. 

Plus, there's no doubt Jones, his staff and his players—especially Pig Howard—want revenge for last year's devastating overtime loss to Georgia in front of a sellout Neyland Stadium crowd. 

While the Vols will likely be heavy underdogs heading into this contest, the team has all the pieces to get its first upset win of the season and begin building a resume for claiming its first SEC East crown since 2007. 

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UCLA QB Jerry Neuheisel Has Fan in Bruins Head Coach Jim Mora

The outpouring that UCLA teammates showed for quarterback Jerry Neuheisel after the Bruins’ 20-17 over Texas last Saturday was a testament to the respect he has in the locker room.

Neuheisel evidently has his fans within the UCLA program, and perhaps none more so than head coach Jim Mora.

“I was so excited him for Saturday,” Mora said Tuesday on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference.

Neuheisel filled in for third-year starter Brett Hundley in the first quarter after Hundley injured his non-throwing elbow, landing awkwardly on a run. Playing the first meaningful snaps of his college career, the redshirt junior Neuheisel went 23-of-30 passing for 178 yards with two touchdowns.

His second score—a 33-yarder to wide receiver Jordan Payton—put the No. 12-ranked Bruins ahead for good late in the fourth quarter.

The excitement Mora felt was shared among the team, as Neuheisel’s fellow Bruins lifted him into the air at the end game and broke into chants of “Jerry! Jerry!”

The cinematic ending in AT&T Stadium is part of a potential bigger climax this season. Neuheisel may not face another situation like this again in 2014—Hundley’s status for the Bruins’ next game, Sept. 25 at No. 15 Arizona State, is unclear—but with the spotlight on him for this one night, Neuheisel delivered.

For Mora, that came as no surprise.  

“Jerry is always prepared. He’s a very smart young man,” Mora said. “Whenever he steps in at practice and gets his reps, he’s very prepared. And I think we were all very confident we could go in and run our entire offense with him and that he’d be able to produce for us.”

Mora may have not been surprised by Neuheisel’s success with the opportunity he was given on Saturday. However, the quarterback being with the Bruins to have that opportunity defies convention.

Neuheisel had every reason to transfer. He trailed Hundley on the depth chart and perhaps could have seen more playing time elsewhere, which was motivation for former Bruins quarterback T.J. Millweard to exit in August 2013.

Neuheisel had also committed to a different coaching staff—one his own father headed. 

Rick Neuheisel was UCLA's head coach from 2008 through 2011. He was fired after finishing 6-8 his final season, but he left behind the foundation on which Mora has gone 22-8. 

Himself a veteran of the coaching carousel, Mora said he relished Neuheisel's performance Saturday in part because the coach feels a sort of kindred bond with the quarterback.

"I don’t think there’s anyone who could understand his situation more so than me," Mora said. "My dad’s been fired. I was on his staff when he resigned in New Orleans."

Jim E. Mora coached for five decades, five of which were spent with his son as an assistant for the New Orleans Saints. 

"I understood exactly what it was like for Jerry to feel the way that he felt," Mora said.

Both for that reason and because of his "respect for Rick," Mora said he is mindful of emphasizing the current staff's goals without slighting the work of the previous staff. 

"I say a lot of things I regret. I have that tendency," he said. "Right out of the gate, I think I said I wanted to change the culture, and that always bothered me because really, what I wanted to do, was create our own culture."

Neuheisel has helped contribute to the establishment of that new culture, and Saturday was his opportunity to put an especially prominent signature on it. 

Watching from the Pac-12 Networks studios, where he's now an analyst, Neuheisel's father watched proudly. 

And he wasn't the only one happy to see that game-winning drive. 

"I’m so happy he stayed with the program," Mora said. "It says so much about him, and it says so much about Rick and Susan as well and the type of kid they raised."

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled courtesy of CFBstats.com 

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UCLA QB Jerry Neuheisel Has Fan in Bruins Head Coach Jim Mora

The outpouring that UCLA teammates showed for quarterback Jerry Neuheisel after the Bruins’ 20-17 over Texas last Saturday was a testament to the respect he has in the locker room...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Auburn vs. Kansas State: Live Score and Highlights

Auburn 10, Kansas State 7 ; Early 4th Quarter

A massive nonconference tilt takes place Thursday night, as the Associated Press' No. 5 Auburn Tigers travel to take on the No. 20 Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kansas. 

The game takes place at 7:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN. 

Per Odds Shark, Auburn is favored by seven points. A full box score of tonight's game can be found here at NCAA.com. 

 

Bleacher Report appreciates you tuning in with us tonight. Stay here for score updates, social media, analysis and much more! 

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7 Most Important College Football Recruiting Visits of Week 4

The fourth weekend of 2014 college football action is nearly upon us. As usual, programs are set to welcome coveted prospects to campus for game-day festivities with an opportunity to take strides toward crucial commitments.

The recruiting trail that leads these athletes to national signing day is long and winding, featuring stops at various universities along the way. Several talented prospects will make another step in the process before Sunday by spending personal time with collegiate coaches, players and, of course, frenzied fanbases.

Here's a look at key campus visits to keep an eye on this weekend and how they could impact various recruiting classes.

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The 14 Biggest Disappointments from the 2014 College Football Season so Far

We're not mad, we're just disappointed.

Using the royal "we" to represent college football fans as a whole, we had certain expectations of players, teams and coaches heading into the 2014 season. Big numbers, great performances, utter dominance. You know, the usual embellishments and conjecture that percolate during the way-too-long offseason.

The hype machine built up these figures, made us believe they were going to considered among the best ever at their position, or rank up there with the best coaches or teams in college football history.

Instead, through three weeks we've just been left with a lot of dissatisfaction.

Taking into account past results and preseason hyperbole, we've identified the season's biggest disappointments to this point. Disagree with our choices, or think we've left someone out? Please let us know in the comments section.

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Why College Football Fans Should Prepare for Chaos in Week 4

College football fans, get your ice packs and ointment ready for all the jaw-dropping that will happen this weekend.

Not even a quarter of the way through the season and we’ve already had a year’s worth of craziness, chaos and wild action.

What have we learned from all this? Expect the unexpected. Not just this weekend, but for every Saturday until December...when it becomes a daily expectation thanks to bowl season.

 

Expect GIF-worthy moments

Expect ridiculous penalties called, such as for phantom punches that don't land. That's what happened when BYU center Tejan Koroma tried to swing at a Houston blocker but ended up getting only air, yet he was ejected.

Expect players, coaches and fans to act and react in ways that only a few of us will notice in real time but thanks to the beauty of the Internet will get captured (and looped into an animated GIF, or a Vine) for posterity so that we can all enjoy it over and over again.

Like this awesome display of ball boy speed:

Or footage from one of the worst fake punts in college football history, but will forever be remembered for one player executing the "fainting goat" in an effort to trick the defense:

The big touchdowns and long runs will get plenty of views on TV and online in video form, but it's the little, off-the-wall moments that stick with us.

 

Expect the skies to open up

Through three weeks there have been more than a dozen games delayed by lightning and rain, including one cancellation with Florida's opener against Idaho washed out Aug. 30 after The Swamp became a, well, swamp and too many bolts hit too close to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

And with the remnants of a hurricane that hit Mexico and rolled into the Southwest U.S. expected to impact weather throughout the Midwest on Saturday, storm delays are possible.

 

Expect a major upset. Or several

There weren't many people who predicted Virginia Tech to go to Ohio Stadium and beat Ohio State in Week 2, and even fewer who picked Boston College to rise up and run past USC in Week 3. Some backed Texas A&M at South Carolina in Week 1, but to project the Aggies would not only win but dominate, that wasn't part of anyone's expectations.

That means teams like Oregon (at Washington State), Oklahoma (at West Virginia) and Wisconsin (vs. Bowling Green), among others, should be on upset alert.

It also means the 11 FBS schools playing FCS teams this week shouldn't be surprised if that team that got paid a lot of money to come in and (presumably) lose big decides to actually put up a fight. Five FCS teams have won already this season, and though North Dakota State's win at Iowa State counted as the most significant there were several other close calls.

Purdue is hosting a 3-0 Southern Illinois team, and could join that infamous list this Saturday.

 

Expect to be entertained

Even with nearly 20 percent of FBS teams on a bye this week, including nine ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, there are only a handful of big-time matchups on the schedule. One of those kicks off the slate on Thursday night, between Auburn and Kansas State, while on Saturday we'll see four conference games pitting unbeaten teams against each other.

But if the first few weeks have taught us, the best games don't have to be the most anticipated ones. Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee went three overtimes last week, as did Florida and Kentucky, while last Friday a quarterback who was top-rated passer in the 2012 recruiting class went out and had the kind of debut—Gunner Kiel threw for 418 yards and six touchdowns in Cincinnati's 59-38 win over Toledo—that made it hard to believe he had to sit out two seasons before getting into a game.

What will wow us this weekend? We can't say for certain, but we do know this: when it happens, we should have been expecting it.

 

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Florida State's Ground Game—Not Sean Maguire—Could Be Difference vs. Clemson

The national narrative may state otherwise, but a Florida State victory over Clemson Saturday night doesn’t depend on the right arm of Sean Maguire, who will get his first career start because of Jameis Winston’s first-half suspension

No, a potential Seminoles triumph over the Tigers is all about the legs of a running game with a lot to prove.

Maguire can’t make mistakes and will have to rely on proven pass-catchers Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary when FSU does go to the air in the opening two quarters, but the ‘Noles’ all-senior offensive line and its stable of game-breaking tailbacks can make it that much easier on the team’s new—albeit brief—starting quarterback.

Sounds easy enough but there’s a catch. If FSU’s rushing attack is to exert its will against the Clemson defense inside Doak Campbell Stadium, it will mark the first time this season the Seminoles’ ground game will have lived up to its potential. Despite the return of the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, FSU’s offensive identity was expected to be run first, break games open in the passing game second.

But that hasn’t happened. Yet.

The potential is there for senior Karlos Williams to have his first big game as a full-time starter. Williams boasts impressive size, speed and ability (he averaged a nation’s sixth-best 8.0 yards per carry as a reserve last season and notched 11 touchdowns) but has yet to match that skill set with output in 2014. Through two games, Williams, a former safety that switched to tailback prior to the second game of the 2013 season, is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, hasn’t had a rush go for longer than 20 yards and has just one touchdown.

The Seminoles also have the services of redshirt sophomore Mario Pender and true freshman Dalvin Cook that Maguire can rely on as Williams replacements or together in two-back sets. Sophomore Ryan Green has not yet played this season while rehabilitating a fall-camp hamstring injury but could be in uniform Saturday, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said at his Monday press conference.

Like Williams, both Pender and Cook possess elite speed that could change the scoreboard on any play. They have shown flashes in the first two games—Pender had a memorable first career carry that went for a score against Oklahoma State, and a week later Cook showcased his ability to bounce the ball outside and find the end zone against The Citadel—and similar performances against Clemson would be important for a team under the offensive direction of an inexperienced quarterback.

In the season-opening loss to Georgia, the Clemson defense let Bulldogs Heisman trophy candidate Todd Gurley register 198 yards on just 15 carries. FSU doesn't have a tailback as talented as Gurley on its roster, but the trio certainly has the athletic prowess to churn out a large number of yards if given the opportunity.

A renewed focus has also been placed this season on featuring the tailbacks in the Florida State passing game, and before his suspension Winston was doing a much better job of checking down and letting FSU’s rushers make their mark through the air. Williams enters the game third on the team with seven catches this season, and Maguire would be wise to utilize his playmakers when Fisher dials up a passing play.

“Last year you might have seen us in a little bit more three or four wide [sets] at times,” Fisher said this week, “but our guys out of the backfield are dynamic and can match up on linebackers. Reads have taken us there and I think their capabilities are there.”

The capability to dictate the game also extends to Florida State’s offensive line. Even though the group lost center Bryan Stork to the NFL draft, FSU was expected to be dominant up front in 2014 with the return of future NFL selections Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Tre’ Jackson and Bobby Hart and Stork’s senior replacement, Austin Barron.

But again, the first two games of the season haven’t reflected that popular notion.

FSU averaged 203 yards rushing per game in 2013 but so far this season ranks 73rd nationally in yards per game with 158 per contest. Against Oklahoma State and The Citadel, the same consistent gaping holes weren’t there like they were last year when Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Williams were delivering sustained blows to defenses.

Like it was in last season’s 51-14 FSU victory over Clemson in Death Valley, pass protection by the offensive line will be key, and the premier matchup will be Erving versus superstar Tigers pass-rusher Vic Beasley. Erving handled Beasley in that FSU win, and the Seminoles benefited as Winston had time throw for more than 400 yards and Freeman churned out 84 yards on the ground.

Without consistent pressure, Winston was able to pick apart the defense and convert third-down conversions on 8-of-12 attempts.

A similar performance Saturday night will help keep the pressure off Maguire. And if he gets steady production from his stable of tailbacks, FSU’s replacement quarterback may get to experience some of the same success Winston did a season ago in a game with early-season College Football Playoff implications.

 

Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Football Recruiting: Latest Update on 2015 Commits, Visits and Targets

The Texas A&M football coaches have one of the top recruiting classes in the nation committed for 2015. If the Aggies are able to land a couple of their remaining targets, they will have a chance to end up with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country on national signing day.

If the Aggies sign all of their current commitments, they will have done a good job addressing most of their major needs. There are still some holes that need to be filled at linebacker and in the secondary, and the Aggies could also use an extra pass-rushing defensive end in the class.

There are still three months left in the high school football season, so there will be multiple prospects who will jump onto the Aggies' radar. The Aggies currently have 19 commits in their 2015 class and will likely add four or five more players by national signing day.

This is a look at the latest news on the Texas A&M commits and targets in their 2015 recruiting class.  

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Texas Tech DC Matt Wallerstedt Fired: Latest Details and Reaction

Texas Tech has reportedly fired defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt after he was suspected of being under the influence at the football facility on campus.    

Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com first reported the firing, noting that Wallerstedt joined head coach Kliff Kingsbury on the Red Raiders staff in 2013 after the pair spent one year together under Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M.   

Jake Trotter of ESPN.com confirmed the firing, adding that Wallerstedt got "sent home from the facility Monday" for appearing to be "under the influence of an unknown substance":

Wallerstedt is expected to be replaced by co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Mike Smith, who played for the Red Raiders and graduated from Texas Tech in 2004.

...

The Red Raiders are off this weekend, before traveling to play Oklahoma State next Thursday night.

Trotter cited sources as saying that Texas Tech's inept performance on defense—the group allowed 438 rushing yards in a blowout loss at home against Arkansas—had nothing to do with Wallerstedt's firing. 

Wallerstedt was in the second year of a three-year deal he signed after coming to Texas Tech, despite allowing 30.5 points per game (h/t Sports-Reference.com). In August, Kingsbury spoke to Don Williams of RedRaiders.com about bringing back his defensive coordinator for this season despite the poor stats :

"I just wanted there to be some consistency here on that side of the ball," said Kingsbury. "For so long, they’d seen a guy leave, a guy leave, a guy leave. I just felt that (length of contract) would kind of promote that."

Including Wallerstedt's dismissal, the Red Raiders will be using their fifth defensive coordinator since the start of 2010. For the football team, having a week off before traveling to play a conference rival does allow them to get acclimated to a new voice. 

In addition to his work at Texas Tech and Texas A&M, Wallerstedt served as the defensive coordinator at Air Force from 2008 to 2011 and was the linebackers coach at Kansas State for two years from 2006 to 2007. 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Big 12 Football: The Best 2015 NFL Draft Prospect from Each School

Each and every year, it seems the Big 12 is loaded with quality NFL draft prospects. 

While it doesn't necessarily clock out the type of NFL talent that the SEC does, the Big 12 still had two first-round picks and five picks in the first three rounds in the 2014 draft. 

The 2014 NFL draft was also the first time since 1937 that the Texas Longhorns failed to have a player selected. That'll surely change with Quandre Diggs and Malcolm Brown this year. 

With that, let's check out the best NFL draft prospect from each school in the league. 

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