NCAA Football News
No. 2 Oregon is back in action Thursday as it looks to secure some semblance of revenge against Arizona, a Pac-12 foe that single-handedly ruined last year for the Ducks.
Through four games apiece, both teams appear favorites in the conference thanks to explosive offenses led by talented quarterbacks. Both received their first serious tests their last time out on the field, meaning adjustments will reign supreme in a contest seemingly destined to turn into a shootout.
In one of the top contests of the week, not to mention in the conference overall, anything goes in Eugene between two teams with a serious amount of firepower.
Fans know the deal with the No. 2 team in the land. Led by Heisman contender Marcus Mariota, who returned to school for contests such as this, the Ducks tout the nation's No. 4 offense that scores an average of 48.5 points per game.
Mariota has himself 1,135 yards through the air and 13 scores to no interceptions. He is also a close second to Royce Freeman on the team's rushing list thanks to his 214 yards and three scores.
In his team's biggest game to date against then-ranked No. 7 Michigan State, a perennial defensive powerhouse, Mariota calmly went for 318 yards and three scores.
Now for what most can be forgiven for not knowing—Ka'Deem Carey is now a member of the NFL, but the Wildcats are still an offensive giant that ranks No. 16 in the country thanks to an average of 42 points per game.
In fact, the Wildcats actually rank eight slots higher than the Ducks in terms of passing yards per contest thanks to freshman signal-caller Anu Solomon. In fact, Solomon's numbers could be misconstrued for those of a Heisman contender—1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns to three interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his attempts has a way of doing that.
Unlike the Ducks, the Wildcats also have a strong presence on the ground. The credit goes to another freshman, Nick Wilson, who's averaged 6.3 yards per carry so far on the way to 482 yards and four scores.
That ground presence will prove critical for the Wildcats in order to keep Mariota off the field, but if all else fails, Solomon certainly has the composure and talent to stand a chance in a shootout while down on the scoreboard.
Exploiting the Problem Areas
Even with a week of rest under their belts, all is not well for Mark Helfrich's team.
Specifically speaking, the offensive line is a mess.
Tackles Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher missed the team's last game, a near upset at the hands of a 2-3 Washington State team. In that contest, the Cougars were able to generate seven sacks on Mariota before the Ducks escaped with a 38-31 victory.
To be fair, Helfrich did not sound too concerned about the patchwork line right after the close call.
"We know going forward people will have a plan for that, and obviously we have some things in our back pocket," Helfrich said, per Andrew Greif of OregonLive.com.
As Rob Moseley of GoDucks.com noted during the seven-sack performance, the Ducks appeared to up the tempo to compensate:
The problem is, if Mariota is under pressure all night, it may breed mistakes, which is what doomed the Ducks last year in that crushing loss to Arizona. While he was hurt last year, consistent pressure can and will create similar turnover issues in time.
To date, Arizona has generated all of five sacks, but Washington State was not exactly known to tout that as a strength either. If the week off was not put to good use, the Wildcats will find similar success Thursday.
When: Thursday, October 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Lines (via Odds Shark):
- Over/Under: 70
- Spread: Oregon (-22.5)
Team Injury Reports
Injury reports via USA Today.
This one will score highly thanks to strong quarterback play of both the expected and unexpected variety.
Mariota will be hindered behind a shaky offensive line, but one still has to love his chances of another great performance. On the road in the face of those aforementioned seven sacks, the Heisman favorite still managed five touchdown passes and no turnovers with all of four incompletions.
That sort of calamity under pressure is enough to outgun a freshman at home, as promising as he may look. The Ducks have rattled off a 28-0 mark at home since a loss in 2008 for good reason. Mariota, with the help of his line or not, will see the team through and keep the playoff dreams alive.
Prediction: Ducks 48, Wildcats 40
Statistics and info courtesy of ESPN unless otherwise specified.
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The first full month of the 2014 season has come to a close and the Bulldogs still control their own destiny when it comes to the SEC East race. After a dominating win against Clemson, the Bulldogs fell to South Carolina, dominated Troy and won against Tennessee in a close one.
Now the Bulldogs start the second full month of the season, and they will face Vanderbilt in Athens, Missouri in Columbia and Arkansas in Little Rock. Can the Bulldogs win out and have a ton of momentum when they face Florida or will they have another slip-up and fall in the SEC East?
Here are the game-by-game predictions for the Bulldogs in the month of October.
LSU's tilt against Auburn on Saturday is proof of how quickly things can change in the SEC.
Last season, the Bayou Bengals defeated the Tigers from the Plains 35-21 behind 184 yards and three touchdowns from running back Jeremy Hill. LSU looked as if it would be a national championship contender, not Auburn.
The opposite ended up being true.
Auburn went on a magical unbeaten run to the last BCS National Championship. LSU would lose three games, all to teams Auburn beat along the way.
This season, Auburn looks like a College Football Playoff contender. Head coach Gus Malzahn and his Tigers are 4-0 with a conference win over Arkansas under their belt.
LSU has looked average, despite being 3-1. Head coach Les Miles' squad played poorly in its only SEC game against Mississippi State.
Here is a preview of this week's matchup.
What You Need to Know
Time: 6 p.m. CT
Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium; Auburn, Alabama
Spread: Auburn by 9; via OddsShark.com
Nebraska heads to East Lansing for what could be a defining matchup of the Huskers' 2014 season. Bo Pelini and his team are looking to extend their record to 6-0, but that requires defeating Michigan State on the road.
The Huskers hold the edge in the all-time series with the Spartans at 7-1. However, that one loss came last season at home when the Spartans won 41-28. One year later, Nebraska is looking to get redemption.
What people will be pointing to is that this is a matchup of Nebraska's stellar offense vs. Michigan State's powerful defense. As of now, the Spartans are only allowing 78.3 rushing yards per game, which should challenge I-back Ameer Abdullah. Pelini doesn't think that'll be an issue, though.
"We've run the football on them for three years," Pelini said, per the Detroit Free Press. "They're a quality football team, but we've run the football on them before, and we'll run it on them again."
While Nebraska may run the ball on Michigan State, Pelini has never gone 6-0 to start a season in his time with the Huskers. Will this be the year?
Where: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
When: Saturday, October 4, at 8 p.m. ET
Listen: Husker Sports Network or Sirius Channel 91, XM 91
Betting Line via Odds Shark: Nebraska (+8)
The Tennessee Volunteers are playing with a serious edge and have more talent now than they've had in several years. Compare that to a Florida team that is teetering on the precipice of collapse, and you see why I believe the Vols will blow the Gators out on Saturday, October 4.
The Vols have always seemed to get off to a slower start than the Gators, which made the third Saturday in September a particularly hard game to win. It's traditionally been the first SEC game of the season for each team, but this year, Tennessee has already played two top-12 opponents, including SEC East foe Georgia.
For the first time since 2001, the game is being played later than September. With a series record of 6-18 dating back to 1990, the Volunteers are surely open to any changes in the circumstance of the game, including one as simple as calendar date.
But there's something more this year with the team than just the date. A tenable level of confidence, talent and energy around the program has some thinking the Vols can end the nine-year drought. A few even say Tennessee can win with comfort.
I believe the Tennessee Volunteers will rout the Florida Gators 35-10 in front of 102,455 people on Saturday, and I've got 10 reasons why.
“Wake me up when September ends.”
—"Wake Me Up When September Ends," Green Day
Nebraska football fans are quite pleased to see NU putting September in the rearview mirror with the team sitting at 5-0, including a cathartic 41-31 win over Miami in Lincoln. For the first time since 2010, Nebraska is undefeated through five games and, much like that 2010 season, has a monster national showdown coming up in Week 6.
(Although, in fairness, Michigan State has no shot to replace Texas and the disastrous “Red Out Around the World” game from 2010.)
Getting through September is a prerequisite for having a special season. But that doesn’t mean much if Nebraska can’t take care of business in October. So let’s look ahead and see what Nebraska faces as the calendar turns.
All stats from cfbstats.com.
October 4: at Michigan State
Without question, this Saturday’s game in East Lansing is the marquee game in the Big Ten to date. Michigan State comes into the game ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, and Nebraska comes in at No. 19. The Spartans have only one loss, a 46-27 defeat in Oregon where Michigan State held a lead in the third quarter. Michigan State’s other wins have been gigantic blowouts against overmatched opponents.
Nebraska comes into the contest at 5-0, with the most impressive win against a talented Miami team in Lincoln. Nebraska has also blown out three overmatched opponents and had an ugly win against FCS McNeese State, needing an “Ameer-acle” with 20 seconds remaining to avoid overtime.
In many ways, this game has an “immovable object/unstoppable force” vibe going. Michigan State has the No. 6 rushing defense in the nation, allowing only 80.75 yards per game. Nebraska has the No. 3 rushing offense in the nation, gaining an average of 354.8 yards per game.
A smart and particularly handsome analyst picked before the season that Nebraska would beat Michigan State, and the rationale for that pick holds up. Last year, Nebraska lost to Michigan State not because of superior Spartan talent but because of a minus-five turnover margin. When Nebraska wasn’t giving the ball away, it was going blow for blow with Michigan State.
Add in to the mix this year Ameer Abdullah’s raised level of game play and a healthy Randy Gregory and the setting for an upset. That guy at the start of the season might have been on to something.
Nebraska 28, Michigan State 24.
October 18: at Northwestern
Yes, Northwestern got a huge conference win last week, going into Happy Valley and knocking off Penn State. But that win doesn’t really change the underlying dynamic—that with the departure of Venric Mark and the loss of Christian Jones to injury, the Purples are devoid of true game-changing playmakers on offense.
Combine that with a baseline of talent level that is below Nebraska’s, and ultimately this game becomes less frightening than previous contests.
Sure, Northwestern will play hard and play smart. And going to Northwestern is a challenging trip, although having a week to prepare after Michigan State will be a big help. Look for Nebraska to take care of business in the windy city.
Nebraska 35, Northwestern 17
October 25: Rutgers
At the start of the season, Rutgers looked to be a few years away from being competitive. Don’t look now, but the Scarlet Knights may have hit the fast-forward button on their development.
Rutgers is 4-1 and really should be 5-0 with a tough-luck three-point loss at Penn State. The Knights have wins on the road at Washington State and Navy, two teams that may not be world-beaters but are challenging foes to face.
The knock on Rutgers coming into the Nebraska contest before the season was that it was going to go through a gauntlet beforehand, getting Michigan at home and away to Ohio State before arriving in Lincoln.
Well, things have changed a bit. Michigan looks like a gimmie, and Ohio State has not looked to be the national powerhouse expected by many. At this point, Rutgers coming into Lincoln anything less than 4-2 would be a disappointment, and it’s not impossible to imagine the Knights pulling off an upset in Columbus. After all, Virginia Tech already has.
This year feels a little different from years past, so maybe this is the year Nebraska puts the four-loss hoodoo behind it. So no call for an upset yet on this one, but watch this space.
Nebraska 30, Rutgers 27
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The Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up their non-conference schedule with an unconvincing 27-10 victory over the South Florida Bulls to move to 3-1 before opening up Big Ten play with a trip to Ryan Field to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten).
After three sub-par games to open up the 2014 season, the Wildcats traveled to Happy Valley, where they surprisingly pulled off a 29-6 victory over a previously undefeated Penn State team.
That was probably both teams regressing to the mean as Penn State's early season victories came against UCF, Akron, Rutgers and UMass—with perhaps only Rutgers instilling any fear—though the same could be said about the previously limp Wildcats.
No current Badgers have played at Ryan Field, with the last visit coming all the way back in 2009 despite the close proximity of the two campuses.
The Badgers haven't actually won at Ryan Field since the 20th century—1999 to be more exact—but have won the past two meetings between the two teams, including a 35-6 thrashing last season.
The second-ranked Oregon Ducks (4-0) will have revenge on their minds when the Arizona Wildcats (4-0) come storming into Autzen Stadium on Thursday night.
Last season in Tuscon the Wildcats dismantled the Ducks 42-16, thereby ruining Oregon’s hopes of reaching a fifth consecutive BCS game and winning the Pac-12 conference title. The Ducks offense sputtered due to quarterback Marcus Mariota’s sprained MCL; however, Oregon’s defense was just as bad as it allowed the Wildcats to gain 304 yards on the ground and convert 11 of 16 third downs.
The Ducks and Wildcats have both had 12 days off following extremely close victories in their conference openers. Oregon managed to escape Washington State by the score of 38-31, while the Wildcats miraculously rallied past California 49-45 on a last-second Hail Mary from quarterback Anu Solomon to wide receiver Austin Hill.
The Wildcats were down 31-13 heading into the fourth quarter against Cal but managed to come back by scoring 36 points in the final quarter.
Oregon and Arizona have combined for some interesting games over the past decade. There was the Dennis Dixon ACL-injury game in 2007, a 55-45 Oregon win in 2008, a double-overtime thriller in 2009, not to mention last year’s stunning upset by the Wildcats.
While Oregon is heavily favored on Thursday night, this could be a game that comes down to the final possession.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Thursday, Oct. 2
Time: 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Place: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)
Spread: Oregon -23, according to OddsShark.com.
UCF head football coach George O'Leary is at the center of a lawsuit filed by a former member of his Knights coaching staff, ex-defensive coordinator Paul Ferraro.
According to Bright House Sports Network's Ryan Bass, Ferraro is suing the UCF Board of Trustees and UCF Athletic Association for racism and wrongful termination of his contract. The suit, filed on Sept. 26, seeks more than $15,000 in damages and accuses O'Leary of discrimination and bullying.
Bass' report documents what UCF Vice President of Communications and Marketing Grant Heston had to say on the matter, as he denied any wrongdoing by the school:
UCF immediately investigated the allegations Mr. Ferraro made when he abruptly abandoned his job. The university's Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office found the allegations to be untrue.
[...] None of the individuals alleged to have been the subject of, or to have overhead, these supposed statements corroborated Mr. Ferraro’s claims. In fact, until seeking compensation after abandoning his job, it does not appear he ever discussed this with anyone at UCF. UCF is an inclusive and diverse institution and our investigation shows that these claims are without merit.
Ferraro was hired in December 2013 but left the program for personal reasons before the 2014 season began. The Knights gave up a total of 62 points in losses to Penn State and Missouri to start the year.
These bold accusations have been dismissed by UCF, so it remains to be seen whether anything will come of them. It's worth noting Ferraro has worked with O'Leary before—at Syracuse and Georgia Tech.
Fox Sports Net's Shaun King has praised the job O'Leary has done as coach:
Amid his 11th season at the helm, O'Leary has helped put the Knights on the national map. Led by current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, UCF won the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor to cap off last season's impressive 12-1 record.
Monday's report makes O'Leary's job a little more difficult after a couple of early setbacks on the field. Rumors courtesy of Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports have suggested that O'Leary, 68, is considering retirement, though he has denied them, per Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel.
O'Leary will prepare the Knights for Thursday's road game against Houston (2-2).
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It wasn't as easy as expected, but the Virginia Tech Hokies ended their two-game losing streak on Saturday with a 35-17 win over Western Michigan. Next, the Hokies travel to North Carolina to resume their ACC schedule.
Tech enters this week's game with a record of 3-2, 0-1, in ACC play. The Tar Heels, coming off of two straight losses, are 2-2 on the season after losing last week's ACC opener at Clemson.
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series, 19-11-6, and has won eight of the previous 10 meetings. Last time the teams met in Chapel Hill—in 2012—the Tar Heels embarrassed Bud Foster's defense to the tune of 533 total yards, including 339 yards on the ground.
Giovani Bernard's 262 rushing yards were the most ever given up by Tech to a single player.
Both teams desperately need a win, as a 0-2 conference record would severely damage both the Hokies and Tar Heels' chances at ACC Coastal Division supremacy.
- When: Saturday, October 4, 2014
- Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ACC Network
- Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network. Here is a complete list of stations by area.
- Spread: The Hokies are presently two-point favorites, via Odds Shark.
Last Saturday’s 50-35 win over North Carolina was a great opportunity for the Clemson Tigers to get things back on track, but they must now turn the page to another conference foe.
The North Carolina State Wolfpack roll into Clemson's Death Valley this Saturday without a notable win but plenty of momentum.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is probably still having bad dreams after the Wolfpack gave the No. 1 Seminoles a good scare on Saturday. N.C. State jumped up 24-7 after one quarter, but the Seminoles were able to pull out the victory with 28 points in the second half.
Putting points on the board was the least of the Tigers’ worries against the Tar Heels, but this next matchup will be a chance for the defense to redeem itself, after giving up 478 yards of total offense to North Carolina.
Finding an order for the nation's 16 best college football teams is never easy. For the 2014 season, though, it appears the teams are looking to make it especially difficult.
While every team ranked inside the Top 10 a week ago was either idle or came away with a win, Week 5 action once again muddied the national championship picture. Florida State again had to overcome its own shortcomings, Texas A&M found itself scrambling to avoid an upset and UCLA arguably staked its claim in the national championship race with an emphatic win at Arizona State.
The result? Well, mostly inertia. But with a few small changes. The Seminoles' near miss drops them out of the No. 1 spot in favor of idle Oregon, while the rising Bruins barged their way into the Top 10. Here is a look at how the rest of the Super 16 played out, along with Bleacher Report's latest Top 25:
With quarterback Jameis Winston back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension, Florida State earned a 56-41 win over North Carolina State. Sounds simple enough. Surely the Wolfpack had a couple garbage-time touchdowns to turn a blowout into an unrepresentative final score, right?
Before an upset-minded crowd in Raleigh, NC State came out and opened the game with a 24-7 first-quarter run and held the lead for the majority of the game. Shadrach Thornton's 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter gave the Wolfpack a 38-28 lead with just more than 21 minutes remaining, seemingly paving the way for the biggest upset of the season.
It wasn't to be. Winston gave Florida State its first lead of the game with two third-quarter touchdowns and Karlos Williams capped off a 28-3 run to close out the game with two scores in the fourth. The Seminoles offense turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions from Winston. The Heisman-winning quarterback already has two multi-interception games, as many as he had during his record-setting freshman campaign.
"When's the last time the offense and defense actually clicked on the same note?" Winston told reporters. "I don't know. We've got so much potential. We've got so much to look for. I'm telling you, that's the most exciting part."
After not having a team come closer than two touchdowns in 2013, Florida State has already had two teams come within one score this season. Jimbo Fisher's team has two relative byes against Wake Forest and Syracuse coming up before a marquee battle with Notre Dame.
Texas A&M has no such luck. The Aggies will have to write the postmortem on their overtime win against Arkansas and ready themselves for possibly the toughest three-week stretch on anyone's schedule starting Saturday at Mississippi State.
Kenny Hill led his team back from a 28-14 second-half deficit to score the game's final 21 points. He hit Edward Pope on an 86-yard pitch and catch to start the fourth quarter and found Josh Reynolds from 59 yards out with just over two minutes remaining to force overtime. In the extra fame, the Heisman contender needed one play to hit Malcome Kennedy from 25 yards out.
The Aggies defense, which gave up 285 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, held Alex Collins to no gain on a 4th-and-1 try at the 16-yard line to close it out.
"In order to win a game like that, it takes a complete team. Every phase had its poor moments in the first half," coach Kevin Sumlin told reporters. "Offensively, we were a beat off. Defensively, we gave up some big plays, and special teams, we gave up a fake. Our defense stopped them not just in overtime, but on the last couple series."
The biggest win of the week, though, came 48 hours before most of the nation's best were in action. Given the spotlight of a prime-time telecast on Thursday, UCLA finally seemed to click on all cylinders for the first time all season.
Brett Hundley accounted for 427 total yards (355 passing, 72 rushing) and five touchdowns and Ishmael Adams returned a kickoff and an interception for a score, as the Bruins earned a 62-27 thrashing of Arizona State. With Mike Bercovici in a rhythm early, UCLA fell behind 17-6 early in the second quarter and looked to be heading for another nail-biter.
But an 80-yard touchdown from Hundley to Eldridge Massington helped spark a 28-0 run to give UCLA the lead. The Bruins closed out the game on a 56-10 run, opening their Pac-12 schedule with an emphatic statement win.
"It's an absolute inspiration to offense, defense and special teams for him to not just play, but to be out jumping over guys and diving on the ground," UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich told reporters of Hundley, who was playing despite an arm injury.
Thursday's win was a far cry from UCLA's struggles to start the season. Despite facing three straight ranked opponents, Jim Mora's team was yet to win a game by more than one score. It'll be interesting to see whether the early struggles or the blowout was the aberration in the mix. The Bruins have what should be an easy matchup with Utah before their home showdown with Oregon on Oct. 11.
The escapist tendencies of their fellow ranked teams did not help South Carolina, which blew a 20-7 fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Missouri. Russell Hansbrough scored all three Missouri touchdowns, including consecutive one-yard punch-ins late in the fourth quarter.
The loss drops South Carolina to 3-2 on the season, including a 2-2 mark in the SEC. Viewed as a preseason favorite to win the SEC East, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks are going to need a ton of help if they hope to re-enter the picture. Their schedule is relatively easy from an SEC perspective from here on out, but any plans of salvaging the 2014 campaign includes taking down Auburn on Oct. 25.
The Gamecocks and Sun Devils were the lone teams to drop outside the Top 16. They were replaced by Stanford and LSU.
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College football head coaches get asked all kinds of crazy questions during the course of a season, but rarely do they come up with answers as unique as this one.
When asked about the future of dating with technology, Washington State head coach Mike Leach responded with a very interesting answer, ending it with, "So we're all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That's how it ends."
At 53 years old, Leach doesn't sound like he's a big fan of texting.
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Under fire for a disappointing 2-3 record Brady Hoke added to his problems with a convoluted explanation of how the team handled multiple injuries to quarterback Shane Morris during Michigan’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota.
Just as Michigan appears to be a program living on past glory, its coach appeared to be a relic from the days when players got their bell rung and just went back for more.
Hoke fielded a number of questions about Morris' injury but dodged giving direct answers when pressed for specifics. He sounded like a curmudgeon, angry that people would question his judgement.
Hoke would never let an athlete play after a possible concussion—but didn’t see the actual play. He assumes that someone checked on Shane Morris before he returned—but couldn’t say for sure.
Hoke defended the team’s actions during Monday’s press conference even as criticism continues to mount as a video clip of a dazed Morris circulates on the web.
It shows Morris on the receiving end of a vicious hit to the helmet which left him leaning on offensive lineman Ben Braden before staggering back to the team’s huddle. It's hard to watch the clip and not understand why somebody didn't step in.
A national television audience saw it. People in the crowd at Michigan Stadium saw it. Journalists in the press box saw it.
But Brady Hoke missed it, and nobody on the sideline intervened to pull Morris off the field.
Even after seeing the video he refused to admit that Morris should have been pulled from the game. When given an opportunity to re-evaluate his decision, he sounded more like a lawyer than a football coach concerned about his players.
"Again, you're being hypothetical, and we’re not going to work in [hypotheticals],” said Hoke on whether seeing the play on Saturday would have changed his decision.
After viewing the tape he did send it to Big Ten for possible sanctions against the defender who Hoke believes illegally targeted Morris.
But he placed the responsibility on players to decide if they should take themselves out, even though a head injury would impair their judgement to make such a decision.
"[Players] love to compete and they love to play. So if you’re asking about that mentality I think that’s what they all have," said Hoke "That’s what they’ve done since whenever they started playing the game. I think they also know if the injury is one where you don’t think you can continue to go to go down."
This statement reflects an attitude that is out of step with what medical professionals know about the danger of concussions. Practically no player at any level of football would pull themselves out of a game and certainly not a player the caliber of Shane Morris. You don't get a scholarship at Michigan without being hyper-competitive.
Dealing with concussions is a huge problem for football at all levels. Hoke could have addressed Michigan’s protocol for dealing with injuries while admitting that teams—all teams—need better ways of evaluating head injuries.
When a Michigan wrestler died while cutting weight in 1998 athletic director Tom Goss instituted a number of safety protocols to make the sport safer spurring the NCAA to do the same. That tragedy caused Michigan to take the lead for the safety of it student-athletes but today that leadership was nowhere to be found.
Athletic director David Brandon, himself a former backup quarterback, could have showed up and discussed the pressure for players to perform but he was no where to be seen.
Instead Hoke was trotted out to give no clear answer on what he had learned from Saturday’s potential injury to Morris.
And his performance reminded everyone why his time at Michigan is nearly over.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted all quotations obtained firsthand.
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The final weekend of football action in September cast the spotlight on several marquee members of collegiate recruiting classes across the country, along with uncommitted prospects still in search for the right program fit.
Stunning statistical outputs and sensational highlights defined the latest slate of competition, providing plenty to discuss in our weekly assessment of explosive performances. Here's a rundown of those who rose to the occasion when their team needed them most.
5-star running back Damien Harris, Madison Southern High School (Berea, Kentucky)
The nation's top-ranked rusher celebrated homecoming in style Friday night. Harris had his way with the South Laurel High School defense through the final horn.
He carried the ball 21 times for 353 yards, per Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal. His seventh and final touchdown occurred with no time remaining on the clock, giving Madison Southern a thrilling 54-51 win.
Harris even starred during halftime festivities, accepting honors as homecoming king:
It's become commonplace for college coaches to show up at his games, and that was again the case. Alabama assistant Kevin Steele spent the evening in attendance, according to Charles Power of 247Sports.
Harris played the role of hero shortly after exiting the contest in pain:
Another dominant effort adds to his gaudy season statistics. Harris has rushed for 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns through just five games, averaging 18 yards per attempt.
His latest showcase established a career-high for single-game yardage.
"To me, it's typical Damien," Madison Southern coach Jon Clark told Jones. "He played outstanding tonight. He played well in everything he did. He's a good football player, man. We're used to seeing it every night now."
Harris has a top five of Texas A&M, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Ohio State.
3-star quarterback De'Andre Johnson, First Coast High School (Jacksonville, Florida)
The longtime Florida State commit connected on seven touchdown passes—including six in the first half—to move past Sunshine State legend Tim Tebow on the all-time leaderboard. Johnson, a four-year starter, surpassed the former Florida Gator's mark (95 scoring throws) during a 54-17 dismantling of Atlantic Coast High School:
He has a chance to claim the top spot in state history this season. Wake Forest freshman John Wolford threw 126 touchdowns at Bishop Kenny High School.
Johnson currently sits at 100 touchdown tosses with six regular-season games remaining. First Coast is in position to reach the postseason, providing him a legitimate opportunity to break the record.
Despite achieving another individual accolade, he was quick to call out his supporting cast.
"My offensive line did a great job," Johnson told Clayton Freeman of Jacksonville.com after a 367-yard performance. "The coaches did a great job of scheming this defense, and I brought my A-game tonight."
He is one of three 2015 quarterbacks currently committed to the Seminoles. Other offers include Clemson, North Carolina, South Florida and Maryland.
3-star linebacker DeAndre McNeal, Poteet High School (Mesquite, Texas)
McNeal may not receive as much attention as teammate and top-rated outside linebacker Malik Jefferson, but the 6'2", 228-pound defender deserves plenty of collegiate consideration. He enjoyed a breakout game Friday night during a 25-14 win over Rockwall-Heath High School.
His strongest performance came at the perfect time for Poteet, as Jefferson was sidelined with an injury. McNeal made an impact on both sides of the ball while playing in front of Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, lining up at linebacker and receiver.
He caught four passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns, per Corbett Smith of The Dallas Morning News. McNeal also flexed his muscles as a pass-rusher, registering three sacks.
Poteet coach Kody Groves lauded the effort and measured him up to Jefferson in favorable fashion.
“DeAndre doesn’t always get categorized as the best one of those two,” Groves told Smith. “It wouldn’t shock me, in a couple of years, if that guy is not the name that everybody knows. They may know Malik, too. But I’m telling you, DeAndre, he’s a different type of player.”
McNeal landed an offer from the Aggies on Friday and attended the team's game against Arkansas, where he encountered family of Texas A&M royalty:
His offer list also features UCLA, Miami, Alabama, Arizona State and Oklahoma.
4-star receiver K.J. Hill, North Little Rock High School (Little Rock, Arkansas)
The 6'0", 190-pound playmaker continues to prove he's one of the most promising receivers in SEC territory. Hill hauled in eight passes for 162 yards and three scores in a 41-14 victory over Cabot High School, per Andrew Hutchinson of ARPreps.com.
Rated 22nd among players at the position, he has quickly built off a breakout junior season during the first month of his senior campaign. Hill caught 16 touchdowns in 2013 and owns several multi-touchdown games since the start of last year.
Though he remains committed to the Razorbacks, several team are still in pursuit. Florida, Notre Dame and Alabama are expected to host him for official visits before national signing day.
3-star running back Reggie Gallaspy, Southern Guilford High School (Greensboro, North Carolina)
It was quite an eventful weekend for Gallaspy, who pushed his team to 6-0 with another sensational showing. The 5'11", 205-pound rusher gained 198 yards on 40 carries in a 27-9 victory over North Forsyth High School, per MaxPreps.
He narrowly missed reaching the 200-yard mark for the sixth straight game and scored three total touchdowns, including a 13-yard reception. Gallaspy has gained 1,602 yards on the ground this fall, placing him among national leaders.
His touchdown total also pushes him toward the top of statistical lists:
Gallaspy followed up the effort with a visit to North Carolina State. He committed to the Wolfpack on Saturday and should be firmly in the mix to receive touches as a true freshman.
4-star quarterback Brady White, Hart High School (Santa Clarita, California)
The Arizona State pledge picked apart opposing defensive schemes and got the better of Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett for a second straight year. White led Hart to a 57-35 win, outdueling his fellow Elite 11 finalist.
He finished the highly anticipated matchup with seven touchdown passes and took over in the second half. During one stretch after intermission, White completed six of seven attempts for five scores, per Cary Osborne of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
In two head-to-head high school battles with Barnett, White threw for nearly 1,000 yards and accounted for 12 total touchdowns. White helped push his team's record to 3-2, providing a pivotal boost for playoff hopes.
He chose the Sun Devils over Oregon, Cal and Penn State.
4-star receiver George Campbell, East Lake High School (Tarpon Springs, Florida)
Campbell is undoubtedly one of the top natural athletes in this recruiting class and showcased that rare skill set throughout a Friday evening win over Tarpon Springs High School. The 6'3", 184-pound prospect flashed his sub-4.40 speed and aerial acrobatics en route to three touchdown receptions, per Josh Newberg of 247Sports.
Campbell caught nine passes for 121 yards. No grab was better the one-handed snag he made on this scoring play:
He finished with 760 receiving yards during each of the past two seasons and is on pace to surpass that total this fall. Campbell, who initially committed to Michigan last summer, is now a Florida State pledge.
He also considered offers from Florida, Clemson, Maryland and LSU.
3-star quarterback Sam Darnold, San Clemente High School (San Clemente, California)
He may have entered this season as a mystery man, but Darnold has answered all questions through five games. The 6'4", 208-pound passer is making up for lost time after missing the majority of his junior season with an injury.
Darnold provided another example of his prowess with 298 yards through the air and four total touchdowns in a 47-24 win over Newport Harbor, per MaxPreps. He added 62 rushing yards on nine carries.
Darnold, a USC commit, owned just seven varsity touchdown passes at the start of his senior campaign. He already has 17 scoring strikes this year, throwing just one interception along the way.
His completion percentage (62) and yards per rushing attempt (seven) are a testament to his progression as a dual-threat weapon. Highlights from his early-season performances can be seen below.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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Last Friday, University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley updated the media on head coach Will Muschamp's job status. Unfortunately, it wasn't a ringing endorsement, as Foley told 740 The Game in Orlando, via ESPN.com, that Muschamp will be evaluated after season.
This is the last thing Coach Muschamp and his staff needed, as Luke Stampini of Gator Bait reports (subscription required) the Florida coaches are hitting the road to recruit during the bye week. I caught up with a Sunshine State prospect to get his thoughts on the situation.
Ryan Davis, a 4-star wide receiver, has been to The Swamp four times since Aug. 2, and the Gators have been firmly in the mix since the start of his recruitment. Davis said he hears things about Coach Muschamp, but he isn't letting it affect how he views the three-time national champions.
"It doesn't really matter to me," said Davis. "I really just love Florida. Ever since they offered, they've been on me heavy. When Coach [Chris] Leak got the [wide receivers coach] job, it was great because he knows and understands the game. He said I remind him of Peter Warrick and Percy Harvin.
"At the end of the day, you don't go to a school for the coach," remarked Davis. "You go because you love the school and you can see yourself there with or without football. I've learned you never go to a school for a coach."
The St. Petersburg, Florida, flanker told me he is going to the same school with close friend and 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart. Davis and Cowart took official visits together to Maryland on Sept. 12.
"Me and Byron are pretty much going to play at the same college," Davis said. "We pretty much have that set."
Cowart will visit Florida on Nov. 15 for the South Carolina game. Davis said he will likely visit Gainesville again after the season. In addition to possibly playing with Cowart, look for Davis to try to convince 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland to join the pair in college. Holland has Auburn and Florida at the top of his list.
"Me and Jeff Holland talk a lot, we are real cool," said Davis. "I haven't talked to him about playing together yet, but I'm going to sit down with him and talk about it also."
If the Gators can flip their 2013 record of 4-8 to a respectable 8-4, the recruiting class could see a major boast in the rankings come national signing day should the trio mentioned decide to take their talents to Gainesville along with Florida target CeCe Jefferson. If Muschamp lands this quartet and others, he may be asking his boss for a raise next fall.
The Latest News On Nation's No. 1 Recruit
On Saturday, several media outlets, including Gerry Hamilton of ESPN.com, reported that the nation's No. 1-rated player, Josh Sweat, would likely keep two of his official visit plans intact despite injury. However, Sweat's mother, Carlette, said all of his trips could be on hold after announcing he would miss the remainder of his senior season with a lower extremity injury.
"We as a family decided that he wasn't going play anymore this season to make sure when he goes to college, he can start as a true freshman and be able to play at 110 percent," Carlette told Bleacher Report via text message.
Carlette said she didn't know if his official visits were going to change.
"Nothing's going to interfere with his recruitment," she confirmed. "All of the colleges are aware the manner of his surgery."
Sweat was scheduled to have a busy October with visits to Georgia on Oct. 3, Florida State on Oct. 17 and Oregon the last weekend of the month.
When asked which visits could get delayed, she replied, "Everything may be pushed to a later date. All of them."
It looks like a holding pattern for the schools looking to get Sweat on campus. Right now, all the focus from his family is getting him healthy, and rightfully so. We will see if the Chesapeake, Virginia, product will be comfortable traveling long distances to check out schools anytime soon.
This development could be beneficial for Virginia Tech. Sweat and his family could take advantage of the close proximity of Blacksburg when setting up the next travel plans since he missed his official visit to Lane Stadium last weekend after suffering his injury.
2016 4-Star QB Set To Announce
Four weeks ago, Saint Paul (Minn.) East Ridge Seth Green told me that Oregon was his leader. Now, Green is set to make his verbal decision exclusively with Bleacher Report on Oct. 17. However, Green wants to change his announcement to his birthday, Oct. 15.
He visited Oregon on Sept. 6 and saw the Ducks topple Michigan State, 46-27, in a matchup of previously ranked top-10 teams. Green will stay closer to home to check out his other two finalists.
"I'm going to Minnesota on Oct. 11 and looking at Michigan State on Oct. 4," said Green. "I just want to see what it feels like. I'm not looking at anything specific. I'll just compare all three."
The 247Sports Crystal Ball has Oregon trending at 71 percent for Green's commitment, with Minnesota trailing in a distant second place. When asked if his family wants him to stay close to home, he answered, "They want what's best for me."
Stay tuned to see if Green will end up in the local confines of the Big Ten or head west to Eugene to fly with the Ducks.
Speedy WR Ryan Newsome Set To Visit Ole Miss
Aledo (Texas) receiver and return man Ryan Newsome will be in Oxford this weekend for the Ole Miss-Alabama SEC showdown. Newsome will be joined by several high-profile recruits along with ESPN's College GameDay crew.
The 4-star playmaker will shadow former No. 1-rated wideout Laquon Treadwell and Texas native Quincy Adeboyejo. Also scheduled to be in Oxford will be Houston standout Damarkus Lodge, who recently decommitted from Texas A&M.
"I watched the Ole Miss-Memphis game. They played well, but their offense was a little out of synch," said Newsome. "I think that was due to the fact that everyone is excited about the Alabama game. I talked to a few players on the team this week, and they were saying they can't wait for Alabama."
Newsome said he has a good relationship with his primary recruiter, Grant Heard, and secondary recruiter Tom Allen. He cites that relationship as a big reason why he wants to see what Ole Miss has to offer.
"They are recruiting me super hard," Newsome said. "They've been keeping tabs on me since my sophomore year, and they offered my junior year. They've been on me ever since. I talk to Coach Heard and Coach Allen almost every day. I even talk to Coach (Hugh) Freeze a lot, too."
So what does Newsome expect to see when he visits the Rebels?
"I want to see how the rest of the staff is, the environment, and if I'm comfortable there," added Newsome. "I'm pretty excited. I've never been to a place that has College GameDay, so I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully, I can meet Lee Corso or Kirk Herbstreit. I want to see how I fit there and get inside the coaches' heads to see what the game plan is for me there and have a good time."
When asked who will come out on top in the SEC clash?
"I think Ole Miss wins by a touchdown. 21-14."
Next up for Newsome on his official visit plans will be a trip to Tennessee on Oct. 25. He has set visits to UCLA on Nov. 1 and Oklahoma on Nov. 8. He plans to announce his decision in January at either the Under Armour All-American Game or U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Auburn Looking To Make A Run At 5-Star California QB
Malik Henry, a 5-star pocket passer, took an unofficial visit to South Bend, Indiana, on Sept. 6 for the Notre Dame-Michigan tilt. Notre Dame crushed Michigan, and senior quarterback Everett Golson threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-0 romp. Henry came away impressed with his trip.
"My best part was the player walk! Coach [Brian] Kelly and I have a great relationship," explained Henry.
When asked on a scale of 1-10 how would he rank it?
"My visit was a 10 overall."
Henry said he isn't sure if he will take any more trips this fall.
"I might visit Florida State one more time, but I'm not sure yet," added Henry.
He told me his final four of Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and UCLA remain the same, with Auburn looking to crack the list. The Tigers offered days after his Notre Dame visit, and he is definitely interested in the defending SEC champs.
"Rhett Lashlee is the one recruiting me," said Henry. "They have a great coaching staff, and I love their offense. Auburn, like the other schools, are recruiting me equally."
As a sophomore, Henry threw for 2,362 yards and 21 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He is rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback for the class of 2016.
SEC, ACC Looking To Snag APB Bryce Love
Tar Heel State star Bryce Love recently took his first official visit to Virginia Tech on Sept. 19. Love enjoyed the experience despite seeing the Hokies fall to Georgia Tech on a last-second field goal. The 4-star all-purpose back was accompanied by his parents on the trip.
"Coach Beamer definitely feels like I could be a back that runs between the tackles or take sweeps and catch the ball out of the backfield," Love told Bleacher Report. "Coach Beamer really stressed while we were down there that they are a young team.
"My host was Travon McMillian. He had nothing but good things to say about the school and that he loves it out there. It hurt to see them lose, but it didn't take away from anything."
Love is heading to Knoxville on Oct. 24 to see the Vols welcome Alabama to Rocky Top. It will be his second visit to campus after spending time at the Vols Junior Day last March.
"I enjoyed it the one time I went out there. Coach [Butch] Jones and Coach [Robert] Gillespie call me every week, and we have good conversations," stated Love. "I liked my experience there and the staff."
Another SEC school targeting Love is Florida. He picked up an offer last February, and he has kept in touch with running back coach Brian White. Love said he really likes Coach White; however, the current climate in Gainesville, as previously mentioned, could be a roadblock in his recruitment.
"I like the school overall. Coach White went to Harvard, so he understands the education aspect for sure," said Love. "That's one of the reasons I'm looking into them. However, with what's going on there, it does play some form of a factor for me."
Love's father, Chris, played defensive back at South Carolina, and his uncle, Reggie Love, went to North Carolina. He is leaning on them to help him with the process. East Carolina and North Carolina State are also in the mix for the 5'10", 180-pounder with 4.47 40-yard dash speed (electronically timed at Nike Football's The Opening presented by Student Sports). He is planning to make a decision during the season.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting information and ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
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When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Bowl Stadium; Pasadena, California
Utah vs. UCLA features two Pac-12 South teams on opposite trajectories after their Week 5 performances.
UCLA returned to the Top 10 of the Associated Press poll, jumping from No. 11 to No. 8 on the heels of routing Arizona State, 62-27. The Bruins played their most complete game and answered some of the concerns surrounding their team after a somewhat slow start to 2014.
Meanwhile, Utah stumbled in its Pac-12 opener, letting Washington State rally from 21 points down to hand the Utes their first loss of the season.
The home defeat squashed the momentum Utah had built in an impressive 3-0 start, which included a convincing win over Michigan in the Big House in Week 4.
Utah has an opportunity to reverse its course under the lights of the Rose Bowl Saturday. The Utes come in desperate to avoid starting the conference season 0-2, which makes them dangerous.
The potential for a trap also lingers for UCLA. The Bruins host No. 2 Oregon on Oct. 11, and both teams entering that contest undefeated should command national attention.
First, both teams must hold up their end in Week 6.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s time to see what this Alabama football team is made of.
The Crimson Tide will hit the road for Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend to take on the Ole Miss Rebels in an early-season clash between SEC unbeatens.
Ole Miss boasts maybe the conference’s best defense, while Alabama is hitting its stride on offense. The Rebels haven’t beaten Alabama since 2003 and will surely be eager for a signature win.
The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, want to assert their dominance in an SEC West that is looking historically good.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Date: Saturday, October 4
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Place: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network, Ole Miss IMG Network
Spread: Alabama by 6, according to OddsShark.com.
Hutson Mason has had his struggles early on in this season. Georgia is still in the hunt to make some waves, but would it go further with a different quarterback under center?
Does Georgia need a change at QB? Watch the video and let us know!
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As the calendar turns to October, Notre Dame faces the most important stretch of its 2014 season. After playing its most uneven game of the season in an ugly 31-15 victory over Syracuse, the Irish now face their stiffest challenge of the young season as No. 14 Stanford comes to South Bend.
The Cardinal have gotten the better of Brian Kelly's teams, winning three of the last four. But returning to Notre Dame for the first time since their overtime defeat in 2012, David Shaw's squad needs a victory after already dropping a tight game to USC.
The Cardinal boast the nation's best defense, leading the country in both scoring and yardage allowed. They'll present Everett Golson with his toughest challenge of the season, as the Irish offense will need to clean up after an error-filled performance that erased an otherwise productive Saturday.
In a rivalry that grows with intensity each year, let's get you ready for Notre Dame and Stanford.
Date: Saturday, October 4
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, Indiana
Radio: IMG College Sports, SiriusXM Channel 129
Spread: Even, according to Odds Shark.