NCAA Football News

ESPN College GameDay Headed to Rematch Between Ole Miss and Alabama for Week 3

ESPN's College GameDay will be on-site next Saturday for the game that featured its most memorable moment of the 2014 season.

GameDay is headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for Week 3's highly anticipated rematch between Alabama and Ole Miss, the show's Twitter account announced late Saturday night:

In case you didn't follow college football at all last season or were lodged under a rock, GameDay visited Ole Miss' home of Oxford, Mississippi, for the first time ever ahead of the Tide and the Rebels' 2014 showdown.

As GameDay's special celebrity picker, pop superstar Katy Perry commanded a ton of attention for her rather unique method of selections, including her prediction of Ole Miss to knock off Alabama:

Ole Miss would go on to win an instant classic, 23-17, and images of Perry celebrating the victory with the Rebels' faithful in Oxford went viral.

This year, Ole Miss and Alabama will both enter Bryant-Denny Stadium for their 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN as undefeated teams. 

Alabama opened its 2015 season with a decisive neutral-site victory at AT&T Stadium over Wisconsin, which was GameDay's featured game of the season's first weekend. On Saturday, the Crimson Tide defeated Sun Belt foe Middle Tennessee State, 37-10, in their home opener behind an elite defensive performance.

Ole Miss will once again provide a fast-paced challenge for the Alabama defense. The Rebels' spread attack, now manned by new starting quarterback Chad Kelly, averaged 634.5 yards per game in massive home beatdowns over FCS program UT-Martin and Mountain West school Fresno State.

With a little help from some defensive touchdowns, Ole Miss scored at least 70 points in both contests and is at a record-breaking offensive pace.

"We know what kind of offense they have and we know what kind of playmakers they have," Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones said, per Michael Casagrande of "I don't think we will get too overwhelmed by them or how many points they score. We just know we have to come out and be on our A-game... it's not about them. It's about us."

A key storyline heading into this year's rematch will be Alabama head coach Nick Saban's usual excellence in so-called "revenge games."

According to Brad Crawford of Saturday Down South, Saban is 4-1 in those matchups since 2010—with the only loss coming in 2011 against LSU. The Crimson Tide would later get ultimate revenge that season by shutting out the Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game.

Ole Miss has not won in Tuscaloosa since 1988. Alabama blanked the Rebels, 25-0, in their last matchup in Tuscaloosa—a game that some current players remember all too well.

"I went there my freshman year, but I didn’t play much," Ole Miss wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo said, per Jeffrey Wright of the Clarion-Ledger. "I’m hoping to get down there with my team and do something special. Honestly, the whole team has been looking forward to this game."

Who do you think will win in this collision of SEC West heavyweights? Vote in our poll and discuss the matchup in the comments below.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Alabama Facing Fast-Paced MTSU Offense Bodes Well Ahead of Ole Miss Showdown

It’s early, but Week 3 of the 2015 college football season already has its most intriguing showdown: Ole Miss at Alabama.

The Rebels’ visit to Tuscaloosa is fascinating for many reasons, including the revenge factor connected with Ole Miss’ 23-17 upset of then-No. 1 Alabama last fall in Oxford. But the most interesting aspect might be the matchup of an irresistible force (the Rebels’ offense) meeting an immovable object (Alabama’s defense).

Alabama got an unexpected benefit from its 37-10 demolition of overmatched Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The Blue Raiders surprised the Tide with its offensive pace, which could pay huge dividends next week against the Rebels’ hurry-up scheme.

Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland told’s Michael Casagrande that it was an eight on a scale of one to 10.

However, senior cornerback Cyrus Jones said the Tide adjusted quickly, per Casagrande.

“They came out trying to go as fast as possible," he said. "So it was just about us settling down and making our calls and adjustments. But we got used to it pretty quick, and we held them to three points pretty much for the whole game."

That, he said, will help the Tide get ready for the Rebels’ quick pace as well.

“We know what kind of offense they have, and we know what kind of playmakers they have," Jones said. "I don't think we will get too overwhelmed by them or how many points they score. We just know we have to come out and be on our A-game. Like I said, it's not about them. It's about us."

Following Saturday’s 73-21 rout of Fresno State, the No. 17 Rebels have the highest scoring two-game stretch in program history and will carry a 74.5-point per game scoring average into next week’s showdown at No. 2 Alabama—sure to be the top scoring offense in the FBS two weeks into the season.

The Rebel scheme is fast, fun and talented, but it’s fair to say that UT-Martin and Fresno State didn’t offer anywhere near the challenge that Alabama’s front will in a game that will shape the early scope of the SEC West race.

With Clemson transfer Chad Kelly in charge, head coach Hugh Freeze’s scheme appears to have picked up its pace from a year ago, when experienced but mercurial Bo Wallace threw 22 touchdowns but added 14 interceptions.

Kelly has cemented himself as the Rebels’ No. 1 quarterback. He threw for 346 yards with three touchdowns Saturday.

"The sky's the limit (for the offense)," Kelly told the Associated Press (via "We just have to make sure we're on the same page the whole game. Don't turn it over. If we keep playing the way we're doing, it's going to be a special season."

Keeping up that pace against Alabama won’t be easy.

The Crimson Tide has a deep, talented defensive line led by returning starters Jonathan Allen, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, and senior Ragland has emerged as a force in the linebacker corps. The secondary is young but talented, with the likes of Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick gaining experience alongside veterans like Jones.

Alabama had trouble with Ohio State’s fast pace in this past Sugar Bowl, giving up multiple big plays in a 42-35 defeat.

Ole Miss’ offense will offer problems, too.

Kelly threw all three of his touchdowns Saturday to wideout Quincy Adeboyejo, but a healthy Laquon Treadwell will be an equally large challenge for the Tide’s secondary. Freeze’s system has wrinkles, too. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has scored in each of the first two games, reaching the end zone on receiving and rushing touchdowns.

The absence of All-America left tackle Laremy Tunsil (who sat out for a second game Saturday while Ole Miss investigates his connections to a sports agent) could be a huge factor as well.

Regardless, we’ll know a lot more about the Rebels’ offense by late Saturday night than we do now, given Alabama’s deep and talented defensive front.

What we find out will play a huge role in how the SEC West race unfolds.

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Oklahoma vs Tennessee: Post-Game Grades for Sooners, Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As the momentum finally flipped for good with Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez, stepping in front of Marquez North for a double-overtime, game-clinching interception, the Sooners celebrated.

Meanwhile, No. 23 Tennessee is left wondering what might have been as it squandered a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter to lose in extra sessions 31-24. It was eerily similar to the tight way UT played a season ago in a home loss to Florida.

The game-changers for OU were quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Sterling Shepard, who turned around a sputtering first half to dazzle after the break. They provided just enough plays to outlast UT, and the Vols made crucial mistakes in important moments.

"This one hurts for sure," Tennessee senior left tackle Kyler Kerbyson said after the game. "We're definitely still on the up-and-up, which is very enjoyable, and I can't say enough for the guys on this team. They don't give up…So, this is definitely a hard one to take, but we've got to bounce back."

This could really skyrocket the Sooners' season after such a monumental comeback. Emotions certainly ran high in both directions after the game. NewsOKSports' Jason Kersey shared head coach Butch Jones' firm advice for Oklahoma's Eric Striker, courtesy of Striker himself:

Let's take a look at how both teams turned out on the night.

Pass Offense: Mayfield looked rattled in the first half as Tennessee's defense was smothering receivers and pressuring him. Though he made several quality throws, he finished the first half just 7-of-20 for 77 yards and a touchdown. After the break, he was a new player.

The Texas Tech transfer connected with Sterling Shepard for two of his three touchdown passes and willed OU to the win. Multiple times, Tennessee would seem to have him down, and he'd wriggle free and extend the play.

"Tough player," UT linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said afterward. "Tough quarterback there."

Rush Offense: Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon never got on track, and no Oklahoma runner averaged more than 3.8 yards per carry against a stingy Tennessee front. But Perine got big yards when he needed them to extend drives. Every yard was tough, but he battled through a difficult night and wound up with 78 yards.

Pass Defense: Oklahoma stopped UT from being able to get anything going downfield in the passing game. The pass-rushers harassed Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs and kept him searching for that elusive signature win. The Sooners held Dobbs to 13-of-31 passing for 125 yards and came away with the crucial interception to seal the win.

Rush Defense: The Vols and junior Jalen Hurd had their way at times in the first half, controlling the game with the run. Afterward, OU's young offensive front and star linebackers shut things down. They allowed just 29 second-half yards on the ground (aided by a few sacks of Dobbs). The Sooners came through when they needed to.

Special Teams: There were a couple of shanked punts, but all in all, Austin Siebert had a good night, making his only field-goal try from 35 yards and punting eight times for an average of 43.4. The Sooners didn't do much in the return game, but they didn't kill themselves on special teams, so it was just an OK night.

Coaching: You've got to hand it to Bob Stoops: the man stayed the course, kept grinding out his game plan and got key plays from Mayfield and Shepard with the game on the line. He got some help with bad Tennessee penalties to extend OU drives, but Stoops kept dialing up the plays that were working such as that short crossing pattern that killed Tennessee. It ultimately resulted in a huge win. OU Daily Sports provided a video of Coach Stoops speaking to his team following their comeback victory: 


Pass Offense: Dobbs' quest to win against a ranked opponent continues, and he struggled to carry the Vols down the stretch. It wasn't all his fault, as an offensive line that played great a week ago couldn't duplicate the feat against Oklahoma. The junior quarterback finished 13-of-31 passing with 125 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He couldn't generate anything downfield, and OU was able to stack the box because of it.

"It was just a lack of execution," Dobbs said of a second half that went scoreless until overtime. "We've just got to be able to adjust and execute."

Tennessee's inability to do that cost the Vols a win.

Rush Offense: Hurd proved he's a monster on one of the biggest stages, barreling through Oklahoma's line and around the end for 106 yards on 24 carries on a night when every yard was tough. He also scored a touchdown. But Alvin Kamara had just four yards on four carries, and UT could do nothing in the second half to sustain drives.

After the running game was a strength through the season's first six quarters, it failed the Vols when it mattered most. Hurd's pivotal fumble after a turnover gave UT field position at the Oklahoma 29-yard line but led to a scoreless drive that proved costly.

"Obviously, in a game like this, you have to take advantage of your field position," Jones said. "It's all about negative plays. You can't have pre-snap penalties, and you can't have negative plays. Too many times we were 2nd-and-15, 1st-and-15. That's really, really hard to overcome versus a talented defense with which they have."

Pass Defense: The Vols were better than they were a week ago when they were torched against Bowling Green, but there were still too many busts and beats.

Emmanuel Moseley was beaten a couple of times, including on a touchdown. 

Also, the Vols couldn't ever guard the short crossing routes or come up with a big play to get OU off the field. On the game-tying drive at the end of regulation, Malik Foreman bad pass-inteference call in the end zone extended the series.

"We gave them a lot of penalty yards," Reeves-Maybin said. "We had them stopped a couple of times and let them make a play."

Rush Defense: It's hard to fault a bunch that held Perine and Mixon in check. Even when defensive tackles were dropping left and right with injuries or suspensions, UT kept inserting players who made plays. Perine wound up getting some gritty yards, but the Vols more than held their own, even if Mayfield's slipperiness was a huge deterrent. 

Special Teams: The Vols have found their punter of the future in walk-on Trevor Daniel, who boomed punts all night and was arguably UT's top player for three quarters in a field-position battle. He wound up with nine punts for a 50-yard average. Evan Berry had a big 27-yard kick return called back for a hold, and though Aaron Medley hit a field goal, he also missed another one. That loomed large.

Coaching: The quizzical calls started on the first drive when Jones elected to run Kamara on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 rather than the 242-pound Hurd. When he didn't get in the end zone, the Vols kicked the field goal rather than go for it.

It was part of an ultra-conservative game plan that seemed like UT played not to lose once it built a 17-3 lead. Stephen Hargis of the Times Free Press shared his analysis regarding UT's game plan:

Tennessee shot itself in the foot various times with bad plays to stall drives, but there was no innovative play-calling, and with the offense struggling, neither Jones nor coordinator Mike DeBord could dial up anything to get their team out of a funk, just like last year's game against the Gators.

Both resulted in soul-crushing losses.


All stats gathered from unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information gathered from 247Sports unless otherwise noted. All quotes gathered firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.

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South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Game Grades, Analysis for Gamecocks

In a game that felt more like two completely separate halves, the Kentucky Wildcats emerged the 26-22 victors over the South Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina, earning their first SEC road win since 2009. 

The Wildcats offense, which showed up for the first half and the final drive of the second, was led by the ever-present quarterback Patrick Towles and running back Boom Williams, who combined for 299 yards and no scores on the night. South Carolina, on the other hand, struggled under starting QB Connor Mitch before his injury forced backup Perry Orth under center, who excelled and led the comeback. 

Pass Offense: Again, it was a tale of two halves, and South Carolina's passing game in the first half was atrocious. Mitch finished the game with 43 yards on 4-of-7 passing for no scores, and the passing offense suffered tremendously due to the lack of production. The second half told a different story, as Orth completed 13 of 20 passes for 179 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

Rush Offense: Similarly, the rush offense was unreliable during the first half, as the South Carolina offense was only able to put anything on the board due to an early Kentucky interception returned to the UK 1-yard line. Again, however, the second half proved separate, as Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds put together a more complete performance that led to three field goals.

Pass Defense: Outside of a single interception that led to the Gamecocks' lone first-half touchdown, the pass defense could not shut down UK signal-caller Towles before the third quarter. A series of second-half three-and-outs, dropped passes and better tackling quickly slowed down Towles and the Wildcats, serving to create a more one-dimensional Kentucky offense. 

Rush Defense: The defense suffered through a tough first half against a Kentucky offense that refused to be denied, as Williams and Jojo Kemp continually troubled the Gamecock front seven. Similar to the passing offense of Kentucky, though, the rush attack was whittled to almost nothing before an impressive surge in the final drive of the game, where the Wildcats iced the game with multiple first-down rushes.  

Special Teams: South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry had few chances to impress in the first half, but a second half with three of three field goals made, all of which combined to put the Gamecocks back in the game, proved crucial. Additionally, no major punting or kickoff blunders allowed USC to stay within striking range of the Wildcats. 

Coaching: The Gamecocks entered this game with little to no motivation to even show up, despite the fact it was on their home turf in their home opener. For the most part, coaching is to blame for the lack of effort. However, Steve Spurrier and his staff do deserve major kudos for the second-half response, which was timely and put the Gamecocks in a position to earn the win. 

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Oregon vs. Michigan State: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

The Michigan State Spartans and Oregon Ducks were Top 10 teams that traded punches Saturday in East Lansing. In a matchup that lived up to the hype, Sparty took the victorious spoils, 31-28, as the team's official Twitter account noted:

A distinct advantage on the ground—197 yards and 5.3 yards per carry to Oregon's 123 yards on 43 attempts (2.9 average)—and a 2-1 edge in turnover margin made the difference for the Spartans, though the game didn't start out that way.

Oregon marched down the field on the opening possession on a 13-play drive, capped by Royce Freeman's two-yard run to paydirt.

Seasoned Spartans signal-caller Connor Cook responded with a 12-yard touchdown strike to Josiah Price off a play-action fake, set up by Madre London's 62-yard run two plays earlier on Sparty's first offensive snap from scrimmage.

ESPN CollegeFootball had the highlight of Cook's connection with Price:

Counterpunching was a theme of Saturday's game to begin with, as Michigan State avenged last year's loss to the Ducks by giving Oregon a taste of its own medicine.

"It's one of the main reasons why...we want to come back is to play Oregon again and beat them," said Cook after the game (via State News Sports).

ESPN's Danny Kanell weighed in on the significance of the Spartans' triumph:

Often the Ducks devastate opponents with their uptempo, run-heavy offense. Michigan State's defense was up to the task to stymie it, forcing new Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. to beat the Spartans with his arm.

The results were mixed for Adams as he dealt with a reported index-finger injury on his right throwing hand, per Adams' athleticism and pure talent allowed him to generate some big plays, but he did throw two interceptions in going 22-of-39 passing for 309 yards.

The first of Adams' picks led to Michigan State capitalizing, and it assisted the Spartans in taking a 14-7 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Cook to Aaron Burbridge, who took a slant pass and fought to break the plane for the go-ahead score.

Adams' second mistake wasn't as costly, as he forced the ball into coverage and benefited from Cook's own lapse in judgment as the MSU signal-caller threw an interception on Sparty's subsequent possession. Michigan State retained its seven-point lead at halftime.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy hinted at the stellar job the Spartans did defensively in the first 30 minutes:

But after Sparty went three-and-out on its opening third-quarter possession, Oregon's Bralon Addison took the punt 81 yards to the house to helping knot the score at 14-14. ESPN CollegeFootball had the highlight:

In part due to kicker Michael Geiger's struggles, MSU coach Mark Dantonio elected to go for it on 4th-and-6 from the Oregon 34 on the very next drive. Cook delivered for the hosts with a 28-yard completion to Burbridge, leading to LJ Scott's six-yard touchdown run.'s Dane Brugler commented on Burbridge's importance to the Spartans after he hauled in the team's two most important catches of the evening:

Michigan State put together another strong 12-play drive but relied on Geiger to boot it through the uprights, making the score 24-14.

As mentioned before, Adams made some magic happen and produced enough splash plays to keep Oregon in striking distance. He just wasn't getting the usual support from the Ducks' prolific rushing attack to open up passing lanes.

On a critical 4th-and-7 in the fourth quarter, Byron Marshall was on the receiving end of a 25-yard laser from Adams that set up the QB taking it in himself from two yards out to help cut Oregon's deficit to 24-21 with 12:20 left.

Travis Haney of praised Adams for how he kept his cool:

Just over a minute later, Scott scampered into the end zone for the home team to help balloon the lead back to 10 at the 10:51 mark. It was Scott's second TD of the night and marked a second three-play TD drive—something the Ducks seem to do more of than the reputedly methodical Spartans.

Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel labeled Scott as a first-year phenom to continue monitoring:

Marshall hauled in a jump-ball touchdown reception from Adams with only 3:25 left to help make it a 31-28 game, but Adams missed Marshall on a wide-open pass on the team's last drive. The next play was a third-down sack on which Michigan State brought multiple blitzers, creating a fourth down Adams couldn't convert.

Grantland's Chris B. Brown spoke about the sequence that wound up being the Ducks' undoing:

Special teams proved to be an equalizer that also aided Oregon's cause, but the edge Michigan State had on the ground was too much for the Ducks to overcome. This win cements the Spartans as a legitimate playoff contender—though their kick- and punt-coverage units need work.

It's still possible for Oregon to recover from this loss and qualify for the College Football Playoff. Adams will go a long way in determining how high the Ducks can get their hopes, and there's no shortage of pressure in being the successor to Marcus Mariota.

Georgia State presents an easy test for Oregon in its next contest with home fans to help the team along. Saturday's clash was the first of four straight home tilts for the Spartans, so they ought to be able to build momentum, starting with a matchup versus another run-oriented offense in Air Force next week.

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Oklahoma's Stout Defense Will Separate Them from Other Big 12 Contenders

Oklahoma delivered a decisive statement to its critics Saturday night on Rocky Top.

These aren't the same Sooners who failed to deliver on high expectations last season. They've got a stiffer defense this time.

After getting punched in the mouth early in Knoxville and finding themselves down 17-0 in the second quarter, the No. 19 Sooners rallied to record a 31-24 double-overtime victory over No. 23 Tennessee in a hostile environment.

Baker Mayfield's fourth-quarter and overtime performance, along with wide receiver Sterling Shepard's heroics, will get a lot of deserved attention for Oklahoma.

"[Mayfield] hung in there and made his plays when he needed to, and our defense was incredible," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops told ESPN's Holly Rowe after the game.

The real MVP of the comeback victory was that defense, which allowed just one touchdown after surrendering points on three of Tennessee's first five series. And that one only came after the Volunteers were spotted a short field in the first overtime period.

"This is No. 1," linebacker Eric Striker said after the game, according to the program's Twitter account. "It was a fight literally to the end. It was loud."

Tennessee only recorded 254 yards on 76 plays against Oklahoma. That averages out to 3.34 yards per play—the Sooners' best against any Power Five team not named Kansas since a blowout win over rival Texas in 2011, per CFBStats.

While the Oklahoma offense struggled to get anything going for the first three quarters of the game, the defense set the tone for the comeback.

"The Vols, with a multitude of chances to put the game away, were unable to beat the Sooners' press coverage and make anything happen down the field in the passing game," Chris Low of wrote. "After gaining 117 yards in the first quarter, Tennessee managed just 110 yards over the next three quarters."

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones tipped his cap to Oklahoma's defensive turnaround in his post-game press conference, per WBIR Sports:

After bruising Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd broke a 31-yard run to start the third quarter and quarterback Josh Dobbs followed it up with a 20-yard pass, Oklahoma clamped down.

Hurd was dropped for a six-yard loss, Dobbs threw back-to-back incompletions and Tennessee missed what was now a 48-yard field goal.

For the rest of regulation, Tennessee only recorded three more first downs and punted on every possession.

And while Tennessee struck first in overtime with a five-play touchdown drive, Oklahoma's defense had the last laugh with a game-ending interception from Zack Sanchez in double overtime.

The moment was a fitting ending for an Oklahoma defense that received a ton of flak after last season. The Sooners allowed at least 385 yards and 31 points in all five of their losses.

So far in 2015, Oklahoma has allowed 478 yards and 27 points combined in victories over Akron and Tennessee—the latter of which hung 604 yards and 59 points on Bowling Green in its season opener.

That defensive resurgence has Oklahoma pushing for more of a three-team race for a Big 12 title and a College Football Playoff berth.

On that side of the ball, Oklahoma is looking to be in much better shape than higher-ranked TCU and Baylor at this point in the young season.

Baylor gave up 21 first-half points to FCS foe Lamar on Saturday, just eight days after getting off to a similar defensive start against SMU. The Bears recorded blowout wins in both games, but their play on defense has been less than ideal early in the year.

While Baylor's defensive issues have been more related to production, TCU is literally hurting due to injuries and off-the-field problems. According to Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports, the Horned Frogs are down four defensive starters after a miserable few days:

On Wednesday, Patterson announced that freshman linebacker Mike Freeze, a starter, is taking a "personal leave of absence" from the team. Patterson said it he had nothing to do with Freeze's decision, as it's not a disciplinary measure, and as for how long Freeze will be gone, Patterson said, "I don't know. Maybe forever."

Forever is a long time, and it's an even longer time when you realize that Freeze is the fourth starter TCU has lost on defense already this season. On Tuesday, the Horned Frogs lost their other starting linebacker, Sammy Douglas, for the season. Defensive end James McFarland has a broken toe, and could miss the season, and Davion Pierson is out with an injury as well.

By comparison, Oklahoma's defense is in an excellent spot heading into a final tuneup game against Tulsa and an off week to end the month of September.

After that, it's nine straight weeks of action in a Big 12 that is filled with excellent offenses.

With strong depth and big-time improvement from last season, the Sooners sent a message loud and clear Saturday night to the rest of the Big 12 and the rest of the college football world—you can't sleep on Oklahoma's defense anymore.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Tennessee's OT Loss Shows Young Vols Not Quite Ready for National Prominence

The battle between 19th-ranked Oklahoma and No. 23 Tennessee on Rocky Top served as a welcome-back party for the eventual winner.

Tennessee left before the music got turned up.

With a two-touchdown lead in hand heading into the fourth quarter at home, the Vols offense went stagnant and its defense finally broke, as the Sooners scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and two more in consecutive overtimes to send the Vols to a 31-24 loss.

It's one that hurts badly for the Vols, who had this game in hand until the final frame.

The loss shows that these Vols aren't quite ready for the national spotlight yet.

This was the logical next step for the program to take to get back into a place it once called home, and what better stage than this—a big lead at home going into the fourth quarter against a ranked opponent?

Instead, quarterback Joshua Dobbs struggled mightily through the air. The junior completed just 13 of his 31 passes for 125 yards, one touchdown and a pick on the final play of the second overtime that sent the Vols home. 

As head coach Butch Jones noted (via Seth Stokes of 1180 in Knoxville), the Sooners cranked up the heat on Tennessee's unproven offensive line and the Vols didn't have an answer.

If they didn't have an answer for Oklahoma at home, playing with the big boys in the discussion for the College Football Playoff is out of the question.

As Wes Rucker of 247Sports noted, it's been a very long time since this program was on a stage this big, and sometimes you have to take one step back to move two steps forward.

Tennessee has been littered with frustration ever since it lost the 2007 SEC Championship Game to LSU. The once proud program has been burned by head coaches, burned by its own hires and burned by its own recruiting faults to a point where Jones' first priority has been to build a sturdy foundation that had become unstable over years of neglect.

All hope didn't disappear when Zack Sanchez picked Dobbs off to close out the comeback.

While the way it occurred is painful, a loss to a ranked opponent is nothing to be ashamed of, and something these Vols can build off of moving forward—perhaps en route to the SEC East title or, at the very least, SEC East contention.

Georgia didn't exactly look like world-beaters vs. Vanderbilt on Saturday, Arkansas—which Tennessee hosts on Oct. 3—was beaten by Toledo, and it's not like South Carolina, Missouri and Florida look like elite programs at this point of the season.

Next year is the likely season Tennessee returns to the national spotlight. When the season kicked off, 34 players on the roster had played one year or less with the program and 22 newcomers made their Tennessee debuts in the opener, according to Tennessee's game notes.

It had the chance to accelerate that process had it finished off Oklahoma.

For now, anything more than a title in a weak division is premature for the Vols, and Saturday night's second-half debacle is proof that they're not ready for the game's brightest spotlight quite yet.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Malik Zaire's Injury Makes Irish Fans Wonder What If Everett Golson Hadn't Left

When Everett Golson transferred from Notre Dame following spring practice, it looked like the perfect solution to a thorny problem.

Golson was the most experienced quarterback on the Fighting Irish roster, the guy who started the 2012 BCS national title game and returned from a one-year academic suspension to throw 29 touchdowns and pass for 2,405 yards in 2014.

However, a rash of turnovers had loosened his grip on the starting role. Golson threw 14 interceptions and lost eight fumbles last fall. He also tossed seven touchdowns against seven picks during a four-game losing streak that closed the regular season.

Sophomore Malik Zaire had pushed him hard at season’s end and throughout spring practice, so when Golson announced his transfer to Florida State following spring’s end, it was the right ending for all involved.

Golson got a fresh start for his final season of college football, and Zaire got an unfettered chance to be “the man” running the Irish’s offense.

But following Saturday’s events, Irish fans have to wonder, in the back of their minds, why Brian Kelly didn’t try a little harder to keep the veteran quarterback in South Bend.'s Bruce Feldman noted Zaire's injury:

While Notre Dame escaped with a stunning last-second 34-27 victory over Virginia, it came with a cost: Zaire suffered a season-ending broken ankle, leaving the offense in the hands of redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer. It is the second major injury Notre Dame's offense suffered in the season's first two weeks following tailback Tarean Folston's season-ending torn ACL. 

Pressed into action, Kizer came up big. He completed eight of 12 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns and excelled under pressure. With Notre Dame trailing 27-26, Kizer made a beautiful throw down the left sideline into Will Fuller’s waiting hands for a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining.

Kizer told Al Lesar of the South Bend Tribune he was ready for his opportunity.

“I’ve been ready for a while," he said. "I have all the confidence in the world in my ability to be the quarterback at Notre Dame.” 

He’s the man, now, but it’d sure be nice for Kelly to have a little better fallback option than a guy who played in his first collegiate game Saturday.

It wouldn’t have been easy to keep Golson in the fold. He surely wouldn’t have transferred if he felt he was Notre Dame’s clear No. 1 option at quarterback ahead of Zaire. He recently told’s Bruce Feldman that Florida State was a new beginning for him.

“I just needed a fresh start,” he said. “It was me sitting down and thinking, 'OK, where do I feel the most comfortable?' It was nothing to knock Notre Dame. I just had to put myself in the best position possible."

However, if he had stayed, Golson would clearly be the best option ahead of Kizer. Kizer showed clear talent and moxie in leading the Irish past the determined Cavaliers, but he’s a freshman.

"Teams have to overcome injuries,” Kelly said, per Lesar. “It is unfortunate, but it is what it is. We will find a way to put it together. We’ve said we can win games with him, but we want to win a championship with him; elevate to the next level.”

Golson has the ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground and three years’ worth of experience to know what works and what doesn’t.

With a potent Georgia Tech team coming to town next week and a tough road trip to Clemson looming Oct. 3, the road will only get tougher for the Irish.

Keeping two talented quarterbacks happy isn’t an easy job, but it certainly would have made the rest of 2015 far smoother for Notre Dame.

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Oklahoma vs. Tennessee: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

In a stunning comeback victory, the Oklahoma Sooners scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and two overtime periods to knock off the Tennessee Volunteers, 31-24, for a huge road win in the season's second week.

Sterling Shepard scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Baker Mayfield in the second overtime. Oklahoma's defense ended the game when Zack Sanchez intercepted a pass from Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

ESPN's Skip Bayless got up on his Tim Tebow horse to praise Mayfield's effort down the stretch Saturday:

The tone and style of this game shifted dramatically after Tennessee took a 17-0 lead. The Volunteers compiled 167 yards in the first 18 minutes and looked like they were going to cruise to an easy victory. After that, though, they picked up only 87 yards of offense.

Oklahoma stormed back in the fourth quarter, setting up a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes thanks in part to a controversial pass-interference call against Tennessee cornerback Malik Foreman, who shoved Oklahoma receiver Colton Jumper out of the end zone. 

However, Mayfield threw the ball well past the out-of-bounds line, and had Jumper been able to snag it out of the air, he wouldn't have been able to come down in bounds. 

Mayfield tossed his second touchdown pass of the game with 40 seconds left in regulation, a terrific fade to Shepard that evened the score at 17. 

After that touchdown pass, Lost Lettermen provided some insight into what Mayfield's mental state was like:

The pass also prompted an apt comparison by ESPN's Danny Kanell:

It's a fair assessment because the final stat line doesn't do justice to what Mayfield accomplished. He finished 19-of-39 with 187 passing yards, four total touchdowns (three passing) and two interceptions. All of his touchdowns came in the last nine minutes of regulation and overtime. 

But as ESPN's Dari Nowkhah noted, Mayfield's offensive line was getting him destroyed by a fast, powerful Tennessee defense:

Making the win more impressive for the Sooners, it came in spite of a dreadful performance for three quarters. They had three points going into the fourth quarter and could get nothing going. 

Fox Sports' Clay Travis questioned Tennessee's ability to finish late in the game:

Winning close games has been a problem for the Volunteers, which went 2-3 in games decided by 10 points or fewer last season and are off to a bad start in 2015.

Head coach Butch Jones has built a strong foundation, but there's an alarming trend developing when teams find ways to stay in games they shouldn't. There's no doubt that the Tennessee football program is headed in the right direction, highlighted by 247Sports' fourth-ranked recruiting class in 2015.

Speaking to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee about remaking the Volunteers, Jones admitted it's not a fancy or glamorous process:

I was looking out my window my first year and watched people outside lay the bricks of the walkway. Every great structure or organization has a foundation, and people are the foundation. I was watching them lay the bricks, and the diligence that it took to lay the bricks, and if one brick was out of place or missing, they weren't going to have a solid foundation and it wouldn't look right.

The problem is that Jones' foundation needs that finishing touch. Getting off to a fast start in the first half has usually resulted in wins for Jones during his Tennessee tenure, per Patrick Brown of the Free Times Press:

Yet when the offense forgets how to move the ball, opponents are eventually going to wear down the defense as Oklahoma did Saturday. Oklahoma picked on Foreman in the meltdown as he fell down while covering Shepard on the final touchdown catch.

The Sooners dominated the time of possession in the fourth quarter, as Brown noted:

Keeping its defense on the field for that long late in a game meant that Tennessee was flirting with disaster, which eventually came.

Dobbs was terrible, completing 13 of his 31 attempts for 125 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He had just 12 rushing yards on 14 carries.

Running back Jalen Hurd tried to carry the Volunteers on his back with 106 rushing yards and one touchdown on 24 carries. The rest of the team had 23 rushing yards on 21 carries. 

Oklahoma's offense didn't get anything going on the ground, either, with a total of 161 rushing yards on 48 carries.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops adjusted late in the game, rolling Mayfield out of the pocket to create time, which led to the Sooners' first touchdown: a Samaje Perine reception. 

The focus will be on Tennessee for not closing the game out, but this is a huge win for Oklahoma. The Sooners have fallen behind Baylor and TCU in Big 12 prominence and needed to prove they could hang with a quality SEC program.

Stoops' team passed its first major test of the season and will now be able to keep building confidence before having to deal with Baylor and TCU in November.

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Winners and Losers from Week 2 of the 2015 College Football Season

Week 2 of the 2015 college football season is one of those days that doesn't look as appealing on paper but can produce some crazy results. If there's one thing we've learned about this game, it's that you should never sleep on any opponent, no matter how big the point spread is.

Right, Auburn?

The "Scare in Jordan-Hare" was just one of the highlights from a Saturday that was still chock-full of storylines. From Notre Dame's thrilling, bittersweet win over Virginia to Oregon-Michigan State, we wrap up all that was good, bad, ugly and gorgeous from Week 2.

Let's get to it. Who were the winners and losers from this weekend's action? 

Begin Slideshow

Despite 2-0 Start, Alabama Needs to Quickly Find Its Identity

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Looks can sometimes be deceiving, as are scoreboards, like the one at Bryant-Denny Stadium that read 37-10 at the end of Alabama’s 37-10 victory against Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. 

Despite what it said, the Crimson Tide didn’t play particularly well. The offense didn’t click, the defense didn’t dominate like it had hoped, and special teams continued to have some problems.

That makes this upcoming week arguably the most important one of the season, and not just because the next opponent happens to be the team that beat Alabama during the 2014 regular season. Revenge was going to be a factor no matter when Ole Miss visited Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama has to find its identity, and fast.

Offensively, the coaching staff needs to figure out which offense it’s going to run—the one headed by senior Jake Coker or the zone-read scheme that’s better suited for sophomore Cooper Bateman.

Both played a half against the Blue Raiders with less-than-spectacular results.

“When we play games like this, I told the players that if you don’t have the right intensity and the right focus, you’re going to get exposed,” head coach Nick Saban said. “These teams that you play are all good enough to expose you if you don’t have the right focus and intensity on what you need to do to go out there and do a good job of finishing. We obviously didn’t do a good job getting that point across, because I don’t think we finished like we needed to.” 

Alabama didn’t start like it needed to, either.

With Coker playing the first half, the offense didn’t seem to know if it wanted to establish the pass or the run. He completed 15 of 26 passes for 214 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he never got into any sort of rhythm.

Some of that had to do with his offensive line and Dominick Jackson struggling at right tackle. Even though Coker wasn’t sacked, he was repeatedly flushed, took numerous hits and couldn’t get comfortable.

Bateman completed 11 of 17 passes for 98 yards in the second half, and like Coker, he had an interception. While the senior’s errant throw was a deep attempt into double coverage that gave the Blue Raiders the ball at their own 1-yard line and eventually led to a blocked punt by Ronnie Harrison for a safety, Bateman’s should have been a pick-six.

Defensive back Jeremy Cutrer still returned it 77 yards before running back Damien Harris chased him down, and it led to Middle Tennessee’s lone touchdown.

“Both guys really need to improve,” Saban said about his quarterbacks, who combined to convert just four of 13 third-down opportunities.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s defense wants to be tenacious and relentless, yet it was neither early on. Instead, it resembled last year’s unit that was often great in the red zone but against whom offenses could otherwise move the ball.

During the first quarter Alabama was outgained 120-66 and 51-7 on the ground. It did, however, make the first two of four turnovers (three fumble recoveries and an interception).

“I really don’t think we got enough,” senior linebacker Reggie Ragland said.

It wasn’t until a 42-yard play-action pass to tight end O.J. Howard that Alabama was able to enjoy any sort of momentum in the second quarter. Although the drive was anything but efficient, junior running back Derrick Henry capped it with a two-yard touchdown run.

Alabama then started to squeeze the Blue Raiders, who on their subsequent possession converted a 3rd-and-10 but then saw cornerback Cyrus Jones pick off the next third-down opportunity. Senior running back Kenyan Drake subsequently hit the corner to turn a shovel pass into a 69-yard gain, and Henry walked in a one-yard touchdown for a 21-3 lead that signaled game over.

At that point the only questions were how many points would Alabama win by and how many players would get into the game. The answers were 27 and 66, respectively.

“We played better as the game went on, on defense,” Saban said. “They did a lot of things that we weren’t very well-prepared for, and we had to make a lot of adjustments during the game, but I thought the players did a really good job of that.”

Despite the continuing concerns, such as Adam Griffith missing two more field goals, there are number of things that Alabama coaches don’t have to worry about.

Henry finished with 96 rushing yards on 18 carries and scored three more touchdowns, giving him six in two games. Drake continued to be a multidimensional force with 202 all-purpose yards and a 14-yard touchdown reception from Bateman.

Alabama also went from 11 penalties a week ago to just five and got through another game without any significant injuries.

It was also a terrific dress rehearsal for the Rebels and Hugh Freeze’s rapid-fire offense. With Alabama’s defense getting better and more comfortable as the game progressed, the Crimson Tide finished with a 532-275 edge in total yards and a 220-86 advantage in rushing.

But for a team that’s playing the toughest schedule in the nation and wants to have a take-no-prisoners mentality, things are about to get a lot tougher.

“We never really seemed like we were in sync, and didn’t play like we really wanted to on offense,” Saban said. “We made some explosive plays, but there has got to be more consistency and execution.”


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.

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Connor Mitch Injury: Updates on South Carolina QB's Shoulder and Return

South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Connor Mitch suffered a shoulder injury in Saturday's game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Continue for updates.

Mitch Likely Out for Year Saturday, September 12

"Separated shoulder, that usually take a year," said Steve Spurrier, via Josh Kendall of The State.

Trailing 24-7 at the midway point of the game, South Carolina has to be concerned about its unsettled situation under center. Mitch completed just nine of 22 passes in the season-opening win over North Carolina and may be out for the foreseeable future if Spurrier's prognosis is accurate.

Junior signal-caller Perry Orth filled in for Mitch initially, but true freshman Lorenzo Nunez then took the reins at the end of the first half.

Nunez was 247Sports' 10th-rated dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, so perhaps he can provide a spark with his legs to rally the Gamecocks moving forward.

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Georgia Football: Bulldogs Are a QB Away from Being Serious Contenders

Georgia left Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon with a three-possession SEC win and more doubts about its quarterbacks.

Those two takeaways might seem odd after a quick glance at the scoreboard—the Bulldogs defeated the host Commodores by a score of 31-14.

However, the final scoreline was somewhat deceiving, especially in regard to the Georgia offense. Isaiah McKenzie scored Georgia's first touchdown on a punt return, and Dominick Sanders sealed the victory with a long pick-six in the fourth quarter.

The pair of scores Georgia's offense put on the board both came on the ground as starter Greyson Lambert and backup Brice Ramsey combined for an underwhelming day in Nashville, Tennessee:

To be fair, Lambert and Ramsey cruised in a Week 1 win over UL-Monroe—but they only had a total 14 passing attempts against the Warhawks.

Until Georgia shows consistency at quarterback against a power-conference opponent, it will lag behind the true championship contenders in college football.

"A road win in the SEC is always a valuable commodity, but the Bulldogs couldn’t have liked what their offense accomplished on Saturday," David Ching of wrote. "Entering next week’s game against South Carolina, Georgia is still searching for answers at quarterback...because Saturday made it clear that the Bulldogs’ passing game needs help."

It's no secret Georgia has one of the best rushing attacks in the country. Nick Chubb was at some of his electric best Saturday against the Commodores with 189 yards on 18 carries, and Sony Michel added a rushing touchdown.

But Georgia's offense cannot survive on its loaded running back corps alone, as it showed in glimpses of Saturday's contest.

A much-improved Vanderbilt defense forced Georgia into plenty of 3rd-and-intermediate or 3rd-and-long situations. And on Saturday, Georgia only had four third-down conversions on 13 attempts.

Another highly troubling Lambert statistic for Georgia was his incredibly slow start. He missed on his first seven attempts, and the Bulldogs offense as a whole struggled to get down the field in the first half.

Head coach Mark Richt said afterward that Georgia's offense needed to show more in the passing game, according to Taylor Denman of the Red and Black:

Lambert's second-quarter replacement, Ramsey, failed to impress with a golden opportunity to potentially take over the starting job. After completing his first two passes, he threw back-to-back incompletions and never recorded another attempt.

While Lambert recovered to complete 11 of his last 15 attempts, his start put Georgia in a rough spot against Vanderbilt.

"We know if we do our job it'll come, but I've got to do a better job of throwing the football in the first half," Lambert said, per the Associated Press (via

When the Bulldogs face better opponents in the SEC schedule, they won't be able to afford those kinds of inefficient starts.

Elite defenses will do a better job of loading up the box and slowing down the ground game, while more attacking offenses will make Georgia pay with early leads.

Fortunately for Lambert, Ramsey, Richt and the rest of the Bulldogs, there's still time for improvement at the quarterback position—especially in a conference in which plenty of teams have struggled in some category early in 2015.   

But with South Carolina and No. 2 Alabama coming to Athens in the next few weeks, the clock is ticking.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. Recruit rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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Boise State vs. BYU: Live Score and Highlights

10:00 2nd Quarter

No. 20 Boise State - 7

BYU - 7


The BYU Cougars look to build off last week's momentum from their Hail Mary victory over Nebraska by defending their home turf. They have to do it though against the No. 20 Boise State Broncos. 

Action in this contest is underway, follow updates below to stay plugged into the game. 

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Arkansas Making the Leap Won't Happen Unless Ground Game Gets Going

2015 began as a season of hope for Arkansas.

2014’s late-year surge to bowl eligibility, capped with a Texas Bowl stomping of old Southwest Conference rival Texas, sent expectations soaring in Fayetteville for Bret Bielema’s third season.

The Razorbacks were a Top 20 preseason pick and an SEC West dark horse, hype that was justified given the return of nine offensive starters, four offensive linemen and a pair of 1,000-yard tailbacks.

But following Saturday’s stunning 16-12 loss to Toledo in Little Rock, it appears to be time to recalibrate those hopes.

While Toledo is one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference, the Rockets have no business going into an SEC stadium and winning, much less the way they did.

While Arkansas actually outgained Toledo 515-318 in yardage, the Razorbacks managed just 103 yards on the ground and passed the ball 53 times while rushing it 31. That’s a stark reversal from 2014, when the Hogs averaged 218 yards per game on the ground, No. 24 nationally.

It shows just how much Arkansas misses senior tailback Jonathan Williams, who will miss at least the entire regular season with a foot injury suffered in August. While junior tailback Alex Collins also rushed for 1,100 yards last year (just behind Williams’ team-leading 1,190-yard total), Williams’ absence means the entire rushing game rests on Collins’ shoulders.

Saturday, that wasn’t such a good thing. Collins carried 20 times but managed just 54 yards and a touchdown, a paltry 2.7 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, Razorbacks' quarterback Brandon Allen threw for 412 yards. He set career highs for both yards and attempts (he threw 45 times for 296 yards in last fall’s 45-32 loss to Georgia). But such stats go against Bielema’s ethos: i.e., winning with a pounding run game.

A late-game series sums up Arkansas’ run-game issues. With just over three minutes left, the Razorbacks drove inside the Toledo 10 trailing 16-10. This was the exact time for the run game to take over and pound the ball home, right?

On 1st-and-goal from the Toledo 4, Allen threw into the end zone incomplete. On second down, he gave it to Collins up the middle, and Collins pushed near the goal line. But, wait: A holding flag.

That pushed Arkansas back 10 yards, nullifying the ground game’s impact. On 4th-and-goal from the 7, Allen targeted Hunter Henry at the back of the end zone, but his pass hit the crossbar, ending the threat with nothing to show for it.

Given Bielema’s history, the series didn’t make a lot of sense, and Arkansas ultimately paid. We’ll see how quickly the offense learns from what is certainly a teaching moment.

Now, the real fun starts for the 1-1 Hogs. Next up? A home game with a potent Texas Tech offense, followed by a matchup against Texas A&M at neutral-site AT&T Stadium in Dallas and road trips to Tennessee and Alabama. There are no gimmes left on the schedule until a Halloween matchup with FCS foe UT-Martin, last seen on the wrong end of a 76-3 blowout at Ole Miss’ hands.

While the league is increasingly pass-oriented, a strong, physical offense, like the one Arkansas displayed in 2014, can still be successful.

The SEC West is one of college football’s best divisions and certainly its most unforgiving. Unless Arkansas gets back to its offensive foundation, the Razorbacks won’t take a leap forward in 2015 and could even take a big step back.

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Georgia vs. Vanderbilt: Game Grades, Analysis for the Bulldogs

It was not pretty, but the Georgia Bulldogs started off the SEC season right with a 31-14 win over Vanderbilt behind a punt-return touchdown and a pick-six. 

In addition, head coach Mark Richt’s team was able to overcome 92 penalty yards—which included a targeting call that ended Lorenzo Carter’s day in the first quarter—thanks to Nick Chubb’s 189 rushing yards. 

Georgia kept Vanderbilt in the game with numerous mental errors as the Commodores had the ball near the goal line with about five minutes left in the game down 24-14 after a botched pooch kick. Here is a look at how each unit of the team fared Saturday afternoon. 

Pass Offense

Greyson Lambert was downright awful in the first half, and Georgia would have finished with zero passing yards in the first frame if Brice Ramsey had not come in for a series. Richt went back to Lambert, who was much better and finished 11-of-21 with 116 yards after starting out with seven straight incompletions. While Lambert made the unit moderately serviceable in the second half, he will still need to be better if Georgia is going to make a run at an SEC title. 


Run Offense

Chubb and Sony Michel (52 yards and a touchdown) carried the Georgia offense in this game. Overall, the team finished with 281 rushing yards while averaging 6.9 yards per carry against a Vanderbilt defense that basically sold out to stop the run.

Georgia had more trouble rushing in the second half as Chubb and Michel each earned more than 66 percent of their yardage in the first half. We know how good Chubb is, but Michel looks like a dangerous weapon for Georgia. He will steal more carries from Chubb as the year goes on. Also, Lambert scored a touchdown on the ground, which he seemed to appreciate, via Jim Wood, formerly of Bulldawg Blawg: 


Pass Defense

It is hard to evaluate this unit since Vanderbilt quarterback Johnny McCrary made some alarmingly bad decisions with the football that resulted in three second-half interceptions. He finished 24-of-50 with 295 yards and a score.

There were sequences in the second half where Vanderbilt was able to complete a bunch of passes in a row to find itself in the red zone, so Georgia will need to fix some of those coverage lapses. However, the pass rush was sensational, pressuring McCrary all afternoon. Jordan Jenkins led the charge and looks to be a prime candidate for the All-American team. Check out his numbers from today, courtesy of’s Radi Nabulsi: 


Run Defense

Vanderbilt tried to establish the run early, but Georgia was having none of it. The Commodores finished with 105 rushing yards on 2.7 yards per carry. Ralph Webb, one of the more underrated rushers in the SEC, could only muster 68 yards. Quarterback Johnny McCrary broke off some decent runs in the fourth quarter but was ultimately held in check.

The front seven is the strength of this defense, and the unit flexed its muscles with constant pressure in the backfield. Georgina will have a tougher test next week against South Carolina’s Brandon Wilds. 


Special Teams

The 77-yard punt return from Isaiah McKenzie was the highlight of the day for Georgia, which you can see below:

The rest of the day was not pleasant for the Bulldogs’ special teams. A botched play on a Vanderbilt pooch kick near the end of the game could have cost Georgia the game if Vanderbilt had converted. The ball took a bad hop, but the team still needs to recover the ball in such a critical situation. In addition, Marshall Morgan missed a pair of field goals, which is a concern for Georgia. It will need to make its field goals in closer games later in the season. 



The only real coaching decision Richt had to make was whether to remain with Lambert at quarterback. It was the right choice as he played much better in the second half. Otherwise, the team appeared to have a basic scheme on both sides of the ball, given that Georgia was superior to Vanderbilt at every position.

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Toledo vs. Arkansas: Score, Highlights, Twitter Reaction for Rockets' Upset

On a Saturday when Auburn escaped Jacksonville State's upset bid, the 18th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks weren't as fortunate, falling to the Toledo Rockets, 16-12, at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. 

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Toledo's triumph was among the most impressive in program history—and easily its most notable this decade:

"Obviously they did not disappoint," Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said, according to the Arkansas News Bureau's Eric Bolin. "The only ones disappointed today were us."

Days after Bielema publicly ripped Ohio State for having a weak schedule, those comments came back to bite him, as ESPN's Danny Kanell explained on Twitter: 

According to's Austin Ward, one Buckeyes player celebrated at the expense of Arkansas on Saturday night:    

Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith noted that a couple of Saturday's performances brought the SEC down a peg: 

The Razorbacks (1-1) couldn't muster enough offense during crucial red-zone opportunities to stave off a feisty Toledo team, and it cost them dearly.   

Quarterback Brandon Allen (32-of-53, 412 yards and an interception) worked Arkansas down to the Toledo 4-yard line with over two minutes remaining, but the Razorbacks came up empty on all four chances in a goal-to-go situation with the game on the line. 

A backbreaking holding penalty following a run inside the 1 pushed the Razorbacks to the 14-yard line, and Allen couldn't solve the Rockets secondary from that point on. The team's last gasp following an intentional Toledo safety proved futile.   

"We've really got to look at our red-zone package," Bielema said, per Bolin. "Being able to run the football has to be first and foremost."

The Razorbacks had no problem eating up chunks of yards between the 20s, but the Rockets were actually the more disciplined and efficient side despite the absence of suspended running back Kareem Hunt, who helped Toledo finish 14th in total rushing among all FBS teams last season. 

To wit: Arkansas orchestrated a massive 21-play drive that spanned portions of the third and fourth quarters, but the near-11-minute possession resulted in a field goal that cut Toledo's lead to six, 16-10. 

Penalties also dogged the Razorbacks. In addition to the holding call by the goal line, Jared Cornelius returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown, but an illegal block from Eric Hawkins negated the score. Rushing for 3.3 yards per carry on 31 attempts didn't exactly help matters either. 

On the flip side, Toledo (1-0) was starving to get into the scoring column after its season opener against Stony Brook was suspended because of severe weather, and it struck first behind the arm of quarterback Phillip Ely.

A five-yard strike from the signal-caller to wide receiver Corey Jones gave Toledo an early 6-0 lead, but Arkansas was able to respond. A 21-yard touchdown scamper from running back Alex Collins briefly thrust the Razorbacks ahead before Toledo tacked on a 38-yard field goal shortly before halftime.   

An 11-yard touchdown run from Damion Jones-Moore (10 carries, 61 yards) with just over five minutes left in the third quarter proved to be the difference.

Ely went on to finish with 237 yards and a touchdown on 21-of-37 passing, which was huge considering Toledo mustered just 2.2 yards per carry sans Hunt.  

The Rockets will face another Power Five test next week when Iowa State comes to town, but Toledo should be confident knowing it can hang with a team previously revered as a sleeper in the SEC West. 

Bielema's boys will need to right the ship next weekend at home against Texas Tech before their SEC schedule gets underway. But if they can't, the Razorbacks could be in for a rude awakening. From Sept. 26 to Oct. 24, Arkansas is slated to square off against Texas A&M, Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn in consecutive games, with the first three contests coming on the road. 

That's a recipe for disaster. 

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The Deadline for Urban Meyer to Settle Ohio State's QB Competition

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A routine, out-of-conference shutout for the nation's No. 1 team rarely leaves it facing such uncertainty.

But following Ohio State's 38-0 win over Hawaii on Saturday, the biggest question in college football remains unanswered.

Who is Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes' top option at quarterback?

"I can't recall in major college football history when I remember witnessing something like this," the head coach said after the game. "Where you have two good guys."

Only on Saturday, neither Cardale Jones nor J.T. Barrett lived up to their billings as two of the country's top signal-callers, inconsistencies plaguing each in their respective time on the field. Jones got the starting nod for the second straight game, but was pulled midway through the second quarter after a 6-for-9, 82-yard passing performance only netted seven points for Ohio State's typically high-powered offense.

In his absence, Barrett didn't fare much better, completing just five of his 12 pass attempts for 41 yards in the first half, leading the Buckeyes on a 35-yard scoring drive after a Rainbow Warriors interception put Ohio State in Hawaii territory.

At halftime, Meyer turned back to Jones as the quarterback carousel in Columbus continued.

The Buckeyes offense continued to look sluggish in the second half, scoring 17 points while being aided by a strong effort and even a touchdown from its defensive counterpart. Given the quick turnaround following last Monday's win over Virginia Tech, the sloppy outing was understandable—if not expected—and was also due in part to an underwhelming performance from the OSU offensive line.

"We did not protect very well today," Meyer admitted. "We have to get that fixed."

But while Meyer is often adamant that the quarterback is a "product of those around him," neither Jones nor Barrett did much Saturday to distinguish himself from the other with their individual play. Jones directed the offense for the majority of the second half, but Barrett took over the OSU offense with just more than five minutes remaining in the game, helping to lead the Buckeyes on a 45-yard touchdown drive that Jones actually started due to a miscommunication on the sideline.

On the day, Jones completed 12 of his 18 pass attempts for 111 yards. Barrett, meanwhile, completed eight of his 15 passes for 70 yards.

Neither quarterback threw a touchdown or an interception on the afternoon. Neither managed to muster much on the ground either, a staple at the position in Meyer's spread offense.

After the game, Meyer remained noncommittal when it came to his quarterback conundrum.

"I have to self-evaluate and make sure we're doing the right thing by those guys," he said. "I'll have more answers for you after I think it through and watch the film."

It's worth noting—again—that the Buckeyes did win the game in blowout fashion and did so by relying on a heavy dose of running back Ezekiel Elliott. The preseason Heisman Trophy favorite totaled 101 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, despite not having a reliable passing game to assist him.

And with the schedule Ohio State has ahead of it, which may not see the Buckeyes truly challenged until a Nov. 21 date with Michigan State in Columbus, the reality is that Meyer may not have to make a call on who his No. 1 quarterback is anytime soon.

Because while both Jones and Barrett maintained in the preseason that they would prefer to not play in a two-quarterback system this fall, Ohio State's overwhelming talent advantage against the remainder of its schedule has bought Meyer time when it comes to college football's most talked about quarterback competition.

Jones admitted after the Buckeyes' season-opening win over the Hokies that he was yet to feel like his team's solidified starter, and on Saturday that sentiment remained.

"Yeah, of course," Jones answered when asked if he felt like Ohio State's quarterback battle was ongoing. "In my opinion, that's good, because we're going to keep each other razor sharp, week in and week out."

But sooner or later—whether it's in an unexpected early season battle against the Spartans, in the Big Ten title game or even the College Football Playoff—the Buckeyes are going to need to know who their top signal-caller is. On Saturday, that would've been easier said than done, as neither passer played as well as he did during Ohio State's run to the national title a season ago.

"Our execution is not where it needs to be," Meyer said of Jones and Barrett.

And until it is, it's clear the quarterback competition in Columbus will continue.


Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.

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Introducing Notre Dame's New Hero, Sophomore QB DeShone Kizer

From a hat to a helmet to a heave, DeShone Kizer rescued Notre Dame football from itself and the perils of early-season inadequacy.

The sophomore signal-caller stepped in with an emergency relief appearance that lifted the No. 9 Irish past Virginia, 34-27, on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Standing on the sideline at Scott Stadium in his red camouflage baseball cap with the Notre Dame monogram, Kizer went about his backup quarterback duties as a redshirt sophomore, and starting quarterback Malik Zaire struggled to find his rhythm in the second half against Virginia.

But when Zaire’s right ankle got caught between a pair of Cavalier defenders and turned eyeballs away from screens across ND nation, Kizer, who grabbed the No. 2 quarterback job over highly touted true freshman Brandon Wimbush in the fall, shed the hat of the “Red Army” and readied for duty.

Kizer, who hails from Toledo, Ohio, and earned his first game experience with the Irish in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's Week 1 drubbing of Texas, was needed.

Nearly a full quarter later, after Cavaliers quarterback Matt Johns picked apart Notre Dame’s defense and orchestrated a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that handed Virginia the 27-26 lead with a minute and 54 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, Kizer stood on the sideline, helmet by his side, shook hands with right tackle Mike McGlinchey and spoke to his offensive line before taking the field.

With three timeouts, 80 yards and a season of high expectations in play, Kizer went to work. He found Will Fuller on a comeback pattern for eight yards. Two incompletions later, he plunged four yards up the middle on 4th-and-2 and kept the Irish alive.

With the ball at Notre Dame’s 32, Kizer zipped a throw on a crossing route to Corey Robinson for 11 yards. Then, the big redshirt sophomore scrambled to his right, prolonged the play and dumped off an if-all-else-fails checkdown to C.J. Prosise across his body for 17 yards and legitimate hope.

Then, on 2nd-and-9 from Virginia’s 39-yard line with 20 seconds remaining, Kizer took the snap, and with his heels at midfield, he launched a gorgeous high-arcing throw down the left sideline into the waiting mitts of Fuller at the goal line for the go-ahead score.

Kizer streaked down the field, arms stretched high, to meet his teammates in the end zone. A few minutes later, Notre Dame cemented the 34-27 win over the Cavaliers to improve to 2-0.

As Zaire’s then-uncertain injury loomed—head coach Brian Kelly announced after the game that Zaire is out for the season with a fractured ankle—and Notre Dame’s defense lapsed, Kizer, along with Fuller, pulled through. The Irish fended off Virginia’s upset bid and escaped Charlottesville.

Of course, Kizer is now tasked with being more than a one-hit hero for Notre Dame. He’ll step into the starting role and direct the Irish in upcoming matchups against Georgia Tech, Clemson, USC and Stanford.

If Notre Dame is to stick true to its preseason script and chase a chance at the playoffs, Kizer will need to rise to the occasion—again.

The Irish have been down this road before. In 2012, some redshirt freshman starter named Everett Golson quarterbacked Notre Dame to the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama. Golson, though, wasn’t rushed into duty. And Kelly, when he was at Cincinnati in 2008, was forced to use five quarterbacks. All the Bearcats did was win 11 games and reach the Orange Bowl, setting the stage for Kelly's jump to South Bend a year later.

Those stories ended with trips to marquee games at the end of the season. Maybe Notre Dame's trek will end similarly in 2015. Maybe it won't.

But the story starts with a heroic heave by Kizer.


All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Mike Monaco is the lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.

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Alabama vs. Middle Tennessee: Game Grades, Analysis for the Crimson Tide

The No. 2 Crimson Tide made quick work of Middle Tennessee, shaking off a slow start to blow out the Blue Raiders by a 37-10 margin.

Led by its elite running backs and a defense that forced four turnovers, head coach Nick Saban's team mostly looked ready for next week's showdown with Ole Miss. However, the quarterbacks' performance should worry Saban heading into the toughest part of the season.

Passing Offense: Jacob Coker and Cooper Bateman were both unimpressive in this one. Coker's stats were greatly padded by a 68-yard shovel pass to Kenyan Drake, and his field vision left much to be desired. The same goes for Bateman, who also benefited from Drake's elusiveness and threw an interception that would've been returned 100 yards by an SEC defensive back. This grade is made mostly by Drake and tight end O.J. Howard.

Rushing Offense: It was a painfully slow start for Drake and Derrick Henry on the ground, but both picked it up considerably. Henry turned in his second-straight, three-touchdown performance, breaking loose in the second half to turn it into a blowout. Freshman Damien Harris showed off his vast array of tools in mop-up duty.

Passing Defense: Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson each forced fumbles, and Cyrus Jones picked off a pass when the Tide began to surge in the second quarter. This group also started slow but asserted its will in frustrating MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill into 4.1 yards per attempt.

Rushing Defense: The Blue Raiders averaged less than three yards per carry, and no player on the team ran for more than 30 yards. This group isn't 2011-good, but it'll get the job done.

Special Teams: The group blocked a punt for a safety, and the return game was solid throughout the afternoon. Calvin Ridley committed a catch interference, and Adam Griffith somehow managed to miss two more field goals.

Coaching: You would have liked to see the team come out a little faster. Once the second quarter hit, Saban got his guys playing sound football, and they predictably dominated. He has his hands full at quarterback, though, and might want to think about just committing to one guy to instill some confidence.

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