NCAA Football News

Jameis Winston Suspended for 1st Half vs. Clemson: Latest Details and Comments

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first half of Saturday's game against No. 22 Clemson.

Dan Wolken of USA Today was the first to report the reigning Heisman Trophy winner's suspension:

Winston's actions came to light on Twitter on Tuesday, and The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre reported what he said (language NSFW).    

According to Wolken, the sophomore signal-caller yelled the obscene phrase at the student union.     

Winston apologized for his actions following the news of his suspension and provided further comments:

Warchant.com also shared video of Winston's apology:

Corey Clark of the Tallahassee Democrat tweeted out the official statement released by Florida State relating to the disciplinary decision:

Gil Brandt of NFL.com noted that Sean Maguire is set to replace Winston:

Prior to the announcement of the suspension, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher made it clear that he wasn't pleased with Winston's actions, per Wolken.

"It was not a good decision," Fisher said. "You can't make certain statements that are derogatory or inflammatory to any person, race or gender. You have to understand that. ... You have to be very intelligent about what you say, (because) it matters."

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee believes that the one-half suspension is a warning shot in Winston's direction regarding the immaturity he has displayed in off-field situations:

It is clear that Florida State is sending a message since Saturday's game figures to have a big impact on the Seminoles' College Football Playoff chances.    

Winston is a key piece to the puzzle, but the team will have to rally together as a whole to have success in the first half without its leader on offense against Clemson.  

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Rankings 2014: Official Week 4 Polls and Playoff Projections

The college football season has provided an incredible first three weeks to the season. Although nothing changed within the Top Five in either of the major polls this week, title contender Georgia lost to SEC foe South Carolina in a thrilling game.

The other Top 10 casualty was USC. After a huge victory against Stanford, the Trojans dropped significantly in the polls thanks to a horrible loss to Boston College.

Mississippi moved into the AP Top 10 after a third consecutive blowout, while Baylor and Texas A&M also moved up a spot with the departure of the Bulldogs.

Let’s take a look at the latest polls heading into Week 4 and consider the early projections for the College Football Playoff.

 

 

Playoff Projections

The College Football Playoff projections altered slightly from last week. Georgia’s loss knocks it out of contention for now and allows Oklahoma to come in at the No. 4 spot.

The Sooners took care of business at home against Tennessee but face a tough test this week when they travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. The Mountaineers gave Alabama trouble in the opener.

Oklahoma isn’t the most discussed team in the Top Five, but it might be later in the season. Its schedule is extremely easy compared to the other top teams. The most difficult games remaining on the schedule include matchups with No. 20 Kansas State (Oct. 18), No. 7 Baylor (Nov. 8) and No. 25 Oklahoma State in the final week.

Oklahoma might not crack the Top Three unless someone loses, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong. The Sooners looked superior when they beat Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl, and nothing has changed since. With the teams they have to play, you can almost make them a lock for the playoff.  

Although the two polls differ between the No. 2 and No. 3 rankings, I like Alabama ahead of Oregon. Despite the Ducks’ win over a highly ranked Michigan State in Week 2, teams that play in the SEC will get the nod, at least in my book.

This past week, Oregon rolled over Wyoming 48-14. Led by Marcus Mariota, the high-powered Ducks head to Washington State on Saturday.

Oregon has already proved it’s one of the best teams in the nation with its comeback win against Michigan State. A lot of people may be down on the Big 10, but Michigan State is exceptionally talented and will be back to the top of the polls by year’s end.

The Crimson Tide beat up on Southern Miss to complete the easy part of their schedule. They open up conference play this week against Florida.

Thus far, wide receiver Amari Cooper has been carrying the load for Alabama’s offense. In just three games, he’s recorded 33 receptions for 454 yards and two touchdowns.

'Bama hasn’t been able to showcase its team in a few weeks. After its performance Saturday against the Gators, people will remember why Nick Saban has been so difficult to defeat. The SEC schedule is always a nightmare, but the Tide are good enough to win another title.

Florida State remains in the top spot, where it will stay until it loses. The defending champs were off last week but now face one of their more difficult tasks in 2014 with No. 22 Clemson in town.

If they can get past this test, the Seminoles should breeze through their schedule until mid-October when they face No. 9 Notre Dame.  They may have lost some playmakers, but Jameis Winston more than makes up for that.

Although the season is just getting underway, I really believe these four teams will be there at the end. They are the most talented teams in the country and could all realistically make the playoff even with a loss.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Cam Erving vs. Vic Beasley the Most Important Matchup in FSU vs. Clemson

Vic Beasley had 13 sacks in 2013, putting together one of the finest pass-rushing seasons in ACC history.

The number doesn't exactly come with an asterisk. Those 13 sacks are impressive, of course. But it does come with a disclaimer—that the All-American defensive end didn't have a sack against Florida State in the Seminoles' 51-14 rout.

"Things just didn't go the way we wanted them to," Beasley said.

He was talking about the performance by Clemson's defense, which allowed Jameis Winston to throw for 444 yards. But he could just as easily have said the same about his frustrations in the one-on-one matchup with FSU left tackle Cameron Erving.

At the time, Erving was starting just his 20th game ever as an offensive lineman. A defensive tackle at Moultrie (Georgia) Colquitt County High, Erving was a Rivals.com 3-star prospect. After missing the 2010 season with a back injury, his first at FSU, coach Jimbo Fisher approached Erving about moving to the offensive line. Erving declined and had 20 tackles as a reserve in 2011. With FSU in need of a left tackle, Fisher tried again and Erving reluctantly agreed to make the move to offense in the spring of 2012.

He showed progress in his first year on offense and graded out at 73 percent in his final six games that fall. But the challenge of facing Beasley would be a considerable one.

Erving turned in one of his best performances of the season, holding the 6'3'', 235-pound Beasley to just two tackles. While Erving had impressed prior to that game, keeping Beasley away from Winston was an impressive accomplishment.

The Erving vs. Beasley matchup will again be a pivotal one on Saturday night as No. 1 FSU hosts No. 22 Clemson. Erving won the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the conference's top offensive lineman in 2013, and Beasley is the ACC's top edge-rusher.

"It's definitely always fun to go against a great competitor such as Vic," Erving said. "He got me a few times—he just didn't get to the quarterback. Couple more seconds here or there he could have did it."

While plenty of eyes in the stadium and on TV will be watching the quarterbacks and skill players, the Erving-Beasley battle is crucial for both teams. FSU has a senior-laden offensive line and must keep Winston upright in the passing game while trying to establish a ground attack. Clemson's defensive strength is its all-senior defensive line that wants to disrupt the rhythm of FSU's passing game and bottle up FSU's deep stable of running backs.

FSU, however, has made a habit of passing the ball successfully in the past three matchups with Clemson. While FSU lost a 2011 game in which Clint Trickett threw for 336 yards, EJ Manuel followed with 380 yards. And Winston passed for 444 yards last season.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is concerned about what Winston can do on Saturday if given time to read the Tigers defense.

"I don't think you can just sit back there and have a ham sandwich," Swinney said. "They have got too good of skill outside, and you can't cover those guys forever. You've got to be able to disrupt the timing of the passing game and create pressure if you're going to have success against a great quarterback."

That's where Beasley can affect the game or, perhaps, not affect the game. He has watched the 2013 game again and again. He's reviewed game film of FSU's first two 2014 games. And Beasley is ready for another showdown with Erving.

"This is a matchup that I definitely look forward to," Beasley said. "I like playing against great players."

Said Erving: "I feel like he's a great player. I feel like going against better competition always brings out the best in you."

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Class of 2015 Recruits from SEC Country Who Should Play Outside the SEC

One of the main reasons the SEC has risen to prominence in college football is because of the fertile recruiting grounds located in the league’s geographic footprint.

However, plenty of schools from other power-five conferences are entering the southeastern part of the country in search of top talent. Schools such as Oregon, USC, Michigan State and Ohio State are among those who fit this category. 

Additionally, ACC schools who occupy similar territory are proving to be worthy of butting heads with SEC powers on the recruiting trail.

For recruits, the decision to play in a league outside the SEC may come down to the way they fit in a school’s system, their bond with a particular coach or a better opportunity to find playing time early in their careers. 

Which remaining recruits in SEC country in the 2015 class would fit better playing their college football elsewhere?

*Players listed in alphabetical order.

Begin Slideshow

Texas Football: Realistic Expectations for Longhorns in Big 12 Play

For the Texas Longhorns, expectations are almost always unreachable unless the season ends with a national championship.

Head coach Charlie Strong is finding this out early in his first season even though he tried to temper fans' unrealistic hopes during his 12-city bus tour, according to Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman: 

We have everything available, and I don't know why we can't be successful. There's no reason for us not to be. Now, I can't tell you how soon it's going to be. Don't hold me to that. Don't say, 'Ooh, coach said next year we'll be in the national...' We will not be in the national championship game.

His statement may have upset people, but he was being honest. Those who did not listen to the coach only have themselves to blame.

Now the Longhorns are 1-2 heading into Big 12 play.

It's doubtful many people predicted Texas would have a losing record prior to its conference schedule. But then again, nobody anticipated the Longhorns would have an entirely new, inexperienced offensive line protecting a first-year starting quarterback either.

But that's where Texas is, and whining about it will not change the outcome of the current situation.

It's difficult to assess the talent level of college football teams after only three games because many schools schedule easy non-conference opponents.

But Texas has the toughest strength of schedule of all Big 12 teams and is ranked No. 15 of 128 in strength of schedule in the nation, according to Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com.

The first six games of the season prove this.

The Longhorns have their first true road game Sept. 27 against Kansas. They will then face No. 7 Baylor at home and No. 4 Oklahoma at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

The Bears are averaging 50-point victories over the first three opponents of the season. The Sooners have scored an average of 45 points compared to the 11 points it has given up to competitors.

Texas has yet to put up anything close to those numbers.

To be fair, Baylor has faced an FCS team, Buffalo and SMU. One could argue the SMU Mustangs are the worst team in Division I college football this season. The Mustangs are averaging three points per game compared to the average 44 points it has surrendered to its opponents.

Does this mean the Bears are not as good as they appear? Absolutely not. Will Texas be the favorite to beat Baylor or Oklahoma? Not a chance.

There is a good possibility the Longhorns will be 2-4 following the Red River Shootout, but the uphill battle does not end in Dallas.

Texas will hit the road to face No. 20 Kansas State, Texas Tech and No. 25 Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State gave No. 1 Florida State a run for its money in Week 1.

The trio of road games will feature tough opponents in some of the most difficult environments in the conference. 

Whoever put together the Longhorns' schedule did not do Strong any favors. It also doesn't help that the Big 12 is shaping up to be a much better league than last year.

But entirely dismissing Texas is premature.

The Longhorns loss to BYU was inexcusable. Texas was unprepared and embarrassed by the Cougars for the second consecutive season.

Strong referred to the loss as an "embarrassment to the university and an embarrassment to the football program," taking full responsibility for not having his team ready to face BYU.

The team rebounded and battled against UCLA, which almost ended in an upset. Unfortunately for Texas fans, almost isn't good enough.

The difference between Week 2 and Week 3 was apparent. The Longhorns went from giving up 41 points and only seeing the end zone once against then-unranked BYU (now No. 21) to holding No. 12 UCLA to 20 points and moving the chains on offense to put 17 points on the board.

The progress is evident.

Can it continue against Big 12 opponents?

Yes, but it will be an arduous task.

The Longhorns have to gain momentum in the few games where the team will likely be favored to win and put together an extraordinary game plan poised to upset at minimum one ranked opponent.

"Now everything counts," Strong said. "It's only three games, so we just have to pick ourselves back up and know how to handle adversity. There's going to be some tough losses. So we'll see what type of team we are and how we bounce back."

It's too early to dismiss Strong's Longhorns, but expecting a 10-win regular season with what Texas has shown thus far is not wise.

 

Team rankings via AP Top 25 Poll.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Southern Methodist Mustangs Betting Odds: Analysis, Pick

Texas A&M is only 3-7 against the spread the last 10 times it has been lined as a favorite on the road, while SMU is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games as a home dog.

The high-flying Aggies bring their show to Dallas for a renewal of an old Southwest Conference rivalry with the Mustangs on Saturday night.

 

Point spread: The Aggies opened as 28-point favorites at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, but it was 32.5 points by Wednesday with a total of 62, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 57.8-25.2 Aggies

 

Why the Texas A&M Aggies can cover the spread

Some thought the Aggies might struggle without Johnny Football, but while he's been holding a clipboard in Cleveland, his former team has gone on without him to start 3-0 with two covers. Texas A&M sprang out of the gate with a whopping 52-28 “upset” of South Carolina, winning outright as 10-point road dogs.

The Aggies then dispatched Lamar 73-3, covering at -46. And last week, A&M beat Rice 38-10, although it couldn't quite cover the spread at -31. The Aggies only held the ball for 17 minutes against the Owls but made good use of that time, racking up 477 yards of offense on just 47 plays.

New starting quarterback Kenny Hill has done a wonderful job of stepping in behind center for head coach Kevin Sumlin, hitting on 69 percent of his throws. He has 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

 

Why the Southern Methodist Mustangs can cover the spread

The Mustangs are trying to play through a change in coaches after June Jones resigned last week. SMU is off to an 0-2 start, whiffing against Baylor and North Texas. The Mustangs tried to hang with the Mean Green last week, and if not for a fumble return for a North Texas score, they would have been right in the game into halftime.

SMU is a program in transition at the moment, on the sidelines and at quarterback. But the Mustangs are playing at home, where they're 9-4 ATS over the last two-plus seasons. Can interim head coach Tom Mason rally the troops to put on a decent showing in this spot?

Pride, and a little added toughness, can sometimes go a long way toward covering point spreads, and their recent trend is covering at home.

 

Smart Pick

This one has “ugly” written all over it. Texas A&M has beaten SMU each of the last three seasons by an average score of 45-10, and Saturday's final score could be even worse, with the Mustangs now working with their backup QB.

The only pick one could give here in good conscience would be with the Aggies, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • Texas A&M is 1-4 ATS in its last five games on the road
  • Southern Methodist is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games at home

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Betting Odds Analysis, Pick

South Carolina has beaten the Vanderbilt Commodores five times in a row, but Vandy has covered the spread in five of the last seven meetings with the Gamecocks.

The SEC East rivals hook up once again when the Commodores host the Ol' Ball Coach and his boys on Saturday afternoon in Nashville.

 

Point spread: The Gamecocks opened as 20.5-point favorites at Vanderbilt Stadium, with a total of 54 points, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 46.8-31.2 Gamecocks

 

Why the South Carolina Gamecocks can cover the spread

The Gamecocks are 2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS this season, following a season-opening loss to Texas A&M and wins over East Carolina and Georgia. South Carolina got embarrassed by the Aggies, losing 52-28 at home, giving up 680 yards of A&M offense, losing outright as 10-point favorites.

But the Gamecocks rebounded to beat the Pirates 33-23, outrushing EC 175-132, holding the ball for over 36 minutes. And last week South Carolina pulled a 38-35 upset over the Bulldogs, winning outright as six-point home dogs. New starting QB Dylan Thompson has completed 61 percent of his passes so far, with eight TDs and three INTs, and running backs Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds have combined to rush for 370 yards already.

They have won six of seven visits to Vandy, but the spread keeps growing (up to 22 points by Wednesday).

 

Why the Vanderbilt Commodores can cover the spread

The Commodores are 1-2 SU, 0-3 ATS as they ease their way out of the grasp of the now-departed Coach Franklin. Vandy opened with a home loss to Temple, then opened SEC play with a home loss to Ole Miss.

But the Commodores got in the win column last week with a come-from-behind victory over UMass 34-31. Vandy trailed 31-20 into the fourth quarter, but got a big play on a blocked punt and later scored with a minute to go for the first victory of the Coach Mason era.

The Commodores will go through a learning curve with the new coach and his new systems, but they're three games into that process, so they should be making some progress.

 

Smart Pick

South Carolina returned 14 starters from a team that went 11-2 last year, while Vandy only had 10 starters back from a team that went 9-4 last season. And while the Commodores kept the Gamecocks within 10 points in last year's meeting, they'll be hard-pressed to do that this week.

So the pick here is with South Carolina, minus the points.

 

Trends

  • South Carolina is 6-1 SU in its last seven games when playing on the road against Vanderbilt.
  • Vanderbilt is 6-2 SU in its last eight games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oregon Ducks vs. Washington State Cougars Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Oregon Ducks have been the moneymaking road warriors of the Pac-12 recently, going 11-2 against the spread over their last 13 conference road contests.

But they're also 0-4 ATS in their last four meetings with Washington State. The Ducks kick off their Pac-12 campaign when they take on the Cougars on Saturday night in Pullman.

 

Point spread: The Ducks opened as 19.5-point favorites at Martin Stadium, but it was 23.5 points by Wednesday with a sky-high total of 75 points, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 57.8-35.0 Ducks

 

Why the Oregon Ducks can cover the spread

The Ducks are off to a 3-0 start, beating South Dakota, Michigan State and Wyoming, scoring at least 46 points each time out. Oregon failed to, or declined to, cover big spreads against the Coyotes and Cowboys.

But in their toughest game, against the Spartans, the Ducks exploded from a nine-point third-quarter deficit to score the last 28 points of the game, covering as 14-point favorites.

Oregon racked up 491 yards of offense against the vaunted MSU defense, led by 318 yards through the air from QB Marcus Mariota. Last week, the Ducks spotted Wyoming the first TD of the game, then scored the next 41 points before taking their foot off the gas.

They tend to cover spreads on the road, as their 11-3 ATS mark indicates.

 

Why the Washington State Cougars can cover the spread

Wazzu is 1-2 both SU and ATS as it begins its third season under Coach Leach. The Cougars posted 538 yards and 38 points against Rutgers but gave up a late score to lose by a field goal. They then put up 427 yards against Nevada but couldn't turn that into enough points in a 24-13 loss.

Last week, though, WSU produced 706 yards in a 59-21 victory over Portland State, covering as 23-point favorites. The Cougars have 14 starters back from a team that went 6-7 last year, so improvement is expected. And they hung with the Ducks for a good part of last year's meeting, eventually coming away with the cover as 40-point road dogs.

 

Smart Pick

Oregon has beaten Washington State seven times in a row, by an average of 32 points per game; it's only because the Ducks have been favored by so much that they've had recent troubles covering spreads against the Cougars.

Oregon may well put up 45-50 points again Saturday night, but Washington State has enough on offense to keep this one within the spread. So the pick goes with the offensive-minded home dog, plus the points.

 

Trends

  • Oregon is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games on the road.
  • The total has gone over in seven of Washington State's last 10 games.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Betting Odds Analysis, Pick

The Oklahoma Sooners have cruised to a 3-0 record so far this season but will face a tough test on Saturday when they visit the West Virginia Mountaineers in a Big 12 battle.

The Sooners have struggled against the Mountaineers since they joined the conference, barely winning a pair of games over the past couple years and failing to cover the spread as double-digit favorites both times.

 

Point spread: The Sooners opened as 11-point favorites at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium, but bettors had pounded the line down to seven points by Wednesday, when the total was 62, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 40.4-35.1 Sooners

 

Why the Oklahoma Sooners can cover the spread

Oklahoma is a different team than the one that was lucky to come away with wins against West Virginia each of the last two years, easily covering the spread in beating Tennessee (34-10 as 21-point favorites) and Tulsa (52-7 as 24-point chalk) the past two weeks.

The Sooners need to carry that momentum forward into Morgantown, which is not an easy place to play, as they found out in a 50-49 win there two years ago.

But Oklahoma is 6-1 against the spread in its last seven games overall, 4-1 versus the line in its past five against Big 12 opponents and 5-2 ATS the last seven times as a road favorite, giving the team an edge.

 

Why the West Virginia Mountaineers can cover the spread

The Mountaineers are 3-0 ATS this season and have built some confidence in themselves since falling to Alabama 33-23 in the season opener. They are coming off a 40-37 victory at Maryland as three-point underdogs behind a monster performance from quarterback Clint Trickett, who completed 37 of 49 passes for a career-high 511 yards and four touchdowns.

The Florida State transfer has given West Virginia a boost and could definitely keep his team within the number against the Sooners for the third year in a row. The key will be Oklahoma’s defense, because if the Mountaineers can start well and score some points early on, they may even pull off the upset.

 

Smart Pick

Asking the Sooners to cover double digits for the third straight year in this series and second time at West Virginia will be a tall order. They can brag about beating an SEC team last week in Tennessee 34-10, but the Volunteers are not exactly the cream of the crop in that power conference.

The Mountaineers have to overcome a couple trends in favor of Oklahoma, as they are just 1-6 straight-up and ATS in their last seven games against Big 12 opponents and 0-3 SU and ATS in their past three at home versus conference foes.

However, this West Virginia team with Trickett under center seems different, poised to cover its fourth game in a row and quite possibly shock the Sooners.

 

Trends

  • Oklahoma is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games
  • West Virginia is 8-15-1 ATS in its last 24 games at home

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia's Defensive Issues Go Well Beyond the Secondary's Struggles

Say what you want about offensive play-calling or missed field goals, but the Georgia Bulldogs lost their conference opener to South Carolina because of obvious defensive struggles.  And though less apparent, Georgia's defensive shortcomings go well beyond poor play in the secondary.

In the tease that was the second-half effort against the Clemson Tigers in Week 1, Jeremy Pruitt coordinated a valiantly dominant game plan.  Persistent pressure on the quarterback disrupted timing and allowed defensive backs to play aggressively in coverage without getting beaten deep.  Against the run, the Dawgs were content to bend without breaking as Georgia's lead widened.  

The results—from both a visual and statistical standpoint—were staggering.

But as the team (and fans) learned against South Carolina, some of that success was fool's gold.  That formula was far less formidable against the Gamecocks.

The most glaring deficiencies were in the secondary.  Time and time again—particularly in the first half—South Carolina receivers ran free, surrounded only by open field.  As a result, quarterback Dylan Thompson torched the Bulldogs by completing 19 of 25 passes for 240 yards and three touchdown passes over the course of the game's first two quarters.

But those ugly and repeated lapses in coverage were not the isolated result of missed assignments by cornerbacks and safeties.  To the contrary, those miscues were aided and abetted by a lack of defensive pressure.  

The well-timed and oft-disguised blitzes that sent Clemson into a downward spiral were nonexistent against South Carolina.  Rushing linebackers (from either the outside or inside) crept to the line too early and exposed intent far too often before the ball was snapped.  

On several occasions, freshman defensive back Dominick Sanders arrived at the line of scrimmage so early (only to have to pause for the snap) that he looked like an undersized defensive end.  Repeated premature aggression on blitzes allowed Thompson, a fifth-year senior, to know exactly where to go before the ball was even snapped.

To the Gamecocks' credit, they boast one of the better offensive lines in the SEC, and that unit proved its worth against Georgia's front seven.  After registering nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage and five sacks against Clemson, Georgia managed just five tackles for a loss against South Carolina.  Amarlo Herrera had the Bulldogs' only sack.

But a lack of defensive pressure wasn't the only shortcoming of Georgia's defensive front.  Perhaps the most frustrating facet of the entire evening—and something very few fans are bemoaning this week—was Georgia's inability to stop the run in crucial situations.  

While Georgia (and a minor ankle injury) mostly limited star running back Mike Davis, backup Brandon Wilds burned Georgia's defense repeatedly—most often in obvious running situations.  While Wilds wasn't statistically dominant by any means, the consistency with which he picked up yardage, extended drives and helped South Carolina eat the clock or score second-half points was staggering.

In the third quarter, Wilds ran the ball five times for 33 yards in the midst of a long South Carolina touchdown drive that put the Gamecocks up 31-20.  Along the way, he picked up two first downs—both in short-yardage situations.

In the final period it was Wilds—again, not Davis, the starter—who ripped off 39 yards and a touchdown on just two carries to put South Carolina back up by 10 points.  It was Wilds who churned out 11 yards on second down to extend South Carolina's final clock-eating drive.  Wilds also picked up six yards on third down to set up Thompson's sneak for the game's final first down.

It's easy to highlight Georgia's young secondary and the passing yards surrendered as the reason for this loss, but Georgia's heralded defensive line and star linebackers couldn't stop a second-team running back and couldn't get Pruitt's unit off the field.

 

Where Does the Defense Go Now?

Prior to the South Carolina game, pointing to the youth of the 2014 season seemed like a cautionary warning.  Now, it seems like a feigned attempt at encouragement.  But the truth of the matter is the season is young.  Georgia is not out of conference contention by any means, but the defense must improve.

The good news is that Pruitt, a proven coordinator with a knack for generating midseason growth, knows there's a lot of work to be done.  According to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald, Pruitt took the blame for the disappointing effort against South Carolina.  "I put them in a situation where they didn't have a chance to be successful and that's my fault," he confessed.  

He also recognized the burden his unit placed on Mike Bobo's offense, saying, "If you score 35 points and we don't win, then we're not doing our job."

Don't expect Pruitt to continually fail to do his job competently.

The secondary will improve with repetition and further instruction from Pruitt, who is also the coach of that position group.  If that happens, and the front seven refine smaller points (like timing on blitzes) and renew an emphasis on winning the point of attack, this defense could be one of the most improved in the conference.

But keep in mind, it needs that much improvement.  That may take some time.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have gotten off to a perfect 3-0 start this season, but they will be tested for the first time on Saturday when they visit an LSU Tigers team that has beaten them 14 straight times.

LSU has covered the spread in the last four meetings between the SEC schools, including a 59-26 rout in 2013 as a seven-point road favorite.

 

Point Spread: The Tigers opened as seven-point favorites at Tiger Stadium, but the spread was bet to nearly 10 points by Wednesday. The total sits at roughly 49.5.

Odds Shark Computer Prediction: LSU 48, Mississippi State 41

 

Why the Mississippi State Bulldogs Can Cover the Spread

This is a better Mississippi State team than last year, one that has covered the spread twice in three games and is led by a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in Dak Prescott.

In last season’s meeting, Prescott rushed for 103 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries while sharing the signal-calling responsibilities with then-senior Tyler Russell.

The 6'2", 230-pound junior has thrown for more than 200 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last two games for the Bulldogs, who have covered their last four games in conference play along with seven of their past eight overall.

 

Why the LSU Tigers Can Cover the Spread

The Tigers have blanked their last two opponents by a combined score of 87-0 to improve to 3-0 against the spread this season. The latest win was 31-0 against Louisiana-Lafayette, with heralded freshman running back Leonard Fournette totaling 52 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries and one touchdown.

Fournette now has 144 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in the last two games and figures to get a heavier workload as the season progresses.

LSU is also 3-1 ATS in its last four games as a home favorite and could take advantage of Mississippi State’s recent woes away from home. The Bulldogs are just 2-6 ATS in their past eight as road underdogs.

 

Smart Pick

Mississippi State may be better, but the Tigers defense looks outstanding through three games. LSU has not surrendered one point since the 12:24 mark of the third quarter of the team’s 28-24 season-opening win against Wisconsin—a span of nearly 10 quarters.

The Bulldogs have struggled to score in their last two visits to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, scoring just three touchdowns and one field goal.

In the last meeting there, the Tigers sealed a 37-17 victory with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:13 remaining.

This is one of those rivalries where one team is in the other’s head before the first snap. Look for LSU to shut down Mississippi State again in another double-digit home win.

 

Trends:

  • The total has gone under in eight of Mississippi State's last 11 games.
  • LSU is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games when playing at home against Mississippi State.

 

All point spreads and lines courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line movement updates.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Betting Odds Analysis, Pick

The Virginia Tech Hokies will be looking to get back on track Saturday against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets after suffering a disappointing home loss to East Carolina last week.

The Hokies followed up a 35-21 road win at Ohio State two weeks ago as 10-point underdogs with a 28-21 setback against the Pirates as 10-point favorites.

The computer is picking a high-scoring game, which would be atypical of meetings between these teams.

 

Point spread: The Hokies opened as six-point favorites at Lane Stadium, but the line was eight points by Wednesday with a total of 52, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report.)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 47.5-39.5 Yellow Jackets

 

Why the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets can cover the spread

Georgia Tech is 4-2 against the spread in the last six meetings with Virginia Tech and has just the type of offense that can keep the score within a touchdown like each of the past two games between the teams. In fact, five of the last six meetings have been decided by seven points or less with the under cashing five times.

The Yellow Jackets are also off to a 3-0 start this year and should be extra motivated to start ACC play, hoping to avenge last year’s 17-10 home loss to the Hokies as seven-point favorites. Georgia Tech covered its only road game so far this season, beating Tulane 38-21 as a 7.5-point favorite in Week 2.

 

Why the Virginia Tech Hokies can cover the spread

Virginia Tech looked great in its first two games, especially beating the Buckeyes. The Hokies suffered from the infamous letdown spot against East Carolina and will not have that same problem here against a conference opponent.

Even in defeat against the Pirates, Virginia Tech showed some character in rallying back from a 21-0 deficit to tie the game with 1:20 left. East Carolina was able to attack the Hokies through the air, something the Yellow Jackets will not be able to do due to their run-heavy offensive attack. Virginia Tech has won the last four meetings while Georgia Tech is just 1-3-1 ATS in its past five road games.

 

Smart Pick

These teams have played some close games over the years, and the betting line for this matchup looks to be spot on considering the situation and past history between them. Both will run the ball and take time off the clock, which should keep scoring at a minimum.

Six of the last seven meetings have gone under the total, with five of those finishing with less than 50 points and four below 38. The under is also 4-1 in the last five ACC home games for the Hokies, who always seem to be at their best when their defense plays well.

Look for them to hold Georgia Tech in check in a low-scoring affair.

 

Trends

  • Six of the last seven meetings have gone under the total
  • Virginia Tech is 1-4 ATS in its last five games when playing at home against Georgia Tech

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

7 Missouri Stars SEC Powers Missed in the Recruiting Cycle

Missouri burst onto the scene in its second year in the SEC, posting an 11-1 regular-season record and coming within a quarter of winning the SEC title and perhaps earning a berth into the BCS National Championship Game.

This year, it's more of the same.

Missouri has jumped out to a 3-0 record using the same recipe it was successful with last year, spreading the ball around to a variety of wide receivers, punishing opponents with a diverse running game and generating pressure with a relentless pass rush.

It's been more with the X's and O's than the Jimmy's and the Joe's.

Missouri's average recruiting class rank over the last five years is 38.2, with its best class over that time being ranked 21st in the country (2010). Who are some of the stars of this Missouri team that SEC programs missed on the recruiting trail?

Our picks are in this slideshow.

Begin Slideshow

Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Alabama Crimson Tide overtook the Florida Gators in the SEC hierarchy early during the Coach Saban regime, building a recent dominance in the rivalry between the two teams by going 3-1 both straight up and against the spread in the last four meetings.

The Tide will try to keep that trend rolling when they host the Gators on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

 

Alabama vs. Florida point spread: The Crimson Tide opened as 16-point favorites at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but it was bet down to 14.5 points by Wednesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The total was 52, a number that will be easily surpassed if the computer is right in Week 4. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 45.9-25.1 Crimson Tide

 

Why the Florida Gators can cover the spread

The Gators are off to a 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS start to this season, after victories over Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. Florida blew out the Eagles 65-0, covering as 40-point chalk, but had to scramble to beat the Wildcats in triple overtime, coming up short of covering as a 17-point favorite.

The Gators outrushed Kentucky 237-81 and held the ball for almost 34 minutes, but they gave up a couple of big plays that kept the 'Cats in the game. QB Jeff Driskel, one of 14 returning starters for Florida this year, overcame a slow start to throw three touchdown passes, and WR Demarcus Robinson had a breakout game, catching 15 balls for 216 yards and two scores.

They have struggled to cover spreads lately (2-6-1 according to the college football database), but they could be due for a big rivalry performance here.

 

Why the Alabama Crimson Tide can cover the spread

The Tide is off to a 3-0 start, and the only reasons they're 0-2 ATS is that they've been favored by so much and some bad weather. Alabama beat West Virginia 33-23, but couldn't cover at -22; they then defeated Florida Atlantic 41-0, as 41-point favorites, but that game was called with eight minutes to go because of lightning, canceling all bets.

Last week 'Bama beat Southern Miss 52-12 but came up short against the spread at -47 points. Tide quarterbacks Blake Sims and Jake Coker have combined to complete 67 of 94 passes, with five touchdowns and just one interception, and RBs TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry are both averaging about six yards per carry.

 

Smart Pick

Alabama has won the last three games in this series by an average of 24 points. Also, the Tide defense has allowed a total of just 141 yards on the ground through its first three games of this season.

Alabama almost looked like it was biding its time before the SEC season began. Well, now it's here, so look out. The pick here is with the Tide, giving the points.

 

Trends

  • Florida is 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine games.
  • Alabama is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games at home but 0-5 ATS in its last five games overall.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Why Jameis Winston Isn't the Key to Victory vs. Clemson

The Florida State Seminoles take on the Clemson Tigers in Tallahassee, Florida.

Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down the Tigers offense facing the high-powered Seminoles defense. 

Can Florida State solidify its position as the top team in college football?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Clemson Tigers vs. Florida State Seminoles Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The defending national champion Florida State Seminoles had trouble with the Clemson Tigers before last year and will try to win their 19th straight game overall when they meet again in this key ACC matchup Saturday.

The Seminoles are coming off a bye week and failed to cover in each of their first two games this season, while Clemson was also off after splitting its first two both straight up and against the spread.

 

Point spread: The Seminoles opened as 20.5-point favorites at Doak Campbell Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The total was 63.5 midweek (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 49.9-29 Seminoles

 

Why the Clemson Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers had covered the previous four meetings with Florida State before last season’s 51-14 blowout loss, winning two of them straight up. After suffering a 45-21 loss to Georgia in the season opener as a 9.5-point underdog, Clemson turned in a dominant offensive effort in a 73-7 rout of South Carolina State before the bye, outgaining the Bulldogs by a 735-44 margin.

Quarterbacks Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson combined for 456 passing yards and four touchdowns for the Tigers in that game, while freshman wide receiver Artavis Scott scored twice on six receptions for 164 yards. That tuneup could give Clemson enough confidence to hang with the Seminoles despite their 1-8 straight-up run at FSU.

 

Why the Florida State Seminoles can cover the spread

While Florida State has failed to cover in both games so far this year, this is a conference game with a lot more on the line. The Seminoles went 6-2 against the spread in ACC play last season and really turned it on after their first off week a year ago, outscoring their next two opponents 116-13.

There’s no question this is one of the most talented teams in the country yet again; it’s just a matter of motivation, especially as the defending national and conference champs. Last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Jameis Winston, is coming off a sharp performance in a 37-12 win over The Citadel in Week 2, throwing for 256 yards and two touchdowns in less than a full game.

Winston erupted for 444 yards and four total touchdowns in last year’s meeting with the Tigers to outshine Clemson QB Tajh Boyd in a showcase game for both players that definitely helped fuel his Heisman campaign.

 

Smart Pick

With the point spread opening at nearly three touchdowns, it will be interesting to see if the line grows in the Seminoles’ favor. The Tigers are clearly not the same team they were last year, with a lot of younger players replacing upperclassmen who are no longer there.

Stoudt played in the last meeting for Clemson, while Watson—a former 5-star recruit, per Rivals.com—is viewed as the top QB prospect in the nation. Florida State is not the same either, and that showed in the team’s season opener against Oklahoma State. The Seminoles won 37-31 but failed to cover a similar spread at minus-18.

The Tigers are a better team than the Cowboys and should be able to stay within a couple of scores.

 

Trends

  • Clemson is 1-8 SU in its last nine games when playing on the road against Florida State.
  • Florida State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games when playing Clemson.

 

Note: All point-spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line-move updates, and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Bowling Green Falcons vs. Wisconsin Badgers Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Wisconsin Badgers return from their bye week hoping to break a five-game skid against the spread when they host the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday.

The Badgers rebounded from a 28-24 loss to LSU in their season opener by routing Western Illinois 37-3 before their bye, but it still was not enough to beat the 41.5-point line, as they fell to 0-2 against the spread this year and 0-5 versus the number dating back to last year.

The line has skyrocketed 10 points since opening at 17 points on Sunday.

 

Point spread

The Badgers opened as 17-point favorites at Camp Randall Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, but the spread has soared to 27 points. The total was 64 midweek (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 46.7-29.5 Badgers

 

Why the Bowling Green Falcons can cover the spread

The Falcons have also bounced back from a loss in their season opener, knocking off VMI and Indiana at home in their last two games and covering the spread both times. The victory against the Hoosiers was especially big considering the road team closed as an 8.5-point favorite yet lost 45-42 on a game-winning touchdown pass from quarterback James Knapke to wide receiver Roger Lewis with nine seconds remaining.

Lewis finished with 16 catches for 149 yards, while Knapke completed 46 of 73 passes for 395 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in his second career start to help Bowling Green beat a Big Ten team for the first time since 2007.

 

Why the Wisconsin Badgers can cover the spread

Wisconsin is 3-0 straight up and against the spread in the last three meetings with the Falcons and showed marked improvement on both sides of the ball from the loss to the Tigers in Week 1 to the team’s first win seven days later.

The Badgers even got a little lucky against the Leathernecks in Week 2 when they scored a safety to open the game on a botched kickoff.

They piled on five more touchdowns after that and outgained Western Illinois 456-162 in total yardage but still fell shy of covering the 41.5-point line. The spread this week against Bowling Green is far more manageable, and Wisconsin has averaged more than 43 points in the past three games between the teams.

Wisconsin usually wins at home and has covered six of eight spreads going back to last season here, according to the Odds Shark NCAA football database.

 

Smart Pick

The odds are slim that Bowling Green will beat a Big Ten team for the second consecutive week, especially playing on the road against a much better opponent this time.

The Falcons had the luxury of playing at home last week against Indiana, and that furious finish to beat the Hoosiers took a lot out of them down the stretch.

There were eight lead changes in the second half of that game alone, and Bowling Green will be hard-pressed to come up with another strong effort when it visits Camp Randall Stadium for the first time since 2005.

The Badgers had the week off to study their opponent and prepare for a two-game stretch at home against nonconference foes before they start Big Ten play.

Watch for them to win this one big against the Falcons and cover the spread for the first time this year.

 

Trends

  • Bowling Green is 7-2 straight up in its last nine games.
  • Wisconsin is 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in its last eight games at home.

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Breaking Down J.T. Barrett's Breakout Game vs. Kent State

J.T. Barrett was just seven days removed from an embarrassing and inefficient performance against Virginia Tech when he bounced back and etched his name in Ohio State's history book.

It was a quick turnaround for the redshirt freshman, who was harassed and overwhelmed by a stingy Hokies defense. Barrett connected on just nine of his 29 passes against Virginia Tech, throwing three interceptions while being sacked seven times.

But the young signal-caller showcased a short memory in his brilliant performance against Kent State. Much of that is a result of the Golden Flashes defense, which was overmatched greatly by the Buckeyes at every level. But Barrett, making his third collegiate start, did something that Terrelle Pryor, Braxton Miller or even Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith never accomplished.

Here's a breakdown of Barrett's record-tying day against Kent State.

 

Productive, Accurate and Efficient 

Barrett dissected the Golden Flashes defense, completing 23-of-30 passes for 312 yards and six touchdowns. His lone blemish of the day, a first-quarter interception near Kent State's goal line, happened when a perfectly placed pass bounced off Michael Thomas' chest and directly into the hands of a defender.

Barrett's six touchdown passes tied Ohio State's single-game record, which was set last year by Kenny Guiton against Florida A&M. He accomplished this in about 35 minutes of game action, as Meyer pulled most of the starters midway through the third quarter.

Of course, padding stats against an undersized and inferior opponent should be expected, not newsworthy. 

The growth Barrett showcased last Saturday, however, is a big development. 

 

Schematics, Reads and Execution

Virginia Tech was able to shut down Ohio State's offense with a unique defensive look that featured a Bear front and a Cover 0 scheme in the back end. The Buckeyes offensive line struggled to block the pass-rushers, and the receivers failed to make plays

With Virginia Tech's success, it was safe to surmise that future Ohio State opponents would adopt the same strategy.

It only took a week for that to come true as Kent State started the game in Virginia Tech's defensive formation. But the Buckeyes had seen it, and over the course of the week, the coaching staff had figured out ways to beat it.

Unprepared against the Hokies, Ohio State launched dozens of deep balls in the hopes that its receivers would make a play. A week later, they drew up plays like this one to take advantage of the aggressive defense.

Here's the front that Ohio State had so much trouble with against the Hokies. With a defensive tackle lined up directly over the center and four other pass-rushers, each offensive linemen had a body to block. 

This presents one-on-one matchups for the receivers. But instead of looking deep, the Buckeyes created action at the line of scrimmage.

The two receivers at the top of the screen are running routes to get one man open. The corner playing press coverage should be covering Michael Thomas, but a rub route from Jalin Marshall—who bumps the defender—gives Thomas the space he needs.

Barrett found Thomas over the middle, who waltzed easily into the end zone for a 14-yard score.

That was the first of Barrett's six touchdown passes. Throughout the afternoon, Ohio State's offense line had no trouble blocking Kent State's defensive front. With that time, Barrett showed that he could read the field and be a devastatingly effective quarterback.

And that will be the key for Ohio State moving forward. If Ohio State's revamped offensive line can come together and protect the quarterback—and the coaching staff continues to enhance the playbook—Barrett could lead the Buckeyes to a special season. 

 

All stats via OhioStateBuckeyes.com. 

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Auburn Tigers vs. Kansas State Wildcats Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Auburn Tigers are 4-0 against the spread in their last four road games and have rewarded their financial backers in 13 straight games, while the Kansas State Wildcats are 0-3 ATS in their last three home games.

So the Tigers will try to extend an epic winning trend to 14 games, while the Wildcats will try to buck a losing one in this SEC-Big 12 cat fight in Manhattan on Thursday night.

 

Point spread: The Tigers opened as 6.5-point favorites at Snyder Family Stadium, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and matchup report).

 

Odds Shark computer prediction: 46.0-33.5 Tigers

 

Why the Auburn Tigers can cover the spread

The Tigers are 2-0 both straight up and ATS, after beating Arkansas 45-21 and San Jose State 59-13. Auburn has picked up where it left off last year, racking up 595 yards against the Razorbacks and exploding for the cover as 17-point favorites, then putting up 38 points by halftime on its way to the cover as 33-point chalk over the Spartans.

The Tigers, who began the season with eight starters back on offense, including senior quarterback Nick Marshall and four along the offensive line, have averaged 330 yards on the ground through their first two games. Auburn has also showed it can play a little defense when it held Arkansas scoreless in the second half.

All Auburn does is cover the spread, and their 13-0 ATS run combined with a manageable point spread makes them an intriguing pick.

 

Why the Kansas State Wildcats can cover the spread

The Wildcats are 2-0 SU but 0-2 ATS after wins over Stephen F. Austin and Iowa State. Kansas State dominated its opener with the Lumberjacks, outrushing them 240-69, holding the ball for almost 38 minutes. The only reason the Cats didn't cover that spread is because they were favored by so much, at -41.

Kansas State then won in Ames 32-28, outgaining the Cyclones 471-319 and outrushing them 232-105. But the Wildcats gave up a score on a punt return and went 0-for-2 on two-point conversions. Take away the punt return and make one of those conversions, and Kansas State covers.

The Wildcats are not listed as a home dog too often, but when they are they're dangerous, covering four of their last five games in that spot.

 

Smart Pick

Auburn is 14-2 both SU and ATS under head coach Gus Malzahn, but this is a tough matchup, going on the non-conference road to play a team that will be well-coached and capable of almost anything.

So while the Tigers might have the edge in talent, circumstances dictate to pick the home dog for Thursday night.

 

Trends

  • Auburn is a perfect 13-0 ATS over its last 13 games.
  • Kansas State is 15-8 ATS in its last 23 games at home.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Is Auburn's Secondary Ready for the Major Challenges Ahead?

AUBURN, Ala. — Just two weeks ago, San Jose State’s Tyler Winston entered Jordan-Hare Stadium as one of the top receivers in the country.

It took just one half for the Tigers to clamp down on him.

"I thought [the defensive backs] responded well, that group had a big quarterback with a strong arm and a couple of receivers that could flat-out play," Malzahn said after the 59-13 victory. "We were a little worried about some of the screens, but I thought we did a solid job with that."

Auburn's secondary aced the test with Winston by holding him to just three receiving yards in the second half as the entire defense kept a second straight opponent out of the end zone after halftime.

However, that's just one of many tests for the defensive backs, who will face several of college football's best receivers in 2014.

Are Auburn's defensive backs, who have been one of the team's weaker units over the last few years, ready for the challenges ahead?

Just ask senior cornerback Trovon Reed. In just two competitive games since moving from wide receiver in the offseason, Reed is showing major confidence in his and his teammates' abilities.

"We can go out there and show everybody that we can compete with the best," senior cornerback Trovon Reed said. "Put anybody out there. We're going to have to go against the best receivers in the country. We're ready."

They'll have to be ready in a hurry.

After a bye week, Auburn will face Kansas State and senior wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who finished 11th in the nation last season with 105.2 yards per game.

Quick and agile with several dangerous moves in the open field, Lockett causes matchup problems all over the field for the Wildcats' opponents.

Lockett doesn't line up in a certain spot each play, so any one of the defensive backs could end up covering him Thursday night in Manhattan, Kan.

"You can't always matchup onto him with who you want, and you can't necessarily put a designed defense on him," defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. "You start double-covering him, that leaves all those quarterback lead runs open. That's what is such a big challenge with him. They're going to run the quarterback with the lead blocker, and when they do that, base defenses don't have enough people on that chalkboard to make the plays."

The 5'11", 190-pound Lockett presents a unique challenge for the Auburn secondary, who had a lot of experience in covering bigger receivers such as former Texas A&M star Mike Evans and former Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

While Winston, Alabama's Amari Cooper and Ole Miss' Cody Core—an Auburn native—are taller targets similar Evans and Green-Beckham, Lockett will challenge the Tigers defensive backs as a smaller, speedier threat.

As the team's top receiver and veteran quarterback Jake Waters' favorite target, Lockett runs a lot of quick routes where his physical gifts can be put on full display.

"If you're going to line up and play him one-on-one with nobody over the top, well, he's a really good athlete," Johnson said. "Their routes are designed to take advantage of that—a lot of stop-and-gos, lot of hitches, lot of fades—things you normally run against corners who don't have any help."

The Auburn secondary has definitely shown signs of improvement through the first two games of the season thanks to strong second-half performances. The unit has already recorded four interceptions, with senior leader Jermaine Whitehead grabbing one in each contest.

"He’s improved a whole lot," said sophomore safety Johnathan Ford, who had an interception against San Jose State. "I’ve learned a lot from him and his game. He’s improved a lot, so it’s great to play next to Jermaine."

Johnson said he has been impressed with his cornerbacks, the ones who will get the tough task of covering Lockett and several of the star receivers down the road for Auburn.

Senior Jonathon Mincy has locked down a starting spot after missing the first drive of the season opener against Arkansas because of his summer drug arrest.

Junior Josh Holsey and Reed have shown some weaknesses in giving up a few big plays through the air, but they also have done well in the rotation by providing run support and stopping short screen passes.

"Mincy has probably played the best of all of them, and should as the most experienced," Johnson said. "Trovon had a couple of mistakes. For a player that hasn't played there much, that'd be expected...but I thought he made two really nice plays. He seems to get a little more comfortable each week."

The secondary's performance against a pass-heavier team in San Jose State and top target Winston was impressive, but the first major challenge will come against Kansas State and Lockett.

A great game against another great receiver could set the tone for the rest of the season and change the perception of the secondary, which has been the subject of criticism for several seasons running.

Reed says the defensive backs are ready to answer that challenge.

"We know they want to beat us as bad as we want to beat them," Reed said. "We can’t go out there and lay an egg. We’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder, and we’re just going to play Auburn football."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports. All stats courtesy of CFBStats.com.

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Pages