NCAA Football News

College Football Rankings 2014: Week 4 AP and Amway Standings Revealed

Not many upsets were on the forecast for Saturday's slate of games, but that all changed when said games were played. A handful of surprising outcomes shook up the Week 4 Associated Press and Amway coaches polls that were released Sunday.

Week 3 only featured one game between two Top 25 teams, as No. 24 South Carolina hosted sixth-ranked Georgia and mounted the upset over the Bulldogs. But that doesn't mean that the rest of them were safe—a few were anything but.

With unpredictable upsets on one hand, and touted schools taking care of tests elsewhere, the Top 25 jostled around again in a big way.

Here's a look at the new Week 4 Amway poll courtesy of USA Today, the newest AP poll per The Associated Press and the Week 4 Bleacher Report Top 25. 

 

The biggest loser from the new Top 25 has to be the Georgia Bulldogs.

A convincing, season-opening win over Clemson was all washed away with a trip to the SEC East-rival South Carolina Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier's crew took a 24-13 lead into the locker room and rose up with a late goal-line stand to help seal the victory.

Georgia has never posted back-to-back wins over ranked teams to start the season, and failing to do so in 2014 has made it an uphill climb to get back into College Football Playoff contention. The Bulldogs fell to No. 14 in the Amway rankings. 

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks—who know all about discouraging defeats after a season-opening loss to Texas A&M—shot back up the rankings. It's safe to say they were tired of hearing about their fellow SEC East contenders, per Josh Kendall of The State (Columbia, South Carolina):

The Gamecocks had fallen all the way to No. 24 in Week 3 after escaping East Carolina but have nearly pulled ahead of previously No. 6 Georgia in Week 4. 

Speaking of East Carolina, the Pirates got in on the action Saturday by surprising Virginia Tech. The formerly 17th-ranked Hokies were upset at home 28-21, forcing them to plummet out of the Top 25 altogether.

The Pirates notched 35 top-25 votes in the coaches poll, good for 33rd overall, and could sneak closer by beating North Carolina at home next weekend. 

The upsets continued with the previously 21st-ranked Louisville Cardinals falling to Virginia, which slipped Bobby Petrino's team out of the Top 25 after a brief two-week stay. 

The USC Trojans know something about a deflating upset. After climbing up to No. 9 coming off a road win over Stanford, the Trojans headed east to face Boston College and fell in a 37-31 affair.

The Trojans were in the Top 10 in all three aforementioned polls last weekend but now fell to No. 17 in the AP and all the way to No. 21 in the coaches poll. 

The Oregon Ducks, on the other hand, continue to prove why they can't be overlooked as one of the top teams in the standings. Marcus Mariota led the Ducks to a 48-14 win over Wyoming, allowing them to slide into No. 3 in the Amway poll and remain No. 2 in the AP.

Alabama took care of things once again at home Saturday, toppling Southern Miss 52-12 behind a big day from quarterback Blake Sims and another huge day from Amari Cooper, as ESPN SportsCenter noted:

The win allowed the Crimson Tide to remain No. 2 overall in the Amway poll, but they couldn't climb past Oregon in the AP and will look to make a statement next weekend against Florida.

It's no surprise that all of them are still looking up at Florida State. The Seminoles were on a bye this weekend but face Clemson on Sept. 20, and a big win there will further validate their No. 1 spot for the defending champs.

Analyzing the Week 4 standings too much can be counterproductive with so many games on tap in upcoming weekends that will shake things up even more. The only guarantee is change, and that is being proven in 2014 yet again.

Whether it's USC slipping up after a big upset of Stanford, Virginia Tech losing following the Ohio State win or South Carolina bouncing back to beat Georgia after their early-season shortcomings, early signs for many teams have been up-and-down. 

If those trends continue, we could be in for one of the craziest college football seasons yet—and that's saying something.

 

Stats via ESPN

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College Football Playoff 2014: Updated Outlook After Release of Week 4 Rankings

There was a whole lot of offense in Week 3 of the 2014 college football season.

Ohio State dropped 66 points on Kent State in a shutout. Baylor notched 63 against Buffalo. Alabama torched the Southern Miss defense for 52. And those results were just the tip of the iceberg.

Ranked teams were largely successful in Week 3. Georgia, USC, Virginia Tech and Louisville were unable to beat their opponents, though the Bulldogs loss came at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

With Week 3 now in the books, it's time to look ahead to Week 4. The college football season is in full swing. While the standings will continue to shift week to week, each passing game day will bring more clarity to the playoff picture.

Below are the updated rankings after Week 3.

 

Outlook

The Florida State Seminoles weren't in action during Week 3, but that doesn't mean they need to be bumped from the top spot. There's plenty of reason to love this squad just as much as last year's national championship team.

Jameis Winston is a Heisman candidate, and the offense has looked solid through two games—granted, Oklahoma State and Citadel aren't exactly the cream of the crop of college football.

Another Heisman candidate, Marcus Mariota, put on an absolute show on Saturday. The Oregon Ducks signal-caller completed 19-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns against Wyoming. He also ran five times for 71 yards and another two scores.

Mariota drew rave reviews from Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, who spoke to reporters after the game.

"I don't know if anyone in this room has a vote for the Heisman Trophy, but I encourage you to take a look at your ballot there for [this] quarterback. He's a tremendous player and I thought he played extremely well."

Oregon's fast start to this season is reminiscent of its dominant stretch to start last year. Beating up on South Dakota and Wyoming isn't all that impressive, but dropping 46 points on a stellar Michigan State defense is noteworthy.  

It's worth considering that all three of Oregon's wins have come at home. It'll be interesting to see if the Ducks can keep this blistering pace up when they hit the road in Week 4 against Washington State.

The Alabama Crimson Tide were dominant on both offense and defense against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The defense allowed just three points in each quarter, stifling Southern Miss's offense and holding it to just 263 total yards.

Their offense more than doubled that mark (547). Quarterback Blake Sims was 12-of-17 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. It was a pretty pedestrian performance, as the running game took center stage. 

Eight rushers, including Sims, combined for 333 yards. Derrick Henry led the way with 73 yards, but Kenyan Drake totaled three touchdowns on his nine carries (59 yards).

In this offense's first season without AJ McCarron, the running game has really stepped up. This will keep the Crimson Tide in contention for the playoffs and 2014 title.

Week 4 presents fans of college football with incredible matchups. Auburn and Kansas State kick off the week on Thursday night, while Clemson and Florida State square off in one of the final games on Saturday.

The rankings could see a significant shakeup following the results of Week 4.

 

Follow Kenny DeJohn on Twitter: @KennyDeJohn_BR

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The SEC East Favorite Might Not Be Georgia or South Carolina Anymore

Do you hear that noise coming from the "Show Me State?"

That's the defending SEC East champion Missouri Tigers cruising right along, doing exactly what they were doing last year when they finished the regular season with one SEC loss and played Auburn tough in the SEC Championship Game.

With South Carolina and Georgia—the two preseason favorites in the division—each having conference losses, and Florida looking less-than-impressive against Kentucky, is it time to start thinking about Missouri as the SEC East favorite?

Yep, and it has more to do with how the Tigers are playing than anything else.

Missouri topped UCF 38-10 on Saturday afternoon to run its record to 3-0 and has looked very impressive in the process. 

Maty Mauk completed just 51.1 percent of his passes last season as a backup and fill-in starter with three wide receivers who resembled NBA power forwards. All three of those players left after the 2013 season, and all Mauk has done is complete 62.3 percent of his passes (48-of-77) for 647 yards, an SEC-best 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions, while adding 83 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The best is yet to come.

“Wait until he gets good," head coach Gary Pinkel said after the game, according to Missouri's quotes. "There are a lot of things out there that he can do to improve and he knows that. He’s a great, gamey player, he can make plays, he does those things and he’s got some players making some plays for him. But he can get considerably better.”

That's scary. 

Part of the reason Mauk has been successful early on has been the connection he has established with wide receiver Bud Sasser.

The senior has a team-high 12 catches for 215 yards and four touchdowns, leading a talented wide receiving corps that includes Darius White and Jimmie Hunt. All three of Mauk's primary targets have double-digit receptions and have helped him transition into the role as a full-time starter.

No Henry Josey? No problem.

Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have picked up right where Josey left off on the ground. Hansbrough is averaging 86 yards per game through three games, and Murphy is adding 68 himself as more of a changeup, home-run hitter.

Both of those players were banged-up in the win over UCF, but according to Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, they should return quickly.

Defensively, it's the same recipe as last year.

Markus Golden and Shane Ray are tied for second in the SEC with four sacks each, and Ray leads the conference with 7.5 tackles for loss. They're generating pressure with four, and then capitalizing with a conference-best nine turnovers gained and four fumble recoveries.

“Each week me and Marcus just go out and try to play to the best of our abilities, make as many plays as we can," Ray said in postgame quotes released by Missouri. "Just play how we are expected to play by [defensive coordinator] coach [Dave] Steckel, run to the ball and be physical. It doesn’t really matter if Marcus is in the spotlight or I’m in the spotlight as long as we are doing what we are supposed to do as a defense.”

This is the same Missouri team that was picked to finish fourth in the division at SEC Media Days. 

Pinkel doesn't care, he just goes about his business playing "Missouri football."

"I don't get into what is said or what's predicted," he said at SEC Media Days in July. "Someone apologized to me a little while ago the way they voted after this thing. I said, I don't know how you voted for us, I don't really care."

In an SEC East, why not Missouri?

Because the Tigers haven't played anybody?

UCF isn't exactly a "nobody," but that argument can certainly be made to a point. It'd be cancelled out, though, by the ability of Missouri to play the same old brand of football it was successful with last season with several new pieces in place of last year's stars.

It's about to get tricky, though.

After hosting Indiana this week, the Tigers visit South Carolina, get a needed bye week, host Georgia and visit Florida. By the end of October, we're going to know full-well if Missouri is a contender or pretender.

So far they've looked like a contender while flying under the radar. Which is, not surprisingly, the same path Missouri took early last year during its run to the SEC East title.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays, 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Amway College Football Poll 2014: Complete Week 4 Rankings Released

Even in a week without many big-time showdowns, the college football slate provided plenty of surprises.

There was only one game in Week 3 between Top 25 opponents as South Carolina pulled out a win over Georgia. However, four ranked teams went down in total this weekend, including two in the Top 10. None of them was more surprising than USC's loss to Boston College.  

This has caused a relatively notable shift in the rankings heading into Week 4. Here is a full look at the latest Amway Coaches Poll from USA Today, along with Bleacher Report's Top 25.

Arguably the best battle of the past week went to the SEC as South Carolina came through with a narrow 38-35 win over Georgia.

This was an exciting game that featured huge performances from Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson and Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley, but after all the scoring it came down to a quarterback sneak in the middle of the field.

Holding a three-point lead in the closing minutes, South Carolina went for it on fourth down with Thompson running it up the middle. After the spot was placed, the call was a first down by this much:

ESPN's Michele Steele interviewed head coach Steve Spurrier about the decision to go for it after the game:

His team dropped in the rankings after a Week 1 loss to Texas A&M, but this latest win puts it right back in the discussion for the best teams in the SEC East. South Carolina moved up to No. 16 in the latest rankings while Georgia fell to No. 14 as a playoff berth now seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, USC is also trending downward after a shocking loss at the hands of Boston College. The Pac-12 team was coming off a huge win over Stanford and was once again looking like a national title contender. However, this no longer appears to be the case after a classic letdown game.

Boston College rushed for 452 yards and five touchdowns, including 191 yards on the ground by quarterback Tyler Murphy on just 13 attempts. The Trojans defense simply had no answer for the rushing attack and fell 37-31.

Eagles coach Steve Addazio explained it all by saying, "We out-desired them," via Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.

USC fell to No. 21 in the latest poll, but more importantly might have taken itself out of the national title picture. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead provides an updated look at the College Football Playoff:

While there is clearly a lot of time left in the season, these types of disappointing losses end up becoming huge down the line.

Week 3 also featured a letdown performance from Virginia Tech, which lost at home to East Carolina after defeating Ohio State a week earlier. Louisville also fell from the rankings after a loss to Virginia. 

The good news is the top teams remained undefeated as Oregon, Alabama and Oklahoma took care of business against unranked opponents.

UCLA also had a notable win over Texas after starting quarterback Brett Hundley was injured early, as Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com reported. While Jerry Neuheisel helped the Bruins improve to 3-0 with a 20-17 victory, they will certainly hope Hundley is able to return soon.

The action continues to pick up next week as No. 1 Florida State welcomes its first real test of the season in No. 24 Clemson. The Seminoles embarrassed the Tigers 51-14 last season, but this is a new year and there is always the chance at revenge.

Auburn also takes on Kansas State in an intriguing non-conference game, while Oklahoma has a potentially tricky road battle in West Virginia.

In a sport where one bad game can ruin your season, there will be plenty to watch in the coming week.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.

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Everett Golson's Ability to Carry Notre Dame Is Key Difference in 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — On a night when Notre Dame football quarterback Everett Golson wasn’t at his best, he showed how far he has come.

A quick glance at Golson’s stat line tells one story. He completed a career-high 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for a team-best 56 yards and a score. He didn’t turn the ball over.

A conversation with Golson and Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly tells another.

“Offensively, missed opportunities for the most part,” Kelly said after Notre Dame’s 30-14 win over Purdue in the Shamrock Series at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We needed to play better. Everett is going to get a lot of the blame. Obviously, he's the quarterback. He'll tell you he needs to play better.”

While Kelly went on to say it’s the entire offense that needs to improve—from the offensive line to the wide receivers to the running backs—Golson agreed he wasn’t at his best.

“We didn’t play to the best of our abilities,” Golson said. “There’s still things that we have to correct. We have to execute better obviously. We have to communicate better.”

But with the Irish defense lethargic in the first half and the rushing attack anemic throughout the contest, Golson proved he could carry the team. And that was one major difference in an otherwise standard Purdue-Notre Dame matchup of recent years—when the Irish play a little below the expectation and the Boilermakers rise above. Golson, however, made sure the meeting point wasn’t all that central in the end.

After Notre Dame fell behind for the first time this season with three minutes to play in the second quarter, Golson went to work. He maneuvered the offense in slow, choppy bits—eight yards here, seven there, five here and six more there—before Notre Dame burned a timeout with 51 seconds remaining in the half. With an empty backfield, Golson fired a 32-yard strike to Corey Robinson over the top of the Purdue defense. Two plays later, Golson ran 15 yards around the right side to put the Irish ahead 17-14, a lead they would never relinquish.

It was sometime right around then—Golson and his teammates didn’t remember the exact moment—that the senior leader called the offense together.

“He just said, look guys, we need to focus,” Robinson said. “I know we’re going through some really tough adversity right now. It’s not going our way, but we’ve got to pull together—not for anyone else, just for us. We put too much work in for us not to succeed.”

With the defense holding stronger in the second half, Golson started moving the chains as the offense looked to pull away. He converted four of five third downs through the air on the first two drives in the second half. With relative ease, Golson made the right reads, and Notre Dame kept driving. The Irish soon padded their lead and rolled to the victory.

It wasn’t a perfect Golson on display Saturday—and it was only Purdue—but it was a different Golson from his redshirt freshman season in 2012.

“He just understands the game,” Kelly said. “The game is slower for him than it was when he was here in his first year. The game has slowed down. He sees the field better.”

And it adds up to a much-improved Golson and a much-improved Irish offense. Despite the first-half stupor, Golson is good enough to key a Notre Dame victory—even when he doesn’t play exceptionally well.

“I had confidence through it all,” Golson said. “For me there never was a point … that I thought we were going to lose.”

If Golson keeps developing quickly, Irish fans could start feeling the same way.

 

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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

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Tyrone Swoopes Silver Lining in Horns' Missed Opportunity vs. UCLA

Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes put the Longhorns in a prime position to upset No. 12 UCLA Saturday night. 

The sophomore quarterback led the team on a 10 play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown to take a 17-13 lead with little more than five minutes left of the game clock.

The defense then seemed to have sealed the deal after forcing a fumble and giving the offense the ball just a minute later.

But questionable play-calling and a no-huddle offense in the final minutes caused the Longhorns to go three-and-out, which ultimately cost the team from upsetting the Bruins.

Texas will enter conference play with a losing record for a second consecutive season, but Saturday night's loss was not all bad.

In fact, the Longhorns showed it was not going to lie down after the embarrassing the loss to BYU in Week 2.

One of the brighter moments against the Bruins came from Swoopes.

In only his second career start, Swoopes managed the game plan in superb fashion, and he did not give up any turnovers to the Bruins.

He completed 24-of-34 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns in the 20-17 loss.

"I felt a lot more comfortable. I played last week and with that I built confidence," Swoopes said. "I thought I played well, but at the end, it is not about me. We still didn't win, so we have to build confidence off this and try to get the win next time."

The quarterback has two weeks to build his confidence, which will also help the offense throw more of the playbook in his direction.

Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has been conservative in his play-calling with Swoopes under center. But it's not because he doesn't have faith in the young quarterback, rather because Swoopes has not had enough time to learn the entire playbook in such a short period.

And the lack of veteran offensive linemen around him has made the coach hold back from throwing everything at him. Watson commented:

Ty is really moving a lot faster than I thought. He's playing very confident football right now. We just need to get all the tools around him. I like that our receivers are starting to come around with him. I like what's happening with that aspect of our game. Once we can get back at full speed, it will be interesting to see how far he can go because I think he's really an exceptional player.

The Longhorns have yet to test Swoopes' arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball.

But having a bye week could be exactly what the team needs.

The Longhorns still have two suspended offensive linemen in Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison. If the team can get those guys back in the mix, it could give the young quarterback the protection he needs to throw down the field.

Texas fans will have to wait until Sept. 27 to see if Swoopes can continue his growth against conference opponents, but his performance Saturday night was a step in the right direction.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

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

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NCAA Football Playoff 2014: Latest Predictions After Week 3 Standings

With just under a month of college football action already in the books, it's time to take a look at which four teams look worthy of featuring the the NCAA's inaugural college football playoff at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Florida State got the week off, but one less playoff audition at this point in the season doesn't preclude them from the playoff conversation.

Let's take a look at the four teams that appear to be playoff bound after three weeks of college football.

 

NCAA Playoff Predictions

Florida State

Florida State is here by virtue of their 18 straight wins and status as defending national champions. It's hard to see this talented squad continuing to underwhelm and missing out on a shot at another title.

In order to make good on their talent and reputation, they will need to use Week 3 as a rare early-season opportunity to get players healthy.

According to ESPN.com's Jared Shanker, Seminoles defensive tackles Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Justin Shanks all suffered lower leg injuries in the first half of the team's win over The Citadel.

"When you play these kinds of teams, they're constantly cutting those knees and ankles," Fisher said, via Shanker.

A depleted front line could put Florida State's repeat title hopes in jeopardy, especially with a game against No. 23-ranked Clemson coming up on Sept. 20. It's a tough contest, but it's one the Seminoles should win. There is no reason as of yet to doubt this team's ability to reach the College Football Playoff.

 

Alabama

No. 3 Alabama once again features a dominant rushing attack and superb defense in 2014. What makes this year so special is the talent overflowing in the Alabama backfield.

The three-headed hydra of T.J. Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry look set to punish front sevens for the remainder of the college season. Head coach Nick Saban really can't lose with his cadre of halfbacks. Should one player get injured, he will still have a dynamic duo to rely on.

Even freshman Tyren Jones has done well when thrown into the mix. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored a touchdown against Southern Miss. ESPN producer Phil Savage came up with a historic comparison for all the running talent on display:

It often seems that all fifth-year senior quarterback Blake Sims has to do is avoid mistakes and get out of the way. (Note: Sims is also great at running the football. This team can't lose in the rushing department.) This isn't a glamorous recipe for success, but it won't matter to 'Bama fans if it gets the Tide into the playoffs.

It's a tough road ahead for the Crimson Tide, with four current top-25 ranked teams on the slate in the coming weeks. If they can navigate this tough schedule, Saban and his charges will book a trip to the playoffs in Arlington, Texas and have a shot at continuing their dynasty.

 

Oregon

No. 2 Oregon appears to be in prime position to roll to a Pac-12 Championship. Both USC and Stanford already have losses on their records in the early going, while the UCLA Bruins haven't looked like worthy challengers in the early goings of this season, although they are still undefeated.

Simply put, the Oregon offense will blow away any and all comers this season with quarterback Marcus Mariota at the helm. The junior passer has racked up 11 total touchdowns (eight passing, three rushing) through three games this season.

He also continues to provide weekly feats of astonishing athleticism.

SportsCenter showed off his incredible dive and flip into the end zone against Wyoming in Week 3:

The Oregon defense isn't without merit, especially with stars like cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu lurking in the secondary. Safety Erick Dargan also acquitted himself well against the Cowboys, snagging two interceptions in that contest.

Oregon officially put the other national title contenders on notice when they hung 46 points on then-No. 7 Michigan State in Week 2. 

If the Ducks can rack up that many points against the vaunted Spartans defense, while also showing the requisite grit and determination in coming from behind to win in that contest, they should have very little problem blazing a path to the NCAA playoffs.

 

Baylor

They haven't faced a program of note yet, but the No. 8 Baylor Bears offense looks to be comprised of several world-class athletes running a system to near perfection. 

The team has averaged 59.3 points throughout their first three games this season. The defense, when it's on the field, has done a fine job of stifling opponents and getting the ball back in the hands of well, whoever happens to be playing quarterback on that particular drive.

Bryce Petty was great against SMU in Week 1 and phenomenal in Week 3 against Buffalo, passing for 416 yards and four touchdowns in the latter contest.

Petty didn't play in Week 2 due to cracked bones in his back that head coach Art Briles wanted to let heal, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), but the offense didn't skip a beat.

Backup signal-caller Seth Perry merely stepped in and threw five first-half touchdowns against the Northwestern State Demons.

Usually a top-ranked team doesn't have to shuffle quarterbacks so early in the season. The fact that the Bears have made it a painless process up to this point is a testament to the organizational ability of Briles.

The Bears biggest test will come on Nov. 8 against No. 4 Oklahoma. That game could very well decide which of these two teams makes the playoffs, providing they are both still undefeated at that point in time. 

A Baylor-Oregon matchup in the playoffs, whether it's the final or a semifinal, would be a neutral fan's dream come true and a can't-miss sporting event.

 

All rankings updated as of September 13 and courtesy of AP poll via ESPN.com.

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NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Week 4 Standings for College's Top 25 Teams

Week 3 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, and the preseason's top-25 rankings suddenly seem like a distant memory. There's already been a bevy of changes atop the nation's standings, and after Saturday's action, we can expect plenty more.

Each week, we learn more and more about each squad. Some teams appear to only get stronger with each passing contest, but others begin to show weaknesses. This is when we begin to see separation between teams that are actually contenders and others that are just pretty good.

With a few ranked teams inactive, others suffering devastating loses and even more holding strong with big victories, the current Top 25 will look a whole lot different in short order. Here's a look at each team's current standing with their corresponding Week 3 outcomes.

 

Week 4 Projected Movement

Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks

Saturday proved to be an enormous disappointment for the Bulldogs. The nation's No. 6 team lost in an extremely close contest to South Carolina. While the game came down to a matter of inches, a loss is a loss, and Georgia's ranking will be greatly affected.

According to Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, this outcome could have been expected:

Losing to the nation's No. 24 team that held a .500 record entering Week 3 will no go over favorably with the voters. Georgia will easily fall out of the Top 10, and possibly outside of the Top 20—just as South Carolina did after losing to Texas A&M in Week 1.

The Gamecocks began their season in ominous fashion, losing to Texas A&M in a rout and struggling to get past East Carolina. Due to those games, don't expect them to climb the standings significantly. However, a trip inside the Top 20 is certainly warranted.

 

USC Trojans

Just one week after an impressive win over Stanford, the Trojans fell back down to earth, losing to unranked Boston College by a score of 37-31. While Cody Kessler was impressive under center yet again—he passed for 317 yards and four touchdowns—USC didn't have a running game to speak of, gaining just 20 yards on 29 carries.

As bad as the Trojans were on the ground on offense, they were even worse against it on the defensive side of the ball. Boston College torched USC for an improbable 452 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The Trojans simply didn't have an answer for this one-dimensional offense through four quarters of action.

Hopefully, USC didn't get too comfortable in the Top 10, as this loss will drop them well down the standings and could prevent them from getting there again.

 

Virginia Tech Hokies

Here's another team that followed up a big win with a dud one week later. Virginia Tech took care of business against Ohio State in Week 2, winning by a score of 35-21, and followed it up with a horrid effort Saturday against East Carolina.

The Pirates jumped out to an early lead thanks to three first-quarter passing touchdowns from Shane Carden. While the Hokies stifled East Carolina's offense soon after, and eventually tied the game late in the fourth quarter, they gave it right back, allowing a three-play, 65-yard scoring drive in the waning seconds of the game.

Here's a telling tweet regarding Virginia Tech's passing defense, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Virginia Tech wasn't ranked before its Week 2 win against the Buckeyes, and the team may not find itself in the Top 25 once more after Saturday's upset.

 

Louisville Cardinals

One thing is for sure: If Virginia Tech is out of the Top 25, Louisville is definitely out after losing to Virginia by a score of 23-21 on Saturday. While the Cardinals defense was sharp for the most part throughout the contest, the team had no offense to speak of.

Quarterback Will Gardner completed just 14 of his 34 passing attempts for 164 yards, two scores and two interceptions, while the team carried 27 times for just 79 yards—an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Those aren't top-25 numbers, especially against an unranked opponent.

Don't expect to see the Cardinals ranked in Week 4.

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College Football: Week 3 Recap, Pick Results and Final Thoughts

College football fans got more than they expected on a Saturday full of wild finishes. There were game-winning plays and drives along with huge upsets. 

After nearly an hour-and-a-half weather delay, rivals Georgia and South Carolina faced off in what would be the best game of the day.

Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks felt they had been backed into a corner after a blowout loss to Texas A&M and an unimpressive win over East Carolina in the last two weeks. South Carolina appeared to be ready for this one though, as quarterback Dylan Thompson picked apart the Georgia secondary and helped give his team a 24-13 lead heading into halftime.

The Dawgs clawed their way back into the game with help from workhorse running back Todd Gurley, who finished the game with 131 rushing yards and one touchdown. 

Both teams exchanged blows throughout the second half. With South Carolina leading 38-35 with almost five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Thompson threw an interception to senior cornerback Damian Swann. Swann returned the interception to the Gamecock 6-yard line, and it appeared Georgia was going to silence the crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium with a come-from-behind victory. 

However, an intentional grounding penalty by Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason on first down backed the offense up to the 14-yard line, putting one of the best field-goal kickers in the country, Marshall Morgan, in for a 28-yard field goal. Morgan, who had an SEC record of 20 consecutive made field goals, missed his second field goal of the day. South Carolina eventually managed to get a first down on 4th-and-inches on the next drive and sealed a much-needed 38-35 win. 

The night would continue with more drama, as both UCLA and Penn State snuck out close victories. 

Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley injured his left elbow in the first quarter, leaving the offense up to Rick Neuheisel’s son, Jerry. Neuheisel’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter gave UCLA a 20-17 victory over Texas.

The Nittany Lions got all they could handle from a Rutgers squad that led 10-0 heading into the second half. Penn State battled back with two field goals and eventually made an impressive game-winning drive led by sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The drive ended with a five-yard touchdown run from Bill Belton for a 13-10 Penn State win. 

Speaking of intense finishes, a much-improved Kentucky team gave Florida all it could handle at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. In a must-win situation for the Gators, they escaped with a triple-overtime 36-30 victory over the Wildcats. Kentucky lost its 18th consecutive game at Florida and has not won in "The Swamp" since 1979. 

East Carolina went into a hostile Lane Stadium and upset No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-21, but the biggest upset of the weekend was Boston College running all over a No. 9-ranked USC team which had defeated Stanford 13-10 just a week ago. The trip east for the Trojans didn’t go as planned, as a subpar Eagle team rushed for an astounding 452 yards. Florida-transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy accounted for 191 rushing yards and one touchdown in a 37-31 win. 

Iowa State also pulled off a 20-17 upset road victory at Iowa on a game-winning 42-yard field goal from Cole Netten as time expired. 

 

Pick Results

Overall Record: 8-7

Week 2 Record: 3-2

Note: Team in bold indicates author’s pick

 

Prediction: Georgia 38, South Carolina 31

Result: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35

 

Prediction: Iowa 20, Iowa State 16

Result: Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Tennessee 17

Result: Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10

 

Prediction: UCLA 35, Texas 13

Result: UCLA 20, Texas 17

 

Prediction: Penn State 24, Rutgers 21

Result: Penn State 13, Rutgers 10

 

Final Thoughts 

We’re only three weeks into the college football season, but there are already questions surrounding the competition in the Pac-12 South Division. 

Heavy division favorite UCLA has won its first three games by an average of only six points. Not to mention that it's unclear how Hundley will be affected by a left-elbow injury he suffered in the first quarter against Texas Saturday night.

Myles Jack and the Bruin defense stepped up against Texas, but so did backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel and running back Paul Perkins. The Bruins are still 3-0, which means something, but will this win be the confidence-booster it needs heading into Arizona State on Sept. 25? 

After an impressive win at Stanford just a week ago, USC’s defense was manhandled by Boston College. The 37-31 score doesn’t even indicate how much the Trojans were outplayed Saturday night in Chestnut Hill. They recorded only 20 rushing yards and gave up 24 unanswered points to the Eagles. Steve Sarkisian’s squad will look to bounce back at home against Oregon State on Sept. 27.

Arizona State is hoping to make it back to the Pac-12 Championship game for a second consecutive year, but starting quarterback Taylor Kelly was injured in the second half in a 38-24 win at Colorado. Kelly was shown using crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot. If it’s an injury that will keep Kelly sidelined for awhile, it will be a devastating blow to the Sun Devil offense.

The team that could have the opportunity to make a run at the South Division title right now could be the Utah Utes. They’ve won their first two games by an average of 37 points and are averaging 57.5 points per game. Junior quarterback Travis Wilson has passed for 446 yards and six touchdowns this season as well. The Utes will travel to Michigan next week and then begin conference play the following week at home against Washington State. 

Plan on the Pac-12 South not being decided until the final week of Pac-12 Conference play on Nov. 29. Chances are it could be a three- or four-team race.  

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Nebraska Football: When Properly Prepared, Huskers a Threat to Win Big Ten

There are currently only two undefeated teams in the Big Ten. One of those teams is Nebraska.

After barely defeating McNeese State 31-24, it was hard to imagine that would be the case for the Huskers. One week later, Nebraska proved, much like it did against Florida Atlantic, that the team has what it takes to win the Big Ten. It's all about proper preparation.

"This week, we didn't prepare with as much enthusiasm as we did the week before," Ameer Abdullah said after the McNeese State game. "That's on me as a captain. I'm going to nip that in the butt starting tomorrow with a fresh slate and with Fresno State, I assure you that won't be the case."

Needless to say, it's clear Abdullah did just that. Although there were a couple mental mistakes (like David Santos punching the football into the end zone for a safety), Nebraska came away with a 55-19 victory over the Bulldogs. The win snapped Fresno State's 13-game win streak at Bulldog Stadium, which also ended the nation’s longest home-winning streak.

It would have been easy to overlook Fresno State, too. The Bulldogs had already lost 52-13 to USC and 59-27 to Utah. With Miami on the horizon, this had every chance to be a trap game for the Huskers. Instead, McNeese State appeared to be the wake-up call Nebraska needed.

"Just like Ameer said today, we aren't good enough yet to take anybody lightly," cornerback Josh Mitchell said after the Huskers defeated the Cowboys. "We're not there, we're not even close. All we can do is bring it at practice and just not talk about it, but be about it."

With the rest of the Big Ten hanging on by a thread, the Huskers now have an opportunity to be a major threat to win the conference championship. Big Ten media members original picked the Huskers to finish third in the West, per the Omaha World-Herald. That could be very different now. It all depends on how the team prepares, though.

As Abdullah made it clear post-McNeese State, the lack of preparation won't happen again. Mitchell agreed, saying it was time to "put up or shut up."

Well, the Huskers put up against Fresno State. As a result, Nebraska is beginning to emerge in the West division of the Big Ten. There's still a lot left to learn about what the Huskers are capable of, but it's clear that when the team puts in the effort in practice, it pays off.

Armstrong completed 12 of 21 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Abdullah ran for 110 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts. Receivers Kenny Bell and Lane Hovey made big plays when needed, while Jordan Westerkamp secured the first touchdown of the game.

Even the tight ends got in on the action against the Bulldogs. Both Sam Cotton and Cethan Carter snagged touchdowns for the Huskers.

As a team, Nebraska walked away from Fresno State with 562 total yards and only one turnover. The defense secured four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Despite small errors here and there, it was a well-balanced game on both sides of the ball.

When CBS Sports Network asked Armstrong what the Huskers' game plan was after the game, his answer was simple: "just come out here with a statement."

Head coach Bo Pelini understands the challenge his team faces moving forward. "There's a lot out there for this team," Pelini said in the Fresno State postgame press conference. "The key is to do it every day. That's the challenge. That's the challenge for me, for us as football coaches and for our team."

If McNeese State was a wake-up call, the Huskers are ready to move forward from it. It also sounds like the team, including Pelini, plans to be ready for Miami and every team that comes after.

With the Big Ten wide open, the pressure is now on for the Huskers to meet that challenge. With proper preparation, it will be an easier goal to accomplish.

After all, as Abdullah said after the McNeese State game, the Huskers simply need to have "respect of the opponent, respect of our game plan." Following through on both should put Nebraska in a good position to win the Big Ten title.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

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What the USC Trojans Need to Do to Remain Favorites in the Pac-12 South

The USC Trojans lost to the Boston College Eagles 37-31 Saturday in Week 3. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down how their future looks. Will they still contend for the Pac-12 Championship?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

3 Reasons Notre Dame Fans Should Be Worried After Purdue Game

When Notre Dame wakes up on Sunday morning, Brian Kelly's team will likely be ranked in the Top 10. They'll also have an inside track to a spot in the College Football Playoff that still looked rather unattainable even after the Irish's shocking 31-0 victory over Michigan. 

For as happy as Irish fans should feel after Brian Kelly's second 3-0 start—giving him one more than Charlie Weis, Ty Willingham and Bob Davie combined—the Irish's harder-fought-than-you'd-expect 30-14 victory over Purdue also gave us a few looks at some problem areas that need to be addressed over Notre Dame's much-needed off week. 

So while we could talk all night about another dominant game from quarterback Everett Golson and another big night on defense for Jaylon Smith, let's turn the focus to some of the issues that should have Irish fans worried as Notre Dame heads into the meat of their schedule. 

 

The Offensive Line is a Mess

This spring, Notre Dame gave redshirt freshman Mike McGlinchey all the reps at right tackle, looking ready to gamble on the talented, 6'7" monster on the edge. But during fall camp Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand decided to move sophomore Steve Elmer to right tackle after he contributed at guard last season.

That move might be one the Irish staff is second guessing, as Elmer hasn't looked all that comfortable taking on pass-rushers, something obvious Saturday night as Purdue hassled Golson to the tune of four sacks and countless hurries. With last year's right tackle, Ronnie Stanley, starting on the left side in Zack Martin's place, neither young tackle is playing all that well.

The interior of the offensive line isn't faring much better. Christian Lombard sat out Saturday night with an ankle sprain and senior Matt Hegarty got his first start at guard. He and fellow guard Conor Hanratty are upperclassmen, but they haven't played a lot of football. 

The Irish ground game was nonexistent against Michigan, something Kelly attributed to Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison stuffing the box with defenders. Well Purdue shut down Notre Dame's running game as well, limiting the Irish to just 3.7 yards a carry. Kelly talked candidly after the game about the little mistakes that are making all the difference up front. 

"Maybe it’s just the continuity took us a little bit longer," Kelly said, when talking about the changes during fall camp. "It’s nothing big, but it’s everything. We’re going to get better. We’re not where we need to be."

With a trio of running backs as talented as Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel, Notre Dame can't average less than four yards a carry. But the Irish backs are only as good as the guys blocking for them. 

 

Injuries at Key Positions Are Quickly Turning Strengths into Liabilities

Entering the season, the secondary and the receiver corps looked like two areas where the Irish were deeper than at any other time in the Brian Kelly era. But after Saturday night, both position groups look like they're on shaky ground. 

As hearings regarding Notre Dame's academic standing continue to drag on, the Irish are shy four key contributors that would've been major factors on Saturday night. The Irish are short their top leading receiver in DaVaris Daniels and their No. 1 cornerback in KeiVarae Russell. Add to that starter Ishaq Williams at defensive end—he was needed Saturday night with Andrew Trumbetti held out of action—and safety Eilar Hardy, the absence of those players was critical, especially on a night when injuries were piling up.

But turning the focus to the receiver corps and a position that at one point looked to be seven deep is being tested almost every snap. Corey Robinson is playing with a cast on his hand, a fractured thumb robbing him of some ability. A groin injury has kept redshirt freshman Torii Hunter Jr. off the field, though Kelly hopes he'll return after the bye week. 

But a knee injury suffered by Amir Carlisle robs Notre Dame of its first weapon at slot receiver since Kelly took over as head coach. Diagnosed as an MCL injury, Carlisle's status is unknown; it's still early to speculate a return date. In any case, the Irish can hardly afford to be without Daniels, Carlisle, Hunter and a short-handed Robinson for much longer. 

The secondary looked even scarier on Saturday night, especially after starter Max Redfield was ejected after a targeting penalty on a hit he leveled against Purdue quarterback Danny Etling. With captain Austin Collinsworth out with an MCL sprain, the Irish were forced to put seldom-used junior Nicky Baratti on the field. But that lasted only one play, with Baratti's surgically repaired shoulder giving out, forcing true freshman Drue Tranquill onto the field. 

A one-time Purdue commit, Tranquill has seen minutes in specific sub-packages, but he was learning on the fly. 

"He did great. He doesn't know what he's doing, but he was awesome," Kelly said with a laugh. "I say that kiddingly because he does know what he's doing. But we're trying to really keep it simple for him out there." 

Simplicity is hardly what you think of when you see Brian VanGorder's defense. And thinking they can keep offenses confused when Irish defenders are still digesting the scheme doesn't bode well for Notre Dame. 

 

Purdue's First-Half Success Could Be a Blueprint for Opponents

Credit the Irish for shutting down Purdue in the second half, giving up just 121 yards and intercepting two passes against the Boilermakers. But in the first half, Purdue at times carved up the Irish defense, pounding the ball with running backs Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt, while also picking apart the Irish's underneath man-coverage to stay out of 3rd-and-long situations. 

For the first time this season, the Irish looked undersized at the point of attack, yielding nine- and eight-play drives. Purdue managed to score two touchdowns before halftime, but the damage could've been much worse, with a fumble and failed fourth-down conversion keeping the Boilermakers off the scoreboard.

But Purdue's success could be the first signs that Brian VanGorder's defense is becoming predictable. And with a power offense like Stanford coming to town in early October—and several other explosive offenses following—VanGorder's front seven needs to demonstrate that it can own the line of scrimmage.

That's difficult to do without big games from Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones—and especially difficult if the Irish are down Trumbetti and Williams for a significant amount of time, leaving Romeo Okwara and Isaac Rochell as the team's starting ends. 

While the Irish got it together with a fantastic second half, they looked susceptible to downhill running, losing at the point of attack to a Purdue team that had an awful offensive line last season. 

That's not necessarily the best sign of things to come.  

 

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College Football Playoff Projections After Week 3

Week 3 of the 2014 college football season is wrapping up with some of the top teams in the country receiving their first loss.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Adam Kramer breaks down who should be in the four-team College Football Playoff after their performances this week.

Who do you think should be in? Watch the video, and let us know.

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Appreciating College Football's Week 3 Season Ruiners

The true value of an upset often goes unappreciated. A team, typically ranked, inexplicably loses to another squad perceived to be inferior in some form, and thus, the unexpected knocks on our front door without warning. 

While assessing how such carnage was created, we rarely appreciate those who lift the hammer. Instead we put the emphasis on how [insert much more quality team here] came undone in a game that it had no business coming undone. Credit is lost along the way.

Not this time, though. Not in a week that was given the pinata treatment over the course of six days for lacking interest and quality matchups. Heading into Saturday, Week 3 was more about what it wasn’t rather than what it was.

It was supposed to be lackluster. It was supposed to follow the instructions handed out prior to kickoff. Then the destruction came, and teams—quality teams—began dropping like flies. And, adding to the intrigue, the destruction came from a wide variety of underdogs—from hopeless ACC bottom feeders to power programs left for dead. 

Week 3 did not follow the syllabus.

For those of us tuning in, it made for delightful entertainment. For those being torn to pieces without warning, the emotions were far different. But this isn’t about those who came up short; this is, for once, about the teams that poured gasoline on our plans when we least expected it.

 

Virginia

The Cavaliers wreckage nearly came a few weeks ago, when Virginia had UCLA backed in a corner in Week 1. Three defensive scores for the Bruins changed this plan, however, and Virginia had to settle for a spirited showing rather than a monumental victory. 

Against Louisville in Week 3, however, that all changed. Mike London’s team upset the No. 21-ranked Cardinals by the score of 23-21 thanks to solid defense, which seems to be the formula for this team at home. 

Virginia limited Louisville to just 282 yards overall and forced four turnovers. The offense wasn’t all that productive, but it didn’t have to be. Not on Saturday, at least. And that’s all that matters.

As we try to sort through the hierarchy of the ACC after Florida State and Clemson, Virginia helped make a cluttered picture slightly more complicated. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good enough. Style points don't matter here.

 

East Carolina

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the scenario for an upset in the East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech matchup met all the criteria, mainly the possibility of a letdown following an enormous road victory for the ranked team in Week 2.

The Hokies checked in at No. 17 in the AP poll following their victory at Ohio State last week, although this stay was short-lived thanks to the Pirates’ 28-21 win. (It actually could have been much more lopsided, too.) 

ECU had chances—lots and lots of chances—but it could not put Virginia Tech away after jumping out to a 21-0 lead. Offensive miscues and special teams woes made this a game for much longer than it looked like it would be. In the end, however, the Pirates finished with 502 yards of offense against one of the nation’s best defenses, in one of the tougher football environments.

After a game effort at South Carolina in Week 2, East Carolina did one better on Saturday.

 

South Carolina

South Carolina, at least in recent years, is not a program many would classify as a “spoiler.” Under Steve Spurrier, the program has developed into a staple SEC East contender. The "good story" moments are long gone, although this was a slightly different situation.

After being manhandled by Texas A&M at home in Week 1—and looking better but still shaky at times against ECU—it was assumed that Georgia and Todd Gurley would run right over the Gamecocks in a building that has not been kind to Georgia over the past few decades. That was not to be.

South Carolina took down a team many were tossing into College Football Playoff projections with a late 4th-and-inches conversion that prompted this magnificent Spurrier reaction. 

For the Gamecocks, this upset means much more than some of the other teams mentioned here. For starters, it puts them back in the thick of the SEC East, which didn’t seem feasible 48 hours ago. It plugged holes—even if some still exist—and it also proved that the Ol’ Ball Coach is still capable of magic every now and then.

 

Boston College

If I told you going into the USC vs. Boston College game that one team would run for 452 yards and the other team would run for just 20 yards—better known as two first downs—you probably would have understood and accepted the outcome.

The difference, however, is that you wouldn’t have anticipated Boston College would be on the positive side of this outcome. Well, surprise. This was, without question, the biggest upset of the weekend and the most significant upset of the young season.

Yes, USC just came off a physical win over Stanford and had to take a long plane ride. But don’t let that serve as an excuse as to why Boston College dominated the No. 9 team in the country from the start and finished with a 37-31 win. 

USC linebacker Hayes Pullard summed it up perfectly.

#USC linebacker Hayes Pullard: ``They had the stadium and the emotion. We got hit in the mouth early.''

— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 14, 2014

Eagles quarterback back Tyler Murphy ran for 191 yards against one of the best defenses in the Pac-12, and BC averaged more than eight yards per carry for the game. Perhaps more jarring than what Boston College was able to do was that it pulled off the upset by completing just five passes on 14 attempts for 54 yards.

This was a blueprint for how you draw up an upset against a Top 10 team: Run the ball, stop the other team from running the ball, take advantage of your home environment and see what happens. 

In the instance of USC—along with three more ranked teams that took a tumble—Week 3 brought a season-altering loss that no one expected for a variety of reasons. The ranked teams that fell will undoubtedly have better days, perhaps as early as next week. But for the teams that did the upsetting, particularly the ones that are often left out of the national conversation, this Saturday was all about them seizing the moment—a moment we didn't think much of—and making the most of it.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

NCAA Football Rankings 2014: Predicting the AP Top 25 After Week 3

On the surface, Week 3 of the college football season didn’t look particularly exciting. There was only one matchup between two Associated Press Top 25 teams, with No. 6 Georgia traveling to No. 24 South Carolina. And only three Top 25 teams were less than double-digit favorites over their opponents.

Then, the games started, and we were proven wrong.

Two teams that started the week ranked among the nation’s Top 10 fell, and there were a number of other exciting games.

There will be a significant shakeup in this week’s Top 25 when the polls are released Sunday afternoon. That’s the beauty of college football. It can surprise you when you least expect it.

Note: Rankings reflect a prediction of the Week 4 AP poll—not how the author would rank the teams himself. Predictions are made under the assumption that all remaining Week 3 games finish as betting spreads would indicate.

 

Fun Facts

Maybe we should have seen South Carolina’s 38-35 upset of Georgia coming. The Gamecocks win marked the third consecutive season that the lower-ranked team has won this important SEC East matchup. In 2012, the No. 6 Gamecocks rolled No. 5 Georgia, 35-7, and last fall, No. 11 Georgia beat No. 6 South Carolina, 41-30, in Athens.

North Carolina was off this week, but moves into the rankings: the Tar Heels are 2-0 and dropped out of last week’s rankings after barely surviving San Diego State at home. The Heels and Nebraska were the first 2-0 teams to drop out of the rankings since 2009. Staying in the ranks won’t be easy, as UNC must travel to East Carolina, which is coming off an upset win at Virginia Tech.

 

Teams Rising  

South Carolina

One game into the 2014 season, South Carolina looked like an afterthought as an SEC contender. The Gamecocks looked awful in a 52-28 home loss to Texas A&M, which snapped their 18-game home winning streak.

Funny what a visit from a rival can do. The Gamecocks survived a rain-soaked slugfest and hung on to nip Georgia, 38-35. Even though star tailback Mike Davis had just 66 yards on 17 carries, backup Brandon Wilds was more than capable, going for 93 yards and a score while averaging 6.6 yards per carry.  Quarterback Dylan Thompson showed consistent downfield touch in passing for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

In the process, the Gamecocks took early control of the SEC East. If you wrote them off, it might be time to rethink that notion.

 

BYU

As an independent, BYU will have a difficult time making one of the College Football Playoff’s suite of bowls: the Cougars are not eligible for the Group of Five spot that is allocated for one non-Power Five team. But they’re going to make the nation take notice.

Following Thursday’s 33-25 win over Houston, BYU is 3-0 for the first time since 2008. Quarterback Taysom Hill is an impressive dual threat. He had 360 yards of total offense Thursday, including 160 yards rushing, and accounted for two touchdowns.  Next week, BYU hosts Virginia, but the biggest roadblocks to a run that would make the nation take notice are October trips to Central Florida and Boise State.

Could an independent make the four-team College Football Playoff field? The Cougars want America to have that debate.

 

LSU

It isn’t necessarily what the Tigers did this week, although they weren’t challenged in a 31-0 rout of a Louisiana-Monroe team that already owned a win over Wake Forest. But with two higher-ranked teams, Southern California and Georgia, losing on Saturday, Les Miles and Co. will move into the Top 10 this week.

Miles appears to have settled on a starting quarterback. Sophomore Anthony Jennings didn’t throw a touchdown, but completed 11 of 18 passes for 139 yards with an interception. Freshman Brandon Harris attempted only two passes, completing one for 14 yards.

The Tigers appear poised to stay in the Top 10 for the next few weeks, at least. They don’t hit the road until an Oct. 4 visit to Auburn, with Mississippi State and New Mexico State coming to Baton Rouge next.  By the time LSU heads out for that crucial SEC West tilt, it should be 5-0 and perhaps ranked even higher.

 

Nebraska

After barely escaping FCS foe McNeese State at home, the Cornhuskers dropped out of the rankings. But they found their way back in following a dominant win at hapless Fresno State.

Nebraska wasn’t challenged, and senior tailback Ameer Abdullah surpassed his entire rushing output from last week on one 57-yard touchdown run. Home games with Miami (Fla.) and Illinois are up next on the docket, which will determine if the Huskers can build on this new Top 25 foothold.

 

Teams Falling

 

Louisville

Most expected Louisville to take some lumps in its first year of ACC play. Few expected that to happen on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. The No. 21 Cardinals are headed out of the Top 25 after dropping a surprising 23-21 decision at Virginia.

Virginia, 2-10 in 2013, won its first game against FBS competition since defeating BYU last Aug. 31. Louisville’s damage was largely self-inflicted. The Cardinals rallied from a 20-7 deficit to take a one-point lead with 6:59 to go, but James Quick fumbled a punt at his own 25, with Virginia recovering. That set up Ian Frye’s third field goal of the game, the game-winner, with 3:41 left.

The Cardinals had four turnovers and there might be some question about the quarterback position after Reggie Bonnafon briefly relieved starter Will Gardner. Regardless, it’s clear that this won’t be an easy road for Louisville with Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame still ahead on the schedule.

 

Virginia Tech

One week after handing Ohio State its first home loss since 2011, Virginia Tech came crashing back to earth Saturday with a 28-21 home loss to East Carolina. The Hokies erased a two-touchdown fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 21 with 1:20 remaining, but couldn’t stop the Pirates on the ensuing drive that covered 65 yards in just 64 seconds. Senior quarterback Shane Carden scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard run.

Carden also torched Bud Foster’s defense for 427 yards. It was ECU’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 1996. The Hokies lost for the fourth time in the last five home games after beating a ranked team, and the good will from the big win in Columbus is gone.

Frank Beamer’s team can still win the wide-open ACC Coastal Division: Georgia Tech visits next week and Tech doesn’t have a league road game until going to North Carolina Oct. 4. But Michael Brewer (who threw two interceptions to go with his three touchdowns must be more efficient if the Hokies have any hopes of making it to Charlotte for the ACC title game.

 

Georgia

Following a rousing 45-21 win over Clemson, the Bulldogs moved into the Top 10 and looked like an early contender for a College Football Playoff spot. Those hopes came crashing back to earth Saturday in Columbia, South Carolina. A disappointing 38-35 loss to rival South Carolina called into question the Bulldogs’ hopes of winning the SEC East, much less a national championship.

Georgia’s offense was sharp, with Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. But quarterback Hutson Mason made a crucial mistake late, losing 10 yards on a silly intentional grounding call after the Bulldogs had a 1st-and-goal at the South Carolina 4-yard line.

And kicker Marshall Morgan, who set an SEC record for most consecutive field goals made earlier in the game, missed two attempts, including a 28-yarder pushed wide right that would’ve tied the game.

It’s early, but the Bulldogs defense must improve. South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson torched the secondary for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

 

 

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College Football Rankings Week 4: B/R's Official Top 25

Another crazy week of college football has made it so that we should count on two things this fall: It's going to be wild and wacky, and the rankings are going to get jumbled each and every weekend.

Two teams from last week's Top 10 plummeted because of road losses, while others that were lower in the previous poll have jumped thanks to big victories. This seems like it's going to be par for the course in 2014, where after three weeks we're already down to just 33 unbeaten teams out of 128 playing at the FBS level.

This week's Bleacher Report Top 25 is voted on by 18 members of Bleacher Report's college football team: writers Keith Arnold, Ben Axelrod, Phil Callihan, Michael Felder, Justin Ferguson, Andrew Hall, Kyle Kensing, David Kenyon, Ben Kercheval, Adam Kramer, Brian Pedersen, Barrett Sallee, Brad Shepard, Erin Sorensen, Marc Torrence and Greg Wallace, as well as editors Eric Bowman and Max Rausch.

Each voter submits his or her ballot based on observations made during the just-completed week's games. Teams receive 25 points for a first-place vote, all the way down to one point for being ranked 25th. And then the top 25 vote-getters are ranked in order of their point totals.

Check out Bleacher Report's Week 4 poll, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

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How Hot Is Florida HC Will Muschamp's Seat After Almost Losing to Kentucky?

The Florida Gators are now 2-0 after a very close 36-30, 3OT win against the Kentucky Wildcats. Bleacher Report's College Football Analysts Michael Felder and Adam Kramer discuss how worried Florida coach Will Muschamp should be about his coaching position. How well do you think the Gators will do this year?

Watch the video and let us know.

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UCLA Football: Bruins Put Together Best Performance in Time for Pac-12 Play

The 20-17 final score of No. 12 UCLA's win at Texas may not show it, but the Bruins had their best all-around performance thus far into the 2014 season—and they did so just in time for the start of the Pac-12 Conference season.

Playing in place of star quarterback Brett Hundley, who injured his elbow in the first quarter, back-up Jerry Neuheisel stepped up to deliver a 33-yard strike to wide receiver Jordan Payton to cap UCLA's most complete of a sometimes inconsistent opening stretch of games.

A stingy effort from the defense and a reliable running attack buoyed the Bruins with their Heisman Trophy candidate sidelined. The combination is a big step forward before embarking on the conference slate.

UCLA had promising play on sides of the ball prior to Saturday's win...just not in the same game. There was plenty, however, for head coach Jim Mora and his staff to build on from the efforts of both the UCLA offense and defense against Texas.

Certainly Saturday's win was not the prettiest. Texas came into Saturday's contest in Arlington, Texas, one week removed from a 41-7 thrashing by Brigham Young—the Longhorns' worst home defeat since UCLA crushed them 66-3 in 1997.

However, Texas took the fight to the Hundley-less Bruins for all 60 minutes, even taking the lead with a little more than five minutes remaining when quarterback Tyrone Swoopes found wide receiver John Harris in the end zone.

UCLA responded with the necessary resolve, overcoming adversity to beat a desperate opponent.

Mora talked of the importance of the win in his postgame press conference, via UCLABruins.com:

We just felt like this was an opportunity for us to put all the work that we've done over the course of the last year or three years on display and really prove it to ourselves, beyond anyone else, what this team was made of.  And I think that we went out and did that.

Neuheisel's touchdown pass was the difference-maker, but Texas having to contend with the Bruins on the ground helped make it happen.

Running back Paul Perkins continued his development into a viable, No. 1 option with a career-high 126 yards. Meanwhile, Jordon James had his best outing since injuring his ankle in early October 2013, going for 69 yards on eight carries.

Helping pave the way for the Bruins' ball-carriers was an offensive line, which ESPN.com's Ted Miller tweeted, was oft-criticized in UCLA's first two outings.

The appearance of the consistent and multifaceted run game Mora said he wanted earlier this week is a major development for the UCLA offense heading into Pac-12 play. The Bruins were inconsistent with their rushing attack a season ago, but the UCLA offense is quickly finding the necessary balance to give Hundley breathing room in the passing attack when he returns to full strength.

When that might be, time will tell. Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily Newstweeted that the quarterback will have an MRI on his elbow tomorrow.

UCLA gets 12 days for Hundley to recover. The Bruins are headed into a bye week before traveling to Arizona State for a crucial Pac-12 showdown Sept. 25.

In the meantime, Neuheisel provided the kind of calming influence a team playing its reserve quarterback needs. Though he was limited primarily to swing routes, bubble screens and assorted other short-yardage pass plays, he avoided catastrophe.

Most importantly, he delivered the big play when it was most needed.

The Bruins coming together to carry Neuheisel off the field after the final whistle could be remembered as a pivotal moment in their season. The team rallied amid adversity and delivered in two areas that were decided question marks in their first two games, and finished the nonconference slate undefeated.

Hundley was the missing element from UCLA putting together a truly complete game. Should he come back in time for the start of Pac-12 competition, the Bruins appear to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via UCLABruins.com.

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Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 3

The top players in college football are making a case for why they should be in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder makes his predictions on who he thinks deserves to be in the hunt after Week 3.

Who do you think will win the Heisman? Watch the video, and let us know.

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The Poetic Justice of Rick Neuheisel's Son Saving UCLA's Season

It’s natural to suspect that the relationship between UCLA coach Jim Mora and Bruins backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was not warm and fuzzy from the start.

Mora is the man who was hired in 2012 to replace Neuheisel’s father Rick as the Bruins coach.

And every time the new Bruins coach blew his whistle or drew up a play there was no escaping the fact Jerry was missing out on what could have been an incredible series of father-son moments. 

But if there was any strain or tension between them, it no doubt vaporized Saturday night when Neuheisel led the No. 12 Bruins to an improbable 20-17 comeback victory against Texas.

“It was really hard,” Neuheisel told the Daily Bruin last April. “You get angry all the time and you hate how things change. It’s hard ’cause it’s your family, and you wish it happened to you, but it happened to him.”

But the saving grace, Neuheisel told the Daily Bruin, was that Mora “said he’d always have my back and he’d always give me a chance. As a quarterback, that’s all you can ask for.”

Mora proved he was a man of his word on Saturday, but he really had no choice. Starting quarterback Brett Hundley, a Heisman Trophy hopeful who already is under the NFL microscope, was lost for the night after suffering a first-quarter injury to his left, non-throwing elbow. UCLA needed a new man under center, and Neuheisel was next up on the depth chart.

So here they were, two guys who could have had an adversarial relationship, suddenly needing each other in the worst way.

When Neuheisel admitted to his coach he was nervous, Mora said he responded with a firm vote of confidence.

“And Jerry told me, he said, I was nervous,” Mora explained at his press conference. “And I said, you know what? I wasn't. Because I've watched you every day. And I've watched you prepare. And I know how smart you are. And I know your lineage. And I know how your dad taught you. And I think it all paid off for him tonight.”

Neuheisel told Fox Sports in his post-game interview that the Bruins coaches “just kept me calm.”

Calm enough to throw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with 3:00 left to rally the 3-0 Bruins who had fallen behind 17-13 with 5:13 remaining.

And for once the “Jerry’s World” nickname of AT&T Stadium belonged to someone other than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Mora said one thing that links him and Neuheisel, which helped make the transition easier, is that both he and his backup quarterback are coaches’ sons. Mora’s father, Jim Mora Sr., had notable runs as a head coach with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, even though he now is perhaps best known for the beer commercial in which he shouts “Playoffs?” in a squeaky voice.

Mora discussed that common ground in his postgame interview with reporters, saying: 

He's a coach's kid. He grew up in this game. You know? We're the same, man. We're the same people. You know? And that's what we talked about the first week I took this job, when -- you know, this was going to be a hard transition for a guy like Jerry. His dad, who's a legend here, had been released. You know? And that's the game of football. That's the sport that we're in. It's tough. It happens. But Jerry has never, ever, ever, ever, ever let that get in the way of being an amazing young man, an amazing teammate, team member. And I just have confidence in him.

For the redshirt sophomore, it was a fitting coming-out party that in some ways echoed his father’s story as a UCLA quarterback.

Rick Neuheisel didn’t take a single practice rep his first two years after coming to Westwood as a walk-on. When he did finally get in games it was as a holder on kicks, the same minimal role Jerry had largely been limited to until Saturday.

“(My dad) says it sucks,” Jerry said in his Daily Bruin interview. “Quarterback’s one of those positions where only one guy gets to play and it’s hard. You know with one guy getting to play, you sit a lot and you see plays where you’re like, ‘Oh I could make that.’ And that’s just the competitor in you.”

The competitor in Jerry showed up quite nicely against Texas, and kept the undefeated Bruins in the hunt for a playoff spot. He finished the night 23-for-30 for 178 yards, with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Those are all career highs for Neuheisel, who last season was limited to 11-of-13 coming off the bench.

Patience no doubt is in his DNA.

His father bided his time at UCLA and eventually was the winning quarterback and MVP of the 1984 Rose Bowl. But he took a bumpy road to that accomplishment. During the 1983 season he was benched at one point in favor of Steve Bono but managed to regain his starting role.

Jerry also likely will be headed back to the bench soon, unless Hundley’s injury is a serious one.

But for one night it was all on Neuheisel, and Mora said the potential for a fairytale ending crossed his mind when he sent in his backup quarterback.

“My first thought was excitement for Jerry Neuheisel,” Mora said at his press conference. “I mean, this kid is everything that's right about college football and about UCLA. I mean, he bleeds Bruin blue. And I just thought, wow, you couldn't write a better script than this right here. You know?”

We do now.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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